Friday, January 28, 2011

Friday Random 11

It’s one more random than 10!

I went to the Packers-Bears game last week. Despite the loss, the day itself was great. We started at a bar, took a “party bus” to the game (a schoolbus with a keg in the back), ate chocolate whip cream straight out of a can, drank from both our officially purchased drinks at the stadium and the unofficial whiskey and schnapps we brought in, bitched and froze during the terrible first half, screamed and warmed up during the exciting second half, and after the loss made our way back to the bar on a bus that, while still containing a keg, had lost the “party” part.

That’s a sucky part about being a sports fan—no matter how well your team does, it’s the final thing that happens in the season that sticks with you. The Bears had a good year, much better than I or any other fans I know expected. I should celebrate that and look back fondly on what was generally a fun season. Instead, I feel like I did after the Super Bowl a few years ago, very disappointed to have my favorite team get so close and yet pull up lame.

I also know that being this passionate about beefy millionaires colliding into each other with tremendous force is a silly passion to have. But I can’t help myself. I’ve been a Bears fan since around the time I was seven and wearing my Walter Payton footie pajamas. I have a huge amount of history with this team, and no matter how much they disappoint or how ridiculous pro sports are or how much Jay Cutler sulks, I can’t quit them. After all, I don’t know what my brother Tickle and I would talk about.

1) “Message in a Bottle (Live),” The Police. “So Lonely” is my personal Police favorite, but I think “Message in a Bottle” is their greatest song. They took their reggae and rock influences and fused them into something that sounds very unique. I also like the reverse approach to slow-fast/quiet-loud, where the verses rock out and the chorus slows down to a reggae pace.

2) “Killer Parties,” The Hold Steady. As you get older, your quotient of killer parties definitely declines. That’s probably for the best, as us geezers have to save our dwindling brain cells instead of washing them down into our livers in a drunken frenzy. Still, there’s something about going to a truly killer party, where you just don’t have any cares in the world and let yourself completely give in to having a good time. I don’t do that nearly enough, and maybe that’s why I like Vegas so much. Or taking a party bus to a Bears game.

3) “Chiquitita,” ABBA. I was about to make a snarky ABBA comment, then remembered I watched all of Hall and Oates Behind The Music: Remastered the other night. In other words, I don’t have a mustache to stand on.

4) “Hello Goodbye,” The Beatles. It is amazing to me that, 40 years after they broke up, The Beatles are still one of the most creative groups in rock history. They’re not my favorite, but I can’t think of any other band that managed to be so innovative and yet still so damn catchy.

5) “Let It Go,” Def Leppard. Of course, after that fine bit of Beatles haute cuisine, I am even more delighted to wolf down this hair-band cheeseburger. It’s stupid (not clever), it’s sexist (not sexy), and yet whenever any of their songs from High ‘N’Dry or Pyromania come on, I immediately reach for the volume knob (heh-heh, I said knob).

6) “Mrs. Rita,” Gin Blossoms. One of the four or five songs off of New Miserable Experience that I never get tired of hearing. It’s got just the right balance between Beatles chime and 90s crunch. I also like that it doesn’t really sound dated.

7) “Allentown,” Billy Joel. Speaking of sounding dated. However, I am glad this came up, because 30 Rock had an amazing Billy Joel gag last night. A lot of times when I watch comedy shows I love, I fantasize about being a writer for them. I don’t do that with 30 Rock because I don’t believe I’m funny enough to write for that show. There are almost always at least two moments where I have to pause the show because I am laughing so hard.

8) “Hit Me With Your Best Shot,” Pat Benatar. My love affair with fake instrument playing is a long one. I used to air guitar this song using a toy spear as my guitar—a fake Indian or Zulu spear that I got from Disney World or some other theme park back when you could sell violent, quasi-racist toys to children. For some reason, I felt less stupid pretending that toy spear was a guitar instead of just playing an invisible one. This is why children are not allowed to vote. Also, there is just a ridiculously long amount of cheering before this video starts.

9) “High and Dry,” Radiohead. Quite a different take on the title than Def Leppard’s. I think it would be awesome for Radiohead to put out an entire album of cock rock covers, all done Radiohead style. Imagine them doing serious covers of Whitesnake’s “Slide It In” or Warrant’s “Cherry Pie.” The entire staff at Pitchfork would spontaneously combust. That alone would make it worth it.

10) “Mrs. Robinson,” The Lemonheads. One of my Facebook friends put “I miss The Lemonheads” as his Facebook status this week, so apparently iTunes is now trolling Facebook, too. Soon we will have no secrets because the machines will know all! Unrelated: Evan Dando is so dreamy.

11) “Misty Mountain Hop,” Led Zeppelin. Awesome and well known, so no need to expound on that. However, I would like to mention that I think America has reached a dangerous James Franco saturation level, or Peak Franco. He acts, he directs, he writes, he paints, he rescues puppies, he grows perfect irony mustaches, he’s working on a Ph.D. an astroneuralbiosurgerology, a doctoral program he created from scratch for which he serves as its only grad student, his advisor, and the program chair…we fucking get it. You are better than us. You’re smarter, you’re handsomer, you’re nearly a match for Spiderman whereas we would still be hanging from a flagpole in a Spidey net. Now please go away so I can return to my normal levels of inadequacy.

Here’s hoping you have a good, Franco-less weekend.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Top Ten Tuesdays: What will we hear in tonight's State of the Union?

10) To make universal health coverage more palatable to Republicans, all those without health coverage must first undergo leeching and faith healing before being able to see a doctor.

9) American holdings in hope and change will be sold and invested in the more profitable blood and oil funds.

8) The White House will promote more Judeo-Christian values by requiring all sex in the Lincoln Bedroom to be missionary-position only.

7) A request to make political discourse more civil and non-confrontational by changing calls to kill our political opponents into requests for our political opponents to commit suicide.

6) In order to reduce the future demand on social security, all Americans will be required to consume a plate of fried cheese every day.

5) Plans to improve educational performance by allowing students to take “Xbox” as a foreign language.

4) A challenge to the energy, auto, and music industries to make a car that runs on alternative rock energy.

3) That in order to convince the American people that Democrats are the right choice for America, they must act more like Republicans.

2) A counterpoint by John Boehner outlining how Republicans will reduce government spending to 1908 levels.

1) A pledge to reduce our deficit without cutting spending or raising taxes by continuing our search for a magical unicorn that shits bricks of gold.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Top Ten Wednesdays: How are we improving relations with China?

10) Conducting joint culinary exercises under the commands of General Tso and Colonel Sanders.

9) Stimulating job creation and trade by allowing a 20% increase in lead content in Chinese-made toys/toothpaste/baby food as long as China uses U.S.-made lead.

8) Allowing Yao Ming to defend the low post with an AK-47.

7) Working off our debt to China by doing their laundry.

6) Collaborating on a secret project to put North Korea in a giant sack and drown it in the Pacific.

5) Strengthening cultural ties by finally greenlighting, “Fortune Cookie: The Movie”

4) Easing tensions by forbidding U.S. news outlets from using the words pollution, human rights violations, environmental disaster, imprisoned Nobel Prize recipient, or mass recall due to high levels of toxicity when reporting on China.

3) Letting them acquire California on a rent-to-own plan.

2) Requiring all unwed U.S. mothers to receive government assistance only if they agree to go on a date with a lonely Chinese man.

1) Getting drunk together and prank calling Japan at 4 a.m.

Monday, January 17, 2011

R.I.P. Bugsy

For the second time in six months, The Lovely Becky and I have had to put a cat down. This time it was Bugsy, aka Stinky, who contracted pancreatic cancer. He was 14, fairly old in kitty years, but still, we hoped we would have had him for at least a couple more.

Bugsy was a dumpster rescue from Brooklyn, and he always had a bit of a New Yorker's attitude. He took no shit from any cat, and while he would occasionally start trouble, most of the time he just wanted to go about his business without being bothered. He got his Christian name because he was a champion bug chaser in his youth. I gave him his nickname of Stinky because he was also a world-class cat-box-bomb dropper.

When TLB first brought him home, he drove me crazy, both because he was a frequent toe-nibbler and also because he loved to bother our older cat, Bubba. Once Bugsy matured, though, he became an incredibly friendly, unassuming cat, content to sleep and warm laps and never really cause problems.

His unassuming nature made it easy to forget he was around, and yet his absence now is very apparent. He was a good cat and our lives were better because we had him. R.I.P., Stinky.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Friday Random 11

It’s one more random than 10!

It’s nice to actually post a Top Ten Tuesday and a Friday Random 11 on their designated days for the first time in forever. It’s also very nice to have this be the debut Random 11 for my new computer speakers. My old ones pooped out after nearly eight years of loud, booming service, and my spoiled, bratty ears couldn’t deign to stoop down to sticking with the crappy Dell speakers I had temporarily turned to.

I wish I was above material things bringing me happiness, but I’m really not. I was giddy about having an excuse for shopping for new speakers. Giddy. It’s not like I even bought anything super fancy, some hand-made computer speakers crafted by Italian monks who take a vow of silence so that they can better hear ever decibel of awesomeness from their tweeters. Still, I did my Internet research, actually bought the same Klipsch speakers that had died, did more Internet research, had immediate buyer’s remorse, returned said speakers the next day, ordered different ones off Amazon, bounded up the stairs to fetch them when they were delivered, and forced my poor wife to sit in my chair while I gushed about how great they sounded. Yes, I am a crazy person.

Music time...

1) “Nitro (Youth Energy),” The Offspring. I love when I start this off and get exactly the kind of song I need. It’s a blah day outside, and for whatever reason the longest Fridays are always the ones before a three-day weekend. So a bit of fast-paced 90s punk revival is a welcome jolt of 3-minute energy.

2) “Super Inuit,” Holy Fuck. I’m not a big dance/electronica guy, but I like Holy Fuck because they bring a rock show ethos to their music: real instruments to go with the electronic/sampling gadgets, with a lot of jamming to go with the grooving. I also love the “Who’s on First” potential with their band name:

--Holy fuck, who is this?
--Holy Fuck
--I know, I love it. But who is it?
--Holy Fuck
--What the fuck? You trying to keep it a secret or something? Don’t want other people to like your precious little indie band, because if other people like them then you won’t be able to? All I want to know is who they are so I can get their album.
--Holy Fuck!

3) “Don’t Let It Bring You Down (Live),” Neil Young. I laugh when Neil sings “lorries” in place of “trucks.” Hey, we speak American in this country, you dirty Canadian communist. This is from the Live at Massey Hall 1971 album, which is an incredible live album—stripped down, just Young and his guitar or piano. It reminds me that he’s one of the rare artists who sounds as good stripped down as he does amped up. He can sing a quiet, folky song and then turn around and jam out 10-minutes of fuzzy, Crazy-Horse fueled, feedback-drenched rock.

4) “Hallelujah (Live),” Jeff Buckley. The Lovely Becky and I take turns putting Libby to bed each night. This involves getting Libby to brush her teeth, picking out a couple of books to read, and then singing her a couple of songs. I have a three-song block I go to: “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,” “Rock a Bye Baby,” and “Libby in the Sky With Diamonds,” my own customized cover of The Beatles classic. I pick these because I sing slightly worse than Ringo and these three songs are not terribly challenging. TLB, on the other hand, has a lovely singing voice, and one of her regular songs is “Hallelujah.” As amazing as it is when I hear Buckley sing it, it really gets me when I hear my wife singing it to our daughter. It’s also funny whenever Libby hears the song outside of the bedtime context, because she gets excited and starts saying, “Mommy sing this to Libby!”

5) “Dog Years,” Rush. This is in my top 5 for worst Rush songs ever, mostly because the lyrics are just dreadful. Just stanza after stanza of cringe-inducing plays on dog-related words, with the point of how life is precious or some shit because dogs live less or something. Let me tell you, if I could stay home and lick myself and just piss wherever I felt like it when I was outside, every day would be a festival.

6) “You’re All I Have,” Snow Patrol. I hate the term Adult Album Alternative. It’s one of those radio programming subgenres where they play stuff that rocks a little because you’re still young enough to rock, but not too much, because you don’t want too much rocking when you’ve got the kids in the Dodge Caravan. Snow Patrol is like the opening band for AAA. At this point, I would normally make some further joke about how this is soft rock for the post-Weezer set, except that I like this. That triggers a process of being mad at myself, because truth be told, I feel like I’m too cool for AAA, except that I’m really not, and I get annoyed at being a music snobby cobag in the first place. It’s because of stupid internal arguments like this that I wish I could occasionally take my brain out and let it cool on a window ledge for a couple of hours.

7) “Boris the Spider,” The Who. John Entwistle was a weird, weird guy. This song always leaves me a bit unsettled because it’s got the strange chorus and the “creepy-crawly” bit, which instinctively makes my skin itch like I have a spider on me.

8) “Hummer,” Smashing Pumpkins. I was sitting at a light next to an H2 the other day, and TLB said, “That guy’s going to love filling that up when gas is five dollars a gallon.” So true. There’s also a former Hummer dealership I pass whenever I go to Iowa City. It used to have rows and rows of Hummers lined up. Now the lot is a lot more sparse, and they took down the huge HUMMER sign on the side of the showroom building, except you can still clearly see the outlines of the letters. Even though I’m happy to see the Hummer go, it’s still kind of depressing to see the failed remnants of our hubris on display.

9) “Great Salt Lake,” Band of Horses. I have no idea what this song is really about, but that doesn’t get in the way of me enjoying it. It makes me think of all the times I’ve flown out west and how much I love looking out the window when I reach the Rockies. I like to look out at the desert and see the big stretches where there’s nothing, except for maybe a lonely ranch or a tiny, tiny town. I think about how breathtaking it must be to wake up and see the red-browns of the canyons and hills. Then I think about how much it would suck to be trapped in that area when a bunch of giant worms come to eat you. Pop culture has really ruined my mind.

10) “Pump It Up,” Elvis Costello & the Attractions. My Rock Band drums died this week. I went to play them and they wouldn’t turn on, which is the electronic equivalent of dying peacefully in your sleep. I’m actually surprised it took three years considering the amount of ham-fisted, out-of-time abuse they took while I attempted to play along with songs like this. I was far more bummed out about their passing than a grown man should be, but damn if those drums and I didn’t have some fun on our pretend tours. Oh, if that green pad could talk....

11) “Remedy,” The Black Crowes. A great album despite the annoying title. The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion is one of those overly complicated for no reason titles, like putting on a pair of dress pants when you’re just going to 7-11 to get some milk. I remember buying it despite the title because I really liked their first album. Glad I did, because it’s been a staple for me for nearly 20 years. I love how everything is arranged meticulously, yet they still get the energy of playing in a roadhouse to a room full of drunks. Great sound + drunk energy=awesome in my rock book. Also great because I don’t think my nose could handle the smell of seeing The Black Crowes live.

Have a great weekend, and go Bears!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Top Ten Tuesdays: How are we reacting to the Arizona shooting?

Special extra defensive edition!

15) Why are you blaming conservatives? We didn’t have anything to do with this!

14) Oh, sorry, you actually weren’t blaming conservatives. There’s a lot of that going around.

13) Because, and we want to make this abundantly clear, when we put a crosshairs on someone, we don’t mean they should actually be killed. We mean that they should be eliminated.

12) From office! And not eliminated, no one is saying eliminated. You know, let’s just scrub that from the record. Besides, those weren’t crosshairs. Those were surveyor’s marks, like you’d use when mapping the political landscape or deciding if a bridge should be taken out with an airstrike.

11) Fuck, sorry, we can’t help ourselves with the military analogies. That’s all they are, analogies. You know, Republicans:Godliness::Guns:Freedom.

10) Likewise, when we show up at rallies against the government with guns at our sides, we don’t actually intend to use those guns. They’re an accessory, like necklaces or a watch. Well, not a watch, you can use that, especially when you need to see if it’s time to kick some ass!

9) Sorry, got off track again. We’re not actually kicking anyone’s ass for real. Except during an election. Then it’s open season.

8) Not for hunting! Conservatives don’t hunt humans, except for Dick Cheney.

7) Why are you bringing up Cheney again? He’s not even in office anymore!

6) The other thing is, you liberals have to stop taking things so literally. We don’t actually intend to water the tree of liberty with actual blood. We're talking about peaceful change, and we can't understand why you're confused about our intentions.

5) This is just a case of a mentally unstable person acting on his own. If only he had gotten the help he needed, maybe this wouldn’t have happened.

4) Of course, I’m not suggesting that we have some kind of government program for the mentally ill. That’s socialism. I’m sure there will be a free market solution when someone finds a way to make money off of poor crazy people.

3) What’s that? How did he get a gun if he was mentally unstable? Show me the part of the constitution that says crazy people can’t own firearms. Look, you can’t hold up the gun-buying process for the vast majority of the non-crazy gun-buying public just because a few whackos were able to purchase firearms. That’s plain nuts.

2) Simply put, we can’t let the actions of one madman deter us from showing up public gatherings bearing arms, talking about bloody revolution, and targeting politicians for removal. We’re only doing that because we’re trying to restore this country to its Christian roots, and if we don’t do that, then the Islamofascists will win.

1) The bottom line is this: When it comes to this shooting, conservatives are definitely not responsible.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Friday Favorite 11: The Favortist of 2010

Includes free bonus Circumindecision EP:
Five songs that didn’t make the cut but are still attached to the head of the list!

2010 was a very schizophrenic year for me. There were great highs (getting out of the Upper Peninsula, moving into a new house) and great lows (trying to sell our old house, the death of my grandma) and a lot of things in between (living with my in-laws for six months, living rent-free for six months). As I write this from the comfy space of my new home, things ended very well. But it wasn’t easy getting here.

My favorite tunes reflected that a lot this year. For one thing, the frustration and anger I felt this year resulted in me listening to a lot of heavy metal—most of it old, but some of it new. When I feel like shit, I need music that picks me up, and metal has done that for me since I was 10 years old. (Oh, to have a 10-year-old’s problems again).

At the same time, a lot of great stuff happened this year. We moved back to Chicago, which I now realize is exactly where I wanted to end up. We bought a great house, one where I can see The Lovely Becky, Libby, and I growing up and growing old together. After 40 years of changing addresses approximately once every 1.6 years, I could see myself actually dying in this house. That excites me, because it means I’ll never have to pack anything again (although someone will have to shove me into a box). Once those things started to fall into place, I started to feel awesome, and nothing helps keep me feeling awesome like devil horns, headbanging, guitar solos, and studded leather pants.

In fact, that’s why most of what made my Favoritist list is upbeat, because I either needed the boost or wanted to hang onto that feeling. These songs made it to the top because they were the ones that got me through a trying year while also helping me celebrate the end of it.

As usual, I couldn’t cut this down to just 11 songs, so I present the five-song bonus...

Circumindecision EP

“Ghosts of Midwinter Fires,” Agalloch. I love epic music. A beautifully punchy three-minute song is great. But when I am asked to list my favorite songs from bands that might have really long songs, the really long songs inevitably push their way to the top—“Achilles Last Stand” by Zeppelin, “The Camera Eye” by Rush, “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” by The Who, “Coma” by Guns N’ Roses.

In light of that and that 2010 was a very metal year for me, it’s not surprising that I loved this song the first time I heard it. In fact, it really captures the year—a fairly calm beginning, a raging and thrashing middle, and a triumphant conclusion that settles into a quiet, satisfying coda. At 10 minutes, it also captures the feeling of a year that felt 36 months long. With the growling vocals in the middle section , it’s not for everyone, but it sure as hell was perfect for me.

“Bang Pop,” Free Energy. My main evaluation for a great summer song is: does it sound even better blaring out of car speakers while driving with the windows down? This bouncy bit of 70s guitar pop not only answers in the affirmative, it actually made me wish the sunroof in my car still worked. It has the catchy gait of taking a summer stroll, complete with a snare drum that almost sounds like bubble-gum popping.

“Appetites,” Les Savy Fav. I find it funny whenever anyone suggests putting the Ten Commandments on display, as if they are a guidepost for America, when we live in a country that was built on violating those Ten Commandments. Stealing, working on Sundays, telling our parents to fuck off, murdering those pesky natives...and especially coveting. This whole country relies on coveting, and nothing screws our economy over faster than living frugally. Coveting seems to have reached a fever pitch, too. We covet riches, sex, food, scandal. It explains our ever-increasing need to imitate celebrities and then tear them down, to buy more than we can afford and eat more than we can burn off. Believe me, I include myself in the collective “we,” as demonstrated the pile of drool I leave whenever I look at home theater speakers the size of the 2001 monolith and picture them in my living room. Anyway, this searing opening track from Root for Ruin captures that coveting, with a furious beat and serrated guitar attack serving as musical cavalry for lyrics like we’ve no shame and we’ve no pride and we’ve got nothing left to hide, ‘cause we’ve got nothing left inside, culminating in the shouted chorus, We’ve still got our appetite! It does what great punk songs should do: make a point while also making you want to slam.

“Don’t Look Back,” Kylesa. I love drums, so a metal band that has two drummers is bound to get at least to second base with me. I also love the Internet, because the Internet makes it very easy to find metal bands with two drummers and, to tell the truth, I’m a big fan of second base. Throw in a heavy sound and a simple yet powerful chorus of Keep moving/Don’t look back, and I’m waving Kylesa home.

“Better Things,” Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings. I got tagged with a Facebook meme to list 15 of my favorite albums. My 15 choices in many ways resembled the first four songs I listed today: heavy, rocking, male, and white. Very, very white. In fact, the guy who tagged me made fun of the blinding Caucasianess of my list. I have recognized this before, and I actually have broadened my musical horizons a fair amount in the last few years. Still, when push comes to shove and I have to *heart* my favorite songs, the white cream of Cracker Rock still tends to rise to the top.

However, I used this moment of social networking chagrin to send out another musical expedition to genres I usually overlook. I’m glad that happened, because I otherwise would have missed this soulful, passionate bit of 60s style R&B. Sharon Jones’ voice is simply fantastic, and the Dap Kings groove perfectly behind her. This brilliant kiss-off track stuck with me, to where I found myself singing I’ve got better things to dooo than remember you randomly in the car.

Okay, the final 11, sort of....

11) “The Smidge,” The Hold Steady. I have been trying to write a novel for fifteen years. I daydreamed of literary stardom, of writing a bestseller and quitting the 9-to-5 grind, of being a big, huge, honking success, someone who would even have his one Sans Brando cover font.

I didn’t finish a single novel. I once made it 100 pages through one, but most died much, much earlier.

A funny thing happened a couple years ago. I was staring down my 38th birthday, and I realized I had the very real possibility of hitting 40 without every actually finishing a novel. Me, a guy who talked a big writing game all the time. I felt like a fraud, and I realized how ridiculous all those covers and interviews and movie deals I daydreamed about were when I’d never even reached “The End.” I decided to buckle down, get serious, and get focused. I concentrated on writing the best book I could write, on just getting finished.

I finally hit “The End” for the first time in April.

Now I’m in the middle of revisions, and that hope has grown to just getting an agent and just getting published. I joked with TLB that I’d be happy if I made enough money to put a bathroom in our basement.

The reason “The Smidge” made this list is because it perfectly captured that sentiment. Amid the sloozy (sleazy+boozy) guitar riff and cowbell (yes, cowbell) of this song, Craig Finn sings, We used to want it all, now we just want a little bit. Hot damn if that didn’t hit me on the head. It also illustrates why I love The Hold Steady unabashedly. They take everything I love about the classic rock of my youth—the riffs, the first pumps, the exuberance—and rewrite it for me at 40.

10) “Tell ‘Em,” Sleigh Bells. Another tailor-made summer song and the sweetest bit of ear candy I heard all year. This song had me the first time that staccato drum beat and amped-up guitar came out of my speakers. It’s completely pre-fabricated and posed and assembled—a work of calculation and perspiration more than inspiration—and over the whole course of the Treats album, that super-sweet approach gave me a bit of an earache. As a small bit of dessert, however, this was the tastiest, most ass-kicking three musical minutes of the year.

9) “Snakes for the Divine,” High on Fire. It impossible for me to listen to this while driving and not speed up, which is a sign of quality in my book. Despite its eight-and-a-half-minute length, this is a lean, mean bit of metal. Because the vocals are semi-decipherable, they sound gruff and tough without moving into the clearly-annunciated screeching silliness of something like “The Number of the Beast” or the grumbly absurdity of death metal vocals. Most of all, it makes me want to run through a brick wall, and I’m going to need that energy in 2011 when I get my out-of-shape ass back to the gym.

8) “Birthday Boy,” Drive-By Truckers. I’m not a strip club guy, but being a guy, I have been to a few strip clubs in my life. This song instantly made me feel guilty for every dollar bill I’d ever slipped to an exotic dancer. It does what the Drive-By Truckers do so well, tell tales of working class desperation set to catchy Southern rock, and it adds vivid layers of sleaze, desperation, depression, and even a smidge of hope and happiness. Definitely the message that stuck with me the most this year.

7) “Favourite Colour,” Tokyo Police Club. The first time I heard this album, I thought that these guys sounded very influenced by The Strokes. Then I thought, that’s ridiculous, The Strokes are such a new group, they haven’t been around long enough to influence anyone. This led to another realization that The Strokes have been around for a decade, which made me suddenly feel very old and near death. Despite that highly morose thought process, I got swept up by the youthful vigor of this song and really their whole Champ album. It’s just a fun, fun song that makes me feel like I’m getting ready to go out for a Friday night. I like that feeling.

6) “Straight in at 101,” Los Campesinos! The line We need more post-coital and less post-rock was my favorite lyric of the year because it’s precisely the kind of punning that makes me feel clever and funny (both certainly imagined, but both very real feelings, and that’s really all that matters). It’s also very much like “Favorite Colour,” a song about 20-something romance that’s both narcissistic and self-effacing. Even though I’ve been in a relationship with my wife longer than some of Los Campesinos! have been alive, I find songs of youthful romance keep me feeling young and, more importantly, keep me feeling young toward my wife. That alone makes it a worthy addition to the list.

5) “My Gap Feels Weird,” Superchunk. Three-chord fun camp. Superchunk did what I think Dinosaur Jr did a couple years ago, come out of semi-retirement and put out an album that’s just as good and maybe even a bit better than their classic albums. It’s like they got together and, rather than making some ill-advised stab at musical maturity or an equally ill-advised aping of their past songs, they just decided to be the most Superchunk they could be. It’s the sound of a band that knows its strengths and its limitations and is perfectly happy to stay within those parameters. Aging punks have rarely sounded so vigorous and appropriate. Hands-down, the most cranked song I played this year.

4) “Daisy,” Fang Island. A band that takes its name from an Onion article, which triggered a similar how-is-that-possible-OMG-I’ll-be-dead-by-their-third album moment similar to Tokyo Police Club, until I told my brain to shut the fuck up so I could hear the music. Despite their youth, these kids have managed to combine the geezer rock of heavy metal, punk, prog, and indie rock into a fun and very original sound. I haven’t heard anything else quite like this. The verses bounce along with pop-punk energy, the guitars (all three of them) solo with 80s-lead-guitar abandon, all while an organ that wouldn’t sound out of place on Yes’ Fragile adds a lot of color. To top it off, they don’t sing so much as chant. I can’t wait to hear what they put out next.

3) “A More Perfect Union,” Titus Andronicus. Garage band, concept album, and The Civil War couldn’t be three more disparate concepts, but Titus Andronicus put all of them on The Monitor, the most creative and ambitious album I heard this year. This opening track starts in the 1860s before transforming into what sounds a bit like Springsteen’s “Born to Run,” until the singer screams out, Baby, we were born to die! It’s a challenging song to like, sprawling and noisy much like the Garden State itself, and initially I didn’t get into it. But at one point, that mood perfectly matched what I was doing in my novel, to the point where I started every writing session with at least this song if not the whole album. I’m glad I stuck with it because it’s really stuck with me.

2) “Ready to Start,” Arcade Fire. What Arcade Fire do best is make arena rock for the indie set. They come up with anthems that have the passion and heart of U2 in their prime, but without the overly earnest baggage that comes with Bono. They also write loud, driving songs that can reach the furthest row at the largest festival, but without the heavy-handed musical approach that plagues arena rock. They do all of this on this superb second song on The Suburbs, maybe the best song Arcade Fire has ever written. I found the rest of the album to be disappointing by comparison, but I've played "Ready to Start" enough this year to more than make up for it.

1) “Bloodbuzz Ohio,” The National. Part of the reason this rose to the top of the list was the lyric, I still owe money to the money to the money I owe fit perfectly with my whole year. For the first time in a while, my mind was very much on my money and my money on my mind. That tends to happen when all the equity you worked so hard for disappears in the blink of an eye and you move somewhere twice as expensive while making the same money. The main reason, though, is despite the lament about debt, this song is rich, in its propulsive rhythm, its emotive vocal, its evocative imagery about being carried to Ohio in a swarm of bees. At one point this year, I listened to all of High Violet on the headphones, not while doing anything else, just laying on my bed, because I wanted to take in all of those elements. Music makes me want to do a lot of things, but as I get older and more busy and, frankly, more jaded, it takes something petty special to get me to stop everything and just listen. Whenever I hear this song, that's exactly what I want to do.

Have a great weekend, and here's to a great 2011!

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Top Ten Wednesdays: What New Year’s resolutions have we already broken?

10) Double-checking that we’re dreaming before leaving the house while naked.

9) Putting in a solid four hours of working during our eight-hour workday.

8) Cuttingdowntotwocupsofcoffeeadayinsteadoftwopots.

7) Not categorizing drunken tweets and Facebook updates as social drinking.

6) Going on a diet that doesn’t involve heroin.

5) Actually working out instead of delegating treadmill time to our assistant.

4) Not swearing like a motherfucker.

3) Excusing ourselves from a long phone meeting instead of hitting mute and peeing in the trashcan.

2) Getting that thing on our thingie checked out instead of just hoping it will go away and stop burning.

1) Being more highbrow with our dick jokes.