Category Archives: Music

TRACK MARKS 2020: “Animal” by Katie Malco

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. Though they can appear on the site at any time, we always run a bunch of them in December and/or January and/or February, looking back at the year in music.

In August 2020, I made a promise to myself: I would stop drinking for at least 90 days. It was one of those tests that people who suspect they might have a problem give themselves in the months, or years, before they decide to quit something for good. I made it, and then some, and while I have had a glass of wine at a holiday dinner here and there since, for the most part I’ve cut alcohol out of my life. The decision was and wasn’t related to the pandemic, which forced many of us to confront habits and tendencies that we otherwise might have been happy to avoid indefinitely. In truth it was a long time coming, longer than many of the people close to me probably realized. It also had some inevitable consequences, some of which I expected and some of which were a surprise. For example, I started noticing in ways I hadn’t before how people imbibed, casually or otherwise, in the pop culture I consumed — how the placement of a bottle in a frame can indicate either a detail or a problem, or how the intentions of a song lyric can be twisted depending on our knowledge of the singer’s life.

A lot of artists were confronting addiction issues in 2020, particularly women. Waxahatchee’s Saint Cloud explored the often uncomfortable contours of recovery, as did Best Coast’s Everything Has Changed. While the U.K.-based Katie Malco’s debut solo album Failures has the sort of title that connotes struggles with a substance, it’s not explicitly about that. Alcohol is just one of the many coping mechanisms for modern life that are explored with unflinching honesty here. “Animal” is the bracing opening track; after the first fifteen seconds of plaintively searching piano it drops listeners in media res with Malco heedlessly powering her way through an all-night bender: “Thirteen beers and a bad taste in my mouth” are the first words we hear. It mimics the textures of binge drinking in both its lyrics and composition, with guitars that veer from chugging along like the train the singer has found herself on to the jagged shards of memory in the morning-after. According to Malco, “Animal” is based on nights when she stayed out to avoid being at home with her mother’s abusive partner. She cycles through the same story in both verses, not unlike how someone who’s suffered a blackout tries to piece back together what they might have done. It’s strung together with a chorus both defiant and defenseless, with Malco sounding like she can barely catch her breath, raging one moment for the listener to “take those worried eyes off me” and pleading with childlike vulnerability to be carried home in the next. I wish I didn’t recognize myself in those words, but Malco is not judgmental of her younger self, only of those who might judge her. Like many a drunk, the song relents eventually, tapering off with a churning coda like the singer has finally laid down, head heavy with a case of the bends that might never stop.

Looking back now, Malco’s potential breakout year feels more like a dream deferred. Though she’s been the opening act for artists like Jenny Lewis and Julien Baker, missing out on a headlining tour has to hurt, and it means a lot of music fans were deprived of a potential new favorite. I look forward to when concert venues open up again, and hope Malco has the chance to do some gigs in the U.S.; in the meantime, her album is available on Bandcamp.

TRACK MARKS 2020: “Blinding Lights” by The Weeknd

Ben self-identifies as a Slytherin, so it makes sense that he is a business school graduate. He really liked the movie Margin Call, so that makes him SportsAlcohol.com's de facto business correspondent. By business correspondent, we mean the expert in movies and television about business (we don't care about the strength of the dollar or whatever).

Track Marks is a recurring SportsAlcohol.com feature that invites writers to briefly discuss a song that is meaningful to them in any way. Though they can appear on the site at any time, we always run a bunch of them in December and/or January and/or February, looking back at the year in music.

1. History and Context

Do you ever listen to an old song and ask, if this song came out today, would it still be a hit? Sure, there are songs that are clearly of their time — a grunge anthem that typifies the ’90s or an early hip-hop song of the ’80s that might not translate well. But then, there are those songs from whenever they came out that make you think, yeah, this is still a banger.

“Blinding Lights” answers a different question: If you created a perfect ’80s synth pop song with post-2000s production technology in the year of a quarantine, would it be popular?

Sure, the ’80s has its gems. Yes, Pitbull can sample Ah-ha’s classic “Take On Me” in “Feel This Moment” to push out a party anthem, but Abel Tesfaye (aka The Weeknd) along with Max Martin and Oscar Holter (with a few others) did something remarkable: They created a song for 2020 with its roots clearly in the 1980s (if not a little before), and they made it slamming.
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TRACK MARKS 2020: Coldplay’s “Orphans,” the Unintentional Pandemic Anthem Released in 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

Track Marks is a recurring SportsAlcohol.com feature that invites writers to briefly discuss a song that is meaningful to them in any way. Though they can appear on the site at any time, we always run a bunch of them in December and/or January and/or February, looking back at the year in music.

Coldplay performed “Orphans” on Saturday Night Live on November 2, 2019, when I was more worried about middle age than coronavirus.

“Shit,” I thought. “This is catchy.” As a rock-music fan approaching 40, I’m always worried about showing my decrepitude through the music I like. Ragging on Coldplay is an easy way to keep my bones from turning to dust. It shows I’m still with it enough to discern the difference between corporatized, consciously-coupled-with-the-mainstream dad-rock and truly felt, authentically crafted indie rock. But every once in a while Coldplay manages to slip a song through my defenses and expose my whole view for the lie that it is.

Continue reading TRACK MARKS 2020: Coldplay’s “Orphans,” the Unintentional Pandemic Anthem Released in 2019

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!

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

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!

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

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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!

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

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.

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

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