Monday, February 27, 2012

12 for '12: Cold War Kids

"12 for '12" is a weekly series where I share a 12-song Spotify playlist, highlighting a different artist every week.

Cold War Kids are an L.A. band who used to sound like they were from the deep South but now sound like what Coldplay would sound like if they didn't rely so much on computers.

That's not meant to be a derogatory remark. (Coldplay's first two albums were really good, and the second one was especially rockin'.) It's meant to somewhat-succinctly explain how dramatically Cold War Kids' sound has changed from Robbers & Cowards, the band's 2006 debut, to their third album, 2011's Mine Is Yours. Despite these changes (or perhaps because of them), Cold War Kids are one of my favorite bands from the past decade, and a lot of that has to do with their energetic live shows.

Anyway, much of their early material relied on ragtime piano riffs and heavy bass grooves (track 3, "Saint John"), whereas newer songs tend to be more guitar-based, polished and poppy (track 2, "Royal Blue"). But some elements of the band's style have remained consistent; every album has a few piano ballads (track 10, "Golden Gate Jumpers")* and pounding rockers (track 4, "Something Is Not Right With Me").

It seems another style change is in the works; founding guitarist Jonnie Russell left the band this month, replaced by producer and former Modest Mouse guitarist Dann Gallucci. The new lineup has already released two songs, "Minimum Day," which sounds like a Black Keys rip-off, and "Minimum Mistake," which is pretty blah.

Check out the songs I selected and let me know what you think: 12 for '12: Cold War Kids

*Cold War Kids' best piano ballad is "Goodnight Tennessee," but it's an iTunes bonus track from Mine is Yours and therefore not on Spotify. If it were, I would've put it on the playlist in place of "Bulldozer."

Photo (cc) by Tammy Lo and republished here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

12 for '12: Radiohead

In an effort to get this blog a-rollin' again, I've decided to start a new series called 12 for '12. Every week I'll create a Spotify playlist featuring 12 songs from one artist.

These aren't necessarily the artist's 12 best songs, or even my 12 favorite songs by the artist, just 12 that I think are good and representative of the artist's career. If you'd never heard any of these artists,* I'd like to think you'd have a pretty good feeling of what they're about after listening to these playlists.

To kick things off, let's start with Radiohead. I'm not a huge, huge fan, especially of the band's more experimental, electronic stuff (as you can tell by my review of the last album, The King of Limbs). But Radiohead still has a lot of gems that touch on several different styles. So check out the 12 songs I picked** and let me know what you think: 12 for '12: Radiohead

*You've probably heard (or at least heard of) all the artists I'll be choosing.
**I couldn't pick songs from In Rainbows or the In Rainbows bonus disc, because they're not on Spotify. If I could've, I would've substituted "Down is the New Up" for "Idioteque."

Photo (cc) by alterna2 on Flickr and republished here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Is Shaun Ellis a mole?

I love the Patriots' Shaun Ellis signing, but there's like 5% of me that thinks he's in on a big scheme concocted by Rex Ryan and the Jets.

Here's the idea: Sexy Rexy pretends he doesn't want Ellis, knowing full well that Ellis is the exact type of free agent that Bill Belichick loves. So Ellis signs with New England and acts like a model teammate for four weeks, but in practice the week before the big Jets-Pats game, he "accidentally" takes out Tom Brady and puts him on IR. Then, when confronted about it in the Pats locker room, Ellis gets a crazed look in his eye, admits it was all part of Rex's plan and then throws Belichick through a barber shop window.

Admit it, you can't completely rule this scenario out.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Top 5 songs I've seen live

Live, "White, Discussion"
2007, Boston
"White, Discussion" is the forgotten hit from Live's breakout album, Throwing Copper. You still hear "Lightning Crashes," "Selling the Drama," "I Alone" and "All Over You" on rock radio these days, but never this one. Before the band broke up, Live regularly used the song as an encore closer, featuring blinding strobe lights and Ed Kowalczyk screaming, "Look where all this talking got us, baby!" This performance at the Bank of America Pavilion (or whatever that place was called at the time) was particularly intense, but it's not on YouTube, so here's a version from the year before in Germany:

Chris Cornell, "Black Hole Sun"
Oct. 31, 2005, Lowell, Massachusetts
Audioslave played a Halloween night show at Tsongas Arena, and to start the encore, Chris Cornell came out   wearing a Jason mask and carrying an acoustic guitar. He performed a mix of Audioslave and Temple of the Dog songs, but the highlight of this mini-set was the Soundgarden classic "Black Hole Sun," which turned into a giant lighter-waving sing-along.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Measuring run production in baseball (or proof Ichiro is overrated)

I was listening to Felger and Mazz on the radio the other day, and Tony Massarotti was talking about how overrated Ichiro Suzuki is. Mazz's basic premise was that Ichiro's high number of hits doesn't mean much, because he doesn't score a lot of runs.

I had some issues with this argument, mainly the comparison of hits to runs scored. After thinking the issue through, I realized it's more fair and thorough to compare the number of times a player gets on base to the number of runs he produces, either by driving them in or by crossing home plate himself. So I devised this formula:

(runs scored + runs batted in - home runs) / (hits + walks)

(A home run counts as both a run scored and a run batted in, so subtracting home runs from the sum of runs scored and runs batted in ensures that this formula doesn't inflate run-production numbers.)

The resulting number represents how many runs a hitter produces each time he reaches base. For example, Alex Rodriguez led the majors in 2010 by producing 0.845 runs each time he reached base.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Radiohead, The King of Limbs: My review

The King of Limbs is Radiohead's latest album, which I picked up over the weekend for only six bucks. I'm glad I didn't pay any more than that. Here's a one-sentence review of each of the eight tracks on The King of Limbs:

"Bloom": This song has a repetitive, awkward drum beat that critics will invariably hail for "pushing rhythmic boundaries" and lots of bland, ambient noise that "introduces the listener to this new sonic world in which The King of Limbs lives."

"Morning Mr. Magpie": This song has two sections comprised of a repetitive, awkward electronic beat, broken up by a slower, acoustic but equally repetitive section in the middle.

"Little By Little": Oh my God there's actual bass and guitars and a verse-chorus-verse structure and I hope this marks a turning point in the album!

"Feral": Nope.

"Lotus Flower": I liked the remix better.

"Codex": Sorry, I fell asleep during this one.

"Give Up the Ghost": And this one.

"Separator": With its disco beat and almost-catchy chorus, this song is the best so far and I can't wait to hear the rest of the al-- oh, it's over already?