LAYERxlayer Fall Backpack

I had my backpack stolen about a week or two ago so I’ve been on the lookout for something new that fits my needs. I like simple packs that can be flexible for either riding my bike or those days when I’m taking the bus and this LAYERxlayer backpack is pretty much what I’m looking for. It’s got a grey twill body, leather pulls, unbleached cotton straps and it’s contrasting red zipper is a perfect detail. Plus it should perfectly hold my Macbook and a select few magazines, the day-to-day items I carry around.


December 23, 2010 / By

The Fox Is Black’s Favorite Albums of 2010

Well, 2010 is drawing to an end. Another year gone by means lots of new, amazing albums now living in my iTunes. Like 2009, this was another great year for music with many new bands making a splash and some old standards continuing their creative output. For whatever reason I thought I was going to have some trouble putting this list together but then I realized that this wasn’t that case. Rather easily I came up with a list of 15-ish albums that made my 2010 just a bit better.

Sufjan Stevens – Age of Adz & All Delighted People EP

If there was one album that stood out amongst all the rest of 2010 it was Sufjan Steven’s The Age of Adz. In doing a little research I realized that he released not one, not two, but three albums in a one year period. The BQE came out on October 20th, 2009, followed by All Delighted People EP on August 20, 2010 and ending up with The Age of Adz on October 12, 2010. This feat alone is incredible and shows what a creatively prolific artist he really is.

That said, The Age of Adz is one of the most unique and interesting albums I’ve ever heard. Gone is the safety of his previous albums, replaced by a soothing roar of instruments. The first time I heard the album I had no idea what I was listening to. It was so different from this previous albums that it was hard to process. But over time it grew on me, and more and more I’d find myself humming songs all the time. I think my favorite part of the album is the ending, with Vesuvius, All for Myself, I Want To Be Well and finishing up with the 25 minute epic, Impossible Soul.

As for the All Delighted People EP I felt compelled to include it as well. It seems to me more like a companion piece to the album, like an appetizer to an amazing meal. The songs Mouth of Gabriel, The Owl and the Tanager and the 17 minute Djohariah are all stand out songs.

Avi Buffalo – Avi Buffalo

One of the biggest surprises of the year was definitely Avi Buffalo’s self titled album which came out in April. These kids from Long Beach kind of came out of nowhere, were suddenly signed to Sub Pop records and made one of my favorite albums of the year. The range on this album, from upbeat summer hits to softer, introspective verses makes me long for much more from them. Hopefully this is just the beginning and they release a new album some time next year.

Vampire Weekend – Contra

A sophomore album is always hard to record, especially if your first album was a huge hit. Such is the case with Vampire Weekend, though their follow-up album Contra proved to be one of the best. My first impression of the album was that people weren’t going to immediately like it, that it was going to need on grow on people to fully appreciate it. It definitely grew on me, but mostly the slower songs like Taxi Cab and I Think Ur A Contra. For me personally, this is now an all-time classic.

Flying Lotus – Cosmogramma

Yet another Los Angeles based musician made my list, the astounding Flying Lotus and his third album, Cosmogramma. This one kinda came out of nowhere from me. I had one of his EPs randomly but hadn’t really heard much beside that. What really got me to listen to this album was the artwork, I totally judged this album by it’s cover and it paid off. Cosmogramma is filled with all kinds of minimal, electronic beats that’s somewhere between Dilla and DJ Shadow. Hell, he even got Thom Yorke to do a song!

Stars – The Five Ghosts

I’ve been a big fan of Stars for a while now, probably about 4 or 5 years I guess, and I swear they are the most consistent band on earth. Nearly every three years they’ve released a new album and each one has been a steady progression of the last. Their newest, The Five Ghosts, takes on a more electronic feeling than their previous albums, a little bit peppier and bit more dance-y. I’m not sure that it’s their best, but it certainly has some of the catchiest songs they’ve ever written.

Deerhunter – Halcyon Digest

I wasn’t sure how the new Deerhunter album, Halcyon Digest, would sound. Bradford Cox, the singer of the band, has been moving in his own direction while the Deerhunter “sound” is almost entirely differently, much more noisy and darker. But this ended up being one of their most open, friendly albums they’ve ever made. It’s got a lot of nostalgic sounds like saxophone on the song Coronado or an almost doo wop sound on Revival. My only complaint is that it feels like a short album, but maybe that’s just me?

Owen Pallett – Heartland

Heartland was the one album that I was most looking forward to in 2010. I loved him as Final Fantasy and when he decided to stick with his own name I welcomed it as a change for him, a change to something even more amazing. I wasn’t disappointed in the least. For me this album is really personal, and I think it’s hard to explain. Owen Pallett is a gay man, as am I, and there’s something in his lyrics that really speak to me on that level. The song The Great Elsewhere is a perfect example. It’s got such a homoerotic tone to it, but one line in specific always gets me, “The scar upon my stomach I call it my flying V, and every time I show it I feel your eyes on me.” I might be misinterpreting what his meaning is, but that’s what it sounds like to me.

It’s also amazing to hear how complex and rich his orchestration has gotten, and I think this album has opened up a lot of doors for him as evidenced by his participation in 14 Actors Acting.

Gorillaz – Plastic Beach

Five years since Demon Days, Gorillaz released Plastic Beach this year, yet another big album filled with a number of noteworthy guests. It’s mind-boggling to me that Damon Albarn is pretty much singlehandedly creating these vast troves of music, I mean, is there anyone creating as much as this guy right now? Anyhow, this album is one of my favorites because of the diversity of songs and artists like Mos Def and Little Dragon. Not to be forgotten are the insane visuals that Jamie Hewlett came up with to supplement the music, which in my mind are equally important.

Arcade Fire – The Suburbs

I was completely surprised by how much I loved The Suburbs by Arcade Fire. I’ve enjoyed their previous albums, but I wasn’t a HUGE huge fan. That all changed with this album. I feel like they’ve finally found the most polished sound they’ve ever had. I also liked the overarching theme of the suburbs, which if you think about it, has been there since their first album.

Caribou – Swim

For me, Swim was my dance album of 2010. Caribou, who was influenced by his friends from Junior Boys, decided to take an entirely new route with his music, opting for a more electronic, dance heavy sound. The final track Jamelia with Born Ruffians singer Luke Lalonde might just be one of my favorite tracks of the year.

Beach House – Teen Dream

Beach House’s Teen Dream should have technically been on my 2009 list of music because I heard it around the end of last year, but technically, it’s an album from 2010. Nonetheless this should be on everyone’s list this year. They took their sort of sad, depressing sound and turned it into lush, happy songs that only had a tinge of longing.

Casiokids – Topp Stemning På Lokal Bar

I think this might be the first time a Norwegian and has ever made it on my favorites list before. I was introduced to Casikids thanks to my buddy Kristoffer Borgli who sent me the video he directed for them. Their album Topp Stemning På Lokal Bar ended up being a favorite of mine over the summer, even though I had no idea what they were ever saying or singing about.

The Books – The Way Out

The Books really made my year with their album The Way Out, something I’ve been looking forward to for years now. When I got to see them play live they played a couple of the songs off of this album so I was pretty sure it was going to be great. I’d say this is the weirdest pop album of 2010.

Seabear – We Built A Fire

We Built A Fire might be one of the most beautifu, happyl albums of 2010. Seabear’s last album The Ghost The Carried Us Away was a bit more somber but this album was filled with some of the best pop songs (or what I consider pop songs). If you’re looking for something entirely lighthearted and easy to listen to, this is the album for you.

Belle & Sebastian – Write About Love

The one album I was scared about this year was Belle & Sebastian’s Write About Love. I wasn’t a huge fan of their previous album so I was a bit worried about hearing more of the same stuff I didn’t like. Thankfully that wasn’t the case and it ended up being an album inspired the sounds of the late 60’s and early 70’s.

December 22, 2010 / By

Jonathan Adler Fires Up My Holiday and Keeps It From Stinking

Yesterday I was shopping at Jonathan Adler, looking for some gifts for Kyle’s aunt and uncle when I found these two little gems I needed to get for myself. The first was this pipe shaped match strike, which as it’s name implies, holds a couple dozen matches and the base acts as any area to strike the matches, so long as they’re strike anywhere matches. I have about 5 or six matchbooks in a blank Slinky currently which isn’t exactly the sexiest way of displaying them. I think this is a much more fun approach.

But what use is a match holder without a new candle? So I snagged this hashish scented candle which comes in a ceramic vase with marijuana leaves on the top and all around it. It’s a bit on the pricey side but it’s a pretty big candle with two wicks and it’s one of the best smelling candles I’ve ever bought. If you’re one of those people who likes really unique smells I’d highly suggest getting one for yourself.


December 20, 2010 / By

Endless Chair by Dirk Vander Kooij

Endless chairs are named for the single, long string that makes each one. But saying string may be a bit misleading, because the string is a continuous bead of gooey, recycled refrigerator laid down by a repurposed robot (named Franuc) described as “heavyset, yellow and dilapidated.” Designer Dirk Vander Kooij explains: “I taught a robot his new craft: drawing furniture out of one endlessly long plastic string. this opened the possibility for me to design in the good old-fashioned way, making a chair, evaluating, refining, making a chair, evaluating, refining and making a chair. Or developing an infinitely large collection of variations, endlessly.” It’s funny to me that someone embarking to design in the good, old-fashioned way could arrive at endpoint that involves a robot, but it absolutely makes sense when talking about the ability to improve a chair after it’s production has begun.


December 20, 2010 / By

‘Public Speaking’ A Documentary About Fran Lebowitz by Martin Scorsese

Last night I had the chance to watch Martin Scorsese’s new documentary on the writer and speaker Fran Lebowitz called Public Speaking, which I enjoyed immensely. If you’re like me and aren’t quite familiar with Fran, she was a writer back in the last 60’s/early 70’s hired by Andy Warhold to write for Interview magazine. Then in 1978 she wrote a collection of essays called Metropolitan Life which was quite popular after it was released with many companies and celebrities trying to option it for a movie. After that she released one more book and then stopped writing for the most part. Instead, she’s taken to public speaking, espousing her opinion about all number of things.

It was really interesting watching this documentary because I felt like a lot of the things she spoke about in regards to writing are very true about blogs and the internet as well. For example, she says that sure, anyone can write, but not everyone should write, writing should be done by people with talent. I love her strength and her determination in her opinion, I wish a lot more people were so fiery and determined about the things they believe.

You can see Public Speaking on HBO.

December 20, 2010 / By

A2591 Minimizes The Effects of Overt Branding

The folks over at A2591 took on a lovely project of trying to simplify the branding of some major products. I’m sure a lot of you feel like packaging these days can get a bit out of hand, A5291 uses the great example of the Microsoft iPod packaging video that went around a couple years ago. What they’ve done is shown the original packaging and then began removing elements until getting it to it’s most minimal.

I’ve picked my three favorite designs which I think do the best job of proving and dismissing the need for simplifying packaging. The first is Nutella which in my opinion is the most successful of the bunch. The packaging when stripped down to it’s bare minimum is simply a showcase for the delicious contents inside. I don’t want to the ingredients or that I can spread Nutella on bread, the Nutella itself is enough to sell me.

Second is Mr. Muscle, which for this one I feel like the second one is best. When stripped of all it’s branding I feel like it’s a mystery bottle of green liquid. As cheesy as the packaging is I feel like that bit of context is necessary to really get a sense of what the bottle should be used for.

Last is Nestle’s Corn Flakes, which I feel needs a version between the original and the first revision. Yet again I think this is another good example of having context. Is the packaging a bit over the top? Sure. But at least you can see what kind of corn flakes they are, you can imagine how they might taste.

I think this was a great idea by A5291 and the examples are perfectly executed as well. To see hi-res versions of each of these products click here.


December 20, 2010 / By

Three Must Have Christmas Albums

A few weeks ago, when Bobby asked if I wanted to contribute to the blog, I asked him what he had in mind. “I just want you to share what you’re listening to week by week” he said, adding that he thought it would be interesting for me to share it with you. Unfortunately I don’t think either of us considered that we were so close to December 25th and that my listening habits in the coming weeks would be far more predictable then interesting.

Christmas is the Bermuda Triangle of my musical radar. It’s that scary time of year that will see me humming along to Wham! and Mariah Carey without even noticing. As a precaution I’ve decided to share the three albums which I feel are the most essential to help you make the most of the next few days.

A Christmas Gift for You (1963)
from Phil Spector

For me, Christmas sounds best when it’s produced by Phil Spector and in 1963 Spector put together ‘a Christmas gift’ for fans of his trademark ‘Wall of Sound’. The album features The Crystals, The Ronettes and many more with each performing a number of Christmas classics. This really is the Christmas album to own. It also just happens to be Brian Wilson’s favourite album of all time, so if that that’s not an endorsement to go out and get it then I don’t know what is.

A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)
by Vince Guaraldi Trio

Another favourite of mine is Vince Guaraldi’s A Charlie Brown Christmas. While it may have originally been the soundtrack to the Peanuts television special for me it’s become the soundtrack to nights curled up on the couch with a good book and enjoying a nice drink by the fire. What makes A Charlie Brown Christmas so special is that it’s one of the most popular Christmas albums of all time and yet it still sounds fresh.

The Home Alone Soundtrack (1990)
by John Williams

Speaking of soundtracks, it’s fair to say that for many Home Alone should be the perfect reminder of what it felt like to be a kid at Christmas. If, like me, you grew up in the 90’s then this is the way to remember how much you wanted to be Macaulay Culkin. The score is beautifully sweeping in that trademark John Williams fashion and it should easily help stir up memories of other great film adventures Mr. Williams has helped you go on as a kid.

If you’re still looking for more music then there’s certainly been plenty of new releases this year to satisfy your Christmas cravings. I’ve really been enjoying Dent May’s excellent Holiday Face which you can check out over on Gorilla Vs Bear. Likewise Beach House have delivered a really great track called I Do Not Care For The Winter Sun, available here. Finally Target have put together an exclusive Christmas compilation that features people like Best Coast, Wavves and Coconut Records. The whole thing is free and it’s got a few gems on it, download it here. Best wishes for the Holidays!


December 20, 2010 / By

Suprasensorial: Experiments in Light, Color, and Space

My buddy Felipe wrote me a nice email the other day letting me know about a new video that he had completed for MOCA’s new exhibit Suprasensorial: Experiments in Light, Color, and Space. The show features Carlos Cruz Diez, Lucio Fontana, Julio Le Parc, Hélio Oiticica and Neville D’Almeida, and Jesús Rafael Soto and their exploration of light and color as a different way of seeing art. For someone like me who can have some, um, problems with contemporary art and how exactly it’s art this video does a great job of explaining why these artists are in the museum and why their work is important or unique. I think a lot of these works are really beautiful especially Cromasaturación by Carlos Cruz-Diez. It’s beautiful to see how he’s creating these spaces out of color and that you as the viewer are the final necessary part of the piece.


December 20, 2010 / By