Friday, December 29, 2017

Best Tracks of 2017 | Vol. 13

Not to imply that I ever give this blog any less than my full attention, but its been a busy year and also a very comically stupid year. For anyone doing a 2017 year-end recap, STOP. It's a folly to document ANYTHING with the stench of this year on it, so let's just try to keep this bath salts buzz rolling as long as we can, yeah? You know who I blame? The fucking Patriots. No, not the MAGA dipshits you'll find in the dregs of your Facebook feed with bedazzled American flag trucker hats and Crocs yelling at peaceful protesters on SportsCenter. 

The football Patriots. 

After their 87 point comeback in 12 seconds during UFC 51 against the big dumb freedom-hating Falcons, the whole country basically went to a deep, dark place with every bad thing that happened in this country after that emanating from there. Hell, the Pats even gave the rotted pork loin sitting his fat ass in the oval office an actual Super Bowl ring. How about that? Doesn't that just make you want to die? 

And its a good thing if so, because we're all on Hyperloop One headed towards nuclear winter, anyway. Get used to sustaining off kombucha and Ed Sheeran records because the end of days is nigh. Anyway, here's what I listened to this year while wishing for even someone as punchable as Jake Paul to be our new Dear Leader. 


Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016's Best Tracks | Vol. 12

Typically, this is the time of year where I get to do my pro bono publico writing; some charity print to dust off the pages of this hastily graying website, which originally (and goofily) was founded to register the thoughts of an aspiring music blogger. Instead, it got re-dedicated somewhere along the line to a different topic entirely, leading to some other rad things; some big opportunities that felt (and still do!) like the crest of the mountain.

But charity in this age seems like a chore, it being the very eve of Trump's America. And I'm weary of traveling for the holidays. And this list becomes obsolete in seven hours or thereabouts, so I'm on a strict deadline. But its mostly because I just want to dad-out and drunkenly listen to vinyl with my beautiful and interesting wife when my kids finally fall into their temporary comas for the night. So I'm busy. But not so busy that I can't present the Best 101 Songs of the Year for the 12th time.

I hope you enjoy.

Happy New Year.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Best Tracks of 2015: Vol. 11

Sure, I could parse every moment of 2015 and compartmentalize them into sections of the year that played out in my favor, while others did not.  Then thoughtfully prose on about why certain events, whether positive or negative, rocketed a song's cachet into the top 50 or the top 25 or even the top 10.  But that would be recapitulation of the last 10 years since the alpha list of the Top 101 began in 2005 -- and also take up a shit load of time like it did last year when I was still only mono-offsprung and duties like this were kept to kill the spare time between an actual career and a hopeful one instead of recent dad duties like reprogramming my four year old to stop being a hater and coddling the next ultra-entitled mecha-millennial two-month-old.

In other words, creativity has got to be preserved within this limited-functioning brain of mine, as the imminent exhaustion of A1 dadding and B-minus husband'ing creeps, my residual imagination is now reserved only for paying gigs.  For that, you can read a proper list here in the Austin Chronicle

Thusly, here is [AA]'s Top 101 of 2015 without the stale practice of any kind of introduction, a vainglorious portion of personal reflection, or bombastic self-promotion to read [AA] in the form of print journalism.  Enjoy, yeah?

Friday, September 18, 2015

Class in Session: A primer on Austin's most drinkable beers

[Note: This post was originally published by The Austin Chronicle on September 18, 2015]

So, what are your plans for the weekend? Urban farming? Inking a Sharpie mustache on your index finger? Attending the second birthday party of a very small hipster-looking child? Or any one of the other million tiny triumphs of excessive Austin-ness?
How about tailgating on trillion-degree asphalt under a nearly translucent pop-up gazebo for a dozen hours in the maddening swelter of the it-really-should-be-autumn- now summer?
The gravity of our profane situation as sweaty Austinites is that getting slung on high-gravity beers isn't in the forecast until November – at the absolute earliest – so swinging your neck on a stout or a porter with a modicum of atmospheric appropriateness isn't sensible practice just yet.
But one doesn't have to just accept stodgy, uninspired beer because of this seasonal hitch. That is, "light" beer doesn't have to necessarily mean "lite" beer, and fortunately for us, our local beermakers tend to get intimate with our needs: easy-drinking, thirst-busting, flavor-banging, alcohol-downsizing, sessionable beers that are custom-designed for our daylight marathon-boozing needs.
For the sake of comparison, the quizzically popular and fully mechanized American "session" beers, Coors Light, Miller Lite, Bud Light – all classified as pale lagers by style – weigh in at about the same 4.2% alcohol by volume (ABV). For the calorie suitors, Bud "Heavy" comes in at 5% ABV, while the more exotic options, like Bud Light Lime and Lime-a-Rita, buzz in at 4.2% ABV and 8% ABV, respectively. For the ultimate Texas traditionalists, Lone Star punches its weight at 4.65% ABV.
As an expression of solidarity, the Chronicle has selected a handful of these lo-fidelity beers made by our local beer artists to help you get through the seasonal lethargy, made even more accessible by recommending beers based on availability in a hyper-convenient 12-ounce aluminum keg for maximal ease of transport, consumption, and disposal. So put it in your diaries and drink up; there is almost an inexhaustible supply of this stuff.

The One They Call Zoe (5.2%)

Hops & Grain Brewery
The first beer is a tunnel of love. It's considerably relevant to begin this indoctrination with, as this beer is also classified as an American pale lager, much in the vein of the mega-lites, but that is pretty much where the comparison bottoms out. Zoe – as it is colloquially referred to by the locals – is perhaps the city's best gateway beer, even if it's not its most pervasive. Zoe is exceptionally well-rounded, tropical, and smoothly hopped; it's the pale lager you want to be noticed with beachside if you want others to see you as someone with an actual backbone.

Peacemaker Anytime Ale (5%)

Austin Beerworks
If you are more of the ironic type, as if to suggest that in your checkered past, you've done your best day-drinking at Wrigley or in an alleyway, this is the one to try. This is the same beer that ABW offered to its customers at a cut-rate deal of 99 beers for $99, which would typically set off alarm bells for French wine or rib eyes, but since this is delicious extra pale ale, we went along with it, and lo, were we happy. Peacemaker is ABW's Le Picador, their original masterpiece which doesn't seem to get enough credit for spawning artistic discipline in Texas' craft landscape. Peacemaker is a remarkable way to extinguish the heat with its long washes of zest and note-perfect flavoring hops.

Lazy Day American Lager (5.5%)

Uncle Billy's Brewery
A reasonably new contender in the canned-goods circuit, Uncle Billy's is mostly notable for their marvelous can design denoting their pale ale, and Lazy Day. While this beer is at the higher end of the "sessionable" spectrum, Lazy Day is a genuinely approachable, full-bodied lager with a deft grain bill and nearly nonexistent hop profile. If a traditional interpretation of a midcentury American beer exists in Austin, this one is it, bungalow renters.

Metamodern IPA (4.5%)

Oasis, Texas Brewing Company
For those unaware, the Austin area claims its very own "session brewery" where an entire production facility has dedicated itself to our passive character. None of Oasis' mainstay beers creep beyond the 5% boundary. Metamodern is their imminently classic session IPA which coordinates two of the trendiest hop varietals at the moment – Citra and Mosaic – and leads them to a bubble bath of seductively juicy and invigorating beer.

Hans' Pils (5.3%)

Real Ale
Before you even think about cruising over to your dad's crib for the game with a couple sixers of "not your father's root beer" under your proud elbows, consider that you will likely be able to read his everlasting disappointment face about your life (and beverage) decisions, and you will then feel bad. Instead, go with Hans' Pils, of course, for delicious pilsners are roughly 85% of a father's chemical makeup.

RedBud Berliner Weisse (4.5%)

Independence Brewing

Gose (4.4%)

Real Ale
If you are the kind of person who prefers beer to simply keep you well-oiled throughout the day, then there are solutions to your drinking problem. RedBud and Gose hardly even taste like beer, or rather the terrible beer you used to drink in place of these. RedBud is a sour wheat beer that emulates a shandy or possibly a lemonade radler, while Real Ale's Gose is a take on the traditionally salty and tart, malted wheat beer of northwest Germany. And if there is a culture day-drinkers in Texas should be mirroring, it's that of the Germans. One should keep in mind, however, that the last sixers of each have been pushed out for distribution, so go out, find them, and hoard like the wind!

Friday, June 5, 2015

Festival of Brites at Zilker Brewing

[Note: This post was originally published by The Austin Chronicle on June 5, 2015]

The Austin beer scene is not very good at being dull. Of late, Austinites with discerning craft beer palates have been on an incredible streak of bankrolling at least a half-dozen new breweries. Over on the Eastside in particular, brewery taprooms have ascended from the pasture of warehouse blight like remembrance poppies.
Forrest Clark, one of three co-founders of Zilker Brewing Company, is pretty clear that there is no intricate strategy to enjoying their offerings. "We were inspired by the flavor complexity of American hops and Belgian yeast together," he notes. "Combined with our high-quality malts, you get a highly [satisfying] finish to our beers."
Soundtracked by the foot traffic of hipster-Sixth, the flit of bikes, and the dive bar murmur, Zilker enjoys a very rare attribute for Austin breweries: the ability to engage the street life of its surrounding neighborhood. While many local breweries set up shop on the edges of Austin, Zilker took a cue from the boutique breweries of Portland, Asheville, and San Francisco that cater to the walkability and bikeability of an entertainment district.
"It was important for us to engage the neighborhood in a way that would be supported by the people around us every day," Clark states, "and it was important to have this neighborhood feel with all of our equipment exposed [to the public]. We always wanted to be able to debut our beer at our own brewery first so we could be the face of our beer, and people could get to know us before they tasted our beer anywhere else."

Zilker Brewing's taproom, with brite tanks out in the open, demonstrates exactly that transparency. Brew kettles serve as the brain of this taproom, separated from its speculators by a bloodstream of revolving patronage entering and exiting the heart of Zilker's bar chamber. On the surface, everything at Zilker appears to be not only sustainable, but downright thriving.
Zilker debuted with a set of core beers: an ESB (Extra Special Bitter), a well-balanced, meandering version of the traditionally toasty and fruity British ale; a honey saison which uses 50 pounds of Round Rock honey during the fermentation cycle to enhance its bouquet; and an IPA which utilizes a specific yeast strain to mimic a fruity ester aroma that can almost be perceived as an additional hop. It is certainly a lo-fi version of the typical American IPA, but is equipped with a thoughtful nuance that keeps it very interesting and thoroughly enjoyable.
Recently, Zilker added a pale ale to their lineup with plans to release a coffee milk stout and a Belgian imperial rye IPA. As per the custom of Austin's beermakers, the brewery also expects to offer their approachably lower-alcohol offerings by the can sometime in the future. Perhaps to be enjoyed in a rather large city park.
"We've been [in Austin for] 20 years," Clark refers to himself and his co-founding brother Patrick, along with head brewer Marco Rodriguez, "and have been homebrewing since 2008. It took us eight to 10 years to find a Belgian yeast strain we really liked. It took us 14 months to find the right location for our brewery. We stuck with it because we had the passion for brewing beer, but it also took a ton of perseverance and a lot of luck as well."