I revisited the Firefly TV series recently and it reaffirmed my love for the incidental music chosen for the show.
Sure, there is a lot of cool space battle rah-rah bombast that happens in the score when the guns start blazing, but the thing that I always liked was the odd juxtaposition of the dusty acoustic folk instrumentation with hints of Eastern elements and the occasional ambient/industrial-ish tones.
Much of the highlighted instrumentation in the music I gravitate toward seems to be dobro, mandolin, and violin with occasional acoustic guitar and banjo or piano as underlying accents. Music theorist Jennifer Goltz in her excellent essay "Listening to Firefly" (found in the book Finding Serenity) points out:
heard slide guitar, a little strumming, sometimes a fiddle: it was the sound
of their home and the sound of everything being right with the world.
And the fiddle and guitar are portable instruments, perfect for the
lifestyle of the crew; the music they make calls up tunes played out
in the open, by people who were hundreds of miles away just yesterday.
[The musical theme] Serenity conjures the nomadic lifestyle
the crew leads and underlines the western aspect of the show."
Since this kind of Appalachian folk has much of its original roots in Celtic music, song forms like reels and jigs wend their way into the soundtrack by way of flutes, pipes, and hand drums. Then from left field, Eastern folk instruments and phrasings would drift into the edges, due in large part to the influence of Chinese culture on that universe. And of course, being a sci-fi show, there are broad stretches of the music that feature atmospheric instrumentation and occasional industrial sounds -- the machinations of outer space.
The soundtrack to Firefly and the Serenity film are great, but they aren't really appropriate as background music. The music tells a narrative to what is happening on-screen including fistfights, space battles and other thrilling heroics, but I was looking for something that could be on in the background while reading or maybe starting a role-playing game that all had the same mood and feel, and kept the signal going.
I pulled together a Spotify playlist of instrumentals that could be found in the Firefly and Serenity universe. As I indicated above, it is mostly instrumental acoustic folk with some bluegrass/Chinese hybrid songs and a couple appropriate tunes from film and video game soundtracks.
Take The Sky - Music Found in the Firefly Universe
"Interlude (Eastmountainsouth)" - Eastmountainsouth
"Slinger's Song" - Darren Korb (from the Bastion soundtrack)
"Cows / New Dress / My Crew" - Greg Edmonson (from the Firefly soundtrack)
"Robin and Marian" - Nickel Creek
"The Silver Spear/The Earl's Chair/The Musical Priest (Reels)" - Liz Carrol
"River's Dance" - Greg Edmonson (from the Firefly soundtrack)
"Stumptown" - Nickel Creek
"Katniss Afoot" - James Newton Howard (From the Hunger Games soundtrack)
"In Case of Trouble" - Darren Korb (from the Bastion soundtrack)
"Mansinneedof" - Sarah Jaroz
"Winnipeg" - Chris Pandolfi
"Dao Chuilian" - Red Chamber & Mei Han
"The Moon in the Sky (Xiao Yue Er Gao)" - Yu Liangmo
"Scotch & Chocolate" - Nickel Creek
"Spike in a Rail" - Darren Korb (from the Bastion soundtrack)
"Searching for Peeta" - James Newton Howard (From the Hunger Games soundtrack)
"Bill" - Tin Hat (from the Nebraska soundtrack)
"A Proper Story" - Darren Korb (from the Bastion soundtrack)
"Iguazu" - Gustavo Santaoalla
"Ashokan Farwell" - Jay Ungar & The Nashville Chamber Orchestra
"Pastures New" - Nickel Creek
"Aran Boat Song" - Darol Anger & Alasdair Frasier
"Spring" - Bruce Langhorne
"The Crystal Merchant" - The Greencards
"On the Drift" - Bedlam Bards
"First and Last Waltz" - Nickel Creek
"Dead End Alley" - Bill Elm and Woody Jackson (from the Red Dead Redemption soundtrack)
"Vale of Plenty" - Hans Zimmer (from the Black Hawk Down soundtrack)
"Amulet" - Copal
"Journey of the Sorcerer" - Eagles
"Cuckoo's Nest" - Nickel Creek
"Backstep Cindy/Purple Bamboo" - Abigail Washburn
"Saffron's Wedding Dance" - Bedlam Bards
"Choctaw Hayride" - Alison Krauss & Union Station
"Workfield" - Thomas Newman (from the Shawshank Redemption soundtrack)
"Su Prabhat" - The Greencards
"Datun Jelut" - Red Chamber
"By the River" - Edgar Meyer, Mike Marshall & Bela Fleck
"The Rock Garden" - Bedlam Bards
"Redemption in Dub" - Bill Elm and Woody Jackson (from the Red Dead Redemption soundtrack)
"Elsie"- Nickel Creek
"River's Jig" - Bedlam Bards
"Big Country" - Edgar Meyer, Mike Marshall & Bela Fleck
"A Kazakh Melody" - Abigail Washburn & the Sparrow Quartet
"Girls Picking Flowers" - Red Chamber
"Smoothie Song" - Nickel Creek
"Box Elder Beetles" - Wires & Wood
"Peace" - Sarah Jarosz
"Light Black" - Talk West
"Freiderick" - Sara Watkins
"City on the Mesa - Part 3 - Onwards to Meridian" - Joris de Man (from the Horizon: Zero Dawn soundtrack)
"Ah Ya Zein" - Red Chamber
"High Ham" - Psychograss
"Long Past Gone" - Sieber, Kammen, Fulton and Schatz (Music from Braid)
"Dry and Dusty" - Brittany Haas
"Local Honey" - Sean Watkins
"Mandala" - Yu-Xiao Guang
"Short Trip Home" - Edgar Meyer, Mike Marshall, Sam Bush & Joshua Bell
"Greeneries" - Takénobu
"Going for a Ride" - David Newman (from the Serenity soundtrack)
"Big Country" - Bela Fleck, Mike Marshall, Edgar Meyer
"The Rakers" - Elephant Revival
"Santa Anna's Retreat/Kitchen Gal" - Abigail Washburn
"Little Siam" - The Greencards
"Gone to Fortingall/Wired to the Moon" - Jerry Douglas and Michael McGoldrick
"The Majestic Swan" - Cadillac Sky
"White Snow in Spring" - Martin Simpson & Wu Man
"Maenam" - Sieber, Kammen, Fulton and Schatz (Music from Braid)
"40800" - Yu-Xiao Guang
"Across the Marshland" - Janne Viksten
"Almost Home" - The Greencards
"Blue Balloons" - Blossom
"Public Enemy" - Glenn Stafford (from the StarCraft II Soundtrack)
"Downstream" Sieber, Kammen, Fulton and Schatz (Music from Braid)
"The Beekeeper" - Chris Thile
"Fischer Store Road" - Sarah Jarosz
"The Road of Trials" - Austin Wintory (from the Journey video game soundtrack)
"Paddle the Torrens" - The Greencards
"Leadfoot" - Haas Kowert Tice
"Dance of the Yao Tribe" - Red Chamber
"City of Rome" - Jesper Kyd (from the Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood video game soundtrack)
"Pterodactyl" - Grant Gordy
"The Pasture" - Elephant Revival
"River Valley Waltz" - Janne Viksten
"Transit of Venus, Matavai, A.D. 1769" - Stephen Scott
"Lauren's Lullaby" - Tin Hat
"Leonardo's Ride" - The Greencards
"Northern Winds" - Steve Earle
"Havelock" - Goldmund
"Acoustic Traveler" - John McEuen
"Inara's Suite" - Greg Edmonson (from the Firefly soundtrack)
I also started a Pandora station that occasionally surfaces some gems but is often more miss than hit.
I discovered these while digging through lists on Fireflyfans.net, Whedonesque, Reddit, AskMetafilter and from a handful of other helpful browncoats.
Let me know if you think of any other songs that would be appropriate and maybe this list can keep flying.
1. This girl. 2. That guy. 3. Young cat.
4. Old dog. 5. Trip to California with a hot girl and a hot car. 6. Trip to NYC with cold ales at McSorley’s.
7. Working in the shop. 8. That orchard wedding. 9. Sitting on my porch drinking coffee.
That Orchard Wedding
My sister got married in an apple orchard and it was very nice for all involved.
Lager House Porchsleeper Show
The 'Sleeper put it together once more for a show to celebrate a buddy's birthday. You can see a pile of the videos here:
Henry playing drums
My kid has an amazing drum instructor and the lessons have really been improving his playing. Every once in a while, Penny and I will look at each other while the boy is practicing and say "Is that our kid? Or did a professional skinsman sneak into our basement?"
My kid started getting into playing Dungeons & Dragons and he's developing into a pretty decent dungeon master. (Note: This is probably be something that would get me burned at the stake a hundred years ago, so there has been some progress in society).
Henry wanted to be a Stormtrooper for Halloween but the helmets he liked were all $70 so he decided to cut up some cardboard and make his own.
It took hours and hours and about a gallon of hot glue, but in the end it looked like a million spacebucks.
For some terrific reason, Penny and I have decided to keep track of who has touched the most squirrels in the wild. The current tally is 9 for me and 7 for her. I have a feeling when we are in the old folks home, we'll still be playing (even if we are slowly trying to touch radioactive cyber-rodents by that time).
Building Cabinets in The Shop
I've been working on cleaning out the workshop at the old farmhouse we inherited and it is a world of discovery
(ancient tools, mouse nests, chemicals that have been discontinued since the Eisenhower administration).
I was able to clear some surfaces and build two different cabinets this summer.
It's gonna be great (in about 6 years).
Back in college we fell in love with the Good Stuff candy bar (so much so that we collected the wrappers and created our own Greg Brady-style beaded curtain for our door).
I’m happy to report that the Snickers Crisper Bar is about as close as you can come nowadays.
At one point his year, the moon came between the Earth and the Sun and it made my brain explode.
Hoo boy. These geniuses loaded up a predictive text robot with a bunch of Seinfeld scripts and ended up making my new favorite television show.
KRAMER enters dancing with garbage.
KRAMER: Hey hey hey, great idea for big sponge: Make it so large you think it's got a fat clock in the middle.
JERRY: (takes off his bones)
Kramer, do you have a fun flashback to do?
George is wearing a $20 hat that says "Hello to Horse."
GEORGE: I'm kinda like the captain of hygiene.
The Women's March and The Science March
The reasons behind the need for these marches were and are infuriating, but it was pretty incredible to be a part of the groundswell of emotion, passion and anger.
Brian Regan show
We took the boy to see his favorite comedian. It was his first big comedy experience and he laughed at it.
One tradition we tried to enforce was having driveway fires in the summer.
We set up our hardware-store fire pit, gather some dry wood and kindling, then have the boy build and start the fire (ideally with just one match).
Once the beacon is lit, neighborhood kids appear with back-cabinet marshmallows and dusty Hershey bars and floppy graham crackers.
They whittle sticks and blaze their marshmallows until they taste horrible and burnt, and the grown-ups pass glasses of bourbon
in their camp chairs and everybody is reminded that life is pretty great in little glimpses.
A Trip to New York City
Henry's Auntie Joyce was a cab driver in Queens back in the day, so she wanted to take him to the city to show him around. She let us tag along. We saw Strawberry Fields in Central Park, the Alice in Wonderland statue, Carmine's, Knitty City, Excelsior Hotel (a total find), The Strand bookstore, the Lower East Side at night, McSorley's Old Ale House (the oldest bar in NYC), A real highlight was at 30 Rock where my dad knows the lighting designer for Jimmy Fallon's show. We got a hands-on tour of the stage, the area where the Roots perform, the desk, and a ton of backstage scenes. It really is the Windy Apple.
Henry's Birthday with Swordfights and Archery
Henry wanted to do swordfighting, wear armor and shoot a bow at his birthday, and the best place to do that was The Ring of Steel Action Theater & Stunt Troupe. The kids got to wear chain mail armor, hoist big weaponry, shoot bow and arrow, eat an Eye of Sauron cake, and have a general good time hitting each other with foam swords. A nerdy dream come true.
When it rains on the sidewalks of Ann Arbor, this image appears.
I took a photo of it and it ended up being posted on Reddit and got upvoted 46,000 times.
San Francisco / Napa Trip
My bride has stayed married to me for exactly 20 years so I thought it would be nice to reward her for her patience. We flew out to California for a trip to Napa Valley and San Francisco (or "Frisco" as I kept calling it). We ate luxurious breakfasts and drank wine, and in "Frisco" we met with friends, cruised around the bay, shopped for records at Amoeba, grabbbed drinks at my favorite bar in the world The Royal Cuckoo, and generally enjoyed ourselves.
Among the highlights was that I had secretly rented a Ford Mustang for us to tool around in. The Mustang is one of Penny's favorite cars and I thought it would be a blast. Well, when we got there Hertz said there were no Mustangs available. The sound of Penny's heart breaking was audible so the guy behind the counter pulled some strings and got us into a Shelby GT 350. I guess Hertz and Ford offered a rental Shelby GT350 in 1966 and the one we drove was for the 50th anniversary. She purred like a kitten.
Toledo Mud Hens' Beatles Tribute Night
We were at a minor-league ballgame and a Beatles tribute band broke out. The game jerseys were tackily styled after the Sgt. Pepper's uniforms, and after the show we were treated to a Beatles tribute band. A splendid time was guaranteed for all.
Took the family to the Dells for spring break. It was mostly fine (mac & Cheese and New Glarus beers), but much of the resort town was not yet open for the season. The unexpected gem was this goofball Wizard Quest attraction, a clearly home-grown pile of unicorn fuzz and troll farts that was one-part obstacle course and one part treasure hunt.
My small hometown got a movie theater with huge screens and even huger beers. What a world we live in.
Went to Cleveland with a buddy to re-re-visit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
A highlight was eating at Happy Dog where you can get the following things on your hot dog:
Bourbon Pork-n-Beans, Spaghetti O's, Andy Capp's Hot Fries, Pimento Mac-n-Cheese, Chunky Peanut Butter, a Sunny-Side-Up Fried Egg and Froot Loops.
I fell into a rabbit-hole of "Broken Jokes" like this one:
A horse walks into a bar. Before the bartender can ask for its order or comment on its physiognomy, the horse panics, because horses do not belong in bars. Much property damage ensues, and the horse is put down.
Then I stumbled into Fred Stoller's concept of a "No-Joke Joke." A "No-Joke Joke" is a joke that, upon first hearing it, you'll think that you have just heard a joke and, in fact you'll probably laugh. However on closer examination, analysis and scrutiny you'll realize that it actually wasn't a joke at all. Indeed, it merely sounded like a joke.
hoo boy. This got me.
• The town was so small, the Ferris wheel was painted green!
• She was so fat, her sister worked for the phone company!
• I come from a town so small, the hooker wore a helmet!
• I went out with this girl that was so fat, I didn't know whether to take her to a movie or to a Met game!
• My wife talks so much, when she coughs it costs me $22!
• Our town was so small, the police precinct had a screen door!
• She's so fat that when she leaves a nude beach, she has to show a receipt!
• My school was so rough, the yearbook was shaped like a canoe!
This had more drama and action than any other movie I saw this year.
Some of my fave songs:
The Nashville Sound by Jason Isbell
Once again making incredible American music with heart and romance and a little spitfire.
A Deeper Understanding by The War on Drugs
Dreamy and moody.
Amber Lantern by Timothy Monger
Local boy makes good.
Together at Last by Jeff Tweedy
I wandered into Amoeba Music in San Francisco just as this came on. I thought it was a live bootleg or something but it turned out to be a real release. The songs are good, even without layers of studio magic.
After the Party by The Menzingers
These were guys I had never heard of. Adult punk with mortgages and conflicts.
Is the Is Are by DIIV
Somebody described this as The Cure meets Real Estate and they were right.
Trinity Lane by Lilly Hiatt
Bold and fearless songwriting.
Need to Feel Your Love by Sheer Mag
Gut-punch rock from Thin Lizzy meets the Go-Gos.
For Sale: Live at Maxwell's 1986 by The Replacements
I got to see the Replacements a couple years ago and it felt a lot like this. Dangerous and electric.
Near to the Wild Heart of Life by Japandroids
Emphatic and empathetic raucous rock from this tuneful two-piece.
Also this year I got way into But Seriously, Folks by Joe Walsh and Allied Forces by Triumph (just ask the guys in my office).
to find gritty, gutsy, greasy R&B tunes that I wasn't already familiar with.
The result is this Shake & Fingerpop Playlist.
The title is inspired by the first line which is
"Put on your wig woman/We're goin' out to shake and fingerpop."
Computers and Technology:
A year ago I would have told you that we don't need to subscribe to newspapers anymore because you can just look at the headlines on Facebook or the homepage of Yahoo and get the basic information you need. At the end of 2017 I subscribe (pay for) two separate newspapers (New York Times and Washington Post) simply because they are providing a service that few other outlets are managing to accomplish. These are among the few places where investigative journalism is happening and I want to keep that fire going.
S-Town and the Dirty John podcast.
These two dark stories (one Faulkner-esque, the other more like Elmore Leonard) kept me plugged into my audio machine this year.
Slow Burn Podcast
I've been listening to Slate's in-depth look at the Watergate break-in and they do a great job of linking the events of the past with what is happening now and it is both disappointing and heartening that the crime, deceit and skullduggery that happened in Washington in 1972 have real parallels with what we're seeing today.
Stuff You Should Know and Stuff You Missed in History Class
My kid got way into historical and science podcasts this year and these two are worth checking out. They made long road trips very bearable.
Jerusalem by Alan Moore
Sometimes you read a book and it is like watching Stranger Things or like viewing Interstellar or listening to OK Computer where you get done with it and is is so inter-looping and broad and genius and frustrating and confusing and incredible you just want to start at the beginning again and pick up the threads and relationships that you missed the first time.
This book is 1300 pages long and an entire third of it is spent during the time that a toddler is choking on a cough drop. An entire chapter is written in a seemingly nonsensical style inspired by that which James Joyce used in Finnegans Wake. Still, it is a sprawling and all-encompassing work that I will read again (someday)
The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North
A terrific book about a man who keeps re-living his life and finds a community of people who are in his same predicament.
Dreaming the Beatles: The Love Story of One Band and the Whole World by Rob Sheffield
The Beatles have been analyzed and discussed ad nauseum for the past 50+ years, but Rob Sheffield's series of essays manage to inject a personal narrative and contemporary worldview into this familiar mythology. Using sly turns of phrase and nods to Beatle lyrics in his analysis, Sheffield is able to offer a fresh look at everything from Abbey Road to Zapple Records.
Time and Again by Jack Finney
Another time travel book, this one set in New York City. I read this as we were in NYC so I was able to walk out and see the exact locations that were being referenced. Recommended.
The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
A truly original fantasy novel from an unexpected perspective. Can't wait for volume 3.
Midnight Riot by Ben Aaronovitch
A bumbling London cop finds he has a knack for the supernatural and ends up in a little-known (and little-respected) division of the police force.
Again, not a lot of TV watched this year.
This is some of the best / most brutal social commentary and technological examination since The Twilight Zone. Highly recommended but not binge-able.
I really liked the books and the show is pretty faithful.
Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell
Again, I liked the book.
Stranger Things II
More of the same. The second series had a bit less of the "WTF is happening right now" but the characters are very likable so I stuck with it.
Game of Thrones
We're finally caught up!.
(in roughly the order that I liked it.)
Blade Runner 2049
The Last Jedi
Kedi (a documentary about cats in Istanbul)
Guardians of the Galaxy 2
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword
Pirates of the Carriean: Dead Men Tell No Tales
My dad's brother died this fall after a really brief illness.
If you have stood on the dock he built at our cottage you have experienced his strength.
He will be missed.
Harry Dean Stanton & John Hurt
Carrie Fisher (two years running)
A bunch of men turned out to be fucking creeps this year.
I'm glad they are being called out but it's tough to find out so many people you liked are fucking scumbags.
A ton more shootings and bombings
Hurricanes and wildfires
Charlottesville and white supremacists
(found in an old cookbook and never forgotten)
1. Blind dog. 2. Hilarious April Fool's joke on me. 3. Coaching the "Killer" Bees little league.
4. Tower Talk @ AADL. 5. Homemade toga. 6. Asshole cat.
7. Drum lessons. 8. New car named Julius. 9. Total babe w/lucky so-and-so.
American Film Institute Top 100 Movies
This year I took it upon myself to have seen all of the AFI 100 movies. And I did. More detail below.
We went to Disney World and I got to be part of the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular. A childhood dream realized.
Good to root for the underdog in some cases this year.
Bridge Street Social
My good friend opened his own restaurant Bridge Street Social which has amazing food and the smartest wine list I've seen.
I am still trying to figure out:
We spent much of the year ripping the plumbing out of a 130-year-old farmhouse and renovating the bathroom. We think the tradesmen we brought in may have been the first professional plumbers ever to set foot in the house. The main guy said "I've been a master plumber for years and I've never seen anything like this." It was an amazing spider web of galvanized, copper, steel, and just random tubing. Now the bathroom is like peeing in a wonderful luxury hotel. Still miles to go.
My sister got engaged
He's a good guy too. When I went out as the only old dude with a group of her friends years ago, I looked around the table and said "I like all of these people, but that guy is the best one. He should start dating my sister."
Trip to Toledo
Had a romantic trip to Toledo Ohio which included seeing the Mud Hens pitch a combined no-hitter and wonderful stay at The Casey-Pomeroy House.
On Record Store Day, Paul Kahlenberg and I had a blast reliving the old Tower Records days at the Ann Arbor Library.
Busting shoplifters, drinking in the art room, Y2K and getting Hulk Hogan to pay his late video fees all get covered.
You can experience it on my Soundcloud, bruh.
Kid Koala's Nufonia Must Fall
We got to see an incredible ...uh...puppet show live action filmed musical performance on turntables with a bingo game. You kinda had to be there.
Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra at Hill Auditorium
Jazz greats with great friends.
My kid competed in the largest Science Olympiad in the world and his team got 3rd place for launching water rockets. NERD!
Jason Isbell show
I'm glad he's off the sauce. He's doing amazing music and his twitter is hilarious.
Sam Beam & Jsca Hoop show
My favorite music moment of the year. Seeing these two in an intimate performance at the Ark was beautiful
I was interviewed for this article about AllMusic which offers a bit of history about how the whole thing fits together.
Expect references to Brian Austin Green, Who Dat?, CDNow, Sadcore, a 4½ star teen pop album,
Cub Coda, Parachutes revisionism, and a hazily-remembered visit from Taylor Swift.
Henry programming in Python
My son expressed interest in making his own video games, so he and I both sat down and learned the very basics of the Python programming language. He even made a simple text-based game where it asks you questions ("How are you doing?") and depending on your answer, gives you a canned reply. No matter what, he has learned the bare bones of what programming is and that should give him a leg up in the future.
Beyond Yacht Rock podcast
ENDORSEMENT! If you like music nerds and laughing, you should check out the "Beyond Yacht Rock" podcast, featuring localish dudes JD Ryznar and Hollywood Steve Huey. They select a semi-made-up arbitrary musical genre and then count down a top 10.
The first week the genre was "Sultry Hits" (think Danger Zone and sweaty sax solos from the Lost Boys) and this week was "Try-N-Raps" (think Barney Rubble as the Master Rapper who is here to say/he loves Fruity Pebbles in a major way). The hosts know their inane musical history so if you and your pals like to sit around and discuss the merits of Pat Thrall, occasional guitarist in Asia, this is the podcast for you.
99% Invisible Podcast
A podcast about the unnoticed design of everyday things. It's cooler than it sounds.
Music I liked:
Love Letter for Fire by Sam Beam & Jesca Hoop
By far the album I spent the most time with this year. Iron & Wine's Sam Beam's sandpapery voice interlaces so well with singer/songriter Jesca Hoop (who was a nanny for Tom Waits' offspring in the early 2000s!) it reminded me a lot of Gillian Welch and David Rawlings mesh together perfectly. The album is warm, intimate and rustic, and the acoustic guitars and simple percussion (Wilco drummer Glenn Kotche and former Soul Coughing bassist Sebastian Steinberg) set the songs off perfectly.
Tuns by TUNS
Matt Murphy (Super Friendz, Flashing Lights), Mike O'Neill (the Inbreds) and Chris Murphy (Sloan) make some great power pop. If you like Sloan albums you will like this because it sounds like a Sloan album.
Modern Country by William Tyler
Tyler creates these sprawling desert American landscapes of a mythical West. Many of the songs focus on looped and manipulated guitar with only bare insrumentation behind it. I can't wait for my next summertime road trip to try this one with the windows down.
Good Times! by The Monkees
I was super exited to hear this record when I heard about the songwriters involved: Adam Schlesinger (Fountains of Wayne), Andy Partridge (XTC), Rivers Cuomo (Weezer), Ben Gibbard (Death Cab for Cutie), Noel Gallagher (Oasis), Paul Weller (The Jam) all contribute songs, plus a resurrected Harry Nilsson duet and a cover of an obscure song I associate with The Byrds. The whole thing feels fresh in a way that doesn't feel like a nostalgia act.
Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not by Dinosaur Jr.
A great return to form from a veteran band, cranking out very tuneful distorted rockers.
case/lang/veirs by Neko Case, k.d. lang, & Laura Veirs
This seems like an oddball recording: Three female singer/songwriters from vaguely different eras and backgrounds but it all mushes together very well. Laura Viers' voice is the most slight but I ended up liking her contributions the most. They're very honest and heartfelt.
Compilation by Sheer Mag
This band has been described a billion ways, often inferring the Go-Gos and Thin Lizzy influences, but alls I know is they sound raw and soulful with a real sense of melody. I wish their stuff was on Spotify. You can see the video for my fave tune here.
Stiff by White Denim
While I've liked other White Denim records better, this was a grower, and their wonky technical jamminess is always balanced with a real sense of melody and listenability. Most jam bands I stumble across rely too much on technical ability and extended jamz, but these guys keep everything tight and hummable.
Boots No 1: The Official Revival Bootleg by Gillian Welch
I've long been a fan of Welch's debut, and this 2-disc collection of demos, outtakes and radio appearances from that era really felt good this fall. Simple instrumentation and honest performances are as good as would be expected, and a couple songs that never made the final cut are like finding an unexpected ten dollar bill in your pocket.
A Sailor's Guide to Earth by Sturgill Simpson
Simpson has one of the most honest voices in country music today, and this album is a dark, gut-bucket collection of soulful southern muscle. It is said to be a letter to his newborn son telling him how to become a man, so there are layers to un-peel. I'm still not sold on the cover of Nirvana's "In Bloom" which takes me out of the flow of the record, but I may see how it fits someday.
An album that has been unavailable digitally just surfaced in Spotify. Unicorn was a bright and earnest British acoustic-based rock band from the mid-70s and "Blue Pine Trees" is my favorite of theirs.
Movies I Watched:
Earlier this year I watched "The Apartment" with Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine. It was so incredible that I realized there must be a ton of great movies out there that I had never seen. "The Apartment" is on the AFI 100 list and while I had seen about half, I had never seen "Ben Hur" or "All About Eve" or "Raging Bull" so I set myself the arbitrary challenge of watching them all by the end of the year.
Schindler's List was always my "really?!?" movie. (I have a theory that there are always movies that you think you should have seen but you've never seen and when you tell somebody you've never seen Schindler's list they say "Really? You've never seen Schindler's List? *REALLY?!?!?1!?*") and now I have seen it.
I have to say I recommend it heartily. Instead of watching the latest Adam Sandler movie on demand or just flipping through channels, you have the opportunity to watch something that is really incredible and timeless. I suggest it to everyone for 2017.
Movies I saw in 2016 that actually came out in 2016 (in rough order of how I liked them):
Captain America: Civil War
The Beatles: Eight Days a Week
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Everybody Wants Some!!
Kubo and the Two Strings
The Jungle Book
Batman very Superman
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows
London Has Fallen
Independence Day: Resurgence
The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson
The adult children of a couple of oddball performance artists try to figure out how the hell to make sense of their lives. Kind of like The Royal Tenenbaums if the kids turned out halfway normal.
Van Halen Rising: How a Southern California Backyard Party Band Saved Heavy Metal by Greg Renoff
A meticulous documentation of the initial David Lee Roth era of Van Halen including the Van Halen brothers' upbringing, Diamond Dave's transformation from wannabe to preening, strutting cock-rocker, and a nearly-endless series of frustrated bassists. From high school parking lot gigs and backyard shows busted by the cops, to the boys fake skydiving in to a major outdoor festival.
Syrup by Max Barry
Max Barry skewers the advertising industry and exposes how jacked up marketing really is. Max Barry also wrote Jennifer Government which was also quite good.
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
Man, this one is a spooky post-apocalypse survival story that loops back on itself in six different ways. Recommended.
But What If We're Wrong? Thinking About the Present As If It Were the Past by Chuck Klosterman
Klosterman asks a ton of questions and leaves it up to you to try to figure out the answers. He notes: Ben Selvin outsold Louis Armstrong in the 1920s. In 1956, Nelson Riddle and Les Baxter outsold almost every rock 'n' roll star not named Elvis, but they've been virtually erased from the public record. It's almost impossible to guess what will be important to future generations. Brain asplode.
Your Favorite Band Is Killing Me: What Pop Music Rivalries Reveal About the Meaning of Life by Steven Hyden
Author Steven Hyden looks at the rivalries in music, beyond the Biggie/Tupac and Pearl Jam/Nirvana spats down to the lesser-covered Madonna/Cyndi Lauper creative wrestling match.
The Magician's Land by Lev Grossman
The final book in The Magicians series (Harry Potter in Narnia with angsty college students) and I think it did a good job of feeling epic and wrapping up loose ends.
Full list here: https://www.goodreads.com/user/year_in_books/2016/738761
Much has been said about this so I don't need to say more, but I love the concept of VHS-Core filmmaking and I watched this twice.
Much like the books: horny college students leave Hogwarts and go to Narnia. The magic they do is cool and there are funny things they say.
Like "Classic Albums" but not quite as nerdy.
Hey, this is super cute, plus this scene about Fartsicles made me laugh so hard I couldn't breathe:
Horrible, Horrible Things:
Grandma Johnson & her sister Polly
Cops shooting people all the time
People driving cars into crowds
People shooting up rock shows and nightclubs
Staring at my phone
The media/press lying to us all the time in the name of advertising revenue
The sheer quantity of fucking horrible ads on my own website
Friends who got fired
Thanks Innernets and those involved with my life.