Posted by: cousinbrandon | June 13, 2017

Brolympics 5: Return to Havertown

Blue Team (Matt, Josh, Mitch and Brandon), front

Red Team (Brooksy, Satten, Forwood and Doy), back

On Saturday, June 10, 2017, the original Brolympics gang — myself, Mitchell, Cousin Matt and Cousin Josh — reconvened after last year’s beatdown to once again lay waste to the opposing foursome. This year, however, we teamed up in Havertown (just outside of Philadelphia) to compete against an all new set of pals, featuring (Mike) Brooksy, (Matt) Satten, (Jon) Forwood and Steve “Doy” Gruszka in a 4-on-4, best-of-11, race-to-6-wins Brolympics. These fellas had been asking for quite some time to get in on the event, and we were all too happy to abide. And while I don’t want to give anything way, I can tell you that we had a Brolympics first. Sort of.

This year’s Brolympics consisted of the following (scheduled) events:

  1. Football
  2. Tennis
  3. Wiffle Ball (first appearance, as it replaced the Home Run Derby)
  4. Bocce
  5. Kan Jam
  6. Cornhole
  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 20-minute halves;
  • Two-hand touch;
  • “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.

We broke the rules. But I’ll get back to that.

This year we returned to the site of Brolympics 2: Grange Field. It’s the same place (and event) where Mitch twisted his ankle, which then blew up like Violet in Willy Wonka.

Like last year, 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. For some reason, though, we decided to add 5 minutes onto each half, playing 20-minute halves rather than last year’s 15. We. Are. Dumb.

We lost the coin toss and kicked off to the Red Team. We managed to keep them from scoring on their opening drive, and quickly got the ball for the first time. We then proceeded to go three-and-out, looking absolutely terrible on our first drive. We also realized that this year’s competition was — no offense to last year’s opponents — stiff. They came to play, in that they were bumping off the line, throwing laterals, playing tight man-to-man coverage and even getting on the board first with a touchdown pass on their second drive. I wish I could remember who completed the pass to whom, but I can’t.

I’d love to tell you that I remember all of the details, but all I know is that, after two 20-minute halves, we were tied at two scores apiece. Hot, hungover and exhausted, we made the executive decision to call it a draw, with each team taking a half-point, something that had never happened in Brolympics history. Nobody likes a tie, but I did mention we’re old, yes?

A couple of important notes about the game:

  • While it was an outstanding defensive play, Satten drilled Josh in the end zone, knocking the ball loose and simultaneously breaking(?) his own rib in the process. Great play, but potentially damning for the rest of the competition.
  • With under a minute to play, Josh threw a bomb roughly two-thirds of the length of the field that Mitch caught for an over-the-shoulder touchdown to tie the game at 2 (and earn the tie).

Like kissing your sister. Blue Team (L to R: Matt, Brandon, Mitch and Josh) ties Red Team (L to R: Satten, Doy, Forwood and Brooksy).

Football Final Score: Team Blue ties Team Red, 2-2
Event MVPs: Blue Team, Josh and Mitch; Red Team, Satten and Brooksy
Overall Score: Blue ties Red, 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) took on Doy and Brooksy in match 1, while Matt and I battled Forwood and Satten 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. It wasn’t too difficult to keep tabs on things, though, as the members of the Red Team informed us beforehand that they had no shot at winning tennis. They were right. Mitch and Josh took down their match 6-0, while Matt and I won 6-1. To be fair, had Forwood and Satten managed to get their first serves in, I genuinely think it would have been a close match. But they didn’t. So it wasn’t. I should also note that Mitch plays in a tennis league, so had he lost his match we would have banished him from our team for all of time. And, no, the picture below, while similar, is not identical to the Football shot.

Quick work. Blue Team (L to R: Matt, Brandon, Josh and Mitch) crush Red Team (L to R: Satten, Doy, Forwood and Brooksy).

Tennis Final Score: Mitch and Josh defeat Brooksy and Doy, 6-0; Matt and Brandon defeat Forwood and Satten, 6-1
Event MVP: Tie, Matt and Brandon
Overall Score: Blue Team leads Red Team, 1.5-0.5

Event 3: Wiffle Ball

Rules:

  • 9 innings;
  • Each team gets 3 outs per inning;
  • 3 strikes equal 1 out;
  • Foul ball on strike 3 is an out;
  • A caught ball is an out;
  • Balls off the fence are triples;
  • Balls over the fence are home runs (but can be caught for outs);
  • Ghost runners (can not take extra base);
  • No “fast” pitch; and
  • Teams pitch to the other team.

Because last year’s Home Run Derby was, well, boring, we instead decided to change up and play a straight-up game of Wiffle Ball. And while there may not have been a ton of scoring, it was wildly suspenseful. Plus, there was less standing around, as players from both team were now forced to play defense.

I made an attempt to sketch what the “field” looked like (as we played on a run-down tennis court), but the drawing was simply too crude and added zero value. All you need to know is that we spent entirely too long determining the foul lines. Oh, and we started drinking. Yes, it was a public park with a little league game going on simultaneously, but it was after noon, so…

The Red Team won the coin toss and elected to be the home team, thus our team batted first. Matt hit first, followed by Mitch, then Josh, then me. With Brooksy on the mound, we went down in order in the first. Not sure how the Red Team set their line-up, but they, too, got out of the first frame without scoring, as Matt served as our pitcher with me in left field, Mitch in center and Josh manning the space between pitcher and outfield. Things went on like this for a while. Hits here and there that were snuffed out by great defensive plays, and some deep balls were hit (but caught), thus keeping the score tied at 0-0.

But then, in the 6th inning, Mitch put one over the fence to give Team Blue a 1-0 lead. In the 7th inning, I hit a solo shot of my own, and then hit an RBI double in the same inning, the score at 3-0 going to the bottom of the inning. It remained at 3-0 till the bottom of the 8th, when the Red Team, at long last, got to Matt and began to scratch out hit after hit. They got the game to 3-2 and loaded the bases, but with two outs we got out of the inning. We were held scoreless in the 9th, and after getting two outs in the bottom of the inning, Matt struck out Satten(?) to end the game 3-2.

Brandon and Brooksy, discussing the right field foul line.

Forwood, stationed as “short man” for the Red Team.

Jewyville Sluggers. Blue Team (L to R: Mitch, Matt, Josh and Brandon) defeat Red Team (Doy, Forwood, Brooksy and Satten).

Wiffle Ball Final Score: Blue Team defeats Red Team, 3-2
Event MVPs: Tie, Brandon and Mitch
Overall Score: Blue Team leads Red Team, 2.5-0.5

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.

Pretty sure we didn’t even start Bocce until after 2 o’clock, meaning most of us were tired, hungry, hot and on our way to getting drunk. I, for one, had had nothing to eat all day but a cup of coffee and some fruit snacks. And some beers.

This year we used both baseball diamonds and the football field area of Grange Field for what was a relatively flat playing surfaces populated by large patches of dirt thanks to the baseball infield. We took an early lead in this one, realizing we were having better luck on the longer tosses than the shorter ones. At one point we went up by more than 10 points, but then they slowly chipped away at our lead. When the (baseball field) dust settled, though, the Blue Team defeated the Red Team by a score of 21-11, ending on a game-winning shot by Mitch.

 

Mitch with the backspin toss.

Mitch with the backspin toss (again) as Brandon, Forwood, Doy, Josh and Broosky look on.

Bocce balls! The Blue Team (L to R: Mitch, Matt, Brandon and Josh) defeats the Red Team (L to R: Satten, Doy, Forwood and Brooksy).

Bocce Final Score: Blue Team defeats Red Team, 21-11
Event MVP: Mitch and Matt
Overall Score: Blue Team leads Red Team, 3.5-0.5

Event 5: Kan Jam

Rules:

  • Two matches, with each match being best 3 games out of 5;
  • If both teams win a match, a third match tiebreaker will be played (best 3 games out of 5); and
  • Games played to 21 exactly.

After four events, lunch and several beers, we had already been at it for six or seven hours. Holy hell.

Kan Jam took on a similar tone as Tennis, in that it didn’t appear the Red Team favored themselves in the match-up, as tossing the frisbee around was not their strong suit, apparently, and they gladly would have replaced Kan Jam (or Tennis) with Basketball. Still, the games continued as planned, because A) we love Kan Jam; and B) it’s our fuckin’ Brolympics and we’ll do as we goddamn please!

In an effort to speed things along, we played both matches simultaneously. In match 1, which took place on Matt’s front lawn (and was, therefore, less than the requisite 50 feet between kans), Josh and Matt took on Forwood and Brooksy. In match 2, which took place in Matt’s ridiculously long driveway, Mitch and I took on Satten and Doy.

First, let me say that Josh had never — ever — won a game of Kan Jam, both in Brolympics or casual play, because, up until recently, he could barely throw a frisbee. In the last month or so, though, he taught himself to throw left-handed, and, well, it paid off. In match 1, Matt and Josh won three games to none. In match 2? Well, it was more of the same, with Mitch and I winning three games to none. Aside from a close game in the first match, there wasn’t a whole lot of drama. Still, I thoroughly enjoyed the event. Throwing things into things. And because it was his first-ever win, I’m awarding the co-MVPs accordingly.

 

Kanned Heat! Blue Team defeats Red Team (as photographed perched atop the shrub next to Matt’s house).

Kan Jam Final Score: Matt and Josh defeat Forwood and Brooksy, 3-0 (19, 14 and 12); Mitch and Brandon defeat Doy and Satten, 3-0 (8, 7 and 12)
Event MVPs: Tie, Josh and Matt
Overall Score: We lead Them, 4.5-0.5

Event 6: Cornhole

Rules:

  • Two matches, with each match being best 3 games out of 5;
  • If both teams win a match, a third match tiebreaker will be played (best 3 games out of 5);
  • Games played to 21;
  • “Skunk” in effect (meaning 11-0 wins the game); and
  • Must win game by 2 points.

This was it. The first event we fully expected to lose. Most of the events (aside from Tennis and Kan Jam) were head-scratchers, as we really had no idea of what to expect from the opposition. Cornhole, though, was another story entirely, as we knew the Red Team was composed of four guys who played regularly, one of whom (Satten) was really good. Our only real saving graces were A) Satten’s rib injury; and B) the fact that we had three pretty good players of our own in Matt, Josh and Mitch. I hadn’t played Cornhole since the last Brolympics aside from two random games, and I was never great to begin with.

We decided to stick with the same teams as last year, which meant that Mitch and Matt played together in match 1, taking on Forwood and Doy. I prayed for a victory, as I knew our chances of beating Brooksy and Satten were slim to none. In the opening game, Mitch and Matt skunked them 12-0. They went on to take the second game, 21-12. And before I knew it, the match had ended, with Mitch and Matt defeating the opposition 21-6 in the third and final game. If nothing else, this boded well for the would-be tiebreaker match, as Mitch and Matt played well.

Josh and I were up, and miraculously, on my very first toss, I put it right through the hole. Not sure I even hit the board with my other three. This, though, would be something of a theme in our match. While I don’t remember the scores, I can tell you that we won the first game. Brooksy and Satten came back to win the second game. And then they won the third game, too, going up two games to one. I had accepted our fate, but then something happened. We started scoring points. Consistently. And with that, we took game four, evening the match at two games apiece. Up 8-6 in the final game, Josh had a 7-point round, quickly building our lead to 15-6. And somehow, miraculously, we held on to win it. Sadly, again, I have no idea what the scores of our games were, as I was drunk and tired and not writing anything down. (Thanks, by the way, to Matt, who managed to record most of the scores prior to this one.) Again, I have to believe the outcome would have been different had a healthy Satten been playing. Still, I might have played the best Cornhole of my life that day, as Brooksy continuously mocked me throughout, mimicking my natural reaction to shrug my shoulders and throw my hands out every time I threw a bag through the hole. It shocked me, truly, every time.

With another event under our belt, we needed only one more to take the whole thing down.

Satten watches on as Brandon goes into his wind-up.

Josh looks barefoot, drunk and confused as Brooksy stares at his fate.

Matt and Doy enjoy a beer during match 2.

We put it right in their Cornhole! Blue Team (L to R: Brandon, Mitch, Josh and Matt) defeats Red Team (L to R: Forwood, Satten, Brooksy and Doy).

 

Cornhole Final Score: Mitch and Matt defeat Doy and Forwood, 3-0; Josh and Brandon defeat Brooksy and Satten, 3-2
Event MVPs: Tie, Matt and Brandon
Overall Score: Blue Team leads Red Team, 5.5-0.5

Event 7: Bowling

Rules:

  • Each player bowls two games; and
  • Total combined team pins from both games wins.

This was the first time we’d bowled since Brolympics 2, and the first team we’d bowled in the four-on-four format. Josh, most of all, was very excited about this event, as he’d actually bowled a few games the day prior. I had no expectations for bowling, but had always been decent enough to hold my own, and I knew the same was the case for Mitch and Matt. The Red Team, then, was the wildcard, as I had no idea about their abilities as bowlers. Again, needing only one event for the overall victory, we were focused. But drunk. Very drunk. Thankfully the alley had a bar so we could continue to drink while simultaneously honing that focus. (And by “focus,” I mean “drunk.”)

The opening game was tight. Very tight. After 10 frames, we led them by a combined score of 447-442. We knew that we needed to take Bowling, as a loss here meant we’d then have to get into the “bar games,” an area we would likely be somewhat susceptible. We drank. And we bowled. And we drank. And we bowled. And with a single frame left, Mitch went 9-spare-strike in the 10th frame. And just like that, our lanes went dark! He rolled that final strike, and the power just blew in our lanes. Still, we had a hefty lead by that time, so the strike was ancillary. Had it recorded his score correctly, I think Mitch rolled a 163 in game two, and our team beat them handily by a score of 554-417.

And with that, the competition portion of the evening came to an end.

My bowling shoes and socks game is strong.

Game 1 results.

Game 2 results.

Hey, gents. Let’s bowl some balls. Red Team (L to R: Brooksy, Doy, Forwood and Satten) defeated by Blue Team (L to R: Brandon, Josh, Matt and Mitch).

Pool Final Score: Blue Team defeats Red Team, 1001-859
Event MVP: Mitch
Overall Score: Blue Team wins, 6.5-0.5

The (drunken) face of victory (at McSorleys Pub).

Like last year, we needed only seven events to win this year’s Brolympics. Yet despite the final score, the competition was fierce. Every event (other than Kan Jam and Tennis) was competitive, and best of all the opposition was in great spirits through out. No complaining, no long faces. I don’t know how many times I heard the Red Team say “I’m having a blast!” and “This is so much fun.” Mad respect to those guys, who are welcome back any time. After Bowling, we went to the bar next door, shot pool, played shuffleboard, and drank some more while a Beatles cover band played in the corner and the bartender mean-mugged everyone. Weird. Oh, and then we went to Wawa, because of course we did.

Before concluding this year’s Brolympics, I wanted to include a list of “highlights,” as texted to me the following day by Mitch. So, I give you now a recap of the best of Brolympics 5, according to Mitch:

  1. Highly crushable beer is the best beer.
  2. Epic is never epic.
  3. Honey Bbq Frito Twists are the best things ever when paired with your midnight Wawa hoagie (and a drunk).
  4. “You gonna fight or fuck?”
  5. Ribs don’t care whether you use flags or not.
  6. Bowling is the best event.
  7. Our shirts are awesome, except when we all wear them at the same time (paraphrasing Satten).
  8. Josh came REALLY close to throwing up in my Pilot.
  9. We’ll never get to play darts and shuffleboard, and we won’t ever sniff a game of Beirut (Beer Pong).
  10. Showers made a difference.
  11. Goodbye tennis, hello basketball.
  12. Josh KAN really throw a frisbee — it takes practice!
  13. And, frisbess don’t really hurt, except when Satten hits you in the temple.
  14. I hit a strike in “The Natural” fashion to end my bottom of the 10th frame (epic!).
  15. Philly-challenging bros > Harrisburg-challenging bros.
  16. We need to set a date for 2018.

The true MVP, according to Mitch.

I’d say that we now need to line up competition for the next Brolympics, but I’m pretty certain these four are more than happy to enact their revenge. If not, any takers among you? If so, start getting your team together. Competition welcome.

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

CB

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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.)

worry

 

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)

audacity-hypervessels

9. The Thermals – We Disappear (Saddle Creek)

thermals

8. Dentist – Ceilings (Little Dickman)

dentist-ceilings-cover

7. Slothrust – Everyone Else (Dangerbird)

slothrust

6. Frankie Cosmos – Next Thing (Bayonet)

nextthing

5. Parquet Courts – Human Performance (Rough Trade)

pc

4. PUP – The Dream Is Over (Sideonedummy)

pup

3. Mitski – Puberty 2 (Dead Oceans)

a0571397198_5

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

mb

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

a2165492760_10

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.

slide2
Ascend interior artwork.


Dive front cover.

slide2
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


src=”https://cousinbrandon.files.wordpress.com/2016/08/grey-shirt.jpg?w=212″ alt=”Grey Shirt” width=”212″ height=”300″ /> Bad Guys’ Shirt (Matt, Pete, Nick and Avery)[/caption]

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.

Football2

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, as 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

IMG_0930

Matt B. and Pete can only watch

Tennis1

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.

IMG_1029

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.

IMG_1968

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)

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6. Meat Wave – Delusion Moon (SideOneDummy)

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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.)

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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.

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Monsoon interior artwork.

Slide1
Blizzard front cover.

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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

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)

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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)

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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)

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

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2. LVL UPHoodwink’d (Double Double Whammy)

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1. Frankie CosmosZentropy (Double Double Whammy)

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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.

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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!

BD

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.

BD

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 from Iraq and Afghanistan 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:

Sadiq

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.

BD

Posted by: cousinbrandon | September 19, 2014

Versus: The Poetry of Cousin Brandon

Yeah, I’m well aware that it’s been a while, but so what. I owe you nothing.

My dad’s been sick for a while. Years, really. He’s suffering from an affliction called Frontotemporal Dementia, which is pretty much what it sounds like. His short-term memory is pretty much shot, and his ability to speak is challenged, at best. The disease manifests itself in vocal tics — loud screams that sound somewhere between a shout and a laugh. His ability to walk is hindered, and he sleeps all the time. The bright side, I suppose, is that he doesn’t realize the condition he’s in. He’s my dad, but he’s a stranger all the same. Worse, still, is my resistance to spending time with him. I don’t know how to interact with this person who raised me, who I’ve known for 39 years. I see him, only I don’t see him. He is someone else entirely, and to pretend that everything is okay seems beyond me. I don’t know how to be with him. I ask him questions that go unanswered. I speak and hear my words drowned out by his screaming. He is declining rapidly, and because of that I know I should be present. Selfishly, I’m not. I rationalize my absence by telling myself he doesn’t know the difference, which he most likely does not. Still, I know my rationalization is just that, and it’s my own shortcomings that need addressed.

I began this poem roughly nine months ago, and still I don’t think I’ve gotten it right. Not yet. All the same, I guess I thought by sharing it was to acknowledge my dad, still here, now.

Debt

According to the rules of the world
I must love you. And I do love you.

I love you as any son loves his father —
not because you made me

into what I am today,
but because you made me at all.

I owe you for that. A phone call,
at least. Or maybe I stop by the house

for a bite or whatever beer you’ve got
tucked away into the corner of the fridge.

Some sort of thank you for the middle school
drop-offs and afternoon pick-ups

on those rare nights I didn’t sleep at mother’s.
A card, even, for all the times

you unleashed my brother and me
upon the pristine shopping mall, armed

with enough singles for an afternoon’s
worth of pizza and the flash-bulb bleeps

of the arcade, where we washed ourselves
in the static hum buzzing from every screen,

bathed in the glow of Galaga, Tempest and Joust.
We elbowed our way through the tiny riots

thick with the sinewy bodies of boys
too eager to hiss Fuck! at the cartoon villains

who bombarded them with bricks and hammers,
who stole away with their women, who teased

their dumb, young brains into believing
any of it mattered. We pushed forward,

my brother and me, because we wanted it, too,
and wouldn’t give in until we fed every last

quarter into the games’ slim, black mouths.
Our bellies sick with pizza grease and loss,

we’d head for the mall’s exit, waiting for you
in the cold while trading stupid jokes and punches.

And then, at last, you’d arrive, your red Dodge
grey as the Pennsylvania sky, windows

steeped in bird shit, the back
passenger door that wouldn’t lock, not once.

I sparred with my brother. I gave up after-
noons with you for the din of the arcade,

or was it you who gave them up
so that you might live some other life,

away from us, where there was no such thing
as children, and there was no such thing as loss?

Whatever. It happened one way
or the other. Who can remember?

I grew old and watched your brain go black.
I look at you and wonder if you wonder,

if you recall one iota of this life we shared
or if you’d even want to. I traded away

my memories for whiskey and beer.
You traded yours away for nothing.

BD

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