The Antlers’ first album “Hospice” was depressing as hell. And, frankly, I didn’t like it much. I enjoyed hearing some of the songs live, but I really can’t envision a scenario where I’d sit down to listen to that album. ”Burst Apart” is different. Much different. The pace is pretty consistent on this album. Peter Silberman’s great voice lifts this album when it’s supposed to be lifted (e.g., “French Exit”) and takes the listener down to a dimmed, dark places with perfection (e.g., “Rolled Together”). Even had I not seen The Antlers live this year, I would have put this album on the list. However, seeing them live solidified the pick and made me want to listen to this album over and over again.
(4) Drake - Take Care
I’d feel like a really phony if I didn’t put a rap album on my list. I act like I don’t like rap music, but let’s get real — I really like rap music. I don’t listen to rap music often, but when I do I usually listen to stuff that makes serious rap aficionados cringe. Well, this isn’t one of those album. It’s good. And it’s listenable. It seems like anyone who is serious about rap music picks artists like Tyler, The Creator as their favorite artist. Listen, that song “Yonkers” sucks. I’m sorry; I’m not sorry. ”Take Care” is actually a listenable album. You don’t feel like you have to take a bath after you listen to it. For me, it’s a good balance between over-the-top-poppy rap music and seriously grimy stuff. As a side note, I really wanted to J. Cole’s album on my list. But it just wasn’t one of my five favorite albums of the year.
(3) My Morning Jacket - Circuital
In 2007, a friend of mine handed me a CD-R that had the words “My Morning Jacket” sloppily written across the front. He looked me in the eyes and said, “Trust me, you’ll like it.” Yes. Yes, Eric, I did like it. The album he handed to me was their 2006 album “Okonokos”. Frankly, I didn’t think it could get much better than that album. And then… Then “Evil Urges” came out and that quickly became the ultimate in listening to me. As a matter of fact, I still listen to that album frequently. Again, I thought to myself that there was no way My Morning Jacket could do better. And… They didn’t. ”Circuital” is a very, very good album. But it’s not remotely close to how good “Evil Urges” is. I guess that’s not the point of writing this though. In the midst of a lot of really whiny singer songwriters, My Morning Jacket kicks down the door and lights your stupid farmhouse studio on fire. MMJ rocks and rolls hard. And there are few current bands that rival their zeal for melting faces.
(2) Destroyer - Kaputt
I can’t remember exactly how I heard about this band — or specifically, this album. If one of my friends told me about it — I’m sorry for neglecting to give you a shout out. Many times I have to listen to an album two or three times to actually like it. Or to appreciate it. I rarely play an album and immediately know I’m going to like it. ”Kaputt” is one of those albums. The opening track “Chinatown” is my kind of song. The vocals throughout this album are almost perfect. The melodies and instrumentals are perfect. It’d be a bold statement, but I think the instrumentals on this album might be the best I’ve heard in a really, really long time. Some tracks seem almost whimsical. But then a serious saxaphone solo will cut in and rock your world. The first time I listened to “Kaputt” I thought to myself — I think almost anyone would like this album. It’s palatable. And it’s a really good listen.
(1) M83 - Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming
Surprise! This will be the last mention of this album for a while. My friend Patrick and I were sitting around the other night talking about the best albums of the year. I told him I thought this album was not only my favorite album of the year, but possibly my favorite album of the last five years. That might be a list for another day. He was very reluctant to give it that much credit. And he made a good point. He said, “Most double albums have a lot of misses. Some serious gaps.” He made a good point that even “Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness” had a bunch of serious holes throughout the two CDs. I agreed and told him “Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming” is substantially better than the aforementioned Smashing Pumpkins album, which, of course, is a bold, bold statement. There are no misses on this album. There are no holes. Even the silly song with the 5-year-old kid talking about magical frogs is cool. There are obvious all stars on the album. ”Midnight City”, “Claudia Lewis”, and “My Tears Are Becoming a Sea” are probably my three favorite songs on the album. But where a listener anticipates a gap or hole a song like “Steve McQueen” rolls in. Melting faces. One of the most impressive aspects of this album is the pace. Say for instance you’re driving in the car. You are listening to this album. And you think to yourself — “Man, I could really go for a kickass jam right now.” Well, the next song is likely to be just that. Simply put, this album is amazing. And yes, it’s my favorite album of the last five years.
Honorable Mentions: Beyonce - 4; J. Cole - Cole World: Sideline Story; Bon Iver - Bon Iver; Explosions in the Sky - Take Care, Take Care, Take Care; Reptar - Oblangle Fizz Y’all; Megafaun - Megafaun; Real Estate - Days
The day my friend Britt sent me a text that said, “The new M83 albums is awesome” might have been one of the best days of the year for me (after the day I got married, of course). I hopped on Spotify and listened to the album. In its entirety. And then I listened to the track “Midnight City” one more time. This is the second song on the album. The first is entitled “Intro” and is much more than simply an intro. It is one of the better songs on the album. ”Intro” ends and it’s time to get funky. ”Midnight City” pumps you up. I’m sure music snobs across the world can talk to you about the depths and layers of this song, but I like it because it rocks hard and makes you want to steal Jennifer Lopez’s Fiat and Tokyo drift off the Brooklyn Bridge. What?
(4) DJ Khaled - I’m on One
I’m good for really liking one rap anthem a year. And here it is. Over the summer, I went to a Lil’ Wayne and Rick Ross concert with two 12-year-old boys and my friend Tyler. I was the supervisor. Deal with that. They played this song. Probably like four times. And each time it was pretty awesome. If you’re like me, you get super pumped when Friday rolls around. My ritual is to start the day by blasting cuss rap while I’m in the shower. I’m not embarrassed to say that I put this song on repeat and lather up.
(3) Destroyer - Kaputt
You can just go ahead and expect Destroyer’s whole album “Kaputt” to be on my top 5 albums list later in the week. If you haven’t listened to it then go do it right now. There are two songs on the album that are really, really awesome and “Kaputt” is one of those. The other is called “Chinatown” and is below under the Honorable Mentions sections. I’m a big fan of saxophones. And there’s some serious sax playing in this song.
(2) The Antlers - I Don’t Want Love
A few months ago I went to see The Antlers play at a small bar in downtown Raleigh. Simply put, it was one of the best concerts I’ve been to in a long time. My friend, Chenders, went with me. He’d never listened to The Antlers and was thoroughly impressed. A few days later, he called me and asked, “What’s the name of the song they played as an encore?” I told him the name — “I Don’t Want Love”. He then told me that he woke up in the middle of the night and this song was cranking through his head. A few nights in a row. This song is good. It’s really good. And it leaves an indelible mark with just about everyone who listens to it.
(1) M83 - Claudia Lewis
I’m sure that by now you are really sick of me waxing poetic about M83. But you’re going to have to deal with it a bit longer. As soon as I listened to this album, I posted a video of the song “Midnight City”. A friend of mine, Lee, immediately sent me a text and said, “I can’t believe you didn’t put up Claudia Lewis. Sick bass.” I racked my brain to remember what song he was talking about. I pulled up the album and listened to the song again. And I thought, “Oh sweet God, this is one of the best songs I’ve ever listened to.” By definition, this song is funky. If you listen to this song, it’s going to be in your head the rest of the day. Or week. And you’re going to be happy about that. Saying “Claudia Lewis” is heavy on the bass is like saying I have a thing for Blake Lively. It’s overly simplistic and obvious as hell. If after a dozen posts about M83 you still haven’t listened to this song — or the whole M83 album — please for the love of God go do it.
Honorable mentions: J. Cole - Lights Please; Explosions in the Sky - Postcard from 1952; Bon Iver - Perth; Drake - Headlines; Real Estate - It’s Real; Reptar - Context Clues; Adele - Rolling in the Deep; Wiz Khalifa - No Sleep; Destroyer - Chinatown
In recent years, I’ve used the end of the year to talk about some of my favorite things from that year. This year, I’m going to do it in the form of top 5 lists. And there’s not going to be any rhyme or reason. If I wake up and am in the mood to jot down a list then it’s going to be up here. You can count on top 5 favorite songs, movies, and albums though.
I've really enjoyed your insight into "man gifts" - just curious: what are your thoughts (do you have any thoughts?) on the J Crew Suede MacAllister boots? Have I made a grave misjudgment in asking a certain mother to purchase these in place of the Clark Desert boots for a certain dapper husband? :-/
I have no beef with J. Crew Suede MacAllister boots. I’m into Clarks because they are the original. I also like Clarks because they are offered in the lighter suede color. I’ve been told that the MacAllister boots are just as good of quality though.
In other words — six to one; half dozen to another.
OK... so if one actually picked up the Moka as a gift... what's some good stuff to put in there?
First things first, and I apologize if this is obvious, you have to buy espresso. While I’m sure you can put regular coffee in this thing — you need to get espresso. Second thing — without fail, I feel like I’m buying heroin when I talk about espresso.
It’s actually not too hard to find espresso that doesn’t suck. A good starting point, if you don’t live around a bunch of boutique coffee shops, is to go to Whole Foods or Fresh Market. Uniquely, Whole Foods will carry local folks’ stuff. If you’re from the Triangle, both of these brands should be familiar as they are local.
I have two favorite brands.
The first is Counter Culture. Click that link and you’ll find great descriptions, which I will not try to replicate. I will say this, the seasonal called Apollo is out of this world. If you are a newcomer to the “art” of drinking straight espresso, then Toscano is a good choice. It’s a little less harsh. But it’s damn good.
The second is Larry’s Beans. Their signature espresso is called “Secret Espresso Blend”. And it’s very, very good.
I’m a big fan of supporting the community that I live in. So I’ll leave it at those two. You can order offline from each site. Trust me, you’ll enjoy. And if you’re giving it as a gift — and you’re not from around the Triangle — it’ll look like you went out of your way to find a special espresso blend.
“A professor stood before his class with some items in front of him. When the class began, he picked up a very large and empty glass mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed it was. The professor then picked up a jar of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles, of course, rolled into the open spaces between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was. The professor picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar and of course the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with an unanimous yes. The professor then took two cans of beer and proceeded to pour the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the empty space between the grains of sand. The students laughed. “Now,” said the professor, as the laughter subsided, “I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things — your family, your partner, your health, your children, your friends, your favorite passions — things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full. The pebbles are the other things that matter, like your job, your house, your car. The sand is everything else — the small stuff. If you put the sand into the jar first, there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for your life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you. Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Take time to get medical checkups. Take your partner out dancing. There will always be time to go to work, clean the house, give a dinner party and fix the disposal. Take care of the golf balls first — the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.” One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the beer represented. The professor smiled. “I’m glad you asked. It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of beers.”—This is great.
Upon request by a reader, I present to you my 2011 gift guide (click on underlined text to go to site):
(1) Trafalgar belt buckle and strap - Reckner purchased a buckle (engraved) and strap for an anniversary a few years ago. I’ve worn it almost every single day since. The buckle is scratched up and the strap has turned to worn leather, but both of these attributes add to the appeal. These things are classic. I’ve seen 80-year-old men wearing a buckle that was clearly purchased decades ago. Wear the strap until is breaks. And upgrade to gator skin. That’s my plan.
(3) Levenger personalized index cards with a leather holder - I bought 500 of these a few years ago. And I have used one almost every day. I use them for quick thank you notes. I keep a few in my back pocket in case I need to pass a note to someone or jot down a recipe. Many people keep a pad or moleskin notebook with them at all times. This is what I keep with me. I have a few tucked away in the leather holder that have new bands or albums I should listen to. It’s a truly great and efficient way to jot notes and lists.
(4) APC New Standard jeans - The denim snobs of the world would approve of this. Maybe. They are snobs. So probably not. These jeans are raw denim, which means that you are supposed to wear the hell out of them without washing for as long as you can. I bought a pair a year ago and wore them recklessly for a few months before finally soaking them in the tub. Order them two sizes smaller than your usual waist measurement. You’ll get them in the mail and put them on with much frustration. It’ll seem like they don’t fit, but walk around the house for 30 minutes and the denim has stretched to fit your body. These are the only jeans I’ve worn over the last year, and I really enjoy it. If you have a tough time justifying wearing pants and not washing them for a while — then I’d suggest you turn in another direction. These things get gritty.
(5) Bose noise canceling headphones - I don’t own these. But I want them. Badly. A few law school friends have these, and I’ve put them on to realize that the annoying sounds of mouth breathers across the library is gone, and I’m able to hear, with such clarity, every note from the new M83 album.
(6) Clarks desert boots - As soon as fall rolls around, I put my few-years-old desert boots to work. These things are classics. I’ve been a firm subscriber to what Clarks puts out for a while. In college, I rocked the Wallabees hard, but then retired those once I matriculated. Now, I’ve switched over to the more grown up Clarks product. Personally, there’s only one color worth getting. And that’s the classic “sand suede”. They are bright and clean for the first month and then receive dark smudges and tears. Which is exactly how you want them. Click here for picture of Andy Spade rocking them how they should be.
(7) Persol sunglasses - Simply put, if I could have any pair of sunglasses on Earth — these would fit the bill.
(8) Anthony Bourdain’s “No Reservations” DVD box set - Fortunately, I have Netflix on-demand so I don’t have to worry about this. If I didn’t, I would want these. I really enjoy going back and watching old episodes. And if you have never seen the show, then you’re really, really missing out. It’s fantastic. Start with the older episodes and move forward.
(10) The book “Take Ivy” - This book was all over men’s fashion blogs about a year ago. I purchased it, glanced through it, and put it to the side. But recently, I sat down and looked at the great photography and simple words that accompany. If your boyfriend, husband or friend wears faded blue button downs and khakis that are a little too short. And loafers. Get him this book. It’s a great conversation piece and anyone who cares about dressing well will enjoy it.