Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Best Albums of 2010

Another year, another albums list, another reason to share. This is what I live for in the last few weeks of December (and of course, family, holidays, yadda yadda yadda). Keep an eye out for my singles list next week. Also, if you want to check out lists from previous years, just check out the links below.

2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004

1. Janelle MonĂ¡e - The ArchAndroid

It's not very often when you come across a debut album as confident and self-assured as this one. Usually it might take an artist a few albums before they can muster up the courage and audacity to create something with as wide a scope as The ArchAndroid on their first time out, which is part of what makes it so impressive.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Kinky Notti - "100 Pieces"

There are a few of Kinky Notti's songs that I'm absolutely over the moon about, but "100 Pieces" gets the most play from me, hands down. It falls right in line with the sexy atmosphere of their debut album, Succumb, but this track steps further away from the R&B/hip hop hybrid that dominates their sound and is decidedly more eerie and subtle. There's a Prince vibe in the way that the guitars are used to bring sensuality to a pop song, but the bass and drums keep things sinister and serve as a reminder that if this song is playing, you should be making your way around 3rd base by now. It sounds like nothing else that's coming out of Chicago right now.

Download the song here and buy Succumb on Bandcamp here They also recently released a video for the title track to Succumb a few weeks ago. Warning: not safe for work.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Sonnymoon - "Soular"

Sonnymoon is an electronic duo based out of Boston who recently signed to Plug Research, the Los Angeles label responsible for the latest releases by Bilal and Quadron. They self-released their debut album, Golden Age on Christmas last year, way after I made my year-end list, which pretty much ensures that they'll make it this year. The album is excellent all around but "Soular" for me is one of the standouts. It's a subdued but rubbery track that showcases the group's more playful side amidst an album that's heavy on atmospheric, experimental hip hop sounds mixed with hazy melodies. "Soular" is more immediate but no less enjoyable. It also serves as a proper introduction to how Sonnymoon perceive themselves, which is as artists who specialize in making music meant for another solar system. Listening to this track, it certainly feels like it could have come from outer space, or at least something Esthero would have created after landing on Mars.

Download the album here, which the group offered up for free or if that link doesn't work any more, you can also listen to the rest of the album streaming here and also pay $5 for it.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Best TV Shows of 2009-2010 Season

On the eve of the new television season and a full summer under my belt to catch up on some shows, why not take a look at the best TV shows from 2009-10. I mention it every year I do this list, but I never understand why critics do a best of television list at the end of year in December when a lot of the shows have not completed their seasons. I take into account shows that premiered from June 2009 and wrapped up by May 2010.

10. Archer (FX)

Animation is the perfect medium for pushing the boundaries that live-action television shows are usually confined to. Years after the heyday of Beavis and Butthead and South Park, it's nice to know that it's still finding ways to appall and offend while still making you roar with laughter. Archer, FX's first serious venture into animation, is centered around the title character who is an immature yet seemingly capable secret agent and the rest of the employees at the agency, which includes his overbearing mother, who also happens to be his boss. The retro visuals give the show a flashy old-school feel and the scripts are filled with raunchiness and sharp one-liners, but the main appeal to the show is the excellent voice cast they have, which includes H. Jon Benjamin, Jessica Walter, Chris Parnell and Judy Greer. It's some of the best comedic talent currently gathered on basic cable today.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Adventures at Lollapalooza 2010

Another summer, another Lollapalooza. Under any other normal circumstances, I couldn't see myself walking back and forth across the entirety of Grant Park for eleven hours a day over three straight days in the hot sun, but it's my love of music and the energy I get from everyone attending that makes me do such a crazy thing, even if I'm completely exhausted at the end of each day. During Lollapalooza weekend, there really isn't any other place I would want to be, so I bear it all with a smile on my face and two bottles of frozen water in my bag. This past weekend also marked the fifth straight year I've been to Lollapalooza since it moved permanently to Chicago and this is also my fourth recap, which makes me feel like some sort of grizzled, accomplished veteran at this thing now.

Day 1 - Friday

These United States

I felt these guys were a pleasant enough way to start off the festival. Just some harmless folk pop-rock, but I appreciated their energy and they seemed genuinely excited to be opening up the weekend, as I'm sure most small bands would be. I didn't stay long, but I enjoyed what I heard.


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Ten On Tuesdays: Ten Most Influential Survivor Players of All-Time

With the season finale of what has arguably been one of the best editions, Heroes vs. Villains, this Sunday night and after 20 seasons of cutthroat strategy and boneheaded mistakes, what better time than now to look back at some of the most influential players the game has ever seen. I based influence not exactly on if a person won or not, but how their gameplay has made an impact on all future editions of Survivor and on the contestants, for better or worse. While I did not rank these and decided to do the list chronologically, I believe in my heart that Richard Hatch is without a doubt the overall most influential player of all-time. If he had not won in that first season, the game of Survivor would have turned out completely different and the use of strategy would not be as evolved as it is right now at this point 20 seasons on.

Richard Hatch (Borneo, All-Stars)
Placed: 1st; 14th

He is the grandfather of Survivor strategy, the man who first coined the term "alliance," which is now as neccessary as fire to survive in this game. By getting the idea of gathering a group of people to all vote the same way, it would ensure that they would have strength in numbers to advance in the game. When I first started watching Survivor, I originally thought that it would be a game of strength and endurance, but Hatch reminded us that along with outplay and outlast, outwit is also apart of the Survivor motto. His voting bloc was so unthinkable at the time that the opposing Pagong tribe members were easily picked off one by one, spreading their votes everywhere instead of focused one member, which is now the usual course. If Richard's strategy did not earn him the million dollars in the end, the game of Survivor would look completely different.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

What If The Oscars Had Ten Best Picture Nominees In Years Past?

For fun, I decided to take my hand at imagining what the Best Picture race at the Oscars would have looked if there had been ten nominees in years past. Yes, these are the things I think of as "fun" in my head. I decided to do from 1998-2008 since I really didn't follow the Oscar race as intensely in years before, but not to say I don't ever see myself not taking a look at years prior to.

I've listed the five films that were nominated for that year with the five possible nominees following after.


** denotes the winner.

**Shakespeare in Love**
Life Is Beautiful
Saving Private Ryan
The Thin Red Line

Gods And Monsters
The Truman Show
Out of Sight
Primary Colors
A Simple Plan

The Truman Show was the only one that was seen as a major snub, as Golden Globe winner Jim Carrey also failed to get a acting nomination.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Best Movies of 2009

Living in the Midwest, I usually have to wait longer for a lot of the year-end prestige pictures to open in my area. While critics in Los Angeles and New York have the luxury of being able to catch movies that open in limited release before going nationwide within a calendar year, an average guy such as myself who happens to be a film lover can't fully complete a list of what the best pictures of the year are until much later. Add to that a modest budget and time can pass quickly before I've seen everything on my wish list. Which is why I'm finally doing best films of 2009 list more than two months into 2010. I figure that a list such as this still has relevance as long as it's before this Sunday's Oscars. So here it is. My favorite movies of 2009.

1. Ponyo

This marks the third consecutive year that an animated movie has topped my list. I think it goes to show just how great a period it is right now for animation. All three films were unique in their tone and subject matter and further proves just how diverse the field has become, from the moments of grimness in 2007's Persepolis to 2008's Wall-E with its patient and expressive storytelling style and to my favorite film of 2009, Ponyo, that mixed dazzling visuals with pure emotion in the way that director Hayao Miyazaki has made his career on.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Live Blogging the 2010 Grammys

Once again, I'm liveblogging the Grammys. Check back often for commentary, analysis and to see how I fared with my predictions.

7:01 Is it me or does Lady Gaga's eye make-up look very similar to Sting (as in the pro wrestler). Pretty great choice to have her kick off the show though. Much better than U2 last year who weren't even nominated or had an album out at the time.

7:04 Elton John joins Gaga onstage for a duel piano duet of "Your Song" after a spirited performance of "Poker Face." Elton is "Gaga-ed" up, more than less. He's got that glitter shades and smeared make-up over his face. If there's any male singer who can get away with being "Gaga-ed" up, it's Elton John.

7:07 The sad thing about that performance is that it didn't even come close to one of Gaga's best, but it's probably one of the more interesting performances the Grammy telecast has had in sometime.

7:09 Colbert is going kind of hit-or-miss for me. The crowd doesn't seem to be that into it. And wow, Jay-Z finally cracked a smile!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Top 250 Singles of 2009

I've been tabulating my lists in a new way this year. I still go by the same criteria of how I feel in regards to ranking, but I wait till I'm done now before adding numbers, where as before I added the numbers as I went along. It would often cost me a lot of time once I remembered a single I had forgotten to add and I would have to reorder the entire thing. So basically, I ranked the songs without keeping track of how many there were. Once I got down to adding numbers to the rankings, I found out that I had more than my intended and traditional 200. The number 200 has always felt natural for me when concerning singles. It's a perfect cutoff point to prevent anything that I care little about or can't defend from sneaking in. But when I looked at some of the songs I ranked below 200, I couldn't stand to exclude them because I felt there was a lot of strong stuff. Which brings us to 250 singles this year. How did I know that 250 was the right number? My #251 would have been Flo Rida's "Right Round." I felt that then was the time to quit.

1. Noisettes - Wild Young Hearts

The joy of "Wild Young Hearts" lies in its simplicity. It tells a story that we've heard before many times. Lead singer/bassist Shinga Shoniwa plays the role of a regretful heartbreaker who can't be tamed, and to make matters even more familiar, it's all done with a 60's inflection, but it's the song's simplicity that makes it so perfect. It's an immaculately crafted pop tune that could sound just as fresh today as it probably will 10 years from now.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Best Albums of 2009

Once again, here are my top 50 albums of the year, along with an honorable mention list. Just my way of trying to share as much good music as I can. I found everything there enjoyable in one way or another and couldn't bare for them to go unmentioned. As usual, the singles list will follow shortly.

EDIT (1:02 AM): I've added a playlist of select tracks from the list at the bottom so that you can sample the songs.

1. St. Vincent - Actor

There was potential on St. Vincent's debut, Marry Me. Actually, there was more than potential—it was a pretty damn solid album. I held certain songs, such as the title track, "The Apocalypse Song" and a few others in very high regard, which naturally led me to anticipate her follow-up even though I wasn't in love with the debut. Actor is the kind of leap forward that you hope for from most artists on their second album, but would be lucky to get. The album takes some of Marry Me's darker moments and builds an entire album around that vibe. Annie Clark's darkness isn't the dour kind, but one built on tension and unease while only tempting to cross the line in to creepy. It's an exquisitely arranged album where even the most tender details matter for the mood. Marry Me proved Clark's talents: her musical proficiency, a delicate expressive voice and a confident lyrical style that mixed wit with emotion, but Actor proves that she can deliver a full-length full of highlights.