Baseball Toaster The Juice Blog
Monthly archives: December 2008


A Major Shift Set to Happen at the Site
2008-12-31 23:46
by Scott Long

As most of you know, this site has been pretty stagnant lately.  I just haven't been that motivated to write, as I haven't felt like I have anything unique to offer.  Before I was asked by Will to join him at the blog, I had an idea where I would create a place with uncensored sports talk, which would also feature other X-rated elements.  Obviously, the Toaster wasn't the place to do this, as the sites here have a classy sensibility to them.  I decided that beginning in 2009, I would explore this idea by starting a new site called NSFW Sports.  Below is what I put under the category of about the site. 

If you are looking for the latest sports headlines, go to one of the major sites.  If you want traditional writing on sports, let me strongly mention that this isn’t the place for you.  NSFW Sports is a place where uncensored views will be the norm.

I have always found it strange that the one major advantage that an independent blogger has over someone who works in the mainstream media is that they are not beholden to editors or sponsors.  Despite having this type of freedom, I rarely run across a blog that doesn’t present its material in a fashion that makes the writer appear like they’re following some type of code of conduct.

I believe most of the best books and screenplays have adult themes to them.  Just look at the top TV shows of the past decade.  The Shield, The Sopranos, Deadwood, The Wire, Six Feet Under, Dexter…they all use(d) language and sex to push their themes at their audience in a more authentic way.  While I’m not saying the quality of work here will match those shows mentioned above, I do think that the sports world should have a site which breaks it down in an uncensored way.  The posts at NSFW Sports will be gratutious in their language or the links used.  Get used to it.  This site won’t be for everyone, especially for those reading it at work.

Considering there is too much information out there already about sports, what is the need for another blog that uses the same template the mainstream media does?  Hopefully NSFW Sports will provide a unique experience for readers.  Thanks for checking us out.  If you don’t like it here…go F*%! yourself.

What does this mean for the Juice Blog?  I'm not sure, yet.  I'm hoping that it will reinvigorate myself towards more writing in general.  There are things that I won't feel are a good fit for NSFW Sports, which I will want to explore here.  I hope, in the meantime, you will bookmark my new site and check it out.  I plan on posting on a pretty regular basis.  My first take is on the Dallas Cowboys being selected the site's first honoree for a twisted version of Sportsmen of the Year. 

Thanks to all my readers here.  This is not a farewell speech like the one that Will did recently, just an update.  And hey, maybe this will also force me to write on baseball more often. 

Best Wishes for 2009

Scott Long


Top 10 Albums of 2008-Scott's List (Revised edition)
2008-12-30 21:54
by Scott Long

Update.  I just discovered a new release this year from a band named Frightened Rabbit.  Another great Scottish band that I think will have some staying power.  Put them at number 3 on my list.  Bump everybody down one.   Uh, wait a second....another revision.  Bump Girl Talk up to number 4, as that record is just too much fun to groove to.  I wouldn't be surprised if in a couple of years, Girl Talk will end up being the record I listened to the most in 2008.  Now, go back to your NYE festivities. 

2008 will be an extremely forgettable year in music.  In a decade where making a great album seems to be secondary, this past year was the worst.  As Will mentioned, though, the depth wasn't bad, just nothing that really wowed me.  

Before I put up my list, let me offer up this guidepost to how I put together my list.  While I appreciate music that challenges me, first and foremost, I'm seeking out things that sound good to my ears.  I need me some hooks.  Also, I try to listen with the notion of will the music hold up in 5 or 10 years.  I think most of this stuff will.  As you can tell from my list, it is not exactly Top 40 radio, but it isn't just made up of what will give me hipster status.  

Finally, I am not that interested in writing up long descriptions, as instead, I have just given you a link to what I think will get you interested in what I believe is some tasty tune-age.  

1. REM- Accelerate

When I bought this, I thought the first 3 songs were as good as anything I had heard kick off any CD since American Idiot.  I wasn't as crazy about the rest of it, but over time, it started to grow on me.  A great comeback for America's greatest rock and roll band.  

2. Vampire Weekend

This reminds me of my college radio station back in the 80's.  Like many of the white kids then who were playing around with ska like the Police, English Beat, etc., they might lack authentic street cred, but they do happy afropop as well as I've heard in a long time.  

3.  She and Him- Volume One

Actress Zooey Deschanel has always had a not of this generation feel to her performances in movies, now she brings that voice to music.  Great 60's Spector-like sound.  

4. Gabe Dixon Band

I'm a sucker for a piano-based rock band, so when I was really disappointed by Ben Fold's newest, I didn't figure I would find my fill-in.  Then I stumbled upon this group, led by a front-man with a Billy Joel-sounding voice, but with some Dr. John-like boogie when tickling the keys.  

5. Fall-Out Boy- Folie A Deux

They really never were emo, but more a great power-pop band.  While not as great as their past release, this one proves that despite seeming like a total wanker, Pete Wentz is talented wanker.  Wentzer?  Patrick Stump has as versatile of a pop voice as there is in music today.

6. Ranconteurs- Consolers of the Lonely

The most important rock artist of this decade is Jack White, as everything he has put out has been of high-quality.  While the first release of this band was dominated by White, Brendan Benson brings stuff here that raises his game to Jack's level.  

7. The Hush Sound- Goodbye Blues

One of the most underrated groups in music, this is the 3rd quality release in a row for the Chicago-based duo.  Music-hall meets 70's pop meets indie rock....


8. The Virgins

Snotty, New York new-wave kids who I'm sure I would probably hate, if I met them.  Having said that, their influences are seductive to me, with Elvis Costello, the falsetto late 70's Stones, and some Ray Davies thrown-in.  The music can be like if the Strokes met up with Fun Boy 3.  The lyrics are fairly silly, but the music grooves.

9. Gnarls Barkley- The Odd Couple

While not on the level as their original offering in 2006, I can't turn my back on the original talents of Cee-Lo and Danger Mouse.  Who's Gonna Save My Soul was the best video of this year.  

10. Girl Talk

Most hip-hop music this decade has left me wanting, but the master mashup's of DJ Greg Gilis has helped me better understand the charms of some of the most successful rappers of today.  

11. Death Cab for Cutie- Narrow Stairs
12. Hold Steady- Sequestered in Memphis
13. Snow Patrol- "A Hundred Million Suns"
14. MGMT- Oracular Spectacular
15. The Toadies- No Deliverance

16. Metallica- Death Magnetic
17. Eagles of Death Metal- Heart On
18. Shinedown- The Sound of Madness
19. Jonatha Brooke- The Works
20. Fleet Foxes

Notes on the second 10.  Death Cab, Hold Steady, and Snow Patrol have done better work in the past, but each has it's moments.  Snow Patrol's Crack the Shutters is the kind of song Prince would write if he was Scottish. MGMT had 2 of the best singles of this 2008.  I describe them as Flaming Lips, if LCD Soundstystem had joined them in the studio.
The Toadies are one of those bands that must have a self-destructive instinct because they rock like few can.  The place between Guns and Roses and grunge.                       

 I liked St. Anger a lot better than most, but it was cool that Metallica decided to make a more back to roots record with Rick Rubin.  Some great And Justice for All-type moments.
In the world where Nickleback sells millions, I don't get why Shinedown isn't the biggest of all these bands. They can go from Metallica-like slam to Modern rock-pop like no one else.  Lead singer Brent Smith is a big influence for Chris Daughtry. I don't consider that a negative. 
EODM are one of my favs.  It is mindless, sexy, T. Rex-inspired rock. They have had better records, but I still think they belong in the Top 20 of 2008.
Jonatha Brooke was given the opportunity to follow in Wilco/Billy Bragg's footsteps in interpreting Woody Guthrie's words. There is some beautiful stuff here and her duets with Keb Mo and Glen Phillips are standouts.  
There was no more beautiful record in 2008 than the celestial sounds of Fleet Foxes.  It is like hearing Brian Wilson songs done by a gothic church choir.  It does make me feel sleepy, though, so no driving at night to them.

Top 10 Albums of 2008 - Will's List
2008-12-17 12:46
by Will Carroll

Every year we've been blogging, we've done a year-end music list. This one's no exception. Scott's list will be up on Friday.

I'm no Chuck Klosterman and no Lester Bangs, but I listen to a lot of music and I like to talk about that music. It's the same with Scott, so we have a great fit with the typical year end music list, something we've done since pairing up. This year, it is a Klosterman line that has me thinking most. In his review of Chinese Democracy, Klosterman called it "the last album." I've often wondered if we needed street dates, big buildups, and the marketing push that big albums once needed in the age of iTunes. Old paradigms die hard and with record labels using "360 contracts" to make it impossible for us to get instant downloads of live shows (a real no-brainer that still hasn't worked), I'm not sure if it's correct. I think we'll see quicker, cheaper releases, more along the lines of what Coldplay did this year with Prospekt's March than anything like GnR. I've been wrong before but when the landmark release of the year is Lil Wayne, the music industry has bigger issues than release schedules. It's a sad commentary that the most important song of the year didn't even get released. Will.I.Am's "Yes, We Can" video and song may be remembered as the turning point of a campaign, the point where pop culture and politics met perfectly. That Obama never truly embraced it was his campaign's only misstep. Here's my top ten of the year, though I'm told that Nate Silver had the same list in early May.

#1: Back Door Slam -- Roll On/Back Door Slam

Readers of this blog will not be surprised to see me rank my favorite discovery of the year at #1. Davy Knowles burst onto the scene at SXSW and stamped down his contention for lead blues slinger. Not since Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Jonny Lang over a decade ago has a real, honest blues voice come on to the scene. Both Shepherd and Lang quickly tried to become mainstream, while Knowles and his band are already within reach. The Manx band is simply tight, does great originals and covers, and knows when to let Knowles stand in front and put everyone to shame with blues licks that recall everyone from Clapton to Jeff Healey. It's that last name - the departed too soon Healey - that is the comparison that immediately came to mind for me when I first heard BDS; Knowles' voice is a dead ringer for Healey's and their fluid playing styles are also very comparable. The band toured incessantly behind both the album and their EP, exposing them to a varied audience. Touring with Kid Rock had to be an experience and it will be interesting to see where Knowles and this young band will take things next. I know I'll be listening.

#2: Fall Out Boy -- Folie A Deux

I left their last album off my Top Ten despite putting their breakout, "From Under The Cork Tree", on top of a previous list. I can't make the same mistake here, underrating FOB because they write smart pop. Great lyrics from a maturing Pete Wentz sung by rock's new best voice in Patrick Stump makes for great music. Important? Influential? I'm not sure. There's a lot of bands with similar sounds trying to do what they do without hitting the mark. Hit them for goofy song titles if you must, but this is a band that is maturing subtly. While they'll go ironic with a cover of "Beat It", they're digging a bit deeper on the songs on this new album. Originally titled "Welcome To The New Administration" and scheduled for release on election day, FOB held it back but won't get lost. Every song is solid, with some standouts moving towards real greatness. It's not revelatory. It's not significantly different than the last two. What it is, is damned good music that will stick in your head but will give you something to think about at the same time. "What A Catch, Donnie" might be the catchiest song in years, with the chorus of "Tiffany Blews" just behind.

#3: Kings Of Leon -- Only By The Night From the first bloop-bloop of bass and guitar to the western picking fadeout of the last track, "Only By The Night" is dominated by the passionate vocals of Caleb Followil. He's part preacher and part carnie barker, but all rock n roll while the songs go from U2-style anthems to country-tinged ballads. You wouldn't think a song called "Sex On Fire" could be a breakout hit, but it's the most accessible song the band has ever done. In making this album, they've stopped being potential and crafted a classic album that showed what all that potential and previous experimentation was leading up towards. With classics like "Use Somebody" and "Revelry" that follow up strongly, the band shows a confidence that's lacked on their past albums. It's passion and confidence that's given this a swagger. Followil knows that you want to follow now rather than hoping you will and it gives him a freedom to be just a bit more dangerous than he's been.

#4: My Morning Jacket -- Evil Urges The more I listen to this album, the more I think that MMJ might be a more sane and down-to-earth version of Flaming Lips. Jim James and the guys are just as out there, just as unique sounding, and James' vocals can even recall Wayne Coyne at times, especially on the opening title track. It's also their most accessible album at the same time, though it's not an album that will find much of a radio home. "I'm Amazed" makes for a nice single with it's simple focus and James channeling Ronnie Van Zandt by way of Patterson Hood for a song. Still, it's the indulgent musicality of the album as MMJ takes another step away from the reverb anchor that both defines and holds back their early work and tries to find itself. There's no center here to hold together many of the songs, leaving them to ramble a bit too much in places. Also missing is the playful soul of their live show, where they'll often cover everything from Sly and the Family Stone to James Brown to Motley Crue. These might sound like big criticisms, but the album is a great one, leaving only some nitpicks from this being a masterpiece.

#5: Guns N Roses -- Chinese Democracy Apart from the back story, it's ... well, it's a fine rockin' album, but while every review of the album tries to take the backstory out and just listen, you can't and shouldn't do it. This album is nothing but backstory and without context, none of the songs do more than rock. If that's enough, fine, but they're all missing the urgency of Appetite for Destruction or even Use Your Illusion. Heck, Velvet Revolver rocked harder, so if that's all you're looking for, you'll be disappointed aside from a few songs. With the backstory, the album works as both music and as a story of something gone horribly awry, yet ending up somewhere good. It's an album without context in the sense that takes apparently took place decades apart, yet somehow work on the song. Every decision seems to have consequence and as Klosterman said, it's more interesting to try to figure out what Axl Rose was trying to do than analyzing what he actually did. The answer to the latter is "everything." There's nothing subtle here and very little cohesive. It's songs, end to end, that if there's any unifying principle, it's just excess. Great? Maybe. Very good. Certainly, as much as it's the end of an era. Metallica's album proved you can't go backwards, but Axl Rose just went every direction all at once.

#6: Glasvegas - Glasvegas The Scottish band recalls, but doesn't ape, the Jesus and Mary Chain. It's also oppressively Scottish, from local stories and characters to James Allan's accented vocals. It's all impressively earnest and while it doesn't always translate, the passion does. It's a Spectoresque wall of sound with girl group vocal patterns. The ringing guitars can drone a bit and there's little complexity here, a surprise for something that sounds so big on first listen. The drums echo. The guitar rings. The vocals drone. This is a band that has greatness within it's reach, but only hits it in spots. Hyped mercilessly in the UK, they've made absolutely no dent in the US. That's no surprise, especially when they seem as happy writing inevitable football chants ("Go Square Go") as true pop songs. If they're fated to be more My Bloody Valentine with a work ethic rather than Oasis, that's still well worth a spin.

#7: Your Vegas - A Town And Two Cities Apparently, there's some obsession with Vegas over in the UK right now but at least it's giving us good bands. This version, based in New York now, but from Leeds, makes the name ironic, given that this is the album that The Killers wished they'd made with Day And Age. Where The Killers have gone from Duran Duran to Springsteen and back, rolling about in the ridiculous that they try to make sublime, Your Vegas is combining that mid-80's Britpop sensibility with the anthemic songs and guitar of U2 and Coldplay. Where Your Vegas loses it is in predictably aping its influences. In their lead single "In Your Head", the song starts with the ringing Gibson you'll hear on Glasvegas and quickly shifts to an emo riff and a lead singer in a Bono pose. There's a series of tick boxes -- Keane falsetto? Coldplay piano? Black and white 'Boy' era walking? Brooding ballad that could be played while the teen girl reads Midnight Sun?-- and yet it's never really derivative. In an age where YouTube is the new MTV and MySpace* is the new place to find music, there's something satisfying in knowing that pop music still works.
* Actually, and iTunes' Genius feature are much better. MySpace Music is as much of a mess as MySpace.

#8: John Mayer -- Where The Light Is John Mayer is that guy you don't want to like, but can't help but like anyway. He's the good looking guy with all the girls, all the talent, and an aw shucks demeanor that belies all that. He's a pop star who wants to be more, but sincerely seems to be just following his muse. In this live set, he shows off everything he's got, from the acoustic start of his career that holds up better than you'd expect to the blues trio that opened many eyes, as well as the more mature rock of Continuum. Chicks still scream for "Neon", but the original "In Your Atmosphere" demonstrates his real songwriting talent and his ability to deliver both a story and a feeling within the same song. He still sounds alarmingly like Stevie Ray Vaughan when he brings out his trio, but given Stevie's pop inclinations - go take a listen to "Tick Tock" and tell me it's not as much a John Mayer song as anything Mayer's doing - maybe they would have met in the middle. He's evidently closing chapters and maybe focusing on things aside from music with this live set, but having seen him live this year, Mayer's perhaps a defining voice for this generation and losing it, even if it's just a pause, would be troubling.

#9: The Fireman -- Electric Arguments It's one of those endless arguments - what would the Beatles sound like today if they'd stayed together? It's not a stupid question, since the Rolling Stones were contemporaries. Of course, the Stones never really changed their sound much more than some experimentations (Sympathy for the Devil) and never matured the way the Beatles did, especially in their studio-only phase. Given what the various Beatles' solo careers sounded like, it's safe to say that they wouldn't have had giant sonic jumps past Abbey Road, which makes Electric Arguments be a nice what if. There are points where McCartney sounds as if he's back in full throat, such as the opening scream of the bluesy "Nothing Too Much Just Out Of Sight" that might be the same note as "Back In The USSR." It gets noodly at the end, as if McCartney turned things over to his producer, the ambient Youth, rather than continue to work. That artistic laziness and tolerance for poppy mediocrity is both the problem with this album and with McCartney's post-Beatles career. He's good enough to remind us he was and could still be great. The problem is he's not great aside from bursts. "Sing The Changes" might be his best pop song since the early days with Wings while "Dance til We're High" is very much the song you'd expect to here from the Beatles in 2009. Oh, and backwards lyrics to end the album? Seriously.

#10: The Gaslight Anthem - The '59 Sound I agonized over this one, loving this album, but not quite sure if it was better than some of the other albums just off the list. It's top ten, but top eleven or twelve, so how was Gaslight Anthem better than very solid albums by Hammock, Nick Cave, The Parlor Mob, The Raconteurs, The Cardinals, Low Vs. Diamond, and others? They were original. They're somewhere in between Bruce Springsteen and Social Distortion, a combo you don't often think of, let alone hear. It works and works well. It's punky and upbeat, even when you realize they're not upbeat at all. Maybe it's Jersey, but it's working class anthems, discussions of the good old days, and the occasional sweating out on the beach with a runaway American dream of mansions of glory and suicide machines. The title track simply works on every level and hits you in the gut while your foot taps to the beat. I'm surprised this band isn't getting more recognition, but in this day and age, who knows who will and who won't, unless you're Britney Spears or the Jonas Brothers. Somehow, their albums didn't make my list.

This is also my last post on the blog. Whether here or back at the old place, the direction this has gone has always been simply wherever. Only nominally about baseball, if that much, it's been a place that has both exceeded any expectation I've had and occasionally crushed my desire to do this kind of open discussion. In the end, for me, it's simply run it's course and had for a while. I've enjoyed coming back to cover for Scott while he and his wife welcomed in twins, but it only served to remind me why I stopped, really. I would like to thank Ken Arneson and the Toaster crew for putting up with me. I'd also like to thank Scott Long, a great friend, comic, and writer.

You're With Me, Leather
2008-12-15 19:35
by Will Carroll

Societal Critic at Large: Scott Long
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