Friday Playlist

Some new songs from groups that still seem like representatives of new music, but have actually been putting out songs for a long time.

“Born and Razed” – The Raconteurs. Not a huge fan of the new album – it’s ok, should be better – but this is easily the stand-out track.

“Can’t Stop You” – Pete Yorn. I shared his other new single a few weeks back. I find this one to be both stronger and more reminiscent of his classic sound. Speaking of, I listened to his debut album musicforthemorningafter a couple nights ago. It is still amazing and is one of the albums that helped move my tastes a bit in the early 2000s. I’ll never understand why Yorn wasn’t a bigger star.

“No Bullets Spent” – Spoon. Spoon has been putting music out for 33 years now! I didn’t discover them until 2002’s Kill the Moonlight – “The Way We Get By” was on my favorite songs of the decade list – and that was their fourth studio album. Jeez. They are finally releasing a greatest hits compilation and this is the obligatory new track. It sounds what a Spoon track should sound like.

“Denver Haircut” – The Hold Steady. THS has been releasing a series of singles over the past couple years and most people figured they were one-off efforts. The band just announced that those singles will all be packaged with five new songs on an album out later this summer. It’s their first album in five years, and is the first with their full original lineup since 2008. Like the Spoon track, this is exactly what you would expect from THS.

“Footloose” – Live From Daryl’s House.
I’ve watched a few episodes of Live From Daryl’s House over the years. It is Daryl Hall’s web series where he brings in artists he likes, they talk, and play each other’s music. I randomly stumbled across this video earlier this week. I’m not sure how anyone can watch and not smile as they do. Kenny Loggins looks pretty good for being in his 70s.

Always the Student

I am a world famous procrastinator. I’ve been putting shit off my entire life. Sometimes, even when I’m all fired up about something, I’ll put off an important step in enjoying that thing because, well, that’s just what I do.

I remind you of that because today, after something like 11 months of thinking about it, I finally took my first golf lesson. In my defense I’ve had a coach picked out for awhile and he’s been unavailable for three weeks because of family and travel plans. Still, you’d think I would have figured this out in the winter so I could, you know, actually be playing golf by now.

Anyways, I got hooked up with a local D1 college coach who just happens to be the grandfather of one of L’s best friends. I had been looking online for someone close to me and relatively inexpensive when I remembered his name. I checked with L’s friend’s mom – who is one of my kickball coaches – and she told me her father-in-law loved to teach and passed me his contact info. We emailed a few times, he shared his very reasonable rates, and then I waited for his family vacation and his team’s trip to Scotland to pass before we could get together.

We were scheduled for 60-75 minutes but ended up working for nearly two hours. My game was just that bad! No, really, he is a talker and shared a story or two between almost every shot I hit. There were a few moments when I was anxious to step in and hit another ball but he would launch into another story. I realized after the session was over that he’s not just chatty, he’s also working on slowing me down so I’m not just pounding ball after ball mindlessly.

My first shot was perfect…for showing him my flaws. I took about a six inch divot behind the ball and skulled a 7 iron about 45 yards. Next shot was ok, third shot was really solid. “Oh, you can break 90 easy with that swing,” he said. Then he proceeded to start tinkering with things.

Fortunately I had read a lot about lessons over the past few months and knew that as soon as he started messing with my swing, it would pretty much go to shit for awhile. Sure enough, I bet over half of my shots were god-awful. Another quarter were piss-poor. Normally when I’m on the range, once I get in a rhythm I can actually look halfway decent. Between me thinking about what he was telling me and all the changes he made to my swing making it feel awkward, I was hitting more shitty balls than usual.

But in the last 15-20 minutes things locked in a little. The swing still did not feel right, but I started making better contact with more predictable results. I have never, ever been able to hit a driver consistently. Not with the old persimmon club I first played with, not with the cheap metal woods I had later, not with the bargain-bin, used Taylor Made club I bought last fall. I’m not going to say I hit the driver great today. But I also was not hitting the 40-yard slice I normally hit. A few would have been perfect shots if I had been traveling with him on the links courses last week; long, low shots that would roll for days on the Scottish turf.

So what did he do to me? We worked on weight transfer, which I know is my biggest issue. He, and others, have told me I have a decent swing. I just tend to not transfer my weight properly and that’s why I hit all kinds of fat or topped balls. He worked on getting me to understand the proper path that the club should take. A few words on tempo. He adjusted my grip so it was a little stronger. Moved the ball a little in my stance (he’s an advocate of the ball always being in roughly the same spot rather than moving it based on club selection.) Had me relax my right arm some at address, dip my right shoulder, and rotate both shoulders away from the open stance I didn’t realize I was taking.

It took us nearly two hours to get through a large bucket of balls. I would have liked to hit a few more, but with us running so long, his cost was well over half what a couple other pros I considered charged, so I’m not going to complain.

Now in addition to working on the changes he suggested, I need to get my ass on a real course. He suggested a course that I’ve got to hit balls at quite a bit as a good, affordable, fairly open course to play in the evening. He is in the process of moving closer to that course so our next session may be playing there together.

As I said, I had read up on lessons and what to expect, especially for someone of my skill level. Based on that, I definitely think this was a productive session that will help me get better. Still, there’s that little part of me that wanted to be hitting everything straight and long after just one lesson. Not sure I’ll ever get to that point, but I hope there was at least some minor improvement today.

Sports Takes

Some sports takes from the long, holiday weekend.

USWNT

Oh hell yes, the ladies got it done! In a tournament that proved that the women’s game is as strong as it has ever been, and getting stronger each year, the US had the toughest possible path to the title and still managed to win with a fair amount of comfort. Sure, they were a bit fortunate against England, but they were the better team in that game. Yes, it took them far too long to score in the final against the Dutch, but, again, they absolutely dominated play and were unlucky not to score at least four more goals.

It wasn’t always beautiful soccer. People who know more about the game and the US roster than I do have been taking shots at coach Jill Ellis for weeks about her lineup and strategic choices. When the team went undefeated and were never in danger of losing a knock-out game, I’m not sure it really matters.

Bottom line is the US won.

In the process Megan Rapinoe ascended as athlete of the moment. I saw a great line in a wrap-up I read this morning: I wish I could do anything with the confidence that Rapinoe places the ball on the penalty spot. Was there ever any doubt that her penalty attempts would not find the back of the net? She took on a lot this tournament, and many would have cracked under the pressure of the moment. But she embraced it, made the moment hers, and performed at well as anyone could have asked. Along the way she made sharp, eloquent comments about her views and the platform she had. Her name is now with Mia Hamm, Abby Wambach, Carli Lloyd, and Morgan’s as the best every to play for the US. She’s also placed her name with some of the giants who took strong social and political stands without fear of reprisal. All respect to ‘Pinoe.

L watched the entire final with me, although much of the game she was playing a game on her iPad and had headphones on. She was disappointed her hero Alex Morgan didn’t have a better tournament. I kept pointing out that it was hard to do much when each team’s strategy seemed to be to knocking Alex down as much as possible. Although no official word ever came, I thought that she was playing hurt during all the elimination games. She just never looked to be herself. Then again, all the attention opponents put on her opened things up for her teammates.

Rose Lavelle was my breakout star of the tournament. I watched a lot of the tune up games over the spring and she never really stuck out to me. She was just this tall, skinny, pale, very Irish looking woman who deserved less attention that the US’ vaunted stable of forwards. In the tournament she proved what a badass she is, and her goal in the final was a piece of individual brilliance. She and Mallory Pugh – another immense talent that could barely find minutes in France – are the young stars poised to step in as Rapinoe, Lloyd, and Tobin Heath begin to cycle out.

It was a good World Cup overall. Some fantastic games. Plenty of contrived controversy. A rapidly improving pool of teams. And the best team winning a deserved fourth World Cup.

NBA

OH MAH GAWD, KAWHI BROKE THE NBA!!!!

That was my first thought Saturday morning when I got up and saw Kawhi Leonard had signed with the LA Clippers and somehow managed to get Paul George traded to join him as well. Actually, my first thought was which George the headline I read was referring to, because it was way out of my level of comprehension that the Clippers might somehow work that trade out. Tate George? Jeff George? Boy George? Surely not Paul George.

But, man, what a cap to a pretty crazy week of free agency. While everyone seems to think the Lakers and Clippers are the two teams most likely to win the title, I think the league is actually full of really good teams. Throw in a handful of “too young to win but stupid entertaining to watch” teams and there is a really good argument for getting the NBA League Pass.

I mean, the Western conference could be an absolute bloodbath. The Nuggets and Jazz both made very smart moves that made them stronger. Houston seems bent on doing something big to try to stay in the mix as long as James Harden is in his prime. Portland isn’t really a title contender, but can hang with any of the elites on any night. The Warriors will still have Steph and Draymond along with D’Angelo Russell and some other nice parts that will keep them from being pushovers, and Klay Thompson could be back for the playoffs. New Orleans will be super young and likely pretty bad most nights, but also have a crazy talented roster that should be a lot of fun to watch.

The Eastern conference won’t be as stacked, and should come down to the Bucks and Sixers, with whichever team stays healthy being the favorite. Brooklyn made the biggest waves, although they will have to wait until Kevin Durant is healthy to reap the rewards. The Nets seem like the most interesting team to watch since Kyrie and KD together gives them the league lead in bitterness. Atlanta is a little like New Orleans: absolutely packed with young talent that will play amazing ball some nights and look terrible others.

The Pacers made some low-key great moves, although Victor Oladipo being out for at least the first third of the season probably means that they won’t be a factor this year. I really like just about every move they made. Malcolm Brogdon is a great compliment to Oladipo. Jeremy Lamb is a great addition for depth. Drafting a highly skilled big man from overseas was a head scratcher at first, but it gives them the freedom to move either Myles Turner or Domantas Sabonis to add another part or draft picks.

Maybe the Finals are destined to be Lakers vs Bucks for the next few years. I see the league as being super deep all of a sudden, though, with no one filling the role the Warriors filled the past five years as clearly the best team. And LeBron isn’t the LeBron of four years ago, so you can’t just pencil his team in. I think it is going to be a faaaaaantastic season.

“It’s Not Fair”

A quick word about NBA player movement in general. There was some general butthurtedness1 here in Indy about how the players have taken control and rigged the league so franchises like Indiana don’t have a chance.

Although I understand the argument, I think it’s crap.

See, Indianapolis, Sacramento, Oklahoma City, etc have never been, and will never be destinations for the highest level free agents. It has nothing to do with the players having too much control. And it doesn’t mean those, and other cities, are bad cities. It just means athletes, who are young, physically gifted, and rich want to live where the night life never stops, where there are hundreds of thousands of beautiful women, and where other entertainers tend to congregate.

San Antonio built a dynasty in a second-tier NBA city. Denver is a great city, but it’s not a destination for elite talent. Hasn’t stopped them from building a monster roster. Salt Lake City might be the least NBA city in the league. They had one of the best off-seasons in the league and are poised to battle the LA squads.

Yes, the margin of error is razor-thin. Yes, you have to get extraordinarily lucky in the draft. You have to make astute trades. You might need a generational talent as the coach. And there are heaps of other good fortune that must bless your franchise.

Don’t blame the players, though, when you look at the odds. Those odds were about the same back when Reggie Miller was playing for the Pacers and the players had far less power than they do today.


  1. Spell check tells me this isn’t a word. I disagree. 

Weekend Long Read

Remember the Malaysian Airlines flight that mysteriously disappeared five years ago, never to be found? Like the airliner itself, the story kind of disappeared, replaced by about 1000 other things that the news networks could grind to a pulp and fill their schedules with.

Veteran reporter William Langewiesche dove into the disappearance and the result was this fascinating article. He points out fatal flaws in the early investigation, aims blame at the corrupt Malaysian government and military, and separates wild guesses from reasonable theories to come up with a chilling explanation for what he believes actually happened on that fateful day. His description of the final presumed hours of the flight is both beautiful and terrifying to read.

His conclusion will likely never be proven true or false. But it seems the most likely argument for what occurred.

What Really Happened to Malaysia’s Missing Airplane

July 4 Playlist

I seem to recall making some July 4th centered playlists back in the day. I just searched through the blog archives and couldn’t find one, though. I think that’s probably because I scrubbed the site of a lot of old playlists and videos during one of my transitions to a new platform. Regardless, I think it’s been awhile.

So here is a list of songs that mostly have nothing to do with the holiday other than a word in their titles. They’re still all good songs, though, varied and worthy of your time.

Enjoy a safe and happy Fourth of July!

“Independence Day” – Bruce Springsteen
“Young Americans” – David Bowie
“Fireworks” – First Aid Kit
“American Girl” – Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
“Fourth of July” – Galaxie 500
“Kids in America” – Kim Wilde
“America” – Christopher Owens
“An American Dream” – Film School
“American Hearts” – A.A. Bondy
“July 4, 2004” – Jason Anderson
“Freedom” – Amen Dunes

Reader’s Notebook, 7/2/19

My reading pace has slowed a bit in recent weeks. The two books below go back to our trip to San Diego, so it looks like I finished just three books in June. Time to get back on my usual pace, I guess…

Paper Tiger: An Obsessed Golfer’s Quest to Play with the Pros – Tom Coyne
A Course Called Scotland: Searching the Home of Golf for the Secret to Its Game – Tom Coyne
With these two, I finished reading all of Coyne’s current golf writings.1 Paper Tiger was his first non-fiction book, and covered his training to attempt the PGA Q-school, the final step in getting your tour card.

Coyne was a decent golfer, a high single digit handicap when he began, but knew he had lots of work to do just to get a shot at Q-school. With that in mind, he basically turned his entire life and all his savings and credit card limits over to the game. He stopped working, moved to Florida, trained with coaches, played in local competitions, wrangled his way into some equipment sponsorships, and looked to be well on track before a major health scare sent him off the rails. In the end, he couldn’t garner enough competitive results to earn a chance at the American Q-school, but he did give the Canadian, Latin American, and Australian Q-schools runs, only to come up woefully short. There is, however, a nice ending as he ties the end of his golfing endeavor to the beginning of a new chapter in his life.

A Course Called Scotland mirrors his A Course Called Ireland: he plays his way around Scotland, with some side jaunts into England and Wales. Where he walked the circumference of Ireland, though, here he rents cars, buys seats on airplanes, and otherwise uses modern travel conveniences in his second trip. And this time his goal is to play every course that has hosted an Open Championship, ending with a qualifying round for the 2017 Open. He also has the goal of finding the “meaning of golf” through his travels. He admits he has no idea what this could mean, but seeks it in the lands where the game as we know it began.

Where his Irish trip was a mostly lighthearted romp, his account of his Scottish trip is heavier. Through the book he shares how he had become sober since traveling to Ireland. In a late chapter, as he revels on the “lost course” of Askernish, he reveals just what his alcoholism nearly cost him. It is a pretty affecting chapter.

Coyne is a fine writer, thus these read better than most golf books. They’re not high literature, but are good ways to spend a few evenings if you are into golf.


  1. He is working on his next, A Course Called America and is currently playing his way around the US. 

Reaching for the Stars, Vol. 27

I figure most of my readers are taking it easy on this holiday week. So I will slow the pace here a bit, get caught up on some things, and otherwise take advantage of the lazy week.

Chart Week: June 29, 1985
Song: “19” – Paul Hardcastle
Chart Position: #27, 5th week on the chart. Peaked at #15 for two weeks in July.

Wow, it’s been awhile! My around the house music habits have changed a little and I haven’t been listening to as many countdowns as I did over the winter and early spring. I did hear bits of this countdown multiple times over the weekend, as it was both the Sirius and local choice. It was an interesting week, filled with both fantastic and forgettable/regrettable songs.

I was glad I heard this track, though, a song that has always stuck with me and that I don’t think gets nearly enough respect.

For sure it was unlike anything else on the chart that week. Unlike Harold Faltermeyer’s “Axel F,” which was just ahead at #24, it was not an electronic song built to be a soothing ear worm attached to a major motion picture. “19” was jarring and confrontational. It picked a scab that most Americans still did not want to pick. Even more, anti-war songs weren’t exactly en vogue in 1985, when we were in the heart of the Reagan era of pumping up the military.

Yet it hit. It reached #1 on Hardcastle’s home charts in the UK. While it didn’t peak nearly as high here in the States, I do remember hearing it a lot that summer. At least enough for it to make an impact on me and be a song I sought out when we transitioned to the digital file era.

What made it hit was another rather remarkable element: Hardcastle went beyond mere dancey, synth-pop and incorporated the more electro sound pioneered by legend Afrika Bambaataa. Hardcastle wasn’t mining the clubs of Manchester or Berlin for sounds. He was tapping into the hip hop sounds of New York that were about to reach the boiling point when they could no longer be confined to the “Black” audience of New York. I believe “19” deserves to be placed with songs like “Rapture” and “Genius of Love” on the list of tracks by white artists that helped force hip hop into the mainstream.

So there is that beat from New York. Hardcastle added some bits from his jazz background. And there are those unforgettable spoken lines, some pulled directly from Vietnam-era news broadcasts, that give the track a chilling, personal quality. It is easy to imagine yourself as a father or mother listening to a kitchen radio or gathered around the big, family TV hoping that the latest bulletins from Saigon don’t contain word that the area where your son is deployed has seen heavy fighting in recent days.

Put them all together and it’s a hell of a song.

Stats

June 2019

  • Hatchie – 72
  • Bruce Springsteen – 45
  • Stevie Wonder – 32
  • Middle Kids – 30
  • The Raconteurs – 29

Complete stats available at my Last.fm page

Friday Vid

Just a video this week.

“Stay With Me” – Hatchie. I still hate the move for new music to drop on Fridays instead of Tuesdays. It seems like I can never get through all the new albums I want to listen to on Friday, the weekend keeps me from spending much time with new albums, and then on Monday I’m trying to reset and catch up. On the weeks when there are multiple new albums I want to sample, it always seems like one slips through and I’m scrambling to review it the following week.

Such was the case this week, when Hatchie’s debut album Keepsake dropped. She was in the honorable mention section of my favorite songs of 2018 with “Sugar & Spice,” off her fine debut EP. But the early singles from her first full length didn’t hit me as hard. Over repeated listens I eventually enjoyed them, but it seemed like a step back from the songs on that EP. So I slid her album down in the list of importance last week, spending more time with the Prince Originals disk. In fact, I kind of forgot about Hatchie until I saw several Tweets and posts over the weekend about how great her album was.

So I gave it a listen Monday afternoon while doing some cleaning around the house and…HOLY SHIT! I know I’m still in that initial window where it is new and shiny, but if I had to pick an album of the year right now, Keepsake would be it. It is an utterly gorgeous, totally fantastic collection of music. Almost every song is really, really good, and a handful are flat out great. There are so many good songs, in fact, that it has been hard to isolate one as my favorite.

I share this one just because it is the one of those favorites with a video. You get most of the experience here: dance-influenced indie pop. This song lacks the sound of ‘90s bands like The Cocteau Twins and The Sundays that is prevalent on so many of the other tracks. But you do hear some of the Robyn-adjacent sound that Hatchie builds into most of her music. It is a shockingly mature collection from a woman who is just 26. Oh, and she’s Australian, so add her to the list of Aussie acts that I love these days. You could really tell me that I could listen to nothing but Australian artists and I would be perfectly content.

Don’t Stop the Music

Here is a pretty fascinating article that has gotten a lot of attention over the past week or so.

Jody Rosen writes about the massive fire in 2008 that wiped out a storage facility that housed thousands and thousands of original sound recordings. News just broke overnight that a huge swath of big artists not mentioned in the article also lost their original masters.

There’s no doubting it is an immeasurable loss. But as I read I also wondered if the loss is still overstated, at least for the artists who are part of the mainstream. Rosen and others argue that the versions we listen to on Spotify, Apple Music, etc are already copies of copies of copies, and when the next format change arrives they will get copied yet again, losing a little more data and clarity in the process. But I always scoff at how many regular people can tell the difference in these tiny losses from version to version. And aren’t even flawed copies better than none? Do people in 100 years really need to hear outtakes from Steely Dan sessions in order to have a culturally rich life? Or is listening to a deprecated version of Aja enough to help explain the music of the 1970s to them?

The Day the Music Burned