Michael’s Mixtape: The Star Wars One

I don’t know about you, but I am just basking in the glory that is Star Wars Week worldwide. I’ll be seeing Episode VII: The Force Awakens on Thursday and drinking galactic themed drinks at a bar that’s turning itself into the Mos Eisley Cantina from A New Hope. Yep, I have no shame in my Star Wars geekdom.

Even Spotify is getting in on the game, matching users with Star Wars characters by their taste in music. I’m not totally thrilled being Anakin, but I do love me plenty of punk rock.

Anakin playlist

I dig the lightsaber on the bottom, not so much the new Fall Out Boy they included.

Since it all finally set in that this movie is happening and I’m actually going to see it (so since Saturday night), I’ve been surfing Spotify for Star Wars appropriate music. Not just the epic John Williams masterpieces, but songs about space and intergalactic awesomeness. So why not put it all into one easily accessible playlist that my friends and likeminded individuals to enjoy?

1. “Star Wars Theme” – John Williams

 

2. “Starman” – David Bowie

Album: The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars, 1972

3. “Space” – Something Corporate

Album: North, 2003

 

4. “Return to the Moon” – EL VY

Album: Return to the Moon, 2015

 

5. “Spaceship” – Kanye w/ GLC

 

Album: The College Dropout, 2004

 

6. “Stormtrooper” – Pepper

Album: Kona Town, 2003

 

7. “Cantina Band” – John Williams

 

8. “A New Hope” – blink-182

Album: Dude Ranch, 1997

 

9. “Future People” – Alabama Shakes

Album: Sound and Color, 2015

 

10. “Chewbacca” – Supernova Chile

Album: Clerks Original Soundtrack, 1994

 

11. “Empire Strikes First” – Bad Religion

Album: Empire Strikes First, 2004

 

12. “You Satellite” – Wilco

Album: Star Wars, 2015

 

13. “Space Truckin'” – Deep Purple

Album: Machine Head, 1972

 

14. “Both Sides of the Gun” – Ben Harper

Album: Both Sides of the Gun, 2006

 

15. “Empire State of Mind” – Jay Z & Alicia Keys

Album: The Blueprint 3, 2009

 

16. “People of the Sun” – Rage Against of the Machine

Album: Evil Empire, 1996

 

17. “Imperial Death March” – John Williams

 

18. “Intergalactic” – Beastie Boys

Album: Hello Nasty, 1998

 

19. “Man on the Moon” – R.E.M.

Album: Automatic For The People, 1992

 

20. “Rocket Man (I Think It’s Going To Be A Long Time) – Elton John

Album: Honky Chateau, 1972

 

21. “Major Tom (Coming Home)” – Shiny Toy Guns

Album: Girls Le Disko, 2009

 

22. “Rebellion (Lies)” – Arcade Fire

Album: Funeral, 2004

 

23. “Spaceman” – The Killers

Album: Day & Age, 2008

 

24. “The Throne Room” – John Williams

 

The Full Spotify Playlist

Anymore songs that come to mind, send them to me on Facebook or Twitter to be added to the playlist!

My Way Too Early 2016 Grammy Award Picks

This morning, we were all graced with the 2016 Grammy nominations. In proper MichaelPiff.com fashion, just like with other award shows, I’m making my WAY TOO EARLY picks with the awards not being presented until 2 months from now (Feb. 15th, 2016).

Kendrick Lamar leads all with 11 nominations while Taylor Swift and The Weeknd each have 7. Despite a heavy push in PR in November, Justin Bieber was held out (except for being featured on Jack Ü’s best dance recording nominee, Where Are Ü Now) as were many of his Top 40 pop peers like Selena Gomez, Demi Lovato and Carly Rae Jepson.

I am surprised Modest Mouse, Sufjan Stevens and Mumford & Sons didn’t get much love, but a little relieved that Fall Out Boy was shutout for becoming what may be the saddest evolution of a band I used to greatly enjoy.

Keep in mind, these picks (like music in general) are totally subjective and my Favorites of 2015 (Music, Movies, TV, Sports, etc) lists will be hitting next week in case you need better context. As always, your thoughts and personal picks are welcome on Twitter and Facebook

Record of the Year

  • “Really Love” – D’Angelo (from Black Messiah)

  • “Uptown Funk” – Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars (from Uptown Special)

  • “Thinking Out Loud” – Ed Sheeran (from X)

  • “Blank Space” – Taylor Swift (from 1989)

  • “Can’t Feel My Face” – The Weeknd (from Beauty Behind the Madness)

My Pick: “Really Love”

 

Album of the Year

  • Sound & Color – The Alabama Shakes

  • To Pimp A Butterfly – Kendrick Lamar

  • Traveler – Chris Stapleton

  • 1989 – Taylor Swift

  • Beauty Behind the Madness – The Weeknd

My Pick: To Pimp A Butterfly

 

Song of the Year

  • “Alright” – Kendrick Lamar (from To Pimp a Butterfly)

  • “Blank Space” – Taylor Swift (from 1989)

  • “Girl Crush” – Little Big Town (from Pain Killer)

  • “See You Again” – Wiz Khalifa feat. Charlie Puth (from Furious 7 Soundtrack)

  • “Thinking Out Loud” – Ed Sheeran (X)

My Pick: “Thinking Out Loud”

 

Best New Artist

  • Courtney Barnett

  • James Bay

  • Sam Hunt

  • Tori Kelly

  • Meghan Trainor

My Pick: James Bay

 

Best Pop Solo Performance

  • “Heartbeat Song” – Kelly Clarkson (from Piece by Piece)

  • “Love Me Like You Do” – Ellie Goulding (from 50 Shades of Grey Soundtrack)

  • “Thinking Out Loud” – Ed Sheeran (from X)

  • “Can’t Feel My Face” – The Weeknd (Beauty Behind The Madness)

My Pick: “Can’t Feel My Face”

 

Best Pop Duo/Group Performance

  • “Ship To Wreck” – Florence + The Machine (from How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful)

  • “Sugar” – Maroon 5 (from V)

  • “Uptown Funk” – Mark Ronson feat. Bruno Mars (Uptown Special)

  • “Bad Blood” – Taylor Swift feat. Kendrick Lamar (from 1989)

  • “See You Again” – Wiz Khalifa feat. Charlie Puth (from Furious 7 Soundtrack)

My Pick: “Uptown Funk”

 

Best Pop Vocal Album

  • Piece by Piece – Kelly Clarkson

  • How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful – Florence + The Machine

  • Uptown Special – Mark Ronson

  • 1989 – Taylor Swift

  • Before The World – James Taylor

My Pick: 1989

Screen Shot 2015-12-07 at 12.40.48 PM

 

Best Rock Performance

  • “Don’t Wanna Fight” – Alabama Shakes (from Sound & Color)

  • “What Kind of Man” – Florence + The Machine (from How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful)

  • “Something From Nothing” – Foo Fighters (from Sonic Highways)

  • “Ex’s & Oh’s” – Elle King (from Love Stuff)

  • “Moaning Lisa Smile” – Wolf Alice (from My Love Is Cool)

My Pick: “Something From Nothing”

 

Best Metal Performance

  • “Identity” – August Burns Red (from Found in Far Away Places)

  • “Cirice” – Ghost (from Meliora) 

  • “512” – Lamb of God (from VII: Sturm Und Drang)

  • “Thank You” – Sevendust (from Kill The Flaw)

  • “Custer” – Slipknot (from .5: The Gray Chapter)

 

My Pick: “Cirice”

 

Best Rock Song

  • “Don’t Wanna Fight” – Alabama Shakes (from Color & Sound)

  • “Ex’s & Oh’s” – Elle King (Love and Stuff)

  • “Hold Back The River” – James Bay (Chaos and the Calm)

  • “Lydia” – Highly Suspect (Mister Asylum)

  • “What Kind of Man” – Florence + The Machine (How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful)

My Pick: “Hold Back The River”

 

Best Rock Album

  • Chaos and the Calm – James Bay

  • Kintsugi – Death Cab for Cutie

  • Mister Asylum – Highly Suspect

  • Drones – Muse

  • .5: The Gray Chapter – Slipknot

My Pick: Drones

 

Best Alternative Music Album

  • Sound and Color – Alabama Shakes

  • Vulnicura – Björk

  • The Waterfall – My Morning Jacket

  • Currents – Tame Impala

  • Star Wars – Wilco

My Pick: The Waterfall

(Toughest of all categories)

 

Best R&B Song

  • “Coffee” – Miguel (from Wildheart)

  • “Earned It” – The Weeknd (from Fifty Shades of Grey Soundtrack)

  • “Let It Burn” – Jazmine Sullivan (from Reality Show)

  • “Really Love” – D’Angelo (from Black Messiah)

  • “Shame” – Tyrese (from Black Rose)

My Pick: “Really Love”

 

Best R&B Album

  • Coming Home – Leon Bridges

  • Black Messiah – D’Angelo and the Vanguard

  • Cheers To The Fall – Andra Day

  • Reality Show – Jazmine Sullivan

  • Forever Charlie – Charlie Wilson

My Pick: Black Messiah

(Leon Bridges is also fantastic)

 

Best Rap Performance

  • “Apparently” – J. Cole (from 2014 Forest Hill Drive)

  • “Back To Back” – Drake 

  • “Trap Queen” – Fetty Wap (from Fetty Wap)

  • “Alright” – Kendrick Lamar (from To Pimp A Butterfly)

  • “Truffle Butter” – Nicki Minaj feat Drake & Lil Wayne (from The Pinkprint)

  • “All Day” – Kanye West (from Swish)

My Pick: “Alright”

 

Best Rap Song

  • “All Day” – Kanye (from Swish)

  • “Energy” – Drake (from If You’re Reading This, It’s Too Late)

  • “Glory” – Common & John Legend (from Selma Soundtrack)

  • “Trap Queen” – Fetty Wap (from Fetty Wap)

My Pick: “Glory”

 

 

To see all the categories and nominees, click here. I can’t in good conscience judge Country or EDM since I don’t listen to either often. Send your picks and thoughts to me on Facebook and Twitter

Michael’s Mixtape: The Halloween One

Bringing back the Mixtape specifically for your Halloween weekend. Also, how awesome is it that Halloween is on a Saturday this year?

This list is a culmination of scary, sexy, and all the things you want playing in your ears while rocking terrorizing the neighborhood.

1. “Thriller” – Michael Jackson

Album: Thriller, 1982 

2. “Somebody’s Watching Me” – Rockwell

Album: Somebody’s Watching Me, 1984

3. “Bad Things” – Jace Everett

Album: TRUE BLOOD, 2009

4. “Howlin’ For You” – The Black Keys

Album: Brothers, 2010

5. “Vampire Heart” – HIM

Album: Dark Light, 2005

6. “Don’t Fear the Reaper – Blue Oyster Cult

Album: Agents of Fortune, 1976

7. “Psycho Killer” – Talking Heads

Album: Talking Heads 77, 1977

8. “Calling All Skeletons” – Alkaline Trio

Album: Agony & Irony, 2008

9. “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” – Nerf Herder

TV Theme Song, 1997

10. “Pet Sematary” – The Ramones

Album: Brain Drain, 1989

11. “Poison” – Alice Cooper

Album: Trash, 1989

12. “Sympathy For the Devil” – Rolling Stones

Album: Beggars Banquet, 1968

13. “Werewolves in London” – Warren Zevon

Album: Excitable Boy, 1978

14. “Nightmare on My Street” – DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince

Album: He’s the DJ, I’m the Rapper, 1988

15. “Superstition” – Stevie Wonder

Album: Talking Book, 1972

16. “I Put A Spell on You” – Screamin’ Jay Hawkins

Album: At Home with Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, 1956

17. “Ghostbusters” – Ray Parker Jr.

Album: Ghostbusters Orignal Soundtrack, 1984

18. “Original Halloween Theme” – John Carpenter

Album: Original Soundtrack, 1978

19. “Enter Sandman” – Metallica

Album: The Black Album, 1991

20. “The Wicker Man” – Iron Maiden

Album: Brave New World, 2000

21. “Dragula” – Rob Zombie

Album: Hellbilly Deluxe, 1998

22. “Halloween” – Misfits

Single: Halloween, 1981

23. “This Is Halloween” – Danny Elfman

Album: Nightmare Before Christmas, 1993

24. “Baby Did A Bad Bad Thing” – Chris Isaak

Album: Forever Blue, 1995

25. “Halloweenhead” – Ryan Adams

Album: Easy Tiger, 2007

26. “Halloween on the Barbary Coast” – The Flaming Lips

Album: Hit to Death in the Future Head, 1992

27. “Henry Lee” – Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

Album: Murder Ballads, 1996

28. “Time Warp” – Rocky Horror Picture Show

Album: Rocky Horror Picture Show, 1975

Here’s the whole Playlist on Spotify!

For more, follow along on Facebook and Twitter.

What To Love About Fall Around Chicago

Happy First Day of Fall, Chicago.

If you were up early this morning, I hope you got a good look at “Chicagohenge” as the sunrise lined up with the city’s East-West grid. You can check it out again at sunset, in cased you missed it, but it only happens twice a year.

Screen Shot 2015-09-23 at 9.49.54 AM

Fall is my favorite season in Chicago, and I know I’m not alone saying so. Sure it means “Winter is Coming“, but it’s more like opening a fresh jar of peanut butter than it is scraping the bottom of one.

So what makes Fall worth loving? I’m glad you asked…

1. Sweater Weather and Flannel

Sweater Weather

Sweater Weather is so good that The Neighborhood recorded a song about it…Some of us are much more in our element with long sleeves and a cool breeze.

Has fashion ever blessed us with anything better than the hoodie?

Poehler Party

I think not…

And when else is Al Borland’s getup ever sexier?

Al Borland

mmm…checker patterns and stripes.

While sweaters and flannel are fantastic on their own, they both pair perfectly with the always lovable “puffy” vest. At least you’re getting ahead of the curve for Star Wars: Episode VII.

“I love you.” / “…I know.”

2. Them Leaves

Chicago Leaves

Fall foliage is a thing in Chicago. It may be the most stunning part about living in a region with four seasons. Amidst the hustle and bustle of the Loop area, you can get lost in the changing of the leaves around Grant Park. Perhaps take a walk around Lincoln Park as the zoo tigers are camouflaged with the trees. I’m also looking forward to the views along the new 606 Trail and West Ridge Nature Preserve.

If you’re looking for a nice getaway from the city, take an hour and half trip west on Rt. 80 toward the Illinois Valley and see what Starved Rock is all about. The hiking is fantastic and nearby are the greatest wings ON THE PLANET at Skoog’s in Utica.

Starved Rock Fall

While you’re already heading west, go see what the Quad Cities are all about. The first half of my college years were certainly highlighted by the unbelievable view at Augustana College walking the Slough Path to class.

Screen Shot 2015-09-23 at 11.03.40 AM

Hey now…You can take a train from Chicago to Rock Island, so it counts.

3. Sports, baby…Sports.

Soldier Field

I know, Bears fans. Not the start to a season that anybody wanted…but when did that ever stop you from throwing on your blue and orange and fill up Soldier Field? Seriously. Those games are always sold out…At least you have Fantasy Football and tailgating, right?

It won’t be too long before the United Center tenants are back at it making 1901 W. Madison into a Madhouse again. The Blackhawks drop their new Stanley Cup banner and set to defend it starting with the New York Rangers Oct. 7th, and the Bulls tipoff with their season against LeBron James and the Cavs on their NEW home floor Oct. 27th.

It also looks like there WILL be October baseball in Chicago. Even though not all of us are Cubs fans *cough* me *cough*, it’s hard not to appreciate the fun they’re having on the north side. I don’t know how long the run will last, but you can’t help imagining how insane the city will be if a certain team hoists a certain trophy in a certain ballpark…

…and don’t forget Northwestern Football. Coach Pat Fitzgerald won’t let you.

Screen Shot 2015-09-23 at 11.38.33 AM

Go Cats…?

4. Gone Pickin’…

Apple Picking

According to my Facebook feed around this time each year, couples and families LUV to go apple picking. For those of you interested in this sort of thing, here’s a helpful directory for you.

For those less inclined to do free manual labor on the weekends, might I recommend APPLE FEST in Long Grove? Starting this Friday, Sept 25th through the weekend, all the fun shops and vendors in tiny and quaint Long Grove gather to share apple treats and all the joy Fall can bring. There’s music, cider doughnuts, apple sangria, and I hear the Confectionary is making white chocolate and cinnamon sugar candy apples.

Screen Shot 2015-09-23 at 11.57.01 AM

Can someone please try to recreate this photo and post it to the Facebook page? Thanks!

5. Halloween’ness

Screen Shot 2015-09-23 at 12.00.24 PM

Why yes, yes that is Daley Plaza…

While you’re not glued to your television being “Shawshanked” into an AMC Marathon of bad slasher franchise sequels, you’ll probably notice all the Halloween popup stores in what used to be your favorite nearby businesses. (*Skypoint* Blockbuster)…

Quick remedy? How about a trip to your nearest terrifying Haunted House? For years I’ve been trying to gather friends (and the nerves) to try the Statesville Haunted Prison. If you’re interested, just Tweet at me.

Screen Shot 2015-09-23 at 12.13.40 PM

If you’re less than willing to have the begeezes scared out of you, I would recommend doing what I have for the past few years…hit up a Bulls game and count how many “Where’s Waldo” costumes you find. It’s absurdly entertaining.

6. Fall Beverages

Screen Shot 2015-09-23 at 12.29.57 PM

I know, Pumpkin Spiced Anything is the fad this time of year…but so are several seasonal adult beverages. The patios are still open across the city, and what’s better than a “warm apple pie” or some other warm cocktail while siting along the the Chicago river walk?

I’ll sit and wait for your response…

That’s what I thought.

If you happen to have some recipes for excellent Fall-coholic beverages, please feel free to share them on the Facebook page and I’ll post them to the site as well!

7. Fun Runs

Chicago Fun Runs

You may be like most of us who didn’t train for the Chicago Marathon, but still want to feel like you accomplished something fitness-wise this Fall. FEAR NOT! Here’s a schedule for the remaining “run for fun” races, including various Thanksgiving Turkey Trots and the famous Hot Chocolate Run…

Hot Chocolate Run

That totally looks worth running a 15k or 5k.

8. ALL THE PEANUTS SPECIALS

Not necessarily something Chicago-centric, but it’s the F’ing Peanuts. Who didn’t grow up on Snoopy and all the holiday specials? With the new movie coming out in November, it’s hard to imagine there won’t be a ton of fun promotions around the city for it.

9. Indoor Concerts – Big and Small

Festival season is over, but the music lives strong in Chicago year-round.

From the big stadium venues like the United Center and Allsate Arena

To concert halls like House of Blues, The Riviera, The Metro, The Vic, and The Aragon Ballroom

Wilco Riv

and small venues like The Beat Kitchen, Reggies, Double Door, and Bottom Lounge. You never know who’s going to show up…

10…

You let me know on Facebook and Twitter!

Justin Timberlake Does The Carlton

While the Open Championship at St. Andrews took place this this weekend in Scotland (and wraps up today), something even more entertaining happened on a golf course in Lake Tahoe…

Timberlake stare

“Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” star and recent “Dancing With the Stars” winner Alfonso Ribeiro teed off Saturday afternoon from the 17th hole at the American Century Celebrity Golf Tournament. After sending his drive a little long and shaking his head, that seemed as good a time as any to break out his famous “Carlton” Dance…with Justin Timberlake.

I’m going to go ahead and assume that JT birdied the hole because he’s good at everything, especially golf. Be sure to let him (and me) know when the Fresh Prince reboot happens, and I’m sure he’ll gladly make a cameo.

Fresh Prince Golf

For more fun in Sports, Music, Movies, TV and Food, head over to Facebook and Twitter and join the fun.