Thursday, November 27, 2008

You can't really hate on LeBron for planning on leaving Cleveland...

unless you're a Cleveland-area resident or a Cavs fan. I do feel a little bit bad for them because the smart money is that he'll leave for New York in a couple of years.

However, looking at this objectively, I think that most people's perspectives are out of whack when they cite reasons for LeBron staying in Cleveland or leaving. They cite a franchise's ability to win multiple championships. They cite LeBron's marketing advantages of living in NYC vs. Cleveland vs. any other NBA city. And this past week, everybody seems to be arguing back on forth on these points. But they're misguided.

Whatever team LeBron signs with in 2010 will definitely field a competitive, championship-contending team - whether that's Cleveland, New York, LA, Chicago, Detroit, etc. Whoever signs LeBron will cater to him and build an excellent team around him. He could sign with Oklahoma City, and they'll do everything in their power (trade players, open up payroll, etc.) to compete for the championship. So a franchise's ability to win championships is a moot point.

It's probably true that marketing will be, at the very least, better for LeBron if he were to sign with the Knicks. But knowing how much of a global star he is already and how much he continues to grow in that area, the difference will probably be so negligible that it really doesn't matter if he's in New York versus Cleveland. With the amount of money that he's making and will continue to make, a few million dollars is chump change. People/companies with money who want to market him will come to Lebron wherever he is. So I doubt LeBron would choose New York because of better marketing, business opportunities, etc.

So why do I think he's going to leave Cleveland for probably New York? The same reason the population of NYC continues to grow at a much more rapid pace than other (stagnant or declining) northern and midwestern cities. The City of New York itself is the star that attracts celebrities and non-celebrities alike. I know so many people who strive to live in New York, even if it's temporary and even if career-wise and investment-wise (like owning a house/condo) it's much more pragmatic to not live in New York. I live in the city of Chicago, and I love it here and have no intention of moving anywhere...but even in a great city like Chicago (which besides the winter weather, kicks LA's ass), there's a huge inferiority complex amongst many Chicagoans only when it comes to New York. That's because deep down, people know that New York's king, and the magnetism of New York makes more people want to live there than competing cities like LA, Chicago, and San Francisco.

I think LeBron just wants to live in New York City rather than any other place. I think he'd rather play at Madison Square Garden 41 times a year than any other arena. I think he wants to play in front of New York celebrities and friends. Even if the Knicks never existed and there's an expansion franchise in NYC, it would be the front runner to sign LeBron. This's why I predict he'll sign with the Knicks. He's not unlike many, many people who more than anything want to experience living in New York.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Red Wings vs. Pistons

Although my feelings on sports is nowhere near as strong as they were when I was young(er), it was exciting recently with my favorite NBA and NHL teams simultaneously in the playoffs. And now with both the Red Wings' and Pistons' seasons now over due to either winning the championship or elimination, I've come to terms not just with my feelings on either team but both sports in general.

First, the Pistons. Watching this team since their 2004 championship has been absolutely painful and infuriating. Although I wholeheartedly root for the Pistons, I've come to realize that I really don't like the team on a personal level...with the exception of McDyess, Hunter, Maxiell, and Prince. And I have to admit that I still love Rasheed Wallace...but that could be the Carolina fan in me strongly affecting my feelings...because Wallace is at fault as much as the others for failing. I still truly believe that if Larry Brown were still coaching the Pistons, he could have (and would have) squeezed at least one more championship out of these guys and/or at least got them into the finals during Flip's years. I mean, check out this from Stephen A Smith's article on Flip Saunders' dismissal:
Plus, Saunders wasn't Larry Brown.

"We still love LB," one player said, requesting anonymity. "LB was something special. He knew his stuff but also knew us to a tee.

"I remember one game [Pistons guard Chauncey Billups] put up like 28 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists. He was one assist away from a triple-double, and ecstatic. Then LB walks up to him and says, 'You don't have a clue how to play point guard for me, do you?' [Billups] just bowed his head like a lost puppy.

"Then there's the time he calls us into a huddle like there's some emergency or something during the 2004 Finals against the Lakers. We're here thinking it's something drastic. And then he says, 'You know … I love you guys.' We all cracked up laughing and were relaxed the rest of the series.

"LB just knew how to touch us. Affect us. You don't teach that, man. You either have that relationship with the players or you don't. We respect Flip, but he doesn't have that. Curry does. And he will."

And that quote on Billups is something I've always felt. He puts up good stats, and 75% of the time he's a really good point guard. But every time I watch the Pistons play, he seems to make some of the most boneheaded moves, such as take dumb shots. He'll make some of these dumb shots, but when he did that with Larry Brown, he was reprimanded even if the shot went in. Under Brown's discipline, Billups was easily a top-3 point guard. Similar thing with Rip Hamilton. I read a quote from about a month ago where Hunter had to bring him back down to earth for taking too many stupid shots. The Pistons lineup is good enough that they don't really need a go-to guy, so Hamilton doesn't need to be taking (bad) shot after (bad) shot when he keeps missing...which I saw him do on many occasions. I love Rasheed Wallace, but it's clear that he doesn't have the mental makeup of taking over and dominating at will, as his immense talent would have you believe he could. He needs a coach he could respect, i.e., a coach he feels he isn't smarter than. That's what I believe is the main reason he respected Larry Brown so much and for the most part thrived (even though their UNC connection didn't hurt, obviously).

However, it's well documented that Larry Brown leaving the Pistons was at least half his fault (probably more). So the Pistons should've sucked it up and not been such brats under Saunders. Their playing down to the competition was real for anybody who really paid attention to them, and they definitely played like they were entitled to everything...hence, most players on the team always bitching and complaining after any call against them. So, unless Dumars can bring in a coach that can command the players' full respect (like LB), I say blow the team up. With the exception of Rasheed and McDyess, I don't feel a strong personal connection to any of them...because, as I said already, the team isn't that likable.

On the other hand, watching the Red Wings play was almost the complete opposite. The players (old and new) all played their hearts out, and when they did fuck up, it wasn't because of lack of effort, concentration, playing down to the competition, or just acting like assholes. Nobody bitched and complained even if they might have reason to do so. They played and were a true team, and a team/franchise fans can truly be proud of and make other fans extremely green with envy.

What the Red Wings franchise has really become since the mid-90s is the closest thing to a sports "family" as you can get in pro sports. It's somewhat easier in college sports, especially basketball...but it's a term that used way too liberally. UNC (and Duke to a certain extent) are the closest thing to family as you can get in college basketball. And the Red Wings franchise sort of reminds me of Dean Smith's Carolina program. Players are developed from within the franchise - whether they're a first round pick or a 10th round pick...and free agents come for less money than they can get elsewhere because not only do they have a chance to win, they're treated like a family by ownership. It's like, once a Red Wing, you're a Red Wing for life.

That's why the Red Wings are almost always contending for the Stanley Cup and the New York Rangers are either mediocre or just plain bad, even though their total salary matched or surpassed Detroit...pre-salary cap and salary cap eras.

Watching both the Red Wings and Pistons also got me thinking about just the sports themselves. I've always maintained that at every sports' most exciting moments, when they're played the right way with tons of drama and clean play, hockey is easily the most exciting sport. And my feeling on that is as strong as it's ever been. It's a shame that hockey is only a niche sport, even though I completely understand why that is. Despite the excitement of hockey, maybe because of sheer lack of exposure in the media, even I have to admit that I know less about teams and players even without being a diehard NBA fan. That's why I'd probably watch the NBA finals no matter who is playing, and that's why I'd watch the NCAA Tournament and championship no matter who's playing. If the Red Wings didn't play in the playoffs or Stanley Cup Finals, I'm not quite sure I would've watched it.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Thoughts on the Fab Five, Bob Knight, Dean Smith, and basketball coaching

Obviously I’ve been very uninspired to write in this blog for at least the past couple of years.   I’m still uninspired for the most part.  However, two things that have to do with sports, specifically college basketball, from last night have inspired me to write something...

As I was killing time before the MU-KU game, I was flipping through the channels when I came across the program, Beyond the Glory.  Last night’s segment was on Michigan’s Fab Five.  I grew up a die-hard U of M sports fan, and there’s still a part of me that pulls for the school because I gave so much of my youth’s heart rooting for its football and basketball teams.  Although I’m now a North Carolina and Missouri supporter (despite my interest in MU’s basketball program having took a huge hit after the Quin Snyder debacle and I’m still recovering to find interest in that program which is a whole 'nother story), the Fab Five remains my favorite sports team of all time (with UNC’s 2004-05 basketball team a distant second followed by the 90’s era Detroit Red Wings).  Watching that program last night brought back some really great memories, and despite Chris Webber’s violations of NCAA rules, I can’t help but feel anything but love towards that team.  Like I said, they still remain my favorite sports team of all time, despite the fact that my (now beloved) Tar Heels basketball program under my favorite coach ever, Dean Smith, beat them.

Which nicely segues into the second thing from last night that is inspiring me to actually write something in this blog: Bob Knight’s retirement.  Like many people, I’m shocked - not so much that I wouldn’t expect this from him, but anytime there’s big news like this, it’s somewhat unexpected.

I have some mixed feelings towards Bob Knight.  He’s obviously an asshole who really doesn’t care what others think about him.  While I find it sort of admirable that he doesn’t care what people think of him, what’s not admirable is that he’s such an asshole.  If I had a kid who was good enough to play Division I basketball, I wouldn’t want him playing for Knight.  But there’s actually a part of me that likes him - and it has nothing to do with his skills as a coach.  In his asshole sort of way, the man’s hilarious.  The very asshole quality about him absolutely cracks me up.

Anyway, because of his retirement, of course, there’s going to be debate on where Knight stands as one of the greats in basketball coaching (and coaching in general).  Of course I have my own opinion which I will share.  Before I share my opinions, like 99% of the population (and I’m including most of the media), I have never coached (or played organized) basketball.  So my opinions (and most of the media’s) are based on sheer observations.  Unlike coaches and ex-coaches and ex-players who analyze basketball on TV, I don’t know specific details like exactly what play is being called, specific name of the defense, etc.  I have to use my own observation and also what I read, too.  So I have to admit that some of my opinions have also been shaped by what the media has written and said.  However, without being too egotistical, I have enough confidence in my intellect that I can pick out quality and various levels of quality and excellence.  For example, I can tell when watching the Michigan-Carolina championship game from 1993 that the Tar Heels were very well coached and taught and were fundamentally sound.

So based on my own observations and what I’ve read and heard, in the modern era (~70s to today), I’d have to rank Bob Knight and Dean Smith as 1A and 1B (or vice-versa) as the best pure college basketball coaches.  (Even if I were to include John Wooden, I’d keep Knight and Smith as 1A and 1B, but that topic is for a different time.)  Dean Smith and Bob Knight were not only successful, they were innovators in basketball, and their principles have been used and stolen by so many successful coaches today.  I read a quote from John Wooden saying, “I don’t think there’s ever been a better teacher of the game of basketball than [Knight].”  Well, Wooden said the exact same thing about Dean Smith.  Roy Williams, who seems to credit Smith for his success even more than Larry Brown does (which is a lot), has said on numerous occasions that 95% of the things he does in coaching he’s stolen from Dean Smith while the remaining 5% were stolen from Knight.  I think that’s pretty high praise given that he was really exclusively trained by Smith and has and should have no allegiance towards Knight.

Although Smith and Knight (rightfully so) get compared to each other, one thing that bothers me is when I read and hear people saying that Smith had all the All-American, future pros while Knight had a bunch of scrubs that he managed to turn into winners.  That’s bullshit.  If that were the case, Knight would’ve had just as much success at Texas Tech as he had at Indiana.  Although Knight didn’t have as many future pros as Smith, he did have very highly touted recruits come play for him at IU.   Just because they weren’t athletic enough to be All-Pros at the next level doesn’t mean they weren’t great high school players that became great college players under Knight.  This leads me to another point that’s broader in scope than Knight versus Smith...

The quality of a coach (in basketball) is not and should not be exclusively linked to wins, losses, how many (future) pros he coaches, etc.  Wins and losses DO help define the quality, but sheer wins and losses (and win percentages) are overrated.

Although I love college basketball, one thing I don’t like is that it seems to me that at least 75% (probably more) of the health of programs is just based on recruiting.   Recruiting overshadows everything in college basketball and clouds the inferiority and superiority of pure coaching.  If you have less overall talent on your team, you’re probably going to lose.  If Coach K had a month to prepare with the University of Maine’s roster and Maine’s coach had a month to prepare with Duke’s roster, Coach K would lose (big) to the Maine coach.  Although I love Carolina basketball and I think Roy Williams is one of the better college coaches out there, just his wins and losses do not tell me that he’s a great coach.  Things that suggest that he’s a great coach include testimonials from other coaches, the fact that he’s taken what he’s learned from Smith and applied it with his own flavoring to work extremely well within the team concept, etc.  But does that make him the best pure coach today?   I don’t know.  (With his coaching skills plus his recruiting skills and program management (and my own Carolina bias), I’d personally take him over any other coach.)  But in reading things, such as testimonials, and watching other teams in the past and this year, you could make a case for Williams or K or Izzo or Howland...etc. etc. etc.  I tend to read a lot into peer reviews, i.e., testimonials from other coaches because I presume they know who really is a good coach or who is just a really good schmoozer/recruiter and/or maybe a shitty coach who doesn’t contribute much and just lets the very talented players just play.  So based on this (and also seeing team preparedness regardless of whether they win or lose), I’d have to say, in no particular order, that these D-I coaches are the best pure coaches: Roy Williams, Mike Krzyzewski, Rick Majerus, John Beilein, Ben Howland, Tom Izzo, Bo Ryan, Jim Calhoun, John Thompson, and Bruce Pearl.  I’m sure I’m leaving out many...but that sort of makes my point.  I truly believe that you can’t truly measure how good one is as a pure coach mostly based on wins and losses because basketball, more than most other team sports, places a higher premium on the innate talent of the players.  Others (I’m sure) will disagree, but that’s how I view it.  I refuse to believe that John Calipari is and has been a better coach than Knight just because he has a better record in the past few years. Just like I refuse to believe that Phil Jackson is a better coach than Larry Brown.  Just like I refuse to believe Doc Rivers is a better coach than Pat Riley.

I guess what I’m also trying to get at is this: basketball “coaching” is overrated.  They often get too much credit for merely being really good recruiters (or in the Pros, having a GM/owner that signs and drafts the best players). As long as they have a good collection of talent and don’t fuck shit up (like Snyder at MU), they may actually look like really good or great coaches when they’re actually not.  Coaches like Dean Smith and Bob Knight are, however, truly great coaches.  They’re on the “Mount Rushmore” of basketball coaching.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

My Favorite Music Releases of 2007

I made this list a few weeks ago.

Here are my criteria for my list: 1) I include various artists compilations unless they’re just “Best of’s” and/or label comps, and most songs have been released previously; 2) I include reissues as long as the previous or original issue was very difficult to find, out of print for a long, long time, and/or was never properly issued in mass quantities until 2007 (e.g., the Sebadoh and Townes Van Zandt reissues are not eligible); and 3) Eligible albums include those that may have been released in late 2006 (like in December) that I didn’t hear of until 2007.

I’d also like to note two more things.  First, I was lucky enough to have acquired a very limited press Warhammer 48k An Ethereal Oracle CD in 2006; it was re-released (in slightly larger quantities) by Permanent Records on vinyl in 2007...had I not already had this album, it would most definitely be on my list.  Second, Circle (one of my favorite bands ever) released at least 7 albums in 2007 (including reissues).  One of their reissues was the long out-of-print Sunrise album.  If I didn’t already own this, this would’ve probably been my #1 album of 2007.

Here are my honorable mentions (in alphabetical order):

Animal Collective - Strawberry Jam (Domino)

The Arcade Fire - Funeral (Merge)

Avarus - Rasvaaja (Secret Eye)

Sir Richard Bishop - While My Guitar Violently Bleeds (Locust)

Boris with Michio Kurihara - Rainbow (Drag City/Pedal)

Anne Briggs - The Time Has Come (Water)

Burial - Untrue (Hyperdub)

Circle - Katapult (No Quarter)

Circle (featuring Verde) - Tower (Last Visible Dog)

Karen Dalton - Cotton Eyed Joe (Megaphone)

Fursaxa - Alone in the Dark Wood (ATP Recordings)

Ghost - In Stormy Nights (Drag City)

Daniel A.I.U. Higgs - Atomic Yggdrasil Tarot (Thrill Jockey)

Michael Hurley - Ancestral Swamp (Gnomonsong Recordings)

Krypt Axeripper - Mechanical Witch (Ektro)

NVH/Chasny - Plays the Book of Revelations (Yik Yak)

Pekos/Yoro Diallo - S/T (Yaala Yaala)

The Ponys - Turn the Lights Out (Matador)

Shellac - Excellent Italian Greyhound (Touch and Go)

Spoon - Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga (Merge)

Sunburned Circle - The Blaze Game (Conspiracy)

The White Stripes - Icky Thump (Warner Bros.)

Wiley - Playtime is Over (Big Dada)

Here’s the Top 25 (in descending order):

25. High on Fire - Death Is This Communion (Relapse)

24. The Dead C - Future Artists (Ba Da Bing)

23. Circle - Panic (Ektro)

22. Radiohead - In Rainbows (self-released)

21. Jay-Z - American Gangster (Roc-A-Fella)

20. Six Organs of Admittance - Shelter From the Ash (Drag City)

19. Pink Reason - Cleaning the Mirror (Siltbreeze)

18. Meg Baird - Dear Companion (Drag City)

17. V/A - Thai Pop Spectacular 1960s-1980s (Sublime Frequencies)

16. Blues Control - S/T (Holy Mountain)

15. Panda Bear - Person Pitch (Paw Tracks)

14. Bruce Haack - The Electric Lucifer (Omni Recording Corporation)

13. Lambsbread - Stereo Mars (Ecstatic Peace)

12. Kemialliset Ystävät - Untitled (Fonal)

11. Wooden Shjips - S/T (Holy Mountain)

10. Deerhunter - Cryptograms (Kranky)

9. Von Südenfed - Tromatic Reflexxions (Domino)

8. Sir Richard Bishop - Polytheistic Fragments (Drag City)

7. V/A - Carolina Funk (Jazzman)

6. Dinosaur Jr - Beyond (Fat Possum)

5. Keith Hudson (and the Soul Syndicate) - Nuh Skin Up (Pressure Sounds)

4. M.I.A. - Kala (XL)

3. V/A - Melodii Tuvi: Throat Songs and Folk Tunes from Tuva (Dust to Digital)

2. Eroc - 1 (Brain/Universal)

1. Times New Viking - Present The Paisley Reich (Siltbreeze)

Missed out in 2007

Here's a list of stuff I didn't get to check out (at least before I made my list a few weeks ago) that I've heard and/or read were good (and in some cases, listened to a small sample):

Battles - Mirrored (Warp)
Burning Star Core - Operator Dead, Post Abandoned (No Quarter)
The Cherry Blossoms - S/T (Apostasy / Black Velvet Fuckere / Breaking World / Consanguineous / Hank the Herald Angel / Yeay!)
Devin the Dude - Waiting to Inhale (Rap-A-Lot)
The Foundry Field Recordings - Fallout Stations EP (Emergency Umbrella)
Grinderman - S/T (Anti-)
Group Doueh - Guitar Music from the Western Sahara (Sublime Frequencies)
Group Inerane - Guitars from Agadez, Music of Niger (Sublime Frequencies)
Islaja - Ulual YYY (Fonal)
LCD Soundsystem - Sound of Silver (Capitol)
Lil Wayne - Da Drought 3 (mixtape)
Magik Markers - Boss (Ecstatic Peace!)
No Age - Weirdo Rippers (Fat Cat)
Tujiko Noriko - Solo (Editions Mego)
Om - Pilgramage (Southern Lord)
Psychedelic Horseshit - Magic Flowers Droned (Siltbreeze)
Omar Souleyman - Highway to Hassake, Folk and Pop Sounds of Syria (Sublime Frequencies)
Tinariwen - Aman Iman: Water is Life (World Village)
UGK - Underground Kingz (Jive)
V/A - Art of Field Recording: Volume 1 (Dust to Digital)
White Rabbits - Fort Nightly (Say Hey)
Wu-Tang Clan - 8 Diagrams (Universal)

Friday, June 08, 2007

LA Times sportswriter's favorite NBA cities

I'm a dork that loves comparing and contrasting cities and towns, and so naturally, this interested me. For the record, New York's my favorite city followed by Chicago.

From the Los Angeles Times

NBA cities: a sportswriter's scorecard

Los Angeles Times Staff

Published June 6, 2007

Mike Bresnahan covers the Lakers for the Los Angeles Times and travels every year to the 27 NBA cities outside of Los Angeles. Here's his list of those cities, from worst to first. (Note: New York and New Jersey count as one entry because, he says, everybody stays in nearby NYC when the Lakers play the New Jersey Nets..)

27. Detroit: Never a good sign when you insist on staying at a hotel at the airport.

26. Indianapolis: Always seems to be minus-147 degrees.

25. Houston: Kind of boring, unless you enjoy Whataburger franchises on every corner.

24. Salt Lake City: Nice skiing, I guess.

23. Sacramento: The worst arena in the NBA definitely doesn't help matters.

22. Milwaukee: I went to school in Wisconsin and have several friends in Milwaukee, or else it might be giving Detroit a run for its money on my list.

21. Orlando: Great for families but not so much for single, thirtysomething sportswriters.

20. Memphis: Beale Street is fun for one night, but what if you have to stay two nights?

19. Cleveland: The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame helps, as does the underrated downtown area.

18. Atlanta: You've got to give credit to one of only three U.S. cities to host a Summer Olympics.

17. Charlotte: It might be a little too high on this list, but I've never had a bad time there.

16. Dallas: I hate the Dallas Cowboys. Hate, hate, hate.

15. Philadelphia: Cheesesteak sandwiches at Pat's or Geno's? I never decide until I get there.

14. Toronto: Canada's answer to New York City.

13. San Antonio: The River Walk is fun, and Austin is only an hour away.

12. Boston: Whenever I leave, I feel like I could use another day to see everything I missed.

11. Denver: Downtown is surprisingly vibrant, even when there's a foot of snow on the ground.

10. Portland: See Seattle.

9. Minneapolis: Seriously underrated. I'm being totally serious.

8. Phoenix: Just don't go in June, July or August.

7. New Orleans: Bourbon Street is on the rebound, as is downtown.

6. Washington, D.C.: My favorite daytime city in the U.S. Where else can you see so many memorials and monuments?

5. San Francisco: The Golden State Warriors are in Oakland, but those in the know stay in S.F.

4. Seattle: Clean, crisp air makes it a must-smell.

3. Miami: South Beach is simply phenomenal for so many reasons, day and night.

2. New York/New Jersey: Always something to do. Always.

1. Chicago: Like New York, but without the attitude.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

My top 25 music releases of 2006

There are many different criteria for end-of-year lists that people make. Here are mine: 1) I include various artists compilations unless they're cheap knockoffs of singles (such as most label comps); 2) I include reissues as long as the previous or original issue was very difficult to find, out of print for a long time, or it never properly got released until 2006 (e.g., the Wowee Zowee reissue does not count even with all those never before released songs); and 3) I might include albums that were released in late 2005 (like that November or December) that I didn't hear of until 2006.

I'll start off with the Honorable Mentions (in alphabetical order):
Cast King - Saw Mill Man (Locust)
Charalambides - A Vintage Burden (Kranky)
Citay - S/T (Important)
Erase Errata - Nightlife (Kill Rock Stars)
Foundry Field Recordings - Prompts/Miscues (Emergency Umbrella): My friend Billy Schuh's band's debut, and it's very good!
Noxagt - S/T (Load)
Spank Rock - Yoyoyoyo (Big Dada)
Scott Walker - The Drift (4AD): The most challenging album I've listened to in a long time.
V/A - Big Apple Rappin' (Soul Jazz)

25) Wolf Eyes - Human Animal (Sub Pop): Noise music, by its very nature, is probably the most difficult music to do/make well (along with free jazz), but there's been one band/artist that's been consistently pioneering and leading the way. Wolf Eyes : Noise music :: Beatles : Pop music. It's not for everybody, but if you like noise, Wolf Eyes is at or near the top year after year.

24) Drumcorps - Grist (Cock Rock Disco): What do you get when you mix grind and death metal, drum & bass, and what sounds like a marching band drum corps section? You get Drumcorps! And it's just one guy!

23) Califone - Roots & Crowns (Thrill Jockey): A very underrated album, this one grows on me more and more with repeated listens, and I can easily see this is being higher on the list had I listened to this even more.

22) Part Timer - S/T (Moteer): Kind of like an Endless Summer-esque Fennesz, Part Timer's mix of acoustic, folk-pop, and glitchy, IDM is beautiful...and it may very well be the most soothing album of '06 for me. This is a late entry into my 2006 collection, and with more listens, this would undoubtedly be higher.

21) Neko Case - Fox Confessor Brings the Flood (Anti): I know some are touting this as Neko Case's best album yet. Not me...although I admit she's becoming more and more refined as a songwriter. And that voice! This album further solidifies her status as a great American songwriter (not just country), and it's about time the mainstream has caught on.

20) Parts & Labor - Stay Afraid (Jagjaguwar/Brah): Brooklyn's Parts & Labor are a very exciting duo and Stay Afraid, their third full length, is one of the most exciting albums I've heard this past year. Rock on.

19) Oneida - Happy New Year (Jagjaguwar): Oneida’s one of those bands that are relentless, constantly touring and constantly putting out really good full length albums every year. Notice I said really good. In my opinion, their one great album was the epic Each One Teach One from 2002. However, just about every album is good at the very least, and their live shows are always killer.

18) Razor X Productions - Killing Sound (Rephlex): Intense, distorted, hardcore ragga/dancehall/jungle. This will make your heart beat faster and not care that you blew out your speakers...until you realize that you can't listen to this anymore because you need new speakers.

17) The Coup - Pick a Bigger Weapon (Epitaph): SF Bay Area's The Coup is easily the best left-wing political hip-hoppers since Public Enemy, and with Pick a Bigger Weapon, they continue that P-Funky goodness that separates them from other political rappers. You can listen for the left-wing lyrics or you can forget politics and just listen to shakeyoass.

16) Six Organs of Admittance - The Sun Awakens (Drag City): Since I started listening to Six Organs of Admittance in 2002, Ben Chasny (also of Comets on Fire, Current 93, and Badgerlore) continues to give me reasons why his Six Organs project has become one of my favorites of all time, ranging from John Fahey-esque acoustic guitar pickings to East-inspired experimentation to now, some electric guitar psych jams without losing the experimentations of the past. If there were any musician or artist I wish I could be, it would be the ultra-talented Mr. Chasny.

15) Warhammer 48K - An Ethereal Oracle (Papa Slag): These guys are from Columbia, Missouri, and they may be the most promising band to strike a chord with all the cool kids into metal, experimental, and psychedelic music, like they already have with Aquarius Records in San Francisco, and should (and eventually will be) with Forced Exposure and The Wire. It's only a matter of time. Corey Rusk (founder of Touch and Go) was said to be on hand to check 'em out at the Empty Bottle in case he wants to sign them. He better not sleep!

14) Josephine Foster - A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing (Locust): Josephine Foster is a name I kept hearing and reading about for the past few years, but I finally picked up two of her albums in 2006. I’m kicking myself for waiting so long! I bought 2004’s All the Leaves are Gone and 2006’s A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing. I like All the Leaves are Gone better, but this album ain’t no joke, and it’s an ambitious and rewarding album. The album consists of covers/interpretations of 19th century compositions by Johannes Brahms, Robert Schumann, and Franz Schubert, and she sings entirely in German! It sounds like ancient German folk music, but with a little electric guitar distortion thrown in for good measure by Brian Goodman (who is in Foster’s backing band, the Supposed).

13) Bardo Pond - Ticket Crystals (ATP Recordings): I don't know anybody who would rate Bardo Pond as their favorite band or even their favorite psychedelic band, and they're not mine either. However, I absolutely love them, and they may be the most consistent psych band out there, with nary a bad album by them. They can probably put out an album every year and it would probably be on my top 20 list. Ticket Crystals is yet another very strong album from these Philly drugsters.

12) Bonnie "Prince" Billy - The Letting Go (Drag City): Mr. Will Oldham does it again. Some people dislike his music due to his voice, but he's a phenomenal songwriter, and this collection may be as good as he's ever done. Dawn McCarthy (from Faun Fables) provides backup harmony vocals. Wonderful.

11) A.R. & Machines - Die Grüne Reise-The Green Journey/Erholung (Melting Point Music Company): I know very little about Achim Reichel & Machines, except that I discovered them (through Aquarius Records) this past year with this reissue (originally released in 1970 (Die Grüne Reise-The Green Journey) and 1975 (Erholung)...and this is some of the best Krautrock I've ever heard. Especially for fans of Can, Amon Duul II, and Circle.

10) Major Stars - Syntoptikon (Twisted Village): The biggest difference in Major Stars' sound is that they have a new female singer. Other than that, they continue their psychedelic hard rock blitz. If you like Jimi Hendrix, Blue Cheer, Black Sabbath, and Led Zeppelin, they'll kick your ass. Even if you don't like those bands, Major Stars will still kick your ass.

9) Cat Power - The Greatest (Matador): This is the most straightforward and most consistent Cat Power album. Less singer-songwriter and more bluesy, smoky nightclub soul, this album, overall, sounds lighter and happier (if you could call it that) than her previous work. Still, there are still some songs that are so heart-achingly sad and beautiful (especially "The Greatest") that are up there with "Colors and the Kids" and "Good Woman."

8) Ghostface Killah - Fishscale (Def Jam): Even though this is pretty much straight-up NYC hip hop, Ghostface is such a great rapper with such charisma that he can't be denied. Some are now calling Ghostface as one of the best rappers ever, and I may have to agree.

7) Clipse - Hell Hath No Fury (Re-Up Gang/Zomba): Believe the hype. Clipse will be on the "Mount Rushmore" of rap music before it's all said and done. The production of the Neptunes is impeccable and the rapping and flow from the Thornton brothers are killer. Hell Hath No Fury was delayed for a number of years, and although it was well worth the wait, I hope their next one comes out sooner than later.

6) Karen Dalton - In My Own Time (Light in the Attic): Recorded in 1971, this was reissued this past year. Thank you, Light in the Attic! Think a bluesy, folk-rock Billie Holiday...but better than that might actually sound. Think of some of the best folk-rock albums ever from the 60s and 70s, and this has to be right up there. So fucking good.

5) Shogun Kunitoki - Tasankokaiku (Fonal): Despite the Japanese name (both band and album), Shogun Kunitoki are from Finland. This instrumental quartet play some dense and, at times, fuzzy Neu-like Krautrock that doesn’t let up during the entire album. This could’ve easily been even higher on my list...

4) Girl Talk - Night Ripper (Illegal Art): Easily the most fun album of the year. This is definitely a guilty pleasure, but it’s also simultaneously just flat out good quality mash-up music. Even after countless repeated listens, this never gets old.

3) Om - Conference of the Birds (Holy Mountain): Only two tracks, each around 16-17 minutes each, and yet, this is strong enough to warrant a top 10 or 20 ranking any given year. Although only consisting of bass and drums, the psychedelic stoner metal sound that Om expels is powerful and trance-inducing. You really don’t need any drugs to fully enjoy this, although I’d imagine it would be incredible.

2) Boris - Pink (Southern Lord): If one was really, really cool, he or she would have had this on their list last year, when it was released on the Japanese label DIWPhalanx and in very limited quantities here in the States. Alas, I’m not that cool. However, I rejoiced when Southern Lord issued this domestically in 2006. And this one’s got almost 9 extra minutes of drone on one track. Take that, Japan! Anyway, this extra-powerful metal trio ain’t just metal since they’re perhaps the most flexible and unpredictable hard rockers on earth, with their sounds ranging from Sunn0))) and Earth-inspired sludge to ultra-distorted garage RAWK like Guitar Wolf to the psychedelic craziness of Acid Mothers Temple to, at times, an almost My Bloody Valentine quality in their music. I could go on and on. Hell, they could decide to put out no-distortion pop album, and I’d probably eat it up...because they're that good! I still want one of the Japanese releases (actually I want two of them because they sell for crazy amounts of money on ebay). BORIS!!!

1) This Heat - Out of Cold Storage [box set] (This Is): I don’t know. This may be a cheap choice for number one because it’s not an album or even a reissue of a single album. It’s a box set with 6 CDs: their two studio albums, one for their 12” single (“Health and Efficiency”), John Peel sessions, Repeat (their posthumous 1992 album consisting of previously unreleased outtakes), and a never-before-released live tracks from 1980 and 1981. I won’t really get into more about the band and music itself, since you can look it up and read about it from much better writers than me. In any case, depending on where you pick this up, the cost will range from $80 to $100. I bought this for $90 at Reckless, and it’s worth every penny. My favorite purchase of 2006 (besides the plasma TV).

Monday, January 08, 2007

Music releases I slept on in 2006

For various reasons (e.g., dry spells in which I didn't buy shit for months, or laziness, or I didn't know until recently that they were released, or they were too hard to find, etc.), these are some releases this past year I completely missed out on. (I'm currently compiling 2006 releases that I did buy and/or listen to and will have a top 10/20/whatever in the near future.)
Circle - Miljard (Ektro)
Sun City Girls - Djinn Funnel (Nashaphone)
Woven Hand - Mosaic (Sounds Familyre)
Dat Politics - Wow Twist (Chicks on Speed)
Joanna Newsom - Ys (Drag City)
J Dilla - Donuts (Stones Throw)
Tim Hecker - Harmony in Ultraviolet (Kranky)
Oakley Hall - Gypsum Strings (Brah/Jagjaguwar)
Growing - Color Wheel (Mega Blade)
Espers - II (Drag City)
Lansing/Dreiden - The Dividing Island (Kemado)
Skaters - Rising Spheres of Crossing Angel Minds (New Age Cassettes)
Vashti Bunyan - Lookaftering (Fat Cat)
SunnO))) & Boris - Altar (Southern Lord)
Steffen Basho-Junghans - In the Morning Twilight (Kning Disk)
Mission of Burma - The Obliterati (Matador)
Calexico - Garden's Ruin (Touch and Go)
Black Heart Procession - The Spell (Touch and Go)
Slavic Soul Party - Bigger (Barbes)
Howe Gelb - 'Sno Angel Like You (Thrill Jockey)
T.I. - King (Atlantic)
Current 93 - Black Ships Ate the Sky (Durtro)
Avarus - 2 (HP Cycle)
Kid 606 - Pretty Girls Make Raves (Tigerbeat 6)
Burial - S/T (Hyperdub)
The Knife - Silent Shout (Mute)
Yo La Tengo - I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass (Matador)
Animal Collective - Hollindagain (Paw Tracks)
Comets on Fire - Avator (Sub Pop)
Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti - House Arrest (Paw Tracks)
Coughs - Secret Passage (Load)
Arthur Russell - Springfield (Audika)
Roots Manuva - Alternately Deep (Big Dad/Ninja Tune)
Isis - In the Absence of Truth (Ipecac)
Brightblack Morning Light - S/T (Matador)

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Dwyane Wade is overrated, etc.

You cannot call Dwyane Wade the next Michael Jordan

Every couple of years, it's always somebody the media and fans dub as the next Michael Jordan. From Grant Hill to Kobe to Vince to Lebron. I'm sure I'm forgetting others. Now it's Dwyane Wade. They keep harping on that ad nauseum. While I admit that Wade is becoming/has become one of the top ten players in the NBA, I'm getting sick of hearing about how he's the greatest player. First of all, there are at least two players who are closer to MJ than Wade. At the top of my head, they are Lebron and Kobe. I'd take Lebron over any player in the league if I were to choose one player to start a franchise. I don't know if I'd even put Wade in the top 5, but that's another story. As much as I can't stand Kobe Bryant, he has been and continues to be the closest thing to MJ. It just shows how everybody has the shortest memories. Before annointing Wade as MJ's heir, let's not forget how he has Shaq, even though Shaq's not the truly dominant player he was a few years ago. However, he still commands double and triple teams that free up others, including Wade...just like when Kobe played with Shaq. At least Kobe got three straight championships. Let's at least wait until Wade wins a couple of championships before calling him MJ's heir. Really, the only thing I can think of why people have the perception Wade is better than Kobe is that Shaq likes Wade but doesn't like Kobe. Does it really matter if Kobe and Shaq like or don't like each other? I'd argue that even with them not liking each other, if Kobe still had Shaq, the Lakers could in the finals right now playing the Pistons. My point is: Wade is an awesome player, but how can people annoint him as the next MJ when he's not better than Lebron or Kobe?

Why the Pistons imploded during the playoffs

As much as I love Larry Brown and how I think he's the best basketball coach in the world, it was obvious that he and the Pistons wanted to separate after the 2004-05 season. And it was a mistake on both sides. Maybe it was because suburban Detroit is a white, middle-America suburbia without the cosmopolitan flair of a New York, Philadelphia, or Los Angeles. (I don't believe for a minute he would've gone to Cleveland of all places...I think it was a ploy to get the Knicks to offer and offer big.) Maybe it was because of Brown's neverending itch to move to a new gig every few years. Whatever it was, Brown chose New York over Detroit, obviously thinking that he could work the same magic he's worked throughout his career. Obviously, New Yorkers thought the same thing. Conversely, the Pistons thought that they learned everything they needed to learn under Brown and thought they could do everything better if freed of Brown's control. Everybody thought the Pistons were right because of the regular season. I was cautiously excited, but I had my doubts. And my doubts were realized during the playoffs. I do think Flip Saunders is a decent coach, especially as an offensive mind. On the surface, it seemed like he and the Pistons were a perfect fit. But playing in the playoffs is a totally different beast than the regular season, where you might play team A one game at home at the tail end of their 5-game roadtrip or after that team played a team with a totally different system the night before and was not as prepared to play the Pistons. During the playoffs, you play the same team up to seven times. The teams start to figure out each others' tendencies and make adjustments. The Pistons, with their new-found offensive freedom, lost sight of their hard-nosed defense, and in turn, lost sight of playing team ball on offense, all of which Larry Brown harped on constantly. Even in games in which Billups scored 25 and had 10 assists (or something to that effect), I saw him play too much one-on-one and take bad shots, missing many and making some, which encouraged him some more to take those bad shots. Same thing with Rip Hamilton. (The only players that played consistently hard and smart were Tayshaun Prince, Antonio McDyess, and Lindsey Hunter.) If Larry was still coaching, he would've chewed out Billups even if he made those bad shots. Larry Brown would've taken command and made the proper adjustments to counteract whatever Mike Brown or Pat Riley threw at them. I believe if Larry Brown was still with the Pistons, they'd be playing in their third consecutive finals. It's too bad neither side could see that a year ago.

Welcome to Columbia, Mike Anderson

Missouri AD Mike Alden has been good at raising money for new and improved facilities for MU. But in many ways he's been a bad AD. The hiring of Quin Snyder was a prime example. The bumbling of Snyder's dismissal/resignation is another example. Many Missouri people do not like him, and they have good reasons. However, I have to give credit when credit is due. The hiring of Mike Anderson as the new basketball coach was a good move. It's not the splashiest move, but good nonetheless. After seeing how Rick Majerus is still not coaching anywhere, in hindsight it was probably a good thing MU didn't roll the dice to hire him. And even if Bob Huggins takes K-State to near the top of the Big 12 and into the NCAA tourney, I'm relieved that he wasn't hired by Missouri. Same thing for John Calipari.

I don't expect immediate results from Mike Anderson, at least in terms of making the Tiger basketball program back to arguably second in the Big 12 behind KU overnight. But Anderson seems to have potential to do some really good things. I don't blame Mizzou fans for being optimistic, especially after seeing how Quin Snyder dragged the school through the mud both on-court and off-court. But maybe they're being overly optimistic. Honestly, I don't think you can realistically expect MU to be a nationally-known and respected program for another 3 years, maybe 5. They have the potential, with state of the art facilities, playing in a major conference, and being relatively close to urban areas of KC and St. Louis. The 40 minutes of hell Anderson inherited from Nolan Richardson sounds exciting, but I'm not convinced it's the cure-all that some are expecting. If this system itself were that great, why aren't more programs out there mimicking it? I only know of two coaches in the past 15 years who have utilized this: Anderson and Nolan Richardson. However, I admit that it does sound exciting, and if it even comes close to mimicking Arkansas' success in the early-to-mid nineties, then that would be great. As long as Anderson does things the right way, unlike Quin, and puts out a product that is good on the court and off the court, I'd be happy with that. And also beat KU.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

I want Majerus and other hoops thoughts

It ain't gonna happen, but I want Rick Majerus hired as the new men's basketball coach for the University of Missouri. I also think that Mike Alden, the AD, either should be fired or forced to resign, but that ain't gonna happen either. Granted, he's done a very good job at fundraising for the athletic department; but he seems like a sleazebag who is all about the money. Here are some of the notable things done at MU under his watch (whether they were directly done by him or not) that I personally dislike: 1) Selling out Norm Stewart - Norm should've probably retired a few years before he did, but he built the basketball program; I think he's bigger than Dan Devine at Mizzou and the new arena should've been named after him...and this is coming from someone who was not even that big a fan of his; 2) the new Missouri Tigers logo that was unveiled in '99 or 2000 (Bring back the old one!); 3) the fact that the basketball jerseys say "MIZZOU" and not "MISSOURI" - that's like Syracuse having "CUSE" on their jerseys or Washington State having "WAZZU" on their jerseys - it's stupid. Put MISSOURI back on. 4) He hired Quin Snyder. Quin, although he actually does seem like a nice guy who cares about his players, was an absolutely horrible coach who cheated in his recruiting practices. I don't care if the final findings were that most, if not all, the violations were minor...they were collectively bad and they started from his first year at Mizzou. Losing is one thing...but to have the program's image stained like a Cincinnati or an SEC school is something I abhor and should not be tolerated. Alden hired Quin over Bill Self. Now, I haven't been too impressed with Bill Self's offensive system, and I think he may be a bit overrated as a coach, but compared to Quin Snyder, he's like John Wooden.

I doubt Alden will resign or be I can only hope that he gets it right with hiring the next coach. If Majerus is healthy, he is the logical choice. Look at what he did with Utah and his reputation among other coaches. He is so highly respected that Dean Smith wanted him to coach at North Carolina before the Tar Heels settled on Matt Doherty in 2000. Who cares if he can only coach for 5 years; I think by the time he's done (whether it's 5 years or 10 years) the program will be in great shape - from the program itself to the possible hiring of one of his assistant coaches...he'll leave it in much better shape, maybe even top 15-20. He's too much of a bright basketball mind that although it might be a small gamble, the potential reward is great.

If not Majerus, other names thrown around include John Calipari, Bob Huggins, John Beilein, Mike Anderson, Jamie Dixon, Billy Gillespie, Dana Altman, and Greg McDermott, to name a few. Although Beilein or Gillespie would be nice, I'm a bit lukewarm about some of these names, but that's because I really don't know anything about them, other than basic win-loss records, which can be misleading. Two people I definitely DO NOT want are Calipari and Huggins. The MU program's name, due to Quin and his staff, is already muddied and has a dirty reputation. I don't care what the defenders of Huggins and Calipari say, to hire one of them tells me that the university does not care about its image and just cares about wins and losses. The day the university hires either of them, I may stop rooting for Mizzou basketball...I'll wish the best for everything about the university, but not the basketball program under Huggins or Calipari. There are some (maybe many) MU fans who don't care - they'll take Calipari or Huggins - as long as Mizzou wins. I love my alma mater, and it pains me to say this...but many Missouri fans, at least the vocal ones on are embarrassing. Every fanbase, including very knowledgeable ones like UNC, Duke, and Kentucky, has their share of irrational idiots, but there seems to be so many more on tigerboard, from just plain old dumb-asses to absolutely classless ones who'll mercilessly rip on the kids representing their school and tell them to transfer, or even worse (if rarely) hope that they (or their opponents) get injured. Perhaps it's due to the poor design of the forum, with the some of the very same topics being started over and over, even if there's the exact same thread just half a page down. I haven't posted in over 2 years due to the sheer stupidity of these many bad apples, but everytime I check the site, it's just annoying, and I'm better off just talking to my friends in person or over the phone. I know there are many dedicated and knowledgeable Missouri fans, but it's hard to find them on tigerboard.

A week and a half ago, I had 3 friends over to watch the Duke-Carolina game on the new plasma. Watching the game in HD is at least ten times better than standard definition. I don't know if it's actually worth the money, but watching college basketball in HD is awesome. Two of the guys were Mizzou grads while the other's a Carolina grad. Since I represent both schools, I sort of bridged the gap as the MU grads and the Carolina grad got to know each others' perspectives a little more. There's a thought among MU and KU fans that the border war rivalry is more intense than the Duke-Carolina rivalry because between KU and MU, there's hate, while Carolina and Duke, since they're so close to each other, they hang out and it's more of a friendly rivalry. Not true. After talking to me and especially the UNC grad, the MU grads definitely understood that the hatred between KU and MU pales in comparison to Duke-UNC. That's not to say that one's necessarily better than the other. If you're a diehard MU fan or a diehard KU fan, there's no other rivalry that compares. Same goes for UNC-Duke, Louisville-Kentucky, etc. The Carolina grad learned, I think, that no matter what he can say about Roy Williams, at least 90% of Missouri fans will always hate him. He did try his hardest to understand and explain, but that's when I had to step in and tell him, "You cannot expect and/or convince most Mizzou fans to like Roy, no matter how solid your argument is, just like you cannot convince UNC fans to accept or like anything Duke." It took me almost two years to finally accept and like Roy Williams. (To see how I became a Carolina fan, see a previous entry.) When Doherty was forced to resign, I hoped that it wouldn't be Roy and that Carolina would somehow get Larry Brown or George Karl. Even after hiring Roy, who I knew deep inside to be the best man for the job, that wasn't enough to keep me from rooting for the Heels...I just liked the players too much, like Felton, May, Noel, Manuel, etc...and because Dean Smith had become one of my heroes. Although it took me a while, I think of Roy as not only a great coach, but a really good person who truly cares about every player on the team, including the walk-on benchwarmers. This may be blasphemy to some Mizzou fans, but I'm afraid it's true. But if a fellow Mizzou fan tells me that they can't root for UNC because of Roy, all I can say is, "I understand" because I really do. At least I can't stand Bill Self, and under him, the KU program is much more easily hatable.

In any case, I truly hope that Mizzou gets it right with the new hire and that they come back with a vengeance. I know many Missouri fans are a bit delusional, thinking that the program is traditionally a top 20 program. I know that's not true...but most Mizzou fans are absolutely correct in thinking that the program is a sleeping giant and Quin Snyder was a tranquilizer. From its facilities to a very livable college town of Columbia to being in a major conference to just the high quality of the university itself, the Missouri job is a very attractive one, and with the right coach and staff, it can easily compete for the Big 12 title every year with an occasional Final Four run. So, go Mizzou in the (near) future and go Carolina.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Dean Smith = The Greatest

Like the title says, Dean Smith = The Greatest.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

My tops of 2005

While I don't think this is a bad list by any means - in fact I think this is a pretty darn good list - this may be my weakest best of list in at least a few years. Although I weeded out many purchases I made in '05, the fact that I slept on more releases this year than previous years (see previous entry) probably makes this relatively weak compared to previous years' lists. Also, there's more lack of variety on this list than previous lists...and I take pride in trying to be as open-minded to different genres and sounds and not be tied down to any one genre/sound. Here's to '06 being bringing in more variety into my collection than '05. Here's the list:

1. M.I.A. - Arular (XL)
2. Circle - Tulikoira (Ektro)
3. Lula Cortes e Ze Ramalho - Paebiru (Shadoks)
4. Six Organs of Admittance - School of the Flower (Drag City)
5. Gang Gang Dance - God's Money (The Social Registry)
6. LCD Soundsystem - S/T (DFA/Capitol)
7. Konono No. 1 - Congotronics (Crammed Discs)
8. Danger Doom - The Mouse and the Mask (Epitaph)
9. Major Stars - 4 (Twisted Village)
10. Oneida - The Wedding (Jagjaguwar)
11. V/A - World Psychedelic Classics, Vol. 3: Love's a Real Thing (Luaka Bop)
12. August Born - S/T (Drag City)
13. Animal Collective - Feels (Fat Cat)
14. Lau Nau - Kuutarha (Locust)
15. Oneida/Plastic Crimewave Sound - Split 12” (Jagjaguwar)
16. No Neck Blues Band - Qvaris (5 Rue Christine)
17. Residual Echoes - S/T (Holy Mountain)
18. Sunn O))) - The Grimmrobe Demos (Southern Lord)
19. Lightning Bolt - Hypermagic Mountain (Load)
20. Lady Sovereign - Vertically Challenged (Chocolate Industries)

Honorable Mention:

Badgerlore - Stories for Owls (Free Porcupine)
Espers - The Weed Tree EP (Locust)
High On Fire - Blessed Black Wings (Relapse)
Konono No. 1/Dead C - Split 12" (Fat Cat)
Mahjongg - raYDONcoNG (Cold Crush)
New Pornographers - Twin Cinema (Matador)
V/A - Choubi Choubi! Folk and Pop Sounds from Iraq (Sublime Frequencies)

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Most slept-on music of 2005

Sometime before the end of the month I’ll come up with my list of top releases of 2005 (probably 20?). Every year, when I think of my list and see others’ lists, it’s quickly apparent that there are so many albums, EPs, singles, etc. that I’ve slept on, which means I completely missed it or I listened to them insufficiently or for whatever reason (money, time, etc.) just never bought, burned, or downloaded. This year’s slept-on albums are based on what others have said or written, and also based on some listening on my part (sample mp3s, hearing a song or two, etc.). So here’s my list (in alphabetical order) of 2005 releases that I’ve slept on and will not be included in my top releases list. My birthday is this Sunday, so I think you should buy me these:

Akron/Family - S/T (Young God)

Antony & the Johnsons - I Am a Bird Now (Secretly Canadian)

Avarus - Ruskea Timantti (tUMULt)

Black Taj - S/T (Amish)

The Books - Lost & Safe (Tomlab)

Boris - Pink (DIW Phalanx)

The Clientele - Strange Geometry (Merge)

The Coup - My Favorite Mutiny EP (Epitaph)

Deerhoof - The Runners Four (Kill Rock Stars)

Delia Gonzalez & Gavin Russom - The Days of Mars (DFA/Astralwerks)

Earth - Hex: Or Printing in the Infernal Method (Southern Lord)

Edan - Beauty and the Beat (Lewis)

Excepter - Throne (Load) & Self-Destruction (Fusetron)

The Fall - Fall Heads Roll (Narnack)

Flaherty/Corsano Duo - Last Eyes (Records) & Steel Sleet (Tyyfus)

Fursaxa - Amulet (Last Visible Dog) & Lepidoptera (ATP)

Gary Higgins - Red Hash (Drag City) (I have some mp3s, but every time I go to a record store, they don’t have it, goddammit. I should just order it from Drag City)

Islaja - Palaa Aurinkoon (Fonal)

Jack Rose - Kensington Blues (VHF)

Jackie-O Motherfucker - Flags of the Sacred Harp (ATP)

Josephine Foster - Hazel Eyes, I Will Lead You (Locust)

Keith Fullerton Whitman - Multiples (Kranky)

Kemialliset Ystavat - Lumottu Karkkipurkki (Fonal)

Khanate - Capture & Release (Hydra Head)

Mountains - S/T (Apestaartje)

Om - Variations on a Theme (Holy Mountain)

OOIOO - Gold and Green (Thrill Jockey)

The Silver Jews - Tanglewood Numbers (Drag City)

Sir Richard Bishop – Improvika (Bo Weavil)

Sleater-Kinney - The Woods (Sub Pop)

Smog - A River Ain’t Too Much to Love (Drag City)

Sunn O))) - Black One (Southern Lord)

Vashti Bunyan - Lookaftering (Fat Cat)

V/A - Cambodia Rocks Vol. 3: All Psyched Up (Khmer Rocks)

V/A - Can You Jack? Chicago Acid and Experimental House 1985-95 (Soul Jazz)

V/A - Cult Cargo: Belize City Boil Up (Numero Group)

V/A - Dirty Laundry: The Soul of Black Country (Trikont)

V/A - Love, Peace, & Poetry: Turkish Psychedelic Music (QDK)

V/A - Nao Wave (Man Recordings)

V/A - Rio Baile Funk: Favela Booty Beats (Essay)

V/A - Thai Beat A Go-Go Vol. 3 (Subliminal Sounds)

V/A - Welsh Rare Beat (Finders Keepers)

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

St. Louis leads nation in cases of gonorrhea

It's always good to be ranked number one.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

A sports entry

Having watched the American and National League Championship Series, I was really hoping for a Sox-Cardinals World Series. Although there's no doubt the Houston Astros deserve to be in the WS after thoroughly outperforming (both hitting and pitching) St. Louis, I am still disappointed. However, at least this takes care of the potential conflict between me and the ladyfriend and her father, who are both diehard White Sox fans. I may have a chance to go to the first WS game this Saturday, and I won't have to root against the Sox. In fact, I'll root heavily for the Sox although I cannot say that I'm a full-fledged fan.

If I had to rank the baseball teams I root for, as a casual fan, first would be the Cardinals, followed by the Detroit Tigers, who I rooted heavily for as a child, followed by the White Sox. I like the Sox not because I live in Chicago and not because the ladyfriend and her family are fans. I like them because I hate the Cubs and their annoying yuppie North Side/North Shore fans. Cubs fans and Sox fans strongly dislike each other, and when the two teams play during the interleague series, the city divides in half. Actually, it's more like three-fourths - 3/4 of the city side with the Cubs whereas the rest root for the Sox, made up of both true Sox fans and displaced Cardinal fans. I also like the Sox because, to me, they represent the working class and minorities while the Cubs represent your rich, white, former fratboys currently living in the city but will move out to the suburbs relatively soon to create even more urban sprawl.

I know I'm generalizing and stereotyping here, but there's no way I could root for a Texas team, especially one out of Houston. As the fourth largest city in the country, I picture Houston to be one of Earth's centers for redneck, Christian conservatives. Plus, former president Bush and his wife were at the games rooting for Houston. Fuck them. Go Sox.

While I'm at it, thinking about sports, let me share with you my sports-viewing/fan history. I'll start with baseball since I'm already talking about it:

Living in Ann Arbor from '81 to '85, I became a diehard Tigers fan. I loved them so much that I'd religiously read the sports section memorizing stats about the Tigers. I can still recite most of the starting lineup for the '85 Tigers. This continued while living in Raleigh. After moving to St. Louis in '90, I did not care for the Cardinals. However, I think it was sometime in the late 90's/early 2000s that I became a full-fledged Cardinals fan. I'm not sure why this is, but I suspect it has to do with the Cardinals fielding competitive teams every year while the Tigers sucked. Also, I recognize St. Louis to be my hometown. But I'm a casual fan at best until the Cards make the playoffs. Because Chicago's a baseball city, I've been getting more and more into baseball again, especially since I'm sick of seeing Cubs shit everywhere and want the Cards (and the Sox) do well just to spite them.

Never really been a fan. I guess I'd have to pick the St. Louis Rams as my favorite followed by the Detroit Lions. I only really watch the Super Bowl.

College Football:
I used to love college football until I started losing interest once I hit college - kinda ironic, I think. Since my dad's days as a grad student at the University of Michigan, I grew up a Michigan football fan. I guess I'm still a casual fan. I only really keep up to date with how well the Wolverines do, which is not so well this year. I don't really follow Mizzou or UNC football.

College Basketball:
Since moving to Raleigh in '86, college basketball has been the one consistent sport I followed closely or semi-closely. I grew up a Michigan fan, and I remember being pissed and embarrassed at school after Michigan lost to UNC in both the '87 and '88 NCAA tournaments. And I remember wearing my Michigan sweatshirt with pride in '89 when Michigan beat Carolina and also won the championship. Because my father was going to school for his doctorate at NC State at the time, I was also a State fan...but they were always a distant second to Michigan. Even when I was an undergrad at Mizzou, I rooted for Michigan. I actually didn't start rooting for Mizzou until around the time I got ready to leave Columbia for Chapel Hill. Once I moved to Chapel Hill for grad school, I wasn't immediately a Carolina basketball fan - I was a Mizzou fan, followed by Michigan - it was first time ever I didn't root for Michigan first. However, things started changing in the four years I lived in Chapel Hill. It was partially influenced by how I loved living there, and I started to have some Carolina pride - moreso because of the school itself and the town, not so much "Carolina basketball." It was also partially because I became disenchanted with Quin Snyder's coaching - he's a phenomenal recruiter but a shitty coach. (Can any Coach K disciple coach? So far, the answer's been a resounding NO.) It was also partially because I really started hating Coach K and Duke University. I have immense respect for what Duke has accomplished, but I hate them nonetheless. But mostly, I became a true blue Carolina fan after learning more about the program and the ways of the great Dean Smith. Not only do I feel that he and Wooden are by far the two best coaches ever, I just liked the way he approached basketball, the program within the university, and life in general. Now, although I hesitate to say that I'd root for Carolina over Mizzou, if it really came down to it, I really don't know if I would choose Carolina or Mizzou. Having said all that, my favorite team of all time is still the Fab Five of Michigan, despite what we all know about players being paid. I was so heartbroken both times they lost in the finals, and after Webber called the timeout, it was probably the worst feeling I've ever had as a sports fan. Until 2003, I swore that Carolina got lucky because of that. That game pained me so much that I missed at least one opportunity to see a replay of that game until then. But after watching the game again on ESPN Classic in '03, it was clear to me the genius of Dean Smith, and Carolina deserved to win the game.

I'm an off-and-on fan. I really don't pay too much attention until the playoffs. I grew up loving the Pistons, and they're still my favorite team. I especially love the fact that Rasheed Wallace plays for them. And Isiah Thomas is still my favorite NBA player ever. I even like Bill Laimbeer. However, like many college basketball fans, besides the Pistons, I root for teams based on which players I like. And that's typically based on whether I liked them in college or not...they're usually former UNC, Mizzou, or even Michigan players. I still am a fan of Webber, Jalen Rose, and Juwan Howard despite the cheating.

After moving to St. Louis, I very quickly fell in love with NHL hockey. I still maintain that there was not a more exciting sport than NHL hockey until 1995, when the New Jersey Devils made the low-scoring, clutching and grabbing, defensive, and ultra-boring hockey the popular style of play. Ironically, during that era was when my beloved Detroit Red Wings won 3 Stanley Cups, which, to me, trumps the more exciting hockey that was played before. I knew I couldn't root for the St. Louis Blues, so I quickly adopted Steve Yzerman and the Red Wings as my team...this was '90-91, when the Blues were one of the top teams and Detroit was still sort of a shitty team. Man, hockey was so exciting to watch then: extremely fast-paced, high scoring, non-stop action, EXCITING fights. I was a huge sports fan then of basketball, football, and baseball, and I thought this "new" sport I discovered in St. Louis was BY FAR the most exciting. With the rule changes this year after the lockout, I guess hockey's supposed to be fast-paced and exciting again. I'm not convinced. I don't think they really needed to change some of the rules so drastically. JUST CALL THE FUCKING PENALTIES WHEN YOU SEE THEM, YOU STUPID-ASS REFS! From '95 on, what used to be penalties - the clutching, grabbing, illegal stickwork - stopped being called and slowed down the game to the point that if you weren't already a fan, you were never going to be a fan. It's Gary Bettman's fault. In his quest to rid the game of fighting (which 90% of fans love, and which I'd argue to be necessary), other penalties were ignored. The only real change I like is that there is now a standard to how big the goalie equipment can be. No more Patrick Roys looking like the Goodyear blimp. Now, I just casually follow the Red Wings, but I've lost a lot of interest in the NHL in general.

My family loves tennis. I used to. I watched a lot of tennis as a kid, and I was a big fan of Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe. I was also a fan of women's tennis. Now, I never watch it...unless I'm with my parents and they're watching Wimbledon.

So, that's my history of being a sports fan. Besides college basketball, I'm a casual fan at best. Because of living in Chicago, I'm starting to become more of a baseball fan again. So, Go Sox. Go Cardinals (next year). Fuck the Cubs.