The Best Songs of 2011

January 16th, 2012 by Rich
  1. St. Vincent – Surgeon - Easy choice for me this year. Check your pulse after you watch the linked performance.
  2. The National – Exile Vilify – Didn’t expect them to be candidates the year after High Violet, but 2011 ended up seeing more new National material in the form of soundtrack contributions. This track, from the the game Portal 2 (for some reason), ranks among their best ever.
  3. Kurt Vile – Jesus Fever – Probably my favorite Kurt Vile song to date, a song I can listen to on repeat endlessly.
  4. Wilco – I Might - The Whole Love is no Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, but it’s still a very good comeback record after the awful Wilco (The Album). This fantastic, organ-driven power pop cut is the highlight.
  5. Real Estate – It’s Real – Doing jangle pop like the pros. Should have been the song of the summer.
  6. Atlas Sound – Terra Incognita – Many options on Bradford Cox’s latest. Going with “Terra Incognita” over “Mona Lisa,” but both tracks capture a master at a real creative peak.
  7. PJ Harvey – The Words That Maketh Murder – Brutal highlight from the year’s best album (and PJ Harvey’s masterpiece), Let England Shake.
  8. Radiohead – Lotus Flower – I’m a fan of The King of Limbs, but I get where the dissenters are coming from. Everyone agrees “Lotus Flower” is brilliant, yes?
  9. tUnE-yArDs – Bizness – Coolest vocal performance of the year.
  10. R.E.M. – Überlin – Not giving them a spot as a tribute or anything, this is a legitimate selection and the band’s best song in over a decade.
  11. Lana Del Rey – Video Games
  12. Washed Out – Amor Fati
  13. Cass McCombs – County Line
  14. James Blake – Love What Happened Here
  15. The Antlers – I Don’t Want Love
  16. Beyoncé – Countdown
  17. Cults – Abducted
  18. Colin Stetson – Judges
  19. Destroyer – Chinatown
  20. The Strokes – Life is Simple in the Moonlight

America the Oppressed

March 6th, 2011 by Rich

CNN: Are whites racially oppressed?

My immediate response to seeing this front page article on Friday was disgust, incredulity, anger — mostly toward CNN for allowing this message a shred of legitimacy, or implying that there’s enough of an argument here to merit prominent coverage from a major news network. The article itself is weak sauce: a mishmash of bullet points detailing alleged “signs of racial anxiety” among whites, miscellaneous quotes from academics and right-wing pundits, a conclusion filled with comment-baiting rhetorical questions about our country’s future, and ultimately an unhelpful shrug: “When you take the long view of human history, change is slow, but change happens.” OK then! That answers that.

Still, it’s been hard for me to dismiss the article altogether, or at least its existence. As of today it’s been recommended on Facebook by 39,830 people. There are over 8,000 comments on the article itself, which I can’t bring myself to read (the one on top declares, “Bush created DHS and used unwarranted wire tapping to find terrorists now Obama uses DHS to track down Americans that do not agree with him. Gradualism and lies is the way of the Marxist”). Yes, it’s a blatant grab for traffic on a Friday afternoon, posing controversial questions that the writer, John Blake, has no intent of actually attempting to answer. But the fact that the questions are being asked at all — and that people are interested in them — has to deserve a closer look. Read the rest of this entry »

The Oscar Diversity Outcry Begins

January 26th, 2011 by Rich

Only a couple of notable surprises in the Oscar nominees announced yesterday (Javier Bardem, the Coens over Chris Nolan). But even more predictable is the media coverage. Just like I warned you in my last post:

CNN: Where’s the diversity at the Oscars?

2011 Oscar Predictions

January 15th, 2011 by Rich

This year’s Oscars promise to be duller and whiter than ever. But I still like predicting elections, and making lists, and I guess I like movies too. So let’s talk Oscars!

I really mean it about the “whiter” bit. Not only is the ceremony to be hosted by beloved caucasian icons Anne Hathaway and James Franco, but from what I can see there is a virtual zero percent chance that we see any nonwhite actors or directors nominated (possibly screenwriters too, but I’m not as sure because I don’t know what any of them look like and don’t really care to [and anyway Aaron Sorkin is probably white enough to cancel out anyone who isn't]). The only black actor with even the remotest of chances at a nomination is Halle Berry, who scored a (typically meaningless) Golden Globe nod for a movie called Frankie and Alice that currently has a 20% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. If her name does somehow show up on Oscar nomination day, you can be assured this was done strictly to mitigate this whitepocalypse of a ceremony. Read the rest of this entry »

The Best Songs of 2010

December 21st, 2010 by Rich
  1. Beach House – Zebra - I had a pretty good feeling this was my favorite song of the year when I first heard it back in January. Competition actually turned out to be way more intense than expected — 2010 was full of gems, any of my top 5 could have been #1 in recent years — but I’m still gonna go ahead and give it to “Zebra.” I’ve gotten sick of many songs I’ve listened to much less often over the last 12 months. I’m not claiming it’s groundbreaking, but I really don’t think this gorgeous track will be any less captivating to me in 20 years.
  2. Caribou – Odessa – On the other hand, maybe this should be #1. It’s honestly a close call. Caribou/Manitoba never really clicked with me prior to this year’s Swim, but this little electro-pop-house-Arthur Russell thing just kills me.
  3. Big Boi – Shutterbugg (ft. Cutty) – The monster hit that was just too good to be a monster hit. But everyone has to love the beat, right?
  4. Twin Shadow – I Can’t Wait – Easily my top new artist this year. Many standouts on the album, Forget, but this romantic number rises to the top. Fall in love with the moustache.
  5. Deerhunter – Helicopter – The kind of song on the kind of record that can make a band your favorite band.
  6. Kanye West – Runaway (ft. Pusha T) – How can a song with that horrible extended vocoder breakdown be a consensus pick for song of the year? I can’t answer that question. This song is amazing, and you know it.
  7. Avi Buffalo – What’s In It For? – Avigdor Zahner-Isenberg is the anti-Bieber. These children sure can write a pop song. Can’t wait to see what they’re doing when they’re old enough to drive.
  8. The National – Conversation 16 – This could also be “Afraid of Everyone,” or “England,” or even the second-best “Runaway” of the year. The zombie refrain makes this track the winner (and it doesn’t hurt that it also contains my favorite line from 2010, “we should swim in a fountain / I do not want to disappoint anyone.”)
  9. Janelle Monáe – Cold War – “Tightrope” draws you in, “Cold War” knocks you out. The Sinéad O’Connor-style video doesn’t hurt. This girl is ridiculous.
  10. Belle and Sebastian – I Didn’t See It Coming – Every so often a perfect B&S melody comes along that makes me want to wear tight striped shirts and bob around like Stuart Murdoch. But I don’t. As far as you know.
  11. Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – Round and Round
  12. Owen Pallett – Midnight Directives
  13. Arcade Fire – Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)
  14. Tame Impala – It Is Not Meant To Be
  15. The Walkmen – Angela Surf City
  16. Robyn – Dancing On My Own
  17. Gorillaz – Rhinestone Eyes
  18. LCD Soundsystem – I Can Change
  19. Best Coast – Boyfriend
  20. Surfer Blood – Floating Vibes