Tuesday, December 23, 2003
Fimoculous' List of Music Lists
The Albums and Songs of the Year from New York Times (Jon Pareles)
The Albums and Songs of the Year from New York Times (Ben Ratliff)
The Albums and Songs of the Year from New York Times (Neil Strauss)
The Albums and Songs of the Year from New York Times (Kelefa Sanneh)
Year in Review from Billboard (subscription)
The 15 Best Songs of the Year from Entertainment Weekly
The 10 Best Albums of the Year from Entertainment Weekly
The 5 Worst of the Year from Entertainment Weekly
Best and Worst of 2003 from Time
50 Best Albums of 2003 from Rolling Stone.
Pop Top 10 from The Guardian
Jazz Top 10 from The Guardian
Top 50 Albums of 2003 from Pitchfork.com.
Top 50 Singles of 2003 from Pitchfork.com.
Top 50 Singles of 2003 from Pitchfork.com.
Top 10 Albums of 2003 from The Modern Age.
Top 10 Music from The Advocate
Top 50 Albums from Sydney Morning Herald.
Hip-hop's Top 10 from Chicago Sun-Times.
2003 in Music from St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Least Essential Albums of 2003 from The Onion.
Albums of 2003 from The Guardian.
The Very Best Albums of 2003 from City Pages (Melissa Maerz).
Top 10 Albums from City Pages Music Critics.
Top Ten: The Year In Music from Baltimore's City Paper.
Albums Of 2003 from Mojo.
Best of 2003 from Art Forum.
Best Reviewed Albums of 2003 from MetaCritic.
50 Best Albums of 2003 from NME.
Best Videos of 2003 from NME.
Best of 2003 from Blender.
Best of 2003 from Spin.
Top 50 2003 from Q.
Best Pop from Denver Post.
Best Country from Denver Post.
Best Jazz from Denver Post.
The Classical Moments of the Year from New York Times.
Best Classical CD's of 2003 from New York Times.
Best Classical from Denver Post.
The Rock Year In Music from The Seattle Times.
Top 10 from Newsday.
Ten Albums You Might Have Missed from Minneapolis Star-Tribune
Best of 2003 from San Antonio Express-News.
Top 10 Albums of 2003 from The Morning News.
Best Music of 2003 from Pop Matters.
Top Eleven Indie Albums from Largehearted Boy.
Year in Music News from Pitchfork.com.
Top 25 Albums of 2003 from Tiny Mix Tapes.
Top 20 Album Covers of 2003 from Tiny Mix Tapes.
Best of 2003 from FreeWilliamsburg.
Top 50 from Play Louder.
Top 20 Albums of 2003 from Canned Magazine.
2003 Review from TheMilkFactory.
The Shit List from PlayLouder.
Top 100 of 2003 from Rough Trade.
Consumer Guide 2003 from Robert Christgau.
Top 100 DJs 2003 from DJ Mag.
Best New Music from Pitchfork.
Year In Review from DrownedInSound.com.
Year In Review from DrownedInSound.com.
Favorite 20 Singles from 2003 from Stylus.
Best Music of 2003 from Travelers Diagram.
Classical CDs of the Year from The Economist.
Best Country Albums of 2003 from CMT.
Best Country Singles of 2003 from CMT.
Top MTV and MTV2 Moments from MTV.com
MTV Top 10s from MTV.com
Big In '03 from VH1
Favorite Antipop CDs of 2003 from San Francisco Chronicle.
Top Concerts from Pollstar (via AP).
Favorite Scribblings from Rock Critics.
Anna Nicole Smith: Academy Award Winning Cow
The moral of the story is, if you are a terrible actress, try not to piss off the crew: They have all your outakes. -- And they are so bad, they are simply hysterical.
Here's Viceland's description:
Once poor and lovely, now rich and cow-like, Anna Nicole Smith is obviously a big fan of prescription drugs. Holy shit. The editors of this movie had such a hard time getting any half-decent footage from her cavalcade of unintelligible stonededness that they decided to splice the worst of it together into one of the best things you’ve ever seen. Not only does she act like someone just startled her out of a deep sleep, but she cannot remember any lines whatsoever. Even three-word sentences spoken directly into her ear come out of her mouth sounding like a catatonic fish. HIGHLIGHTS: You can hear the director saying to her face, “The line is ‘We’ve gotta get out of here,’” which she turns into “We gotta get shit...we gotta...fuck, man”You must see them to believe them.
Sunday, December 21, 2003
Greatest American Rock and Roll Band?
Here's an odd little conversation starter from the office this week: Who is/was the greatest American Rock 'n Roll band?
Before you answer, understand the masturbatory parameters of this debate:
Rule 1: Only U.S. groups
Thus, we eliminate the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, and the rest of the Brits who followed: Led Zeppelin, The Who, Pink Floyd, Genesis, Yes and Dire Straits, amongst others. You can argue about the order of this list, but it don't matter -- none can apply for the job.
Rule 2: Only bands, not solo artists
That eliminated Bruce Springsteen and a host of other rock stars. (I argued that the E Street Band counts as a band, but I eventually had to acknowledge that they are essentially a backing group).
My colleague had narrowed his list down to 3 bands: The Eagles, Van Halen and the Beach Boys. I mostly disagreed. My choices were: Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Doors, Steely Dan, Talking Heads and R.E.M. (And though they are not a choice of mine, I can also see how some people would put the Grateful Dead into the mix; The same thought applies to Nirvana, but even less so).
Here are my choices, and then my colleagues (which I mostly challenged):
My nominations for the Greatest American Rock and Roll Band are:
Creedence Clearwater Revival: Consistently one of the most underated bands in U.S. musical history. Hugely influential, tremendous body of work. Where as most Beach Boy songs sound somewhat dated, CCR still sounds fresh and relevant today. Listen to the songs Fortunate Son, Green River or Run through the Jungle. Any of these could be credibly performed by many popular bands today (at least the ones that have chops).
The biggest issue with choosing CCR is that John Fogarty, their singer/songwriter/guitarist has such a substantial body of solo work, its sometimes hard to separate the two. Its also true that CCR was essentially Fogarty, so perhaps they only quasi-qualify as a Band. Upon reflection, I will admit that CCR is specific to a certain era, and while some may find they are somewhat dated -- I think they still rock the house.
The Doors: You have to include The Doors in this list. They were a quintessential late 60's/early 70's band. Their first album makes all kinds of lists: Best albums of the '60s, best debut album.
Their body of work was abbreviated due to Jim Morrison's untimely death. Had they gone the distance, or even just another 5 years, they would have been a lock for the top slot. Despite their relatively short run, they still made the short list. But as matter of choice, I base my list on actual performance, not unrealized potential. So put The Doors into the top 5, and move on.
Steely Dan: Precise musicianship and song writing, effortlessly crossing boundaries into pop and jazz. An enormous body of work, known for its depth as well as breadth. One of the great things about Dan is that you can grab any CD of theirs, and play it straight thru. There ain't much in the way of filler here.
Criticisms: Not the most raucous live bands you've ever seen. Too cerebral for some, while others find their work cold or distant. I think they're great, but then again I like Dread Zeppelin, which some find unlistenable . . .
Talking Heads: Here's where we start to get religous. You either 'got' and loved the T. Heads in the '80s, or you didn't, in which case you were probably a disco loving jerk -- but lets not start with the name calling so soon, ok?
The Heads were enormously influential on so many bands that followed them. Their layered soundscapes of rythm and percussion still resonate today. Although their earlier work sounds very much tied to the early era of punk (wen listened to today), and their latter stylizings are, well, very stylized. "Little Creatures," which was a fun album when released, comes across a bit corny today. But their middle work reveals a powerful and innovative band: "Fear of Music" and "Remain in Light" are masterpieces; "Speaking In Tongues" still sounds great. The marvelously stripped down "Stop Making Sense" foreshadowed MTV unplugged by nearly a decade.
I understand that the Heads were somewhat inaccessible; its rock and roll, but not what some people think of as pure rock (like CCR); if you think Steely Dan is cerebral, Eno and Byrne drove the Heads intellectually light years ahead of their time. Still, if you're looking for collaborative American genius, this is it.
I guess we saved the best for last. An incredibly rich and varied body of work. Groundbreaking; Revitalizing. Just as rock n roll was becoming irrelevant, R.E.M. snatched it back with avengeance. Beautifully constructed melodies and lyrics, driving guitars, a thoughtful presence throughout.
I can't find much to dislike about this choice, except some of their lesser, later work; Also, not everyone appreciates the occasional mandolin. Some of the much later albums lack some of the original creative spark.
My colleague's choices:
The Eagles: A fairly inspired choice which I might have overlooked. Over the course of more than 20 years, they have produced a widely appreciated catalogue fo music covering a broad swath of styles, from country to rock. They have also adapted well to a few key line up changes.
Two strikes against them: First, I think of them as more influenced by other bands, rather than influencing others. One would hope that the greatest American Rock n Roll band was 'inspirational.'
The other strike? I saw the Eagles live, and it was a yawner. Very boring to watch 5 motionless guys spread out across a stage. Hell, Tenacious D puts on a better show. If you can't light it up live, than you simply cannot be named the "Greatest American Rock and Roll Band." Period.
Van Halen: Now, here's a band that certainly knows how to kick it live ("kick it with a tasty groove" as JB would say). They have an extensive catalogue, with many great songs.
Very little in the way of criticism of this choice, but here goes: Perhaps they are too well known for their covers, rather than their own work. Non hard core Van Halen fans know their versions of the Kinks "You Really Got Me" and Roy Orbison's "(Oh) Pretty Woman." That cuts both ways, and while it kinda takes some of the blush off the rose for some, I don't have a problem with it; but I do understand the argument that we would prefer the greatest band in the land to be best known for their own body of work. I would certainly choose VH over, say Aerosmith, because of the body of work. But they don't strike me as THE seminal USA rock n roll band.
Random VH note: I saw them open for Black Sabbath in 1979, and they simply blew Ozzie and friends off the stage. Kick ass performance.
Beach Boys: There's no doubt that the Beach Boys were very influential. "Pet Sounds" is widely credited with influencing the Beatles to do a concept album of their own: Sgt. Peppers.
However, they are so narrowly genre specific -- "Surf Music" -- that its hard to call them fully representative of American Rock 'n Roll. You can try making the same argument about Van Halen, but "Hard Rock" is so much broader of a genre than the narrow field the Beach Boys tilled. An interesting choice, but does not make the final cut. Let's just call them top five, and leave it at that.
Got an opinion on music? Agree or disagreee with these choices? Let me know by submitting a comment below -- I'll waive my usual requirement and even allow anonymous postings . . .
Final thoughts: There are plenty of other bands one could include on this list, but most fail to make the final cut for a variety of reasons. CSNY were too narrow, Red Hot Chili Peppers, who have a large of body of work are also in the running.
While we are talking about Music, be sure to check out the industry commentary: Music Sales Rise on Aggressive Discounting, Price Competition and an Improving Economy
The Guardian's approach doesn't use our framework --they allow solo acts, which of course changes the entire dynamic. Regardless, its a good read.
UPDATE II: December 24, 2005 11:07am
John Fogerty is back at Fantasy records, his old label. The new owners and Fogerty buried the hatchet, and he released "The Long Road Home: The Ultimate John Fogerty-Creedence Collection."
Now, you can see the full catalogue of both CCR and Fogerty. Only problem is, it makes CCR look like a Fogertybacking band!
Saturday, December 20, 2003
F U & Your H2
The official Hummer 2 Salute site is, to say the least, strangely amusing:
So...why all the fuss?
"Well, it breaks down like this:
The H2 is the ultimate poseur vehicle. It has the chassis of a Chevy Tahoe and a body that looks like the original Hummer; i.e. it's a Chevy Tahoe in disguise.
The H2 is a gas guzzler. Because it has a gross vehicle weight rating over 8500 lbs, the US government does not require it to meet federal fuel efficiency regulations. Hummer isn't even required to publish its fuel economy (owners indicate that they get around 10 mpg for normal use). So while our brothers and sisters are off in the Middle East risking their lives to secure America's fossil fuel future, H2 drivers are pissing away our "spoils of victory" during each trip to the grocery store.
The H2 is a polluter. Based on G.M.'s optimistic claim that it gets13 mpg, an H2 will produce 3.4 metric tons of carbon emissions in a typical year, nearly double that of G.M.'s Chevrolet Malibu sedan.
The H2 is a death machine. You'd better hope that you don't collide with an H2 in your economy car. You can kiss your ass goodbye thanks to the H2's massive weight and raised bumpers. Too bad you couldn't afford an urban assault vehicle of your own. Or could you...?
The H2 is a tax loophole. Under Bush's new tax plan, business owners can deduct the entire cost of their $55,000 H2. If you are in the highest tax bracket, that's a tax savings of nearly $20,000! The government rewards you more savings for buying an H2 than you'd get for buying an electric car.
So, if you see it our way, tell a Hummer owner what you think and show 'em the bird. If you do, send us a picture--we'd love to post it on our site."
Friday, December 19, 2003
Beyond Red and Blue
The basis of this analysis is the gross oversimplification of political viewpoints endemic to a 2 party system. If you are a fiscal conservative, but social liberal how do you vote? How about an anti-abortion union member? Obviously, the Dems and the GOP neither fully nor adequately represent the broad spectrum of political thought in the U.S.
Commonwealth divided the electorate into 10 seperate regions, regardless of state borders. "How they come together will determine the presidential election." Excerpt:
One of the most awful prospects of the next presidential election is the return of… that damn map . Depicting the results of the 2000 election, the reigning graphic of American politics divides the United States into two colors, red for Republican and blue for Democratic. It's also the basis of a lot of simplistic political analysis. "The 2000 election map highlighted a deep cultural tension between the cities (the blue states) and the sticks (the red states)," as Matt Bai put it in the New York Times Magazine earlier this year. David Brooks described this schism in more acerbic tones in the Atlantic Monthly in 2001: "In Red America churches are everywhere. In Blue America Thai restaurants are everywhere."
But this primary-color collage resonates only because it turns up the contrast. Given that more than 40 percent of voters in the blue states backed Bush and more than 40 percent of voters in the red states backed Gore, doesn't the red vs. blue model seem, well, a bit black-and-white?
So CommonWealth decided to make a map of our own. Aiming somewhere between the reductionist red-and-blue model and the most accurate (but least useful) subdivision of the United States into infinity, we split the county into 10 regions, each with a distinct political character. Our regions are based on voting returns from both national and state elections, demographic data from the US Census, and certain geographic features such as mountain ranges and coastlines. (See " The 10 Regions of US Politics " for detailed descriptions.) Each region represents about one tenth of the national electorate, casting between 10.4 million and 10.8 million votes in the 2000 presidential election.
An interesting analysis which will likely have resonance in November 2004 . . .
Thursday, December 18, 2003
What a crappy present!
What a Crappy Present: CDs make bad gifts for kids!
A very funny rant from the folks at "Downhill Battle."
These guys are into some serious guerilla theatre and are stealth activists versus the RIAA. Interesting attempt at raising consciousness:
Wednesday, December 17, 2003
How to Drink Alcohol on Diet
The Wall Street Journal reports a new marketing trend amongst the makers of imbibing spirits: Pitching their wares to Dieters.
If Beer bellies and flabby buns are the first thing that come to mind when you think about boozin', well then you are the exact consumer the alcohol industry is gunning for.
In a world where it's OK for dieters to load up on bacon and hamburgers, what's so bad about a cocktail? Not much at all, according to the liquor industry. In an effort to cash in on the popularity of trendy low-carb diets like Atkins, makers of vodka, whiskey, and other hard liquors are starting to pitch their products as low-carb and diet-friendly, following the success of a low-carbohydrate campaign this year by Michelob Ultra beer.
In fact, looks can be deceiving and there can be some surprisingly low-carb and low-calorie drinks behind the bar. Guinness, for instance, with its thick consistency and chocolate-cake color, is likely to be one of the first beers carb-conscious drinkers would cut out. In fact, it has only 10 grams of carbs and 125 calories per 12 ounces -- fewer carbs than Budweiser, Coors and Corona. (The reason is, Guinness contains less alcohol.) Other products that look more virtuous, such as the clear-colored malt beverage Smirnoff Ice, are carb-laden. A 12 oz. serving of the trendy brew has 32 grams of carbs and 228 calories, or about the same as a baked apple pie from McDonald's. Same for drinkers of non-alcoholic beers, which can carry more than 14 grams of carbs per 12 ounces.
Of course, this has led consumer advocacy groups to "urge liquor companies to put more nutritional information on their packaging." Their claim? Current labeling rules are "haphazard and hard to decipher." The Center for Science in the Public Interest as well as the National Consumers League have petitioned the federal government to require "uniform labeling for liquor much like what's already required on food-product packaging."
The proposed labels would include information on alcohol content, serving sizes, calories and ingredients. Currently, the government has widely varying rules for different products -- low-carb and light beer must list calorie content, for instance, but wine, spirits and regular beers don't have to:
Nutritional label for alcoholic beverages as proposed by consumer advocates.
This may be the next big issue of consumer disclosure laws. (I always say, err on the side of more disclosure):
"People are unaware of the calories and ingredients, and don't know how to compare between types of beverages," said George Hacker of the Center for Science in the Public Interest. Brewers and distillers including Anheuser-Busch and Diageo said they are still evaluating the proposal.
The low-carb, high-protein dieting trend should be terrific news for liquor makers: Rum, vodka, gin, whisky and tequila contain no carbs or fat at all, and never have. Still, 63% of consumers incorrectly believe wine and beer are lower in carbs than spirits, according to a study by Ipsos Public Affairs.
All of this has triggered a wave of new marketing campaigns. Diageo, which makes Captain Morgan Original Spiced rum and Johnnie Walker, is now urging bartenders to promote holiday-themed drinks such as a Johnnie Walker Red Label and Ginger, a mix of scotch and diet ginger ale that clocks in at 96 calories, about the same as three rice cakes.
Allied Domecq, which makes Kahlua, is also targeting barkeepers and encouraging them to, for example, offer "skinny" White Russians made with skim milk instead of regular milk. It's trying to stir up buzz by sponsoring parties at the offices of Hollywood producers and publicists, as well as some hip hair salons. The drink has roughly half the calories (229) and two-thirds the carbs (18) of a normal White Russian.
Phillips Distilling recently launched a low-carb campaign for its UV vodka and is telling distributors to cross-market it with products like Crystal Light sugar-free lemonade. And Bacardi plans to dust off some of its old advertising from dieting crazes of yore. An 1984 print ad, for example, asks which has more calories: five ounces of white wine, or a five-ounce Bacardi and diet Coke. (Answer: The rum drink, 66 calories, wine, 121.)
See WHAT'S IN YOUR DRINK?
Chart depicting total carbohydrates, calories and fat in various types of alcohol (pdf)
Liquor Industry's New Pitch: How to Drink Alcohol on Diet
Groups Seek Nutrition Labels As Distillers Go Low Carb;
The Surprise About Guinness
By CHRISTOPHER LAWTON
THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, December 17, 2003
Tuesday, December 16, 2003
Drink with Europeans!
Its the time of year when we all tend to eat and drink more. Point your attention to an interesting NYT article (well hidden in the Biz section) on the pitfalls of not knowing local drinking customs. The twist is its not the usual Islamic admonitions of "no alcohol," but rather, just the opposite: The many ways Europeans enjoy their grog. Worth a look, especially if you travel on business alot.
American executives abroad often find that liquor is a much bigger part of the business equation than at home. But ordering, pouring, toasting and drinking in a foreign land can be fraught with pitfalls for the unwary. What seems trivial may provoke reactions from mild irritation to acute horror.
"Wine and beer are in corporate cafeterias in Western Europe and commonly served at lunch,'' said Dean Foster, whose consulting firm, Dean Foster Associates, offers cross-cultural corporate training. "As you go further east in Europe, you see more and more of a drinking culture, and liquor is always a part of business meetings at any hour of the day." In Budapest, for example, shot glasses of apricot brandy on the table for 9 a.m. meetings are not uncommon, he said.
And visiting Americans should be prepared to lift them. "You are totally expected to drink it, and as soon as you finish, your glass is refilled,'' said Mr. Foster, who has written books on how to behave in Europe, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East for the Global Etiquette Guides (John Wiley & Sons, 2000). "If you refuse, it means I can't trust you, and thus we can't do business together."
Here are some of the "drinking rules" in Europe:
· In Britain, don't ask for "a beer" in pubs. "You'll be laughed at! Instead, order ale, stout or lager."
· In Scotland, when ordering a single-malt, state the location (like Highlands, Islay, Skye or Lowlands), brand and age. (One bartender noted: 'We have 65 varieties - which one would you like?');
· DO NOT order the country's most famous export on the rocks -- its seen as insulting by Scots; Instead, order with a splash or side of water;
· In Italy, pouring wine while tilting your wrist backwards over glasses is a Faux Pas!
· When making a toast in Austrian, look deeply in the eyes of your group;
· In Germany, the practice of linking arms during a toast signifies friendship;
I want to party with these guys!
Making a Toast Without Dropping One's Guard
By SHARON McDONNELL
New York Times, December 16, 2003
Wal-Mart Nite Shift
Here's a snippet to whet your appetites:
First off, you absolutely must understand one crucial fact about life - and this fact will remain constant forever: NO ONE NORMAL works the overnight shift ANYWHERE. This is ESPECIALLY evident at Wal-Mart, where not only are you working overnight in a gigantic wasteland of a career path, you are doing so along side people who clean department store floors and stock Liquid Dawn dish soap and various salty Golden Flake snacks on shelves 8 hours a night for a living. IN GEORGIA. These people weren’t exactly what one would consider to be members of the conversational elite. I would have believed that these people were only a protein strand away from being considered single-celled beings, except that it definitely takes more than one cell to produce the smells that eminated from most of them.
Add to this conglomeration of educationally inept rednecks the fact that they actually had quite an elaborate social structure built into their little group, one that did NOT readily include people who pronounce the word "green" with only one syllable or have, at any point in their lives, read so much as the advertisement on a book of matches . . .
The full tale can be seen here: The Wal-Mart Story
Update: You must read this til the end!
The Wal-Mart Story