Monday, January 29, 2007

Getting Warmer

Here are some superlatives for 2006 along with the best discs #25-16. The cream of the crop will be announced later this week.

Best Live Discs

3. LIVE IN NEW YORK-Jonatha Brooke (Bad Dog)

Jonatha Brooke has a relatively small, but dedicated following and it is easy to understand her fans' passion. Brooke is truly a master songwriter and her guitar talent is showcased so obviously here as well. Add a more-than-able backing band and you have a great example of what live discs should be about.

2. IN CONCERT - VOLUME 1-The Sadies (Yep Roc)

Toronto's craziest band bust out with a 40-track double live disc that completely encapsulates just how frantic, fuzzed out, and beautiful a live band they are. The twang level is high, the fast songs are supersonic, and the quick songs are over in a blink of an eye. But that's what the Sadies are all about. With guests ranging in styles from Neko Case to Jon Spencer, this isn't just a live performance. This is a damn good party.

1. 1000 YEARS OF POPULAR MUSIC-Richard Thompson (Cooking Vinyl)

An absolutely brilliant concept, pulled off with equal brilliance from the always awe-inspiring Thompson and his lady friends Debra Dobkin (percussion) and Judith Owen (keyboards and vocals). The disc is as it says, with tracks ranging from 11th century minstrel tunes to Britney's "Oops! I Did It Again".

Best EPs

3. LIMITED EDITION EP-Erin Matthews (Empyrean)

A supplement that fits so well with the dreaminess of Eric's full-length Foundation Sounds CD, that it could have been packaged with it. Oh wait. It was!

2. LITTLE LOST BLUES-Bonnie "Prince" Billy (Drag City)

A perfect companion to Billy's near-perfect 2006 release. Billed as an EP, but containing a staggering 11 songs, Little Lost Blues is Will Oldham at his best: minimalistic and achingly beautiful.

1. A STITCH IN TIME - The Twilight Singers (One Little Indian)

A flawless 5-song, late-season gift from Greg Dulli. With help from Mark Lanegan, this EP covers all bases. Lanegan's rasp lends itself well to the Massive Attack cover "Live With Me" and the airy "Sublime" works wonders. But it is "They Ride" rocker that puts this one over the top.

Best Boxed Set

RT: The Life and Music of Richard Thompson-Richard Thompson (Free Reed)

Well, you certainly get your money's worth. This gigantic five-disc set might be more tailored for the hardcore RT fan than those just familiar with "Beeswing" and "1952 Vincent Black Lightning", but that's just fine by me. Filled to the rim with searing live electric tracks, acoustic masterpieces, and quirky cover tunes (Britney's "Oops! I Did It Again"), this box set beautifully encapsulates all of the styles and folk rock stylings of one of music's most underrated songwriters and guitar players.

OK, now on to the REAL list!

25. FOUNDATION SOUNDS-Eric Matthews (Empyrean)

Eric Matthews is nothing but consistent. And this consistency isn't boring because he unceasingly makes music that sounds like no one else. Filled with the usual unique breathy vocals and lavish compositions that define his sound, Matthews returns with a slightly overlong disc, but one that still demonstrates his ability to excel in a niche to which few belong. Nothing quite as catchy as "Fanfare" or flawless as The Lateness of the Hour here, but it is still an enjoyable listen, buoyed by Matthews' tasteful use of acoustic guitar, piano, and the occasion horns. Perfect for sitting back with a nice glass of wine or four.

Previous list appearances: SIX KINDS OF PASSION LOOKING FOR AN EXIT (#8 in 2005)

24. BORN AGAIN IN THE U.S.A.-Loose Fur (Drag City)

Noise rock/country folky supergroup Loose Fur's second disc is a lot more focused and streamlined than their meandering eponymous debut, but fans will be glad that it is no quieter. While the cacophonous-at-times, other time sparse "Wreckroom" clocks in at a hefty duration, the rest of the tunes are concise and well-played. Evenly divvied up between the acoustic country boogies favored by Tweedy ("The Ruling Class", "Wanted") and noisier walls of sound from Jim O"Rourke ("Stupid as the Sun"), and ones that sound like a bizarre hybrid of the two (the rocking "Hey Chicken"), the disc remains true to itself: A Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde disc of fuzzy rock, quirky acoustic numbers, and one particularly gorgeous instrumental , buoyed by drummer Glenn Kotche ("An Ecumenical Matter").

Previous list appearances: LOOSE FUR (#20 in 2003)

23. ANOTHER FINE DAY-Golden Smog (Lost Highway)

Alt-country supergroup Golden Smog (featuring members of the Jayhawks, Wilco, and Soul Asylum) come up with another schizophrenic disc sprinkled with rocking stompers and contemplative slower pieces. This disc is definitely the Jayhaws' Gary Louris show, with Jeff Tweedy, Dan Murphy, and others just pretty much providing the accents. The strength here is the pop infusion of "Beautiful Mind", "You Make It Easy" and others. The countrified harmonies are perfect and nary a note seems out of place, and that includes the Muni Loco-sung "Cure For This".

22. MAGIC POTION-the Black Keys (Nonesuch)If you dig greasy, dirty, low-fi, minimalist garage blues rock, then the Black Keys are right up your alley. This two man band (Dan Auerbach on vocals and guitar and Pat Carney on drums) serve up bluesy sludge that make early White Stripes sound overproduced. Sure, all the songs sound alike and Magic Potion might not be the strongest Keys record ever made (2003's thickfreakness is), but Auerbach's playing is inspired and it makes me want to take a shower after listening to it. That counts for something.

21. EYES OPEN-Snow Patrol (A&M)

On first pass, Snow Patrol's latest seems much more glossy, well-produced, yet less catchy than its brilliant predecessor Final Straw. Upon subsequent listens, the glossiness and production remain, but the catchiness starts appearing in sharper focus. Singer and guitarist Gary Lightbody's Scottish-tinged vocals are super-smooth and soothing, while his songwriting is much more light and edge-free, particularly in the latter half of the disc. While this could spell doom for some, Snow Patrol execute this new formula very well and the pop magic of "You're All I Have", "Hands Open", and "Chasing Cars" are close to perfect. Songs like "Shut Your Eyes" and the piano ballad "Make This Go On Forever", which has some grand vocals in the chorus, all are strong points and, while the energy tails off fast toward the end, it is still a solid pop record.

Previous list appearances: FINAL STRAW (#7 in 2004)

20. YOU IN REVERSE-Built to Spill (Warner Bros.)

Idaho's favorite indie noise rockers return with their first disc in five years and while the band has forgone drawn out, fuzzed out jams, guitarist Doug Martsch's signature guitar wail is still prevalent over the more compact songs. Martsch's voice might take some getting used to and there is a heavy Neil Young influence here, but pop sensibilities of "Liar" and the excellent layered guitar work of "Conventional Wisdom" and "Gone" are trademark BTS. While not their strongest effort, this disc still shows that Built to Spill still commandeer their genre.

19. PEEPING TOM-Peeping Tom (Ipecac)

Mike Patton is simply the most amazing and innovative vocalist in music today. Drawing from experiences in Faith No More, Mr. Bungle, Fantomas, and Lovage, among others, Patton and a group of supporting friends craft a disc that is all over the musical map. The pure pop of "Mojo" is everything a modern radio single should be while the opener "Five Seconds" is challengingly driven by Patton's patented vocal acrobatics. He croons wonderfully here, which is always welcomed and while delving into rap ("Getaway" with Kool Keith) is something he has done before and done better, the breezy swagger of "Sucker" (with a cooing Norah Jones spouting words you never thought the pop songstress would utter) epitomizes the diversity and trippiness here. Peeping Tom might not always hit the mark, but when it does, it's amazing.

18. TEN SILVER DROPS-The Secret Machines (Reprise)

This Texas trio continues where their debut left off by dousing the listener with a "big is better" wall of sound. The songs here are a strange lovechild of Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd. Slow and methodical tunes like "Daddy's in the Doldrums" are executed perfectly in all of their epicness as are tunes like the dreamy closer "1,000 Seconds" and the grandiose and thick crime story saga of "I Hate Pretending". The musicianship, again, is top-notch with nary a note wasted, yet so much going on in each song, that sometimes it's difficult to follow everything. The Secret Machines certainly do take their time getting to the point (there are only 8 tracks, yet the disc is pretty long), but by the time they are finished with their bombastic rock, you really don't mind.

Previous list appearances: NOW HERE IS NOWHERE (#12 in 2004)

17. COLOUR THE SMALL ONE-Sia (Astralworks)

Zero 7 vocalist Sia Furler crafts one heck of a mood on her 2006 release. There's a little of everything here; Sia's voice is dreamy, let strong, mixing R&B, folk, and jazz stylings in front of a gorgeous landscape of sound, with strings, horns, and deeply layered musical foundations. While most of the disc is a little down-tempo, there's something about Sia's voice that doesn't allow this to turn into a down disc, despite some heavy subject matter. The lead track, "Rewrite", is sprawling and stunning, complete with subtle trip-hop beats. The piano-driven "Breathe Me" builds triumphantly and the slow shuffle of "The Bully" is also a strong point, accented by great harmonies. Sia's ability to lull is so strong that the upbeat "Where I Belong" sounds out of place at first, but soon settles with you as one of the disc's best.

16. UNDER THE IRON SEA-Keane (Interscope)

The sophomore release from Brit-rock sensations Keane is a very well-polished and executed affair. The songs are laden with hooks and deeply layered soundscapes. And above all are Tom Chaplin's unwavering and and utterly perfect vocals. Songs like "Is It Any Wonder?", "Leaving So Soon", and "Put It Behind You" are utterly grandiose in the best possible way. But besides the consistently solid vocals, what stands out here most is the sonic tapestry Keane weaves. Pianos, swirling guitars, and other audio goodness all come together in a perfect storm, with just the perfect mix of brightness and melancholy over the top to make this a very good effort.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Not Quite the Best of 2006

Every year, March and I do our top whatever discs of whatever year it is. Some of you read it. Some of you don't. Whatever.

This is this year's installment. But with a little twist. Unlike previous years, this year I decided to listen to ALL of the discs I got in 2006 in preparation for my list. In doing so, I really had no idea what discs would make the final cut and which ones wouldn't. Only after I wrote up their little blurb (after listening) and ranked it against the ones that I already did, did I have my list.

So, what you are about to read is the list of those not quite the best of 2006. These didn't make the grade. Hey, if I had to listen to them and write about them, then you have to read about them. Or don't. Just click on that little "x" on the top right of the screen and go back to surfing porn and watching the "My Dick in a Box" video for the thousanth time.

This isn't to say that these discs suck. Please. This is me we are talking about. Everything I buy and listen to is awesome. These are just the discs that don't spew awesomeness out of every orifice. Just an orifice here and there. That's why they are sitting at the kids' table.

And please save your breath from uttering, "B-b-b-but Dim! What about Gnarls Barkley?!?"


The Round Mound of Rebound was a pain in the ass to my Celtics back his days with the Sixers and I have no desire to hear how good, or bad, a singer he is.

And save your breath from uttering, "B-b-b-but Dim! What about the latest from Spanky McNumbnuts and the Spastic Colons?! Pitchfork gave it an 8.4!!"


No one sends me free discs by these dumb-ass bands. I have to spend my hard-earned inheritance on my music. So, I can't buy every CD in the world, just because a fascist Website like Pitchfork says it's an OK disc, but still not nearly as good as Thom Yorke's EP of him ripping off Taco Bell farts behind a Moog synthesizer for 34 minutes.

So, without further ado. Here are the discs that didn't quite pump my nads in 2006. In no particular order of nad pumplessness:

NINETEENEIGHTIES-Grant Lee Phillips (Zoe)
Grant-Lee is a passionate musician and impassioned performer, but on this disc of all 80s cover tunes, he holds back a little and the tunes have a casualness that feels like he is just sitting around a campfire with a guitar. His musicianship and arrangement are top-notch, as is his always silky smooth voice. The music lulls you as Phillips never really picks up the pace much (even on the Pixies' "Wave of Mutilation"). But the strong tracks here: Robyn Hitchcock's "I Often Dream Of Trains", Joy Division's "The Eternal", and R.E.M.'s "So. Central Rain" make you forgive the down tempo of the disc. You might not want to operate heavy machinery while listening to this, but that may be due more to Phillips' ability to soothe the listener than anything else.

Previous list appearances: MOBILIZE (#6 in 2001)

AVAILABLE LIGHT-Willy Porter (Weasel)

Willy Porter is truly one of the most captivating live performers I have ever seen; a true dervish on the acoustic guitar, a rich, soulful voice, and excellent songwriting. All of them, tragically, are muted somewhat on Available Light because the recording is done with a full band. Porter's guitar along is like a gaggle of musicians, and the ones on the disc, though very able, tend to drown him out. The title track is one of Porter's best and the instrumentals are good, but not among the jaw-dropping ones I am used to hearing. The emotional ballads, "My Old Man", "One More September", are also good but not stellar. Porter remains an amazing live act, but I think a lot of his fans are waiting for that one studio record where it is just him and his guitar.
Previous list appearances: WILLY PORTER (#18 in 2002)

MR. LEMONS-Glen Phillips (Umami/bigHelium)

Ex-Toad the Wet Sprocket vocalist is much more of a storyteller now and this continues with his latest release. Mr. Lemons is a stripped-down, bareboned acoustic effort, drawing on shuffling beats, downtempo tunes, and classy background vocals. In a full session, Mr. Lemons is a bit tough to get through from start to finish; cautiously optimistic tunes ("The Next Day") are occasionally overshadowed by a somber feel to the whole disc. But tunes like "Waiting", the gorgeous "Didn't Think You Cared", and the head-scratching bluesy cover of Huey Lewis and the News' "I Want A New Drug" shine through.

SEPARATE WAYS-Teddy Thompson (Verve Forecast)

Teddy Thompson's voice is perfect. And sometimes, a little TOO perfect. His long-awaited sophomore album is a nice, safe disc; filled with excellent musicians (including guitar legend dad Richard on a few tracks) and Teddy's smooth as silk voice. It never wavers. It never warbles. It is always on. Which might be part of the problem. The songs are fine. They are executed well. But there isn't much edge here. It might not be Thompson's style, but it would be good to hear him go out on a limb and do something a little daring and out of his comfort zone. This isn't a bad disc, or even a disappointing one. It's just not one of the best of the year.

ROCK GARDEN-Ty Tabor (Inside Out)

King's X guitarslinger Ty Tabor's latest solo album follows a fairly formulaic pattern heard in his other offerings: Quieter verses, crunching choruses, tasteful guitar solos, and sappy and/or lame-o lyrics. That's not to take away from the songs here, honestly. Tabor is a master of melody and harmony and his guitar leads are still some of the cleanest, and powerful in rock music. But Rock Garden sounds so much like other Tabor offerings, it is hard to judge it on its own. Not that there aren't some pretty good songs here: "Pretty Good", for instance, is a fun romp and both "Ride" and "Take It Back" are serviceable rockers. But the ballads fall flat, as ballads usually do, as the disc makes me wish more for one more kick-ass King's X record than it does more solo Ty.

Previous list appearances: MOONFLOWER LANE (#15 in 1998)

SONGBIRD-Willie Nelson (Lost Highway)

On paper, this sounds like a match made in heaven. Country legend Willie Nelson teaming up with alt-country legend-in-the-making Ryan Adams and his amazing backing band, the Cardinals, for a disc of covers and originals. On reality, the result is wildly uneven and ultimately had me wishing that either Nelson did these songs with his band, or Ryan and the Cardinals did them by themselves. When it works, it is usually the quieter tunes in which Adams' arrangement complements Nelson's nasal and frail-sounding twang (like "Rainy Day Blues", "Back to Earth", and Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah"). But when the Cardinals kick it in, it seems so out of place with Nelson's vocals. Gram Parsons' "1000 Dollar Wedding" starts off OK, but when the loudness comes in, Nelson is drowned out. And while the marriage of "House of the Rising Sun" and "Amazing Grace" is a cool idea, it has already been done better by the Blind Boys of Alabama years ago.

DEATH BY SEXY-Eagles of Death Metal (Downtown)

Tongue planted firmly in-cheek, Jesse Hughes and Josh Homme (along with some of Homme's Queens of the Stone Age cronies) deliver another set of 70s raw, raunchy boogie rock. While both the band's name and the album title are instantly classic, the jokes contained in the songs aren't quite as fresh as their 2004 debut Peace Love Death Metal. But there are some catchy toe-tappers ("Shasta Beast") and Hughes' vocals are so over-the-top absurd, that you can't help but smirk.
Previous list appearances: PEACE LOVE DEATH METAL (#8 in 2004)

BAR 17-Trey Anastasio (Rubber Jungle)

Man, I don't know. I'm a huge Trey fan in Phish and actually really dug his last two solo discs, but I'm having a tough time with this one. The music is great, as usual. Anastasio is a tremendous guitar player and an excellent arranger, but none of the songs here are particularly catchy. Some are very good: "What's Done", "Dragonfly", but some are just "eh" with sketchy vocals and lyrics like "Let Me Lie", "Goodbye Head" (despite a nice string part), and "A Case of Ice and Snow". Anastasio still busts out and rips some nice guitar parts ("Empty House") and also throws in a few good tunes, but Bar 17 is way too uneven to be a top release of '06.
Previous list appearances: TREY ANASTASIO (#13 in 2002), SHINE (#12 in 2006)

THE PICK OF DESTINY-Tenacious D (Sony)

Admittedly, I knew that this was being billed as a soundtrack right out of the gate, but I guess I expected a little more than a half hour of stuff that really can't hold a candle to their eponymous debut (save for maybe "Kickapoo", which employees both Meatloaf and Ronnie James Dio for a great opening track). The jokes are even more absurd and crude, but not nearly as funny. As usual, the music is oddly more impressive than you would think. Content aside, Jack Black and Kyle Gass' melodies and harmonies are really great and there are some entertaining tunes among the misfires.

Previous list appearances: TENACIOUS D (#9 in 2001)

BALLADS FOR LITTLE HYENAS-Afterhours (One Little Indian)

A solid, if unspectacular record from these Italian rockers. While the music is good and steady, the record suffers from some less-than-stellar lyrics and from the fact that the band is infinitely better in the live environment than they are in the studio.

LONG ISLAND SHORES-Mindy Smith (Vanguard)

OK, I listened to this disc and it made me sleepy. Mindy has truly beautiful voice: clean and safe. The disc meanders a little too much in low-tempo and while the music is very nice (particularly the fingerpicked guitar of the disc's closer "Peace of Mind"), the songs are just *OK*. Ironically, the most memorable song on the disc, "I'm Not The Only One Asking", sounds suspiciously like the hit from her debut CD "Come to Jesus". And it's a song like that, with a little bit of attitude, that stands out and shows you what Smith is capable of. Let's hope the next disc is a nice mixture of the slower, contemplative tunes and the ones that show her with a little bit of a snarl.

Next up...some superlatives and #s 25-15. Stay tuned, fruitcakes.

- Dim.

Saturday, January 20, 2007


No, not that house.

I'm talking about A house.

As you may or may not know, Xteen and I have been house hunting for the last five months and haven't exactly found the house of our dreams (see #3 of this post for some of the crap we have had the pleasure of seeing).

Some have come very close, but ultimately fell short of what we really wanted to settle for.

Until Monday.

Our agent, I'm sure, was growing fairly frustrated with us. We had probably looked at about 30 houses in like 10 different towns ranging from 10 miles away to where we are now, to like 35 miles away. I started to think that we were getting a little too picky. But we figured that, if we were going to spend an ass-load of money, we better get something we really liked and didn't have to do too much with. Our list, picky or not, contained the following:

  • 3 bedrooms (We like to entertain the idea of being entertainers and having folks crash at our pad. Oh yeah, also for the possibility of little Dims running around at some point)

  • At least one and a half baths. In no way does this imply that Xteen takes about as much time to get ready in the morning as it would take for me to watch "Waterworld", "The Postman", and then write a 45-page paper explaining what rhubarb pie means to me, but Xteen takes about as much time to get ready in the morning as it would take for me to watch "Waterworld", "The Postman", and then write a 45-page paper explaining what rhubarb pie means to me.

  • Closet space. We both have a lot of clothes. I'm a t-shirt fiend. What can I say? I'm a slave to fashion.

  • A two-car garage. Our agent attempted to talk us out of this one. "You'll just clutter it up with stuff!" Uh-uh. We live in the Northeast. There's this season up here called Winter. It's treating us very nicely right now, kinda like Ted Bundy. You know something's up. And nothing sucks more than getting up early, knowing you have a shitty commute to work, and having to spend a half hour cleaning off and shoveling out your car after Old Man Winter decides to vomit about 2 and a half feet of snow on you. And that doesn't even count the times you come out to a skating rink on your windows that you need a pick axe to get through. Hey, that reminds this post about stuff like this.

  • Air conditioning. Our agent attempted to talk us out of this one. "It's waste! Just open your windows!" Uh-uh. We live in the Northeast. There's this season up here called Summer. And it can get hot sometimes. And when it gets hot, Xteen gets, let me put this as maturely as possible....whiny. And Dim likes whiny about as much as he would like watching "Waterworld", "The Postman", and then writing a 45-page paper explaining what rhubarb pie means to him.

  • A good school system. This was Xteen's. I don't really care about stuff like this. I'm not on the 30-year plan or anything. I have my worthless piece of paper from a higher learning institution. I'm done. I don't need to take papier mache classes at the elementary school to keep my noodle sharp. That's what the Learning Channel is for.

  • A finished or finishable basement. Every man needs a Mantown. Besides, Xteen is growing tired of our apartment being adorned with my music posters and collector figurines. They're not dolls.

  • Town sewer. We wavered on this a little. Right off the bat, the idea of shitting where we eat (and having the shit stay there) really skeeved us out. But we listened to people who have private septic systems and they are totally cool with them. So, we started to come around on them. Moreso out of necessity, since most of the places we were looking out where we could afford (the stereotypical "Boonies") barely had outhouses, let alone something as technologically advanced as a giant tank buried in the backyard that holds all of our shit. Then, I just imagined all kinds of horror stories with it. Ours would malfunction, resulting in a volcano of #1, #2, and dead insects wadded up in toilet paper erupting from a hole in the ground and spilling all over my car (which wasn't in a garage, because we listened to our fucking agent). And don't sit there and tell me, "Dim! We have a septic system and that sort of thing doesn't happen!" Look. I saw "Meet the Parents". Don't bullshit me, OK, Mr. Jinx?

  • A deck. Doesn't everyone want a deck? Doesn't everyone envision sitting out on the deck with a beer after work on a Friday in the summertime and just relaxing and breathing in the fresh air? Until the Crap Geyser erupts, sending you running for cover into your stifling, non-air conditioned sweatbox? I know I do.

  • A decent yard. We would see all of these houses that advertised like an acre and a half of land, which sounded very inviting, until we actually saw it in person. At which time we realized that 0.01 acres was a patch of grass under which the Tank o' Shit was buried and the rest of the land immediately sloped down, at a horrifying angle, into a crevasse of Tolkien-esque Middle Earth. I just want a nice little lawn to mow. I don't want to be fighting fucking Orcs while I try scraping glaciers off of my windshield.
See? Is that too much to ask for?

We thought so up until Monday.

Our agent called telling us we had to see this house. She sent us a link and I wasn't very impressed at all. The pictures of the inside were "OK", but I borderline abhorred the outside. It was called a "contemporary", but was built in the mid-70s. That gave me a slushy headache. Like saying, "new wooly mammoth". Or something equally as oxymoronic.

Reluctantly, we went. It was the last house we saw in a day of showings. I wasn't expecting much and Xteen and I were starting to grow tired of the whole process.

We pull up to the house and, despite its boxiness (hey, it was the 70s, but I can safely believe that Mike Brady didn't design this house), it actually represented itself a lot better in real-life. It was at the end of a dead-end street. It had a nice, level yard. I saw no evidence of Hobbits. All good so far.

Then, we went inside and my immediate words were "Holy shit". It was awesome. I'll spare you the details, but tell you that the house has everything on our list except for the air conditioning. (I'm warming up by watching Ben Hur and writing a novella about foie gras). The inside was very artsy and updated. The kitchen rocked (no gas cooking, unfortunately, but we can deal). We LOVED it immediately.

It was out of our price range, even after the sellers had recently dropped it a considerable amount.

So, we crafted a lower, but not insulting offer, which was appreciated and understandably rejected. We thought to we really want this house? Would we be devastated if we lost it? Should we tighten the belt a little more and see if we can pull this off? We countered with what we thought was as much as we can afford and still have a little cushion at the end of every month.

Our agent calls us back saying the wife was OK with the offer, but the husband made these decisions and he was travelling and tough to get ahold of. Where's Gloria fucking Steinem when you need her? Pull the trigger, lady!!!

Anyway, another kink in the whole thing was that they had scheduled a lot of activity on the house this weekend; showings an open house, even a second showing. We really could lose this if we didn't play it right.

Our agent suggested we offer their asking price and get it wrapped up before they had a chance to get competing bids. She assured us that we were not overpaying for it (she's been brutally honest about everything so far, so we completely trust her).

I called our mortgage guy and found out that the difference between our last offer and paying full asking price would turn out to be about $50 a month over the 30 year loan period.

I then called Xteen:

"If I told you we would lose out on this house because we couldn't find $50 more a month for it, would you be devastated?"

She said, "If we can't possibly dig up $50 a month for a house we desperately want, we're stupid."

So, we did it.

It was touch-and-go for awhile as we basically wanted them to leave all of their stuff behind (they had great taste and we have practically nothing to furnish the thing with). Ultimately, we settled on things, and we aren't getting much from them at all, but I really don't care. We have our house. And we are thrilled.

Now, I just have to come up with $50 more dollars a month. If you're looking for me, I'll be turning tricks down at the naval yard.

Anyone got any furniture they don't want anymore?

- Dim.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007


I was born with hockey in my blood, you could say. My mom was a huge fan and would watch the games, with me in her arms, when I was an infant.

In Dim lore, it has been told that one of my first words was "goal!" and I used to raise my arms over my head as I said it. Legend also has it that the first time I stood by myself was when I was being held up by my uncle and, forgetting he was supporting an infant, raced to the TV to see a Derek Sanderson fight up-close. He turned around to see my wobbling, unsteady but upright, much like Sanderson's pugilist opponent.

I was a Bruins fan from that moment on. I loved the Bruins. I cried when they would lose in the playoffs. I despised everything Montreal Canadien, as any Bruins fan will tell you, goes hand in hand with being a Boston fan.

My uncle (a different one than the one who unintentionally got me to stand) was also a big hockey fan. Big Bruins fan as well. We talked hockey all the time (Still do, in fact...we are going to a game together next month). He used to get a publication in the mail called The Hockey News. It was like a newspaper and contained everything hockey. From the pros, to the minors, to the juniors, The Hockey News was where you went to find out about teams, players, stats, anything. Of course, this was well before the Al Gore-invented Internet and even Wikipedia.

I reveled in any positive Bruins article (and any coincidental Canadiens slump), despite the news being weeks, sometimes months old. I also liked reading about the junior players coming up. They were somewhat closer to my age than the guys I would see skating up and down the Garden ice, with mustaches and beards and balding, scarred heads. Even though these junior players were 6, 7 years older than me, they were still just kids themselves. Like me.

I read a bunch about players like Mario Lemieux, Brian Lawton, Pat LaFontaine. Some of those guys went on to become great NHL players, which was cool, because I remember reading about them when they were 16 years old and constantly making other kids cry by scoring like 13 goals a game by themselves.

But there was one kid that always seemed to have an article written about him. He played for the Peterborough Petes and had a strange last name. One I wasn't sure how to pronouce. My eyes would read and re-read his name, typed in black ink on grey paper. Yzerman. "Izzerman", I would say to myself. "This kid is pretty good."

In 1983, Yzerman (actually, I would come to find out, was pronounced "Eyes-er-man") was selected by the truly awful Detroit Red Wings. That was the downside of being drafted pretty high. It usually meant that the team you were going to sucked pretty hard. But that was the time that I became a Red Wing fan. Because I was already an Yzerman fan.

That wasn't always the case with the Wings. They were one of the Original Six teams in the league (along with Boston, the New York Rangers, the Chicago Blackhawks, the Montreal Canadiens, and the Toronto Maple Leafs). Back in the 50s, they were formidable. Hockey legends like Ted Lindsay, Terry Sawchuck, and Gordie Howe (considered by many to be the best all-around NHLer ever) won a few Stanley Cups.

But teams' successes were cyclical. To enjoy winning, you had to endure periods of failure. For the Red Wings, after Howe, this era lasted longer than most. The "Dead Wings" were pretty much a fiasco when 1983 rolled around; one of the worst teams in the league. And they had that distinction for quite awhile.

Come the 1983 draft, as good as Yzerman was, Red Wings General Manager Jim Devellano wanted someone else instead. But when the New York Islanders drafted American-born Pat LaFontaine instead, he went with Yzerman.

Yzerman had a stellar rookie year, scoring nearly 40 goals and finishing one point short of 90 while playing in all of his team's 80 games. He finished second in the league for the Calder Trophy for Rookie of the Year.

But this wasn't a Larry Bird story. The arrival of Yzerman didn't immediately signal the revival of the Dead Wings. They snuck into the playoffs (like an embarrasingly large number of teams do in the NHL), but couldn't do much.

As the years went on, Yzerman put up impressive offensive numbers. Just three years after his arrival, he was made captain of the Wings; a title he would carry for the rest of his career. In the 1988-89 season, he had a career best 65 goals and 90 assists. But the Wings faltered early in the playoffs again.

It didn't matter to me. I would still follow them intently. Through the newspapers at first, and then on-line. Whenever they would come to Boston, I would go and root them (and specifically, Yzerman) on. This ritual became more melancholy as the years went on as the NHL altered their scheduling system resulting in the Red Wings playing the Bruins only once every two years in Boston. And, usually, Yzerman was hurt when it came time for that game.

But despite his offensive prowess, Yzerman was largely thought to be a one-way player. Great with the puck, but a liability in his own end. And to win, you need to have great two-way players. Yzerman wanted to win.

In the early 90s, the Wings hired legendary coach Scotty Bowman as their coach and his influenced caused Yzerman to re-think his game. To play, to win, and to define his captaincy, he needed to be better defensively. So, he worked on that and saw his offensive numbers suffer somewhat. He still put up solid point totals, but the days of 50+ goals, 120+ points days were long gone. And they were still without a Stanley Cup championship.

They came close in 1995, but got swept in the Finals by the New Jersey Devils. It broke my heart. I was devastated, but hung with them.

The Wings came close again in 1996, with Yzerman scoring a series-clinching goal against the Wayne Gretzky-led St. Louis Blues in double overtime (a goal that caused me to do running laps around the upstairs of my parents' house for like 20 straight minutes to burn off my pent up energy), but fell in the Conference finals.

Then, in 1997, the Wings returned to the Finals against the highly favored Philadelphia Flyers. I remember that being a pretty shitty time for me. I was still living at home (which was fine, but not where I wanted to be at that age) and my long-time girlfriend had just given me the ol' Spanish Archer (El bow). But the Wings were in the Finals. And guess what?

David slew Goliath and Yzerman, the Captain, raised the Stanley Cup over his head and ended a 42 year championship drought by sweeping the Flyers.

That was a blur for me.

So, when they went back to the Finals again and won by sweeping the Capitals, I remember sitting back and soaking it in. Happy for Stevie Y. Happy for me. A fan. I constantly had to explain why I was a Red Wings fan. Now, I didn't have to do that anymore.

And to further cement his legacy, this player, once criticized for being too one-dimensional, won the Conn Smyth trophy for the best defensive forward following the 1999-2000 season. A true professional, a consummate teammate, and a complete and selfless hockey player.

Yzerman dealt with his share of injuries throughout his career. Mostly knee injuries that robbed him of some speed and mobility, but none of his heart and courage. He missed substantial games in the mid-90s with injuries and again from 2000-2002. At times, you could see him grimmacing in pain as he skated, half limping, but he soldiered on and led the Wings to the conference finals against their arch-rival Colorado Avalanche.

But the Wings stood with their backs against the wall going back to Colorado, 1 loss from being eliminated. It was then that Yzerman had a little chat with his team.

The thing about Yzerman throughout his career is that you would wonder how he could be an effective captain. His talent was unquestioned. His work ethic, unparalleled. His desire and heart, unmistakable. But he never seemed to get fired up. His interviews were insightful, but filled with emotionless monotone. How could he inspire without getting loud and in his team's face?

Well, whatever he said during that team meeting worked. The Wings came out and won the next two games and then won the Stanley Cup again against the Carolina Hurricanes. This was probably my most rewarding as a Red Wings fan. It was hard-fought. The team was getting older, but dealth with some amazing adversity to fight through and win. And in the post-game interviews, Yzerman's teammates explained how this quiet, humble, and unassuming leader can inspire. They said that Steve doesn't say a lot. So, when he decides to say something, they all listen.

He had a knee surgery in the off-season and missed a ton of games in 2002-03. The Wings had a disappointing playoffs that year and the subsequent one, when Yzerman took a slapshot off the face, putting him out for the remainder of the playoffs with a smashed cheekbone and a torn iris.

He still came back the next year (which was last year) and was one the better Wings players in the second half before they fell again, early in the playoffs.

There were whispers after they were eliminated by the Oilers last year that Stevie would hang them up. He had a 22-year career and had 692 goals and 1,063 assists. He's currently sixth all-time in the NHL in scoring. But most importantly, he has three championships, which signify and epitomizes his commitment to the team before any and all personal accomplishments. And he also won a gold medal for Canada in the 2002 winter Olympics.

Tonight, the Red Wings retired Steve Yzerman's number 19 to the rafters at the Joe Louis Arena and man, do I wish I was there. Just to further illustrate Yzerman's humility, here's a quote from the ceremony:

"My jersey is going to go up there and I hope as you watch it go up, and when you come back and see it, you give yourself a pat on the back because you're a big reason why that jersey is up there," he said. "It doesn't represent what I did, but what we did as an organization."

It's a great occasion, but I'm pretty sad tonight. I've rooted for this guy since I was about ten years old. I was a Red Wings fan since 1983. I don't know what team to root for anymore now that he's retired.

But I'm still rooting for Steve Yzerman. And it's a story like this that shows you why.

In these days, where it seems like many athletes are interested only in bling, an entourage, and their own personal achievements, a sports figure like Yzerman really stands out. There were always more important things to him. Like winning, giving his best effort despite the physical toll, and setting an example for and earning the admiration of teammates and fans alike.

Best of luck in your post-hockey career, 19. And if you ever find yourself in Dim City, give me a yell. I'd love to shake your hand.

The Dirty Dozen

While I am recuperating from the holidays and trying to come up with other blog posts, chew on this music-related year-end list (my top discs of the year will be coming up later this month). But for now...

The 12 Best Shows I Saw in 2006:

12. Sia with Eagle and Talon at the Paradise, Boston, MA (04/19/06) - A wonderfully entertaining (albeit brief) show from the Zero 7 singer. Her ethereal yet strangely poppy voice, along with a strong backing band, made for a great concert.
11. Grant Lee Phillips at TT the Bear's, Cambridge, MA (08/12/06) - A pure frontman, full of energy and talent. The show suffered from the tiny venue, the large population there that preferred to talk through the whole show, and our lousy vantage point. But go see Grant-Lee when he comes to your town. He's excellent.
10. Willy Porter with Glen Phillips at the Stone Church, Newmarket, NH (05/05/06) - Guitar virtuoso Porter and ex-Toad the Wet Sprocket frontman Phillips made for a fantastic double-bill, filled with crazy guitar riffs from Porter and songwriting nuggets from Phillips. Stone Church is also one of my favorite local venues.
9. Murder By Death at the Middle East, Cambridge, MA (05/22/06) - A unique an amazing band, MBD absolutely ripped through their set with ferocity. The problem was the sound at the Middle East SUCKS. I really hope this band comes back around and plays a venue with a sound system that can do them justice.
8. Iron Maiden at Agganis Arena, Boston, MA (10/06/06) - What can I say? Despite a setlist that left me yearning for a few more "hits", these guys completely shredded and Bruce Dickinson's vocals were as fresh sounding as ever. Read my review here.
7. Throwing Muses with 50 Foot Wave and Bullseye at the Middle East, Cambridge, MA (08/11/06) - Kristin Hersh took her two bands and blew the roof off the Middle East, despite the lousy sound. Muses fluctuated between melody and speed while 50 Foot Wave was just content with knocking your head off your shoulders.
6. Twilight Singers at the Paradise, Boston, MA (11/14/06) - Greg Dulli's second jaunt through Beantown was great, but not quite as great as the first time around.
5. Wilco with the Autumn Defense at Pines Theatre, Florence, MA - A typically flawless set by Jeff Tweedy and company, augmented by a gorgeous outdoor arena in an equally gorgeous area of the state. I wish they played for four hours.
4. Neko Case with Martha Wainwright at the Roxy, Boston, MA (04/05/06) - Easily a top 2 show of the year for me if not for the chatterboxes all over the Roxy. Neko's voice is absolutely mint live and the addition of Kelly Hogan on vocals (along with a mind-blowing backing band), made the songs explode. Meeting Neko after the show was also a treat. Now, if I can just get folks to SHUT UP while she is singing, I'll be happy!
3. The Who with The Pretenders at TD Banknorth Garden, Boston, MA (12/02/06) - Shaking your head? Read my review.
2. Twilight Singers with Jeff Klein and Afterhours at the Paradise, Boston, MA (05/29/06) - Meeting Greg Dulli beforehand, along with two excellent opening acts, standing right at the foot of the stage, and a blistering set makes this one of the year's best. Read my review again, if you wanna.
1. The Raconteurs with Dr. Dog at the Orpheum Theatre, Boston (09/29/06) - Wow. Take a pretty cool theatre setting, add third row center seats, a face-melting power set, and my man-crush on Jack White and you have what is unquestionably the best live show I saw in 2006.
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