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SLAM DUNK

The latest edition of this longtime rivalry should be interesting, as both teams have something to play for. The Knicks, number two in the Eastern Conference all season, are trying to overcome the Heat for the number one spot, while the Sixers have to step it up a notch to make the playoffs. Both teams have been plagued by injuries, especially Philadelphia, whose crown jewel of last summer’s blockbuster trade, All-Star center Andrew Bynum, has yet to hit the boards for them. Look for some high scoring fireworks—the 76ers are seventh in the league in points allowed, while the Knicks are 8th.

Sun., Feb. 24, 7 p.m., 2013

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Sound of the Sandy City

Upon hitting land, Hurricane Sandy disrupted the lives of everyone on the Eastern Seaboard and destroyed not only houses and roads but also entire sections of cities. Even when it remained in the Atlantic, the storm was already disrupting New York’s massive concert industry: Shows by British soft-goth trio the xx and local pop-punk superstars fun. were postponed, while acts like Ghostface Killah and Journey—the latter making their presumably anticipated Barclays Center debut—told fans to return to their point of purchase and collect full refunds.

On Sunday night, not the greatest for concerts even in the middle of summer, the best action I could find was on the website turntable.fm, where users can set up public or private chat rooms and where strangers or friends rotate as DJs. After creating an account, I entered a room that was a mixture of both.

Accurately titled an all-caps “HURRICANE JAMMIN’,” it was created by pals, some of whom have written for the Voice, who did the same thing last year when it was Irene keeping the city inside. But it was frequented by strangers intrigued by the title and hooked by the eclectic combination of ’80s new jack swing, dance and club music, and otherwise long-forgotten novelty tracks. I have no doubt that I enjoyed sitting before my computer and discovering that Khia did a New Jersey Nets playoff remix of her 2002 ladies-first sex anthem “My Neck, My Back” more than anything four out of five rock bands would have played had their gigs not been canceled. Accordingly, I clicked the button marked “awesome,” and my chat room avatar began nodding his oversize head in approval.

By Monday, no music could compete with the sounds coming from outside, and soon, once the storm knocked out Internet, even these small pleasures were taken away. While my roommate spent the afternoon discovering that Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s latest post-rock opus Allelujah! Don’t Blend! Ascend! makes for, if nothing else, a good compliment to pouring rain and howling wind, I went to a pair of bodegas in search of some supplies I should have bought the night before. Although I entered hoping to hear something with a little more life than Godspeed’s slow drone, even these neighborhood institutions, usually broadcasting Hot 97 or Mega 97.9 deep into the night, had turned off the music, opting instead for televised news updates.

Later, as Sandy receded and cabin fever began to set in, Bed-Stuy residents descended upon Myrtle Avenue’s Project Parlor for some much needed relief, using those concert refunds to purchase $3 PBRs and discounted-shelf liquor. On Mondays, the bar usually turns to Pandora for music, but with the Internet still down, they hooked up a ’90s Walkman and requested that patrons bring their personal mixtapes and cassettes.

One Facebook commenter requested that someone bring a copy of Raekwon’s legendary Only Built 4 Cuban Linx purple tape, but it seemed that no collectors were willing to bring an item so rare out into weather that remained strong enough to knock down branches or soak through a pair of Rae-approved gray-and-black Bo Jackson sneakers.

The next morning, the storm was gone, but its footprint remained visible from every window on every street. Without whistling wind, pounding rain, cars driving by, and, in some cases, power, the neighborhood awoke to a new sound: quiet.

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SLAM DUNK

This is already being called the East River Rivalry and for good reason. When the Nets were in New Jersey, it just wasn’t the same as competing with another NYC team, plus the Knicks and Nets have never had a good team in the same season. Now with Deron Williams, Kris Humphries, and Brook Lopez hitting the hardwood for Brooklyn and the Knicks lead by Carmelo Anthony, Amar’e Stoudemire, and Tyson Chandler, we can expect the barbs to fly and the scoreboard to light up. This is actually the second preseason clash of New York’s roundball franchises (the first was at Nassau Coliseum on October 24), but this is the marquee—the last preseason game before the regular season, and it’s in NYC! Also, keep in mind that regular season tickets will be really hard to get and might require a bank loan to finance, so go for this one.

Thu., Nov. 1, 7 p.m., 2012

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Santigold’s Gold Standard

Despite spending the previous evening performing on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon and hosting a celebratory after-party at downtown hot spot Le Baron, Santi White, a/k/a Santigold, is surprisingly fresh-faced and cheerful the morning after the release of her second album, Master of My Make-Believe (Atlantic/Downtown). Her demeanor might be light, but that’s not to say she doesn’t have weighty things on her mind. “The earth is going crazy,” she proclaims.

She continues, gazing out the window of her label’s midtown offices: “It’s insane. There are birds falling out of the sky, oil spills, nuclear explosions. There are earthquakes and tornadoes here in New York City. I mean, come on. What the hell is going on?”

In person, the 36-year-old is just as playfully engaging as she is on stage, where she champions social and musical revolution. She’s also remarkably enthusiastic for someone who has seen the seedy inner workings of almost every facet of the music industry. In her twenties, she served as an A&R rep at Epic Records and fronted the punk band Stiffed; she has helped write songs for Christina Aguilera, Lily Allen, and Ashlee Simpson. And thanks to songs like “L.E.S. Artistes” and “Creator” becoming music-blog and commercial staples, she has toured with Björk, Coldplay, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Kanye West and Jay-Z. The Roc-a-Fella mogul and Nets co-owner even sampled her heady dub chant “Shove It” on his song “Brooklyn We Go Hard.”

But with that out-of-the-gate success came creative confusion, which led to a long period of time between her first and second albums. “When you’re out giving, giving, giving, you put a seal on the emotional part of you, and it hardens,” she says. “I really had to do a lot of work to get back to the private, personal part of myself to write. And when I got there, I had to re-evaluate.” She mentions TV on the Radio’s David Sitek, who contributed production to Master, as her savior; he recommended that she try transcendental meditation and yoga, and she credits those practices with helping her gain creative clarity.

Later in our conversation, White jokingly blames her constant inner angst on artists’ tendencies toward being overly sensitive to their surroundings. It’s a gentle, personal reconstructing of the in-your-face, revolutionary tone that made her debut’s collage of rock, punk, dub, and hooks translate so well. On Master, dancehall, kuduro, and synth rock enter the mix. “I really like when pop music had world-music influences, like Peter Gabriel or Talking Heads,” she says. “I think I did more of that style this time.” Lyrically, she balances the roles of all-powerful femme-warrior (“GO!”), cultural theorist (“Fame”), challenging provocateur (“Freak Like Me”), and soothsaying romantic (“The Riot’s Gone”).

The lumping together of hard and sweet, sassy and sentimental, and a grab bag of musical tastes puts Santigold in a particularly powerful position. Her brand of music is purposefully off-kilter and masterfully constructed in a way that separates her from a growing pack of everything-including-the-kitchen-sink pop stars. But her pop-sheened weirdness might ultimately make her one of the most endearing, relatable, and authoritative bridges between the cutting edge and the mainstream.

That fact is most apparent to White herself, and Santigold is a stylish, savvy project as a result. “What I do well is curating to make my vision come together,” she notes. A resident of Bed-Stuy, where she lives with her one-time Olympic snowboarder and musician husband Trouble Andrew, the singer’s self-mined, hands-on approach is key to her method. She went crate-digging with Q-Tip to find the sample for the choppy battle cry “GO!” and her choreographed stage routines are inspired by Kid-N-Play and Public Enemy shows she saw when she was young. Even the strappy golden swimsuit she dons on the cover of Master was custom designed for her by Alexander Wang.

White has approached the release of her second album with a mix of excitement and trepidation. On “Fame,” a track that calls out the paparazzi-fiending masses, the singer lyrically and openly struggles with her own public image. For her, the world is out of whack in more ways than one. She notes that the pop icons of her youth were different from the Real Housewives of today and maintains that fame is a double-edged sword. As a result, it’s her belief that fame only belongs to those who want to use it for good. “Celebdom is weird and really fucked up,” she says earnestly. “I’m definitely not in it for that. At the same time, I want my music to be famous. I feel like there’s an insane amount of power in music, and it’s a positive power.”

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NBA UNWRAPPED

The NBA’s decision to kick off the long-delayed season on Christmas Day with the Knicks taking on the Celtics at Madison Square Garden was a stroke of marketing genius. Don’t let anyone tell you this rivalry is just a spin-off of the Yankees–Red Sox hate relationship: New York and Boston have been duking it out since the original 1946 NBA was formed. Last April marked the first time in 21 years they met in the playoffs, and Knicks fans will be looking for some big-time revenge. And this season, they have the guns to do it, with Amar’e Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony, and Rajon Rondo giving the fans a lot to look forward to. By the way, if you can’t leave the festivities at home, TNT lucked out and has the game with one of my favorite round-ball commentators, Charles “Knucklehead” Barkley, joined by Shaquille O’Neal in his TNT debut. Should be fun.

Sun., Dec. 25, noon, 2011

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FACE OFF

These two teams have been duking it out since 1946 (they are two of only three teams remaining from the original NBA), and while the Celtics are way ahead in championships (17–2), the Knicks are playing with renewed spunk and hope since ’Melo. And don’t forget the other half of New York’s dynamic duo, Amar’e Stoudemire, who is leading the league with 632 FGs as we write this. So maybe the Knicks are coming back—and the feeling is that this rivalry is back, too. In their last match-up on December 16, the Celtics—who are headed to the playoffs and a shot at the championship—edged the Knicks out at the buzzer (118–116). Look for some payback this time!

Mon., March 21, 7:30 p.m., 2011

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Pazz & Jop Voter Comments: Rick Ross Lies, the Rolling Stones Plunder, and Taylor Swift Triumphs

At least an episode of Tim & Eric has the decency to last only 10 minutes. Chillwave had the gall to last an entire year. 

Michael Tedder
Brooklyn, NY

In truth, Willow Smith is 10 years old, and Rick Ross was never a drug kingpin. In practice, Willow Smith is 23 years old, and Rick Ross is the most notorious cocaine dealer in America. Such was the power of sheer will in 2010. Unlike Ross, there was no controversy or surprise about Willow Smith’s backstory: She’s Will Smith’s kid, and precocious superstardom was coming to her like adult teeth. But much like Ross, her single “Whip My Hair” is rife with blatant untruths: in her case, having haters, driving cars, grinding, “getting it in,” and saying “hurr.” And yet Smith channeled the spirit of Ross’s “B.M.F. (Blowing Money Fast),” inhabiting her character so emphatically and convincingly that it rendered her real self irrelevant and her song a megaton monster. Haters didn’t get shook off, as the song says; instead, they got run over. By a 10-year-old driving a car.

Jordan Sargent

Miami, FL

The sooner hip-hop loses the intolerable burden of living up to some bullshit simulacrum of “realness,” the better—I’m sick of reading white folks dismissing weirder-than-usual rap for not fitting their fetishistic version of what “street” is supposed to mean. And maybe Rick Ross’s evolutionary success is a good first step: Just crank up the unattainable opulence and the struggling hustler/billion-dollar-man dichotomy to levels where it seems so transparent that it’s hard to care about boring shit like verisimilitude. He knows he’s selling a Hollywood bill of goods, so why the hell not wink at the camera, especially when it’s what turned him from a joke into an A-lister? And now that he’s actually playing to his strengths as a rapper—that bellow as a rib-nudging sales pitch, all outlandish comparisons and signifying brand-name drops—he has rendered all speculation over who-cares gossip and counterfeit Louis Vuitton shades into an obsolete joke. Hell, everybody’s fake in the eyes of the Internet, anyways.

Nate Patrin
St. Paul, MN

The unearthed tracks on the Exile on Main Street and Darkness on the Edge of Town reissues were thrilling. But I was split on the revisionist history. I wanted to hear the original, un-fucked-with recordings. Then again, if I were going to publish half-baked riffings from 30 years ago, wouldn’t I want to “complete” them? At least the authors were alive to call shots (unlike Michael Jackson). Still, the deconstructed multi-track of the Stones’ “Gimme Shelter” that surfaced in November on dangerousminds.net was more revelatory than anything in the Exile package. And the un-retouched history on Dylan’s Witmark Demos was the most profound of the lot.

Will Hermes
New Paltz, NY

If a song as good as “Plundered My Soul” was indeed left for dead for 38 years, that says more about the Rolling Stones’ early-’70s headspace than any of their landmark albums ever could. Or, alternatively, if a song this good was just now pasted together to replicate Exile’s aesthetics and help pimp a reissue, that says more about what these guys may have left in the tank than any of their recent tour-souvenir studio albums ever could.

Steve Kandell
Brooklyn, NY

Plenty of people are calling 2010 a banner year for rap, but it was also a good—and diverse—year for queer music. From Bradford Cox’s narcotized r&b to the ubiquitous vamping of Nicki Minaj to Robyn’s heartbreaking dance-floor drama to Ariel Pink as Menopause Man to Janelle Monáe’s gentle retro-futurist gender-bending, it seemed that the whole of the pop world was trending toward the middle of the Kinsey Scale.

Daniel Drozdin
Pittsburgh, PA

Maybe I’m too invested in the idea that tear-the-club-up rappers should belt like top-volume M.O.P. to get fully on board with Waka Flocka Flame. Dude has hooks for days, and he can write aggro without being dumb. (“Fuck this industry/Bitch, I’m in the streets”—that’s some Clio-winning phraseology right there.) But unless he’s doing that thing where he’s screaming out his own name like blunt-force trauma onomatopoeia, he also seems to let the beats do most of the heavy lifting, the kicks and bass providing all the force as Flocka just cockily drawls his way to the point in the hook where he can yell a bit. It’s easy to go hard in the paint if you’re a lumbering Shaq-size dude and you’ve got Lex Luger as Garnett next to you in your frontcourt. And, like modern-day Shaq, this shit gets tired after about 20 minutes.

Nate Patrin
St. Paul, MN

Isn’t Taylor Swift’s big auteurist move the readymade critic’s darling it should have been? Why are Arcade Fire and the National topping out year-end lists she doesn’t even appear on? It’s not just that her record is better than their records—it’s better in all the rock-crit ways that are supposed to make you a Best-Of natural: musically broader and deeper than her last album, introspective about love and loss, a successful move into maturity from ingénue-ity. She even sings in a nasal whine that some people hate! So how come she isn’t this year’s new Dylan, or at least new Conor Oberst? Tell me it’s not because she’s blonde. Now tell me with a straight face.

[

Jesse Mayshark
Knoxville, TN

A year after the Flap, Taylor Swift and Kanye West released multimillion-selling albums. The surprise was the unsurprising results. Swift bore down and wrote songs whose wit and detail suggest she either boasts a powerful imagination or is still interested enough in the world outside the VIP room. Since she’s so young, complacency is the sin her imagination must guard against. From Stevie Nicks to Sinead O’Connor, the history of pop music proffers too many examples of misguided talent and narcissism. Every indication suggests she’s going to be one of those talents about whom The Industry is self-congratulatory, a Grammy stand-by like Stevie Wonder. So I’m perfectly fine with Speak Now as her testament. She’s hungry enough to know relationships, like coal, exist as fuel for healthy furnaces, but whose fumes are toxic if inhaled.

Alfred Soto

Miami, FL

Titus Andronicus, The Monitor: Patrick Stickles sees Axl’s civil-war-as-social-metaphor and raises it so high it’s not even funny, except it actually is funny. Massive but never plodding, smart but never clever, this is the thing you should throw right in the face of the next person who tells you the album is dying as an art form. If you find a collection of songs that makes better use of the word “excrement” in the lyrics, you should buy it.

Steve Kandell
Brooklyn, NY

If there’s one 2010 artist I feel sure American critics are going to under-rank, it’s Shakira. Sweet, shrewd, and as brilliant as her blond highlights, she leaves me mesmerized, and I harbor no doubts that “Waka Waka” was the masterpiece of 2010. FIFA put the Colombian woman in the impossible spot of having to represent Africa at its World Cup coming-out parade, and she swiveled her way around that fix with an infectious hip dance and intimations of a melting-pot world to come.

Drew Hinshaw
Atlanta, GA

Nicki Minaj and will.i.am, “Check It Out”: This is the second year in a row where will.i.am has topped my list—I must now seriously consider the possibility that he’s a genius on the order of Chuck Berry or Bill James. (Three years ago, I thought he was the Antichrist, or at least one of many Antichrists. My thinking has evolved on this matter.)

Phil Dellio

Toronto, ON

Gas stations, supermarkets, Walgreens—the more functional the environment, the more effectively Lady Antebellum’s “Need You Now” broke my heart. Foregoing massed tracked harmonies for the surefire technique of putting an average-voiced man and woman together at the mic, “Need You Now” evoked classic aural psychodramas like Rumours-era Fleetwood Mac. (Too bad its host album isn’t even as good as Mirage, though).

Alfred Soto

Miami, FL

Against Me!’s “I Was a Teenage Anarchist” damn near made me cry into my Kashi cereal. Singer Tom Gabel—the dude who penned the punker-than-thou anthem “Baby I’m an Anarchist” back in 2002—did a 180: He reassessed the fundamentals of punk rock, ultimately concluding it’s all about an individual’s freedom of choice. Hive minds are retarded in the literal sense. Gabel’s dissent from the rigid scene is his most punk-rock achievement, and a reminder that the most terrifyingly punk-rock thing you can do is become who you are.

Jeanne Fury

Brooklyn, NY

The five stages of a 2010 Sufjan Stevens Song:

“What the fuck?”

“No, seriously. What. The. Fuck?”

“Who does this guy think he is?”

“Oh, wait, I get it. Kinda catchy.”

“Hey, can you play that again?”

Jim Connelley
Glendale, CA

Wavves, King of the Beach/Best Coat, Crazy for You: Every generation gets the James Taylor and Carly Simon it deserves.

Steve Kandell
Brooklyn, NY

“Chasin’ venture paper, like what Twitter get/Sick of arguing with white dudes on the Internet”—one line in “You Oughta Know,” and Das Racist were pretty much guaranteed to make my year-end list somewhere. And the line from “hahahaha jk?” that countered/augmented/expanded on that sentiment— “We’re not racist, we love white people/Ford trucks, apple pies, bald eagles”—is acerbic enough to represent their m.o. alongside it, some kind of Br_wn B_st_rds in a Cheech and Chong’s Boutique Trojan horse. Christian Lander should fold up his iBook and go home.

Nate Patrin
St. Paul, MN

Taio Cruz’s “Dynamite” is a fantastic song, and not just because I wholeheartedly support pop music with synth riffs that take their cues from early-’90s rave music. After the song became a huge hit, Mike Tompkins’s a cappella version of the song went viral; the Maccabeats then covered Tompkins’s version (albeit with Chanukah-themed lyrics), and that went viral as well. And then, unexpectedly, something strange happened: I found myself liking the song even more, except that “the song” no longer meant just Taio Cruz, but rather his version plus all the other versions, assembled into some multi-headed beast that can’t be broken down into its constituent parts anymore. Maybe this is how the post-Glee, post–American Idol world is going to work: Everyone wants to be a karaoke star, and no song is untouchable anymore. The song recorded in a professional studio and promoted internationally at a cost of millions of dollars ends up on the same pedestal as the cover version recorded in some unknown singer’s bedroom, or the 90-second truncated version sung by a just-discovered teenager on a TV talent show.

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Barry Bruner

Toronto, ON

This year, Flying Lotus’s Cosmogramma was likened to a “symphony,” and Miguel Atwood Ferguson’s Suite for Ma Dukes saw a full release. Recent years have also seen Damon Albarn’s opera Monkey: Journey to the West and Adam Theis’s Hip-Hop Symphony. These classical forms are inspiring a lot of exciting material—maybe 2011 will be the year of the dubstep concerto.

David McFadden-Elliott
Berkeley, CA

Lady Gaga and Beyoncé, “Telephone”: a song about a young girl in her 20s who’s too busy to text her friend or talk on her cell phone; based on informal observations walking around the city, this immediately moves it into the realm of science fiction.

Phil Dellio
Toronto, ON

The year’s most dispiriting trend: redefining genres so they reflected the listener’s own cramped tastes. When critics praise Janelle Monáe or How to Dress Well as great r&b, or Ariel Pink as a terrific update of late-’70s studio-rock, you know they haven’t listened to a note of contemporary r&b, or assume that standing the proper distance from the microphone signifies the act’s polish. The critical success of Monáe, How to Dress Well, and Ariel Pink actually showed the contempt with which r&b and studio-rock were still held by indie-leaning listeners, years after the Neptunes supposedly made things easier for them.

Alfred Soto
Miami, FL

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HOT SHOT

Let’s see if we can think of some reasons why this is going to be a hot ticket. First, the Knicks and the Heat are in the same division—that’s something. The Knicks are playing their best ball in a long time. And, yes, of course, Miami stole Pat Riley from New York back in 1995. Anything else? Damn—how could we forget? LeBron chose Miami over New York. Be sure to come to the Garden and show your appreciation for the game’s greatest talent and let him know your feelings, New York–style. If you go to one Knicks game a year, this one will have, by far, the best atmosphere. (Maybe Spike will show up and start getting on King James’s ass!) Later on, you can say, “I was there when . . . ” and flash your laminated ticket stub.

Fri., Dec. 17, 7 p.m., 2010

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Find cheap seats to the Knicks vs. Indiana Pacers

David Letterman said it better than us last week: “Tiger Woods announced he would be taking a leave from the sport—didn’t the Knicks already do that?” You can at least come out and root for the forwards: Indiana’s David Granger is averaging around 24 points a game as we go to press, and the Knicks’ Danilo Gallinari is averaging near 14.1 points a game. Try yelling, “Avanti!” to Gallinari, an Italian who is the Knicks’ youngest player at 21. Seriously, this might be a good time to get tickets. Score them on the rebound on StubHub, starting as low as $15 with some club seating available at $140 a ticket.

Sun., Jan. 3, 6 p.m., 2010

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LEBRON BRINGS IT HOME?

With Isiah Thomas finally gone, the Knicks front office is playing up the virtues of stability and rebuilding. Mike D’Antoni has his job cut out for him, and as we go to press, the Knicks were 5-2 in preseason. Fortunately, he can start with building their game around the “Dynamic Duo,” Chris Duhon (566 assists last season, the most of any Knick since Stephon Marbury in 2004–05) and David Lee (who put up a career-best 16.0 points per game in his first season playing with Duhon). Still, the Knicks can hardly hope for a win against the Cavaliers, who almost made it to the finals last year, but the main attraction, of course, is LeBron James—five-time All-Star, 2008–2009 MVP, and ace Saturday Night Live host. LeBron wants to snag the championship for his hometown this year and finally get past the rap of being the league’s best player with no championship ring, so he can be expected to dazzle every outing.

Fri., Nov. 6, 6 p.m., 2009