Tag Archives: best of

My Mixtape Monday – The Best of Jay-Z Studio Albums

It’s been twenty years since the release of Jay-Z’s album Reasonable Doubt. Since that seminal debut, he has put out a total of a dozen studio albums. Showcasing an unparalleled mix of radio hits, vivid storytelling and straight-up ignorant sh*t, his career catalog ends all debate over the question “Who’s the best emcee – Biggie, Jay-Z or Nas?”. It’s Hovi baby!

Below are my picks for the standout tracks from each album, along with some of his more unforgettable lyrics. I’ve also included bonus songs from his two collaborative albums – The Best of Both Worlds w/R. Kelly (2002) and Watch the Throne w/Kanye West (2011).

Mixtape Name: Twelve Hot Albums Every Twenty Year Average

Side A

1) Dead Presidents II from Reasonable Doubt (1996)
2) Streets Is Watching from In My Lifetime, Vol. 1 (1997)
Look, if I shoot you, I’m brainless
But if you shoot me, then you’re famous – what’s a n*gga to do?
3) Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem) from Vol. 2…Hard Knock Life (1998)
4) So Ghetto from Vol. 3… Life and Times of S. Carter (1999)
You see I live for the love of the street
Rap to the ruggedest beats
Hall closet cluttered with heat
5) I Just Wanna Love U (Give It 2 Me) from The Dynasty: Roc La Familia (2000)
Both in the club, high, singing off key
“And I wish I never met her at all…”
6) Izzo (H.O.V.A.) from The Blueprint (2001)

Side B
7) Excuse Me Miss from The Blueprint 2: The Gift & The Curse (2002)
8) 99 Problems from The Black Album (2003)
Rap critics that say he’s Money, Cash, Hoes
I’m from the hood, stupid! What type of facts are those?
9) Trouble from Kingdom Come (2006)
10) Roc Boys (And the Winner Is)… from American Gangster (2007)
11) D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune) from The Blueprint 3 (2009)
12) Picasso Baby from Magna Carta Holy Grail (2013)
It ain’t hard to tell, I’m the new Jean-Michel
Surrounded by Warhols, my whole team ball

Bonus Tracks: The Streets, Murder to Excellence

Apple Music Link: Twelve Hot Albums Every Twenty Year Average


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My Mixtape Monday – Best of Vol. VII

The following double-disc compilation highlights my favorite tracks from the past twenty-four “My Mixtape Monday” playlists. Along with sharing some really great music, each contributor did a thoughtful job ruminating over their selections in the associated Liner Notes. These retrospective essays are always a great read, and I highly recommend that you click on all of the names below to check them out!

Disc 1

1) Telstar by The Tornados (Matt)
2) Couleur Cafe by Serge Gainsbourg (Kate)
3) Let’s Go by Matt & Kim (Bree)
4) Steal Smoked Fish by The Mountain Goats (Kate)
5) Einstein On The Beast produced by DJ BC w/ Philip Glass and Beastie Boys (Goob)
6) New York by Ja Rule ft. Fat Joe and Jadakiss (Natalie)
7) Rhiannon by Fleetwood Mac (Niki)
8) Winter by Lail Arad (Nick)
9) 4 Simple Words by Frank Turner (Kards Unlimited)
10) Saturday by Fall Out Boy (Amber)
11) Portions for Foxes by Rilo Kiley (Meg)
12) Gooey by Glass Animals (Leah)

Liner Notes: Disregarding the collective crew of Kards Unlimited and the amorphous Goob (personal data unknown), the individual ages of this group ranged from 22 to 38. Of these, eight were female and two were male. Their occupations included fashion photographer, greeting card creator, marketing coordinator and band instrument repair technician.

The twelve playlists were comprised of 148 songs in total, with only one duplicate – I Don’t Want Love by The Antlers. Six artists showed up twice, with Death Cab for Cutie being the only band to place three song selections (insert GIF of Seth Cohen nodding).

Disc 2

1) Desperately Wanting by Better than Ezra (Shannon)
2) The House That Heaven Built by Japandroids (Scott aka Kirby)
3) Where My Girls At by 702 (Sarah)
4) Brave by Sara Bareilles (Kerry)
5) Modern Jesus by Portugal, The Man (Kate)
6) Crave You (Adventure Club Dubstep Remix) by Flight Facilities (Laura)
7) Santa Fe by Beirut (Kasey)
8) In The End by Linkin Park (Zain)
9) Love Yourself by Justin Bieber (Marisa)
10) Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want by The Smiths (Patrick)
11) Get Up by Sleater-Kinney (Toby)
12) Head Like a Hole by Nine Inch Nails (Samantha)

Liner Notes: The ages of this group of contributors went from 23 to 50 (really?), with four males and eight females. Their occupations included stay at home mom, orthotist, comedian, moonbounce cleaner and @stitchfix stylist.

The twelve playlists totaled 150 songs and the artists ranged from Adele to Kendrick Lamar to Zac Brown Band. No artist placed three songs across the collective, but five did garner two selections each – alt-J, Future, Jay-Z, Rihanna and Rob Zombie. Now that sounds like a concert that I’d love to see!


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The Best of Summer 2016 Part V…Style

Welcome to the final chapter of summer sixteen’s “Best of…” series. This post highlights some seasonal style suggestions for the family. Here to handle the mother/daughter segment is the always-slaying Terra, whose return to blogging earlier this year was the most electrifying un-retirement to happen in the ‘Burgh since Lemieux in ’00. Everything that she does should be branded with the caption “Goals AF” and I highly suggest that you check ahht her site when you’re done enjoying our posts below. First up is my father/son part so let’s get on to it!

After my son was born, I struggled with maintaining the level of swag that I’ve grown accustomed to. Why spend time putting together a fly outfit if it would just end up adorned with spit-up in an hour? I immediately began to feel the pull of the Dark Side of Dad Fashion, and its promise of comfort through cargo shorts and crocs. But unlike Anakin Skywalker, I refuse to give in to the temptation. Though I rarely end the day without my son wiping some indiscernible schmutz on my outfit, the self-confidence that comes along with dressing well makes it all worth it.

Dressing my 3yo son presents a similar conundrum. He’s potty trained now so thankfully I do not have to worry much about the three p’s. However, much like his idol Hulk, it doesn’t take much time for him to wear-out even the toughest Toughskins. Thankfully kids clothier Carters manufactures plenty of stylish outfits that are reasonably priced so I don’t get too mad when he rips the buttons off his shirt to show me his muscles.

My go-to #OOTD for summer showcases a couple simple classics – a V-neck t-shirt and garment-dyed cotton shorts. This ensemble is available in a wide assortment of bright colors, but I’m embracing my inner Goth here. Not only does the monochrome look standout amongst a sea of pastel polos and boat shoes on the soccer field sidelines, they also serve as a sharp contrast to my boys’ colorful ensemble. There’s no chance I can complete with him as far as cuteness goes, so why even try?!?!


Item Sources: 9” Stanton Short & Slim Broken-in V-neck T-Shirt (both J. Crew), Jack Purcell Signature Sneakers (Converse), Leather Suffield Belt by Polo Ralph Lauren, Sunglasses by Rayban, Animal Squirters by Floatzone, Toddler Boys’ 2-Piece Striped Shirt & Shorts Set by Carter’s, Paw Patrol Canvas Sneakers by Walmart, Spiderman Sunglasses by Target, Southampton Bucket Hat by Grandparents

And now to Terra!!!

Best of Summer

So far, June 2016 >> June 2015. Do you remember how much rain Pittsburgh had last year? Wow! The difference is amazing. And I for one will take these steamy sunny days anytime.

Each season, I tend to find a few pieces that I want to live in. This summer is no different. For me, it’s all about the perfect denim cutoffs and off-the-shoulder anything. The only thing sexier than a clavicle (besides any other word) is an open back. Either are a great way to show off your bronze skin.


Speaking of… wear sunscreen. PLEASE. It’s so important. There’s nothing more stylish than when a person takes good care of their skin. I adore Neutrogena’s spray-on sunscreen. It’s light, smells great and doesn’t feel like a gross film on your skin. But how do you show off that aforementioned bronze then? Self tanner, all the way. There are a couple that I really like but Jergen’s makes a fantastic gradual self-tanner that smells nice.


And when you’re lounging by the pool or sliding your toes into sand, you need a phenomenal bathing suit and a great book. This monokini is polyawesome. It cuts in all the right places to not only show off your beautiful curves (even if you’re like me and don’t actually have natural curves) but to also sit still if you want to be active. I prefer to tap my inner sloth when I’m sunbathing so I defer to my books and magazines. “Primates of Park Avenue” is a really easy and entertaining read. Perfect for the pool or beach.


Now, to the little one. Stella plays hard and sweats like a mother. I don’t really sweat so that sentence is inherently erroneous but let’s not dwell on that. She insists on wearing dresses all of the time. If that’s what she’s going to wear when it’s 85 degrees, then the dress better be lightweight, able to withstand crude karate moves and sidewalk chalk art. This dress has been in heavy rotation along with these comfy sandals. The sandals are fantastic because she can run around in them all day without earning blisters or the stinkiest of feet.


I’d also like to take a moment to call your attention to GoldieBlox. Stella is obsessed. They’re fantastic kits that teach girls (or whoever wants to play with them) engineering, math and building skills. There are stories and dolls and all of the typical “girly” equipment, but they’re not just fluffy cupcake toys. They actually teach important skills but they’re wrapped in a package that is attractive to little girls. If you know a little girl and she doesn’t have GoldieBlox, help a sister out and get her started with one.

I hope you enjoy your summer as much as I plan to! Just remember to protect your skin, nourish your brain a little and wear something sexortable. That’s sexy and comfortable ALL AT THE SAME TIME. What could be better?




on mom
Top: Modern Citizen
Shorts: Free People (available at Shopbop)
Shades: ASOS
Bathing Suit: L*Space (available at Shopbop)
Sandals: Joie
Nails: Essie Big Spender

on daughter
Dress: Old Navy
Sandals: H&M
Shades: Old Navy
Bathing Suit: H&M (also have this one)


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The Best of Summer 2016 Part IV…Free Time Activities

When I was a kid, the onset of summer meant one thing and one thing only – NO SCHOOL! And since the responsibilities associated with school (waking up early, doing homework, wearing shoes) represented the bulk of my adolescent life’s burdens, summer brought with it three solid months of unbridled freedom that as a grownup I’ll never know again. #FirstWorldAdultProblems

Thankfully, every now and then I’m #blessed with a handful of weekend moments that aren’t prescheduled with activities or encumbered by parental responsibilities (Daddy, come wipe my butt!). I prefer to make use of these respites by indulging in the same unproductive pastimes that I did as a youth – reading comic books and watching professional wrestling.

My friend Elizabeth is a super-busy mommy/lawyer/blogger who cherishes her infrequent free time just as much as me. She was kind enough to carve some time out of her packed schedule to suggest some relaxing ways for all of us to spend those precious obligation-free moments. Surprisingly, none of them involve musclebound men beating the crap out of each other.

I remember those many long years ago, before I had a 5 year old who poked me in the face and demanded I pour her a bowl of rice krispies at 6am, I used to have these long, leisurely weekend mornings where I could do whatever I wanted, for as long as I wanted, and still find time in the day to go for a run, go grocery shopping, and whatever else I felt like doing.

Those days are gone. Now most weekend mornings are consumed by ballet lessons, kid-related social plans, and this, that and the other thing. I recently was surprised by a morning that was completely obligation-free, and I realized how precious that unplanned free time is. For my contribution to this “Best of….” series, I would like to share with you my favorite activities when I have a few unexpected moments to myself!

Baking Bread


When I was in law school and a baby lawyer, somehow I had all this extra time that I didn’t even know I had. I got really into baking bread, and baked loaf after loaf trying to perfect my challah recipe. Bread baking is really easy to do at a somewhat competent level, but extremely hard to perfect. I love mixing the dough and then putting it out in the sunshine to rise, and I love enjoying its smell as it bakes in the oven, especially when I have mixed in rosemary, basil or sun dried tomatoes.

Coffee and Magazines


The magic combination. I have several magazine subscriptions but can never manage to read them as they come in. They buildup in a massive pile in my dining room. When I finally get to reading them, I experience the twofold joy of reading the magazine, and also clearing things out of the “to read” pile. Also, coffee. Yum.

Stroll through the Park


I haven’t been able to get back to running as regularly as I would like. I would like to run 5 times a week, but lately I have only been running about one. My favorite places to run are Frick Park, Schenley Park and the Homewood Cemetery. They are all wooded, beautiful and tranquil.

At Home Spa


It’s $8 for a pack of 4 bottles but HEAR ME OUT, Dry Water is like a tiny spa. They have flavors like cucumber, ginger and lavender, the flavor is heavily infused, not sweet, and tastes just like the water you are served at a spa. This is not an everyday type beverage. Rather, this is the kind of thing you sip leisurely, with a refreshing sheet mask on your face. It is so incredibly relaxing. When I bust out with the Dry Water and the sheet mask, my husband knows to keep my kid out of the way, because I am getting in the relaxation zone.

Best of Summer

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The Best of Summer 2016 Part III…Day Tripping

“Summer afternoon – summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.” – Henry James

Whereas the cold winters of Pittsburgh are prefect for staying indoors and binge-watching Netflix, summer is all about getting ahht of the house to explore the great attractions that our lovely region has to offer. And who better to give us some suggestions on how to get the most out of these summer days than a school teacher? 

After spending the past nine months steadfastly preparing the young minds of Woodland Hills to lead us into the future, my buddy Heidi is now here with some daytrip ideas that are full of adventure and fun. I look forward to fitting them all into my schedule…between my mandatory hammock-naps of course!

Hey y’all! One of the best parts about living in Pittsburgh is the wide array of destinations and restaurants that are well within driving distance. Let’s be honest, who doesn’t like a little “daycation” from time to time? With brief travel time and minimal packing, daycations are an activity that Pittsburghers should embrace wholeheartedly. Thus, for this post, I would like to share with you some of my favorite spots in the Laurel Highlands that everyone in the area should visit this summer.* Now let’s go day tripping!


The Stone House Restaurant & Inn (3023 National Pike | Farmington, PA | 15437) is a classic spot along Route 40, our National Road. With charm, character(s) and a fantastic menu, The Stone House has something for everyone. Special events are common, especially live music and bike nights. My advice? Try the wings ($5/5, $10/10, $14/15), the salads and anything that incorporates their house sauces and dressings; grab a bottle of Pittsburgh Winery wine while you are there too!

Out of the Fire Café (3784 State Route 31 |Donegal, Pennsylvania | 15628) is a casual BYOB restaurant. With an open kitchen, Out of the Fire offers an American menu that patrons can enjoy from inside of on their deck. The view is beautiful and the location is in close proximity to many mountain attractions. My advice? Try the Sea Scallops ($32, coconut and cilantro risotto, roasted red pepper, mango & arugula salad, Fuji apple vinaigrette) and/or the Charred Pineapple Salad ($13, field greens, kiwi, red grapes, cherry tomatoes, toasted cashews, blueberry balsamic vinaigrette).


Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater (1491 Mill Run Road | Mill Run, PA | 15464) and Kentuck Knob (723 Kentuck Road | Chalk Hill, PA | 15421) are architectural masterpieces tucked away in the Fayette County mountains. With a little planning, you can either visit one on its own, or arrange to see both in the same day. I happen to be an architecture fanatic, and I’ve seen both of these houses in many seasons both on their own and in the same day. The local history associated with the homes is fascinating, the grounds are picturesque, and the gift shops are quite marvelous. My advice? Don’t miss the opportunity to see something that thousands of people travel from all over the world to see every year. And get your tickets way in advance!


Fort Necessity National Battlefield (1 Washington Parkway | Farmington, PA | 15437) is a worthy stop along Route 40. With the popularity of Hamilton: An American Musical on a steady rise, this is a great place for fans and history buffs who are interested in George Washington lore. See where Washington opened the action of the French and Indian War in 1754, ultimately setting the American Revolution in motion. Jumonville Glen and General Braddock’s Grave are also nearby, for a bonus round! My advice? Ask them if they remember the girl who won an art contest there in 1990; she created an epic rendition of Washington’s life called “The Cherry Tree of Life.” Ha! Kidding. No one needs to bring up my short-lived career in the visual arts.

*I left off Laurel Highlands juggernauts like Ohiopyle and Nemacolin Woodlands because of the likelihood that yinz have already been there. Not that I wouldn’t work stops at either of these into a daycation from Pittsburgh, but I wanted to bring to light some lesser known attractions.

Best of Summer

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The Best of Summer 2016 Part II…Beer

I’ve done extensive scientific research into the subject of chillaxation, which is defined as “a state of total tranquility that comprises both the restfulness of body (chilling) and peacefulness of mind (relaxation)”. As it turns out, there’s no better activity to achieve this blissful state than enjoying a cold beer on a hot day.

I’ve enlisted my childhood friend Monica to help substantiate my hypothesis. Along with holding a PhD in Infectious Diseases and Microbiology, she’s also conducted numerous field studies at the establishments that make up our region’s exploding craft beer and microbrewery scene. Monica is now going to report on her research by giving us some beverage suggestions that are guaranteed to maximize your chillaxation all summer long!

(First off, I have a short confession to the readers: I don’t like hoppy beer. My IBU scanning of selections usually have me choosing the lowest numbers by default. If you are a hop head, you’re likely not going to have fun with the following.)

In the regional area, there are approximately 70 breweries. The boyfriend and I have a list and a google map and are slowly visiting them all. Hell, we even made it to Milkman Brewing and they were open for approximately 20 minutes. There are many beers that we can consider both local and good for summer drinking. Not all of my suggestions are local, but many are. Support your local brewer.

This being said, I’m also a big qualifier of information. I have a thing for parenthetical comments. When I’m asked a question, I instantly go through the multitude of answers that could be correct, and qualify when each answer is appropriate. I thought that it would be most helpful to have a list of common summer situations in which beer is the appropriate answer and then qualify them. Here it goes:

The “I just spent a ridiculous time performing lawn maintenance in 90F weather for a lawn that I only go in to mow” beer.

The appropriate beer here is one that won’t be contaminated by the taste of the sweat running down your face or the smell of grass stuck in your nose. It won’t be super high in ABV, nor will it be super astringent. This beer will quench your thirst, but also give you a taste of something that will remind you of something other than lawn work. It’s not a savoring beer, it is a thirst quenching beer. (Yes, I do my own lawn work.)

I’m recommending a Doc G’s beer called “Orange Blossom Wheat”. It’s a 4.8% ABV with a hit of orange. It is all of the things that I think go well with a shitty lawn job. Now, you all can go over to yelp and look at the reviews of this place (it’s in DuBois), and well, they’re not good. What I can say is that I have insider information that the brewer has changed, and this will likely impact your beer enjoyment.

The “It’s Friday, my coworkers have the intelligence of horseshoe crabs, and I need to go in tomorrow anyway” beer.

Sometimes you need to sit at a patio and bitch about life while sipping a beer. This calls for a quality drink. You can have a couple of drinks, but then you realize that real life is going to set in early tomorrow, so you want to make them count. You want something that is a pleasant taste and buzz, and go well with that water you’re going to have after them.

I’m recommending the Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale by Alltech’s Lexington Brewing and Distilling. It’s 8.19% ABV is going to have you pleasantly forgetting about the idiots you work with and have you moving to a discussion about what you’re going to do on vacation. (I’m calling this local because you can get it at Giant Eagle.)


The “I’m being forced to spend time with my family” beer.

If you are obligated to spend time with your family and need beer to get through it (and they’re of the Bud Light variety), you are going to need a beer that satisfies several criteria. One, it must be worth it to take to the location. Two, it’s going to have to be something that someone else is not going to want to steal. Three, it likely has to not be too heavy as to not compete with the potato salad. Four, it needs to be a session beer (We know what you think of your cousin’s new boyfriend, but we don’t need to do this now).

I’m recommending the Ellicottville Brewing Company’s Blueberry Wheat beer. It’s fruity, so all of the old white-beards in the family aren’t going to want any. It’s a lighter wheat beer, and it’s just a hint of blueberry, so it goes well with the standard cookout fare. Lastly, it only has a 4.8 ABV, so you can finish the 6-pack while the rest of the family is harping on you to get married.

The “F*@K this I’m out, night before vacation” beer.

Sometimes you can be one of those people that packed for vacation 2 days before you leave. Other times you need to walk out of work realizing that you have to get up at 6 AM for the flight and haven’t washed clothes for 2 weeks. When the latter happens, you can hole up at a local brewery (bonus points if there’s a food truck and the mayor is wearing shorts) and have a beer or two. Because, really, you’re going to sleep on the plane anyway.

While I said that I’m no fan of hops, for some reason the hops I do like are the Nelson hops. These New Zealand based hops aren’t nearly as piney to me, and provide a nice astringent taste and a floral aroma that’s refreshing.

For pre-gaming vacation, I suggest Brew Gentlemen’s Nelson Saison (ABV 6.0%). This beer says “I’m only packing what I need for the beach”.

The “Sitting around the bonfire watching the stars” beer.

Sometimes you need a relaxing evening with friends, sitting around a summer bonfire, picking out the constellations in the sky. It’s way after dinner at this point, you don’t have any plans in the morning, and sitting and chatting are the only thing you want to do. Not high level work discussion, not philosophical discussions about what the world looks like to you, just telling stories and shit-talking your friends.

To save the best for last, I’m imploring you to get some of Helltown’s Hefeweizen (5% ABV). It’s the sitting around beer. It’s the ‘hold my beer so I can tell this story with hand movements’ beer. It’s the beer of friendship and remembering who has the embarrassing pictures of you as a child.

Best of Summer

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The Best of Summer 2016 Part I…Music

Welcome to the first installment in a series of posts celebrating the start of summer sixteen. Kicking off the festivities is a hot af mixtape by Pittsburgh’s bestest audio scientist RJ 2020k. After enjoying the tunes below, please be sure to check out RJ’s website here and follow him on the twitter @twenty20k!


Side A
1) Since I Left You by The Avalanches
2) Runaway by Electric Youth
3) Empty Threat by Chvrches
4) Hex Girlfriend by Neon Indian
5) Back That Thang Up by Juvenile
6) Ain’t 2 Proud 2 Beg by TLC

Side B
7) Be Thankful For What You’ve Got by Massive Attack
8) Good Time by Brazilian Girls
9) High Road (Baio Remix) by Cults
10) C’mon by Kesha
11) I Get Around by 2Pac
12) Two Months Off by Underworld

BONUS TRACK: Everybody Loves The Sunshine by Roy Ayers

Liner Notes: Normally, my mixtapes are well thought-out concepts so I thought it would be fun to destroy the concept and list the most high energy, sonically sunshine-stained songs I could possibly think of.

Layered Electronic tracks, high energy throwback Rap, glittery Pop, well-known and obscure names proudly litter this track list. There’s something for everyone, so get in your car and turn this up!

As caffeinated and random as this playlist is, there are two songs in particular that I would like to point out as having significance: The Delta Foundation booking Kesha’s appearance at Pittsburgh’s 2016 Pride in the Street was a bold, rightfully supportive move that brought me to tears so “C’Mon” is my way of showing support to both parties (I’ll obviously be roaming the streets that day, so come say hey!).

The Roy Ayers inclusion is a funny one because I was Googling “Everybodylovesyou.net” to look at previous playlists and “Everybody Loves The Sunshine” popped up, so the iconic song was thrown in as a bonus track as a nod to this lovely website.



Best of Summer

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My Mixtape Monday – The Best of Grunge

My main objective when putting together this playlist was to avoid curating a hackneyed list of omnipresent hits from the grunge era (i.e. Smells like Teen Spirit, Jeremy, etc.). However, I also didn’t want to catalog a pretentious “deep dive” collection of influential but ultimately vestigial music from the scene’s pioneers (i.e. Mother Love Bone, Tad et al).

Hopefully what I arrived at is a nice selection of songs from the seminal artists that defined the time period, along with some unpolished gems of early nineties alternative rock. Now let’s throw on our flannel shirts and start choppin’!

Mixtape Name: Alternative Nations

Side A
1) Drain You by Nirvana (1991)
Infectious (literally) lyrics, an equally catchy guitar riff and a rubber ducky solo infuse this song with a playfulness missing from most of Nevermind’s gloomy Side B.
2) Release by Pearl Jam (1991)
With lyrics that play out like poetry, Release captured Eddie Vedder’s songwriting and singing at their cathartic best.
3) Hunger Strike by Temple of the Dog (1991)
More classic baritone beltings from Eddie Vedder, this time with Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell assisting with his soulful high register.
4) Nearly Lost You by Screaming Trees (1992)
This Singles Soundtrack highlight nails the three hallmarks of grunge: gruff vocals, yearning lyrics and crunchy guitars.
5) 100% by Sonic Youth (1992)
Sonic Youth possessed an avant-garde aesthetic that did not fit wholly under the umbrella of grunge. Regardless, the bouncy punk strains of 100% sounds quite nice nestled into this mix and reflect a similar spirit of relentlessness.
6) Would? By Alice in Chains (1992)
To me, grunge was the intersection of a Venn diagram made up of punk rock, indie rock and heavy metal. Along with Soundgarden, Alice in Chains embodied the sludgy, dark side of grunge and Would? captured them at gritty best.

Side B
7) Plush (Acoustic from Headbangers Ball) by Stone Temple Pilots (1992)
STP’s music added a pop-inspired veneer to grunge music that was controversial at the time and caused many journalists to label them as derivative poseurs. Retrospectively, the strength of their catalog now finds them inarguably one of the most talented bands of the grunge era and the undeniable Plush is a shining example of their melodic song craft.
8) Start Choppin’ by Dinosaur Jr. (1993)
9) Accelerator by Gumball (1993)
10) Under My Skin by Dandelion (1993)
Though these East Coast bands did not achieve the breakthrough success of their Seattle brethren, both of these songs are perfect examples of guitar-driven grunge rock.
11) Rocket by Smashing Pumpkins (1993)
Just try to not sing along with Billy Corgan as he triumphantly repeats “I shall be free!”
12) Violet by Hole (1994)
Fitting that we end this playlist with an artist some regard as being responsible for the death of the era’s spokesman Kurt Cobain. Regardless of your opinion of Courtney Love, the quiet-to-loud grunge ethos are on full display here along with a feminine fury that seems just as vital today as it was in 1993.

YouTube Playlist Link: Alternative Nations


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The Year in Tweets – 2015

I, for one, am glad that this year is coming to an end. It was pretty much the sh*ttiest year of my life, and worldwide it seemed like not a week went by without a mass public shooting, terrorist attack, or person of color being killed by the po-po. And don’t even get me started on how disappointing ‘True Detective’ Season 2 was…

Despite all this strife and discord, I still managed to tweet out a bunch of gelastic non sequiturs over the past twelve months. I’ve compiled my best thirty-nine tweets below, along with some pics of my buddy Katrina’s dog Loki. He’s an 11-month-old Siberian Heartthrob who’s appropriately named since he’s all about mischief. His hobbies include chasing other puppies at the dog park, eating mud, and stealthily stealing tissues out of the garbage while his Mom isn’t looking.

Have a happy and prosperous 2016 everybody and please enjoy an all-new, all-different Year in Tweets!!!

“found footage” horror movie of me stepping on Legos in the dark…

“waiting for the liquor store to open while wearing a swimsuit” means you’re either having a great day or your life has gone miserably wrong

caprese salads are my favorite salads because they’re not really salads, they’re just f*ckin’ cheese…

Coco Chanel said “before you leave the house, remove one accessory” so i’m taking off my pants…

coffee so strong that it’s a beachbody coach and so hot that none of the other stay-at-home moms want to hang out with it…

current status: planning my lunch while eating my breakfast…

every morning i wake up asking myself the same burning question – “what condo did they end up choosing on House Hunters International?”…

FYI – “going to Target on a Saturday afternoon” is the new “going to the club on a Friday night”…

had a nightmare about Freddy Krueger but instead of trying to kill me, he just kept inviting me to play Candy Crush…

hit snooze so hard on my iPhone 6 that my iPhone 3G felt it…

i ate a big burrito right before bed and then had a nightmare that i ate a little burrito…

i can handle incompetence and backstabbing, but if a coworker doesn’t alert me when there’s free food in the break room, they’re dead to me

i can hear Whitney singing “i believe the children are our future” in my head as i watch my son eat shredded cheddar cheese off the floor…

i have the perfect beachbody because it’s soft, pale yellowish and mostly dry…

i like my coffee like i like my women…strong, hot and furiously challenging the ahistorical conceptions of the patriarchal state…

i really hope that “yelling at old people who are holding up traffic to turn into church” isn’t a sin…

if someone steals my identity, i just hope that they use my gym membership more often than i do…

in high school, i put more thought into deciding what outfit to wear to Kennywood than i did what colleges to apply to…

just pressed Left-Right-Left-Right B, A, Start on my Keurig and now i have unlimited coffee…

most bumper stickers make me cringe but i just saw a one that said “I Love My Grandcat” and i’ve never felt happier to be alive…

my company is holding CPR training tomorrow but i refuse to take part until they get me some better looking coworkers…

my computer must be broke ‘cause i keep hitting the escape key but i’m still here at work…

my toddler is constantly asking questions like “Who’s that?”, “Where are we going?” and “What you really know about the Dirty South?”…

read a Yelp review and someone wrote “Fish tacos so good that I ate the whole meal!” & i’m like “smh b*tch, i eat everything even if it sux”

rollin’ down the street, smokin’ endo, sippin’ on gin and organic, locally sourced, gluten-free juice…

she wants a Victorian that’s haunted by devils; he’s looking for a mid-century modern that’s on the ocean floor…next on HouseHunters…

sings “Jaaay-son DeruuulooOoOo” prior to starting Powerpoint presentation…

smoke break, but instead of a cigarette, i go outside and eat string cheese every hour…

that feeling when the IT guy is working on your computer and he sees that your last Google search was for “marshawn lynch fantasy”…

that’s not a tattoo it’s eczema…

the next episode of “Naked and Afraid” is just me stepping in the scale this morning…

these thin mints aren’t making me thin…

trying to explain to my toddler why he can’t have pizza and ice cream for breakfast and i really can’t come up with any good reasons…

watching Cake Wars and wondering how we can expect humans to live peacefully when delicious desserts can’t even get along…

when i was a kid, going to bed at ten on a Friday would’ve been a punishment, now it feels like a reward…

whenever i travel into the city with my wife to see a show i pray we don’t get shot but if we do i also pray that my son becomes Batman…

yells “REMIX!” at your second wedding…

you know you’ve been watching too much Thomas the Train when you yell “fizzling fireboxes” during sex…

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My Mixtape Monday – Best of…2005

Continuing our annual tradition, below is a mixtape playlist rounding up the best songs of the year….just not this year. Let’s flashback a decade and relive the excitement (Tom Cruise on Oprah’s couch), pain (Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston getting divorced) and triumph (Carrie Underwood winning American Idol) of 2005 with a playlist put together by me and my buddy Kate!

First Names: Kate & Alex
Twitters: in 2005 there was no Twitter, but you can try to find us on MySpace!
Ages in 2005: 14 & 28

Mixtape Name: Million Dollar Mixtape

Side A – High School Freshman by Kate
1) Breathe (2 AM) by Anna Nalick
It is not 2 a.m. It is not even midnight. It is around 3:30 p.m. and I’ve been out of school for less than an hour. I’m freshly 14 years old, I’m listening to the first half of this song on repeat, and I am in LOVE. Bad love; crazy love; the kind of love that hits you the hardest when even the smallest bra in the juniors’ department leaves little convex pockets of air under your shirt.
The unfortunate blond object of my affection seems to be aware of me in a vague way; that is, we once bumped shoulders in the hallway and he expressed a mumbled realization that a sentient block of carbon was passing on the left.
After I shoved a tortured confession of my feelings into his locker (signed Your <3 Secret <3 Admirer <3), he started dating my neighbor, who was at LEAST a B-cup. Oh, how I wept. Just breathe, Anna sang. Just breathe. I wiped the tears and snot trails off my face and I did my best.
2) Crooked Teeth by Death Cab for Cutie
Ah, indie rock. I remember one of my first encounters with that intoxicatingly twee aesthetic – a girl in my algebra class was wearing a Death Cab for Cutie t-shirt.
She wore it most days, because she was a Cool Girl. She had Cool Dyed Hair and wore Cool Ripped Jeans and smoked Cool Menthol Cigarettes. She had probably never worn a blanket to school or suffered an allergic and very puffy reaction to sparkly gel eyeshadow or staple-gunned her own leg for a paltry $5 in art class, unlike your friend the author. She just hung around listening to music, her pin-straight hair dropped in a perfect geometric slash across her face, and boys hung around listening to her.
After my first run-through of Plans, though, I’d forgotten all about my jealousy. Ben Gibbard KNEW ME. Crooked Teeth was WRITTEN ABOUT ME PERSONALLY. Specifically, it was about the time I almost asked a boy to a dance in middle school but totally didn’t. It was also about my recently deceased dog. It was also, improbably, about the time my mom wouldn’t let me go to Club Zoo Under-21 Night with my friends. There was no doubt about which side I was on. (Uh-huh.)
3) The First Day of My Life by Bright Eyes
Death Cab was, of course, a gateway drug, and it dragged me with inexorable, black-eyelined force toward the pained whine of the patron saint of Sad Boys: Conor Oberst. My God, I loved Bright Eyes. The lyrics! The truth! The beauty! The constant folksy little hammer-ons! Ben Gibbard didn’t know me. Ben Gibbard didn’t know shit. How could I have been so blind? It was Conor, waiting just beyond the horizon holding all the answers in his super-cool guitar-strumming arms, the whole time.
I practiced dropping Bright-Eyes-inspired witticisms here and there, my eyes shielded by cheap off-brand Ray-Bans.. In my mind, I was speeding down California One, beautifully and tragically alone, an open bottle of gin in the passenger’s seat, while a bevy of scorned lovers called my Razr flip phone to no avail. Until then, I decided, I would just keep the door to my room shut so my mom wouldn’t ask me why I spent all my time whispering at my reflection in the mirror.
4) My Doorbell by The White Stripes
If my MySpace page from 2005 still existed, somewhere, by some miracle, in the annals of the Wayback Machine, and you were brave enough to give it a click, you’d be barraged by dozens of photos of Jack White messily embedded in the HTML code. To say I loved the White Stripes would have been an understatement.
When Get Behind Me Satan came out, I practically receded into a singularity. The poppy rhythms of My Doorbell in particular snagged my attention. It was wistful, cheery and just a tad insistent. I imagined Jack and Meg’s tour van breaking down, fortuitously, in front of my parents’ house.
They’d come right up to the porch and I’d ask them in for a cup of tea while Triple-A made its way over. We’d talk, we’d laugh, we’d write Grammy-winning tunes. We’d discuss marriage prospects. It’d be a very eventful 20 minutes. I’m thinking about my doorbell, Jack. When you gonna ring it?
5) Lose Control by Missy Elliott ft. Ciara
The year? 2005. The time? 8:00 p.m. The location? Brittany’s house. The event? A dance party. I was huddled over an iPod in the living room with several other girls as we created the perfect playlist. Remember that Club Zoo underage night I was bitching about earlier? We’d decided to go (gasp) WITHOUT PERMISSION.
“I’m sleeping at Brit’s,” I told my mom cheerfully. “I’m sleeping at Kate’s,” she told her mom. “Whatever,” our moms said. We pulled out the box of club clothes from under our friend Rachel’s bed – she’d methodically been sneaking belly-baring shirts and pleather skirts from her older sister’s closet for months. We were ready. But first, we had to practice our moves. And what better song than Lose Control?
At 14, sexiness was a too-big costume we were trying on out of curiosity, but with a beat like this in the background and sips of deliciously illegal Smirnoff Ice between awkward flailings, we felt almost like adults.
6) Heart in a Cage by The Strokes
There are a lot of reasons that this is my favorite track on First Impressions of Earth, but the fact that it features the f-word was its sticking point for me in the good old days of 2005. I loved the anger boiling behind the recurring guitar riff, and I loved the edge to Julian Casablancas’ voice when he shouted about fighting through the crowd to find someone who wasn’t even there. I, myself, had felt the exact same way when I showed up to Language Arts wearing my cute new blue-striped shirt and my crush was out sick. (A likely story.)
The Strokes made their first appearance in my life during an art class, when the art teacher, who I was also in love with (think of ninth grade me as Tina Belcher with a drinking problem), popped Room On Fire into the CD player. It was transcendent. And, of all the songs on this list, Heart in a Cage is the one that I revisit the most often.
7) Suddenly I See by KT Tunstall
You can say what you want about the long and oft-ridiculed catalogue of catchy bubblegum pop, but this song is everything a radio hit should aspire to be. Listening to it is like knocking back a shot of espresso.
And in 2005, anytime I felt like it was about time to crawl into my grave and wallow around in my despair for a few centuries, I’d pull out my trusty silver iPod and search for KT Tunstall. All worries would dissipate for about two minutes, and I would bop around, feeling light and free and maybe even moderately attractive, which is a rare feat for a 14-year-old girl.
It didn’t matter that I’d embarrassed myself past the point of no return in gym class once again, or that I’d turned in a half-blank algebra test. It didn’t matter that my date for the winter formal had gotten arrested and would no longer be able to escort me. Suddenly I saw — I was everything I wanted to be.
8) John Wayne Gacy, Jr. by Sufjan Stevens
When I was in 6th grade, my friend and I spent days poring over something entitled, as I recall, The Big Book of Serial Killers. We were obsessed. We’d seen lots of horror movies, but this was it; the real thing. These were the real monsters who stalked the world and plucked people just like you and me right out of their lives and dropped them into a nightmare. It was like a car wreck — you’re disturbed, but you just can’t look away.
I’ve always had a passion for the morbid, and with the release of Come On Feel the Illinoise, it intersected squarely with my budding love of soft-voiced indie rockers. I read everything Gacy-related I could get my hands on. I stared at his seemingly innocuous paintings. I tried to put myself in the head of his unfortunate victims; I tried to put myself in my own head. It was all very disturbing, and the last few lines of the song have always stuck with me: “And in my best behavior, I am really just like him. Look beneath the floorboards for the secrets I have hid.”

Side B – First Marriage by Alex
9) Since U Been Gone by Kelly Clarkson
I got married to my first wife* in September 2005. All the pomp and circumstance surrounding that event was enjoyable and exciting at the time, but since things didn’t work out, it’s hard to look back and feel much joy.
Since U Been Gone is a fitting leadoff to my side of the mixtape since its bittersweet sentiment echoes many of my own feelings about that time period. The song also is a significant harbinger of the paradigm shift in mainstream music that’s occurred over the past decade.
The composition incorporates elements of R&B and indie rock, whilst the soaring chorus is pure anthemic pop. Combine that with a knockout vocal performance from an artist promoted via a televised talent show, and you have the recipe for half of the songs that make up the iTunes Top Ten list today.
* I’m now happily married to my second (and hopefully last) wife!
10) King Without a Crown by Matisyahu
It’s been almost exactly ten years since Howard Stern left terrestrial radio and I’m still sad about it. I would listen to it religiously during my morning commutes and would frequently find myself going into work late since I just couldn’t turn the radio off and get out of my car after parking.
Howard’s show aired locally on 93-7 K-Rock in 2005, and I’d usually keep the station on during the ride home since it played a decent mix of alternative rock. One night I heard the live version of King Without a Crown, fell in love with it, and spent the night searching Kazaa Lite for a copy of it.
I’ve always had a soft spot for reggae-ska-rock (which helps explain my love for Sublime), and this song continues to be one of my all-time favorite examples of the genre.
11) Dance, Dance by Fall Out Boy
12) The Only Difference Between Martyrdom and Suicide Is Press Coverage by Panic! at the Disco
Two more songs that I discovered via 93-7 and then downloaded illegally. I was a little too old to get enraptured by the emo-punk scene of the early aughts, but these songs burrowed their way into my head and found a permanent place.
13) Sitting, Waiting, Wishing by Jack Johnson
Nowadays, Jack Johnson’s brand of easy listening dad-rock is more likely to be referenced in a meme for “Stuff White People Like” than to be lauded as credible music. But I say “F dat!”. I don’t care how much of my hipster cred it costs me, Jack Johnson is awesome.
I first became aware of his music via Rodeo Clowns off of G. Love’s 1999 album Philadelphonic*. Mr. Johnson’s debut Brushfire Fairytales soon followed, and is still one of my favorite albums from the early-00s. After the uneven On & On, he released In Between Dreams in March 2005. From the first song (Better Together) to the last (Constellations), this album perfectly captured the charm of his straightforward songwriting.
To coincide with the plaintive theme of this retrospective, I went with the anguishing love ballad Sitting, Waiting, Wishing. It distinguishes itself from the rest of the album by not shying away from the ugly side of life and ruminating on the resentment associated with moving on from a failed relationship.
* I might as well throw away all of my hipster cred and state for the record that I love G. Love & Special Sauce as well. Do yourself a favor and check out Philadelphonic, as well as their eponymous debut from 1994.
14) Go Crazy (Remix) by Young Jeezy feat. Jay-Z
Every few years, Jay-Z will jump on a remix and remind everyone why he’s the GOAT. Being paired with hot newcomer Young Jeezy and a crazy (no pun intended) Don Cannon beat brought out the best in Jigga with lyrics like:
“See, I’m a hustler’s hope, I’m not his pipe dream.
So when they speak of success, I’m what they might mean.
Attract money, my worst color is light green.
My favorite hue is Jay-z blue.”
15) 1 Thing by Amerie
The beautiful cacophony of horns and drums on this Meters-sampled track are still undeniably catchy to this day.
16) Gold Digger by Kanye West feat. Jamie Foxx
“Now I ain’t sayin’ she a gold digger”…but…actually there isn’t any “but”. Thankfully my ex-wife had a good job so our conscious uncoupling did not entail any financial hardship for moi. Further mollifying the situation was the fact that she was a lawyer and handled all of the associated legal paperwork herself. At far as divorces go, I can’t imagine it going any easier than what I went through. Regardless, I still don’t recommend it if you can help it!
The antagonists of Mr. West’s breakthrough hit are not portrayed as magnanimously as what I described above. Thankfully his disdain is more tongue-in-cheek than outright vitriolic, and his playful delivery is a perfect match for the lively beat.

Liner Notes: Now that we finished up recapping our decade-old favorites, let’s get on to our selections for the top songs of 2015:

Alex – Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for Two Virgins) by Father John Misty, Lean On by Major Lazer and 100 by The Game feat. Drake

Kate – The Ballad of Bull Ramos by The Mountain Goats, Hotline Bling (Drake cover) by Sufjan Stevens, High by the Beach by Lana Del Rey

YouTube Playlist Link: Million Dollar Mixtape


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