Category Archives: Music

The Ten Best Soundtrack Cues from The Americans

Sara

Sara

Sara is big into reading and writing fiction like it's her job, because it is. That doesn't mean she isn't real as it gets. She loves real stuff like polka dots, indie rock, and underground fight clubs. I may have made some of that up. I don't know her that well. You can tell she didn't just write this in the third person because if she had written it there would have been less suspect sentence construction.
Sara

When The Americans premiered back in January 2013, it had all the makings of a fun throwback. ’80s fashion! ’80s politics! Felicity gracing our screens again! It quickly revealed itself to be a much more serious exploration of the crisscrossing allegiances to family and country than its sexy logline implied, albeit with plenty of time for bone-breaking and tooth-extracting, and with some of the most complex (and perplexingly under-awarded) performances on television. And in hindsight its granular exploration of the old Cold War was remarkably prescient of our current quagmires, constantly forcing the audience to question just how much it should be sympathizing with characters that want to undermine our very way of life, antiheroes whose destructive reach extends beyond even Heisenberg. What the show’s ultimate legacy will be after its May 30th finale remains to be seen, but one thing is for sure: it had some of the most artful era-appropriate music cues this side of Mad Men. In honor of its six masterful seasons, here are the 10 best cuts from the entirety of the series (up until the eighth episode of season six, that is), presented in the order they first appeared. Also, though The Americans has its favorites like everyone, I limited this to one soundtrack cut per artist out of fairness. Otherwise this list might be mostly Fleetwood Mac. Speaking of…

Continue reading The Ten Best Soundtrack Cues from The Americans

They Might Be Giants Week!

Marisa
Gripes

Marisa

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

Latest posts by Marisa (see all)

Hey, you might’ve noticed, but the team here at SportsAlcohol.com sure likes They Might Be Giants a whole lot! Let’s nerd out.

We re-listened, voted, cried, ranked, and re-ranked until we had compiled a collective list of The Top 40 Best They Might Be Giants Songs of All Time (For Now).

To ease our sour grapes, we also put together a post of Outliers—TMBG songs that received one and only one vote for our master ranking.

Then four of us got together to record a podcast about the band, and how they’ve changed and haven’t changed—and ho we’ve changed and haven’t changed—in the decades they’ve been making music.

Is there a Spotify playlist? Of course there’s a Spotify playlist. (It’s missing two songs though—see if you can figure out which ones!)

And remember: Everybody dies frustrated and sad, and that is beautiful.

The SportsAlcohol.com Podcast: They Might Be Giants

Jesse

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.

Between our recent list of the 40 best They Might Be Giants songs and our accompanying list of the outliers in our voting process, you may have gathered that SportsAlcohol.com reps a pretty big They Might Be Giants fandom. And you would be right! So we couldn’t let the release of the band’s new record I Like Fun pass without a They Might Be Giants podcast discussing it, along with our listmaking methodology as well as some personal history in terms of formative TMBG experiences. TMBG superfans Jesse and Marisa were joined by list voters and fellow TMBG superfans Alan Scherstuhl and Karen Han for a wide-ranging, super-nerdy discussion of all things They Might Be Giants. Hear how we each got into the band, how we all love spending New Year’s Eve at their concerts, what oddball songs we love and don’t love, and how we think I Like Fun fits into TMBG’s canon. We promise not to kill you!

We are now up to SEVEN (7) different ways to listen to a SportsAlcohol podcast:

Our Favorite They Might Be Giants Songs: The Outliers

Jesse

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.

These aren’t runners-up in our list of the Top 40 Best They Might Be Giants songs. Far from it; these are all found much further down the full ranking of 160 or so tunes, because they all received exactly one (1) vote from one (1) participant. In some ways, especially with a band as original and idiosyncratic as TMBG, these outliers will tell you more about the artist than the stuff that nearly made the official list. These were the choices that inspired passionate devotion that, in turn, was not enough. Some of them are from the band’s best-selling record; others are newer songs that may not have had time to gain popular traction; one was chosen by a two-year-old who didn’t get to vote yet. What they have in common is that peculiar, wonderful connection between prolific band and attentive listener. Consider this an alternate top ten (er, eleven).
Continue reading Our Favorite They Might Be Giants Songs: The Outliers

The Top 40 Best They Might Be Giants Songs of All Time (For Now)

Jesse

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.

We here at SportsAlcohol.com love indie rock, love lists, and love (with reservations) our teenager selves from years ago. So it’s a little bit strange to us that though we’ve tackled artists like David Bowie, Sleater-Kinney, Belle & Sebastian, Radiohead, and The Hold Steady, we have yet to make our definitive list of the best They Might Be Giants songs. It’s especially strange because of our founders’ history: Rob and Jesse went to see TMBG together on September 27th 1996, the night before Rob turned 17 and a few days before Jesse turned 16. There were TMBG t-shirts all over our high school for the next year-plus. One of the first times Jesse and Marisa met was at a TMBG show during college, and it was one of their most obvious initial common interests. Yet somehow it took us until 2018 to pull together a proper list.

This is probably because there never seems like a perfect time to make a They Might Be Giants list, because they’re almost always making music. I remember the gap between proper studio discs in 1996 and 2001 felt epic to me back in the day, but I didn’t realize how good I had it; the band released something— a compilation, a live album, an internet-only album, EPs, demos—literally every year of that “gap.” They have a new album called I Like Fun out right now, just a few months old, but still we’re not safe to make our definitive lists, because they’re going to be releasing more tracks through their Dial-a-Song service throughout the year, just as they did in 2015 alongside their album Glean.

So eventually you just have to put your head down and get to work and not worry about whether the next Dial-a-Song would have become your new favorite if you just waited another week or two. There will always be more songs, or at least that’s what it feels like when you’re a TMBG fan. I’ve been a fan of a lot of bands and I don’t know that I’ve ever found loving any of them as rewarding as it is to love They Might Be Giants. There are hits, obscurities, arcana, and everything in between. They have a reputation as a band that attracts nerds, and while that’s probably somewhat true, I think they’re also a band that kinda teaches you how to be a nerd. The good kind: curious, offbeat, and joyfully obsessive rather than sour or myopic.

A dozen-plus such nerds submitted lists of their 30 favorite TMBG songs, a wonderful and impossible task that resulted in this list of 40. If this seems like a lot, consider that it’s only the top twenty-five percent of the 160 songs that received votes, and only the top ten (or less) percent of the 400-plus songs (probably closer to 500+; I had to stop counting) that were eligible. Almost everyone who participated complained that this was too hard; that it wasn’t enough. Because we really, really love They Might Be Giants. So think of this list less as an exercise in leaving some songs off than as an extended thank-you to a band who means a whole lot to a whole lot of people.

Speaking of which: You’re familiar with Jesse, Marisa, and Rob. Here are your other voting nerds and TMBG experts for this rock-solid list:

Jeremy Bent is a writer, comedian, and UCB performer and teacher.
Trillion Grams loves TMBG and does IT for HR in DFW, TX, USA.
Karen Han writes on film, TV, music, and games, and is based in NYC. She loves Tintin and TMBG.
Andrew Hassenger is a musician and artist from Upstate New York.
Matt Koff is a comedian and Daily Show writer.
Randy Locklair is a Brooklyn-based dad and software architect, who likes to play the cello, fly planes and race bikes for fun. If you can’t find him doing any of those things, you can probably find him at a concert.
Demitri Muna is an astronomer at large in NYC who is reasonably obsessed with indiepop and is in love with a too-tall girl.
Michelle Paul is Managing Director of PatronManager.
Dennis Perkins is a freelance film and TV writer for the A.V. Club and elsewhere, and lives in Portland, Maine.
Alan Scherstuhl is the film editor at the Village Voice.
Rayme Shore is an Obstetrician-Gynecologist (yes, really) who occasionally enjoys geeking out.

Let’s get this over with:
Continue reading The Top 40 Best They Might Be Giants Songs of All Time (For Now)

Best of 2017!

Marisa
Gripes

Marisa

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

Latest posts by Marisa (see all)

The year 2017 was 10,000 years long, and so its bests must be placed into the annals of history, to be reviewed and re-evaluated for the millennia that 2018 will last.

Movies

List: The 20 Best Movies of 2017

Podcast: The Best Movies of 2017

Television

List: The 12 Best TV Shows of 2017

Podcast: Best TV of 2017

Music

Podcast: Best Music of 2017

Songs: “Kattena Seishungeki,” “Green Light,” “MICHUUL,” “Love Galore,” “The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness,” “Younger Now,” “Up in Hudson

See you next year, suckers.

Track Marks – “Kattena Seishungeki” by Gesu no Kiwami Otome

Rob

Rob

Rob is one of the founders of SportsAlcohol.com. He is a recent first time home buyer and it's all he talks about. Said home is in his hometown in Upstate New York. He never moved away and works a job to pay for his mortgage and crippling chicken wing addiction. He is not what you would call a go-getter. This may explain the general tone of SportsAlcohol.com.
Rob

For the impending end of 2017, some of our writers are going back and talking about beloved songs from this year, especially from artists not covered on our podcast.

Besides a handful of words, I don’t understand any lyrics from my favorite album of the year.

That album? Daruma Ringo by Gesu no Kiwami Otome. Three years ago, Brent DiCrescenzo (the writer who first turned me onto The Dismemberment Plan) sent out this very compelling (to me) tweet:

To my ears, he wasn’t wrong. Very much a j-pop act with their bright, melodic choruses, Gesu no Kiwami Otome sets themselves apart by bringing some major chops to the table. Their desire to show them off stuffs their catchy songs with noodle-y, basically prog riffs . Also, sometimes it sounds like rapping? This type of kitchen sink approach backed by virtuosic playing and honest-to-god melodies is very much my jam. I don’t what they’re saying or why their videos are so weird, but it’s probably better that way.

Daruma Ringo is their second full length, but the first you can buy on iTunes in the USA. “Kattena Seishungeki” is a single from Daruma Ringo that I quite like. Again, I have no idea what it’s about, but it shows off the whole band and I quite like it.

Track Marks: “Green Light” by Lorde

Marisa
Gripes

Marisa

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

Latest posts by Marisa (see all)

For the impending end of 2017, some of our writers are going back and talking about beloved songs from this year, especially from artists not covered on our podcast.

Sportsalcohol.com has had a complicated relationship to Lorde, to put it nicely. (“Why would a reviewer make the point of saying someone’s not a genius?”/”Well, I just don’t use that word lightly.”) But  every pop singer out there, it seems, has a way of breaking through one of our steely exteriors. This year, while Miley managed to charm Jesse, Lorde’s “Green Light” earwormed its way into my cold, rockist heart.

Which is not to say the song is perfect. Far from it. “Green Light” gets the 2017 Whiplash Award for going from one of the year’s worst lyrics to one of the best. “She thinks you love the beach, you’re such a damn liar,” stops me cold every time, and in a bad way. There’s no nice way of putting it: It’s just dumb. It’s petty. It’s something a sixth-grader would say. And the line sticks out abrasively; the beginning of the verse rhymes, and it seems like “liar” should rhyme with something for consistency, and it…just doesn’t. I don’t want to be the AABB-poetry-police, but I would’ve cut Lorde some slack if she forced that line in there to rhyme with something, but actually there’s no stylistic reason for it to exist. The next time she does a verse, it’s just two lines, not four, and they (mostly) rhyme.

But if you can get past the beach grievances, you are rewarded. “Those great whites they have big teeth, and they’ll bite you,” is actually a very clever way of talking about the dangers of little white lies. It’s the best shark lyric since “When they say great white sharks, they mean the kind with big, black cars,” in the Hold Steady’s “Banging Camp.”

I know a song is not just the sum of its lyrics, but, in the beginning, you don’t have much else besides a quiet piano buffering those words. But after the sharks are released, the song builds to a can’t-help-but-dance moment where I finally see Lorde living up to her reputation. It can’t slow down for a chorus, just a refrain: “I’m waiting for it. That green light. I want it.” (Genius.com says specifically that’s not a Gatsby reference, but, whether Lorde knows it or not, it is.) It’s meant to be shouted. You can jump up and point your finger at the singer when you hear it. Or you can just groove to it in your own little world, like the (tragically too beautiful for this world) Twitter feed @armiedancingto once illustrated.

Press play on “Green Light.” Watch this GIF. Best musical moment of 2017.

I listen to “Green Light” with my 2-year-old. The call-and-response chorus is repetitive enough that she can sing it, too. We both jump up  and down like Armie Hammer. Then she falls onto a pillow we keep on the floor and sticks her legs up in the air, and I grab them and spin her around like a break dancer. There are very few songs that bring us both the same kind of joy. I guess creating something like that does take a certain kind of genius.

Track Marks: “MICHUUL” by DUCKWRTH

Rob

Rob

Rob is one of the founders of SportsAlcohol.com. He is a recent first time home buyer and it's all he talks about. Said home is in his hometown in Upstate New York. He never moved away and works a job to pay for his mortgage and crippling chicken wing addiction. He is not what you would call a go-getter. This may explain the general tone of SportsAlcohol.com.
Rob

For the impending end of 2017, some of our writers are going back and talking about beloved songs from this year, especially from artists not covered on our upcoming podcast.

I don’t write a lot on this website, but when I do I usually preface it by saying that I’m nostalgic for the music of my younger days. This year, though, I really tried to expand my horizons and engage with music culture like I used to. It probably says more about these times than my own intellectual curiosity that I replaced podcasts on my commute with new artists and tried to read the news less and music writing more. The bad news for me was that this was the year that trap music captured the zeitgeist. Particularly, Soundcloud and emo-influenced mumble rap has ruled the day in a way that’s about oppressive as possible in the streaming age. I’m not saying this music is bad; there is a compelling argument to be made that Young Thug and Future are the true rock stars of our time and kids churning out formulaic, minimalist jams on their laptop is more punk than anything white kids who can afford a whole bands-worth of instruments can make in 2017. These old ears aren’t feeling it, though. Pretty girls might like it, but I don’t think it’s for me.

Given this scenario, discovering an artist like DUCKWRTH is a breath of fresh air. Instead of Cash Money Records and Three Six Mafia,  his sound imagines N.E.R.D. and Outkast as having the biggest influence on hip-hop in the last two decades. DUCKWRTH cares about melody and rhymes as much as flow and swagger. He even sings and dances!

The song that turned me onto DUCKWRTH was “MICHUUL,” an ode in equal measure to both a hypothetical girlfriend and Michael Jackson. Kicking off with the sample of a child saying they want to be MJ when they grow up straight into a variation of a Pharrell four-count, “MICHUUL” clearly states its intentions from the jump. This is a party record like he used to get down to in his youth. A Neptunes-inspired beat is propelled by Triton-esque synth stabs and simple guitar riffs with some chill-sounding piano in the breakdown. Thematically, his subject matter isn’t that different from his contemporaries, but DUCKWRTH rhymes about desiring and enjoying the trappings of success as opposed to merely having them. He’s having fun and he wants you to have too. In 2017, that makes all the difference in the world.

(This clip courtesy of The Rundown With Robin Thede, which didn’t make our best of TV list but would have if Sabrina and I were voting).

Track Marks: “Love Galore” by SZA

Sara

Sara

Sara is big into reading and writing fiction like it's her job, because it is. That doesn't mean she isn't real as it gets. She loves real stuff like polka dots, indie rock, and underground fight clubs. I may have made some of that up. I don't know her that well. You can tell she didn't just write this in the third person because if she had written it there would have been less suspect sentence construction.
Sara

For the impending end of 2017, some of our writers are going back and talking about beloved songs from this year, especially from artists not covered on our upcoming podcast.

In case it wasn’t clear yet, single women are tired. Match, OkCupid, Tinder, Bumble; you can text multiple people for months and still never nail down an actual in-person date. And everywhere we look these days are, in the TLC parlance, scrubs. Or is it actually a bit more complicated than that? Is it also a matter of facing our own insecurities and acknowledgments before we can really accept love? Nobody embodied this ambiguity of being a modern, sexually “liberated” woman better than SZA in 2017. Her full-length debut Ctrl explores all of the contradictions and frustrations of modern romance and that’s never better encapsulated than in “Love Galore.”

While some of the other tracks on the album depict a woman grappling with being a “sidepiece” or revenge-fucking an ex-boyfriend’s bro on Valentine’s Day, “Love Galore” is the sound of gentle reclamation. Of time, of body, of peace of mind. Buoyed by backing vocals from Travis Scott, it’s an amiably slippery examination of dating in the digital age, when any given person is a well-timed message away. “Why you bother me when you know you don’t want me?” she assails her listener and it feels like a clarion call for everyone who’s ever been on the receiving end of an unwanted “U up?” text. It works, though, because SZA isn’t afraid to acknowledge the vulnerability that lives just underneath her bravado, dramatizing in the most sonically pleasing way the belief that love is worth it because it requires so much work on our part to find it.