Alex’s Favorite Albums of the Year

10. Bish Bosch by Scott Walker

Scott-Walker-Bish-Bosch

I know about as many people who care for Scott Walker the musician as I do Scott Walker the Governor.  Scott Walker the musician is one of my favorites.  Imagine Joe Jonas going off on his own, and creating bizarre, atonal music and chanting over it.  This is his heaviest record in a long time.  Also his darkest in a while, and that’s saying something.

Also… his funniest.

9. Dopesmoker by Sleepsleep-dopesmoker-2012

A bit of a cheat, as this album’s been out in various forms for years now.  But THIS is the official one.  What may well be my favorite metal album of all time as it was intended to be heard, reissued by the venerable Southern Lord label.

Legally, I can’t advise you to toke up before pressing play… but… you know.

8. People Hear What They Say by Oddisee people_hear_what_they_see_304x304-304x304

A D.C. producer/rapper bringing back some real East-Coast boom bap.  Don’t sleep on him.

7. Provincial by John K. Samsonjksalbum

I’ve been a huge Weakerthans fan since high school, and really enjoyed their shift from punkier story-telling to countrified chamber-pop.  This album is the final realization of that transition, to the point that you’d never believe Samson once played bass in Propoghandi.  A lot of these songs appeared earlier on his EP’s, but there are a few new stand-out tracks.

6. Nehru Jackets by Heemsheems-nehru-jackets.1

There’s no more Das Racist, which is a crying shame.  But it seems like these guys will still be making music anyway, and if this mixtape is any indication… well, it’s gonna be great.

5. Yellow/Green by Baroness Baroness-YellowGreen-Artwork

Baroness and Mastodon are the best metal bands going, and both are embracing much more melodic song structures.  The only double album on here.  Pick it up.

4. Silver Age by Bob MouldBob-Mould-Silver-Age

A homer pick, plain and simple.  Mould is back in a big way, and he’s rocking much harder than any 50 year old man has any right to be.  Plus, great drums from Jon Wurster.

3. Good Kid / m.a.a.d. City by Kendrick Lamarkendrick-lamar-good-kid-maad-city-cover

I don’t have much to say about this album that hasn’t been said elsewhere.  He can rap, he can produce.  He’s here in a big way.  I find some of the character stuff a little aggravating, which prevents it from going higher.

2. Channel Orange by Frank Ocean2012-07-11-corange

I was worried when Frank came out – stay with me – because it seemed like it could be construed as a publicity grab as opposed to a man being honest about his identity in a public forum.  I feared it would overshadow the music.  It hasn’t.  “Pyramids” is every bit as majestic as it was when first I heard it.  “Bad Religion” is every bit as heartbreaking.  Essential.

1. Mr. M by Lambchophomepage_large.6a3a8164

“Nashville’s most fucked up country band” produces a beautiful and very sad album in tribute to the late, great Vic Chesnutt.  Every song on here has beautiful arrangements, complex and haunting lyrics, and fantastic performances.  From the opening curveball – a swell of strings followed by Kurt Wagner mumble-singing “I don’t know what the fuck they talk about” – to the fade out on the last track, this album is inventive and surprising and just g-damn gorgeous.  I’ve listened to this the most of any album from this year, perhaps because it came out in January, but still.  Absolutely beautiful.

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BEER TALK: Surviving the Tough Economy Edition

BEER TALK is a recurring feature where two experts give commentary on the most pressing issues facing the world.  Mark (left) and Wyatt (right) will be asked to address 5 questions while having a beer.

If you have an idea for a topic that warrants its own edition of BEER TALK, tweet your suggestion to me @mattprivratsky with the hashtag #BEERTALK

(For this post, MARK was having ‘Dollar-ritas’ while WYATT had been ‘Drinkin Third street brewhouse ale, not sold on it.’)

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BEER TALK: Fall TV Lineup Edition

BEER TALK is a recurring feature where two experts give commentary on the most pressing issues facing the world.  Mark (left) and Wyatt (right) will be asked to address 5 questions while having a beer.

If you have an idea for a topic that warrants its own edition of BEER TALK, tweet your suggestion to me @mattprivratsky with the hashtag #BEERTALK

(For this post, MARK was having ‘Leinies and working on politics’ while WYATT had ‘just crushed a sixer of Summit Oktoberfest (WHICH BTW IS A GREAT BEER), just started watching ‘My Boys’ which is from ’06)

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How a couple of twins got an autograph from Jack Morris, Legendary MN Twin

(I had originally sent this story to the Startribune writer Michael Rand in hopes that he might use it as a guest post on his RandBall blog.  Instead, it’s going here, 3 months after we actually got the autograph.  And yes, I think that is Mark’s batting stance)

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Turns out, I WON’T be writing for ESPN

Grantland (a website owned by ESPN) recently has a competition to see who could be their next Fantasy Football writer. Unfortunately for me (but fortunately for ESPN) I did NOT get to compete in the finals. There were over 4,000 entrants, but you will only get to read mine.  It had to be 750 words, include your top 5, and one sleeper.  Eat your heart out.

(I’m the one on the left who looks like a kicker)

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BEER TALK — NFL Fantasy Football Edition

BEER TALK is a recurring feature where two experts give commentary on the most pressing issues facing the world.  Mark (left) and Wyatt (right) will be asked to address 5 questions while having a beer.

If you have an idea for a topic that warrants its own edition of BEER TALK, tweet your suggestion to me @mattprivratsky with the hashtag #BEERTALK

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Bert Blyleven vs. Patrick Reusse

Twitter was created for one reason and one reason only: minor celebrity spats.  Bert Blyleven made a call as a former major leaguer that Tsuyoshi Nishioka (possibly the worst middle infielder in the history of the world) did not look ready for the major leagues.  Then when Patrick Reusse criticized KFAN’s football commentators, likening them to Fox Sports North’s Dick Bremer and Bert Blyleven, Blyleven took to twitter.

“@1500ESPN_Reusse Very interesting that a guy like you can consistently criticize others when you played what sport? You are Mr. Negative!”

“@1500ESPN_Reusse For years you have been a writer that always looks for the negative. Keep up the good work because you are good at it!”

“@1500ESPN_Reusse I believe weather baseball, football or whatever sport, fans want to hear positive. The ones that don’t, listen to YOU!”

Reusse did not respond very much at all, saying that he would vote for Blyleven to be in the Hall of Fame again.

If this lack of spat spat leaves you without any closure, just think about what Bert said yesterday:

“Some days you just get your butt kicked. Thank God the sun will rises tomorrow and we will all get a chance to have a better day.”

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ALY. RAISMAN.

ALY RAISMAN IS THE OFFICIAL 2012 OLYMPIC CRUSH OF THE BLOG.

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AS STAN LEE USED TO SAY, ‘NUFF SAID.

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Interview with Sam Lipsyte

Sam Lipsyte is a writer of short stories and novels.  He teaches at Columbia University.  His novel The Ask is a terrific comic novel.  Highly recommended.  He can be found here.

Q: Your books are important to me as someone going to college for writing.
 What books inspired you in college?

Oh, lots of books. A professor gave us Barry Hannah’s Airships and I was destroyed. I read Angela Carter and Joy Williams. I read a lot of Donald Barthelme and Pynchon and Coover.  Mark Leyner. Gilbert Sorrentino. My reading was all over the place. Beckett’s trilogy. I read plays. Shakespeare, of course, but modern playwrights also. Harold Pinter, David Mamet. David Rabe. I read poetry by Creeley and Wallace Stevens. I was an English major and read lots of older novels and poetry. James Hogg, I remember, had an effect on me for some reason. I learned what I needed to read and that was important. Stuff I knew I wouldn’t get to until after college. The whole thing, I guess, was that I read from all over the map, read writers who would have been appalled at some of my other reading choices. But all of them excited me. And they seemed to give me permission to try out anything. To get to the dangerous, the silly, the funny, the mean. I wanted to get as close to the truth as I was capable, while knowing what a loaded term that could be.

Q: You’ve spoken about your history in punk rock.  It seems like yourprotagonists, Milo in particular, have a sort of atrophied punk rock attitude.  Is that something you’ve consciously attempted to put across?

I had a great interest in the original punks, or some of them, certain sounds, certain gestures, and in the nineties I fronted a band where my duties were as much theatrical as musical. Along with the alienation I was seeking the humorous and slightly surreal. Maybe that carries over into some of the characters. I think sometimes it’s a way into them for me. Some characters have a world view that overlaps with mine, and others don?t at all. And it’s precisely that atrophied state you mention that is so curious. What does it all mean later? Just a bit of pathos. Or a well to draw from?

Q: You’ve also spoken about your childhood enjoyment of genre fiction, especially Science Fiction.  *The Ask* however, seems to be structured like a detective novel.  Do you feel that genre fiction has informed your writing in any way?

I think you are right about the Ask. It had the rhythm and sometimes the voice of the detective novel, but maybe I was also influenced by the way writers have played with genre in the past. I would say more of my genre influences come from movies, except science fiction.

Q: In an interview, you mentioned that you were going back to short stories
after writing a few novels.  Do you have different goals in short stories
than you do in novels?

I have the same goal all the time, which is to write the best thing I can write and hope people get something from it. The techniques are what vary. The brevity of a short story presents certain problems, and the open space of a long fiction very different ones. Some writers say the difference is that in a short story every word counts, but I think that?s true whatever the length. You need to be able to open a book on any page and find something that will pull you into it, even if you don?t know what’s going on.

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The Opening Day Starting Five

Today there will be more Olympic Men’s Basketball.  And if Kevin Love’s conduct on Twitter and in interviews is any indication, I don’t anticipate him being in Minnesota any longer than he has too.  He likes hanging out with the big dogs, and would prefer if he could do it a little more frequently.  The caveat is that if David Khan could gather together a good team, he would consider staying.  So he’s leaving basically, which I think we’ve all known since he was seen crumpling up the non-max deal Khan signed him to.

However, we have him for a little longer.  And in the intervening time, Khan has absolutely BLOWN UP the team.

As Matt covered, we are a pretty deep team.  And as of today, we have officially signed Brandon Roy.  But the question remains, who on earth are the starting five?

Some positions, barring a catastrophe, are pretty obvious.  Kevin Love at Power Forward, Nikola Pekovic at Center.

So let’s go through the other positions.

At the 1 spot, Rubio is out for a while.  As the ever astute Basketball Jones pointed out, it is a very real possibility that Alexey Shved (AKA the Russian Ricky Rubio)  could be our starting point guard over Luke Ridnour (especially given that Shved is much stronger with ball handling and passing than shooting)  At least until Rubio is back.  Once he gets his sea-legs so to speak, I’m absolutely fine with this because he’s putting up impressive numbers in the Olympics.  That said, when Rubio is back in good health, that makes four point guards (barring us shedding Barrea or Ridnour… probably Barrea of the two).  So…

The shooting guard.  This and small forward were the T-Wolves’ biggest trouble spots last year.  Fortunately Shved is a combo guard, which fits into Adelman’s general everyone does everything system, so he can probably move here when Rubio returns.  And while that’s good for the Points on the team, it’s not good for the 2-guards.  I can’t imagine a world in which Brandon Roy is playing more than 12 minutes for us, especially early.  He is more-or-less returning from the dead due to a very new and experimental knee procedure.  If indeed he seems good to go a month into the season, I can see him getting more minutes, probably on the end of games (see Adelman’s utilization of Rubio in the first month of last season).  Maybe Shved will play here, along with Ridnour and Barrea.  My money is on Roy starting opening day to increase press and ticket sales, but not necessarily playing starter minutes.

Small Forward.  We have Andre Kirilenko, Chase Budinger, and Derrick Williams (Dante Cunningham has played here as well).  I for one, would like to believe that Derrick Williams’ lackluster rookie season was due to vying for minutes against Michael Beasley. I would like to believe that the 20 lbs he dropped will really enhance his game.  That said I think Kirilenko will be starting.

If the Great Brandon Roy Experiment of 2012 works (see Kobe Bryant last season), and if Kirilenko can bring scoring and (ESPECIALLY) his defense, and if Pekovic (who should have won most improved player last season) can keep his numbers up, and if Shved and the guard platoon can prove an effective stop-gap, AND Rubio is the good Rubio that we saw last year, I think this team can crack the second round of the Playoffs.

Because I love seeing K Love in the White, Green, and Blue.

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