Category Archives: Music

The SportsAlcohol.com Podcast: 1999 Albums – 69 Love Songs by Magnetic Fields

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.

Our miniseries on notable albums from the blessed year of 1999 is finally coming to an end, with an episode recorded a year ago and lost until today, well past the 21st anniversary of 69 Love Songs by the Magnetic Fields. This episode is a showcase for frequent SportsAlcohol.com contributor Ben, who has a close and complicated relationship with the best-known, most acclaimed Magnetic Fields record, and who was really on the scene back in 1999. Are we all absolutely cuckoo for Stephin Merritt’s massive concept album? Listen and find out! It’ll only take one sixth as long as listening to the album itself!

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The SportsAlcohol.com Podcast: Billboard Charts 2000!

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.

It’s that other, similar but different time of year again: Time for us at SportsAlcohol.com to get together and take a selected tour through the full-year Billboard Hot 100 chart, talking about the singles we love, hate, and swear we’ve never heard in our lives. About the length of a killer mix tape, this episode crams in analysis, nostalgia, tangents, and everything else, covering, I don’t know, like 30 different pop songs across genres and tastes. It’s like what we did in 1999 and 1996, only this time it’s the YEAR 2000, BABY! So join Rob, Jesse, Marisa, and Jason on a wild ride through the first and/or last year of the millennium! And the Willennium! And the time when terrible pop-country dominated the charts!

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The SportsAlcohol.com Podcast: Mixtapes of Yore

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.

Inspired by a recent A.V. Club Q&A, Sara suggested that one of our quarantine-recorded podcast episodes might involve looking back on the (lost?) art of the mix. The painstaking process of committing various songs to cassette tape may be all but dead in most of the world, but it lives on in our otherwise chilly little SportsAlcohol.com hearts, so Sara, Ben, Marisa, and Jesse got together (virtually) to discuss mix-making and all of its attendant rules and emotional landmining. Nostalgia rules on this episode that offers a peak into our various high school, college, and adult-nerd experiences! As a bonus, Marisa and I have included the full picture of our first mixtapes to each other after the jump!

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Continue reading The SportsAlcohol.com Podcast: Mixtapes of Yore

The SportsAlcohol.com Podcast: Albums of 1999 – THE HOT ROCK by Sleater-Kinney

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.

Our belated 20th-anniversary tour of notable 1999 records marches on as Rob, Jesse, and Sara discuss Sleater-Kinney’s change-of-pace record The Hot Rock, in the context of the band’s career and their 2019 change-of-pace record The Center Won’t Hold! What does it mean for Sleater-Kinney to change pace, turn down the guitars, or possibly sell out? LISTEN IN AND FIND OUT!

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The SportsAlcohol.com Podcast: 1999 Albums – Keep It Like a Secret by Built to Spill

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.

You thought we were done just because 1999 is no longer 20 years ago? NOPE! Our miniseries on notable albums from the blessed year of 1999 continues into 2020, because you know what, we’re all kind of on pause right now anyway, and wouldn’t it make you feel good to think back to what you were doing 21 years ago? Built to Spill (the original BTS) was touring behind Keep It Like a Secret, which turned 21 this past January, and was the subject of its own nostalgia tour just last year. So (back in the fall) Marisa, Sara, Randy, Rob, and Jesse got together to discuss how it’s weathered the years since then, because the plan keeps coming up again.

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Best of 2019!

Gripes
There are contrarians, there are iconoclasts, and then there is SportsAlcohol.com co-founder Marisa. A contraiclast? Her favorite Springsteen album came out this century, so she is basically a controversy machine.

Also, she is totally not a dude!
Marisa
Gripes

Our 2019 — nay, our decade — wrap-wrap-wraps up with these pop-cultural thoughts.

MUSIC

The Best Song of 2019 Is “Harmony Hall” by Vampire Weekend

Track Marks: “Want You In My Room,” “Miss Americana,” “Cheerleader,” “Cellophane,” “Devotion,” and “Seventeen”

MOVIES

Coming Soon!

The Best Song of 2019 is “Harmony Hall” by Vampire Weekend

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.

In the past, SportsAlcohol.com contributors have submitted top-five lists of their favorite albums of the year, from which we’ve usually been able to derive an official site Album of the Year. This year, our choices were simply too disparate. But there were a few songs that kept showing up, again and again, and we were able to cobble together this official mini-list:

The SportsAlcohol.com Top 5 Songs of 2019!

  1. “Harmony Hall” by Vampire Weekend
  2. “Juice” by Lizzo
  3. “Seventeen” by Sharon Van Etten
  4. “The Best” by Self Esteem
  5. “When Am I Going to Lose You” by Local Natives

“Harmony Hall” was a clear consensus favorite, so we had a quick discussion about why this particular Vampire Weekend song rose to triumph in this particular year.

Continue reading The Best Song of 2019 is “Harmony Hall” by Vampire Weekend

TRACK MARKS 2019: “Want You In My Room” by Carly Rae Jepsen

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.

Back when Carly Rae Jepsen was really blowing up, by which I mean gaining popularity with some of the more idiosyncratic and picky pop-music fans and/or nerdy music critics circa her middling-selling 2015 album Emotion, I, as a picky pop-music fan and nerdy movie-not-music critic, found myself trying to explain why I liked CRJ so much. (I challenged myself not to cite her haircut at any point in this exercise.) I landed on this: She is old.

Not old by normal standards—she’s five years younger than I am, and I’m still young, right? Right?!—but for a pop singer having her big (which is to say medium) 40,000-copies-in-six-months moment, CRJ was kind of on the old side. She was nearly 30 when Emotion came out; even when her actual megahit “Call Me Maybe” took the world by storm in 2012, she was in her late twenties, and a full nine years younger than Justin Bieber, the beloved pop singer who gave her a major commercial boost. Listening to Emotion, I had the distinct sense that this was a person who had lived with herself—her personality, her disappointments, her music tastes—a little longer than the barely-formed kiddos hailed as ingénues and prodigies at 17, 18, 19, the normal (which is to say insane) age for coming of age as a peppy new pop star.

That might seem absurd, because Emotion does include as one of its highlights a song called “I Really Really Really Like You.” By most standards and by her own design, CRJ’s musings are not overly sophisticated. She captures crush-rush and shruggy-emoticon break-ups and fleeting empowerment; she’s not introspective and melancholy and wry, like Jenny Lewis (to cite another singer I’d follow anywhere at this point). But the craft of Jepsen’s songs is often sophisticated, and that’s especially noticeable on “Want You In My Room,” a cut from her hotly anticipated 2019 record Dedicated.

I get the sense that Dedicated received a relatively muted reception from some of the CRJ faithful—though anyone faithful enough to see her in concert could see the new songs greeted with appropriate rapture. It’s not quite as bouncy or immediate as Emotion, and feels a little more, well, yeah, mature. A little more MOR, if we’re feeling unkind. But the album’s many highlights reveal themselves; it just happens a little slower than it did on Emotion. And the great thing about “Want You In My Room” is that it’s not especially tasteful. CRJ kicks it off with kind of an exaggerated seductive-baby voice, giving way to sultrier-toned come-ons in the next verse, and then a robo-voiced chorus stating her desires plainly: “I want you in my room,” the voice I visualize as Robo-CRJ robo-sings. “On the bed, on the floor,” Regular CRJ adds. There’s a falsetto “I wanna do bad things to you!” and an invitation to “slide on through my window.”
Continue reading TRACK MARKS 2019: “Want You In My Room” by Carly Rae Jepsen

TRACK MARKS 2019: “Miss Americana and the Heartbreak Prince” by Taylor Swift

Jeremy Beck runs the website MovieManifesto, where he writes many, many movie reviews that nobody reads.

Track Marks is a recurring SportsAlcohol.com feature that invites writers to briefly discuss a song that is meaningful to them in any way. As usual, we’re closing out the year by talking about a bunch of songs that we loved over the past 12 months.

Given that she’s one of the biggest pop stars in the world, it should be difficult for Taylor Swift to don the cloak of the underdog. But among her many gifts as a songwriter is a knack for immersion, the way she can use a sharp hook or a snappy phrase to instantly pull you into her filigreed worlds. Lover is a massive album (18 tracks!) that was massively successful (double platinum!), but when “Miss Americana & the Heartbreak Prince” kicks off, Swift is just another shattered teenage girl again; she effortlessly conjures a familiar high-school dystopia, the modest drums combining with her slightly breathy vocals to yank you back to a time of adolescent heartache. The lyrics are characteristically simple but evocative: She’s ripped up her prom dress, she’s running through rose thorns, she’s fending off whispers from judgmental classmates about how she’s a bad, bad girl. It’s The Scarlet Letter by way of Mean Girls.

Of course, “Miss Americana” is more than just another of Swift’s teen-centric fairy tales, like “White Horse” or “Love Story”; it’s also a cri de coeur in the wake of the 2016 presidential election. “Boys will be boys, then where are the wise men?” she asks rhetorically while staring helplessly at “American glory faded before me,” and her despair is palpable. There’s even a whiff of gerrymandering/voter suppression (“The whole school is rolling fake dice”), but mostly she’s just left helpless and depressed, learning of the election results (via a football scoreboard, naturally) and then running for her life. When the bad guys are exchanging high fives, all that’s left to do is paint the town blue.

Here’s the thing, though: None of that political metaphor is essential to appreciating “Miss Americana” as a kickass song, a finely constructed ballad that builds to a soaring conclusion. Swift is such a phenom, it’s easy to overlook just how skilled she is, how she approaches her work with sincerity and craft. It’s there in the spondaic shouts of “OH-KAY!” that punctuate several lines, and in the light piano that pops up in the chorus, meshing with the throbbing synths. My favorite part of the song is the bridge, where backup singers shout the last word of each line: “And I don’t want you to GO! / I don’t really wanna FIGHT! / ‘Cause nobody’s gonna WIN!” That sounds like surrender, but listen closer; after three crushing repetitions, Swift suddenly inverts the lyrics, promising that she’ll never go, that she’s staying to fight, that she’s determined to win. It’s a lightning-quick flip—from compliance to defiance, from desolation to resolution—and it turns this once-despondent ditty into a roaring battle cry. So sure, maybe it’s tough to accept Taylor Swift as the underdog, but only because—as this intricate, ecstatic song proves—she doesn’t know how to lose.

TRACK MARKS 2019: “Cheerleader” by Sir Babygirl

Jeremy Beck runs the website MovieManifesto, where he writes many, many movie reviews that nobody reads.

Track Marks is a recurring SportsAlcohol.com feature that invites writers to briefly discuss a song that is meaningful to them in any way. As usual, we’re closing out the year by talking about a bunch of songs that we loved over the past 12 months.

Everyone hates cheerleaders. They’re the popular crowd, the mean girls, the queen bees who date the star quarterback and occupy the prime real estate in the cafeteria. If you’ve ever felt remotely marginalized or uncool, you’ve probably wished them harm or misfortune at some point, if only idly. Of course, this conception of pom-pom-wielders as bimbos, tramps, or both is an ugly and outdated stereotype. But on the power-pop anthem “Cheerleader,” rising artist Kelsie Hogue (aka Sir Babygirl) nevertheless gives voice to those dark and disgruntled thoughts, confessing to scribbling graffiti in the bathroom stall about how “everybody wants to watch the cheerleader fall.” She’s on the outside looking in, and when she asks for your complicity—”I’ll kill my reputation if you promise not to tell / I’ll kill my reputation if you come with me to hell”—it’s as though she’s concocting some sort of dastardly scheme, grist for a made-for-TV movie.

But is Hogue devious, or just envious? As “Cheerleader” progresses, its light notes of electronica gathering a propulsive energy with a heavy bass and thumping drums, it turns into a kind of empowerment ballad, and not just about the extra in the background who inadvertently drops the prom queen. As Hogue imagines climbing to the top of the pyramid—wearing a skirt so tight it makes her bleed, and festooned with friendship bracelets that double as handcuffs—the song transforms from an angsty lament of isolation into a glorious fantasy of belonging. Hogue doesn’t want to kill the cheerleader, she wants to be the cheerleader; the bridge is a plea for your support, exhorting you in a howling crescendo to “Come on, cheer me on.” It’s so noisy and catchy, it’s easy to miss the intricacy of the mix: the snap of the snare, the snaking guitar line, the way the precisely timed rat-a-tat barks of “C’mon-c’mon-c’mon” sit alongside the classic chant, “Be aggressive, B-E aggressive!” (Yo Grimes, you hearing this?) It’s simultaneously shameless and triumphant, and as Hogue’s immaculate shrieks grow higher and higher, you have no choice but to join her cause. After all, everyone loves cheerleaders.