Saturday, January 03, 2009

The best of 2008 and the Time Machine Effect

It is harder than ever for me to consider what the best of 2008 is. That is because electronics and consumer choices keep giving us more options on when and how to purchase and consume. The net effect is that I have a time machine to the past, where I get transported to content of the past months and years.

As I write this I'm listening to Augustana's All the Stars and Boulevards ("you don't know me, you don't even careā€¦" - that would make a good blog title) - one of my most listened to CDs of 2008 - I purchased this 2005 title sometime in 2007 at a discount price, and got around to first listening it in 2008.

Sitting around the house is the Dark Knight DVD, which I purchased on a Boxing Day sale for $9.99 (I could have bought the blue-ray version for $19.99, which can run off the player on my laptop into the TV, but I find our DVD player that upgrades does a good pretence of 1080p). We will watch it sometime in 2009, but the Dark Knight may stay in the batcave for months.
Thus my best of 2008 list is quite tainted - I haven't seen and/or heard everything just yet.

My favorite live show was the musical The Sound of Music - this new production is visually awesome, to the point it would be worth seeing even if it had no music or dialogue. The amazing set designs deliver the full emotional impact of the musical. We will return to see this again in 2009.

The best set design ever not a big screen, but should be, was Mad Men, Seasons I and II. The costumes were pure eye candy, and it is no surprise this series won awards such as "Outstanding Art Direction", "Outstanding Cinematography", and "Excellence in Production Design". This is the series for HD TVs. The show has endless plot twists, character developments and historical references, making it the pinnacle of TV so far.

Dexter Seasons II and III had strong production as well, and clever writing for Season II, and this show is a must-watch, though some scenes are a must-not-watch, for those who don't like to see a bloodbath. Sadly for this show, one mad man can't surpass a whole set of flawed men and women.

In CD's, from what I've listened so far, here's my top 5:

The Verve: Forth - leave the nursery of Coldplay for real grandeur and stellar thought
TV on the Radio: Dear Science - for some the best CD of the year
My Morning Jacket: Evil Urges - get the urge to listen to their concert on Austin City Limits
The Hold Steady: Stay Positive - a very worthy successor to their 2006 "Boys and Girls in America"
Death Cab For Cutie: Narrow Stairs - will be too narrow for some, but worth the climb up

Others worth listening to: Blitzen Trapper, Beck, Brazilian Girls, Duffy, Lil Wayne, Adele, Goldfrapp, Santogold and a whole stack of "comeback" CDs by the used-2B-greats. I guess that the Verve could be put into the last category, but I think they've accomplished something serious here.

And now for a special award: The Musical Cheeseburger of 2008

Now cheeseburgers are not bad at all. They contain many of the important food groups. Combined with the right condiments and veggies, they can be quite a tasteful treat, albeit not gourmet food. In the movie Iron Man (which might be movie cheeseburger of the year), when Iron dude returns to home the first thing he wants is a cheeseburger - as Nickelback would say, "you look better with something in your mouth" - which brings us to this year's winners of The Musical Cheeseburger of 2008 -

Nickelback: Dark Horse

This cheeseburger, produced and partly co-written by Mutt Lange, has all the right stuff - cheesy lyrics with double entendres and buns, sizzling meaty guitar hooks, too-Mutto dubs, let-us sing-along choruses, and every pop-rock greasy production trick known to fry. Mutt Lange (AC/DC, Def Leppard, Bryan Adams, Shania Twain) is the cheeseburger king of pop rock, and, having almost everything he has done before, I can tell you he is in top form after his breakup with Shania. You will be hearing this cheeseburger at every fast food music outlet in 2009.

Now this reminds me of Seinfeld's cookie routine on Letterman this year - store-bought cookies come in rows, and when you demolish one row, you are tempted to start mowing down the next. On Nickelback's CD, you keep hitting the taste buds on each track, and soon you've eaten the whole CD. Burp! And then afterwards you start thinking of the cholesterol damage. And you put Dear Science on and everything is good again.


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