Monday, December 21, 2009

My Favortie Movies of The 2000s

December 21th, 2009
Monday Evening, 11:59 PM

Today is the last day for this blog, exactly one year since the first post. It may come back, some time, some way, some form, but for now, this iteration will be put to bed with a breakdown of my favorite movies of the decade.

Last night my Brother-in-law was over for the gift exchange and we spent 30 minutes breaking down our favorite films of the past 10 year. Two things became clear, he lost 2 years of American Pop Culture influence while living in Europe and a quick review of the films showed how superior the 90s were then the 00s. Not to take away anything from this decade and some of the game changing cinema that was produced, but where is the Reservoir Dogs or Goodfellas or Saving Private Ryans of this decade. My response to that was they are all on TV. You could look at those three examples I gave and respond with The Wire, The Sopranos and Band of Brothers. From there you can tack on Mad Men, Lost, and even 30 Rock as examples of how the advantage lines between Cinema and Television have blurred. Maybe I have to do a TV Top 10 or 20 during the Holiday break.

For now here is my list of Top 40 favorites with a break down on the top 10. Unlike my Song list, this will be in classic countdown mode, starting at number 40.

40. In the Loop - 2009 - Dir. Armando Iannucci
39. Bad Santa - 2003 - Dir. Terry Zwigoff
38. Moon - 2009 - Dir. Duncan Jones
37. The Wedding Crashers - 2005 - Dir. David Dobkin
36. The Incredibles - 2004 - Dir. Brad Bird
35. Million Dollar Baby - 2004 - Dir. Clint Eastwood
34. Changing Lanes - 2002 - Dir. Roger Michell
33. About A Boy - 2002 - Dir. Chris Weitz
32. The Pianist - 2002 - Dir. Roman Polanski
31. Old School - 2003 - Dir. Todd Phillips
30. Gladiator - 2000 - Dir. Ridley Scott
29. Catch Me If You Can - 2002 - Dir. Steven Spielberg
28. 28 Days Later - 2002 - Dir. Danny Boyle
27. American Psycho - 2000 - Dir. Mary Harron
26. Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind - 2004 - Dir. Michel Gondry
25. Meet the Parents - 2000 - Dir. Jay Roach
24. The Century of the Self - 2002 - Dir. Adam Curtis
23. Finding Nemo - 2003 - Dir. Andrew Stanton
22. Borat - 2006 - Dir. Larry Charles
21. Into the Wild - 2007 - Dir. Sean Penn
20. Once - 2006 - John Carney
19. Munich - 2005 - Dir. Steven Spielberg
18. Collapse - 2009 - Dir. Chris Smith
17. 25th Hour - 2002 - Dir. Spike Lee
16. Zodiac - 2007 - Dir. David Fincher
15. Little Children - 2006 - Dir. Todd Field
14. Fog of War - 2003 - Dir. Errol Morris
13. Mystic River - 2003 - Dir. Clint Eastwood
12. Before Sunset - 2004 - Dir. Richard Linklater
11. Up in the Air - 2009 - Dir. Jason Reitman

The Top Top of the 00s

10. Avatar - 2009 - Dir. James Cameron
I just saw this movie this past weekend (during the Blizzard of 09) and it has already cracked my top 10. I will not give anything away since many out there have not had a chance to see this film yet, but please do, it is why the gods created movies and why people still go to the theater. I do need to see Avatar again to let it live with me one more time and see if it should move up even higher as the years go on. For now I am comfortable with it at Number 10 (with a bullet). Overall Avatar offers a great story that transports you to a new world, unlike anything since Dorthy sets foot on Oz. It offers the best effects to date (you feel like your eyes are playing tricks on you at times). Even with some of the classic cheesy dialog that Cameron is notorious for, the movie still works in the highest order. Avatar is Kubrick level work.

9. Elf - 2003 - Dir. Jon Favreau
Thanks to having two children this decade, I have watched a ton of kids related films. Pixar and Disney have been represented earlier on this list and I am fortunate that those wizards work at Pixar. While Disney has perfected the art of telling stories for those from 8 to 80, they were not able to make a classic throwback Christmas story like Jon Favreau and Will Ferrell did with Elf. This movie is grossly underrated, from the Rankin Bass intro to the classic coming of age/man out of his element story, to Ferrell doing his best Jimmy Stewart turn as Buddy, everything in this story works. Elf is a Capraesque treasure that keeps getting better with each Christmas viewing.

8. The Hangover - 2009 - Dir. Todd Phillips
The most I have laughed at/with a movie this decade was when I watched this in the theater. It it sophomoric? You bet. Is the film clever, the cast perfect and the script tight as a drum? Absolutely. In most comedies this decade, there is that lull, that 20 minutes where you wish things went a little different, or the story didn't drag. Not the case with The Hangover. It's two hours of Vegas, impossible twist, tigers, Tyson, Baby Carlos and in the process, it's unadulterated fun.

7. The Departed - 2006 - Dir. Martin Scorsese
The one that finally got the West Coast blue-hairs to vote for East Coast Marty. We all know that Goodfellas is better and that Taxi Driver is his best film, but The Departed is the one that delivered Marty the goods. The film is supported by an all-star cast which helps to take a good film/story and makes it a great one. Leo, Matt and Jack are at their usual best, but it is the supporting cast that made me believe in this film. Performances like Mark Wahlberg's, Alec Baldwin's and especially the scenes that Vera Farmiga dominated with Leo and Matt, were all Oscar caliber supporting roles.

6. Memento - 2000 - Dir. Christopher Nolan
Even close to 10 years after its release Christopher Nolan's mind-f*ck of a movie still resonates. The story telling, the suspense, the acting, the clues, they all come back to you in some twisted, horror story of a dream. Guy Pearce shines as the short-term memory loss everyman trying to put the pieces of his life back together. With this film, the underrated Prestige and the two Batman man films, Nolan has made himself the auteur of the decade and the one to watch for the Teens. (His 2010 summer blockbuster to-be, Inception looks Nolan awesome already.)

5. Sideways - 2004 - Dir. Alexander Payne
Man I love this film. I love the pace and the script and the wine and the buddy movie aspect and most of all the acting, especially the scenes when Paul Giamatti and Virginia Madsen are interacting. To me there was no greater romance in the 00s then the budding, awkward dance that Giamatti and Madsen do when they are sitting, getting to know each other and talking about wine (really revealing everything about themselves). In the end, we do not know what happens, the door opens and the movie fades to black. But I have a feeling what happens after that and I would love to spend time with these characters again someday.

4. Children of Men - 2006 - Dir. Alfonso CuarĂ³n
Not since the Blade Runner has a film painted a future world as grim and bleak. In a post 9/11 world we live, dystopian tales like Children of Men have been all the rage. While many tried, none were able to paint a world as potentially realistic as this film. Children of Men is set in the UK of 2027, the film explores a joyless existence in which two decades of global human infertility have left humanity with less than a century to survive. Clive Owen is excellent as a lifeless man thrust into guarding and protecting the only pregnant woman left in the world. The cinematography and especially several single-shot action sequences makes this film a contemporary sci-fi classic.

3. Michael Clayton - 2007 - Dir. Tony Gilroy
Tony Gilroy is my favorite writer/storyteller in cinema today. From the Bourne films to Duplicity to this modern classic, no one tells or spins the espionage better then Gilroy. Michael Clayton is a throw-back to those golden age of 70s cinema movies like Three Days of the Condor and Parallax View. In Gilroy's world, the big bad rouge government playing the villains have been replaced and morphed into big bad corporate fat cats. The cast is spot-on. Oscar winner Tilda Swinton shines as the corporate shark in-over-her-head, Tom Wilkinson is perfect as the is he or isn't he crazy whistle-blower, the late-great Sydney Pollack is impeccable (in one of those roles that only he could play) as the head of the law firm protecting the corporation and George Clooney is peerless as the underachieving, down-on-his-luck "fixer" that has to clean up this mess. The tension, the clever storytelling and the pay-off at the end make this film a repeat viewing treat.

2. The Dark Knight - 2008 - Dir. Christopher Nolan
I remember the moment this film was over and the title came up, vividly. This was the first film I saw when at the end I wanted to call my Dad and speak to him or tell him that he must see it. He passed a month before this came out, but I swear he was sitting next to me the entire time enjoying it with me.

These are the type of films (much like Avatar) that you need to see in the theater, in IMAX and you need to just let them take you away. The genius about Nolan's Dark Knight is not that it was the best Super Hero/Comic Book movie of the decade, it was that it is the best heist/gangster film of the decade. Nolan has changed the game for all comic book films (for the better IMHO). One can not watch a Spiderman or a Watchmen in the same light again. They all now seem lightweight and too out-of-this-world. The cinematography in this thing is superb, the drama is high and as always in Batman movies, the cast, this time the supporting cast is Oscar winning. The late Heath Ledger is a god in this film. He embodies the best Villain the movies have witnessed since Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lamb. I also love Gary Oldman's much overlooked everyman James Gordon. To me Oldman is the perfect conduit that connects all of us non-comic book characters to the madness that is going on all around. He is the moral backbone of the story, the one caught in conflict, the little man trying to figure out the good from the bad, the right from the wrong and how a hero should one day rise again. Bravo.

1. There Will Be Blood - 2007 - Paul Thomas Anderson
There Will Be Blood offers to the cinema world its best individual performance of the decade. It offers to the cinema world the best score of the decade. It offers the best cinematography of the decade. It offers the best line of the decade - "I Drink Your Milkshake!" All the while, offering the most haunting look at the impact that worship (Capitalism or Religion, Oil vs God) has on the human condition. To me PT Anderson is a marvel. From Boggie Nights to There Will Be Blood and all in between, he creates unique worlds, characters and conflicts that are both personal and surreal. To me this film, with its Citizen Kane like structure, its ambitious camera work and Daniel Day-Lewis flawlessly showing everyone that he is the best actor working in the world today, There Will Be Blood is the one film from the 00s that students and historians will be writing and talking about for many, many years to come. This scene sums it all up - Youtube:

Thursday, December 17, 2009

My Favorite 110 Songs of the 2000s - The Best of the 00's

December 17th, 2009
Thursday Evening, 9:01 PM
Happy Birthday Rosie!

Part III

- Science of Silence - Richard Ashcroft - 2002 - Human Conditions
Another one of those British Imports (Verve's old lead singer) I brought back with me from some random trip to the UK. It's sappy, and mushy and all that alright, but the message is much more "Imagine" then "We Are The World." It's one of those "why are we on this rock" type of songs....well, "All You Need Is Love."

- Lake Michigan - Rogue Wave - 2007- Asleep At Heaven's Gate
This track would be in the top ten if I had one. I love all the simple & subtle changes, hand claps, lyrics and guitar motifs created. The perfect indie blog track. YouTube from Craig Ferguson:

- Poor Places - Punch Brothers - 2008 - Daytrotter Session
There is this great website called the daytrotter sessions which according to its about section convinces: "These fine people – as they’re traveling through America’s heartland – take two hours out of their travels between shows to stop in for a Daytrotter Session at The Horseshack in downtown Rock Island, Ill. The name of the city is not ironic..." Many of the indie greats have stopped by to play a five song set list, Spoon, Death Cab, Of Montreal and most recently 110 song maker, Brendan Benson, but none have "wowed" me as much as The Punch Brothers and their cover of Wilco's "Poor Places" did. By stripping the song down to its basics, taking out all of the noise and mood that Jay Bennett (RIP) and Jeff Tweedy created, The Punch Brothers made "Poor Places" their own melancholy folk song.
Here is a YouTube to prove it:

- This Could Be Good - Pugwash - 2006 - Jollity
What if XTC were actually laid back Irish guys that liked their pints more then their prose? That is what we have here with another Power Pop find from across the pond. Worth a download.

- Hurt - Johnny Cash - 2002 - American IV
Tell me the first time you heard this song or saw this video that you were not blown away by the broken down Cash (a year before he passed) and by how this song was perfect for him. Man that Rick Rubin sure knows what he is doing by building the tension at the end of the track. As Trent Reznor said when Rubin first played it for him, "Wow. [I felt like] I just lost my girlfriend, because that song isn't mine anymore…"

- Since U Been Gone - Kelly Clarkson - 2004 - Breakaway
How many hours have we all invested? How man "Dawgs" have we digested? It had to be represented in some way, some fashion on the list. America's number one guilty pleasure of the 00s (what you don't watch - come on) has given us at least one good Pop song. And gosh darn, at least it was from "our Kelly" and not the bloody "Soul Patrol."

- All For Swinging You Around - The New Pornographers - 2003 - Electric Version
Now this is more of what I want from a female vocalist. I heart Neko Case and her merry band of North of the Boarder players, you to AC. If you have a chance this week, check out Neko on Elvis Costello's Spectacle show on Sundance. She shines and shows her soul during the show, fairly moving.

- Do You Realize? - The Flaming Lips - 2006 - Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots
Another in the long line of "one day you are going to die" pick-me-up tracks, from those loop-jobs from Nebraska or Oklahoma (one of these states picked this song as the new state song - no kidding) or whichever fly-over land mass they hail from. Pretty song, nice message, but I still can't get the 15 minutes of that horrible attempt of a movie "Christmas On Mars" they slaved over for 4 years, out of my mind. Bad taste, still.

- Meaningless - Jon Brion - 2001 - Meaningless
Many of you probably have never "heard" of Jon Brion, but all of you have heard his work over the course of the past decade. In movie scores (Eternal Sunshine, Punch-Drunk Love, The Step Brothers), as a Producer (
Fiona Apple, Rufus Wainwright) and even as Kanye West active musical Consigulary (yes he even produced Kanye's landmark Late Registration). If Jon was a Brit, he would be Sir Jon by now. Instead, he is shacked up in LA playing every Friday night for the faithful at Largo, blowing their bloody minds. I once saw JB play Largo back early 00s when this record came out. I compared watching him live to what it must have been like watching Willie Wonka make the candy in the factory. It's just Jon and 8 instruments and he plays them all, records them and then melts them all into a single track. He is a genius, he can play anything, and if it was the 60s he would be a massive star. If you are heading to LA, go see him, and let him blow your mind.

- Song For Children - Brian Wilson - 2004 - SMiLE
I love Brian. This blog was named after one of his songs. In the late 90s I became somewhat obsessed with Mr. Wilson. I truly found Pet Sounds when the box set (remember those) and bootleg copies of the tragically unreleased SMiLE hit the scene. I would imagine you all know the story of SMiLE and how it was left in a vault for 30 plus years and how it caused Brian to literally lose his mind and stay in bed for 3 years (at least the Barenaked Ladies got a hit out of his misery). But this decade was all about that burden being lifted for one of Americas great songwriters. With the help from his amazing backing band, Brian put the pieces of the SMiLE puzzle together and in 2004 performed (which I saw at Carnegie Hall - a dream come true) and finally released his masterwork for the world to hear. The critics (Metacritic has it as the highest reviewed Album of the 00s) and the fans loved it. Brian was out of his fog, he enjoyed playing it live and he started to write new material again. Personally when I heard this fragment and how it was intended to be connected to his beautiful "Wonderful" (how did I not figure that out?), I just knew the finished SMiLE was going to be something special. And that it is.

- Spitting Game - Snow Patrol - 2003 - Final Straw
Thanks to my Scottish nanny at the time, and not some sappy ABC TV show, I found this album in 2003. Like Coldplay, Snow Patrol is one of my guilty UK (this time Scot) pleasures of the decade. I like the emo lead vocals, the straight forward beats and top-of-the-line production. Plus, there is a great opening line on this track - "I broke into you house last night...." You know how I feel about stalker songs.

- Chicago - Sufjan Stevens - 2005 - Come On Feel The Illinois
Fitting that Stevens comes on the shuffle right after a band that named dropped him and this track in their song "Hands Open". Bottom line, this guys is as creative as hell. His songwriting choices, the instruments he picks, the topics (he is going to make albums highlighting all 50 states - he has two done so far), the contributing artist he works with, he is an indie blog darling and an original.

- Rehab - Amy Winehouse - 2006 - Back To Black
Before the trainwreck, we had the music, the voice and most importantly, Mark Ronson's "man behind the curtain" throw-back to Motown sound production.

- Sometime Around Midnight - The Airborne Toxic Event - 2008 - The Airborne Toxic Event
Horrible band name, reeks of one-hit-wonder, but, still moving, sweeping, filled with rage & sorrow & hopelessness. It connects. It builds. And so does the rage. What is she doing? Who hasn't been this guy, in a bar, watching as she leaves with someone else? Drink up guys, it's gonna be a long night.

- Brighter Than Sunshine - Aqualung - 2005 - Strange and Beautiful
Ben Folds does the Beatles. Sometimes you listen to these songs and you wonder why did I play them so much in the past. It had to be the strings in this thing. I am a sucker for strings in songs. I blame "I Am A Walrus" and all those damn Elton John songs that Philly radio made me listen to during my formative years.

- Here It Goes Again - Ok Go - 2006 - Oh No
Nice little band here. Brown U guys that are very imaginative and creative. Made it more for the video then anything else. That and it sounds like it would be found on side two of Cheap Trick's Dream Police.

- Hey Ya! - Outkast - 2003 - Speakerboxx
It's here for the line "shake it like a Polaroid picture..." and because it rocks.

- White Limousine - Duncan Sheik - 2006 - White Limousine
This song reminds me of the late 90s and early 00s. "While America Slept" and Software companies were still sending us in droves out to Vegas for "kick-offs" and "trade-show", we perfected the fine art of All-American gluttony. Two wars going on and we are driving to the Palm in some white limo. Sure, this makes sense. Note - Last year was the first year my SW company, and many others, didn't send people to Vegas. Financial collapse tend to impact limo trips to Cheetah.

- Guaranteed - Eddie Vedder - 2007 - Into The Wild (Soundtrack)
While watching this impeccable movie, I heard Eddie's voice and could not believe it. The music was good, the lyrics were not as pretentious as usual and the tracks had an organic quality to them. This one, and Hard Sun, stood out to me. It forced me to give Eddie a second chance and then he and PJ released Backspacer this year. Good form Ed.

- Don't Steal Our Sun - The Thrills - 2003 - So Much For The City
Irish guys doing Brother era Beach Boys songs. This could be a match made in music heaven for me. While The Thrills have never matched the vibe of this auspicious debut, they were able to hook me for a summer with all those "ooohhhs" and "eeeewwws". Worth seeking it out.

- I Don't Know What It Is - Rufus Wainwright - 2003 - Want One
Funny, I was just reading Zach Galifianakis (you know the fat guy from The Hangover) iTunes Celebrity Playlist and he said that this song helped get him through some difficult times. I won't go that far, but I will give a genius his due. And that is the only word I think of when I think of Rufus. His music is a gift from the gods. This song reminds me of driving around Basking Ridge, right around the time my eldest daughter started to talk, and she would sing along to this song.

- Bartender - Dave Matthews Band - 2001 - The Lillywhite Sessions
I remember this song from the summer before 9/11. This was one of the first Internet "leak" albums. Matthews didn't like it, it was too dark (wasn't that the point Dave?), so legend has it producer Steve Lillywhite leaked it to the web to prove to the DMB that it was the best thing they ever accomplished. Advantage Lillywhite. The DMB went back into the studio (after it was so well received by critics and fans) and rerecorded the record more to their liking. Match, set Lillywhite.

- Sequestered In Memphis - The Hold Steady - 2008 - Stay Positive
If the E Street band came out in the 00s they would sound like these guys. I am always amazed at how many Bruceheads I play this for and they don't get it (that's called blind worship). Another one of those indie darlings (Brooklyn), but these guys, unlike the 1000s of others, actually can rock with the best of them. For all of you "modern rock" station managers, wake up people, this is the tightest band playing in America right now.
YouTube on Letterman:

- Kids - MGMT - 2008 - Oracular Spectacular
Talk about indie blog darlings, these guys are the Brooklyn poster children. Something funny happened on the way to Manhattan from the 2 and 3 trains; Soccer Moms started to use this as their ring tones and people played it at pool parties miles away from Park Slope. Be careful what you wish for. Backlash is on the way. For now, try not to tap your feet or sing along about "a family of trees." Massive track.

- 1901 - Phoenix - 2009 - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
Holy Sophia Coppella's French husband! What a joyously exuberant taste of pop/rock. 1901 is a head-bopper with hooks at every turn and at every speed. I have a feeling this song is gonna sell a lot of crappy American cars.

- I'm Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How To Dance With You - Black Kids - 2008 - Wizards of Ahhhs
CMJ favs and the best band out of Jacksonville, Florida since Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (sorry Matchbox 20/Twenty), the Black Kids are infectious.

- All These Things That I've Done - The Killers - 2004 - Hot Fuss
Brandon Flowers has been quoted saying they wanted to write their own "Where the Streets Have No Name" when they set out to write this song. I think they did that and more. Not many rock tracks better then this one in the past 15 years. Plus, "I got soul, but I'm not a soldier" is priceless.
Youtube of The Killers, Coldplay and Bono doing this song in the UK:

- Straight Lines - Silverchair - 2007 - Young Modern
These guys should be massive here in the US, but sadly the state of rock music in the USA is on proverbial life support (Nickelback was just named Rock Artist of the decade by Billboard - kill me now). Instead they have carved out a nice little corner of the world market (their home in Australia and New Zealand) and focused their talents there. Smart move boys. I love the way this track builds. Johns is a phenomenal songwriter (hello America). This song will always remind me of dancing around the living room with my youngest daughter.

- The Sweet - The Major Labels - 2008 - Aquavia
Ahhh the Major Labels. The side project of two of my favorite Power Pop hold-outs, Bleu and Mike "the Voice" Viola. They released this album as a lark on a pay-as-you-want website called Nosietrade, they recorded it at a country house in Mass, they had a blast and it comes out on the record. Aquavia was my favorite album of 2008. It has it all, hard rock, Summer of 69 references, Queen vocals, and this White Album/RAM wannabe track. Broken down into four sections, The Sweet highlights the exceptional talents of each band member, Bucky, Blue and Viola. I saw these guys do the album live somewhere south of Houston St. in NYC (The Living Room? I forget) and they didn't play the track. I asked Mike why and all he said was becasue it would have been too damn hard. Hence, no YouTube.

- Perfect Lovesong - The Divine Comedy - 2001 - Regeneration
Produced by longtime Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich, Regeneration was a departure from the chamber pop that Neil Hannon and his band became famous for. Personally, I dig it for the audacity ("this will be the perfect love song dammit!") and the Beach Boys and Beatles line at the start of the song. You need all three of those to truly make the perfect love song. If not, it's just going to sound like that David Foster crap from the 80s and 90s.

- 99 Problems - Jay-Z - 2003 - The Black Album
The best, hands down, rapper in the world today. The key to Jay is that he pulls it off by not coming across as trying too hard, it comes natural, and when the right buttons are pushed, it works. Kind of like Sinatra back in the day, Jay just has it. And like old Blue Eyes, something tells me that Jay is one of the hardest working people in music around. Backed by Rick Rubin's perfect production, Shawn Carter lays out the logic according to Jay in close to four minutes of power, fury and cross-over appeal.

- Boulevard Of Broken Dreams - Green Day - 2004 - American Idiot
This was the album when Green Day grew-up. This was the album when Green Day became more then another pop-punk wannabe outfit, passing all those Fall Out Boys and 3 Doors Down and Dashboard Whatevers. This is the album that will get Green Day into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame one day and rightfully so. By far the greatest ROCK album of the decade, American Idiot, woke the youth of America up for a brief moment out of their PS3/XBox haze. It made them take notice, think twice about their coddled existence and I bet, it had an impact on the Election of 2008. Plus, the last 40 seconds of this song could be the greatest moment of Rock rage in all of the 00s.

- American Boy - Estelle (featuring Kanye West) - 2008 - Shine
One of those, smile-on-your-face-as-soon-as-you-hear-it type of songs. Great beat, great trans-continental/Atlantic lyrics (I mean you really want to hop right on a jet when this tune is over) and it features Kanye's best guest rap to date. "What's your persona about this Americana....And I'm feeling like Mike at his Bad-est, like the Pips at their Glad-est..." Bloody hell right.

- You Know So Well - Sondre Lerche - 2002 - Faces Down
This guys was 19 when he released this song. Pretty astonishing. Sondre hails from Norway where he is considered their cross between Cole Porter and Elvis Costello. This is the first track from his debut and I still feel it is his best. Check out his duet with Regina Spektor called "Hell No", it's like a modern day "Baby, It's Cold Outside." Here is a YouTube of YKSW:

- Crazy - Gnarls Barkley - 2006 - St. Elsewhere
It does not matter what genre of music you listen to, back in 2006 everyone tried to claim Crazy as theirs. Every station up and down the dial played it. Hip-hop, rock, pop, even country (I kid). Crazy really doesn't fit into one category and that is what made this track so perfect. Backed by arguably the best base grove of the decade, Danger Mouse proves that he could just very well be, the best Producer of the decade.

- Yellow - Coldplay - 2000 - Parachutes
Who cares if Radiohead did not write Radiohead songs anymore, these guys from the UK came out of the gates writing them for us all. This song offers glimpses of what was to come throughout the decade; the stylish guitar work, Martin's high-pitched wails, the minimalist lyrics during a chorus, all there, for all of us to sing along to.

- Blueside - Rooney - 2003 - Rooney
One of those "as seen on The O.C." groups that came out early in the decade while that nonsense was still on FOX. I liked this track thanks to its subtle (yeah right) genuflection to the alter of Jellyfish and the Beach Boys. Plus, the band is named after principal Ed Rooney, from the movie Ferris Bueller's Day Off. Good stuff.

- Daughters - John Mayer - 2003 - Heavier Things
This song is here for two reasons - one, because I had two of them (daughters that is) this decade and two, because I like the bridge. But really, it's because of number one.

- Fill My Little World - The Feeling - 2006 - Twelve Stops From Home
Another find from one of my trips across the pond. They don't make 'em in the USA like The Feeling anymore. One whiff of this song and you know right were it comes from; somewhere North of London I suppose, a place where the tap water is so sweet that it must be chocolate milk coming out of those faucets. In turn, the Brits become accustomed to digesting these sweet treats and it makes all of their little British teeth crooked. Big in the UK and a dot on the radar here in the US, The Feeling are the type of band that I seek out when I head to Europe. They are the type of band that has perfected that lost art of the clever little three minute pop songs. The ones that the rest of the cavity filled world loves.
YouTube of the Brits and their festivals - they know every word:

That's all for now, see you this weekend with some Movie list and then poof, this thing is done.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

My Favortie 110 Songs of the 2000's - The Best of the 00s

December 16th, 2009
Wednesday Evening, 10:16 PM

Part II

- On Your Birthday - Jim Boggia - 2008 - Misadventures in Stereo
From Jim's brilliant 2008 release, On You Birthday is a trip down memory lane for the writers, his listeners and ex-lovers. Jim handed the lyric writing over to the underrated David Poe and the two created a breezy homage to those special moments in life that mean more now then they did then. Here is Jim doing the song at Joe's Pub (really if you have a chance to see him there, do yourself a favor, and make it happen):

- Please Read The Letter - Robert Plant & Alison Krauss - 2007 - Raising Sand
What a bloody brilliant pairing. T-Bone is a producing genius. He has such a magical ear for this type of stuff. The last minute of this song is the best Led Zep song since IV.

- Last Night - The Strokes - 2000 - Is This It?
In hindsight, Rock and NYC's next-great-hope didn't live up to the hype and expectations of its debut. What they did do was make the NYC music scene vibrant and in particular the Brooklyn music scene the place to be in the 2nd half of the decade. The Indie Blogs owe everything to this track.

- Middle of the Hill - Josh Pyke - 2005 - Feeding the Wolves
A friend of mine sent me the mp3 of this track one day via email saying, "you will love this song." She was spot on. Little did she know that I actually grew-up in the middle of the hill as a child. Maybe its growing older, or that I took up the acoustic guitar this decade, but the 00s have been about me gravitating more and more to small acoustic numbers like this one.

- The Pretender - Foo Fighters -2007- Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace
Now for something not acoustic. One of the best concerts I went to this decade was an intimate record release party the Foo had at Irving Plaza in NYC. Nothing better then seeing a band of this power at a 500 person show. Especially for a song like The Pretender which slows it down just long enough to explode into full bloom. After a show like that, you don't want to do the 70,000 person stadium thing ever again. YouTube to prove the point: You can find me in the crowd at the end as the only guy there wearing a suit.

- My Girls - Animal Collective - 2009 - Merriweather Post Pavilion
I wrote about this track earlier in the year on the old blog and my feelings are the same. This track is an anologs wet dream. The way it builds and makes you move and the lush wall-of-sound that those keyboards create, My Girls is the highlight of one of the best albums of 2009.

- Uprising - Muse - 2009 - The Resistance
You can thank my teenage Liverpolitan nephews Dylan and John and their super-cool Mom who took them to see these guys in concert, for making me aware of the next-great British thing. Damn those Brits are really up on their music. Theatrical, forceful, driving and rebellious, Muse is a must listen for the Zeitgeist crew that tapped into the mainstream in 2009.

- Jesus, Etc. - Wilco - 2002 - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
By now the story of Wilco's YHF is something of rock music legend. Band fights record label for release, label says no. Band offeres it for free online (one of the first to do this mind you), everyone loves it (fans and critics). Label resigns band for an album it already paid for. And you wonder what lead to the music industry downfall this decade. If you have not read what happened yet (in detail), I highly recommend watching Sam Jones' Documentary "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart" which highlights the madness. Regardless, YHF is the album of the decade and Jesus Etc. sits smack in the middle of tracklist as a chance to catch your breath and reflect. This could be Tweedy's finest number to date.

- Wilco (the song) - Wilco - 2009 - Wilco (the album)
The final Wilco song that makes my list is also the song where they announced to the world that they were going to have fun again playing music. IMHO, the first side (I have it on LP) of Wilco (the album) is there best set of music since YHF in 2002. The first time I heard this song was when they performed it live on The Colbert Report just days prior to the 2008 Presidential Election. The crowd blew up when they heard it and rightfully so, it's fun, infectious and "sonic shoulder for you to cry....Wilco will love you baby" So true Jeff.

- Everything In Its Right Place - Radiohead - 2000 - Kid A
With the first five notes from Thom Yorks' keyboard, Radiohead proclaimed that Kid A would not be your brothers The Bends or OK Computer. They proclaimed that music was going to be different in the new Millinium for the most important band in the world and for music. Nine years later, it still is and they still are.

- Crazy in Love - Beyonce (Featuring Jay-Z) - 2003 - Dangerously In Love
The best horns, the best beat, one of the best guest star raps from the new Sinatra, the voice, the moves, it all translates into one of the best party songs of the 00s.

- Ex #1 Fan - The Churchills - 2000 - You Are Here
One of those NYC band I found and followed while living up there for the past decade. Great little Power-Pop outfit that specialized in cool harmonies and crunchy guitars. Plus, stalker songs never go out of fashion.

- I Gotta Feeling - The Black Eyed Peas - 2009 - The E.N.D.
Really, this was song of this past summer. Really, everyone loved it, no matter the age or location or creed. This song will always make me think of driving in Ireland this past summer and it being on EVERY five minutes and I really didn't even care. Sorry Beyonce, but this was the best party song of the 00s.

- Mr. Brightside - The Killers - 2004 - Hot Fuss
We all thought at first that these guys were from England those many moons ago. The Brits loved them, played them, bought them, took them under their wings and let them grow. Then all of a sudden we find out they are Americans and from VEGAS and they can ROCK. The Killers are kind of like the American version of Coldplay; everyone in the indie world and MSM love to knock them for being to over-the-top, but you know what, we need bands like that. This is a great 80s throw-back track and one of the best rock songs of the 00s.

- Say It To Me Now - Glen Hansard - 2008 - Once (Soundtrack)
In the beginning of the movie Once we see Hansard playing this song, on that ratty guitar, in the dark, singing at the top of his lungs. In those first two minutes we know his character is in pain and longing for someone/anyone to hear him. Its powerful music and film making. Picture and pitch perfect.
Here is a Youtube of Glen playing it live:

- All My Friends - LCD Soundsystems - 2007 - Sound of Silver
Much like the Animal Collective, this keyboard/piano driven track, builds and builds and builds over its seven plus minutes. By the end, you are singing along, grabbing your jacket and heading out to "see all your friends tonight...."

- Folk Singer - Brendan Benson -2002 - Lapalco
After many years Benson finally found commercial success later in the decade thanks to his association with Jack White and The Raconteurs. Prior to their two releases of Jack's bluesy-bits and Brendan's Macca tendencies, Benson had a string of excellent Power Pop/under-the-radar classic records, that he wrote with ex-Jellyfisher Jason Falkner. Folk Singer shouts-out Lennon, while displaying those Macca tendencies, with a dash of Big Star charm and Brendan's wit.

- Wake Up - The Arcade Fire - 2004 - Funeral
Big, bombastic, lush, adventurists, genius. All of these descriptions could easily help define the best new band of the decade. Both of their releases have been on heavy rotation in my iPod or on the record player. I love the full sound, the song writing, and the sheer power of this band. They evoke U2's passion and David Bowie's (their number one fan) eclecticism, while all along being original and relevant.

- Toxic - Britney Spears - 2003 - In The Zone
This pick has less to do with our "original American Idol", then it does with the masterminds, Bloodshy and Avant, the gurus behind the writing and producing. They throw the kitchen sink at this thing, in the form of beats and guitars and Bollywood strings, and it works. I have heard killer hard rock covers of this tune over the last six years, a great sign that it is a killer song.

- Your Own Worst Enemy - Bruce Springsteen - 2007 - Magic
Somewhere along the way this decade Springsteen must have pulled out his old LP's of The Beach Boy's Pet Sounds and those great Phil Spector productions and said to Clarance that he was going to try to write a great wall-of-sound pop song. With the help of the E Street and Producer Brendan O'Brien, Bruce did just that. I love the piano, the harmonies, the organ, the drums and those Pet Sounds sleigh bells that play throughout the song. Way to go Bruce, Mr. Wilson should be proud.

- Clocks - Coldplay - 2002 - A Rush Of Blood To The Head
When I heard this song for the first time, with its piano riff, minimalist bass/drums and extremely basic chorus, "You are" (yep that's it), I knew that Coldplay was more then just a Radiohead rip-off. Everyone could tell. Clocks is just that good.

- Test Tube Kid - Honeydogs - 2004 - 10,000 Years
I am trying to remember how this Album found me. Did I read something about it in Rolling Stone? Was it EW? Was it Aimee Mann that recommended it in an interview? Who knows? What I do know is that 10,000 Years and I spent a lot of time together in the fall/winter of 2003/2004. It was the moment of the concept album for me - Brian Wilson's SMiLE was finally released, Green Day was eclipsing The Clash and The Who with American Idiot and The Honeydogs released this hidden gem which tells a futuristic story while examining modern society's ills. In Test Tube Kid I hear a little of Macca's "Maybe I'm Amazed" and a whole lot of Elvis Costello's wordplay.

- Intervention - The Arcade Fire - 2007 - Neon Bible
While not has critically lavished on by indie blog elites, Neon Bible packs a massive punch in the emotion department. I saw them do this live on SNL and I was blown away. The best thing out of Canada since SCTV. Here is the band in full doing it on youtube:

- Life On A Chain - Pete Yorn - 2001 - Music for the Morning After
New Jersey native, Pete Yorn, came out of the gates kicking and screaming with this four star debut. Evoking some early Springsteen (of course those comparisons due to geography), other 80s influences like the Buzzcocks and The Smiths, Yorn has built a steady stream of releases since, but nothing living up to the creativity displayed on MFTMA. I once saw him live where he played nothing but covers, and he pulled it off, each and everyone of them - from ballads like Never My Love to punk tracks like Ever Fall In Love With Someone.

- Crooked Teeth - Death Cab for Cutie - 2005 - Plans
Another indie blog darling that is much more then just the words those hipsters type. With each record they have grown and have gained more and more followers. This is another group that falls in the Elvis Costello group of lyrical wordsmithing. They paint pictures with each line, drawing you in, forcing you to wait for the next lyric, the next story to treasure.

- The Galway Girl - Steve Earle - 2000 - Transcendental Blues
They don't make them like Steve Earle anymore. He is a throwback to the likes of Johnny Cash, a rebel with a guitar, his words and a dream. The first time I heard of Earle it was on a Nightline (is that show still on?) interview where he was talking about his love for The Beatles Rubber Soul, his love of New York and his time in prison. I thought to myself, now this is a Country Star, not a Nashville product, but a true-blue outlaw. From there I fell in love with this record, with his music and his live shows. I have seen him 3 times. This song reminds me of my Dad (Earle plays with the legendary Chieftains on this song) and some young Irish ladies I met when I traveled to Ireland as a teen. Funny thing, this song was all the rage at the bars during my most recent trip back to Ireland. It took long enough!

- Bohemian Like You - Dandy Warhols -2000- Thirteen Tales from Urban Bohemia
This song always reminds me of my buddy Finn and the trip we took the summer of 2000 to UK/France/Italy. During a stop in Paris, Finn and I went out, found some music and he kept on playing this track on the jukebox. Good times. Another great, lost Stones riff in there.

- My Doorbell - The White Stripes - 2005 - Get Behind Me Satan
I could have picked at least four or five other White Stripes song for this list, but I keep coming back to this one. Jack White, Detroit native, wrote the best Motown song since, Ain't No Mountain High Enough. I would die to hear The Funk Brothers (Motowns and Barry Gordy house band) play this with Jack one day.

- Lose Yourself - Eminem - 2002 - 8 Mile (Soundtrack)
Detroit Rock City at it again, this time from the Rap perspective. Like the Stripes, I could have picked a couple of other Eminem songs for this list, but I keep coming back to this one. With its rock beat, biting lyrics, and energy, this (not Stan) is Eminem's Magnum opus.

- See The World - Gomez - 2006 - How We Operate
Simple, British, moody indie guitar rock, tap your feet, great sunset beach music, that's Gomez and this track to me. "See the World, find an old fashion girl...." Says it all.

- Jigsaw Falling Into Place - Radiohead - 2007 - In Rainbows
The most important band in the world did it again. They tipped the scales, tested the system, profited, and art toppled commerce. In Rainbows and the computer based pay-as-you-go model were the tools, but the songs on In Rainbows were the reason the tools worked. They told everyone to go to the website and pay what you want, here is our new record. The average price paid was a bit over 4 Euros, a steal for the most consistent Radiohead record of the decade.

- December 4th - Danger Mouse - 2004 - The Grey Album (The Beatles White Album meets Jay Z's Black Album)
Here is the background via Wiki: The Grey Album is a mash-up album by Danger Mouse, released in 2004. It uses an a cappella version of rapper Jay-Z's The Black Album and couples it with instrumentals created from a multitude of unauthorized samples from The Beatles' LP The Beatles (more commonly known as The White Album). Here is the truth: The Grey Album is one of my top five albums of this decade. Danger Mouse (Brian Joseph Burton from Gnarls Barkley) spent 6 months perfecting the mash-up of two of the arts greatest originals. This track says it all. It takes Jay-Z story about growing up with his mother and places over George Harrison's guitar work from Mother Natures Son. It transcends both songs, making them something new and shows us how much rap and rock are truly alike at the core. Genius. Take a listen - Youtube:

Take Me Out - Franz Ferdinand - 2004 - Franz Ferdinand
I loved this song and I am not sure it and I have aged well together. Still it makes the list for its changes, beats and tone.

Why Do You Let Me Stay Here? - She & Him - 2008 - Volume One
Now I still LOVE this song. I love the little laugh She (the luminous Zooey Deschanel) gives at the five second mark, I love the playing of Him (M. Ward ) at the one minute mark, I really love the drum work at the one forty minute mark and I really, really love the Beach Boy harmonies at the two minute mark. A great pop record.

So let's leave it with that. Installment III tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

My Favorite 110 Songs of the 2000s - The Best of the 00's

Part I

December 15th, 2009
Tuesday Evening, 11:31 PM

Well, it has been awhile.

I have some ideas why I stopped posting and writing this blog last spring. It served a purpose for a time being as I dealt with a number of changes in my life. It was cathartic and at the same time, as a friend pointed out, VERY narcissist. Most of this wired world of Facebook and MySpace and Blogs are just that - "hey look at me, look what I am doing, and you are not." I buy into half of that for this blog, I see it, I get it, and that was the main reason why I shut it down. It served its purpose for the winter and spring of 2009 for me. But, a journal is something that should be private. I was exposing myself, friends, family and in my minds eye, it was time for that to stop.

So here I am writing again, for the last couple of times, right around the anniversary of when this blog started. In these next few post I am going to write about Entertainment, namely music and films, two of my great loves.

As many of my handful of readers know, I hand out some "Best of What's Around" music at the end of each year. This is something I have been doing for the past 15 years. It has always received some warm receptions and feedback. Most of all, it is a way to share music with friends that I know would enjoy it. Still, it will be impossible to add all 110 songs on a memory stick or on a CD. With that stated, I promise to post any of the tracks people are interested in on YouSendIt so you can download what you might like. Just right a comment and I will send it. For now here is a run down of my favorite "must have" tracks from the past 10 years.

Note - I have decided not to run them down in a 110 to 1 Billboard countdown fashion. One, because it would be very difficult to pick favorites as all of these tracks represent a moment in time or a feeling that resonated differently to me during the course of the past ten years. Two, I needed to incorporate the iPod on this list. Unlike any other device in the 00s (even you Mr Laptop), this tool has been the one constant since I purchased it in 2002. The iPod, Napster, then iTunes and most importantly the "shuffle" tool have changed the way I listen to music. Call it "the power of the shuffle". With over 4,000 songs currently on my iPod, the shuffle is the game changer. You never know what you are going to get and that little click never gets old. So here we go, time to go into Playlist, find "The Best of What's Around for the 00s" and hit shuffle songs....

B's Top 110 of the 00s by Song, Artist, Year and Album

- Heavy Metal Drummer - Wilco - 2002 - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
Fitting that a song from my favorite album of the decade starts off the list. When Jeff Tweedy sings "I miss the innocence I've know, playing Kiss covers beautiful and stoned...." it takes me back to those sunny teenage days. Tweedy is a rock god.

- Valley Winter Song - Fountains of Wayne - 2003 - Welcome Interstate Managers
It was hard to pick one track that meant the most to me from this LP. I still remember being at Maxwell's in Hoboken hearing many of these tracks for the first time (i.e. Hackensack, Mexican Wine) but it is this little haunting slice of New England winter that sticks with me the most.

- SexyBack - Justin Timberlake - 2006 - FutureSex/LoveSounds
Who would have thought at the beginning of the 00's that the curly hair kid from a boy band would be this cool. Be it this track or "Rock Your Body" or his amazing turns on SNL (thanks for "Dick in a Box"), JT proved he could do no wrong. Try being at a club and not dancing to this tune.

- Heaven - The Swimmers - 2008 - Fighting Trees
One of my favorite Philly bands from the 00s. When I saw the Swimmers live downtown this year they almost didn't play this tune because they became sick of it. Not me. To me Heaven is a perfect ELO/Jellyfish throw-back track and one that always transports me to the burbs of Philly.

- Several Thousand - Jim Boggia - 2001- Fidelity is the Enemy
And now on to my favorite Philly artist of the past decade. I first heard this track at a church basement in Westfield, NJ. Since then I have caught Jim live at least five more times, solo or with Mike Viola or with Bleu, and each time has been a treasure for me. This guy truly is an amazing artist, and he should be getting more airtime here in South Eastern PA (come on XPN). And thanks to YouTube here is the first time I heard the song:

- Beautiful Day - U2 - 2000 - All That You Can't Leave Behind
Another song I can remember hearing for the first time. I was on RT 78 W in New Jersey, passing lovely Newark heading to work and I distinctly remember saying to myself, "they are back!" It might be hard to remember but there was a time at the end of the 90s when Bono and the boys lost their way a bit. This LP and the way they performed after 9/11, changed all of that. They went back to writing some great rock songs and being the "best rock band in the world" again.

- Tulip (Your Eyes) - Ty Tabor - 2002 - Saftey
This song came to me via a music swap group I participated in during the middle of the decade. It was a group of about 12 people that had similar musical interest and taste and put tunes on a CD or website for all to find. This was one of my favs from the Swap Project. A straight forward rock track from the old lead singer of the underrated King's X.

- Something To Talk About - Badly Drawn Boy - 2002 - Something to Talk About (Soundtrack)
I will also be posting my favorite list of films from the OO's after the music list. This one might make it, not 100% sure yet. The music from the movie was a perfect fit though. I hear a bit of Harry Nilsson, a bit of Elliott Smith and some great chord progressions.

- Are You Gonna Be My Girl - JET - 2003 - Get Born
The best Stones record since Tattoo You.

- Don't Know Why - Norah Jones - 2002 - Come Away With Me
I mean who didn't like this song? Really. And to that point, who didn't buy this CD? It was everywhere the summer of 2002, in every Starbucks, at every beach party, at your Aunts house, everywhere. But you know what, Jessie Harris really wrote a wonderful tune here, hats off.

- Jesus Walks - Kanye West - 2004 - The College Dropout
So the best rap song of the past ten years was about Jesus. Love Kanye or hate him, you have to respect his ability and the power of his craft. Plus, was there a better line in Rap the past 10 years then: "the way Kathy Lee needs Regis."

- Honey Come Home - John Alagia - 2007 - The Heartbreak Kid (Soundtrack)
I love this little track. I found this nugget during the credits of a godawful Ben Stiller movie. As my father so astutely suggested the first time I played it for him: "you could put this song on the Beatles Rubber Soul." So true Pops, it's that catchy. It's a hard one to find so I thought I would post a YouTube clip of it:

- Strawberry Swing - Coldplay - 2008 - Viva La Vida
I know, everybody loves to pick on these guys. They are a poor mans Radiohead or now that they are working with Eno, they are a poor mans U2, but come on, try all you want to avoid them, they write some great hooks and layer on some amazing sounds. Viva La Vida is a GREAT record. I mean they had a song with strings that made the US Pop charts and dominated the summer of 2008. Respect needs to be given. This is the one track from Viva that I keep coming back to. It has all those hooks and sounds and layers.

- World Spins Madly On - The Weepies - 2006 - Say I Am You
For anyone who has every lost someone or whoever said one thing and did another. And for anyone that ever sits back and meditates thinking about how truly small we are on this big rock in the sky, this song is for you. It's a big and beautiful two minutes and forty five second hug of sorry.

- Happiness - Elliott Smith - 2000 - Figure 8
Thanks to the film Good Will Hunting, people found Elliott Smith. And for a bright five year span, Elliott gave back some incredible sounds to those people. In 2003 Smith either was killed or killed himself, the investigation is still ongoing. Regardless, this Jon Brion produced track from his haunting Figure 8, in the key of E, made me love his sounds even more. A very, very missed talent.

- The Way You Wear Your Head - Nada Surf - 2002 - Let Go
Any songs that shouts-out Cheap Tricks "I Want You To Want Me" has a place on my list. Nada Surf might be best known for a mid-90s grunge wannabe MTV hit, but I have found that this band keeps on evolving for the better. They are a great Power Pop band. Something I for one think we need more of in Rock now a days. Anyone like to have fun anymore?

- Put Your Records On - Corinne Bailey Rae - 2006 - Corinne Bailey Rae
A little Lauryn Hill, a little Norah and a nice big swig of Motown makes this a lazy summer day soundtrack delight.

- Something Is Not Right With Me - Cold War Kids - 2008 - Loyalty to Loyalty
One of those indie blog bands that connected with me over the second half of the decade. A South by Southwest staple that has a ton of rock bite. Raw, a little harsh and perfect rock.

- Cannonball - Damien Rice - 2003 - O
Oh those Irish singer songwriters, how you grab me and my melancholy DNA when I hear you. I first heard Damien during one of my 5 trips back home to the motherland this decade. It happens every time I go, I come back with songs and sounds and smiles that will be with me till the day I die. I hear a little of the late great Jeff Buckley in some of the echos in the background of this track.

- Falling Slowly - The Frames - 2007 - The Cost
Back to Ireland again. If someone put a gun to my head and asked me to pick a favorite track from the 00s, it would be this Oscar winner. The movie Once is one of my favorite films of the past decade. It has music and the Irish and features a romance that brews around the two. This version of Falling Slowly is the one that lead singer/songwriter Glen Hansard recorded with his band, The Frames. I like how it sweeps you in even more then the one they preformed in the movie. Gorgeous track. Here is the YouTube of the Frames version: Up Dublin!

- Make You Feel My Love - Adele - 2008 - 19
This is one of a handful of covers I have put on the list. The UK's best-new-voice took one of Bob Dylan's most covered songs and made it her own. It's so good, it almost makes you forget the Garth Brooks version, almost.

- I Don't Feel Like Dancin' - Scissor Sisters - 2006 - Ta-Dah
This Ohio based band had to go all the way to the UK to get airplay here in the States, typical. This is by far the most Disco sounding song on my chart. Insomuch it evokes some classic Bee Gees in certain sections of the song. Most importantly, it just forces you to move.

- The Fixer - Pearl Jam - 2009 - Backspacer
When Pearl Jam first hit the scene with Nirvana, I was in University. They both will forever be part of the soundtrack of that time for me. Since the early 90s though, PJ never really moved me again. Maybe it was Kurt's passing, or the fact that they were not the center of the music universe anymore, or maybe my taste changed. Either way, we didn't reconnect until this past year. Backspacer is their best album since Ten. This track, along with Speed of Sound, resorted my faith in Seattle.

- All At Sea - Jamie Cullum - 2004 - Twentysomething
I've always like the mood of this song; laid back, easy like a Sunday morning. Most of all, and the reason it is on the list, is cause no matter what I am doing, my "air drum-sticks" come out during the bridge.

- Grace Kelly - Mika - 2007 - Life in Cartoon Motion
Over the top and all falsetto, this ode to Philly's own Princess and England's own Queen was a track I brought back with me from a trip to Ireland I took with my Uncle in 2007. I still remember driving on the wrong side of the road belting this one out. Ka-ching

- I Bet You Look Good On the Dance Floor - Arctic Monkeys - 2005 - Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not
Best "in-your-face" rock band out of Brittan since early Oasis.

- Girl In The War - Josh Ritter - 2006 - The Animal Years
A WXPN favorite, and a powerful singer/songwriter Ritter's 2006 release was his strongest to date. With America in the middle of two wars and at its most bitter, Ritter channeled his inner Robert Zimmerman to serve as a mid-decade time capsule. Here is a Youtube of the song:

- Light & Day - The Polyphonic Spree - 2002 - Beginning Stages of...
If this song does not make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, then I do not know which one will. I saw this band live at the TLA in Philly and it was, for lack of a better term, an explosion. 30 people on stage with at least 20 different instruments, all in white gowns, all smiling. You don't see that everyday.

- The Rising - Bruce Springsteen - 2002 - The Rising
Another hairs-on-the-back-of-your-neck type of a song, but obviously for different reasons. If anyone was going to write about what happened to the New York area in the fall of 2001, well, it just had to be Bruce. Thank the gods he heard the call. Seeing this done live at Giants Stadium, with the NYC skyline in the background, on a warm summer night, was a reminder that music has some special powers. It was like the sky was saying we could all sing along with the Boss again, it was time.

- Use Somebody - Kings of Leon - 2008 - Only by the Night
Sure, I liked the first couple of albums. I respected the work ethic and how they kept churning them out, but it wasn't until Only by the Night that I grabbed the iPod and hit replay and then replay again. For the past two years the Kings of Leon have been the saviors of rock in the mainstream, and a band that all (from rappers to indie bloggers) still admire. They didn't sell-out, the audience came to them, count me as one of them.

- Hair of the Dog - Mike Viola - 2005 - Just Before Dark
Mike Viola is the artist that I have seen the most live on this list. Be it Joe's Pub in NYC or in Hoboken or some two-bit longe in Morristown, NJ, this is the artist I travel to see and the one that speaks to me the most. Just Before Dark was a record that Viola recorded live at the legendary Largo in LA. He wanted to make a laid back homage to Macca, and in the end, he made my perfect sunny Sunday morning with coffee record. Here is a Youtube of the track:

- Somewhere Down The Barrel - The Dissociatives - 2004 - The Dissociatives
Here is a one-off experiment band from Down Under that I found via the Swap Project. Daniel Johns (VERY underrated here in the States) from Silverchair plays the lead with an Aussie DJ Dance Producer to create something different, crunchy and catchy.

- Stars - Switchfoot - 2005 - Nothing Is Sound
Switchfoot is a "faith-based" alternative rock outfit that my ear caught thanks to their involvement with Andy Sturmer from Jellyfish (Sturmer added vocals to the track). It's a good rock track that one needs to play loud, in the car, and at night of course.

- Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own - U2 - 2004 - How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb
I read when this album came out that Bono wrote and sang these words for his fathers funeral mass. When I wrote my Father's eulogy, I had this song playing on a constant loop in the background searching for inspiration. This song will be with me forever.

- Us - Regina Spektor - 2004 - Soviet Kitsch
Here is one of those songs that takes you back to the first time you fall in love with someone. All wide-eyed and hopeful and without a care; "They'll made a statue of us....", so brazen and naive and perfect.

- The Long Way Around - Dixie Chicks - 2006 - Taking the Long Way
The best Fleetwood Mac songs since Rumors.

- New York, New York - Ryan Adams - 2001 - Gold
Every bar that I went to in the NY Metro Area after 9/11 played this song. "I'll always love you old New York..." became something of a lullaby for the last call crowd. Here is a YouTube of Adams on Letterman:

Okay, that's it for now. Come back later for the next 35 plus tracks of The 00s. I am seeing three installments here.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

My Most Anticipated Movie of the Summer - The Hangover

May 7th, 2009
Thursday Night 8:40 PM

Out of all of the movie trailers I have watched or articles I have read this past spring about the 2009 summer movie season, this is the one movie I am most excited about seeing On a cinematic level, The Hangover is what some movie snobs would dismiss as juvenile, but on a comedic level, it has the potential and promised to offer pure unadulterated debauchery crossed with cringe-worthy audacity. You do not see those two in the movies everyday. The movie comes from manic mind of Todd Phillips, the man who gave us the modern day comedy classic Old School. According the the movies website the synopsis is as follows:

Two days before his wedding, Doug and three friends drive to Las Vegas for a wild and memorable stag party. In fact, when the three groomsmen wake up the next morning, they can't remember a thing; nor can they find Doug. With little time to spare , the three hazy pals try to re-trace their steps and find Doug so they can get him back to Los Angeles in time to walk down the aisle.

I know it sounds a bit much on face value, but watch the trailer and tell me it does not look awesomely bad. (And I mean that is a good way.) It stars a bunch of "who are those guys" or "oh that's the guy from that chick flick" or "The Office" or "that guy I just saw at the Comedy Store". Along with those three up-and-comers, it also features my new favorite retro 80s boxer in a mind blowing cameo. Which leads me to ask: "Why is Mike Tyson haunting my every thought (and my blog for that matter) this week?"

Below is the red band trailer. Listen to Tyson crank out the Phil Collins classic "In the Air Tonight" in the background, it makes it worth the two minutes of your life you will lose.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Learning to Live on "The Invisible Speck of Dust"

May 5th, 2009
Tuesday Morning 7:40 AM


This morning, as I fought the clock and the golfball size rain pellets that drop at the heads of the good people of Seattle, I was fortunate to make it to the airport on time. While I was standing in the security line I found myself reading news on my Blackberry, which I do excessively, like I am being trapped in some Pavlovian
condition/experiment. One random article about the new Mike Tyson Documentary caught my attention and in the process floored me. It went on to provide one of those ear to ear grins that I do when I read something captivating. Along with the grin, I had one of those eureka, finally moments. One of those, "why am I reading about the new Mike Tyson documentary and whoa did he just say that?", moments. The grin was provided by Tyson director James Toback in an interview with the ailing movie critic Roger Ebert. Toback was discussing Tyson's torment and the "illusion of immortality" that the famous boxer possessed during the prime of his professional life. From there Toback took the conversation to a whole new level and one that I wish more people would discuss in their day to day lives.

Look, if you have read this blog since its inception last December, then you know that my 37th and 38th year on this planet have been mostly about me coming to terms with the inevitable cycle of life and loss. Truly, I am fine with the subject. I learned to accept this aspect of life many, many years ago. In fact, it was when I was 11 and my Grandfather passed. I prepared for my own mortality both mentally and emotionally and I am better for that way of thinking. The more difficult aspect of loss, to me, is for the people that are still walking and breathing with us that, for one reason or another, choose not to share the precious moments we have left here on this rock in the cosmos. Toback summed this up perfectly in his conversation with Ebert:

"Because we say, well, yeah, but I'm not really dying because I'm going on to the next life. I don't mean just to be cute about it, but people like that need to look at the Hubble telescope photographs and say, this is where we live.

"We are in an invisible speck of dust. 'We' meaning our whole solar system but if you wanna narrow it down further, our planet, and if you wanna narrow it down further, ourselves. We are almost invisible specks of dust in this great huge, vast, expanding cosmos. And once you actually say, that is what's real, that's where we are, then you can say, well, then what purpose is there in life?

"Well, you're here so you make the best of it; you do what you can. You enjoy what you can, you create what you can and then when it's time you don't whine and you go. [Except] we're never conditioned to think that way. It's never taught. I mean, parents don't teach it, schools don't teach it, religions don't teach it. It's a kind of warped need to mythologize death into everything but what it actually is."


Funny how these little, meaningful quotes find you in certain times of life. Timing truly is everything. Currently, I have been struggling with not the loss via death that I dealt with over the past year, but more about the people that come in and out of the living, breathing life. The ones we know and touch and feel, not the one that we "think" we have a 50% chance of knowing where they are now. "Who knows?", I say. How presumptions of me to pretend that I know what happens. Our (my) primitive minds surely don't. The books we read, or "books" that certain folks cherish and memorize verbatim, do not provide tangible, practical answers. We are guessing folks and Toback nails this point and boils it down to the logical.

The ironic thing is that in the past two days, I have been reading on my Kindle Dr. Bart D. Ehrman's fabulous Jesus, Interrupted and I found myself viewing the most recent, startling images from the Hubble on my laptop while waiting at the airport yesterday. These two topics have always tweaked my interest and they have always made me question, "what do we really know about the historical aspects of the Western Civilization's "Great Book" and "what do we really know about the world where we live?"

Fact - We humans have only seen about 10% of the known Universe thus far. Without the Hubble that number would be a fraction of that. Think about that for a second.

Fact - The four men that allegedly "wrote" about the life of Christ have two different accounts of his birth and four different accounts of his death. They can not even agree on the town of his birth and the exact day of his death. I would think those would be two things that a historian would want to check their facts on. They can not even agree on which Kings and Leaders were in "office" at the times of those events. And why do we entrust so much into these famous words that these infamous historians wrote as, pardon the pun, as "Bible"? We just do, because its what we have been told.

So why are people so dogmatic about beliefs, why do they think they know the answers to what lives a trillion miles away or that something will happen to us after we pass? I think the appropriate answers are that people will always think what they want to believe (what they have been taught) and that we really do not know much about the Universe or about what happened or what didn't happen 2,000 plus years ago, but that we need to offer some sort of answer to keep us going.

Our human condition is about grappling with the past and traditions and finding a place on this speck of dust that is, can become, home for us (you). If the loss of this past year taught me anything, it is that our time is so minuscule that in a blink of an eye, three years goes by, and you wake up one day lucky that you are still here. Then you say - "now what am I going to do with this time and this life?" That poignant question is more for me then my readers. I sit here on the eve of my youngest daughters birthday, some times thinking I know less about myself then I did 5 years ago. Are those my experiences catching up to me? My uncertainties? Am I removing myself from traditions with each step and breath I take or am I constantly falling back into them, accepting the life I need, not the one I crave?

Luckily, the quest for answers continues.

Here is a link to Ebert's article with Toback that I mentioned. It's a good read and will make me want to see the Tyson documentary.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

"We Are America, We Do Not F-ing Torture"

April 25th, 2009
Saturday Morning, 11:45 AM

I know am a little late to the party on this one, but being on the road and out of your element will do that to you. Plain and simple - this clip is bloody brilliant. I am not sure where you may stand on the Torture issue, personally I am against it and how it tarnishes America's image and our standing as a nation built on laws. The beauty of this clip is not that Shepard Smith is going against the grain of his party and his channel, it is not that he curses on national cable TV (who cares), it is that he makes a simple point and stands by it. There is no room for "torture is bad, but" in this debate. You can not play both sides of the fence or request to move past this because it happened many moons ago and we have to move on.

To our President, you can not request to save it for a rainy day because we have too much on our plate now. The Justice Department won't get in your way Sir. You can champion your 100 days and beyond causes while they do their job and investigate these failures of civility and prosecute those in charge and adhere to the laws Geneva Convention. As conservative David Brooks proclaimed Thursday on Charlie Rose, "It is astonishing what they've (the White House) done" in the first 100 days. Use this Political Capitol and do something astonishing on this torture issue. The far right is so lost on this issue that they have to trot out one of the least popular VP's in American history, a man that best ideas were 15 years ago and a radio host to try and fight this issue. They are even losing the Reporters on the far right flagship station, good form Shep. Happy to see someone over there has a brain and a heart, "oops".

Friday, April 24, 2009

My Favorties of "The 00's" - Movie Edition

April 24th, 2009
Friday Morning, 8:15 AM

San Francisco

I am sitting at the corner of Geary and Taylor, the 500 block, having a cup of coffee writing this blog. I love this town. I love the air, the temperature, the characters, the cultures that intertwine, the architecture, the hills and most of all the griminess of the city. San Fran reminds me of New York pre-Rudy. A little beat down in sections, and blossoming in other. More then any other America city, and this includes Rudy's hometown, San Fran reminds me of the US, Europe and Asia all rolled into one. It's a joy to visit here and take it all in. It's 8:15 in the morning and already during a brisk morning walk I heard a trumpeter in the distance and watched a busker playing Dylan's "Visions of Johanna". The city is alive and so am I.

That basker did more then entertain me briefly this morning, he gave me an idea for a blog that I wanted to share. See, it's the end of the decade (already) and it's time to reflect on the 10 years that came and went. Over the course of the next 8 months I will write about my favorite movies, music and moments of "The 00's" (what else to call it?). Hopefully some of these moments in entertainment and pop culture will be new to you and you will want seek them out.

Today I will start with a combination of both music and movies. Today I will write about the best musical I watched this decade, and believe me, I am not a fan of musicals. See, this one is a little different. In this one there are no dancing bears or songs about steamboats in the south or songs about Jets and Sharks. This one is about a basker and a pianist immigrant, the music they create and the chemistry they share and it is about those moments in time that give you clarity and most importantly give you hope and the drive to push on. I start my favorite list with the movie Once (2006).

For me Once was one of those movie experiences that simply moved me. I sat there for two hour enjoying every moment and effortless word of the film. I remember the day I watched Once fondly. I remember coming out of the theater to a beautiful May day, with the sun raging as my eyes adjusted to the contrast of dark and light, I inhaled the fresh air of the city street and smiled. I left the theater knowing that the movie and its music would be with me for the rest of my life. Once was the perfect example of those great movie experiences which force you to recall the person you saw it with, the time of year it was and why you even went to that movie in the first place.

In a nutshell, Once is a little parable of friendship and chemistry and choices and music all set in present day Dublin, Ireland. It is the story of a Dublin basker and a Czech immigrant that share a piece of time together. They share their past and inspire each other to focus on the best possible future, together or alone. The centerpiece of the movie and the "gotcha" moment that hooks into you, is an organic scene at a music store. The Girl (the movie never give the main character names adding mystery to the moments) is a classically trained pianist that comes to this shop from time to time to play and practice. The shop keep likes her playing and welcomes her back with a smile. The Guy, the basker with guitar in hand, leads her in a song he recently composed. They play it together for the first time, with himself coaching her during the song and a little something happens along the way. They feel it as much as we do and the chemistry is undeniable. The moment is pure cinematic gold. It is right up there with Fred and Ginger dancing or Elliott and ET talking or Ray Kinsella and his Dad having a catch. It is a "goosebumps" moment and one that reminds you how much fun the movies can be.

That moment at the piano won them an Oscar for the song they performed, Falling Slowly.

From there we spend a week with the two characters, watching as they become friends (and maybe even more), we hear them share stories about past loves and we listen to them make a demo tape that could change both of their lives. Guy lost his love and Girl lost her love and they find each other in the love of music. For a piece of time they share something only the two of them can. It is intense and whimsical. Will it last forever? You will have to watch to find that out. The final scene/shot is one of the simplest and most rewarding I remember from the decade.

I personally shared that movie with a friend that I do not speak with anymore. One of those friendships that serve a defining purpose in life, but end up crashing and burning due to the intensity of the chemistry and external circumstances. The relationship of Guy and Girl will always remind me of my relationship with the friend that I saw Once with. Our friendship was a vessel that took us from one part of life to another, a conduit to understanding ourselves and our future. Like Guy and Girl, there was wonderful music made (those moments at the piano), there was fear and doubt, the past which clung to us and there was an ending where one was at an airport and one was looking out the window thinking about the gift that the friends gave to each other.

For me and my list, when Guy and Girl are sitting at the piano singing about “sinking boats, home and time” it became one of the defining moments in cinema from this past decade, right up there with the first time we meet Heath Ledger's Joker and his pencil trick in The Dark Knight, or the time when it seems to take 20 Boston Police Officers to hold down Sean Penn after he finds out that his daughter was murdered in Mystic River or the time we spend with Clive Owen and Julianne Moore in the car during Children of Men, or the time we see Leo and Jack lock insane eyes with the Dropkick Murphy's playing in the background of The Departed, or the time Julie Delpy attempts to seduce Ethan Hawke in her Paris apartment 10 years after Vienna in Before Sunset or the time Daniel Plainview finds oil and pretends to find God in There Will Be Blood or that time I sat in the theater thinking that “God Only Knows” would fit perfectly at the end of Love Actually and it "actually" starts right on cue. (I know Love Actually?. My only defense is that I was in a pretty severe post first baby, post 9/11 haze of fear and hope and Christmas. Couple that with British shmaltz, my favorite song of all time, and you have a movie moment for me.) But who cares, it's the movies. They are all there waiting to take us away from it all, sharing them in the communal church of pop culture & art, and the good ones force us to feel, react and live.

What are your favorite movie moment of The 00's?