Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Top 10 T.V. Shows: 2. The Wire

Those who prefer reading over movies or television cite many reasons for their preference. Primary among these is that reading is a longer, more involving process, with greater rewards for the patience it can demand. You become more familiar with the lead characters. That's my favourite part, and it's why I prefer great television to movies. It's hard to develop a connection with characters over the course of ninety or one-hundred and twenty minutes. And even most television shows, most of the ones on this list included, don't address that problem. The Wire is television for book people.

There's nothing specific I can think to cite as a testament to The Wire's greatness. If Arrested Development is the perfect comedy, The Wire is the perfect drama, and it does not lend itself to isolating strengths. It is natural, and, again, perfect. There is an impeccably crafted plot through all five seasons, and once you notice it and look for it, it is incredible, but you don't consciously feel it working. It's invisible, as the best plots should be.

It is the textbook example of ensemble writing. Within the world of The Wire, there is no main character. There are only characters we see more, and characters we see less. We become invested in all of them, and they are all developed over the course of the series. You hear the word "Dickensian" thrown around a lot in conjunction with this show, and quite rightly; the scope of its story, the breadth of its subject matter, is remarkable in every facet.

As far as the story is concerned, The Wire neither begins nor ends. We come into the middle of things in the first episode, and we leave in the middle of things in the sixtieth. Despite this, it is fulfilling. You do not leave the series feeling things were unresolved. And watching it again is possibly more rewarding than watching it the first time.

The first season of The Wire was the best season of any television show I'd ever seen. No hyperbole there. The second season was better. The third was better still. The fourth is, I would say, the best individual achievement in all of television. Combined, the overall work is unrivaled. That this show never won Best Drama at the Emmys is an embarrassment the continued success of Mad Men is only barely helping to rectify.

The Wire was originally my choice for Number 1 on this list, until I began writing an entry for the show that is now Number 1, and I realised I had to promote it. Either way, I remain unfazed in my belief that The Wire is the best television show ever made. You can only do worse.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Top 10 T.V. Shows: 3. Arrested Development

Arrested Development is just about the only comedy I'd ever credit with having vision. It is so singular in its execution, so unrivaled, that it leaves every other sitcom in the dust. M*A*S*H, its closest peer on this list, is a Greater show, in relation to its impact and influence, but Arrested Development is the perfect comedy. It exists for no reason but to amuse, and it is astonishingly good at it.

Arrested Development is the modern farce. It never once attempts to preach or to teach, it never tries to make the world a better place by any means other than by simply existing. It aims only to be hysterical. It blends the same range of humour you find in The Simpsons with a strange brand all its own, that's impossible to describe. You just have to experience it.

Across the board, the performances are pitch-perfect. The writing is extraordinary. There's an attention to detail this show has which is individual. When one of the characters auditions for the Blue Man Group, smears of blue paint can be seen all over the sets, quietly sitting in the background for anyone to notice. And they are funny, every time. Familiarity with the material serves to make it better. Arrested Development is funnier the more you watch it, as you notice more things.

It was, of course, under-watched in its time. But its commercial failure was key to its ultimate survival. The last season, when everyone knew the show would be canceled, is the crown jewel. The writers and actors let loose, doing everything they wanted, knowing they'd never have the chance again. Many bemoaned that the greatest show on television was being taken away from us when the news arrived that, yes, Arrested Development was in its death throws. But even those people will admit it was a gift; Arrested Development will forever remain pristine, never given the opportunity to become less than what it was, like The West Wing after Aaron Sorkin left, or like The Simpsons has been doing for the last ten years.

Arrested Development hasn't been as influential as either M*A*S*H or The Simpsons, or many other shows not on this list. And it never will be. It's too unique, and too perfect. No one will ever try this again.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Top 10 T.V. Shows: 4. Mad Men

Who is Don Draper?

This question is, quite possibly, the best thing to happen to television in the last ten years. I would find it hard to argue that Don Draper isn't the most compelling protagonist of any television series. You'd be hard-pressed to find any one character I've found more consistently intriguing, fascinating, and frustrating. His decline from suave, sophisticated charmer to drunk lech in the beginning of season four has been one of the most intensely disappointing experiences I've ever been through. Well, within the realm of fictional entertainment, at least.

But enough about Draper. The writing on Mad Men is in a league all its own. There is no other ongoing series on television with writing this good, full stop. Most shows with predetermined ends and a limited run don't manage to stay as focused and on-the-ball as Mad Men has over three perfect seasons, and a fourth off to an auspicious start. No ongoing character is left unexplored. We have an idea of the personal lives of all the individuals. Some, of course, are more developed than others, but Mad Men never takes anyone for granted.

I became aware of shows introducing characters for plot purposes when I started watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer. A character would be introduced, and the next episode would see them either be, or be subject to, a demon. Many dramatic shows follow this format, as it's a good way to keep things moving. It's nice, but it feels artificial. Mad Men introduces new characters in a similar way, but it takes its time. Like The Wire before it, Mad Men offers the promise that every character will have an important part to play, at some point or another. No one is simply there.

It's also a gob-smackingly pretty show. The best arguments for High-Definition cable I've seen are The World Cup and Mad Men. The cinematography, and the retro look, are so rich and detailed, you get the same satisfaction from looking at an episode as you'd get from biting into a juicy apple. It's really that great.

A large part of the appeal of the show is its attention to detail for the early 1960's. Sexism is absolutely everywhere. With an entirely white cast of characters, as befits a 1960's marketing firm in Manhattan, Martin Luther King, Jr. dies without practically any mention, while JFK's assassination all but debilitates most of them. You watch the sexism and realize that hasn't gone away, it's just become quieter. You watch the racism and realize the same. Perhaps Mad Men's greatest feat is in showing us just how little we've changed since a time most of us think of as being the stone age.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Top 10 T.V. Shows: 5. M*A*S*H

For the first ten years of my life, I didn't have television. My mom and I had a t.v. and a VCR, but there was no cable, and we lived in a valley between two massive, signal-blocking mountains. It sounds ridiculous, but it's the truth. My earliest exposures to television were through video tapes of M*A*S*H we received in the mail. From just about as early as I can remember, I lived for those tapes. A cassette with three new episodes would arrive every month, and I'd consume it. I have the first four seasons of this show all but memorized, and the great thing is they never depreciate.

A lot of my sense of humour can be traced back to this show. Captain Benjamin Franklin Pierce -more commonly known as Hawkeye- and I share a fondness for bad puns. We share a fondness for good puns, too, but those circumstances present themselves so much less frequently. There are occasional moments of slapstick, but it's never something to watch the show for. This is a show more about the one-liners, about not what I'd call underacting, but about balancing the outright hilarious with the wry observation. I've been watching this show for sixteen years, and I'm still noticing new jokes. The number of sexual jokes they got away with in the seventies (Hawkeye walks into a tent to find Hot Lips giving Frank Burns a back massage with a hand vibrator: "I've always said it; behind every great man, there's a woman with a vibrator.") is incredible. That they got away with so much is a tribute to the writing. There's an early episode about a gay soldier, and it's handled so delicately that it took me until I was twenty-one to notice.

M*A*S*H was one of the first shows to allow its characters to change. The Hawkeye of the Pilot episode is not the same Hawkeye we say goodbye to (albeit in an unfulfilling manner) in "Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen." Major Houlihan went from an uptight stickler for the rules to an understanding and caring individual, prone to relapses though she may occasionally be. Klinger stops wearing dresses, which is remarkable for the fact that they did not allow the dresses to ultimately define the character. When he stepped into uniform, he was still a full human being, with a story and characteristics we cared about. The show could have run for six or seven successful years without striving to make such changes, but it never stood still.

There were some remarkable individual episodes, and the show constantly tackled big themes. There's a joke in Futurama where a doctor, imitating Alan Alda in this show, has a switch that goes from something like "Funny" to "Maudlin." The show, at times, didn't handle the balance well, but it so often did that you can hardly hold the failed moments against it. Season seven includes an episode about the dreams experienced by the officers as they are deprived of sleep. I have not seen it since I was eight or nine, but I can still remember it clear as day. There are not a lot of laughs in that half-hour. It was a genuinely troubling episode. At the time, I found it terrifying.

The show also liked to shake things up, which is unusual in a successful sitcom. When Larry Linville, who'd portrayed Frank Burns for three seasons, left the show, they replaced him not with a character of similar description, but almost his polar opposite. Charles Emerson Winchester III, a man of great ego and towering intellect, took his place, providing lead character Hawkeye not with a foil of interminably inferior status, but with a man who was definitely his equal, and arguably his better. When you're the highest rated show on television, there's no reason to change the status quo like that. But M*A*S*H never shied away from a challenge.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Top 10 T.V. Shows: 6. Battlestar Galactica (Reimagining)

Ten years ago, Battlestar Galactica was a mark of the extremophiles of nerdom. To profess a fondness for the 1970's television series, even in passing, was to brand yourself. You were an outcast. You wore the scarlet BSG.

I was not aware of the reimagined Battlestar Galactica when it first came on the air. But I like to imagine, when the first episode of the miniseries was about to broadcast, that a small, quiet group of fans were gathered around the televisions in their parents' basements, hoping that finally, their sweet, sweet love for the original BSG would be vindicated. Their hopes, I can only assume, were wildly exceeded.

To call this a reimagining is to undersell what has been done. The source materials exist solely in the names and set designs. The characters, the stories, the tone... there is nothing here to relate it to the original program. The only reason to keep the name I can imagine is that it was guaranteed to bring the SyFy network- then still Sci-Fi- a certain amount of audience.

I will admit, unlike every other deceased program on this list, I have not finished BSG yet. I am halfway through the third of four seasons. Given that the writers were already focused on how it would conclude by that stage in production, I'm not concerned about the quality sliding. There's nowhere to go from here but up. In some ways, BSG is the show Lost wanted to be. It is cramped. It is paranoid. There is constant tension, without it ever becoming wearing. Things aren't left unexplained, but you are constantly asking questions. The best decision they made with this new version was to make some of the Cylons, the robot enemies responsible in this version for almost wiping out the human race, resemble humans. There are 12 models. You learn of them slowly, one model at a time, as events progress. It's all handled brilliantly, and I love the way the show doesn't shy away from exploring the tension between the humans and cylons on those occasions when they are forced to coexist.

The thrills are a big part of BSG, so it's important to make a distinction here; Lost is a thrill ride the first time through. So is Dexter. But neither of those shows are on this list. Lost stretched itself out for too long; had they stayed focused the whole time, things might be different. More importantly, neither Dexter nor Lost holds any great amount of entertainment value when you start to view it a second time. That's because both shows are predicated on the thrill of not knowing. The characters in those shows, particularly Dexter, are overshadowed by the stories. There's no reason to come back.

There are thrills, there are blistering action scenes, and the special effects look damn good. These things make the show easy to get into. But what keeps me coming back, of course, is that BSG has characters, and it develops them. I just finished watching the episode "Unfinished Business," an entirely character-driven piece centered around a boxing competition. The last two and a half seasons have been relatively relentless in their forward progress. It felt good to take an episode to let everything settle, for us to take stock of where we've been with these people, and to think about where we're going.

(ed.'s note: BSG is one of two shows on this list with the chance for forward mobility.)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Top 10 T.V. Shows: 7. The Simpsons

Well, I mean, really.

It's not just about the longevity, though that's not to be belittled. It's not about the animation, though it's way better than most people give The Simpsons credit for. It's not about that amazing theme song, which we've all heard so many times that we forget just how bonkers it is. It's about the writing. It's about the characters. In its prime from season 3 to season 8, The Simpsons was not only the best sitcom on television, it was the best show, period.

What is it that makes The Simpsons so exemplary? It is the summation of every sitcom to come before it, and some that came during it. From The Dick Van Dyke Show to Married... With Children, it can all be found within the world of Springfield. Subsequently, the range of the humour is unmatched. The show easily coasts between traditional jokes, puns, sight gags, slapstick, surrealism, popular references, obscure references... No source of humour has been left unexplored. The balance of low-brow and high-brow is beyond admirable, it's almost impossible. That's why The Simpsons has appealed to so many people for so long; it manages to be stupid and smart, often in the same sentence.

But it isn't just the humour. Futurama, during its initial four-season run, was funnier than The Simpsons has ever been. What Futurama lacks that The Simpsons has in spades is heart. There is a real emotional core at the center of the madness. There are real relationships between the characters, and you grow to care about the characters. For all the differences between them, Bart and Lisa Simpson clearly love one another. We never question why Marge is with Homer; for all the woe he brings upon the family, they do love one another, and they both love their children. That's what matters the most in a traditional family sitcom, that we care for the characters and that we can sense that they care for one another.

Top 10 T.V. Shows: 8. Foster's Home for Imagine Friends

It starts, as most programs do, with the theme song. A series of rising harmonics, followed by what sounds like a bunch of instruments winding up, launch us into a plonky, almost clunky, somehow mischievous melody, played simultaneously on a piano and, appropriately enough, a kazoo. It's wonderful. A girl once played it for me on the piano, and I remarked that it was one of the sexiest things I'd ever seen. I stand by that.

Few shows have run as fully with a premise as Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends. Not only is the idea, a foster home for abandoned imaginary friends owned by an eccentric old lady with a seemingly endless (and pretty much unmentioned) fortune, a great one, but look at the designs! I don't believe I've ever seen a show where there's so much variety in the composition of the characters. The imaginary friends are allowed to inhabit an incredibly wide variety of styles. Watch it some time with a knowledgeable visual arts student. They'll spend the episode pointing out all the shout-outs to different influential designers.

But, the ongoing evidence of Gossip Girl aside, a show cannot get by on looks alone. There was always a heart to Foster's, as you always got the sense that characters genuinely like and care for one another. At the core is the relationship between 8-year-old Mac and his 5-year-old imaginary friend, Blooregard Q Kazoo. "Bloo," if you prefer. The most remarkable thing about this show is the way their relationship always feels genuine. They drive each other nuts, they make each other angry, and they don't always make the best choices, but at the end of the day, they'll end up on the floor together, laughing hysterically over the same thing. That you can not only observe, but always feel the relationship between them is, I think, the most impressive part.

Over six seasons, Foster's never allowed itself to become formulaic, which is commendable in any normal program, but astonishing for a program aimed at children. And it should be praised for that. But, more than anything else, Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends should be lauded for knowing the secret to making a lasting kids' program, and never condescending to its audience. It's a show you can watch at any age and find something to appreciate.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Top 10 T.V. Shows: 9. Creature Comforts

I still can't get over how they made it. The concept alone is perfect. The crew behind ITV's Creature Comforts, based on a short film and a series of advertisements created by Nick Park of Wallace and Gromit fame, went around Great Britain, interviewing the local folk. They amassed hours and hours of recordings, nothing but seemingly mundane answers to everyday questions. Then they weeded the garden, assigned animals to represent fixed people (Every time you see the two dogs in the dumpsters, no matter the episode, the same two people, who were interviewed together, provide the voices), and let it play.

The humour is very dry. One of my favourite moments comes in the second episode, when a women in the guise of a bright yellow budgie comments on why she doesn't like doctors; "Doctors have always scared me because when I was born I nearly died. I had a 50-50 percent chance of living when I was born and I was in a little incubator and my eyes were all covered over and I was yellow. Which was awful." The extemporized, genuine nature of the dialogue prevents any opportunity for cheap puns or groan-inducing lines.

One of the master-strokes of the show is the exclusion of the questions. We never hear the interviewer, an ever-present hand holding a microphone in the corner of the screen, and we're left to try and work out where these often bizarre answers could possibly have come from. That's a great deal of the laughter, right there. A lesser show would have included the questions, in an attempt to provide the setup to prepare us for the punchline. Creature Comforts simply gives the results, and it's all the better for trusting us to keep up.

A large portion of animated t.v. shows get by with half-assed animation. For every Simpsons, there's a Family Guy (We can debate the merits of the writing all day, but it's not a shining beacon of what's possible with pencil and paper. Or pen and tablet. Or whatever.). My last reason for loving Creature Comforts is the quality of the animation. Every aspect is impeccable. The character designs are flawless; every animal's personality is established from the moment they appear on screen. There are details everywhere, both in the movements of the characters, and in the designs of the backgrounds. A great running gag to look out for is how the interviewer handles the lioness. While you watch, remember you're looking at a medium that requires 24 frames per second, and a day where two seconds of footage are shot is considered a blisteringly successful one. Those little touches throughout are responsible for incredible amounts of extra work. And it's all worth it for the best unscripted fiction show in the history of television.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Top 10 T.V. Shows: 10. Blackadder

Just look at that face. You want to punch it, don't you?

That's the beauty of Edmund Blackadder; He's a protagonist we don't so much love to hate as we just want to deck him once. You feel like he deserves it, even as you're rooting for him. Something about that face.

In the first series, Blackadder was about as bright as a burnt-out bulb, really, and his man-servant Baldrick was the brains behind the operation. While the brilliant Rowen Atkinson played dim with tenacity, you never really bought it, did you? He's got an intelligent glint in his eyes that few can match, and it was once the roles were reversed in the second series that things took off.

The revised Edmund is one of the great television protagonists. He's cocky, self-important, conceited, clever, witty, and as arrogant as anything. It should make him alienating, but we identified with the man too clever for his own good set adrift in an ocean of morons. That's the beauty of Edmund, really; even if we don't actually identify with that, even if we are one of the morons, we swear we're right there with him, and so he appeals to everyone.

Another way you can tell this is great television: Everyone has a different favourite series. Few people would pick the first (which is worth watching simply for this man), but the remaining three stand pretty evenly divided. I'm a big fan of the comedy in Series 2 ("Bob" is one of my favourite individual episodes of any comedy), the characters in Series 3 (Hugh Laurie as the Prince is, well, spectacular, really), and the stories in Series 4.

I strongly considered Yes, Minister for this slot. I adore the jokes in that show ("You know what it is, Dudley's envious of me." "It is one of the seven Dudley sins." I could go on and on.). And I imagine Father Ted could also have a very strong go at the number 10 spot. But what separates Black Adder is how it ends. Yes, Minister, like so many comedies, ends while maintaining the status quo, and, to be fair to Father Ted, they didn't have a chance to end it properly. But the finale of Black Adder Goes Fourth is an incredible achievement. At just the right moment, Edmund stops thinking of himself as above everyone else, and reveals himself to be profoundly human. I cried, I'm not ashamed to admit it.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Top 10 T.V. Shows; Prelude

What is it about lists? Why do we like them so much? I really can't say. I just know I love them. Even while finding them inherently ridiculous.

While lists present us with a nice, orderly presentation of what we feel to be the best or the worst, there's really no logic to them. It's very rare for someone to have a definitive favourite. Getting the shortlist is often easy enough; Ask me to tell you my favourite album, song, book, or movie, and I could get a Top 10 list on your desk within a few hours. It's the ordering them after that which proves trickier. And, to some extent, I'd argue there's little value. You may be able to get them within a few places, but it's the rare exception where you can say, "No, that is in fact my favourite television show, or movie." There's a lot of arbitrary placement within the designations.

Then there's the tricky balance of Best and Favourite. My lists of Favourite Movies and Best Movies are drastically different. Citizen Kane does not appear on my list of 10 Favourites, but it's in the top two or three for Best, as an example. And then there's the designation of Greatest, which takes into account influence and longevity. Best and Greatest often overlap, but there's a fine, fine difference there. I feel like lists don't take enough time to form a strong distinction between those categories.

What do lists tell us, anyway? They give us a sense of the individual's taste, I suppose. And we like making them because they bestow unto we the listers a temporary sense that, yes, our opinions on the subject really do matter. The existence of most blogs, this one not only included but of an exemplary nature, serves to strengthen the point.

Having said all that, I, over the next week or so, will be presenting my Top 10 Favourite Television Shows. Favourite, mind you. Not Best. And not Greatest. And I'll be doing it one entry at a time, just to keep you in suspense. Because I like to tell myself that you care.

The first installment will come tomorrow night.

Thursday, August 19, 2010


A lot has been made recently of the proposed mosque in New York City. I generally try to stay away from current issues, but I find it impossible to remain silent in this case. Let me be unequivocal when I state that we should not allow the mosque to be built on its proposed site, a mere two blocks from Ground Zero, our nation's searing, raw wound. Some of you will be surprised to hear me say that. Some of you might even be outraged. But, please, I beg you, listen.

A lot of the talk has been about turning this mosque away. "We don't want this to be interpreted as an infringement on freedom of religion," opponents say. "We just wish Muslims were more sensitive to how the rest of us feel." Build it further from the site, and the problems will go away. Personally, I think we should go the opposite direction; I think the Mosque should be built on ground zero.

What's a better monument to those who died on September 11th than a mosque, built on the same ground? It shows understanding, it shows that the terrorists didn't win. What's better than a community center, fostering a better understanding between those who live in the area? Something that will prevent future cultural disparities like the catalysts behind those attacks from happening again? What's a better sign that the United States of America is coming back into its rightful place, as a beacon for the world, as a leader not through de facto economic conditions (give or take a few trillion), but through its conduct and its thoughts? That we've recovered, and we're ready to move on? What's a better big middle finger to the people behind those attacks than a Mosque, built in the very place they attacked us? What's a better "Fuck Off" than a physical representation of the population of the U.S. continuing to embrace Muslims, despite the wedge that should never have come between us in the first place?

Nothing. That's what. You could make them move it away, if you really wanted, and show the rest of the world that we are exactly the immature lot of overgrown, paranoid, nationalistic babies we keep proving ourselves to be.

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Suburbs

The Suburbs
Arcade Fire

When Arcade Fire first came around, I wasn't one for them. I actively disliked them. I felt they were over-hyped, an easy hipster (the term didn't exist yet, but I knew what I meant) benchmark for the self-consciously hip. They were over-rated, and would soon disappear into obscurity. Of course, I hadn't listened to a note of their music.

When I finally deigned to listen, a few months after Neon Bible came out, it took a while, but I got there. And I really enjoy that album. I do not love it, but I feel it every time I listen to it, which is what Arcade Fire are after. They do not make music to contemplate cooly, though you're welcome to if you'd like. They make music that's meant to get right into the core of you and slap you around, to stir up those emotions so many musicians forget.

It took me another two and a half years to listen to Funeral. That was about two weeks ago. And it's really brilliant. I haven't heard an album that good in years. It's better than most of my favourite albums, something I'll have to take into account the next time I do the poll.

Due to my conversion, I've been listening to The Suburbs with a bit more intent. Like Joanna Newsom's imposing Have One on Me, an album I still haven't worked all the way through (You try it. That's right. You can't either. Not all at once, anyway.), I haven't sat through the entirety of what's on offer here. I have listened to the whole thing, just not all at once. And I haven't made it through the album twice. I've listened to 3/4 of it twice, and that 3/4 is great. I imagine the last fourth will fall in line come its second go.

They're still reaching for the emotional gist. Win Butler has calmed down since the last album, likely out of a sense of futility, and it suits him. Neon Bible's weakest point was hard to define from its greatest strength; it is a record of bombast and straight-forward lyrics. "Better stop now, before it's too late. Eating in the ghetto on a hundred-dollar plate," he said, intoning the oncoming recession and venting frustration over six years of an inept President.

Here, he's more alone. It's called The Suburbs, but there is no song here about the soul-crushing nature of that particular residential community. Instead, it is suggested in the weariness of the everyday people. There are grand statements here, as there will always be on an Arcade Fire album (I hope), but they are presented with tact instead of a bullhorn. God bless 'im for it. Is it better than Funeral? No. And don't bother asking that question ever again. Because little is. But it is better than Neon Bible. Where that one was immediate, this one requires your patience, and a little time, to reveal how truly good it is.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Untitled Setlist #1

I have to apologise for yesterday's playlist; I was hasty, and upon further listening, it just doesn't work. I'll be editing it over the next few weeks in an attempt to get it right, because there are some things there I really like. Particularly the string of "History Song," "The Greatest," and "Indoor Fireworks."

Here, in the mean time, is a significantly happier set I made today.

1."Sie Liebt Dich" by The Beatles
2."Ticks" by Brad Paisley
3."Dreaming of You" by The Coral
4."Anything You Want" by Spoon
5."Memo to My Son" by Randy Newman
6."You're So Pretty..." by Field Music
7."All Is Love" by Karen O and the Kids
8."Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)" by Kate Bush
9."Tribulations" by LCD Soundsystem
10."Heartbeat" by Annie

Sunday, August 8, 2010

This is Not a Happy Playlist

1."Death Take Your Fiddle," Spiritualized, Songs in A&E
2."Atoms for Peace," Thom Yorke, The Eraser
3."I Don't Wanna Grow Up," Tom Waits, The Bone Machine
4."Lemonworld," The National, High Violet
5."History Song," The Good, The Bad & The Queen, The Good, The Bad & The Queen
6."The Greatest," Cat Power, The Greatest
7."Indoor Fireworks," Elvis Costello, King of America
8."All I Want," LCD Soundsystem, This Is Happening

This playlist was assembled for a friend going through a "Folk Phase." I wanted to stay true to that spirit in what I chose for her, either aesthetically or formally. "Death Take Your Fiddle" and "Indoor Fireworks" are fairly straightforward in their being folk-related, while "Atoms for Peace" and "All I Want," for example, are not folk in timbre, but they are formally rooted in folk construction.

I'm a big fan of transitioning through sounds: the guitar sound carries over from "I Don't Want to Grow Up" into "Lemonworld"; the wigged-out piano on the end of "History Song" leads into the melancholy chords of "The Greatest." "All I Want" ends the disc symbolically, as this is meant to bridge someone out of folk into the wider world of... I don't know, whatever it is it's vaguely hipster.

The mood is overwhelmingly bleak; this may not be the best collection of songs to send to someone you've a crush on. Unless they know you have a crush on them. Then good on ya. If there's a Part 2, it will be a touch perkier. All told, it runs about 30 minutes. I'd say it uses them well.