October 21st: Swan Songs — Banquets, Rembert, The Feltron Report

Welcome to The Sligo Punch. As always, the origin story can be found here.

curated by Gene Buonaccorsi

Over the next couple of months, a few longstanding sources of intrigue to me are coming to an end, and they’re all doing so on their own terms, or at least in controlled ways. As a relentlessly nostalgic person, this makes me prone to emotional reactions but deep down I appreciate the opportunity to reflect on what initially caught my attention about the music, the writing and the ideas that inspire me. This week I’m hoping to find the essence of Rembert Browne’s writing, the meaning of The Feltron Report, and the emotional weight of Banquets’ music. All have captivated me and all are leaving behind plenty that I want to share with you.

Listen To This — Spit at the Sun by Banquets

The days of band break-ups being big news are long gone, thanks to the decline of the album format, the public’s ambivalence about career trajectories, and the reunion boom that means nothing is permanent. Nowadays it’s far more common for bands to either quietly sidle out of view, or to occupy themselves with new projects that take the attention of their fans without truly closing the book on the past. New Jersey’s Banquets calmly announced this summer that they’d be putting a pin in their brief but prolific career, but not before releasing a final album. I can’t say enough good about their ~5 year career, especially considering that they wrote a song called “Lyndon B. Magic Johnson.

Their music swells on waves of emotion, not unlike Jersey pop-punk predecessors Saves the Day, yet throughout their self-titled album and a 2014 split with Nightmares for a Week, Banquets have institutionalized lyrical maturity. The broad scope of their songs and their storytelling are just far enough removed from the self-interest of what is traditionally labeled pop-punk to be endearing. Simply put, Banquets’ is music made for times of transition. Their penchant for catchy choruses is an automatic draw, but it’s the the urgency of their verses that give their albums staying power. 2013’s Banquets was a mainstay for me while I finished college and moved to Washington D.C. for the summer; its ten songs comfortably accepted the difficulty in grasping personal growth. Like the other artists highlighted this week, Banquets bridge the creator/audience barrier by being candid.

Spit at the Sun is true mastery of this form. Tracks like “Piled High” and “Stop Signs in a Ghost Town” are anthemic meditations on the passing of time and, fittingly, the power of memory. Travis Omilian’s melodic vocals are electrifying when they stretch beyond his baseline smooth tone, like when he strains for the line “It was good / but I forget” on the final chorus of “Stop Signs.” On “Backwash” the band hit the album’s peak with a triumphant bridge that explodes out of a lone guitar chord. Dynamics are a big part of what separate Banquets from their peers (See “The Flicker and the Flame” off Banquets or 2011’s “Sound of Money” for proof). There’s little that’s sensational or unexpected about Spit at the Sun, echoing the humility of their “breakup.” This is simply fantastic and earnest music, the type that sticks with you for years.

Learn About This:

“In this moment, there was nothing I felt the need to broadcast to the world. I didn’t even have the desire to communicate my safety or lack thereof. I was just a black man in Ferguson.” — Rembert Browne

As one of the youngest staff writers during Grantland’s golden age and since, Rembert Browne’s calling card has been his ability to rapidly understand dynamic cultural events and then relate them to his readers without the pomp and disingenuity of traditional journalism. Regardless of the topic, Rembert somehow always seems like a really smart friend laying some knowledge on you. Maybe that’s why his colleagues, peers and internet followers refer to him almost uniformly by his first name (or just “Rem”). On a website full of vivid personalities, he is the most lifelike — the one you want to experience Burning Man with, or play in a round of tennis.

October 30th makes it exactly 4 years, full time, at Grantland. October 30th is also graduation day: my last day at Grantland. Feels right.
— Rembert Browne (@rembert) October 19, 2015

Next month Rembert’s stint at Grantland will come to a close, as he hops over to New York Magazine and its subsidiaries. In the spirit of recognizing his role in Grantland’s growth, and acknowledging my personal inspiration from his writing, I’m sharing a piece that captures Rembert’s importance — his firsthand account of the Ferguson protests. Rembert’s writing here is so immediate that this attempt to simply chronicle an experience turns into one of the most nuanced “media” descriptions of what happened on those tense and frightening nights in August. Even as he disassociates himself from any journalistic intention, he does so with emblematic storytelling, whether he’s recounting the words of teenagers running past him towards conflict or telling the story of Andre, the local cab driver who answers his call whenever Rembert is in a tight spot.

As new mediums change the way that we write and read about our country, we need writers like Rembert Browne. Writers who not only engage on the scene of important events, but add new texture through their unique perspective. What makes his writing so important is that his genuine curiosity leads him to approach his stories in a different way than his peers. Even topics as obscure as the death of a second-tier music service or Gucci Mane’s LinkedIn profile gain significance through his lens. When the scope broadens to include events like the Ferguson riots or subjects like the President of the United States, he is still able to bring the story directly to his readers in a way they haven’t considered it before. I can’t wait to see what he does next.

Watch This: “The Feltron Report” — Gestalten

Before infinite amounts of Internet data could describe our every move, humans exercised a voyeuristic need to scrutinize and observe by peering into their neighbors windows and eavesdropping on subway conversations. Nowadays, our computers and phones carry any number of ways for us to size up each others’ lives, not to mention our own. While this idea often evokes reactions from discomfort to frustration to outright paranoia, it’s easy to forget that we have the capacity to utilize data for constructive ends as well. Enter Nicholas Felton, who for 10 years has tracked his every action and then compiled data visualizations on different behaviors into the annual Feltron Report. While this at first seems like the nutty behavior of a tech-addicted over-sharer, Felton’s meticulous data collection is aimed at exploring and representing the humanity held within the numbers. The evolution of his curiosity says a lot about how Western culture has incorporated measuring and self-observation into our lives. What’s more, the presentation of his personal information in beautiful books returns the findings to an analog piece of art, far from their digital origin.

Felton has made it known that this 10th year will be the last Feltron Report, more out of a feeling of neatness than anything else. In Gestalten’s 2013 interview with him, he discussed what draws him to data, what he sees in the reports, and how it all applies to his work at one of the biggest data creators in the world, Facebook. In light of the massive scope of his project, and the climate in which he’s closing the books on it, it’s interesting to hear about the project in his own words.

Something we missed? Leave us a comment below and tell us what we should check out.