Capn Design

December 2003

This month I posted 17 entries, watched 4 videos.

Spoiler Queens!

Message from Anil: the good guys win.

Best of 2003: Music (1-15)

Posted December 28, 2003

15. The Coral - Magic and Medicine

Magic and Medicine was supposed to be my album of the year, but it didn't make it. I am still in love with it, but something just wasn't right. This, of course, doesn't mean you shouldn't buy the record. It is a much more mature effort and should make it to the States in the next couple months. The best and worst thing about this album is that it's now tougher to call them Pirate Rock.

14. Postal Service - Give Up

For some reason, Death Cab-related releases are destined for number fifteen or so. The albums are consistently awesome, but seem to wash over me. This one stands out in my mind as the colaboration with Dntel worked out wonderfully. It's a nice break from the normal run of Death Cab releases. Way to go,

13. Calla - Televise

Televise was my first introduction to Calla and I am in love. It's really nothing like I've ever heard before. Nothing much more to say about that.

12. Guster - Keep It Together

It wa s atough choice for me to put this so high. Guster is one of my all-time favorite bands, so it was tough to say whether this was truly one of the best albums of the year or just one of my personal faves. In the end, I realized that this is a solid outing and there are some truly fantastic songs here. It may not fit in with the rest of the records here, but that doesn't mean it isn't great.

11. Super Furry Animals - Phantom Power

Oh, my cuddly, wuddly, little animals. Rings Around the World made me a life long fan and Phantom Power has cemented the fact. The songs were stuck in my head almost instantaneously and when I listen to the record it feels like I've had it for years. Most definitely a keeper.

10. The Shins - Chutes Too Narrow

Oh, Inverted World was easily one of the best albums of last year, but the Shins new record made me a bit skeptical. There is no good reason. Maybe I feared the sophmore slump or the new colorful album cover scared me, I'm not sure. Despite these concerns, the album ended up in my car, which meant it was played over and over. After a few spins, I fell in love all over again. And so, here it is at number ten.

09. Four Tet - Rounds

I have such amazing respect for these DJ-ish records. The amount of time and mental capacity it takes to put together an album with hundreds of samples and originaly beats is astounding. What's more amazing is that the album is fabulous. A beautiful, diverse record worthy of placement in your CaseLogic.

08. Outkast - Speakerboxxx/The Love Below

What are these guys eating/drinking/smoking? Whatever it is, I hope they don't stop. I encourage them to ruin their bodies so that the rest of the world can benefit from their insanity. It is worth noting that this album would have still been on this list if ever song except "Hey Ya" had been removed. For real.

07. The Notwist - Neon Golden

How did these guys get in my top ten? All I know is that I borrowed this from my boss when I was interning at Spin, only to listen to it non-stop for a few weeks straight. Neon Golden is another example of "electronic music" creeping into my collection.

06. The Darkness - Permission to Land

Holy Balls. Seriously, these guys can rock. I proclaim this the "best record to rock out to while showering." In other words, when the album comes on it is virtually impossible to avoid singing along. Wow, there is nothing else to say except that British music rules.

05. The Decemberists - Her Majesty the Decemberists

One of two bands (the Darkness being the other) that stayed in my "record player" for much longer than I had expected. People keep comparing the Decemberists to Neutral Milk Hotel and I hear the resemblance but these boys are still writing fantastic, originaly songs. Also, Neutral Milk Hotel hasn't but out a record for 6 years, so get over it. If you liked this, then definitely buy their first record, Castaways and Cutouts, as it is more sweet goodness.

04. Grandaddy - Sumday

Grandaddy crept up the list this year. When I initially assigned numbers they were around 13, but I listened to the record again and remebered why I had played it more than most albums this year (according to iTunes) -- the songs are fucking catchy. While listening on the subway, my feet are always tapping and there is usually a smile on my face. I'm already getting greedy for another album.

03. Fountains of Wayne - Welcome Interstate Managers

FOW are one of my favorite bands, so this was a no-brainer. For the long-time fans, like myself, Welcome Interstate Managers is the cap on an amazing trifecta of albums. For many, the judges of the Grammys included, the album is an introduction to one of the, if not the absolute, best pop songwriters around. I welcome you all with open arms. What I find most impressive is that they were able to make a concept record that is packed with great songs and virtually no filler.

02. Blur - Think Tank

When this album fell into the number two spot I realized that I valued a well-crafter album more than I had thought. Like TCTC, the creator of the number one album, Blur's record has a group of songs that can stand alone but would not be the same apart. Unfortunately (or fortunately) for me, the first album by Blur that really struck me was 13, so I didn't have the opportunity to grow alongside the band. As a result, Think Tank comes off as a work of brilliance that will almost certainly stand the test of time.

01. The Cooper Temple Clause - Kick Up The Fire, And Let The Flames Break Loose

I spent a summer in London working for a music PR firm that represented TCTC. I got to hear their first demos and EP, which showed a lot of promise but I couldn't get into them. I then bought their first album, which I liked a lot, but wasn't quite there yet. One way or another, I learned of this release and paid Amazon UK an extremely fair sum of money to ship it to me. Upon my first listen, I knew that whatever happened between the release of their first record and this one was good. Kick Up the Fire... is a true album, which is often an appealing feature for me. The songs ebb and flow with one another and the sound, although derivative of other bands, is tighter than any other band I've listen to this year. An amazing first release that should hit the U.S. sometime around March (alongside a tour).

Best of 2003: Music (16-30)

Posted December 27, 2003

This is the first of my "Best Of" lists. Here is the first half of my top thirty albums. Enjoy.

30. Starlight Mints - Built On Squares

Pop-licious. The Mints last album was one of my favorites and I knew it would take a real stinker for the one one to be left off my list this year. Well, Built on Squares isn't a masterpiece, but it's still pretty awesome. So, it gets this list started.

29. Death Cab For Cutie - Transatlanticism

Ho boy. They just keep churning out good records. This would probably be a lot higher if that Postal Service hadn't come out this year. So, keep up the good work Cuties!

28. The Sea And Cake - One Bedroom

I feel bad this record is so low on the list. I think it's one of their best but I just haven't been in a big post-rock mood lately. If you are, you owe it to yourself to pick up this record. They're at the top of their game.

27. Muse - Absolution

This album was disappointing, yet it managed to stay on my list. After hearing Origin of Symmetry I thought their next record would blow the world away. That didn't happen. Maybe Matt Bellamy is a little too into himself at the moment. Thankfully a fair Muse record is still better than most others.

26. Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds - Nocturama

When I first heard this record, it completely and totally blew me away. I had never really listened to Nick Cave before and this was a shock to my system. I was amazed that someone could write a forty-three verse song that stayed exciting the whole way through. Quite an achievement. When the time came to choose, the record seemed to slip down in the lists. I'm still going to be buying a lot of old Nick Cave records.

25. Rufus Wainwright - Want One

The next fifteen records are so ridiculously close in quality it was almost painful to select the order. Nonetheless I did put them in order, and this is one of the records that may have been slighted. That being said, Want One is a beautiful album with lush orchestration. He is one of the most prolific and competent songwriters working today.

24. Beulah - Yoko

This album has some serious maturity going on, which is awesome. My biggest problem with their last couple albums was the lack of overall quality. I liked a bunch of the songs but never really wanted to listen all the way through. Now, they seem to be focusing on new aspects of songwriting and the new direction is, well, awesome.

23. Deerhoof - Apple O'

This is the first of two albums that I discovered thanks to an internship at Spin. Of course, neither of them ever made it in the magazine this year (as far as I know), but that is to be expected. Apple O' really shocked me when I first heard it. It's the kind of album that makes your parents go, "Wah?" After two or three listens, I fell in love with the unusal, discordant melodies. I think this might be the most original record I've heard all year.

22. The New Pornographers - Electric Version

Stop it, please. All of this awesome pop is giving me those convulsions you get after eating too much sugar. New Porn continues to make some of the best rock and roll records in the world. The only reaosn it's not higher is because I was hoping for something a little more original. This almost feels like Mass Romantic pt. 2, which is great but not exciting.

21. Cex - Being Ridden

Is this rap? No, not really. Is this Eletronica? Definitely not. Being Ridden is the kind of album that makes you wish we could do away with classification altogether. The lead track, "The Wayback Machine," is just amazing. If the rest of the album had been as strong, it would have sent this to the top of my list. Since it's at twenty-one, you can guess it's not. Nonetheless, the rest of the album holds its own.

20. Radiohead - Hail To The Thief

I've listened to this album a bunch of times, but for dudes who have been more innovative than just about every other band around, Hail to the Thief doesn't really bring things up a notch. Thankfully, a seemingly half-assed album by Radiohead is still good enough to be a third of the way up my list. Another solid outing from these kiddies.

19. Damien Jurado - Where Shall You Take Me?

Yet another record that could have easily been number eleven, but I had to give everything a number and Where Shall You Take Me? kept slipping. I think Damien Jurado is one of the best songwriters in the world. All of his albums are solid and varied, with his newest being no exception. A more relaxed effort than his work with Gathered in Song, but the perfect record for a Sunday morning. Aaaahhhhhh.

18. Manitoba - Up in Flames

Their live show is what pushed me over the edge. I was enjoying Up in Flames, but once I saw him/them playing the songs I listened to the record about fifty more times. A sonic masterpiece with a number of standout songs.

17. Basement Jaxx - Kish Kash

Kish Kash could have easily been higher if I hadn't bought it a couple weeks ago. Albums change over weeks and months so I had to let it sink in some more. Over the time I've owned it, I couldn't get enough of it. The Jaxx are completely unbelievable and I've wholeheartedly given in to them. Ever since I heard "Romeo" in London a few years ago, it's been all up hill. Kish Kash has less sex, but the beats are out of this world.

16. The Stills - Logic Will Break Your Heart

First listen: Bah, sounds like everything else. I had listened to the album on their website and was only mildly impressed. A couple weeks later a good friend of mine recommended the album and I decided to buy it since it was cheap. I will never say "bah" to this album again. It felt a little too slick at first, but now I'm totally into it. Vice, your magazine may be annoying but your first record release was right on the money.

Eat, Drink, Sleep, Dinner

Posted December 24, 2003

Okay, so it isn't always in that order but that is my life right now. The one exception has been today's activity -- a movie tour. My mom, sister and I rode around in a mini-bus checking out sites where movies have been filmed. The sites were pretty awesome but the commentary was painfully cheesy. Still, I was able to snap a lot of good photos.

Today, more than halfway through the trip, I am at about 250 photos. So, I don't think I'm going to make the full thousand, but I'm not giving up. I'll still do as many as I can, but this would be a whole lot easier in a more urban city.

In other news, you can expect some Best of the Year lists from Capn Design some time before the end of the year.

Back to paradise for me...

I Won $100

Posted December 21, 2003

I am officially out of Vegas, but I came out on top. I had no intentions of gambling, as I don't like playing with my own money, but my dad was willing to front me a little cash to play blackjack with him. I got up a bunch and then paid him back at the end of the night. Winning is nice.

Despite this, Vegas is mostly annoying. There are way too many people and even the supposedly classy restaurants and resorts are cheesy. I think that Vegas is one of those cities that gives you a fairly accurate view of America. I know there are plenty of freaks (not so many geeks), but when you see people touring the hotels and buying tsochkes in the shops, you begin to understand what the driving force behind our country.

The most poignant moment was when we got dim sum at Noodles in the Bellagio. This is a restaurant that is likely owned and operated by the hotel, but employs Asian people whose english skills are just above average. Clearly, this is meant to recreate the mood of an authenticN Chinese restaurant, but instead it felt very fake. I was a little miffed when I figured this out, but I guess it just fits right into the whole Las Vegas package.

In an hour we'll be taking off on our way to Hawaii -- Kauai to be exact -- and I couldn't be more excited. I love seeing my extended family but I'm really looking forward to the following schedule:

9:30am: Wake up
10:00am: Eat Breakfast
10:45am: Go to Pool
1:30pm: Eat Lunch
2:15pm: Go to Pool
4:00pm: Drink Smoothie
5:30pm: Go to Room, Watch Movie and Check Email
7:30pm: Dinner
10:00pm: Watch Movie
1:00am: Sleep

I will do some variation of this schedule for the next eight days. As of now, I am officially turning off my brain.

Day One Complete

Posted December 19, 2003

I am officially on vacation. Yesterday I took an 8pm flight from Laguardia to O'Hare and arrived safely in Chicago. My ride to the airport was probably the most interesting portion of the trip. My driver was really, truly Palestinian as he was born in Palestine before it became Israel in 1948. We talked a bit about how Israelis and Palestinians really have no problem with each other and it's the government who has caused most of the problems. I didn't learn much I didn't know, but it was interesting to hear from someone who was there for the formation of Israel. Before I even knew who he was, my driver was nice enough to turn around after four blocks since I left my laptop at home. Whoops.

Last night I had to experience the empty space that used to be my room. My parents cleared out all my furniture and wallpaper in preparation for redecoration. It was depressing to have to sleep in my sister's bed.

Now, I am killing time in the airport as our flight is an hour late. I'm writing this from a Sony VAIO TR2A Notebook. It's a teeny-weeny thing at 10" and would be great for travel-only purposes. If Mac makes something this small, I would buy it in the next couple years.

Enough rambling. Next time I hope to have a more purposeful post. At least this kept me busy for ten minutes.

Questions for A.O. Scott

The NY Times film reviewer answers readers' questions all this week.

People Like Bush, and Think He's Liberal?!?

Posted December 17, 2003

Today, the New York Times released a poll showing that Bush's approval rating has gone up since the capture of Saddam Hussein. I am hereby giving that a resounding, "duh," but I was looking over the full poll and also noticed that sixteen percent of America thinks of Bush as a Liberal. At that point I remembered that America is crazy.

His general approval rating went up from 52% to 58% and his disapproval rating went from 40% to 33%. Like I said, this was to be expected, but that is still not much more than half of the country. The numbers have been creeping downward ever since the end of the war in May, with 50% being the lowpoint in the middle of November. Here are some other interesting statistics:

  • The importance of different issues in the Presidential elections. Before the capture, the war was at 11%, and now it's at 3%, even with social security.
  • Who you expect to win the election in 2004, regardless of how you're voting. Before: Democrat 35%, Bush 50%. After: Democrat 24%, Bush 61%.
  • Have we won the war in Iraq? 46% Won, 47% Not Won (no earlier data for comparison).

I am not surprised that a lot of people are suddenly in favor of the war, or suddenly supporting Bush, but I am surprised that someone can go to the homepage of the New York Times, read about the non-stop death occuring in Iraq, and still think that this war is a good idea or that Saddam's capture is going to have a profound effect. When a big event like this happens, people who rarely read the news crawl out of the woodwork and start voting in national polls. Maybe this is what Presidents of the past have always relied on, but the whole situation is fairly frustrating.

Guten Nacht, GRE

Posted December 15, 2003

This past Saturday, two days ago, I put the GRE to bed. Like most standardized tests, I could have done better but I could definitely have done worse. No more flash cards. No more practice exams. I am free to read my book on the subway again.

Despite my emancipation from the tyranny of studying, I think I'm going to miss it a bit. I have been out of school for 18 months and, despite my poor studying habits while in school, I miss doing all the reading and preparing for classes or exams. There is something easy about that schedule.

When I was in college it didn't make much sense, but people are not lying when they say college is the best time of your life. Maybe not the best, but certainly the easiest.

13 Days, 1000 Photos

Posted December 12, 2003

Tonight, I had an epiphany. While considering the fact that I don't take nearly as many photos as I'd like, I came upon the idea of taking 1,000 photos in thirteen days. Why thirteen days? Good question.

From December 18th to the 30th I will be on vacation with my family. I'm going from New York to Chicago to Las Vegas to Hawaii and back, with some layovers in between. I think that during this time I can manage to take 1,000 pictures. That averages out to roughly 77 pictures a day or five and a half per waking hour. I don't think that's too much of a problem, so long as I stay dedicated.

I will be posting every single image on this site. Granted, most of them will be very small, but they will all go up, hopefully by mid-January. I am feeling inspired by this project and I think keeping this thought in the back of my head will really help me to take some photos I would have otherwise missed. In the meantime, I will continue to prep for the GRE, which I am taking on Saturday, which is officially tomorrow. On a related note: spurious means false; not genuine.

Kottke-ization Complete (I Think)

Posted December 12, 2003

As you can see (if you're looking at this through a browser), I have Kottke-ized my site. Essentially, I brought the reviews into the main blog. I made a few small changes to the far right side as well. I'm hoping this will give a little more attention to the reviews and maybe make me write them a little more often.

Like Kottke, I used the SQL, Compare, and ExtraFields plugins to make this all happen. The ExtraFields plugin is just used to clean up the review ratings a bit.

I'm still fixing things up, but if you see anything that looks out of place, leave a comment. I haven't had a chance to look at the site on a PC so it would be much appreciated.

Ask Metafilter

Way more addictive than regular Metafilter. Go Matt. All Shirts $10 Until Monday

If you do buy a shirt, enter 'capn' into the street team referral thingy. I just bought "Build."

Jason? Jason?!?

Posted December 9, 2003

Well, humanity is headed for the shitter. Last night Melinda chose Jason, the pretty boy, over Adam, the right guy, on Average Joe. It was terribly disappointing, but predictable. You figured she had to pick Adam because he is a great guy, but then you realize that she is not the brightest bulb herself. As Gothamist put it, "...maybe a defeat for Average Joe means the world order is more stable than we thought."

I was actually surprised that I thought Adam had a real chance at getting picked. You'd think after getting a Radio, TV, Film degree and watching countless hours of television I would be adequately jaded. Apparently that's not the case.

I have also determined that the best way to watch these elimination dating shows is to start about half way through and watch every other or every third week until the end. You'll get a sense of the favorites and know who to root for in the final episode. This way, you don't waste all your time watching one or two hours shows that are mostly boring/annoying.

Worth Reading:
The new Flak Mag in Print has a great essay on the brilliance of reality shows. I was nearly convinced.

Special Editions and Re-releases

Posted December 5, 2003

Today Pitchfork announced that Beck is releasing a 5.1 surround-sound version of Sea Change. I am totally in favor of this as I think a lot of records can benefit from a surround-sound mix. The one thing I don't appreciate is that they are releasing it a year after the album came out.

One of the biggest frustration of music and movie connoisseurs is when a new format comes out. This means that you need to rebuy your entire collection. I do not like this concept, but it is only completely egregious during the time of transition. If I decide to commit to the new format, then don't release the album/movie in the old format a year before. I don't want to have to buy an album twice in one year.

I have a similar issue with special edition DVDs. The worst example is the Lord of the Rings DVDs. They released the "standard" version in, let's say, August. Then in November they release a four-DVD set with tons of extras. Completely bogus. Don't make me wait three months for the special edition and don't try to take advantage of the people who will certainly buy both.

Each of these issues are not terrible when done in moderation. For instance, all of the Elvis Costello CDs have been rereleased with bonus material and remastered original tracks. I don't mind this because it's been about ten years since the albums came out and they are definitely offering up new material. In terms of DVDs, something like Apocolypse Now: Redux is great because you are releasing something that is new enough where it's worth buying.

These companies have to learn to treat us like intelligent consumers. Instead of trying to trick us into buying the same thing two or three times, why don't they instead work on releasing new, high quality material. Now that would make me happy.

New Headphones, That Match!

Posted December 2, 2003

new_sony_headphones.jpgLast Friday I got to show my sister's boyfriend around the city. He had never been to NYC, which meant he deserved to see the craziness that is Chinatown. While there, I told him about the elctronics stores that import Asian versions of American products, often for lower prices. While looking, I noticed a pair of Sony headphones I had read about and knew were popular among iPod users -- the MDR-EX71SL (the white ones are only available as imports, but if you google the product name, you'll find them). My current iPod headphones were already falling apart, after six months of use, and they aren't the best in the world. The Sony set were only $45 and I thought that was a fair price for a good set of headphones, so I got them.

I have to say, I'm not at all disappointed. These headphones are much better than the standard issue from Apple. The first album I listened to was Basement Jaxx's Kish Kash. Since these headphones actually enter your ear canal, instead of just pressing up against it, you can hear and feel more of the sound. There is a significant improvement in both the highs and lows, especially in the bass. If I put the iPod EQ to "Bass Booster," it is way too much bass for me, which is impressive. Their general performance is also very strong, even though it took a few songs to get used to actually hearing my music.

So now I have a great sounding pair of headphones and I can still be recognized on the subway as an iPod user, which is much more important to me than it should be. If you see me on the subway, feel free to jack into my iPod.

Wait, It's December 1st?

Posted December 1, 2003

Holy Balls. Or should I say, "Balls of Holly." Ha ha ha ha ha.....ha. Anyway, it is December. This means a lot of things to a lot of people but to me it means that I have to start putting together my "Best Of" lists for the year. Last year I had grand plans that fell through. This year I'm hoping to do a bunch of lists, with film and music being important.

This year, my media consumption was way down. I saw 48 new movies last year, and with only a month to go I've seen slighty more than half of that this year. For music, I bought/acquired 123 albums last year and I'm at 81 for the current year. That is very unlikely to change, but I am working hard to up the movie totals via Netflix and the theater. There are a few movies I haven't seen that could eek into the top ten.

When the big day comes I'll also let you see all the movies and albums I've seen/bought this year. I won't be ranking them all, but I'll at least let you see what I thought was good enough to spend money on, copy from a friend or sneak into.

If you'd like to take a look at my lists from the previous years, I have linked to them below. It was interesting to look at the lists and see what has held up as a really good album or movie. For instance, in 2000 I put Dashboard Confessional on my list, ahead of Grandaddy and Outkast! Oh, and last year I would now put Elvis Costello and Blackheart Procession much higher on the list. Hmm, I bet you're curioius to see them now. Hera ya go.

2002 - Music, Film, TV
2001 - Movies, Music and Game Consoles
2000 - Music and Movies

I'd also like to note, that if anyone of you can make me a copy of Source Tags and Codes by ...Trail of the Dead or the first disc from Unwound's Leaves Turn Inside You then I will be eternally grateful. I lost my copies and really don't want to have to buy it again. Really, I owned them at one point. Honest.


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