The Future’s Void v. Shaking the Habitual

Over the last couple of months, I’ve spent a bit of time with The Knife’s Shaking the Habitual, and there are compelling reasons to think that Shaking the Habitual is an important album. Musically, it moves forward from the already impressive Deep Cuts and Silent Shout; and their willingness to be mix abrasiveness into their music really adds something, maybe even brings it within striking distance of greatness in a real sense (and not just in a fleeting, internet fame sense). I think their willingness to take up political and social themes very explicitly and self-consciously is an important step forward; that said, their political stance on the album is fairly jejune. On balance, then, I think Shaking the Habitual is an important album, but hopefully foreshadows more cohesive, more mature work.

The Future’s Void is that cohesive, mature work for EMA, I think, and not just because it takes on broader themes. PLMS was a great album, but an album that was almost exclusively personal: conducive to empathy, but perhaps not to sympathy. The Future’s Void, by contrast, marries EMA’s willingness to take awkward, imperfect risks in her music and lyrics with some kind of broader reflection on where we are as a culture, in a way that still feels deeply personal; that perfectly captures, to me, the simultaneous hopefulness and possibility and emptiness and prettiness of internet culture at this particular moment.

generational culture

This week has lent itself in certain ways to thinking about the way that generational identity shapes taste. I don’t care at all about late night TV, basically, but part of that is because I’ve never liked Leno or Letterman. I doubt I’ll start spending a lot of time watching Jimmy Fallon and Colbert now, but I can see how people about my age would more readily watch and identify with them.

I find myself thinking now and then about which periodicals seem essential (radio stations, too): Spin as a teenager, Pitchfork in college, and now maybe the AV Club. I like other things: I love Manohla Dargis and I’ve come to like most of the other reviewers at the Times; and I think the reviewers at the Chicago Reader are also quite good. But somehow the AV Club seems like it has its finger on the pulse of what’s going on in a way the Times doesn’t. A lot of that stems from being a web publication, where they can give space to whatever they like, but it’s not just that. I wonder how this transition occurred, too: is it that my peers have linked to the AV Club more frequently on FB (or wherever), or that the AV Club’s articulation of the canon seems to correspond pretty well with my sensibilities? I think it’s some of both. Part of my enthusiasm for the site definitely springs from their willingness to earnestly take up things I’ve spent time with: Buffy, gaming, Degrassi. On the other hand, I think the peer group influence is likely also important: certain things just come to seem ubiquitous after a while.

Years ago, a couple of friends and I got into a debate about the reality of generations, whether there’s any reality to these broad temporal descriptors. Though I think there’s some room for debate, I also feel like it’s hard not to think that the cultural decisions of people near to you in age just seem unobjectionable in a way those a few years to one direction or another don’t.