Category Archives: Music

The SportsAlcohol.com Mixtape: The Rise of Skywalker

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.

The SportsAlcohol.com nerd core will be podcasting about Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker soon enough (by which we mean, in a week or two). But in the meantime, with the movie’s commercial premiere just hours away, we made you a mixtape. Two years ago, we opened up a weird high school tradition to the world (or at least the SportsAlchol.com audience) by offering thirty-plus minutes of get-psyched mix-em-ups, to be listened to on your way to see a Star Wars movie. We’ve done the same for Episode IX, and I hope you enjoy it. (You can also download the never-before-officially-released Force Awakens mixtape here.)

As before, there are general instructions and a trivia component. The instructions are easy: about 35 minutes before you roll into your theater of choice to see The Rise of Skywalker hit “play” on the downloadable mp3, or the stream linked below.

Here’s the trivia part: This mix contains a lot of songs and samples. Some of them relate directly to Star Wars; most of those connections should be obvious, even if you don’t immediately recognize their origin. BUT: the rest of the songs and samples (that is, the non-Star Wars majority of the mix) have something in common. What is it?

The answer is relatively broad, so bonus points if you can go into more detail using specific examples.

A correct answer will get you a shout-out on our next Star Wars podcast!

In the meantime, enjoy getting psyched for the movie, and may the force be, well, you know.

TRACK MARKS 2019: “Seventeen” by Sharon Von Etten

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

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.

Some anthems announce themselves before you’ve even pressed play. You don’t call a song “Born in the U.S.A.” and not open with stadium-sized power chords, even if the lyrics they’re backing take the piss out of such nationalistic fervor. A title like “Seventeen” also conjures all sorts of associations for listeners both nostalgic and painful, but Sharon Van Etten’s ode to youth is ready to carry whatever baggage is brought to it. Like much of the Boss’s classic catalog, it works as a rock song and a reckoning simultaneously.

Van Etten has made no secret about how much an abusive relationship has influenced her songwriting, and about how uncomfortable this makes her, and much of her superlative 2019 album Remind Me Tomorrow feels like a conscious attempt to move beyond such narratives while acknowledging the impossibility of ever doing so completely. It’s a work both haunting and haunted, almost Lynchian at times with its slinky synths and narcotized soundscapes. It’s not always an easy listen, which is why “Seventeen” initially feels like something of a relief, rolling up at the album’s halfway mark like a car with its top down, filled with the people you used to be.

But if “Seventeen” looks backward, it does with eyes wide open. As Van Etten observes a young woman on the cusp of adulthood, her lyrics straddle the line between wisdom and longing, embodying both the girl’s anxious rush to grow up and the singer’s wish to shield her from what that might mean. At times, it’s as if she’s addressing to her own ghost: “I see you so uncomfortably alone/I wish you could see how much you’ve grown.” It feels like a distinctly feminine thing to fear: that your younger self would look at what you’ve become and sneer. But Van Etten refuses to sneer back. It’s why this song will last long after 2019 is in the rear view. Because whether you’re at the beginning of your next decade or the end of one, it’s got something to say to you.

The SportsAlcohol.com Podcast: Albums of 1999 – Midnite Vultures by Beck

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.

Like we said before: The SportsAlcohol.com podcast is doing a Fall 2019 mini-series about albums from 1999, short but impactful discussions about old but impactful albums from 20 years ago! In the latest installment, we discussed a SportsAlcohol.com favorite that may not be as beloved by the culture at large. That’s right, right around the time of Beck’s new album Hyperspace, his old album Midnite Vultures quietly celebrated 20 years of existence! We see you, Midnite Vultures, and we discuss whether you are the best Beck album in great detail. Mix bizness with Ben, Rob, Marisa, Jesse, and Derrick to find out what we think of this and plenty of other albums from the Beckography!

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

The SportsAlcohol.com Podcast: 1999 Albums – Ben Folds Five and Fountains of Wayne

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.

Like we said before: The SportsAlcohol.com podcast is doing a Fall 2019 mini-series about albums from 1999, short but impactful discussions about old but impactful albums from 20 years ago! In the latest installment, we tackled a nerdy, suburban double feature: The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner by Ben Folds Five and Utopia Parkway by Fountains of Wayne. Join Rob, Marisa, Randy, and Jesse as we navigate our old teenage-ish selves who first heard these albums, and figure out why (or if) they mean much to us today.

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

The SportsAlcohol.com Podcast: 1999 Albums – When the Pawn…

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.

Like we said before: The SportsAlcohol.com podcast is doing a Fall 2019 mini-series about albums from 1999, short but impactful discussions about old but impactful albums from 20 years ago! Next on the docket is Fiona Apple’s second album, popular and weirdly abbreviated as When the Pawn, an artistic breakthrough following her commercial breakthrough Tidal. Rob, Jesse, and Sara look back on Apple’s ’99 record, and how it informs the music she’s made since then. Join us as we ask three simple questions: what did this album mean to us at the time, what does it mean to us now, and is this the best album by the artist in question?

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

The SportsAlcohol.com Podcast: 1999 Albums – Emergency & I

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.

The SportsAlcohol.com podcast is particularly good at two things, if we do say so ourselves: (1.) talking at length, particularly (2.) about the pop culture of 20 years ago. So our new mini-series about albums from 1999 is both in and out of our comfort zone: We’re producing some of our shortest episodes ever, but we’re adding to our popular talks about 1999 summer movies and 1999 pop with some (probably Will Smith-free) talks about individual albums that mean a lot to various members of the SportsAlcohol.com team. First up is one for the indie rockers, an album just about to turn 20, and a personal favorite of Rob, Randy, Jesse, and Marisa: the Dismemberment Plan’s Emergency & I. Join us as we ask three simple questions: what did this album mean to us at the time, what does it mean to us now, and is this the best album by the artist in question?

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

The SportsAlcohol.com Podcast: Billboard Hits of 1999

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.

The SportsAlcohol.com editorial core has kind of a thing for the ’90s. But sometimes just talking about the best of that decade isn’t enough; sometimes we need to travel back in time exactly 20 years and go through the good, the bad, and the ugly of the annual Billboard Hot 100. We did it for 1996, and in this anniversary year for 1999, we’re at it again! Shania Twain, Smash Mouth, Third Eye Blind, Brandy and/or Monica, N’Sync and/or Alabama (whoever they are)! They’re all here and you’ll never guess which ones Rob and/or Jesse and/or Marisa love and/or hate! You’ll have to listen to fin dout.

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

DIRTY COMPUTER is our album of the year. Here’s why.

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.

JESSE:
So generally we don’t cover the Grammys very much here on SportsAlcohol.com except for the occasional entreaty to Maybe Just Don’t. But the Grammys do provide an awkwardly timed opportunity to reflect on the best music of an awkwardly constructed eligibility period that we will simplify to just “2018” (although, real talk: did any of us love an album that came out in November or December of last year?). And as it happens, the general consensus choice for SportsAlcohol.com Album of the Year is, in fact, nominated for a Grammy! That would be Janelle Monáe’s Dirty Computer, which is one of this year’s eight nominees for Album of the Year. Why are there eight this year instead of the usual five? Because otherwise there might not be room for the Post Malone album, of course! (Seriously though, I have no idea. Was 2019 the year that the Grammy Olds were finally like “hey, there’s a LOT of music out there? What with the Post Malone album, et cetera”? In the words of a diffident, opaque Lorne Michaels: Why now?)
Continue reading DIRTY COMPUTER is our album of the year. Here’s why.

Grammy Week Track Marks: “The Stove and the Toaster” by the Hold Steady

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

The Grammys are happening this Sunday, and in celebration (?!), a few SportsAlcohol.com folks will be offering up some words about some of our favorite songs of 2018.

Music purists of a certain age and disposition are currently frustrated with The Hold Steady, given that they’ve spent the past five years dribbling out a couple of songs at a time rather than holing up in the studio and releasing, you know, an album. But as desperate as I am to finally unwrap the band’s seventh LP and see what Holly and Charlemagne are up to, I can’t be too mad at The Hold Steady, not when they’re releasing songs as spectacular as “The Stove and the Toaster,” another of Craig Finn’s propulsive adventures in sleazy criminality. At just three-and-a-half minutes, it’s a remarkably dense song, packing in the usual torrent of verbiage and somehow still finding room for an epic guitar solo. Finn’s lyrics are as sharp and flavorful as ever, but it’s important not to overlook the band’s musical flourishes, like the sudden squalls of piano, or the horns that punctuate each line of the chorus, a sort of subliminal reminder that declares, “Hey folks, we aren’t just talk-singing poets; we’re a goddamn rock band.”

But Finn’s storytelling will always be the heart of The Hold Steady, the way he weaves tales of extraordinary specificity—geographic, personal, architectural—and spins them into music. “The Stove and the Toaster” is so teeming with detail and suspense, it could practically double as an episode of Breaking Bad, and not just because of the southwestern locations. The premise is simple: Finn wants to rip off some drug dealers, and his girlfriend has inside info that will allow them to pull off the perfect heist. (In some characteristically piquant Hold Steady minutiae, the stash is in the stove, the cash is in the toaster.) The problem is that they’re in over their heads; their marks are “earpiece dudes in a fortified fortress / A wholesale crew that does pretty big business.” This makes their fates a foregone conclusion—“We came to the kitchen and we knew it was over / I didn’t see any stove, no sign of the toaster”—but it also makes their recklessness oddly tragic. Finn just wanted to show his girl a good time, but he never stood a chance. Only a songwriting pro could conjure such a clueless amateur.

Grammy Week Track Marks: “Mistake” by Middle Kids

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

The Grammys are happening this Sunday, and in celebration (?!), a few SportsAlcohol.com folks will be offering up some words about some of our favorite songs of 2018.

As lousy as 2018 may have been for America, it was quite the year for Australia, or at least for Australian three-pieces. Not only did Camp Cope deliver a blistering sophomore album, but the little-known outfit Middle Kids arrived onto the scene with Lost Friends, a ferociously catchy debut full of taut, intricately composed bangers. There’s nothing especially revolutionary about this trio’s music; they write straightforward songs that bounce from verses to choruses and back. But art doesn’t need to be original to be great, and “Mistake,” the record’s second single, weaponizes your familiarity against you. You think you’ve heard it before, and all of a sudden you’re tapping your foot, banging your head, and belting out its refrain at the top of your lungs.

Naturally, the pet trick of lead singer Hannah Joy is an oldie but a goodie: She loves to draw out single syllables for seconds at a time, right from the “Ooooh darling” that opens the song. Joy’s lyrics aren’t fancy—she repeatedly rhymes “back” with “back”—but they’re evocative, efficiently revealing a woman crippled by confusion regret (“Thought I was healthy but I’m choking / It must be catching up, my smoking”); she also drops in some sly bits of Swiftian pronoun-switching. But the sound is the key here, the way the drums and guitars seem perfectly unified, propelling Joy forward as she pushes toward each electric chorus. The band knows exactly when to crescendo and when to downshift, resulting in a song that snakes and curls before finally erupting with euphoria. It’s perfectly constructed, yet it doesn’t feel engineered or excessively polished. It’s a hell of a thing: Musicians have been banging on drums and strumming on guitars for decades, and without altering any of that basic technique, Middle Kids have somehow produced something fresh and exciting. Maybe it’s telling that the word “mistake” never actually appears in “Mistake”. On multiple levels, it’s nowhere to be found.