Saturday, March 30, 2013

Souls of Mischief - "93 'Til Infinity" (1993)

93 'til Infinity is the debut album by Souls of Mischief. The group consists of four members (A-Plus, Opio, Phesto D and Tajai) and is a subgroup of the Oakland, California hip-hop collective group Hieroglyphics.

Group members A-Plus and Tajai started rapping together as teenagers under the name Rhythm & Excellence before bringing in Opio and Phesto. Along with Del the Funky Homosapien and a few other Oakland rappers, the foursome then became part of the Hieroglyphics crew. As label interest reached a head in the early '90s, Rhythm & Excellence became Souls of Mischief. The group went into Hyde Street Studios in 1993 to record their debut for Jive, which soon led to "93 'Til Infinity," a track that had existed in some form since at least 1991. For the beat, producer A-Plus snatched bits of jazz-fusionist Billy Cobham. In speeding up the tempo — the twinkling marimba melody, for instance, is a very slow drip in its original form — he managed to mirror the warp speed with which it means to "chill" as a teenager.

The song was only a modest pop crossover, reaching No. 72 on Billboard's Hot 100. But by the group's own admission, the song's legacy has grown outward since then: You can hear the classic beat used for freestyles by Big K.R.I.T. and J. Cole, two rappers who have also eschewed gangster rap while achieving varying levels of crossover success. Still touring, still recording (much of their last album, 2009's Montezuma's Revenge, was produced by Prince Paul), and still hitting young musician's games like SXSW, the continued presence of Souls of Mischief is illustrative of just how prophetic "93 'Til Infinity" was.

A-Plus: "Back then, we didn't have any money. People did odd jobs, this and that. So I didn't have a whole bunch of money to buy records, but I did whenever I could. I found that particular record, it's a Billy Cobham album called Crosswinds. At that point it wasn't one of the hot records for people to sample. It didn't cost hella money, it was in the dollar bin."

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Sigur Rós Brings Tour to Patriot Center

Sigur Rós has gained a reputation for leaving a lot to the imagination. Their 2002 release is titled simply ( ), and that's a longer title than they gave to any of the eight songs on that record. Even on the albums where singer/guitarist Jonsi does not sing in a made-up gibberish-type language, he opts for his native Icelandic, a language that few if any American listeners speak. As such, the intentions of the band are certainly open to interpretation, but the Sunday show at the Patriot Center was altogether moving—regardless of which emotional nerve they touched.

Their live performance initially set another barrier between band and audience: the physical kind. For the first two songs, a barely transparent curtain fell around the stage, playing host to projections of some extreme close-ups of what appeared to be nerve endings. Opener Tim Hecker had also played behind the veil, but had done so in almost total darkness. While Hecker used the darkness as an ally to his macabre yet soothing drone (performed to a silenced venue), Sigur Rós used the curtain to play visual tricks on the audience. During "Ny Batteri," a spotlight cast a larger-than-life shadow of Jonsi over the crowd. The visual of an oversized figure with ropes swaying from his arms coupled with the distorted sound of cello bow meeting guitar appeared menacing and inhuman.

The menace continued even after the band dramatically dropped the curtain and we could see all of the instruments (organ, xylophone, drum machine, string section, horn section, cymbals) that created the band's sweeping orchestral sounds. The first untitled track from ( ) sounds suspiciously like the sort of music that war biopics use in the scenes where everybody dies, and as if to further that effect, the band showed projections on a screen behind them of shrouded figures in gas masks and turned up the red stage lights.

Yet, for all the theatricality, the visual elements of the show remained suggestions rather than fleshed-out scenes. There were lots of nature shots, like extreme close-ups of water or panoramic slow motion of snow falling over gray mountains. I found most of the set ran between eerie and utterly heartbreaking, as Jonsi's pleading falsetto complemented the piano's dirges and the string section's squeals. However, during tracks like their most recognizable "Hoppipolla" from Takk..., the beautiful rising melody, display of warm lightbulbs onstage and projections of falling sparks inspired the head-nodding audience to erupt with applause at both its start and its conclusion.

That said, if there was any argument that Sigur Rós was guiding the crowd to one particular sentiment, it could have been made during the encore. The segment of the show was solely the final untitled track from ( ), an eleven-minute opus that starts dark and gets decidedly more frantic as every member of the band starts to play faster. As the song sped up, the projections behind them changed rapidly and frenetically. The sensory overload finally came to its peak at the end of the song and the audience reacted appropriately to the sonic explosion that had just happened before them.

The band would have clearly done themselves and the audience a disservice to continue after that point, so they did the only logical move and returned to the stage for a final bow. The eleven performers half-hugged and patted each other on the back during that closing moment. The self-congratulating was well deserved—they had not only made the audience think, but had made them feel.

More information:
» Patriot Center Setlist
» Sigur Rós' "Brennisteinn" Video

Monday, March 25, 2013

U.S. Beats Costa Rica, Now Faces Mexico

"Every time they’ve played with something on the line, fists, elbows have flown alongside tackles. Blood has literally been spilled. Drop-kicks to the groin, kicks in the back, it’s all happened. Landon Donovan once urinated on Mexico’s field ahead of a game."
New York Times:
Costa Rica is asking soccer's governing body for a replay of Friday's World Cup qualifier against the United States, won 1-0 by the Americans during a snowstorm in Commerce City, Colorado.

Costa Rican Football Federation Treasurer Rolando Villalobos said in a statement Sunday that documentation had been sent to FIFA to back the claim, including photographs and videos.

The Costa Rican federation said the climatic conditions threatened the physical integrity of the players, left the sidelines and markings on the field largely not visible and led to the entry onto the field of snow-clearing personnel, which it claimed was not permitted. They also argued that "ball movement became impossible given the quantity of snow on the field" and called on FIFA to punish the match officials who allowed the game to proceed.

Of more immediate concern for U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann is collecting the United States’ first victory in a qualifying match in Mexico and replacing the injured Jermaine Jones in midfield. Jones sustained an ankle injury in the first half of the Costa Rica match, received two stitches for a cut and was subbed out in the 83rd minute. Maurice Edu or Kyle Beckerman would be a likely replacement, though Klinsmann could start both if he preferred three central midfielders.

The United States is 0-13-1 in World Cup qualifying matches in Mexico and 1-23-1 overall in matches south of the border. Azteca remains one of the largest and most imposing stadiums in international soccer. It is situated at 7,200 feet and holds 105,000 fans, who enjoy nothing more than defeating the Americans. Soccer is one endeavor in which Mexico has been able to claim superiority in the face of the strong economic, cultural and political influence of the United States.

“The first 20 minutes is always the worst; you can’t breathe,” DaMarcus Beasley, who played superbly for the United States at left back against Costa Rica and who plays with Puebla in the Mexican League, said of the altitude at Azteca.

And yet, Beasley added, Azteca does not seem to be the same impenetrable fortress it once was. Make no mistake. It is forbidding for visitors to win anyplace in Mexico. El Tri has lost only one qualifying match at home, to Costa Rica in 2001. But the Americans won at Azteca in a friendly last August. And in the current round of qualifying, Mexico slogged through a disappointing 0-0 draw at home to Jamaica.

A defeat would hardly be disastrous for the United States as it tries to reach the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Recrimination from a discouraging loss at Honduras and subsequent questions about Klinsmann’s tactics and leadership seemed to disappear, or at least be muffled, in the piles of snow against Costa Rica. A draw on Tuesday would be heartily welcomed, with the Americans then set to play four of their remaining seven qualifying matches at home. Two games in, the Americans sit in second place with three points – one behind leaders Honduras – while Mexico uncharacteristically lingers in fourth, the play-off spot.

Three teams from the North American, Central American and Caribbean region will automatically qualify for the World Cup, while the fourth-place team will enter a playoff against New Zealand. While the Americans are suddenly buoyant, Mexico is unsettled after collecting only a pair of draws in its first two qualifying matches. El Tri blew a 2-0 lead in Honduras on Friday, wilting in brutal heat and settling for a 2-2 tie. There is speculation here that the crowd could turn on Mexico on Tuesday night if it starts poorly and that a defeat could result in the firing of its coach, José Manuel de la Torre.

“This is their life,” said Herculez Gomez, the American forward who plays with Santos Laguna of the Mexican League. “There is no Hollywood here. There is no N.F.L. There is no M.L.B., no N.B.A., Nascar, N.H.L., any of that. It’s football. They breathe and die this.”

As always, though, there will be little room for error for the Americans here. Of particular concern will be the movement off the ball and the intuitive poaching of Javier Hernández, the Manchester United forward known as Chicharito, who has delivered 30 goals in 45 games for the Mexican national team. Omar Gonzalez and Clarence Goodson of the United States have played together only once in central defense for the team — on Friday against Costa Rica.

Anyone who remembers the 5-0 thrashing of the United States by Mexico in the final of the 2009 Gold Cup also knows that the Americans must remain vigilant against the predatory elegance of the attacking midfielder Giovani dos Santos. But the Americans appear to sense a real opportunity on Tuesday.

“I think it’s one of those games that you’re hungry for,” Klinsmann said. “I want them to go on the field and be confident and give them a real game. We want to win here. This is our goal.”

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Messi Sets Record for Consecutive Goals

"Lionel Messi extended his Spanish league scoring record to 18 straight games with a brace in Barcelona's 3-1 win over visiting Rayo Vallecano on Sunday, making sure the leader avoided a letdown after its historic Champions League comeback against AC Milan."
When Messi scored in his 17th successive La Liga game, he broke a world record which has stood since the 1930s, according to his club Barcelona.

The 25-year-old came off the bench to register his 40th league goal of the season for Barca in the 88th minute of their 2-0 win over Deportivo La Coruna.

The world player of the year chipped in for his 27th goal in 17 matches.

Barca said Messi had beaten Pole Teodor Pewterek's 1937-38 record of scoring in 16 straight games for Ruch Chorzow.

"The Argentine player's tally represents a new record in the history of football, something no other player has achieved before," the Spanish club said on their website.

The four-time world player of the year scored 50 goals in the league last season to shatter a milestone that Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo had left at 41 the year before. He now has 10 more games to shoot for his own mark.

Messi has now scored 52 goals in all competitions this season, including five in the Champions League.

Messi's ten best records so far:
10. Most La Liga Hat-Tricks in a Season (8)
9. Champions League Top Scorer Four Years in a Row
8. Tied Most Goals Scored for Argentina in One Year (12)
7. Tied Most Goals Scored in El Clasico (18)
6. Most Goals Scored in a La Liga Season (50)
5. Most Goals in a Club Season (73)
4. Barcelona's Top Goalscorer in All Competitions (308)
3. Scoring in the Most Consecutive League Matches (18)
2. Four-Time Winner of the FIFA Ballon D'Or
1. World Record for Most Goals Scored in One Year (91)

Sunday, March 17, 2013

JTIII, Porter Jr. Awarded Big East's Top Honors

The Hoya:
It's hardly a shock, but now it's official: Sophomore forward Otto Porter Jr. is your Big East Player of the Year, while John Thompson III has received the league's 2013 Coach of the Year award, the league announced Tuesday afternoon at Madison Square Garden.

As was the case with the all-Big East First Team, Porter Jr. was a unanimous selection for Player of the Year, a recognition that marked the sharpest of contrasts with the Missouri native's experience following the 2011-12 regular season, when he was snubbed from the Big East all-Rookie team in an eyebrow-raising decision.

It is the first Big East Coach of the Year award for Thompson III in his ninth season at the helm; his father, John Thompson Jr., got the nod three times during his 20 seasons coaching in the Big East.

Not much was expected out of Georgetown this season in the wake of the losses of Henry Sims, Hollis Thompson and Jason Clark, as the Hoyas were tabbed to finish fifth overall by the conference coaches in the preseason. The suspension of sophomore forward Greg Whittington — the team's second-leading scorer at the time — in January due to academic issues certainly did not appear to bolster the Blue and Gray's chances.

A Jan. 19 loss to cellar dwellars South Florida aside, however, that's exactly what Whittington's absence in fact did.

With Whittington out, Thompson III inserted another defensive stopper, sophomore guard Jabril Trawick, into his starting lineup, and the Hoyas seemingly rededicated themselves as a unit to making defense a central point of pride. As a result, Georgetown reeled off 11 straight wins from the end of January to the beginning of March, with junior guard Markel Starks, freshman guard D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera and — above all — Porter Jr. picking up the slack and then some.

All three players sharply improved their production after Whittington's suspension, as Starks boosted his points per game average above his inactive teammate's to 12.4 per game; Smith-Rivera, meanwhile, now averages nine per contest, a figure augmented by his 33-point breakout against DePaul on Feb. 20.

Few could have seen such a response coming, but Thompson III managed to pull the strings in just the right ways to deliver a top Big East tournament seed against all odds.

Of course, he could not have done so without the work of his brilliant star player.

Porter Jr., who has rocketed up NBA draft boards with his torrid recent stretch, poured in 33 points at the Carrier Dome against Syracuse, 22 at Connecticut and 28 against Rutgers between Jan. 23 and March 2.

He ranks second in the Big East in points per game during league play (18.1), second in three-point shooting (44.1 percent), fifth in rebounding (7.3) and third in steals (1.8). While his do-it-all style of play may be almost impossibly smooth, Porter Jr. has also well demonstrated that he can take over games when called upon, a trait particularly put on display in his team's rout of Syracuse and its overtime comeback win over the Huskies in Storrs, Conn.

Porter Jr. is the first Hoya since current Boston Celtic Jeff Green in 2007 to bring home the player of the year award. Thompson Jr. in 1992 previously represented the last time a Georgetown head coach had been named Coach of the Year.

Mike Brey and Ben Hansbrough of Notre Dame were the last coach-player duo to sweep the league's two top awards, having done so following the Irish's 2010 campaign.

More information:
» Why Otto Porter Should Win Wooden Award
» Top 10 Storylines of NCAA Tournament

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Caps Overcome Three-Goal Deficit in OT Win vs. Bruins

"Tomas Kundratek got his first NHL goal, Steve Oleksy earned his first NHL assist, and Braden Holtby made 30 saves in his 10th consecutive start for Washington. It was the teams' first meeting since the Bruins were eliminated in seven one-goal games by the Capitals in the first round of the last year's playoffs, when Boston was defending its 2011 Stanley Cup title."
Washington Post:
Before the faceoff in overtime against the Boston Bruins at Verizon Center on Tuesday night, Nicklas Backstrom told Eric Fehr exactly how he wanted the winger to play the situation if the Capitals gained control of the puck.

“Backie said ‘If I get it, go to the middle with speed,’” Fehr said. “So I did that, he found me and I kind of blacked out for a bit there but saw the puck on my stick close to the net, saw [Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask] was leaning my way and just tried to chip it over.”

After receiving the puck from Backstrom at the offensive blue line, Fehr used a burst of speed and some savvy puck-handling to split the Bruins’ defensive pair of Dennis Seidenberg and Dougie Hamilton.

Just as he began to break through the black and gold jerseys, he was tripped up Hamilton’s stick and shoved by Seidenberg. As he fell to the ice, though, Fehr was able to keep his wits about him for a well-placed shot over Rask’s left shoulder for the game-winner in Washington’s 4-3 overtime victory over the Bruins.

“I just saw the puck on my stick and just took a whack at it.,” Fehr said. “I don’t know exactly how much room I had, but found enough.”

It was the exclamation point on a solid overall outing for Fehr, who also recorded primary assists on goals by Wojtek Wolski and Tomas Kundratek, making this his first three-point game of the season.

It was also a highlight-reel goal of a different type than any Fehr could ever recall scoring in his professional career.

“I think I have maybe in junior, but definitely not at this level,” Fehr said if asked if he ever scored a falling-down goal like that before. “So that was a first. But I’m feeling pretty confident right now so I believe I can make shots and I was happy that that one went in."