Monday, November 30, 2009

The Decade in Music - Part 1

10 years ago, I was making $22,000 a year as a small-town newspaper reporter while living alone in a studio apartment. In the intervening 10 years I got a job in the NBA, moved with that team to Memphis, got married, had a kid, moved to Portland, bought a house, and became an extraordinary Wii Mario Kart player.

Now that’s a decade.

With the aughts coming to an end, it’s time to look back, specifically to the music. In my triumphant return to sporadic blogging, I will spend the next few weeks counting down the 20 best artists of the decade, in increments of five at a time.

A few caveats: there will be no rap or country on this list. I don’t like either genre and I’m not throwing in Jay-Z or Keith Urban just to make it look like I have a wide array of music tastes. Also, there was a time I was much more invested in music, knew all the up-and-coming indie bands and moaned years later when they got big. But now I’m not really in a position to stay up until 3 a.m. listening to five new CDs, while dissecting the lyrics and liner notes. So this won’t exactly be the hippest list, but that’s what happens when you become old and lame.

With that out of the way, on to the list:

Honorable mentions:

These bands were in the running for this prestigious list, but ultimately got squeezed out: Weezer, Josh Ritter, U2 (only for All That You Can’t Leave Behind, and nothing since), The Decemberists, Phoenix (It took a while, but 1901 really grew on me, and Lisztomania is also very good. Nice breakout performance), Franz Ferdinand (their eponymous debut is terrific, everything since has been a desperate attempt to recapture that magic), the Shout Out Louds and Modest Mouse.

#20: MGMT
There weren’t many songs that were more fun in the decade than Time to Pretend. A hopelessly catchy danceable song skewering celebrities who become train wrecks since they have the world at their feet and don’t know what to do with it. Also, my bet is that Lindsay Lohan has no idea the song is meant to be ironic.

#19: …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead

I’d caught on to these guys after hearing Relative Ways off their Source Tags and Codes album, and eagerly bought their follow up, Worlds Apart. It was a decent album with a few standouts, including a song called The Rest Will Follow. It was an enjoyable enough album, then a few weeks after its release they were on Letterman, and did The Rest Will Follow live.

And they blew the fucking roof off.

To this day this remains my favorite late night performance of all-time, especially when punctuated with Paul Shaffer's "Whoa!" at the end of the performance. And more importantly, the strength of that performance, along with their song Source Tags and Codes being used in a tremendous Friday Night Lights scene, gets them #19 on my list.

#18: Explosions in the Sky
Hey, speaking of Friday Night Lights…The preferred band of the best television show of the decade (that’s right) gets in at #18.

In 1999, when I still liked Limp Bizkit (I don’t want to talk about it), if you’d told me in 10 years I’d be digging a band doing sweeping 12-minute songs with no singing, I would have told you that’d be as likely as a pro sports team moving to Memphis.

But here they are. And really, is it even possible not to like these guys? A lot of bands write songs that are anthemic, but how many write songs that are epic? This is epic music. Every time I hear it, I feel like I can lift the nearest car. This is big music, this is music they should be using in the climactic scenes of movies. So how is it that only the producers of the Friday Night Lights movie and tv show have figured this out?

You know what, I don’t care. Check out The Birth and Death of the Day and tell me you don’t get a chill:

#17: Green Day
Talk about a career progression. They went from writing snarky two-minute punk/pop songs to writing the anthemic (there’s that word again) American Idiot album. And that was a hell of an album, especially when you consider the best song is a sprawling multi-part, nine-minute opus that encapsulates modern disaffected teenagers. So yeah, they came a long way from All By Myself.

#16: Bloc Party
They’d be much higher on this list had they not completely botched their second album. Still, you can’t take away the greatness of Silent Alarm. That album jumps from anger to outrage to fun to earnest and rarely hits a false note.

I don’t know what it says about me that my favorite song is a straight forward love song that contains exactly 59 words, but here you go (and Here We Are):

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Ole Miss-Tennessee preview, er, sorta

Your morals and personal code aren’t written down on a list and followed each day. They’re developed over time. Sometimes you don’t even know how you feel about a subject until a line in the sand is drawn and you have to pick a side. For me, that day is today. I have to pick who to cheer for in the Tennessee-Ole Miss football game.

Living in the South means that you have to pay attention to college football. If you have balls, I mean. I can’t be totally invested in college football for the following reasons:

1. The outcome of most games is easy to predict. The talent discrepancy between the haves and have-nots is the difference in 95% of the games.
2. There is no prevalent fantasy game that revolves around college football.
3. My alma mater, the University of Memphis, sucks.

Regardless, football is football and I watch. Since, as mentioned above, I live in the South and my alma mater sucks, I spend the majority of my time cheering against teams. It’s fun and it’s easy. My two favorite teams to hate are Tennessee and Ole Miss. But today, my plan of cheering against these guys is ruined. They play each other. What’s a half-hearted pessimist to do. Let’s break down the pros and cons of each school and figure out who in the hell to cheer for.

The Cities

Knoxville looks like a glorified truck stop. I hate it. I don’t know how it’s scientifically possible but everywhere you walk is up a hill. The only redeeming part of Knoxville is that I once saw a Krystal-eating contest there. This is both awesome and pathetic when talking about a city’s most redeeming quality.

Oxford, it’s quaint, it’s got some trees and Hardees, so yeah, it’s alright. I can see the value in this place, if, and only if, every Ole Miss graduate didn’t talk about Oxford like it was the location of God’s orgasm during creation.

Winner: Oxford

The Coaches

Lane Kiffin is a brash, arrogant SOB. However, as far as I can tell, he hasn’t done anything to deserve this. I’m pretty sure the only thing he’s done to date is get fired by Al Davis and be proud of losing games in a somewhat competitive fashion.

Houston Nutt is the ideal Ole Miss coach. He looks like the type of guy that would get shot by Dick Cheney while hunting, which is what Ole Miss fans are looking for.

Winner: Houston Nutt

The Teams

Tennessee players commit armed robbery with pellet guns.

Ole Miss players can’t read (see the last paragraph here) and steal from hotel rooms.

Winner: Lawyers

The Cheer

Rocky Top Tennessee is hands down the worst song to ever be created. I’d rather be stuck in the Branch Davidian Compound and be forced to hear “These Boots are Made for Walkin’” about 3,000 times before I hear Rocky Top again.

Hotty Toddy is a drunken rant. I can accept this. However, to hear the same drunken rant 272 times before you enter the football stadium is one too many. The good news is that you don’t have to hear the chant that much during the game since Ole Miss usually sucks and the fans have nothing to cheer for.

Winner: No one

The Fans

This is really what I care about. I don’t really want Tennessee or Ole Miss to lose because I care about the actual players or coaching staff. I’ve come into contact with too many of their fans and it brings me joy to think about these people experiencing loss.

Tennessee fans on the east side of the state are mostly hillbilly conservative clichés that bleed orange and white, drink moonshine, beat their wife, sleep with their cousin and vote for the white guy, er, Republican. (I can’t really vouch for any of this since I’ve been to Knoxville a total of 3 times and hung out with friends from the suburbs, but I don’t mind writing about stereotypes.) Tennessee fans here in Memphis drive me nuts. Most of them attended Tennessee for 1-2 semesters, drank a lot of beer, failed their classes and had their parents make them come home. They then went to the University of Memphis but proudly remain UT fans, you know, cause they spent a total of 4 months there and all. Drives me nuts. Then again, you have these other people who, for some unbeknownst reason, cheer for Tennessee in football and then the University of Memphis in basketball. They’re frontrunners. I can’t stand this either. Look buddy, pick a school and cheer for them. It’s not that hard. People don’t cheer for Ohio State basketball and Michigan football. Ugh.

Ole Miss males all have haircuts like this. It’s amazing. Seriously, go to Oxford on a Saturday and you’ll see 10,000 20-40 year old dudes with this haircut. It’s almost like they are genetically predetermined to go to Ole Miss. These guys generally drink way too much, invented date-rape, wear shirts and ties to football games and vote for the white guy, er, Republican. They hate every other SEC school and constantly have an inflated sense of their team. Every preaseason they talk about how bad ass their team is, although most years they end up somewhere between 3-7 and 7-3. I’ll give them credit for one thing: they don’t cheer for Memphis basketball. Thank God.

Winner: No one

So it looks like the final score is in favor of Ole Miss by a margin of 2-0-3. However, I just remember that I picked Tennessee in my work pool, so screw it, I’ll cheer for anything that gives me a chance at money. Go Vols. I just threw up in my mouth.


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Rockin the Suburbs Book Preview Continued

A while back I gave a preview of my coffee table book idea, "Homoerotic Sports Pictures." Here's the second preview:

Does this guy ever live this picture down? I bet his friends made t-shirts out of it.

What are the chances he's saying, "You smell good?"

He's not allowed with 20 feet of a school yet he can ref wrestling matches?

Europeans are weird.

As far as homoerotic sports pictures go, this is the Mona Lisa.

Now that's what I call going for the ball, zing!

No wonder this is Graham's favorite sport.

This is the opposite of how I'd celebrate something.

The Lakers are always screwing someone over, aren't they?

This gives no meaning to "taking a charge."


Monday, November 2, 2009