Tag Archives: 2014 in review

TRACK MARKS BEST OF 2014: “Blue Moon” by Beck

Sara

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

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 collective top five, but did appear on our individual best-album ballots.

I know I’m in the minority on this but I like Beck most when he’s mopey. Sea Change was a very meaningful record to me in high school; to paraphrase Rob from High Fidelity, it takes a very particular kind of person to think they’ll be alone for the rest of their life at twenty-five, so it must take an extraordinarily neurotic one to worry about that at sixteen. But for whatever reason, I felt less lonely when I listened to “The Golden Age.” I suspect it has something to do with the fact that Beck, for all the gimmicky (and wonderful!) singles he released in the nineties, has a warm and inviting voice when he’s crooning. Morning Phase, his 2014 record, is full of that sound, and no song on that record more so than “Blue Moon.”

The song feels in many ways like a continuation of “The Golden Age.” They share a similar rhythm, which lacks the urgency of his more aggressive singles but is buoyed by a dreamy tempo that’s perfect for driving at night with the top down. “Blue Moon” has more playful instrumentation, with the main theme provided by a plinking charango and a swell of soulful “ooh-ooh’s” carrying along the chorus. I could listen to the jumpy clavinet progression near the end for hours. It’s so lush and swoony that you’d be forgiven for ignoring the lyrics, which invert the Rodgers and Hart classic of the same name from a singer finding solace in the skies above into a naked plea to the people who surround him. “Don’t leave me on my own,” Beck entreats, and by the time the song is over we’re sorry to go. While the rest of the album plays in a pleasant earthy register it’s with this song that it truly hits the stratosphere.

TRACK MARKS BEST OF 2014: “Scapegoat” by The Faint

Gripes

Marisa

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

My love for this song is boundless, but my reasons for loving this song aren’t very deep. It’s just a burst of energy. The drums start off running; the vocal kicks in and match their pace. Just when I think I’m going to start to get tired of the shouty vocal, the melody suddenly gets catchier. (“We don’t even need to know each other.”) Then it takes a break for some laser noises and the chorus, and it’s over in two minutes.

I can’t pretend that I relate to what this song is about. Clearly there’s some control issues going on. (“We’re not actors in your movie.”) There’s also some betrayal. (“You say you’re a scapegoat…no! Turncoat.”) I don’t fully feel the nuances of all of this, but it’s loud and it’s angry and it always makes me want to stand up and run around, and sometimes that’s really all I need.

TRACK MARKS BEST OF 2014: “Backseat Shake Off (Kendrick Lamar vs Taylor Swift)” by The Hood Internet

Rob

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.

I know what you’re thinking, reader: “Rob, a mashup was one of your favorite songs of 2014?! There are less embarrassing ways to relive your college years.”

Fret not, reader. I have so many great reasons to include The Hood Internet’s latest.

I wanted an excuse to post this video.


“Backseat Shakeoff” was released at the tail end of the media’s coverage of the  mutual admiration society between Kendrick Lamar and Taylor Swift. This appeals to a very particular demographic AND I AM PART OF IT. I wish I had something more insightful to add beyond “I think it’s cool that Taylor Swift is into Kendrick Lamar and vice versa” on this point, but  I’m not sure what to add on this point.

Just Enough T-Swift

 


Maybe Jesse and I are just clueless old men who just don’t get the success of Taylor Swift’s march towards world domination, but we’re totally the type of dudes who love great pop music to the degree people question our sexual orientation. I’m serious. Jesse and I did a radio show during summers in college and we’d throw in some Mandy Moore and Atomic Kitty in between the de rigueur Guided By Voices and Built To Spill. We would sometimes get phone calls full of homosexual slurs.

This is a roundabout way of saying that I really like the idea of Taylor Swift transitioning from country to pop superstardom, but the tunes don’t always grab me. “Shake It Off”, the lead single from her latest album, is a mixed a bag. The Hood Internet take the good parts for their mashup by just using the beat, the first verse, and one chorus. The pseudo-rap, spoken word breakdown and troubling music video get left on the cutting room floor.

Kendrick Freaking Lamar

I was late to the party on Kendrick Lamar, but I am here now. While it works well in the context of the full album, “Backseat Freestyle” is (to me) one of the less interesting songs on his breakout good kid, m.A.A.d city. I know it’s one of the clear singles from that record, but it lacks the nuance and insight of Kendrick at his finest. That being said, “Backseat Freestyle” is the obvious choice to mash up with “Shake It Off”. While most of Kenrick’s songs could be described as downbeat, this isn’t one of them.

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

Gripes

Marisa

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

Marisa

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

Marisa

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

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

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

Marisa

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.