Wednesday, December 31, 2008

(Not Necessarily New) Albums I Heard in '08 and Liked

Before the clock runs out...
MGMT - Oracular Spectacular (Electric Feel is the theme to Saturday Night Fever 2...which doesn't really exist nor should it)
Estelle - Shine
Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes
The National - Boxer
Medeski, Martin, and Wood - Let's Go Everywhere (Pat-A-Cake like you've never hear it)

Monday, December 29, 2008

2008

Happy New Year and Holidays to all. I hope everyone had a great 2008


I traveled a lot for work in 2008. My Top 10 Cities Visited (I could be going to most of them again in 2009, so if you have any tips on restaurants/things to do in any of them, please let me know in the comments)


Tie-1) Washington DC: This was my first visit since 1988, my first visit without chaperones…and with….pubes? Just an unbelievably fun and easily accessible city. I cannot wait to return in 2009.


Tie-1) Los Angeles: My first non-LAX-stopover LA visit since 1987. I drove all over the place and know that I didn’t scratch the surface of what I could have done. I did see my Mets slaughter the Dodgers at Dodger stadium. I also almost became the newest person to plow through the Santa Monica Wednesday farmer’s market. Thank goodness for the parking meter car that stopped me.


3) Austin: I think this city is kind of overrated, but I still enjoyed it. Strangely, I was in DC the week before the election and in Austin the week before SXSW, so I missed the action each time. I saw one good weird band in Austin within the sea of probably 20-25 Stevie Ray Vaughn wannabes simultaneously populating 6th street. It looks like a fun place, but not anything different from, say, Beale Street or Nashville’s Broadway/2nd avenue. Maybe there’s an Austin experience I’m missing. I’m annoyed by the “Keep Austin Weird” t-shorts…is it really weird if you have to tell people on a t-shirt? I still enjoyed it….it just wasn’t the orgasmic experience most people lead you to expect.


4) Phoenix/Tempe: Memorable for my hotel room in Tempe that had all mirrored walls. Creepy….fun!


5) Fargo, ND: I didn’t get the full Fargo experience (which I kind of fear…), but I did get to hear the accents.


6) El Paso: I was lucky to be traveling with a Mexico City policeman, and ate some excellent Mexican food there per his recommendation.


7) Bismarck, ND: Home of the North Dakota Aviation Hall of Fame You really have to experience it in person. The website doesn’t do it justice. I mean, you can also see all of those people’s pictures….on a wall…right there in the airport…..for free!


8) The NW Chicago suburbs (Schaumburg, Hoffman Estes, Barrington): Best Buy, Target, Starbucks, Chili’s, Caribou, Books a Million, repeat.


9) Juarez, Mexico: I didn’t see much there except where our jobs went. Warehouse after warehouse after factory after corporate office.


10) Detroit: The cosmic nemesis of Juarez. Both places look identical, except the factories and warehouses in Detroit were run down and empty.


Favorite albums of 2008 (Daniel J and I share more than just names…)

Deerhoof: Offend Maggie

Beck: Modern Guilt

The Walkmen: You & Me

My Morning Jacket: Evil Urges

Crooked Fingers: Forfeit / Fortune

Pavement: brighten the Corners reissue

Not released in 2008, but I heard it for the first time in 2008 and enjoyed

New Pornographers: Electric Version

Ted Leo and the Pharmacists: Hearts of Oak

A.C. Newman: The Slow Wonder

Curtis Mayfield: Superfly

-Daniel D

Friday, December 26, 2008

Some Highs and Lows of 2008...

..selected with no particular rationale and offered in no particular order.

This little Seattle band is starting to get some much deserved attention (see here and here) after a few years of regular gigs and a reportedly stellar show at Sasquatch. Their debut album deftly captures their mixture of country, folk and rock that never degenerates into “a little bit country, a little bit rock n’ roll” (they’ve been routinely compared to The Band, a group I somehow missed during my classic rock record collecting phase. But if you want to listen to a vinyl copy of CCR’s Cosmo’ Factory, with that weird bike-riding-in-the-studio cover, I’m your man.) The album is a pleasant, satisfying listen from beginning to end. Tracks like “Ain’t No Lord” and “Old Hound” showcase a surprisingly developed ear for harmony, and the slow but never indulgent build of songs like “Changin” and “Night and Day” continues to reward on repeated listening. And while the band is self-aware, they inject only the slightest hint of irony into their music, letting earnest talent shine through.

Best Writing: The Oxford American

This magazine features some of the best writing from and about the South, but it is nationally relevant and deeply human, making it a must read from coast to coast. Each themed issue features prose lyrical and perceptive enough to make me interested in subjects I don’t normally read about, such as sports and architecture. Their Katrina issue is one of the most important chronicles of that harrowing event and its aftermath, especially the article that finds a metaphor for rebirth in an elderly man’s Zombie dance moves. But their forte is music writing, and every December brings a music issue offering a companion CD (or this year – TWO CDS!) of hand selected southern music both new and old and a loving review of each song. The subscription is $20, which is an unbeatable deal for four great issues plus the CD. Buy one for yourself and give one to your co-worker who is always claiming that John Mayer is the greatest living blues guitarist. You’ll both learn something.

Best Podcast: Philosophy Bites

10-12 minute discussions of philosophical concepts, ancient, contemporary, and everything between, that reach surprising depth and nuance. Plus, it’s all in British accents, so you know it’s smart!

Most Important Moment in the DC Comics Universe: The Death of Martian Manhunter

The DC Comics universe has been overly bloated with event publications all year – 100,000 of Superman’s Kryptonian buddies are residing on earth, the planet was literally taken over by the bad guys, and Bruce Wayne will soon surrender his role as Batman for unclear reasons. Still, the biggest moment this year was also the most neglected – longtime DC mainstay and Justice League founder Martian Manhunter, a.k.a J’onn J’ones (it’s pronounced as though you had a friend John Jones from France), was murdered by a league of supervillains, who thrust a flaming spear through his heart (I had an uncle who died the same way. Tragic, really). Martian Manhunter was one of the most powerful characters in the DC stable – flight, super strength, shape shifting, telepathy, invulnerability, heat vision, plus the really cool ability to turn from solid to translucent matter – and as a true alien, unlike Superman, he brought the much needed wisdom and gravity provided by an outsider perspective. But he was constantly underused and poorly written, so DC decided to kill him off to raise the stakes for their big event book Final Crisis. Worse yet, his death took place in a single comic panel, and his superfriends seem to have largely forgotten him already. While the blockbuster events mentioned above will eventually be reset to satisfy the fan boys (DC won’t keep 100,000 Supermen around forever), there may not be enough nerd clamor to bring poor J’onn J’ones back from the dead, a relatively easy feat in the comic book world. So pay your respects by picking up the single issue Requiem, which shows his final moments and funeral, including a tender moment with Batman at his coffin

Franchise That’s Officially Dead to Me: Star Wars

For obvious reasons.

Happy 2009 - Ryan Weber

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Year in review and top 10 albums (Daniel Jacobs)

Happy Holidays, everyone!

I've really enjoyed the posts so far and am looking forward to checking out a lot of stuff I missed this year. I'm gonna highlight a few random, personal, favorites from '08 and then finish it off with my top 10 albums of the year.

Random Favorite 1: Getting married. What a wild ride...
Random Favorite 2: Recording music. My band, Parklights, started recording 7 songs in February of this year and continued to do so, recording tracks after work during the week or on Sunday afternoons, up until about a month ago, when we finished. We recorded at the KXLU radio station studios. I have very fond memories of drinking tea and gazing out the 4th story windows onto the beautiful Loyal Marymount University campus. But damn if I didn't realize that recording music can be very tedious and discouraging at times. It just makes me appreciate good music and musicians even more.
Random Favorite 3: Culver Palms Church Christmas party. Special shout outs to Angie and Adam Willis for organizing the talent portion this year. I'm confident in saying this was my favorite year. I love Culver by the way. Having a supportive vibrant church family is a huge blessing.
Random Favorite 4: Laker basketball. 2008 was a emotional roller coaster for Laker fans. I remember starting 2008 riding a wave of confidence from their Christmas day victory over their division rivals The Suns). Shortly after that, their blossoming center Andrew Bynum went down with a season ending knee injury. He played such a pivotal role in the Lakers success up until his that point, many fans lost hope. But Kupchak pulled off a miracle. 7 foot, bird-like, Spanish, phenom Pau Gasol came over from Memphis in exchange for the much derided Kwame Brown and others. Incidentally Kwame had a great game against the Lakers on his new team the Pistons recently. So no hard feelings right?
The rest of the regular season and playoffs were amazing to watch. Then I went on our honeymoon and the Finals against the Boston Celtics began. It's almost too painful to recount, but let's just say the Lakes got handled big time. Boston was the better team plain and simple.
I'm going on way too long about this, but this season things are going very well for the Lakers and let's hope for the best come Christmas day (first game against the Celtics, post finals loss) and beyond.


Here are my favorite albums from 2008.

10. Hot Chip - "Made In The Dark"
Aside- I originally acquired this album via download from a not-so-legit website. Someone had inserted these annoying promos of a robotic sounding voice saying "Made In The Dark by Hot Chip coming February 2008" every couple minutes during the songs. It was quite hilarious and I acttualy put up with it for a couple months since I was too lazy or forgetful to get a good copy and because I really enjoyed the songs. If that makes sense...
"Ready For The Floor" is the standout track by far.

9. The Mars Volta - "The Bedlam in Goliath"
Thanks to Tom Ahn for burning me a copy of this one. It's incredibly dense and complex but still rocks, like really really rocks. It's so loud and overwhelming and like nothing else I listened to this year.
I would have loved to have witnessed the recording of this album. It's worth noting that John Frusciante plays on it and you can definitely hear his contributions. Also, the drumming is insane. So good.

7. Lil Wayne - "Tha Carter III"
I listened to this album a couple times driving home from work and I thoroughly enjoyed it. But I probably won't come back to it much in the years to come.
He endeared himself to me by attempting to play guitar during his live shows despite a pretty obvious lack of skill. For some reason I really like that sort of indulgence and quirkiness.

8. Nada Surf - "Lucky"
Slightly Adult Contemporary, but they write some really good songs sometimes. The first few songs on the album are standouts.

7. Sloan - "Parallel Play"
"Witches Wand" is my favorite song in the world. It sounds a good deal like The Kink's "Lola" and it's so catchy. I don't have much a reference point to judge this album in respect to the rest of their catalog but that's something I plan on fixing this year. Thanks to Trevor (who did a video for them) and Paul for hipping me to these dudes.

6. TV On The Radio - "Dear Science"

5. Raconteurs - "Consolers Of the Lonely"
I really dug this album for the first few times through. Then it grew stale. Now it's back. Weird. "Salute Your Solution" is a great single. The crescendo at the end where Jack White's voice gets more and more distorted is very exciting and satisfying.

4. The Walkmen - "You and Me"
Definitely a grower. I remember first hearing it in the morning on the way to work and it was not helping my already drowsy state. But then I heard it again and again and now I really like it. I regret not seeing them play live this year. That's always an EXTREME concert experience. I highly recommended it.

3. Deerhunter - "Microcastles"
Well crafted songs and very interesting sound. I like both cover arts, too.

2. My Morning Jacket - "Evil Urges"
I've listened to this one more than any other this year and I still dig it. I got a soft spot for these dudes. Even the very strange track "Highly Suspicious" is catchy and I find myself singing or humming it. I respect them for treading new ground, musically.

1. Beck - "Modern Guilt"
I love every track on this one. I ain't ashamed to say it.

Dude I should I probably get back to work this took way longer than I expected. See ya next year.

Monday, December 22, 2008

My Favorite Albums from Portland, OR in 2008

In spite of having spent countless hours in 2007 ruminating over what lists to post to the ol' Jamboree and what their contents would be, I ultimately buckled under the weight and posted nothing. Partly, this was because 2007 was my first year writing my weekly column on local music (entitled "Our Town Could Be Your Life") for The Portland Mercury, one of the alternative weeklies here in Portland, OR. It's a real privilege to be given an excuse to dig so deep into local culture, but it is most definitely time-consuming.

It feels a little lazy to do this, but let's call it efficient efficient instead: I am posting a link here to my column for this week, in which I wrote on my favorite Portland albums of 2008.

Come Thursday, when next week's paper goes live, I will also link to my column on my favorite Portland shows by local bands.

This will free me up to spend a little time on my prospective Jamboree post covering non-Portland music.

I imagine it's a given, but I am quite the Portland music zealot and - although this could be partially attributed to the increased opportunities I have to discover and interact with local artists - there were honestly more albums that I loved from Portland this year than there were from the rest of the world combined.

For anyone who would like to delve further into Stumptown/Bridgetown/PDX/Portland (or, rather, my opinions thereof), I am including links below to my Best of Local Music columns from last year:

My Top 5 Portland Albums of 2007

My Top 5 Portland Shows of 2007

Best,
Cary Clarke

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Extended Plays

Here are the top six EPs (or the like) that I, Colin McCormick, enjoyed this year.

6. Crystal Antlers – EP

It may be unimaginatively titled, but this Long Beach band’s noisy, lo-fi, self-released EP of what sounds to me like some sort of garage psychedelia is far more compelling than No Age’s similar but grossly overrated Nouns.

5. High Places – 03/07-09/07
This is more a collection of singles from last year than an actual EP, but it serves as a good lead-in for High Places’ full length debut. If Crystal Antlers is garage psychedelia, this Brooklyn-based duo’s rhythmically dense yet somehow sparse sound is bedroom psychedelia.

4. The Decemberists – Always The Bridesmaid: A Singles Series
Released as three separate vinyl singles under one heading (more for the pun than anything else), this de facto EP primarily targets established fans of the band. That is not to say it is lacking substance, however. Upbeat openers “Valerie Plame” and “Days Of Elaine” ably take after “Sixteen Military Wives” and “O Valencia!” respectively. But as usual, Colin Meloy is at his songwriting best when he dabbles in the more melancholy. Heavy-hearted closers “Record Year For Rainfall” and the simple, plaintive “Raincoat Song” are the real (non-engagement-related) jewels here.

3. Animal Collective – Water Curses
These leftovers from last years delicious meal of Strawberry Jam have had their sweetness well preserved. The title track is a haphazard, syncopated waltz that may just be the catchiest thing Animal Collective has released since “Grass.”

2. Air France – No Way Down
“Spring has arrived early here.” It’s a strange choice of phrase to open a track entitled “June Evenings,” or, for that matter, an entire EP that feels like a breezy, late summer electro-pop escape to some blissful beach or idyllic countryside too perfect to possibly be real. It all sounds sort of like a dream…no, better. Now when will this Swedish duo ever release a full length LP?

1. Fleet Foxes – Sun Giant
This unexpectedly warm and rich EP came out of nowhere to give us our first small taste of Fleet Foxes’ beguiling folk melodies, extraordinarily lush harmonies, and enchanting arrangements. What an introduction.

For Your Aural Pleasure 2008

Favorite Singles of 2008
10. “The Lovers Are Losing” by Keane

9. “Amazing” by Kanye West featuring Young Jeezy
“Standing at my podium, I’m trying to watch my sodium, got high blood pressure…”

8. “Sick” by Sam Sparro
“It’s a sick, sick world. I’ll be your medicine. Come and take me, take me. I’ll make you feel better.”

7. “Human” by The Killers
Great song notwithstanding the irritatingly nonsensical lyric “Are we human or are we dancer?”

6. “Turn To Stone” by Girls Aloud
Unfortunately, the rest of the Girls' album lacks the inspiration of a usually brilliant Xenomania-produced record.

5. “Damaged” by Danity Kane
I have never been a fan of this act in any way, but then I heard a snippet of this track. Totally manufactured, but it's great to run to (particularly along Ocean between San Vic and Cali). Be sure to edit the track so it stops around 2:58.56. The last minute and ten seconds has Diddy rambling and ruining an otherwise great pop song.

4. “Strength In Numbers” by The Music
“All the animals come out at night…”

3. “Hot Stuff vs. World Hold On” by Craig David vs. Bob Sinclair
Who else but Craig David could sing, “Girl, you’re making me hard, what a feeling!” without it sounding vulgar?

2. “Womanizer” by Britney Spears

1. “Viva La Vida” by Coldplay

Favorite Ballads of 2008
5. “Human” by Brandy
4. “Run” by Leona Lewis (Yes, Britain’s pride and joy covers the Snow Patrol original)
3. “Imagine” by David Archuleta
2. “The Ice Is Getting Thinner” by Death Cab For Cutie
1. “I Stay In Love” by Mariah Carey

Favorite Albums of 2008
10. Black Tide, “Light From Above”
This album, recorded by a band of four talented teenagers, shows great promise.
Standout Track: “Shockwave”

9. Oasis, “Dig Out Your Soul”
Standout Tracks: “Bag It Up,” “Falling Down,” “Waiting For The Rapture”

8. Mariah Carey, “E=MC2”
To steal Paul’s explanation for listening to radio programs, MC’s appearance on my top 10 list at this point is in no small part due to the sense of comfort I feel from listening to her music over the years. The current problem with MC’s music is best described by Stephen Thomas Erlewine, my favorite music reviewer: “Carey seems determined not to look back, to exist in some kind of eternal now, never acknowledging that she has a past, unless she's wielding her divorce from her ex-husband/ex-record label chief Tommy Mottola for some kind of sympathy, something she does once again here via vague allusions to naïveté and ‘violent times’ on ‘Side Effects.’ Mariah refers to that separation so often that it's hard not to think of it as something recent but it happened a long, long time ago -- well over a decade prior to the release of E=MC2, to be precise -- but as the separation was the pivot point for Carey's career, it's easy to see why she keeps returning to it, even if the emotional heft of her singing about the pain has long since diminished…[In the end, the album] becomes a wash of sound -- sound that is designed to be fashionable, but like so much fashion, it's tied to the time and dates quickly. Which is why it's misleading to judge Mariah based on her new record of possessing the most number one singles, as she's not about longevity, she's about being permanently transient, a characteristic E=MC2 captures all too well.”

7. Natasha Bedingfield, “Pocket Full Of Sunshine”
WARNING: Catchy pop music from a positive female role model can be contagious!

6. Nine Inch Nails, “The Slip”

5. Goldfrapp, “Seventh Tree”
Track with hard-to-hear lyrics: "Clowns"

4. Crystal Castles, “Crystal Castles”
Standout tracks: “Vanished” and “Untrust Us”


3. Britney Spears, “Circus”
A solid album but not as strong as 2007’s Blackout. Stephen Thomas Erlewine summarizes it best: “If Blackout was a producers' album, Circus is a handlers' album, intent on sweeping away any recent unpleasantness -- the only acknowledgement is that title -- and acting like nothing ever happened, imagining that this is still a world where Britney remains envied and desired, where she can be dolled up as a gauzy Farrah Fawcett pinup on her album cover, where she can sing a drippy ballad about ‘My Baby’ and have nobody raise an eyebrow...If she feels marginally more connected here than she did on Blackout, it's a Pyrrhic victory, as Circus never feels as sleek or addictive as its predecessor.”

2. Coldplay, “Viva La Vida”
If you can catch this band in concert, I recommend it. By far, the best concert I saw this year.

1. Robyn, “Robyn”
Sweden does it again! As time goes by, this album just keeps getting better. It was nice to see Interscope release 2005's “Robyn” this past April after resequencing it and adding some new tracks.



Favorite diss (probably because it was totally uncalled for): Christina Aguilera on Lady Gaga.
http://celebrities.ninemsn.com.au/blog.aspx?blogentryid=249672&showcomments=true

Favorite remix: “Up (Wideboys Remix Edit)” by The Saturdays

Friday, December 19, 2008

My Favorite Places to Eat in Downtown L.A.

My apologies for the dual posts, but thought I'd also include my list of my favorite places to grab lunch, dinner or just a cup of coffee in downtown. I've tried to select places from every district in the area for scenic variety. This list has no particular order, except what I suggest that you order. Ha! Funny. And lastly, most of my suggestions are vegetarian-friendly because animals are our friends.

Lost Souls Cafe - Old Bank District - www.lostsouls.com
Totally hidden in an alleyway, but the best selection of iced coffees and hot teas you'll probably ever find. Try the mocha latte with soy. Great atmosphere too. Quiet enough to read or do work and totally laptop-friendly.

Tiara Cafe - Fashion District - (no website)
Best vegan burger EVER. Seriously. It doesn't get more delicious than this. Get it, you won't regret it. All their menu items are completely organic. Great looking place, too. Did I mention the vegan burger?

Pete's Cafe and Bar - Old Bank District - www.petescafe.com
Delicious veggie burgers and grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato soup. Really friendly servers. Bar opened till 2am. Also new: Jazz nights on Tuesdays. Always a fun place to grab some food before going to another bar or lounge and only a short walk from The Edison.

Blossom - Old Bank District - www.blossomrestaurant.com
The best Vietnamese food in downtown LA, perhaps in all of LA. I took my Vietnamese friend here, too, and she agreed it was amazing and very authentic. Everything on the menu is delicious, but of course, go for the pho. I've probably eaten a steaming hot bowl of pho here at least a dozen times . . . and this was during the super hot summer of 2007; their food was just that good.

Pitfire Pizza and Rocket Pizza Lounge - Civic Center District and Old Bank District - www.pitfirepizza.com and www.rocketpizzalounge.com
The pizza at both restaurants is incredible. I love the decor at Rocket Pizza Lounge - really feels retro. Try the Penne Pasta or Rigatoni Al Forno while you're there. Also, there's a great beer selection at Pitfire. Pizza + quality beer = heaven.

Mendocino Farms - Financial District - www.mendocinofarms.com
Located in California Plaza, this place offers DELICIOUS gourmet sandwiches. Get the Drunk'n Goat in Paris. It is almost silly how delicious it is. Ingredients: Herbes de Provence marinated Skyhill Farm's goat cheese, cranberry chutney, French brie, balsamic roasted onions, green apple and organic farmer's greens. Sigh.

Traxx - Union Station - www.traxxrestaurant.com
Uniquely located in historic and beautiful Union Station. Literally, the restaurant is in the train station. You feel like you're in a film noir as soon as you enter. What to try: the grilled eggplant sandwich with feta cheese, mint & lemon aioli on curry toast or the Waldorf salad. Or both.

Engine Company No. 28 - Financial District - www.engineco.com
Located in a restored 1912 firehouse, this place is just lovely because it still retains its historic charm. You have to see it to understand. The food is not particularly fancy, but quite delicious; try the spicy garlic fries, the capellini or the portabello mushroom sandwich.

Empress Pavilion - Chinatown - www.empresspavilion.com
Without a doubt, best dim sum in town. You're served in a HUGE banquet hall which is always buzzing with people, while servers walk around pushing carts, yelling food names in Chinese. Not super vegetarian-friendly, but definitely worth tasting the non-meat dumplings and steamed broccoli in oyster sauce. Yum!

Frying Fish - Little Tokyo - no website
Delicious, truly delicious, sushi. You're seated around a sushi bar, while the freshly-made sushi moves along in small, color-coded plates on a conveyor belt, and you simply pick the dish you like. Or you can make special requests to the chefs. I love this place.


St. Vincent's Court - Jewelry District - www.svjc.com
This courtyard is filled with Mediterranean restaurants and has a distinctive Parisian feel to it. The selection of middle eastern food is quite good, including kabobs, falafel, and baklava for dessert.

Well, those are my top picks -- I hope you enjoy the atmosphere and food of downtown LA!

Top 10* Worst Fashion Trends of 2008
. . . and other things I'd like to see less of in 2009.

Anything Designed by Christian Audigier
How this man has been so successful is a complete mystery to me. If you've never heard of Christian Audigier before, it's highly likely that you already hate him (and didn't even know it) since he was the "creative force" behind those annoying Von Dutch trucker hats back in 2003. Here are a few samples from his Ed Hardy® clothing line which his website describes as "luxury streetwear". Seriously, who buys this stuff?


Men's Super Skinny Jeans
I added "super" because some guys can pull off the skinny jeans look. But, unfortunately, most guys can't without looking a tad pre-pubescent. Observe:


Oversized Sunglasses
Yeah, this trend has been around for a few years now, but I'm really hoping that by next year people will finally realize how ridiculous it looks. It's just silly.

Silly x 3 = trilly

Shooties = combination of "shoes" + "boots" (also called "booties")
At the time, I really thought this look had a lot of potential, especially when paired with a pencil skirt or tights. But I'll be glad to see them gone in 2009. Even the name annoys me now. Shooties.



A pair of shooties.

Shutter Shades

I believe these were first introduced by Kanye West. Since I'm naturally inclined to think Kanye sucks at most things, I guess I was heavily biased against this look to begin with. Let's be honest, there's no way you can wear a pair of shutter shades without looking like a tool. Speaking of, here's a picture of Kanye trying painfully hard to look cool in a pair of his own while "rapping" on stage.

"Damn, Kanye, you so cool! Teach me to be cool like you!"

Giant Scarves
The ironic part of the mega-scarf trend was that it reached its peak during the hot summer months. Even though I'm a huge fan of scarves as accessories, this look was just excessive and totally taken to the extreme.

Julianne Moore: smiling on the outside, hurting on the inside.

Buddy Holly Glasses

If your name doesn't start with Buddy and end in Holly, then chances are you shouldn't be wearing these. I've seen way too many people sporting this look recently and it just looks completely uncreative.

Woo-ee-oo, I look just like Buddy Holly . . .

Straw Fedoras
Like the "oversized sunglasses" look, the fedora trend has been around for what seems like an eternity. To me, nothing screams "trying so hard!" than a strategically placed straw fedora. As an example of how ubiquitous this look has become, last weekend, at just one bar, I counted nine (9) guys wearing a straw fedora. Unfortunate.


Baggy "Boyfriend Jeans"
I think Katie Holmes (first image) started this trend and I'm pleased to say that it never really seemed to catch on among us regular, non-celebrity folks. In short, it's just an incredibly unflattering look.

If you break up with your boyfriend, who keeps the jeans??

Celebrities Getting "Political"
Less a wearable fashion, than a fashionable "statement", this year's presidential election brought a barrage of celebrity ads encouraging young people to get out and vote. Unfortunately, they were about as effective as those old-school "The More You Know. . ." NBC public service announcements. Here's an obvious example:





*List is in no particular order, and of course, just my silly opinion.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

MP3 Free-for-All

Yuletide Greetings,

Here are nine or ten of my most beloved free MP3s of the year, although this likely does not include any songs from my still-in-the-works list of top albums (I’ll include MP3 links in that list).

10. {{{ Sunset }}} – Man’s Heart Complaint
A sinister and gloomy slice of fuzz-rock.

9. King Tuff – Sun Medallion
Sounds like the Velvet Underground with Lou Reed inhaling a bit of helium.

8. School of Seven Bells – Connjur
Gorgeous harmonies served over warm, electronic gauze.

7. Lykke Li – Little Bit
Soulful, Swedish electro doo-wop, if I’m not mistaken.

6. Thee Makeout Party – Wreckless Epic
Raw, ragged and desperate garage rock that probably was actually recorded in a garage.

5. Fight Bite – Widow’s Peak
Ethereal and enchanting like Beach House, but even lower-fi.

4. Kim Ki O – Kapali Kapali Kapali
Beautiful, bittersweet shoegazing from what must be the first Turkish band I’ve ever heard.
[Update: Apparently, the initial link I had for this song didn't work. I just replaced it with a new one that is working.]

3. Hecuba – Sir
Hip hop born in some kind of demented carnival.

2. Music Go Music – Light of Love
Ebullient and ABBA-inspired. Should be played on an old jukebox at a roller skating rink.

1. The Morning Benders – Boarded Doors
Sharp and slightly swinging pop-rock with a highly satisfying melody.

Learn to Listen

My Ten Favorite Talk Radio Programs/Podcasts

I don't think there's any entertainment medium that allows you to become more a member of community than talk radio. The best shows blossom only after months of listening b/c it's only then that you get the inside jokes, the tossed-off references, and the rhythms of the host or co-hosts. And once you get to that point, you can enjoy a bad show b/c you're not really listening to be entertained (that's a fortunate and, hopefully, frequent by-product); you're listening for a sense of comfort and place. This is a phenomenon that extends to other media, however; many a tv show I've watched religiously not b/c I particularly enjoyed it, but just b/c I got sucked in. Clearly, not all of the shows below allow this b/c some are too format driven. However, even with someone like Warren Olney of Which Way, L.A.?, I feel like I know him better than I do people I actually talk to on a daily basis.

I love talk radio and wish I could be a talk radio host, but I screw up too much when I talk. I also wish I could listen more often, but work gets in the way. How I loved those August days when I could lie on the couch and act like it was 1957.

(10) The Art Laboe Connection - This is less a talk show and more a show where the congenial but uncharismatic titular host fields listeners' song requests. It seems like most of the callers are Hispanic, and a lot of the requests are for unremarkable love songs from the past 25 years. It's hard not to wonder if the party to whom the song is dedicated is listening at that very moment. I think it would be awesome if someone dedicated a Gerald Levert song to me. Check it out.

(9) Which Way, L.A.? - Warren Olney's local political talk show is what all political talk shows should aspire to be. Knowledgeable guests, stern tone, compassionate nuances, and frustratingly unpartisan. Check it out.

(8) Pardon the Interruption - This is a TV show but I've podcasted it for the better part of two years now, and often listen to it while falling asleep. I love Michael Wilbon and the fact that he cares about the NBA. Tony Kornheiser has turned into (always been?) a killjoy (is it that hard to smile on camera on Monday Night Football?). I think I'm the only person who likes when Dan LeBatard fills in. I may be the only person I know who genuinely likes this show. Check it out.

(7) The Loose Cannons - This is a perfect example of a show I don't particularly like (in fact, I think I dislike it) but I listen to all the time. Considering the limitations of each host, it's a wonder they get 4 hours a day out of these guys. Someone once mentioned that if you combined Hartman, Vic, and MT you'd have a pretty great talk show host, but you'd still have 2/3 of a person predicting that the Lakers are gonna win 75 games. Check it out.

(6) Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me - I've cooled on Wait, Wait, but I still have a fondness for it. I'm just more inclined to accidentally tune-in to it on the radio than listen to the podcast. I read panelist Adam Felber's novel "Schrodinger's Ball" this summer, and it, like the show, was nerdy and mildly arrogant. It was pretty good. Check it out.

(5) Sound Opinions - Now, I know why I like this show theoretically: I like music and it's a talk show about music. But if this show were in print, it would be no better than Rolling Stone or another irrelevant magazine. But I like disagreeing with them, and I really enjoy when they review albums by artists I know I should know something about but am totally unfamiliar with (Taylor Swift, the Jonas Brothers, etc . . .). Educational. I listen to this on Sunday Nights when I walk to La Salsa for dinner. Check it out.

(4) The Kevin & Bean Show - Yeah, it can be frustratingly low brow (lesbians? really?) and the commercials are endless and the Incubus/Foo Fighters/Offspring shuffle is terrible at 7am, but I've listened to this show first thing in the morning since the mid-'90s, and they still have gold moments. Ralph is fantastically funny, Psycho Mike's a good addition (even if his parodies are a mixed bag, minus the K-Fed ones which are always pretty good), Bean is great and weird, and Kevin is even growing on me after these 15 years. I really wish they'd ditch Omar. Check it out.

(3) The V Show - I rarely listen to this show for more than 5 minutes; it's on Fridays and Saturdays from 10pm - 2am, so it's usually on when I fall asleep. I think the host is Jimmy V's brother, and he just seems like the nicest guy ever. The theme is a version of a Big Bad Voodoo Daddy song and he's got some really antiquated drops that he throws in on ocassion (boos, applause, rim shots). Very charming and perfect for falling asleep. He talks about the horses ocassionally. Check it out.

(2) The Petros & Money Show - What a show, man. It's weird; these guys talk too much, even for a talk show - it's exhausting. Petros has that rare ingredient that other sports talk show hosts don't have: experience on the gridiron. This show is like the polar opposite of that douchebag Colin Cowherd's show. Good music talk, surprisingly obscure cultural references (I called in and talked about the New Bomb Turks and Guided By Voices on the air once), no tortured analogies or references to management theories. Check it out.

(1) The Best Show on WFMU - still the tops. 3 hours a week, every week. It's hard to decide what I like more: the interplay b/w Tom and his fans or Tom and the denizens of the fictional New Jersey town Newbridge. The show doesn't throw any lifelines to new listeners. You just have to jump in and start piecing it all together on your own. It demands your patience and rewards your investment. Check it out.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Below are my top ten favorite places/things to eat in LA:

10. Lattitude Thai, http://www.lattitudethai.com/

Amid all the car repair shops and fast food joints that are characteristically Lincoln Boulevard, it’s easy to miss Lattitude’s small, unassuming storefront. But if you love thai curry, you should make sure to track this place down. Their red curry with chicken is so good and you’re sure to leave with yummy leftovers for lunch the next day.

9. Lares, http://www.laresrestaurant.com/

This is a great Mexican place: spicy salsa, family-owned, mariachi band, and fantastic Cadillac margaritas. Really, what more do you need in a Mexican place? Get the chicken mole enchiladas. Their verdes sauce is good too.

8. Cha Cha Chicken, http://www.chachachicken.com/

This is a great place to go after a long day at the beach. Bring your own beer or wine; order watermelon juice and the jerk chicken enchiladas at the window; grab a seat at one of the picnic tables outside; relax and enjoy.

7. Joe’s Shanghai, http://www.joeshanghairestaurants.com/

I know. I know. Joe’s is in NYC. But this place has the absolute best soba noodles I’ve ever had in my life. So it had to get a spot on my list, had to. Next time you’re in New York, go here.

6. The Omelette Guy, http://www.smgov.net/farmers_market/sunday.htm

I think Main Street in Santa Monica is pretty much the coolest place in LA. Every Sunday, there’s a great farmer’s market with live music, fresh produce (obviously), and vendors selling delicious wares. If you go in the afternoon, get the tamales. But if you make it for breakfast or brunch, you have to get an omelette from the omelette guy. You walk through the line and point to “bacon!,” “green peppers!,” “mushrooms!,” “tomatoes!” Just as you’re paying, your omelette is slid from the pan onto your plate and you’re ready to sit down in front of the band and dig into deliciousness. Don’t even think about going to The Omelette Parlor down the street; it’s disgusting compared to the omelette guy.

5. Bay Cities, http://www.baycitiesitaliandeli.com/

Duh, I know. Bay Cities’ sandwich is the best in town. I love that pickled carrot (?) stuff they put on it. Also great, their fresh-baked bread – I get it to serve at dinner parties with lots of butter.

4. Trader Joe’s Very Berry Cereal, http://www.traderjoes.com/

I know this is a weird entry, but I have discovered the best cereal ever made … and it’s exclusively sold at Trader Joe’s. The Very Berry Cereal is the perfect combination of crunch and soggy, sweet and tangy, yummy and delicious that you want in every bowl of cereal. Yes, I used to be very against cereals with freeze-dried berries of any sort. Special K with strawberries is gross. But these berries are NOT gross; they are perfect.

This cereal is especially delicious in soy milk, which I have to use now because I’m lactose intolerant. :(

3. California Chicken Café, http://www.californiachickencafe.com/

This place is so good. I go weekly. I suggest the California Chicken Salad with balsamic dressing. I get it without the cheese and avocados. I’m sure they are delicious in the salad if a) you’re not lactose intolerant and b) you like avocados.

2. Amelia’s, http://www.ameliascafe.com/

Get the soup of the day. It is always the best bowl of soup you’ve ever had.

1. The Daily Pint, http://thedailypint.net/

Again, I’m cheating a little bit. The Daily Pint does not serve food, thank goodness. This is a dive bar, THE dive bar. And it is my favorite bar in the world. Not only do they offer lots of great beer, pool tables, and shuffle board (!), but they also offer the best bar game of all time – Photo Hunt.

Happy holidays and happy eating in the new year!

-- Sarah Luppen

Well I guess I'll start this thing out!

Well Merry Christmas to you all and I hope you all had a great 2008.  Personally it's been a wonderful year for me complete with getting married to most amazing woman I've ever met and getting to do a little travel to the Bahamas, Canada, Montana, and Washington.  Still enjoying teaching at a charter school, and just started writing an occasional review for a website http://live.hollywoodjesus.com/?author=207.  

Anyways, enough with the personal update and onto the music...  I felt like there were a lot of good spins out there this year, but quite a few disappointments as well.  Regardless here is my top 10:

10. Metallica- Death Magnetic
It was nice to see a band finally do what the fans wanted and go back to their roots.  This one rocked a lot harder than anything they put out in the past 17 years and it was a surprising comeback album. 
Standout track: "The End of Line"  

9. Ray LaMontagne- Gossip in the Grain
Not my favorite Ray album, but it's still up there for this year.  Not sure what he was trying with "You are the Best Thing", but the rest of the disc was pretty decent. Props for trying something new though!
Standout Track: "Winter Birds"

8. Counting Crows- Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings
My first CD I ever bought was August and Everything After in 8th grade, so it's always nice to see what Adam Duritz is up to.  Pretty solid effort from the Crows and a fun contrast between the two halves.
Standout Track: "Washington Square"

7. Weezer- Red Album
Loved the first 6 songs on the disc and the the last few, but just couldn't get used to hearing anyone singing but Rivers.  I like the idea of giving the other guys a chance, but save it for an EP!  Flawless album aside from those songs though, in my opinion!
Standout Track: "The Greatest Man That Ever Lived" 

6. Joshua James-  The Sun is Always Brighter
I caught on a little late to this great artist, but he warranted quite a few listens this year.  Nothing too new exciting about him, but he sure puts out quality music.
Standout Track: "Today"

5. Joshua Radin- Simple Times
Another folksy Joshua?  Yup!  Radin put out a great album this year and I really appreciated it a lot more after seeing him play in Santa Barbara a few months ago. If you've never listened, he's got some great mellow tunes to listen to on a rainy day (like today!)
Standout Track: "They Bring Me to You"

4. Kanye West- 808's and Heartbreaks
Although it was a very different album and entirely recorded with auto-tune, I thoroughly enjoyed Kanye's new CD.  I guess getting dumped by his fiancee and the death of his mother knocked his ego down a few pegs and gave him some perspective.  I loved the beats and lyrics like "Chased the good life my whole life long, look back on my life and my life gone...where did I go wrong?" 
Standout Track: "Welcome to my Nightmare"

3. Jon Foreman- Fall/Winter/Spring/Summer
Lead singer of Switchfoot's ambitious attempt at capturing the 4 seasons in 4 6-song EP's turned out very well in my opinion.  Fall was my favorite season, but each one brought new instruments and new sounds to add to a year of great music.
Standout Track: "Your Love is Strong"

2. Jason Mraz- We Sing, We Dance, We Steal Things
Perhaps the greatest male voice out there in music today, Mraz put together a great CD with a fun sound.  Most people probably got sick of hearing "I'm Yours" over and over, but you have to admit it was really stinkin' catchy!  
Standout Track: "Live High"

1. Coldplay- Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends/ Prospekts March
Ok, so Martin may have ripped off Satriani, but even Johnny Cash ripped off "Folsom Prison Blues"! "Viva La Vida was still my favorite song of the year and quite brilliant.  Overall I love this CD and the EP that just came out and I beleive it was the one CD that lived up to the hype.  
Standout Track:...forget it, just download the whole thing!

Alright there they are...probably too poppy for most people's taste, but I look forward to reading other posts and trying out new music.  Take care all and have a great Holiday!
Nate


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

What Year Is It Again?

Ladies and gentlemen, start your posting.