Tag Archives: rock and roll

Grammy Week Track Marks: “The Stove and the Toaster” by the Hold Steady

Jeremy Beck

Jeremy Beck runs the website MovieManifesto, where he writes many, many movie reviews that nobody reads.

The Grammys are happening this Sunday, and in celebration (?!), a few SportsAlcohol.com folks will be offering up some words about some of our favorite songs of 2018.

Music purists of a certain age and disposition are currently frustrated with The Hold Steady, given that they’ve spent the past five years dribbling out a couple of songs at a time rather than holing up in the studio and releasing, you know, an album. But as desperate as I am to finally unwrap the band’s seventh LP and see what Holly and Charlemagne are up to, I can’t be too mad at The Hold Steady, not when they’re releasing songs as spectacular as “The Stove and the Toaster,” another of Craig Finn’s propulsive adventures in sleazy criminality. At just three-and-a-half minutes, it’s a remarkably dense song, packing in the usual torrent of verbiage and somehow still finding room for an epic guitar solo. Finn’s lyrics are as sharp and flavorful as ever, but it’s important not to overlook the band’s musical flourishes, like the sudden squalls of piano, or the horns that punctuate each line of the chorus, a sort of subliminal reminder that declares, “Hey folks, we aren’t just talk-singing poets; we’re a goddamn rock band.”

But Finn’s storytelling will always be the heart of The Hold Steady, the way he weaves tales of extraordinary specificity—geographic, personal, architectural—and spins them into music. “The Stove and the Toaster” is so teeming with detail and suspense, it could practically double as an episode of Breaking Bad, and not just because of the southwestern locations. The premise is simple: Finn wants to rip off some drug dealers, and his girlfriend has inside info that will allow them to pull off the perfect heist. (In some characteristically piquant Hold Steady minutiae, the stash is in the stove, the cash is in the toaster.) The problem is that they’re in over their heads; their marks are “earpiece dudes in a fortified fortress / A wholesale crew that does pretty big business.” This makes their fates a foregone conclusion—“We came to the kitchen and we knew it was over / I didn’t see any stove, no sign of the toaster”—but it also makes their recklessness oddly tragic. Finn just wanted to show his girl a good time, but he never stood a chance. Only a songwriting pro could conjure such a clueless amateur.

Grammy Week Track Marks: “Mistake” by Middle Kids

Jeremy Beck

Jeremy Beck runs the website MovieManifesto, where he writes many, many movie reviews that nobody reads.

The Grammys are happening this Sunday, and in celebration (?!), a few SportsAlcohol.com folks will be offering up some words about some of our favorite songs of 2018.

As lousy as 2018 may have been for America, it was quite the year for Australia, or at least for Australian three-pieces. Not only did Camp Cope deliver a blistering sophomore album, but the little-known outfit Middle Kids arrived onto the scene with Lost Friends, a ferociously catchy debut full of taut, intricately composed bangers. There’s nothing especially revolutionary about this trio’s music; they write straightforward songs that bounce from verses to choruses and back. But art doesn’t need to be original to be great, and “Mistake,” the record’s second single, weaponizes your familiarity against you. You think you’ve heard it before, and all of a sudden you’re tapping your foot, banging your head, and belting out its refrain at the top of your lungs.

Naturally, the pet trick of lead singer Hannah Joy is an oldie but a goodie: She loves to draw out single syllables for seconds at a time, right from the “Ooooh darling” that opens the song. Joy’s lyrics aren’t fancy—she repeatedly rhymes “back” with “back”—but they’re evocative, efficiently revealing a woman crippled by confusion regret (“Thought I was healthy but I’m choking / It must be catching up, my smoking”); she also drops in some sly bits of Swiftian pronoun-switching. But the sound is the key here, the way the drums and guitars seem perfectly unified, propelling Joy forward as she pushes toward each electric chorus. The band knows exactly when to crescendo and when to downshift, resulting in a song that snakes and curls before finally erupting with euphoria. It’s perfectly constructed, yet it doesn’t feel engineered or excessively polished. It’s a hell of a thing: Musicians have been banging on drums and strumming on guitars for decades, and without altering any of that basic technique, Middle Kids have somehow produced something fresh and exciting. Maybe it’s telling that the word “mistake” never actually appears in “Mistake”. On multiple levels, it’s nowhere to be found.

The Top 101 Best Songs of the 2000s (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 101 through 61 and 60 through 21, right? So go ahead and dive in to the final stretch, our best-of-the-best top 20 songs of the 2000s.

The Top 101 Best Songs of the 2000s: Part 3

(The Top 20)

20. “Heartbeats” – The Knife (2003)

I want to preface this by saying fuck all covers of this track. Stripping “Heartbeats” to its barest elements to highlight the power of the lyrics does it a disservice. It’s more than just a tender love song; it’s so clearly a first love song. Jose Gonzalez picking away on his acoustic guitar captures just a single dimension of both the ecstatic joy and the inevitable doom of first love. The performance and instrumentation of the original recording strike a balance that makes the song legendary. Bathing in sawtooth waveforms right at the start of the analog synth revival and supplanted by impressionistic ESL lyrics, the one true recording of “Heartbreats” deftly contains multitudes. – Rob

19. “Idioteque” – Radiohead (2000)

This perfect crystal song; it would take little more than this one track for Radiohead to earn legend status. For a decade’s worth of bands-to-be, Radiohead was the unattainable horizon. Despite the pursuit, in the nearly two decades since “Idioteque,” we’ve heard very little that compares well to it. Perhaps music has gone elsewhere and the project is over. Nonetheless, this is not trivial music. Radiohead try harder. – Chris

Continue reading The Top 101 Best Songs of the 2000s (Part 3)

The Top 101 Best Songs of the 2000s (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.

We got the intro and bottom of the list out of the way yesterday, so let’s just hit it straight into the next 40 songs!

The Top 101 Best Songs of the 2000s: Part 2

(60 through 21)

60. “International Players Anthem (I Choose You)” – UGK (2007)

I admit it, I was way late to “International Players Anthem.” Though it came out on UGK’s 2007 album Underground Kingz, I didn’t really hear it until 2009 or 2010 when my wife Becca put it on a mix CD that she gave me when we were dating. So I’m a late convert to “International Players Anthem” and, as the saying goes, there’s no zealot like a convert, so…HOLY HELL THIS IS AN AMAZING TRACK! I mean, it has everything, EVERYTHING – the beat and sampling is peerless and brimming with confidence; there are virtuoso raps in a variety of lyrical styles, from Andre 3000 rapping (as usual) about spaceships and getting sunburned on his bum, to the casual references to Paul McCartney’s marital woes and crashing Bentleys. And (of course) a terrific performance by one Pimp C (RIP). And that doesn’t even take into account the music video. There may well be more “important” hip hop tracks higher up on this list, but you can’t tell me that there are any that are more fun to listen to. – George

59. “Me and Mia” – Ted Leo and the Pharmacists (2004)



Continue reading The Top 101 Best Songs of the 2000s (Part 2)

Track Marks: The Worst Song of The 00’s is “Crazy Bitch” by Buckcherry

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 will be counting down our 101 Best Songs of the 2000s. Some of our contributors will be offering additional thoughts on the years 2000-2009 in music.

Imagine, if you will, the following hypothesis: Buckcherry is a band that does not appear to like music. I’m assuming they most likely got into it “for the chicks,” as the cliche goes. Based on their desire to live that rock n’ roll lifestyle, they have clearly seen at least a couple music videos. Based on lead guitarist Stevie D’s use of Gibsons, there may have been a Guns N’ Roses video in there. You know for sure they’ve seen at least a couple of Motley Crue videos as lead singer Josh Todd has the word “Chaos” tattooed across his abdomen in almost the exact location Tommy Lee has “Mayhem” tattooed across his (though he gives another reason).

Yes, this is from a real interview. Source

Buckcherry is like a bad Star Wars cartoon: trying to ape something without any knowledge of its disparate influences. They know they’re supposed to be loud, brash, and sexually explicit, but they have no idea why.

“Crazy Bitch,” is Buckcherry’s biggest hit. I think about it a lot as it’s in rotation at one of my regular lunch spots. I’m just confronted with how something so loud can be so empty. The song is the musical version of Barney Stinson explaining the Hot/Crazy Scale if How I Met Your Mother was on Cinemax instead of CBS. Each chorus repeats the following twice:

Hey
You’re crazy bitch
But you fuck so good, I’m on top of it
When I dream, I’m doing you all night
Scratches all down my back to keep me right on

The verses basically restate this central premise. In case the song’s nuances are lost on you, Todd twice screams the following couplet:

You’re crazy
But I like the way you fuck me!

When you strip hard rock of all of its influences and what little subtlety it has, you’re only left with a parody. At least when the Stones or Zeppelin went full hedonist they did it with a bit of subtext and a whole lot of melody. They also had clearly listened to other records before.

Does Buckcherry have worse songs? Do they have songs that might redeem them? Is this actually the worst song of the 00s? The answer to all of these questions is who cares. Other songs I considered were similar enough that I’m calling it. Why dig deeper into the sewage?

The Top 101 Best Songs of the 2000s (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.

It started, appropriately enough, on LiveJournal. Back in 2010, we here at SportsAlcohol.com were still active enough on the preferred platform of Russian bots to use it as a vehicle for something we assembled purely for fun: a list of the best songs of the just-completed 2000s. A bunch of friends got together and voted, we counted up the votes, and put the list online with some notes. No big write-ups, really just a matter of trivia.

Now it’s 2018, and maybe we have some more perspective on the time from 2000 and 2009. Or maybe not. Or maybe it seems so much better now because of what happened since, or it seems so far away because time continues to pass, or we just talk about how that was the beginning of music-culture fragmentation because we can’t figure out what other identity will stick. But for whatever the reason (mainly, that we really like lists, and apparently free labor), we decided to revisit this list idea as a companion piece to our list of the Best Songs of the 90s from a few years ago.

In true niche-driven fashion, there was no consensus on whether this proved easier or harder than putting together a ‘90s list. All I know is that we finished it, and that the final product does at least some justice to the eclecticism of that decade, from the rock revival of its early years, to the domination of hip-hop near the top of the charts, to the anthemic-but-sensitive indie revival that took hold around mid-decade, and any number of retro mini-movements that flashed in the pan. Plus also the Postal Service. Because, you know: 2000s.

Before we begin the countdown in earnest, a word about methodology: Contributors, around 20 in total, were asked to send a list of 50 songs. Point value was assigned by ranking; that is, a #1 ranking received 50 points, a #2 ranking received 49 points, and so on. A few contributors took our alternate option, wherein all 50 songs were given an equal number of points (approximately the total number of points on a regular ballot divided by 50). Ties were broken by number of mentions and, if necessary, by which song had the highest individual ranking. Though some individual voters made rules for themselves involving, say, the number of times they could mention a particular artist, there were no formal rules except that the song in question had to come out between January 1, 2000 and December 31, 2009. Accordingly, we didn’t futz with the results. If an artist charted three songs when good sense said probably one or two would be fine, well, all three are on the list. If a beloved and/or important figure split votes or just plain didn’t make it with our crowd, we didn’t try to correct for it to make ourselves look hipper or smarter or savvier. The list is the list, and good luck to us.

“Us” would be the all-star team of nerds working on this, including some SportsAlcohol.com founders and regulars: your old pals Rob, Marisa, Jesse, Sara Batkie, Ben Morrison, Tim DeLizza, Jeremy Bent, Chris Adams, and Craig Iturbe.

We were joined by some more writers listed below. Several of them have written for us in the past, but this was a massive project that required even more stepping up. So super-special thanks to these contributors old and new:

Jeremy Beck runs the website MovieManifesto, where he writes many, many movie reviews that nobody reads.
George Briggs is a high school teacher who lives in Rhode Island.
Catherine Burgess is a first-time contributor to SportsAlcohol.com. She went to her first concert (Fall Out Boy) in 2005 at the tender age of fourteen, where she got involved in “moshing” and consequently lost a shoe but received a black eye! Her mother was not pleased.
Evan Dent is a writer living in Brooklyn, a candidate in the New School’s MFA program, and is a better looking person with better ideas, more talent, and he’s really, really nice.
Randy Locklair is a dad, software developer, cellist, and manages to exist in Brooklyn while being a fan of just three Arcade Fire and zero Hold Steady songs.
Michelle Paul runs a technology company and lives in Delaware. She enjoys both sports and alcohol, as shown in her blog about pumpkin beer and postseason baseball.
Bayard Templeton is a teacher, Mets fan, theater enthusiast, and dad.

We also received vital ballot contributions from A.A. Dowd, Jillian Quitko, Josh Sheff, Cristin Stickles, Erin Styne, and our buddy DH.

The first part of our opus appears below; songs from 60 through 21 will run on Wednesday, while the top 20 will finish things up on Thursday. We’ll also have two different podcast episodes making a deeper dive into the list-making process with several of our beloved writers, and some other ancillary materials in addition to yesterday’s kickoff pieces.

For now, though, let’s kick things off and think about the earliest years of the millennium, and feel our conflicted feelings!.
Continue reading The Top 101 Best Songs of the 2000s (Part 1)

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

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 SportsAlcohol.com 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 Top 15 Best Liz Phair Songs (So Far)

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.

When I was 16 or 17 and girls my age called Alanis Morrissette “Alanis,” it irritated me in the way that smartass know-it-all insecure teenage boys frequently get unaccountably irritated. You don’t know her! I’d think. Or sometimes say out loud, in the way that smartass know-it-all insecure teenage boys frequently can’t keep their stupid mouths shut. At the time I, to paraphrase the song “Rock Me,” didn’t know who Liz Phair was. But I thought back to those moments when reading over our write-ups of the best Liz Phair songs—including my own. Pretty much all of us did it: We called her Liz, like we knew her. We don’t, of course. But that’s how good Liz Phair’s songwriting is: There’s something relatable yet specifically conversational about so many of her lyrics, as well as her unaffected delivery style and sometimes fret-squeaking arrangements. And as important as Exile in Guyville is, this kind of presumptuous rapport with your audience doesn’t automatically happen from one great album. It happens more often from a career full of high points, from one of our best (and sometimes most underappreciated songwriters). SportsAlcohol.com founders Marisa, Jesse, and Rob were joined by past ‘90s list voters Sara Ciaburri and Lorraina Raccuia-Morrison as well as Liz (and film) scholar R. Emmett Sweeney to pay tribute to our collective favorites, coinciding with the reissue of her first four albums on vinyl, an Exile-themed anniversary tour, a bigger tour in the fall, and hopefully a new album sometime soon. In the meantime, here is who Liz Phair is.

The Top 15 Best Liz Phair Songs So Far

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The SportsAlcohol.com Podcast: They Might Be Giants

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.

Between our recent list of the 40 best They Might Be Giants songs and our accompanying list of the outliers in our voting process, you may have gathered that SportsAlcohol.com reps a pretty big They Might Be Giants fandom. And you would be right! So we couldn’t let the release of the band’s new record I Like Fun pass without a They Might Be Giants podcast discussing it, along with our listmaking methodology as well as some personal history in terms of formative TMBG experiences. TMBG superfans Jesse and Marisa were joined by list voters and fellow TMBG superfans Alan Scherstuhl and Karen Han for a wide-ranging, super-nerdy discussion of all things They Might Be Giants. Hear how we each got into the band, how we all love spending New Year’s Eve at their concerts, what oddball songs we love and don’t love, and how we think I Like Fun fits into TMBG’s canon. We promise not to kill you!

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

Our Favorite They Might Be Giants Songs: The Outliers

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.

These aren’t runners-up in our list of the Top 40 Best They Might Be Giants songs. Far from it; these are all found much further down the full ranking of 160 or so tunes, because they all received exactly one (1) vote from one (1) participant. In some ways, especially with a band as original and idiosyncratic as TMBG, these outliers will tell you more about the artist than the stuff that nearly made the official list. These were the choices that inspired passionate devotion that, in turn, was not enough. Some of them are from the band’s best-selling record; others are newer songs that may not have had time to gain popular traction; one was chosen by a two-year-old who didn’t get to vote yet. What they have in common is that peculiar, wonderful connection between prolific band and attentive listener. Consider this an alternate top ten (er, eleven).
Continue reading Our Favorite They Might Be Giants Songs: The Outliers