Selected feature stories, profiles, and essays.
25 SONGS THAT TELL US WHERE MUSIC IS GOING: kING kRULE, "dUM sURFER"
"Try to imagine a crowd this song might be addressed to, and you may wind up picturing a cartoon mix of zoot-suited jazz goons, mod rockers, brawling punks, rap backpackers and track-suited soccer hooligans; the whole thing seems to belong in some invented space like the roadhouse from “Twin Peaks,” where bikers and loggers gathered, for some reason, to listen to dreamy art-pop."
Art-Pop Visionary Shara Nova Uses Dance Music to Plumb the Paradoxes of Self and Society
"Instead of rock, the substrate of A Million and One is dance music. Lucid and otherworldly, it’s like a hazy glimpse into a parallel universe where Laurie Anderson is Robyn’s producer."
Nine Out of Ten Tabletop Games Are Made by White Men. With Rap Godz, Omari Akil Is Working to Change That.
"When he and Hamu Dennis, unknown and untested in the world of game design, raised more than $25,000 in a month for Rap Godz on Kickstarter, they knew it had been the right decision for the branding on the box to say Board Game Brothas, not Parker Brothers."
Hamilton Is Spectacular. But Is It Really a Salve for Racial Wounds, or Just a White Bandage?
"Every lyric has been subjected to Talmudic scrutiny, every hip-hop and show-tune reference footnoted, every historical fudge corrected, every hot take fired and cooled. So I’m not going to write a review. Let's just talk."
Twenty-Four Hours on an Amtrak to Philly:
a Horror Story, an Adventure Yarn, and a Lesson About Embracing Life’s Rails
"To be on a train for twelve hours is to undergo a whole gamut of emotional states, from anticipation and interest to monotony and restlessness, on through a tunnel of despair that, if you're lucky, emerges into a clearing of giddy, almost surreal acceptance of your endless hurtling captivity in a rapidly dissolving social order."
What the Recent Backlash Against Kehinde WileY Gets Wrong About Art’s Past and Present
"An existentially threatened population depicting violence against a dominant one is not morally the same as the opposite. It's the difference between resistance and tyranny."
The Secret to Vintage Jeans
"On December 31, the doors will close on North Carolina’s White Oak plant, the last big textile mill in the U.S. to make true, vintage-style denim. Our correspondent tracks down the secret to classic jeans, and their unexpected future."
Novelist Meg Wolitzer Isn’t as Good as Franzen and Eugenides. She’s Better. If the Literature Industry Weren’t Sexist, Everyone Would Know That.
"The literary establishment probably has been wary of Wolitzer not only because of sexism, but also because of its corollary, fear—not what women can't do, but what women might do. "
Recent Decisions in The News & Observer’s Arts Journalism Expose the Downside of “Reader-Focused Coverage”
"Arts criticism's public-service value can't be measured in clicks. It isn't a vegetable you harvest. It's a seed you plant."
jeghetto's afrofuturist puppet genius mesmerizes the masses and local kids
"He created his artistry from scratch, the evidence right there in his puppets, which are made from recycled materials, delicately wrought but left raw and open to show the magic of their jointure, where the uncanny illusion of life resides."
The Life and Times of Durham's Own Daedalus, Jaybird O'Berski
"In one room, dark but for a single bulb, a sleeping man wakes up when I clap my hands. He scribbles a poem in an old book, rips out the page, hands it to me, and goes back to sleep."
Durham’s Best (OK, Only) Rare Tuba Museum Opens to the Public
"[The tubas] mass in serried ranks like brazen armies, bristling behind velvet ropes on poles in matching brass, their spherical capitals shining. The history of an instrument and the story of a family's life are densely packed into these thousands of feet of tubing."
[1st Place for Arts & Entertainment Reporting, 2016 North Carolina Press Association Awards]
Durham’s new boutique hotels are selling the past. What do they say about the present?
"At the front desk of The Durham Hotel a man in an undersize three-piece suit with a ringmaster's mustache wants to know where I got my shirt. It's a thin cotton button-down, navy blue, patterned with small white petals. I had changed out of a tattered Misfits T-shirt, hoping to blend in like a Ming vase. But with the elegant geometry of the dining room sweeping to my left and this bespoke figure standing before me, I suddenly feel déclassé admitting it came from Urban Outfitters."
The high-volume, high-sincerity Christian noise of Clang Quartet
"Were you there when the sun refused to shine? the congregation sings. Only one candle still burns. Scotty lurches from his pew. Above him, dusk shines in a window where Jesus kneels with his hands clasped and his face upturned. A footlight sends Scotty's shadow looming over the altar as he gets down on his knees and takes up his cross. A soft, eerie shriek picks up in the dimness."
a puppeteer tries to make a mainstream career and a case for cannabis With foam and felt
"The camera monitor shows only the puppets. It doesn't capture the 33-year-old Libertarian kneeling under the table, wearing a wristband emblazoned with pot leaf emblems and the words MAKE IT LEGAL, the message hidden in the puppet's throat. "When you hired Chris, you knew about The Green Report, right?" I ask McConkey. "Yeah," he replies, sounding a little defiant. I raise my eyebrows. He shrugs."
[2nd Place for Arts Feature (circ under 45,000 division), 2016 Association of Alternative Newsmedia Awards]
The Nasher turns TEN: How Duke’s obscure campus museum grew into a world-class mirror for Durham
"According to the lore, the botanist threatened the art collector with either a firearm or a gardening tool. It depends on whom you ask."
LOCAL universities play important roleS in virtual reality's visionary past and applicable future
"Tiny ultrasonic speakers blast inaudible frequencies at directional microphones, working with gyroscopes and accelerometers to track my head position. Liquid crystal shutters fire in finely calibrated tandem with projections generated from my motion capture data. Offset pairs of images flash into my eyes at a rate of about 60 per second, my brain merging them into forms with volume on planes with depth. But knowing all this doesn't prevent me from reaching out to try and touch things that aren't really there."
Dayglow: Dance (almost) naked
"I had been on the grounds for only fifteen minutes before a sleepy-looking guy wandered up and asked me if I had any Molly."
Superchunk'S Laura Ballance bows out of touring, BUT not out of music
"Ballance's public swagger as a performer is offset by a well-known aversion to scrutiny, a social nervousness. 'There's a reason these things have been done from Mac's perspective more often than mine,' she says of our interview. 'I don't enjoy being in the spotlight.'"
Wesley Wolfe has catalyzed the lathe-to-turntable movement of local music
"The archaic crackle of a stylus dragging dust through a spiral groove supplies a resonance of its own, unlike translucent and pristine digital formats. It's the difference between a silk purse and a Ziploc bag. But like any other mass-consumed product, most records are duplicated in remote factories by the thousand, rolling from a large warehouse onto record shelves."
LATE FOR LUNCH WITH COMMON IN CHICAGO
"Common is fond of food metaphors. “When we order this meal,” he tells me, “I definitely want to get something that’s good, but I want something that’s healthy too.” He’s talking about his balanced lifestyle—he was a vegan for three years—and his music, soul-inflected hip-hop that blends the sensuous with the instructive, the visceral with the spiritual."
Reunion offers Archers of Loaf the chance to reiterate their influence
"Eric [Bachmann] calls Randy over and says, 'Hey Randy, I want you to meet someone—this is Madonna.' And Randy says, 'Hi Madonna. Has anybody seen my toothbrush?"
WHAT'S Up Norwegia: a report from oslo's Øya Festival
"Girl Talk eventually bounded onstage in a whirl of manic energy, big-upping Mayhem and the new Batman movie, saying he almost didn't make it because of the tornadoes in Chicago, and at one point—I'm not sure, but I think I heard this—saying 'what's up Norwegia!'" [More Pitchfork live reviews]