Category Archives: Music

TRACK MARKS: “I’ll Have to Dance with Cassie” by God Help the Girl

Jesse is a cofounder of 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.

God Help the Girl is not quite Belle and Sebastian, not least because it’s not quite an actual band. It resides in the more nebulous region of “project” and qualifies for any number of typical project modifiers — side, pet, dream, or all of the above. It shares with Belle a chief stakeholder in the person of one Mr. Stuart Murdoch, primary (though not only) singer and songwriter in the band and more benevolent Svengali (is that a thing?) of Girl/Girl/”Girl.” The first publicly available incarnation was an album released in 2009, featuring songs written or (in the case of a few that first appeared on the 2006 Belle and Sebastian album The Life Pursuit) reproduced for female vocalists of the girl-group style, which would become an even more prevalent indie-rock flashpoint over the next couple of years. Murdoch made no secret of his ambition that this album eventually become the soundtrack to a musical film, and after several more EPs and singles and another Belle and Sebastian record and some touring and Kickstarting, lo, the film itself did appear, one of those things that seems as if by magic to viewers, and probably seemed more like an arduous, shoestring-budgeted undertaking to those who actually worked on it.

In some ways, the songs of God Help the Girl are a lot like Belle and Sebastian: wistful, retro, witty, melodic. But switching from the occasional third-person female point of view (sung by Stuart) or the implied first-person female point of view (sung by others in the band, and/or Carey Mulligan) to mostly female narration does change the alchemy of the band (much of B&S did play on the original 2009 album) in interesting ways. The most immediate of the God Help the Girl songs is probably “I’ll Have to Dance with Cassie,” which told a clear story long before the sequence was filmed for one of the best moments of God Help the Girl: The Feature Motion Picture. The narrator wants to dance, and the various boys around her and her friend Cassie aren’t up to the task. It makes sense that Murdoch wrote this in 2009, as Belle and Sebastian continued to get peppier and dancier. “Cassie” combines their newfound verve with the character-driven point of view Murdoch perfected early in their career; it’s an even more compatible combination of the two aesthetics than recent-ish up-tempo numbers like “Sukie in the Graveyard,” maybe because the first-person female narration brings us closer to the action than Murdoch’s empathetic but slightly more distanced portrait of Sukie, or maybe because it expresses such a heedless sentiment in such a wry, Belle and Sebastian-y way.

Though the God Help the Girl soundtrack album that accompanies the film features many of the same tracks as the original 2009 record, the songs, including “I’ll Have to Dance with Cassie,” got makeovers for the occasion, re-sung by the movie’s stars (in this case, Emily Browning — backed by some of the original band’s singers). There’s something more electric about the soundtrack version, and that goes double for seeing it in the movie itself: like the film’s other numbers, the scene looks handmade while mainlining the bold joyfulness of classic movie musicals. Emily Browning and Hannah Murray (Cassie here, Cassie on Skins, Cassie forever) and Murdoch (directing them) all bring the song, the whole Belle and Sebastian thing, to vibrant life. The original version is good, but the movie, like the best musicals, further elevates its songs. It’s the original 2009 version in the YouTube audio below; the musical number as it appears in the film is actually on YouTube somewhere, but it’s in a squished aspect ratio and suboptimal audio mix and anyway, you should see it in the context of the movie for maximum delight.

Observations at a Neutral Milk Hotel show

Rob is one of the founders of 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

I had the pleasure of seeing Neutral Milk Hotel perform at Brewery Ommegang this weekend. I actually don’t have much to say about NMH’s actual performance besides that it was great. If you were ever on the fence about seeing them live because they are a reunion act now, my recommendation would be to go. They played every song that you would want them to with a verve of a much younger act. I had one criticism though: it was kind of messed up that George R.R. Martin was playing with them. I know Mr. Martin has been very defensive about how he spends his time while his fans wait for him to finish A Song Of Fire And Ice, but touring with a band just seems to be flaunting it. The show is going to catch up!

This was taken from at a different show, but I think the joke still works. source

All this being said, there were a lot of things I noticed that had nothing to do with the band I went to see. Growing old is a terrible thing. Going to concerts in my mid-30’s not only highlights how old I feel, but how much concert-going has changed since I started seeing shows as a kid.

Continue reading Observations at a Neutral Milk Hotel show

TRACK MARKS: “Love U Forever” by Jenny Lewis

Jesse is a cofounder of 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.

I get impatient with songs about how things are going great. So many sad, ambivalent, or complex songs already use upbeat melodies or a fast pace to make themselves sound more rousing than they would be based only on lyrical content that so many fully upbeat songs — like, say, Jimmy Eat World’s “The Middle,” if one wanted to continue picking on a catchy and harmless decade-only song that one might still kind of loathe — sound like empty overkill. It takes a deceptive amount of skill to write a song about something happy that doesn’t sound kind of insufferable or empty-headed. That goes double if the happy thing is something beyond the heedless rush of love or triumph that informs say, early Beatles songs, or Japandroids. That goes triple, at least sometimes, if an artist used to sing about heavy-duty angst, then got happier as he or she aged, and wants us all to know how serene, centered, and balanced his or her life is now.

Jenny Lewis used to sing about heavy-duty angst, with Rilo Kiley and on her solo records. She still does, on her latest and possibly greatest record, The Voyager. But her songs have taken on a rueful, sometimes slightly detached quality that in no way diminishes their storytelling emotional pull. She also manages to let some light in, both musically and, on “Love U Forever,” lyrically.

“Love U Forever” is a song about being in love. Even the title is spelled out something like a yearbook inscription. In the verses of the song, Lewis sings about stuff that might sound, if not inane, perhaps not material rich in poetic potential: easily identifiable, relatable stuff like getting together with her girlfriends, drinking burgundy wine, getting “a little high” and reminiscing.

Beyond a bouncy intro guitar riff that promises impending rollicking, what makes this song work so surprisingly well are the nuances J-Lew brings to her narrator’s happiness. At the end of her list of things to do, she keeps adding: “I can’t believe I’m getting married in May” — and we might assume her disbelief is wistful, but it’s hard to say for sure. Then, in the chorus: “I could love you forever.” The key word here is could. This is in no way a break-up song; it’s not (as far as I can tell) about the narrator realizing she’s about to make a huge mistake or leaving her intended at the altar, or wanting to change him just a little bit. She gives no directives for how “could” might become “will.” But there is a sweet tentativeness in turning her love hypothetical. The narrator is engaged to be married, and she’s still saying: this could be it. The final verse adds even more ambiguity, observing: “But there are some things money cannot say, like the feeling of hell in a hallway.” So many love songs sound like fantasy; “Love U Forever” sounds like the act of fantasizing.

If it sounds like I’m saying this upbeat love song is great because it’s secretly not all that upbeat, well, I might be kinda-sorta saying that. I’m also saying, though, that this upbeat love song is great because it finds notes and subtleties beyond YES! and YAY! It’s not vital that Lewis express doubt or ambiguity so much as it is that she make this experience sound more specific than just a rush of excitement over seeing old friends and talking about a wedding. It reminds me of Liz Phair’s “What Makes You Happy,” which also approaches being in love from such a specific angle, with such a clear authorial voice, that it makes some old sentiments seem brand new. That’s what listening to Lewis is like these days: hearing an old, familiar friend rephrase and reposition herself as she continues to grow up.

That Time Rob Made Sabrina Listen to Rush: “I Hate Them So Much, I Don’t Want To Write This”

Sabrina is a co-founder. She doesn't really like to contribute writing per se, but she is definitely living the lifestyle

[Note: In keeping with the alcohol portion of sportsalcohol, I was drunk when I wrote most of this. I needed to be drunker.]


They are collectively hideous. Husband says that one dude’s hair is amazing in this photo IT IS NOT.

Now. Husband is making me watch some horrible “Tom Sawyer” video. That keyboard riff is being played one-handed and I think I have the skills to do it  (which says absolutely nothing).


I’m half Canadian. I am wishing I am not on the off-chance some ancestor of mine IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THIS EXISTING.

NERDS! THEY HAVE SONGS TITLED “RIVENDELL” AND “THE NECROMANCER”. There is a song about trees. (I realize it is a metaphor, but it is a terrible one.)

I hate men singing in falsetto. This is like…I don’t even know. When I was, like, 10 and listened to NKOTB, I HATED any song Jordan sang JUST because of the falsetto AND THIS IS SO MUCH WORSE. It’s like falsetto in a fish tank or when you talk into an oscillating fan.


THE LYRICS ARE ATROCIOUS. Seriously, I would expect comparable, if not better, writing in some sort of high school literary publication.



TRACK MARKS: “Mississippi Goddam” by Nina Simone

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.

Song of the Week is a feature where SportsAlcohol editors, staffers, friends, and other assorted experts write a bit about a particular song that they love or hate or respect. Sara kicks this feature off with a song to cap off the real bad August our country has just experienced.

“The name of this tune is ‘Mississippi Goddam’,” Nina Simone says at the start. “And I mean every word of it.” It’s a sentiment that must have startled the largely white crowds who came to see her perform in 1964. The previous year had seen the murder of Medgar Evers and the deaths of four girls in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing. Race relations across the country were roiling and many feared a long road ahead for both sides of the divide. Simone, though, was never afraid to be confrontational, even explosive, with her listeners and the live recordings of “Mississippi Goddam” have a righteous urgency, punctuated by uncomfortable audience laughter, that is still impossible to brush off even fifty years on.

Simone wrote the song in an hour but it contains decades of suppressed anger. The bouncy piano melody she chose provides an ironic underline to the caustic lyrics of pain and strife. After name-checking the Southern states that were the sites of major oppression and violence, she devotes several lines to mocking the legacy of black subservience. “You lied to me all these years,” she fumes, “Told me to wash and clean my ears. And talk real fine just like a lady. And you’ll stop calling me Sister Sadie.” It builds to a call and response with her singers as she rattles off the demands of the movement (“Mass participation/Desegregation”) and they shout back, “Too slow!” — inciting action over caution. She performed it both for the civil rights marchers at Selma and in concert at Carnegie Hall. While many protest songs of the era aimed for uplift, Simone’s remains arresting for its undeniable fury. She isn’t blowing in the wind; she’s the wind itself.

To listen to “Mississippi Goddam” now, in the wake of the clashes in Ferguson, among countless other injustices, is to face simultaneously how far we’ve come and how much work is still left. “You don’t have to live next to me,” Simone proclaims at the song’s end. “Just give me my equality.” Now that the latter has been won, it’s up to us to do the rest.

If you want to do a Song of the Week, get at us on Twitter or Facebook or email.

On the ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ Soundtrack/Mix Tape: Maybe Just Don’t?

There are contrarians, there are iconoclasts, and then there is 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!

If there were any worries that Peter Quill & Co. didn’t get enough money, praise, love, etc. this weekend, everyone can rest assured knowing they were also a hit on the music charts: The Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack album, cutely titled Guardians of the Galaxy: Awesome Mix Vol. 1 (awww), apparently debuted at No. 3 on The Billboard 200.

Now, I love the use of music in this movie. I appreciate that it focused on the pop-rock (and not disco) hits of the 1970s, a genre that hasn’t been done to death in recent movies the way 1980s pop has. I feel grateful that they were at least thinking of a way to ground the movie on Earth while the characters deal with space mumbo-jumbo. I also admire the way happy songs are used during sad or serious scenes, skirting right up to the line of irony without really crossing it—or, at least, without hitting the irony button too much.

It’s just…

[Note: Thar be spoilers beyond this point.]

Continue reading On the ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ Soundtrack/Mix Tape: Maybe Just Don’t?

How to Buy an Album in 2014

Jesse is a cofounder of 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.

If you’ll permit me the briefest interlude of conservatism: it used to be so much easier.

Buying new album releases, I mean. Which isn’t just a regressive statement; it’s a totally counterintuitive one. I could literally buy or, for that matter, listen to for free, almost any album that I would personally have any interest in owning or hearing (this probably isn’t true for a small population of music obsessives, and may not even be one hundred percent true for me, but I can’t think of any true rarities that I’m jonesing to hear and definitely cannot). But certain aspects of buying albums pre-internet that had a certain clarity.

First: the idea that one would buy any album at all, let alone new album releases the day they come out. If you are a person under forty, you almost certainly read the above sentences and either (a.) thought, who even buys albums anymore; (b.) thought, I can’t remember the last time I bought an album; or (c.) are not wholly uninterested in buying albums but can picture someone you know who would read those same sentences and say (a.) or (b.).

A few words about (a.) and (b.): I’m sorry, but generally those are annoying things to say or think, unless you have truly maintained minimal interest in music for your entire life, in which case, hey, I get it, I don’t care about video games. But rolling your eyes at buying albums does not automatically make you au courant. Or if it does, you could be more au courant by having opinions about music itself, not how it is consumed or made.
Continue reading How to Buy an Album in 2014

Planet of the Apes Week! cofounder Nathaniel moved to Brooklyn, as you do. His hobbies include cutting up rhubarb and laying down. His favorite things are the band Moon Hooch and custard from Shake Shack. Old ladies love his hair.

Join us in a world turned upside down by’s Planet of the Apes coverage!

We’ve got:

…an Apes series primer for the uninitiated.

…an appreciation of Dr. Zira, our favorite chimpanzee.

…a look at a little seen collection of apocalyptic poetry by Apes writer Paul Dehn (with illustrations by Edward Gorey!).

…a collection of tie-in media to get you up to speed on the time that’s passed between Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.

…a flashback to 2001, and what Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes taught Marisa about friendship.

…a chat about Rob & Jesse’s disastrous (though never prosecuted) attempt to see Burton’s Apes.

…a rundown of the original concept for Battle for the Planet of the Apes.

…the ‘Ape Escape’ cocktail that helped Sabrina conquer her terror of chimpanzees enough to maybe watch a Planet of the Apes movie.

…Jesse’s review of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes!

…and a Tumblr with lots of Apes related bits and bobs. Posters! Songs! Trailers! Variety show appearances!


Ruth Graham, Not Quite Wrong: Why Liking YA Literature Doesn’t Make It Great

Jesse is a cofounder of 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.

Do you read? Do you also read the internet? If so, you might be aware of an article posted on Slate by Ruth Graham, pegged to Fault in Our Stars mania as a film based on that ultra-popular, mega-beloved John Green young-adult novel was poised to make a killing at the box office (it did, albeit in a more Twilight-y way that some might have expected, given its mostly positive reviews). Graham’s piece discussed the phenomenon of adults reading YA literature, and her argument against it. It was dismissive, maybe even a little haughty, and outfitted with a sensationalist headline (backed up by some actual sensationalist prose) about how adults should be embarrassed to read these kinds of books.

And a part of me agreed with her.

Let me be clear: I do not agree with the idea that anyone should be embarrassed by what they read. Though I don’t use my degree in Library Science (I prefer the Dark Arts of Libraries, but that’s not what the diploma says) often, one thing I did take away from my professors, many of them with experience as school or public librarians, was that reading is reading is reading. It is a net positive, no matter what it is that’s being read. We all have things we read that we could, in different contexts or historical periods, be embarrassed about: comic books, Choose Your Own Adventure, romance novels, Garfield books, Animorphs, Twilight, Slate. There is no reason to be embarrassed by what you read because whatever it is, you have it over on someone who does not read at all.

Strangely, although reading is generally seen as a more worthwhile pursuit than watching things, the stigma attached to watching the “wrong” things seems far smaller, far easier to laugh off. People talk about how they watch those Real Housewives shows all the time. As a movie guy who prides himself on having pretty good taste, I’m not embarrassed to have seen Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever and I’m not even embarrassed to have seen and enjoyed a number of Resident Evil movies. I’m sure some people would be, but I wonder if the general academic/education notion that sitting in front of the TV (or, now, screenamajig) was generally bad for you (save the occasional ingestion of PBS) was in vogue for so long that some are still working through the distinction between bad TV and just TV, in terms of potential embarrassment. I understand that the alleged extremely high quality of television gets a lot of press these days, but I’m speaking in terms of culture-at-large perceptions here, not necessarily of the pop-culture-studies AV Club audience.

In any event: on the matter of embarrassment, regardless of how tongue-in-cheek and/or attention-baiting its use was intended, Graham is incorrect. Friend of and hopefully future contributor to Jen Vega wrote a very smart piece further dismantling much of Graham’s argument in a thoughtful, measured way. Graham is wrong about a lot.

That said, again:

A part of me agreed with her.
Continue reading Ruth Graham, Not Quite Wrong: Why Liking YA Literature Doesn’t Make It Great

OK Go Ahead and Watch This Now

There are contrarians, there are iconoclasts, and then there is 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!

When I go see a concert, I hardly ever buy the album from the opening band. It’s not that I never wind up liking the opening band. It’s just shelling out for merch so quickly is a big commitment. I need to go home, consider, do some research, and make sure that band will still sound good to me in the harsh light of day, after the excitement of the gig has worn off.

Except there was that one time…

I hardly ever buy EPs. Maybe I did at some point, before the Hype Machine and SoundCloud and Spotify made it I could have access to the few EP songs that are worthwhile to me.

Except there was that one time…

Those “one time” were the same time. It was a cold November in 2000, and I was at the Bowery Ballroom to see They Might Be Giants–as you do. There was something different about the opening band. I don’t remember exactly what it was, but I do remember being excited that they played “Panic”. They had two EPs, and I bought them both.

And then they became famous for doing crazy videos. That’s cool, too. Probably better than being known for a Smiths cover, in fact.

The latest of their crazy videos is out today. Watch it below.


See, I knew they had something. Is that all one take? I particularly like the part with the boxes.