Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Best Records of 2008 - Honorable Mention

So, I'm finally going to list these things out and I want to start with ten records that didn't make the cut, but where pretty awesome nonetheless. In no order...

Jenny Lewis - "Acid Tongue". There hasn't been a record this year that I've been more back and forth on than "Acid Tongue".There are great songs on the record - "Acid Tongue", "Sing a Song For Them", "Godspeed", "Pretty Bird" - but there are also some plenty-fine-though-not-memorable ones as well - "Jack Killed Mom", "Bad Man's World", "Black Sand" - and there's the problem. Jenny set the bar too high on her last set of solo material, the brilliant "Rabbit Fur Coat", which had no filler whatsoever. "Acid Tongue" is fine and listenable and at it's best pretty damn great, but it just don't live up to its predecessor.

My Morning Jacket - "Evil Urges". "Evil Urges" was a rather divisive record. Some people straight hated it. Not me. I'm one of the eight people in the world who actually likes "Highly Suspicious." While there was certainly a good deal of departure from the expected MMJ sound, songs like "I'm Amazed" and "Sec Walkin'" kept it recognizable and anchored a really nice record.

Lykke Li - "Youth Novels". Swallow this, America - we live in a world where Lykke Li is not a pop superstar. Unbelievable. Youth Novels is a great pop record spearheaded by a number of absolute PERFECT pop singles ("I'm Good, I'm Gone" and "Little Bit"). But, alas she's probably a little too raw, a little too honest and most damningly too smart for the rest of the world. Which is unfortunate, but we'll keep her for ourselves...for now.

Tim Fite - "Fair Ain't Fair". Man, is Tim Fite great and he is criminally underrated. Last year, he released an online only record for free called "Over the Counterculture" which was a serious and highly political affair. It was excellent, but it wasn't necessarily fun. Enter "Fair Ain't Fair" - a kitchen-sink gem that served as the perfect antidote. Songs like "Sing Along" ("One more time for the la-di-da, three more times for the ba-ba-ba, we wanna, we wanna, we wanna la-la-la"), "Big Mistake" and "Yesterday's Garden" contributed to the best BBQ, not to mention hip-hop, record of the year.

Be Your Own Pet - "Get Awkward". "Get Awkward" was a strange swan song for Tennessee's Be Your Own Pet seeing as how three songs (including the record's best "Becky") were removed from the US version by their record label because they were deemed "too violent". Even without them, however "Get Awkward" was a ton of fun and BYOP's youthful vigor was in full force. It may not have been as good as their "pretty close to perfect" debut, but it was still good enough to make BYOP's breakup one of the most unfortunate in recent memory.

Kathleen Edwards - "Asking For Flowers". Kathleen Edwards ain't showy, but damn is she good. First and foremost, Edwards can spin a yarn, which she'd been doing over two sterling records prior to "Flowers". She's on par with some of the best songwriters currently working and her records continue to be reliable, if not wheel reinventing, gems.

Randy Newman - "Harps and Angels". People who think Randy Newman is just that guy who writes songs for Disney movies are wildly misinformed. At his best, Newman is the sharpest and funniest social critic and boy oh boy, does he hate President Bush. "Harps and Angels" is THE definitive protest record of the Bush administration, but besides that it's a fun listen and great to have Newman back pissed off.

Torche - "Meanderthal". Torche's "Meanderthal" is the best metal record I heard all year. It's kind of like anti-metal. Sure there's heavy, sludgy riffs, but oftentimes these are coupled with actual melodies making "Meanderthal" the best metal pop metal record since Queens of the Stone Age's classic "Songs For the Deaf".

Alejandro Escovedo - "Real Animal". "Real Animal" is simple good old fashioned rock 'n roll and who better to do it than Escovedo, a true rock 'n roll lifer and one hell of a songwriter. "Real Animal" looks back on a life made exciting and meaningful because of rock 'n roll. "Real Animal" is, at times, poignant, but never cheesy and producer Tony Visconti helps shape Escovedo's best record in a long time.

The Mountain Goats - "Heretic Pride". John Darnielle can stop surprising people already. He can rest on his laurels if he'd like, but it's as though he physically can't. Every Mountain Goats record is great...all of them. And his live show is consistently awesome. For "Heretic Pride" Darnielle has gone back to writing about characters, rather than himself, and the result is something approaching sublime, just listen to "San Bernadino" - it's simple and gorgeous and just may be my favorite Mountain Goats song yet.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Best Records of 2008 - The Hold Steady's Stay Positive

The Hold Steady are my favorite band. I cannot be objective when it comes to them. They are such a huge part of my life and I love them. I thought the best way to talk about their recent record "Stay Positive" would be to copy and paste and email I sent to some friends right after "Stay Positive" revealed itself to me. It's full of true passion. I really, really love this band. Here it is...

"Stay Positive"


I've had it for a month now and it just wasn't catching me. I would
listen here and there, but kept going back to like three or four
songs and skipping whole chunks at a time.

Three days ago, I made it a point to listen to the whole thing. To
give it my full attention. To listen to it two or three times if I
needed to. I didn't need to. By the time track three ended, I knew
that this was it. This is the album the Hold Steady have been
promising to make since record one. It's their masterpiece. It's
easily their best record and could quite possibly be one of the
single greatest rock 'n roll records EVER recorded.

It's exciting and It's contemplative, it's sad and it's funny, it's
nostalgic and it's right now, It's fresh and familiar. It's a study
of contradictions that work so perfectly together. It's inspiring.
It makes me want to listen to nothing but the Hold Steady. I just
keep going back and suddenly all the older songs are better. I was
running into getting sick of them because I've listened so much, but
now they're new.

I don't know how they did this. I couldn't have loved the Hold Steady
more then I did after "Boys and Girls". But I do. I love them more. I
want them to be the only band in the world. There just isn't room for
anyone else.

If you haven't been able to spend time with "Stay Positive", do it.
Please. You may think "One For the Cutters" is plodding, but then
around the fifth or sixth time, you hear the story and the
harpsichord and you'll realize it's the best song they've ever done,
until you hear "Slapped Actress" which is really the best song
they've ever done. It's so good.

I get chills.

This is why someone invented music

This is the greatest band in the world.

No doubt.

Be happy you're alive for them.


The Best Records of 2008 - Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds' "Dig!!!Lazarus Dig!!!

"Dig!!! Lazarus, Dig!!!" is awesome.

In 2004, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds released a double album which was really two separate albums called "Abbatoir Blues/Lyre of Orpheus". This is relevant because even after having been around for thirty years (counting his time with The Birthday Party as well as some non-Bad Seeds solo records), many considered "Abbatoir/Lyre" to be his masterpiece. I was one of those people. I was so drawn to that record and have spent so much time with it over the past four years.

"Abbatoir/Lyre" was going to be impossible to top. But then, all of a sudden it wasn't.

It all started when the first single from Nick Cave and the Bad Seed's latest record, "Dig, Lazarus Dig!!!", the title track actually, was released a full month before the record. I downloaded the song and listened to it for a month. It was an aggressive, strange carnival-barking sing along that had all the elements of the best in the Cave cannon.

But that was just the beginning. "Dig, Lazarus Dig!!!" is really a great record. Is it better than "Abbatoir/Lyre"? I'm not sure, but it's close and I have said at various points through the year that it was. I spent the past week revisiting it quite a bit while trying to put this list together and it's hard for me to decide. But, it really doesn't matter. In the context of the music released this year it is virtually without peer.

It is wonderfully ramshackle one minute ("Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!", "We Call Upon the Author") and then it's gorgeously poignant the next ("Hold on to Yourself", "Jesus of the Moon"). This is what sets "Dig!!!" apart. Whereas "Abbatoir/Lyre" were two records with two different styles, "Dig!!!" has managed to meld those two styles into just one perfect record. Cave is having a tremendous 2000's with two (really three) amazing records, not to mention a really fun side project with Grinderman last year. But can he top it? I'm not asking him to, but I wouldn't put it past him.

Sometimes my ideas don't make sense.

I keep a small notebook with me at all times. If someone says something funny, I write it down. If I say something funny, I write it down. If I see something funny, I write it down. If I have a sketch idea, I write it down. If I... you get it.

Anyway, sometimes I go back and look at it and I have no idea where something came from or why I thought something was funny, or even what it means at all.

This is a new column wherein I will look back through my notebook and transcribe exactly what I found...

"Fake AIDS. Maybe a guy pretends to have AIDS to get sympathy? Then maybe people find out he was lying, but then he actually gets AIDS and no one believes him like 'The Boy Who Cried Wolf'"

That's an actual idea I had at some point in my life.

Since there was no Gossip Girl last night - Pat Facts

-I have read the first fifty pages of "Infinite Jest" five times and have still never gotten further and now that David Foster Wallace has died, I feel sorely obligated.

-My favorite actor is Jeff Bridges.

-I hate vacations. Not time off, I love that, but the idea of using all your time off to go somewhere just seems stressful. Full disclosure, I haven't really been on many vacations, but I don't find them appealing at all. If I can drive somewhere in three hours, that's fine. That's more like a getaway. For example, like a cabin somewhere that sounds great. Hole up in a cabin for two days by a fireplace, drink wine and play board games - count me in. But, something for a week or more, no thanks. Especially if I have to actually do things like see sights. Ugh!

-While we're on this topic I also hate adventure of any sort. Even something like a roller coaster. Pass. I prefer to keep my feet on the ground thanks. Just getting through the day is enough of an adrenaline rush, you know? Waaaa Waaaaa! (I'm positive that last line didn't translate in writing).

-If I was going to name a boy child, the absolute last name I would call him is Brad.

-I almost always laugh during the show "Intervention". I know it's wrong, but I can't help it and it makes me feel bad about myself.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Best Records of 2008 - Okkervil River's "The Stand Ins"

Even if Okkervil River's "The Stand Ins" doesn't find it's way to the top of my best records list, it will stand firmly as the single most underrated record released in 2008.

"The Stand Ins" while brilliant, is coming on the heels of its companion piece, last years "The Stage Names" which happened to be my favorite record of 2007. Most fans of "The Stage Names" are still listening to "The Stage Names" seeing as how it's beautiful and all and I think some weren't ready for part two just yet.

Well get yourselves ready because "The Stand Ins" is almost as beautiful as its predecessor. Listened back to back, it truly feels like the greatest double album ever recorded - which is what it was intended to be. There's no filler. Not one even mediocre song between the two records and I'll say this - the only thing that gives "The Stage Names" the edge is that there is one more proper song than "The Stand Ins"

"The Stand Ins" is a bit more upbeat which, depending on your taste, can either add or subtract points I'd assume. It's emotionally complex, obviously and Will Sheff's songs play out like the greatest short stories, as usual. It's safe to say that Sheff is among the top three songwriters working right now.

In a lot of ways, Okkervil River are the anti-Hold Steady, which makes it odd that they are my two favorite modern bands. While The Hold Steady stress inclusion, Okkervil River tend to keep their fans at arms length. This actually works and is what makes their records so essential. You'll pick through each phrase uttered by Will Sheff and that's the point. I find Okkervil River to be very accessible, but they're the kind of band that while you can enjoy their songs the first time around, more will be revealed through repeated listens. Like Arrested Development. The show. Not the hip-hop group with Baba O Jay.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Mike Huckabee tries to explain why it's okay to be prejudiced against gay people in this country, but Jon Stewart is having none of it

That's pretty much it.

Carrie Fisher is my favorite person on earth

She's basically a real life Lucille Bluth. I love her. And I want her book right this minute.

She was so great, they kept her around for more awesomeness

The Best Records of 2008 - The Gaslight Anthem's "The '59 Sound"

For some reason, the Gaslight Anthem are usually lumped in with some wildly inferior bands (tourmates Rise Against spring to mind immediately) but they couldn't be further from that cookie-cutter mall punk sound. The Gaslight Anthem (and I'm stealing this) are more like Bruce Springsteen as sung by the Bouncing Souls.

Their latest record, The '59 Sound, is a truly great rock and roll record. It's unpretentious to a fault (they quote "Round Here" by the Counting Crows without a hint of irony) and manages to be earnest without a hint of cheese - no easy feat I assure you.

The Gaslight Anthem are indebted to their influences, name-checking them early and often (from Bob Seger to Tom Waits and the aforementioned Bruce Sprngsteen). The songs are uplifting and the canvas they're painting on, like The Hold Steady, may seem limited in scope, but in their hands surprises with minute details in lyrics that can make you laugh and cry. It's easy to see why teenagers love this band-they're singing about them-but these songs are anthems meant to be played loud and grown-ups will find just the right level of nostalgia to keep them interested.

There were better records released this year from a technical perspective - The Gaslight Anthem are not out to reinvent the wheel here - but, I don't really want to listen to those records as much as I do "The '59 Sound" which happens to be my most listened to release of 2008 and is looking to remain that way in 2009.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Because I would want to meet at Grand Central Station to talk about my abortion as well.

Wow. Wow. Wow.

Unbelievable. Really. Just great stuff last night. I even took notes.

-I want to start by saying there is not a more believable bloodline in television than CeCe, Lily and Serena. Those are three beautiful women.

-Eric had a funny line regarding Lily - "All she does is make lists and yell at people" which actually sounds a lot like me, except for the yelling at people part.

-Lily: "Nobody's comforted by a tuna tower." This was the line of the night until Ms. Blair Wladorf: "It's not maternal. I've been spending too much time with Cyrus and I'm turning Jewish."

-Here's the thing about the Cyrus/Blair relationship - It shouldn't work, but it totally does! Wallace Shawn is such a pro and when their scenes together end, I immediately want a new one, but unfortunately I usually just get Aaron.

-On the Aaron front. OH MY FUCKING GOD! Nobody like him, right? If you like Aaron, please let me know. This is a huge misstep in what has been an otherwise compelling season. I'm not saying Serena shouldn't have a not-Dan boyfriend, but you mean to tell me this guy was the best choice. And maybe the actor isn't as bad as I think, it could just be the character. I think it's a mixture. I think they both suck. I hate them and want them off my television.

- I always find it odd when grown ups know about texting. I mean, I know they know about it, both of my parents do it, but it still feels like something that should confuse grown ups and it doesn't. These are the same people who couldn't program VCR's in old cliches right?

-When Lily was listening to Bart's voice mail in the park I said "That lipstick is loud" and Mara motioned to my pad as if to say "write that down." I did.

-Tonight I started calling Rufus "Doofus". I know it's not that funny, but it made me happy and I can't believe it took me this long to get to that place.

-A word about Ed Westwick. He's amazing. Even when he's being over the top, and there were moments last night when he was flying really high above said top, he's compelling and believable. If Emmy voters weren't such snobs, Westwick would get nominated for his work in this episode. He ran the gamut of emotions like no other actor on this show and in just one episode. It was a tour de force. No jokes here at all, I was that impressed.

-He should have played Edward Cullen in Twilight.

-Apparently Lincoln Hawk only had one song and ol' Doofus loves singing it. At one point I couldn't find the name Lincoln Hawk in my brain and I referred to them as Falcon Crest. I knew their name wasn't Falcon Crest, but Mara thought it was funny and did the "write it down" gesture so, again, I did.

-"Death clarifies things. It brings some people closer together, pushes other people farther apart." Welcome to Cliche Town population Rufus Humphrey.

-Christ Dan and Serena! How many times do we have to go through the same thing over and over and over. We get it. You belong together, you're both boring. Just fucking do it already.

-I liked when Serena told Lily she was going away with her boyfriend and Lily told her she thought it was a great idea. Yep, it's a great idea for my high school aged daughter to go on vacation for a fuck paradise with a mousy looking twat. Makes sense.

-Oh, hi Aaron that's a great outfit for your dad's wedding. I see you've buttoned your top button that's great, but just one thing YOU'RE NOT WEARING A FUCKING TIE TOP BUTTON FACE!

-I thought the Lily and Chuck face-off would be nastier.

-How many turtlenecks does Rufus own and how have we not talked about this before?

-So, Lily had an abortion. We think. Or maybe she had a kid and gave it up for adoption. It's unclear. Either way. Whatevs.

-January 5th? I have to wait almost a month for a new Gossip Girl. Really? I don't know if I can handle this.

Anyway. A. No question. Great episode. Chuck alone is worth the A.

Friday, December 5, 2008

The Best Records of 2008 - Portishead's Third

As a pretty big Portishead fan - their classic 1994 release "Dummy" is top 50 records of all time status with me - I was pretty excited when it was announced they would, after 11 years, release a very long awaited third record.

Said record, aptly titled "Third", may not be exactly what Portishead fans were expecting. In a lot of ways "Third" is less a reintroduction to a once beloved outfit and more an actual introduction to something different. The trip hop movement of the nineties, spearheaded by "bands" like Portishead as well as Massive Attack and Tricky, was pretty close to dead and, it seems, "Third" was basically the final nail in the coffin. When a group so tied to trip hop, as Portishead were, releases a record so outside the genre, you may as well just come to grips with the fact that it's over.

The good news is, this isn't a bad thing. Portishead version 2.0 is actually pretty awesome - they swell now and have synths and the drums kick in hard and fast at points. I think that's a ukulele driving the Beach Boys-esque harmonies in "Deep Water"! Beth Gibbons voice is still in tact though - as vulnerable as you remember it, but also as beautiful.

"Third" happens to be a revelation. It's not the easiest listen, but it's not supposed to be. Portishead were never easy and I wouldn't expect anything different from this new model. Just because they've made a different kind of record does not mean they should make it any easier for us. That's not to say I don't like easy - I do...very often. But, I also like to be rewarded for diligence and I stuck with "Third" and now it's unquestionably one of my favorite records of the year.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

A few thoughts about this season of Top Chef

Surprisingly, I really like Fabio and can't stand Jamie.

I was positive I would hate Fabio - his alliance with Stefan, his "I'm better than the Americans" attitude - but I don't. Not even a little. He's kind of self deprecating and obviously talented and most importantly, he's funny. He's in my pro column for now.

But Jamie, oh Jamie. You were supposed to be my favorite. Oh, how you've disappointed. You're mean and though you're a tiny, cute lesbian with sweet tats I can see through you. I was fooled by a Kenley once and I shant be again.

Ariane is making the finals. This I'm sure of.

I always hate the guest judge, even when I like them I hate them.

My guess for Top Chef slogan T this year is either Fabio or Danny. Neither has said anything that memorable yet, but just wait.

Melissa's bangs are atrocious. I find it hard to look at her. That's mean, I know but still.

I kind of think Hosea and Leah are adorable, though I'm confident they'll get old really fast.

Eugene looks like he just got out of prison.

The guy who left last night, Alex I think, looks like the WWE wrestler Umaga.

Carla is awesome. There is no season without Carla. She's crazy. I fear she's not long for the Top Chef world and what a sadder world it will be.

There is no other reality show on TV that has contestants who use the phrase "throw (someone) under the bus" more than Top Chef. In fact, it may overtake "I'm not here to make friends" as the single most cliched reality show phrase period. Probably not, though.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

This is awesome

Funny or Die posted this video today and it's great. It's called Prop 8: The Musical and it exposes all of the Prop 8 supporters as the hateful bigots they are...except with jokes.

See more Jack Black videos at Funny or Die

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


Those of you who know me, know I love Morrissey. I'm a huge Morrissey fan. But guess what? I am officially an even bigger Morrissey fan because apparently this is the cover of his new record...

There is a possibility this is not the cover art, but either way it's awesome and so is Morrissey.

Three more Pat facts - up from two last time.

I had pumpkin pie for the first time in my life this Thanksgiving. Turns out, it's pretty good. It's not great, but I'd definitely eat it again.

When I was a kid, I had a big crush on Leslie Ann Warren who played Miss Scarlett in the Clue movie.

I'm positive the greatest television character of all time is Jackie Harris played by the brilliant Laurie Metcalf on Roseanne. There may have been some that are more "socially important" or something like that, but for sheer entertainment and killer line reads - it's Jackie in a walk. Number two - Lucille Bluth on Arrested Development.

Because apparently Olympian Nastia Lukin was on last night's episode and I had no idea.

It's the Bart dies episode! Finally!

Let's just say the Chuck/Lily story is gonna get nasty and awesome. This has the potential to be a pantheon Gossip Girl moment, providing they don't mess it up like they did much of last night's episode.

For starters, there was too much going on in the world of Humdrum and Serena. I'm not even going to comment on it. They have the "metaphorical cutting of the tie" or whatever Dan said. Haven't they done this like thirteen times already?

Every time Aaron comes on screen I cringe. I'm so predisposed to hate this guy and his photos of Serena are not art, they're stupid.

Lexi was cute though.

I do love the mini-Blairs. They make me laugh. It's good to know there are girls out there who can carry on the Waldorf legacy while she's off at Yale.

My favorite is Hazel.

Oh and Lil' J is coming back to school bitches!

Rufus' record collection looked like shit, huh? For a hip dad who lent an imaginary Pixies box set to Nate I thought he would do better than Jeff Beck and Aeromsith. Jesus and Mary Chain? XTC, even?

Say what you will about Jessica Szhor, but my girl can cry. Vanessa spent most of last night crying. By the by, why can't Vanessa do one dastardly thing without having to come clean about it? She's too perfect. Frankly, it's a little annoying. And of course she's never felt that way about anyone before, Nate! The last person to show romantic interest in her was Dan. No one likes, Dan.

Which brings me, briefly, back to Dan and Serena - believe it or not, I wish they would get back together because then we'd only have to endure one Dareena storyline per week.

How great are Blair and Chuck? I mean, honestly. We don't even need to talk about it. They are absolute magic on screen together. When they're scheming, they can make even the worst episode at least passable.

Solid work from Dorota as per usual.

Line of the night: "I gave her that headband."

I didn't think it was possible for the GG wardrobe people to top Chuck's "anchor cardigan", but they have and I'm sure you all know what I'm talking about. That sparkly jacket was ridiculously awesome!

Why are there always parties and balls in the world of Gossip Girl? I mean always.

I guess I should talk about Rufus and Lily...there I talked about it. zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz!

The see through dress wasn't all that see through. I mean, who cares really? You can see more Serena tit in clothes that aren't see through. Vanessa should have owned it, that would have been great

Dan was excited for the snowflake ball. You know why? Dan's gay.

The Norman Mailer reference was forced. Remember when Norman Mailer was on Gilmore Girls and you totally believed it? Me too.

Beta Chuck. HA!

I used to work right under an elevated subway train and when the train is going by, you cannot hear the person on the other end. I used to have stop conversations. Dan, though, had no problem.

Overall not great, but Blair and Chuck knock it up a full letter grade, so B-