Thursday, December 27, 2007

2007's Best Albums (According to Joel)

Before I begin, I must preface my list with a little explanation. I consider myself an avid fan of all types of music. I try to give most everything a chance. I read Pitchfork's website a lot, so my taste may slant that direction at times. I also love rap music, so I'm always trying to find the next album to rival "Hell Hath No Fury" (see previous post). Yet at the same time, I'm so fickle when it comes to music. I'm moody. I listen to music according to the mood I'm in. Music has to hit me at the right time, or I cast it aside. I've tried hard to catch up on the "big" albums of the year (according to everyone else) here at the end of the year to give my top 10 list credence. But all this catching up has worn me out. So here's what's not on my list that others may think was absolutely incredible:

Lil' Wayne - Da Drought 3 - For some reason, as hard as I tried, I couldn't get into this. I don't think I've given it enough of a chance.
M.I.A. - Kala - Other than "Paper Planes", there was no song I really wanted to listen to again. In three months I'll probably love this album, but not right now.
Burial - Untrue - I received this album for Christmas but haven't had enough time to get a good feel for it. At first listen, it's a little too inaccessible.
Of Montreal - Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? - Their lead singer is so weird. I like the music, but his naked show in Las Vegas turned me off to this album.
The Field - From Here We Go Sublime - I bought this album expecting it to be good, but, in my opinion, it didn't live up to the hype it got from Pitchfork and others.

Also, I was really looking forward to two albums in particular this year: Bloc Party and The Shins. They both really disappointed me.

Here is my list of the best albums of the year:

1. LCD Soundsystem - Sound of Silver - James Murphy is the coolest guy of 2007. This album is sick. It's the album of the year on so many levels. I have had more fun listening to this album than anything else this year. That's really what music is all about, isn't it?
2. Panda Bear - Person Pitch - If the Beach Boys were indie and still made music today, they would have made this album. "Person Pitch" has a unique sound, and that's what makes it so great. "Comfy in Nautica" is probably my favorite song of the year.
3. Spoon - Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga - This is Spoon's best album. It seems to be constructed so simply. Maybe that's why it is so good.
4. Radiohead - In Rainbows - Over the past 3 weeks, this album has grown on me. I really think it deserves a spot in anyone's top 5. Plus, Radiohead let the customer pay whatever they wanted for the music and still made more money than had they signed with a major label. That's legit.
5. Peter Bjorn and John - Writer's Block - This album was actually released internationally in 2006, but it didn't drop in the U.S. until 2007. I'm counting it as a 2007 album.
6. Kanye West - Graduation - This is another album that grew on me. The Graduate Mixtape may be better than the album, but I appreciate the honesty Kanye brings to his music. I'm guessing, after the death of his mother, Kanye's next album will be his best. Rap music is at its best when it conveys raw emotion.
7. Feist - The Reminder - A lot indie fans are down on Feist because the iPod commercials have garnered her a lot of "un-indie fans." I agree, a lot of people say they "love" Feist but couldn't tell you her first name (it's Leslie) or name a song other than "1 2 3 4." Yet, Feist's vocals are probably my favorite of anyone right now. I really do love this album.
8. Ben Rector - Twenty Tomorrow - Not many people outside of Fayetteville, AR or the Kanakuk world will have heard of Ben. I think his music is catchy. I've probably listened to this album more than anything else this year. "Disarm" is a legit track.
9. Jay-Z - American Gangster - Jay-Z flopped in "Kingdom Come" which made me skeptical of this album. "American Gangster" put him back on the map (not that he was ever off the map with his involvement in Def Jam, 40/40, and the New Jersey Nets). He's getting older, but this album is reminiscent of his glory days. He's still no Pusha.
10. Band of Horses - Cease to Begin - Musically, there are probably a lot of other albums better than "Cease to Begin." But for some reason, I identify with Band of Horses. This album isn't as good as their first album, but I still listened to this album on repeat for a long time.

One more thing - the end of 2007 found me listening to a lot of mixtapes. These aren't all new, but check out these mixtapes:
Kanye West - Can't Tell Me Nothing Mixtape Kanye West - The Graduate Mixtape
Lupe Fiasco - listen to all three volumes of the Fahrenheit 1/15 mixtapes
Clipse - We Got It For Cheap Volume 2
Lil' Wayne - Da Drought 3

Danger Mouse (The Beatles/Jay-Z) - The Grey Album
- yeah, it's old but I listened to it the other day and was once again blown away.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


I'm currently obsessed with a new T-shirt line out of Kansas City called STCK UP (Pronounced Stack up). It's designed and basically entirely made by 19 year old Ian Flowers. Right now it's exclusively at Standard Style Boutique. These tees are legit, and I don't say that about many new lines. My favorite is the MAKE MNEY tee, there's just something about the mixture of florescent colors with a hip-hop phrase and the missing O. The screens are awesome, fit is great, overall a great new line...check it out and STCK UP.


Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Nutcracker

Tonight I went to see The Nutcracker Ballet at Bass Performance Hall in Fort Worth, TX. I was skeptical going in, but I must say this: everyone should see The Nutcracker at least once in their lifetime. It was certainly an experience. The dancers were nimble and impressive. Ballet really is an art. But actually, I most enjoyed the music. The ballet was good too, but I would have enjoyed simply listening to the musicians just as much. For some reason, it made me think of Sigur Ros and the strings on their Takk album. Very enjoyable. Also, if you're in Fort Worth for an extended period of time, check out Bass Performance Hall. It is absolutely beautiful and a great place for entertainment.

That's all.

- Joel

Saturday, December 15, 2007

I just finished reading "The Tipping Point" by Malcom Gladwell today. I have tried unsuccessfully twice before to finish the book, and I completed the task today. The third time truly is a charm. Here's my quick and dirty review of the book (and Malcom Gladwell in general):

I like it. I've read both "The Tipping Point" and "Blink" by Gladwell and came away thinking the same thing after both reads. Gladwell's overarching points in both books are very accurate and useful. In "The Tipping Point" he argues that little things often make a big difference in terms of trends and epidemics. If we reorder our thinking, we can often have profound effects or see significant improvements as a result of incremental (aka small) change. Gladwell argues there are certain aspects of people, messages, and context that have can lead to epidemic-type effects. I agree.

This is where I get frustrated with Gladwell. His books are like stepping up to a smorgasbord of research. Gladwell references research from social scientists, psychologist, biologists, etc. etc. etc. However, I find the research sometimes takes away from his arguments. He tries too hard to manipulate the research to prove a point and often extends the researchers' conclusions out of context. Often I found myself thinking, "Malcom, you didn't have to go there." He bends the research too far to fit what he is trying to say. So even though his broad points are excellent, his "out-of-context-research-support" leaves the specifics of those points a little messy.

So, "The Tipping Point" - good book. It makes you think. It's overall message can be practical regardless of your industry or point of view. Don't get too caught up in the research. Look at the book with a critical eye, form your own conclusions, and you'll enjoy the read.

By the way, I'd consider myself a Translator and Daniel an Innovator. We make a good team. Also, if you're interested, Gladwell has a blog at

- Joel

Friday, December 14, 2007

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I'm on JJ Abrams overload. I think my brain might explode with the combination of Lost Season 3 on DVD, Lost Season 4, The writers strike, and Cloverfield. It's to the point where I'm considering watching Alias and re watching Felicity (yes my wife and I own all four years)I need some new Abrams. I mean all the Cloverfield stuff is awesome but I need more than 4 minutes. Maybe I'll watch Felicity cut her ratings, I mean hair, off tomorrow just for kicks then go have some Dean and Deluca...who knows.


P.S. Speaking of shows I shouldn't like yet I love look for an upcoming OC themed post...possibly a Joel and Daniel Collabo who know.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Hot Chocolate and Hot Lines

This post is dedicated to two things that I like. First, Quik Trip hot chocolate. I could devote the entire post to relishing the majesty that each Quik Trip drink possesses, but I will refrain because that post could take years. That's how good Quik Trip drinks are. So today I will focus on one - hot chocolate. I'm not a coffee drinker, so Starbucks has a limited appeal to me. I only like their hot chocolate. Yet, I've noticed a rapid decline in Starbucks hot chocolate over the past few years. It isn't as thick as it used to be - too much water not enough chocolate. Plus, I don't want to pay $3 for hot chocolate. Enter Quik Trip. For $1.25 I can enjoy 24 ounces of hot chocolate heaven. If you can't drink that much, don't worry, they offer 20 oz. and 16 oz. sizes as well. So instead of going to Starbucks, paying $3, and requesting my drink "extra hot" just to insure it is warm, I'll go to Quik Trip and leave with a piping hot drink and a friendly "See ya later."

Thing #2 that I like: I'll admit, I was a little late to the mixtape party, but I've become obsessed with rap mixtapes. This site is the place to go. They're all free, and you can find pretty much anything you could ever want. Right now I'm hooked on Lupe Fiasco (I still haven't gotten into Da Drought 3, sorry). Datpiff may perform the ultimate feat as well - getting my youngest brother into rap music. After hearing some of Lupe's mixtapes, he is finally warming to the notion that rap is worth his time. Check it out,, the best place to go when you're waiting for the next big album to come out. Plus, you can always find Lil' Wayne's mixtape of the week. By the way, I just saw Clinton Sparks, Mr. Get Familiar, on E! - totally not what I was expecting.

- Joel

Monday, December 10, 2007

Youth without Youth or really just without chili

This is the map of the central US right now, and you better believe Kansas City is about to get hit with a big ice storm, and I'm interested in what it's really going to look like. Here's what I do know, currently I'm on break eating chili I made the other night and it is fantastic.I loved almost everything about my childhood, except the chili. In my brain chili equals hearty, to my mom it meant more soupy. She didn't make it with the intention of it being hearty and it was runny, she really made a chili soup thing. I openly hated it and now that I'm an adult I make hearty chili.

I suppose of all the things I could have mid-twenties Garden State parentally induced angst about chili is one of the, if not the very, least severe. Here's to me hoping we don't lose power at our house tonight!!!


Saturday, November 24, 2007

Unfortunately, tonight was probably the only meaningful game that will be played in Arrowhead Stadium all year. My beloved Jayhawks could not overcome two missed field goals and two interceptions and fell to Mizzou in the biggest football game our two states have seen in quite some time. But even though my team lost, I decided the game ended in a victory for all who call Kansas City home. We got to put Arrowhead Stadium, the loudest stadium in the NFL, on display for the entire nation to see in primetime. As I sat there, I couldn't help but notice the Kansas City crowd drowning out the announcers. The stadium was so loud I couldn't even hear Brent Musburger (did I spell that right?) make his seemingly obvious observations from the booth. It made me proud to call myself a sports fan from Kansas City. We are the most tortured fans in the nation - KU's many Elite Eight and Final Four NCAA losses, three Chiefs' playoff losses to Indianapolis, numerous 100-loss seasons for the Royals - yet we still cheer louder than anyone else. Why? Because we are the best. So tonight, whether you are lamenting a loss or celebrating a victory, tip your cap to Kansas City and those of us who will always cheer for our teams because they are OUR teams.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Why Clipse has ruined rap music

Last year, Clipse ruined rap music for me. I didn't know it at the time, but today, a little over a year after the release of Hell Hath No Fury, I realized my life will never be the same. Let me explain myself...

In "Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs," Chuck Klosterman details why John Cusack has ruined love for the rest of us. It isn't so much Cusack that ruined love but Cusack's character Lloyd Dobler, from the 1980's teenage romance Say Anything. (I had never even heard of this movie before reading this book. For some reason, though I was born in 1983, the entire decade didn't take for me.) In Klosterman's experience, so many women were ultimately dissatisfied with him as a partner because he could never stack up to Lloyd Dobler. The problem was Lloyd Dobler was fake and Chuck Klosterman was real. Real love will never match the "ideal" love we see in movies, because real love is human and humans are flawed. Lloyd Dobler, aka John Cusack, became a standard that no man could match.

I feel the same way about Clipse and rap music. I love rap music, but I don't see myself ever being as satisfied with the medium again. Hell Hath No Fury is the best rap album I have ever heard. Pusha spits verses in fashion superior to all other MC's, including the self-proclaimed Mike Jordan of recordin' Jay-Z. From beginning to end, The Neptunes deliver beats on Hell Hath No Fury unmatched by any other producers. They are rare, grimy, and hard-hitting. The album matches producers and MC's at the top of their game in perfect harmony. Since its release, Hell Hath No Fury has been the standard against which I have measured every subsequent rap album.

Over the last year, even the best albums have left me wanting. Hova, Kanye, Wheezy...they just don't withstand the tour de force that is Clipse. Today, I was relistening to Clipse, and it dawned on me, "Nothing beats this." No matter how hard I try to enjoy American Gangster, Graduation, Da Drought III, or any other release, I will always be disappointed because I'm hoping they will engage me in a way achieved only by Pusha and Malice. The albums don't create the powerful experience I have come to know each time I listen to Hell Hath No Fury.

I love rap music. And no matter what other MC's release, I will continue to return to the Mecca that is Hell Hath No Fury.

~ Joel