Music to Listen to in 2015. From 2014.

What’s the statute of limitations on when you can post your favorite music, books, or movies from a given year? I know we’re a month into 2015, but good music is good music. Although maybe that’s not true, because last week I read a Marc Ronson quote that was something like: “the only thing you don’t want to sound like is last year’s music.” Well, whatever Marc Ronson.

At the end of 2014, like at the end of every year, I asked my friends for music recommendations. I also compiled my own list. Now I’m sharing these recommendations here. I have also embedded my favorite videos of the year.

Here are some selected favorite songs of mine from 2014.

  • Come Around, by Bernhoft. He’s Swedish Norwegian (so close).
  • Under the Pressure, by War on Drugs. The album has so many influences that it’s almost hard to understand how it came together: Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Bruce Springsteen, Dire Straits. Really interesting to me. Other good songs on the album include In Reverse and Eyes to the Wind. Nick from Tacoma likes Red Eyes.
  • Coming of Age, by Foster the People. I have three general rules when reviewing music which are 1) don’t be negative, 2) don’t be embarrassed, and 3) never quote lyrics. So I won’t do number 3, but I will say that the second verse/stanza of this song is an absolute favorite.
  • Do You, and Rent I Pay, by Spoon. Great album!
  • Laredo and Need a Little Help by Streets of Laredo.  To me, this is the perfect mix of Texas folk rock and Americana, and I’ll bet they’re from like Connecticut or Wales. Anyway, I feel like I was waiting for some music like this all year.
  • Chandelier, by Sia. So good! That voice! As for the video, Sarah from Boston says: “This was my favorite video of the year, with that creepy and incredibly talented 11-yr-old in a Sia wig dancing around a derelict apartment. Just the right amount of disturbing.”
  • Busy Earnin’, by Jungle. My wife does not like the Sia video. She does like this one.
  • Bad Self Portraits and Rental Love by Lake Street Dive. A little bit of jazz, a little bit of soul, a little bit of blues, and a whole lot of voice.
  • A tout a l’heure, by Bibio. Bibio to the max. He’s always Bibio-ing.
  • Odyssey, by No Wyld. Easily the best New Zealander hip hop song featured in a McDonald’s commercial of the year.

And here are some song recommendations from friends:

    • Shut up and Dance, by WALK THE MOON. Recommended by Brett from LA and Cameron from SF. Cameron said it makes him want to dance.
    • Head Underwater, by Jenny Lewis. Recommended by Nick from Tacoma, who says this song is from his favorite album of the year.
    • Black Out Days, by Phanotgram. Recommended by Lesley from Tacoma. “A good song to drive to.”
    • Lazaretto, by Jack White. Recommended by Josh from Santa Clara. Even though the album was so-so, “this song proved that Jack White is the most talented and innovated person doing music today.”
    • Take Me to Church, by Hozier. Recommended by numerous friends, including Sarah from Boston, who says: “It’s cinematic and epic sounding, has subversive religious references, and is sung by a tall gorgeous Irish poet who isn’t even really into all that stuff (you can tell because he didn’t fix his beautiful crooked teeth).”

  • Coffee, by Sylvan Esso. Criss from New Jersey says: “This song has a great beat that is equal parts relaxing and catchy.”
  • Latch, by Disclosure. Brian from the Cupertino says it’s catchy.
  • Happy, by Pharrell. Blake from Austin says it made him happy.
  • Turn Down for What, by DJ Snake and Lil Jon. Christina from Sacramento says it’s a great club banger.
  • Timber, by Pitbull and Kesha. Jenn from SF says, “It’s a good song for running” and “Pitbull is stupidly catchy.” Dale!
  • Other popular songs included Shake it Off by Taylor Swift, Thinking Out Loud by Ed Sheeran, All About That Bass by Meghan Trainor, Uptown Funk by Marc Ronson with Bruno Mars, and Stay With Me by Sam Smith.

And here are some of our favorite albums:

  • They Want My Soul, by Spoon. Plenty of favorites, including Do You, Rent I Pay, and the title track. Josh from Santa Clara says Spoon is the most consistent band going.
  • Mind Over Matter, by Young the Giant. Not sure why I like this album so much, but I do. It’s earnest. In My Home and Anagram are my favorites.
  • rose ave., by You+Me. Sarah from Boston says, “it’s folky and rocky and has awesome harmonies between two great voices.” She recommends Capsized and No Ordinary Love.
  • Most Messed Up, by Old 97s. Josh from Santa Clara says this was the best album of the year.
  • Queen of the Clouds, by Tove Lo. Mina from San Jose/Boston recommends it.
  • I’m not sure that I really loved any album in 2014. But I am looking forward to some in the coming year.

Happy Listening in 2015!



Some Boring Thoughts on the Upcoming College Football Playoffs


Look, I’m just being honest. A few thoughts on the upcoming College Football Playoffs:

Click to expand.
Click to expand.
  1. This is a huge step forward from the BCS model. Huge. As I’ve said before, if you have 129 teams and they each play about 13 games, you can’t possibly have enough interaction to narrow the playoff field to 2 teams. 4 teams is 100% better (literally and figuratively) than 2 teams for a field of this size.
  2. I’m not a fan of committees, but I think this committee did the best best possible job with the setup. They chose the top 4 conference champions for the 4 spots.  I LOVE Baylor and TCU. I root for them every week they don’t play Texas. But TCU was not a conference champion–which is why they didn’t get bumped up after the championship games–and I don’t think Baylor really has a case against any of the 4 teams that are in. Of course, if Baylor DID look stronger, then there would be some controversy.
  3. I love the idea of using prestigious bowl games to host semifinals. I’ve pushed for it at least as far back as 2009. The only thing that would be better is if they games were played on college campuses. Hopefully, if/when they move to 8 teams, they’ll put the quarterfinals on campus.

My ratings are even more boring than usual. If I were slotting the 6 big bowl games, my ratings would have chosen the exact same 12 teams that the committee chose. The only thing I really have to add here is that it would have been nice to see these 4 quarterfinal games on December 20:

#11 Boise State at #1 Florida State in Tallahassee
#7 Baylor at #2 Alabama in Tuscaloosa
#6 UCLA at #3 Oregon in Eugene
#5 TCU at #4 Ohio State in Columbus

I would include the losers of those quarterfinals  in the “New Year’s Six,” as ESPN is calling those 6 bowl games. But yeah, same 12 teams.

I think these ratings have outlived their usefulness. The whole point is to provide a sunnier alternative to an unsatisfying college football playoff system, but I think this is already much more satisfying than the model of the last decade and a half. The AI ratings have grown out of existence.

I’ll see you next year, or maybe not!

One Sided Championship Games – Alabama, Florida State, Oregon, and Ohio State

The weird thing about the conference championships this weekend is that only one team in each game has a strong opportunity to continue on to the real championship, which you get to by going through the College Football Playoffs.

If #10 Missouri (all rankings my own) wins the SEC championship, they will go to a consolation game, and it won’t even be the SEC-tied Sugar Bowl, since that’s a playoff game this year. Yet somehow, Mississippi State, which didn’t even win its own division, could get in.

If #8 Georgia Tech wins the ACC championship, they’ll go to the Orange Bowl, and their season will end there. And, if Florida State wins and goes undefeated, they might not even make the playoff! Look, I’m no Florida State fan, but let a team lose before you end their season. Their schedule wasn’t that soft.

If #5 Arizona wins the PAC-12 championship, they have a 37% chance of making the playoff, according to Nate Silver’s projections. By the way, that’s lower than the projected chance of Alabama making it in if they lose their championship game. Equal number of losses, I get it–but it’s a championship game, which is supposed to be a chance to move on.

If #4 Ohio State wins, they have a 60% chance of making the playoff, according to Silver. And #14 Wisconsin has no chance whatsoever, even though they would have

And of course, in the Big 12, there’s Two “One True Champion”ses.

I really enjoy watching college football, including the championship games. The College Football Playoff is a step in the right direction. I’m excited to watch the playoff games on January 1. But I would love to see a system where teams qualify in a transparent manner. A 4-team playoff is not enough when you have 129 teams playing 12 games each. And there should be no subjective opinion. For goodness’ sake Baylor hired a PR firm to lobby for its team. Simplify the system so teams know what they have to do to get in. Don’t make it about brand names and PR firms.

Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 9.26.59 AMHey Marshall, you had your chance.



Here are the Teams that Control Their Own Season

Here are the teams that currently kind of control their path to the championship:

  • Alabama
  • Florida State

Great list, right? No one else is included because every other team has the possibility of winning the rest of their games but not being included in the playoff. If Oregon barely wins their next two games, they could get leapfrogged. Baylor and Ohio State could win out and still not make it in. In fact, they probably won’t, unless teams in the top 4 lose. Weird, right? They could be conference champs in major conferences, and have their spot taken by a team that is not even first place in their division. So yeah.

Here’s why we need an 8-team playoff with no selection committee: any of the following teams in my top 20 could be a conference champion at this point, and therefore still make an 8-team playoff (teams with a ^ would need help from other teams). 

  • #1 Florida St.
  • #2 Alabama
  • #3 Oregon
  • #4 UCLA
  • #5 Mississippi St^
  • #6 Ohio State
  • #7 Marshall
  • #8 Arizona^
  • #9 Arizona State^
  • #10 Georgia^
  • #12 TCU^
  • #14 Georgia Tech
  • #15 Missouri^
  • #16 Colorado St.
  • #17 Boise St.
  • #18 Baylor
  • #19 Wisconsin

11 teams would control their own season, whereas only 2 teams do so right now. Seems like it could be better.

Lastly, could we just bring back the A&M/Texas game already? Sheesh.

I’m trying something different this week. Here are the rounded scores for the top 20 teams. I think a rounded score gives a better idea of where a team is at. If two teams have the same score, know that they are ranked by decimal points.

Screen Shot 2014-11-26 at 3.12.54 PM
Lastly, could we just bring back the A&M/Texas game already? Sheesh.



Ole Miss is Still the 2nd Best Team in the Country

At least according to these ratings. I still have them ahead of Auburn and Alabama, which surprised me, but Ole Miss does have a better strength of schedule to this point. Think about it: just because a team lost more recently, does that mean they should move behind another team with the same record? It’s simple to do but it’s not necessarily the logical thing to do.

8-Team Playoff, if the season ended today (Games on Dec. 20)
#19 Colorado St. (8) @ #1 Miss St. (1) in Starkville
#14 Nebraska (7) @ #3 Florida St. (2) in Tallahassee
#4 Auburn (6) @ #6 Oregon (3) in Eugene
#2 Ole Miss (5) @ #13 Marshall (4) in Huntington, WV

4-Team Playoff, if the season ended today
#6 Oregon (4) vs. #1 Miss St. (1) in the Sugar Bowl
#2 Ole Miss (3) @ #3 Florida St. (2) in the Rose Bowl

Screenshot 2014-10-29 12.17.46