Monday, June 30, 2008

Top 5 Television Theme Songs - Lyrics Edition

And now for the logical follow-up to the last post.

Dan's Top 5:

1. The Greatest American Hero - "Believe It or Not" by Joey Scarbury - This is the pinnacle example of a television show's theme song being WAY too good for the show it represents. I'm not sure how successful the show was, but this song was a hit, reaching #2 on the charts. Can you even grasp this? It was one away from the top song in the entire country according to The Billboard Hot 100. And let's not forget "The Suzie," the episode of Seinfeld containing one of the best moments of the series, when we hear the #1 answering machine message of all time, "Believe it or not, George isn't at home."

2. Perfect Strangers - "Nothing's Gonna Stop Me Now" by David Pomeranz - This is another instance of the song being much better than the show, but in this case, the show was really enjoyable. (To be fair, I can't judge Greatest American Hero having never seen an episode.) It takes a lot of talent for me to overlook the fact that one is a Scientologist (You shook your Etch-a-Sketch with War of the Worlds, Tom.) but Pomeranz apparently has the talent. He also did the theme to Zoobilee Zoo, and both infected my head when I was four years old. "Standin' Taaaaaaaaaaaaaall!"

3. Cheers - "Where Everybody Knows Your Name" by Gary Portnoy - This was the third attempt at writing a theme by Portnoy and Judy Angelo. The repeated rejection led them to start writing a sad tune over just two notes - B flat and F - and what followed was the beginning of one of the greatest themes ever. Who wants a beer?

4. The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air - "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" by Will Smith - I'll confess that I didn't watch this show religiously when it was on while we were growing up. But I still know a significant percentage of the theme's lyrics and recognized it was ridiculously catchy. Yo, home smell you later!

5. Gilligan's Island - "The Ballad Of Gilligan's Isle" - written by Sherwood Schwartz and George Wyle, performed by The Wellingtons - Probably the song that makes me wary of any sort of short nautical expedition that is scheduled to last for three hours, lest I get marooned. And for the record, I prefer the version that name-checks The Professor and Mary-Ann. It really isn't that hard to sing them in, is it?

Honorable mention: The Jeffersons - "Movin' On Up," Green Acres - "Green Acres"

Ryan's Top 5:

Again, if you want the names of the composers/writers, I highly recommend

1. "Cheers" - "Cheers is filmed before a live studio audience" is firmly etched into my brain, as is every word to this song.

2. "Pete & Pete" - This is an excellent mid-90s alternative pop song that happens to be the tune for one of the greatest shows Nickelodeon's ever had a hand in. Man, whatever happened to Polaris? At least you can get this show on DVD, though, which is more than I can say for...

3. "Doug" - I mean, the only real lyrics are "doo doo doo doo," etc. But still, this song is from a time when cartoons were still good, funny, relevant to kids' lives, well-written, etc. And not about, for example, talking nautical sponges.

4. "Arthur and Friends" - I'd include this show on a guilty pleasure list--if I in any way felt guilty for liking it. I don't. And the theme song is performed by Ziggy Marley; reggae for kids is really, really underrated.

5. "David the Gnome" - We're doing top 5 kids' show theme songs including Cheers, right? Anyway, I really miss the French-Canadian animation of the 1980's, and all the musical genius it inspired.

Honorable mention: Frasier, Extras, Salute Your Shorts, Family Guy, Bill Nye the Science Guy, Reading Rainbow.

Tim's Top 5:
Again, my distaste for this category was fleeting.

1. The Monkees Hey, hey, we’re the Monkees! Ok, they’re not good as a band, since they can’t play instruments. But they are remarkably good at times as a pop band, and the theme song is a typically inane but enjoyable theme.

2. CheersThis is the prototype for a TV theme, because it actually makes you wish you were watching the show. Just two notes in and I wanted to pull out season 2 and start watching it, since I bought it too late into my summer associate year and no longer had a need to spend all my time in my apartment watching DVDs, because NCAA Football had come out.

3. The Wonder YearsOdd, this link goes to Joe Cocker performing “With a Little Help From My Friends”, not the Wonder Years theme! Yeah, I know, it’s a bit of a cop out, but it’s really Joe Cocker’s only good work that I’m aware of. The video has some huge dubbing issues, but it’s really better not to see him anyway.

4. BatmanOk, admittedly, the only words to the song are “Batman”, but it has lyrics. It’s a song that is inseparable from the campy show from whence it came, but is still really appealing to me for some bizarre reason.

5. Underdog - While there are any number of cartoon songs that could make the claim to this (as evidenced by my unembarrassed ownership of the compilation album Saturday Morning – from which this version is taken, I’m partial to the theme of Underdog. Speed of lightning, roar of thunder, fighting all who rob or plunder, Underdog... Underdog!

Honorable mention: Darkwing Duck - Give me a break, I loved this show., Happy Days - I'm in disbelief this didn't make my top 5, The Greatest American Hero – quintessential Christopher Cross-y ‘80s theme that still makes me long for the days of not doing a damn thing; Reading Rainbow; Zoobilee Zoo (just watching three seconds of Ben Vereen made me nearly swallow my tongue, I shan't share).

Friday, June 27, 2008

Top 5 Television Theme Songs - Instrumental Edition

I decided to split this list up because a) there's too many good theme songs out there, and b) you can't really compare those themes with lyrics to those without. And for the record, any spoken narration does not qualify as lyrical content.

Dan's Top 5:

1. The A-Team - Theme by Mike Post - Probably the most formulaic show in history, but so much of its popularity is (in my mind) due to the awesome theme song, created by none other than the master of television theme songs, Mike Post. Listen to that theme, and you get pumped up. Right now as I'm thinking about it, I'm ready to punch someone, or shoot at them and miss them entirely, or adamantly express my disdain for traveling in airplanes.

2. The Critic - Theme by Hans Zimmer - Let me guess, this show is set in New York City. It's a dead giveaway once you hear jazz clarinet. But here's the thing - I love jazz clarinet and the theme is awesome. I could imagine having this song playing as I walk into work every day, and as I sit down at my computer, the song ends just like when Jay Sherman's going to bed. Can Zimmer do any wrong? If he has, I don't know about it.

3. Miami Vice - Theme by Jan Hammer - Remember how the 80's sucked? Oh yeah, that's right - they didn't. Say what you will about the series itself (I like it, but a lot of that is camp value. I have no problem with you hating the show.) But Hammer's theme was the new definition of cool. Just listen to it again, and you're just filled with the imagery of primitive synthesizers, neon pastels, and plastic that would come to define the decade.

4. The Simpsons - Theme by Danny Elfman - Do I really need to say anything here? The theme is deliberately wacky, and if there's anyone who can produce that sort of music, it's Danny Elfman . He's probably best known for his superhero themes nowadays, but really, his talent encompasses a wide range. Probably my favorite film (and television) composer.

5. The Venture Bros. - Theme by J. G. Thirlwell - New classic status at #5, as is standard practice. I don't even know if anyone else reading this blog has ever watched Cartoon Network's Adult Swim programming. Honestly, I wouldn't be offended if you didn't, because a lot of the programming is god-awful. However, one of the few really good shows is The Venture Bros., which, in essence is a mockery of 70's cartoons such as Jonny Quest. The adventurous theme fits perfectly, with a few electronic subtleties thrown in. The horns can be a bit harsh at times, though.

Honorable mention: Hawaii Five-O - Theme by Morton Stevens, Mission: Impossible - Theme by Lalo Schifrin, Sanford and Son - Theme by Quincy Jones

Ryan's Top 5:

I don't have the courage to look up on my laptop who wrote/composed the following songs.

1. The Simpsons - I like going with different answers on the whole, but screw that--this best instrumental theme song ever produced also belongs to the best TV show ever made. Try imagining the show without this song--it can't be done.

2. M*A*S*H - Such a good theme song. This would be my dad's #1, hands down. He'd actually be pissed that I almost forgot this one. It's a good thing only three people read this.

3. Knight Rider - Gets major cred as this is one one the few TV theme songs that I choose to listen to on my iPod (both Offices, um, ... that might be it). Such a cool-sounding tune.

4. Twin Peaks - Yes, I initially forgot this one, which was one of my favorite songs for a long time. A beautiful song.

5. Sportscenter - This tune has come to epitomize Sports. Can you name any other example of a theme song that encapsulates its entire genre? (No sitcom's theme epitomizes Comedy, for example.)

Honorable: Hawaii Five-0 (I haven't seen an episode...), The Office US, I Love Lucy, Seinfeld, The Office UK, Northern Exposure, The X-Files.

**Thanks to Cortney, who pointed out my numerous inadequacies regarding this list.**

Tim’s Top 5:
Ok, I was really unhappy to see these lists on the site, as an avid non-watcher of television that’s not sports, I’m not privileged to have much of a source on this. Then I realized that it didn’t matter, because the songs of value are old anyway, and because my #1 and #2 were so obvious and yet unmentioned that I had a real opportunity to go in a different direction here.

1. The Green Hornet - There is simply no contest, the theme song is one of the best things about the show, which was amazing despite its razor-thin plot. And it’s the best Rimsky-Korsakov on the market. Good luck finding an orchestra to take this angle on it. Man, I wish this show would come out on authentic DVD instead of the terrible Chinese imports slapped together to sate people’s desire for Bruce Lee on TV. If I ever have a child who wants to join the marching band, he or she will be forced to practice on their trumpet until they sound like this.

2. Alfred Hitchcock Presents - More because it’s really suitable for the show, I can’t refrain from putting this on the list. It came to personify Hitchcock as much as the drawing, neither of which spoke very highly of him, but it elevated him to a cultural persona that was not shared by any of his peers as directors (as if he had any).

3. Law and Order - I am the only person who’s graduated from law school that’s never watched the show. But it doesn’t keep me from appreciating that its theme is appropriate and has been for the nearly two decades that it and its variants have been on the air. Composing so timeless is astounding enough in its own right.

4. Hawaii Five-O - I also have never seen the show, but I know the Hawaii Five-O theme as well as I know Jack Lord’s hair. It’d odd not to have the theme play whenever you see Jack Lord in Dr. No, frankly.

5. Mission: Impossible - Ok, this is a link to the modernized version that’s associated with the movie, but I’m too lazy to post another link. The point is that it’s a good song that you immediately connect with the show, whether or not you’ve seen it. True of all five of these songs.

Honorable mention: Hill Street Blues; The A-Team really has the voice-over lead in, so I can’t really include it in the list because I think it’s a part of it. But I do enjoy 1980s jingoism, and this absolutely reeks of it; M*A*S*H (penalized because I love the song with lyrics so much more in the movie), The Simpsons.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Top 5 Spielberg Movies

Tim's Top 5:
Few people can make movies that alternate so completely between astounding and horrible as Steven Spielberg. He's all over the map genre-wise and has made everything except a pure comedy that anyone laughed at.

1. Saving Private Ryan - Ok, using this film to cram down a World War II monument was a little bit absurd, particularly considering the hasty monument they erected that lacks any of the emotional weight of the Vietnam Memorial. But there's not much doubt that it is one of the greatest war movies ever concocted. The D-Day sequence was unmatched, Spielberg gets adequate performances from people who have no business being in a movie (Vin Diesel, Barry Pepper, Giovanni Ribisi), and it's not as cut and dry as most of Spielberg's work. Even if it's simplistic, it's a stunning achievement that was robbed at the Oscars by a movie that was memorably primarily for just being better than one would expect, but little more.

2. Catch Me If You Can - If you were going to express total disbelief that Spielberg directed a film on his resume, this would probably top the list. Nothing about it feels Spielbergian except that it involves parent-child relationships. It's a film that I can watch over and over again. Tom Hanks is sufficiently cartoonish for a composite character, Leonardo DiCaprio gives the performance of a career, and Christopher Walken actually gets to play someone that's not all that weird for a change. A superb accomplishment.

3. Jurassic Park - This is one of the movies I remember seeing in the theater most clearly. It's not a masterpiece of drama, but the special effects were unprecedented and I think few directors would have dared to accomplish adequate work with the source material.

4. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade - I'm not really a big Indiana Jones fan, Raiders really just had a great climax going for it, the rest of the movie was pretty dry. But adding in Sean Connery here is one of the best examples of a character being integrated in the middle of a series of films without seeming glaringly out of place. Frankly, though, Indiana is still a weird name for a dog, too.

5. Schindler's List - I watched this movie once, it's a touching and depressing film that has some exceptional performances (particularly Ralph Fiennes), but it's also not a particularly difficult task to make a sad movie about the Holocaust. It told a story that needed to be told in an interesting and largely successful fashion.

Honorable mention: Munich, Jaws

Tory's Top 5:

Let me start my list by saying that I don't care for Spielberg, and am rather glad to see that there are a lot fewer movies of his that I liked than I thought (I had always assumed he did liked films that I never knew he directed, but he didn't.)

1. Hook - This is the quintessential retelling of the Peter Pan tale, with a pretty good performance by Robin Williams, and an outstanding dual-performance by Dustin Hoffman (who plays both Hook as well as a tall person.)

2. Catch Me If You Can - I agree with Tim on just about every point. This movie is amazing, and definitely one of Leonardo Dicaprio's best, even though I do believe he has had some other noteworthy performances that could rival this one. It definitely feels like it was done by a director with a much better film vocabulary.

3. Saving Private Ryan - Not my favorite WWII film, but definitely it would definitely make the top 5 WWII films list. I am also a huge Matt Damon fan, and I am somewhat affectionate towards Rabisi and even a bit towards Barry Pepper (at least after he did Three Burials.)

4. A.I. - I have a confession: I have not seen this movie, nor do I want to. The reasons that it made the top five are two-fold. The first being that I am having trouble finding movies on his IMDB that I liked enough to make a top 5, and the second being that the first half of this film was made with Stanley Kubrick. So Stephen Spielberg gets the credit (since it's his list.)

5. Empire of the Sun - Another confession: I haven't seen this one either. However my desire to see this film greatly outweighs my appreciation of any of his other films, as well as my desire to see or rewatch any of his other films.

Ryan's Top 5:

I'll preface this list with the fact that I am moderately drunk right now. I don't know where that will lead us.

1. Amistad - In all honesty, I haven't examined the historical accuracy of this one as closely as I have others (e.g., Quiz Show); I do know, for example, that Morgan Freeman's character is completely fictional (and not God, the President, or the narrator). That said, the portrayal of the Middle Passage in this film is pretty damn spot on, and thus, gruesome. Also, an excellent score. Anthony Hopkins is good as JQ, and Djimon Hounsou is good as Cinque. Matthew McConaughey also stars.

2. Catch Me If You Can - I agree with what everyone has said. I too can watch this over and over and over.

3. Jurassic Park - I just watched this recently on TBS for the first time in about a decade. It actually ages a lot better than I thought it would, despite some of the special effects. This is what Spielberg is best at, good summer blockbusters. You know, like A.I.

4. Jaws - I actually like this movie a lot and feel kind of bad ranking it so low. I feel bad in that I can't really think of a reason to disparage it... it's another good blockbuster. How about, I saw on Mythbusters that the part where the shark gets blown up after he shoots the oxygen tank is bullshit. (Frustratingly.) But I do love the line, "Smile you son of a bitch!"

5. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade - This was one of my favorite movies as a kid, and in my mind is by far the best Indiana Jones movie. The action and chase scenes are good but not too outlandish, and they don't overwhelm the film at the expense of character development (see: Crystal Skull).

Honorable mention: Saving Private Ryan, Hook

Dan's Top 5:

Wow, everyone really swarmed on this one. I just feel embarrassed to be the fourth one posting. Unlike most everyone else here, I still like Spielberg. Though not the greatest of all time, the films that he's good at directing are legendary.

1. Raiders of the Lost Ark - This will forever be my favorite Indiana Jones movie. The Connery-heavy Last Crusade seemed a bit too cheesy for me, and relied a bit more on gags. I'm not saying it's bad, but I liked Raiders a lot more. Ranks as #1 on this list because the action is so memorable, and I imagine that such a movie would be pretty difficult to direct.

2. Hook - Everything about this movie is brilliant, and I mostly agree with Tory on this one. Unlike most family movies, it's actually enjoyable for any age group watching it. Furthermore, it doesn't resort to just retelling the Peter Pan story the way everyone has heard it a million times before. Loses points for the Rufio character, but gains them right back for the youthful ragtag-wildness of the Lost Boys, captured perfectly by the dinner scene (possibly my favorite in the movie.) Also, the soundtrack is a must-own.

3. Jurassic Park - I remember watching this movie when I was younger (9 years old) in the theater with my grandmother, and we both had a blast. (Screw you if you think I was a loser for not seeing this with friends; me and my grandma were close.) It was probably the most memorable movie experience I had in the theater growing up. To date, it's still the only CGI that has ever looked "real" to me, and as Ryan said, it really ages well.

4. Schindler's List - I feel bad putting this so low, as I watched it only recently and really enjoyed it. I agree with Tim about the exceptional performances, though my personal favorite was Kingsley's character. I had always worried that I wouldn't fully identify with this movie if I weren't Jewish and had no personal connection to the Holocaust. I was proven wrong, as it's really a film about human character more than anything else.

5. Jaws - Though I really liked Catch Me If You Can and feel it does deserve some mention, there's no way I can leave off Jaws. Keep in mind that there were no summer blockbusters before this movie. Of course, the suspense of this film is legendary - you never really get to see the killer shark until the end - to the point that you don't even care how fake the shark looks. At least, I don't anyway.

Honorable mention: Catch Me If You Can, Saving Private Ryan

Monday, June 23, 2008

Top 5 Geographical Bands

This is Ryan's idea originally, after he was cleaning out his iPod and wondering what Chicago songs he should keep. Or maybe we thought of it together after we were talking about how Kansas really isn't worth seeing in concert. At any rate, these are the Top 5 bands with geographical names. In the name of purity, I have used bands that use only the names of places as the entire band name, but if you struggle to find any good bands (there really aren't many), then I guess that rule is not set in stone.

Dan's Top 5:

1. Boston - Not only the makers of one of the best debut albums ever - actually, the best-selling debut album in U.S. history, this band also invented (and its members are the only acceptable wearers of) the white-guy 'fro. The genius of this band comes primarily from Tom Scholz, who wrote all the songs, invented their signature guitar tone by designing his own equipment, produced their work, and also freed the slaves and saved humanity. Needless to say, I like Boston.

2. Kansas - If there was ever a sign that there aren't many good Geographical Bands, it's the fact that Kansas wins the #2 spot. To their credit, they have three cool songs ("Dust In The Wind," "Point of Know Return," and "Carry On Wayward Son") There may be more, but these are the three that receive massive airplay. It speaks volumes that I'm nowhere near willing to pay $50 to see them play in State College. But if you've ever played "Carry On Wayward Son" on Guitar Hero, you know how much those songs I listed do rock.

3. Asia - I'm going to submit to my love of Prog Rock yet again, putting Asia at #3 despite only knowing a single song, "Heat of the Moment." This band incorporated members of former prog mega-bands Yes and E.L.P., so they're definitely a supergroup. But whenever I think of the musical connections of Asia, it never escapes me that the keyboardist, Geoff Downes, was also the keyboardist for The Buggles (yes, the same Buggles of "Video Killed The Radio Star" fame). Apparently he was once entered into the Guinness Book of Records for using the most (28) keyboards on stage during one performance. I should really get around to listening to at least a second song from these guys.

4. Chicago - "25 or 6 to 4" is by far the best song this band ever did, as it's the only song I can really remember that features their guitar player, who was actually pretty good. (Sadly, I watched VH1's Behind The Music episode on Chicago. I mean, that's sad in and of itself, but even more sad was that the episode revealed that their guitar player accidentally committed suicide.) "Saturday in the Park" is another acceptable tune, but my second-favorite is "You're The Inspiration." Why? Because when I first heard it, my guess was that the Bee Gees were singing it. Kudos to you, Peter Cetera, for pulling that aural illusion off.

5. Europe - "The Final Countdown" was huge - #1 in 26 countries, and to this day a pretty decent song to pump up to before a sports entrance. Hey wait, this band was primarily a metal band? For shame, Europe, for shame! Actually, Europe had the same reaction to that hit album, The Final Countdown, thinking it was way too keyboard-driven. They took the reins on the next album, adding more guitars and getting the sound they wanted, but never achieved the same sort of success, succumbing to one-hit-wonder syndrome (a serious disease that is sometimes fatal).

Ryan's Top 5:

Man, my list sucks. Why did we have this idea?

1. New York Dolls - A great protopunk band that influenced greater bands: The Clash, The Sex Pistols, The Ramones, etc.

2. Kansas - I can't help but love them for nostalgic reasons. I really have no concept if they are actually a good band or not. (See: Meat Loaf.) Apparently their members are from Topeka and Manhattan respectively...not two of my favorite towns. Ah well.

3. Boston - I have "more than a feeling" that I'm copping out and stealing Dan's entries. Ha! Ha! Ha!

4. Europe - "Doo-duh-loo-doo! Doo-duh-loo-doo-doo!"

5. Asia - I know very little about Asia, but they have one key fact going for them: they're not Chicago. Welcome to the Top 5, my Asiatic friends. (Bonus points for Cartman's rendition of "Heat of the Moment.")

Tory's Top 5:

1. Cypress Hill - Granted I don't listen to a lot of Cypress Hill, but I am attempting to be different with this list. And, frankly, I would probably listen to Cypress Hill over Boston or Kansas.

2. The Mars Volta - I wanted to put them number 1, but I don't think their name is exactly in the tune. That being said Mars - the planet - does have a lot of geographical stuff going on ... like the TALLEST MOUNTAIN (or volcano) IN THE UNIVERSE.

3. Evergreen Terrace - A really amazing hardcore band that (from what I remember) only does hardcore covers (Sunday Bloody Sunday being the only song that comes to mind.) Also, they are named after a fictional geographical location. From the Simpsons no less.

4. America - Horse With No Name.

5. E Street Band - They are on here because they played a lot with the Boss. However, I've never heard them independently, therefore they are number five.

Honorable Mentions: Rammstein, Sugarland, Walls of Jericho - it should be noted that these bands are being honorably mentioned for having names that reflect geographic locations.

Tim's Top 5:

One could argue Nirvana qualifies. I won't, though, since that's way too easy.

1. Europe - As far as I'm concerned, they released one album, which consists of ten recordings of one song. But man, I loved that song when I was five, which means that, along with "One Stop Along The Way (The Ballad of Johnny bench)" by Terry Cashman I am forever cursed to continue loving the song. It invokes good memories of my favorite television character ever (Gob Bluth), hockey games (it was a theme for the Omaha Lancers for a long time), and what good synthesizers have brought to society (surprisingly little). Still, should my elbow ever manage to repair itself so I can throw without my arm going numb and should I suddenly add thirty miles to my fastball, I'm pretty sure this song would be on the shortlist of songs that would play as I entered the game (which is itself a list that I'll be posting at some point once I've refined mine to perfection, since it's one of the few lists about which I will care vehemently).

2. The Bronx - I don't know anything of their work, but The Bronx is a place, and the one song I own of theirs ("Around the Horn [Louis XIV remix]" from the soundtrack to Snakes on a Plane) is pretty above average for throwaway soundtrack fare.

3. America - I think they really warrant being somewhere in the pit of hell, because for at least an entire day last week, I had "Sister Goldenhair" stuck in my head. Not to say this to ruin my presidential campaign in 2016, but let it be said once and for all that I really truly hate America (in band form). In book form, I approve of it, and it is not actually a country...since we're the United States and America represents a land mass spanning from Canada to Argentina. But that's still a place. I win.

4. Kansas - I cannot repeat enough that I don't like Kansas, but Carry On Wayward Son and Dust In The Wind always get me to listen anyway (because Carry On wayward Son isn't a bad song and because Dust In The Wind makes me think of Old School...and songs from Old School invariably get me to listen to them in a fashion that I hope is ironic.

5. Alabama - Ok, I don't like their music, I just like any country music band that has the balls to hate Ronald Reagan. "40 Hour Week (for a livin')" might not be a call to revolution, but it's enough of a screw you to the fervent anti-Union and anti-laborer administration that helped destroy America's trade surplus and turn us into a nation that can't rely on itself for anything. I seem to remember that Alabama sucked less than most country bands, but I can't say for certain, because other than the aforementioned song, I don't remember any of their work.

Honorable mention: I don't hate Chicago, though I can't say I like them.

Dishonorable mention: I do hate Boston.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Top 5 Lines from Back To The Future

You may think this is completely out of left field, but did you notice it's our 88th post? Immediately, my mind jumped to the connection to Back to the Future (i.e., 88 mph) and I had to dedicate a Top 5 list to one of the movies that shaped my persona. Think it's not quote-worthy? Think again...

Dan's Top 5:

1. Marty: "Are you telling me that you built a time machine... out of a DeLorean?"
Doc: "The way I see it, if you're gonna build a time machine into a car, why not do it with some style?"
- Half the reason the movie was so cool was because of the DeLorean. The car is metal and you open its doors vertically! Man, what will the 80's think of next? Anyway, DeLorean fanaticism still runs rampant to this day, mostly because of this blockbuster.

2. "If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything." - Actually a piece of useful advice. I highly doubt that the writers came up with this originally. It was probably a common pearl of wisdom before 1985. They probably stole it from a high school yearbook or an episode of Mr. Wizard. But if I ever say this maxim, I feel like I'll need to credit the quote to Marty McFly.

3. Principal Strickland: "No McFly ever amounted to anything in the history of Hill Valley!"
Marty McFly: "Yeah, well, history is gonna change."
- Foreshadowing, anyone? I remember when foreshadowing in movies wasn't so painfully obvious as it is today. For example, I just saw Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (read: the only good Star Trek movie), when after a failed training exercise Kirk asks Spock, "Aren't you dead?" What was I talking about? I tend to get distracted. Hey, look! A Top 5 List about Back To The Future.

4. "Roads? Where we're going we don't need roads." - The perfect set up for a pair of sequels to come out in another four years, both of which were very entertaining. What sucks is that this led me to believe that any movie that ended in such a fashion would eventually come out with sequels, no matter how shitty they are. As a result, I'm still waiting for Jumanji 2 and Super Mario Bros: The Movie 2. Thankfully, Back To The Future got it right.

5. "How did I ever expect to get back? One pallet, one trip! I must be out of my mind!" - Uttered shortly before Doc heads back in time, this seems like a really pointless line, until I recall an incident my friends were in at KFC one day. They had placed their order and then asked if they could add something else. The register clerk jokingly said, "Nope. One pallet, one trip." Even though it's probably one of the most obscure lines in the movie, the reference wasn't lost and my friends called him on it. It just goes to show you how much of a big deal this movie was.

Tim's Top 5:
I don't like this movie. I like Back to the Future Part II and the other two were like a kick to the teeth when I saw them and I didn't have any desire to go see them again. So, since I'd be forced to rely solely upon IMDb users quote submissions, I instead recuse myself.

Ryan's Top 5:
Unfortunately I have not seen this movie in about a decade, so I'm at a bit of a loss for good quotes.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Top 5 Best Songs on the Album

This concept is pretty simple - while it's not necessary that the rest of the album on which these songs appear are bad, the songs listed here stand head and shoulders above the rest, and very well may be the only reason you own the album (if you do). So while a song like "A Day in the Life" is amazing, you wouldn't list it here because it was on Sgt. Pepper, and that whole album was amazing. Personally, I'm not counting obvious one-hit wonders, as that is too cheap - it has to be an established artist, and a decent album in general. So with that introduction taken care of...

Dan's Top 5:

1. "Solsbury Hill" from Peter Gabriel by Peter Gabriel - I've repeatedly stated that this song is my favorite song ever. If you could combine sex, drugs, and Twinkies into a single consumable substance, the result would not make me feel as good as this song does. The preceding track, "Moribund the Burgermeister," is another favorite of mine, but a small part of its magic is derived from the fact that you know the next song is "Solsbury Hill." Unless your music player is on shuffle. Probably the key to its brilliance was that Gabriel wrote it as an explanation of why he left Genesis to pursue a solo career. Fortunately, he had enough momentum from this song to carry him through not one but two poor albums - and boy, was Peter Gabriel II bad - before finally releasing Peter Gabriel III, my favorite of his catalog and the record that started bringing him some commercial success with the single "Games Without Frontiers."

2. "Under the Bridge" from Blood Sugar Sex Magik by The Red Hot Chili Peppers - Some may wish to crucify me with extra-blunt nails for this. But to me, there is everything else on the album, which is collectively a pretty good study of modern funk and definitely RHCP's best album, and then there's this song, which is one of the greatest 90's alternative songs period. It was a time when RHCP decided to stop being so much of a joke band, but before they became a joke again for trying so often to reproduce the mellow, pop-oriented sounds of "Under the Bridge."

3. "I Might Be Wrong" from Amnesiac by Radiohead - In this case, the rest of the album is pretty bad. "Knives Out" is a pretty good song, and the rest are somewhat listenable at best. This particular song, however, really rocks. It features a main riff in drop-D tuning, and now that I mention it, an actual guitar track, which was such a rarity for this album. In my opinion (but not the opinion of very many others who would self-apply the label of "Radiohead fan") this was Radiohead at their lowest point. In my quest to eventually find all the Radiohead albums on vinyl, I'd happily skip Amnesiac were it not for this awesome little tune.

4. "Regret" from Republic by New Order - Man, I can't believe I missed this one originally. New Order is a great band (though I don't know if anyone else on the Top 5 committee is going to agree with me). There are a ton of great tracks in their catalogue (just pick up their "Singles" two-disc set and you'll see what I mean), but this song is by far my personal favorite, and it's the band's highest-charting single in the US. The rest of the album contains a handful of good songs, such as "World" and "Spooky," but "Regret" is one of those songs that might get you listening to New Order in the first place. I dare say it would be worth it to see New Order live if they just played this and "Ceremony."

5. "Every Breath You Take" from Synchronicity by the Police - There are a number of really good songs on the album, such as "King of Pain" and "Synchronicity II." But this song is a behemoth, destroying skyscrapers in Tokyo and sending schoolchildren fleeing in terror. It was one of the songs that dominated the 80's, despite the fact that is was a song about stalking someone and written with a dusty old chord progression straight from Motown (G, Em, C, D). Despite it being overplayed as all hell, it's still a really good song, and stands in a class of its own above even the rest of the Police's best album. Of course, those other songs I mentioned are damn good, so this has to drop down to #5 on my list.

Honorable mention: "True" from True by Spandau Ballet, "Notorious" from Notorious by Duran Duran, "Just Like Honey" from Psychocandy by The Jesus and Mary Chain.

Ryan's Top 5:

This was harder than anticipated. I've stretched the logic a bit. Hi, I'm Ryan.

1. "Hotel California" from The Very Best Of The Eagles by The Eagles - I'm sorry, but The Eagles suck. I remember hearing David Spade talk about how he went to an Eagles concert and they had the balls to open up with "Hotel California." It'd be pretty convenient, I suppose, if this happened. Beat the traffic!

2. "Free Bird" from Pronounced by Lynyrd Skynyrd - I apologize to any Skynyrd fans out there. Wait, no I don't. Anyway, I've never been a fan of most of their non-Free-Bird stuff. (I call it Hotel-California-Syndrome.)

3. "American Pie" from American Pie by Don McLean - OK, hotshot, you try listening to any of the other songs on the album without falling asleep. I'll wake you up when you're ready to admit defeat.

4. "Carry On My Wayward Son" from Leftoverture by Kansas - Well, I assume. I'll admit that I haven't made it through the entire album. Prove me wrong, closet Kansas fans, prove me wrong!

5. "Dream On" from Aerosmith by Aerosmith - Aerosmith does not have another song equal to this one. I already used the Best Of trick with The Eagles, though, and I don't feel comfortable doing it with Aerosmith ("Walk This Way" et. al. are pretty good...Aerosmith circa 1980-present just plain sucks, though. Do not tell me that the Walk This Way/Run DMC remix is good. No. No. No. No.)

Tim's Top 5:

I won't include compilations, greatest hits albums, or albums I don't own.

1. "Let's Get It On" from Let's Get It On by Marvin Gaye - I own the remastered version of Let's Get It On that has bonus tracks on it. Thus, this has to top the list, because the two best songs on the album are "Let's Get It On". Sure, there's other songs on the album that are okay, "Distant Lover" would become a classic, but this song is so timelessly carnal and represents one of Marvin Gaye's best vocal performances ever. I don't know what percentage of children conceived in 1973 were conceived while this song was playing or were conceived as a direct result of this song, but I'd have to venture that it's probably greater than 1%.

2. "Roc Boys (and the winner is...)" from American Gangster by Jay-Z - The album is good, eventually, though it took its time to grow on me. But nothing else on the album has one shred of energy compared to this horn-laden endorphin dump that is really Jay-Z giving in to Kanye's pop sensibility in its entirety.

3. "Dry the Rain" from The Three E.P.'s by The Beta Band - Rob was right to play "Dry the Rain" in order to sell his copies of The Three E.P.s, because the other tracks on them...are uniformly not very impressive. "Needles In My Eyes" is my second favorite song on the album, apparently, and I've listened to it once.

4. "Common People" from Has Been by William Shatner - The Pulp song may be the best on its album, but it makes this otherwise largely-forgettable pastiche of odd songs and spoken word from William Shatner. There's something frightfully wonderful about him saying "chip stain grease" like it's something quaintly American.

5. "Spitting Games" from Final Straw by Snow Patrol - This song is so unlike most of what Snow Patrol has recorded, I don't know what exactly the music in the intro is composed of, but I wholeheartedly support it. I got hooked on this song when it was on MVP Baseball in some year, but I'd forgotten its existence until shortly after "Chasing Cars" began getting way too much airplay. It sounds heavily-produced like the first album from The Bravery (also guilty of appearing in MVP Baseball), but actually executed in a proper fashion. When they opened their concert in Camden with Spitting Games last year, I honestly felt like I was ready to go, it was going to be their high point, and I'd already seen OK Go. While I like the remainder of their work, it's just not on the same level.

Honroable mention: "Jeepster" from Electric Warrior by T. Rex - Electric Warrior is supposed to be the paragon of glam rock along with Ziggy Stardust. There's only one problem. The album's not very good. I had originally slotted it at #3 in my list before I realized that although I used to have the album during Cornell's free napster period, I don't have it now. So it warrants mention; "Nothin' Better To Do" from Boo-Tay by Bare Jr.; "No Name #1" from Roman Candle by Elliott Smith; "My Eyes" from The Boy With No Name by Travis

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Top 5 80's Sitcoms

This is my way of taking a break from music-based lists in a creative way. Either that or this is my way of punishing the rest of you by not keeping up the recent streak we've had. (80's non-musical entertainment = punishment)

Dan's Top 5:

1. Perfect Strangers - When you're growing up, there are certain television programs that are introduced to you during your formative years that you will always remember. I was a big fan of Sesame Street, Zoobilee Zoo, and Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood, for example. Then there's your first experiences with programming that's not necessarily intended for children. For me, this was that show. Now able to revisit the series on DVD, I realize that while this is your basic sitcom, the humor is perfectly executed. The same recycled sitcom humor is perfectly supplemented with a degree of slapstick comedy that you don't normally see in sitcoms (Just take one look at the "Dance of Joy" and you should see what I mean). Also has one of the best theme songs ever.

2. Cheers - If we're going with sheer quality and lasting impact, this might make my #1, but it doesn't have the personal connection, since I only watched it during reruns. With great characters, funny writing, and the affirmation that it's not only not necessarily sad, but also perfectly acceptable to spend a hearty chunk of your life in the same drinking establishment to the point that Everybody Knows Your Name, there's absolutely nothing wrong with this show. Hey wait, have we done Top 5 TV Show Theme Songs yet?

3. The Cosby Show - There's really nothing to say about The Cosby Show, is there? If I have to explain anything, then it means that you haven't watched 100+ episodes by now, thus meaning that you've probably been cut off from the rest of humanity since 1984. Man, you could learn so much about good taste from this site.

4. ALF - You can tell that I was a kid during the 80's. All that I can really remember was that this show was amazing because its main character, an alien life form from Melmac, was a puppet. I was at an age when I couldn't even commit his obsession with eating the cat to memory. But really, isn't the puppet sufficient? Just look at any other sitcom from the era, and I think you'll agree.

5. Family Ties - I've always had appreciation for the talent of Michael J. Fox, and about 105% of that comes from my love of the Back to the Future films. The rest comes from this show. I've put it so low because the entire premise of the show is that Alex Keaton is a Republican. Even in the 80's, that loses you significant points.

Ryan's Top 5:

1. Cheers - The quintessential sitcom. The best of the 1980's and one of the best of all-time. Bonus points for its spin-off series also being one of the best of all-time. I refer of course to "Made in America" with John Ratzenberger.

2. The Cosby Show - I watched this as a kid in the 1980's, but I re-watched the entire series as a teenager in the late 1990's--late night, two episodes per night. It got kind of kooky toward the end, but not nearly as kooky as other shows that more thoroughly jump the shark.

3. The Wonder Years - I didn't immediately think of this as a sitcom, but I think that's mainly because this show isn't filmed in front of a live studio audience. It also went from 1987-1992, but I'm counting it as an 80's show, bolstered by the fact that I left it off the previous 1990's list for the same reasoning. Anyway, this show was pivotal, introducing Winnie Cooper as the paradigm for childhood girlfriends.

4. Night Court - Speaking of greatest TV theme songs...

5. Newhart - I watched this when I was a kid on Nick-at-Nite. Highlights include the following quote, which is still fun to say: "Hi, I'm Larry, this is my brother Darryl, this is my other brother Darryl"; and the fact that they wrote off the entire series in the finale. Brilliant.

Tim's Top 5:

I can't bring myself to call The Wonder Years a sitcom, so my list is limited. All my shows also fall in the latter half of the '80s for the simple reason that I was too busy being barely sentient until about 1986, when I discovered baseball cards.

1. The Cosby Show - This was the show my life was centered on during the key pre-Simpsons formative years. Sure, it hit rough patches (the seasons with the funky opening credits, the introduction of Rudy), but it was a consistently funny TV comedy that also somehow managed to avoid the pathetic racial stereotyping and demographic comedy that has become the norm (thanks, George Lopez, D.L. Hughley, Damon Wayons, and every other ABC sitcom star). This was an African-American family that achieved actual success, had educated kids and parents, and they occasionally got in car accidents with Stevie Wonder. If only we could all live like the Huxtibles.

2. Cheers - This is the only show I feel any need to watch now, having bought the first two seasons on DVD, but I'd be lying if I said it was the one that got me through the 1980s. The show dealt with character change better than perhaps any other, replacing Shelley Long with Kirstie Alley, replacing Coach with Woody Harrelson, and had a good run. It's consistently funny, it's aged better than any of the other 1980s shows, and its only downside is the continued career of Ted Danson. For shame, Ted Danson.

3. Mr. Belvedere - Ah, Bob Uecker, have you ever made a mistake that didn't involve being in the Major League movies after the first one? (Note that I decline to call them Major League II and III, because the third one isn't called Major League III...hence my moral superiority at declining to call it by that name) The premise of the show is simple enough, but it involved things I enjoy -- sports and British people. Brice Beckham was one of the better child stars of the 1980s and Christopher Hewett oozed contempt for modern America.

4. Married...with Children - It began in the 1980s, I started watching it in 1989 and it took me a while to appreciate how truly different this show was. There simply wasn't (and really, still isn't) a show that's this casually offensive on network television. Growing Pains had a character named Boner, but it was never mentioned, this show had a daughter who was a slut, a father who spent the majority of his time on camera with his hand in his pants, and had more sex references than pretty much anything before or since. It definitely got bad in its latter years, but on the horizon of's a welcome difference.

5. Head of the Class - We're talking about Howard Hesseman Head of the Class, not Billy Connolly Head of the Class, but Hesseman didn't last very long, so I'm including this just because I remember a few humorous moments, and it was also a source of some enlightenment. Every generation needs a good school comedy, and frankly, since this one, the genre's been relegated to kids' shows like Saved by the Bell or Fox's awful attempts.

Honorable mention: I got to five without mentioning Night Court, which was unintentional, but not worth correcting, given my inclusion of several new shows here. Dear John was also a pretty good show, though I don't know how much of it I actually saw.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Top 5 Songs About Death

Ryan was watching High Fidelity on the road to Virginia, and felt the need to text this topic to me so we wouldn't forget to do it. For me at least, it wasn't hard at all to leave off any songs from the aforementioned list now immortalized in literature and film. So without further ado...

Dan's Top 5:

1. "Keep Me In Your Heart" - Warren Zevon - The rare case (actually, I'm unsure if there's ever been another case) where the songwriter himself knows that he hasn't got much longer to live. Sadly, I remember that at the time the song was released, I didn't know who Zevon was. I thought he might have been one of those "boring" songwriters that the 70's produced far too many of. Only after I got hooked on Excitable Boy did I realize the connection. To this day, one of the very few songs that can get me choked up.

2. "Do You Realize??" - The Flaming Lips - Very cheery-sounding for a song about death (really, there's no death occurring, but it is a reflection on mortality) To quote the lyrics: "Do you realize that everyone you know someday will die? And instead of saying all of your goodbyes - let them know you realize that life goes fast. It's hard to make the good things last" It does what I like death songs to do - focus on the good parts of life. And how can you not do that on an album featuring pink robots?

3. "Thoughts of a Dying Atheist" - Muse - I'm really surprised that this song has such a happy-sounding chord progression in the chorus. The music seems in direct contrast to the feeling of the lyrics. I mean, such an upbeat chorus doesn't sound like it fits with the lyrics "eerie whispers trapped beneath my pillow" and "Are you afraid to die?" But hey, I don't question Matt Bellamy, and neither should you.

4. "I Grieve" - Peter Gabriel - I remember being shocked seeing a new Peter Gabriel with no hair and a white goatee when he released his 2003 album, Up. After hearing that this was his darkest album ever (I disagree - that accolade goes to PG III) I always skipped this song out of pure fear that I would be too depressed. However, it surprisingly has an uplifting section towards the middle/end of the song. Do yourself a favor and don't just read the lyrics though.

5. "Street Spirit (Fade Out)" - Radiohead - Widely considered Radiohead's first really good song, and off of what is probably my personal favorite album. More haunting than anything, I don't know of any Radiohead fan who doesn't like it. (Then again, most Radiohead fans are so in love with the band that they call you an infidel if you even state you're open to the possibility that there can be a greater band on the face of the planet. That's my only worry about claiming to be a Radiohead fan - that I'll look like an asshole.) Anyway, this song is a solid choice to round out the Top 5, and I don't think I've given Radiohead a shout-out lately.

Ten honorable mentions in no order: "Don't Fear The Reaper" - Blue Öyster Cult, "When The Man Comes Around" - Johnny Cash, "I Don't Like Mondays" - The Boomtown Rats (regarding a senseless school shooting in America), "American Pie" - Don McLean, "Paint It, Black" - The Rolling Stones, "Eleanor Rigby" - The Beatles, "Candle In the Wind" - Elton John, "A Day In The Life" - The Beatles, "Tears In Heaven" - Eric Clapton (probably number 6 - a song about his four-year-old son is pretty powerful.), "Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life" - Monty Python

Ryan's Top 5:

"The night Laura's daddy died. Sha na na na na na na na na! Brother what a night it really was. Mother what a night it really... angina's tough! Glory be!"

1. "Casimir Pulaski Day" - Sufjan Stevens - Sufjan Stevens is a Christian, and this is a song written from a Christian perspective. That said, this song reflects loss on a personal level, without espousing any view of Why Death Happens To Who It Does; on the contrary, the speaker of the song is at a loss for understanding. The singer can't understand why "He takes and He takes and He takes..." The music is beautiful and sounds almost optimistic (the lyric "Oh the glory!" begins new verses). I don't know, the disparity between music and lyrics gives me the sense that there is, in fact, an understanding of death to be had, it's just impossible to realize it when someone close dies. Who needs a drink?

2. "A Minor Incident" - Badly Drawn Boy - The concept of this song alone is brilliant. Written by Damon Gough for "About a Boy," this is supposed to be the suicide letter Fiona writes to her son Marcus, put to music. You've got to appreciate the verbal irony of referring to the event as a "minor incident." (I'm a big fan of irony.) And it's just Damon Gough, acoustic guitar, and harmonica. Excellent.

3. "Five Years" - David Bowie - The lyrics are pretty epic.  "Five years--that's all we've got!"

4. "Eleanor Rigby" - The Beatles - Where do all the lonely people belong anyway? Asking questions that don't have answers seems to be a trend on this list...

5. "Hurricane" - Bob Dylan - I was obsessed with this song for a brief period in high school, and it feels like I haven't played it since. Anyway, here's Dylan the storyteller on display. And I really, really like the way he sings, "pool of bluuuud."

Honorable mention: "Let It Be," by The Beatles; "Brick" by Ben Folds Five; "Don't Fear the Reaper" by BOC; "Not Dark Yet" by Bob Dylan; "Mack the Knife" by Bobby Darin; "Five Years" by David Bowie; "Hey Joe" by The Jimi Hendrix Experience; "Shortly Before The End" by OK Go; "Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life" by Monty Python.

Tim's Top 5:

I had started a list like this that was limited to songs about murder, so my list is kind of guided in that direction, though I'm generally happy with it anyway.

1. "O Valencia" by The Decemberists - The Crane Wife is an awesome album if I recall correctly. Unfortunately, I never have a chance to recall correctly because I'm so enamored with this song that I never make it much beyond The Perfect Crime 2 before I have to go listen to it again. It's on the hyper-literate side, having been lifted pretty directly from Romeo & Juliet (Valencia is pretty much in the place of Mercutio). But it fits the category, given that Valencia utters a dying cry with her blood still warm on the ground.

2. "I-Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin-To-Die Rag" by Country Joe and the Fish - My parents had the Woodstock 3LP set, this was about the only thing from it that I find essential to this day. It's stretching a bit to put it in the category here, but it is an entire song themed on the death of people in Vietnam and the title eliminates any lingering doubts I have about putting it in here. One of the most bitter, but brilliant, sets of lyrics after concocted, it was Dead Kennedys before Jello Biafra.

3. "Lucifer" by Jay-Z - Again, this is a song that's themed on murder and revenge, rather than strictly death. But it's one of Kanye's best use of samples and it's a fantastic song even out of context, which is the reason I was reminded how awesome it is (it plays over the end credits of an episode of Entourage in season 2 or 3).

4. "Not Dark Yet" by Bob Dylan - This song is a stretch to include because it's more about dying rather than death. But it's Dylan at his creative pinnacle in Time Out of Mind and was used beautifully in Wonder Boys, which is itself a masterful elegy.

5. "American Pie" by Don McLean - This song may be the only reason ordinary people remember Buddy Holly in another 20 years. His music has largely fallen into the void along with pre-sequined jumpsuit Elvis Presley so that it's just not heard on the radio. But Don McLean created a song that's about Buddy's death but also about most everything that happened for the next ten years that doesn't wear out its welcome at over 8 minutes. And he had the prescience to do it several years before hating on Vietnam became politically necessary.

Honorable mention: "Murder Was The Case" by Snoop Dogg; "Jenny Was a Friend of Mine" by The Killers; "Traditional Irish Folk Song" by Denis Leary; "What Sarah Said" by Death Cab for Cutie; "A Fond Farewell" by Elliott Smith

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Top 5 Songs with Colors in the Title

This needs no explanation, but it is good to know that Ryan and I can still come up with list ideas while he's on the phone driving cross-country. (It's also good to know where his priorities lie.)

Dan's Top 5:

1. "Golden Brown" - The Stranglers - The Stranglers released their first album in 1977 and were originally considered a punk group. I mean, just listen to "Peaches" and you'll wonder how they ever came up with a song this chill and... acoustic. On the other hand, the song is about heroin. To quote Wikipedia: "Many buyers were seemingly unaware of the meaning of the lyrics, which contain metaphorical references to heroin. This may have been further confused by different band members claiming that the song was about desertification, imperialism and as said in a recent interview, 'toast'."

2. "Little Red Corvette" - Prince - I don't know how you guys feel about Prince. Actually, let me rephrase that. I don't care how you guys feel about Prince. To me, this is probably the song that epitomizes the 80's. Any imagery that this song elicits has to take place at night, preferably in a big, extra-materialistic city.

3. "White Lines (Don't Don't Do It)" - Grandmaster Flash and Mellie Mel - This is probably the only song in the history of ever that is both (a) blatantly advocating against drug use and (b) cool as all hell.

4. "Yellow Submarine" - The Beatles - "In the TOOOOOOOWWWWWN..." You hear those words emanating from master vocalist Ringo Starr, and you know it's time to grab hands and sit Indian-style on the floor and sing along. It's by far the best children's song for that's also listenable for adults. Also evidence that the Beatles were taking drugs. Not because of the lyrics, but because they let Ringo sing.*

5. "Black Bugs" - Regurgitator - I'm guessing that everyone who's reading this hasn't heard this song before. So here's a Youtube video link. Though it was made in 1997 and the band is an obscure Aussie alternative group, it kicks ass. It's very New Wave, or so it seems to me, with the synthesizer and punchy bass line. Or maybe I can't get over the last list we did. Anyway, the song is about wasting your life playing video games. I can both relate, as I do play video games on occasion, and rejoice, as I don't devote my life to them.

Honorable mention: "Yellow" - Coldplay, "O Green World" - Gorillaz, "Back In Black" - AC/DC, "Black Magic Woman" - Santana, "Red Dust" - Zero 7 (I really, really wanted to put this on the list), "Red House" - Jimi Hendrix, "Red Rain" - Peter Gabriel, "Orange Crush" - R.E.M., "White Light/White Heat" - The Velvet Underground (Already on one of Rob's Top 5's), "Behind Blue Eyes" - The Who, "Blue" - Yoko Kanno, "Mr. Blue Sky" - Electric Light Orchestra

* - joke stolen from Bill Hicks.

Ryan's Top 5:

"Golden Brown" and "White Lines"...well played sir. I'll go with five different ones, but these would probably make my list.

1. "The Village Green Preservation Society" - The Kinks - If there was a better poem crafted last century, I haven't heard of it. "We are the Sherlock Holmes English-speaking vernacular / Help save Fu Manchu, Moriarty and Dracula!" You try rhyming 'vernacular,' gun-slinger. This could be the song that inspired 1,000 fantasy baseball team names...if any of them fit the length. Believe me, I've tried.

2. "Mr. Blue Sky" - ELO - This for me is an ultimate Happy Song, as evidenced by the fact that I put it on my renowned "Graduation Joy" CD. Brilliance.

3. "White Light/White Heat" - The Velvet Underground - This is also one of the best Side A Track 1's, along with "Radiation Ruling the Nation" by Massive Attack. Cough. Ironically, I may be the only person who prefers "Who loves the Sun?" (one of my all-time favorite songs), which was also a Side A Track 1--and in "High Fidelity."

4. "White Riot" - The Clash - This would have been a pretty cool concert.

5. "Paint It, Black" - The Rolling Stones - In retrospect, seeing songs 3-5 behind song #2 seems a bit odd... Fortunately for ELO I am a lazy, lazy man. Anyway, this song deserves all the accolades it can get, but I'll add one: it's the only song on "Singstar Rocks!" that I am good at. (Actually, is that an accolade?)

Honorables: "Golden Brown" by The Stranglers, "White Lines (Don't Do It)," "Supermassive Black Hole" by Muse, "White Room" by Cream, "Golden Years" by David Bowie, "Purple Haze" by Jimi Hendrix Experience, and any number of songs I am probably forgetting.

Tim's Top 5:

I had initially had five different colors in my list. Screw that.

1. Bob Dylan - Tangled Up In Blue - It's one of my favorite songs ever, I've discussed it before, I have little to add except that the word blue definitely fits this category.

2. Muse - Supermassive Black Hole - Yeah, I love this song too much for words. It's one of the few songs I have to blare. The music is fantastic and begs to be played at supermassive volumes and the lyrics also demand to be belted in the car.

3. Rolling Stones - Paint It, Black - It's one of my favorite tracks on Guitar Hero III, it's a song that has a title involving a comma, it's a perfect track for the Full Metal Jacket soundtrack, and aside from possibly the electric version of Layla, I can think of no song that more accurately defines and somehow personifies classic rock.

4. CCR - Green River - This is one of the songs that defines CCR, and frankly, it defines CCR as amazing. It's no "Fortunate Son", but that's about the only problem I have with it. It masters that down-home country feel that made CCR so readily accessible to people who aren't generally into rock.

5. The Cyrkle - Red Rubber Ball - It's one of my favorite 60s pop songs ever, even though it's embarrassingly simple and pretty juvenile. This wards "Pink Moon" off the list only because Red Rubber Ball is at least a bit semi-respectable because it's co-written by Paul Simon.

Honorable mention: Pearl Jam - Yellow Ledbetter - a non-album track that somehow still became a recognized song for alternative radio. I think it's better than anything that made the Ten album and I have a hard time believing it came from the same era of Pearl Jam; The Jayhawks - Blue, if I hadn't adopted the different color thing, this is #4 on the list.; Nick Drake - Pink Moon, George Baker Selection - Little Green Bag, R.E.M. - Orange Crush, Jimi Hendrix - Purple Haze, The Who - Behind Blue Eyes; Fountains of Wayne - Red Dragon Tattoo

Top 5 New Wave Songs

I am going to be driving to Virginia today, so I thought I'd get a jump start on any lists I'd miss. I thought about calling this "Top 5 Songs of the 1980s," but then I realized I didn't really want to rate every genre... For example, how do you compare "London Calling" to "True" by Spandau Ballet? Easy, you rank "London Calling" ahead of it, and so forth, until you've left off a good number of solid New Wave songs.

Ahem! Without further ado!

Ryan's Top Five

1. "Everybody Wants To Rule The World" - Tears for Fears - Oh man, do I ever love this song. Tears for Fears is one of my favorite bands, '80s or otherwise. I can pinpoint the moment where I started loving this song; it was featured prominently in an episode of "The West Wing," and I became obsessed. (For some reason, I have issues with songs in TV Shows and movies that I like.) Since that episode, I have A) stopped liking The West Wing, B) stopped caring about politics, and C) stopped caring about my own political aspirations (i.e., stopped caring about wanting to rule the world). And yet, my love of this song continues unabated.

2. "Don't You (Forget About Me)" - Simple Minds - If you can listen to this song without picturing Judd T. Nelson punch the sky, then you are pinko commie trash--and Judd T. Nelson is coming for you. (I've hired him; he's relatively free these days and eager for cash.)

3. "True" - Spandau Ballet - To anyone who's ever been forced to endure a long and emotional conversation with me about this song and its proper place in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, I apologize. My obsession began again with a TV Show--episode 6, series 1 of "The Office (UK)." Who knows why? But if you watch the music video, I think you'll agree that of all the rock bands in the world, I probably have the best chance of joining this one. (I own a suit, a nerdy demeanor, and the ability to get that haircut.) "This is the SOUND... of my SOUL...this is the SOUND.."

4. "Take On Me" - a-ha - 100 Bonus points for its parody on "Family Guy," negative a-jillion bonus points for its association with "Corky Romano." But it still makes the Top 5, that's how good this song is. And the music video.

5. "Love My Way" - The Psychedelic Furs - It was a tough call between this and "Once in a Lifetime," but I feel safe that someone else will call on Talking Heads. This song is like a song by The Cure, it just doesn't make me want to kill myself.

Honorable Mentions: "Once In A Lifetime" and "Burning Down The House" by Talking Heads, "Down Under" by Men At Work, "I Melt With You" by Modern English, "This Is The Day" by The The, "Drive" by The Cars, "Shout," "Head Over Heels," and "Mad World" by Tears for Fears, "Come On Eileen" by Dexys Midnight Runners, "Whip It" by Devo, "China Girl" and "Let's Dance" by David Bowie, "Love Song" and "Boys Don't Cry" by The Cure, and finally "Only You" by Yaz (thank you, again, to The Office).

Tim's Top Five:
Preface: I don't know what New Wave music is. Wikipedia has helped, but I'm not very discerning of musical genres, particularly of the 1980s. What this list really seems to celebrate is the year 1983, since four of the six songs on the list an honorable mention are from 1983.

1) Cars by Gary Numan - This song is the best example of the 1980s being musically useful. Absolutely everything in the song is not good -- the keyboards are annoying, the claps are clearly fake, the vocals are not aesthetically pleasing, the lyrics are pretty much nonsensical. I still love it. Eventually, the swirling sounds that close out the final minute of the song are at least interesting and probably involve a theremin, but I can't defend this song on any level except that I really love it.

2) Pulling mussels (from the shell) by Squeeze - Squeeze had several songs that could fairly be categorized as hits, but this and Tempted are the only ones you'll ever here, and with good cause, because this song is so awesome. I'm not sure what it is about the song that appeals to me, but I think part of it is the Stephen King-like attention to unnecessary detail. Is there anything to be gained from specifically identifying a Harold Robbins paperback? Perhaps there was to people in 1980. I was not yet born, I don't know, but I love it.

3) Mexican Radio by Wall of Voodoo - Apparently there's a meaning behind this song (so says Wikipedia) that there were Mexican radio stations that could be heard nearly around the world because they were broadcasting in basically non-regulated environments at extraordinary wattage. But really, I just enjoy barbecued iguana.

4) Modern Love by David Bowie - I don't know why, but this really seems to belong on this list. It basically seems to be that I just include things that are synthesizer-y and involve drum machines. While it's not my favorite Bowie song, it is the song I listen to the most, although "Five Years" is gaining rapidly. Incidentally, my standard of what new wave is basically means The Smashing Pumpkins' album Adore is eligible for my list. But it's not on it, because it sucks. So there.

5) The Living Daylights by A-ha - Yes, they had another song, and yes, this is the theme to the ill-advised 1987 James Bond debut of Timothy Dalton The Living Daylights. So it's getting pretty recent for inclusion, I would guess. Too bad, I really don't think much of the 1980s.

Honorable mention: Come On Eileen - Dexy's Midnight Runners - For a period of my life, this was probably among my five favorite songs. Then radio stations that were playing "current" music began playing nothing but 80s songs, which was to say songs that sorority girls use to identify the 1980s, which was to say songs from John Hughes movies or songs that have otherwise been remembered for semi-ironic reasons.

Dan's Top 5:

Here I am on only the second day of work, and I'm posting a Top 5. Damn, and I thought this job would be different... Ah well. I was shocked when I saw the topic of today, as my recent explorations of the history of music, especially after the fall of punk, have led me to question the real definition of "New Wave." Who's in, and who's out? Blondie? The Police? I've decided to take things really simple and follow the model you guys set up - 80's New Wave pop.

1. "Once In A Lifetime" - Talking Heads - For me, it's doesn't get better than this song. Those of you who know me on Livejournal can see that my titles are taken from this song. I'm fairly sure that this song is a take on the sudden realization that one has pursued traditional success (the big car, the beautiful wife) while forgetting the grander scheme of things (the references to "water"). Oh yeah, and the music video kicks ass. David Byrne's epileptic dancing style is almost as great as that of Ian Curtis.

2. "Inside Out" - The Mighty Lemon Drops - I still remember the afternoon that I saw the music video on VH1 Classic (That channel is the only good thing VH1 has done for me). Since then, it has become on of my favorite songs ever. It's even my ringtone. Seriously. The beauty of this song is its simplicity. It's a song that really grabs you, but I feel like I easily could have written it myself. All the more fuel for my rock-star-self-delusion fire.

3. "Time After Time" - Cyndi Lauper - I think I read somewhere before that Tim doesn't like this song. If so, that's too bad, because it's really an excellent example of a pop ballad. The bass line during the chorus is excellent, and I've been trying to recreate the rich, lush chorus effect on this song's guitar track for years. In my book, this is a pop standard and one of the defining songs of the 80's.

4. "Girls on Film" - Duran Duran - I can't do a New Wave list without a Duran Duran song, so the only question is, which song do I pick? Something off of Rio, or off of their first album? Even then, which song? I decided to go with this song because it offers Duran Duran's revolutionary new sound (at the time, 1980) with John Taylor executing a killer bass track, and Roger Taylor executing a killer mini-solo that actually highlights the electronic-ness of the drums, rather than trying to hide it. Oh yeah, and the video has boobs in it.

5. "Melt With You" - Modern English - What I love about this song is that it assumes you know science well enough to know what would happen if the world stopped rotating. It's not, "I'll stop the world, which will cause half of the earth to drastically overheat, and melt with you." Also, the song is driven by a great riff and overall sounds very... "sparkly."

Honorable Mentions: Echo & The Bunnymen - "Lips Like Sugar" (a candidate for the earlier Top 5 Songs You Used To Be Into). The Smiths - "Panic," "How Soon is Now?," "Stop Me If You Think You've Heard This One Before." The Cure - "Pictures of You." Madness - "Our House." And only left off because I figured you guys wouldn't consider it New Wave, The Police - "Message in a Bottle."

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Top 5 Fast Food Restaurants

You can define this however you want, wikipedia, but to me a fast food restaurant has to have a drive-thru. Hence, no Five Guys for me. Even if Five Guys makes their french fries out of ambrosia and their burgers out of golden cattle.

Ryan's Top Five

1. Rally's - Rally's could only serve french fries, I'd still go and pay whatever they ask. You haven't truly lived until you've had french fries from Rally's. "You gotta eat!" is their slogan, which I take more as a command, a command that I follow dutifully and zombie-like. "Yes, Rally's. I do have to eat. I will do whatever you want, just give me the fries."

2. Backyard Burger - Backyard Burger comes the closest that I've found to replicating the Rally's fry taste, which is like trying to build a ladder to Heaven. Their burgers are superior, and they serve diet Dr. Pepper, which not all places do. Bonus: I saw Wayne Simien there once, so, you know...celebrities eat at this place.

3. Culver's - Butterburgers. You take a bun, spread butter on it, and lightly toast it. Then you add a really greasy patty. The result is what I imagine Christmas to taste like if it were a burger. Also, great milkshakes.

4. Popeye's - The best fast food chicken restaurant around, which gets the nod over Chick-Fil-A because the latter doesn't serve its food remotely fast. (I went there on a Sunday once and it took me until Monday to get my order.) Popeye's biscuits... I don't even know how to finish the sentence. Let's just leave it as a fragment. Popeye's biscuits.

5. Taco Bell - In terms of cost, there is no restaurant that comes close to competing with Taco Bell, especially after they unveiled the cheaper value menus. I can get two double meat and cheese burritos from here for less than two dollars. You have to refinance your car to get a "value meal" at Hardee's.

Honorable Mentions: McDonald's, you know what you're getting every single time, and cheaper than others; Don and Millie's--apparently this place is only in Omaha, so I didn't think it'd be fair to put it down; that said, this was my #2 originally as they have the audacity to serve a deep fried cheese sandwich, in addition to amazing burgers, fries, and milkshakes (each order comes with a coupon for bypass surgery); Sbarro; Wendy's Crispy Chicken Sandwich.

Dan's Top 5:

1. Taco Bell - Some people don't like Taco Bell. Those people are known as idiots. Unlike Ryan, I have never had a bad meal at Taco Bell, and they still sell food for under a dollar. Fantastic food and low prices are the reason I have an mp3 of the Taco Bell theme music on my computer. I shit you not. The bottom line is: if you're spending more than $5 at Taco Bell, you're doing something wrong. Favorite item: Crunchwrap Supreme.

2. Sonic - Gets bonus points for making me think of Sonic the Hedgehog, and correspondingly serving chili dogs. While the drinks are the highlight of any Sonic trip, I have yet to come across any actual food that I dislike. They also earn extra points because of the Green Chili Burger I was able to get while in Albuquerque, New Mexico (one of the few good things about that town - green chili everywhere). Failure to order onion rings is not an option.

3. Wendy's - I have a personal connection to Wendy's. I used to go to Wendy's with Collin, who'd always propose the idea very enthusiastically (i.e., Hey, let's go to Wendy's!). Since everyone in the car had different orders and all had to pay with plastic, we'd go around four times - that is, until we learned you could just say you had four orders. He'd also typically order in some impersonation voice (e.g., "Hi, this is TV's Patrick Duffy, and I'd like a #5 with Diet Coke. And be sure to watch Step By Step every Thursday..." you get the idea.) Usually it's a pretty funny experience. Anyway, all that nonsense aside, Wendy's offers me tasty burgers, tasty fries (Burger King and McDonald's both fail at meeting those basic requirements), and they top it off with the Frosty. As far as the Big Three are concerned, Wendy's takes the cake (where "the cake" is my money).

4. Backyard Burger - A damn fine burger, but I have only had the chance to visit this establishment once. It was the first place I went to eat by myself in State College, and it didn't disappoint. It's pretty expensive, but then again, so is everything that isn't Taco Bell. They also had CNN on the television while I went in to sit down and eat, which is nice to see. As I love to say in my engineering reports, further investigation is required.

5. Dairy Queen - Large Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Blizzard. That's the only thing I get at Dairy Queen. That's the only thing I need to get. The one in Blacksburg closed down, and I was never more outraged. It's only ice cream, and it's fairly expensive, so it's at the bottom of the list.

Honorable mention: Brew-Thru - Not included because it doesn't sell food. Just alcohol and wicked-sweet T-shirts. Ahh, North Carolina, I miss you.

Tim's Top Five:
I finally broke down to convention and typed out five. As a preliminary statement, let me say that while I've largely avoided cultural and lifestyle changes upon becoming a person of independent means...that's not true for fast food, which I've abandoned in a nearly complete fashion.

1. Taco Bell - They really burned their bridges last month by reorganizing the value menu which used to have the beloved double decker taco. Now they've replaced it with the regular tacos, at the same time they dropped from Grade D to Grade F meat. Still, Taco Bell taco sauce is such an essential item that I hope one of my friends becomes a burnt-out freak job who ends up having to aspire to become a shift leader at Taco Bell so that someday I can just receive a crate of Taco Bell sauce (mild, hot, or fire, I would gratefully accept any). Any volunteers?

2. Arby's - I apparently am the only person who enjoys Arby's food, but they invented fast food curly fries and their staple roast beef sandwiches are good and are the only microwaveable fast food that I know of. They also have the best standard milkshakes of any place I've been.

3. Chick-Fil-A - If they dropped the Jesus charade, they'd probably shoot to number 1, given my love for eating chickens to extinction and eating on Sundays. Instead, they have two huge political strikes against them -- the unflinching adherence to religious right in all aspects of the company AND the use of styrofoam for containers. The first, well, I understand it, you run a company, you get to run it in accordance with your principles, regardless of whether they make basic financial sense. The second...unforgiveable. Seriously, it's the 21st century. Only Sonic and Chick-Fil-A are still continuing with this to my knowledge (I haven't been to Sonic in years, so I don't know for certain that they do).

4. Lee's Famous Recipe Chicken - In reality, this is number 1, but my recollection of it is based on a memory dating back nearly 20 years to a period of my life where the idea of eating McDonald's didn't sicken me. (It most assuredly does now, and I am actually embarrassed for those who eat there and constantly remind myself it's a place that exists solely for people who want to take kids places where they can behave like savages and not annoy decent human beings. Take that, hopes of presidential candidacy!) Anyway, it's better than KFC and having been born an African-American child in the South named Navin Johnson, I love fried chicken. Despite my concerns that it had vanished from the face of the earth, it is apparently still a solvent corporation faring well in Dayton and few other places. But, again, major disclaimer -- I haven't eaten there since I was 12 at the very oldest, because my family does not share my zeal for fried chicken.

5. Dunkin' Donuts - It has a drive thru. Krispie Kreme donuts are not good. They are not even to be measured on the same scale as Dunkin' Donuts, although you can get Krispie Kreme donuts fresh and the whole point of Dunkin' Donuts appears to be that the age of their donuts is largely irrelevant, because they never seem to be baking more. I make it to Dunkin' Donuts every couple of months, occasionally they have spectacular donuts (last year's summer selections were superb), the rest of the time they have ordinary donuts that are better than any others I've had.

Honorable mention: Subway. I've never ordered Subway through a drive-through, but some of them have drive-throughs. It's relatively inexpensive, it's passable food because they at least understand the importance of brown mustard, which makes all sorts of non-edible items palatable. Rally's warrants mention because it's the first place I went where mayonnaise wasn't an absolute bar to eating their food. I haven't been there in 15 years, though, so it doesn't crack the list. It also violates the basic tenet of fast food, which is that you should avoid like the plague restaurants that don't at least have tables and seats indoors, since that means they know you're going to need immediate bathroom access.

Top 5 Songs About Space

OK, this sounded like a pretty straightforward idea but actually proved to be considerably more difficult than originally planned. Here's a ground rule to help make things slightly simpler: songs dealing with aliens, even if they're aliens visiting earth, qualify. (See song #3.)

Ryan's Top Five

1. "The Galaxy Song" - Monty Python (written by Eric Idle and John Du Prez) - This song reminds me of "Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life" (obvious) and "The Village Green Preservation Society" (less so). Why? There are few songs that make me more cheerfully content. These songs are my anti-drug. "So remember when you're feeling very small and insecure / How amazingly unlikely is your birth / And pray that there's intelligent life somewhere up in space / 'Cuz there's bugger all down here on earth."

2. "Space Oddity" - David Bowie - Well, Dan's right, you cannot omit this in good conscience and I'm taking the piss (I've been watching too much BBC) by not putting it #1. You know a song satisfies the "space" requirement when it includes a countdown to a lift-off. Anyway, I think I like the song "Starman" more but it seemed less applicable. "How did you spend your Saturday night, Ryan?" "I mused upon the space-relevance of David Bowie's "Starman" versus David Bowie's "Space Oddity," and yourself?"

3. "Concerning The UFO Sighting Near Highland, Illinois" - Sufjan Stevens - An excellent way to start an excellent album. More importantly, it's straight up about UFOs, homey.

4. "Silent Sigh" - Badly Drawn Boy - This is from the "About A Boy" soundtrack--Damon Gough's impassioned plea for people not to move to the moon just yet, not at least until earth has eaten the heart from your soul. Soon as that happens though, boy howdy, I'm the Mayor of Moon Village!

5. "Starlight" - Muse - I love the idea of a spaceship taking someone away from everyone who cares about you, cares if you live or die. I mean, what are our hopes and expectations anyway? It's all black holes and revelations. (I was tempted to put [and someone else may likely put] "Knights of Cydonia," as Cydonia is a region on Mars, but, you know, ... fair play? These are the cosmic debates that keep one up at night. [Pun intended...I intend all puns.])

Honorable Mentions: "Bowie's in Space," which I mainly left out because I'm tired of talking about Really Funny Stuff and ruining the humor; "Starman," Bowie; "Surfing on a Rocket," Air; "Flash!" Queen (as soon as I become a baseball player, this is my batter's box intro theme); "Knights of Cydonia"; "Spaceman," Nilsson.

Dan's Top 5:

1. David Bowie - Space Oddity - I could put this at #2, sure... but then it would become this list's "Hot Fuss" (see previous list) - everyone ranking it high, but no one with the guts to put it at #1. Funny note: I originally hated this song because it sounded too weird. The more I realized how awesome Bowie is, the more this song was acceptable. Actually, that's not a funny note. That's just a sad realization that my younger self didn't know good music when he heard it.

2. Elton John - Rocket Man - Probably my second-favorite Elton John song behind "Tiny Dancer." Some parts of the song are confusing, such as "All this science I don't understand," and "And there's no one there to raise them if you did." It also loses points because ever since the William Shatner fiasco (see here), it's had a corniness aspect to it. But nonetheless a great song.

3. Pink Floyd - Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun - timpani drums + weird chimes + phrygian mode to give it that "Eastern" sound = space rock, right? As a matter of fact, the title is the only lyric that contains a reference to space. But I mean if you're programming a spaceship's navigation system to journey to the center of a fucking star, I'd say that qualifies as a space song. One of Pink Floyd's early masterpieces.

4. Styx - Come Sail Away - Yeah, remember that last verse, wherein it's revealed that the angels are really aliens from OUTER SPACE? I'll bet that blew your mind when you first heard it. Wait, who am I kidding? Styx can't possibly blow anybody's mind. But as I said in my Top 5 Songs to Blast While Driving, it's a really fun song, unlike most space songs, which tend to be too bleak.

5. Air - Surfing on a Rocket - This song is the reason I don't hate the French. By far Air's best song with lyrics, though in my book it would get blown out of the water by "Alpha Beta Gaga" if whistling counted as lyrics. Also, very inventive use of countdown lyrics. Never before has "Five, four, three, two, one, ze-ro" sounded so catchy.

Honorable Mention: Europe - The Final Countdown - if it weren't so easy to envision myself growing my hair out, putting on a shiny cape and playing this song on key-tar while on my bed, then this song would have made the list. Also, Ryan's honorables are pretty damn good. Come to think of it, we should also do Top 5 Personal Batter's Box Intro Themes soon.

Top 5 Albums Originally Released in 2004

You guys got a big jump on me, so now I'm getting my revenge.

1. Franz Ferdinand – Franz Ferdinand – Man, they really need to put out a third album and start to burn out so I can stop singing their praises. The only weak song on the album is “Cheating On You”.

2. The Killers - Hot Fuss – This is the kind of album I can really get behind, because my favorite song from it has changed a half dozen times. It has Mr. Brightside, Jenny Was a Friend of Mine, All These Things That I’ve Done, Change Your Mind, On Top…great stuff.

3. Elliott Smith – From A Basement On A Hill – It doesn’t sound anything like Elliott’s other work, but it has some of the best songs he would ever record (one of which appears on #5 as well). Coast to Coast, A Distorted Reality Is Now A Necessity to Be Free, (Ugly Before) Pretty, Twlight, Let's Get Lost -- it's haunting from start to finish because of what seems to be a number of references to suicide, but it's a great album regardless of the aura of desperation around it.

4. Kanye West – The College Dropout – It’s faded in its greatness because his last two albums have been disappointments, but it is from start to finish a must-listen. The weakest points of the album are the skits, obviously, but the weakest actual song…I guess it’s Get ‘Em High, which I don’t like. But that’s it. Smart, slick album.

5. Various artists - Future Soundtrack For America – OK Go’s cover of The Zombies “This Will Be Our Year” is a masterpiece; R.E.M., The Old 97’s, Elliott Smith, David Byrne, Jimmy Eat World (covering GbV, no less), Fountains of Wayne, and a powerhouse song from Tom Waits – it’s one of the best compilations I’ve ever come across, and it was intended to dethrone Bush.

Honorable mention: Chris White – Forbidden Style – It’s honestly one of the best comedy albums I’ve ever heard, even if he’s refined his audience interaction immensely in the last few years, but it’s also the kind of stuff targeted specifically at me; David Cross – It’s Not Funny – vastly superior to his debut comedy CD, which was really more politics than comedy; Badly Drawn Boy – One Plus One Is One – Ok, I’m not Ryan, I don’t love everything Damon Gough’s done. But oh lord, this CD is amazing. I’d include it in the top 5, but since it’s certain to be on his and I’ve only listened to it once, I’m going to leave it here; Jimmy Eat World – Futures.

Dan's Top 5:

Thank God Muse's Absolution is disqualified because of its 2003 UK release, or else I'd be throwing fits as to where to put it. Anyway, this was probably the best year for releases in the decade, so good choice of year, Tim. Getting on with it...

1. The Go! Team - Thunder, Lightning, Strike - Originally released in the UK in 2004, so I'm safe. For me, this is probably the best example of inventive indie music ever, and I'm sure I've sung its praises enough before so that I needn't say them again. I never find myself not in the mood for this album.

2. The Killers - Hot Fuss - The fact that this album became popular and went multi-platinum has pretty much restored my faith in the musical taste of the rest of the world.

3. Franz Ferdinand - Franz Ferdinand - I remember first seeing an ad for this album at Crossroads, the local Blacksburg record store. It wasn't until later that I discovered how cool the album was after seeing the "Take Me Out" video. To me, it always seemed to be the counterpoint to Hot Fuss.

4. Keane - Hopes and Fears - I only truly know a few songs from it, but the single "Everybody's Changing" captured my heart that summer. Their follow-up in 2006 originally disappointed due to the awesomeness of this album, but I have since come to accept it.

5. Ambulance LTD - LP - This album contains one of the best songs ever, "Swim." All the other songs are fairly good as well, but that song in particular makes me want to write others that are like it. I also don't talk about this album enough, so what better opportunity?

Air - Talkie Walkie, Duran Duran - Astronaut, Green Day - American Idiot, Interpol - Antics, Patton Oswalt - Feelin' Kinda Patton (only left out because I felt like Ambulance LTD needed some cred), U2 - How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, Zero 7 - The Space Between

Ryan's Top Five

More praise for The Killers, and some thieving from both of you guys.

1. Badly Drawn Boy - "One Plus One Is One" - Yes, this is one of my all-time favorite albums. Yes, this is a solid album start to finish. This has some excellent tracks but functions better as a solid whole. That being said, "Four Leaf Clover" is one of my favorite songs of all-time. Period.

2. The Killers - "Hot Fuss" - No argument here, I listen to any song from this album and I am immediately transported to 2004, when I listened to this constantly.

3. Kanye West - "College Dropout" - I initially ranked this lower because I for some reason was thinking this was the second album (which is actually Late Registration, of course). This is thus Kanye's best album and has some of the best hip hop (says DJ Fox-A-Mil', hip hop expert) of our time: "We Don't Care," "Jesus Walks," and "All Falls Down" are all three better than any other song on any other Kanye album (I do be tweakin' 'bout "Good Life" though).

4. Air - "Talkie Walkie" - I feel safe saying this is the best ambient French pop of the last 100 years. (I feel safe in that no one who is French reads this blog.)

5. David Cross - "It's Not Funny" - Tory got me fairly obsessed with this CD for a good period of time. I don't own too many comedy albums, but this and "These are Jokes" by Demetri Martin are probably my two favorites. "Oh, David, being a parent is so hard, it's so hard David... "Come on man, that's not hard, I'll tell you what hard is. Try talking your girlfriend into her third consecutive abortion. That's hard. That takes finesse."

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Top 5 Major League Baseball Teams

Tim's Top 5:
I know, some people are purists and are able to have one team and only one team. Really, that’s fine if you grew up somewhere that had one team. I’m a migrant and have never lived in a city with any major non-collegiate sports team. And in any event, I could rank the top 30 in a relatively indisputable order if necessary. Obviously, such list is adjusted by how the team’s successes or failures affect the teams I actually like.

1. Cleveland Indians – Having grown up a Reds fan while living in Dayton, I can tell you the precise day when I knew I was more of an Indians fan than a Reds fan. March 22, 1993 – the day that Steve Olin and Tim Crews died in a boat crash in Winter Haven, home to Indians spring training. It was probably the most tragic news I could remember in baseball, and it really made me pull for the team to pull things together and do something. Well, they didn’t. They went 76-86 and finished sixth after finishing fourth the year before. They had Junior Ortiz, Alvaro Espinoza and Felix Fermin as everyday players and Jose Mesa was their best starting pitcher. But I was hooked on the misery and finally gave up on the Reds, who had traded my favorite player (Eric Davis, hence my propensity for injury) after the 1991 season and let my next favorite Red go in free agency in 1992 (Greg Swindell). The Reds still have my interest and I remember listening to pre-Clear Channel Marty and Joe on WLW, but it’s not the same now.

2. Cincinnati Reds – I grew up in Reds country, my early baseball memories all revolve around Riverfront, and they’ve always had likeable players. Their new stadium was a huge disappointment to me and they have a habit of making only two kinds of moves – terrible moves (trading Sean Casey for Dave Williams, hiring Dan O’Brien, hiring Wayne Krivsky, hiring Bob Boone, hiring Dusty Baker) or moves that seemed like good moves that would turn out to be devoid of substance (acquiring Griffey).

3. Philadelphia Phillies – The Phillies are a team you can pull for because of the people that have been associated with the team since I moved here. Rollins and Utley are amazing athletes and great players, they have guys like Chris Coste playing significant roles, and Citizens Bank Park is hands down my favorite stadium in the Majors. My first playoff game was the Phillies opener against the Rockies last year, and the only real happy memories I have of Major League games are all Phillies games at Citizens Bank Park (I can’t remember a single Reds win at Riverfront, though I’m sure I saw at least one in the dozen or more games I attended).

4. Washington Nationals – The difference between #3 and #4 is approximately the difference between shooting a bullet and throwing it. The Expos would have been my number 3 team for much of my lifetime, but moving around Philadelphia forced me to appreciate some sporting aspect of the town, and obviously the Phillies are the only non-hateworthy team in the mix (lord, I loathe the Eagles and their fans). My love for the Expos was longstanding before they moved to D.C., my hope to move to D.C. helps force me to at least root for them to not fold before I get there (or after), and they acquired Austin Kearns, which was all I really needed before I became the owner of a Nationals jersey. That said, their fans are lousy to non-existent, the plan of putting a stadium in D.C., while something I would appreciate, is utterly impractical for a commuter city of government employees who work until 5 and drive to Rockville or Alexandria or the nutjobs who live in Frederick or Baltimore.

5. Pittsburgh Pirates – The difference between #4 and #5…see #4. The Pirates are a likeable team because they’re not the Steelers, they have no history of success in my lifetime, and they have a really nice stadium in a great location. The real secret here is that when I was interviewing for a job in Pittsburgh a couple years ago (and thus wearing a suit), I wandered down to PNC Park to kill some time before the interview and someone asked me if I worked in the front office. It was one of the greatest moments of my otherwise empty and hollow shell of a life. He even seemed like he'd be impressed to meet someone who worked with Dave Littlefield, as opposed to someone who accurately perceived how evil that would make such a person.

Honorable mention: Kansas City Royals. I don’t hate them. I used to sort of like them. But they have a way of losing 100 games and then meeting the Indians in late September and sweeping them right out of contention. I like most of their players now, and I wish them no specific ill.

Ryan's Top Five

1. Kansas City Royals - The story of the Royals' downfall is a veritable tragedy to those who care about baseball in Kansas City, and that is a number ever-dwindling thanks to the cruel Cycle of Ineptitude that has permeated the organization since Kauffman died. Kansas City used to be a baseball town. The Royals and the Yankees used to battle year after year. Now KC is a football town, which is dangerous when your football team sucks so much. (Here's something I never thought I'd say in life: of my four primary teams that I follow--Royals, Chiefs, Jayhawk Basketball, Jayhawk Football--I have the least amount of hope for the Chiefs [read: over KU FOOTBALL].) The Royals really need to play their cards right (their cards are shitty '91 Fleer cards, incidentally) to contend in the next few years; pitching will hopefully be solid (lots of prospects in the minors, 2-3 should pan out), but there are absolutely no hitters that aren't a long way's away. We need to luck out on a free agent signing (a la Josh Hamilton) or pray that Moustakas and Hosmer have Pujols-like ascendancy. Bah. I have more hope now when Allard Baird and Buddy Bell were here, but it's such an uphill battle. Some of my fondest childhood memories are going to watch George Brett, Jeff Montgomery, Bret Mark Gubicza, Bo Jackson, Danny Tartabull, David Cone (the strike really killed baseball for me for almost a decade), etc.

2. San Diego Padres - OK, I don't frantically check the box scores for the Padres like I do the Royals. But yeah, I lived in San Diego during my formative years--92-93, when baseball was king for me--and I went to a number of games. I still root for the Padres whenever it matters, and I do have a soft spot for teams that play in pitchers' parks. (I don't honestly know why.) I like Jake Peavy and Adrian Gonzalez for fantasy reasons.

3. Chicago Cubs - I've been a Royals fan for my entire life, but for the first half of it the Cubs were in second place (though, admittedly, not a very close second). When I was a kid the only baseball I got to consistently watch was the Cubs on WGN, and Harry Caray was a fixture in our household. I also loved Ryne Sandberg even if I never could quite grasp why everyone pronounced his name wrong. (Ryan Fox had rosy misconceptions about "Ryan Sandberg" being in his first-name gang.) I also loved Shawon Dunston and Andre Dawson, and Sammy Sosa before he got on the flaxseed oil. Nowadays, I'm relatively indifferent to the Cubs, but I'd probably cheer for them over most AL opponents in a World Series. Oh yeah, and my mom's from Chicago originally.

4. Tampa Bay Rays - I really like all of their players (now that Elijah Dukes is gone) and I admire what they've accomplished, at long last. And you really have to like a team that fights with both the Yankees AND the Red Sox.

5. Milwaukee Brewers - No specific reason other than a general admiration for a lot of their current players.

Honorable Mentions: Minnesota Twins and the Cleveland Indians. I loathe Chicago and Detroit much more than the Royals' other two AL Central competitors. As often as the Twins beat us, I will always agree that they play the game the right way, consistently (at least they do against us). I liked Jim Thome, Carlos Baerga, and Omar Vizquel as a kid. And two of my good friends (Tim and Ben) like the Indians and have the courtesy not to be douchebags (read: Cardinals fans) about it.

Note: The Cardinals, White Sox, Yankees, Red Sox, and Braves would round out the Bottom 5, if we ever do that list.

Dan's Top 5:

Likewise, I have never lived in an area with a non-collegiate professional sports team. So I can identify with Tim.

1. Chicago Cubs - I started liking the Cubs by meeting a rabid Cubs fan during my sophomore year of college. I had an asshole roommate, and I was looking for any and every excuse to get out of my dorm room. Well, this was 2003, meaning that my newfound friend and I had our hopes dashed in the NL Championship Series. Ever since, I've been embracing a self-destructive relationship with my now beloved Cubs. They also have a rivalry with the White Sox and the Cardinals, which fits nicely with #2 on my list...

2. Kansas City Royals - Ryan is mortally bonded to this team, and since they're in the AL, they are no consistent threat to my Cubs in the NL. (I prefer the NL, for the record. Designated hitter my ass.) I would have no other affection for them except that I saw my first - and to this date only - major league baseball game at Kauffman Stadium with Ryan. Therefore, I have to put them pretty high. They may have lost and it may have been horrendously hot, but you never forget your first ball game. Especially when you're 22.

3. Pittsburgh Pirates - My grandmother was originally from Pittsburgh, so I guess they were the official baseball team to like, except that nobody in the family really liked baseball. Oh yeah, and the Pirates have had a losing season every year since I learned how to multiply numbers together (I am now starting a Ph.D. in Engineering). But when I was a kid, I had a T-shirt with Barry Bonds (the nice version) and Bobby Bonilla on it. I was too young to be paying attention, but apparently the Pirates were good back in those days. I've been sort of hoping that the Pirates can come back and compete one of these days, but not until my Cubs win the World Series.

4. Philadelphia Phillies - I do not like this team. I don't dislike them either. In fact, I know absolutely nothing about them. I can't even tell you which league they're in without looking it up. OK, they're in the NL East. Thanks, Wikipedia. So why are they on my list? Simple - I am living right smack in the middle of Pennsylvania for the next three years - 3 hours to Pittsburgh, 3.5 hours to Philly - so I might as well keep my options open regarding which baseball team I like. The outlook is dim for the Pirates, even though I seem to remember hearing that most people in the area would favor them over the Phillies. I think I had better start learning the names of Phillies players and managers, and why they suck (the duty of every fan).

5. New York Yankees - Yeah, I know they're evil. But the Yankees interrupted their spring training schedule this year (something I'm told most players hate to do) to come to our shitty little college ball field and play the Virginia Tech baseball team after that shooting incident we all went through. And all the players were class acts, and there were no complaints. A-Rod (whom I still admire, since he was my first ever fantasy draft pick) even said it was the most important game he'd ever play. I don't give a damn if they win a game during the regular season or not, but I earned enough respect for them to at least put them on the list.

Honorable Mention: Yeah, I was on the Red Sox bandwagon in 2003. I still don't rabidly hate them, but I can't believe how quickly they fell out of favor with me.