Month: November 2019 (Page 1 of 2)

Favorite Songs of the Decade: The 2010s

Well shit, I’m late. Last week I looked back and saw that I released my Favorite Songs of the 2000s on November 23, 2009. I was aiming to post this decade’s list on December 1 but when I saw that date, I figured I better get my shit together and drop this on your heads. Besides, I haven’t even started on my Favorite songs of 2019 and the Christmas music starts rolling on Friday, so time is a wastin’!

I’ve spent a lot of time on this list, becoming borderline obsessive about it for the past month or so. As I often point out this is weird because a few weeks, months, years from now I will likely rank these songs in a completely different order. So why waste so much time on it? Because that’s what music freaks do, that’s why. If you are one, too, you understand.

So here they are, my 25 favorite songs of the 2010s offered for your enjoyment in text, Spotify, and YouTube formats.

25 – “Night Shift” – Lucy Dacus
No. 1 song of 2018
I would likely knock this down a notch or two if I were to re-do the 2018 list today. One song that was behind it a year ago appears much higher on this list. Sometimes songs that are great in the moment don’t stick with you.

But this is a legitimately great song, a classic slow burner that grows and grows until it explodes and kicks every last bit of your ass. The last 2:20 are one of the very best stretches of music from any artist this decade.

24 – “To Know You” – Wild Nothing
No. 1 song of 2016
In one of the great upsets of the decade I ranked this above not one but two Frightened Rabbit songs as my favorite of 2016. That was, primarily, because this song stuck with me for so long. It seemed like it got played for months on SiriusXM and I never wanted to flip to something else when I heard it.

Chillwave got a bad rap at its peak, and it has now largely faded away. This was the genre’s final and greatest moment.

23 – “Your Eyes” – Bombay Bicycle Club
No. 11 song of 2011
The 2010s will go down as the streaming decade, the period when most folks finally turned their backs on the iTunes Music/Amazon Music stores and signed up for Apple Music or Spotify. Rdio was an early contender in the streaming space, and I still think it had the best interface, the best music recommendations, and the best way of showing new music each week. RIP.

BBC was a band that I discovered on Rdio because so many other people with similar interests were listening to them. I kept seeing the cover for their album A Different Kind of Fix in my recommended feed and finally gave it a listen. I loved it immediately. This song’s driving beat and dizzy ending made it the song that stuck with me the most.

22 – “Myth” – Beach House
No. 3 song of 2012
Relationships are built upon myths. When those myths get shattered, it can be devastating. Victoria Legrand perfectly captures the feeling of that moment of recognition. “What comes after this/momentary bliss. The consequence/of what you do to me” is one of my favorite lyrics of the decade.

21 – “Pray for Rain” – Pure Bathing Culture
No. 5 song of 2015
That beat, those layers of synthesizers, that steady and subtle guitar riff, and Sarah Versprille’s vocals. They combine to form an undeniable song.

20 – “Recovery” – Frank Turner
No. 3 song of 2013
While at its core a song about being in the absolute depths of a bender to get over someone, Turner’s music and delivery make this seem like a song more about hope than despair.

19 – “Cold War” – Janelle Monáe
No. 2 song of 2010
What a decade for Ms. Monáe. The Kansas City native began the decade as one of the brightest and most original new stars in music, regardless of genre. She was super talented, independent, and a little weird, defying categorization.

By the end of the 2010s, after being mentored by Prince, she had released arguably the best soul album of the decade, filled with songs that were the closest thing to classic Prince since his heyday. Songs like “The Way You Make Me Feel” and “Pynk” had his fingerprints all over them.

But it is this song, from her 2010 album The ArchAnroid, that stuck with me. Likely because there is an emotional element to it that is different from the rest of her music. While so many of her songs are based on fictional versions of herself, this song always felt like it was a rare moment of honesty that was about the real Janelle.

Monáe also had the quote of the decade. After years of rumors about her sexuality, she came out in 2017 as “Pan-sexual” as she called it. “I’m a free ass motherfucker” she said in an interview. Here’s to all the free ass motherfuckers in the world.

18 – “The Diamond Street Church Choir” – The Gaslight Anthem.
No. 7 Song of 2010
The Gaslight Anthem’s specialty were songs of places. This is perhaps TGA’s most specific song in terms of place. It refers back to New Brunswick, NJ’s Court Tavern club and the promoter who first hired The Gaslight Anthem to play there, kicking off their career: Andy Diamond.

That connection to where the band came from should resonate with anyone who has left home in an attempt to do bigger things. I don’t know that this is the best song in The Gaslight Anthem’s collection, but it is likely their most universal.

17 – “Head Underwater” – Jenny Lewis
No. 6 song of 2014
Lewis’ album The Voyager was an amazing, honest assessment of her life. She wrote about getting older, about not having a family when women around her did, and about the double-standards women everywhere face.

Here she sang of losing it a little, whether because of depression, addiction, weariness, or some combination. There’s a lightness to the music that tempers the weight of the lyrics. I remember when they first hit me and I thought, “Oh damn, that’s some deep shit!”

It seems to be a song about weathering the storm, finding inner strength, and escaping from whatever it is that is holding you back. But there is a sinister element to the title. Does putting her head underwater, closing her eyes, and becoming free at last refer to a rebirth, a baptism to a new life? Or is it about being in so much pain you choose to end your life? I’m pretty sure she was singing about the rebirth thing, but there’s just enough doubt in there to make it a chilling final line.

16 – “Depreston” – Courtney Barnett
No. 2 song of 2015
Barnett arrived on the scene a thoroughly original voice. Singing with her Australian accent proudly apparent, she told stream-of-conscious tales about the most mundane elements of life, in a languid delivery that made it near-impossible to not call her a modern practitioner of stoner or slacker rock. In time she proved she was much more than someone who could write funny songs about everyday things. This song was the first step in that process.

It’s all about transitioning into real adulthood. Not the moving out of your parents’ house, finding a job, etc. stage of adulthood. But rather when you’re ready to take on a partner and a mortgage, move out to the suburbs, and settle down. There’s that little sense of sadness that comes from leaving the “fun” world of your early 20s behind for a more placid existence. And there is her unmatchable eye for detail that she uses to explain her mixed feelings about replacing the woman who built a life in the house she is walking through.

15 – “Believe” – Amen Dunes
No. 2 song of 2018
I have an obvious soft spot for songs about lost mothers. I can’t remember a more stunning one in recent years than this brilliant track.

As Damon McMahon was writing the Believe album, his mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Their relationship had been fraught and difficult over the years, but her illness forced him to reevaluate his feelings for her. This song serves as a conversation between them – I always think of it taking place in her hospital room – as they come to terms with each other and decide to spend her final days together in peace.

This is one of those songs I recall hearing for the first time and being utterly mesmerized by the music.

14 – “Down Down the Deep River” – Okkervil River
I obviously deal a lot in nostalgia. For better or for worse, there’s a big chunk of my brain that has always been devoted to recalling the past, putting it into context, and trying to recapture what it was that made those moments special. Okkervil River’s wonderful 2013 album The Silver Gymnasium is all about nostalgia, specifically about lead singer Will Sheff’s childhood in the 1980s.

Here he begins innocently enough, harkening back to the days of taping your favorite shows off the radio. But the tone shifts dramatically to the first moment in our lives when we are forced to confront the death of someone dear to us.

This song did not chart in a year-end list as it was released in 2013 but I didn’t discover it until 2014 and refused to put it on my Favorites of 2014 list. Because of that I nearly forgot to put it on this list. Just another reminder that my music rules are dumb.

13 – “He Gets Me High” – Dum Dum Girls
No. 1 song of 2011
I remember hearing this song very early in 2011 and thinking, “It’s going to take a lot to keep this out of the top spot this year.” It had a big, bold, swaggery sound that blew everything else that year away.

The Dum Dums had my No. 1 song of 2011, No. 2 song of 2012 (“Season in Hell”), No. 17 song of 2014 (“Too True to Be Good”), and leader Kristin Gundred in her Kristin Kontrol persona had my No. 6 song of 2017 (“Baby Are You In?”). That’s a pretty good decade.

12 – “The House That Heaven Built” – Japandroids
No. 1 song of 2012
What The Hold Steady’s Boys and Girls in America was to the 2000s, Japandroids’ Celebration Rock was to the 2010s. It was an album that so wonderfully captured what it is like to be young, restless, and a little wild that I wished I was 20 years younger so it could be about me and my generation.

On an album that can’t be called anything other than fucking kick ass rock music, this was the big highlight. A song made for playing in the heart of the summer, with a car full of friends, when you have no real place to be, so you just drive fast and far, with the windows down, screaming along to the “OH OH OH”s.

11 – “California Nights” – Best Coast
No. 1 song of 2015
The song that Bethany Cosentino was born to sing. It was about California, getting high, and being in love, the three things she sings about most. Put them all together, add her finest vocal performance, and you have the defining song of her career.

10 – “80 West” – Caveman
No. 5 song of 2016
Caveman was a band with so much promise. They landed four songs on my Favorites lists this decade, got plenty of critical acclaim, and may have even sold a few albums.[1] But they seem to have disappeared since their 2016 album Otero War. If that was their final artistic statement, it was not a bad one. Especially here, a relatively mellow track that slowly builds but rather than breaking like a wave, picks you up and carries you along with it.

9 – “Transgender Dysphoria Blues” – Against Me!
No. 2 song of 2014
Who knew that an album by a fairly obscure power-punk band from Florida would serve as an opening salvo in one of the great debates of the decade?

Laura Jane Grace wrote the album, of which this is the title track, to document her experience transitioning from a man to a woman. The album is stark and deeply affecting; Grace dumps all of her emotions and experiences onto the record. It is a remarkable album not just because of the subject matter but also because it is just a freaking great rock ’n’ roll record.

On this track she sings of what it is like to be viewed, judged, and ridiculed by people who are uncomfortable with her appearance during and after her transition. “You want them to see you like they see every other girl. They just see a faggot…” is one of the most brutal lines of any decade.

I don’t know that we have figured the transgender thing out yet as a society. Laura Jane Grace added a powerful, undeniable voice to the cause in 2014.

8 – “Edge of Town” – Middle Kids
No. 23 song of 2016
Another song that stuck around for awhile. Originally released in the spring of 2016, it hung around throughout the year. As the calendar turned to 2017 it suddenly began getting a lot more airplay, and received another boost when Middle Kids’ debut EP came out that April. And, to be honest, it never went away for me. It’s a song that I go back and listen to often still. It is also a song that I ranked woefully low its first time around. It should have been much higher in the 2016 list. Had I allowed myself to rank it again in 2017 it likely would have been top five for that year.

All that should demonstrate both that I love this song, and that it is arguably the best debut single of the decade. It eases open with that gentle riff that recalls Frightened Rabbit’s “The Modern Leper.” Then Hannah Joy comes in with that little warble in her voice that shows the influence of American country music on Australian pop music. When the entire band joins her, it becomes something special. It just keeps building and building until the beguiling final stretch, where Joy keeps singing about something being on her mind. I’ll admit, I feel like a dirty old man every time I hear it.

7 – “Call Your Girlfriend” – Robyn.
No. 7 song of 2011.
Robyn had my fifth favorite song of the last decade, the wonderful “With Every Heartbeat,” a song about finding strength in a moment of heartbreak.

Here she spins that concept another direction. She’s talking her new man through the process of letting his old girlfriend down easy. It is sweet, thoughtful, and tender, yet there is no doubt that Robyn is going to win.

Robyn redefined dance music this decade. Her Body Talk album, which was originally released as a series of EPs and, thus, landed two songs on two different Favorite Songs of the Year lists, combined classic dance music with introspective lyrics, a dash of hip hop, and a whole lot of Swedish swagger to turn Robyn into the fiercest artist in music. Oh, and this is the best video of the decade, too.

6 – “Desire” – Lydia Loveless.
No. 4 song of 2017
I have no idea why, but Loveless did not include this on her most excellent 2016 album Real. That decision was made more baffling by the song’s central use in the documentary Who Is Lydia Loveless?.

Thankfully a year later she released it as a single[2] and it became my favorite song of hers.

This is a big, badass song about being the other woman and not being pleased about it at all. It is perfect for Loveless’ voice, allowing her to stretch out and really go for it. It is a completely epic performance.

Sadly, it’s the last thing we’ve had from Loveless. She’s active on Twitter, but has mentioned many times her disgust with the music industry. I hope she comes back.

5 – “Motion Sickness” – Phoebe Bridgers.
No. 15 song of 2017
Bridgers is the current “It” girl of indie rock. Her 2017 debut Stranger in the Alps was highly regarded upon its release, and as each year passes its stature grows a little more. Although Bridgers has yet to release a proper follow-up, she has stayed in the public eye as part of the supergroup boygenius, with Conor Oberst in Better Oblivion Community Center, joining Matt Berninger on his solo debut, and through the release of several covers on her own.

This song is the standout from that debut LP, and it is perhaps the best Diss Song of the decade. Despite her gorgeous, soft vocal tone, her lyrics are absolutely savage. Regarding a former lover, she says that she “faked it every time,” she hates him for the way he treated her, suggests her ex-lover talks so much there aren’t enough words to shut him up, labels him a hypocrite, accuses him of using a fake accent to advance his career, and calls him an old man. When she revealed the song was about her brief relationship with Ryan Adams, those “Oh snap!” lyrics turned into “OH SHIT!” words. That reveal gave the song’s title a new meaning, too. Adams suffers from Ménière’s disease, which causes motion sickness-like symptoms. Bridgers seemed to be saying, “Oh yeah, bitch, well that’s how you made me feel, too!”

Of course, knowing what we know now about Adams and his relationships with women, the song has even more power.

Beyond some fantastic lines and a titillating celebrity diss, Bridgers’ music and delivery are what truly makes this a great song. You’re left not certain whether this is an anthem of survival or a song of deep despair, but are moved despite that ambiguity. And you are certain of Bridgers’ talent.

Side Note: On Ryan Adams.
Man, I loved some Ryan Adams music this decade. In the past I thought he was a real prick, but when I heard his self-titled 2014 album, I fell in love with it and gave his music another chance. And I got sucked in big time. There was a stretch when I don’t know that I listened to any other artist more than Adams. However, given the accusations against him, I’ve barely listened to his music over the past year. I believe I will be able to listen to it again someday. There are plenty of artists that I listen to often who were terrible people. But, for now, I can not include any of his songs in this list.

4 – “Valleys of the Young” – Andrew Bird
No. 4 song of 2016
I will always associate Bird with parenthood. I knew his name from hearing a few of his songs on good, old But I really discovered him when he appeared on the Noggin kids channel program Jack’s Big Music Show in 2007 as Dr. Strings. That’s about the same time I first heard his song “Plasticities,” which was my 5th favorite song of 2008 and my 26th favorite song of the 2000s. He became a point where my preschool girls and I could connect over good music that I loved and hoped they would appreciate as well.

Fast forward a few years to when Bird got married and was ready to begin a family of his own, and we get this song. It is an absolutely harrowing yet gorgeous examination of the perils of parenting. First, there is the leaving of the comfortable world of the single and the childless, the Valleys of the Young. And then comes the real bitch: having children means you will spend the rest of your life fearing all the terrible things that can happen to them. That final verse is an absolute ass-kicker, backed up perfectly by the biggest, loudest, rockiest section Bird has ever put into one of his songs.

3 – “FootShooter” – Frightened Rabbit
No. 1 song of 2010
It’s still hard for me to listen to some of FR’s songs, now over 18 months since lead singer Scott Hutchison’s death. There are still too many lyrics that were tough to listen to before his death that are now near-impossible to hear knowing how they can be directly tied to how he ended his life.

This song escapes that trouble, though. What Scott often wrote best about were the embarrassing moments that went along with being in a relationship. Every single line of this song is brilliant and unforgettable. Especially his chorus, where he warns his ex-lover to “lock up you ears my dear, I am verbal, when I am loaded.” Any chance he has to repair the relationship is going to be destroyed when he gets drunk, says whatever he thinks, and shoots himself in the foot again.

Where this song really shines is in the tone, which is unlike most FR songs. I’ve always said this is the sound the Coldplay could have had if they had stayed indie and not tried to be the next U2. The arrangement is rich and gorgeous. The lyrics relatable, if a little too honest for the pop charts. The bridge seemed made for a big, dramatic scene in a romance movie. And those “OOOOOOOH, OHHHHHHHs” at the end should have sold a million copies.

FR also had the No. 10 song of 2012 (“State Hospital), No. 1 song of 2013 (“Holy”), No 2 and 3 songs of 2016 (“Break,” and “An Otherwise Disappointing Life”), and No. 13 song of 2017 (“Rained On”). Scott and Grant Hutchison also had the No. 20 song of 2018 in the side project Mastersystem (“Notes On a Life Not Quite Lived”).

2 – “The Gold” – Manchester Orchestra
No. 2 song of 2017
The song that wouldn’t die. SiriusXM played the hell out of it in 2017. And deep into 2018. And I still hear it a couple times a month.

That’s because it is simply a great song, full of deep, terrific lyrics and built on the best musical performance this fine band has ever put together. Every section has the perfect transition to the next. From the big moments to the little flourishes, they nail every element of it. Andy Hull has a career of great vocals. This is his finest work. Combined, it is a magical, unforgettable effort by a band that sometimes gets in their own way.

(Phoebe Bridgers did a wonderful cover of this song that I ranked as my No. 4 song of 2018.)

1 – “Red Eyes” – The War on Drugs
No.1 song of 2014
This spot was pretty locked in for TWOD, who were my favorite act of the decade. It was just a matter of what song to put in this spot. Would it be one of the several epic tracks off of their 2017 album A Deeper Understanding? Would it be one of about five songs off my favorite album of the decade, 2014’s Lost in the Dream? Or could it be one of two or three songs off their 2012 album Slave Ambient? I could have easily put any song from that list of eight or nine here and been just fine with the result.

In the end it came down to two songs that were my favorites of their respective years, either 2016’s “Pain,” or 2014’s “Red Eyes.” In the end I chose “Red Eyes” for a couple reasons.

First I remember hearing it for the first time and thinking, “Holy shit, that is amazing!” Granted, I thought the same thing the first time I heard several TWOD songs. But when I heard “Red Eyes”in December 2013, I immediately couldn’t wait for the release of Lost in the Dream, which was still four months down the road. That moment changed how I thought about music for the rest of the decade.

And then there was my favorite musical moment of the decade, which comes at about 1:48 into “Red Eyes,” just before the first chorus, when Adam Granduciel lets out that little “WHOOO!” and the song takes off. That’s the moment when TWOD took control of the decade.

Despite all that, in many ways this is a weird song to select as my favorite. It is hard to sing along to, many of the lyrics being nearly impossible to positively identify. There’s no proper chorus. Hell, there’s no proper structure, going from verse to “chorus” to long bridge back to “chorus.” And then, amazingly for TWOD, there isn’t a guitar solo. Adam Granduciel’s epic guitar solos melted a million faces this decade. Yet I pick probably his only song without one to represent the entire decade.

That should tell you how good this song it. The perfect song to represent the 2010s.

TWOD’s decade: No. 17 song of 2010 (“Comin’ Through”), No. 2 song of 2011 (“Baby Missiles”), and co-No. 1 songs of 2017 (“Pain” and “Strangest Thing”).

  1. Another song from Otero War, “Never Going Back,” could have easily made this list had it not resembled my favorite song of the decade so much.  ↩
  2. With the B-side being a shockingly good cover of Justin Beiber’s “Sorry.”  ↩

Reaching for the Stars, Vol. 34

Chart Week: November 6, 1982
Song: “Maneater” – Daryl Hall and John Oates
Chart Position: #36, 4th week on the chart. Peaked at #1 for three weeks in December and January.

I was hoping to turn on the local AT40 replay last weekend and hear a countdown from a Thanksgiving weekend past that would stir up some holiday-themed memories. Alas the station that plays the countdowns had already switched to Christmas music, and the countdown was one of the special Christmas shows that Casey did late in his life. He sounded very old and ill in the few seconds I listened.

With that not helping me, and the Sirius countdown from 1988, I decided to hop back a few weeks to a countdown I bookmarked just in case I needed something. Turns out it was perfect.

I strongly connect songs to times of year. If I heard a song at the pool in the summer of 1983, I will always think of that as a summer song. Thus, despite having singles scattered all through the calendar, I always think of Hall and Oates as a fall band. That’s because my three favorite songs of theirs were huge hits in three consecutive holiday seasons. “Out of Touch” was dominating in 1984. An uncle from New York rode with my mom and I out to central Kansas for Thanksgiving that year, and he had a copy of H&O’s Big Bam Boom that we listened to over-and-over. Christmas 1983 saw the peak of “Say It Isn’t So,” my favorite Hall and Oates track.

Thanksgiving 1982 kicked off that run. I remember that being a year when my mom and I drove out to her parents overnight, something we did on occasion. I would get home from school, watch some TV, make dinner, attempt to nap but fail, and when my mom got home from her second job around 10:30 she would make a pot of coffee, pack up the car, and hit the road around midnight. There was less traffic, AM radio reception was better meaning we could listen to good music the whole way, and we would arrive at my grandparents’ right around breakfast time. I would doze throughout the night while my mom powered away in the driver’s seat.

As the Kansas City radio stations would fade out the signal from WLS in Chicago was always easy to find on those chilly autumn nights. Many of my earliest radio memories are of listening to WLS and the various St. Louis pop stations we could receive after dark when we lived in southeast Missouri. So listening to WLS was like finding an old friend. They were playing basically the same music as Q–104 and ZZ–99 in Kansas City, but there was something about hearing those songs from Chicago that made them seem bigger, more important, and even more universal. The whole world could be hearing these songs, not just weird kids in Kansas City.

I know we heard “Maneater” several times on that six hour drive. That loping bass line grabbing my attention even if I was drifting off with my head against the window. I swear I remember NBC using it as bumper music during its Thanksgiving Day football game, which I thought was pretty cool, too.

By Thanksgiving week “Maneater” was in the top ten, about a month before it topped the chart. This countdown I heard a couple weeks back was the song’s first week in the top 40. Casey commented about it surely being another big hit for the Philly duo. He was pretty smart, that Casey.

I remember a few friends of mine not liking “Maneater.” They claimed the song was literally about a woman that would eat men. “That’s disgusting!” Eleven year old boys aren’t always the brightest humans. I knew, thanks to listening to Casey, that the song wasn’t about a modern cannibal, but rather about the pressures of living in New York City. I think I tried to argue this with some kids on the bus one day, but was told I was an idiot. I’m not saying I understood metaphor and allegory all that well; I was just going along with what I heard on the radio. Those other kids, though, clearly hadn’t developed their literary minds yet to take songs any way other than literally.

One more memory from that weekend that isn’t related to the song at all. I borrowed a friend’s Dungeons & Dragons basic players manual for the break. You know, the one with the red cover that you had to start with. I say borrowed when, in fact, I kind of snuck out of school with it on Wednesday. I had borrowed it during the day and, conveniently, decided not to swing by his locker as we left the building for the holiday. My goal was to copy every page and then give it back to him on Monday. I indeed spent that weekend at my grandparents’ home in central Kansas doing exactly that. I was frustrated because I didn’t have the different sided dice I needed to roll up characters. I was nervous when I gave it back to him on Monday. He told me he had been pissed when we left school, but he was cool with my by Monday. This was all extra dumb because a month later I got the D&D basic game for Christmas.

Oh, one more quick thing: this was the year I nearly got arrested before Thanksgiving for throwing snowballs at cars and hitting an unmarked police car. Good times!

Here’s to hoping you, or even better your kids, make some musical memories this week they will still be thinking about in 30 years.

Friday Playlist

“Love You For A Long Time” – Maggie Rogers. Another utterly delightful song from Maggie.

“Motorcade” – Peggy Sue. This is a duo from London who are set to release their debut album in February. I love this first track, with its fun swing and driving tempo.

“Champion of the World” – Coldplay.
“Los Angeles, Be Kind” – Owl John
It’s been a long time since I’ve liked a Coldplay song or album. And I’m not sure I like this song. But I had to share it as the band has given a co-writing credit to Scott Hutchison for it. That got people like me excited until we read Chris Martin’s explanation. Martin said he always loved Scott’s song “Los Angeles, Be Kind,” from his Owl John solo project, and this song was inspired by how that track made him feel. So Scott didn’t actually sit down and write with Martin before his death. Martin just took his music and built a new song around it.

Naturally there’s been a debate about whether that is cool or not. Some think Martin is trying to grab some of Scott’s indie cred. Some were also offended that Coldplay released the song on what would have been Scott’s 38th birthday. Others think it is a nice gesture and point out that Scott’s estate, which is pointed toward helping others with mental illness, will get a nice chunk of change from it. And it may help some people who never heard of Frightened Rabbit discover their music.

I know it is an utterly gorgeous song musically. I always said Frightened Rabbit sounded like what Coldplay could had been if they veered indie rather than trying to inherit U2’s 21st century sound. You can hear those links in this song. I just don’t like Martin’s vocals enough anymore to fully get into it, though. And I think he would have been wise to not use the word suicide in a song he claims was inspired by a man who ended his own life.

As for the original, I could never really connect with Scott’s Owl John album. I think it was because some of the songs went deep into his more artsy side and lost some of the charm that was always at the core of FR’s music. But re-evaluating the album yesterday, I heard some things I like. This song certainly demonstrates what a wonderful arranger he was. There are little chord changes throughout the song that hit you deep inside your soul.

“Devil’s Haircut” – Beck. Beck has a new album out today. He’s been all over SiriusXM promoting it. I’ve never been a huge fan and the new songs haven’t done anything for me. But my man Bearded has a birthday today, and he’s always been a fan. I remember listening to this song in his car once, driving to a happy hour or something young and fun like that. So this is for Bearded.

Car Troubles

We had an interesting Monday when it came to interactions with automobiles, both indirectly and directly.

Things started with a bit of a bang. Just before we were heading out of the house to do school drop offs C yelled to us, “There’s a car on fire outside!”

I ran to our front door and, sure enough, on the main road our house sits near, about 100 yards from our front door, a car was sitting, hood open, with flames pouring out of the engine block area. I yelled up to S and then got on the phone to 911. As I waited to get patched through to the fire department, I saw S running down our street to check if there were any people inside who needed assistance.

A fire truck had already been dispatched so we watched out our window for a few moments. S wasn’t quite to the car yet when the battery or something else under the hood blew, shooting sparks out with a loud pop.

As I said, it was nearly time for us to leave and we were picking up another student on the way, so we couldn’t linger. Just as we were leaving the fire truck pulled up and began dousing the car. We would normally drive right next to where the car was sitting but took the back way out of our neighborhood to avoid the traffic that was buying up and hoped all would be well.

By the time I made the school circuit and returned home, all seemed quiet. The car was still sitting there, hood up, but apparently safe because the kids who catch the bus at that corner were standing 20 feet away waiting on their ride.

About an hour later a man showed up and started gathering what I assumed his belongings. Moments later a tow truck arrived to collect the car.

No idea what happened but there appeared to be no injuries. S told us in the evening that when she ran over a school bus driver who was down the side street was already looking in to see if anyone was in the car. Neither of the saw anyone. We assume the driver had run over to the YMCA that is next door to wait for the fire department to arrive.

Our afternoon drive from school take us through some of the finest stretches of roads in the city. (Sarcasm alert.) We go through long stretches that are filled with potholes, both new and roughly patched older ones. It’s a wild ride some days. Yesterday I think the odds finally caught up with me and I had the first blowout flat tire of my life.

We were about five minutes from home, in a relatively healthy stretch of road, when I heard an odd, metallic pop. I hadn’t seen anything in the road before I heard the noise but checked my rearview mirror as I passed to see if I had indeed driven over something. I saw nothing.

I figured it best to check my tire pressure readings in case I had driven over something. Sure enough, one tire was rapidly losing pressure. I gambled that we could make it home, got lucky with a stop light, and we crawled into our driveway as the tire was going totally flat. We were moments from being what has become a common site in Indy the past few winters: a car driving slowly with a completely flat tire that is beginning to shred itself.

Semi-amazingly, I did not change a tire until I was 29 or 30. But since then I’ve changed my share. S seems to be a magnet for nails and construction debris. I’ve changed many tires for her. I’ve had a few normal flats of my own, the kind you have no idea are flat until you walk into the garage to leave and a deflated tire greets you. I’ve helped family and friends change tires. In other words, I’m experienced.

I knew going in the process would suck. I currently drive a Chevy Tahoe, and this is my first completely flat tire with it.[1] But I did have to use the spare tire on my previous vehicle, a Suburban, so I knew that Chevy hides all the parts you need to change the tire in strange places that require an engineering degree to access. I won’t bore you with all the details but it took me a full 45 minutes to find all the parts of and assemble the jack, figure out how to access the spare, get the spare on the ground, and then figure out the proper/safe place to connect the jack to my Tahoe’s frame. Along the way I read the owner’s manual to the point of frustration and had to watch three different YouTube videos.

After all that it was an easy five-minute process to put the spare on. But, good Lord, it was an effort to get there. Thanks goodness I was in my garage with good lighting and some shelter, even if the floor was wet from the morning’s rain. I was glad I wasn’t in a dark parking lot somewhere with rain coming down.[2] And I cursed the people at Chevy who found a way to make changing a tire way more complicated than it should be. I hope there’s a special place in hell for all those jackasses.

  1. I had a slowly leaking tire on it two months ago that I did not have to swap for the spare before having repaired.  ↩
  2. I’ve done that before.  ↩


There are moments when the lack of respect I get in my house is unbelievable.

Example: yesterday S and I used the relatively warm and dry afternoon to put up some outdoor Christmas lights. Part of our post-pool construction landscaping was adding seven Norwegian spruces to our backyard to provide some privacy. We decided to add them to our holiday decorating by wrapping them in Christmas lights.

(We also have five new Norwegian spruces in our front yard, but they are over 250 feet from the nearest power outlet. While lighting them might be more pleasing to passersby, it would also be a lot more work, so we stuck with the ones in the backyard. Plus the ones in the back are visible from all the rooms inside where we spend most of our time.)

It took 90 minutes or so – the tallest of these trees is just 8’ so there was minimal ladder use – and turned out pretty well. We had the lights on as we put them up to make sure the spacing was right, everything worked, etc. As it was a dreary day and L was playing at a friend’s house, we decided to leave them on until she got home so she could see them. Then we would turn them back off until after Thanksgiving.

Well, I decided that and said something to S about doing exactly that as M walked by.

“NOOOO! Leave them on!” M yelled at me.

“But it’s not even Thanksgiving yet and you know my rule,” I responded. “No Christmas decorations, Christmas music, or Christmas movies until after Thanksgiving.”

“THAT’S STUPID!” she screamed at me. She was a bit of a beast this weekend but her reaction still seemed a little over-the-top.

I turned to S for support and she shrugged and said, “I think we should leave them on, too.”

This is how my efforts to create family traditions are rewarded: I’m yelled at and told they are stupid.

I should add that L watched The Grinch Saturday night.

Nobody listens to me, nobody cares. The B girls have apparently declared war on my Christmas traditions. I guess we should give their gifts now and sleep in on Christmas day.

Other weekend notes:

Cathedral lost in the regional round of the football playoffs. They had a 10–7 lead over the #1 team in the state, had first and goal late in the third quarter, but could not punch it in and then missed the field goal. They quickly gave up a touchdown, fumbled and gave up another touchdown, and then it turned ugly. They lost 35–10. A great season that ended with about 12 minutes of bad football.

The Oklahoma-Baylor game Saturday was crazy fun to watch. Well, I only saw the second half but had followed the first half online and through the texts from a friend who was attending the game with his daughter who goes to BU. Probably should have seen the Baylor meltdown coming, given how they had been lucky to get to 9–0. OU was just dominant in the second half, which is real testament to their players and coaching staff. They could have easily said, “Screw it,” and packed it in.

Feel bad for Tua.

We watched some of L’s classmates win the B2 league City championship Sunday. It was a tight affair through three quarters, St P’s led 4–3. They ripped off eight unanswered points to take home the trophy. Some of us were joking about how big every basket would be when the fourth quarter started. When St. P’s scored their first bucket of the run, one dad turned to us and said, “Well, that should do it,” and we all laughed. Youth basketball kind of sucks.

On the way home I asked L would she rather have been on the A team and had to play the really good teams and lost the way her team lost, or have been on a B team, scored more points, and won City. Without delay she said the A team.

Friday Playlist

“Lenox Hill” – Thyla. This here shit? This is the shit that is right up my alley these days. Driving, dreamy pop with a female vocalist. Wait until you see my Favorites of 2019 list…

“Now I Know” – The Whiffs. This song has a serious late ‘70s/early ‘80s vibe to it. The rock music of that time that bumped up against New Wave but still had a garage rock core. This Kansas City band could have opened for The Knack.

“Between Me and My Maker” – Kele. From the lead singer of Bloc Party, something very different than the sound he created with BP. Far more introspective and soulful than the frenetic music he generally made with his band.

“Fortune” – Wye Oak. As always, any new music from WO is fabulous. The band is gearing up for a new tour on which they will play music from all parts of their careers, including tracks from their excellent side projects Flock of Dimes and Joyero.

“White Horse” – Laid Back. Being an avid American Top 40 listener, I knew this duo was from Denmark and, thus, I assumed they were white. I remember people being super surprised when they saw this video and saw they were some goofy Euros. Funny to read through the comments on this video and see people still getting their mind blown by the fact some pasties from northern Europe could make something this funky. Prince’s “Erotic City” was allegedly influenced by this.

Some More Old Man Shit

As if the golf wasn’t enough, I have myself another old-man hobby. Or I nearly had another old man hobby, I should say.

Back in July I saw an online ad for a watch sale at some random store. It wasn’t a store I was interested in, but I clicked through just to see what was available. The watch I had been wearing daily for nearly five years – a Citizen Eco-Drive – was starting to get beat up a little bit and I’d had my eyes open to get something new for awhile.

Scrolling through the watches for sale on that site triggered something in my brain. I started doing deep research into watches. I started following watch sites. I even listened to some watch-specific podcasts. I always knew there was a market for expensive watches. One of the most expensive things I own is a gorgeous Maurice Lacroix dress watch that belonged to my stepdad. Still I was floored as I read through reviews of “affordable” watches and got to the bottom of the article and saw they were “reasonably priced” for over $1000. That was not the market I was in.

I was really drawn to the Orient line of seriously affordable, automatic dive watches. You can grab them on Amazon for less than $150 most of the time, and they are generally considered to be the equal of Seiko dive watches that are two-to-three times their price. I had one in my cart multiple times, but each time I would go back to read through reviews one final time one particular lukewarm review would stick out. I didn’t want to spent even that modest amount of money on something that I would not be happy with. So I kept looking.

I was also attracted to watches by Jack Mason, a Texas-based company. They looked really nice and were generally in the $200–300 range I was willing to spend. The watches in that range were all quartz, so I wouldn’t be jumping into the world of mechanical watches. But, I thought, if this is going to be a hobby, you start with something affordable and then wait until you find the perfect, more expensive, mechanical watch to add later.

So I grabbed a great looking aviator watch off their clearance page for $117 in late August. Every time I wore it I got compliments. And I loved looking at it.

I continued my research about watches, building a want list for something to compliment this new, casual watch and my stepdad’s dress watch.

Then Apple released Series 5 of the Apple Watch, which featured the always-on display and I was intrigued.

I had resisted the Apple Watch for several reasons. The biggest was expense vs. life. I figured I’d rather spend $500 on a watch that could literally last forever than $300 on one that will only last a few years, between battery life and software obsolescence. Especially when I’m on a similar purchase cycle for my phone. Speaking of phones, I was just fine getting notifications on my iPhone. And I thought the whole requirement to wake the watch to see the time was dumb. I have lots of friends who have Apple Watches and love them, but I remained unconvinced.

But these new models intrigued me. I read reviews, listened to podcasts, and followed the general buzz. Still, for all my interest the whole cost/life ratio still bugged me. For about a week I thought about just getting a Series 3 at the new discounted price that was in line with my original watch budget. But the more I researched and the more I thought about it, I figured if you’re going to take the plunge, you might as well get the latest with the always-on screen.

So in early October I bought a Titanium Series 5 with a stainless steel band.

I kid, my wife would kick my ass if I came home with an $800 watch. Especially one that I would need to replace before C gets to college.

No, I got an aluminum Series 5 with the Alaskan Blue sport band. Non-cellular version.

Upon purchase, I figured I would wear the Apple Watch about half of the time. When I went to the gym or did some other kind of workout, and when I was out of the house during the day to make sure I didn’t miss messages from or about my kids while they were in school. Other times I’d switch back to the Jack Mason watch.

I misjudged my use of the Apple Watch badly. It is fantastic and I wear it all the time. I just put on my Jack Mason watch for the first time the other night for M’s cross country banquet. Other than that, I always have my Apple Watch on. I’ve found that I do sometimes miss notifications on my phone that I need to know, either because it is muted and in my pocket, or I left it somewhere else in the house. There is definitely a peace of mind factor as a parent knowing you won’t miss a message from your kids.

I use the fitness functions every day. I like seeing the weather conditions immediately instead of having to wake my phone and open a weather app. I love being able to change the watch faces and the complications they show based on the occasion or my mood.

I’m likely not using the full functions of the watch at this point. But I think I’m using enough to justify the entry-level Series 5. More importantly, it’s kept me from looking at other watches to add to my collection. So, really, it’s saving me money!

Since I bought it I’ve added a knock-off stainless steel bracelet so I can dress it up if needed. I will still bust out the Maurice Lacroix for truly dressy occasions. I also just ordered a leather band off Etsy for moments when the sports band is too casual but I still want to wear the Apple Watch.

I am still following a lot of the watch sites I first found late in the summer. I’m fascinated by the art of making real, mechanical watches; the economics of both manufacturing and collecting them; and just love looking at a nice watch. Being unexpectedly committed to the smart watch lifestyle means this will just be a casual pastime. The golf stuff will have to scratch my old man itches for now.[1]

  1. I know, that sounds grosser than I mean it to.  ↩

Kid Sports: A Controversial End

We finally – FINALLY – wrapped up the fall sports season last night. It was a strange and disappointing ending.

L’s basketball team’s first opponent in the City tournament was a team that was undefeated. All those wins came in very convincing fashion. We figured it was another team loaded with six graders who play year-round and we’d be lucky to stay in the game for a quarter.

Our assessment about their talent was accurate. However, as the teams were warming up we noticed St S only had five players. Their coaches wandered over and said they were missing four players, including three starters, because they were all home sick with a stomach bug. They still looked better than us but at least we might have a chance.

We were tied at four after one quarter. We trailed 10–8 at halftime. We were hanging in there. We couldn’t do much on offense as their zone defense thoroughly confused our girls. But we were making plays on defense and our tallest girl was getting tough rebounds.

In the third quarter we had a girl go off for seven points and we took a 15–11 lead into the final period.

St S got within two but were still hanging back in the zone as the time ticked down. After a time out in which our coaches told our girls to be patient, not force anything, and to run clock instead of risking a turnover, we burned 30–40 seconds before there was yelling from the stands and whistles from the ref. I looked up from my spot at the scorer’s table to see the St S coach standing in the middle of the court, trying to call a time out. While her team was on defense.

The refs walked her back to her bench, reminded her that she can’t call a time out while on defense, and then assessed her a technical foul. We hit one of two to go up three again with about a minute left.

On the ensuing possession we had a pass deflected out of bounds under the basket. On the inbound play we got an open shot for our best inside player right at the basket. It rimmed out.

St S went down, worked the ball around to their best remaining player, who put up a shot from the left wing with about 10 seconds left. She swished the shot and there was a whistle. The referee nearest us called the basket good and a foul on one of our players. From my view I could not see where the girl’s feet were when she took the shot. She was near the three-point line, but I could not tell if the shot was a three. The referee’s hand never went up on the attempt to indicate a three, and he never put both hands up after the shot was good. When he walked over to call the foul, the St S coach asked, “It was a three, right?” The referee paused, got a nervous look on his face, and then nodded yes. I think he had no idea and guessed.

Tie game, they’re shooting a free throw to win.

Fortunately the free throw missed but we couldn’t get a shot off and went to overtime where we ended up losing by one.

After the game the two coaches from the next game came over and told our coaches that A) the shot at the end of regulation was clearly not a three and B) our girl who got called for the foul on the shot was shoved by a St S player into the shooter. Then a parent from the team with the bye who would play the winner and was (illegally) recording the game for scouting purposes walked over and showed our coach video of the shot that showed the shooter had both feet over the three-point line.

A bummer of a way to end the season. The refs let them play for the most part and it was a pretty clean game. I think that ref was both caught up in the moment and not used to girls taking threes at this level and thus he didn’t check the shooter’s feet when she released the ball. Our girls played really, really well on defense. St S was still more talented than us, even while missing their other players. But we hung in all night and had a chance to win.

Perhaps it is better that we lost. Saturday’s quarterfinal would be against the team that beat us by 30 early in the season. We’ve gotten better but, barring a stomach flu bug at St C, we had no chance against them.

L usually doesn’t get super upset after loses. She might be bummed for a bit but that passes. Last night she was as emotional as I’ve ever seen her. I think it was more about how much fun she had playing and the new, sixth grade friends she made and won’t be able to play with again for two years, than the result itself. Often after games L will complain about the refs or about opposing players who are overly physical or use rude language. Last night she just rode home quietly, sniffing occasionally. When we got home she went into her room and hid for awhile before she came down to eat, her eyes red and puffy.

Before we completely close the book on the fall sports season, I have to quickly share something about L’s last regular season game, played a week ago.

They played a team that had 11 girls, and their coach apparently viewed them as giving him 55 fouls to play tough defense with. We had a 14–4 lead in the third quarter but with two minutes left, the game was tied. The crowd was going nuts, our girls were completely out of it, and things did not look good. Fortunately our best player scored five-straight points and we won.

The headlines from the game, though, were that over 40 fouls were called, only 16 against St P’s. St L had two players foul out and when we told their coach he didn’t seem concerned at all. He just pointed to a girl on his bench to check in. He had two other girls finish the game with four fouls. Between all those fouls, a ton of physical play, and the usual number of turnovers, it took us 90 minutes to play a regulation, 5th/6th grade basketball game. It was utterly ridiculous. By comparison it took us about 70 minutes to play an overtime game last night that included both teams using all their timeouts. After the game we also learned that one of the opposing girls, after throwing one of our players to the floor, said, “Get off me, bitch.” I guess it wasn’t loud enough for the refs to hear because she didn’t get a technical.

I’m kind of glad basketball is over with.

M had her cross country banquet Monday. I only mention that because she won an award. She was one of three runners who earned the Most Improved award, hers for dropping her time by five minutes through the season. The best part was she had no expectations of winning an award, so she was too busy talking and only heard her name. When she went on stage, she had no idea what she had won. Later she posted a picture to her socials saying “When you finish last at every meet they give you an award!” I’m glad she has a sense of humor about it.

Weekend Notes

Mother Nature takes a lot of grief around here. Occasionally, though, I have to give her props. Yesterday she dropped an absolutely perfect late fall day on us. It was sunny, not much breeze, and although the high was forecast to be in the mid–50s, she kicked her heels off, checked her nails, and gave us a bonus high of 61. I spent most of the day doing yard work, but I did not mind because it was so beautiful out.

People clearly took advantage of the day because I saw several houses with Christmas lights on during our drop off commute this morning. We thought about putting our up but didn’t get to it. Still, the lights would not have been turned on if they had gone up. It’s fine to take advantage of a nice day to get the decorations up, people. It doesn’t mean you have to turn them on. (In related news, the grocery store was mixing Christmas songs in every third or fourth song this morning.)

So, thank you, Momma N!

Of course, as I type this it is a dark, rainy morning and in a few hours that rain is supposed to turn to snow and give us a couple inches in our first snow of the season. I imagine most of that will melt given Sunday’s temps. Tuesday morning wind chills should be right around zero.

Hey, Mother Nature: fuck you!

OK, it was a pretty quiet weekend with no sports we had to attend. But a few notes.

High School Football

Cathedral hammered the team that knocked them out of the playoffs last year to win the sectional championship. Now they face the #1 5A team in the state, which has lost four games in the last seven years. They have this freaky little running back who has run for over 10,000 yards and 100 touchdowns in his career. The computers favor CHS, though, thanks to a tougher schedule. It should be an absolute battle. It is a road game, about a 45 minutes away, so we will likely stay home and I will listen on the radio.

College Football

I watched parts of two fun games during KU’s bye week. Minnesota beating Penn State was a really entertaining game to watch. I’m not sure anyone outside Minnesota thought the Gophers were for real until they smacked Penn State in the mouth through three quarters Saturday. They almost blew it but survived to remain. Pretty crazy. Also crazy is the fact that Minnesota claims seven football national championships. Not all of these are recognized these days, but they still have a minimum of four national titles by the strictest measure. If you want to waste time, get yourself into the rabbit hole of reading about how football national champions have been declared over the years. There’s some wacky stuff out there, folks.

Then, of course, came the big daddy of the season, LSU-Alabama. It was thoroughly delightful to watch LSU beat the snot out of ‘Bama for 30 minutes. We were hosting a small family gathering so I missed most of Alabama’s comeback but was able to watch the final minutes as LSU closed it out.

I always think it’s funny how people like me, who root against Alabama, Duke, the Yankees, or whoever, often have to support another team that is just a slightly less successful version of the team we hate. With ‘Bama dominating football over the past decade, that means I’m often a fan of LSU, Auburn, or Georgia, schools that also send tons of players to the NFL, win 10 games more often than not, and have rich histories of their own. Yet because they ain’t ‘Bama, they come off as plucky underdogs.


I was thrilled I missed most of the Colts ugly-ass loss to Miami. I did make it in for the fourth quarter, though, which was probably the worst part. For all the stupid shit they did through three quarters they still really should have won that game. Another week, another nail in Adam Vinatieri’s career coffin.

I don’t follow the NFL super closely anymore. That changes a little right about now when kid fall sports end and the weather keeps us inside on weekends. But, still, I’m not like a super fan. I do skim a few notes columns on Mondays just to have a general feel of what is going on around the league. At The Ringer, I thought Roger Sherman had a great point when discussing the end of the Green Bay-Carolina game:

I’d tell NFL teams to coach their receivers not to stand on the goal line on these plays…

Yes! I was thinking this exact thing as the officials reviewed the final play of the game to see if Christian McCaffery scored or not. Every game you see receivers running down the goal line with their hands in the air, blocking the camera angle. They should spend an entire day in training camp teaching them to get off that line. Then again, I guess it’s a 50–50 shot whether blocking that angle hurts or helps your team, so maybe teams want them running down the line.

All I know is it was fun watching football in the snow in Green Bay.

Friday Playlist

“For the First Time” – Best Coast. What a glorious day! We have new Best Coast music!

I’m deep into my Favorite Songs of the Decade research. Best Coast is on that list. On Monday I did some searching to see if BC was rumored to have any new music on the horizon but came up empty. Less than 24 hours later this dropped, with news of a new album in 2020. This is a nice track; I’m thrilled they’re back.

“Shaking” – Hazel English. It’s been the year of the Aussie female artists, at least in my play lists. English is another one, although she’s now based in Oakland. There are some hazy vibes to this that suggest she’s been influenced by Best Coast.

“This Love Is Fucking Right!” – The Pains of Being Pure at Heart. Leader Kip Berman announced this week that TPOBPAH are no more. I can’t say I was a huge fan, although a search of my archives shows that I played three of their songs on my old podcast. This, though, is an absolute jam. Even with the somewhat troublesome lyrics.

“Brilliant Disguise” – Bruce Springsteen. Yesterday was a cold, dreary, November day. Which means I was motivated to listen to Tunnel of Love, which is kind of my cold, dreary, November day thing. After hearing “Tunnel of Love,” I decided to skip past “Two Faces,” directly to this, my favorite song on the album.

That triggered something in my memory about those advanced tape players back in the day that you could hit a special button, or combination of buttons, and it would fast forward or rewind to the next song and stop. Instead of having to guess multiple times if you had advanced or retreated far enough when you manually search for a song on cassette. If I recall correctly the one in my parents’ cars would fast forward a little too far, back up, and then start so you’d hear the final seconds of the previous song. I think I heard the final seconds of “Two Faces” about a thousand times back in ’87–88, but actually listened to the song maybe five times. Technology, kids!

“Love Rollercoaster” – The Ohio Players. My brother in music E-Bro sent this to me earlier this week. There’s a lot to unpack here. Wolfman Jack with the weird intro. The general getup of the band. (E-Bro and I both thought for a large band that probably wasn’t making much money in the 1970s, they sure spent a lot of money on rhinestones and denim.) There’s the half-hearted dance moves of the horn section. I dig the folks dancing in the audience. And then there are the dancers who pop up on stage in the middle breakdown, who are fan-freaking-tastic. I guarantee this will brighten your day. “Say what!”

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