Wednesday, November 18, 2020

TV Snide: For November 2020

A Hard Day's Night (HBO): It had been a looong time since I saw this, the best of the Beatles films. It's no wonder they are timeless. Their energy, humor, and likeability are far more than enough to mesmerize a viewer for 90 minutes. Not to mention the wack-ball supporting cast. 5 out of 5 stars

The Go-Gos (Showtime): Belinda Carlisle and gang are, like many other rock bands, well worthy of the full documentary treatment. Their story is one embedded in the L.A. late 70s and early 80s punk scene, with the fascinating ups and downs of crossing over into the pop mainstream. 4.5 out of 5 stars

Borat 2 (Amazon Prime): This provides more damning evidence about how incredibly stupid and anti-fact many people across the U.S. remain. How Borat wiggles his way into these people's lives (pretty easily it turns out, whether they are local yokels or the vice president and president's lawyer) is worth the price of the ticket alone. Add to that the belly-laughing comedy of it all and this is one of the year's can't-miss releases. Almost as good as the first Borat. 4.5 out of 5 stars.

High Fidelity (Hulu): I went ahead and watched the first season even though its cancellation will mean no season 2. Any music geek like myself would do so. Zoe Kravitz is great and intentionally unlikeable in a show with a very high bar set by John Cusack and Nick Hornsby. 3.5 out of 5 stars. 

My Sister's Sister (Showtime): Emily Blunt and Mark Duplass are always great, and you have to pull for them in this indie rom-com that goes fairly deep emotionally while remaining light and good-hearted. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Friday, October 9, 2020

Mega-stars deserve to be mega-mega stars after Ballers

I finally finished all 5 seasons of HBO’s Ballers after watching it over the past couple of years.

I never thought it would be my bag. Too over-produced and glitzy. But, for anyone who's either a football fan or simply likes to take a dip in the glamour pool, it's perhaps an underrated gem. Once I started, it was impossible to put down.

NFL players, team owners, and mega-agents dot the story. Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is really one of TV's most lovable and noble heroes, as ex-NFL linebacker Spencer Strasmore, determined to right the many wrongs foisted upon his battered and beaten player colleagues. I consider him one of the great anti-heroes, like Don Draper, Walter White, or Tony Soprano, but in an actually-not-evil way.

Rob Corddry plays Strasmore's buddy for life (in his post-NFL career). He's far from perfect, but his arc is extremely well written.

It’s unfortunate the movie Tenet has been hindered by the pandemic, because star John David Washington is deserving of becoming a mega-star, no matter whether that movie is any good. His performance as wide receiver Ricky Jerrett alone is worthy of Denzell's son, who actually played for the Los Angeles Rams in the 2000s, becoming a household name.

5 out of 5 stars.

Sunday, August 9, 2020

John Lennon's sense of humor, Tina Turner's diva-ness, and much more from Elton John's book

I recently wrote a review of Rocketman and a list of my favorite Elton John songs. While that movie was pretty good, I heard John's new autobiography Me is better.

So I read it an, indeed, it has lots of juicy nuggets, including:

  • Blues guitarist Long John Baldy more of less discovered, or "nurtured," both Elton AND Rod Stewart. In fact, Baldry was in Stewart's early band Bluesology, which split when a member threw red wind on Stewart's white suit.
  • An element the movie went into some: Elton didn't have much confidence in his early name (Reg Dwight), his talent, or his writing (hence his long arrangement with Bernie Taupin).
  • Taking his new name from two bandmates, "Elton" and "John," his then newly ex-band laughed and wished him luck.
  • His mom was pretty mean, toilet training him by hitting him with a wire brush until he peed.
  • One of Elton's most exciting memories of childhood was a school trip to Annecy, down in the French Alps, where I incidentally vacationed for a wedding in 2019.
  • Ever since he was a kid, he has followed the charts daily: music, movies, you name it, any charts.
  • By age 19, even as a touring musician in the swinging 60s, Elton still had no idea what sex was about. All he did was play shows and buy records.
  • While making Caribou (think "Don't Let The Sun Go Down on Me"), Elton claimed to have seen Stevie Wonder driving a snowmobile in the Colorado Rockies.
  • John Lennon was one of his best friends, although Elton thought the Dakota, where Lennon was eventually murdered, was a dark and sinister place for him to semi-retire to, having been where part of Roman Polanski's very dark Rosemary's Baby was filmed.
  • He was also very close to Billie Jean King, who asked him to write a song for her tennis team the Philadelphia Freedoms.
  • Two other things about Lennon: one, after his death, Yoko asked Elton to sing the songs that would go on Milk and Honey, but Elton refused and so Yoko released the home recordings as is, sung by Lennon; and two, Lennon's humor was exactly like the scene from Monty Python's Meaning of Life, when the guy explodes in the restaurant due to eating too much.
  • Elton talks about the many things he’s been criticized for throughout his later career, including saying that Mick Jagger’s face looks like a monkey‘s face, suggesting that Jesus may have been gay, and also siding with people like Axl Rose and Eminem whom he feels were representing homophobic characters rather than their own views.
  • Tantrums and Tiaras was Elton John’s celebrity reality show, which he suggests spawned reality TV.
  • Princess Diana was one of his best friends, the best dinner party partner one could have, and an incredible gossip, and the only thing really peculiar about her was the way she talked about Prince Charles.
  • Tours with Billy Joel and Tina Turner didn’t go so well. Turner was a diva who refused to acknowledge any of the band. And Joel was drinking too much.
All these tidbits and many more make for a great read for any student of rock n'roll history.

4.5 out of 5 stars

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

The history of GBV’s Alien Lanes

Guided By Voices is my favorite contemporary rock band. They might have more songs than any artist ever, and by my count, at least 2/3 of them are worthy of my “favorites” folders in my Google Play library. Many hundreds (!) are classics and should be favorites of any fans of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and The Who. Why they aren’t could arguably be one of rock’s great mysteries.

Many people are indeed onboard with GBV and its ever-I creasing legacy. Website Uproxx recently had an excellent oral history of the making of the classic 1995 Alien Lanes release. The most interesting tidbits include:

  • Leader Robert Pollard never left Dayton, Ohio because he has so many friends and family there from growing up, playing sports, and teaching school there.
  • He doesn’t consider it “writing” songs, it’s more “making up” songs about stuff that’s going on around him.
  • A lot of the early GBV bass lines were played on a tuned-down guitar because they didn’t have a bass.
  • There was a garage sale going on upstairs while the band recorded weirdo classic “Hot Freaks,” which must have confounded several of the customers.
  • Matt Sweeney of Chavez gave everyone he knew, including Kurt Cobain, tapes of Propeller and Vampire on Titus, which are my favorite lo-fi albums of all time (especially when paired with their monumentally explosive live performances). 
  • Sonic Youth and Pavement were in the audience for GBV’s first-ever show in New York, at CBGB’s.
  • Alien Lanes is named after a bowling alley about 50 miles away from Dayton that Bob got the name wrong on; it was actually called Astro Lanes.
  • Awesome bassist Greg Demos played violin on some of the band’s best songs.
  • Pollard: “I wanted Alien Lanes to sound like a late-night radio show without a DJ. I wanted Bee Thousand to sound like a bootleg of Beatles outtakes.”
  • Pollard: “Abbey Road is my favorite album of all time. Also, the silliness of a lot of the songs is similar to the Abbey Road suite.”
  • Rolling Stone had a glowing review of Alien Lanes, and it remains the longest review ever in the magazine’s history.
  • The band got in a fight with Billy Corgan over a basketball game they were playing during Lollapalooza 1994.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Highlights from a beautiful little book about Prince

Prince’s The Beautiful Ones is a great, fast-read book written mostly by him and consisting of many photos, scratch paper with famous lyrics scribbled on them, an 11-page early treatment of the storyboard for Purple Rain the movie, and various other memorabilia.

Touching insights into Prince from the book:

  • He called Michael Jackson’s music all about magic, and Led Zeppelin’s all about law breaking. He called his own music all about healing.
  • He sat upright and was an “impeccable” turn signaler when driving.
  • He often rented out a local movie theater after hours to watch films like Kung Fu Panda 3.
  • He wanted his voice and that of the author’s to blend together, creating an unusual kind of memoir, in honor of building a community, a brotherhood, unlike what he felt like most rap artists, like Kanye West, were doing in being selfish and Ayn Rand-like greedy.
  • Prince was his given name.
  • As a toddler, Prince loved the outdoors and his little girlfriend and he performed a long tap dance and also had seizures.
  • He was diagnosed as a child as schizophrenic after his alcoholic mother killed his abusive father, a scene painfully re-enacted in the Purple Rain movie.
  • His real name was Prince Rogers Nelson.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

My new coronavirus TV schedule

As boredom continues to wend its way into all our socially distanced lives, I figure one of my hours each day should be devoted to catching up on all the peak-era TV I've missed over the years, especially in the last dozen since committing so much of my life to my kids.

After all, I'm still only halfway through The Sopranos and Breaking Bad. The tricky thing is that it may be tough to watch those shows when there is so much amazing new television being released at a raid-fire pace.

I started this week by adding to my RSS feed the awesome can't-miss TV list prepared at the start of each week by TVLine. This should help me from wavering on what I'm going to watch each time I turn on the TV and instead go right to what I've already decided upon. Then I'm trying to watch one or two things as they are released each night.

So far this week:

  • Monday - Ozark: The final episode of season 3 continues masterfully a show that is quickly leaping up to threaten Mad Men as my favorite drama of all time. And Jason Bateman reports that there will be a season 4, thankfully.
  • Also Monday - Stranger Things, Season 1 Episode 4: Even though I already watched Season 1 (but I haven't seen subsequent seasons yet) a while back, my son and I started it over so we can watch the whole E.T./Close Encounters/Spielberg thing of beauty again.
  • Tuesday - Jerry Seinfeld: 23 Hours to Kill: Of course this is hilarious, like having a new hour of his TV show's jokes firing at you, all focusing on the absurdities of the little, everyday things in life.
  • Also Tuesday - I watched the first half of HBO's new documentary Natalie Wood: What Remains Behind because I'm fascinated by all things Robert Wagner, who played "self-made millionaire ... quite a guy" Jonathan Hart in another one of my all-time favorite dramas, Hart to Hart.
Coming up ... the rest of the Natalie Wood movie (it's gripping even if you don't have a Daddy Wagner crush like I do), Brockmire, the Dead to Me season 2 premiere, and episodes 4-6 of the Chicago Bulls documentary The Last Dance.

Speaking of Michael Jordan, maybe that's why I suddenly have all this time to catch up on peak TV. No sports.

What are you watching? Any good recommendations?

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Best Magazine Reads: Morrison Hotel was the last and best hurrah for The Doors

Morrison Hotel is, by far, my favorite Doors album, and I’m not too sure how normal that is. It stands to reason that it would be a stinker, since Jim Morrison was in the throes of alcoholism before taking off for Paris and his eventual death Further, he is under the microscope of the law for exposing himself in a concert in Miami.

Other albums by The Doors may have had better songs, but the spectrum of psychedelic pop across sides A and B of Morrison Hotel are untouchable: Waiting for the Sun, Peace Frog, The Spy, Queen of the Highway, and Indian Summer, to name a few.

In an article in the under-rated British magazine Classic Rock, lots of great nuggets are revealed about the making of Morrison Hotel:

  • As early as 1967, the lead singer’s prima-donna tendencies were already surfacing. The Doors, according to their manager, did not appear at Woodstock because they were “only headliners.” 
  • The album was originally supposed to be called Hard Rock Cafe. 
  • They were quickly becoming blacklisted throughout the country so they went into the studio to “work out their demons.” 
  • The night before starting to record Morrison Hotel, the singer was arrested in Phoenix after being disorderly on a plane en route to see a Rolling Stones concert.
  • In one session, Morrison drank 36 beers. The group had an intervention and he admitted to his alcoholism but then suggested they go get a drink. He then came back with the Roadhouse Blues lyrics, “woke up this morning, got myself a beer.” 
  • The album’s cover photo was one of the rare instances in 1969 that Morrison was actually clean-shaven. 
  • The band’s final album hit #4 on the U.S. charts, but Morrison was rapidly approaching the bottom and, soon, death.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

The Intenet has made monsters of Millennials. How do we fix that?

Jia Tolentino's new collection of essays, Trick Mirror, detail what it means to
 live the Millennial life. The insights kick in fast
 in the book's opening essay, "The I in the 
Internet," which asks how the medium
 got so bad.

She notes Erving Goffman's 1959 theory 
of identity, making what could read like
 a master's thesis into a gripping tale
 of how we became eternal performers - 
how we are similar in job interviews to
how we constantly present what we think
  of as our best selves on the Net

Offline, at least, there are "forms 
of relief," in which the audience turns 
over and the you at your job interview
 is different from the you who meets up 
with friends for a drink afterward and
 is different again when you go home 
to read yourself to sleep.

The Internet was one thing, Tolentino 
argues, but social media is a whole other 
level. People scroll through reams of
 content, viewing "all new information 
as a sort of direct commentary on
 who they are." Further, there's a
 constant pressure to expand one's
 audience, unlike in real life
, when we don't seek more likes and more 
followers and more hearts. Friends
 don't go home from dinner parties
 on the Internet. "The online
 audience never has to leave."

And as Millennials lives have
 gotten busier and busier, there
 is less time to politically engage 
and, besides, the Internet provides
 a cheap substitute" for such actions.
 Having an opinion online is often
seen as the end, rather than the
 beginning, of something. The
 Internet allows us to "seem"
 politically engaged.

This means that opinions have needed to get
 wilder and wilder. Gawker, Deadspin, 
and Jezebel were outlets designed to
 drive conflict. Upbeat ones like 
BuzzFeed, Grantland, and Upworthy failed to take,.

The Internet "brings the I into
 everything" because it can "make it
 seem that supporting someone means
 literally sharing in their experience."

Tolentino concludes that the Internet
 will collapse at some point, but that
 first we need to somehow start caring
 less about our online identities, to
 be "deeply skeptical of our own
 unbearable opinions," to "be careful 
in thinking about when our opposition serves
 us," and to not always put
 ourselves first.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Joker is super creepy - and brilliant in pretty much every way

It's understandable that critics had mixed
 feelings about Todd Phillips' Joker.

We're living in different times than the
 1970s, which is the decade the movie
 feels like it's from. Movies from that decade like Dog Day Afternoon,
 and Taxi Driver were character studies of people
 who rebel against the rules and morals
 of society.

Joaquin Phoenix is the best version 
of Batman's Joker that will ever exist.
 He is brilliant and deserved his best
 actor Academy Award. But, like Travis
 Bixler and other 70s anti-heroes, he 
is beaten down both literally and
 figuratively by everyone around him.
 Joker is a man with a physical
 condition and a mental illness that causes 
others to bully and berate him. Viewers 
are taken along by his struggles and
begin to side with him, even as his
 acts become more and more heinous.

Some have argued that Joker is 
irresponsible in that it could inspire
 crime by gun-toting outcasts and
skinheads who feel victimized.  While I suppose that could happen,
 it seems more likely that this is a
statement of how bad the problems -
 of income inequality
, bullying, and and throwing our mentally-ill
 population onto the streets without any
 medical care - have gotten.

Joker: 5 out of 5 stars

Other Joker facts of note:

  • His campaign of terror has been
 going on as long as his nemis 
Batman has existed. He appeared 
in Batman comic #1 in 1940.

  • Joker is the highest-grossing R-rated
 movie ever, making more than
 $1 billion.

  • No wonder I liked the movie so
 much. Other than Phoenix's master
 class in acting, Phillips directed
personal faves The Hangover and
 Old School
  • In the comics, the Joker was, in 1988, appointed 
UN ambassador to Iraq by
Ayatollah Khomeini.

  • In 2011, he had his own face cut off,.
  • Perhaps another thing that makes the
 Joker so interesting is that he has
 numerous origin stories. He's an
 enigma, un-categorizable. He tells
 different stories about himself at
 every turn. In this movie, he was
 abused and tortured as a child,
 or at least that's the story that
 eventually surfaces inside his own

Friday, March 20, 2020

Debbie Downer interlude: What about the world without us?

This seems like a prescient time to go back 
and finish Alan Weisman's classic science
 exploration The World Without us.
 I didn't quite finish it when it was
 released in 2007. The chapter "Where Do
 We Go from Here" seemed like a good one to visit.

It begins noting when animals would
 miss us, perhaps especially timely as
we hear fake news reports of dolphins
 having returned to the boat-less canals
 of Venice. Turns out the answer is
 that not many would miss us, except
 for hair and body lice, and follicle mites, which are so tiny that hundreds
live on our eyelashes alone. The 200 
bacteria species inside of us would also 
miss us.

A CDC expert featured in the book
 says that threats like the SARS Coronavirus
 can take out a lot of people but have
 a tough time penetrating everybody, and
 just having access to soap and water
 can go a long way to preserving humans.
 Fruit bats are suspected to be the source
 of the worst viruses, which then spread
 through infected human body fluids.

Some experts interviewed thought new technologies or environmental destruction are likelier sources of our demise. They also say no virus could kill all the people on earth. Even a 99.99
 percent die-off would 
leave hundreds of thousands of survivors. One expert points out that the one virus
 that could be most successful would be
 one that would make our sperm impotent.
 Crisis-pregnancy centers would be the first
 to notice because nobody would be visiting.

In 21 years, there would be no more
 juvenile delinquency and, as resignation sets in,
 spiritual awakening would replace panic. The seas and land would replenish with animal
 life and forests and wetlands would come back 
because of less need for new housing. We 
probably wouldn't have resource conflicts and,
 thus, no wars. The planet would slowly return
 to the Garden of Eden.

Some silver lining to our current COVID-19 virus, eh?

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Best Magazine Reads: Trash is new, and so are ways of composting it

I don't know if composting will ever take off in the U.S. But at home in Takoma Park, the city picks it up weekly and it's a service I've really come to appreciate.

The days of throwing food in with the rest of the trash are long gone. No more stinky kitchens. Plus, we have a big bucket of food waste each week that is going back into the earth rather than joining the landfills and oceans like most of the world's trash.

While composting sounds like such a new and novel thing, it's actually what has been done with our discarded stuff through almost all of history. As an article in the March 9 issue of The New Yorker notes, "trash is new."

In the 1800s, there was almost no disposable packaging in existence and food waste was reused by people, turned into products such as soap, or shipped to farms for animals and agriculture.

While my home town in way ahead of the compositing curve in the U.S., according to the article:

  • We've got nothing on South Korea, which recycles 95 percent of its food waste.
  • South Korea's 13,000 tons of food waste each day becomes compost, animal feed, and biofuel.
  • New York City hopes to reduce landfill dumping by 90 percent by 2030.
  • Most people in the U.S. have no idea what composting is. When the author asked a middle-aged New York man what a nearby bucket was for, he guessed "bones."
  • One idea New York could enact would be to charge people by weight for their trash, offering incentive for
  • people to separate out food. In San Francisco, a similar idea has resulted in an 80 percent capture
  • rate for food waste, and in Seattle, a 60 percent rate.

Maybe there is hope for us.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

A perfect near-spring day in DC

If you ever have to go to a DC United game, go with my friend Peter. Not only is he just a generally great guy to hang with, he also cheers relentlessly for the home team. 

We tend to ride our e-bikes everywhere together, which is by far the best way to zip around Washington DC. That means that we can efficiently get around to see much more than the average traveler in this city. We can also drink a little more than the average traveler. Sure, you're not supposed to drive and move around, but it's quite a bit safer on a bike than behind the wheel, as long as you know what you're doing. 

Anyway, I had missed seeing DC United last year in their first season in the beautiful new stadium in southwest DC. This was the first game of their second season there, and they came back for a 2-1 win over Miami.

Before that, we went to the final Georgetown game of the regular season - a heart breaking 1-point loss to #ll Villanova. And after that, I moved on to my buddy Jason's kids-friendly 45th birthday party. 

It was kind of the perfect day in the fantastic city that I've now called home for 21 -21! - years. Life is good. And I'm glad I get to spend it with friends and family. And sports. That I love.

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Where in the world do I wanna go?

My bucket list of places to go travel is still pretty big. I've been lucky enough to visit all the continents so far except Australia and Antarctica. And I think I've hit 45 states in the U.S. But there are still plenty of nooks and crannies to get to.

One of them is coming up for a family spring break (coronovirus-willing): campervan-ing across Southern California. We'll start in L.A. 'burbs Santa Monica and Malibu, then we'll make our way out to Palm Springs. The Frank Sinatra-sparked allure of the place has always intrigued me. Then we'll camp in perhaps Coachella, Joshua Tree, perhaps the Mojave Desert, Death Valley, and Red Rocks outside Vegas.

Also high on my travel list to still see?

  • Hawaii, for beach beauty and mountain hiking
  • Japan, for the majestic mountain peaks - and subway-rich cities 
  • Hong Kong and Singapore. while we're in that region 
  • Riding a train around the parts at Europe I haven't seen, like Croatia, Portugal, Italy, and Greece
  • All of the parts of Africa I haven't been to yet. If north and west Africa are anywhere like west and south Africa, they are can't miss, and that, to me, feels like the way humans were supposed to live, not like the plastic wasteland we live in here in the (somehow still beautiful) U.S.
  • Honorable mention: India, Australia, New Zealand, and the Amazon (I've been to many places in Brazil, but not the deep forest yet). 
  • Oh, and also, Ireland and Scotland (for ancestral purposes), Liverpool (for, I would hope, obvious purposes), and Costa Rica (for adventurous purposes).

Monday, January 20, 2020

Time for the Star Wars universe to come to an end for me?

So I’ve now seen all nine ... count em, nine ... Star Wars films, and also the two loose-end ones, Rogue One and Solo.

The new ones certainly can’t compare to the wonder of the original three, but the final chapter, The Rise of Skywalker, does justice to the franchise. It wraps up most of the loose ends and offers a good share of unexpected moments.

These kind of action flicks usually bore me to sleep, so why is Star Wars different? It must be the focus on character. People my age (in our forties) have known these people and creatures our whole lives.

I’m not that into superhero movies and part of that reason may be that I really haven’t known most of the characters my whole life. Many people have, which possibly explains their popularity, but not me. I was more into Archie comics than Batman and Superman ones when I was a kid. The core characters of Star Wars feel more like Archie characters to me than Superheroes.

Archie as Luke Skywalker. Reggie as Han Solo. Betty and Veronica as princesses Leia and Rey. Jughead as C-3Po?

The Star Wars universe will no doubt continue on somehow, quite possibly without me. But it was great while it lasted.

The Rise of Skywalker: 4 out of 5 stars

Friday, January 17, 2020

My favorite (130+!!!) music releases of 2019

Biggest Disappointments: I love the pop-metal band Black Mountain, but the album Destroyer is their least excellent. And it's not like Death Cab for Cutie's The Blue EP is that bad, it's just really boring. Kayne West's Jesus is King is unlistenable. Nowhere near the bad factor of Kanye, but shocking nonetheless because her releases are always excellent: Juliana Hatfield Sings the Police is mostly a drag.

Best EPs: Glitz from Kingdom of Birds is probably the best EP of the year, if for no other reason than it's the band's debut and it hits with a freaky punch. Bandcamp group The Convenience has some catchy, tech-tinged short releases that span a wide spectrum of pop styles. Pip Blom's Come Home is a must-have haunting punk rocker. Sunflower Bean's King of the Dudes is all over the place, sounding like riotgrrrl and Pat Benatar and Madonna all in one EP. Spencer Tweety offers a lazy little pleasure with Sleep is My God. Jonathan Rado of Foxygen brings his Syd Barrett weirdo-ness to Polyvinyl 4-Track Singles. Waxahatchee's Great Thunder is another powerful emotional blast from one of the best artists around. Mudhoney's Morning in America is a shot of 90s-like protest punk for the Trump era. Abbie Ozard's Growing Pains is a great slice of lo-fi bounce pop, and so is Charly Bliss's Supermoon. Sports Team's Making Hay is a sloppy Britpop insta-classic harkening back to the early 2000's of The Libertines.

Best Uncategorizable Release: Superchunk's acoustic version of its classic 1993 Foolish album. These are such beautiful songs and done considerably different than the original rocking takes.

Best Reissues: The Replacements' Dead Man's Pop is somewhere between a release of new old materials and a reissue of alternate versions of mostly songs from the Don't Tell a Soul era. Plus many essential concert cuts from late in their tenure as a band. Whatever you want to call it, it's perfect. Even though I'm beginning to seriously question which remaster versions of The Beatles' albums I should have in my collection, all the extras on this latest Abbey Road release are tons of fun. As if those weren't enough reissue bounty, Dinosaur Jr. remastered and included bunches of live tracks and other goodies in the release of four classic 1990s album packages, including my all-time fave Dino Jr. release Green Mind. And for any old hippies out there, this obscure release by some guy from the 1960s, Jim Sullivan, called If Evening Were Dawn (huh?), is pretty darn perfect.

131: Charli XCX: Charli (she's no Taylor Swift or even Carly Rae, but this is catchy enough top 40 junk to want to hear again and again)
130: Petite League: Rattler (this is throwback lo-fi that gets the nerves rattling in a good jittery way, with insightful lines throughout, like "blood on the grass will help the grass grow")
129: Sacred Paws: Run Around the Sun (a minor little Scottish bounce-sunshine-pop release that is very enjoyable to listen to)
128: Pinegrove: Skylight (not the most exciting release, but really nobody is doing country-emo as well as these guys, who are trying to hang together through some rough #MeToo moments)
127: Jay Som: Anak Ko (she has been one of the most hyped indie artists in the past few years, but this is by far her biggest and best leap forward, into a sort of Yo La Tengo realm)
126: White Reaper: You Deserve Love (the second bubblegum-punk release from this Louisville band shows that rock really will probably never die)
125: The Bird and the Bee: Interpreting the Masters, Vol. 2 (A Tribute to Van Halen) (this doesn't work as well as the pop band's pitch-perfect takes on Hall and Oates, maybe because it's more of a stretch, but cheeseball classics like "Jump" and "Panama" are loads of fun redone)
124: Belle and Sebastian: Days of the Bagnold Summer (one of B and S's slighter releases, but for a movie soundtrack, it's pretty good and effectively mixes new recordings of old hits with lots of new tunes)
123: Ben Lee: Quarter Century Classix (a mellow touch is added to many of the great indie-rock classix that also happen to be many of my favorite tunes, from the likes of Dinosaur Jr., Archers of Loaf, and even the wonderful and sadly obscure Smudge)
122: Weezer: Teal Album (there is nothing innovative here, other than proving that Weezer might be the best covers band in the land)
121: Mike Krol: Power Chords (a lo-fi but big-sound slice of one guy's rocking bedroom mindset, with a handful of real standout tracks, like "What's the Rhythm" and "An Ambulance")
120: Filthy Friends: Emerald Valley (all-star band with member of Slater-Kinney and R.E.M.; nuff said)
119: Dick Stusso: In Heaven (a nice mellow treat from an Oakland country troubadour with a real glammy tendency)
118: Mikal Cronin: Seeker (somewhere between late Led Zeppelin and Beatles pop, fused with a proggy sound. Tough to describe but highly likable)
117: Titus Andronicus: An Obelisk (the sixth album from this ever-evolving band of scofflaws sounds like a more rowdy Hold Steady heading into an early Paul Westerberg phase)
116: Lala Lala: The Lamb (low-key indie rock that haunts a little more with each new listen)
115: Girlpool: What Chaos is Imaginary (I never like all the songs on these LA indie-poppers' albums, but I always like enough a lot to get them into my playlist rotations. The same continues here)
114: The Regrettes: How Do You Love? (rowdy L.A. popsters who bounce around the new-wave spaces occupied in earlier times by the likes of The Strokes and The Cure)
113: Snoop Dogg: I Wanna Thank Me (this album is long and all over the place, but Snoop never fails to find the best funk grooves going today)
112: Halfway: Rainlover (this is the sixth album from an Australian band I had never heard about, but these are pretty epic and alt-outback pop soundscapes)
111: Tahiti 80: The Sunshine Beat, Vol. 1 (these French dance-popsters were one of my fave bands of the early 2000s, but they've evaporated over the past decade. The name of this album thankfully seems like a hint that they've returned for good)
110: Telekinesis: Effluxion (this indie-rock band hadn't released an album since 2015, and it's another lo-fi pop pleasure)
109: CAAMP: By and By (a pretty little bluegrass and folk gem from this new Columbus, Ohio-based band)
108: Craig Finn: I Need a New War (the Minneapolis songwriter carries on the flame of Paul Westerberg as that city's great storyteller rocker)
107: The Get Up Kids: Problems (I haven't been into these Kansas City emo forefathers since the band's early days, but this is a great new entry into their catalog)
106: Patience: Dizzy Spells (this former member of Veronica Falls has one of the most beautiful, ethereal, mesmerizing voices in rock today)
105: Ruby Boots: Don't Talk About It (when you need a fix for some Drive-By Truckers-like female-led country-pop sounds, this is a very catchy option)
104: Lizzie No: Vanity (this country rocker is a mash up - gotta love the line "even the punks are getting married now," which sums up the feel of the album - that is continuously joyous)
103. Lana Del Rey: Norman Fucking Rockwell! (she started as a bit of a novelty and released a lot of stuff I didn't care for, but this album finally has lots of intriguing songs)
102. King Princess: Cheap Queen (a tasteful mix of Lady Gaga and other eccentric top-40-type pop performers)
101. Cass McCombs: Tip of the Sphere (someone's been listening to the desert wandering sounds of the Meat Puppets, with some Doors psychedelia and Blake Babies pop thrown around for good vibes)
100. Echo and the Bunnymen: The Stars, The Oceans and The Moon (a remix of many of their hits plus a few new songs, so more for diehards, but I guess sign me up to that club. This is what Jim Morrison would sound like if he were still alive)
99. Bob Mould: Sunshine Rock (Mould's 13th solo album is on this list because it's Bob Mould, and there are also a handful of some of his best tunes sprinkled throughout)
98. William Patrick Corgan: Cotillians (county hoedown Billy Corgan? Sounds awful, right? But this is mostly a mellow affair with a few alt-country asides and, you know what, I'm realizing most of the Smashing Pumpkins' mellow stuff is my favorite)
97. The Long Ryders: Psychedelic Country Soul (turns out that an older, wiser and more mellow Ryders is pretty darn great)
96. Golden Daze: Simpatico (a sprawling maze of shoegaze music that is gorgeous and wanders in a way that makes this band’s name the most accurately descriptive around)
95. Robert Forster: Inferno (the former Go-Between kiwi offers up one of my favorite of his solo efforts)
94. Cassia: Replica (lacking any new Vampire Weekend music before their latest tropical indie dropped, this was a great substitute. They sound identical to VW, both a plus and a minus)
93. Son Volt: Union (Uncle Tupelo's Jay Farrar returns with another great batch of heartfelt country rock)
92. Sonny and the Sunsets: Hairdressers From Heaven (a typically great release from a musical wanderer I would classify as a creator of indie-pop alien tunes)
91. Jonathan Something: Outlandish Poetica (a lot of fun from a new artist who crunches between Strokes-y and folky)
90. Ex Hex: It's Real (not anywhere as great as its debut - which was my top album of 2014 - but still a worthy addition to the pop-punk cannon)
89. Pete Yorn: Caretakers (I keep wanting to not like this Hollywood-looks, no-substance songwriter, but this is one in a long line of his simply enjoyable pop albums)
88. Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real: Turn Off the News (Build a Garden) (Willie's son sounds uncannily similar, just add big rock hooks instead of country finger-picking)
87. Beatenberg: 12 Views of Beatenberg (for those who think one Vampire Weekend album in 2019 wasn't enough, this South African pop band offers a bunch of sweet further listening)
86. Tacocat: This Mess is a Place (a great blast of Seattle pop-punk)
85. Carly Rae Jepsen: Dedicated (not as surprisingly good as her other albums, winners like "Julien" and "Party for One" are undeniable pop smashes)
84. Swervedriver: Future Ruins (it's always a good year for rock when space-blasting Swervedriver shows up with its unique blend of psych pop)
83. Bill Janovitz: Covers of the Weeks, Vol. 1 (now I'm finally beginning to understand the appeal of the "sings the classics" releases of Rod Stewart and Tony Bennett; 90s heroes are now starting to do it; like with Evan Dando's new release, Janovitz puts a unique Buffalo Tom spin on new classics like "Little Mascara" and "Slip Sliding' Away")
82. Durand Jones and the Indications: American Love Call (these Bloomington future stars fill the need for soul pop somewhere between Smokey Robinson and Charles Bradley)
81. The Broken West: The Dutchman's Gold (this L.A. band is back with a sunshine mix of soaring pop in the vein of Soul Asylum, Matthew Sweet, and The Church)
80. The Hold Steady: Thrashing Through the Passion (this is a bit of a nondescript HS release, but that's still better than 98 percent of other bands' best albums)
79. Chris Koza: Sleepwalkers, Pt. 1 (in the absence of a Nada Surf album this year, this is a very formidable replacement)
78. Hatchie: Keepsake (this album shimmies all over the place, with "Obsessed" being in the running for song of the year)
77. Peter Perrett: Humanworld (this is one of my favorite new rock discoveries, even though he's been around forever and is lucky to be alive after his punk exploits with The Only Ones)
76. Lloyd Cole: Guesswork (even incidental albums by Cole have "perfect skin." And when you dig in deeper on repeat listens, it pays off)
75. Willie Nelson: Ride Me Back Home (Willie's 69th album is ... well ... what more can one say? He's just so damn prolific ... and great)
74. Mac DeMarco: Here Comes the Cowboy (a slow-grower helping of mellow gold)
73. Jesse Malin: Sunset Kids (this alt-country power popper has been on a late-mid-career hot streak for several years and this might be his catchiest yet)
72. Juliana Hatfield: Weird (17 solo albums in, I consider Juliana true pop royalty, and this is just another group of perfect tunes)
71. Martin Frawley: Undone at 31 (this breakup album follows in the grand talking/singing tradition of Lou Reed and Pavement)
70. Murray A. Lightburn: Hear Me Out (if you’re longing for the days when Morrissey was any good, you need this album)
69. Stella Donnelly: Beware of the Dogs (a Welsh-Australian who fits the mold of other great lo-fi rockers like Snail Mail and Soccer Mommy)
68. Jamila Woods: LEGACY! LEGACY! (this is my favorite soul release of the year, with beautiful Digable Planets-like beats and grooves throughout)
67. Bleached: Don't You Think You've Had Enough? (these rocking ladies have been churning out some great guitar crunch and sing-at-the-top-of-your-lungs tunes over the past several years)
66. Weezer: Black Album (the 13th album from these emo lifers doesn't disappoint, and this may endear the band to future generations with a smart Fortnite tie-in)
65. Ariana Grande: thank you, next (this is the first release of Grande's that's really caught my eye, and it includes an amazing volume of good-mood, dance, and soul)
64. Dumb: Seeing Green (this is post-punk lo-fi pleasantness that winds its way into your head until said head is bopping back and forth and all over the place)
63. The Lemonheads: Varshons 2 (Evan Dando's unmatched musical taste shines through in this great covers album, with songs originally by Yo La Tengo, Paul Westerberg, The Jayhawks, and many others)
62. Meat Puppets: Dusty Notes (it's always a good year for keeping rock alive when these underrated peyote-freak-desert-punker legends release an album)
61. Paul Weller: Other Aspects (Live at the Royal Festival Hall) (this is a lot of music, but it's well worth absorbing. Weller is having a serious late-career resurgence)
60. Pottymouth: SNAFU (the best punk-pop record of the year is delivered by these ladies from Massachusetts, "Starry Eyes" might be my favorite song of 2019)
59. Flaming Lips: King's Mouth (Music and Songs) (this is the best Lips release in years, harkening back to their mid-career run of albums like Yoshimi and The Soft Bulletin. Straight out of an early Pink Floyd weirdo psych trip)
58. Taken By Trees: Yellow to Blue (this is my favorite downcast-but-upbeat female artist; all her albums, including with The Concretes, are immaculate)
57. Sleater-Kinney: The Center Won't Hold (a lot of people slammed this album as being their worst, but I'm not so sure it won't eventually be my favorite)
56. Spiral Stairs: We Wanna Be Hyp-No-Tized (always compared to his Pavement buddy Stephen Malkmus and having no chance to live up, but you know what? This is a great album)
55. Brett Newski: Life Upside Down (this folk punk has been opening for the Violent Femmes and falls somewhere between Tom Petty and Jack White)
54. Martin Devaney: Plaid on Plaid (there seems to be a recent run on Tom Petty-soundalikes, add in a sprinkle of Ben Kweller and the fact that Devaney's "the unofficial mayor of St. Paul" and you've got some of the best pop around)
53. Josh Rouse: The Holiday Sounds of ... (this is one of the best holiday albums in recent years)
52. Sturgill Simpson: Sound and Fury (a little bit of a letdown, as the first side ventures into mediocre Elton John territory, but the latter half of the album is rip roaring and ZZ Top rocking)
51. Duff McKagen: Tenderness (this makes a case for the former bassist of Guns n' Roses being a much bigger creative part of that band's success than previously known)
50. Sebadoh: Act Surprised (one of my top 3 1990s indie-rock bands is back with a powerful release that offers a lot of catching up on Sebadoh)
49. Netherfriends: A Love Album (a weird little piece of Weezer-like indie pop meshed with hip-hop rhythms and beats. Fun but NFFW)
48. The Raconteurs: Help Us Stranger (this hard-rock blast is the long-desired first new music from Jack White and Brendan Benson's awesome supergroup in 11 years)
47. Pixies: Beneath the Eyrie (this one was not immediately likable but was a grower and shows lots of flashes of the earliest best moments of these Bostonians)
46. Miniature Tigers: Vampires in the Daylight (this little band that could keeps churning out great power-pop classics)
45. Liam Gallagher: Why Me? Why Not. (this might be the most shocking album of the year. It's excellent and possibly better than any album-in-full ever by Liam's old group Oasis)
44. Jeffrey Lewis and the Voltage: Bad Wiring (like Daniel Johnston in tune; these jams run the gamut from U2 arena rock to Sebadoh's "gimme indie rock")
43. Pinky Pinky: Turkey Dinner (young L.A. all-girl garage rockers bring an album of pop-weirdo delights)
42. Tierra Whack: Whack World (a batch of 1-minute hip-hop soul songs explode this Philly female freak onto the music scene; love how each song has a great hook but never overstays its welcome)
41. Deer Tick: Mayonaisse (great country-pop-rock never goes out of style, and this band always brings it flawlessly)
40. Tegan and Sara: Hey, I'm Just Like You (not one of the best T and S releases, but consistently likable new-wave pop through and through)
39. ZAC: ZAC (as much as I don't want to like this 1980s Strokes-sounding pop outfit, I just can't stop listening to it)
38. Proper.: I Spent the Winter Writing Songs About Getting Better (seriously unlikable young narcissists - the perfect Millennial emo rock band makes perfect snot rock)
37. Glom: Bond (much like Dude York's brand of pop - see way up in this list - this band makes the case for continuing growing appreciation of the wonderful influence of 90s indie rock)
36. Post Malone: Hollywood's Bleeding (this album is much more than the megahit "Sunflower" and is my favorite hip hop release of 2019)
35. GospelbeacH: Let It Burn (hey, if we can no longer have Tom Petty, at least we have these California sunshine merchants)
34. Comet Gain: Fireraisers Forever! (I love this obscure little British band that has been putting out a ton of great, catchy songs)
33. Guided By Voices: Sweating the Plague (GBV's third release of the year took a turn for the hard rock and almost prog, with not a lot of the usual pop catchiness but a definite great addition to the cannon)
32. Ryan Traster: Choses Obscures (fitting in snuggly between Kurt Vile and Silver Jews, this is a welcome new artist to the genre of stoner laid-back rock)
31. The Ocean Blue: Kings and Queens/Knaves and Thieves (never been a big fan of the long-time group that seems British but is from Pennsylvania, but this is beautiful morning-dew 80s new wave)
30. Harry Styles: Fine Line (this famous boy bander keeps straddling the line of cheese and excellence, but the diversity and pure interesting-ness of this release borders on sublime)
29. Sure Sure: Sure Sure (this self-producing L.A. band plays by its own rules, creating music, touring, and now it's released a full length to go with its string of dreamy and bouncy pop singles. Best new band candidate)
28. Jenny Lewis: On the Line (she keeps putting out great music in the Laurel Canyon and racy fashion of Fleetwood Mac, and who couldn't use more of that more often?)
27. The New Pornographers: In the Morse Code of Brake Lights (don't know what the title means, but this is a typically great Pornos release, with some shades of early GBV increasingly creeping in)
26. Cigarettes After Sex: Cry (not as shockingly beautiful as the 2017 debut, but there's still no new band that's better to listen to while reading the Sunday paper)
25. Better Oblivion Community Center: Better Oblivion Community Center (long-time fave Conor Oberst is joined by Phoebe Bridgers to combine their conversational writing styles into one of the year's best pop collections)
24. Wilco: Ode to Joy (this is way down the list compared to most Wilco albums on my year-end lists, but it is a valuable and interesting addition to the band's cannon, and quite possibly a very slow grower)
23. Kiwi Jr.: Football Money (this is a joyous release for fans of Pavement, complete with Ren and Stimpy and other pop-culture references, and even an oddly Hall-and-Oatesian bent ... maybe)
22. Guided By Voices: Warp and Woof (an embarrassment of GBV riches occurred this year. It was only April when the band's SECOND long-player of the year was released!, a harkening back to the sound of the early days of the band)
21. Beck: Hyperspace (a grand return with a handful of instant Beck classics and a few less catchy numbers)
20. The Who: WHO (despite one or two stinkers, this is a surprisingly excellent album, with sounds that span the earliest and best Who style all the way through when things were winding down with 1982's It's Hard)
19. Courtney Barnett: MTV Unplugged in Melbourne (this was a surprise release at the end of the year. It would have been understandable if it were a throwaway, but it's every bit as amazing as everything else Barnett has ever done, which says a lot)
18. Bill Callahan: Shepherd in a Sheepskin Vest (weirdo contemplative dad music from one of the greats of the 90s, the artist mostly known as Smog)
17. Charly Bliss: Young Enough (such a great collection of pop songs; rock will never truly die for people who like rock that explores all the best notes in new and exciting configurations, like this)
16. Idlewild: Interview Music (this is a gorgeous release from my favorite Scottish band of the 2000s, a truly perfect indie-rock album)
15. Bruce Springsteen: Western Stars (you're either a Bruce or Billy Joel fan. I've always been a Joel fan, but this is possibly the most beautiful thing I've ever heard Bruce make across an entire album)
14. Taylor Swift: Lover (I don't know if it's egged on because I have a Taylor-obsessed 6-year-old daughter, but this in undeniably perfect pop, even if maybe not as perfect as 2017's Reputation)
13. Yola: Walk Through Fire (this is by far the best alt-country release of the year, but you'll listen and realize it transcends many genres and various-decade styles)
12. Michael Kiwanuka: KIWANUKA (this British songwriter has really deep performances that remind me a lot of the most soulful parts of early Lenny Kravitz, mixed with a little Charles Bradley)
11. Prince: Originals (it's so fun to see The Purple One back on this list; this is a jam of many of the greatest hits he wrote that became big for other artists)
10. Foxygen: Seeing Other People (these weirdos are putting together the funkiest freak-o disco of the decade. Tough to categorize, but maybe like The Strokes meet the Bee Gees; a side note is that I love riding my bike to this release)
09. Guided By Voices: Zeppelin Over China (this is a lot to take for even the biggest GBV fans, but at the same time 32 new tracks from the master, leader Robert Pollard, is like a lot of Christmas morning)
08. Stephen Malkmus: Groove Denied (the former Pavement frontman bills this as some sort of electronica release, and it does start off like that, but repeated listens slowly got me hooked. It borders on weird but pays off big-time for those with a little patience)
07. A.A. Bondy: Enderness (I dub Mr. Bondy in a category almost to himself - well, maybe with Cigarettes After Sex - called "Slow Rock." When I couldn't sleep in Dominican Republic many years ago because of all-night partiers, his music on headphones got me through the wee hours and well rested. So glad he's back)
06. Dude York: Falling (kind of like Yuck before them, this band takes 90s indie-rock and slams it into your veins so hard that it can't help but keep the power of that era alive)
05. Alex Cameron: Miami Memory (like Lloyd Cole if he were from Australia and writing the most hyper-sexualized lyrics in the world of new wave)
04. Alex Lahey: The Best of Luck Club (this is post-Courtney Barnett awesome rock doing better than Courtney Barnett at Courtney Barnett)
03. The Avett Brothers: Closer Than Together (this is the most powerful AB album since I and Love and You, which was my top release of 2009. This is so good that I thought many of the songs were classics from their back catalog, but they're not, they're just incredible new stuff)
02. Vampire Weekend: Father of the Bride (how can this welcome return of the finest tropical-indie band ever not be number one? Well, see the next album on this list. Otherwise, this is an epic in the same way George Harrison's double album after the Beatles broke up and many other double albums that this one matches as among the best ever)
01. Purple Mountains: Purple Mountains (leader and former Silver Jew David Berman died on August 7 by suicide, and there's no doubt that this album was a goodbye letter for a deeply unhappy man. Tough to say, but it likely would have been just as beautiful, haunting, and jaunty were Berman still with us)