March 17, 2009

Mixtape in a Minute: The Best Songs of 2008

Hey Not-Yet-Loyal Readers,

Today I'm starting what hopefully will evolve into a semi-regular feature here on the blog where I present a little music mix (generally 10 - 20 tracks) of stuff I think you'd be well served to check out. I'm a big fan of music and I love to share the music of good artists I discover with my friends, but I know at times I can be a little too excited and oversell the music with my own opinions and hyperbole... so when I post these mixes, I'll simply provide the track name, artist, and (if possible) links to a streamed version of the song and/or the artist's MySpace page and let you form your own opinions. [Quick note: Don't worry, I'm still planning on posting CD reviews occasionally, and in that forum, I'll let loose with the opinion sharing and hyperbole blasting.] If you have a chance to check some of the stuff out and find something you like... please support the artist. I think everyone is aware by now that the music industry is struggling, and a lot of these bands need cash flow just to keep producing their art for public consumption. Let's not allow our kids to grow up in world where the only new music is coming from Nickelback clones and the 80 year-old U2 dudes (it's bad enough that we have to still put up with them).

All right, I got that slightly hypocritical rant out of the way... now on to the list. I'm hoping to start this feature off with a bang, so today I'm sharing my favourite songs from 2008. When picking these songs, I kept to the simple criteria that:
a) the song had to be from an album released in the 2008 calendar year (the only one I'm not totally sure about is the Jon Foreman track, but it's dated in my iTunes as 2008)
b) I have to have listened to the song enough times to have formed a solid opinion on it
c) if possible, I wanted to limit it to one song per artist... this was tough for bands such as House of Heroes, Thrice, and Lydia... and absolutely impossible for Copeland
d) I tried to offer stuff from various genres, but I find I'm listening to mostly mellow stuff these days, so that might not have been accomplished
e) I tried to organize it in such a way that it would make a great iTunes mix, and
f) each song has to be mind-blowing.

So, after the previous ado, but without any further... here's the list:

  1. Copeland - Should You Return
  2. Good Old War - Just Another Day
  3. Matt Pryor - Confidence Man [The song is streaming on his MySpace page.]
  4. Death Cab for Cutie - Grapevine Fires
  5. Thrice - Broken Lungs
  6. House of Heroes - Sooner or Later [Definitely the catchiest hook of the year. Not streaming, but use the link to download "Sooner or Later" plus two other quality HoH tracks.]
  7. Lydia - Hospital
  8. The New Frontiers - Mirrors [Not only can you stream this song, but it's up for download on their Purevolume page... so there is absolutely no reason for you not to download and fall in love with this song.]
  9. Jon Foreman - Somebody's Baby
  10. Manchester Orchestra - I Can Feel a Hot One
  11. Coldplay - Viva la Vida [You may think I'm joking after you watch the music video, but I actually do like this song. Also, sorry if you haven't heard of these guys... I think they're a new indie band (likely from somewhere foreign)... they're probably relaying on people confusing them with Copeland in order to sell any records.]
  12. Jack's Mannequin - What Gets You Off [I found this one on a random site... hopefully the link still works... let me know if there are any problems.]
  13. Augustana - Hey Now
  14. Copeland - The Day I Lost My Voice (The Suitcase Song)
  15. Bon Iver - Re: Stacks
So, there you have it... a ton of great music crammed into a very tiny space. I sincerely hope anyone who reads this finds something they enjoy.

If Anyone has a Good Signoff, Please Call Me...

March 15, 2009

Is It Really Madness if Everyone has It?

Today is "Selection Sunday," which (for the uninformed) is the day they set the field for the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament... or, as it is more commonly known, March Madness. In my personal life, this marks the start of the annual three week period where I ravenously follow a sport that I largely ignore for the other 49 weeks of the year. Mind you, I do occasionally check in on my adopted team, Villanova, to see how they are fairing through the conference season, and this year I have been reading Mark Titus' "Club Trillion" blog, which documents his experiences playing for the Ohio State basketball team [by the way, I recommend everyone check this blog out, especially if you enjoy hilarious, well-written, sometimes informative blogging... which is why I assume you're here in the first place]... but the point is that my love of college basketball is generally contained within this single three week window every year.

I'm not going to waste your time with some drawn out treatise on why this event captures my attention like it does... especially when anyone who has ever experienced March Madness can tell you the reasons can be summed up in a few simple words: brackets, miracle shots, Cinderella stories, Gus Johnson, and trying to figure out which school has the most attractive cheerleaders (surprisingly, Arizona often cleans up in this category). Those things, combined with the shear volume of basketball one gets to watch in a condensed timeframe, are what draw people to the madness. Actually, now that I think about it, another underrated aspect of the tournament is the strangely surrealistic experience of watching someone like Butler play and seeing five white guys on the court for one team at the same time... it gives you a good chuckle anyway.

I'm digressing, so, like I said, I'm not going to waste your time with that. Rather, I prefer to waste your time in another way... I'm going to tell you about a yearly ritual I have that coincides with the madness. In a nutshell, I use the three weeks of the tournament as a condensed scouting season for my beloved Raptors. As I have no influence whatsoever in the decisions of that organization, how this usually plays out is that during the course of the tournament I generally fall in love one or two guys and desperately hope that the Raptors will draft him... then invariably get crushed when draft day comes and the Raptors decide that they'd rather take their chances on Rafael Araujo (I'm not even going to waste my time checking if I spelled his name correctly). Past examples of my "tournament crush" include (chronologically) Antawn Jamison (who the Raptors actually did draft, but immediately traded for some guy named Vince Carter), Kirk Hinrich, Delonte West, Chris Paul (in only two games, as Wake Forest lost early and destroyed my bracket), Jordan Farmar, Randy Foye, Luc Richard Mbah-a-Moute, and Stephen Curry (everyone who watched March Madness last year can feel me). I have a couple guiding principals for picking my tournament crush; first of all, you're automatically disqualified if you play for Duke or Kentucky... and you're going to really have to impress me if you play for UConn. You get bonus points if you play for Villanova or UCLA, or if you have an awesome name (see Mbah-a-Moute). It generally helps to be 6'-3" or under and you have to have at least an above-average jump shot (Mbah-a-Moute is the exception here, but see above about the name thing). I also tend to drift towards scrappy players who can single-handedly will their teams to a win. Most importantly, I like players who bring more things to the table than they take off. In short, they're players who play the way I wish I could play. Anyway, for whatever reason, even knowing it's going to lead to heartbreak at the draft, identifying and rooting for this player is my favourite part of March Madness every year.

The word out of Bracketville is that Davidson is not going to make the tournament this year, meaning no Stephen Curry, meaning there is a large hole in my heart waiting to be filled by any player who is willing to step up to the challenge. So James Harden, Eric Maynor, Jonny Flynn, Scottie Reynolds (bonus points for playing in Philly and having the same last name as characters from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia), and all you dark horse candidates out there... the torch is ready to be passed... feel free to come and take it.

Still Looking for the Perfect Sign-off...

March 13, 2009

The Start of Something (B)old

Sup Friendlies,

Well, this is awkward... I decided to start a new blog (I kept one a few years ago on this thing called Myspace) and this is it. The thing is, I really haven't fully decided what this is going to be. More than anything, I wanted a forum to keep my writing skills sharp. On top of that, I want to post a few things that will make one or two people laugh, or think, or laugh about thinking... but definitely not think about laughing because that's a little depressing. These things will likely be in the form of sports commentary, music reviews, and some occasional ramblings. Anyway, I think I'm going to keep this to myself for a little while and try some things and see where this goes... once (and if) I think I've got something good going on, I'll share it with the couple dozen or so people I think will find some value in this here piece of business. So hopefully by the time you see this post, there will be something up that will make it worth your while visiting this blog... because this sure doesn't qualify.

Searching for a good sign-off...