Category Archives: Music

Definitely Not a ‘Best of’ List

Best of lists are everywhere this time of year, for obvious reasons.

One, it’s a logical time to talk about what happened during the calendar year. Two, and more importantly, it makes for an easy column.

Hell, now we have whole websites that do nothing but listicles. I, of course, would never be so unoriginal.

So without further ado I bring you my Favorite Things of 2015!

(Way different than a best of list).

My favorite sports moments of 2015:

RJ Hunter three pointer to beat Baylor.  This shot was March Madness at it’s best. Underdog Georgia State pulls off a miracle, beating Baylor in the opening round of the tourney after being down 12 with 3 minutes to play. Georgia State goes on a 13-0 run, capped off by a deeeep three from RJ Hunter while his dad, the head coach, is on the sideline. His dad had injured himself in the conference tourney celebrating, so he was sitting on a stool during the game due to a torn achilles. As the shot went in his dad literally fell off the stool. A perfect sports moment.

I’m not much of a baseball fan but the Bautista bat flip was awesome. A player coming up clutch in the biggest moment of the season and defiantly flipping his bat. It actually made me care about baseball for a few minutes. Plus it pissed off baseball curmudgeons who hate any expressions of joy on a baseball field.

The Arkansas 4th and 25 miracle. This one holds a special place in my heart as it led to Alabama getting a berth in the SEC Championship Game and subsequently the College Football Playoff. Though this play stands on it’s own, it is a play I have never seen in 30-something years of watching football. It’s indescribable. Even watching it for the 100th time I can’t really believe it happened. Just watch.

My favorite albums of 2015:

I don’t consume a ton of music during the year, maybe two albums a month or so. I prefer to find things I really like and wear them out as opposed to mowing through a ton of albums. My favorite album, the one I was the most obsessed with for the longest time was definitely Courtney Barnett’s Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit. Many of these songs could have existed just as great short stories. Incredible, hilarious, insightful and odd lyrics all pulled off with a deadpan delivery that will scratch itself into your soul. Great classic rock-y hooks and punk energy. I love every track on the album though the first one is probably my favorite.

My other favorite album of 2015 is Vince Staples, Summertime 06. The title makes it sound like a fun record of summer beach jams. Not so much. Vince is pretty dark. I like how he’s just as interested in setting a mood as he is showing you how great of a rapper he is. It’s several tracks in before Staples really lets loose on some lyrics. I still probably slightly prefer his 2014 release Hell Can Wait but this album continued to grow on me the past few months. Here’s my favorite track.

Favorite TV shows of 2015:

There’s an insane amount of good tv these days so I’m bound to forget ten or so shows I loved, but these are the ones that came to the top of my head.

Fargo: This show is on virtually every best-of-2015 list, and for good reason. It was damn near perfect. The first season of this show was really good but this season just hit every mark. Incredible ensemble cast, pristine writing and servicing of the whole cast, great plotting and pacing. The whole thing could be taught as a masterclass on television.

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: I will watch pretty much anything that Tina Fey is involved in. This show is both reminiscent of 30 Rock but also totally original. The reminiscent part is the joke density and absurdity. I always thought 30 Rock had the best joke writers in the world and they appear to now all be working on Kimmy Schmidt.  Ellie Kemper as Kimmy brought a different energy than 30 Rock, a relentlessly, foolishly positive attitude that was infectious. Also, I had the Pinot Noir song stuck in my head for a solid month.

Broad City: This show isn’t for everyone but it cracked me up. I love that the main characters actually like each other and their friendship is the main relationship of the show. I also love that they are sex positive and talk about things you generally think of as the domain of men on tv, e.g., bathroom, sex and drug humor. It’s kind of the anti-Sex and the City. It seems like these could actually be real people really living in New York.

Rick and Morty: I love pretty much everything Dan Harmon does. This show is no exception, hilarious sci-fi adventures led by a filthy irresponsible genius sociopath and his kinda dim grandson. The show can pretty much do whatever it wants in a given episode, which is great because it can borrow from every great sci fi idea ever. But much like Harmon did with Community, he grounds the absurd scenarios with an emotional center so that you actually care about the characters. My favorite episode was ‘Get Schwifty’, about an intergalactic American Idol type competition.

Favorite Book of 2015:

People read? I guess so. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel was one my favorite book of the year. A flu like virus wipes out 90 percent of the world’s population, then the story jumps forward 20 years and follows a group of survivors who have formed a traveling Shakespeare troupe. The story yo yos between their story and the story of an actor who died on stage the night the epidemic broke out. The book is low on apocalypse terror but there’s a great mystery to keep you turning pages. It’s well plotted and it’s filled with little ruminations and insights about civilization, culture, nostalgia and performance.

Favorite Movie of 2015:

I didn’t see a ton of movies in 2015 but my favorite was Sicario. It’s really a theater experience though, not sure it would translate on the small screen. The intensity, the score, the subverting of expectations, the incredible performances by the three leads, the tense atmosphere, incredible cinematography and the way it was shot made it really tense and enjoyable.

Favorite Meals of 2015:

I could probably name a top 50 or so here but I’ll just mention two. One was at Lotus of Siam in Vegas.  I had lunch there in June and this is probably my favorite restaurant in the country. It’s gotten pretty popular these days but it still delivers the goods. Incredible Thai food, and pretty much everything here is great.  We had Papaya salad, Northern larb, Thai red chili dip, Issan style beef jerky, and Tom Yum. If you like Thai food and are ever in Vegas, Lotus is a must.

The other was at Bayona in New Orleans. There’s no beating the food in New Orleans and Bayona is a standout in a city full of great dining options. I had the crispy smoked quail salad and the veal sweetbreads. If you’re a little iffy on sweetbreads this would be the ideal spot to give ’em a try. Crispy on the outside and tender on the inside.  Every bite at this place is perfection, and it’s in a great location in the quarter.

On Music – A Movie Script Beginning

Spencer Plan is a guest contributor to on the topics of Music & EPL. You can follow him on Twitter @barsandkaps.


One has to drive an hour and a half north from Seattle to reach Bellingham, Washington. Bellingham, like many small towns, employs itself. A hospital, a school district and a university employ thousands. The university that resides in Bellingham is Western Washington University. It’s likely that you’ve never heard of Western Washington, as it’s one of those schools where the in-state students make up over 90% of the enrollment. But Bellingham and Western Washington University fascinate me. Because from this small town and never-heard-of school came Death Cab For Cutie (DCFC).

Sportscasters frequently mention how Clayton Kershaw (Pitcher – LA Dodgers) and Matthew Stafford (Quarterback – Detroit Lions) grew up together and were on the same youth sports teams. They mention this as if it’s some great coincidence – that skilled youth athletes end up on the same team. Structurally and communistically, this is how sports are supposed to work. Get the good players on the same team to play teams that are just as good or better so that everyone improves. I’d be more surprised if Kershaw and Stafford weren’t on the same teams. They are obviously both great athletes who got noticed and joined teams with the best coaches and most motivated parents. The system worked.

What brought Gibbard and Walla together????
What brought Gibbard and Walla (pictured) together????

But how does it work with musicians in a band? How do the talented musicians find each other? Representatively, how did Benjamin Gibbard (Vocals – DCFC) and Chris Walla (Guitar – DCFC) find each other in a small, college-town in Washington. Now, not everyone will agree that these guys are talented or that their finding each other was a good thing. But let’s put that aside and acknowledge that DCFC is a commercial success and are known far beyond Bellingham.

DCFC started as a solo project by Gibbard. The first cassette, You Can Play These Songs with Chords, was all him. Gibbard could’ve kept going it alone, but he determined it best to add some bandmates. Enter Walla, Nick Harmer (Bass – DCFC) and a drummer who would ultimately be replaced. While Gibbard is the face and would likely have had success as a solo artist, his good fortune of Walla being at his college of 12,000 probably turns DCFC from hobby into career.

Walla’s value to DCFC goes beyond standard guitar player, he has produced most of their albums. While that inside-job might not seem impressive, take a look at this wiki page. He’s also produced for The Thermals, Nada Surf and Telekinesis; other artists appreciate his talents. And this guy just happened to be at the same small college as Gibbard.

I’m excited for the new DCFC album, but I’m concerned for their future. Walla retired from the band last year. Though he plays on the new album, he didn’t produce it and he won’t be touring with them. See them now, the writing may be on the walla.

On Music – Thinking A Blue Streak

Spencer Plan is a guest contributor to on the topics of Music & EPL. You can follow him on Twitter @barsandkaps.


Very little. That’s how much I know about Bob Dylan. Perhaps, even less.

Something about Minnesota, something about a typewriter, maybe something else. Perhaps, like others, I mostly connect him to 80s comedians who along with a Dylan also did a De Niro, a Pacino and a Nicholson.

And I don’t know much of his music.

Photo Courtesy of Vanity Fair
Photo Courtesy of Vanity Fair

If I was on a game show I’d wager that I could name four Bob Dylan songs. But given that, I would categorize two of those songs as all-timers, Hurricane and Tangled Up In Blue (TUIB). Now, perhaps this is an easy statement to make. Both songs are on album called ‘The Essential Bob Dylan’ so clearly someone thinks these songs are good.  But, what interests me, is how entirely possible it would have been to never have crossed paths with one of those all-timers.

Hurricane is a classic and its availability was widespread. Your sensory nerves could flatline and you’d think Hurricane was a good song just from that scene in Dazed and Confused.

TUIB is different. I grew up in a town known for music. And I had a typical blue collar youth, gritting and grinding my way through. But it wasn’t until I left Memphis and went to college near D.C. that I was exposed to TUIB. TUIB is good. TUIB is great. I could listen to TUIB on repeat for hours. The law of diminishing marginal utility doesn’t apply. The 29th doughnut tastes as good as the 28th.

Now this isn’t meant to be preachy. ‘Hey readers, go listen to TUIB’ or ‘my music is better than your music’. It’s more about opportunity and chance. It took me having to move states, live with someone from another state and for that person to be in a band that covered TUIB. If not for that, I’d likely not know the song now.

So, how does one cross paths with a song? And is there anything better than crossing paths with the right song?  And fundamental to this website, why aren’t they playing Tangled Up in BLUE at TIGS games? TIGERS!!!

Take a listen: