Makeup For The Silence

The digital home of music writer Jesse Richman

Makeup For The Silence

Tag: soundcloud

#3 Album of 2014 – Myrone – Myrone EP

#3 – MYRONE – MYRONE EP [bandcamp/ ASSORTED SINGLES [soundcloud]

(feat. track – “Exclusive Coupe” [soundcloudfrom the Myrone EP)

Who is Hugh Myrone?

The simple answer is: I have no idea. I don’t even know if the name Myrone, which he records under, is his real name. I don’t know where he comes from. Until I heard his voice on a podcast this week (more on this later), I wasn’t even sure he was a native English-speaker – his interests, if not his roots, reach from 80’s euro-guitar prodigies to Japanese vaporwave and net-culture. He posted some Instagram photos and videos recently from NAMM, the annual music industry trade show that leans toward the shreddy and technically-proficient; naturally, his face is obscured. Prior to that, I couldn’t have even proved he existed in meatspace – he might as well have been a digital creation.

What I do know is that Myrone is making some jaw-droppingly great music. Mining a vein that has sat relatively untapped since the days when Shreddasaurs walked the earth, Myrone’s trademark #softshred (which I swear is going to be this year’s #seapunk) combines the technical wankery of a Vai or Malmsteen with an incredible ear for instrumental pop hooks. To that end, while his playing has a super-melodic quality that reminds me a little of Satriani, maybe the most apt comparison is to Eddie Van Halen – though their styles differ wildly, both put forward a technical prowess on the guitar which often overshadows the fact that, secretly, they’re super awesome synth composers. Bottom line is, Myrone can play, but so can lots of folks – it only matters because he writes such great songs.

And, oh man, how great they are! ”Exclusive Coupe,“ the second song Myrone released and the centerpiece of his debut EP, evinces an fully-formed aesthetic – pulsing synth bass, loping, stretchy guitar leads that occasionally break apart in a crystalline shatter of notes, deceptively killer synth hooks, and a sense of forward momentum and tight pop composition. (Either Myrone has been incubating his talent for years, or he’s a born genius… or both.) Later tracks collected on the EP find Myrone at play within that established framework, pushing up against the boundaries with the urban funk of ”61“ and the soaring shuffle of ”The Pump Master.“

His later Soundcloud singles do one better, breaking out of that framework entirely. ”Net / Knowledge“ is a gorgeous, play-over-the-credits power ballad. ”Kinda Epic“ proves that Myrone is an exceptionally skilled songwriter and sideman; even with vocalist Azeem taking center stage, it’s Myrone’s blistering, exuberant synth- funk composition that stars. ”Heating Up“ kicks on the afterburners, a blazing, high-tempo workout with a perfectly constructed tension/release chorus. Best of all is ”Virtual Island Paradise,“ a song I once described as “the background music from a Baywatch montage”  – except Myrone does it better than the real thing. It takes both skill and understanding to create something so deeply evocative of a specific time and place, and yet the song is so catchy, so endlessly listenable, that it never rings hollow the way period pieces often do. Myrone’s songs are full of the one thing that so much guitar-oriented instrumental music lacks: soul.

Late in 2014, Myrone connected with the developers of indie retro-racer Drift Stage; his soundtrack is set to be a key element of the gaming experience. One listen to “Drift Stage [Main Theme],” with its whammy-ed up, overdriven lead, should make it clear just how natural a pairing this is. I only hope that soundtrack composition doesn’t slow down his development as a writer; as naturally suited as Myrone’s music now is for a racing video game, I would hate to see anything artificially limit where, when and how he grows. Myrone’s music is my #3 collection of the year just as it exists right now; yet somehow, when I listen, what I hear most of all is potential.

So who is Hugh Myrone? I discovered Myrone just shy of a year ago, when an industry acquaintance – someone who has worked in management, A&R, publishing and more – began tweeting about some of his earliest work. And, see, that’s the rub. I could find out from that acquaintance who this guy is – but I’m not sure I want to. The #softshred legend he’s building; the visage of a guitar superhero, the kind that seemingly vanished from the earth decades ago; seems inevitably more fascinating than the reality of the man behind the mask. I’m content to just listen to the music and imagine.

#4 Album of 2014 – Bleachers – Strange Desire


(feat. track – “Shadow" [spotify])

I’m a longtime fan of Jack Antonoff’s work. Fun.‘s Some Nights checked in at #8 in 2012’s Top Albums; Aim and Ignite made 2009’s Best Of The Rest; and, frankly, I fucked up in not ranking the 2010 self-titled album by Steel Train – though that album’s marvelous lead single, "Bullet,” earned a spot on 2010’s Mixtape. (Not to mention that I can’t even count how many times I marked out to 2007’s “Kill Monsters In The Rain” live which, if you never had the chance to catch Steel Train in person, you owe yourself to at least look up on YouTube.) So it’s really sort of predictable that the debut album from his newest project, Bleachers, would wind up somewhere on this list. At the same time, though, there’s always a little, welcome rush when an old favorite manages not only not to let you down, but to exceed all expectations. In that sense, Strange Desire is a wonderful surprise of an album.

Strange Desire’s heavily ’80’s-influenced production – whether the gloss was inspired by the participation of Erasure’s Vince Clarke, or whether the material’s native gloss made Clarke an inspired choice to produce, we may never know  – is a new direction from a man who’s constantly moving in new directions. Steel Train metamorphosed from dank-stank hippie bummer jam dealers to strident Jerseycore enthusiasts; Fun. evolved from purveyors of pretty-but-painless orch-pop to beat-embracing, rule-rewriting anthemicists. Each album, a new guise (if not new guys).

And yet, what I find most interesting about Jack’s work is that, underneath the production du jour, each one of his record sounds distinctly like a Jack Antonoff composition. His choice of style, of genre, is merely an avenue to that sound – each one takes this already-extant set of coordinates and opens up a new avenue with which to explore it. Here, the big gated drums, dry reverb and clipped guitar jangles imbue the typically massive gang choruses with a goofy, self-aware charm; it cuts away all the know-nothing ego, loosing him to play with Queen-sized statements, dance like a Bowie with two left feet, somehow score a Yoko Ono cameo without coming off as pretentious in the least, and at long last, wail on his guitar like a motherfucker.

The end result is that Strange Desire, rather than feeling indebted to an era, sounds positively freed by it – wild, reckless. exuberant, joyful and life-affirming at every step. Of all the many looks Jack Antonoff has sported through the years, Bleachers might well be the clearest – and the best.

#5 Album of 2014 – Beach Slang – Who Would Ever Want Anything So Broken?


(feat. track – “Filthy Luck" [spotifyfrom Who Would Ever Want Anything So Broken?)

Over on PropertyOfZack, we’re running our annual Artists To Watch feature tomorrow. To quote from my future self:

[Beach Slang] has released two EPs to date. Each one of them, each of the eight tracks, is perfect. The sound – Replacements and Hold Me Up-era Goo Goo Dolls melodies, sandblasted with reverb borrowed from the nu-gaze revolution – is custom-designed to tickle that sweet spot at the center of the Venn diagram where hipsterized indie-punk and crewnecked teenage scene-punk meet. Even the backstory – risen from the ashes of faded underground heroes Weston, a terrifically unlikely second chance – screams "LOVE ME!”

I’m not sure what else needs to be said. I fell hard and fast for Beach Slang from the first peals of the electrifying triplet that opens “Filthy Luck,” the lead track of debut EP Who Would Ever Want Anything So Broken? It echoes, in sound and in spirit, the punchy lead-in of the Replacements’ “Hold My Life,” and it sets both the tone and an impressively high bar, one which they then proceed to leap with bewildering ease for three more tracks and then another four times on the just-as-good follow-up Cheap Thrills On A Dead End Street. Their lyrics, though downmixed until just another brick in the wall of feedback-y reverb, are endlessly quotable. The songs combine classicist composition with just enough edge to catch you off guard if you let your attention wander. I got to see the band live this fall and they were just as dynamic, just as fist- and heart-pumping as on record, a triumphant, sweat-soaked tornado of a band. They’re everything I want out of their kind of music.

There’s a reason every indie and punk website has Beach Slang marked as their “next big thing” this year. For once, I’m on the same page as all of them.

#6 Album of 2014 – Antartigo Vespucci – Soulmate Stuff / I’m So Tethered


(feat. track – “I’m Giving Up On U2 [live at Shea Stadium]” [spotify link to studio recording])

I’ve been a fan of Chris Farren’s main gig, Fake Problems, for quite some time. Indeed, I would venture that most of the band’s fans are long-timers, due to the fact that they haven’t managed to release anything since 2010, when a nasty label situation basically buried that year’s Real Ghosts Caught On Tape long before its expiration date. But the ensuing years have clearly been productive ones; while Farren kept himself publicly busy doing whatever it is that a Punk Celebrity does (apparently making t-shirts and talking about Lost?), he was also writing a batch of seriously impressive songs. Farren re-emerged into the musical world this year with the surprise release of two EPs by Antarctigo Vespucci, a partnership with Jeff Rosenstock*, and it’s not a stretch to call them his best work to date.

Soulmate Stuff combines the the understated empathy of the Weakerthans, the raucous synth-party vibes of the Rentals and the sputtering brio of 90’s Alt Nation flameouts like Superdrag’s “Sucked Out,” Tripping Daisy’s “I Got A Girl” and Harvey Danger’s “Flagpole Sitta” – awesomely copacetic source material that makes for a little marvel of a listen when splooshed together. Farren takes lead vocals through most of the EP; the ease in which he slides from nervous nebbish to Springsteenian font and back gives the album an emotional arc that never feels forced. Alternately, I’m So Tethered hones in on the band’s more upbeat side, four tracks that bounce from “go;” the differing approaches each feel wonderful in their own way.

The duo back up the exceptional batch of songs with near-perfect production and arrangement choices. The handclaps, squawking synths and fat, fuzzy single-string guitar leads that imbue Soulmate Stuff with verve all feel natural – almost inevitable – at the places they’re found; Tethered introduces saxophones to the sonic party, and closes with a jaunty number full of barely-disguised synth presets (“Come to Brazil”) that feels like kin with Vampire Weekend’s “Unbelievers.” The grand impression you’re left with is something akin to hearing Farren and Rosenstock flit away an afternoon in a sonic playground, having the time of their lives – the childlike joy and mischief aren’t just palpable, they’re the very essence of Antarctigo Vespucci.

I don’t know when we’ll get new Fake Problems material. Farren is promising that it will be soon, or at least as soon as the band finds a partner that makes sense. I won’t hold my breath on that prediction – mostly because I no longer feel like I have to. If Antarctigo Vespucci becomes priority #1, well, I would have no problem with that; frankly it’s hard to imagine Fake Problems doing anything better (and that’s no dis to them). Antarctigo Vespucci’s debut EPs are pretty much everything I want from music.

[The streaming clip up top is from the group’s first live performance, at Shea Stadium (the DIY Brooklyn venue, not the no-longer-extant edifice in Queens.) I had the privilege of being in attendance, and the show was as fun as it sounds.]

*I never really did get into Bomb The Music Industry!, the longtime project that Rosenstock packed in in 2013, but perhaps that’s something I need to go back and revisit now.

#7 Album of 2014 – Allison Weiss – Remember When


(feat. track – “Remember When” [spotify])

Allison Weiss’ 2013 LP Say What You Mean made my “Best of the Rest” list last year; in fact, it was one of the last albums cut from my longlist as I narrowed it down. The songs were certainly strong enough to crack through, and Weiss is as dynamic a performer – both on record and live –as they come, but production that sanded down the points it should have sharpened made for the album’s ultimate undoing.

Remember When, a five song EP released by Weiss this year, has no such issues; indeed, the production choices here (by bandmate and partner Joanna Katcher, who deserves to be recognized by name for her stellar work) are spectacular, across the board. The title track breezes by on galloping drums and rich, warm guitar tones with just the right touch of fuzzy delay; the spare, fingerpicked solo electric guitar and layered harmonies on Weiss’ gut-wrenching reinterpretation of Robyn’s “Call Your Girlfriend” compliment the fragility in her voice and the emotional ambivalence of the lyrics with precision. Even the simple reverb-heavy, demo-quality recording of closing acoustic blues strummer “Take You Back” works, because the arrangement and style suit the song so well. Weiss’ songwriting is so strong that all that’s really called for is production unobtrusive enough to let her talent shine through; here though, the production actually lifts the material.

Of course, even produced as well as it is, Remember When wouldn’t rank if it wasn’t for the quality of the songs, and this is Weiss’ most consistently strong batch to date. Yes, it’s only five tracks (with one being a cover to boot), but all five place among Weiss’ finest. Weiss has a very distinctive way of addressing the standard tropes of love and loss, a certain empathy that’s hard to describe outside of the effect that it has on you, a magnetism that pulls you into the songs characters (if they are even characters) and gets you inside their heads, as though you were experiencing the longing, the resignation, the trepidation right along with them. Sure, that’s what lots of songwriters aim to do; Weiss just happens to be one of the few who gets it consistently right.

Indeed, “consistently right” pretty much sums up Remember When in one pithy phrase. Remember When is an understated but fully realized joy of a record.

#11 Album of 2014 – Modern Baseball – You’re Gonna Miss It All


(feat. track – “Rock Bottom" [spotify])

Modern Baseball are kind of a funny case. I’ve been familiar with the band from their very earliest days – they’re friends and classmates of Zack’s, and we’ve been covering them at PropertyOfZack from the jump.  They seem like good people, the kind of kids that make you want to root for them. And yet, I have to confess that I was never fully on board with them musically. Their 2012 debut album Sports made some waves in the Philly basement punk scene, but I never got much out of it – it was too rough, too amateur, too hookless for me to latch onto. To be frank, I didn’t even really see much promise in them.

I think that’s why You’re Gonna Miss It All was a grower, not a show-er, for me, even as the band began landing steadily-larger tour slots and commanding media attention from outlets beyond those that consider them personal friends. It took me a while to give the album a real chance, to listen to it with truly open ears; it was only on the fourth or fifth play through, in as many months, when it finally clicked with me. 

I think part of the issue is that I was listening with an ear tuned toward either Philly pop-punk or the #emorevival, and while Modern Baseball have the relationships that tie them to both movements, their sound is something outside of both, and altogether much harder to pin down. It’s vaguely reminiscent of what might happen if the Front Bottoms had decided that it’s been too damn long since the last Weakerthans record and just went ahead and made it themselves. There are elements of indie-pop, and folk-punk, and half-twangy Americana. Hyper-thesaurused term paper dissemblances and plainspoken dormroom chatter intermix in a way that seems logical, and natural, like a dialogue between two halves of a whole college student. And, throughout, sweet melodies, often (smartly) soured, and shout-along lines aplenty.

You’re Gonna Miss It All isn’t an all-the-time listen for me; there are some bits that, even now, feel a bit too obtuse to be cracked open – and I fear that if I did there might be noting but dust inside. Still, there’s no longer any denying that these guys are on to something really, really singular and special. I don’t know when the next MoBo album is coming; but I do know that this time around I’ll be waiting for it with anticipation.  

Simple Math 2014: Close Your Eyes (and Count To Fuck).

Run The Jewels – Close Your Eyes (and Count To Fuck) (feat. Zack de la Rocha)

At the end of each of the past three years, I ran a piece titled Simple Math here which collected all of my “music stats” for the year prior.This year that all went to hell. Count to fuck, indeed.

Anyone who knows me well knows that I’m a particularly statistically-minded guy. I’ve gobbled down advanced baseball stats like they were the latest diet craze since before I could catch a fly ball. I spent years grinding at poker tables and studying charts until I could intuit the odds of almost anything happening. And, for over a decade, I’ve been tracking (im)precisely what I’ve listened to each year on both AudioScrobbler / Last.FM and via iTunes.

That all changed in 2014. This was the year I got on board (almost fully) with the cloud. I’ve gotten miles of mileage out of my Spotify subscription, supplementing that which can’t be found on their service with mp3s. The problem is that Spotify is very inconsistent with its scrobbling, or, more precisely, it consistently doesn’t scrobble when either listening via iPhone or in offline mode. Unfortunately, that’s 90% of how I consume music.

Additionally, Spotify doesn’t play well with iTunes. I’ve made a consistent effort to add to my iTunes library anything that I’ve listened to on Spotify (or YouTube, Bandcamp, SoundCloud, etc) but there are certainly unaccounted for tracks, especially singles which would have received a sub-3 star rating. And this year, I spent far more time listening to individual songs than I did to full albums.

The end result is that, for the first time in a long time, I don’t have concrete data on what I’ve listened to, or how much I’ve listened to it. Indeed, I don’t even have marginally useful data from which to extrapolate. Last.FM tells me that “Tongue Talk” by the Holidays is my most-played new track of 2014, with nineteen spins. The true number is something like five times that, if I had to guesstimate. Meanwhile, the track doesn’t have a single play in iTunes.

In the end, I’ve decided that convenience (such as it were) outweighs my desire to number-crunch. It’s a choice that pays off 11.5 months of the year, and then bums me out for two weeks. Unfortunately, this is those two weeks.

So which parts of my musical year are still quantifiable? Well, as of December 31, 2014:

  • By my count, over the course of the year, I listened to 107 LPs, EPs, 7″s, splits or compilations released in 2014.
  • There were 1,236 songs released in 2014 added to my iTunes library this year.
  • I attended 48 individual shows this year, along with 43 sets over days at SXSW; 8 sets at 1 day of Warped Tour; 29 sets over 3 days at Riot Fest Chicago; and sets over days of CMJ.
  • In total, that makes for 189 sets at 63 shows.
  • I wrote track review (along with lighthearted holiday song reviews for the annual PropertyOfZack Xmas Review Extravaganza); published 28 interviews, including a 4-part interview with Rob Rowe (Whitewaits / Cause & Effect) and a 2-part interview with Derek Sanders (Mayday Parade) & Lauren Wilhelm (Dazy The Girl); wrote part or all of 15 feature pieces, including missives from SXSW; contributed to 7 PropertyOfZack staff playlists; and, best of all, had pieces published in print, both feature pieces for Alternative Press.

The full list of albums and EPs from 2014 that I’ve listened to this year, alphabetical by artist, is after the cut.

  1. Against Me! – Transgender Dysphoria Blues
  2. Alburn – Mouthful of Glass
  3. Allison Weiss – Remember When
  4. Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness – s/t
  5. Angel Olsen – Burn Your Fire For No Witness
  6. Angels & Airwaves – The Dream Walker
  7. Animals As Leaders – The Joy Of Motion
  8. Antarctigo Vespucci – Soulmate Stuff
  9. Antarctigo Vespucci – I’m So Tethered
  10. Anthony Green – Winter Songs
  11. Ariana Grande – My Everything
  12. Basement – Further Sky
  13. Beach Slang – Cheap Thrills On a Dead End Street
  14. Beach Slang – Who Would Ever Want Anything So Broken
  15. Being As An Ocean – How We Both Wondrously Perish
  16. Betty Who – Slow Dancing
  17. Betty Who – Take Me When You Go
  18. Big Data – 1.0
  19. Bleachers – Strange Desire
  20. Bob Mould – Beauty & Ruin
  21. The Cab – Lock Me Up
  22. Candy Hearts – All The Ways You Let Me Down
  23. Charli XCX – Sucker
  24. The Cloudy Mountain Band – Demos
  25. Copeland – Ixora
  26. D’Angelo & The Vanguard – Black Voodoo
  27. Dads – I’ll Be The Tornado
  28. Darlia – Candyman
  29. Darlia – Knock Knock
  30. The Downtown Fiction – Losers & Kings
  31. Dum Dum Girls – Too True
  32. Foo Fighters – Sonic Highways
  33. Four Year Strong – Go Down In History
  34. Foxy Shazam – Gonzo
  35. Frnkiero andthe Cellabration – Stomachaches
  36. The Front Bottoms – Rose
  37. Future Islands – Singles
  38. Gerard Way – Hesitant Alien
  39. Have Mercy – A Place Of Our Own
  40. The Hotelier – Home, Like NoPlace Is There
  41. Hundred Waters – The Moon Rang Like a Bell
  42. Information Society – _Hello World
  43. Onelinedrawing – Me & You Are Two
  44. Joyce Manor – Never Hungover Again
  45. Kitten – Kitten
  46. Knuckle Puck – While I Stay Secluded
  47. La Dispute – Rooms Of The House
  48. Live – The Turn
  49. Masked Intruder – M. I.
  50. Michael Jackson – Xcape
  51. Mikey Mo – All I Have
  52. Moden Baseball – You’re Gonna Miss It All
  53. Mongol Horde – Mongol Horde
  54. Moose Blood – I’ll Keep You In Mind From Time To Time
  56. Mystery Skulls – Forever
  57. No Devotion – Stay / Eyeshadow
  58. No Somos Marineros – Lomas Verdes
  59. Old 97’s – Most Messed Up
  60. Owl City – Ultraviolet
  61. Paolo Nutini – Caustic Love
  62. Pianos Become The Teeth – Keep You
  63. PUP – PUP
  64. Pvris – White Noise
  65. Rachel Taylor – Come Alive
  66. Real Friends – Maybe This Place Is The Same & We’re Just Changing
  67. Restorations – LP3
  68. Royksopp & Robyn – Do It Again
  69. Run The Jewels – Run The Jewels 2
  70. Ryan Adams – Ryan Adams
  71. Sam Smith – In The Lonely Hour
  72. Seahaven – Reverie Lagoon: Music For Escapism Only
  73. Set It Off – Duality
  74. Sir Sly – You Haunt Me
  75. Sledding With Tigers – A Necessary Bummer
  76. Somos – Temple Of Plenty
  77. St. Vincent – St. Vincent
  78. Sturgill Simpson – Metamodern Sounds In Country Music
  79. take nothing, leave everything – winter
  80. Taylor Swift – 1989
  81. This Wild Life – Clouded
  82. Tiger’s Jaw – Charmer
  83. Tiny Moving Parts – Pleasant Living
  84. Toby McAllister – Christmas Bedroom Demos
  85. Transit – Joyride
  86. Twin Forks – Twin Forks
  87. Unicorn Kid – Brain Wash
  88. Vacationer – Relief
  89. Veruca Salt – MMXIV
  90. Warpaint – Warpaint
  91. We Are The In Crowd – Weird Kids
  92. White Lung – Deep Fantasy
  93. Whitewaits – Island
  94. Wild Adriatic – Big Suspicious
  95. Xerxes – Collision Blonde
  96. You Blew It! – Keep Doing What You’re Doing
  97. You Blew It! – You Blue It
  98. You + Me – Rose Avenue
  99. 5 Seconds of Summer – She Looks So Perfect
  100. VA – Adventures / Pity Sex
  101. VA – Death To False Music Vol. 1
  102. VA – Goodbye Yellow Brick Road 40th Anniversary
  103. VA – In Utero, In Tribute, In Entirety
  104. VA – Punk Goes 90’s Vol. 2
  105. VA – Spitback / Power Wrench
  106. VA – Whirr / Nothing
  107. VA – Mat Kerekes / Chris Kerekes Winter Split

Cobra Starship – “Anything For Love”

Cobra Starship – Anything For Love

Ostensibly this place is about my life, and while Makeup For The Silence’s focus seems to be fixed on the past these last couple weeks, I’ve been drowning in the present. On top of working 60 hour weeks, I’m trying to balance my showgoing, two playoff-bound fantasy baseball teams, the upcoming fantasy football season, knocking out a review here and there for PropertyOfZack (and potentially getting involved with a soon-to-be-launched site as well), adding some new coding to the site, spending time with friends, and maybe getting some sleep somewhere in between.  Meanwhile, somehow, we’re two thirds of a way through a year that feels like it’s just barely started. Whizz whizz!

I’m feeling a little overwhelmed, to say the least.  Part of my way of keeping things from feeling like they’ve gotten too far out of control is tearing through new releases as fast as I can, playing catch-up for a couple months of too-busy-to-listen-to-new-stuff-aside-from-what-I’m-reviewing-ness and clearing out the backlog.

Apparently, I’m not the only one who’s been digging around the past as of late.  Witness “Anything For Love” off the just-released Cobra Starship album Night Shades, in which Gabe Saporta eats up New Order, 1980-style OMD the Human League and Vince Clarke-era Depeche Mode, and shits out pure classic synthpop bliss. It’s easily my favorite thing I’ve heard in weeks; I Just Can’t Get Enough of it!

I was actually initially planning on reviewing this album, but then shelved it as things got busy.  But now that I’ve actually gotten around to listening to it, I’ve found the whole thing so intriguing that I think I’m going to end up reviewing it anyway.  I don’t love it as much as I wanted to, and I don’t hate it as much as I was afraid I might, but it’s gotten me pondering pop – the way it’s changed over the past few years; the retromania discussion that’s all over the musicweb this week; and a whole host of other things –  like very little else lately has.

While the album is currently somewhere in that neither-good-nor-bad territory for me, this track is unequivocably WIN.

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