Fearless Oscar Picks 2017

Update: only got 14 right this year (correct pick in bold) – my worst year ever. Though, considering that I saw the guys from La La Land accept Best Picture can I at least get partial credit?

It’s a sweep mostly for La La Land, which I thought was amazing (better than Lion and Hidden Figures, the two other Best Picture nominees I’ve actually seen). Picking Denzel Washington over Casey Affleck in what is surely a close race.

Best Picture
La La Land

Directing
Damien Chazelle, La La Land

Actor in a Leading Role
Denzel Washington, Fences

Actress in a Leading Role
Emma Stone, La La Land

Actress in a Supporting Role
Viola Davis, Fences

Actor in a Supporting Role
Mahershala Ali, Moonlight

Adapted Screenplay
Moonlight, Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney

Original Screenplay
La La Land, Damien Chazelle

Animated Feature Film
Zootopia

Foreign Language Film
A Man Called Ove (Sweden)

Documentary Feature
O.J.: Made in America

Cinematography
La La Land, Linus Sandgren

Film Editing
La La Land, Tom Cross

Production Design
La La Land, Davis Wasco and Sandy Reynolds-Wasco

Costume Design
Jackie, Madeline Fontaine

Makeup and Hairstyling
Star Trek Beyond, Joel Harlow and Richard Alonzo

Original Score
La La Land, Justin Hurwitz

Original Song
“City of Stars,” La La Land, music by Justin Hurwitz, lyric by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul

Sound Editing
Hacksaw Ridge, Robert Mackenzie and Andy Wright

Sound Mixing
La La Land, Andy Nelson, Ai-Ling Lee, and Steve A. Morrow

Visual Effects
The Jungle Book, Robert Legato, Adam Valdez, Andrew R. Jones, and Dan Lemmon

Animated Short Film
Piper

Live Action Short Film
Ennemis Interieurs

Documentary Short Subject
The White Helmets

Top Albums of 2016

1- Call of the Islands – Ixtahuele

Call of the Islands by Ixtahuele
Call of the Islands by Ixtahuele

An easy call in what was generally a weak year.  Two years ago I rated Ixtahuele’s Mareld EP as number 4 on my top albums list (2014 was a very strong year), saying it might have ranked higher if it wasn’t just an EP. Well, the three tracks from Mareld returned this year as part of Ixtahuele’s second full-length album. Though maybe a step down from their incredible debut Pagan Rights, this is by no means a let down. These are thirteen original exotica tracks that rank up there with the best of the genre (extremely rare for any exotica group to have an album entirely of original compositions) . Such a fine mix of vibes+piano that would make Arthur Lyman and Martin Denny proud.

2- Honoka & Azita EP – Honoka & Azita

Hawaii’s ukulele sensations finally put out music for purchase after a couple years of YouTube videos. Their surf covers of “Miserlou” and “Wipeout” featured additional musicians but their original tune “Drop In” shows promise beyond novelty.

3- The Exotic Sounds of Tikiyaki 5-0 EP – Tikiyaki 5-0

This is the surf-oriented quartet variant of the Tikiyaki Orchestra, and their EP was a lot of fun. Check out the very good surf version of the exotica classic “Taboo.” I was looking for a modern surf group and this EP didn’t disappoint.

4- Super – Pet Shop Boys

Hard to follow 2013’s Electric album, but the template was largely similar with a focus on dance tracks rather than orchestral or acoustic experimentation. Some very strong tracks, including the single “The Pop Kids.”

5- This is what the truth feels like – Gwen Stefani

All the songs sound the same is sort of a plus and a minus. A big comeback for Stefani who’s last album was the largely forgettable Push and Shove with No Doubt. Though not as varied and dance oriented as Stefani’s first two solo albums, this one does have a great sound and some strong tracks such as “Rare” and “Make Me Like You.”

6- Hardwired… to Self Destruct – Metallica

A solid but unspectacular album from Metallica.

7- Strange Little Birds – Garbage

Ranked last, because it was my least favorite this year and among all the albums from Garbage. Which is not to say it’s awful, just “less awesome.”  Overall, this album had fewer outstanding songs than are typical for the average Garbage album, and the tempo was down too (evidence: the album’s best song “Even Though Our Love is Doomed“).

Most Listened Songs 2016

One of our annual posts here at Kevdo.com is my list of most-listened songs. Had some desktop computer issues and so the counts and total played songs are likely somewhat off. I’m transitioning iPhone sync with a new desktop hence this list coming out a bit early. In any case, according to iTunes data I listened to a total of 1852 songs in 2016.

List of top songs include some holdovers from 2015 (including last year’s number one, “Mow That Lawn”). Plus, songs from new albums by Pet Shop Boys and Gwen Stefani. Song of the year was “The Pop Kids” that had the most plays including the various remixes and different versions of the song.

Name Artist Album Plays
Inner Sanctum Pet Shop Boys Super 30
Mow That Lawn Charli XCX Live At Positivus Festival 2015 26
The Pop Kids Pet Shop Boys Super 26
Hand in the Fire (featuring Charli XCX) Mr. Oizo Hand in the Fire EP 23
Dangerous (feat. Joywave) Big Data 2 22
Same Old Love Selena Gomez Revival 20
One-Hit Wonder Pet Shop Boys The Pop Kids – EP 19
Burn Pet Shop Boys Super 19
The Pop Kids (The Full Story) Pet Shop Boys The Pop Kids – EP 18
No Fun Charli XCX Vinyl: The Essentials (Best of Season 1) 15
Cool for the Summer Demi Lovato Cool for the Summer – Single 15
Cake by the Ocean DNCE SWAAY – EP 15
Kill the Lights (with Nile Rodgers) Alex Newell, Jess Glynne & DJ Cassidy Vinyl: The Essentials (Best of Season 1) 14
Make me like you Gwen Stefani This what the truth feels like 14
Where would i be? Gwen Stefani This what the truth feels like 13
In Bits Pet Shop Boys The Pop Kids – EP 13
Truth Gwen Stefani This what the truth feels like 12
Cascades Metric Pagans in Vegas 12
Play For Today The Cure Seventeen Seconds 11
You’re my favorite Gwen Stefani This what the truth feels like 11
Send me a picture Gwen Stefani This what the truth feels like 11
Other Side Metric Pagans in Vegas 11
Office Towers Escalate Metric Pagans in Vegas 11
Woman Like You Nasty Bits Vinyl: The Essentials (Best of Season 1) 11
The Pop Kids (Offer Nissim Drama Mix) Pet Shop Boys The Pop Kids (Remixes) – EP 11
Happiness Pet Shop Boys Super 11
Twenty-Something Pet Shop Boys Super 11
Pazzo! Pet Shop Boys Super 11
Undertow Pet Shop Boys Super 11

Fearless Baseball Predictions 2016

mlbNational League

  • East: Nationals
  • Central: Cubs
  • West: Giants
  • Wild Card: Dodgers / Pirates

American League

  • East: Blue Jays
  • Central: Royals
  • West: Astros
  • Wild Card: Indians / Red Sox

World Series: Giants beat Astros in 5 games

Fearless Oscar Picks 2016

Going out on a limb for The Big Short as Best Picture, and choosing Film Editing due to that pick. Am looking forward to Leonardo DiCaprio finally winning an overdue Oscar this year.

Update with Winners shown in bold. 15/24 is pretty awful, and below my average.

Best Picture
“The Big Short”

Best Director
Alejandro González Iñárritu, “The Revenant”

Best Actor
Leonardo DiCaprio, “The Revenant”

Best Actress
Brie Larson, “Room”

Best Supporting Actor
Sylvester Stallone, “Creed”

Best Supporting Actress
Alicia Vikander, “The Danish Girl”

Best Original Screenplay
“Spotlight”

Best Adapted Screenplay
“The Big Short”

Best Foreign Film
“Son of Saul”

Best Documentary Feature
“Amy”

Best Animated Feature
“Inside Out”

Best Film Editing
“The Big Short”

Best Song
“The Hunting Ground”

Best Original Score
“The Hateful Eight”

Best Digital Effects
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens”

Best Cinematography
“The Revenant”

Best Costume Design
“Mad Max: Fury Road”

Best Makeup and Hairstyling
“Mad Max: Fury Road”

Best Production Design
“Mad Max: Fury Road”

Best Sound Editing
“The Revenant”

Best Sound Mixing
“The Revenant”

Best Short Film, Live Action
“Shok”

Best Short Film, Animated
“Sanjay’s Super Team”

Best Documentary Short Subject
“A Girl in the River”

The Super Bowl 50 Logo is a Disaster

With this year’s milestone Super Bowl being held our own Bay Area backyard, it’s been hard to escape the hype. And thanks to good weather, Julie and I did brave the crowds yesterday to visit Super Bowl City in San Francisco (the fact that we could easily flee and find something else to do in The City was also a factor). Though football isn’t really my thing anymore (thank you SF Giants), it certainly was an impressive scene that many people seemed to be really enjoying.

My initial exposure to SB50’s marketing push came not via television or billboards, but with a display in our neighborhood supermarket. They were selling SB50 logo shirts and other items, obviously trying to position themselves as your “big game headquarters.”  But something about the display bothered me. The colors seemed off. I’m used to seeing the NFL’s red/white/blue color scheme but this one seemed muted. What’s with this ugly yellow color?

Oh, it’s supposed to be gold. You know, the “golden anniversary” celebrating the 50th Super Bowl.

I can kind of see it now but I still think the color scheme is all wrong. It’s not a good color, certainly nothing that strikes immediately as gold. The ironic part is that with the game being held in the Bay Area at the SF 49ers home stadium, it isn’t like they don’t have a really good model for what a good gold color should look like on a football logo or jersey. In fact, the Los Angeles Rams’ gold color also matches the 49ers gold.

caf3o3dusaagaye
Gold in them thar hills?

Favorite Albums of 2015

I purchased nine albums/extended plays released in 2015, and here’s my ranking.

Veruca Salt - Ghost Notes
Veruca Salt - Ghost Notes

1. Veruca Salt – Ghost Notes
One of my favorite albums from the 1990’s was the Veruca Salt album Eight Arms to Hold You, which sadly preceeded Nina Gordon’s departure from the group. A decade plus later the full original line-up reunited for an excellent combination of hard riffs, melodies, and harmonies. One of my favorite moments was the line from “Empty Bottle” that went “Banging my head against a wall of sound.” That’s Veruca Salt in a nutshell.

2. Metric – Pagans in Vegas
Canadian alternative vets Metric went into a very synth-y direction on their latest album. I really liked some of this material including some instrumental and experimental songs such as “The Face” and “Office Towers Escalate.” Mainstream songs such as “The Governess” and “The Shade” show that Metric is still one of the best groups at producing catchy alternative rock.

3. Editors – In Dream
Another nice post-punk revivial record from Editors, who’s last record I skipped. They too went into a more synth-heavy direction on this album. I also liked the alternative versions on the extended version of the album.

4. FFS – FFS
The most unexpected release was this collaboration from Franz Ferdinand and Sparks. While some songs felt like “Sparks” songs or “Franz Ferdinand” songs that were brought to the project, the epic “Collaborations Don’t Work” was seamless blending of styles. Some very strong material here, and it’s nice when popular “students” do effective and enjoyable projects with their “masters.”

5. Colin Hay – Next Year People
Another effective album of catchy and reflective material from Hay, who’s live show I caught this year as well. While in concert it’s mostly Hay and a guitar, the record features a full band sound. Hay’s voice is as effective as ever and this is one of his best solo efforts. I pre-ordered and received an autographed copy too.

6. Madona – Rebel Heart
There were lots of tracks I really liked, including the title song available on the extended version of the album. But there was a lot of weird and hip-hoppy material that really isn’t my thing (example: “Bitch I’m Madonna”).

7. David Gilmour – Rattle That Lock
The title track is amazing, but the rest of the album isn’t really that catchy. Kind of ironic that I prefer last year’s mostly instrumental Pink Floyd release to this.

8. Foo Fighters – Saint Cecilia EP
Their last album was nearly the top of my list in 2014, and one of my favorites of the last 10 years. But Saint Cecilia is pretty generic stuff. Which is okay since it was released for free as a bonus to their loyal fans.

9. Trans-Siberian Orchestra – Letters from the Labrynith
This came along with a purchase to their live concert and suffice to say that I’d have never bought it on it’s own.

Most Played Songs of 2015

As part of an annual tradition here are my most listened to songs of 2015, based on play data from iTunes. In contrast to 2013 and 2014, the gender representation has basically flipped as the top of my charts feature female artists or female-fronted bands in nearly every top slot.

Charli XCX’s excellent Sucker album was a holdover from late 2014, but her new track “Mow That Lawn” that debuted at Positivus and was a staple of her live shows was my favorite track of the year. I also enjoyed new albums from Metric, Madonna, and a long-awaited comeback from the original lineup of Veruca Salt. And credit for UK post-punk revival band Editors for adding a bit of testosterone this year.

In total I listed to 2829 songs, up from 2669 last year.

Name Artist Album Plays
Mow That Lawn Charli XCX Live At Positivus Festival 2015 59
Nuclear Seasons Charli XCX You’re the One – EP 53
Famous Charli XCX Sucker 49
SuperLove Charli XCX SuperLove – Single 42
Nuclear Seasons (Live) Charli XCX The Blind Club 35
Cool for the Summer Demi Lovato Cool for the Summer – Single 33
Forgiveness Editors In Dream 32
The Museum of Broken Relationships Veruca Salt The Museum of Broken Relationships – Single 32
Breaking Up Charli XCX Sucker 31
Break The Rules Charli XCX Sucker 30
The Shade Metric Pagans in Vegas 30
The Fatal Gift Metric Single 30
Empty Bottle Veruca Salt Ghost Notes 30
Sucker Charli XCX Sucker 29
Gold Coins Charli XCX Sucker 29
Body Of My Own Charli XCX Sucker 29
Alternative: Forgiveness Editors In Dream 28
Rebel Heart Madonna Rebel Heart 28
It’s Holy Veruca Salt It’s Holy – Single 28
London Queen Charli XCX Sucker 27
No Harm Editors In Dream 26
The Face, Pt. I Metric Pagans in Vegas 26
The Gospel According to Saint Me Veruca Salt Ghost Notes 26
I Want Candy (Live) Charli XCX Transmitter 25
Ocean of Night Editors In Dream 25
Alternative: No Harm Editors In Dream 25
Fortunes Metric Pagans in Vegas 25
Cascades Metric Pagans in Vegas 25
Office Towers Escalate Metric Pagans in Vegas 25
Laughing in the Sugar Bowl Veruca Salt Ghost Notes 25
The Museum of Broken Relationships Veruca Salt Ghost Notes 25
Break the Rules (Live) Charli XCX Live At I Heart Radio 24
Hanging Around Charli XCX Sucker 24
Devil Pray Madonna Rebel Heart 24
The Governess Metric Pagans in Vegas 24
Nuclear Seasons (Live) Charli XCX iTunes Festival: London 2012 – EP 23
The Lebanon The Human League The Very Best Of The Human League 23
Love You Less Veruca Salt Ghost Notes 23
Boom Clap (Live) Charli XCX Transmitter 22
Ghosttown Madonna Rebel Heart 22
The Forbidden Zone Oingo Boingo Oingo Boingo Demo EP 22
Lost To Me Veruca Salt Ghost Notes 22
Alternica Veruca Salt Ghost Notes 22

Top 15 Albums of the Past Ten Years

Interesting the way that my favorite albums seemed to be clustered in certain years. This list is presented chronologically with no specific ranking.

Charli XCX – Sucker (2014)

Foo Fighters – Sonic Highways (2014)

Pet Shop Boys – Electric (2013)

Ixtahuele – Pagan Rights (2013)

Infant Sorrow – Get Him to the Greek (2010)

Metric – Fantasies (2009)

Franz Ferdinand – Tonight (2009)

Editors – In this Light and On This Evening (2009)

The Bravery – The Sun and the Moon Complete (2007-2008)

Kelly Clarkson – My December (2007)

Dewey Cox – Walk Hard Soundtrack (2007)

Dave Gahan – Hourglass (2007)

Rock Kills Kid – Are You Nervous? (2006)

Gwen Stefani – The Sweet Escape (2006)

Audioslave – Revelations (2006)

AT&T Park

I saw two SF Giants games at AT&T Park this weekend, though I only paid for one. I flew home from Chicago on Friday night and arrived at the stadium to have a hot dog from a street vendor and to watch the game from the free viewing section in right field. Julie and Quinn were at the game and I thought about trying to get in, but it was cold and they wanted to leave anyway.

The next day we went to a game starting at 6:05 and got to see sundown around the stadium. It made the pretty ballpark even more picturesque.

cenaom6ukamvy93-large