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Showing posts from 2014

Books 2014

My goal for the year was to read 64 books, which would put me at 4 more than last year's 60. I only managed to read 62; I say "only" but that's more than I've read since I started keeping track in 2001. Heck, it's double what I used to read. Sometimes I was reading more than one book at a time but there were also times when I wasn't reading a book. I picked up and put down a bunch of books this year; I mostly chalk that up to the wrong book at the wrong time (one I put down on initial read is one this list). 11 of those 62 were non-fiction, which is probably my highest percentage ever. Regardless of the stats and goals, I found plenty of books to love this year...

1. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel - I almost stopped reading this book because at its outset it seemed like yet another novel about the apocalypse and at the time, I just couldn't see myself reading another one of those. Luckily, I stuck with it. It's more a novel about what happ…

Music 2014

I listen to most of my music via Spotify these days, though I will buy mp3 albums when the price is decent and I have some spare cash. That means I'm able to listen to way more albums than I used to and I'm able to try new artists that I never would have gotten around to in the old days. There was a lot of great music in 2014 and here are 10 albums that I loved...

1. Spoon/They Want My Soul - This is Spoon's sixth straight fantastic album and might actually be my favorite. That's hard to do 8 albums into a career. I don't know if the 4 years off the band had in between albums or if maybe Britt Daniel's time in Divine Fits contributed to the greatness of these 10 songs but something did. From the opening rock of "Rent I Pay" to the spacey, synth sound of "Inside Out" to the sunny sounding "Do You" to the whistling on "Knock Knock Knock," there is so much to be found here. In fact, I'm playing this album while I write th…

Comics 2014

I read 270 single issues and 15 trade paperbacks this year (yes, I do keep track) (yes, I know I'm a giant nerd) (have you met me?). However, I didn't even come close to reading everything I wanted to; I started a lot of series (especially from Image) but wasn't able to afford to keep up with them (luckily, Comixology has a sale going on right now that will help me catch up) (might have to reread those first issues too). Regardless, I think the comics medium is in great shape, not only because of these great comics...

1. The Multiversity - The long-awaited Grant Morrison series about the DC multiverse finally arrived in August and it completely exceeded my expectations. After an opening issue introducing the concepts and characters (hello, Captain Carrot!), we got 4 one-shots by Morrison and a wonderful group of artists that took closer looks at different Earths. Each one was fascinating and made me want more set in that particular world. Of special note were Thunderworld A…

TV 2014

I might have watched fewer TV shows this year than ever before. I certainly lost the thread on many that I was watching. It wasn't for lack of interest necessarily...I just made a choice to watch sports or read or do something else instead. Still, there are some shows that I thought were great...

1. Brooklyn Nine-Nine - Michael Schur took everything he learned from launching Parks & Recreation (I'm rewatching the show now and those first 6 episodes were not great) and applied it to getting this show out of the gate. The show came out swinging in the second half of the first season with "Pontiac Bandit"as its first episode of 2014 (a great episode that just had a sequel) and continued to throw comedy haymakers all year long as the second season got underway. This is a top-notch cast (Andre Braugher as the straight-laced Captain Holt is the best) performing material that is truly funny. The jokes aren't just jokes either (though there are plenty) - much of the h…

Movies 2014

I saw only 10 movies in the theater this year and only 9 of those were official 2014 releases. I didn't see The Grand Budapest Hotel or Boyhood. I didn't see Birdman or Gone Girl. I wanted to but I either didn't get around to them or they didn't come close to me. I will see them. Anyway, here are my five favorites of what I did see, plus a bonus...

1. Guardians of the Galaxy - I'll admit I was skeptical when Marvel put this on their slate. It seemed like an odd choice. When the first trailer came out, I got excited. Really excited. Then the movie finally came out and it was awesome. It is full of heart and humor. Chris Pratt is great as Peter Quill. Rocket Raccoon and Groot worked perfectly onscreen. The soundtrack is the glue that holds the whole thing together. The movie had such a perfect Star Wars feel to it and I left the theater with a grin on my face. So. Much. Fun.

2. The Lego Movie - Speaking of Chris Pratt and fun, I loved this movie as well. I went to see …

Podcasts 2014

This is the year that podcasts finally broke into the mainstream, thanks to Serial. Of course, podcasts have been around for much longer than the media coverage will have you believe. I've been listening to podcasts for about 4 years and I was way late to the game. The problem is that there are so many worthwhile podcasts out there that I can't get to them all. Heck, I haven't even gotten to Serial yet. In fact, this year I unsubscribed on some podcasts I really like, such as Baseball Tonight, Book Riot, and Sound Opinions (I have cherry-picked some episodes of the last one, at least). I'm still behind on just about everything but these podcasts are ones I am always trying to catch up on...

1. Comedy Bang Bang - The Old 97s finally brought me to this podcast, which I've known about for a long time. Heck, Glen Weldon on Pop Culture Happy Hour had recommended it more than once and I just hadn't gotten around to it. Scott Aukerman is the host and is always funny. M…

The Mix #6: Some Good Things

I haven't put up a mix since early April, though I have been accumulating songs since that time. This one covers songs I liked from 2014, excluding ones from bands I already used on that earlier mix. It ballooned to 30 songs. Oops. Anyway, I hope you enjoy...

1. Goshen '97/Strand of Oaks - This great slice of rock is the lead track from HEAL. It's about Tom Showalter's musical beginnings and features J Mascis on lead guitar. For those who don't know, Goshen is in Indiana.

2. Turtles All the Way Down/Sturgill Simpson - I don't listen to much country music and have no idea what the popular songs of the genre are these days. This, though, reminds me of the country I listened to back in the early 80s. It's got a great little groove.

3. Don't Wanna Lose/Ex Hex - This is the only exception to leaving off bands that were on the You Gotta Get Back Out There mix; that one included Ex Hex's "Hot and Cold." This band rocks so much and has gotten so many…

Running 2014

I started running in 2012 but this year I made some significant changes in how I approach it...

1. I used to run where I could find the time in my day but now I will get up early to run before work.

2. I used to run inside when the weather was colder but now I get out there even if the wind chill is near zero. In fact, I just ran inside for the first time since early May and that was only because it was raining (still not a fan of running in the rain).

3. I used to run 3 times a week at most but now I get out there every other day with only minimal adjustments for schedule purposes (or to take an extra day of rest before a race).

Even with all that, I still had some significant periods when I wasn't running. I injured myself twice this year and had some significant gaps in my regimen, especially from early September to the end of October. That second period of rest has let me come back strong to close out the year.

I ran 100 times this year for a total of 310 miles, which ave…

Sunday Spoon (Sunday Shuffle #354)

I thought I'd finish out the month with another installment that focuses on one band. Spoon is one of my favorite bands and they put out a great album this year that I'll probably be talking about in my year-end posts over the course of the week. I recently ripped the last couple albums I had on CD, so my entire Spoon collection is on iTunes. I won't do last played today; instead, I'll tell from what albums the songs come.

1. Don't Buy the Realistic (6) - from Telephono
2. All the Negatives Have Been Destroyed (4) - from Telephono
3. Black Like Me (13) - from Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
4. They Want My Soul (6) - from They Want My Soul
5. Before Destruction (18) - from Transference
6. Fitted Shirt (2) - from Girls Can Tell
7. Someone Something (1) - from Kill The Moonlight
8. Was It You? (13) - from Gimme Fiction
9. My Little Japanese Cigarette Case (13) - from Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
10. Out Go the Lights (16) - from Transference

Sunday Shuffle #353

Last chance for Christmas music to be in the mix...

1. If I Can't Change Your Mind/Sugar (9) - last played on 10/5/13
2. Water Wings/Superchunk (17) - last played on 7/22/14
3. City Swan/Neko Case (19) - last played on 9/21/14
4. Great Dane/Mates Of State (5) - last played on 7/29/12
5. Technology/The Whigs (3) - last played on 1/1/12
6. Bay of Pigs/Destroyer (3) - last played on 10/30/14
7. Don't You Wanna Come Out/The Redwalls (4) - last played on 8/19/12
8. The Toro and The Toreador/Ted Leo (7) - last played on 1/20/13
9. Sacred Trickster/Sonic Youth (3) - last played on 5/20/12
10. Baby and the Band/Imperial Teen (4) - last played on 10/2/11

*Note on "Bay of Pigs": This is the single version; the version on Kaputt has 9 plays

*Note on "The Toro and The Toreador": The credit should read Ted Leo/Pharmacists too many slashes are confusing

Sunday Shuffle #352

Will my iTunes serve up Christmas songs in today's ten again? Let's find out...

1. Pregnant/Cold War Kids (5) - last played on 3/24/13
2. I Like To Keep Myself In Pain/Kelly Hogan (14) - last played on 3/20/14
3. Hell or High Water/Blue Giant (4) - last played on 10/5/14
4. Unless It's Kicks/Okkervil River (10) - last played on 10/26/13
5. The Rover/Led Zeppelin (7) - last played on 8/17/14
6. See You/Dinosaur Jr. (12) - last played on 8/6/12
7. No Dreams Last Night/The Clientele (5) - last played on 3/31/12
8. Be Your Man/Ivan & Alyosha (7) - last played on 12/1713
9. One-Month Marathon/Eleanor Friedberger (6) - last played on 9/15/13
10. Bombs Away/Eels (14) - last played on 12/2/13

Sunday Shuffle #351

I was going to skip today then remembered I only have a few weeks every year where the Christmas music is eligible and I haven't heard much Christmas music yet, so here we are. We'll see if any turn up in today's ten or if it will be after the Sunday Shuffle stops but the shuffling keeps on going...

1. Hold Me Up/Velvet Crush (12) - last played on 9/28/14
2. Keep It Moving/Deep Sea Diver (12) - last played on 9/14/13
3. Ready For You/Sloan (17) - last played on 11/28/14
4. I Want Her She Wants Me/The Zombies (14) - last played on 10/31/12
5. My Heartbeat's Dying/The Raveonettes (4) - last played on 2/23/14
6. The Weight Of Guilt/Lucero (6) - last played on 4/14/13
7. Christmas Is Coming (alternate take 1)/Vince Guaraldi (3) - last played on 12/16/11
8. Christmastime/Aimee Mann (5) - last played on 12/13/13
9. Backstairs/The New Pornographers (4) - last played on 11/22/14
10. Nantes/Beirut (3) - last played on 2/19/12

Star Wars All Over Again

I have watched the trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens several times now. I realize that it shows a fraction of the footage that will be in a film that doesn't come out for over a year. I also realize that the prequels were not my favorite thing and this is not something for which I should get my hopes up. And yet...

I like that there are new faces.

I like that ball droid thing.

I like that it sounds like Star Wars.

I recognize that some people have a problem with that new lightsaber hilt but I think it looks cool.

I like seeing X-Wing Fighters.

I love, yes, love when the John Williams score swells at the exact moment the Millennium Falcon appears and engages some Tie Fighters.

Did I mention how I love that last part? It thrills the part of me that Star Wars imprinted when I was 6 years old as well as the 43 year-old version of me typing these words right now.

You know what? The trailer does what a trailer should do - get you excited to see a movie.

That's me. Excited and…

Sunday Sloan (Sunday Shuffle #350)

I've decided to do something a bit different for today's edition. I've been on a huge Sloan kick this week after watching their performance on KEXP. I've played through most of their albums and listening to them makes me want to listen to them more. Almost everyone song has been played in the last week, so I'm not going to mention last played; instead, I'll tell you from which album each song came. Let's get to today's ten from Sloan...

1. Beyond Me (11) - from Between the Bridges
2. Everybody Wants You (23) - from Never Hear the End of It
3. All by Ourselves (11) - from Between the Bridges
4. Golden Eyes (20) - from Never Hear the End of It
5. All I Am Is All You're Not (8) - from Parallel Play
6. People In The Sky (16) - from Twice Removed
7. Seems So Heavy (15)- from Navy Blues
8. Set in Motion (21) - from Never Hear the End of It
9. Keep On Thinkin' (14) - from Navy Blues
10. Ill Placed Trust (21) - from Never Hear the End of It

Sunday Shuffle #349

It's always nice going into a three-day work week...

1. The Troubles/U2 (1) - hadn't actually downloaded this yet
2. Viennese Hangover/The Smithereens (12) - last played on 12/31/12
3. Sunrise Eyes/Matthew Sweet (3) - last played on 8/23/11
4. Jealousy/Spoon (8) - last played on 5/12/13
5. Ghost World/Aimee Mann (4) - last played on 10/26/14
6. Sukie In The Graveyard/Belle and Sebastian (11) - last played on 10/18/14
7. Seashell Tale/M. Ward (3) - last played on 8/14/11
8. She Doesn't Get It/The Format (5) - last played on 3/3/13
9. Testament To Youth In Verse/The New Pornographers (1) - iTunes debut
10. Major Leagues/Pavement (14) - last played on 4/16/14

Sunday Shuffle #348

Getting a slightly later start today, so let's just jump right to today's ten...

1. The Rainbow/Ben Kweller (30) - last played on 2/13/14
2. Promises/The Morning Benders (9) - last played on 11/1/14
3. Fuckingsong/Jarvis Cocker (7) - last played on 4/10/12
4. Ambivalent Landscape Z/The Extra Lens (7) - last played on 12/30/10
5. Wait Up (Boots of Danger)/Tokyo Police Club (15) - last played on 6/2/13
6. Short Version/Wild Flag (13) - last played on 1/11/12
7. Round the City Square/Bob Mould (19) - last played on 10/30/14
8. Baby on My Arm/The Broken West (11) - last played on 11/15/14
9. Five Little Sluts/Avi Buffalo (9) - last played on 8/14/11
10. It's Not Serious/Hospitality (3) - last played on 7/7/14

Sunday Shuffle #347

Got in a 2.5 mile run this morning and it felt really good. Thought I'd follow up with today's ten...

1. Mating Calls/Warren Zanes (3) - last played on 11/4/14
2. One Big Holiday/My Morning Jacket (4) - last played on 5/22/11
3. We're Not Alone/Dinosaur Jr. (6) - last played on 3/20/12
4. How To Hang A Warhol/Little Joy (7) - last played on 4/21/13
5. Never Had Nobody Like You/M. Ward (6) - last played on 5/5/13
6. Massive Nights/The Hold Steady (8) - last played on 3/17/14
7. Spaghetti Western/Hoodoo Gurus (7) - last played on 4/21/13
8. Bella Donna/The Avett Brothers (6) - last played on 10/7/12
9. Lovedust/Luna (8) - last played on 7/20/14
10. Angela/Jarvis Cocker (5) - last played on 4/10/12

Sunday Shuffle #346

I added four album from my CD collection last night so it's possible something from The New Pornographers or The National could reach its first play today. Let's see what happens in today's ten...

1. I'll Take It/Tom Adamson (8) - last played on 11/18/12
2. Rabbit Fighter/T. Rex (10) - last played on 10/12/14
3. Singer Castle Bells/Great Lake Swimmers (5) - last played on 10/24/12
4. Merchants of Soul/Spoon (8) - last played on 8/6/14
5. Jessica/Avi Buffalo (9) - last played on 9/15/13
6. Believe What You're Saying (Campfire Mix)/Sugar (1)
7. Something In the Water/The Henry Clay People (6) - last played on 11/6/12
8. Lord, Don't Pass Me By/The Ladybug Transistor (8) - last played on 10/12/14
9. Why Won't They Talk to Me?/Tame Impala (4) - last played on 6/9/13
10. Vegetable Man/The Soft Boys (5) - last played on 4/7/13

Sunday Shuffle #345

For the first time in a few months (at least), I've added some albums to my iTunes this week. Will any of those songs show up in today's ten? Only one way to find out...

1. Broken Links/The Ladybug Transistor (4) - last played on 4/7/13
2. Where Are The Prawns/The Soft Boys (2) - last played on 4/14/13
3. Promenade/U2 (5) - last played on 1/2/13
4. Gold Star for Robot Boy/Guided By Voices (7) - last played on 7/31/12
5. No Backbone/The Lemonheads (7) - last played on 11/4/12
6. Is Love Forever?/Spoon (15) - last played on 8/3/14
7. No Reason/Nick Lowe (6) - last played on 10/27/13
8. Gimmeakiss/The Avett Brothers (6) - last played on 10/24/12
9. City With No Children/Arcade Fire (21) - last played on 9/11/13
10. Slow Jabroni/Surfer Blood (8) - last played on 12/16/12

Sunday Shuffle #344

Three weeks in a row?

Three weeks in a row.

Here are today's ten...

1. Pollyanna/Patterson Hood (10) - last played on 1/3/13
2. Sprung A Leak/Superchunk (22) - last played on 8/15/13
3. Conman/East River Pipe (6) - last played on 12/19/11
4. Heart Of The City/Nick Lowe (6) - last played on 10/5/14
5. One in the Same/My Morning Jacket (5) - last played on 2/17/13
6. Sleepin In/The Morning Benders (12) - last played on 2/17/13
7. Behind That Locked Door/Yim Yames (3) - last played on 2/3/13
8. Half Moon/M. Ward (3) - last played on 6/17/12
9. Something Great/Haley Bonar (4) - last played on 6/2/13
10. Patterns of Fairytales (12) - last played on 6/9/13

Sunday Shuffle #343

Last time I shuffled two consecutive Sundays was back in July of last year. Huh.

Here are today's ten...

1. Lost Without You/Rhett Miller (11) - last played on 6/27/13
2. Southern Heart/The Walkmen (17) - last played on 12/12/13
3. Tie A Rope To The Back Of The Bus/Superchunk (17) - last played on 8/15/13
4. Four Thieves Gone/The Avett Brothers (4) - last played on 2/3/13
5. Make It Right/J Mascis (20) - last played on 6/30/13
6. Man on the Moon/Sugar (9) - last played on 9/6/13
7. Fish/Wye Oak (16) - last played on 1/31/14
8. Remember Last Time/Avi Buffalo (9) - last played on 4/15/12
9. St. Peter's Cathedral/Death Cab For Cutie (13) - last played on 5/7/14
10. Money City Maniacs/Sloan (13) - last played on 3/29/14

Sunday Shuffle #342

It's been 4 1/2 months since my last shuffle. Wait, that sounds like I'm speaking at Shufflers Anonymous or confessing my Shuffling sins. I guess what I'm trying to say is that this morning feels like a morning to shuffle, so here are today's ten...

1. The Stand Ins, One/Okkervil River (4) - last played on 10/21/12
2. Chinese Translation/M. Ward (5) - last played on 6/23/13
3. Sweetie/Josh Rouse (5) - last played on 8/19/12
4. Sawdust Man/Ben Kweller (10) - last played on 8/31/12
5. Don't Let Him Waste Your Time/Jarvis Cocker (4) - last played on 5/13/12
6. Modesto Is Not That Sweet/The Hold Steady (7) - last played on 5/5/13
7. Marie Provost/Nick Lowe (4) - last played on 3/12/11
8. No Name #6/Elliott Smith (5) - last played on 7/14/13
9. Unhinged/The Drams (3) - last played on 1/15/12
10. Deeper Into Movies/Yo La Tengo (6) - last played on 3/22/14

Anticipated: August 2014

Every month brings new pop culture goodies to enjoy. Here is what I'm most looking forward to this month...

The Magician's Land by Lev Grossman (8/5) - This is the final book in Grossman's Magicians trilogy. I liked The Magicians and loved The Magician King the first time around...that's right, I've decided to reread this series in anticipation of the new volume. I don't reread very often; in fact, the last time I reread a series like this was right before the final Harry Potter book was published 7 years ago. I'm finding my reading of the first book has changed my perception of it but that's probably a different post.

Spoon/They Want My Soul (8/5) - Spoon is one of my favorite bands, so it's not a surprise I'm excited to listen to this album (you can stream it on iTunes right now but that's not my favorite option). I've liked the 3 songs that have surfaced so far - the classic stomp of "Rent I Pay," the sunny pop of "Do You…

Sunday Shuffle #341

Just feel like doing a shuffle this morning...

1. Hysterical Strength/St. Vincent (12) - last played on 1/13/13
2. A Cunning Latch/Portastatic (4) - last played on 8/26/12
3. Comfortable/Frankel (4) - last played on 6/9/13
4. Tell Me What You Want Me To Do/Mary Weiss (5) - last played on 2/17/13
5. Colony Collapse/Telekinesis (7) - last played on 9/1/13
6. Lights/Josh Ritter (14) - last played on 12/10/13
7. Not Turning Off/Spoon (5) - last played on 9/23/12
8. Snowsuit Sound/Sloan (14) - last played on 9/28/13
9. Melody/Elk City (3) - last played on 5/26/13
10. Come Home Loaded Roadie/Amy Millan (6) - last played on 3/17/13

The Mix #5: You Gotta Get Back Out There

This mix mostly traffics in songs from the first three months of the year, though there are a few holdovers from last year (plus, a track from 1996). I think 2014 has been strong so far and am looking forward to a handful of April albums in the immediate (Split Single, The Both, Afghan Whigs, and Old 97s for starters).

1. It's Your Choice/Brendan Benson - Benson's latest album came out in early December and it's full of his brand of power pop, of which I'm a big fan. This is the lead track from his album and seemed perfect to open this mix as well.

2. Shit Shots Count/Drive-By Truckers - It's been a few years since the DBTs put out a new album and this is the first of a new era - they are back to just two songwriters, Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley. I'm really liking this album, which is balanced between the two songwriters. This many Cooley songs is unprecedented and this blast of Rolling Stones rock with a horn section and his typical wit is just great.

3. Badil…

Sunday Shuffle #340

I hadn't used the shuffle function on my iTunes in a long time but last Sunday I felt like doing it again. It was fun. So, this week I thought I'd do it again and actually turn it into a blog post. Here are today's ten...

1. April the 14th Part 1/Gillian Welch (4) - last played on 3/10/13
2. What Jail Is Like/The Afghan Whigs (18) - last played on 2/23/13
3. Billie Jean/Michael Jackson (1) - debut *
4. Butterfingers/Gentleman Jesse (7) - last played on 2/16/14
5. Failsafe/The New Pornographers (10) - last played on 2/18/14
6. Supercar/Centro-Matic (5) - last played on 6/10/12
7. 1234/Feist (59) - last played on 3/20/12 **
8. Dignity And Shame/Crooked Fingers (8) - last played on 3/3/13
9. The Everthere/Elbow (5) - last played on 9/23/12
10. Two Hearts Beat As One/U2 (2) - last played on 1/2/12

* I normally don't play the songs my wife loaded on but this really hit the spot today

** My wife had this on one of her playlists, which is why the total play number is so much …