A Slice of Fried Gold

Ewoks Gone Wild on the Today Show

Friday, October 30, 2009

It really is true. The simple things in life really are the best. Simple mathematics state this: Today show Halloween special with Al Roker as Han Solo and Ann Curry as Darth Vader + boring Halloween shopping special + drunken midgets in Ewok suits = gold mine. It starts out slow but good god, does it get good. I wish the Ewoks could be hired out to parties, they are the absolute best. Yes, it was confirmed that they were drunk as well.

Halloween Week For Life

On a week that has featured the release of a new Battlestar Galactica movie (The Plan!), Bill Simmons' new book The Book of Basketball, and has featured more Halloween based hijinks than you can shake a stick at (Senator David Harper...for real?), it's hard to imagine it getting better. Yet this morning Pitchfork broke news that one of my favorite bands out there - Spoon - will be releasing a new album titled Transference on January 26th of next year. As in a little less than three months from now.

That's incredibly exciting news. Spoon released three of my fifty favorite albums from the 2000's (to be exact, top thirty three albums), and if listening to their Got Nuffin EP from this year is any indication, well...we're in for another treat.

I Believe in David Harper

Monday, October 26, 2009

Halloween is a very important holiday for me. Some people don't really put that much effort into their costumes, but on a yearly basis I really try to give it my all because it's a fun outlet for creativity and when you do a good job people actually really seem to enjoy what you've done. The last few years I've been on fire, as my Hamburglar and Evel Knievel costumes have been well received, creative, and home made. Of course, I wouldn't have been able to do that without the help of a number of people (my mom, Amy, Kim and my boss to name a few), and I really appreciate that.

No less, with Halloween rapidly approaching, I was stuck between two ideas: dressing up as Max from Where the Wild Things Are or Bea Arthur's character from Golden Girls as part of a group costume. I wasn't crazy about either because I figured there'd be other Max's out and the Golden Girls idea just wasn't my style. Then at Amy's goodbye dinner, we came up with a great and incredibly original idea: Senator David Harper.

It's not that dressing up as a candidate version in itself is that great (it's just a suit after all), but if you really go for it, it can really work for you. So what I've done recently has been go for it (almost to absurd lengths), as I worked with a graphic designer who works in my office to have buttons designed (500 count!) and a campaign poster created (see the top) for enhancement of the costume. Then, I created a propaganda poster using Paste Magazine's awesome Obamicon.me site and Joanne and I put them up all across downtown and midtown Anchorage. Basically, if you go to a bar or coffee shop in that area, you'll see my face demanding that you party.

Then, I created a Facebook fan page, a Twitter page, a blog and an email address and randomly noted that on each of the posters (before putting them up of course). This all adds up to the first viral costume I've ever even heard of. It's pretty entertaining as well, as various Anchorage based news outlets are following me. The prospect terrifies me, as I hope to god they realize this is a joke. Someone questioned a friend of mine wondering what I was going to get out of this. Well, simply put, I'm going to get a really good time out of it. I'm taking it fake seriously, but really it just gives me an entertaining creative outlet for a couple weeks, and allows me to be truly original on my costume again.

So yeah, that's that. I was going to wait until Halloween to announce this on here, but it doesn't really matter. No one should think this is serious, unless you're handing out a button of mine or putting up one of my posters. In that case, you should be utterly serious and suggest to the person that they should vote for David Harper in 2010. He's the Party Party candidate, and he's running for the U.S. Senate seat in Alaska.

Have a good Halloween all, and make sure to support me on the pages below and by god, if you see me on Halloween, buy your candidate a drink!

Thanks to Michael Kim for designing everything, Joanne for helping distribute everything, and everyone else for your support. Yes we can!

Twitter: @harperin2010
Blog: Harper in 2010
Facebook: David Harper in 2010 Fan Page

Favorite Movies of the Decade: The Top Five

Friday, October 23, 2009
The fifth and final day is here, as you are now presented with my top five favorite movies of the decade. If you know me fairly well, this list isn't likely that surprising. I'm pretty forthcoming with what I like, so my Slices of Fried Gold: The Decade Edition is really more of a coronation than anything. Yet, here I am doing it anyways.

Before we move on to the top 5, here are numbers 25 through 6 listed below:

25. Up
24. In Good Company
23. In Bruges
22. Everything is Illuminated
21. The Departed
20. Wall-E
19. Snatch
18. About a Boy
17. The Constant Gardener
16. Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring
15. Sunshine
14. Howl's Moving Castle
13. Anchorman
12. Finding Nemo
11. 28 Days Later
10. Le fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain
9. I Heart Huckabees
8. Ratatouille
7. Shaun of the Dead
6. The Dark Knight

5. Almost Famous (Written and directed by Cameron Crowe - 2000)

While this may be Bill Simmons' choice for movie of the decade, this finishes fifth on my list. Fifth is still great, and somewhat fitting spot for the underdog protagonist that leads this film. Plotwise, this is a semi-autobigraphical story about about an absurdly young music journalist on his first job for Rolling Stone, following "a mid-level band struggling with their own limitations in the harsh face of stardom" to take a line directly from the movie. However, when you get down to it it's about growing up, it's about journalist integrity, it's about family, it's about the power of music, it's about love, and most of all, it's just about life.

The music part is one of the biggest parts I connect to, as this is one of the best movies ever about music from the inside and the perceptions artists have of themselves. About how the passion of sharing your heart with fans sometimes gives way to the desire to make more money, about how making it big and being happy are different things, and how sometimes, sometimes, all you need is a little Elton John to heal your wounds. Throw in the fact that Crowe (once again) compiled a stellar soundtrack that perfectly highlighted the timeframe (the inclusions of Cat Stevens and Elton John really hit home for me) and the storyline. One of the most impeccably selected soundtracks ever.

Then, you have the performances. The performances, from the lead performance by Patrick Fugit as "the enemy" William Miller (in a debut no less!), to Kate Hudson as lead band-aid Penny Lane, to Frances McDormand as William's over-protective and insanely loving mother, all the way to supporting performances by Jason Lee, Jimmy Fallon, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and many more, are uniformly superb and nuanced. The best in my book however is Billy Crudup as Russell Hammond, who effortlessly captures the mystique, genius and anguish of a rocker who is completely out of control and seemingly self-destructive when it comes to his career and love. Sure, he's a virtuoso when he's holding a guitar, but he cannot keep himself from destroying relationships. If I made a highlight reel of the best moments of movies from the decade, I'd probably start off with the scene where Crudup is perched on top of a random home shouting out to his adoring fans "I am a golden god!"

This movie in my mind is the best of Cameron Crowe's exceptional career, and it makes sense given his history. It's really the most personal and self-reflecting of his movies, and the synergy between all aspects of the film is absolutely marvelous.

4. Big Fish (Directed by Tim Burton, written by John August - 2003)

Big Fish fits into the unique group of movies that I saw three times in theaters. Very rarely do I see a movie that time in theaters, but this movie practically demanded it. The fact that I saw it three consecutive days over the same weekend was even more odd, as was the fact that I actually got verklempt during the same portion of the movie (Billy Crudup and Albert Finney's grand escape and the funeral) all three times (oddly enough, the only time I cried during a movie besides Liar, Liar of all movies). Such is the power of Tim Burton's magnum opus, an adaptation of a novel that is strangely inferior in every way.

Whether you want to credit the script, cast, music, direction, cinematography...whatever, it's up to you. All are stellar and all manage to combine to be more than the sum of their parts. This is an exceptional cast, but is highlighted by the duo of Ewan McGregor and Albert Finney playing Edward Bloom as a young man and as a man on his death bed. Both are the backbone of the film, but work perfectly in concert with the rest of the cast that includes Billy Crudup, Marion Cotilliard, Jessica Lange, Allison Lohman, and Burton's wife/cast stalwart Helena Bonham Carter.

This movie is all about reconciling the facts of life with the fantasy life, and how those two opposite concepts affect the life of your family. It's about family, it's about storytelling, and it's about life. That will be a very common theme in all of my top five movies: an effervescent love of life, and how no matter what you should never give up on your dreams of being a very big fish.

3. Children of Men (Directed by Alfonso Cuaron, written by Alfonso Cuarón, Timothy J. Sexton, David Arata, Mark Fergus, and Hawk Ostby - 2006)

I have to say, I have a strange affinity for a good dystopia. When a writer creates a grim dystopia like Cormac McCarthy does in The Road, it's riveting and distressing. You can visualize the scorched earth and the hopelessness with your mind's eye. The amazing thing that Alfonso Cuaron does in this film is he creates a dystopia so complete and so real feeling on film that it bring chills to your skin just to think about it. The set up of the film is simple: no one has been born in nearly 19 years, and humanity is without a hope. Or so it thinks, as a man named Theo Faron must escort a young pregnant woman named Kee across war torn England to the coast to get her to the human project.

That's the central concept of this film, and within this film you see all kinds of atrocities, pain, and horrible sights. Yet, contained on the same film is a visual feast, as Cuaron curates motion pictures that are every bit as haunting and every bit as powerful as anything I've ever seen. Whether it's the now legendary single shot takes Cuaron in the ghetto at the end of the movie, the dynamic opening sequence with the bombing, or the terrifying and action packed sequence when their car is attacked on the way to the human project, this is a visual tour de force unlike most any other film from the decade.

Many films are attractive to look at though, but this film manages to pair the gripping imagery with nuanced and pitch perfect performances, particularly from Clive Owen and Michael Caine. Owen brings all of the bravado we want from an action star yet brings the emotive power of the best Hollywood has ever seen, as you can see in the devestating scene in the first third of the film when he's walking away from a tragedy attempting to smoke, and he simply can no longer stand and has to collapse weeping against a tree. You feel his pain in your gut when you see him, and it's truly stupendous work. Caine brings both humor and heart to the film, giving us a bit of comic relief in such a dark film while also giving us a reason to root for humanity.

One of my favorite things about dystopic films is how they give you insight into modern society so well, while also so effortlessly capturing the best in humanity. It's like Alfonso Cuaron and his posse of writers took P.D. James novel and said, "we need to make humanity realize where they've gone wrong and how they can go about fixing it." For such a dark movie, there is so much hope and vitality within it, and it's one movie that sticks with me no matter what.

2. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Directed by Michel Gondry, written by Charlie Kaufman and Michel Gondry - 2004)

Take one part visionary director, one part mad genius screenwriter, one part incomparable modern actress, one part underrated comedic genius, one part loaded supporting cast, and one part dreamy and original composer. Shake them up (a lot), randomly pour out part of it. Serve iced.

That's the formula to this reality bending flick, the story of a relationship of destiny destroyed by impulse, as in this reality there is a procedure that can remove troublesome memories from your past. Such is the situation Joel Barish (the underrated in a dramatic sense Jim Carrey) finds himself in, as his love Clementine (the lovely Kate Winslet) has decided to permanently erase all memories of him after a fight. This concept of course could only be conceived by Charlie Kaufman (Adapation, Being John Malkovich) and Michel Gondry (Be Kind Rewind, The Science of Sleep), as they are two of the greatest mad geniuses of the decade. While both creators are brilliant, both have a tendency to let their style and concepts run amok. This is the one movie where they successfully find a counter balance and simply let the narrative convey their message: that no matter what, if love is meant to be, it will happen (regardless of whether or not you have to go to Montauk to make it happen).

This is one of the most unique films of the decade and one of the best pure examples of the power of love. The exceptional cast that includes Carrey, Winslet, Tom Wilkinson, Kirsten Dunst, Mark Ruffalo, and many more captures everything Gondry and Kaufman ask for and more. They help make this an instant classic, and one that will be treasured by yours truly forever.

1. Moulin Rouge! (Written and directed by Baz Luhrmann, co-written by Craig Pearce - 2001)

I absolutely hate musicals. Pretty much everything about them bothers me, from the sheer size of them, to the overly dramatic situations, to the fact that people spontaneously burst into song, to the assured happy ending...you name it. They really bother me.

Imagine my surprise when I sat down one night when I was back from my first semester in college and I was home alone, and I figured, "why not? I'll try Moulin Rouge out" and I ended up loving it completely. I was shocked...how could I like this? I'd never liked a musical before. Yet the bohemian lifestyle in the film connected with me on a real way, as, like the protagonist Christian, I'm a hopeless romantic that believes in simple concepts like beauty, truth, freedom, and love (above all things love!). Strangely, I also found myself enjoying the pop influenced songs...and the grandiosity of scenes just sucked me in. Even the goofy nature of the film just made it more alluring, and at about that point I figured out "damn, I really like this movie!"

Through the seven years since, I've watched it again many times. It seems in many ways it's the perfect counterpart to my favorite album of the decade, Jens Lekman's Night Falls Over Kortedala. Lekman's album is a light, breezy look at love, with cleverness and charm hidden around every corner. That pretty much describes this film, and like Lekman's album, I can watch this movie any time and always feel better. Some people when they're forlorn will drink or do something self destructive...I watch epic musicals made by Baz Luhrmann and imagine a world in which I can sing my song to my own Satine.

Of course, I cannot sing, nor do people really sing to each other, but it's all the same.

This is also the movie where I realized that Ewan McGregor is pretty much my favorite actor. I'd loved him in Trainspotting and A Life Less Ordinary before this, but it took this film to realize that I'd be willing to watch pretty much anything he starred in. The rest of the cast is superb as well, but McGregor was hosed by the Academy with this role.

With all that said, it's pretty easy to realize why it's my favorite. I knew it was from the beginning. It was just difficult to figure out what fit in around it.

Favorites Movies of the Decade: 10 - 6

Thursday, October 22, 2009
Day 4 is here and along with it we've cracked the top 10 of my favorite movies of the decade list! Today, we're going over numbers 10 through 6, with tomorrow wrapping up the list with the top five. Exciting!

Before we get into that though, see below for the links to previous days, along with the first 15 movies of the list.


25. Up
24. In Good Company
23. In Bruges
22. Everything is Illuminated
21. The Departed
20. Wall-E
19. Snatch
18. About a Boy
17. The Constant Gardener
16. Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring
15. Sunshine
14. Howl's Moving Castle
13. Anchorman
12. Finding Nemo
11. 28 Days Later

10. Le fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain (Written and directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, co-written by Guillaume Laurant - 2001)

This film is one of those movies that came out of nowhere to be absolutely beloved by movie fans everywhere. Yet when I first saw it, I liked it, but didn't love it. I gave it a shot, but even with aspects I loved about it (Audrey Tautou, the sheer joy in the filmmaking, Audrey Tautou) it still felt a bit long and a little odd. Then one day I accidentally heard Yann Tiersen's score to this film while in Kaladi Brothers and I had to get more. I picked up the soundtrack and listened to it over and over, and then on a whim I bought Amelie and it was like a curtain had been pulled and the true beauty had been revealed.

All in all, this movie is pure magic. From the love affair viewers have with Tautou (it is impossible to not fall head over heels with her while watching this movie), to the effortless charm, to the quirky energy, to the message the filmmakers pass to viewers, to Tiersen's stellar score, to the dynamic editing...this is a flat out superb example of filmmaking. That it features the most lovely city in the world as a co-star adds to the power. This is one of the most charming and beautiful movies of the decade, and worth every bit of the hype that preceded it.

9. I Heart Huckabees (Written and directed by David O. Russell, co-written by Jeff Baena)

This is perhaps the most polarizing movie of the decade. There is a large camp out there that absolutely despises this film, and it assuredly is a challenging one. But this existential comedy that, on the surface, is about a man trying to find out about what these coincidences in his life mean exactly, yet in reality that is only the plot. This movie is about how all of us, no matter how disparate, are connected, if only by the things that bring us down in life. Of course, it's also a completely hysterical film filled with live wire performances by a sharp cast, filled with a unique vision by a great director and aided by wonderful and thoughtful score by one of the best pop writers out there - Jon Brion.

While this movie does have a lot of very good reasons it is so damn spectacular (the mere fact that it stars Jason Schwartzman makes it a shoo-in to be enjoyable), one of my favorites is supporting actor Mark Wahlberg. Wahlberg plays Tommy Corn, a firefighter who is completely obsessed with petroleum and the fact that humanity is burning through all of the world's non-renewable resources so fast. His fire and passion for saving the world and figuring out his place in the world (which he attempts to find using whatever philosophy he can get his hands on) is often uproarious. Worth it just for that performance, but there is so much more here. Watch this film, take a philosophical journey, and laugh all the way through it. You'll thank me later.

8. Ratatouille (Written and directed by Brad Bird and Jan Pinkava, co-written by Jim Capobianco - 2007)

This is the last Pixar movie (I swear!) on the list, and somewhat fittingly for me this is the one I liked the least of the four when I initially saw it. While I enjoyed it greatly and thought Pixar made a great film, it was just a lot less funny than the rest of their movies had been. It was also the only of the four Pixar films on this list that I did not see multiple times in the theaters. The fact that it really took a new life after I saw it again on DVD and then again repeatedly when it came to cable was unsurprising, nor should it have been surprising given that it was all about Paris, food, cooking, passion, love, and exceeding the expectations that are put upon a person by the place and position they come from.

The moral of this story can be whittled down to one phrase that is often repeated throughout the film, "anyone can cook!" What Brad Bird (genius of geniuses that also created the most underrated animated film EVER in The Iron Giant) meant by that is, as his brilliant villain/proprietor/critic creation Anton Ego (voiced by the incredible Peter O'Toole) states at the end of the film, "not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere." Sometimes the greatest artists can come in strange forms, whether it's a rat that cooks or a writer from Alaska (I kid, I kid!), it doesn't matter. That this movie conveys that in such a touching and funny fashion is surprising, even for Pixar. Also, bonus point for casting Patton Oswalt as Remy, the rat in question. Pixar is well known for churning out elite performances from smaller named actors in their leads, and Oswalt is one of their all time greatest.

7. Shaun of the Dead (Directed by Edgar Wright, written by Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright - 2004)

This movie was without a doubt the greatest example of its genre of this decade, and quite possibly of all time. That it's the only example of a romantic zombie comedy ever (or rom-zom-com as some call it) helps, but even without that this is an achingly funny, devilishly charming, and often scary film and one of my favorite movies of this decade. This movie is the brain child of the same team who brought us the Britcom Spaced, with Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg co-writing and Pegg with his cohort Nick Frost starring, and it takes all the promise of that show and capitalizes on it, without bringing any of the negatives that brought that show down.

In fact, I would be remiss if I didn't mention this: this movie is movie that gave this blog its name. When Shaun (Pegg) and Ed (Frost) are discussing what plan they should follow to survive the zombie apocalypse, Shaun comes up with the plan of plans and follows it with a triumphant "now how's that for a slice of fried gold?" (that Frost responded with a "YEAHHHH BOYEEEEE!" is inconsequential) set the ball in motion for this blog to be named. This is not here because of that. This is just one of the funniest movies of the decade, and quite possibly my favorite zombie movie of all time. In case you didn't know it, I am a man who likes his zombies.

6. The Dark Knight (Directed by Christopher Nolan, written by Jonathan and Christopher Nolan - 2008)

I feel like I'll catch some flak for this. When it first came out, I was very positive about it but still had reservations. As time went on I started backlashing against this film because frankly, I thought people were massively overrating it. It was good, but it wasn't that good.

Well, I have a confession to make.

The Dark Knight really is that good.

After seeing it just once in the theater, I picked it up on Blu Ray and greatly enjoyed it. Then when it came to cable I realized something...holy crap, this movie has insane replay value. It gets better and better with each viewing. You start to notice the power of Aaron Eckhart's performance, the thoughtful brooding of Christian Bale, how much better Maggie Gyllenhaal really is than Katie Holmes, how intensely awesome this story is...you name it. This is the perfect comic book movie, in that it exists in the supposition that this isn't a comic book world, this is the real world with comic book things happening within it. Batman isn't some goofy protector of the night, he's a man standing up for what is right. Two-Face isn't some maniacal monster who kills as he pleases, he's a man haunted who is looking for retribution against those who took his greatest love away.

Best of all, the Joker isn't some clown prince who just wants to make the world laugh (while killing it of course). He's not a criminal based around the collection of money or power, he's someone who is just out to watch the world burn. In many ways, he's the evolution of the terrorist or the criminal, he's the Anton Chigurh to Anton Chigurh. The way Heath Ledger carefully crafts this character is just so dedicated and intense that he is the Joker, as scary as that seems. Not only should Ledger have won the Oscar for this, I'd be hard pressed to name a performance I was more blown away by ever, not just this decade.

This isn't a comic book movie. This is a nuanced crime film by one of the master filmmakers of today, with all of the power and intensity that Bob Kane and Bill Finger ever could have imagined for a Batman story when they first created him in 1939. Utterly brilliant, and I reserve the right to eventually move this movie up a few notches as the years pass.

Favorite Movies of the Decade: 15 - 11

Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Today brings us round 3 of the favorite movies section of my Slices of Fried Gold: The Decade Edition project. So far, I've unveiled numbers 25 through 16 in my list, with today bringing us to 15 through 11. An interesting list, and one that brings us two Danny Boyle and Alex Garland collaborations, two animated films, and one story of the single greatest news anchor that has ever lived. An intriguing trio if I do say so myself.

Before we get started, here are links to day 1 and day 2 of this, and below is the list to date.

25. Up
24. In Good Company
23. In Bruges
22. Everything is Illuminated
21. The Departed
20. Wall-E
19. Snatch
18. About a Boy
17. The Constant Gardener
16. Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring

15. Sunshine (Directed by Danny Boyle, written by Alex Garland)

Sunshine is a bizarre film in many ways. Chiefly, its effortless genre-hopping is very rare to see, and it is especially rare to see any semblance of success with this. This film starts out as a dreamy sci-fi film, edges into 2001 style psychological space film, and then moves into Event Horizon class horror thriller by the very end, yet never sacrifices quality throughout. Even at the very end, we're given a curveball, a haunting and completely gorgeous curveball, but a curveball no less.

The fact that this film is very difficult to pinpoint save the grand umbrella of sci-fi is not lost upon me, but however you classify it this is an out and out success. Danny Boyle and Alex Garland once again collaborated to form a brand new take on a tired genre to give us a memorable, beautiful, and chilling sci-fi flick about saving humanity from the sun burning out. The cast is a top to bottom standout, with the standout being the surprising Chris Evans, breaking out from his Human Torch past to steal every scene he's in as the enigmatic and passionate Mace. Throw in brilliant camera work from Alwin Kuchler and another stellar score from John Murphy (with help from Underworld), and this is perhaps the best straight sci-fi film of the decade.

14. Howl's Moving Castle(Written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki - 2004)

While many would choose Miyazaki's own Spirited Away as his greatest film of the decade (and who could blame him? it's a stellar film), I prefer his work on Howl's Moving Castle. Howl's is a story of two highly disparate people - of a cursed young woman named Sophie, pushed into old age prematurely by a vile witch and off to find the great and insecure young wizard Howl to cure her ills. Howl is a haunted man, and a man who is slowly but surely cruising along a path of self-destruction. Somewhat predictably though, both find resolution to their problems in each other.

But this film is no predictable romance. This is a story of many wondrous things, whether it be a home that travels on its own legs, a talking flame, hilarious young proteges, evil witches, and completely gorgeous vistas as illustrated by the master Miyazaki himself. Miyazaki is one of the only hand drawn animators going today (in terms of feature length films), and if I were other animators, I would have gotten out of the game as well. The detail and power he gives his illustrations are unmatchable, with John Lasseter (the king of Pixar) perpetually stating that Miyazaki-san is one of the greatest influences upon their work at Pixar. This is perhaps the finest example of his career, the most prominent jewel upon a most glorious crown, and an utterly brilliant addition to a unparalleled resume.

13. Anchorman (Directed by Adam McKay, written by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay - 2004)

Comedy is often a genre that people do not know how to rate properly. They're often discounted for being occasionally non-sensical, often completely absurd, frequently juvenile, and some would even say infantile. Anchorman is, without a doubt, all of these things. Yet it also is the single funniest movie I've ever seen, and the most effortlessly quotable movie to have come out of the decade. Whenever Will Ferrell releases a movie, he's trying to recapture the magic that came from this movie, but quite frankly, it's impossible.

It's science.

Whenever you combine the most precious of elements of film into one brilliant comedy filled with improvisation and genius, which, in this case, means Will Ferrell (I don't know how to put this but I'm kind of a big deal), Paul Rudd (60% of the time, it works every time), David Koechner (when this is all said and done we should get an apartment together), Steve Carrell (I love lamp!), Vince Vaughan (Dorothy Mantooth is a saint!), Jack Black (that's how I roll), and many many more. This is basically the greatest example of comedic synergy ever, and it will be difficult to find a movie that makes me laugh harder more consistently.

12. Finding Nemo (Co-directed by Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich, written by Andrew Stanton, Bob Peterson and David Reynolds - 2003)

Another example of Pixar brilliance, with this one being the under the sea adventures of a clown fish (Albert Brooks) and his moderately obnoxious travel partner (Ellen DeGeneres) as they try to make it all the way to Australia to rescue his son. While it's frequently simply a hilarious romp, it also packs the emotional power that we've grown accustomed to from Pixar. This isn't just an under the sea buddy comedy, this is a tale about being a father and being a son. This is about the lengths you're willing to go to save your family. It's emotional dynamism makes it high on the totem pole of Pixar's successes.

The fact that it is also hilarious, has some of the best voice acting in Pixar history, and that Thomas Newman absolutely brings it on the score is all the better. This really proved that Pixar could really do anything, as they imbued these aquatic creatures with more life and vitality than most live action filmmakers could ever hope to accomplish.

11. 28 Days Later (Directed by Danny Boyle, written by Alex Garland - 2002)

After bursting upon the scene in 1996 with Trainspotting, Danny Boyle hit a cold spell. He was starting to look like a flash in the pan after most hated A Life Less Ordinary (I love that movie though) and The Beach, but with this film Boyle came back onto the scene. With three other massive successes in the Best Picture winning Slumdog Millionaire, the previously talked about Sunshine, and Millions, Boyle in many ways was one of the most successful directors of the decade. However, this film really is what got it started, as Boyle turned the genre of zombie horror on its head with one simple alteration: fast zombies.

While that was a huge change in its own right, the fact that he paired this original turn with a powerful story of a lost man finding a new family and trying to protect that family in a horrible situation is all the more incredible. While George Romero effectively brought the zombie genre to the forefront with his Living Dead series, Boyle was one of the first directors to layer the film with actual terror and emotional resonance ever. A lot of that came from the script for Garland, the stellar lead performances (namely Cillian Murphy and Brendan Gleeson), and an utterly original and haunting score by John Murphy. All in all though, it's one of the best examples of a genre that is increasing in popularity with each passing decade.

Favorite Movies of the Decade: 20 - 16

Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Day 2 of my favorite movies of the decade list (for my Slices of Fried Gold: The Decades Edition) is upon us, with today breaking down my 20th to 16th favorite films of the decade. Before we go to that here is a link to numbers 25 through 21 and see below for what preceded this list:

25. Up
24. In Good Company
23. In Bruges
22. Everything is Illuminated
21. The Departed

20. Wall-E (Directed by Andrew Stanton, written by Stanton, Pete Docter and Jim Reardon - 2008)

Pixar, as I said in my breakdown of Up, is the apex of filmmaking in the 2000’s. While some filmmakers may have had higher highs than Pixar, there is no company that is more automatic in terms of quality than Pixar. Of course, even for them Wall-E is an enigma. This is a movie that is effectively silent for the entire first act, has a protagonist whose primary goals in life are to make cubes of trash, find weird knick knacks, and to hold someone’s hand, and basically a pretty obvious statement about humanity’s mass consumerism and overconsumption. Oh yeah, and the perception is it’s a children’s movie.

When Pixar is involved you should always expect the unexpected, as this film may be serious at times but it is every bit as entertaining a romp as any of their other films to date. Wall-E, the incredibly likeable robot protagonist, is another pantheon level character for Pixar, delivering as much emotion with slight sounds and mannerisms as the best actors today can with an intense love monologue. Not only that, but Thomas Newman provides a completely brilliant score to this film, as the music involved with this is a very important aspect throughout (especially the excerpts from musical “Hello Dolly!”). While everything about this movie is a bit out of the ordinary (and strangely hasn't stood up to repeat viewings as well as other Pixar flicks have), it’s hard to argue that this is one of the best, and most unconventional, love stories of the decade.

19. Snatch (Written and directed by Guy Ritchie - 2000)

When this movie first came out, I saw it in theaters with my mom. We were both big fans of Guy Ritchie’s first movie Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, and were very excited for this. That was a Friday. By the end of the weekend, I’d seen it three times, twice more with my friends (who also love this). While Lock, Stock was incredible in its own right, Snatch really was the culmination of Ritchie’s incredibly stylish and massively entertaining British gangster flicks. While he’s returned to form with RocknRolla to a certain degree, it’s hard to imagine that he’ll make something that is as sprawling, hilarious, and deliciously dirty as this ever again.

Ritchie’s style really brings a lot to this flick, as his quick cutting was still fresh back in 2000, his sprawling soundtrack that touches on many genres and era’s but always entertains, and biting and quotable script really form the backbone of this movie. It helps that he had an incredible cast to lean upon, with Benicio Del Toro, Jason Statham (minus kung fu, plus gangster charisma), Rade Šerbedžija, Vinnie Jones (“he…dodges bullets Avi…”), and Dennis Farina bringing the awesome throughout. They all pale in comparison to Brad Pitt in this movie though. Pitt plays a pikey bare-knuckle boxer named Mickey who speaks in an intense accent that is as ridiculous as you’ll likely ever hear, and Pitt gives the performance a level of gusto and hilarity that makes him steal every scene he’s in. Hell, he’s the only performance that features a laugh that is quotable (or at least I try to). An incredibly entertaining crime flick that somehow gets better with additional viewings.

18. About a Boy (Written and directed by Paul and Chris Weitz, co-written by Peter Hedges – 2002)

About a Boy is my favorite Nick Hornby adaptation of the decade (of which there were many, with Fever Pitch and High Fidelity also joining the ranks), and while it is another film that isn’t anything technically incredible, there is something to be said about a film that is so effortlessly charming and so emotionally true. While there are many reasons for this movie being so exceptional (Badly Drawn Boy’s delightful soundtrack, an exceptional supporting cast, a funny and surprising script), the two biggest reasons are the two protagonists: Hugh Grant and Nicholas Hoult.

Hugh Grant plays Will, a romantic lead who for once is completely and utterly despicable. He goes to meetings for single parents to pick up women (he even invents a child), he takes on a kid so he can pretend even better, and even defers from being a friend’s daughter’s Godfather, as he readily admits he’s likely to shag her when she turns 18. The kid he takes on is Marcus (Hoult), an awkward kid without real friends and with a depressed mother who recently tried to kill herself. This pair ends up being quite perfect, as Will (effortlessly cool, through and through) helps Marcus learn how to be comfortable in his own skin and to help repair his family life, while Marcus teaches Will how to be a decent person who doesn’t lie to build relationships. Their relationship is the core of the film, and allows it to be the heartwarming charmer it could have been.

17. The Constant Gardener (Directed by Fernando Meirelles, written by Jeffrey Caine - 2005)

This is where I have to admit a horrible, horrible truth about myself: I’ve never seen Meirelles’ film City of God. City of God is one of the most well reviewed films of the decade and the 17th highest rated film in IMDB’s top 250, but for some reason I’ve never seen this Brazilian stunner. Yet, I have seen Meirelles’ follow up The Constant Gardener, and it is a stylish and deeply emotional film, filled with power, politics and intrigue through and through. This film is told in a non-linear style that allows this film to avoid being a downer and instead slowly build the emotional power, developing the relationship between the two leads (a husband and wife played by Rachel Weisz and Ralph Fiennes) while simultaneously having Fiennes slowly but surely unravel the mystery of Weisz’s death, and the unfortunate circumstances that surround it.

While Weisz is the one who received the Oscar for this film (deservedly so, she’s utterly entrancing while on screen), it’s Fiennes who gives a career performance in this film. His Justin Quayle is a devastated wreck, desperate to find the truth wherever he can and becoming more and more distraught as he gains more wisdom. The relationship between Fiennes and Weisz is one of the most organic and touching ones of the decade, as the scenes that are weaved into his search form the emotional backbone of this incredibly powerful film. Combine that with a tale of deceit and real world meaning, and you have another incredibly underrated film from this decade.

16. Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (Directed by Peter Jackson, written by Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh – 2001)

The Lord of the Rings trilogy was one of the most epic undertakings of the decade, as it was a huge risk by all involved. Hundreds of millions of dollars spent, a lengthy and robust tale of fantasy told, and an uncertain (but large) fan base confronted this series, but thanks to Peter Jackson, Howard Shore, and a very talented cast this film showed that they had nothing to fear from the beginning. Some prefer the more action oriented Two Towers or the finale Return of the King (the Academy definitely did), but not I. Fellowship of the Ring captured the spirit of the series best, pairing lighthearted fun, big adventure, intense action, tight pacing, and a joy that was often missing from the last two installments. Pound for pound, this was the best in my mind, and that’s saying something from this powerhouse trilogy. I’d go more into detail about this film, but pretty much every and their mother (mine loves it) has seen this series. Rest assured though, it is worth all the accolades that were placed upon it.

Favorite Movies of the Decade: 25 - 21

Monday, October 19, 2009
For my second run of my Slices of Fried Gold: The Decade Edition special, I'm now onto Favorite Movies of the Decade - note the usage of "favorite" instead of "best" here. As some have discussed, this was not the strongest decade of movies, as in many ways it was surpassed by television in terms of being a dramatic visual medium. Yet, there is still a ton of good that came from this decade and it was a unique one (at least for me) in that animated film was the dominant genre for the decade. In fact, between Studio Ghibli and Pixar, you could make a pretty damn amazing top 10 for the decade.

No less, before we get started there are a few notes I want to make. As with the music list I did recently, there is weighting towards those that exhibit longevity. In fact, movies are something I really add value to if it stands up when I watch it again. Sadly, this works both ways as a number of movies that I loved at first don't work as well on later viewings. With all that said, onto the just missed list and then on to numbers 25 to 21.

Last cuts: Gladiator, Monsters Inc., Super Troopers, No Country for Old Men, Signs, Spirited Away, Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, Serenity, Goodbye Lenin!, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

25. Up (Written and directed by Pete Docter and Bob Peterson – 2009)

The last spot was down to Up and The Big Lebowski, and it was a tough decision. Given my emphasis on rewatchability, the fact that I put a movie from 2009 on the list is kind of crazy. How am I supposed to know whether or not this movie is rewatchable eternally, even if I have seen it three times in theaters, especially given the fact that it is up against the fearsome competition of Lebowski, which features one of the all time greatest protagonist in Jeff “The Dude” Lebowski. It’s pretty easy actually…Up is just so damn uplifting, funny and emotionally resonant that it is impossible to ignore. If I was going just off how I feel now, I would likely put this near the top. However, film is a medium that demands time to marinate. Sometimes you love movies at first (Slumdog Millionaire, Garden State) to find out later that they simply do not compute as well on later viewings.

But Up, of all films, is one that I feel confidently in the fact that it will stand up to the test of time. Pete Docter and Bob Peterson craft a truly original film that creates some of the all time greatest characters in the pantheon of Pixar. In fact, that helps greatly in my confidence that this will be rewatchable – as you will see on this list, Pixar defined this decade greater than any other creator(s) out there. They are the gold standard of film today, and as it stands right now I’d be hard pressed to pick a better movie in their history than Up.

24. In Good Company (Written and directed by Paul Weitz - 2004)

In Good Company is not going to go down as one of the best movies of the decade on nearly any list out there. Thankfully this is a favorite movie list, not a best movie list, so that factor never comes into play. I think the biggest reason why I love this movie so much is the fact that it is completely rewatchable (its strange charm never wears thin), the soundtrack is incredibly underrated (the Shins are repeatedly featured, including my favorite track by them), and, most of all, Topher Grace’s performance as Carter Duryea is fantastic. Not only that, but I see a lot of myself in Carter, as he is a young marketing professional struggling to find his identity in life and to figure out what he really wants, not just what he should want. Just like me.

Grace does a wonderful job of making the corporate latter climbing and somewhat toolish Duryea not just likeable, but relatable. In many ways, it’s like seeing myself up on the screen, as I am torn by a dichotomy of life goals – standard, career oriented success or finding happiness in life itself. Throw in the fact that I also hooked up with my older subordinate’s busty college age daughter, and it’s like David Harper: Biography on screen. Okay, maybe that last part is untrue, but I can say besides that aspect, I’ve connected with very few roles as well as I have this one. A unique trait to be had, and something that really takes this movie to the next level for me.

23. In Bruges (Written and directed by Martin McDonagh - 2008)

Discussions about when you can punch women. Insulting hefty American tourists. Karate chopping little people that are under the influence of cocaine. Debates about the value of visiting a place such as Bruges. Shootouts in European cities. Figuring out whether or not alcoves is the word you are ooking for. Settling the debate as to who would win in a fight: the blacks or the whites.

These are but a few of the things that take place within Martin McDonagh’s film In Bruges, which is an uproarious and incredibly touching film that came out of nowhere to become an absolute powerhouse favorite of mine. I loved it when I first saw it, but now that it’s come onto cable I’ve made the realization that this is one of the most bizarrely quotable movies of the decade, mostly thanks to McDonagh’s script and bravura performances from Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson and Ralph Fiennes. In fact, you could make the argument that this is far and away the best performance of Farrell’s career, as he not only delivers some of the most hilarious lines with uncanny timing and glee, but he also provides the emotional core of the film as the haunted hitman coming off a botched first job. Surprisingly powerful and entertaining throughout, In Bruges is one of the more underrated gems of the 00’s.

22. Everything is Illuminated (Written and directed by Liev Schreiber) - 2005

Before this film, Liev Schreiber had existed eternally as one of the most recognizable “that guy’s” out there (to take a play from Bill Simmons’ extensive book). When he took the leap to writer/director with this adaptation of Jonathan Safran Foer’s memoir, it was with much uncertainty. Yet he proved that we had little to fear, as his deft direction makes this as beautiful a film visually as it is emotionally, depicting how the past in all forms is not something we can hide from and the unique bond that could form between a trio of very disparate people and a dog named Sammy Davis Jr. Jr.

While the performance of Elijah Wood as Foer is very strong for what it is (reserved, meek outsider who is searching for something), the true powerhouse performances in this are from Gogol Bordello’s lead singer Eugene Hutz as the freshest guy in Ukraine Alex and Boris Leskin as his grandfather. These two performances cover opposite ends of the emotional spectrum, with the former performance being a textured and very funny comedic performance, and the latter being a quietly eccentric and deeply affecting emotional performance. Both are extremely unique performances, and in many ways ascend to the levels of lead by the very end. While it starts out as a journey for Foer, what this film ends up being is something entirely different. A beautiful, charming, and emotional film that is very underrated.

21. The Departed (Directed by Martin Scorcese, written by William Monahan - 2006)

Oddly enough the only Best Picture Oscar winner on my entire list and one of only two nominees for that illustrious category that make my top 25, but this was one that was very difficult to ignore. This film found legendary director Martin Scorcese on his A game, an incredibly talented and deep cast (when Jack Nicholson is your weakest link, you know it’s a pretty strong cast), and a script that is laden with intrigue and double crosses at every corner.

It is fairly evident from its pedigree as to why it could have been a good movie, but the fact that everyone involved actually managed to pull it together to bring put together a cohesive narrative that is filled with enough tension to stress out the most calm and collected of viewers is pretty damn incredible. While everyone is superb in this film, the best two performances in this film come from Leonardo DiCaprio as undercover cop Billy Costigan (always in too deep but perpetually maintaining his cover against the greatest of odds) and Mark Wahlberg. Wahlberg in particular does a lot with his limited amount of time, being the right hand man to Martin Sheen’s Captain Queenan, a perpetual thorn in the side of both DiCaprio and Matt Damon’s characters sides, and basically the most badass character ever simultaneously. A great performance in a film filled with them.

Where the Wild Things Are review

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Maurice Sendak’s beloved classic children’s book Where the Wild Things Are for a long time was considered almost entirely impossible to adapt. How does one convert a book from something that takes approximately 2 minutes to read into something that makes sense over the long haul of feature lengths? It seemed to be an unattainable goal, yet visionary director Spike Jonze (Adaptation, Being John Malkovich, uncountable amounts of music videos) and esteemed author Dave Eggers (A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, You Shall Know My Velocity!) targeted that specific ambitious and moderately insane objective. What comes out is a deeply insular and intensely emotional interpretation of the book that is decidedly not for children, but for those who hold wild things in their heart and don’t know what to do with them.

Jonze and Eggers take the same basic set up from the book (a kid named Max with a vivid imagination gets in trouble with his mom and then visits a land of wild things instead of dealing with his anger, rage and torment in standard ways) and fleshes it out dramatically. Now, Max has a sister who ignores him and allows her friends to hurt him (albeit accidentally), his mother (Catherine Keener, insert indie success story from past decade/both Jonze films) is a divorcee who is looking for love and is struggling as the only breadwinner for the house, and Max (Max Records, The Brothers Bloom) is an oddly anti-social and imaginative child with a penchant for putting on a wolf suit and raising holy hell. Upon one of those instances, Max flips out and screams “Feed me, woman!” at his mother. Much anger occurs, Max departs in a hurry as his mother chases him, and he finds a boat to escape to worlds of unknown origin.

This world ends up being the world of wild things, and from there he meets a ragtag group of wild things all going through an emotional time of chaos and confusion. There’s the leader Carol (James Gandolfini), his right hand man Douglas (Chris Cooper), the enigmatic and influential KW (Lauren Ambrose), the couple of Ira and Judith (Forest Whitaker and Catherine O’Hara), ignored goat and champion of ridiculousness Alexander (Paul Dano), and the quiet and sad character who just goes by The Bull (Michael Berry, Jr.). These characters quickly anoint Max their King after a little deliberation as to whether or not they should eat him, and as his first proclamation Max and his subjects go on the WILD RUMPUS! All is well in Wild Thing Ville, but alas, as it tends to happen in movies, these things are not built to last.

The rest of the film is all about the development of Max’s relationship with these characters and the establishment of what each of these characters mean to Max. While he may not understand it himself, these characters are Max (and in my opinion, are people in his life) and the emotions he’s been going through. Judith is his side that trusts nothing, Alexander is the side of him who feels ignored even though he tries not to be, the Bull is his invisible side, etc. etc. Ultimately though, the two characters who matter the most are Carol (the wild thing who embodies the majority of Max’s persona) and KW (the character who represents his trusting and loving side, and to me, represents his sister as well). Their interactions are the crux for the rest of the wild things – if their relationship is off, the whole thing falls apart.

Going into this film, you’re built to expect a romp through childhood dreams and absolute fun for an hour and a half. While this is a brilliant job of marketing (positioning it as a moody think piece about the tenuous emotional states of children probably would have been a bad idea), this does create unfair expectations in viewers. Whenever you’re expecting one thing and receive another, you feel cheated and respond generally in defiance to said project. This has happened with this film, as a lot of the people who were excited for it have strongly disliked it. But what Jonze and Eggers have done here is something far more special, as they took a lithe and wondrous childhood picture book and turned it into one of the better studies of what children do to survive the traumas in their life. The vivid imagination that Max has and Jonze demonstrates on screen (the choice to go with large costumes instead of CGI was a brilliant one, as it gives the actions on screen real tangibility) is alternately beautiful, dreamy, demented, terrifying, shocking, and completely endearing, and those six words describe this film very well.

Jonze really has created a shockingly beautiful film here, with some of the shots being almost hauntingly gorgeous and painstakingly artistic. Combined with the performances of the voice actors and the work of Karen O. (of Yeah Yeah Yeah’s fame) on the score, which in itself is childish and schizophrenic, yet luscious and dreamy, make this film a pretty damn incredible one. The only thing that brings this film down really is the nearly glacial pace, as really, there is very little in terms of dramatic tension besides simply waiting for the activities of this world to play out. We know what’s going to happen, but the unfurling of the story is perhaps a bit slower than necessary, and something that leads this tired as hell viewer to nearly nod off from time to time.

Of course, given the nature of this filmic adaptation and the trials and tribulations Jonze and Eggers had to go through, what they’ve accomplished is nothing short of monumental. Working closely with Maurice Sendak likely ensured that at least their primary audience was pleased, and that they stayed within the central themes that the creator of the story always intended. This will eternally be one of those love it or hate it type films, however, early reports are in: this guy loves it and strongly recommends it. So long as you don’t bring kids. This movie is basically a children’s torture device.

Where the Wild Things Are: B+

Where the Wild Things Are is here!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

A movie that I have been extremely excited about is finally coming out tomorrow - an adaptation of Where the Wild Things Are. While the reviews have been mixed (currently being at 64% on Rotten Tomatoes), the promise the trailer has shown along with the pedigree that includes Spike Jonze directing from a script he co-wrote with Dave Eggers...well, I'm really pumped for it.

While I'm once again passing on the midnight showing of this because I cannot stand midnight showing audiences (it's as if they have a sign outside the theater saying "Tool Academy tryouts tonight!"), I am definitely going to be attending a nice Saturday or Sunday matinee. I have to admit, I know midnight showing audiences may do some sort of coordinated roar that would be entertaining, but still...I just can't do it. Can't wait to get my Wild Thing on.

Multiversity Comics Update

Monday, October 12, 2009

Today was a huge day for the comic blog I write for. Multiversity Comics started the day securing three interviews (including one from one of our favorite creators in the industry) and finished it with by far the biggest day in terms of visitors in our short history. In fact, we managed to have significantly more visitors today than we typically do in an entire week, as we have nearly 1,500 unique visitors today with 4 hours to go.

How did this happen?

Well, Matt (MC's creator, writer and editor-in-chief) wrote an innocent post sharing the Twitter accounts of a ton of different comic creators in an attempt to create the most comprehensive Twitter account list out there. Of course, it started well as many creators commeneted on the post and emailed Matt to get added, but it all escalated like crazy when first MTV's Splash Page (MTV's comic movie blog) made a tweet about our post, and then arguably two of the biggest writers in the industry did the same: Geoff Johns and Brian Michael Bendis. Throw in Marvel blogger/champion Agent_M (he of 1.2 million followers on Twitter), and our site just went completely insane.

This is just an absolutely gigantic day for us, and we're really excited about the future of our blog. Who knows what it holds, but man, it was an incredibly fun day to watch unfold. Hopefully we build on it and make Multiversity even bigger than it already is.

David vs. Man vs. Food

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The man, the myth, the legend

Recently, I was stricken with Swine Flu. Okay, maybe it wasn't Swine Flu, but I was horrifically ill. Yet in true David form, when push came to shove and an opportunity to do something truly unique came up, I went for it. Swine Flu be damned, I say!

That opportunity came up in the form of Adam Richman, host and competitor on the Travel Channel's Man vs. Food. The evening I went home ill Twitter was buzzing with word that Richman himself would be making an appearance at Humpy's a two Wednesdays ago. Given that the show is pretty awesome and that Eric and Darren both like it as well, Cate, Darren, Eric and I went to Humpy's to enjoy the show. Little did we know that we'd get there at 6:45 for him to not even come out until around 9:30 or 9:45. Of course, that would give us ample time to eat, drink (water for myself, tasty beer for the rest), and plan out precisely what we wanted to do when Richman would come out. After much deliberation, Eric, Darren and I decided that we needed to line up and form a high five chain to receive Richman. Of course, thus we did and sure enough, Richman came out to emphatic cheers and awkward high five/pound combinations from us. Less than ideal, assuredly, but entertaining no less.

Richman came out to attempt to eat a foot of reindeer sausage, 3 pounds of crab, 9 crab cakes, half a pound of shrimp, sides, and dessert. Whether or not he did so is unknown, as we left before he started the competition (he was carousing with hot Anchorage women before filming). We did get filmed for a good length of time though, and I did go to the bathroom next to him, giving me the unique perspective of knowing that he both talks on a Bluetooth while peeing and does not wash his hands afterwards. Disgusting for a competitive eater, assuredly.

No less, make sure to watch November 18th. You can see me gorging myself on a Hawaiian burger and looking terribly ill while cavorting with three of my nearest and dearest friends. Ridiculously, of course.

We are the champions!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

I made the photographers take pics of us like this

For the second straight year, I participated in the Alaska Literacy Program's Biz Bee. The Biz Bee is a charity event where businesses around Alaska get together and compete in a spelling bee to decide who is, once and for all, the greatest spelling company in Alaska (or at least until the next year). After last year's disappointing finish of 7th (or 8th, but my memory fades), we were particularly excited about taking another run at the crown, with that excitement further increased by new (and dedicated!) teammate Sara joining fellow returning member Sharee and I.

The bee started off after an extremely lengthy introduction by the Queen Bee (as she described herself), and it started off with a shocker - the second team to go missed their word, and it was giraffe! Sitting up on my high horse directly behind them, I scoffed and laughed at the puny mortals and their inferior spelling (that may be a lie, it was a little old man and I felt bad). Progressively, more and more teams went out but our crack team of spellers kept going. We even worked out a strategy where if we knew a word and we knew a team was going to pass it, we would feign dejection and look away. Inevitably, the teams would give us the word and I would respond with a thumbs up to moderator, effectively saying "hell YES lady, we got this." The predictable nature of human kind worked out for us quite nicely indeed.

Of course, given that it is a spelling bee and filled with lots of waiting, I had to find things to do to entertain myself (besides drinking Crown and diet cokes, which was quite entertaining in itself). This led to me coming up with a new way to clap for the people who would get a word correct every single time they got one right. You would think it would be hard, but it ended up being pretty damn easy as I started using props, snaps, and various other things to make my applause lengthier and more bizarre. This is of course a special version of my low level OCD that comes up when I get really competitive.

Back to the actual competition. A few bizarre things happened during the spelling bee: somehow the words that came up for us kept being my words, and given that I had studied a lot I developed the reputation as some sort of incredible speller (murmurs of "he must know every word!" and "he's freakish" were surrounding us at all times) and we became the team that everyone was rooting for. The latter became especially obvious after every team had been demolished by a freight train powered by difficult words. While we were in a heads up matchup versus Anchorage Fracture and Orthopedic Clinic and were pulling absurdly difficult words, they were getting lay ups like "obnoxious" or "tenacious." Clamors of favortism rippled through the teams, as the announcer basically announced she was trying to make us lose.

But those with lion hearts and ice water in their veins never give up, and our team didn't. As we managed to pull off the successful combination of "dedicatee" and the other team unsuccessfully spelling their word, the championship fell to me. 31 rounds in (longest Biz Bee ever, literally), it came to me to finish it and the word almost made me fall over. Something that sounded like "coo-chee-free-toe" came to me, and my demeanor went from gleeful to aghast in a heartbeat. Let's break it down from here on out:

I lean in and say: Okay, c-u-c-c-i-f-r-i-t-o...like the food, but with the double c?
Sharee: You think it's the double c? I don't know...where is it from?
Me to the moderator: Language of origin?!
Moderator: Spanish.
Me (internalized): JACKPOT!
Sharee (with the Chilean roots): Okay, try this - c-u-c-h-i-f-r-i-t-o.
Me: Cuchifrito...c-u-c-h-i-f-r-i-t-o...cuchifrito.
Carol Comeau, announcer: That is correct!
The audience goes crazy! Sharee, Sara and I start hugging like crazy. Sharee and I run down the top aisle high fiving everyone and we celebrate like the most ridiculous people ever.

Of course, given that we were adults participating in a spelling bee on a Friday night, we may just have been. Who cares though - viva la cuchifrito!!!

Studies Show: Do as I say AND as I do

Wednesday, October 7, 2009
From time to time, I go through a process where I debate whether or not some of the things I do in life are necessarily the best things I could do for myself. Two of the most frequent topics are the amount of alcohol I drink and the amount that I blog. While the former isn't really that bad (I rarely drink outside of social interactions, as I prefer milk/water with meals over alcohol), the latter sometimes spirals out of control. I write a little too much perhaps, as if I'm not writing on here I'm writing on my comic blog Multiversity Comics, and if I'm not doing that I'm dropping tweets at an almost absurd volume. It seems like it should be a negative at this point.

Thankfully, the world has scientists to prove to me that not only are they not bad things, but they're even good for me! Huzzah!

One study discussed in Time shows that those that abstain from alcohol are actually more depressed on average, and those that drink regularly (but not binge drinkers) are less socially anxious and less depressed. The reason for it is fairly obvious - those that drink are blessed with social lubricant, thus less social anxiety. Those that are less socially anxious are likely to have more friends, those with my friends are likely to be less depressed. Delightful! Of course, no one mentioned anything in the study about the fact that they only studied Norwegians, a people who are known for their drinking. The fact that those that do not drink may actually be shunned does not come up, but that's fine with me: science says I'm doing the smart thing, so I'm down.

Then, another study discussed in the New York Times has found that those that have to deal with nonsense (mostly in the print form) often are more intelligent. The reasoning is that those that deal with nonsense primes the brain to sense patterns a person would likely miss otherwise, allowing for the average person to effectively become the equivalent of Simon Baker in The Mentalist (or at the very least James Roday in Psych). Given that I have to deal with my own writing on a day to day basis (most of which is non-sensical until I beat it into a bloody pulp), I'm probably the most intelligent person on the planet at this point.

Of course, if you read this blog regularly, that probably means you are intelligent as well. Not because you read my blog, but because you actually attempt to comprehend what I'm saying. So bravo to you dear reader.

Now excuse me, as I have to work on becoming more intelligent while becoming less depressed. Duty calls...

Akon and the Wailers

Once upon a time, as many of you long time readers know, I went to trivia night every week. Whether it was at Hooters (our favorite until it closed down, sadly), Eddie's Sports Bar, or Humpy's, we loved it. Colver was my partner on a weekly basis, but we also had a rotating cast of characters joining us. Sadly, at some point within the past year we just stopped going altogether. Not sure what it was, but I do know I had a trivia sized hole in my heart (or perhaps that was all of the beer I wasn't drinking and all of the various bar foods I wasn't eating).

Last night marked the return of trivia though, as Colver, Lorna, Eric, Joanne, Kyle and I went to Humpy's for their Tuesday night Pub Quiz. Given that we've had so much turnover on our team, we went with a new team name - Akon and the Wailers (an inside joke about Akon and his reggae sound) - to replace our old team name "Drunken Cowboys." That was our team name for quite some time, so it was sad to see it go. No less, we had our best round ever at the Pub Quiz, which is notorious for being hard as hell to win at. We managed to win one round outright (it was a matching page where you had to match the title of the movie to the sport it was about) and to consistently get 5+ answers right in the ten question rounds.

Besides the fact that we did reasonably well, it just felt good to be at trivia once again. Sitting with friends, drinking some beer, and dropping some (useless) knowledge. If I'm looking to survive another Alaskan winter, I'm going to need a hobby or two. Let's hope trivia becomes one of those hobbies.

Happy Planetary Day!

It's finally happening.

We are finally getting the last issue of Planetary! Woo!!

For those that don't know, Planetary is a comic book series by creators extraordinaire Warren Ellis (aka the best writer in the business) and John Cassaday (aka the best artist in the business), and unsurprisingly given the pedigree this series is one of the best 5 or 10 I've ever read. It's about a trio of "archaeologists of the impossible" who go around tracking down the world's secret history but ultimately was about taking out "the Four", their opposite number except, you know...totally evil.

The first time I read anything from this series was 1998 in the back of an issue of Gen13 and now, over 10 years after the first actual issue was released, we are finally receiving the 27th and last issue of the series. It's been a long (LONG) and wild ride Ellis and Cassaday have taken us on, but entirely worth the wait. Well, correction: I'll let you know if it was worth the wait around 5 pm Alaska Standard Time. That's when I pick it up and read it at near Olympian speeds. Cannot wait, after waiting for 3 (THREE!) years between issues. It's going to be epic.

The Iceman Cometh

Monday, October 5, 2009

Similar to what I will look like very soon

My least favorite time of the year is upon us, as we've now come to the point where Alaska goes from summer straight into winter. Allegedly, we're going through fall right now as various people I know insist, but I know better. We're in winter, and every time I wake up I expect to look out the window and see half a foot of the fluffy white stuff. It's already bitter and cold when I walk out for work in the morning, regardless of how I try to deny it by wearing completely incorrect clothing for the temperature. Just an fyi, but that is an absolutely stupid way to deal with winter approaching. All it does is make you really cold, not curb the approach of fearsome cold.

Part of the reason why I don't wear warmer clothing is because I don't really have any. That ties in quite a bit to the fact that I am pretty much the worst Alaskan in the state. During the winter, I'm well known for my terrible decision making when it comes to clothing, and I often attempt to hibernate as much as possible as if I was some sort of human polar bear. Not only do I completely fail at winter, but I also really don't like it. The last few years have been salvageable because of staying busy constantly with friends like Amy, Kim and Hannah being socially inspiring, but with that trio moving and a few of my best friends taking steps towards full out domestication it's going to be more difficult than usual.

So what do I do? Take a lengthy and awesome vacation? Relocate to warmer (not necessarily greener) pastures? Grin and bear it? Who knows. As I frequently discuss with my good friend Kim (the one who left last year), I really feel ready for a change. I felt that way in the summer, and man, now that winter is hitting it really feels time. I think Joanne and I just need to go on The Amazing Race so I can travel, win an awesome competition, and become world famous. Perhaps that's a bit unrealistic, but hey, at least I aspire to awesome goals right? There is the upside that the winter coerces me to go to the gym a lot and work on getting my running times down, so when The Amazing Race does actually call me I'll be ready to kick some ass.

Fall TV Season: Early Analysis

Sunday, October 4, 2009
With us now about a month into the Fall TV season, we probably have a good idea as to what is working well (see below) and what isn't working well (goodbye CW's "The Beautiful Life"). There have been three new shows I've enjoyed more than the rest that I feel like I can strongly recommend, and strangely enough all three of them are sitcoms (evidently the demise of the sitcom was greatly exaggerated). Check them out below, and once you have make sure to set your DVR's because all of these shows could use the ratings support.

Community (Thursdays, NBC)

Community is the most formulaic of the three new shows that I'm enjoying, as it really is just pretty straight forward sitcom faire. Take the plot: a ne'er do well man drastically changes his life situation and gets involved with a group of misfits including a beautiful woman he's trying to woo. That happens a lot in both movies and TV, and to say this movie is really that different would be a lie.

However, it works because of a few things. First off, you have Joel McHale (also known as the reason I started watching the show), the host of The Soup and all around awesome guy. The question was could he translate his charisma from The Soup onto a weekly sitcom? Hell yeah he can, even if he is essentially playing himself I feel. His effortless charm is infectious and spills out to the rest of the cast.

Of course, the ensemble cast is definitely great as well. In particular Danny Pudi, the guy who plays Abed the heir to a falafel empire (but wants to be a film maker), is hysterical. His straight faced responses or rapid fire movie references (in particular on the pilot when he was going on about The Breakfast Club) are one of the biggest highlights of the show so far.

Definitely looking to continue watching, as it has been fun so far but not really laugh out loud funny. It is part of the newly awesome Thursday night comedy lineup for NBC, as the combination of this, Parks and Recreation, the Office and SNL Weekend Update Thursday/30 Rock are freaking fantastic. NBC finally recaptured the successful alchemy of that evenings programming.

Modern Family (Wednesdays, ABC)

Modern Family is a true ensemble comedy. It tracks three families who live on their own but are all part of the same, greater family tree. You have the standard nuclear family with the Dunphy's (Julie Bowen and a hysterical Ty Burrell are the parents), you have the gay couple who just recently adopted a Vietnamese baby girl named Lily, and then there is the patriarch of the family as played by Ed O'Neill who recently remarried to a beautiful Spanish woman and took on a new (and hysterically romantic) son. While you would think it could easily fall into sitcom cliches given its simple origin, the style that they developed for this show and the incredibly witty and outlandish writing they have keeps it fresh always.

Not to get overly effusive, but this show so far seems like it has a very good chance to be nearly as depraved, ridiculous and refreshingly funny as Arrested Development was. I've already laughed out loud more to the two episodes they've shown so far than probably all other sitcoms combined so far. Get on it while the getting is good.

Bored to Death (Sundays, HBO)

While this show may not be for everyone, as sportswriter extraordinaire Bill Simmons quite passionately dislikes this show (and anything that remotely resembles a Wes Anderson film). However, given that it combines the gifts of novelist/graphic novelist Jonathan Ames, personal favorite Jason Schwartzman, comedian of the moment (and all around hysterical man) Zach Galifianakis, and newly amazing supporting actor Ted Danson, to me, it's guaranteed to be good.

That it runs on HBO and can really go for no holds barred ridiculousness is a big bonus, as are the consistently excellent guest stars. So far we've had Kristen Wiig, Jim Jarmusch, Olivia Thirlby, Oliver Platt, and will soon see Parker Posey, and I'm sure it will just get better and better with this shows pedigree. Plus, the set up is incredibly original (a writer who moonlights as a private eye as a way to cope with getting dumped) and overall the show is completely unlike everything else on the air.

While it isn't hysterical (or even really funny), it is entertaining and all in all a good show. I highly recommend it if you're a fan of droll humor and effortlessly cool and literate shows.

Favorite Albums of the Decade: Wrap Up

With my Slices of Fried Gold: The Decade Edition wrapped up for Albums, I'll be starting up on movies next, following that up with comics and TV shows shortly thereafter. I had grand intentions to do songs as well, but then I realized with three other categories coming up and wanting to do end of the year lists as well, it would be pretty much impossible unless I decided I wanted to quit my job to make lists about pop culture for a living (anyone hiring?).

However, before I move on from Albums of the Decade, just a few notes to make:
  • 2007 had the most albums on the list with 9, while 2001 and 2003 tied for second with 7 albums each (2007 was not surprising - it was a crazy good year...2001 and 2003 were)
  • Spoon had the most albums on the list with 3, and was one of only two bands to feature multiple albums (the other being Sigur Rós)
  • Only one rap album (that made me sad)
Really not as diverse as I originally expected it to be, but it is what it is. It was still a lot of fun to do and it was pretty cool hearing from people what they thought was going to be number one. For the record, no one guessed it correctly.

Now on to other Decade lists! Movies will likely start the week of the 11th, so keep an eye out for that. If you are a fellow blogger and enjoyed my lists, feel free to link as you please!

Favorite Albums of the Decade

For ease of use, I compiled all fifty of my top albums of the decade into one intensely long post. Jumping between posts to see the whole list seemed a bit demanding of me, so here it is, all in one fell swoop, my top fifty albums of the decade.

One note: as I said in my other posts, these albums are entirely based off of what my favorite albums were, not necessarily the best. Sure, Sufjan Stevens' album Illinois may be a more expansive and well made album than Anathallo's Floating World, but I connected more to the latter album. Music in my mind is the medium in pop culture that we most personally connect with, and that's why some albums skew higher on my list than they would with others.

Now on with the show...

50. Andrew WK - I Get Wet (2001)

Recommended track: I Get Wet

Why I love it: I Get Wet holds a special place in my heart, as it's an album I first started listening to around the time I went to college freshman year and it also represented the first concert I saw while living out of state (not to mention the single best concert I've ever been to in my life). Andrew WK didn't make anything resembling the best music ever on this album, but it did represent pure good and pure awesome distilled into music form. Listening to any track from this album is guaranteed to put me into a good mood, and from where I'm sitting that has to count for something.

49. The Go! Team - Thunder, Lightning, Strike (2004)

Recommended track: Get It Together

Why I love it: The Go! Team was a band I first started listening to right as I first started doing my radio show Moscow City Soundtrack at KUOI in Moscow, Idaho. In fact, it was one of the first albums I picked up from their library, as their lo-fi cheerleader rock anthems had a lot of buzz around the station and sounded like something that would entertain me to no end. Simply listening to the recorder jams on "Get It Together" (featured in last year's amazing game Little Big Planet) makes me grin ear to ear, but there is a lot of secretly good musicianship within this album. They're more than just a novelty act.

48. Stars - Set Yourself on Fire (2004)

Recommended track: Your Ex-Lover is Dead

Why I love it: This is another album that came my way because of KUOI, but definitely from a different direction than the Go! Team. This album was a very emotionally devastating album, filled with anguish, stellar vocals, and lush arrangements layered with synth and strings. Once upon a time, I shared that I thought this band would hit it big with The O.C. egging them on, but they never became as big as I thought they would (they did end up on The O.C. though). It's a shame too, because this was one of the truly surprising beauties of the decade from the music industry.

47. Badly Drawn Boy - About a Boy Soundtrack (2002)

Recommended track: I Love NYE

Why I love it: This album hearkens back to my first love, back when we went and saw About a Boy and both quickly fell in love with the movie and the soundtrack. The girlfriend is long gone, but the deep admiration for the film and the music within it are still there, as Badly Drawn Boy crafted one of the best made for film albums I've ever heard. In many ways, it captures all of the themes that the film targets (change, coming of age, love) as well as the film itself does, and that is saying something. Filled with beautiful interludes and charming ditties alike, this is one of the most unique and underrated albums of the decade.

46. Explosions in the Sky - All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone (2007)

Recommended track: Welcome, Ghosts

Why I love it: If Sigur Ros grew up in Texas and really focused on ambiance, this is the type of album they would release. As emotionally devastating as something the Icelandic troop would release, but created almost entirely with guitars and drums. The level of talent within this group is astounding, as they take you through emotional journeys strictly through cinematic arrangements of instruments and clever placements of peaks and valleys. Intensely beautiful and beautifully intense, all at the same time.

45. M.I.A. - Kala (2007)

Recommended track: Boyz

Why I love it: This is an album everyone got behind after M.I.A.'s superb single "Paper Planes" became a club jam, but really, this is not an album that is propped up by a single. Wall to wall, this album is filled with banging tracks loaded with a message, and I'd be lying if they weren't fun to dance and sing along to as well. Infectious and experimental and something I never thought I'd like strictly because I couldn't imagine anyone being audacious enough to create something like it.

44. of Montreal - Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? (2007)

Recommended track: The Past is a Grotesque Animal

Why I love it: of Montreal is about as weird of a band as you can possibly find, and this album as a whole is a pretty good indicator of that. However, hidden underneath that oddness is an album loaded with intensely personal messages (evidently Kevin Barnes love life was quite rough around this time) wrapped in disco-funk-rock-electronic-synth goodness. This is an album really quite a bit unlike any other release on this list, but this album has progressively grown on me in the two plus years since its release. Now it's no longer odd, but charming, infectious, and completely stellar music.

43. Hot Hot Heat - Elevator (2005)

Recommended track: Elevator

Why I love it: Pop alert! Pop alert! A lot of people chastised Hot Hot Heat for making a far more straight forward rock album after the art rock mess that was their debut album Make Up the Breakdown, but I for one did not. I really believe that this album should have been the single biggest one of 2005, as every track is a radio single that is better than anything else out there. It is completely loaded with infectious pop songs that are guaranteed to get you singing at the top of your lungs and get your toes tapping, which once upon a time was a recipe for a hit. Evidently no longer, as this under appreciated gem is an afterthought these days.

42. The Stills - Without Feathers (2006)

Recommended track: Destroyer

Why I love it: The Stills debut Logic Will Break Your Heart was extremely well received, and for good reason. It was a damn good album that fit the niche of indie rock flavors that year. This album on the other hand was chastised and poorly received...yet I love it more. From the opening track "In the Beginning" to the killer trifecta of "Halo the Harpoons", "It Takes Time", and "Destroyer", this album is loaded with tracks that I (and only I, it seems) completely adore. Yet what is a favorite albums list without some surprises, and there is my first one.

41. Cake - Comfort Eagle (2001)

Recommended track: Shadow Stabbing

Why I love it: A lot of groups that I've been listening to since I really started listening to music have not stood up to the test of time. However, Cake has somehow not only maintained their lofty status in my mind, but improved on it. Albums like Comfort Eagle certainly help, as from the first track to the last track it is filled with quirky and infectious tracks from John McCrea and the rest. This album won't win any awards for lyrical content, but not every album is developed to elicit a response other than to feel happy and good about life. This is a drive around with the windows down and shout out lyrics album, regardless of how ridiculous they make you sound.

40. Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion (2009)

Recommended Track: My Girls

Why I Love It: While the cries of "album of the decade!" may have been a pinch strong at this album's release, the hype that this was Animal Collective's best yet was not. This is AC distilling their sound into more of a pop structure, as you can sense Panda Bear's influence (after 2007's stellar Person Pitch) becoming more and more prominent throughout. This may be the definitive headphones and audiophile album of the decade, as this album is all about rich textures and layers of sound. Not only that, but when they take us through the chorus on "My Girls" and we get the gleeful "Ohhh!!", there may not have been a more euphoric moment from music this decade.

39. The Apples in Stereo - New Magnetic Wonder (2007)

Recommended Track: 7 Stars

Why I Love It: The Apples in Stereo were another out of nowhere band for me, regardless of the fact that they had been around for 16 years before I knew any better. This album is one that is filled with delicious vocoder driven vocals, 70's pop instrumental arrangements, and a sunny disposition mostly about...science? Whatever it is really about (obviously I am all about the lyrical content here), this album is one that surprised in its ability to alternately get me screaming out vocals and to regress into a far more contemplative state. This is not an album weighed down by import, but mostly one wondering "can you feel it." Yes we can, and it feels good.

38. Ghostface Killah - Fishscale (2006)

Recommended Track: Shakey Dog

Why I Love It: For all of the reasons Raekwon's Cuban Linx sequel is a success, so is this album. While for the most part Wu Tang Clan had a quiet decade, Ghostface exploded to become the most dominant voice from that crew. With his searing vocals, Ghostface tells us yarns of what a day to day life for a coke pushing gangster is like on the East Coast. Especially on "Shakey Dog", which is, to me, the apex of rap as a form of inner city storytelling. Not only that, but we get all kinds of guest appearances (including an honest to god Wu track), comic book and kung fu flick nods, and we learn a little about the metric system on the way as well. Who saw that coming?

37. The 88 - Over and Over (2005)

Recommended Track: Nobody Cares

Why I Love It: The 88 released one of the best albums of the 1960's, giving us rather straight forward pop rock tracks with soaring vocals, clap along rhythms, and tracks about sweet things such as coming home to your love, or things of that sort. Of course, the fact that it was released in 2005 to relative obscurity sort of alters that concept a bit, but that does not rob this album of any of its brilliance. While their follow up was...not strong, this album (which I found when I first started reviewing albums at my radio station in college) is laden with pop gems that I'd say match up with nearly anything from this decade.

36. Cut Copy - In Ghost Colours (2008)

Recommended Track: Hearts on Fire

Why I Love It: Cut Copy is a group that so effortlessly fused indie pop, electronica, and influences from the 1980's into their sound on this album that they were pretty much impossible to be denied. While it's true this album really doesn't intend to be much more than an album that is light, airy, and fun to dance to, it doesn't really matter. Cut Copy is so obviously comfortable with their identity and their sound on this album that everything they do ends up sounding like everything you wanted to hear from them, but you didn't even know it. That's how you know it's good.

35. Muse - Absolution (2003)

Recommended Track: Butterflies and Hurricanes

Why I Love It: Muse is one of the most incredible bands on the planet, as in many ways they are about as talented as anyone out there. For example, Matt Bellamy, lead singer, guitarist, and pianist for the group, can do all three things about as well as anyone in music today. Whether you're looking for a classically trained piano piece in the midst of a track, or an absolutely insane riff, or some of the most beautiful vocals you'll hear from any man, they'll deliver this and plenty more. This album became a very popular one because of a few standout singles, but the depth of the album is where the gems are hidden, such as the more slow burning pieces like "Butterflies and Hurricanes" and "Blackout."

34. Cursive - The Ugly Organ (2003)

Recommended Track: Art is Hard

Why I Love It: "When you get on stage and they scream your name...oh Cursive is so cool...". From the very moment I heard those moments, with the former part sang in standard style and the "so cool" part in the background with muted vocals, I immediately knew I was a little bit in love with this band. At first, I was drawn in by the arty aggressiveness of "Art is Hard" and "Some Red Headed Slight of Hand", but later on I was pulled in by the more introspective moments like "The Recluse" and "Staying Alive." About that time I started to realize just how stellar of an album this was, and it ended up being my favorite album by one of Saddle Creek's absolute finest. Front to back, this album is loaded with power, brains, and a hidden soft streak that they'll scream at you to ignore. Brilliant.

33. Spoon - Gimme Fiction (2005)

Recommended Track: I Summon You

Why I Love It: First, I have to say that if I was going to make a list of favorite tracks of the decade (I may still do that), "I Summon You" would have to be up there for the top prize. This album followed their less structured and more eclectic album Kill the Moonlight and really focused on focusing the bands strengths into more straightforward tracks. For the most part it was a success, as tracks like the aforementioned "I Summon You" and "My Mathematical Mind" end up being every bit as wonderful as anything else in the Spoon discography. However, it falls somewhere in between the spontaneity of Moonlight and the polished pop sound of Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, and that lack of identity keeps it in the 30's for me.

32. Phantom Planet - The Guest (2002)

Recommended Track: One Ray of Sunlight

Why I Love It: Alright, cool it with the laughter. If you're thinking "really? the band that made the O.C. theme song?" well, you'd be right. That is in fact this band. However, hidden under that overplayed (but infectious) track is an album that is 60's bubble gum pop at its finest. Loaded with more hooks than a meat locker and featuring more toe tapping beats than almost anyone should be expected to handle, this was my album of choice for one entire summer during the middle of this decade. It still stands up to the test of time as an album that will get spins from time to time, just because every once in a while you need a little bit of pop in your life.

31. Air - Talkie Walkie (2004)

Recommended Track: Alone in Kyoto

Why I Love It: Whether it's the simmering creepy beauty of "Run", the effortless cool of whistle happy "Alpha Beta Gaga," or the Eastern quietness of standout track "Alone in Kyoto", Parisian duo Air takes us on a journey through their sound on this album. The way they structure their purely electronic sound gives the album the feel that it is more organic than your average album of this sort, giving it additional weight and soul throughout. This is their masterpiece in my mind, and one of the best electro pop albums of the decade, assuredly.

30. Kay Kay and His Weathered Underground - Self Titled (2008)

Recommended Track: Simon Courage Flees the Coop

Why I Love It: Kay Kay and His Weathered Underground rose from the ashes from my once upon a time favorite band Gatsby's American Dream, as it was fronted by one time Gatsby's bassist Kirk Huffman and also featured keyboardist Kyle O'Quinn, yet it did not feature really any of the technical rock brilliance that made Gatsby's such a great band. This band was an entirely different animal, channeling Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Band and psychedelia into modern day indie rock to create a sound that was altogether unique and original in its own right. Their self titled debut featured a dense and beautiful instrumental sound (it better, given the fact they have roughly 1/5th the population of Washington state in their band) and Huffman's smooth vocals, and it blew me away. It maintains itself as one of the most obscure of gems from this decade, but I think one day they'll find their audience outside of the Pacific Northwest.

29. Gorillaz - Self Titled (2001)

Recommended Track: Slow Country

Why I Love It: This album reminds me of driving around in high school with my best friends, being alternately entertained by their more popular songs such as "Clint Eastwood" or "19-2000" while marveling in the creepy cool of "M1A1" or the monstrous relaxation powers of "Slow Country." This album could easily have been just a gimmick (it's a band fronted four cartoon characters!), but heavily featured on this album is all of Damon Albarn's musical prowess and Dan the Automator's incredible production. Individually, their powers would assure a project success. Together? They make something special, as this album clearly demonstrated.

28. Passion Pit - Manners (2009)

Recommended Track: The Reeling

Why I Love It: This album only came out this year, but any album that cause me to immediately text my friend and say "it's like they made this album specifically for me!" has to be a strong contender for one of my favorite albums. This album is all soaring vocals, delicious synth, clap along beats, and unforgettable hooks, and really, that's about as good of a recipe for "David music" that you could possibly come up with. Perpetually exciting, energetic, and dance party inducing, this album is assured a place in my rotation well into the next decade.

27. Radiohead - Kid A (2000)

Recommended Track: Everything In Its Right Place

Why I Love It: After seeing massive success with The Bends and OK Computer, Radiohead effectively abandoned their more straightforward rock sound to adopt the sound of the future. More keyboards, more electronic production, more post-modern glances at what the future of music could be like. Before this album, no one had so successfully adopted this type of production and such intense focus on textures and depth of sound, and it is something that has obviously affected many artists since. Even without the pioneer nature of this album, this is one that is filled with every bit of the Radiohead songwriting talent that we'd come to expect, and in many ways surpassed even OK Computer as Thom Yorke, Jonny Greenwood and the rest clearly were not fearful to adventure as far as their sound could take them on this album. Completely brilliant, and a great marker for where music was going to go in the decade that followed it.

Bonus points for "Everything in its Right Place" being one of the single coolest performances of any song I've ever seen live. When I saw them, they closed their encore with it and it ended up being Jonny Greenwood with a series of pedals remixing the song live with all of the instruments looped through and controlled by him. Brilliant.

26. Beirut - Gulag Orkestar (2006)

Recommended Track: Mount Wroclai (Idle Days)

Why I Love It: Zach Condon is a talent that is about as surprising as you can find. Here is this 20 year old kid from Albequerque who releases an indie rock album positively buried in Balkan musical influences in which he plays anything you can think of: guitar, accordion, trumpet, mandolin, ukulele...everything. This kid is just massively talented. Not only that, but he is blessed with one of the most unique voices in music today and a nearly unparalleled songwriting ability. This was his stunning first release and it is as filled with sweeping emotions that you would expect from someone of his age. The fact that he managed to imbue it with such genuine feeling and such a unique sound really solidifies him as one of the most exciting young talents in music today.

25. Rilo Kiley - The Execution of All Things (2002)

Recommended Track: My Slumbering Heart

Why I Love It: "You don't like girls!" my mom says hysterically. We're talking about music and how I'm not a big fan of female lead singers, but her phrasing leaves something to desire. It turns out that I actually like both girls (in general) and girls (lead singer varieties). Especially when it comes to Jenny Lewis, the lead singer of Rilo Kiley, who combines with guitarist and occasional singer Blake Sennett to form one of the best songwriting duos in music (as long as it isn't on Under the Blacklight). This album finds them at their best, pairing occasionally dark subject matters with atypically sunny presentation, as they brilliantly hide the lyrical weight in jangly guitars and simple and beautiful melodies created by Lewis. Not bad from the kids from Troop Beverly Hills and Salute Your Shorts.

24. Portugal. The Man - The Satanic Satanists (2009)

Recommended Track: The Home

Why I Love It: Portugal. The Man automatically get bonus points for being from Alaska, but really, that doesn't matter when it comes to this album. While previous albums featured elements of brilliance but ultimately fell off because a few tracks that were a bit weaker or because they simply did not stand up to the test of time as well, this one combined all of the strengths of their first three albums and removed the negatives. It's as if John Gourley and his brethren made a pros and cons list of their sound and simply crossed off the cons. This album highlights Gourley's beautiful vocals, which occasionally touch on falsetto but never egregiously so. They do this by focusing their sound more towards a pop influenced version of their funk groove sound, targeting melody and rhythm over their more surprising sound of the past.

Some would say it's less challenging than their older albums, I'd say it is similar to what Animal Collective did with Merriweather Post Pavilion: the distillation of their sound to focus on the elements that work the best. After many spins of this album, it's hard to argue that their decision was the wrong one.

23. The Thermals - Now We Can See (2009)

Recommended Track: How We Fade

Why I Love It: The Thermals have long been a band that I've enjoyed but never one where I ever sat down with an album, listened to it all the way through and thought "man, I loved every second of that." Well, that is until this album, in which we found them tightening up their sound a bit and focusing more on production and songwriting. Tying into a theme that Hutch himself described as "The Thermals Guide to Better Dying" (or at least I coerced him into that one), this album packs their typical lyrical power into an album full of tracks that rival the power of personal favorite "Returning from the Fold" (from their album The Body, The Blood, The Machine). It's like a greatest hits all on one new album from of the Pacific Northwest's best bands.

22. The Flaming Lips - Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots (2002)

Recommended Track: In the Morning of the Magicians

Why I Love It: The Flaming Lips are really a magical band. There are not a lot of other ways to describe them, as their sound is so unique and uplifting and spiritual in ways that typical phrasing does not describe them that well. This album finds Wayne Coyne and the rest harnessing their sound into their most infectious and often beautiful album yet, creating the theme song of Oklahoma and my life simultaneously. This album is almost the musical manifestation of John Michael Higgins character on Community tonight, as if with every passing track Coyne is telling us to live life to its fullest. When I'm listening to this album, I don't really see any reason why that isn't possible.

21. The Killers - Hot Fuss (2004)

Recommended Track: All These Things That I've Done

Why I Love It: The Killers?! What are they doing here?! I must have made a mistake! Okay, maybe I didn't. Under the bravado, before the terrible follow up albums, and even if you say they're unoriginal and deriviative, I will say this: they write some damn catchy tunes. This album was entrenched in my CD player for quite some time and still is an album that can get me to effortlessly sing along to in no time flat. Sure, they may be all of the negative things you think they are, but it is impossible to deny that this album is infectious beyond words and possibly the single best popular album to be released this decade.

20(tie). Yann Tiersen - Amelie Soundtrack and Good Bye Lenin! soundtrack (2001 and 2003)

Recommended Track: Summer 78 (Instrumental)

Why I Love It: While I love both of these films quite a bit (maybe my two favorite foreign films), oddly enough I did not love either of them until I loved the wonderful music Yann Tiersen created for both of them. I had seen Amelie before and liked it just fine, but one day I was having coffee with my sister at Kaladi Brothers when I was blown away by the music they were playing. It turned out to be the soundtrack to Amelie, and after near constant listening to that soundtrack for a few weeks, I tried the movie again and loved the film deeply.

After that I started listening to everything Tiersen had made, but I especially enjoyed his soundtrack to the German film Good Bye Lenin!, which eventually transitioned into me trying and loving the film itself. The reason why the scores Tiersen created work so well is that he created the perfect audio synthesis of every bit of power and emotion these films create on the screen. When I hear the Good Bye Lenin! soundtrack, I imagine the statue of Lenin floating through downtown Berlin in front of Alex's mother. When I hear the Amelie soundtrack, I imagine Amelie Poulain skipping stones or excitedly meddling in someone else's life.

They may only be instrumentals, but they pack every bit of emotion that any other music has in this decade. All that is thanks to Tiersen's brilliance as a musician and as a composer.

And yes, I cheated by including two albums in one slot.

19. The Postal Service - Give Up (2003)

Recommended Track: The District Sleeps Alone Tonight

Why I Love It: The first time I heard this album was when my friend Brian and I had just returned from a weekend trip to go see Radiohead and a Drive Thru Records tour showcase. Our roommate Sobo was blasting this album, and I excitedly wondered what it was. "It's the Postal Service!" he said as I gleefully smiled to what I called the Nintendo style beats of "Nothing Better" and "Brand New Colony." Sure enough, I ended up loving this collaboration of Jimmy Tamborello and Ben Gibbard (titled the Postal Service because they made the entire album by mailing tracks back and forth to each other). It's electro pop at its finest, as it transplanted Gibbard's (of Death Cab for Cutie fame) vocals onto lush, dreamy soundscapes created by Tamborello.

Simply listening to it reminds me of college and a time where my best friends were never more than a walk down the hall away from me. In that way, it may mean more to me than it does to others. Either way, it's hard to argue that it isn't a wonderful album.

18. Rufus Wainwright - Poses (2001)

Recommended Track: Evil Angel

Why I Love It: I cannot wait for my mom to read this. I'm not even sure how I acquired this album (I think it came from Sobo as well), but at some point in college I started listening to Wainwright's track "Evil Angel" and was completely blown away. Yet it took my mom's insistence that the track "Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk" was incredible for me to really give the album a listen, and sure enough I was completely blown away. This album tends to see debauchery as a primary theme, but that doesn't mean the method of delivery doesn't often verge on beautiful, operatic, and always epic and eloquent. Not to mention the fact that there is really something truly hysterical about driving around in your car attempting to belt out the lyrics nearly as well as Wainwright can.

You always fail, but damn...you have a really good time doing it.

17. Spoon - Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga (2007)

Recommended Track: Black Like Me

Why I Love It: Oh Spoon, how I love thee. This album is their most recent full length, and in many ways it's the apex of Britt Daniel and co.'s career as pop songwriters. Whether it's arguably their single biggest hit to date taking over radio airwaves for a while ("The Underdog"), the sheer pop power of "You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb", or just the unbelievable melodies and rhythms (and soul!) found throughout this album, this is possibly their most cohesive and well crafted album to date.

Of course, in true Spoon form, they save their best for last as album closer "Black Like Me" slows it down a notch (akin to what "Vittorio E" does for Kill the Moonlight) but in many ways ups the sheer power of their music. Spoon works the best when allowed to best display their unique ability to infuse soul into their brand of indie rock. This track displays Britt Daniel's crooning as well as any they've made to date, and the instrumental arrangements perfectly highlights it, as if they knew this would be their concert closer for years to come. Another sharp moves by one of the top bands in the world.

16. Andrew Bird - Armchair Apocrypha (2007)

Recommended Track: Dark Matter

Why I Love It: When I listen to this album, it upsets me greatly that I spent almost the entirety of Andrew Bird's set at Bumbershoot 2007 double fisting beer and having a wild time with Amy, Jason and Hannah. Then I realize, damn, I had a fantastic time. But still, Andrew Bird is one of the most absurdly talented musicians out there today, as he is a brilliant guitarist, violinist, and whistler (WHISTLER!) and can really lay down a stunning hook as well.

While some would choose Andrew Bird and the Mysterious Production of Eggs as Bird's contribution to the decade, I think this album as a whole is more cohesive as a whole. His ability to create unbelievable textures of sound really shows his abilities as both a songwriter and an instrumentalist, as he really knows how to properly pair and stack the arrangements to achieve the maximum emotional impact. Not only that, but for a guy who claims to write his lyrics to achieve the greatest melody possible, he sure can create some affecting and thought provoking lyrics (best example: "Do you wonder where the self resides...is it in your head or between your sides? Who will be the one who decides...its true location?" from Dark Matter). All in all, the best album from one of my favorite artists today.

15. Sufjan Stevens - Illinois (2005)

Recommended Track: Chicago

Why I Love It: If you're remotely familiar with the world of indie music, or for that matter have seen Little Miss Sunshine, you are likely quite familiar with Sufjan Stevens. This album was quite possibly the most critically acclaimed work I'd heard of since I started really paying attention to music, as it was as if critics wanted to form some sort of dogpile in the "album of the year" corner for this little collection. Of course, it turns out they were not hemming and hawing. It really is that good.

Sufjan has the unique ability to make his grandiose, orchestral music sound both intimate and personal, which is an ability few have (or can) achieve. This album highlights that skill as well as anything within his discography, as every track seems to have a new wonder hidden at every corner: choral background vocals here, trumpets there, nifty piano twinkles and handclaps anywhere and everywhere. Hell, there's even time for the occasional rousing guitar riff. As David circa 2005 said, his influences seem to range all over the board, touching on Duke Ellington, high school pep rallies, Death Cab for Cutie and the Peanuts theme song all on one album.

Nothing about this album is small: the sound, the song titles, the track listing, the supporting instrumentalists, you name it. But when you get down to it, this album works so well because Sufjan has such a singular vision of what he wanted this to be that he was unrelenting in making it happen. This is the result of that unerring decision making and a true talent in the music industry, and it deserves every bit of praise it has received.

14. Death Cab for Cutie - Transatlanticism (2003)

Recommended Track: Transatlanticism

Why I Love It: I feel as if Death Cab has received a little bit too much backlash through the years, as there was once upon a time that they were simply a band that made extremely touching music that often rocked and often whispered. To me, they've never really stopped being wonderful, as this album really was one that started pushing me in the direction of music that I currently exist in. Out of all of their albums, I think it best captures the Death Cab sound, as it is both adept at handling the slower, more touching moments ("Transatlanticism", "Tiny Vessels") and the more fun, rock side of the band ("The Sound of Settling", "Title and Registration"). While I don't love them as much as I did once upon a time, turning this album on, even for a few minutes, makes me realize why I loved them all over again.

13. Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend (2008)

Recommended Track: M79

Why I Love It: Hello massive hype band...what are you doing here? What's that? You make amazing music that combines my favorite aspects of indie rock with Paul Simon's Graceland? Well, never mind then, it's obvious why I love you so much - that is just a fantastic combination.

Vampire Weekend really is a band that managed to transcend their hype band status because this album completely rules from beginning to end. I know it's a bit effortless to say, but it's true. From the first minute to the last, the guys of VW give us smooth jams paired with soulful vocals, sounding alternately a little bit like everything we've ever heard and nothing we've ever heard. That ability to alternately be familiar and fresh almost perfectly depicts why this is such a uniquely fantastic album, and part of the reason why I believe it will stand the test of time.

12. The Strokes - Is This It (2001)

Recommended Track: Is This It

Why I Love It: Once upon a time, I led off almost every mix CD I would give a girl with the opening track of this album, titled "Is This It." I really hadn't even thought about what it was about, I just knew it properly conveyed what I wanted to tell a girl (evidently all girls). Of course, I may have misjudged my song of choice, but that doesn't devalue the song, or the album for that matter.

The Strokes were, in many peoples minds, the beginning of the dreaded "garage" movement. Stripped down sound, lead singers who sound like they're kind of disinterested, intentionally lo-fi sounding production quality...that was the recipe to success for many bands after this album came out. Yet none could match the power of Is This It, and that is because none of these groups possessed the raw talent of the Strokes, as almost every person within this band has produced successful solo or other group material since.

This album is all of their highlight though, as it perfectly captures their sound. It's all driving rhythms, catchy hooks, and a sound that could be described in the same way you'd describe Julian Casablancas hair - stylishly desheveled. Whatever it is, it was a major turning point for my existence as a fan of music.

11. LCD Soundsystem - Sounds of Silver (2007)

Recommended Track: All My Friends

Why I Love It: Once upon a time, I greatly detested Pitchfork. I thought they were the type who mourned the death of music instead of basked in the brilliance that was being handed to us regularly. LCD Soundsystem was one of the few artists they hyped that I had heard, and I knew them as that group that did that song about Daft Punk playing at their house. What was that about anyways?

Of course, times change and now I not enjoy Pitchfork, and with this album I finally understood what there is to love about LCD Soundsystem and James Murphy. While the whole album is wonderful, just listening to the disgustingly brilliant track "All My Friends" shares everything you need to know about the album: driving, honest, invigorating, passionate, jubilant, and emotionally real. From a track that is effectively looped piano, drum machine, and a man telling the story of youth, you wouldn't think that is possible. Such is the power of James Murphy. Such is the power of Sounds of Silver.

10. Sigur Rós - Takk... (2005)

Recommended Track: Mílanó

Why I Love It: Recently I was looking at my breakdown of the best albums of 2005 I posted on my Myspace page (that's how you know it's old), and I saw this album barely making the top 10. This is what I said then:

They are always amazing, only in comparison with ( ) and Agaetis Byrjun does this album not stand out as much. It's more of the same from them, haunting, beautiful tracks full of lush soundscapes (I cannot believe I just wrote that), but with more sub-par tracks between their stunners. Sub-par for Sigur Rós is still some of the best music around though.

Yet unlike Sigur Rós's other albums, this one had a unique slow build design. While the album opens with opulent stunners like "Glósóli" and "Hoppípolla" that carried it onto my top 10 once upon a time, it's the new appreciation of quite possibly the most emotionally powerful song of their entire career in "Mílanó" that really solidified its place on my list.

Strangely enough, I never really appreciated like I do now until I was on a flight down to Seattle to go on a road trip with my wonderful friend Kellie just recently. As I sat there, the emotions I was going through became forever intertwined with that song. That really is the amazing thing about music - each song could mean different things to different people. To me, Mílanó is about hope. It's about excitement about the unknown. It's about beauty, and I think it will be that way for a long time. This album is full of tracks like that, which is why it deserves a spot in my top 10.

9. Girl Talk - Feed the Animals (2008)

Recommended Track: It's Girl Talk, just turn it on (this is not a track)

Why I Love It: Girl Talk is an artist unlike any other artist out there. I mean, Gregg Gillis was working as a tissue/biomedical engineer until 2007 when he decided that he'd rather throw dance parties for a living as Girl Talk. How cool is that? What Gillis does though is essentially combining snippets of pop tracks throughout the years (particularly rap and rock) to create original songs made entirely out of samples. What resulted from this work is an album that, in my mind, is the single greatest party album and the single greatest workout album ever made. Don't believe me? Have a party. Play this album. You'll have people coming up to you asking who it is within minutes. For that matter, run on a treadmill a few times while listening to this, and then try running to anything else. It's pretty much impossible (as my friend Joanne can corroborate).

While I also love his album Night Ripper, it didn't seem right to have two Girl Talk albums on the list. This one is undeniably better than Night Ripper (or at least to me), and while there is no real emotional connection to this album, the fact that whenever I hear it I want to party or work out is something incredible in itself. Quite the Pavlovian response, isn't it?

8. Spoon - Kill the Moonlight (2002)

Recommended Track: Vittorio E

Why I Love It: Three Spoon albums in my top 50? Well, to those who know me this should really not be much of a surprise. Spoon has been one of my favorite bands for most of the decade, and this is the first of their albums I ever listened to. Not even really sure why I first started listening to this (I'm going to blame this one on Sobo again), but once I did I was completely hooked. From the first drum beats and keyboard riffs on "Small Stakes", I could tell this was going to be an experience unlike any one I'd ever experienced before. It belongs to a small list of albums that shaped my musical taste to where it is today - more adventurous, more sporadic, more fun.

Plus any album that can have a beat derived from someone going "mm ah, mm mm ah", something that can cause a continuous discussion of where exactly the laugh on "Back to the Life" came from, or can pull an emotional response simply from the strumming of a guitar like they do on "Vittorio E" has to be a damn good one. This is Spoon at their most soulful, the most tuneful, and in my opinion at their very best.

7. Arcade Fire - Funeral (2004)

Recommended Track: Wake Up

Why I Love It: Oddly enough, the first time I ever listened to this album was on a cold, wintry night when I was back for winter break from college. I had just picked this album up after the deafening hype had become too much for me to ignore, and I was waiting for my parents to have dinner at my favorite restaurant Lucky Wishbone. I popped the CD in, opened up the liner notes and read the lyrics and was cast away into a different place. I had only heard "Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)" before this listen, but as soon as I heard the soft twinkles of the piano and the strumming of guitar on "Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)" I knew I was in for a treat.

For the next week or so I listened to this album repeatedly, and I have to say, I'd like to thank Arcade Fire here. Back then, I was listening to far different music than I listen to now, and definitely music that was not "college radio friendly." I was filling out my application to be a DJ at the radio station at my college and I tend to think the inclusion of Funeral on my application as a recent album purchase was a big reason why I was picked up as a DJ. In that way, this album sculpted my listening habits more than anything as my time as a DJ at KUOI opened me to a whole new world of music.

Even without that, this album is completely brilliant and really one of those one of a kind albums a person always is looking for. Something you know when you're listening to it that this is something unlike everything you've heard before, and likely will after it. In that regard, this album is unquestionably one of the best of this decade.

6. The Shins - Chutes Too Narrow (2003)

Recommended Track: Gone For Good

Why I Love It: The Shins were another band that helped me discover a whole new world of music, and no, before you say it, it was not because of Garden State. I remember the first time I saw the music video for "So Says I" in my apartments at Jefferson St. in Moscow, Idaho, and while the video was completely absurd, but it was completely wonderful at the same time. I had to hear more. Shortly thereafter, I acquired this album and the rest was history.

While many albums have greater reasons for me liking them simply because they're simply well constructed pop gems, this one is not one of those. From the very beginning, I knew that this diverse, bizarre and completely engrossing albums was one of the best I'd ever heard, as James Mercer and co. even made me appreciate Steel Guitars and what could easily be labeled as a near-country ditty with my favorite song by the Shins - "Gone for Good." A band that can make me appreciate country stylings? Now that's a damn good band.

5. Sigur Rós - Agaetis Byrjun (2001)

Recommended Track: Olsen Olsen

Why I Love It: First off, I want to note that depending on your source this album possibly should not be on this list. It was released in Iceland only in 1999, but was not released in North America until 2001. The Top 13 Albums Project did not count it, but Paste Magazine did. Given that I like the answer Paste gave more, I will go with their answer (it's fun how that works, isn't it?).

No less, to explain why I love this album so much, I'm going to explain why I love the track "Olsen Olsen" so much first. I once had a discussion with my friend Sobo about this song, about how when I listened to it, I visualized Sigur Rós playing in a giant parade created by Hayao Miyazaki, with all kinds of Miyazaki like characters dancing and prancing about. I also said I could never really visualize what was at the front of the parade. Then one day, I found out my dog Benji had died, and I was completely distraught. As a tribute to my beloved lifelong pet, I talked about it on the air before I played this song on my radio show, about the parade, and how now when I hear it I think of Benji leading the parade. Ridiculous maybe, but that one segment led to more calls than I had ever received before as almost everyone knows what it's like to lose a pet.

It isn't a sad thing though, as I visualize it as a celebration of his life, sort of like Benji's own Big Fish ending. I touched on this before, but the interesting thing about Sigur Rós is that because it is in Icelandic (or Hopelandic in Olsen Olsen's case) and the music is so grandiose and beautiful, every song really takes on its own meaning for the listener. This album finds Sigur Rós at their most grandiose, their most beautiful, and because of that this album has the most meaning to me. That's saying something from one of my two or three favorite bands ever.

4. Gatsby's American Dream - Ribbons and Sugar (2003)

Recommended Track: Recondition, Reprogram, Reactivate

Why I Love It: Gatsby's American Dream, I will argue eternally, were one of the most criminally underrated bands ever. While they are the last remaining remnant of my once prodigious obsession with punk/emo business, their incredible talent allowed them to survive the culling of the herd (a musical survival of the fittest if you will). This album is my favorite album of their's by far, as it finds them trying to bring their unique blend of literary based storytelling to the world of technical rock, as they loosely based this album around George Orwell's Animal Farm (very, very loosely).

What you'll find different within their sound from the rest of their confederates is an ability to create a music that is seemingly completely absent of structure as they flow effortlessly from mini sections of song to the next. They do not follow the verse-bridge-chorus paradigm whatsoever. In fact, there is not a single chorus on this entire album. While this made it so major labels found them to be "unsignable" as they lament on later albums and in interviews, it endeared them to certain fans who expected a bit creativity and effort out of their music. This album finds them at their apex, as they had released enough albums to know what didn't work and they were not so jaded with the industry to bring down their desire to do what they love. While the band is no longer really in existence, they live on whenever I start listening to this album again. Still as fresh as it was when I first started listening to it, which is incredible given where they came from and the pressures from the industry they were faced with.

3. Beirut - The Flying Club Cup (2007)

Recommended Track: Nantes

Why I Love It: I've already spoken of the origins of Beirut and how incredible it is that this kid makes music so assured and so unique, thus I will need to take this synopsis a different direction. Thankfully, Zach Condon took this album an entirely different direction as well (Beirut goes to France!), thus making it easy.

Beirut is in many ways a skeleton key of when you try to combine music and the written word, as it fits into any given topic you'd like to write about and it is incredible to read to. Strangely enough, I didn't love Beirut as much as I do now until I sat down and read City of Ember (a freaking kids book!) while listening to this album and Gulag Orkestar. Something about Beirut's sound seemed to mesh in my brain with the steampunk visuals and bizarre dystopian future Ember provides the reader. From that point on though, it had created a monster, as this album escaped its simple pairing with a steampunk style book into Chuck Klosterman stories.

From there, it was only a matter of time before it started being played constantly in my car and on my iPod (as what is Klosterman but the written form of life?), and then a monster was born. According to my Last.FM profile, I've listened to Beirut more than anyone else since I started tracking my listening habits in 2005. 1,602 listens. The most amazing thing about that is that 1,498 of the listens came in the last 12 months. While it may be a bit strong to say this album that I've evidently only really been listening to for a year is my third favorite from the decade, I would disagree with that. It hit me like an infection, and once it got in my veins it became impossible to get rid of. Not only that, but I had no desire to do such a thing. Who would want to? It's freaking awesome, after all.

2. Anathallo - Floating World (2006)

Recommended Track: By Number

Why I Love It: The way I acquired this album was pretty entertaining. I had read a review online for it (not the Pitchfork destruction but the Absolute Punk lovefest), checked out a few tracks, and then decided I wanted to pick it up. I went to a few local stores and had absolutely no luck. Then I went to Barnes and Noble in Anchorage and looked around as a ridiculously cute employee of the store came over to ask me if I was finding what I was looking for (if I was smoother I would have responded with "I'm looking at her" instead of "Umm...Anathallo's Floating World, but perhaps that is why I'm single). I informed her, and she looked a little shocked. She asked me to follow, walked behind the counter and grabbed it from the holds section. I said "I can't take this, it isn't my copy." She said she had ordered it for herself on a whim (*swoon*), but that I could have it (*double swoon*). I begrudingly accepted, and the rest is history (I later came in and told her it was awesome. She of course wondered who the hell I was).

One listen to this album and you can tell that this is a group who absolutely loves making music and has a deep love for everything that they do. It's as if they're the world's best marching band and the world's best choir fused into one brilliant collection of musicians, and then they released an album that is deeply influenced by Japanese folklore and that same deep love for life. That may sound like something completely insane. More than likely, it sounds like something you can't even imagine. That's because there really hasn't been a lot of albums like this. This is the definitive album for the "wait, this is too hard to explain...just try it" approach. Floating World is some of the most beautiful and intelligent and invigorating music I've ever heard (plus it has the best album art ever created), and I often wish more people would try it out. You'd love it if you gave it a chance.

1. Jens Lekman - Night Falls Over Kortedala (2007)

Recommended Track: Kanske Är Jag Kär I Dig

Why I Love It: Alright, I'll pause this for a second to give my mom a second to pick her jaw up from the floor.

We all good Mom?


So how in the hell did Jens Lekman's Night Falls Over Kortedala end up being my favorite album of the decade? This is an album I at one point described to my mom (on one of my very early listens) as a Japanese man at a really cheesy karaoke place. How could that translate to being my favorite album?

Well, strangely enough, it all ties back into that karaoke statement. That's part of the reason why Lekman is just so awesome. No album that was released this decade could match this one in terms of infectiousness, glee inducing moments, and sheer joy, and that's because Lekman loves what he does just as much as that Japanese man at the cheesy karaoke place does. Every thing about this album is about love, whether it is Lekman sharing what his first kiss was like ("And I Remember Every Kiss"), his love for his lesbian fake girlfriend ("A Postcard to Nina"), or how hysterically awkward his love makes him ("Kanske Är Jag Kär I Dig"), it all comes back to love and his emotional connection to the women in his life. To a young man whose life was forever changed by Moulin Rouge! and way too many romantic comedies, there is a huge point of connection there.

Not only that, but Lekman's lyrical prowess is almost unheard of. Partially because they're so good I have to pay attention, and a big part of it is because of the way he uses lyrics in actual realstic ways to describe situations and tell stories. For example, this little bit from "Kanske Är Jag Kär I Dig" (kills me):

"I saw on a TV about this little kid/who had a pig for a pet/his mom had once been attacked by a dog/so a pig was the closest thing he could get/this of course has nothing to do with anything/I just get so nervous when I'm talking to you/all I think about every day is just kissing you/An old feeling that feels refreshingly new"

The amazing thing about those lyrics is instead of simply stating that he gets awkward and nervous around the girl (which he does later), he gives an example of the type of thing he says to a girl he is into. Something so gloriously mundane and refreshingly insipid that you wouldn't think anyone would ever share that they had thought it, let alone said it. Lekman's unflinching honesty and laugh out loud hilarity is abundant on this album, but no more evident than on "Kanske Är Jag Kär I Dig", a track that means "Maybe I'm in Love With You" and is a glorious modern day take on doo wop that allows me to live my dream of being a backup singer for a Motown band every time I drive around listening to it.

I adore every aspect of this album. Whether it's Jens Lekman the lyricist, Lekman the vocalist...it doesn't matter. Every time I listen to this album I'm transported to another place, a better place where every day is sunny and there is never a reason to stop smiling. I cannot think of a single better reason to name this album my favorite of the decade.