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Ever have the itch to create a table? Yeah, me too.

I wanted to start this record of JaM preferences before they fade from memory. Not surprisingly, the entries in the following table reflect my personal interests: language, music, and dogs.

I’ll need Katie’s help to add some more.

Jackie

McLain

______________ _________________ __________________
Catchphrase (under 2 yrs) “What’s that right therrrrrre?” “What’s that guy doin’?”
______________ _________________ __________________
Baby & toddler nicknames BK (Beanie Katie), Chaygers, San Diego Chaygers, Jacks, Bowl Full of Happy Jacks, Jacks on Jacks on Jacks LOB (Little ‘ol Boy), John C. McGinley, Emcee Lain, Bigun, Brooklyn, Sprite Remix
______________ _________________ __________________
First indie rock song sing-along “While You Wait for the Others” by Grizzly Bear — the “OooAaaOooooOooo” part “Wordless Chorus” by My Morning Jacket — the “OoooAhhOooooOoOo” part
______________ _________________ __________________
Favorite dog Baxter (even though he growled at her a lot when she was a baby) Robah (even though he accidentally knocks McLain down to this day)
______________ _________________ __________________
Most endearing mispronunciation “Re-lune-lun” (Reunion) “Gael” and “Waeld” (Girl and World)
______________ _________________ __________________
Favorite adverb to start a sentence “Actually, blah blah blah…” “Yesterday, blah blah blah…”
______________ _________________ __________________
Favorite song from an old kids’ movie “I Want It NOW” sung by Veruca Salt in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory “It’s a Hard Knock Life” from Annie
______________ _________________ __________________
Favorite old song that Dad sings poorly “On the Street Where You Live” from My Fair Lady, written by Frederick Loewe “I’m An Old Cow Hand” sung by Bing Crosby, written by Johnny Mercer

 

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First things first. Two of my favorite tracks of 2013 were live performances of holiday standards. The songs themselves are borderline mundane…it’s the vocals that’ll bring a tear to a glass eye.

Now, for the rest of year’s jams…

If there’s one thing I detest, it’s parking in a parking lot and shopping for junk in an actual store. So, it wasn’t until this year that Black Friday had any meaning to me. On the day after Thanksgiving, I heard rumblings of The Walkmen calling it quits.

The official announcement from the band used the term “extreme hiatus”. Since then, I’ve read about the details of the end of The Walkmen.

I’ve seen a lot of my favorite bands go from maybe they’ll release something and come to NC next year to something like extreme hiatus. The most extreme extreme hiatus was probably the band Morphine, when Mark Sandman collapsed on stage. When Pavement broke up, I was irrationally surprised and disappointed. When Ween broke up, I was mildly surprised for no good reason. When Guided by Voices broke up, I knew it was a matter of weeks before Uncle Bob found new sidemen.

At 36, I look back morbidly at old mixes or playlists and think of who’s next. But, I don’t get disappointed anymore.

Now that I’m mature enough (on good days) to understand why the grind and the business in general can drive musicians apart, I don’t feel let down in any way. The Walkmen were different, and their breakup affected me differently. I always could relate to their look, their perspective, their point in time. I feel like Katie and I grew into adulthood with Everyone Who Pretended to Like Me is Gone and Bows + Arrows, into responsible adulthood with You & Me, and into parenthood with Lisbon and Heaven.

For Christmas 2010, Katie gave me tickets to see them at Cat’s Cradle. The show remains one of the best I’ve ever seen and heard, and I remember walking out of the Cradle as the band was packing up. We walked out front, and there was Hamilton Leithauser in his tweed jacket, loading amps and other equipment into their van. Not only was there no roadie to do manual labor; this guy, the frontman and lead singer, was dressed like a private school guidance counselor while doing the dirty work. I told him, “Great show!” as we walked by. He said thanks, and I noticed how tired he looked at 1:00 am, humping gear after putting on a two-hour show.

It’s nearly 2014, so there’s no better tune for tribute than this rendition of “In the New Year” from that night.

Tough decisions…that could be the alternate title of this post. 2013 was a wonderful year for music and life. I should take a cue from the band and move on with things. These are the jams that made me happy this year.

Albums

A few quick notes about my experience with new albums in 2013 and my ground rules for these selections:

  • There are no jazz albums included in the following list, mainly because I didn’t spend enough time with jazz this year. That may be because there’s not enough time to explore beyond the many options in my personal wheelhouse. For the record, my personal wheelhouse is indie rock, hip-hop, and electronic ambient and dance music.
  • 2013 was excellent for hip-hop. If rap music seems underrepresented in this list, it’s only because it didn’t really match the brilliance of everything else at an album level. For example, Kendrick Lamar didn’t release a record in 2013, but every guest verse I heard from him was golden genius. The big names released good albums, and the new artists really
    Note: Yeezus wasn’t that big a deal for me. There are too many outstanding lyricists to include a Kanye record solely based on interesting production and interview-borne controversy. You could easily classify one-third of what I listened to this year as hip-hop.
  • For the first time in my life, I took metal seriously in 2013. I’m just one in millions who see the crossover appeal in Deafheaven’s Sunbather. I remember a few other records that featured screaming vocals, and for the first time I heard so much more than just the screaming. Maybe I’ll wear more black t-shirts in 2014?

These are my 25 favorites of the past year, classified in four tiers. Underneath those are my favorite EPs.

Tier One

Disclosure – Settle
It’s rare that you love a pre-album single (White Noise), you love the second pre-album single (Latch), the album comes out and your kids love the second track and recite the chorus whenever someone says, “Fire” (When A Fire Starts to Burn), and you continue to love the album more and more every time you hear it. Then, you find yourself replaying the FOURTEENTH track on the album months after the album release and decide it’s one of your favorite songs of the year (Help Me Lose My Mind).

Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City
What more can you ask of these guys? Is matching catchy songs with fascinating production not enough? Nevermind that the overarching theme of Modern Vampires is deep, and that they continue to be witty, semi-annoying, yet lovable. They semi-sample Souls of Mischief and Pachelbel’s Canon in the same song! Someday I’ll play this album for my grandkids and try to convince them that music was fantastic way back in 2013. They’ll laugh hysterically when I explain how Jackie and I would rig up my phone to the car stereo to play the Vevo video of Step just so we could hear the song before it was available in any other format. “Grandpa Andy is ridiculous!”, they’ll say.

Arctic Monkeys – AM
In 2013, this was my comfortable, trusty rock n’ roll sweatshirt. I would put it on any old time of day, and it would make me feel good. It also made me feel a little old, which I am, but also proud of the Arctic Monkeys tradition and evolution. AM proves that really good bands can grow up to become great bands in ten years time. If it weren’t for a couple of tracks that sound a little to classic rock-like, this record might have been my overall favorite in a really good year.

Majical Cloudz – Impersonator
My biggest music-related regret of the year is missing Devon Welsh’s set at Hopscotch. Back in the spring, however, it took me awhile to give Impersonator a fair listen, though. Based on nothing more than the name Majical Cloudz [sic] (is sic necessary here?), I resisted this album even after I read all the glowing reviews at the beginning of the year. I quickly learned how powerful, serious, and downright gorgeous some of the songs are, despite the worst band name since Gauntlet Hair came on the scene.

Foxygen – We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic
I think I’ve played this album in its entirety about every two weeks since February, which makes it second only to AM in the comfort-listening category. I remember a local radio guy saying, “I don’t get the whole love song to the ’60s thing.” I also remember my father-in-law hearing it and saying in a wistful way, “This reminds me of older music.” I agree with my father-in-law and the undeniably derivative nature of their sound, but not the radio guy. This album is not some hackneyed attempt at a white album for younguns today who’ve never heard The Beatles. There’s a ton of variety from track-to-track, and the songs are extremely well-written. Plus, Jackie loves the lyric, “I met your daughter the other day…that was weird. She had rhinoceros-shaped earrings in her ear.”

Danny Brown – Old
I saw this dude play an art museum just last year with my wife and my brother. All three of us loved it, but I never imagined he would put together this kind of masterpiece a year later. In fact, before Old, I didn’t know he was capable of any voice other than the likable, but crazed honking type of style. Now I know, low/normal voice is for serious storytelling, and shrill/crazed voice is for when he’s turnt up (or maybe just turnt down for what). Either way, this record shows unmatched versatility AND introspection, which are two uncommon qualities in hip-hop artists.

Haim – Days Are Gone
Are you 30 or older, and love “alternative” music? If so, you might also love this feature Radio-Friendly Unit Shifters from September. Here’s the factoid from the article that had me scratching my head:

After Tracy Bonham’s “Mother Mother” departed the penthouse in June 1996, no solo woman would top this chart for more than 17 years; during that period, only three songs by bands with so much as a female singer (GarbageHole, and Evanescence) would make it to the No. 1. 

Bizarre, isn’t it? I’m sure sexism and other societal contextual factors are to blame. Nowadays I play Days Are Gone for my own enjoyment as much as I do for my daughter to hear three women rockers whose debut album compares favorably to anything recorded in 2013.

Tier Two

The Range – Nonfiction
Earl Sweatshirt – Doris
Waxahatchee – Cerulean Salt
Kurt Vile – Wakin on a Pretty Daze
Joey Bada$$ – Summer Knights Mixtape
The Field – Cupid’s Head

Tier Three

Volcano Choir – Repave
M.I.A. – Matangi
The Men – New Moon
Mount Kimbie – Cold Spring Fault Less Youth
James Blake – Overgrown
Deafheaven – Sunbather

Tier Four

White Denim – Corsicana Lemonade
Deerhunter – Monomania
Prodigy & Alchemist – Albert Einstein
A$AP Ferg – Trap Lord
Local Natives – Hummingbird
Los Campesinos! – No Blues

Best EPs

FKA Twigs – EP2
Burial – Rival Dealer
Phantogram – Phantogram
DJ Rashad – Rollin EP
Wild Nothing – Empty Estate

Songs

The first 30 of my favorite 80 or so songs are listed below, and here’s the link to the Spotify playlist. Or, you can use the player below.

  1. Step – Vampire Weekend
  2. No. 1 Party Anthem – Arctic Monkeys
  3. Help Me Lose My Mind – Disclosure, feat. London Grammar
  4. Childhood’s End – Majical Cloudz
  5. Dream House – Deafheaven
  6. Hood Pope – A$AP Ferg
  7. Will Calls – Grizzly Bear
  8. Numbers on the Boards – Pusha T
  9. Days Are Gone – Haim
  10. Toe Cutter – Thumb Buster – Thee Oh Sees
  11. Temple – Kings of Leon
  12. Only 1 U – M.I.A.
  13. Hold On, We’re Going Home – Drake
  14. Monomania – Deerhunter
  15. You’re Not Good Enough – Blood Orange
  16. Comrade – Volcano Choir
  17. We No Who U R – Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
  18. Ya Hey – Vampire Weekend
  19. Dubstep – Danny Brown, feat. Scrufizzer
  20. Fireside – Arctic Monkeys
  21. Ain’t That The Way – Divine Fits
  22. The Fall – Rhye
  23. Never Run Away – Kurt Vile
  24. Shout It Out – Mikal Cronin
  25. Brother Bryan – Waxahatchee
  26. Shuggie – Foxygen
  27. Sunday – Earl Sweatshirt, feat. Frank Ocean
  28. Lose Yourself to Dance – Daft Punk, feat. Pharell
  29. Overgrown – James Blake
  30. White Noise – Disclosure, feat. AlunaGeorge

I compared my favorites from this year with my list from halfway-through 2012. A year ago, I thought the first six months of 2012 produced a lot of great releases.

This year is even better. I love the first five albums on this list more than anything I listed in June of last year.

On a familial note, I’m starting to encounter a backlash of resistance to the JAMS I play around the house. Specifically, my otherwise extraordinary daughter is rebelling against her father’s good taste because she gets a forlorn reaction from him. It won’t be long before I’m shouting upstairs to her, after she slams the door and blares One Direction or some such nonsense, to “TURN THAT LOUD MESS OFF.”

I fully understand that one reaps what one sows, and that life is like a boomerang, and what goes around comes around, and so on, but that probably won’t make it any easier.

Albums

Vampire WeekendModern Vampires of the City
It feels a little weird, but I can admit it — they might just be the best all-around rock band in the world. Who’s better? The National? No less than FOUR songs from this album are flat-out wonderful.

DisclosureSettle
Simply the best dance-pop album I’ve heard since maybe Hot Chip (The Warning) or Junior Boys (So This Is Goodbye), both released in 2006.

WaxahatcheeCerulean Salt
There’s something unabated and magnetic about Katie Crutchfield’s music, and she has moments of lyrical genius.

FoxygenWe Are The 21st Century Ambassadors of blahblahblah
Has there ever been an album with a more stupid title by a band with a greater name? It doesn’t matter…this is good stuff. And, don’t give me that “it’s too derivative of the ’60s” stuff because I wouldn’t care even though you’d be right.

DeafheavenSunbather
No, black metal is not exactly my wheelhouse, but I agree with the predominant Sunbather narrative: this is a black metal band that makes powerful, crossover-ready music that defies categorization.

Mount KimbieCold Spring Fault Less Youth
This record is number five on my list, but it fills an important role in my listening habits; I find that when I don’t have anything in particular that I want to hear, I play this. And, King Krule = bonus points.

Camera ObscuraDesire Lines
Another underrated album…I’ve read positive reviews of this one, but nothing glowing. Perhaps that’s because this band has been around the block, and critics have begun taking them for granted. I like this one better than My Maudlin Career.

James BlackOvergrown
The title track is close to perfect, and I’d say this is second to the Mount Kimbie album in the “anytime, anyplace” go-to listen.

Thee Oh SeesFloating Coffin
My favorite Thee Oh Sees record of all, because there’s a larger variety of sound here that I really appreciate.

DeerhunterMonomania
My favorite Deerhunter record of all, mainly because Bradford made it dingier and more fun that their past recordings.

Honorable mention

Other notable releases include Local Natives, Mikal Cronin, The Men, Toro Y Moi, Classixx, Rhye, Frightened Rabbit, Ghostface Killah, and Daft Punk.

 

Tracks

Best Show I’ve Seen This Year

Tame Impala – Cat’s Cradle, February 21

As I get older, and as time flies faster, I find that my happiest moments occur when my interests converge. The more I can combine the things I love, the richer life seems to be.

Of course, the variables in life often disrupt planned convergence;  a thunderstorm ruins an outdoor concert on a spring night, or a mundane phone call interrupts a meaningful face-to-face conversation.

Nightly, I appreciate one example of happy convergence at our house:

Kids + Books + Dogs

Every night that we’re home, we read for at least 30 minutes (usually closer to 45 minutes). Inevitably, one of the books we read has a canine protagonist. I’m very critical of kids’ books (and ice cream, and sports-celebrity tweets, and car model names, and most all things), and I decided to evaluate a literary genre that gets a lot of run around our house.

I’ve made a list of our top ten kids’ books about dogs, and I already know what you’re thinking — for some strange reason, this guy is putting his favorites in this list and his kids probably don’t care if the books are about dogs or robots or guinea pigs building sand castles. Well, that’s true. But, I’ll tell you the secret requirement that every good young-children’s book MUST have: adults have to enjoy reading it to them. Otherwise, it’s not as much fun for reader or audience.

Our favorite children’s books about dogs

The Best Pet of All

The Best Pet of All
There’s something about the illustrations in this book that I love, even if I can’t put my finger on it…something about the Californian, 1950’s style. More importantly, I never get tired of reading this one. It has some very funny parts, and the moral of the story is evident from the title.


 

 

 

 

Go Dog, Go!

Go, Dog, Go!

If I judge this book by the typical criteria for kids’ or adult books, then it’s a dud. There is no plot, and there are no characters. However, it works as a great beginning and ending to early childhood (bookends, if you can excuse the punny metaphor). It’s simple and colorful enough to engage a baby, and the clear connection between text and images make great material for a child learning to read.

 

 

 

The Blue House Dog

The Blue House Dog
I have read this aloud to my kids only four times total. Each time, I was sobbing uncontrollably before getting halfway through. I mean full-on weeping, unable to speak. Jackie and McLain give me confused looks, and assure me that “it’s okay Dada.” In fact, the last book that sparked this kind of emotional outburst in me was Where the Red Fern Grows. That book, and this one, reveal why dogs are so amazing.

 

Dog

DOG
Great photography, with creative moving parts and simple text. Two GSPs are featured, and the part that reads, “all dogs poop…all dogs pee” never fails to get laughs.

 

 

How Rocket Learned to Read

How Rocket Learned to Read

I’m teaching Jackie to read now, and sometimes she’s really averse to instruction. This book reminds me that nothing worth doing is easy, and that anything worth learning requires practice.

 

 

 

 

Duck Soup
Duck Soup
This one tops the list of all-time McLain favorites. In fact, it was the first book that McLain requested on a regular basis. It’s a stretch to include it in a list of books about dogs, but one of the main characters is a Saint Bernard named Brody (my first family dog when I was a kid).

 

 

The Diggingest Dog
The Digging-est Dog
We all like this classic, but I put this on the list for Katie’s benefit — it’s one of her favorites, and Nana tells us that she memorized it when she was 5 or 6. If you want to overanalyze it, I think there’s a theme in the book about how dynamic (and even fickle) childhood friendships can be in group settings. No? I’m reaching? Well, we’ll just have to ask Al Perkins about that.

 

 

 

 

Pipiolo and the Roof Dogs
Pipiolo and the Roof Dogs

The plot in this one is too complex for McLain, but I read it to them every couple of months for two good reasons:
1) It teaches how important the olfactory system is to a dog, to the point that the lives of roof-confined dogs are changed when they are given uprooted plants to smell. Awesome.
2) Jackie always has lots of questions about other cultures, and this book provides talking points for the role of animals in other places, in other times.

 

 

Skippyjon Jones

skippyjon
Another McLain favorite. This one is a fun tongue-twister to read, and the idea of an imagination-crazed cat pretending to be a dog is plain funny. Add Skippyjon to the list of McLain monikers (along with LOB, John C. McGinley, and Budbud).

 

 

 

Puppies

Puppies
This one is a nostalgic pick for me. The edition we have was a gift from my Grandmother Jones, with an inscription from her, dated 1982. It’s really just a picture book of puppies, and it almost seems that it was created with the sole purpose of making people see pictures of cute puppies so they will want a puppy of their own. Another interesting fact about this and other animal books from this publisher — there are at least 4 different covers.

 

 

 

The Best Pet of All?

 

 

Maybe I shouldn’t feel heat from a self-imposed deadline for a post that a handful of people will read, but I will kick myself later if I don’t document my favorite jams of the year. With an hour left in 2012, I’m getting this list of 2012 music out the door in the nick of time. Of the thousands (hundreds of thousands?) of annual best-of lists, this one might be the last to be filed. And, if you hadn’t already figured out my low-key New Year’s celebration, it mostly involves blogging at home.

Last year I wrote about a sea change to the way I procure and listen to music. I’m sold on Spotify from the perspective of the consumer; I can’t deny that it’s more or less a music-lover’s Utopia. As for artists, I understand that the tiny-fraction-of-a-penny-per-stream model is not sustainable. The way I reconcile these interests as a listener is to support artists in other ways, which includes paying for downloads, live shows, and a little merch. I also do my best to talk up the recordings I like the best to friends and family throughout the year.

This year I added two Sonos Play 5 speakers to my home audio setup. Sonos is compatible with Spotify, which means I can play anything from the Spotify catalog in the kitchen and living room (a stereo effect in our house) or different songs in each room, all from the controller app on my phone. Moving the music to my bedroom is as easy as unplugging a speaker and carrying it upstairs.

2012 was also the first year I attended the Hopscotch festival in its entirety, as much as I could do so without teleporting from venue/band to venue/band in downtown Raleigh. With my brother and cousin in tow, we saw 14 bands in three nights. Katie went along with us the final night of the festival. I also took Jackie to a day party on Martin Street. The experience was magical; I plan to soak it in for the same full festival weekend in the future just as I did this year. Hopscotch 2012 deserves its own post (which won’t happen), but the highlights for me were somewhat surprising: The Future Kings of Nowhere, Thee Oh Sees, Hiss Golden Messenger, Zola Jesus, and Danny Brown. I should note that my cousin Matt led the moshing at the TOS show (I’m a tough guy), and I cried a little during the ZJ show (with a sensitive side). Here’s some Danny Brown and Matthew E. White with a full ensemble:

Danny Brown at CAM Raleigh during Hopscotch 2012

Danny Brown at CAM Raleigh during Hopscotch 2012

Matthew E. White and friends at Fletcher Opera Hall

Matthew E. White and friends at Fletcher Opera Hall

Last but perhaps most importantly, McLain had his first spontaneous sing-along to something other than kids music. Fittingly (because they share the same initials), it was the My Morning Jacket song Wordless Chorus. I love how that, perhaps coincidentally, the song kind of matches his personality, just as Jackie’s personality matches her first sing-along to Daddy’s jams — Grizzly Bear’s While You Wait for the Others. I didn’t see a page in their baby bo0ks to document this specific “first”, so I’m putting it here for posterity.

Below are jams that made me happy this year.

Albums

A few quick notes about my experience with new albums in 2012:

  • There are no jazz albums included in the following list, but a few of the ones I got to know this year are flat-out gorgeous. By a Little Light by Matt Ulery and friends is an outstanding record, and at night, if I’m lucky, I hear this song in my dreams:

Another jazz release that  I really liked was  Gregory Porter’s record from earlier in 2012…especially this song:  Gregory Porter – Be Good (Lion’s Song).

  • For me, 2012 was an better-than-average year for hip-hop. I’d guess that you could classify one-third of what I listened to this year as rap. Although I included only three rap albums in my top 20, I’d probably include Captain Murphy, Nas, Roc Marciano, Odd Future, and El-P if I stretched it out to my top 30.
  • Let’s suppose that you had an internet connection and a love of hip-hop and EDM, but no money to spend on music. If you were smart, you’d wait with bated breath for every mix that Ryan Hemsworth shares with the world. I listened to this one in particular about a hundred times throughout November.

These are my 20 favorites of the past year, classified in four tiers. Underneath those are my favorite EPs of the year.

Tier One

Tame Impala – Lonerism
Frank Ocean – channel ORANGE
Father John Misty – Fear Fun
Kendrick Lamar – good kid, M.A.A.D. city
Grizzly Bear – Shields

Tier Two

Royal Headache – Royal Headache
John Talabot – Fin
Schoolboy Q – Habits & Contradictions
Daphni – Jiaolong
The Men – Open Your Heart

Tier Three

Thee Oh Sees – Putrifiers II
Killer Mike – R.A.P. Music
Dr. John – Locked Down
Lower Dens – Nootropics
Cloud Nothings – Attack on Memory

Tier Four

Purity Ring – Shrines
Heaven – The Walkmen
Spider Bags – Shake My Head
Grimes – Visions
Baroness – Yellow & Green

Best EPs

Dum Dum Girls – End of Daze
Burial – Kindred
Todd Terje – Its The Arps
AlunaGeorge – You Know You Like It
TNGHT – TNGHT

Songs

My 75 favorite songs of 2012 are listed below, and here’s the link to the Spotify playlist. Or, you can use the player below.

  1. Pyramids – Frank Ocean
  2. Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings – Father John Misty
  3. Climax – Usher
  4. Brains – Lower Dens
  5. Stay Useless – Could Nothings
  6. Inspector Norse – Todd Terje
  7. Between Friends – Captain Murphy feat. Earl Sweatshirt
  8. November Skies – Tomas Barfod feat. Nina Kinert
  9. Yet Again – Grizzly Bear
  10. There He Go – Schoolboy Q
  11. Igoyh – Kwes.
  12. Get Free – Major Lazer
  13. Hurting (Tensnake Remix) – Friendly Fires
  14. Gun Has No Trigger – Dirty Projectors
  15. Heaven – The Walkmen
  16. Oblivion – Grimes
  17. Nancy From Now On – Father John Misty
  18. Know Me – Frankie Rose
  19. Oldie – Odd Future
  20. A Simple Answer – Grizzly Bear
  21. Feels Like We Only Go Backwards – Tame Impala
  22. & It Was U – How To Dress Well
  23. I Belong In Your Arms – Chairlift
  24. Werewolf – Fiona Apple
  25. Backseat Freestyle – Kendrick Lamar
  26. Shape I Was In – Spider Bags
  27. Hole in the Ocean Floor – Andrew Bird
  28. Lay Your Cards Out – POLICA, Mike Noyce
  29. Really In Love – Royal Headache
  30. Ivory Coast – Pure Bathing Culture
  31. I’ve Seen Footage – Death Grips
  32. Default – Django Django
  33. This Heat I Hold – Electric Guest
  34. Lupine Dominus – Thee Oh Sees
  35. One Second of Love – Nite Jewel
  36. Back From the Grave – Chromatics
  37. Brodermordet – War
  38. Lost – Frank Ocean
  39. Monoliths – Lotus Plaza
  40. Why Won’t They Talk to Me? – Tame Impala
  41. The Reflection Of You – Bear In Heaven
  42. Open Your Heart – The Men
  43. You Know You Like It – AlunaGeorge
  44. Hood – Perfume Genius
  45. Give Out – Sharon Van Etten
  46. Cos-Ber-Zam Ne Noya – Daphni
  47. Unless You Speak From Your Heart – Porcelain Raft
  48. All Of Me – Tanlines
  49. Let Me Be Him – Hot Chip
  50. Lord Knows – Dum Dum Girls
  51. Tiffany Lou – Daughn Gibson
  52. Breezeblocks – alt-J
  53. Ashtray Wasp – Burial
  54. Untitled – Killer Mike feat. Scar
  55. Adorn – Miguel
  56. Betty Wang – Hospitality
  57. Getaway – Dr. John
  58. Down The Lane – Royal Headache
  59. Baby – Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti
  60. Locked – Four Tet
  61. Grown Up – Danny Brown
  62. Black Treacle – Arctic Monkeys
  63. Losing You – Solange
  64. I Bought My Eyes – Ty Segall Band
  65. 76 – Roc Marciano
  66. Simple Song – The Shins
  67. Duquesa – Las Malas Amistades
  68. Only You – Taken By Trees
  69. The Full Retard – El-P
  70. Sinful Nature – Bear In Heaven
  71. The House That Heaven Built – Japandroids
  72. Slow Down – Poolside
  73. Compton – Kendrick Lamar feat. Dr. Dre
  74. Candy – The Men
  75. March to the Sea – Baroness

I’ll start by admitting that living in Raleigh has tested me over the past year. I’m a Carolina alum and sports fan, so there hasn’t been a lot of good news since Butch was (rightfully) kicked out of Chapel Hill. The college-sports enthusiasts with west-Raleigh ties are not making it easier for me, but I don’t resent them for finding our closets, and mostly, I’m trying not to resent their resentful poking and prodding of a rival school’s academic and athletic skeletons.

Also, I don’t hold it against the local media that they have to dissect every tweet, interview, rumor, blog post, or newspaper story about the scandal as it unfolds. I am glad that I don’t work in local media; I wish that I could tune it out a little better, but I find that to be really hard.

So, I’ll talk about what’s good, and why I’m proud to live in Raleigh. The Hopscotch Music Festival is at the top of the civic-pride list. How many earthlings can boast 175 bands in three nights, all within a mile radius of their civic core, for less than the price of a Sonos Play 3?

I have proof that I’m into this — see my spreadsheet below for a glimpse of how I spend my free time. But first, here’s a little personal history.

The inaugural Hopscotch was in 2010. Katie was 8.5 months pregnant with McLain, I had a one-year-old daughter at home, and I skipped it.

Last year, I put a toe in the Hopscotch water. There was no choice about attending at least one City Plaza show — Guided by Voices was playing two miles from my house (with The Dodos and Drive-by Truckers opening).

This year, I’m all in. I got a three-day wristband, and I’ve been thrilled about it  ever since the etix transaction back in June.

Unlike last year, one of my favorite bands of all time will not be playing in 2012. But, I think the following shows are worth seeing, regardless of where they are playing:

  • The Roots
  • Built to Spill
  • Yo La Tengo
  • Liars
  • Sunn O)))
  • Thee Oh Sees
  • Danny Brown
  • Deerhoof
  • Baroness
  • Lambchop
  • Killer Mike
  • The Spits
  • Oneida
  • Holograms
  • Sister Crayon
  • Doldrums
  • Whatever Brains
  • Guardian Alien

It’s not necessarily about the music you or I know and already love; it’s about the potential for discovery. For the record, I believe that this year’s Hopscotch line up is bigger and better than the Moogfest line up in Asheville, which I would not have claimed last year.

Here’s my homework, or at least my personal effort to educate myself about the bands at the festival this year (google docs): Hopscotch 2012 Line Up Analysis

Here’s what the first tab looks like:

A look at my subjective analysis of the Hopscotch 2012 line up

Some notes about the spreadsheet:

Priorities worksheet

  • Shows are marked and organized by column according to how interested I am in seeing them — it’s an effort to prioritize and make tough decisions about shows to seek out, shows to happen upon, and a few shows I might want to disregard. If you don’t like my priorities, or even if you do, you should come up with your own.
  • I forced all of the bands/artists into 9 genres (one of which is “other”). This is certainly not an effort to label all of them precisely, but it helps to classify the types of acts at a given venue on a given night. It also yields a surprising snapshot; for example, there are 15 metal bands this year, and not nearly as much 80’s-influenced dance rock (considering how that sound seems so common these days).
  • There are links to live performances for most of the artists. This should at least give you a feel for the band’s stage show. Note that some of the smaller, local artists (generally found at the bottom of the list) don’t have much live performance video online.
  • Prioritization is a work in progress, and maybe it can be used for planning purposes.
The Venue, ThuFri, and Sat worksheets are self-explanatory.

This year is shaping up to be musically notable:

  • I’ve really enjoyed a lot of the LPs I’ve heard so far this year. Of the 12 albums I list here, I don’t consider any one of them to have more than two weak, filler-type songs. These albums make me appreciate the long-play recording again, instead of viewing the album as a commercial bucket that contains a few good songs and a bunch of bad songs, just because the good songs have to be contained somewhere. Full-album appreciation hasn’t been the norm for me in recent years.
  • Hip-hop hasn’t sounded so good since the golden era, the ’90s. I think maybe that’s because the regional qualities of the music are blending, and the cream is rising to the top. Of course, in a house with two children younger than four, hip-hop is relegated to headphones and ear buds. But, my taste for it is as strong as ever. When I was a sophomore in high school, a wizened senior told me, “you’ll stop listening to rap when you get a little older.” 2012 is making a liar of him. Related reading: Hip-Hop And You Do Stop is a great summary of why the ’90s were special.
  • My kids continue to be eager for jams. Jackie makes occasional requests, although she hasn’t latched on to any newer songs as tightly as she did last year. McLain is just starting to discover the dancey side of his alter ego, Party Boy, but the kid can flat-out do a soulful impression of Usher. I don’t have video of this yet, but imagine an almost-two-year-old singing high notes and pretending to strain, eyes closed, as he moves his head around in a Stevie Wonder kind of way.

Speaking of McLain, he also had his first genuine sing-along moment with a song. We were in the car, and I was playing Wordless Chorus by My Morning Jacket. Out of the blue, he chimed in with the chorus…”Ahhhh, Ahh Ahhhhhh Ahh Ahh”. I shouldn’t have been surprised — in addition to sharing the same initials as the band, his first concert (in utero) was My Morning Jacket.

I’ll never forget McLain singing along with an unfamiliar song for the first time, just as I never forgot that time I was changing Jackie’s diaper a couple of years ago. Grizzly Bear’s While You Wait for the Others was on the home stereo, and she jumped in on the refrain towards the end, when Droste or Rossen is wailing, “Oh Oh Oh Ohhhhhh”.

Back to the purpose of this post — here are my favorite LPs and tracks for the first half of 2012.
Note: Each track has a Spotify play button. You’ll need a Spotify account and the app installed to play the songs.

Albums

Hot ChipIn Our Heads
The Walkmen — Heaven
Killer Mike — R.A.P. Music
Royal Headache — Royal Headache
Bear In HeavenI Love You, It’s Cool
GrimesVisions
John TalabotFin
Schoolboy QHabits & Contradictions
The MenOpen Your Heart
Andrew BirdBreak It Yourself
Lower DensNootropics
Cloud NothingsAttack On Memory

Tracks

Igoyh — Kwes.

Really In Love — Royal Headache

Stay Useless — Cloud Nothings

Inspector Norse — Todd Terje

Climax — Urrsher

Hurting (Tensnake Remix) — Friendly Fires

Brains — Lower Dens

Unless You Speak From Your Heart — Porcelain Raft

Lazuli — Beach House

Oblivion — Grimes

Know Me — Frankie Rose

Sinful Nature — Bear In Heaven

Lay Your Cards Out — POLICA

Gun Has No Trigger — Dirty Projectors

Every Single Night — Fiona Apple

The House That Heaven Built — Japandroids

Heaven — The Walkmen

Black Treacle — Arctic Monkeys

One Second of Love — Nite Jewel

Simple Song — The Shins

Monoliths — Lotus Plaza

Candy — The Men

Hood — Perfume Genius

Brodermordet — War

Give Out — Sharon Van Etten

Hole in the Ocean Floor — Andrew Bird

November Skies — Tomas Barfod, Nina Kinert

Betty Wang — Hospitality

Tiffany Lou — Daughn Gibson

Ashtray Wasp — Burial

I’ve Seen Footage — Death Grips

Untitled — Killer Mike (featuring Scar)

There He Go — Schoolboy Q

Oldie — OFWGKTA

The Full Retard — El-P

In every orderly house, the members follow a set of conduct guidelines. We try to be good people, and Katie and I practice and enforce the moral standards that we inherited from our parents. But, the golden rule and other tenets don’t always apply directly to certain situations (especially if you are three-and-a-half or almost two years old).

How does a family deal with these situations, that often occur daily, on White Oak Road?

We’ve come up with the following set of principles and accepted truths to help keep our household happy and productive:

  1. Be sweet to Robah… he never done nothin’ to nobody (and when you recite this rule, use Robah voice). All the rest of us have been mean or rude one time or another, but Robah never done nothin’ to nobody. Here’s McLain, mouth full of eggs, proving why this rule is necessary as he comes close to crossing the line.

    McLain tests the limits of rule #1

  2. At any time, in any place, JAMS will be played on request. For example, let’s say Cokie Roberts’ Monday segment is on NPR when we get in the car to go to Ms. Rose’s house, and Jackie says, “Play some JAMS, Dada.” Then, it’s goodbye Cokie, hello Bear in Heaven, Guided by Voices, J Dilla, etc.
    Note: “Dada” is the keeper of the JAMS, and this is the only situation in which a “please” is not required (see rule #4).
  3. Always thank Katie/Mama for dinner; we’ve got it really, really good. On the rare occasion that Dad cooks, try washing it down with your milk.
  4. Manners matter; good manners is an easy way to show respect to your co-eaters. Exception: good manners are postponed if McLain is practicing for his future in competitive eating.
  5. If Baxter brings you something, and you throw it he will fetch it and return it to you. If you continue to throw it for him, the result will eventually be Baxter passing out or maybe even perpetual motion.
  6. Every story told to Jackie at bed time must feature at least two of the following characters: a mean witch, a nice witch, a family, mean or nice animals, and girls with pretty dresses (including, but not limited to princesses). The more of these characters you work into the narrative, the more positive her post-story review is likely to be.
  7. Try not to show off at the playground, even though Jackie might swing better by herself than an older boy being pushed by his mom.
  8. Any statement that begins with, “I want…” automatically gets the following response: “Oh, you want something? Okay, well, I want a new custom-built home computer and compatible wireless music system.” Please ask nicely for something that you want, and understand that you might not get it.
  9. If McLain takes off his shirt and runs around the house or yard, don’t be alarmed. He has been possessed with his alter ego, Party Boy. In extreme situations, you can change Party Boy back to McLain by putting him in a bubble bath.
  10. As you go through life, assist other people (the Kendall Marshall rule). When you’re the recipient of an assist, be grateful and give credit to anyone who assists you (the Dean Smith corollary).

Half of 2011 has elapsed; in the blink of an eye, my toddler daughter is reading letters, my baby son wants to walk, and the music of our lives (sentimental, isn’t it?) for the first half of the year is in heavy rotation on White Oak. By the way, young McLain has shown a prodigious talent for percussion. His style reminds me of Lionel Hampton in form and Claude Coleman in flare, although at 9.5 months, it might be a bit early to put labels on him.

Also, one day last week, I was playing Purity Ring’s “Ungirthed“. On a whim, I switched to a Wes Montgomery song. Jackie heard the smooth jazz guitar and asked me, “What happened to the jams?” Talk about your priceless parental moments — it was my daughter’s first critical + music-related comment. I was proud, and I honored her request.

This post is not a lame attempt to describe the best of the first half of the year. If that kind of thing strikes your fancy, you can find it at NPR Music or Paste or somewhere.

Here are the albums we’ve, or I’ve, been listening to this year, even though the last three in the list were released in 2010. Even though there seems to be an ever-increasing number of exceptional (and free) mixtapes, I didn’t include those in the list.

Note: My favorites (so far) are denoted with an asterisk, and albums are listed in order of acquisition, most recent first.

Bon IverBon Iver

Shabazz PalacesBlack Up*

Random AxeRandom Axe

Junior BoysIt’s All True*

BurialStreet Halo (EP)

My Morning JacketCircuital

Wild BeastsSmother*

Fleet FoxesHelplessness Blues

Drive-By TruckersGo-Go Boots

Curren$y x The AlchemistCover Coup

Panda BearTomboy*

The DodosNo Color*

Frank OceanNostalgia/Ultra

AustraFeel It Break

The WeekndHouse of Balloons*

RadioheadKing of Limbs

Cut CopyZonoscope

Smith WesternsDye It Blonde

jjKills Mixtape

Lower DensTwin-Hand Movement

The Tallest Man on EarthThe Wild Hunt*

Other music notes:

  • I’ve been using Amazon Cloud Player quite a bit.
  • I’ve been experimenting with Google Music, even though it’s another online locker for music like Amazon Cloud.
  • Ultimately, I’m waiting for Spotify to come to the U.S.so I can jump head-first into a subscription service.

Katie keeps reminding me that it’s late January and I still haven’t posted any Thanksgiving or Christmas pictures and video on this blog. She’s right (as usual). I’m tardy.

In my defense, there have been plenty of distractions around here during the past couple of months. What better way to justify my delinquency than with a Letterman-style top ten list?

The Top Ten Excuses Why I Haven’t Yet Posted 2010 Holiday Memories to this Blog

10. I’ve been busy with a statistical comparison of Kendall Marshall and Larry Drew II.

9. Robah’s reluctant new year’s resolution to lose 10 lbs. has resulted in more jogging and less blogging.

8. McLain spat up on our Mac (and grinned through the whole ordeal).

7. A lot of our bandwidth is tied up with an initial Carbonite backup…continually for the past month (only 25 GB left to go before it’s finished).

6. Katie has been dragging me out all hours of the night to see indie bands in Carrboro.

5. Baxter and I are attending Impatient Owner – Neurotic Dog relationship counseling sessions every Wednesday. There are no breakthroughs to report yet, but after almost six years together we’re both committed to making it work.

4. I sprained my typing muscles while hand-washing baby bottle parts.

3. My eyes are watering and I can’t see — I’ve been laughing, then crying about the future of Wake County Public Schools.

2. Our computer was inaccessible after I stored a massive shipment from diapers.com in our office.

And the top excuse why I haven’t posted holiday pictures/video of our kids is…

(drumroll)

1. I’m still going through all the video. Between her birthday gifts and Christmas gifts, there is 27 total hours worth of video footage of Jackie opening presents.

Image from Raleigh

Urban dirt-biking

I took this post-apocalyptic picture outside Jones Barber Shop in Raleigh last year.

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