Monday, February 27, 2012

Completely Conspicuous 216: The Adjustment Bureau

Part 1 of my conversation with special guest Mike Heyliger as we discuss the transition of moving to the Boston area. Listen to the episode below or download it directly (right click and "save as").

Show notes:

- Check out Mike's blog Popblerd

- Mike grew up in New York, moved to Boston in 2008

- Slow adjustment

- Mike: Every time I go back, I like NY less

- Slower pace in Boston, except for the drivers

- Jay: Even slower pace in NH

- Mike: Occasionally gets crap for wearing Yankees gear

- Not a ton of diversity in Boston

- Jay: Toronto is extremely diverse

- Still plenty of racism to go around

- The world's a lot different than it was 30 years ago

- Mike: Boston music scene is better than NYC's

- Good selection of clubs

- Mike's broken $100 ticket barrier to see Prince, Stevie Wonder, Janet Jackson, Jay-Z/Kanye

- To be continued

- Bonehead of the Week

Gorillaz (feat. Andre 3000 and James Murphy) - DoYaThing

Boots Electric - I Love You All the Thyme

Andrew Bird - EyeonEye

Mike Doughty - Na Na Nothing

Completely Conspicuous is available through the iTunes podcast directory. Subscribe and write a review!

The Gorillaz song is courtesy of Converse. Download the song for free from Converse.

The Boots Electric song is on the album Honkey Kong on Dangerbird Records. Download the song for free at Epitonic.

The Andrew Bird song is on the album Break It Yourself on Mom and Pop Records. Download the song for free at NoiseTrade.

The Mike Doughty song is on the album Yes and Also Yes on Snack Bar Records. Download the song for free at Insound.

The opening and closing theme of Completely Conspicuous is "Theme to Big F'in Pants" by Jay Breitling. Find out more about Senor Breitling at his fine music blogs Clicky Clicky and Keeping Some Dark Secrets. Voiceover work is courtesy of James Gralian; check out his site PodGeek.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Got Me Under Pressure

This originally ran in Cold as Ice, the hockey column I co-write for Popblerd.
Hockey is a team sport, but more often than not, a team’s fortunes rest on the last line of defense: The goalie. You need more than just a good goalie to win, but things get much tougher for your team if your goalie can’t stop the puck.

As the NHL season moves into its stretch run and teams battle for playoff spots, every game is crucial and immense pressure is placed on goalies. Several goalies have had outstanding seasons and for the most part, that has resulted in strong seasons for their teams: Henrik Lundqvist (NY Rangers), Tim Thomas and Tuukka Rask (Boston), Pekka Rinne (Nashville), Jimmy Howard (Detroit), Roberto Luongo (Vancouver), Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott (St. Louis) and Marc-Andre Fleury (Pittsburgh). Others—such as Craig Anderson (Ottawa), Miikka Kiprusoff (Calgary), Martin Brodeur (NJ) and Mike Smith (Phoenix)—have kept their teams in the playoff hunt. And then there are goalies like Jonathan Quick of Los Angeles, who is having an excellent year but the Kings are still struggling.

And then there are the goalies who have underperformed this year, including Ilya Bryzgalov of Philadelphia, Ryan Miller of Buffalo and Corey Crawford of Chicago, as well as the goalies for the Toronto Maple Leafs, James Reimer and Jonas Gustavsson. The Leafs’ goalie woes have been particularly difficult to witness for this Leafs fan.

Reimer came out of nowhere last year to provide the Leafs with strong goaltending in the second half of the season and give them hope going into this season that they would make the playoffs for the first time since 2004. But after suffering a concussion early in the season, Reimer missed 18 games and Gustavsson stepped in to win some big games in January (after some initial struggles). Reimer returned and seemed to get his mojo back with a couple of shutouts in early February. But lately, both goalies have been leaky and the Leafs have found their grip on a playoff spot slipping away.

Things really came to a head Tuesday night again in New Jersey. Gustavsson gave up two weak goals through the five-hole during regulation, but the Leafs battled back and tied the game in the final minute to send it to overtime. To his credit, Gustavsson made some big saves in the third to keep the Leafs in the game. Toronto came out strong in the OT, with Jake Gardiner ringing a blast off the post and John-Michael Liles whiffing on the rebound in front of a wide-open net. At the other end, New Jersey’s Mark Fayne took a weak shot from the point that appeared to be going wide before bouncing off Gustavsson and dribbling into the net for the game-winner. It was about the most dispiriting way possible to lose a game.

Yesterday, in the wake of the loss and with his team in a 1-5-1 tailspin, Leafs GM Brian Burke finally acknowledged that he may need to acquire a new goalie at the trade deadline (which is next Monday, Feb. 27 at 3 p.m. Eastern). The rest of the team is far from perfect, but now they’re at the point where any weak shot thrown at the net has the potential to go in. Doesn’t exactly instill teammates with confidence. On the other hand, a strong goalie can keep a team in games against far better teams.

The goalie has the toughest job in team sports. Even more than a pitcher or a quarterback, the goalie must throw his body (however well-protected) in front of 220-pound players storming the net and 110 mph slap shots. Every mistake a goalie makes is magnified exponentially, especially at this time of year. Don’t think Jonas Gustavsson isn’t beating himself up over those horrible goals he gave up Tuesday night. Unfortunately for the man nicknamed Monster, that may be his last NHL game for a long time. Just as a great performance in net can bring glory, a poor outing can prove that life in the NHL is awfully unforgiving for a goalie.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Completely Conspicuous 215: Could This Be Magic?

Part 2 of my conversation with special guest Brian Salvatore as we discuss the new Van Halen album. Listen to the episode below or download it directly (right click and "save as").

Show notes:

- Recorded via Skype

- Jay: An impressive outing for a band at this stage

- Not many bands have taken such a long break and returned strong

- Mission of Burma and the Feelies are better than ever

- Where does this rank in VH pantheon?

- Jay: Ranks 7th after first six DLR albums, ahead of Hagar

- Brian: Michael Anthony's harmonies are missed

- Brian: VH should do a tour with Dave and Sammy

- What would you pay $90 to see live?

- Brian: McCartney's current band is excellent

- Arena shows are quickly getting priced out of reach of much of public

- Brian: Bob Mould noted particularly egregious lyrics on new VH single

- Brian: Aerosmith is long overdue for a good album

- Jay: Last good Aerosmith album was more than 20 years ago

- Good run of Aerosmith albums in the '70s

- Steven Tyler has become the dude who looks like a lady

- Brian: This VH album could've been much worse

- The sad story of Jason Becker, DLR's guitarist in early '90s

- Jay: Couldn't have expected the new VH to be any better

- Brian: Interested to hear the follow-up

- Bonehead of the Week

The Hounds Below - For You and I

Dinosaur Jr. - No Bones (live)

Black Mountain - Mary Lou

Completely Conspicuous is available through the iTunes podcast directory. Subscribe and write a review!

The Hounds Below song is on the band's as-yet untitled debut album. Download the song for free at Consequence of Sound.

The Dinosaur Jr. song is on the DVD Bug Live at 9:30 Club: In the Hands of Fans. Download the song for free at

The Black Mountain song is on the soundtrack to the movie Year Zero. Download the song for free at Stereogum.

The opening and closing theme of Completely Conspicuous is "Theme to Big F'in Pants" by Jay Breitling. Find out more about Senor Breitling at his fine music blogs Clicky Clicky and Keeping Some Dark Secrets. Voiceover work is courtesy of James Gralian; check out his site PodGeek.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Zero the Hero

This week, Popblerd's been counting down its list of the best 100 albums of the '00s as chosen by a group of contributors including me. As always, there's a lot of wide and varied choices and plenty that I wouldn't even dream of including on my personal list. But vive la difference, I say. At any rate, just as I did with my list of the top 100 of the '90s, here's my top 100 of the last decade.

The number one spot goes to Radiohead's Kid A, which came out in 2000 and was a monumental change in direction for the band after OK Computer. The introduction of a largely electronic sound was unexpected and exciting, and it paved the way for a lot of interesting music to come. And now here's the rest of the list:

2. The White Stripes - White Blood Cells
3. Wilco - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
4. The Hold Steady - Separation Sunday
5. Arcade Fire - Funeral
6. Spoon - Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
7. Queens of the Stone Age - Songs for the Deaf
8. Grinderman - s/t
9. Green Day - American Idiot
10. Twilight Singers - Blackberry Belle
11. Mission of Burma - The Obliterati
12. Dinosaur Jr. - Beyond
13. Sleater-Kinney - The Woods
14. Drive-By Truckers - Southern Rock Opera
15. Arctic Monkeys - Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not
16. Ted Leo and the Pharmacists - The Tyranny of Distance
17. The Black Keys - Thickfreakness
18. And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead - Source Codes and Keys
19. TV on the Radio - Return to Cookie Mountain
20. Spoon - Gimme Fiction
21. Interpol - Turn on the Bright Lights
22. Sloan - Never Hear the End of It
23. The Gutter Twins - Saturnalia
24. The Hold Steady - Boys and Girls in America
25. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - Dig, Lazarus, Dig!
26. Destroyer - Destroyer's Rubies
27. Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks - Pig Lib
28. Bloc Party - Silent Alarm
29. New Pornographers - Electric Version
30. At the Drive-In - Relationship of Command
31. Broken Social Scene - You Forgot It in People
32. Mission of Burma - OnOffOn
33. The White Stripes - De Stijl
34. Beck - Sea Change
35. Twilight Singers - Powder Burns
36. Queens of the Stone Age - Rated R
37. Modest Mouse - The Moon and Antarctica
38. The Dirtbombs - Ultraglide in Black
39. LCD Soundsystem - The Sound of Silver
40. Black Mountain - In the Future
41. Foxboro Hot Tubs - Stop, Drop and Roll
42. Ted Leo and the Pharmacists - Hearts of Oak
43. Radiohead - Hail to the Thief
44. Mastodon - Blood Mountain
45. Them Crooked Vultures - s/t
46. Yo La Tengo - And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out
47. My Morning Jacket - Z
48. Drive-By Truckers - The Dirty South
49. Wilco - A Ghost is Born
50. The Walkmen - Bows and Arrows
51. The Black Keys - Rubber Factory
52. King Khan and His Shrines - The Supreme Genius of...
53. Black Francis - Bluefinger
54. Okkervil River - The Stage Names
55. Eagles of Death Metal - Death by Sexy
56. Spoon - Kill the Moonlight
57. Sloan - Action Pact
58. Elvis Costello - When I was Cruel
59. Mark Lanegan Band - Bubblegum
60. Ladyhawk - Shots
61. Art Brut - Art Brut vs. Satan
62. The Strokes - Is This It
63. The Hives - Veni Vidi Vicious
64. Japandroids - Post Nothing
65. Von Bondies - Lack of Communication
66. Jarvis Cocker - Further Complications
67. Gord Downie - Coke Machine Glow
68. Franz Ferdinand - s/t
69. Modest Mouse - Good News for People Who Like Bad News
70. The Mars Volta - Frances the Mute
71. Queens of the Stone Age - Lullabyes to Paralyze
72. Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks - Real Emotional Trash
73. Fu Manchu - King of the Road
74. Outkast - Stankonia
75. Hot Snakes - Automatic Midnight
76. Destroyer - Streethawk: A Seduction
77. Raconteurs - Consolers of the Lonely
78. Mastodon - Crack the Skye
79. Yo La Tengo - I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass
80. Neko Case - Fox Confessor Brings the Flood
81. Sonic Youth - The Eternal
82. Sleater-Kinney - All Hands on the Bad One
83. The Hold Steady - Stay Positive
84. Arcade Fire - Neon Bible
85. Pearl Jam - Backspacer
86. Les Savy Fav - Let's Stay Friends
87. Buffalo Tom - Three Easy Pieces
88. TV on the Radio - Dear Science
89. The Hold Steady - Almost Killed Me
90. Metric - Fantasies
91. Drive-By Truckers - A Blessing and a Curse
92. The Tragically Hip - In Violet Light
93. Radiohead - In Rainbows
94. Torche - Meanderthal
95. Ted Leo and the Pharmacists - Shake the Sheets
96. Greg Dulli - Amber Headlights
97. Dizzee Rascal - Boy in Da Corner
98. M.I.A. - Kala
99. Future of the Left - Travels With Myself and Another
100. Jarvis Cocker - Jarvis

As with all these lists, there's plenty of albums that could go on this list and plenty of changes I could make in positions if I were to go back and review it.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Completely Conspicuous 214: Hear About It Later

Part 1 of my conversation with special guest Brian Salvatore as we discuss the new Van Halen album, the band's first with David Lee Roth in almost 30 years. Listen to the episode below or download it directly (right click and "save as").

Show notes:

- Recorded via Skype

- Not interested in Grammy Awards

- Gary Cherone was in band at its worst

- Brian: Only VH album in his iTunes is VH III

- Brian started listening to VH in early '90s

- Always preferred DLR

- Jay: First VH album was Diver Down on cassette

- Diver Down was a cash-in album

- Jay: Liked Hagar, but not as VH singer

- Lyrical content not a big concern for VH

- Brian: VH III was pretty stark

- Eddie's synth phase was similar to what Rush did in the '80s

- VH has always picked curious opening acts

- Wolfgang is a decent bassist

- Neither VH or DLR had done anything good for 20+ years

- Jay: Eat 'Em and Smile was better than 5150

- Brian: First impression of new album was it sounds like DLR solo album

- Jay: First single is worst song on album

- Brian: Everybody sounds energized

- Beginning of second career or one-time deal?

- To be continued

- Bonehead of the Week

Frank Black and the Catholics - Nadine

Buffalo Tom - Mineral

Hot Snakes - Who Died

Completely Conspicuous is available through the iTunes podcast directory. Subscribe and write a review!

The Frank Black and the Catholics song is on the album Show Me Your Tears on SpinART Records. Download the song for free at Epitonic.

The Buffalo Tom song is on the album Let Me Come Over on Beggars Banquet. Download the song for free at Epitonic.

The Hot Snakes song is on the album Suicide Invoice on Swami Records. Download the song for free at Epitonic.

The opening and closing theme of Completely Conspicuous is "Theme to Big F'in Pants" by Jay Breitling. Find out more about Senor Breitling at his fine music blogs Clicky Clicky and Keeping Some Dark Secrets. Voiceover work is courtesy of James Gralian; check out his site PodGeek.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Here and Gone

This originally ran in the Cold as Ice column I co-write for Popblerd.

Cynics love to complain about how the NHL regular season is meaningless, but for teams battling for a playoff spot, every game from now until the end of the season is huge. Every night, teams shuffle up and down the standings fighting to finish in the top eight in their respective conferences.

The season ends April 7, but a much more immediate date looms for many teams: the NHL trade deadline on Feb. 27. As a result, teams are busily assessing whether they’ll be buyers or sellers. Meaning teams that are Stanley Cup contenders are looking to pick up that last piece of the puzzle that will put them over the top, teams that think they could be Cup contenders are gambling that a big trade will make them contenders and teams that are rebuilding or out of the race entirely look to unload players with big contracts in exchange for prospects or draft picks.

Another factor is pending free agency; players who are unrestricted free agents are able to sign with another team with no compensation to the former team, so those teams often look to get something in return before it’s too late.

There are plenty of big names rumored to be switching teams on deadline day (or before it): Jeff Carter of Columbus, Ryan Getzlaf of Anaheim, Shea Weber of Nashville, Jarome Iginla of Calgary, Ryan Miller of Buffalo and many others. Whether any or all of these players actually get traded is another story altogether, but it makes for great speculation.

Deadline day is practically a national holiday in Canada, where interest in the NHL is naturally through the proverbial roof. The big sports networks in Canada—TSN (which is owned by ESPN), Sportsnet, Score—will all have nonstop trade coverage on Feb. 27 until 3 p.m., which is when the deadline officially hits. Although many trades aren’t announced until after the deadline.

Historically, the vast majority of deadline deals turn out to be busts or insignificant. But there have been some key trades over the years that have directly contributed to a team winning the Stanley Cup:
• 1991: Pittsburgh acquires Ron Francis, Ulf Samuelsson and Grant Jennings from Hartford for John Cullen, Jeff Parker and Zarley Zalapski. Cullen was a gifted young scorer, but Ronnie Franchise was the piece that the Penguins needed alongside Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr and Tom Barrasso to propel them to their first of two straight Cups.
• 1980: The New York Islanders acquire Butch Goring from Los Angeles for Billy Harris and Dave Lewis. The Isles were stocked with young talent but had suffered early playoff exits for a few years until grizzled vet Goring provided the clutch scoring and leadership that was missing. That spring, the Islanders won their first of four consecutive Cups and Goring even won the Conn Smythe as playoff MVP in 1981.
• 1988: Edmonton traded goalie Andy Moog to Boston for Geoff Courtnall, Bill Ranford and a draft pick. The trade helped both teams, as Moog gave the Bruins a solid goalie tandem alongside Reggie Lemelin, but the Oilers won their fourth straight Cup in ’88 over the Bruins with Ranford as backup, and then would defeat Boston again two years later with Ranford as the starter.
• 2003: New Jersey trades Jason Arnott and Randy McKay to Dallas for Jamie Langenbrunner and Joe Nieuwendyk. The deal paid immediate dividends for the Devils, who won the Cup that year.

There are plenty of other deals that have paid off down the line as draft picks turned into future stars. And of course, there were trades that did absolutely nothing for the teams involved. Such is the risk and the allure of the NHL trade deadline.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Beats Workin'

This review was written for Popblerd as part of a group take on the VH album.

So after a month of previews and slow reveals, Van Halen’s A Different Kind of Truth is finally out and one thing is clear: We were bamboozled. VH pulled a bait-and-switch by releasing the worst song on the album, “Tattoo,” as the first single. And even that song has proven relentlessly catchy. But the rest of the album contains the hardest rocking VH music since Fair Warning. No synths, no ballads, no covers. Just balls-out big rock that belies the fact that three-quarters of this band is pushing 60. I was prepared for a sad spectacle, but man, was I wrong.

David Lee Roth, on his first album with the Van Halen brothers in nearly 30 years, picks up where he left off. He’s not screaming as much as he did in the old days, but his vocals are strong and he’s as cocky and self-assured as he ever was. DLR still likes to do the old talking up the bridge shtick, but I’m okay with that. Some doof on Twitter argued the other day that Dave’s lyrics are terrible, but he’s missing the point. We’re not looking for friggin’ Dostoevsky here; we want clever lyrics with big choruses that leave room for thick riffs and blistering guitar solos. Mission accomplished.

Eddie VH may not be reinventing the guitar like he did in 1978, but he can still fire off blinding solos that electrify. The man’s had serious issues over the years, but holy hell, he’s playing like a man possessed here. Michael Anthony’s backing vocals are definitely missed, but young Wolfgang VH proves himself a skilled bassist who can keep up with his dad and uncle Alex on breakneck passages in “China Town,” “Bullethead” and “Outta Space.” Occasionally, the new material sounds a little too much like the old classics; “Stay Frosty” has an “Ice Cream Man” vibe, complete with the bluesy acoustic intro segueing into an electric stomp.

Much has been made of Eddie resurrecting bits and pieces of old unreleased VH songs for this album. Obviously, he was reaching back to that early VH sound, so why the hell not? It’s still too early to tell where this album truly falls in the VH canon. The band had a lot to prove and live up to, and as far as I’m concerned, it delivers on all counts. Cynics will point out that this album is just a cash grab. DLR and the VH brothers had some serious hate on for each other for a lot of years there and it’s hard to believe that everything’s all love and happiness all of a sudden. They may not even talk to each when they get off stage. But as long as they keep kicking ass like they do on A Different Kind of Truth, who really cares?

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Completely Conspicuous 213: Wave of Mutilation

Part 2 of my conversation with special guest Brad Searles as we discuss band reunions, among other rock topics. Listen to the episode below or download it directly (right click and "save as").

Show notes:

- Check out Brad's excellent blog, Bradley's Almanac

- Recorded at the Sunset Grill in Allston, Mass.

- Brad's bad memories of seeing Pixies open for U2

- Praise for Stewart Copeland

- The massive influence of the Pixies

- Brad: Recording at Fort Apache was daunting

- Possible Stone Roses reunion in the works

- Codeine's doing reunion shows and releasing box set

- Chickfactor is bringing a bunch of bands back together: Lilys, Small Factory

- Guided By Voices reunites classic lineup

- The power of Janet Weiss

- Great music blogs: Chromewaves, Clicky Clicky, Largehearted Boy

- Brad recommends streaming radio

- Brad does a DJ night with Jay Breitling at River Gods in Cambridge, Mass.

- Making time to do things your way

- A lot of blogs died after chasing the big payout

- Bonehead of the Week

Cloud Nothings - Stay Useless

Joseph Arthur - Travel As Equals

The Cult - Lucifer

Completely Conspicuous is available through the iTunes podcast directory. Subscribe and write a review!

The Cloud Nothings song is on the album Attack on Memory on Carpark Records. Download the song for free at Brooklynvegan.

The Joseph Arthur song is on the self-released album Redemption City. Download the album for free at his website.

The Cult song is on the forthcoming album Choice of Weapon on Cooking Vinyl. Download the song for free (in exchange for your email address) at

The opening and closing theme of Completely Conspicuous is "Theme to Big F'in Pants" by Jay Breitling. Find out more about Senor Breitling at his fine music blogs Clicky Clicky and Keeping Some Dark Secrets. Thanks to Bob Durling for the album art; find out more about his photography at his blog. Voiceover work is courtesy of James Gralian; check out his site PodGeek.

Friday, February 03, 2012

A Change is Gonna Come

Some changes are in the works for Completely Conspicuous, the podcast I've been doing for five-and-a-half years. But they're all good changes. This week, word got out that Mevio, the company that's hosted the show for free since its inception, had jettisoned hundreds of podcasts. Mine wasn't affected, but it was a clear indication that the company is placing its bets on video shows. Which is no surprise, because that's been the focus over there for years now.

But the move, which was done without warning, also made me want to move my show to a host that wouldn't dump it at a moment's notice. My first step was to create a dedicated page for the show. Now I've got to find a hosting service, which I think I've done with Wizzard Media. I haven't signed up yet, and I'll have to pay, but it's worth it to have a stable home for the show and one whose business is audio podcasts as opposed to something else.

If you search for "Mevio" on Twitter, you'll find plenty of comments from angry and bitter podcasters who were unceremoniously dumped this week. I'm not going to complain. I got five-plus years of free hosting out of them and a small amount of money from the affiliate program. It's all good. But it's time to move on.

So what does this mean for the show itself? The move should be pretty seamless, providing I can get everything done this weekend that I need to. Wizzard's reaching out to spurned Mevio podcasters and offering a good deal including free uploading of my archive of 212 episodes. My iTunes feed will remain intact; I just have to give them my new feed and they'll switch it. And I'll be posting the show notes here and on the new CompCon blog. Rock on.