Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Best Music of 2019

I didn't listen to as much new music this year as I have in most years past. In fact, I spent a solid three months this year making a playlist called 1000 Songs By 100 Bands, basically my ten favorite songs by my 100 favorite bands and solo artists. Check it out if you're so inclined.

2019 was still a good year for new music, though, so I was still able to compile a list of my 30 favorite albums of the year. I'm going to document them here as usual, and roll them out in the same fashion I did last year, in one post that I'll keep adding to every couple of days.

If you're here, I want to thank you again for reading. I hope 2019 was a good year for you, and that 2020 is even better.

30. Jeff Lynne's ELO - From Out of Nowhere

It feels strange calling this band Jeff Lynne's ELO. Of course it's Jeff Lynne's ELO.

29. Steve Earle & The Dukes - Guy

If you enjoy Steve's version of "The Randall Knife" as much as I do, be sure to check out Guy Clark's original version.

28. Neil Young & Crazy Horse - Colorado

Probably Neil's best album in a decade or more.

27. Andrew Bird - My Finest Work Yet

I don't really think this is his finest work, but it certainly lives up to his high standards.

26. Purple Mountains - Purple Mountains

This one didn't hit me at first, but it definitely rewarded repeated listens.

25. Craig Finn - I Need a New War

Another solid solo effort from the Hold Steady front-man.

24. Jenny Lewis - On the Line

Another one that just kept growing on me with each subsequent listen.

23. Pernice Brothers - Spread the Feeling

Not quite the return to form some have called it, but then again, I have very high standards for the first band ever to top my list twice.

22. The New Pornographers - In the Morse Code of Brake Lights

Another strong effort from A.C., Neko and Company.

21. The Hold Steady - Trashing Thru the Passion

Mostly old faces so far, I guess. I swear there will be some less than familiar faces in the top 20.

20. The Flaming Lips - King's Mouth: Music and Songs

I know I promised fewer familiar faces were coming, but this is the Flips' best album in over a decade, in my opinion. They're also the 8th (of 10) artists from my "1000 Songs By 100 Bands" project to appear on this list.

19. Georgia Maq - Pleaser

This was a surprising late-year release from the lead singer of one my top five albums from last year. It's a bit of a departure from her main band (Camp Cope), but she's still amazing.

18. Sharon Van Etten - Remind Me Tomorrow

I'm not always a big fan of the critical darlings, but this one isn't all hype.

17. Beirut - Gallipoli

I don't really have much to say about this one. I just like it.

16. E.B. The Younger - To Each His Own

I'm not that big a fan of Midlake since Tim Smith departed, but this Eric Pulido side project does it for me.

15. Big Thief - Two Hands

This band released two critically acclaimed albums this year. This one is the most worthy of all the praise, in my opinion.

14. Tallest Man on Earth - I Love You. It's a Fever Dream

I haven't talked yet about the demographics of the artists on my list -- i.e. that I mostly gravitate towards North American artists with a few from the U.K. sprinkled in -- but this is only the second highest ranking Scandinavian artist this year.

13. Tegan and Sara - Hey, I'm Just Like You

I'm a sucker for this sister duo's brand of infectious indie pop.

12. Glen Hansard - This Wild Willing

Ever since Once, I've been waiting for him to make an album worthy of his material on that soundtrack. There's no "Falling Slowly" here, but this is his most cohesive album.

11. Bon Iver - i,i

Some serious accolades for this one, several grammy nominations and all. I'm still partial to the self-titled second album, but this is a great one as well.

10. Deerhunter - Why Hasn't Everything Already Disappeared?

I could never really get into this band until this album.

9. Wilco - Ode to Joy

Quite possibly Wilco's best post-Jay Bennett album, in my opinion.

8. Vampire Weekend - Father of the Bride

This is probably this band's best album, period, which clearly isn't as big a deal as being Wilco's best since YHF.

7. American Football - LP3

Another band I'm a bit of a latecomer to.

6. Sigrid - Sucker Punch

Here's the aforementioned highest ranking Scandinavian artist.

5. Better Oblivion Community Center - Better Oblivion Community Center

This Pheobe Bridgers and Conor Oberst duet really hit the nail on the head.

4. Local Natives - Violet Street

This band's second #4 album in not quite as good as the first, but it's another tremendous album from a band that is quietly becoming one of my favorites.

3. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Ghosteen

The top three albums here really stood out to me this year, and were all contenders for the top spot right up until I made my decision last week. This one fell a little short, but it includes "Bright Horses," which was far and away my favorite song of the year.

2. Pedro the Lion - Phoenix

I didn't grow up in Arizona, but songs like "Yellow Bike," "Circle K" and "Quietest Friend" helped me wax nostalgic all-year long, just as living vicariously through my 8-year old son does.

1. The National - I Am Easy to Find

I don't do a best of the decade list, but I did select an artist of the decade for the '00s. With all due respect to Cloud Cult and The War on Drugs, my artist of the decade for the '10s was a much easier decision. With four albums in my top 5, and finally their first #1 album, the nod clearly goes to The National. This is not even their best album of the decade, but it's my favorite this year, and perhaps it's a bit of a lifetime achievement award.

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

All-Time Teams #20: Oakland Athletics

I'm trying to revive this ongoing series where I'm naming an all-time team for each of the current 30 MLB franchises, but in the interest of time I'm abandoning the greatest eligible player who is not in the Hall of Fame part. 

Franchise History

Oakland Athletics (1968- )
Kansas City Athletics (1955-1967)
Philadelphia Athletics (1901-1954)

An asterisk (*) denotes a Hall of Famer.

15 Hall of Famers on this squad. Only the Cubs -- who added their 16th and 17th when Ron Santo and Lee Smith, respectively, were elected after I wrote their all-time team post -- have more. 


C - Mickey Cochrane* (1925-1933)
1B - Jimmie Foxx* (1925-1935)
2B - Eddie Collins* (1906-1914, 1927-1930)
SS - Bert Campaneris (1964-1976)
3B - Sal Bando (1966-1976)
LF - Rickey Henderson* (1979-1984, 1989-1995, 1998)
CF - Al Simmons* (1924-1932, 1940-1941, 1944)
RF - Reggie Jackson* (1967-1975, 1987)

Simmons was the regular center fielder for the first four years of his career, so he makes the position shift that avoids having to relegate one of this franchise's four or five best everyday players to the bench. 

Otherwise, I honestly can't see anyone taking exception with any of these starting picks, unless perhaps you're a Home Run Baker guy.


Lefty Grove* (1925-1933)
Eddie Plank* (1901-1914)
Rube Waddell* (1902-1907)
Chief Bender* (1903-1914)
Eddie Rommel (1920-1932)

I suppose some will argue for Catfish Hunter over Rommel, which would give this team a rotation of five Hall of Famers, but a lot of those folks probably don't realize how good Rommel was, especially at the start of his career. Despite three consecutive top four Cy Young finishes -- some of which can be attributed to his win totals while pitching for the iconic 1972-74 dynasty -- nothing Hunter did with the A's can compare to Rommell's 1921-25 stretch while pitching for a mostly bad team.


Dennis Eckersley* (1987-1995)


C - Terry Steinbach (1986-1996)
1B - Mark McGwire (1986-1997)
2B - Max Bishop (1924-1933)
SS - Miguel Tejada (1997-2003)
3B - Frank Baker* (1908-1914)
OF - Bob Johnson (1933-1942)
OF - Dwayne Murphy (1978-1987)

I was going to take Gene Tenace over Steinbach as backup catcher, but Tenace really was only a part-time catcher and Steinbach was an above-average offensive player and solid defender at the position for Oakland for nine years.

Advanced statistically speaking, Eddie Joost might deserve the backup SS spot over Tejada, but Tejada's league MVP and overall presence as a more dominant player wins out.

Henderson, I suppose, could backup Simmons in CF, but since neither of them played the position primarily in their career, Murphy's inclusion is almost essential.

Other tough omissions included Danny Murphy, Eric Chavez and Jose Canseco.


Rollie Fingers (1968-1976)*
Tim Hudson (1999-2004)
Vida Blue (1969-1977)
Catfish Hunter* (1965-1974)

I was seriously considering Barry Zito over Hunter, and he perhaps deserves the final spot on this staff on merit. But, Catfish is in the Hall of Fame, his uniform number is retired, and he's the team's leader in post-Depression era wins. So, despite his status as perhaps this franchise's most overrated player, he has to be represented here.


Connie Mack* (1901-1950)

It did take Mack five times as many seasons to win four times as many games as Tony LaRussa, but the latter will have to wait until St. Louis to get his due.

Next Up: Philadelphia Phillies