Saturday, December 29, 2007

Best Songs of 2007

My obsession with year-end "Best Of" lists continues. My movie list will have to be postponed until I've seen everything that's out. As of right now, I only have a Top 5. What can I say, movies sucked this year. And the few good ones didn't come to Bloomsburg, or opened in New York when I was in the middle of moving and didn't have time to go to the theater.


To be clear, these are songs for which I didn't feel the entire record warranted a slot in my top 10 album list. Combine these songs with my recommended downloads from my Top 10 Albums and you get my idea of a perfect mix CD.

1. Rihanna feat. Jay-Z, "Umbrella"

2. Timbaland
(I'm cheating a bit here, because I couldn't pick just one Timbaland song among the trio of "The way I Are," "Give it to Me," and "Apologize." More of a magician than a producer, in my opinion.)

3. Amy Winehouse, "Rehab"

4. A Fine Frenzy, "Almost Lover"

5. Alicia Keys, "No One"

6. Kate Nash, "Foundations"

7. Britney Spears, "Gimme More"
(Say what you will about her personal life, this song rocks.)

8. Bruce Springsteen, "Radio Nowhere"

9. Ingrid Michaelson, "Keep Breathing"

10. Northern State, "Better Already"

And, to give myself a little breathing room, some songs that were technically released in 2006 but which provided a partial soundtrack to my life this year:

1. CSS - "Music is my Hot Hot Sex"

2. Beyonce - "Irreplaceable"

3. Silversun Pickups - "Lazy Eye"

4. Shiny Toy Guns - "Rainy Monday"

5. Lily Allen - "Nan You're a Window Shopper"

Friday, December 28, 2007

Best CDs of 2007

List subject to change:)

1. The Con, Tegan and Sara
I can't say enough about this band or this album. It's flawless, both musically and lyrically, from start to finish. Chris Walla's production is astounding as well. Hands down the best record of the year.
Download this: "The Con"

2. Boxer, The National
The songs on "Boxer" tread a fine line between being hopeful and heartbreaking; leadoff track "Fake Empire" literally brings tears to my eyes each time I hear it. I really regret that I didn't discover The National until this year, but I'm super excited to see these guys live at BAM in February.
Download this: "Fake Empire"

3. Under the Blacklight, Rilo Kiley
A musical rollercoaster of a record. I'm a little late to the Rilo Kiley bandwagon, but I think I picked a good time to jump on.
Download this: "Close Call"

4. I See Red EP, Uh Huh Her
If the rest of the album (set to be released in early '08) is as good as this, Uh Huh Her will definitely have a spot reserved on my top 10 next year.
Download this: "I See Red"

5. New Wave, Against Me!
Definitely a harder sound than I typically prefer, but also really catchy. An album that boasts lyrical intelligence as well.
Download this: "Thrash Unreal"

6. Trading Twilight for Daylight, Great Northern
Pretty much the polar opposite of Against Me!. This album makes me smile.
Download this: "Just a Dream"

7. The Reminder, Feist
I must admit, I didn't fawn over Feist like everyone else did when I first heard her. But then one day, all of a sudden, I was hooked. Maybe this had something to do with it. And her SNL performance sealed the deal.
Download this: "1234"

8. Disco Romance, Sally Shapiro
I distinctly remember hearing this record on independent radio back in April when I was driving aimlessly around Philadelphia after I missed the exit for the airport. I loved the sultry ambience and Shapiro's whispery voice at first listen.
Download this: "Anorak Christmas"

9. An End Has a Start, Editors
This album rekindles my love for 80s alt-new wave and makes me want to jump around. 'Nuf said.
Download this: "An End Has a Start"

10. Combinations, Eisley
This slot was sort of a crapshoot between Eisley, Northern State and Arcade Fire. I've had Northern State's "Better Already" in my head for about a week and counting, but Combinations is a better album as a whole.
Download this: "Invasion"

Honorable Mentions:
Kaiser Chiefs, Yours Truly, Angry Mob
New Pornographers, Challengers
Northern State, Can I Keep This Pen?
Arcade Fire, Neon Bible
The Pipettes, We are the Pipettes
Okkervil River, The Stage Names
Rogue Wave, Asleep at Heaven's Gate

I feel like I should be allowed to include We Are Pilots by Shiny Toy Guns on this list, because they're nominated for a 2008 Grammy Award, and I only discovered them this summer. But since the album technically came out in October 2006, I'm leaving it off. Had I included it, it would definitely make my top three.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

New York: If you can make it here, you probably have a trust fund.

They say if you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere. Over the course of a weeks-long apartment search during which I had my cell phone stolen, got sick and encountered some of the strangest people and living situations I've ever come across, the truth of this statement slapped me in the face over and over again. So you can imagine how relieved I was when I finally handed in a deposit on a room in a lovely three-bedroom in Brooklyn tonight.

Before I came to New York, friends warned me that the housing search was going to be a nightmare, and it certainly wasn't something I was looking forward to. But it was something I embarked on with the idealistic optimism of the naive transplant that I was. I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

One of my friends compared hunting for apartments to the birthing process, saying that the joy felt when it's all over is enough to make you forget all the pain and suffering that led up to it. All I know is, I never want to have kids and I also never want to look for an apartment in New York in the winter again, so they must have something in common. I'm writing this post first to say thank you to all my friends in Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey that made my move a little easier by providing beds/couches, food, support, transportation, help packing, advice, company, and car care. I'll never be able to repay you or adequately express how truly grateful I am.

The second reason I'm writing this is to act as a reminder to myself in case I get the inkling in the next year or so that I want to move again. Let's hope redecorating goes a bit more smoothly!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Music makes the people come together

A brief update on some live music I've seen recently in New York City.

-Last week I saw Uh Huh Her (Leisha Hailey from "The L Word"'s band) at Webster Hall. The sound was terrible, probably the worst feedback I've ever heard at a show, but I was impressed with their performance. I'm a fan of their "I See Red" EP and am looking forward to a full-length album that's scheduled for release next year. Their sound is sultry electronica, and they remind me a lot of Goldfrapp. The Webster Hall show featured only a keyboard, bass and guitar, but they said they'll be touring with a full band in 2008. Can't wait.

-Friday night I saw The Most Serene Republic at the Mercury Lounge. They put on a pretty good, albeit short, show. If nothing else, singer Adrian Jewett's onstage antics were pretty fascinating. His red hair and manic eyes gave me an idea of what Ron Weasley's and Iggy Pop's offspring would look and act like. Oh, and he played a trombone on stage, which is always cool in my book.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

My Grammy picks

Here are what my picks would be, if I had a vote, for the 2008 Grammy Awards. I haven't included all the categories (110?!? WTF.) I've left out those for which I've heard few if any of the nominees (i.e. Best Metal Performance), or about which I don't care (i.e. Best Jazz Instrumental Solo).

Record of the Year: "Umbrella," Rihanna feat. Jay-Z (although "Irreplaceable" is a close second for personal reasons:))
Album of the Year: Not voting, haven't heard three of the nominees. But as of now I would vote for Amy Winehouse's "Back to Black."
Song of the Year: "Umbrella"
Best New Artist: Feist
Best Female Pop Vocal Performance: "1234," Feist
Best Male Pop Vocal Performance: "What Goes Around...Comes Around," Justin Timberlake
Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group w/ Vocals: "Window in the Skies," U2
Best Pop Collaboration w/ Vocals: "Give it To Me," Timbaland feat. Nelly Furtado and Justin Timberlake
Best Pop Vocal Album: "The Reminder," Feist
Best Electronic/Dance Album: "We Are Pilots," Shiny Toy Guns
Best Solo Rock Vocal Performance: "Radio Nowhere," Bruce Springsteen
Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group w/ Vocals: "Instant Karma," U2
Best Rock Song: "Radio Nowhere"
Best Rock Album: "Magic," Bruce Springsteen
Best Alternative Music Album: "Neon Bible," Arcade Fire
Best Female R&B Vocal Performance: "No One," Alicia Keys
Best R&B Song: "No One"
Best Female Country Vocal Performance: "Before He Cheats," Carrie Underwood
Best Country Song: "Before He Cheats"
Best Score Soundtrack: "Pan's Labyrinth," Javier Navarrete
Best Compilation Soundtrack: "Once," Glen Hansard & Markete Irglova
Best Song Written for a Motion Picture: "Guaranteed" (from "Into the Wild"), Eddie Vedder
Producer of the Year: Timbaland
Best Short Form Music Video: "1234"
Best Long Form Music Video: "Trapped in the Closet Chapters 13-22," R. Kelly

Monday, December 3, 2007

December issue of Blast is up

Check out the latest issue of Blast Magazine for my article on Tegan and Sara. Click anywhere on the cover to access the article.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Random (quick) thoughts

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

I've been neglectful regarding my blog recently because, as you probably know if you're reading this, I'm in the process of relocating to New York to take a job with a transcription firm.

But here are a few musings/subjects of interest from the past week or so:

-Emerson in the news! This sounds like the type of incident/person that would have annoyed me while I was a student at Emerson. But frankly, I don't see what the big deal is and why the story has become FOX News fodder.

-Beckett was robbed.

-But thank God our World Series MVP is staying. What a class act. The thought of Alex Rodriguez in a Red Sox uniform still sends a chill down my spine.

-I saw Tegan and Sara at Webster Hall in New York on Monday. They put on a great show. Check out my pictures here, and look for my article in next month's issue of Blast.

For interested parties, this was the set list, from what I can remember (not in order):
-Dark Come Soon
-Like O, Like H
-Soil Soil
-Monday, Monday, Monday
-So Jealous
-Where Does the Good Go
-Hop a Plane
-When I Get Up
-Speak Slow
-Relief Next to Me
-Walking With a Ghost
-Knife Going In (?)
-Back in Your Head
-The Con
-Call It Off

-You Wouldn't Like Me
-Are You Ten Years Ago
-Take Me Anywhere
-Living Room

Thursday, November 8, 2007

A good read

Former New York Times correspondent Charlie LeDuff has a really heartfelt and humorous piece in the current issue of Men's Vogue about his transition from Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist to stay-at-home dad. Even I, a self-described loather of children, found it touching — especially the last couple of paragraphs. Trust me, it's worth your time.

From Romenesko.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007


It seems Radiohead's "pay what you want" experiment for their latest album, In Rainbows, failed — in terms of profits, at least.

You have to wonder if, going into this endeavor, the band expected its fans to shell out a reasonable $10 — or even more — per album. My guess is, considering their zealously devoted fanbase, they probably did.

Speaking as someone who still buys CDs and loves looking through liner notes, I know I'm in the minority here. But I was truly surprised to learn that most Radiohead fans didn't even open their wallets when "purchasing" In Rainbows.

I didn't buy In Rainbows and haven't even checked it out on iTunes yet. And I generally gripe about paying more than $9.99 for a CD. But as soon as Radiohead announced their experiment, I immediately asked myself how much I would pay for an album by a band I truly, truly loved. I came up with $25 — based on the fact that I recently spent about that much purchasing two copies of Tegan and Sara's The Con after I wore out the first one by overplaying it.

It's interesting (and depressing) that a band like Radiohead, with such a cult following, can't even inspire fans to cough up more than six bucks for an album. Imagine if an artist (term used loosely) like Britney Spears decided to release an album and told buyers to pay whatever they wanted for it. Would anybody really bust out their credit card? I doubt it.

Also, apparently at least one band rep spoke too soon.

38 (still) Pitches

Good news all around for Red Sox Nation today.

First, I think everyone can be happy about the announcement that blogger/postseason powerhouse/aspiring politician? Curt Schilling will be returning to the team (and, incidentally, probably finishing out his career in Boston). Everyone knows pitching wins in the playoffs, and as far as I'm concerned, the Red Sox just secured a central cog in their 2008 Fall Classic machine.

Schilling has become such an integral part of the Sox' lineup that it's hard to imagine he's only been playing in Boston for four years. I, for one, suspected the right-hander had pitched his last game in a Red Sox uniform when he walked off the mound in Game Two of the World Series. I think he did, too.

So I felt a huge sense of relief to learn that his 11-2, 2.38 ERA playoff stats will be back in Boston next season. Say what you will about his age and injury-prone regular seasons. In my opinion, for what he brings to the team in terms of morale and clutch performances, a one-year, $8 million contract is a bargain.

Let's hope the front office displays the same sensibility in regards to Mike Lowell.

Second, congratulations to Gold Glove winner Kevin Youkilis. Let's hope this is the first of many off-season accolades for the Red Sox. Rookie of the Year and Cy Young, anyone?

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Twice in a Lifetime

I've been on hiatus for the past week or so because I was up in Boston watching the Red Sox win their second World Series in four years — a victory I can't imagine celebrating anywhere else.

It's things like singing "Sweet Caroline" in a bar at 1:00 on a Tuesday afternoon with 150 people that make me realize (to quote The Standells) that Boston truly is my home. Thankfully, this year's celebration was much more subdued than 2004 and none of my classmates was killed this time.

I'll resume blogging this week and probably post more about the Sox' victory, but right now I'm trying to catch up on about six days' worth of sleep.

I leave you with this blissful image...

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

"30 Rock" is a microcosm of American politics

At least if you're Mitt Romney.

Romney's gaffe immediately reminded me of the hilarious "Hard Ball" episode of "30 Rock" last season, in which Jenna (Jane Krakowski) mixes up Osama and Obama in a misguided attempt to win back the hearts of American voters ("That's why I'm voting for Osama in 2008! Oh, no comeback? Ya burnt!").

This, after Jenna's faux pas of confusing the troops in Iraq with theatre troupes during a photo shoot for Maxim: "They think what they do is so important. But it's just a bunch of gay guys that like to get in silly costumes and prance around!"

Ah, that show is brilliant. The image of an oil-covered Jenna slipping all over a leather chair while trying to pose with a rubber chicken in her mouth will always bring a smile to my face.

Watch Jenna's blunder here.

I wonder if Tina Fey is Romney's new speechwriter?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Goodbye, Old Friend

After nearly four years as my gym partner, subway entertainment and trusted companion in general, my iPod mini has finally succumb to the iPod battery curse.

The long and the short of it is, iPods' batteries wear out over time and what's supposed to be an eight-hour playback time (on my model, anyway) slowly deteriorates to a fraction of that. From what I've heard, I should be happy mine lasted as long as it did. I know several people whose iPods crapped out after less than three years, so I wasn't completely surprised last week when my little green Mini barely had the juice to get me through 30 minutes on the elliptical. And a road trip in the car? Forget it.

In the interest of full disclosure, I'll admit I've disregarded some of Apple's recommendations about how to get the most out of your battery (which, incidentally, I only discovered after mine was already on its last legs. I'm not one for owner's manuals.) I leave my iPod in the car during the summer heat and winter cold. I use the equalizer and the backlight. I use the skip function. (Side note - WTF?!? I'm too indecisive to just accept whatever comes on in shuffle mode).

I realize that planned obsolescence is one of the most effective ways for a company to generate revenue, but that doesn't make it any less frustrating for consumers.

But here's where the genius of Apple's marketing and constant reinvention of its products comes into play. Let's be honest. Rather than being annoyed that I'm going to have to shell out a couple hundred dollars to replace upgrade my iPod, I'm actually really excited to be getting a Nano.

My mentality — and Steve Jobs knows this — is, if I'm going to pay $66 to merely replace the battery on my old, out of production mini, I might as well just buy one of the pretty new models — a Shuffle, maybe — for just $13 more.

But a Shuffle holds just 240 songs. And for twice the cost, I could get one of the amazing new Nanos, which has a screen and plays videos and holds four times as many songs get the idea.

And so on.

For financial reasons, I'm opting for a first-generation Nano through Apple's refurbished discount program. (A blue silver one. Only 99 bucks!)

But my heart's still set on one of the new video Nanos.

And don't even get me started on the iPhone. ::Drools::

Monday, October 22, 2007


Tonight I celebrated the Red Sox' ALCS victory by dancing to "Tessie" on the streets of Bloomsburg. Hopefully next weekend will involve a World Series celebration in BOSTON!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Saving the world from terrorism, one indie record at a time

Add song demos to the list of things you shouldn't try to smuggle across the northern border.

Death Cab for Cutie guitarist/producer/genius Chris Walla's song files for his much-anticipated solo record Field Manual were confiscated by mounties Homeland Security officials this week when a courier from his record label tried to bring them into the U.S. from Canada, where Walla is recording the album.

Walla says he has master copies of the songs on tape and plans to mix the songs himself so the record can be released in January. He sounds like he's, predictably, taking the setback in stride and with a sense of humor.

"I can't just call their customer-service center and ask about my drive. There's nothing I can do. I don't know if we can hire an attorney ... is there a black-hole attorney? You can't take a black hole to court."

According to Walla, the album does have "very political" undercurrents. The title refers to a World War II-era guide about how to build IEDs, he says, and some of the songs deal with topics such as Hurricane Katrina, the war in Iraq, and morning-after pills. Sounds like it will be the dance hit of the summer!

But seriously, this is ridiculous. Why can't Homeland Security seize, like, Fall Out Boy's records or something? That would show the terrorists!

A different side of Ellen

Talk show host and normally happy person Ellen DeGeneres made headlines Tuesday after her daytime show turned into a sobfest.

Apparently Ellen and her partner Portia de Rossi adopted a puppy, a Brussels Griffon mix named Iggy, from a shelter last month. But the dog was too rambunctious and didn't get along with their other pets, so DeGeneres gave it to her hairdresser's family. Unfortunately, DeGeneres wasn't aware she had signed a contract saying she would return the dog to the shelter if she couldn't take care of it. Long story short, the pet adoption agency came and seized the dog from its new owners.

I don't typically have a lot of sympathy for people who adopt pets without knowing what they're getting themselves into. My parents own two rescue dogs and the agency they adopted from gets dozens of dogs from families who are too lazy to take care of them, or whose kids aren't interested in the dogs after they've outgrown their puppy cuteness. But Ellen's story seems genuine and her plea to get the dog back is fairly heartbreaking. She gave the shelter free (if bad) publicity on her show; I wonder if they'll respond to her request in return?

Random: There's a great picture in this week's Entertainment Weekly of de Rossi wearing an old, ratty Iggy Pop shirt. Wonder if she named the dog?

Update: A much cheerier DeGeneres reiterated her plea Wednesday, but apparently shelter officials still aren't buying it. Maybe the death threats they've gotten from angry housewives have something to do with that.

Also, has eye-popping video footage from Sunday night, when de Rossi and DeGeneres rushed over to the house after the family had a standoff with the shelter folks.

Questions: Who called TMZ? How many times does Ellen cite her monetary contributions to shelters? And who watches this stuff?!? (Answers: dunno, too many, me.)

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Note to self: Don't piss off Page Six...

...or you might get raped.

It seems the editors at Page Six took offense to Vanessa Grigoriadis' article in New York Magazine about, in which she describes Page Six as "emasculated by the Murdoch hierarchy after the Jared Paul Stern scandal." (link mine).

(Side note: It's a great article. Check it out.)

So, in an effort to prove her wrong, P6 Editor Richard Johnson offers, along with his male co-workers, to assault Grigoriadis — if she were better-looking. Um...right. Cue "Whatta Man."

Not a drive-through

This is why, if I were in a position of power, I would support mandatory yearly driving exams for people over the age of 65.

Update: Second person dies.

Monday, October 15, 2007

A slap in the face

Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen is deservedly on the receiving end of harsh criticism over his recent comments encouraging the media to ignore a mass shooting in Crandon, Wis. and discouraging residents from responding to reporters' questions.

Telling journalists to stop asking questions is like telling Eric Gagne to throw strikes. It's just impossible.

State officials said Van Hollen was trying to respect the victims' families by invoking his gag order. Well, that's not his job - and, harsh as it may sound, it's not a reporter's obligation to be sensitive to grieving relatives when pursuing a news story.

An editorial in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel gets it right.

"The news media must give the survivors room to grieve in private. But they must also do their job — report on a matter of great importance to the state. Unfortunately, Van Hollen has signaled that he may make the media's job harder."

It's the Fourth Estate's responsibility to act as a watch dog, pestering public officials in cases like this to make sure justice is carried out, and raising important questions as to why such acts are committed in the first place. I'm sure plenty of people would have preferred it if Woodward and Bernstein had held off on their questions as well.

At a time when public officials across the country are trying to combat the "Stop Snitchin'" campaign, Van Hollen just gave the movement a boost. Witnesses to violent crimes are already reluctant enough to talk to the press out of fear for their personal safety. This is evident by the prevalence of anonymous sources in newspaper articles about such crimes. Most public officials entreat residents to open up and speak out as witnesses to help solve cases of murder, rape and gang-related activity. It's ludicrous for anyone in such a position of power to suggest otherwise.

Since my earliest experiences in journalism at the Berkeley Beacon, I've lost track of how many complaints I've heard from readers about the media's "gratuitous," "insensitive" coverage of tragic events. My current editors recently devoted more than an hour at one of our bi-weekly writers' meetings to discussing what, if any, obligation we as reporters have to grieving families. At issue was a controversial front-page photo we published of a woman's body, covered by a sheet, after a fatal DUI accident. We didn't come up with a definitive answer, but several very strong opinions were tossed around.

Journalists can't please everybody. In fact, more often than not, we don't please anybody. Someone once told me that, as a reporter, if you're not pissing someone off, you're not doing your job. We certainly don't need public officials to tell us what that job entails.

"Everybody Sucks"

There's a great piece in the current issue of New York Magazine about Gawker, which is probably my favorite Web site and which I check at least 20 times a day. (I'm also a lowly commenter on the site. When I got approved, it was the highlight of my week).

Author Vanessa Grigoriadis brings up some interesting points about Gawker's form of snark reporting and the role it plays in the modern journalism industry:

"Consider the Gawker mind-fuck at a time of rapid deterioration of our industry: Young print journalists are depressed over the state of the industry and their inability to locate challenging work or a job with health insurance. Although the situation may not be as dire as they might imagine—a healthy magazine is constantly on the hunt for young writers, because it wants the fresh take on the world found only in the young, and because young writers tend to be cheap—they need a release, the daily dose of Schadenfreude offered by Gawker’s gallows humor, its ritualistic flogging of working journalists and relentless cataloguing of the industry’s fall (e.g., items like “New Republic Page Count Watch”). Though reading Gawker subtly reinforces their misery, they generate an emotional bond and soon begin to tip it with their own inside information..."

Anyway, the article is long, but fascinating (at least for nerdy people like me). It's well worth a read for anyone interested in current media.

Sunday, October 14, 2007


Check out the latest issue of Blast Magazine for my Fall TV preview package (and other great content, of course). One show I didn't review (it premiered after the issue came out) was "Friday Night Lights", so let me go on record here as saying that's the best show on television. If you haven't seen it, watch an episode for free on, or go rent Season 1 to catch up. You can thank me later.

The Parlance of our Times...

"It's Britney, bitch."

That computer-generated badass assertion (a line from Britney Spears' new single "Gimme More") kicked off the 2007 MTV Video Music Awards on September 9 and told audiences to watch out. Britney was back.

Obviously we all know how that turned out.

If anything positive can come out of Britney's disastrous comeback performance at the show and subsequent downward trajectory, it's a new colloquialism.

I'm hereby proposing that "Britneybitch" be added to modern vocabulary.

Britneybitch — verb
1. to exercise a misguided attempt at a comeback, thereby ruining any chances of said renaissance;
2. to set outrageously high expectations for oneself and then fail to live up to, really, any expectations at all

Example: "The New York Mets really Britneybitched their playoff chances toward the end of the season."

"Gimme More" is undeniably catchy, and it's tearing up the charts even as Britney continues to reach new lows every day in her personal life. But after the promising, cheer-inducing "Britney, bitch" introduction, raised eyebrows gave way to stunned silence and eventual guffawing among Britney's peers at the show, and in homes across America.

With one exception.

One might say MTV Britneybitched its attempt to revitalize the slumping awards program by relying on an (alleged) drug-abusing basket case to open the broadcast.

Trust me, it'll catch on.

Come one, come all

Greetings, friends, family and other guests. I've decided to create a blog to act as a forum for my opinions on all things related to pop culture, the Red Sox and media, as well as random musings. Those interested can also keep up with my latest clips from the Press Enterprise and Blast Magazine here. Thanks for visiting!