Friday, January 30, 2009

The temperature broke 30 degrees yesterday...

And Aidan and I started practicing our jump shots.

[Honesty compels me to admit this shot was from December '08. Cross-posted on]

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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Top 10 Albums of 2008

After talking about it for weeks I'm finally posting my Top Ten Albums of 2008. Yeah, it's technically a little late...yearly top 10 lists typically appearing at the end of the year in question. But why get hung up on chronology? These are the albums that dominated the Vanderhorst airwaves last year, and will continue to get tons of play. And while I'm not a famous expert music critic, YES--I think it's safe to say that these albums deserve a shot at making your playlists.

How did I finalize this list? By throwing the contenders in an unordered list and then moving them up and down according to their relative merits? That's right, you guessed it. After a few years of this approach, I have it down to a science. Cover art will take you to Amazon where you can fill out your collection while donating about 4% to this blog. We sure appreciate all those dimes.

Here we go.

10. Narrow Stairs by Death Cab for Cutie. DCFC haven't released a bad album in almost a decade, and while Narrow Stairs had its slow moments, the highlights ("Grapevine Fires," "No Sunlight") more than atoned.
9. Viva la Vida by Coldplay. Coldplay pulled a remarkable trick, producing a highly anticipated album that satisfied their own expectations as well as those of their international fan base.
8. Dear Science by TV on the Radio. Crackling with energy, this is smart, layered Indie rock at its best.
7. For Emma, Forever Ago by Bon Iver. Friends Cawley and McCoy absolutely love this album, and I do too--Bon Iver's whispery voice and cathartic lyrics earned this one a lot of play...if not my number one spot.
6. Vampire Weekend by Vampire Weekend. Clever lyrics, dancy African vibes, and a clear, direct sound. Aidan and Asher want to know, What's not to like?
5. You and Me by The Walkmen. Omnipresent twangy electric guitars and Hamilton Leithauser's twangy voice, seasoned with acoustic variety, resulted in an album that grew and grew on me.

4. Third by Portishead. Described by Lindsay as "weird and trippy," Third probably does fall in those categories, but that's a good thing. This album is carefully textured, mysterious, and sometimes beautiful.

3. Fleet Foxes by Fleet Foxes. Stately acoustic settings and lingering melodies. This self-described "baroque harmonic pop jams" outfit has ridiculous talent.
2. Rook by Shearwater. These sweeping, stripped down songs are poetry set to epic music.

1. Seldom Seen Kid by Elbow. Landing somewhere between Radiohead and Coldplay stylistically, Elbow further established their unique identity with this one, killing us with exceptional hooks and lyrics. Aidan and Lindsay added their accolades, and Elbow gained the popular vote. If you haven't heard "Grounds for Divorce" yet, go play it right now.

Here are the also-rans: Carried to Dust by Calexico, In Ghost Colours by Cut Copy, Limbs And Branches by Jon Foreman, The Rhumb Line by Ra Ra Riot, You Are My Sunshine by Copeland, Perfect Symmetry by Keane. I was tempted to expand the field to fit Copeland and Keane in--that's how close it was.

So, what albums am I missing?

(Cross-posted on

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Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Coffee Bean Roasting Dream on Hold for Now

Coffee geek that I am, I grind my beans with a Mazzer Super Jolly (you see 'em coffeeshops), brew my coffee with the ingenious Aeropress, and pull my espresso with a very serviceable Solis SL-70. And since I'm looking for ways to enhance my coffee resume still more, I've played with the idea of roasting my own know, the green ones you buy online in microbatches from places like Guatamala, Jamaica, Indonesia, etc.

Well, looks like the roasting plan will be put on hold for least until we acquire a well-ventilated garage/basement. I just came across this very detailed piece on The (New) Economics of Home Coffee Roasting.

And, as you might already suspect, the number one reason to buy a home roaster is simply to experiment with it--create your own roasts and blends and try not to burn your home down in the process. Fun, but I'll have to come up with a creative way to justify that purchase.

The Coffee Bean Roasting Dream has not been crushed...but it has been deferred for the time being, which means at least until next week.

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Culture. Photos. Life's nagging questions. - BitterSweetLife