Top 20 Albums of 2012

I hastily threw together a "top 20 albums" list of 2012 for a poll, so I present it below. Disclaimers: I didn't hear as many new albums as in years past, and I didn't do the "playoffs" I used to do when compiling my list of favorites. So this isn't carved in stone, but it's as good a list as I'm going to come up with right now.

  1. Maximo Park - The National Health
  2. The Wedding Present - Valentina
  3. Bob Mould - Silver Age
  4. Nada Surf - The Stars Are Indifferent to Astronomy
  5. Hidden Pictures - Rainbow Records
  6. Susanna Hoffs - Someday
  7. Guided By Voices - Class Clown Spots a UFO
  8. The What Gives - The What Gives [digital only]
  9. Erik Voeks - Free Range EP
  10. The Raveonettes - Into the Night EP
  11. AC Newman - Shut Down the Streets
  12. Guided By Voices - Let's Go Eat the Factory
  13. Bruce Springsteen - Wrecking Ball
  14. Kelly Hogan - I Like to Keep Myself in Pain
  15. Aimee Mann - Charmer
  16. The dB's - Falling Off the Sky
  17. Cher UK - Little Blue Soldier EP
  18. The Primitives - Echoes and Rhymes
  19. Bettye LaVette - Thankful 'n Thoughtful
  20. Mission of Burma - Unsound

Best TV Shows of 2012

I've been looking forward to critics' TV lists and thought I'd make my own this year. I used to make year-end lists of my favorite albums, but I don't feel like I've been able to keep up with all the music I'm interested in, at least not as quickly as it's been released. And I've done lists of movies, too, but I don't see as many movies as I used to. When it comes to entertainment, TV has been easier to keep up with (though trust me, I'm often behind). After you pay for cable, you don't have to spend more money to see a certain show (aside from the pay channels). It's all just there. But it costs money to go out and see a particular movie or to buy a book or CD.

So in a budget-conscious year, TV has been my primary source of entertainment, and despite the vast, vast amount of reality-show garbage and low-aiming scripted fare, there are plenty of good shows to watch. I hardly ever watch shows in real time, instead relying on my DVR to record my favorites so I can watch them when it works for me. I do watch too much, but many of my shows are ending soon and it seems like fewer shows are popping up to replace them, so maybe there's hope for me yet.

Here's my list. As always with lists like these, the placements could shift depending on the day. And a lot of this is like comparing apples to oranges--these are all TV shows, but it's hard to compare a talk show to a cable drama. I tried anyway.

1. Breaking Bad (AMC)
Once my favorite underdog, now popular. Still brilliant, surprising, amazingly acted, dark, and darkly humorous.

2. Parks and Recreation (NBC)
The funniest, warmest sitcom on TV. The cast is a great ensemble, and I love their characters.

3. Fringe (Fox)
Science fiction with heart. It only has a few weeks left, and I'm really going to miss it. The greatness of its cast has been too often overlooked because it's a low-rated genre show. I appreciate that Fox has allowed it to end with dignity.

4. The Colbert Report (Comedy Central)
The nightly tightrope act that quick-witted Stephen Colbert performs is nothing short of brilliant. This year's ongoing exposure of the inner workings of so-called "super PACs" was just one highlight.

5. Mad Men (AMC)
Special props to Jared Harris.

Numbers 6-50Collapse )

Rotation (week of 11/08)

Monday: Leonard Cohen, Vince Charles, Harper Simon.

Tuesday: Chuck Prophet, Scrooged soundtrack, Love Tractor, Stars, the Concretes.

Wednesday: The Dead Girls, The Gypsy Hombres, Seven Worlds Collide, Run-DMC.

Thursday: Brendan Benson, a psychobilly compilation, Dinosaur Jr., Lou Barlow.

Saturday, live: Chuck Prophet, Brendan Benson.

Rotation (week of 11/01)

Monday's rotation: I.R.O.M.A. Music Sampler #1, Al Stewart, Wee Hairy Beasties, Four Horse Johnson.

Tuesday's rotation: Teena Marie, the Kryptonics, Sound Spectacular (Beggars Group label sampler).

Wednesday's rotation: Sound Spectacular (Beggars Group label sampler), Robert Earl Keen.

Thursday's rotation: Leonard Cohen, Love Tractor, Wee Hairy Beasties, Will Hoge.

Thursday, live: Jon Dee Graham.

Friday's rotation: The Dead Girls, Richard Shindell.

Friday, live: Tony Ladesich, John Hodgman, Hot Dog Skeletons, Grant Hart, the Meat Puppets.

Saturday: Todd Snider, Robert Earl Keen, Brendan Benson, Wayne "The Train" Hancock, Spoon.

Saturday, live: Robert Earl Keen, Bruce Robison, Todd Snider.

Rotation (week of 10/25)

Sunday's rotation: some comedy CDs, a girl-group compilation.

Sunday, live: Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.

Monday's rotation: a girl-group compilation, Exene Cervenka, Roseanne Cash.

Tuesday's rotation: Robert Earl Keen, Leonard Cohen.

Wednesday's rotation: The Dead Girls, Four Horse Johnson, A Very Bert Dax Halloween (compilation of St. Louis bands doing Halloween songs), I Like Trains.

Wednesday, live: Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears, the Raveonettes, A Flock of Seagulls, Kirsten Paludan and Friends.

Thursday's rotation: The Raveonettes, Robert Earl Keen, Little Steven's Underground Garage Presents Halloween A-Go-Go (Halloween songs), Monster Rally (1958 monster album with Hans Conreid and others), I.R.O.M.A. Music Sampler #1.

Thursday, live: Daddy.

Friday, live: Everywhere (a tribute to Fleetwood Mac), Solid Gold Easy.

Saturday, live: Stone in Love.

Rotation (week of 10/18)

Monday's rotation: The Bitter Spills, Remington Super 60, Four Horse Johnson, Pete Townshend.

Tuesday's rotation: Pete Yorn, Bruce Springsteen, the Resentments, Dean & Britta, the Kryptonics, I.R.O.M.A. Music Sampler #1.

Wednesday's rotation: Pete Yorn & Scarlett Johansson, I.R.O.M.A. Music Sampler #1, Rotary Connection, Dinosaur Jr., Teenage Bottlerocket, Bruce Springsteen, Richard Shindell, the Concretes.

Thursday's rotation: Bruce Springsteen, Leonard Cohen, Seven Worlds Collide.

Friday's rotation: Lou Barlow, Thom Rotella, Dinosaur Jr.

Friday, live: The Trend, Fools Face.

Saturday, live: Howard Iceberg and the Titanics, the Expassionates, Hidden Pictures.

Rotation (week of 10/11)

Tuesday's rotation: Bruce Springsteen, Frank Sinatra, the Clientele, I.R.O.M.A. Music Sampler #1 (compilation of bands from the Iron Range of Minnesota), Teenage Bottlerocket.

Wednesday's rotation: Mel Blanc, Dinosaur Jr., Michael Penn, the Concretes.

Thursday's rotation: Leonard Cohen, Judith Owen, Favorita, Seven Worlds Collide.

More damn playlists

Thursday's rotation (10/1): Dan Wilson, Write Your Adventures Down: A Tribute to the Go-Betweens, Bruce Springsteen, the December People, Amy Farris, Blondie.

Friday, live (10/2): Cowboy Indian Bear, Softee, the Dead Girls.

Monday's rotation (10/5): Go!Go!7188, Blondie, Liam Finn and Eliza-Jane, Amy Farris, The Bombay Connection (compilation of "funk from Bollywood action thrillers").

Tuesday's rotation (10/6): The Bombay Connection, Wilco, Seven Worlds Collide, Matt Pond PA, Grand Atlantic.

Tuesday, live (10/6): Liam Finn and Eliza-Jane, Wilco.

Wednesday's rotation (10/7): Grand Atlantic, the Dead Girls, Odetta, Ron Sexsmith, Dean & Britta, Rilo Kiley.

Thursday's rotation (10/8): Odetta, the Away Team, the Postmarks, the Rev. Jimmie Bratcher, the Clientele, Favorita, the Emergency.

Friday's rotation (10/9): Teenage Bottlerocket, the Postmarks, Wilco.

Sunday, live (10/11): Thee Water Moccasins, Brookville, the Postmarks.

Monday's rotation: The Dead Girls, Billy Joe Shaver, Ron Sexsmith, Four Horse Johnson, Dean & Britta.

And then there's this:

The Politics of Spite (Paul Krugman, New York Times): "If Republicans think something might be good for the president, they’re against it--whether or not it's good for America."

Missing Richard Nixon (Paul Krugman, New York Times): "The Nixon era was a time in which leading figures in both parties were capable of speaking rationally about policy, and in which policy decisions weren’t as warped by corporate cash as they are now."

A Century Later, She’s Still Red Hot (New York Times): "A new anthology of her earliest recordings shows that Sophie Tucker was anything but old-fashioned."

Happy Rocktober!

Here are some recent playlists:

Wednesday's rotation (9/16): Green Day, Booker T, Go!Go!7188, It's My Party, Josh Ritter.

Thursday, live in Austin (9/17): Hayes Carll.

Friday, live in Austin (9/18): Shannon McNally, Dave Alvin and the Guilty Women. (R.I.P. Amy Farris.)

Saturday, live in Austin (9/19): Exene Cervenka, Scott H. Biram, Rosie Flores, the Waco Brothers, Amy Cook, Alejandro Escovedo.

Sunday, live in Austin (9/20): Dale Watson, Two Tons of Steel, Kelly Willis, Bruce Robison.

Tuesday's rotation (9/22): New Model Army, the Dead Girls, the Away Team, the Rakes.

Wednesday's rotation (9/23): New Model Army, Scharpling & Wurster, Booker T, the Pedaljets, the Five O'Clock Heroes, Deborah Harry, Thurston Moore.

Thursday's rotation (9/24): Thurston Moore, Richard Lloyd, Jarvis Cocker, Rilo Kiley.

Friday's rotation (9/25): Jarvis Cocker, the Lucksmiths, Liam Finn and Eliza-Jane, Editors, Ida Maria, Booker T, the Clientele, the Rakes, the Cake Sale.

Monday's rotation: Editors, the Dead Girls, the Cake Sale, Grand Atlantic.

Monday, live: The Dactyls, Secret Machines, And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead.

Tuesday's rotation: Amy LaVere, the Nightwatchman, Liam Finn and Eliza-Jane, the Five O'Clock Heroes, Ron Sexsmith, Rilo Kiley, the Emergency, Blondie.

Tuesday, live: Rex Hobart and the Honky Tonk Standards.

Wednesday's rotation: The Failures' Union, Wilco, Maximum Rap 12" (compilation of early rap in extended versions), Taken By Trees, Dan Wilson.

Wednesday, live: Todd Glass, David Cross.

And then there's this:

How Time Magazine Enables Glenn Beck's Lies (Jamison Foser, Media Matters)

Politicians Score Significant Cash From NFL Owners, Coaches and Players (Open Secrets)


Was September the month I was going to start posting again? Guess not. So I'm just popping in between trips (we were in Cleveland over Labor Day weekend, and we leave for Austin tomorrow) to post the playlists that have piled up.

Thursday's rotation (9/3): Ray Davies, Liam Finn & Eliza-Jane, Peachfuzz, the Shimmys, the Cynics, the Sexy Accident, the Away Team, the Failures' Union.

Thursday, live (9/3): The Dandy Warhols.

Saturday's rotation (9/5): John Fogerty.

Labor Day weekend rotation: Bruce Springsteen (E Street Radio).

Tuesday's rotation (9/8): John Fogerty.

Wednesday's rotation (9/9): Peachfuzz, Ida Maria.

Thursday's rotation (9/10): Peachfuzz, Jordan Lansburg.

Friday's rotation (9/11): Michael Armstrong, the Afterparty, the Dead Girls, Richard Lloyd.

Friday, live (9/11): Lucero.

Saturday, live (9/12): The Doo-Dads, the Rural Grit All-Stars, Adam Lee and the Dead Horse Sound Company, Kirsten Paludan, the ACBs, Hearts of Darkness, The Good Foot, the Heidi Phillips Band.

Monday's rotation (9/14): Solaris, Ida Maria, the Away Team, Editors, the Failures' Union, Blondie, Paramore, Green Day.

Tuesday's rotation (9/15): Green Day, the Dead Girls, the Pedaljets, Jarvis Cocker, Taken By Trees.

And then there's this:

10 Lessons for Tea Baggers (Crooks and Liars)

Media Haven't Learned from Their "Death Panel" Mistakes (Jamison Foser, Media Matters)

Glenn Beck's "Deep-Seated Hatred" of Obama and Why Fox News Won't Budge (Karl Frisch, Media Matters)

20 Best Animated Movies Ever (Entertainment Weekly)