Best Albums and Songs I Heard in 2012

Posted in General Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 3, 2013 by Andy

After a 7 month hiatus, we are back with our belated annual column, the best music we heard last year.  Instead of 2 separate entries for albums and songs, we’ll just combine them into one ultra-mega-super entry. You may have thought we wouldn’t write another column, but much like a bear that hibernates, we have come back to your campsite, to eat your food and shake your car while you scream inside.

Best Albums I Heard in 2012: 

Smashing Pumpkins-Mellon Collie  and the Infinite Sadness Reissue

The biggest album in the career of the Smashing Pumpkins get the reissue treatment, like Gish and Siamese Dream before it. With a treasure trove of b-sides and alternate versions of beloved songs, this is a must have for die hard fans.  Best songs: Thirty-Three (Sadlands demo), Lily (Sadlands demo)

Soundgarden-King Animal

A band that has broke up 15 years before shouldn’t put out an album this good, but Soundgarden did.  Every song is good, and this is a welcomed return to form, or a new form that hopefully will stick around for awhile. Best songs: Been Away Too Long, Blood on the Valley Floor, Bones of Birds

Smashing Pumpkins-Oceania

Yes, there’s a second entry by this band, but this is the current line up. Again, a bit of a surprise for a band that’s been around so long (if in name only). But Billy Corgan and his newest cast of characters created a rocking set of songs that echo the old roar while still having something new to say. Best songs: Panopticon, Inkless, The Chimera

John Mayer-Born and Raised

John Mayer hid away in Montana after running his mouth too much.  The solitude paid off personally and professionally, as he made his most intimate, quiet album that while not reaching the heights of Continuum, more than holds its weight with his others. This album didn’t get the appreciation and attention it deserved. Best songs: Walt Grace’s Submarine Test, January 1967, If I Ever Get Around to Living, Speak for Me

Sleigh Bells-Reign of Terror

Sleigh Bells first album was interesting but somewhat of a one-note wonder.  More varied songwriting makes this follow up a more inspired and catchy effort. Best Songs: Comeback Kid, Crush, Leader of the Pack

The Shins-Port of Morrow

The Shins once again craft a indelible set of songs that while not as strong overall as their past work, still show their skills off in a worthy way. Best songs: 40 Mark Strasse, No Way Down, Simple Song

Best Songs I Heard in 2012: 

Til Next Tuesday-James Iha

His first album came out way back in 1998 and was a mostly acoustic album, but for Look to the Sky Iha added synth flourishes and more subtle bells and whistles. This song sounds like a classic pop song, with a slight new wave sheen.

Been Away Too Long-Soundgarden

Soundgarden makes a welcome return, and while the title might seem a little cheesy, considering they were gone for 15 years, the song is anything but pandering.  Full of straight ahead riffage, an off kilter bridge, and Chris Cornell’s trademark yowl, this was a great lead single for a band that has never made much of a misstep.

Bonfire-Knife Party

Thanks to its use in a hilarious scene of Breaking Bad where Walter White and Walt Jr rev up sports cars in their driveway, this song enjoyed extra attention last year.  If a cyborg with a synthesizer and a reggae artist collaborated, it might sound something like this.

Territory-Sepultura

Yes, we are very late to the Sepultura party.  But better late than never, especially when it is a party filled with pulverizing guitars, and tribal drums.  Gutteral vocals and relentless riffs make this a must for all fans of thrash.

Inkless-Smashing Pumpkins

This is off their latest album, but it buzzes with the same hum of their guitars circa 1993.  Classic.

Walt Grace’s Submarine Test, January 1967-John Mayer

A clever, oddball fictional story serves as the backdrop for this excellent piece of acoustic pop. A perfect gem found near the end of a great album.

40 Mark Strasse-The Shins

There are songs that are growers and songs that latch onto your eardrums immediately. This song fits into the latter category.  An aching, bittersweet tale of a wayward youth with no notes wasted.

Comeback Kid-Sleigh Bells

A heavy metal/drum machine marriage, complete with atmospheric passages that segue right back into the maelstrom.

Advertisements

The Great Lost Re-Watch: Season 6

Posted in TV with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 7, 2012 by Andy

Lost Season 6

So here it is: the final re-watch blog entry.  I started re-watching LOST right after it went off the air 2 years ago, but stalled out after Season 4.  But I picked it back up about a month ago and burned through the last 2 seasons pretty quickly, and was reminded about all the reasons I loved this show. Some people are still grumbling over the way it ended, but I for one enjoyed the last season. I feel like some mysteries were better left unsolved, and that the resolution of the show was pitch perfect and very emotionally satisfying.

This entry will be longer than others, but I want to send the show off in style, until I re-watch it again.

Best Episode: “Happily Ever After”

It is tough to pick just one, but this episode was pretty amazing.  It features Desmond, who just may be the MVP of the show, if you judge off of how many mind-blowing episodes were focused on him.  This one had him once again being tested by extreme amounts of electromagnetism that would kill a regular person, but as we’ve found out through the years, Desmond is no regular guy.  But beyond that, we get to see him have the approval of Charles Widmore, even if it is just in the flashsideways.  We also get to see him reunited with Charlie, and also see him have a head-scratching conversation with Daniel Faraday (now Daniel Widmore) about advanced math and nuclear bombs.  But most importantly, we get to see him remember the love of his life, Penny. It was the episode that set off the downhill finish to the season/show, and was brilliant.

Of course, “The End” is either tied or a close second, since it is the last episode of the show.  More on this episode later, but Kate shooting the Man in Black was great (especially her classic line “I saved you a bullet”), and Jack and Kate’s final kiss was of course bittersweet and perfect. And the church scene, where everyone is reunited, with the sweeping soundtrack, was such a great send off to the characters we became attached to over 6 seasons.

Most disturbing moment: There are several of these too but if I had to pick one, it would be when the Man in Black reveals that Locke’s final thoughts were “I don’t understand”.  For a character as tortured as John Locke to die with that ringing in his head is tragic indeed. Thankfully, what he didn’t understand was that he had a profound effect on Jack, which would help Jack to finally fix things in a way that truly mattered, but more on that later.  Honorable mentions go to Juliet dying, when we thought she was already dead, only to be rescued and then die.  Also crazy Claire’s animal skeleton baby in the crib was quite creepy.

Most emotional moment: again, many candidates.  I would say it was a tie between Sayid’s death and the deaths of Sun and Jin.  Sayid’s death because it was so sudden and so selfless when he grabbed the bomb and ran.  Sun and Jin’s because they had just been reunited the episode before, only to drown together.  I would have been ok if Jin had left Sun, since they have a daughter at home waiting for them, but I understand him staying with his wife, who he thought he might never see again.  Hurley and Libby reconnecting was another emotional high point, since it was so sad for him to lose the woman he loved after he had finally found someone who loved him back.

Moment I forgot about: Not a big one, but in “Happily Ever After”, when Desmond walks into Widmore’s office, there is a painting on the wall of scales.  In one scale is a white stone, and in the other is a black stone.  Clever reference to Jacob and the Man in Black.

Most Surprising Moment: I would have to say the deaths of Ilana and Widmore tie for the lead.  With Ilana, it was surprising to me to have this character that they seemed to emphasize in the last season and a half, only to have her die cause she set down the bag with dynamite too hard.  I didn’t mind it, but it did surprise me. With Widmore, they’d been focusing on him for even longer, so I thought that he would have a more climactic ending than he did.  But in the end,  he did serve a purpose-to get Desmond back to the island. Also, I suppose it is fair for Ben to get to kill him, since Widmore allowed Keamy to kill Alex.

Continue reading

Point Break Haikus

Posted in movies with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 30, 2012 by Andy

There really isn’t much of a setup needed for this post.  I like the movie Point Break, in all it’s 90’s silly action movie-ness.  I’ve written about my appreciation for it here. So it wasn’t surprising when I came across it on tv recently that I decided to watch it for the 1,749th time.  What IS newsworthy is that during this viewing, I was inexplicably inspired to write haikus. Rather than question it, I took the words of Bodhi seriously and decided to harness the energy and react to it. So here, without further ado, are my Point Break haikus.

Ex Presidents surf

Kiedis is shot in the foot

Bodhi’s giant wave

'Point Break' Movie Remake?

Sit around a fire

wax poetic about waves

bank robbers: night surf

 

Tyler is lied to

can’t control Rosie’s nature

Busey dies-gunshot

Bodhi - Point Break (1991)

One with the ocean

Keanu’s Johnny Utah

tries to kill Bodhi

Point Break

Skydive with your friends

and then in a van they will

threaten your girlfriend

say “You want a ride

to glory fine, but don’t take

Tyler with you”. Yeah!

Lori Petty dans Point Break, extrême limite

Tyler is rescued

after Rosie kidnaps her

“Tank Girl” looked stupid

Good quote from movie:

Bodhi: “100%

pure adrenaline”

“I am an FBI

agent!”. I know, man, isn’t

wild!?” Best quote ever.

Exposing the Clifford Myth

Posted in PBS Shows, TV with tags , , , , , , on June 22, 2012 by Andy

This dog was created in a laboratory

Since I have a 2 year old, my TV viewing habits have shifted a little bit.  And recently I have found myself watching episodes of “Clifford The Big Red Dog” on repeat.  Yes, this is the same Clifford that many of you know and love from the children’s books series.  I too read about the escapades of this over-size dog, but upon further viewing of him, I have some serious questions that I’d like to ask, that have not been addressed.

First, I’d like to know exactly why Clifford is such a big dog.  I did extensive research into this (ie-looked it up on Wikipedia) and all I found was that he was the runt of the litter and wasn’t expected to be so big.  On the show, they claim that Emily Elizabeth, the little girl that he belongs to, helped him grow with all the love she gave him. This sounds like a cover up to me.  The more plausible explanation is that he was a government experiment.  Maybe he was exposed to gamma rays, a la Peter Parker (aka Spiderman).  Maybe he was a product of military scientist, as a possible means of transportation/destruction for World Wars.  All I know is, it is not normal for a dog to be big enough to remove the top of a lighthouse, as he does in one episode.  Even more alarming, if he was the runt, then that means there are other dogs out there that are even bigger than he is!  Where are these dogs, and what destruction have they already caused? Furthermore, they never address what breed he is. This is because he is not any breed, but instead is a genetically altered super-canine who has a coat the color of a fire truck (when is the last time you’ve seen that on a dog?).

Continue reading

The Great Lost Re-Watch: Season 5

Posted in TV with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 8, 2012 by Andy
It’s been 2 years since I’ve watched a season of Lost.  In the post-finale glow of May 2010, I started blazing through season after season, but ran out of steam in September with Season 4.   But recently I caught the bug again, and here I am to recap the penultimate season of one of the best shows of all time.  Of course, if you have never seen this season, you should stop reading right now, as this is basically one big spoiler. Lets get right to it.
Best episode: “The Incident”
        It’s always so hard to pick one episode as the best of the whole year.  “316” gets an honorable mention, for showing how the Oceanic 6 and friends return to the island.  But “The Incident” has everything you would want from a season finale: tension (will Jack succeed in his mission? What does it mean that Jacob dies?), raised stakes (Sayid being shot, the Ajira airlines group revealing Locke’s dead body), and an ending that makes you go “where in the world are they going with this?” (Juliet apparently detonating the bomb). It all sets up the last season nicely.

Moment I forgot about: Miles showing concern for his dad

In the episode “Some Like it Hoth”, we see how Miles came to know about his talent for speaking with the dead, and why he has some serious daddy issues (like pretty  much all of the characters). So it a nice moment when his father has his hand crushed at the Swan construction site and Miles swoops in to save him. It’s just a small moment in the finale, but still is nice to see that Miles really does care about his dad, even if he never really knew him.

Most disturbing moment: when Ben strangles Locke

When it was revealed that Locke was dead in the Season 4 finale, I knew it would be a big build up to reveal how exactly he died. When we were told that it was suicide, I knew there had to be more to the story. Still, it was brilliant to show him on the brink of hanging himself, then Ben apparently stop him, and then blindside us with Ben strangling him to death.  That final haunting image of Ben staging his suicide just makes Locke’s death all the more sad/disturbing.

Continue reading

My Life’s Mixtape: Ratt

Posted in My Life's Mixtape with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 18, 2012 by Andy
Image Detail
        Want to know the sure-fire way to look cool in the 80’s? Spell your band name with extra letters, or in a different way than normal.  Deaf Leopard doesn’t have quite the same look of coolness that Def Leppard does.  Trickster could be a super-villain.  Trixster, however, is a mighty mediocre band that was a semi-one hit wonder. 
                Perhaps the second best band ever (behind The Beatles) with a misspelled name is Ratt. (in an interview in the 80’s, lead singer Stephen Pearcy actually said he didn’t consider other bands of the 80’s their competition, but considered Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, and other big bands their peers.  He also wore shirts that appeared to have been ripped to shreds by Hulk Hogan on stage).  Ratt appeared on the scene in 1984 with their instant classic “Round and Round”, which I thought was dark, sinister, and ultra-rad.  The video was also pretty cool too-who wouldn’t want to fall down from the ceiling, interrupt a fancy dinner that features a cross drossing Milton Berle, and play a ripping guitar solo?
                Ratt dealt with heavier social issues than your typical 80’s hair metal band. Take the lead single off of Invasion of Your Privacy, “You’re in Love”. This declarative sentence helped many young rock fans self-diagnose what was going on with them, when they might not have otherwise known.  It is pretty much a checklist to test if they are, in fact, in love with someone. “You’re struck by lightening? You’re in Love” (or you are Powder).  “You’re only living to have fun? You’re in Love”. Another example is “Lack of Communication”, off of Out of the Cellar.  “Put up our boundaries, we build our walls, it’s alright, no one’s gonna change us at all”.  I think that Ratt always had their finger on the pulse of the average American, and could really tell that we as a nation were fractured and needed to keep our lines of communication open with each other.  They knew that if we didn’t, the future would be bleak.  I believe that you can say that way before Wu-Tang Clan, Ratt was for the children.
                Another way they blazed a trail before anyone else was that Pearcy was, in fact, a wanted man way before Bon Jovi was wanted dead or alive. In “Wanted Man”, they also use the tried and true tactic of mentioning their band name in the lyrics, which always provides a nice little wink to the audience: “And by the road, you will hang, it’s your neck, from this Ratt gang”. You may have thought they were just a band, but they are a gang as well (I believe you had to wear fishnet stockings for your initiation).
                I jest, but I really do love many of their songs.  In addition to the aforementioned “Round and Round” and “You’re in Love”, “Way Cool Jr” concludes my trifecta of Ratt perfection.  A bluesy song that really is very different from most other songs of that era, it highlighted the mostly filler full album Reach for the Sky (note the life affirming title. The cover had a statue with goggles on, which maybe in the Ratt universe is also life affirming. In the regular universe, not so much). Yes, whatever different directions they may have taken throughout their career, I will continue to salute (or should I say sallute?) Ratt and their extra “t”.

The Random Ramblings Observance of the Death of Adam Yauch

Posted in General Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 7, 2012 by Andy
Image Detail
              The passing of Adam Yauch caught me off guard. Sure, there were warning signs. He had been battling cancer for several years-that was common knowledge. And then he did not appear with his bandmates when they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame recently.  Still, there was something slightly shocking about seeing the words on the computer screen. The Beastie Boys were such a light hearted group that it is weirder to think of something as serious as cancer and death affecting them (and I’m speaking of them in the past tense because I think that like Led Zeppelin, they will not continue after the death of a member).
                I’m not going to pretend that they were my favorite band, because they were not.  But I do like a lot of their music, and think they were an important band, for many reasons.  For one, just the fact that I’m using the word “band” when talking about them shows their range.  They started out as a goofy, boastful rap trio who really didn’t do half the things they claimed they did, but ended up showing their versatility through rap, punk, funk, and hybrid songs where they played their own instruments.
             I was in 2nd grade when their first album came out.   I loved the hyperactive rapping and outlandish claims (even if some of them went right over my 7 year old head).  And of course their rebellious attitude and subject matter were appealing as well-however, I remember being nervous when they played “Fight for Your Right to Party” at a school assembly, fearing the lyrics would somehow get us students in trouble.
I’ll admit they fell off my radar when Paul’s Boutique came out, although I do remember liking “Hey Ladies”. But honestly, it felt like their time had come and gone.  So imagine my surprise (and a lot of other people’s) when “So What’cha Want” came out, off of Check Your Head.  It was a great blend of instrumentation and rap, and heralded their entry into the current diverse music scene, which they were certainly light years away from on their first album.
              I liked Ill Communication better than Check Your Head, and gratefully got to see them on the Lollapalooza 94 tour, along with many other great bands. My main memory of that show was seeing them play “Rhymin’ and Stealin’”, which was amazing.   If I have to pick their best album, from top to bottom, I’d say it would have to be Hello Nasty.  Intergalactic is a classic, there are tons of really great songs, and there are fewer songs that seem like filler than their other albums. I saw them on that tour also, and it was non-stop great song after great song.
           But I realize that this has been focused on them as a unit instead of just Adam Yauch, aka MCA. Because it’s as much a eulogy for them as it is for him.  But it is undeniable that he went from being publicly debauched to deeply spiritual, trying to spread positive change through the Tibetan Freedom Concerts.  He owned up to and made amends for misogynist lyrics, while still being a great rapper and musician.  The guy could rap: (favorite lines: if you try to knock me you’ll get mocked, I’ll stir fry you in my wok”; “You think you’re hot to trot, you think you’re slicker than grease, I got news for your crew, you’ll be suckin’ like a leech”). He also was a great bass player (check the bass lines in Gratitude and Sabotage).
                 Overall, just a sad loss for the music community, not to mention his family (he had a wife and 14 year old daughter).  But I’m grateful for the many songs they entertained me with throughout the years, and for their contribution to the musical landscape.

Top 10 favorite Beastie Boys songs (in no particular order, except Paul Revere, which is definitely #1)

Brass Monkey
Intergalactic
Do It
Three MCs and One DJ
Sabotage
Sure Shot
No Sleep Til Brooklyn
So What’cha Want
The New Style
Paul Revere