Thursday, December 27, 2007

Top 10 Albums of 2000 - #1: Simple Kid - 2

It's rare that an album comes completely out of nowhere to impress me this much, but it happened twice this year, Panda Bear being one, this being the other. I first came across this before he opened for BRMC a few months ago, and I wanted to know whether I should get there in time for the opening act. It sounded good, I went, and was blown away. I immediately (legally) downloaded the album and couldn't stop listening to it for the next two weeks.

Virtually all self-recorded, he walks the line between traditional (Ballad of Elton John) and experimental (You); Bluegrass (Little King Kong), and metal (Mommy and Daddy); Folk (Old Domestic Cat), and Indie (Serotonin). Yet somehow, this has generated almost no buzz whatsoever. Not a single mention on Pitchfork. The new album doesn't even have an Amazon review. It's like I'm in some alternate universe where I'm the only person that's heard of this guy.

Start to finish, this album is a masterpiece. Some tracks stand out more than others, but they're nicely placed so that the album doesn't really reach a crescendo until the penultimate track, Mommy and Daddy, where Ciarn McFeely shows off his metal chops, no small feat for a one man act. Within the first week of owning this, I knew it was the best album of the year. It's simply fantastic.

Here's Serotonin, Ballad of Elton John, and Self Help Book.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Top 10 Albums of 2000 - #2: Panda Bear - Person Pitch

Another 2007 revelation, inspired by a Song of the Day post back in April, this was one I listened to a few times and thought was good. Then I got the urge to listen to it again sometime around October and was blown away. The opening triumvirate of Comfy in Nautica, Take Pills, and Bros are probably the three best opening tracks on any album I've ever heard, rivaling even OK Computer.

These songs are sounds, but not noise. They sound both carefully crafted and pulled from the ether at the same time. It's pure sonic bliss for the first 20 minutes. It gets a little goofy/experimental from there on, but closes nicely with Ponytail. It's hard to write too much about this one. It's unlike almost anything I've ever heard, but still quite familiar. It's just basically fantastic.

Here's Comfy in Nautica, Bros, and someone's video for Take Pills:

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Section 20; Row 67; Seats 101 & 102

Just got my Rose Bowl tickets today. Casually asked the owner of a local Mexican food restaurant that my parents frequent, and he hooked me up. Should somewhere between the 25 and 40 yard lines, about ten rows under the press box, which are actually excellent seats at the Rose Bowl. Could stand to be a little lower, but these will be good. Paid face value. Only downside is that they're in the U$C section, but I'll survive. It's the alumni section, so they're all rich and docile.

This will be like the fifth or sixth Rose Bowl game I've been to, but the first where I've had decent seats.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Top 10 Albums of 2000 - #3: Spoon - Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga

Now we get to a band who's sound has really evolved over time. Their very early work was much more Pixies influenced, much rougher. It's a sound so foreign to their newer fans that they don't even play stuff from Telephono in concert anymore, or at least they haven't at any of the shows I've been to in the last few years.

The result of that evolution is Gax5, and it's arguably their best to date. I say arguably because I think it's a question of peak value vs. consistency. "You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb", "the Underdog", and "Finer Feelings" are as good as anything they've ever done, and maybe the best three songs to appear on the same album. That said, I don't think it's consistently good as Gimme Fiction. Start to finish, I'll take their last album. I'm not a huge fan of "the Ghost of You Lingers", "Eddie's Raga", or "Japanese Cigarette Case", and they tend to stick out surrounded by such excellent tracks. But the quality of those top three, along with "Don't You Evah" and "Black Like Me" push this into the upper echelon of 2007 releases.

Here's Don't You Evah, Black Like Me, and Cherry Bomb.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Top 10 Albums of 2007 - #4: Super Furry Animals - Hey Venus!

It's kind of strange to think about a favorite band as being "under the radar", then realizing that they've got eight full length albums, a rarities collection, and a singles compilation. Generally bands that stay under the radar don't stick around long enough to be that prolific. But Hey Venus! marks the bands eight album, and fourth in the last five years or so.

Much like their last album, Love Kraft, Gruff Rhys shares the vocal duties with Huw Bunford ("Battersea Oddessy") and Cian Ciaran ("Carbon Dating", which sounds a lot like his Acid Casuals song "Bowl Me Over"). This might be their most pop-friendly album since, well, maybe ever. After the brief introduction of "Gateway Song", the album launches into the two most consumer friendly tracks on the album, "Run Away" and "Show Your Hand", before settling down with the mellowed out "Gift that Keeps Giving".

Like a lot of SFA albums, except for maybe Rings Around the World and Phantom Power, it tails off a little bit at the end, and you'll probably find yourself listening to the first seven tracks a lot, and the last four tracks not so much. That's not to say they aren't great tracks, but they tend to require the right mood, whereas a song like "Run Away" sounds good no matter what you're in the mood for. There are no real epic, defining tracks here, like Love Kraft's "Lazer Beam", Phantom Power's "Slow Life", or Rings' "Receptacle for the Respectable" or "Run, Christian, Run". But start to finish, it's on par with all of those albums.

Here's Run-Away; Show Your Hand (you have to sit through a minute or so of chat, but you'll get a cool glimpse of "God, Show Me Magic"); and the Gift that Keeps on Giving.

More fun with Sitemeter

Alright, who keeps coming here after googling Warren Busick? It was a throw away line in a post from quite a ways back, but it gets me like three or four hits per week. Sheesh, I don't think I've even seen him since I was about 12.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Top 10 Albums of 2007 - #4a: Earlimart - Mentor Tormentor

Alright, mea culpa, I forgot this one when I put my original list together, and I'm shoehorning them into roughly the spot they would have had if I hadn't been an idiot. Now that that's out of the way...

Earlimart returns with the third full-length of the Aaron Espinoza fronted era, and start to finish, it's their strongest outing to date. They've retained the knack for finding just the right ambient noise to back their stronger tracks, and even amplified by touring (briefly) with a string quartet. This is most notable on "Answers & Questions". They've moved away somewhat from the feedback heavy tracks like "Unintentional Tape Manipulations" and "Lost at Sea" from previous albums, and moved toward more piano and softer vocals, which suits not only Espinoza's ability, but Ariana Murray's, who contributes lead vocals on "Happy Alone", and shares them on "the World".

There's nothing here as sumblime as "Heaven Adores You" from the last album (though "Answers & Questions" is close), but the album is their most consistent to date. Every track is solid, and the pacing is excellent. No videos this time, but you can stream the whole album at their site.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Top 10 Albums of 2007 - #5: The Broken West - I Can't Go On, I'll Go On

The first full length from The Broken West, once known as the Brokedown until they found out they shared the name with a Chicago band. They hold the record as the band I've seen the most in a single year. I saw them initially when they opened for the Walkmen early in the year, then a month or so later when they headlined. They came back in the summer to play the Taste of Randolph Street festival, and hit the town once again with the Whigs in late October. The nice thing about listening to indie stuff is that one can actually afford to see the same band a bunch of times in the same year.

This is simply good, straightforward indie pop/rock, and it's very impressive for a debut. And it's very West Coast. While bands like Beulah captured the San Francisco Sound, the Broken West are much more L.A. Laid back groovy pop-songs like You Can Build an Island and Slow are set among the driving pop beats of So It Goes and On the Bubble, and the almost country sounding Abigail.

There's really not much more I can say. It's not complicated. It's not groundbreaking. This album just does what it sets out to do very, very well. Here's the studio version of Down in the Valley, a live version of So it Goes, and a live version of You Can Build an Island:

Monday, December 17, 2007

Top 10 Albums of 2007 - #6: The Apples in Stereo - New Magnetic Wonder

After a five year hiatus, which saw side projects from both Hilarie Sidney and Robert Schneider, as well as the end of their marriage, the Apples In Stereo returned with arguably their best album yet, and while Sidney is no longer a full fledged member of the band, she lends vocals to a couple of the many excellent tracks on this album.

Every AiS record has sounded a little bit different than the one before. From the jangly pop of Tone Soul Evolution and Fun Trick Noisemaker, to the lilting pop of Her Wallpaper Reverie, to the feedback drenched Beach Boys melodies of Velocity of Sound, they've managed to alter their sound just enough to let you know that they had evolved since the last time you heard them. New Magnetic Wonder showcases Schneider's experiments with vocoders and other bits of technology, while still calling back to their past, maintaining the framework of melodic psych-pop that has shaped every album to a varying degree.

There's a little bit of everything here. The opener "Can You Feel It" would have sounded at home on Fun Trick Noisemaker. The more raw "Skyway" follows, a track that could have had a home on Velocity. "Same Old Drag" and "Play Tough" bust out the harmonies that were so prevelant on Tone Soul, while "Sun is Out" opens as a lo-fi low tempo track right out of Wallpaper, before becoming a campfire style sing-along. Sidney pitches in with Sundaal Song and Sunday Sounds. It's like a greatest hits album of all new material, if that makes any sense.

The album is replete with short little song breaks (Don't download this album unless you can get it for one price, and don't get it from Emusic). There's 24 tracks, but it plays as something closer to a tradition 12-14 track album. And typical of AiS, it's all stuff that really transfers well live. They put on a great show, and they're someone you should check out if you get the chance.

Here's Same Old Drag; Can You Feel It?; and a live acoustic version of Skyway:

Friday, December 14, 2007

Top 10 Albums of 2007 - #7: Radiohead - In Rainbows

A majority of the buzz surrounding this album was centered on Radiohead's method of delivery. What was somewhat left out was the fact that this is another really, really good album, probably their best since OK Computer which, let's face it, is probably an insurmountable piece of work for Radiohead. It's one of the three best albums of all time, and all of those people who say they like The Bends better are lying, and simply trying to be contrarian.

For those unaware, Radiohead offered this album for download a few months ago through their own website. For how much? Whatever you were willing to pay, including $0 if you were a dick. I paid £5, which I thought was fair. I'd much rather purchase music from the artist when possible, which is why I tend to stream a lot of stuff via Rhapsody, then wait until I see a band live to buy the CD whenever I can.

Unlike the last three albums on the list, this album feels like a bit of a departure for Radiohead, but it's hard to tell, since they've kind of been all over the map lately. However, they've toned down the experimentation a bit, and this album seems more instantly accessible than the previous three, though it's more down the path of Hail to the Thief than either Kid A or Amnesiac. Starts off quickly with 15 Step and Bodysnatchers, which are my two favorite songs on the album.

For the first time since OK Computer, it's not a chore to listen to an entire Radiohead album beginning to end. Here's the first two tracks mentioned above, plus Jigsaw Falling Into Place.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Mitchell Report

I've given it a long, hard thought, and after much soul searching, I've come to this conclusion:

I. Don't. Care.

I don't care if every player who has ever played is, was, or will be juicing. This is arguably the biggest waste of effort in the history of the sport.

Top 10 Albums of 2007 - #8: The Shins - Wincing the Night Away

One of the biggest changes from the first two Shins albums to this one seems to be a little tweak in production. James Mercer's vocals have moved just a tiny bit more to the forefront. I don't necessarily think is either a positive or negative development. I kind of liked the first album's production, which made them seem like more of a collaborative affair, but you can definitely tell that the success of the band has allowed them to upgrade their recording.

Like albums 9 and 10 on this list, there's some gentle evolution here compared to the first two albums, but it's still very much a Shins record, and if you were to see them live, it wouldn't necessarily be readily apparent which songs were from which "era". But there's comfort in consistency, so I don't really think that's a negative. It's different enough to be fresh, but similar enough to be familiar (and I swear I didn't read the Pitchfork review right before using the words "comfort" and "familiar").

Sleeping Lessons and Australia are as good as anything they've ever done, and Phantom Limb was an excellent choice as lead single, as it introduced the bands' sound to new listeners very well. Beginning to end, there's a slow point or two. The "Black Wave/Split Needles" combo isn't may favorite part of the album, but I think they scored on their forays into new sounds on Sea Legs and Red Rabbits.

Here are Sleeping Lessons, Australia, and Turn on Me w/ Anita Robinson (Viva Voce) on the David Letterman show.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Top 10 Albums of 2007 - #9: New Pornographers - Challengers

Why it's in the top 10: Much like the #10 album, this was highly anticipated, and the show they played in July at Pitchfork prior to it's release only served to whet my appetite. And much like Ted Leo, you know what you're going to get with New Pornographers: Melodic power pop, terrific hooks, a mix of high energy up-tempo tracks and the occasional ballad.

Why it's not rated higher: All the same caveats apply about this being a particularly crowded field and whatnot. When putting this list together, a main criterion was simply how much I listened to the album, which was especially difficult considering most of the albums listed came out in the span of about two months. Sometimes this one had a hard time cracking the rotation, though there were certain songs that got played over and over again (like Myriad Harbor).

While it's an excellent album, it's not the transcendent masterpiece of the type that populate the top of the list. For my taste, it tended to go a little too heavy on the ballads or slower numbers. I count at least five. It was lifted by some excellent Bejar, including Myriad Harbor, which may be one of his best NP tracks to date, and the Spirit of Giving, his NP foray into down-tempo numbers. Quite honestly, they could put out a full Bejar album and I'd be perfectly happy. For my tastes, he's my favorite NP composer, and I think he's at his best when he's writing his NP material (except for maybe Streethawk, which is my favorite Destroyer album).

Ultimately it fits in pretty well with the rest of the New Pornographers oeuvre. 20 years from now, it may be difficult to tell which album a given song comes from. They haven't exactly undergone a Beatles-like transformation over four albums. And there's nothing wrong with that. They keep producing great music, and this album is another in that line. Here's some live stuff: Myriad Harbor, Mutiny I Promised You, and My Rights Vs. Yours from David Letterman:

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Top 10 Albums of 2007 - #10 Ted Leo and the Pharmacists - Living with the Living

More than anything, this album suffered from timing, and high expectations. I didn't really start listening to Ted Leo until last summer (2006) at the Pitchfork Festival, but subsequently devoured both Hearts of Oak and Shake the Sheets. This was one of the most anticipated albums of 2007 for me. And while it's still a very good album (mediocre Ted is better than 99% of what's out there now), it didn't quite live up to the expectations I had following the previous two albums. Perhaps I was exiting a Ted phase at the point in time.

Still, all things considered, it really is an excellent album. It's got all of TL/Rx trappings. And infectious brand of indie punk with boundless energy, devastating hooks, and it plays great live. Still, when all was said and done, it just seemed like I didn't listen to it all that much this year. As I re-enter a Ted Phase, that will probably change.

Standout tracks are Sons of Cain, Colleen, The Unwanted Things, and the World Stops Turning.

Here's Bomb. Repeat. Bomb.; Sons of Cain (Live); and Who Do You Love (solo).

Monday, December 10, 2007

Begin the Countdown - Top 10 Albums of the Year

A few caveats. First, some of you may be surprised to learn that I don't get paid to review music. Shocking, I know, but it's the truth. As such, I don't routinely get free music sent to me. Second, partially due to the last point, I can't really review stuff I haven't listened to, so everything on this list consists of CDs I've either bought, or albums downloaded legally. Finally, there's a lot of stuff I've left out, because this has been a banner year for stuff I listen to. A lot of really top notch bands released new albums, which contributed mightily to the record number of shows I saw this year.

I'm going to start this list off with this year's honorable mentions. These albums are just outside the top ten. Some are surprises because I didn't expect to like them this much. Some are surprises because I didn't expect them to fall out of the top ten, but that's how good this year's crop was. So without further adieu (in alphabetical order):

Nicole Atkins and the Sea - Neptune City

Saw her open for the Raveonettes in October, and to be honest, if this had been something I'd heard on the radio, or saw on TV, I would not have picked them out as a band I'd listen to. But the live performance was really terrific. And the whole album is really entertaining. Here's the title track.

BRMC - Baby 81
A bit of a return to their hard rock roots, which is good and bad, considering the last album, the rootsier "Howl" had really grown on me. Anlthough this has some really good stuff on it, it's not my favorite BRMC album, and didn't quite rise into the top 10 this year. Here's Weapon of Choice:

Interpol - Our Love to Admire
Big surprise for me here, as I really like this album a lot, and it's probably number 11, but just wasn't quite good enough to crack the top 10. They put on a really good show, but it was at a really crappy venue, and the sound suffered as a result. Probably slid a bit due to the lyrics. I'm not usually a big lyrics guy, but some of these songs were kind of dopey on the lyrical end, especially Rest My Chemistry, which is essentially about whether Paul Banks can find the strength to screw a groupie. Anyway, here's another with questionable lyrics, No I in Threesome.

Grant Lee Phillips
- Strangelet
For me, this album suffered from timing. I got it right around the time I was listening to a bunch of other stuff, and as the year comes to an end, I realize I haven't listened to it as much as I would have expected, but it's his best album since Mobilize. It's the most musically diverse and the most fun to listen to. Here's Raise the Spirit.

Rogue Wave
- Asleep at Heaven's Gate
Another one I would have figured would be in the top 10, but was edged out by a crowded field. After a longer than expected hiatus while they waited for drummer Pat Spurgeon to heal from a kidney transplant, Zach Rogue and crew returned with their third album, and much like the first two, it's very good. Put on a very good show as well. Here's Lake Michigan.

The Whigs - Give 'Em All a Big Fat Lip
These last two are both albums that came out in 2006, and both from bands that I stupidly skipped seeing, even though I had tickets (they were opening acts), and I hadn't taken the time to listen to their albums enough before the shows. First up is this album from the Whigs, a trio from Athens, GA. I've since grown to really like it, and as the year ends, it's been in regular rotation the last few weeks. None of the Youtube videos are very good, so I'm posting the bad recording of my favorite song off of this album, the title track. They have a new album due out next month. Here's Give 'Em a Big Fat Lip.

Viva Voce - Get Yr Blood Sucked Out
Another 2006 album, though they did just re-release their previous two albums, 2003's Lovers Lead the Way, and 2004's The Heat Can Melt Your Brain. Still, this album is their masterpiece so far, and the video below is the best song off that album, and probably one of the three best songs to which I was introduced this year. It's From the Devil Himself.

So that's it for the honorable mentions. Tune in tomorrow for #10.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Some good news for a change

Coming off a weekend where UCLA lost to $UC in football, Texas in football, and in which the Kings blew a two goal lead, and the Lakers and Broncos played like crap, today brought some good news finally.

Building on the momentum of the Illinois to the Rose Bowl announcement, fortune delivered the end of the Karl Dorrell era. I tried to stay on Dorrell's side as long as possible, and going into this season, I had high hopes that he'd be able to stem the tide of negativity and put up a great season, inlcuding a BCS bowl and victory over $UC. And while injuries certainly were a factor, particularly in the Notre Dame game, they certainly weren't against Utah, and that was the game that forever changed my opinion. They came out listless and never seemed liked they cared, and they got hammered by one of college football's bottom feeders. Against Notre Dame, they still could have won the game had they had a halfway competent third string quarterback (oh wait, they did, but they had converted him to receiver, even though he never played at receiver). And despite the struggles of McLeod Bethel-Thompson, that game could have been won if the coaching staff hadn't consistently set him up for failure.

Make no mistake, the problems that beset this year's Bruin football team were almost completely due to poor coaching. I think Karl Dorrell is probably a hell of a guy, but he's not a very good head football coach. At least not yet.

And the good news keeps coming. The Super Furry Animals just announced a North American Tour which will be hitting Chicago in February. This will mark the fifth or sixth time I've seen SFA, one of the best live acts still in business.

Oh, and I got promoted.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

UCLA chokes against Texas

Maybe if they showed up to play the first half, they would have won. Horrible defense, even worse shooting, and they still should have won if they'd had a clue what to do in the last minute. Absolutely pathetic performance against a very overrated Texas team, which does nothing but fling the ball at the basket half the time, and tonight they were lucky that a lot of them went in.

Still, this was a #1 ranked team that played like they didn't deserve to be in the top 25, and if they don't come prepared, this is going to happen a lot. Fortunately, I'm confident that Ben Howland will keep them ready. But the fact is, the Pac 10 has already lost the luster that it had pre-season. UCLA and that other team both lose to Big 12 opponents on their home floor. That's pathetic.

Illinois Is Going to the Rose Bowl!!

Well, it's taken a while, but the Illini are headed to Pasadena for a bowl game, and hopefully the game will be more exciting than the last trip the Illini took to Pasadena. I'm talking about the regular season matchup in 2003 that finished with UCLA winning 6-3. Don't let the score fool you, the game was even more boring than it sounds.

I will, naturally, be in town for the game, as I'm usually home at that time anyway. I was planning on heading back to Chicago for New Years this year, but the Illini have thrown a monkey wrench into those plans.

Early pick: I think the Illini will get killed, but that's what I thought about the Ohio State game, too. And U$C has had problems with scrambling quarterbacks. Of course, most of that struggling came against Dennis Dixon, who is a lot better than Juice. But still, it's a reason for some sliver of optimism.

Party at my parents' house!

Saturday, December 01, 2007

UCLA slaughtered by U$C

The nice thing about this game being on national television is that the whole country has a chance to see what a shitty coach Karl Dorrel is. Here we are in December and his players can't execute a simple hand off with regularity. And when your defense makes a big stop, and your opponent might have to settle for a field goal, it's not really a good idea to give them another third down, even if they're ten yards further back.

It's a testament to how down U$C is this year that they aren't going to win this game by 50. UCLA has given them opportunity after opportunity, turnover after turnover, bad decision after bad decision, and they're still only up by 17 points.

So long Karl. You really won't be missed. I'm sure Karl is a good guy, but he's simply been in over his head. He is not a good football head coach. Hopefully, the athletic department will make the right decision next time.

Thank goodness it's basketball season.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Quick thoughts on the Illinois-Maryland debacle

  • If you had told me that the refs would let them play to the extent they did tonight, I would have guess that Illinois would win by ten. But they were awful. Brutally awful. And most of it happened inside.
  • Sean Pruitt was awful. The next pass he makes out of the post will be the first. He goes to the hole and flings the ball at the basket, and the one time he got a chance to dunk, he choked. A guy that shoots from no more than five feet out finished 4-16 from the field. Man, that sucks.
  • Brian Randle wasn't much better. 2-8 from the field, and stuffed at least once by a guy he should have owned. And he couldn't get it done from the free throw line either.
  • On the defensive end, Maryland killed the Illini in th paint. They walked into the lane over and over again, with almost no resistance. The difference in the paint was roughly 40-15 or so. That's pathetic. The Illini made one two point basket in the last eight minutes, and Pruitt promptly missed the subsequent free throw that would have pulled the Illini to within one.
  • Rodney Alexander played pretty well, then inexplicably didn't see the floor for the most important part of the game.
  • Calvin Brock started well, hit a jumper at the beginning of the second half. Then disappeared.

Really bad performance tonight against a pretty bad Maryland team. They need to be better than that.

Monday, November 26, 2007


Anyone have one of these things, or know someone who does? I don't always trust Amazon reviews.

I ask because I'm back in Atlanta for the week, and if the travel thing keeps happening, there's a lot of Kings games that I'm going to miss. Most people probably wouldn't think that was a bad thing, but I paid for the damn package so I'd like to watch the damn games. And my understanding is that I can hook this sucker up and watch whatever is on my TV from any computer with a good internet connection. I was initially intrigued, then turned off by the fact that they don't seem to work with Blackberries, which is what they gave me at my newish job. But I'm starting to think it might be a worthwhile investment.


Thursday, November 22, 2007

Torii Hunter. Really.

Well, after thinking about it for a while, I'm still not really sure what this means. I simply can't believe that this is the roster the Angels are going to take to April 1st. So really any analysis that contemplates that happening is almost sure worthless, but what the hell, that's what blogs are for, right?

The most obvious picture shows Hunter in center, one of Vlad or GA in the field, and GMJ at the opposite corner, which probably isn't ideal unless either Vlad or GA is made the primary DH while the other is in the field 5 out of 7 games. It also means that Juan Rivera is essentially worthless to this management team, despite being a better hitter than at least two of the guys who will see regular time in the outfield or DH, which tells me they haven't really thought all that much about Rivera.

Logic of course dictates that one of either Saunders, Santana or Weaver will be packaged with one of either Willits or Rivera, and probably at least one of Nick Adenhart or Brandon Wood in a package for a Miguel, but your guess is as good as mine. As I write this, nothing has been finalized, but Tony Reagins appears to like to work quickly. New rumors have the Angels essentially giving up on keeping Howie Kendrick, but I can't do anything but hope they're wrong. I don't know what it is, but I really like Howie Kendrick, and I see him winning multiple batting titles in his career. I'd hate to see the Angels give up that kind of offense, damn the walks, at such a difficult position to fill. I'm sure people think I'm nuts and I'm totally overvaluing Kendrick, but so be it.

Back to the signing, six years is a long time, and much like the Matthews deal, the years concern me much more than the dollars. I like to think I have a theoretical grasp on the economics of the game, but hell if I know how much teams really have to spend. Revenues are supposedly booming right now in baseball, and the Angels are one of the teams driving that, with boatloads of fans showing up at the Big A in addition to a monster television contract signed just a year ago. So the dollars aren't my concern. Hell, it's not my money. And honestly, this team has shown a willingness to accept that some things are sunk costs. If they weren't, they wouldn't have already decided to move Matthews out of center field.

Are the Angels better because of this deal right now? I think so, but not a ton, mostly because this means fewer at bats for Juan Rivera, assuming he's even in Halo red next season. And to the extent it precludes them from making other moves, we'll just have to wait and see. Much like the Matthews signing, it has the feel of a move made for the sake of making a move. But again, in the final analysis, I just can't see them going to Arizona without at least one more major shake up, and if this deal is any indication, there's almost no point in trying to predict what that might be, because these guys are working from their own private playbook.

Torii Hunter? Really?

I don't get this at all. Makes no sense to me unless they've caught Matthews actually injecting HGH and think they can void his deal. I'll try to write more tonight, but right now, I'm perplexed.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

College Basketball - Quick Thought

UCLA vs. Michigan State

If they can beat the nation's 11th ranked team without 3 of their top 10, 2 of their top six, and their best player, then UCLA is going to be pretty good. They showed a ton of heart tonight, overcoming an awful start to fight back into the game, take the lead for the first time late in the game, and hold on for the win. I haven't seen the stats yet, but I think Westbrook went the full 40. And Kevin Love probably won't see a more physical team this year.

Great efforts by Al Aboya and LRMAM. Aboya had the steal that led to the tying dunk, and LRMAM scored the last two field goals for the difference. Ben Howland showed that while he won't rush his injured players back to soon, he still thinks these games are important enough to shorten his bench in order to win.

Listening to Schulman and Vitale, you would think that Drew Neitzel was some superhuman point guard who boldly overcame a tummy ache. Fact is I've seen him play in the Big Ten for four years now. He's decent, but a healthy Collison would have wiped the floor with him, and full Bruins squad wins by 12 points.

Illinois vs. Duke +3

Sometime about seven years ago, when Michigan State was getting a reputation for bruising physical play, Illinois got the reputation as the team that does nothing but fouls. And when you play Dook, you already start down three players, because they are going to get all the calls. They have the asshole who spends the whole game doing nothing but screaming at the ref who happens to be in front of him. Kzyzksfslasfhski is a cocksucker, but he knows how to work the refs. Illinois was in the game until every breath was a touch foul.

As it was, I thought the Illini looked good last night against a mediocre to poor Arizona State team. Randle showed his athleticism, and Rodney Alexander could be a revelation. If Chet Frazier can shoot (so far, so good), and if Brian Randle and Sean Pruitt can stay on the floor, the Illini can be in the top five in the Big Ten and back in the tournament. I also see Billy Cole and Mike Tisdale making contributions this year. They won't be great, but they won't be awful, and they may even be better than last year.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Angels trad O-Cab for Jon Garland

If you haven't heard this by now, then you're probably here looking for Sharin Foo pictures. I don't blame you.

Can't say as I saw this one coming, but the initial reaction is that the Angels aren't done. I can't believe they would have made this deal without something bigger on the horizon. Certainly the speculation will be around Miguel Cabrera, but that doesn't make sense to me, as it still leaves the Angels without a shortstop*, and without a day-in day-out position for Chone Figgins, which one would figure would be either 3rd base, 2nd base, or center field. 2nd base only opens up if they trade Howie for Miguel Cabrera, which still leaves them without a shortstop*. Center field only opens up if they find someone dumb enough to take Gary Matthews Jr., and seeing how Allard Baird and David Littlefield don't have that power anymore, it's a long shot.

All of which means the deal that's more likely to be on the table is something, primarily pitching, for Miguel Tejada. It's going to take Santana and either a top prospect (Wood) or maybe a couple of mid-level prospects (Rodriguez and Conger?). Perhaps Santana and Adenhart, since Nick grew up a lot closer to Ballmer than Anaheim.

In return, the Angels get Jon Garland, who was rumored to be on the way to the Angels six years ago, not long before Darin Erstad helped lead the Angels to a World Championship (at least with his playoff performance). Now they get a better than league average innings eater who will be just 28 this year, the final year of his contract. Obviously this leaves the Angels with six starters if you assume Ervin was heading back to the rotation next season, which will lead to the invevitable speculation that he (or Saunders, or even possibly Weaver) is headed somewhere else. If I had to bet, I'd put money on Miguel Tejada over Miguel Cabrera. He fills (in theory) the hole at short, and brings a pretty big bat along with him.

*I use the asterisk to note that I don't really think the Angels need a shortstop right now. I think they're better right now than they were yesterday. The rotation is deeper, and I think Maicer Izturis could, health permitting, play 145 games at shortstop, provide adequate defense, and hit better than Cabrera did last season. Plus, he's only 27, so his best years are arguably ahead of him. I like this deal for that reason alone. I'll miss OC. He was a good Angel, and very likable guy, but I can't see him putting up another season like he had last year. I'll root for him in Chicago, but I'm not heartbroken over this deal.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Bonds indicted

And let me check.....just one second....... Nope. Still don't care if anyone or everyone who ever played professional sports is a juicer. Next manufactured controversy, please.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Panthers 2; Thrasher 3 - OT

Went down to Phillips Arena tonight to take in the last two period of the Thrashers-Panthers game. OK arena. We had club seats, so we were in the last row of the first section, near center ice. Pretty good seats, and the concourse in our area was really snazzy, but that's what you can get for $20 when buy tickets after the first period is over. Up higher, though, might have sucked. From the looks of it, one entire side of the arena is made up of luxury boxes, which were right above it. I mean, a whole side of the arena is reserved for the very rich. Kind of overkill, really.

As for the game, it was OK. Tough to get into it when you don't care for either team. But it had a great finish. Marian Hossa scored with 2.6 seconds left to tie the game, and Ilya Kovalchuk, who has been on fire lately, scored the game winner in OT. So the end was really exciting, and Hossa and Kovalchuk are worth the price of admission.

Plenty of former Kings in action, as Josef Stumpel and Olli Jokinen lined up against Alex Zhitnik. Always cool to see a new arena, even if it half full (kind of like a Hawks game).

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Do You Believe in Unlikelihoods?!

You make the call. What's more unlikely:
  1. Illinois goes into Columbus and beats the number 1 Ohio State Buckeyes;
  2. Juice Williams throws for four touchdowns; or
  3. the Kings, trailing 4-0, get five goals against Dallas in the final seven minutes and win 6-5 in overtime?

Welcome home, pal.

Friday, November 09, 2007

UCLA vs. Portland State - Liveblog

This should be fun, as I figure to get drunker and drunker as the game goes on. Free internet broadcast courtesy of CSTV. We finally get to see Kevin Love in a Bruins uni.

  • Interesting thing about these broadcasts. They overlay the radio feed with the camera feed from the guys filming the game for scouting purposes. So during commercials, they apparently show what the Pauley scoreboard shows. I was just encouraged to get on my feet and make noise. I can get kind of loud, but not Krakatoa loud.
  • 5th starter tonight is Al Aboya.
  • And Love opens with a defensive board and an outlet pass that leads to a break and two points.
  • Love seal and dunk. He's good. And an easy dunk on the inbounds. Wow.
  • I may be in the minority, but I like the C. You did something good. Flaunt it. And the obvious upshot is that it's going to get mentioned in every game on TV. People are going to ask about it. And game after game, all year, people are going to hear that UCLA was the first school to 100 national championships.
  • Under 16 TO: First impressions? Pretty solid quality on this video. Thanks, CSTV.
  • PSU takes a time out because of dunk we never saw. Here's the problem with this set-up. Love hits a shot inside, and while they're showing replay, he gets a rebound on the other end that leads to a dunk that we don't see. Now the game is back on, but it beat the radio feed. Weird. Niiiiiiiiiiiikolaaaaaaaa into the game.
  • Again, we miss game action for a replay, but that seems to be the way this is going to go.
  • The defense has been awesome, with the typical doubling and flashing UCLA defense that leads to a lot of steals. They look like they could win this game by 100 points if the try.
  • Hey, remember when Lavin was coaching, and you never sure if they'd actually win games like this?
  • 36-17 at the end of the first half. They slowed down a bit. Whether that's because they naturally slowed down, or they took their foot off the gas, but the first ten minutes were very impressive. Impressions:
    • Kevin Love is very good. He's not an overpowering Shaq-type force, but he has a great feel for how to put the ball in the basket, and his passing is as advertised. He can yank down a few boards, too.
    • The defense looks like they're ready to pick up where they left off. Double teams, steals, etc.
    • Dragovic picked up some nice minutes, as did Stanback. Both look like they can contribute 8th and 9th man minutes. When Collison, Keefe, and Roll return, this team can go 11 deep.
  • LRMAM looks like he needs to find a role. Maybe he'll better with Collison, but right now, with Shipp and Love picking up scoring slack, he looks a little lost on the offensive end.
  • Josh Shipp can shoot. He's turning into the scorer that his brother was.
  • Westbrook can be electric, but he's got a lot of learning to do. Fortunately, he gets to learn against the best point guard in college basketball. Much like every day practice against Farmar made Collison a terrific player, Collison's tutelage will help Westbrook improve. And just imagine the guard battles in practice next year with Westbrook, Holliday, Lee, and Anderson.
  • It's really weird watching these games with a clock and scoreboard on the screen.
  • Love just grabbed a board and made a two foot pass to Shipp. Tells me that he's not going to fire outlets to nowhere when the opportunities aren't there. He's got 18 and 11. First in a long line of double doubles.
  • I love Lo Mata-Real, but it's going to be really nice to have a center that you can play on both the offensive and defensive end late in games. Love can make free throws.
  • I can't stop thinking about depth. Their second team (RW, Roll, Chace, Aboya, Lo) would be a heck of a starting five in most conferences. And that doesn't even factor in Keefe or Dragovic. Good God, this can be a freaking 12 man rotation!!
  • An addendum to the last bullet, the top ranked recruit from the Roll, Collison, LRMAM, Aboya class isn't even with the team anymore. Ryan Wright was the "stud" from that class.
  • Westbrook's offense isn't quite as "instant" when he starts. But when DC gets back, he's going to be a super-sub who can fill in a for a few games at a time. This experience is invaluable.
  • Game over. UCLA wins handily. It's not a 50 point win like Duke put up, but then again, Howland doesn't leave his starters in up by 40 with 30 seconds to play.
So that's that. 69-48. K-Love was pretty solid. 22 points, 13 boards. The last Bruins with similar debut numbers was T.J. Cummings. The difference between Love and Cummings is that Kevin's not afraid to get paint on his shoes. I've never seen a player with T.J.'s size who was so reluctant to go anywhere near the basket.

Win. Experience. On to bigger things.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

All Kinds of Stuff

Just to catch up, I thought I'd throw a bunch of different subjects into one post. I gotta admit, the fact that I'm on some blogrolls kind of increases the pressure to catch up once in a while, and I've been slacking, so I'll do this in the order of importance.

UCLA Football

Honestly, it's gotten so bad lately that I've started to head toward the worst possible dimension of fandom: Apathy. Any other season and I would have been at a bar watching Saturday's game. But this week I had a played in a golf tournament on Saturday morning, checked the score on the way home, commiserated with my dad, and really had no interest in keeping track of the finish.

This is a team with 20 returning starters, all recruited by Dorrell, and they are going to fail to get to a bowl game. Think about that for a minute. A team that started the year ranked 11th, with 20 starters back, and they aren't even going to get to a bowl game. And they haven't even played the tough part of their schedule yet. They've played one good team (and beat them). They've lost to Utah, Arizona, Washington State, and the coup de grace, arguably the worst Notre Dame team in history. I'm not quite sure what it takes for the Athletic Department to realize that a new direction is needed, but it seems like Dorrell's record should speak for itself.

I really can't see them winning any of their last three games. Maybe ASU if they get lucky, but that's a stretch. The only real drama remaining is when Dan Guerrero is going to announce Dorrell's dismissal, and who will be tabbed to replace him. Brace yourself for disappointment on that second front. The financial realities at a public university in California dictate that UCLA won't be able to spend top dollar. I'm not quite sure what that leaves. Perhaps an up and comer with whom they can catch lightning in a bottle. But personally, I wouldn't mind seeing Norm Chow take over.

UCLA Basketball

It's early, and some guys are nursing injuries, but hey, they look like they're going to be pretty good, huh? Honestly, I don't have much to say on them at this point, since every bit of information I get is second hand. I'll have more to say once they start to show up on my TEEVEE.

That said, I'm not particularly concerned about the early injuries, especially the injury to Collison. UCLA is back to a position where March is what matters, and while I don't want anyone to get hurt, the worst part about a Collison injury is less wear and tear on Darren, and more experience for Russell Westbrook. That seems to me like a pretty good silver lining. They're as deep this year as they've ever been. Mike Roll's injury will provide more experience for Nikola Dragovic, and that depth is going to be paramount throughout a tough conference season. Any team that can only roll six or seven guys during conference season this year is going to be in big trouble in the Tournament. There will be very little left in their tank.

Illinois Basketball

I have even less to say about the Illini hoops team than I did about UCLA. We're going to be OK, not great, and probably a bubble team at best. But Bruce Weber always gets everything out of his talent, and because of that, I'd say they're also a bubble team at worst. They'll be competitive every night. A lot of new faces will be getting minutes. How many of those minutes I'll see is open question, since Comcast and the Big Ten Network are still duking it out.

Kings Hockey

These guys are fun to watch. They're young, skilled, and over the last few weeks, they've really been competitive. Hopefully they're getting a little confidence that can carry them through to at least a position to contend for a playoff spot. The new faces, save for Brad Stuart (who has kind of sucked so far) seem to be melding nicely, and Mike Cammalleri has been awesome so far. But no one comes here to read about the Kings.


To A-Rod, or not to A-Rod? I guess it all depends on what he's asking for and if there's any team out there who is likely to give it to him. There's not much question that he would fill a need which may or not be filled by a healthy Dallas McPherson. Obviously the levels of production are hugely disparate, but so are the salaries involved. It's not my money, so I guess Arte can spend it or not spend it however he wants. I'm not going to be heartbroken if the Angels don't reel him in.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Last Coming Attractions For A While

Going to see the Broken West with a couple of other bands tonight at Schuba's. I think they're up second, and I'll probably just take off after their set. They will become the first band I've ever seen four times in the same year.

So It Goes (Live)

So It Goes (Acoustic)

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Now that I think about it

Maybe the offense doesn't work better with Pat Cowan. They're about to accomplish nothing against arguably the worst team in the Pac 10.

UCLA flat out sucks. They have no heart, they have very little talent, and they have no idea how to use what little talent they have. They are being outplayed in every single facet of the game. Pat Cowan has just thrown his 14th incomplete pass in his last 20 attempts.

Firing Karl Dorrell won't be a sure fire cure, but damn it it won't be a step in the right direction.

Only one word describes this team: Pathetic. Everyone associated with UCLA football ought to be ashamed of themselves.

Looks like the Thinker will have to fire a few more coordinators, because that's been really successful over the last few years. All the best teams have new offensive defensive coordinators every year.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Rogue Wave: A Quick Recap

  • Port O'Brien opened, and they were perhaps the most polite band I've ever seen. And their music was decent too.
  • Third time I've seen Rogue Wave. The first was when they opened for AC Newman at the since closed Bottom Lounge. Saw them again a couple years ago at the Troubador, and they were really solid live. Last night was no different. For a band that took a lot of time off, they haven't lost their stage chops.
  • It didn't dawn on me until late in the show when Zach Rogue introduced the rest of the band, but Patrick Abernathy, who played bass, used to play with Beulah as well. I thought he looked familiar. We had a nice little chat about it after the show.
  • I'm not really one for yelling out song requests, but last night I was about 9 inches from the stage. Zach Rogue, the last two times I've seen him, has started the encore with a solo acoustic number. At the Troubador, it was Man, Revolutionary, and it was great. So I didn't so much yell as say it really softly, but loud enough for Zach to hear, as he was a few feet away. Right after, a guy about 10 feet behind me yelled for the same song. The conversation (my first ever in-show banter) then went like this:
    • Me: See, he wants to hear it too.
    • Zach (jokingly): I'll screw that one up.
    • Me: But you played it so well at the Troubador a couple years ago.
    • Zach (laughing): That's probably the last time I played it.
  • Decent set. 12 songs, and a four song encore. Except for the encore, this set list is actually complete and in order, a stark contrast to the normal incomplete and out of order set list. Don't get used to it. It's only because I was close enough to grab a copy of the list after the show:
    • Like I Needed
    • Harmonium
    • Every Moment (but in a different time signature, which quite frankly, I didn't care for as much)
    • Lullaby
    • Sewn Up
    • Ghost
    • Christians in Black
    • Publish My Love
    • Nourishment Nation
    • Chicago x12
    • Bird on a Wire
    • Lake Michigan
    • Postage Stamp World
    • Kicking the Heart Out
They're supposed to be back in the next few months, which would be cool. They really put on a nice show, and it's always money well spent.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

UC Berkely 21; UCLA 29

Thought I'd get some thoughts down on this one before I get too drunk to remember what happened:
  • UCLA won this game despite both the coaching staff and the officiating. Every decision Karl Dorrell makes is the wrong decision. He's simply in over his head as a game coach. How on earth do you burn a timeout to set up a fourth and one play, then run the crappy "try to draw them off" BS that they ended up running? The man is not a good head coach, and he should have been fired right after that play.
  • The officials were awful. First they needed 10 minutes to review a play that never should have been reviewed in the first place. They called UCLA for an offensive pass interference call that even the guys in the truck couldn't find on a replay. They handed Berkeley a touchdown on a play where Desean Jackson never actually caught the ball. And somehow six referees didn't see a trip in full speed that a million viewers did. It was the most obvious trip call I've ever seen. It cost UCLA a first down, possibly a touchdown, and almost the game.
  • The run defense was awesome. They dominated Justin Forsett for the majority of the game, and Berkeley really only ran the ball well out of the shutgun. The run defense was one of the major difference makers today.
  • There's something about Pat Cowan that just makes the team play better. I can't explain it. Apparently it doesn't come through in practice. It may have nothing to do with his physical ability, but there's something about the way the team plays when he's in the game that works better than when Ben Olson is in the game. I really like Ben Olson, and I was jazzed when he committed to UCLA, but the team simply moves the ball better with Cowan. And it's probably just coincidence, but the defense seems to have played better when Cowan's been in there as well.
  • Berkeley is a very good team, but they run a pro-style offense, which the Bruins can handle. It's the tricky stuff that gets them, and today, the defense won the game. Although the turnover battle was relatively even, Berkeley's were bigger, and obviously the ATV interception return at the end was the difference. The Horton pick was nice, but unnecessary.
  • I don't have the numbers in front of me, but it seems that one big difference today from what we've seen lately were negative plays, or a lack thereof. Cowan excelled today in two key areas: he didn't turn the ball over with ill-advised throws, or tipped passes that become picks, and at worst, he got the ball back to the line of scrimmage. It's a little thing, often overlooked, but there's a big difference between 2nd and 10 and 2nd and 15, especially with their limitations when it comes to gaining yards in chunks. Cowan gets the ball back the line of scrimmage, and that makes a big difference.
  • Like or not, the Bruins are 4-0 in conference, though they close with their three toughest games. I'd love for them to win the Pac 10 and go to the Rose Bowl, but it probably means Dorrell will come back. I'm not sure how I feel about that. I mean, I want him gone, but I can't root for the Bruins to lose. Maybe they'll face the Illini, who will then kill UCLA and get Dorrell fired. That may be the best possible end to the season. I could live with that.

The Raveonettes: A Quick Recap

  1. First time I've been to the Empty Bottle. Strange little configuration, but really intimate, and the sound was very good. Parking wasn't too bad either, and the beer was relatively cheap.
  2. Two opening acts. The first, Gliss, was kind of SoCal psychedelic rock, sort of droning at times. Power trio, in which pretty much all three members played every instrument at one point, though I don't think the girl ever played guitar. They played for about 45-50 minutes, which was about 10-15 minutes too long in my opinion.
  3. Nicole Atkins & the Sea followed, and she's really hot. She's also got an excellent voice, bordering on classical trying to sing pop, but she makes it work really well. Her set was shorter, and apparently cut off by about 5-10 minutes as the hour was running late. It was almost midnight by the time she finished. I'm definitely going to check out her stuff, though. New album next week, and she'll be on Letterman. Her somewhat Rat-Pack era crooning complemented the Raveonettes' style really well. Also, I didn't take this picture.
  4. You pretty much know what you're going to get with the Raveonettes. The songs are rarely going to last more than three minutes. You're going to get 50s-60s surf rock/motown style melodies. You're going to get two part harmonies sung by Sune Rose Wagner and the lovely Sharin Foo. And you're going to leave the place absolutely dripping in feedback. It's not a particularly difficult formula. Everything you hear will sound like something you've heard before, perhaps even earlier that night. But there is something to be said for knowing your gameplan and sticking to it. They do what they do incredibly well, and they pack a ton of energy into an hour and twenty minutes.
  5. When I first saw them a few years ago, they had a full band. They also demolished my earlier skepticism with an amazing set that's still one of the highlights of all of the live shows I've been to over the last few years. Tonight they had only the two aforementioned members, plus a drummer, whose name I can't locate anywhere, who stood behind only a tom and snare like the drummer in those old Jesus and Mary Chain videos (not sure if that was Bobby Gillespie or not). She also programmed the machine that piped in the bass, as there was no bass player. Economical lineup for a tour undertaken to preview the new material. Hopefully they'll have the full crew again when the support the new album, do sometime in the next couple months.
  6. The incomplete and out of order setlist is really incomplete and out of order this time, since I don't know much of the new stuff, and I'm writing this the next day. The memories fade. Here it is:
    1. Remember
    2. That Great Love Sound
    3. Noisy Summer (really great live)
    4. Let's Rave On
    5. Chain Gang of Love
    6. Attack of the Ghost Riders
    7. Do You Believe Her
    8. My Tornado (I think)
    9. Black Satin
    10. Blush
    11. Lust
    12. Love in a Trashcan
    13. Red Tan
    14. Here Comes Mary

They played a couple more than that, but I can't remember which ones. Disappointed they didn't play either Twilight or You Say You Lie, which were really off the charts the last time I saw them play. They also didn't play Heartbreak Stroll, which I like a lot.

As it turned out, they went on late enough that I probably could have caught New Pornographers again at the Metro, and made it over to the Empty Bottle in time for the Raveonettes' set and still found a good spot to stand, but such is life, I guess. Also, Nicole Atkins was a bit of a revelation, so that's a silver lining. Looking forward to the new material.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

New Pornographers: A Quick Recap

This is for the Thursday, 10/18 show at the Metro. Due to my inability to read a calendar, I also have a ticket for tomorrow night's show (10/19), but I won't be going due to the Raveonettes being in town. Anyway:
  • The most awesomest part of the evening was seeing the lineup take the stage. I wasn't even sure if Neko Case would be on the tour. She usually is when they play their main Chicago show, but she's got her own deal, and Kathryn Calder can pick up the slack, as she did at Pitchfork. But Neko played, and that wasn't even the best part. The band was in Full Bejar tonight. Wasn't sure I'd ever see another set with him, but apparently he's on this tour. Dan Bejar is pretty freaking awesome, though I don't think he was too jazzed about the Metro being smoke free.
  • Honestly, I've heard them play a little tighter. After the first Bejar song (Myriad Harbor, I think, but that could be wrong), Carl Newman's vocals sounded a little off for some reason, probably mic related. Also, he forgot the words to part of song early in the set. Can't remember which one (it's not like I take notes or anything). Still, they know how to entertain. So even at less than their best, they're still fantastic.
  • Speaking of Kathryn Calder, she really provides a nice visual distraction. Not that Neko is anything to sneeze at, but Kathryn Calder is really enjoyable to look at. I was about 10 feet from the stage, more or less in the middle of the room, and by the time NP went on, I had maneuvered into an area where I could see the whole stage, except for maybe Todd Fancey.
  • I'm not really one for a lot of audience participation. I like to move around a bit and enjoy the beat, and sometimes I'll sing along quietly to myself, but I don't usually go in for stuff like handclapping and whatnot. But I've go to admit, I clapped along to Spirit of Giving in the "Cloud prayer Mary, come on" part. I just got caught up in the total Bejarness of the evening.
  • Emma Pollock was really good, and I'll probably be downloading or buying her debut CD at some point. I never really listened to the Delgados, but I like her solo stuff a lot. And she's got a bitchin Scottish accent.
  • Here's the incomplete and out of order setlist. They opened with "All things...." and the last three songs in the setlist are in order. That was the encore:
  1. All the Things That Go to Make Heaven and Earth
  2. Mass Romantic
  3. Electric Version
  4. The Laws Have Changed
  5. Testament to Youth in Verse
  6. Twin Cinema
  7. Use It
  8. Bleeding Heart Show
  9. Jackie Dressed in Cobras
  10. Sing Me Spanish Techno
  11. My Rights Vs. Yours
  12. All the Old Showstoppers
  13. Challengers
  14. Myriad Harbor
  15. Go Places
  16. Adventures in Solitude
  17. Spirit of Giving
  18. Execution Day
  19. From Blown Speakers
  20. My Slow Descent into Alcholism
Personal disappointments include failures to play Graceland, Ballad of A Comeback Kid, and everyone always wants to hear Letter From an Occupant. Also, any additional Bejar would have been appreciated. Oh, and Mutiny I Promised You. But it's tough to complain about an hour and half set, and 20 songs. They always give everyone their money's worth.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Spoon: A Quick Recap

  1. First time at the Riviera. It's right around the corner from the Aragon, and they're both very convenient for me by train, which is nice. It's kind of like the Vic, only bigger. Not so much side to side, but it extends back farther, and the balcony is larger. But if you get their early enough to see the opening act (I was there about 10 minutes before they started), you can get up pretty close on the main floor.
  2. Ponies: They were OK. Better than Liars. Somewhat entertaining, but I was tired, and I just wanted Spoon to start.
  3. Spoon, not surprisingly, were very good. They've been at this a while now, and they now how to put on a good show. They played for about an hour and ten minutes, left briefly, and did a three song encore.
  4. Interestingly, they played the initial set album to album. Nothing from Telephono, which is kind of a bummer, but they played two from Series of Sneaks, and then proceeded to go through each album playing three to six songs before the set ended. As such, the out of order setlist isn't as out of order as usual.
  5. Incomplete and out of order setlist:
    1. Utilitarian (opened with this)
    2. The Minor Toughs
    3. Anything You Want
    4. Me and The Bean
    5. Fitted Shirt
    6. Small Stakes
    7. Stay Don't Go
    8. Someone Something
    9. Vittorio E.
    10. Johnathan Fisk
    11. Beast and Dragon Adored
    12. I Summon You
    13. I Turn My Camera On
    14. Two Sides of Monsieur Valentine
    15. Don't Make Me a Target
    16. The Ghost of You Lingers
    17. Don't You Evah
    18. Rhythm and Soul
    19. You Got Yr Cherry Bomb
    20. Black Like Me
    21. The Underdog
    22. Chicago at Night
    23. The Way We Get By (closed with this)
I would like to have heard My Mathematical Mind and Finer Feelings. And I'd love to someday hear them do stuff off of Telephono. I have a feeling that people who have discovered Spoon recently would be surprised at what their early stuff sounds like, especially stuff like Not Turning Off, Nefarious, and Government Darling. Would like to have heard Car Radio and The Guestlist/the Execution from Sneaks as well. But there's only so much time.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Interpol: A Quick Recap

  1. The Aragon Ballroom sucks. Sure, it's nice looking inside, but the acoustics are downright awful. I knew this, of course, after seeing the Pixies there about three years ago, but we were way in the back, so I was willing to give it the benefit of the doubt. Tonight I was in the center, about 15-20 in front of the mixing board, and about 30 feet from the stage. The sound still sucked.
  2. Liars - sorry but I just couldn't get into these guys. I'm willing to forgo structure at times. It can work. For me, it didn't work with these guys.
  3. Interpol, sound problems aside, put on an entertaining show. Nice effects on stage. Good timing of the set. They played for an hour, a good mix of all three albums, and did a three song encore. Good stage presence, as one would expect from a band with their experience. Not a ton of rapport with the crowd, which kind of fits their image, and also is more what one would expect in a bigger venue. Remember, I don't go to places this big very often. Capacity is 4,500 people. By contrast, the biggest venue I visit more frequently is the Vic, which holds less than 1/3 the people that the Aragon holds, and even that's a bit large for my tastes.
  4. Here's the incomplete and out of order setlist:
    1. Untitled
    2. Obstacle 1
    3. PDA (they closed with it)
    4. Say Hello to the Angels
    5. Stella Was a Diver and She's Always Down
    6. Evil
    7. Narc
    8. Take You on a Cruise
    9. Slow Hands
    10. Not Even Jail
    11. C'mere
    12. Pioneer to the Falls (opened with this)
    13. No I in Threesome
    14. The Scale
    15. The Heinrich Maneuver
    16. Mammoth
    17. Rest My Chemistry
Ultimately, though, it was worth it. It was the first time I've seen them, so I can't complain. Off to the Riviera tomorrow for Spoon.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

More Coming Attractions

Interpol @ The Aragon - October 11th
"Mammoth" from Our Love to Admire

Spoon @ The Riviera - October 12th
"You Got Yr Cherry Bomb" from Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga

New Pornographers @ Metro - October 18th
"My Slow Descent Into Alchoholism" from Mass Romantic

The Raveonettes @ the Empty Bottle - October 19th
"That Great Love Sound" from Chain Gang of Love

Rogue Wave @ Double Door - October 24th
"Publish My Love" from Descended Like Vultures

Monday, October 08, 2007

Notes from a lost weekend

I was at home in L.A. over the weekend for the UCLA v. Notre Dame debacle. I don't really want to say very much about anything, but:
  • Karl Dorrell may be the dumbest person on the face of the earth. What kind of idiot takes a freshman, walk-on QB and 1) makes him go with an empty backfield on 4th and 1, and 2) makes him throw for a first down on 3rd and 6 from his own five yard line against a team that is pretty pathetic, and could not move the ball on offense? He should have been fired right after that play.
  • People can second guess Mike Scioscia all they want, but the only true mistake was not having Jered Weaver plant one in David Ortiz's ear, followed up by a fastball in Manny Ramirez's ear. They both should have gone down, and gone down hard. Until someone pays a heavy price, expect Vlad to keep getting drilled.
  • I'm not going to dwell too much on the loss. I think the Red Sox are an excellent team, and probably better than the Angels when the Angels are at full strength. When the Angels are less than full strength, the Red Sox are a lot better, and unfortunately, the Angels were less than full strength. That's not an excuse, but it would have been nice to see both teams with their full line ups intact.
  • As they currently line up, with no changes, the Angels are still the best team in the West, and outside of someone making a major splash, they will be the odds on favorite to win the West again next year. It will be interesting to see what they do in the off-season. There will be calls to get a big bat, and those people won't be wrong. Still, if they can get a full season out of Juan Rivera (assuming they bring him back), that will be a major upgrade at DH/OF. I expect progressions from Kendrick and Kotchman, regressions from Figgins and Cabrera, and roughly the same from everyone else.
  • I won't say he's a key for next year, because I think they'll win the division regardless, but next year is probably a make or break year for Ervin Santana. He's got the ability. The question is whether he can put it together. There's nobody waiting to take his place. He's got no excuses.
  • Thanks to the Kings for providing a crappy ending to a truly shitty day on Saturday.
  • At least the Cubs lost. And the Illini won.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

On the Plus Side, It Didn't Take Long

The Angels picked up where they left off in 2005, unable to mount any offense, but you've got to hand it to Beckett. He was very impressive. They can talk all they want about making him work, but the guy was firing strikes all night, and the only thing you accomplish by taking pitches is getting yourself behind in the count. We've all seen the Angels struggle against mediocre pitching before, but that wasn't the case tonight. Remember, Beckett has a pretty stellar post-season history, so it's not like they got shut down by John Garland.

Still, the offense certainly didn't inspire confidence. They haven't really seen Dice-K yet. Usually you figure that matchup goes to the pitcher, but anything can happen.

With luck, Rivera will be able to play the outfield on Friday, allowing either Willits or Izturis to head to the bench. Either would have been preferable to Aybar in a pinch hitting role tonight.

Other positives: Lackey sharpened up considerably after his rough start, which couldn't have surprised anyone. But it's a reason for optimism if they can get this to a fourth game. Of course, that means Beckett again, but at this point, I'd take it. Santana also looked terrific in his relief role. The off-day tomorrow could be huge in that it will allow him to pitch in game five if a) Escobar's shoulder doesn't hold up, or b) the Sox force him into 100 pitches through five innings, both or which aren't particularly improbable.

And hey, they lost game one every time in 2002. Not over yet.

A Fine Series Preview

Or at least, a fine example of a preview that picks against the Angels, yet is still well thought out and researched, and concludes that, surprise, a team with a better record and a much better run differential is better than their opponent. Contrary to some people who have their heads up their asses, I'm not the Pollyanna you may have thought I was.

Baker's preview is flawed with respect to the rosters he cites. Colon, Matthews, and Bootcheck will not see action for the Angels. But I think he best sums up the problems I have with certain other Angels bloggers is best summed up here:
Focusing on what they don’t do is a mistake that is often made when analyzing the Angels
All anyone asks for is balance. The Angels may not be as good as the Red Sox. They may be just as good. They may be better. But regardless of how they match up with the Sox, they are a very good team. A team that has good pitching, and despite certain individuals' love affair with peripherals, they finished fourth in the AL in runs scored. Not over a week. Not over a month. Over 162 games.

The best news, of course, is that this evening, they'll line up and play the game, and all of the whining can cease until after the series is over, when I'm sure Rob will point out how he was right about everything, win or lose.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Playoff Eve

As long time readers will no doubt already know, I'm nothing if not the most optimistic fan who's ever donned an Angels cap in support of his team. So before this gets started, let me warn you, I don't actually pick the Angels to win every single game. I mean, in most of the early round games they aren't even playing, so I have to choose between the teams that are. And you may want to sit down for this, but I actually think the Angels might lose a game or two. Crazy, I know.

But anyway, here goes:

Division Series

Cubs in four: I honestly couldn't care less about the National League, and despite the fact that I live in Chicago, I know almost nothing about either team. Still, it seems as if the Cubs are hot, and and I just can't buy into a team with a negative run differential on the season going very far.

Phillies in five: This has the potential to an amazing series, and a purists nightmares. hitters parks galore, and two teams who ended the season on fire to charge their way to the playoffs. Again, National League, don't really care. But this one might be fun to watch.

Indians in five: The Yankees offense steps up in games two and three to bring the Yankees to the verge of the ALCS, but the Indians find another gear in the last two games to take the series. Though I'll admit, part of me wants to see the Yankees win, with Alex Rodriguez leading the way. The guy one of the greatest players of this generation, and he's unfairly maligned for his performance in clutch situations. I wouldn't mind seeing him shake that.

Angels in four: They lose game one when Lackey falls victim to the Lackey inning. But Escobar dominates in game two, and Weaver and the pen hold off the Sox in game three, setting up Lackey's revenge. Yankees and Red Sox go home, giving the NHL a minor ratings boost as the country stops caring about baseball, except for the Cubs.

League Championship Series

Cubs in five: A surprisingly easy series as some guys do some good things for the Cubs, and some other guys do some not so good things for the Phillies. Sorry, but I really don't care for the National League.

Angels in seven: I really want to pick the Indians in this series, but I've been told that "Anything that casts doubt on the Angels is enough to get Seitz going." Because it's getting kind of late, I don't want to get myself going, so I should probably pick the Angels in this one. I think Ervin Santana will have to prove his mettle at least twice in this series, once as a starter and once as a reliever. I also have a hunch that Casey Kotchman will put up big power numbers, like three or four homers in one series, including one off a lefty. I have no basis for that, other than a hunch. But the Indians have played the Angels really tough all year, and in the games I've seen, they don't appear to be a team that can be out-smarted.

World Series

Angels in five: I'm kind of torn here, and really in the whole playoffs. Not who I want to win, or think will win. Rather, I'm torn over how I want the Cubs to lose. Would I prefer a four or five game thrashing, dashing the hopes of Cubs fans everywhere almost before the series gets started? Or would I rather the Cubs suffer another Bartmanesque collapse, putting half the city (my half) into a three week state of shock, one night likely to be broken by either the awful Bears or awful Blackhawks? It's a tough call. If you could guarantee me that the Angels would win in seven, my dream would be for the Angels to overcome a ten run deficit in the the night, sending the game to extra innings. In extra innings, the Cubs would take the lead every inning, only for the Angels to come back and tie the game again, until finally, a Reggie Willits grand slam gives the Angels a one run victory in the bottom of the sixteenth. Of course, such a loss would undoubtedly make Cubs fans more insufferable than they already are, and almost as insufferable as they'd be if they one the thing.

But ultimately, if I'm watching this series, I'd rather see a merciless drubbing. Double digit victories every night, except for one bone that we'll throw to the Cubs. Either way, hopefully my Angels hat will be good for free beers on the Southside next year.

So that's your forecast from the most optimistic Angels fan in Angels fan history.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Three Times in Four Years

The Angels won three division titles in the first 30 years of my life. They've now won three in the last four. I know when it comes to blogging the Angels, I've kind of been a bit negligent this season, and I have no real explanation for that, other than apathy. But rest assured, I've followed this team as closely as all the others, and though the clinch was a bit anti-climactic (yet what we'd all hope for - a week without pressure before the playoffs), it feels good to be an Angels fan tonight, much as it has for the last five years.

We're all extraordinarily fortunate to be Angels fans at this point in the team's history. We're witnessing the era of an owner who, if not perfect, is certainly as close as a baseball owner can be to perfect. We have a GM and Manager, both with their flaws, but both incredibly well suited to running this club at this time. I grew up when Tommy Lasorda was managing the Dodgers, and it seemed like he was there forever. Before him, it was Walter Alston. All the while, the Angels were cycling through managers like there was no tomorrow. Gene Autry, God bless him, ran the team like there was no tomorrow as well, constantly mortgaging the future for the present. And while they almost succeeded, the success was always fleeting, ultimately leading to the dark ages between 1987 and 2001.

But fate has finally smiled on us, and today we get to root for an organization not only dedicated to winning today, but tomorrow as well. We have an owner dedicated to providing not only a quality team, but a quality entertainment experience. We have players we don't have to be ashamed of rooting for. At least 15 spots on the post-season roster will go to players who have never worn a different major league uniform. And the best part? No matter what happens over the next month, the team should be just as good next year.

So enjoy this one today. Relax for a week. Maybe pop open a bottle of this stuff like I just did, and gear up for October. Congratulations, Angels.