Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Warriors vs. Cavs: Part Three (La Venganza?)

Since these two superteams are meeting in the Finals for a third straight year, I think the best place to start with this rambling post is to revisit last year’s Finals, which was something I was reluctant to do for a long, long time.

Last year, as you know (if you’re reading this), the Cavs improbably came back from a 3-1 deficit to win the title in Oracle Arena. As a long-time Oakland sports fan, I’m no stranger to crushing losses. The 2002 Super Bowl (a.k.a. the Tijuana Bowl) immediately comes to mind, but it wasn’t nearly as devastating as last year’s loss. Part of me is embarrassed to share this because I know, in the end, sports is just sports, but I had a horrific night of non-sleep after our Game 7 loss last year. I probably slept three hours, tops; I awoke a few times and stared off in the dark and couldn’t go back to sleep because I couldn’t stop from thinking of every single goddamn thing that had to go wrong in order for the Warriors to collapse like they did at the end of that series: Curry slipping on a wet spot in Houston in the opening round and injuring his knee; Draymond’s accidental (I think) kick to Steven Adams royal jewels in the Western Conference Finals, which was basically the equivalent of a yellow card, contributing to his subsequent suspension in the pivotal Game 5 of the Finals; our epic, grueling seven-game series against the Oklahoma City Thunder; Bogut’s injury in the 4th quarter of Game 5 in the Finals; and the Warriors season-long chase for the regular season record for wins, a grind which finally caught up to the Warriors at the end of the Finals. That sleepless night, after seeing Kyrie Irving hit a dagger three-pointer in the closing minutes I couldn’t help but think that if even one of those acts had not happened we would have won a second straight title. The day after Game 7, like one of our then-summer interns—a born-and-bred Cleveland Cavaliers fan—I was still in disbelief that the Cavs actually fucking won (let alone beat us three times in a row).

A few weeks ago, I finally mustered the will to watch the replay of Kyrie’s game-winning shot over Steph Curry in Game 7.

Now I can’t fucking wait until tip-off tomorrow.

Like I wrote in my 2016-2017 NBA Playoff Opening Round Predictions, I feel like this entire season has been geared up to be the Warriors’ equivalent of the Spurs 2014 Vengeance Title (as Ringer columnist, Shea Serrano, puts it)—and if there’s one story plotline I have a debilitating weakness for, it’s sweet revenge.

This entire season, just like last year, I’ve been chirping the same line, and that is: the only way the Warriors don’t win this year’s championship is if one of their major players gets injured. Last year, I humbly believe I turned out to be correct in saying that. If you watch Steph Curry’s highlights in the 2015 NBA Finals and compare it to his play in last year’s Finals, it’s evident that he was playing injured. He was not close to 100% healthy. Curry didn’t have his usual burst, quickness, and his lateral movement was clearly compromised. See his last possession in Game 7 of the Finals against all-world defender Kevin Love, then compare that to this possession against Rudy Gobert a few weeks ago:

I know I’m a biased hometown fan, but I think Curry’s injury alone ultimately tipped the series in Cleveland’s favor. And then there was Bogut’s injury at the end of Game 5—a game we were going to lose just like the Warriors were going to lose Game 1 of this year’s Western Conference Finals before Kawhi Leonard went down. (For what it’s worth, Kawhi would get my MVP vote just ahead of LeBron.) Bogut wasn’t one of our top three players, but it was a significant loss. In my heart, I don’t think there’s any way we lose Game 7 at home with our two best frontcourt defenders playing. (Bogues was also an excellent screener.) At the very least, having Bogut in the line-up would have meant we sure as fuck wouldn’t have seen Kerr give Festus Ezeli and Anderson fucking Varejao a combined 20 minutes in the most crucial game of the season. So for me, it’s very simple—the last two championship-winning teams were the ones who happened to be the healthiest at the end. (For the record, I personally believe the 2015 Golden State Warriors would have still beaten the Cavs if Love and Irving weren’t injured, but there’s no way to prove that.)

This year, since both teams march into the Finals with beaucoup rest and excellent health, I don’t think the Cavs stand a chance. Both teams are offensive powerhouses with their own contrasting styles of play, but in the end, the Warriors are also a defensive juggernaut—and the Cavs are not. Simple as that. The Warriors have a handful of excellent two-way players while the Cavs only elite two-way player is LeBron James, the Shaquille O’Neal of all-time NBA small forwards. (The Cavs do also have Tristan Thompson, who I like to call “Fetch” because he gets paid $82 million to chase other men’s balls; he’s an above-average defender who can also be a significant offensive contributor by getting offensive rebounds and cutting to the basket for alley oops.) Kyrie and LeBron can be match-up problems for the Dubs, but how can the Cavs stop a healthy Steph? Or KD? And if Klay gets going—and he will, at some point in this series—who on the Cavs can stop him? Old Man Jefferson!? Or Iman Shumpert (who will be best remembered by NBA fans for his hairstyles instead of his actual play)?

Historically, LeBron’s best offensive supporting cast have been a fleet of shooters spaced around the perimeter. But the 2016-2017 Cavs roster is replete with offensive players with shitty defensive chops: Kyle Korver, Channing Frye (who’s singular talent in the NBA, despite his height, athleticism and incredible wingspan, is knocking down wide-open three-pointers), Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. Against a smart, veteran, hyper-focused and super-talented team like the Warriors, having one of these chumps on the court is going to be like dropping blood in a tank full of piranhas. Having two of these lackluster defenders on the floor is going to be murder unless the Warriors have an off night when their shots just aren’t dropping—and those nights do sometimes happen. But it won’t happen 4 out of 7 games. I’d bet my left testicle on that.

Even with the Cavs trapping him with two defenders to hide Kyrie’s shabby defensive ability (especially on pick & rolls), I think Steph is going to have a big series. Since last year’s improbable loss, when he chose to not offer excuses on his Finals performance and tell the media just how banged up he was, he’s been focused on this moment, and I think he’s bent on playing within himself and making the Cavs pay. Remember that pissed-off face he made in a postgame interview after Game 3 of the 2015 Finals when reporters were insinuating that Delly was outplaying him? Don’t let his peach-fuzz beard and his kind and humble manners fool you—he’s a baby-faced fucking killer, and I think he’s going to be particularly amped to try to outduel Kyrie this year now that he’s not hobbled. KD’s going to be absolutely solid, just like he was in his first and only Finals appearance when he shot 55% from the field. Draymond’s going to keep his hands to himself. He is going to neutralize LeBron whenever he’s man (and stupid) enough to go against him one-on-one, and Iggy is also looking to redeem his play from last year’s Finals. And don’t forget our big men—David West has been playing a loooonnnnng time in search of his first ring, and I think his passing is going to slice up Cleveland’s interior defense when he comes off the bench, and I can’t wait to see our guys toss the ball in the general direction of the hoop for JaVale McGee to swoop up and dunk all over Cleveland’s front court. On offense, we have too many weapons for Cleveland to stop, and we have more remedies on the defensive end to slow down their attack. (It’s worth noting that Cleveland only cracked the century mark three times in the 2015-2016 NBA Finals. Overall, our defense—even without Draymond for a game, minus Bogut for two games, and a physically-compromised Steph—did enough for us to win. Our offensive execution is what failed us in the last three games, especially Game 7.) Last year, I think the Warriors—and their fans—underestimated the Cavs. Frankly, our team was a bit too cocky. Hubris contributed to our fall. But they’ve been humbled. After closely following this team for the past five seasons, I don’t think they’ll repeat that mistake again.

Out of begrudging respect for LeQueen and Kyrie—who is a clutch motherfucking baller—I think they’ll win a game. But otherwise, in the end, I expect and anticipate complete and merciless domination by the Warriors.

And since LeQueen fucking hates Steph and the Warriors so much, I want nothing more than the Warriors to be like Arnie in The Terminator when he socks and rips out a punk’s heart from his chest.

No mercy, Dubs. No fucking mercy.

Warriors in 5

Other Predictions:
  • LeBron’s record streak of winning a road game in 29 consecutive playoff series will be snapped.
  • JaVale McGee or Patrick McCaw will be the Warriors’ surprising X-factors.
  • Kevin Durant will be the Finals MVP.
  • This Halloween, LeQueen will not have his guests step over a Steph Curry dummy to enter his mansion.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Farewell, Oakland

When I first moved to Oakland back in June 2011, I was still navigating through a perilous juncture in my life. I was a newborn cancer survivor. I had just finished a first (and super-duper-crappy) draft of my memoir and still dealing with everything that had happened to me. David, a sweet, beautiful man I had befriended while undergoing radiation treatment had just died a few weeks before. And so, I was still acutely aware of how temporary life is. I was still wounded, still brittle, but I was beginning to heal thanks to my writing and a six-week artist residency that winter in Taos, New Mexico. Getting away from San Francisco—the city where a few of my blood cells jumped the rails and went rogue—was nourishing for me. All that solitude was especially good for my spirit; living completely on my own for the first time in my life was freeing for me.

So when I settled back to my typical everyday life in San Pancho, I knew, in my heart, I couldn’t continue to live with roommates; not after I had basked in a more quiet, inward life on my own. At that point in my life—a life that felt incredibly uncertain—my overriding, urgent and borderline desperate need was to establish a rhythm, a way of living that would allow me to be as content and happy as possible. I earnestly felt like my well-being depended on it. (I still do.) Nothing frightened me more than the prospect of relapsing.

And so, I decided to leave the home I had shared with my three roommates. I decided to leave the Mission District, the vibrant, ever-transforming neighborhood where I had lived for nearly seven years. At the time, I worked about thirty hours every week to allow more time to devote to writing, which was a constant tonic. Since I wasn’t raking in piles of money, I couldn’t afford a single-bedroom apartment in the city so I migrated to Oakland, back to the sunny eastside of the bay where I had been raised.

I still remember my first few weeks living right by the eastern side of Lake Merritt. Summer had begun, and I remember how instantaneously at home I felt in my new surroundings just by simply wearing a t-shirt and shorts just about everywhere (except San Francisco when I migrated back for work). I remember how great it felt to come home and kick off my socks and leave them laying in the living room if I wanted. Moving to Oakland was also coupled with a newfound kindling love since I had begun to date my sweetheart, Maria; I remember how at home I felt when we first strolled around the lake on a sun-filled afternoon. Throughout that summer, I remember how proud and at peace I felt when I would stare with quiet awe at Oakland’s minute skyline as I cycled around the lake. I never grew tired of that vista whether if I was immersed within a sea of sunlight or twilight. And when I breathed in that modest but delightful view, I felt like I was exactly where I should be—and I have found that such moments in life are often much too fleeting.

Before long, a year passed. A third Cancerversary was celebrated. With time, I healed. Then Maria and I moved in together, synthesizing our earthly belongings into one home that was truly ours. The years continued to pass. We got married twice in Oakland—legally at the county’s Clerk-Recorder’s office and ritually entwined in front of our loved ones in a forest of redwoods. And then my book was published. That year—probably the sweetest of my life—my heart felt full. My spirit felt at peace (but fleetingly, of course). Then, Maria became pregnant, but she lost the embryo. And then she became pregnant again and lost the second one. Together we weathered that sorrow. Our third one held, and she eventually gave birth to our hijito. All of this happened in Oakland. And then, a few weeks ago, we lifted our roots and moved south to the foothills of Hayward to be closer to our families.

Although I still work in Oakland, it still tore me up at first to not wake within this city that I have loved like no other. In a short, short amount of time, Oakland had become my town. My beat. My haven. My home. I doubt I will ever find another hometown that I identify with so strongly. In its totality, its 78,000 square miles of land, sky and water, Oakland is a diverse, pulsing medley of beauty and fucked-up-ness that I always felt like an extension of.

It would be easy to tick off the places in Oakland I miss and remain fond of, but I’ll refrain. Oaktown is far more than just a list of places I happen to like. The future may not exist, but now that our trinity is here in our new home in Hayward it’s hard not to daydream of Maria and I returning to Oakland to show Miguelito our old haunts (The Grand Lake Theatre! The Rose Garden! Dracena Park! Joaquin Miller Park!), the town where he was forged, and to discover some new places together.

with Maria, eight months pregnant, at Lake Temescal

Friday, April 14, 2017

2016-2017 NBA Playoff Opening Round Predictions!

Fuck yeah! The 2016-2017 NBA Playoffs are finally ready to begin!

I am an unabashed Warriors fan, but I must say, the beginning of these playoffs feels like déjà vu of the 2014 NBA Playoffs when it felt destined that they would culminate with a Finals rematch between the Heat and Spurs. This year, of course, it feels like the Warriors and Cavs will square off again for the championship. And like the Spurs, it feels inevitable that the Warriors will avenge their collapse in last year’s Finals.

At the onset of last year's playoffs, gave the Warriors a 42% likelihood of winning the title. The Cavs were given a 9% chance. We know how that turned out. (FiveThirtyEight also predicted an easy Clinton victory in the election—and we know how that turned out…)

For what it’s worth, this year FiveThirtyEight’s playoff forecast believes the Warriors, with their robust +11.6 point differential have a 59% likelihood of winning the title. The Cavs and their putrid defense come in with just a 2% chance of winning, less than the other top three seeds in the East. Yeeouch:

Just after they traded for Kyle Korver, I couldn’t fathom anyone in the Eastern Conference knocking off the Cavs. Conversely, before KD’s knee injury, I couldn’t imagine anyone in the West defeating a healthy Warriors squad in a seven-game series. Shit has changed a bit since, but now I feel far more confident that the Dubs will make it to the Finals whereas I am much more uncertain about the Cavs. As ESPN’s Marc Stein pointed out, the 2016-2017 Cavs are 22nd in defensive efficiency and will attempt to be the first team outside the top 10 in defensive efficiency to win it all since the 2000-01 Lakers. And speaking of the Lakers, in March the only team with a worse defensive efficiency than the Cavaliers were the Lakers—who were trying to fucking tank for the draft! LeQueen may talk all he wants about not caring what playoff seeding his teams finish with, but wrapping up the last full month of the regular season with the second worst defensive rating is not a tried and true route to winning a championship. (Did I mention the Cavs finished with a worst road record (3-9) against Western Conference teams than the mighty Brooklyn Nets or Orlando Magic?)

Okay, enough about the Cavs, who will be a lottery team in two seasons. Here’s some random (and bold!) playoff predictions before I put down my predictions for each opening round matchup:

Sunday, January 29, 2017

What I Learned From All My Jobs - Part II

Ralph Wolf and Sam Sheepdog punching in for work

This is the last of my two-part series detailing many of my learnings from working for the big, big money:

16.    Office Assistant
-that truckers are a special breed of people (and probably excellent company for bullshiting and drinking)
-that traveling salespeople seem to operate with an inflated sense of hubris
-that salespeople can be assholes and charming at the same time
-that there is something severely depressing about dimly-lit office cafeterias with a poorly stocked vending machine that hums loudly
-that people working inside an office often look upon people working out in the warehouse as a different breed of human being
-that people working out in the warehouse often look upon people working inside an office as a different breed of human being
-that I have a knack for adapting the way I talk and interact to both groups
-that I have a fondness for manual time clock machines
-that I have an absolute and almost complete weakness for an attractive superior

Saturday, January 14, 2017

My Top 10 Favorite Cover Songs

A few weeks ago, guest blogger Jasmyn Wong put down her top 10 favorite covers of all-time. Here’s mine:

10.    Fever – Sarah Vaughan (Little Willie John)
In writing this post I actually discovered for the first time the original recording by Little Willie John. It’s not a bad tune or recording whatsoever, but I still slightly prefer this lively, bossa-novaesque cover by Sarah Vaughan. This playful rendition feels like it should be playing at the pool while you’re lounging about a pool in Lahaina, or possibly at a psychedelic circus in the company of Hunter Thompson. Either scenario is good in my book.

9.    Orion – Rodrigo y Gabriela (Metallica)
The first time I heard this rendition I was deliciously high. I was hanging out with friends. It was my first time hearing Rodrigo y Gabriela. This song played from the kitchen. It sounded familiar but I couldn’t quite place it so I walked over to the kitchen to give it a close listen. Once I realized it was an acoustic cover of Metallica’s masterful instrumental (which featured the late great bassist Cliff Burton), I proceeded to lose my head and shout with glee, startling my peeps. I still get similarly excited when I hear it.

8.     Painkiller – Death (Judas Priest)
For the record, I slightly prefer the original recording but Death’s cover is arguably tastier because it’s just nastier. Chuck Schuldiner’s genius is on full display on this track, from his dire, high-pitched vocals (he didn’t start off singing like that whatsoever!) to his scorching solo. Flawless cover of an epic metal classic.

7.    Loose – The Birthday Party (The Stooges)
Dear fucking god, Nick Cave manages to out-yell and out-nasty and out-crazy Iggy Pop on this track! His deranged vocals at the end of the song takes the fucking cake, and almost always gets me giggling in its sheer lunacy.

6.    Let’s Dance – M. Ward (David Bowie)
In all humbleness, I think M. Ward’s cover of Bowie’s “Let’s Dance” is ridiculously superior to the original. This cover takes the lyrics and chords and squeezes so much goddamn heart out of it. It’s a completely different song in M. Ward’s hands. The first time I listened to this rendition I just froze, enthralled with what I was listening to.

5.    Mystery Train – The Paul Butterfield Blues Band (Junior Parker)
My love for this song has been mentioned on this blog before. This blues standard has been covered by so many musicians but this rendition does it for me. The guitar sounds like it’s perfectly teetering on overdrive. And the harmonica gives the song a rollicking yet urgent tone.

4.    Changes – Charles Bradley (Black Sabbath)
If I was unfamiliar with Black Sabbath’s music, I would have never guessed that this neo-soul rendition was originally written by them. Charles Bradley and his Extraordinaires make this song their own, and it’s a heartfelt rendition.

3.    D7 – Nirvana (The Wipers)
Great bands and musicians tend to have a knack for creating covers that are superior to the originals. This one’s a great example. The Wipers’ bare, sludgy original is honest and emotional, but Cobain and company take the dissonance and anger conveyed in the original and just fucking seriously ratchet it up. If you like Nirvana (like I do), Cobain’s genius is well displayed by simply comparing these two tracks. When you think about guitar gods, Cobain doesn’t immediately come to mind, but I humbly believe few other musicians wielded the raw, mighty synergy of distorted guitar and voice like he did. 2:24 – 3:01 of Nirvana’s cover is a quintessential example of that, and my god, that part has been making me shake my head in awe for nearly two decades now. (It also helps that Dave Grohl is absolutely murdering his drums during that part.)

2.    You Really Got Me – Van Halen (The Kinks)
Everything I said about great bands reinterpreting original material can be said about this cover. The Kinks’ original is a great song, but man, just from hearing Eddie’s blaring opening riff you know this rendition is going to blow the fucking balls off of the original recording. This is Van Halen at their finest. A goddamn supernova of vigor, swagger and sound.

1.    All Along the Watchtower – Jimi Hendrix (Bob Dylan)
Jimi’s cover of Bob Dylan’s song is so intensely good that I think most people associate this song to him. Honestly, there is no reason to listen to Dylan’s original unless you wish to hear just how inferior it is to Jimi’s kaleidoscopic cover.

Honorable Mentions:

Danger Zone – Banger Uterus (Kenny Loggins)

My friend, Avelina, sings in this outstanding cover! If you ask me, this rendition has more emotional depth and intensity than Kenny Loggins’ track for the Top Gun soundtrack.

Fever – The Cramps
I could have easily swapped this rendition for Sarah Vaughan’s.

Goin’ Out of My Head - Sergio Mendes & Brasil '66 (Little Anthony & the Imperials)
A catchy rendition with a subtle but nifty piano solo by Sergio Mendes.

Because – Elliott Smith (The Beatles)
This is the only Beatles cover I have ever listened to that can hold a candle to their original recording.

Baby Please Don’t Go – Van Morrison (Big Joe Williams)
A rocking rendition of this blues standard. The thumping bass line on this cover is just stellar.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

What I Learned From All My Jobs - Part I

at Cockbuster with my boy, Dmitri, at age 19, pulling my pants up ridiculously high, and letting it fly!

Homer: Yes, son. You can have an electric guitar just like your old man!
Bart: Dad, I'm asking if I can get a job.
Homer: Gig, son. When you're a musician, a job is called a gig.

From The Simpsons “Bart Gets Famous”

For most of my adult life, I have preferred to call a job a “gig” à la Homer J. Simpson. Maybe it’s because I treated many of them like gigs.

Counting my current job, I’ve had 30 different jobs since I started working when I was fourteen years old. This total includes gigs that lasted a month, but it doesn’t include ones that lasted a day (a canvasser for Clean Water Action) or a week or two (a door-to-door salesman when I was kid).

I’ve learned a lot from all these jobs. I figured it’d be interesting to catalog. So here’s what I learned:

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Top 10 Favorite Cover Songs by Jasmyn Wong

Joshua Tree National Park by Channone Arif

Hey, hey, hey, let’s have a drum roll for my first guest blogger!

My coworker, Jasmyn, is a Bay Area drummer who has contributed her subtle beat-keeping to an array of bands including The Skygreen Leopards, Paula Frazer & Tarnation, and The Sarees. Nowadays, you can find her laying down beats for Oakland’s Dawn Riding. Born in Santa Monica to artsy parents, Jasmyn grew up in San Francisco listening to a variety of music, from punk and oldies to jazz and R&B hits. (In case you’re interested, her favorite holiday song is Dave Brubeck‘s “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town.“) She worked in curations at Pandora Radio for nearly seven years, and has also worked at Fandor and the Bay Area Video Coalition. She’s been a part of our office for just a little over two months, but she has already proven that she is indeed quite an exceptional source when it comes to discovering new outstanding musicians and films, which is why I was eager to find out what top 10 list of favorite cover songs she could drum up (oh, I couldn’t resist!)

Without further ado, here’s Jasmyn’s top 10 favorite cover songs. I hope you enjoy listening to them as much as I have; I’ll write up my accompanying post for the new year.

10) Buffy Sainte-Marie – Helpless (original composition by Neil Young)
Neil Young is one of my favorite singers of all time. In my most humble opinion, nobody compares to him. However, this particular cover really hits home for me. Buffy gives a soulful gospel approach in contrast to Neil’s folky melancholy version. I think Buffy’s vocal abilities really stand out in this song. 

9)    Nina Simone – I Ain’t Got No/I Got Life (James Rado, Gerome Ragni, Galt MacDemot-Hair)
I’ve been digging into the Nina Simone’s vaults lately to get me through these difficult times. This song is my ultimate favorite from her and has become a personal mantra for me. I still get tears every time I hear it. It reads as more of a serious political statement than the original to me.

8)    Bratmobile – Where Eagles Dare (The Misfits)
I was a huge fan of Riot Grrrl music and culture as a teenager. Bratmobile enlightened me to take feminism more seriously. This song still remains one of my life anthems. I also love how goofy Slim Moon’s lyrical deliveries are against Allison Wolfe’s scratchy angry vocals.

7)    The Flying Burrito Brothers – The Dark End of the Street (James Carr)
I have a big soft spot for hippie outlaw country folk bands from the late 60s to early 70s. This band is one of my favorites along with Gram Parsons’ solo projects. I always loved how raggedy and loose this version is compared to the soulful James Carr original. It reminds me of a nice smooth aged whiskey after a long hard day of work. For long drives through California and New Mexico’s landscapes, I highly recommend this song. 

6)    Quix*o*tic – Lord of this World (Black Sabbath)
I had been a long time fan of the DC all-girl punk band Slant 6, so when I heard one of the members formed a new band in the early 2000’s, I immediately grabbed a copy of this album. The one track that stuck out on this album was this cover of Black Sabbath. I normally don’t like covers of Black Sabbath, but this one takes the cake for me. I like how heavy they were able to do this song with just drums and guitar with Mira showcasing her tough-as-nails vocals. A job well done in my book!

5)    Siouxsie and the Banshees – The Passenger (Iggy Pop and Ricky Gardinier)
In high school, I caught my first glimpse of the goth world by attending my first darkwave club for our school’s newspaper. I heard Siouxsie and the Banshees’ version of this song on their sound system and was instantly enamored. This rendition has a more fancy yet careless vibe than Iggy’s. I’ll never forget the twirling of long black lace gowns and arms waving in the air to the beat of this tune.

4)    Phyllis Dillon – Woman of the Ghetto (Marlena Shaw)
Phyllis Dillon is one of my favorite female reggae artists. This version is tougher than leather and will inspire you to keep moving through these dark times. I also love how this rocksteady reggae song was still able to maintain strong classic soul R&B roots.

3)    Nico – These Days (Jackson Browne)
It was hard to decide between Ian Matthews and Nico’s version of this song. Of course, I had to pick the darker version of the two. I love how unique and eccentric Nico’s voice is. She contains a strong masculine tone yet soft around the edges. I also love how tasteful the string arrangement is orchestrated against the guitar parts.

2)    This Mortal Coil – Kangaroo (Alex Chilton)
I first heard this song while working at Urban Outfitters in the late 90’s. I literally stopped folding clothes and fell in love. This version almost sounds like a completely different song than the original from Big Star. The structural experimental music pauses after each verse are beautiful. This song also reminds me of a song that could have been on a Twin Peaks soundtrack. I love the way the guitar and violin keep swinging back and forth like a pendulum. Gordon Sharp’s vocals are a perfect blend of anger and sadness.

1)    Sandy Denny – Milk and Honey (Jackson C. Frank)
This is the song I want to be played at my funeral. When I first heard it, it gave me shivers up my spine. Her voice is like a thick soft velvet that you want to be wrapped in on a cold winter’s day. I think her version contains a much more haunting ghostly presence compared to Jackson’s rendition. Perhaps it’s the way the guitar has an emotional breakdown dueling against the rise and fall of Sandy’s vocals. Fun fact: she was also the only guest vocalist to record on a Led Zeppelin album and was also the front woman for Fairport Convention and Fotheringay.