Friday, December 31, 2010

Favorite Records of 2010

With the minutes remaining in 2010 slipping away, it's time that I finally get around to compiling my favorite records of the year. And while it wasn't a great year musically, there were a fair amount of gems released in the last twelve months.

Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Deerhunter's fifth proper album was far and away my favorite. I've listened to it dozens upon dozens of times since its late-September release, and my walnut-sized brain never grows tired of it. In fact, I went so far as to write a short post about the band back in October. Atmospheric, ethereal and nocturnal, Deerhunter bring back some of the great elements of the early 90s "Shoegazer" scene and the legacy of 4AD Records. Which is fitting, seeing that Halcyon Days was released on 4AD. Bradford Cox, Deerhunter's leader, is also a prolific songwriter and is frequently giving away new songs under the Atlas Sound label on his blog.

And the rest...

Beach House - Teen Dream

The Besnard Lakes - The Besnard Lakes Are The Roaring Night

The Black Angels - Phosphene Dream

Dean & Britta - 13 Most Beautiful: Songs For Andy Warhol's Screen Tests

Drive-By Truckers - The Big To-Do

Dum Dum Girls - I Will Be

Brian Eno - Small Craft on a Milk Sea

Miles Kurosky - The Desert Of Shallow Effects

Phosphorescence - Here's To Taking It Easy

Spoon - Transference

Warpaint - The Fool

Neil Young - Le Noise

Favorite compilation:
Stroke: Songs For Chris Knox


The Charlatans - Some Friendly 20th Anniversary

The Cure - Disintegration + Entreat

Unofficial Reissue:
The Smiths - Unreleased Demos
Best of all, it's available for a free download here.

Favorite 2009 release that I *finally* got around to listening to:

The xx - xx
Until next year, support musicians, buy your music and see your favorite bands live.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Favorite Songs of All Time: "A Shot In The Arm" by Wilco

From Wilco's dense and intricately-arranged 1999 record "Summerteeth" comes the single A Shot In The Arm.

(just the audio track, there is no official video for the song)

I've played Summerteeth literally hundreds of times in the past decade. And while it's not arecord that I've dialed up to play to in it's entirety anytime within the last few years, A Shot In The Arm still stands up to repeated listens for me when it comes up on the iPod. Dark and bleak with the repeated line of "what you once were isn't what you want to be anymore" as the music song fades. Perfect.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Barn Find

Who doesn't like a good "barn find" story? Especially one filled with funky and cool European wheels.
Yeah, not many. Check out the link and read the story behind this almost 400 car Portuguese barn find.

Down On The Street - Linyi China Edition

"Small Cab" as seen in the Linyi, China airport parking lot.
thieves beware, that front wheel is locked!

Arguably far more motorbike than proper "car", I'm told that while these three-wheelers are generally used for around-town fares, sometimes they're seen far out in the country.
Looks like it'd be fun to hoon around in - until you encountered other traffic or a strong crosswind. And hey, speaking of out-in-the-country, I snapped the following (poor) pic quite far from anything of any substance.
A happy passenger, sitting sideways. Ignore the tissue on our car's dashboard.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Favorite Records of All Time: Skylarking by XTC

A friend at work received a special shipment from Ape House yesterday - the recently remastered reissue of XTC's 1986 masterpiece, Skylarking.
An eternally vernal album that was beautifully produced by studio wizard Todd Rundgren, it's easily one of my top ten records of all time. But now, 24 years on, it has had a very important tweak made to it. Apparently during the original mastering, the polarity was reversed, significantly altering the intended sound. This reissue corrects the flaw and is now issued with the originally-intended (but likely too risqué for 1986) small flowers threaded through pubic hair cover. Hmm, interesting.
Of course, what kind of a reissue would it be without a comprehensive "making of" essay and previously-unreleased photos. All included in the hardback package.
The music is now pressed on 180g vinyl, two slaps that spin at 45 RPM for optimal sound. Dear God and Mermaid Smiled are now properly sequenced into the song cycle. Mermaid Smiled had been removed from the US pressing when b-side Dear God became an unexpected hit.

I've been a huge fan of this record for well over twenty years and have owned it both on the original vinyl as well as a couple of versions of CD release. It's accompanied me on many road trips and is a musical staple of mine during the months of March through May. With the rainy weather here in the San Diego area as of late, it's definitely been in rotation these past two weeks. And although I would like to own this version, sadly I no longer have a turntable so I will not be picking it up. Or maybe I'll buy one of the recently-discontinued Technics 1200 turntables. Just hoping that they eventually give the CD version a deluxe reissue.
For those who still have turntables and want this essential piece of music, you can order it here.

Monday, December 20, 2010

China: Random Linyi & Surrounding Area

Some random pix from my recent visit to Linyi, Shandong China, a city of over ten million people that I had never previously heard of.
from my hotel room the night of arrival
from my hotel room, the next morning (cough, cough)
Although I had brought running gear, there was no way that I was going to exert myself in the horrible pollution.
another view from the hotel
walking out the front door, hellllooo Linyi
Tuesday morning commuters, I
Tuesday morning commuters, II
new shopping mall (no joke)
work truck
new homes on the outskirts of town
coal pile for factory paint line heat
coal stove in factory R&D office
factory dog
the restaurant we ate lunch at - in China, "Chinese food" is just "food"
a deluxe restaurant, dishes were sealed when delivered to the table
Chinese flag outside a government building, hazy skies

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Wish List: VW Transporter Rockton 4Motion

A rugged all wheel drive, diesel-powered, manual transmission-equipped new VW van?
Yes please. It's Volkswagen's Transporter Rockton 4Motion van. Equip mine with a "Weekender" package consisting of a fold-down bed, fold-out table, curtains and top it with the most important piece - a pop top to sleep two more.
And of course, bring it to the USA and offer it for less than $39,900. Which will never happen.

It's be a perfect rig for exploring some of the 4WD roads and trails that lay in east San Diego County.

Via Autoblog. Thanks to Mark P. for the tip!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Down On The Street - Taichung Edition

Two-wheelers seem to greatly outnumber four wheelers on Taiwan's urban streets. With limited parking and the expense of buying, registering and insuring a four wheeled vehicle, scooters are the easy choice for the working masses in this temperate nation island.

Most of the two-wheeled vehicles are scooters, but occasionally you'll come across some interesting small-displacement iron with larger wheels. Like this Kawasaki B1, built in Taiwan under license by the Yuen Foong Paper Company of all things.
Classic looks and a healthy dose of patina. Nice touches too:
passenger foot peg
tank badge of the mighty Yuen-Foong
fender badge
taillight guard
125cc, you don't need much more in Taichung's urban center