It's funny, back in the early days of this blog I used to make a top ten album list every year and when everyone seemed to make a list I kinda stopped. This list is stuff I enjoyed over the year. And...in no particular order.
Greg Proops Podcast
Or, as he calls it, Proopcast. Back in October of last year Greg Proops began podcasting. Rather than sit in a room and essentially do a radio show and talk or talk and play music Greg Proops sips vodka in front of a live audience in whatever town he is currently performing. I first noticed Greg Proops on the original English version of Whose Line is it Anyway? and something about his wit just really grabbed me. His podcast is fun because he's had a long career and has traveled the globe and seems to have spent a lot time reading history books and watching French films. His stream on consciousness musings can go all over the map and at some point, and I will paraphrase a paraphrase he did on his podcast of a review he read, "He is an aging hipster who will eventually shit on something you love." He did, in fact, insult one of my favorite movies, Little Miss Sunshine. Damn you, Proops! And he loves Satchel Paige and tries to work in a Paige reference in every podcast. For that alone he is worthy of note. This summer when we were closed on Tuesdays and Fridays I passed the time shelving books laughing with Greg Proops.
The novel I enjoyed the most this year was a science fiction novel published in 1987. It's called Consider Phlebas by Iain Banks. It's a big, beautiful galaxy spanning space opera with huge set pieces and fantastic characters. I can't wait to explore this particular series more and I can't believe this is the first time I have read any Iain Banks.
A nice long intelligent magazine article can be a joy to read and John Jeremiah Sullivan's collection called Pulphead is full of such articles. His opening story on attending a Christian rock festival is by itself worth picking up this book.
The novel Embassytown by China Mieville was amazing. It's a bit hard to get into because he thinks exposition is for pussies but once you get immersed in this amazing world you are in for a great ride.
Southern Culture on the Skids released their album Kudzu Ranch back in September of last year but I didn't buy it until this spring. Two songs really stood out immediately, My Neighbor Burns Trash and Busy Road. They are instant SCOTS classics, melodic, intelligent and funny. Like all their best songs.
The new Gillian Welch album called The Harrow & the Harvest is another spectacular collection of music. I can't get over how amazing the harmonies she and David Rawlings create. A fine example of is the version of A Dark Turn of Mind from UK television. It sounds just like the album version.
The album I listened to the most this year was Bad Ingredients by Scott H. Biram. I just loved it. It's one man band stuff with rock and blues. It's honest and alcohol fueled, angry and vulnerable. The official video of his song I Want my Mojo Back is a nice introduction. The song Broke Ass is my favorite. It's a song Mike Cooley from the Drive by Truckers would have been proud to call his own.
The new Beastie Boys called Hot Sauce Committee was also in my heavy rotation. They sound like they are having a fun and the Beastie Boys have fun is good fun for the rest of the world. The opening track Make Some Noise really sets the mood. Best opening song I heard all year.
The new Tom Waits called Bad as Me has been worth listening to. The song Last Leaf that has a harmony with Keith Richards is worth a listen.
I almost forgot to add the Rolling Stones concert release called A Brussels Afair. It's from the fall of 1973 and if you ever wondered why the Stones are called The Greatest Rock and Roll Band in World a listen of this show will answer that question. It really is unbelievable how good they sound. It's so good you'll even listen to Angie all the way through.
Melanie and I watched the movie RED at least three times this year. I love a good action movie and this is one of the best. It's funny with great dialog, it has a stellar cast and some nice action sequences. Bruce Willis is by far my favorite action hero, he limps when injured better than anybody else.
You know what movie I've watched most in the last year? Probably the Star Trek reboot. We bought it around Christmas last year and it is approaching Big Lebowski and Shaun of the Dead status as one of those movies you can throw in anytime and enjoy a fun movie.
The one TV show I really make time for consistently is Big Bang Theory. I really like how the characters are consistent and you can tell the cast is having a lot of fun. I love catching a show like that when it's clicking. Top Gear was also a good bet, as usual. Mike and Molly has been enjoyable although it has the tendency to float into Coach territory because Mike sometimes learns the same listens more than once.
The sportswriter Joe Posnanski's blog is a blog I check almost daily. He will grab an aspect of sports (often baseball) and write and write and write about it. If he is writing about something you are interested it can be a joy to read. If not, well then it's just long. But, hey, you don't have tot read it. I really recommend his book The Machine. It's about the 1975 Cincinnati Reds.
Science fiction writer John Scalzi's blog has been around for several years and is a good place to see what's what in the science fiction world or just see a picture of a sunset or a cat. He's smart and funny and he even lends space to other writers to promote their work. A good guy.
I bought Tiger Woods for the first time in a while this year. It's the only decent golf game on the market so I'm stuck buying that if I want to play golf on my television. This year's game had some pretty good reviews and it featured Augusta for the first time. I gave it a shot. It looks great and you can tweak the difficulty pretty liberally and make the game as challenging as you want. Some of the hole placements are utter bullshit and when you are playing a tournament in the career mode the wind and competition get tougher as the weekend progresses. That is bullshit also. Sometimes EA Sports just does dumb shit.
Rather than go the route of Call of Duty this year I went ahead and purchased Battlefield 3. I prefer the pacing of the Battlefield series, it's not all run and gun. You have to work with your teammates to do well, especially in modes like Conquest. The addition of Team Deathmatch was a nice touch. These are shorter, more intense matches that can satisfy that runnin' and gunnin' craving you get.
The game I looked forward to the most last year was L.A. Noire. I thought it would be hard to go wrong with a game set in L.A. in during the postwar years made by Rockstar. I was wrong. The story was good, with excellent dialog and characters but it wasn't a good game. It was really close but didn't quite pull it together. Plus, the open world of L.A. looks great but doesn't feel alive like Liberty City in the last Grand Theft Auto.
Forza 3 was a nice used purchase. It's a big improvement over Forza 2. This time the AI drivers actually race you and that makes for a different and more enjoyable game.
I finally bought a used copy of Fallout: New Vegas and i am enjoying this one more than Fallout 3. The first few hours of Fallout 3 were amazing when you had no idea what the hell was going on but the whole story didn't quite hold together for me. New Vegas feels bigger and you have more freedom of choice in the story. I have paused in my playing of it but I am sure I'll go back to it.