Idle Time was more or less founded on the principle that enthusiastically sharing the stuff we’re excited about naturally makes that stuff a little more enjoyable. Somewhere along the way, our innate affinity for competition and chicanery, catalyzed by pop culture obsessions, transformed into any number of ranking projects, contests, and year-end games. Water cooler recommendations are one thing, but we take our idle time seriously.
A midpoint check-in on the year, however, has only ever been to return to that simple exchange of so-far favorites: albums in heavy rotation, comics we all need to be reading, or movies good enough for a repeat trip to the box office. Check out these lists, all presented alphabetically, of the stuff we’re excited about through the first half of 2016.
Beyoncé – Lemonade
Bibio – A Mineral Love
Black Mountain – IV
Chance the Rapper – Coloring Book
Frankie Cosmos – So Far
The Field – The Follower
Gold Panda – Good Luck and Do Your Best
Hinds – Leave Me Alone (Hinds and four other first-half faves are featured in the latest Idle Time Tunes of the Month mix)
The Hotelier – Goodness
Kettel – Wingtip
Kendrick Lamar – Untitled Unmastered
The Last Shadow Puppets – Everything You’ve Come To Expect
Niki & The Dove – Everybody’s Heart Is Broken Now
Anderson Paak – Malibu
Esme Patterson – We Were Wild
Polica – United Crushers
Joey Purp – iiiDrops
The Range – Potential
Maria Usbeck – Amparo
Venetian Snares – Traditional Synthesizer Music
Leon Vynehall – Rojus (Designed to Dance)
Kanye West – The Life of Pablo
White Lung – Paradise Continue reading Best of 2016 (So Far…)→
Last month, on a characteristically can’t-make-up-its-mind Saturday, with spring sunshine jockeying with wind and fog, we assembled on Ocean Beach to celebrate fifteen years of Idle Time nonsense. The original three hadn’t been in the same place since a fantasy baseball draft in 2014, and our core four likely hadn’t been together since those traumatizing rock ‘n roll roulette sessions in the back room of Ink way back in 2012.
This was also the first ever in-person assemblage of both the O.G. Idle Timers and the next-generation of enthusiastic souls, plus friends and wayward, woebegone blog contributors. It’s never easy to get perfect attendance (heretofore impossible, really), and the Doodle calendaring went on for weeks. But, for this particular get-together, having us all together was essential. We were finally going to do it. After three failed attempts dating back to 2009, Idle Time’s Ultimate Mixtape was so close to realization. And we were going to stay on that goddam beach until we had ranked the whole fucking thing.
Looking back over the fifteen-year history of our silly little collective has involved much more than spinning old CD-R mixes, reading photocopied zines, and digging up photos of RF in a skirt. But of course I’ve done all of those things too.
It has also involved opening backup folders in subfolders in mis-labeled directories on flashdrives and SD cards hiding in dusty cardboard boxes all over Northern California. I’m not the most organized of archivists, but I do maintain that everything is somewhere, provided I have the patience to look for it. In this case, I didn’t find what I was initially looking for (a spreadsheet with the first iteration of our Ultimate Mixtape), but I did uncover some random word documents with transcribed content from our old Google group.
One particular narrative (that I composed as a radio play for some reason) is especially interesting. It recounts the car ride in which WH, RF, and I realized that we had slowly come under the spell of Swedish pop music. And it snowballed from there. The accuracy of the transcript is debatable, but it certainly sounds like one of our car ride conversations. Continue reading Fifteen Years of Idle Time: The Swedish Obsession→
On Saturday, April 2, we’ll be ranking the top 50 of the 150 songs featured on the 15th Anniversary Ultimate Mixtape. The first 100 songs were ranked by secret ballot (most of us won’t even know how that shook out until the weekend), but those top 50 tunes will be ranked by our often contentious but always entertaining Rock n’ Roll Roulette. To further explain the process and its origins, here’s a reprint of an article first published in the Decades book in 2009.
“Bob Dylan Sucks…”
Rock n Roll Roulette and the Origins of the Favorite 400
It began idly enough, as most of our endeavors do. It was sometime towards the end of 2008, and we were all struggling through hours and hours of each others’ year-end picks.
I dropped a stack of burned CDs on a table in the lunch room, indistinguishable from one another save for the black Sharpie-scrawl, shufﬂed them together face-down, pulled out two at random and asked WH and MI, “Which would you rather listen to?”
The “winner” was set aside, primed to face-off against other round one survivors in a game that spontaneously took on the name “Rock n’ Roll Roulette,” despite having no real wheel to speak of, or gambling component whatsoever. The element of chance was certainly a huge factor, and damn if that name didn’t have a cool ring to it. Within minutes the discs had shufﬂed down to one ﬁnal match-up, and a would-you-rather champion was selected with a 2-1 majority vote. WH held the ﬁnal disc up and said, “There’s our record of the year.” Continue reading Fifteen Years of Idle Time: Rock n’ Roll Roulette Revisited→
It’s an established fact that this whole Idle Time business began when grown adults passed notes back and forth at staff meetings, Top 5 lists running the gamut from music to breakfast cereal. Thanks, Nick Hornby.
After we published our Decades book in 2009, WH scribbled in my copy, like a high school yearbook. “I can’t believe this bitch was for real. Thanks for entertaining all of my stupid ideas. Next, 500 tracks!”
That book was the biggest list we had assembled to date: 400 albums curated, debated, and ranked in one of the most drawn-out processes any collective could have ever bothered with. But we didn’t want to stop there. And the idea that we could generate a list representing our favorite songs of all time didn’t seem at all daunting at the time. After that mammoth undertaking, this would be an afterthought, yeah? What marvelous hubris. Continue reading Fifteen Years of Idle Time: The Road to Ultimate Mixtape→
In order of release, my Top 5 albums from the first half of 2015…
Panda Bear – Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper
PBMTGR was my first introduction to Panda Bear’s solo material, and just after a couple of listens, I realized that Noah Lennox brings just about everything that I love about Animal Collective to that group. The unsettling synths and oddball melodies get stuck in your head for reasons you can’t explain. I still struggle to understand this album, but there’s beauty in the struggle.
I haven’t relapsed into Top 5 lists or controversy-laden ranking debates. At least not yet. But I still can’t help compiling anything that falls under a Favorite Anything category. So whether or not our mixtape exchanges and Soundcloud recommendations steamroll into anything remotely similar to the old Idle Time year-end best-ofs, I wanted to gather up ten of my favorite albums from 2014’s first half. Listed alphabetically, for now.
Ava Luna Electric Balloon
A decade-plus since east coast bands like Radio 4 and Q And Not U punked up disco, Brooklyn’s Ava Luna are doing the same with jazz and soul. I heard three different tracks off this album via three separate outlets, and was later surprised that they were not only by the same band, but also on the same record. Just the right amount of multiple personality disorder to make up an individual party disc.
Help me cross the finish line in this year’s Giant Race and win this limited edition “K Pack” poster!
Last year’s mixtape contest turned out even better than I had hoped. Although I didn’t make it through the entire entrant-created playlist, I am happy to report that I didn’t have to skip over a single track. Cade I. took home the Brian Wilson bobblehead thanks to the timely finish-line fist-pumper “Danger Zone” and Anthony E.’s stupid Spongebob theme song suggestion never made it into the rotation. [Although: my iTunes recently fished out that Painty the Pirate song for a Genius playlist built around The Decemberists’ “We Both Go Down Together.” Clearly the mischievous Apple AI isn’t bound to my iPod’s circuitry.)
Entering is easy: submit a song for my half-marathon playlist. I start the race, hit shuffle, and go. If your song is playing when I cross the finish line in AT&T Park, you win. This year’s prize is the “K Pack” promo given away at the recent Frank Sinatra tribute night. The only other way to get your hands on this sexy 16 x 20 poster is by scouring eBay, and them’s dangerous waters, matey.
Send one song selection to firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll add it to the playlist. I’ll announce the winner (and winning finish-line song) on the evening of Sunday, September 16th.
Another look at the fineprint:
Songs should be energetic and appropriately charged for running. I reserve the right to skip any song that is making me want to stop moving. Or a song that might incite me to dropkick my shuffle in the direction of Alcatraz (so please pick something other than “Church on White,” Erik).
Songs need to be five minutes or less. Sorry, Rob, can’t accept that Digitalism remix this time around.
I’m taking the first 40 song requests, and after that the contest is locked.
I’ll definitely be padding out the playlist with some songs of my own choosing, but if one of my picks is the last thing I’m listening to, I’ll award the prize to the most recent reader-nominated song that comes up in the shuffle.
If your song choice is obscure and I don’t have it, and it can’t be tracked down via all the usual outlets (iTunes, emusic, etc.), you may have to send it to me. After securing all the appropriate permissions, of course.
If someone already recommended your pick, I’ll email you back for a second choice.
If the prize needs to be shipped, winner is responsible for shipping costs.
I love Gmail. Rather than rely on my memory, which tends to sensationalize and embellish past events indiscriminately, I am able to quickly scroll back to the summer of 2004 and use electronic correspondence to survey what was going on in my life. From there, I can embellish with a bit more discrimination.
No real surprises in my inbox early on. EBay notifications and alerts, work-related questions-and-answers (can you remember back to a time when the workplace didn’t supply you with a business email?), and an inordinate number of emails to Craigslist scalpers, often in vain, attempting to secure tickets to sold-out shows. Looks like I spent way too much on that White Stripes show at the Warfield.
But then, beginning in August, something happened. Fantasy sports came back into my life. Matt (not Isey-Matt, but my brother Matt, who is actually in Scottsdale right now hopefully working on a great Spring Training travel piece for the site) invited me to a fantasy football league. From August on, every other conversation thread seems to be either sent by Yahoo! or have something to do with player trades, shit-talking, or injury report analyses. Fantasy football turned into fantasy basketball… and golf and NASCAR and March Madness… and even Serie A Italian soccer, back before anyone gave a crap about ‘football’ and the only way to get involved was through the Italian-language “Mister Yahoo” portal. I dominated.