Eight things, mostly unrelated, as the end of the year looms:
1. When I did my Top 20 Albums of 2014 list, I noted that one of the perils of completing the list in early December was that sometimes awesome things came out in the last year of the month. I will include such items in my 2015 list, but I do feel compelled to note that AC/DC’s new album, Rock or Bust, is just dynamite, and certainly would have placed highly on my list had it come out a month earlier. AC/DC have a history of following career highlights with catastrophes, so just after Highway to Hell turned them into global superstars in 1979, singer Bon Scott died of misadventure, and just after 2008’s late career highlight Black Ice, founding guitarist-songwriter had his career tragically cut short by premature dementia. Each time, though, AC/DC rebounded like gangbusters, issuing Back in Black in 1980 following Scott’s demise, and now unleashing Rock or Bust as the first spectacular record of their post-Malcolm career. The record is filled with great songs, is strongly produced, and is short and punchy at 37 minutes, which is a perfect length, really. Angus Young and Brian Johnson (Scott’s replacement) have been incredibly gracious and thoughtful in their interviews for the disc, too, and prominently displaying the “Young-Young” songwriting credits one more time (whether Malcolm really contributed or not) was a class act. Bravo!
2. I have been playing in the same fantasy football league for over a decade, with but one title to my name, prior to this year. This is Superbowl Weekend in our league, and I somehow backed my way into the title game, despite playing eight different quarterbacks over the season, and not really having many superstars. Things looked bad at 4:00 today, when my opponent (my friend Mike, who I’ve known for 25 or so years, and who has whipped me like a red-headed step-child in uncountable sports wagers over the decades) prepared to unleash Andrew Luck on me. But then . . . Luck ended up imploding in a spectacular fashion, eventually being benched in the third quarter. Going into Monday, I’ve got a pretty safe lead, two star players in hand, and Mike only had a kicker left to score. So I’m not counting my chickens yet (Marshawn Lynch has missed most of the first half with a stomach bug, uh oh!), though Yahoo gives it a 97% probability that the Tuesday Morning Quarterbacks trophy will be flying to Iowa next week. I’m optimistic, but guarded.
3. Marcia and I broke in our Christmas present early tonight: a new hot tub, to replace the one we inherited when we moved to Iowa, and which has caused us problems (and expenses) pretty much since day one. The new one is smaller, lighter (it took six guys to get the old one out), and more energy efficient, and it was great to sit out in it tonight after a couple of months doing without. This is the third one we’ve owned, and I still find 30 minutes of high temperature soaking each day to be one of the greatest cures for whatever ails me. Plus, it’s quality time when I get to sit out in it with Marcia, especially in the winter when we don’t have golf time together each week. Good times. Merry Christmas to us!
4. Pete and the Pirates, a really great English pop-rock quintet, appeared on both my 2008 and 2011 Album of the Year lists, and then seemed to have disappeared from view for longer than is generally considered healthy for a band’s viability. Since blowing up the household playlists earlier this month, I have heard a couple of Pete and the Pirates songs on the new year’s playlists, and I finally went to the Google Box today to see whatever happened to them. Turns out three-fifths of the band started a new group called Teleman, and they actually issued their first full-length album in 2014. Huttah! I grabbed it tonight, and on first listen, it sounds great, offering recognizable Pete and the Pirates elements with some newer, more experimental, turns tossed into the sonic mix. I look forward to getting to know it better over the coming months!
5. I don’t watch a lot of television (sorry, it’s a fact, even though I know I sound like a pretentious twit whenever I say it), but Marcia and I have been enjoying binge-watching some great BBC comedies in recent months. We both adored The IT Crowd and Spaced, and I really liked The Mighty BOOSH, though Marcia did not care for its over-the-top weirdness quite as much as I did. (Imagine a cross between a vintage Sid and Marty Krofft kids show and The Young Ones for a general idea of the on-goings therein). We are currently in Season Two of Peep Show, a series which has included a large number of laugh out loud moments to date, even though both of us generally don’t like the types of TV humor that are designed to make audiences squirm with discomfort. All of these shows are readily available in a variety of streaming or DVD formats, so if you’re looking for a last minute gift, or a way to while away the time over the holidays, any of these could represent a wise choice.
6. I posted my most-listened-to songs of 2014 a couple of weeks ago, and whenever I update that list, I also fold it into a master list that I’ve kept since I bought our first iPod in 2007. Over the ensuing years, the following artists canons have been the most played ones in our house, so this probably represents the most comprehensive amalgamation I can offer of what it sounds like where we live. I suspect there aren’t a lot of households who match it very closely:
- Paul McCartney (Solo, Wings, Fireman, etc.)
- Stephen Gaylord (Gay Tastee, Beef, Wasted, etc.)
- The Bee Gees
- Jethro Tull and Ian Anderson
- Christian Death
- Andy Prieboy and Wall of Voodoo
- David Bowie
- Frightened Rabbit
- The Residents
- Gnarls Barkley and Cee-Lo Green
- Tragic Mulatto
- K. Sonin and Che Guevara T-Shirt
- Husker Du
- The Monkees
- The Pogues
- Mos Def
- Karl Bartos and Kraftwerk
- The Fall
- The Gods and Toe Fat
- Liz Phair
7. I just learned that there’s a new Napalm Death album due in January!! Good news about the favorite band. They will be touring the States early in 2015, so I’m hoping to either catch them while we’re in Florida or in Lawrence, Kansas later on the route. Watch this space for updates and reviews!
8. Marcia, Katelin, John (Katelin’s boyfriend) and I went to the Big Four Challenge in Des Moines last night, an annual event that brings Iowa’s four Division I Basketball Programs (Iowa, Iowa State, Northern Iowa, and Drake) under one roof for a night of good, clean partisan fun. Iowa, ISU and UNI have all been ranked in the Top 25 this season (ISU is still there), so it was actually a national-caliber event. The outcome is just as I would have desired: ISU beat Drake (we live near Drake, but have adopted ISU as our Iowa team to follow), and UNI beat Iowa. The latter game was of particular satisfaction to me, since I always like watching Mid-Majors beat schools from the Power Five, and I also like seeing ex-Siena coach Fran McCaffrey (who now coaches at Iowa) lose, since he was a particularly obnoxious ex-UAlbany foe when we lived in New York. We had purchased nosebleed seat tickets, but got an upgrade from a friend with an unused set of tickets near court-side. A fun night out, with great views of some great college talent.