Otherwise Recently


Eater: Holler & Dash is Cracker Barrel for Millennials

This is either a very cynical, last gasp attempt at relating to a younger crowd or a slam dunk:

Considering Cracker Barrel is a chain that has long represented the antithesis of youth culture, with its front-porch rocking chairs and old-timey feel, this restaurant is going in a totally new direction. Instead of opening off an interstate exit, Holler & Dash is moving into Homewood’s pedestrian-friendly downtown. The space’s interior is obviously directed at the coveted millennial demographic with a number of hot design elements found in many of today’s trendy eateries. There’s plenty of exposed brick, industrial lighting, and detail on the ceiling.

Evidence that it might end up being more of the latter – Cracker Barrel tapped rising star chef Brandon Frohne, formerly of Nashville’s Mason’s, to be the new venture’s directory of culinary. Color me intrigued.


Spinning The 1975, ‘Hamilton’, Mutemath, and Nathaniel Rateliff

Rather than try to spit out a thousand rambling words about the four albums that I’m currently obsessing over, I thought I might go all linked list on you and just pull out a blurb from my favorite review on each album. Here it is, my co-opted reviews of: the new album from The 1975, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, Vitals by MUTEMATH, and Hamilton (Original Broadway Cast Recording).

I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it by The 1975

Wow, what a title. I’m going to go all When the Dawn … on them and just call it I like it … from here on out if you don’t mind. Anyway, I spend a fair amount of time in Apple Music and there was a lot of hype surrounding the release of this album within the app, primarily because there was an exclusive live concert streaming on Apple Music. I wasn’t particularly anxious about the release of this album, only vaguely connecting The 1975 in my foggy memory with one of their breakout hits, ‘Chocolate’, from a couple of years ago.

On a whim, I decided to spin it up one day at work and I was actually quite pleasantly surprised. It wasn’t quite what I expected, but I was immediately struck by the Eighties nostalgia that flows throughout the entire album (much in the same way as Haim’s Days Are Gone and the recent CHVRCHES release, Every Open Eye).

Kitty Empire, writing for The Guardian, sums it up pretty well:

With his mop of Michael Hutchence hair, his semi-ironic leather trousers and slight air of Johnny Borrell, singer Matt Healy makes no apologies for the band’s prettiness, their pop ambitions, their self-aware derivations, or the sheer variety of the 1975’s latest output. People listen across genres, argues Healy, so his band ought to deliver that breadth.

Consequently, I Like It When You Sleep tries to do it all – not just brash 80s funk and pop-house chant-alongs (The Sound, a withering look at a relationship), but shoegazey dream-pop (Lostmyhead), mawkish piano ballads (Nana, about Healy’s departed grandmother and the nonexistence of God) and gospel-tinged slow jams. The genuinely accomplished If I Believe You finds Healy’s loneliness climaxing in an understated sax solo.

The album starts out in hyperactive, but the pace slows a bit once it hits ‘A Change of Heart’ without becoming a complete drag; a shift that appeals to me but be forewarned if that’s not really your thing.

Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats (self-titled)

Ann Powers, where are you taking me right now?

One of the central musical relationships in soul music is between a band’s lead shouter and the other voices supporting her or him. In her glory years, Aretha Franklin musically conversed with her family of backup singers, the Sweet Inspirations; Otis Redding upped his own unbeatable energy in dialogue with the Memphis Horns.

That’s quite a lead in – and I’m not saying Nathaniel Rateliff is in that company, but good lawd that boy can sing. As they often do, NPR Music has you covered for a great raw introduction to an artist. The ACL performance linked above and this Tiny Desk Concert performance should be plenty to help you decide if your in the mood for some Night Sweats.

Vitals by MUTEMATH

According to Wikipedia, Mutemath have been making music together since 2003. Vitals is the first MUTEMATH album that’s ever found its way into my library (thank you, Apple Music). Does this mean I’m totally new to Mutemath’s music? Of course not, it just means I’ve never binged on it like I have the last couple of weeks.

I spend about 25–30% of my time at work writing code and this album sets a great tone for that work. ‘Joy Rides’ is a great lead-off track, ‘Monument’ is a steady hit, and I love ‘Vitals’, ‘Used To’, and ‘Best of Intentions’.

Hamilton (Original Broadway Cast Recording)

I have a predilection for musicals, particularly those constructed around a modern musical style, so the surprise here is not that I like Hamilton, but rather that it took six months after its release for me to realize the recording was out there. It’s not that I wasn’t at least tangetially aware of the musical’s existence, I just never thought about it at the right time to check into a recording. I’m sure my wife wishes I never had.

This bit from Paste Magazine’s ‘10 Reasons Hamilton Dominated 2015 and Will Own 2016, Too’ doesn’t sum it up perfectly, I don’t know what would:

Famously, composer/actor Lin-Manuel Miranda (who wrote the music and lyrics for In The Heights, which ran on Broadway from 2008–11) was on a beach vacation nearly a decade ago, read Ron Chernow’s acclaimed biography of Hamilton, and was shocked that no one had yet turned it into a hip-hop Broadway musical. Many genius ideas look obvious in hindsight, but this is not one of them. Miranda is perhaps the only person in the world that would have reacted that way. And yet, it’s a perfect meeting of subject and form, and a much-needed revival of the greatest American story ever told, of the founding of the nation.

The word ‘genius’ is thrown around a lot1, but the combination of lyrical wordplay, composition, and execution of this is masterful. If you have even a passing interest in musicals or hip-hop or history, just give this a listen. And be patient with it. While I can certainly list my stand-out tracks2, it’s a musical so everything is contextual and best consumed that way.

  1. Almost as much as the phrase ‘[word] is thrown around a lot, but …’.

  2. I marvel at ‘Aaron Burr, Sir’, ‘Right Hand Man’, and ‘Cabinet Battle #1’ every time I hear them; ‘The Story of Tonight’, ‘Wait for It’, ‘That Would Be Enough’, ‘Non-stop’, ‘Hurricane’, and ‘It’s Quiet Uptown’ are other favorites.


Fast Co: Two Warby Parker Alums Take On The Luggage Industry

Away, travel luggage from a couple of Warby Parker alums to modernize the way we take our stuff with us when we travel.

The interior is fitted with a compression divider to help users fit more stuff inside. A laundry bag keeps dirty clothes away from clean ones. Mesh compartments keep things organized. If you’d rather have an open interior, you can take all the dividers and organizers out. Size-wise it meets all TSA requirements and has a TSA-approved lock for security.
Best yet? There’s a charger integrated with the suitcase—no more hunting for that lone outlet at the airport. It’s located under the handle and doesn’t impede your ability to move the suitcase when you’re powering up.


Eater: Starbucks Changes Rewards Program

I don’t go to Starbucks that often, but when I do – especially when it’s a multi-drink run – I often shake my head at the somewhat draconian rewards system. Shake no more:

Customers who have been using Starbucks’s rewards program for the past few years have been able to earn a freebie after 12 visits, regardless of what they purchased each time. The system therefore slightly benefited those who purchased a small/tall coffee and opted for a fancier free drink on the 13th visit. Anyone that was spending $5 (or less) per visit will no longer benefit from the new system, as the AP notes. Now, people will have to spend a minimum of $62.50 — or earn 125 stars — before getting their first free item.

Field of Play

Go Panthers

It only took the elimination of the Washington Professional Football Team, the Seahawks, and the Patriots for me to jump on the Carolina Panthers bandwagon but here I am. I endured a lot of internal conflict about cheering for the Panthers this season, stemming primarily from my deep rooted love of the Washington Professional Football Team1, intense pride for the state of North Carolina, and ever-evolving feelings about Cam Newton. But on this Sunday of Super Bowl “Don’t Call Me L” 50, I’m all in on #keeppounding.

  1. If you lived in North Carolina before 1995, then you might remember seeing the Redskins (back when we could call them that) on TV every weekend instead of the Panthers. ↩


Will Sia’s New Album Bring Her Out from the Shadows for Good?

I don’t remember if I personally first heard Sia’s ‘Chandelier’ in 2014 or 2015, but whenever it was I was immediately hooked. The album, 1000 Forms of Fear spent significant time in rotation on my music listening device throughout the first half of 2015 and on into the late summer early fall. Now, the recently released follow-up, This is Acting, is picking up right where its predecessor left off.

I love this description of Sia’s sound and style from Carrie Battan’s recent review in The New Yorker:

Which is not to say that Sia’s music feels anonymous. She is one of the most distinctive and acrobatic vocal performers working today, her high-register rasp instantly recognizable. Her songs sit somewhere between balladry and modern dance-pop. Everything is in service of a larger-than-life chorus, each song a vehicle for anthemic catharsis. She is wiser and more world-weary than the girlish Katy Perry, more impassioned than the ice-cool Rihanna, more demure than the slinky Beyoncé. Sia is a balladeer at heart, and she is at her best when she uses her voice as her primary tool.

If you give the new album a spin, check out the first single ‘Alive’, as well as ‘Reaper’, ‘House on Fire’, and ‘Footprints’.

Short Cuts

Food Republic: How the Five Guys French Fries Get Made

No time for commentary on this one, I need to go grab a bag of fries.

“I picked a lane and I started running”

Lin-Manuel Miranda with inspiring words about finding your place in the world.

Autoblog: The last Land Rover Defender has rolled off the line

It’s the end of an era for the Land Rover Defender.

Steven Hyden Interviews Ryan Adams for Grantland, Talks ‘1989’

Skip this post, go read the interview to find out more about how Ryan Adams decided to cover 1989, how Taylor felt about it, and so much more.

Yahoo Travel: America’s Coolest Small Towns of 2015

Two North Carolina towns make the top 5: Piedmont “mountain” town Hillsborough, N.C at #3 and “Little” Washington, N.C. representing eastern North Carolina at #5.

15 Years Ago: Ryan Adams Releases ‘Heartbreaker’

Diffuser celebrates the 15th anniversary of Ryan Adams’ solo debut, Heartbreaker.

I spent a night on ‘Mars’

Do you know what that’s worth … Mars is a place on earth?

Go Write a Classic

Did Harper Lee really write Go Set a Watchman before To Kill a Mockingbird? Did she even write Watchmen at all? Who cares, I’m hooked.