63 Random Albums: A 2011 Retrospective

Another year, another cacophony of music options. Much of it was good.

I added 63 new albums to my library. I attended 18 concerts. I got a new iPhone and haven’t had to use my iPod Touch in months. Although, I didn’t listen to as much music this year as last. Let’s explore some lists. You know I like lists.

Top Albums Listened to in 2011*

  1. “Brothers” by The Black Keys,
  2. “Wasting Light” by Foo Fighters,
  3. “Codes and Keys” by Death Cab For Cutie,
  4. “Angles” by The Strokes,
  5. “Young the Giant” by Young the Giant,
  6. “Something to Die For” by The Sounds,
  7. “Body Talk” by Robyn,
  8. “Ceremonials’ by Florence + The Machine,
  9. “21” by Adele,
  10. “Wounded Rhymes” by Lykke Li,

* Does not have to have been released in 2011.

Bonus #1: Top Concerts of 2011

  1. Sara Bareilles (Ram’s Head Live)
  2. Mumford & Sons (Merriweather Post Pavilion)
  3. Soundgarden (Patriot Center)
  4. Foo Fighters (Verizon Center)
  5. Death Cab for Cutie (Merriweather Post Pavilion)

Bonus #2: Most Listened to Songs in 2011*

  1. ‘Let the Rain’ – Sara Bareilles (N/A)*
  2. ‘Tighten Up’ – The Black Keys
  3. ‘You Are A Tourist’ – Death Cab for Cutie
  4. ‘Under Cover Of Darkness’ – The Strokes
  5. ‘My Body’ – Young the Giant
  6. ‘Ain’t No Talking’ – The Pipettes
  7. ‘These Days’ – Foo Fighters
  8. ‘Dance With the Devil’ – The Sounds
  9. ‘Howlin’ For You’ – The Black Keys
  10. ‘Paradise’ – Coldplay
  11. ‘Dancing On My Own’ – Robyn
  12. ‘England’ – The National
  13. ‘The Writer’ – Ellie Goulding
  14. ‘Codes And Keys’ – Death Cab for Cutie
  15. ‘Back & Forth’ – Foo Fighters
  16. ‘Cough Syrup’ – Young the Giant
  17. ‘Tokyo’ – Wombats
  18. ‘Rolling In the Deep’ – Adele
  19. ‘Conversation 16’ – The National
  20. ‘Make Some Noise’ – Beastie Boys
  21. ‘Austere’ – The Joy Formidable
  22. ‘Laredo’ – Band of Horses
  23. ‘Ruby’ – Kaiser Chiefs
  24. ‘Only If For A Night’ – Florence + The Machine
  25. ‘I Follow Rivers’ – Lykke Li

*My home computer died, so I lost all the iTunes song stats about midway through the year. So this list is more the 2nd half of the year and a guess at some songs.

Bonus #3: All Albums Acquired in 2011

  1. “Brothers” by The Black Keys,
  2. “Under the Blacklight” by Rilo Kiley,
  3. “Adore” by The Smashing Pumpkins,
  4. “Siamese Dream” by The Smashing Pumpkins,
  5. Heligoland” by Massive Attack,
  6. “Everybody” by Ingrid Michaelson,
  7. “The Chair In the Doorway” by Living Colour,
  8. “Hello” by Tristan Prettyman,
  9. “Winter of Mixed Drinks” by Frightened Rabbit,
  10. “Elephant” by The White Stripes,
  11. “Showroom of Compassion” by Cake,
  12. “Cease to Begin” by Band of Horses,
  13. “A Brief History of Love” by The Big Pink,
  14. “Are We All Forgotten EP” by Paper Route,
  15. “Tourist History” by Two Door Cinema Club,
  16. “In Ghost Colours” by Cut  Copy,
  17. “The Big Come Up” by The Black Keys,
  18. “Citrus” by Asobe Sesku,
  19. “Portishead” by Portishead,
  20. “Need You Now” by Lady Antebellum,
  21. “Full Moon Fever” by Tom Petty,
  22. “Willy and the Poor Boys” by Creedence Clearwater Revival,
  23. “Lights” by Ellie Goulding,
  24. “III/IV” by Ryan Adams,
  25. Young the Giant” by Young the Giant,
  26. “Wounded Rhymes” by Lykke Li,
  27. “Old World Underground, Where Are You Now?” by Metric,
  28. “Something to Die For” by The Sounds,
  29. “Angles” by The Strokes,
  30. “Earth vs The Pipettes” by The Pipettes,
  31. “The Big Roar” by The Joy Formidable,
  32. “Crystal Castles” by Crystal Castles,
  33. “21” by Adele,
  34. “Little Plastic Castle” by Ani Difranco,
  35. “The Lady Killer” by Cee Lo Green,
  36. “The Fall” by Gorillaz,
  37. “Awesome As F**k” by Green Day,
  38. “Kiss Each Other Clean” by Iron & Wine,
  39. “Yours Truly, Angry Mob” by Kaiser Chiefs,
  40. “Tiger Suit” by KT Tunstall,
  41. “Hands” by Little Boots,
  42. “Alphabetical” by Phoenix,
  43. “Greatest Hits…So Far” by Pink,
  44. “Body Talk” by Robyn,
  45. “Safari Disco Club” by Yelle,
  46. “Move Like This” by The Cars,
  47. “Codes and Keys” by Death Cab For Cutie,
  48. “Hot Sauce Communication Part Two” by Beastie Boys,
  49. “Pop Up” by Yelle,
  50. “Teenage Dream” by Katy Perry,
  51. “Torches” by Foster the People,
  52. “Wasting Light” by Foo Fighters,
  53. “Back to Black” by Amy Winehouse,
  54. “So Jealous” by Tegan & Sara,
  55. “The White Stripes” by The White Stripes,
  56. “Come Around Sundown” by Kings of Leon,
  57. “Zonoscope” by Cut Copy,
  58. “No Wow” by The Kills,
  59. “The Wombats proudly present…This Modern Glitch’ by The Wombats,
  60. “Mylo Xyloto’ by Coldplay,
  61. “Ceremonials’ by Florence + The Machine,
  62. “El Camino” by The Black Keys,
  63. “Live on I-5” by Soundgarden,

2011: Can’t Get Anymore Blue

Welcome. Here, lovingly crafted for your enjoyment (or dismissal), I present my blue mood towards my favorite sports teams.

This also is a tell-tale sign that the end of 2011 is nigh, and I could be writing a bunch of end-of-year reviews. Or something. May be time for you to go on vacation. I am.

2011 was a blue year. Very blue indeed for Seattle sports. Blue is the prominent color of many Seattle sports teams, but that is not the blue I refer to. I mean blue as is melancholy. Blue as in sing the blues. Blue as in break out a bottle of Jack Daniel’s and curl up in front of reruns of Hill Street Blues. Get your shot glasses ready.

Seattle Mariners (ML B – baseball)

The Mariners are hard to root for. They can’t score runs. They trade all their good pitchers for hitters that never produce. They do nothing. It’s depressing. Ichiro’s numbers declined. King Felix didn’t match his Cy Young season of 2010. We traded away Doug Fister right when he was pitching well. You can’t finish much worse than 67-95. And no good prospects for next year.

Success Indicator: 2/10. Whiskey shots: 4

Seattle Seahawks (NFL – football)

After improbably winning their division last season (with a NFL history worst 7-9 record), and then miraculously beating the Saints in the playoffs (only to lose to the Bears), the Seahawks looked like they were back in the business of sucking for 2011. They started 2-6. They lost to Cleveland 6-3. Enough said. Yet, somehow they seem to have poured spinach on their Wheaties, because they are kicking butt, winning five of their last six games. At 7-7, they have a very small chance at the playoffs. But small is better than zero, so let’s see if they can pull off another miracle in their final two games.

Success Indicator: 6/10. Whiskey shots: 3 (5 if they don’t make they playoffs)

University of Washington Huskies (College football)

The Dawgs started strong at 5-1. Then they started playing good teams. And they got crushed three out of four games. Then they lost to Oregon St. (WTF?) and it looked like the wheels had fallen off. To just salvage the season, they had to whip the Cougars in the Apple Cup. They finished with a 7-5 record, good enough to get a bid to the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio, Texas against #15 ranked Baylor. Robert Griffin III, Baylor’s QB, won the Heisman Trophy, so it should add a bit of heightened excitement to the game on December 29. But they should have been better.

Success Indicator: 6/10. Whiskey shots: 6 (One for every loss, and two for losing to OSU)

Seattle Sounders FC (MLS – soccer)

The Sounders had their best season ever. That’s why it’s also the worst. Expectations were high. But not fulfilled. They finished 18-7-9 (63 points), 2nd best in the league. Yet they lost again in the first round of the playoffs. Three years in a row. Erg! There was a silver lining. They won the US Open Cup tournament for a 3rd straight time, tying a record for most consecutive times a team has done this and the first MLS team to do it. They also played extremely well in the group stage of the CONCACAF Champions league tournament (24 of the top club teams in North America, Central America and Caribbean) and have a spot in the knock-out stage that starts next April.

Success Indicator: 7/10. Whiskey shots: 5 (would have been 6, but for the secondary tourneys)


Other teams I follow:

Washington Nationals (MLB – baseball)

The Nationals had the 2nd best season since they’ve moved to Washington, D.C. (80-81). I managed to attend 10 games (two doubleheaders) while eating lots of nachos and Shake Shack burgers. Teddy Roosevelt continued to lose in epic ways in the 4th inning President’s race.

Success Indicator: 7/10. Whiskey shots: 1 (for Teddy)

University of Washington Huskies (College basketball – men’s and women’s)

The men’s team was solid (24-11) and won the Pac-10 Tournament Championship for the 2nd straight year. They beat Georgia in the first round of the NCAA Tournament but then lost a close one to North Carolina.

The women’s team (11-17) continued to suck.

Success Indicator: 7/10

Chelsea Blues (English Premier League – soccer)

The 2010-2011 Chelsea team (71 points) was up and down all year. And finally they were too far behind Manchester United and finished in 2nd place 9 points clear of 1st.

Success Indicator: 7/10. Whiskey shots: 2 (for letting Man U win)

Seattle Storm (WNBA – women’s basketball)

Yep, they still play professional women’s basketball. Seattle finished 21-13 and got bounced from the playoffs in the first round. Blah.

Success Indicator: 6/10. Whiskey shots: 0 (no reason to waste any here)

Washington Capitals (NHL – hockey)

The Capitals continue to be an enigma. In 2010-2011 they were again the best team in the Eastern Conference (107 points). They beat the New York Rangers in the first round of the playoffs, but lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning four games to zero. Another season wasted.

Success Indicator: 6/10. Whiskey shots: 4 (one for every loss to Tampa Bay)

DC United (MLS – soccer)

DC United played better this year, finishing 9-13-12 (39 points). But they failed to make the playoffs despite a weak Eastern Conference.

Success Indicator: 4/10. Whiskey shots: 0 (Can’t. Drink. Any. More.)

University of Washington Huskies (Capital Alumni Network – co-ed flag football)

Year two of DC Dawgs’ (UW Alumni) participation in flag football went better. We finished 4-6 (playoff seed #34 out of 58 total schools). Our division was stacked with a few of the best schools in the league so in a different division, we would have done even better. We played #31 Cornell in the playoffs, but lost a close game 20-12. They stopped us on the goal line at the end of the game. Also, we were shorthanded as many of our players were in NYC for a UW vs. Duke basketball game. There’s always next year…

Peace and may the sports be with you.

Rolling in the Hampstead Heath

Whenever you visit England, it’s good to have a goal. Maybe you want to get a glimpse of the Queen. Maybe you want to eat a heaping plate of bubble and squeak. Maybe you want to frolic in the fountains of Trafalger Square. Maybe you simply want to get rapped in the cakehole by a bobby brandishing a truncheon after a ruck with a pack of hooligans who have lost the plot. Whatever the goal, make it count. Make it your own.

My goal was to have cream tea. Simple. Elegant. Sophisticated. I failed (sort of). Let’s find out why.

After soaking up the British culture in Newport Pagnell for a week doing work, I hopped on a train to London. The plan: spend a few days, see some places I hadn’t been to, eat some proper British food and down a pint or three.

The first full day was to meet up with friends and explore Hampstead in North London.

Fenton House – after a late lunch off the high street of Hampstead, we peeked into a historic house (turned museum) with a large garden and orchid. The owner had collected harpsichords and clavichords like they were going out of style. Actually they were, because do you even know what a harpsichord is?

The house was also full of paintings and other such things that accumulate in old houses over hundreds of years. A small deck on the top floor overlooked downtown London. The garden and orchid were quite nice for a stroll. Cream tea sightings = 0.

Hampstead Heath – you could call it a massive park full of rolling fields of grass and shrubbery, clear lakes, and walking paths lined with weeping willows. Or you could call it heath. Either way, after cavorting on an oddly fallen tree and using the heathland as my stage for a Julie Andrews (a la The Sound of Music) impression, we spied a singular looking mansion in the distance. Luring us. Beckoning us. Tea or not to tea.

Kenwood House & Estate – a set location for the movie Notting Hill (which is not that impressive unless you like Hugh Grant), this gigantic house is surrounded by more idyllic lawns, pathways and lakes.

The house itself boasts an imperial number of paintings and other things snobby, rich people revel in. Such as ballrooms and candlesticks and beauties in gowns and beasts in ruffled suits. After wandering about the museum part aimlessly; maybe perusing the china and baubles, gazing at the portraits of stuffy, unamused people and admiring the art with snobby aloofness; one could be tempted to visit the garden café on the ground level. Maybe something teaish or creamish will be on offer.

Walking along the outside, you soon come to a stone gateway and stairs. The sign on the inside of the gateway says ‘Flask Walk’. My kind of place. You take the stairs down and then walk to the café and the large, spacious outdoor seating areas. This place must have cream tea. It’s gonna happen!

The café boasted a British line-up of options. I darted between the various refrigerated displays…seeking, searching. I spied a scone and suddenly stopped. Cut in half with jam and some light, frothy cream (not clotted) inside. Arrggghhhh! So close, but not proper cream tea at all! I bought one anyway, cursing under my breath. I ate it but my quest was in shambles. Time to move on.

Rose Hill – it was time to head over for some evening activities and our lengthy walk passed through Rose Hill, with a nice view of the London Zoo and other things. As the evening dusk began to settle, we continued our quest to…

Camden Town – where we learned upon arrival at the first bar that Amy Winehouse was dead. Her house was mere blocks away. We could have walked over. But that just seemed way too depressing, so we headed over to Hawley Arms Pub, where she was a regular, and had a number of pints that totaled more than one. Some may have been in her honor.

Tea requiem – other things happened in London, that’s another story, but my quest for cream tea did come full circle, in a surprising way. As I was waiting in Heathrow Airport to board my flight home to DC, the customer service desk announced my name. I walked up and they proceeded to upgrade me to FIRST CLASS for FREE. Yes, read that again. Because that’s how I roll. With a cheesy grin on my face, I tested all the various doodads and whatchamacallits and entertainment options that make up the 5% of the plane my lavish seat occupied. Then shortly after take off, the flight attendant brought me…wait for it…CREAM TEA! Warm scones, strawberry jam, clotted cream and a spot of tea.

The End

Happy harpsichord
A Fenton rose by any other name...
Fenton House Garden
Apple Orchid
London, there it is
Heath 2
Hampstead Heath
That looks like some heath over there

Oops, it fell down
Take a walk on the wild side
Not Cream Tea
View from Rose Hill
Camden Town

Bowling for BCSanity

Wow, we’re in for some exciting college football bowl games this year!

How about the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl pitting unimpressive UCLA (6-7) vs. Illinois (6-6)? Top notch!

Or how about the BBVA Compass Bowl where surly SME (7-5) will clash against powerful Pittsburgh (6-6)? Not impressed?

Surely the badass Beef ‘O’ Brady Bowl tilt between fiesty Florida International (8-4) and mighty Marshall (6-6) will make your pulse race with anticipation? Not your cup of beef?

Ok, at least see how you feel about the Belk Bowl (not a typo) that gives Louisville (7-5) a chance to crush N.C. State (7-5)? No? Man, you’re tough to please. Sigh.

There are 35 bowl games ready for your enjoyment. What do you want? 70 universities (out of 120) go toe-to-toe. Are you not entertained?

Maybe you want to see #8 Boise St. (11-1) still smarting from having to play Arizona St. (6-6) in the MAACO Bowl, instead of a top-tier BCS bowl berth? Nah.

Or maybe you want to get a slice of the Little Caesar’s Bowl where Western Michigan (7-5) can punish Purdue (6-6) while enjoying pizza, pizza on the sidelines? Too cheesy?

If you’re still hungry, maybe the Idaho Potato Bowl baked between Ohio (9-4) and Utah St. (7-5) will give you enough carbs to sit through? Pass the ketchup, please.

What if I tuned you in to the Music City Bowl match-up against Mississippi St. (6-6) and Wake Forest (6-6)? Sing it loud, sing it proud!

Or maybe you’d trade a polished turd to peek at the GoDaddy.com Bowl in the titillating tussle between Arkansas St. (10-2) and Northern Illinois (10-3)? Who are these schools you ask? Don’t be coy, you know you want to watch.

Sadly, this year’s slate of bowl games is about as boring as a curling match between Krygyzstan and the Gambia (that is if you can be bothered to unpack this analogy – don’t worry, neither was I).

One thing I will do is watch the Alamo Bowl where Washington (7-5) and Baylor (9-3) will get busy. I will, of course, pull for the Huskies, but the future Heisman Trophy winner (just maybe) is the QB of Baylor – so an added bonus.

The BCS sucks…how about we just get a playoff system already?

LSU vs. Alabama in the BCS Championship? Yawn. We already saw that game. LSU won 9-6 in Tuscaloosa, AL. I hope Alabama wins, so we can have more controversy. A national champion that didn’t even win its own conference? The system is whack!