Monday, February 20, 2017

Soothing a Savage Beast

It's Presidents Day, but we're not here for that. We're here for a whole bunch of new music by bands we like. And we're here for you adding new stuff to this post, because you like bands, too.

Longtime GTB faves Old 97s release Graveyard Whistling, their 11th studio album, on February 24. Rhett Miller and the boys recorded the record at the same studio they used to make their 1996 major label debut, Too Far to Care. If the first two singles are any indication, this one will be on the dark side. Here's the second single, All Who Wander.

Indie darlings The Shins (famous mostly for the namedrop on The Test podcast) are out with Heartworms, their newest album, on March 10th. The first single, Name for You, sounds very Shinnsy.

New Pornographers are one of the most underrated bands of the last fifteen years. A.C. Newman stands in line to nobody when it comes to writing a pop hook. Their new album, Whiteout Conditions, hits on March 10. They'll be at the 9:30 Club on April 28 and 29 if anyone wants to go see them. This is High Ticket Attraction.

Red Baraat might be the world's best party band. They release Bhangra Pirates on March 24, and will conveniently be playing The Hamilton in DC that night and the next. Haven't seen any videos yet for this record, so enjoy this NPR Tiny Desk Concert from 2012.

Last, but certainly not least, Son Volt released Notes of Blue last Thursday. You can hear Promise the World here, and listen to the entire record at NPR. Jay Farrar might not have the critical and public acclaim of former Uncle Tupelo bandmate Jeff Tweedy, but Son Volt are reliably excellent and evocative of a place and time.

What else is out that the Gheorgheverse needs to hear, boys and girls?

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Minnows and Narhwals

Embarrassment of footie riches this month, as our friend Fat Guy in a Speedo has been productive. The fifth round of the FA Cup kicks off this morning, with storylines to please the most discerning fan. We've got bigs versus littles, hooligans against champions, and probably an unavoidable thrashing or three. Fingers crossed that Fulham avoids getting completely throttled by a pissed off Tottenham side that's coming off dismal performances against Liverpool in the league and Gent(!) in the Europa League. Herewith the Fat Guy:

It’s the fifth round of the FA Cup this weekend and we all know what this means; a week off of soccer watching for everyone but the single, male whose team is still in the tourney. That being said the Cup still delivers in the minnows vs. narwhal scenario that was envisioned at its inception. Or maybe the FA never thought that grown men would kick a ball on some grass for a metric shit ton of poundage 120 years in the future.

The two teams to surprise this year are Lincoln City and Sutton United, two non-league teams - which means they are mostly made up of amateurs whose day jobs consist of non-soccer related activities envisioned by the FA 120 years in the past. (Speaking of Fat Guy, Men in Blazers had an awesome interview with Sutton's backup goalkeeper, 280-lb, 46 year-old Wayne Shaw.) Put into perspective by the Guardian (and proving its reporter wrong), “You probably won’t read this anywhere else this weekend, but just nine non-league teams have made it to the fifth round of the FA Cup since the end of the Second World War. This season, two of them have done so for the first time since the establishment of the Football League in 1888.” So there’s that.  

Unfortunately, statistical significance doesn’t equate to real-life excitement as prior girlfriends can confirm. Sutton United play an Arsenal team whose 5-1 midweek tonking in the Champions League by Bayern Munich should inspire them to victory in pursuit of the only silverware they might have a shot at this year. It’s actually looking like Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger will finally part ways with the club he’s been at for twenty-some years this summer. I hope not, as the angst of Arsenal fans worldwide has provided the rest of us with huge amounts of schadenfreude over the past decade. Lincoln City vs. Burnley might be more competitive but I doubt it. 

So, what’s worth watching you ask? Fuck if I know. Millwall plays Leicester City, and this might be interesting in that high-flying underdogs Leicester City won the league handily last season and are in danger of relegation this season, which would be a first in the modern era; paradoxical in light of the highly consistent Lester with whom we're all familiar. Plus, Millwall’s fans will chant “No one likes us, we don’t care” whilst hooliganing the shit out of the place as is their wont. Fulham – Tottenham has potential unless you follow oddsmaking. 

It's supposed to be beautiful outside this weekend. Maybe just go for a walk. 

Friday, February 17, 2017

Keeping It 100

On Tuesday night, four-time women's NCAA Division I basketball champion Connecticut defeated sixth-ranked South Carolina, 66-55, marking the Huskies' 100th consecutive victory. That's an amazing number. The excellent Sally Jenkins wrote a compelling piece on the victors' run, calling out John Feinstein by name under a headline that read, 'Bored by UConn women's dominance? You must not like basketball.'

I was amused by the rare public slap, and enjoyed the article's dissection of Geno Auriemma's exacting standards. But I didn't think much about the thesis until I got a direct message from a friend on Twitter, which read:

"As a keen and varied sports observer, father of daughters, and possessor of Y chromosome and all of its lunkhead qualities, curious about your take on UConn women and 100 in a row and where it rates on your spectrum."

I am, in fact, a keen and varied sports observer. I watch all kinds of athletic contests, male and female. I've watched more women's soccer over the last six months than I've watched NFL football. It is also true that I possess one or two lunkhead qualities. But I do have daughters, and I'm an unabashed lefty women's rights supporter. Hell, I've written multiple posts right here about Elena Delle Donne.

And after careful thought, I realized that I don't give much of a damn about the UConn streak. In fact, I kinda agree with the aforementioned Feinstein, who responded to his close friend Jenkins this morning. The nut of his thesis is basically this: I prefer men's basketball because I know it better, and because it's more competitive:
But, Sally my love, here’s the thing: I’m going to continue to watch the men because I know and understand the game and I know and understand the people. If you prefer the women’s game—or, for that matter—the NBA, I am 100 percent fine with that.

I would never criticize you for not finding Saturday’s game between UMBC and UMass-Lowell as interesting as I will find it.

And I’d never call you stupid for two reasons: 1: I know you are smart as hell. And 2: you’ll always be the sister I never had.
Geno Auriemma is a hell of a coach. Connecticut's accomplishment is stunning, incredible, and unlikely to be repeated. Unless they do it again, because as Feinstein points out, the rising tide of women's basketball has yet to lift all boats. UConn has yet to have an opponent come within 10 points during the current streak. That's impossible. Or at least impossible in a sport that's got any kind of real competitive balance.

But it's a crazy streak, regardless. It just doesn't move me.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Go Buy Charles's Stuff!

My friend and former colleague moonlights as a professional actor. A few years ago he told me about an improvisational dramatic film he was working on. It's now available on iTunes, Amazon and at live screenings. Here's the trailer.

I suggest you support independent film and rent (or even buy!) Somewhere In The Middle this weekend.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

World Music Tuesday

What, you're not familiar with World Music Tuesday? Maybe you should pay better attention.

One of my favorite Tuareg rock, folk, blues bands released their newest album last week. Tinariwen, featured here previously, has an amazing backstory, full of legitimate danger and intrigue (and Roy Orbison), and a dizzying melange of influences on their unique sound.

Dig their new single, Sastanaqqam, from their album, Elwan:

Sunday, February 12, 2017

This Week in Wrenball: The Next One(?)

A little over five years ago, something happened in a William & Mary basketball game that made me literally jump out of my seat with wonder and surprise. Marcus Thornton's audacious drive and dunk attempt signalled a new era in Tribe hoops history - unto us that day a (near) savior was born.

Marcus is two years gone now, learning his trade as an offensively talented but still raw professional point guard. He's averaging 11.3 points and 1.6 assists (with 1.9 turnovers/game) for Consultinvest Pesaro in Italy's top league. But just his week, something else happened in a William & Mary game that made me sit up and take notice, if not exactly jump.

Early in the second half of the Tribe's eventual (and brutal) road loss to Towson, freshman center Nathan Knight grabbed three boards (two offensive), scored a basket, made two free throws, and ran the floor to make an acrobatic block on Tigers veteran forward John Davis. Knight's efforts helped the Tribe extend their lead to 15, and though they ultimately blew that lead, it was a bit of a coming out party for the exuberant 6'10", 250-pound newcomer.

Knight scored a career-high 15 points in 19 minutes against Towson, making 4 of 6 from the field and 7 of 8 from the line, adding 5 rebounds and 5 blocks in his best collegiate performance. He tied that career-best scoring mark yesterday against Charleston, going 5-7 from the floor and making all 5 of his free throws to go along with 6 boards in a tidy 19 minutes. In his last four games, the Syracuse native is averaging 12.5 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 2 blocks, despite never playing more than 19 minutes in any of those games.

The big lefty served notice of his talent early in the season when he dropped 14 on Louisville despite missing 7 of 9 free throws. He took 12 shots in that game, refusing to back down against the Cards' big, athletic frontcourt. After his recent upswing, he averages 7.9 points and 4.4 boards per game, making 54.0% of his shots, and leads the CAA in blocks/game, averaging 1.5. His 37 blocks are already the 8th best single-season tally in school history. All of this in an average of only 17 minutes.

W&M's had some talented offensive big men, and they've had guys who could get after it on the glass and defend the rim, but they haven't had both in the modern era. Nathan Knight looks for all the world like he combines Tim Rusthoven's skill in the post with David Cully's strength and defensive talent. And if he continues to develop, G:TB readers will get very familiar with his name and his game.

After yesterday's win over Charleston in Williamsburg (where W&M has yet to lose this season), the Tribe are 14-10, 8-6 in the CAA. They're tied for fourth in the league with Elon, and appear assured of a top six finish, which is all that matters at this point. The league's six best teams avoid Pillow Fight Friday, where the 7-10 seeds square off to see who advances to the CAA Tournament quarterfinals. Just like every year in the past decade or so, W&M has enough talent to win the title. And just like each of those years, they're one inexplicable hairball puke away from losing to someone with inferior talent.

But whatever happens this year, Nathan Knight's big smile and bigger game portends good things for the next three seasons.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Fill 'er Up Friday

I spent the week in Orlando with a bunch of sales guys. Recovery starts now.

But the world still needs us, so I can't shirk blogging duty. Our man Teejay offered this spot-on political analysis this morning:

Inspired by his simple wisdom, I reached out to the White House for comment. The response did not fill me with confidence.