The bestest albums of 2017

Yes, even Dubbatrubba is not immune to the year-end list frenzy that sweeps the media this time of year (“Top News Stories”… “Best Movies”… “Favorite Cat Memes”… )

But it’s worth noting that while most hacks stick to a Top 10, in true Spinal Tap fashion, this goes to 11.

 

Not that you asked, not that you care, but here are my favorite albums of 2017, in no particular order, with a video of one of the tracks included for your listening/viewing pleasure.

The War on Drugs – A Deeper Understanding

Alvvays – Antisocialites

Julien Baker – Turn Out The Lights

Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit – The Nashville Sound

Jen Cloher – Jen Cloher

Ron Gallo – Heavy Meta

Hurray for the Riff Raff – The Navigator

The National – Sleep Well Beast 

Aimee Mann – Mental Illness 

Chuck Prophet – Bobby Fuller Died For Your Sins

Waxahatchee – Out in the Storm

 

 

Still high on the Hogs

This is my favorite Sports Illustrated cover of all time:

Sure, it’s a fantastic photo, capturing Sidney Moncrief’s great elevation and determination, with a helpless Texas defender looking on. It’s fun to study the crowd too, and see the looks on people’s faces. This lady is my favorite:

She knows Sid’s about to throw it down…

But it’s also my favorite cover because in February of 1978, when this came out, I was a 13-year-old kid living in Arkansas, and I was definitely high on the Hogs. (HT to my Aunt Virginia for getting my brother and me an annual subscription to Sports Illustrated back then.) I loved those Eddie Sutton-coached teams, playing in Barnhill Arena. They had a very talented trio, nicknamed “The Triplets”: Ron Brewer, Marvin Delph and Sidney Moncrief. Steve Schall and Jimmy Counce rounded out the starting lineup. They made it all the way to the Final Four that year before losing to eventual champ Kentucky by six points in the semis. Back then, they still played a third-place game, and the Razorbacks beat Notre Dame 71-69 on a last-second turnaround jumper by Ron Brewer. I remember it like it was yesterday, even though it was nearly 40 years ago.

Arkansas begins conference play this afternoon, with a home game against #19 Tennessee. I’m a Xavier alum and season ticket holder so I’ll be at the Muskies game, but there will always be a special place in my heart for my Hogs too. Woo Pig Sooie!

 

 

 

I love Buffalo this time of year

Buffalo Tom is my favorite band. Their heyday – such as it was – was back in the early 90s. A three-man band from Boston (not Buffalo), they are still together, but record only sporadically and tour even less frequently.

However, they did give their hardcore fans – the ones like me who contributed to their Pledge Music fundraiser for their new album – an early Christmas present. On 12/24, they shared an early release of their new album, Quiet and Peace which is slated to come out on March 2 of next year. It’ll be their first release in seven years, but they haven’t missed a beat. It sounds fantastic. (You can pre-order it here.)

The first song is available on Spotify and Soundcloud.

Here’s an excerpt from this Stereogum article with lead singer Bill Janovitz talking about the track:

“[‘All Be Gone’ has] this blue sky, sunny day feel to it, but it’s a really melancholy lyric in a lot of ways,” Janovitz told me when we spoke over the phone yesterday. “It’s pretty self-evident about getting older, [with lyrics like] ‘My time behind is greater than my time ahead’ — that sort of stuff. But it’s kind of a blazing, Buffalo Tom ‘let’s get the guitars up’ sort of track.’

“[As] you get older, you feel like holding onto time, especially when you have kids,” he adds. “And I’m just a victim of nostalgia in any point in time — I’m so vulnerable to it. I wear my emotions on my sleeve. Kids grow at such an exponential rate, it really hits home to you. A lot of [the song] is about that, certainly. But it’s also not just this sad, melancholy song — it’s really about carpe diem, seizing it all as you can, and trying to hold on.”

And check out this Stereogum article about the Boston music scene in the 90s for more on my boys:

Buffalo Tom are roughly analogous to other somewhat overlooked artists such as Judee Sill or the Dream Syndicate; not the most prominent artists of their time, but a hidden treat for someone that falls in love with an era’s music and wants to dig a little deeper. If they do, they’ll find scores of poetic, ingratiating rock songs that can stand proudly on a playlist next to Weezer and Guided By Voices. Anyone who cares enough to know who they are thinks well of them, and Janovitz suspects he might hear a bit of their influence on younger artists like Japandroids and Speedy Ortiz — both of whom he loves. Buffalo Tom have carved out a place for themselves, and these days, that’s enough for him.

Later in the same article, there’s this great quote from Janovitz:

Not only is Janovitz surprisingly open about why Buffalo Tom never connected on the same level as some of his peers, he brings the subject up himself. “I can give you theories why I think we weren’t bigger. I think our lyrics are opaque, but we’re not like Pavement with opaque music. A lot of our music was very emotional, but it wasn’t really direct songwriting. There really wasn’t a compelling frontman. It was faceless and nerdy, but not ‘nerdy cool,’ like Weezer. It was a bunch of things that were never quite right,” he says. “I wish I could blame a press agent or a manager or a label. But I think we were given an ample shot.

“Ultimately, I can’t complain too much,” he adds. “I always wanted to be respected more than rich. I wanted people to really like our music. I wanted to touch people. I wanted people to understand. I wanted people to hold us up like I hold up my heroes.”

Mission Accomplished, Buffalo Tom. 30 years later, I still love your music.

Be not afraid

I spend a lot of time walking through cemeteries. Don’t judge. I’m not some Tim Burton goth. It’s just a great place to walk a dog (hello, Mt. Washington Cemetery), and also a great place to get some exercise when your kids are practicing at the school nearby (looking at you, Walnut Hills Cemetery).

In all my tombstone travels, this is hands-down the best name I’ve ever seen.

Fearnaught = fear naught = fear nothing.

“Do not fear death, but rather the unlived life. You don’t have to live forever. You just have to live.”  – Natalie Babbitt

You make the Yule cool

While the children are still nestled all snug in their beds (they are teenagers, after all), I just wanted to take a moment to wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas. I’m sending this special Casey Kasem long-distance dedication your way: the Eels doing an acoustic version of “Everything’s Gonna Be Cool This Christmas.”

Favorite lyrics:

As days go by the more we need friends
And the harder they are to find
If i could have a friend like you all my life
Well i guess i’d be doin’ just fine

 

 

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