Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Top 20 Albums of 2008

20. Ladytron - Velocifero
19. Starflyer 59 - Dial M
18. Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend
17. Coldplay - Viva la Vida
16. Be Your Own Pet - Get Awkward (UK Edition)
15. …And You Will Know Us By the Trail of the Dead - Festival Thyme EP
14. Gnarls Barkley - The Odd Couple
13. Los Campesinos! - Now Hold on, Youngster!
12. Flight of the Conchords - Flight of the Conchords
11. Have a Nice Life - Deathconciousness
10. Deerhunter - Microage/Weird Era Cont.
9. Sigur Rós - Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust
8. M83 - Saturdays = Youth
7. Elbow - The Seldom Seen Kid
6. Crystal Castles - Crystal Castles
5. TV on the Radio - Dear Science
4. Why? - Alopecia
3. Oasis - Dig Out Your Soul
2. The Hold Steady - Stay Positive
1. Children 18:3 - Children 18:3

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Top 20 Songs of 2008

Here's my opinion on the twenty best songs of the year. I'm not going to go quite as in depth as I did yesterday with my favorite moments, since - truth be told - there's a fair bit of overlap here.

Anyway, without further ado...

The Top 20 Songs of 2008

20. My Morning Jacket - Touch Me I'm Going to Scream, Part 1
19. Coldplay - Lost!
18. Ladytron - Black Cat
17. The Hush Sound - Honey
16. Elbow - Grounds For Divorce
15. Oasis - Bag it Up
14. People in Planes - Pretty Buildings
13. Los Campesinos! - Death to Los Campesinos!
12. Children 18:3 - Time and Wasted Bullets
11. Why? - The Hollows
10. Sigur Rós - Inní mér syngur vitleysingur
9. Deerhunter - Nothing Ever Happened
8. The Hold Steady - Stay Positive
7. Crystal Castles - Untrust Us
6. Oasis - The Shock of the Lightning
5. Bon Iver - Blindsided
4. Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson - Buriedfed
3. The Magnetic Fields - Three-Way
2. Grizzly Bear - While You Wait For the Others
1. The Hold Steady - Constructive Summer

Monday, December 29, 2008

Top 20 Moments in Music (2008)

Favorite Albums are one thing, favorite songs are another, but every once in a while everything boils down to a single moment of absolute bliss. The album could suck, the song itself could fail to impress, but when that one part hits, you lose it every time.

These are the 20 moments from 2008 that set me on fire every time I hear them. Where possible, I've linked to streams or MP3 files of the tunes in question, so that you can listen along and enjoy as much as I have over the past year.

20. Machinae Supremacy - Gimme More (SID)

Machinae Supremacy play SID-Metal (a sort of Comodore64 enhanced metal sound). Britney Spears plays pop music. Ironic metal covers have long since run their course, and aren't exactly all that much of a novelty anymore, but this one is special. It's not a technically fantastic solo or anything, but it comes at the perfect time, just as the absurdity of the whole cover threatens to overwhelm the song.... they break right on through to the next level. It's so ridiculous that it's awesome.

Myspace (Song is in player)

19. Coldplay - Violet Hill
"I took my love down to Violet Hill..."

Viva La Vida was a seemingly small adjustment for Coldplay. They still have their big choruses, they still seem like they're trying to relive the britpop glory days, and Chris Martin still has his poofy hair. Unlike X+Y, however, the songs seem to have a little more meat to them. Nowhere is this more evident than "Violet Hill". Featuring a driving beat, it comes dangerously close (in Coldplay terms) to rocking (again, this being Coldplay, that's a relative term). The kicker here, however, is in the waning seconds of the song. Chris Martin's gone melodramatic before, but here - backed by nothing but a light piano - his voice nearly cracks under the weight of the words he's trying to get across. It succeeds in getting the emotion out in a way that was tried a failed so many times on X+Y.


18. 3Oh!3 - Don't Trust Me
"...if he says he's got beef..."

3Oh!3 is normally an almost painfully ridiculous rap band. On "Don't Trust Me", however, they jump ship and rock out some almost painfully ridiculous synth-driven power pop. It's complete with 'ho' references, as well as a mind-boggling bridge where tell a girl to "do a Hellen Keller, and talk with your hips". Needless to say, the song is fantastic, but the height of the fun is found in the first verse, where the singer sneers "...and tell your boyfriend if he says he's got beef, that I'm a vegetarian and I ain't fuckin' scared of him". It's jaw-droppingly stupid, and mind-shatteringly great at the same time. More songs should be this fun, and more lyrics should be this willfully insane.

Purevolume (Song in player)

17. Ladytron - Black Cat
"The Perfect Opening Track"

The instant the drums hit on Velocifero leadoff "Black Cat" is golden. Once the opening synth lines start hitting (first the ominous low blaster, then the heavenly main melody), it takes the whole thing to a glorious new level of sugar-coated sweetness. In "Black Cat", Ladytron have constructed the perfect opening track to this year's guilty pleasure album of the year.

16. Elbow - Friend of Ours
"Love ya, mate"

"Friend of Ours" is a song about a friend of the band's who passed away. From the strings in the beginning to the understated lyrics, it's filled with more feeling than most bands ever manage. It all comes to a head around three and a half minutes in, with a soaring bridge, and then the piano starts. It's only five notes, but it wedges itself into your head so well that it feels like an entire song gets played out in the last minute. We should all be so lucky to get songs like this written about us.

15. The Magnetic Fields - California Girls
"Merritt goes homicidal"

"I hate California girls" Steven Merritt sings in this fantastic reverb drenched tune. Offenses like "get[ting] off like squirrels" and "breath[ing] coke and having affairs with each passing rock star" do nothing to endear the blond-headed targets of his wrath to him. Suddenly the last verse gets twisted, with Merritt picking up a battle axe before fading out the song repeating "they will hear me say, as the pavement whirls... I hate California girls...." A demented (and fitting) end.

MySpace (song in player)

14. ...And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead - The Betrayal of Roger Casement & the Irish Brigade
"Catharsis, Part 1"

The Trail of Dead do epic in almost every song. On this, the last track on their new EP (and album teaser) Festival Thyme, though, they really go for it. After minutes of extremely noisy building, it all breaks free with a blast. The part in question only lasts for about 20-30 seconds, but it's so big that it grabs your attention and lands its knockout punch. Not bad for a fully instrumental throwaway track.

13. Have a Nice Life - Holy Fucking Shit: 40,000

Suffice to say, Tim Macuga does not write happy songs. "HFS40K" is as hopeless as most everything, with lyrics relaying fatalistic messages over (oddly enough) the same strange beat you hear for the first couple of seconds of "Da Da Da"

Then it hits. The song lives up to its name in full by slamming into gear about three and a half minutes in with a wall of distorted guitar and raw drums. For the next two minutes, the listener is treated to the sound of the world flying apart at the seams before an acoustic guitar comes in to put an unearthly coda on the whole thing.

12. Los Campesinos! - My Year in Lists

Like all LC! songs, "My Year in Lists" is verbose and ridiculous. This would make pretty much any band tremendously irritating, but somehow they come out all the more endearing for it. 'Lists' is incredibly short, coming in well under two minutes, but they make every second count. Just after the chorus, they begin speaking "I treasure with fondness the day..." before jabbing the word "before" in like a punch, making the phrase stand "I treasure with fondness the day (before) I met you." It shouldn't be even half as clever as it is, but it is. It's harsh, and cruel... and clever and hilarious.

...and it only takes one word.

11. Jesper Kyd - Access the Animus
"Catharsis, Part 2"

This song, off of the Assassin's Creed soundtrack, takes its time getting to where it's going. It takes seven minutes, in fact; slowly meandering along it's path. Sounds flutter in and out of the mix almost haphazardly, false starting a couple of times, only to settle back down, getting to the point where you don't think anything will come of it. After about seven minutes, it finally wakes up growing into more of a monster by the second until it finally erupts into a massive swell of strings and takes off - then it dies down again. It's maddeningly short, and leaves you wondering if the nine and a half minute length is really worth it - but it is.


10. Crystal Castles - Air War

"Air War" is insane. For those who don't know, Crystal Castles create electronic music built around 8-bit synth (think of your Gameboy) and almost banshee-like female vocals. "Air War" doesn't feature the banshee vocals quite as much, instead going with a barely comprehensible female speaker reading a passage from Jame Joyce's Ulysses. Featuring the band's trademark halting 8-bit sounds, the song goes into a slight lull around a minute in, before the voice rushes back half-shouting the word "WAR!!". It's as ludicrous as it sounds, and almost impossibly jarring the first time you hear it (especially considering the fact that the song tries to outdo itself by turning up the musical intensity a notch). It all adds up to a surreal pleasure.

9. Portishead - The Rip
"Will I Follow??"

If all you knew about "The Rip" was the lyrics, it would already be creepy, with talk of wild white horses taking the singer away to "the dark underneath." During the end of the second chorus, though, it really takes a turn. Beth Gibbons sings - much as she did in the first - "Will I follow?". Only this time, it gets drawn out... for a LONG time, until it sounds digitized and cold. The song builds around the voice as it prepares for it's end. It's incredibly eerie - and remarkably effective.

8. The Hold Steady - Constructive Summer
"Raise a toast to St. Joe Strummer"

Stay Positive kicks off on a great note with "Constructive Summer". The song goes on about the travails of small town life and the virtues of escapism drinking on top of the local water tower. After a short bridge - which serves as the only slowdown the song offers - the band roars back to life as Craig Finn belts out "Raise a toast to St. Joe Strummer, I think he might have been our only decent teacher." It's not incredibly deep, but it does rock, and sometimes (as in this case) that's enough.

7. The Magnetic Fields - Three Way (live, 2/29/2008 Herbst Theatre, San Francisco)
"Three Way!"

I've made no secret of my love for "Three-Way", the short instrumental song that leads off Distortion. This is the live version of the song, and it sounds remarkably good stripped of all its fuzz and guitar distortion. What gets it a spot on this list, though, is the "Three way!" shout at the end of each breakdown. Unlike in the original, where it somehow made perfect sense to punctuate every third of the song with a shout of innuendo, in the distortion-free live setting it sounds awkward. A half-embarassed laugh ripples through the crowd, and the band goes on. By the second and third time it happens, you realize it: it's entirely appropriate and works just as well as it did in the studio. It's exactly the type of moment live shows were made for - a subtle nuance to the song that you can't get out of a studio recording.


6. Children 18:3 - LCM
"Kicking you in the face...... again"

This track led off 2006's "Songs of Desperation", but it's been overhauled. The sinewy garage rocker has been put on steroids and placed as track #2 on Children's Tooth and Nail debut. The effect is almost enough to knock you out of your chair. As "All My Balloons" comes to close, you get hit with that delcious riff seemlessly, only this time it sounds fuller. I won't be including the song itself on my songs list tomorrow, since it's a remake (though it would probably place in the top 5 if I did), but the effect of placing it second on the album is too great to ignore on this list.

5. Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson - Buriedfed
"Everyone I know walking beside me..."

"This is my last song about myself..." and so begins "Buriedfed", one of the year's darkest (and best) songs. The song builds in intensity with every verse, with Miles practically shouting by the later verses. Just when the song feels about to fly apart, the bridge comes, and everything is momentarily calm. It's a short respite, but it's awe inspiring, the background vocals "Ah-ing" make you feel like you're out there on the empty street in the middle of the night.

Audiomuffin has the MP3

4. Why? - The Hollows
"My God..."

If I were to simply pick lyrical moments from Alopecia, I could nearly fill this list. My personal favorite moment, though, comes on "The Hollows". Yoni Wolf's lyrics, as always, are relentlessly confrontational and uncomfortably descriptive. The crux of the song comes in a short snippet where he shouts "My God! The clock's always stuck tellin' 11:11, or 3:32!" the moment to act is passing, and all anyone can do is stare dumbly at the clock.

3. Grizzly Bear - While You Wait for the Others (live, 02-27-2008: KCRW)
"All we want... want... want..."

This song hasn't even been released yet. It was recorded in a studio for the 'Morning Becomes Eclectic' radio show. The track itself is great, with a chorus to die for. When it gets to the bridge, though, it where it really shines, lead singer Edward Droste sounds almost pleading, singing "all we want... want... want...." before breaking into one last chorus. The last one sounds the same as the first, but somehow feels like a crashing wave. The brilliant breakdown has a lot to do with that.


2. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - We Call Upon the Author

"We Call Upon the Author" is a heavy song wrapped in a sneering package. Throughout the song, Nick Cave outlines the horrible, the bizzare, and the outright wrong in the world, all the while calling for answers. The genius of it all is found in the breakdown that separates the sections of the song. Explanations are dismissed with a shout of "Prolix! Prolix! Nothing a pair of scissors can't fix!", and with that the storm rages on - shouting for answers that he'll just cut down to size, anyway.


1. The Hold Steady - Slapped Actress
"Man, we make our own movies"

Nothing needs to be said about this one except that it's the best way to end a CD that I've ever heard. Listen for yourself.

There you have it. Please post your thoughts, as well as moments you've enjoyed in 2008.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Revisionism: Year End List (2007)

Since this is just last year's list, there really isn't TOO much movement. The top spots are all pretty solid, so instead of completely rearranging the list, here's the awesome stuff I've heard from 2007 that didn't make it on the original list. Also, the stuff that seemed awesome initially, but has faded in time.

Lupe Fiasco - The Cool (I got this CD the last of '07, hardly enough time to make an informed decision about it. Turns out it's pretty fantastic. Lupe has a certain presence about him that a lot of his contemporaries don't have - or even try for. He can flow with the best of them, but doesn't lean on that fact on every song.)

Burial - Untrue (They call it "dubstep". Whatever it is, it makes for awesome headphone music.)

Gob - Muertos Vivos

M.I.A. - Kala (Everyone's heard 'Paper Planes', but anyone who's purchased the CD based on that song is in for a crazy ride. Dance, Hip-hop, world, and tribal styles all fuse to form some of the most interesting music I've ever heard. The fact that it's heart-speeding toe-tapping ear candy just comes as an added bonus.)

Modest Mouse - We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank (Filled to the brim with more goodness. The "carbon" freakout at the end of 'The Parting of the Sensory' is incredibly surreal)


Fratellis - Costello Music (Music like this has a short shelf life. It had it's time, but it's not something that will get put in time and time again.)

Burning Brides - Hang Love (It's got a kick, but Leave No Ashes is so much easier 0 and more enjoyable - to listen to.)

Kaiser Chiefs - Yours Truly, The Angry Mob ('Ruby' still rules, but nothing else compared.)

2007 was a good year for music. I still listen to most all of the CDs that I had marked as top 20 last year. This look back over the past week has been eye-opening. Here's hoping I don't have to do this again in 6 years.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Revisionism: Year End List (2006)

Near the end of 2006, I started taking a deeper look into indie music. The results didn't initially show up in my year end list (with the exception of the number spot, but more on that in a second.) This was the year I discovered that rap music could kind of rule in certain contexts (T.I. - What You Know being one of those contexts). It's a little embarrassing to be making these discoveries at age 23, but the underground doesn't buzz very loud when you live in the middle of nowhere.

Original List (Link)

10. Mewithoutyou - Brother, Sister (They've softened in the sonic sense only. The lyrics carry the same bite that A->B Life's did - and almost more in some cases.)

9. Starflyer 59 - My Island (They've long since abandoned the more shoegaze-y sounds of their earlier stuff, but these songs sound awesome anyway. The less droning, more immediate guitars do Jason Martin's songs well.)

8. Children 18:3 - Songs of Desperation (I've noted numerous times, but 'LCM' was truly a revelation the first time I heard it. It's since been cleaned up and fleshed out quite a bit, but the more garage-y quality still has it's merits.)

7. Incubus - Light Grenades (Mm... It's got some very good songs, and it's got some sort of 'meh' moments on it, as well. Kind of middle of the road for them, but 'Anna Molly' still brings it.)

6. Gym Class Heroes - Cruel as School Children (Travis McCoy is no one's idea of an amazing rapper, but this CD is extremely enjoyable. Why should I have to affix 'guilty pleasure' status on it? Songs about MySpace can be cheesy as hell, but that doesn't make 'New Friend Request' any less hook filled or fun.)

5. People in Planes - As Far As the Eye Can See (The opening line to 'Baracuda' sold me on this CD more than possibly any 20 seconds of a song ever has. The rest of the CD is good, 'Baracuda' is killer.)

4. Lacuna Coil - Karmacode (I suppose in some alternate universe, these guys get massive play on all the radio stations, while Evanescence is relegated to endlessly playing Club1 while emo kids hold conversations in the mosh pit and make out. I sort of prefer that alternate universe.)

3. Gnarls Barkley - St. Elsewhere (Let's get this straight - 'Crazy' is the biggest song of this decade. It rules in every way imaginable. If this were a song list, Crazy would hold positions numbered 1-10. That being said, what I said about Gnarls Barkley - that the rest of it is "extremely good" - isn't entirely accurate. There's a lot to love ('Smiley Faces', etc.) but there's also plenty of very skippable songs. Luckily 'The Odd Couple' came along this year. I'm sure we'll hear about that next week.)

2. My Chemical Romance - The Black Parade (I stand by this. It's a great CD.)

1. ...And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead - So Divided (Okay, I'll admit it. I got caught up in some serious ToD love upon discovering them and sort of gave them one of those 'Lifetime Achievement' awards. This isn't their best CD... or their second best.... or maybe even their third best, and it's pretty certainly not the best CD to come out in 2006. Source Tags and Codes earned this spot. This exact spot is pretty much why I decided to take up this endevour in the first place - well... that and that inexplicable Souljahz thing in 2002... I mean...... seriously??)

And now... the revised list

10. Gnarls Barkley - St. Elsewhere (Sketchy as it sometimes gets, the highs are SO high...)

9. ...And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead - So Divided

8. Emily Haines and the Soft Skeleton - Knives Don't Have Your Back (Soft piano songs backed by the lightest of arrangements aren't supposed to have this weight. Emily Haines tears her heart open and lays it on the table for the world to see. The result is emotional, raw music that grabs the attention and doesn't let go.)

7. My Chemical Romance - The Black Parade

6. The Decemberists - The Crane Wife (Who would have thought they'd have come out with something like the epic prog-rock 'The Island'? Who would have thought the concept would flesh out so well?)

5. Shiny Toy Guns - We Are Pilots (Easily my favorite 'guilty pleasure' album ever - though for how many spins I've gotten out of it, can I really call it a guilty pleasure? In the end, it doesn't matter either way, this CD is just awesome.)

4. Viva Voce - Get Yr Blood Sucked Out (They've come a long way since 'Hooray For Now', but the vaugely druggy fuzz still comes flying out of Anita Robinson's guitar, and that makes it all good. They've stripped away some of the pop from their earlier releases, and the tunes have a certain immediate feel to them as a result.)

3. P.O.S. - Audition (In yesterday's post, I mentioned how nice it is to have a rap-rock artist focus on the rap side. P.O.S. does this better than anyone I've soon. He fuses guitar lines that one would think completely incompatible with rap - Underoath? Song of Zarathustra?? - and somehow makes them sound like they were meant to be rapped over in the first place. His show at First Avenue prompted me to pick up as much of his discography as I could find. This is the pinacle so far - fiercely political without being preachy, streetwise without being either condescending or dismissive. This is honestly one of my favorite CDs, period.)

2. The Hold Steady - Boys and Girls in America (This is real rock from a real rock band. I dismissed it upon hearing Craig Finn's voice, but it's since grown on me to the point where I could safely say it's in my top 15 favorite albums ever.)

1. TV on the Radio - Return to Cookie Mountain (You know up there, where I said 'Crazy' was the song of the decade? Well... it is, but 'Wolf Like Me' has to be included in the discussion. The wall of guitar and effect sounds like the most furious storm of bees ever, and the intensity in the lyrics matches in pound for pound. That being said, I initially panned the rest of the CD as weird and a little bizzare for my tastes. I couldn't have been more wrong. This CD is easily in my top 5 ever. There's maybe one or two skips, and the bonus songs aren't incredible, but there's so much to absolutely love about this CD that it seems like second nature to just love it. One kind of funny note from this post in which I discuss new CD purchases. The idea of Eve 6 being as good as TV on the Radio is an amusing one to me now.)

Friday, December 26, 2008

Revisionism: Year End List (2005)

We pick up where we left off. I was closer to the mark in 2005 - 5 of my original picks stick around from the revised list.

Original List

10. Jimmy Eat World - Stay on My Side Tonight (There's one extremely good song on this EP. All the other songs range from decent ('Over') to godawful ('Drugs or Me - Styrofoam Remix'). I guess one song was good enough here?)
9. Project 86 - And the Rest Will Follow (This is probably the weakest effort by Project 86, but I got really into their other stuff around the time I listened to this one, so it had a carryover effect.)
8. Death Cab for Cutie - Plans (Poppier and more radio-ready than Transatlanticism, this CD has some killer tunes, but isn't quite as good.)
7. Coldplay - X+Y ('Viva La Vida' shows this CD to be a pretty big swing and a miss. Everything's either overblown or overly obvious, and with a couple of exceptions, there's not a lot to go back to.)
6. Foo Fighters - In Your Honor (This CD does not have a weak track on it. Since there's 20 songs on it, that's quite a statement.)
5. Fall Out Boy - From Under the Cork Tree (Haha, don't get TOO excited to not see this one on the revised list. It'd probably make #11 if it was expanded a little.)
4. Ra - Duality (Meh. Fairly generic pop-metal that I fell for when I first heard it. Haven't listened to it in well over a year.)
3. Gorillaz - Demon Days (This is all over the place, and I love just about every track on it. Still awesome, and deservedly made this 'band' huge.)
2. Rosefield Rivals (A guilty pleasure, but one I badly wish was still around. I've only ever dug up 6 songs from this group - five of which are on this disc - but they've gotten a TON of play.)
1. Oasis - Don't Believe the Truth (It's Oasis - more importantly, it's Oasis at least trying to get back to what made them awesome; big rock songs. Dig Out Your Soul does a little better job than this one, but after Standing on the Shoulder of Giants and Heathen Chemistry, it was nice to see that these guys still had a little left in them.)

Revised List

10. The New Pornographers - Twin Cinema (Great guitar pop-rock. Listen to 'Sing Me Spanish Techno' or 'Bleeding Heart Show' and try to not have the choruses wedged in your head for the remainder of the day.)
9. Death Can For Cutie - Plans
8. Kanye West - Late Registration (It's rapidly becoming hip to hate Kanye West. Whether there's good reason for that or not, this CD shows that he's extremely good at what he does. As much as I actually kind of like 808's and Heartbreak, I'm hoping that it's a phase, and that he gets back to making more great CDs like this one.)
7. Rosefield Rivals
6. Flipsyde - We the People (It's odd to find rap-rock music that focuses more on the rap side than the rock side. These guys had great flow and cutting lyrics - it's a shame that their new CD sounds like it will be as generic as can be.)
5. Sufjan Stevens - Illinois (The guy makes beautiful, irresistable music. If not for pure nostalgic value, this CD would probably take number one walking away.)
4. Oasis - Don't Believe the Truth
3. Gorillaz - Demon Days
2. Foo Fighters - In Your Honor
1. ...And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead - Worlds Apart (A lot of people hated the shift Trail of Dead made toward proggy meanderings. I loved it. There's not a single misstep on the entire album, and nearly every song is fantastic in its own way.)

Moving forward, tomorrow I take a look at 2006.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Revisionism: Year End List (2004)

It's Christmas, so no write-ups. Just know that I'm actually not all that disgusted by my original list for 2004 - that being said, there are zero carry-overs from my original list to my revised. Also, number 1 really shouldn't be all that surprising.


10. Kelly Clarkson - Breakaway
9. Mewithoutyou - Catch For Us the Foxes
8. Mutemath - Reset EP
7. Halo 2 Soundtrack
6. Project 86 - Songs to Burn Your Bridges By
5. Lostprophets - Start Something
4. Falling Up - Crashings
3. Incubus - A Crow Left of the Murder
2. Skillet - Collide
1. Relient K - Mmhmm


10. The Hives - Tyrannosaurus Hives
9. Green Day - American Idiot
8. Viva Voce - The Heat Can Melt Your Brain
7. P.O.S. - Ipecac Neat
6. My Chemical Romance - Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge
5. MF Doom - MM.. Food
4. Further Seems Forever - Hide Nothing
3. Sum 41 - Chuck
2. Jimmy Eat World - Futures
1. The Arcade Fire - Funeral

Funeral is epic. That's really the only thing that needs to be said. Merry Christmas, everyone.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Revisionism: Year End List (2003)

We move on to 2003. It's a little embarassing, I suppose.

Original List: Link

10. Thrice - Artist in the Ambulance (I actually haven't heard this one in a while. It could actually be pretty good. I may have to check it out again.)

9. P.O.D. - Payable on Death (Wow, seriously? Listen to 'Wildfire' and tell me that P.O.D.'s self-titled has any place in anyone's list.)

8. Switchfoot - The Beautiful Letdown (I still wish they'd play more of their superior older stuff in concert, but I'll admit that I backlashed against Switchfoot pretty hard after this CD. From what I'd heard in '03, this deserved to be higher.)

7. Starflyer 59 - Old (Since buying this CD, I've slowly started appreciating Starflyer's music more and more. If the revised list was expanded to 20, you can bet this one would've parked around 11 or 12.)

6. MxPx - Before Everything, and After (Eh, it's got a couple catchy songs, lots of filler... it's an MxPx CD, what could one possibly expect?)

5. Powerman 5000 - Transform (After 'Destroy What You Enjoy', I really went cold on PM5K. That being said, I can still put this CD on every so often and - with liberal use of the skip button - enjoy enough of it to call it a decent, if unremarkable, CD.)

4. Julianna Theory - Love (Another decent CD, has some good melodies that makes up for the fact that it's aged kind of poorly.)

3. Thousand Foot Krutch - Phenomenon (I can't think of a band that I've gone more cold on than TFK. With maybe 2 exceptions, this CD does nothing for me.)

2. Relient K - Two Lefts Don't Make a Right, But Three Do (It's still their best CD. They never achieved this mix of humor, wit, and big hooks again.)

1. Linkin Park - Meteora (Ah, hell... What can I say? I have a soft spot for their first 2 releases.)

On to the Revised list...

10. Mew - Frengers

9. King Geedorah - Take Me To Your Leader (Doom's flows - when he's actually rapping - are ridiculous as ever, but the real treat is the off-the-wall beats. If you like strange hip hop and old monster movie references - or if you need a starting point into MF Doom's stuff, you owe it to yourself to listen to this.)

8. The White Stripes - Elephant (The formula never sounds like a formula, and it never sounded better than here.)

7. Atmosphere - Seven's Travels (With 19 tracks, there's plenty of songs to love - and a couple fo skip - but overall, this is my favorite Atmosphere CD.)

6. The Black Mages - The Black Mages (These are Final Fantasy instrumental metal arrangements. From that sentence alone you'll be able to tell whether you'll like this CD or not.)

5. Viktor Vaughn - Vaudville Villian (My favorite MF Doom alias. V goes from demented to sly to witty to just plain weird... in almost every song. It's almost all nonsense, but it's AWESOME nonsense.)

4. Linkin Park - Meteora

3. Fountains of Wayne - Welcome Interstate Managers (The first half is chock full of pure, unaduterated awesome. The second half is nearly unsalvageable. Luckily the first half comprises about 10 tracks.)

2. Death Cab For Cutie - Transatlanticism (Deservingly got them their big break, this is the music they were making JUST before they got on the hipster's nerves.)

1. Cold - Year of the Spider (If this CD was comprised of 'Remedy' played 10 times, it would merit inclusion on this list. There's literally not a weak track on the CD. Disagree if you want, but you'll only be missing out on one of the only alt-metal CDs that's really, truly worth your time.)

The only consolation I really take is that I had the sense to leave 'Peace of Mind' off of the list. That CD was truly wretched from the first spin, and has only gotten worse with time.

2004 tomorrow!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Revisionism: Year End List (2002)

I've decided to take up the rather embarassing task of looking back on and revising some of my year-end lists of the past. I say 'embarassing' because... well, just look.

Top 10 of 2002 (Original List)
Original Post

10. John Reuben - Hindsight (okay, so I'm wondering just how many CDs I listened to in 2002. I remember being pretty disappointed with this CD. I'm not sure how it got on my list - I'm thinking the bottom few spots were pretty random.)

9. Souljahz - The Fault is History (I mean, seriously... how else do you acount for this?? I remember thinking maybe 2 songs off of this CD were 'okay'. The fact that this is at number 9 has always baffled me. I can't imagine CDs that would've have been bumped from the list in order to make room for these.)

8. 12 Stones - 12 Stones (There's a couple of decent songs on this CD, but there's a LOT of skippable post-grunge and mediocre alt-rock.)

7. 38th Parallel - Turn the Tides (I used to be sort of into rap-rock. Good Lord, this was only 6 years ago???)

6. Linkin Park - Reanimation (This one's not SO bad. I mean, it wouldn't make the top 20 now, but there were a few perfectly serviceable tracks on here. There's a lot of filler, though.)

5. Pax217 - Engage (I used to like this one quite a bit. I listened to it a while back, and it hasn't aged well at all.)

4. 30 Seconds to Mars - 30 Seconds to Mars (I still like this one better than 'A Beautiful Lie'.)

3. Chevelle - Wonder What's Next (It's still their best one.)

2. Grits - The Art of Translation (They have their good moments, and I still like this CD, but too often they sound like a less-adventurous Outkast; particularly on 'Seriously'.)

1. Blindside - Silence (Wow. Number 1? I remember enjoying this, but I can't imagine ever liking it enough to put it at number 1)

It was actually a pretty good year for music - some of my all-time favorite CDs come from that year - but you wouldn't know it from looking at that list. Here's the new-and-improved version.

2002 Revised list

10. Lacuna Coil - Comalies

9. Eminem - The Eminem Show (Even if he was running out of ways to be provocative, he still had moments of brilliance here.)

8. Coldplay - A Rush of Blood to the Head ('Viva la Vida' has made me take a look back at all of Coldplay's previous output with renewed interest. 'Parachutes' and 'X+Y' still sound pretty generic, but this one is actually pretty fresh).

7. Chevelle - Wonder What's Next

6. Mewithoutyou - [A-->B] Life (They may have smoother some of the edges down a bit and tightened up the lyrics on subsequent releases - all of which are fantastic - but they never sounded more firey than here.)

5. Broken Social Scene - You Forgot it in People (It's rightly labelled a classic. Every song works, which is quite a feat, all things considered.)

4. Project 86 - Truthless Heroes (Cynicism and sarcasm abound. Truthless Heroes paints a portrait of American pop culture that's almost impossibly bleak. I strongly disliked this CD when I first heard it. Truth be told, I wasn't ready for it.)

3. Quarashi - Jinx (There is absolutely no reason to put this CD this high up, except it's one of the most enjoyable albums I've ever heard.)

2. Sigur Rós - ( ) (It's all sung in a made up language, no liner notes or song names, tracks that run upwards of 13 minutes - how is this music that popular? Because it's the most haunting music I think I've ever heard. People called this one "funereal", and I'd have to agree, but Track 8 is still one of the most cathartic musical experiences ever.)

1. ...And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead - Source Tags and Codes (ToD took their earlier 'rough around the edges' material and refined it. The result is possibly my favorite CD ever. The album has near perfect pacing - blasting when it can, softening when it needs to. All albums should have this mix of intensity, passion, and abandon.)

Tomorrow I'll take a look at 2003.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Year-End Extravaganza!

At this site, we believe in lists. We also believe in inactivity. It seems I've gotten the inactivity part down pretty well, so what better way to jump back into the blogging fray than to post lists for 11 straight days?

Therefore, here's how the next couple weeks are going to pan out (I'll be going back to this page and editing in links as they become fleshed out).

Tues, December 23rd: Revisionism: 2002 Year End List
Wed, December 24th: Revisionism: 2003 Year End List
Thurs, December 25th: Revisionism: 2004 Year End List
Fri, December 26th: Revisionism: 2005 Year End List
Sat, December 27th: Revisionism: 2006 Year End List
Sun, December 28th: Revisionism: 2007 Year End List
Mon, December 29th: Top 20 Favorite Moments in Music - 2008
Tues, December 30th: Top 20 Favorite Songs - 2008
Wed, December 31st: Top 20 Favorite Albums - 2008
Thurs, January 1st: Top 30 Most Listened to Tracks - 2008
Fri, January 2nd: Looking Forward to 2009

Also, in the coming weeks, I'll be doing a bit of design work to the site, because as of now, it's sort of unappealing in every way a site can be. This will be a small step towards making some additions and expansions around here.

Sunday, December 21, 2008


Obviously the Falcons and Vikings have played each other since this game (in fact, we destroyed them 24-3 just last year), but for whatever reason, tomorrow's game has the added playoff implications that could add just a little bit of payback if the Vikings were able to pull it out.

Much has been made recently of the Vikings closing out the season against Arizona (2003's 'epic' defeat immortalized via YouTube and Techmo Bowl here), Atlanta (1998 NFC Championship), and the New York Giants (continuously the bane of Minnesota's existence, but especially in the 2000 NFC Championship). Nothing's going to wipe away 1998 entirely, but who would have thought that Tarvaris Jackson and Gus Frerotte would lead a team that could have a chance to at least dull it a bit?

As it turns out, Lindsey bought tickets to this game (for our anniversary) knowing none of the backstory, and obviously not knowing it was going to have such weight. We'll be braving lousy roads to get there, hope the game lives up to its potential.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Children 18:3 @ Club1

After hearing about Children 18:3's legendary (at least locally legendary) live shows for years, I finally witnessed the spectacle first hand last night.

Suffice it to say, they are one of the most energetic and frenzied live bands I've ever seen. Seth Hostetter might be the bet drummer I've seen, and that's not something I say lightly. If that's what they play like when they're sick and not feeling 100%, I can't imagine what they'd do when everything was clicking.

The band hit up all my favorites, blending seemlessly between 'All My Balloons' and 'LCM' before tearing into 'Time and Wasted Bullets' and pretty much keeping the needle pegged the entire time - with one short break to, in their words "catch [their] breath". Everything from begining to end was a furious blaze of flying guitars, almost impossibly fast drumming, and just an overall sense of ROCK.

I highly recommend seeing the band live. It's no secret I greatly enjoyed the CD, but seeing the show completes the experience.

Thursday, October 30, 2008


Went over to the In-Laws' to carve pumpkins tonight. I carved 'Boo' from the Super Mario Brothers series. I'm pretty pleased with the way he turned out - you be the judge (click to enlarge).

I think it turned out nicely. Before anyone asks, yes, it's based off a stencil - but one that I modded a bit. I like the way the tongue turned out.

As a special bonus, Linds made a spider... Linds obviously knows the full meaning of the word 'irony', as she HATES spiders.

Monday, October 27, 2008

CD Review: Shiny Toy Guns - Season of Poison

I really liked Shiny Toy Guns' 1st/2nd/3rd CD We Are Pilots. It had an enjoyable mix of dance, electronica, and pop/rock. Whe I heard they were coming out with a new CD, I was understandably excited. Then I learned that they had parted ways with Carah Faye Charnow, who had injected a lot of the attitude and fun that made We Are Pilots so good. Then I heard the lead single to Season of Poison - 'Ricochet!', which prompted me to write the following:

"I was pumped for a new Shiny Toy Guns release when I first heard it was coming, but if the rest of Season of Poison is anything like this, it'll just prove that We Are Pilots was lightning in a bottle, and that the lightning has escaped."

Luckily, Season of Poison isn't quite all that bad. Sisely's "tough girl" vocals prove to be tortuous at times, but her actual 'singing' voice is pretty decent. The album kicks off with a song that represents the abum pretty well "When Did the Storm Begin", Sisely sort of rhythmicly shouts the verses, but she's saved soon enough by a soaring power-pop chorus. This proves to be about as close as Season of Poison comes to a formula. Most of the CD is guitar-driven power-pop, basicaly A lot less "Don't Cry Out", a lot more "Chemistry of a Car Crash". Occasionaly it veers and careens from genre to genre, touching on hints of african drum beats ("Season of Love"), some honest to God prog-rock ("Poison") and a LOT of 80's pop ("I Owe You a Love Song", and especially "Blown Away"). Through it all though, there very few light melodies. These are big songs.

I've warmed to 'Ricochet' to the extent that I greatly enjoy the chorus, but the verses are still hard to listen to. In fact, that represents one of the problems I do have with this CD. The album is so scattershot (often switching things up within the song, and putting things that don't necessarily work together - such as the organ led verses and the distorted guitar chord guzzling of "Blown Away") that you often get something you're not fond of mixed in with a song that you enjoy. There's the painful verses of the otherwise fantastic "When Did the Storm Begin?". There's the epic "Poison" with 2 minutes of needless organ and ambient noise noodling stuck on the end. A lot of it just seems disjointed, like the band had a million different directions they wanted to go, and only 45 minutes to pack it into.

If that sounds harsh, I really don't mean it to be. Like I said initially, this is a good CD. The band obviously doesn't miss Carah nearly as much as I had feared they might. With a few head-scratching exceptions, Sisely acquits herself pretty well. It's easy to miss sure things like "Don't Cry Out", and "Le Disko", and I don't think this CD will gain quite the same place in my CD wallet that We Are Pilots did, but I'd recommend this to anyone who liked Shiny Toy Guns before.

It's nice to be proven wrong sometimes.


Sunday, October 19, 2008

Congratulations, Tampa Bay

What a series. What a game. What a performance by Garza.
That was an instant classic.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Welcome Back... Sort Of... is back!

Kind of...

You may remember my despairing diatribe against Fandango's buyout of from a few months back. My sentiments were seemingly (if the comment section is accurate) shared by several of you, and we all sat and pouted together about how our favorite movie site had gone belly up.

While the clutter and overeagerness to sell tickets still permeates the entire place, some of the things I enjoyed about the original site have returned.

First and foremost, Dave White's reviews are back. I like his reviews, as he generally skips all the jargon talk and gives you his sarcastic/cynical take on whether he thinks it's any good or not. The guy likes movies, so he tells you about them. What's not to like?

The buzz bin is back, too - every blessed cornball inch of it. Mike Standish is still making terrible jokes, and I'm still enjoying it.

The Fandango run portions of the site (read: pretty much anything not under the "buzz" tab) still suck. It's still cluttered, it's still pushy - but at least it's no longer 100% awful.

You taken small steps towards being something other than a weeping pile of suck, Fandango. Only about 152 more and we can consider this whole thing just a big misunderstanding.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Movie Review: The Happening

Dear M. Night Shyamalan,

Are you even trying anymore?

'The Happening' is one of the stupidest movies I've ever seen.

Anytime the main core of the advertising for a movie is "the first R-rated film from director x", it's basically admitting "man, we've got zero plot, so we're going to up the gore and hope no one notices". Well guess what, M - I noticed.

The best part about the entire movie is Zooey Deschanel's eyes. I am not making this up.

I probably could have given this a '2' if the phoned in "OMIGOD, WE DIDN'T LEARN UR LESSON AND IT'S HAPPENING AGAIN" ending hadn't been tacked on. That could be seen as a spoiler, but honestly, it's the ending we knew was coming from about 10 minutes into the movie. But, hell... you had to prove your point, and I respect that to the tune of one

Please stop making movies until you learn what is and what is not a good script. Also, for the love of all that is holy, please send your next script to no fewer than three 5th graders. If even they think it's a moronic waste of time, please rewrite until you have something that makes some damn sense.

Now, if you'll pardon me, I have to go find some lions and allow them to rip my arms from my body for no other reason than a bunch of trees told me that I don't want to live anymore. Sounds cool with me.

1/10 (This is one of the stupidest movies ever. I know I already said this but seriously, the Mummy Returns is like the Godfather compared to this pile of garbage.)

...May as Well Watch Football

The Vikings won in dramatic fashion against the Saints last night. Here's a couple of things I noticed.

1. I already sort of knew this, but Tony Kornheiser is an excitable jackass. He uses hyperbole to the point where everything he says loses meaning, and still manages to sound like he doesn't know what he's talking about. He's almost impossibly adverse to criticism, and manages to sniff it out where none exists. Ron Jaworski made a decent point about owners not paying attention to talk radio, and Mr. Kornheiser decided to make it into an issue for a fair while afterwards. At least he didn't threaten to wring his neck and hang him over the back of a shower rod like a duck (what in the hell does that even mean?). Just another just another example of how the spastic cockflickery of sports talk radio doesn't translate so well into play-by-play/color commentary in an actual football game.

2. Even a blind squirrel is right twice a day, and Kornheiser was absolutely right about the Vikings towards the end of the first half. The Saints were doing their best to give the game to us, and our offensive playcalling was just incredibly passive. It turned out okay in the end, but at some point, this unspoken "play for a field goal", hope for a touchdown" mentality is going to be the death of us.

3. Antoine Winfield had an unbelievable game. He got a lucky snare of the blocked field goal, then had a great play with the improvised sack/forced fumble/fumble recovery. They showed a stat later in the game that mentioned that he's only been thrown at 16 times, and the opposing receiver has only caught 5 passes. That both shows two things. Number one is that Winfield is an elite level cornerback that is vastly underrated because of relatively low interception numbers. Number two is that the remainder of our defensive backs are exceedingly easy to complete passes against.

4. Reggie Bush is a monster and an amazing athlete, but I'm not convinced he'll ever be a dominating running back. If he gets open field in front of him, he's a beast to take down (though the Vikes did make it easier for him than they should have on his 2 punt returns), but for whatever reason, he can't get around the corner on running routes that well.

5. Adrian Peterson will probably break 300 yards in a game someday, but for every superstar amazing game he has, he'll have one like he did last night. When a defense has his number, it doesn't seem as if any number of touches gets him anywhere. In his defense, though, the O-Line didn't really open many holes up for him. Part of that is because the Saints D-Line played their best game of the season, and part of that seemed to be our "for God's sake don't lose this ball game" passive mentality that I described earlier.

6. I'll admit it, Gus Frerotte may not be the QB that the Vikings need, but he's closer to being that quarterback than Tavaris Jackson is. He has the ability to throw the ball deep, and doesn't make very many mistakes. This doesn't help us win Super Bowls, and sort of delays whatever future the Vikings may have for the position, but at this point, he's the best we can put on the field.

7. I really miss Twins baseball (speaking of which, how awesome is it that the Rays beat the Sox? The answer - really awesome.)

All in all, that was a tense, enjoyable football game that turned out in our favor.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Scott Baker = Ace

I've noticed that my blog shows up near the top of the list for the google search 'scott baker ace'. Ironically, the post which triggers this high ranking is a questioning of his ability to be the ace of the staff.

There should no longer be any question about that. Consider his stats (with where he ranks in the AL in parentheses):

ERA: 3.45 (8th)
Winning %: .733 (4th, he was 11-4, and keep in mind that he could have easily won a few more games, considering he was on the tough end of three 1-0 games)
WHIP: 1.178 (5th)
Strikeouts to Walks: 3.36 (7th)

He also gave up just a .247 AVG, and strikes outs 7.4 per 9 innings - which puts him just outside top 10. I really look forward to watching him pitch a full season next year as the undisputed ace of the Twins' starting rotation. Sorry for doubting you, Light Rail.

The Sound of the Wind Escaping the Sails

162 games wasn't enough to contain this season. The Twins were picked to finish anywhere from 3rd place (optimistic) to last (pessimistic). Even devoted Twins fans were figuring on somewhere in the range of 75 wins and a 4th place finish. The Tigers were too good, the Twins were too young. After all, we'd finished poorly last year, and that was before we got rid of Torii and Johan. There was just no way we were going to be playing meaningful September baseball.

What happened?

Seemingly out of nowhere, we took interleague by storm, and suddenly we had hope. Maybe we'd pull down 3rd, maybe even keep pace long enough to take 2nd. Soon the Indians and Tigers were well in our rearview, and we were facing something we hadn't envisioned in anything but our most unrealistic dreams - a bona-fide to-the-wire pennant race.

After completing the sweep of the Sox and taking first place his past Thursday (which was one of the most exciting games I've seen in any setting, '91 world series included), we were in the driver's seat. If we did our business against the Royals, the future looked bright. Unfortunately, the Royals have gotten good at playing the spoiler. In 2006, they swept the Tigers and let the Twins grab first on the last day of the season. This year, they opened the door for what was sure to be an exciting game number 163. Of course, there was the makeup game on Sunday, but that was a mere formality. This was going to come down to a winner-takes-all playoff. Everyone knew it.

After a great game (and it was a great game), I sat on the couch speechless, feeling absolutely gutted. Blackburn came up big in the biggest game he's ever pitched, but Danks was looking possesed on the mound. My stomach twisted a little tighter with every pitch either of them threw (especially on the Thome blast - I somehow knew that was going to be the only run of the game). I've not watched a game that gave me this kind of feeling (not even in the playoffs in 02-04, and in 06). Having been able to watch a vast majority of the games this year for the first time (thank you FoxSports!), the guys on the Twins roster have become family. I've watched Gomez strike out on that same blasted low and away pitch 900 times now, to the point where I cringe every time he gets a 2-strike count. I've watched Scott Baker turn from the goofy looking kid who couldn't get anyone out into... a fairly goofy looking kid who could just turn out to be one of the best pitchers in the AL. These guys are the most enjoyable team to watch, and I've greatly enjoyed living and dying on their every move. I'm sure in a couple of weeks I'll look back on this season and be satisfied with the amazing run they had, but for now, I've still got that sunk feeling in the pit of my stomach. It's been a lot of fun, and I knew in the back of my mind that this day was coming, but that doesn't ease my mind too much right now. These guys have been a pure pleasure to watch day in and day out, and I look forward to next year, when others will think twice before underestimating us.

What a season by a great team. I love this baseball for exactly this feeling, even if it's a little hard to stomach at the moment.

Here's looking forward to April.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Coming DRM Storm

When EA announced 'Spore' a few years ago, video game enthusiasts everywhere were pumped. Here was a game that promised what video games had only hinted at throughout their existence - a fully immersive and interactive world were the user literally created their own race and evolved them into whatever they wanted.

The game itself has failed to live up to it's massive hype, which isn't a large surprise. What's (unfortunately) even less surprising is EA's decision to use this particular title as the spearhead of its DRM campaign. EA is hardly the first to try to ensure that pirates don't siphon off any potential profits, but they (along with 2K and their infamous Bioshock DRM) are at the forefront of a disturbing new trend in removing any sense of ownership from the end user's hands.

First and foremost, the problem with DRM is that it doesn't have its intended effect. Those who are absolutely set on stealing any form of digital media will find a way to do so. There's no way to stop them, and in trying this hard to dissuade them, you punish legitimate customers.

The larger problem with this can be found in comments from EA's CEO:

"There is a longer-term transition from a disk-based model for retail sales to an “average revenue per user” model. Five to seven years from now, investors will look at EA as how we have 100 million customers where we have an ARPU relationship that amounts to so many dollars a month. It’s different from selling so many disks a month at wholesale prices. It’s a gradual evolution. But we need the tools to be able to do that. The ARPU model is a better margin business for us. It’s less cyclical. It’s a better business. Some of our businesses have characteristics like that: EA Mobile,, and The Sims. We want to move in that direction. People predicted the demise of the DVD rental model for Blockbuster a long time ago. I don’t want to be the guy with a retail store renting DVDs in a world that has moved to Netflix and pay-per-view. We want to innovate and drive along that front, whether it’s with FIFA Online or Pogo or The Sims. Nucleus is a positive step in that direction. Spore has a download model. We could wait for someone else to eat our lunch or we could do it ourselves."

This would seem a sound business proposal, except for the fact that his examples are totally skewed. Netflix succeeds because there is a large contingent (myself included) who don't want to buy every single movie that we want to see. Quite often, one viewing is enough. Certainly there are games like this, but there are already services out there for this sort of thing (Gamefly, etc). He's not talking about game rental, he's talking about game leasing. It's akin to the idea of buying a DVD, and then having to pay x amount of dollars a month to continue to buy back the right to view something you already purchased. World of Warcraft gets brought up in these discussions, and I suppose that's fair, but they're charging for the right to connect to their servers. EA is hoping to charge you for the right to sit down and use your purchased product at your own computer (and, if they had their way, your console as well).

Reaction to this has been mixed. There are plenty of people who trot out the old "it don't apply to me since I'm not doing anything wrong" line. That, in my view, is a mistake. Most of us have already not been doing anything wrong, and we're being punished for it. The pirates are one thing, but they are simply being turned into an excuse to add this self-crippling software (which will require you to re-activate it if you do something so simple as change your video card). In effect, they hold your product - the one you spent your money on and purchased - hostage. Who's to say they won't start making you pay to activate it? Who's to say that this trend will stay limited to video games?

Meanwhile, there are a large number of people who have had understandable problems with this. Enough of them have flooded to the point where Spore's current customer rating is 1.5 stars (an unheard of low rating for a major release), and EA's forums are buzzing with questions as to why software - which not only cripples their product, but often causes sizable issues with the user's computer - is being installed on their system without warning. EA, of course, been deleting these questions as fast as they can. This is a not a matter they wish to discuss, and while they have relaxed their activation policy (from 3-4 activations to unlimited), they would very much prefer you to buy their game and shut up about it.

Sorry, I'll pass.

For more information, check out the following links:

"Wired" discusses the Amazon rating attack
Amazon deletes all customer reviews (predominantly negative) - Oops.
The Register talks about EA (sort of) easing up the restrictions
The Kicker: Talk about DRM, have EA threaten to deactivate your product

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Super Bowl, Here We Come

I should have known. Things seemed too good to be true. The owner of the Minnesota Vikings opened the purse-strings and pumped some money into the team, grabbing a couple of high reward defensive players and a pretty decent wide receiver. The Vikings were the chic pick to win the division, and a lot of pundits went so far as to say that the Vikings had the pick of a dark horse Super Bowl entry. Honestly, after years of watching folks pick teams like the 49's and Cardinals in the same way - only to watch those teams spiral into oblivion - we probably should have known better.

Today, after over a year of trying to Tarvaris Jackson to an unwilling fanbase, Coach Childress announced that Gus Frerotte has been named as the starting quarterback for the remainder of the season.

I've spent a fair bit of time trying to make a case for Tarvaris. He's quick, he's got a cannon for an arm, and - I thought - that he could adjust to life in the NFL and overcome his initial accuracy struggles. I'll admit it, it's just not going to happen. He still misses receivers left and right. He still has trouble looking off defenders. He still looks uncomfortable on everything except quick slants and rollouts, and opposing defenses are starting to catch on to that fact. On Sunday, when it was third and long in the waning minutes of the 4th quarter, I'm sure everyone in the western hemisphere knew which play was coming (i.e. the only one the coaching staff felt confident Tarvaris could actually execute.)

That doesn't mean that the coaching staff gets off scot-free. Last week, it seemed like every single pass was either a tiny screen or a long 50-yard bomb. What happened to the hard, aggressive play-calling that we brought out during the second half of the Green Bay game in week one? Tarvaris was hitting people on hard slants and medium range post routes, and it opened up the whole field. Against Indianapolis, we were playing as if we were terrified of giving the ball back to them (ironically, they got the ball back more often because of this very fact). I still think that Childress is one of the worst coaches in football, and this game only make me more adamant in that belief. It's my hope that once the Vikings get no better with Frerotte under center, that heads will start to roll.

For now, fare thee well, Tarvaris Jackson. I believed in you, even if no one else did.

Side note #1: During Sunday's game, one of the commentaters was talking about Adrian Peterson's amazing game against the Chargers last year, where he rushed for an NFL-record 296 yards, he guaranteed that Peterson would someday rush for 300 in a game. That's right, he guaranteed that AD will accomplish something that no one in the history of the NFL has ever done. Hyperbole much?

Side note #2: Ryan T. Scott's got to feel a little ridiculous.

Finding New Ways to Suckerpunch the Fanbase

The Twins, no content with the traditional methods of losing games (though they've certainly tried their hand at most of them lately), have decided upon much more colorful ways to break the hearts of their fans.

Take last night, for instance. After 3 innings, the Twins were losing 8-1. I'm not even sure why I kept the game on, but suddenly in the 5th inning, the offense started to come to life. Four runs in the 5th inning, two more in the 6th, and finally another two in the 8th to take the lead. They left a LOT of runners on base in those four innings, but they had rallied back from 7 down to take an improbable lead.

In the bottom of the 8th, Eddie Guardado gave up a long, foul-pole hitting homerun to Grady Sizemore, and the game went into extra innings. All in all, the Twins had used 6 relief pitchers over the course of 7+ innings by the time Joe Nathan came in, and had only given up the one run. Joe Nathan (the best closer in baseball) gave up a 3-run home run to lose the game.

The Twins scored 8 unanswered runs to take the lead, but in the process, they left 13 runners on base (that's more than one per inning) including once were they left the bases loaded, and once where they hit into a double play with the bases loaded to end an inning.

I haven't written much about the Twins lately because they've been fairly depressing, and it doesn't seem like they'll pull out of it in time. They're only 2.5 games back of the White Sox, but time is quickly running out. The White Sox have been doing their best to hand us the title, and we've been doing our best to hand it right back. The coming series against the Rays will be huge. The Twins NEED to at least split, and a series win would go a long way. It's been noted in blogs much better than this one that the expectations for this season were extremely low. I was thinking 80 wins would be just fine, and the Twins have 82 as of today, so they've done better than I thought they would, but to get this far and this close and not make the playoffs because of a September collapse would be maddening.

At least the Vikings are doing awesome.........oh wait...

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

I May Be a Heartless Person

...but I found the mental environment I had in my head after reading this article a tad amusing.

Not so much the inexorable slow separation of son and father - which would, most certainly, be one of the top ten worst feelings a person could ever have. It's just that the thought of remedying that separation by shouting Disney catch-phrases strikes me as a little hilarious.

Glad the story had a happy ending.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The Case For Craig Breslow

For a few years previous to 2008, the Minnesota Twins' bullpen has been an embarassment of riches, even beyond having the best closer in baseball (apologies to Mariano Rivera). In 2007, Pat Neshek had a ridiculous year until his arm starting wearing down later in the season, and Matt Guerrier had a very solid year, too. 2006 was the year Dennys Reyes put up some historically good numbers (and was Neshek's fantastic breakthrough, as well). Before that, you had Crain, Rincon, and even J.C. Romero all pitching very good innings - hell, you even had Johan Santana in 2003. The point being, from 2002 to 2007, a large part of the Twins success was the ability of the bullpen to lock games down from the 6th to the 8th so that Nathan could come in and slam the door in the 9th.

This hasn't really been the case thus far in 2008. Neshek - once on the short list of best setup men in the game - had a few rough outings before losing the season to elbow troubles. Rincon continued (a bteer term might be accelerated) his rapid plunge. Guerrier started out nicely, but he's obviously been extremely overworked, and has been nothing resembling effective for the last month or so. Reyes pitches exclusively to lefties (for good reason, it would seem, as righties have a .422 SLG against him). If only we had another option...

On May 23rd, the Cleveland Indians designated Craig Breslow for assignment. The Twins, deciding they needed another left handed reliever, picked him up off of waivers. In limited work, Craig pitched 11 innings before he gave up his first run. Since then, he's been used mainly in innings-eating roles, or as a lefty specialist if Reyes has already been used. Lately, Gardy's been getting him a little more intensive action, and Breslow's responded nicely. In fact, I'd go so far as to say he's doing the best of any non-Nathan reliever the Twins have right now.

You expect a left handed pitcher to be good against lefties, and Breslow certainly has been.
Versus Lefties





Joe Nathan




Dennys Reyes




Matt Guerrier




Jesse Crain




Brian Bass




Boof Bonser




Juan Rincon




Craig Breslow




Craig eats left handed batters. In 66 at bats against him, lefties have fared worse against Breslow than anyone else, including Nathan (they have a lower batting average against Nathan, but a better get on base slightly more often, and have a higher slugging percentage against him).

Now, having a left handed pitcher who knows how to get lefties out isn't anything spectacular, but Breslow's more than held his own against righties, as well.

Versus Righties





Joe Nathan




Dennys Reyes




Matt Guerrier




Jesse Crain




Brian Bass




Boof Bonser




Juan Rincon




Craig Breslow




He's pitched better against right handed batters than anyone except Joe Nathan, and when righties have hit the ball against him, they haven't gotten much on it (one extra base hit in 71 at bats). This is, of course, small sample size, but it's not all that much smaller than anyone else, and he's clearly done better than anyone else. So why is Breslow still toiling in middle relief while Jesse Crain and an overworked (and dangerously near dead armed) Matt Guerrier are given high pressure games? Gardenhire ought to know better than anyone that lefties can get out hitters besides other lefties. Up until late-January, he had the best pitcher in baseball in his employ, and he was a lefty.

In the past 28 days, Breslow has been called in 11 times - and in 6 of those games, he was brought on to face a token lefty or was brought in when there was no other choice. We already have a lefty specialist, and with all due respect to the recently returned 'Everyday Eddie', Breslow has pitched better this year, and it's time that he got a few more late & close game situations to show for it.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Upcoming: Shiny Toy Guns, TV on the Radio, People in Planes, Oasis

I haven't been buying much music this past month. Nothing's really caught my attention (Hold Steady and Crystal Castles notwithstanding). Later this year, however, looks to be a blitz of good music. Lucky for me, a few of my favorite bands have songs out in advance of their upcoming projects. Here's a few of them.

Shiny Toy Guns
Upcoming Album: Season of Poison
Release Date: November 4
Lead Single: 'Ricochet'

Wow, these guys are going to miss Carrah Faye Charnow. The former lead female vocalist of the band mysteriously quit the band this month, and Sisely Treasure (her replacement) really doesn't pick up the slack all that well in this song. First thing I'm noticing is that she sings her vocals in a fairly deep tone of voice. It actually sounds kind of silly until the chorus mercifully hits. Chad Petree sings the chorus, which kicks into high gear. Distorted guitars, half screamed vocals - this is a drastic change in style, and I'm not so sure I'm a fan yet. I rather liked the guilty-pleasure electropop of We Are Pilots.

Excitement Level: 4 - I was pumped for a new Shiny Toy Guns release when I first heard it was coming, but if the rest of Season of Poison is anything like this, it'll just prove that We Are Pilots was lightning in a bottle, and that the lightning has escaped.

TV on the Radio
Upcoming Album: Dear Science, (yes, the comma is part of the album title. weird, huh?)
Release Date: September 23
Teaser Song: 'Golden Age'

'Golden Age' is weird, but then again, that shouldn't really be any surprise. TVotR has made a career out of tweaking expectations, this song is just another curveball. I've listened to it 3 or 4 times, and still don't have a solid handle on it.

Excitement Level: 7 - It always takes about 10 listens for a TVotR song to grab ahold of me (other than the fantastic 'Wolf Like Me'). This one seems to be no different. I'm sure the CD itself will be crazy good. If it's even half as good as 'Return to Cookie Mountain', it'll be a great CD.

People in Planes
Upcoming Album: Beyond the Horizon
Release Date: September 9?
Lead Single: 'Pretty Buildings'

This song has actually been out for a while, but I just haven't really gotten around to talking about it. 'Pretty Buildings' is a little more straight forward than most of the stuff I've heard from People in Planes, but it keeps their unique edge and lyrical phrasing. The track starts off with some really nice piano work, and unfolds and keeps building to an anthemic chorus.

Excitement Level: 8 - 'Pretty Buildings' is good, but I hope that there's a little more variation on the full length like there was on 'As Far As the Eye Can See'. I'm sure they're up to the challenge, and I'm sure 'Beyond the Horizon' will make my top 10.

Upcoming Album: Dig Out Your Soul
Release Date: October 6
Lead Single: 'The Shock of the Lightning'

Every single CD since 'Standing on the Shoulder of Giants' has been touted as Oasis' "return to form". There's a certain hope that they'll recapture the glory days of 'Morning Glory' and 'Definitely Maybe'. I'll go on record and say that'll never happen. Having 2 stone cold classic albums is already a tall task, and I don't think they're about to shoot to the top to become the biggest band in the world again anytime soon. 'The Shock of the Lightning', though, shows that they could at least bring back a little of the excitement. 'Don't Believe the Truth' was good, and I enjoyed it greatly, but it didn't have the energy or immediate thrill that their first two did. If this new song is any indication, the swagger could be at least somewhat back in their step.

Excitement Level: 9 - Hey, it's a new CD from my favorite band. That makes it an automatic 8, at least, plus the lead single is good. I'm still a little wary, if only because they've been promising a return to 'glory' days for years now, and like I said before, I don't believe they'll ever fully get back there. On the other hand, this song does rock, and that has to count for something, right?

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Thieves with Halos

Want to play a guitar simulation video game?
Don't want to damn your eternal soul to hell in the process?

Has 'Digital Praise' got a game for.......ah, to hell with it.

What in the hell is this?? I'll admit (reluctantly) that I used to be a big fan of all thigns Christian rock. That was, of course, before I heard all the bands that my former favorites were ripping off and sanitizing. I still enjoy some of the stuff from back in the day, but that's beside the point.

Digital Praise, the fine people that brought you those knock-off Dance Dance Revolution games, now bring you "Guitar Praise". In their own words:

"Grab the guitar and play along with top Christian bands! Shred those riffs or blast the bass…you add a unique sound to the solid Christian rock. But watch out: if you can't keep up, the artists will take a break and stop the music. Crank it up and try again ? you?ll soon be rockin' with the best while praising the Lord! Order the second guitar and jam with a friend!"

There just aren't any words in the English dictionary that describe that. Luckily, I just so happen to have one of my own.


Seriously, people. Do your own thing. Add in a tambourine, have the user wear little bracelets that can tell when you're raising your hands in praise, just don't rip off an established franchise and throw together some shitty tracklist on it and call it 'good'. By the way, out of 40-plus years of rock music (for today's purposes, we'll count the Larry Norman era as the beginings of C-Rock) you can't find anything better to put on a track list of "rockin' spiritual songs" than Stellar Cart, Superchick, and TWO Hawk Nelson songs? I could look through my (admittedly embarassing) Christian music collection and find 50 songs more apt for a collection such as this than TWO Hawk Nelson songs. Amy Frickin' Grant is more 'rock' than Hawk Nelson.

Cockflickery abounds...

Next thing they need is "Organ Hymnal Simulator 5000" for those not down with the C-Rock scene.

Friday, August 22, 2008

People on the Internet Say Dumb Things

It's no secret that internet message boards are breeding grounds for stupidity. That's a given, but in an article written on Wednesday, a commenter wrote one of the stupidest things I've ever read written about baseball.

How about trading A-rod for Gary Matthews, straight up?

This would be, without question, the worst trade ever made in any sport. Ever. Even if he were the worst fielding third baseman in baseball (which, I assure you, he isn't), here's how he ranks in a few key offensive stats:

AVG - .308 (10th, just 15 points behind the leader)
OBP - .397 (7th)
SLG - .586 (2nd, a mere 3 points behind Milton Bradley)
OPS - .983 (T-2nd)
HR - 28 (5th)

...but yeah, trading that for a guy who's hitting .224/.330/.306 and is a full year older than A-Rod makes perfect sense.

I know Matthews is nothing special, but it would be addition by subtraction for NY.

I love how he notes that Matthews is 'nothing special'. It should be noted that the player who has 546 home runs in his career, the guy who should have been last year's unanimous MVP (Maglio's great, but anyone who gave him the top vote last year should have their voting privilages revoked) is pretty damn special. Plus, with the aforementioned stats backing me up, I would say he's not anywhere near the heavy decline phase yet. If Cashman were anywhere remotely near this stupid, Billy Smith should get on the phone and arrange a trade Nick Punto for Jeter, Joba Chamberlain, and Mariano Rivera (who'd make a damn good setup guy to the best closer in the majors).

He goes on to make a decent point about Jeter being awful at defense, then makes a couple of bizzare points about moving Jeter to left, moving Posada to first, and apparently having Matsui and Giambi (good hitters and lousy fielders both) fight to the death over who gets to DH.

People, seriously. You need to get this through your heads: A-Rod is the best baseball player in the major leagues. I think he's kind of a douche, and he doesn't play the media game nearly as well as Jeter, but come on.

(note: 'Pulling a Golokhov' tag used in reference to this article, where Dave Golokhov inexplicably listed the Twins as one of the 10 worst franchises in professional sports. Something the fine writers at FireJoeMorgan had a field day with - as did I in my not nearly as witty or clever diatribe. I'll be using this tag whenever anyone says anything so impossibly stupid that it's obvious they can't be serious.)