Posted by: cousinbrandon | December 30, 2015

The “Miscellaneous” Mixes: Happy Challahdays

We’ve gone and done it again.

After 2013’s This Shitsmas and 2012’s Fruitcake & Dreidels, the wife and I took a year off to return with yet another holiday-themed mix. And, yes, those are matzah balls. Delicious, delicious matzah balls.

I have to confess that I simply forgot to post this, which is why it’s appearing post-Hanukkah/post-Christmas. Still, we’re two days shy of 2016, meaning you can still enjoy this hodgepodge with your loved ones. (And then for all of time.)

So, without further adieu, break out that nog!

Happy Challahdays front cover.

Happy Challahdays inside cover.

This Shitsmas:

1. Tales From the Crypt – “Christmas Rap
2. Snoop Doggy Dogg – “Santa Claus Goes Straight to the Ghetto
3. James Brown – “Soulful Christmas
4. The Supremes – “Little Bright Star
5. The Ronnettes – “Sleigh Ride
6. Sixteen Deluxe – “Away In a Manger
7. Fucked Up – “David Christmas
8. Yo La Tengo – “Rock n Roll Santa
9. Heartless Bastards – “Blue Christmas
10. Johnny Cash – “Silent Night
11. Elvis Presley – “Santa Claus Is Back In Town
12. John Denver – “Christmas for Cowboys
13. Dolly Parton – “Hard Candy Christmas
14. Asleep at the Wheel – “Xmas in Jail
15. Sufjan Stevens – “Lumberjack Christmas/No One Can Save You From Christmas
16. Ella Fitzgerald – “Good Morning Blues
17. Rudy Ray Moore – “Merry Christmas Baby
18. Holly Golightly – “That’s What I Want for Christmas
19. Taylor Swift – “Silent Night
20. Elastica – “Gloria
21. Cassie Ramone – “The Christmas Song”
22. Dr. Dog – “Rejoice
23. Darlene Love – “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)
24. John Denver & The Muppets – “We Wish You a Merry Christmas
25. Barenaked Ladies – “I Have a Little Dreidel

Well, there you have it: 2015’s audio Advent calendar. Hope this inspires you not to jump off the Golden Gate Bridge this holiday season.

That’ll do it for this year’s mountain of wreaths, trees and yule. Until next time, have at it, you vultures!


Posted by: cousinbrandon | December 17, 2015

The “Mixes” Series: Monsoon and Blizzard, 2015

I’m just gonna go ahead and say it: to some degree, 2015 was disappointing. If I had to wager a guess, I’d say I listened to at least 3,000 songs this year, yet I was constantly having to go back and figure out who was who. That is, I’d listen to a record, then two days later have no idea what the record sounded like. In other words, many of this year’s records simply failed to make an impression on me. No staying power! This was probably best illustrated by the fact that the record I might have listened to as much as any other record was one that came out in 2014, but I’ll get to that later. Were there any standouts? Of course there were. What’s more, those standouts weren’t just better than average, but legitimately good!

In terms of what dominated the musical landscape of 2015 — or, at least, my musical landscape — there was not only the somewhat typical mix of punk and female vocalists, but a surprising influx of emo bands. (Yes, emo bands.) What’s more, several punk bands from the Boston area — bands I had never heard of, mind you — kind of grabbed me by the throat. In looking at my top 20, half of the records were fronted by women. Again, this comes as little surprise to me, as I’m a sucker for strong female vocalists. So, it was another year of constant listening, notation, and listening again, and I’ll admit that I’m spent.

With that…

Album Cover of the Year:

Girlpool – Before the World Was Big


Vocal Moment of the Year:

Hop Along – “Texas Funeral” (At the 3-minute mark, Frances Quinlan an her raspy drawl erupts with the line “Keep your melting stars.” Her voice was the one that transcended all others in 2015, as I couldn’t get over how raw and honest it was.)

Song I Heard Once and Knew Immediately It Would Be On My Year-End List:

Hop Along – “Texas Funeral” (Yeah, yeah. I know I just mentioned it. Still, it was a total no-brainer for me.)

Lyric of the Year:

Hop Along – “Horseshoe Crabs” (“They used to find me / Pitching horseshoe crabs / Back into the sun”)

The Five Most Overrated Record(s) of the Year Based On the Critics’ Picks:

[NOTE: Keep in mind that I’m basing this solely on records I actually listened to. I couldn’t tell you a thing about, say, Kanye or Father John Misty, whose name alone makes me hate him.]

Beach Slang – The Things We Do to Find People Who Like Us (Hey, look, a Replacements retread!)

Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Style (This is easily my most controversial pick, if only because I really like this record. The problem, though, is that it’s a compilation of previously released materials, and therefore doesn’t qualify as a 2015 release as far as I’m concerned. More to come on this.)

Colleen Green I Want to Grow Up (Boring. I gave it several listens and just couldn’t figure out what was so goddamn special about it.)

Royal Headache – High (Again, I really like Royal Headache, and I especially liked their debut, but come on. This record, while it has a few good moments, is average at best. Lacks the energy and fun of their previous effort in a big way.)

Sleater-KinneyNo Cities to Love (This record suffers from reputation proceeding content. Critics wanted to love this record simply because it was Sleater-Kinney, but I found it to be Shitty-Kinney.)

Most Disappointing Records That I Was Highly Anticipating:

Best Coast California Nights (It’s starting to feel like they’re just releasing the same record over and over again. Great vocals, but a total snore.)

Daughn Gibson – Carnation (I loved his debut, All Hell, if only because I had zero expectations. His follow-up, Me Moan, was pretty bad. Carnation was downright awful.)

Of Montreal – Aureate Gloom (I loved their last record, Lousy with Sylvanbriar, and while Aureate Gloom is above average, it paled in comparison to its predecessor.)

Royal Headache High (See above.)

Sleater-Kinney – No Cities to Love (See above.)

Videos of the Year:

Diet Cig – “Scene Sick

The Dodos – “Competition

Meat Wave – “Sham King

Record That Would Have Been in My Top Ten Records of the Year Had It Been Released in 2015:

SLOTHRUST – Of Course You Do

[NOTE: This was the record that I mentioned earlier, the one that I listened to over and over again. Seriously, the opening four tracks whoop ass.]

Song That Arguably Would Have Been My Choice for “Song of the Year” Had It Actually Been Released This Year and Not Part of a Previously Released Compilation:

Car Seat Headrest – “Los Borrachos (I Don’t Have Any Hope Left, But the Weather Is Nice)” (Here’s a fun live version of the track, at roughly 1:30 in. Sure, Will Toledo seems a bit full of himself, but whatever. He’s young.)

Ten Honorable Mentions of 2015:

20. Girlpool Before the World Was Big (Wichita)
19. Adult Mom – Momentary Lapse of Happily (Tiny Engines)
18. Young Jesus – Grow/Decompose (Hellhole Supermarket)
17. Sorority Noise – Joy, Departed (Topshelf)
16. Radical Dads – Universal Coolers (Old Flame)
15. Sweet John Bloom Weird Prayer (Tiny Engines)
14. Dan Deacon Gliss Riffer (Domino)
13. Eskimeaux O.K. (Double Double Whammy)
12. Worriers – Imaginary Life (Don Giovanni)
11. Cloakroom – Further Out (Run for Cover)

Top Ten Records of 2015:

10. Palehound – Dry Food (Exploding in Sound)


9. Pile – You’re Better Than This (Exploding in Sound)


8. Waxahatchee – Ivy Tripp (Merge)


7. Dilly Dally – Sore (Partisan)


6. Meat Wave – Delusion Moon (SideOneDummy)




4. All Dogs – Kicking Every Day (Salinas)


3. Built to Spill – Untethered Moon (Warner Bros.)


2. Lithuania – Hardcore Friends (Lame-O)


1. Hop Along – Painted Shut (Saddle Creek)


It had never heard of Hop Along prior to 2015. Somehow I stumbled across a live version of “Texas Funeral” and found that I was immediately hooked. Not sure how you can possibly listen to Frances Quinlan’s vocals without being struck by them. No, you may not like them, but you’ll find them polarizing all the same. There’s a desperation in every note, as if she might break into pieces at any moment. (Incidentally, you can hear her singing background vocals on Lithuania’s “Hardcore Friends.”) Painted Shut is a murderer’s row of great songs, and I found myself listening to it way more than any other record this year. In addition to “Texas Funeral” and “Horseshoe Crabs,” the album is littered with stand-out tracks like “Well-Dressed,” “Sister Cities,” “Waitress” and “Powerful Man.” It’s not only Quinlan’s vocals and the drummer’s insistent beats that move the record ever forward (that’s her brother on percussion, by the way), but her literary-quality lyrics. The songs themselves are smart, and Quinlan’s ability to transform even the simplest word into something memorable is due solely to her magnificent range as a vocalist. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that they’re a Philly-based band, so…

As always, I made two CD-length mixes this year, which, as usual, forced me to omit several strong contenders. While I once again don’t know how many records I actually plowed through, I know that I had roughly 200 potential tracks that made the final cut.

Once again, there are no CDs this year. No hard copies, that is. I once again made two mixes, both of which would fit on a standard CD. And, yes, I made my usual cover art, which you can check out below. I would implore you to look at my lists below, open Spotify, and make your own playlist. Hell, I may make one myself and share it with the world if I’m so inclined.

As for the tracks below, I linked to both studio versions and live versions. Most of the links below feature the actual studio versions of the songs, with some exceptions: there’s a live version of Mourn’s “Misery Factory,” a live version of Waxahatchee’s “Poison,” a live version of Hop Along’s “Texas Funeral” (simply because I think it sounds great live), and a live version of Hop Along’s “Horseshoe Crabs” (again, because it sounds great live).

As I began doing last year, I added an * to indicate songs that opened records, and a ^ to indicate those that did closing duty.

With that, I give you the 47 songs that comprise my 2015 mixes…

Monsoon front cover.

Monsoon interior artwork.

Blizzard front cover.

Blizzard interior artwork.

Monsoon (The Best “Fast” Tracks of 2015):

1. Ratatat – “Abrasive” (Magnifique)
2. Born Ruffians – “We Made It” (Ruff)
3. The Dodos – “Competition” (Individ)
4. Built to Spill – “Living Zoo” (Untethered Moon)
5. Lithuania – “Deaf Gene” (Hardcore Friends)
6. Sweet John Bloom – “Trust Me” (Weird Prayer)
7. Meat Wave – “Sunlight” (Delusion Moon)
8. Mourn – “Misery Factory” (Mourn)
9. White Reaper – “Last 4th of July” (White Reaper Does It Again)
10. Royal Headache – “Need You” (High)
11. Worriers – “They/Them/Theirs” (Imaginary Life)
12. All Dogs – “That Kind of Girl” (Kicking Every Day)
13. Dilly Dally – “Desire“* (Sore)
14. Waxahatchee – “Poison” (Ivy Tripp)
15. Hop Along – “Texas Funeral” (Painted Shut)
16. Radical Dads – “In the Water” (Universal Coolers)
17. Two Gallants – “Incidental” (We Are Undone)
18. The Maccabees – “Spit It Out” (Marks to Prove It)
20. Young Jesus – “Blood and Guts” (Grow/Decompose)
21. Sorority Noise – “Art School Wannabe” (Joy, Departed)
22. Krill – “Torturer” (A Distant Fist Unclenching)
23. Pile – “Touched by Comfort” (You’re Better Than This)
24. Cloakroom – “Deep Sea Station“^ (Further Out)

Blizzard (The Best “Slow” Tracks of 2015):

1. Waxahatchee – “Under a Rock” (Ivy Tripp)
2. Born Ruffians – “When Things Get Pointless I Roll Away” (Ruff)
3. The Districts – “Hounds” (A Flourish and a Spoil)
4. Pile – “Mr. Fish” (You’re Better Than This)
5. Sweet John Bloom – “Tell Me” (Weird Prayer)
6. All Dogs – “How Long” (Kicking Every Day)
7. Dilly Dally – “Next Gold” (Sore)
8. Chastity Belt – “IDC” (Time to Go Home)
9. Mourn – “Your Brain Is Made of Candy“* (Mourn)
10. Fraternal Twin – “Lose My Balance” (Skin Gets Hot)
11. Tica Douglas – “Joey“* (Joey)
12. Eskimeaux – “The Thunder Answered Back” (O.K.)
13. Palehound – “Easy” (Dry Food)
14. Sorority Noise – “Nolsey” (Joy, Departed)
16. The Mountain Goats – “Foreign Object” (Beat the Champ)
17. Salad Boys – “Here’s No Use“* (Metalmania)
18. Adult Mom – “Meg Ryan” (Momentary Lapse of Happily)
19. You Blew It! – “Lanai“* (Pioneer of Nothing)
20. Hop Along – “Horseshoe Crabs” (Painted Shut)
21. Lithuania – “Hardcore Friends“^ (Hardcore Friends)
22. Built to Spill – “So” (Untethered Moon)
23. Godspeed You! Black Emperor – “Peasantry or ‘Light! Inside of Light’“* (Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress)

Well, that’ll do it for 2015. With that, I now ask that you do the following four things:

  1. In the comments section, let me know your picks for the best songs, records, and anything else music of 2015. What did I miss? What do you violently disagree with? What are you wholeheartedly in agreement with? What the hell else?
  2. Should you choose to (or if you have already) put together a Best of 2015 disc of your own, by all means send me a copy of the disc, or at the very least a track listing. I’ll do my best to post them on my blog.
  3. If you’re feeling nostalgic, go back and check out my Best of… mixes from 20142013, 20122011, 2010, 2009, etc.
  4. You’ve got Twitter, Facebook, and a thousand other social media outlets at your disposal. Share this with the world, even if you only have two Twitter followers (and one of them is me).

Until the Best of 2016, have at it, you vultures!


Posted by: cousinbrandon | December 17, 2014

“The Mixes” Series: Monument and Ash, 2014

I really don’t know how best to describe 2014, musically speaking. It seemed that I heard over and over again, “Not a lot of great music this year.” And yet, by year’s end, I disagreed — wildly. I’m still not sure that there were many (if any) records I’d throw in my album canon (no, not an album cannon, though that would kick ass), but, in general, there were a lot of really great records that emerged throughout the year. In fact, there were two records I didn’t discover until December that I absolutely fell in love with but quick. So, yeah, that’s pretty much why you can never start these things too damn early.

In terms of what dominated the musical landscape of 2014 — or, at least, my musical landscape — there was a strange mix of punk, female vocalists and the sweet, sweet tenor of indie stalwarts. Or, at least, bands that so reeked of indie stalwarts that I found myself transported to the early 1990s. Yes, Guided By Voices kicked out two more records, while Spoon returned with another gem (though, strangely, they failed to make my actual mixes, if only because there was too much to choose from). While I don’t know how many records I actually listened to, I can tell you that my “Best of 2014” folder included 180 songs that I painstakingly whittled down to two-CDs’ worth of music. (More on that below.)

So, without further adieu, here’s what 2014 had to offer…

Album Cover of the Year:

together PANGEABadillac

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Vocal Moment of the Year:

Frankie Cosmos – “Owen” (At the 29-second mark, Frankie Cosmos (along with Aaron Maine, I believe) erupt into this sudden drum- and guitar-laden duet as they belt out the words, “It’s raining in my head.” I loved the record the moment I hit play on track 1, but this single moment floored me the first time I heard it.)

Song I Heard Once and Knew Immediately It Would Be On My Year-End List:

Radiator Hospital – “Blue Gown” (Hard to argue, really, particularly since it features Waxahatchee’s Katie Crutchfield.)

Most Overrated Record(s) of the Year Based On the Critics’ Picks:

Beck Morning Phase (There’s just no need for this. I’ve never been the biggest Beck fan, but I loved One Foot in the Grave, and pretty much enjoyed everything up to and including Midnight Vultures. Since then? No thanks.)

Jenny Lewis – The Voyager (Too slick, too dull. The only song I liked off the album was the title track, and even that featured a too-breathy Jenny Lewis. Bring back The Watson Twins!)

Sun Kil MoonBenji (Ladies and gentlemen, may I present indie Eddie Vedder!)

The War On DrugsLost in the Dream (Can’t. Stand. His. Voice.)

Wye OakShriek (I tried and I tried and I tried to like it. It was impossible. Frankly, there was nothing to justify their decision to do a guitar-free record riddled with synth bullshit.)

Most Disappointing Records That I Was Highly Anticipating:

Interpol El Pintor (I hoped and prayed in 2014 that they’d finally figured it out. Instead, they just got older. Fuck.)

Jenny LewisThe Voyager (See above.)

Stephen Malkmus & the JicksWig Out at Jagbags (There’s a line in an old Twilight Zone episode called “The Piano” where the rich socialite has just embarrassed himself and asks his butler, “Why aren’t you laughing?” The butler then replies, “I don’t find you funny anymore.” I could say the same of Malkmus, though I might substitute “interesting” for “funny.” There’s just a melody and insistence that’s no longer there.)

PixiesIndie Cindy (I’d be lying if I said there was nothing I liked on this “album” (three collected EPs), but for fuck’s sake, why? WHY, FRANK BLACK, WHY?!)

Wye OakShriek (See above.)

Videos of the Year:

Cloud Nothings – “I’m Not Part of Me

Connections – “Aylia

The New Pornographers – “War On the East Coast

Pissed Jeans – “Boring Girls

Record That Would Have Been in My Top Ten Records of the Year Had It Not Been an EP:

White ReaperWhite Reaper

Ten Honorable Mentions of 2014 (in Alphabetical Order):

ConnectionsInto Sixes (Anyway)
CreepoidCreepoid (No Idea Records)
Fucked UpGlass Boys (Matador / Arts & Crafts)
Guided By VoicesCool Planet (GBV / Fire)
Guided By VoicesMotivational Jumpsuit (GBV / Fire)
Inventions Inventions (Temporary Residence)
Mitski Bury Me at Makeout Creek (Double Double Whammy)
Spoon They Want My Soul (Loma Vista)
Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial OrchestraFuck Off Get Free We Pour Light on Everything (Temporary Residence)
Chad VanGaalenShrink Dust (Sub Pop)

Top Ten Records of 2014:

10. Big UpsEighteen Hours of Static (Tough Love / Dead Labour)

 photo 18Hrs_Front_-_iTunes_zps1a66a362.jpg

9. ChumpedTeenage Retirement (Anchorless)

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8. Modern BaseballYou’re Gonna Miss It All (Run for Cover)

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7. Against Me!Transgender Dysphoria Blues (Total Treble)

 photo 71i0HFmZJL_SL1500__zps6176de80.jpg

6. Cloud NothingsHere and Nowhere Else (Carpark / Mom & Pop)

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5. NothingGuilty of Everything (Relapse)

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4. together PANGEABadillac (Harvest Capitol)

 photo 4286f7c0-f275-45aa-9629-ac7261822588_zps73e7bc35.jpg

3. Angel OlsenBurn Your Fire for No Witness (Jagjaguwar)

 photo AngelOlsen_BurnYourFireForNoWitness_AlbumArt_zpsd345bbba.jpg

2. LVL UPHoodwink’d (Double Double Whammy)

 photo a0473724169_10_zps2ed5e661.jpg

1. Frankie CosmosZentropy (Double Double Whammy)

 photo frankie-cosmos-zentropy_zpsca0ef969.jpg

Frankie Cosmos (real name Greta Kline) did something that no other band did this year: she surprised me. Frankly (Franklie?), I didn’t know what to expect when I first hit play on the stunning Zentropy. I had never heard of Frankie Cosmos, though apparently she’d recorded a bevy of records (around 40 — 40 FUCKING RECORDS!) that had simply never been brought to my (or, it seems, most people’s) attention. Keep in mine, Kline is only 19 years old, which becomes abundantly clear lyrically as she sings about art school, her dog, and her being the type of girl that buses splash with rain. The thing of it is, though, she doesn’t come off as immature or silly. Quite the contrary, actually. She is somehow worldly, even if that world exists primarily in her own bedroom and with the people directly in front of her. Kline possesses a quality that I find downright refreshing: she’s confessional. She’s honest. She writes songs/lyrics from a very real, personal place (akin to the emotional honesty of the new Against Me! record), but she never sounds as though she’s naive or simply complaining. It’s as though we’re given access to an extremely well-written diary whose owner is equal parts of quirky and vulnerable. And if that’s not enough, the record clocks in at around 20 minutes. Who in the hell does that?! The bottom line is this: Zentropy is exciting. It’s fresh and sweet and heartbreaking. And it’s by far the record I’ve listened to more than any other in 2014. Kudos to you, Frankie Cosmos. Guess I’ve got 39 more records to get my hands on…

As always, I made two CD-length mixes this year, which, as usual, forced me to omit so many great songs. Seriously, I was devastated by some of the numbers I had to leave out. While I once again don’t know how many records I actually plowed through, I know it was a shit-ton. I sort of made it my mission to only listen to 2014 music this year (along with a shit-ton of podcasts, that is). So, yeah, I listened to a lot of records a lot of times.

So what’s changed? No CDs. “Huh?” Yeah, you heard me. I made two mixes, both of which would fit on a standard CD. And, yes, I made cover art for those CDs, because I’m anal and a creature of habit. But seeing as how we’re in an iTunes age where CDs have gone the way of the dodo, I essentially decided there was no reason for me to make physical copies. What’s more, I’m very lazy.

As for the tracks below, I linked to studio versions of the songs and some live/alternate versions of the songs that actually appears on the mix, either because I couldn’t find the studio version or simply really enjoyed the live performance. This year I considered uploading the actual files as opposed to including YouTube links, for instance. In the end, I once again decided to stay true to form, namely because it’s easier for me to share music that’s free online as opposed to including files that may not be so free. Let’s leave it at that. Most of the links below feature the actual studio versions of the songs, with some exceptions: there’s an alternate version of The Orwells’ “Who Needs You” from their appearance on Letterman (and I urge you to stick around to the end), a live version of Ought’s “Today More Than Any Other Day” (because it’s fun), and a stream of Herzog’s entire record, as I couldn’t find “Boys Part 2” on its own. Again, I hang my head in shame regarding the omission of so many great songs. I’m only one man.

Because 2014 was full of great album openers and closers, I thought I’d add an extra wrinkle this year and denote those songs in my mixes, with an * indicating songs that opened records, and a ^ indicating those that did closing duty.

Oh, and one last note. This year I included a song that is easily the longest song I’ve ever put on any mix ever. That is all.

With that, I give you the 48 songs (same total as last year) that comprise my 2014 mixes…

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Monument front cover.

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Monument interior artwork.

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Ash front cover.

 photo 2bf2ca51-32e9-40b2-9261-dcb590b209f1_zps765536bd.png
Ash interior artwork.

Monument (The Best “Fast” Tracks of 2014):

1. Parquet Courts – “Sunbathing Animal” (Sunbathing Animal)
2. Big Ups – “Justice” (Eighteen Hours of Static)
3. Joyce Manor – “Victoria” (Never Hungover Again)
4. White Reaper – “Ohh (Yeah)” (White Reaper)
5. together PANGEA – “Make Myself True“* (Badillac)
6. Cloud Nothings – “I’m Not Part of Me”^ (Here and Nowhere Else)
7. Against Me! – “Transgender Dysphoria Blues“* (Transgender Dysphoria Blues)
8. LVL UP – “Medication” (Hoodwink’d)
9. Radiator Hospital – “Blue Gown” (Torch Song)
10. Modern Baseball – “Apartment” (You’re Gonna Miss It All)
11. Iceage – “The Lord’s Favorite” (Plowing Into the Fields of Love)
12. Fucked Up – “The Art of Patrons” (Glass Boys)
13. Little Big League – “Sucker” (Tropical Jinx)
14. Celestial Shore – “Creation Myth“* (Enter Ghost)
15. Connections – “Aylia”* (Into Sixes)
16. Guided By Voices – “Vote for Me Dummy” (Motivational Jumpsuit)
17. Chumped – “Hot 97 Summer Jam” (Teenage Retirement)
18. The New Pornographers – “War On the East Coast” (Brill Bruisers)
19. Frankie Cosmos – “Owen” (Zentropy)
20. The Orwells – “Who Needs You” (Disgraceland) [Alternate live performance on Letterman]
21. The Whigs – “Friday Night” (Modern Creation)
22. Angel Olsen – “Forgiven/Forgotten” (Burn Your Fire for No Witness)
23. Strand of Oaks – “Goshen ’97“* (HEAL)
24. The Rural Alberta Advantage – “Not Love or Death” (Mended With Gold)
25. Nothing – “Get Well” (Guilty of Everything)
26. Ought – “Today More Than Any Other Day” (More Than Any Other Day)

Ash (The Best “Slow” Tracks of 2014):

1. Mitski – “Texas Reznikoff“* (Bury Me at Makeout Creek)
2. Tweens – “Want U” (Tweens)
3. Angel Olsen – “Unfucktheworld“* (Burn Your Fire For No Witness)
4. Chad VanGaalen – “Lila” (Shrink Dust)
5. Herzog – “Boys Part 2“^ (Boys)
6. Connections – “Angie” (Into Sixes)
7. Frankie Cosmos – “Buses Splash With Rain” (Zentropy)
8. Alvvays – “Archie, Marry Me” (Alvvays)
9. The Fresh & Onlys – “Who Let the Devil” (House of Spirits)
10. Celestial Shore – “Gloria” (Enter Ghost)
11. Chumped – “Anywhere But Here” (Teenage Retirement)
12. together PANGEA – “Badillac” (Badillac)
13. The Rural Alberta Advantage – “45/33” (Mended With Gold)
14. Joyce Manor – “Christmas Card“* (Never Hungover Again)
15. Radiator Hospital – “Midnight Nothing” (Torch Song)
16. Literature – “Court/Date” (Chorus)
17. Against Me! – “Black Me Out“^ (Transgender Dysphoria Blues)
18. Parkay Quarts – “Uncast Shadow of a Southern Myth“^ (Content Nausea)
19. LVL UP – “I Feel Extra Natural” (Hoodwink’d)
20. Avi Buffalo – “Won’t Be Around No More“^ (At Best Cuckold)
21. Nothing – “Guilty of Everything“^ (Guilty of Everything)
22. Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra – “What We Loved Was Not Enough” (Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light on Everything)

Well, folks, that’ll do it for 2014. With that, I now ask that you do the following four things:

  1. In the comments section, let me know your picks for the best songs, records, and anything else music of 2014. What did I miss? What do you violently disagree with? What are you wholeheartedly in agreement with? What the hell else?
  2. Should you choose to (or if you have already) put together a Best of 2014 disc of your own, by all means send me a copy of the disc, or at the very least a track listing. I’ll do my best to post them on my blog.
  3. If you’re feeling nostalgic, go back and check out my Best of… mixes from 2013, 20122011, 2010, 2009, etc.
  4. You’ve got Twitter, Facebook, and a thousand other social media outlets at your disposal. Share this with the world, even if you only have two Twitter followers (and one of them is me).

Until the Best of 2015, have at it, you vultures!


Posted by: cousinbrandon | November 13, 2014

Versus: The Poetry of Cousin Brandon

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything new. I’m not only quite busy, but extremely lazy. It’s not that I haven’t been reading poetry; rather, it’s simply a matter of getting too wrapped up in working, teaching, parenting, drinking and sleeping. Well, all but that last one, really, as I still can’t figure out how to do it correctly.

I actually taught a lesson on the poetry of war in my last class, which is always fun despite the grim subject matter. Still, there’s something rewarding about discussing poetry with a bunch of students who have zero to little interest in the medium. I always ask if any of my students read or write poetry, and there’s always a small number of hands that go up. And for those who do, in fact, claim to be interested in poetry, it’s the writing, not the reading. That is, I typically gather that they’re interested in what equates to 7th grade journal entries. But that’s fine. Any interest in poetry on their part is more than welcome and appreciated. What’s more, the lesson ties in nicely to another reading we discuss in class, which is Walker Percy’s “The Loss of the Creature.” There’s a great section in the essay in which the author proposes giving dogfish to English students and giving sonnets to medical students. He proposes that they’d get more out of that than they ever would if, say, the English student found a sonnet on his desk. It’s essentially an essay on packaging and consumerism. On reclaiming our sovereignty as individuals.

In any event, that long and boring introduction has zero to do with today’s poem. I started writing this one over a year ago, and only this week came back to it. Initially I had written two lines, which I’ve since changed drastically. I’m not sure that this is finished, but it’s here all the same. Thanks for reading.

Our Dead

In the overgrown cemetery
around the corner
from my father’s house,
we buried my grandmother who died
of grief next to my grandfather who died
one year prior, the two of them
forever committed
to one another, to the earth,
to the rain water
that swallows them up some nights
so that the two of them may float
inside their own magnificent bubble,
along their private, wave-like crescent,
weightless, held, transfixed there
below ground, bobbing
ever so gently inside the silver light
that shines, still, within them,
as we, doomed to walk
the three blocks from door
to headstones on days
we see fit, stand over them,
breathing, wondering
what must they be doing down there,
wondering why it is they went,
one after the other, into the cold,
crooked grip of Death, or why we, now,
are left here alive, wondering at all.


Posted by: cousinbrandon | November 11, 2014

“Happy” Veterans Day

Happy Veterans Day.

What a strange and wrong-sounding sentiment. To greet a veteran and wish him a “Happy Veterans Day” seems like the wrong expression of gratitude. There’s nothing “happy” about war. There’s nothing to be celebrated. There’s nothing heroic about war. There’s no “winning” a war.

By no means am I implying that we shouldn’t thank and honor and appreciate our men and women who put their hands up, went overseas and served our country. Of course we should be doing just that. If you see a veteran today, thank him. Buy him a cup of coffee. Buy him a meal. Shake his hand and step outside of yourself. Realize what he gave up, and what he continues to give up. Appreciate that the war is still inside him. Appreciate that he may be (though hopefully isn’t) struggling still. Honor his sacrifice for you and your family.

But to wish one of these men or women a “Happy Veterans Day” seems like the incorrect greeting. I’m not the first person to say it, but while I don’t support our wars, I sure as hell support our soldiers. It’s a miserable business they enter into. It’s something beyond their expectations. And I say this not as someone with any sort of military background or first-hand experience on the battlefield, but as someone whose step-father served. As someone who’s brother- and sister-in-law served. As someone whose uncle served. As someone who’s seen the effects of war not “over there,” but back here. As someone who’s watched a man quietly eaten alive by what he endured in Vietnam — who carried the war inside of him and, only once, drunk and angry, let me in to tell me that the soldier to his right had his head blown off in combat.

For years I longed — anguished — to understand what was going on inside of my step-dad, who I loved. I had already fallen in love with the poetry of Bruce Weigl and the books of Tim O’Brien and Larry Heinemann and others. My fascination with the literature of the Vietnam War made me want to know and understand my step-dad in a different sort of way — it made me want to ask him what happened, and why he was how he was.

But I didn’t. I couldn’t. I tried once, but it was clear he wouldn’t (or couldn’t) talk about it. So instead I bought him some of the books I read. I thought to somehow engage him through literature might help. Honestly, I doubt it ever did. We connected in many ways, but this was not one of them. There just was no way in, because he, like so many of our veterans, can’t talk about the war they bring home with them. For those who can — who can seek out help and counseling to unburden what they may have done and/or encountered — I am thankful. Their families are thankful. But for those returning soldiers like my late step-dad who don’t know how to deal with what they carry home, I can only hope that we all of us can find ways to help them. We owe them as much, and so much more.

Thanking a soldier today might not be everything, but it’s something. The idea, though, is to make every day Veterans Day — to reach out to someone who needs help. And I am as complicit as anyone. By no means do I write this and point the finger, asking, “What are you doing to help?” What am I doing to help? Not enough. At the present time, an obscene 22 returning soldiers are committing suicide on a daily basis. Extrapolate that number over a year. Horrifying.

I thought I’d include a wonderful and heartbreaking poem by Iraqi War veteran and poet Brian Turner, from his collection Here, Bullet:


It is a condition of wisdom in the archer to be patient
because when the arrow leaves the bow, it returns no more.
– Sa’di

It should make you shake and sweat,
nightmare you, strand you in a desert
of irrevocable desolation, the consequences
seared into the vein, no matter what adrenaline
feeds the muscle its courage, no matter
what god shines down on you, no matter
what crackling pain and anger
you carry in your fists, my friend,
it should break your heart to kill.

Maybe we abandon wishing veterans a “Happy Veterans Day,” and instead say, “Thank you,” or “What can I do to help?” I wish I’d done that with my step-dad sooner and more often. I wish we all did.

Thank you, veterans, for your service.


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