Friday, January 27, 2012

Ahem, Pinko

Random 11coming later, but here is a little entertainment for now.

Here's the context for the title of this week's 11. No, really, it's a real link!

It is amazing how the Rickrolling gag never gets old for me. It’s the perfect Internet trap. You can’t tell it’s coming. Even if you suspect it, you won’t know for sure unless you click. Wile E. Coyote would marvel at the super geniusness of it. 

It reminds me of another personal meme that never gets old for me: making Z-related nicknames for my brother Tickle’s friend, Z, aka Pancake Z. Just this afternoon, Z commented about how he had predicted in August that Peyton Manning’s career in Indy would be over and that the Colts would suck bad enough to draft Stanford QB Andrew Luck as his replacement. “Just call me NostraZamus,” he wrote, to which I replied, “The propheZ has cum true!” (Side note: we always, always, always write “come” that way in our e-mails. I am seriously worried that some day I will slip and spell it that way in a work e-mail.) I could make Z-puns all day. In fact, whenever we see anything that has a Z on it, we take pictures of it and text Z or post it on his Facebook page. If I could find a way to make money off of that, I’d gladly wok 80 hours a week.

Z was also a topic of converZation (seriously, it’s hard to stop once I start) this week. See, Z currently does not have TV service at his house. This is partly for economic reasons, partly because Z wanted to see what it was like, and I think partly because Z thinks this will make him smarter as he does read more without TV. However, Z is an avid spots fan, which means he is left to the devices of sports radio. Sports radio makes you stupid. You could be a physicist on the verge of proving string theory and one hour of listening to Jake in Joliet tell you what’s wrong with the Bears will render you mentally incapable of working at a McDonalds. They have done lab tests where overexposure to Mike and Mike in the Morning caused lab rats to become obese, inert, and start wearing Zubaz pants in public (true story). The other thing is that listening to sports on the radio sucks. We had a poker game at Z’s over Christmas and listened to the Bulls game and it blew transistors. So this week I asked him if he was going to have a Super Bowl radio party. I just imagine us sitting in a circle around the old Philco, drinking beers and eating snacks. It would be amaZing.

Okay, tunes….

1) “Soma,” The Strokes. I could have used soma this week to help me sleep through Libby’s late night partying (Warning: this is going to be one of those blogs in this post. Lots of kid stuff on my mind.) The worst night saw her not actually getting to sleep until 10 pm, then waking up four fucking times, including a 2:30 am wakeup where she was singing in her room. Of course, she woke up for good about 45 minutes earlier than usual and was as awake as if she’d just had her blood replaced with 5-Hour Energy.

2) “Hateful,” The Clash. The other rough thing was that Libby was sick in a gastrointestinal sense this week, so much that we had to switch back to diapers during the daytime for a couple of days. Our potty training had been going very well, so much so that it’s been probably 2-3 months since I last had to deal with anything more than a wet diaper. In the interim, I think I repressed all the bad changing memories, because I was in full GAH!!!! mode when I had to face the peril again. It was like getting lulled into a false sense of security when the Cold War ended, only to wake up and find a hardline Soviet Government back in power. Awful.

3) “Man in a Suitcase,” The Police. I have always been fond of this song because, considering I’ve had something around 787 mailing addresses in my 41 years, I’ve always felt rather itinerant. Until now. We bought our current house with the idea that it could be ours until they take us out feet first. Part of me feels relieved, the idea that the next time I move, I literally won’t have to lift a finger (unless via rigor mortis). The other part makes me feel like I just converted to Scientology and it’s not taking. So wait, I’ve got this Thetan living inside me? Is that why I’m 30 pounds overweight? 

4) “Wake Me Up When September Ends,” Green Day. As much as I loved American Idiot, it feels much more dated than it actually is. The Bush Administration feels like a million years ago to me. Maybe that’s another example of repressing memories of dirty diapers.

5) “Song 2” Blur. I could play this every Friday while making Z puns for two solid minutes.

6) “Overkill,” Men at Work. Over this years, this quietly became one of my favorite songs of the 80s. I was all vegemited and what not by their first album, but this song and “It’s a Mistake” from the Cargo follow-up are the ones that stuck with me over the years. Plus it sounds of the 80s without being completely trapped in the 80s. Essential.

7) “House Of Balloons – Glass Table Girls,” The Weeknd. I am so white that I need a Siouxsie and the Banshees sample to lead me into a perfectly groovalishish bit of hippity-hoppity R&B. I only wish I was in a Vegas club at four in the morning, bobbing my head along while drinking a Stoli gimlet bought with the house money after having one of those craps table runs where people come over to bet on your rolls.

8) “Ok Pal,” M83. A good tom-tom fill makes an electronic drum beat. Unless you just want to get oom-sah-oom-sah’d to death, you need something to break up the repetition a little. This has those great boomy, reverbed 80s fills that pack some thunder without getting in the way of the beat. Seriously, Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming would be regarded as a seminal album of the 80s if it had been recorded 30(!) years ago.

9) “The Bends,” Radiohead. The big benefit of working home by myself is that I can Turn. This UP. Side note: I don't think I've ever seen a clip from Later With Jools Holland that doesn't kill.

So another parenting thing on my mind this week is the vibe other parents sometimes give off when you say you only have one kid, especially when you are my age and it’s looking like you will have an only child. The vibe is that you have it easy, maybe even that you’re not a real parent. Isn’t so easy to have just one? Well, allow me to retort. This week, when my baby had the bends, I had to stay home from school with her. And when you are locked in a house all day with a solitary three-year-old, you are the canoe and they are the river. You’re only going where they want you to go. There are no siblings to play with, no other children to occupy their time by coloring/playing dress-up/seeing what happens when you put the cats in the dishwasher. I was the sole source of entertainment. Sure, Libby can sometimes settle in to lay with her toys, but I get maybe 20-30 minutes tops before she demands that I entertain her. DANCE FOR MY AMUSEMENT, FAT MAN! I can maybe buy a little more time if she’s watching a movie, especially one she hasn’t seen before (this one’s called Pulp Fiction, you’ll love it!). But then I feel like a completely irresponsible dickbag, which ruins whatever reprieve I was trying to get. So after a day home with her, I feel like I did four sets at a resort in the Catskills. One can only get on all fours and pretend to be the Daddy Puppy for so long before getting distracted. After all, dogs have short attention spans.

10) “Run to Your Grave,” The Mae Shi. Not that I’m suggesting that it’s easier to have more than one kid. God no, you people are fucked. There were four in my family and it is amazing that our mother is both alive and still speaking to us. My youngest brother Snake Anthony and I were not too bad, both staying out of trouble and hiding our indiscretions fairly well. My brother Tickle was another story. He tended to get into more spectacular scrapes, such as getting into a car accident with the only other car in an otherwise empty parking lot (true story). My sister E, when she wasn’t getting caught, would be so overwhelmed with pride at not getting caught that she would then tell my parents how she didn’t get caught. You could give her $40 million on the condition that she couldn’t tell anyone she just got $40 million and the deal would be voided before she could sign the nondisclosure agreement. Unrelated: I really love this song.

11) “The Bleeding Heart Show,” The New Pornographers. Who can’t use a little more hey-lahs in their weekend?

May you have the weekend of your dreamZ.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Friday Random 11

It’s one more random than 10!

This month marks five years of the Random 11, a feature I started after I got an iPod for Christmas in 2006. I’ve written 168,000 words since then, with a few of those not even connected to dick jokes.

Yesterday was also the first day of the season that I needed my winter boots. I’m honestly starting to become very Republican on this global warming thing. Just round up all those swimming polar bears, open a few new zoos, and turn on the ice maker. Extinction solved and I can still wear shorts on New Year’s.

1) “Let’s Spend the Night Together,” The Rolling Stones. This would perfect for a Cialis commercial. Boomer couple goes to a Stones concert and is right in the front row. The voice-over guy talks about how you want to be ready when the mood strikes while Mick sings the song. Then after 45 seconds of medical disclaimers, the song climaxes, and before the husband can hustle his wife to the back seat of the Lexus, Mick reaches out, pulls the wife onstage Courtney Cox-style, and takes her backstage, throwing one last wink as the voice-over guy says, “Keep the rock rolling with Cialis.”

2) “Punk Rock Girls,” The Queers. The Lovely Becky and I have talked about Libby as a teenager and how we would react to Libs dyeing her hair. TLB came up with a great solution: Libby can dye her hair any color she wants, but she’ll get a surprise when her mom shows up with her hair the same color. However, piercings will be right out because I’m not becoming a pin cushion to make a point.

3) “My Delirium,” Ladyhawke. I have been tired all week because I am a dumb ass. Why am I a dumb ass? Because my fatigue stems from playing videogames late at night instead of sleeping like a responsible adult. Because I try to be a responsible adult and not play videogames around my toddler-age daughter, I wait until she’s asleep. Unfortunately, I have been playing The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim, which is a crack rock shaped in the form of a 20-sided die. Oh, I’ll just play for an hour or two, I say to myself, with the delusion of an alcoholic hitting happy hour for the appetizers. Four hours later I’m woozy, incoherent, and not wearing pants. This is why I never played World of Warcraft, because I’d be like one of those Korean gamers who dies after forgetting to eat. (I made the mistake of starting Skyrim while Libby was awake, just to check it out. How bad could it be at the beginning, I thought. Of course, the game opens with a beheading and a dragon killing everything in sight. What’s got two thumbs and is father-of-the-year material? This guy.)

Bonus fun material: An absolutely killer bit about videogames from comic Dara O’Briain. He destroyed me with laughter when he started talking about Metal Gear Solid.

4) “Gideon (Live),” My Morning Jacket. Probably makes my All-Crescendo List.

5) “Nothing,” Stabbing Westward. I don’t know if Trent Reznor ever got royalties from these guys, but he should have. Also, the title of the album is Ungod, which is Latin for We are trying too hard to be edgy.

6) “Time for Me to Fly,” REO Speedwagon. My company used to have a yearly conference in Vail, Colorado. I got to attend the last year we held it, and while I certainly worked, the experience was bookended by two of the drunkest nights out with coworkers I have ever had. The first night there (the day before the event started), and after being warned that drinking in high altitudes can exacerbate the effects of alcohol if you’re not used to it, I had an evening where I started drinking 7-and7s, switched to Maker’s on the rocks because I wasn’t getting drunk fast enough, then switchied back to the 7-and-7s because the Maker’s was making me blind (along with the nicotine blitz I was getting from the smart decision to smoke). Thank God I didn’t need to start the next day until 11.

When the event ended, we went to a bar where this one guy was a musician in residence. He had a big fat book of covers you could request, and in my drunken happy state (it had been a great week and we were celebrating a successful event) I requested this song and sang along with it. I would have popped a lighter in the air if I had one at the time. I feel a bit of shame because this is a sappy, sappy, sappy song, even if in deep dark places I don’t talk about at cocktail parties, I really do love it.

7) “Snowblind,” Black Sabbath. I don’t think Ozzy’s talking about winter drifts in January. For all the perils of today’s society, I am glad cocaine was no longer chic by the time I reached an age where I might have been tempted to try it. Because there’s no way if I was 20 in 1977 that I wasn’t doing a couple of lines before heading to a Foghat concert. That’s why I stick to booze—I tend to get too sleepy by the time I would do any real damage. The last thing I need is to get hooked on something that would have me playing Skyrim for 56 straight hours.

8) “Ray,” Aimee Mann. Amazingly not on the YoutTube. Year ago TLB—a giant Aimee Mann fan—was discussing with me why she liked Aimee Mann so much, and she launched into this discussion of Mann’s rhyming couplets and how she is so creative in how she structures her rhymes and will often string together a several quick lines of rhymes. I said, “She sings real pretty.” Guess which one of us is the professor. This song is real pretty, too.

9) “Rock N Roll,” Led Zeppelin. The other day, my mind wandered into this weird daydream where Alex Lifeson of Rush personally thanked me for sending him a copy of my award-winning novel (as well as commenting how funny I was on The Colbert Report), and then asked me, being a giant Rush fan, what kind of setlist they should play on their next tour (I wish to Cookie Jesus I was making this up). In mid-daydream, I actually stopped to give this some thought before replying to imaginary Lifeson that they would absolutely slay everyone in attendance if they opened with a cover of this. Which, all psychiatric concerns from how I reached this conclusion aside, would indeed melt the faces of every Rush fan in attendance. Or at least the ones who were not seated in the imaginary front row like I was. And no, Geddy did not pull me onto the stage Courtney-Cox style.

10) “Late Night Conversation,” Josh Rouse (decent cover version). One of the downsides of having a large collection of music on my computer (far too much for my 80 gig iPod to hold anymore) is that I don’t always get to listen to a lot of it. Which is a big reason why I love doing this post each week—sometimes something comes up and I go, “Oh, that’s good, I should get it,” before remembering that I have it. Incidentally, after Skyrim, late-night conversations with TLB are the next largest source of sleep deprivation. It’s literally like the lights go off and we start shooting the breeze (and no, that’s not a euphemism). So my two biggest sources of not getting enough sleep are running around an imaginary fantasy world and talking to my wife while in bed. It’s a damn good thing I’m married because I would have no fucking clue how to woo a woman these days.

11) “Wonderwall,” Oasis. I know Von hates this, as does TLB, but I love it. It has that universality that I think great singles have, where it can appeal to a lot of people who normally wouldn’t agree on anything. For instance, let’s say that I was talking with Beyonce, who also was complimenting me on my appearance on The Colbert Report. It wouldn’t surprise me if, when this song started playing, we both said, “I love this song.” And then we’d laugh and say, “Jinx, by me a Coke,” and then Jay-Z would have his guy Pain-Luv dangle me from the penthouse balcony. That’s good songwriting.

Bonus: “The Unsinkable Fats Domino,” Guided By Voices. A new classic sounding GbV song from the classic GbV lineup. Worth watching this performance from Letterman to see, as one YouTube commenter put it, “the sinkable Greg Demos.”

Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Spreading Santorum

I recently found out that Rick Santorum graduated from the same high school I did. Furthermore, I found out that, like I did, he only attended his senior year, because like my father, his father was a military man who was transferred to a new base before little Ricky's final year of high school. We were also both raised Catholic and we both stubbornly and sometime illogically stick to our core beliefs despite logic dictating that we should seriously revise said beliefs. Ergo:

Santorum: Gay sex is icky because my old vengeful God says so.

Me: The Cubs have hope because my new dreamy GM says so.

I'm reluctant to dig any deeper because further similarities will leave me feeling frothy and unclean.

Top Ten Wednesdays: How are we being misquoted by the media?

10) Meant to say that the welfare system suffers from the blahs, not, you know, what it sounds like what we said.

9) Were misquoted when we said our husband Marcus was gay for the French horn. He just loves watching guys blow into those things! What's wrong with that?

8) Actually said we need to keep those sticks from crossing our borders. Seriously, have you seen the brush near El Paso?

7) Forgot to include in America’s armor when we said our top foreign policy priorities would include looking out for the chinks.

6) Really said that minor teas should be banned from the food stamp programs. Lipton should be good enough for you people. Um, meaning tea drinkers who are on welfare.

5) When we said we would bomb Iran back to the Bronze Age, we actually meant Stone Age.

4) Left out under the collar when we said lesbian moms make us hot.

3) We were really making a favorable comment about the zoo-run mediawe just love that new Cameron Crowe movie and wish Hollywood would make nothing but movies about wholesome families buying exotic animal preserves. Also, we love Israel, we're just not in love with Israel.

2) Was referring to cigarettes when we said all fags must burn.

1) Said we had to get rid of that nagger in the White House. Because of our extreme prejudice toward regulation and not, you know, those people. Meaning naggers.*

*I must give credit to South Park for this joke because that would be the white, er, right thing to do.

Friday, January 06, 2012

Friday Favoritist 11 of ‘11

Featuring special guest, Another 7 of '11 

Happy Mayapocalypse! Who’s ready to party like it’s 999 AD?

My brother Tickle stayed with me over the holidays, and he was lamenting a bit about a gift he received: $70 worth of iTunes gift cards. He had no idea what to buy, in part because he doesn’t like new music nearly as much as old music. (I helped him on both fronts by suggesting the new Black Keys and Physical Graffiti).

I do not have that problem, and I’m not sure if I’m thankful for it or cursed. You could give me a $700 iTunes gift card, and while I would be very grateful and sprint into the digital stacks with the zeal of a meth addict in a Walgreens, I guarantee I would hit a wall of regret at $699 because I would think of something else I would HAVE to have. (“I could really use that live Big Star reunion record!”)

I would say overall that’s a blessing. Music has been such a huge part of my life that I would hate for my musical interests to be perpetually stuck in the past. Sure, I will have soft spot for the songs I played when I had sex for the first time/drank for the first time/got high for the first time/rolled a 20-sided dice for the first time (hello, Rush!). But every year I find a bevy of new personal classics that get added to the Playlist of My Life (formerly known as the Mixtape of My Life).

This past year was no exception. The following are my favorite 11 songs of the year, plus an opening act of honorable mentions because I got to 18 and couldn’t bring myself to cut any more. These are not necessarily the “best” songs of the year, although I have a disturbing number of similarities to Pitchfork’s list. There are instead my favorites, songs I played the most, sang the most, and air-drummed the most.

Another 7 of '11

“Video Games,” Lana Del Rey. There are a couple of funny things about this year’s list. First, I am aware than my previous lists tend to be helmet parties (not to be confused with a Helmet party, although they have the same gender ratio). But I had five female artists make the cut this year, which is progress for me. I am slowly moving my male-female balance from D&D convention to Star Trek convention. Baby steps.

The other funny thing is that I have always been more music oriented than vocal oriented, which explains how I have been a Rush fan for more than 30 years. This year, though, I was drawn to a lot of songs with strong vocal performances. In fact, dare I say this year’s list is wank-free, with one possible exception in the #2 song. And this song by Lana Del Rey encapsulates the year. It wowed me the first time I heard it the same way Neko Case did. Lana Del Rey could sing about tax returns and I’d listen just to hear her sing “child-care tax credits.”

Although the song is called “Video Games” and her last name is the same as a popular science fiction publishing imprint, so I haven’t exactly escaped the shackles of male nerdom.

“The Thanksgiving Filter,” Drive-By Truckers. Happy families are all alike, every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. This song exemplifies what the Truckers do so well: provide such level of details that you feel like you’re having Thanksgiving with this unhappy family and hoping that singer Patterson Hood has saved you a few puffs off his joint so you can get through the holiday without beating someone with a drum stick. 

“You Can’t Say Kingston Doesn’t Love You,” Title Fight. Sometimes I just need a great two minutes of rocking (as The Lovely Becky will sadly verify).

“Shake It Out,” Florence + the Machine. Holy shit can she sing. That note she hits at 3:08 at the start of the final chorus gives me goose bumps every time I hear it. But more than that, I love that this song sounds big without sounding like some autotuned club mix monstrosity. It raises the roof without requiring you to raise your blood alcohol content to make it interesting.

“Down by the Water,” The Decemberists. When I got on Facebook, I did it because I had a high school reunion and was connecting with a lot of old friends. The funny thing is that I wound up not talking much with my closest HS friends, in part because I think we didn’t get over losing touch (admittedly, 90% my fault). Instead, I wound up interacting more with other non-BFF classmates who have become some of my best Facebook contacts, in part because we tend to have entertaining high school interactions—lots of jokes, puns, and entendres. In fact, I have a hard time dealing with Facebook when something serious happens to one of my FB friends, because the format feels so goddamned trite for anything beyond funny cat videos or dick jokes. The reason why I like this Decemberists song so much is because it’s like making a great FB connection with an old friend. It sounds just like I remember The Decemberists I knew and loved, and we’ve picked up right where we left off after we lost contact after The Crane Wife.

“Weekend,” Smith Westerns. I had the same reaction to this I had to The xx: how does a group of embryos make such killer music? Seriously, had I been more reckless and fertile in my youth, I could have fathered this entire band. And why are they smoking in the video, and carrying axes, and holding guns? WHERE ARE THE PARENTS? So, great song, but docked a few spots for making me feel old.

“Livin’ in the Jungle,” Black Joe Lewis and The Honeybears. I heard this for the first time in Vegas, when I went for my cousin Youngblood’s bachelor party. I didn’t write about that trip for a couple of reasons: one because, while entertaining, it didn’t really break any new Vegas blogging ground, and two, because there was actually a serious moment that I wanted to keep private, yet would feel dishonest if I wrote around it. 

However, there is one great story from that trip. My brothers Tickle and Snake Anthony joined Tickle’s friend Smoke and his buddy Bruce at a bar that opened out on the Vegas Strip. Bruce, not knowing the power of Tickle, bet my brother that he could not get 20 random pedestrians to come out from the Strip and into the bar to either shake his hand or hug him. The time limit: one hour. “One hour?” I laughed. “He’ll be done in 20 minutes.” Sure enough, Tickle went full Tickle and started calling out and waving people over. Sure enough they came and shook hands or hugged him. One guy came over and asked if he knew Tickle, because he looked familiar. “No, I’m just a random guy trying to win a bet,” Tickle said. “Oh,” said the man, “Well, this is my wife,” and just like that Tickle hit a two-fer. He got another guy who was wearing a T-shirt with Oscar the Grouch and the word TRASHED written across it to come over. It was such an awesome shirt that Smoke tried (unsuccessfully) to buy it for $50. The best was a group of older tourists who came over and asked us, “Are you Canadians?” We said no, and they said, “That’s funny, because you’re acting like Canadians.” Tickle wracked up seven hits in about ten minutes, at which point Bruce called off the bet. So this song makes the list because it makes me think of friendly, drunken, hugging Canadians, even if it is a booty-shaking bit of James Brown R&B.

Okay, onto the finalists….

11) “Helplessness Blues,” Fleet Foxes. Like Lana Del Rey, they could literally sing about anything as long as they do so in harmony. This makes me feel like I do when I drink Fiji Water after a hangover, especially if I get one of the liter bottles that’s extra cold from the back of the case. I am instantly rejuvenated and purified, and whatever mental toxins I have floating around get flushed out.

10) “Marked,” EMA. Of course, rock music is not all shiny happy people and sparkling clear water. It’s dirty, druggy, and deathly, and that’s what made me stop and take notice when I heard this song the first time. The screeches of the fret board are the sound of angels losing their wings, one horrible mistake at a time. But then she turns it around at the end and offers just enough hope to stave off musical suicide. The harshness of it makes it hard to enjoy, but I can’t think of another song that grabbed me quite like this one. 

9) “Birthday Cake,” Lucky Ghost. I’ve been on a gaming message board for years, long enough that I have gotten to know a number of the guys (100% helmet party). When the guy who is Lucky Ghost mentioned he had released an album as a free download, I did my virtual friend duty of downloading it and giving it what I figured would be one polite listen. What I didn’t expect was to play this album over and over this year. Could this really be from the same guy who whupped my ass in Madden? It’s a completely infectious mix of indie rock, crunchy 90s alternative, 80s synthpop, and in some places even some sprinkles of 70s prog—something that the title Sex Griddle would not suggest. This is the final track and a perfect coda to the album, a stirring cityscape of a love song that I almost always have to play again when I hear it. You can get the whole thing here for free.

8) “Holocene,” Bon Iver. A real challenge for Bon Iver would be to make an album I don’t love. For Emma, Forever Ago is a bona fide classic, and the Blood Bank EP has what I think is his best song in the title track. So even with autotune and drum machines and fucking with the cabin-in-the-woods formula, he managed to give me another album of everything I loved about those two offerings without just sounding like he just followed his past formula. I honestly don’t know how people can’t be moved by this.

7) “Barton Hollow,” The Civil Wars. Maybe it’s the influence of the band’s name, but this song makes me think of Cold Mountain, of a man and a woman separated not just by distance but tragedy and terror and trauma, walking hundreds of miles in the hopes of escaping into each other for five minutes. The other thing I love about this song is that I don’t mind the male singer’s voice. On a lot of male-female duets, I often want the dude to get the hell out of the way (cram your leather, Hendley, I’m here for Nicks’s lace). But The Civil Wars really complement each other and blend together perfectly. I could have easily picked a half dozen tracks from this album, but this is the one that jumps out at me the most.

6) “Pumped Up Kicks,” Foster the People. I know that some people are going to probably skewer me for this, and I admit I feel like a hipster cobag for liking this song. At the same time it was the catchiest fucking thing I heard this year and I was singing along about shooting kids by the second chorus. I suspect I’ll have an MGMT reaction to this down the road, an empty tequila bottle of nausea and regret, but damn if it isn’t fun getting down to the worm.

5) “Heart in Your Heartbreak,” The Pains of Being Pure at Heart. I am going to just come out and admit it: I need a little emo in my life. I find that funny because I am at 25 years past the target demographic for stuff like this and, if I may be immodest for a minute, I have nothing to be sad about. (I apologize in advance to TLB for making her fall out of her chair.) I am happily married, I have a wonderful daughter, I am back in a city I love, and I make a decent living while working out of my house. The only thing I really regret is not having published a novel yet, but if I may again be immodest, I think that is going to change, possibly before the Favoritist of 2012 gets written. Yet I feel a need for some sadness in my life because there is a part of me that enjoys feeling a little miserable. So songs like this give me a little huff of heartbreak, packaged safely in an upbeat tempo and a doctor-approved four minutes.

4) “Get Away,” Yuck. Pure college rock gold. This sounds like it was recorded live at a left-of-the-dial station sometime around 1993, when the band was making its catchy-but-noisy indie-label debut, before signing a three-album deal with Geffen and multitracking out the rough edges. This a great song from a great album, and I only wish I could still fit into my button-fly Levis and Late Night With David Letterman t-shirt so I could fully immerse myself in the alternative rock universe Yuck came from. Plus, have you seen the drummer's hair?

3) “Midnight City” M83. Playing this after Yuck makes me feel like I’m traveling back in time, a fact heightened by the fact that the Chicago suburb where I live served as the location for every John Hughes film from the 1980s. (We live about a mile from the house Cameron kicked the Ferrari out of in Feris Bueller’s Day Off.) Even the sax outro feels like it stepped out of a fusion-powered DeLorean. However, the reason why I and so many other armchair critics have flocked to this song is that it just kills. It is perfectly constructed, from the sound of the synths to the Euro-ish vocals to the digital tom rolls of the drum machine, with the saxamaphone opening up the skys and taking us to retro heaven at the end. Simply put, this would have been a favorite in 1982, too.

2) “Rope,” Foo Fighters. No one makes rock albums anymore. They try, sure, but they either come out like Nickelback or like Queens of the Stone Age, which winks a bit too much to go to 11 for me. There’s a special blend of womp, melody, and swagger that rarely get blended together these days. So leave it to one of the few modern music stars who understands how to be a rock star, a gum-chewing, arena-playing front man who writes songs with choruses that should be coming out of Camaro speakers at high volume. He also just happened to make the best album of his Foo Fighters career, an album that has an analog sound even when coming out of my hard drive. This is my favorite song from that album, in no small part because there’s a bit of tricky 2000s Rush wank at the beginning, a thumpy riff that twists and shouts, “Are you ready to rock?” before delivering chorus that climbs to the top of Marshall Mountain. Nothing got a double-arms in the air Fuck yeah from me this year like “Rope,” except….

1) “Whirring,” The Joy Formidable. I was sure when I first heard “Rope” that was going to be the song at the top of this year’s list. Songs like that are why I am a life-long rock fan. But then this song randomly came across my ears one day, driving in my un-rocking Volvo station wagon, kid in the back and WXRT on the radio. It was big and heavy, but balanced with the light and sweet female vocal. I made a note to remember “Joy Formidable,” went home, and bought the album. To my pleasant surprise, I found that the album version was even better, with a jamming four minutes of swirling guitars and double-bass pedal beats tacked on. No sooner was the big fat finish finished, a peel of feedback fading into my speakers, then I hit repeat. So it turns out I was completely wrong, that they do make big fat rock albums, it's just that they are sometimes made by blond Welsh women who sing like the Cocteau Twins but rock like the Foo Fighters. It’s finding songs like “Whirring” that make me happy I love music more than nostalgia, that I still get a giddy high from digging through new releases hoping to find a new addition to the Playlist.

Have a great weekend and a great 2012! If the world does end, I hope you at least have your iPod handy when it does.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Top Ten Tuesdays: What last-minute campaign efforts are we making in Iowa?

10) Making it a hate crime to refer to any location as “Buttfuck, Iowa.”

9) Vowing to use the power of the White House to ensure Cedar Rapids wins Best Picture.

8) Offering a Thanksgiving 2012 tax credit for Americans who replace gravy with delicious ethanol.

7) Spreading Santorum flyers on every hog pen, cow pasture, and rest stop.

6) Relaxing labor laws so more young Iowans can reap the benefits of being children of the corn.

5) Reassuring voters that we will read the President’s Daily Brief as thoroughly as any newsletter bearing our name.

4) Slitting forearm open to prove to caucusing Iowans that Mitt Romney is not a robot.

3) Promising that every able-bodied male who votes for Michele Bachmann will receive a hug and have a Biblical passage whispered in their ear by Marcus.

2) Demonstrating our commitment to the free market by requiring all tipped cows to right themselves.

1) Convincing every caucus that our brand of conservatism is fresh, clean, pure, and mild.