Archive | December, 2009

[List] Top EPs of 2009

26 Dec

Well, I tried to stretch this list to at least five, but being the lazy fellow that I am, I think I’ll stick with the four I’ve got.

4. The Mountain Goats & John Vanderslice – Moon Colony Bloodbath
How could these two get together and not produce something excellent?

“Surrounded”
“Emerging”

3. Britney’s Spear – Britney’s Spear
In the interest of integrity and full disclosure, I am friends with these guys, and even the guy who recorded them. But I promise that I’m mentioning them here because this EP is honestly really really good.

“Burning Billboards”
“Dream Big”

2. Cory Branan & Jon Snodgrass – S/T
Cory Branan’s boys can indeed break a heart. Mr. Snodgrass ain’t so bad himself.

“Alone & Distanced”
“Walk Around”

1. John K. Samson – City Route 85
In lieu of there being any new Weakerthans material, I rushed to grab this when it came out. And now the vinyl’s on the way (with two t-shirts). John K. Samson wins at lyrics, ’nuff said.

“Heart of the Continent”
“Cruise Night”

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[List] Top 10 Albums of 2009

24 Dec

¡Merry Christmas!

10a. Rock Plaza Central – …at the moment of our most needing
God these guys are weird. And pretty good too. Keebler Elves FTW.

“Oh I Can”
“(Don’t You Believe the Words of) Handsome Men”

10b. Chuck Ragan – Gold Country
“Glory” sounds an awful lot like “California Burritos,” but I’ll allow it. Solid neo-folk from a seasoned veteran. Gruff-arse voice.

“For Goodness Sake”
“Ole Diesel”

9. The Avett Brothers – I and Love and You
It feels like a regression from the older material, but that’s still good enough to make the list. Plus, in the words of NPR, they are “a world-beating colossus” live.

“I and Love and You”
“Laundry Room”

8. Andrew Jackson Jihad – Can’t Maintain
Not even electrified guitar can stop the AJJ train.

“Self Esteem”
“We Didn’t Come Here to Rock”

7. The Decemberists – The Hazards of Love
The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. But if you have the time, this is an treat.

“Isn’t It a Lovely Night”
“The Rake’s Song”

6. The Swell Season – Strict Joy
Glen Hansard’s just GOT IT. The debut was better, but this is pretty darn good.

“In These Arms”
“Low Rising”

5. Neko Case – Middle Cyclone
Now this is someone with real vocal range. And probably the strongest collection of songs she’s put together. My friends Joe and Fardeen love this. And I have to admit that I have a soft spot for it too.

“This Tornado Loves You”
“Middle Cyclone”

4. The Thermals – Now We Can See
If The Body, The Blood, The Machine was the midst of a war, Now We Can See is the fatalities making small talk. And do they ever talk.

“Now We Can See”
“At the Bottom of the Sea”

3. William Elliot Whitmore – Animals in the Dark
He’s declaring a mutiny on this ship, ya hear?

“Old Devils”
“Hell Or High Water”

2. The Mountain Goats – The Life of the World to Come
John Darnielle has to do me great injury to not make a year end list (or two) of mine. No great injury done here. An awfully reserved, and yet awfully powerful record.

“Psalms 40:2”
“Isaiah 45:23”

1. Lucero – 1372 Overton Park
Ben Nichols and company do it again. Better than everyone else? I’ll bite.

“Mom”
“Hey Darlin’ Do You Gamble”

[Review] William Elliott Whitmore – Animals in the Dark

23 Dec

William Elliott Whitmore, purveyor of a fine sort of backcountry Midwestern blues-folk, is mad as hell and he’s not going to take it anymore.

From the call and response of the opener “Mutiny” to the closing bars of “A Good Day to Die,” there’s 37 minutes of one pissed off man spouting about issues of the corruption and evil that surround us in life, of the need to stop dwelling on questions of salvation, and the virtues of hard work. Don’t trust the cop (“Johnny Law”), don’t trust the politician (“Old Devils,” “Who Stole the Soul”), and most certainly don’t trust the preacher. Life is a bitter struggle (“Hard Times”), and it’s difficult to navigate the way, but it’s well worth carrying on and even celebrating the journey (“Hell or High Water”).

This is an album autobiographical and incendiary, rustic and timely. Favorite record of the year? Maybe. I’m gonna wrestle with that question for the next few days before I put up a year-end post. So be sure to check back.

[Review] Lucero – 1372 Overton Park

23 Dec

A while back, I named 1372 Overton Park as one of the albums coming out this fall that I was most excited to hear. Especially given the strength of the lead single “Hey Darlin’ Do You Gamble,” I came into this album with high hopes for excellence. On the other hand, I’ve been waiting for the other shoe to drop with Ben Nichols’ voice for years now, and I was afraid that one day he’d trash it and it just wouldn’t come back (his backing vocals on “Constructive Summer” on The Hold Steady’s 2008 excellent Stay Positive gave me pause). Those fears, thankfully, while certainly not obliterated, have been dulled for the time being, much like the senses and higher brain functions of the band members on any given night they’re out on tour (see “Can’t Feel a Thing”).

The first song, “Smoke,” is notable for the inclusion of some Hold Steady-esque piano in the first minute or so. A change of pace for sure, but not all that surprising I suppose given Nichols’ work with Craig Finn and company. “Mom” is another standout, just a fantastic ballad and a fine closer for the album. And I would be remiss if I failed to mention “What Are You Willing to Lose?,” a sort of call to live life on your own terms, understanding that your path probably isn’t going to be easy.

As for the addition of the horns, I don’t think their inclusion is a negative. Expanding the sound a ‘lil bit, nothing wrong with that. As for moving to a major, this effort doesn’t feel overproduced or sterile, so those concerns were allayed. It’s just really, really good Southern punk-tinged rock’n’roll. After seven albums, ten years and well over a thousand shows, the boys of Lucero may just now be hitting their stride.

(Also, they’re on Twitter. Gotta love that.)

(And this article on Ben Nichols is a pretty good read.)

[Video] Serj Tankian, Eat Your Heart Out

18 Dec

(Via Cracked)

[Baseball] Off-Topic: Red Sox Hot Stove Rant

15 Dec

I can see how today’s apparent Red Sox deals don’t work out (Lackey’s injury history, Cameron’s advanced age), but I can also see how they do. If they were to sign Adrian Beltre, they’d have much improved defense at 3B, SS, and LF from the averages at those positions a year ago. The improved run prevention should cancel out the loss of offense firepower (and let’s not forget Victor Martinez is the starting C now).

Maybe this is just fantasy, but from here (assuming the Lowell trade goes through), they could send Buchholz and a couple prospects (please not Casey Kelly or Jose Iglesias) to San Diego for Adrian Gonzalez and then shift Youkilis over to 3B. Such a move would have a marginally negative impact on defense in comparison to signing Beltre (Gonzalez is a Gold Glover, after all, plus Youkilis would still be an upgrade over Mike Lowell v. 2009), and would weaken the rotation and farm system a little bit, but the added offense could very well be worth it. Plus Beltre is a Boras client (aka will get grossly overpaid for his services), was hurt last year, and is probably few years older than his listed age, so as good as he is defensively, I’m not a huge fan. Gonzalez is a top-tier slugger in his prime who is still reasonably cheap for now (though his payday is coming soon).

Let me just project the pop the resulting lineup would have:

Ellsbury (5-10 HR)
Pedroia (10-15 HR)
V. Mart (20-25 HR)
Gonzalez (40-45 HR)
Youkilis (25-30 HR)
Ortiz (25-30 HR)
Drew (15-20 HR)
Cameron (20-25 HR)
Scutaro (5-10 HR)

If everyone hits the midpoints of those estimates, the starting lineup hits 188 HR in 2010. Not too shabby. That’s an incomplete measure of overall offensive prowess, obviously, but it’s still certainly indicative of a team that can hit the ball a little bit. Plus, in 2012 the four old guys at the bottom could be gone and replaced with younger players (Ortiz contract expires after 2010; Drew, Cameron, and Scutaro after 2011).

And this isn’t a bad rotation either, even with the loss of Buchholz:

Lester
Beckett
Lackey
Dice-K
Wakefield/best of the rest (Bonser, Bowden, Tazawa)

So, even without making a move for Holliday/Bay, I think the Sox still are capable of winning around 95 games in this “bridge” year and winning the wild card, whether or not they go on to trade for Adrian Gonzalez. Or everything could blow up in their faces and they finish in 3rd place in the AL East. But that’s why they play the games.

[Video] Finals Got You Down?

15 Dec

Not after you take a gander at this slice of awesome.

Didn’t do the trick? Then you may have bigger troubles. Good luck to all who’ve got essays and finals due, and therefore lots and lots of problems.