Kevin’s Musical Year in Review for 2017

I’ve written these for a few years now (I could have sworn I wrote one last year, but I guess I didn’t), and I think this is the first year that it’s been harder to pick out albums than some great songs. I think Spotify may have finally broken me of my “listen to the whole album” rule since it’s easier to just fire up a playlist or daily mix than go find an album to listen to.

But, I still have my favorite songs of the year list (I’ve embedded it below) and though it’s a little smaller than previous years, there’s still over 12 hours of music in it that came out this year.

Before I get to the albums, the song of the year for me is definitely Goldfrapp’s Anymore. No, really, it’s amazing. So sexy and fun and danceable. You should listen to it a million times.

There’s been a trend for a few years now of releasing a bunch of singles to streaming services before the album gets released, and some of my favorites this years were really just EPs, so I think they should have their own section.

EPs

  • Serengeti: Kaleidoscope – Reminds me of The Submarines in the best possible way. Groovy, fun, and ripe for multiple listens. Bonus points for some lovely muted trumpet on Is It Too Late.
  • Her: Her Tape #2 – Weighing in at 17 whole minutes, they pack a whole album worth of goodness into it. This one kind of snuck up on me, with several songs showing up in various daily mixes until I listened to the whole thing. It’s beautiful, especially Swim, which will make you dance.

Albums

  • Ghostpoet: Dark Days + Canap├ęs – Another great down tempo album from Ghostpoet. It’s like the best of Massive Attack with some modern hip hop.
  • Hurray for the Riff Raff: The Navigator – Folksy, old school, clever, silly and a lot of fun… all without being cloying or annoying. It’s just… good.
  • New Pornographers: Whiteout Conditions – I don’t know how they do it, but this band feels like it gets bigger with every album. I keep thinking their sound will get old or stale, and it absolutely doesn’t. One of my all-time faves that just keeps getting better.
  • Big Thief: Capacity – Kind of like if Beach House, Luna and Emma Pollock teamed up for a really sad and lovely country album. Gorgeous songs and amazing lyrics.
  • The Dears: Times Infinity Volume Two – The Dears should be bigger. Everyone should love The Dears. You need to listen to them. A little TV on the Radio, a little of a lot of other things, always good.
  • Widowspeak: Expect the Best – Dreamy, fuzzy, and ethereal. I love this band unconditionally and they can do no wrong. This album is as good as all their others, and that’s saying a lot.
  • Said the Whale: As Long as Your Eyes Are Wide – Is it wrong to love pop? No. No it isn’t, especially when it’s this good. Also, it’s even less wrong when the band is Canadian for some reason. So, yeah, just listen. You’ll like it.
  • Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile: Lotta Sea Lice – This is way more grown up than her last album, and that’s alright, I guess, though I absolutely loved Sometimes I Sit and Thing, and Sometimes I Just Sit. I’m alright with growing up, I guess.
  • The War on Drugs: A Deeper Understanding – Mostly for the song Holding On which feels like a huge 70’s rock callback, but is also just a great song. The rest of the album is fine too, really.

Musical Discoveries

  • St. Paul and the Broken Bones: I’d heard of them, but never listened until they were coming to Savannah for a show and a bunch of my friends gushed about them. Now I’m sad I missed the show, because this band is great. I listen to them in the kitchen (unapologetic revival soul is perfect baking music).
  • Big Sam’s Funky Nation: Another concert-related discovery. These guys played Revival Fest this year and blew the doors off. Their albums are good, but their live show is insanely great. If you ever get the chance to join Funky Nation, you should rush to renounce whatever citizenship you need to in order to get in.
  • Flunk: I should have heard of this band before this year, because they’re in my wheelhouse. They’re a perfect trip hop throwback, a little like Portishead, and I could listen to them all day at work.

There you go, my musical 2017. Enjoy the playlist below, and here’s to an acoustically pleasing 2018!

The Bully Project

I was always a big kid, but that didn’t keep me from getting bullied at school, usually picked on because of my weight or that I was a Mormon (and usually the only one in my grade). Thankfully, it stopped by high school (probably because I was, again, big). I’m glad to see that there’s a documentary out there like The Bully Project. Bullying is horrible, and too often it’s ignored by schools and misunderstood by parents.

I don’t know how to stop it… but talking about it can only help.

My Kids Are Ruining It!

We signed up for Netflix recently, and I love it. I’m not sure why I held out for so long… Anyways, the boys have fallen in love with it too and are now ruining my recommendations by watching nothing but Mythbusters and Mystery Science Theater 3000 on it. Now, whenever I log in, the “Top Picks” list is all Jamie and Adam or Tom Servo and Crow staring at me. No documentaries or alternative standup. Nope.

(Max, if you’re reading this, I’m kidding. I just think it’s funny.)

It reminds me of the Tivo Thinks I Want WHAT?! episode. When Tivo first launched, there was an option to fill up the empty space with stuff it thinks you’ll like based on your recording and viewing preferences. Max was two or three at the time, and into Blue’s Clues big time. We were into The Sopranos, Oz and The Wire. So, what did Tivo think would make us happy? The Price is Right and a bunch of old game shows from the 80’s.

Collaborative filtering is great and all, but when it goes wrong, it goes really wrong.

The First Round of Dailies from Max’s Movie

Unnamed Max Lawver School Project – Dailies Day One from Kevin Lawver on Vimeo.\
Max is making a movie for school, so we’ve turned the front room into a jury rigged animation studio. Max is making all the models, backdrops and I’m making him move the models when we film. I take the frames and will help with iMovie when we get there. We’re using iStopMotion, which is going pretty well so far. It even supports my Nikon D80 in PTP mode. We tried that for a couple test shots, but I don’t have a real macro lens and the table is too short to do it right, so we’re sticking with the iSight for now.\
We’re going to try to film the other two scenes tomorrow and Monday. We’ll post dailies each day and then, of course, the final product.\
Here’s a shot of the “studio”. You know, where the magic happens:

a photo of our home animation studio

Chicken Little

Chicken Little, the new animated movie voiced by Zack Braff, is amusing, entertaining, and full of rockin’ tunes, but man, do I hate it. The father constantly belittles and ignores Chicken Little and he ignores his coach’s specific instruction, in order to gain glory. Kevin bought the movie 2 or 3 weeks ago thinking it would be a nice diversion for while the kids were sick. It worked. They love it. I think we’ve played the movie 2 or 3 dozen times. But it still sucks.

Bad Mommy #36,189

Lesson #1: Don’t ignore the baby.\
The baby monitor in the kitchen isn’t usually on anymore because of some newly acquired static. The static is probably caused by one of our neighbors having recently setup their own baby monitor (the pain of living close to lots of people). So this morning when I woke up before the boys, I snuck downstairs to have breakfast in peace. A few minutes later, Max ambled on down. Over an hour later I realized Brian was still sleeping, and yay and hallelujah! because this means I will eventually get to sleep in when the weekend rolls around. Except, Brian wasn’t so much asleep as I just couldn’t hear him since the baby monitor was off. Oops.\
Lesson #2: Don’t watch un-previewed material with the baby nearby.\
After our morning walk, I settled in to watch an award winning short film, The Plight of Clownana, knowing nothing about it. I was pleasantly amused to learn that Clownana is a half-banana/half-clown, ice cream store mascot who likes to dance. Brian came over when the groovy music started to watch the dancing Clownana. Who can blame the kid? He loves to dance. Just about that time, Clownana’s rival makes his debut: Dildo Man, the mascot for the adult bookstore located across the street. The two mascots proceeded to have a… you guessed it, a dance-off. And of course Dildo Man would use streamers as Props! We’d expect nothing less from him. Oopsy again. At least Brian can’t talk yet, so he can’t tell on me when Kevin gets home! This is seriously one of the funniest shorts ever. I won’t spoil the ending for you, but I nearly busted a lung laughing so much. You too can watch Clownana

Incredible Commentary: Geeks From Another World

I’ve watched a lot of movies stuck here on the couch (except for a couple nerdy hours today when I went back to work to give a presentation to almost 200 people, but we won’t talk about that now). I’ve gone so far as to start watching the commentaries on movies I’ve seen before. I never watch commentaries. Most of them are really boring. But, I’ve found a couple really, really good ones, and they’re both from the same movie!\
The Incredibles has a really nerdy animator commentary that’s way too revealing about the neurosis of nerds. You get a peek into the never-perfect (in their mind) world of animators, obsessing over displayed-for-a-second hand gestures and eyebrow raises, gleeful geek-joy at getting to animate a scene with two guys talking in a car (yeah, I know). It’s just brilliant to me to peek into another World of Geeks, full of new vocabulary but the same passion for craft and the same obsessive search for perfection. It’s fun, and really enlightening about the whole process of animation.\
The “main” commentary is fun after watching the first. The Animators commentary is the “victim” commentary, where Brad Bird (the director) inflicted all of these really hard things on them. In the main documentary you get the director and producer’s justification for the “pain” they caused the animators, and usually with throwaway lines that belie the pain they caused the animators. Isn’t that always the way it is? The idea folks never care/realize how difficult it is to create the idea they come up with. I think that Brad Bird does, being an animator himself, but it’s funny to hear the differences between the two “versions” of the story.

The Aristocrats

After reading Salon’s review, I have to go see it. I’m all about jokes you shouldn’t tell, and smart ways to gross people out.\
When I lived in Tucson, my friend Jim and I used to play this game where we one-upped each other until one of us gave and did the “here’s the line, and here’s you” pantomime thing. It was great fun, and I don’t really get to play that game anymore (because really, how do you find those people who like playing those games without offending everyone?).\
This game was even more fun when we did our public access TV show with Brain and the gang. A whole room of people up for the game, late on a Saturday night, with three phone lines, a camera and lots of stupid props. It was way too much fun, and I miss it. It was silly and juvenile, and we loved every minute of it.\
And if you know me… that’s pretty much what I live for.