Humans being.

So, it started like any other conversation between Marco and Lollipop, who sometimes operates under her real name, Maria Diaz, with Marco asking Lollipop for advice about something – since she frequently acts in the capacity of an Oracle – and then her telling him about a new writing gig she’s got coming up, something that will have her getting down and dirty, rubbing elbows up close with celebrities. She mentions a slight nervousness about it and Marco, being Marco, suggests, “You could always achieve worldwide internet notoriety by throwing red paint on Megan Fox or something, right?”

Maria Diaz: Noooooo. Not what I want to do. She terrifies me. Especially since she’s completely man-made.

Marco Sparks: Yeah, she looks like she was put out by the same company that releases those Todd McFarlane action figures.

MD: Someone somewhere on the internet dug up some photos from before she got all that plastic surgery. It was remarkable.

Marco: How significant were the changes?

MD: See for yourself. Plastic surgery is so insidious. All the doctors get taught the same techniques, so everyone comes out looking the same. But I can see how it could get addictive.

Marco: Yeah, there’s always a disorder in which you need more physical alterations to your appearance.

MD: Until you turn into a CAT LADY!

Marco: Like on Nip/Tuck?

MD: Yes. But really… there is something neat about getting to say, FUCK YOU, NATURE!

Marco: I believe in the swarthy, unbridled power of the human intellect,

for the better or the worse, that we can rise above what we are given and change that which we don’t like or that which could hurt us. I mean, there’s a reason that the life expectancy is like 60 years longer now than it was for people our age, what… 100 years ago? Of course, with that comes new disorders and syndromes that can be very harmful.

But I’ve been reading more and more lately about augmented reality, AI, and sentient/spiritual machines (a la Ray Kurzweil) and probably within 200 or so years, the new plastic surgery won’t be changing your face, your body, etc. It’ll be about making yourself more machine-like.

MD: I think that’s so far off, though. Substantially far off. We won’t ever see it.

Marco: No, we won’t, certainly. Like I said, easily 200 or so years.

Benjamin Light and I were just talking about Terminator 2 earlier, and how the vision of… 2019, I think it was, from back in 1997, was homicide bots with working mobile laser cannons and hover attack drones and the future there, while so grim, was so futuristic-y! But realistically? No, not so soon.

But we’ll start to see the slow advances of it. Within 15 years there’s a good chance that for under a $1000 you could be able to own a computer that has at least the computing powers and space of the human brain.

MD: You really think it’ll be that accessible?

I always hesitate to make these kinds of statements because I think they’re American-centric and specific to people with a certain amount of education and/or money. It’s going to take a long time till everyone is up to speed and these kinds of futuristic robot-people become the norm. Even Real Dolls are still out of most people’s price ranges and I think that’s certainly an indication of how future factory jobs/cleaning jobs will turn to. Kind of like the ending of Shaun of the Dead.

Marco: You’re right about the financial aspect of it, but then again, it really becomes a matter of time and manufacturing costs and, of course, the basis for American business language: supply/demand.

But I think it’s coming. Though I can’t put a serious guess on how fast or over the course of what timeline. I can only guess.

That’s one of the things I like about these highly celebrated futurists, and the game of the future in general, that you’re not so much an oracle as just half making educated predictions, and half selling fables of the far off tomorrow that only have to sound a little credible. You go read an article in Wired about the amazing new things that nanotechnology can do each day and then you come back to me and I tell you that within six months, all plastic surgery will be nanosurgery and for just a moment, a scary moment, it sounds half way possible.

MD: Oh, totally.  It’s like a few years ago when the tech came out for identifying things via a thumb-print that would have your ATM pin, and all of your info on it and all the “sky is falling” press that came out of that. You start to get spooked and think it is all entirely possible.

Marco: And, while jumping over body modification a little here, we don’t talk nearly enough about the good things that could be coming, with science and medical breakthroughs and what have you. Maybe partly because it’s so locked down, like stem cell research. Or maybe because all people want is cures of AIDS and cancer, the regrowth of lost limbs, and the Higgs-Boson. Or cold fusion!

MD: Cold fusion! That’s a pop culture reference I’m forgetting.

There’s lots of good things that come out of this, like robots performing surgery. I think there is one called the Da Vinci arm? They can do surgery in a much more precise way than a doctor who maybe had too much coffee or gets distracted for a milisecond and one tiny move can mess the whole thing up. Or robots who dispense medication. Those are a complete trip to see, but again, save lives and do a lot of good since they remove a lot of the error. Of course, it all depends on humans who program these things.

Marco: Until the robots start programming the humans who program the robots. And, of course, I’ll take the low road and speak for every man who just read that someday a robot might be performing surgery on him: Where’s the robot that can jack me off too?

There’s actually a joke on the new Patton Oswalt album about robots that can deliver babies better than human doctors, except for that rare 1 in 100 times glitch in which the robot skins the baby and turns it into an ipod case. “Murder spasms,” I think he called it.

Be honest: How shocked would you be if tomorrow it was revealed that Megan Fox was actually a project the Japanese started ten years ago in crafting the ultimate pop starletbot?

MD: The answer to any and all questions is always the Real Doll. Do you reallly want a robot giving you a handjob? Let’s be real, here.

And to answer your question: I would not shocked at all.

Marco: Would I really want a handjob from a robot? Well, a handjob is a lot different from other kinds of sex, which is a bullshit kind of kind that I could intellectualize to death for no real good. No, I probably don’t want to fuck a robot. Not in a way that I could imagine right now. Though I have a very unique, very special, very disturbingly fun imagination, so ask me again later. But then again, by the time we all get oral pleasure bots, we may be living in a very different type of world, morals-wise.

Megan Fox being a robot created by the Japanese to star in a Michael Bay movie about fighting giant super Robots that can turn into cars and shit would be a fascinating movie all of it’s own. Didn’t Al Pacino star in some movie years ago about a computer generated starlet?

MD: You can’t say something like that and then not follow up, son. “Not in a way you could imagine right now…” Then what way? Would sex with robots be more akin to masturbation? Would it just be novelty? Would it replace human interaction entirely? I’m sure for some people, it would.

Yes, Pacino was in such a movie. It was called Simone and it sucked.

Marco: As I was typing out that paragraph, I was remember the future episode of Newsradio where they talk about how sex with robots is so much better than sex with humans. You have to remember that I’m an old school sci fi geek so, on this subject, my brain is a mash up of Asimov’s three laws and the Jane/Sex bot counterpart to Jude Law’s Gigolo Joe from Spielberg/Kubrick’s A.I.

Would sex with robots become masturbation 8.0 or a new novelty or just replace human interaction entirely? Yes. And for some people, that may be a good thing. We’ve all seen that documentary on the Real Dolls, right? As much as we snicker at guys like Davecat, I can’t help but think where he and that old British man would be if they didn’t have those real dolls in their lives, you know? I clearly remember the British man taking his real dolls on holiday, a nice drive out into the country, but before he goes, he puts a sign on the doll saying, “I AM A DOLL,” so should he get into an accident or something, no one will risk their life trying to safe her. Because she’s not a real human being. A bit off subject, but that fascinated me. The man lived on that very blurry edge of fantasy and reality, but he knew which was which. And he made a happy little home for himself there.

Part of the real I say it’s hard to answer the question now about sex with robots in a future point is look at our ever evolving hang ups about sex. We’re so quiet and insecure about so much, yet even that changes bit by bit. Years ago a man probably wouldn’t have openly admitted to masturbation (and especially not a woman)(and I’m thinking of Betty Draper on that washing machine as I say that), but now it can be dinner party talk for a bunch of yuppies between discussing the latest gossip of what’s going on down at the tennis club and how socialist they think Obama’s health care plan is. “Ha ha, so Janet and the in-laws walks in on me jacking off to the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue…”

Now just replace that same dinner party with one 50 years from now. “Ha ha, so Edmund walks in on me on all fours getting a spanking from LX-9000…”

MD: You know, when I saw that real doll documentary, I always thought that if Davecat had just hung out in the right chat rooms or gone to a small, liberal arts college where nerds get laid, he never would have needed that real doll. It doesn’t seem happy to me at all, it just seems sad. Especially that other guy who was so clearly completely paralyzed by the death of his mother.  They did bring them some joy as he took her out on drives and such, but so much of that was just projection. They’re just setting themselves up for failure, they will never be able to relate to a woman who talks back. I could see sex robots becoming the new sex worker in that way, you know?

Marco: Yeah, exactly. But imagine in this bright new future where we have sex robots aiding us in our carnal needs, these robots actually get respect. As much as a robot can. Now, I know it’s a sad thought that a robot as a sex worker would get more respect than a human as a sex worker, but isn’t that just how humans work?

MD: I see it going the opposite, that the robot would get treated much worse. Since you know, it’s just a robot and would be seen as even more property (if that’s possible) than a human.

Marco: That’s true. And part of me hopes it stays that way, not from a sex with machines perspective, but from a relation between robots and humans kind of way. I don’t want to get into the idea of the human soul or spark or noumenon too much, but hopefully in the future, when they make the robots… they’ll leave that out…

Of course, that would suck for WALL-E, wouldn’t it?

But then again, if they ever build robots with programming advanced enough to satisfying us sexually – which, granted, I know isn’t that complex since bored and curious guys have been getting the same thrill from the hose on the vacuum cleaner – who knows where AI and sentience in machines will be. To take it back to the language of pop culture nerdery: Data from Star Trek: TNG. Ever evolving, creating himself as an existing being, and fully functional sexual and “programmed in a variety of methods.”

MD: Well…for it to really work, it would have to beyond that base level of just getting you off. If that’s all that mattered, then women would just stick with vibrators, which, let’s be honest, are usually better/more efficient at getting the job done than any man. And I’d reckon that a vacuum cleaner probably gives a more proficient blowjob than any girl/guy. HOWEVER, if they could program the robot with human touches, that would change the game. Do you know what I mean?

Marco: Exactly. Like I said, it wouldn’t be about getting you off. It’d be about being a lover.

I love how we’ve gone from talking the future and robotics to… fuck machines.

Maybe that’s how the machines will eventually kill us. They’ll give us what we seem to all secretly want: to have sex with a machine. They’ll learn how to plug themselves into the wall and then they’ll jackhammer us right out of existence. Death by Kiwi, people.

MD: Speak for yourself!  I can think of nothing less appealing. Well, I can think of a few things, but that’s pretty high on the list.

Ultimately, I think that’s the thing here.. we think we want robots to automate everything, but it’s not easier. It just creates a new set of problems.

Marco: And that’s how we work, right? Today, tomorrow, yesterday. We like to make things simpler. And then we make them more complex!

MD: To use the words of Sean Combs… mo money, mo problems. Or … mo robots, mo problems?

Marco: Jesus, look at us. From Megan Fox to plastic surgery to robots to robot sex to Diddy. That makes sense, I think. Right?

MD: From two crazy people, yes.

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Antichrist Television Blues, part 2: Long live the new flesh!

“Of course, O’Blivion is not the name I was born with. It’s my television name. Soon, all of us will have special names. Names designed to cause the cathode ray to resonate.”

Yesterday, Marco Sparks and Lollipop Gomez started talking television, serialized and not so serialized, and how we’ve evolved from what went before us and then Marco asked Lollipop what she thought was next. You can go back and read part one of this chat right here, or you can stick around for her response, which is…

Lollipop Gomez: I don’t think true interactivity is the way. Call me cynical, but the reality is most people don’t want to interact or contribute in a real way. Sure, you want to follow your friends and see what your friends are doing, but most of the content on 2.0 sites as one example is written by a tiny number of people versus who is lurking. My professional blog, which gets decent traffic, gets a tiny number of comments versus the pageviews that I receive. And that’s how it is for everything; people want to watch. Everyone wants to be entertained. The future, I think, is in better web content that is professionally made (or appears professionally made) and more integration of television and the Internet. I just downloaded this program called boxxee that had a big hoopla when it launched in San Francisco a few months ago, and what it does is it organizes all of your content and lets you see what your friends watched on it. I think programs like that, and also things like iTunes, which now lets you rent movies and watch TV shows is where we are headed.

As far as social networking, it’s pretty much over. No one wants to fill out a profile anymore. The status update is it. It’s all about showing versus telling — I can gauge what’s happening and what you are into from looking at your micro-blog or status update, not by reading your profile. Profiles are over.

Re: Rescue Me. I watched season 1 & 2. I really liked Season 1 because it was such a good vision of male angst and emotion. Men are so rarely portrayed on television as having much depth and it was an interesting view into that. But then, it got weird. I have to re-watch it honestly. But yes, he plays the same character over and over again.

Marco Sparks: You’re right, in that every trend I notice in social networking is… it starts and people get into it en masse and it’s heavily celebrated. It’s the new thing! We expose ourselves and then we realize that the people we’re exposing ourselves to are horrendous. You meet a few good people and you meet a few great people. Then something happens and you realize that the great people aren’t that great at all, in fact. And there’s a lot of perverts out there, not the fun kind either, and it all gets ruined. We seek a return to privacy and withdraw, claiming to be better than the machine that we once celebrated.

Then, out of nowhere, is the whispers of the new big social networking thing on the horizon and we’re all just a little more excited again…

But you’d definitely agree with me that rather interacting, we’d much rather be voyeurs?

LG: Well, it’s the cycle of being in public — at first you love the feedback and then you get self conscious and withdraw but you are hooked, so you keep doing it. I don’t even know how many “private” online journals I’ve had until I realize it’s not as fun when no one is reading.

And we’d much rather be voyeurs; I totally agree. There’s this other book, the age of the amateur, that says that our culture is dead because we have no room for professionals and critics anymore, since web 2.0 has turned us into the actors and the critics but that’s missing the point entirely. We still want to be entertained by professionals.

YouTube is another perfect example — I was on there when they first started and the original idea was that it was supposed to showcase amateurs (thus the name YOUtube) and what do we use it for now, mostly? Looking up old clips of tv shows or music videos or snippets of TV shows we’ve missed. That’s not to discount the huge cult of YouTube celebrity that has also emerged, but that’s still a fraction, right? Or it’s fan videos celebrating mainstream television popular culture. There’s still something we want to watch that we think is better.

Marco: Hence a show like Lost not only working initially, but still working to this day, I think (to take it back to where we started a bit), and still being somewhat innovative in a day and age in which formulaic procedurals and scripted “reality” shows are going strong still.

But to slowly wrap us up, I want to add that the opiate of the masses, religion, means so very little to me. Sky Bully and his zombie son represent such a desire in the majority of people to be basically told what to do and what to feel bad about, that I think you could equate it, like you were saying and quite right about, that no matter how good the amateurs are, we still like the pros. We like the people who are clearly still in charge.

And I’m not going to attack blogging here because, I mean, shit, look at us here, right? Right? I might as well go spit in the wind and then be shocked when it hits me in the face. But for all the positive and wonderful things that can be said about blogging, the negative stuff is just as true and absolutely accurate. You will find some real writers in the blogging game, but to them, it’s just a temporary plateau onto the next thing, you know? But I think I agree with what you were saying on tumblr earlier: There is writing in blogging and the best bloggers, for me, tend to be the best writers. Some people are just taking a few vapid “Bitch pleeze“s and some pictures of MS painted on coke/semen stains and throwing it against a wall and hoping it sticks (and sadly, it sticks more often than it doesn’t)(and if other people out there like that, that’s great for them), and some people are actually writing.

And lastly… our culture. Is it dead? Maybe. it’s so post-post-post-post modern now, isn’t it? But the point there is, I think it’s been dead before. And I think it’s risen from the ashes before. Television, new media, whatever. Either Bobby Ewing wakes up in the shower and realizes it was all a dream and goes about his day from there (or some variation of that last season of Roseanne) or we climb up out of the grave and dust ourselves off. We grow new skin, shed the old, and evolve for the better or worse. And I’m happy with the synchronicity of saying this, especially with this is the heavily return and resurrection season of Lost and it’s Easter, in which the zombie messiah shows up after being dead for three days and announces to his followers: “BRB!” This gross pop culture monster is a phoenix.

LG: Obviously, I can talk about reality television forever since like it or not that’s my current professional expertise, but people respond to it in much the same way. It’s a different market, though.. that’s a whole other post.

I think whoever says our culture is dead is old and doesn’t get it. There’s still a lot of good stuff being made; you just have to find it and be open to it. Just because it’s not made by the system of media (and I mean the whole system, the publishing industry, the film industry, tv, music, etc) doesn’t mean it’s not worthwhile. People will always want to tell stories and hear stories and laugh and cry and relate to things. There’ll be stand up comedy nights in the tent cities after all of our homes and money is completely gone.

Antichrist Television Blues.

As it goes with so many of his posts on Counterforce, this one starts with Marco emailing Lollipop and asking her a question about who knows what, seeking advice and inspiration. There’s a suggestion that one should put their thinking cap on, and then…

from here.

Lollipop Gomez: I was always so confused when people in elementary school would say put your thinking caps on. Like.. wait, an actual CAP? A pen cap?

Oh, for a future Lost post, I insist you use one of these AMAZING photographs of sawyer from his early modeling days.

from here.

Marco Sparks: Yeah, sometimes in school I would get bored and draw little doodles of people with these big electorate and bizarre mechanical things that would go on their heads and spool up power and stroke the electromagnetic waves of their brain to inspire, I don’t know, thoughts.

Man, those pictures. That’s hilarious. Thank you. Like something out of Cool World. What are they going for there… like an early Brad Pitt thing?

LG: They’re going for an early HOT thing. I don’t know, actually. He looks completely different now. I’m sure that’s intentional. But man do those photos encapsulate the aesthetic of the 90s or what? Which is interesting because LOST as much as I can’t stand the way it manipulates its viewers week after week totally encapsulates the TV of the ’00s: with the Internet & Tivo (and even more, DVR which is becoming standard in cable packages now), people are much choosier about what they want to watch and they demand a much higher quality than ever before. Lost, while being pure entertainment, is also a really complicated show that’s difficult to follow — can you imagine that kind of show in the 80s?

And if you use that in a future post, please credit me as a “pop culture scholar.”

Marco: Oh, I will. (editor’s note: It’s this post. The one that you’re reading. Fourth wall? Gone!) Gladly.

But you’re absolutely right. Lost is the ultimate example of a show for this day and age. It’s deeper than just what’s on the surface, in the sense that… for lack of a better metaphor… you can wiki it, or make a wiki out of it. It forces you to make certain connections on your own, and to bring certain meanings to it yourself.

The 90s water cooler show was Seinfeld, sitting around with people after the fact, just repeating jokes and single lines that you heard the previous night and guffawing. The most depth you got was “I loved the way that so and so did this and that.” But with Lost, you’re not just admiring and recapping, you’re hypothesizing constantly. You feel as if you’re a part of the thing, as if you’re as important to it as it is to you.

LG: And the other thing, thinking about it from say, a creator’s perspective, it forces you to follow it week after week. And that’s exactly it, you keep thinking about it and making connections. Which is why, I hate when people say “TV rots your brain”, maybe it used to, but it certainly doesn’t any more. The Sopranos totally ushered in that age; of shows where not everything was handed to you and you had to think about it and look for the subtext and the meaning. And I think (and this is a cheesy hypothesis but this is on the cuff), that maybe that has something to do with it being the uncertain twenty first century. In the 90s we were clintonized and happy and the most drama we had was the president having phone sex with an intern. We had no idea what to expect with the ’00s; and now we are kind of forced to be much more self reflexive with the economy and having no idea what the hell is going to happen next. So, the TV shows are more serious; more complex and more involved.

Does that make sense?

Marco: Yeah, perfectly. It’s a weird time now, just cause of the 00s, but we’ve gone from”Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow” (or “Don’t stop believing“) to whatever the hell was going on in the past 8 years (hello rise of post-apocalyptic worries and fears that drifted into our collective pop cultural unconscious zeitgeist) to this new age. We’re still scared, we’re still afraid, but at the same time… we can that “yes, we can.” We’ve been happy, we’ve been terrified, but now, even though things are bad, we know that we can do amazing things if we really work at it.

And TV rotting your brain… yeah, maybe once upon a time. The premium cable TV shows, following the British model of doing TV, did change that. An episode of your favorite show can now be a chapter in the amazing novel that you’re reading and watching enacted on the tapestry of the cathode ray before you. It’s an amazing time.

And we’re accepting heavily serialized television too! Some shows don’t make it because they’re buying into a serialized story just to do so (like Jericho, from what I gathered), but some are working, like Lost. And back in the 90s, that never happened. Remember Twin Peaks? You had to watch every episode and if you missed one, you were fucked hard. So of course it failed.

LG: There’s a great book called Everything Bad Is Good For You that focuses on video games, mostly and how they’ve become incredibly complex and layered and how they can teach kids comprehension and analytical skills rather than rot their brains. It’s the same thing with television. We are totally in a golden age of it; even the old style of sitcoms no longer really exists. I ended up watching a traditional sitcom the other night because it was on after another show and you compare that with say, an episode of The Office or even a mediocre show like My Name is Earl, and there is no comparison. We don’t need to be told when to laugh; we know when the joke is funny now.

Okay, now I’ve gone off on a different tangent but this is a very uncertain time and I kind of love it. I’m kind of excited to see what happens with all these old industries that are no longer working; they are being forced to evolve or die. Everyone has to adapt. Like with TV, people are more sophisticated now, even if they don’t appear to be.

you know what’s a good serialized drama that lost me mid-way? Rescue Me. Maybe I write a post on the first season, which was amazing.

Marco: Is that show good? I’ve caught bits and pieces here and there and didn’t dislike anything I saw. In fact, what I saw was intriguing, but something holds me back from that show. You know what it is? Leary himself. You play a character like this once, and you do it well, that’s fantastic. I guess it irks me when this is the kind of character he always plays. You know his show before this one? The Job, which was a short lived dramedy about him as a NY cop and it was pretty much the same, just cops instead of firefighters, and no post-9/11 purpose, and from the episode or two I caught, not that bad. I guess I just don’t this as his brand. Dylan Moran, who was excellent as an alcoholic misanthrope in Black Books, and seems to be one in real life if his astronomically hilarious comedy specials are to be believed, still changes up his thing in other roles.

Going back a step, part of me misses the half monster of the week/half serialized shows like The X-Files (even though the serialized parts were shit because they just were never going to give you the answers about those aliens each week)(the same as a main character is not going to die in week 2 of a show like Harper’s Island), or in the Star Trek mold, which rarely tested the half serialized mold.

But what’s next for all of these mediums as things change? A friend of mine who follows video game trends tells me that besides flashy bells and whistles, the video game industry is stagnant. Another friend who obsesses over web 2.0 and folksonomics, tells me that social networking is getting the same way, and that the future of all these things is true interactivity. At least, of some sort. Granted, that’s not economically viable in television, or part of me thinks the human race is too lazy to do anything but watch, but I ask you, Lollipop, what’s next? What’s the new thing going to be?

And to get Lollipop’s answer and so much more, you’re just going to have to check back with us tomorrow…

Or, to put it more succinctly: To Be Continued!


My Year In Lists, part two: We’ll be the man with the broom if you be the guts of the room.

“Everything that has a beginning has an ending.”

Do you remember how bad the Lord Of The Rings movies were? If you read the books (and loved them, because that’s what happens when you read those books, I don’t care who you are), you knew they, the movies, were shit. Also, if you had taste, you hated those movies too (but that’s just a given), but do you especially remember how bad the last one was? we stole the line from the theatrical outhouse that was The Return Of The King because here we are, bringing you the epic-ness of a fantasy trilogy, all packed into the second of two (we presume, but who knows?) mega posts looking back on music from this past year.

You cannot pass… this up! And here we are, ladies and gentlemen, bringing you:

THE Counterforce SUPER GINORMOUS CRAZY POWERHOUSE UBER-SEXY BEST ALBUMS OF THE YEAR OF OUR BLOG 2008 OR SOMEWHERE IN THAT VICINITY LIST!

part two

Oh yes.

We’re leaving this list un-ranked and from that you can just assume that if the album has made the cut with us thus far, it’s just awesome and that’s that, right? Right. So let’s do this thing, shall we?

Santogold, Santogold.

Lollipop Gomez: If your music is featured on Gossip Girl, then you’ve arrived, baby. This is a great scene because I hate Dan Humphrey and want him to burn in a fiery crash.

Marco Sparks: I’m embarrassed to be quoting Entertainment Weekly here (it’s the kind of thing that douchebag Dan Humphrey would do), but I will with their statement about how “the album is hardly flawless, but in era that retro-fetishizes rock whitewashed pop, Santogold feels both raw and real.” Also, “L.E.S. Artistes” is just a great fucking song (about hipsters and scenesters). And I don’t want to forget to mention that Top Ranking, her mixtape with Diplo, is pretty fantastic too.

Beach House, Devotion.

Marco: This is an album that I love, but in a deeply melancholy sort of way. You know when you hear about a doomed love affair, always looking back at the person that’s no longer in your life, describing them almost as if they’re a ghost who never left? That’s what this album feels like to me, only in the present tense, with the falling embers of future sadness landing all around you.

No Age, Nouns.

Marco: Just a nice, simple, and fun guitar album. Poppy when it needs to be and grungy when it feels like. This is the band performing “Eraser” on the Craig Ferguson show and this is Brittany Julious talking about the album wonderfully as she always does.

The Kills, Midnight Boom.

Marco: You know, it doesn’t escape our notice that there’s a lot of dirty, sleazy guitar all over this list. We’re somewhat ruthlessly cultured people and I promise you we don’t always sit around awash in soundtracks to dive bars, but hot and trashy will always have it’s naughty appeal. Watch this video for “Last Day Of Magic” and just try and tell me you disagree. Just you try.

Here’s Brittany Julious’ wonderful write up on the album.

Cut Copy, In Ghost Colours.

And in a double whammy of weird wildness:

Deerhunter, Microcastle/Weird Era Cont.

Atlas Sound, Let The Blind Lead Those Who Can See But Cannot Feel.

Marco Sparks: Two things. Firstly, I feel like no review of a Deerhunter (Peanut posted one of their videos last week) or Atlas Sound album can seem to escape mentioning Bradford Cox’s Marfan syndrome, which greatly contributes to his somewhat offputting physical appearance (he looks like a walking, talking freak indie messiah, like he should be in a robe and baptizing people in a river with Devendra Banhart), which is cool because I feel like his appearance contributes to his overall presence. You look at him and his image screams “Outsider!” to you and you believe that even more when you listen to his music, so strange and weird and haunting and perfect in all those regards. Secondly, it’s totally and horribly unfair of me to bunch these albums together, both spearheaded by Cox, because they’re completely different and yet compliment each other so nicely. Both have elements of ambient shoegaze drifting in and out of them and both sound like could be epic tales of love and longing and loss, sung by ghosts. One’s just a bit more rocking.

Hot Chip, Made In The Dark.

LG: Made In The Dark was my favorite this year and as my favorite, it’s hard to say why. It’s a dance party in songs like “Ready for The Floor” and “One Pure Thought” and it’s the perfect 3 am and a joint sound with “We’re Looking For A Lot of Love.”

Shugo Tokumaru, Exit.

Marco: This album came out last year in Tokumaru’s native Japan, but didn’t make it’s way over to our shores and into my brain until this year, and I’m incredibly thankful it did.  This is the gorgeous “Parachute” which kicks off the album:

There’s something delightfully atmospheric about this quirky feel good album, sung entirely in Japanese, and definitely carrying a lovely foreign-ness to it, but still feeling wonderfully universal in it’s tunes and harmony. This is something wonderful to get lost in.

Portishead, Third.

Marco: If I had to distill my appreciation for this album down to a simple sentence, it’d be: Totally worth the wait. I’d compare this album to finding a long lost obscure book by your favorite author whose works you discovered years ago… and then you found this. It’s challenging at first, but wonderfully so, maybe not picking up exactly where the previous works left off, but carrying that signature voice. Beth Gibbons’ beautiful and sad voice in this case. I can’t say enough wonderful things about an album that starts off with a little magic, jumps into a car chase, and then pummels me with it’s machine gun.

TV On The Radio, Dear Science.

Marco: An album I had no real expectations of and maybe that’s why it took me personally by surprise? I mean, I only kind of liked their last album, and, well, I really like this one. I’m trying to avoid the cliches you’ve heard about this band and this already, things like “art rock with a face” and “Prince-like,” but they’re accurate. This is a fun album, a smart album, a good album, a rocking album, a sexy album, and an album that can be enjoyed for a long time to come. That’s just my opinion, but maybe I just feel that way because it’s safe for me to do so?

THE Honorable (and maybe not so honorable) Mentions: Peter Bjorn & John, Beck, Death Cab For Cutie, Stars, Fleet Foxes, Deerhoof, NIN, Let’s Wrestle, Gang Gang Dance, Fennesz, Department Of Eagles, Nas (I may be the only person who liked this album, sadly, but I’m okay with that)(also, his mixtape with DJ Green Lantern was awesome too), Shearwater, Wale (which I’m both amazed and pleased ended up on Pitchfork’s best of list), Gnarls Barkley, MGMT, The Notwist, Marnie Stern, Abe Vigoda, The Helio Sequence, BSS presents Brendan Canning, Paavoharju, Fuck Buttons, Basia Bulat, Natalie Portman’s Shaved Head, Moscow Olympics, Q-Tip, Sam Sparro, Jay Electronica (but that doesn’t really count since I only just discovered him this year), Annie, Mogwai, Wolf Parade, The Cure, Elbow, Kleerup (everyone loves the Lykke Li on this album, myself included, but I think I like the Robyn track even more), School Of Seven Bells, Fucked Up, The Verve, David Byrne & Brian Eno (“The Bush Era was not a particularly hopeful time for many of us, Byrne writes in the liner notes to Everything That Happens Will Happen Today, “so where did all this exuberance and hope come from?”), Max Tundra, Between The Buried And The Me, Kelli Ali, Be Your Own Pet, Empire Of The Sun, Black Kids, Native Korean Rock, Protest The Hero, The Sea And Cake, Brazilian Girls, Tokyo Police Club, Foals, The Vivian Girls, Bon Iver (mayb? yeah, sure), and of course, Guns N’ Roses. That’s a whole lot of covering our asses right there, isn’t it? 🙂

Moscow Olympics “Ocean Sign” (mp3)

No Age “It’s Oh So Quiet” (Bjork cover)(mp3)

Ringo Deathstarr “Starsha” (mp3)

Beach House “You Came To Me” (mp3)

The Notwist “Good Lies” (mp3)

Passion Pit “Sleepyhead” (mp3)

Before we leave you with your mind completely blown by our excellent listing skills here, here’s Stereogum‘s 50 mp3s of the year and their 20 albums they’re most excited about in the new year. It’s an interesting list, including The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Doves, U2, and Lily Allen, of course, but surprisingly not including the new Andrew Bird album, Noble Beast, which I’ve actually heard and enjoy quite a bit, nor the next offering from Metric. Take that, Canadians. Then, one my favorite end of the year lists, The Onion‘s least essential albums of  2008. On top of it, Kanye’s possibly been caught lip synching and here’s one couple’s list of rock stars they’re allowed to sleep with.

And now we will depart, slipping out your back door, or slipping in your back door depending on the mood, and we’ll do so while humming our jam of the year: