Friday, March 31, 2006

Weekly Music Report

According to Last.fm, I listened to the following artists the most last week.
  1. The Wrens
  2. Bettie Serveert
  3. The National
  4. Bloc Party
  5. Supergrass
  6. The House of Love
  7. The Clash
  8. Joy Division
  9. Hard-Fi
  10. Death Cab for Cutie
Now that's a bit different than usual isn't it? Lately, I've been really itching to hear some new stuff though. Do any of you have any suggestions?

NP: "Range Life" - Pavement

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Grup? Yupster? Yep. What's in a Name Anyway

Thought provoking article about how 20 year olds and 40 year olds don't look that much different these days. The article never gives a good reason why this is occurring, but it made me look hard into the mirror.

I'm 36. Jeans at work? Yes. Decidedly un-suit facial hair? Yes. A fondness for music that 20-somethings currently enjoy? Yes. More pairs of sneakers than suits? Yes. That's it, this article is aimed straight at me.

Seriously though, a lot of the information about what drives this demographic ring true. I don't want a corner office. I don't want a staff. I just want to make very cool things on the Interweb.

NP: "What's in it for Me" - The Walkmen

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Fantasy Baseball

It's that time of year again. When normally somewhat sane people get all geeky over baseball and participate in countless fantasy baseball drafts across the country. I'm no exception. My league had its draft on Sunday, and I handled my beer bitch duties with great aplomb (I had to deliver drinks because I finished next to last last year and the last place team didn't return). Overall, I'm pretty satisfied with my picks:
  • C - Kenji Johjima
  • 1B - David Ortiz
  • 2B - Marcus Giles
  • 3B - Aaron Boone
  • SS - Michael Young
  • OF - Carlos Lee
  • OF - Juan Pierre
  • OF - Vernon Wells
  • UTIL - Aubrey Huff
  • SP - Ben Sheets
  • SP - Felix Hernandez
  • RP - Eric Gagne
  • RP - Todd Jones
  • P - Curt Schilling
  • P - Jeremy Bonderman
  • P - Oliver Perez
  • BN - Matt Clement
  • BN - J.D. Drew
  • BN - Aaron Rowand
  • BN - Horacio Ramirez
  • BN - Kevin Youklis
Hopefully, this team will avoid the injury bug that plagued my squad last year (with the understood excpetion of J.D. "DL" Drew).

Friday, March 24, 2006

Friday Music Report

According to Last.fm, I listened to the following artists (or audio if you will) last week:
  1. Echo & the Bunnymen
  2. Kathleen Edwards
  3. Pavement
  4. The Velvet Underground
  5. Pylon
  6. Guided by Voices
  7. Killing Joke
  8. LCD Soundsytem
  9. NPR Story of the Day
  10. Jets to Brazil
Obviously, I haven't been listening to a lot of music lately if NPR's story of the day makes the list. I can blame this squarely on work (and I'm not sure next week's report will be much better). Normal listening has resumed though.

NP: KCRW's Music Exchange

Thursday, March 23, 2006

U.S. Men's Soccer: Germany 4 - 1 U.S.

Well, that was an ugly game wasn't it. Germany completed routed the U.S. 4-1 in a friendly yesterday. This will obviously bolster Germany's confidence after their own 4-1 loss to Italy earlier in the month, and it will remove some of the heat from Juergen Klinsmann, their national coach.

But what does it mean for the U.S.? Does it mean that we are right back where we where in 1998 while finishing last in France? Does it mean exactly nothing? No on both counts. This is certainly not a disaster for the team by any means. Just take a look at the lineups for both teams and some interesting things begin to emerge.

First, Germany's roster yesterday:
GER (4-3-3): 1-Oliver Kahn (capt.); 3-Arne Friedrich (25-Patrick Owomoyela, 82’), 16-Philipp Lahm, 29-Per Mertesacker, 21-Christoph Metzelder; 17-Sebastian Kehl (15-Fabian Ernst, 82’), 13-Michael Ballack, 19-Bernd Schneider (18-Tim Borowski, 68’); 14-Gerald Asamoahl (30-Oliver Neuville, 67’), 11-Miroslav Klose, 20-Lukas Podolski (7-Bastian Schweinsteiger, 46’)
Subs not used: 9-Jens Lehmann, 24-Marcell Jansen, 28-Manuel Friedrich
This is pretty much the team that Germany will use in June when World Cup play kicks off, including two of the most in-form goalkeepers in the world right now.

Now, for the U.S. roster:
USA (4-4-2): 18-Kasey Keller (capt.); 3-Gregg Berhalter, 12-Cory Gibbs (19-Heath Pearce, 77’), 4-Jimmy Conrad, 6-Steve Cherundolo; 15-Bobby Convey, 25-Pablo Mastoreni (14-Ben Olsen, 74), 5-Kerry Zavagnin, 16-Josh Wolff (17-Chris Klein, 17’); 9-Eddie Johnson, 11-Brian Ching (20-Taylor Twellman, 60’)
Subs not used: 7-Benny Feilhaber, 24-Marcus Hahnemann, 23-Eddie Pope
Do you notice something a little different here? There are some pretty big names missing, mostly due to injuries and club committments. I have to think that the result may have been a bit different if some of the following players that will probably be available in June were present. Barring injury all of these players will figure in Bruce Arena's plans as starters or important role players:
  • Brian McBride
  • Landon Donovan
  • DeMarcus Beasely
  • Oguchi Onyewu
  • John O'Brien
  • Claudio Reyna
  • Carlos Bocanegra
  • Clint Dempsey
  • Eddie Lewis
And, of those players on the field yesterday, Josh Wolff left early with a concussion, and Eddie Pope never got off the bench. Both of these players will likely be on the World Cup roster as well.

Everyone in the U.S. Soccer community needs to view this game as a way to evaluate players that are on the bubble for inclusion for the World Cup roster. So who helped themselves?

Barring injury, Kasey Keller is a lock to be the starting keeper in June. Steve Cherundolo and Gregg Berhalter probably will be there too, despite what happened yesterday. Eddie Johnson showed great movement in the first half, reassuring everyone that he is returning to form from his injury. Finally, Bobby Convey, despite a few mistouches, probably helped his case as well.

Everyone else? Brian Ching shouldn't be buying any tickets. Chris Klein looked lost out there, which will clear up the midfield logjam somewhat. Conrad will definitely want to forget his performance in the second half, making his status a little more doubtful [Ed. Note: Soccernet has more along this vein.]

All in all, the U.S. "B" team hung in there with a desparate Germany for 45 minutes. Although Bruce Arena now thinks that scheduling this game was a mistake, I think we learned some things of value. In any case, it doesn't dampen my enthusiasm for the upcoming World Cup in the least.

NP: "You Don't Understand" - The House of Love

Friday, March 17, 2006

Friday Music Report

According to the wizards behind Last.fm, I listened to the following artists the most last week:
  1. Belle & Sebastian
  2. Guided by Voices
  3. Bettie Serveert
  4. The National
  5. Lush
  6. Wilco
  7. Sigur Rós
  8. Spoon
  9. Swervedriver
  10. The House of Love
NP: "Let's Go" - The Feelies

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

U.S. Men's Soccer Team Ranked Fifth

I don't want to turn this into a complete soccer blog, but I couldn't let this one pass. The U.S. now ranks fifth in the world--its highest ranking ever. Just three months before the World Cup. Wow. Here's the top 10:
  1. Brazil
  2. Czech Republic
  3. Netherlands
  4. Argentina
  5. USA
  6. Spain
  7. Mexico
  8. France
  9. England
  10. Portugal
Perennial powers Italy (12) and Germany (22!) don't even figure here.

I know the naysayers will immediately start pointing out that these rankings are meaningless and that they don't measure how good a team actually is. And I'd agree with them, since the U.S. has been eternally ranked behind Mexico until now, even though we've owned them outside of Mexico City since 1999 or so. But still, these are the only rankings there are, and they measure a teams performance over time with past World Cups including the dreadful performance of the U.S. in 1998.

I'm feeling pretty good about the World Cup now. I still give the U.S. only about a 50% chance of advancing from their group, but this should buoy their spirits a bit.

And for all you soccer-haters and sports fans who don't normally follow soccer: Now is the time to start paying attention.

NP: "French Disko" - The Editors

Friday, March 10, 2006

Friday Music Report

According to Last.fm (a great service by the way), I listened to the following artists the most last week.
  1. Ocelot
  2. Stereolab
  3. Neko Case
  4. The Wedding Present
  5. The Smiths
  6. The Charlatans UK
  7. Bettie Serveert
  8. My Morning Jacket
  9. The Hold Steady
  10. Afghan Whigs
Kenyon, a favorite bartender at The Usual, should find my Number 1 for the week amusing. He really shouldn't be so sheepish about it though.

NP: NPR's All Songs Considered

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Arsenal Go Through!

Arsenal 0 - 0 Real Madrid (1-0 aggregate). Arsenal are the only English team to advance. They played magnificently, and the score should have been 4 or 5 to nil on aggregate. They attacked magnificently in both legs, but their defense provided a the steel that allowed Arsenal to advance. I was stymied again by work in combination with ESPN, who decided to play the World Baseball Classic instead. If you are really interested, they'll be replaying the match at midnight.

In the next round, Arsenal will have to face Barcelona, Villareal, Benfica, AC Milan, Juventus, Lyon, or Ajax or Inter Milan. I'll have an update once the draw occurs. I don't relish playing Juventus much though, since it's the new home for Patrick Viera, last season's captain at Arsenal.

In other news, both Chelsea and Liverpool were knocked out of the competition.

UPDATE: Crap! It's Juventus. I didn't really want to see Patrick Viera return to Highbury this way.

Whatever Happened to Whit Stillman

The man behind three films of the 90s that I enjoyed very much, Metropolitan, Barcelona, and The Last Days of Disco seemingly disappeared from the face of the earth after that last film. Well, not exactly. He's now living in Paris, and Josh Horowitz of Better Than Fudge caught up with him recently.

Barcelona is probably my favorite of the three. It made literally fall on the floor laughing:
Q: "What about all the shootings in New York?"
A: "That doesn't make Americans more violent, we're just better shots."
[Ed. Note: Obviously a paraphrase]
NP: "Sister Jack (Piano Demo)" - Spoon

The Wedding Present + Sally Crewe +Tentonic

Last Friday night saw the return of The Wedding Present to the Earl. For once, I arrived early enough to catch the full sets of both opening bands.

First up was Tentonic, a local four piece. They played a solid set that matched very well with the headliners. While they sounded a bit too much like Oasis from time to time, their songs were solid if not earthshattering. Next up was Sally Crewe & The Sudden Moves. They also played solidly, if somewhat woodenly. Maybe it was my sobriety, but I found both opening sets enjoyable at the time, if somewhat forgettable once some time had passed.

I certainly can't say the same thing about The Wedding Present. They possessed an energy that totally eclipsed that of the two opening acts. Playing songs from a wide range of their catalog, including two Cinerama songs and their first ever single. Highlights included "Swimming Pools, Movie Stars", "I'm from Further North than You", and a rousing version of "Brassneck" to close out the show. True to their word, no encore occurred, but I couldn't complain too much as the show proper was thrilling enough. My only complaint was their omission of "My Favorite Dress".


Since the show, I've been thinking about how to fit The Wedding Present in context with their contemporaries, and I can't really figure it out. They don't really fit the genres of British music going on when they were in their heyday, such as Echo & the Bunnyment or The Smiths. Admittedly, Echo & the Bunnymen's live work sounds more similar than what you'd find on their albums. Nor do they square well with the sounds that following during their career, including the Madchester sound, shoegaze, or Brit Pop. The only American analog I could really come up with was the Pixies, but that doesn't feel quite right either. If anyone has some light to shed on this, I'd appreciate it.

NP: "Brassneck" - The Wedding Present

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Real Life Intro from the Simpsons

This has to be seen to be believed: a real-life re-enactment of the intro from the Simpsons. As El Gray would say, double plus awesome.

Also, I'll have my review of the Wedding Present show up as soon as work relents a bit. For now, let's just say it was great.

NP: "Zedhead" - Swervedriver

Friday, March 03, 2006

Friday Music Report

According to Last.fm, I listened to the following artists the most last week:
  1. Neutral Milk Hotel
  2. Arctic Monkeys
  3. Wilco
  4. Swervedriver
  5. Guided by Voices
  6. Death Cab for Cutie
  7. The Charlatans UK
  8. Uncle Tupelo
  9. My Morning Jacket
  10. Supergrass
I'd say that this is a more represenatative collection of my musical taste than most of these lists, whatever the particular bands.

UPDATE: And I'm off to the Earl tonight to see The Wedding Present!

NP: "The Cutter (Alternate Version)" - Echo & the Bunnymen

Thursday, March 02, 2006

World Cup Run Up Begins!

The U.S. Men's national team began the run up to the World Cup yesterday by beating Poland 1 - 0 in Kaiserslautern, Germany. The second half featured heavy snowfall, but the U.S. managed to grind out the win in difficult conditions.

The game was played in front of a raucous U.S. friendly crowd (more so than many of their games in the U.S.). The U.S. fans were undoubtably from the Ramstein Air Force base, which has something like 50,000 personnel stationed there. Hopefully, the U.S. will have at least once such crowd during the World Cup in June, since they play Italy there on June 17.

All in all, a good start to World Cup warmups.

In the coming weeks, I hope to publish a series of posts previewing the World Cup for those among you who don't follow the other football so much. I hope to give you all the tools to enjoy the World Cup, and be able to talk about a bit. (I have to find something to get excited about since Arsenal's season is in the tank.)