The Top Ten Best Fiery Furnaces Songs of the 2000s and Also All Time

Here’s a spoiler for our upcoming list of the best songs of the 2000s: The Fiery Furnaces aren’t on it. To be honest, I didn’t include a Fiery Furnaces song on my own ballot of the 50 best songs of the 2000s, and when I realized I could live without my favorite Furnaces tunes on my personal list, it was clear that they had no shot at a broader consensus. I’m not sure if anyone voting on this list even particularly like the Fiery Furnaces, nevermind loves them. Even I, a committed fan who has seen them live multiple times and bought multiple Fiery Furnaces T-shirts, can’t really get through Blueberry Boat.

But among the many things I love about this band is the fact that—to date, with the caveat that reunions have become a seemingly non-negotiable part of a rock band’s life cycle—they are a prolific musical act that nonetheless is confined almost entirely to a single decade. There are certainly other bands that are pretty much of the 2000s, but most of them have some kind of asterisk: Rilo Kiley put out all of their albums in the 2000s, but they put out their first EP in 1999, and their belated swan-song rarities compilation appeared in 2013. The White Stripes did most of their best and biggest work in the 2000s, but their first album did come out in 1999. The entire body of the Fiery Furnaces’ recorded work—six studio albums, one album-sized EP, and the requisite Double Live record, plus assorted odds and ends—came out between 2003 and 2009. They played some shows in 2010 and early 2011, but there was no more new music. The band’s core siblings members, vocalist Eleanor Friedberger and mulit-instrumentalist Matthew Friedberger, went on to make a bunch of solo albums separately. Eleanor put out a great record this very year. No one asks her when the Fiery Furnaces are getting back together.

As much as I love the cleaner, clearer sound Eleanor has pursued on her own, there are brilliant moments throughout the Fiery Furnaces catalog, and they kept me company throughout the back half of the 2000s. As an appetizer to our full 2000s list coming later this week, here’s the rare music list presided over entirely by one weirdo fan.

The Ten Best Fiery Furnaces Songs of the 2000s, and Also All Time

Continue reading The Top Ten Best Fiery Furnaces Songs of the 2000s and Also All Time

The 2000s: The Decade the Sad Ladies Took Over

This week, will be counting down our 101 Best Songs of the 2000s. Before and after we publish our three-part list, some of our contributors will be offering additional thoughts on the years 2000-2009 in music.

The 2000s saw an unprecedented explosion of brooding female songwriters.

Women writing sad songs were not an entirely new phenomenon. Mazzy Star’s “Fade Into You” and “Into Dust” were ’90s mixtape staples. Well before then, Tracy Chapman and Joni Mitchell added feminine touches to sad folk. The influence of Nina Simone’s “Black is the Color of My True Loves Hair” and Janis Joplin’s “Me and Bobby McGee” can be heard in many 2000s brooders.

But the 2000s brought a bumper crop that felt like a breakthrough. Amy Winehouse was likely the most commercially successful (and tragic) example. But the decade features career-defining albums from numerous regions and styles: from a Canadian indie-pop scene that included Tegan & Sara, Emily Haines/Metric, and Stars, to more class-conscious and gritty alt-country bands like Lucinda Williams and The Everybodyfields. American indie-darlings Cat Power and Jenny Lewis/Rilo Kiley reached broad audiences, while plenty of dream pop bands like Trespassers William, Camera Obscura and garage rockers Those Darlins never fully broke through, but should have.

I grew up on a steady diet of ’90s grunge, bands headed mostly by sad men, with Radiohead bridging the gap from grunge to the indie rock of the early 2000s. As this new wave built, the 2000s also marked a shift such that melancholy women became the majority of the artists on my rotation.
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The Podcast: Harry Potter, Fantastic Beasts, and the Wizarding World

The new Harry Potter spinoff Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald opened this past weekend, with a critical/fan reception prompting some questions about the state of the Wizarding World. Marisa, Jesse, and Nathaniel all saw the new movie and formed some podcast-ready thoughts about what this Fantastic Beasts series is doing wrong, what it’s doing right (?!), and how a Potter spinoff works (or doesn’t) at all. Accio hot takes?!

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

Widows cooks like a heist picture and sprawls like an epic drama

In the Saturday Night Live-based comedy MacGruber, Will Forte’s would-be action her assembles a kickass team of he-men during a stirring montage, packs them into a truck for a mission, and accidentally blows them all to hell. That’s not exactly what happens at the opening of Steve McQueen’s Widows, and probably drawing the comparison is a little bit insulting. But hear me out: McQueen dispatches an entire B-movie’s worth of tough guys with similar (if non-comic) efficiency, and precision-cut style. He toggles between a man and wife nuzzling in bed together and a brutal robbery turned car chase turned armed showdown. Back and forth it goes, quiet and loud, until the crew (including Liam Neeson and Jon Bernthal) is consumed in an explosion and, in the final pre-title image, the pillow next to Veronica (Viola Davis) lingers, empty. Her husband Harry (Neeson) isn’t coming back.
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The Podcast: Indie Movies of Summer 2018

Every summer for four years, Marisa, Sara, Nathaniel, and Jesse have gotten together to discuss the wealth of indie movies released between the beginning of May and the end of August, offering an alternative to the onslaught of summer blockbusters as well as a bunch of rental recommendations for the fall. (Here are the past episodes for 2015, 2016, and 2017.)

Our discussion of this year’s crop of summer indie movies covers over 15 different titles: Blindspotting! Eighth Grade! Madeline’s Madeline! Hereditary! Sorry to Bother You! Tully! First Reformed! BlacKkKlansman! And more!

Just listen to what the critics have to say!

“It’s not that I don’t trust this filmmaker, where they’re going to take me. But I don’t know that they have a handle on the effect of this movie, moment to moment.” – Nathaniel

“It did still feel very real to me, just the level of anxiety that you feel on a daily basis on just about every social interaction that you have. And it’s by some YouTube guy!” – Sara

“I feel like it’s about something never really put to screen: Trying to reconcile the woman you were before you were a mother, and the woman you are after.” – Marisa

“That was a movie I admired, and never ever want to see again. And would not be inspired to check out previous films by this director. The next one, yes, but there’s no turning back.” – Jesse

What do these quotes mean in context? Listen and find out!

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

Labor Day Surprise: Destination Wedding and The Little Stranger do their genres proud

It’s received wisdom that people don’t go to the movies en masse over Labor Day weekend, especially not the way they flock to theaters over Memorial Day or the Fourth of July. Maybe it’s true that back-to-school concerns eclipse interest in going out to movie theaters (although looming classroom time doesn’t seem like it has much effect on any other weekend), but it’s more true that studios and distributors lean right in to the notion that no one wants to see anything but last month’s leftovers, sometimes opting not to properly release movies even when they have movies to release. This year sees the release of two modest but satisfying genre-based pleasures that their respective studios aren’t just keeping audiences from seeing (through limited releases); they’re also keeping them from hearing much about them through press embargos that don’t lift until the movies are practically in theaters.
Continue reading Labor Day Surprise: Destination Wedding and The Little Stranger do their genres proud Contributor In the Wild: Sara at Books Are Magic

If you’re a regular listener to our podcast, you’ll know Sara as’s voice of reason.

But did you know she’s also a brilliant writer? She is, and you should definitely buy her book of short stories, Better Times. And, if you want to do it in person, and perhaps say a friendly hello, you can do so at Books Are Magic in Brooklyn on Friday, August 31. There, she’ll be in conversation with Marie-Helene Bertino (of 2 A.M. at the Cat’s Pajamas fame), another amazing author we somehow haven’t coerced into appearing on our podcast yet. These are two forces to be reckoned with, so it’s going to be a good one! The event is free, but you should RSVP on the store’s Facebook page.

And while I’m plugging the books of our current, recent, and maybe-one-day-will-be contributors, our vampire-expert Maggie has a book out, too! (Sorry, Maggie, I should’ve done a post for your reading, too—I totally dropped the ball.) Her novel, The Last Best Story is influenced by whip-smart screwball comedies like His Girl Friday and The Libeled Lady. You know that’s your jam, so pick up the book!

The Podcast: The Mission: Impossible Franchise

From its less-than-humble beginnings as a major event movie in 1996, it’s still remarkable that the Mission: Impossible movies have become the longest-running same-continuity reboot-free franchise going, with six films in 22 years. The crew is made up of a lot of Mission: Impossible fans, so on the occasion of the newest release, Fallout, Nathaniel, Marisa, Jesse, and Jon got together to go over what we liked, loved, and hmmmm’d about the newest entry, followed by a discussion of the first five movies. Glory to our deep dive into Cruise-ology, Ilsa Faust fandom, auteur analysis, a major movie star’s unwillingness to delivery quips, the coolness of Ving Rhames, and so much more!

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

The Happytime Murders: Kid Stuff for Adults

An early pilot for The Muppet Show was subtitled Sex & Violence. This title was not included when Jim Henson’s puppet variety show became a star-studded five-season sensation in international syndication, and in general The Muppet Show proceeded as something families could watch together. A toddler could comfortably watch most of the show’s segments; many have, and will. But the reason toddlers might still watch The Muppet Show is because it has long appealed to adults, both now (when those adults may have nostalgic memories of watching it as children) and when it aired (when a show would need more than just some children’s eyeballs to become a five-season international-syndication sensation).

At the risk of sounding like that guy, the notion of affable and adorable puppets doing comedy for adults is not counter to the Muppets; in a large part, it is the Muppets. Granted, the Muppets never indulged in salty language or explicit sex scenes. But if the supposed incongruity of those actions constitute a cheap laugh, what kind of laugh is a puppet pig karate-chopping a puppet frog? Isn’t funny in part because the pig puppet is acting like an angry human? And isn’t there an enormous cult of appreciation around Team America: World Police in part because it does feature puppets doing things we don’t expect puppets to do?
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The 10 Best Revival Episodes of Futurama

I may be showing my age, but I’m pretty excited for Disenchantment, the new Netflix series created by Matt Groening (with an assortment of writers, animators, and voice actors from his previous shows). I was around for the glorious peak years of both The Simpsons (1991 through 1997ish I guess, don’t @ me) and Futurama (late 1999 through 2003), so the promise of a new Groening TV show rates very high on my personal hopes/expectations chart. It’s also why I’m unfazed by mixed reviews of the early episodes, as both of those previous shows offer a template for how this show might develop. Continue reading The 10 Best Revival Episodes of Futurama