Author Archives: pjwascher


by: PJ Wascher

IMG_8552.jpg2015 is in the books! I love this time of year. Music fans across the Internet share their favorite mu
sic. I love reading those lists and sharing my own. 2015 has been a solid bounce back year for music. Last year, I struggled to find ten albums I loved. This year, I found over ten albums in the first half of the year. The second half did not quite hold that trend up, but added a few pieces to this year’s list. This will go down as one of the best years in music since 2012 (my favorite since I’ve been making this list).

To review how I judge. Throughout the year I’m listening to every album I can get my ears on. Still a fan of pens and post-its, I manually create a list throughout the year. My list looks for albums with great song depth and great staying power. Something you’ll find yourself listening to beyond 2015. I find several albums with a strong group of songs, but very few that let me press play and let it roll all the way through. 2015 was a relatively strong year for this. Of the Top 10 albums I listed, I found myself continually playing five all the way through.

My goal is to find something new everyday, as you can see with the #SOTD tweets I post every weekday. Ranking music gives me something to go back to and reflect on what I really loved. Let’s get to the fun part! Here’s my official Top 10 Albums of 2015 and Song Of The Year:

 The Top 5

  1. Sound & Color by Alabama Shakes

Three years has become the norm for a band’s album life cycle. Despite this lengthy amount of time, it’s surprising how often the result can end up half-thought out. Struggling to recreate their original sound or create a new one, the second album can be a daunting one. Alabama Shake’s first album was a promising entry, which appeared on this list in 2012. Featuring several catchy tunes with a hint of Rock-A-Billy, the songs could sometimes seem simple, but you could tell there was another layer within those tracks. Watching them live left no doubt. Britney Howard is one of this generation’s best live performers. So much soul and power, the range of style and personality she features is unique. I cannot recommend enough seeing her live. I was lucky enough to see her in the fall and she did not disappoint. This second album felt like their coming out party. Boys & Girls gave us a taste of what they could become. Sound & Color showed off this band’s evolution into a big retro soul southern rocker.

Top Tracks:

  • Don’t Wanna Fight
  • Gimme All Your Love
  • The Greatest

  1. I Love You, Honeybear by Father John Misty

I have to admit this was not an artist I expected on the list at the start of the year. That may also be thanks to the fact I’d not heard of him. As a fan of Fleet Foxes, I’m a little disappointed I didn’t keep up with the member’s splinter groups. Former drummer of the Fleet Foxes, Joshua Tillman has a few projects of note. This moniker has now produced two fun albums. It may be weird to describe his music as fun, but a certain perspective is required to translate his highly cynical lyrics out of reality. Beyond the lyrics are layers of fun in the instrumentals. The album bounces in and out of retro 70s and 80s sounds with some hard rock mixed in between. I love all the places this album goes. He was the opener at the Alabama Shakes concert I saw early in the year. It was an amazing, emotional performance that raised the bar to a level I thought the Shakes may struggle to meet. Both groups ended up being fantastic, but I made sure to see him again in the fall during his headline tour. The live performance unlocked a lot of the personality stored inside these songs. If you’re looking to listen to something different or you can’t get your brain to sit still, this music will fit in just fine.

Top Tracks:

  • I Love You, Honeybear
  • The Ideal Husband
  • Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for Two Virgins)

  1. Strange Trails by Lord Huron

These top three albums have traded spots with one another all year long. For most of the year I thought this would be my album of the year. It’s a great album and I want to spend all of my time talking about that fact. Its swinging melodies and du-op beats bring you back to the sixties, but a folky base is what brings out the emotion. I found this to be the easiest album to listen all the way through on my list. When I start feeling sentimental this is the album I put on. Several of the songs have connected soothing transitions. I wanted to make this my album of the year badly and in many years, since I’ve started this list, it would be. This year it joins a group of three albums that defined my year in music.

Top Tracks:

  • La Belle Fleur Sauvage
  • Louisa
  • Until The Night Turns

  1. Vitals by MuteMath

Grading one of your favorite bands can be very tricky. You want to call everything they do the best. They’re your favorite for a reason right? Well one of my favorite bands released an album in November. I did my best to honestly rank them and this is as low as I could stomach putting them. I’m just too excited to have an album from them again. It’s been four years since their last album, which featured a new lead guitarist. It was hard to get a feeling for when the next album may come out and what it would sound like if it did. Their last album made a push towards southern blues featuring a lot more organ and guitar. Their 2015 release goes back towards their roots. Electronic beats and sounds coming back into the fold. Guitars have taken a little bit too much of a back seat for my tastes, but the album is a promising release. 80’s sounds have become very trendy in music of late, MuteMath has grabbed hold of this trend and put their own twist on it. I’ve loved every album this band has put out and I’m happy we finally have another one to add to the collection.

Top Tracks:

  • Joy Rides
  • Stratosphere
  • Monument

  1. Space Is Still The Place by The Bright Light Social Hour

Sometimes you just get lucky finding an artist. Music recommendation engines continue to evolve. Between Apple Music’s new personalized playlist recommendations and Spotify’s Discover Weekly playlist, 2015 added several tools to my search for new artists. This is one of those discoveries. Prepare for psychedelic hooks that mix in catchy pop hooks and some awesome guitar solos. The drummer is fantastic and even better live. Fears about rock music disappearing should quiet a little after this year’s crop of albums. Several of my favorite rock albums went back to a 60-70s psychadelic phase, but there’s plenty outside this genre as the Alabama Shakes have already demonstrated on this list. The depth on this album is fantastic. The album refuses to sit completely in one genre of music, mixing in electronic sounds and a few pop hooks.

Top Tracks:

  • Infinite Cities
  • Ghost Dance
  • Sweet Madelene

The Next 5

  1. Currents by Tame Impala – We’ve entered the psychedelic rocks section of this list. It was a good year for retro rock sounds. Almost all of the albums appearing on this list are sampling sounds from another era. No band appears more committed to that then Tame Impala. While they stick to their traditional psychedelic sound, this album is just bigger than anything I’ve heard from them before. Unafraid to make +6 minute songs, it’s amazing how mainstream this band is becoming. Their success at big music festivals is probably helping and appears to be an influence on their overall sound. I’ve always been a fan of this band, but their albums have never had as much depth as this one. I got a chance to see them at Outside Lands this summer, they were fantastic and so is this album.

Top Tracks

  • Let It Happen
  • The Less I Know The Better
  • Eventually

  1. For Use And Delight Promised Land Sound– A lot of the albums on this list came out in the first half of the year. This is one of the few late finds I found this year that made my Top 10 list. Continuing the psychedelic rock trend, this album completes the trio on my list. Each band carries their own unique sound. This album mixes in a little more country rock sounds than the other two. At times, the guitar effects remind me of Explosions In The Sky at other moments it goes more towards Pink Floyd. It’s been a good year in this music genre. We’re seeing artists mix in so many different styles.

Top Tracks:

  • Push And Pull (All The Time)
  • Otherworldly Pleasures
  • She Takes Me There

  1. Till It’s All Forgotten by Faroa – This is one of the newest artists to make my list. The album features sparse arrangements that allow her beautiful vocals to control the sound. What makes this album work for me is the percussion. It changes tempo and gives the music so much power. The first track on the album is a great example of that. I saw them in Detroit in the fall. You can tell they are still learning and growing. I was surprised to see Faroa was only a duo. With the sound on the album I was expecting several more players. I wouldn’t mind seeing more performers as this band grows up. They have a lot of potential.

Top Tracks

  • TIAF
  • Hunter
  • Bodies

  1. My Love Is Cool by Wolf Alice – This album just came at the right time of year. It’s fun and bright. Perfect summer album to open the sunroof and blast out the car speakers. Their sound combines a little bit of Best Coast’s California rock with electronic effects on the vocal that remind me of The Metric. I could hear this album throughout the year on the British radio waves, but it even crossed the pond to some American indie/alternative radio stations.

Top Tracks:

  • Your Loves Whore
  • Bros
  • Moaning Lisa Smile

  1. Such Things by Saintseneca – This band makes my list two years in a row! It’s become pretty rare for a band to release albums in back2back years and even more rare for the finished product to be any good. Not only did Santseneca produce a second album in two years, they started growing up. This album rocks out more than their first release, but it still maintains their overall sound that I liked. That is helped out by a unique set of vocals that I would normally associate in a quieter folk setting. This album clears any confusion with that.

Top Tracks:

  • Rare Form
  • Such Things
  • Lazarus

If Only I could List 15 Albums

Multi-Love by Unknown Mortal Orchestra – So close to making the Top 10. Would have made it four albums in psychedelic rock genre.

Top Tracks

  • Multi-Love
  • Like Acid Rain
  • Necessary Evil

Coming Home by Leon Bridges – I’m a big fan of Sam Cooke, wouldn’t mind seeing more artists bring this retro soul sound back.

Top Tracks

  • Smooth Sailin’
  • Brown Skin Girl
  • Better Man

The Ashen Tang by Royce Wood Junior – One of the more unique albums on my list. Hard not to compare Royce to Prince. Very funky.

Top Tracks

  • Clanky Love
  • Honeydripper
  • Stand

Imaginary Men by Rayland Baxter – This was a late find for me in 2015. Made a late push to be on my list. Was just very hard to knock anything off for it. This is what I wish John Mayer’s newer albums sounded like.

Top Tracks

  • Oh My Captain
  • Rodriguez
  • Yellow Eyes

Jackrabbit by San Fermin – I went back and forth on this album all year, but in the end it settled into a nice spot for me. It just carries so many different styles and can be tough to settle into. At one point it sounds like The National and then it transitions to something from The Family Crest.

Top Tracks

  • Emily
  • Jackrabbit
  • Women In Red

What Went Down by Foals – One of my favorite straight rock albums of the year. You don’t see many mainstream rock albums these days. Foals have taken over this rare spot from artists like Muse and The Killers.

Top Tracks

  • What Went Down
  • Mountain At My Gates
  • London Thunder

Honorable Mentions

Plenty of music to get you through the upcoming year. Did the trick for me! Feel free to go through and listen to all the links below, or click here and go to an online playlist hosted by WHYD.

Our Own House by MisterWives

The Firewatcher’s Daughter by Brandi Carlile

Honeymoon by Lana Del Rey

Jukebox The Ghost by Jukebox The Ghost

No Cities To Love by Sleater-Kinney

Don’t Lose This by Pop Staples

LOVETAP! by Smallpools

National Throat by Will Dailey

Escape From Evil by Lower Dens

Xtra Love by WE ARE TWIN

Glitterbug by The Wombats

Phantom Pop by Wild Party

Makes A King by The Very Best

The Embers Of Time by Josh Rouse

California Nights by Best Coast

Wilder Minds by Mumford & Sons

The Waterfall by My Morning Jacket

Such Jubilee by Mandolin Orange

The Helio Sequence by The Helio Sequence

Drug For The Modern Age by Kopecky

The Desired Effect by Brandon Flowers

English Graffiti by The Vaccines

1997 by Mirror Talk

It’s All Just Pretend by Ivan & Alyosha

Axis Mundi by Brownbird

Fear And Lies by Sick Sad World

Holly Miranda by Holly Miranda

How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful by Florence + The Machine

Algiers by Algiers

Coin by Coin

The Fool by Ryn Weaver

Welcome You by Motopony

Pageant Material by Kacey Musgraves

Born Under Saturn by Django Django

Venus by Joy Williams

Broken Into Better Shape by Good Old War

The State of Gold by Matt Pond PA

In The Wilderness by Stranger Cat

Story Of An Immigrant by Civil Twilight

Flying Lessons by Fool’s Gold

Let The Good Times Roll by J.D. McPherson

Traveler by Chris Stapleton

On Blonde by Yukon Blonde

Second Sight by Hey Rosetta!

All Yours by Widowspeak

Everybody’s A Good Dog by Diane Coffee

No No No by Beruit

twelvefour by The Paper Kites

Pagans In Vegas by The Metric

Trading Change by Jeremy Loops

Fuel To The Fire by The Rationale

Thunderbitch by Thunderbitch


The War Inside by Jill Andrews

Emotion by Carly Rae Jepsen

Boom Forest by Boom Forest

Sermon On The Rocks by Josh Ritter

Men Amongst Mountains by The Revivalist

Dear Wormwood by The Oh Hellos

Sun Leads Me On by Half Moon Run

Living by Oh Pep!

Peace Is The Mission by Major Lazer

LIMBO by Pell

Oh Wonder by Oh Wonder

Big Grams by Big Grams

A Head Full of Dreams by Coldplay

Kept by Stolen Jars

Keep The Village Alive by The Stereophonics

Ones And Sixes by Low

Before We Forgot How To Dream by SOAK

Architect by C Duncan

Shedding Skin by Ghostpoet

Song Of The Year Goddess by Chrome Sparks

It’s wrong to put this song at the bottom of this posting, but I’m not going to have time to post a full SOTY article this year. This song is a bit of a surprise to be my number one. The song was a relatively late find, but once I heard it I couldn’t stop playing it. It’s unusual for me to list an electronica song #1, but it’s just so epic. A video editors dream song. Makes all videos look dramatic.

Wow! You made it to the bottom of the list! Nice work! That’s a lot of music listed above. Hope you enjoyed some of it. Leave a comment let me know what you thought of 2015. What was your favorite album? Be sure to keep an eye out as I get ready to transition this site. Coming soon, I plan to launch a site focused on music.

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Cricket World Cup: An Event We Should Care About

by: P.J. WascherIMG_6489

The ICC Cricket World Cup starts today and I’m really excited. This will be the first cricket event I’ve fully invested myself in. From start to finish, I’ll be watching all the matches and learning all the storylines. That’s not to say this is the first time I’ve cared about cricket. That started over three years ago. Watching all match formats and learning the basic rules and strategy. But this is the first time I think I’m ready to watch an event as a normal cricket fan and I’m pumped! Only problem? The USA is not involved!

From the Olympics to soccer’s World Cup, this country loves worldwide sports events. It’s fun putting on the stars and stripes and getting the country to unite together and root for a common cause. Despite our love of country, we certainly do not a have consistent love for cricket or any new sport. Soccer is probably the best example we have at this point, where the US has adopted a global sport. It’s hard to call that process complete at this point, but there’s no denying the growth that has taken place over the last decade. What made soccer so successful is still not entirely clear to me. For a good stretch of the early 2000s, a similar resistance to new sports was taking place with soccer too. It’s something I think about when watching cricket. This is an event people should start to care about. So what’s keeping cricket from rising to the mainstream like soccer did? To start, soccer had a couple of advantages. First and most importantly, it had a soccer team that could qualify for the event. Lots of development is still required to compete for the championship, but that’s part of the draw. Being able to watch your team compete in the main event is a huge advantage to what cricket can offer. But that doesn’t completely explain it.

The English Premier League and UEFA Euro Finals draw huge interest as well. Explaining the rise in popularity to those events is a little trickier with no or little American involvement. I don’t have a verifiable answer to explain this situation. Some of this could be explained by a new generation of Americans that have grown up playing soccer as kids. Something cricket will struggle to pull off, with baseball already claiming the same athletic space. Part of the explanation has to be the passion and entertainment provided by these two events. If that’s what carried this event over the top, we should be looking at cricket next.

A cousin to baseball, cricket is considered, after lacrosse, to be one of the oldest sports in the United States. Without going into a whole history lesson, baseball won out around the Civil War. While the games are distinctly different, from a pace of play and skill set standpoint, they share a lot of similarities. For Americans, one of the biggest struggles has been trying to connect the two sports. They are really different and trying to figure out how one play relates to another can get one into trouble. Soccer’s rulebook has a clear advantage to crickets’. The rules can be reduced to a few basic ones when being explained to a novice. I attempted to write out the basics for cricket, but these guys and many others do a better job.

Due to ESPN’s lack of interest in making the ICC Cricket World Cup available to everyone, you have a good excuse for missing this event. If you have an extra $100 lying around, I’d highly recommend giving it a try. I think it’s a huge oversight on ESPN’s part to not give everyone a chance to watch this event. This is the kind of event that starts to create fringe fans. Looking at how soccer has grown, I wanted to start creating a list of popular international sports that could also start growing in the United States:


How close is it to mainstream?

I think it’s closer than some people think. The infrastructure is there. It has a great global event. It’s just really tough to localize. American cricket has a long way to go. Cricket certainly has a niche audience in America that is growing thanks to British Commonwealth expats. I’m predicating this will be the next soccer in America.

Global Event We Should Be Watching?

The ICC World Cup is the best event to watch from a global perspective. It brings in all the best international teams. This event starts today! On an annual basis, The Ashes (Australia vs. England) is a solid rivalry to keep an eye on.

What’s holding it back?

No American cricket at the World Cup is a biggie. There is a team, but it will take a lot of work to get them competitive. Not having the World Cup available to fans on basic cable or online without an extra subscription is tough to overcome. No domestic US league is also a problem.

Will it become mainstream?

I think so. I’m really bullish on Cricket right now. I’ve seen how it has globalised and believe that it can happen here too. I think by the next World Cup we’ll have this broadcast a lot more accessible to the US audience.


How close is it to mainstream?

It’s on the radar at this point. The upcoming World Cup will be on TV. Its just not part of the mainstream discussion yet.

Global Event We Should Be Watching?

The Rugby World Cup. It’s happening this year in September!

What’s holding it back?

This one really appears to be tied to American success. If America became competitive, I think people would begin to talk about it more. Rugby has a leg up on cricket because the US is actually playing in the World Cup.

Will it become mainstream?

I’m not sure. I think it will grow. If the US gets competitive, I think we’ll see some interest, but I’m not sure the interest is sustainable. Will be very dependent on the team. Would help if the college level game grows. The game has some solid roots there. I could see that being a great entry point for fans.


How close is it to mainstream?

It’s in a comfortable spot. Thanks to decent TV coverage, people talk about it a little during the Tour de France. The Lance Armstrong era has come to end and ruined a lot of momentum. If another US cyclist becomes competitive people will talk about this sport again, but that’s as far as it appears to go.

Global Event We Should Be Watching?

Olympics, Tour de France

What’s holding it back?

Well steroids certainly didn’t help. I’m not sure the sport quite clicks for mainstream interests unless America can win it.

Will it become mainstream?

Probably not.


How close is it to mainstream?

This is a bit of curveball I figured I’d throw out there. It’s not even remotely close, but it’s big in Europe!

Global Event We Should Be Watching?

IHF World Championships (Next one is in 2017), Olympics

What’s holding it back?

The sport is such an unknown in the US. No domestic league.

Will it become mainstream?

Not anytime soon. Will have to grab some attention in the Olympics to have a chance.


How close is it to mainstream?

It’s heading in the right direction. It finally has a broadcast in the US beyond the Olympics.

Global Event We Should Be Watching?

The Olympics, Annual World Curling Championships

What’s holding it back?

Needs more TV broadcasts. Would also help if more people had access to play it. Such a fun sport that anyone can play.

Will it become mainstream?

Not sure. It’s talked about a lot during the Olympics, would be pretty amazing if the World Curling Championship also became a talking point. I think that’s possible in the next 5 years. Just needs to get on TV.


How close is it to mainstream?

The last Americas Cup was briefly discussed when it had a dramatic finish. It’s got history as a mainstream sport, but the sport is working hard to reinvent itself to become mainstream again.

Global Event We Should Be Watching?

Americas Cup, next one is 2017

What’s holding it back?

I think the sport became too slow for some attention spans. How far people are removed from sailing also doesn’t help. Hard to understand some of the strategy involved.

Will it become mainstream?

This will be interesting to watch. There is a lot of money being poured into the sport to get better coverage and more interesting races. If this doesn’t help, I can’t see it growing anytime soon.

Formula 1 Racing

How close is it to mainstream?

Not as close as I would expect for the broadcast access it gets. Part of that just has to do with the competition it gets from NASCAR.

Global Event We Should Be Watching?

Well there’s no single global event. It’s an annual motorsport season.

What’s holding it back?

Not having an American driver or automaker is a big issue. A better broadcast could also help.

Will it become mainstream?

It could. It’s the biggest global racing series. The sport needs to find a more interesting way to race though. Qualifying is more interesting than the races. That’s a problem.

Australian Football

How close is it to mainstream?

It’s taken a step back over the last few years. It used to be broadcast on ESPN late at night, but they lost the rights. It’s now hidden away on a specialty channel.

Global Event We Should Be Watching?

Nothing worth mentioning. The Australian Football International Cup doesn’t even have Australia in it because they would dominate.

What’s holding it back?

That no one besides Australia is playing it or is good at it. Time difference doesn’t help either, if you’re trying to watch the Australian matches.

Will it become mainstream?

This sport is a hidden gem. I’m convinced America would love it. The format and pace of play is amazing. The physical nature and continuous action would line up well with America’s sports sensibilities. It’s just hard to become mainstream because of the time difference and the fact that it only has a domestic Australian league. Not going to become mainstream anytime soon. Needs to work on getting a niche audience built up. The best hope for this sport is to get something close to what the English Premier League has.

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Music: 2014 In Review (Albums)

by P.J. WascherIMG_6405

It’s that time of year again! I’m a big fan of the reflection that occurs at the end of the year. This is a great chance to look back at the year and appreciate all the music we’ve listened to. I’m still working on putting together a schedule that gets me writing more regularly, but I refuse to let this tradition slip. For the third year in a row, on this site, I’m going to release my top songs and albums of the year. A little different, I’m going to release it in two parts. I’ll start with my 2014 Albums of the Year and follow up with my Songs of the Year. Why should you care? You don’t have to. We all have different music tastes. This is my attempt to share mine. I’ve spent most of December looking for any albums I may have missed by reading other year recaps. That’s my favorite part about these lists. It’s a chance to share the music we love and help others find something new.

If you’ve read my reviews before, you may remember I’ve put the 2012 musical year on a pedestal. It’s the best music year I’ve reviewed this decade. 2013 was a solid follow-up year, but 2014 was different. To be frank, it was a bit of a let down. That’s not meant to put down any of the music on my list, but I’ve had a real difficult time selecting albums for this year’s top 10. My list looks for albums with great song depth and great staying power. I found several albums with a strong group of songs, but very few that let me press play and let it roll all the way through. Several artists I consider myself a fan of released albums that just did not click the way I expected them to. They had moments, but just couldn’t carry a sound that left me happy. That forced me to do a lot of “work,” sifting through more albums than I ever have to form this list.

Overall, I found myself changing my mind a lot more than usual. This caused me to mix up my list several times. It’s been tricky this year to define the overall top albums, but let’s give it a shot. Keeping with a personal tradition, I spent most of the year putting together this music list on post-it notes in my office. My goal is to find something new everyday, as you can see with this SOTD list I tweet every weekday. Ranking music gives me something to go back to so I can reflect on what I really loved. At work I’ve blocked off a section of my desk to organize this list. Every album I love gets ranked in this Post-It Note list. After some last minute adjustments, here are my official Top 10 Albums of 2014:

The Top 5

1. Beneath The Brine by The Family Crest

I think it would be fair to define this sound as epic. It’s a full band with horns, string instruments, backup vocals and one hell of a lead singer. This album makes an excellent first impression, coming in strong right from the start. I’ll admit I had to question myself if the fun would wear off, but after small breaks from this album I continued to find the spark every time I returned. I got a chance to see this group perform over the fall. I love it when bands can deliver the same energy and sound they do in the studio. Considering their big sound and ridiculous vocals, I was delightfully surprised by their performance. Sealing their spot as my number one album on this list is the song depth featured on the album. Every song is enjoyable and allows listeners to give it a full play through. A rare sight this year, even on this list.

Top Tracks:

  • Beneath The Brine
  • The World
  • Howl

2. So Long, See You Tomorrow by Bombay Bicycle Shop

Looking at a lot of lists, I’m not sure people appreciate this album enough. The album takes listeners on a complete journey with unique sounds and beats. Several songs will let listeners space out while other songs will force them to bang their head. The beats mixed within several of these songs brings a big smile to my face. I like the way this album contrasts with my choice above. Up top, we have full band with orchestral instruments. This album is much more synth driven. It features a full rock band that allows electronic sounds, and lots of production magic, turn busy tracking into something beautiful. I’d like to describe this album as a mix of two artists: Yeasayer + Radiohead.

Top Tracks:

  • Overdone
  • Carry Me
  • Luna

3. Mended With Gold by The Rural Alberta Advantage

I love the fall music season. It’s when I finally have a list of top albums put together, only to be blown away by an onslaught of great music. Surprisingly, this is highest fall album on my list (September release). At number 3, this is probably the most underrated album on my list. I was very tempted to move this album higher. I wouldn’t call their sound unique, but this album became a real change of pace for me in the late half of the year. The Rural Alberta Advantage is an indie folk band that can rock out. As a drummer, the percussion is the first thing I notice. The drums provide great energy and push this band to another level. Their sound is clearly centered around modern folk, but I can’t help but think of a few 90s bands, like Sister Hazel, when I listen to them. I think that may be mostly the vocals. Song depth is another strength of this album, but the hard rocking drums may cause your ears to request an intermission in the middle of the album. I found a lot of great quiet folk music this year. This is a great pallet cleanser album for those listening moments.

Top Tracks:

  • Terrified
  • Our Love…
  • Runners in the Night

4. This Is All Yours by Alt-J

I expected to see this album at the top of a lot of music lists this year. It’s with good reason. Alt-J took their sound to another level. They evolved, grew, matured. As singles were released from this album, I was convinced this would win my album of the year. When the album was released, I have to admit I was a bit disappointed. I found myself very impatient. I personally think releasing singles did a disservice to the album. It got me jumping to all of those great energetic moments instead of absorbing them within the album’s whole construct. Ignoring that complaint, when I finally would settle into this album it’s still worth a lot of praise. It’s hard to not appreciate this album by looking at their past work. Their first album was brilliant, but felt like lots of separate thoughts. This album feels like it was built as one big story. The band has also found a new energy I did not know they were capable of. Left Hand Free is a truly surprising song from them. Featuring guitar hooks and a few pop elements. It’s a great song. While the band touches this new dimension, it did not abandon its original sound. They still dig deeper into the moody, yet restrained, sound they’ve become known for. I have a feeling I’ll be digging into this album a few more times this winter.

Top Tracks:

  • Left Hand Free
  • Hunger Of The Pine
  • Every Other Freckle

5. Lighght by Kishi Bashi

Kishi Bashi is back! My favorite new artist of 2012 is back on the list in 2014. I discussed earlier that many returning artists releases were overall a bit disappointing. Kishi Bashi’s new album originally fell into that description until I dug a little deeper. It’s tricky for artists to follow-up their original work. We, the listeners, fall in love with that sound and want more. But sometimes we also want change or growth within the sound. Kishi Bashi stays true to his original sound in this album. It’s easy to write it off as more of the same, but when you sit down and listen to the album, he dug a lot deeper into that sound. The second half of this album is a great example of this. Sometimes artists don’t need to change to grow. In Kishi Bashi’s case, I think changing would cause him to lose his identity and sound. This album features plenty of finger-plucking violin and vocal looping that we’ve come to love.

Top Tracks:

  • In Fantasia
  • Philosophize In It! Chemicalize With It!
  • Carry On Phenomenon

The Next 5

6. My Favorite Faded Fantasy by Damien Rice – Damien Rice’s third studio album will cause you to quickly forget his underwhelming sophomore effort. All of these songs are 5+ minutes long and I love that. Gives Damien time to twist and grow the song into something amazing.

Top Tracks

  • My Favorite Faded Fantasy
  • It Takes A Lot To Know A man
  • I Don’t Want To Change You

7. And The War Came by Shakey Graves – This album took some really big bounces on my list, almost taking the top spot at one point. When you’re in the right mood, this album is amazing. Overall, it’s lacking a little song depth, but I think their sophomore album could be dynamite!

Top Tracks:

  • Dearly Departed
  • The Perfect Parts
  • If Not For You

8. Darc Arc by Saintsenca – An album I hope more people listen to. I dad a chance to see them perform over the summer and listened to the album all year after that. Takmit is my favorite track on the album. I wish they had a few more that sounded like it, but the album is a fun journey, exploring several moods.

Top Tracks

  • Takmit
  • Happy Alone
  • Blood Bath

9. Stay Gold by First Aid Kit – Have to admit this was a late find for me. The album was released in June, but somehow I missed it. That’s why I love reading end of the year lists. Helped me find this album and several other great ones. This is the only one that made my Top 10. The song depth on this album is fantastic. It’s actually better to listen to it as an album than to pick out single tracks. The songs blend together very nicely. First Aid Kit is a Swedish sister duo that plays Americana like their from the southwestern deserts of the United States. It’s an amazing album that might have been higher on my list if I had spent more time with it.

Top Tracks:

  • My Silver Lining
  • The Bell
  • Master Pretender

10. Language & Perspective by Bad Suns – I have to include one pop album on this list! I guess the best description for this would be hook-heavy indie rock. This album fell in and out of my list all year, but its overall song depth won me over. While the sound may not vary much throughout the album, all of the tracks are fun and can be played over and over. Might want to save this album for the summer.

Top Tracks:

  • Cardiac Arrest
  • Sleep Paralysis
  • We Move Like the Ocean

Honorable Mentions

Plenty of music to get you through the upcoming year. Did the trick for me! Feel free to go through and listen to all the links below, or click here and go to an online playlist hosted by WHYD.

Lullaby and the Ceaseless Roar by Robert Plant – Almost made my list! Have to punish albums I couldn’t hear a ton thanks to them not being on Spotify. Love how many different sounds are fused together on this track.

After The Disco by Broken Bells – Couldn’t wait for another album by them, but it fell into a theme of good not great albums by known artists.

Education, Education, Education and War by Kaiser Chiefs –

When I Was Younger by Colony House –

Mt. Royal EP by Mt. Royal – EP’s are so cruel. I need more!

Theosophy by Pete Molinari – On my list for much of the year. Great throwback vocals with a bluesy guitar

Manhattan by SKATERS –

Nabuma Rubberband by Little Dragon – First half of this album is fantastic. Want to edit my next video to this song.

Ghost Stories by Coldplay – Some good, some bad on this album. Got really excited when this track was released. Overall the album was just missing something. Wish they had explored this sound a little more.

Half The City by St. Paul & The Broken Bones – One of my favorite discoveries of the year.

Mad Man by Sean Rowe – Love that voice.

Meridian by The Soil & The Sun – One of my favorite Michigan bands. Love this track, wish album had a few more like it.

Turn Blue by The Black Keys – Wanted to put this on my list, but was too hard to listen to it. Not on Spotify. Album is little slower, I like it.

1989 by Taylor Swift – Credit where credit is due. Best Pop album of the year. Might have been on my list if I could have listened to it more on Spotify.

VA by The Last Bison – Easy to miss this album, worth a listen.

Zaba by Glass Animals – This was one of my favorite albums from the first half of the year.

Hypnotic Eye by Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers –

In The Lonely Hour by Sam Smith –

Familiars by The Antlers – A lot of people thrown off by this album, big change in sound for this artist.

Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Son by Damien Jurado –

Springtime Carnivore by Springtime Carnivore –

Seeds by TV On The Radio – Some of my favorite work by this artist.

Utah by Jamestown Revival –

Hozier by Hozier –

The Steamroller EP by Port Isla – Those vocals remind me so much of The Vaccines!

Not A Trampoline by Rob Cantor –

In Return by Odesza – My favorite electronica album of the year.

HAERTS by HAERTS – After last year, I expected this album to be great. Needed more new material.

Ritual In Repeat by Tennis

Tough Love by Jessie Ware –

…And Star Power by Foxygen –

Idle Beauty EP by Motopony – This band has changed a lot. Can’t wait to hear a full album.

The Definition by Jon Bellion –

Hey Hey by Mapei –

Alvvays by Alvvays –

Goddess by Banks –

Ultraviolence by Lana Del Rey –

Blue Sunshine by U.S. Royalty – If you like Bad Suns give this a try.

Bahamas is Afie by Bahamas –

Passerby by Luluc –

In Conflict by Owen Pallett –

Close To The Glass by The Notwist –

7 Layers by Dotan

Kathleen And The Other Three by Catfish and the Bottleman –

After Hours by Timeflies –

Black Hours by Hamilton Leithauser –

My Everything by Ariana Grande – Mini-Mariah Carey, no other comparison needed

Mixed Blessings by Beaty Heart –

Bad Self Portraits by Lake Street Dive –

Parallel Play by Panama Wedding – A full album might have gotten these guys into the Top 10.

Montibello Memories by Matrimony –

All or Nothin’ by Nikki Lane –

Highspeeds by Elliot Moss –

Winter by Vancouver Sleep Clinic –

Post Tropical by James Vincent McMarrow –

Lost In The Dream by The War On Drugs – I’m still processing this record. Think it’s starting to grow on me.

Sun Structures by Temples – Great throwback psychedelic rock sound.

Silent Treatment by Highasakite –

Eons by Mimicking Birds –

American Middle Class by Angaleena Presley –

Vengo by Ana Tijoux –

HEAL by Strand of Oaks –

Cavalo by Rodrigo Amarante –

Nickki Nack by tUnE-yArDs –

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Music: 2014 Year In Review (Songs)

by P.J. Wascher

I’ll admit at the top of this, I consider Album of the Year my biggest music award. I usually throw in Song of the Year as a one off in my reviews, but I’ve grown my album review article so much I think it’s time to spin-off this section. If you follow me on Twitter, I try to tweet a new song every weekday through the year. As music changes, more people are listening to single songs by an artist over the whole album. While I’m still partial to the album, I think it’s a good idea to also recognize great single pieces of work. If you read my album review, you’ll notice a little contrast in the lists as well.

For the first time, I kept a full list of my favorite songs of the year in addition to albums. It’s time to recognize my Top 5 favorite songs from 2014 and my Best New Artist:

Top 5 Songs:

Song Of The Year:

Color Decay by Júníus Meyvant

I went back and forth a lot this year on what should be my song of the year. When I listened to all my contenders, I finally settled on this one. The happy feeling it gives me is unique. I love songs that feature a full instrumental band. This song features everything: acoustic guitars, bongos, orchestral strings and of course horns.

2. Beneath The Brine by The Family Crest

Winner of my Album Of The Year award, The Family Crest came close to sweeping the board this year. This is a knockout song. If you’ve never heard this artist, there’s no way to overstate how much energy this group can bring. The vocals are outrageous. Love it when guys can hit the high notes. Can’t find anyone that does it better than Liam McCormick. This song also features a full instrumental band.

3. Water Fountain by tUnE-yArDs

I love songs that stretch our ears. Changing the way we listen to music. That can mean introducing new beats, vocal styles or sounds. This artist certainly does that. Was very tempted to make this song number one. This song starts with the beat laid down between the drums and handclaps. The vocals take it from there. Changing between chants and loose singing. The build-up is fantastic. So much energy, it gets to the point where the vocals are the song’s beat.

4. Carry Me by Bombay Bicycle Shop

I find this song so much fun. This is the most produced song on my list. Bombay Bicycle Shop puts all the editing tricks it could find to work. A synth beat laid down as the head-bopping pulse. They then layer another drumbeat down, to weave new beats and energy throughout. Guitars for texture and of course the vocals…Well I guess you’d describe them as robotic. It’s a strange formula that works brilliantly. Wish I could have been in the studio the day they created this. No idea how something like this is formed.

5. It Takes A Lot To Know A Man by Damien Rice

A spare emotional song that let’s listeners pick individual sounds out as Damien Rice takes you on a full journey. At over nine minutes, this track leaves no sound untouched. Music can often be very cruel. We find a sound we love and leave it alone. There’s nothing simple about this song and I love that. It’s a full journey and allows you to completely zone-into the audio space Damien has created.


Best New Artist:

Catfish and the Bottlemen

This was actually very tricky to award. I found lots of artists that were new to me. Several of the artists I found had prior work, but this was the first year their work received major public attention. There is a lot of gray when trying to determine what counts as “new.” I’ve decided to only count artists that release their first full length album in the year I’m reviewing. Catfish and the Bottlmen is not necessarily a “new” band. Formed in 2007, they officially signed to a label in 2013. Most of their song releases came out this year and their first full-length album actually comes out early next year. So that counts! As rock music continues to be harder and harder to find, we need more groups like this.

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Lions Draft 2014 Recap

by: P.J. Wascher

So how did the Lions do? Hard to say, I think they got some interesting pieces, but I feel a bit underwhelmed. Will this draft help the team turn the corner? I don’t see it. Mayhew says his goal is to draft 3 starters every year. Looking at this year’s draft, I see three starters for the 2014 season, but one of them is a kicker. The rest are projects. It’s been a while since the Lions have had much luck with development picks. This article will recap the picks and predictions made before the draft.

The Picks

First Round: Eric Ebron, North Carolina (TE)

Well I was surprised by this pick. I can’t hate the pick, but I don’t love it. Sammy Watkins appeared to be one of the targets Thursday night, but I think all Lions fans are relieved to see them step out of that bidding war with Buffalo. Giving up a first round pick is just not worth it, unless you think he’s the next Calvin Johnson. I do not think that. I think he could be a great compliment to Calvin, but I’m not sold he’s a feature receiver in the NFL. By the time the lions picked, most of the elite defensive talent was off the board. As discussed in my last piece, the Lions do not like drafting corners in the first round. Too much development work required to become an immediate contributor. So the options were pretty wide open at that point.  Drafting a TE with “elite” receiver skills makes a bit more sense when we’re reminded of the coaching change that took place in the offseason. The hope is Ebron can produce similar mismatches to Jimmy Graham. This could add a whole new dimension to the offense. My concern is how the Lions will attempt to use him. With Pettigrew resigned, I’m anticipating several two tight end sets. I personally prefer to spread the field out, putting less pressure on the O-Line during run plays. This can still be achieved if the Lions are willing to flex Ebron out wide, but it’s hard to anticipate what their plans are at the moment. New coaching staff with a new offensive scheme makes this pick hard to judge.

Second Round: Kyle Van Noy, BYU (OLB)

The Lions had an obvious hole at linebacker. New DC, Teryl Austin, has left hints he’s interested in using more 3-4. Kyle Van Noy looks ready to step in. Scouting reports describe Van Noy as a strong pass rush linebacker that can also drop back in coverage, giving him a lot of opportunities to be on the field. Been awhile sense the Lions made an impact draft pick at linebacker.

Third Round: Travis Swanson, Arkansas (C)

Finding a replacement for Raiola in this draft was predictable. Drafting that eventual replacement in the third round was a little surprising, especially with no secondary players drafted up to that point. The Swanson pick gives the Lions a decent backup at guard and center for the season. It sounds like they’ll have Swanson focusing on the guard position for the upcoming season, which could leave some possibility he could replace Rob Sims. I still think it’s more likely he slides into the center position for the 2015 season, but I won’t rule out either option. Swanson has been a durable four year starter at Arkansas. He’ll bring some much needed size to center at 6-5, 312 lbs, which will help give him flexibility to slide over to guard. It’s easy to define a role for Swanson, but the question remains if the Lions ignored greater needs for a future offensive line move. It’s hard to pick out a specific player they missed out on with this pick, but their underwhelming draft for the secondary makes this pick standout. I think the Swanson pick looks promising, but it’s not a win-now move.

Fourth Round: Nevin Lawson, Utah State (CB)

The Lions finally drafted somebody for their secondary. It’s hard to believe this was their number one target, but taking value into account, it’s the first time the Lions felt comfortable making an addition in this year’s draft. To be honest, it’s an underwhelming pick. Lawson, an undersized corner, has some clear flaws. He’s aggressive, but is prone to holding. This pick reminds me of the Jonte Green pick a few years ago. Expectations are low, but he’s aggressive and may get some opportunities thanks to his physical play. Most likely, he’s a special teams player, which is disappointing for a team that could use more playmakers at CB.

Fourth Round: Larry Webster, Bloomsburg (DE)

The Lions finished the fourth round with their second compensatory pick. Only two picks after the Lions selected Lawson. The Webster pick began the Lions move towards development players. Webster is a very raw, small school athlete that has only been playing football for two years. These picks are always intriguing. Tall and fast, Webster has the physical tools to be a special player. But turning these “diamond in the rough” players into real contributors is very difficult. The Lions have not had much luck with this strategy. It’s not easy for any team to pull off, but examples like Antonio Gates will keep teams testing this strategy out in the late rounds. Can’t blame them for making this move in the fourth round. The Lions could have use an extra defensive end and by the fourth round, teams can start making some gambles. Will be curious to see what kind of role the Lions give Webster this season, too raw to expect much in 2014.

Fifth Round: Caruan Reid, Princeton (DT)

The Lions continued their development draft pick phase with Caruan Reid. The strategy behind this pick is obvious. Reid projects as a nose tackle in a 3-4 defense, but scouting reports aren’t limiting him to a single defensive formation. For a team that is only “mixing” in the 3-4, Austin looks ready to play in both formations. Compared to Webster, I have a little more hope this pick can be productive. Webster’s extremely limited football background makes it a huge risk. Prefer the risk being taken with Reid.

Sixth Round: TJ Jones, Notre Dame (WR)

Now the Lions grab a WR.  At this point in the draft teams are just trying to find players that can make the roster. This pick gives the Lions a little more depth in the slot when Ebron is not there. Broyles and Ogletree will also be options here, but neither has stood out. I still like Broyles, but injuries have taken their toll. He is no longer a reliable option. TJ Jones had a solid senior year at Notre Dame and does the small things right. He has a shot to contribute.

Nate Freese, Boston College (K)

This was predictable. It’s not very popular for teams to draft special teams, but as long as they get it right I don’t mind. The Lions need a kicker. A weak kicker class did not leave me hopeful they could find a replacement for Hanson this season. Have not seen much tape on Freese, but scouting reports call him reliable, outdoors weather tested, but does not have great length. It would be nice to have that long distance option, but accuracy is king with this position. I can only tolerate this pick if the Lions promise to not do it again for at least five years.


How Did Those Predictions Go?

QB – Lions signed UDFA James Franklin, which was the predicted move. Sounds like they were looking for a late round QB in the draft, but the players were off the board when the Lions picked, a familiar trend in this year’s draft for the Lions.

RB – Did not expect any moves at RB, gave it my lowest “Possibility” number. That was correct. Lions have enough players to work with here.

WR – I expected the Lions to draft a WR high. I still think they looked at Watkins, but price was too steep. Thought they would then draft one in mid rounds. Drafting Ebron changed that.

TE – Did not understand why mock drafts had Ebron and the Lions as a possibility. I was wrong.

OT/G/C – Thought it was a possibility to draft someone on the line. Was hard to predict where the Lions would focus. Finding a Raiola replacement seemed the most likely. That was correct.

DE – Thought the Lions would grab another DE after letting Willie Young walk. Did not expect the pick to be this raw.

DT – Grabbing an insurance DT in the late rounds, check!

OLB – Thought they would consider drafting an OLB if Watkins was off board. Barr being off the board made that even tougher. Ended up waiting to the next round for Van Noy.

ILB – Did not rate this as a high possibility, but didn’t rule it out for the late rounds. Lions did not make a move here.

CB – Was surprised by this. Thought for sure the Lions would grab a corner in the first three rounds. I was wrong. Hope they still make an offseason trade here.

S – Weak Safety class did not give the Lions many options in the late rounds. Considered it a possibility for the first round, but the Lions had other ideas.

K – Yes, the Lions drafted a kicker, yes I said they might do that. Weak kicker class kept me a little cool on the idea though.


Final Thoughts

The draft is a time for optimism. New pieces that can transform the way a team plays in a single season.  I like to think I’m a positive evaluator for the draft, but I try my best to realistic. This season, I’m coming away a little less excited than usual. I do not see any major changes in store. Just lots of role players. Ebron should help diversify this offense, but he’s not a game changer like Watkins. Barr and Gilbert could have added elite talent to the defense, but were picked right before ten. That’s how most of the draft felt this season. It just didn’t break the Lions way. The Lions did the best they could, but it will require the core group of players to rise to the next level for any real change to occur. I still do not see a complete roster yet and anticipate the Lions will make more moves before the end of August. That secondary really needs some help.

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Lions Draft 2014 (Class Overview)

by: P.J. Wascher

The NFL Draft finally starts tomorrow. Despite the extra two weeks, first round mock drafts have been all over the board this season. It’s a really tough year to anticipate any pick a team will make thanks to the strong possibility of a top 10 pick being traded. Scouts can’t even agree who the top talent in the draft is this season. So it does not make a ton of sense to predict what the Lions will do this season. The fact is they could go in several directions. Despite the pessimism, I’ll be making my best attempt at predictions. I’ll be keeping to a similar format from the past and do a rundown on each position and the draft likelihood for the Lions. The Lions have become a tough team to project in the draft thanks to their “best player available” strategy, but if you look at past drafts by Mayhew, you can start to put clues together. Let’s rundown the board:

Position: QB

Possibility: (1 Low – 10 High) (3) I can’t rule out this possibility in the late rounds. I think they’ll avoid it though. Sends mixed messages to Stafford even if it’s a late round pick. The Lions signed Orlovsky to replace Shaun Hill. I could see them going the undrafted route again to develop a backup for the future. I don’t think the Lions are sold on Kellen Moore. Arm strength is not there. If they go the UDFA route, names I’m looking at include Tommy Rees, Notre Dame and Garret Gilbert, SMU.

Position: RB

Possibility: (1) Joique Bell and Reggie Bush are locked in as the Lions running back combo. They even have Riddick and Leshoure sitting on the bench for good measure. Picking a RB in the late rounds just does not make sense unless somebody caught the scouting team’s eye. Even then it really doesn’t make sense.

Position: WR

Possibility: (9) This is where it gets interesting. The Lions are strongly linked to Sammy Watkins, but that will probably require a trade. This is a big debate in Detroit. I know I’m in the minority here, but I’m not completely against the move, depending on the price. The Lions need a clear number two receiver. Golden Tate was signed to fill the slot in my opinion.  Sammy Watkins is the top WR in this draft by a good margin, but he’s not Calvin Johnson. He’s slower and not as tall. It’s a tough call what do here, but this would be consistent with the Lions win now message. Watkins would be expected to jump in and start contributing. Mike Evans has also been discussed, personally not a fan of that move. He’s a tall receiver, but very raw. Too much development required to take in the top 10. If the Lions don’t take a WR in the first round, I could still see them taking a WR in the first 3 rounds. Allen Robinson, Penn State, and Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt, would be two names I’d look out for in that scenario.

Position: TE

Possibility: (4) I’ve been surprised how much talk there’s been about the Lions taking a TE in this year’s draft. Doesn’t really add up, in my opinion, after resigning Pettigrew. I do not agree with some mock drafts that have the Lions taking top TE, Eric Ebron, with their first round pick. If they were going to take a TE, I think they’ll look in the later rounds for someone to compliment Pettigrew. Name to watch for in that scenario: C.J. Fiedorowicz, Iowa.

Position: Offensive Tackle

Possibility: (5) You can never rule out a pick for the offensive line. It’s a conservative move that can help secure the foundation of a team. There’s some elite talent at the top of the draft, but most of those tackles will be off the board by the time the Lions pick. The Lions appear to be happy with a Reiff + Waddle/Hilliard combo. Most likely scenario, the Lions look around the 5th round for a tackle. Similar to what they did with Jason Fox a few years ago. A player to develop that could play in an emergency. A little more depth is required after Fox’s departure.

Position: Offensive Guard

Possibility: (5) The Lions hit the jackpot last year with their 3rd round pick, Larry Warford. Maybe the Lions will use that strategy again to add depth. They finally have a decent combo of guards, but Sims is starting to get up there in age. Looking for a potential replacement in the middle rounds could make sense.  Trai Turner, LSU, in the fourth round could make sense.

Position: Center

Possibility: (6) It’s hard for many Lions fans to accept, but Dominic Raiola had a very good 2013 season. He’s getting up there in the age, but it makes no sense to draft a replacement in the first two rounds as some have suggested. Drafting a middle round replacement for the future would make more sense in my opinion. Looking at Marcus Martin, USC, third round.

Position: Defensive End

Possibility: (7) The Lions have some options at this position, but nothing elite to pair up with Ansah. Jones will be coming off an injury and Taylor is still a raw prospect. Love Clowney, but not much else within the Top 10. Would like to see them address this position with one more player. Will probably happen after the first round. Looking at Demarcus Lawrence, Boise State, in the fourth or fifth round.

Position: Defensive Tackle

Possibility: (7) The Lions are in a tough spot with this position. With lots of investment that could come to an end very soon, it’s tough to know what their future plans are for Suh and Fairley. Both contracts are potentially (Suh has a 2015 player option) up next season. They may want some insurance. In a “win now” mode, how high are they willing to make that kind of insurance move? If they’re investing a late round pick, I’d look at Jay Bromley, Syracuse, 6th or 7th round.

Position: Outside Linebacker

Possibility: (8) With a new regime in town, one of the first moves I think they’ll strongly consider making is an upgrade at OLB. Ashlee Palmer is a solid player, but not a playmaker. The Lions need to create more pressure from this position. I think this is the second most likely position for the Lions to draft in the first round (WR most likely). Anthony Barr, UCLA, and Khalil Mack, Buffalo are the two top names in the draft at OLB. Lions would have to make a move to get Mack.

Position: Inside Linebacker

Possibility: (3) Tulloch did not have his best season in 2013, but he’s still a reliable player the Lions are invested in. Would be surprised to see the Lions do anything more than look at a later round pick for depth. Max Bullough, MSU, would be an interesting option if he drops into the later rounds.

Position: Cornerback

Possibility: (10) I think the Lions will draft a corner, but not in the first round! Mayhew has addressed his thoughts on secondary players many times. It’s the most injury prone position in the league. To avoid that issue, he prefers bigger corners he can get later in the draft. Justin Gilbert and Darqueze Dennard could be reasonable picks in the first round, but it’s hard to expect much from any first round cornerback their rookie season. History has shown this position requires some development time. Trying to win now, I think the Lions would prefer to draft a player like Stanley Jean Baptiste, Nebraska, in the second round and keep developing their last set of picks. Lions have already invested lots of draft picks in the secondary. Time for Slay, Bentley and Greenwood to contribute.

Position: Safety

Possibility: (5) The Lions dropped Delmas in the offseason, but appear to have signed his replacement, Ihedigbo. The Lions could use a playmaker at the position, but I’d be surprised if they drafted one in the first round with two starters already signed. Overall scouts are pretty down on this class. Not against the Lions taking Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Alabama, but it seems like a reach. Not sure he’s a playmaker worthy of the number 10 pick.

Position: Kicker

Possibility: (6) After last year’s Punter draft pick, the Lions have shown their willingness to draft special teams. The Lions need a kicker. If they see one worth taking, I they’ll be willing to use a sixth round pick on it once again. No kicker is jumping off the page this year though, my blind guess is Chris Boswell, Rice.

So what are the Lions doing in the first round?

The discussion around Sammy Watkins has been fascinating. I’m a fan of his and would be in favor of drafting him, but that’s before I consider the potential cost. Trading up to pick him does not make sense considering the likely cost.  The Lions could use all the picks they can get. Overall, this is considered a very strong WR class, they’re probably best served to wait on the WR pick, but it’s tempting to think about making a move similar to Atlanta. Finding a complement receiver to Calvin Johnson will provide this offense better balance, but making a move at the price Atlanta gave up to get Julio Jones is too much for a team like the Lions. Atlanta was trying to make a single move that could win a Super Bowl. The Lions need more than one move to make that leap forward. Looking elsewhere, I still see outside linebacker as the next most likely position for the Lions to draft in the first round. The Lions need to create more pressure on the QB from the linebacker position. The new coaching staff appears to be more willing to blitz. Anthony Barr could fill that role, but this pick would also have some risk to it. Barr is physically impressive and has been productive, but he’s raw and disappeared throughout the year too. Most great blitzing outside linebackers are playing in a 3-4 defense, the Lions are still running a 4-3. If they draft an OLB, it could lead to future discussions about a transition for this defense.

PJ’s Draft Board (First Round Predictions)

1. Sammy Watkins, WR (Clemson) Where there’s smoke there’s fire right? Or a really big distraction I guess.

2. Anthony Barr, OLB (UCLA) Still feels like a stretch for me at 10.

3. Dee Ford, DE (Auburn) Had a really good Senior Bowl, Lions certainly took that into consideration when they picked Ansah last year.

4. Justin Gilbert, CB (Oklahoma State) Can’t rule out the possibility they’ll take a corner in the first round, it’s just not likely in my opinion.

5. Mike Evans, WR (Texas A&M) I’m not a fan of this pick, too early to be picking a developmental WR. Personally think a player like Marqise Lee (USC) would make more sense, but injuries will probably scare Lions away.

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Music: 2013 In Review

by P.J. Wascher


It’s never been easier to discover great music. Spotify has been my weapon of choice, but the Internet has created several portals for bands to reach new fans. Keeping with a personal tradition, I spent most of the year putting together this music list on post-it notes. While listening through all this music I kept saying to myself “2013 can’t beat the music year we just had (2012).” While I still kind of believe that, 2013 was a great year for music. Yes 2012 was special, I’m still digging up great music from that year, but 2013 was able to fill my hunger for new music and so much more. This list is part of my annual tradition. I love ranking music. It brings order to my crazy listening habits. My goal is to find something new everyday, as you can see with this SOTD list. Ranking music gives me something to go back to and reflect on what I really loved. At work I’ve blocked off a section of my desk to organize this list. Every album I love gets ranked in this Post-It Note list. After some last minute adjustments, Here are my official Top 10 Albums of 2013 and Song Of The Year:

Song Of The Year:

Wings by Haerts

The Moment I heard this song I knew I’d found my song of the year. The vocals are the first thing to notice. Long sustained notes make it hard to not get sucked right in. A flashback 80s synth sound followed by an electric guitar that makes me think of summer sets the theme. The easy to ignore detail is the drums, with great background fills and a shift to double time at the end. It hits all the right notes and even hides great details in the layers to enjoy over and over.


The Top 5

  1. Modern Vampires of the City by Vampire Weekend – I’ll admit right off the top, this feels strange. It doesn’t feel right putting a band, I quite frankly struggle with at the top of this list. I’ve never been a fan of their earlier work and their inability to match the richness of their studio-produced albums has always frustrated me. That has still not changed, but I think Vampire Weekend went with a different approach to that weakness. Instead of worrying about what it would sound like live, they went all in on the studio approach. The result is pretty incredible. The detail and emotion in these songs is great. It’s the only album this year that I was able to constantly press play and listen all the way through. I love albums like this. Every track is worth listening too. No throw aways. Having seen some live performances by them, it hasn’t gotten any better on that front, in my opinion, but their album production quality has taken a giant leap forward.

Top Tracks:

  • Obvious Bicycles
  • Unbelievers
  • Ya Hey

2. Wildewoman by Lucius

I went to their concert in late October. By the end I heard three different conversations say, “They’re going to be something special.” While I agree with the sentiment, I’d argue they already are something special. This album is fantastic. Every year I look for a new sound, this was it: a female singing combo with a folk/pop fusion. The vocals obviously lead the way with this group, but the drums/percussion supply the energy. Whenever I try to describe this to people, I always get a surprised look when I start playing their tracks. So either people are really skeptical about my music taste or I’m really terrible at describing music, so I think I’ll let the track below do the work.

Top Tracks:

  • Turn It Around
  • Hey, Doreen
  • Two of Us on the Run

3. AM by Arctic Monkeys

I’m an Olympics nut. Watching the 2012 London Olympic Opening Ceremony, I saw this band along side the likes of Paul McCartney representing the UK’s great music scene. I’d heard some of their stuff, but none of it had really jumped off the page for me. This album has completely changed that. I think we can thank The Black Keys for this great rock evolution. That sound has worked its way into several of the best rock albums of the year.

Top Tracks:

  • R U Mine?
  • Arabella
  • Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?

4. Bankrupt! by Phoenix

If you were allowed to judge your own music list, I’d call this my biggest surprise album on the list. When I originally listened through this album, I found it a bit too much of shift from their original sound. Adding a significant amount of synth to their sound, I was not ready for the move. After a several month hiatus, I randomly felt interested in giving this album another try. Cutting out the surprise, it finally started making sense to me. Different isn’t always bad, but certain expectations can make it tough to adjust. This album is fantastic and shows the group is still growing and evolving. I’m still not sure where they can go from here, but I like that this group is experimenting. It’s too easy to stand still with what works.

Top Tracks:

  • Entertainment
  • Trying to Be Cool
  • The Real Thing

5. All The Times We Had by Ivan & Alyosha

I’ve always liked the sound from this band. It hits all the right notes for me. After four years, they finally released a follow-up album and it’s become much more polished. Watching them live in November, I can give thumbs up approval for carrying their sound over to their concert performances. This album reminds me of The Temper Trap’s self-titled album, lots of great melodies and vocals. This group features a bit more of a folksy side and group vocals allow for build up in that area. The guitar melodies are fantastic.

Top Tracks:

  • Be Your Man
  • Fathers Be Kind
  • Running For Cover

The Next 5

New this year, thanks to a great 2013 for music, I’ve ranked beyond the Top 5. Here are 5 more albums worth your time:

6. The World From The Side Of The Moon by Phillip Phillips – Dave Mathews + Jason Mraz. I really didn’t expect to love this, but his live versions of these songs are fantastic.

Top Tracks:

  • Gone, Gone, Gone
  • Man On The Moon
  • Can’t Go Wrong

7. Be by Beady Eye – This was my “pallet cleanser” album for the year. When songs begin to blend together, this album always cleared my head. Great throwback rock sound.

Top Tracks

  • Flick Of The Finger
  • Shine A Light
  • Soul Love

8. Lanterns by Son Lux – I love what this artist can do in a studio. Almost took my song of the year.

Top Tracks:

  • Lost It To Trying
  • Alternate World
  • Easy

9. Repave by Volcano Choir – My longing for a new Bon Iver album has been slightly quelled by this release.

Top Tracks:

  • Tiderays
  • Byegone
  • Comrade

10. Life is Elsewhere by Little Comets – Afropop continues to go more and more mainstream thanks to Vampire Weekend, but they’ve moved a bit off of it. This group has picked the torch right back up.

Top Tracks

  • Worry
  • A Little Opus
  • Jennifer

Honorable Mentions

Native by One Republic – Big fan of this group, was guilty of overplaying this album.

Comedown Machine by The Strokes – Angles still my favorite album by this group.

Spreading Rumors by Grouplove

Home by Rudimental

Dear Miss Lonelyhearts by Cold War Kids

Holy Fire by Foals

Give In by On An On

Random Access Memories by Daft Punk – Wanted to love this album badly. It’s good but not great.

What Wonder Is This Universe! by The Soil And The Sun – Officially a 2012 album, or else it’d be in my Top 10.

In Guards We Trust by Guards

Same Trailer Different Park by Kacey Musgraves – My Country Album of Year. This song linked is also my favorite song from that genre for the year.

Fever Forms by The Octopus Project – I found this music a perfect way to dust off the Monday blues.

Hearthrob by Teagan and Sara

Rift into the Secrect of Things by Bonzie

Country Sleep by Night Beds

Reflektor by Arcade Fire – Still making up my mind on this album. Like it, not sure if I love it.

Dormarian by Telekinesis

Pythons by Surfer Blood

Cave Rave by Crystal Fighters

Evil Friends by Portugal. The Man – Been a fan of this group for a while. Was excited to see them pairing with my favorite producer (Danger Mouse) for this album.

….Like Clockwork by Queens of Stone Age

More Than Just A Dream by Fitz and The Tantrums

A Color Map of the Sun by Pretty Lights

When The Night by St. Lucia

The Bones of What You Believe by CHVRCHES

Paradise Valley by John Mayer – Still waiting on the next Continuum, not sure it’s coming, but this is a step in the right direction.

Yeezus by Kanye West – I’m a huge Kanye fan, but I feel very torn about this album. The lyrics make this a very uncomfortable listen.

Interiors by Glasser

Matangi by M.I.A.

We Are Twin by We Are Twin

Hemiplegia by Haerts

Overgrown by James Blake


Movin’ On Up? (Michigan Football Preview 2013)

by: P.J. Wascher

Brady Hoke year 3. Optimism continues to grow off some great recruiting classes, but the product on the field continues to look like a transition. Denard Robinson will go down as a legend in this program’s history, but his graduation now means Michigan can finally begin to look like the product Hoke promised when he first arrived. Looking at the year ahead, Michigan is finally beginning to get some depth at several positions, but injuries and graduation have left several question marks. Making things even more difficult to predict, we just don’t know how life will be without Denard on offense or Kovacs on defense. Big Ten Championship is always the goal. Is it possible this year? Maybe. With a squad full of question marks, Michigan fans are left in the dark going into the season.


Michigan and the pro style offense is back! We think. Hard to figure out what this offense will really look like this season. Devin Gardner still brings a dangerous running option with him that will make it tempting to leave several spread offense plays in the book. Making things tougher to implement a true pro style offense, Michigan lacks a tall WR to target down the field. Jeremy Gallon will be the team’s number one target this year, but his size will always be his limiting factor. He will have a great season, but it will still limit the way Michigan can call plays. Gallon is dangerous in space and will always excel more in a spread offense. Helping this offense transition is an actual QB that can be considered a passing threat. Devin showed off his arm late last season. The Wolverines finally have a QB that can target receivers without resorting to a heave. Gardner was a promising 5 star recruit when he came to Ann Arbor, but looked like a QB with happy feet his first two seasons. A year at WR and lots of development later, he has settled down and looks ready to be a top QB in the Big Ten.

The offensive line could not run. Let’s be blunt here. It was ugly. The Wolverines were short handed on the interior line and were not ready to throw their highly rated true freshman out there. This left Michigan with no real running threat other than Denard and made their offense very predictable. Not a problem against the cupcakes, but it caught up with them in places like Columbus. This year, Michigan will finally be using those freshmen, now red-shirt freshman. Kalis should help big time at guard. Michigan has still struggled to fill that center spot, but it can’t be any worse than last year. Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield at tackle should be a lock for best tackle combo in the Big Ten. We don’t yet know how this running game will look though; we just hope it’s better. Toussaint is the clear number one back this season, despite the gruesome season ending injury last season. All reports say he is healthy this season. It was a rough season for Toussaint last year, but it’s hard to blame him for much considering the offensive line struggles. If Toussaint is not healthy, Michigan will have several options under him. Derrick Green, true freshman, will probably be the true number two.

Running through the offense, it’s hard to not feel optimistic, but we just don’t know. How will Devin Gardner look as the full time QB. How will he adjust to the new offense? How will he deal with teams that are going to be scouting and adjusting to him? Small WR options make me nervous. An injury to his number two target, Amara Darboh, isn’t helping. If the running game can improve, this will help take pressure off Gardner’s passing game. This offense had its moments last season, but found itself predictable against the top teams when they could shutdown all running options other than Denard. They key to a Borges offense is the ability to run the ball. If defenses begin to respect RBs between the tackles, Gardner will be able to let it fly down the field.


It may not steal the headlines this season, but it’s the squad fans should feel more comfortable with. Going through the positions, only safety is leaving me concerned. Life without Kovacs is going to take some adjustment. Jarrod Wilson appears to be the starter until Avery is healthy. Neither will be the playmaker Kovacs has been. Many think Thomas Gordon will fill that role, but I just don’t see it. He’s a solid player, but has never shown that ability to play a LB type role in run support. When I stop worrying about the Safeties, it starts to look a little better. The Cornerbacks will get Blake Countess back from injury, who looks like a possible shut-down corner. Ramon Taylor on the other side will continue to develop along wil several decent options. Jake Ryan’s injury has left some nervous about the linebackers, but his return in October should ease those concerns. The schedule looks manageable till then. Prepare to hear James Ross a lot. This should be his year to shine. The defensive line still has a few question marks. The Wolverines are still looking for more QB pressure from this group. That will rest on Frank Clark this season. He’s a physical beast that just hasn’t shown it on the field yet. His ability to rush the QB will be even more important thanks to Jake Ryan’s injury. No pressure and the secondary will be left out to dry. This secondary is decent, but that can only get you so far at the college level. I trust Mattison to find different ways to put pressure on the QB. His blitz packages have been effective the last two years, but if he could avoid sending an extra guy his defense will really be ready to take off. Probably still a year away from that.


Central Michigan – W – Nice easy opener

Notre Dame – L – Rees gets the last laugh smh

Akron – W – Cupcake game

Connecticut – W – They lost to Towson!

Minnesota – W – Same old Minnesota, the Jug should be safe

Penn State – W – QB still unsettled, Will those scholarship reductions finally hurt?

Indiana – W – Good offense, bad defense

Michigan State – W – Tough game like usual

Nebraska – W – They were lucky to win last year

Northwestern – W – Toss-up game

Iowa – W – Kirk Ferentz is still in rebuilding mode…

Ohio State – L – I really hate Urban Meyer

Overall 10-2

It’s an optimistic prediction, but you can make a case for every position being better this year, other than Safety. Lots of questions about the offense Borges will run this season, but he should have lots of options, which is never a bad thing. This is still a tough schedule, 5 toss up games (Notre Dame, MSU, Nebraska, Northwestern and OSU). With that many games up in the air, my prediction could look pretty foolish. In Hoke I trust. As the system moves closer to his personnel, this team should continue to win more of those toss-up games. Big Ten Championship is in reach this season, but it will take a little magic.

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Keep The Momentum? (2013 Syracuse Football Preview)

by: P.J. Wascher

It’s hard to admit to optimism with a football program like Syracuse. Expectations have been limited for over 20 years and it recently witnessed one of the ugliest coaching tenures in program history with Greg Robinson. But a win at the Pinstripe Bowl against West Virginia, a four game winning streak to close out the season and things looked like they were finally turning around. It’s funny how quickly that optimism can die though. Doug Marrone bolts for the NFL and Syracuse is now left trying to hold onto a dream that looked ready to take flight just a few months earlier. I’ll never understand fans that forgive Marrone for giving up his “dream job,” but I do understand the Scott Shafer hire. This team feels like it’s finally on the right track and Shafer comes off as a genuine hard-nosed coach. It’s going to be up to him to keep this school’s dream alive.


Switching to a no huddle spread offense did wonders for this team last year. When the team finally made the move, the light switch went on and the team began to roll. This season, with heavy personnel turnover and coaching turnover, the goal is to match the product they put out there last year. Losing Nathaniel Hackett to the Bills, Syracuse has promised to keep a similar system that fans are now attached to, but they must do this while losing their QB, Left Tackle and top two WR targets. So change is unfortunately expected. What Syracuse still has is running backs. Jerome Smith and Prince Tyson Gulley proved a formidable duo last season. This offense will need them even more this season. The QB starter situation has been cloudy all offseason. Syracuse lost it’s top recruit in Zach Allen. He was always unlikely to start, but may have competed with the two options left: Oklahoma transfer Drew Allen and Terrel Hunt. My gut says Drew Allen will start, but I won’t be surprised either way. Hunt would provide more of a running option, but he’s inexperienced as a true sophomore. Either option will be a downgrade to Nassib. At WR, Syracuse will have some work to do replacing it’s top two options. Jarrod West should be the clear number one option this season, targeted third most on the team last year. Since Shafer is a converted defensive coordinator, this is the side of the ball fans will be more concerned with. Promises have been made to keep an up temp offense, but with so many pieces missing it will take some magic from Syracuse’s new offensive coordinator, George McDonald.


Defense will need to be the calling card of this team if it wants to keep the momentum. Having your head coach promoted from defensive coordinator, one would think he’d have strong network to find strong coaching candidates for that side of the ball. Defensive Coordinator Chuck Bullough will have some pieces to work with on this end. Starting with a strong linebacker duo in Marquis Spruill and Dyshawn Davis. The Orange will also have some promising pieces in the secondary. The biggest hole will be in safety. Losing Shamrko Thomas will take some adjustment. He lead the team in tackles last season, and was defense’s motor with all or nothing tackling form. This defense has never been a shutdown squad. But it will need to make some stands if this team is going to compete in the ACC.


Penn State – L – Stability with Bill O’Brien and Cuse’s bad luck in the Big Ten = loss

Northwestern – L – Solid Big Ten, not going to happen

Wagner – W – Cupcake Team

Tulane – W – Friendly non-conference game

Clemson – L – Buckle up, top ACC team

NC State – L – Welcome to the ACC, we have depth in this conference

Georgia Tech – L – Triple option will take some getting used to

Wake Forest – W – Welcome to the bottom half of the ACC

Maryland – W – Soon-to-be Big Ten bottom feeder

Florida State – L – This could be ugly

Pittsburgh – W – Big East rematch

Boston College – W – Toss-up game, should win this one

Overall 6 – 6

New coach, new conference, It’s hard to expect too much. Marrone knew it would be tough to improve his resume at this point. The team has experienced large turnover on offense and this new conference will make it even tougher to become bowl eligible. Shafer will have his work cut out for him. Fair expectations will be 500 for this team.  Anything above and the team has transitioned well, anything below and it may be a tough road ahead. Shafer has waited a while for this opportunity. It wasn’t easy getting and it won’t be easy succeeding in it.

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Room For Improvement (2013 Michigan State Football Preview)

by: P.J. Wascher

Last season was a classic example of why hype can be dangerous. As I’ve discussed on this blog before, expectations set the bar for when things can start being fun with a team. When your expectation is a conference championship a 7-6 season and an even uglier 3-5 in the Big Ten is going to create lots of frustration and anger.  Despite these results last year, the expectations remain the same. With limited turnover on defense and a new offensive coordinator(s), MSU fans are feeling positive again. While the team looks ready to compete, what may really be creating those good vibrations among the Spartan faithful is a look at their 2013 schedule. No Ohio State, no Wisconsin, and a friendly non-conference schedule. The dream of a Rose Bowl is alive. Let’s take a look at the upcoming season before tonight’s kickoff:


Rejoice! Dan Roushar is gone! Celebration was short lived though when MSU pulled Jim Bollman out of obscurity to be co-offensive coordinator with Dave Warner. It’s clear Dantonio has no interest in changing the scheme. MSU will continue to be a conservative offense that will try to ground and pound. This style of football is not dead in college football, but it’s certainly taken a back seat to the spread offense. Making things more difficult for the offense will be the lack of a featured running back.  Le’Veon Bell made the wise decision to forgo his senior season to play in the NFL. Freshman (linebacker) Riley Bullough, the new starting running back, does not bring with him nearly the same pedigree as Bell. While there has been some optimism around him, there is going to be some expected fall back in the run game unless an underperforming offensive line steps up to create some consistent running lanes. There’s a chance this happens, injuries last year and another year of development for the remaining pieces should give this line a chance to grow and improve.

The real questions come in the passing game. The numbers by Andrew Maxwell were not impressive last season, but it’s hard to tell how much of that should be placed on him or his receiving corps. This group of WRs had a rough season last year and does not have an influx of talent coming in to change that. A year of development might help, but there appears to be only one sure thing in this group at the start of the year, Aaron Burbridge. Making things more interesting for this offense is the QB situation. While Maxwell will get the first start, it remains to be seen who will start the last game. Connor Cook, was very impressive in last year’s bowl game and appeared to be a spark plug with his ability run the ball and throw aggressive down the field. I really thought they might make the change going into the new year, but Maxwell’s pedigree continues to make coaches believe he should get another opportunity at the helm. Lots of question marks for this offense, but an improved offensive line should definitely help. The questions come big time at running back and wide receiver. If neither position can develop, this will once again be the weakness of the team.


The question marks left by the offense quickly disappear when you start looking at MSU’s defense.  Pat Narduzzi continues to dial up dangerous veteran filled squads that can put any game in the single digits. All conversations on this defense have to start with Max Bullough, MLB. The senior linebacker looks ready to be a potential first rounder, with great run support and lateral quickness. A dangerous secondary filled with all-conference players like Darqueze Denard will continue to also make passing an undesirable option as well. Some turnover on the line should not hold this group back. Some new talented options are ready to step in for some overhyped ones. The defense will continue to be the cornerstone of this team. If this group does not live up to the hype, all hope is lost with an offense that will still be trying to find its identity.


Western Michigan – W– Offense doesn’t need to shine yet

Univ. South Florida – W – New American Conference!…anyone excited? Ok no

Youngstown State – W – Cupcake game

Notre Dame – L – Not going to Natty Championship, but still a tough team

Iowa – W – Why is Kirk Ferentz still there? Oh right that contract

Indiana – W – Tricky game, that offense looks dangerous

Purdue – W – New coach needs some time there

Illinois – W – This team is in trouble, made a mistake hiring Tim Beckman

Michigan – L – Toss-up game, Offense will hold MSU back this game

Nebraska – W – Tough win, but MSU will be ready

Northwestern – L – Dark horse team in the Big Ten, will wreck a few seasons

Minnesota – W – Same old Minnesota, friendly closer for MSU

Overall 9 – 3

Three Things I Predict

1.    Running game will struggle until Connor Cook becomes the new starting QB

2.    An inconsistent offense will make at least one of these auto-win games a very close win

3.    Aaron Burbridge and Max Bullough will be fan favorites that live up to the hype

A friendly schedule will keep all options on the table, but if those offensive question marks give the wrong answers this will be a very big missed opportunity. Last season left plenty of room for improvement, with limited turnover this team has a chance to grow. My overall prediction is one win less than I had last year for this team. That one really burned me. Will be interesting to see how MSU handles a couple good spread offenses in Northwestern and Indiana. If this offense can settle in on a QB and the running game can help support the offense, this team will once again have a shot to win the division. Northwestern, Michigan and Nebraska will be their three most important games. Win 2/3 and they’ll have a shot at that Rose Bowl bid.

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