Monday, July 27, 2009

Hitting The Links: Monday Afternoon (UPDATED LINKS)

We here at The Black Converse strive to blog the line between/through/around music and sports (primarily pro basketball). We're still figuring it out. Sometimes we manage to do it all in one post, sometimes it's a stretch, other times we just blog about one or the other. This is unabashedly a work-in-progress, something you can certainly see since our first posts and especially in Charlie T's new Album Box Score features.

But we're not too good/proud/whatever to admit when somebody else hits those notes we're striving for. One of these does. The other is just a good measuring stick for our Q1-Q4 posts.

TBC-influence and legendary homer Bill Simmons talks about one of my favorite movies about one of my favorite fictional bands (Spinal Tap, The Wonders, and The Jonas Brothers have to at least be in the conversation), mixing music, summer in the NBA, and movies. Part One left me only wanting for one thing: Part Two.

NPR's All Songs Considered polled the interwebs about the Best of 09 so far. Here's where we netted out. As with all lists, there are the usual statements-of-the-obvious, mind-boggling omissions, and overhypeds; but as far as lists go, this is one I can stomach.

Friday, July 24, 2009

The Mysteries of the Pacific Northwest

Charlie T and Mrs. Hustle are up in the Pacific Northwest this weekend, uncovering the secrets of:

– Pearl Jam's new very ungrunge single
– Starbucks' impossible ability to thrive in a local-favoring coffee capital like Seattle
– Andre Miller's supposed signing with the Blazers
– how Seattle really feels about the Thunder From Down Under
– the sly slip of a "spry Greg Oden" reference into an article about Kevin Durant. Come on. Who is the genius doing Oden's PR? And how much did he pay for "spry"? Would "agile" have been cheaper? "Mobile" was probably the original term.
– where is the rest of One Eyed Willie's treasure? I'm sure Corey Feldman is available to go look.
– how the Retire Sam Bowie's Number movement is coming along in Portland
– what in the world is going on with TBC favorite Shawn Smith? Surely there's an answer for why he just disappeared.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Real Story of LeBron James This Summer

We have all seen The Skulls and wondered if they really do all the weird initiations that the movie portrays. The nation was obsessed with The DaVinci Code and its tales of secret societies. And lets not forget about NBA referees and all the "coincidences" around Playoff games. Bottom line is, we all believe in conspiracies and secret societies, we're just not sure to what extent they exist. The Black Converse has been granted this exclusive tell-all about the biggest conspiracy you never knew.

One the King Of Pop (and the King of Media) passed away, it was time for the Media Moguls (this is the name for the secret society that these rich people belong to) to pick an heir. They didn't want to build someone from scratch and have to turn him into an anime character like last time. Plus, it was becoming harder and harder to make the front page meaning the antics had to get more and more ridiculous So they needed a fresh start, but they also needed someone who was already on his way. It was the perfect storm.

So they invited LeBron James to their secret meeting in Idaho. He had just come off an MVP season. He was making every reporter stand at attention anytime he put on a Yankees hat or even opened his mouth. He was on his way to finishing up in a mid-major media market on his way to the biggest one in the world. It was almost too perfect.

Some were still skeptical. He was too young. He was a child phenom. Would he have the same problems as his predecessor? Would he try and take matters into his own hands? But this wasn't a one horse race. There was another down in Mississippi with all the right moves. They would need to put them to the test.

So it was on. A battle for media buzz. The King Of Akron versus the King Of The Unretirement.

One continued to set deadlines for an announcement while the other turned a piece of seaweed into Loch Ness Monster. While the debating went on for weeks as to who was more ready to be the Heir, there was no debate as to how easy it was for them to grab the headlines with something so meaningless.

As of our print deadline, the decision had not been made. The Media Moguls were still locked inside their all-inclusive resort with no smoke rising out of the chimney yet. I suspect they will make an announcement soon, but not before they've ridden both these horses to the death, and then beat them with a stick.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

What The World Needs Now (midsummer edition)

(the title of which is a conscious nod to Cracker's Teen Angst, not Dionne Warwick's midlife tripe. This may or may not become a new series of, basically, gripes)


:: more athletes milking the suspense of where will they go/will they show up.

:: more Feel Good Stories getting castrated before our very eyes. The PGA could learn a thing or two from ol' David Stern. Lesson The First: When your sport is on the verge of its Feel Good Story of the Year and it's coinciding with People Actually Caring About Non-Tiger Golf, you make things happen by any means necessary. Crease an envelope's corner. Taint the officials. Rig some moments. Magnetize a ball. Get Tonya Harding on the phone and have her tee off on Cink's knees. I don't care. Make a call and make it happen. And, as for you, Stewart Cink? Nice green ensemble.

:: more music blogs claiming a unique angle to music, but all lauding (then dismissing, then re-championing, then ironically liking, get the idea) the same records in synchronicity. And then we wonder where the backlash comes from? COME ON. You folks are the reason I won't be able to objectively approach the latest albums from Animal Collective, Passion Pit, or Grizzly Bear until LeBron is a Knick/Net.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

BREAKING NEWS! It's official: Spike Woolridge is all out of damns.

Just minutes ago, Spike Woolridge shocked the blog/sports/useless news community when he came out of nowhere to announce what he called his "total apathy and inability to give even the smallest damn about Brett Favre's decision."

"I'm just tired. Spent. I don't have anymore to give to this decision," he mourned. TMZ and ESPN soothsayers had been teeter-tottering for days about which way Woolridge would finally lean. But the news is now official and Woolridge is over it.

One media source criticized Woolridge's timing, "Mr. Woolridge clearly made a play to one-up Chris Brown's announcement yesterday, Brett Favre's continuing saga, and the death of a true newsmaker, Walter Cronkite. For such things, Woolridge can only be labeled a LaToya Level Opportunist, a coward, and King of the F-List." Brutal.

Other sources have sensed the public's relief that the drawn-out process is over. "I'm just glad he finally took a side," posted Oklahoma City resident and sports blogger ThunderStruck405, "Now I can really focus on the exciting developments with the actual Brett Favre story."

Woolridge has been put on bedrest after an understandably strenuous, exhausting few days.

Charlie T. Sees Draft Of Announcement

This morning, Charlie T. Hustle- while posting his latest album box score on The Black Converse- reported to an unnamed source that he "thinks (he) saw a draft of Woolridge's announcement" in the New Post section of the blog Mr. Hustle and Mr. Woolridge co-write.

"It was a work in progress. We don't really step on each other's toes too much," said Mr. Hustle, "When Spike's ready, you'll know. I mean, come on, this is just Spike being Spike."

Album Box Score :: Dan Auerbach/Keep It Hid

Keep It Hid is guitarist and front man of the Black Keys' first "solo" album. It has more of some things that the Black Keys don't offer too much of in their efforts; variety. It also features Dan as the master of all trades in the title of the album but we find out that the White Keys (who plays on this album with him) are a bit more prominent than we are led to believe. Black Keys drummer Pat Carney is nowhere to be found and to be honest, it might have helped.

Since he is engrained in Akron, Ohio almost as deeply as King James, we had to bring LeBron into this. LeBron-ness means the songs are fit for a king but not necessarily the King of the Hardwood.


[Total score: 898]

Friday, July 17, 2009

Woolridge camp: no response to rumors about purported caring/not caring about Favre's decision

It's been eerily quiet today when it comes to Team Spike Woolridge. While rumors and sources have been swirling, no one has heard anything from the Woolridge camp, either confirming or denying the leaks and even Woolridge's purported off-the-record statement. What can this mean? Only time will tell.

Woolridge, off the record, says, well, he might care; not out of the question

But it was off the record. The announcement will really tell all.

Public Displays of Fan-spression

One of the best parts about summer is seeing fellow sports fans out and about with a chance to show off their summer bodies and their loyalty to their favorite teams. Sports jerseys are a funny thing. I loved them in Jr. High, but gave up on them going into high school when I realized I was the only one who knew who Russell #6 was for Boston.
In the era of wild free agency, purchasing a jersey is like playing roulette. You are better off with anything that only sports the team logo, which is why baseball caps are so popular. As much as I like seeing jerseys, I like trying to figure out the story behind why it was being worn. Here are a few from the summer thus far.

#34 Milwaukee Bucks Ray Allen
Way to stick with it, but of course you had to because you bought the $200 dollar authentic jersey. And its purple. I would guessing you think He Got Game is the best movie of this year. Just count your lucky stars they were out of Big Dog Robinson jerseys when you made your purchase.

#9 USA Michael Jordan
A pretty good choice but only the second best jordan jersey in my opinion. The best is the one with Chicago written in cursive letters, also known as the one from THE Dunk Contest.

#32 Phoenix Suns Shaquille O'Neal
I thought Steve Kerr would be the last one to stop wearing his Shaq Suns jersey. Side note: Another authentic error.

#8 Black Lakers Kobe Bryant
Not really sure what to think here. It made me mad at first, then I realized he probably spent close to $200 on it, then spent another $30 on black Dickies shorts to match. Good call on the white socks though.
I am not the loser on this one.

Source Says: Other Source Indicates Woolridge Leaning Towards NOT Caring About Favre's Decision

Calling from last night's free Black Keys show in Salt Lake City, a source- who spoke on condition of anonymity- reported that another source who also spoke on condition of anonymity (as well as on condition of a hot dog and beer bribe) has heard that Spike Woolridge will likely not care about Brett Favre's impending decision. The source emphasized, "anything can happen with Spike," but was pretty sure that Woolridge would choose apathy. Stay tuned here for the actual announcement.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

BREAKING NEWS: Spike Woolridge Delays Announcement of Whether Or Not He Cares About Favre's Decision

This Just In: Spike Woolridge To Announce At Noon Whether He Cares About Favre's Decision

Today, Spike Woolridge is expected to weigh in on his interest/apathy/sympathy for Brett Favre's decision about whether to stay retired/re-retire/unretire. Sources anticipate that Woolridge will announce his stance today, as previously announced, at noon MST.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Spike Woolridge To Decide By July 16 Whether He Cares About Favre's Decision

Gone are the days of breaking stories. Now, we're just breaking the breaking of stories. Or breaking when the story will break. This is ridiculous and, more importantly, not news.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Album Box Score :: Grizzly Bear/Veckatimest

A Brief Explaination

Shades of Brian Wilson
When I was talked into this album by the record store owner, included in the pitch was that it had Beach Boys-esque harmonies and was reminiscent of Pet Sounds. I knew the Pet Sounds comparison would be a stretch but the vocals and harmonies did have more than a hint of the Beach Boys.

Shades of Dennis and Carl
These are the dead brothers, so they account for any of the ghoulish or heavenly harmonies.

Reverb and All His Friends
His friends include syncopation, synth, distortion, etc.

Some criticisms of this album/band say that it gets boring. I'm not going to argue too much

This entire album meanders, sometimes its good and sometimes its not.

[Total score: 730]

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

What The World Needs Now

(the title of which is a conscious nod to Cracker's Teen Angst, not Dionne Warwick's midlife tripe. This may or may not become a new series of, basically, gripes)

:: another posthumous Jeff Buckley release of odds & ends cobbled together from the vaults of, essentially, the same 9-10 songs (in NEW and UNRELEASED and LIVE incarnations) from the good-but-lamentably-oversaturating Grace. For a man with, really, one official release, Buckley sure has a lot of releases. Please note: I am a fan. My little brother ensured that. But I don't need to hear the 17th version of "Mojo Pin" from some radio interview. Please, leave my Grace alone.

:: more talk about the NBA's 2010 free agents. Yes, yes, yes! Keep repeating those same things like Rousseau's 15-year-old recording in Lost and digging for new angles like George Clooney in Burn After Reading.

:: more opportunists. Coming soon, I'm sure, are: Farrah Fawcett's behind-the-scenes bio, a heap of vultures (family, hangers-on, exes) waiting to swoop in on whatever these celebrities left behind, a new Jackson 4 album, Steve McNair's high school coach on Oprah, and at least 400 Michael Jackson bio/I knew the guy/inside scoops. In fact, there should be an office pool, where everyone gets to pick a name: LaToya, Quincy Jones, Lisa-Marie, Brooke Shields, Blanket, and the list goes on. Who would you choose if you got first pick?

:: more Michael Jackson coverage. It's both stating the obvious and exacerbating the problem (since our readership is so vast) to even mention it, but I am so done. Though, not without pleading for somebody to make a McCauley Culkin Tribute To Michael poster, which would essentially be a Photoshopped version of the Home Alone poster, but with a sequined glove on one of the hands. There, I'm really done now.

:: I had one for here and I lost it. Let me know if you come across it. I need a hole in my head. Thank you, David Lowery.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Wilco (The Box Score)


[Total score: 788]

The Album Box Score

Months ago Spike and I had a long debate analyzing and criticizing the current landscape of album reviews. There are different approaches. The star method and the number method out of 10 or out of 100. There are others that review music but they generally fall into these categories. Accompanying the score, there is usually the paragraph or two that accompanies the review that usually lacks any bit of explanation as to why the album scored the way it did. We are left guessing as to why the Jonas Brothers scored equal to Dirty Projectors or why Rob Thomas' new album is apparently as good as the new Levon Helm. Sometimes we are left without this useless paragraph and sometimes we are left without any sort of score. Both are equally as frustrating as unhelpful.

Shifting gears to sports, there is always something to look at to see who had a better game, series, season, etc. Baseball is built upon the box score. Arguments are started and ultimately settled on the numbers. Boxing is settled on a scorecard and golf is determined by a measured count of the golfers' strokes. We see that a scorecard/box score is ultimately the most important record and key to settling debates. So why not apple the same theory to music? Why can't we have a detailed box score outlining why an album is good or bad, where its strengths and weaknesses are and ultimately how it compares to other albums.

So we proudly present to you the beginning of THE ALBUM BOX SCORE.

Allow me to explain the intricacies.

Like most sports box scores, there is no ceiling to the amount of points that can be accumulated.

Categories are selected based on the strengths and/or weaknesses of each artist. Its sort of like saying "These categories are what makes Bob Dylan Bob Dylan to me." So they change for each artist, but remain the same number (10) to make the box scores comparable.

The top songs are highlighted, and high numbers called out for ease in determining what the highlights are.

With that, we hope you enjoy. Like anything, it will be a work in progress. Feel free to send in requests.

The Second Quarter

Part II of four part series, documenting the some of the high/lowlights of the year in music, like basketball, on a quarter-by-quarter basis. Part I can be found here.

First, let's take a quick look back at the standouts from the First Quarter, meaning music that survived its own hype. Revisiting my initial comments with some perspective, quickly:

  • Jason Isbell- Apparently I was most likely to buy neither this nor the DBT's because I didn't.
  • Bon Iver EP- I stand by the momentum theory here. It wasn't just fluff, but it wasn't as top-to-bottom killer as I'd hoped.
  • Gary Louris/Mark Olson- I couldn't imagine how it wouldn't be great? I wonder if I could've imagined that I still wouldn't own it. Like many people, there was a buying freeze for me.
  • M. Ward- My trepidation was warranted. A few listens turned it into my least favorite of his records.
  • Great Lake Swimmers/Felice Brothers- My anticipation of these records ruined then for me. I'll revisit both in the third quarter, but neither did what I'd hoped. Which isn't their fault. No album is obligated to read my fickle mind.
  • Sarah Sample/Laura Gibson- I still listen to both in spurts.
  • Springsteen/Beirut- Never bought 'em.
  • Andrew Bird- Charlie tried.
  • Animal Collective- I'm still on the outside looking quizzically in.
  • Other albums that stood out in Q1: Rural Alberta Advantage, Harlem Shakes (did this come out in Q1 or was I just really, really late to the show?), Neko Case, Heartless Bastards, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and one of my favorites: Sara Watkins' solo debut.
So, Q1, in the end, had maybe 3 albums that I'd currently put in contention for my Best of 09 list (Watkins, Gibson, Sample) and a few that need some more eartime (Bird, Felice, Isbell, Louris/Olson, etc).

Now Q2? Some big names: Green Day, Bob Dylan (ummm), Dave Matthews, Sonic Youth,... Some names that we expect great things from: Regina Spektor, Dinosaur Jr, Iron & Wine, Pete Yorn (who needs an Album Naming consultant), Doves, Rhett Miller, Metric, exes Conor Oberst and Maria Taylor. Some relative newcomers: Ryan Bingham, Alexi Murdoch, Dirty Projectors, Passion Pit, White Rabbits. We'll write about a few and save the rest for our Third Quarter retraction.

Cracker- Sunrise In The Land of Milk And Honey :: Is David Lowery one of the most unjustly overlooked songwriters of his generation? Is Cracker one of the coolest roots rock/alt country/alt rock/whatever bands around that just never seemed to fit in? All I know is that their last two albums have trumped a lot of the hyped, buzzed releases of the same year. They just keep making good, solid records, that's all.

Steve Earle- Townes :: Earle's tribute to hero and friend Townes Van Zandt would make ol' Townes proud. Great versions of even greater songs. The only misstep, in my opinion, is the ridiculously out-of-place Rage-y Tom Morello solo. This will be on my Best of 09 list and I'll stand on Robert Christgau's coffee table in my cowboy boots and say so.

Camera Obscura- My Maudlin Career :: This album sounded (and made me feel) like I wanted She & Him to.

Elvis Costello- Secret, Profane, & Sugarcane :: I got to see these songs performed with Jerry Douglas, Stuart Duncan, Jim Lauderdale, Emmylou Harris, and Jenny Lewis at Telluride this year, so pardon me if I'm a little partial.

Wilco- Wilco (the album)
:: Yes. Any semi-regular reader of this blog will know that it's impossible for me or Charlie to be very objective about The Wilcoes. The real question here is where it sits in the hierarchy of their catalog.

Phoenix- Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix/Grizzly Bear- Veckatimest :: Which will be Q2's hypey Merriweather Post Pavilion? Which will be better?

Moby- Wait For Me :: Is this really the comeback album from the guy who gave us Play (oversaturated but still good. yes. good)? Are we completely irrelevant for even mentioning it?

Levon Helm- Electric Dirt :: Paging Robbie Robertson, that's two solid albums in a row. Not to mention holding his own little Last Waltz in his barn.

There are more. But these are a start. So far, the second quarter is looking pretty strong. But we're just days into Q3 and we've already got Son Volt, Bowerbirds, and we're looking down the raoad at Jay-Z, Modest Mouse, Megafaun, Magnolia Electric Co., Joe Henry (wow), and more.