Friday, December 24, 2010

Top 10, for your consideration:

10.Arcade Fire - The Suburbs - We Used to Wait
I never really glommed on to Arcade Fire. I know, that makes my cred as a music critic totally disappear. Not that I have any, because my lists totally deviate from the critics’ lists every year. Anyway, The Suburbs is the first album of theirs that I really think I’ve “got.” Somehow the artwork and the mood of the songs and the lyrics all cohere into an album that is most definitely about the suburbs. The tone swings from melancholy to uplifting, and the album nails a certain “feeling.” My favorite song is We Used to Wait, because I used to write letters, and I used to sign my name.

9.Two Cow Garage - Sweet St Me
After a disappointing release in Speaking in Cursive, Two Cow Garage is back with their most musically adventurous record to date. Like basically every other band, they’ve added keys to the mix, which really doesn’t add as much as they’d probably like it to. What does work is that they’ve brought the guitars more to the forefront and their songwriting has caught up with their southern rock mentality. Lyrically strong and catchy as hell, this is my kind of music.

8. The Like - Release Me - Release Me
Whoever’s idea it was to turn this group from a pretty basic pop punk band into a 60’s girl group with electric guitars deserves a raise. This album is markedly different from their previous release, and undoubtedly for the better. Release Me is one of my favorite songs of the year. Narcissus in a Red Dress is a slow burning groove. Really, every song on here is danceable and really bridges the gap between 60’s girl pop groups and pop punk groups today. This was a perfect summer album.

7.Black Keys - Brothers
It’s unfortunate that the songs from Brothers don’t translate well live, because this is probably the Black Keys’ best album. It’s definitely their most musically mature, moving further away from their straight up blues roots and into more diverse sounds. Dan’s voice is more nimble than ever here, hitting falsetto notes and his usual notes equally often. The addition of more instruments to the mix helps. I just hope they can figure out how to mix it all live. Check out Everlasting Light, Tighten Up, or Sinister Kid.

6.Fake Problems - Real Ghosts Caught on Tape
Each album these guys put out is different than the last, while retaining that certain je nai sais quoi that makes Fake Problems stand out. Their first couple releases sounded like an Against Me! imitator, but with It’s Great to Be Alive, and now Real Ghosts, they’ve moved into much more interesting territory. Intricate guitar work, Chris’s distinctive voice, and some catchy as hell songwriting make this a winner. Songs for Teenagers is a great single, and Grand Finale shows how the band can write a guitar anthem with the best of them.

5.Seven Degrees of Stephen Egerton - S/T
I may have liked this album more than anyone else in the world, but damnit, this record IS my college years. I never thought I’d hear a new ALL song, a new Descendents song, a new Armchair Martian song. But basically, with guest singers like Chad Price, Milo Aukerman, Scott Reynolds, and Jon Snodgrass, that’s what happens here. This is a pop punk tour de force. Every song reminds me of the best ALL had to offer, and every song makes me want to sing along. I absolutely love this album.

4.Gamits - Parts
I don’t know what happened to Chris Fogal between Antidote and Parts, but if I had to guess I’d say he smoked shards of glass and gargled with razorblades on a regular basis. Whatever happened, he sounds a little like Brendan from The Lawrence Arms, and that’s not a bad thing. To match his roughed up voice, the band decided to turn up the intensity and write by far the hardest (and for my money, hands down the best) Gamits album to date. It’s a risky proposition coming back after so many years and a new lineup, but everything clicks here, especially the terrific This Shell.

3.Dillinger Escape Plan - Option Paralysis
Widower, the sixth song on Option Paralysis, is one of the best songs this year. It encapsulates everything that the Dillinger Escape Plan have become, and shows where they’re going. With each album, they’ve grown further and further from their math thrash metal roots. Option Paralysis finally shows the band at what must be their pinnacle. They’re still punishingly heavy, with impossibly fast guitars and drums and ridiculously timed songs. But in the midst of all that, SONGS emerge. Choruses, 4/4 time, singing. This is an absolutely essential album that has something for everyone. Widower starts with a pretty piano line and Greg singing softly before it picks up speed and intensity. As it goes on, it builds and builds until it explodes into an epic handcore breakdown. Seriously, the second best song this year. Also, if you appreciate drums, you’ll wonder how in the hell Billy Rymer is able to play this stuff. It sounds like he’s doing the work of three men behind that kit.

2.Against Me! - White Crosses
I wrote a review for this one already. But to sum up, I was worried after New Wave, because that album was not that good. Even today, when I go back to listen to it, it’s just not great. White Crosses is. Admittedly, Against Me! is probably my favorite band of all time, so I can’t be unbiased. And admittedly, part of me misses the AM! of old. And admittedly, Tom’s lyrics are not as good as they used to be for the most part. But White Crosses is one hell of a rock and roll album, and songs like Because of the Shame and Bamboo Bones cannot be argued with.

1.Gaslight Anthem - American Slang
At first, I was a little put off because this is not The ‘59 Sound. But as I listened more and more, I realized this album is more original, more mature, and better. The Gaslight Anthem really pushed out of their familiar territory with this one, while retaining the excellent songwriting that they’ve always had. They’re not a Springsteen punk cover band anymore. They’re the Gaslight Anthem. They wrote this album, full of excellent songs like Bring It On, Boxer, Orphans, The Diamond Church Street Choir, and really every other song on here. Really, there was never any doubt. This was the best album released this year.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Part 2 of my Best Albums list.

15. Cee-Lo Green - The Lady Killer
Fuck You was the best song of the year, hands down. The rest of the album doesn’t consistently hit those heights, but I’d say about two-thirds of it gets pretty close. Lyrically, it’s bland and extremely chorus-heavy, but melodically this is some catchy, catchy stuff.

14. Weezer - Hurley
It’s not really worth recounting the ups and downs of Weezer’s career at this point. Let’s just say that I was skeptical about this one coming out a year after last year’s totally vapid and uninspired Raditude. And, as much as I love Lost, slapping a picture of Jorge Garcia on the cover and titling the album Hurley didn’t really make it seem like much effort was being put into this one either. I was pleasantly surprised though, when I found much improved lyrics (still not poet laureate stuff, but at least no songs about going to the mall) and varied song structures. This is without a doubt the Weez’s best album since Pinkerton. Ruling Me rocks particularly hard.

13. Smoke or Fire - The Speakeasy
More politically charged than usual, The Speakeasy is a nice continuation from 2007’s excellent This Sinking Ship. Smoke or Fire have quietly become one of the most consistent punk bands working today, with strong lyrics and great energy, even in acoustic numbers like Honey, I Was Right About the War.

12. Sufjan Stevens - All Delighted People - Djohariah
The better of the two Sufjan releases this year is this “EP” that is ridiculously long. It features more traditional instrumentation, though Sufjan’s new-found penchant for writing absurdly long and varied songs is on display. Old fans will easily get into the sub-five-minute-long songs on here, but my favorite track is the closer Djohariah, structured like a much longer Sister from Seven Swans, with a long instrumental section that starts the song, only to have it turn into a beautifully simple acoustic song at the end. To me, if Sufjan Stevens wants to keep experimenting with song structure, this EP is the direction he should go.

11. Janelle Monae - The ArchAndroid
The first two-thirds of this album are SO good, so inventive and different and catchy and exciting, that I’m able to forgive the last third for being so slow and repetitive. Structured as two “suites” (parts II and III), this is somewhat of a sci-fi R&B concept album. Suite II should be taught in R&B school for the rest of time as a way to show newcomers what the genre is capable of. Songs flow together, swinging wildly in tone and voice, each one as interesting as the last. Had the album consisted only of Suite II, it would definitely have cracked my top 10. Unfortunately, Suite III has none of the manic energy of its predecessor and leaves the album overlong and ending on a low note.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Time for the end of the year lists. Again, there's not a lot of crossover between the actual music critics and what I like. That's what happens I guess when you become a jaded old man who only likes the music he listened to when he was a kid. Today, 20-16 on the Top Albums of the Year list.

20. Brendan Kelly & Joe McMahon - Wasted Potential
Fun for the fans of The Lawrence Arms and Smoke or Fire, the acoustic songs on this album are sloppy and imperfect, but that makes them different enough from their regular versions that this is actually a worthwhile addition to their catalogs. Brendan’s version of Kiss the Bottle is so vastly different (and arguably better) than any other version I’ve heard that it almost sounds like a completely different song.

19. Big Boi - Sir Lucious Leftfoot: The Son of Chico Dusty
My token rap album for the year. This doesn’t get bogged down in the usual mainstream rap tropes (bragging, sex, money, etc). Big Boi is handy with a quick turn of phrase, the beats are fun, and the intensity keeps up throughout, making this a quick hour-long listen.

18. Corin Tucker Band - 1000 Years
I absolutely loved The Woods, the last album before Sleater-Kinney broke up. 1000 Years, from SK’s lead singer, could have been a slightly less noisy continuation of that band, and indeed some songs sound like SK B-sides. What’s much more interesting, and better, are the songs that sound nothing like SK. This album’s biggest strength is its diversity. It moves from balls-out rockers to quiet piano ballads while retaining a solid core, and shows sides of Corin Tucker that I don’t think we’ve ever seen before.

17. Ted Leo - The Brutalist Bricks
For my money, the best opening to an album this year is Ted Leo shouting “When the cafe doors exploded, I reacted too, reacted to you.” Teddy’s always been able to open and close an album. Where Living with the Living was bloated and unfocused, The Brutalist Bricks is completely honed in on rocking you to death. You won’t find any ill-advised reggae songs here, just raw energy. Unfortunately, all that energy created a somewhat one-note album, with the best songs being the ones that deviate from the norm - Bottled in Cork, Bartolomeo and the Buzzing of Bees, etc.

16. Sufjan Stevens - Age of Adz
Sufjan really went off the reservation in the years since Illinois came out. He lost faith in “the song,” wrote an orchestral piece about the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, and generally was a weirdo. The Age of Adz is then even more sprawling than his older albums. He’s embraced the electro-pop that is so popular right now, but he bends it in ways infinitely more interesting than most of his peers. The problem is, he’s so concerned with experimenting with sounds and song forms that the songs often get lost. It’s a very dense album, much easier to admire than to like, although after a few listens some of the greatness of old Sufjan shines through. Futile Devices, the first track, is almost tear-inducingly beautiful. It’s the strongest track on the album, and also the most reminiscent of the older albums. Coincidence?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Thus, I presented you with the latest in our long-running series, Twisted Survey:

1. What time did you get up this morning?
Man, you know I just get down.

2. How do you like your steak?
Like I like my women. You know what that means.

3. What was the last film you saw at the cinema?
Because I have never been to England, or some equally poshy country, I have never seen a "film" at a "cinema." But the last "flick" I saw at the "picture show" was something or other.

4. What are your favorite TV shows?
Say Yes to the the Ghost Hunting, Kardashian Police Women of 90210

5. If you could live anywhere in the world where would it be?
Anywhere in the county of McCrackin, KY.

6. What did you have for breakfast?
Pieces of shit like you.

7. What is your favorite cuisine?

8. What foods do you dislike?
I like and dislike foods based on the ethnicities they represent. So, if you know me, you know I love the hard-working Mexicans and Mafia-running Italians, and hate the better-than-me-at-math Asians and the we-try-to-take-over-the-world-every-couple-generations-but-fail Germans.

9. Favorite Place to Eat
At a table.

10. Favorite salad dressings?
I find that a nice mixture of ketchup and mayonnaise really fits most bills, unless there's chicken in the salad, in which case you'll want to add in some bbq sauce.

11.What kind of vehicle do you drive?
A horseless carriage.

12. What are your favorite clothes?
Daisy dukes and a bikini on top.

13. Where would you visit if you had the chance?
1271 Luna Road, Farmers Branch, TX. Or your mom's house.

14. Cup 1/2 empty or 1/2 full?
It's 3/4 full of destroyed dreams and broken promises, and 1/4 empty of hope and love. With sugar on the rim. Shaken, not stirred. Garnished with an orange slice.

15. Where would you want to retire?
My secret underground lair, from whence I will commence my plan to take over the world. I mean, Boca Raton. Which is not where my underground lair is. Muahahaha.

16. Favorite time of day?
12:34:56. Doesn't matter whether it's AM or PM, it's still PARTY TIIIIME!

17 Where were you born?
I was born the son of a preacher man, and a coal miner's daughter, so you figure it out.

18. What is your favorite sport to watch?
Dog shows.

19. Who do you think will not tag you back?
Are we playing tag? Am I it? I think I lose.

20. Person you expect to tag you back first?
I don't know, but whoever tries to tag me is going to get shivved in the face.

21.most curious about their responses to this?
I acknowledge no one's existence but my own.

22. Bird watcher?
I'm more of a bird feeler.

23. Are you a morning person or a night person?
I am Caucasian.

24. Pets?
Pets are domesticated animals that people have and feed and pick up feces for. All pets descended from giant tree squirrels about 17,000 years ago. Oftentimes you think your pet is awesome, but your pet is actually annoying as shit and everyone hates it. Sometimes your pet runs away, which means it hates you.

25. Any new and exciting news that you'd like to share?
BREAKING NEWS! I just called to say I love you.

26. What did you want to be when you were little?
Rich as shit.

27. What is your best childhood memory?
Not getting molested.

28. Are you a cat or dog person?
I am a full blooded human, and I think genetic engineering for the purpose of creating a race of mutant cat and/or dog people is ethically wrong, and totally awesome and where do I sign up?

29. Are you married?
To my job. hyuk hyuk. No but seriously, I can show you the wedding certificate. Republicans and church leaders are up in arms. Where will it end? People marrying jobs, what next? People marrying chairs? People marrying cats? Two loving human beings of the same gender trying to unite under the law and reap the same benefits as two people of opposite genders? It disgusts me.

30. Always wear your seat belt?
I think you meant to put a period after that. Always wear your seat belt. You're welcome.

31. Been in a car accident?
I've plowed into cars, run people over, and ruined several lawnscapes, but I wouldn't call any of them "accidents."

32. Any pet peeves?
I have no pets, but I'm interested in a peeve. Is it a cross between a peacock and a beaver?

33. Favorite pizza topping?

34. Favorite Flower?
I find that whole wheat flour just isn't the same as your standard flour. Tortillas made from whole wheat do not make delicious crunchy quesadillas like regular flour ones.

35. Favorite ice cream?
Anything melted over a hot cherry pie or brownie, fed to me by servant women.

36. Favorite fast food restaurant
Bonzo's Whipped Cream Pie Emporium will feed you a whipped cream pie faster than anyone else in town, Guaranteed.

37. How many times did you fail your driver's test?
The driver's ed book never said it was frowned upon to drive while doing the crossword, drinking coffee, playing on an Ipad, and applying eyeliner, so while I may have failed once, I maintain to this day that I didn't know I couldn't do that.

38. From whom did you get your last email?
Jesus, just thanking me for such a cool dude. You know how it is.

39. Which store would you choose to max out your credit card?
Circuit City. Circuit City went out of business? Fuck it then, I don't need credit cards anymore.

40. Do anything spontaneous lately?
I was going to say no, but then I thought that would seem lame, so I punched a baby in the face, so yeah.

41. Like your job?
If you read the last two questions together, as in "Do anything spontaneous lately? Like your job?" it sounds a little accusatory, and I'm not sure I like your tone, buster.

42. Broccoli?
Okay. I let things slide on these sometimes. But "Broccoli?" is not a question. In no way, shape, or form is that a question. You can't put a question mark on a noun and call it a question. "Slide?" "Window?" Nope.

43. What was your favorite vacation?
That time I went back in time and thought I shot Hitler, but it was really Charlie Chaplin. We had some laughs about that, boy, did we ever. But then I had to go back in time and shoot myself so that Charlie Chaplin could bring joy to millions again. Time travel, man. It's so complicated.

44. Last person you went out to dinner with?
The Dark Lord Satan. We had a nice time. Went to this very intimate French place, ate some snails, damned some souls. Then Satan had too much to drink and I had to take him home. You know how it is with Satan, that lush.

45. What are you listening to right now?
The voice inside my head telling me to do it.

46. What is your favorite color?
The color of your eyes, baby.

47. How many tattoos do you have?
None, but I do own Tattoo from Fantasy Island. I'm willing to sell or trade if anyone has anything worthwhile.

48. Coffee drinker?
No, I prefer to get my energy the old fashioned way. Cocaine.

49. How many children do you have?
Several. THAT I KNOW OF!

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Ah, the political ad. It’s an art form, perfected over years of trial and error. I imagine the first political ads actually described what the candidates were going to do in office. You know, like a product commercial. When you see Oxy Clean on TV, the commercial shows you why you need Oxy Clean. That shit will clean anything! Look at that weird British guy who is not Billy Mays. He is clearly no Billy Mays, but it doesn’t really matter who the pitchman is because the product works. Or look how EXTREME those Mountain Dew drinkers are. Man, if I drank some Dew I could totally surf on the back of a shark. That’s what ads do. They show you the product, tell you why you should buy the product, and that’s it. Makes sense, right?

At some point, even during my lifetime, if I remember correctly, political ads worked the same way. Here’s your candidate, and here’s what he’s going to do once he’s in office, and here’s why you should vote for him, and that’s it. Sure, every promise they would make was a bold-faced lie, but at least they were lying about themselves. Then at some point, someone decided that wasn’t enough.

Let’s say that at some point, Candidate A was at a town hall meeting, and someone asked him “Hey, you’re pro-choice, right?” Candidate A responds “Well sure, but with limitations. I don’t think you should abort everything in all instances.” Candidate B hears this and comes out with:

“Candidate A – baby eater. Can you believe what Candidate A said? ‘Abort everything in all instances.’ Candidate A will kill your kids and eat that shit UP. He’ll take a rock, bash you in the stomach until you discharge that baby, and then make soup from it. Candidate A will murder your grandparents and fuck your mom. Do you want a murderous, baby-eating mom-fucker in office? Vote Candidate B.”

The genius behind this move is that you don’t know shit about Candidate B. Candidate B could be a crack-smoking, abusive, Communist dogfighter, who rapes as a hobby. But his game is to get you to vote for him because at least he’s not eating babies. So Candidate A fires back with his own attack ad, and soon, as the voter, you are left with a choice. Vote baby-eater or rapist?

It may well be that these politicians actually have agendas that they’d like to accomplish in Washington, but you’d never know it from the ads we’ve been bombarded with this political season. And it’s hard to get excited about either party when you know one of them is going to fuck your mom and one of them is going to kill your dog. But you still have to vote.

When you look at the big picture, your choice is made a little clearer. The Democrats have had control of Washington for two years, and they have done very little except whine about Republicans not playing nice. They passed a health care bill that no one understands or knows anything about (don’t act like you do). They spent a lot of money trying to stop the recession, which no one knows if it worked (don’t act like you do) or if it just ended naturally. But no matter what you’ve been told, they did not turn the country into Communist Russia, sell white people into slavery, or make Islam the official religion of the US.

Republicans, if you’ll remember, fucked up so bad in so many ways that we threw them all out of power two years ago. Nothing has changed about them since then. They want rich people to get richer, creationism to be taught in public schools, abortions to be illegal, gays to be treated as second class citizens, pot smokers to be locked up in prison, and to use all these bombs that we’ve been accumulating.

Democrats want to take all your money and give it to lazy worthless poor people, let illegal immigrants take all our jobs, abort all the babies, people to be able to marry their pets, everyone to be high all the time, us to pull our military out of every country while pissing ourselves and asking people to please not hurt us, and to kill God.

Happy election day.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Time for the latest edition of Adam Comments on What Everyone Else has Already Commented On.

You know Juan Williams of NPR? He got fired for saying, and I quote, "All Muslims are trying to kill us all the time, and I think we should just nuke the Middle East, gas chamber the shit out of Muslims, and live on in a peaceful world free of the Muslim scourge."

Or he might as well have, the way NPR's knee jerked him out of a job and into right-wing hero status. What he actually said was "Sure, when I see someone in Muslim garb on a plane, I get a little nervous, BUT OBVIOUSLY NOT ALL MUSLIMS ARE TERRORISTS."

It's just that the last little bit of information there was left off of basically all the reporting. This is similar to the Shirley Sherrod thing a while back when she got fired immediately after it was reported that she said she didn't help a white farmer because he was white. In that case, they left off the entire rest of her message, where she realized she was wrong for that, and used the story as a message of racial tolerance.

When I was a kid, I always thought it would be funny to edit together clips of people saying words and making them say ridiculous things. If you can find a clip of someone saying "I hate black licorice," and one of them saying "Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday," and one of them saying "People like to dance," you could make them say "I hate...Jewish...people." But now that this is ACTUALLY happening on the news, it's not nearly as funny.

Oftentimes to make a point in a debate, you have to show common ground with your opponent. I recently volunteered at a food bank, helping people get their government subsidized food to their cars. Right-wingers say government should not do this, and they often point to lazy minorities who have babies and collect government checks and don't look for work. Having seen what I saw, I would say "Yes, there are young minorities with six kids in tow picking up their free food, but the majority of these people were older, often foreign people who didn't save enough money or just need some help to get by, and I would hate to see these decent people punished because of a small number of government assistance abusers."

If that were shown on the news, my statement would be "There are minorities with six kids in tow picking up their free food."

This is not responsible journalism. I suppose there are a few hyper-enlightened individuals who can walk through the inner city past groups of dangerous looking teenagers without their heart rates increasing. I suppose there are a few people who, on September 13th, 2001, could get on an airplane with a Muslim guy and not think, "Well that's off-putting." But I'd wager that most of us are like Juan Williams. We can admit that, though it's wrong, we do have preconceived notions about people and things. His point was, though, that we can feel like that instinctively, but our rational brains can override those feelings.

NPR didn't think rationally, they just instinctively fired the guy for a misconstrued half-statement. For a news company that pretends to be the rational one, that move was not very impressive.

Friday, October 22, 2010

I have made a movie. Rated PG-13 for content, F- for quality. Enjoy!