For reasons unclear to me now, I wasn’t psyched when I heard about this band. Despite the fact that it was 2/3 of Sleater-Kinney and the force behind Helium joining together, I didn’t jump for joy. But now that I have listened to the album a million times, I can say that it is one of the best albums not only of that year, but of many years. Man is it good.
Sleater-Kinney was a great band, they were melodic and tuneful but also abrasive and occasionally off-putting. Who knew that the majority of the adhesiveness came from Corinne Tucker (well, she was the screamer, admittedly). It’s pretty clear that Carrie Brownstein is bringing a ton of melody (and a wee bit of amativeness) to the mix. Mary Timony always included trippy imagery and a weird kind of whispered/loud singing voice. The tunes are so catchy so strong, so singalongable.
There’s little moments in each song that are amazing. The backing vocals (and the pitch shift in the chorus) in “Romance”. The way “Something Came Over Me” sounds so different from “Romance” (and is clearly a Timony-sung song). I absolutely love the guitar “solo” that begins each verse and how it stands out but fits in so nicely as a baritone guitar sound (I assume from Carrie?) ”Boom” is just a full-on rocker with some great guitar pyrotechnics and Carrie’s more extreme vocals. And man is it catchy.
“Glass Tambourine” is a cool trippy psychedelic workout that’s still catchy and interesting. ”Endless Talk” has a strange British retro vibe. (Carrie seems to be singing with a kind of punk British voice). And there’s lot of keyboards. It’s great that the album has so many different sounds, but still sounds cohesive. ”Short Version” has some great guitar soloing in the front and back. ”Electric Band” is like a perfect pop song–great backing vocals, great poppy solos and a cool video to boot. ”Future Crimes” is another amazing tune, with a keyboard solo!
“Racehorse” is probably my least favorite song on the disc. It’s got some cool parts and some interesting swagger (and I like the live versions where they really jam) but the album version feels a little dragged out (although the chorus is really hot). The disc ends with the wonderful “Black Tiles” which could easily be a Helium song, but which still sounds very Wild Flag.
And, I can’t say it enough, Janet Weiss is amazing on drums. I feel badly because I tend to leave out the keyboardist–because I don’t know who she is or the band that she came from. But her keyboards play an essential role in the music. They fill out the spaces that the two guitars don;t always fill. They even introduce the opening of the album.
If you go back through previous posts you’ll see I’ve mentioned them 3 times already because they have special bond with NPR and three of their concerts are available there. I can’t wait for more from them.
[READ: May 8, 2012] Grantland 2
I was surprised at how much I enjoyed Grantland #1. So I was pretty excited to get Grantland #2. #2 has all of the elements that I loved about #1–non-sports articles about entertainment (video games, music, TV), and sports articles that are short and digestible for a non-sports fan. This issue also features a number of really long articles about basketball. I like basketball fine, but I can’t say I paid any attention to the lockout. Thus, much of this was lost on me. It probably doesn’t help that I don’t know any sports people either.
I may have said this last time, but I will reiterate for Issue #3–for those of us who don’t follow sports, or those of us who may not remember back to September when most of these articles were written, or heck, for people who are going to read this in ten years’ time: For certain articles, can you give us an epilogue about what happened after the article was written. If you speculate about the lockout. Have an epilogue to say about how the lockout turned out. If you talk about a game 5 of a series and the series didn’t end, have an epilogue that tells us how the series ended. It doesn’t have to even fit the style of the article, just a few words: so and so ended like this. It can show how prescient the writers were. And it can help us complete the stories.
So, despite a few articles that I thought were too long, (although probably aren’t if you love basketball) I really enjoyed this issue of Grantland, too.
Once again, the portraits are wonderful.
KEN DRYDEN-”Bigger, Faster, Stronger, Safer”
This article is subtitled “The end of the NHL headhunter” and it’s all about the damage that has been done to hockey players on the ice. Fighting is endemic in hockey, but some teams have specific fighters on the ice (we know them as goons). Well, now that the fighters are bigger and faster and stronger, the damage is much worse. Everybody enjoys a good hockey fight, but maybe it’s time to rethink the goons.
BRIAN PHILLIPS-”A Series of Unbelievable Events”
A wonderful write-up about, as the subtitle states: “What the hell happened at the US Open semifinals?” This covers the 2011 semifinal between Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic and the improbable shot(s) that helped Djokovic beat the 16 time Grand Slam winner.
BILL SIMMONS-’”Business vs. Personal”
This is the first of many articles about the NBA lockout. I don’t follow the NBA. I knew there was a lockout, but I don’t know a thing about it. So I learned a lot here. This is one of those articles where I wished there’d been a follow up indicating how their ideas and predictions turned out. I don’t even know how long the lock out lasted, so it’s hard to use their ideas effectively. Of course, I suppose real fans do know, so I guess that’s all that matters.
ALEX GREENWALD-”A New Kind of Carrie for Cable TV”
A brief article about Homeland, a show I’ve never seen. The article argues that the hero, Carrie, is a breath of fresh air on a TV: a woman who can be difficult, intelligent, daring, risky and belligerent and yet still be the hero. This makes me want to watch the show.
MARK TITUS-”The End of the Super-Conference”
It seems like there’s always an article about NCAA football realignment. Since I don’t follow NCAA, I don’t really have an opinion, although this one makes a lot of sense to me. (I never understood college ranking systems at all).
MICHAEL WEINREB-”Innocence Lost”
The first of two articles about Penn State and the scandal. This first is about State College, PA and how people moved there because it was a good place to raise a child. And now it will be forever tainted by the scandal because the town was football.
CHARLES P. PIERCE-”The Brutal Truth About Penn State”
I didn’t realize that this was by Charlie Pierce, awesome guest from NPR’s Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me. This was a really powerful argument that public prayer as a way of “healing” the victims of the sex scandal is meaningless: “Contrition in the context of a football game seemed almost obscene in its obvious vanity.” Pierce is straightforward and doesn’t hold back:
The crimes at Penn State are about the raping of children. That is all they are about. The crimes at Penn State are about the raping of children by Jerry Sandusky, and the possibility that people lied to a grand jury about the raping of children by Jerry Sandusky, and the likelihood that most of the people who had the authority at Penn State to stop the raping of children by Jerry Sandusky proved themselves to have the moral backbone of ribbon worms.
If that blights Joe Paterno’s declining years, that’s too bad. If that takes a chunk out of the endowment, hold a damn bake sale. If that means that Penn State spends some time being known as the university where a child got raped, that’s what happens when you’re a university where a child got raped. Any sympathy for this institution went down the drain in the shower room in the Lasch Building. There’s nothing that can happen to the university, or to the people sunk up to their eyeballs in this incredible moral quagmire, that’s worse than what happened to the children who got raped at Penn State. Good Lord, people, get up off your knees and get over yourselves.
That’s the kind of public outcry you want when something unspeakable happens.
BILL SIMMONS AND JAY CASPIAN KANG-”Notes Toward a Renegade League”
This was exceptionally long and occasionally fun. Simmons and Kang discuss their new basketball league (that will never happen) in which a billionaire buys the league and all the striking players come to play for it. It sounds like a lot of fun. If I knew any of the players, I’ll bet I would have enjoyed this more, but i enjoyed the theory behind it quite a bit!
JONAH KERI-”‘How Did This Happen?’”
This is an in-depth look at Game 6 of the World Series in which the Cardinals pulled out a ridiculous 10-9 11 inning win, making it the most unforgettable World Series win ever. It’s a great article that really makes it feel like I watched the game.
MICHAEL SCHUR-”Red Sox Nation in Decline”
Subtitled “The Bad Old Days are back again,” this article is about how the Sox blew it and the fans won’t let them forget it.
CHRIS BROWN-”The Vertical Pass Lives On”
A short article about Al David and his coaching style that I enjoyed because it was short.
BRIAN PHILLIPS-”Jesus Christ, Really?”
The first of two amusing articles about Tim Tebow: “He has managed to take on outsize significance in the league despite largely failing to excel on the field” Religion isn’t new in football or any sports but his is a different kind. And why are so many agnostics rooting for God to make Tebow fail to prove that God doesn’t exist?
CHRIS RYAN-”Tim Tebow and the Miracles”
This article suggests that Tebow, who may not be a good QB, is willing to take risks for his team, and that’s why his Broncos line fights so hard for him [this was written before he left the Broncos, naturally].
SHANE RYAN-”The Art of Seat Poaching”
This is an awesome article about how to keep moving up to better and better seats throughout the game. It’s a lengthy and detailed task if you’re up for it.
CHAD HARBACH-”(Almost) Winning in Milwaukee”
This was an enjoyable look back at the failings of the Brewers (and the success of their mustaches). It also looks at Bud Selig’s history and his relationship to the game. It was very interesting.
KATIE BAKER-”Women on the Run”
An excellent look at how women were not permitted to run in marathons as recently as 1967 when Kathrine Switzer (who registered as K.V Switzer) was tackled by race officials and removed her from the race course! The rest of the article looks at how far and how fast women have progressed in distance running, especially really long distance running.
DON DELILLO-”The Literary Life of a Home Run”
Not many sports magazine will talk with famously difficult authors (meaning the work is difficult, the author seems very nice). But this short interview with Don DeLillo about the opening section of Underworld and the 1951 New York Giants-Brooklyn Dodgers game is pretty great.
MALCOLM GLADWELL-”The Fallacy of the Nets”
I just recently learned that the Nets were leaving New Jersey (when I heard they were playing their last game in New Jersey). This made me sad, because for a brief year or two I did follow the Nets (for that year or two that they were good–it was a total coincidence!). This article argues against the NBAs financial “plight” by looking at just how much money was made in the Nets move to Brooklyn. It’s pretty gross, frankly.
JAY CASPIAN KANG-”Un Robo! Un Robo!”
This is a look at a fight between Juan Manuel Marquez and Manny Pacquiao on November 13. I follow boxing less than any other sport, but this article, which is more personal than sporty, was really enjoyable.
TESS LYNCH-”A Haunted House for the Recession Era”
This article looks at American Horror Story and how haunted house stories are quite different during a recession. You can’t “just leave” if no one will buy your house. It also let me know how gross the show is (I’ve never seen it).
RAFE BARTHOLOMEW-”Spoelstra in the Phillipines”
The Miami Heat coach is from the Philipines. he makes an annual pilgrimage there to hold fun training for kids (and adults). This was a nice, affirming story.
JOHN BRANDON-”The Hunks of College Football”
A “personals” type article about three hunky players.
CHUCK KLOSTERMAN-”Rise of the Blur Offense”
I like Klosterman’s writing style, even about sports. This article about teams playing so fast they don’t use a huddle was really interesting. Especially when he started talking about schools that seem like they’d be too small to be real!
HUA HSU-”Waiting for Radiohead”
Hoping beyond hope that Radiohead would play Occupy wall Street, as the rumor said they would.
TOM BISSELL-”The Meta Problems of Gamification”
This was an interesting article about the Gamification of everything–making things be game-like through the subtle incentivizing of everyday life. It also looks at a few zombie games like Left 4 Dead and Dead Island (a shortage of zombies titles that use the word “dead” is on the horizon), which has way too much gamification in it–even the guns have levels(!)–and too much emphasis on numbers and data, and not enough on simply killing zombies.
MOLLY LAMBERT-”Blame the Momager”
Momager is a good portmanteau word. I hate the Kardashians and try to never read anything about them. I made an exception for this. I still hate them.
RAMBERT BROWN-”Haute Couture of the 1990s”
The awesomeness of the Charlotte Hornets’ Starter jacket.
WESLEY MORRIS-”Regarding Quarterback Hair”
An amusing look at Tom Brady’s hair (it’s this kind of article that I like best about Grantland).
JONATHAN ABRAMS-”The Murder of Tayshana Murphy”
A sad, true account.
BILL SIMMONS-”Tragic Comedy”
A lengthy and spot-on account of Eddie Murphy’s career. It’s a really in-depth look and appreciation of the film career of the comic that we loved until we thought he started to suck (even though he’s made more money recently than ever before).
DAVID JACOBY-”Snooki’s Wilt Chamberlain Performance”
I loathe Snooki more than the Kardashians. Why must Grantland hurt me? Nevertheless, this was pretty funny.
CHCUCK KLOSTERMAN-”The ‘Talented One’ Starts Over”
An in depth interview with Noel Gallagher from Oasis on the eve of the release of his solo album. He comes across as funny and articulate and reasonable. And also, maybe kind of a dick. But the whole interview was interesting and enjoyable. I loved the quote, “If Be Here Now had sold 30 million copies…”I probably would have grown a mustache and started wearing a fucking cape”
BILL BARNWELL-”Thanksgiving without Turkey”
This is a strange look at the desperation of Las Vegas during the holidays.
LOUISA THOMAS-”In Donald We Trust?”
A look at young tennis phenom Donald Young who was over hyped and who under delivered.
JON DOLAN-”Requiem for R.E.M.”
A nice obituary for R.E.M.
BRIAN PHILLIPS-”Where Has Easy Dave Gone?
An article about David Stern, NBA commissioner, and how the lockout has affected him (hint: he’s losing his cool.”)
ALEX PAPPADEMAS-”What the Joker Was Doing Naked”
This was an awesome article that scrutinized the recent relaunch of the DC Comics line. They basically reset the date to zero and started all of their stories over again–ostensibly to introduce new fans to the series without them having to know all that background baggage. 52 brand new issue #1s! It sounds like a great idea, but why are the comics so dark? So sexually depraved? Why is the joker’s face getting ripped off and why is he naked? And why does he say “fangasmic.” Does DC really hope to capture a new generation o(young) fans with this line?
ERIC RASKIN-”Disputed: Hagler v. Leonard”
A very lengthy look at the legendary fight between these two greats and their 1987 fight. Interesting but long.
I reviewed this story the other day. It was okay.
There’s also a series of conversations in the book: Jalen Rose (former NBA player) with David Jacoby (Grantland editor); Bill Simmons with Al Michaels (football announcer); Bill Simmons with Billy Hunter (NBA Players Association director); Bill Simmons with John A. Walsh.
So, all in all a great issue. I liked the cover which was a fold out poster all about the “new” NBA league. Although i admit I enjoyed the basketball texture of issue one more. I wonder if I will ever read the website.