Sunday, December 19, 2010

2010 Natey Awards

On my favorite track of my favorite album of 2010, Beach House frontwoman Victoria Legrand sings, "I'll take care of you/ if you ask me to," over and over again. Most of the Teen Dream's lyrics are abstract images, but like any great album, there are phrases any listener will latch onto and remember. It doesn't take much psycho analysis for me to know the reasons why "Take Care" was my favorite Beach House song this year. For me, 2010 was about providing for my son Maddux, having my soul mate Ali here to take care of me.

I didn't consume quite as much music this year as I normally do, but I found 2010 to be an exceptional year for a variety of reasons. I listened to a wider array of genres this year than my typical narrow indie rock taste has allowed in the past. Some of my favorite music came from genres like country (Jamey Johnson), R&B (Janelle Monae) and traditional dance pop (Robyn). Some of my favorite bands, such as Menomena, the Walkmen, Frightened Rabbit, Arcade Fire and the National, also turned out predictably outstanding records.

I will also remember 2010 as the year the music nearly died for me. My laptop was hedging toward electronics heaven and during that time my music collection was very much in limbo. Luckily, when the repair work was finished, my library was in tact. Sometimes you don't know what you've got till it's gone, and that was the case for me. It was quite a blessing to listen to some of my favorite albums again, and to be able to save them so that disaster will be averted in the future.

Without further adieu, I give you my 2010 Natey Awards

Favorite Album: Beach House's Teen Dream
Beach House has always had a hazy, dreamy quality to its music. I thought the group's third release, Teen Dream, found a way to keep that mood while also making songs that you could sing along to. There are so many standout tracks. I already referenced "Take Care," but I also identified "Zebra" and "Used to Be" as songs that won in my earphones and my car stereo. The best music resonates with where you are in life. That's why the scene in High Fidelity when John Cusack's character organizers his albums autobiographically is so easy for me to relate to. Beach House provided the soundtrack for my unforgettable 2010.
Honorable mention: Vampire Weekend's Contra; Janelle Monae's The ArchAndroid, the Black Keys' Brothers and Menomena's Mines

Favorite Nashville album: Jamey Johnson's The Guitar Song
My favorite Nashville album usually comes courtesy of a local indie rock band. This year it comes from, of all places, Music Row. Although the year in country music was defined by chart-topping artists with awful hair and an awful band name (The Band Perry), or pitchy vocals (Taylor Swift) or relentlessly bland material (Carrie Underwood), one album refused to follow the leader. Outsider Jamey Johnson made an album about being broke and struggling to conquer demons from your past and present. The Guitar Song is an epic 25-song throwback to an era when it was about the music. Many critics have rightly said The Guitar Song is a tip of the hat to the Outlaw era. I can't argue with that. But the truth is that Johnson has simply built a collection of great songs and delivered them with the help of professional Music City musicians in a way typical country artists simply can't.

Favorite live performance: Alison Carmona w/ Chad Carmona
I have two favorite musical moments of this year. The first was seeing Ali perform in front of Maddux for the first time. The second was seeing my brother-in-law Chad's gorgeous song, "I Wanna Be Alone with You" journey from my living room to audiences all around Nashville. Simply put, this song deserves to be shared with as many people as possible and at the earliest possible moment, I'll post a version on this site.
At the start of the year, Ali would joke about her baby kicking while she was performing. "He musta liked that one," she'd tell the audience. I can only hope my prayers are answered and Maddux takes to music like his mom, whose passion for a good song and a fun performance has never been more apparent. Just this past week, Ali and my good friends Brandon and Jeremy sang "Rockin Around the Christmas Tree" in front of a coffeehouse full of friends and family (who were all too happy to join in). Watching Maddux watch his mom perform was pretty awesome.
Honorable mention: Beach House at Mercy Lounge, Vampire Weekend at the Ryman.

Favorite song: The Black Keys' Everlasting Light
This song is remarkable in its simplicity and memorable for its straight forward blues-rock delivery. There's nothing profound going on here, just a great band hammering out a classic rock song and daring the listener not to love it.
Honorable mention: The Walkmen's Angela Surf City; Local Natives' Who Knows Who Cares; Sleigh Bells' Rill Rill; The Tallest Man on Earth's The Wild Hunt; Frightened Rabbit's Living in Colour.

Most unique album
: Sleigh Bells' Treats
Registering high on the, "what the hell was that?" charts, Treats was one part bubble gum pop and one part heavy metal. How strange for a band to flaunt its masculine and feminine sides with such ease, often times on the same song. I think it's fair to question the staying power of Sleigh Bells, since at times the narrow shouts and basic lyrics trend toward gimmicky. But the reality is, this is a great album and it will remain so no matter what the band does moving forward.

See also: 2009 and 2008

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Injuries too much for Packers to overcome

The Packers just lost to the Detroit Lions, leaving their fragile postseason hopes on the brink with three games to play. This loss came largely after star quarterback Aaron Rodgers was knocked out of the game with a concussion.

Now Green Bay has three games against three good teams in the Patriots, Giants and Bears. The Patriots have been unbeatable at home, but there's no use projecting what might happen the last three games. If you can't beat the Lions, you really can't beat anybody.

In the end, the rampant injuries this season were just too much to overcome. Even if Rodgers is able to return from his head injury, the roster has been too watered down to survive a substantial playoff run. The most costly injury was to Jermichael Finley, who seemed to be emerging as a star before his season was lost due to a knee injury. No position has been untouched by season-ending injury besides wide receiver. Even against in today's game against the Lions, the Packers lost two more starters to injuries of unknown severity in Frank Zombo and Darryn Colledge.

I genuinely believe that the Packers roster is the most talented in the league when it is at full strength. If anything this season is proof of that. To enter into December in quasi-playoff contention despite putting 13 players and seven starters on the injured reserve is quite an accomplishment.

Finally, and predictably, the weight of the injuries is too much for the remaining players to carry. It was a noble try especially considering many thought the Packers would cave in after back-to-back losses to the Redskins and Dolphins. Matt Flynn isn't going to lead this team to the playoffs, for sure, but even Rodgers would have a hard time doing so with this ragtag team of waiver-wire pickups and second-stringers.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

If there was a college football playoff

College football fans entered limbo today after the Army/Navy game finished. Relevant bowl games don't start for weeks and the championship game is a month away. I couldn't help but wonder what it might be like if college football had a playoff system. Well, technically college football does have a playoff system, but just not at the highest level. The funny thing is you still hear some bowl supporter say the system is necessary because football players would have their academic careers blow up if they had to endure the rigors of a playoff. Yet, weirdly, half the college football teams already do endure a postseason playoff.

If the FBS, which by the way is one of the worst acronyms in all of sports, were to appease its fans and install a playoff system, then this is what it might look like:

1. Auburn vs. 16. Florida International
8. Oklahoma vs. 9. Michigan State

4. Wisconsin vs. 13. Connecticut
5. Stanford vs. 12. Virginia Tech

2. Oregon vs. 15. Miami, Ohio
7. Arkansas vs. 10. Boise State

3. TCU vc. 14. Central Florida
6. Ohio State vs. 11. LSU

Until college football presidents come to their senses, we're left to deal in hypothetical playoffs. In my opinion, it would be the greatest postseason tournament in all of sports. This system gives the winner of each conference an automatic bid and then five at-large berths. It would be awesome. Until then, enjoy the bowl.