Music That Doesn't Suck: 2015 Edition

A few days ago, I saw online where someone had shared their list of the ten songs they'd listened to most in 2015. Not best of 2015 specifically but what they'd listened to most this year. Rather than trying to narrow down my current favorites to music that came out over the past twelve months, I decided to go with this idea instead since much of what I've listened to most this year wasn't necessarily released in 2015.

Hopefully somewhere in this list you can be enlightened to something new and enjoyable to your ear holes.

10. Sinema (Swoope)


I had never listened to Swoope much until this year. While he's definitely an MC to be reckoned with on his own, the track from Sinema called #SameTeam is a collaboration full of amazing artists. One of the best hip-hop tracks I heard all year.

9. Rage Against the Machine (Rage Against the Machine)


A few times this year, I found myself in some pretty interesting conversation with my old high-school friend Brian. Although I've always been a big Rage fan, these chats with Brian have reminded me just how amazing they really were.

On a side note, Brian used to front a pretty amazing band of his own. Got my fingers crossed for a reunion show one of these days.

8. We Buy Gold (Playdough)


Playdough made my list last year and he's back again with a new release in 2015. Although the entire album comes in at only about twenty minutes in length, the beats are bangin'. Reminds me of Rev Run's solo album -- short but amazing.

7. Amigo De Fuego (Fragile Porcelain Mice)


As a long-time fan of Springfield-based NIL8, I had always been familiar with Fragile Porcelain Mice but never really paid them much attention. That's changed over the past few years, this year especially. I regret not following these guys just as closely as I have NIL8 for all those years!

6. Straight Outta Compton (N.W.A.)


With the release of the Straight Outta Compton movie this year, the album (one of my all-time favorites) has found itself back into a regular rotation in my playlists. The film reminded me just how ground-breaking this album was at the time it came out -- proud to have owned it since it's initial release. I was going to post the video for the title track but stumbled upon this video instead. Long-time NWA fans will certainly find this hilarious.

5. Run the Jewels 2 (Run the Jewels)


Much like Fragile Porcelain Mice, I had not paid proper attention to Run the Jewels. This live video on YouTube with Rage Against the Machine's Zack de la Rocha was a game changer. I'm guessing I've watched this video at least 100 times in the past twelve months.

4. Strictly Business (EPMD)


Never did I think I'd see the day that a hip-hop album rivaled Eric B & Rakim's Paid in Full as the best ever in my opinion. Now we've got a tie for first. If Strictly Business doesn't get your head nodding in a hurry, you might want to check your pulse.

3. Sunday Morning Record (The Band of Heathens)


Sunday Morning Record is one of my go-to albums to listen to at work. Tame lyrics with a mellow sound I can get away with playing when students wander into my office. Probably my most-played album on Spotify this year.

2. Just Kids (Mat Kearney)


As much as I loved his previous album, I was sure that Just Kids was going to be a disappointment, but a few months ago, there would have been no doubt in my mind that Mat Kearney would have come in at #1 on this list for 2015. A lock at #1 had it not been for a recent discovery.

1. I Used to Be So Young (The Homeless Gospel Choir)


I never thought that my Mister Rogers obsession would ultimately introduce me to one of my favorite musicians. But it did. Derek Zanetti, the voice behind The Homeless Gospel Choir (and fellow Mister Rogers "appreciator"), and I have been in contact a few times this year and after seeing a photo online of him wearing a Dead Milkmen shirt, I thought it only proper that I give his songs a whirl.

I was hooked. Immediately.

Equal parts political, personal, inspirational, positive, and witty, I simply cannot get enough of The Homeless Gospel Choir -- especially Derek's most recent album, I Used to Be So Young.

Four Decades of Christmas

So far this holiday season, I'm not feeling much Christmas cheer. I'm guessing a lot of that has to do with the weather we've been having here in Central Illinois. Today, for example, it's two days before Christmas and it's rained buckets and pushing 65 degrees. In an effort to get festive, I started going through some old photos thinking I'd share a few from various kid Christmases I'd experienced growing up. What better way to get into the Christmas spirit than to remember times when Christmas was all about fun and not about bills and crappy weather!

As I started going through photos, something occurred to me. In two days, I'll be experiencing my 40th Christmas!

Forty years, man.

So without further ado, here's my most narcissistic blog post ever as I look at how I've evolved over four decades of yuletide joy!


1976. Surprisingly, this was the only year I couldn't come up with a photo of myself at Christmastime. The price I pay for being born second, I suppose.

1977. I got a Ronald McDonald doll. My brother got a Magic 8-Ball and was dressed like a clown.

1978. Tic-Toc-Pop! for me. Pair Ups for my brother.

1979. Plastic bowling and Spider-Man PJs. Matt and his can of Tinker Toys.

1980. Eat your hearts out, Star Wars nerds. I got a Snow Speeder.

And for the record, I would not have known this was a Snow Speeder unless I talked to my old friend and Star Wars aficionado, Matt. Matt likes Full House, too. Thanks, Matt.

1981. Hot Wheels carrying case. My brother in red pants.

1982. I've shared this picture before. Batman PJs, Crayola Caddy, E.T. Colorforms, and a book of Life Savers.

1983. In my sweet E.T. sweatshirt, I'm pretty sure I know what I'm thinking here: "Awesome. An effing sweater."

1984. Boom. Cobra Rattler.

1985. Stompers. I have to admit, I'd pretty much forgotten about Stompers until I found this picture. Now I'll be searching eBay for Stompers.

1986. Apparently pretty amped to have gotten this jacket. Not a Members Only...but not far off.

1987. I got a kid's woodworking set for Christmas. Would you believe that what's left of this set is still in my garage today in the original box?

Shocking, I know.

1988. Yellow and blue sweater for a second year in a row! My feet are screaming Nike Air while I stack Outburst on top of Win Lose or Draw.

1989. For those keeping score at home, that's a cassette copy of Jazzy Jeff and Fresh Prince's ...And In This Corner. And that's a friendship bracelet on my wrist. Of course, my jeans are acid-washed.

1990. Cubs. Calvin & Hobbes.

UPDATE: Thanks to my cousin Jennifer for pointing out that the blanket on the chair behind me is the same one seen in the 1980 picture!

1991. A phone for my bedroom and an obligatory Bulls hat for my head.

1992. Introducing my stupid high school hair and my awesome Malcolm X shirt as I was starting to establish my own individual identity at this point. You may also notice my shorts in December and a background appearance by my brothers tight-rolled jeans.

1993. Shorts in December again. That hat I'm wearing is a Notre Dame hat which is absolutely a result of my early-90s allegiance to House of Pain.

1994. Oh. Hello, College Tim.

1995. A no-mustache beard, Dennis Rodman jersey, and a Far Side book.

1996. This was the year I discovered blue t-shirts with khakis which I wore almost daily around that time. Also, this was the year I got Jenga, a VCR, and Sleepless in Seattle for Christmas.

1997. The first of many years where I would mark my territory in front of the fireplace at gift-opening time with my family.

1998. Wearing a set of coordinating Gap PJs while I try on a new jacket. I was majoring in history at the time and all history teachers need a tweed jacket. And Gap pajamas.

1999. Back in front of the fireplace for a third year in a row.

On a side note, I just wore that same t-shirt yesterday. Seriously.

2000. My grandma gave me a towel.

2001. Christmas with my Aunt Sylvia who just passed away this year.

2002. Stupid White Men calendar. Since then, I've come to realize that despite his liberal views (most of which I actually agree with), Michael Moore is three things himself: stupid, white, and a man.

2003. I bought a camcorder and recorded a bunch of stuff that year. More importantly, there's my Bigfoot coffee mug on the floor that I still use today. Oh, and this was also my first married Christmas.

2004. New nephew. New X-Ecutioners shirt.

2005. Nephew a little older. Me a little fatter.

2006. Got a saw for Christmas. Apparently I should have asked for a clean hat instead.

2007. My UCLA sweatshirt makes an appearance for the second consecutive year.

A few days removed from my twin nieces being born, my brother and I sported our dark beards. Pretty sure we're both mostly gray now.

2008. Oh, hey. I'm a dad now, too.

This was also the last Christmas we had with my mom.

Effing cancer.

2009. Crowning a princess. I miss those socks.

2010. A dad of two by this point, my girls picked out this candy cane for me. It is currently on top of the refrigerator because my son cannot understand that it's not a sword.

2011. A pretty good chance I was a few rounds of "Christmas cheer" into my day when this picture was taken of me watching the Knicks on TV.

2012. Easily the best Santa I've ever met. My kids were not impressed though.

Had three kids by this point. Not sure why #3 wasn't in this shot.

2013. This was the year I realized I had married into a family of jerks after I fell asleep at the in-law's Christmas gathering.

I like those jerks though.

2014. Feeling old. Feeling tired.

2015. ???

So did it work? Do I feel festive after looking through forty years of Christmas photos?

Yeah. A little bit.

But more than that, I feel lucky. Really lucky.

Merry Christmas.