Friday, April 30, 2010

Lala No More

When I wrote about my new favorite music web site back in January, little did I know that, just one month prior, the company I thought they would challenge for electronic music supremacy had already acquired them.

Apple purchased Lala in December 2009, beating out Google in the bidding process, and effectively squashing any potential competition in the process. Today, I received this email notification:

Dear C. Simone,

The Lala service will be shut down on May 31st.

In appreciation of your support over the last five years, you will receive a credit in the amount of your Lala web song purchases for use on Apple's iTunes Store. If you purchased and downloaded mp3 songs from Lala, those songs will continue to play as part of your local music library.

Remaining wallet balances and unredeemed gift cards will be converted to iTunes Store credit (or can be refunded upon request). Gift cards can be redeemed on Lala until May 31st.

Click here or visit for more information, or to view Lala's Terms of Service.

Thank you.


It's a sad day in my world, as I was already getting used to being able to preview just about any album I desired, and purchasing the occasional web album for about a dollar. I had yet to purchase a full album of mp3s, but was also interested in the fact that Lala represented an option that was $2-3 per album cheaper than iTunes, and placed no restrictions on the number of computers I could authorize to play those files.

It's also hard to imagine that one company could purchase another for $85 million—confirming how valuable the acquisition is in the process—then turn around and simply shut it down. There is talk that Apple could have bigger plans for Lala's music streaming technology, but having effectively eliminated the competition, I see no incentive for iTunes to be more price-competitive.

I may not end up listening to the 350 new albums that I was on pace to this year, but I will survive. Thanks to my recent discovery of NPR's Exclusive First Listen, in addition to AOL/Spinner, there are still good sources for streaming new releases. Also, my subscription to eMusic—iTunes’ cooler, cheaper cousin, according to Rolling Stone magazine—provides me with an option to purchase music for about half the price of iTunes, and that service's selection is getting better almost daily.

If there are new music sources that I'm overlooking, please share. I'll be certain to continue to write about any new developments here.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

NPR First Listen

Add NPR's Exclusive First Listen to my list of the best web sites for those of us who crave a steady rotation of new music. While AOL/Spinner is the place to go to listen to streaming audio of a dozen or more albums for a week or two after their release, and Lala is great for offering one free preview of just about any song, new or otherwise, NPR's site maintains its own exclusive niche.

For previews of select, upcoming albums, in their entirety, this is the site to go. Among those currently streaming on NPR, until May 4, are the following:
Additionally, the following records are in queue to become available for listen during the following dates in May:
  • The National - High Violet: May 3-11
  • The Black Keys - Brothers: May 10-18
Of course, these are just the albums that show up on my radar. There are definitely others that you may want to check out for yourself. 

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Piece Out

On our way out of town, KJ and I finally made it to the brew pub we'd been hoping to get to all along. Honestly, we had no idea what we would have been missing had we opted to skip it. I really just wanted to get a taste of something locally-brewed, and the fact that Rick Nielsen is a part owner was simply a bonus. What I didn't know was that Piece would deliver the best new (to me) beer I've had since visiting Oregon back in August.

The thought crossed our minds to order a variety of 3-oz. samples, but instead we opted to cut straight to the chase and go with the styles we were really craving. "We're hoppy people," KJ said to our waiter, who lumped himself into the same category. I ordered a supercharged IPA named Dysfunctionale, and KJ's selection was an Imperial IPA called Wack Job. What she didn't realize was that the latter weighed in at 9% ABV.

My first impression of the Dysfunctionale was of its pleasantly mild grapefruity hop aroma and profile, the bitterness of which perfectly balanced its full-bodied maltiness. My first smell and taste of the Wack Job, though, revealed how truly subtle the Dysfunctionale's notes of grapefruit are, as those characteristics in this one blew me away. Much more hoppy than the Dysfunctionale, the Wack Job is slightly higher on the bitterness end of the scale, but still very well balanced.

Although rating both of them highly, KJ clearly preferred the Wack Job. I couldn't decide which I liked better, but can honestly say they are the best pair of brew pub ales I've had since Old Lompoc's LSD and C-Note Imperial Pale Ale.

Our waiter also gave us small samples of two other brews, Marketing Ploy—an IPA that isn't as well-balanced as the others, but is solid—and Surrender—a Belgian Farmhouse Saison that's pretty good, but a little too sweet after the highly hopped beers we already had. Of course, it was the name of the latter that piqued my curiosity, but I still chose the Wack Job for my second beer, despite already sampling much of KJ’s.

Piece Pizzeria & Brewery
The beer isn't all that Piece has going for it. The service is excellent, and their brand of New Haven-style thin crust pizza is tremendous as well. We ordered ours with pepperoni, banana peppers and garlic, a delectable combination. The atmosphere is great also, with plenty of music memorabilia hanging from the walls, including a Rick Nielsen trademark five-neck guitar. Playing from the tavern's sound system was an excellent mix of indie rock, much of it highly recognizable and some just slightly familiar, all at a reasonable volume. That is, not nearly as loud as in other places with similar vibes.

After that, we hopped back on the 'L' to O'Hare, quite content that we had ended our visit to a great city on an extremely high note.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

No Cell

An electronic sign at U.S. Cellular Field declares its namesake as the exclusive cellular provider of the Chicago White Sox. Little did I know that meant my service, purchased in a market that U.S. Cell doesn't compete in, would be rendered useless. While I can't say for certain that they're actually blocking other carriers, or if it's just that my cell provider doesn't cover the area as well as, say San Francisco, it seems pretty suspicious.

But, I digress. Not only was "The Cell" the third park KJ and I have visited together in our one-year history of traveling to baseball games as a couple, it was the 10th current park I've visited more than once (Fenway Park, Yankee Stadium, Camden Yards, Rogers Centre, Progressive Field, PNC Park, Wrigley Field, AT&T Park, Oakland Coliseum). If not for the Twins leaving the Metrodome in favor of Target Field, that would have equaled the number of current parks I've yet to visit.

When Brian and I visited what was then called New Comiskey back in 1998, we weren't terribly impressed with the aesthetics of the park. That opinion hasn't changed 12 years later. Don't get me wrong, this is no Veterans Stadium, but opened one year prior to Camden Yards, it's just not as nice as its contemporaries.

U.S. Cellular Field

While the photo may not give you enough of an impression, you'll have to either take my word for it or see for yourself. The place just doesn't have a lot of character. But, that doesn't tell the whole story either. The sight lines could be significantly improved if the seats were turned about 15 degrees towards the on-field action, something that has worked well with other parks built in the late 20th and early 21st Centuries.

There were positives, however. The rows in our section, and those around us, were only 8-10 seats wide. As a result, there was only one time during an entire nine-inning game that we had to get up to let our fellow patrons pass. If you've ever been to Fenway, you certainly would understand the importance of this factor.

Also, there were numerous concessions options beyond the standard fare. Of course, my mind was fixated on Chicago-style hot dogs, and I wasn't disappointed in the foot long I found, which was topped with sweet pickle relish, tomato wedges, pickle spears, sport peppers, mustard and onions. KJ opted for the smaller version, but I think she ended up regretting that decision. We were both surprised there was only one stand in the entire park that sold these wonderful creations, but we quickly figured out why once we sat down to eat them. A photo would have been a nice idea here, but you'll have to use your imagination to understand how difficult it was to eat a hot dog that looked like it had been "dragged through the garden."

The beer selection was comparable to that at most Midwestern parks. That is, the options were mostly of the American lager variety—Chicago’s proximity to Milwaukee makes it clearly a Miller town—with a couple of decent, if not spectacular, micro-brewed choices as well. We opted for the Wisconsin-brewed Leinenkugel's Classic Amber, which was solid, but nothing special. I was a little disappointed that there wasn't a single beer brewed in Chicago available at the game, leading me further to the conclusion that this is not a craft beer city. I may or may not be correct in that assumption, but the following day I would discover the place that, in the very least, is the exception. More on that in a later post.

The White Sox were hosting the Tampa Bay Rays, a team that was fresh off a Patriots' Day weekend sweep of a four-game series in Boston. Apparently, a masterful performance from John Danks is what it would take to slow down the hottest team in baseball. The Chicago lefthander shrugged off a first-inning solo homer by Carl Crawford, then proceeded to hold the Rays hitless for the next 5 1/3 innings until Crawford's swinging bunt single in the 6th. His impressive outing (8 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 9 SO) was more than enough to lead the White Sox to a 4-1 victory, in a game that lasted just two hours and 22 minutes with none other than Joe West behind the plate.

John Danks

 A few other items worth noting from Tuesday night's game:
  • It was immediately clear that it was Jackie Robinson Day at U.S. Cellular Field, this being the Sox first home game since April 11. A group of kids spotted outside the stadium, wearing White Sox shirts with #42 on the back, was our first clue.
  • The White Sox are one of those home teams whose dugout is on the third base side. I believe I've already written about how much KJ dislikes this.
  • We laughed at the song that was played every time Gordon Beckham came to bat: "Your Love" by The Outfield. I'm not sure why we found it so funny to hear "Josie's on a vacation far away, come around and talk it over," over and over.
  • Baseball lesson of the day: "One from the mound, two from the field," is the common phrase used to remember how many bases are allowed on a throw that goes out of play: one base if the throw is by the pitcher from the rubber, two if the throw is from any other fielder, including the pitcher while off the rubber. All base awards are from the time of the throw.  

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Deep Dish and Light Craft

From a food and beverage standpoint, what would you say Chicago is known for? Forgive my ignorance if I'm missing something obvious, but deep dish pizza and Chicago-style hot dogs were the two things on my radar as I anticipated my current trip to the Windy City. Wheat beer was not one that came to mind, but when KJ and I visited Lou Malnati's Pizzeria last night, their only craft beer selections were four of the lighter variety—Goose Island 312, Leinenkugel's Honey Weiss, Blue Moon Belgian White, and Goose Island Summertime. The latter was their seasonal selection, an odd choice considering April in Chicago hardly feels like summer.

In reality, I'm sure the beer selection had more to do with the fact that Lou Malnati's is all about great food rather than great beer, or maybe it has something to do with what pairs well with pizza. I really don't know, but I still would have preferred one choice that was a little more hop-centric. Regardless, I wanted to try something that was indigenous to the area, so I gave the Goose Island 312 Urban Wheat Ale a shot.

At first sip, I rather liked it, but that wore off a little as I worked my way to the bottom of the glass. Considering it's not my favorite style, I would still rate it as pretty good. It was light and refreshing, not too sweet, but a bit too bubbly for my taste. It did, however, pair rather well with our food selection, as we opted for the deep dish with sausage and giardiniera peppers, which in reality is a relish consisting primarily of serrano peppers, celery, carrots and cauliflower.

Lou Malnati's came highly recommended as the place for out-of-towners to get a taste of the deep dish pizza that the nation's third most populous city is known for. Let me just say it proved itself worthy of such recommendations. KJ and I shared a 9" pie, which consisted of two fully satisfying slices each, and she caught me saying "whew" under my breath a few times at the spicy kick delivered by the giardiniera.

The decor at Malnati's was pleasing as well. The walls were covered with lots of cool, but very tasteful, baseball memorabilia, including old programs from Wrigley Field, framed jerseys of Ryne Sandberg and Ernie Banks, and home plate from the final game played at Comiskey Park, signed by what appeared to be all the members of the 1990 White Sox. An odd addition to these tasteful decorations was a framed "Cub Fan, Bud Man" tuxedo. I'd really like to know what the story is behind that one.

Tonight, we're headed to U.S. Cellular Field to see if the White Sox can do what the Red Sox haven't been able to—beat the Tampa Bay Rays. More importantly, though, we're checking off the third major league park we've visited together and hoping to satisfy our other Chicago craving, which shouldn't be a problem at a baseball game.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Summer of '04 Trivia

Each of the seven posts in the Summer of '04 series was named after a song. Each of these songs has a connection to the city the post was about, some being more obvious than others (e.g. "Look Out Cleveland," "Detroit Rock City," "Meet Me in St. Louis, Louis").

For each song, name the artist who is best known for performing it, and for the two songs for which it's not obvious ("The Long Cut" and "The Sheltering Sky"), identify the connection between the artist and the city the post was about. Also, one of the songs ("Pittsburgh Town") was written by an artist who is more famous than the song's best known performer. So, for that one, I'm looking for both performer and composer. In all, this makes it a 10-part question.

As a reminder, here is the list of posts/songs again:
  1. Look Out Cleveland
  2. Cleveland Rocks
  3. Detroit Rock City
  4. Meet Me in St. Louis, Louis
  5. The Long Cut
  6. The Sheltering Sky
  7. Pittsburgh Town
Of course, there's one particular reader of this blog who's the clear cut favorite to be the first to answer the question correctly. I'm certainly not discouraging him from proving me right, but I look forward to seeing if anyone else has what it takes to beat him to the punch. 

    Thursday, April 15, 2010

    Pittsburgh Town

    This is the seventh and final part of the Summer of '04 series, chronicling my first serious baseball road trip.

    Friday, June 18

    It's probably a blessing in disguise that Brian has a lunch date with his former advisor, because immediately afterward, we're hitting the bars for some pre-game drinks.

    Chiodo's TavernNot surprisingly, this is where the journal entries end. Just as we did during our 1998 trip to Chicago, Brian and I kind of overdid it during the daylight hours, the highlight of which was a visit to Chiodo's Tavern, in the Pittsburgh suburb of Homestead. The place was one of Brian's favorites during his days at graduate school, and on this day, we were lucky enough to meet its 86-year old owner, Italian immigrant Joe Chiodo.

    Joe has since passed away, and Chiodo's Tavern is no more, but it was a Steel City landmark in its day, known for the hundreds, if not thousands, of pieces of memorabilia hanging from its ceiling.

    I do remember deciding on this trip that Pittsburgh's PNC Park was, perhaps, my favorite ballpark. I later adjusted my thinking, because let's face it...with exception, all of the new parks are great. Some have better concession options, while others have done a better job with space. Some are a little more visually appealing than others, but all of them have good sight lines. That is, all seats priced moderately and up provide a good vantage point for the on-field action.

    So, what made PNC Park stand out so much to me? Honestly, I believe it was Pittsburgh itself, particularly the view of the city from the stadium, especially those trademark yellow bridges. Unfortunately, the photo below is the best I've got, and it doesn't really do the view justice, but I hope it will give you an idea of just how aesthetically appealing the view from inside PNC is. It's just too bad that the Pirates haven't produced a winning season since going 96-66, and losing the NLCS in seven games to the Braves, in 1992.

    PNC Park

    The day after the game, while driving Brian to the airport, I felt that all-too-familiar crunch of brakes that have worn all the way through the pads. The trip was nearing its end, but I was still 600 miles from home. So, instead of risking driving that far on brakes that were shot, I decided to play it safe and drive only 400 miles to Poughkeepsie, NY.

    That's actually not as crazy as it sounds. Driving a car with a manual transmission on a route that was almost entirely interstate highways, I was able to downshift when absolutely necessary, so that I barely had to use the brakes at all. $90 spent at Auto Zone and a little help from my brother-in-law and I was back on the road for the 200 miles that would return me home safely, and bring my first serious baseball road trip to an end.

    Tuesday, April 13, 2010

    Boston Beer Guide

    A couple months ago, I began putting together a page listing the best places to find craft beer in and around Boston. This idea was inspired by The Beer Mapping Project, and the page I created includes an area map provided courtesy of that impressive web site, but my intention is to improve upon their coverage of this particular area. As much as I love, considering it touts itself as "...a project by someone who likes knowing exactly where he is and how far he needs to go for good beer," why it includes such lame places as On the Hill Tavern and Powderhouse Pub and Grill—just to name two from my own neighborhood—is beyond me.

    Now if either of these places has recently transformed itself to a good beer bar, then I apologize for calling them lame, but I highly doubt this is the case. I do suspect, however, that since The Beer Mapping Project relies extensively on user input, then it's someone who doesn't even know how to pronounce the word bar who is to blame.

    But, I digress. My page, of course, will always be a work in progress. Contrary to popular belief, I haven't been able to visit every bar in the Greater Boston area just yet. So, I'm sure there are at least a few that I'm missing, but I think this is a very good start.

    The basic idea here is that this is a page that craft beer enthusiasts, such as myself, can use to decide where they want to go find a beer, or what beer they plan to drink when they meet up with friends at a specific place. I recently used it to decide what my first two selections would be when I visited Olde Magoun's Saloon, a neighborhood establishment that is worthy of being identified as a good beer bar.

    Because this concept relies on the availability of such information, with exception I've only listed taverns that have good beer selections and a web site that includes a current beer menu. The exceptions I've made are for places I feel confident you could walk into blindly and not be disappointed in what they have to offer. But, of course, I'm a little torn on this, so I reserve the right to change my mind.

    If you haven't already discovered it, please check out my Boston Beer Guide (you can also find the link in the upper right corner, just below the left field photo). Since I'm only one person, and I don't frequent such establishments nearly as much as I used to—which is both a good and a bad thing—I’ll take all the help I can get. So, I welcome any and all recommendations as to places I should add to the list, as well as any corrections if you notice before I do that a particular link isn't working.

    Monday, April 12, 2010

    Live at Manticore Hall

    Sunday night's show at the Lynn Memorial Auditorium was billed as "An Intimate Evening with Keith Emerson & Greg Lake," but when the band was introduced prior to taking the stage, the public address announcer's greeting was "Welcome to Manticore Hall." This, of course, was in reference to Emerson, Lake & Palmer's fascination with the mythical creature that has the body of a lion, the head of a man, the tail of a scorpion, and a trumpet-like voice.

    This was one of those shows that I decided was worth attending alone, which was necessitated by the fact that very few of my friends share my admiration of the English progressive rock supergroup. When I took my seat at the venue, next to me was another solo concertgoer. A few years older than I, he shared with me that he and his wife have much different taste in music, using Mariah Carey as an example of where her interests lie. I told him that, while my wife and I share much more musical taste in common, this was one band I never really attempted to turn her on to. He seemed to agree with my somewhat stereotypical claim that those of the female persuasion generally don't appreciate prog rock. This generalization was not reinforced by an event that occurred later in the evening, but I'll get to that soon enough.

    Just as I predicted in a conversation with KJ prior to the show, the 65 and 62-year old rockers played two sets separated by a short intermission. Highlights of the first set included a rendition of King Crimson's "I Talk to the Wind," a song Lake admitted he hadn't played since 1969; and a medley that began with ELP's "Take a Pebble" then transitioned to excerpts from "Tarkus," which included a fine display of Emerson's still impressive keyboard chops.

    Both Emerson and Lake let the on-stage banter flow freely, and the second set included several such highlights. The first was a story told by Emerson about meeting one of his idols, Leonard Bernstein, and Bernstein's somewhat sarcastic and arrogant dismissal of the music of The Nice and ELP.

    What was even more interesting was when they initiated a Q&A session with audience members. I wanted to ask why they didn't hire Ian Paice as their touring drummer, but I didn't get the chance. One of those chosen was a 14-year old girl who called ELP her favorite band. I found this quite interesting, of course, and then I tried to imagine my 14-year old niece's reaction if I played her Brain Salad Surgery in its entirety.

    Personally, I love when performers are adept at successfully interspersing a few stories into their set. Emerson and Lake may have overdone this a little, but it never detracted from the music, which certainly did not disappoint. Even the somewhat bizarre fact that they used a drum machine during the Tarkus medley didn't really bother me.

    The final highlight of the night was their encore performance of "Lucky Man." I'm not sure what I was more surprised about: the fact that they ended a show of mostly deeper cuts with their most commercially successful song, or that I enjoyed hearing it as much as I did. While it was Keith Emerson's playing that shone the brightest for most of the night, it was during this song that I realized just how lucky we fans are that Greg Lake's vocal ability has held up so well over time.

    Saturday, April 10, 2010

    Midlake @ The Paradise

    I can't remember when the last time was that I saw a show at the Paradise Rock Club. In fact, trying to use this blog to determine this proved fruitless, as there isn't a single post about a Paradise show. It was only late 2008 that I began regularly writing up concerts, but nevertheless, it's probably been at least a couple years. This is unfortunate, because the Commonwealth Avenue club is still one of my favorite venues.

    It used to be that when a band graduated from Paradise to Avalon status that I was pretty much done with seeing them live. But, Avalon is no more—thankfully—and has been replaced by the House of Blues, a venue that is slightly larger but much better suited for rock shows. Still, I've only been there once since it opened just over a year ago.

    Last night was the third time I've seen Midlake in concert, twice of those at the Paradise and all of them excellent shows. The seven-piece from Denton, Texas, led by the vocals of Tim Smith and no less than four guitarists, seems to have a knack for live music that fully captures the magic of their studio output.

    Speaking of Smith, it occurred to me during last night's show that he is the only member of Midlake whose name I know, which is somewhat surprising considering they're one of my favorite current bands. I have no problem remembering the names of all the members of Styx from their heyday: Dennis DeYoung, Tommy Shaw, James Young and the Panozzo brothers. Well, I'll admit that I had to look up the first names of the latter siblings—Chuck and John—but you get my point. Knowing the names of band members is pretty much my thing, but somewhere along the way, this ability has faded, or this information has become less important.

    Also faded is my ability to stand in one place for three hours without my legs and lower back aching. But, that's another story. Part of the reason this was an issue was the opening act. Previously unknown to me, John Grant was a pleasant surprise in a supporting role. His music beared much resemblance to Midlake's—not surprisingly since they served as backup band for his recent album, Queen of Denmark—except with much lighter lyrical subject matter, as evidenced by song titles such as "Sigourney Weaver," " Chicken Bones," and "Jesus Hates Faggots."

    I've already written here that I think Midlake's latest release, The Courage of Others, is nowhere near the masterpiece that The Trials of Van Occupanther was, but the songs from Courage did not disappoint live. That's not to say that hearing "Roscoe," "Bandits," "Van Occupanther," and "Young Brides" from Van Occupanther weren't the highlights of the show, but the band seemed perfectly constructed to perform the newer material. To that point, another highlight was an extended jam during one of the show's closing songs, "Rulers, Ruling All Things."

    It's also been quite some time since I've seen two shows in just three days time, but that will be the case this weekend, as I have plans to see Keith Emerson and Greg Lake—two-thirds of the legendary progressive rock trio Emerson, Lake & Palmer—play at the Lynn Auditorium tomorrow night. More on that to come.

    Wednesday, April 07, 2010

    Frequent Spins (2010.2)

    So far, I'd have to say that this year is clearly better than last at this stage of the game, although not much has really piqued my interest since the first round of Frequent Spins 2010. That should change come the month of May, with new albums due from four bands who can boast seven top ten albums among them: The Hold Steady, New Pornographers, The National and Band of Horses.

    Clem Snide
    - The Meat of Life
    After a four-year hiatus during which it seemed the band was no more, Clem Snide made an impressive return with Hungry Bird last year. The Meat of Life builds on that momentum, as it's simply another collection of clever, sometimes melancholy, and always quirky indie pop from this trio named after a character from several William S. Burroughs works.

    Magnetic Fields - Realism
    This release is a nice little comeback for Stephen Merritt and Co. after the somewhat disappointing Distortion. The jury's still out as to whether or not it's as good as 2004's i, but it's definitely in the ballpark.

    Rogue Wave - Permalight
    To me, this album represents the maturation of Rogue Wave. Their first release, Out of the Shadow, was catchy, but it wore out its welcome after a little while. They followed that up with the very unremarkable Descended Like Vultures and the disappointing Asleep at Heaven's Gate. On Permalight, this west coast band appears to have finally lived up to the potential they showed on their debut.

    Shearwater - The Golden Archipelago
    I used to think that Okkervil River was a Shearwater side project. Of course, that was before I heard Black Sheep Boy and it became my album of the year in 2005. As it turns out, Shearwater has never been able to match their sister band's output, but this is probably the closest they've come.

    Shout Out Louds - Work
    These Swedish indie-popsters caught my ear with their first two albums, 2005's Howl Howl Gaff Gaff and 2007's Our Ill Wills, but they've really come into their own with this one. Incidentally, a web stream of the entire album is nowhere to be found, so the link here is to the Lala stream of the single "Fall Hard."

    Sunday, April 04, 2010

    Late Night at the Old Tavern

    Only those who lasted beyond midnight at our wedding reception were witnesses to an unexpected special treat: a surprise performance by Anders Parker. Unbeknownst to the bride and groom, the groundwork was being laid for the late night one song show since earlier in the day, when my good friend Afshin—who was doubling as our wedding ceremony piano player and reception MC/DJ—heard him playing "Feel the Same" on the Old Tavern's house piano.

    That song happened to be included on the wedding mix that we made for our guests, so Anders was successfully convinced that it would only seem appropriate for him to perform the song just after we were required to turn the reception music off. Personally, I really enjoyed the story he told as an introduction, where he reminisced about his Town of LaGrange Little League days and his childhood impression of how intense my father and I were about baseball.

    Anders Parker
    Anders' performance, of course, fully lived up to our expectations. He claimed to not completely remember how to play the song, but this didn't seem to be a problem as he improvised an intimately reworked version. Suffice it to say, Anders earned a few new fans that night. But, it was those who already were his fans who were most pleased, particularly me and KJ. We both agreed that this moment perfectly closed out a perfect day and a fantastic weekend that was all we had hoped for and more.

    Thursday, April 01, 2010

    ABBA vs. The Bay City Rollers (aka Neil Young vs. The Beatles)

    I was recently talking to KJ about the national origins of the musical artists I'm a fan of. I made the statement that—after the big three of the U.S., Canada and England—my next favorite country, based on the current musicians it has produced, would probably be Sweden. I'm not sure what got me on this subject, other than my interest in trivial conversations about the demographics of the little world inside my head. Maybe we were listening to Jens Lekman or the Shout Out Louds. But, of course, the end result was that it made me want to do a little further research.

    So, I went through my year-end lists for the past three years, and here are the results:

    U.S. - 72.1%
    England - 10.2%
    Canada - 8.0%
    Scotland - 2.7%

    After that, Sweden, Australia, Iceland and France were tied at 1.8%. I actually had initially considered that Scotland might rank ahead of Sweden, but at the time of the original conversation, the only significant (to me) Scottish band I could think of was Teenage Fanclub. But, now I'm asking myself, what was I thinking? Sweden? Beyond the aforementioned Jens Lekman, the Shout Out Louds and a couple others, there aren't really that many Swedish bands I'm into. Certainly not ABBA, although I would probably have to rank them ahead of The Bay City Rollers, the Scottish band whose 1975 hit, "Saturday Night," was the first 45 I ever owned.

    Also of interest to me is the fact that England beat out Canada for the #2 spot. Not satisfied with this outcome, I took a different angle and looked at the artists represented in my Fab 40. The results weren't all that different, at least in the top three spots:

    U.S. - 75%
    England - 12.5%
    Canada - 10%
    Australia - 2.5%

    But, of course, these are just absolute numbers, and don't take into account the fact that Rush was my favorite band during most of my high school days, and Neil Young has been my favorite for the past 20 years. So, I think it would be safe to say, The Beatles notwithstanding, that Canada is the U.S., of course. I'm sure their citizens are tired of hearing that familiar refrain.