Monday, December 29, 2008

Packers Postmortem

At least they beat the Lions.

I don't mind telling you that I was dreading yesterday's game more than any other in my life as a Packers fan. I would have been heartbroken if Green Bay had lost Super Bowl 31 or any number of playoff games (and I was indeed heartbroken when they lost Super Bowl 32 and any number of playoff games.....4th and 26, Jesus that still bothers me...), but I would have been devastated if the Pack had been the only team to lose to Detroit this season. That would have been pretty much the worst loss in team history. There might have been a riot at Lambeau Field, and with good cause.

That said, it would also have been a fitting end to the most frustrating Packers season I've ever witnessed. Last year, when Green Bay lost the NFC title game to New York, I noted that the defeat didn't sting so badly because, frankly, everything went right for Green Bay last season. They caught every break, suffered virtually no injuries, Brett Favre had one last great campaign and it was all peaches and rainbows en route to a 13-3 record.

It was only fair, then, that 2007's good fortune be karmically balanced out by a season where the Pack couldn't get even a whisper of good luck. Green Bay scored the fifth-most points in football, played in a weak division, survived the big quarterback fiasco in the summer (more on this in a minute), ended up with a positive PF-PA number --- the last teams to outscore their opposition but still finish with a losing record were the 2004 Chiefs (483-435, 7-9) and 2004 Panthers (355-339, 7-9) --- were competitive in all but one game (their blowout loss to the Saints) and yet finished with a 6-10 record. In the words of Fred Willard, wha happened?

* A total lack of ability to finish games. When Detroit and Green Bay were tied heading into the fourth quarter on Sunday, I was near suicide watch because I could visualize the ending in my head --- the teams would stay tied until roughly the two-minute warning, when Green Bay would drive into the red zone and then stall due to penalties, dropped balls, Ryan Grant or Brandon Jackson being stuffed, etc. The Pack would then settle for a field goal with about 1:30 remaining. The Lions would then drive downfield and score a TD on a circus catch from Calvin Johnson as time expired, thus sparing them the ignominious fate of an 0-16 record. You might wonder why I was so fatalistic about my team's ability to stop the historically-bad Lions, but that's just how it's gone this year for Green Bay. the last four weeks, the Packers screwed things up in the closing minutes and lost. The total inability to stop Steve Smith led to a loss against Carolina. The missed field goal against the Bears. Getting four turnovers but still losing on a last-minute FG to Houston. Giving up two fourth-quarter TDs to Jacksonville. Those four losses were by a combined total of 14 points! If I had hair left, it would've been pulled out by now.

It gets worse. If you factor in three-point losses to Atlanta and Tennessee and a one-point loss to Minnesota, that's SEVEN LOSSES by a total of TWENTY-ONE POINTS. If just three of those close losses go Green Bay's way (the one against the Vikings and any two others), then the Packers win the division. It is appalling how this team just kept blowing it time after time. I feel like a Mets fan.

* Play-calling. This really could have come into the previous category, since Mike McCarthy's bizarre tactics are a big reason why Green Bay kept blowing those games. McCarthy coached this season like a guy who decided to sit on a 14 in blackjack. As I mentioned earlier, the Packers' offense was quite prolific this season. Only San Diego, Arizona, New Orleans and the Giants scored more points than Green Bay did. But whenever the Packers had a late lead, suddenly the play-calling became more conservative than a roomful of Cheneys. McCarthy would go to the late-game tactic of running the ball to chew up the clock, except for the small problem that a) he'd start doing this with about a minute to go in the third quarter and b) GB's running game sucks. The opposition therefore had plenty of time to get back into the game, abetting by (you guessed it) poor defensive play-calling. I had my worries about McCarthy after the NFC title loss and the Dallas loss last season, when he seemed unable or unwilling to change strategies when it was clear that nothing was working. After the repeated miscues this season, I'm no longer on the McCarthy bandwagon. If GB stumbles again next season, can his ass.

* Penalties. 984 yards lost due to penalties this season. Just disgusting. Now I know what it's like being a Raiders fan, minus the uncomfortable feeling of rooting for your team owner to die so things can improve.

* Run defense. The Pack ended up allowing over 131 yards of rush yards per game. This weakness became the most obvious in the Minnesota game two months ago, when Adrian Peterson ran for approximately 783 yards and single-handedly (footedly?) beat Green Bay by himself. Again, at the end of games, the opposition was always able to bust out big runs and GB was powerless to stop them.

* The defense in general. True, Cullen Jenkins and Nick Barnett were injured for much of the year, but the drop-off between last year's performance and this year's performance was pretty glaring. The losses of Jenkins, Corey Williams (dealt to Cleveland in the offseason, though Williams didn't exactly tear it up for the Browns this year) and KGB (retirement) transformed a strong defensive line in 2007 into swiss cheese in 2008. Aaron Kampman had another impressive season, but the Jolly/Pickett tackle combination didn't scare anyone in the middle, and, after two seasons, I think it's safe to call Justin Harrell a total bust. The linebacking corps didn't scare anyone --- Poppinga, Hawk and Chillar are generally go-hards, but I'm not sure they have the talent to be an elite unit. The bright spot was the secondary, as Nick Collins and Charles Woodson had outstanding years and mostly covered the fact that Al Harris is getting old and Atari Bigby continues to stink. But even then, the secondary was prone to giving up big plays and every once in a while had a game where they just couldn't cover anyone (i.e. the stinker against New Orleans).

* The running game. Ryan Grant kinda sucks. In a league where two-back systems are becoming increasingly not just common but necessary, Green Bay has just one running back who isn't very good. Grant had probably the worst 1200-yard season in NFL history. When you get 312 rush attempts, you need to do better than 3.9 yards per carry and only four 100+ yard-rushing games. Some of this is the O-line's fault, but Grant isn't a runner that opposing teams feel they need to really worry about. If Green Bay is going to do anything in 2009, they really need to get another back or two in order to give themselves more options on offense. The current backups (DeShawn Wynn and Brandon Jackson) aren't going to amount to much.

So as you can tell, a team with so many glaring problems probably shouldn't be so surprised that they finished 6-10. But such a showing might be better for GB in the long-run. A division title might have obscured some of these issues for another offseason, which might have turned 2009 into a real toxic-waste dump of a season. But for now, Green Bay actually has proof that things aren't right in Packerland, and hopefully will turn their attention to fixing these things for the next season. It honestly won't take much; Minnesota and Chicago won't improve and Detroit will be Detroit, so the NFC North is as wide-open as ever. An easier schedule in 2009 (the pathetic NFC West and games against Cincy and Cleveland from the AFC North) means that improvement is almost a given, but I don't want just a cosmetic improvement and a quick playoff exit. I want to see this team build on its strengths and be a top-tier club once again. My patience with GM Ted Thompson is running out only slightly slower than my patience with McCarthy did, so if he has another poor draft, then it's time for a full management overhaul in Titletown.

And, finally, Aaron Rodgers. It turns out that he's awesome. Now, I should qualify this by adding that he played as big a role in Green Bay's late-game failures as anyone, as he threw a few bad interceptions at critical times. But by and large, I'm more than satisfied with his first season as the starter. He finished top six in the NFL in QB rating, touchdown passes and passing yards. Also, I should note, he finished ahead of Brett Favre in each of those categories. My dad's theory about Green Bay's problems this year was that it was all due to the Favre trade --- his leadership late in games would have helped the Packers to more wins. That's certainly possible. It's also possible that Favre would've suffered due to GB's lack of a running game (Leon Washington and Thomas Jones > Ryan Grant and BranJack) and he would've had a lot more games like the stinker he threw up against the Dolphins on Sunday. You can point to a lot of problems with the 2008 Packers, but the passing game was the least of the team's worries.

BONUS: Let's take a look back at my preseason predictions and see how I did.

AFC playoffs.....1. Patriots, 2. Chargers, 3. Colts, 4. Steelers, Wild cards: Jaguars, Bengals
NFC playoffs.....1. Cowboys, 2. Seahawks, 3. Packers, 4. Saints, Wild cards: Eagles, Giants
Super Bowl 43.....My heart says Green Bay over New England, but in reality, I'll pick the Patriots to finally capture that (relatively) elusive Super Bowl title with a win over Seattle. Maybe you shouldn't be reading anything I write about football. *backs out of the room slowly*

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Best Albums Of Our Lives: Stat Wrap-Up

A series of posts that ended up being large enough to fill a novel couldn't just be summarily forgotten now, could it? Here's a quick little statpack about the 'Best Music' series from Kyle, Misha and myself.

First, a handy set of links to each entry.

Part one (1979-1989)
Part two (1990-1999)
Part three (2000-2004, Misha joins in)
Part four (2005-2008)

MOST-REPRESENTED BANDS (two points for a #1 album, one point for a #2 album)

13 points
U2 (9.5 points from Mark, 3 from Kyle, 1 from Misha)(four #1 albums: three from Mark, one from Kyle)

9 points
Bruce Springsteen (5 from Mark, 4 from Kyle)....(three #1 albums: two from Mark, one from Kyle)

8 points
Pearl Jam (7 points from Mark, one from Kyle)....(three #1 albums, all from Mark)

6.5 points
The White Stripes (3.5 from Mark, 3 from Misha).....(two #1 albums, one each from Misha & Mark)

6 points
Oasis (5 points from Kyle, one from Mark)....(two #1 albums, both from Kyle)

5 points
The Police (two #1 albums, one each from Kyle & Mark)
Talking Heads (two #1 albums, both from Mark)
The Tragically Hip

4 points
Coldplay (two #1 albums, one each from Misha & Kyle)
The Cure (two #1 albums, one each from Mark & Kyle)
Depeche Mode (two #1 albums, one each from Kyle & Mark)
Eminem (two #1 albums, one each from Kyle & Misha)
Ben Folds (two #1 albums, one each from Mark & Kyle)
The Hold Steady (two #1 albums, one each from Kyle & Mark)
Weezer (two #1 albums, one each from Kyle & Mark)

3 points
Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, Green Day, Guns 'N Roses, Michael Jackson, Outkast, R.E.M., The Streets, Traveling Wilburys, Kanye West

2 points
Arcade Fire, Bloc Party, Dire Straits, Eurythmics, Fountains of Wayne, Sarah Harmer, Hot Hot Heat, Journey, Joy Division, Kings Of Leon, Massive Attack, Matthew Good Band, My Bloody Valentine, The National, Pulp, The Killers, Nine Inch Nails, Tom Petty, Pink Floyd, The Smiths, Snoop Dogg, Stone Temple Pilots, The Strokes, The Verve, Amy Winehouse

1 point
AC/DC, Ryan Adams, Alice In Chains, Lily Allen, Barenaked Ladies, Phil Collins, Sheryl Crow, The Dandy Warhols, De La Soul, Explosions In The Sky, Fleet Foxes, Foo Fighters, Foreigner, David Gray, Hayden, Elton John, The Knife, Cyndi Lauper, Huey Lewis & The News, Metric, New Order, Liz Phair, Public Enemy, The Roots, Run-DMC, Sarah Slean, Sufjan Stevens, Tegan & Sara, Vanilla Ice, The Who

* Most runner-up albums: U2 (4.5), The Tragically Hip (3), Bruce Springsteen (3)

* Most runner-up albums without a #1: The Killers, Nine Inch Nails, Tom Petty (two)

*1991 was the only year with a perfect match (both Kyle and Mark had Achtung Baby and Ten as their #1 and #2 picks)

* In 1982 and 2003, Kyle/Mark and Misha/Mark, respectively, had the same two albums but in a different order (Thriller/Nebraska and Elephant/Speakerboxx and the Love Below)

* Mark & Kyle matched six #1 albums (Born in the USA, Disintegration, Violator, Achtung Baby, Pinkerton, Rockin the Suburbs). Kyle & Misha matched two #1 albums (The Marshall Mathers LP, A Rush Of Blood To The Head). Misha and Mark matched 0 #1 albums.

* Kyle was the only one to pick Vanilla Ice. Seriously, wtf

* Mark had Kyle's #1 as his #2 pick three times (Thriller, Synchronicity, What's The Story Morning Glory). Kyle had Misha's #1 as his #2 pick once (American Idiot). Misha had Mark's #1 as his #2 twice (Speakerboxx/Love Below, Icky Thump)

* Kyle had Mark's #1 as his #2 pick three times (Nebraska, Joshua Tree, OK Computer). Misha never had Kyle's #1 as his #2 pick. Mark had Misha's #1 as his #2 pick twice (Elephant, Late Registration).

* Three Grammy-winners for Best Album were selected as someone's #1: Thriller, Joshua Tree and Speakerboxx/The Love Below. Five Grammy-winners for Best Albums were selected as someone's #2: The three aforementioned records, plus No Jacket Required and How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb. This number could jump to six if In Rainbows wins the award at the upcoming Grammy ceremonies.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

UFC 92 predictions

* Forrest Griffin over Rashad Evans, decision
Dana White would give anything to have this be Griffin-Liddell, but Rashad knocked Chuck into 2009 last September in Atlanta. I have never seen a knockout that left a bar more stunned than Evans' massive KO of Liddell --- there was a shocked silence due to the fact that, quite rightly, some people thought Liddell was dead. It was that vicious a punch. So while we miss out on an intriguing and higher-grossing fight in Liddell vs. Griffin, we get an equally intriguing match in Griffin vs. Evans. I honestly don't know how this one will end up, and I'm picking Griffin solely due to the size factor. Griffin has the ability to control Evans and ride out a decision. Griffin also has the discipline to not let up for the few seconds that Evans would need to unleash his speed and land some heavy shots to Forrest's face. It should be an interesting chess match, if not the most fireworks-filled title match in UFC history.

* Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira over Frank Mir, chokeout, R2
Nogueira losing this fight would be a bigger upset than Serra over GSP, frankly. I really don't see how one of the legends of MMA can lose to a guy who Nog outclasses in virtually every aspect of the game. When you add to it that a win by Nogueira would set up a huge main event unification bout against Lesnar, and that Nog was presented as the nicest guy in the world during the past Ultimate Fighter season while Mir came off as a jerk....I mean, the MMA gods have to let Nogueira win, right?

* Wanderlei Silva over Rampage Jackson, knockout, R2
Some fighters just have the number of other fighters. Rampage has been on the other end of this phenomenon, since he owns Chuck Liddell. But Silva has already beaten Jackson twice, both times by vicious knockouts. Given that Rampage is coming off a title loss, a mental breakdown and a change in training camps, there just seems to be too much going on his life to fully concentrate on beating his greatest rival. This is odd matchmaking by the UFC, frankly; rather than have a third fight between these two, I would've preferred to see Rampage face Lyoto Machida and Wandy to take on Thiago Silva. I guess the logic was that, since the UFC wants to keep Machida as far away from the title as possible, that a Wandy/Rampage winner would have a clearer claim to a LHW title fight. The winner of this one will definitely face the Griffin/Evans winner.

* Mike Massenzio over C.B. Dollaway, submission, R2
Every Ultimate Fighter season seems to have one fighter who looks unimpressive as hell, yet is overrated by coaches and UFC matchmakers. The overrated dog of TUF season seven was C.B. Dollaway, who had everyone hanging off of his nutsack yet didn't look good to me at all. I think Massenzio whips him and submits his overhyped carcass in seven minutes or less.

* Cheick Kongo over Mostapha Al-Turk, knockout, R1
I suspect that the UFC will keep feeding Kongo cans until he nets enough wins to merit a match (maybe even a title shot) against Brock Lesnar in a man-beast vs. man-beast match. That is a fight that just markets itself. Who wouldn't want to see two enormous monsters go at it? Of course, Kongo would lose because he's a pretty mediocre fighter, but hey, at least it would be a great staredown. Then again, if the UFC books a best-two-of-three competition that also includes an arm-wrestling bout, a French-speaking contest and THEN a fight, Kongo has a terrific chance.

* Matt Hamill over Reese Andy, decision
You might remember Reese Andy as the guy who hung in there with Brandon Vera last summer in one of the duller fights the UFC has presented this year. Actually, wait, you might not remember that, since it's quite possible you passed out midway through the second round. I can see a similar situation happening in this bout, though since Hamill (unlike Vera) isn't a big useless turd at LHW, it's possible he'll finish Andy off before it gets to the judges. Frankly, I'd rather see a fight between Hamill and Andy from the ninth grade French videos. "Ma valise. Un voleur.....un voleur!"

* Antoni Hardonk over Mike Wessel, TKO, R2
Two average heavyweights are duking it out in a bout that will only be interesting if Wessel's nickname is "Nuclear" and is cornered by Walter Koenig.

* Brad Blackburn over Ryo Chonan, decision
I'll give Blackburn the nod here just because Blackburn Rovers have been shitting the bed in the Premier League this season, so something is bound to go right for the name.

* Dan Evensen over Pat Barry, TKO, R1
I literally flipped a coin to make my pick in this fight. Who gives a crap?

* Yushin Okami over Dean Lister, decision
You have to love UFC marketing. This could well be a #1 contender's bout for the middleweight title if Okami wins, but since everyone knows this will be a boring-ass match between two dull fighters, it gets relegated to the undercard. Given that Okami has a (controversial) win over Anderson Silva, I'd expect that Okami will indeed get a title shot with a victory here, since Anderson is itching for a chance to avenge that earlier loss. Okami would've gotten a shot at the October PPV if he hadn't gotten injured, so this is just a tune-up fight to knock off the ring rust. Not that Lister is an easy mark; his only UFC loss was to Nate Marquardt. If Lister wins, I'd expect to see a Lister/Demian Maia fight in April with the winner getting a MW shot at Anderson.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Box To The Ox

Well, another Christmas is in the books. But fuck it, it's BOXING DAY!!!!!!!!! WOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!


Okay, well, Boxing Day is pretty much nothing. So back to Christmas. The highlights of the day included a family game of Cranium wherein....

a) my uncle attempted to impersonate Tom Cruise by puffing up his chest ("since he's an action star, he's a big guy) and singing the theme from Hockey Night In Canada, which he mistakenly thought was the theme from Mission Impossible. Needless to say, the first guess was Don Cherry.

b) my cousin Jaclyn making the single best clay sculpture of an umbilical cord ever, in about 15 seconds. Da Vinci himself would have shit his pantaloons over the quality of this sculpture.

c) during the game where one person has to move the arms and legs of another into a position while the movee has to guess what they're being positioned to do, Jaclyn busted out a one-liner of "this had better not be that I think it is" while she was being maneuvered to bob apples.

d) my mother managing to get her team to identify her impression of Napoleon Dynamite despite the fact that neither she nor her team (youngest member: age 59) had any idea who Napoleon Dynamite was. She did this by first miming Napoleon, and then miming dynamite.


HBO poll results! Big Love scored a 3-2 win over In Treatment, Flight Of The Conchords routed Carnivale by an 8-4 score, and in something of an upset, Inside the NFL defeated Oz by a tally of 5-3.

The latest matchup is Six Feet Under vs. Da Ali G Show. We all know who Borat would pick --- his hatred of Jews would lead him to cast his vote against the Fisher family. Plus, he's also part of Ali G's show, so he's slightly biased.


It's a weird feeling when you're taking a crap and realizing that just 30 minutes earlier, your grandmother was using that very toilet. The only things weirder would be sitting there realizing that your grandma was using it 29 minutes earlier, then sitting there just 28 minutes later, and so on. Though by far the worst feeling would be using the toilet at the exact same time as your grandmother, though that's a problem we don't have at our house since we got rid of the trough

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Team-Up #6:Mark & Kyle & Misha's Best Albums Of Our Lives (2005 - 2008)

And we're back...

Misha's Picks

2005: Late Registration by Kanye West: I first heard 'Gold Digger' when the video came on Much Music and within seconds my face was one inch away from the screen. Just about a perfect song. Quite a few people will tell you a similar story about me (literally) dragging them into my car to sit with me and hear it. I was obsessed. It has everything you could ever want from a pop song. It was like musical crack, right after I heard it I had to hear it again and again. The rest of the album is also fantastic. 'Drive Slow', 'Diamonds From Sierra Leone', and 'Touch The Sky' are some of my favorites. This was a great step forward for Kanye at the time, because it was an improvement in songwriting over the excellent 'College Dropout' but it was also sonically expansive, and was that great combination of groundbreaking, but still accessible. Since this album Kanye has decided that breaking new ground is his only goal, and he seems to be forgetting to bring the songs with him to these new destinations. 'Graduation' was a cool move into a more dance-based sound, so logically '808's and Heartbreaks' would show what Kanye was capable of doing using this new sound. But instead he is now (apparently) a singer…no more hip-hop. Kanye West is a really important artist, with a lot of skill, and I respect his ambition and constant attempts to evolve, but he needs to focus less on musical style, and more on songwriting substance.

Best song: "Gold Digger" - Since I've already discussed the positives of this song, allow me to shine a light on the song's biggest downfall…it provided Jamie Foxx with a music career. I've heard his music…I'll be diplomatic here…it's dog shit.

Fun fact: Does it seem like recently a bunch of hip-hop/R&B artists have all simultaneously discovered this whole 'voice altering auto-tune' device? It's like every big name in hip-hop was at the same club and Cher's 1998 hit 'Believe' came on and everyone went insane. I assume that there was a 'Hip-Hop League of Nations' meeting once the song ended and everyone agreed that you don't need to be capable of singing to be a singer, as long as you have 'The Cher Voice…Altering…Machine'. Listen for it on new songs by Kanye, Akon, and T-Pain, just to name a few.

Runner up: I have to admit that I don't have an album I want to put here. Look, I was really busy aggressively courting my future wife in 2005. I will give an honorable mention to Nine Inch Nails for their moving 'Right Where It Belongs' which closes the album With Teeth. I will also give a dishonorable mention to Coldplay for having a chance to take over the music universe and shitting themselves with X & Y…what a goddamn shame. Maybe I have been too hard on these guys (the new album is good), I guess I just overestimated them…which is my fault, not theirs. In 2005 my #1 musical adventure was buying an old Bob Dylan album every week, even the bad ones (this lasted for a few months). That was a pretty interesting experience to say the least. And speaking of Mr. Dylan…

Kyle: …I believe "aggressively courting" is courthouse slang for "stalking."

Dunno about Late Registration. I remember you being absolutely obsessed with the album but (the awesome Curtis Mayfield-infused "Touch the Sky" aside) it always left me cold (I've never liked "Gold Digger"). I do, however, quite like his new album, which I believe puts me in the minority (I may also be the only person that actually enjoyed his performance on SNL earlier this month—imagine my shock when I discovered it was deemed the second coming of Ashlee Simpson's mic malfunction. Also: while we're sort of on the topic, how come Simpson was positively crucified for lip-synching when she was on the show, but when Beyonce performed earlier this season and didn't even bother to conceal the fact that she wasn't actually singing "Single Ladies (Put a Ring On it)," everyone gave her a pass? Is it because she's talented? Because she was focusing on her (admittedly pretty impressive) dancing? The latter I kinda accept. The former not at all (if anything, she should be held to a higher standard, no?).

I find it interesting that you're criticizing Kanye for doing something (consistently attempting to re-invent himself), while criticizing U2 for not doing the same thing (see previous post: 2004 runner-up). Pick a side, we're at war.

Good call with With Teeth. It was so great, I was totally unprepared for Year Zero being so thoroughly shitty.

Mark: Thanks for calling Misha out on the "U2 aren't innovative" thing before I got a chance to. And, as U2 themselves have stated, after spending 10 years trying to make songs that purposely didn't sound like 'U2 songs,' it was a challenge for them to just go back to the basics of "four guys playing instruments together." If Johan Santana tried to throw right-handed and got shelled, the Mets wouldn't applaud his effort. They'd tell him to get his ass back to throwing southpaw, stat.

Re: Ashlee Simpson. Her performance was such a fiasco because the tape screwed up, not that she was lip-syncing in the first place. Hell, Eminem used a backing track the very next week on SNL and nobody said boo.

My personal association with 'Gold Digger' stems from my 2005 birthday, which was also one of the drunkest evenings of my life. At one point, I voluntarily drank a concoction known as a "Chernobyl" --- two shots of prairie fire and two shots of vodka, all mixed together in one glass and drank as a shot. It was horrific. But yet, the enduring image of that evening is my performance on the Ceeps dance floor to 'Gold Digger.' I was wearing out Kanye's "snap fingers and tilt slightly backwards" move from the video like Seth Rogen wearing out the dice move in Knocked Up. I also had to mop my bald head for sweat with what became affectionately known as a 'sweat rag' (a.k.a. a washcloth I had in my pocket for such an occasion), which made my co-worker Ravi laugh as hard as I've ever seen anyone laugh in my life. But, in my defense, Kanye does it himself! Watch the video! Between the 0:50 and 1:20 marks, Kanye wipes his head not once, not twice, but thrice! Apparently I was just doing a closer impression of him than I realized.

Misha: Firstly, great story from Mark about 'Gold Digger', and the snap-tilt backwards move was a crucial part of that video. As for Beyonce, I'm not surprised or bothered by the lack of uproar, but I agree that it is a double-standard. Remember how bad things were for Ashlee Simpson during that span in her career? The SNL fiasco (I agree with Mark…the tape playing, the Line-Dancing, and the "my band played the wrong song" comment) was disastrous, but the Bowl game (which was unfortunately her real singing) was the best/worst. So she was just a media piƱata during this period of time. Beyonce is very talented, and is a media darling, so things like this don't hurt her. It's probably not fair.

On to the real issue here in regards to U2 and Kanye. I am upset that U2 has (in my estimation) settled for turning out music that in no way challenges their audience or themselves. It is really comfortable and predictable. It's easy to be a U2 fan because they are more like your accountant than your favorite rock band. You know they are going to be professional, friendly and consistent. The songs are always of high quality, and the fans get the music they have demanded, but the band's ambition was compromised long ago, and, like I've said numerous times, without that ambition it is impossible to achieve a new level of greatness. U2 is just so safe, and that is a shame because they have earned the right to be so much more. Kanye, on the other hand, has a different set of issues to deal with. U2 has the songs, but no ambition, and Kanye has all of the ambition, but (recently) few songs. He is now committed strictly to groundbreaking, but is terrified of actually working on this new turf to create music that is up to his previously established standards. It's not about writing the same songs again, or going back to an old formula, but equal time needs to be focused on pushing the envelop and why it's being pushed. Kanye has all of talent necessary in terms of sheer pop skills to make phenomenal music in any genre, but he just seems so focused on being different for the sake of being different, as oppose to being different for the sake of creating better music. I have picked on these artists for two reasons…1. I think they're both great, and 2. I think they can be better. I would argue that (as of this writing) they are both going in the wrong direction.

2006: Modern Times by Bob Dylan: "Bob Dylan makes all other songwriters sound like scared little kittens", declares the Rolling Stone Album Guide, and it is true now more than ever. Because Rock N' Roll is only about 50 or so years old, Dylan finds himself in completely uncharted waters as the oldest rock performer ever to still be releasing vital material. More so than any other single artist in the last 100 years, Dylan has come the closest to revealing certain absolute truths about the human condition through his work. But, as he once sang: "All the truth in the world adds up to one big lie", and every time he gets face to face with these truths, he turns left, with the realization that the journey towards the truth is more interesting than the truth itself could ever be. Look back at the (many) moments in his career when he has been in such a furious and transcendent creative zone only to seemingly, out of nowhere, stop dead in his tracks, move in a completely new direction, and start from scratch ('Blonde on Blonde' to 'John Wesley Harding' and 'Nashville Skyline', or 'Blood on the Tracks' and 'Desire' to…well… God, just to name a couple). These transition periods are where you will find a lot of Dylan's worst music, because after turning away from these truths he burns the map that got him there, forcing him to forge a new path if he is to ever ascend the mountain once again. On 'Modern Times', Dylan finds himself on a final, fevered march towards the peak. Expanding on the themes established on 'Time Out Of Mind' and 'Love And Left', Dylan continues to mediate on morality, mortality, and the corruptibility of the human spirit. Like on the two aforementioned albums, Dylan is using seemingly personal and introspective songs to explore things that are happening on a more macro level. 'When The Deal Goes Down' is a beautifully intimate song, with wonderful lyrics that aren't even discussing the topics at hand as much as trying to cope with them. 'Someday Baby' shows that Dylan can still shoot back at an ex-love and that after all this time a fire still rages on inside that old heart. 'Thunder On The Mountain' is a genuinely exciting rock song, that has more lyrical twists jammed into it's almost six minutes than 99% of artists have had in their entire careers. But the best clue as to what might come next is found in the album's closer 'Ain't Talkin'', where Dylan warns the listener that he just might go all the way this time because, unlike in his youth when his restless artistic spirit had become bored by the time he'd ever gotten this far, he has to keep pushing forward while his "heart [is] burnin', and still yearnin'". But, as the song's title indicates, when he gets there, he's most likely going to keep his findings to himself.

Best Song: "When The Deal Goes Down" - When I used to rock Jack to sleep I would use the melody lines from this song, but change all the lyrics, so as to not make the boy cry himself to sleep every night. Haunting and sad, this song has one of Dylan's best vocal performances in recent memory, proving, once again, that how he sings is almost as affecting as what he is singing.

Runner-Up: Alright, Still by Lily Allen: Girls sing songs too? Who knew? Actually, this is the first of back to back female artists on my list. I was really impressed this first time I heard this album, and I grow more so with repeated listens. She is a saucy one, this Lily Allen, she sounds sweet enough, and the music is upbeat and fun (for the most part), but this is a young lady whom you do not want to cross. She informs an ex-boyfriend that he never "made her cum", that she was "high as a kite" every time they were together, and that he'll be sorry in a couple of weeks when she "works her way through [his] mates"…oh, and for good measure, he also has a small penis. That's all in one song, the hilarious and cutting 'Not Big'. With lyrics like this she should be battle rapping!! The album is full of hits ('Smile', 'LDN' and the strange-and awesome-'Alfie') but my favorite is the clever and pounding 'Take What You Take' which has a killer musical intro, great lyrics and some mighty pissed off singing. Fun fact: Hey, I actually have a comment that fits the criteria this time…apparently, like Chandler from 'Friends', Lily Allen has 3 nipples…she has drunkenly proven that this is not just a salacious rumor. What a fun fact!!

Kyle: I can't disagree with your assessment of Dylan as a songwriter. He's terrific. But—and if you could conveniently escort Jessica out of the room for just a minute, I'd appreciate it, since I don't want both of you to think less of me—I simply cannot wholeheartedly embrace anything he's released after, say, 1975, because (and I feel strongly about this), I really believe his voice has gone to shit. I feel like he's dying mid-song sometimes. I tried to like Modern Times, I really did, just like Love and Theft and Time Out of Mind, but it's not happening. I'm sorry. I know I've failed you.

Mark: Wait, you thought Dylan's voice before 1975 wasn't shit? Dylan's singing ability has never been exactly mint, but it's his lyrics and his ability to mold his voice to his music that makes him stand out. Great choices here from Misha, especially the Lily Allen record (which I own and considered for my runner-up spot in 06). As for Dylan, 'Thunder On The Mountain' is a GREAT song. You would've been fine not changing the lyrics to WTDGD, since as Conan O'Brien has taught me, babies respond to just the melody, so you can sing whatever words you want. Unless Jack is one of those baby geniuses. Like in that movie….Master & Commander.

Misha: Kyle, you are right, Dylan's voice is (almost) completely gone. But that's what makes this most recent incarnation (Time Out Of Mind to present) so amazing. He has had to reinvent his songwriting to fit the voice he has left, and that music is haunting, intimate and tremendously powerful. There is no astonishing voice here (as Mark argues, maybe there never really was) but it's someone who is whispering some very profound things to us all in a way which it has never been displayed before, and the quality of the songwriting is peerless. Dylan's voice has never been the show, but instead the vessel through which the most courageous, insightful and honest statements in modern music have been (and continue to be) delivered. Like Bono famously said: "Dylan is the only guy that has you from the cradle to the grave". Mark, glad you like the Lily Allen pick. Jess and I have been listening back to this recently, and it is really solid. P.S. I totally remember the Conan thing about melody and lyrics…well played, sir.

2007: Back To Black by Amy Winehouse: Friedrich Nietzsche once wrote: "In all writing I love only what is written with blood. Write with blood, and you discover that blood is spirit". Amy Winehouse writes in blood. Thank God I was already on my way to the alter when I discovered this album, because if I had stumbled across it in the midst of a break-up a morbid depression would have ensued, and I'd probably never have left my room again. Say what you will about the subsequent events of her life, but Amy Winehouse is the funniest, rawest, and most brutally honest songwriter going. The musical fusion that she (and producer Mick Ronson) have developed between rock, Motown, hip-hop and jazz is truly remarkable. Winehouse's vocal performance is spot on, with each track displaying a natural ability to phrase every line with a style that is uniquely of her own creation. But the album's lyrical content is the shocker here. A lot of people have heard 'Rehab', seen her crazy antics on, and told me that Winehouse is nothing more than a novelty act freak show. Then, after listening to the album in its entirety, they realize that 'Rehab' (like 'The Real Slim Shady' from 'The Marshall Mathers LP') is not so much a song, but more of a deceptive device used to draw you into a far more seedy and dangerous, but also more exhilarating, set of circumstances. 'Rehab' is a really good pop song, no one is disputing that, but it's confident, rebellious tone is a decoy for the battered, bruised characters we learn about as the album progresses. And don't think for one second that Amy Winehouse is going to sit back and play the heart broken victim. In fact, 'You Know I'm No Good' is actually an ode to her two timing some poor bastard, and the detail is vivid and often times excruciating. She talks about being in bed with her ex-boyfriend (cheating) but not being able to…umm….finish, because she is thinking about her current boyfriend while she's "in the final throws". Wow. And the song ends with her current boyfriend noticing carpet burns on her knees that he knows he played no role in putting there. Winehouse, upon realizing she's busted, sings that "my stomach drops and my guts churn"…ours too Amy. It's a great song from a musical perspective as well, but what great, intense storytelling and she is not going to save face by hiding the fact that she is the villain, because that would be dishonest, and she'd rather be viewed as anything but that.

If you're still a doubter after these couple of songs, check out 'Love Is A Losing Game', 'Me And Mr. Jones' and 'Tears Dry On Their Own'. Oh, and be prepared to run for cover if you listen to 'He Can Only Hold Her', because a Mac Truck sized hook is about drive through your front window. We all watch the news, and know that this is going to end in tears, but this album is worth a million records from Carrie Underwood, Kelly Clarkson, Beyonce or Britney, because what is radiating from the cover of those albums is a fine, pretty gloss of disposability, whereas 'Back To Black' is the ugly, glorious truth, all covered in blood.

Best Song: "Back To Black" -This the best break-up song not on Dylan's ultimate break-up album 'Blood On The Tracks'. Just brutal. If you haven't heard it, I can't describe it to you, but I'll tell you that if you're over the age of 16 you've been in her shoes before, and, no matter what you told your friends at the time, when you were alone, reflecting on how you really felt about things, you were feeling like this. Simply a stunning emotional achievement.

Fun fact: The night before Carrie and Kyle's wedding we were all in the Wasko family basement when Carrie's mother Mary came downstairs and announced that she wanted to sing us her favorite song. I, being a tool, expected some Irish ditty, but then she broke into the Amy Winehouse version of Valerie (a b-side cover from the 'Back to Black' sessions). Jessica and I had just happened to be listening to the song in the car earlier that evening, and, much to Mary's surprise, joined in to sing the song with her in its entirety. Good times.

Runner-Up: Icky Thump by The White Stripes: Like I said earlier, The White Stripes could have been on this list four times, so before the bitching starts, please note that (at least in my eyes) I have used some restraint. When I first heard the title track I envisioned my good friend Jeff Teolis going into cardiac arrest, because Jeff is a huge Zeppelin fan, and this is the best Zeppelin riff in a long time (I am happy to report that Jeff survived…but, by his own admission, just barely). Note the great lyrics in the song which deal with a scenario right out of the Seinfeld episode where George meets a woman on the subway, she takes him to a hotel, ties him to the bed in nothing but his boxers, and steals all of his things. In Jack White's version, he is George, the setting is not a subway, but a Mexican brothel, and the woman is a one eyed prostitute played by his big sister/ex-wife Meg. Oh, and then he slams America for its poor handling and outlook on immigration. Got all that? Unless you're Jack White, you just can't make this shit up, but that is why The White Stripes are so exciting. You don't know what's coming next, but you know it'll be interesting, and they will somehow manage to pull it off in the end. The White Stripes have so much going for them it almost seems unfair. Not only does Jack White have the guitar and songwriting chops to compete with anyone from any generation, but the band also has the best gimmick in the business as well (the whole brother/sister, husband/wife thing). It's like having Led Zeppelin's music with Kiss' shtick…amazing. This album is quite an adventure, from the great 'You Don't Know What Love Is (You Just Do As You're Told), to the hilarious and raucous 'Rag and Bone' and the terrific 'I'm Slowly Turning Into You' which has as it's chorus both Meg and Jack White's voices perfectly (through studio trickery) combined to create a single voice, as if they were one person. But if you think that maybe it's all loud noise, gimmicks and style over substance, make sure to check out the final song 'Cause And Effect', which is just Jack and a guitar finding his way through a simple, but extremely clever explanation about interpersonal relationships and perspectives. I know…and I agree…it's really not fair.

Kyle: sigh…I think Back to Black is the most overrated album on your list, if not the most overrated album of the decade. I mean, it's not that it's bad, it's just that—like the first season of Heroes—it was never even as close to as good as we all collectively agreed to think it. (Sorry for that sentence.) Yes, her and, yes, it's become virtually impossible for me to divorce my thoughts on her personal life (deplorable, clearly) from her music, but all I know is that, according to my trusty play counter in iTunes, I have listened to Back to Black precisely zero times in 2008, which suggests to me that it doesn't exactly have a lot of staying power. Personally, I much prefer Adele (who, I just discovered, is barely 20—wow!). Misha, I'll save you the trouble, and write the first line of your follow up comment for you (you're responsible for everything after "Are you out of your fucking mind?"…)

Mark: Never heard the whole album, so I can't honestly comment. Though it's not surprising that Winehouse has some songwriting chops. She must've picked something up over her 300 years of walking the earth, feasting on the blood of innocents. In a way, she's doing a public service; if they existed, female vampires would look a lot more like her than they would, say, Julie Benz. So congrats to Amy Winehouse for fighting back aginst the media's stereotypical body images of female vampires.

Misha: Are you out of your fucking mind!? Just kidding. Look, what good is me writing anything more going to do? Back to Black is one of those rare albums that is great for a 1,000 reasons. It's honest, brave, uncompromising, musically excellent, lyrically outstanding and completely original. Amy Winehouse is Seinfeld and Adele is Everybody Loves Raymond. [Kyle: ouch]Period. I think it's time to get a new iPod. P.S. I still love you.

2008: Runner-Up: The Slip by Nine Inch Nails: I'm going to do the runner-up before the best album for 2008, because we all know what's coming up next…but first…Nine Inch Nails. While the idea of 'the album' is being bludgeoned to death ninety-nine cents at a time, Trent Reznor found a great way to both reward longtime fans and alienate music pirates. He released this album, in its entirety, as a free download on the band's website months before it was made available for purchase. When asked why he would make it free instead of going the Radiohead route of just letting people pay whatever they wanted for the record, Reznor shot back a very insightful response: "It gives them [the fans] too much power. I'm not saying you have to pay for it, but don't tell me that it's worth fifty cents". I think I may have put the album here for that quote alone. But also because it is his best work in a decade and 'Discipline' is a tremendous song. '1,000,000', 'Letting You' and 'Echoplex' are also excellent. What I love about this Nine Inch Nails album (and all of them for that matter) is that they demand your full attention. These are not good 'background noise' albums. It's like the music knows the second you turn your head, and goes into instant, unlistenable distortion. You turn your head back, and the music is good again…strange. But this also gives me a chance to ask if someone can provide me with a real reason why pirating music is okay. Come on now, everybody (except me, apparently) does it, and no one has ever provided me with a good answer as to why/how it is any different than walking to a car dealership and stealing a Lexus. I'm just curious. [Kyle: because a Lexus doesn't cost $14.99? Kidding!] [Mark: Because Shawn Fanning didn't develop LexusSter and corrupt us all at a young age.]

2008: Chinese Democracy by Guns N' Roses: This is my second attempt at writing something about this album. My first was set up in a format where I was the Eminem character at the end of 8 Mile and everyone else was Papa Doc. I was going to take every complaint I have heard about this album (both before and since its release) and address those issues before anyone had a chance to respond. It was about 1,000 words when I stopped, and I hadn't even started talking about the music yet…I was solely focused on the bullshit surrounding it. And that's the problem with discussing this album, the actual music gets lost in the drama behind its creation. I will address some of those issues later (yes, this is going to be a long entry), but this will be the first review I've read where the music itself will come first.

Oh God…here we go…Chinese Democracy is a spectacular sonic barrage, with more musical twists and turns than a Hitchcock film, and more creative, audacious and uncompromised ambition than ANY major label album released since…well…I don't know when. It is also not a typical pop record in the sense that it actually achieves the exact opposite effect pop artists crave. A pop song is supposed to be instantly familiar to the listener because it follows the accepted songwriting formula of hooks, a verse, a chorus, a bridge etc. The song is supposed to grab your attention initially, and slowly dissipate in the level of satisfaction the more you hear it. There are many songs on this album (in fact most) that start off in this very linear pattern, and then go in melodic or musical directions that have never been explored on a pop record of this magnitude. Imagine Axl walking down the narrow hallway of 'normal' pop songwriting, stopping, turning and looking at the wall. Curious, he grabs a spoon and starts digging into the wall (think Danny in The Great Escape, only with cornrows). He doesn't know what's on the other side of this wall, but he is sure that it is more interesting than what he'll find if the song continues down the hallway to its logical conclusion. This type of approach has lead to a record that is too bizarre, confusing and complex to be properly digested with just one listen. When you first hear this album, it appears to be the ultimate anti-pop record. With the exception of a few of songs ('Better', 'Street of Dreams', 'IRS', 'Sorry') the album seems, at first, like a confused mess. But after a couple of listens the other songs start to make more and more sense, and the whole thing becomes an extremely satisfying affair.

A good question that has been asked is in regards to why the record needs to be this complex in the first place? If the songs are there (which they obviously are) why not just present them in a more instantly accessible manner? Well, consider how Christopher Nolan makes his movies. He and his brother develop a basic story (I'll use the most obvious example of Memento, but this applies to all of Nolan's films to one degree or another) and then Nolan sits back and tries to find a way of telling that story which he hopes will add another dimension to the film. Would Memento be the cult classic it is if it were told in a chronologically coherent manner? It has a great story, but the way in which it has been assembled and presented is what makes it revolutionary. It's like a two for one deal; you get a great story, combined with impeccable storytelling. Axl follows the same path on Chinese Democracy…with every single song. Most of the time it works, but even when it fails ('Catcher In The Rye') it is endlessly intriguing. No other major artist has the time or the gall to attempt this type of song creation, at least not on every single track for an entire album. Axl's vocal performance is absolutely stunning and the way his vocals are dubbed and layered throughout the record is groundbreaking. Musically the album is psychotic. There are more guitars, pianos, keyboards, and God knows what else, on this album than I have ever heard on any one record before. The arrangements are impossibly sophisticated and gorgeous. And if you listen to the music closely you'll be amazed at how intricate the synchronization is between all of the instruments involved on any given song. An astonishing artistic achievement.

With all of this going for it musically, why is Chinese Democracy such a polarizing album? Well, firstly, if the record could actually speak, its first words would come in the form of a quote from Jack Nicholson in the film The Departed. Talking to Leo DiCaprio about his brutal ascent to power in the Boston Mafia, Nicholson says: "A lot of people had to die for me to be me". The process of creating this record destroyed the original Guns N' Roses line-up, cost Geffen Records an unbelievable amount of money, and lost Axl Rose a large portion of his life. There has been a lot of suffering on the 14 year road to this album's release. Prior to its release the media mercilessly mocked this album's (at the time supposed) existence, and Axl himself became (next to Michael Jackson) the biggest joke in music. Fans were turned off by the tracks they were hearing leaked online because they didn't sound like 'Welcome To The Jungle' and the record entered the world without the chance to be heard objectively. The consensus was that if this wasn't the best album ever made it would be considered a disappointment. Has any album ever confronted that type of insane expectation? It is not the best album ever made, but to quote Chuck Klosterman's review from The Onion (A.V Club):
"Chinese Democracy comes close to fulfilling the absurdly impossible expectations…[because] the final truth is this: He [Axl Rose] makes the best songs."
The album was #1 in the world in terms of sales the week of its release (Source: Global Track Chart) [note: this is the first actual source ever to appear on my blog--I can't speak for Mark's.], but the album is, so far, a commercial disappointment. It reminds me of an album that came out about two decades ago, sounded like nothing else around at the time, was hated by the record company ("Where are the singles!!??" they cried) and landed with a loud, anonymous thud, and was greeted by a chorus of yawns. But one year (to the day) after its release it was the #1 album in America. That album was Appetite For Destruction. Even the Illusion records got off to great sales starts, fizzled quickly, and were saved 10 months later by the release of 'November Rain' as a smash single. So Guns N' Roses albums have a slow burn, long term track record. We'll see where this album is commercially one year from now.

Everything I've written about here leads to a few, final truths. Not once in his career has Axl Rose ever compromised. Not one goddamn time. This has cost him millions of dollars (from no reunion, no new album revenue-until now, very little touring, and no new GNR merchandise), an endless amount of public abuse, and his original band. But he simply refuses to do anything he doesn't want to do. How many people (fans, friends, agents, managers, record execs, band members etc.) begged him to put this album out over the past 14 years? His answer…not until it's finished. WHAT??!! Name one other modern artist with the will and conviction to withstand that type of pressure? But Axl is the artistic answer to a suicide bomber. You can't threaten a suicide bomber with death, and you can't threaten Axl Rose with career suicide because he'd rather never release another album than release one with which he is not completely satisfied. You cannot logically reason with this personality type, and modern pop culture cannot understand it. Axl has walked away from all of this before, and he could do it again, because it's not about money and fame…it's about making the best music he possibly can. While Coldplay is playing 'The Wyoming Pumpkin Festival', desperately trying to sell more records and convince everyone of what great guys they are, and The Killers are telling anyone who will listen that they are the 'New U2' or the 'New Bruce Springsteen', and Bono is planning his next trip to Oprah, and while Kanye West is talking about being Elvis, Axl Rose, spoon in hand, is digging his way through another wall, actually looking for Yeats' 'Rose in the Cross', those transcendent moments where divinity and reality intersect. He may not find anything there but, unlike everyone else in popular music, at least he's still searching for it. And he doesn't care if you like it or not.

Best song: I'll leave this up to whoever is reading this, just make sure to listen to whichever song you select a few times…it's worth the effort.

Kyle: Just wanted to point out that, in its original form, this (outstanding and downright moving in places) GNR entry was one 1,600 word paragraph (and possibly: sentence).

I'm going to surprise some people (though, implicit in that statement is the belief that someone is actually reading this, so perhaps not…) and say: I love this album. It just goes (which may not sound like much of a compliment, but is just about the highest praise I can pay an album). This is especially irritating for me as I was eager to be totally letdown and then incredibly smug in my dismissal of it. Alas, it wasn't meant to be. Rats. (It appears I'll have to channel my overwhelming sense of superiority elsewhere.)

I'm going to abstain from picking a favorite track—partly because I think you should do it, but mostly because I'm struggling to pick just one (the title track, Shacker's Revenge, I.R.S., Sorry, and If The World are all in the running). Let me know and I will legally purchase said song from the iTunes store for the low, low price of $0.99. [Follow up note: no one touched this, so I've gone ahead and picked "I.R.S."]

What I will say is this: while it's highly listenable and, in many ways, a towering achievement, it does call to mind a scene from an early season episode from The West Wing when Sam Seaborn was talking about high taxes:
...every time your boss got on the stump and said, "It's time for the rich to pay their fair share", I hid under a couch and changed my name. I left my last job making $400,000 a year, which means I paid twenty-seven times the national average in income tax. I paid my fair share, and the fair share of twenty-six other people. And I'm happy to because that's the only way it's gonna work, and it's in my best interest that everybody be able to go to schools and drive on roads, but I don't get twenty-seven votes on Election Day. The fire department doesn't come to my house twenty-seven times faster and the water doesn't come out of my taps twenty-seven times hotter.
So I guess what I'm saying that, all "that's just Axl being Axl" talk aside (an argument I know for a fact you despise), the album is good—possibly even great—but it's not "fourteen years" great. It's not fourteen times better than 808s or Day and Age or Viva La Vida (actually, maybe…). So while I'm pleased that it actually did come out and even happier that it's actually good, I can't help but be, even if ever so slightly, still a bit disgusted.

All of that said: this is a strong pick. And (I hope this doesn't come across as disingenuous) I'm happy for you.

Mark: Geez, I probably should listen to it. [/starts barricading door in anticipation of Misha angrily bursting into my home and choking me] Okay, okay, I've listened to some of it; I quite enjoy Shackler's Revenge, Madagascar (though the MLK clip was maybe a bit over the top) and IRS. It's weird, I think you're right when you say that Chinese Democracy will take some time to properly analyze. Honestly, like Kyle, I can't separate it from the "14 years" thing. I feel like it was almost deliberate calculation from Axl to escape standard criticism --- if he releases it in 1996 under the pressure of it being an Axl Rose solo album (which it basically is, it's not GNR), then that's far different from it coming out in 2008 when everyone is just starved for something, anything to finally get put onto disc. It should be noted that Chinese Democracy, from what I've heard of it, is also not 14 times better than Velvet Revolver's albums.

Two questions for Misha, since he's the GNR expert. 1) Is Axl a better songwriter solo than he is in combination with Slash and/or Izzy Stradlin? 2) Over/under: Axl Rose's next album comes out before 2015.

Misha: Thank you both for your thoughtful comments about this album and entry. Kyle, I appreciate the compliments, and your kind words…I know they are genuine. I like that you are both honest about the whole 14 year thing. It is tough to comprehend, especially in an era where there is a very strict timeline for artists to make and release music in order to keep them top of mind in an increasingly fickle cultural arena. But it's not like Axl was getting up every morning for 14 years and working from 9-5 on this album. At least 3 years were consumed by various litigations, another couple of years were lost with the revolving door of band members and producers (Flood, Youth, Moby, Scott Litt, Sean Beaven, and Roy Thomas Baker to name a few), and there were at least 2 years dedicated entirely to trying to get the 'Spruce Goose" off the ground (you see, I can have a sense of humor about this). But I think it needs to be noted that you can actually hear the years of work in the arrangements and the layering of all of the sounds on the record. I think the '14 Year Argument' would be more effective if you couldn't hear all of the work that has been put in over that time. It's not 14 times better than these other albums you've mentioned, but it is their peer in terms of songwriting, and their superior in terms of ambition and creativity. And that's not bad against the best artists going today. And the first Velvet Revolver album is a lot of fun, but the second is one of the absolute worst records I've heard in years. Axl is looking up, down, sideways…everywhere for new ways to move Guns N' Roses forward, into a better direction, while the guys in Velvet Revolver have always had their eyes squarely in the rearview mirror. That's why…gasp…I don't want a reunion. Axl has proven through this album that he is still raging against the dying of the light, while his former GNR band mates are looking to rehash old ideas that worked in 1987 and 1991, but haven't worked since.

So to answer Mark's question first question, right now I think Axl is better off continuing down this current path, because anything else would be a step backwards. The bottom line for me is that Guns N' Roses have always been one thing…dangerous. And, because of the things I mentioned in my entry, Axl Rose is the most dangerous artist in popular music today because his motives are so completely different from those of other artists. Fame and fortune have always been his for the taking, and, remember, no one pushed him off the top, he jumped, so in this day and age where fame itself is seemingly the only goal for most celebrities, what Axl has done is unheard of. Contrary to popular belief, it is not hard to be a Guns N' Roses fan, because I know that if I ever hear another note of music again it will be, by Axl's own estimation, the best possible music he could make, without compromise, regret, or apology. Not many fans can say that of their favorite artists. And to Mark's other question…probably 2020.

Kyle's Picks (2005-2008)

2005: Silent Alarm by Bloc Party: surprising absolutely no one, I'm sure. This is one of my five favorite albums ever, as well as the best album from my favorite band, so its inclusion was a foregone conclusion. Instead of railing against it, why not simply be happy that I reined myself in and didn't also include A Weekend in the City (2007) and Intimacy (2008...which I hated at first, but has really grown on me of late)? I kind of hate the term post-rock (and don't totally understand it), but if this is what that is, then it's something I can get behind. The singles--"So Here We Are," "Banquet," "The Pioneers," "Two More Years," and "Helicopter"--don't even really do the album justice, since it's just as easy to list five or six other songs from the album that are arguably even stronger: "Like Eating Glass," "Blue Light," "This Modern Love" (used in the S1 finale of How I Met Your Mother), "Price of Gas," "Plans," and "Little Thoughts" (released on the extended UK version). This is the long way of saying: the whole album is sixty or so minutes of hyper-kinetic awesomeness (is so, Misha) that never fails to get me wound up. Also worth checking out is Silent Alarm Remixed, which is different enough that it stands on its own as a great album. Kudos to Mark for introducing me to these guys (via his CHRW radio show, which I dearly miss). "Best" song: (oh, it's definitely "Banquet," but just to mix it up--I've already included it on several mixes--let's go with #2, that being:) "Plans." I used to have an amazing acoustic version of it, but I somehow lost in the transition from my old iPod to my new one. Damn.

Runner up: Illinois by Sufjan Stevens--go 2005! I'll put this top two against any other year on the list (1982 and 1997 are in the mix as well).

Mark: Well, it's been long enough, so I might as well tell you the truth. I have never listened to 'Silent Alarm' before in my life. I picked it off the shelf at CHRW solely because the name vaguely rang a bell from some NME article I'd recently read, and I picked 'Banquet' not knowing it was the single. It was quite the twist of fate, really --- had I picked another song, I might not have ever played the disc again. But 'Banquet' ended up being a staple of the ol' Jade Monkey Show for a few weeks, and thus it begat your love for the band. To this very day, the only Bloc Party tracks I've ever listened to are Banquet, This Modern Love (only because of its inclusion in the HIMYM finale) and Talons. I've enjoyed them all, so I'm not really sure what my problem is. Anyway, I'm glad my pick ended up making such an impact on your life, Kyle. I feel like Joey Tribbiani, randomly picking Paul Rudd to go on a blind date with Phoebe, and then watching in amazement as the two of them ended up hitting it off and getting married.

Misha: That story about Mark not knowing what he was playing and it subsequently changing Kyle's life is hilarious. I have also never heard these albums, which are (according to Kyle) the best albums since the invention of sound. I will get them both Kyle, and they had better be the best records ever or else…[Misha listening to the records]…you're lucky Kyle!! Seriously, I'll get them.

Kyle: This is, simply put, a stunning development. Imagine what would've happened if you'd put on something by Panic! at the Disco or Jack Johnson instead! You might've changed the course of history. Maybe I wouldn't have met Carrie…maybe I'd be dead....or a Scientologist. Who can say?

This is an astoundingly good debut album, on par with Ten and London Calling. I realize that I'm so in the tank for Bloc Party that I have zero credibility when I talk about them—nevertheless, I'm urging you both to take a closer look at their stuff. Misha, in your case, this is a re-examination, since I proudly played Silent Alarm for you while we made out in my bedroom played poker in Jon's old backyard on Olympic Cres., only to have you soul-crushingly dismiss it as "forgettable." [sob]

2006: Boys and Girls in America by The Hold Steady: again, I kind of hate including an album that I didn't actually listen to in the year in question (I came across BAGIA late last year...thanks to Alan Sepinwall, who noted that he was incapable of recapping the final season of The Sopranos without listening to it BAGIA), but sometimes an album is so good that I don't have a choice. This is such an album. Yeah, yeah, I know lead singer Craig Finn (who, weirdly, looks exactly like Eddie Jemison--aka the guy that plays Livingston in Ocean's Eleven, Twelve, and Thirteen) sounds like Springsteen circa 1978, but that's hardly a bad thing, is it? Allegedly, the guys from the Hold Steady came up with the idea of forming a group after watching Scorcese's The Last Waltz and lamenting that there were no more bands like The Band anymore...which is pretty flippin' sweet.

Replete with tales of low-level debauchery, listening to this album is like spending 40 minutes and change with sketchy friends from high school--you know you shouldn't, but it's just so damn tempting. Ten minutes longer and you'd be falling into old habits. Finn's got such an unusual voice, but there's a lot going on here, including solid lyrics (how can you not love this from "Stuck Between Stations"? He was drunk and exhausted but he was critically acclaimed and respected / He loved the Golden Gophers but he hated all the drawn out winters. / He likes the warm feeling but he's tired of all the dehydration / Most nights were kind of fuzzy / But that last night he had total retention) and great use of the piano (whether faintly during "Chillout Tent" or building to a swell in "First Night"). The latter song references the album title in a couple of places, which begs the question: why the hell wasn't this used as the theme song for Kid Nation? Missed opportunity. (Also: weekly knife fights to the death for immunity.)

This is powerful stuff...and were there any justice in the musical world, they'd be roughly three times as famous as the Jonas Brothers. Best song: Lots to choose from, but I'll go with the aforementioned "Stuck Between Stations," which sets the tone for the rest of the album.

Runner up: Silent Shout by The Knife: I won't lie, these two kind of skeeve me out, but they make great music.

Mark: More on the Hold Steady on my own list, but I'll definitely have to get around to listening to this album at some point. Between this, My Bloody Valentine, Fountains of Wayne, and apparently, The Knife, I've got a lot of listening to get to. That anecdote about the Band is amazing. I need to gather the four more talented musicians I know for a screening of Stop Making Sense, and then tantalizingly drop the line, "Boy, it sure is too bad that there aren't any bands like Talking Heads anymore." Of course, this might lead to the four of them going off on their own to start their own band, while I go down in history as 'the fifth Cowardly Jesuit.' Editor's note: they'll call the band the Cowardly Jesuits.

Misha: Wow…again, I can't contribute because I don't know the albums. I was talking to Jaymie the other day about our shared admiration for The Brian Jonestown Massacre and how I stumbled onto them by chance. This fed into a conversation about how many great albums we've never heard, that might actually change our lives if we ever found them. What I love about Kyle is that he is combing the cemetery of rock history for these buried treasures, with the knowledge that the 25 artists that are shoved down our collective throats are probably not the best 25 artists around. In my selections I took cultural relevance into consideration, and Kyle is clearly looking to select his favourite records, regardless of who knows them or not, and there is nothing wrong with that at all. I, like Mark, have a lot of listening to do.

Kyle: Hmmm…Misha, you seem to be subtly (actually, no not at all) implying that I'm not taking cultural relevance into consideration, and I'm not too sure how to respond to that, in that things I like always strike me as culturally relevant. The lesson, I suppose, is that I'm incredibly self-centered.

2007: Boxer by The National: Does it seem like these guys are from Tennessee or Virginia or North Carolina? Well, they're not. They're from Brooklyn (by way of Ohio)--just like The Hold Steady, actually. Moving on...this hard-charging album (which was 9th on my Best of '07 list) edges out my original #1 (The Con by Tegan and Sara) because I. can't. stop. listening. to. it. Seriously: dozens of times over the past three months. Partly it's lead singer Matt Beringer's deep baritone (which I initially found off-putting but now verges on the hypnotic) and partly it's their gorgeous, gorgeous lyrics (Looking for somewhere to stand and stay / I leaned on the wall and the wall leaned away and You know I dreamed about you / for twenty-nine years before I saw you; both from "Slow Show"). Bonus points for "Fake Empire" (track one on the album) being used as the backing music for a video that aired just before Obama's acceptance speech at the DNC, and then again for a video just before his victory address on November 4th...which, in retrospect, was an incredibly ballsy move by Obama's advance team, if you think about it. (Let's assume that they assumed that most people wouldn't figure out the title.)

Best song: There's no track here that quite equals "Baby, We'll Be Fine" ("I'm so sorry about everything...") off of Alligator (their 2005 release), but "Slow Show" is damn close.

Runner up: The Con. I caught some flack for this pick at the time (usually along the lines of "I didn't realize you were a militant lesbian, Kyle"), but I stand by this, sort of (I did drop it to #2, after all). If I manage to get either of you to listen to this album even once (or, failing that, the staggeringly good title track), I'll have done a good thing today.

Mark: Once again, never heard either album. Two more for the list!

Misha: I've always known you were a militant lesbian. I bought you a T-Shirt that actually says just that. I feel bad that Kyle is getting no response on some of these because neither Mark nor I have heard them. Kyle, there is an extra seat at our White Stripes meetings if you want to come. We can even listen to just 'Get Behind Me Satan' if you like. On a total side note, at the house on Olympic Cres. Kyle and I were in the backyard listening to 'Get Behind Me Satan' and the neighbour started randomly talking shit about it. I love the band (obviously) and Kyle had always shown no interest in them, so imagine my surprise when Kyle stood up and pretty much told the neighbour that the record was great…and to go fuck himself. I'm not sure if Kyle did it more out of his love for album, or his protective love of me and my feelings, but regardless, it was a touching moment…insert love scene here.

Kyle: Jesus, boys…it's gotta be exhausting for the two of you to hang out with such a hardcore hipster like me. This is three years in a row of me dropping some sonic knowledge on your heads. Now that I think about, I should've thrown in a fake album from a made-up band to see if you'd just nod along (not unlike when Misha and I would make up MLB/NBA/NFL trades in public school to see if we get the other person to bite and say that they'd heard of the deal, followed by several minutes of merciless mocking—good times!). This is a gorgeous album (as is, indeed, their entire catalogue).

2008: Only by the Night by Kings of Leon: ** spoiler! ** I've gone back and forth on this pick, since I can't decide if 2008 was an especially weak year, musically-speaking, or an especially strong one, with lots of consistently good (if not knock you on your ass great) albums. I'm leaning towards the latter at this stage, but, either way, this is one of only two albums to blow me away in '08 (the other is my runner-up pick). Despite having released three albums prior to this one, Kings of Leon weren't on my radar until July. Now? I can't seem to stop listening to the disc, which is a bit like Band of Horses if they rocked harder. Certainly worth checking out if you haven't already, "gentlemen" (that's right, I used quotation marks to subtly undermine your character. Game on, bitches!)

Best song: "Sex on Fire." Wow. Just awesome.

Runner up: Fleet Foxes by Fleet Foxes.

Mark: Haven't listened to it! Sigh. Fun fact: Kings of Leon are good friends with U2, having opened several shows for them on the Vertigo Tour. In fact, U2 will be the opening act (you read that right) for KOL for a concert at the new O2 Arena in Dublin next month. The logic here is that the concert promoter wanted U2 to be the official 'first act to ever play at the arena,' so U2 agreed to it in support of their pals in KOL. It's going to be a tad embarrassing when half the crowd leaves after the opening act, but c'est la vie.

Misha: Hey, I know this one. I'm a big fan of this album, and I'm glad that they are getting some buzz over it (actually, quite a bit of buzz). I'm not going to get too excited about these guys just yet, but I think they're really onto something and I hope they stick with it and keep making exciting music like this. Come on Kyle, you know Chinese Democracy is growing on you…if you could pick Appetite for this list after all of these years I know you will come around (all the way) on CD. P.S. Where are all the 'Fun Facts' etc. that have littered your other blogs about the 80's and 90's? I made 'Fun Facts' that aren't even fun or facts just to fit in. God damn you guys!!

Kyle: fun fact: go fuck yourself. (Happy?)

Mark's Picks

2005: Elevator by Hot Hot Heat:
Goddammit, I had a whole entry written up about Stars' Set Yourself On Fire when I went to its Wikipedia entry to check on a track name....and discovered it was actually released in 2004 in Canada. Fuck. My inability to remember a calendar means that HHH get the top spot for the year. It's rare that I come across a power-pop album that a) isn't annoying as hell and b) is actually something I want to listen to more than once. I discovered HHH first when attending one of their concerts at legendary London nightclub Call The Office, and then I played a number of songs from this album on my old CHRW morning radio show. See, this is why I've gotten so clueless about music in recent years; I don't have a radio show anymore to stay plugged into the modern scene. Can someone at XM Satellite Radio sign me to a huge contract so I can, y'know, listen to a few new records? Consider it a form of charity. Maybe the XM CEO Is one of those people on Fox's "Secret Millionaire" show.

Best song: "Shame On You."

Honourable mention for 2005: Late Registration by Kanye West. Three straight years with a hip-hop selection! "Gold Digger" is one of the best songs of the decade. This disc, College Dropout and Graduation look even better given Kanye's current flirtation with pretending he can sing. His performance on SNL last weekend was, in a word, brutal.

Misha: With Hot Hot Heat I think of The Strokes knocking on their door and asking for royalties. Bands like this do not exist if 'Is This It?' wasn't there to show young bands how to pull off this type of music. It's a good record and all, and I was into it, but NO ONE this decade has been ignored more often for their influence than The Strokes. I agree with the Kanye on SNL comment, and I think we both wrote the same thing about where he is right now (with the singing thing). What's funny about the SNL appearance is that the set was phenomenal, and the singing was phenomenally terrible. It was like a joke. But 'Love Lockdown' is so good that I watched Jess literally ignore the awful singing because she likes the song so much. P.S. Jess' version of this song is WAY better than Kanye's…she can sing.

Kyle: wow. [Looks up album online.] The guys that did "Goodnight, Goodnight"?? To borrow a line from the Isotopes announcer after Whitey Ford is pelted with pretzels: "this is a dark day for baseball." Had I known that this was your #2 pick for 2005, I would've allowed Set Yourself on Fire (remember: magnanimous!) I think I have to move on now.

Mark: Oh man, the line is 'BLACK day for baseball'! Epic fail. I'm sure of it since I quote that line roughly five times during any baseball game. (Or, in situations like "The Yankees signed Mark Teixeira?! Black day for baseball.") No offense to HHH but yeah, this is quite probably the album I'm least enthusiastic about of any of my picks. Maybe I should've just gone with Kanye. In HHH's defense, they put on a great live show. Every time I type HHH I feel like I'm making a wrestling reference. HHH beat out Kanye for the top spot via X-Pac interference and a Pedigree.

2006: Pearl Jam by Pearl Jam: Just an epic record from Pearl Jam. Not many bands' eighth album can be their near-best; hell, most bands don't even get the chance to make eight albums, but PJ has survived, thrived and are at the moment as good as they've ever been. The self-titled, er, title was appropriate because the record is in a lot of ways an overview of all of their musical stylings. You've got grungy stuff (Comatose), rock ballads (Come Back), political infusion (Army Reserve and Marker In The Sand), ukulele twanging (Parachutes) and Neil Young-esque straight-ahead rock (Unemployable, Inside Job). It's probably pretty easy to forecast the rest of PJ's career --- they'll do their solo projects and then re-gather for an album every three or four years or so, releasing something that will kick our asses every time out, and then going on another great tour. This will continue until President Obama* passes a constitutional amendment --- or, a Jeff Ament-ment --- signifying that yes, once and for all, Pearl Jam were way, way better than Nirvana ever were.

* = if this realization doesn't come to the world by 2016, let's leave it up to President....oh, let's say Dean.

Best song: 'Life Wasted' was one of my favourite PJ songs from the moment I pressed the play button on my car stereo. 'Marker n the Sand' and 'Come Back' receive particular mention as well.

Honourable mention for 2006: The Hardest Way To Make An Easy Living by The Streets

Misha: I will start this by saying that I love you very much Mark. But, if you want to slam Kurt Cobain for anything, slam him for causing the demise of PJ. Eddie Vedder (notoriously) hated that Cobain was viewed as the artist (who personally disliked PJ) and that PJ were viewed as a Stadium Rock Band. Once Cobain died, PJ lost their way, trying to prove a dead man wrong. PJ is a stadium rock band, and they were a damn fine one too. PJ could have followed The Who and instead are trying to be Sonic Youth!! They have tried to appear to be this underground, college radio band, but it seems (at least to me) to be completely contrived. 'Ten' and 'Vs.' are what God meant for PJ to be. Imagine where this band would be today if they were more worried about making whatever kind of music they wanted to make as oppose to worrying about how that music (and the band) would be perceived by an audience (the aforementioned college radio audience) that they never should have gone after in the first place. You can actually hear the band as it strains to avoid its own musical instincts, in order to be less commercial. I would like to conclude by telling Mark (again) that I love him.

Kyle: you meant "Palin," right?

Oooo…I'm heartbroken. I really wanted it to work out for the two of you. What a shame. Well, you'll always have Kanye and Outkast.

I actually totally forgot about this PJ album, which is pretty damn solid. One complaint: how the hell is your eighth album the self-titled one? Is this supposed to be ironic? Did they forget to send a title in? This is very confusing.

Mark: I think the logic behind the title was that it was their first album free of their original deal with Epic Records, so it was like a new beginning. Either that or they were going to call it Chinese Democracy.

Misha, you're really shifting the goalposts when it comes to discussing musicians doing new things. You bash Kanye for 808s, saying the creativity outmatched the songwriting. You bash U2 for 'playing it safe' with ATYCLB and HTDAAB. You bash Pearl Jam for allegedly trying to out-Cobain Cobain, which doesn't make any sense given that whatever you think of the stuff on Vitalogy or No Code, it certainly doesn't sound like Nirvana's music. If anything, PJ weren't trying to be the new Nirvana; they were simply not interested in all of the attendant nonsense that went along with being The Biggest Band In America ™ in 1993 (Ticketmaster-controlled tours, premiering videos on MTV, etc.). It was more a case of running from the mainstream than it was embracing college-radio. If you've heard any of Stone Gossard/Mike McCready/Jeff Ament/Eddie Vedder's solo work or side projects, they're decidedly different from the regular Pearl Jam sound, so the guys clearly have a more 'out-there' side to their songwriting that they can access.

2007: Icky Thump by the White Stripes:
Finally, the White Stripes capture first place in a year! Talk about being long overdue. 'Icky Thump' is the record that more or less ended the debate that the Stripes are the best and most vibrant band in a music world increasingly dominated by solo acts. Now, of course, it's somewhat debatable that the Stripes are a 'band' per se, given Jack White's clear leadership role in a two-person unit, but whatever role Meg plays in the process (besides drumming, occasional singing, being a muse), it's clear that she brings out the best in her, sorry, wait a second, "brother." This record is full of just amazing stuff. There aren't many albums that could combine a killer cover of a forgotten oddity like 'Conquest' with a pop gem like "You Don't Know What Love Is" and blues-rock masterpieces like 'Rag And Bone' and '300 MPH Torrential Outpour Blues.' Man, I'm getting pumped up just writing this. I'm going to fire Icky Thump up on iTunes right now.

Best song: "I'm Slowly Turning Into You." I've made a couple of recommendations about Kyle's (now-past) wedding playlist, but let's just say that it's probably for the best that this song was left off. It's an odd sentiment to share at a wedding. After all, Carrie and Jessica are lovely women --- nobody wants to see them slowly morph into Conan O'Brien-If-They-Mated versions of you two schmucks. (And the best part is, you can't make a comeback since I'm not married! I'm single and lonely! Ha ha!....wait…..)

Honourable mention for 2007: In Rainbows by Radiohead. An excellent disc that showed that Radiohead were actually stlll a band that could write songs with melodies, rather than a computer program trying to answer a Shatner-esque question of 'what is music?' Radiohead also put on
a hell of a concert.

Misha: And we're friends again!!! I agree with everything Mark says about The White Stripes album. I'm glad you mentioned 'Rag and Bone', because, not only in the song a great metaphor for how the band makes music, but I love the interplay with Jack and Meg. This song would have made for a great video. And when Meg yells 'Ya!!' by herself for the last time near the end of the song…hilarious…and awesome. I can't even talk about Radiohead. Another band who is avoiding the instincts they obviously have (see 'The Bends' and 'OK Computer') in order to intentionally frustrate their actual fans. As much as a band like Nickelback does the same thing over and over again to sell records, Radiohead is just as self-conscious about doing something different in order to try and look like they don't care about selling records. Both of these bands are wrong, because there is too much (and by too much I mean any) time focused on the reaction of the audience. Nickelback is shit, but Radiohead were great (and could be again), if they could stop caring about what anyone thinks of them. Don't be fooled by their denials to the contrary, every move since OK Computer has been a premeditated result of Radiohead's obsession with public opinion.

Kyle: Awww…young love. I prefer your runner-up pick to your actual selection, but they're both good picks. Icky Thump is perhaps a bit too experimental for my liking (which is, of course, code for "some of the songs—the title track, in particular—make me run out of the room screaming") but I appreciate what they're doing (it doesn't hurt that they're fucking fantastic live.)

Mark: It's fascinating to see how different musicians respond to becoming big and famous. Some seem to thrive on it, possibly because they wanted/expected that fame in the first place (i.e. U2). Some can't handle it, possibly because they wanted that fame in the first place but couldn't keep up the pace musically (i.e. Oasis). Some can't handle it because they didn't want to be capital-F famous and resent the attention and expectations, so they either change their music completely (i.e. Radiohead) or totally fall apart (i.e. Nirvana). Then again, it's not like Thom Yorke writes a bunch of songs that he slots into a 'pop' pile and an 'electronic alternative' pile and them flips a coin. Maybe the band just isn't capable of writing stuff the caliber of Bends or OK Computer, and as a result they do something else rather than put out B-minus versions of those records.

2008: Stay Positive by the Hold Steady: I've been hearing from people forever that I should start listening to the Hold Steady since they're very Springsteen-esque, so I broke down and listened to Stay Positive (somewhat because I didn't really have a great choice for 2008 yet). And lo and behold, I greatly enjoyed the album, which means now I'll have to go back and check out their entire discography. Which also means that my picks for the 2000's might soon be made inaccurate. Just fucking great. I enjoy the fact that the Hold Steady apparently write about some of the same 'characters' from album to album, detailing the progression in their lives. That's a neat lyric-writing idea that I've never heard of being done before.

Best song: "Joke About Jamaica," with an appreciative nod going towards "Lord, I'm Discouraged."

Honourable mention for 2008: "Lord, I'm Discouraged" also just about sums up my feelings about the year in music. I listened to less new music during 2008 than in any other previous year of my life. I was going to submit an entry to
Rob's best of 2008 post, but realized to my horror that I'd barely even listened to five records in total, let alone a 'top five.' Anyway, the next best record I've heard in 2008 was Day and Age by the Killers, though my appreciation for this disc might've been slightly biased by my relief that the Killers still have some zip on their fastball.

Misha: I hate to say that I haven't heard this record. I've heard a lot about it, but haven't had a chance to check it out. As I promised Kyle about albums on his list I haven't heard, I will make an effort to listen to it in the next little while.

Kyle: Stay Positive is Entertainment Weekly's pick for Album of the Year. I haven't begun to compile my '08 list yet —- Mark said "wanna write 50,000 words about music released in our lifetime?" and I inexplicably jumped at the chance—but I'm guessing it'll be in my Top 5. This is a quality pick. I remember when I first heard them, I wondered "this guy [Finn] sounds a hell of a lot like the Boss thirty years ago. Either Mark's going to love them or hate them for aping Bruce." (yes, Mark, I spend an unhealthy portion of my life thinking WWSD?) Glad it's the former.

Mark: "Hey Kyle, wanna write 50,000 words about movies released in our lifetime?"

Kyle: yes. Yes, I do.