Culture (and TV)
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Watching "The Challenge" in the Presence of Gods

The whole day had been hot and sticky, in the high 70s and low 80s, one of the first truly gross New York summer days of the year, and yet Laurel and Devyn, two finalists on this season of The Challenge (formerly Real World/Road Rules Challenge) smelled fantastic. My friend wouldn’t stop talking about it. I couldn’t think of more than two questions to ask them, so eventually we asked Devyn what perfume she’s wearing. “Marc Jacobs Daisy!” she said, briefly looking up from her phone, where she was live-tweeting the finale.

This was the 25th season of The Challenge, which has been pitting former cast members of The [...]

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TOPS, "Sleepwalker"

The only problem with this song is seasonal: The vocals and bass will come through fine, but the guitars sort of get lost in the air conditioner. Anyway: Here are a couple minutes of powerful relief from this oppressive day. [via GvB]

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Tove Styrke, "Even If I'm Loud It Doesn't Mean I'm Talking to You"

Should you find yourself at some point today overcome by torpor, perhaps due to climatic conditions in your area or simply the prevalence of complaints concerning climatic conditions on social media, this song may provide a brief burst of energy before the fatigue inevitably takes hold once more. Yes, it's going to be hot. The sun will scorch your pasty skin and lethargy will lay its heavy hand upon your sweaty shoulders as it implores you to join it on the couch. But consider: We are barely past June's midpoint here, people. Don't waste all your whining just yet; think of how disappointed you'll be with yourself come August [...]

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Mutual Benefit, "Auburn Epitaphs"

Jordan Lee has reissued his 2011 EP,Cowboy's Prayer, which I missed and I imagine plenty of other people did too, because everyone misses everything. It's not clear anymore where we're supposed to be looking in the first place! Anyway, here is a song that sounds like a nice big room and feels like a handful of ibuprofen.

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The New Pornographers, "Brill Bruisers"

Iraq is falling into chaos and The New Pornographers just released a merry new song. Are you ready to give 2005 another try?

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HBO's Historical Revisionism

Congratulations to Game of Thrones and its infinitely frustrating creator: The show is now the "most popular series in HBO’s history." That's an average audience 18.4 million compared to 18.2 for The Sopranos.

Speaking of history! HBO has a strange sense of its own. The network has, for the last ten years, minimized its pre-Sopranos existence as much as possible, full as it was with late night softcore porn and of-the-moment comedy specials. Now, with HBO Go, the company has been given a chance to fully rewrite its story, and it has taken it: The "All Series" section of HBO Go presents what looks and feels like an [...]

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Caribou, "Can't Do Without You"

It's been four years since the last real Caribou album, and the next one is due in October (it's called "Our Love"). Here is the first song, which sounds terrible on my laptop and just lovely on my headphones. BE ADVISED.

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Buckshot & P-Money Feat. T'Nah Apex, "Sweetest Thing"

Brooklyn emcee Buckshot works with P-Money, whose soft, deep production ties a nice loose knot around this track, then T'Nah Apex steals the entire thing about a minute in. The whole album is on Spotify and Rdio and all the rest, take it with you this weekend. [Via]

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FKA twigs, "Two Weeks"

A gorgeous and unsettling track from the woman who brought us the most memorable video of 2013.

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Alex G, "DSU"

Do you ever want to hear an album that sounds like the good parts of being young? You know, cutting band class and hanging out behind Dunkin’ Donuts, trying to look cool while smoking Marlboro reds? Here’s the latest album from Alex G, a Philadelphia-based cat who Fader called last month the “Internet’s best secret songwriter.” You can find the rest of his music here.

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Dave Sitek, "God Damn Beauty"

A nice song from TV On The Radio's guitarist/multi-instrumentalist that becomes a very nice song once some horns show up.

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SLK, "Pour"

Siri, play me a song that sounds like the rain outside — actually, no, Siri, play me a song that sounds like wet shoes and cheap umbrellas. Wait, Siri: Play me a song that sounds like a cold damp head and an enormous cup of coffee. Siri wake up. SIRI. (Via)

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Seinabo Sey, "Hard Time"

There's no central database for this, no Just One Chart, but at some point the majority of new music worth listening to will have been written by people born in the 1990s. It's possible that this moment is imminent. It's possible that this moment passed some time ago, and nobody had the heart to say anything. In any case: Here is a gorgeous new video from Swedish singer Seinabo Sey (est. 1990).

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A Sunny Day In Glasgow, "Bye Bye Big Ocean (The End)"

Here is a beautiful wall of sound that takes about 20 disorienting seconds to really start to hear. But then: bliss!

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Dick Diver, "New Name Blues"

Dick Diver – New Name Blues by fruits & flowersA sweet and languorous song; a track that won't offend your senses if you're tired, or just need to close your eyes for a minute or two.

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Lia Ices, "Thousand Eyes"

The SoundCloud commenting phenomenon deserves a little more attention. The posts, which on popular songs are numerous, aren't comments so much as involuntary utterances: burps and farts and laughs and ooooohs; things that don't usually get written down. They're mashing the keyboard but they're not angry. Anyway, agreed on all counts: "Nice," "Thanks Nice song," "F I R E," "♡," "Wonderful track and sound ! I wish have thousand ears :) ♥ ♥ ♥." [Via CoS]

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The Collage Artist

If Lana Del Rey were a Tumblr, she would be photos of Elvis, classic cars, movie posters, and vintage paperback covers, broken up by YouTube clips of singers performing string-slathered ballads on decades-old TV shows. Her early self-descriptions—“gangsta Nancy Sinatra,” “Hollywood sadcore”—seem to suggest meaning. But when you think about them too long, they dissolve into nothingness. That vagueness—the hand-waving in the direction of something that once meant something specific, but is now an archetype, hollow and half-obscured by a glow of glamor and nostalgia—is her artistic strategy. And it’s working: Lana Del Rey is appealing because she is a self-curated collage of references and images in which she [...]

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GEMS, "Scar"

Here is a song, from D.C. band GEMS, that is perfectly situated to either smooth out a rough morning or correct an overly cheerful one. Maintaining! What else is music even for? (via)

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The Knife, "För alla namn vi inte får använda"

An excerpt, preview, chunk, from an upcoming "political activist cabaret" that The Knife is scoring. The European immigration debate is… not quite like ours!

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Washed Out, "Weightless"

Here is a snoozy song, almost as good as the one that Portlandia ruined, to tow you through a slow and beautiful day. Not that you need towing!