Tuesday, January 27, 2009

20 Random Songs

Even though it is probably the most popular meme in the history of blogging, I have never done a post wherein I post 20 random songs from my iPod. I am here to remedy that situation now. As an added bonus I will post mini-reviews of each song. Here we go.

1. Cher - "Half-Breed": This is an interesting song. The tune is pretty catchy and it's a good story song! I wish story songs like this could be hits today. This is probably my favorite Cher hit (maybe "Believe"), but it is rather repetitive and it's not like it's really anything that great. An above average number one hit, 7/10.

2. B2k - "Santa Hooked Me Up": As luck would have it, one of the songs I have already posted about on this journal. It's from B2k's truly awful Christmas album and it's probably the most half-assed song on it. I'm already regretting doing this exercise because now I feel compelled to listen to it all the way through again. Really awful. 2/10.

3. Eric Church - "The Hard Way": This is from the Eric Church album from 2006 that I downloaded, listened to once or twice, then forgot about. I did enjoy the album when I listened to it, but for whatever reason I've not felt compelled to revisit it. A shame, because this is a pretty great tune and good lyrics too, and as memory serves it's one of the highlights of the album. 8/10.

4. Martina McBride - "A Broken Wing": Martina McBride has a really great voice and she can let the ballads fly. This song isn't up there with her best ballads like "Independence Day" and "Love's the Only House" but it's a good enough jam for what it is. I can't say I'd ever intentionally listen to this, but it's probably about on par with "Half-Breed" so give it a 7/10. And, oh yeah, this too, which is now my immediate first thought upon hearing the song. Not too many people can go up against Martina on a big ballad and stay standing.

5. Amy Grant - "Shadows": I have posted before about how much I love Amy Grant's mid-late 80's Christian albums (see here) in a post that, incidentally, was much hated by all Amy Grant fans despite its positive comments towards the singer. I didn't specifically call out this song in the post, but it's as good as any other song on Lead Me On, which is seriously one of my favorite ever albums (OK, "Saved By Love" is better, but this is right up there with the rest). As a bonus, it has pretty good (and weird) lyrics about giving into temptations. 9/10.

6. Shapeshifters - "Lola's Theme": I know that at one point this song was very popular among the pop loving crowd, but it has never done anything for me. It's big and catchy enough I suppose, but there's so many other similar songs I'd rather listen to. It just kind of goes nowhere. It's not bad, really, just pointless. 5/10.

7. Weird Al - "Angry White Boy Polka": This one actually vaguely embarrasses me, but it's pretty funny. I mean the "Polka" shtick had gotten pretty stale by this point, and Weird Al apparently classifies the Strokes in as angry white boy music along with SOAD and Papa Roach for some reason. But, damn, it still makes me chuckle, which is good enough for a 6/10.

8. Jill Sobule - "I Kissed a Girl": This is all that most people know Jill Sobule for these days, but I still mostly associate her with her work on Unfabulous, including doing the amazing theme song. This song isn't as good as that but it's one of the sunniest and most pleasant songs of all time. That's got to count for something. And, sure, it's better than the Katy Perry song. So 8/10.

9. Chicago - "If You Leave Me Now": Among the soft rock bands of its era, Chicago is probably the best, as it's songs all hold up pretty well today. This is a reasonably typical example of their songs, not as good as like "Saturday In The Park", but still the kind of thing I'd be reasonably happy to see turn up on an oldies station. On the other hand, it has a killer hook, but attention does tend to drift during the rest of the song. 6/10 is a reasonable score I think.

10. Destroyer - "New Ways of Living": This Destroyer album was released right at the end of my college era fascination with indie rock. Like a lot of indie rock of its era (particularly Dan Bejar indie rock of its era), this is a killer shell of a song that is way too cute for its own good. However, Dan Bejar is the all-time master of great repetitive outros, and this is probably his best (maybe "Execution Day") PLUS I still love his vocals (I've long contended that Neko Case is only the 3rd best vocalist in New Pornographers). So how tough can I be. 8/10.

11. Joe Jackson - "Steppin' Out": Joe Jackson is well known as the poor man's Elvis Costello. He's got a few truly great songs though, and while this isn't nearly as good as "It's Different for Girls", it's got one of my favorite bass hooks of all time. The song itself I can take or leave, but man that bass hook. 7/10.

12. Mariah Carey - "Love Takes Time": Probably my least favorite of Mariah's early ballad hits, not nearly as tuneful as songs like "Can't Let Go" or "Vision of Love". It just kind of floats around and winds up being rather forgettable, as I think this is today probably her least well known #1 hit. Mariah had some all-time classic ballads in the early to mid 90's, but this is most definitely not one of them. Really boring. 4/10.

13. 1910 Fruitgum Company - "Simon Says": There was a brief and weird period a few years ago where I was listening to a lot of 60's bubblegum music. I now find this song extremely irritating. Badly beaten at it's own game by "Yummy Yummy Yummy". Oh my god the repetitive melody and the instrumentation and the voice. It's all way, way too much. 4/10.

14. Blake Shelton - "Nobody But Me": I really liked Blake Shelton's Pure B.S., naming it the #6 album of 2007. This song predates that album but pretty much sounds exactly the same, and nicely mixes his rock tendencies with his sensitive ballad tendencies. Blake's actual singles tend to be pretty underwhelming to me, but this is probably his best. 8/10.

15. U2 - "Discotheque": I have absolutely no idea why this song is on my iPod because I've always hated it. It's bad even compared to other U2 songs because it still has their annoying pretentious lyrics, and Bono's super annoying voice, and ON TOP OF THAT it's tuneless garbage. I dislike this song and have not the slightest idea how it became such a massive hit. 2/10.

16. Alcazar - "Start the Fire": A shamefully transparent attempt to recreate "This Is the World We Live In", but this one is a lot worse. The lesson I think is that "This Is The World We Live In" was a random, one time fluke. Because this song is really, really lazy and it doesn't even appropriate a good chorus! Ridiculous. 5/10.

17. Elvis Presley - "That's Alright Mama": Elvis' first song, I think, so that makes it a landmark. Elvis is a really good singer, but this is a really slight song. There's a reason this song never gets played on oldies stations, and that's because it's repetitive and lacks a real hook. Even giving it some bonus points for importance it can't get any higher than like a 6/10, and I feel like that's pretty generous.

18. Ashlee Simpson - "Never Dream Alone": The tender ballad off of Bittersweet World and for some reason I find this song very emotionally affecting. This song was a grower, it didn't really hit me until the 5th or 6th time I listened to it, and when it did I was so struck by how beautiful it was I almost had to pull my car over. The melody is just so beautiful and the lyrics are so evocative. Compare this to "Love Takes Time" and I think you may see why I think it's so great. It's simple, but like Anna Nalick's "Breathe (2AM)" I connect to it for reasons I cannot fully explain, and I guess that's the most important thing. 9/10.

19. Everly Brother's - "Cathy's Clown": A pretty mediocre oldies song, a lot worse than "All I Have to Do Is Dream". Maybe if I lived through this era I could appreciate a song like this but it does absolutely zero for me. I don't even really have anything to say about it. It's a little catchy I guess but it's not catchy enough to make up for how repetitive it is. It's not bad, it just strikes me as a nothing song. Therefore it deserves a totally middling rating: 5/10.

20. Jars of Clay - "Love Song for a Savior": I'm not even sure how to judge songs like this. I downloaded this during my kick of re-evaluating Christian rock songs that I used to listen to in high school. At a very specific time of my life, the lyrics of this song would really have spoken to me. As of right now, I think they're pretty silly, especially compared to the more mature Christian lyrics on display in Amy Grant's finest work. What can I say though, the song works, it made all of us high school Christians cry when we played it during emotional youth meetings. On top of that, the tune is good! It's a rather pleasant song, and I could easily envision it having been a hit if it didn't have God lyrics. And that wouldn't have been so bad. It's an unqualified success at what it's going for, and I'm gonna give it an 8/10, it's one of the best Christian rock songs of its era, if not the best.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Top 10 TV Shows of 2008

It is time for annual listing here at the TCR. As currently stands, I will do a top 10 TV shows and tracks list. The albums list and movies lists are not feasible because I have been so out of touch with those this year. My favorite album of the year is Bittersweet World and my favorite movie is American Teen, with Bigger, Faster, Stronger and Iron Man and Dark Knight close. Here's TV.

My annual caveat still applies. I do not watch any HBO or Showtime shows or most of the other critically acclaimed dramas. Would I like The Wire or Mad Men or Dexter or Damages if I gave them a chance? Probably. But I've never seen them and I probably never will and that's just not the kind of thing that keeps me up at night. Probably that invalidates my list, but I still do it anyways cause it's fun. Here's the list:

10. Wizards of Waverly Place - I like to leave one slot on my list for whatever is my favorite teen show du jour. In prior years this slot has been taken by Unfabulous and Phil of the Future. For now, this is the best show of its type, and while it isn't nearly up to the level of those shows it's still a very cute and entertaining show and some of its jokes do make you laugh. So the cuteness alone gets it this far.

9. Burn Notice - This is one of the most fun shows on TV, with its easy mix of action and drama and comedy. The plots are light and breezy but they are always paced well and they always set up good action. All in all it's a really fun entry to the landscape of TV.

8. American Idol - This show brought us Brooke White this season, definitely my favorite ever reality show contestant. It was a lackluster season otherwise, Chizekie's "She's a Woman" notwithstanding, but Brooke alone drives it this high.

7. House - I had a really hard time rating this show, just like last year, and for the exact same reason as last year. Season 4 was some kind of freaky creative renaissance for this show. The last half of season 4 was awesome, featuring great episodes like the one with Mira Sorvino, but the first half of season 5 has been extremely subpar. The process of getting the new team was a ton of fun, but the new team themselves is nothing too great, and it means less time for Dr. Cameron hotness. I've grown very bored of this show.

6. It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia - I think this show is still really funny. The last season was a little spotty, but there were definitely some classic episodes and moments. The episode where Mac and Charlie fake their deaths and the episode in the 18th century were particular highlights. The spark may be ever so slightly gone here compared to early seasons, but I still love the show.

5. Greek - In all honesty, probably the drama show of the year where I was most invested in the characters. All of the characters and storylines are a ton of fun. The show moves at a really brisk pace and it never gets bogged down in boring details but generally gives the storylines some space to breathe. I dunno, it could rank higher, but the show is so incredibly lightweight and I do love the 4 shows above it. I'm very eagerly awaiting the next season, regardless.

4. Eli Stone - Such an uplifting show! This is the heir apparent to Joan of Arcadia in my mind, and while it never reaches the heights of that show, the relentless enthusiasm and optimism makes this show really enjoyable. It just makes me really happy to watch the show, and the cancellation was really sad to me.

3. How I Met Your Mother - The basic feel and quality of this show has remained totally unchanged over the last few years. It's still consistently funny and it still nails the emotional character drama moments. The mixture of emotion and comedy make this a consistently interesting show, even during the poorer episodes.

2. True Life - I watched every new episode of this show in 2008, and pretty much all of the episodes were worth watching. The shows tend to range from really funny to genuinely interesting to really sad, and they always seem to hit the right tone for whatever topic they've picked. I think this show is by far the best reality show on TV, and the way it can consistently hit all the right notes is very impressive, landing it all the way this high.

1. Friday Night Lights - The third season on DirecTV was really good, and the second season improved towards the end. This is still the best show on TV, thanks to its realistic drama, great tension, and ability to hit emotional buttons.

New to the top 10: Wizards of Waverly Place, Burn Notice, American Idol, Eli Stone, True Life- Two brand new shows that didn't exist in 2007, one show that hit a new level in its second season, one show I had been unjustly ignoring over the last couple years (True Life), and Brooke White.

Falling Out: Pushing Daisies, The 4400, Unfabulous, 30 Rock, World Series of Pop Culture- 3 of these shows aired no episodes in 2008 due to cancellation. Of the other two, 30 Rock is a show that has never really grabbed me. I watched it enough in 2007 that it snuck its way to the bottom of my top 10, but I've never been too crazy about it. Pushing Daisies, I just lost interest in for no real reason. It was off the air for a long while due to the strike, and when it came back in I just realized I had no real desire to watch it any more. Sorry.

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