28 December 2010

The Best Albums of 2010

I feel like I've drifted into a lot of non-financial related posts lately, and I think that's what really interested people in this thing to begin with. So, sorry those of you who want more of that, this entry is about music again. I love music more than money. Sorry. But I'll do a 2010 financial recap post at some point soon, and I'll set some goals for 2011 and you all can keep me honest :)

I thought I'd compile a list of my favorite albums of the past year and talk a little about why they're great. In thinking of this list I'm pleased with my own musical variety! Good for me, me!

In no particular order (except the best, which I'll discuss)...

Girl Talk's All Day album is one of those remix albums that plays like one huge song so, at a hoppin' part-ay, one could just hit play and then leave the music alone for an hour. The concept here is that Girl Talk has taken songs you love and mashed them with songs you probably don't (or do, but whatever) over an awesome beat. The result is an album that, when you've finished it, feels like you've only listened to ten minutes of music. I mean that in a good way, I promise.

Recommended tracks:
"Down for the Count"
"Oh No" (which incidentally begins the album)
"Triple Double" (My favorite!)

The album Sigh No More by Mumford & Sons is one I've already mentioned at some point on this blog, but it truly is an excellent album. From top to bottom, Mumford & Sons make emotionally impactful aggressive folk. As a lover of music, I'm most impressed by the instrumentation and harmonies throughout this CD. Hard to only pick a few favorites.

Recommended tracks:
"Little Lion Man"
"The Cave"
"Dust Bowl Dance"
"White Blank Page" (I think this is my favorite, but it's really hard to choose)

Janelle Monae's The Archandroid is easily the most creative album I've heard in years. The musical variety is mind-blowing, and listening to the album top to bottom allows for maximum appreciate of Monae's awesomeness. She's from Kansas City, so that also makes her awesome. It's a concept album dealing with a lot of strange sci-fi themes, so if that bothers you... suck it up.

Recommended tracks:
"Tightrope" (For obvious reasons- one of the best beats I've heard this year. I also demand to be taught the dance they perform about 3 minutes in)
"Cold War" (Probably my favorite)
"Make the Bus" (featuring Of Montreal!)
"Dance or Die" (Maybe the most eclectic song on the album, and that's saying something)
"Say You'll Go"

This will come as no surprise because I sort of don't shut up about it, but the best album I've heard this year is Robyn's Body Talk trilogy. My chronology as a Robyn fan began in the 90s, like everyone's did, because I loved "Show Me Love." This song falls into the category of "so ridiculous it's great," like many songs from the 90s. Then, by happenstance, I came upon her self-titled 2005 album and Robyn turned into a guilty pleasure for me.

Then this summer Erika took me to see Robyn live, and I became a believer. Here is a fantastic review of the show, including a photo of her heinous/awesome outfit.

As for the album itself, it's actually a three part-er and, if I'm being honest, they descend in order of greatness. Body Talk pt. 3 is ultimately only a few new songs and two remixes. Body Talk pt. 1, though, is pop perfection. It'd be silly to link you to my recommended tracks, because they're all awesome (even the song entirely in Swedish I can't understand). My very favorites though are the often-linked-to-on-this-blog "Dancing On My Own" (Fun facts about this song: I played it while my students were writing one day, and they thought she was singing "I'm on the pole now" and "I keep dancing on a pole." Also, Amanda thought she was saying "I'm in the car now." None of these are correct). Something else I really enjoy about this song is the lyrics are exactly able to be related to personally for me, but I appreciate the layered meaning of them. It's sort of the stalkers anthem.

I've also had the fantastic "Fembot" stuck in my head for the past couple of weeks. The most awesomely ridiculous lyrics are "Initiating slut mode" and "I gotta lotta automatic booty applications."

I might have called "Dancehall Queen" my least favorite song on the whole album if I hadn't seen her perform it live. The lyrics don't lie, she gets down low! Get it!

As for Body Talk pt. 2 I feel I may have sold it short after some brief reflection because with the exception of one song these are all fantastic. My favorites on pts. 2 & 3 are:

"In My Eyes"
"Criminal Intent" (If I were out dancing anywhere and this song came on... that'd be cool)
"U Should Know Better" (With Snoop Dogg!)
"Time Machine" (Mad props for referencing a DeLorean)
"Call Your Girlfriend"

This post took forever to make. APPRECIATE IT. :)

I feel like I'm missing a whole bunch of great stuff from this year. Remind me via comment!

21 December 2010

I'm In The Car Now

I have a new dream in life. To someday be featured in New York Magazine's Approval Matrix. I was thinking of saying "to someday be featured in the upper right hand quadrant of New York Magazine's Approval Matrix, but then I realized that, because I'm me, if I ever did anything brilliant enough to be recognized by said Matrix, there is a distinct possibility it would be super, super lowbrow.

Today I spoke with one of my favorite people about this whole PhD business I'm going to do, and he brought up a really interesting conundrum. See, I'm thrilled about the idea of earning a creative writing PhD, teaching college, and living in an apartment with exposed brick. The idea excites and motivates me. I really loved the atmosphere of college, and I really love teaching.

Here's where the hitch in my giddy-up started.

This person suggested to me I get an educational doctorate.

Immediate reaction- noooooo. No. NOOOOO. NO.

See, I have this belief that education classes almost always provide no practical classroom practice. It's theory rather than personality. Certain aspects of teaching theories are good for each teaching style, but at this point, I've been teaching for five years. I've got my style figured out.

Anyway, the suggestion was made. And then I started thinking.

Last school year a local college professor asked me to come talk about teaching to a group of pre-service teachers. I accepted, and the resulting discussion was, dare I say, really fun. I took a "no nonsense" approach to explaining the realities of teaching, and I not only felt like I helped, but I felt like some of them just might turn into better teachers because of it. The thought of influencing an entire generation of teachers to be awesome is a good one. But then... I don't know. I just can't imagine being an education professor.

But couldn't I, in theory, just be one of those educational consultants who travels the country kicking ass and taking names? Kicking stupid curriculum to the curb, helping teachers to realize what is actually important (apparently it's actually teaching these little clay molds to be productive and happy members of society), and getting paid the big bucks... it sounds like quite the life. But I feel like I'd have to go through 20 years of muck before I got there. And, if given the chance to choose, I'd rather go through the Creative Writing muck.

Anyway, Merry Christmas, readers. God bless :)

06 December 2010

You can sell your baseball cards just to pay your rent

My school does a "stop the bop" music torture device during its annual "Cancoming" fundraiser event. The concept being that they play a really annoying song during passing period, before school, and after school and will not stop playing it until a certain amount of money has been raised. I get the point, but I cannot deny how much I want to stuff my ears full of wax when it happens. My solution is to simply play the music on my laptop as loud as possible to drown it out (moderate success rate so far). The first song that came on when I tried this today is the starting point for my writing:

This song, "Capturing Moods" by Rilo Kiley, reminds me of a very specific time and place.

I was 19 years old and a sophomore at Mizzou. It was winter, and I was wearing my favorite winter outfit. Am I the only one that has one of these? It isn't the same now as it was then, but it was much more about the outerwear than my actual outfit. Brown peacoat, plaid brown scarf, brown/white stocking cap, jeans, snow boots. It was really all about that peacoat. It has long since worn itself out, is missing a button, and has a bright orange puff paint stain on it from one of those crafting nights I ended up going to at Brady Commons, but I still love it. I have a new coat I don't love as much (but, to be fair, it's warmer than the peacoat). I like peacoats because they are generous to a fat dude's body. Anyway, so I'm in that outfit. It's nighttime, and I'm walking out of Hudson Hall toward A&S to take a night test for one of my classes. As I'm walking, it starts snowing. It doesn't snow hard enough to make it slick (yet), but it is snowing hard enough to show up briefly as a fluffy reminder on the sleeve of my coat. While I walk, "Capturing Moods" comes on my CD player right as I get to Kuhlmann Court in front of A&S.

It was funny, though, because my mind instantly went there. Without choice. I was standing in my classroom trying to drown out the ravioli song, and in a moment I was a teenager again at Mizzou walking in falling snow. A good memory.

The point here being- what songs instantly take you to a very specific time and place? Describe it. It'll be fun.

02 December 2010

You Wanted A Rant? I'll Show You A Rant: Music

As a lover of music, I'm always curious about the annual Grammy awards for no reason other than it gives a pulse to what is happening in current music. I was talking with a couple of students after school yesterday, and one them proposed the following interesting question: how do you teach someone to love music? I'm paraphrasing, but I was fascinated with the question. Looking at this year's Grammy nominees, perhaps, could be an excellent way to expose someone to music the industry itself is looking to as being excellent.
And then I saw the nominees.

For Album of the Year, generally considered the "biggie" of the night, our nominees are:
The Suburbs from Arcade Fire (obligatory alternative band)
Recovery from Eminem (Joetown's finest. Also, obligatory rap album)
Need You Now from Lady Antebellum (obligatory country album)
The Fame Monster from Lady Gaga (let's be fair- I love this album. The problem, though, is this album has all of eight songs on it)
Teenage Dream by Katy Perry

What? Katy Perry? Like... like really? I understand "California Girls" was catchy, and I'm certainly guilty of singing along to it in my car. But I have heard the rest of the album via youtube, and it's hardly worthy of best pop album, let alone album of the year. The song "Teenage Dream" itself is a ridiculous staccato-fest. I like to scream the chorus as folows:


And so on and so forth. Also, Katy Perry has a theme of having things shoot out of her breasts in her music videos. In "California Girls" (below) she has two whipped cream cannons as breasts.

In her latest video "Firework," she has (you guessed it) fireworks shooting out of her breasts:

Actually, "Firework" is the least offensive of her songs on the Teenage Dream album. I like it. The song "Peacock," however, makes me want to stab my own ears:

That's right, America, we've nominated an album with the above song on it for ALBUM OF THE YEAR.

So, aside from the Katy Perry album, the rest of the nominees aren't terribly offensive I guess. It's just predictable.

So the other big award for the night is Record of the Year, with nominees as follows:

"Nothin' On You" B.O.B. featuring Bruno Mars
"Love the Way You Lie" Eminem featuring Rihanna
"Fuck You" Cee-Lo
"Empire State of Mind" Jay-Z featuring Alicia Keys
"Need You Now" Lady Antebellum

There's nothing on this list that inherently bothers me, and I'm most certainly pulling for Cee-Lo to win. I'm a little curious about how many of these songs are collaborations not for any negative reasons. Just an observation. I've not heard the entire Lady Antebellum album, but "Need You Now" was alright.

The real story here, though, is Robyn is nominated for Best Dance Song for this epic awesomeness:

I love this song (and album), alright? When I saw Robyn in concert this summer with Erika in New York, I pretty much fell in love with the music and Robyn herself as a performer.

Well, anyway, here are the rest of the nominees. Read 'em and weep. Literally. Because a lot of the best music isn't noticed. It's there, but we have to dig a little. The Grammy's were must-see TV for me when I was younger, but as an adult I apparently no longer like music the music industry likes. I'm being a little dramatic, but whatever. I was happy to see Mumford & Sons got a few nominations.

In less rant-y music related news, it's December. I love Christmas music. Here are my favorite Christmas songs. What are yours?

(he has a recorded version of this I much prefer)

(anything Sufjan Stevens has done for Christmas music makes me happy)