January 07, 2012
GirlReaction Goes to the Movies: Favorites 2011
You know when you mention a movie you saw recently and the person you're talking to says "Oh you saw it in the theater? Really? I haven't been to a movie in the theater since..." ? Yeah, that happens to me a lot. My dad is a huge movie buff, we've been going to them as a family my whole life, I'm never going to stop going to them, and people need to STOP COMMENTING ON IT. :) Heh.
I saw 35 movies [in the theater] in 2011 which is exactly my average over the past 12 years, which means it's not as many as I wanted to see, but still a fair amount considering what the last year of life has entailed time-commitment wise.
I've been thinking about it and thinking about and it turns out my very favorite movie in 2011 was The Guard. I know I said in that review it was probably top 5 or 2 but yeah. I was wrong.
Here's the list of my favorites with links to Snip reviews and very brief commentary. [Although be warned, a bunch of them got reviewed in the same Snip post so they're quite succinct. Heh.]
1. The Guard - black humor, yet heartfelt.
2. Tree of Life - throw out that 30-minute visual creation OH HAI dinosaurs in the middle and this would have been #1. The family stuff was super compelling.
3. Red State - Kevin Smith's masterpiece.
4. The King's Speech - technically a 2010 movie for many people I'm sure. Quite lovely.
5. Beginners - the previews were so twee, I was leery of it. It was so sweet and really touching.
6. Midnight in Paris - really a movie about the joy of movies and art and connections. quite good.
7. Take Shelter - paranoia. discomfort. anxiety. but good movie making. [email me if you need the password for that review. it's the same pword that was formerly used to leave comments on Snip.]
8. Haunters - one of the most original movies you could ever possibly see. Spooky but sometimes sooooo funny.
9. True Grit - another one others saw in 2010. Really great. Gritty in the best possible way.
10. Somewhere - a slow (SLOW) but lovely exploration of how celebrity steals away one's real life.
Unfortunately movies can be a little harder to choose than books and I also saw some real doozies in 2011. The WORST movies I saw were Hanna (the dialogue was horrible, the plot had so many holes), The Green Hornet in 3D (overdone, dumb--heh, sounds like I didn't quite dislike it as much in my original review as in my memory. I guess it got worse with time!), Bridesmaids (I HATE THAT MOVIE. I'm SO SICK of people talking about how it's finally the movie that shows how girls are. NO IT IS NOT) and The Company Men a ridiculous movie that misread its possible audience in such a huge way.
Biggest tearjerker: Buck
Most nostalgia creating: Super 8
Cleverest dialogue: Young Adult
Most ridiculous scenario: Cowboys & Aliens
Best house lived in by main character: The Mechanic
Made me feel most voyeuristic and icky: Blue Valentine
Felt most like 89 movies I'd seen before: The Fighter
Made me super mad: Black Swan
Movie I really liked that no one else in the world saw: Somewhere
Possibly the best EVER use of 3D with some of the world's most annoying voiceovers: Cave of Forgotten Dreams
Best action movie: Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol
Best song sung by lead actor: Martha Marcy May Marlene
Also best introduction of a new actor: Martha Marcy May Marlene
And that's it for 2011. I have my first two flicks of 2012 lined up for today and tomorrow (VERY LATE for me, last year I saw 7 movies in the first 7 days of January) and I can't wait to see them!
January 06, 2012
GirlReaction Reads: Favorites of 2011
I read 113 books in 2011 which is higher than my 85-book average for the past 6 years (see more stats here) but pretty much par for the course. Also I don't usually include textbooks and articles on my reading lists but this year I did include all the children's and YA fiction I read for a class I took this fall because, after all, it was fiction! :) It wasn't a class that counted toward my degree, just an elective I had been wanting to take. Only crazy people take an extra class during student teaching though; I can't say I really recommend it!
I read more non-fiction than usual (a lot of memoirs!) but no short stories at all. What? (I did start 2012 off with some though!)
It's always hard to pin these things down, but...
My top six very favorite books read during 2011 were (not in any order) "Wonderstruck" by Brian Selznick, Love Is the Higher Law, by David Levithan, "State of Wonder" by Ann Patchett, "36 Arguments for the Existence of God", by Rebecca Newberger Goldstein (that's fiction, despite its non-fiction-like sounding title), "Mother's Milk" by Edward St. Aubyn and "Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter" by Tom Franklin.
I also really really loved two of the last books I read in December: "A Discovery of Witches" by Deborah Harkness (not at all Twilight for adults, as I keep seeing it called--the quirks of the publishing industry's advertising could really drive one to madness, couldn't they?) and "Falling Together" by Marisa de los Santos.
I do read a ton of both adult and YA fantasy/sci fi, as you might know heh, and my favorites in 2011 were "Divergent" by Veronica Roth, "The Name of the Wind" by Patrick Rothfuss, "Aftertime" by Sophie Littlefield, "Across the Universe" by Beth Revis and "Hunger" by Jackie Morse Kessler.
Other YA, but not fantasy, or not really, books I loved were "Ninth Ward" by Jewell Parker Rhodes, and both "Okay for Now" and "The Wednesday Wars" by Gary D. Schmidt. And I particularly loved a novel in verse "Inside Out & Back Again" by Thanhha Lai.
I enjoyed Rosanne Cash and Keith Richards' memoirs, I loved both the fiction and non-fiction I read by David H. Hackworth, widely known as one of America's most decorated soldiers (now deceased), I would recommend absolutely any and everything (romance and memoir) written by my good friend Rachael Herron and if you want to revisit my favorite fantasy books of all time as I did this year I recommend The Tornor Chronicles by Elizabeth A. Lynn (book 1 is "Watchtower") and The Prydain Chronicles by Lloyd Alexander (book 1 is "The Book of Three").
I read a LOT of stuff I loved this year, a lot of stuff that was good and fun and only a very few things I wish I hadn't wasted time on and most of those woudn't wind up appearing on the read list anyway! :) I grew out of that whole "I HAVE to finish every book I start!" baloney in my late 30s. There just isn't time for bad books. And there are SO many good ones out there!!
March 24, 2009
Duff's Favorite Tunes 2008
This is pretty redundant at this point, not only because it's nearly the end of March, but considering I did monthly reviews of pretty much everything I bought in 2008, as well as occasionally posting thoughts on individual albums. (I may have skipped things like "CDs bought in foreign countries" and such.) But this makes those "give me some music ideas" emails less annoying.
(with links to Snip commentary. sometimes.)
Bon Iver "For Emma, Forever Ago" Swoon. I know all the cool kids had this album in 2007. I ain't that cool, yo. Love the album, love him in concert (see Favorite Gigs category down at the bottom). Love love love. Fave song: Re: Stacks
Jesse Malin "Glitter in the Gutter" Rockin'. Can't even pick a fave song, just love the entire thing.
Fleet Foxes Listening to FF is like sitting in a field of daisies in 1973 while people around you kiss and weave each other bracelets. May be a bit 'twee for some. (But it's so pretty!) Fave Songs: "White Winter Hymnal" "He Doesn't Know Why" "Your Protector" "Oliver James"
Earlimart "Hymn & Her" With every album they just get better and better. Pretty and intimate. Fave songs: "Time for Yourself" "For the Birds" "Town Where You Belong"
My Morning Jacket "Evil Urges" I lovelovelove this album. But I did NOT like "Z". At all. If you peruse le Internet, you may find that everyone who liked this album was not much of an MMJ fan before, and those who were, were greatly disappointed. Ah well. Fave song: "I'm amazed"
Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin "Pershing" I didn't even listen to this album until months after I bought it. Which is just so wrong 'cuz it's so good. Fave song: "Heers"
Carla Bruni "Comme si de rien n'etait" Her french albums just take my breath away. Why do I even pretend to try to learn this language? I'll never sound like this when I speak. Fave song: "Tu Es Ma Came"
The Submarines "Honeysuckle Weeks" Has the same intimate boy/girl vibe of Earlimart but more poppy, more upbeat. It just grew on me more and more as the year went by. Fave songs: "Swimming Pool" "You, Me and the Bourgeoisie"
- Billionaires "Really Real for Forever" I would love to see these guys live.
- Nana Grizol "Love It Love It" Upbeat! Fun times!
- Raconteurs "Consolers of the Lonely" I always wind up listening to Jack White's various projects more than I expect to.
- Nada Surf "Lucky" Whole album is good. "See These Bones" is such a great song.
- Missy Higgins "On a Clear Night" She's got such a great voice.
- Meg Hutchinson "Come Up Full" First three songs just knock it out of the park. Really lovely.
- Gnarls Barkley "The Odd Couple" Too bad it got such an abrupt release. I think it's just as awesome as their first one.
- Beck "Modern Guilt" Really good, just never listened to it much
- Everlast "Love, War, and the Ghost of Whitey Ford" This guy's voice just kills me
- Frightened Rabbit "The Midnight Organ Fight" Would've been a total fave if I'd managed to buy it before December. Le sigh. And I absolutely LOVE "Backwards Walk".
Favorite 2008 Artist Not Mentioned Anywhere Above:
Joseph Arthur who put out FOUR EPs ("Crazy Rain" "Could We Survive" "Vagabond Skies" and "Foreign Girls") as well as joining with the Lonely Astronauts for a full album ("Temporary Peple"). Which puts him at ridiculous output levels, along the lines of Ryan Adams and Joe Purdy. I really loved all the EPs; the full album is good, just not quite at their level. Fave songs: "Slow Me Down" "Lovely Cost" "Radio Euphoria"
Guilty Pleasure: Shwayze
Violent-Femme reminiscent: Wave Pictures "Instant Coffee Baby"
Dance, dance, dance: Cut Copy "In Ghost Colours"; Dan le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip "Angles"
Favorite Singles: (not on any of the aforementioned albums)
- "Halo" Beyonce
- "Alphabutt" Kimya Dawson
- "Too Drunk to Dream" Magnetic FIelds
- "It's Amazing" Jem
- "Honey Let Me Sing You a Song" Matt Hires
- "I Never Thought I Could Feel This Way About a Boy" The Scotland Yard Gospel Choir
- "Fighter Girl" Mason Jennings
- "I Wrote a Song About Your Car" Mike Doughty (first heard years ago. FINALLY on an album)
- "Forever Song "Josh Pyke
- "She Loves Everybody" Chester French
- "Sing Along" Virginia Coalition
- "I Woke Up Today" Port O'Brien
- "Ode to Sad Clown" Joe Purdy
- "Rise" Will Dailey Sometimes watching reruns leads to listening to old tunes. (Interpret "sometimes" liberally.)
- "Roadway Hymn" La Rocca
- "She's Not Me" Madonna
- "Incredible" Madonna
- "Last Thing on Your Mind" Lights
- "U and Me" Trina
- "Mrs. Officer" Lil Wayne
- "Hologram" Katie Herzig
- "How the Day Sounds" Greg Laswell
- "Chicago" Lucy Wainwright Roche
- "All that Remains" Raya Yarbrough & Bear McCreary
- "Moment of Weakness" Matt White
- "Alright, Okay" Ryan Auffenberg
- "The Ground That We Stand On" Hawksley Workman
- "City" Paddy Casey (love the opening)
- "Sober" Pink
- "Daddy's Little Girl" The Knux
- "Spaceman" The Killers
- "This Is Your Life" The Killers
- "Duet" Rachael Yamagata & Ray LaMontagne
- "Folsom Prison Blues" Everlast (Johnny Cash) This is just so many times awesome. The whistly horse sound? Yeesss.
- "Forever Young" Audra Mae & Forest Rangers (Rod Stewart) Featured on Sons of Anarchy.
- "Tiger Mountain Peasant Song" First Aid Kit (Fleet Foxes) Even prettier than the original. Super spooky.
- "I Should Have Known Better" She & Him (Beatles) You really can't go wrong with a Beatles cover. Myself, I would go with "Run for Your Life".
So I sorta went to 70 shows in 2008. I'd totally say that next time I wonder how I'm wasting all my time away, you could just yell "Concerts!" except I seem to have SERIOUSLY turned this trend around in 2009 (three months in and I've only been to two shows. What?!?). Anywho... 10 of those 70 were openers, so it was really only 60 shows. And 6 were at Monolith, 5 at Lollapalooza and 13(!) at Pitchfork, so you know, that's really like seeing 24 sets at three shows so... Anyway, my favorites were:
- Bon Iver Who I saw three times but my favorite was the second time which was at Lakeshore Theater, which is literally around the corner from home. and has seats. yay for both, says the old lady.
- Crowded House Mostly because they sing my favorite song of all time and I've only been waiting to see these guys live practically my entire adult life. And yes, I know it's not the FULL original lineup.
- Matt Nathanson More for his humorous banter than for the tunes.
- Earlimart. So so pretty.
- Avett Brothers. These guys could fill up the world with their sound.
- Band of Horses. A truly magical moment at Monolith.
- Great Lake Swimmers. FINAFUCKINGLY.
- Mumford and Sons. So unexpected.
March 08, 2009
GirlReaction Reads: Favorites of 2008
So I only read 79 books in 2008 which is definitely on the low end for me. Then I checked the numbers and found that I have read fewer books each year since 2004. What's up with that? 2004 = 114, 2005 = 96, 2006 =87, 2007 = 85 and now 2008 = 79. This is NOT a trend I want to see continuing...but since I've already read more than 20 books in 2009 so far...I *think* it may be under control.
As with other lists, this is not necessarily books published in 2008, it's books I read in 2008, regardless of when published.
My Favorite Ten Books of 2008 Were:
(in chronological order of my reading, with links to my Snip reviews)
- Native Guard, by Natasha Thretheway (poetry) Unlike any poetry I've read before.
- The Complete Stories, by David Malouf (stories) My fave Aussie writer. He can write from ANY viewpoint.
- The Monsters of Templeton, by Lauren Groff An excellent first novel.
- Lush Life, by Richard Price This guy can write dialogue like no one else.
- Dark Roots, by Cate Kennedy (stories) Another Aussie. Succinct but intense.
- The Likeness, by Tana French Follow-up to one of my favorite books from last year. So.Damn.Good.
- Dead Boys, by Richard Lange (stories) Engaging, unexpected and truly original.
- Iodine, by Haven Kimmel Possibly her least accessible book. Dark.
- The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson Spooky pasts. Dark and twisted.
- Tender Morsels, by Margo Langan So good. Poignant and brutal at the same time.
- Belong to Me, by Marisa de los Santos Better than chicklit.
- Deaf Sentence, by David Lodge His characters are aging as he does. But no signs of slowing down.
- Sway, by Zachary Lazar The Morocco interactions with Keith were my favorite parts.
- Absurdistan, by Gary Shteyngart Insanely hilarious.
- War with the Newts, by Karel Capek Truly timeless.
- The Farther Shore, by Matthew Eck A war novel for OUR time.
- Life Class, by Pat Barker Hasn't lost the magic, if you ask me, despite what other reviews said.
Breaking things down in the manner of Ex Libris, of the 79 books I read:
- 10 were short-story collections, either by one author or by various authors. Part of that was by design (Dad and I read short stories every other month for our 2008 challenge). And part because Elizabeth Crane got me all excited about short stories a couple years ago and I read them much more now than I did in the past.
- Eight were non-fiction, but since five of those were BStarG nonfiction...well, that's more a TV thing than a "me reading non-fiction" thing. So it's more like three were non-fiction.
- And two were poetry. But I don't always put the poetry on the list, particularly if it's a re-read, so that may not be totally accurate.
- Not counting the BStarG non-fiction, there were eight authors I read more than one book by: five with two reads (Nick Hornby, David Malouf, Dick Francis, Rita Mae Brown, Lee Child); one with three (Paul Park), and two tied for most repeats with six reads, those authors being Harlan Coben and Patricia Briggs. Coben writes the Myron Bolitar mysteries, which I do enjoy, although I find I enjoy them less as the series has gone on (see the last one I read). Patricia Briggs writes truly fantastic sci fi and fantasy, some set in that indefinable middle ages/medieval seeming world so typical of fantasy (try this or this), and some (the Mercy Thompson books) set in the modern day. Everything I've read by her I have loved and I would recommend all of it.
You can read reviews of other books I read in 2008 not discussed here if you search for their names on Snip or you can just click on "reading" in the categories list to read any/all comments I've taken the time to post. I'm always happy to talk books so feel free to email me (link in right column) if you want more details on one or another or if you want to recommend something you think I'd like!
Now back to the book I started today...
March 05, 2009
Duff's Favorite Movies 2008
Why no I don't find it odd at all to be doing my best-ofs in March, three months later. But thanks for asking.
And it's probably worth mentioning once again that this represents WHAT I SAW in 2008. Not what was released in 2008.
So I saw 40 movies in the theater in 2008 (only counting the first viewing, per my usual) which would be pretty good...except for the fact that 15 of those were seen in 10 days in October at the Chicago Film Festival. So the rest of the year I saw only 25 films which averages out to two a month. Kinda lame. I don't blame the lack of good movies however (come on); it's really my preference for lying on the floor doing nothing that gets in the way. Bygones.
The Best Movies I Saw in 2008 Were:
(linked to my Snip reviews)
1. Iron Man. WIthout a fucking doubt. This SHOULD have won awards.
2. Milk. So well done.
3. Let the Right One In. Spooky!
4. Zach and Miri Make a Porno. Hilarious. Yet sweet.
5. Wanted. AWESOME. With a few plot holes. Bygones.
6. Hunger. So sad.
7. The Dark Knight. It wasn't as good as IronMan. But it was good.
8. Tropic Thunder. Fucking pure hilarity.
9. Atonement. Gorgeous. Just as good as the book.
10. Leatherheads. Beautifully filmed. And I really do not care for Renee Z., yet she was unable to ruin it for me.
Other Movies I Really Liked, Include:
Redbelt. True, I may be the only person who saw it.
Cloverfield. COME ON PEOPLE. Monsters are good.
The Fall. So pretty.
The Duchess. So sad.
Burn After Reading. Look at the layer beneath.
Movies I Thought Were Overrated, Include:
Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist. Too pretentious. Too teenage.
Sex and the City. Too long, too superficial.
Two Lovers. We saw this at the aforementioned festival. It pretty much sucked. Now it's out in theaters and getting RAVE reviews. SRSLY PEOPLE IT SUCKED.
Miss Pettigrew Lives for the Day. So wrong. Read the book instead.
There Will Be Blood. Great performance by DDL. But I don't ever need to see it again. EVER.
Vantage Point. Too much of a mess. The more time you spend thinking about it, the more the filmmakers fucked this one up halfway through.
Movies I Thought Were Underrated:
Quantum of Solace. Yes, he needed to take his shirt off more. Yes, it's a lot like Bourne. AND THAT'S A GOOD THING.
Be Kind, Rewind. Fun. and Sweet.
Wanted. Too many Jolie haters need to get over themselves.
January 10, 2008
Duff's Favorite Movies 2007
I went to 57 movies in the theater in 2007 (full list here). (Technically more if you count the ones I went to twice, which I don't.) I'd say that's higher than recent years but certainly not my BEST year.
The BEST movies I saw in 2007 were:
3. A Mighty Heart
4. No Country for Old Men
5. American Gangster
8. In the Valley of Elah
9. The Bourne Ultimatum
10. Gone Baby Gone
If I were to add to that list, the movies I ENJOYED the most in 2007, I'd have to add:
- Music & Lyrics
- Hot Fuzz
- Sweeney Todd
If I were to add a foreign films category, I'd have to add:
- The Lives of Others
- Pan's Labyrinth
- La Vie en Rose
I saw a bunch of bio pics this year, some done traditionally ("La Vie en Rose" - Edith Piaf; "Control" - Ian Curtis) as well as less traditional ones ("The Last King of Scotland" - Idi Amin [not REALLY a bio pic but feels like one]; "I'm Not There" - Bob Dylan). I saw 7 not-likely-to-see-these-elsewhere flicks at the Chicago Film Festival and some '70s flicks on the big screen thanks to the Chicago Humanities Festival.
I saw great performances in movies that I didn't love (George Clooney in "Michael Clayton"; Claire Danes in "Evening"; my boyfriend Joaquin Phoenix in "We Own the Night"; Will Smith in "I Am Legend") and great performances in movies I thought were good but just didn't beat out others on the lists above (Philip Seymour Hoffman in "Charlie Wilson's War"; Casey Affleck in "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford" [as well as in aforementioned "Gone Baby Gone"; Casey Affleck was really a standout performer for me this year!]; Viggo Mortenson in "Eastern Promises"). I saw sweet movies that weren't great but were still enjoyable ("Dan in Real Life"; "Catch and Release"; "Stardust"). I went to sequels ("28 Weeks Later"; "Pirates 3"; "Oceans 13"). I really liked a couple documentaries ([the aforementioned] JUMP! and Helvetica) and it was good to see Alien-like sci fi return to the theaters ("Sunshine") as well as Westerns, dang I've missed those ("3:10 to Yuma"; aforementioned "Assassination of...").
I did NOT like some movies that were highly praised by others:
- Margot at the Wedding (worst movie of the year)
- The Lookout
- Knocked Up
- The Walker (second worst of the year)
And thought some were OK, but didn't live up to the hype:
There are reviews up on Snip, you can search by name or sort by "watchin".
And 2008 has started off quite nicely with "Atonement" being a movie that would have been very high on my 2007 list had I seen it before the end of the year.
January 08, 2008
GirlReaction Reads: Favorites of 2007
I read 85 books (full list here) in 2007, that's probably about average for me, sometimes closer to 100, rarely below 50. Books may or may not have come out this year, it's that I read them this year that counts.
My Favorite Six Books of 2007 were:
- "Winter's Bone" by Daniel Woodrell (fiction)
- "Love Is a Mix Tape" by Rob Sheffield (memoir/music)
- "The Used World" by Haven Kimmel (fiction)
- "Why the Devil Chose New England for His Work" by Jason Brown (short stories)
- "Remainder" by Tom McCarthy (fiction)
- "Freddy and Fredericka" by Mark Helprin (fiction / really, really funny)
(Very very close) Runners Up Were:
- "Run" by Ann Patchett
- "Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith" by Jon Krakauer (wow, could NOT put it down. he's a great researcher/writer)
- "Simplify" by Todd Goldberg
- "The Uncommon Reader" by Alan Bennett (sooo funny)
- "The Yiddish Policemen's Union" by Michael Chabon
Favorite New (to me) Discoveries:
- Scarlett Thomas ("The End of Mr. Y" - philosophical fiction)
- Margo Lanagan ("Black Juice" and "Red Spikes" - thanks Marrije!! - fantasy short stories)
- Tana French ("In the Woods" - best mystery I read this year!!)
- Chris Cleave ("Incendiary" - fiction)
I Read a Bunch of Good Books by Authors I Already Loved:
The aforementioned books from Haven Kimmel (and "She Got Up Off the Couch..." too), Ann Patchett (and "Taft" too) and Michael Chabon (and "Gentlemen of the Road" too). As well as:
- "The Rain Before It Falls" by Jonathan Coe
- "Day" by A.L.Kennedy
- "Death of a Writer" by Michael Collins
- "The Quarry" by Damon Galgut (won the Booker for his previous book "The Good Doctor")
- "Killing Pablo" by Mark Bowden (can he write a bad book?)
- "12 Edmondstone Street" by David Malouf
- "Black Cat" by Martyn Bedford
- "An Invisible Sign of My Own" by Aimee Bender
- "Ludmilla's Broken English" by DBC Pierre (another former Booker winner)
I read some more "Looks like Chick Lit but Isn't (It's Better!)" (Leah Stewart, Marisa de los Santos, Nina Solomon). I continued to work on Proust (three down, three to go?). I read mysteries from Jake Arnott, Lee Child, Dick Francis, and Harlan Coben. I read bits of different sci fi/fantasy series (James Morrow, a true god of writing; Terry Goodkind's Chainfire & Sword of Truth series; George R.R. Martin). I read books about vampires and werewolves and the like (Tanya Huff, Patricia Briggs, Stephenie Meyers, Amber Benson & Christopher Golden among others) and that's not even counting all the Buffy Season 8 comics!
It was a good year.
December 17, 2007
Duff's Favorite Music in 2007
There's nothing more fun in December than perusing the master list of year-end music lists gathered up by Large-Hearted Boy (he posts a list of the updates each day). And two of my favorite posts in that list are this one (a cheat sheet for indie bloggers) and this one (where he predicts what publications will choose based on their previous picks).
Favorite Albums of 06 Not Bought by Lame-O Me until 07
Ghostface Killah "Fishscale" So damn good.
James Hunter "People Gonna Talk" You'd never believe it was this voice coming out of that body.
Favorite Overall Artists this Year:
Matt Nathanson, who I listened to obsessively for several months after Mariko sent me his (old?) Live album ("At the Point") and then his new album ("Car Crash") came out. Witty and sarcastic and lots of fun.
Josh Ritter, whose 06 album ("The Animal Years") I didn't get until January and he then put out an 07 album ("The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter") as well. He's all over the place style and influence wise, but I NEVER feel the need to hit "forward" when he shows up on the pod.
Ben Harper, whose new album ("Lifeline") and two live shows were pretty much the highlight of my (late) summer. Like Ritter, he is a man of many musical styles and many musical skills. Listen to "Say You Will" to shake your booty and "Lifeline" to cry yourself to sleep when you wind up going home alone again.
And Griffin House, a ridiculously young (ridiculously hot) dude with a million albums out who sings my current favorite song "The Guy That Says Goodbye to You is Out of His Mind". He's got some twang to him but he's more "songwriter/ storyteller/ folkster" than he is country.
My Favorite Albums of 2007 (other than those by the boys mentioned above)
Note I said "Favorite". I'm not going to argue the 'best' question especially since there are albums that I thought were pretty damn excellent but hey, turned out I didn't listen to them very much, so they just didn't wind up being a Favorite. And I don't listen to ANY techno (or stuff that's electronic enough that I myself would call it techno and you technoheads would be like Dude! That XX album is NOT Techno!) so that eliminates a LOT of albums I was curious about on other people's lists. (No wonder I hadn't heard of them.) Then there's the issue that the sad solitudinous-sounding (there's a new word for ya!) albums are always going to rank higher with me than the happy ones... I am who I am.
1. The National "Boxer"
From the first minute I listened to this, I knew it had #1 locked up. The lead's deep, deep (hypnotic) voice. (Deep like Ian Curtis deep.) The thick thumping rhythms. Really intriguing (and unforgettable) lyrics. I am lame and had never heard them before this year! (I KNOW!) I could lie on the couch/ in my bed/ on the floor with the lights low listening to this for hours on end. They sounded just as wonderful live.
Favorite songs: "Green Gloves" "Slow Show"
2. Band of Horses "Cease to Begin"
Less poppy than the Shins. More quirky than Rogue Wave. Really haunting. Almost to the point of spookiness at times. Cannot get enough.
Favorite songs: "No One's Gonna Love You" "Detlef Schrempf"
3. Eddie Vedder "Into the Wild"
I don't know how this happened but whenever ANY of these songs came up on "random" or "shuffle", I immediately had to stop whatever I was doing and listen to the entire album, start to finish, a few times. Sound Opinions did a hilarious breakdown of some of the lyrics...and I agree...but that doesn't stop me from just loving the sounds and the mood and the feelings. I really think I can feel Alaska in my mind when I'm listening to this.
Favorite songs: "No Ceiling" "Society"
4. Travis "The Boy With No Name"
So damn good. Love their lyrics, their melodies, their sweetness. Maybe next time they won't wait so long to put out a new album. And LOVEDLOVEDLOVED them live. One of my favorite live shows EVER, let alone this year.
Favorite songs: "Battleships" "Sailing Away" (that one's an iTunes bonus track) "My Eyes"
5. Earlimart "Mentor Tormentor"
Subtle sounds for the melancholy melodramatic moper inside me. (Not that it's either melancholy or melodramatic music, but it works for me. during those times. you know. THOSE TIMES. Of the melancholy. And the melodrama. Do you not know me at all?) Love the boy/girl vocals and the quiet intensity. Why don't more people know about this band? Why don't more people LOVE this band?
Favorite songs: "Answers and Questions" (especially the chorus!) "The Little Things"
6. Mr. Hudson & the Library "A Tale of Two Cities"
A gift from MicheleG, this one really snuck up on me. Loved "On the Street Where You Live" immediately, thought the rest was fun...and then found myself queuing it up again and again and again...
Favorite songs: "On the Street Where You Live" "Cover Girl"
7. Midlake "The Trials of Van Occupanther"
The most '70s sounding disk of the year. Lots of layered vocals. They were spellbinding live. Spellfuckingbinding I tell you. Not really a fan of their old stuff but this album gets me every time.
Favorite songs: "Head Home" "Van Occupanther"
8. Great Lake Swimmers "Ongiara"
Really lovely. Like everything they do. Thick, layered, beautiful. I keep missing their Chicago shows but I swear I will see them before I croak. High hopes that 2008 will be the year!
Favorite songs: "Changing Colours" "There Is a Light"
Runners Up (or "all the albums that tied for 9th and 10th and I could not be bothered to choose between them"):
Rogue Wave "Asleep at Heaven's Gate"
Like BoH, they are less poppy than the Shins, but not as folk as BoH. Their sound is like...ringing a bell deep down into a well. Very distinctive lead vocals.
Shane Nicholson "Faith & Science"
Following in the Finns' footsteps, lovely voice, lyrics, etc.. And he's easy on the eyes, so there's that.
The Alternate Routes "Good and Reckless and True"
The perfect soundtrack for a roadtrip.
The Magic Numbers "Those the Brokes"
Poppy bubbly fun. I'm a fan of everything they do. Great harmonies.
The Bees (US) "High Society"
Another album of FUN.
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club "Baby 81"
Probably the rockingest stuff I listened to this year. Really fell for them live.
Sara Bareilles "Little Voice"
Got this album very very cheap from iTunes, what a bargain. Rachael Yamagata-esque if you need a comparison.
Okkervil River "The Stage Names"
They always seem a bit rougher 'round the edges to me than their peers.
Byron recommended a single and I found myself listening to this album a lot. Lovely.
Athlete "Beyond the Neighborhood"
Have been a fan for several years now. Just a matter of time until these guys blow up (US-wise, I'm sure they're huge in the UK already). Really intimate, excellent live show.
Youth Group "Casino Twilight Dogs"
Aussie rockers. Loved them live.
Favorite Singles of 2007 (that weren't on albums mentioned above):
- "Let's Get Out of This Country" Camera Obscura
- "I Think I Love You" The Guggenheim Grotto
- "Please Don't Pass Me By" Jack Harlan
- "When I Wake" The Changes
- "Waterfall" Griffin House
- "I Remember" Chris Brokaw
- "Lord Give Me a Sign" DMX (old but I listened to it a lot)
- "Entering Bootytown" (from Music & Lyrics)
- "Eyes" Rogue Wave
- "The Inauguration" Bun B
- "Life Is Beautiful" Vega4 (sounds like Snow Patrol)
- "Intervention" Arcade Fire
- "Communist Love Song" Soltero
- "Don't You Think It's Time" Bob Evans
- "Walk Over Me" Dirtie Blonde
- "Been There All the Time" Dinosaur Jr (love the plaintive, pleading vocals)
- "Diamond Ring" Joseph Arthur (Love this song. Love him. Is he single? I'll be his diamond ring)
- "Something Violet" Bishop Allen
- "Find Love (Let Go)" Kyle Andrews
- "It Never Rains in Southern California" Albert Hammond (old but I listened to it a lot after the VM finale)
- "Chicago Promenade" Jason Isbell
- "1 2 3 4" Feist (it's all over but it's THAT GOOD)
- "Take Me to the Riot" Stars
- "RE: Your Brain" Jonathan Coulton (blame the Nipper! I do!)
- "Our Life Is Not a Movie or Maybe" Okkervil River
- "The Underdog" Spoon
- "Scar That Never Heals" Jeremy Fisher
- "Saving Grace" (theme) Everlast
- "Black Like Me" Spoon
- "Our Friends Appear Like the Dawn" Bodies of Water
- "Beloved" Minnie Driver (surprising!)
- "Sinkin' Low" Joe Purdy
- "The Way I Am" Ingrid Michaelson
- "See These Bones" Nada Surf (over and over!)
- "George W Told the Nation" Tom Paxton
- "Heart of the City (Ain't No Love" Jay Z (old but it's all over the American Gangster trailers)
- "To Build a Home" The Cinematic Orchestra (sounds like Antony & the Johnsons)
- "Do You Feel Me" Anthony Hamilton (more American Gangster love)
- "Bastard of Midnight" The Damnwells
- "Secret Passed Along" Twin Atlas
- "No Blue Sky" The Thorns (old, but soooo good)
Things I am obsessively listening to in December and would be in my Top 10 except I just got them a week or so ago:
Bat for Lashes "Fur and Gold" Really lovely. Quirky and hypnotic.
Sea Wolf "Leaves in the River" Sometimes fast & happy, sometimes sad & slow. Just lke me!
Favorite Covers (I got) in 2007 (they may not have come out this year)
- "Forever Young" Youth Group (Rod Stewart?)
- "The Heart of the Matter" India.Arie (Henley/Eagles)
- "You're the One that I Want" Beck (grease sdtrk)
- "Romeo & Juliet" Matt Nathanson (??) (Have you ever heard the Indigo Girls do this live? it's awesome)
- "Build Me Up, Buttercup" Rhymefest & ODB (old )
- "Waiting for a Superman" Brooke (The Flaming Lips) (via Everybody Cares)
- "I Will Follow" Waz (U2) (via Fuel/Friends)
- "Goin' to Acapulco" Jim James & Calexico (Dylan)
- "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" Antony & the Johnsons (Dylan)
- "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere" Glen Hansard & Market Irglova (Dylan)
- "Streets of Philadelphia" David Gray (Springsteen, right?)
- "On the Street Where You Live" Mr. Hudson & the Library (My Fair Lady)
- "Only Love Can Break Your Heart" Saint Etienne (Neil Young) (Everlast also does a great cover of this!)
- "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" Greg Laswell (the sad, slow, depressing version. I'm not kiddin'.)
- "Papa Don't Preach" Picturehouse (Madonna)
- "Raining in Baltimore" Brandi Carlile (Counting Crows) (via Fuel/Friends)
- "I'm on Fire" Bat for Lashes (Springsteen?)
Liked But Didn't Love or Just Didn't Wind Up Listening to That Much:
There were LOTS of good albums put out this year by artists I have loved in the past...and many of them I do indeed think are GOOD albums, they just weren't my favorites. It's the luck of the draw as well, as you have to be a better album earlier in the year to maintain your place in the favorites than you do at the end, don't you?
Arcade Fire "Neon Bible" (love some singles, don't love the whole thing); Crowded House "Time on Earth" (love their old stuff, this is good, just not great.); Shins "Wincing the Night Away" (good but just never listened to it that often); Fall Out Boy "Infinity on High" (fun but I didn't listen to it much after the first month); White Stripes "Icky Thump" (their albums always take awhile to grow on me, I'll probably listen to it obsessively next spring sometime); Ryan Adams "Easy Tiger" (as good as his old stuff. but I'm kinda 'over' him you know? he used to be in my top 10 EVERY YEAR and I would rush to buy him the first day of release. now I have a more laidback attitude about when I get to his stuff, how much I focus on it, etc.); Kanye West "Graduation" (good but not as good as the previous. not as joyful); The Thrills "Teenager" (like it but not a departure from their previous stuff); Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings "100 Days, 100 Nights" (I lovelovelove their previous album. This one just doesn't measure up to that one, to my ear.).
Other Albums I Liked a Lot This Year:
January: The Long Blondes "Someone to Drive You Home", Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly. "The Chronicles of a Bohemian Teenager"
February: Music & Lyrics soundtrack (I can listen to this thing over and over!), The Essex Green "Cannibal Sea"
March: The Fratellis "Costello Music", Ted Leo & The Pharmacists "Living with the Living"
April: Kyle Andrews "Amos in Ohio", Liam Frost & the Slowdown Family "Show Me How the Spectres Dance"
May: Elvis Perkins "Ash Wednesday"
June: Candy Butchers "Hang On Mike", Jenny Owens Youngs "Batten the Hatches"
July: Stars "In Our Bedroom After the War", Jason Isbell "Sirens of the Ditch", The Changes "Today Is Tonight", Josh Rouse "Country Mouse, City House"
August: (Lots and lots of rap en francais. Email me if you want specifics), Rhymefest "Blue Collar", Aesop Rock "None Shall Pass"
September: Hard-Fi "Once Upon a Time in the West", Jeremy Fisher "Goodbye Blue Monday", Fionn Regan "The End of History"
October: Joshua James "The Sun Is Always Brighter", Joe Purdy "Take My Blanket and Go"
November: David Gray live covers album "A Thousand Miles Behind", Great Northern "Trading Twilight for Daylight"
December: Augie March "Moo, You Bloody Choir", Brother Ali "The Undisputed Truth", Jay-Z "American Gangster", The Foxboro Hot Tubs (Green Day secret project?) "Stop Drop and Roll"
My Favorite Live Gigs This Year:
1. Gomez. Amazing show. But they're low on everyone's 07 radar since they didn't put out an album this year.
2. Travis. So much fucking fun in concert.
3. The National. Just as beautiful as the album.
4. Polyphonic Spree x2. highest energy show you'll ever see.
5. Ben Harper x2. He's amazing.
6. Griffin House. He's hot.
7. The Decemberists. So polished.
8. Midlake. Bewitching.
January 02, 2007
GirlReaction Reads: Favorites of 2006
[originally posted on Snip]
[Limiting myself MOSTLY to books published and read this year, as opposed to all the books I read this year.]
The best NON fiction books I read this year were "Guests of the Ayatollah" by Mark Bowden and "The Year of Magical Thinking" by Joan Didion.
The best novels I read were "Black Swan Green" by David Mitchell, "Sharp Objects" by Gillian Flynn and "Towing Jehovah" by James Morrow [that one was not pub this year].
The best short stories I read were "In Persuasian Nation" by George Saunders and "When the Messenger Is Hot" by Elizabeth Crane (not from this year either).
The best poetry was "Strong Is Your Hold" by Galway Kinnell.
Duff's Favorite Movies 2006
[originally posted at Snip]
By far, the best film I saw this year was "The Departed". For drama, I also highly recommend "Inside Man" "The Queen" and I personally loved "Marie Antoinette". For a smaller film "Come Early Morning" was very well done. For comedy "Scoop" and "Clerks 2" were both quite funny, in their own ways. "Casino Royale" was the Best Bond, perhaps ever. And "The Prestige" was a good movie about just how horrifically awful human beings can be. So you'd have to keep that in mind, should you choose to see it. There were other movies I liked also.
I'm pretty good at not going to movies I can tell I'm not going to like, in my old age. I'd have to say "Last Kiss" (yuck) and "Match Point" ("Scoop" is so much better!) were my least favorite movies in the theater this year and "The DaVinci Code" was about how I expected: not good, but not as bad as I had heard. Average. Middling.
For Keanu lovers like myself, there wasn't a damn thing wrong with "The Lakehouse." You can see the whole list of what I saw here or you can view Snip by category "watchin"; although I oddly forgot to write up a LOT of the concerts I saw, I pretty consistently reported back on movies.
And I've already seen my first movie of 2007 although I haven't written it up yet. Soon! :)
December 31, 2006
Duff's Favorite Albums 2006
Favorite Album of 2005 that I Didn't Get Until 2006
Flipsyde "We the People" Why I wasted six months before buying this album I'll never know. The exact type of rapping/ singing blend I tend to like (think Chronic Future). Sassy and smart and stylistically diverse. Love it.
Favorite Songs: "US History" (great fucking song, dudes) "Trumpets" "Flipsyde"
Favorite Albums of 2006
1. Gnarls Barkley "St. Elsewhere" Band of the year, album of the year, and song of the year. These guys blew everyone else away. Not only are they great musicians, but they are all about having FUN with it: unrelentingly HAPPY and never shy about showing it.
Favorite Songs: "Crazy" Of course!! It was THE song of 2006! "Smiley Faces" "Just a Thought"
2. Gomez "How We Operate" If I had bought this on LP, I would have worn out the grooves. Didn't know them before this album. Love the contrast between the vocals tempo and the harmonies/background. Love the melodies.
Favorite Songs: "All Too Much" "How We Operate" "Hamoa Beach" "See the World" "Cry on Demand"
3. Golden Smog "Another Fine Day" This was a constant listen all summer long. Much more straight "rock" than most of the stuff I listened to this year.
Favorite Songs: "Long Time Ago" "Cure for This" "Strangers"
4. Hilltop Hoods "The Hard Road" Australian rap; probably my favorite purchase from the trip. No noticeable hos or bitches or guns or what you might expect if you listen to much American rap. Using the genre to different effect. Politically aware. Literate (Oscar Wilde shoutout, anyone?). Great beats. Unusual backdrops.
Favorite Songs: "Recapturing the Vibe" "The Hard Road" "Conversation from a Speakeasy" "Breathe"
5. Rosanne Cash "Black Cadillac" Dedicated to her mom, dad and stepmom, all dead in the past few years. Spent so much time listening to Johnny Cash in the past few years, I couldn't NOT check this out. So glad I did. Beautiful and elegiac. Bought early in the year, but never set aside.
Favorite Songs: "I Was Watching You" "God Is in the Roses" "The World Unseen" "Like Fugitives"
6. Band of Horses "Everything All the Time" Recommended to me by Paul in our ongoing exchanges before they really broke out. These guys just don't sound quite like anyone else. "The Funeral" is certainly one of the best songs of the year, although I find I generally listen to this as a whole album, only rarely breaking it down. Plaintive yet soaring melodies.
Favorite Songs: "The Funeral" "The Great Salt Lake" 'I Go in the Barn Because I Like the" "Monsters"
7. My Chemical Romance "The Black Parade" The most recent purchase on this list. This album is a crazy combination of mindboggling array of influences...Yet unlike other derivative bands, to my ears they have a very distinctive sound of their own that stands out above all that.
Favorite Songs: Wow, hard to pick out individual tracks here, I almost always listen to this as a full album... maybe "Mama" or "Cancer". Or ALL OF THEM!! :)
8. The Long Winters "Putting the Days to Bed" Didn't love their previous release, wasn't even going to buy this, but it turned out to be one of the albums I listened to the most! Melodius and musically diverse. Totally singalongable. Literate. Intellectually pleasing.
Favorite Songs: "Fire Island, AK" "Teaspoon" "Honest" (perhaps the best 'advice' song ever) "Clouds"
9. Cat Power "The Greatest" Lush and stately. Has a very dignified, old school, jazz standard feel to it. One of those rare albums that is just SO RIGHT ON that you can barely catch your breath while you're listening to it.
Favorite Songs: "Willie" "Where Is My Love"
10. Bishop Allen "June" You could argue that I listened to Bishop Allen more (and more consistently throughout the year) than any other band this year, since they put out an EP EVERY MONTH. Poppy, goofy and fun. Definitely quirky; definitely talented.
Favorite Songs: "The Same Fire" "Number 39"
Weepies "Say I Am You". -- "The World Spins Madly On" is one of the best songs of the year. Love it. Also like Deb Talan's solo stuff, but not quite as much.
Joseph Arthur "Nuclear Daydream" -- Beautiful. Heartbreaking.
Scissor Sisters "Ta Dah" -- Just as danceable as their first.
Damien Rice "9" -- More of the same from "O". But he does it so well.
Beck "The Information" -- Definitely the funnest thing I saw live this year. Can't listen without thinking about the puppets!
Imelda De La Cruz "Noise Noise Noise" -- She's a friend of a friend. This is the best album you're not listening to (or haven't heard about)! Maybe you should go buy it! Ran into her in Whole Foods the other night with aforementioned friend. Could not stop myself from blurting out "I LOVE YOUR ALBUM". As a (former) proud New Yorker, this is something I would NEVER do to someone famous. But I figured she's low key enough still (at this point) that I could embarrass myself.
The Audreys "Between Last Night and Us" -- Alt country from Australia.
She Will Have Her Way -- An entire album of Crowded House covers!! What's better than that. Fave: Renee Geyer's version of "Into Temptation".
Snow Patrol "Eyes Open" -- Anthems you can't get out of your head.
Keane "Under the Iron Sea" -- Pretty. -- Very pretty.
Raconteurs "Broken Boy Soldiers" -- Can Jack White make a bad album? Loving Brendan Benson more here than on his solo stuff.
The Fray "How to Save a Life" -- Sometimes cheesy radio ballads really ARE good songs.
Favorite Songs from 2006 (or mostly?) NOT on Any of the Above-Mentioned Albums
"Jenny Don't Be Hasty" Paolo Nuttini
Sad. Melancholy. As you might expect. Me being me. And all.
"Reason to Mourn" Ben Harper
Almost makes me cry. Every time.
"Multiply" Jamie Lidell
Overall he's not my usual type. But this is a crowdpleaser.
"It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp" sung by Terrence Howard in the movie
You would not believe the grin I get on my face when I'm listening to this. As well as "Whoop That Trick". Loved the movie, love the songs.
"Halo" Bethany Joy Lenz
Sung as Haley James on that horror show "One Tree Hill". The best thing that's ever come out of that show is this song.
"Weight of the World" Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
This is more than I wanted, take me out of the dark... Time will change, still the world remains the same...
"Bad Day" Daniel Powter
Overplayed. Because it was good!
"Faith" Shawn Mullens
Haven't listened to him in years. When he's on, he's on.
"Emily Kane" Art Brut
We all wish there was a song like this out there about us, don't we.
"Skeleton Key" Margot & the Nuclear So & Sos
Love lovelovelove LOVE this song. Thank you, Silvia!
"Fidelity" Regina Spektor
"We All Lose One Another" Jason Collett
Go ahead. TRY not to sing along to the chorus.
"Listen" and "Letter to the World" Dead Heart Bloom
Listen as I write you a song... Here's my goodbye to the world...
"Since I Left You" The Avalanches
Another Australia purchase. Rest of the album is too electronica pour moi. But this song is great.
"Fancy Lover" The Whitlams
New stuff from Australians I learned about previously from a Brit (Hi Michele!)
"Tant Pis Pour Toi" Nous Non Plus
En francais! Bien sur!
"Boston", "Stars and Boulevards" and "Coffee and Cigarettes" Augustana
My cousin would call this "WB music" [i.e. Dawson's Creek, Everwood, etc.]. Yup. And I still like it.
"Hoquiam" and "Denton, TX" Damien Jurado
Set the player on repeat, you'll want to listen to these again.
"You're the Kind of Trouble (I Could Get Into)" Solomon Burke
Soul singer goes country, complete with sassy country lyrics!
"Happiness" Grant Lee Buffalo
More of my usual melancholy, despite its title.
"Home" Barenaked Ladies
Stuck in the middle of the road, for better or worse we compromise...
"Unspoken Love" The Electric Farm
You can fight it. But what's the use.
New (to me) Artists (that I liked) This Year
Strays Don't Sleep -- I try not to pay tooooo close attention to the lyrics, as some are a little, shall we say, Republican sounding. But I saw these guys open for Josh Rouse and they have a cool sound. Two vocalists, interesting voices/contrasts.
Ben Kweller -- Ben Kweller is toooo much fun. Has a real Peter Frampton '70s look to him although he's all of...what? 17? He was one of my favorite Lollapalooza discoveries. Very catchy songs.
Memphis -- Part of the whole Broken Social Scene / Stars / Metric / Emily Haines crowd. Soft and pleasing. Thoughtful. And perhaps less melancholy than is my norm in this type of sound.
Submarines -- Recommended by Sunday Undies Jen. Have seen them described as a "happy" boy/girl Stars-like band. A real "relationship" album. Haven't listened enough for them to make the top 10/runners up. But like what I hear.
Covers I Loved This Year
Gnarls Barkley covering the Violent Femmes' "Gone Daddy Gone."
James Blunt covers of Crowded House's "Fall At Your Feet" and the Pixies' "Where Is My Mind?"
The Magic Numbers singing Beyonce's "Crazy in Love" and The Smiths "There Is a Light that Never Goes Out."
Joseph Arthur also singing "There Is a Light that Never Goes Out."
Boy Least Likely To rocking out to George Michael's "Faith. Saw this in concert!
Matt the Electrician's version of Rick Springfield's "Jessie's Girl." Heard live!
Multiple covers of Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy" by The Raconteurs (awesome, live!), Kanye West (OK, live at lolla), Nelly Furtado (slow but cool) and Ray LaMontagne (OK). As discussed, THE song of 2006!
Ben Folds singing Dr. Dre's(? Snoop's?) "Bitches Ain't Shit." There are a lot of great covers by Ben Folds out there.
Joshua Radin covering Yaz's "Only You." Man, I love this song. Still.
Albums I liked...And Then Got Over
Sometimes seeing someone live changes how you feel about them, for better or, as in these cases, for worse.
Jenny Lewis & the Watson Twins "Rabbit Fur Coat" -- This is a pretty rockin', albeit very short, album. Then I saw her in concert. And she was all bible-banging / gospel-y / standing-on-the banks-of-the-Jordan prayin' and I don't think I listened to it a single time after that. Ah well. Not everyone needs to be experienced live. I'm sure I'll still check out her next efforts.
KT Tunstall "Eye to the Telescope" -- I liked this album a lot when it came out. I still think "Suddenly I See" is a great song. But in concert she was really...awkward? And at some point I lost interest; the album just dropped off my radar the rest of the year.
Corinne Bailey Rae (self-titled) -- It's amazing to see that huge voice coming out of a stick-thin body. But the songs are too much the same to keep me interested. Same tempo, same sounds. Throughout.
October 10, 2006
Duff Says "READ!!" And, sometimes, watch a movie too.
Always Recommending Almost Anything By
- Phillip Roth
- Pat Barker
- David Lodge
- Haven Kimmel
- Jonathan Coe
- A.L. Kennedy
- Graham Swift
- Penelope Fitzgerald
- Marilynne Robinson
- Elizabeth A. Lynn
Moving into Greatness
- David Mitchell, particularly "Black Swan Green"
- Michael Cunningham, particularly "The Hours" and "Specimen Days"
Fun and Foibles in Academia
- Michael Malone "Foolscap"
- Richard Russo "Straight Man"
- Michael Chabon "Wonder Boys"
- Michael Frayne "Headlong" (not exactly academia, but feels like it)
- David Lodge (pretty much all his books)
- William Boyd (the novels are not IN academia but his characters could easily go there)
Good Things Come in Pairs
- Ann Patchett "Bel Canto" and Niall Williams "As It Is in Heaven"
- Nick Hornby "High Fidelity" and Tom Perrotta "The Wishbones"
- Joan Didion "The Year of Magical Thinking" and Philip Roth "Everyman"
Favored Among Others
- "King Hereafter" Dorothy Dunnett
- "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay" Michael Chabon
- "In This House of Brede" Rumer Godden
- "Lonesome Dove" Larry McMurtry (and the three that go with it)
- "The Shellseekers" Rosamunde Pilcher
- "The History of Love" Nicole Krauss
- "Gone to Soldiers" Marge Piercy
- "Birdsong" Sebastian Faulks
- "The Lords of Discipline" by Pat Conroy (get over the fact that he wrote Prince of Tides and read this anyway)
My Top 7 Books on March 5, 1997
- "Kim" Rudyard Kipling
- "Possession" A.S. Byatt
- "The Engima of Arrival" V.S. Naipaul
- "As I Lay Dying" Faulkner
- "The Baron in the Trees" Italo Calvino
- "Paddy Clark Ha Ha Ha" by Roddy Doyle
- "Speak, Memory" Nabokov
- A.S. Byatt
- Anne Carson
- Jasper Fforde, the Tuesday Next series (you can read these and just MISS most of the literary references, and they're still fun, but you can tell when stuff is flying over your head...)
Serious Sci Fi
- Neal Stephenson "Cryptonomicon" is a great, great book.
- Maureen McHugh "Mothers and Other Monsters"
- Mary Doria Russell "The Sparrow" and "Children of God"
- Audrey Niffenegger "The Time Traveler's Wife"
- Diana Gabaldon the Outlander series (I really love the first three, after that it falls off a bit)
- Connie Willis "Doomsday Book" and "To Say Nothing of the Dog"
Read This Book AND See This Movie
- Michael Ondaatje "The English Patient"
- Milan Kundera "The Unbearable Lightness of Being"
- Nick Hornby "About a Boy"
- Mark Bowden "Black Hawk Down"
- Read Stuart O'Nan "Wish You Were Here" and watch "A Walk on the Moon"
- Read Philip Caputo "Acts of Faith" and watch "The Constant Gardener"
Read This Book BUT do NOT See This Movie
- Michael Connelley "Blood Work"
- Cathleen Schine "The Love Letter"
- Nick Hornby "High Fidelity"
Looks Like Chick Lit But Isn't (It's Better!!)
- Darcy Cosper "Wedding Season"
- Rebecca Wells "Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood" and "Little Altars Everywhere"
- Elisabeth Robinson "The True and Outstanding Adventures of the Hunt Sisters"
Yes and No
- Ian McEwan. YES: "Atonement" NO: "Saturday"
- Zadie Smith. YES: "White Teeth" and "The Autograph Man" NO: "On Beauty"
- Nick Hornby. YES: "High Fidelity" and "About a Boy" NO: "How to Be Good" and "A Long Way Down"
- Alice Hoffman. YES: "Here on Earth" NO: "Turtle Magic"
- Michael Connelly. YES: "Bloodwork" "The Poet" and the first five or six in the Harry Bosch series. NO: Everything written since then.
- Dennis Lehane. YES: The (4 or 5?) Kenzie/Gennaro books. NO: The stand-alones.
- Patrick Susskind "Perfume"
- Martyn Bedford "The Houdini Girl"
- Haven Kimmel "A Girl Named Zippy"
- Nicole Lea Helget "The Summer of Ordinary Ways"
Take Me to Another Place
- Hilary Lifton & Kate Montgomery "Dear Exile"
- anything by Bill Holm, but particularly "Coming Home Crazy"
- anything by Sara Wheeler, particularly her Antarctica books
- Anthony Bourdain "A Cook's Tour"
- Bill Bryson
- Jenny Diski
- Jeannette Wells "The Glass House"
- Deborah Copaken Kogan "Shutterbabe"
- Alexandra Fuller "Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight"
- Bruce Chatwin
- Bruce Feiler
December 31, 2005
GirlReaction Reads: Favorites of 2005
My Top 5 books of 2005 were (in this order):
- Paradise, by A.L. Kennedy
- History of Love, by Nicole Krauss
- Mothers & Other Monsters, by Maureen McHugh
- Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson
- The Closed Circle, by Jonathan Coe
Yes, to those of you who saw that list before, I switched the order a little.
Runners Up were:
- Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell (does what Ghostwritten tried to do, but so much better)
- An Unfinished Season, by Ward Just
- Specimen Days, by Michael Cunningham (can he write a bad book? Seriously?)
- Old School, by Tobias Wolff
My favorite new discovery in 2005 was: A.L. Kennedy. Everything I read by her took my breath away. And there's still a couple books waiting in the wings. Can't wait!
Those were my top five, but I read sooooo many good books this year.
I read good OLD books:
- To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
- Doctor Zhivago, by Boris Pasternak
- The Way by Swann's, by Marcel Proust
I read a truly shocking (for me) amount of non-fiction:
- Sixpence House, by Paul Collins
- A Girl Named Zippy, by Haven Kimmel
- The Glass Castle, by Jeannette Walls
- The Lives of the Muses, by Francine Prose
- Wine & War, the French, the Nazis, and the Battle for France's Greatest Treasure, by Don & Petie Kladstrup
- Foreign Babes in Beijing, by Rachel DeWoskin
- Travels with a Tangerine, by Tim MacKintosh-Smith
- Why Are We at War?, by Norman Mailer
- Silent Bob Speaks, the Collected Writings of Kevin Smith
- The Universe and the Teacup: The Mathematics of Truth and Beauty, by K.C. Cole
- In a Sunburned Country, by Bill Bryson
I read historical fiction that only added more things to my 'must' lists:
- Author, Author, by David Lodge (must go back and read some Henry James. Haven't read any since undergrad!!)
- Neighboring Lives, by Thomas Disch and Charles Naylor (need to read some pre-Raphaelites again. And look at their paintings. It's been ages...)
Duff's Favorite Albums 2005
Well, here, finally, are my "Listenin' Favorites". If you've been reading me all year, then I don't think you're going to find any surprises here. As I'm writing it out, I think "yeah yeah, who DOESN'T know how I felt about this one?" but perhaps you will enjoy it anyway! (And if not - keep it to yourself, y'hear!)
And if you can't figure it out in context, some of my favorites were released in 2005, and some may have been released a different year, but turned out to be something I listened to in 2005...
Favorite Albums of the Year
Lou Barlow "Emoh" - I've been a Lou Barlow fan since the first time I heard "Together or Alone" (Sebadoh)...but I never expected THIS. Emoh was by far my favorite album of 2005. I got it in April and listened to it over, and over, and over again. Hey - I'm STILL listening to it! Amazing lyrics, simple yet unforgettable melodies, a mix of happy/sad, slow/fast. Honestly - what more could a girl want? Now you have to wonder: Why haven't I checked out Dinosaur Jr.? There must be something wrong with me. Favorite songs "If I Could": "But I know my lack of grace continues to turn you off, and this could be my fate here: never to be touched..."; "Mary": Immaculate conception, yeah, right! Crazy Mary, good that you lied!..."; and "Puzzle": I think you're funny and you love my smell... That inbetween my shadow and your light, I did lose you..."
Athlete "Tourist" and "Vehicles & Animals" - Both these albums are great, and it was impossible for me to choose between them. I got the first one from my No. 1 UK music source Michelle (You rock, Lady!), and bought the second on iTunes a few days later when I wondered how I had lived without this band in my life. (I am sooo not dramatic!)
Death Cab for Cutie "Plans" - In the past, I was only "vaguely" a Death Cab fan. Sure, I knew Seth Cohen loved them, and I knew a few select songs, but nothing had grabbed me to the "listen to this over and over" point. Nothing, until Plans, that is. Holy crap. Some albums are great even if they don't work "as an album" because they have 5 or 6 great songs; this album is great AS an album. "Marching Bands" may be the best "first song"/CD opener of the year, and the lyrics to "Someday You Will Be Loved" and "I Will Follow You into the Dark" both literally take my breath away.
James Blunt "Back to Bedlam" - Every year, there's a melancholy boy in my life. One year it was Damien Rice. One year it was David Gray. Sometimes it's Ryan Adams. This year it was James Blunt. (Thanks again to Michelle. Can I ever repay you?) A couple of the songs have gotten so much radio/TV play that one might begin to get sick of them ("one" very much NOT being me). But listen to them on their own merits, not on the "how sickeningly popular are they" scale, and I think you will see their merit. My favorite, if you're wondering (come on, now, people, give me some love) is "Wise Men": Look who's alone now, it's not me, it's not me... Gotta ask yourself the question 'Where are you now?'...; with "Tears and Rain" a close second.
Great Lake Swimmers "Great Lake Swimmers" and "Bodies & Minds" - Ah, another "twofer." So thinking of melancholy music that I can't get out of my head leads me right to Great Lake Swimmers, crazy Canadians who I have now TWICE MISSED at Schuba's. (Where in the fuck are my priorities, I ask myself.) Once, I didn't buy tickets because I knew I wouldn't be able to get there due to work schedule that day. And once I had tickets but was leaving for NY at 6 a.m. the next day, didn't get home until 10 minutes before the concert, and still had to pack. IDIOT. This is slow, melancholy, thickly layered music... Think Low. Or cast your mind back, back in the day to "Automatic for the People". Very orchestral feeling. Dense sonic clouds. Lovely, lovely, lovely music. Sad, perhaps. A little lonely. Unforgettable.
Sufjan Stevens "Come On Feel the Illinoise" - Sufjan Steven is crazy. Item No. 1: He's doing a 50-state album arc. He's two albums in. You may ask yourself some logic questions, such as: "If he is x years old now, then what age will he be when he finishes?" Item No. 2: He (and the band) do cheerleading chants between songs. Item No. 3: Hello, there is a song about Jacksonville (my birthplace, dudes) on this album. And a song about Mary Todd. And a song about Casimir Pulaski day (Go polacks everywhere! I'm a polack, so I can say that, right?) He is crazy, but he is sooo good. Despite the obvious many moments of humor on this album, it is really lovely and lyrical, and sweet. Very very sweet. AND - if that's not enough - his was the BEST concert I went to this year. It was like getting a big shot of HAPPY right in the ass. Walking home in a smiley glow...
Carla Bruni "Quelqu-un M'a Dit" - Maybe if I wasn't in my you-would-laugh-to-know-based-on-my-abilities semester of studying French, this wouldn't have made the list - I can't be sure. She's got a soft, husky voice; as if someone was whispering soft French secrets in your ear... There's a "you say tomAHto, I say tomAYto" offering (Le toi du moi), there are slow ballads, there are upbeat "jazzy standards"... It's quite nice. And even if you knew no French at all, you might enjoy the overall sonic experience.
Uh oh...only one spot left...
This is a tough one...but I'm gonna go with...A THREE-WAY TIE! Ringside; Youth Group "Skeleton Jar"; and The Magic Numbers. I started listening to Youth Group around the same time as Death Cab "Plans", and in some ways it's always sort of a "companion album" to it in my mind. A couple weeks after I got this album, they had a cover of "Forever Young" on the OC and it's quite nice, I recommend it as well. Ringside's amazing "Strangerman" was (also! Surprise surprise!) on an episode of the OC (and I also really love "Miss You"). Ringside and Youth Group both fall more on the "rock" side of the equation - say, with Athlete. They're not as quirky as Sufjan or Death Cab, not as melancholy as James Blunt or Great Lake Swimmers; in fact, sometimes they are even reminiscent of 80s rock bands. Shocker! The Magic Numbers, on the other hand, is a much "pop"pier band/album... Beatles/Oasis/Mamas and the Papas/Beach Boys-esque. I listen to this all the time.
I really loved these albums, too, so technically I probably should have just gone for 15 instead of 10...but then I would have had to settle on one more...and no, I could not solve the problem the easy way and commit to a list of "14" favorite albums. That's crazy!
Hold Steady "Separation Sunday" - A far more than "satisfactory" sophomore album. Every bit as crazy, ranting, and awesome as their first effort. And they are AWESOME in concert. Totally nuts.
Mike Doughty "Haughty Melodic" - Wow, I spent a LOT of time listening to Mike Doughty this year. I saw him...in...April? Eh - spring sometime. I'm going to see him again this March. He's really a great musician. And so much more alone than Soul Coughing really ever came to. (And he did an encore of "The Gambler." Hilarious cover encores are one of my favorite things. [Like the time FigDish did "Big Balls" with the bunny on stage, 'member that, Nanders?])
Fall Out Boy "From Under the Cork Tree" - I'm not happy if I don't have a little PUNK ASS-KICKIN' in my life and these boys fit the bill quite nicely. AND they're from Chicago. AND 12-teen, living at the 'rents, yet ROCKING OUT. Awesome.
Franz Ferdinand "You Could Have It So Much Better" - The only reason this one didn't make the favorites list was I got it in October and I just didn't listen to it enough before year-end. I've probably listened to it more in January than in Oct-Dec combined. I think it's a great sophomore effort. There are a couple songs I can't get out of my head. Maybe that'll make it one of my favorites in 2006!
Close...but No Cigar
Kanye West "Late Registration" - Liked it. But just didn't listen to it THAT much. Not as much as his first album. I do, however, really like a lot of the singles..
Twin Atlas, of which I listened to a bunch of different albums - I've become a big fan of this band this year. But couldn't really pin it down to a particular album. Or even two.
You may notice a trend here... A melancholy trend... A) Do you not know me at all? (And if not, why are you reading this?) And B) 2005 = not one of my favorite years, yo. Better luck next time.
"Hide and Seek" Imogen Heap - if you don't have this yet, what the fuck is wrong with you. Best song of 2005. Hauntingly beautiful.
"No Illusions" 78 Saab - I'm under no illusions now, how can I see when I am blind to all the same old faults now? You sure do make it kind of tough - [but] you're not going to make me change my ways, I've come too far for that now...
"You Are My Joy" Reindeer Section - Don't have anyone to say this to. But love it just the same. It makes me dream about who that could be.
"Salvation" Black Rebel Motorcycle Club - Insistent. Heart...pounding. Demanding. Thundering, softly.
"Wandering" Ben Folds - Why didn't I listen to Ben Folds before 2005? Got his new album, then got some old stuff too. And all this wandering...got you nothing...
"Circles" Bob Mould - New Bob Mould. And it's damn good.
"On Your Porch" The Format - Be careful with this one: brings tears to my eyes EVERY TIME.
"Exodus Damage" John Vanderslice - So now we're talking about this, I'm starting to lose my confidence, and no one ever says a word about so much that happens in the world...
"Something in You" the Orange Peels - Oh! Here's a happy one! Goofy happy shiny people!
"I Burn Today" Frank Black - Over and over and over.
"Into the Fire" Thirteen Senses - Come on, come on, put your hands into the fire...
"Faded Beauty Queens" The Thrills - Love all their songs. But listened to this one the most.
"Scar" Missy Higgins - Painful. But good.
"Someday" Flipsyde - So fun. How fun? They're-using-it-in-Olympics-commercials fun.
"Heartbeat" Jose Gonzalez - Love this song. But the rest of the album? Eh.
"A Day" Inara George - same issue here. Like the song - Eh the album.
"The Gambler" Mike Doughty
"Wildwood Flower" Reese Witherspoon
"It Ain't Me Babe" Reese & Joaquin
"True Love Will Find You in the End" Beck
Most Beatlesque (And that's the way I like it)
The Bees "Free the Bees"
The 88 "Kind of Light"
The Magic Numbers
Franz Ferdinand (ESPECIALLY "Eleanor Put Your Boots On")
Sounds of the '70s
Josh Rouse "Nashville"
Kings of Convenience "Riot on an Empty Street"
Music to Cheerlead To
So occasionally I listen to happy music. Sue me.
The Go! Team "Thunder, Lightning, Streak
Clap Your Hands, Say Yeah! "
Still Getting to Know You
Antony & the Johnson's "I Am a Bird Now" (and his name really is ANT-ony)
David Poe "Blood is Red"
Jason Mraz "Mr. A-Z"
Tried...But Couldn't Commit
Luke Temple "Hold a Match for a Gasoline World"
Thomas Dybdahl "That Great October Sound" - he was hyped to me as Damien Rice/Ray Lamontagne/etc. I've never felt "it" with him.
Do NOT Understand the Hype
And You Will Know Us by the Trail of the Dead "Worlds Apart"
My Morning Jacket "Z"
Trying to Fool Myself
I was pretty sure these "weren't for me" when I bought them...but for some unknown reason I felt the $10 need to give them a chance... In the end, however, they are not for me.
Leela James "A Change is Gonna Come" - Fluff, you might like this. Very "Ring my Bell."
Masha Qrella "unsolved remained" - too "electronica.
December 31, 2004
Duff's Favorite Albums 2004
Favorite Albums of the Year
1. Green Day "American Idiot" Genius. Listen to it over and over again. Making a REAL protest. Standing up for what you believe. Telling it like it is. Punk rock adults.
2. Damien Rice "B-Sides" Well, if an EP is all we can get, it'll have to do. Beautiful. Understated. Trembling.
3. DJ DangerMouse "The Grey Album" Genius. Better than either of the albums it pulls together. (Yes, I love the Beatles. But that's not my favorite of theirs.)
4. Garden State Soundtrack Great music from a great movie. Lots of fun.
5. The Shins "Chutes Too Narrow" Listened to this nonstop for about two months. Saw them in concert. Bunch of goofballs. This album is just plain fun.
6. The Killers "Hot Fuss" Rock'n'roll. Can't get these songs out of my head.
7. Scissor Sisters (self-titled) Disco lives again. Self aware, unafraid, putting it all out there.
8. The Hold Steady "Almost Killed Me" Thanks to Cari for clueing me in to this band. You'll see them listed in Rolling Stone as one of the best bands you didn't know about this year.
9. Ray Lamontagne "Trouble" In the Damien Rice mode. But has his own things to say. Heart-wrenching. Calm, yet not quiet.
10. And tied for the final spot are: Eminem "Encore" and U2 "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb. Sure, Encore is shockingly juvenile in some spots, and Atomic Bomb is all rock-anthem love songs. So what? What's your point? Did you make a better album than these? Yeah, I didn't think so!
"Winter" Joshua Radin Ouch.
"Wash Away" Joe Purdy Ah, the ocean.
"Love Like That" Stew Lie on the couch and tell me you love me. Seriously, is that too much to ask?
"Worn Me Down" Rachael Yamagata Can she really be as worn down as I am?
"Just Lose It" Eminem Fuck W and everything he stands for.
"Mosh" Eminem Who else can rap like this?
"Empty Apartment" Yellowcard Acoustic version is quite nice.
"Broken" Seether, featuring Amy Lee When is Evanescence going to make a real new album? Guess this'll have to last me till then. (No, "live" does not count.)
Snow Patrol "Final Straw" "Run" is a great, great, great fucking song.
Jet "Get Born" Pure rock'n'roll.
Arcade Fire "Funeral" Along the lines of "The Hold Steady." Still getting to know this one.
Metric "Old World Underground, Where Are You Now?" About as "electronic" as I get. Check it out.
The Finn Brothers "Everyone Is Here" Their best effort in years, including Neil's solo stuff. Makes me miss Crowded House all over again.
Listened to Lots
Chronic Future "Lines in My Face" Rap-rock combo. Surprising.
Franz Ferdinand (self-titled) Dance, dance, dance.
John Mellencamp "Words & Music: Greatest Hits" What can I say? It's an all-night sing-along.
Eminem "Encore" I can't help it. I just can't.
Don't Really Understand the Hype
Modest Mouse "Good News for People Who Love Bad News" Got this album. Saw them live. Eh. They're OK.
Iron & Wine "Our Endless Numbered Days" Surprised I don't like this more. But it just doesn't grab me.
Interpol "Antics" Better than their first. But I STILL spend more time thinking about who they sound LIKE when I listen to them than I do actually listening to them.
Wilco "A Ghost Is Born" I actually didn't buy this album. I've never understood the Wilco hype. I always think I should be listening to them. But I never can.
Loretta Lynn "Van Lear Rose" Jack White's weird. There are some neat things here, but never enough to keep me focused on it.
GirlReaction Reads: Best of 2004
Best Novel read in 2004: The Plot Against America, by Philip Roth.
Runners-Up: The Houdini Girl, by Martyn Bedford and The Great Fire, by Shirley Hazzard.
Favorite New Discoveries: Jonathan Coe ("The Rotters Club" and "The Winshaw Legacy"), William Boyd ("Any Human Heart", "The New Confessions" and "Stars and Bars"), Alison McGhee ("Rainlight" and "Shadow Baby") and Haven Kimmel ("Something Rising (Light and Swift)" and "The Solace of Leaving Early").
December 31, 2003
Duff's Favorite Albums 2003
Oddly, at least to me, I really didn't write that much about what I was listening to in 2003. Since I seem to sometimes spend entire weeks obsessing over new CDs, rearranging playlists in iTunes, and listening to certain songs over and over, I don't know why I didn't have more to say about it. Although when it comes to books, I definitely refer to my list as "Best" of the year, here I have to call these instead "Favorites" as I am much narrower in my listening than in my reading, and certainly not as up to date in this category either.
My Six Favorite Albums of 2003
Ryan Adams "Love Is Hell, Part 1", "Rock 'N Roll" and "Love Is Hell, Part 2"
When isn't Ryan Adams one of my highlights for the year? (Although I will admit, the time I saw him live probably doesn't make my Top 10 concert list, but at home on the stereo, he blows me away.) The boy came out with three albums: a 8-song EP, where I have to point out that 8 songs is a full album for some losers!!; the album his label was happier with; and a 7-song EP. Wow. It's annoying to me that the label will make any money off the EPs since they rejected them as the official album and sent Adams back to the drawing board which is when Rock 'N Roll came into being. "I See Monsters" (I play it over and over) and "English Girls Approximately" are my favorite songs off Part 2, and the "Wonderwall" cover on Part 1 is beautiful. I did enjoy Rock 'N Roll as well, so I'm glad he put it out anyway. It's a fun, guitar-playin' drums-crashin' rock record. But nothing on that album really drags me into it the way the EPs do.
Damien Rice "O"
Is there anyone left on earth who doesn't already know how much I love this album? I've sent it to at least five people; I've quoted it on two web sites; I've emailed lyrics 'round the world... I don't know what else I can do to convince you!! This won the 2003 Mercury Prize, if you need a recommendation other than mine. I just think the entire album is achingly beautiful; I listen to it over and over and over again. And thank God I'm not in the middle of a break-up or it'd probably be making me cry every time, and there'd come a day I wouldn't be able to listen anymore for all the pain it was dredging back up. "Cannonball" has leaped into my all-time favorite songs list, amazing lyrics.
Jason Mraz "Waiting for My Rocket to Come" and "Live at Java Joe's"
You've heard "The Remedy" or "Curbside Prophet" on the radio. Put this album on, and it's virtually unstoppable, your finger will hit the 'repeat' key without you even noticing it! A little jazz, a little blues, a twang here and there, great guitar work, sassy lyrics, a boy and his band havin' a good old time. Who could resist? I just start grinning whenever I'm listening to this. What's up with M-R-A-Z? I saw him live in December and although he only had a six-song set, he was the highlight of the show pour moi. As I've seen others do in concert less successfully (C. Crows for one), he played new arrangements on almost all the songs; the boy has creativity just bursting out doesn't he.
Albums I Like No Matter What Anyone Else Thinks
Evanescence "Fallen" For some reason, admitting to loving this album makes me feel like a teenage girl being found out by her folks. I know it's "nu-metal". I know the majority of their fans are at least, what, fifteen, if not twenty, years younger than me. I am so not into the black nail polish, goth image. But I can listen to this entire album without fast forwarding once. That's not all that common.
Madonna "American Life" She's not for everyone. That's fine. But this album is better than anyone wants to give it credit for. I knew there'd be some backlash after all the critical acclaim of her last two releases, but I think she hurt herself most by yanking the awesome original video where she throws a grenade at Bush, but as his administration has done all along this past year he manages to turn it to his own sneaky advantage. "Intervention" and "Nothing Fails" both really grab me. A lot of the album sounds like a love letter to Guy Ritchie. Can you blame her?
Liz Phair "Liz Phair" She wrote a pop song. She wanted to be on the radio more. What? Are you kidding? The nerve!!! Yeah, I think the primary criticisms of this album (she sold out, she's an Avril/Britney wanna-be, etc., etc.) are stupid bullshit and I could care less. I like the single, I LOVE "Why Can't I" and I think all in all it's a good album, certainly as good as some of her previous ones. On the other hand, she did annoy me at the Barenakeds/Jason Mraz concert I went to where she was supposed to be the middle headliner, but showed up with laryngitis. Why come, sing one unhearable song, and make us waste 1/2 hour of them setting up your set, when they could have just been setting up for BNL? Just cancel if you can't sing, don't show up and be the one boring downpoint of the entire evening. That aside, was it worth it to her to have a huge portion of her fan base turn on her new radio-friendly self? This album is worth listening to whether they like it or not!
Laurel Canyon Soundtrack Great movie. Great tunes. Particularly the two sung by lead actor Alessandro Nivola. Somebody give him my phone number, please.
Flaming Lips (any album) I just got introduced to this group. Some songs, I think "is that Cat Stevens?"; others "Am I listening to CSNY?" Very melodic and fun. And very different than the punk-ass sound I was expecting due to their name!
Freaky Friday soundtrack An album of great covers: "What a Wonderful World" (Joey Ramone), "...Baby One More Time" (Bowling for Soup, this is sooo much better than the original!) "Happy Together" (Simple Plan), "What I Like About You" (Lilix). As a karaoke-loving fool, how could I not be down with this?
Lyrics Running Through My Head Tonight
Josh Rouse "Sunshine": Come on lady, take this bum and make him right... Come on lady, give this bum a sense of pride...
Pete Yorn "Crystal Village": Take my hand, come with me, into this crystal scenery, the way in to [???] the ticket. You will never have the time, I would love to change your mind, you were there and it was good in the beginning...
Pancho's Lament "Promise Me This": Lord, I'm tryin', tryin' to let you in... I'm learning how to begin again...
David Gray "Easy Way to Cry": Faith, gone from your eyes, each word that flies, taking you further away, then come that day, there ain't no easy way to cry...
Hopefully this year I'll find the time to say more about what I'm listening to. Then again, maybe I'll just be too busy listenin'!
December 31, 2002
Duff's Favorite Albums 2002
Duff's Top 5 Albums of 2002
The Rising, Bruce Springsteen. Hands down, best album of the year and the first-ever Springsteen purchase in the Duff music library. This is one man's rockin', personal redemption, I will go on, answer to September 11, although only some of the songs are overt responses to those events. The lyrics on this album are beautiful, quietly powerful; I don't think I'll ever get tired of listening to it. And the upbeat songs just fill up the room. One of the few solidly rock albums this year that didn't give off an "already been done" feeling. Fave songs: "Let's Be Friends (Skin to Skin)" and "My City of Ruins."
The Eminem Show, Eminem. My boy Marshall Mathers. OK, the caveat here is that I do not actually just put the CD on and walk away. I do not listen to any of the "skits" between songs (there are five) and I do not listen to song no. 9 ("Drips" with Obie Trice) - it's completely nasty. Yes, I know, to think there is a song worse than any of the others on here...but there is - take my word for it. So those items deleted, and this album kicks ass. "A tisk-it a task-it, I'll go tit for tat with anybody who's talking this shit that shit..." Hello, a rapper who incorporates nursery rhymes. He gets better with every album, more sassy, more irreverent, more in your face. Love it. He is to the new Millennium what Madonna was to the '80s. Pushing boundaries, pissing people off, and doing it with flare and pizzazz. You go, boy. And now that he's starting to show off his tender side (listen to "Hailie's Song"), there's no telling what he can do. My friend Marcus' comment was " he cleans up his act a little more and he's the next Will Smith!" "Will Smith don't gotta cuss in his raps to sell records, well I do, so fuck him and fuck you too..." Fave songs: "My Dad's Gone Crazy" and "Say Goodbye to Hollywood."
Come Away with Me, Norah Jones. This album was probably the biggest surprise of the year commercially, and five Grammy nominations just shot her up to No. 1. Go see this girl live. The songs sound just as good as on the album, but she's got a lot more twang to her than Blue Note recorded here. (We had front row seats at Town Hall, a tiny little intimate auditorium; her voice just filled up the room.) She's the next Sarah McLachlan/Beth Orton without all the synthesizers and production. Fave song: "Seven Years."
No More Drama, Mary J. Blige. Another first-by-artist-in-Duff-collection. Don't know what made me pick this one up. But I listened to almost nothing else in July. Until I saw her in concert and she was all about drama. Mid-concert 15 minute monologue on sexual abuse among families. All true, I'm sure, but way to bring the concert mood down. It was very odd. Apparently followed by a similar melt-down at the Apollo a few weeks later. Mary, put it in the songs! Or see a shrink! That said, there are five to six songs on this album I'm still not done listening to, and in the new one-single-makes-an-album world, that's saying something. Fave songs: "Rainy Dayz" with hottie Ja Rule and "Flying Away."
**Reissue** Let It Bleed, Rolling Stones. Hey, if they had re-released a bunch of Beatles' albums this year, you can bet some of those would have been on the list too! Hello, every song on the album could have been a single, although only two or three are still on the Stones' concert play list (they've got a mighty lot to choose from, don't they). This makes all those modern-day wanna-be rock stars look like chumps in comparison! Fave Song: "You Got the Silver."
Albums Noticeably Not on My List
The Strokes, the Hives, the Vines. I bought The Strokes' album purely on hype. Played it once. "Huh?" Put it aside. Discussed it with my friend Dan, found ourselves in agreement that it sucked. Forgot all about it. Fast forward six months or so. Reading end of year lists. It's all over the place. Huh? Give it another listen. No thanks. Have no desire whatsoever to even try the other two beyond what's been on the radio.
Albums that Almost Made My List
The White Stripes, White Blood Cells. The only so-called garage rock out there that's living up to the hype. And the only one that doesn't totally scream "80s!" and "College!" while you're listening to it... Two people, one guitar, one drum set = a surprising amount of noise. Noise you want to hear more of. "Who do you think you're messin' with, girl? What do you think you're tryin' to do?" This really belongs up "top" but that would make it a "top six" list and that's retarded.
Ryan Adams, Demolition. Well, doesn't every Ryan Adams album almost make my list? This one didn't because it wasn't really an album, as much as a bunch of singles that belong on other albums all just thrown in here. The gems get hidden between the so-sos, and taken overall it's not that enthralling of a listen.
Badly Drawn Boy, Have You Fed the Fish? and the About a Boy soundtrack. I think this guy's amazing. I loved both the albums he put out this year. But I haven't listened to them quite as much as anything that made the top five.
Elvis Costello, When I Was Cruel. This is a great album, and he was totally rockin' out in concert. Broke a guitar string one song in! But I really haven't listened to it that much as I didn't even get it until after going to see him. I kind of missed its window.
Beck, Sea Change. I like the thick, orchestralness of this album. Reminds me of David Gray's White Ladder or REM Automatic for the People. That said, it gets a little drone-y, and the melancholy of it can really drag you down. Not in a willing-to-be-dragged-down mood these days (my one New Year's resolution = "To be in a good mood." It's working out well so far except for last Friday when return of illness really kicked me in the butt).
Honorable Mentions from the Ladies
Sheryl Crow, Come on, Come on. I didn't buy this album until many months after its release, on Nan's recommendation. It surprised me, I never find myself fast forwarding when it comes up on the iPod, and it's a much better album than it's been given credit for. On the other hand, none of the songs really jump out on an individual basis.
Pink, Missundaztood. If they play "Just like a Pill" on the radio one more time, I might scream, but this is actually a decent album. I play "Lonely Girl" over and over at the gym, and even "18 Wheeler" has some moments. I'll be interested to hear her next release, I think she's getting stronger as she goes.
Dixie Chicks, Home. This is a solid third album, but I think they screwed themselves by doing a cover of "Landslide." It just blows away everything else on the album and, frankly, makes me feel like throwing on some Stevie Nicks instead!