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The Top 25 Best Radiohead Songs

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.

Let’s reflect for a moment on the beautiful oddity that Radiohead remains one of the biggest rock bands in the world, at a time when the very concept of “biggest rock band in the world” is often looked at as passé. If rock and roll’s moment has indeed passed, what in the name of the Beatles possesses people to follow Radiohead, of all artists, as if members of a religious cult, especially because said religious cult would not particularly worship rock and roll music as most people know it? It would be easy to ascribe the Radiohead following to their shapeshifting, and indeed there is an incredible variety of material across their nine-so-far records and various EPs, live cuts, and so forth. Yet it’s not as if A Moon Shaped Pool, their 2016 album and first in five years, is wildly unrecognizable as the same band that made The King of Limbs, which itself was not so radically different from In Rainbows, and so on, all the way back to the late ’90s (I’ll grant you that, OK, Pablo Honey sounds like a vastly different band, albeit an actually-pretty-good one; better, certainly, than the practitioners of Old Radiohead that cropped up in the early ’00s, a litany of Nerf Herders and Saves the Days to Radiohead’s Weezer).

In fact, it’s their ability to remain recognizably the Radiohead of the ’90s while going in different directions that makes them so exciting. A new Radiohead album, insular and strange and inscrutable as it can be, is still an event, the band’s mutations allowing it to survive the alt-rock boom, the rap-rock bust, the indie gold rush, the death of the album, and on and on. It was a no-brainer, then, that some of the founders, friends, and associates of SportsAlcohol.com would want to pledge our allegiance to the paranoid humanoids of Radiohead once again, through a list celebrating their best songs. Contributors were asked to send a ranked list of twenty; points were assigned accordingly.

In addition to your pals Rob, Marisa, Jesse, Sara, and special guest writer Maggie, we recruited a voting team ranging from people old enough to remember “Creep” playing on MTV to people who were born the year The Bends came out. Here are your Radiohead fans par excellence:

Darian Alexander is an attorney and Radiohead correspondent for Slate.
Emma Bennett is studying psychology and studio art at SUNY New Paltz.
Noah Casner is a drama major at New York University.
Timothy DeLizza is a lawyer, a fiction writer, and a gentleman.
A.A. Dowd is the film editor for The Onion’s A.V. Club.
Derrick Hart is an archivist and music fan.
Kate McKean is a literary agent, writer, and crafter.
Umer Piracha might love A Moon Shaped Pool more than anyone else who voted.
Ben Ross has had Radiohead blurbs locked and loaded for years.

The results heavily favored OK Computer, but well over half of Radiohead’s catalog received votes, including most of the new album. But why discuss the results when you can read a series of varied and passionate tributes to our collective favorites? Sometimes we had such varied and passionate responses that we doubled up the blurbing to get a fuller picture of this band we all love. Surprises, please:

The Top 25 Best Radiohead Songs (So Far)

Continue reading The Top 25 Best Radiohead Songs

#IndieAmnesty, or Remember When You Used to Be a Rascal

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

Like many music fans of a certain age, I spent a good chunk of my free time yesterday reading tweets with the hashtag #indieamnesty. If you weren’t as glued to the feed as I was, it went down like this: Teenagers, music fans, band members, and even politicians confessed their supposed crimes against music and/or themselves. It was an ode to time wasted on ill-advised message boards, embarrassing  run-ins with bands at gigs, misguided tastes, and poor fashion choices.

Some of the tweets were about old, ill-formed opinions, but most of them were memories of in-person escapades. As Spector’s Fred Macpherson wrote in the Guardian, “The most important events were never really the ones the NME were writing about, they were the things happening to you and your friends on the frontline...Indie amnesty brings together thousands of relatively banal anecdotes about unglamorous people doing slightly idiotic things into something quite majestic.”

It was also extremely time-specific. Though indie music certainly has a longer timeline, the #indieamnesty stories focused on a narrower scope, and the same band names kept coming up over and over again: the Strokes, the White Stripes, Franz Ferdinand, the Libertines, the Arctic Monkeys, and Vampire Weekend.

Of course, some of the SportsAlcohol.com founders were not immune to #indieamnesty fever.

I wish the #indieamnesty feed could continue forever.

I loved it because I was there. I was the one making a fool out of myself at concerts, investing a ridiculous amount of money/time/energy going to shows,  and lurking in LiveJournal communities before posting in my own blog about gigs. I may not have a framed $20 bill that was given to me by Pete Doherty, but I know what it felt like to want to preserve a moment like that. I still have signed setlists hanging in my home office.

But what’s even better is the word choice in the hashtag. It’s not #indiememories. It’s #indieamnesty.

Conventional wisdom states that stuff that happened 20 years ago is cool. That’s why we’re having such a ’90s revival now (and why Happy Days was made in the ’70s about the ’50s, The Wonder Years was made in the ’80s about the ’60s, and That ’70s Show was made in the ’90s about the ’70s, and so on).

The flip side to that is that stuff that happened 10 years ago is supposed to be embarrassing, In the ’90s, people cringed at the hair metal and shoulder pads of the ’80s. In the ’00s, bands shunned the ’90s flannel and baggy Salvation Army gear for — of all things — tailored suits.

With #indieamnesty, music fans of today say they refuse to feel bad about the music they were into 10 years ago.  In Salon, Scott Timberg writes that you should “never apologize for carrying a Weezer lunch box.” I say that, whoever confessed it isn’t apologizing—she’s declaring amnesty. She’s not requesting a reprieve; she’s taking it. And that’s what I love most about it.

I haven’t been following the indie scene that closely recently. I don’t want to entirely blame this on my infant daughter, but she’s partially responsible. After reading these tweets, I hope she grows up to be a fan of something. I hope she daydreams about it, sketches it in the margins of all her notebooks, doodles it on her sneakers, make fake tattoos about it in sharpie (but only fake ones). And, when she’s old enough to know better,  I hope she declares amnesty of her own.

 

TRACK MARKS: “Political Science” by Randy Newman

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

Satire without the potential for danger is pointless. This is something Randy Newman knows all too well. It’s understandable that listeners of his early work (or fans of his later incarnation as a writer of sweet Pixar songs) would take it at face value; they all have the seductive, nostalgic quality of a stripped-to-the-bone pop song. The compositions are so pleasant to the ear that it’s easy to miss the sharpened daggers hiding just underneath the surface. Newman’s genius, though, is that he doesn’t want to wound his audience. He just wants to poke at them a little and see them squirm. A song like, say, “Rednecks,” perhaps his most controversial for its liberal use of the n-word, works because of its intense specificity and matchless evocation of a character’s voice, in that case a Southerner fed up with the smug superiority of the North, which is racist in less overt but no less harmful ways.

“Political Science” was first released on Newman’s 1972 album Sail Away during the height of the Cold War and disastrous final years of Vietnam, but its portrait of a cheerfully ignorant world leader is timeless, as this unfortunate election season has recently proved. As the Republican candidates run a race to the know-nothing bottom, hastened by a front-runner openly advocating war crimes and tarnishing America’s image abroad, the playful irony of Newman’s little ditty has become frighteningly plausible. “No one likes us. I don’t know why,” the narrator gently intones at the song’s opening before deciding a mere two lines later that nuclear destruction is the only option: “All around even our old friends put us down. Let’s drop the big one and see what happens.” It’s a train of thought so simply and nonchalantly followed that it almost sounds like a good idea.

The song then moves into a flippant litany of reasons the rest of the world has it coming. They’re ungrateful, spiteful, Asia’s crowded, South America stole our name so “let’s drop the big one, there’ll be no one left to blame us.” A world made up of just people who think like us would be paradise, right? “How peaceful it’ll be,” the narrator blithely cries, “We’ll set everybody free!” But such bland agreeability has its own drawbacks. After all, once you begin destroying everyone who disagrees with you, how long will it be until that extends to those across the aisle in your own country? In most ways, we’re already there and we haven’t had to drop a big one in 70 years.

When Newman performed “Political Science” on The Colbert Report back in 2006, halfway through Bush’s unearned second term, it seemed like a knowing wink to the show’s left-leaning viewers. I wonder if he’d get the same reaction now. In the damning final couplet the narrator throws up his hands, which has come to seem like the only appropriate reaction to the modern political process: “They all hate us anyhow, so let’s drop the big one now.” We need the song more than ever, because the joke of it isn’t funny anymore.

There’s unfortunately no clips available of the Colbert performance but this one seems close enough:

I Love Kanye But

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.

Previously, SportsAlcohol.com has been known primarily for its contentious listmaking and, secondarily, excellent writing and podcasting. But that doesn’t mean we don’t all have greater ambitions. For example, in light of recent Kanye West-related events, excitement, and assorted antics, we are currently shopping around our book proposal collecting a series of essays about Kanye West that all start with the words “I Love Kanye But…”

And it’s true. We do love Kanye West. Some of us might even make spirited arguments for why Yeezus was his best record yet. But these days it’s hard to be a fan without also wanting to write some essays and possibly secure a lucrative book deal, the money from which we would definitely not pour into the fashion industry, because come on.

Here is a look at the tentative table of contents:

I Love Kanye But I Refuse To Be Strongarmed Into Joining TIDAL
I Love Kanye But Why Does He Care How Many Mics The Source Gives His Albums?
I Love Kanye But Stop Bringing Your Baby To Fashion Shows
I Love Kanye But I Think Bill Cosby Raped Those Women
I Love Kanye But Why Does He Think Awards Are Genuinely Meaningful?
I Love Kanye But I Also Love Beck
I Love Kanye But I’ll Never Blame Chance
I Love Kanye (And I’m White) But I’m Pretty Sure Racism Isn’t A Dated Concept
I Love Kanye But the Price of Textbooks Has Nothing to Do With How Much Teachers Are Paid
I Love Kanye But He Should Have Given Me Some of That Yeezy Fashion Money
I Love Kanye But I Miss The Teddy Bear
I Love Kanye But the 808s-era Mullet Was Not A Good Look
I Love Kanye But I Wish His Album Release Shifted Fewer Paradigms and Also Made Sense Because Seriously, I Will Not Abide This TIDAL Bullshit
I Love Kanye But How Can Wiz Distract From Your Creative Process When You Only Follow One Person on Twitter?
I Love Kanye But Obama Called Him A Jackass In a Real Knowing Way
I Love Kanye But It’s Time To Chill With the Autotune
I Love Kanye But Twitter Isn’t for Everyone
I Love Kanye But I Wish I Didn’t Because Life Would Be Easier
I Love Kanye But How Can I Continue to Say It’s Really About the Music When I Can’t Buy His Album
I Love Kanye But … Kanye

The Top 32 Best David Bowie Songs of All Time

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.

David Bowie is dead, at least in the traditional sense. It seems impossible, not just because he released a new album a few days before he died, but because he always carried with him an air of the otherworldly, even when he wasn’t dressed as a Goblin King. It’s probably a cliché to say so by this point, but it’s no less true: David Bowie seemed immortal, and because of that, and all of the great work he left behind, he actually is.

But the man himself is gone, and we’re still dealing with the surprising waves of grief. When he passed away early last week, it the founders of SportsAlcohol.com hard – and we soon found out from the outpouring of love and sadness on social media that we were far from alone. It should go without saying that Bowie amassed a great number of both devotees and casual fans during his time on this earth, but I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen such widespread appreciation of a musician who we were all so lucky to share a planet with, if only for a handful of decades.

If there’s a good thing about a beloved and galactically talented artist dying what seems like “before his time” (though Bowie’s 69 years surely counted for triple that in terms of accomplishments), it’s the feelings of both comfort and hurt that we can continue to take from his music. So: SportsAlcohol.com invited a bunch of Bowie fans to vote on the best of his many, many songs, with everyone submitting their votes via Top 20 lists. There was a surprising amount of consensus for a list like this. Maybe you can chalk that up to the hits – those inescapable, undeniable hits. But if many lists lacked a roster of fans-only deep cuts, maybe that’s because Bowie wrote and/or performed an unusual number of songs that are too universally beloved to be ignored. Consider also that many of these hits were not, as such, actual hits, at least not in the Hit Single sense. Many of their reputations grew with time, through their places on classic and endlessly replayable records; through transcendent moments in film; or just by being really fucking great.

In addition to your SportsAlcohol.com regulars Rob, Sabrina, Jesse, Marisa, Nathaniel, Sara, Jeremy, Craig, and Chris, we were lucky enough to secure participation from these fine people:

Megan Burns is a Queens-based painter. One time her mom begged her to stop talking about David Bowie.
Vikram Murthi writes film and TV criticism for the A.V. Club and elsewhere.
Bryan Nies and President Obama both have mothers. Their mothers were born in the same hospital. Ahem, credentials.
Dennis Perkins is a freelance film and TV writer for the A.V. Club and elsewhere, and lives in Portland, Maine.
Jeff Prisco is a robotics engineer (non-evil variety). When not dad-ing, he enjoys watching bad sci-fi (evil robot variety).
Ashley Strosnider is a writer and editor who lives in Nebraska.

Commencing countdown, engines on:
Continue reading The Top 32 Best David Bowie Songs of All Time

Best of 2015!

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

It was the blurst of years, and SportsAlcohol.com was there for every second of it. If you missed any of our end-of-2015 coverage, here’s what we’ll keep with us going forward.

Movies

List: Best Movies of 2015

Podcast: Best Movies of 2015

Plus: Special consideration is given to MAD MAX: FURY ROAD, our almost-consensus pick for best movie of the year (because Jesse is a jerk).

Music

List: Best Albums of 2015

Podcast: Best Music of 2015

Playlist: Best Music of 2015 on Spotify

Plus: We (meaning Sara) appreciates some of the best songs of the year, including “Downtown” by Majical Cloudz, “Bored in the USA” by Father John Misty, and “Sapokanikan” by Joanna Newsom.

Television

List: The Best TV Shows of 2015

Plus: Sara discusses two of the best anti-heroes in this years’ prestige series, and Marisa argues for more stand-alone episodes, because nobody wants to watch 13-hour movies as much as showrunners want to create them.

Theater

Rob wrote about Hamilton, the best musical to hit Broadway in 2015 and probably many years hence.

See you at the end of 2016, suckers!

The 90 Best Songs of the 90s (Part 3)

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.

You’ve seen songs 90-51 and 50-11. So let’s slow down a bit at the end and let our writers go a little long-reads on you as we talk about the top ten best songs of the 90s as voted on by the SportsAlcohol.com crew.

The 90 Best Songs of the 90s, Part 3: The 10 Best Songs of the 90s

Continue reading The 90 Best Songs of the 90s (Part 3)

The 90 Best Songs of the 90s (Part 2)

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.

No time for fancy intros today! You’ve seen the first 40. Let’s just get right to next 40! Take it away, nerds:

The 90 Best Songs of the 90s (Part 2)

Continue reading The 90 Best Songs of the 90s (Part 2)

The 90 Best Songs of the 90s (Part 1)

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.

We here at SportsAlcohol.com can get down with a good list, but we’ve never attempted one quite so expansive before: a list not just of a band’s best songs, but the best songs of an entire decade: the ’90s, which have been experiencing a major nostalgia boom over the past five years or so, and which we hope to cash in on in a major way with this very undertaking; we just haven’t worked out the specifics of how that will work. In the meantime, you can send us personal checks.

While we wait for those to clear, let me reiterate: yes, this is the biggest list project yet undertaken by this organization. As it turns out, though, even a big list of 90 songs can feel too short when you’re dealing with a whole and particularly eclectic decade. Over 500 songs received votes, and plenty of favorites were left off the final list. Participants were asked to send their ranked lists of the 40 best songs of the ’90s, and the votes (weighted by ranking) were diligently counted in Excel to come up with the list that kicks off today. No adjustments were made for any reason beyond math. No fudging the rules to include a song by a particularly important artist or to cut down on the number of songs by an over-represented ones. This is the list of 22 children of the ’90s, though many of us approach that designation from different ages, directions, and backgrounds.

Today we’ll unveil songs 90 through 51. Tomorrow, we’ll hit 50 through 11. And on Thursday, we’ll get to the top ten. Look for other Best Songs of the ’90s content on SportsAlcohol.com all week, including our biggest podcast ever where a bunch of us got together to hash out this list.

And before we get started on list itself, I’d like to introduce your Best Songs of the ’90s voters. The panel included beloved SportsAlcohol.com mainstays, editors, and contributors whose biographies and past contributions are available at the click:

Chris Adams
Sara Batkie
Jeremy Bent
Jason Forman
Jesse Hassenger
Craig Iturbe
Rob Kuczynski
Marisa LaScala
Sabrina Lauzon
Bennett Morrison
Nathaniel Wharton

Plus these great people I’ll introduce here:

Shelly Casper is an artist, photographer, and teacher.
Sara Ciaburri is a librarian and former DJ.
Kerry Cullen is a fiction writer and editorial assistant.
Derrick Hart is a music fanatic and librarian from Boston by way of Upstate New York.
Michelle Paul is Director of Product Development at Patron Technology.
Lorraina Raccuia-Morrison edits textbooks and makes pottery.
Cristin Stickles is a book buyer for McNally-Jackson who makes New Jersey look good.
Erin Styne is a teacher and mother.
Alex Templeton is a middle school teacher, voracious reader, and writer in Philadelphia.
Bayard Templeton is a teacher, Mets fan, and theater enthusiast.
Jennifer Vega is a birder, administrator, and Mariah Carey scholar.

I am especially proud of two things about our contributors:
1. The gender makeup is majority female.
2. None of us are professional music critics.

Now then:

The 90 Best Songs of the 90s (Part One of Three)

Continue reading The 90 Best Songs of the 90s (Part 1)

Dana from Morphine is sitting 4 feet away from me…

Chris

Chris has always known more about computers than you. You can see the things he made for you at the55.net. You can see the things he blogged about for you at ruinsorbooks.com.

Latest posts by Chris (see all)

[ed. note: chris sent me this email years ago and I asked that we be allowed to publish it as part of our ’90s music rundown because it is the best email I’ve ever received]

Dana from Morphine is sitting 4 feet away from me…

at a cafe.

I see Dana from Morphine all the time.

Dana from Morphine is a carpenter or fix-it dude of sorts.
He does work at the bookstore that my boss owns.
He drives a pick up truck with assorted band stickers on the back.
It is parked outside my office building all the time.
One of the stickers is a Twinemen sticker.
The Twinemen suck.
Compared to Morphine, at least.
duh.

My office is on the fourth floor.
On the fifth floor is Hi n Dry studios.
Morphine recorded and hung out there all the time.
Various Dana from Morphine related projects record there still.
Sometimes i can hear Dana from Morphine playing the saxamaphone.
Often the same thing over and over again.
For a long time.
That is what recording is all about.
The saxophone carries, so often that’s all i can hear.
wahwahwah, through the ceiling.

Sometimes i pass Dana from Morphine on the loading dock.
Or the stairs.
And i say “hi”,
like he’s not Dana from Morphine,
and he’s just some dude, that plasters ceilings,
carrying a baby car seat,
and i think about telling him that i was way way into Morphine.
That when i was, like, 15,
Morphine, was, like, my fourth favorite band,
between, like, TMBG and Weezer.
That i remember exactly where i was,
and what i was doing,
when i heard that Mark Sandman was dead.
But i think about all that for a sec,
and that he’s got a baby carrier,
and ‘hi’ will have to do.