The Definitive Low (Duluth, MN band) Rankings and Playlist

There are few bands that have consistently produced compelling and adventurous music at such slow a speed than Low. Though the band is on record as disdaining the genre attributed to them (Slowcore), it’s apt. Their music oscillates between brooding and menacing, claustrophobia and sparseness, often without changing much in between.

A reason why they may not like Slowcore is it implies a sameness or stillness to their music. That is far from reality. And I wanted to prove it, so I started listening to the entire catalog while organizing based on preference. Would all of my favorite songs cluster around their most iconic album Things We Lost in the Fire? Would they all have the same dirge-like quality or would I have grown to appreciate their poppier, more straightforward rock? Would my tastes span their entire ouvre? The answer is yes, no, yes, yes.

Before I get into the full list (complete with embedded Spotify playlist), a quick look at how the albums stack up, based on average rating of song.

AlbumOrder ReleasedAverage Ranking
Things We Lost in the Fire519.25
Secret Name437.73
Double Negative1239.36
Long Division252.88
The Great Destroyer761.85
I Could Live In Hope179.82
Ones and Sixes981.00
The Invisible Way1183.00
Drums And Guns889.31
The Curtain Hits The Cast398.67
Grand Total69.00

As you can, Things We Lost in the Fire dominates the rankings. Double Negative may benefit from SOME recency bias. But you see a nonlinear chronology. While it’s true their earlier work is more rewarding, every album has its own gems.

AlbumHighest Ranking Track
Things We Lost in the Fire1
Ones and Sixes2
Secret Name3
Double Negative10
The Curtain Hits The Cast15
The Great Destroyer19
Long Division26
Drums And Guns33
I Could Live In Hope43
The Invisible Way46

Without further delay, here is my definitive rankings of every major album release Low song.

RankingTrackAlbumTrack Number
137Pretty PeopleDrums And Guns1
136SunshineI Could Live In Hope11
135DarkThe Curtain Hits The Cast12
134Shots & LaddersTrust13
133LandslideOnes and Sixes11
132John PrineTrust9
131Point of DisgustTrust12
130Take Your TimeDrums And Guns10
129Into YouOnes and Sixes6
128La La SongTrust11
127You See EverythingC’mon2
125Little Argument With MyselfTrust10
124CoattailsThe Curtain Hits The Cast5
123Spanish TranslationOnes and Sixes3
122Mom SaysThe Curtain Hits The Cast4
121DownI Could Live In Hope8
120Your PoisonDrums And Guns9
119SameThe Curtain Hits The Cast10
118On The Edge OfThe Great Destroyer6
117In the DrugsTrust7
116Last Snowstorm of the YearTrust8
115BelarusDrums And Guns2
114AnonThe Curtain Hits The Cast1
113Kid in the CornerOnes and Sixes9
112StandbyThe Curtain Hits The Cast6
111GentleOnes and Sixes1
110The LambTrust6
109Over The OceanThe Curtain Hits The Cast3
108WaitingThe Invisible Way5
107RopeI Could Live In Hope10
106CarolineLong Division8
105Holy GhostThe Invisible Way4
103HomeSecret Name12
102Stars Gone OutThe Curtain Hits The Cast9
101AmethystThe Invisible Way2
100DragonflyDrums And Guns4
99Clarence WhiteThe Invisible Way6
98MotherThe Invisible Way9
96StepThe Great Destroyer8
95The PlanThe Curtain Hits The Cast2
94In SilenceDrums And Guns11
93Four ScoreThe Invisible Way7
92MurdererDrums And Guns12
91To Our KneesThe Invisible Way11
90DragI Could Live In Hope9
89The InnocentsOnes and Sixes8
88LaughThe Curtain Hits The Cast7
87ViolenceLong Division1
86The Son, The SunDouble Negative7
85SeaI Could Live In Hope7
84When I Go DeafThe Great Destroyer9
83SandinistaDrums And Guns5
81DJOnes and Sixes12
80Dust on the WindowDrums And Guns7
79No ComprendeOnes and Sixes2
78FearI Could Live In Hope2
76Cue The StringsThe Great Destroyer7
75Especially MeC’mon5
74Death Of A SalesmanThe Great Destroyer12
73HatchetDrums And Guns8
72LiesOnes and Sixes10
71Something’s Turning OverC’mon10
70Rome (Always in the Dark)Double Negative10
69Violent PastDrums And Guns13
68PissingThe Great Destroyer11
67Time Is the DiamondTrust4
66Everybody’s SongThe Great Destroyer3
65CutI Could Live In Hope3
64Candy GirlTrust3
63Dancing and FireDouble Negative8
62Walk Into The SeaThe Great Destroyer13
61(That’s How You Sing) Amazing GraceTrust1
60On My OwnThe Invisible Way10
59Plastic CupThe Invisible Way1
58Don’t UnderstandSecret Name6
57Poor SuckerDouble Negative9
56SlideI Could Live In Hope4
55StarfireSecret Name2
54Laser BeamThings We Lost in the Fire5
53So BlueThe Invisible Way3
52LullabyI Could Live In Hope6
51TurnLong Division7
50MonkeyThe Great Destroyer1
49LustThe Curtain Hits The Cast8
48ShameLong Division3
47MissouriSecret Name5
46Just Make It StopThe Invisible Way8
45LazyI Could Live In Hope5
43WordsI Could Live In Hope1
42I RememberSecret Name1
41TempestDouble Negative4
40Days Of…Secret Name10
39Broadway (So Many People)The Great Destroyer10
38Swingin’Long Division5
37WhitetailThings We Lost in the Fire2
36Throw Out The LineLong Division4
35Always FadeDrums And Guns6
34No EndOnes and Sixes5
33BreakerDrums And Guns3
32Just Stand BackThe Great Destroyer5
31See-ThroughLong Division6
30Always UpDouble Negative5
29Weight of WaterSecret Name4
28Try to SleepC’mon1
27Dinosaur ActThings We Lost in the Fire3
26Below & AboveLong Division2
25QuorumDouble Negative1
24EmbraceThings We Lost in the Fire7
23Kind of GirlThings We Lost in the Fire9
22Lion / LambSecret Name9
21DisarrayDouble Negative11
20Silver RiderThe Great Destroyer4
19CaliforniaThe Great Destroyer2
18SunflowerThings We Lost in the Fire1
17Dancing and BloodDouble Negative2
15Do You Know How To WaltzThe Curtain Hits The Cast11
14In MetalThings We Lost in the Fire13
13FlyDouble Negative3
12Medicine MagazinesThings We Lost in the Fire4
112-StepSecret Name3
10Always Trying to Work It OutDouble Negative6
9WhoreThings We Lost in the Fire8
8Like a ForestThings We Lost in the Fire10
7Nothing But HeartC’mon9
6CongregationOnes and Sixes4
5ImmuneSecret Name8
4JulyThings We Lost in the Fire6
3SoonSecret Name7
2What Part of MeOnes and Sixes7
1CloserThings We Lost in the Fire11

How to Recover From Your Worst Mistake

There are a few absolutes in corporate life. You will feel from time-to-time that things would run so much smoother if you were the boss of everyone. You will pour your soul into a particular project that either gets shelved or doesn’t make the impact you thought it would And one experience will stand out as the worst of your professional life. How you respond to it and learn from it can help determine your future success. For me, the worst moment of my professional life has imparted three critical lessons that have helped me become such a better employee, boss, and person.

This happened when I was a young employee new to client service. My boss brought into a new business pitch process that was halfway towards completion. He summoned me into his office to ask for my help in converting our template new business pitch document into one ready for this project.

I dutifully went off to work on the deck, starting with the simplest task – which was opening up our deck template and affixing Company X’s logo to the bottom-right corner of the deck template, so it showed up on every slide. I then flowed in the appropriate text and selected images that illustrated the ideas and work we were proposing to do.

I then wrote an email with the subject line: Company X deck in progress. In our back and forth, the other participants in the pitch discussed their edits to the Company X document.

Fast forward to the meeting. We handed out copies of our deck and began the pitch. The potential clients started murmuring and pointing to the bottom part of the paper within ten seconds. Our potential clients, representatives of Company Y, were shocked to see their competitor’s logo on the deck that was supposed to solicit their business (their names and logos were very similar looking). One senior representative excused herself and left the meeting. My boss shot me a glare the intensity of 10,000 Suns.

We collected ourselves and apologized profusely. We knew we were at Company Y – it was an embarrassing mistake and oversight, but we’d love to continue to discuss how we could help your business if you’d like. Thankfully they said yes.

My boss and I knew everything we were going to say, so we collected the printouts and just spoke from memory about Company Y’s challenges and opportunities and how we could help.

It was a productive meeting where the Company Y representatives that remained nodded their heads. My boss and I interplayed as if nothing ever happened. Of course, I dreaded the eventual time alone in the elevator, where he angrily, but measuredly said – that can never happen again. He didn’t have to say anything else; I was glad I was not fired on the spot. It never did happen again. And we got the business.

So the three important lessons are thus:

1) Proof your work! Proof other’s work. It was a great case of Group Think. I came in cold and referred to Company Y as Company X, and the rest of the collaborators went and ran with Company X. While I was the clear culprit and committed the original sin, others should have realized I was using the wrong company name immediately.

2) Don’t let a setback change your strategy. We could have ended the meeting right there, assuming they would never hire a company that made a mistake like that. But we knew we had the right solution for them and did our best to quickly pass the issue and get to the matter at hand. Once we apologized, we proceed as if nothing had happened.

3) Don’t let a mistake cloud your judgment. Not only did they prompt us to continue our pitch, they likely weighed all pros and cons and decided we were the best organization to help them. They also never brought up the logo snafu again. From there out, we just focused on the future. Also, my boss could have sacrificed me for the mistake. He could have called them and said, if you go with us, I’ll make sure you work with another employee. But he trusted that I was the best for the job and the client did too.

The Mastery of Jurgen Klopp

Last week, football (or soccer) fans were treated to two of the most exciting Champions League matches of all time. In both, the team who lost the first leg won the second and the round (in the knockout phase of the Champions League, each round is contested in a home-and-away, two-match split, so each team gets the pride and $$$ of hosting a match at its stadium.

While one of them – Tottenham Hotspur (England) versus Ajax (Netherlands) – was surprising because Tottenham quickly let in two goals and then had to score three of its own in 45 minutes at Ajax’s stadium, the other match involving Barcelona and Liverpool maybe one of the most shocking results in recent memory.

Barcelona won the first leg 3-0 at its own stadium, which meant Liverpool had to duplicate that effort in order to force extra time (and potentially penalty kicks). In addition, the first tiebreaker – if the margin of victory is the same – is away goals, so if Barcelona managed to score one, then Liverpool would need to score five goals in order progress to the final. Before this second leg, Liverpool’s probability to progress to the final was 6%. Really, Liverpool’s only likely path to victory was a 4-0 score.

While the 14 players (11 starters, three subs) deserve a lion’s share of the credit, I think this result is borderline impossible under another manager. Jurgen Klopp deserves as much credit for this victory as any manager could, and it’s specifically because of the following

1) His passion for the game and squad shine through. While Liverpool had recently fallen into a stretch of mediocre soccer (it has not won the English league in almost thirty years; before that time, it was almost an automatic champion in the 80s and 90s), its fans are legendary and its stadium atmosphere is unrivaled. Klopp has bought into the history and culture, and has taken pains to elevated it a level beyond. Even when Liverpool was mediocre for its standards, fans believed success was around the corner and the stadium was still packed and loud. He’s taken that fan dedication and constructed a team that lives up to the fan’s perceptions.

2) His style of football inspires everyone. There are two major ways to win football matches (though each one has thousands of slight alterations). You either take the ball to the team you are playing and press offensively. Or you let them press you and stay disciplined in defense. When a team attacks, they can leave themselves exposed. In the latter scenario, you absorb the attacks and then seek to exploit the forward movement by counterattacking the holes left by the offensive-minded team. Some teams play defensive-minded football because they don’t have the skilled offensive players and others have a reputation for playing this defense first or counter-attacking football (Atletico Madrid and, at times, Juventus and Chelsea). Liverpool has always prized attacking football, which at times left its very fragile defense exposed.

3) Value talent. Liverpool’s defensive woes have disappeared almost overnight for one crucial reason. Virgil Van Dijk. Here are the goals allowed over the past five seasons.

48, 50, 42, 38, 22.

Meanwhile, its goals scored during this time has increased. Liverpool has rarely had trouble scoring over its history, but it took the transfer of Van Dijk to radically transform Liverpool’s defense. In order to get Van Dijk, they needed to spend more money on a defender than any other team in history. Klopp and the Liverpool management knew talent when they saw it and spend the requisite money to get the missing piece to a successful team. Klopp also realized that Van Dijk might have self-doubt that he was the most valuable defender in the world, so he told him a very simple thing: listen, all good things cost a lot of money

4) Here’s what Jurgen Klopp said before the second leg, where Liverpool had that 6% chance.

We want to celebrate the Champions League campaign, either with a proper finish or another goal. That is the plan: just try. If we can do it, wonderful. If not, then fail in the most beautiful way. I had these games quite a few times. In my experience, it’s not that before the game you think: ‘Yes, I believe we will do it.’ But I’m completely fine with the chance. Less than them, but we have at least a chance.

He acknowledged the task ahead of them and said, all we can do is try and play the best football we can. While you may think a coach should speak with more misguided confidence, Klopp always says the truth (or his truth) and his players respect him for that.

5) Preparation. All of the above got Liverpool to the place mentally and physically it needed to be to have a chance. And through sheer swashbuckling attacking, it scored three goals to tie everything up. But the fourth goal is a story Klopp and his team will tell for decades, which also may be the final reasoning for firing Barcelona’s manager Ernesto Valverde.

It was not enough to just notice this Barcelona tic, but to scheme against it, alert the players and, most importantly, in this case, including the ball boys and girls, who could make sure the players could restart quicker.

Klopp’s style, dedication, and passion makes him an electrifying manager to watch to emulate, no matter what job you may have.

A Media Play In Two Acts

JULY 10, 2018


MTV News Shifts Toward Video, Targets Younger Audience (Variety)


ANDMTV News: The Good, the Bad, and the Contradictions of an Ill-Fated Experiment

The editorial ethos that Hopper and Fierman sought to build was ultimately not particularly unique to MTV News, or even to their previous endeavors. Longform journalism is an established brand now, and it has a certain, if cynical, function to executives who aim to make money off of it. Longform is a tasteful, and almost always safe, product which can be paired with advertisements that share those qualities—the belief goes that advertisers will pay premium prices for “premium” readers reading “premium” writing. But when MTV News’ longform threatened other, presumably larger amounts of money for the network—see: the Chance the Rapper fiasco—Viacom decided that the site was no longer providing a merely safe and inoffensive product. As such, executives who have loyalty only to dollar signs moved quickly to erase those articles from memory, and the editors who published them did not—or could not—stop them. And when a new executive decided that longform journalism had no marketing value to his company, he discarded it along with the employees who produced it.

In short, MTV pivot to issues journalism and hired a murder’s row to fulfill that need. Then decided it wasn’t working – pivoted to video and laid off all of those staffers. Now it wants to pivot back to issues, with the fun task of finding journalists that specialize in it, knowing that nearly all of those were either previously employed at MTV or will want to refuse to participate in solidarity with those who were laid off. Good job MTV!

The Great Trending Topics Debacle

Facebook officially killed the Trending Topics program.  It may have been the most foolhardy decision they have made recently (which is amidst a fair share of recent foolhardy steps).

Facebook (through Mark Zuckerberg) famously crystalized the prevalent Silicon Valley thinking into a quotable slogan: Move Fast and Break Things.

Of course, the impetus behind the worldview was that smart, young companies iterate and get products into the market before the competition. It was a reaction to long lead times that didn’t match customers’ expectations.

If it failed, it failedAnd the thinking likely went: if we fail, well, it just means we gotta do something else. But Facebook moved too often, too quickly, without thinking about the macro impact.

Exhibit A: Trending Topics. Facebook had always tried to be more than just the engine where people meet and share information. So it tried to add a layer of news gathering and news promotion. It has always wanted to dabble in media. By thrusting editorial decision-making on this massive platform – the largest collection of humans we have ever seen – it took an engineering approach to a decidedly human problem. The world is a mass of information and no one necessarily agrees to decide to prioritize what is the most important.

That, of course, was a simplistic world view. The arena of editorial decisions is not a place for a multi-billion-dollar company that just wants to keep the peace and count the advertising dollars. Traditional media outlets understand that they can’t appeal to everyone and most don’t try. They also have tend to have years upon years editorial experience that realize it’s not some simple task.

Trending topics is the quintessential example of the Facebookian worldview of “most fast and break things”. People want their news on the Facebook “homepage” – let’s deliver it them. If people don’t like it, we can just quietly remove it. But it didn’t have the experience, patience, and, especially, forethought to make this a successful endeavor. Well, it failed.

And it didn’t just fail. It tarnished Facebook’s image, caused incalculable hours of headaches away from its core mission, and has further jeopardized its relationship with the conservative audience.

Maybe all the planning in the world would haven’t saved trending topics, but I’m pretty sure they’ll put in the prep work the next time they want to do something like this.


Twitter on TV Was Always a Bad Idea

Twitter just announced that it is killing off its smart screen and box apps. Some of you may not have realized these even existed or believe they had died an ignominious death years ago. But it was not long ago that many were touting this as the next big thing in building community around the act of watching live television.

Anyone who tried out these apps found they were a pale imitation of the second-screen experience of using your phone or iPad. The reality is – and has always been – that people do not want a lot of things blocking the picture. The interfaces were clunky – the experience really only allowed for passive reading of tweets (anyone who shudders at using a directional cursor to enter their passwords on a smart TV or smart device can imagine how difficult it would be to tweet.

This death is more than just a specific failed initiative for Twitter. It was also thought to be the starting point of rolling out Twitter to many more non-mobile, non-desktop experiences. But as Twitter ages, it’s clear that people are interested using the service in very specific instances and not for others.

The Enemy of My Enemy Is Still My Enemy

These are definitely fracturing times. Humanity is prone to hyperbole, but there seems to be a consensus that recent times are <all caps>NOT NORMAL</all caps> and the world is losing its collective mind.

Kanye West has somehow come to the judgment that George W. Bush was not deserving of our trust and patience, but Donald Trump is.

The engineers of much of the right-wing progress (regress?) are now openly resisting the Republican governmental bodies.

The fervor on the left is leading previously united parties to turn on each other for not being zealous enough towards the disintegration of said government, regardless of legality or appropriateness. It’s also leading them to blindly follow some obvious snake oil salespeople.

I have no doubt that everything going on now makes things more challenging, but I have two hard and fast rules that I am doing my best to follow.

The functioning democracy in which we live must remain so. Change happens so (or may not happen at all) and we have to do our damnedest to effect in the correct way. Anything else is an abrogation of the very reason why we’re so passionate about what a just society requires.

And – the purpose of the title: I don’t care if people with odious politics are currently found on the same side as me aligned against some currently common obstacle or foe. If their politics are odious, they remain a net-negative on the body politic. They will not get my congratulations and they will be excused.

We Go Back

That meal kit startups are having some issues might come to some as a surprise.

Most people who have tried the kits appreciate the simplicity and the convenience of not thinking about their meals. Until the convenience feels stifling and the simplicity feels like a negative instead of a positive. People then yearn for the bounty of the supermarkets where you can go thinking you’re buying ground beef for hamburgers and end up with the ingredients for a lentil soup.

We tend to think of the unwritten future as progress, but it’s not so simple. We bend, we go back. This can be a cause for optimism (a rethinking of social media’s overextended social graphs may lead us to smaller, more intense relationship spheres) and pessimism (the rattail white nationalists feeling it’s once again comfortable to express their views in public).

Anything and everything are ascendant; until it is not. Some people think Donald Trump’s crony capitalism will bring about a socialist revolution, mostly because capitalism can, should, and will expand to such great influence that it collapses under its own weight. The theory is called accelerationism.

This may seem like it makes the future difficult to predict, but the blueprint is there. Nothing marches inexorably towards total usage, power or influence.

The US’ standing in the world is waning. So will Facebook. Neither Conservatism nor Liberalism knows what it is anymore. Theology is running laps around science. It’s best to assume whatever is good and popular now will eventually become bad and fringe. You can’t change the past, but why would you bother. It’ll catch up to you soon enough.


How Do You Fix Facebook When It Was Probably Born Broken?

Famous for issuing himself idiosyncratic personal challenges, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg realizes his billion-dollar company needs his full attention this year.

Zuck recently addressed – let’s be real – the world with some mea culpa and to inform it of changes to the services.

The company is awash in trouble, which is perhaps unavoidable when you’re this big and this impactful. But the scope of the trouble is damning. They have bungled their ad and video reporting, they’ve allowed abuse of their live video tool, and they’ve been used by Russian trolls and hackers to influence the US Presidential elections. That’s a lot with which to grapple.

Facebook’s solution this year is to minimize the amount of information you get from companies and news outlets and to increase the number of peer-to-peer messages you receive. This would be a solution if the problem were that we felt too disconnected.

But if you think deeper about the issue, you realize the issue is not the current iteration of Facebook, it’s Facebook, as intended, itself.

The reality is increasingly clear: social media is not good for us. Facebook, specifically, is probably not net positive for humanity. It has created a Moveable Thanksgiving dinner table feast, where arguments and rancor follow us everywhere. We are provided deep dives into the psyche of our friends and colleagues and neighbors, and we often come away disappointed or disgusted. We are often disappointed and disgusted with ourselves.

This is likely because that Facebook (and, yes, other social media platforms) is a relatively new way to communicate and we’re not sure how to handle it. Just imagine telling someone 15 years ago that they would be able to think of something, post it, and have hundreds of thousands of people see it within hours. It’s a platform that previously did not exist for 99.9% of the population.

A simple thought experiment: has your faith in humanity net risen or fallen since you have begun using social media? We obsess about Facebook and we obsess about our obsession with Facebook. We spend emotional energy we do not have in reserves worrying about our Facebook habit. It’s also clear that humanity has not used these new tools of communication to bridge gaps. We’re nastier than we ever have been to friends and family, we use social media as a tool to bludgeon those we disagree with, we’re unalarmed with the speed and ease in which we can use it to destroy careers. We’ve learned that bringing communities online has not produced a Utopia. Perhaps it never could. But some of the most vocal advocates for the power of the Internet to better humanity are seriously rethinking that stance. 

Being generous to the prophets Brand and Kelly et al, it’s entirely reasonable to argue that this version of a global village is not what they proposed or envisioned. Minorities are still denied equal voices on the internet — harassed off of it, or still unable to even get online. Massive amounts of data is still hidden behind firewalls or not online at all. Projects to bring more information online (such as Google Books) have foundered due to institutional obstruction or a change of priorities in those undertaking them. Governments still have secrets. Organizations such as Wikileaks that showed early promise in this regard have been re-cast as political tools through some mix of their own hubris and the adversarial efforts of the governments they seek to expose.

I recently sped through the fantastic series Halt and Catch Fire (originally broadcast on AMC, now available in full on Netflix). The drama, which imagines a small group of protagonists as being involved in all of the major foundational shifts of the computing revolution, reminds us in 2018 how optimistic people were about the computing revolution. In the second season, major protagonists are building a video-game-over-telephone modem, but stumble upon a chat function that becomes more popular than the games. There is a touching moment in the show where a customer talks about how she finally found people who understood her online. But then there is another scene where a gay employee thinks he is meeting someone he encountered online, but it ends up getting assaulted by a pack of homophobes. The Utopia, perhaps, was never there.

So how can Facebook fix itself is the only right solution is closing down? As someone who makes a living advising individuals and organizations to use social media, I can’t say I wish for this scenario. And any attempt at “regulation” brings with it significant freedom of speech issues. But Zuck is not addressing the problem head on – that unfettered conversation among small networks held in public is not the perfect world we thought it might be.

Experimentation Losing Its Appeal

Reading this Q&A with the CEO of Der Spiegel is a very interesting case of the glass half-empty/half-full problem. A charitable reading could find a company that is comfortable with experimentation and with a lot of different avenues in which they could devote their resources.

But a less charitable view, and I think the correct one, is that the main revenue source (advertising) is continuing to decline and none of the alternative avenues (Snapchat? Facebook? Subscriber model) seem like they can carry the freight. It seems like 2018 needs to not be the year of experimentation, but that of refocusing.

Source: Spiegel Online CEO Jesper Doub on the pivot to consumer revenue, the duopoly and privacy regulations – Digiday