Monday, December 30, 2013

Favorite Songs of 2013: Songs 1-10

And the conclusion. Or the beginning, depending on how you want to look at it.

1. Young Fathers by Typhoon.

"When you're young you have …
You have your whole life before you,
everyone will adore you,
grow up, you'll be an astronaut.

(Or anything you want).

What goes up, goes up in flames.
And now your choices surround you,
indecision confounds you.
And you're pacing around the place.

(Shows you everything you're not)."

It took a really great song to knock what is now #2 off its perch. And this is it.

2. Humiliation by The National.

"All the L.A. women;
Fall asleep while swimmin'.
I got paid to fish 'em out;
and then one day I lost the job.
And I cried a little.
I got fried a little.
Then she laid her eyes on mine,
and she said 'Babe you're better off.'"

My favorite song from when I first heard it this spring until … White Lighter came along. The above stanza is my favorite from any song all year, still.

That's The National's Matt Berninger, as he makes his way
through the crowd during the encore of their show at
The Filmore in Charlotte. Yep, he was that close.

3. Chocolate by The 1975.

"Run run away from the boys in the blue.
Oh, my car smells like chocolate.
Now think about what to do,
think about what to say,
think about how to think.
Pause it play it, pause it play it, pause it."

The video looks like a London-esque version of West Side Story. But the song has to be about very non-1950's drug use.

4. Time to Run by Lord Huron.

"I've no regrets.
I will not ask for your forgiveness.
Lower your defense,
run away with me and it'll all make sense.
I did it all for you,
don't spurn me after all I've gone through.
No time to rest,
gonna find me a life, baby, way out West."

What exactly did he do for her that makes him have to run?

5. Pompeii by Bastille.

"And the walls kept tumbling down
in the city that we love.
Great clouds all over the hills
bringing darkness from above."

Pompeii as a metaphor for our current cities/civilization? Or just one in particular (London? L.A.?). Whatever, it's a really catchy song.

6. Unbelievers by Vampire Weekend.

"See the sun go down.
It's going on down, and the night is deep.
Want a little light,
but who's gonna save a little light for me?"

One of the irreligious songs that I referred to in my first part of the list. Hard to see this song as anything but an indictment of organized religion. But it's a great tune, and certainly has some validity to its assessment.

7. Holy by Frightened Rabbit.

"While you read to me from the riot act
way on high, high.
Clutching a crisp new testament,
breathing fire, fire.
Will you save me the fake benevolence?
I don't have time
I'm just too far gone for a telling,
lost my pride."

I promise it is coincidence that this song follows Unbelievers, other than the fact that they were among my favorite songs this year. Still, the lyrics and particularly the video of Holy suggest that it may not be directed against the Church. Check out the "bible" in the video - it's got FR's "Pedestrian Verse" symbol on it.

8. The House that Heaven Built by The Japandroids.

"It's a lifeless life with no …
fixed address to give.
But you're not mine to die for anymore,
so I must live.
Born of a bottle from
heaven's hand.
And now you know,
and here I am."

Actually the best lyrics are Oh-oh-oh-ohohohoh-oh, but that doesn't translate too well. Amazing that just two guys can make this much noisy great music.

9. Goodbye by Rocket & The Ghost.

"Hide yourself behind the stairs.
Set the fire to your daddy's chair.
For me.
For me."

I honestly don't know how I first came across this song (perhaps on BIRP), but obviously I like it a lot. The group reminds me of Seryn, who graced the list in 2011.

10. Lightning Bolt by Pearl Jam.

"Always something and never nothing.
Isn't that the way we're taught to be?
Flipping through the worn out pages,
and stages when you knew not who to be …
'Til the lightning strike sets you free."

Eddie Vedder, sans ukulele, can still rock.

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Water's Fine

U.S. Soccer ran an on-line "tournament bracket" asking fans to choose their "best moment" of the first 100 years of soccer in the States.

While admittedly the results were overly-weighted to recent events (the Men's team's third place finish in the 1930 World Cup - it's best ever - only made the third round), the fans seemingly tended to voting for "best moments" (as the competition suggested) rather than team achievements.

I voted in most of the rounds, but it wasn't until after I cast my vote in the finals that I realized that both finalist moments were ones about which I had previously written posts.

In fact, they were posts with a similar theme, and were similarly … well, gushy about soccer in general and the men's and women's teams in particular.

The winner? Abby Wambach's goal at the death in the 2011 Women's World Cup quarterfinal against Brazil to send the match into overtime. It was that goal that I waxed poetic about in a post that was based on the theme that began with the other finalist, which was ...

Landon Donovan's goal, also at the death, against Algeria in the 2010 Men's World Cup which sent the U.S. into the round of 16, and soccer fans across the States into a frenzy not seen before for any soccer match of any kind. That post, too, was based on the wisdom of Delmar in Oh Brother Where Art Thou? and his invitation to partake of the waters of salvation.

Did Wambach and Donovan redeem soccer in the U.S.? Well, in retrospect, perhaps not completely. After all, the men lost their next game to Ghana in 2010 and the women lost in the World Cup final to Japan later in that tournament.

Wambach's perfect header.

But they certainly excited more people than just me about our national teams and soccer in general. And arguably set the stage for the women's 2012 Olympic triumph and the men's resurgence under Jurgen Klinsmann. I can still remember going crazy in my family room, with my son and a co-worker who had ditched work to watch the game.  It was kind of like this:

And their reemergence in the poll allows me to say, one more time, "C'mon in, the water's fine."

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Favorite Songs of 2013 - Songs 11-20

The list continues, with a repeat from this list, a repeat from the last two years, and a Ferris Bueller reference.

11. San Francisco by The Mowgli's.

"I've been in love with love.
And the idea of
something binding us together.
You know that love is strong enough."

First repeat artists on this year's list (foreshadowing). These guys and gals are infectiously good-natured and fun.

The Mowgli's at Bonnaroo.

12. The Southern Wind by Eliza and The Bear.

"When it feels like
love has passed you by.
I won't go and tell you how
to live your life.
You got a lion's heart.
You got a lion.
You got a lion's heart.
You got to find it."

A little bit of Of Monsters and Men a little bit of Freelance Whales. But, as far as I can tell from the video, no Eliza.

13. Shake by The Head and the Heart.

"Even if it was a mistake, I can't forget your face.
Even if it was just a day, you won't forget the one
who's making you shake."

Another great song from this talented group, which appears on the list for the third consecutive year.

14. The John Wayne by Little Green Cars.

"You know it's your neglect;
it's the reason that I'm so obsessed with you.
And when I asked you your name, you said
John Wayne
and I guess it's true.
'Cause then you shot me down
and I
doubled over and I hit the ground right in front of you."

A plaintive (and little bit creepy) love song.

15. Best Day of My Life by American Authors.

"I howled at the moon with friends.
And then the sun came crashing in.
But all the possibilities;
No limits just epiphanies.

A little bit too poppy, a little bit of a fun. rip-off, but hooky as heck.

16. Here Comes the Night Time by Arcade Fire.

"They say heaven's a place.
Yeah, heaven's a place and they know where it is.
But you know where it is?
It's behind the gate, they won't let you in.
And when they hear the beat, coming from the street, they lock the door.
But if there's no music up in heaven, then what's it for?"

My favorite song (so far) on the new album Reflektor.

17. I Had Me a Girl by The Civil Wars.

"I had me a girl;
Like cigarette smoke,
she came and she went."

Apparently Joy Williams and John Paul White hit on the perfect name for their brief, brilliant collaboration, which seemingly has ended rather acrimoniously.

18. Some Place by Nick Waterhouse.

"Don't expect you to
understand it.
Not much … tryin' to speak, well
Can't help tryin' to
say it again.
Am I sounding too oblique?"

Rockabilly song in the vein of previous list resident J.D. McPherson. Awesome video.

19. Thrift Shop by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis.

"They be like oh that Gucci, that's hella tight.
I'm like, Yo, that's fifty dollars for a t-shirt.
Limited edition, let's do some simple addition.
Fifty dollars for a t-shirt, that's just some ignorant b……."

I've heard it described as a "novelty song" but it strikes me more as a parody. The onesie rocks. And if I have to give you a language warning for this one, you've lived under a stone for the last year.

20. Default by Django Django.

"Why don't you hand it over,
time is up, you've had your shot.
Gather once again,
disasters in the end,
it's like a default."

Another act I was fortunate enough to see at Bonnaroo this year.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Favorite Songs of 2013 - Songs 21-30

This year marks the fifth that I've posted on Facebook my favorite songs from the past year, and the third that I've posted about them here.  As with the previous years, these are songs released in either 2013 or 2012. A few of the songs and artists appear on some real music critics' lists, but I assure you that no offense is intended by including them on mine as well.

21.  The Man Who Lives Forever by Lord Huron.

"They say we're all gonna die, but I'll never believe it.
I love this world and I don't wanna leave it.
Say that death is a deal that you cannot refuse.
But I love you girl and I don't wanna lose you."

Missed out on them twice: first when the album was released late last year, the second when they were at Bonnaroo and E was saving us seats, but my brother and I stayed camped out for The Mowgli's. Trying to make up for it now -- a great song.

22.  Call Me by St. Paul & The Broken Bones.

"This ain't the heartache
that I thought I knew.
This ain't the party
that I thought we'd do."

Some blue-eyed soul for you, courtesy of my brother who introduced me to the group. Blue-eyed soul is one thing, but that voice coming out of that person? Very cool.

23.  Don't Swallow the Cap by The National.

"I have only two emotions,
careful fear and dead devotion.
I can't get the balance right,
with all my marbles in the fight."

I think I've seen just about every song from the standout album "Trouble Will Find Me" on one top songs list or the other. This is one of my favorites.

24.  Dim Lights, Thick Smoke by Dwight Yoakam.

"You're drinking and dancin' to a honky-tonk band.
When you left your lovin' family life, that's right back were your ran.
So go on and have your fun, but you won't always look so smart.
When some day that lonely bar room breaks your honky-tonk heart."

I cannot explain my longstanding love of Dwight and his music. And I will not try.

25.  Gasoline by Alpine.

"There's ... a light I've found in your eyes.
That ... I've never found in mine.
I know I ... I could never ever show you.
But there's always night time."

I suppose this song is another of those that I like that is close to a guilty pleasure. But like it I do.

26.  Super 8 by Jason Isbell.

"Well they slapped me back to life
and they telephoned my wife,
and they filled me full of Pedialyte.
Some are guts, some are glory,
it would make a great story,
if I ever could remember it right."

Life, love, and near-death in, yes, a Super 8 motel in Bristol.

27.  The Valley by The Oh Hello's.

"We were young when we heard you
call our names in the silence.
Like a fire in the dark;
like a sword upon our hearts."

Wikipedia says The Oh Hello's are a Christian band. If so, they provide a counterbalance to some of the irreligious songs on the list, including the next one.

28. Late March, Death March by Frightened Rabbit.

"As we walk … through an hour-long pregnant pause;
No grain of truce can be borne.
My bridge is burned .. perhaps we'll shortly learn,
that it was arson all along."

Veteran list followers won't be surprised by my inclusion of FR, one of my all-time favorite bands.

Frightened Rabbit at The Filmore in Charlotte.

29.  Open Ended Life by The Avett Brothers.

"Let's find something new to talk about;
I'm tired of talkin' 'bout myself.
I spent my whole life talkin' to convince everyone
that I was something else.
And the part that kinda hurts is
I think it finally worked …
and now I'm leaving."

Another regular denizen of the list. Not overly impressed by the new album as a whole, but this one is vintage Avetts.

30.  The Great Divide by The Mowgli's.

"I've gone to meet my maker.
And when I find what I was made for,
this soul of mine will finally find some peace.
So I will smile, and I'll see you there."

The first of several acts I was fortunate enough to see live this past year. The Mowgli's really seem to like each other and have fun making music.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

"Put Me in Coach"

Following on the heels of my recent post on participation trophies comes this news from some of the fine folks at the Kanawha County Board of Education: it is considering a policy that would mandate playing time for middle school athletes.

Presumably suggested with the best of intentions by Board member Becky Jordon, the as-yet (and hopefully to remain) unspecific policy would apparently require all middle school athletes to receive at least some playing time in every game.

After receiving initial, and almost completely unanimous, opposition to the idea, Ms. Jordon attempted to explain the "thought" process behind the proposed policy but just dug herself a deeper hole. The explanation is so inexplicable that it deserves ample re-quoting.

"Jordon says the sixth- through eighth-grade is a fragile time for students, and some coaches are too hard on young athletes. That can be detrimental to their future success, she said.

'I think this has been misunderstood. Yes, there are a lot of young athletes that work really hard, and they deserve the right to play more. I just feel like it needs to be fair. I'm not saying take the superstars out of the game, but you know what? Give everyone a chance,' she said. 'We have some coaches that don't always treat everyone fair, . . . and often times there are hurt feelings.

I can promise that, if a kid sits on that bench all through middle school, they will not attempt to be engaged in high school. We know the kids that are most involved are the most successful,' she said. 'It's not just about bullying. It's an awkward age. There isn't a person that can say middle school was a great time. If we can make a minimal step to make kids feel better about themselves, we should.'"

While, at least as it was initially reported, it appeared the proposal would require equal playing time for athletes, Ms. Jordon either never made that part of her proposal or abandoned it. But the idea that a Board of Education (particularly one faced with budgetary difficulties following the recent resounding defeat of an excess levy) should be looking over the shoulder of every middle school coach in the county to "give everyone a chance" is almost as absurd.

Heaven forbid that 12, 13, and 14 year-olds learn that everything isn't "fair" or that everyone doesn't get "a chance." We should make them feel "better about themselves" even if it is at the expense of more talented, or, even worse, more dedicated teammates. 

Not to mention the aside that "I'm not saying take the superstars out of the game" raises two serious questions: (1) why not? If participation, not excellence, is the mandated goal of Kanawha County now, why should the gifted get special treatment?; and (2) who exactly is going to determine which players are the "superstars"? Surely not the coaches, Ms. Jordon doesn't trust them enough to make decisions about playing time. 

Perhaps the Board should spend its time, energy, and precious little funding to set up a blue ribbon panel to decide, on a school-by-school and team-by-team basis, exactly who the superstars are that are entitled to Board-sanctioned special treatment. And while they're at it, I guess they need to set up a second panel to determine which of the athletes has "worked really hard" enough to warrant playing time.

It also says something about Ms. Jordon's view of athletics and the school system when she asserts that "if a kid sits on that bench all through middle school, they will not attempt to be engaged in high school." Maybe they shouldn't be "engaged" in sports in the first place. Or, how 'bout they decide to be engaged in something they have an aptitude for, say debate, or chorus, or robotics, or a mathematics competition, or theater, or wood shop or metal shop (I'm probably showing my age here -- do they have wood shop or metal shop in middle school these days?), or even a job after school? 

Of course, Ms. Jordon's proposal also completely disregards the value of Team and being a member of a team (even if you don't play much or aren't particularly good) about which I have written before. As I always told my players, there are six or seven McDonald's all-Americans sitting on the Duke basketball bench every year, but they practice every day and they're as much a part of the team as anyone.

CCHS team at the State Finals in 2008. Many of the players
shown had worked for three months to get there,  froze their butts
off for two hours, and never got in the game. Ask them if they
think their State Championship plaques were worth it. 

But there is no capital "T" in team if everyone gets to play and only the "superstars" play more than the rest. Just show up and play, lest your feelings get hurt and you come to realize at 14, rather than at 18 or 19, that we are not all the same and that life doesn't hand out either participation trophies or playing time. 

"Put me in coach, I'm ready to play." 

Takes on a whole new meaning when followed with "no, I mean you have to put me in. It's my turn. Ms. Jordon says so."

It's only fair, right?