The Best of 2016 (and the rest)

Well it’s been quite a while since I’ve had the time and drive to sit down and write a blog post. However with 2016 (finally) coming to an end, it is that time of year again to look back at all the great music that has come out over the past 12 months and put my best of list together for all to read, ignore, take note of, criticize, whatever you wish … but most importantly, to expand your mind, break your perceptions and bring some joy to your day via the awesome power of music.

To be entirely honest, I had started a post about this a month ago and planned to start posting on December 1st. I was going to list my top 31 albums with a different post each day in December. I’m glad I waited because there’s been some albums that came out this month which would have made me totally rethink and rearrange my list. I then thought it’ll be a cool idea to put together a list with my favorite release from each month of 2016 but that narrowed my scope a bit too far. So without any constraints in place, except for my keen ear, I’m confident that I’ve finally locked down my top 10 albums of the year … plus a few others I wanted to give a shout out to … plus a couple of EPs I just couldn’t leave off.

Unlike the last few years where I’ve listed them alphabetically, I’ve decided to actually rank them this year as well. Given your taste in music there will be quite a few bands which I’m sure you expected would have made the best of list that are missing below. However you will also see that I am a man who loves and appreciates many different genres of music … except country (see Pass the (Blue)grass).

These top spots are reserved for those albums I either immediately listened to nonstop when they came out, and can still go back to at any point, or that I listened to and moved me, some because of lyrics and messages and others because of the actual music … but most importantly I base my picks on things that I can listen to whenever from front to back as opposed to albums with a couple hit songs and a bunch of filler around them or something you really need to be in the mood for.

Now there are 3 other additions to this list which I’ve never done in the past. First I’ve included a song not to miss from each album. Basically if you had to listen to 1 song from it, I think this is (one of ) the best. I also included at least 1 video or live performance from every album/band because while studio albums can be works of art, if they can’t bring it during a live performance it also doesn’t make my list. Live music is arguably more important to me than over-produced takes in the studio. The final piece of info I wanted to feature was either the person who originally turned me onto the artist or if was something I found myself then a story that went with it.

So I hope you enjoy the list … without further ado, here we go. Happy Listening!

Beard


10. Kishi Bashi “Sonderlust

Song Not To Miss = “Who’d You Kill

Live Performance = Live on KEXP

Shout out = It was quite a while ago that I had first heard of Kishi Bashi and it was after talking a great deal about Keller Williams who is a master of the loop … turns out Kishi is as well and does a pretty awesome job of it so a big thanks to my boy Trevor for first planting this name in my head.

Kishi, as you’ll see from the live performance, took a different approach to this album and didn’t use as many loops but let the band he put together do more of the heavy lifting and it turned out well. It’s a beautiful album from front to back and not only does his voice resonate throughout but the songs are sneaky catchy as you’ll find yourself humming them a few days later without even knowing it


 9. BOB MOSES “DAYS GONE BY (NEVER ENOUGH EDITION)

Song Not To Miss = “Tearing Me Up

Live Performance = The Ellen Show

Shout out = While I found this band by myself (aka Spotify) I had one person in mind that when I first heard this it made me think of them thanks to some of the music they’ve introduced me to over the years so here’s to you KT

Technically the regular edition of this was released towards the end of 2015 so I’ve put the newer ‘Never Enough Edition’ on this list which includes some remixes, acoustic and live tracks on here; it’s just too damn good not to as these 2 guys have catchy, downbeat, electronica-ish, trance-y all figured out and I can’t get enough of it


8. Jesu & Sun Kil Moon “Jesu/Sun Kil Moon

Song Not To Miss = “Last Night I Rocked The Room Like Elvis and Had Them Laughing Like Richard Pryor

Live Performance = Live in Paris at Divan du Monde

Shout out = My man Justin recommended Sun Kil Moon to me a few years ago and while it took me a while to get into them I love the storytelling nature that is relatable on so many levels

This collaboration album between Sun Kil Moon and Jesu is not only easy listening but has a lot of SKM influence with the songwriting style; what makes this so interesting, to me at least, is the background of Jesu who was heavy into the “extreme” music scene by being in bands like Godflesh and Napalm Death but used the Jesu moniker to mellow out a bit and it worked in this collab which was a while in the making


7. A Tribe Called Quest “We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your service

Song Not To Miss = “Solid Wall of Sound

Live Performance = Saturday Night Live

Shout out = My shout out for this for this doesn’t go to a person who got me into the band but rather to a member of the band … RIP Phife Dawg who passed away before the album was fully completed but luckily laid down the majority of his rhymes before

From one of the most influential and formative hip hop groups of the last 30 years this album brings all the original members back together for 1 last epic album chalked full of special guests, sick beats and mad rhymes … the messages are bold and strong and the music is as good as ever


6. The Polish AmBassador “Dreaming of an old tomorrow

Song Not To Miss = “Chill or Be Chilled

Live Performance = Live at Red Rocks … it’s a mashup video showing scenes from his performance over 1 song but you’ll get the idea

Shout out = Another Spotify shout out so I’ve gotta mention Glenn here … TPA has been on my radar since late last year when I discovered his album collaboration with Mr. Lif and Ayla Nereo entitled “Terra Bella” which is one of my favorite albums in a long time

Yet another album chalked full of styles, special guests and catchy beats, TPA continues to straddle the line of electronic and chill which creates a listenable and enjoyable album from front to back


5. Aurora “All my enemies greeting me as a friend

Song Not To Miss = “Conqueror

Live Performance = The Late Show with Stephen Colbert

Shout out = I randomly came across this album and while I normally am not a huge fan of female lead singers for some reason this album hooked me immediately

She’s not only got an amazing voice but short and sweet songs which are a little pop, a little indie, a little rock, a little electronica and all heart from the Swedish sensation


4. The Lemon twigs “Do Hollywood

Song Not To Miss = “As Long As We’re Together

Live Performance = Live on KEXP

Shout out = I would have probably missed out on this album as it wasn’t on my radar until Christine put it on while we were visiting them a few months ago in Tokyo and now I can’t stop

I’m not sure if I’m more impressed that the 2 brothers who started the band (and the other members) are all so young, 17 and 19 currently, or the fact that they sound like some sort of amazing reincarnation of the Beatles/doo-wop or the thought of the incredible musical potential they possess for years to come but I hope you enjoy this album as much as I did


3. Frank Ocean “BlondE

Song Not To Miss = “Solo

Live Performance = Live in London … this was the only live performance I could find from the new album sadly

Shout out = I gave this a listen initially and thought it was okay but it didn’t hook me at first, however after a conversation with Wes (and plenty of encouragement from Daniel) I decided to carve out some time to sit down and truly listen to it without doing anything else and have been bordering on obsessed ever since

I really like his last album (“channel ORANGE“) and this album may have had more hype than any other to come out this year since he’s a bit of a recluse but man did it live up to the hype; 17 songs and an hour of music and sweet sounds from the catchy ones to the songs where the music is almost minimalist so you really focus on his voice and messages


2. Chance the rapper “Coloring Book

Song Not To Miss = “No Problem

Live Performance = The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon

Shout out = I wanna give a shout out to all of those independent artists who don’t want to sell out to “the man” to peddle their records and Chance is the ideal role model here as he’s done it all by himself from slinging mixtapes to performing in sold-out arenas … also Andy loved this shit almost as much as me

This was arguably my #1 album for most of the year and one of the best summer albums to put a smile on your face and a little pep in your step; some of the songs are about as close as I’ve come in the last 15 years to going to church but he throws it all out there and doesn’t hold back, puts on a helluva live performance, has some great guest spots and if most of the songs don’t make you move you may want to check your pulse


1. Childish Gambino ““AwaKEn, My love!”

Song Not to Miss = “California

Live Performance = The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon

BONUS Video = The Worst Guys … I had to include a video from a couple of years ago which was a collab of my #1 and #2 artists

Shout out = A few years ago I asked for some new music recommendations and my cousin Sarah can back to me with Childish Gambino who I had only known as an actor but I instantly fell in love with “Because the Internet” and later that week I saw the a live performance of “3005” which solidified it

This was the album I’ve been waiting for all year and it did not disappoint! The 3rd album from Childish is anything but, it is a grown-up, soulful, incredible journey and while there are still some of his funny and witty lyrics in here he’s focused far more on the music and the feel of the album to make a masterpiece … on a semi-related note I would highly recommend you look up some of his freestyles on Youtube as they are incredibly impressive


Here are a few more albums which could have just as easily made a spot on the list but just missed out. I didn’t go into as much detail here and they aren’t ranked but I still feel as though they deserve some recognition though so please feast your ears on these as well.


a. Jack White “Jack White Acoustic Recordings 1998-2016

Song Not To Miss = “Carolina Drama


b. Various Artists “The Hamilton Mixtape” and “Hamilton (Original Broadway Cast Recording)

Song Not To Miss (The Hamilton Mixtape) =”My Shot

Song Not To Miss (Hamilton (Original Broadway Cast Recording)) = “Cabinet Battle #1


C. Jim James “Eternally Even

Song Not To Miss = “Hide In Plain Sight


D. Bon Iver “22, A Million

Song Not To Miss = “8 (circle)


E. 2 Chainz “collegrove

Song Not To Miss = “MFN Right


Finally here are a couple of my favorite EPs I have come across this year.


EP1. The Arcs “Lake Superior

The Arcs had an amazing album last year entitled “Yours, Dreamily,” and when you’re led by the lead singer of the Black Keys you’ve already got an upper hand in the music game. But take that musical prowess and add to it one of the most enticing, captivating and crazy stories to be revisited last year in Netflix’s “Making A Murderer.” The Arcs took the story and made a song about it which is not only incredibly creative but pretty gritty and catchy. Also all proceeds from this song are being donated to The Innocence Project


EP2. The Lagoons “California”

If you could find a song that truly encapsulates the vibe of Northern California through both lyrics and music this is definitely it; a super chill yet incredibly catchy song with ties to all parts of CA, this song really makes me miss home


Okay I promise this is the last one but I could end this without giving one final shout out to The National for the amazing album they helped put together to honor the Grateful Dead. They brought a huge number of, mainly indie but, incredibly talented people and groups from around the world to contribute their takes on some of the best songs out there in my opinion so enjoy this last one and see you in 2017!

Various Artists “Day of the Dead

Why I’m Rooting For The Panthers

Well it’s already February 2016 which means that Super Bowl 50, the Big Game, is upon us. This year the Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers will take on Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos. Unfortunately it doesn’t start until 11:30pm London time but that certainly won’t stop me enjoying the spectacular spectacle that is the SB … not to mention the commercials, which in recent years haven’t lived up to the hype, but there’s always hope someone will put their millions of dollars for 30 seconds to good use.

Anyway I wanted to get right down to why I’m in my Carolina blue today and rooting on the Panthers to complete their season with only 1 loss, back in Week 16 to the Atlanta Falcons, on the books. I will certainly admit that I have a huge majority of my friends who will be at home rooting for the Broncos while only a handful are Panthers fans. So here’s my reasoning:

  1. The Coach – Ron Rivera, the head coach and recent recipient of Coach of the Year for the 2015-2106 season, has led the Panthers to their winningest season in their 20-year history. Now not only is it a nice story of going from literally worst to first but he’s got some great Chicago history which, as you know with me, is how a lot of my sports decisions are based. First off the Panthers were 2-14 in 2010 when John Fox’s contract expired (consequently he is now the head coach of the Bears) and in 2011 Rivera became the coach and they drafted Cam Newton as the #1 pick. They have steadily risen among the ranks and this season could be the ultimate culmination of hard work and game plan if they pull off the victory in SB50. His first 2 seasons were rough as they both ended up with high expectations and lowly outcomes of sub .500 records. However the last 3 years he has not only placed the Panthers 1st in their division but made it to the NFC Divisional Championship round, losing the first 2 years before finally making it to the SB this year. Now I also mentioned that Rivera has Chicago Bears ties … not only was he the defensive coordinator with them for a number of years in the mid-2000s but he was also a (fairly new) member of the SB20 Chicago Bears which had one of the most dominant seasons and SB wins in football history. They, like the Panthers of this year, had only 1 blemish on their regular season record in games both they and the 2015 Panthers probably should not have lost. However the Bears ended up getting to the SB with their incredible defense and rolled the New England Patriots by a score of 46-10 and did the Super Bowl Shuffle.
  2. The Tight End – Greg Olsen has been a huge reason on the offensive side of the ball as to why the Panthers are where they are. He has been a rock at the position and one of the best in the business since they acquired him in 2011 … remember that magical year they also brought in Rivera and drafted Newton to start their dynasty? And funny enough they got him, a former 1st round draft pick in 2007, for a 3rd round pick in the 2012 draft from who else but the Chicago Bears. Allegedly everyone but the Bears realized the raw talent there and didn’t feel as though they wanted to spend any more time developing him just as he was about to turn into an annual All-Pro TE. Also he’s got a pretty sweet beard going.
  3. The Linebackers – Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis, to be exact, are the LBs I’m referring to. First up Kuechly was yet another cog in the dynasty wheel when he was drafted in the 1st round in 2012 draft. Kuechly handily won the Defensive Rookie of the Year award his 1st year in the league and followed up the next year by becoming the youngest ever Defensive Player of the Year recipient. Now if it hadn’t been for J.J. Watt’s freakishly amazing talent and play the last few years it would be tough to argue that Kuechly would have a few more trophies on his mantle. Thomas Davis on the other hand is absolutely going down as one the greatest Panthers to ever play. He was their 1st round draft pick in 2005 and has been with the team ever since although he has had some major bruises along the way. After a tremendous start to his career he torn his ACL in back-to-back-to-back years. He’s the first NFL player to come back from 3 ACL surgeries to play … and not only play but continue to play at a high level at the age of 32. He made his 1st ever First Team All-Pro this year after another outstanding performance (he was 2nd Team All Pro in 2013). Now the craziest thing is that 2 weeks ago, as the Panthers went on to beat the Arizona Cardinals, Davis actually broke his arm in the game. He went to make a play and afterwards immediately left the field of play but vowed that night and again the next morning that he would have surgery to repair it and be out there on the field for SB50. It will be interesting to see how much of a factor he is, if/how much he is limited by whatever cast or extra precautionary measures he will be undertaking will have on his game and ability to make plays. However this is his first SB since being in the league and he says he won’t miss it for the world.
  4. The Quarterback – No, not Cam Newton but rather the other QB Peyton Manning plays a part in my decision. Will he be a first ballot Hall of Fame QB? Absolutely. Will he go down as one of the best QBs to ever play the game? Of course. Is he the best regular season QB to ever play the game? Quite possibly. However there are a few things which I’m not too wild about. First, I’ll just get it out there … he and the Indianapolis Colts beat my Bears in the 2007 Super Bowl for his 1st and only SB Ring. That will always leave a bitter taste in my mouth since I was only 2 when the ’85 Bears won the only SB for our sports-crazed city so I don’t remember it that well. I also understand that everyone loves Peyton because he’s one of the best but he isn’t all that great in the clutch when it really counts, the playoffs. He’s had no problem getting there in almost all of the seasons he’s played. In fact here are some crazy stats since he was drafted in 1998. He’s only had 2 losing season (1998, his rookie season, and 2001). He’s played 266 regular season games and won 186 of them for an amazing 70% of his games. He’s thrown 539 TDs to 251 INTs in the regular season a remarkable 2.15-to-1 ratio. However things take a turn for the pedestrian once you start looking at his playoff record currently sitting at .500 with a 13-13 record. Now sure he’s played 26 game playoff games in 18 years in the league (technically 17 since he sat out the entire 2011 season after his neck surgery). Therefore he’s averaged 1.5 playoff games per year and has been to the playoffs in 15 of his professional seasons. Now that sounds good but here are some other stats. He’s been 1 and done in the playoffs 9 of those 15 trips. He’s won 1 Superbowl and this will now be his 3rd trip to the SB after he took the Broncos there in 2014 where they got literally embarrassed by the Seattle Seahawks and routed 43-8. He’s thrown 40 TDs to 24 INTs in the postseason and his passer rating drops nearly 10 points from a regular season average of 96.5 to 87.9. Now sure this may (or may not) be his last year in the league and Cam Newton still has plenty of chances to win one but this is where I like to root for the underdog because everyone loves Peyton and is rooting for him to go out on top … I like to buck the populist opinion and go the other way so here’s hoping he has a performance similar to 2 years ago. I do have to end this by saying that there is 1 amazing thing Peyton has done in his career and you can check it out here.

So here’s hoping for a Panthers victory tonight but overall I’m truly interested in a good game that makes it worth staying up for, some classic LOL commercials peppered in there and a Bears SB win next year! We can dream ….

– Beard

A Legend Lost

Well I wasn’t really planning on posting anything today but with the passing of the great and inspiring David Bowie I thought I’d write a quick one. Growing up I remember watching Labyrinth at a friends house and that was, as I recall, my first experience with Bowie. Now the movie came out in 1986, when I was 3, so it was probably early 90s I saw it. I had never heard his music, that I could ever remember at that point but the Goblin King was absolutely perfect for Bowie. At the time I thought he was just an actor with either crazy hair or a great wig.

During the mid-90s when I really started to get into music, and grow to appreciate all it had to offer, I rediscovered a different Bowie than what I had known. It was crazy to me that he had been an incredibly famous, touted, talented, eccentric and genre-expanding musician and performer for 25+ years before. I remember getting sucked into the BMG music subscription service (on multiple occasions) where you got a huge stamp book of tapes, and later, CDs, to choose from. You’d get this incredible deal of 7 for the price of 1 and as a kid you never read the fine print so I was then on the hook for buying something like 10 more incredibly overpriced options in the next few months after that. Anyway the point to this story is that I remember one time buying “Young Americans” since I had an extra space left one time, I knew the name of the artist and it had the word American in it so why not right?

To this day “Young Americans” is still one of my favorite Bowie songs and while I didn’t necessarily love the rest of the album at the time it was enough to get me interested. Obviously I found my way to “Space Oddity,” “Hunky Dory,” “Aladdin Sane,” “Diamond Dogs” and of course the absolute masterpiece of “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.” I also vividly remember watching MTV and seeing the Bowie and Mick Jagger video for “Dancing in the Street” and thinking, man the 80s are pretty weird but also kinda catchy and cool. I slowly started to make my way through the rest of his music catalogue as I grew and especially in college where I also discovered the “Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars” documentary where he hung up this persona and continued his illustrious career.

His latest album, “Blackstar,” was just released this past Friday on his 69th birthday. It’s incredible to think that it’s his 27th studio album but when you’ve had a mostly successful career (except for some of the 80s I suppose) that’s to be expected. It’s always sad to lose someone, death isn’t something we look forward to but we all know it’s a reality. Some go earlier than they should, some live glorious long lives and cherish every minute. Bowie had the ability to touch and influence many people through his music and his nearly 50-year career. Not everyone is as lucky to have this chance and in his case he’s left us all not only with his gift of music but it’s something that will (hopefully) carry on through decades or centuries. He will not soon be forgotten.

While not getting too deep here it’s always interesting to reflect on music from the past. I can’t even fathom a world where something like Led Zeppelin, Bob Marley, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, just to name a few, are not household names or something everyone is at least familiar with whether they like their music or not. However as time marches on new music is always being made and taking up more space in the medium. Does this mean that eventually sometime, in the possibly not too distant future, these bands will become a forgotten thing of the past and slowly fade away? Or will it be that they were as influential, as I find them to be, to the masses and future generations that they will live on forever. And then looking forward who will be the people from our current generations, say the last 20-25 years, who will be in the same category? It’s an interesting thing to think about … somewhat scary when you fear that our grandkids generation could think Justin Bieber was the David Bowie of his day but hey everyone’s got their own opinions and that’s a beautiful thing.

I’ll leave you with a couple of Bowie-ish songs I’ll put out there as tributes to the late, great man.

– Beard


song I’m currently obsessed with: “BOWIE” by the flight of the conchords

FlightoftheConchordsAlbum

Album I’m currently obsessed with: “The LIFE AQUATIC STUDIO SESSIONS” by Seu Jorge

seujorge

Top Ten Albums of 2015

 

As I mentioned last week I couldn’t decide on just ten albums for the year so last week I gave you my Next Top Ten Albums of 2015 promising to deliver the rest this week. So without further ado I will now reveal my true Top Ten Albums of 2015 … again they’re in alphabetical order as opposed to trying to place them in numerical order:

BØRNS – Dopamine

One of the most listenable albums of the year from front to back … a midwest multi-instrumentalist

borns

Father John Misty – I Love You, Honeybear

He’s a crazy dude, hell of a showman and his sophomore album draws you in with his intimate and direct lyrical style … Is it bad I still really want a Fleet Foxes reunion?

fjm

Kurt Vile – b’lieve i’m goin down…

Another beautiful album from the former The War On Drugs frontman … it shows that the split between TWOD and Vile was MUTUALLY beneficial as both are making the best music of their careers

kurt-Vile-b’lieve-im-goin-down

Leon Bridges – Coming Home

Bringing back that 60s soul sound, class and style through music and performance … a true gentleman

leon bridges

My Morning Jacket – The Waterfall

Another winner from the boys from Kentucky with a psychedelic sound and mix of fast and slow tunes … one of those albums that grows on you more and more as you listen to it

mmj

Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats – Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats

Gritty sounds, guitar-twanged riffs and a booming voice highlight this album … a solid first release and more to come down the road

nr&tns

Raury – All We Need

He’s young, confident and cocky but thinks his new sound is the future of music … New genre, new culture, new voice, new favorite?

raury

Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell

A thoughtful and heartfelt album that is more indie folk and less crazy instrumental interludes inspired by the death of his mother … arguably one of the most creative artists out there today

sufjan

Tame Impala – Currents

Another Aussie breakout album with a hypnotic, spacy sound that instantly catches you and drags you in … it’s also created one of the best remixed songs of the year thanks to haim (listen to it here)

tame impala

Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Multi-Love

A soulful, PSYCHEDELIC, sweet, poppy and rock-tinged romp of an album all in one … and all thanks to the lead singers experimentation with a polyamorous relationship

umo

Happy listening and Happy New Year … can’t wait to start making my 2016 list soon!!

– Beard

Meowy Catsmas!!!

Charles & Finn just wanted to wish everyone a ‘Meowy Catsmas‘ with their new outfits for the year thanks to our good friend, and cat hater, Cubillas!!

– Beard

Finn in his Santa costume

Finn in his Santa costume

Charlie in his reindeer costume

Charlie in his reindeer costume

Next Top Ten Albums of 2015

As I mentioned last week my blogging sort of fell by the wayside for a bit. However since it’s back with some new posts to finish out 2015 I thought to myself, what’s the best way to get people excited again? Obviously my list of the Top Ten Albums of 2015 is the logical answer.

It seems like every year I say “Wow! How can I find a ten albums next year than I love more than my top choices this year?” And sure enough I usually find 20+ that are just as good, if not better. Music is revolutionary but it can be very evolutionary as well, if that’s what you’re into and are open to it all … the next hottest trend, craziest sound, most unique performance, etc. It can take you to new levels and places. It can provide inspiration. But it can also be amazingly refreshing to hear bands or artists get “back to basics” and keep it simple.

Now since I always have a tough time picking just ten, I decided to give you my Next Top Ten Albums of 2015 this week with the actual Top Ten Albums of 2015 coming up next week. Ranking them in order from 1-10, or in this case 11-20, is silly to me because, based on how I feel each day when I wake up, it could drastically change. Therefore I always revert to the fail-safe alphabetical version. So without further ado I give you my Next Top Ten Albums of 2015!

Action Bronson – Mr. Wonderful

EPIC BEARD, FORMER CHEF, DOPE BUT SMART RHYMES AND SOLID BEATS … YOU HAD ME AT EPIC BEARD!

action bronson

Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit

SUPER INDIE TITLES TO ALL HER ALBUMS and an incredibly direct delivery BUT THE MUSIC FROM THIS AUSSIE IS FOLKY-POP GOODNESS … SHOUTOUT TO DAN FOR INTRODUCING HER TO ME LAST YEAR ON MY BACHELOR PARTY WEEKEND

courtney barnett

Disclosure – Caracal

CATCHY LOOPS AND BEATS ON THE STAR-STUDDED SOPHOMORE ALBUM FROM THE UK BROTHERS … WHO KNEW A FORMER MYSPACE SENSATION WOULD BE THIS BIG?!

disclosure

Django Django – Born Under Saturn

Very solid sophomore effort from the psych pop rock quartet … One of the first albums I really got into when I arrived in the UK earlier this year was this one from the East London lads

djdj

Grimes – Art Angels

This Canadian artist has a variety of themes going on here but makes for a fun romp through the album from front to back … it may, or may not, surprise you that she’s a member of jay-z’s roc nation, he’s got an eye for talent

grimes

Jamie xx – In Colour

Sticking with the UK theme is the solo project from The xx frontman which features plenty of catchy hooks and beats plus special guests … try to listen to this and not bob your head, I dare you!

jamie xx

Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly

On the heels of his hugely successful last album this one packs even more of a political and emotional punch while dealing with issues of the world today via hip hop … Fun fact – the song “how much a dollar cost” was President Obama’s favorite song of the year

kendrick

Purity Ring – another eternity

Yet another sophomore album this has a similar sound to the first but a bit more well produced and even more electro poppy … the only downfall of the album is how short it is clocking in at 35 minutes

purity ring

Trey Anastasio – Paper Wheels

THE PHISH GUITARIST SOMEHOW FINDS TIME TO CREATE A SIDE PROJECT ALBUM THAT IS MATURE BUT FUN, FULL OF AMAZING GUITAR LICKS AND INCREASINGLY MEANINGFUL LYRICS … EVEN IF YOU DON’T LIKE PHISH YOU’LL ENJOY THIS

trey

Umphrey’s McGee – The London Session

Sure I have a soft spot for the band I grew up following and listening to a lot in high school in Chicago but this is a pretty awesome story for an album and sounds amazing … they rented 1 day at Abbey Road Studios and cut this 10-song album featuring the Beatles cover “I Want You (She’s SO Heavy)”

um

Remember to check back next week for my Top Ten Albums of 2015!

– Beard

We’re Going Streaking!

Bring your green hat because we’re going to take a look at some of the streaks going on in sports lately and see how they compare to the all-time leaders.

First we’ll head out to the Bay and take a look at the dominate performance to start the NBA season by the Golden State Warriors. As of this posting they are 26-1 to start the season. Now before I get too far into the stats of their streak let me start by saying thank you to the Warriors for pretty much being the only team that is keeping people interested in basketball this year.

The golden days of the NBA are well behind us as the 2000s were pretty horrible to watch and it’s getting worse and worse since you see 1 of 3 things on every trip down the floor:

  1. Jack up a 3-pointer
  2. Throw an alley-oop
  3. Try to make a circus shot like you’re on the playground

Luckily the Warriors are excellent 3-point shooters and just skilled shooters in general so they can get away with it. Not so much on just about every other team which seems to have 1-3 good players and a bunch of guys who in any other era would probably be riding the pine the entire season except for in blowout games or more likely in the D-League. Basketball hasn’t really been basketball in a while where it used to be a team sport as opposed to a bunch of 1-on-1 scenarios each time up the court.

The one team that consistently bucks this trend (and has 5 championships to show for it in his era) are the Gregg Popovich-led San Antonio Spurs. He’s a true old school coach who stresses the importance of teamwork, sharing, good defense, moving the ball on offense and no matter who you are if you make a bad play you may be pulled from the game. So while I’m on this tangent let me talk about his streak numbers since he has been the coach of the Spurs starting in 1996 (19 years ago):

  1. He has put together 18 consecutive winning seasons, in which they made the playoffs of all of them, which is the most in NBA history … his only losing season was his first when he took over 18 games into the season so that doesn’t really even count
  2. He was a perfect 4-0 in the NBA Finals until 2013 when the Miami Heat beat them … luckily they rebounded the next year to win it again against the same Heat team
  3. While not a streak he is 1 of only 2 coaches in NBA history to win 1,000 games with one franchise … the other being Jerry Sloan with the Utah Jazz

Now getting back to the Warriors, who are chasing my childhood team, the Chicago Bulls, record-setting season of 72-10. Obviously on this pace they’re going to crush that mark set back in the 1995-1996 season but that also means that for the next 4+ months they will continue to play out of their minds and at the highest possible level night in and night out. While anything is possible I think they will fall short … I obviously hope they will fall short as well since I’m a lifelong Bulls fan and grew up as a teenager watching Jordan and company dominate the NBA during the 90s. Let’s look at some of the comparisons between the 2 teams (however you may want to skip this part if you’ve watched any ESPN recently as it’s all they talk about):

2015-2016 Warriors

  1. Started the season 24-0, the best start of an NBA season ever, before falling to the Milwaukee Bucks on December 12th, 2015 and are now 26-1 after defeating those same Bucks at home on Friday night … they eclipsed the 1884 St. Louis Maroons who started 20-0
  2. Dating back to last year’s regular season the Warriors had won 28 games before their Dec. 12th loss which, while impressive, is still only 2nd to the 1971-1972 Lakers streak of 33 straight victories which occurred all in the middle of the same season
  3. They set another NBA record for road victories to start a season by going 14-0 before losing to the Bucks
  4. The Warriors are currently on a 29-game home winning streak between this season and last season which is still a ways off the pace of the Bulls who won 44 straight home games between the 1994-1995 and 1995-1996 seasons
  5. Although they’ve only lost 1 game so far this will be an interesting stat to revisit at the end of the season … number of total points they lost by this season which, so far, stands at 13 in their 1 loss

1995-1996 Bulls

  1. Through their first 24 games they went 22-2 and through their first 27 games (which are what the Warriors are through now) they were 24-3
  2. Here’s a fun stat about this magical season the Bulls won their first 37 games at home this year and then, oddly, went 2-2 at home in the final 4 home games … both 1 point losses (as was their 3rd to last loss of the season)
  3. The total number of points they lost by this year … 77 points in 10 losses and 32 of those came in their only blowout loss of the season to the hated, rival New York Knicks meaning the other 9 games were lost by a total of 45 points … the 77 points is an NBA record for lowest total number of points in defeats in a season
  4. The Bulls also only had 1 losing streak, granted it was 2 games, this season as they neared the All-Star game in February … a 6-point loss at Denver and a 10-point loss at Phoenix (before going to Golden State and beating them by 4 to end the 1st half of the season)
  5. Another stat that jumps out is that the Bulls had 2 of the best players on their team, the G.O.A.T. Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen; one of them lead the Bulls in scoring in 78 of the 82 regular season games meaning they stayed healthy and dominate night in and night out … currently 1 of the Warriors 2 main scoring machines, Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, have led them in scoring every game thus far

Now the 1 thing that can hurt the Warriors is defense. While they’ve been red-hot from the field, hitting timely shots and blowing people out from the get go for the most part there will be times when you have some off nights and need some stops to help you out. As you could probably guess both the Bulls team and this Warriors team were/are #1 in offense in the league. However the difference is on the defensive side where the Warriors are #21 (out of 30 teams) the Bulls were #3 (out of 29 teams).

So we will see what the rest of the way holds for the Warriors and if they can surpass the mark set by one of the most dominant seasons ever recorded on their way to a championship. However while it would be a nice thing for the Warriors to achieve you know they don’t (or at least shouldn’t) care as much about a record as they should about returning to the NBA Finals and repeating as World Champs!

Next let’s turn to hockey where another impressive streak has recently come to an end. Once again I get to gloat a little since it was a guy from my Chicago Blackhawks, Patrick Kane, who recently had his point streak snapped at 26 games. For anyone not as familiar with hockey scoring you can get a point by either scoring a goal or getting an assist. Now 26 consecutive games with a point seems pretty impressive. I mean in those games the Blackhawks went 15-7-4 in that stretch and Kane compiled a total of 40 total points (16 goals and 24 assists).

Now let’s break down some of the streaks he broke with his 26-game dominance:

  1. He broke the record for longest point streak by an American born player which had been 18 games held by Eddie Olczyk and Phil Kessel
  2. He broke the record for longest point streak by a Chicago Blackhawks player which had been 21 games by the great Bobby Hull
  3. While Sidney Crosby had a 25 game streak in 2010-2011 this was the longest in the NHL since 1992-1993 when Mats Sundin did it for the Quebec Nordiques
  4. However while 26 straight games is impressive, it becomes much less impressive when you remember what the G.O.A.T Wayne Gretzky did back in 1983-1984 when he almost doubled that and went 51 straight games with a point

As we turn our attention to football this may be the streak getting the least amount of recognition and the most amount of haters. The Carolina Panthers have started the season a perfect 13-0 looking to make it 14-0 this week as they take on the New York Giants on the road. Granted no other team is still unbeaten in the NFL (there are currently two 2-loss teams which is the next closest) the Panthers have only recently gone to the top of the NFL Power Rankings. They could easily have both the MVP (Cam Newton) and Defensive Player of the Year (Luke Keuchly) on their team but are constantly downplayed as the favorites to win it all this year.

Now we’ve seen in the past how a perfect regular season means nothing when you get to the playoffs in the case of the 2007 New England Patriots. They made it all the way to Super Bowl XLII undefeated only to lose to the New York Giants who snuck in as a 10-6 Wild Card team that year.

Now going back to last year the Panthers have amassed 17 straight regular season wins dating back to last season where they won their final 4 games. This is still a ways off the pace of the longest streak though set by Peyton Manning’s Indianapolis Colts back in 2008-2009. The Colts won the final 9 games of the 2008 season on their way to their Super Bowl victory over my Chicago Bears. They then started the 2009 season 14-0 to set a record of 23 consecutive regular season wins. Next you have 2 different streaks by the New England Patriots (21 games between the 2006 and 2007 seasons and 18 games between the 2003 and 2004 seasons) before Manning shows back up with the Denver Broncos who won 11 games to close out the 2012 season, his first in Denver and then he reeled off the first 6 wins of the 2013 season bringing the total to 17, which is where the Panthers currently sit as well.

One more NFL streak I’d like to highlight before signing off for the week. This one also came to an end recently and really the only reason I bring it up is to celebrate it ending since it was a streak for my rival and hated nemesis cheesehead Green Bay Packers. Aaron Rodgers is nothing but a stellar QB (except for the last few weeks) but earlier this year he finally had his streak broken of not throwing an interception while playing a game at home in Lambeau Field. Rodgers threw an interception (well actually 2 that day) against the St. Louis Rams on October 11th, 2015. His last interception at Lambeau came on December 2nd, 2012. That is an impressive span of 586 consecutive passes and 49 touchdowns between INTs.

Here are a few other things to take note of while we’re talking about his streak ending:

  1. As I mentioned he threw 2 INTs which was the first time he did that at home since the Minnesota Vikings in Week 7 of the 2010 season
  2. Coincidentally the Vikings were also the last team to pick him off at home on that December 2nd, 2010 game
  3. Rodgers also lost a fumble in the October game against St. Louis giving him 3 turnovers on the day which was the first time since Week 9 of the 2009 season he’s committed 3 TOs on the road against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the first time he’s ever had that many turnovers at home (he had just 3 TOs in his previous 17 home games combined)

Anyway I wanted to end that on an upbeat note for me. Hope you enjoyed

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