Picking your 9 or 10 favorite records from the past decade is a tall order for anyone, but especially for someone who consumes music like most people devour TV—headphones constantly plugged in. Get home, throw a record on the turntable. Wake up, do the same. Music all the time.

All this listening and digging and consuming is confined to a relatively narrow focus: pretty much anything guitar-based, but primarily punk, garage rock, hard rock 'n' roll, along with a smattering of country and metal. Throw in various sub-genres (girl groups, rockabilly, new wave, psych, hardcore) and I've got my hands full.

In compiling this list, I broke down and had to come up with two lists—one for albums and one for 7-inch vinyl. That let me slip in more bands and gave me a little wiggle room. I scuttled my plan to include yet another list—of the best reissues of the past decade. Too many, too much.

These are all vinyl releases from small (if not tiny) independent labels. Some are out of print. Many of the bands have long since crashed and burned. But thanks to this modern age, the music can still be easily tracked down somewhere online. I've included links when I could find them. So dig in.

If you're like me, and you have trouble keeping friendly frontal hugs from turning into full-on depraved bonefests, you'll appreciate the advice of these side-hug-advocating, Jesus-loving white rappers (h/t the Rumpus): 

Honestly, even though my Catholic-school teachers forced me to watch graphic abortion videos when I was a child, I had a hard time believing a big Christian group would really endorse something this misguided. Forget that even Bristol Palin knows that abstinence-only education is just silly; what's with the gunfire and sirens? But consider the matter fact-checked: "Mm-hm, that was us," the Encounter Generation Conference secretary told me this morning. "The side hug is just a little rule we have around here, to encourage kids to keep their hands off each other." Apparently they've also recorded songs set to the Phantom of the Opera theme and Queen's "We Are the Champions." Since those are, unfortunately, not available on the Internet, I offer you Christian punk band Lust Control's catchy anti-masturbation screed. My favorite part is where they remind you that Jesus "sees everything you do"—though it's a slightly less creepy deterrent than what I was taught in grade school, which is that if you touch yourself, Jesus AND your dead relatives will watch. 

Last week, Nashville-based guitarist Dave Rawlings, best known for his collaboration with Gillian Welch, released his first solo record, titled A Friend of a Friend. Rawlings appears on all of Welch's albums and has become known for his ephemeral voice and intricate guitar picking. His style is a mix of country, old-time, bluegrass, and rockabilly. Mother Jones talked with Rawlings about his first guitar, concert fiascoes, and what it's like to be in Gillian's shadow. Click here to listen to an extended podcast of our interview.

Mother Jones: How did you start playing music?  

Dave Rawlings: When I was probably just about 16, I was walking home from a pizza parlor with one of my best friends, and he said, "Why don't you get a guitar for Christmas and I'll get a harmonica, and we can play 'Heart of Gold,' the Neil Young song, in the talent show." And as soon as I had a guitar I loved it, and I started playing in every spare moment.

MJ: You played in a rock band in the '90s.

DR: When I played with the Esquires, the two of us and our friend David Steal decided to go and play Chuck Berry songs and Tom Waits songs and things like that at a couple local bars in Nashville. That was probably 'round about 1998. But I taped a few of the shows; I know what they sounded like. It was never anything too exciting, but it was fun.

So this is what happens when you ask a bunch of wise-cracking MoJo editorial staffers, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, to name the artists, albums, and songs for which they would like to give thanks—and why. Feel free to post comments with your own selections.

Big Pun, "100%" — Because as much as I would like to give 110%, I just don't find it viable. Plus: Puerto Rico, baby!

NWA's "Gangsta, Gangsta" — Because journalism, like gangsta rap, is not about a salary, it's all about reality.

Pavement, Crooked Rain — Especially the wonderfully expressed lyric Lame driver, the Force is against you.

Johnny Flynn and the Sussex Wit, A Larum — I will no doubt wear out my iPod listening to this British singer-songwriter's phenomenal debut as I eagerly await his second album. (Oh, hey! Look!)

Cast rendition of "Don't Stop Believing" from the TV show Glee — Double the cheese = Double the fun.

Roxy Music's Avalon — It's the best album to play when you're really hungover in an apartment with a great view of London. Plus, it got me laid in college.

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Thanks Oprah, we've all heard. Sarah Palin kicks off her book tour in earnest this week, endlessly plugging Going Rogue: An American Life, her account of what really happened with John McCain's mean spindoctor-people and bad boy Levi Johnston and other scandals we were only mildly interested in six months ago, before Mad Men got started.

What you may not have heard is that another book, by Michael Stinson and Julie Sigwart, also hits bookstores today. It's called Going Rouge: The Sarah Palin Rogue Coloring & Activity Book, and it has already earned mentions in the New York Times and the Washington Post.

So it's time for a showdown. Memoir vs. Coloring Book. No one's done it yet, so I'll break it down for you: Five reasons to go Rouge rather than Rogue this year.


Dave Rawlings Machine
A Friend of a Friend
Acony Records

"Dave's gone and done it," was roughly what Gillian Welch announced a couple of months ago to 50,000 bluegrass fans in Golden Gate Park. "He's put out an album." Well, now he has. This week, Rawlings—that ephemeral, soft-toned siren who appears on all four of Welch's albums and accompanies her on stage—finally comes out with his debut CD, a jaunt through old-time, folk, country, and bluegrass. Raised in Rhode Island, Rawlings  picked up the guitar when he was 15. Somewhere along the way, string-band country music became his muse, and in the early '90s, Rawlings and Welch moved to Tennesee, where they've carried on the Nashville tradition.

A Friend of a Friend features Welch (she's also cowriter on some of the songs), members of bluegrass favorites Old Crow Medicine Show, Benmont Tench from the Heartbreakers, and Nate Walcott of Bright Eyes, but the Dave Rawlings Machine is front and center. Rawlings' confident picking seems to emanate from a deep understanding of Americana roots. But like any great storyteller, he filters all that knowledge into something even an uninformed listener can get.

Here's an experiment: Ask someone of my generation (I'm 23) to name a few jazz artists they like. If they're not fans, ask them to name any jazz artist at all—good or bad, older or more recent, doesn't matter the instrument. Expect to hear responses like Miles Davis, John Coltrane, possibly Wynton Marsalis, maybe Louis Armstrong or Thelonious Monk, and—well, that's about it.

Mention the names Art Farmer or Jimmy Smith or Art Blakey, or any of the other stars on the latest installment in the Jazz Icons DVD series, and you'll cue up shrugs and blank stares. But rather than bemoan the fact, let's instead stress the importance of the latest Jazz Icons set—fourth in this series—which preserves a collection of timeless, masterful 1960s concerts featuring some of the best damn playing (on drums, piano, hollow-body guitar, flugelhorn, you name it) audiences had ever heard.

The US Chamber of Commerce, the massive business organization that's taken a shellacking in the media lately for its climate-change stance (among other things), apparently can't take a joke. Last month, prompted in part by Mother Jones' coverage of the Chamber's shenanigans, the Yes Men held a phony press conference purporting to be the Chamber and announcing the group's about-face on climate matters; now, the Yes Men-turned-PR-flacks said, the Chamber would be eagerly supporting climate legislation on Capitol Hill. The real Chamber, however, was far from pleased—so much that they're suing the Yes Men for the stunt.

While the ensuing legal action may be novel, the spectacle of political prankery has a rich history. From Joey Skaggs' infamous New York "Cathouse for Dogs" to the phony pundit Martin Eisenstadt of the 2008 election, there's no shortage of memorable pranks in this country, as Dave Gilson describes in his new story "Jumping the Snark" in Mother Jones' November/December print issue. But more importantly, Gilson asks, are these kinds of clever hoaxes a dying art?

Gone are the days of Skaggs and cultural icon Abbie Hoffman; now we have the CollegeHumor "prank war" and Bruno and Borat—funny, but lacking the weight of the hoaxes of yore. Pranks, Gilson writes, "have morphed from an outlet for political and artistic outsiders into another form of popular amusement," where everyone can try to be a prankster and the better organized gags are used to peddle Taco Bell.

Which isn't to say the prank is dead; it's just evolving, Gilson says. "Just as Sacha Baron Cohen's first three personas have gotten stale and the Yes Men are searching for a new gig," he writes, "so will the current crop of predictable pranksters be pushed aside by a new batch of jokers who've concluded that it’s better to light a stink bomb than curse the darkness."

Find Mother Jones' ongoing coverage of the Chamber of Commerce here.

Read about how climate activist prankster Tim DeChristopher put one over on the Bureau of Land Management here.

We're officially in Day 4 of the Maclaren stroller recall, and it's abundantly clear that far too few parents have gotten the message. In case you haven't heard (or are not a multitasking metro-mommy or -daddy) fancy pants British baby-stuff maker Maclaren has recalled every single stroller it has sold since 1999 for this compelling reason: Their hinges amputate little baby fingers. Twelve little baby fingers in America so far, to be exact. In fact, the New York Post (guardian of truth that it is) reported today that Maclaren knew of the defect for five years—five—before issuing a recall. Parents have been surprisingly nonchalant, while nonparents (like me, for instance) seem to have been gripped by news that the decade's must-have child accessory is actually evil. Brooklyn alone is swimming in schadenfreude. 

But back to the parents for a second: What's wrong with you people? The New York Times' City Room blog reported on Wednesday that pram-pushers in Park Slope, the Big Apple's de facto Maclaren capital, were utterly uninterested in the recall and the easy-to-install safety kits that render their pricey strollers harmless. We know the risks, they blithely told the Times. I'll take my chances. But that's New York for you, right? 

When food writer (How to Cook Everything, Food Matters) and New York Times columnist Mark Bittman read our March/April "Let's Grow America!" special report on food security, he was so jazzed by it that he got in touch to offer his services to raise money for Mother Jones. How could we say no?

That's how a group of toque-hatted Mother Jones friends ended up at New York's Institute for Culinary Education last week, slicing, dicing, and eating dinner built off of a low-impact but immensely tasty menu that Mark prepared especially for the evening. From the first bite of chick pea fries to the last slurp of chocolate soy pudding with vanilla cream on top, our taste buds were in food heaven. You can view the photos of the evening on Flickr or in the slideshow below (see, anyone can look goofy in a paper hat).

Mark also took a few minutes to talk about his most recent book, Food Matters, which makes the connection between a healthy diet (less meat, more plants) and a healthy planet (less carbon, more icepack).

You can check out Mark's work here. And if you'd like to try your hand at the menu he prepared for Mother Jones, email us at bittmanrecipes@motherjones.com. We'll send you a PDF of the recipes.


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