One week ago today, I was driving out to Pittsburgh with three other writers, heading to the Frozen Four to cover college hockey’s national championship. There are a few different ways to get from Boston to Pittsburgh, but the road chosen by my GPS brought us through Newtown, Connecticut, and past signs for Sandy Hook. I remember thinking to myself that there was no way I’d ever be able to see those signs without thinking of the horrific tragedy that occurred there just four months ago.

Now I’m sitting here a week later, thinking the same kind of thoughts about Patriots’ Day. About the one day that is uniquely ours. The day that brings the entire city and state together. The day when we open our arms to people from around the country and around the world. The day that, for anyone who has ever experienced it in any capacity, is the best of the year.

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Top 10 Albums of 2012

Posted: December 22, 2012 in Uncategorized
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I just want to use this intro to note that 2012 was an awesome year for music. I definitely like this year’s list more than my 2011 list, and I’d definitely take the top of this year’s list over last year’s. That doesn’t mean I now think 2011 was a bad year for music; I just think 2012 was better. I could’ve easily gone to 20 and still really liked every pick.

Last year I had a “Notable Omissions” section, but I didn’t feel like doing that this year. Sorry. I decided to just give you three honorable mentions instead. I also wrote a little bit more about each of the 10 albums that made the list. As always, any and all comments are welcome. I’ve linked to my favorite song from each album, so check them out if you don’t know them.

Honorable Mentions
The Fresh & Onlys- Long Slow Dance
King Tuff- King Tuff
Mac DeMarco- 2

10. Hospitality- Hospitality
Hospitality is a three-piece indie pop band, but Amber Papini is the clear leader. She’s the lead singer, lead guitarist and lone songwriter, and she’s incredibly smooth and melodic in all three areas. The album’s best moments come when the infusions of electric guitar, synthesizers and saxophone ratchet up the energy. “Eighth Avenue” and “Friends of Friends” make for a great open, and “The Right Profession” and “All Day Today” stand out as highlights as well.

Favorite song: “Friends of Friends”

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Top 20 Albums of the 1980s

Posted: December 3, 2012 in Uncategorized
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This is the third entry in a five-part series that will take us through the 2000s. As with the previous lists, I limited myself to no more than two albums from any one artist (although that wouldn’t have been an issue here anyway), and I didn’t include live albums. If you missed the series’ first two installments, here is the 1960s list and the 1970s list.

Before we get started, I’ll address the most notable omission — Michael Jackson’s Thriller. It’s the best-selling album of all-time, but honestly, I can’t get through it without losing interest. “Beat It” and “Billie Jean” are both great, and “Wanna Be Startin’ Something” and “Baby Be Mine” are both pretty good, but the other five songs just feel like filler to me. “The Girl is Mine” and the title track are downright terrible. So, apologies to any MJ fans reading this, but I’ve just never heard anything special here.

Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s get to the albums that did make the cut.

Honorable Mentions
Beastie Boys- Licensed to Ill (1986)
Dinosaur Jr.- You’re Living All Over Me (1987)
Neil Young- Freedom (1989)
Pixies- Surfer Rosa (1988)
X- Wild Gift (1981)

20. AC/DC- Back in Black (1980)
AC/DC are basically a one-trick pony, and they didn’t really bring anything new to rock and roll, but they did straightforward hard rock really well, which is probably why they sold so many records. Back in Black, their first album following the death of original lead singer Bon Scott, is without question their best. “Hells Bells,” “Shoot to Thrill,” “Back in Black” and “You Shook Me All Night Long” are four of their best songs, and everything else here fits in seamlessly. Angus and Malcolm Young’s riffs are the album’s driving force.

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This is the second entry in a five-part series that will go through the 2000s. As with my 1960s list, I limited myself to no more than two albums from any one artist, and I didn’t include live albums. I won’t waste any more time on an introduction because the list itself is long enough.

Honorable Mentions
Carole King- Tapestry (1971)
David Bowie- Hunky Dory (1971)
The Grateful Dead- American Beauty (1970)
Led Zeppelin- Physical Graffiti (1975)
The Velvet Underground- Loaded (1970)

20. Neil Young- On the Beach (1974)
On the Beach just edges out Harvest, Tonight’s the Night and Comes a Time as my third favorite Neil Young studio album. It’s one of Young’s darker albums, but it still features all of Young’s usual styles (rock, country, folk), and it uses an all-star cast of backing musicians. “Walk On” and “Revolution Blues” are two great rockers, with the latter being my favorite song on the album. Slower country-influenced tracks like “See the Sky About to Rain,” “For the Turnstiles” and “Motion Pictures (For Carrie)” are all poignant. “Ambulance Blues” makes for a fitting nine-minute closer.
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When I read that Lance Armstrong was ending his fight against the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, my first reaction was that no matter how he tried to spin it, this was basically an admission of guilt. But then I thought about it more, and when I woke up this morning I realized that isn’t at all how I feel.

In fact, Armstrong giving up doesn’t change how I feel about him one bit. I still don’t know how to feel. I’m still as torn as ever. Part of me wants to side with him and accept the fact that he never failed a drug test as evidence enough of his innocence. But another part of me isn’t naïve enough to think that definitely means he never doped. We know there are ways for cheaters to beat drug tests. Read the rest of this entry »

We’re two days into the Olympics, and so far I have experienced more frustration than enjoyment. This frustration has nothing to do with Michael Phelps missing the podium in the 400-meter individual medley, Jordyn Wieber failing to qualify for the all-around finals in gymnastics, or the men’s swimming 4×100-meter freestyle relay team settling for silver, though. Nope. This frustration comes from not being able to watch any of those events live.

See, NBC isn’t showing any of the major events (swimming, gymnastics, track, etc.) in real time. They’re showing them on tape delay in primetime, because that way they make more money. If you want to watch those events live, you have to watch them online on NBC’s Live Extra. It sounds like an OK enough idea in theory, but the problem is that the online feed has been awful. It’s choppy, it cuts in and out, and it sometimes freezes for minutes on end. And I have Verizon Fios, so it’s not like I’m stuck in the days of dial-up or anything. Read the rest of this entry »

-This will be the first Olympics without baseball since 1988 and the first without softball since 1992. I still don’t understand why either sport was eliminated. Because Europe doesn’t care about them? Boo freaking hoo. The rest of the world doesn’t care about team handball, but that gets to stay. Enough countries play baseball to make it worth keeping, and the Olympics were softball’s biggest stage. Anti-American bias, I say.

-But no worries, everyone — they’re bringing back women’s team epee fencing, which was left out of the 2008 Games. I’m sure you’re all as thrilled about this as I am.

-While we’re on stupid sports, have you ever actually looked at the complete list of Olympic events? It’s absurd. I get as pumped for the Olympics as anyone, but there are a ton of events I just cannot imagine ever watching. For instance, there are five canoeing events, 11 kayaking events, 14 rowing events and 10 sailing events. Look, I’m all for a day out on the water, but do we really need all 40 of these events? Also, there’s no women’s canoeing for some reason. Are women not capable of handling a canoe? Read the rest of this entry »