Posted by: cousinbrandon | January 10, 2017

The “Mixes” Series: Ascend and Dive, 2016

I’m absolutely not the first person to say this, but I’m gonna’ go ahead and say it all the same: 2016 was garbage. I did a lot of thinking on the subject, and there were really only two other years in all my time on this Earth that could have eclipsed this past year in suckitude. To boot, the music in 2016 was, well, not great. I had high expectations, particularly for bands who wowed me in previous years, only to find that several of those groups really sort of shit the bed in 2016. (To be fair, America shit the bed in 2106, so maybe it had to be this way.) I should point out, too, that my iPod was stolen about a month ago. Can you get any more on the nose?!

Like 2015, I pored over a ton of music (more than 3,000 songs, easily), yet I was constantly having to go back and figure out who was who. I’d see a name on my iPod or in iTunes that I recognized, yet had no sense of what the album sounded like.  It was one of the first years in which I genuinely had trouble finding songs for my mix, in that there just weren’t enough “great” ones available. Were there any standout recordings in 2016? Of course there were. I mean, there’s not once been a year in which I walked away thinking, “Everything sucked (musically)!” But on the whole, 2016 was about as meh as meh gets.

In terms of what dominated my musical landscape, there was not only the somewhat typical mix of punk and female vocalists, but yet another influx of emo-esque bands. I should say, too, that some of my favorite bands from long ago (e.g., The Thermals) had a nice resurgence after a few records that were, I thought, sub-par based on their typical standards. In looking at my top 20 records of the year, I opted to group numbers 11-20 in one big lot, as I just didn’t have the heart to rank them. And considering all of the terrible shit that took place this year, I’m honestly impressed I put anything together at all.

I. Am. Spent.

With that…

Album Cover of the Year:

Jeff Rosenstock – Worry. (If this title doesn’t say it all for 2016 and the next four years, I don’t know what does.)

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Vocal Moment of the Year:

Pinegrove – “Aphasia” (At roughly 2:25, Evan Stevens Hall just belts out some shit about an octave higher than any other portion of the album. What he says exactly? I honestly don’t know, and frankly, I don’t care. The sheer emotion is momentous enough. To be fair, though, I believe the lyrics are, “But if I don’t have you by me then I’ll go underground.”)

Song I Heard Once That Implanted Itself Like a Goddamn Earworm:

PUP – “Doubts” (I started to ask myself if cutting my own ears off would help me shake it, but no.)

Lyric of the Year:

Hudson Bell – “In a Ball” (“And when the fog let up and I could see / A bunch of people around me / And some were singing down the street / A song that I repeat/ It’s good to be living again / It’s good to be alive again”)

Guitar Solo of the Year:

Connections – “Month 2 Month” (You should obviously listen to the song in its entirety, as it’s an ass-kicker, but if you want to jump to a sick guitar solo, hit it up around the 2:05 mark.)

Most Disappointing Records That I Was Highly Anticipating:

Big UpsBefore a Million Universes (I loved me some Eighteen Hours of Static, the band’s previous release. This record? Boring. The hooks just weren’t there and the aggression felt forced.)

Dr. Dog The Psychedelic Swamp and Abandoned Mansion (They released not one, but two records this year, and both were lacking at best.)

LVL UPReturn to Love (Not a bad record, but wildly underwhelming after being floored by their previous effort.)

Angel Olsen – My Woman (I love me some Angel Olsen, but this record simply didn’t resonate with me the way her previous releases have. Critics were all over it, but frankly I just didn’t find that it worked for me no matter how many times I listened.)

Videos of the Year:

Mitski – “Your Best American Girl

Angel Olsen – “Shut Up Kiss Me

PUP – “Sleep in the Heat

Ten Honorable Mentions of 2016 (all tied for 11th and thereby ranked alphabetically):

11. Astronoid Air (Blood Music)
11. Connections – Midnight Run (Anyway)
11. Dark Thoughts – Dark Thoughts (Stupid Bag)
11. DOGBRETH – Second Home (Asian Man)
11. Explosions in the Sky – The Wilderness (Temporary Residence)
11. Hudson Bell Yerba Buena (self-released)
11. Mourn Ha, Ha, He. (Captured Tracks)
11. Nothing Tired of Tomorrow (Relapse)
11. Pinegrove – Cardinal (Run for Cover)
11. Sioux Falls – Rot Forever (Broken World Media)

Top Ten Records of 2016:

10. Audacity – Hyper Vessels (Suicide Squeeze)

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9. The Thermals – We Disappear (Saddle Creek)

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8. Dentist – Ceilings (Little Dickman)

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7. Slothrust – Everyone Else (Dangerbird)

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6. Frankie Cosmos – Next Thing (Bayonet)

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5. Parquet Courts – Human Performance (Rough Trade)

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4. PUP – The Dream Is Over (Sideonedummy)

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3. Mitski – Puberty 2 (Dead Oceans)

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2. Modern Baseball – Holy Ghost (Run for Cover)

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1. Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Denial (Matador)

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I was forced to keep Car Seat Headrest’s Teens of Style off of my list in 2015, if only because it was a collection of previously singles and recordings. In 2016, though, Car Seat Headrest came back with an album full of new material that, well, kicked all kinds of ass. Frontman Will Toledo can best be described as dynamic, in that his songs are ever-changing from start to finish. There is no CSH formula. Or to put it another way, the CSH formula is no formula. While last year’s “Los Borrachos” was arguably my favorite song I’d heard all year, I must point out that “Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales” was sung by myself, my wife and my daughter in unison with Toledo during many a road trip in 2016. Do I think Toledo the man is somewhat pretentious? Sure. But so what. He’s still very young, and what are today’s youth if not arrogant.

As always, I made two CD-length mixes this year. While I once again don’t know how many records I actually plowed through, I know that I had just under 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. As for the tracks below, I linked to nothing but studio versions this year. Because I opted to make my playlists on Spotify as opposed to creating actual discs, I had to give in to the fact that Spotify didn’t have every song I might have actually included on my final mixes. I made do with what was available, though, as there were only a couple bands that were unavailable to me.

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 49 songs that comprise my 2016 mixes…

Ascend front cover.

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Ascend interior artwork.


Dive front cover.

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Dive interior artwork.

Ascend (The Best “Fast” Tracks of 2016):

1. Explosions in the Sky – “Infinite Orbit” (The Wilderness)
2. Slothrust – “Rotten Pumpkin” (Everyone Else)
3. The Thermals – “Hey You” (We Disappear)
4. Audacity – “Hypo” (Hyper Vessels)
5. Jeff Rosenstock – “Bang on the Door” (WORRY.)
6. Mourn – “President Bullshit” (Ha, Ha, He.)
7. PUP – “Doubts” (The Dream Is Over)
8. Astronoid – “Tin Foil Hats” (Air)
9. Mannequin Pussy – “Emotional High” (Romantic)
10. Connections – “Month 2 Month” (Midnight Run)
11. Happy Diving – “Electric Soul Unity” (Electric Soul Unity)
12. Parquet Courts – “Outside” (Human Performance)
13. Paws – “Clarity” (No Grace)
14. Modern Baseball – “What If…” (Holy Ghost)
15. Pinegrove – “Then Again” (Cardinal)
16. Bent Shapes – “86’d in ’03” (Wolves of Want)
17. DTCV – “Conformiste” (Confusion Moderne)
18. Frankie Cosmos – “If I Had a Dog” (Next Thing)
19. Tacocat – “Dana Catherine Scully“* (Lost Time)
20. Car Seat Headrest – “Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales” (Teens of Denial)
21. Dowsing – “Feeling Better” (Okay)
22. LVL UP – “The Closing Door” (Return to Love)
23. Pinkwash – “Gumdrop” (Collective Sigh)
24. Sonic Avenues – “Illusions: The System” (Disconnector)
25. Dentist – “Body Slam (Move)” (Ceilings)
26. Hudson Bell – “Hey Doll” (Yerba Buena)
27. DOGBRETH – “Stunner” (Second Home)
28. Forth Wanderers – “Know Better“* (Slop EP)
29. Nothing – “Vertigo Flowers” (Tired of Tomorrow)

Dive (The Best “Slow” Tracks of 2016):

1. William Tyler – “Highway Anxiety“^ (Modern Country)
2. Mitski – “Your Best American Girl” (Puberty 2)
3. Hudson Bell – “In a Ball”^ (Yerba Buena)
4. Forth Wanderers – “Nerves” (Slop EP)
5. Angel Olsen – “Shut Up Kiss Me” (My Woman)
6. Eleanor Friedberger – “Open Season” (New View)
7. Frankie Cosmos – “Embody” (Next Thing)
8. Dentist – “Joel” (Ceilings)
9. Happy Diving – “Head Spell” (Electric Soul Unity)
10. Sioux Falls – “Practice Space” (Rot Forever)
11. Pinegrove – “Aphasia” (Cardinal)
12. Modern Baseball – “Hiding” (Holy Ghost)
13. Parquet Courts – “Human Performance” (Human Performance)
14. Slothrust – “Horseshoe Crab” (Everyone Else)
15. Julia Brown – “Bloom” (An Abundance of Strawberries)
16. Sorority Noise – “Either Way” (It Kindly Stopped for Me EP)
17. DOGBRETH – “Steeping” (Second Home)
18. Jeff Rosenstock – “We Begged 2 Explode” (WORRY.)
19. Car Seat Headrest – “The Ballad of the Costa Concordia” (Teens of Denial)
20. Nothing – “Tic Tac Toe” (Tired of Tomorrow)

 

 

Well, that’ll do it for 2016. 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 2016. 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 2016 playlist 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 years’ past. There’s a shit-ton of them.
  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 2017, have at it, you vultures!

BD

Posted by: cousinbrandon | December 22, 2016

The “Miscellaneous” Mixes: Once Upon a Pissedmas

Jesus Christ.

Another year, another holiday mix courtesy of the wife and me. No hard copies this year, as we opted to go straight Spotify playlist. Unfortunately, this meant that some of our original selections had to get axed, simply because the songs weren’t available in Spotify. Dicks.

So, without further delay, put your ears on!

Once Upon a Pissedmas:

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1. Jeff Buckley – “Hallelujah
2. She & Him – “The Christmas Waltz
3. Sufjan Stevens – “The Midnight Clear
4. LCD Soundsystem – “Christmas Will Break Your Heart
5. The Polyphonic Spree – “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)
6. The Raveonettes – “Come On Santa
7. Blitzen Trapper – “Christmas Is Coming Soon!
8. Lou Reed – “Xmas In February
9. Cassie Ramone – “Wonderful Christmastime
10. The Ronettes – “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus
11. Carpenters – “Sleigh Ride
12. Stevie Wonder – “What Christmas Means to Me
13. James Brown – “Please Come Home for Christmas
14. Weezer – “The First Noel
15. Aimee Mann and Michael Penn – “Christmastime
16. Clem Snide – “Jews for Jesus Blues
17. Belle & Sebastian – “O Come, O Come Emmanuel
18. Okkervil River – “Listening to Otis Redding at Home During Christmas
19. Matt Pond PA – “Holiday Road
20. Tacocat – “Snow Day
21. Joyce Manor – “Christmas Card
22. Islands – “Snowflake
23. Barenaked Ladies – “Hanukkah Blessings
24. Frightened Rabbit – “It’s Christmas So We’ll Stop
25. David Hasselhoff – “Feliz Navidad

Oh, and here it is in pure Spotify form…

Well, there you have it: 2016’s audio Advent calendar. Hope this inspires you to drink 8 gallons of egg nog and eat all of Santa’s cookies.

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

BD

Posted by: cousinbrandon | August 11, 2016

Brolympics 4(on 4): Results of the 4th “Annual” Brolympics

Blue Shirt

Good Guys’ Shirt (Mitch, Matt, Josh and Brandon)

Grey Shirt

Bad Guys’ Shirt (Matt, Pete, Nick and Avery)

Ref Shirt

Ref’s Shirt

On Saturday, July 30, 2016, the original Brolympics gang — myself, Mitchell, Cousin Matt and Cousin Josh — reconvened after a five-year hiatus to relive the (not so) glorious days of our youth. There was a significant change in this, the fourth “annual” Brolympics: rather than playing two-on-two (me and Josh vs. Matt and Mitch), the four of us teamed up to compete against our pals Matt B., Pete, Nick and Avery in a 4-on-4, best-of-11, race-to-6-wins Brolympics. Several pals had been begging for years to let them into the fold, and as the expression goes, “Be careful what you wish for.”

I should point out that this year’s shirts were printed by our good pal Cory Seymour at Backpage Press, who you can follow on Twitter. And while we had a ref’s shirt printed, no one was able to fill the ref’s shoes, so the shirt went unworn. We’ve decided, though, to turn that shirt into our “cup,” wherein the winning team keeps the cup until the next Brolympics champions are crowned.

This year’s Brolympics took place in the Camp Hill/Harrisburg region, and consisted of the following (scheduled) events:

  1. Football
  2. Tennis
  3. Home Run Derby
  4. Bocce
  5. Cornhole
  6. Kan Jam (first appearance!)
  7. Bowling
  8. Pool
  9. Darts
  10. Shuffleboard
  11. Beirut

As a refresher, the images work like this: to capture the results of each event, we documented them with a photograph. The winning teammates for each event held their fingers up, while the losers kept their hands roughly waist-high. So, if the score was, say, 3 to 1 following four events, the team with three wins would hold three fingers high, while the team with one win would hold one finger waist-high.

With that, here’s how it all played out, beginning with…

Event 1: Football

Rules:

  • One 4-on-4 game;
  • Two 15-minute halves;
  • No “Losers Walk”;
  • Team who loses coin-toss defends side of field of its choosing;
  • Kicking team in 1st half is receiving team in 2nd half;
  • Only 1 first-down possibility per drive (located at mid-field);
  • Only 1 blitz per set of downs;
  • Defense can rush the passer after “5 Mississippi” count;
  • Quarterback can’t run with the ball unless rushed/blitzed;
  • Touchdowns worth 1 point;
  • No field goals, no extra points; and
  • If overtime is needed, no sudden death scoring; both teams play till one team scores touchdown and second team fails to answer.

Rather than playing in a park or vacant field, we got the bright idea to play on an actual football field this year, and thus took over the Camp Hill field at Siebert Park. Artificial turf! And as it turns out, I brought my soccer cleats and found the conditions to be glorious.

Now, because we’re all near or over 40, we realized there was simply no way we’d be able to use the entire field. So, we opted to cut the field in half, both by length and width. In other words, our playing surface was roughly 50 yards by 26 yards. Again, we’re old.

We won the coin toss and elected to kick off in the first half. Not a bad strategy, though we foolishly “kicked off” (threw the ball) directly to Avery, who proceeded to run it back for the opposing team’s first (and only) score. Down 1-0, we marched down the field and returned the favor. Now, I can’t quite remember if it was Mitch or Josh who threw our opening score, but I can say for certain that I was on the receiving end.

Tied at 1-1, we elected to have Matt punt the kick-off, which was a huge mistake. I think the ball traveled 10 yards directly out of bounds. Fortunately our defense stepped up and held them scoreless, as would be the case for the remainder of the event. Meanwhile, I caught two more touchdown passes: the first was behind me in the end zone, forcing me to contort my body mid-air; the second was pretty much a jump ball between myself and Pete. Pete managed to get a hand on the ball and tip it, only he tipped it straight up and I managed to come down with it in the end zone.

On the defensive end, Josh managed to knock down a couple would-be receptions, while Matt S. took a shot to the ribs in the opening event (which would force him to later wrap himself like a burrito, though I sadly don’t have any pictures).

When the dust settled, we walked away with a 3-1 victory, thus setting the tone for the day.

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Red stifles “Blue” (Nice “blue” shirt, Matt!) (Red, l to r: Matt S., Josh, Brandon, Mitch) (“Blue,” l to r: Nick, Matt B., Pete, Avery)

Football Final Score: M, M, J and B defeat M, P, N and A, 3-1
Event MVP: Tie, Brandon and Josh
Overall Score: We (M, M, J and B) lead Them (M, P, N and A), 1-0

Event 2: Tennis

Rules:

  • Two sets of doubles;
  • One set per match;
  • If each team wins one match, a third match is played (best two sets out of three); and
  • No third set tiebreaker.

Mitch and Josh (the stronger of our two teams, and Matt S. and I pretty much don’t play anymore) took on Matt B. and Pete in match 1, while Matt S. and I battled Nick and Avery in match 2. Although we played on courts alongside one another, the matches were played simultaneously, so I didn’t really have an opportunity to watch the other match. As it turns out, I don’t think I really would have had a chance to watch, as Mitch and Josh demolished their opponents by a score of 6-1.

Our match, however, was a nail-biter. Every game but one, I believe, went to deuce, and pretty much every one of those games had multiple deuces. We jumped out to an early 2-0 lead, though quickly fell behind 4-2, and later 5-4. Our opponents had three match points against us at that point, yet failed to convert. Somehow we managed to get it back to 5-5, and eventually went on to take the match down with a 7-5 victory. I give the credit to Matt S., who did a fine job at the net. And while I certainly improved as the match went on, I never felt comfortable. Kudos to Nick and Avery, who both played well. Their effort, however, was all for naught.

(I should note that Mitch and Josh provided wonderful video commentary of our match; however, I’m too cheap to pay for the premium version of WordPress, so video uploads aren’t an option. You’ll have to take my word that they exist.)

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Matt and Brandon, awaiting serve

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Avery and Nick, serving

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Matt B. and Pete can only watch

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An unfazed Mitch and Josh and an exhausted Brandon and Matt S. celebrate their respective victories.

Tennis Final Score: M & J defeat M & P, 6-1; M & B defeat N & A, 7-5
Event MVP: Tie, Mitch, Josh and Matt S.
Overall Score: We lead Them, 2-0

Event 3: Home Run Derby

Rules:

  • 3 innings;
  • Each batter gets 3 outs per inning; each team gets 12 outs per inning;
  • 3 strikes equal 1 out;
  • Ball is foul (a strike) if it doesn’t roll forward after contact or hits the net;
  • Balls over the fence are home runs;
  • Balls over the fence may not be caught for outs; and
  • Teammates pitch to one another.

I’m not gonna lie: this one was a bit of a slog, so we shortened it from 5 innings to 3 innings. We realized pretty quickly that there was too much standing around on the part of the non-hitting team, so we figured we’d speed things up a bit. We elected to play on the tennis courts where we just completed our second event, thus hitting from one set of courts onto the other. And while we didn’t measure a distance, we determined the batter should be at the “T” of one court while the pitcher stood on the other side of the net. Complicated explanation, I know.

Courts

My awful, awful depiction of the HR Derby set-up

The other team won the coin toss and elected to be the home team, thus our team batted first. Matt S. hit first, followed by me, then Josh, then Mitch. We were at a huge disadvantage, as Matt’s ribs were a mess following his football injury; thus, he opted to hit one-handed. And believe it or not, he homered. Several times. It was nearly effortless. I, too, hit a few over the fence in my initial at bat. Josh? He popped one, too. Not so much for Mitch.

Going into the last inning, I believe we were down 13-12. Somehow I managed to hit four home runs in my final at bat (8 total), and coupled with my teammates’ homers, we went up 19-13. Matt B. got up to the plate and immediately hit two out, but that was all he could muster. And he didn’t get much help from his teammates, as we ended up taking the event by a final score of 19-17.

HRDerby

Fortunately random strangers continued to walk by to snap pictures

Home Run Derby Final Score: We defeat Them, 19-17
Event MVP: Tie, Brandon & Matt S.
Overall Score: We lead Them, 3-0

Event 4: Bocce

Rules:

  • Team play (red balls vs. black balls);
  • Each player throws one ball per round;
  • One game played to 21;
  • Any part of the field is “in bounds”;
  • Teams may score a max of 4 points per round; and
  • Must win by 2.

Bocce, to my disappointment, was nearly cut this year. Seems some people (ahem, Mitch) weren’t as keen on including it this time around. I, however, fought for it, as I love the game and have performed pretty well in Brolympics past. Funny, then, that we not only played, but that I played so horribly. Fortunately the same can’t be said for teammates.

Rather than playing in an undulating field with patches of dirt and grass, we opted to return to the football field and play on the stretch of turf behind the end zone. So, for once, a flat Bocce “court” would be used. As I’ve noted in the past, we don’t play the typical Bocce game, in that there are no perfectly rectangular sand courts utilized; rather, we chuck that tiny ball wherever the hell we damn well please.

Our opponents got out to a fast 5-0 start, led by Nick’s prowess around the Bocce court. We stormed back, though, and went on (I believe) a 17-0 run. Mitch and Josh both played particularly well, but it was Mitch led us to our fourth straight victory, as we bitch-slapped them yet again.

I should point out that the rain began to fall during Bocce, which was, perhaps, a blessing, as it was crazy humid outside. What’s more, we smelled. Bad.

Bocce

This shot came compliments of the timer on Mitch’s iPhone

Bocce Final Score: We defeat Them, 21-9
Event MVP: Mitch
Overall Score: We lead Them, 4-0

Event 5: Kan Jam

Rules:

  • Two matches, with each match being best 2 games out of 3;
  • If both teams win a match, a third match tiebreaker will be played (best 2 games out of 3); and
  • Games played to 21 exactly.

After a quick stop for food (and the day’s first beers), we opted to reshuffle the order of events, as the rain was beginning to come down pretty good. Cornhole was slated as the fifth event, but the rain would have destroyed the bags, and nobody wants that. So, instead we moved the competition to the parking lot behind Nick’s house, where we decided some rain-saturated Kan Jam could easily take place. (Based on how hard it began to rain, we let our arrogance get the best of us. In fact, it got so bad at one point that we stopped playing completely and took shelter in Mitch’s car.)

In the opening match, we put up Josh and Matt S., our two “weakest” players, after the other team put up Avery and Matt B., who I would consider the strongest Kan Jam competitors among us all. Our strategy was such that we were willing to essentially give up one match if it meant taking the second match and forcing a tiebreaker. (Mitch, for some reason, had trouble with this strategy, though the rest of us agreed it made sense.) Avery and Matt B., seasoned players, easily handled Josh and Matt S., beating them two straight and sending us down 0-1.

And then the rains came…

Rain Delay2

This rain delay is brought to you by Canadian beer (and American beards)

After a lengthy delay, we started the second match. Mitch and I took game 1 from Pete and Nick, and then it happened: Nick slotted his disc in game 2, thus ripping the momentum from us. Game 3 was theirs for the taking. If I’m not mistaken, they were up 20-17, needing only 1 point to win. But they didn’t. And we did.

So, the tiebreaker came to fruition just as I imagined it would: Avery and Matt B. versus me and Mitch. Before Brolympics began, I resigned myself to thinking that Kan Jam was one of the events we would most certainly lose, as we knew they had four solid players. But then something happened. Up 20-13 in game 1, they couldn’t shut the door. Mitch and I got it to 20-19, and eventually forced overtime. And then a second overtime. When the dust settled, I think we ended up winning game 1 by a combined score of 25-24, though none of us were smart enough to write anything down, so who knows.

At this point we needed to win only one of the next two games. And then, on my second throw, I shouted: “Don’t touch it!” as I knew it was going to hit. A second later, as the disc began to make it’s way through the slot, I proclaimed, “It’s in!” That’s right. I slotted my throw to win the game, something I don’t believe I’d ever done before. Upset city. In a race to six wins, things weren’t looking good…

KanJam1

Taken at the Maennerchor later that afternoon, again on Mitch’s iPhone

KanJam2

An attempt to jump and high-five, as it was our fifth win (so dumb, I know)

Kan Jam Final Score: M & B defeat A & M, 2-0
Event MVP: Tie, Brandon and Mitch
Overall Score: We lead Them, 5-0

Event 6: Cornhole

Rules:

  • Two matches, with each match being best 2 games out of 3;
  • If both teams win a match, a third match tiebreaker will be played (best 2 games out of 3);
  • Games played to 21;
  • “Skunk” in effect (meaning 11-0 wins the game); and
  • Must win game by 2 points.

While I knew that we had a chance at Cornhole, I also realized it wasn’t a good one, particularly because our best Cornholer was still nursing that rib injury, thus making it difficult for him to throw the bags. Additionally, I knew coming in that they would likely dominate us in this event, as Matt B. is easily the best Cornholer I’ve ever seen, and his teammates — particularly Avery — have game, as well. Still, I had hope all the same, although very little. Okay, none.

Following the rain debacle, we all made our way to our separate headquarters, showered, and agreed to meet back at the Maennerchor for Cornhole, Pool, Darts and Shuffleboard. Fortunately Nick was good enough to call ahead and ask if we could use their upstairs space for Cornhole, as the rain outside simply wouldn’t allow it. And the folks at Das Maennerchor were good enough to comply.

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Matt S., full extension

Nick and Matt B. took on Matt S. and Mitch in match 1, with their team winning both games in a sweep, putting them up 1-0. Match 2, while close, ended in similar fashion.

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While waiting for our match, Pete fashioned a “speaker” for his iPhone out of a clip-on lamp

Avery and I stood at one end, while Josh and Pete stood at the other. And although I started slowly, I certainly came on, with Avery and I throwing many “no blood” rounds against one another to the point of sheer amazement. In the end, though, the other guys finally got off the schneid and took us down two games to none, thus eliminating the chance of a Brolympics shutout. Oh, well. They earned it.

IMG_1047

The bad guys win one. (Where are your goddamn shirts, Nick and Avery?!)

Cornhole Final Score: They defeat Us, 2-0
Event MVP: Tie: Avery, Matt B., Nick and Pete
Overall Score: We lead Them, 5-1

Event 7: Pool

Rules

  • Two matches,  with each match being best 2 games out of 3;
  • If both teams win a match, a third match tiebreaker will be played (best 2 games out of 3);
  • 8-Ball (must call pockets);
  • Alternate shot; and
  • Scratch on the 8-Ball is a loss only if cue ball is also pocketed; and

Bowling was slotted as the seventh competition, but we opted to put it on hold in the interest of time and instead move forward with Pool. The event got somewhat controversial, which will become clear as to why in a moment. (Granted, we’d been drinking a lot by this point, so I guess it goes without saying that controversy wasn’t far behind.) Like Kan Jam, Mitch and I realized we were the superior players on our team, having both played in a pool league for several years. Unfortunately, three members on the other team did so, as well, thus putting us at yet another disadvantage. It seemed that we defied the odds in several instances all day, though, so there was no need to believe we wouldn’t do so here, either.

In match 1, Matt S. and Josh squared off against Avery and Pete, whereas Mitch and I contested Nick and Matt B. in match 2. Their match didn’t last long, as it appeared that Pete went apeshit in the first game and cleaned up rather quickly. They took game 2, as well, thus putting us in an 0-1 hole. (I should note that these matches were played simultaneously.) We lost the first game in our match, but stormed back to take the next two games, thus tied at one match apiece. (Again, I should note that, like Kan Jam and Cornhole, I wanted to do a best of five rather than a best of three. I was outvoted. Dicks.)

IMG_1057

Pete: “Have any of you seen our dignity?”

So, then, here’s where the controversy arose. The other team believed that they should have the option of putting up the two players of their choosing, yet we insisted that the winning team should be the one to play in the Finals. In other words, if two players won their match, those same two players move on. After much discussion/debate, we agreed to let each team put up whoever they wanted, and they opted to go with Nick and Pete, whereas we stuck with myself and Mitch. And we won.

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Mitch’s selfie game is on point, yo

Game over.

Pool1

Champions

Pool Final Score: M & B defeat N and P, 2-0
Event MVP: Mitch
Overall Score: We win, 6-1

So what does this mean? It means we needed only seven events to take down the fourth “annual” Brolympics. Sad, really, that we had to leave so many events on the table, but seeing as how we’d been at it for roughly 13 (drunken) hours at this point, so be it. To be fair to our opponents, us four have been playing these stupid games as a group for many, many years. Losing simply wasn’t an option, and other stupid cliches. What’s more, nobody outside our locker room believed in us. (That may very well be the worst sports cliche of them all.)

Currently, the ref’s shirt/”cup” remains unsigned, so we still need to get our hands on a white Sharpie to etch our names into the trophy, so to speak. What’s more, we need to line up competition for the next Brolympics. Any takers among you? If so, start getting your team together. Competition welcome.

Until the next Brolympics, have at it, you vultures!

CB

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!

Slide1
Happy Challahdays front cover.

Slide2
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!

BD

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

girlpool_-_before_the_world_was_big_sm_2

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)

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

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8. Waxahatchee – Ivy Tripp (Merge)

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7. Dilly Dally – Sore (Partisan)

dillydally-sore

6. Meat Wave – Delusion Moon (SideOneDummy)

Meat-Wave-Delusion-Moon

5. QUARTERBACKS – QUARTERBACKS (Team Love)

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4. All Dogs – Kicking Every Day (Salinas)

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

built-to-spill-untethered-moon

2. Lithuania – Hardcore Friends (Lame-O)

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1. Hop Along – Painted Shut (Saddle Creek)

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I 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…

Slide1
Monsoon front cover.

Slide2
Monsoon interior artwork.

Slide1
Blizzard front cover.

Slide2
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)
19. QUARTERBACKS – “LAST BOY” (QUARTERBACKS)
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)
15. QUARTERBACKS – “NOT IN LUV” (QUARTERBACKS)
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!

BD

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