Posts Tagged ‘Rankings’

Ranking Bob Dylan Songs, #121: Nashville Skyline Rag

 

OK, this is kind of cheating. “Nashville Skyline Rag” isn’t really a song, it’s more like an album interlude. It’s completely instrumental, and mainly serves to pace the album, like Radiohead does with “Treefingers” or “Fitter Happier,” or The Beatles do with several songs on The White Album.

The difference between those songs and “Nashville Skyline Rag,” though, is that OK Computer, The White Album and Kid A are all generally considered “high concept” albums. The interludes are (hypothetically) necessary to maintain the album’s sense of flow. Nashville Skyline is really just a simple country album. It’s only 27 minutes long, and three of those minutes are a pretty basic country beat without lyrics.

I don’t profess to be a country music expert, but this is a pretty humble, some might even say trite, composition.

What makes the song forgivable, and the Nashville Skyline album as a whole interesting, is the sense that Dylan is having fun. After his seminal work of the mid-60s and a debilitating motorcycle accident, this album, combined with The Basement Tapes, sounds like Dylan has moved beyond the pressure of trying to be brilliantly innovative and unpredictable with every album. And sometimes, I guess, the only way to get beyond that pressure is to do something completely unbrilliant and predictable like “Nashville Skyline Rag.”

Ranking Bob Dylan Songs, #62: The Times They Are A-Changin’

Welcome to a new series! You’ve read Josh’s attempts to rank the Bill of Rights. You’ve read Tim’s attempt to rank everything in history. Well, now John’s going to rank Bob Dylan songs. Keeping it manageable, he’s sticking with songs from the 1960s. No live versions and no bootlegs. We’re going with songs from studio albums, from “Bob Dylan” to “Nashville Skyline.” And what the heck? Since the Basement Tapes were recorded in ’67, we’ll throw that in the mix too. So including all nine studio albums, plus the Basement Tapes, but NOT including songs on the Basement Tapes that don’t include Dylan as a writer/performer, we’re looking at 121 songs. We won’t be ranking the first 111 in any particular order, but the top ten will be counted down once we get there (probably in like 2013).

62nd may seem too low for such an iconic song, but for a while I was debating whether or not to put this in the top 100. “The Times They Are a-Changin’” is certainly Bob Dylan’s most overrated song. If and when Dylan ultimately dies, “The Times” will most likely be one of the first three songs mentioned in any obituary (the other two being “Like a Rolling Stone” and “Blowing in the Wind”). And yet it is a very flawed song: It sounds a little too preachy and predictable—like the cookie-cutter protest song. It doesn’t attain the protean magic of “Blowing in the Wind” or innovative audacity of “Like a Rolling Stone.” Continue reading

Which Season of Curb Your Enthusiasm is the Best?

Two of our favorite things here at NPI are comedy and Larry David. Naturally, then, we love Curb Your Enthusiasm. In fact, we love it so much that it’s hard to pick a favorite season. But that didn’t stop us from trying. In the first part of a two-post prelude to the start of Season Seven (which we are stoked for), John S, Josh, and F.P each offered their own rankings to provide one of NPI’s patented* rankings. Now, these rankings proved difficult (some odd methodologies were used) since there really are no bad seasons of Curb; as proof, we each included our favorite episode from every season. At the end of the list, we each offered a brief justification for our choices, though we were all satisfied with the overall outcome.  

*Unfortunately, this is a lie. We have no patent on rankings…..yet.

Without further ado, our rankings of Curb Your Enthusiasm seasons:

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The Top Five Comedians of the Summer

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After we (John S and Josh) settled our squabbles on anchoring, we went to the highly recommended Upright Citizens Brigade Theater in New York nearly every week this summer (sometimes twice) to see some of the best (and worst) up-and-coming and established comedians. The vast majority of these comics were seen at Leo Allen’s Whiplash, but some were also seen at Kristen Schaal and Kurt Braunohler’s variety show, Hot Tub. All in all, we saw over forty comedians perform. In traditional NPI fashion, we decided to rank them. Below are the five best comedians we saw this summer, all of whom we strongly recommend: Continue reading

In Praise of the Oscars’ New “Best Picture” Voting Process

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Back in June, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced that the Oscar “Best Picture” field would be increased from five to ten. This change was partially brought about by claims that too many films that had a chance of winning best picture had been cheated by not even being included among the nominees. The Dark Knight and Wall-E were two examples from last year. Traditionally, comedies have also had a difficult time making the list of nominees, a problem that may be alleviated by expanding the list to ten.

While there were obvious benefits to expanding the list to ten, it was clear that there were shortcomings too. The traditional way of selecting best picture had been that each of the 5800 voting members would pick the top film among the nominees and the film with the most votes would win. Conceivably, with ten films up for best picture, a film with slightly more than 10 percent of the vote could win. If two films are front-runners, there is an incentive to vote for one of those two films so your vote “counts”, as opposed to voting purely based on preferences. Having preferential voting based on rankings would help to avoid this problem, among others.
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Monday Medley

What we read while getting nostalgic about driving the New York State Thruway in the Summer of ’69:

  • We basically should just tell you to read the New York Times Magazine each week, but when Political Science gets a feature-length article, it merits additional mention: Check out this article chronicling Political Science Professor Bruce Bueno de Mesquita’s impressive modeling to predict Iranian nuclear behavior, among other interesting tidbits.
  • Want to know why to you have to shut-off your iPod during take-off? If you’ve ever flown on a plane before, you should find this series of interviews by the Freakonomics blog with an anonymous commercial pilot quite interesting.

Meet (and Rank) the Beatles’ Albums, Part 1

We here at NPI aren’t exactly breaking new ground or going out on a limb when we say that The Beatles are the greatest band of all-time, but we’re saying it anyway. Not only is each one of their twelve studio albums (we don’t really count Yellow Submarine) excellent, but they more or less invented the concept of an “album.” When The Beatles started, albums were little more than collections of singles, but The Beatles made at least five albums that are not only enjoyable to listen to but also riveting works in and of themselves. For a band to have one album like that is an accomplishment, but five is simply legendary. But which of their many classic albums are the best? Without further ado, here is the first half (the Top 5 are coming later today) of Josh and John’s rankings (Tim is abstaining due to the time needed to internally rank every Barenaked Ladies’ song):

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