Top 30 Albums of 2013

This is not why you come here, but at the same time as I am reading all the politics news I’m also fiendishly sampling new music from the Internet. Here are my top 10 favorites, with lots of honorable mentions and singles.

10 Most Favorite Albums (in no particular order)

1. J. Cole – Born Sinner (beat the unlistenable ‘Yeezus’ on the Billboard charts for a good reason. Genius feel-good melodies and the live band add so much)

2. Toro Y Moi – Anything in Return (perfect smart pop album)

3. Pusha T – My Name Is My Name (very strong second effort from King Push. ‘Hold On’ is a classic)

4. Celestial Shore – 10x (Bonkers guitar-driven math rock jawns, like if Dirty Projectors were fronted by Phil Elvrum)

5. Kurt Vile – Wakin on a Pretty Daze (the chillest jams from Philly’s favorite son)

6. Earl Sweatshirt – Doris (the long-awaited debut from the teen rapper who mysterious disappeared – his mom sensibly sent him to boarding school for a couple years so fame wouldn’t ruin his life – totally delivered. Darker and weirder than expected.)

7. Robert Glasper Experiment – Black Radio 2 (just found out about Glasper – a pianist with one foot in hip hop and one foot in jazz. The drummer on this album is amazing. I like Black Radio Rediscovered Remix EP best (this adaptation of Little Dragon’s ‘Twice’ with ?uestlove and Solange Knowles is so magical), but this one just came out this fall)

8. Daft Punk – Random Access Memories (unless you were living in a cave this summer, you’ve been hearing this everywhere, and rightly so)

9. Pete Rock & Camp Lo – 80 Blocks From Tiffany’s (This is a mixtape, but good enough to make the top albums. Giant pioneers of the jazzy hip hop genre you love who’ve still got it.)

10. Justin Timberlake – The 20/20 Experience Part II (Part 1 had some very strong tracks but was mixed overall. Pretty much every song is awesome on Part II)

20 More Great Albums

1. Ty Segall – Reverse Shark Attack
2. Thundercat – Apocalypse
3. Grouper – The Man Who Died in His Boat
4. Pissed Jeans – Honeys
5. Durag Dynasty – 360 Waves
6. Scienze – Ella
7. Phoenix – Bankrupt!
8. Black Milk – Synth or Soul
9. Gold Panda – Half of Where You Live
10. Mayer Hawthorne – Where Does This Door Go
11. Pity Sex – Feast of Love
12. Kishi Bashi – 151a
13. Shigeto – No Better Time Than Now
14. Volcano Choir – Repave
15. Drake – Nothing Was the Same
16. Kooley High – Presents…David Thompson
17. Oddisee – The Beauty in All
18. Lapalux – Nostalchic
19. Samiyam – Wish You Were Here
20. Boldy James – My 1st Chemistry Set

Top 30 Bangers

1. Big Sean – Control (feat. Kendrick Lamar, Jay Electronica) (Best rap single of the year)
2. Shlohmo – Bo Peep (Do U Right) feat. Jeremih
3. Roc Marciano – Ruff Town
4. Chance the Rapper – Juice
5. Mac Miller – S.D.S. (prod. Flying Lotus)
6. Thundercat – Heartbreaks + Setbacks
7. Toro Y Moi – So Many Details
8. Oh No – Jones’s (feat. Blu and MED)
9. Ty Segall & Mikal Cronin – I Wear Black
10. Durag Dynasty – Tender Greens
11.  Kurt Vile – Shame Chamber
12. The Black Opera – Manute Bol
13. J. Cole – Crooked Smile
14. J. Cole – Born Sinner
15. Gold Panda – The Most Livable City
16. Scienze – The Toast (feat. D. Julien)
17. Mayer Hawthorne – Back Seat Lover
18. Pete Rock & Camp Lo – Megan Good
19. Earl Sweatshirt – Hive
20. Earl Sweatshirt – 20 Wave Caps
21. Volcano Choir – Tiderays
22. Celestial Shore – Valerie
23. Klaus Layer – Illest in Charge (feat. Blu)
24. Danny Brown – The Return (feat Freddie Gibbs)
25. Pusha T – Hold On
26. Samiyam – Hummus (feat. The Alchemist)
27. Boldy James – You Know
28. Roc Marciano – The Sacrifice
29. Daft Punk – Fragments of Time
30. Lapalux – Walking Words

Rap Music is the Solution

Rap music is one of the only things going right in this country. If there’s a problem, the solution is more and better rap music.

How Blogging Matters

Wonk blogging will never sway the broad public mind about anything, but you can change the minds of other influentials who are actually in a position to change things.

Keith Humphreys puts this well:

I discovered over time that our readers also include other journalists, elected officials, Congressional and White House staffers, police officers, health care system managers, teachers, judges, economists, social workers, physicians, university administrators, business leaders, civil servants, policy analysts and many other people who regularly face up to the challenge of designing, analyzing and implementing public policy. We also have many readers — and this is reflected in the quality of our comments section — who are not public policy professionals but are public policy buffs: They have studied up on water conservation or solar power or Middle East politics and they take the trouble to share what they have learned with the rest of us.

Add up all the people who implement public policy, study it, or just know a lot about it, and you get a sadly small number, way too small to ever kid myself that my blogging could move mass opinion in a country of over 300 million people. But what it clearly can do is put good information and ideas into the hands of people who matter in and care about the public policy world. It can also provide me with an opportunity to learn from my readers and thereby come to a better understanding of the policy issues I care about. The public at large will likely never know (or care) about this ongoing exchange of wonky material within a small community. But I do, and that’s enough to keep me going.

What’s Next for Your Friend Jon Geeting and His Daily Blog

Longtime readers of the Geeting blog have probably figured out that I’m not writing on here as much as I once was. Here’s what’s been going on with me.

For the past 5 years I had a job working on an archival project in NYC, but I completed that at the end of May, and Brooke and I took the opportunity to move back to PA. We’re staying with my parents in Bethlehem for July and August, and are moving to Philadelphia in September. So there’ve been some serious life changes getting in the way of writing.

The blogging started out as a labor of love that I did in my spare time, early mornings and late nights, much to the occasional frustration of my loved ones. My friend Philip Bump advised me to write at least one post every day to make a nasty habit of it, and that was the best writing advice I’ve ever gotten. After I wrote the Lehigh Valley Independent blog for about a year or so and did a columnist stint at Patch, my friend Greg Palmer asked me to take over as Editor of Keystone Politics, which has been my primary blogging home since January 2012.

I’m proud to say that blog is now at the height of its influence. We’ve been hitting all-time record monthly traffic numbers in the summer of a municipal election year – just about the slowest time in the political cycle. Gubernatorial candidates and other politicians come a-calling, and it’s starting to open up other opportunities for me. Because KP is a Streetsblog network member blog, I was selected for a trip to Salt Lake City in May for an advocacy journalism training, and I got to attend this year’s Congress for New Urbanism conference. I’ve gotten my stuff published in the American Prospect, Axis Philly, Patriot News and Next City. And all this exposure to the nerdier corners of the politics Internet primed Ryan O’Donnell and I to create Primary Colors, which I’m expecting will make a huge splash when it finally sinks in for people what we’re up to.

The end of my job in NYC has created a very attractive/terrifying opening to fully take the plunge into freelance journalism. And so far it’s looking good. Today I was pleased to learn that Next City wants me to do more frequent, and paid, coverage of Philadelphia transportation and land use policy – my favorite topics, as you guys know. I’ll have to fill in the rest of my time with some other freelance projects too though, and that’s where we get into what’s next for this blog.

If I’m going to make this work, I’m going to have to prioritize. The work that pays me, followed by the work that is likely to pay in the future, followed by the work that raises my political stature, followed by the work that I merely do for fun.

Unfortunately, though I care about my hometown area intensely, the Lehigh Valley blogging is going to get short shrift. There’ll still be some of that stuff on Keystone Politics, and sometimes here particularly around election time, but this blog’s content is about to take a sharp turn toward the Southeast. I’m going to have to read many fewer Lehigh Valley news stories and blogs, in order to free up some space in my information diet, and that alone will bias the blog’s focus. That’s a bummer, but I am looking forward to writing more content about the city I’m actually living in. There’ll be more blogging about South Philly neighborhood politics and activities I’m involved with. And of course you’ll be subjected to a lot more links and teaser posts for my freelance work.

I hope I won’t lose too many of you, dear readers, although I guess I won’t really know because the comments section has been so lightly trolled for the past few months. But I want to thank everybody for reading the blog in its current form, especially the few of you who have been following me around to all these different publications. I hope that someone else will take up the Valley-wide urbanist blogging mantle, because it’s an important political perspective that too seldom figures into the conversation. One of you should start the Urban Lehigh Valley group blog I’ve been thinking about starting. And you should blog every day!

Down the Shore

I’m down the shore on family vacation in Wildwood, so no blogging until next Monday. Have a good week!

Switch to Feedly

I loved Google Reader, but it was never quite as awesome after they killed the sharing function and replaced it with lame Google+. I switched to Feedly two weeks ago and I like it okay, although the iPhone app is still pretty buggy. One feature I absolutely hate is the auto-refresh, where if you aren’t in the app for a few minutes, it reloads with the newest content. The way I use an RSS app, I like for the article I was reading to still be exactly where I left it if I put my phone down for an hour. I don’t want to have to figure out where I was, or have the article I was reading get Marked As Read when I wasn’t actually done reading it. On the whole the transaction costs of the switch have been lower than expected, but I’ll still never forgive Google for this.

Meet-Up: Let’s Build Some Sidewalk Seating on Southside Bethlehem

Southside Bethlehem’s West 4th Street business district has a few street benches, but it should have a lot more. That’s why I’m putting together a volunteer group to build some tree box benches on a couple of weekends in July.

Sidewalk seating is so popular these days, and it’s a pretty cheap and easy way to improve a retail strip like 4th Street. Tree benches run the gamut from relatively simple designs…

…to more elaborate designs like these. My wood shop skills are pretty intermediate, but maybe some more talented people will want to get involved:

Why would we want to build sidewalk seating? Because it’s fun to get outside in the summer and build things, and because bringing more outdoor seating to the Southside business district is a low-cost, high-impact thing we can do to make 4th Street a more enjoyable public space.

If we do this right, these tree box benches will:

- Enliven the street space

- Give people more places to sit and relax, read a book, eat takeout food, etc.

- Improve the street’s appearance. We’ll choose a simple, attractive design, and maybe paint them if people want to go that route

- Drive interest in area businesses. A livelier street scene will attract more foot traffic

- Raise property values (a little bit!) and drive new business interest in 4th Street’s remaining empty retail spaces

- Provide night-time street lighting. We can put some solar-powered LED lights inside the benches that will glow at night

I want to keep this very cheap and simple, because I want to try to make a lot of these benches – 10? 15? I want to keep the number of wood pieces required to make one bench pretty low, and I also want to keep the design Ikea-level in its simplicity so that volunteers with amateur wood shop skills won’t have any trouble following the construction plans.

As for funding, I am planning to chip in, and a couple others have offered to chip in too. I don’t think this has to be expensive, but the cost of materials will depend on the bench design we choose. I’ve heard a couple creative funding proposals so far and would like to hear more if anybody has ideas. As for tools, I have a jigsaw, a sander, a drill and all the basic tools we need to do this, but we will need some more if a lot of people are going to work on this. I bet some of you have some better tools that you might be kind enough to let us borrow.

If you’re interested in helping out with the planning or the building, or have comments or advice, send me an email at jgeeting@gmail.com or leave me a comment. I will be sending out an email in the next couple days to the people who want to get involved, so we can talk about the next steps and logistics.