Playoff Day, Atlanta, and Bon Iver: While We’re Waiting


HAPPY PLAYOFF DAY, CLEVELAND!!! As an added bonus, a Merry F Boston Week to all.1 What a spectacular privilege for Cleveland to have four head-to-head matchups with Beantown in four days, the potential to host one of our Nor’eastin rivals four times in a week, the pleasure of reintroducing Tom Brady to tackle football (assuming any Browns pass rusher can do as much as put grass stains on Brady’s pants), and the opportunity to end David Ortiz’s career on a sour note.

In the old 1965-2015 version of Cleveland, I would have been 100 percent sure the next four-to-seven days would end in dismay and something resembling appendicitis, while in the post-2016 Cleveland I’m only like 65 percent sure it will end badly. My life coach calls that “growth.”

Before Cleveland fans live and die with what happens in the ALDS against the Red Sox, here’s where Cleveland sports stands so far in 2016, for those not keeping score at home.

2016 Cleveland Cavaliers: Champions
2016 Cleveland Indians: In Championship Contention
2016 Cleveland Browns: In Cleveland

Hey, not bad! We’ll have to stay tuned for a few weeks to learn the fate of our 2016 Cleveland Indians, but while we’re waiting…

If you haven’t been watching Atlanta on FX, you’re missing out on one of the best shows of the year. The brain baby of multi-talented creator Donald Glover (Childish Gambino, Community, The Martian), Atlanta is unexpected auteur fare posing as a show about a rapper (Paper Boi) and his (sorta-)manager cousin (Earnest or “Earn”). Glover and director Hiro Murai have created a show that looks and feels like nothing else on TV. It deftly handles issues posed by current events without being heavy-handed, and each episode feels like a standalone work (such as the episode when Earn spends a day in jail, or the one in which Earn and Darius go to a series of pawn shops to make money for Earn’s rent). The “Kramer character” (Keith Stanfield as Darius) is eccentric and hilarious for reasons I don’t totally understand, and already has a collection of great quotes through just five episodes.

I won’t give away any more, but I can’t remember a show that portrayed the lives of young, not-rich people this authentically.2 Though my life is not identical to any of the characters, I share more with the characters in Atlanta than anyone on TV — including “Van,” Earn’s baby mama and on-again, off-again girlfriend who was the focus of this week’s episode — and have been close to people who share even more. After all, I don’t have any friends (or Friends) who can afford a 3000 square foot apartment in Manhattan, and have never personally served as Prince of Winterfell. It’s the first show in a long time of which I want to rewatch an episode as soon as it’s over.

Random Calvin and Hobbes strip of the day. You know, this Browns season wouldn’t be so bad if they weren’t on every Sunday. And if they didn’t have so many injuries, and they didn’t pass on Carson Wentz, and they didn’t lose every game. If it was completely different, this Browns season would be great. P.S. “Nobody asks me how things ought to be. I’ve got tons of ideas!” is basically Twitter (or blogging) in a nutshell.


And now for the random 90s song of the day. Because Andrew is still listening to Danny Brown’s new album,3 it falls upon me to talk about Bon Iver’s new album, 22, A Million. 

The album diverges from Bon Iver’s previous work, some of which was written while frontman Justin Vernon was secluded in the woods of Wisconsin and sounds, well, like it was written by someone in the woods of Wisconsin. Like Radiohead’s Kid A and Kanye West’s Yeezus, one doesn’t necessarily know what to make of 22, A Million on the first listen. In all cases, a widely beloved artist used electronic instrumentation and manipulation “experimentally,” a word that can simultaneously be seen as pejorative, complimentary, pretentious, or affectionate, all of which may apply to Bon Iver’s heavy use on the album of “the Messina,” a harmonizing instrument created by Vernon and his studio engineer.4

Though I speculated that Bon Iver’s primary motivation for the album “was to make people feel stupid when they say things like, ‘my favorite song is “21 M♢♢N WATER,”‘” Vernon and Co. have made a fascinating album, and not just because the track list reads like a chapter from a Robert Langdon novel. Moments like the unsettling, jarring percussion on “10 d E A T h b R E a s T ⚄ ⚄” are few. More often, there are epiphanies like the hazy voices from the ether crackling into crystal clarity in the last chorus on “29 #Strafford APTS,” the confused flutter of saxophones on “____45_____” discovering a miracle in a banjo riff,5 and finally the redemptive “00000 Million,” whose atonement and Biblical imagery make it more hymn than pop song.6 As Hua Hsu wrote for The New Yorker, Vernon has “never sounded this unburdened, this plainly iridescent. It makes one wish that there were a machine through which we could pass our words, and fix ourselves.”

What does this have to do with the 90s??? Well, the Random 90s Song of the Day is Vernon’s cover of the Bonnie Raitt song “I Can’t Make You Love Me” from 1991, a better version of the song than Adele’s to boot.7 “That’s cheating!” some readers may be saying. “You can’t use a 2010s artist’s cover of a 90s song to shoehorn a conversation about Bon Iver into ‘While We’re Waiting…’!” Well, sure I can. I make the rules of the Random 90s Song of the Day, and like the NFL and its rules, I don’t even really have to follow those.

So like the NFL’s reaction to the Duke Johnson Ghost Fumble on Sunday, consider this my non-apology. Unlike 22, A Million, this cover is completely stripped down, just Vernon and a piano. If you recently went through a breakup, you’ll be forgiven if you “get something stuck in your eye” during this one. Regardless of your mood this week, the Indians start the playoffs Thursday night just “in the nick of time” to start your weekend. Go Tribe.

  1. Feel free to add a few letters to that “F” when David Ortiz is batting or every time a Red Sox launches a Cody Anderson or Josh Tomlin toss into the upper deck. []
  2. Some of the time, anyway. Not many young, not-rich people have rap songs on the radio or play in celebrity basketball games. I’m guessing this will change as the show progresses, as well. []
  3. As am I. I especially like “Tell Me What I Don’t Know.” That song’s a banger. []
  4. Who is appropriately named Chris Messina, and is not to be confused with Jim Messina, who co-wrote “Angry Eyes” with Kenny Loggins. []
  5. At least I think it’s a banjo. It could be a mandolin or lute or harp or I don’t even know what. It sounds like a banjo to me. []
  6. I’m partial to the lines “A word about Gnosis: it ain’t gonna buy the groceries,” and “What a river don’t know is: to climb out and heed a line / To slow among roses, or stay behind.” []
  7. Take that, Adele! I’m just kidding you’re fabulous. []