Monday, December 13, 2010

Music 2010

These are my favorite albums of the year. I have no idea if they're "the best" or not because there are lots of albums I didn't buy, didn't hear, or bought and didn't appreciate for whatever reason. I just want to talk a little bit about what I liked and why. They're kind of ranked from 20 to 1 but don't get too hung up on the order. After the "top 20" I have a few other things I thought deserved some mention. I'd love to hear some feedback on any of it. What did you like? What did you hate? Do you just want to call me a pretentious Pitchfork sniffing snob? Anyway, here they are:

Cee Lo Green - The Ladykiller
"Fuck You" was one of the best songs of the year and Cee Lo is definitely an interesting dude.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pc0mxOXbWIU

Vampire Weekend - Contra
Not as good as their first but I enjoyed it.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bkUQ-OBazbc

Salem - King Night
Ha, this is some scary, scary stuff. It's kind of like electronic music chopped up and then filtered through a horror movie. It does some of the old "screw" stuff on some tracks with rap vocals. Pass the purple drank?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3IvoN4YUF4o

Surfer Blood - Astro Coast
I'm putting a link to The Turnpike episode of their show because it was so much fun for me. It was absolutely wall to wall at Replay and there was a ton of sweaty, sweaty energy at the place.
http://www.lawrence.com/turnpike/videos/920/

Best Coast - Crazy for You
I kept seeing great reviews of this album then listening to the songs and thinking "they all sound exactly the same." Well, kind of, they may be somewhat simple but she does such a good job of selling them and getting to the heart of it that eventually it clicked for me. It just sounds good.
Kinda cute moment from the show I was at even though the sound isn't the best:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sBdKQv26ty0

The Black Keys - Brothers
Another really good album from them. Moved into more of a soul thing than straight-up blues but I liked it a lot.

Caribou - Swim
Just some really cool electronic music. I hadn't listened to any of their older stuff but I really dug what they did with this. I don't know exactly what the hook was on "Odessa" but it was great.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aiSa7THgxrI

Beach House - Teen Dream
This album is like being in a giant nostalgia cloud that's warm and full of soft, shimmering lighting. Which is kind of exactly what their concert was like. Really beautiful in a strange way.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N-wfb25WmV4

Tallest Man on Earth - The Wild Hunt
I was going to try to write this without mentioning Bob Dylan but I can't. A man and a guitar doing those types of songs with a voice like that and it's the first thing that comes to mind. What's good is that despite that comparison TMoE can reinterpret them in new way.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0qdM8WdTfH4

Gorillaz - Plastic Beach
Another really good Gorillaz album. It had a few more weak spots than previous albums (or maybe I eventually just ignore those) but they're still managing to find ways to do new, interesting music.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nhPaWIeULKk

The National - High Violet
I think this ended up being a little underrated because it followed The Boxer, which was so popular among the critics. I thought this song was fantastic.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yfySK7CLEEg

The Walkmen - Lisbon
Just a consistently really good record. Does a great job setting up a certain atmosphere and seems like a band that's maturing beyond their angry side.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l4BHHMhPMu0&feature=related

Arcade Fire - The Suburbs
Easily my most-anticipated album of the year. Arcade Fire takes on the Suburbs...kind of. I'll agree that it generally points out some of the shittier things about the suburbs that have all been said before but I thought it also was really nostalgic for them, or at least what they represented, and went after the same types that reflexively opposed a lot of those same things. I thought the album had some great moments but there are parts where it does tend to drag just a bit.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rH_7_XRfTMs

Sufjan Stevens - The Age of Adz
A weird, wildy interesting album. Just when you're starting to get in a groove or enjoy some really beautiful stuff he drops in blaring horns or trilling notes or some other annoyance. At one time I declared parts of the album to be "almost unlistenable" but then I went to see his sold-out concert where he basically sat down and explained his ideas and goals and process in words, really amazing video imagery, and some kind of terrible dancing. But it totally worked. With a new perspective I listened to it for a week straight and love it.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aTsDcjHj54M&feature=related

Sleigh Bells - Treats
I really feel like "Rill Rill" was one of the catchiest songs of the year and could have induced thousands of people to buy this album then never listen to anything else on it when they realized that nothing else on there sounds anything like it. If you don't like loud music you'll probably hate this but Sleigh Bells found a way to combine some of the loudest music out there with some really beautiful melodies tucked away.
Rill Rill: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uLRnmQ-4Yp0
Tell 'Em: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2kJ05P-71gY&feature=related

Kanye West - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
A brilliant album that basically came out of nowhere for me. It's not that I haven't enjoyed Kanye in the past it's just that I basically thought he was a decent rapper, brilliant producer, and kind of an asshole who was moving in a direction I wasn't interested in. For someone who can be amazingly oblivious to the rest of the world and how it perceives him versus how he perceives himself he actually some great moments of introspection. Plus, it's Kanye, so...hooks!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L53gjP-TtGE

Big Boi - Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty
I spent most of the year thinking this was the best hip hop album I'd heard in a long time and I still feel that way. Big Boi was always a little overshadowed in Outkast but this really works for me in a way that none of Andre's solo stuff has.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rWsvkW6rKkQ

Janelle Monae - The ArchAndroid
I read someone describe her as basically the George Clinton at his peak of this generation. Amazingly audacious concept album from an extremely talented performer. She hits about every genre possible on this album and manages to pull off almost everything.
This is such an amazing video if you stick with it and listen to the lyrics:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lqmORiHNtN4

LCD Soundsystem - This is Happening
James Murphy does human relationships with all the awesome dance-rock and oddly funny lyrics you would expect. "Drunk Girls" isn't my favorite song on the album but it has a weird video so here ya go:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1xT6cdfP_cM

And my favorite album of 2010:
Titus Andronicus - The Monitor
This album got stuck in my head early last spring when I first previewed it online and basically never left it. It's a sprawling, exhilarating, ambitious as hell (so much so it includes it's own "Suggested Further Reading" list) punk album that uses the Civil War and about a thousand other references to look at the internal conflicts people can face when they attempt to go against the dominant culture. Or at least that's kind of how I interpreted it but it's also about dealing with intense emotions, something they clearly evoke on this album. The lyrics are witty, the music is powerful, and I'm a sucker for someone who swings for the fences on something like this.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=08fqHr_KGPY

Deserves a mention for a great song or a great EP that doesn't quite qualify as an album:
Gayngs - Relayted "The Gaudy Side of Town"
You should be using this to seduce someone right now.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1m2pBzdlmHw

Wye Oak - My Neighbor/My Creator "I Hope You Die"
Saw them twice this year and think they're poised to break out. She has a great voice and the other guy plays keys and drums at the same time.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jgkd2lFI9X8

Cults - "Go Outside" Released a couple of songs out of nowhere that were really good. The hype machine is at work...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KHhEBqRTXdk

Carolina Chocolate Drops - Genuine Negro Jig
Best new bluegrass album I heard (which admittedly wasn't many).
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LRX91eF_cY0

Freddie Gibbs - Str8 Killa "National Anthem (Fuck the World)
Is it lame to still listen to gangsta rap? Maybe. But when he hits that verse at double speed....the dude has some talent.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ed4GJX8nf_g

Girl Talk - All Day
I always liked Girl Talk but it was always a little too frenetic for me to actually listen to. This album could "breathe" a little bit more and I thought it was amazing.

I was going to link to the last track which is phenomenal but I won't because you can't appreciate it fully unless you go through the entire album. Ha, I'm serious. Download it for free here instead:
http://www.illegal-art.net/allday/

Aziz Ansari - Intimate Moments for a Sensual Evening. Funniest comedy album I heard assuming Patton Oswalt didn't actually release his this year.

Worst album: Katy Perry - Teenage Dream. Granted I haven't actually listened to it and I think she's pretty good looking but I think her music that I have heard is brutal and she ripped off her album name from Beach House.

Most memorable shows I can think of right now and didn't mention earlier:
Sweatiest dance party: Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybees

Biggest event: Scion Garage Fest - King Khan would have won sweatiest dance party but he can't since he was part of this whole event which was amazing. Four venues, tons of people, lots of good bands. Great time.

Best crowd: Surfer Blood - Should have been a bigger venue and the fact it was in the Replay made it that much better.

Best discovery I'd never heard of before - tUnEyArDs opening for Dirty Projectors and Xiu Xiu in different shows. Very unique thing going on. I mentioned Wye Oak already so they didn't win but they were probably my favorite.

Loudest show: A Place to Bury Strangers/The Big Pink. After APTBS's set the crowd basically stumbled outside en masse just to get their bearings after 20 minutes of strobe and soul-crushing noise. Amazing experience.

Best Show: Janelle Monae. This girl is a performer! Maybe it helped that she was a local KCK girl performing in front of her family but she can sing, dance, create a show like few people I've seen.

Best local bands: the Kinetiks, Hospital Ships, Rooftop Vigilantes, Cowboy Indian Bear, Hello Biplane, Fourth of July, the Dactyls

Like I said, there was a lot of stuff I listened to that I liked but didn't mention because I forgot or just didn't feel like writing. Let me know what you think.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Cyclone basketball

I'll give a quick shoutout to the Iowa State basketball team after their 75-72 road win over Iowa tonight. I ended up watching all but the first 10 minutes of the game which was the first time I'd seen them play this year. I didn't recognize half of the players and they looked absolutely brutal at times (more like a junior high team sometimes) but they actually made some plays and won the game to go to 8-2 on the year. The Big 12 season is going to be rough but I like the style of basketball they play and they play hard even though they have a ton of holes.

It would be easy to pick on all of the things that left me shaking my head in disgust but I had already decided this was essentially a throwaway season with the way things shook out and, yet, here they are blowing out the teams they should and keeping things close in the ones they've lost.

And as a sidenote the Register ran a single quote for each game of the series since 1984. There were some funny ones in there and I enjoyed thinking back to all of the games I watched. Unfortunately they missed one of the best when Eustachy, speaking of Carver, said something like, "God, I hate this place. I just want to throw up." So, true. It's such a worthless basketball venue yet ISU seems to struggle there in recent years. I laughed when there was actually discussion on whether Iowa's students would show up because they weren't giving them free pizza this year.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Kinda spot on

Maureen Dowd being all Maureen Dowd-y on Palin's hunting trip and Obama.
The caribou that waited too pliantly in the cross hairs is doomed to become stew for Palin and an allegory for politics. The elegant animal standing above the fray, dithering rather than charging at his foes or outmaneuvering them, is Obambi. Even with a rifle aimed at him, he’s trying to be the most reasonable mammal in the scene, mammalian bipartisan, and rise above what he sees as empty distinctions between the species so that we can all unite at a higher level of being.

So, I watched the clip of her big hunt and it really is pretty ridiculous. She's totally freaking out and her dad is yelling at her. Meanwhile, the caribou they show is just standing there while she blasts shot after shot at it. Then she's talking a big game about how you have to field dress the dear and pack it out of there. Yeah, right. I liked how they didn't actually show her doing anything other than trying to decide which knife to use.

But, yeah, dude, Obama! They're trying to (figuratively) kill you. Do something!

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

MLitB Sports Exclusive

I have exclusive video of Chiefs' QB Matt Cassel's emergency appendectomy today.
Thank you, knife.

This is all pretty typical Chiefs. Hey, why not have some bizarre injury right at the most crucial point in the season? However, if we really want to go old-school KC we need Brodie Croyle to come in and lead to team to a few victories. In the mean-time the local media can go nuts debating whether you go back to Cassel or stick with the hot hand. Inevitably whatever choice Haley makes in that situation will blow up in his face in the playoffs leading him to lose his job within 2 years. See Bono/Gannon '97 and Green/Huard '06 for reference.

Extraordinarily tender and extremely mild

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

eh...

Hey, Obama's awesome "compromise" on wage freezes gets him another awesome compromise...tax cuts for everybody! Whew! I was worried that Wall Street was going to have to pay their bonuses early this year. The rest of you get a subscription to the Jelly of the Month Club. That's the gift that keeps on giving throughout the entire year, Clark.

Even conservative Democrat Mary Landrieu called the plan "almost morally corrupt" and this:
"It's what I'm calling the Obama-McConnell plan. We're going to borrow $46 billion from the poor, from the middle class, from businesses of all sizes basically to give a tax cut to families in America today, that despite the recession, are making over a million dollars. I mean, this is unprecedented. Unprecedented. I want to repeat that," she said. Landrieu added, however, that she had yet to make a decision on the final package and was speaking strictly about the extension of tax cuts for the wealthy.

I'm really at a loss for what exactly Obama thinks he's doing here. Yeah, it makes sense for some tax cuts for those that are struggling but that's not the rich and you know that people are going to be whining about the deficit and the spending and all that crap which will inevitably mean cutting programs that help the poor, etc. It's frustrating that to read stuff like this:
“Take a tally, look at what I promised during the campaign,” Mr. Obama said, displaying a rare flash of emotion as he wound up the question-and-answer session. “There’s not a single thing that I have said that I would do that I have not done or tried to do. And if I haven’t gotten it done yet, I’m still trying.”
The only time he shows any emotion seems to be whenever he's talking about how those on the left don't appreciate him enough.

Anyway, I get that I'm probably further to the left than any president that will be elected in my lifetime but it's frustrating when we abandon certain principles without a fight and especially when we do so on issues that are actually very popular among the general public. Moving on.

The news out of NASA about the bacteria allegedly surviving on arsenate and not phosphate sounded cool but the claims (mostly by the media but also by the scientists) are pretty wildly overstated. The always excellent Carl Zimmer lays out the major problems.

I read a story about more people going back to rabbit ears for their TV with some interest. This is what we've been doing and once in a while we'll have problems with our reception (our setup consists of a digital converter box and coat hangers bolted down to a piece of wood...seriously) but overall it works pretty well. With ESPN3, Hulu, Netflix (DVDs and streaming) there isn't much that we miss out on watching that we're interested in. Sometimes it's a pain in the ass missing something or having to catch up on a series several months later but when compared to sending $60 a month to a shitty cable company monopoly it seems to be worth it.

Finally, whether you agree with WikiLeaks or not (and I can understand arguments against them) I think it's important to know and consider what they are trying to accomplish. In a democracy our governments should be open to the people and if our current (or future) wars are based on lies these secrets should be exposed. I would prefer if we consider those issues rather than screaming that these people should be executed. Here's an Australian op-ed written by Julian Assange that's worth reading.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

World Cup fever

In case you hadn't been following things FIFA will announce the 2018 and 2022 World Cup sites on Thursday morning. Most of you will read this after the announcement but I'll go ahead and present the pros and cons of all bidders.

2018

England
The birthplace of the sport and spiritual home of hooligans everywhere. Hasn't hosted since 1966 which is also the last time they won. The pressure on their team would be beyond anything we could imagine and a loss would crush them beyond belief. That's almost a good enough reason to give it to them right there. Unfortunately the bid lost points when the English media began to expose the rampant corruption present in this process. Apparently pointing out that FIFA is a blatantly corrupt organization loses you points with that same blatantly corrupt organization. The England bid committee knows this obviously and responded by calling the reports "unpatriotic." Ah, I see.

Russia
Possibly the co-favorite with England but Putin decided not to travel and is already decrying the process as an "unfair competition." Translation: England is doing a better job bribing than we are. What? You're Russia! Have one of your gajillionaire oligarchs step up and win this thing.

Portugal/Spain
This seems like it would make a lot of sense but I feel like the residents of these countries were too busy relaxing to actually put a bid together. I feel a special kinship with Portugal ever since the Kansas City Wizards became Sporting Kansas City in an attempt to cash in on the lucrative Sporting Lisbon brand. Or something.

Belgium/Netherlands
Possibly not a real bid.

2022
United States
Come on, how do you not give it to the USA? We have an embarrassing assortment of bomb-ass stadiums already built, we have sponsors lined up to throw money at this thing, every country present already has a built-in fan base...what's not to like? OK, so the sport still ranks 5th or so on the common fans interest index but it really is making progress and a 12 build-up to a World Cup would probably lead to the biggest sporting event ever to happen to this country. If I remember right the '94 Cup still has the highest attendance numbers and is one of the most profitable. Come on, FIFA, CASH RULES EVERYTHING AROUND ME...CREAM! GET THE MONEY DOLLAR DOLLAR BILL YA'LL!

Qater
Hey, 110 degrees Fahrenheit and a country-wide ban on alcohol? How have you not hosted a tournament before this? Yeah, I get that they love to throw money around like it's sand in that country but, really? Qater? Apparently their plan is to build the stadiums (with AC) then dismantle them and move them to poor countries when they're done. Why give in this? Oh, right, because they've already been caught trying to trade votes and they have enough money to buy the rest.

Australia
They give less of a shit about soccer than the US does but they've never had a Cup in that area. Plus, the US and Europe get to watch all of the matches at ridiculous times.

Japan
Didn't we just do this?

South Korea
See Japan with the bonus of North Korean artillery attacks.

So, there you go. My money is on the favorites England and the USA but if I had to pick an upset it would be Russia followed closely by Qater.