Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Best Songs of 2011

I think in lists. What are my top five beers of all time? What are the ten best bands names ever? I can't help it. It's how I'm wired.

So every year, I compile a list of my favorite songs and favorite albums. The following are my favorite songs from 2011.

  1. Circuital - My Morning Jacket
    Listen, what is this? A slow jam? An ELO song? Then, out of nowhere come guitars that sound like a cross between Won't Get Fooled Again and Jack and Diane. Then we're right back in the slow jam, then the guitars, and then it just builds and builds. It's like everything that is great about MMJ jammed into one song.

  2. Time Spent in Los Angeles - Dawes
    If radio still mattered (or even existed) this would be the breakout hit of the year. It's like everything great about Jackson Browne, Tom Petty, and even Bon Jovi filtered through the sound of The Band. At the start of the year, the only thing I knew about Dawes was that it was the full-time band of the "third dude" in Middle Brother. Then I buy this album and can't stop listening. This song is probably the catchiest track on the album, but it's not even the best. Every track is amazing. Buy this album now.

  3. Lost in My Mind - The Head and the Heart
    Who are these kids? Where did they come from? How did they write such a compelling batch of songs on their first try? I don't know. But I love that a band whose album I bought on a whim (because they were on SubPop) and championed tirelessly ended up one of the breakouts of the year. I only hope they continue to put out music this good for years to come!

  4. Tree by the River - Iron & Wine
    This song comes from what was probably my most highly anticipated album of the year. I love everything that Sam Beam does. This song stands up there with his best. His former life as a screenwriter comes through with how vivid of a picture this song paints.

  5. Dawned on Me - Wilco
    I didn't have high hopes for the new Wilco. The last few albums have been hit and miss for me. Boy was I pleasantly surprised. The album plays almost like a greatest hits. And this song has the pop of Summerteeth combined with the noise of YHF and A Ghost is Born. Can't go wrong with that.

  6. Calamity Song - The Decemberists
    Just like with Wilco, the last few Decemberists albums haven't hit me the way the first few did. And like Wilco, this song was a pleasant surprise. It seems odd that I didn't select one of the songs with Gillian Welch on background vocals. But this song just kills. And the REM guitar part doesn't hurt...

  7. California Wildfire - The Henry Clay People
    Sorry if this scared you when it jumped out of the speakers. Mrs. P90 said that this transition was jarring and that maybe this song didn't belong on this mix. No can do. I love me some Henry Clay People. These kids are the future of rock and roll!

  8. Losers - The Belle Brigade
    Nothing original here folks. The harmonies are straight out of the Simon & Garfunkel play book. I heard this song when the Mrs. and I were playing *the game. Later, I saw that they were opening on the Dawes/Blitzen Trapper co-headling tour. Sadly, they didn't open the show we saw.

  9. Love the Way You Walk Away - Blitzen Trapper

  10. Miranda - Surfer Blood
    The Pixies called. They want their sound back. It's ok, this is slightly better than getting your sound and image from the movie Cocktail (see Vampire Weekend).

  11. Miss K. - Deer Tick

  12. Out in Nature - Band of Horses
    Yeah, so what if this is from a kids tv show. Yo Gabba Gabba is responsible for some pretty awesome songs - see the best Weezer song since the Green Album. We saw this on an episode early in 2011 and couldn't wait for the album to come out.

  13. Life of a Bear - Johnny Corndawg
    Corndawg is one weird dude. He's called the running cowboy. He makes amazing guitar straps (if anyone loves me, they'll get me one), and he writes great songs. Check out Chevy Beretta and Fools and Sages as well. Chevy Beretta might rate higher for me, but since we compile this mix for friends with kids, the three very obvious F-bombs knocked it out of contention.

  14. So Long - She & Him
    Another "kids song!" Clearly I'm old. Whatevs - this song is catchy and I love me some M. Ward. Contrary to popular belief, I've cooled on Zooey. I liked her much more back in the Elf days.

  15. Blue Eyes - Middle Brother
    With a line like "She's a southern girl without a drawl, She's a good girl who can wear a black bra," I don't think I need to say anything else.

  16. Lucky Now - Ryan Adams
    Oh Ryan Adams, I hate to love you and love to hate you. Not sure how the same person who wrote Heartbreaker and Gold could create albums like Easy Tiger and Cardinolgy (Shark Sandwich? More like Shit Sandwich). I was really excited when critics were calling this a return to form and one of Ryan's best albums. I'm not sure what album they were listening to. The one I got was the same old Ryan we've been seeing most since Gold. A few classic songs tossed in a sea of throwaways. Sure most of the throwaways would be great songs if written by someone else. But I think Ryan Adams can do better. This song is really good. And the background vocals by Norah Jones are great.

  17. Stay Young, Go Dancing - Death Cab for Cutie
    Mrs. P90 thought I should replace this with another song from Codes & Keys. She says that it's obvious that it's written about Zooey Deschanel and that in light of her and Ben splitting up, the song is just sad. I disagree, a song should be able to live outside of the circumstances which inspired it.

  18. A Little Bit of Everything - Dawes
    Pay special attention to the third verse of this song, the one that begins "Somewhere a pretty girl is writing invitations." If it doesn't bring a tear to your eye, you don't have a soul. And yes, it sounds like a long lost Jackson Browne song. But it's amazing. This is the perfect song to close my best of cd.

  19. Beth/Rest - Bon Iver
    Close your eyes. Picture Ralph Macchio doing a crane kick on the shore in Okinawa. This is the sound of that scene. Listening to the first Bon Iver, For Emma, Forever Ago, I never would have guessed that he would write and record what is essentially a Peter Cetera pop ballad. And if I wasn't already in to Bon Iver, I would likely run screaming the other direction. But holy crap, this song is amazing!
*The Game - “The Game” consists of my wife flipping through the digital music stations on the TV and then me naming the song, artist, year, and album. I have a savant like ability at this endeavor. I’m unstoppable on 80’s new wave and 90’s altrock. The game doesn’t end until you hear two songs by either Grand Funk Railroad or REO Speedwagon. This is not a hard and fast rule, but was pretty easy to follow on the old Music Choice Network that comes with our cable service, the 70’s Rock station played a boatload of these two artists.

    Tuesday, December 20, 2011

    A Cookie within a Cookie

    Years ago, I was a frozen dessert specialist (I worked in an ice cream store). We served cookies along with ice cream. One day, we received a shipment of dough that consisted of chocolate chip cookie dough with crushed up Oreos in place of the chocolate chips. I’ve never liked Oreos, but these cookies were amazing. It started my lifelong interest of cramming as much stuff as possible into a cookie. I’ve made cookies bursting at the crumb with coconut, rice krispies, chocolate chips, and peanut butter chips. I’ve taken a variety bag of leftover Halloween candy, chopped it roughly, and baked it into cookies.

    But the cookie that people react most excitedly to, is when I crush Trader Joe’s Mint JoJos and bake them into a chocolate chip cookie. It’s easy and it’s delicious. Just use your favorite recipe and substitute 12 oz. of crushed Jojos in place of the chocolate chips. Yum.

    Here's the recipe I use:
        3/4 cup granulated sugar
        1 cup brown sugar (or 1 cup granulated sugar and 1 1/2 tablespoons molasses)
        1 cup butter, softened
        2 eggs
        2 teaspoons vanilla
        1 teaspoon baking soda
        1 teaspoon salt
        3 cups all-purpose flour
        12 ounces crushed Mint JoJos

    Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
    1.  Place sugars, butter, eggs, and vanilla in mixer bowl. Attach bowl and flat beater to mixer.
    2. Turn to Speed 2 and mix for 30 seconds. Stop and scrape bowl. Turn to Speed 4 and beat another 30 seconds. Stop and scrape bowl.
    3. Sift together baking soda, salt, and flour.
    4. Turn to Stir Speed. Gradually add the flour mixture to the sugar mixture over about 2 minutes.
    5. Turn to Speed 2 and mix 30 seconds.
    6. Turn to Stir Speed and add chocolate chips, mixing for 15 seconds.
    7. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto greased baking sheets, about 2 inches apart. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, longer if you prefer crunchy cookies.
    8. Eat.

    Wednesday, December 14, 2011

    Wintry Mix

    I like CDs. I prefer my iPod, but I love a good mix cd. As the weather changes, I always enjoy throwing together a mix of songs that feel and sound like the season. Tonight, I threw together a Wintry Mix.

    Here it is:

    1. Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels) - Arcade Fire
    2. Fly - Nick Drake
    3. White Winter Hymnal - Fleet Foxes
    4. Beautiful Girl - Pete Droge
    5. Houses on the Hill - Ryan Adams
    6. Skinny Love - Bon Iver
    7. Dead of Winter - Eels
    8. Grey Ice Water - Sun Kil Moon
    9. Mushaboom - Feist
    10. Pictures of You - The Cure
    11. These Days - Nico
    12. A Long December - Counting Crows
    13. Calling and Not Calling My Ex - Okkervil River
    14. Girl From the North Country - Bob Dylan (w. Johnny Cash)
    15. Fairytale of New York - The Pogues
    16. Mandolin Wind - Rod Stewart
    17. Sodom, South Georgia - Iron & Wine
    18. Dreams - The Cranberries
    19. Sleep the Clock Around - Belle & Sebastian