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Because you can’t possibly have enough “Best Of The Year” lists on the Internet.

STANDARD DISCLAIMER: If yr favorite movie of 2016 isn’t here, it’s likely because (1) I didn’t get a chance to see it, (2) it hasn’t been released in Hong Kong yet, or (3) I did see it but didn’t like it as much as you did. Also, if some of these seem kind of old, it’s because their release date was 2015 for yr country, but 2016 for Hong Kong. See?

Also, I didn’t actually watch that many movies in 2016, due to the aforementioned change in work schedule. I’m hoping to change that this year.


1. A Perfect Day
2. The Big Short
3. Rogue One
4. Ghostbusters
5. Eye In The Sky
6. Hail, Caesar!
7. Trumbo
8. The Hateful Eight
9. Zootopia
10. The Mermaid


Star Trek: Beyond
The Secret Life Of Pets
The Nice Guys


A Bigger Splash


The Magnificent 7


Independence Day: Resurgence




Independence Day: Resurgence

The long version, blah blah blah )

The balcony is closed,

This is dF

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Yes, I still do this.

And this year, we continued the trend of the last few years in which I’m buying a lot less new music than I used to. In fact, the releases you see below are pretty much every LP/EP I bought or acquired in 2016. So rather than do a Top 20, I’m going to do a Top 10 and categorize everything else under “Honorable Mentions”.

Ironically, there were plenty more new releases I was interested in this year, but thanks to the online preview ability we have these days (and I’m pretty sure that is what’s makes a huge difference in my buying patterns), I passed on them. Either I wasn’t that knocked out by what I heard, or it was okay but I just couldn’t imagine myself still listening to it a year from now. I don't think every album has to be an instant classic, of course – and indeed the majority of this list wouldn't qualify for that description. But there wasn’t enough incentive to click “buy”, I suppose.

The other thing I should address is the fact that three albums here were Obvious Candidates for every Best of 2016 list in the Western hemisphere. You’d be hard pressed to find a Top 10 list that doesn’t have David Bowie, Leonard Cohen and/or Nick Cave on it. Of course, there will probably always be debate on whether any of these albums would get as much critical acclaim if they had been made under different, less tragic circumstances (i.e. Bowie and Cohen dying shortly after the album's release, and the death of Cave’s son Arthur). But I feel pretty strongly that all three of them warrant the hype on their own merit, if only because (1) I liked the four Blackstar tracks I heard before Bowie died, and (2) I liked the lead-off single from Skeleton Tree before I even knew about Cave’s son.

Blimey, what a year, eh?

DISCLAIMER: Based on music I actually bought between December 2015 and November 2016, and therefore a useless metric for everyone else.


1. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Skeleton Tree (Bad Seed Ltd)
2. David Bowie, Blackstar (ISO/Columbia)
3. The Claypool Lennon Delerium, Monolith Of Phobos (PIAS/Prawn Song/Chimera)
4. De La Soul, And The Anomymous Nobody (AOI)
5. Shonen Knife, Adventure (Damnably)
6. Bob Mould, Patch The Sky (Merge)
7. The Thermals, We Disappear (Saddle Creek)
8. Leonard Cohen, You Want It Darker (Columbia)
9. Yello, Toy (Polydor/Island)
10. Fantastic Negrito, The Last Days Of Oakland (Blackball Universe)


John Carpenter, Lost Themes II (Sacred Bones)
Jambinai, A Hermitage (Bella Union)
Lush, Blind Spot EP (Edamame)
Iggy Pop, Post Pop Depression (Caroline)
Dan Sartain, Century Plaza (One Little Indian)
Seratones, Seratones On Audiotree Live (Audiotree)
Tacocat, Lost Time (Hardly Art)
Tricot, Kabuku EP (Bakuretsu Records)
Underworld, Barbara Barbara, We Face A Shining Future (Caroline)
Tony Joe White, Rain Crow (Yep Roc)


Kate Bush, Before The Dawn (Fish People)


Richard Michael John Hall, Space Rock (Bandcamp)


Banäna Deäthmüffins, Political Songs For Miley Cyrus To Sing


Extended play! The details! )

Up next: the films!

This is dF
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Because you can’t possibly have enough “Best Of The Year” lists on the Internet.

STANDARD DISCLAIMER: If yr favorite movie of 2015 isn’t here, it’s likely because (1) I didn’t get a chance to see it, (2) it hasn’t been released in Hong Kong yet, or (3) I did see it but didn’t like it as much as you did. Also, if some of these seem kind of old, it’s because their release date was 2014 for yr country, but 2015 for Hong Kong. See?


1. Inside Out
2. Mad Max: Fury Road
3. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
4. Whiplash
5. Ex Machina
6. Selma
7. Chappie
8. Birdman
9. What We Do In The Shadows
10. Bridge Of Spies


The Man From U.N.C.L.E.
Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation


Jurassic World




Kingsman: The Secret Service


Terminator: Genesys

Director's cut!  )

And that’s that for 2015.

Same time next year,

This is dF
defrog: (Default)
Music now. Films tomorrow.

This time last year, the main theme was how little music I found worth buying in 2014:

Maybe it was just a slow year. Or maybe I’ve finally become like my friends who have decided that all modern music sucks and the only good “new” music is old music you haven’t heard before. I’m not convinced of that. Then again, most “new” music I like is really either old bands who are still around or new bands looking to recreate old music.

Anyway, we’ll put the theory to the test in 2015.

We did. And the theory has legs, because 2015 was another relatively uninspiring year in terms of “must listen” music. I only bought 22 albums/EPs this year (a couple of which seemed like a good idea at the time but now make me lament the fact that there are no refunds on iTunes).

That’s not to say the 20 albums on this year’s list are shite. They all have their merits. But only about a third of them were genuinely exciting experiences for me.

So, like last year, this is more of a list of all the music I felt was worth spending money on in 2015 – or at least ones I could actually get copies of. There were a number of new releases I wanted to buy but couldn’t because they weren’t for sale out here in Hong Kong (even on iTunes), and I couldn’t find physical copies when I went to the US in October.

So that’s why new albums by Calexico and Tricot are missing, for example.

Anyway, here’s what I spent 2015 listening to.

DISCLAIMER: Based on music I actually bought/acquired/downloaded/streamed between December 2014 and November 2015, and therefore a useless metric for everyone else.

TOP 20 DEF LPs/EPs OF 2015

1. Public Service Broadcasting, The Race For Space (Test Card Recordings)
2. The Sonics, This is The Sonics (Revox)
3. John Carpenter, Lost Themes (Sacred Bones/Rodeo Suplex)
4. Algiers, Algiers (Matador)
5. Johnny Dowd, That's Your Wife On The Back Of My Horse (Mother Jinx)
6. FFS, FFS (Domino)
7. BadBadNotGood feat. Ghostface Killah, Sour Soul (Lex Records)
8. Violent Femmes, Happy New Year (Add It Up)
9. They Might Be Giants, Why? (Idlewild)
10. The Fall, Sub-Lingual Tablet (Cherry Red)
11. Los Plantronics, Surfing Times (Jansen Plateproduksjon)
12. Dog Party, Volume 4 (Asian Man)
13. Los Tiki Phantoms, Los Tiki Phantoms y El Misterio del Talismán (Discmedi)
14. Dave Cloud and the Gospel Of Power, Today Is The Day They Take Me Away (Fire Records)
15. Motörhead, Bad Magic (UDR)
16. Gwenno , Y Dydd Olaf (Heavenly/PIAS)
17. Rocket From The Tombs, Black Record (Fire Records)
18. Sleater-Kinney, No Cities To Love (Sub Pop)
19. Dengue Fever, The Deepest Lake (Tuk Tuk)
20. The Mutants, Tokyo Nights (Killer Tracks)

Details, blah blah blah ... )

And there you are.

PRODUCTION NOTE: For long-time readers who actually keep up with this kind of thing, I decided to drop this year’s Pre-Show Awards due to a lack of compelling material, apart from the cover art, which I decided to work into the main list.

Tomorrow: the films!

Turning Japanese,

This is dF
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Well, here we are again.

If there’s one thing I can say about 2014 in terms of new music, it’s this: there wasn’t a whole lot out there that really excited me.

Indeed, this is the first time in ages that I thought I might have to do just a Top 10 instead of a Top 20, as I wouldn't have enough new music to do the latter. As it is, I ended up with just 21 albums/EPs, so in a way this is more of a list of everything I felt was worth spending money on (and even then, one of them was given to me for free).

Part of this was due to budget constraints – which is ironic, because I now use iTunes to buy a lot of music, which is far cheaper than buying CDs from Amazon. But the temptation with iTunes is to buy more because it’s cheaper. So I do have to watch it. That said, I didn’t often come across music that made me think, “I MUST HAVE THIS.”

Maybe it was just a slow year. Or maybe I’ve finally become like my friends who have decided that all modern music sucks and the only good “new” music is old music you haven’t heard before. I’m not convinced of that. Then again, most “new” music I like is really either old bands who are still around or new bands looking to recreate old music.

Anyway, we’ll put the theory to the test in 2015.

Meanwhile, here’s what I listened to this year.

DISCLAIMER: Based on music I actually bought/acquired/downloaded/streamed between December 2013 and November 2014, and therefore a useless metric for everyone else. Also, the rankings on this list are sort of like Whose Line Is It Anyway: everything's made up and the points don't matter.

TOP 20 DEF LPs/EPs OF 2014

1. The Cambodian Space Project, Whiskey Cambodia (Metal Postcard)
2. Shonen Knife, Overdrive (Damnably)
3. Primus, Primus and The Chocolate Factory with the Fungi Ensemble (ATO/Prawn Song)
4. Tinariwen, Emmaar (Anti-)
5. The Ghost Of A Saber Tooth Tiger, Midnight Sun (Chimera Music)
6. The Budos Band, Burnt Offering (Daptone Records)
7. The Bombay Royale, The Island Of Dr Electrico (Hope Street Recordings)
8. Bob Mould, Beauty And Ruin (Merge)
9. Dan Sartain, Dudesblood (One Little Indian)
10. Holly Golightly And The Brokeoffs, All Her Fault (Transdreamer)
11. Nanowar Of Steel, A Knight At The Opera (Nanowar CC)
12. Tom Vek, Luck (Moshi Moshi)
13. Archie Bronson Outfit, Wild Crush (Domino)
14. The Pancakes, Sometimes When We Cry (Rewind Records)
15. OFF!, Wasted Years (Vice)
16. Special Thanks x Mix Market, Rock 'n' Roll (K.O.G.A. Records)
17. The Raveonettes, Pe'ahi (Beat Dies Records)
18. Blonde Redhead, Barragán (Hostess)
19. Allah-Las, Worship The Sun (Innovative Leisure)
20. Neil Young, A Letter Home (Reprise/Third Man)

Inquire within for more details )

And there it is.

Same time next year,

This is dF

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Oh yes, we make music lists. Especially at the end of the year.

It’s tradition, you see.

And here at Team Frog International, part of that tradition is opening with some miscellaneous awards that are basically an excuse to mention other albums I bought/acquired/downloaded this year.

Although actually, I only bought/acquired/downloaded 21 new releases this year, so actually there’s not much more to add on that criteria. But there’s always streaming – and cheap jokes – so I do have enough to fill out a blog entry (which is of course the whole point of doing this).

So here we go:


U2, Songs Of Innocence (Island)

By default, obviously. Everyone knows about that Apple marketing stunt. The actual album is a major improvement over No Line On The Horizon, but it takes until the fourth or fifth track for the album to really kick into gear. There’s some worthy songs here, but as U2 albums go, it’s pretty hit-and-miss. There’s also the elephant in the room, which is this: if Apple hadn’t put this in my iTunes for free, would I have bought a copy? The answer is: probably not.


David Bowie, “Sue (Or In A Season Of Crime)”

After all the hoopla over Bowie’s surprise return in 2013 with “Where Are We Now?”, I’d have thought that any new music from The Dame would have warranted more attention than this song got. Released along with the Nothing Has Changed compilation, it’s a jazzy noir ballad recorded with the Maria Schneider Orchestra, and it’s pretty cool (if you like jazzy noir ballads, that is). Maybe it’s because I’m outside of the US media hype bubble, but it didn’t seem to generate that much excitement. All I can say is that if it’s a sign of things to come with his next LP, I’m looking forward to it.


Babymetal, Babymetal (Toy’s Factory)

It’s a prefab J-Pop teenybop dance trio singing death metal songs about chocolate and fox spirits. That beats the crap out of anything that popped up in the Billboard charts or on American Idol. You know this.


Pink Floyd, The Endless River (Columbia)

Okay, this is kind of a joke category. But Floyd’s final album – which is based on outtakes recorded by Rick Wright during the Division Bell sessions – is in essence a tribute to Wright, who died in 2006, making clear just how essential he was to the Floyd “sound”. More than that though, the album’s four “sides” do frequently remind you of earlier classic Floyd albums, musically. That’s also the album’s main weakness – it reminds you that Floyd’s best work, and their days of innovation that made their classic stuff so great, are long behind them. That said, it's a pleasure to listen to them play. As a nostalgia trip, it’s actually a nice album.


Richard MF Hall, "1974 Syd Barrett Sessions (finished)"

You can read the full backstory here. The short version is this: EMI talked Syd Barrett into going back into the studio in 1974, hoping to get another album out of him. What they got was a few days worth of recording and some barely started tracks before Syd left the music business for good. Richard Hall thoughtfully fleshed them out a little with some added layers of his own. The objective wasn’t to make a “completed” Syd Barrett album but to demonstrate the recordings weren’t the noodlings of a madman but the basis for what could have been a great Barrett album if he’d had the capacity to finish it. In which case, mission accomplished. If nothing else, it’s a fascinating music experiment.


Prince and 3rd Eye Girl, Plectrum Electrum (Warner Bros)

Prince blessed us with two albums in 2014. Neither of them was especially awesome, but this was the better of the two, thanks to backing band 3rd Eye Girl, who are quite good, even if they essentially serve as a Prince gimmick so he can showcase his long-forgotten guitar skills (which are, incidentally, considerable). It’s okay for what it is – if you like yr recycled rock riffs chunky and funky, then this is pretty good. Essential? Well, no.


Prince and 3rd Eye Girl, Plectrum Electrum (Warner Bros)

See above.


Various Artists, Native North America (Vol. 1): Aboriginal Folk, Rock, and Country 1966–1985 (Light In The Attic)

Leave it to Light In The Attic to release an anthology of obscure songs by North American Aboriginal artists recorded over a 19-year period, collected by Vancouver-based record archaeologist and curator Kevin “Sipreano” Howes. From the press materials: “You’ll hear Arctic garage rock from the Nunavik region of northern Quebec, melancholy Yup’ik folk from Alaska, and hushed country blues from the Wagmatcook First Nation reserve in Nova Scotia. You’ll hear echoes of Neil Young, Velvet Underground, Leonard Cohen, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Johnny Cash, and more among the songs, but injected with Native consciousness, storytelling, poetry, history, and ceremony.” Namedropping aside, it’s a fascinating untold chapter in 20th Century music, and a lot of these tracks deserve a wider audience.


Kate Bush, The Dreaming (EMI)

I made this category up because (1) I didn’t buy any reissues in 2014 and (2) I spent a lot of time listening to this. Kate Bush is one of those artists I listened to a lot in the 80s, but lost track of as I moved on to other kinds of music (and ended up selling a lot of my old cassettes for needed cash). Inspired by all the ink over her comeback show in the UK, I saw this in a used CD shop and decided it was time to revisit her music. I’m glad I did. It’s amazing this album was considered a commercial failure at the time because it was too eccentric for the pop charts even by Bush’s own standards. To me it sounds fresh, original, inventive and brave. It may be over 30 years old, but it’s one of the best albums I’ve heard all year.


In the category of Albums I Bought:

And in the category of Albums I Didn’t Buy:

Tomorrow: the Big List!

The suspense is killing you,

This is dF

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Because you can’t possibly have enough “Best Of The Year” lists on the Internet.

Films now. Music soon.

STANDARD DISCLAIMER: If yr favorite movie of 2014 isn’t here, it’s likely because (1) I didn’t get a chance to see it, (2) it hasn’t been released in Hong Kong yet, or (3) I did see it but didn’t like it as much as you did. Also, if some of these seem kind of old, it’s because their release date was 2013 for yr country, but 2014 for Hong Kong. Get me?


1. The Grand Budapest Hotel
2. Interstellar
3. The Wolf Of Wall Street
4. Edge Of Tomorrow
5. Lucy
6. Godzilla
7. A Most Wanted Man
8. The Railway Man
9. Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes
10. The Monuments Men


American Hustle
Only Lovers Left Alive
X-Men: Days Of Future Past


Kiki's Delivery Service


The Two Faces Of January


Transformers: Age Of Extinction

Want capsule reviews? Cos we got some right here )

Tomorrow: the music! 

dF out

defrog: (Default)
Here’s a sort of book meme:

io9 has posted a list of 21 of “the most influential science fiction and fantasy books”. It’s not meant to be definitive or complete. But a list is a list.

And this is what they came up with:

1) The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
2) 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne

3) Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delaney
4) Lord of the Rings - J.R.R. Tolkien
5) War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells
6) Foundation by Isaac Asimov
7) Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein

8) Dangerous Visions, Edited by Harlan Ellison
8) Childhood's End by Arthur C. Clarke
9) Ringworld by Larry Niven

10) The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin
11) Neuromancer by William Gibson
12) Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson

13) A Game of Thrones - George R.R. Martin
14) Kindred by Octavia Butler
15) Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J.K. Rowling
16) The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
17) The Wind-Up Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi
18) The Forever War by Joe Haldeman
19) Slaughter-House Five by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
20) The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury

21) Dune - Frank Herbert

You can read the justifications here.

The ones in bold font are ones that I’ve read.

The ones in italics are ones I have considered reading.

As for the rest … either I have no real interest or (in the case of Tolkien and Herbert) I’ve attempted to read them and gave up.

The same goes for Ursula Le Guin, though not for that specific book. I tried The Dispossessed and couldn’t get into it, but I could be tempted to try another one of her books. Certainly enough people whose opinion I respect have suggested I try the Earthsea books. So I can see myself giving her another try.

Octavia Butler I’m less sure about. I read one of her Patternmaster books (Mind Of My Mind) and while I actually finished it, it didn’t really do much for me. Maybe some of you can advise me if Kindred is worth trying.

I’m sure some may question the presence of Harry Potter and The Hunger Games. I’m not entirely convinced about the latter. I’ve never read the books, but the justification provided by io9 isn't very strong – I don’t know if simply spawning a crop of cash-in imitators counts as “changing SF/F forever”. And anyway, it’s not like overthrowing authoritarian regimes hasn’t been a SF/F staple since at least the 1930s.

However, I think an argument can be made for Harry Potter, in the sense that I can’t name another book series in the history of book publishing where acquiring and reading the latest episode became a global group activity. Maybe it happens with the latest Game Of Thrones novels, but not nearly on the same level.

Speaking of which, I’m still not interested in A Game Of Thrones. At least not right now. I’m not ruling it out, but it’s not a big priority for me right now. I’m also indifferent to Samuel R. Delaney. I’ve never read him, but the books of his I’ve seen on shelves didn’t really interest me. Maybe one day they will.

As for the ones I have read … the only one I’m not that excited about is 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea. It’s good, and I won’t deny Verne’s influence in SF, but I found it tedious at times. Apart from that, I’d highly recommend any of the others.

I’m gonna change yr life,

This is dF

defrog: (Default)
Speaking of Classic Rock™ ...

I posted this on Facebook recently, but there’s no reason not to post it here.


Name ten albums that have stuck with you over the years

By no means comprehensive or definitive, but these are ten that definitely stick out.



1. David Bowie, Diamond Dogs
Bowie’s homage to 1984, and arguably my favorite Bowie album ever. There’s an otherworldly vibe to it that you just don’t get from his other classic albums, as though he had to tap into an alien universe to get it done.

2. Husker Du, Flip Your Wig
Definitely the most solid Husker Du album, and a major influence on my own attempts to play the guitar.

3. Devo, Freedom Of Choice
My first Devo album, which means that every song is ingrained into my skull, as is Devo’s satirical art-pop theories on devolution.

4. Butthole Surfers, Independent Worm Saloon
Butthole Surfers’ Hairway To Steven showed me just how terrifying and demented a rock band could sound. Their major label debut – produced by John Paul Jones, no less – somehow managed to make them sound scarier.

5. Black Sabbath, The Mob Rules
Black Sabbath showed me how dark a guitar sound could get – especially when you have Ronnie James Dio singing over it.

6. Rush, Moving Pictures
My first Rush album. Seven songs, not a dud on it. Changed my life forever. I can’t really add to that.

7. Electric Light Orchestra, Out Of The Blue
The more I listen to this, the more I realize how layered and diverse an album it is – and how Jeff Lynne’s lyrics actually don’t make as much sense as I originally thought.

8. Ramones, Rocket To Russia
I could also choose their first two albums, but Rocket To Russia is the one I always come back to. It’s the album where everything they were about just gelled. And production-wise it sounds better than their debut, so points for that.

9. Blue Oyster Cult, Secret Treaties
Probably BOC’s most consistently good album, with all the elements you’d want – horror, conspiracies, aliens – wrapped up in really strong songs. Also, it ends with “Astronomy”, the best BOC song ever.

10. Queen, Sheer Heart Attack
I should go with A Night At The Opera, probably, but I had a cassette of this when I was in US Army bootcamp, and I listened to it obsessively. So listening to it now taps into some serious memories for me.

Now I’m here,

This is dF

defrog: (Default)
25 years ago today, this happened.

I remember liking it at the time, but being a little disappointed by some of the gratuitous Hollywood cheese. I also didn’t like the decision to kill off the Joker. But it’s grown on me, and 25 years later, I appreciate it for what it is.

Also, you got bonus Pat Hingle, Billy Dee Williams and JACK FUCKING PALANCE. A bargain!

I also remember the dithering over the choice of Michael Keaton as Batman, and letting Prince put some songs on the soundtrack for no reason. I didn’t mind either decision, and I think Keaton ended up surprising a lot of people. I think Ben Affleck will do the same, provided the script is decent enough.

Anyway, John Scalzi has posted a gratuitous ranking of all the Batman films.

1. The Dark Knight
2. Batman (1989)
3. The LEGO Movie
4. Batman Begins
5. Batman Forever
6. The Dark Knight Rises
7. Batman Returns
8. Batman: The Movie (1966)
9. Batman and Robin

I disagree slightly. Here’s my own gratuitous list:

1. The Dark Knight
2. Batman: The Movie (1966)
3. Batman (1989)
4. Batman Begins
5. The Dark Knight Rises
6. Batman Returns
7. Batman Forever
8. Batman and Robin

NOTE: I haven’t seen The LEGO Movie.

ADDITIONAL NOTE: After #5 there's a big dropoff. After #6 there's an even bigger dropoff.

Never rub another man’s rhubarb,

This is dF
defrog: (Default)
There’s probably a point to this list. I’m not entirely sure what it is. Something about how I can usually appreciate another person’s POV about almost anything, but there are a few things I will never understand the appeal of (besides obvious evil stuff like rape, torture, kiddie porn, broccoli, etc). Something like that.

Anyway, I got a blog to run here, so why not?


1. National/school/sports pride

This gets me into trouble a lot – at least the “national” part. But I’ve never really been a team player – maybe because in the case of schools, sports or countries, I’ve never felt like I was part of the team. School was a miserable experience, and I was always picked last for sports teams at recess (albeit for good reasons – I did suck). And while I've never hated America, I don't especially love it either – at least not in the vague unconditional automatic patriotic way everyone expects from you by sheer virtue of the fact that you were born there. Consequently, I don't feel any particular pride in being from there. I do understand liking/loving a given school, team or country, even for the shallowest of reasons. I can even understand being proud of specific achievements. But I don't understand being proud of the thing itself.

2. American Idol

Or any “reality” talent show. It all looks like one big put-on to me, from the judges to the kinds of acts they book to the audience reactions. The problem, I suppose, is that I’ve never seen music in terms of winners and losers. There’s good music and bad music, but winning one of these shows doesn’t really determine which is which. All they really determine is which artists the music business can make good fast money off of. So I don’t see the appeal.

3. Sitcoms

Or at least any sitcom produced after 1985. It’s an old, tired format that’s lasted well past its sell-by date – which would be okay if they were (1) utilizing situations that I could identify with (which, for the most part, they don’t) or (2) still funny (which, as far as I can tell, they’re not – they seem to tell pretty much the usual standard safe mass-appeal jokes to me). I’m sure many of you can point me to “exceptions” (I get referenced to Big Bang Theory and that Louis CK show a lot), but it doesn’t matter anyway since I don’t really watch TV much anymore (which is probably the real reason for this entry).

4. Drug culture

By which I don’t necessarily mean people who use drugs, but rather people who use drugs to the point that it’s the only cultural reference point in their life. To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, “There is only one thing worse than being around people who get high, and that is being around people who talk about getting high and damn little else.” Mind you, this can be mildly amusing when they try to sound like serious people – i.e. when they make long, detailed arguments in favor of drug legalization. There are few things funnier than some stoner lecturing me about all the benefits that the hemp industry could bring to society besides the getting-high part. Dude, yr fooling no one – the “getting high without going to jail” part is the only benefit yr even remotely interested in. 

(NOTE: I’m not saying there are no benefits to legalizing hemp. I’m saying stoners who support legalization usually only really care about the legal-high benefit.) 

5. Nun porn

I don't see the appeal of it. At all. Sorry. I’m not especially offended by it. I just don’t see how it’s supposed to be “extra” naughty as opposed to secular porn. Maybe you have to be a lapsed Catholic to really appreciate it. And sure, different strokes and all. But … no.

I don’t get it,

This is dF

defrog: (Default)
It’s that time again. 2013 is a done deal, and in terms of music it differed from 2012 in three distinct ways: (1) more digital downloads, (2) more variety and (2) more surprises.

Point (3) really fed Point (2) – I just kept being tipped off to certain albums (usually friend recommendations) that I otherwise wouldn’t have known about or tried. And of course, no one was expecting a comeback album from David Bowie, much less a good one.

As for Point (1), it was a question of budget. With local CD stores shrinking and/or disappearing, I really do rely on Amazon to get CDs I actually like, and the international shipping surcharge is murder. Plus, let’s be honest – the first thing I do with the CD is rip it and stick the songs on my iPod. My only concern with digital has been making sure I can keep copies of them (one great thing about CDs – they serve as physical back-ups for my MP3s). But after some experimentation, I found the local iTunes to be pretty reliable. (I’d buy from Amazon, but only Americans are allowed to buy digital tracks there, because piracy is killing music, you see). And you can’t beat the price. However, I still buy CDs for albums I can get locally that are worth the extra money.

Anyway …

Like last year, 2013 yielded a field of good albums but not many awesome ones. Indeed, some of the better releases of 2013 weren’t new music at all, but re-releases of old music (as covered in our pre-show awards). And, as always, there’s not much here in the way of new acts – most of the artists on my list are still old-timers, with some even pushing their early 70s.

Still, this is one of the stronger Top 10s I’ve had in awhile. So it’s all good, really.

Let’s get to it.

DISCLAIMER: Based on music I actually bought/acquired/downloaded between December 2012 and November 2013, and therefore a useless metric for everyone else.


1. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Push The Sky Away (Bad Seed Ltd)
2. David Bowie, The Next Day (ISO/Columbia)
3. The Thermals, Desperate Ground (Saddle Creek Records)
4. Dog Party, Lost Control (Asian Man Records)
5. Joanna Wang, Galaxy Crisis: The Strangest Midnight Broadcast (Sony)

6. Marnie Stern, The Chronicles Of Marnia (Kill Rock Stars)
7. Mark Lanegan and Duke Garwood, Black Pudding (Heavenly)
8. David Lynch, The Big Dream (Sunday Best)
9. Neko Case, The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You (Anti-)
10. Throwing Muses, Purgatory/Paradise (Throwing Music)

11. Tony Joe White, Hoodoo (Yep Roc)
12. The Fall, Re-Mit (Cherry Red)
13. Johnny Dowd, Do The Gargon (Mother Jinx Records)
14. MIA, Matangi (Interscope)
15. Janelle Monae, The Electric Lady (Bad Boy/Wondaland)

16. The Relatives, The Electric Word (Yep Roc)
17. Black Sabbath, 13 (Vertigo)
18. They Might Be Giants, Nanobots (Idlewild/Megaforce)
19. !!!, Thr!!!er (Warp)
20. Petra Haden, Petra Goes To The Movies (Anti-)

Capsule reviews included! )

And we’re done here.

Same time next year,

This is dF

defrog: (Default)
It’s a tradition here at Team Frog International to post our favorite record albums of the year. That’ll happen tomorrow.

Meanwhile, also in accordance with tradition, here are some miscellaneous awards that are basically an excuse to mention other albums I got this year.

It builds up suspense, you see. Because I know this is the list you’ve been waiting for all year.


Gemma Ray
Down Baby Down (Series Aphonos / Bronze Rat Records) 
Ray takes cues from Link Wray, John Barry, Sinatra/Hazlewood and Ennio Morricone, and distills them into atmospheric songs with a mid-60s feel and lots of vibrato guitar. Think Anna Calvi without the drama and you get the idea. It’s the kind of thing you can almost imagine David Lynch sticking onto a movie soundtrack (if he still made movies) if it was a little more noir.


Sockweb, “I Want Pancakes”

In which Adam “Blackula” Young records a grindcore song with his six-year-old daughter, Joanie “Bologna” Young, who wrote the lyrics. It’s a grindcore duet. And it’s brilliant. You can listen to it here if you don’t believe me.


Various Artists
Overdose Of The Holy Ghost (Z Records) 
This is a great idea for a comp – late 70s/early 80s gospel songs rooted in funk and disco. A few names may sound familiar (Shirley Caesar, BeBe & CeCe Winans) but most are more obscure (at least to the secular demographic). It’s a fascinating and educational collection if you like disco/early 80s R&B, even when some songs are obviously cribbing from well-known hits to reach a wider audience. Sure, the “gospel” bit will frighten some people away. But then so will the “disco” part. Their loss.


Searching For Sugar Man (Light In The Attic) 
I’d never heard of Rodriguez before the documentary came out, and as flawed as the doc is, it definitely sold me on his status as one of the most criminally underrated singer/songwriters in American music. Rodriguez’s lyrics of social criticism and observation are as sharp as any of his peers in the early 70s. A good intro to the man’s music, although considering he only ever released two albums, and both have been re-issued by Light In The Attic, you might as well buy both of them instead.


The Beatles
On Air: Live At The BBC Volume 2 (Apple) 
I’ve always liked Volume 1 of the BBC recordings because it’s the closest thing you’ll hear to a Beatles live album without all the screaming girls. This one is arguably even better because it includes even more clips from radio interviews than Volume 1, so it feels more like listening to a radio broadcast at times, which is cool – at least to grumpy old men like me.


Various Artists
There’s a Dream I’ve Been Saving: Lee Hazlewood Industries 1966-1971 (Light In The Attic) 
It’s four CDs of every track Hazlewood recorded for his own LHI label, plus key tracks from the acts he signed. (Or, if you get the deluxe version, you get digital copies of the entire LHI library). You also get a DVD of Cowboy In Sweden. Obviously I don’t have a copy of it because I’m not made of money. But this is the one box set I’d love to own one day.


Polysics, Weeeeeeeeee!!! (Ki/oon)

In a word: bullhorns.

Also, Bowie’s The Next Day was just too obvious a choice.

Tomorrow: the list!

Shout it out loud,

This is dF

defrog: (Default)
Because you can’t possibly have enough “Best Of The Year” lists on the Internet.

Films now. Music soon.

STANDARD DISCLAIMER: If yr favorite movie of 2013 isn’t here, it’s likely because (1) I didn’t get a chance to see it, (2) it hasn’t been released in Hong Kong yet, or (3) I did see it but didn’t like it as much as you did. Also, if some of these seem kind of old, it’s because their release date was 2012 for yr country, but 2013 for Hong Kong. Get me?


1. Gravity
2. Seven Psychopaths
3. Django Unchained
4. Holy Motors
5. The Grandmaster
6. Cloud Atlas
7. No
8. Snowpiercer
9. The Counselor
10. Side Effects


Pacific Rim
Journey To The West: Conquering The Demons
The Wind Rises


Machete Kills




After Earth


The Host

Director's cut for those of you who demand capsule reviews ... )

Wake me when it’s over,

This is dF

defrog: (sars)
As it happens, a new retrospective of David Bowie’s work at the Art Gallery of Ontario features 75 must-read books selected by Bowie himself. 

You can read it here.

And of that list, it turns out I’ve read eleven (11) of them:
  • A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
  • A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
  • City of Night by John Rechy
  • The Hidden Persuaders by Vance Packard
  • Last Exit to Brooklyn by Hubert Selby Jr.
  • The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
  • Mystery Train by Greil Marcus
  • Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
  • On the Road by Jack Kerouac
  • The Sailor Who Fell from Grace With the Sea by Yukio Mishima
  • White Noise by Don DeLillo
Which is more than I thought I would score. 

What’s striking too is that of the eleven books there, I’d highly recommend most of them. The exceptions would be White Noise and The Sailor Who Fell from Grace With the Sea. The former made no real impression on me, and I really didn’t enjoy the latter. (I’ve considered re-reading it to see if my late-40s self gets it, but there’s that kitten scene, which I have never been able to unread).

Also, it’s worth mentioning that The Hidden Persuaders is probably more dated now, as a couple of the studies referenced in it have since been discredited. But I’d still recommend it for historical value and the general point it makes about pervasive advertising.

Anyway, if I ever came up with my own must-read book list, most of these would make it on there.

So, you know, me and Bowie, we’re tight like that.

Then again, most of the other 64 entries on the list don't seem likely to make my to-read queue anytime soon. But who knows? You may see them on here one day.

Hunky dory,

This is dF


EDITED TO ADD [10/6]: Thanks to [personal profile] bedsitter23  for pointing out that the Top 75 is actually a Top 100, but somehow the bottom 25 got clipped off in various media reports. 

The full Bowie's 100 Must-Read Books list is here.  

And that also means I get to add three more books to the above list: 
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • The Iliad by Homer
  • The Outsider by Albert Camus
That said, I don't know if I'd include any of them on my own "must-read" list. Maybe The Outsider, which I liked a lot in college, but it didn't have quite the same impact as the others. 

defrog: (Default)
I watched a bunch of movies in 2012.

I will rate them for you now.

DISCLAIMER: If yr favorite movie of 2012 isn’t here, it’s likely because (1) I didn’t get a chance to see it, (2) it hasn’t been released in Hong Kong yet, or (3) I did see it but didn’t like it as much as you did. Also, if some of these seem kind of old, it’s because their release date was 2011 for yr country, but 2012 for Hong Kong.


1. The Ides Of March
2. Moonrise Kingdom
3. Looper
4. Skyfall
5. The Dark Knight Rises
6. Moneyball
7. Prometheus
8. Iron Sky
9. The Cabin In The Woods
10. Lawless


A Simple Life
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
The Avengers


Dark Shadows


Ghost Rider: Spirit Of Vengeance


Snow White And The Huntsman


Les Miserables

Would you like capsule reviews with that? Cos I got some right here ... )

Stop singing,

This is dF

defrog: (Default)
2012 is over, and musically, for my money, I have to say it was mainly a year of comebacks and disappointments – sometimes both at the same time. 


That’s not to say there weren’t some albums that didn’t completely knock me out. But it seemed like most of the stuff I bought was either underwhelming (compared to previous releases by the same artist) or more of the same (not always a bad thing, but not something that demands repeated listening).

Consequently, while the first half of the Top 20 list is pretty strong, the second half is pretty weak compared to recent years. And as usual, it seems most of the really good stuff came from bands/artists with at least 20 years of experience. There’s only one debut album in my Top 20, and several “new” discoveries have been around at least a decade.

It’s also striking how many artists who made the top 20 are close to or over 60 years old. I’m just saying.

Anyway … here we go.

DISCLAIMER: Based on music I actually bought/acquired/downloaded between December 2011 and November 2012, and therefore a useless metric for everyone else.


1. Rush, Clockwork Angels (Anthem/Roadrunner)
2. Bob Mould, Silver Age (Merge)
3. Dan Sartain, Too Tough To Live (One Little Indian)
4. Off!, Off! (Vice)
5. Corin Tucker Band, Kill My Blues (Kill Rock Stars)
6. The Cult, Choice Of Weapon (Cooking Vinyl)
7. Neil Young and Crazy Horse, Americana (Reprise)
8. The Raveonettes, Into The Night (The Orchard)
9. Andre Williams and The Sadies, Night And Day (YepRoc)
10. Johnny Dowd, No Regrets (Mother Jinx Records)
11. Mark Lanegan Band, Blues Funeral (4AD)
12. The Allah-Las, The Allah-Las (Innovative Leisure)
13. Holly Golightly and the Brokeoffs, Sunday Run Me Over (Transdreamer Records)
14. Best Coast, The Only Place (Wichita)
15. Rich Hopkins and Luminarios, Buried Treasures (San Jacinto Records)
16. Hedgehog, Sun Fun Gun (Love Da)
17. Donald Fagen, Sunken Condos (Reprise)
18. Calexico, Algiers (High Note Records)
19. Gossip, A Joyful Noise (Columbia)
20. Regina Spektor, What We Saw From The Cheap Seats (Sire)

Reviews behind the cut for yr protection ... )

And there you have it. 

Same time next year,

This is dF
defrog: (Default)

It’s a tradition here at Team Frog International to post our favorite record albums of 2012. That’ll happen tomorrow.

Meanwhile, I thought I’d post some miscellaneous awards that are basically an excuse to mention other albums I got this year.

It builds up suspense, you see. Because I know this is the list you’ve been waiting for all year.


Leonard Cohen
Old Ideas (Sony) It seems that old age was a common theme for a bunch of releases this year, and Cohen is more qualified than anyone to ruminate on it (he’s the oldest music artist of my entire 2012 roster). Cohen is a master lyricist, but musically has gotten quieter to the point where I have to be in the right mood to listen to him. This is a very good album, but not one I spent a lot of time listening to.


Loudon Wainwright III
Older Than My Old Man Now (2nd Story Sound Records) As the title suggests, Wainwright wrote this song cycle upon realizing he’s now older than his father was when he died. As usual, his emotional honesty is hard to take, even though he does balance it out with his humorous songs. (BTW, the second-best album about getting old is right above this entry. The first-best will be posted tomorrow.)


Joey Ramone
… Ya Know? (BMG) It’s hard to believe it’s been over ten years since Joey Ramone died, and even harder to believe that he left enough material around to put together another solo album. Indeed, what he left was mostly incomplete demos that were tied up in legal red tape for years before Joey’s brother Mickey Leigh was able to get the rights to transform the demos into full-fledged songs. The result sounds impressive, with help from Ed Stasium and a cornucopia of guest stars like Joan Jett, Steven Van Zandt, Jean Beauvoir, Richie Stotts, Bun E Carlos, Handsome Dick Manitoba, and Lenny Kaye, to name a few. Still, it’s hard not to wonder what the songs would sound like if Joey was still alive.


It’s got to be The Hives.


Sadly, their new album Lex Hives didn’t really make it for me. There’s some good songs on it, but not really any great ones.


Nick Cave and Warren Ellis
Lawless OST (Sony Classics) Technically it’s the only film soundtrack I bought this year, but you could say it’s the only one I thought was worth buying. I’m a Cave fan, of course, but the real attraction is Cave and Ellis putting together a band called The Bootleggers and getting guest vocalists like Emmylou Harris, Ralph Stanley and Mark Lanegan to do hillbilly-style covers of the likes of Link Wray, John Lee Hooker, Velvet Underground and Captain Beefheart. And thanks to Cave/Ellis, it avoids being an O Brother Where Art Thou? pastiche.


Various Artists
Red Hot Asian Rockabilly Vol 1 (Love Da) As the title suggests, this is a local comp of modern rockabilly bands from across Asia, including Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and Hong Kong. Musically, they’re not doing anything a thousand rockabilly bands around the world aren’t already doing (apart from language differences and outrageous pompadour height), but as a snapshot of regional rockabilly acts, it’s a fascinating and worthy collection.



Because it’s good to see Raymond Pettibon on album covers again.

Honorable mention goes to Words And Music by Saint Etienne, which features a map made up of various song titles.



Sharon Van Etten
Shelter (Jagjaguwar) This is the one album that seemed to make everyone’s Best of 2012 list that I just couldn’t get into. I bought it on the strength of a track on a sampler (after hearing music critics rave about how good it was and how underrated Van Etten is), but for the most part it bored me. Sorry.

Up next: The Top 20!

And the winner is,

This is dF

defrog: (Default)
As mentioned earlier, James Bond has been a celluloid hero for fifty (50) years.

I grew up watching Bond films on TV (my mom was a big fan), then in the cinemas when I was old enough. And – considering how the franchise has evolved over the years, to include interpretations of Bond himself via several different actors – like most people who grew up with Bond, I have my own preferences in terms of the best of the Bond bunch.

So here they are.

PRODUCTION NOTE: I thought about breaking these out into separate posts, but that would probably take more time than I have.

And the award goes to ... )

Thank you and good night,

This is dF

defrog: (Default)
I’m no Roger Ebert, but I do watch movies. And this year I made more of an effort to see more of them, all so you could have this fine Top Ten list.

Okay, I would have gone to see them anyway. But you get the idea.

DISCLAIMER: If yr favorite movie of 2011 isn’t here, it’s likely because (1) I didn’t get a chance to see it, (2) it hasn’t been released in Hong Kong yet (hence the lack of Muppets), or (3) I did see it but didn’t like it as much as you did. Also, if some of these seem kind of old, it’s because their release date was 2010 for yr country, but 2011 for Hong Kong.


1. Source Code
2. Sucker Punch
3. Machete
4. The Skin I Live In (La Piel Que Habito)
5. The Rum Diary
6. Super 8
7. True Grit
8. Apollo 18
9. Paul
10. Wu Xia


Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows
Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes


Dylan Dog: Dead Of Night


FUN FACT: This is the only Top Ten Best Films Of 2011 list on the entire Internet that has Sucker Punch and Apollo 18 on it.

Pushing the envelope,

This is dF


defrog: (Default)

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