Things I liked in 2013

2013 stuff I liked

I used to write elaborate annual posts detailing my favorite things in a variety of media. For 2013, I only have time to squish it all into one abbreviated post. My #1 favorite thing this year was of course the arrival of my daughter, an event which itself drastically impacted my ability to find other stuff to rank. But I did manage to find a few things that I highly enjoyed and recommend:

  • I finished Ancillary Justice just before the end of the year, and coincidentally it’s also the best book I read in 2013. Author Ann Leckie does fascinating things with consciousness, narrative perspective, and gender while still telling a great worlds-spanning space opera tale. (The cover, not unusually, has virtually nothing to do with the book)
  • I didn’t have a ton of gaming time this year, but I keep wanting to go back and play more Monaco. The cooperative heist game pits you and your friends against a variety of robbery goals. It’s difficult, but in a way that feels hilarious when you fail rather than frustrating. One of the best cooperative games I can remember.
  • You will pry my Yonanas Elite machine from my cold, dead hands. Frozen fruit goes in one end, delicious not-quite-frozen-yogurt comes out the other. In a blind taste test I don’t think I could differentiate this from the real thing. I received the Elite model as a Christmas gift, and it’s worth the upgrade. The motor is both quieter and more powerful. My current favorite combo: Bananas and cantaloupe.
  • The Chromecast is just a really neat, inexpensive media streamer. I use it almost every day to watch youtube videos or play music, and it works well with a number of video streaming services too. I still can’t quite wrap my head around fumbling for a pause button on my phone instead of a traditional remote, but I’ll get there.
  • A few months ago I switched to a Macbook Pro at work, from a PC. The learning curve was shallower than I expected, and now I wonder how I lived without the ability to easily swipe between multiple desktops. I have issues with some of the functionality in Finder (image previews in particular work better in Windows), but my quibbles are all minor. I’m particularly blown away by the 8+ hour battery life.
  • I have fallen in love with Google Plus’ Auto-awesome photo features. I throw all my photos at it, and Google figures out what the highlights are. I took a ton of photos in 2013, thanks largely to the aforementioned daughter’s arrival, and would never have time to sort through the whole pile on my own. Google also automatically creates motion gifts from burst photos, merges exposures to HDR, and creates photobooth style portrait montages. This is by far the best feature of Google Plus, and it makes me wish I knew more than three regular users of the service to share the resulting photos with.
  • Paired with Google Plus, I now use Adobe Lightroom for more serious photo organization. It’s not flashy, but has solid and in-depth management options for metadata and organization. I don’t have every photo I ever took in my Lightroom library, but the most important ones are there. And if you work at a .edu employer, there’s a steep discount available.
  • Bioshock Infinite was another of the rare video games I played all the way through this year. While I found the minute-to-minute gameplay got repetitive and stale after a few hours, the beautiful environment and underlying themes of the story kept me glued to the screen. I’m looking forward to playing through the new expansions.
  • Google gave away Chvrches’ album The Bones of What You Believe, and I can’t argue with the price of free. Along with The Naked and Famous’ In Rolling Waves, I have these two albums in constant rotation. I don’t know what to call their genre exactly, but it’s a blend of rock, pop and electronica.
  • Playstation Plus is Sony’s game subscription service. For $50 a year (or $30 on Black Friday) gamers get access to an incredible library of downloadable titles. I now have more PS3 games than I’ll ever be able to realistically complete, and couldn’t be happier. And just today they added Bioshock Infinite to the list of included games.

Things I liked in 2012

I had plans to write a big extensive wrapup review of things I really enjoyed in 2012.  The specific plan was to write that before the end of 2012.  Oops.  In the interest of getting it posted in a somewhat relevant timeframe, here’s an abbreviated version.  Note that not everything here was released in 2012, but it was the year I encountered them:


The Drowned Cities, by Paolo Bacigalupi, is one of the most difficult books I’ve ever read.  Listed as a young adult title, there’s deep insights here for adults too.  It’s got deep insights  into the nature of war and the cycle of violence it involves.  Bacigalupi excels at writing about terrible things in an extremely compelling manner.

The Magician King lets the characters from The Magicians grow up a bit, and the result is characters I found much less frustrating than in the series’ previous book.

Saga is my new favorite comic book series.  It’s space opera and fantasy and a whole lotta (sometimes graphic) weirdness in one package.  Brian K. Vaughan continues to be a must-read writer for me.

Hawkeye is a bunch of fun too, though more focused on small contained story arcs.  As the book describes itself, these are the adventures Hawkeye gets into when he’s not being an Avenger.  The minimalist covers push some nice buttons for me too.


The new Ben Folds Five album is everything I hoped it would be!  I also spent a bunch of time listening to Gotye and Of Monsters and Men.


I didn’t play as many video games this year as I have in the past, but the best two were Mass Effect 3 and The Walking Dead.  ME3 was an excellent capstone to the trilogy, and The Walking Dead gets a gold star for forcing some truly intense player decisions while building one of the best-written stories I’ve seen in a game.


I think about the cliffhanger at the end of Sherlock season 2 at least once a week, while for comedy nothing beats Parks & Recreation.


Web services I use, 2012 edition

Since I last posted this list, a few things have changed. First, here’s the things I used last year but don’t anymore:

For two weeks in October, Simplenote’s syncing service stopped working entirely. None of my notes propogated across devices, making it entirely useless to me. Even worse, their support was entirely silent on the issue. Syncing eventually returned, but I’m sufficiently spooked and don’t trust the service anymore. I spent some time exporting my notes, and moved on to greener pastures.

Spool’s killer feature was the ability to cache youtube videos for offline viewing. That put it above all other text-saving services for me. But in February, Youtube asked Spool to disable that feature. Then Spool shut down entirely in July. But by that time I’d already moved to another service.

Last year I questioned Flickr’s future usefulness for me. And when it came time for me to renew my Pro account in March, I let it lapse for the first time since 2005. It hurt my soul a little bit to do that, but the community I once valued so much on Flickr is dead silent now.

Other things have stayed the same. I still use Pinboard, Tripit, Dropbox, ifttt and Google Reader extensively. I still don’t really like Google Reader now that the social features are gone, but I haven’t found a better replacement yet either. Dropbox added an automatic photo upload feature in their mobile app that makes me feel much more secure about my phone’s photos. Ifttt was forced to remove some of their twitter-related features, but it’s still a ton of fun to play with.

Lastly, there’s a few new tools I’ve picked up:

This has entirely replaced Simplenote for me. While I sometimes still miss Simplenote’s, well, simplicity, Evernote is undeniably powerful. I splurged on a one year pro subscription and haven’t looked back. It’s become a crucial part of my day to day workflow, keeping all my project notes and brainstorming in one place.

Formerly known as ReadItLater, the now better-named Pocket is my text time-shifter of choice. Whenever I find an interesting article during the day I add it to my Pocket queue for later reading. I load up the Android app when I’ve got time and catch up. My queue is never-ending, but I get to a bunch more articles this way than I would have otherwise.

I’m of two minds here. Picasa’s desktop version is an amazing photo manager & organizer, but I just can’t make their online photo sharing component work for me. It’s confusing, buggy, and has even less of a community than Flickr. With a baby on the way, I need to find a good way to share photos with distant family. Picasa isn’t it, and I still don’t know what service I’ll end up using for it. But back to the positive: Thanks to the desktop version of Picasa my photos are better organized than ever before.

While I don’t technically use Feedly as a service of it’s own, the Feedly Android app has become the way I most frequently access Google Reader. It has a wonderful gesture-based interface that makes it easy to quickly flip through articles and mark them as read.

Web services I use, 2011 edition

Someone recently asked me about tools I use for my own personal infnormation management. I guess I haven’t posted about that kind of thing in a while, so here’s a list:

Simplenote syncs text notes across devices. For example: I can create a note on my home PC and know it’ll be waiting for me when I get to work. Notes can be tagged and searched. Simplenote has a great web interface, but I find it most useful when accessing the service via one of the numerous offline client options. I use ResophNotes on PCs, and FlickNote on my Android phone. The official iPad client is nice too. Simplenote is invaluable to me, and is absurdly useful for both complicated project planning and simple tasks like getting a grocery list onto my phone. It works with unformatted text only, but I view that as a feature. Similar options like Evernote have always been too complicated to draw me in. (P.S. I’m drafting this post in Simplenote)

I initially signed up for Pinboard‘s bookmark storage service as a Delicious replacement, but have since grown to use it far more regularly than I ever used Delicious. Pinboard monitors my twitter feed and automatically pulls in links from both my own tweets and my list of marked favorite tweets. For $25/year it even archives a copy of what the site looked like when I bookmarked it, with fulltext searching available! Signing up for Pinboard requires a one-time fee, which is currently $9.54 but very slowly increasing.

Tripit is one of the most useful travel tools I’ve ever encountered. I forward all my confirmation emails to Tripit – plane tickets, hotel reservations, event confirmations, car rentals, etc – and Tripit parses the emails to build a simple custom itinerary. Pro level users can even have Tripit monitor their airfares for price drops! I once used Tripit for a complicated trip involving 4 countries, 3 cities, 3 airlines and a train ticket with zero problems.

As far as reliable ‘it just works’ services, Dropbox can’t be beat. After installing Dropbox on a computer, it creates a folder. Any files you put in that folder will be synced across the web to any other computer you’ve also installed Dropbox on. I use it all the time for moving files back and forth between work and home, and have never had a single issue with the service. There’s even phone apps to access your files on the go. Shameless self promotion: If you want to sign up for Dropbox, please use this link. You and I will both get some extra space in our accounts if you do.

I’ve migrated a bit between cached reading services, but at the moment I use Spool. Here’s the idea: If I find an article online that I want to read later, I click the Spool button in my browser. Spool caches a copy and pushes it to my phone or tablet for later, offline reading. It’s often able to grab just the text of an article, stripping out unnecessary ads and sidebars and such. I previously used Instapaper and ReadItLater, which accomplish the same goal and are pretty good. But Spool has a far superior Android app to either of those options.

Those are the services I love. Here’s a couple that I’m on the verge of dropping:

Flickr, while undoubtedly still popular, doesn’t have the appeal or engagement for me that it once did. I had a bit of an epiphany a few months ago when I realized that most of my photo metadata like descriptions and tags existed only on Flickr’s servers – I had no local copy of any of that. I was eventually able to get most of that data out of Flickr and onto my hard drive via a program called Bulkr, but I’m still not entirely happy with the experience. Flickr feels stagnant to me, and I’m no longer sure I’m getting money’s worth out of my pro account. It still has immeasurable value as a place to search for creative-commons images, but it doesn’t serve me well anymore as a place to describe, store, and share my personal photos. I’m currently looking into Picasaweb (soon to be rebranded as Google Photos) as a replacement.

Google Reader is almost dead to me, and if you’d told me just a few months ago that I’d be this dissatisfied with Reader I’d never have believed you. Google recently merged all of Reader’s social functionality into Google Plus, but didn’t do a good job of it. What was once a very active community where my friends shared and discussed links very quickly dwindled to almost no activity. Without that social component I find myself much less motivated to return to Reader to consume articles and find more things to share. My unread count has skyrocketed. I have yet to find a replacement that even approaches the niche that Google Reader once filled for me.

Lastly, here’s one service I can see myself using a lot in the future:

The awkwardly named ifttt (“If This, Then That”) lets non-programmers easily tie various web services together a bit. After authorizing Ifttt to access various accounts I’m able to set up simple triggers and responses. For example:

  1. Every time I’m tagged in a photo on Facebook, Ifttt automatically saves a copy of that photo to a folder in my Dropbox account.
  2. Every time I star an item in Google Reader, Ifttt saves it as a bookmark in my Pinboard account.

There’s a browsable list of tasks other people have come up. They range from simple (if your profile photo changes on Facebook, change it on Twitter too) to slightly more complex (if an RSS feed indicates a tornado warning in my area, send me a text message). The possibilities are pretty endless, and don’t require any programming knowledge at all to accomplish.

Best of 2009: Video Games


  • Lego Rock Band
  • Beatles Rock Band
  • Halo 3: ODST
  • Uncharted 2

This award is usually my most difficult to assign. Recent years have been filled with game after game of increasing quality & depth. 2009 was no exception.

Lego Rock Band tweaked the now-familiar Rock Band formula into something with a slightly more kid-friendly twist. But, here’s my secret: I actually like it better than the adult-focused Rock Band 2. Lego Rock Band has a sense of humor that RB2 was mostly lacking, and also provides more variation in career mode challenges. Throw in a track list including some of my favorite cheesy rock songs of all time (Ghostbusters and The Final Countdown!) and I had no choice but to buy a copy.

Beatles Rock Band went a different route than previous RB games – it zeroed in one band in incredible detail. From the songs themselves to small details like menu styles and sound effects, everything about this title screams Beatles. It’s also the first RB game to feature 3 part vocal harmonies. I can’t sing well enough to truly appreciate this feature, but witnessing 3 of my friends belt out the harmonies in perfect sync is a great enhancement to the RB experience – I hope Harmonix builds this into all future RB games. I’ve never been a dedicated Beatles fan before, but thanks to this game I’ve discovered a number of their songs that I highly enjoy.

Halo 3: ODST doesn’t really stand on its own. The story is very much a side tale, fitting into a context you can only really grok by playing the other franchise titles. But viewed as a piece of that franchise, the game takes on a new light. By being freed from Master Chief’s main narrative, the story of ODST is free to take some risks – I particularly enjoyed how the ‘bonus’ audio files have a payoff in the central storyline if you gather every one. And the main campaign creates a great sense of loneliness, of being outmanned and outgunned, in a way few other games do. Multiplayers new Firefight mode is a welcome addition to the Halo pantheon, since playing against bots is an option I’ve wanted ever since the original Halo 1.

As excellent as all three of these games are (any one is worth your money), honestly they were never really contenders for the award. Uncharted 2 came along in October and I knew almost instantly it would be my game of the year. The best way I can describe Uncharted 2 is to say it’s like playing an amazing summer adventure blockbuster movie. Sure, the narrative is on rails, but with rails this amazing I don’t really mind so much! Developers Naughty Dog have achieved new heights with voice acting and character animations that I’ve never seen any other game come close to. I believed that Nathan Drake and his compatriots were real people with real motivations and hopes. I’ve never before seen a video game character’s face animated so well that a facial expression alone made me laugh or grow concerned, but UC2 did both repeatedly. Sequences that in any other game would be mere cinematics are fully interactive are instead completely playable here, lending a deeper sense of player involvement in what’s happening on screen.

Plus, they got rid of the annoying zombie enemies that dragged down so much of UC1 for me. UC1 was great, but UC2 is near perfect. I can’t wait to see what they iterate onto with the inevitable UC3.

Best of 2009: Music

This’ll be a short one, since like usual I didn’t listen to a lot of brand new complete albums this year. More and more I find myself buying singles or a few tracks instead of the whole set, and in a lot of ways this category is becoming irrelevant. This is likely to be the last time I give an award. Here’s three albums I really liked in 2009 – I listened to so few that the choices are almost by default, though I did genuinely enjoy them all:

  • The Swell Season – Strict Joy
  • Green Day – 21st Century Breakdown
  • The Protomen – Act II: The Father of Death

Melissa introduced me to the more extensive catalog of the Swell Season, since I only knew the music that band members had done for the Oscar-winning musical ‘Once’. We even went and saw them live in DC this year. Their sound is often mellow, with occasional more intense songs thrown into the mix. Strict Joy is an album I love to listen to in the background while I get things done.

Green Day’s latest is a solid rock album – I like it, but honestly have trouble finding much specifically to say. I like listening to this one while driving around.

The Protomen are a fairly unique band. Their music is more Rock Opera than anything else, structured around telling a story based on the old Mega Man NES games. Yes, you read that right. But the opera is told without a single bit of irony or winking at the audience – they take it very seriously. The result is surreal, but if you can get over the barrier to entry of the odd subject matter and let the story wash over you, Act II reveals deep rewards. The Protomen have cleaned up their sound in a major way since Act I, and the details of the meticulously crafted tracks are easier to detect as a result. Act II is also a real album in a way that a lot of other CDs aren’t. The tracks aren’t just a collection of singles – they foreshadow and repeat themes in their music as the story calls for it, linking everything together. It’s near impossible to listen to just one track. Musical styles on the album range from an almost classical guitar sound to synth-heavy tracks that’d fit right into the Blade Runner soundtrack. But each stylistic shift again plays into the changing story elements, and it all makes perfect sense.

Yes, I fully admit that my musical tastes have very often been called ‘odd’ (among other less generous terms!). But that said, I love Act II. I’ve listened to it more than almost any other CD I own (and please do buy the CD, the included booklet fleshes out the story in a way the MP3s alone can’t), and I hope to see The Protomen perform it live someday. Congratulations Protomen, you win album of the year!

Best of 2009: Books (fiction)

I read about 25 fiction novels in 2009, which is pretty average for me. I try to limit my nominations for ‘best of’ awards to books that were actually published for the first time in 2009, which narrows the pool somewhat. Out of what’s left, here’s the short list of my favorites:

  • Boneshaker, by Cherie Priest
  • Leviathan, by Scott Westerfield
  • This is Not a Game, by Walter Jon Williams

Obviously, my tastes tend pretty heavily toward the Sci-Fi and technothriller end of the spectrum. Boneshaker is a very good Steampunk story set in an alternate 19th century Seattle. The action is thrilling, and characters are well-crafted and likeable. There’s zombies, destruction, mad science, and zeppelin chases. If you like those things, you’ll like this book. That’s about all I can say.

Leviathan is another alternate history tale, this time giving us a new version of World War I. Mechanized powers of central and eastern europe face off against the ‘Darwinist’ allies, who evolved their technology biologically. I wrote a lot more about it on Goodreads, so I’ll just link you there:
Summary: I like it a lot.

This is Not a Game latched onto my ARG-playing experience, and twisted it into a thriller novel. Williams creates fascinating characters and extrapolates some ARG trends to slightly insane heights. The opening portion of the novel is self-contained and centered on a character’s escape from an economically collapsing Indonesia. This is the strongest section of the story, and in some ways I wish the book had ended there – it’d be my (short) book of the year if it did. The adventure uses near-future technology in mostly realistic ways, and doesn’t push suspension of disbelief. The later portions push more than a bit into ridiculousness territory, and the overall narrative suffers as a result.

Boneshaker was very very good, but in some ways I’m starting to feel over the whole zombie/steampunk/etc craze. There’s too much of it out there too fast. This is Not a Game started out excellent, then dropped off. But Leviathan stayed at excellent the entire way through. So it eeks out the competition as my favorite book of the year! It may be theoretically a young adult novel, but it doesn’t talk down to that age group at all – adults will enjoy it just as much as younger folk. Again, check out my Goodreads review for more detailed thoughts.

Best of 2009: Movies

Kicking off my annual (and no doubt much coveted) ‘best of’ lists, a bit belated this time. Some may actually slip into 2010, but oh well 🙂

So, movies! Continuing my trend of recent years, I didn’t see very many new movies in the theater this year. But of what few I saw, here’s my nominees for best movie, in no particular order:

District 9
Star Trek

District 9 came out of left field and blew me away. I haven’t been so pleasantly surprised by a movie since The Matrix ten years ago. It’s a gritty realistic-ish take on mankind’s reaction to refugee aliens showing up in the near future. Amazing effects and newsish camera work did much to draw me in.

I was nervous about Star Trek, having no idea what J.J. Abrams’ attempt to save the franchise would wield. Thankfully he nailed it, managing to reboot the classic story with new actors in a way which didn’t alienate the Trekkies/Trekkers. Fun from start to finish. I never thought I’d actually enjoy hearing the Beastie Boys on a Star Trek soundtrack.

Lastly I’m going to go ahead and reserve a nomination spot on my annual list for whatever Pixar releases in a given year. From the opening montage, which brought a tear to my eye, I knew Up would be special. Pixar got a whole new level of emotional response out of me with this one. The cliche apples – I laughed, I cried, etc etc. Even the 3D effects managed to blend into the film, without resorting to cheap tricks.

I could give any of these three movies the award and sleep soundly tonight. And not that Pixar needs more accolades, but Up ultimately eeks out the competition. It achieved amazing levels of emotional response blended seamlessly with wacky humor, amazing visuals, and remarkable acting. I’m looking forward to the Blu-ray.

Best of 2008 – Video Game

Finally, a category where I actually had trouble narrowing down a list of nominations to a reasonable size 🙂 Here they are:

  • Braid (Xbox 360)
  • Castle Crashers (Xbox 360)
  • Resistance 2 (PS3)
  • Little Big Planet (PS3)

Braid is a downloadable game for the Xbox 360, which on the surface appears to be merely a Mario side scrolling clone. You control the hero, Tim, who runs around levels jumping on enemies’ heads while pursuing a lost princess. A bit familiar, yes? But Tim also has access to a number of time-manipulation abilites which must be used to solve ingenious puzzles and eventually tie into the story’s themes quite nicely.

Castle Crashers is another downloadable Xbox 360 game. Made in the style of old-school brawlers like Golden Axe, CC features four player online co-op hack & slash play. There’s little subtlety in playing the game – button mashing succeeds more often than most carefully thought out strategies. But the game has a twisted sense of humor, and the hand-drawn animation is gorgeous to look at. Due to some unfortunate network glitches (which have supposedly been solved now, but it took months!) which rendered the game near-unplayable online, I can’t award it the trophy. But when it works, Castle Crashers is great old fashioned gaming group fun.

Resistance 2 is on the list solely for it’s co-operative online play. The main single player mode is capable, but didn’t blow me away. Co-op adds the dynamic of picking between three classes – medic, soldier, or special ops. Each has specific strengths and weaknesses, and without tight genuine co-operation and planning between all three you will fail horribly. Getting a decent squad together who understands this, who can communicate and function like a finely oiled machine, is a thing of beauty.

Little Big Planet makes the nominations for, again, it’s co-op play. Sensing a theme of what I like in gaming? 🙂 Like Braid, LBP owes significant dues to side scrollers of years gone by. What it adds to the mix is an incredibly cute design aesthetic, as well as full level creation abilities. And when I say full, I mean full. Using in-game physics, I’ve seen levels created to house amazingly bizarre contraptions – like a fully functioning mechanical calculator. Your ability to create in LBP is limited only by your imagination. I don’t have the creative skills to come up with much on my own, but have really enjoyed downloading and playing through levels designed by others.

Best Video Game of 2008: Braid


Braid’s time-manipulation mechanic is integrated remarkably well into a genuinely touching and thought-provoking story. The twists are huge, so I won’t spoil them here, but the final level’s events are mind-blowing and completely alter the player’s perspective on all previous events. Tim’s adventure of self-discovery and regret and melancholy is a nice departure from video games’ usual “I’m a guy with a gun and I blow stuff up” stories. The puzzles require genuine thought and creativity to solve, and almost never feel cheap. I got a huge sense of accomplishment after I solved the more difficult ones. And it’s a minor detail, but I fell in love with the game’s background art – it’s like walking through a Van Gogh painting. Add in a haunting and catchy soundtrack, and I’m sold. Gameplay takes about 6-8 hours to complete, or less if you’re really really good at puzzles 🙂 For now the game is available only as downloadable content on the Xbox 360 ($15), but a PC version is forthcoming in 2009.

Honorable Mentions:

Mirror’s Edge earns a nod despite the fact that I haven’t quite finished it yet. It does something radical: it puts a traditionally third person game (the platformer) into the first person. You see through the eyes of the protagonist, making insane Le Parkour-inspired jumps from rooftop to rooftop in an effort to deliver packages and evade the totalitarian Big Brother type government. The rush and sense of adrenaline from seeing the acrobatics from the eyes of the performer cannot be understated. But while a noble experiment in perspective, the game comes to a creaking halt whenever combat is involved. The controls for fighting are clunky and frustrating. If this element were removed, Mirror’s Edge would be a much stronger contender. Available on the PS3 and Xbox 360, I’m playing the PS3 version.

Left 4 Dead: Three words: Co-op Zombie Shooter. I have been waiting for this kind of game my whole life. Like Resistance 2, genuine co-operation is required among players to succeed. I haven’t had much time to play it yet, but from what I’ve seen I think I’ll really like the game.

Best of 2008 – Music

I discovered a lot of new music this year, but very little was from 2008. That said, here’s my favorites from this year:

  • Snow Patrol – A Hundred Million Suns
  • Frightened Rabbit – The Midnight Organ Flight
  • Flobots – Fight With Tools

I caught up on Snow Patrol this year, somehow missing out them previously. Each of their albums is completely listenable from start to finish, and A Hundred Million Suns is no exception. I rarely buy full albums anymore, but don’t feel like I’ve wasted a penny on any of their tracks. I’m most fascinated by The Lightning Strike, a 16 minute track that manages to stay fresh the entire way through.

Frightened Rabbit is another of the long list of bands I discovered while listening to WBER. Their lyrics are remarkably well crafted, with different tracks like Keep Yourself Warm and The Twist providing interesting counterpoints to each other’s message. Again, I enjoy the whole album as a package. And in this occasion, I think the listening experience is actually enhanced by experiencing the whole album from start to end. (As an addendum, Keep Yourself Warm was used particularly [if censored for lyrics] well in an episode of Chuck this season)

I do not usually like rap. I do not usually like politically charged music. So Flobots’ Fight With Tools album is a rare beast for me – politically charged rap songs that I love. Handlebars was their big hit with radio play, but each song is layered and rewards careful listening. I had a chance to see them live a few months ago, and the energy the Flobots carry on stage is somehow even higher than what’s contained on the album.

Best album of 2008: Frightened Rabbit – The Midnight Organ Flight
Frightened Rabbit

This was a near impossible decision to make, I love all three albums completely. So I wimped out and simply made the award based on which album had the highest total play count stored in iTunes 🙂