Friday, December 31, 2010
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
40. Fang Island – The Illinois
39. Girls – Carolina
38. Avey Tare – 3 Umbrellas
37. Abe Vigoda – Crush
36. Wavves – Green Eyes
35. The Morning Benders – Promises
34. Pantha du Prince – Sick to My Side
33. Panda Bear – Last Night at the Jetty
32. Women – Eyesore
31. Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – Round and Round
30. Avey Tare – Oliver Twist
29. Tame Impala – Alter Ego
28. Women – Locust Valley
27. Arcade Fire – Sprawl II (Mountains Upon Mountains)
26. Robyn – We Dance To The Beat
25. Delorean – Come Wander
24. Panda Bear – Alsatian Darn
23. Of Montreal – Hydra Fancies
22. Dom – Jesus
21. Crystal Castles ft. Robert Smith – Not in Love
20. Gold Panda – Snow & Taxis
19. Spoon – Is Love Forever?
18. Tame Impala – It’s Not Meant To Be
17. Hot Chip – Take It In
16. Kendal Johansson – Blue Moon
15. Sleigh Bells – Riot Rhythm
14. Panda Bear – Slow Motion
13. Caribou – Found Out
12. ceo – White Magic
11. LCD Soundsystem – One Touch
10. Active Child – Voice of an old friend
9. The Morning Benders – Excuses
8. MGMT – Song For Dan Treacy
7. Beach House – 10 Mile Stereo
6. Broken Social Scene – Sweetest Kill
5. Local Natives – Wide Eyes
4. Arcade Fire – Ready to Start
3. Wavves – Super Soaker
2. Cut Copy – Where I’m Going
1. Gauntlet Hair – I was thinking…
Sunday, December 26, 2010
Thursday, December 23, 2010
1. Beach House - Teen Dream
Instant calm, peace, and relaxation. Oh and, as Gorilla vs. Bear mentioned in their list, “it has the best songs.”
2. Arcade Fire – The Suburbs
I loved so many different songs on this album. First “Ready To Start,” then “Sprawl II,” these two are predictable. The more I listened though, the more I loved songs like “The Suburbs,” “Empty Room,” “Rococo,” etc. But as a whole, it’s not the same listening experience as Teen Dream. The Suburbs may have better singles, but the sum of Teen Dream’s parts is greater as far as my ears are concerned.
3. Tame Impala – Innerspeaker
This is just a fun album. Psych-rock rooted in an instantly recognizable throwback style, however, they put their own unique spin on this familiar, classic rock sound. Similar to Beach House, the album flows incredibly well, each song an integral part of the mix.
4. Wavves – King of the Beach
Finally an alternative rock album that I can actually rock the F out to, it’s been a while.
5. Robyn – Body Talk
I really am surprised to be putting this album up here, but honestly it could have been even higher. There isn’t a better collection of 15 songs that came out this year, but since it’s more of a greatest hits collection for the year, it doesn’t feel like an album. In the end, that really doesn’t matter.
6. The Morning Benders – Big Echo
A beautifully laid back, grand album that can’t help but have greatly benefited by Chris Taylor’s (of Grizzly Bear) production. Just like GB, every little note, voice or prick of an instrument seems expertly aimed at creating a different mood for each song, an attention to detail that is rare to hear.
7. Broken Social Scene – Forgiveness Rock Record
Speaking of “grand” albums, this one may take the cake. But it’s BSS and they can basically do no wrong. Any number of songs on this album may be considered favorites among fans, for me I always enjoy “All to All,” but tracks like “Highway Slipper Jam,” “Ungrateful Little Father,” and especially “Sweetest Kill” really stand out.
8.Caribou - Swim
This album was self-described as “Underwater Dance” music, and is a completely new direction for Daniel Snaith (who is Carbiou), yet somehow he makes it seem like he’s an old pro at creating electronic dance music. Undoubtedly, this still feels like a Caribou album, and its the allure of the mystical north that he somehow intertwines in his music that keeps me coming back for more.
9. Avey Tare – Down There
Another album described as “underwater,” Down There is a much darker journey than Swim. On “Heather In The Hospital,” the bass begins by mimicking your own heart beating, but soon takes a chase-scene pace, propelling your heart rate forward with it, "It brings me down / machines of modern magic keeping folks above the ground / a nurse's scribbling pad, shadow, shape / a mother going mad."
Really not fun stuff to be singing about, but this mood pervades the entire album. While you may think that would just be depressing, it only strengthens the cohesiveness of some of the most interesting (and enjoyable) songs to be released this year.
10. Crystal Castles – S/T
Tracks like “Doe Deer” and “Birds” make this album for me. There are standouts like “Celestica” that most people can get down with, but if you enjoy the songs that string the singles together, these dirt-covered gems that chug by, chewing glass along the way, then you really will rock out to this album.
11. LCD Soundsystem – This is Happening
12. Delorean - Subiza
13. Of Montreal – False Priest
14. Spoon – Transference
15. The Radio Dept – Clinging To A Scheme
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Friday, December 3, 2010
With Ron Santo, a man with such optimistic conviction, one would have thought there would be justice of some kind before he died. While the Hall of Fame dream has been dying a long, agonizing death for Santo and all those rooting for his induction, I feel that even beyond this piece of recognition that Santo was owed more before his time was up on this earth. A Cubs World Series obviously would have been the ultimate gift for him to receive. Many have come before him, though and have never seen the Chicago National League Ball Club even reach a World Series, much less win one, but in some strange way I had really thought that he would be alive when it finally happens.
I’ll never forget the play calls. Whether calls of ignorance, forgetfulness or shear bliss, no one could bring out the emotions of fellow die hard Cubs fans like Ron Santo could. Sure, to the casual baseball fan or listener on the radio, he was not the best color coordinator in the business. In fact, he may have been the worst. But to the those whose emotions imitated Santo’s, the audience that truly cared, there is no one those fans would have rather listen to on the color commentary than Ron.
Santo was loved, and will forever be loved by Cubs fans and baseball fans as long as this great game continues to be played. When the Cubs retired his number 10 in 2003, he said to the fans, “This is my hall of fame.” While it’s likely that he did not mean that entirely, the #10 will fly above Wrigley Field for as long as it stands and Ron Santo will always be remembered. As for the Hall of Fame, there is still a chance he can be inducted in 2012. What a shame it will be if he is finally inducted and is not there to accept the award. For that reason I almost hope he is not inducted, but if there is any justice left for this man, he deserves this final recognition. A 9-time All Star selection with 5 straight Gold Gloves from 1964 to 1968, a .277 career batting average and 342 home runs at the hot corner, his resume stand up to many at the position who have already been inducted.
I will miss you Ron, it will never be the same listening to a Cubs game without you.
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
So I'm listening to classic songs from the Stills debut, wondering to myself, has it really been more than two years since their last album? These guys are notorious plodders when it comes to releasing new music, so I did what I'm sure many people do (or maybe not?) and googled when their next album would be coming out. While I've struggled to find that info, I did find a decidedly tasty morsel of info from aux.tv :
"In 2005, guitarist Greg Paquet left the band to finish school, bringing Hamelin from the drums to the front, a position which he struggled to fill on Without Feathers, notwithstanding his role as the band’s primary songwriter. Paquet has returned to The Stills for their fourth album. Hamelin describes the reunion as a natural one, based more on their friendship than anything else."
This is exciting stuff. After the bitter disappointment of Without Feathers, I put the blame squarely on Greg Paquet’s shoulders. I consoled myself with the conjured belief that if Greg Paquet never left the band, the Stills would still have the magic. Well Greg, here is your chance to prove it—to me. Time to atone for the band releasing Without Feathers, make it up to Stills fans across the globe who hoped and waited for a follow up to Logic only to be rewarded with an album worthy of Frisbee-ing out of your car window.
Now I do have to say thank you, and well done to the Stills for their third LP, 2008’s Ocean’s Will Rise. Quality album that gets better with every play. However, Stills, you made us wait five years to get a decent follow up to your debut. Now that everyone’s favorite guitarist, Greg, is back hopefully you guys can expedite the process.
This unfortunately does not look to be the case. Instead, the Stills are changing up their sound to “sex and dark.” Whatever that is, as long as Greg Paquet’s on guitar, it doesn’t matter. Seriously though, here is what chief songwriter Dave Hamelin had to say about the new direction of the Stills sound with Greg Paquet back on guitar:
“Now that he’s back, I’m playing drums again… It’s a little looser. We got a looser, “slivlier” kinda, it’s less rock n’ roll, it’s more like sludgy & dark, – sex and dark.”Wha... Maybe it’ll be sweet? I'm hopeful, especially now that the band is back to Logic-style full strength, but it sounds like this next album has the unfortunate chance of flying out my window at dangerously high speeds. I also I get the feeling that Hamelin is just throwing random words out there just to make the album seem more interesting. Maybe this album really will be full of “sex” and “dark”-ness, but come on guys, at least throw an mp3 out there to give your devoted fans a taste of the impending sexiness.
Friday, November 19, 2010
Thursday, November 11, 2010
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
The summer of 2010 has not been kind to Cubs fans, some having labeled the year a lost season before the calendar read July, so nothing can make up for half a season’s worth of meaningless baseball. There are, however, more than a few reasons to continue watching Cubs baseball (see Starlin Castro, Tyler Colvin, the continued progression of Fukudome, etc.) but none is more exciting to watch than the return of Geovany Soto.
Put simply: Geovany Soto is having a better offensive season than Joe Mauer. Let that sink in. Three time batting champion and former MVP Joe Mauer has not been as productive (per plate appearance) as Geovany Soto, despite a typical .326 batting average on the year. Soto is batting a pedestrian but respectable .280 on the year, seemingly ending the discussion. Moving on to less cosmetic statistics, however, shows a different story.
A player’s weighted on-base average takes the concept of OPS (on-base + slugging) and improves on it by using linear weight values for each possible event (read the joy of wOBA at Fan Graphs). The stat is scaled to on-base percentage where .335 is about average, .300 is a poor player and .400 is a great player. Soto's wOBA clocks in at .384, leading all major league catchers. Mauer comes in second at .372, with Brian McCann following at .369. The only problem is that Soto doesn’t have enough plate appearances to qualify as a league leader.
The fact remains, though, that Geovany Soto is having the best offensive season by a catcher in Major League Baseball. His OPS (.894) and slugging percentage (.500), predictably, also lead all MLB backstops. Soto’s year as a whole in many ways is identical to his rookie of the year winning 2008 campaign.
Soto’s slugging, isolated power (slug – average) and strikeout rate are carbon copies, with the only real difference between this year and ’08 being his vastly improved walk rate. It is clear to see that Soto's forgettable 2009 was based in bad luck, as his batting average on balls in play was over 50 points below league average, while lying even further below his career numbers.
One may counter that Soto will see his high BABIP come back down to earth, however, the high BABIP numbers of 2008 and 2010 are fueled by incredibly high line drive percentages. In 2010 Soto has a career high LD% of 24.8, which (if he had enough plate appearances to qualify) would be third among all Major League hitters (coincidentally one spot above Mauer at 24.4%).
At 27-years-old, Geo is comfortably settling into his prime, and there is nothing in the stats to say that his offensive output will slow down. The way his 2008 and 2010 seasons compare, the numbers he is putting up this year seem easily repeatable. He will always strike out more than the average hitter with the vicious way he attacks the ball, but with those violent swings, and subsequent misses, comes possibly the most powerful catcher in Major League Baseball.
If only he had enough plate appearances to qualify.
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Monday, June 7, 2010
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
My mind has just been blown. Then again, how can one be surprised? In one of the most idiotic moves in Cubs history, the team has taken Carlos Zambrano’s value to the team and cut it in half as Lou Piniella announced before tonight’s game that Big Z will be moving to the bullpen. Bottom line, this move makes the team worse. No matter how good Zambrano is in the bullpen, the team has just taken a shotgun and blown a hole in its chances to reach the postseason this year.
The most valuable relief pitcher in baseball last year was Jonathan Broxton, who put together a 2.9 Wins Above Replacement (WAR). This was half a win higher than any other relief pitcher in the majors. Carlos Zambrano, in his “off year” of 2009 was able to scrape out a cool 3.6 WAR. Simply put, relief pitchers can never be as valuable as good starting pitchers, and contrary to the belief of some, Carlos Zambrano is a very good starting pitcher. A workhorse good for 180-200 innings, the Cubs will now be giving at least 100 of those innings to Tom Gorzellany and Carlos Silva. If you don’t gag at that sentence I’d check your pulse.
This is Lou Piniella, completely losing his mind. Lunacy is reigning supreme at Clark and Addison, as there is simply no explanation for this move. Yes, the Cubs do not have a setup man. Somehow it has taken 18 runs in 14 different 8th innings this year for them to realize that no, John Grabow is not a setup man. He’s not even a good relief pitcher! He almost cracked 1 win above replacement last year with a “workmanlike” 0.2. However, it represented a great improvement over his -0.1 in 2008. His career best is 0.5 WAR in 2006. He probably drank half a beer with his buddies to celebrate. Forget wins above replacement; just look at how many batters he walks. His past three seasons he has posted walks per nine innings of 4.76, 4.83, and 4.38. That combined with a pitiful K/BB of 1.43 last year is a recipe for heartache in the late innings. As bad as John Grabow and the rest of the bullpen are though, this is a move of the most bone-headed proportions.
Almost as mystifying is the fact that Mt. Zambrano didn’t spew volcanic lava all over New York City upon hearing the news. In Zambrano’s own words, “Like Arnold Schwarzenegger says, ‘I’ll be back.’”
I sure hope so, but Lou is saying the move may not be temporary. 2008 first round pick Andrew Cashner has punched out 25 hitters in 17 innings at Double A Tennessee, and has the 98-MPH fastball and 88-MPH slider that would fit the 8th inning like a glove. After posting a 3.39 ERA in Double A last year, and with a 3.07 ERA in 137 minor league innings, calling up Cashner would seem to be a much more logical and much last drastic move than turning the team’s supposed “ace” into a reliever.
Piniella said that Zambrano will be ready to come out of the bullpen starting Friday. Never a dull moment with this team, as they aimlessly wander through the season with no sense of direction at all, lost in Lou’s madness.
Friday, April 16, 2010
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
And with Washed Out playing, who in their right mind would want to?
And with Washed Out playing, who in their right mind would want to?
Ernest Greene (Washed Out) opened his set with some body shakers, and while the bulk of it was unreleased material, the songs were crowd pleasers as the bass felt as if it wanted to break free from the speakers and beat itself into the ground. This was a very good thing. Heavy bass, mixing with a thick layer of haze over the vocals made listening to actual lyrics impossible, but created a vibe that would carry over for the rest of the show. Greene’s unbridled energy for his music infected the crowd and grew as the show progressed. After the mood was established, Greene exited, saying he would be back to play the rest of his set with Small Black (who was actually headlining the show) as the backing band.
Small Black was an impressive mix of bass, drums and enthusiasm. The keyboardist and main vocalist shared the singing duties, with the lead vocalist twisting some knobs every so often. The music was more electronic than I had imagined, hearing only a couple of songs prior to the show, but it was an entertaining if not original sound and I was grooving along with the rest of the crowd. It did, however, leave me longing for Washed Out to come back on stage. The early Washed Out set was good, but it wasn't what I came to see. Once Greene took the stage with Small Black a new energy filled the small, dark room as the familiar sounds of the Life of Leisure EP came to life.
Straight out of the gate, one could tell the disarming "Hold Out" was going to be different than the preceding songs. The menacing bass line was heard (and felt) loud and clear. There was also a noticeable change in the way the crowd was reacting to the music, as if caught in a trance, while earlier it was just one big party. Small Black had a lot to do with this, as the bell-ringing guitar echoing throughout "Hold Out" is essential to the song’s attraction. While the euphoria that shot straight to my brain upon hearing the opening to the next track, “You’ll See It,” was sustained throughout the song, it seemed clear to me that “Hold Out” was the highlight of the show.
The most well received song was unsurprisingly Washed Out's most popular, "Feel It All Around," and it did not disappoint. As the opening salvo of bass vibrated up and down my spine, the crowd let out a roar of approval that dissolved into a sustained groove, captivated by the pure, chill essence of the song. The departure from dance-inducing bass to a stoning sense of calm was a chance to relax and soak in the surroundings. As the set drew to a close, Greene joined in on an exuberant version of Small Black's "Despicable Dogs," which he had remixed last year for a split EP (get the remix here, thank me later).
Overall the show more than met any expectations I had going into it. The venue was perfect, the bass and overall sound was cranked way up, and the bands seemed to have endless supplies of energy. The set arrangement was interesting but worked surprisingly well, how can you pass up a delicious double dosage of Washed Out? I couldn't help but feel some of the members of Small Black weren't thrilled to have their set cut short, but the way they played did not reflect this. Without Small Black, this concert would not have been nearly as good. As the two bands combined the show turned from guys turning knobs and cranking bass into a full-fledged crowd pleasing force, with both Small Black and Washed Out proving they are bands to take notice of.
Thursday, January 28, 2010
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Toro Y Moi – Causers of This
A sweet, slow crackle of speaker backed by a blissed out “ahhhh” brings Causers of This to life, as gorgeous opening track “Blessa” sets an immediately pleasing tone for the rest of the album. A perfect table-setting track—that also happens to be the record’s best song—“Blessa” combines the melody of Panda Bear, with the laid-back delivery and diffidence of Washed Out. Chaz Bundick, the 23-year-old who is Toro Y Moi, may openly display his influences (you can’t help but think he was listening to Ambivalence Avenue released by Bibio last year when listening to more than a few songs) however, on Causers of This he proves to have the ability to carve out his own unique voice in this “chillwave” genre.
In the same vein as Ambivalence Avenue, Causers of This covers a broad range of musical styles. The difference is that Bundick manages to reign in his sound and keep it together in the context of the album. That is no knock on Bibio, who’s album was one of last years best, but Toro Y Moi keeps the listener engaged using a continuous shift in approach while maintaining a surprising sense of continuity. Nowhere is the Bibio influence more apparent than on “Lissoms” where the step-stutter-step of a broken beat begs to be listened to. Drawing itself into and out of the speakers, the jagged, angular beats blend together with tape hiss and subdued sounds of pleasure, contrasting beautifully in the background.
One unmistakable misstep, however, is that previously released “Talamak” is reworked to diminishing returns. The former version of the song featured a constant, echoing give-and-take of volume levels throughout the track. It was subtle enough to not bother the listener, yet was able to weave itself into the fabric of the song. The former also had a creepily awesome opening that somehow reminded you of “The Twilight Zone” and Fischerspooner at the same time. The new “Talamak,” while still enjoyable, is slightly sped up and features the incessant honking of what sounds like a synthesized harmonica, seeming forced and tacky in comparison.
Similarly, a cheesy piano line opens up “Low Shoulder,” which has the opposite effect of the harmonica and works better when it turns into a keyboard synth. “Low Shoulder” goes against Toro Y Moi’s strengths as Bundick seems much more comfortable when throwing down acutely articulated beats (“Lissoms”, “Minors”), or chilling out with a drug induced blend of bass, haze and synths (“Thanks Vision”). “Low Shoulder” tries to split the difference and make itself a pop song at the same time, causing it to teeter a little too dangerously close to the edge of crowd-pleasing cutesiness. The song does manage to close on a high note however, as the second half features much less of the piano, ending instead with a mix of previously successful tricks.
Ending on a high note just must be the way Toro Y Moi rolls, as the title track closes the album on a sugar rush. “Causers of This” is sticky and sweet, as chopped up female vocals are sprinkled across an array of pulsating beats, ending with a repeated “It’s all good, it’s all good.” Yes, Mr. Chaz Bundick, it sure is.
It’s the minor details that keep the album from being great, which is to be expected from someone [named Chaz Bundick] whose musical creativity seems boundless. At times it appears the creative juices were spilling over just a little too much, with added touches that simply do not work. For example the meandering of “Imprint After,” which I can only describe as sounding like bad MGMT, may draw differing reactions. Equally, one’s affinity for the spaztastic, hyper kinetic energy of “Causers of This” may also be the same sound that another listener finds increasingly annoying.
While I fail to see the Animal Collective comparisons to Toro Y Moi outside of “Blessa” and the abundance of bass both use, Animal Collective have achieved the ability to hone their brimming talent into not only wondrously weird and unique songs, but also into universally appealing music. Causers of This shows off a distinctive talent set and promise for future releases, but it does have its misgivings and bumps along the road. This is a full-length debut after all. Forget about that, though because this is an impressive album and would be a warm and welcome choice for your ears and a snug pair of headphones after coming inside from January’s chill.
Friday, January 15, 2010
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
- K/BB: 3.85
- WHIP: 1.20
- BB/9: 1.97
- FIP: 3.56 (FIP is Fielder Independent Pitching, defintion here, read as ERA)