Monday, January 30, 2012

Hurry Up, M83's Bandwagon is Growing

With special thanks to Spotify for helping introduce me to the following group, Stars and Slights proudly offers you the musical renditions of M83 today.

They have been around since 2001 and have, for the most part, stayed under the radar in countries not named France, their home country.

It is difficult to compare M83 to other artists due to their unique sound. One common description of their genre is 'shoegazing', which is signified by an amalgam of guitar effects and vocal melodies.

Regardless of M83's style of music, they are no doubt gaining notoriety worldwide. Of their first four albums, none of them gained attention from charts outside of France. Their fifth album, Saturdays = Youth, placed on the billboard charts in both France and the US.

Growing in popularity, they began opening for other headlining bands such as Kings of Leonthe Killers and Depeche Mode.

Hurry Up, We're Dreaming, their sixth full length album, is a double album that was released a full three years after Saturdays = Youth. In an interview with Exclaim Magazine, frontman Anthony Gonzalez revealed the inspiration behind releasing a double album.
I would hold the CD in my hand and read all of the lyrics while listening to that album over and over. For me it was a discovery and I want younger generations to experience what I got from the Smashing Pumpkins double album.
Gonzalez and M83 produced a mesmerizing sound while telling an intriguing lyrical story about twins and their efforts have not gone unnoticed. They are gaining momentum and are on billboard charts across the globe. Play the first few notes of their hit single Midnight City and even the casual listener will be drawn in.

Hurry up, their bandwagon is quickly filling up.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Iron & Wine Continues To Evolve With Kiss It Clean

If there's one thing you can say about Samuel Beam, it's that he always keeps you guessing.

Never one to stand pat, Beam has evolved his sound from the charming and sometimes heartbreaking lo-fi approach to his debut, Creek That Drank The Cradle, to the more polished efforts of 2004's Our Endless Numbered Days and 2007's The Shepard's Dog.

Now Beam has changed course again slightly with his release from the fall of 2011 Kiss Each Other Clean.

“It’s more of a focused pop record," Beam has said. "It sounds like the music people heard in their parent’s car growing up… that early-to-mid-’70s FM, radio-friendly music."

Pop in this case doesn't mean mainstream, so fear not. This album is as eclectic, if not more so, than anything put out by Beam thus far.

The album opens with the slow and pretty "Walking Far From Home". It's what you've come to expect from Beam, an easy going tune with subdued instruments and a pleasant melody.

My personal favorite may be "Monkeys Uptown". It features a prominent and funky bass line that sucks you in and there's minimal electronic percussion augmented by strange little noises of various origins in the background.

It's the kind of song you can't help but move to. On a side note, my friends and I have recently developed a proclivity for Krumping. As the definition goes it's a form of dance, "...characterized by free, expressive, exaggerated, and highly energetic movement involving the arms, head, legs, chest, and feet."

Kiss Each Other Clean is a collection of songs that seem familiar but haven't quite been done before.

The album keeps you guessing and after initial surprise at a track, the listener settles into an excellent new brand of "straight-forward pop".

Get to krumping friends.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Hokies and Irish Notch Big Weekend Wins

Notre Dame's Jerian Grant celebrates a 67-58 victory over No. 1 Syracuse Saturday

It was a big weekend on the hardwood for the favored college hoops teams of this blog (save for Brian's annoying fixation with Duke).

Notre Dame became the first team to upend No. 1 Syracuse and the Hokies edged in-state rival No. 17 Virginia.

I can't speak for Brian, but I haven't posted about Hokie hoops because it's exceedingly frustrating (which I'm conditioned to) watching a talented group play so inconsistently. While I haven't watched ND much this season, they appear on paper at least to have similar afflictions.

The Irish have now upset two top ten teams (Syracuse and Louisville) and also defeated then No. 22 Pittsburgh.

There have been bumps along the way however like losses to Georgia and Rutgers.

Dorenzo Hudson made several big shots off the bench helping Tech to a 47-45 win over No. 17 Virginia Sunday

The Hokies have been even more mercurial, starting 0-4 in ACC play before Sunday's win over the Cavaliers.

Tech lost its first three ACC games by a total of seven points, which is why at 1-4 they still reside in the conference basement.

Even more frustrating, Tech has led almost every game at the half this season including against Syracuse at Madison Square Garden and No. 8 North Carolina Thursday in Blacksburg.

The Hokies lost both those contests, but have had chances to win all their games.

Notre Dame (12-8, 4-3 Big East) and Virginia Tech (12-7, 1-4 ACC) both have a lot of work to do to get into position to make the NCAA Tournament.

The Irish now have a signature victory and a number of nice wins to along with it. The Hokies' schedule isn't eye-popping, but their strength of schedule is currently 41 according to

The grind of conference play will tell the tale for these two programs, and if this weekend was any indication it could be an unexpectedly pleasant story.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Notre Dame Hockey: First Irish Win Against Gophers Since 1980

For the first time since November 8, 1980 the Notre Dame Men's Hockey team defeated the Minnesota Gophers. Junior center Riley Sheehan led the way with two goals and on assist as #5/6 Notre Dame toppled #3/3 Minnesota 4-3 on its home ice at Mariucci Arena in Minneapolis, MN.

Sophomore center TJ Tynan was welcomed back to the lineup with a goal of his own on a power play in the first period. Tynan had missed the prior week while playing for the US in the World Junior Championships.

Irish goalkeeper Steven Summerhays tallied 31 saves on the night as he outmatched the Gophers' Kent Patterson. If it weren't for Patterson, the final score could have been 10-3 but the Gophers' net minder came up with a few point blank saves to help keep his team in contention until the end.

Notre Dame dominated play throughout much of the contest, keeping the puck in their zone and killing three of Minnesota's five power play opportunities.

The win marked the third in a row - fourth if you count an exhibition match over the Russian Red Stars - for the Irish. Notre Dame, now ranked #3, hosts #10 Western Michigan on Friday, January 13 at 7:35p EST from Compton Family Ice Arena in a game televised by CBS Sports Network. On Saturday the 14th they travel to Kalamazoo to complete the home-and-home series with the Broncos.

One week later, Jeff Jackson's squad hosts #15 Michigan for two games at Compton Family Ice Arena. Friday January, 20 the puck drops at 7:35p EST with national TV coverage by the newly minted NBC Sports Network. The puck drops at the same time the next evening but will this time be televised on CBS Sports Network.

Touching Tributes
Before the opening face-off against the Gophers, a moment of silence was held for Charles "Lefty" Smith, Jr, who passed away several days before on January 4. Born in St. Paul, MN, Lefty literally is the father of Notre Dame Hockey, leading Notre Dame's first varsity team in 1968 and spending a total of 19 seasons as the head coach of the Irish. He was 81.

Another fallen member was honored during the game. Jack Jablonski, a local hockey player for Benilde-St. Margaret's, suffered a life threatening injury after an accidental check from behind caused a severe spinal cord injury. He miraculously was able to move his arms eight days after accident, much to the surprise of his doctors. It is believed he will never walk again.

Proceeds from the Gopher's 'Chuck-a-Puck' contest went towards The Jack Jablonski Fund. Our thoughts and prayers are with the entire Jablonski family and BSM community.

How Tim Tebow Melted My Icy NFL Heart

This will no doubt infuriate an already incensed Brian, but I must take a moment to commend and congratulate the great Tim Tebow on the Broncos exciting 29-23 victory over the Steelers yesterday in Denver.

No he's not a very good quarterback, in fact his ineptitude can at times be maddening but Sunday evening saw little Timmy grow up and start to become a quarterback at the NFL level. No small feat for a guy who can barely throw a spiral.

But that's what I love about him. I could do without the squeaky clean image. I've always preferred my athletes to be wildly talented, severely flawed people like Mickey Mantle or Tiger Woods.

The massive hype is also off-putting, but ESPN does that with anything and everything. they dictate the story and when the public is weary of the praise or criticism we become a fractured mass that's very upset both for and against the subject matter.

But I just can't get enough of a quarterback who comes out and gives a big ol' middle finger to the NFL establishment.

Analysts, former players, general managers, coaches, just about everyone involved with "the league" is always quick to point out that it's a different game and not everyone translates to the NFL.

I say bollocks. It's football. The defenses are a bit more complicated, the players are bigger, faster and stronger and the offensive playbooks are massive (often I think simply for the sake of being massive) but at the heart it's still just football despite what pigskin elitists would have us believe.

Once in a while a player comes along like Tebow or Michael Vick (before he learned to play QB) and they just win and do it in ways which are tough to rationalize. It makes even the most erudite of NFL coaches scratch their heads and go, "gee whiz I don't know. I guess we'll get him next time."

Guys like Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers are wonderful to watch. The sheer precision and dominance shown by their units is difficult to fully comprehend. So too however is the mediocrity and struggles of the Broncos' talented but often inept crew.

My man Eddie Royal can rush, catch, return punts and come down with jump ball touchdowns despite being the smallest guy on the field. Demaryius Thomas is a super freak with speed to burn and a stiff arm like the Heisman trophy. Eric Decker is tough as nails when he isn't getting his knee blown up like yesterday.

The Broncos' defense is dominant. That's all you really need to know.

So there is no shame in losing to such a talented team Pittsburgh, I mean that genuinely. You suited up the few healthy bodies you had on defense and sent the big gimp out at QB and he didn't quite have it. A healthy Pitt squad would not have lost.

That said, winners play on and the best teams do not always win in the NFL playoffs. I guess that's the magic of it? I haven't entirely figured it out as I still don't like the NFL.

But I do like Tim Tebow and that magic is easy to decipher.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

2012 Sugar Bowl Preview: No. 11 Virginia Tech vs. No. 13 Michigan

I hate placing a great deal of importance on one game because it always feels like hyperbole. Just think back to the "game of the century", that scintillating 9-6 affair earlier this season between Alabama and LSU.

With that resounding dud of a game in mind, I have to say this is a monumental game for the Hokies.

The amount of vitriol and anger directed at the Tech program in recent weeks has been staggering, especially since most of it came from ESPN's talking goons. I don't watch the mother ship much anymore because it's become a horrifying parody of itself, but I still hear about it.

A supposedly unbiased media organization turning like that on a program that often bends over backwards to accommodate their TV schedule is at best unprofessional and infuriating, but I digress.

The Hokies have one way to silence the critics regarding their selection to this game, win.

So how do they do that? People keep asking me how Tech can stop Michigan's dynamic quarterback Denard Robinson. That's easy, just make him throw the ball.

There's no question that Robinson is dangerous, throwing for 2,056 yards and rushing for 1,163.

He is prone to mistakes however, throwing 18 touchdowns but 14 interceptions.

Tech's QB Logan Thomas has completed almost as many passes (215) as Robinson has attempted (237) this season. Thomas also threw 19 touchdowns to just 9 interceptions.

Robinson is going to make some plays rushing, but if Tech can force throws into coverage they have a chance to make some big plays with guys like probable early NFL entry Jayron Hosely.

Bud Foster's defense also has to stop the Wolverines' other 1,000-yard rusher, sophomore tailback Fitzgerald Toussaint.

Perhaps a bigger concern are the big, physical Michigan offensive and defensive lines. In last year's Orange Bowl, Stanford's similar lines dominated Tech en route to a 40-12 shellacking.

Rimington Award winner David Molk

Wolverine center David Molk won this year's Rimington Award given to the nation's top center, and the injury-riddled Hokie defense starts two redshirt sophomores, a true sophomore and a true freshman along the line.

Michigan's defense is the reason they're so much better than last year. New defensive coordinator Greg Mattison has brought a traditional 4-3 set back to Ann Arbor. Michigan is ranked 17th in total defense this season, but the Hokies are 15th. Points may well be at a premium come Tuesday night.

Low-scoring usually favors the Hokies, but they're down two kickers at this point. Starter Cody Journell is suspended and likely done at Tech for his alleged role in a home invasion last week in Blacksburg, and senior Tyler Weiss got the Frank Beamer bowl punishment for breaking curfew, an 833-mile bus ride back to Blacksburg.

Justin Myer hopes to ease Frank Beamer's kicking worries

That leaves place-kicking on the foot of kickoff specialist Justin Myer who has missed his only two field goal attempts this season, both longer than 50 yards.

The good news? Michigan is terrible on special teams too. Michigan is ranked 107th in net punting, Tech is 108. Kickoff returns see the Hokies ranked 99th, big blue 100th. Kickoff return defense is a mild bright spot with Michigan at number 54 and Tech 67.

Ultimately, I still think this game comes down to the battle in the trenches. The team that dominates the line of scrimmage will win. Expect a really good game, and potential for heartbreak on either side. Frankly though, I'm pretty disenchanted with the Hokies in big games at this point.


Michigan 24
Virginia Tech 21


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