Yet whenever someone cool on Twitter calls something corny, it’s devastating. The Discourse around Hamilton returned to the timeline in full force once again, as a filmed performance of the original cast hit Disney’s latest attempt to own your eyeballs. And the timeline was there to remind us that Hamilton, a musical with people singing a story the entire time while dancing in period costume, is corny.
Look, musicals are inherently corny. I used to sing (and poorly act) in them over 20 years ago in high school when, to flex and stretch my creativity, I had little interest in marching band or choir and didn’t have the chops to play in the (all-white) jazz band. Musical theater kids think they’re cool; everyone else disagrees.
Watching the first half of Hamilton this past weekend (hey, it’s hard to watch 2.5 hours of anything with a toddler) for the first time, that old feeling came back: Yes, this is silly, but also thrilling. Daveed Diggs — the dude from Clipping, mind y’all — is electrifying. Renée Elise Goldsberry gives a nuanced, difficult performance unlike anything I’ve seen on the screen. Jonathan Groff’s King George III is delightfully dopey — “You’ll Be Back” is classic ’60s Britpop. Leslie Odom Jr. plays Aaron Burr like Judas Iscariot in Jesus Christ Superstar — you empathize and fight against him.
I was extremely charmed, but also mindful of the criticism that came back — less corny, more damning. Tracy Clayon, a fan who admits that Hamilton is a flawed musical about flawed people, had a good thread about the need for context around the Founding Fathers as slaveholders. And, to be honest, this should just become standard practice: to consider and confront the complicated and often racist/sexist history built into popular culture. Doesn’t mean you can’t like problematic pop songs or movies or books, just know where it comes from.
Lin-Manuel Miranda, like the self-conscious musical theater kid he is, took the criticism to heart:
tracy clayton aka CHUBBA BEEF @brokeymcpovertyim late w the hamilton criticism stuff & im clearly biased but.. i really like that this conversation is happening. hamilton the play and the movie were given to us in two different worlds & our willingness to interrogate things in this way feels like a clear sign of change
I’ve still got another hour and a half of Hamilton to watch, but for now, the Destiny’s Child-indebted “Helpless” is on a loop forever. — Lars Gotrich
(Note: Some of these albums can only be found on Bandcamp, so click the links to explore!)
THÆTAS, Shrines to Absurdity (Maggot Stomp): Don’t get me wrong, I love a dumb death metal album as much as the next black-t-shirted longhair, but I also love the highfalutin shred of a Gorguts-ian Knot. Enter THÆTAS, the why not both GIF of brutal technical death metal. Riffs twist fingers into elongated creatures from The Thing, breakdowns tastefully slam with utmost ignorance, vocals alternate between pig grunts/squeals and undead-bear roars — you know, brutal technical death metal stuff. But every now and again, the band tosses in an irresistible/impossible hook or a pinch harmonic (ever the marker of dumb things to come) that transitions into Cynic-indebted ambient fusion. Sometimes the lizard brain enjoys a good crossword puzzle.
Hum, Inlet (self-released): If you’ve been living under a space rock, Hum is back and has joined the ranks of Reunion Records That Have No Reason To Be This Good (see also: Dinosaur Jr.’s Beyond, American Football’s LP2 and LP3, Celtic Frost’s Monotheist). In this case (and upon a few late-night listens), Inlet not only deepens the promise of Hum’s last two RCA albums but also turns a mirror on nearly three decades of post-metal, -hardcore and -rock bands that owe a major debt to Hum’s gear-nerdy, emo-friendly, metallic shoegaze.
Model Home, One Year (Disciples): Weirdo rap ain’t that weird anymore, but Model Home is. Or at least, vocalist NAPPYNAPPA and noise-maker Patrick Cain excavate rap’s wild spirit of weirdness with more glee than most. There are occasional moments of Auto-Tuned pop perversion (“Push Thru”) or jittery boom-bap (“Faultfinder”), but mostly, One Year strings together a mind-warping, lo-fi bricolage from a year’s worth of mixtapes.
Heathers, Janus / The Chariot (self-released): The Montreal trio’s full transformation into the Heavy Cranberries is nigh, perhaps achieved by the next Total Blood Flower Moon Eclipse (that’s gotta be made up, right?). Both tracks lean into a fuzzy, crunchy doom-gaze a la True Widow, but the lilting vocal melody will haunt you for days.
Special Interest, The Passion Of (Thrilling Living / Night School): To be honest, I can’t get mad about early ’00s dance-punk nostalgia, especially now that white belts and asymmetrical haircuts are long gone (okay, I still like some hair asymmetry). New Orleans’ Special Interest injects the grimy glam of Yeah Yeah Yeahs’s early EPs with the no-wave sneer of Lydia Lunch, pulsing industrial synth clatter as Alli Logout yelps and screams with the swagger of a queer-punk soul revue.
Silver Scrolls, Music for Walks (Three Lobed): Polvo’s one of my all-time faves, some real drummers-beatin’-their-own-drum and tunin’-their-guitars-all-weird rock and roll that basically predicted the sound of every indie-rock band for the last 10 years. So yeah, I’m gonna pull up for anything guitarist/singer Dave Brylawski throws down. Silver Scrolls has got that obtuse Polvo (and Idyll Swords and Black Taj) energy, for sure, but slims those moody modal jams down to a duo with drummer (and multi-instrumentalist) Brian Quast. Dave still busts out clustered chords and head-swirling riffs, but the smaller palette inspires wider brush strokes: motorik moves, 4-tracker boom bap, bloozy garage-rock pop hooks and, I swear, the last track features a weird inversion of the “Immigrant Song” groove.
GAIKA, Seguridad (N.A.A.F.I.): Late-night, Black goth heartache from GAIKA in a 9-track team-up with the talented producers of Mexico’s N.A.A.F.I. label. From the Tayhana-produced “Of Saints,” a sad-sack Auto-Tuned mope-fest, to OMAAR’s cryin’-in-the-club banger “Maria” to the neon-black reggaeton of Zutzut’s “Brutal” to Lao’s smeared dub-techno gloom (“Kingdom of Slums”), GAIKA’s sound gets stretched by sympathetic ears.
Asher Gamedze, Dialectic Soul (On the Corner): This bandleader debut from the South African drummer hits that spot where ’60s hard bop first toyed with free jazz, bleeding some wild energy into sturdy pockets. Think: Don Cherry’s Complete Communion (especially in the sing-songy arrangements) and John Coltrane’s Live at Birdland. The real eureka comes from the three-part “state of emergence suite,” a meditation on movement that showcases Asher Gamedze’s musical drumming, but also a composition that circulates melody like the wind. Really promising debut.
38 tracks. Pinkshinyultrablast’s “Songs” is a 15-minute dream-pop fantasia, with stadium-shattering sections that are everything I’ve wanted out of a new Smashing Pumpkins song for two decades. I totally missed the glorious Requiem in May, Triptykon’s live orchestral album — my favorite excerpt features doomy strings and brass and Vanja Šlajh’s gothic siren voice. Jean Dawson is the first emo-rapper I think I’ve ever liked (“Clear Bones” is such fuzzy lil bop). I’m keeping my eye on Znous from Tunisia — polyrthymic percussion, NYC hardcore ‘tude, unapologetically indebted to ’90s nu-metal, North African guitar melodies. The composer Beverly Glenn-Copeland has been around a long time, but he’s a new-to-me discovery from June’s Bandcamp Day — new track “River Dreams” is stunning, deep. This stupidly long playlist closes with Sarah Davachi’s “Stations II,” more proof that we are living in a golden age of organ drone.
What: Russian Caravan tea
Why: Maybe because I’m spending a couple weeks in the mountains of western North Carolina, with a drape of fog each morning that dissipates by 9 a.m., but this strongly caffeinated smoked tea has been my go-to lately. Story goes that Russian Caravan was a happy mistake along the treacherous, transcontinental trading route from China to Russia in the 18th century, as black tea got smoked by nearby campfires. There are many ways to make this tea and, because my mom favors the English approach, Whittard of Chelsea‘s Assam-forward version takes the edge off the smoke’s bite… but I add honey and oat milk anyway.