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Grizzlies Draft Watch: Personal player rankings, new assumptions, Pera speaks

Back when I first wrote on the 2018 draft for The Commercial Appeal, I promised three iterations of a personal draft board, the final one right before the draft. At the time, I didn’t anticipate that I’d be between official writing homes when the time came.

But here we are and so I’ll fulfill that obligation in this space. But first, a couple of related items.

Assumption Adjustments: When I last weighed in, before last week’s vacation, I began with seven then-current assumptions, presented in descending order of certainty. The first five of those still apply, but the squishiest final couple of assumptions now seem to be more in question. Let’s revisit them:

  1. Trading down can’t be discounted but is still unlikely.

  2. Michael Porter is too risky.

Note this recent tweet from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski:

Maybe Jackson had a great workout in Phoenix. Who knows?  It’s smokescreen season. But what I do believe is that there’s going to be a lot of trade talk at 2-4, and the reason for that is that the draft seems to be settling into a broader second tier of players. My assumption a couple of weeks ago was that DeAndre Ayton would go #1 and the #2/#3 picks would come from a pool of Luka Doncic/Marvin Bagley/Jaren Jackson. At #4, the obvious move for the Grizzlies would be to take the player left, with secondary options taking a risk on Michael Porter or trading down/out.

That’s still the most likely scenario, but now it seems like the group of candidates at 2/3 may be a little larger, with Porter working out and sharing medicals opening the door to him reclaiming his former spot as a top-of-the-draft candidate and the enormous upside of Mo Bamba shifting into the spotlight. There are three picks ahead of the Grizzlies and it looks like there are six possible players for those picks.

The size of that presumed first/second tier (and the chance that some team may add Trae Young or Wendell Carter to it) makes it more likely that someone at 2/3/4 might be able to move down two or three spots and still get what they want. The expectation now is that there will be very little certainty, starting at pick #2, by the time draft night rolls around.

Pera Talks: Grizzlies controlling owner Robert Pera made an unexpected appearance yesterday, conducting an exclusive interview with Chris Vernon on the Grizzlies’ own communications arm. I’m going to forego an annotation here. The newsiest elements were probably Pera’s implication that he’d be a little bit more present/visible now that last season’s ownership uncertainties have been resolved and his confirmation that he has no interest in attempting to relocate a franchise. The latter is unsurprising, but he sounded entirely guileless and honest on the subject. His soundbite about the Grizzlies winning 50 games next season may prove unhelpful, but we’ll revisit that at a later date (and in a different venue).

Most of the conversation was career/personality oriented, and was a reminder that Pera is an interesting and persuasive figure when he emerges. Hopefully we’ll get more not too far down the line, perhaps once this offseason is over and all the legalities of the recent ownership transactions are finalized. And hopefully he’ll be willing to field some more Grizzlies-specific questions from some non-affiliated questioners. We’ll see.

My Draft Board

A few quick notes before the list:

I don’t claim to be a “draft expert,” but the last Grizzlies season went off the rails by January and I shifted into draft scouting mode very early, spending more time on it than I have in years.

Some players on this list — DeAndre Ayton and the Duke/Michigan State/Villanova/Kentucky guys especially — I watched play 10 or so times last season.

Most others I watched two or three times. A few I never got around to seeing (or they weren’t playing) in full game action. Everything is supplemented by stats, scouting reports, conversations with other people trying to figure all of this out, etc.

These rankings are not made with the specifics of the Grizzlies situation in mind. There may be spots where I would veer off my own rankings slightly due to fit issues or the particular place the Grizzlies are in. I made note of that in the player comments, which I tried to keep to 100 words each. I went 30 deep. I divided it into tiers to reflect that not every dip from one player to the next is equal.

The Grizzlies pick at #32, but several of these players will likely be on the board when that pick comes up, so I think a 30 player list covers that pick. 

UPDATE: A final adjustment before the draft. The only change here is moving down Michael Porter based on new information on health concerns.

TIER 1

1. DeAndre Ayton: An old-school franchise center coming into a new-school league. Could be a dominant inside-the-arc scorer and rebounder in short order, but he’s hinted at plentiful growth potential on the perimeter, on both ends of the floor. The question of whether he has the awareness/instincts to be a defensive anchor in the paint is a big one, but it’s a mystery, not a lost cause. The highest floor in the draft. Maybe the highest ceiling too.

TIER 2

2. Luka Doncic: He’s not without concerns. Doncic looks heavy-footed on film and while he may have faced good competition, he has not faced a lot of NBA-level perimeter defenders. I’d feel better if he were a knockdown three-point shooter, but he’s not … yet. How much can size, handle, vision, and court sense (all seemingly positionally elite) make up for these concerns? I think the shooting needs to come, and probably will. On the former? I think he finds a way. Add give-a-damn to his skill set. Tie goes to the perimeter in 2018.

3. Jaren Jackson Jr.: The best defensive prospect in the draft, and that end of the floor still exists. Jackson has the length and instincts to be a Defensive Player of the Year candidate down the road, a big man who can blow up pick-and-rolls, switch onto guards and wings, and swat shots at the rim. Offensively, he’s a work in progress, but 40/80 three-point/free-throw shooting is a nice start. There were flashes in college of long off-the-bounce strides from the three-point line to (above) the rim. Here’s betting there’s a lot more of that to come. I think he’s ultimately a center, but foot speed and shooting range give him versatility. I think he can play with Marc Gasol in the short term.

4. Marvin Bagley Jr.: A board-and-bucket-getter whose offensive game as a shooter/driver/passer should expand. I believe in him on that end of the floor. On defense? To quote President Bartlet quoting Governor Ritchie: Boy … I don’t know. Despite his size in a game growing smaller, I think he’s primarily a 4 in the NBA, not a 5. That means he needs a frontcourt partner that can give him space offensively and protect the paint defensively. The Grizzlies have one, at least for now. For reasons of fit and, even more so, fear of risk, I might move him up one for the Grizzlies. In a vacuum, though, I give Jackson the nod.

TIER 3

5. Wendell Carter Jr.: Sue me, I love skilled bigs. Carter is a basketball player: Long, strong, fundamentally sound on both ends of the floor. He’ll shoot from distance, work on the block, make the right pass, hit the boards, and react well to everything happening around him. I love him. But I also think his middling foot speed and average lift limits his upside. The best player on the board who has no chance of being the best player in the draft. From a Grizzlies perspective, I don’t really think he can play with Marc Gasol.

6. Trae Young: The most important qualities in a point guard today are passing/vision and deep shooting off the dribble. He’s potentially elite on both counts, so I think his massive college numbers are a hint of major NBA upside, not necessarily an NCAA mirage. That said, he’ll likely be a deplorable defender, may struggle to score inside the arc, and I’d worry about this durability at the next level. Probably a non-starter for the Grizzlies given the years left on Mike Conley’s deal.

7. Mohamed Bamba: The Thabeet comps are unfair. He’s a more nimble athlete, has more scoring upside, and seems to have a better head on his shoulders. That said, he’s pretty raw in both skill and body and is locked into one position. He might make a team very happy, but I’d be reluctant to roll the dice higher than this. The lowest ranked player on the list who could be the best player in the draft.

8. Mikal Bridges: Players who took three years to become lottery prospects have a spotty track record. The risk is that Bridges has already topped out, but I believe in him as a high-level three-and-D pro. Think Danny Green but with above-the-rim finishing ability. Those players don’t make All-Star games but they help you rack up wins.

TIER 4

9. Michael Porter Jr.: He pops off the screen in highlight clips in a way that Doncic doesn’t. Nix the Durant comps, but a bigger, better rebounding Jayson Tatum? That’s the upside and it’s #1 pick worthy. But the questions start rather than end with (gulp) back surgery. It’s hard to develop much of a sense of defense and overall feel for a guy who’s never played a healthy game above high school level. Still, health reports seem to be trending in the right direction and his Tremendous Upside Potential (Hubie Brown voice) is such that I’ll put him at the top of this tier. Update: Sketchy new information on health moves him back down.

10. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander: I started watching Kentucky for Kevin Knox and Hamidou Diallo, but the eyes always shifted to the long, slinky kid making things happen with the ball, and he proved to have staying power. As previous Grizzlies draft endorsements of Delon Wright (good call!) and Wade Baldwin (um …) attest, I’ve got a weakness for big point guards once the potential stars are off the board, and so it goes. A plus defender across the backcourt, a potential spot-up threat, and someone who can handle/initiate offense. Profiles as a useful rotation player for anyone and a potential starter with the right (superior) perimeter partners.

11. Kevin Knox: The poor man’s version of Michael Porter, but without the back injury. Could never settle into his NBA role on a mismatched Kentucky squad and was an inconsistent contributor. Only an average freshman three-point shooter (34 percent), but with his form and age, I think he’ll end up a plus shooter relative to his position, which will mostly be a 4. Athletically, I think he’s more of a Morris Twin than the Next Paul George, but those guys are NBA starter level, and I think he will be too.

12. Collin Sexton: A fierce competitor with the ball in his hands, so if he pans out this could undersell him significantly. But where Trae Young excels in the pass/shoot department, Sexton seems more ordinary: Worse than 34 percent from downtown, fewer than 4 assists per game. Is he good enough to be a ball-dominant starter on a decent team? If not, you’re consigning yourself to mediocrity on the ball (which probably means mediocrity in the standings) or you’re consigning him to the bench. He’d probably be pretty good coming off the bench, and at 12 you can draft him for that.

13. Miles Bridges: His bouncy athleticism, defensive willingness, and positional versatility put him in the mix here, but I watched Michigan State a bunch and have some doubts. He was a decent college three-point shooter (36 percent) and his 85 percent free throw shooting is encouraging, but I didn’t see a lot of NBA range in those attempts. More at issue is that his handle looked very shaky. I think he’s more of a small-ball four. He’s physical enough for it, but at not-quite 6’7” that makes him a bench player.

14. Khyri Thomas: The guy I’m highest on relative to all the mocks/rankings out there. Right, he’s already 22 and is only 6’4”. But he’s got length (6’11” wingspan), above-the-rim hops, defensive want-to (two-time Big East Defensive Player of the Year), and a jumper (41 percent from three, nearly 78 percent from the line). Not much of a handle, but in the right setting (say, between Mike Conley and Luka Doncic), I could see him being an NBA starter.

15. Robert Williams: Clint Capela is the right comp, but it’s best case scenario and few players reach their peak outcome. Only 6’9”, but long, strong, and quick off the floor. He’s a center, and while he won’t stretch, he’s not unskilled with the ball. He could be a starter. Docked a little because tie goes to the perimeter.

TIER 5

16. De’Anthony Melton: Rangy, sound, physical backcourt defender who handles/passes well enough to initiate offense. Did the copious skill-development time that came from a year off result in an improved shooting stroke? If so — apparently so? — he could be a Pat Beverly type. If the jumper looked wonky in workouts, I’d move him down several spots. 

17. Lonnie Walker Jr.: At a glance, he looks like a prototype NBA two guard. Big wingspan, glides across the floor, finishes above the rim, and has nice shooting form, including off the dribble and from deep range. Look more closely and it’s more fuzzy. The pretty three-point shot hit net less than 35 percent of the time and maybe he’s a little stiff laterally, maybe a little slow to react off the ball. I’d worry that he looks the part more than he plays it, but there’s NBA starter upside here.

18. Melvin Frazier: Disconcertingly raw for a soon-to-be-22-year-old with three years of college under his belt, but he’s an especially toolsy late-bloomer. At 6’6” with a 7’2” wingspan and twitchy quickness, Frasier is a steal/deflection machine who took a step forward as a shooter last season (39 percent from three). He’s otherwise an adventure with the ball, but there’s considerable 3-and-D potential here.

19. Kevin Huerter: A 6’7” guard who shot better than 40 percent from three and seems to have enough in the skill/athleticism department to not be just a specialist is worth a close look. At this stage, it’s probably worth a pick.

20. Donte Divincenzo: His role at Villanova is probably his role in the NBA if he pans out: Irrational confidence shotmaker off the bench. It wasn’t just the title game; he was dynamite in that role all year. Probably as much tweener as a combo guard, but such a gamer that I believe in him as a second-unit spark plug.

21. Jalen Brunson: He has very little chance of being an NBA starter, but I’m pretty sold on him as a quality backup, where strength and savvy can compensate for limited size and athleticism. He’s an NBA deep shooter off the dribble, puts passes in the right place, and has great presence.

22. Landry Shamet: Not sure why he’s gotten so low on mocks, but he’s one of the best shooters in the draft (44 percent last season, and can shoot NBA range off the dribble) and is a good passer with good size (over 6’5”).

TIER 6

23. Elie Okobo: Late-breaking International Man of Mystery. This is the point in the draft where I’m skeptical enough about what I know of the remaining prospects to take a chance on the mostly unknown and he seems the most promising of that category. All indications suggest a dynamic scorer/shooter in a sturdy 6’3” frame. He might be a tier (or more?) too low here, but I just don’t know enough.

24. Mitchell Robinson: The Hassan Whiteside trajectory reminds us that sometimes a big, long thumper is worth taking a shot on even when surrounded by questions. (Though I’d be reluctant to take a big at #32 for the Grizzlies.)

TIER 7

25. Josh Okogie: Production (18 points per game as an ACC sophomore), length (6’5” with a 7’0” wingspan), shooting (38 percent from three, 82 percent from the line), and athleticism that shows up in the box score (1.8 steals, 1 block) suggest a player worth a shot in the late first.

26. Keita Bates-Diop: Productive as an older college vet but with tweener size/athleticism. For Bates-Diop, though, I think small-ball will be his friend. He’s 6’8” with a 7’3” wingspan, had decent rebounding/block production, and was a gamer. If his 36 percent three-point shooting portends a decent three-point threat at the NBA level, he could be a solid back-up four.

27. Zhaire Smith: He’s got lift, but I wasn’t blown away by his athleticism when I watched him. One of his comps via The Ringer is “Shorter Andre Roberson” and I’m just not that excited by a 6’4” guy with big questions about both his ball handling and shooting, especially when Thomas and Melton offer similarly sized athletic defenders with a little more offensive oomph. There aren’t many Tony Allens in the world.

28. Aaron Holiday: A small guard, but length (6’8” wingspan), production (20 points a game at UCLA), shooting (43 percent from 3 on more than 200 attempts), and pedigree (both older brothers are good pros) suggest he’s a good backup point guard bet.

29. Jacob Evans: Jack-of-all-trades wing. Decent size, decent defender, decent shooter, can handle a little bit for a wing. It seemed like whenever I watched him play my eyes tended to wander more to Landry Shamet or Melvin Frazier, but a solid basketball player, and I’ll trust his nice statistical profile over my eyes a little bit at this stage of the list.

30. Jerome Robinson: Not a point guard, but a shooter (41 percent from three, 200 attempts) with size (6’5”) who can handle a little bit.

 

 

Revisited

1997 Revisited

There are lots of terrific records here, led by one of my all-time favorites on the album list and some witty/funny hip-hop/R&B on the singles list. But scanning contenders on the singles list reminded me of how deeply lousy the late-1990s were for rock-oriented pop music, with the mid-1990s commercial co-option of indie/alt devolving into scrunge, nu-metal, fratty rap-rock, bad ska, lounge-pop, weird third-hand big band nostalgia, ersatz Lilith Fair exploitations, and so many empty-headed “alt” bands that would have been more bearable as the more proudly empty-headed hair-metal bands they would have been a decade before. The idea of the Foo Fighters (a fun, catchy, B+-level hard rock outfit) as an Important Rock Band starts here, I guess.

Not really related: I re-listened to OK Computer again for this and it’s every bit as soggy and ponderous as I remembered. One of the most overrated albums ever made.

Anyway, the lists …

1997 Albums (2)

ALBUMS

  1. Dig Me Out – Sleater-Kinney: “The Drama You’ve Been Craving.” “Turn It On.” “Words + Guitar.” “Dance Song ’97.” “Bring your heart to us and we’ll get it purified.” “It’s not want you want/It’s everything.” This album makes big promises and overdelivers. Their previous, 1996’s Call the Doctor, was suffused with a sense of becoming. This is a different brand of thrilling: With Janet Weiss grabbing the sticks for the first time, it’s about pure motorvating mastery, making room along the way for one of the most fraught end-of-a-relationship songs (“One More Hour”). If we’re being honest, it flags just slightly on three of the last four songs (rallying on “Dance Song ’97”). If we’re being honest, you were exhausted by then too.
  2. The Songs of Jimmie Rodgers: A Tribute – Various Artists: Unless I’ve missed something, the apotheosis of a middling genre (the tribute record) but also maybe the secret beginning of “Americana” (as opposed the previously preferred “alt country”), predating both Mermaid Avenue and O Brother, Where Art Thou? as roots rescue missions. It has a lower profile than either, but tops the latter and goes toe-to-toe with the former. Listening is believing. Favorites: Bob Dylan, Iris Dement, Willie Nelson, Alison Krauss, Steve Earle …. really, everyone but Bono.
  3. Supa Dupa Fly – Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott: Mary J. Blige forged “hip-hop soul” a few years before, but here’s the real synthesis. Inspirational plain talk: “It’s the things that you do that make me not love you.”
  4. I Can Hear the Heart Beating As One — Yo La Tengo: A guided tour de force of their buzzy, sleepily romantic little corner of the (indie rock) world. Nerd-lust apex: “We could slip away/Would that be better?/Me with nothing to say/And you in your autumn sweater.”
  5. … Play 9 Songs with Mr. Quintron — The Oblivians: Not just the great Memphis trash-rock band, but the great American trash-rock band. Did they catch religion off of that added organ or call in the organ after catching religion? Either way, the hottest Memphis rock-and-roll since the Sun Sessions.
  6. When I Was Born for the 7th Time — Cornershop: A new(ish) sound that portended big things that never really came. It’s still pretty sweet on its own terms.
  7. Brighten the Corners — Pavement: Their prettiest album, if occasionally too precious.
  8. The Carnival — Wyclef Jean: Without the need to share time and blend his personality with his Fugee comrades, Jean drifts hard toward corn, as his subsequent career attests. But here he’s still jet-propelled by the energy of his band triumph The Score and his first foray into solo diasporan hip-hop sounds, much like the Cornershop record, like a future we never quite got.
  9. Life After Death – Notorious B.I.G.: The double album (no, worse: double CD) sprawl lacks the focus of Ready to Die, of course. But despite the tragic unintended resonance of the title, it’s so much more than its conceptual trappings. Rather it’s a tribute to craft. “Somebody’s Gotta Die” is one of the finest short stories from one of pop music’s sharpest writers and still best for its rhyme-for-rhyme’s-sake (“Lear jets and coupes/The way Salt ‘shoops’/How to sell records like Snoop … oops”).  His off-hand humor bursts out everywhere. There are too many guests, but here the intent seems less padding than generosity, and the presence of so many mere mortals underscores his own enormous talent. RIP.
  10. Introducing … Ruben Gonzalez – Ruben Gonzalez: The best album to come out of the Buena Vista Social Club Cuban jazz (here piano) boomlet
  11. El Corazon – Steve Earle: I’ve got a soft spot for I Feel Alright, but this is probably his best.
  12. Time Out of Mind – Bob Dylan: Prematurely feted as a new Dylan masterpiece, something that would actually come four years later with “Love + Theft”. But Dylan’s most overrated album is still damn good, though I do think producer Daniel Lanois’ atmospheric murk impinges too much on Dylan’s natural wit and musicality. More a great Bob Dylan album for U2 fans than a great Bob Dylan album for Bob Dylan fans.
  13. Retreat From the Sun – That Dog: A lost gem of 1990s indie/alt, here the “chamber rock” of their debut has (almost) fully transitioned into hooky, scruffy guitar pop, with heart, brains, and more than a dollop of deadpan mischief.
  14. Too Far to Care – Old 97’s: I’m less enthralled by this breakthrough than most other Old 97’s’ fans I know. It has a few of their very best songs as written, but they hadn’t quite hit their musical stride yet, at least in studio. Here, they’re still trying to be an “alt-country” band, and the results are a little pokey at times. But there are hints of the rootsy, poppy rock-and-roll band about to emerge.
  15. Doc Cheatham & Nicholas Payton – Doc Cheatham & Nicholas Payton
  16. Springtime – Freakwater
  17. Perfect From Now On – Built to Spill
  18. Baduizm — Erykah Badu
  19. Dig Your Own Hole – Chemical Brothers
  20. Township Jazz ‘N’ Jive – Various Artists: Subtitled “18 South African Urban Swing Classics from the Jivin’ ’50s,” this buoyant comp does for the urbane small-band marabi (think jump blues and Dixieland and swing) and pennywhistle jive of the ’50s what Indestructible Beat of Soweto does for the more rockin’ mbaqanga that followed, giving a joyous portrait of a scene: an elegant fusion of indigenous rhythms and melodies with the influences of American artists such as Count Basie and the Mills Brothers.
  21. Fish Ain’t Bitin’ – Corey Harris
  22. The Velvet Rope – Janet Jackson
  23. Latyrx – Lateef & Lyrics Born
  24. Lee Ann Womack – Lee Ann Womack
  25. The Lonesome Crowded West – Modest Mouse

Singles

  1. “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)” – Missy Elliott
  2. “MyBabyDaddy” – B.Rock & the Biz
  3. “Tyrone’ – Erykah Badu
  4. “Autumn Sweater” – Yo La Tengo
  5. “Brimful of Asha” – Cornershop
  6. “MMMBop” – Hanson
  7. “I’ll Be Missing You” – Puff Daddy & the Family
  8. “Got Til It’s Gone” – Janet Jackson
  9. “The Ice of Boston” – The Dismemberment Plan
  10. “Sock It 2 Me” – Missy Elliott
  11. “Hypnotize” – Notorious B.I.G.
  12. “Ship to Shore” – Dub Narcotic Sound System featuring Lois
  13. “Thinking of You’ – Tony Toni Tone
  14. “Feel So Good” – Mase
  15. “Block Rockin’ Beats” – The Chemical Brothers
  16. “Everlong” – Foo Fighters
  17. “On and On” – Erykah Badu
  18. “Mo Money, Mo Problems” – Notorious B.I.G.
  19. “Gone Til November” – Wyclef Jean
  20. “Never Say Never” – That Dog
  21. “Da Dip” – Freak Nasty
  22. “Song 2” – Blur
  23. “Tubthumping” – Chumbawamba
  24. “Makes Me Wanna Die” – Tricky
  25. “Criminal” – Fiona Apple
  26. “Face Down” – Prince
  27. “You Don’t Seem to Miss Me” – Patty Loveless
  28. “Lovefool” — The Cardigans
  29. “Michael Jackson” – Fatboy Slim
  30. “Ladies Night” – Lil Kim
  31. “Torn” – Natalie Imbruglia
  32. “Other Side of the Game” – Erykah Badu
  33. “I Know” – Kim Richey
  34. “Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Could See” – Busta Rhymes
  35. “Up Jumps Da Boogie” – Timbaland and Magoo
  36. “Hey Hey, You Say” – Papas Fritas
  37. “It’s All About the Benjamins” – Puff Daddy featuring Notorious B.I.G., the Lox and Lil Kim
  38. “Monkey Wrench” – Foo Fighters
  39. “Blue Flowers” – Dr. Octagon
  40. “Fly” — Sugar Ray

Movies

The usual caveats apply. I’ve re-visited every album and song listed in this post but don’t have time to revisit the films. So this list is based on my reaction to the films when I saw them filtered through my sensibility today; essentially how I suspect I would rank them if I did rewatch them all.

I’m struck by the international art cinema here (Kitano, Kar-Wai, Imamura, Kiarostami), from a time when I wasn’t quite a working film critic. It was a reflection of my intersection of interests and free time to pursue those interests, but I also think it’s a reflection of a better time for theatrical film distribution. “Taste of Cherry” did not get a theatrical screening in Memphis, but I think the others did.

  1. Jackie Brown (Quentin Tarantino)
  2. Boogie Nights (Paul Thomas Anderson)
  3. The Apostle (Robert Duvall)
  4. Fireworks (Takeshi Kitano)
  5. The Sweet Hereafter (Atom Egoyan)
  6. Taste of Cherry (Abbas Kiarostami)
  7. Kundun (Martin Scorsese)
  8. L.A. Confidential (Curtis Hanson)
  9. Happy Together (Wong Kar-Wai)
  10. Chasing Amy (Kevin Smith)
  11. Career Girls (Mike Leigh)
  12. Eve’s Bayou (Kasi Lemmons)
  13. Lost Highway (David Lynch)
  14. The Eel (Shohei Imamura)
  15. My Best Friend’s Wedding (P.J. Hogan)
  16. Starship Troopers (Paul Verhoeven)
  17. Grosse Pointe Blank (George Armitage)
  18. The Ice Storm (Ang Lee)
  19. The Rainmaker (Francis Ford Coppola)
  20. Contact (Robert Zemeckis)
Uncategorized

Grizzlies Draft Watch: Four Weeks Out

Since I’ll be stuck between stations through this year’s NBA draft and free agency, I’m going to weigh in here on occasion.

With a month to go before the draft and only one real Grizzlies draft workout in the books, let’s focus today on the team’s pick at number four, and start by setting some apparent parameters.

Current Operating Assumptions

We’re in the middle of what one NBA professional I talked to this week dubbed “smokescreen season,” so consider all of this somewhat subject to change. But for now these are our operating assumptions, presented in descending order of solidity:

1. Deandre Ayton is off the board: I listened to a podcast from ESPN’s Ryen Russillo on the plane home to Memphis late this week and he told a story about a recent discussion he’d had with an NBA front office executive he considers to be among the brightest. Russillo asked the front office guy about all the concerns about Ayton’s fit in the modern NBA game, about whether he’d even be on the floor at the end of close games. And Russillo said the exec looked at him like he was crazy and said, essentially, “Have you seen this guy? He’s awesome. He’s the pick. Don’t overthink it.” I am that front office executive. For Grizzlies purposes, though, it doesn’t matter. Ayton’s the one player who has no chance of being there at #4.

2. Trading up is out: There was a discussion on 92.9, home of my radio side hustle, recently about the prospect of trading up. Would you trade the #4, #32, and Dillon Brooks to get to #2? Two hosts said they would not. This was presumably based on the defensible belief that the talent gap in the 2-4 range in this draft is relatively flat. But it’s a moot point: Even if that’s true, Brooks and #32 is still not enough added value to move up two or three spots within the Top 5 of a draft. Given the first-round pick they still owe to Boston, the Grizzlies don’t really have the assets to move up to #1 or # 2. Maybe to #3 if Atlanta senses who the Grizzlies want, it’s not who they want, and they squeeze a little something out of their leverage.

3. Memphis is the wrong place at the wrong time for Mo Bamba: Set aside the unfair Hasheem Thabeet comp. Bamba is a more fluid athlete and higher-upside prospect. He’s on the short list of players who could end up being the best player in this draft, which has to make him a candidate at #4. But, wisely or not, the Grizzlies want immediate help from this pick. Because of his project status and because he probably can’t play with Marc Gasol, that’s not Bamba. More importantly, the Grizzlies need a cornerstone for the future. That certainly could be Bamba, but the Grizzlies are right to worry about risk. Bamba presents too much of it given the other options.

4. Trading out is unlikely: As much as the Grizzlies want to be back in the playoff mix next season, it’s hard to see the #4 pick fetching an established all-star-level player in his youngish prime, especially given the added and likely unwanted salary that would probably have to be attached to the pick. Anything less than that in return isn’t worth forgoing the long-term potential/rookie-salary-scale value of picking at #4.  

5. The fourth pick is ultimately too high for Wendell Carter Jr. or Trae Young or Mikal Bridges: I like all of these players, but they seem like trade-down options (more on that next), not picks at #4. Bridges is a decent bet to be a long-term NBA starter, but players of his type (those who don’t emerge as lottery-level prospects until deep into their college careers) have a risky history and the star upside seems minimal. I believe in Young as a deep shooter and playmaker, two of the most important skills in the modern NBA, but worry that his severely limited size/athleticism will make him too weak a defensive link to fully mine those skills, and the presence of Mike Conley on a still-lengthy contract makes Memphis a hard place to maximize Young’s value anyway. Carter is a closer call, but I just don’t think he has the same upside as the big men likely to be taken earlier and also think his poor fit alongside Gasol undercuts his instant-impact potential.

6. Trading down can’t be discounted but is still unlikely: The Top 10 of this draft is deep enough to envision a team moving down a few spots and still getting the guy they want or a close runner-up. I could see this as more of an option for the Grizzlies if someone falls hard enough for Bamba (or, less likely, Young) to move up for him. Here’s an entirely made-up scenario:

  • The #4 pick and Ben McLemore to Orlando for #6, Jonathan Simmons, and #35.

Something like that. The Magic’s front office seems to have a hankering for wingspan. Dallas, at #5, needs a center. Maybe Orlando wants Bamba and can’t be sure to get him #6. Who can say at this point?

You’re not adding a star by moving down within the lottery, but I could see scenarios where the Grizzlies can bolster next year’s rotation while still getting a similar-level draft prospect. Still, I probably wouldn’t move down from #4 unless I could still get the exact player I would draft at #4.  

7. Michael Porter is too risky: As consensus Top 4 prospect before last season with a game — a big face-up combo forward with go-to scorer potential — that fits well in the rapidly changing NBA, Porter has to be a candidate at #4 if his medicals aren’t an issue. But I don’t see how his medicals won’t be an issue. He had back surgery less than a year ago and didn’t look right at all during his too-early return at the end of the college season. The back questions, especially given the Grizzlies’ recent history with damaged goods acquisitions, just seems like too big a risk this high in the draft. Even fully healthy, Porter’s not a sure thing. There are questions about every prospect, but defense, shot selection, and mentality are among Porter’s. Let’s set aside the Kevin Durant comp. Porter doesn’t have that length. He could be Jayson Tatum. He could also be a Ghost of Grizzlies Past (Rudy Gay/Jeff Green). He’s on the outside looking in right now. If he gives the Grizzlies access to his medicals and assents to a workout, he could move into the following discussion.

Where That Leaves Us

The process of high-to-mid-lottery elimination leaves three names standing: Luka Doncic, Marvin Bagley III, Jaren Jackson Jr.

We could spend thousands of words on this trio, but we’ve still got a month to go, so let’s stick to only a few quick observations for now:

Buckets and Boards vs. The Little Things: The debate between Bagley and Jackson in the frontcourt is partially about what you value at the position. Bagley profiles as an Amare Stoudemire/Zach Randolph-style 20-10 machine, a go-to-scorer whom you may have to work around on defense. Jackson profiles as an Al Horford/Serge Ibaka/Draymond Green type: A versatile defender and spot-up shooter who will impact both ends of the floor but may never be a 20-point scorer.

The first type is traditionally perceived as more of a “star,” the second type more of a glorified “role player.” Why take a role player in the top four, some would say?

Because there’s ample evidence that the NBA has shifted in a way that this second type of frontcourt player contributes more to winning.

Bagley’s signature skill is his quickness off the floor. This results in rebounds and dunks.

Jackson’s signature skill is his combination of length and defensive awareness. This results in blocked shots that Jackson shows a knack for keeping in play and snuffed out offensive actions.

The buckets and boards are crowd-pleasing, but are they more important that the defense?

I’m putting a little bit of a thumb on the scale, rhetorically, for Jackson here. I’m torn between the two, and think Bagley has more potential for improvement than his staunchest critics allow. But I do think Jackson has the kind of game that’s built for the modern NBA, more so than it was built for a year of college basketball as an 18-year-old under a traditionalist coach.  

Present vs. Future: Bagley and Doncic have the kinds of pedigrees (elite-ranked prospects who have backed it up with elite production) that have a good NBA track record. They also seem like the players, other than Ayton, best equipped to impact NBA games as soon as they become a part of them.

This combination of future and present value would be hard to pass up for a franchise that hopes to acquire a first foundational piece for a post-Gasol/Conley future but also wants someone who can help make some noise alongside them in the short term.

Positional fit adds to the sense that Doncic or Bagley could be immediate impact players in Memphis. The Grizzlies are weakest on the wing and have put an increasing (probably overdue) emphasis on pairing Conley with secondary perimeter playmakers. Doncic, who needs a ball handler/defender at the point to pair with, seems perfect for the Grizzlies and vice versa.

As for Bagley, his high-motor work around the rim would shore up a Marc Gasol weakness. Perhaps more importantly, Gasol’s ability to (at least theoretically) anchor a defense from the center position while stretching the floor offensively would cover some of the weaknesses Bagley would bring into the league. Memphis is probably the best potential fit for Bagley.

Jackson may present more ultimate risk than Bagley and Doncic (this is debatable), but certainly seems like less of an instant-impact option. He’s younger and less fully formed physically (which might suggest more growth potential going forward) and his best position in the NBA is likely to be at center.

Still, Jackson’s perimeter skills, especially on the defensive end, giving him a path to playing alongside Gasol while he develops into the team’s starting center of the future. That’s why Jackson might be a better short- as well as long-term bet than the more seasoned but also more defensively paint-bound Wendell Carter Jr.    

Tie Goes to the Perimeter: The great case for Donic is history of production paired with position/style. In the old NBA, the tie went to the big man, now the tie goes to the perimeter player. Could even that short-sell the current shift? Might “reaching” for perimeter talent such as a Trae Young or Mikal Bridges prove the smarter gambit?

Positional value would seen to give Doncic an edge over Bagley and Jackson. But the league’s perimeter tilt may work in favor of Jackson, at least relative to Bagley, even if he’s the biggest player in this discussion.

The now-overused term “unicorn” was intended for big men who can both the protect the rim and stretch the floor. In this draft, as eye-popping as Deandre Ayton and Mohamed Bamba may be as physical specimen, that’s Jackson. He blocked shots at a higher rate than Bamba. He was the best three-point shooter among the lottery bigs, a skill projection bolstered by 80 percent three-throw shooting. But Jackson adds a third dimension to this sense of rarity: At north of 6’11” with a wingspan past 7’5”, he’s the most comfortable big in the mix, by far, at guarding the perimeter. At defending pick-and-roll plays, at switching onto guards and wings, at closing out on shooters.

As a more traditional big, Bagley has moved away from the modern game by standing still. But a shift that has endangered big men generally has perhaps had the effect of increasing Jackson’s value.

Maybe the Decision Will Be Made For Them

We can argue about these players for the next few weeks, but odds are the Grizzlies won’t have to on draft night. At #4 there may be only one of them left, and perhaps the lone man standing will be both the obvious and right pick.

Maybe they’ll be debating between the one left vs. taking a chance on Michael Porter vs. trading down. But Doncic vs. Bagley vs. Jackson is likely not a choice the team would actually be making.

Is Doncic really part of all of this? I suspect he’ll be gone before #4, but ESPN’s Jonathan Givony has suggested there’s a 50-50 chance Doncic is still on the board at #4. There are enough legitimate questions about how his athleticism translates to the NBA and enough highly regarded draft competition, that I don’t thinking Doncic “slipping” is at all far-fetched.

Other Related Issues

Mock Draft Consensus: I started tracking 10 higher profile mock drafts after the lottery and the first, um, drafts had Jaren Jackson as a pretty strong consensus at #4. That’s changed a little since. The current distribution for the Grizzlies’ top pick: Bagley (4), Jackson (3), Porter (2), Bamba (1).

Ed Stefanski Moving On: Grizzlies VP of player personnel Ed Stefanski took a plum job last week to oversee a basketball operations rebuild in Detroit, where he’ll apparently have leeway to pick the team’s day-to-day operations leader at GM and a new head coach, allowing the East Coast-based Stefanski to guide the team without having to be on the ground every day. It’s not an unexpected departure — Stefanski has been mentioned as a candidate with multiple teams in the past year. The immediate questions for the Grizzlies: Will Stefanski take anyone else to Detroit with him and will the Grizzlies make any high-level hires to replace him?

On the former, in first reporting Stefanski’s hire, ESPN suggests that Grizzlies front office assistant Tayshaun Prince, a former Pistons star, might follow Stefanski to Detroit. This makes sense on the surface, but I wouldn’t count on it happening until it actually does. Prince has been a quietly important figure for the Grizzlies, as perhaps the front office figure closest day-to-day to the players and coaching staff. Stefanski provided sage advice and guidance, especially to some of the team’s junior executives, which includes not only Prince, but former Iowa Energy general manager Chris Makris, who’s quietly risen within the Grizzlies management structure to a key player personnel/scouting role. Perhaps the Grizzlies hire to replace Stefanski, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see the franchise move forward with a core of Chris Wallace, John Hollinger, Prince, and Makris steering the ship.

Josh Okogie: The Georgia Tech wing is now the first and so far only actual draft prospect (at #32) in for a workout in Memphis. I’d expect action on that front to pick up as we get into June. I was on a plane when Okogie was in town, and so wasn’t at the workout. I listed some of my outside-the-lottery faves in my final Pick-and-Pop column. Okogie wasn’t on the list, but that’s only because he wasn’t (yet) considered. He’s on the list of players who were not considered 2018 draft prospects until deeper into the season. Others: Maryland shooter Kevin Huerter, Villanova sixth-man Donte Divincenzo, and international guard Elie Okobo. Divincenzo was on a team I was already watching, and I took a liking to him early. The other three fell under the radar for me.

Okogie’s combination of physical make-up (7’0” wingspan, elite athletic testing results at the draft combine) and production (18-6-3 as a sophomore, with 38 percent three-point shooting, 82 percent free-throw shooting, 1.8 steals, 1.0 blocks) is impressive and he seems to be trending up enough that he may not last to #32.

Revisited

1978 Revisited

I’ve been sitting on these lists for a while with no time to write anything about them. I’m going to toss out some rambling notes and just post, since all the relistening is now in the past tense. But I’m likely to have a little more hobby writing time on my hands for the next few weeks …  so after a dormant period, I’d expect a few more years to tumble out in short order. As for 1978 …

It’s a bit of an odd year. Classic rock and soul is mostly over. Hip-hop is still on the horizon. The early excitement of punk’s arrival has subsided, but so much of the most interesting stuff is the aftermath of that arrival, the sorting out of the new world being forged.

It’s a year full of good (ok, very good) work from great artists: Rolling Stones, Parliament-Funkadelic, Ramones, New York Doll David Johansen, Neil Young, The Clash, Talking Heads, Brian Eno, Prince, Pere Ubu, Television.

All made albums in 1978 good enough to crack this list, or come close. All made better records soon before or soon after.

Exceptions: Elvis Costello and Blondie were career artists that did peak early here, and those are my chart-toppers. This Year’s Model grows less relatable but no less raging as years pass. X-Ray Spex was a shooting star, still thrilling but on revisit best as a singles band despite the eternal album title Germfree Adolescents. Wire was a little of both.

Classic rock, declining (Stones), ascending (Springsteen), or imploding (Big Star) still does pretty good though. Some Girls is a disreputable album (that title track) from a disreputable band, but one musically incapable of making a bad record for most of their recording lives. Whatever else, that’s still Charlie Watts playing drums, Bill Wyman playing bass, Keith Richards scratching out riffs. They play the hell out of this one.

Darkness on the Edge of Town raises the question of what makes a great album. It is the personal Springsteen favorite of many (maybe most) of the biggest Springsteen fans I know. In a peak period that I’d say runs 1974-1987, it is the only Springsteen record that has songs I actively skip over. But what is a lack of perfection in the face of “Badlands” and “Promised Land”? (See here.) There are more flawless records I would leave behind to save Darkness if only so much music could be preserved.

The singles list is more repetitive and probably overlaps more with the album list than in most years. I’m sure this reveals some gaps in my listening and/or perception, but I think a lot of it has to do with the year. Punk was a great singles genre, and disco too. But we’re really waiting for hip-hop and Prince and the pop energy of the 1980s to start shaking things up.

1978 albums

ALBUMS

  1. This Year’s Model — Elvis Costello
  2. Parallel Lines — Blondie
  3. Some Girls — The Rolling Stones
  4. Darkness on the Edge of Town — Bruce Springsteen
  5. Third — Big Star
  6. Motor-Booty Affair — Parliament
  7. Road to Ruin — Ramones
  8. Honky Tonk Masquerade — Joe Ely
  9. Germfree Adolescents — X-Ray Spex
  10. Pink Flag — Wire
  11. Comes a Time — Neil Young
  12. Give Em Enough Rope — The Clash
  13. More Songs About Buildings and Food — The Talking Heads
  14. The Modern Dance — Pere Ubu
  15. One Nation Under a Groove — Funkadelic
  16. David Johansen — David Johansen
  17. Stardust — Willie Nelson
  18. Pure Pop For Now People — Nick Lowe
  19. Body Meta — Ornette Coleman
  20. Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller) — Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band
  21. Pure Mania — The Vibrators
  22. Before and After Science — Brian Eno
  23. For You — Prince
  24. Generation X — Generation X
  25. Adventure — Television

SINGLES

  1. “Badlands” — Bruce Springsteen
  2. “Ain’t U/Hedi’s Head” – Kleenex
  3. “What Do I Get?” – Buzzcocks
  4. “(White Man) In Hammersmith Palais” — The Clash
  5. “Radio, Radio” – Elvis Costello
  6. “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding” — Elvis Costello
  7. “Hanging on the Telephone” – Blondie
  8. “The Day the World Turned Day-Glo/I Am A Poseur” — X-Ray Spex
  9. “Le Freak” – Chic
  10. “Uptown Top Ranking” – Althea & Donna
  11. “One Nation Under a Groove” – Funkadelic
  12. “Another Girl, Another Planet” – The Only Ones
  13. “Take Me To the River” – Talking Heads
  14. “Damaged Goods” – Gang of Four
  15. “I Don’t Mind” — Buzzcocks
  16. “Pump it Up” — Elvis Costello
  17. “Ever Fallen in Love” – Buzzcocks
  18. “Life’s Been Good’ – Joe Walsh
  19. “Miss You” — The Rolling Stones
  20. “Identity/Let’s Submerge” — X-Ray Spex
  21. “Alternative Ulster” – Stiff Little Fingers
  22. “Beast of Burden” — The Rolling Stones
  23. “Flash Light” – Parliament
  24. “Soft and Wet” — Prince
  25. Teenage Kicks” – Undertones
  26. “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)” – Sylvester
  27. “(I Don’t Want to Go to) Chelsea” – Elvis Costello
  28. “Shattered” — The Rolling Stones
  29. “Promises” – Buzzocks
  30. “Because the Night” — Patti Smith
  31. “I Want Your Love” — Chic
  32. “September” — Earth, Wind & Fire
  33. “Just What I Needed” — The Cars
  34. “Clash City Rockers” — The Clash
  35. “Listen to Her Heart” — Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers
  36. “Everyone’s a Winner” – Hot Chocolate
  37. “Surrender” – Cheap Trick
  38. “Running on Empty’ – Jackson Browne
  39. “Shake Your Groove Thing” — Peaches & Herb
  40. “Love You More” – The Buzzcocks

MOVIES

There’s too much from 1978 I’d either need to rewatch to place (Days of Heaven, American Hot Wax, Fingers, The Deer Hunter) or that I’ve just never gotten around to (Get Out Your Handkerchiefs, Interiors, An Unmarried Woman), so I’ll just offer five faves from the year. The first was mostly unseen until a revival a few years ago (actually, it’s still mostly unseen) and is among my very favorite films. I wrote about it here. “The Last Waltz” is a movie I love almost beyond rationality, though my experience of it has evolved over the years. (Read Levon Helm’s bio, where he and Ronnie Hawkins take the piss out of its mythologizing, and you’ll never see it quite the same way again.)

  1. Killer of Sheep (Charles Burnett)
  2. Gates of Heaven (Errol Morris)
  3. Dawn of the Dead (George Romero)
  4. The Last Waltz (Martin Scorsese)
  5. Blue Collar (Paul Schrader)
Uncategorized

Personal News

Yesterday was my final day at The Commercial Appeal. I’m going to take a little break. But to your regret, relief, or disinterest, Memphis will still have my byline to kick around.

The Commercial Appeal, like all places populated by writers and editors, is full of good people trying to do good work, and quite often succeeding. I have nothing but admiration for my now-former colleagues there and for those who moved on in the years since I arrived. In the absence of another compelling opportunity within this city, I may well have been there as long as they would have had me, though like most Memphians I lament the paper’s shift toward being a corporate cog in a Nashville-centric Tennessee network.

But I was coming up on five years at the kind of place — the traditional daily newspaper — I never really planned on being. I was ready for a change, and I was worn out by the regimented five-days-a-week flow of the The 9:01 column I’d been doing for the past couple of years.

At its increasingly infrequent best, I thought The 9:01 was pretty good, and though it drained me over time, it was definitely good for me. It helped broaden the scope of topics I wrote about and helped fine-tune my voice. I owe an enormous debt of gratitude to former editor Louis Graham, who took an unconventional chance in hiring me from an alt-weekly and who was the primary catalyst for what became The 9:01. Former digital director Danny Bowen came up with the title/time concept, a bit of genius I came to regret on mornings when that deadline loomed too near. Former digital editor Gary Robinson, now living his best life as a retired grandfather, shepherded it to completion in those first few months when I was just getting the hang of it. New editor Mark Russell kept it alive after Graham’s departure. Former (sensing a pattern?) sports editor David Williams and his successor Dave Ammenheuser let me be me — at any length — in my weekly Pick-and-Pop Grizzlies/NBA column.  

Before shifting into a columnist role, I was somehow granted the privilege, as an editor, of directing a staff of John Beifuss, Bob Mehr, Jennifer Biggs, Michael Donahue, and Mark Richens. The first name on that list really threw me for a loop. I was a fan of John’s before I was a friend and a friend before I was an editor. Former features editor Peggy McKenzie was gracious in showing me the ropes.

What’s next?

I can’t say too much at the moment — information will be forthcoming. But I’ll re-emerge later this summer, writing about many of the same topics in many of the same ways, but in different formats and at different frequencies. I love living in Memphis and I love writing about it. I look forward to continuing to do both.

Until then, you can still find me on Twitter at @ChrisHerrington and @HerringtonNBA (though I’m thinking of folding those into one feed) and, when I’m not on vacation, still on the radio at 10 a.m. every weekday on “The Geoff Calkins Show.”

Uncategorized

Bruce Springsteen Wrote Freedom Songs

My wife and I road-tripped to Little Rock last weekend to see Waxahatchee, the Alabama-rooted/New York-based indie rock band fronted by Katie Crutchfield.

Waxahatchee’s latest album, Out in the Storm, was one of my very favorites from last year. It tightens Crutchfield’s singer-songwriter tendencies into rock-and-roll. Riffs, beats, and bass lines conspire to elevate a song-cycle about a relationship seen clearly in Crutchfield’s rear-view. It’s half-an-hour long, and nearly a year and dozens of spins later, its tricks still work.

Waxahatchee was playing a double-headliner tour with Hurray for the Riff Raff, a roostier band fronted by Bronx-raised Puerto Rican singer Alynda Segarra. I’d seen Segarra once before, but solo, in an outdoor setting with questionable sound. Waxahatchee was the pull; Hurray for the Riff Raff was a nice bonus.

As it turned out, even making the club a few minutes before 9:30, we missed the first three-or-four songs of Waxahatchee’s middle set. When Crutchfield grew annoyed at the loud talking during her quieter numbers, she pulled the plug on the show a few songs short. It was a disappointment. Hurray for the Riff Raff made it not matter.

IMG_1358

Segarra’s crack band blended Latin rhythms, soul cadences, folk melodies. This is an Americana I want to hear. Her music and stage presence echoed, at various times, Bob Dylan, David Bowie, Debbie Harry.

They played in front of a big banner with the words WE’RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER and played songs that fit the theme: “Rican Beach,” surveying a theft and devastation grown worse since the song was written. “Hungry Ghost,” dedicated to “all the queers.” “Nothing’s Gonna Change That Girl,” about life impervious to a male gaze. “Living in the City,” a Lou Reed-meets-Woody Guthrie paean-of-sorts to city life. And the closing “Pa’Lante,” both exhortation and comfort, translating as “onward” or “forward.”

In contrast to their tourmates, Hurray for the Riff Raff played this small club in this small city like they were in the midst of a world-altering triumph, and when they bounded back onto the stage for an encore, I wondered how they’d follow themselves.

The first notes were familiar and my immediate thought was don’t be a tease, don’t be a tease.

It wasn’t. They played Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark,” and I’m convinced that of the thousands if not millions of songs known to humankind none would have been as perfect in this moment.

Here they are playing it at another club, on another night:

“Dancing in the Dark” is Springsteen’s most successful single, from his most successful album, 1984’s Born in the USA. And while I’ll argue with anyone that it’s also his best album, it’s not as fashionable a taste today as some of the records that came before. The keyboard riffs and booming drums suggest a specific time, a specific studio-to-radio sound. It’s harder to be romantic about that music than about Born to Run, for instance.

But Hurray for the Riff Raff didn’t play it tongue-in-cheek. They didn’t play it nostalgic. They weren’t amused with themselves. They played it as an anthem that bundled up all of the feelings of their preceding set and launched them skyward, like a shot from a confetti cannon.

“I ain’t nothing but tired/I’m just tired and bored with myself”

“You can’t start a fire/Can’t start a fire without a spark”

“There’s something happening somewhere/Baby, I just know there is”

“You say you gotta stay hungry/Hey, baby, I’m just about starving tonight”

The song is struggle as celebration. Personal as political. Dancing in the dark as an expression of defiance.

My favorite moment of 2018 is likely to remain the sight of Hurray for the Riff Raff’s keyboard player, Sarah Goldstone, bouncing along, playing these don’t-call-them-corny riffs, smiling to herself.

This was the best, most righteous, and most perfect cover I’d heard since … another Bruce Springsteen cover by another contemporary female singer at least partly representing a marginalized community.

Memphis’ Julien Baker covered Springsteen’s “Badlands,” from 1978’s Darkness on the Edge of Town, backstage at the Newport Folk Festival a couple of years ago:

As is common with Baker, she starts tentative and grows, finding herself in the song, talking herself into it, before nearly coming undone at the end, in a final verse that grips you with both hands:

For the ones who had a notion

A notion deep inside

That it ain’t no sin to be glad you’re alive

I wanna find one face that ain’t looking through me

I wanna find one place

I wanna spit in the face of these badlands

Springsteen has long transcended his generation. But his music is still mostly associated with straight white guys like him, like me. Segarra and Baker claim this music. Take it somewhere else.

I used to think “Rosalita” and “Thunder Road” were the best Bruce Springsteen songs. Much like the signature “Born to Run,” they are thrilling, but there’s just so much Bruce Springsteen in them. There’s so much of the moment of their creation in them.

Now I think the best Bruce Springsteen songs are “Dancing in the Dark” and “Badlands.” They are about right now. They are about tomorrow. They are the folk songs that inspired him. They belong fully to anyone who’s singing them, or anyone who’s singing along. They belong to you and to me and to Julien Baker and to Alynda Segarra.

Revisited

Best of 2017

Ending a too-long blog hiatus with my favorite albums, singles, movies, and television of 2017. We’ll continue our trip through the pop music past soon.

2017 best

ALBUMS

This list is ordered, but it was sort of a five-way tie for first. In the Village Voice’s annual Pazz and Jop national critics poll, you get 100 points to distribute among 10 albums, with a maximum of 30 and a minimum of 5. I’ve given 30 points before. My point distribution for this Top 10 was: 15-15-14-13-13-10-5-5-5-5.

Is Lee Ann Womack’s new one modern country or Americana? Lee Ann Womack is a grown-ass woman and is above your petty genre distinctions and squabbles, which are irrelevant. Here she pulls a bunch of Nashville pros off the assembly line and off to her own personal promised land. They respond like it’s 1968 at American Studios and Chips Moman is behind the board. One version of what freedom sounds like.

Out in the Storm is another. Katie Crutchfield says everything she needs to say about a relationship in her rearview mirror in 10 songs and not much more than half an hour. Regardless of genre, pop music’s greatest thrill might be hearing someone say the exact right thing in the exact right way, hearing someone born in the moment. This is another version of what freedom sounds like.

4:44 and DAMN. are both exercises in mastery in the most dominant pop form of most of our lives. Lamar’s brilliance is both thrilling and exhausting. I admire it greatly, but I don’t quite love it like I loved former personal chart-topper good kid, m.A.A.d city. For relistening, I found myself coming back to Jay-Z. It’s an album about his occasionally cringe-worthy “black capitalism” ethos and his marriage and his status as a hip-hop elder and … . Mostly, though, I think it’s about the double pause he deploys before the raised-eyebrow “Ok” on “The Story of OJ.” It’s about casual conversation that comes in couplets. It’s about the easeful musicality that made us care about him in the first place.

For me, the songwriting on The Nashville Sound isn’t as consistently gripping as on Southeastern (Isbell’s Out in the Storm), but it has a more cohesive shape than Something More Than Free, the fine middle volume in what feels like a trilogy-for-now. But this one peaks twice with twin Song of the Year candidates, the trembling “If We Were Vampires” and the defiant “Hope the High Road.”

  1. The Lonesome, the Lonely and the Gone – Lee Ann Womack
  2. Out in the Storm — Waxahatchee
  3. 4:44 — Jay-Z
  4. The Nashville Sound – Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit
  5. DAMN. — Kendrick Lamar
  6. All American Made — Margo Price
  7. Talk Tight/The French Press – Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever
  8. MacGregor Park — Fat Tony
  9. CTRL – SZA
  10. Freedom Highway — Rhiannon Giddens
  11. War and Leisure — Miguel
  12. Run the Jewels 3 – Run the Jewels
  13. American Teen — Khalid
  14. Trophy – Sunny Sweeney
  15. Wrangled – Angaleena Presley
  16. City of No Reply — Amber Coffman
  17. Chuck — Chuck Berry
  18. Dark Matter – Randy Newman
  19. Deep Dream – Daddy Issues
  20. The Order of Time — Valerie June

SINGLES

  1. “Hope the High Road” — Jason Isbell
  2. “Humble” — Kendrick Lamar
  3. “If We Were Vampires” — Jason Isbell
  4. “Sky Walker” — Miguel featuring Travis Scott
  5. “Love Triangle” — RaeLynn
  6. “Young Dumb and Broke” — Khalid
  7. “DNA” — Kendrick Lamar
  8. “Bottle in My Bed” — Sunny Sweeney
  9. “Say My Name” — Tove Styrke
  10. “New Year’s Day” — Taylor Swift
  11. “Hard Times” — Paramore
  12. “Silver” — Waxahatchee
  13. “Story of O.J.” — Jay-Z
  14. “Diane” — Cam
  15. “Bodak Yellow” — Cardi B
  16. “Los Ageless” — St. Vincent
  17. “Drew Barrymore” — SZA
  18. “Round Here Buzz” — Eric Church
  19. “Bad and Boujee” — Migos featuring Lil Uzi Vert
  20. “A Little Dive Bar in Dahlonega” — Ashley McBryde

MOVIES

My own Top 10,  presented in a format borrowed from one of my favorite recurring features, Film Comment’s “Moments in Time,” which sought to capture each of a year’s movies in a single scene, moment, or memory.  Here are my 2017 “moments in time”:

  1. Tom Hardy immolates his fighter plane and walks stoically toward capture. Grace under pressure on the beaches of DUNKIRK.
  2. A police car pulls up, the audience tenses, and everyone knows what will happen. Or do they? A brilliant double-ending for GET OUT.
  3. Saoirse Ronan leans out of an East Coast dorm window, looks up to the skies, and bellows “Bruce!” with a mix of hope and exasperation. LADY BIRD wishes on a Sacramento star.
  4. Director Sean Baker pans across the decaying, candy-colored ice cream huts, souvenir shops, and roadside motels on the outskirts of Orlando’s Magic Kingdom. Surveying alien topography in THE FLORIDA PROJECT.
  5. “You glad to be back in the Delta?,” white former fighter pilot Jamie grimly asks to black former tank sergeant and could-he-be-a-friend? Ronzell along a Mississippi back road. Two war heroes are now MUDBOUND.
  6. Four feet in unison on a hardwood floor, Betty Grable on the box. Richard Jenkins and a radiant Sally Hawkins share a moment of joy in the Fifties fairy tale THE SHAPE OF WATER.
  7. “You had a beautiful friendship. Maybe more than a friendship. And I envy you.” Michael Stuhlbarg puts a compassionate bow on his son’s heady summer in CALL ME BY YOUR NAME.
  8. Rooney Mara stops to eat a pie, not a piece of pie, amid the Polaroid-framed poetry of A GHOST STORY.
  9. Skeleton ancestors illuminated in the night, a “city of the dead” so full of life in COCO.
  10. THE POST publisher Katharine Graham (Meryl Streep) turns her back to the roomful of men who’ve invaded her home, braces herself, and takes a leap. Then she goes to bed.

Honorable Mentions: The Big Sick, A Quiet Passion, Baby Driver, Wonder-Woman, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Logan, It.  

Decent-tasting popcorn: Thor: RagnarokStar Wars: The Last Jedi, Spider-Man: Homecoming, The Lego Batman Movie, Atomic Blonde.

Redeeming qualities: The Beguiled, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, Battle of the Sexes, Alien: Covenant.

Duds: mother!, Guardians of the Galaxy II.

Ten I still haven’t seen (but wish I had): Phantom Limb, Faces Places, B.P.M., Girls Trip, Good Time, The Lost City of Z, Personal Shopper, Wonderstruck, Graduation, Jane.

TV

I tend to only have one TV show going at a time, so my television watching is even more haphazard than my listening and movie watching (things which were once far less haphazard). This is everything (new) that I watched in full this year. The ones I most wanted to see that I just haven’t gotten around to yet: Twin Peaks: The Return, The Vietnam War, Insecure.

  1. The Deuce
  2. The Leftovers
  3. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
  4. American Epic (PBS series on early American recorded music)
  5. Mindhunter
  6. Fargo
  7. Better Call Saul
  8. Game of Thrones
  9. Big Little Lies
  10. Glow

New to Me

Maybe I’ll keep better track of the “old” stuff I read, watch, or listen to for the first time in 2018, but I’ll offer one newly experienced gem from each medium for 2017: True Grit by Charles Portis is a slim, quick, deeply pleasurable read with an unforgettable protagonist and a setting in my home state of Arkansas. Not sure what took me so long. … After Jonathan Demme’s death, I finally watched Something Wild, his 1980s screwball comedy of sorts with Melanie Griffith, Jeff Daniels, and Ray Liotta. It lives up to its title as a particularly individual take on a classic genre. … James Blood Ulmer’s 1983 album Odyssey caught me by surprise, adding fiddle to his jazz-blues guitar skronk to elevating effect.

Revisited

1983 Revisited

This was a fun year to revisit. 1983 was the year I got my first stereo, and one of the first batch of albums I got with it made this list. (I still think An Innocent Man is Billy Joel’s best album. Sorry, Metal Health and Pyromania.) Still, I think there are only a few albums on this list (Joel, Lauper, U2, Police) I heard in their own time. The rest came later, and most of them much later, well after I’d dug into the classic rock canon. And so the likes of the Talking Heads, Blasters, Marshall Crenshaw, Womack & Womack, and others still sound fresher to me than a lot of even more recent favorites. It makes me want to dive into 1982, 1981, 1980.

From an album perspective, it was an off year for black music. Mostly that’s because it’s the last year before hip-hop asserted itself as an album form (the first Run-DMC album changes that in 1984), but it’s also because Prince and Michael Jackson released mega-albums in 1982 and road their singles through 1983. They’re represented on the singles list.

1983

ALBUMS

  1. She’s So Unusual – Cyndi Lauper: How do people conceive this now? As a fluke? A pop-culture artifact of its time? A singles and filler record? Hopefully as a timeless pop masterpiece, which is what it almost is. In its own peculiar way, it’s as astonishing a match of interpretive singer to song selection as Sun-era Elvis or Muscle Shoals Aretha Franklin, mixing the visionary (“Money Changes Everything,” “When You Were Mine”) with the merely charming (“Time After Time,” “I’ll Kiss You”).  One of the greatest moments in recorded sound: Lauper’s voice reaching out on “I want to be the one to walk in the sun.” Why did she never again come close to it? Goes to show you never can tell.
  2. Speaking in Tongues — The Talking Heads: Their lightest, freest funk. This has always seemed like one of their more minor good albums, but it grows in estimation every time I let it spin. It opens with their biggest single, ends with their best song. (Ok, maybe minus “Once in a Lifetime.”)
  3. Field Day — Marshall Crenshaw: Ten tight little bundles of indelible melodies + hooks on the subject of doomed love.
  4. Odyssey — James Blood Ulmer: One of my very favorite hadn’t-heard-it-befores of this project so far.
  5. Jonathan Sings! — Jonathan Richman & the Modern Lovers: “Road Runner” was his greatest single, but this is probably his best, wisest album.
  6. Metal Circus — Husker Du: The best hardcore record, if it counts, unless the one they made after it also does. Featuring “It’s Not Funny Anymore,” Grant Hart’s life anthem. RIP.
  7. Love Wars — Womack & Womack: As couple albums with this title theme go, not as focused as Shoot Out the Lights, which is to their personal if not quite artistic benefit. But it’s damn good anyway, the more fraught material especially (title song, “Baby I’m Scared of You”). Near the end, they reverse the Rolling Stones’ relationship with R&B, stealing a Jagger-Richards title (“Angie”) and improving it. Related note: How did I not know Linda Womack was (is) Sam Cooke’s daughter?
  8. Murmur R.E.M.: This would have been higher without a re-listen. Captures a sound and feel, but maybe I do like Reckoning a little more. I already knew I liked Document more.
  9. Non-Fiction — The Blasters: “Americana” before it was so named, as drenched in R&B as country, as it should be.
  10. … And a Time to Dance — Los Lobos: A unique great American band introduces itself, in EP form, with truth in advertising.
  11. War — U2: Its relative tightness sounds even better in the wake of what followed.  
  12. More Fun in the New World — X: Ace Killer cover, silly anti-new-wave.
  13. Hand of Kindness — Richard Thompson
  14. Hootenanny — The Replacements
  15. Legendary Hearts — Lou Reed
  16. Synchro System – King Sunny Ade
  17. Greatest Messages — Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five
  18. You Shouldn’t-Nuf Bit Fish — George Clinton
  19. What Makes a Man Start Fires? — Minutemen
  20. Trouble in Paradise — Randy Newman
  21. An Innocent Man — Billy Joel
  22. In a Special Way — DeBarge
  23. Love Over & Over — Kate & Anna McGarrigle
  24. Synchronicity — The Police
  25. Under a Blood Red Sky – U2

SINGLES

  1. “This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)” — Talking Heads
  2. “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” – Cyndi Lauper
  3. “Billie Jean” — Michael Jackson
  4. “It’s Like That”/“Sucker MCs” — Run-DMC
  5. “Middle of the Road” – Pretenders
  6. “Every Breath You Take” — The Police
  7. “Burning Down the House” — The Talking Heads
  8. “Little Red Corvette” — Prince
  9. “Holiday” – Madonna
  10. “Atomic Dog” — George Clinton
  11. “Time Will Reveal” — DeBarge
  12. “Lucky Star” – Madonna
  13. “Beat It” — Michael Jackson
  14. “White Lines (Don’t Don’t Do It)” — Grandmaster Flash & Melle Mel
  15. “Pills and Soap”’ – The Imposter
  16. “Sunday Bloody Sunday” — U2
  17. “Color Me Impressed” – The Replacements
  18. “Come On Eileen” — Dexy’s Midnight Runners
  19. “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’” — Michael Jackson
  20. “Delirious” – Prince
  21. “Hard Times” – Run-DMC
  22. “Racist Friend” — Special AKA
  23. “Black Sheep” — John Anderson
  24. “New Year’s Day” – U2
  25. “Blue Monday” – New Order
  26. “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?” — Culture Club
  27. “Gimme All Your Lovin” — ZZ Top
  28. “Looking for the Perfect Beat” — Afrika Bambaataa & Soul Sonic Force
  29. “Electric Avenue” — Eddy Grant
  30. “Don’t Cheat in Our Hometown” – Ricky Skaggs
  31. “All Night Long” — Lionel Richie
  32. “Amarillo By Morning” – George Strait
  33. “Beat Bop” — Rammelzee vs. K-Rob
  34. “Last Night a DJ Saved My Life” — Indeep
  35. “Let the Music Play” — Shannon
  36. “Modern Love” – David Bowie
  37. “Got Me Under Pressure” — ZZ Top
  38. “Tell You (Today)” – Loose Joints
  39. “Crumblin’ Down” — John Cougar Mellencamp
  40. “She Works Hard for the Money” — Donna Summer

MOVIES

A blend of multiplex stuff I saw at the time that’s held up well (at least in my mind) and more arty stuff I caught up with later on. As always, these film lists are pretty casual, not rooted in re-watching. I have many, many blind spots from this year. I know Cosby has been exposed as a criminal and a creep, but the art is what it is and Himself is good.

  1. The King of Comedy
  2. Videodrome
  3. The Right Stuff
  4. Valley Girl
  5. WarGames
  6. Local Hero
  7. Risky Business
  8. Bill Cosby: Himself
  9. Baby It’s You
  10. National Lampoon’s Vacation

 

 

Revisited

1968 Revisited

Getting out ahead of next year’s 50th anniversary, where I’m guessing the White Album will get the most attention, but I went with a different color in the top spot.

image1 (45)

ALBUMS

  1. Music From Big Pink — The Band: These three voices together, here and on the eponymous follow-up, is one of the enduring pleasures of (North) American music, and I find the slipperiness of meaning here more attraction than hurdle. The greatest LP testament of my distant Arkansas cousin sits at #5, but I’ll confess that the Arkansan musician with whom I most identify is instead Levon Helm, product of a town in the same rural East Arkansas Delta jumble as where I’m from.
  2. Astral Weeks — Van Morrison: The title song is as visionary as anything in rock. “Sweet Thing” as beautiful. “Cyprus Avenue” and “Madame George” as mysterious and unsettling. And then there are a few other songs. All but one is a keeper.
  3. Beggar’s Banquet — The Rolling Stones: It’s phony (“Factory Girl”), scuzzy (“Stray Cat Blues”), corny (“Sympathy for the Devil”), unexpectedly revealing (“Salt of the Earth”) and the sound of the world’s best rock and roll band dispensing with the ill-fitting psychedelia of 1967 to assert the peak of their powers.
  4. John Wesley Harding — Bob Dylan — This and Folsom Prison are companions, and related to the #1 too. “Americana” and “alt-country” start here I, but never measured up. Can’t, I guess.
  5. At Folsom Prison — Johnny Cash
  6. Lady Soul – Aretha Franklin: Probably not quite as strong as I Never Loved a Man … from stern to bow, but better structured. “Ain’t No Way” is as good an album-ender as there is.
  7. The Beatles – The Beatles: This seems like it should be higher, but the competition is stiff and I don’t skip songs on any of those other albums. Their best late Sixties music and their worst, all in one place.
  8. Greatest Hits Vol 2 – Smokey Robinson & the Miracles: Motown’s signature genius in his finest single-disc representation.
  9. Golden Hits — The Drifters: Pure pop product, assembly line produced by various geniuses of composition and recording, and it instills one with as much cultural patriotism as Cash and Dylan.
  10. The Immortal Otis Redding — Otis Redding
  11. White Light/White Heat — The Velvet Underground
  12. Aretha Now — Aretha Franklin
  13. Electric Ladyland — The Jimi Hendrix Experience
  14. The Notorious Byrd Brothers — The Byrds
  15. Odessey and Oracle — The Zombies
  16. The Dock of the Bay — Otis Redding
  17. Sweetheart of the Rodeo — The Byrds
  18. We’re Only In it For the Money — The Mothers of Invention
  19. Life — Sly & Family Stone
  20. Greatest Hits — Stevie Wonder
  21. Live at the Apollo Volume 2 — James Brown
  22. Cheap Thrills — Big Brother & Holding Company
  23. Mama Tried — Merle Haggard
  24. Dance to the Music — Sly & the Family Stone
  25. Creedence Clearwater Revival – Creedence Clearwater Revival

SINGLES

  1. “I Heard it Through the Grapevine” – Marvin Gaye
  2. “Ain’t No Way” – Aretha Franklin
  3. “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay” – Otis Redding
  4. “The Weight” – The Band
  5. “All Along the Watchtower” – The Jimi Hendrix Experience
  6. “Dance to the Music’ – Sly & the Family Stone
  7. “This is My Country’ – The Impressions
  8. “Think” – Aretha Franklin
  9. “Love Child” – The Supremes
  10. “Mama Tried” – Merle Haggard
  11. “I Wish It Would Rain” – The Temptations
  12. “Hey Jude”/“Revolution” — The Beatles
  13. “Hard to Handle” – Otis Redding
  14. “Jumping Jack Flash” – The Rolling Stones
  15. “Daddy Sang Bass” – Johnny Cash
  16. “Son of a Preacher Man” – Dusty Springfield
  17. “My Song” — Aretha Franklin
  18. “I Got the Feelin’ — James Brown
  19. “I Thank You”/“Wrap it Up” – Sam and Dave
  20. “People Got to Be Free” – The Rascals
  21. “I’ve Got Dreams to Remember” — Otis Redding
  22. “Private Number” – Judy Clay and William Bell
  23. “Say it Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud” — James Brown
  24. “The House That Jack Built” – Aretha Franklin
  25. “What’s Made Milwaukee Famous (Has Made a Loser Out of Me)” — Jerry Lee Lewis
  26. “Everyday People” – Sly & the Family Stone
  27. “D-I-V-O-R-C-E” – Tammy Wynette
  28. “Street Fighting Man” – The Rolling Stones
  29. “Fist City” – Loretta Lynn
  30. “She Still Comes Around (To Love What’s Left of Me)” – Jerry Lee Lewis
  31. “Who’s Making Love” – Johnnie Taylor
  32. “For Once in My Life” — Stevie Wonder
  33. “Ballad of Forty Dollars” – Tom T. Hall
  34. “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing” – Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell
  35. “Alone Again Or” – Love
  36. “I Take a Lot of Pride in What I Am” – Merle Haggard
  37. “Milwaukee Here I Come” – George Jones and Brenda Carter
  38. “Magic Carpet Ride” — Steppenwolf
  39. “Take Time to Know Her” – Percy Sledge
  40. “Cry Like a Baby” – The Box Tops

MOVIES

  1. Faces (John Cassavetes)
  2. Night of the Living Dead (George Romero)
  3. Rosemary’s Baby (Roman Polanski)
  4. The Producers (Mel Brooks)
  5. 2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick)
  6. Stolen Kisses (Francois Truffaut)
Revisited

1993 Revisited

1993 was the first year that listening to and thinking about records became a kind of active avocation, both via college newspaper and college radio. The album list here is certainly not the same one I would have made at the time, but it’s closer to it than I would have suspected more than 20 years later. I think that’s mostly the result of the cultural action of the times (indie rock and hip-hop) happening to intersect with where I was as well. Then and now, I don’t think much of a lot of the era’s more mainstream alt-rock (Pearl Jam, Smashing Pumpkins, etc).

1993

ALBUMS

  1. Exile in Guyville – Liz Phair: Feminist critique of classic-rock music and then-current indie-rock scenes, sure, but also both more personal/idiosyncratic than that and more broadly representational. I don’t much believe in generational identity, but this feels like a key generational touchstone and as such I’m glad to claim it. A tour de force union of rock riffage and confessional singer-songwriter observation. The best song might be the one about wanting people to leave your house already (damn).
  2. In Utero – Nirvana: Sharper lyrically and more severe musically than Nevermind, which is catchier, and while that doesn’t necessarily represent my inclinations, I think it’s also their best. I find it (even) more indelible, especially with the volume cranked. Maybe my favorite hard rock (not punk) album and essentially a co-#1 here.
  3. Buhloone Mind State – De La Soul: Four years after ecstatic, playful, widely celebrated teen debut (3 Feet High and Rising) and eight years before desperately underrated grown-folks-music testament (AOI: Bionix), here they are putting breakthrough and backlash behind them to flex the muscles of their young adulthood. A great groove record full of smarts and personality.
  4. Enter the Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers — The Wu-Tang Clan – As many MCs as tracks, collectively hacking through fields of Native Tongues and mafiosi pretensions to carve an East Coast rap path entirely their own. There would be more polished and certainly more epic albums to come in the Wu-Tang canon. Maybe even one or two better ones. But nothing that feels as busy being born.
  5. Rid of Me – PJ Harvey: Rendering debut mere warm-up, she comes on like she’s trying to be Robert Plant and Jimmy Page all at once, cleansed through punk and feminism.
  6. Reachin (A New Refutation of Time and Space) – Digable Planets: What Arrested Development was supposed to be the year before. Among other things, an exploration of a warm, platonic, equitable male/female hip-hop partnership that has, if anything, grown even more rare.
  7. Painful – Yo La Tengo: They would open up into being an even more epic domestic-bliss noise band on their next two albums, but this, for me, is where they first fully became what they were meant to be.
  8. Midnight Marauders – A Tribe Called Quest: The relative placement of this and #3 represents my general (minority opinion?) Native Tongues love/like hierarchy.   
  9. World Gone Wrong – Bob Dylan: One man’s 10-song anthology of American folk music and a warm-up for the “Love + Theft” to come.
  10. Icky Mettle – Archers of Loaf: One man’s hoarse croak rescued and renewed by his buddies’ guitar-bass-drums backup, a trick repeated over and over again by the niftiest, hookiest little-band-that-could of the indie-rock era
  11. Spinning Around the Sun – Jimmie Dale Gilmore
  12. Gentlemen – Afghan Whigs: Man behaves badly. Confesses with eloquence and intensity. Doesn’t quite apologize. (“This ain’t about regret/It’s when I tell the truth.”)
  13. Westing (By Musket and Sextant) – Pavement: Noise and tunes that would soon synthesize duke it out for primacy as a soon-to-be-great band finds itself.
  14. Career Moves – Loudon Wainwright III: Live de-facto best-of-to-that-point doubles as unlikely career peak (to that point), or maybe not so unlikely — see also: Todd Snider’s 2003 Live: Near Truths and Hotel Rooms. Maybe funny singer-songwriters make for particularly useful live album subjects. Movie comedies are better with audiences too.  
  15. Anodyne – Uncle Tupelo: Confess Your (Is It Still?) Unpopular Opinion: Mermaid Avenue aside, Jeff Tweedy peaked here.
  16. 4-Track Demos – PJ Harvey
  17. Last Splash – The Breeders

  18. One Sock Missing – The Grifters

  19. Janet – Janet Jackson

  20. Very – Pet Shop Boys

  21. Pottymouth – Bratmobile

    and

    Pussy Whipped – Bikini Kill: Riot grrls.

  22. The Bliss Album – P.M. Dawn

  23. Bubble & Scrape – Sebadoh

  24. Sons of Soul – Tony Toni Tone

  25. Ultimate Alternative Wavers

    — Built to Spill

    and

    God Don’t Make No Junk – Halo Benders: Doug Martsch’s two-part preview of coming attractions.

SINGLES

 

  1. “Rebel Girl”/”New Radio”/”Demi-Rep” (three-song 7-inch) — Bikini Kill
  2. “Protect Ya Neck” — Wu-Tang Clan
  3. “Money in the Ghetto” — Too Short
  4. “Heart-Shaped Box” – Nirvana
  5. “Shoop” — Salt-n-Pepa
  6. “50 Ft. Queenie” – PJ Harvey
  7. “Slide” – Luna
  8. “Whoomp! There It Is!” — Tag Team
  9. “Some Jingle Jangle Morning (When I’m Straight)”/“Western Union Desperate” – Mary Lou Lord
  10. “Cannonball” — The Breeders
  11. “It Was a Good Day”/“Check Yo Self”  — Ice Cube
  12. “Web in Front’ – Archers of Loaf
  13. “Ruffneck” — MC Lyte
  14. “Movin’ On Up” — M People
  15. “Man on the Moon” – REM
  16. “If I Had No Loot” — Tony Toni Tone
  17. “Hip Hop Hooray” — Naughty By Nature
  18. “All Apologies” — Nirvana
  19. “Hey Jealousy” — Gin Blossoms
  20. “Come Clean” – Jeru the Damaja
  21. “Feed the Tree” – Belly
  22. “Passin’ Me By” — Pharcyde
  23. “Big Day Coming” – Yo La Tengo
  24. “Down With the King” – Run-DMC
  25. “Chattahoochee” — Alan Jackson
  26. “Nothin But a G Thang” — Dr. Dre w/ Snoop Dogg
  27. “Creep” — Radiohead
  28. “Debonair” – Afghan Whigs
  29. “Dream” – The Cranberries
  30. “Return of the Crazy One” — Digital Underground
  31. “Plastic Dreams” – Jaydee
  32. “Cantaloop” — US3
  33. “That’s the Way Love Goes” — Janet Jackson
  34. “Knockin’ on Mine” — Paul Westerberg
  35. “Show Me Love” – Robin
  36. “Rebirth of Slick” — Digable Planets
  37. “Gotta Lotta Love” – Ice-T
  38. “Method Man” – Wu-Tang Clan
  39. “Send Them” – Lyrics Born
  40. “Soul and Fire” — Sebadoh

MOVIES

No. 6 is a weird place to put Schindler’s List. It feels like it should either be higher or not there at all. But that’s why the film lists are harder than the music ones. I’ve relistened to every album and single on the these lists. Some of these moves, Schindler among them, I haven’t seen in 20 years. At some level, you end up filtering your memory of a film through your present aesthetic sense.

  1. Dazed and Confused (Richard Linklater)
  2. Naked (Mike Leigh)
  3. Ruby in Paradise (Victor Nunez)
  4. Groundhog Day (Harold Ramis)
  5. Short Cuts (Robert Altman)
  6. Schindler’s List (Steven Spielberg)
  7. The Piano (Jane Campion)
  8. Searching for Bobby Fischer (Steve Zaillian)
  9. Menace II Society (Allen and Albert Hughes)
  10. The Fugitive (Andrew Davis)
  11. The Scent of Green Papaya (Tran Anh Hung)
  12. The War Room (D.A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus)