Sunday, December 30, 2012

Top 10 Albums of 2012

Bob's Top 10 Albums of 2012

I can't believe I almost let this year draw to a close without popping out a "Best of" list. It was a rather limited year for concerts and movies for me, but thanks in part to a network of friends that purchases (never pirates) and shares music, I feel like I was relatively entrenched in music this year. This list represents my favorites.

10. Glen Hansard - Rhythm and Repose: This album has a special significance to me because I got it shortly after the death of our dear friend's son Hayden. This collection of songs about hope, despair and love became the soundtrack to a very difficult period of the year. Favorite Track - This Gift

9. Smashing Pumpkins - Oceania: I can't tell if I'm making this pick for nostalgia sake or if I legitimately consider this one of the years best albums. I'm sticking with it for the sole reason that it pumped me up for yard work this summer. Favorite Track - Violet Rays

8. The Shins - Port of Morrow: I thought I was off these guys. I saw a very mediocre show of theirs and then became a little disenchanted with James Mercer's snarky pretentious nature. But this CD proved that I just can't quit em. Favorite Track - 40 Mark Strasse

7. Ben Folds Five - The Sound of the Life of the Mind: Always a favorite of mine, BFF hadn't released a new album in 13 years and I had kind of written the group off as done. Not so fast. This album has a little bit of everything, from uptempo anthems to beautiful, heartfelt ballads.
Favorite Track - Hold That Thought

6. The Mountain Goats - Transcendental Youth: Of all the albums on this list, this one was the most recent addition so it hasn't had the favor, or disfavor, of being listened to quite as much. That being said, I love the energy of this CD and lyrically its fantastic. It probably took a spot away from The Japandroids, so you be the judge if I got it right. Favorite Track - Lakeside View Apartments Suite

5. Alabama Shakes - Boys & Girls: Maybe I am missing it, but I don't see this album ending up on many lists for best of the year, and I can't figure out why. Finally their live cult status has hit the masses and I think they capture it perfectly. Favorite Track - Rise to the Sun

4. Jack White - Blunderbuss: I have been wanting to jump on the Jack White bandwagon for some time, and despite having a few Raconteurs tracks, I never really went for it until this year. It paid off, as this album is one of the most unique and brilliant of the year.
Favorite Track (Maybe of the year) - Hypocritical Kiss

3. Of Monsters and Men - My Head is an Animal: Another album that I haven't seen on many lists is this one, an extension of the EP they had released a year earlier. This album is overflowing with sing along melodies and concert anthems. I cannot wait to see how they follow this up.
Favorite Track - From Finner

2. Grizzly Bear - Shields: This is an incredible album, rich with unique sounds and complex musicstry. At points this sounds like it could be a side project of the Beta Band, My Morning Jacket & The National. Probably not for everyone, but its definitely for me. Favorite Track - Yet Again

1. Passion Pit - Gossamer: Much like beer, if you come out in the summer and I enjoy you, there is a solid chance I'll be talking about you for a while. This album dropped right at the peak of my summer and became a staple for trips to Rhode Island, The Jersey Shore & Long Island. It is a feel good CD start to finish, but not to the extent that it can't be taken seriously. Its fun, and better than that, it's great. Favorite Track - Constant Conversations

Honorable Mentions: Milo Greene/Milo Greene, Japandroids/Celebration Rock, John Mayer/Born & Raised, Marillion/Sounds That Can't be Made

Monday, December 17, 2012

Loving the R.A. Dickey Trade!

It's weird to think that in back to back years the Mets are going to lose an NL Batting champion and the NL Cy Young award winners in back to back years coming off the years they won them.  As a lifelong Mets fan the Jose Reyes divorce was tough for me but as much as I loved R.A. Dickey's time as a Met, I am over-the-moon about this trade.

Even if Travis d'Arnaud and  Noah Syndergaard flame out and never see the majors, I will forever stand behind this trade 100%.  If you are bringing R.A. Dickey back to the Mets this year, you are essentially returning the same 74 win team from a year ago. The Mets need to retool.  If they are able to land a guy who might be able to catch for the Mets for the next decade and be one of the cornerstones of the franchise you pull the trigger without question.

I hate to boil down a human being's worth like this but R.A. Dickey was found money for the Mets.  He learned the knuckle ball on his own, the Mets didn't spend any resources developing him and they weren't paying him anything.  They took him off the scrap heap and gave him a chance.  To be able to turn him into (according to Baseball America) the Blue Jays' first and third best prospects is a coup (Baseball America also ranks Toronto #5 in their Organizational Talent Ratings).

I give Sandy Alderson a ton of credit for pulling the trigger on the trade.  R.A. Dickey was asking below market value for him and the easier thing to do would have been to hold on to him.  He was a P.R. and ticket selling asset to a team that needs both.

Thoughts on my First Trip to the Barclays Center

On Saturday I made my first trip to the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn for the Brooklyn Hoops Winter Festival triple header.

I heard some negative things about the exterior but I actually had no problem with it.  I thought the whole promenade area outside the main entrance was very well done.  The 360 degree screen is a very nice touch.  I can see why people might be put off by the "rust" color of the exterior but I don't mind it.  It's a nice change from the concrete looking boxes that everyone else seems to play in.  I'm willing to see how it ages before I bash it's outside aesthetic.

Even though I'm now in my mid-30's and have been to hundreds of sporting events, I still feel the anticipation of walking through the gate and seeing the playing surface in person .  My favorite thing about the Barclays really plays off that.  Normally when you enter a venue, you start on the concourse and have to find your gate number, walk through the narrow hall and into the arena.  Here, you get your ticket checked and straight ahead you are already looking at the scoreboard and you can walk right up and overlook the court.  It's something that I've never seen at a sports venue before and something I greatly appreciated.

I didn't like everything about it though.  Other than the overlook of the floor, the rest of the building doesn't really have a lot of personality.  It was just nice and new but nothing special.  A lot of good food options though.

Even though I am in my mid-30's and should have reached the point where I just buy tickets where I want to sit, I'm still a "buy the cheap seats and move down" guy.  Next time I go to the Barclays Center I will most definitely just buying my tickets in one of the lower two sections.  The level 200 is just too steep of an angle for me personally to enjoy a basketball game.  Probably my least favorite view of an indoor sporting event I've ever had.  Luckily for me, I was able to move down to mid-court about 10 rows off the floor for the middle game of the triple-header and were able to give the usher a few bucks to sit us in the lower section for the third game.  But I don't want to take the chance of not being able to move down next time I'm there.  For viewing a game, I'll take the Garden over the Barclays every time.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

UFC on FOX 5: Diaz vs. Henderson Predictions

With all the injuries befalling the UFC these days I'm pumped that this card seems to be making in to December 8th intact.  The Henderson/Diaz main event should be a great showcase for the UFC on network TV

Mike Swick vs. Matt Brown (+130)

After a two and a half year absence Mike Swick finally came back to the UFC in spectacular fashion with the Knockout of the Night over DaMarques Johnson.  It was great to see because Swick had been battling so many injuries but I had him down in the first round against Johnson who is no longer even in the UFC.  I'm not putting too much stock in to that because after 30 months there is probably a lot of ring rust to shake off but I'm counting this as Swick's real return to the UFC.  Matt Brown has 8 wins in the UFC and out of those 8 opponents only one is still in the UFC (Stephen Thompson).  As unimpressed as I am with his resume, Matt Brown is a much more game fighter than Johnson was.  I'll be rooting for Mike Swick but I think he needs a few more live rounds to get his octagon legs back.  I'm picking Matt Brown to outwork him enough to get the decision.

BJ Penn vs. Rory MacDonald (-300)

As frustrating as BJ Penn was in the last few fights, it's going to be nice to see him back again.  Unfortunately, I think he made a terrible decision asking for this fight against MacDonald.  I don't care what roster of sparring partners he put together and I don't care if you can actually see abs on BJ Penn for the first time ever as a welterweight.  Whatever shape Penn gets himself in to, it's not going make him as quick or as big as MacDonald is.  And with over a years worth of ring rust on Penn I can see this not getting out of the first round.

Mauricio Rua (+160) vs. Alexander Gustafsson

I'm a Gustafsson fan.  When this fight was announced I was already to pick him to win this fight.  He is an up and comer and he has all the measurables you could want in a fighter.  Although he has main evented a card before, this is by far the biggest stage he's ever been on.  Shogun is only 31 but he has a lot of miles on his tires.  I see this fight going the distance and I know Shogun does tend to gas some but he's more equipped for three rounds of what I believe will be primarily a stand up fight.  I think it'll be close fight with Rua eeking out the decision.

Benson Henderson (-140) vs. Nate Diaz

Henderson was my favorite WEC fighter and is arguably my favorite UFC fighter so I'm probably picking this more with my heart than my head.  Nate Diaz is really coming in to his own.  What he did in his last two fights is really impressive.  I did not see him beating Donald Cerrone yet he landed close to 300 significant strikes and landed over 80% of his punches on the way to the win.  Then he goes out and submits a guy in Jim Miller who had never tapped before.  That being said, I do like Henderson in this fight.  In my eyes he can't be finished with strikes especially from Diaz.  He landed hundred of punches on Cerrone and it went to decision.  We've seem Henderson in some pretty deep water in submissions yet somehow always get out of them.  Diaz is, in my opinion, the best submission artist he'll fight to date but until I see someone put him to sleep or get him to tap I don't think I can bet on that to happen.  The Diaz brothers have cardio for days but Henderson's average fight time is now over 3 rounds (15:11).  I like Henderson to defend his belt as Nate Diaz goes into the championship rounds for the first time.