Saturday, January 2, 2016

Rick's Five Albums from 2015

Now that another year has come to completion, the best-of lists may flow freely. However, I much prefer to not assume I know what is best, and rather simply present things I liked for whatever reason.

Amason- Sky City

This was an early pick from me. I liked it immediately, and was somewhat surprised that I did. I usually go for something more complex, or more emotional. It feels polished without being overdone. There are even songs on here that I don't really like, but I kept going back to this album every time I needed quiet, background music. Surprisingly, I never ready about or heard about this album or band throughout the rest of 2015.

Father John Misty - I love you, Honeybear

This was a no-braner for me.  I loved FJM's debut, Fear Fun. This album is an amazing mix of gut-punch humor, layered sarcasm, soulful crooning, genuine feeling, and really good songs that you'll sing along to. The second half of this album is the true star as it continues to build into an emotional experience for musician and listener alike.

Emily King - The Switch

I typically do not like R&B at all, but I love Emily King. She's pulls back on the R&B reigns and presents music that sounds restrained and controlled in a really accessible way. She's not screaming every word, nor is she overly-sappy. The Switch hits a lot of the right notes.

Half Moon Run - Sun Leads Me On

If 2003 made an album, this is it. There are traces of countless other bands in these songs, and yet Half Moon Run gets all the elements mixed right. This is not a groundbreaking album in any way, but it feels familiar and comforting on its first listen.

Sufjan Stevens - Carrie & Lowell 

It hurts to listen to this album. It's full of the kind of pain and heartbreak that only your parents can provide. This album feels like a scar so visible, so distorted that every new person you meet asks about it. There's forgiveness here too, and acceptance, and whatever you call it when you decide to take your pain as something that's undeniably a part of you, and you turn it in to something so beautiful it becomes inspirational.

I saw Sufjan Stevens live this year. Going in, I didn't really like his music much. I disliked his voice, and never heard more than a handful of his songs that I wanted to hear again. I came out reformed. It was perhaps the most impressive live performance of music I've ever witnessed. The combination of lights and sounds was so compelling that at one point I thought the theater might take off like a rocket and propel us into a new world. I kept thinking about how the people walking by the building had no idea of what was happening on the inside. After, I went back to Carrie & Lowell and confirmed that it is music that is not just heard, it's felt.

A few other things I liked this year: Will Butler (brother of Wyn) - Policy; Waxahatchee - Ivy Tripp; Pale Honey - Pale Honey; Rubblebucket - Survival Sounds; Wolf Alice - My Love is Cool; Iron and Wine, Ben Bridwell - Sing Into My Mouth; The Mynabirds - Lovers Know; Andra Day - Cheers to the Fall; Matt Latterall - Phase & Field; Summer Fiction - Himalaya; EL VY - Return to the Moon;                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

Monday, November 16, 2015

Rick's Top 10 From the Past 10 Years

A few years have gone by since this blog was visited regularly by a group of good friends who wanted solid recommendations from people whose taste they trusted. The original posters are all still connected, though their lives have deviated from one another's enough to inspire completely different tastes in music, movies, books, etc. In an effort to understand what we like and why, in the context of who we are now vs. a few years ago, Friends Recommend is back up and running, for now.

To kick things off, I present 10 of my favorite songs from the past 10 years. I hope you enjoy these songs as much as I do.


Summer Fiction – Throw Your Arms Around Me 

“Right from the start your warm embraces” 

Summer Fiction immediately conveys a sense of warmth. With its Belle and Sebastian-like album cover, and soft vocals, it seems both familiar and comforting. There are plenty of gems on this album, all of which you’ve sort of heard before. A waltz is still a waltz, but taken as a whole, the songs on this album really come together. Throw Your Arms Around Me is the capstone to the album, and is easily a song I could listen to on repeat. It’s worth mentioning that each song on the album is about one woman, and written from the perspective of a different of her lovers. Gimmicky, but it helped to win me over. 

Wye Oak – Shriek 

“This present seems infallible” 

There is a scene in Breaking Bad where Jesse Pinkman shoots heroin for the first time. The camera is above him as he lays flat on his back, and he’s shown floating up an away from his bedroom and out over the world, unaware of anything below him, but experiencing total and absolute bliss.  That perfectly illustrates how I fell when I hear Shriek. I lose myself in this song. I feel compelled to close my eyes and just float away to wherever this song takes me. This song is so layered and beautiful, it just takes you away from what’s in front of your face to an otherworldly dreamscape. 

Emily King – Georgia 

“I can’t stop hearing your name.” 

The more I listen to Georgia, the more unsure I am about it being on this list. It’s very basic, and isn’t as complex or as deep as some of the other songs here, but then it’s Georgia that I’ll be singing in my head for days. It’s another song that conveys warmth, and the strings and record scratchiness at the end make it sound like something you’ve heard in your grandmother’s house. There is something about the lyrics and simplicity of the song overall that just feels straightforward and mature. 

Father John Misty – Nancy From Now On

“Pour me another drink” 

Of all the Father John Misty songs, I could listen to Nancy From Now On over and over again. It’s unusual and intriguing. The upbeat music balances the darker lyrics. All of Josh Tillman’s self-loathing and offsetting cockiness that make all of his songs so soulfully upsetting are on full display here. Also, the chorus is reminiscent of Sexx Laws-era Beck, which is just perfection. 

Georges Brassens – Le Vent 

“The wind, I guarantee you, frets about it, and quite rightly, not in the slightest bit.” 

There is something so careless and unpretentious about the music of Georges Brassens. He sings about what he loves, and that comes through in his songs. I love the tempo and brevity of Le Vent. It’s jolty and jaunty, and it quickly gets out of the way. I start to miss this song as soon as it stops. 

Voxtrot – The Start of Something

“If I die clutching your photograph, don’t call me boring, it’s just cuz I like you.” 

I can still remember the first time I heard The Start of Something circa the mid 2000’s. It came on an online music streaming service, and I continued to listen for months hoping that it would come on again. Years later I remembered this band and found this song again, and around the same time they were releasing an album. None of their other songs lived up to this one. To me, it sounds like Morrissey if he were happy, but I don’t listen to much Morrissey, so I’m no expert. Like other songs on this list, The Start of Something expresses unbridled infatuation without apology. It’s honest and heartfelt, and it’s really really catchy. 

Sharon Van Etten – One Day 

“You don’t see me now. I don’t see you back.” 

Oof. Sharon Van Etten’s music is often melancholy and heavy. This is one of her lighter songs, but it’s still somehow absent of levity. Vague lyrics hint at themes of family, love, and friendship, but they are juxtaposed with phrases like “distance is fine,” “kicking myself,” “sick of trying.” There is something darker that I can’t quite discern, but the effect of the song is to still communicate all the emotional heft that comes with close relationships. To me, One Day brings the same sense of familiarity that the other songs do, but in an almost cripplingnway. Where George Brassens is a your grandpa’s pipe smoke, and Summer Fiction is the family quilt, Sharon Van Etten is the deep insecurity you feel every time you visit you whole family for the holidays. 

Emitt Rhodes – Tame the Lion

“He’s killing when we say no.” 

Like many folks, I first learned of Emitt Rhodes through The Royal Tenebaums soundtrack, but then never dug into his catalog. I finally corrected that severe error last year, and immediately grew a deep affinity for his music. I love an upbeat song about misery. I feel like I become more resilient when I hear a song like this that sounds happy but still explores and talks about trajedy and trauma. Tame the Lion is the epitome of buoyant-in-the-face-of-adversity songs. Try and stop yourself from singing along to “Little children live in Saigon, kneeling down on severed limbs.” 

Lhasa De Sela – Fool’s Gold

“Now use your silver tongue once more.” 

This one gets in my head and stays there. I find myself singing this under my breath, even if I haven’t heard it for weeks. I like the pacing of the vocals. Again, it’s the longing for honesty in the lyrics to Fool’s Gold that appeals to me. In the search for a vulnerable yet candid relationship, Lhasa De Sela isn’t victimizing herself or anyone in this breakup song, just calling a spade a spade. 

The TourĂ©-Raichel Collective – Bamba 


What can I say about this song? Without lyrics, and being totally outside the genres of these other songs, it’s perhaps a bit out of place on this list, but I just really love it. It’s hopeful and contemplative. It’s peaceful and yet surprising. All of The Toure-Raichel Collective’s output is pretty amazing, but Bamba is the one song I gravitate toward the most. If I had to choose one song to listen to forever, this would be among the front runners. 

It's been real.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Chris' Top 20 Songs of 2011

Hey all! I figured I'd resurrect this blog for the purpose of writing about my favorite songs of 2012. Not sure if it was because I tried harder to listen to new music this past year or because the music of 2011 was just too special to be ignored, but I had a whole lot of fun with these new songs. Here's my Top 20, based on Play Count and the star ratings I handed out in iTunes. The top 18 were 5-starrers (meaning I love them and I want to hear them often.) 19 and 20 were 4-starrers, meaning I could stand to hear them just a tad less often, but I still think they're good. Here we go:

20. Yuck - Suicide Policeman

When my buddies Mark O and Mike G both tell me to check out a band, that's when I know its got to be good. When its one or the other, I typically just pretend like I checked it out and say, "That was alright." Christ, I didn't know there was that alligator in this video.

19. Billy Bragg - Never Buy The Sun

Listening to a BB song tends to make me feel informed, whether or not I really know what he's going on about. Encouraged me to look up "Scouser."

18. Jonny - Candyfloss

This group Jonny had to be good, since it was a combo of two of my favorite songwriting dudes, Euros Childs of Gorky's Zygotic Mynci and Norman Blake of Teenage Fanclub. This was the first track I heard off of the record, so it holds a special spot, as it was an immediate clue-in that I wouldn't be disappointed with the record. Unfortunately for them, its still just the second best song called Candyfloss ever.

17. Fountains of Wayne - Road Song

In a slower year, they're be a couple FOW songs on this list. They dialed back the irony and ridiculousness a bit on this record and made a really nice one. This is the top track though.

16. Fiona Apple & Jon Brion - Everday

I still can't figure out if its Fiona doing the low harmony or JB. Either way, this was definitely the most wonderful Buddy Holly cover of 2011, and there were a lot of them.

15. Those Darlins - Boy

This band represents the sort of thing that I wouldn't have given a chance in my late 20s. Now, I'm trying to stay young.

14. Brian Wilson - Kiss The Girl

I wasn't too skeptical when Brian announced he was doing an all Disney covers album. But this one and "Can You Feel The Love Tonight" were the two that I was most ready to cringe at. But then he went and made a pretty perfect record.

13. Tambourine Club - Dry Your Eyes

This one's a lesser known one by my buddy Bryan in Kansas City. To be honest, I heard this one in 2010, but it wasn't officially released until 2011, so we're cool. As I'll mention when I talk about my other friend bands, what I like about this most is that it plays to a certain sensibility of my own songwriting desires. For this one, its a solitary recording. One that I can imagine working on at 3am, not asking anyone else for help. Not sure if its just Bryan on here, but I'm gonna keep living under that assumption. I love the dirty solos that mimic the lead vocal line. For whatever reason, Bryan's vocal reminds me of some of my favorite late 1980s hard rock, particularly the dudes from LA Guns or Faster Pussycat.

12. Mike Roy - Please Stay

The second of the so-called friends bands. Wait, I didn't mean for that to sound so insulty. Continuing on that last thought, I admire that Roy went all-in on this album. He did a kickstarter thing and made a record that sounds great, one that I'd love to have in my arsenal. The violin on this thing is wicked. I really like the line about sticking his thumb in that lady's eye. That's not cool, Roy!

11. The Baseball Project - 1976

Baseball Project Volume 2 wasn't as good as the first one, but this one is still great. This one's in honor of Mark "The Bird" Fidrych, specifically referencing his Rookie of the Year season in 1976, when he was nearly invincible. Injuries pretty much immediately kicked his butt after that season, unfortunately.

10. Ron Sexsmith - Eye Candy

I watched a BBC documentary on the making of this album, where Sexsmith simultaneously came off as endearing and a little insufferable, due to too much "Being a cult icon doesn't do much for me, I need to pay the bills." So he enlisted Bob Rock to produce a pretty amazing record. My warped memories suggest Bob Rock appeared in every Metallica video that they released from the black album. The doc highlighted a lot of different songs, but I was surprised that my two faves didn't garner any screen time.

9. St. Even - Dreams/My Rope

Here's the Last Crusade of my friend trilogy. Whereas Bryan recorded my ultimate 3am track and Roy recorded my ultimate alt-country record...Steve recorded an album that I could have never thought up in a thousand years. The decisions that I hear on this record just blow my mind.

8. J Mascis - Where Are You

Mascis has never been known for breaking new ground lyrically, and I could have sworn that Dinosaur already had a half dozen songs and a couple albums called "Where Are You," but he still got it done.

7. Jonny - Circling The Sun

And now for JONNY's top track from the record. Norman's at his finest on this one. He's not necessarily breaking new ground for himself on this one, yet I can't picture this as a Fannies song. That snare hit before the chorus acts as a warning that its going to be a corker.

6. Ryan Adams - I Love You But I Don't Know What To Say

This was the first Ryan Adams album that I bought upon its release since Jacksonville City Nights. Otherwise, I slowly get around to listening to him, and sort of enjoying it. This album is awesome though, and I think its not just because Glyn Johns produced it. My buddy Wardog compared the record to Jackson Browne, and in tone, I can agree. However, this dude has never written a lyric that's come close to punching me in the gut like a JB does. This was a valiant effort though.

5. "Weird Al" Yankovic - Stop Forwarding That Crap To Me

At this stage, I shouldn't be expecting much out of a new Weird Al record, which made this album all the more enjoyable. This track is the showcase. In the hands of 99 other people, this song would come out sounding terrible and the bad kind of corny. The 1% (Weird Al) set out to do it right and he knocked it out of the park. You'll reach the climax of tears when you hear, "And your 2 million loser friends all have my address now 'cause you never figured out the way to Bcc."

4. Caitlin Rose - Own Side

Not even an underwhelming live experience could put a damper on this track. Something I'm reading now suggests this might have come out in 2010, but I'm not buying it. My kind of lady singer. Subtle, without a lot of vocal eccentricities.

3. Ron Sexsmith - Get In Line

In the previously mentioned documentary, it was either a mildly disgustingly dressed Elvis Costello or a thoroughly disgustingly dressed Daniel Lanois (or was that just David Cross doing a bit?) that said Sexsmith has catchy melodies coming out of his ear. Attire aside, they were dead right, and this one's the proof.

2. The Bangles - I Will Never Be Through With You

After his heavy-handed production on the two Sweet/Hoffs records, I almost didn't buy this new Bangles record when I heard that Matthew Sweet had produced it. Turns out he did a heck of a job. Susanna Hoffs has maybe
lost a tiny tiny touch in the vocal department (certainly not in the looks department), but this is still a fantastic vocal showcase. My research shows that this was the first single from the album. Duh, right??!

1. Brian Wilson - Colors of the Wind

Oh Brian. You took a pretty boring song from a pretty boring movie and made it my favorite song of 2011. You made me cry with simultaneous joy and anguish when I heard, "How high will the sycamore grow? If you cut it down, you'll never know."

Friday, September 4, 2009

And cut...

Well friends, if you stuck around long enough to even read this I am impressed. It doesn't take a genius to see where this blog was headed and I think I've decided to finally stick a fork in it. My heart's not there. It's not here either. My heart is not in recommending things anymore, so with this I bid FriendsRecommend a fond farewell. I wish we could have ended on a high note, and that may be forthcoming. Ricky B has agreed to share the account of his first and only bar fight with us via video. I am hoping this works out. If I can get Ricky to tell the story of this fight I can recommend it already without ever having seen it. It doesn't even exist yet and I can recommend it to you.

My one regret is that I never even made one of these lists myself. I'm not doing it tonight, so that probably won't happen either. We had a good run. I thank all of the guest bloggers current and past, Wardo, Ricky B, Todd, thechristophermyers, and Timmy Huff for their dedication to recommending things. You guys really recommended some things. Some good things at that. Thanks to all the list folks as well. I've discovered a lot of great things via those lists and will continue to do so. You all rule. Really.

I leave you with something I love. Super-musician Self's version of the Doobie Brother's "What a Fool Believes" recorded completely on toy instruments. I can't recommend this enough:

Friday, August 28, 2009


Well, JesKA sort of called this. I am being nice to JESKa today, because she just sat through a really long show and didn't complain about least not to me. Maybe to my brother, but not to me. Before I went away she said "you are going to go on vacation to Europe and just come back and recommend going to Europe on FR". This isn't completely true, but I do have something that I feel like a lot of you would really enjoy. The whole trip (Venice, Soglio, Zurich) was awesome and I liked them each for their own reasons. Venice for the classic-ness (word?) but was also too crowded and hot, Soglio for it's relaxing-ness (again?) and it's being 3/4 of the way up a Swiss Alp in a town of 200 people, and Zurich for a whole lot of reasons.

My recommendation today is if you are planning a trip to Europe, I highly suggest Zurich be a stop during that trip. My reasons are as follows. I love big cities. I think I will always (at least in the long future) live in a city or live really close to a city. I like the urgency, and being near the center of goings-ons. Something that you miss being in a city however is somewhere to get away...somewhere like vacation that gets you outside of the city. The solution in Zurich to this is there is a huge effing lake (Lake Zurich) right in the middle of it. And the water is clean. And you can swim in it. Imagine if you could walk down to the Harbor on a hot day and jump in and have that be refreshing and normal. I bet most of you can't even entertain that thought. This is what it is like in Zurich. It's a really cool big city with a vacation spot built smack in the center. I can't think of any other place anywhere that has this going for it. Anyone? Now, I don't just recommend Zurich as a place to go. Staying somewhere in a small town, with rolling hills, and mountain air is awesome and is part of the reason I loved Switzerland so much. But I'm just saying...if you are going all the way over there try to make Zurich part f it. Some pictures of the city, lakes and not lakes:

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Girl on the Bridge

I wasn't going to recommend anything today because it's the end of the summer and I just didn't feel like it. Still, I have two great recommends that I felt compelled to share.

The first is The Girl on the Bridge, by French director Patrice Leconte. I first saw this movie at my at my parents house on the Bravo channel when that was still a movie channel. I never knew what it was called or who was in it, and finally after two years Netflix recommended it to me. The thing about this movie that first caught my attention is the wonderfully attractive actress Vanessa Paradis, though I soon was completely taken in by some of the most beautiful black and white film footage I've ever seen. So many B&W movies are muddy and gray, never exploring either black or white, but The Girl on the Bridge spends its most captivating scenes in a high contract of the brightest whites and the darkest blacks, making for very compelling cinema.

The movie isn't heavy on the plot. A knife thrower rescues a girl about to end her life and takes her on as his assistant. You're never quite sure where the movie is going, and that's largely due to the fact that it never goes far, but it still pulls you in to the world of these two characters whose lives have suddenly intersected and become inseparable If Chris hated my use of the vibrant to describe a book, he's going to really hate my use of the world sensuous to describe this movie, but I think this scene makes a good argument.

The other movie I need to recommend is Inglorious Bastards. I just saw it this weekend, and it's one of the best movies I've ever seen. It's certainly Tarantino's best movie thus far. From the plot, to the banter between characters, to the acting, to the visuals, to the everything. Go see this movie. Tarantino is really at the peak of his career here. I could watch this movie again and again. Here is a trailer you may not have seen yet. There's a little bit of a spoiler in here, but nothing too serious.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Man Show Boy

So in the spirit of the last post, I thought I'd present the Man Show boy. Remember this kid? Inspired by Letterman, Adam Corolla and Jimmy Kimmel sent this kid around and made him say some hilarious stuff to unassuming folks.

This was one where he was selling Girl Scout Cookies.