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2012 Albums of the Year: 25-16

25. Patterson Hood – Heat Lightning Rumbles in the Distance

25

Pitchfork: 6.5/10

Metacritic: 77/100

24. Chromatics – Kill for Love

24

Pitchfork: 8.7/10

Metacritic: 80/100

23. Tame Impala – Lonerism

23

Pitchfork: 9.0/10

Metacritic: 88/100

22. Dave Matthews Band – Away From The World

22

Pitchfork: –

Metacritic: 77/100

21. David Byrne & St. Vincent – Love This Giant

21

Pitchfork: 5.9/10

Metacritic: 77/100

20. Reptar – Body Faucet

20

Pitchfork: 3.0/10

Metacritic: 51/100

19. Burial – Kindred

19

Pitchfork: 8.7/10

Metacritic: 88/100

18. Sigur Ros – Valtari

18

Pitchfork: 6.1/10

Metacritic: 74/100

17. Mala – Mala in Cuba

17

Pitchfork: 6.6/10

Metacritic: 75/100

16. Animal Collective – Centipede Hz

16

Pitchfork: 7.4/10

Metacritic: 75/100

Analyisis

Average Pitchfork Score: 6.9/10

Average Metacritic Score: 76/100

A lot of these albums seem to come from artists that have enjoyed for a while or at least been familiar with prior to these releases. The significantly higher Average Metacritic score here tells me that critical sources other than Pitchfork might be more kind to artists in the vein of the Dave Matthews Band, Drive By Truckers’ frontman Patterson Hood, and local favorite Reptar. I had seriously forgotten about the sheer hatred Ian Cohen had for Body Faucet in such a painfully scathing review that sounds more like a personal vendetta against God-knows-what rather than a professional, objective review.

Anyhow, despite a mediocre Metacritic score and a complete passing-over by Pitchfork, Away From the World was a promising release in that it continued DMB’s trajectory in a very positive direction. It followed 2009’s Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King, which in itself was a huge step up from a decade of sub-par releases (i.e. Everyday and Stand Up). The reunion with producer Steve Lillywhite, producer of the band’s best works in its 90’s prime, was huge and hopefully indicative of good things to come.

Sigur Ros can release as many hauntingly beautiful and surreal albums as they so please and I will love every single one, but nothing will ever land in the same ball park as 2002’s ( ) for me. When a band puts out one of your favorite albums of all time, they give themselves a pretty tough job with any follow-up releases.

Finally, Mala and Chromatics both represent new discoveries for me. Both have pretty unique sounds and both are seriously enjoyable to listen to.

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2012 Albums of the Year: 35-26

Continuing the countdown.

 

35. Santigold – Master of My Make-Believe

35

Pitchfork: 6.9/10

Metacritic: 74/100

 

34. Iamamiwhoami – Kin

34

Pitchfork: 7.6/10

Metacritic: 74/100

 

33. John Talabot – Fin

33

Pitchfork: 8.5/10

Metacritic: 80/100

 

32. Mac Demarco – 2

34

Pitchfork: 8.2/10

Metacritic: 80/100

 

31. The Avett Brothers – The Carpenter

31

Pitchfork: 6.5/10

Metacritic: 70/100

 

30. Killer Mike – R.A.P. Music

30

Pitchfork: 8.6/10

Metacritic: 85/100

 

29. Alabama Shakes – Boys & Girls

29

Pitchfork: 7.8/10

Metacritic: 76/100

 

28. M. Ward – A Wasteland Companion

28

Pitchfork: 6.3/10

Metacritic: 75/100

 

27. Perfume Genius – Put Your Back N 2 It

27

Pitchfork: 8.4/10

Metacritic: 81/100

 

26. Grimes – Visions

26

Pitchfork: 8.5/10

Metacritic: 80/100

 

Analysis

Average Pitchfork Score: 7.7/10

Average Metacritic Score: 76/100

A slightly lower Pitchfork score and exactly the same Metacritic score as the first 10. It seems that these albums should collectively rate higher among critics but I think we’re seeing the result of what I discussed last time, where I wasn’t crazy about a few particularly high-rated albums.

An interesting trend I noticed while compiling this segment of the list is that it seems to consist of albums I actually liked a good bit but only listened to within the last few weeks (2KinMaster of My Make-Believe). These are albums that I think would have risen on the list if I had gotten the chance to first hear them a few months ago.

Additionally, there are a few albums here that I listened to a long time ago and regrettably have sort of fallen off my play-queue in recent months (Put Your Back N 2 ItBoys & Girls, Visionsfin, A Wasteland Companion). These albums suffer from the exact opposite circumstances as the last category. I enjoyed them a lot around the times of their release but my lack of repeated listens has negatively impacted their spots on this list. I can’t decide if The Carpenter falls into this category or not, but I think its ranking could also come from it just being far from my favorite Avett record.

2012 Albums of the Year: 45-36

A countdown of my favorite albums of 2012, in increments because of all the anticipation.

45. Wiz Khalifa – O.N.I.F.C.

45

Pitchfork: 4.8/10

Metacritic: 56/100

44. Zac Brown Band – Uncaged

44

Pitchfork: –

Metacritic: 72/100

43.Fiona Apple – The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do

43

Pitchfork: 9.0/10

Metacritic: 89/100

42. Japandroids – Celebration Rock

42

Pitchfork: 8.8/10

Metacritic: 83/100

41. Cloud Nothings – Attack On Memory

41

Pitchfork: 8.6/10

Metacritic: 83/100

40. Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – Mature Themes

40

Pitchfork: 8.5/10

Metacritic: 74/100

39. Lotus Plaza – Spooky Action at a Distance

39

Pitchfork: 8.4/10

Metacritic: 74/100

38. Sleigh Bells – Reign of Terror

38

Pitchfork: 8.2/10

Metacritic: 77/100

37. Crystal Castles – (III)

37

Pitchfork: 8.0/10

Metacritic: 77/100

36. Night Moves – Colored Emotions

36

Pitchfork: 6.7/10

Metacritic: 70/100

Analysis

Average Pitchfork Score: 7.9/10

Average Metacritic Score: 76/100

Very reasonable average score for this end of the list. However, factoring out ONIFC as a score outlier here, we would be looking at slightly higher averages. This is also a pretty inconsistent section of the list because it seems to mainly consist of two types of albums: those that I listened to because I was familiar with the artists and liked their earlier stuff but was relatively disappointed by this year’s releases (ONIFCUncagedIIIReign of Terror) and those that I listened to because they seemed to be received well by critics and real people alike, but didn’t really sit so well with me (Celebration RockThe Idler Wheel…Attack on MemoryMature Themes). Finally, the two remaining albums (Spooky ActionColored Emotions) were new and fresh to me, just not special enough to crack the top 35. Night Moves, in particular, was pretty interesting to me, as the reverby, psychedelic country sound was very reminiscent of local favorite Futurebirds.

The rest of the list will be forthcoming.

How to Fix “Duck Dynasty”

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I’ve recently gotten hooked on A&E’s TV show Duck Dynasty. The show chronicles the daily lives of the Robertson family of Louisiana, famous for their duck call. This duck call revolutionized duck hunting and has turned into a multimillion dollar business owned and operated by the Robertsons. Having watched most of the first two seasons, the novelty of the show is starting to wear off and its flaws are starting to become apparent to me.

First of all, the show seems painfully scripted. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not the type that’s naive enough to believe that any reality TV show is truly reality, but in my opinion, this is a show that doesn’t need to be. Its obvious that all of the wacky hijinks that the Robertson clan gets into couldn’t just happen to occur while the cameras were in the Duck Commander warehouse. Rather, I think the show plots must come from past occurrences that are passed around the family as Robertson legend, and were simply recreated for the show.

While that is hardly a cardinal sin in television these days, it leads me to my second complaint. The scripting severely limits the show to a static portrayal of a Louisiana redneck family. Some of the situations seen on the show are far too ridiculous to be believable. It seems like every day the guys in the warehouse are up to no good, and I just don’t believe that this business is staying afloat when its only workers are never working. Likewise, Willy can’t possibly have the time to meet with big, national retailers to sign contracts for his duck calls when he’s always having to keep an eye on his warehouse workers or give his daughter terrible driving lessons.

At this point, I get that the Robertsons like to go hunting. I get that they like to catch frogs and eat them. I get that they have crazy, redneck ideas, but as somebody from a somewhat rural part of North Georgia, I don’t think this is anything novel enough to merit a new TV show. What is novel is the fact that these people were able to come up with a top-of-the-line product and turn that into a wildly successful business.

That even seems to me to be the very premise of the show. However, it seems like the writers have gone off on the “rich redneck” tangent. I would be much more interested in learning more about how the business got off the ground and how it operates now. I would like to see more of Willy meeting with representatives from the stores that sell his product. I would like to see more of the guys in the warehouse actually working efficiently. I would like to see less of the guys racing on lawnmowers because they’re rednecks with the means to do so. The Robertsons are inherently interesting people. As soon as the writers realize this and stop trying to fabricate what they imagine will be humorous scenarios, then the show can really delve into how fascinating the Duck Commander story truly is and the show will have enough authentic material to stick around for quite a while.

Weekly Readings: Volume II – S.E.C.

Quite the busy week but here are some readings nonetheless. The theme of this week is S.E.C. – The Securities and Exchange Commission, the federal agency charged with regulating the financial industry and promoting the health of American stock exchanges, and the Southeastern Conference, the collection of the greatest college football teams in the nation.

“The SEC Conference Championship and Georgia’s Chance to Recast Its Legacy”

dogs

http://www.grantland.com/story/_/id/8687092/the-sec-championship-georgia-chance-recast-legacy-rest-week-college-football

Grantland’s John Brandon preivews College Football championship week. Yesterday, Georgia lost in an emotionally taxing game against defending champs Alabama. Brandon compares the equally deep and impressive rosters on both sides. The difference, he notes, is in the teams themselves. “We know Alabama will be mentally prepared, and we only hope Georgia will be.” It’s a little painful to go back and examine this article after the game, because Brandon’s theory that “if Georgia loses, it will cement the Bulldogs into what fans in the South believe them to be — national title also-rans who’ve benefited these past two years from soft conference schedules, a team that always has talent but never enough resolve” is especially biting right now. Maybe its because there’s some truth there?

Anyhow, the game was lost on second half run defense (it seemed like they ran the same halfback draw almost every play) and clock management (we elected to go back out and get another quick pass in instead of spiking the ball and stopping the clock so we had a second to breathe before we attempted the biggest red zone play of the entire season). I certainly hate to be negative about my team and still support them and am proud of them for an amazing season, but I would just really love to see them gain the resolve necessary to play like the team they really are in these big games.

“Is the Stock Market Rigged?”

blogging-jobs-motley-fool

http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2012/11/29/is-the-stock-market-rigged.aspx

This article from financial blog “The Motley Fool” examines the diminishing trust of investors in the stock market.

“According to data collected by the University of Chicago and Northwestern University, just 15% of Americans trust the stock market, while a study by MFS Investment Management revealed that 40% of 18- to 30-year-olds believe they will never feel comfortable enough with stocks to invest in them.”

The article helps to explain the distinction between the world of Wall Street (brokers, investment banks, and computers capable of buying and selling hundreds of thousands of shares faster than you can blink) and investing.

“Think about it: Wall Street could cease to exist and the stock market could shut down tomorrow, and there would be little effect on the intrinsic value of the holdings in our portfolios. That’s because investors’ money is not beholden to either of these institutions, but has purchased ownership stakes in great non-Wall Street-based companies”

It’s important to not let headlines of scandals, bubbles and dishonesty scare you away from investing in general. They should teach you to keep a critical eye on financial institutions that serve as the intermediary between you, the investor, and the companies you wish to invest in. They should teach you to put diligent research into your investments on your own rather than blindly trusting a stock broker or analyst. They should not scare you away from all stocks for the rest of your life though, because Americans who are now shying away from investing in stocks are “depriving themselves of any relationship to the wealth being created daily by the world’s smartest and most dedicated entrepreneurs.”

Weekly Readings: Volume I

I have no idea how to write a blog. Accordingly, I have no idea why I made a blog.  I don’t know what I want to write about, nor can I think of an interesting, unique spin on anything worthy of a new blog. However, in an attempt to procrastinate writing a paper on how the jurisprudence of Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas helped to shape the developing field of environmental law, I decided that a good way to get started would be to read other people’s blogs, post links to particularly interesting reads, and talk about them. So here are some interesting things I’ve read this week:

“Revenge of the Reality-Based Community”

http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/revenge-of-the-reality-based-community/

This article is lengthy but incredibly worthwhile. Economist Bruce Bartlett, former policy advisor to President Ronald Reagan and Treasury Official under President George W. Bush, discusses his shift from staunchly advocating supply-side economic policy to opening his mind to new approaches that may be more appropriate in this day and age. Beyond the discussion of the rise and fall of economic theories, perhaps the most interesting aspect to the article is how Bartlett describes gradually becoming shunned from what was once his own ideological base for simply proposing new ideas.

“I’ve paid a heavy price, both personal and financial, for my evolution from comfortably within the Republican Party and conservative movement to a less than comfortable position somewhere on the center-left. Honest to God, I am not a liberal or a Democrat. But these days, they are the only people who will listen to me. When Republicans and conservatives once again start asking my opinion, I will know they are on the road to recovery.”

He also explains a phenomenon that he calls “epistemic closure,” or a kind of close-mindedness he observed in the modern conservative movement that creates impediments to any real progress.

“Among the interesting reactions to my book is that I was banned from Fox News. My publicist was told that orders had come down from on high that it was to receive no publicity whatsoever, not even attacks. Whoever gave that order was smart; attacks from the right would have sold books. Being ignored was poison for sales. I later learned that the order to ignore me extended throughout Rupert Murdoch’s empire. For example, I stopped being quoted in the Wall Street Journal. Awhile back, a reporter who left the Journal confirmed to me that the paper had given her orders not to mention me. Other dissident conservatives, such as David Frum and Andrew Sullivan, have told me that they are banned from Fox as well.”

Bartlett’s piece provides a truly fascinating insight from a man unafraid to adapt his ideology across the spectrum.

“No One is Ever Wrong Anymore”

http://www.thereformedbroker.com/2012/02/02/no-one-is-ever-wrong-anymore/

I recently discovered The Reformed Broker, the blog of financial advisor Joshua Brown, who brings the unique perspective of having spent years as a stock broker and quitting after becoming disillusioned with the industry. He provides a blunt and honest approach to the market that does not tread into the territory of cliche cynicism.

“Assume that most people in finance are good, some are scumbags and all of them are inherently flawed human beings and biased business people trying to sway you and your capital in their direction.  There is nothing wrong with this, it just is.  It will never change, even if Dodd and Frank and Sarbanes and Oxley holed up in Hawaii, had a vicious foursome as the waves of the Pacific lapped against the shore, produced a love child and crowned it Emperor of All Things Financial.”

This article in particular criticizes the tendency of brokers and analysts to never admit their own mistakes. He points to public statements from the likes of fund manager Bruce Berkowitz (which he summarizes as “I wasn’t wrong, the market was.”) and GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich (whose concession speech was “long on speech and short on concession.”).

He suggests the seemingly now-unpopular opinion that when looking to others for advice, guidance or opinions (be it financial or anything else for that matter) perhaps those who freely admit, acknowledge and analyze their own mistakes  are wiser than those who like to think they have made none.

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