Friday, December 31, 2010

Killer Parties

We here at CSD headquarters have been fans of The Hold Steady for years, but have yet to see them in concert (it is one of our new year's resolutions for 2011). In the meantime, bitchingly awesome YouTube videos like this one will have to hold us over . . . if we ever do get to see them in concert, we hope they end their show exactly like this.

Its true - it IS like Marrekesh over here.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Post-Holiday Links

The AV Club's discussion of their favorite books of the year is strong, as usual. Be sure to check out blogmigo Ellen Wernecke's selections, Jonathan Franzen's Freedom and Berhnard Schlink's The Weekend.

On the other hand, NPR.org, pop culture critic Linda Holmes discusses her 50 favorite things of 2010, a refreshing alternative to the most specifically media-centered "listicles" that are published at this time of year.

On The New Yorker's book blog, "The Book Bench," James Wood, arguably America's leading liteary critic, discusses his favorite books of the year.

The New York Times' 10th Annual "Year In Ideas" feature was very cool.

Law and the Multiverse - Some serious nerd brain power was invested in creating this, a study of how American constitutional principles would apply to the crimes and punishments Marvel and D.C. comic book characters receive in their respective universes. (Hat Tip: Inspector Frank Bumstead)

Four of the six bloggers on this site are natives of upstate New York, home to America's three snowiest cities.

And, finally, Santa Claus brought the CSD staffers Kindle 3Gs for Christmas. If we had known that Amazon was just about to introduce its lending application, and that Project Gutenberg had so many classics available for free in its online catalog, we might have asked for them sooner!

Finally, Kanye West's My Dark Twisted Fantasy has been in heavy rotation at CSD headquaters lately. It is the work of an eccentric genius, as is his ridiculous 35-minute omnibus music video medley that he somehow manages to pull off:

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Springsteen performs "Because The Night" on Jimmy Fallon

The E Street Band may be the best backing band in the history of rock and roll, but, really, if Bruce Springsteen wants to record a couple of albums with The Roots, that would be more than OK with me.Note: This performance is more than a month old, but I just saw the video on YouTube for the first time today, after The AV Club posted it as part of its excellent "Best of TV 2010" feature.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Weekend Links

NPR blogger (and former Sleater-Kinney guitar hero) Carrie Brownstein discusses her eleven favorite albums of 2010.

The AV Club's feature on the best movies of 2010 was excellent, as usual.

This is almost certainly a hoax, but funny nonetheless.

NPR's "Stop Me Before I Facebook Again" was an interesting story on social networking and its effect on productivity.

This local news story about "electronic pickpocketing" was pretty disturbing.

In the United Kingdom, Morrissey and Johnny Marr have banned Prime Minister David Cameron from liking them, due to the changes the Prime Minister is making to laws regulating hunting. When asked about it during the Prime Minister's questions on the floor of Parliament, the Prime Minister responded with what can only be described as one of the most British moments of all-time:

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Don't Ask, Don't Tell Close To Being Repealed

The Senate has voted to cut off debate on Don't Ask, Don't Tell, which, translated out of parliamentary jargon, means that the coast is clear for President Obama to officially end the policy, which was first enacted under President Clinton. In the words of Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, "I don't care who you love, if you love this country enough to risk your life for it, you shouldn't have to hide who you are."

So, in the spirit of the day, let's post this immediately iconic video of soldiers in Iraq creating a new music video for Lady Gaga's "Telephone."

Friday, December 17, 2010

The "Little Drummer Boy" Duet Is Not Too Old To Parody

Will Farrell and John C. Reilly recently got together to parody/re-enact the famous David Bowie/Bing Crosby duet from Bing Crosby's 1977 Christmas special, Bing Crosby's Merrie Olde Christmas.

Its difficult to believe the Bowie/Crosby duet ever happened - even thirty-three years after it was released, it just seems weird.

Here's the original:

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Another of the Few Christmas Songs I Can Get Behind

Christmas music is always best when its heartfelt and when it rocks. Bruce Springsteen's cover of "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town," recorded during the Darkness on the Edge of Town tour at the justifiably famous Passaic, New Jersey concert, is both of those things and more.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The AV Club's Year-End Top 25 List

Last week, the AV Club published its list of the twenty-five best albums of the year, as determined by a poll of their thirteen music writers. In an interesting follow-up feature, the AV Club's thirteen music writers show their individual ballots, as well as their honorable mentions. The next day, Kyle Ryan, Josh Modell, and Steven Hyden get together on a podcast to speak in-depth about the top ten albums from the AV Club's year-end list, the biggest surprises of the year, and bands they love whose 2010 releases were not as good as their previous albums. This was a great year for music, with substantial releases from the best acts around (The National, Arcade Fire, Kanye West, The Walkmen, The Drive-By Truckers, The Hold Steady, etc.) and comebacks from some old favorites, like Superchunk, Verses, and John Mellencamp.

I look forward to the AV Club's best-of-the-year lists, because the first couple of years they did them, 2004, 2005, and 2006, were both extraordinarily good years for music, which happened to coincide with my being in graduate school, living in a college town with indie radio stations and hip record stores, and winter breaks in which I could catch up all of the music I had missed during the previous year. Those lists introduced me to The National, The Hold Steady, and The Walkmen, among others, for which I will be eternally greatful to the AV Club.

Looking at those lists with five or six years of hindsight, it is noteworthy that The Hold Steady had albums on the top ten lists all three years, as did Neko Case, either by herself or with the New Pornographers. To crack the top ten three years in a row, in years as good as those, is remarkable. Other than Bob Dylan and The Beatles, has any band released three albums in three years as good as Almost Killed Me, Separation Sunday, and Boys and Girls in America? Or Fox Confessor Brings the Flood, Twin Cinema, and The Tigers Have Spoken? Spread out among even more different groups, Jenny Lewis release her solo album Rabbit Fur Coat, in addition to being in Rilo Kiley (More Adventurous) and The Postal Service (Give Up).

Those three years also had a lot of great albums by bands that seemed as if they would never go away, like Bloc Party, The Streets, Snow Patrol, and We Are Scientists, who careers, for one reason or another, have derailed. Just a great couple of years for music.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

She & Him on Conan

She & Him was on Conan last weekend, and covered "I Put A Spell On You," of all songs. I've loved She & Him since I first heard them (and Zooey for years before that, for . . . obvious reasons) but, since they've always specialized in cute little upbeat 60's-pop-inspired songs and the occasional sad "I'm a beautiful girl pretending to have trouble with love," seeing them cover (and put a distinctive stamp on) a classic "standard" was a revelation.


And, just for the internet, a back-stage video of She & Him singing "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" with Conan O'Brien accompanying them on acoustic guitar. The adorablitiy (?) is off the charts.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Weekend Links (Particularlly Wordy Version)

New York Magazine called my attention to the fact that Get Your War On, the funniest and most depressing web-based cartoon I've ever read, is publishing new cartoons for the first time in almost a year. Paul Smecker introduced me to this comic seven years ago, and its sad that, seven years later, Operation Enduring Freedom is still in the motherfucking house.

8yearoldsdude found a terrific list of "culturally untranslateable phrases," some of which need to be read to be believed.

The A.V. Club cut ties with freelance critic Leonard Pierce, who reviewed a comic book without having read it. He was found out because . . . the comic isn't even finished yet, let alone released. Yikes. Pierce reviewed books, music, comic books, and movies for the AV Club, and was one of the contributors to Wrapped Up In Books, the AV Club's excellent montly book club.

Lauren Bush, George W. Bush's neice and former fashion model, just got engaged to David Lauren, heir to the Ralph Lauren fashion fortune/empire. Yes, this means that, potentially, her new name is "Lauren Lauren," and the fact that the two names are pronounced differently will be of little consolation. Presumably, she'll keep the last name Bush, because who wouldn't want to be named after those guys? (Thanks for the words: Jenny Liebman).

Community's stop-motion claymation Christmas special was incredible. In our view, Community has taken over the mantle of the funniest sitcom on television from 30 Rock and, before that, The Office and Curb Your Enthusiasm. That means that, for the record, the lovely and talented Alison Brie stars in arguably the best drama (Mad Men) and the best sitcom (Community) on television.

This weekend, special lady friend Amber Waves and I had dinner at Veselka, a coffee shop and Ukranian restaurant in Manhattan's East Village, known for its pierogies, stuffed cabbage, borscht, and other eastern European comfort foods. Highly recommended. It now sells a cookbook that would make a terrific Christmas present for people who enjoy that sort of food, which is everybody.

Artist and bassist Jay Ryan sat down with the AV Club and discussed the music in his iPod, all of which has played on the 29-speaker Bose sound system at CSD headquarters at one time or another. The man's got good taste!

And finally, just because its awesome (and stuck in my head yet again):

Just to prove I'm not A TOTAL Grinch

Because I tend to be a bit of a hater when it comes to Christmas music and decorations, and because, for different reasons, Julian Casablancas and The Roots have been on my mind lately (the "Boombox" video and the outstanding album How I Got Over, respectively), I figured I would post one of my favorite Christmas videos, from an episode of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon that aired last December.

There's a lot to love about this video - a great vocal from Casablancas, The Roots performing so much better than Casablancas' actual band that they remind you once again that they are, arguably, the best band in America today. Also, watching the show live, before you knew that Julian Casablancas was going to be on, you see the beginning of the skit as a callback to this old Saturday Night Live skit before ?uestlove's drumming comes in from off-screen and the camera pans over to the stage as the surprised audience cheers. Very cool.

"I Wish It Was Christmas Today" is an example of the type of Christmas song that I enjoy - it isn't religious, but it about looking forward to the holiday, and enjoying the Christmas spirit. It is not a love song or a break-up song or a pity song masquerading as a Christmas song. Also, just as a general rule, Christmas music sounds a lot better when its performed by Julian Casablancas and The Roots, because they both totally own.

Friday, December 10, 2010

"Boombox" Is a Thing?

The CSD staff are big fans of The Strokes and Saturday Night Live, so we were surprised to find this video, featuring The Strokes' lead singer Julian Casablancas and SNL cast member (and digital short specialist) Andy Samberg, which, since it already has more than 11.5-million viewers, has apparently been around for a while. Admittedly, we're a little late to the party, but, fortunately, as a retro electro-pop parody, timeliness isn't particularly important - the late 80's music it references isn't changing itself any time soon, and its throw-away jokes, about the trendiness of fingerless gloves and a Spanish guy doing The Bartman, hold up over repeat viewings. Well played, sirs.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

It Takes Alison Brie to Make "Santa Baby" Palatable

I've gone on the record many times about my dislike of pop Christmas music, particularly those songs that are really love songs or break-up songs or . . . greed songs, that do not have anything to do with the religious holiday that is supposed to be the whole point of the enterprise.

"Santa Baby" is just such a song - its basically a song about a gold digger, and just uses Christmas as a way in. Also, it turns the otherwise-perfectly-find word "chimney" into a euphamism for "vagina."

Having said all of that . . . I don't mind this song when Alison Brie sings it, because Alison Brie is perfect. She has important roles in the best drama (Mad Men) and the best comedy currently on television (Community). And she's adorable. So, um, you may want to check this out:

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Weekend Links

The New York Times has released its list of the Ten Best Books of the Year.

The New Yorker's John Cassidy on Wall Street's social utility, or lack thereof.

Roger Ebert's terrific series of essays on "The Great Movies" are now collected in one place. Useful resource for movie buffs.

The British Literary Review has named the winner of its annual "worst sex writing contest" for 2010. As NPR says, "if only all bad sex were this fictional!"

The Painted Area had a good post on Monday about how the San Antonio Spurs' hot start is fueled by a fast-paced offense, which is unusual for the tradionally defensive-minded team.

The AV Club discusses bands you need to see live in order to fully appreciate. To nobody's surprise, I vote for The National.

A Swedish statistician named Hans Rosling has an interesting animation to show how the quality of life and average lifespan of the different nations of the world. Its surprisingly cool:

Friday, December 3, 2010

Whiskey. Tango. Foxtrot.

This video is from the "random for randomness' sake" school of irony, but some of the former celebrities it digs up (Roger Moore?? Theo Huxtable??) have been out of the public eye for so long that its just good to see them again, even if they are selling their remaining dignity in order to sing along to an over-the-top cover of "Let It Be."