Tag Archives: music

REST OF THE 1990S TRACK MARKS: “WHAT’S THIS?” BY DANNY ELFMAN

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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

Starting next week, we’ll unveil our big list of the Best Songs of the 1990s. In the run-up to the reveal, we’re featuring some of our favorite songs that didn’t make the list through our regular Track Marks feature.

When the contributors to our upcoming ’90s list talked about how they put together their individual ballots, it was inevitable that the subject of how many avenues of discovering music there was in the ’90s came up. The radio played songs we wanted to listen to! The TV showed music videos! Just when all of that was starting to fade, we went to college and found the anything-goes world of a fast internet connection hooked up to peer-to-peer filesharing! The world was our musical oyster.

But, when going over the songs that actually made it onto our ballots, one path to discovering new music—one that’s very much still used today—kept coming up over and over: movie soundtracks. We’d discuss a song, then someone would talk about how it was used to perfection in a critical movie scene. I’m sure Rob and Jesse could write a Track Marks post about every single song on the soundtrack to Danny Boyle’s A Life Less Ordinary (see our upcoming podcast for more on this); I myself almost did this post about “A.M. 180” by Granddaddy—which has been my only ringtone since my very first cell phone—a song I first heard in Boyle’s 28 Days Later. (And, you know, non-Boyle soundtracks are pretty good, too.)

But there’s a certain category of movie soundtracks that, while I’m sure we all listened to them on a loop in the ’90s, probably didn’t make it on our individual ballots: animated movie soundtracks. My long list had a few, including “Belle” from Beauty and the Beast and “Be Prepared” from The Lion King. My short list only had one: “What’s This?” from The Nightmare Before Christmas.

It’s one of the only animated-movie soundtrack songs I still listen to today; granted, it’s because I treat it as a Christmas song more than anything else. But the fact that it could have a second life in my annual iTunes Christmas playlist also speaks to its craft—I’m pretty picky about my holiday music. (Sorry, kids from South Park, your holiday songs don’t make the cut because your voices are too irritating.) To me, this one is up there with Vince Guaraldi.

What makes “What’s This?” unique for a holiday song is that it’s about looking at Christmas from the outside. Yeah, our traditions should seem both strange and incredible to an outside observer; seeing Jack Skellington’s awe invites us all to look at the holiday as if it’s our first time.

And then, of course, there’s Danny Elfman. I bet that man could write the instrumentation for 10 perfect Christmas songs in his sleep—he seems like I’d bet he’d want to add sleigh bells to nearly everything, holiday-related or not. It’s a harder hurdle to clear to seamlessly combine the musical aesthetics of Christmas and Halloween, like he does on other songs on The Nightmare Before Christmas soundtrack. But his performance as Jack is what really makes “What’s This?” (I should be ashamed to admit that I’ve only heard Elfman sing through Jack Skellington; my knowledge of Oingo Boingo is nil.) Through his Skellington, we get the excitement of discovery, the wonderment of Christmas, the puzzlement over coming across an unknown culture, and then the burning desire to possess and control it all.

By the end of the ’90s, The Nightmare Before Christmas became shorthand for a certain kind of Hot Topic goth. But they don’t get to own “What’s This?” the way  Jack Skellington doesn’t get to own Christmas. It’s ours this time.

 

Best of 2014

Nathaniel

SportsAlcohol.com cofounder Nathaniel moved to Brooklyn, as you do. His hobbies include cutting up rhubarb and laying down. His favorite things are the band Moon Hooch and custard from Shake Shack. Old ladies love his hair.
Nathaniel

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Here it is, you’re one stop place to see all of SportsAlcohol.com’s Best of 2014 posts!

MOVIES

We wrote about 14 of our very favorites here, including not-so-usual suspects like We Are the Best! and Obvious Child.

Our very favorite movie of the year, The Grand Budapest Hotel, deserved its own write-up.

The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies was never in contention for our Best Of list, but it does have the most variety in animals that are ridden, so we did a podcast about it.

TV

We counted down the top ten best TV shows. This year will be remembered as a year of comedy!

We provided alternatives for those who are so sick of hearing the rest of us gush about our No. 1 pic.

We noted that Comedy Central has really been living up to its name lately.

We lamented that no one else was watching Peaky Blinders (well, at least one of us complained about that).

We recorded a podcast about The Newsroom. How that show smarmed its way into a best-TV round-up is anyone’s guess.

MUSIC

We crowned St. Vincent’s St. Vincent as the best album of the year, doing a track-by-track analysis of her greatness (and also a quick study of her magnificent hair).

We also celebrated four other albums as the best of the yearTeeth Dreams by The Hold Steady, The Voyager by Jenny Lewis, Complete Surrender by Slow Club, and Lost in the Dream by The War on Drugs.

We called out the best-of-the-best, our very favorite songs from our very favorite albums, including “Blue Moon” by Beck,  “Goshen ’97” by Strand of Oaks, “Nothing but Trouble” by Phantogram, “Lazerray” by TV on the Radio, “Seasons (Waiting on You)” by Future Islands, “Your Love Is Killing Me” by Sharon Van Etten, and “Lights Out” by Angel Olsen.

We stumped for our favorite songs that didn’t come from our favorite albums, including “I’m Not Part of Me” by Cloud Nothings, “Bury Our Friends” by Sleater-Kinney, “Water Fountain” by tUnE-yArDs, “Mr. Tembo” by Damon Albarn, “Lariat” by Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks, “Bright Eyes” by Allo Darlin’, “Backseat Shake Off” by The Hood Internet, and “Scapegoat” by The Faint.

Is there a Spotify playlist for all this?” you ask. Of course there’s a Spotify playlist.

SPORTSALCOHOL.COM

Rob picked out the best of ourselves, with his favorite contributions from the gang here at SportsAlcohol.com.

Tuesday Morning Mix: The Unified Theory of Honeypie

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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

So, the Palma Violets have a new album out this week, and while  I was checking out the (one-take!) video for their new single, I came across a lyric that’s pretty much too British for me to understand. It did, however, start with a term of endearment I knew quite well: honeypie.

That’s when it struck me: The word “honeypie” is an indicator of an awesome song. Think about it.

Coming up empty? Well, I put together a small video playlist to jog your memory. This mix does not exist on Spotify, because only two of these songs are currently on there. You’re going to have to stream it old-school.

Also, I debated about whether or not it was “honey pie” or “honeypie.” I decided — based on nothing, because that’s what we do in publishing — that “honey pie” refers only to the dessert, while “honeypie” is the term of endearment. That is now sportsalcohol.com house style, and we’re sticking to it.

On with the honeypies.

Continue reading Tuesday Morning Mix: The Unified Theory of Honeypie

THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS: BIBLIOGRAPHY AND BIOGRAPHY IN BROOKLYN (March Edition)

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.

They Might Be Giants is playing a show on the last Sunday of every month of 2015 at the Music Hall of Williamsburg in Brooklyn, New York. Marisa and I have tickets to all of the Williamsburg shows that have been put on sale so far, and we will be reporting on each show. Here is the third installment of our TMBG musical biography, arriving just after the next show. We’ve been busy.

They Might Be Giants at the Music Hall of Williamsburg: 3/29/15

1. Dead
This show is a They Might Be Giants Flood show. I do not, even as a TMBG obsessive, disdain Flood, their most popular album. I find, in fact, that a lot of TMBG obsessives seem to love Flood just as not as, if not more than, their less popular albums. I can’t front; it was the first TMBG album I heard. I bought a used copy on cassette at a record store that is so far away from still existing, I could not even tell you. It was called Probe and a fair amount of their stock at the time was cassettes — used cassettes and also some bootlegs. I went to Probe because I was going to London with my family and I wanted to buy a new (used) tape for my Walkman to listen to on the flight. The vague idea was to get something British, but Flood was there and I’d heard about TMBG from Tiny Toons and, I think, my friend Jeff, so I got that instead. I still remember listening to Flood in several different airports on that trip. “Dead” is on the first side which, I recall from back in 1996, is generally better than the second side, but more in the sense that it has more of the immediately catchy stuff. It was still early enough in my TMBG fanhood that I very much looked forward to hearing “Particle Man” on every go-round of the tape. But I didn’t use fast-forward to go through the other songs. – JH
Continue reading THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS: BIBLIOGRAPHY AND BIOGRAPHY IN BROOKLYN (March Edition)

The SportsAlcohol.com Podcast: Concertgoing over the years

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

SportsAlcohol.com founders Jesse, Sabrina, and Rob were joined by Sara from Boston to see Sleater-Kinney on their reunion tour. The next day, they reminisced about how great the show was and their history of concertgoing.

How To Listen

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    • You can download the mp3 of this episode directly here.
    • If you are lazy, like 35 year old who would rather just stay at home, you can listen in the player below.

TRACK MARKS BEST OF 2014: “Lights Out” by Angel Olsen

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.

It took me awhile to get into Angel Olsen’s fantastic 2014 record Burn Your Fire For No Witness. This seems to be a pattern with me as I was late in discovering Waxahatchee last year, an artist who shares some surface DNA with Olsen. Both are lone females with shuddery but commanding voices and country-tinged compositions that seem to issue directly from the parts of the American South that rarely get visitors. To me, though, Olsen feels like the more risky, eccentric artist. Even after multiple listens to the album it’s impossible to predict from moment to moment what side of herself she’ll reveal next: brash and boot stomping, sinister and threatening, achy and longing. She could as easily back a bar fight as a slow dance.

“Lights Out” finds her in torch singer mode. It hits at the mid-point of the album and at first seems like something of a comedown before she’ll rev up again in the back half. It starts with a simple guitar line and drum beat, Olsen warbling to an indecisive lover, “If you don’t feel good about it then turn around. If you really mean it baby then stand your ground.” There’s resignation in her voice but also a whiff of impatience. Olsen has spent much of the record grappling with loneliness but she also knows indifference is no substitute for love. The song builds with each verse, adding texture and volume until it bursts open in a moment of fist pumping conviction: “No one’s gonna see your life through, there’s no way.” If Olsen’s voice sometimes sounds like a candle on the verge of going out, this is her as the fire about to consume the house. The torch she’s carrying turns out to be for herself.

TRACK MARKS BEST OF 2014: “Your Love Is Killing Me” by Sharon Van Etten

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.

Sharon Van Etten may very well have amassed as many break up songs as Taylor Swift in her limited but uniformly excellent discography so far. The difference is when Van Etten sings about her pain, I believe her. Nowhere is that more evident than in this single from her 2014 album Are We There. It has a soft, dirge-y start, an organ grinding over a steady, ghostly beat. Van Etten has the sort of chameleon-like voice that can be both threadbare and galvanizing at any given moment and when she begins singing the lyrics here she’s barely above a whisper. That changes abruptly with the bridge, where the song’s title becomes more than just metaphor.

“Break my legs so I won’t walk to you,” she howls, her voice forceful but never strident. “Cut my tongue so I can’t talk to you.” This is not just a song depicting an abusive relationship but a song about the seductions of such intense bonds. It’s the harm we allow others to do to us but also the harm we do to ourselves, sometimes even the harm we need to do to ourselves. It’s a sledgehammer of a song and while its subject matter can make it a difficult listen, it’s also stunningly beautiful for the contradictions it inhabits: the strength in Van Etten’s voice against the vulnerability of her lyrics, a declaration of self living beside the destruction of it. The part of us that knows better and the part that doesn’t care. This is the state Van Etten’s music often finds her in and I’m happy to meet her there.

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.