Saturday, December 31, 2011
5. Elbow -- Lippy Kids
Youth, friendship, longing and just a hint of regret made up Elbow's stunning tale of wistful nostalgia, and when frontman Guy Garvey asked about kids, "Do they know those days are golden? Build a rocket, boys!" it brought a knowing smile to your face and warmed your heart.
4. Wye Oak -- Civilian
It started off simply enough, with a little guitar, a droning drum-line and Jenn Wasner's haunting vocals -- but as the song began its build to a ferocious, near-biblical crescendo, it grabbed you by the throat and would not let go.
3. Adele -- Someone Like You
There's just no denying the force of nature that is Adele -- and her ode to resignation in the aftermath of a painful break-up was the most emotionally devastating song of the year. We've all been there.
2. Manchester Orchestra -- Simple Math
The linchpin of a concept album about a young man questioning everything in his life, Simple Math as a single perfectly encapsulated the epic scope of what singer-songwriter Andy Hull was going for across ten songs. It was powerful, it was passionate, it was heartbreaking, and when Hull desperately belted out, "Believe me, everything is brilliant," you knew it was that too.
1. Bon Iver -- Holocene
Plaintive, lovely and moving in ways that can't be properly described in mere words -- at least ones not set to music -- the second single from Bon Iver's miraculous self-titled 2011 album was something more than special. It was a song you felt from start to finish, and the year's best musical creation.
Friday, December 30, 2011
"She is certainly one of the people you would look at. I am a great admirer of hers, and she was a remarkable reform governor of Alaska. She's somebody who I think brings a great deal to the possibility of helping in government and that would be one of the possibilities. There are also some very important cabinet positions that she could fill very, very well. I can't imagine anybody that would do a better job of driving us to an energy solution than Gov. Palin, for example. Tell her that she would certainly be on the list of one of the people we would consider."
-- Newt Gingrich on the possibility of naming Sarah Palin as a running-mate or to a cabinet position
I'm really not sure there's a way for these people to become any more of a joke.
10. The Beastie Boys w/Santigold -- Don't Play No Game That I Can't Win
They may be elder statesmen in hip-hop, but the Beastie Boys' decision to team up with Lower East Side alt-art idol Santigold proved to be a stroke of inspirational genius -- injecting funky life into a single that was one of many tracks on an album which proved the Beasties are doing anything but going gently into that good night.
9. TV on the Radio -- Will Do
They've been fierce and they've been wonderfully bewildering, but it was when TV on the Radio slowed their groove and added sensuality and just a hint of haunting melancholy that they produced their best song yet.
8. The Black Keys -- Lonely Boy
How good are the Black Keys? So good that they could release a song in late October that would push almost all the other great singles of the year aside. Lonely Boy didn't have the surprise or whimsy of Tighten Up, but what it had going for it was a driving beat and a kick-ass, bluesy guitar riff right out of a 70s road picture -- and that was more than enough.
7. Frank Ocean -- Novacane
Much like his role in one of the coolest songs of the year, Jay-Z and Kanye's lead-off track on Watch the Throne, No Church in the Wild, the mood on Frank Ocean's big single this year was pitch black. But unlike Church, Novacane found Frank not reveling in his imperial depravity but questioning it, and it's that "How the hell did I get here and is this really all there is?" humanity that made this song hit home. Plus, it's just damn sexy.
6. M83 -- Midnight City
Instantly memorable, slyly retro and flat-out great, French electronic maestro Anthony Gonzalez -- AKA M83 -- rode the chill-wave to something much more profound than many of his contemporaries, producing not just one of the best songs but one of the best full-length albums of the year.
Thursday, December 29, 2011
I was once fired by CNN for blogging. Just keep that in mind as you read this.
Gawker: Extorting David Letterman Not Enough To Keep Guy Out of a TV Job/12.29.11
The only way this story is surprising to you is if you've never worked in TV news and understand nothing about what a cesspool of drunken, drug-addicted, mentally unstable amorality it is. It's the Island of Fucked-Up Toys.
So, to recap: Joe Halderman, who went to prison for trying to blackmail one of the most famous people in television, has a TV job again (ID Discovery). Larry Mendte, who confessed to having an affair with his co-anchor then pleaded guilty to federal charges of rifling through her e-mail, has a TV job again (WPIX in New York City). Alycia Lane, that co-anchor, who was once arrested for allegedly slugging an NYPD cop, still has a TV job (KNBC in Los Angeles). Richard Quest, who was arrested in Central Park with a dildo in his shoe, rope tied around his balls and meth in his pocket, never lost his job and is still employed by CNN.
I blogged. And I guarantee you I'm still radioactive and will be for the foreseeable future.
God, I love that fucking insane business.
This entire article:
The Huffington Post: "Vote Against Obama in Iowa" by Cenk Uygur/12.29.11
I wanted to pick just one part of it, but I couldn't -- the whole thing is so deliciously, laugh-out-loud stupid.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Cenk Uygur. At least now we finally know for sure that the reason he talks like he has marbles in his mouth is that he's fucking retarded.
The surgery I underwent five years ago is known as "non-invasive." That's an almost comical misnomer, as you quickly come to realize that the term is a relative one, with most doctors only considering a procedure invasive if it requires that they cut or drill into you and hack off various parts of your physical person.
In today's Salon, Mary Elizabeth Williams writes about the thing the medical community doesn't often warn you about when you undergo a potentially life-saving surgery: that it can leave devastating psychological and emotional scars to go with the physical ones, and that somewhere along the line doctors may have become so impressed by what they're capable of as a matter of routine that they forgot how violative their actions can seem to the patients.
There's a reason "body horror" is its own sub-genre of scary movies.
Salon: The Post-Surgery Secret Your Doctors Won't Share/12.28.11
15. Ryan Adams -- Lucky Now
Six years after the hopeless heartbreak of Love Is Hell, Ryan Adams found a fragile optimism -- and the result was beautiful.
14. Foo Fighters -- Walk
Grohl and Company's exhilarating anthem about finding your footing and moving on was everything we've come to expect from them. And even though many called Wasting Light their most cogent album in years, the reality is that it merely cemented what we already knew: that over the course of 17 years, the Foo Fighters have quite possibly become the best band in rock and roll.
13. Florence + The Machine -- What the Water Gave Me
Florence + The Machine are evolving at a nearly miraculous pace, and the lead-off single to their 2011 album, Ceremonials, proved it in spades. Dark, lovely and dripping with mystery, it signified Florence Welch and her band as no mere flash in the pan.
12. Chase & Status -- Hitz
Dubstep gods Chase & Status teamed with 2011 breakout rapper Tinie Tempah and the result was one of the most authoritative and aggressive British DJ concoctions since the Prodigy slammed the planet with Firestarter.
11. The Joy Formidable -- Whirring
Fronted by a tiny, blonde force-of-nature named Ritzy Bryan, the Joy Formidable cranked out the most surprising single of the year simply because it gave you catchy, irresistible pop for most of its length -- then degenerated into a raw sonic blast at the end. The Big Roar was probably the most apt title for an album you were likely to find in 2011, given that this band sounds like a tour bus crash between My Bloody Valentine and Pantera.
Wednesday, December 28, 2011
Yeah, it's from four days ago, but there's no way I can let this kind of hilarity pass by without popping it up here. Plus I so enjoyed the ridiculous outrage the last time I brought up the subject of Jesus's favorite lousy quarterback.
Needless to say, angry conservatives are now calling for a boycott of HBO. That should be effective considering how many hardcore Christians are big fans of True Blood and Hung yet will now be forced to cancel their subscriptions.
Adding: Big props to Andy Levy of Fox News's Red Eye, who's consistently one of the cleverest and genuinely smartest things on that otherwise barren wasteland of a network. This was his response to the Maher tweet "controversy" on Hannity last night: "He's a comedian. People need to stop being outraged by what comedians say. Part of their job is to say things that are outrageous... He's not a politician, he's not running for office. He's got a show on HBO, and he's a comedian. Who cares?"
Overcome by grief at the death of "Dear Leader," mourners openly weep and gnash their teeth at the memorial service for Kim Jong Il today in North Korea -- and I laugh and laugh and laugh.
Which reminds me, I hope everyone's seen this by now:
20. The Kills -- Satellite
A single that sounded like three-and-a-half minutes of pure, raw sex kicked off the best Kills album yet.
19. Friendly Fires -- Live Those Days Tonight
In a year in which the dance music scene was dominated by the ear-cleaning boom of dubstep, one of the best tracks of 2011 was an 80s-influenced dance floor anthem that you could not stop listening to.
18. Lykke Li -- Get Some
Swedish goddess Lykke Li's sensual, visceral declaration of authority provided us with the most memorable chorus of the year.
17. The Naked and Famous -- Young Blood
Remember what it felt like to be young, fearless and have the world at your fingertips? If you didn't, all you needed to do in 2011 was listen to this blast of pure audio exuberance.
16. Radiohead -- Lotus Flower
Codex was actually the better song that got worldwide airplay, but this was the closest Radiohead's come to releasing an actual single in years, and it was as mysterious and beautiful as anything they've ever done.
Tuesday, December 27, 2011
I haven't had the chance to read my friend Steve Bunche's blog for a while -- for the record, his was the initial inspiration for this site -- and therefore missed the post he put up earlier this month that I swear is a must read. It's heartbreaking and infuriating -- and yet funny as hell.
Do yourself a favor and check it out.
The Vault of Buncheness: Lost in the Supermarket/12.9.11
"You know and I know that she's not young enough or pretty enough to be the wife of a president."
-- Newt Gingrich on his first wife, Jackie, according to former friend and campaign official Kip Carter
Is it hearsay? You bet. But just tell me you can't hear Newt -- puffy, self-satisfied asshole that he is -- actually saying something like that. Especially when you consider how thoroughly the facts smack down the revisionist fairy tale he's now telling about his infamous first divorce.
Thanks to my week on the road and the very big project still calling my name from the bowels of my laptop -- one that needs to be finished before deadline next Tuesday -- I have no choice but to keep the best singles list short this year. No, I'm not shrinking the countdown itself, just my commentary on the songs that made it into the top 25.
2011 was a damn fine year for music: We saw the popular rise of chill-wave and the domination in the states of dubstep, and the ethereal shoegaze sound that was so big in the 90s suddenly seemed to be reasserting itself everywhere. Also, interestingly, the very best singles of the year were down-tempo tracks -- some lush and lovely, some powerful and passionate, some just plain heartbreaking.
So let's begin our look back.
25. Beady Eye -- Bring the Light
Liam won the battle between the Gallagher brothers to see who could release the better post-Oasis record by being something Oasis hadn't been in years: fiery and a hell of a lot of fun.
24. Portugal. The Man -- Got It All
Big, irresistible hooks that would make ELO's Jeff Lynne proud, these guys were living proof that at least something good can come out of Wasilla, Alaska.
23. Cat's Eyes -- Face in the Crowd
From the Wall of Sound production, to the ominous horns, to the swinging 60s girl-group vocals, this song was like a goth Bond theme from the Connery era.
22. Yuck -- Get Away
Who knew there was a love for Dinosaur Jr. among Britain's indie underground? While we've heard this sound before, rarely have we heard a reboot/homage that's this catchy and refreshing.
21. Fucked Up -- Queen of Hearts
Honest to God, ferocious punk rock that was as audacious in scope as it was joyously blistering in its delivery.
Los Angeles, CA
Pulled in yesterday at around 1:30PM PT. 72 and sunny, just like I remembered.
3,210 total miles traveled.
Last Songs on the Playlist:
Elliott Smith -- Angeles
Ryan Star -- Brand New Day
Stone Temple Pilots -- Glide
Monday, December 26, 2011
The last leg of the road trip begins this morning. I'm giving up my posh hotel room in Vegas in favor of getting back into my now sparkling clean car and back onto the highway for the three-hour desert drive to L.A.
Here's Phantom Planet's California.
This has been an adventure, which is exactly what I wanted.
Sunday, December 25, 2011
I've been out drinking at Todd English's Pub most of the morning so this will be quick.
If you've read Dead Star Twilight you know about the very good friend of mine whom I called "Brando." If you read the updated version of the book, which includes a kind of "where are they now" afterword, you know that he's been battling stage four lung cancer recently.
Well a few minutes ago I got what I assume was a mass text sent out to everyone in his contact list telling me that he's died.
God how I loved that guy. Fuck. Just -- fuck.
I'll miss you, man.
Saturday, December 24, 2011
Coconino National Forest, AZ
The Grand Canyon
In-N-Out Burger, Western Arizona (Didn't even make it to California before getting one of these)
The Aria Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas
Arrived in Las Vegas right around 3:00PM PT. 2,933 total miles traveled.
Most Recently on the Playlist:
The Rolling Stones -- Gimme Shelter
Our Lady Peace -- Starseed
The Crystal Method -- Busy Child
Cannot lie: My little wigwam provided the best night's sleep I've had so far on this trip. So glad I took the leap of faith and stayed here. This morning it's off to the Grand Canyon, followed by a sprint into Vegas where I'll be checking in at the Aria for Christmas Eve. Why leave it to Santa to bring you something special?
Here's Audioslave's Show Me How To Live
Friday, December 23, 2011
Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona
After a genuinely treacherous drive across an only recently re-opened I-40 -- we're talking snow and ice everywhere and wind gusts pushing the car all over the place -- I crossed the Arizona border around 3:30PM MT or so. After that, made a bee-line for the Petrified Forest, which, next to the Grand Canyon, is about the closest you can get to actually seeing the face of a benevolent god on this planet. These pictures don't even begin to do it justice. Not by a long shot. Tonight I'm staying in my own private wigwam, compliments of the legendary Wigwam Motel on old Route 66 in Holbrook, AZ. You know something? It's damn cozy. Time for dinner and a cold beer.
Left Albuquerque, NM at 11:00AM MT, arrived in Holbrook, AZ at 5:28PM MT. 2,398 total miles traveled.
Most Recently on the Playlist:
Train -- Something More
U2 -- All I Want Is You
Dum Dum Girls -- Coming Down
Last night's dinner was with a guy I worked with for all of maybe five months back in late 2000 in L.A. Anyone who's read Dead Star Twilight knows what I was up to during that time period and therefore what I must've been like at work. Astonishingly, this person is one of quite a few who put in time with me during that brief era before I truly became strung out who still remembers me fondly, as someone with a good mind who had talent to burn. (Both the mind and the talent would be burned in short order.) The really ironic thing about this guy, though, is that it would be a couple of years later that he'd travel down his own road to full-blown, thoroughly horrific addiction. It was much different than my personal highway to hell -- there was a lot of West Hollywood partying and, from what I can gather, a total submergence into the meth scene that's destroyed so many good lives -- but the end result was pretty much the same: He lost everything and had to claw his way back to becoming, hopefully, a better version of the man he used to be.
What was interesting about the two of us sitting across a table from each other, was, well, everything. We weren't really great friends back in the day, just a couple of co-workers who admired each other's abilities. And now, as he said last night, here we are in Albuquerque, New Mexico on a Thursday night having dinner a decade later. His point was that you really don't know where life will take you, where the road ahead will lead or what it will reveal. He's got a good life and a good future here in Albuquerque -- which includes a damn terrific job and a guy he seems to be cultivating a healthy relationship with -- and despite the ongoing, everyday struggle all former users have to wade through, he's rigorous about staying positive and he's grateful for each new day he gets.
He's writing his own book, too -- which I have to believe will be a hell of a read once it's complete. A thematic refrain within it: pay attention to everything. Again, the future's completely uncertain -- whether you'll even have a future from one minute to the next is often out of your hands -- and the past is history. The only thing you have right now is now. It's the only thing you can be sure of and by its very nature the rarest gift imaginable because there will never be another time just like it. You'd be a fool to waste something that precious.
Word has it the roads are finally clearing and reopening. I'll probably be back behind the wheel soon.
Oh how I love a challenge. A good night's sleep in Albuquerque, followed by an ugly "wake-up call": All the highways out of this city are currently shut down. Like, all of them -- in every direction. Could mean I'm stuck in this admittedly very nice, warm hotel room for another day, followed by a Cannonball Run to Vegas in the morning, or it could mean I just have to wait a few hours until things get moving again. We'll see, I guess.
Here's REM's Can't Get There from Here.
Thursday, December 22, 2011
17 degrees and snowy as hell. Driving was -- challenging. Very happily in for the night after a terrific New Mexican dinner with an old friend in Albuquerque. Today's travels took me to Ft. Sumner, New Mexico, where Billy the Kid was killed, and through the ruins of various ancient towns along Route 66. The bitter wind, leaden skies and snow flurries made them seem even more forlorn and haunted. Gorgeous stuff.
Stopped in Albuquerque, NM at 4:38PM MT. 1,966 total miles traveled.
Most Recently on the Playlist:
Patrick O'Hearn -- A Lovely Place To Be
The Rolling Stones -- You Can't Always Get What You Want
Jose Gonzalez -- Far Away
I dreamed about this place, as strange as that may seem. I visited it once before, years ago, and not long after had a dream in which I woke up in a strange bed in this long-since-decayed town and asked the girl next to me, "How did I get here?" She gave me a reassuring smile and answered, "You've always been here." Odd, I know. Erick is one of a thousand little stops along the old Route 66, ghost towns that years of rust and neglect by the outside world have transformed into inexplicably lovely still lifes. These places died on the vine, a vine which was strangled by a much larger and more powerful growth designed to make travel easier for the masses: the interstate. But they remain -- living museums of a bygone era and generation. And they are absolutely worth taking the time to stop and see.
My evening in a nutshell: Dinner and a room at the Big Texan Steak Ranch, where kitsch is Texas-sized. A monster steak and a couple of beers. Surprisingly good conversation with some other folks who were passing through. At around 6AM I heard the words, "It was nice to have met you," and a little laugh, followed by my motel room door opening and closing. It's been a long time. I don't think anyone will begrudge me a night of good, semi-clean fun. Ready to hit the road again. I'll be in Albuquerque later today having dinner with an old friend. Oh, and it's 24 degrees outside right now.
Stopped in Amarillo, TX for the night at 6:48PM CT. Total number of miles traveled: 1,721. Number of bite marks on my neck: One (but it's a doozy).
Most Recently on the Playlist:
Mazzy Star -- Rhymes of an Hour
National Skyline -- Permanent Haze
Sneaker Pimps -- Post-Modern Sleaze