My Top 50 TV Shows of 2011

Monday, November 28, 2011
I've done these year-end TV lists for the last five years (plus the end of decade list), and have slowly expanded from a top 10 to 20 to 25 and now to 50, the same way my album lists gradually got longer and longer. And as usual, I acknowledge the insanity of documenting and ranking so much of anything, but there's something I really enjoy about doing something like this to such an absurd degree. Plus, my two years of being a stay-at-home dad ended recently, so this year kind of represented the apex of my period of just being home all the time and watching virtually any show I had the slightest interest in seeing, so this may be the only year I can muster a top 50 list like this and I wanted to take advantage of that.

As per my tradition here, I'll be posting each of the 50 entries in the list one at a time throughout this week, 10 a day, and you can follow me on Twitter as I unveil each choice:

50. "Death Valley" (MTV)
MTV is primarily known for its soul-killing reality shows these days, but its less infamous scripted programming is often even worse: "Awkward." is a horrifying show in which the hero is a 15-year-old girl desperately trying to get the guy she's regularly having sex with to officially date her, and the animated series "Good Vibes" gets my nod for the worst TV series of 2011. But amidst that wasteland is "Death Valley," a surprisingly funny and smartly executed show that sounds like it should be hokey and played out: a mockumentary about cops in a California overrun with vampires and zombies and werewolves. Even the special effects and makeup, while definitely not expensive, feel just original enough and strangely realistic that you can kind of get caught up in the whole idea, in ways that you can't with something as po-faced as "The Walking Dead."

49. "The Big Bang Theory" (CBS)
This year "The Big Bang Theory" finally overtook its troubled older sibling "Two And A Half Men" as the most watched sitcom on television, and went into syndication on seemingly half the channels on my cable package. As far as pop culture juggernauts go, though, it's still a surprisingly charming and resilient show that remains as worth tuning into as it's ever been, whether or not you ever thought it was to begin with. The writers have managed to avoid either diagnosing or painting Sheldon into a corner, and have finally found a funny female foil for him, while the ensemble cast continues to get bigger and goofier yet more relatable as stereotypical geeks rather than geek stereotypes.

48. "The Killing" (AMC)
One of the consequences of my following such an insane number of shows this year, and for much that time doing it as a stay-at-home dad, is that often I was just kind of keeping up with new episodes, and not paying very close attention. But in the era of a thousand TV recap sites, you can still be a very casual surface-level viewer of a show while someone else catches the little details and points them out to you online. So by the time "The Killing" got to its defiantly, hilariously resolution-free first season finale, I'd already had dozens of plot holes and logic lapses pointed out to me, all the while enjoying the show from week to week as just a nicely acted and directed murder mystery, with a great aesthetic and sense of atmosphere and foreboding dread. It wasn't as smart as it wanted to be, sure, but I kind of feel that way about every AMC show, and this one offered more satisfaction in the way of visceral mood-building and moment-to-moment drama for me than most of the others.

47. "Single Ladies" (VH1)
I don't watch a lot of things for camp value or defend them as a 'guilty pleasure,' but this hilariously braindead primetime soap, a brazenly transparent attempt at a black "Sex And The City," is just a lot of stupid, poorly acted fun. It helps that Stacey Dash and LisaRaye are the most smoking hot 40-plus eye candy on TV, but really the show itself raises incompetent writing and acting to an artform on its own. My personal highlight of the first season was Mac Miller showing up in a story arc that was almost a precise reenactment of Saigon's stint on "Entourage."

46. "Episodes" (Showtime)
I initially found this show more interesting to think about and write about on a conceptual level than to actually watch it, and was reserved about the idea of some of the creators and stars of "Friends" and "Mad About You" belatedly jumping on a bunch of different bandwagons (single camera sitcoms, show biz meta, stars playing broad caricatures of themselves, British comedies of embarrassment). But as the show unfolded and Matt LeBlanc got more ridiculous with each episode, it really came into its own.

45. "Suburgatory" (ABC)
This fall's slate of new sitcoms has been pretty dire overall (it says something that shows as mediocre as "2 Broke Girls" and "Man Up" could actually be considered bright spots compared to "Whitney" or "How To Be A Gentleman"). My pick for the best of the season so far might've been "Free Agents" if it had lasted more than four episodes, but at the moment I'm going with "Suburgatory," which has an adorable lead actress in Jane Levy and a supporting cast full of funny people like Alan Tudyk, Cheryl Hines and Rex Lee, and is a lot more charming and creative than a show based on nothing but a city girl griping about living in the suburbs should be. It's a little awkward, however, that there's only a 15-year age difference between Levy and Jeremy Sisto, who plays her father, and that she calls him "George" instead of "Dad" on the show -- several people I've talked to were confused about whether they were supposed to be a couple, as was David Letterman when he interviewed Levy.

44. "That Metal Show" (VH1 Classic)
The hosts are irredeemably dorky, and the music they cover is really a pretty wide net of hard rock rather than just metal, but both of those things that bothered me at first ultimately make it a more endearing and enjoyable show to watch. Where else on TV is anyone ever going to argue about whether Neil Peart or Bon Scott is a better lyricist, or fawn over the guy from King's X?

43. "Live! with Regis and Kelly" (syndicated)
I feel weirdly sentimental about the recent retirings (and in some cases deaths) of broadcasters that have been ubiquitous on TV for as long as I can remember like Larry King and Andy Rooney and, a little further back, Bob Barker. I always avoided Regis's show in the Kathie Lee years, and then only found it occasionally a pleasant morning distraction with Kelly Ripa, but really Regis is just such a strange and ingratiating presence that I really will miss just having the option of tuning into his show now and again when I'm home in the morning.

42. "State of Georgia" (ABC Family)
Nobody will ever ever believe me about this, but the show starring Raven-Symoné that ABC Family ran for 12 episodes over the summer was actually really surprisingly funny the few times I saw it, she had a real comedic chemistry with Majandra Delfino and the whole show had kind of a throwback "I Love Lucy" screwball sensibility to it.

41. "Rizzoli & Isles" (TNT)
Cable is beating the networks at hourlong dramas so soundly these days that even in the one format that the networks still do well at, law enforcement procedurals about implausibly attractive people, the best show in that category is on basic cable. Or at least the one with the prettiest people (see also: USA's "Fairly Legal").

40. "Breakout Kings" (A&E)
A prison break-themed show from the writers of "Prison Break" that FOX passed on and ended up on a channel that people don't even have any idea does original scripted series (it also has "The Glades," which is pretty decent). But a great ensemble including Jimmi Simpson and "The Wire"'s Domenick Lombardozzi rose the show above what anybody would've reasonably expected from it, especially over the course of the first season as the dynamics between the characters evolved and revealed themselves much more subtly and more interestingly than you usually see on a criminal-of-the-week kind of show.

39. "Ebert Presents At The Movies" (syndicated)
It probably makes sense that I grew up to be a critic since I'd been watching and enjoying Siskel and Ebert on TV since I was a kid (I even saw the episode where they tore apart North when it originally aired!). They were replaced by an increasingly depressing sequence of new critics in the years after Gene Siskel died and Roger Ebert lost the use of his voice, and the only reason I gave the latest reboot of the show a chance is that Ebert is behind it. Christy Lemire and Ignatiy Vishnevetsky might not be the greatest critics or the greatest TV hosts, but they're both credible enough with their opinions and are starting to have a nice onscreen dynamic, and Ebert still gets a word in here and there (usually with someone else reading his reviews or commentary as a voiceover).

38. "Game of Thrones" (HBO)
I have not and probably never will read any of the A Song of Ice and Fire novels, but my wife has, and so she's become an invaluable translation tool in me even beginning to understand and appreciate this show. It still goes over my head a little and isn't necessarily up my alley, but I am enjoying it. Really, it's worth watching just for Peter Dinklage, I was so happy when dude won the Emmy.

37. "The Whitest Kids U' Know" (IFC)
For five seasons "The Whitest Kids U' Know" was just yet another of the dozens of sketch troupes with some occasional funny moments, a whole lot of bad ideas, and comparisons to "Monty Python" or "The Kids In The Hall" that they couldn't possibly live up to. In its fifth and final season, though, I finally started to feel some real affection for the show and appreciate the inherent comedy in their over-the-top concepts and defiantly half-assed acting and staging. Each episode of the last season featured excerpts from a ridiculous longer work called "The Civil War On Drugs" that even showed something approaching ambition from these guys.

36. "Grimm" (NBC)
There's been a bit of snickering about the fact that the networks have invested in two different fairytale-themed new dramas this fall, but against all odds both are actually pretty entertaining and well-made, with this slightly edging out "Once Upon A Time" as my favorite at the moment, particularly for its really impressive, unique special effects aesthetic.

35. "Pop-Up Video" (VH1)
It's really a shame that this show ever went off the air, and I'm just glad it's back. Music videos as a viable programming option for even channels once created to show them have been dead for a while (real talk: MTV2 would actually rather play "Boy Meets World" reruns at this point than videos), so we might as well have ways to sneak them on the air with some added content.

34. "Beavis & Butt-Head" (MTV)
"Beavis & Butt-Head" was off the air for even longer than "Pop-Up Video" and once offered even more entertaining commentary on music videos, but I have to admit I'm surprised how fine I am with the return of the show tackling shows like "Jersey Shore" instead of just new videos. As much as I laughed at the show in its heyday, I was never really sure at the time whether Mike Judge wasn't a one-trick pony who might not be much smarter than his characters. After Office Space and "King Of The Hill," I don't have to wonder that anymore, and enjoy what brilliant comic creations Beavis and Butt-Head are even more.

33. "Mike & Molly" (CBS)
As Chuck Lorre shows go, this is less "Two And A Half Men" nastiness than "Dharma & Greg" cartoony sweetness, except not horribly annoying like the latter, and it's actually kind of nice to see a sitcom that's just about a couple and the blossoming of their relationship, no on-again-off-again. But mostly it's just a show full of funny women, not just the deservedly Emmy-winning Melissa McCarthy but also Katy Mixon and Swoosie motherfuckin' Kurtz.

32. "The Green Room With Paul Provenza" (Showtime)
With the explosion in podcasts and documentaries dedicated to interviewing standup comics or otherwise dissecting their profession, I like that The Aristocrats director Paul Provenza found a way to get four or five great comics in a room at once (usually more like two or three great ones and a couple of seat-fillers, but hey) for what usually amounts to a really vulgar, funny bull session, uncensored on late night premium cable. Insight into the art of comedy or one comic's creative process occasionally happens, but it's kind of a detour en route to something funnier and weirder.

31. "Bored To Death" (HBO)
The third season of "Bored To Death" has been a little off from the peak of sudden, unexpected hilarity this show broke into in its second season, mostly because Zach Galiafinakis's adventures in parenthood have been one hackneyed predictable scenario after another, but it's still pretty funny.

30. "Hung" (HBO)
Like "Bored To Death," this is the kind of underachieving, good but rarely great show that would probably never get a third season anywhere but HBO. That's a problem when it's something like "Treme" that just needs to be so much better to justify its existence, but in the case of "Hung" I'm just happy it's been around this long and is slowly finding new ways to have fun with its premise and its characters, which were pretty entertaining to start with.

29. "Breaking Bad" (AMC)
"Breaking Bad" is the kind of drama that a lot of people I know or talk to online really, really love and think is the best thing on TV, and I always feel like I kinda get it, but not really, I just don't feel that love. At times it can deliver some pretty amazing moments, but more and more I feel like the writers are just making shit up as they go along and throwing a lot of sketchy plot and character developments at the wall in hopes of just totally blowing the minds of whatever potheads are watching.

28. "Parks & Recreation" (NBC)
"Parks & Recreation" is the kind of sitcom that a lot of people I know or talk to online really, really love and think is the best thing on TV, and I always feel like I kinda get it, but not really, I just don't feel that love. In the last two episodes that aired in 2010, Rob Lowe and Adam Scott joined the cast and I instantly liked them more than pretty much everybody already in the cast and was prepared to finally start really enjoying the show. Lowe has been great, although Scott has alternately been a wet blanket and a boring love interest, so that addition didn't totally pan out like I'd hoped for, but a bigger ensemble still means less Aziz Ansari overall.

27. "Sports Show With Norm Macdonald" (Comedy Central)
The worst part about Norm MacDonald's "Saturday Night Live" firing was not just the ridiculous injustice of it but that that was the best possible format for Norm's style of humor, taking the unique sensibility of his standup and putting him behind a news anchor desk to add just the right dash of stilted absurdity to the whole thing. And it took him 13 years to finally get back on TV in a project that just let him do that again. And then Comedy Central fucking canceled it.

26. "Cougar Town" (ABC)
A friend of mine made a weird running joke out of being really into "Cougar Town," and excitedly tweeting about the show when it came on every week, months before the whole thing with Abed on "Community." I played along with it, while at the time was really coming around to genuinely and unironically enjoying the show, which dials down the broad silliness of its predecessor "Scrubs" while retaining its punchy, oddball rhythms and tight chemistry between cast members.

25. "True Blood" (HBO)
After three seasons of putting all of its characters through a constant, unrelenting sequence of crises, it felt like a really great, refreshing idea for the fourth season of "True Blood" to start with jumping forward a year. Even if it made no real difference in the viewer's experience, just knowing that the characters got a breather and that you got to leap forward a little in their lives, and that they had a relatively catastrophe-free year offscreen, helped kind of put the whole thing back on track to near its season 2 peak.

24. "Being Human" (Syfy)
After "Death Valley" and "True Blood," I feel a bit ridiculous putting a total of three shows about vampires and werewolves on this damn list. But whatever, the BBC show is really good and entertaining and the first sesason of the American adaptation is almost as enjoyable.

23. "Men Of A Certain Age" (TNT)
The first season of "Men Of A Certain Age" that aired in 2009 and 2010 won a Peabody and got Emmy nominations, and was shaping up to be a long-running, prestigious cable hit. Then, the second season debuted in January, got terrible ratings, and was pulled from TNT's schedule after a few episodes, with the second half of the season relaunching in the summer and not faring any better, resulting in the show's cancellation soon after. I'm not sure exactly what happened, but the show's swift and sudden downfall had nothing to do with the quality of the show, which never faltered.

22. "Wilfred" (FX)
The first lengthy trailer I saw for "Wilfred" on FX was just a great WTF moment of having no idea whether it was a series or a movie or why the hell anyone would think either would be a good idea, and yet still being strangely amped about the whole thing. The show frequently didn't quite live up to that moment, but it was also in some strange ways richer and more unpredictable than the silly guy-in-a-dog-suit premise. And from what I watched of the original Australian series, I have to say they improved upon it here.

21. "The Colbert Report" (Comedy Central)
When "The Colbert Report" debuted, I was a little worried that its heroic commitment to the host's hilarious self-caricature would quickly turn Colbert into a one-trick pony without the long term shelf life of "The Daily Show." But six years later, I still laugh at that ridiculous intro sequence, and every interview entrance, while each night's twist on the headlines gets more perversely creative.

20. "The Onion News Network" (IFC)
As great as Stephen Colbert is at creating a satirical newscaster persona that bears his own name, there's a whole other layer going on with "Onion News Network" anchor Brooke Alvarez, played by actual longtime TV reporter and occasional FOX News personality Suzanne Sena. She plays the whole thing so straight, in just the perfect newscaster tones with a tiny little knowing glint in her eye, that you can almost forgot how hilariously evil everything she's saying is.

19. "Raising Hope" (FOX)
"Up All Night" coming off to me almost as bland as that cartoon version of "Baby Blues" was kind of the reassurance I needed that my love for "Raising Hope" wasn't just a reflexive embrace of any show that can make comedy about life with a newborn that I can identify with since I've spent the last two years as a father. Parenthood raises the stakes on everything,

18. "Louie" (FX)
The first season of "Louie" was frustrating to me in the same way as when a band makes a record like, I dunno, Kid A, abandoning certain facets of the artist's intrinsic appeal and genre tropes without necessarily putting a lot of ideas in to fill that void. It kind of felt like an artsy "Seinfeld Chronicles," with the awkward marriage of a pro standup doing what he does best mashed into some seriously half-assed acting and storytelling. The second season didn't change all that much, and is still clearly all about Louis C.K. doing whatever the fuck he wants, but what he wanted to do made me laugh or drew me in a lot more often this time around, especially in episodes like "Subway/Pamela" and "Eddie" and "Oh Louie/Tickets" where he was really genuinely getting away with great, great stuff that no other show on TV would even think of trying.

17. "Childrens Hospital" (Cartoon Network)
The whole idea of 5 or 10-minute 'webisodes' being produced as any kind of supplement or alternative to actual half-hour and hourlong television episodes has always been kind of inherently hard for me to take seriously. But when Rob Corddry decided to turn this little web series into an actual TV show, he actually chose Cartoon Network over Comedy Central because they could give him one of those 15-minute timeslots that work so well for its cartoons. And I have to say, it was the right choice -- there's so much satirical absurdity packed into every minute of this show that a half hour would either be overkill or would feel slack by comparison.

16. "Conan" (TBS)
I hate to say it, but I can't stay up past 12:35 all the time to watch my favorite late night shows like I could back in Conan's NBC heyday, not with a son that wakes up at dawn every morning. So my favorite thing about his move to TBS might be that he's on even earlier than during that brief "Tonight Show" tenure, so I've actually been watching his show more consistently than the '90s, if ever, and he and Andy definitely seem to be enjoying their new home, however they got there.

15. "Workaholics" (Comedy Central)
Comedy Central has canceled so many shows after one season, especially virtually any attempt at a live action sitcom, that Daniel Tosh will never run out of former CC shows to reference every week. So "Workaholics" coming back for a second season just a few months after the first, and already having been renewed for a third, is a testament to the fact that this crude, seemingly unpromising little series is onto something. Adam DeVine is just about the oddest motherfucker on television these days, but the whole trio at the center of the show has really strange, hilarious chemistry.

14. "The Voice" (NBC)
As a lapsed "American Idol" fan I was kind of happy to watch any kind of singing competition show that didn't involve Randy Jackson or a month of cringe-inducing amateur auditions. But "The Voice" went the extra mile of actually having a refreshing format, some judges and coaches I actually respect as singers, and a brisk pace that made it more engaging than "Idol" had been in ages.

13. "How I Met Your Mother" (CBS)
As "How I Met Your Mother" stretches into its seventh season, and is committed to go at least eight, the call gets louder and louder that it's past its peak and/or that they need to get on with it and reveal the mother (as if it's "Lost" or some shit and resolving the 'mystery' is really key on this show). And while there are some definite bumps in the road -- season 7 opened with two back-to-back episodes featuring stale plots about YouTube infamy -- I really think the show is about as funny as it ever was, give or take, and that the characters are still enjoyable to watch and kinda grow older with.

12. "Happy Endings" (ABC)
In the 17 years since "Friends" became a rating phenomenon, the networks have lobbed a thousand sitcoms on the air featuring amorphous groups of attractive urbanite twentysomethings, and other than "How I Met Your Mother" virtually all of them have been short-lived and worthless. When "Happy Endings" aired its first episode in the midseason no man's land of April, there was no reason to believe it wouldn't quickly suffer the same fate (it even echoed the "Friends" pilot with the runaway bride premise!). But somehow it got a second season, and so far has just gotten tighter and funnier and more its own show than a collection of 'hangout comedy' cliches with each episode. Gotta give Damon Wayans, Jr. some respect for getting his career going with something like this instead of a Scary Movie sequel or that upcoming "In Living Color" reboot, too.

11. "The Soup" (E!)
I want "Community" to stay on the air as long as possible, but I have to admit, I'd be a little bummed if it'd become successful enough that Joel McHale would consider leaving "The Soup." The move to Wednesdays is kind of weirding me out because it's been such a part of my weekend ritual for the past 7 years, but I'm not complaining.

10. "Eagleheart" (Cartoon Network)
Chris Elliott was my first comedy hero who felt like a true cult figure, from the Letterman sketches to "Get A Life" to Cabin Boy, he was the guy I thought was hilarious that none of my friends at school seemed to know about. But for a long, long time, it felt like he'd lost his niche and was just bumbling along, in that one abortive year at "Saturday Night Live" and undistinguished sitcom guest spots and Scary Movie sequels. Then, Conan O'Brien produced an Adult Swim series satirizing "Walker, Texas Ranger," and it finally felt like Chris Elliott was back in a role he was born to play.

9. "Saturday Night Live" (NBC)
A funny thing happened over the summer as "SNL" was gearing up to begin its 37th season: nobody got fired or hired. Usually over every hiatus between seasons, the show loses some valued cast member, and often replaces them with one or two new featured players that may (but probably won't), but this year the cast actually stayed the same. And I have to say, I'm really happy about that, I like pretty much everyone on the show right now, even people like I used to be kind of skeptical of like Bobby Moynihan, and even if Kristen Wiig has kind of run through her whole bag of tricks a few times over now, she's still a welcome presence (although I'm looking forward to Nasim Pedrad taking over as alpha female the moment she leaves).

8. "Shameless" (Showtime)
"Shameless" is that special kind of show where a really hot actress you'd never expect to get naked onscreen like Emmy Rossum is just doing constant sex scenes. Also it's pretty well written and has a great ensemble cast and a fun freewheeling atmosphere, for what it's worth.

7. "The Daily Show" (Comedy Central)
It seemed like this year there was a higher incidence than usual of nitpicky wet blanket articles about why "The Daily Show" is taking itself too seriously or is sexist or whatever, but fuck that noise, still worth watching every damn night. I never much cared for Kristen Schaal on "Flight of the Conchords" or in her standup, but "The Daily Show" has really figured out how to use her well, especially in that amazing 'money rape' segment that's possibly one of my top 10 favorite "Daily Show" bits of all time.

6. "Bob's Burgers" (FOX)
AKA the other reason I am now a fan of Kristen Schaal, along with all the people involved in this that I love dearly from "Home Movies" (including H. Jon Benjamin, who's still a TV MVP even as "Archer" and "Jon Benjamin Has A Van" pulled down his batting average this year). FOX has tried so many times to fill out their Sunday night animation lineup with a non-Groening/McFarlane production, especially since "King Of The Hill" finally went off the air, and this is the first one I can remember really rooting for and hoping it sticks around.

5. "Suits" (USA)
I remember in the '90s, when I used to joke about how the USA network was giving the country a bad name with all those "Wings" reruns. Now, like them or not, they're the #1 rated cable network. The original programming that got them there is pretty fluffy across the board -- even the justifiably award-winning "Monk" was a very goofy show, and their big action series, "Burn Notice," is so lightweight that I just couldn't watch it for more than a couple episodes. This year, they threw out a lot of new shows that I found myself enjoying and even respected more than I expected to, including the unapologetically fluffy "Fairly Legal" and "Necessary Roughness." But "Suits" was the first show that made me feel like USA could put something on the air that can compete with more 'serious' networks for my attention. It's not exactly dark, and it's very snappy and has lots of really good-looking people, but it's one of the smarter and better written legal shows on the air in recent memory. I think NBC should pick it up and put "Harry's Law" on USA where it rightfully belongs.

4. "30 Rock" (NBC)
I have never placed "30 Rock" outside the top 5 of my year-end lists for as long as it's been on the air. I thought about it this year, but only because it was off the air for the fall so there were a lot fewer new episodes in 2011.

3. "Justified" (FX)

I thought the praise for "Justified" in its first season was a bit overbaked, I mean people compared it to "The Wire" fer chrissakes. But in its second season it almost immediately grabbed my attention in ways it never had in the first year, especially with the whole plot involving the Bennett clan and its matriarch, played by the very deserving Emmy winner Margo Martindale.

2. "Sons of Anarchy" (FX)
As good as "Justified" was this year, "Sons Of Anarchy" remained my favorite show on what's become my favorite network for cable drama. In the last few years as cable shows have gotten away with more and more sex and gore and violence, I've developed what I like to call 'shock value fatigue' where the more crazy transgressive stuff happens on "Breaking Bad" or "Boardwalk Empire" or especially "American Horror Story," the less I give a shit about the characters or what's happening to them. But almost every episode of "Sons" this year has left me genuinely exhausted from kind of gasping in disbelief and being kind of amazed at how it feels like a climactic culmination of everything the show has been building to and yet this isn't the last season. The show's placing on this list has definitely been inflated by the fact that I'm still devouring the last few episodes and waiting for the finale.

1. "Community" (NBC)
My inner 'give someone else a turn' instinct kept telling me I can't put this show at #1 two years in a row. But I finally decided to give in and do it anyway last month, just before NBC announced it was gonna take it off the schedule for a while and everybody freaked out, so I'm glad I made that call before that factored into it. Really this gets the spot for the My Dinner With Andre homage in "Critical Film Studies" alone, but "Early 21st Century Romanticism" and "Paradigms of Human Memory" and "Advanced Gay" were also amazing episodes up there with the best of the show's incredible 2010 run. Even the episode that just aired last night was great. Shame this show spawned Childish Gambino, though.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A couple Fridays ago, I went out with my brother and some of his friends to celebrate his birthday with the Foo Fighters show at the Verizon Center. As it happens, it was also the day VH1 Classic and "That Metal Show" had dubbed National Metal Day, choosing 11-11-11 in tribute to Spinal Tap despite the fact that that's already, y'know, the day that we honor our nation's military veteran's and all that. The Foo Fighters aren't really metal by any definition, but being as they're probably the hardest rock band currently playing arenas besides I guess Metallica, it seemed like an appropriate day to see them. And with opening acts The Joy Formidable and Social Distortion, the bill represented the bands who have made some of my favorite rock albums of 2011, certainly the three best major label ones.

Unfortunately, I had a whole ridiculous family ordeal involving my wife and son being locked out of the apartment and their key being out of the state, so I had to make an unplanned stop on the way to the show, and missed The Joy Formidable's set that I'd been really looking forward to. But I did get to see Social Distortion, which was pretty fun. The last time I saw a concert at the Verizon Center, Ted Leo opening for Pearl Jam kind of underlined the crucial difference between seasoned arena rockers and bands with a long history of playing clubs, so I was a little concerned that Social D would kind of get swallowed up by the size of the venue like Ted Leo did. They carried it pretty well, though, they do have a pretty big sound and don't play especially fast despite their punk roots. They didn't play a lot of familiar singles aside from "Story of My Life" and "Ring of Fire," but I appreciated that they did my favorite song off the new album, "Gimme The Sweet and Lowdown."

Still, the Foo Fighters are very much pros at this kind of large scale rock show, in a way that even seasoned vets like Social D will never be. It wasn't the biggest rock concert I'd seen this year; over the summer I'd caught one of the final dates of the U2 360° Tour, which is now in the history books as the largest grossing tour of all time. But the Foo Fighters put on a more archetypical arena rock show than U2, with an emphasis on huge riffs, shredding solos, blitzkrieg drum fills, and hoarse screaming. Outside of Metallica, nobody plays as heavy and as loud on as large a scale as the Foo Fighters anymore, and that in and of itself makes them a worthwhile show. But it helps that they've got enough radio hits to fill two and a half hours with nearly wall-to-wall fist pumping singalong anthems, and a balance of goofy showmanship and serious musicianship that few bands can match.

It was really fun to see Dave Grohl play so close to where he grew up in Virginia, especially that particular night because, as he noted, it was the first time he'd "sold out the big fuckin' arena in my hometown." Throughout the night, he ranted about visiting the Springfield Mall, fondly recalled winning a Grammy for an album he recorded in his basement in Alexandria, promised an intimate show at the 9:30 Club next time the band are in town, and passionately sang the bittersweet new ode to his old stomping grounds, "Arlandria."

The first time I saw the Foo Fighters live, at the 2008 Virgin Mobile Festival, I enjoyed the wall-to-wall hits festival set, while telling myself that if I'd prefer to someday see the band headline their own gig and hopefully dig a little deeper into their catalog -- they're a consummate singles band, but I could pretty easily fill a mix CD with great album tracks. But for better or worse, they're know at the stage of their career, in terms of both success and longevity, that every show is pretty much the hits plus the new album. And I mean that literally: early every Foo Fighters song played at the Verizon Center show can be found on either this year's Wasting Light or the Greatest Hits collection the band released in 2009. The only two exceptions were "Stacked Actors," an awesomely heavy minor hit from 1999's There Is Nothing Left To Lose, and "Cold Day In The Sun," a vocal showcase for drummer Taylor Hawkins from 2005's In Your Honor (maybe that promised 9:30 Club show will pack in some deep cuts).

On record, the Foo Fighters are masters of the concise four-minute rock song; there are occasional solos, but the focus is on riffs and vocal hooks. At one point, Grohl jokingly introduced his bandmate Chris Shiflett as "the lead guitarist...that only plays lead guitar on three songs." But at a Foo Fighters concert, there is quite a bit more jamming and showboating, with the overwhelming majority of songs either featuring an extended outro, or a lengthy mid-song breakdown. Occasionally it paid off, but after a while it started to feel like every song was being unnecessarily padded -- if any song does not need a slow-burning instrumental bridge, it's "Monkey Wrench." When the band played "Let It Die" simply and straightforwardly, with no digressions or interpolations, it was kind of a relief.

Despite the tendency toward overkill, the show was ultimately a satisfying spectacle, from the first roaring opening riffs of "Bridge Burning" to the final chorus of the band's one consensus classic, "Everlong." In between, highlights included an acoustic mini-set with a great rendition of "Best of You," and a cameo from Washington, D.C. resident Bob Mould, who guested on Wasting Light's "Dear Rosemary" as well as a cover of Tom Petty's "Breakdown." The band has swelled to three guitarists and a keyboard player, but Hawkins is still the band's secret weapon and Grohl's perfect foil, the only man that the drummer from Nirvana seems happy to have sitting behind the kit (although Hawkins seems to completely misunderstand how the chorus of "My Hero" should sound).

Late in the night, Grohl went on a rant about how no matter how great a night he was having, people who write about the show will open by talking about what he did 20 years ago, before concluding "fuck 20 years ago." And while the recent anniversary of Nirvana's Nevermind has brought about a new wave of nostalgia for the record that will always cast a tall shadow over Grohl's career, I honestly would never have even thought of it during the show if he hadn't brought it up. Aside from the visibility it gave Grohl, Nirvana's success is the reason a band that sounds like the Foo Fighters can sell out arenas today, but by the same token, the cult of personality around a tortured, tragic figure like Kurt Cobain is the same reason people will never look at a happy-go-lucky riff writer like Dave Grohl as a great rock star. But a great rock star he is, just one cut from a different cloth than his old bandmate.

Reading Diary

Saturday, November 19, 2011
a) Out of the Vinyl Deeps: Ellen Willis On Rock Music by Ellen Willis
I've never done a lot of homework on early rock criticism of the '60s and '70s, aside from a good amount of Christgau, who I tend to find off-putting more often than not. But Willis's New Yorker columns that make up the bulk of this collection are just incredibly clear-eyed, incisive perspectives on rock fandom that really helped me realize what kind of music writer I aspire to be. Willis pores over rockcrit staples like Bob Dylan and Lou Reed and actually makes me want to think about them and approach them from different angles, while also writing incredibly insightful stuff about CCR that I never realized anyone was doing back then and making me curious about some groups from the period I've never heard.

b) Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain, Revised and Expanded Edition by Oliver Sacks
I remember watching a TV segment about this a few years ago when it first came out and thinking it sounded really fascinating. This later pressing I borrowed from a friend actually supplements the original book with things people wrote or showed to the author after the initial publication to kind of help enrich the whole thing. Sometimes it gets bogged down a little too much in showing every anecdote and historical example in a given subject, but mostly Sacks does a great job of getting into what a unique role music plays in the human mind, really has been good food for thought.

c) Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon
I'm only maybe halfway through this, I feel like there are definitely passages of this that have stuck with me as visceral, evocative reading experiences, but for the most part it's just kind of watching over me and not gelling into anything that feels like a narrative I have any kind of investment in. I'm wondering if I should've tried some other Pynchon first but mainly I don't think I'm really cut out for this stuff.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

My latest Radio Hits One column for the Village Voice's Sound of the City blog is about Cee Lo Green's great sleeper hit "Fool For You" becoming the biggest song he's ever had on the R&B chart.

Monthly Report: November Singles

Sunday, November 13, 2011

1. Meek Mill f/ Young Chris - "House Party"
I raved about "I'm A Boss" in this space a few months ago, but I think I like this even more. I love how the beat has some of the most sinister, foreboding synths on the radio but the hook gives the track a party vibe and makes it feel like a hit. I've never been a big Young Chris fan but it's kinda cool to hear him on this, brings home that I think Meek Mill is in what I've always felt is a tradition of Philly having rappers like State Prop or Cassidy or Eve who come across really grimy while having pretty good commercial instincts and managing to not feel like that's as much of a compromise or contradiction as it tends to be with NYC that seem so weighted down by their city's history.

2. Roscoe Dash - "Good Fucking Night"
Throughout Roscoe Dash's whole precipitous rise, I never really got the sense he was capable of anything I'd much like. I didn't like "All The Way Turnt Up," and I fucking hated "No Hands" and "Marvin & Chardonnay," but at this moment when he's on the verge of total ubiquity, he went and made something I really dig. This feels kind of instantly huge in the same way that "Black & Yellow" did when it first dropped, but I never actually liked that song like I like this. I even like how Roscoe raps the first verse, but he switches up for the second verse to the flow he usually does that I hate.

3. Ne-Yo f/ Trey Songz and T-Pain - "The Way You Move"
The first time I heard this song introduced on the radio, the lineup sounded kind of random and perhaps a little desperate on Ne-Yo's part. But I quickly came to realize that the song's strength is that it takes these 3 R&B stars with very distinct and seemingly incompatible approaches and finds this perfect middle ground they can all meet on while still being themselves. Shame Ne-Yo's album is apparently called The Cracks In Mr. Perfect.

4. Cobra Starship f/ Sabi - "You Make Me Feel..."
As a huge stan for the Patrick Stump album, I've been really bitter about the fact that it's been a total commercial failure while two of the douchiest groups he used to be Decaydance labelmates with in the Fall Out Boy days, Cobra Starship and Gym Class Heroes, currently have top 10 hits. But I have grudgingly begun to enjoy this one, which started innocently enough with me watching the video over and over because Sabi is one of the most insanely gorgeous women I've ever seen. The song itself, though, does has its charms -- at first I thought the drums were a bit weak and that that was a symptom of it being half-assed hipster dance pop, but now I've come to realize that the lack of pummeling beats makes it feel a bit lighter and more charming than the more aggressive Eurodance productions. it's sharing pop airwaves with.

5. Flo Rida - "Good Feeling"
I've already made peace with my embarrassment over enjoying "Club Can't Handle Me," so I guess I can deal with liking Flo Rida's latest shameless ploy to stay on the pop charts longer than any reasonable person could've expected, this time assisted by Dr. Luke. Mainly I just like the Etta James hook.

TV Diary

Thursday, November 10, 2011
a) "Hell On Wheels"
Given that I've never really fully loved or fully hated any of AMC's previous shows, I'm approaching this one with a lot of caution bordering on disinterest. First episode seems pretty good but almost determined not to surprise me or give me anything beyond what I'd assume from the advance promotion. Also, fucking Common.

b) "Rock Center with Brian Williams"
Brian Williams always comes off like such a bro but I never actually watch him on TV because I don't watch network newscasts, so I checked out his new primetime newsmagazines. I like this format, I used to watch "Dateline" all the time in the '90s, and there were some interesting stories in the episode I watched, but I dunno, just not something I make a point to watch much anymore.

c) "Allen Gregory"
I'm not sure how or why Jonah Hill became so overexposed, but I've kinda had my fill of dude. This show isn't necessarily bad, though, it's funny enough and has some potential, even if the whole premise and setup is a little odd and I'm not sure what groove this thing would settle into in a best case scenario.

d) "Good Vibes"
Another animated show about a kid voiced by a chubby funnyman, but in this case it's "Daily Show" weak link Josh Gad on a horrible flash animation MTV show full of cartoon T&A that is basically a Big Johnson t-shirt come to life (and this is actually the second recent MTV series I have compared to Big Johnson shirts, after "R.J. Berger"). Quite possibly the single worst television show of 2011.

e) "Man Up"
Between that new Tim Allen show and the already canceled "How To Be A Gentleman" and this, there's a lot of stupid new sitcoms on this air this fall that are overtly about men being manly men and even have 'man' in the title. And of those, this is easily the best, but that's not saying much. Just a mildly ingratiating single camera sitcom with a decent cast that doesn't feel like it's built to last.

f) "Once Upon A Time"
This has a good cast and is doing fairly interesting things with the potentially awful premise, but I haven't really paid it enough attention to totally grasp what's going on, and my wife definitely likes it more than me.

g) "Grimm"
This other fairy tale-themed new show is much more my speed, though, mostly because it's basically a police procedural with some funky supernatural stuff and really cool painted-looking CGI effects, and just the right amount of levity.

h) "Dave's Old Porn"
I never thought Dave Attell would ever find a TV vehicle as uniquely suited to his dark debauched sense of humor than "Insomniac," but this show where he watches '70s and '80s porn with other comedians and occasionally porn stars might be it. The best part of this, besides the ridiculous concept and the remarkably relaxed and often surreal conversations, is that they basically talk on a couch in front of a green screen, and then show the porn they're watching in the background, with the people and the couch constantly moving around to, um, strategically block the more explicit shows.

i) "Boss"
I've only gotten into one episode of this so far and it hasn't really hooked me but I like the whole look and style of it, feels like it could get interesting.

j) "Terra Nova"
It felt very liberating to give up on this show, what a boring piece of crap it was.

k) "Beavis & Butt-Head"
It's hard to expect much from any show coming back after a decade or more away, but I have to say it's good to have these guys back. I was skeptical about them moving away from just watching videos but watching stuff like "Jersey Shore" really is inspired, and Mike Judge hasn't missed a beat.

The 2011 Remix Report Card, Vol. 6

Tuesday, November 08, 2011
"Dance (A$$) (Remix)" by featuring Nicki Minaj
I hate to admit how much I love the beat on this song, and that while I begrudge it being given to Big Sean, it almost makes for the closest thing to a Big Sean song I can actually dig and kind of works his annoying flow and obnoxious sense of humor to its advantage. But obviously Nicki murders him on this song anyway.
Best Verse: n/a
Overall Grade: B

"Just In Love (Remix)" by Joe Jonas featuring Lil Wayne
As much as I wanted to hate this song when it came out it is kinda catchy. Putting a generic Weezy verse on it is weirdly a good look, it's just two different kinds of pleasantly mediocre finding a good common ground.
Best Verse: n/a
Overall Grade: C

"Moves Like Jagger (Remix)" by featuring Mac Miller
"Moves Like Jagger" actually has quietly turned into one of my favorite pop radio jams of the year, so I'm kind of disappointed that they turned remix duties over to this fucking cornball who makes me almost miss Asher Roth. This trend of clubby pop songs having rap remixes with halftime drums like "Till The World Ends" and "T.G.I.F." is starting to feel a bit predictable and stale too, and the breakdown here isn't nearly as good as it is on those remixes.
Best Verse: n/a
Overall Grade:

"Niggas In Paris (Remix)" by featuring T.I.
I really can't stand this ugly fucking beat but T.I. at his best has a way of sounding natural and effortless on any track, the uglier the better.
Best Verse: n/a
Overall Grade: B+

"Party (Remix)" by Beyonce featuring J. Cole
Maybe Andre 3K realized how garbage the last couple singles he's been on are, since he didn't show up to the video shoots for either. In the Lloyd video, a CGI cat lip syncs his verse, while in the Beyonce video her
Best Verse: n/a
Overall Grade: F

"Quickie (Remix)" by featuring Big Sean
I hate Big Sean so much that I was prepared to just give this an F but he actually kinda calmed down and worked to fit the vibe and tempo of the song (even if he still speeds up ahead of the beat a little here and there like he always does), so grudging respect I guess, that he can do something that isn't completely annoying.
Best Verse: n/a
Overall Grade: C

"She Will (Remix)" by Lil Wayne featuring Rick Ross and Drake
This version leaked right before or at the same time as the album version, so not really a remix so much as just an alternate version that for some reason wasn't used as the proper single. Anyway Ross is Ross, no surprises here.
Best Verse: n/a
Overall Grade: C+

"Spend It (Remix)" by 2 Chainz featuring T.I.
Another remix from the newly freed Tip's recent run from cameos, anointing ATL's next big buzz. I like 2 Chainz in general but "Spend It" always felt kind of generic and perfunctory, like a placeholder single until he scores a serious solo hit. Not as much fun as the "Niggas In Paris" verse but still pretty dope, this is the kind of beat T.I. needs to be getting on his next solo record.
Best Verse: n/a
Overall Grade: B

1998, Reconsidered

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Top 50 Albums of 1998:

1. The Boredoms - Super Ae
2. Big Punisher - Capital Punishment
3. Firewater - The Ponzi Scheme
4. Amon Tobin - Permutation
5. Rufus Wainwright - Rufus Wainwright
6. Sixteen Horsepower - Low Estate
7. Mos Def And Talib Kweli - Mos Def And Talib Kweli Are Black Star
8. DJ Quik - Rhythm-al-ism
9. Pulp - This Is Hardcore
10. Neutral Milk Hotel - In The Aeroplane Over The Sea
11. Busta Rhymes - E.L.E. (Extinction Level Event): The Final World Front
12. Juvenile - 400 Degreez
13. Eels - Electro-Shock Blues
14. Goodie Mob - Still Standing
15. System Of A Down - System Of A Down
16. Elvis Costello with Burt Bacharach - Painted From Memory
17. DMX - It’s Dark And Hell Is Hot
18. Outkast - Aquemeni
19. La Lengua Asesina - Hotel Opera
20. E-40 - The Element Of Surprise
21. Soul Coughing - El Oso
22. 8Ball - Lost
23. 4Hero - Two Pages
24. R. Kelly - R.
25. Pearl Jam - Yield
26. Jay-Z - Vol. 2: Hard Knock Life
27. Sonic Youth - A Thousand Leaves
28. Buffalo Daughter - New Rock
29. Los Amigos Invisibles - The New Sound Of The Venezuelan Gozadera
30. Cat Power - Moon Pix
31. The Posies - Success
32. Luaryn Hill - The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill
33. Marc Ribot y Los Cubanos Postizos - The Prosthetic Cubans
34. Elliott Smith - XO
35. The LOX - Money, Power, Respect
36. R.E.M - Up
37. Sonic Youth - Silver Session (For Jason Knuth)
38. A Tribe Called Quest - The Love Movement
39. Fugazi - End Hits
40. Lee Ranaldo - Amarillo Ramp (for Robert Smithson)
41. Rocket From The Crypt - RFTC
42. Money Mark - Push The Button
43. Loren Mazzacane Connors - Evangeline
44. Two Dollar Guitar - Train Songs
45. Jeff Buckley - Sketches For My Sweetheart The Drunk
46. Scarnella - Scarnella
47. Ozomatli - Ozomatli
48. The Rock*A*Teens - Baby, A Little Rain Must Fall
49. UNKLE - Psyence Fiction
50. Sonic Youth/Jim O'Rourke - SYR3

While I was kind of conflicted about 1999 when I started this series a couple months ago, I feel much more viscerally enthusiastic and perhaps even nostalgic about 1998. I was 16 that year, and I started my first job and didn't have any real life expenses yet, so my CD buying habit probably hit its all-time high, which is why it was really easy to hit 50 albums for this year (and there are still albums I really like by Sloan, Tricky, the Nels Cline Trio, Squarepusher, Timbaland, Garbage, Grand Lee Buffalo and others that didn't quite make the cut).

Late 1998 was the first time I made a year-end list of my favorite albums (although for at least a couple years before that I'd made up my mind about what my album of the year was). I posted my top 10 on some of the newsgroups and AOL message boards that were my main outlet for talking about music at the time, when that hobby was in its infancy, and I wish I'd kept a copy, but of course it's long gone now.

That said, 1998 was a good year but not a great year for albums. A lot of stuff hasn't aged especially well, or even if it remains great feels somehow dated or of its time. A lot of great bands that defined the '90s were winding down around then and releasing their last or one of their last really good albums, but few of them really released their best album that year. It was also the height of my Sonic Youth obsession, and one of their most productive years, in terms of an album, some EPs and several side projects.

One thing memorable about 1998 is that September 29th was one of the biggest release date Tuesdays ever, especially for hip hop. The albums 7, 16, 18, 21, 26, 38 and 49 on this list were all released then, and my brother and I went to the store and bought several of them that day. I was reading Decoded recently and Jay-Z had this to say about September 29th and the year in general:

1998 was an important year for hip-hop. It was two years after Pac had been gunned down, and just a year after Biggie was killed. DMX dropped two number one albums that year. Outkast released Aquemini, a game-changing album lyrically and sonically, but also for what it meant to Southern rap. (Juvenile's 400 Degreez, also released in '98, was a major shot in the growing New Orleans movement. I jumped on a remix of his single "Ha," which was a great mix of regional styles.) Mos Def and Talib Kweli had their Black Star album, one of the definitive indie rap records of all time. The prototypical "backpack rappers," A Tribe Called Quest, released their last album, The Love Movement. And the biggest album of the year in any genre was The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.

It was a beautiful time all the way around in hip-hop. The album I released that year, Vol. 2... Hard Knock Life, was the biggest record of my life. The opening week was unreal for me--we did more than three hundred thousand units, by far the biggest opening number of my career at that point. The album moved Lauryn Hill down to number four, but Outkast's Aquemini was right behind me, and The Love Movement was number three. Those four albums together told the story of young black America from four dramatically different perspectives--we were bohemians and hustlers and revolutionaries and space-age Southern boys. We were funny and serious, spiritual and ambitious, lovers and gangsters, mothers and brothers. This was the full picture of our generation. Each of these albums was an innovative and honest work of art and wildly popular on the charts. Every kid in the country had at least one of these albums, and a lot of them had all four. The entire world was plugged into the stories that came out of the specific struggles and creative explosion of our generation. And that was just the tip of the iceberg of what was happening in hip-hop that year.

Top 100 Singles of 1998:

1. Aaliyah - "Are You That Somebody?"
2. Juvenile - "Ha"
3. DMX - "Ruff Ryders Anthem"
4. 'N Sync - "Tearin' Up My Heart"
5. Busta Rhymes - "Gimme Some More"
6. N.O.R.E. - "Superthug"
7. Stardust - "Music Sounds Better with You"
8. Lauryn Hill - "Ex-Factor"
9. Wyclef Jean - "Gone Till November"
10. Next - "Too Close"
11. The Backstreet Boys - "Everybody (Backstreet's Back)"
12. Dru Hill - "How Deep Is Your Love"
13. Timbaland & Magoo - "Luv 2 Luv U (Remix)"
14. The Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band - "Blue On Black"
15. Jermaine Dupri f/ Jay-Z - "Money Ain't A Thang"
16. Robbie Williams - "Angels"
17. Monica - "The First Night"
18. Pras f/ Mya and Ol' Dirty Bastard - "Ghetto Supastar (That Is What You Are)"
19. Big Punisher f/ Joe "Still Not a Player"
20. Mya f/ Silkk The Shocker - "Movin' On"
21. Missy Elliott f/ Magoo and 702 - "Beep Me 911"
22. Natalie Imbruglia - "Torn"
23. Pearl Jam - "Given To Fly"
24. Semisonic - "Closing Time"
25. Low Fidelity Allstars f/ Pigeonhed - "Battle Flag"
26. Metallica - "Fuel"
27. Sarah McLachlan - "Sweet Surrender"
28. Lauryn Hill - "Doo Wop (That Thing)"
29. New Radicals - "You Get What You Give"
30. Puff Daddy f/ Busta Rhymes and the Notorious B.I.G. - "Victory"
31. Xzibit - "What U See Is What U Get"
32. Big L - "Ebonics"
33. Foo Fighters - "My Hero"
34. Three 6 Mafia - "Late Nite Tip"
35. DMX - "Get At Me Dog"
36. Jay-Z - "Hard Knock Life"
37. Silkk The Shocker f/ Mystikal - "It Ain't My Fault"
38. Gang Starr f/ Big Shug and Freddie Foxx - "The Militia"
39. Faith Evans - "Love Like This"
40. Fuel - "Shimmer"
41. Sheryl Crow - "My Favorite Mistake"
42. Rammstein - "Du Hast"
43. Janet Jackson - "I Get Lonely"
44. Harvey Danger - "Flagpole Sitta"
45. Big Punisher f/ Noreaga - "You Came Up"
46. Trick Daddy f/ Trina - "Nann"
47. Dave Matthews Band - "Stay (Wasting Time)"
48. Redman - "I'll Bee Dat"
49. Usher - "My Way"
50. Pearl Jam - "Do The Evolution"
51. Third Eye Blind - "Losing A Whole Year"
52. Garbage - "Special"
53. DMX - "How's It Goin' Down"
54. KoRn - "Got The Life"
55. Everclear - "Father of Mine"
56. Lord Tariq & Peter Gunz - "Deja Vu (Uptown Baby)"
57. Barenaked Ladies - "One Week"
58. Timbaland & Magoo - "Clock Strikes (Remix)"
59. Busta Rhymes - "Turn It Up (Remix)/Fire It Up"
60. The Black Eyed Peas - "Joints & Jam"
61. Ice Cube - "We Be Clubbin'"
62. Blink 182 - "Josie"
63. Jimmy Ray - "Are You Jimmy Ray?"
64. Jay-Z f/ Ja Rule and Amil - "Can I Get A..."
65. Will Smith - "Gettin' Jiggy Wit It"
66. Gang Starr - "You Know My Steez"
67. Beenie Man - "Who Am I"
68. Madonna - "Frozen"
69. Neil Finn - "She Will Have Her Way"
70. Smashing Pumpkins - "Perfect"
71. Cam'ron f/ Ma$e - "Horse & Carriage"
72. The LOX f/ Lil Kim and DMX - "Money, Power & Respect"
73. Jennifer Paige - "Crush"
74. Destiny's Child f/ Wyclef Jean - "No, No, No (Part 2)"
75. Playa - "Cheers 2 U"
76. Destiny's Child - "No, No, No"
77. Puff Daddy f/ Ma$e and the Notorious B.I.G. - "Been Around The World"
78. Missy Elliott - "Hit Em Wit Da Hee"
79. Puff Daddy f/ Jimmy Page - "Come With Me"
80. Master P f/ Fiend, Silkk the Shocker, Mia X and Mystikal - "Make Em Say Uhh!"
81. Lenny Kravitz - "If You Can't Say No"
82. Big Punisher f/ Fat Joe - "Twinz (Deep Cover '98)"
83. Memphis Bleek f/ Jay-Z - "It's Alright"
84. DJ Quik f/ El Debarge and 2nd II None - "Hand In Hand"
85. Girls Against Boys - "Park Avenue"
86. Pearl Jam - "In Hiding"
87. Outkast - "Rosa Parks"
88. DMX - "Stop Bein Greedy"
89. Gang Starr f/ K-Ci & Jojo - "Royalty"
90. Ma$e f/ Total - "What You Want"
91. Brandy & Monica - "The Boy Is Mine"
92. Juvenile - "Follow Me Now"
93. Sarah McLachlan - "Adia"
94. The Cherry Poppin' Daddies - "Zoot Suit Riot"
95. Limp Bizkit - "Faith"
96. Timbaland f/ Jay-Z - "Lobster & Scrimp"
97. Outkast f/ Raekwon - "Skew It On The Bar-B"
98. Pearl Jam - "Wishlist"
99. Lauryn HIll - "Can't Take My Eyes Off You"
100. The Beastie Boys "Intergalactic"

Now, '98 was a really fucking awesome year for singles, that moment when Bad Boy was still riding high but Roc-A-Fella and Ruff Ryders were coming and making NY rap a little harder but still very commercial, and Cash Money was coming on strong, just a crazy charged year. That was a year when rock radio started to kinda suck, even more than it has in some recent years, but there was still some really good hard rock and alternapop here and there. In general, this is a year that seems way better if I look at it through these kind of selective rose-colored glasses.

Movie Diary

Thursday, November 03, 2011
a) From The Sky Down
I've been on a bit of a U2 trip lately from seeing them live over the summer and listening to Achtung Baby, so I love that they just did this documentary about the making of the album. The whole reinvention mythology of that album fascinates me so it's cool to see that stuff articulated in detail and here some of the jam sessions that created the songs and interviews with Eno and stuff.

b) Pearl Jam Twenty
I'm glad this aired on PBS since I'd been listening to the soundtrack lately and thought it'd be months before I get a chance to see the actual movie. Between this, the U2 movie and the Foo Fighters movie, there's really been a wealth of good documentaries about popular, long-running rock bands lately. I didn't see the whole thing, but this was really enjoyable from what I saw, since I basically lived through the '90s as a huge Pearl Jam fan and there was a lot of small revelations and rare footage that I would've killed to see back then.

c) I Am Number Four
I didn't totally understand what this movie was going for, but it was pretty enjoyable anyway. Also the two gorgeous blondes in this movie really had me straying from my preference for brunettes. I feel bad for Timothy Olyphant, he's had like 3 great TV shows but really has been in zero great movies as far as I can tell.

d) It's Kind of a Funny Story
I may complain about Justin Long and Michael Cera and Jay Baruchel playing every awkward young guy protagonist role in Hollywood over and over and over, but the guy who ended up with this role after presumable all three of those guys passed isn't much better or anything. Emma Roberts is pretty and all but the way this ended was barf.

e) Love And Other Drugs
I watched this mainly for the nude Anne Hathaway but it was pretty solid. Kind of weirdly TV-ish (what with all the Hank Azaria and Oliver Platt and Judy Greer and that goddamn Josh Gad) and lightweight, but not to its detriment. I still have no idea what is up with Gyllenhaal, even when he gets a decent character to play it feels like there's nothing there, any other leading man could've at least had some presence playing that part. Hathaway's really good, though, and after all the stupidity of the plot the love story ends up resonant in spite of itself.

f) Cyrus
This is the most nothing, pointless, useless character study dramedy in a whole little run of them that seems to be going around like Greenberg. Was I tricked into watching a 'mumblecore' (ugh) movie by a recognizable and likable cast? Motherfuckers.

g) The 6 Wives of Henry Lefay
It's weird how Tim Allen movies like this and Big Trouble make me kind of like him in the moment but then he does that "Last Man Standing" show that reminds me of how absolutely I used to loathe him for "Home Improvement."

h) A New Leaf
I realized when I reflectively pulled this up OnDemand that Walter Matthau is one of those actors I will watch in pretty much anything, and that that has a lot to do with the fact that Matthau kind of did one thing really well in almost every movie and you're almost guaranteed a certain kind of movie when he's involved. This one seemed pretty good, but I didn't really pay much attention, it was kind of on in the background.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

I reviewed Bosley's new album Honey Pig for the November issue of Urbanite Magazine.