As the Santa Clara/San Francisco/South Bay/Silicon Valley Super Bowl approaches, here’s an interesting read about Santa Clara University’s huge influence on the San Francisco 49ers at Santa Clara Magazine by Ann Killion. The team was started by a SCU grad who chose the team’s colors: red for SCU and gold for the gold rush. Their first coach was Buck Shaw (the legendary SCU football coach), they had a number of SCU players on their early teams (and also Brent Jones!), and now they play in the city of Santa Clara.
On the other hand, the Niners also almost killed SCU’s football program in the 50s, and Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara–while beautifully constructed by an SCU grad-led company–is also perceived by many people as the biggest symbol of the 49ers downward slide into a money-first organization.
About Levi’s: I think it’s a beautiful stadium, and I love that we have a pro football team in the South Bay, but it’s not a football-first project, for better or for worse. I love the technological touches that help fans connect with the game on the field, and I hate the bells and whistles that take away from attention on the game. I took Communication and Sport class on a tour of Levi’s in Fall 2014. Our tour guide took us through the suite tower while telling us about all the lounges: “And this is our Yahoo! Fantasy Football Lounge…so let’s say you’re at the game and you’re wondering how your fantasy football team is doing. You can come in here and watch all the other games and check out the ticker.” Why? Why would I pay $300 bucks for tickets and $50 for parking and $25 for a vegan BBQ jackfruit quinoa burger and then not watch the game? When you cater to those types of fans, you get a poor stadium experience for all the other fans and the home team.
On the other hand, we now have a world class stadium in the South Bay that can host things like the Super Bowl, huge concerts, big-name soccer matches, and more. And the jackfruit burger wasn’t too bad.
Thanks to everyone who participated in the the 2015 music survey. As always, I ask my friends and family to tell me about their favorite songs, albums, and artists of the year, and they always come through with great stuff. Many songs I’ve heard before, so I give them a second listen. And of course, it’s always fun to listen to new songs, too. Here are the results of the survey from 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, and 2009. Wow, this is becoming a thing!
Here’s a Spotify playlist with most of the responses, as well as a few of my favorite songs. Go listen to it, and read below:
Here are 10 selected thoughts about the year in music:
Friends seemed to think it was a good year for music. Stacy from CA said 2015 made her excited about music again, and Criss in Summit, NJ said: “No single hands-down classic song in 2015 for me, but it was a really good, diverse mix of genres this year with a lot of nostalgic throwbacks as well as some forward-leaning electronic music – really had something for everyone this year!”
I don’t love any albums from 2015 (yet), but I like a lot. My favorites are all from female singers. They are:
E-MO-TION from Carly Rae Jepsen. Way way better than I thought it would be, with at least 5 great, fun songs. Run Away With Me, E-MO-TION, I Really Like You, Boy Problems, and Let’s Get Lost were my favorites.
How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful from Florence + The Machine. Every song is good, even the iTunes hidden tracks. Ship to Wreck is one of my favorite songs of 2015.
Sometimes I Sit… from Courtney Barnett. Josh from San Jose, CA says: “It is, by far, the best album I have heard thisyear. The first time I heard it, I said it was going to be number one on my list, and that was a long time ago. The songwriting is incredible, and the playing is great too. Some of the best songs of the year are on here (start with “Pedestrian at Best”).”
Sara Bareilles’s soundtrack to the musical Waitress. According to Sarah from Boston, MA: “She has always sounded like she was singing a musical soundtrack, so this seems like it should be her exact wheelhouse and she didn’t disappoint.”
Okay, those were actually my 2nd through 5th favorite albums of 2015. My actual favorite album of the year is They Want my Soul from Spoon. Technically late 2014, but I already talked about it last year, so I didn’t want to count it again. But it was my favorite, and produced my favorite song of the year (the title song).
The most mentioned songs by friends were I Can’t Feel my Face by The Weeknd; Hello by Adele; Renegades by X Ambassadors; Hotline Bling by Drake, and Sugar by Maroon 5. I think that’s a pretty good People’s Choice Top 5, if only because it gives me a chance to link to this.
I didn’t get into Justin Bieber, but my friends did. Says Sarah from Boston, MA: “I know he’s a churlish little turd but his new album is undeniable.” And from Canadian Jennifer: “I can’t decide whether to be embarrassed I like three Justin Bieber songs, proud that he’s Canadian, impressed that he’s done this major image makeover, or just not overthink it and enjoy the damn songs.” Don’t overthink it.
Adele is always a hit. The SNL skit is the truth. Why? “Because it’s Adele,” says Victoria from Austin, TX. Jennifer from Pasadena, CA said it was worth the four-year wait. And Christina from Sacramento, CA said Hello is a “beautiful, well written song that has haunting lyrics most people can relate to.” I’m personally still deciding how I feel about the album. It’s good “because it’s Adele”, like Victoria says, and she can sing anything, but I think the album is less consistent than her previous two, so I’ll give it more time in the cans (that’s what cool people call headphones FYI).
There was some good country music this year, but I didn’t really notice until some friends pointed it out. Jenn in San Francisco, CA loved Cam‘s album and Lesley in Tacoma, WA said Kacey Musgraves‘ is great from start to finish. Suzi in Meridian, ID loved Eric Church‘s song Wrecking Ball. I listened to all of them for the first time recently and really liked them. For most of the year, I tried to like Chris Stapleton and Watkins Family Hour but didn’t really connect–maybe I should have asked my friends for their recs earlier.
Laura in Bowling Green, KY really liked Sleater-Kinney‘s and La Luz‘s new albums, one aggressive and the other moody. We both really liked Natalie Prass who I guess would be described as chamber pop. Her voice is kind of love-it-or-hate-it, but give Birds of Prey a shot; not many pop songs end with a 2-minute orchestra jam, and a beautiful one at that.
Other things I thought were good:
Lianne La Havas‘s What You Don’t Do. A beautiful song.
James Bay‘s album
Tori Kelly‘s voice
My guilty pleasure: Fun by the unholy marriage of Pitbull and Chris Brown. I couldn’t bold their names, sorry. Couldn’t do it. Can’t do it.
I wanted to write something interesting about Coldplay, but here’s all I have: The only way for me to enjoy their music from this decade is to forget they made Parachutes and A Rush of Blood to the Head about 15 years ago. Those albums expanded the type of music that was available at the time in the pop/post-alternative space, at least to me. Conversely, their last few albums are like Star Wars Episodes I, II, and III. Okay, maybe not that extreme, but their last few albums feel like they are geared towards teenagers. I’m waiting for the Chris Martin action figures. Sometimes you want your bands to grow up with you. However, they are fantastic live performers who really give it their all, so I’m looking forward to the Super Bowl halftime show.
That’s all I have. Thanks for participating and enjoy the music and 2016.
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.
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.
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.