Now

My “Now” page is where I share stuff I’ve enjoyed recently, in the hopes that you’ll find something you’ll enjoy too.

Music

Goin’ big in this category to close out the year! Here are my 30 favorite records of 2021, with a one-sentence review of each.

Courtney Barnett, Things Take Time, Take Time

A stripped-down outing from this reliable purveyor of clever lyrics and alternative songcraft.  

The Besnard Lakes, The Besnard Lakes Are the Last of the Great Thunderstorm Warnings

Space-rock as filtered through Fleetwood Mac, maybe? 

Bush Tetras, Rhythm and Paranoia: The Best of the Bush Tetras

In the ’80s, the Bush Tetras were responsible for several of the best post-punk singles of all time (“You Can’t Be Funky,” “Too Many Creeps,” “Snakes Crawl”).

Civic, Future Forecast

Punchy Melbourne punk.

Fake Fruit, Fake Fruit

Wry post-punk; could be the offspring of Courtney Barnett and Wire.                     

Thomas Fehlmann, Böser Herbst  

Haunting ambient soundtrack that leans on (what sounds like) samples of hundred-year-old records.

The Garrys, Get Thee to a Nunnery

Surf-rock girl-group harmonies that wouldn’t sound out of place in an early Tarantino.

IDLES, Crawler

A return to form for the Bristol “angry band”; a little slower, more coiled, more tense.

Chuck Johnson, The Cinder Grove

I find Johnson’s synthesizer-and-pedal-steel-based ambience enormously comforting.

Loscil, Clara

Loscil has long been growing his own branch on Eno’s ambient tree, and this is another excellent offering.                               

Mike Lust, Demented Wings   

This Chicago sound engineer & man-about-town turns hits a range of styles in this thoroughly enjoyable pop/rock jaunt.

Mandy, Indiana, …EP

I’ve rarely been this excited by a band’s early work; it’s as if early Yeah Yeah Yeahs had pushed the edges rather further.     

Aimee Mann, Queens of the Summer Hotel   

Aimee is one of the best songwriters we have, and anything she creates is worth your time.

Men I Trust, Untourable Album

This recalls some favorite sounds of about two decades ago, like Air (but less spacey), Groove Armada (but more song-based).

Nosdam + Rayon, From Nowhere to North       

Bedroom pop meets spacey beats; I could listen to the loop that closes “Colours/Heavy Load” for hours.

The Notwist, Vertical Days

Tasteful, quietly experimental art-pop from a group that’s been at it for decades.                 

Osees, Levitation Sessions II

Osees (formerly Thee Oh Sees) filter prog, punk and early metal through the garage, and there’s no other band like them.

Osees, Live at Henry Miller Library Big Sur

Yes, a second live album by the Osees on this list; if the opening 1-2 punch of “Rogue Planet” and “I Can’t Pay You to Disappear” doesn’t do it for you, I can’t help you.   

Parquet Courts, Sympathy for Life

There’s hope for rock if this is where it’s headed; Parquet Courts fearlessly blends influences and rarely misses the mark.

Quivers, Golden Doubt

A perfectly sequenced indie-pop masterpiece and my favorite record of the year.

Real Estate, Half a Human

The indie-pop home-run hitters stretch their legs a bit on this EP.         

Sleater-Kinney, Path of Wellness

A mellower outing from the punk legends, and a bit of a return to form.

Joachim Spieth, Ousia   

The first ambient album I loved this year.

Andy Stott, Never the Right Time

Stott remains committed to plundering the less-commercial corners of dubstep, to great effect.

Dean Wareham, I Have Nothing to Say to the Mayor of L.A. 

Characteristically excellent songcraft from the Galaxie 500 & Luna singer.       

Ai Yamamoto, Love Me Tender

Ambient with a soul, grounded in piano and strings.

Nana Yamato, Before Sunrise

Friends, it appears we have a 20-year-old pop savant in our midst.         

Zakè & City of Dawn, Frizzell & Duque: A Sorrow Unrequited

Zakè is one of the more reliable purveyors of modern ambient, and there are more than a few moments of aching beauty in these loops of orchestral strings.

Various Artists, Echocord – 20 Years  

Decades-spanning compilation from this reliable Copenhagen dub-techno label.

Various Artists, Pop Ambient 2022

The 22nd volume in Kompakt Record’s “state of the ambient union” compilation, and I am now purchasing them unheard.     

(I link to Bandcamp whenever possible, since it’s the platform that returns the most money to the artists.)

Books

You’ll find my list of top reads in 2021 here:

The 16 Best Books I Read in 2021

Travel

We celebrated my wife’s birthday in Cannon Beach and McMinnville, OR, over the first week of December.

In Cannon Beach, we returned to the Stephanie Inn and can’t wait to go again. It checks all the boxes: A professional and friendly staff, an outstanding kitchen (including a complementary breakfast buffet), a complementary evening happy hour, and, of course, a gorgeous beach to ponder from your balcony.

View from our balcony at the Stephanie Inn, with a morning visitor.

Our agenda for our three days here was “whatever we damn well please,” whether that was walking on the beach, reading by the fireplace or on the balcony, drinking wine or grabbing a late-afternoon meal at the Wayfarer (featured on a recent season of Top Chef).

From there, we moved on to McMinnville, a perfect base of operations in Willamette Valley wine country.

We stayed at the Atticus Hotel, a boutique in an ideal location just steps from the tasting rooms and restaurants on Third Street. Terrific staff here too (shout-out to Hannah & Rae at the front desk!).

Also: Pizza Capo is some of the best pizza I’ve had (and I’ve had a lot).

I’ll share our favorite wineries from this trip below, under “Beverages.”

Coming up: Maui, HI.

Chicago

A friend took us to Gilt Bar for a delightful meal and a been-too-long catch-up session. No pictures from this outing, but I can sing the praises of the burrata, the swordfish, the steak tartare and the spicy rigatoni. The skillet cookie with two kinds of ice cream was more than we needed, but it was that kind of night.

As with any concept from Hogsalt hospitality group, Gilt Bar hits all the right notes of cuisine, service & ambience.

Beverages

View from our tasting at Elizabeth Chambers.

Favorite Oregon wineries from our December visit:

Brooks – We returned for the third time, and this time we were smart enough to enjoy some oysters and seasoned popcorn for a light lunch. In addition to pinot noirs, you’ll find rieslings in a range of styles. On a clear day, you’ll have a view of four peaks from the tasting room. (Don’t ask me to name them all – I was drinking wine! – but one of them is Mt. Hood.)

Bethel Heights – This was our first visit here, and we ended up shipping a mixed case home. In addition to the above-average range of pinot noir, the Justice Vineyard Chardonnay is one of the very best I’ve had – notes of grapefruit, peach, salted almond (!) and no butter at all despite spending some time in oak.

Elizabeth Chambers – Rosé, pinot gris, pinot noir… everything “Betty Chambers” does is done very well. Also, one of the most delightful tasting rooms you’ll find, in the former McMinnville power plant.

If you’ve ever been to Napa, you know that when a host in a tasting room says, “You should try Winery X,” that’s usually code for “Here’s another winery in our portfolio.” There’s none of that in Willamette; they’ll say things like, “You should try Winery Z because my friend Bob is doing interesting things with pinot gris” or “my former roommate pours there; drop my name and she’ll treat you well.” This can’t last forever, so if you’re curious, I encourage you to get to Willamette soon, before the corporations swoop in and mess it up.

Fitness

At this writing (Dec. 28), I’ve exercised 336 of 362 days this year. Though I’ve had some issues with Peloton’s decision-making, and I really miss being able to do hot yoga, I can’t deny that having the bike in the home makes a difference.

Grab-Bag

We have a new addition to our family as of the middle of November: Meet McTavish, the Scottish fold. He is 80% adorable angel and 20% demon on cocaine.

He’s 13 weeks old now, but in this picture, he was only 6 weeks old, and already terrifyingly confident in his own amount of game.

Questions on any of the above?  Got something to share of your own?  Drop me a line: matthew(at)threedeuce(dot)com.