Thursday, December 31, 2009
Anyway, these are the songs I listened to the most during 2009.
30. The Magnetic Fields - 100,000 Fireflies
29. Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Skeletons
28. ...And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead - The Giant's Causeway
27. Stars - Ageless Beauty
26. My Morning Jacket - Touch Me I'm Going to Scream, Part 1
25. Metric - Help I'm Alive
24. Metric - Gimme Sympathy
23. TV on the Radio - Wolf Like Me
22. The Hold Steady - Atlantic City
21. Animal Collective - Lion in a Coma
20. Dinosaur Jr. - Pieces
19. Grizzly Bear - Two Weeks
18. BBU - Chi Don't Dance
17. Animal Collective - My Girls
16. Kelly Clarkson - My Life Would Suck Without You
15. Crystal Castles - Knights
14. Fall Out Boy - Headfirst Slide Into Cooperstown on a Bad Bet
13. MGMT - Kids
12. The Magnetic Field - Three-Way
11. Animal Collective - Brother Sport
10. M83 - We Own the Sky
9. Deerhunter - Nothing Ever Happened
8. The XX - Intro
7. The Hold Steady - Cattle and the Creeping Things
6. Phoenix - 1901
5. P.O.S. - Goodbye
4. Animal Collective - Summertime Clothes
3. ...And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead - Isis Unveiled
2. P.O.S. - Low Light Low Life
1. Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Heads Will Roll
Tomorrow, I'll post the list of songs that I listened to most in the year 2009, and on the 2nd or 3rd, I'll post a list of other notable music that I listened to over the course of the year.
20. Grizzly Bear
19. Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears
Tell 'Em What Your Name Is!
18. Florence and the Machine
16. Matt & Kim
15. Memory Tapes
14. The Decemberists
The Hazards of Love
Crack the Skye
12. Viva Voce
Born Like This
Record in a Bag
9. Future of the Left
Travels With Myself and Another
8. Fuck Buttons
7. The xx
Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
5. Animal Collective
Merriweather Post Pavilion
4. ...And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead
Century of Self
3. Dinosaur Jr.
2. Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
20. The Big Pink
A Brief History of Love
A Brief History of Love, indeed. The Big Pink seem to flirt with the idea of 'love' throughout the album, but the sentiment only really pokes through on "Velvet". It's a very brief look back (before dismissing the notion entirely). The track itself is the perfect distilling of the band's sound - hypnotic and big. The fuzzy guitars and bass envelop the listener as we watch the world's shortest romance unfold. As long as you can't bring yourself to put in the effort to make it work, this may as well be your soundtrack.
I was more than content to lump Wavves in with the overhyped lo-fi ‘shitgaze’ movement and move on - I still am, actually. Nothing on Wavvves did anything for me (it was, in fact, one of my least enjoyable listening experiences of the year, and it’s a testament to how overhyped this album was that I even finished the full thing). Then he had to drop this. Where Wavvves mostly just tried to sound as bored as possible, ‘Cool Jumper’ pulses, lurches and pounds – synths stab and blast the ears as Nathan Williams sort of half-shouts a bunch of stuff that doesn’t really have any connection with reality, but sounds really awesome none the less. Six minutes blur together, and by the time it’s over, you end up wishing that he’d have just one more go at the hook. I quite literally destroyed my car’s rear speakers using this song – and, hey, the rattling buzz of a blown speaker makes this song sound even better. Cool.
Born Like This
90% of the time DOOM's lyrics verge on world salad, but "turn a man into a mannequin for aflacin" is a lyric that spent more time wedged in my head than almost any other. (Under) two minutes of vintage Doom.
17. The Decemberists
"The Rake's Song"
The Hazards of Love
A good story needs a villain, and if there's one thing the Decemberists know, it's how to make loathsome villains. It shouldn't be any surprise that they gave the villain the best, most catchy song on The Hazards of Love. What is sort of surprising is how fun a song about a homicidal baby killer ends up being. The Rake as a character should probably be one of the more hated characters in fiction. Instead, you end up as a willing accomplice after the fact - all right, indeed.
16. The Gregory Brothers
Autotune the News #5
Autotune the News is a novel concept. Some fine folk take out-of-context video of talking heads jabbering about current events, run them through autotune, and make sweet sweet music out of the whole thing. What could be mere novelty, however, becomes bona-fide good music due to the effort level of all involved. My favorite tune is number 5, where news reports on American exceptionalism, reporter confusion, and smoking lettuce are transformed into a banger. The craziest part about the whole song is how it fits together. From Joe Biden singing “God Bless America” (in space, no less), to Rep. Steve Buyer’s passionate cries that “it’s not the nicotine that kills, it’s the smoke”, it all feels like it was meant to go together.
15. Dinosaur Jr.
"I Don't Wanna Go There"
Not much to be said other than that this one rocks shit out. How on earth was this not the last song on the CD? 'Imagination Blind' is a great song, too, but let's not kid ourselves. In a perfect world, 'Imagination Blind' is the 11th song on Farm, with the ferocious guitars in "I Don't Wanna Go There" closing out the CD the way it was meant to. What were they thinking?
14. Florence and the Machine
I summed it up yesterday: Florence Welch + pounding drums = kickass song.
13. Animal Collective
Merriweather Post Pavilion
What exactly is there to say about this song that a hundred other people haven't already said?
How about "OOOOoooooohh!!"
If there's any justice in the world, this will replace "Anthems of a 17 Year Old Girl" as Emily Haines' defining moment.
Now then, since there's almost certainly no such justice in the world, Metric will have to be content with the knowledge that this is the best song they've ever made, and probably ever will make.
11. Dan Deacon
Usually, Dan Deacon grates on me with his weirdness. I'm not really used to having a song where a sample using the classic Woody Woodpecker laugh is the least insane thing going on. On "Build Voice", though, Deacon puts together a (for him) fairly straightforward song. True to its title, the song builds upon a simple vocal. "Hello, my ghost, I'm here, I'm home". It doesn't really make a whole lot of sense, but it doesn't have to. By the time the voice goes soaring toward the end (mentioned yesterday in my top 20 moments of '09 post), the whole thing explodes into a tornado of pianos, trumpets, rapid-fire snares, and synthesizers - all somehow kept in check by the surprisingly strong voiced Deacon. I would love to see an album built around controlled insanity like this, much as that might crush longtime fans of his.
10. Grizzly Bear
The live version of "While You Wait For the Others" was my number one song last year, while "Two Weeks" left me, if not exactly cold, sort of indifferent. When Veckatimest came out, the roles were reversed. The studio version of "While You Wait..." is good, but doesn't quite hit the same heights that the live recording did (much as I hate to be "that guy"). "Two Weeks", on the other hand, is completely brilliant. From the opening plonked out piano, to the "ah-ah-ah-AH-ah..." to the chorus, the song deserves every good thing that's been said about it.
9. Animal Collective
Merriweather Post Pavilion
Sure, "My Girls" got all the love, and it deserves all of that love. It's a great song - it's just that this one's better. It's got a bouncier rhythm, it got a (for me, anyway) catchier, more energetic chorus. My wife didn't run screaming from the room when I played it. You see? Advantages. Besides, it's just nice to hear a sentiment like "I want to walk around with you". Who doesn't love that idea?
8. The Hold Steady
War Child Presents: Heroes
Bruce Springsteen is generally not my cup of tea, but his followers (The Gaslight Anthem, Neon Bible-era Arcade Fire, the Hold Steady, etc.) certainly are. I was passingly familiar of the original 'Atlantic City' when I was made aware of the Hold Steady's cover. One listen was all I needed to completely love it. It's the saxophones, of course. They give the song even more urgency. Some have complained the the band is missing the point, and that could certainly be true. I don't pretend to know much about the potency of the original. What I do know is that Craig Finn has his own take on a classic without completely rebuilding or sounding like a copycat while at the same time putting out a song that a person can fall in love with on its own merits.
Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
Insanely catchy beat? Check. Shoutable hook? Check. Perfect running time? Double check. The song doesn't waste a single second. Verse/Chorus/Verse/Chorus/outro - the guys have the listener by the ears the entire time, and damned if they don't know it. This is about as perfect as pop music got in 2009.
I technically heard this at the very end of last year. It seemed to mark a shift for P.O.S. toward more mainstream driven music. This, as it turns out, is really the only one of its kind on the CD, offering a brief glimpse into the kind of music he could be making. Even then, he's staying on the fringe. "Don't let them tell you what you think is cool". In a perfect world, this song would've been all over the place... then again, what would this guy write about in a perfect world?
5. ...And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead
The Century of Self
This song is the perfect synthesis between the newer more polished, ‘epic’ Trail of Dead and the older, more ragged guitar squalls that made everyone fall in love with them in the first place. Sure, the “we’ll pardon all of them” segment goes on a little long, but that part is awesome. The beginning bass line breaking into the driving guitar riff is chill inducing. If this is the direction Trail of Dead continue toward in the future, then So Divided was more than worth it.
4. Fuck Buttons
This is a HUGE song. Well, of course it is – I mean, it’s ten and a half minutes long – but that’s not what I mean. One sample, 8 seconds long, repeated 54 times sounds like the height of overblown monotony, but it’s the way the wall of sound engulfs the whole thing, swelling and growing in fury (but also in beauty) until it can’t possibly squeeze any more raw power in, and then gently receding. Given the wrong mood, this track is merely one of the best songs of the year. Given the right mood, you could swear this beast was alive.
"Low Light Low Life"
On any given day, I waver over who's carrying this song to the ridiculous heights it achieves. Sims' and Dessa have never sounded better, Stef's verse is awesome, even Cecil Otter's little callout at the end of the main hook is killer. The whole thing is a full group affair and works to each artist's strengths. Of all the songs P.O.S. has ever done, this is the one that sticks with me - this is the one I was waiting for at the Doomtree Blowout (and it did not disappoint). Let's give them all a win on this one.
2. Dinosaur Jr.
This was, sadly, my first experience with Dinosaur Jr. I'd heard of them, but had never taken the time to go out and find any of their older stuff. After about a minute of "Pieces", I was hunting down everything I could find from them. This song (and indeed, the rest of the album, but we'll get to that tomorrow), is just about everything I want in a rock song - buoyantly crunchy guitar melody, great earnest vocals, and it doesn't let up, not even for a second. I love the rest of Farm, and I've found a lot to love about Dinosaur Jr.'s back catalog, but this is still my favorite. Then again, this has quickly climbed to one of the my favorite songs, period.
1. Yeah Yeah Yeahs
"Heads Will Roll"
I first heard "Heads Will Roll" way back in February, at a very low volume, on my work computer's crappy speaker. Even then, I loved this song enough to jot down this simple thought about it: "I've been looking for a song to feel exactly this way about for months now."
That still sums up my thoughts on it pretty well.
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
"open up your - open up your - open your…"
"No More Runnin" almost feels like the way Merriweather Post Pavilion is supposed to end. It certainly has the space to unwind after the energetic "Lion in a Coma". Then with a "ooh!" Brother Sport takes off - the hypnotic beginning driving itself into the listener's head upon first listen, and only getting more infectious thereafter.
19. Lady Gaga - Bad Romance
"Ra ra ah-ah-ah"
I tried to hate this song. I still kind of do, actually. What's undeniable, however (other than the song's bonkers music video) is the song's chanted opening. It's ominous, exciting, and danceable (you know, if I were a dancing man, that is), all at the same time. I suppose the song's kind of growing on me - this part doesn't have to.
18. Dinosaur Jr. - Pieces
"The opening riff"
Not much to say except that from the first time I heard the opening riff to "Pieces" I knew I was going to love the CD it came from. A great start to one of the best songs (and albums) of the year.
17. The Lonely Island - I'm On a Boat
"T-Pain gets it on... with a mermaid"
You've heard this. You know the T-Pain verse is awesome (Poseidon, look at me? Tell me that's not awesome). The way that all these borderline ridiculous things are delivered makes it seem just as relevant as anything that anyone else might say. And now, T-Pain is saying that he had sex with a mermaid - seems plausible to me.
16. Dan Deacon - Build Voice
"The voice soars - then everything come apart at the seams"
I'll be discussing this song further tomorrow, suffice to say that the best part of the song is right after his voice reaches its peak. Every part of the song that's been building the entire song hits critical mass and breaks free. I might like Mr. Deacon's music most of the time, but during this song, he brings it.
15. The Handsome Furs - I'm Confused
"I'm Confused" starts with a low hum, which gives way to a groovy drum beat. Suddenly with a shout, the guitar blares in. It's the exact opposite of subtle; it blares out and grabs attention. It's bizarrely fun for a song that seems to dwell on confusion. The listener doesn't care about any of that, though, it's all about that guitar. It's the type of guitar sound you want to start a band for, just so you could possibly replicate it - the type of sound you would pay to see the band live for, even if they sucked (which they don't) just so you could soak it in. If that sounds like hyperbole, it's worth noting that so other song made me smile as much this year as this one.
14. Wavves - Cool Jumper
After each refrain of "Cool Jumper", there's a blast of melodic noise that demands to be heard as loud as the stereo will allow. I'm listening to the song as I type this little blurb. It's late, and Linds is in bed, so I have to keep the volume relatively low. Every time that blast comes dribbling out of the speakers (when it should be waking the neighbors and causing domestic disputes) two things happen... I start inexplicably air-guitaring, and I fight the reflex to turn the volume dial all the way to the right. If you ever hear me whining about getting fined for noise violations, just know - this song won... it was probably inevitable.
13. Black Joe Lewis - Get Yo Shit
"Naw, you dumbass, it's Roxanne"
There's no reason for this to be on this list, except I literally laughed aloud the first time I heard it....and then again the second time I heard it. I mean, come on, the second time I heard Tenacious D I merely smirked at most of the stuff on it. When the narrator of the song forgets his woman's name only to be reminded "Naw, you dumbass... it's Roxanne... spell it", that's gold.
12. Future of the Left - Arming Eritrea
"The main riff hits"
Each verse, when singer Andy Falkous is done berating 'Rick' for his many crimes, the band launches with gusto into a most glorious riff. Listening to it, I can only describe the feeling as almost a floating feeling - an undeniably angry, enraged levitating feeling. This one's another that deserves to be blasted on as loud a stereo as can be found (it also makes for great driving music - road ragers need not apply, though... seriously, you people are crazy enough the way it is, no need to fuel any fires).
11. Florence & the Machine - Drumming Song
"Sweeter than heaven / Hotter than hell"
Florence Welch has a commanding voice. Team that with an heavy, insistent drum beat and you've got a recipe for a knockout song. Taking about the electric feeling of being near someone you care deeply about, she sings "Louder than sirens, Louder than bells / Sweeter than heaven, Hotter than hell." Who doesn't know what that feeling is all about? It's got great delivery, great force, and is completely relatable.
10. Phoenix - Love Like a Sunset, Part I
"Muted guitar kicks in"
In direct contrast to the super sugary pop that fills the rest of Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix stands the first section of Love Like a Sunset. The fact that it's an instrumental might have something to do with that, but whereas the rest of the album is bright, this song has a dark (but not threatening) undercurrent to it. It's the type of music that would be perfect for walking around under a starry sky. Once the muted guitars kick in a little over two minutes in, everything is made perfect. I love muted guitars in these types of instrumentals, and this is definitely one of the better uses of them that I've heard (though Phoenix is generally quite good about adding in a dash of muted guitars - just another reason they're so good).
9. Ramona Falls - I Say Fever
"The piano at the end of each chorus"
It's tough to pick a distinct part of this song that's the best. On any given day, it could be the crunchy guitars that follow the hook, it could be bridge (I love Brent Knopf's voice during the bridge), or it could simply be the main hook - an ascending attack that practically demands to be shouted along with. In the end though, it comes back to the piano - specifically the little jangle at the end of each hook.
Also, 'I Say Fever' is on the short list with 'Strawberry Swing' by Coldplay for music video of the year, and the way the piano player jams out in the beginning is pretty fantastic.
8. The Gregory Brothers - Autotune the News #2
"Very thin ice"
It's my opinion that number five is better and a stronger song overall, but the segment where Katie Couric "sings" about humanity being on "very thin ice" will forever be the defining moment of the entire Autotune the News series. They've called back to it a couple times (most notably with T-Pain), but the original is obviously the best.
7. Memory Tapes - Bicycle
Bicycle itself is pleasant enough. It slips around smoothly as the singer discusses riding home with a light rain coming down, wishing for some manner of escape. The closing sort of comes in out of nowhere, but it almost feels like a different song, with a light vocal chant in the foreground, and some beautiful guitar that feels simultaneously laid back and urgent. It doesn't feel like it goes on nearly long enough. While it is going, though, it's one of the more enjoyable listening experiences of the year.
6. Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Heads Will Roll
Heads Will Roll is already a big sounding song, but when it reaches the end of the 2nd chorus, it launches into a full blown power dance song. Karen O sings with a softness that she hasn't fully used since 'Maps', without losing any of the intensity. This part made keep pressing 'repeat' for 10 months - I haven't come close to getting sick of it yet.
5. Animal Collective - My Girls
Just the little shout at the end of each hook in 'My Girls'. You've probably heard the song. If you don't know what I'm talking about, you need to listen again.
4. The Hold Steady - Atlantic City
They don't quite use the subtlety that Bruce did in the original version, but the part where Craig Finn sings with no accompaniment "Everything dies, that's a fact / Maybe everything that dies someday comes back". Induces shivers all the same.
3. Dinosaur Jr. - I Don't Wanna Go There
"The old guys rock the fuck out"
There's a short guitar solo around two minutes in to I Don't Wanna Go There. That one's pretty good, but it's not the one I'm talking about. Around four and a half minutes in, the real solo comes tearing in. What I missed the first couple of times is just how pummeling the drums are. They provide the perfect foundation one of the most enjoyable to listen to guitar solos I've heard in a long time. The entire band rocks out in such a way that the almost four minute long jam session goes by in a flash.
2. …And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead - Isis Unveiled
"We'll pardon all of them"
I could easily have placed "Unveiled"s opening guitar riff, which is a great hearkening back to Trail of Dead's more passionate, raw punk influence, but this is the true centerpiece of the song. A few minutes in, the song suddenly and massively shifts gears. Suddenly, what had been a straight forward rock song switches up to a deliberate, rhythmic manifesto.
"And if they taste the blood we'll let them drink
And if they taste the flesh we'll let them eat
And if one has to be forgiven then we'll pardon all of them
And if they raze our walls we'll let them in
And if they raise their swords we'll let them hit
And if one has to be forgiven then we'll pardon all of them"
Sure, it probably goes on a little long, but it still pretty much defines 'epic' as it rolls on. Besides, the way it blasts back into the main riff is about as close to classic Trail of Dead as it gets.
1. Metric - Gimme Sympathy
"Come on baby play me somethin' like here comes the sun"
The hook itself is amazing (it might be my favorite of the year), but when the synths start chirping at the end of each chorus, with Emily Haines begging the listener "c'mon baby play me somethin' like here comes the sun..." words can't describe how great it sounds. It has to be heard.
Narrowly missing the countdown:
Danny Gokey's "Scream On" performance on American Idol
How on earth could he have possibly not seen this coming? There's just no way you rehearse that song and think "yeah, that sounds about right. Thankfully, he decided it was good the way it was. So much more comedic that way.
Das Racist - Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell
To be specific, I'm talking about the moment where you realize that they're not actually going to say much of anything other than "I'm at the pizza hut, I'm at the taco bell, I'm at the combination pizza hut and taco bell". Also, as a close runner-up, the moment down in the Twin Cities where we actually passed the combination pizza hut and taco bell, we laughed about that for the rest of the day.
Monday, December 21, 2009
"J. Buck is to exciting sports moments what the Catholic Church is to sex: acknowledge that it happens, deny that it is fun."
Friday, December 11, 2009
This commercial obviously had several things going for it.
1. It was hypnotic.
2. It was catchy.
3. It sort of reminded me of Viva Voce (never a bad thing).
4. It had cute Asian chicks and Godzilla in it (they must have gotten in trouble over that, because later versions of the commercial had Godzilla removed, but cute Asian chick remains. I guess if you have to remove one.....)
It ranked right up there with 'Gimme Back That Fillet-o-Fish' as one of the better jingles to come out in the past few years.
Fast forward a few months, and Subway has turned a simple jingle into a huge advertising campaign. Needless to say whatever qualities the original may have had have.... faded.
The newest commercial features Michael Strahan, Justin Tuck, and Jared Fogle fake singing the song in bizzare baritone voices. So, how far has it fallen?
1. It is in no way hypnotic. In fact, the only positive application the commercial could possibly be used for would be to snap people in comas back to waking life.
2. It is not catchy. It is the anti-thesis of catchy. It's as catchy in the same way Kidz Bop rendition of Mastodon would be - as in, not catchy.
3. It does not remind me of Viva Voce in any way.
4. It features a grand total of zero cute Asian chicks. It also features a conspicuous lack of Godzilla monsters.
Subway, you have destroyed what should have been a simple "one and done" jingle. Stop. For the love of all that is good in life, just stop.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
1. The White Stripes - Little Cream Soda (Icky Thump)
2. Lupe Fiasco - Streets on Fire (The Cool)
3. The Hold Steady - Slapped Actress (Stay Positive)¹
4. East West - Closure (The Light In Guinevere's Garden)²
5. Little Boots - Meddle (Hands)
6. Hans Zimmer & James Newton Howard - Why So Serious? (The Dark Knight Soundtrack)
7. The Bobby Fuller Four - I fought the Law (I Fought the Law)
8. Jars of Clay - Fade to Grey (Much Afraid)
9. The Avalanches - Since I Left You (Since I Left You)
10. The Killers - Smile Like You Mean It (Hot Fuss)
¹ - I can seriously not believe I haven't listened to that song (or that entire CD, for that matter) in three months. I must rectify this immediately.
² - I'm more surprised that this song was rated 4 stars. I might also have to rectify that...
Monday, December 7, 2009
I enjoyed the format of the show, with the entire group performing for about a half an hour, then splitting into individual sets for each of the members (with extremely short interludes in between), before coming back together for the grand finale. The group has great chemistry, and since this was the first time they'd all been together since the previous year's blowout, you could tell they were really feeding off each other and the excitement of the crowd.
I've been a big P.O.S. fan since seeing him live a couple years ago, but I had no idea that the rest of the Doomtree crew was that good. Cecil Otter had a great set, playing with live instruments, which really accentuated his metered spoken word style. Dessa commanded attention every time she opened her mouth, I'll definitely have to hunt down some of her stuff. Sims and Mictlan put on good shows, too (even if the planned world premiere of Mictlan's new music video kept experiencing technical difficulties - it got funny toward the end, when the show was effectively over, the problems let up and we got to see what ended up being a fairly blase video).
P.O.S.' Never Better will almost certainly (spoiler alert!) be my number one CD of 2009, but it still can't even touch the raw sound it has when he's rapping live. He has a fire that I haven't seen from many other performers. He only did 5 or 6 of his own, songs, but he touched on all the biggies (thankfully, he got everyone together to sing "Low Light Low Life", a personal favorite of mine off Never Better.)
The crowd knew every word to every song (seriously, I'm not sure I've ever seen such audience participation at a show before), and more than once, you could see the performers looking at each other in disbelief at how stoked the crowd was to be there.
Seriously, anyone from the Cities area who's even remotely a fan of this group owes it to themselves to check out next year's blowout. For fans of the Doomtree collective or any of the individuals that make it up, it is not to be missed.
You may remember that I spent a good deal of time complaining about TBS' coverage of the baseball postseason - Chip Caray in particular. Therefore, Monday's news that Mr. Caray and TBS have 'parted ways' makes me extremely happy.
Almost as happy as this GIF makes me. Not quite, though... kittens are awesome.
Also, I find it amusing that every time the baseball playoffs rolls around, searches for the phrase "Joe Buck Sucks" skyrocket.
To all those who have happened upon this very blog because of that search string I say this...
yes... yes he does.
Friday, November 27, 2009
Today, I ate a ton, drank more beer than I can currently remember, and slept for an hour, snoring in front of everyone.
Now I'm drinking Apple cider and cinnamon schnapps, listening to Burial.
This holiday rules.
Friday, November 6, 2009
12 walks, 92 strikeouts last year...
Minnesota Twins starting left fielder... for ALL of next season.
Ladies and gentlemen, Delmon Young!!
MLB.com is reporting that the Brewers have traded J.J. Hardy to the Twins for... Carlos Gomez.
I have to admit, I'm a little bummed out about this, not because of anything J.J. Hardy may or may not be able to accomplish on the baseball field, but because it was just so fun to watch Gomez play baseball. The guy played the game as if it was the most awesome thing in the world to be doing. The picture at the top of the post, taken just a few weeks ago when the Twins won the division, captures it perfectly.
Baseball-wise, this probably makes sense, but I'm going to miss the bat-smelling, crazy "how-in-the-hell-did-he-catch-that" plays, and the ridiculous enthusiasm Gomez had.
About a year ago, Xbox live introduced the "Community Games" feature along with its new interface. For about 10 months, users were 'treated' to every manner of hackneyed user-made games including (but certainly not limited to) Super Mario ripoffs, classic arcade ripoffs, and a truly frightening number of apps that simply vibrated your xbox controller. There's a few games worth noting amongst the mess (I hope to shed some light on those in the near future), but finding one of those precious few bright spots is often times very difficult.
This game could change all of that. The amusingly-titled I MAED A GAM3 W1TH ZOMBIES 1N IT!!!1 is a true gem. Its controls are incredibly easy (it's a twin stick shooter in the vein of Smash TV), the interface is clean, and the game itself is smooth and beautiful. Waves of zombies rise from the grave and shamble towards you, and you gun them down. Powerups are available, ranging from speed boosts, to shields, to (of course) kickass weaponry.
If this doesn't sound particularly new or inventive, it's because it's really not. The aforementioned Smash TV did all of this almost 20 years ago, and a host of imitators have done it since then. So what makes IMAGWZII! so fresh and awesome?
It's actually sort of hard to say, but I think a large part of it is that this game simply wants you to enjoy yourself. Smash TV was created with the obvious intent of being a quarter eater. It starts out brutal and gets unfair from there (and that's the element most of its successors have keyed in on). ZOMBIES is different in that it's not out to punish you, it has no intention of becoming an endurance test (a fact underlined by the fact that the game ends at 13 minutes and 37 seconds no matter what the player does). This isn't to say the game doesn't carry any difficulty or challenge (it certainly does), it's just that the challenge doesn't get in the way of the entertainment.
All of that, and I haven't even mentioned the two main reasons that this game is such a hit - the music and the price (hint: it's a dollar, a fact which the song states). Playing along the duration of the game is a rock song made by the game's creator. In it, he welcomes you to his game, noting that you'd better move quickly and shoot the zombies before bursting out in an anthemic chorus of "I MADE a GAAAAAME WITh ZOMBIES IN IT!!". The game matches pace with the song, picking up the action when there's a particularly rocking portion, or letting the player catch their breath when there's a lull in the song. When the song reaches its end, the game is over.
Put all these elements together and you have a game that is easily head and shoulders above anything else that the indie games feature of Xbox Live has to offer. If indie games are going to survive on the Xbox console, more people are going to have to take a page out of this playbook. I MAED A GAM3 W1TH ZOMBIES 1N IT!!!1 isn't just a good independently-made game, it's a good game period - easily worthy of your time and money.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
The elevator at the hospital seems to be getting into the Halloween spirit.
* When you attempt to call the elevator, it will occasionally simply not open, even though you can see it sitting (doing nothing) on your floor.
* Sometimes it simply won't open its doors... this goes on for 4-5 minutes sometimes. It'll be at a floor - any floor - with its doors shut, just waiting.
* Occasionally, it will send you in the opposite direction you requested, change its mind without opening the doors, and then send you where you wanted to go in the first place.
* Creepiest of all, on rare occasions, it will simply open its doors as you begin to walk up to it, even though no one (including you) had called it.
This morning, I got on the elevator and tried to go down one floor. The elevator decided that instead of doing that, it was going to send me to the top floor, not open its doors for five minutes, then send me to the floor I had actually requested. I was about to call engineering (or, failing that, a priest) to see what I had to do to appease the infernal beast and make it let me out. I didn't even care which floor.
Maybe I'll take the stairs from now on.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
* Here in Alexandria, we were treated to a snowstorm on Friday. I like winter a lot more than most folks do, but it's fall right now. Besides, I need to get the deck stained and the patio pavers laid. The fact that the snow started getting heavy right as Joe Nathan was serving up A-Rod's back-breaking home run could only be a foul coincidence, right?
So yeah, I'm thinking I probably should have done those two things sometime this summer, instead of all that sweet golfing action I was enjoying.
* Single-season wins record holder and all around dapper fellow Old Hoss Radbourn has a twitter account. It's good to see that he's not letting his 1897 death get in the way of being hilarious and insightful in an old-fashioned way.
Highlight: This #Posada feller is awful. If my battery mate made so many errors, I'd be forced to challenge him to a duel.
* I've been listening to a lot of the song 'Surf Solar' by Fuck Buttons of late. It's over ten minutes of droney goodness with an almost robotic sounding digitally altered female voice. If that made it sound boring or strange, trust me, it's not. Ten minutes almost doesn't seem long enough. Check out the drastically shortened clipped version (which weighs in at a pansy 3 minutes 41 seconds) - where else - at imeem.
Note: I link to imeem because you can find most everything there. For a lot of the songs, you need to sign up for a free account. Do it. It's worth it.
* Finally, I will literally never get sick of watching the Ibanez Fielding GIFs. Never. I've been staring at the screen laughing for the last ten minutes, and I've already seen these no fewer than 20 times.
Monday, October 12, 2009
The Twins were predictably eliminated in painful fashion on Sunday. They got the lead for the third straight game, only to follow the script straight through to the part which called for A-Rod to bludgeon our pitching staff into submission.
Rather than complain about the Twins losing in the playoffs (I had them pegged for 75 wins and for most of the season, it looked like I was right), I'll make fun of the announcing staff.
During the early innings of last night's game, Ron Darling made the comment that ground balls hit on the Metrodome turf "gain speed" as they approach the infielders. Even if that didn't violate the laws of physics, such a field would be ridiculously dangerous. Imagine - bunt hits gaining momentum until, by the time they reach the outfield, they are hurtling at devastating speeds. Fielders daring not bounce their throws on the turf, lest they decapitate the intended recipient of their throws. Maybe he meant that the turf slows the ball down less than grass? Mmm.... no, I'm quite certain he meant it this way.
Of course, I'm being more than a little pedantic, but the team of Ron Darling and Chip Caray (particularly the latter) are quite possibly the worst announcers to listen to. I'm including Hall of Shamers like McCarver & Buck (Joe, of course, not his dearly departed father) in this ascertation. They get facts wrong, they (especially Caray) act as homers for all things Yankee, and worst of all, they bring absolutely nothing to the table. They're certainly not informative, they're just sort of... there (and the way Caray refers to just about every bloop hit as being 'fisted' is creepy to me).
Sour grapes notwithstanding, that was a pretty disgusting end to a season that defied expectations. You can't beat the Yankees by leaving 17 men on base in one game, or by blundering your way out of at least 2 runs by simply not paying any attention on the basepaths, or by hitting a grand total of zero home runs after putting up decent power numbers all year - and guess what......we didn't.
Ah well..... we'll always have last Tuesday's game.
Note: This gets the "Joe Buck Sucks" tag, because boy howdy does he ever.
Saturday, October 10, 2009
Great game by Blackburn. Too bad that it all has to wind down in the shittiest way possible.
On a sidenote, I overheard Ron Darling saying after the team's MVP Justin Morneau went down with an injury, it was guys like Michael Cuddyer, Jason Kubel... and Delmon Young that pulled the Twins into contention.
Joe Mauer, meanwhile, selfishly hit .354/.471/.487 - to be clear, that means he was getting on base almost as often as he was getting out over the critical playoff drive. What Cuddy did was great, but he and Kubel aren't getting RBIs if Mauer isn't setting the table for them. To act as if the soon-to-be AL MVP had less to do with the Twins eventual division title than DELMON YOUNG, is cockflickery, my friends.
Also, in what universe do people still think the MVP of the 2009 Twins is Justin Morneau??
What a complete disappointment... let's pick up at least one from this very beatable team, shall we, gentlemen??
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Ladies and Gentlemen, your Minnesota Twins...
It all makes a lot more sense in retrospect. I mean, we have one of the best closers in the game (who at one point had a streak of 20+ games pitched without a single run given up) - of course it all came down to a situation where our mop up guy had to get out of a bases loaded, one out jam.
We had five guys who had OPS+ numbers above 120 (which is quite good), so of course in the critical inning, it all came down to Carlos Gomez getting a hit, Delmon Young getting a walk, and Alexi Casilla (who was sporting a tasty .259 SLUGGING percentage) driving in the winning run. It's the Twins... you just kind of go with it. So when Brian Duensing makes his 10th major league start later today against C.C. Sabathia, it doesn't concern me (okay... maybe a little), it's just part of the show.
Going into the season, I thought the Twins were about a .500 team. Up until September, it looked like a was right. The way I figure it, last night was one of the most exciting games I've ever watched (post-1991, of course). I gave up on the idea of my team making the playoffs no fewer than three times, so now that they've made it, the whole thing feels like free baseball. The fact that we were 0-7 against the Yankees during the regular season doesn't bother me, in fact, I'm anxious for us to have another crack at them.
Realistically, the Twins will probably lose the series - probably in four games or under. That would be disappointing, of course, but this season has already given Twins fans a lot more than we could have ever expected. Baseball is kind of awesome that way.
That being said, I hope the Twins sweep the Yankees, and since the playoffs are a complete crap shoot, why can't they?
Friday, August 28, 2009
10. Oasis - Wonderwall
"I don't believe that anybody feels the way I do about you now"
I seriously love this song. I know it's more than a little cheesy, and that it's 'not the band's best song' (though I'd argue it is). I'm well aware that Oasis' lead singer is kind of a jerk, and the the relationship this song was written about didn't exactly end well. Still, when Liam sings the above line, it warms my soul. It just has a certain authenticity in its feel, a certain rawness and honesty - no matter if they meant it or not, it certainly has a sentiment to it that goes beyond ordinary - which is probably why it's still their most popular song. Oasis has made 'better' songs, but they've never made a more real song.
Note: "Saviour of My Universe" by All Star United rips this song off hardcore. That could easily be why I enjoyed it so much when I first heard it years ago, and why I have such a hard time listening to it now that my mind has made the connection.
9. ...And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead - Relative Ways
"It's okay… I'm a saint"
Conrad Keely has one of the more distinctive (and, of we're being honest, bad) voices in rock music. When he gets to the end of the second verse in "Relative Ways", though, he starts half-screaming "it's okay, i'm a saint - i forgave your mistake" with such abandon that it really doesn't matter that he's only in the vague area of most of the notes that he's attempting. Trail of Dead has tried to recapture the "epic-ness" of Source Tags and Codes (and I've enjoyed pretty much all of their albums), but in doing so, they've kind of missed the point. What was so gripping about Source Tags was its raw emotion, and I'm not sure that the level they show in this song could ever be replicated.
8. The Hold Steady - Slapped Actress
"Man, we make our own movies"
This one hit number one on my 2008 list (although at the time, I called it the "best way to close out a CD that I've ever heard", which, as you'll soon see isn't entirely acurate). There's just something about rock music that makes simple a "oh-OH!" chant sound absolutely epic. It's hard to imagine better driving music that the band rocking out, the backgound singers "oh-oh"ing and Craig Finn singing "man, we make our own movies".
7. Mr. Bungle - Goodbye Sober Day
Never accuse Mr. Bungle of making 'normal' music. 'Goodbye Sober Day' jumps back and forth between more genres (lounge, metal, rap-rock, bizzarely operatic rock, and even a section that sounds like elevator music) in just the one song than most bands experiment with in their careers. Undoubtably the most memorable portion of the song is the kecac section. It begins with a very creepy tribal sounding chant, punctuated by a single cry of "CHAAC!", which soon gives way to a rhythmic (and initially, sort of terrifying) chant. More than any other entry on the list, this has to be heard to be believed - mere words don't adaquately describe it.
6. The New Pornographers - Bleeding Heart Show
It's kind of strange that most people will forever associate this song (and specifically the part I'm talking about) with the commercials for a certain (somewhat dubious) "online university". The "Hey la" section takes up the entire last third of "Bleeding Heart Show", and while it's going, I could easily stand another full minute or two of it. Everything feels so alive - the drums, the guitars, the myriad of singers. When Neko Case starts singing "we have arrived too late to play the bleeding heart show" over the top of it, it gels into a musical experience that you don't want to end.
5. TV on the Radio - Wolf Like Me
"The first hook and the bridge"
This is the best song about werewolf sex (or... something like that...) ever made. I'm fairly confident in that supposition. The first time the hook plays hints at the energy the song is capable of, but the part right after the bridge is where it all lets loose. Guitars fuzzed out to the point where they barely even sound like guitars and an ultra-insistant drumbeat fuel an orgy of sound. The lyrical content veers between creepy and barely-sensical, but the beat has you singing along in no time. Whatever the song is actually about (and it well could be about horny werewolves), it hardly matters. The full moon is out, and it's time to get wild.
Really, just about any portion of this song would work just fine. The "howlin' forever" ending, the "mongrel mind", anything. It's just a fantastic song.
4. Radiohead - Lucky
"It's going to be a glorious day………I feel my luck could change"
I've never understood why 'Lucky' ng isn't considered to be one of Radiohead's best. Its sense of forboding, the guitar line in the chorus - just about everything about this song is perfect. In my opinion, Thom Yorke's finest moment is the entire second verse to this song. The way his voice soars - yet stays in complete control - when he sings "it's going to be a glorious day" is only matched by the resigned (but still almost defiant) way he sings "I feel my luck could change". Years later, it still makes my blood run cold.
3. Okkervil River - Our Life Is Not a Movie Or Maybe
"AND I'M WATCHING"
I'm not a big Okkervil River fan (which is a nice way of saying that this song is basically the only song I listen to by them). This song, however, is just unbelieveable. The "life as a movie" metaphor is averted by the knowledge that the whole thing is not a movie. There's no particularly happy ending in sight, and when the narrator sees the object of his affection, there's no way of doing anything but watching - which he states in a sublimely awesome way. What follows is about as close as this band comes to rocking out.
Note: I've linked to the music video, because it's one of my favorites, and also because it accentuates the theme really well.
2. Arcade Fire - Intervention
"Who's gonna throw the very first stone?"
Full disclosure: I wasn't blown away by Funeral the first time I heard it (I've since done a fairly substantial 180 on my opinion.) For whatever reason, I watched SNL one night in early 2007 (something I generally try to actively avoid). The instant the organ blast opened this song, I took notice... by the time the second verse shifted the song into high gear (with accompanying organ blast, of course), I was frantically looking for my copy of Funeral - trying to figure out exactly what I missed the first time. I bought Neon Bible the day it came out. It turned out to be my favorite CD of 2007, and remains - along with Funeral - one of my favorite CDs. I probably would have come around on Arcade Fire either way, but more than any other, this song still represents discovering a favorite band.
1. Sigur Ros - Popplagið ('Untitled 8')
"The climax to end all climaxes"
Almost all of '( )' seemed like a buildup toward something. The slow pace (which it's been heavily criticized for), the dirges that didn't seem to make any progress on their own; after the catharsic blasts of Ágætis Byrjun, they couldn't really make a full CD without letting loose...... could they?
The short answer is 'no'. The long answer is the final * minutes of the final track on the CD (technically called 'Untitled 8', but generally refered to as 'Popplagið'). The song starts out similarly to all the other tracks on the CD, but around 6:30 in, symbal crashes and a to this point unseen sense of urgency creep in. The feeling simmers for a full three minutes......
Then it all breaks loose, finally exploding full force ten (!) minutes in, and somehow it keeps building and building... until just when you think it can't build any more, Jonsi's voice goes up and echoes across the track as the rest of the song explodes. It is truly the musical climax to end all climaxes.
So, there you have it. Sorry again for the delay, regular posting resumes... well... sometime. You know me.