The CDP’s Spork Nation Interview: Take Two.

Personally, I can’t think of a better new Christmas tradition than to round your family up, gather around the computer monitor and enjoy the most recent CDP Interview with Spork Nation.

In celebration of the one-year anniversary of the release of 65 Poor Life Decisions, me and JT (with extra-special assistance from Cargirl) talk about five years of blogging, the entire point of this narcissistic habit and the murky future of the CDP. Intrigued? CHECK IT OUT!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from the CDP. Sound off in the comments section, check out the interview and enjoy your next few days.

2008 CDP Year In Review.

2008 was really something amazing. From the biggest Presidential election of our lifetime, to the beginnings of a major economic disaster, to The Dark Knight raking in almost a billion dollars worldwide, it was a year of big successes and even bigger failures.

From a personal standpoint, it was decent. I bought a house, continued to sell copies of my book, wrote a lot of good essays, stayed productive and attempted to be a relatively decent human being to those I came into contact with. If it were Pass/Fail, 2008 counts as a Pass, but just barely.

Here on the CDP, the tide ebbed and flowed. So, if you’re just catching up, or can’t get enough of what I’m bringing to the dance, let’s take a look back at the year that was, through the eyes of the Little Blog That Could; the CDP. Take time to check out the links and dig in, because it’s going to be up throughout the Holidays for your reading pleasure. Enjoy.

I kicked off 2008 with one of my most popular essays of the year, concerning the triumphant return of American Gladiators. As you may remember, the writer’s strike was in full effect at the time, making way for such brainless nostalgia as this and Knight Rider. I also started the groundwork for the CDP Worldwide Mix-Tape Trade #2, which turned out to be a huge success and became a quarterly feature. The Lost Season 4 Preview was equal parts awesome and bittersweet, as it was to be my third and last season of skewering my favorite television show ever. I rounded out the month by pondering some superficial issues on the day before my birthday.

I hit the blogosphere running on the day of my 26th birthday, penning a massively-forwarded essay about the massive suckfest that is, well, turning 26. From there, things only got bigger as Lost Monday returned and I made the hilarious decision to take on PETA. After my Page 2 interview with the Wisconsin State Journal, I thought that nothing could top the high I was on, but that all changed after I started a long and beautiful relationship with Heroes supervillain and the single best thing about Season 2 of Friday Night Lights, Brea Grant. The CDP also turned four years old, officially meaning that it’s embarrassing to me personally when it pisses itself in public. The new Cake album almost caused a Defcon 3-esque evacuation at CDP Headquarters, leading me into a depression that only my childhood self could shake me from. From there, I wrote another hilarious Lost Monday, dug up a particularly horrible evaluation of myself from the First Grade, and wrote an episode of The Soup, if The Soup were a three minute long, Internet-only show that focused on just Lost.

March brought problems. With all of the hoopla over 65 Poor Life Decisions more or less behind me, I focused on a big office promotion that left me conflicted and eventually right back to where I started from. I then took an online survey that led to me mocking smokers, causing an almost-instant nicotine-fueled backlash from the masses. I apologized, although I secretly didn’t care. I waxed poetic about The Worst Song Of All-Time and the subsequent arguments I’ve had with the Missus about it, wrote another episode of the Pop Crunch show, and went back to my High School days to wrap up one of the most popular personal essays in CDP history. If this month wasn’t strange and stressful enough, it rounded out with a legal battle over an album cover with a clinically insane preacher, and I decided to buy a condo for good measure.

It was no April Fool’s Day joke; the success of 65 Poor Life Decisions helped me to buy my first house! And while this was a momentous occasion, it led to a few problems I’ve never faced before. Just to keep myself sharp, I wrote 1000 words in 30 minutes on a Christopher Walken-hosted episode of SNL, and even offered up some tips for lazy guys to remain fashionable. I wrapped it all up with a decent Lost review and one of the most optimistic essays I’ve ever done.

Hey, who’s not interested in reading a comprehensive list of the Greatest NES Games of All-Time? Furthermore, who doesn’t want to hear about falling down the stairs and busting up your ankle? Planning the most punk rock garage sale in history? The third CDP Worldwide Mix-Tape Trade? Also, as the Lost Monday finale drew closer, I compiled a two-part collection of the best photo captions from the Season 4 that was.

June kicked off with the end of an era, as Lost Monday trumpeted its swan song. I also got serious and talked about the recent trend of completely pulling ‘non-fiction’ memoirs and essay collections out of your butthole. I also celebrated my fourth anniversary with one of the sappier essays you’ll read all year. Say what you want, but chicks dig that crap. Then George Carlin had to go and die on me, which sucked about as hard as I figured it would. From there, I did a full-day Liveblog from the most rundown hotel in Madison while on assignment for work. And hey, because Summer is for nerding out, I did a countdown of the Top 30 Atari Games of All-Time, broken into two equally-awesome parts.

A lifetime of music is a hard thing to digest and regurgitate, but I did my best. Also, who can forget the most-commented-on post in CDP history? And, because my life is an open book for whatever reason, I even let you all into my house. The Dark Knight was so freaking amazing, I just had to give stuff away in its honor, and how often does a conversation with your mother turn into a killing spree? The Summer had begun to take its toll on my sanity, so I answered some questions that were asked of me and pondered quitting life.

August got off to a relatively positive note, as I had a nervous breakdown and drove to St. Paul to drink myself to death. Fortunately, I survived and came back home to find out that I was the least-dateable person on Earth. Wanting to turn the tables on the CDP readers, I gave you a little survey of my own to fill out, and got into the Olympic spirit. I then officiated another wedding, and almost ruined a few established marriages in the process. Oh, and I still think that using a computer in a public place is nothing more than a modern-day fashion statement.

If you had told me five years ago that I’d write over 800 online essays, I’d punch you in the face. Then again, I didn’t think I’d get into a fistfight at a supermarket, either. And I certainly wouldn’t believe that I would publicly publish a document of my experiences with the Kama Sutra of kissing. Getting back to what I do best, the CDP launched the First Annual TV Week in September, documenting my favorite shows for each year I’ve been alive, my Top 20 Shows of All-Time, a tribute to the Programming Block and my 4th Annual Fall TV Preview. If that wasn’t enough, the CDP Worldwide Mix-Tape Trade #4 was launched and I counted down the Top 30 CDP Essays from 2004-2006. Damn.

October was a month of reflection at the CDP, as we counted back the Top 30 Essays from 2006-2008 all month, 7 days a week. I suppose we’ll have to do it again in two years, but between you and me, there’s no way I’ll still be doing this in 2010. I’m very much decade specific, sort of like Ralph Maccio or Boyz II Men.

Fresh off of a month-long blogging vacation (sort of), we launched ourselves into the biggest Presidential election ever, and I also wrote about beating the crap out of people for money. A brilliant High Schooler from New York wrote an English paper about yours truly that attributed to his eventual graduation, which probably excited me more than it did him. I started to fear Writer’s Block, but that all changed as soon as I got my first piece of hate mail in years. Finally, a financial planning course that I attended through my place of work threw me into a spiritual awakening that forced me into thinking differently about how I piss away every penny I make. I also consider it the funniest and least-boring essay about money ever written.

No matter where I go, the CDP-proclaimed Worst Album Cover Ever continues to follow me. Cleaning an old filing cabinet led us to the historic week that was The Pre-CDP Essays, and by the time we emerged back to the present day, my sump pump had exploded and flooded my basement. I then capped off the year the way I always do; by counting back my favorite songs and albums of the year that was.

Which brings us right up to speed. Thanks for stepping back through this year with me again. I know it was bipolar at best, but we made it through, and 2009 looks to be equal parts challenging and rewarding. Sound off in the comments section, let everyone know what your highlights and lowlights of 2008 were, and enjoy your Holidays.

The CDP’s Top 20 Albums Of 2008 (#5-#1).

Well, well, well. Here we finally are.

The end of the year is approaching, which means that you’re probably currently inundated with thousands of lists and end-of-the-year countdowns concerning all sorts of cultural achievements. Well, here at the CDP, it’s no different, as today we wrap up our countdown of the Top 20 Albums Of 2008.

Just a final word on the validity of this list. It’s by no means a ‘definitive‘ or ‘good‘ list; merely a list of the 20 best albums purchased by me this year. I’m not Pitchfork, I don’t get free albums, and I don’t actively seek out things that would boost my indie cred. I’m just a dude, dudes, so get right the hell over it and enjoy.


#5. Pale Young Gentlemen – Black Forest (Tra La La)

The best album by a Wisconsin band I’ve heard all year, Pale Young Gentlemen will soon taste nationwide appeal and an expanding fanbase after this dark, moody and beautiful full-length. I suppose you could put them into the further and further bloated ‘Chamber Pop’ categorization, and speak of them in the same breath as The Decemberists, Ra Ra Riot and almost any other indie band with a cellist, but it wouldn’t do Black Forest any justice. Their sincerity, downtrodden melodies and elegant lyrics meld into one of the better ‘album’ albums I’ve heard in quite some time, and certainly the best one to come out of the Dairy State in 2008.


#4. The Hold Steady – Stay Positive

With Stay Positive, The Hold Steady didn’t attempt to reinvent their already-perfect formula of Springsteen-influenced Bar Rock about every shady character that you ever partied with in your old hometown; nope, they simply refined and perfected it further, and the result is yet another soundtrack of forgotten towns, shattered dreams, alcohol by the gallon and the optimistic promise of new beginnings right around the corner. I discovered these guys late, shortly after Boys And Girls In America came out, and from that day on, I always try to listen to them on the trips back home to visit the unincorporated villages I grew up in. Superb.


#3. Army Navy – Army Navy

The greatest, catchiest and most lyrical songs ever written by Teenage Fanclub + The greatest, catchiest and most lyrical songs ever written by the Apples In Stereo = Army Navy.

I see no need to even continue after that statement, but I will say that their self-titled debut came absolutely out of nowhere for me about a month ago, and I’ve been listening to it more or less every day since. If these guys can tour their asses off and keep it together, they’re going to be huge come Album #2. Do yourself a favor, head on over to iTunes and drop 99 cents for ‘Dark As Days,’ the lead-off track to Army Navy, and if you don’t like it, I’ll refund the cash to you myself.

Maybe.


#2. Ra Ra Riot – The Rhumb Line

Shout-along choruses. Beautifully-swelling melodies. Interwoven stringed instruments. Songs about love and death, heartbreak and loss. Without question, Ra Ra Riot’s The Rhumb Line is the closest that any of the Arcade Fire-influenced generation of bands have come to actually unseating the Canadians from their throne. In a year that was chock-full of mediocrity, horrible techno and predictable 80’s nostalgia, The Rhumb Line was a more-than-welcome breath of fresh air. In fact, I had placed this triumph atop my Top 20 list for the first week or so that I had begun compiling albums, before I caved in and relegated it to the runner-up position.

So, what is the CDP‘s choice for Best Album Of 2008? Well, before we get to that, here’s a quick look back at the previous years’ winners and runners-up.

2003 Winner: The Weakerthans – Reconstruction Site
2003 Runner-Up: The Postal Service – Give Up

2004 Winner: Arcade Fire – Funeral
2004 Runner-Up: Communique’ – Poison Arrows

2005 Winner: Of Montreal – The Sunlandic Twins
2005 Runner-Up: Clap Your Hands Say Yeah! – Clap Your Hands Say Yeah!

2006 Winner: The Velvet Teen – Cum Laude!
2006 Runner-Up: P.O.S. – Audition

2007 Winner: Arcade Fire – Neon Bible
2007 Runner-Up: POLYSICS – Karate House

Can I get a drumroll, please?


#1. Girl Talk – Feed The Animals

I didn’t want to do it. I didn’t want to admit that the most brilliant, captivating and genius musical masterwork of 2008 didn’t have so much as a scrap of original material on it. However, after about…oh, I don’t know…the ten-thousandth time I ass-shaked my way through Feed The Animals, it became abundantly clear that not only was I listening to the best album of 2008, but that I was listening to the greatest Mash-Up album ever made.

For a guy that makes a living chopping up other artist’s material and pasting them back together, Greg Gillis is a Pop Music genius. He has an ear for the hook, an endless knowledge of the last 30 years in popular tunes from all genres, and his assemblage of hundreds of these examples into an album- a real ‘album’ album from start to finish- can be anything from merely fun to absolutely breathtaking. And the more tracks you can recognize and decipher, the more you’ll enjoy it. It’s an album that rewards grizzled music smarts, yet somehow finds a way to sample Lil Wayne and Diddy, and make it enjoyable to the very same sorts of people.

This is a masterwork. As fun as it gets, as smart as it gets, as brainless as it gets and as endlessly-playable as it gets for 2008. It’s the album that I was waiting for the most, the album that let me down the least and the album I’ve listened to the most over the last 365 days. Now, if that doesn’t make it Album of the Year, then I don’t know what could.

Thank you for reading. Sound off in the comments section, start the argument and enjoy your weekend. The CDP Year In Review arrives next week.

NEXT WEEK: CDP YEAR IN REVIEW!

The CDP’s Top 20 Albums Of 2008 (#10-#6).

The end of the year is approaching, which means that you’re probably currently inundated with thousands of lists and end-of-the-year countdowns concerning all sorts of cultural achievements. Well, here at the CDP, it’s no different, as today we continue to count down the Top 20 Albums Of 2008.

Just another quick word on the validity of this list. It’s by no means a ‘definitive‘ or ‘good‘ list; merely a list of the 20 best albums purchased by me this year. I’m not Pitchfork, I don’t get free albums, and I don’t actively seek out things that would boost my indie cred. I’m just a dude, dudes, so get right the hell over it and enjoy.


#10. POLYSICS – We Ate The Machine

With each new year, we can expect two things for certain: another epic Chicago Cubs collapse, and another mind-bogglingly amazing album by POLYSICS, the CDP‘s choice for Greatest Band In The World for over five years now. We Ate The Machine is essentially an American debut of sorts, having recently secured a decent distribution deal on this side of the pond through…gahh…MySpace Records. And while it’s not a great introduction to the band (Greatest Hits Album Polysics Or Die!!! should be in everyone’s home), the Japanese space-spazz-noise orgy still holds up quite nicely. Even on their worst day, POLYSICS is still light years ahead of their closest competition.


#9. Foxboro Hot Tubs – Stop, Drop And Roll!!!

Where does Green Day find the time? In addition to releasing multi-platinum albums, circling the globe on tour and constantly cementing their place in the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame, Billie Jo Armstrong and company have released two full-length albums now under assumed names: The 2003 Devo-influenced Money Money 2020 under the moniker of The Network, and now the Zombies-fueled 60’s rock fest that is the Foxboro Hot Tubs’ Stop, Drop And Roll!!! And let’s not even mention Mr. Armstrong’s continuing role in Pinhead Gunpowder. With Stop, Drop And Roll!!!, Green Day is able to create some fun, throwback music that wouldn’t necessarily work under the Green Day name, and the result is their best album since 1997’s Nimrod.


#8. Less Than Jake – GNV FLA

Following two of my favorite bands of all-time (POLYSICS and Green Day), we move right into a band that might actually rank higher; Less Than Jake. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that the LTJ crew hit a bit of a skid following 2003’s Anthem, trying a little too hard to be mainstream and poo-poo their ska-punk roots with the abominable In With The Out Crowd. But the guys seem refreshed nowadays. They own their own record label, self-released GNV FLA and returned to a sound that was a welcome compromise of their previous efforts. I was worried for a little bit, but Less Than Jake made it work, and after an almost-fatal misstep; they’re back.


#7. Scott Reynolds – Adventure Boy

I love Scott Reynolds. Possibly best remembered as one of the singers for legendary punk band ALL, he has since go on to front bands like Goodbye Harry, The Pavers, and most recently, his same-named solo project. A man’s man, a songwriter’s songwriter and a genuinely nice guy, Reynolds comes through with an amazing solo effort, bursting with rejuvenated tracks about everyday misfortune, tough luck and forgotten love. I honestly think that this was the album he had been trying in vain to create for years, and in that regard, it’s an absolute triumph.


#6. Smoking Popes – Stay Down

As a teenager, I discovered the Smoking Popes a little too late to catch them at the peak of their fame. Much like a lot of influential 90’s groups like At The Drive-In and Lifetime, they broke up before I had a chance to see them live or buy their records on the day of their release. Fortunately, the Popes decided to follow the flock of reuniting 90’s acts and hit the road once more, only upping the ante by not only releasing a new album of original tracks, but having it be freaking amazing to boot. They’re not a tribute act, and they’re not basking in the glow of their former glory; they’re a current band writing currently fantastic music, and I was very pleasantly surprised to see Stay Down exceed so many expectations.

The CDP’s Top 5 Concerts Of 2008:

#5. Margot & The Nuclear So & So’s – Orpheum Stage Door – Madison
(A warm, May night in downtown Madison with a small crowd and an extremely talented band of musical geniuses fronted by a self-destructive drunk. A night to remember.)

#4. We Are Scientists – High Noon Saloon – Madison
(What struck me most, besides their tight and absolutely hilarious live show, was how genuinely nice the guys were. They hung out at the High Noon for hours afterwards, shooting pool, drinking and chatting with fans. Not too shabby for semi-famous NYC hipsters who hang out with The Lonely Island guys all the time.)

#3. Riotfest – Congress Theatre – Chicago
(The Mighty Mighty Bosstones. Jay Reteard. The Casualties. DOA. Leftover Crack. The return of ALL. This weekend had it all, including my getting historically plastered at the Double Door in Wicker Park.)

#2. Smoking Popes – High Noon Saloon – Madison
(When a super-appreciative crowd comes together to see a band like the Smoking Popes, what results is nothing short of magical. Great guys, timeless songs, an absolutely fantastic evening overall.)

#1. The Weakerthans – High Noon Saloon – Madison
(It’s not every day that you get to see one of your favorite bands ever in your backyard. I personally never thought I was going to see the rare-touring Canadians, so to me, this night felt like one of those dreams where your favorite band plays just for you. Not just my favorite concert of 2008, but personally one of my favorite moments as well.)

Sound off in the comments section, start the argument and enjoy your day. The end of the week brings the CDP’s Top 5 Albums Of 2008. Stick around.

The CDP’s Top 20 Albums Of 2008 (#15-#11).

The end of the year is approaching, which means that you’re probably currently inundated with thousands of lists and end-of-the-year countdowns concerning all sorts of cultural achievements. Well, here at the CDP, it’s no different, as today we continue to count down the Top 20 Albums Of 2008.

Just another quick word on the validity of this list. It’s by no means a ‘definitive‘ or ‘good‘ list; merely a list of the 20 best albums purchased by me this year. I’m not Pitchfork, I don’t get free albums, and I don’t actively seek out things that would boost my indie cred. I’m just a dude, dudes, so get right the hell over it and enjoy.

(NOTE: Mr. Josh Taylor from Spork Nation kept me up late last night doing an interview, so today’s albums will be free of my trademark wit and socio-political commentary. Or perhaps I’m merely using him as an excuse for my laziness.)


#15. Weezer – Weezer (Red Album)

Not as good as their first three albums, but certainly better than their last two.


#14. We Are Scientists – Brain Thrust Mastery

If I could play guitar, I would be this band.


#13. Mastadon – Blood Mountain

The only metal band I’ve given less than a poop about in the last two years.


#12. Los Campesinos! – Hold On Now, Youngster/We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed

Twee is dead! Long live Twee!


#11. M83 – Saturdays = Youth

Come back, John Hughes; we miss you and love you very much.

The CDP’s Top 5 Music Videos Of 2008:

#5. M83 – ‘Kim & Jessie
#4. IfIHadAHiFi – ‘Success! Success! Success!
#3. We Are Scientists – ‘After Hours
#2. Innerpartysystem – ‘Don’t Stop
#1. Justice – ‘DVNO

And I’m outta here. Sound off in the comments section, start the argument and enjoy your day. The Top 10 Albums Of 2008 begins tomorrow.

The CDP’s Top 20 Albums Of 2008 (#20-#16).

The end of the year is approaching, which means that you’ll soon be inundated with thousands of lists and end-of-the-year countdowns concerning all sorts of cultural achievements. Well, here at the CDP, it’s no different, as today we begin to count down the Top 20 Albums Of 2008.

Just a quick word on the validity of this list. It’s by no means a ‘definitive‘ or ‘good‘ list; merely a list of the 20 best albums purchased by me this year. I’m not Pitchfork, I don’t get free albums, and I don’t actively seek out things that would boost my indie cred. I’m just a dude, dudes, so get right the hell over it and enjoy.


#20. Cut Off Your Hands –
Happy As Can Be (EP)

This New Zealand-based Indie band has traded Futureheads-meets-Q and Not U paranoia pop for melodically beautiful shoegaze on their most recent EP. A fitting soundtrack for a brief Winter commute, these six tracks are equal parts nostalgia, murky optimism and blurry romance.


#19. The Faint – Fasciinatiion

Who would have figured that The Faint would eventually become the grizzled old veterans of the arguably dead electro-punk scene? While this album showcases maturity while still maintaining their glitchy-Hollywood-faded glory storytelling, it feels mostly like a breaking point between the Faint of old and the Faint of the future, whatever that will mean.

#18. IfIHadAHiFi – Fame By Proxy

Some bands are polarizing. Other bands try to be polarizing on purpose. IfIHadAHiFi knew going in that their feedback-soaked noise rock would instantly turn off 90% of all listeners, but immediately develop a cult following with the remaining 10. On their third full-length, the Neo-Tokyo superstars keep on keeping on, cementing their legacy as one of the hardest-working Midwestern bands in the land.


#17. Margot & The Nuclear So & So’s – Animal!/Not Animal

I wouldn’t get along with Richard Edwards, the lead singer of Margot & The Nuclear So & So’s. In fact, it’s universally assured that we’d get into a whiskey-drenched fistfight mere seconds into our first meeting. Nonetheless, the dude is a genius, and the Indiana chamber-pop playing, Hemmingway-worshipping octet is on the verge of a major mainstream breakthrough, with their first major label release.


#16. Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend

Even if this self-titled debut was the single most overrated album of the year, it was still well worth making the list. They weren’t the first band to bring the Paul Simon, white guy afropop sound to the indie airwaves, but it’s been awhile, so it sounds rather refreshing to hear it done so wonderfully well. Who knows if they can replicate this success the second time around, but for now, we can enjoy this catchy and well-received moment in time.

The CDP’s Top Five Albums I Wouldn’t Put In This Countdown If You Paid Me:

#5. Lil Wayne – Tha Carter III
It saves time that his voice always sounds autotuned, even outside of the studio. Must save his label millions in production costs.

#4. Of Montreal – Skeletal Lamping
If this is what Kevin Barnes creates when he feels 100% confident in himself and his creativity, then maybe someone should nail him with the sort of criticism he was showered with when he was still writing reasonably listenable music. This album was the biggest letdown of the year for me, and I absolutely adore this man.

#3. MGMT – Oracular Spectacular
In all of their interviews, the duo behind MGMT say that they started gathering fans by accident. They’re trying to tell you something, kids; even they know that their celebrity is a joke.

#2. Guns & Roses – Chinese Democracy
I’d say something clever about such a piece of crap taking so long to be released, but I fear lawsuits.

#1. TV On The Radio – Dear Science
Now I know how people feel when they’re sick of Arcade Fire’s admittedly unnecessary critical acclaim. Three albums, three Top 10 lists and three overrated artistic expressions; I now place TV On The Radio next to Kiss and Guns & Roses in the Holy Trinity of Overrated Music.

Sound off in the comments section, start the argument and enjoy your day. #15-#11 arrive tomorrow.

The CDP’s Top 25 Songs Of 2008.

The end of the year is approaching, which means that you’ll soon be inundated with thousands of lists and end-of-the-year countdowns concerning all sorts of cultural achievements. Well, here at the CDP, it’s no different, as today we count down the Top 25 Songs Of 2008.

As always, the list is compiled only of singles that I have purchased and were released in 2008. I am not a music critic, I am a music fan, and the list is personal preference and opinion only; not a chance to boast my hipster cred. Ready? Let’s do this.

#25. ‘Wanna Be In LA’ – Eagles Of Death Metal

The world revolves around Jesse Hughes‘ mustache now. Sex Rock done right.

#24. ‘Pork And Beans’ – Weezer

The most Weezer-sounding Weezer song since Weezer stopped being Weezer. They lose points for shooting a music video that, in 5 years, will be 100% outdated and irrelevant.

#23. ‘The ’59 Sound’ – The Gaslight Anthem
An impressive debut by a Side One Dummy band causing a lot of buzz. Bruce Springsteen-y with a touch of Against Me! for flavor.

#22. ‘Death To Los Campesinos!’ – Los Campesinos!
Twee is dead! Long live Twee!

#21. ‘Success! Success! Success!’ – IfIHadAHiFi
My favorite Wisconsin band is still going strong with geeked-out noise rock. I can’t believe they’re still tearing it up almost a decade later.

#20. ‘Happy As Can Be’ – Cut Off Your Hands
If Coldplay would have released this beautiful track, it would have won a Grammy. In fact, I expect Coldplay to rip this song off note-for-note once they finally get around to hearing it.

#19. ‘ M79’ – Vampire Weekend
The best track on one of the most overrated albums of the last decade.

#18. ‘Handshake Meet Pokerface’ – Less Than Jake
Surviving is my best revenge. What hurts you once won’t hurt you again. Welcome back, LTJ.

#17. ‘Marvelous Design’ – Pale Young Gentlemen
A group of well-dressed, Madison Chamber-Pop geniuses write a song about getting their freak on. I’ll take it and enjoy it; thank you. I can’t believe I haven’t seen these guys live yet.

#16. ‘Human’ – The Killers
Say what you want about the Killers, but they know how to write a single. Possibly their best track since ‘Mr. Brightside.’ Epic, spacey and making almost no sense whatsoever.

#15. ‘Use Somebody’ – Kings Of Leon
I’ve never had anything positive to say about KOL until now. Selling out never sounded so good; this is their Monster Ballad for certain.

#14. ‘After Hours’ – We Are Scientists
Partying, drinking and begging you to stay just a minute longer. We Are Scientists write songs that play out like my most superficial and alcoholic inner thoughts.

#13. ‘Constructive Summer’ – The Hold Steady
Every single song The Hold Steady writes reminds me of my old hometown, which I suppose creates their brilliant mystique. This track more so than any other.

#12. ‘The Boy Who Stole Your Heart’ – Scott Reynolds
This is a fairly emo song coming from a guy that’s married with two kids, yet it’s also the prettiest and sweetest tune he’s written in years.

#11. ‘Lights & Music’ – Cut Copy
Probably my favorite dance track of the year. Catchy, reeking of the 80’s and so-bad-it’s-freaking-awesome. It took me a few listens, but it grew on me.

#10. ‘Mother Mary’ – Foxboro Hot Tubs
Some chord progressions, melodic structures and song styles will always work. This is Exhibit A.

#9. ‘Don’t Stop’ – Innerpartysystem
Frantic, driving, paranoid and dripping with sexual tension and pissy hatred. Just like me.

#8. ‘Rocket’ – POLYSICS
The Greatest Band On Earth does it again. If you haven’t started listening to POLYSICS yet, you might want to start now, before they break your door down and murder you.

#7. ‘Nrrrd Grrrl’ – MC Chris
The rap song I’ve been trying to write for 14 years. Thanks, MC Chris.

#6. ‘Stay Down’ – Smoking Popes
An instant classic, ranking right next to ‘Megan’ and ‘Pretty Pathetic’ in the Smoking Popes Greatest Hits repertoire. See this band live, even if it means having to mortgage your home.

#5. ‘Dark As Days’ – Army Navy
Coming absolutely out of nowhere, this track reminds me of Teenage Fanclub, had they not completely lost the plot years ago. An amazing, must-hear single of 2008, bar none.

#4. ‘Viva La Vida’ – Coldplay
I don’t care if they ripped off Joe Satriani or pretty much suck as a cohesive unit, I know a global hit when I hear it, and this had every reason to be the biggest mainstream single of 2008. I hope they send Arcade Fire a cut of the royalties, however.

#3. ‘In Engager’ – Of Montreal
The best Of Montreal song ever just happens to show up on their worst album ever, interesting. Just listen, shake your ass and spread the love. One of the most instantly-memorable choruses in the last…well, ever.

#2. ‘Kim & Jessi’ – M83
I typically have a problem with modern acts that attempt to capture an authentic 80’s sound, because it has never been done perfectly…until this track was released. Unbelievably nostalgic, lyrically tender and purely beautiful in every way. Listen and be wowed by ‘Kim & Jessi.’

#1. ‘Ghost Under Rocks’ – Ra Ra Riot
The closest song to perfection that I’ve heard all year. No regrets and no takebacks; this band is amazing, and ‘Ghost Under Rocks’ is my selection for my favorite song of 2008.

Before we mingle over to the Comments Section for wine and thinly-sliced cheeses, let’s take a quick look back at previous choices for CDP Single Of The Year:

2003 – ‘Such Great Heights’ – The Postal Service
2004
– ‘Neighborhood #1’ – Arcade Fire
2005
– ‘In This Home On Ice’ – Clap Your Hands Say Yeah!
2006
– ‘I Will Follow You Into The Dark’ – Death Cab For Cutie
2007
– ‘Intervention’ – Arcade Fire

Thanks for reading. Sound off in the comments section, start the argument, share your choices for Best Single Of 2008 and enjoy your day. The Top Albums Of 2008 starts tomorrow.

Why I Will Never Be The Host Of ‘This Old House.’

On Monday afternoon, I arrived home from work just after the freezing rain had begun. I made a point to leave the office early that day, as a snowstorm of apocalyptic (ie: typically Midwestern) proportions was on deck to ravage and pummel the county with its fluffy payload. Also, as a preemptive strike, I took the next day off as well, because I’m allergic to snow and have no interest in knowing what it feels like to die in a car accident.

As I stepped into my house and tossed my keys into the Key Bowl (every house should have one), I took a deep breath and relaxed, feeling relieved that I had nothing more to do during the first big snowstorm of the season than to sit in my flannel pajamas, sip hot chocolate, watch The Price Is Right and take a nine-hour nap.

I exhaled just as quickly, you see, for my house smelled disgusting.

I tilted my head in a futile attempt to understand why my home smelled so…gamey. It was as if a grizzly bear had, for whatever reason, picked the lock and wandered in hours earlier, rubbing himself on my furniture and pawing through my carefully-straightened stack of Rolling Stone magazines, only to show himself out just before I had arrived. Usually, my place would waft forth the aroma of a scented candle, or one of the many homemade breads that the Missus makes for absolutely no reason. Not today.

Naturally, I blamed the cats. They can be particularly foul beasts at times, and on occasion, their litter box funk tends to seep up through the basement and out the vents, bathing the condo with the all-too-familiar scent of feline feces until we clean it out. I silently chastised them and continued on with my upcoming Afternoon of Relaxation, with no intention whatsoever of changing the litter boxes on such a joyous and peaceful day.

For about, I don’t know, an hour or so, I ignored the fact that my house smelled like a State Fair, until I first heard the sump pump fire up. The freezing rain outside was getting bad, and it wasn’t until I heard the whoosh of the pump downstairs that I began to make the connection that I should probably check to see if my storage bins were floating around down there. I bounded down the steps, peeked around the corner and saw nothing but a dry floor and clean litter boxes. I was perplexed, as the full force of the musty scent hit my nostrils like a racist joke, instantly reminding me of our old apartment, which suffered from mold and flooding issues on a bi-weekly basis.

Now that we live up in an elevated region of the county (the Hills, bitch!), our basement is bone dry. We’ve never had a problem with flooding or leaking, so the unmistakable smell of dankness had me scratching my head in confusion. It doesn’t take much, but I was fairly stumped. This Snipe Hunt was cutting into my afternoon Talk Show block, however, so I gave up the search and went back upstairs. My Swiss Miss and Rachel Ray were calling to me.

It was about 10 minutes before the Missus came home when I heard the dishwasher start up. I found this to be quite perplexing, as I didn’t start the dishwasher, nor do we have a dishwasher that runs on a set timer, for those do no exist on this planet. “Hmmm,” I thought to myself, “Is this what happens every afternoon at my house? Phantom flooding and dish washing? I’d better make a note to never take a day off ever again; this place is starting to freak me out.

Then, much like the Urban Legend about the babysitter, I realized that the sound of spraying and sloshing water wasn’t coming from the dishwasher, but from the basement. “The calls are coming from inside the house!

Uh-oh.

I ran back down into the basement, this time actually turning on lights and walking around and whatnot. I saw the sump pump, sitting idly and unassuming, surrounded by walls, carpet and a lifetime of possessions that were completed saturated and soaked with water. When I turned my back on the pump, it probably gave me the finger, too.

By this point, the Missus was home, who I instructed to bring down as many towels as possible while I pulled back the carpet and got everything away from the sump pump. We sopped up all of the water, cranked the dehumidifier next to the wet carpet and stared into the pit of the pump, wondering just what was going on while we were away.

I think we have a loose pipe or something,” I said. “Look, there’s water all over the walls and everything; I wonder how that happened.

I then had the brilliant idea to trip the sump pump into working, so I could see exactly what was going on. Fishing out a golf club (7 iron, methinks), I stuck it into the pit and pulled up on the tanker ball, springing the pump into violent action.

Instantly, a six-foot geyser of water exploded from all directions inside the pit, drenching not only myself, but everything within a hefty radius from the corner of the basement. The Missus screamed, the cats scattered and I watched in soaked horror as gallons of water cascaded onto the walls, floor, ceiling and most notably, directly onto the outlet in which the sump pump was plugged in.

As I’m sure you’ve figured out by now, the pipe outside of the house had frozen due to the freezing rain, clogging the sump pump tube and preventing it from shooting the water outside of the house. Because of this, the built up pressure blew the pipes apart, creating the Fountain Show and subsequently eventual electrical fire in the basement of CDP Headquarters.

So we tightened the pipe, cleaned up the pool of water (again), and I began to suit myself up for a trip outside of the house and under my deck, to disconnect the frozen pipe and save my home from destruction. Some day off this turned out to be.

We live in a chain of condos, so walking around to the back of the house requires a trip more or less down the street and around the corner, and amidst one of the worst snowstorms of the last three years, it was not something I was looking forward to. I blindly stumbled through the pitch-black backyards of the Wyndham Hills subdivision, sinking into two-foot drifts at random intervals and trying to remember which deck was ours. Dogs barked at me; I wasn’t happy.

I dropped to my knees and dug the sump pump tube out from under a foot of snow, and it was indeed frozen solid. The landscaping crews must have decided that it was getting in their way this Summer, and they coiled it up under the deck instead of unfurling it like, you know, a functioning tube that directs water away from your home should. After about 15 minutes of unscrewing, twisting, grunting, falling over and swearing, I had the tube disconnected from the house and ready to bring back to the garage for a full night’s thawing.

Before that, however, we needed to make sure that the sump pump was now functioning properly and the pipes had been adequately tightened by my girlish hands and debatable wrist strength. So I yelled to the Missus to run down to the basement and plug the sump pump back in (we unplugged it so the house wouldn’t burn down). As the sump pump had been running for hours, trying feverishly to dispel the clog for the bulk of the day, the pit was full of steaming, vibrating, near-boiling water.

Much like a scene directly from The 3 Stooges, I happened to be outside and looking directly into the eye of the sump pump hole at the exact moment she plugged it back in, spraying me down with three gallons of two hundred-degree water in a sub-zero snowstorm. I fell back, lost my screwdriver in the snow (I’ll retrieve it in June) and clutched the length of frozen tubing with equal parts anger, confusion and sadness.

It’s fixed!” I yelled to the Missus.

Afterwards, we surveyed the damage, which amounted to nothing more than a slightly wet basement. You’d think that my pride would have been the only major casualty, what with the pipes exploding all over me due to sheer ignorance, or the embarrassing scene out in the snow on my hands and knees. However, I felt good. As far as Home Ownership 101 is concerned, this seemed like a Level 1 issue, and I (eventually) handled it with a certain amount of poise and grace (and wet pants and frozen hands). Maybe because of this, I’ll be more prepared when a Level 2 issue decides to show up. I always thought that buying a condo gave you a happy medium between responsible financial equity and not having to fix things when they break, but when the pipes explode in your basement during a blinding snowstorm, you’re pretty much on your own, regardless of how inept you are at fixing stuff.

Sound off in the comments section and enjoy your weekend.

NEXT WEEK:
TOP ALBUMS/SINGLES OF 2008!

The Pre-CDP Essays (2000-2002: Volume 4).

Pre-CDP Essay week continues to roll along, as we now move into a chunk of my life never-before written about in the history of the CDP (still haven’t, technically); my time spent attempting to earn a college degree. Today, we’ll focus on three essays spotlighting my first day of post-High School school, my cultural animosity in moving to the impenetrable Metropolis that is Madison, Wisconsin, and the hopelessness of being completely broke and sad and stupid and alone. Enjoy.

Ryan, Meet Ryan And His Other Friend Ryan.
(Published appx. 09-26-02)

I woke up last night at 3:27am. I could feel the vessel explode inside my head, and the blood begin to stream out of my nose. I was in pitch darkness, my head covered with a down comforter. I cupped my hand under my chin, threw the cat off of my shins and made a stumbling beeline for the bathroom.

Flicking on the fluorescent lights shrunk my pupils to pinholes, and as the reflection slowly came into focus, it appeared as if I had attempted to take my own life. Blood everywhere. On my neck, my forehead. I was in no mood to battle this softly. I blew the huge, dark clot out of my nostrils and went back to bed. I had to be up soon.

Getting up for school felt strangely routine, despite its absence from my life for two years. As usual, I showed up about five minutes before class time; I wanted at least a minute or two beforehand to collect myself and mentally prepare, but perhaps tomorrow will be less paced and frantic. Regardless, I timidly stepped into a lecture room full of people that looked just like me…cold, uninviting and very much worried about how other people were viewing them.

Once I found a seat somewhere towards the back, I joined the mob in eying down everyone who walked in for the next four minutes. I tried to not draw any attention to myself, and silently prayed that my nose wouldn’t start to bleed again. Nothing would make friends quicker on my first day of Big Boy School than scrambling for the exit, pooling my own fluids in my hands. Didn’t happen. Our instructor walked in; a man who looked more at home in the front row of a Rusted Root show. Long, wavy hair. Hemp necklace. Kind of looked like Eddie Van Halen. Told us we should call him Ralph. We did.

Over the next few hours, apart from the wavelengths and kilohertz and rarefaction, I made a startling discovery. Somewhere along the way, I became frighteningly uncool.

In a small town, dressing funny and being in a band gives you looks, stares and curious attention. However, that’s the status quo in any larger city. Everyone here is into music. Everyone here is in a band. Everyone here is a critic; that’s why they’re here. I more or less dress like a sad, little boy. Denim jacket. Converse shoes. Faux-hawk. Jeans that my girlfriend insists I buy three sizes too small. I completely forgotten that, outside of my group of friends, nobody else could give a shit less what I dress like.[1]

(1. Apparently, I was more flippant with my profanities as a youngster.)

Madison is all about extremes and stereotypes. The punks look very punk. The gangster wannabes look scary, and nearly disappear into their huge clothing. The Italians walk around flinging pizza dough into the air. Everyone else just smells like cigarettes. And here I thought for sure that this kind of individuality was dying out.

I’ve also discovered that Sun Prairie is for people who are too pansy for Madison. That was essentially the one thing that I learned on my first day of college.[2] That, and there are four people named Ryan in just one of my eight First Semester courses. There are more losers named Ryan in this city than there is litter.[3] I personally feel bad for every one of them. I can soon imagine all of us stutter-stepping around the commons, wondering if the guy across the hall was trying to get their attention or some other Ryan’s.

(2. I no longer find this to be true.)

(3. I no longer find this to be true.)

Me and The Girlfriend went to Fazoli’s for supper after school. I needed money, so I walked over to the mall to hit the ATM. There, more of the same. People everywhere who suddenly looked much more important, cultured, fashionably literate, wealthy and smarter than me, when just last week, they were nothing more than obstacles between me and my Sweet & Sour Chicken at the Happy Wok.[4]

(4. Pre-vegetarianism!)

Was I depressed? Jealous? Having an early breakdown? No idea. I’m just finding my place in a new environment, it seems. Spending your life in an Unincorporated town lends to a slight amount of discomfort and culture shock, even if you’re only moving to a city with a quarter of a million people in it. Celia, on the other hand, has talked to many people and seemed to feel quite at home, which I think is a first for her. Meanwhile, Mr. Social Butterfly’s wings have crusted over, and are being devoured by hungry aphids.

Damn, dirty aphids.


(Faux-hawk to the rescue. Eat a sandwich, for Christ’s sake.)

The following is one of the few essays I’ve ever written, as an adult or child, that I would consider ‘too whiny.’ Judge for yourself.

One Tempo To Another.
(Published appx. 10-10-02)

I’m well into my second week of becoming a master sound engineer and music business virtuoso, quickly learning everything there is to know about sound waves, amplitude, acoustics, music theory and basic studio recording. Scoring a 95% on my ‘Practical Computer Skills’ test-out examination, I can now sleep until 10am on Tuesday mornings. My head is quickly filling up with more useful information than three years at the Hardware Store ever could have, discounting all of that ‘real world’ stuff, like preventing explosions and ducking when alcoholics throw coffee mugs at you.[1]

(1. I should really write more ‘My First Job’ essays. This is all true.)

Also, one of my instructors looks a lot like Jane Wiedlin from the Go-Go’s, and if you pardon my bluntness, I’d like to have a Go-Go on that as soon as humanly possible. Seriously, she needs to drop the attitude, stop by my apartment one night and just get it over with already. The sexual tension between us needs to be dealt with and put behind us immediately, so we can move on comfortably as a student and teacher. It’s for the best; my lips are sealed.[2]

(2. In a delightfully ironic twist of fate, Miss Jane Wiedlin herself now lives in Madison, where she’s engaged to one of my former college instructors. Can you freaking believe that? We’re going to meet up one of these nights, I swear to God.)

But one thought has filled my head more than anything as of late. A harsh realization that seems to nip at my heels whenever class is dismissed and I step out onto the concrete.

I have the absolute shittiest car on the lot.[3]

(3. Language; geez!)

No doubt about it. Look, this private school wasn’t cheap; not by a long shot.[4] The bulk of the kids that go here are living off of daddy’s dime. They didn’t have to move, don’t live on their own and probably don’t even have to pay for gas. I see Acura’s, Audi’s and monolithic SUV’s. Somewhere in amongst the chrome sits my 1993 Tempo with the massive dent in the driver’s side, from when a deer decided to run directly into it at Full Deer Speed.

(4. I did the math, and I’ll have my student loans paid off in eleventy billion years.)

It rattles as I start it up, and the number of unattended problems with it continues to add with each passing day. I’m literally scared to death to even sit inside of it. It cost me $500 to buy it, thousands have been poured into it, and I pay over a thousand dollars a year to insure it. And of course, that money only covers me if I were to hit someone else; someone who has a nicer car and a lot more money. I won’t see a penny.

Am I jealous? Am I upset that I have it a little bit harder? Does it make me sick that these kids can get away with limited responsibilities, while my palms sweat every time I pull out of my underground garage?

Buy a new car, you ask? Listen. Last night, I ate a bowl of microwavable Bow-Tie pasta that cost 75 cents at the supermarket, and it was the fifth night in a row that I’ve done so. So yeah, like it or not, this car is mine until it officially becomes illegal to drive. Tonight, I have to decide if I’d like more food, or if I want to use the 75 cents to do a load of laundry.[5]

(5. In order for us to get quarters to use in the washing machines, we’d have to walk over to the bowling alley and change our dollar bills in the Game Room.)

I can’t allow myself to scream “It’s not fair!” at the top of my lungs and carry around a pissy attitude all the time, but it’s a constantly uphill climb right now. Let’s face it, I don’t have a job right now, and I’m living off of a student loan, but I can promise you that I will have to pay this all back times two over the next 30 years.[6] What the hell, I should just start breaking into some of these nice vehicles. Some of these kids probably wouldn’t even miss some of the stuff that I want to take. Can you feel the bitterness? I sure can.

(6. Yup.)

Autumn is coming, and the reminder that Christmas and Winter will follow is naturally depressing enough for anyone to be looking for a quick escape. My only small wish is that the snow waits until after Christmas to fall, so I don’t have to drive up north amongst it. If that doesn’t work, then I hope to die before I attempt to make the trek. That way, my girlfriend won’t have to perish with me in the horrible wreck that’s certain to follow.

I miss my Buick. That’s all for now.

To the best of my knowledge, this was the last essay I wrote before launching the Communist Dance Party 14 whole months later. I kicked ass at school, graduated in February of 2004, launched the CDP weeks later, and the rest is blogging history. Enjoy.

Midterms.
(Published appx. 11-25-02)

Whenever I heard anyone mention ‘midterms,’ it always sounded to me like trite college-speak from brats who wanted to sound important. ‘Oooh, I’ve got midterms this week; it’s gonna suck!’ they’d say, as I would agreeingly nod and contemplate why I was talking to this person in the first place.

Turns out, they were right. Midterms do suck.

Exactly halfway through the semester, those communist instructors decide that they want to make sure you’ve been keeping up with the material or not. So they actually give you a test! A test that you’re graded on! Well, I was just as shocked as you are right now, I promise. It’s a massive chunk of your grade, too. And here I thought that I was paying $24,000 to sit around school and occasionally catch a can of mace to the eyes.

True story; a kid’s can of mace went off in his bookbag, and I stepped directly into a cloud of it. Even secondhand, it was debilitating and sent dozens of people scurrying for the exits, coughing, crying and blindly stumbling the whole way. Don’t say I never warned you about anything.

I can’t say that the midterms snuck up on me. They really pound this stuff into your head for a good week or two. Countless reviews, writing and re-writing notes, handfuls of quizzes. So needless to say, I’ve been studying Sound Engineering like an autistic kid would study a shoelace.[1]

(1. Still one of my favorite one-liners.)

But so far, so good. School has given me nothing to complain about, mainly because I’ve been putting myself in no position to complain. I’m working hard, trying to keep up and remain in the pack. As long as I continue to boot myself in the ass when I get lazy, it’s been mostly smooth.

On the home front, I received a postcard in the mail from The Exclusive Company in Appleton. Two months ago, I dropped off my CD player because it wasn’t responding to anything. They finally got back to me a couple of days ago to tell me that it would cost $125 to fix. So here I am, staring back at the postcard, contemplating calling them with the go-ahead, or instead sending them two pounds of cat feces in an Airwalk shoebox. I don’t have the cash, but I do have the feces. I’ll need a few more days to decide.[2]

(2. I eventually went with the money, but just barely.)

Speaking of the cat, she’s in the habit of finishing her food shortly after we go to bed, and forcing us awake to feed her at 4am. She’ll yell, step on your head, rub her whiskers on your face, anything. The cuteness of this wore off faster than an author’s paycheck at the tavern. We’ve got into the habit of tossing her over the loft; she only gets hurt when the ceiling fan is on.

When you have no friends where you live, and merely a cat and a girlfriend for company, you end up telling humorless anecdotes like that. I’m not a senior citizen yet, but I’m certainly beginning to sound like one. Soon enough, I’ll be yelling about the price of my medications and bothering the poor kid bagging my groceries. I try not to bother him now, but every once in a while, I’ll tell him to bag all of my instant pastas alphabetically. Starting with the Bow Ties and ending with Sour Cream & Chives. I’ve got nothing but time!

Well, I’ve got to go and study. I have a Music Business exam tomorrow, so I have to brush up on the art of being a lying, shrewd, conniving prick. Wish me luck.

This week’s historic Pre-CDP Essay anthology is over. Sound off in the comments section and enjoy your day.