Music That Doesn't Suck: 2014 Edition

It's pretty much impossible to find any kind of unbiased "best of" list, so let's not pretend this is anything other than what it really is: a list of music that I have listened to this year that I liked. In fact, some of it was released prior to 2014 but I hadn't heard it until this year. But whatever.

So with that, here's my 2014 list of music that doesn't suck. Please note that Taylor Swift is not on this list. Interpret that how you'd like.

Honorable Mention: Strange Desire (Bleachers)



 

Strange Desire gets an honorable mention on this list because of the fact that I just started listening to it within the past week. I haven't decided yet if it's as good as I think it is or if the newness of it will wear off at some point. My brother shared this album with me and prefaced it by saying it sounds like listening to the radio in 1986.

Perfect.



10. Turn It Out (Playdough & DJ Sean P)



 

When I first stumbled across the title track from this EP, I was immediately hooked. The track was used to open an episode of the Sphere of Hip-Hop podcast and rather than listen to the whole episode, I just kept playing the first few minutes repeatedly.

Plain and simple, this is good hip-hip.



9. You Still on Earth? (L.A. Symphony)



 

Speaking of hip-hop, I've been a big Pigeon John fan for years which has introduced me to Flynn Adam and other artists who used to be part of the L.A. Symphony crew. When I heard that L.A. Symphony was getting back together for a new album, I was sold.



8. Beautiful Men in an Ugly Town (My God, The Heat)



 

A couple of the guys from the (Good Year) Pimps put this band together a few years ago but I never gave it much of a listen until this year. Not as heavy as the Pimps, but not as country as their other band, the Sons of Many Bitches. All three great in their own ways.



7. Four (One Direction)



 

Yeah. So what? We like One Direction in our house and we were super excited when the new album came out. Shut up.



6. Crimson Cord (Propaganda)



 

Not quite as powerful as his previous album, Excellent, Propaganda still brings a healthy dose of truth in his message on Crimson Cord.



5. Long in the Tooth (Billy Joe Shaver)



 

Any time I think about Billy Joe Shaver, one thing comes to mind: "Where do you want it?" According to a 2010 Rolling Stone article:
In a packed, sweltering courtroom, Shaver, 70, admitted to shooting Billy Bryant Coker on the back porch of Papa Joe's Saloon, a beer joint outside Shaver's Waco hometown...The shooting occurred March 31, 2007, after Shaver stopped into the smoky bar for a beer with his former wife, Wanda. Shaver testified Coker was rude to Wanda and told Shaver to "Shut the fuck up." After the two went outside, witnesses testified Shaver asked Coker, "Where do you want it?" then pointed a .22 pistol at Coker's cheek, pulled the trigger and fled in his truck. When Shaver was asked on the stand if he shot Coker because Shaver was jealous the victim was talking Shaver's wife, Shaver laughed. "I get more woman than a passenger train can haul," he said.
Enough said.



4. Single Mothers and Absent Fathers (Justin Townes Earle)

 

 

Justin Townes Earle has changed his style a bit over the years but he's still near the top of the list when it comes to my favorite musicians. This fall he released Single Mothers and will follow it up in just a few weeks with Absent Fathers. If you were smart enough to pre-order the new one like I did, then you got yours in the mail a month early and have been listening to it for the past two weeks!



3. Hard Working Americans and The First Waltz (Hard Working Americans)

 

 

You know my deal with Todd Snider. But take Todd and make him the front man of a super-group covering everyone from Will Kimbrough to Hayes Carll to Randy Newman and you'll be blown away. They followed up their debut album with a live record this fall. It goes without saying that it's just as good.



2. Love & War & The Sea In Between (Josh Garrels)



 

I was introduced to Josh Garrels earlier this year and was amazed by the diversity of his music. While Farther Along is the track that got me hooked, Beyond the Blue has become, without a doubt, one of my favorite songs I've ever heard.

Ever.

Really.

This was a tough one because Josh Garrels would have easily been #1 on this list had it not been for Sturgill Simpson.



1. High Top Mountain and Metamodern Sounds in Country Music (Sturgill Simpson)

 

 

When my brother and I were growing up, my dad used to listen to a lot of Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson. Of course, as kids we hated it. But as we got older, he and I have both become big fans of these original outlaw country musicians. This past fall, I got a message from my brother with a link to Sturgill Simpson's Metamodern Sounds in Country Music. I don't remember exactly what the message said, but it was something to the effect of "Holy crap, listen to this now." Before the first line of the first track was out of Stugill's mouth, I understood my brother's excitement. Had I not known better, I would have thought I was listening to the ghost of Waylon himself.

I realize the hipsters have latched on to Sturgill Simpson but that's okay. This album is good enough that I can look past that.

From the Kitchen of...

My wife did well.

I'm not sure I've ever had a Christmas gift get me teary-eyed before.

My mom died back in 2009. Among her many gifts and talents was her incomparable ability in the kitchen. Like a maestro conducting an orchestra was my mother in her kitchen. One of my favorite dishes she made -- something she really didn't make all that often -- was spinach pie.


For Christmas this year, my wife arranged for a friend of ours to use her artistic talents and place a permanent tribute to my mom in our own kitchen. Once my dad found mom's original recipe card for spinach pie, my wife passed it along to our friend who created a wonderful piece of art -- complete with a solid replication of my mom's actual handwriting.


The complete Sanford & Son series may not have put a lump in my throat when I opened it, but this gift sure did.

My wife did well.

Really well.

Let Me Cock My Bat: A Nerd Lunch NES Chat

I recently had the pleasure of returning to the fourth chair on the Nerd Lunch Podcast along with Jaime from ShezCrafti.com as we joined Jeeg and Pax for a discussion on the beloved Nintendo Entertainment System.


Although Pax unknowingly nabbed two of my three favorite games before I could utter a word of their excellence, I pounced on the opportunity to emphasize the importance of cocking one's bat in RBI Baseball.


Not only do I hope this discussion further supports the theory of more home runs hit when the bat is cocked, I also anticipate this episode of Nerd Lunch adding a cleaner result to the Google search for "bat cock."

Still with me? Now listen in.

The Basement Show

Back around 2005, I bought two turntables and a mixer. I had no plans of becoming the "next big thing" because, really, DJs are a dime a dozen. But after growing up on Jam Master Jay and Grandmaster Flash and always wanting to find myself on their side of the stage, I just had to play around with this stuff a bit for myself.

Fast forward about ten years and here's what's happened:
  • I still find myself envying the talent of today's best DJs -- Shiftee? Holy smokes.
  • I've sold one of the two turntables to my pal (and fellow record-enthusiast) Frank.
  • I recorded one actual "set" while both decks were wired into my computer back in 2008.
Wait. What?

Yeah. Just before Christmas of 2008, I put together a little more than six minutes of holiday cheer.

Nothing fancy. Pretty simple, really. But it's fun.

With the holidays upon us, I thought I'd share this taste of the short-lived "basement show."


For those keeping score at home, here's what was used:
  • You Gotta Get Up - Rich Mullins - From "A Liturgy, A Legacy, & a Ragamuffin Band" (1993 - Reunion)
  • Drop It Like It's Hot - Snoop Dogg - From "R&G" (2004 - Geffen)
  • Christmas Vacation Clip - Chevy Chase (1989 - Warner Bros.)
  • Mele Kalikimaka - Bing Crosby From "Merry Christmas" (MCA)
  • J.O.Y. - Transformation Crusade - From "Yo Ho Ho" (Benson)
  • Bridge is Over - Boogie Down Production - From "Criminal Minded" (1987 - B Boy)
  • Wonderful Christmastime - Paul McCartney (1979 - Parlophone/EMI)
  • Funky Funky Christmas - New Kids on the Block - From "Merry Merry Christmas" (1989 - Columbia)
  • Wild Thing - Tone Loc - From "Loc-ed After Dark" (1989 - Delicious Vinyl/Rhino)
  • A Christmas Story Clip - Billingsley/Shepherd (1983)
  • It's Cold Outside - Redbone/Deschanel - From Elf Soundtrack (2003 - New Line)
  • Christmas in Hollis - Run-DMC - From "A Very Special Christmas" (1987 - A&M)
  • Can't Stop Won't Stop - Young Gunz (2003 - Roc-a-Fella)
  • Christmas Rappin' - Kurtis Blow - From "Kurtis Blow" (1980 - Mercury)
  • Hit It Run - Run-DMC - From "Raising Hell" (1986 - Profile)
  • Christmas Wrapping - The Waitresses (1981)
  • Genius of Love - Tom Tom Club - From "Tom Tom Club" (1981 - Sire/Warner Bros.)
  • Friday Clip - Chris Tucker (1995 - New Line)
  • Santa Claus Go Straight to the Ghetto - James Brown
  • I'm Chief Kamanawanalea - The Turtles - From "The Battle of the Bands" (1968 - Flo & Eddie)
  • Little Drummer Boy - D-Boy - From "Yo Ho Ho" (Benson)
  • The Show - Slick Rick/Doug E. Fresh - From "The Show" (1985 - Reality)

Today was a Good Day (at the Flea Market)

More often than not, a trip to the flea market involves a fifty-cent My Little Pony for whichever daughter has tagged along for the morning, a stop for breakfast at the greasy spoon near the interstate exit, and an annoyance on my part for making the trip and coming home empty-handed.

Not today, folks. Not today.

First, I flea-marketed solo today. Sans kids. This meant I had the opportunity to dig through boxes, flip through records, and haggle prices without a tiny voice expressing boredom and desire for something involving less walking. Every time I go to the flea market, I stop at the same table first -- a guy who's usually got a great mix of toys, knick-knacks, and general nonsense at a very reasonable price. Today was off to a great start as I was able to grab a couple of fun action figures -- the King of Cartoons (Pee-Wee's Playhouse) and Donnie Wahlberg (New Kids on the Block) -- for less than I'd spend on a stop at the vending machine.

 

Then there was the stack of 45s. Apparently somebody had cleaned out their juke box as these suckers were all in perfect condition. At a quarter each, I couldn't help myself and grabbed nine favorites.


Barely breaking a five by this point, I strolled on to my next favorite seller at the flea market...and there it was.

Let me back up for a minute.

When I was a kid, my brother and I had a Fisher-Price Movie Theater. We had both the viewer that showed the movies on the wall and the handheld viewer. At some point over the past 3+ decades, all of this disappeared -- presumably during a tornado which passed very close to my parents house several years ago. After scouring eBay for quite some time, I was able to pick up a plug-in viewer a few months back for an amazing price.


I held off on tracking down one of the hand-held viewers though. Not sure why...but I just did. I even heard from my brother recently that these hand-held viewers are now one of the items brought back by Fisher-Price in their line of vintage items "newly" available in stores. I've heard these reboots are pretty flimsy so I never felt the urge to drop the 20 bucks on a new one.

Then today at the flea market...I was glad I waited.

A sale I was not about to miss.

Fifteen movie cartridges (which sell for anywhere from $5-$15 each online) and two original handheld viewers (usually $10 bucks or so online). The vender wanted two bucks each for the movies and eight each for the viewers. I offered 25 bucks for all of the movies and one viewer and she was onboard.


After mentioning that my kids love these things too, she threw in the other viewer for free. Not that I'm going to sell this stuff any time soon, but I dropped 25 bucks on well over $150 worth of vintage goodness.


Not gonna lie, though. When I texted my brother about this, he'd also found something awesome this morning...and I'm completely jealous.

Temple(s) of Boom

In 1993, Cypress Hill became one of my favorite music groups as I latched on to their most successful album to date -- Black Sunday.


Around this same time, I paid a couple of bucks for a CD at a local pawn shop -- Munchies For Your Bass by the Texas-based rap crew Nemesis.


A few years later, in 1995, Cypress Hill followed Black Sunday with another solid album -- III: Temples of Boom.


All these years later, I've discovered that Nemesis put out several albums including a 1993 effort titled Temple of Boom.


1993. Two years before Cypress Hill's similarly titled album. Considering we're talking about the difference of a letter "s", how a lawsuit did not ensue is beyond me.

In other news, keep an eye out for my own album coming out soon. It'll be 45 minutes of heavy bass beats that I'll call Temple of Booms.

Judy: Daniel LaRusso's Jersey Girl

You've seen The Karate Kid. You've basked in the beauty that is Ali Mills.


But do you remember the scene in the restaurant when Daniel's mother asks him about the "girl situation" and Daniel's sly grin is a dead giveaway? Mrs. LaRusso asks, "Is she prettier than Judy?" and Daniel immediately declares, "Oh, ma, she buries Judy!"


Based on Mrs. LaRusso's surprise to her son's answer, this Judy must have been a real looker! But I guess we'll never know for sure.

BUT WAIT!

There's that opening scene of the movie -- literally in the film's first minute -- when Daniel and his mother are pulling away from their old neighborhood in New Jersey. Mrs. LaRusso has just reminded Tony to tell Uncle Louie that some red wine and Parmesan was left in the refrigerator when Daniel calls out "Bye, Judy!"

While one of the two older girls present seems to turn her head towards the car, there is enough of a delay in this action that it's safe to assume that this is not Judy.


But in that same instance, the second girl leans into the passenger side window for a so-long smooch from Daniel.


There you have it.

Judy.


You're welcome.