Category Archives: Music

TRACK MARKS BEST OF 2014: “Bright Eyes” by Allo Darlin’

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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

This week, SportsAlcohol.com writers are recounting the best music of 2014. Today’s Track Marks focus on individual songs from albums that didn’t make our individual best-album lists.

I’m pretty in the bag for any song that has the same bones as “Bright Eyes”: a sweet, upbeat tune that trades off boy and girl vocals. But “Bright Eyes” is an especially well done version of this kind of thing, even without any of the direct references to Bonnie Tyler or Connor Oberst that the title promises.

The subject is pretty typical for a song with boy/girl vocals: One of the singers is looking for a romantic relationship, but the other demurs. (“You go to great lengths to tell me this is not a romance.”)

The charm of “Bright Eyes” is that it’s the most positive version of this situation possible (and sounds like it). It’s not really an unrequited romance. It’s more a friendship that’s on the cusp of tipping over into something else, but luxuriating in the pleasure-delaying moment just before it happens: “What’s the hurry? Don’t you see, the best part’s in not knowing. We can take our time; you don’t have to worry.”

The chorus asks “Do you believe in fun?” then answers, “I surely do.” And it certainly does.

TRACK MARKS BEST OF 2014: “Lariat” by Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks

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

This week, SportsAlcohol.com writers are recounting the best music of 2014. Today’s Track Marks focus on individual songs from albums that didn’t make our individual best-album lists.

I contend that Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks is one of those bands, like the Strokes, that manages to have one amazing song—and possibly only one amazing song—on every album. On Wig Out at Jagbags, that song is “Lariat.”

“Lariat” might even be better than most of the other album highlights in that it actually seems to be about something. (I love “Gardenia,” but I still swear that it’s just a string a disparate commonly used expressions, like “curb appeal” or “damning with faint praise.”) Even better: That something is music.

I like hearing about Malkmus’ “Mudhoney summer” or living on the Grateful Dead. I might not agree with his assertion that the ’80s was the golden age of music, but I’m pretty sure the statement “we grew up listening to the music from the best decade ever” is something that all music fans have said at some point in their lives. For me, it was the ’90s—the decade of Pavement—which I admit doesn’t have the same ring to it or double meaning as the ’80s/ADDs, but thinking about the music of that era puts me in the same mood that “Lariat” does.

And yes, Malkmus. People do look great when they shave.

TRACK MARKS BEST OF 2014: “Mr Tembo” by Damon Albarn

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

This week, SportsAlcohol.com writers are recounting the best music of 2014. Today’s Track Marks focus on individual songs from albums that didn’t make our individual best-album lists.

Damon Albarn’s had a lot of different musical reputations throughout the years. He was known for making rowdy, frenetic Britpop with Blur, then genre-blending mixed-media hip-hop-rock with Gorillaz, then for doing world music with whatever band/project that was. No matter what he was working on, though, he was always thought of as a serious musician. He’s never really been branded as the guy who makes uplifting, happy music. But all of my personal favorite Albarn songs have been soothing in one way or another.

“Mr. Tembo” fits squarely into this category. It’s light-hearted. When Mr. Tembo starts his trek up the hill, you’re there with him, but you’re confident you’ll both make it to the top. You can put it on a “cheer up” playlist, or listen to it while cooking dinner—it doesn’t really ask all that much from a listener.

The background story to the song is just as mood-lifting. Albarn wrote “Mr. Tembo” about a real elephant, one that had wandered into an airplane hangar in Africa and then was rescued by an elephant sanctuary in Tanzania. Albarn met the real Mr. Tembo, wrote the song for him, and also got to sing it to him once.

This year was a grim one. The news was often bleak. But, whenever you’re feeling blue about how 2014 went down, you can always remember that this is the year that Damon Albarn sang a song to an elephant.

TRACK MARKS BEST OF 2014: “Water Fountain” by Tune Yards

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.

This week, SportsAlcohol.com writers are recounting the best music of 2014. Today’s Track Marks focus on individual songs from albums that didn’t make our individual best-album lists.

It doesn’t seem right that when I think about tUnEyArDs, I think about Chuck Klosterman. When the band’s previous album landed at first place in the Village Voice music poll in early 2012, Klosterman wrote one of his patented meta-think pieces that’s mostly about how Klosterman thinks everyone else thinks, and to a lesser extent is about how this album and tUnEyArDs (referred to hereafter as Tune Yards) may well be forgotten as a novelty within a few years — not because Klosterman thinks it should be, of course, but because he understands how people think and remains, as ever, deeply in touch with that understanding at all times. He knows the pitfalls of indie-rock acclaim, and is just concerned about whether Tune Yards can ever match (or monetize) this early success. (He strikes such a faux-populist pose that he loses his grasp of apparently non-populist activities such as counting or even estimating; he opens by explaining that Tune Yards’ victory will mean something to “maybe 10,000 people.” Though record sales are notoriously difficult to come by compared to movie box office figures, it appears that whokill, the Tune Yards album in question, sold about 40,000 copies, meaning Klosterman (a.) was pre-supposing that only about 25% of the people who bought the Tuneyards album knew who Tune Yards was or (b.) was pre-supposing that only 25% of Tune Yards fans have heard of the Village Voice or know what a music poll is or (c.) did not even try to find out how many copies whokill sold because doing research isn’t populist.)

Other people have taken apart his reasoning more succinctly and intelligently than I can. But you know what’s even better proof than intelligent rebuttals of Klosterman’s stupid points? “Water Fountain,” by Tune Yards, maybe the most immediate song I heard in 2014. The rest of Nikki Nack is plenty good, too, but “Water Fountain” rollicks in a way unlike so much on the indie-rock landscape. It starts with the simplicity of a folk song (it even references a traditional tune called “Old Molly Hare”) but makes a beautiful tangle of chant, metaphor, and allusion as the drums keep clanging and a surprising number of verses accumulate. Anytime a song sounds like Graceland, Talking Heads, Bjork, and Busta Rhymes in equal measure, I’m probably going to get on board, and stay on board for a long while. If Chuck Klosterman and his imagined isn’t there with me, well, I can be thankful for small favors.

TRACK MARKS BEST OF 2014: “Bury Our Friends” by Sleater-Kinney

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

This week, SportsAlcohol.com writers are recounting the best music of 2014. Today’s Track Marks focus on individual songs from albums that didn’t make our individual best-album lists.

you guys you guys you guys you guys you guys you guys you guys you guys you guys you guys you guys you guys

The above is an excerpt of my internal monologue when I found out Sleater-Kinney was finally reuniting. A lot of my recent writing and podcasting on the site have confirmed my worst fears that my tastes a little too grounded in my college years.  I might overrate what I listened to at the turn of the century, but you can never take the greatness of Sleater-Kinney away from me.

The best thing about Sleater-Kinney releasing “Bury Our Friends” as their first comeback single is I don’t have to say you had to be there, man. Everything that was and is superlative about the band can be found in this song:

  • Corin Tucker’s voice. FYI, hating Corin Tucker’s voice is the new hating Bob Dylan’s voice: you can do it, but you are making a cliched observation and contributing nothing. Why don’t you just do a Borat impression instead? Also, I happen to think you are wrong. Corin Tucker’s voice is huge and soaring and one of a kind.
  • Carrie Brownstein’s guitar work. I don’t know what kind of world we’re coming too when she is known more for her sketch comedy work than her tasty licks.
  • Janet Weiss. How do you describe sexism to people who don’t think it exists? Have them consider Janet Weiss’ resume and the fact that she’s rarely mentioned the conversation of the greatest/most influential/most dependable drummers of all time. She is just a monster. She doesn’t play a lot of fills or solos; she just lays down a tight beat with authority. Janet Weiss is so great sometimes you fail to notice her.
  • The interplay between all the above. If crusty old rock critics actually listened to how this band gave one another space to do their thing, a kind word would never again be written about the ‘sophistication’ of The Police.
  • All of this happens in a tight 3:20, reminicent of their classic mid period, circa Dig Me Out.
  • The sound, though, has the hugeness of their last album, the epic, Zeppelin-inspiried  The Woods. All the noise of overmodulation in service of the song, it’s hard to recognize this a three piece without a keyboard player or even a bassist.
  • The verses are everything great about their lyrics: personal yet universal, relatable yet inscrutable.
  • The chorus has the proud defiance of the  protest songs of their post-9/11 album One Beat.
  • Miranda July on the video!

Seriously, what more do you people want in a rock song?

TRACK MARKS BEST OF 2014: “I’m Not Part of Me” by Cloud Nothings

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

This week, SportsAlcohol.com writers are recounting the best music of 2014. Today’s Track Marks focus on individual songs from albums that didn’t make our individual best-album lists.

When I read about Cloud Nothings, the word that comes up most often is “dependable.” I can sort of see why writers use it to describe the band: They make straight-ahead rock music, no frills. Their songs are consistently good, but not really going to seep under your skin and become one of your very favorite songs of all time.

Until “I’m Not Part of Me.” With this song, Cloud Nothings still adhere to the straight-ahead rock formula, but this time they’ve achieved something greater. Everything about it adds a layer of excitement: the scratchy guitar intro, the way the drums are delayed until they make a triumphant entrance, the way the vocals simple announce “it starts right now,” the way it all builds into a shout-along chorus.

The best lyric, for me, is the one they plucked from this song to become the title of the album: “I’m learning how to be here and nowhere else.” That really hits on something about living in 2014, in an age where everyone always has one eye on their cell phones. But when this song comes on, I find it pretty easy to be in it, and nowhere else.

The SportsAlcohol Podcast: Turn Of The Century Music

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

At the risk of dating ourselves, the majority of the SportsAlcohol crew loves the music that was tearing up the CMJ charts during the transition of the Clinton to Bush 43 administrations because that’s when we were in college.  Sabrina, Marisa, Jesse, and Me (Rob) went to see one of our favorites from that time period, The Dismemberment Plan, on their current tour when it came through New York.

We were joined by Sara. Not the Sara that has been writing great pieces for us about unlikeability (among other things), but another equally excellent Sara that we’ve been going to shows with for about fifteen years. It is just dawning on me now how many Saras with no ‘h’ Jesse knows.  It’s at least three, which feels like a lot to me.

Afterwards, we sat down to talk about The Plan as well as other music from the turn of the century. What bands did we like back in the day? Which ones are still going strong and which ones fell by the wayside? What group’s lack of a promised second record is driving Sabrina insane? Was the world ever our oyster? How come Interpol is still together? All these questions and more follow.

How To Listen

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  • You can download the mp3 of this episode directly here.
  • If you are lazy, like a joke about Dashboard Confessional crying themselves to sleep, you can listen in the player below.

Paint’s Peeling: At a Rilo Kiley Show in 2003

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.

Some of your beloved SportsAlcohol.com writers are going to see Jenny Lewis tonight. She will probably play Rilo Kiley songs. I first saw Rilo Kiley in 2003. This is a made-up story about other people seeing Rilo Kiley for the first time in 2003.

I’ve heard they cry at Bright Eyes shows. Not just from Emily. I did some research on the internet. It’s kind of embarrassing but I didn’t realize people my age didn’t really use newsgroups for this stuff anymore. The Bright Eyes newsgroup is mostly a bunch of assholes making pretty good points about how Bright Eyes sucks, and I don’t really have a problem with that except it seems like kind of a weird theme for the Bright Eyes newsgroup, and also makes me think, fuck me, is this how I sound on the Star Wars groups? So it makes sense that you have to hunting around LiveJournal and the Saddle Creek message boards and, for as long as your eyes can take it, MySpace to find a bunch of people – let’s be honest, mostly girls – crying their virtual tears over Conor Oberst and his stupid one-man band and haircut.

I don’t know if Rilo Kiley people are going to be the same as Bright Eyes people. I would think they’d be as different as Rilo Kiley sounds from Bright Eyes, which to me is pretty different, but apparently they have a lot of fans in common so maybe I’m the weird one. Anyway, research can’t hurt. I want to know what those internet-type people are like even if I’m not going to be one of them. Some of them sound okay.

I chatted with this one guy on AIM. He gave me the idea of what this Rilo Kiley show would be like. I mean, I’ve been to shows; I know what that’s like. I know the difference between hardcore bands playing the back room at the pool hall and the assholes from the seventies and eighties and today who play at Kalamazoo or Ann Arbor. But I don’t know: somehow the Saddle Creek bands seem different, like they’ll change the shapes of the rooms by entering them and bringing in whatever. The AIM guy backed that up, actually. He said it’s like nothing else although at that point I wasn’t one hundred percent sure what “it” was and I didn’t really want to ask.
Continue reading Paint’s Peeling: At a Rilo Kiley Show in 2003

Should I Throw Out My Moxy Früvous CDs?

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

When Jesse and I moved in together, we combined our dvds right away, but it took us a few years to combine our cd collection. (Yes, we still have a cd collection—but this post isn’t about getting rid of all our cds, just a few of them.) Jesse said it was because we had so many more duplicate albums than movies; I would say that he was just embarrassed by my Moxy Früvous cds and didn’t want to be associated with them.

At the time, I wasn’t embarrassed by them. Sure, they were nerdy and cheesy. But, even if I don’t listen as much any more, I liked them anyway, and they remind me of a good time in my life. I still love a lot of those songs.

This past week was the first time I’ve been embarrassed to own Moxy Früvous music, and it has nothing to do with sonic nerdery. It’s because former member Jian Ghomeshi, who went on to work at the CBC (I’ve heard him described as “the Ryan Seacrest of Canada”), has been accused of repeated violence towards women.

When I find out deplorable personal information about artists I like or have liked, I never quite know how to process it. Should the life of the artist matter in how you experience their art?

Continue reading Should I Throw Out My Moxy Früvous CDs?

TRACK MARKS: “Psycho Killer” by Talking Heads

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

A smattering of applause that builds then subsides for a lone voice to say, “Hi. I’ve got a tape I want to play.” This is the beginning of the Talking Heads’ legendary live album Stop Making Sense which was released in the US thirty years ago this week. The theatrical version, culled from three shows in support of their album Speaking in Tongues and filmed by Jonathan Demme, is one of the greatest concert films ever made, capturing a band at the height of their creative powers, playing with an inviting energy that few films like it have been able to match. Repertory screenings still end with people dancing in the aisles and you don’t hear about that happening with The Last Waltz (all apologies to Rick Danko enthusiasts). One of the most delightfully subversive bands of the new wave movement, Talking Heads’ greatest trick might have been opening with a version of one of their biggest hits that withholds many of the elements that made it a radio staple, and a classic scary song.

On the single of “Psycho Killer” the menace is overt — opening with an ominous bass line that sounds like hurried footsteps down a dark alley, joined by a matching drumbeat stalking after it, building to a brain-rattling guitar line threatening to overtake it. By the time David Byrne begins singing about being tense and nervous it’s almost superfluous. Talking Heads has always had an interest in the disconnect between mind and body, a divide embodied in their music which juxtaposes anxious lyrics with deceptively funky compositions. But this is the band’s most clear missive from a deranged psyche. The opening lyrics present a warning to “run away” but the French bridge, which translates roughly to “What I did that evening/What she said that evening,” suggest a man who’s already indulged his monstrous tendencies. And this isn’t even the band’s most disturbing song. (I’d give that distinction to “Memories Can’t Wait” which sounds like the agonizing approach of a leveling storm cloud, or “Born Under Punches” with its squawking instruments and eerie, desperate lyrics [Take a look at these hands!]).

The live version of “Psycho Killer” eschews recreating the bristling intensity of the single, opting instead for a stripped down intimacy that has its own electric charge. Byrne is the only performer onstage, his guitar backed by a pre-recorded Roland TR-808 drum machine played on a boom box. Tina Weymouth, Chris Frantz, and Jerry Harrison will all join later, each one appearing with each successive song. But for the moment it’s just Byrne and the audience, and his solo rendition takes on a confessional tone, an admission of his dominance of the band that would later bring the other members to blows. Many years later, following the band’s acrimonious breakup, Weymouth characterized Byrne as “a man incapable of returning friendship,” and you can hear in his post-chorus yelps a straining to connect. He does, of course; the band would not be one of the most influential of their era if he didn’t. There is something magnetic in a performer willing to delve into the darkest parts of humanity and come out the other side to tell of the nightmare. When it’s a nightmare you can dance to, you have a masterpiece.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V4prFmbjZ7M