Category Archives: Lists

2015 Favorites (So Far)

Top: Brandon Flowers, Marilyn Manson, Empire Middle: Carly Rae Jepsen, Daniel Johns, Florence + The Machine Bottom: Dr. Dre, Kelly Clarkson, Muse

Top: Brandon Flowers, Marilyn Manson, Empire
Middle: Carly Rae Jepsen, Daniel Johns, Florence + The Machine
Bottom: Dr. Dre, Kelly Clarkson, Muse

A few months ago I thought to myself: “Self, is it 1997 again?”  I was rocking to Marilyn Manson, Blur, Noel Gallagher, and Prodigy…  Timbaland kept my head nodding…  Bjork released something that sounded Homogenic…  (Seriously, all those things happened in 1997 AND now again in 2015.  Whaaaat?)  Yes, I’m aging and nostalgic, but in my defense, my old heroes are still making new music.  As the year progressed, some other familiar faces joined the fray.  I thought 2014 was a huge year (seriously, go back and see how many gigantic — but ultimately disappointing — records were dropped last year) but this year is proving to be stellar.  It’ll be interesting to see who survives until December and how the love-rankings change…  Here goes:

1. Marilyn MansonThe Pale Emperor
This album did not leave my car’s dash for about 2 solid months. A return to form, a concise, tight work from a man who has finally matured and settled into a realistic and content place. Catapulted into my top 5 Manson albums of all time, which is no small feat.
Must: “Deep Six” | “Mephistopheles of Los Angeles” | “Devil Beneath My Feet” | “Cupid Carries A Gun”

2. Brandon FlowersThe Desired Effect
Since 2004, Brandon Flowers has been one of my spirit animals.  We’re the same age, and even though our lives are completely different (see: Mormon rock star vs. doubting Catholic nobody), every lyric he writes hits me right where it counts. If this was a Killers album, it’d be my 3rd favorite after Hot Fuss and Battle Born.
Must: “Can’t Deny My Love” | “I Can Change” | “Lonely Town” | “Untangled Love”

3. EmpireOriginal Soundtrack
What. A. Show. Thank God for Timbaland, because this soundtrack is just stacked, start to finish, with absolute bangers that hearken back to a funner, more bombastic time in hip-pop (i.e. Timbaland c. Missy Elliot-era & Timbaland c. JT/Nelly Furtado/2008 glory). The show is so good it could carry these tunes, but they stand on their own.
Must: every single song, except for the Courtney Love/Jennifer Hudson/Mary J. Blige songs… yes I’m serious, the cast can hold their own.

4. Carly Rae JepsenE MO TION
Yeah I’m surprised too.  No idea from what corner of the pop heavens this glorious album descended from, but holy hell, it’s perfect. She deserves more credit and airplay for this. ’80s-tinged gems that are catchy, fun and not the least bit corny. Unfortunately, it seems like this record might get buried by Taylor’s unstoppable 1989 (still got legs!) but she really deserves at least some kind of Tove Lo-level exposure.
Must: “Run Away With Me” | “Emotion” | “Gimme Love” | “Your Type” | “Love Again”

5. Daniel JohnsTalk
I love Silverchair. I love Dissociatives. I love anything Daniel Johns does. Yet I still went into this with some trepidation. In the end, I’m still onboard.  Whereas B.Flow is my Vegas spirit animal, Daniel Johns is my Australian walkabout guide. Produced by Lorde’s guy, it sounds like Sam Smith and Frank Ocean at some points, but it’s all Daniel. The Silverchair fans that never got past Frogstomp (lulz) are so pissed about this, but if you’ve been keeping up with his career, this is a wonderfully logical progression.  Gorgeous.
Must: “We Are Golden” | “By Your Side” | “Cool On Fire” | “Dissolve” | “Chained” | “Faithless”

6. Florence + The MachineHow Big, How Blue, How Beautiful
Took a few spins, but the ol’ California spirit finally hit me.  A great breakup album, it has a few bangers.  Not as many as her previous records (Ceremonials is still my fave), but enough to warrant repeat listens.  There are a few slower same-same tracks, but you can easily skip them and jump right to the good stuff.
Must: “Ship To Wreck” | “How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful” | “Queen of Peace” | “Hiding” | “Make Up Your Mind”

7. Dr. DreCompton
16 years later.  This album is not a singles/hits collection.  It’s not a party record.  It’s a journey through Dre’s history, past and present, coming full circle at the “end” of his career.  It’s exhilarating, heavy, and intense.  It just came out, so I have no doubt that it’ll climb in my rankings by the end of the year.  It’s quite the experience.
Must: “Genocide” | “Loose Cannons” (skip the murder skit at the end… yikes) | “One Shot, One Kill” | “Just Another Day” | “For The Love Of Money”

8. Kelly ClarksonPiece By Piece
Nothing new here, just a solid, adept collection of pop gems from one of the best voices we have today.  We’ve got some Sia collabs, some sappy (but so, so moving) ballads, and one particular banger that should not have used anything dubstep-inflected (so 2012) but that works so well.  One of my favorite songs of the year, “Take You High.”
Must: “Heartbeat Song” | “Invincible” | “Someone” | “Piece by Piece” | “Take You High” | “War Paint”

9. MuseDrones
I’m still on the fence about this one.  It’s tied with The 2nd Law as the worst Muse album ever (doesn’t bode well for our heroes’ trajectory) but it actually has more good songs on it than its predecessor.  So confusing.  That old riff spirit is back and the songs are concise, but when you go back and listen to Origin of Symmetry (which Matt said they were trying to spiritually recapture) it’s really not the same.  Sigh… downward spiral since The Resistance era ended…
Must: “Dead Inside” | “Psycho” | “Reapers” | “The Handler”

10. The ProdigyThe Day Is My Enemy
BOOM!  This is a violent little record.  Even though they’re “electronic,” Prodigy were always more comfortably lumped in with more aggressive and physical rock and metal acts (just look at their live shows).  Their latest is just pure fury. Nothing new here, nothing really to write home about (nothing will ever beat Fat of the Land, even though Invaders Must Die comes really close).  Just a straight-up punch to the face.
Must: “The Day Is My Enemy” | “Nasty” | “Rok-Weiler” | “Rhythm Bomb” | “Get Your Fight On” | “Wall Of Death”

11. Mark RonsonUptown Special
Great background music.  Fun all-around record.  Gets placement here simply for “Daffodils.”  What. A. Song. (there’s also that song with Bruno Mars… maybe you’ve heard it a few times on the radio…)
Must: “Summer Breaking” | “Feel Right” | “Uptown Funk” | “Daffodils” | “In Case of Fire” | “Heavy and Rolling”

12. Big Data2.0
Where’d these guys come from?!  This is one of those albums that can be played at parties from now until the end of time.  Fantastic groovy songs with a wide array of exciting guests (Rivers Cuomo, Dragonette, Kimbra), but nothing beats the glory of “Dangerous,” one of the best songs of the year.
Must: “Business of Emotion” | “Dangerous” | “Clean” | “Snowed In” | “Get Some Freedom” | “Perfect Holiday”

13. BlurThe Magic Whip
Full disclosure: my family is from Hong Kong, where the boys recorded this album. So I came in super biased.  Luckily they deliver. Anything is better (in my book) than 13 and Think Tank.  There’s some of the their old energy here, a lot of solid pop tunes, and a little Gorillaz energy seeping in (“New World Towers” and “Thought I Was A Spaceman”). Happily surprised with how good this turned out.
Must: “Lonesome Street” | “Go Out” | “I Broadcast” | “There Are Too Many Of Us”

14. Tame ImpalaCurrents
By year end, this will probably climb up a few spots.  It’s taken me a few listens to really appreciate the soundscapes.  I was worried about the hype heaped upon this one, but so far, it’s delivering.  Groovy, smooth, super catchy. Ronson’s “Daffodils” was just a taste of what Kevin Parker was up to…  It’s an album of 70s-inspired dreamy space groove.
Must: “Let It Happen” | “The Moment” | “The Less I Know The Better” | “Disciples” | “Cause I’m A Man”

15. Noel Gallagher’s High Flying BirdsChasing Yesterday
I miss Oasis.  You miss Oasis.  Thank God he was the genius behind Oasis because this is basically another album’s worth of perfect Noel tunes.  Nothing too revelatory here, but it’s so familiar and comforting to hear him do what he’s so good at.  With some psychedelia tossed in for good measure.
Must: “Riverman” | “In The Heat of the Moment” | “While The Song Remains The Same” | “Ballad of the Mighty I” | “Revolution Song”

And then we have the “Close but no cigar” ones that kept this from being a “Top 18” list…  they’re awesome albums, but as the year has progressed, they haven’t had the staying power as the 15 above:

1. BjorkVulnicura
It really is a gorgeous, heart-breaking album.  But I’m not in the right place right now and this is NOT what I would consider feelgood stuff.  It’s way too heavy for me right now, despite the moments of beauty and “classic” Bjork that’s shining through.  It’s just too sad.
Must: “Stonemilker” | “Lion Song”

2. Courtney BarnettSometimes I Sit and Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit
This album is great, don’t get me wrong.  And it is home to my favorite song of 2015 (“Pedestrian..” IS BEST).  Her lyrics and delivery are stellar, the songs are cute, but I don’t see this staying in rotation past this year.  Who knows.
Must: “Pedestrian At Best” | “Aqua Profunda!” | “Depreston” | “Nobody Really Cares If You Don’t Go To The Party”

3. You + Merose ave.
Here simply to give it some exposure and remind myself that there are some gorgeous, absolutely gorgeous tunes on this record (a project from Pink and her guy friend).  “You and Me” and “Unbelievers” are worth the price of admission, but I haven’t listened too thoroughly to the other tracks.  Yet.  This will likely get me through Autumn and Winter, so we’ll see whether it jumps by year end.
Must: “Capsized” | “You and Me” | “Unbeliever”

Bottom 9

Top: The Prodigy, Mark Ronson, Big Data Middle: Blur, Tame Impala, Noel Gallagher’s HFB Bottom: Bjork, Courtney Barnett, you+me

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2014 Year In Review

Hey, we haven’t updated this blog in over a year!  It was a busy year.  A good year.  Especially for the ears.

Without further ado, here’s my year in review.  Let’s see if the other ILTSOI dudes can step up too…

Nothing can stop us now.

FAVORITE 14 OF ’14

1. Tove Lo Queen of the Clouds

An absolutely perfect album from start to finish.  Catchy, melodic Swedish pop at its finest.

2. Sam Smith In The Lonely Hour

The lush soundtrack to heartbreak and unrequited love, with a voice so smooth you want to wrap yourself up on the sofa and pass out with a smile on your face (and tears drying on your cheeks).

3. Tori AmosUnrepentant Geraldines

Return to form (groan) for my favorite singer of all time.

4. Taylor Swift1989

Can’t deny the pop perfection.  The love might wane with time, but there’s no denying this beast of an album.

5. Alt-J This Is All Yours

You thought their debut was funky and mind-blowing?  Add a million more layers and a tighter control on the soundcraft.  A lush journey into funky town.

6. InterpolEl Pintor

The second “return to form” (repeated groan) on this list.  Tight, melodic, groovy.  Everything that self-titled shitfest was not.

7. Run The JewelsRTJ2

Very rarely do I hear a song and exclaim, “Fuuuuuuuuuck!!!”  This is an entire album of that.  The lyrics wow, the melodies are delicious, and everything is just hard as fuck.  And Zach de la Rocha.

8. RoyksoppThe Inevitable End

A perfect way for them to go out: darkness, groove and a continued roster of perfectly curated guest singers.

9. Lana Del ReyUltraviolence

Not as good as her debut, but the throwback lushness saves this from sophomore slump status.  A time machine.

10. War On DrugsLost In The Dream

This is #1 on most of the year end lists, and with good reason.  It’s a propulsive, immediate and absolutely dreamy journey through soundscapes.  Dylan, Springsteen, Arcade Fire.  It’s all here.

11. Kaiser ChiefsEducation, Education, Education, War

One of my favorite bands.  They’ve only disappointed me once in 4 albums.  They won’t win any awards, but consistently releasing start-to-finish pogo-pop-rock perfect albums contribute to their long-lasting place in my heart.

12. Coldplay Ghost Stories

Their worst, hands down. But it’s not that bad.  I’ve grown to enjoy this more than when they released it in the summer.  Because it’s NOT a summer album.  It’s cold, sad, lonely, introspective.  Casual fans will love the Parachutesness of it all.  I appreciate that it’s a peek into Chris Martin’s ruined heart.  Take this break, come back with another life-affirming opus.  *hugz*

13. Pharrell WilliamsG I R L

Skateboard P is actually pretty underrated: he’s been producing amazing bangers for over a decade, and yet he’s just blown up in these past 2 years (thank you Daft Punk and The Voice).  This is just another release of Pharrell gems.  Get the throwback party started.

14. Crosses – †††

Deftones will never release anything “classic” now that Chi Cheng passed away (just like — less morbidly — Interpol will never release anything of top caliber without Carlos D), but this Chino side project comes close.  It’s sexy, groovy, relatively calm.  Chino’s voice can still send shivers down a spine like no other.

Albums I listened to to-death that weren’t released this year: Bastille, Clutch, Katy Perry, Avicii, Avatar, Fitz and the Tantrums

Albums that kinda let me down: U2, Beck, Black Keys

 

FAVORITE SONGS OF 2014

As always, this is based purely on play count on my iTunes.  I may have listened to them in other places (see: ipod, burned CD) but this is a fair indicator of my earworms of the year.

1. Lorde – “Yellow Flicker Beat”

2. Coldplay – “Magic”

3. Pharrell and Daft Punk – “Gust of Wind”

4. Iggy Azalea and Rita Ora – “Black Widow”

5. Goldroom – “Embrace”

6. Ariana Grande and Zedd – “Break Free”

7. BANKS – “This Is What It Feels Like”

8. Interpol – “Tidal Wave”

9. Royksopp and Robyn – “Monument (The Inevitable End Version)”

10. Tori Amos – “Trouble’s Lament”

 

GIGS OF 2014

1. Avicii – TD Garden – June 25
An absolute party from start to finish.

2. Tori Amos – Boston Opera House – August 15
First full Toriphile experience for me: waited all day with a group of fans/new friends for a glimpse of Tori, then drinks, then a perfect setlist.  If we actually got to talk to her, it would have been the most perfect day of 2014.

3. Arcade Fire – Xfinity Center – August 19
Nice to see them in a huge amphitheater.  Their sound and presence needs all that space.

4. Clutch – Lupo’s – September 5
Rocked. The. Fuck. Out.

5. Lady Gaga – TD Garden – June 30
Finally.  Happy birthday to me.

6. OneRepublic – Blue Hills Bank Pavilion – June 24
All hits, all the time.

7. Nine Inch Nails (with Soundgarden) – Red Rocks – July 21
My all-time bucket list venue.  My all-time favorite band.  Maybe I’ve seen Trent too much lately.  Maybe my mind wasn’t in the right place.  An otherworldly experience.

8. Jimmy Eat World – Lupo’s – October 18
Futures isn’t my favorite Jimmy album (see: Bleed American) but hearing it start to finish was something else.  Finally got “Nothingwrong” and life is good.

9. Katy Perry – TD Garden – August 1
Much like OneRepublic, this was just an unfair barrage of hits that would make any artist blush.  What a party.

10. Cibo Matto – The Sinclair – February 8
A comeback tour, a new album, old friends.  But when you don’t play “Sci-Fi Wasabi” as you originally wrote it, this nagging fan loses a little interest.

11. Iggy Azalea (and Austin Mahone) – Gillette Stadium – June 15
Free.  Yeah nothing beats that.

 

It was a good year.  Hopefully another year doesn’t pass without an update…  Make it a good one!

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2013: Year In Review

What a year.  Most of my favorite artists added some soul, some funk, some humanity to their usual cold and sad sounds.  It was the year of the big release, the unleashing of the hype monster.  Seemingly everyone and their grandmother released something new this year and it was just a glorious and embarrassing goldmine for us music-Smaugs.  Looking back on a great year as my ears already enjoy 2014.

My Favorite Albums of 2013:

1. Empire of the Sun: Ice On The Dune
Nothing catchier or more joyful blessed my life all year.

2. Daft Punk: Random Access Memories
The most epic album of the year.

3. nine inch nails: Hesitation Marks
A return to form for Trent and a reaffirmation of rabid fandom for me.

4. Arcade Fire: Reflektor
The biggest grower of the year…just give it a chance.

5. Lady Gaga: ARTPOP
Most underrated “big” album of the year, absolute bangers from start to finish.

6. Queens of the Stone Age: …Like Clockwork
Cocksure (hee hee) swaggering sexy rock and fucking roll.

7. Lorde: Pure Heroine
Newbie of the year with an honest-to-goodness perfect set of tunes.

8. Kanye West: Yeezus
The biggest mindfuck, the biggest statement, and one of the hardest albums of 2013.

9. Yeah Yeah Yeahs: Mosquito
Possibly their worst album, but with such a discography, this rabid subterranean creepfest slays.

10. KT Tunstall: invisible empire // crescent moon
It’s about her late father and ex-hubby, so you know you’re in for some gorgeous heartbreak.

11. Bruno Mars: Unorthodox Jukebox
Perfect pop album.  Period.

12. how to destroy angels: welcome oblivion
Trent’s other release of the year, a quieter, more feminine affair.

13. Goldfrapp: Tales of Us
Sultry and languid, perfect for secret late night debauchery or a quiet come-down.

14. Tegan and Sara: Heartthrob
2013’s catchiest, prettiest pop-mindfuck dedicated to hearts and heartbreak.

15. Disclosure: Settle
The soundtrack to the permanent Uniqlo store in my heart.

16. Savages: Silence Yourself
Ferocious debut from a group of lasses with bigger, brasher thrash-balls than both Kanye and Trent.

17. The Strokes: Comedown Machine
A solid send-off(?) set from one of my favorite bands of the ’00s.

18. OneRepublic: Native
We liked “Counting Stars” a year ago…

19. Imagine Dragons: Night Visions
They don’t know who they want to be and every song sounds like another band, but they’re the best damn tribute band of the year.

20. Vampire Weekend: Modern Vampires of the City
Now that they’re singing about death and sad stuff, I can finally relate to these chaps.

21. Justin Timberlake: The 20/20 Experience, Part 1
This bloated album only receives placement because of “Mirrors”, its only reason for existing.

22. Austra: Olympia
I loved her from the moment she sang her first note in concert, so this set — however underwhelming or same-same — is still welcome.

Not Released in 2013 But Still Dominated My Life:

1. Ellie Goulding: Halcyon
Thank you, Skrillex, for breaking her heart, because this is a gigantic, emotional wubby ride.

2. Jessie Ware: Devotion
Pure, utter talent and class from this ’90s throwback queen.

Yeah, that’s right.  I only listed 24 albums.  Not 20.  Not 25.  I’m a rebel.  On to the songs…  These are the tracks that ruled my life for 12 months.  Ranking was tricky:  I based this purely on iTunes/iPod combined play count.  Not radio eargasms, not streaming on YouTube, not clicking “Back” to repeat a song and thus losing the extra count.  “Radioactive” should be higher.  Alas, it is a cruel world.  You all know how to use YouTube or whatever streaming-shit the kids are into these days, so I hope you don’t mind doing the leg work and searching for these yourself.  Embedding links?  Ain’t nobody got time for that.

My Favorite Songs of 2013:

1. Daft Punk, “Get Lucky”
2. Coldplay, “Atlas”
3. how to destroy angels, “Strings and Attractors”
4. M83, “Oblivion (feat. Susanne Sundfør)”
5. Arcade Fire, “Reflektor”
6. Lady Gaga, “Venus”
7. nine inch nails, “Came Back Haunted”
8. Linkin Park and Steve Aoki, “A Light That Never Comes”
9. Lorde, “Buzzcut Season”
10. Phoenix, “Entertainment”
11. Ylvis, “The Fox”
12. Empire of the Sun, “Celebrate”
13. Lady Gaga, “Applause”
14. Kylie Minogue, “Skirt”
15. Avicii, “Hey Brother”
16. Churchill, “Change”
17. Empire of the Sun, “Old Flavours”
18. Giorgio Moroder, “Racer”
19. KT Tunstall, “Made of Glass”
20. Naughty Boy, “LaLaLa (feat. Sam Smith)”
21. Tegan and Sara, “I Was A Fool”
22. Bruno Mars, “Moonshine”
23. Disclosure, “Latch (feat. Sam Smith)”
24. Queens of the Stone Age, “I Sat By The Ocean”
25. Bruno Mars, “Natalie”
26. Drake, “Hold On We’re Going Home”
27. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, “Thrift Shop”
28. Miley Cyrus, “Wrecking Ball”
29. OneRepublic, “Counting Stars”/”Preacher”/”Can’t Stop”
30. Kanye West, “I Am A God (feat. God)”/”Black Skinhead”
31. Katy Perry, “Roar”
32. Pitbull and Ke$ha, “Timber”
33. Sara Bareilles, “Brave”
34. Justin Timberlake, “Mirrors”
35. Imagine Dragons, “Radioactive”
36. Sebastian Ingrosso & Tommy Trash, “Reload (feat. John Martin)”
37. Selena Gomez, “Come and Get It”
38. Frank Ocean, “Eyes Like Sky”
39. Lana Del Rey, “Summertime Sadness”

Year in Gigs:

1. Yeah Yeah Yeahs (with Har Mar Superstar), May 12, 2013, House of Blues
Smushed into the front row by a crowd of surprisingly aggressive and scary young people, I gave into the chaos for the first time in my life.  No panic attack.  No diving for safer waters.  No passive aggressive elbow jabs.  I lost my mind for over an hour, parts of me forever smeared onto my neighbors (and parts of them melded into me).  One of the best shows of my life.  And Karen O held my hand.  I mean, c’mon.  We’re done here.

Karen O is my halfie queen.

2. nine inch nails (with Godspeed You! Black Emperor), October 11, 2013, TD Garden
If you’ve ever had the misfortune of attending a “heavier” show with me, you know I get a little wild.  Whiplash-y, drool-y, oh-my-God-get-away-from-me NUTZ.  Well last time I saw NIN (in Beijing), I reached that peak of utter insanity and have yet to replicate it.  This night was close, but in a section where 99% of the fuckers sat down (SAT DOWN. AT A NIN CONCERT.) it was hard to completely lose it with a straight face.  Alas.  Trent titled the tour “Tension” — which he said refers to the bubbling tension seething underneath the surface of the newfound control that he’s putting on the group — whereas I saw it as “SEXUAL TENSION.”  Everything was funked up — he even has soul sistahs now! — and I wanted to just grind myself into the arena flap-chairs like a horny mongrel.  And they played rarities like “Even Deeper” and “Into The Void.“  Hunh… even deeper into the void…  MY VOID.

We’re so high up you can’t even see Trent. Just that blast of light.

3. Empire of the Sun, September 7, 2013, House of Blues
An utterly blissful experience of smiles and joy.  The crowd was one of the few that did not annoy me once (shocking, considering it was mostly EDM fuckface kids) — not a single time!  And the euphoria was capped off by show-closing “Alive” where we all jumped in unison, smiling at each other, and one guy stopped, turned around to me and gave me a high five.  Fuck yeah.

Empyreans Unite!

4. KT Tunstall, September 25, 2013, Somerville Theater
A girl and her guitar.  That’s all you really need with KT Tunstall.  Crowded into a small, intimate theater (playing Insidious 2 next door…), we enjoyed such a special evening with one of the most underrated, hilarious and embarrassingly talented singers in contemporary music.  I laughed, I cried, I made bird sounds (yes, there was a bird-call contest).

KT is my quarter-Canto goddess.

5. Queens of the Stone Age (with The Kills), December 13, 2013, Agganis Arena
You want a balls out rock and roll show?  Indeed.  There were whiplash guitars, soaring choruses and absolutely crushing riffs.  I’ve waited AGES to see these guys and it was perfect.  A smaller setting might have been nicer, but they’re too big now for little old me.

QOTSA Rocking Your Ass

6. how to destroy angels, April 27, 2013, House of Blues
Trent.  Twice in a year.  Is this real life?!!  For this experimental set — one of only a handful of shows that the band will perform, ever — it was all about the mood, the stage show and the experience of seeing Trent, his wife, and his creative team just bend your mind and melt your brain with ingenuity.  “NIN with female vox” as they are often described.  I was lucky just to be there.

Marital Bliss

7. Alt-J, March 3, 2013, Paradise
Glad I saw them when (and where) I did: they came back 5 months later and played the Bank of America Pavilion.  In this tiny space (one of my all-time faves), they brought their stunning debut to life.  Like how to destroy angels, this was for the experience.  You’ll never get to see them at such an intimate venue ever again.

8. Selena Gomez and Jason Derulo, June 30, 2013, City Hall Plaza
Happy birthday to me!  This was a radio show where we caught a bevy of pop hits in a short amount of (free!) time.  The day was most memorable NOT for Ms. Selenerrrrrr, but for a mid-set crowd panic-rush that brought back terrifying visions of the Marathon bombing.  It was just a giant brawl, but for a moment, we all thought it was something much, much worse.

See you again next year!

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NZY’s Best of 2013 (So Far)

And by “best” I just mean “my favorite” — since you and I both know that my tastes are eclectic and by no means the standard bearer for what is “best” of anything…  Disclaimer over, moving on…

2013 has been a year of massive releases (and massively underwhelming bombs).  Most of my favorite albums below have been accompanied by enough hype to drown them in outrageous expectations.  Most had to resort to very creative rollout campaigns to drum up interest.  And I’m happy to say that most managed to deliver on my crazy hopes.  For every album that really didn’t hit me like I wanted it to (see: Justin Timberlake, The Strokes), there was an album that I was so looking forward to that just rewarded me for being such a patient little fan (see: QOTSA, Daft Punk).  There’s some that have been overlooked in the glut of giant releases (see: The National, Vampire Weekend).  There’s still plenty I haven’t gotten around to (see: KT Tunstall) and one very big album coming in September that will likely shake-up the current Top 3 (see: NIN).  In any case, here are my favorite albums of the year, so far.  The top spot might surprise you.

 

10. DisclosureSettle
Key tracks: “Latch” — “White Noise” — “Simulation”
Sounds like: early ’90s techno; Bjork c. Debut; shopping at Uniqlo

 

09. Tegan and SaraHeartthrob
Key tracks: “I Was A Fool” — “Closer” — “Now I’m All Messed Up”
Sounds like: bopping your way through heartbreak with a Trapper Keeper; the ’80s, with better production values

 

08. how to destroy angelsWelcome Oblivion
Key tracks: “Strings and Attractors” — “How Long?” — “Welcome Oblivion”
Sounds like: nine inch nails — at its most atmospheric and experimental — with a female singer

 

07. Bruno MarsUnorthodox Jukebox
Key tracks:  “Natalie” — “Moonshine” — “Young Girls” — “When I Was Your Man” — “Treasure”
Sounds like: the best jukebox at the coolest diner that never existed

 

06. Ellie GouldingHalcyon
Key tracks: “Hanging On” — “Figure 8” — “Only You” — “Anything Could Happen” — “My Blood”
Sounds like: heartbreak on the dancefloor; ethereal dirges; something that should have been on my best of 2012 list… (because I’m aware this came out last year but I just got addicted to it this year, so whatever)

 

05. Yeah Yeah YeahsMosquito
Key tracks: “Buried Alive (Feat. Dr. Octagon)” — “Mosquito” — “Area 52” — “Under the Earth” — “Sacrilege” — “Despair”
Sounds like: creepy crawly subterranean glam punk

04. Kanye WestYeezus
Key tracks: “On Sight” — “New Slaves” — “I Am A God” — “Black Skinhead” — “Bound 2” — “Send It Up”
Sounds like: internal conflict; disgusting, violent and hateful shit set over amazing production; anger

 

03. Queens of the Stone Age …Like Clockwork
Key tracks: every single song, except “Fairweather Friends”
Sounds like:  a dark, grimy joyride through a sexually depraved and gritty part of a dystopian downtown you pray you don’t break down in…

 

02. Daft PunkRandom Access Memories
Key tracks: “Get Lucky” — “Giorgio By Moroder” — “Instant Crush” — “Touch” — “Fragments of Time” — “Contact” — “Lose Yourself to Dance”
Sounds like: the most sensually seductive robots creeping up on you after a long night out; interplanetary porn music

 

01. Empire of the SunIce on the Dune
Key tracks: “DNA” — “Awakening” — “Surround Sound” — “I’ll Be Around” — “Celebrate” — “Old Flavours” — “Disarm” — “Concert Pitch” — “Ice on the Dune”
Sounds like: the best dance record of the year; pure joy and elation

 

See you in January for the thrilling conclusion…

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Playlist: May 2013

So yeah, it’s June.  What else can I say… at this rate, I should just type out my Year End Best-Of, because I can’t believe the year is almost half over…

I shall start by getting this out of the way: my Album of the Month for May was Daft Punk‘s latest.  As if it could have been anything else.  It’s on track to be my #1 for the year.  Unless Trent can whip something up before Dec. 31, 2013, it’s a safe bet.  This album is huge.  SPIN described it as a Bob Fosse meets George Lucas space musical.  Pretty much.  My song-by-song review is here.

How about the music?  Well, shit was bumpin‘ this month, likely influenced by Daft Punk.  Interestingly enough, my most plays did not come from iTunes, but from YouTube.  Like all the kids do these days, I was streaming music without downloading.

Desired reaction: @_____@

I watched/listened to the 15-minute animated nightmare teaser for the new Queens of the Stone Age album, …Like Clockwork, well over twenty times.  Over and over and over again.  It’s fantastic.  Credit that fucked up cartoon for making me fall in love with the new record.  It is gorgeous RAWK.  OK, so:

1. Queens of the Stone Age …Like Clockwork short film

2. Daft Punk – “Get Lucky”
Just kidding!  But I did break a playcount record and vanquish the 200-play marker (combining iTunes and my iPod, it’s nearing 300).  Dizzam… no but seriously, it was a Daft Punk song.  Just listen to the album already!!!!

2. Daft Punk – “Fragments of Time
This is the one with Todd Edwards, he of “Face to Face” fame.  It’s my favorite track off the album and the moment the soft-rock cheese gives way to a synth/guitar freakout, a la Discovery, my head explodes with happiness every single time.  It’s glorious happy times.

3. Giorgio Moroder – “Racer
Geriatric Italians rock.  This track is for some Google car-racing game (hence the title, duuuuuh) and it is a banger.  If there were more tracks like this on Random Access Memories, the EDM kidz would stop bitching and whining.  It is a hypnotic doozy for the dance floor, the sequel to his 2-pronged attack at a comeback.

4. Yeah Yeah Yeahs“Buried Alive” (feat. Dr. Octagon)
My favorite track off Mosquito (April’s Album of the Month!), this is a wackadoo leftfield song featuring a killer verse from Kool Keith/Doc Ock, my favorite since his appearance on Prodigy’s “Diesel Power” — the best song on Fat of the Land.  It’s a creepy, funky little number, blown apart as soon as Keith drops the first line.  God, this song.

5. The Wanted – “Walks Like Rihanna
So I’m totally going to hipster-claim that I’ve liked The Wanted since I heard this song in Summer ’11.  Yeah, no shame.  This song has the stupidest lyrics ever and the chorus makes me cringe; I hate when songs reference things that plant them FIRMLY in a specific period (most egregious hate-offense for me: New Radicals’ references to Beck, Courtney Love and Marilyn Manson… odd that the 3 of them are still around but that little shit is in a gutter).  Anyway, this drivel is very catchy.

6. Thirty Seconds To Mars – “Conquistador
I haven’t liked a 30STM (isn’t that what the kids call them?) since their debut single.  They have a massive international following that boggles me, but hey, kids like overblown, overearnest and trying-to-hard anthems.  So do I.  This song is driving, catchy and fit for massive arenas.  You’ll always be Jordan Catalano to me, kid.

7. Penguin Prison – “Golden Train
I missed this song from 2010… thank you Gap in-store music and Shazam.  It’s funky, it’s playful, it’s catchy.  I was dancing in the clearance section.  Blast this and pretend we’re back in the Off The Wall era.

8. Rihanna “Right Now” (feat. David Guetta)
I love how this “features” David Guetta, as if he didn’t write this song for one of his albums and this is a b-side masquerading as an a-side.  Whatever.  Anyway, it’s typical of the output that Rihanna and Guetta pump out: heavy, fever-sweat inducing hard house (there’s even some dubstep for the kidz) with impulsive youthful lyrics.  Makes you want to dance until you drop…or hump something until you pass out.

9. deadmau5“Professional Griefers” (feat. Gerard Way)
Confession: while I didn’t really like My Chemical Romance, I always had a soft spot for Gerard Way.  He’s got vision, he has passion and he can really shred the vocals.  This sounds like a remix of a MCR song (I mean that to be a good thing).  It’s aggressive and heavy.  I’m usually not a fan of deadmau5 either.  This is just a great case of worlds colliding.

10. Selena Gomez – “Come and Get It
Boy, the inclusion of the Bollywood-style music really elevates this song to something else.  On its own, it is a pretty basic and boring pop track, but I am a sucker for the ethnic sampling.  I will likely be sick of it by the end of the summer, but for the moment, it’s one of the songs that I don’t immediately change on the radio (see: “Mirrors”… groan)

 

Yikes, lots of guilty pleasures on this list!  See you at the end of June…

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Playlist: April 2013

This’ll be easy.

1. Daft Punk – “Get Lucky” (Feat. Pharrell Williams and Nile Rodgers)

2. Daft Punk – “Get Lucky” (Feat. Pharrell Williams and Nile Rodgers)

3. Daft Punk – “Get Lucky” (Feat. Pharrell Williams and Nile Rodgers)

4. Daft Punk – “Get Lucky” (Feat. Pharrell Williams and Nile Rodgers)

5. Daft Punk – “Get Lucky” (Feat. Pharrell Williams and Nile Rodgers)

6. Daft Punk – “Get Lucky” (Feat. Pharrell Williams and Nile Rodgers)

7. Daft Punk – “Get Lucky” (Feat. Pharrell Williams and Nile Rodgers)

8. Daft Punk – “Get Lucky” (Feat. Pharrell Williams and Nile Rodgers)

9. Daft Punk – “Get Lucky” (Feat. Pharrell Williams and Nile Rodgers)

10. Daft Punk – “Get Lucky” (Feat. Pharrell Williams and Nile Rodgers)

 

Seriously.  This song is already approaching the 200-mark on my iTunes play count (this is not taking into account my iPod play count, which my Civic can confirm is getting super worn out by this track).  Which is absurd.  No song — NONE — in my iTunes history has ever, EVER neared 200.  Not NIN’s “Hand that Feeds” or “Discipline.”  Not Scissor Sisters’ “Invisible Light.”  Not even previous champ, Gorillaz’ “Stylo”, which was heretofore the reigning repeat champ with a pithy 80- or 90-something.  Ha, Damon, HA.  I was worried my expectations would absolutely crush Daft Punk’s chances at releasing a song that could make me happy (see: The Strokes, Justin Timberlake), and yet they succeeded at releasing the Song of the Year (why even beat around that bush) a full 8 months before the calendar turns ’14.  This song elates me.

But…for the one or two of you in the universe who will ever read this, I suppose the show must go on.  There were other songs I listened to this month.  Sorry for them: NOTHING CAN BEAT DAFT PUNK.  But let’s toss them a bone.

First up, my album of the month is the new Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Mosquito.  It’s a grower, nowhere near as urgent as Fever to Tell, nowhere near as warm as Show Your Bones, and nowhere near as catchy as It’s Blitz.  There’s a lot of slow-building creepiness, with a couple all-out bangers tossed in for those like me with ADD.  It’s really claustrophobic at times, very weird (see: gospel choir, Kool Keith), but it all strangely works.  They never disappoint.

Now, onto the songs…

1. Lana Del Rey – “Summer Wine
Sultry and cool, as Del Rey do.  To me, this is the warm yang to the yin of Nick Cave and Kylie’s insanely dark murder ballad, “Where The Wild Roses Grow.”  It’s a Nancy Sinatra cover, done with Barrie-James O’Neill, the guy she’s currently sleeping with.  Why she didn’t do any songs with singers I’m actually a fan of (see: Ours, Marilyn Manson), this passes the test.

2. M83 – “Oblivion” (Feat. Susanne Sundfør)
This is one of those soundtrack songs that benefits from having seen the movie.  It’s epic as shit.  While the movie is a shameless amalgam of many other sci-fi classics, I still enjoyed the hell out of it.  And when the credits roll, I want to be hit in the head with something cinematic, something grand, something sweeping.  This is perfect.  She sounds like Sia, wailing over a future-throwback track that sounds like aliens recording hymns for an ’80s flick.

3. OneRepublic – “Counting Stars
Ryan Tedder is a little bastard.  I still won’t admit that I enjoy OneRepublic’s music, but he never fails to catch my ear.  This track is driving, like Mumford and Sons strained through Madonna’s “Hung Up” (and by extension, ABBA’s “Gimme Gimme Gimme”).  I’m not embarrassed to say I like it.  Thanks, meimei.

4. Daughter – “Get Lucky
Too good for Daft Punk?  Go kill yourself.  Or listen to this moody cover, which sounds like The xx taking a somber stab at Neil’s Song of the Year.  It’s a great cover, taking the happy-go-lucky vibe of the original, drowning it in pills and self-loathing, then mumbling it out in depressing fashion.  Kudos, you sad kids.

5. Stephen Frost – “Fire and Ice” (Feat. Jessi Coble)
Frosty went pop!  Sell-out!  Naaaaah, I’m just kidding.  This is unabashed pop goodness: a dancefloor-ready track with bold vocals.  It’s ripe for remixing.  Already a hit in the UK (what??????) and on Rdio, it’s an unexpected glimpse of the big time for Lil’ Stevie.  The gays are gonna love this song.

 

 

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Playlist: March 2013

Jeez, another month blew by.  ONE FISCAL QUARTER.  And now we’re a few days into April and I haven’t even updated you on my March listenings yet…  You — all one or two of you, bless your hearts — must have been so anxious to see what I’ve been feeding into my ear tubes.  Fear not, for I have risen.  Let’s go!

[Remember: we’re going for play count here….  No cheating!]

 

1. how to destroy angels – “Strings and Attractors
This song sounds like something off The Fragile (by way of Year Zero), which is alright in my book because The Fragile is secretly my favorite NIN album (sorry, Downward Spiral, you’re still technically the “best”).  I cannot wait to hear this in concert.  House of Blues, 4/27!  Gah!

2. Phoenix – “Entertainment
Argh, conflicted!  Why?  This is the chinkiest-sounding shit I’ve ever heard, and yet…. YET…. it’s so goddamned catchy!  Like, earworm-cannot-be-dislodged-from-brain catchy.  Bound to be in the Top 10 Songs of 2013.  And the video is a ridonkulous, high art homage (yes, I’m calling it an homage) to Korean dramas.  A+, you French bastards.

3. Rihanna – “Lost In Paradise
I know, I’m supposed to be punishing her for going back to Breezy, but no.  I love this song (thank you H&M in-store music, as always). Her “darker” tracks are always my favorites and I’m assuming this is the dark horse of Unapologetic.  Sounds like it’d fit nicely on Rated R (my favorite RiRi album).  Hum along.

4. Bruno Mars – “Moonshine
My favorite track off his latest album (if you remember, my album of February).  As my sister said, “This would be your favorite.”  Totally.  Funky beat, driving rhythm… reminds me of my favorite Alan Parsons Project shit (sorry for this obscure, embarrassing and problematically incorrect point of reference).  It’s cool, it’s catchy.

5. Fall Out Boy – “My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark (Light ‘Em Up)
They’re back!!!!  I didn’t realize how much I missed them (I’m really serious, sue me) or their pretentiously laughable song titles (are we still LiveJournaling, bros?).  This stadium-banger is wielding a killer chorus and it’s just…agh, I miss 2005!  I’m so surprised by my love for this song that I’ll just stop here.  I’m on fiiii-yaaaaaaaah!

6. Usher & Diplo – “Go Missin‘”
I’ve been sitting on this since February.  It’s a slow burner.  So smooth, so hypnotic.  He’s so into the electronic thing these days that it’s no surprise to hear this style song, but without him worrying about filling a dance floor with insane high energy shit, he can utilize that smooth-ass voice of his.  Mmmm mmm, smoove.

7. Alt-J – “Estocada” (aka “Something Good”)
Sorry, Alt-J.  They’re at the butt-end of my 2012 Albums list and, you know what, they should be in the Top 3 or 5, at least.  I saw them in March for the first show of their current US tour.  It was amazing.  This song in particular — already one of my faves off the album — was infused with so much ass-kickery in a live setting that I can’t stop listening to it.  They’re so good and so few people know about them… there’s still time to get into them before you’re accused of bandwagoning.  Get with it!

8. Junip – “Your Life, Your Call
In a year packed full with highly anticipated albums (Strokes, JT, NIN, Daft Punk, Arcade Fire, YYYs), I am so surprised that Junip just popped out of nowhere and into my life.  I cannot wait to hear the rest of this album.  Jose Gonzalez singing without his usual acoustic accompaniment + 2 guys who play instruments = this.  I’ll be damned, but I think I might be more into it that both the new Strokes and JT combined.  Great job, Junip boys.

9. Youngblood Hawke – “We Come Running
This song has been out forever, right?  I’ve heard it on the radio for months, but have just finally let it into my heart.  It’s happy, it’s catchy.  It’s like a lamer version of a fun. anthem mixed with some old pop-punk-emo aesthetic.  It makes me happy.

10. Demi Lovato – “Heart Attack
Damn, girl.  When I first heard it, I was like, “Ugh this is so generic and boring.”  And then I couldn’t get it out of my head (especially that “chorus”!)  So there you have it, I will just embrace this.  The lyrics are dumb, most of the song really is quite generic, but damn… that “ataaaAAAAAaaaAAAAAAK” is money.  Pure money.

And finarry, the latest from Stephen Frost.  This one’s a rocker and *might* be my favorite off his current album project.

Damn.  Looking back on this list — I’m listening to some pretty poppy shit these days!  And you know what?  It’s only going to get worse as the weather gets better.  Every year — without fail — my winters are filled with quiet, profound, introspective, and sometimes dark stuff.  But once the windows can roll down and my limbs can be freed from their fabric-layer prisons, it’s on.  But what about album of the month!?  Wrote about it already.  Yeah, it grew on me.  how to destroy angels.  Go tell your mom about it.

 

 

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Playlist: February 2013

February is a short month, but seriously, this year is pretty much almost over.  So while I prepare for April (at this rate, March is already done), here’s what I was blasting out of my boombox this month.

[Same note as last month: I’m going by iTunes play count, so I can’t be a weasel…]

<> on April 13, 2012 in Indio, California.

1. Frank Ocean – “Eyes Like Sky
Good Lord on high, this is one of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard.  These LYRICS.  The soft acoustic number reminds me of something from the early ’90s that would have fit nicely on the “grown up” stations (alongside Des’ree and Tracy Chapman or something).  Don’t let that fool you.  I tear up every time I hear this part:

I said I wish you could see the ocean/He said I wish you could see hope
I said have you ever seen a mountain?/He said no but my faith can move those
I said I wish you could see the stars/
He told me I should see love”

*Neil rips out heart strings* D:

He delivers it with such aching sincerity that I should just stop writing the rest of this list because I haven’t stopped listening to this song for about a week.

2. Taio Cruz – “Higher” (feat. Kylie Minogue)
Anything (ANYTHING) that “features” Kylie Minogue is guaranteed to be good.  Because Kylie Minogue.  (Editor’s note: for all of you hipsters scoffing and rolling your eyes, go listen to “Where the Wild Roses Grow“, her duet with Nick Cave.  And then shut the fuck up.)  It’s upbeat Euro-pop and, even though it came out in 2010, my sister just discovered it and we loves it, precious.  Like Usher, but less skeevy and trying-too-hard.  [Note: the US version has Travie McCoy… hahahahahahahahahaha, I don’t even know what to say to that….]

3. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis – “Thrift Shop” (feat. Wanz)
Yeah, Neil finally joined 2013.  I was so resistant to this song for months but then I finally listened to it all the way through (it’s on the radio every few minutes).  The Nate Dogg-ripoff chorus hooked me.  Then I read the lyrics and, after LOL’ing for a while (FYI, R. Kelly’s sheets smell like “pissssssssssssssssssssssss”), I decided that I liked the message (This validates my unabashed love of secondhand shops).  In his defense, I love the throwback early ’90s vibe.  And his other songs are surprisingly thoughtful.  I’ve been schooled.  This is fucking AWWWWSUMMMMMMM.

4. Azealia Banks – “Harlem Shake
I know, I know… just like #3 above, this is racially divisive and played out.  Cry me a river.  Bauuer’s version is pretty boring (I still think that the best of the meme videos improve the song, i.e. the Matt & Kim BESTCONCERTEVERHOLYSHIT); Azealia’s rap gives it a ton of aggressive grit and, frankly, cred.

5. The Pierces – “You’ll Be Mine
This hot sister duo made of my favorite records of ’07, the catchy and witty-as-fuck Thirteen Tales of Love and Revenge.  Coldplay’s hot bassist handles instrumentation on the 2011 album that spawned this track (You & I).  It’s not as immature, playful and sarcastic as Thirteen Tales, instead sounding like earnest adult stuff, much in the vein of recent KT Tunstall.

6. Stephen Frost – “All The Lovely Things
Playful.  Cabaret.  Whistling.  Tap-dancing.  FRENCH.  This is the song they played in the saloon from the MJ/McCartney video for “Say, Say, Sayafter Michael, Paul and Linda continued on their quack-journey.  My favorite track so far.  Good job, kid.

7. Justin Timberlake – “Suit and Tie” (feat. Jay-Z)
Hey, did you hear JT is back?  Of course you did.  This was in heavy rotation at the start of the month (I actually liked it!) but it’s getting so played out that I don’t really care anymore.  I’m not even getting tickets for the Legends of Summer throwdown at Fenway.  Whatever.  In regards to this song, I’ll let my mother handle my thoughts:

“Wow, this is so nice!  They need to bring back music like this….  Mmm, nice!”  Continues dancing.  Jay-Z abruptly jumps in.  “No.  Oh no.  Now it’s ruined.  Whyyyyy’d they have to do that?!???”  Stops dancing.

I love Jay, but his verse is so jarring and distracting that it loses me.  T.I. is a perfect compliment to JT.  He should be brought back.

8. Marina and the Diamonds – “E.V.O.L.”
Another clever kiss-off/fuck-you to love.  She is unstoppable.  This b-side would fit nicely on her first album, but it boasts the slick production from her latest.  I had this shit on repeat for days, so I’m not sure why it’s all the way at #8.  It should be at #5.  Blast this one, jilted guys and gals.

9. MS MR – “Bones
“OHMYGOD, IT’S THE GAME OF THRONES SONG!!!!!!”  Thank you, GoT s3 trailer.  This song is gloriously dark and grim.  Bits of Florence.  Bits of Bat for Lashes.  Flourishes of orchestral strings, gut-booming drums and spooky wailing.  So good.  Their EP is only $2.99 on iTunes.  Check it out.

10. Olly Murs – “Troublemaker” (feat. Flo Rida)
Yeah, this isn’t Maroon 5.  I know you thought it was Adam, but you are mistaken.  Being an Olly fan for a couple years now (Murs hipster!), this is a jarring shift from his fun, throwback British Pop (not Britpop) that ranged from Robbie Williams to One Direction to Estelle.  This is clearly THE big grab for the US market.  If you haven’t heard it on the radio yet, you will.  Oh you will.
Album of the Month

January belonged to Tegan and Sara.  Their pop breakthrough is untouchable and beloved by critics, ensuring you’ll be hearing about it until next January when all the 2013 lists come out (this one included).  My February record is from 2012, but I just got it (thanks HEG).  It’s so effortlessly good that it’s criminal.

Bruno Mars – Unorthodox Jukebox
My favorite tracks are “Moonshine,” “Natalie” and “Money Make Her Smile” (the bass line on that track is filthy good).  This album drips throwback, whether it’s of the Michael Jackson variety (“Natalie” is “Dirty Diana”/”Billy Jean” 2013.  The chorus reminds me of this, for some reason) or old fashioned ’50s doo-wop pop rock (“If I Knew“).  It’s all short too, clocking in at less than 40 minutes.  Way to leave us wanting more, Bruno.  It’s split into two personalities: the earnest, less bombastic tracks (“Young Girls“, “When I Was Your Man” and my aforementioned favorites) and then there’s the party-starting jams.  From the ridiculous lyrically-NSFW sexcapades of “Gorilla” and daft funk of “Treasure” to the ubiquitous “Locked Out of Heaven” and the reggae smoke track, “Show Me.”  Like the eponymous machine from the title, this album plays like a selection of greatest hits from decades long passed.  This little guy is awesome.

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Playlist: January 2013

Well that month went by fast, hunh?  2013’s first is already in the bag; 11 to go before this year’s edition of the Year-End music writer/critic/blogger self-love orgy.  To keep tabs on my diet, I’m going to be doing a monthly “Playlist” of songs that are on constant repeat on iTunes.  And since nobody reads this, then surely it’s just for my own record-keeping.  I am so clever.

Let’s kick this off, then.  For honest disclosure’s sake, I chose to arrange songs in order of my iTunes play count.  That way, I won’t be able to weasel all the “cool” stuff on the top of the list and hope that you didn’t make it to the bottom of the rankings to see that I’ve listened to Josh Groban’s new single an insane amount of times.  Tsk, tsk.

[Editor’s Note: these songs aren’t necessarily January 2013 releases; they’re just the ones that Neil’s been listening to non-stop.]

1. The National – “Bloodbuzz Ohio

A lush, bittersweet tune, reflecting some of my recent (but not exact) woes of late:  “I still owe money to the money to the money I owe/I never thought about love when I thought about home.”

2. Josh Groban – “Brave

Haha, sue me, I fucking love Josh Groban.  His songs swell with power and allow me to pretend I can sing.  Raising me up since 2003.

3. Churchill – “Change

This track is a fucking banger.  Lil’ bit of Fleetwood Mac, lil’ bit of Lady Antebellum.  Predicted to be a frontrunner in my year-end Top 20.

4. The Strokes – “One Way Trigger

Comeback singles are a bitch when a band tries to switch things up.  Like other songs that threatened to be crushed underneath nutso levels of hype (“Every Teardrop is a Waterfall”, “Madness”, for example), this song turned out to be a grower.  I gave it many spins to prove itself and I’m glad I did.  Can’t stop listening to that falsetto.

5. How To Destroy Angels – “How Long?

The catchiest thing Trent has written since the last NIN album.  The groove is reminiscent of Year Zero, but there’s a distinct air of positivity to it all, likely injected by his wife’s vocals.  So pretty, so hypnotic.

6. Ellie Goulding – “My Blood

It’s hard to pick just one track off this perfect album, but I listen to this (and “Hanging On”) most.  I finally read the lyrics and see it’s about a breakup (damn you, Skrillex!): “And God knows I’m not dying but I bleed now/And God knows it’s the only way to heal now/With all the blood I lost with you/It drowns the love I thought I knew.”  Gaddamn!  Ellie makes injecting heart and soul (and blood) into seemingly cold electronic music.

7. Junip – “Line of Fire

Listen to this NOW.  It’s Jose Gonzalez and his band.  If you don’t know who he is, get into that back catalog (start with In Our Naturethere’s a cover of Massive Attack’s “Teardrop” that is a stunner).  The band bolsters his sound in ways that make me squeal.  It’s positioned at #7 only because I downloaded it today, but I can’t stop listening to it.  Gah!

8. Tegan and Sara – “I Was A Fool

Seriously, thank God they went along with their pop sensibilities and made this fuckitall album of gems.  It’s my January Album of the Month.  This is one of my favorite tracks.  It starts off like an old J-Pop song (Ayu!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) but it’s all 80s synth-slow-jam.  They’ll be on the Top Albums of 2013 all over the place.

9. Noisettes – “Let The Music Play

One of my favorite bands.  One of my Top 3 albums from 2009.  This is their latest, Contact, released last year in the UK, yet to have a release date in the US.  Gone is the gritty punk-rock snarl from their debut; they’ve ramped up the pop and R&B throwbacks from Wild Young Hearts into some smart pop perfection.  This song is a good place to begin.

10. Chuckie and Promise Land feat. Amanda Wilson – “Breaking Up” (Bartosz Brenes & Tony Romera Remix)

Kids, I’ve been listening to this so-called “EDM” since before you were born.  That being said, there is no bandwagon to jump on.  If it makes me want to dance, I’m in.  If it fools me into believing that I can handle dancing from dusk til dawn without destroying my knees and back (old!), then it has to be good.  This song is HUUUUUUUUUUGE and makes me miss the good old dancing days in Shanghai.  Likely locked-in to be my favorite dance song of 2013.  We shall see; it’s a bit early.

Other tracks making the rounds that may rise or fall in the February rankings:
Santigold, “Disparate Youth” – the most pop-accessible track off her list-toppling 2012 album
Frank Ocean, “Wise Man” – achingly beautiful track that was dumped from the Django Unchained soundtrack.
Neon Trees, “Hooray for Hollywood” – driving, high-energy pop-infused rock with a huge oh-ooh-whoa chorus.
Jewel and Kelly Clarkson, “Foolish Games” – update of the ’90s classic into a crushing duet that we didn’t know we needed so badly… just wait until Kelly Clarkson hops in.  It’s like that moment I always talk about in “Lady Marmalade”: when Xtina swoops in and steals the entire show with a killer run.
Metisse, “Boom Boom Ba” – unofficial theme to an old canceled show (Dead Like Me), Buddha Lounge-y trip hop preciousness.
The Knife, “Full of Fire” – fuck a duck, this song is brutal.  More industrial-NIN than they’ve ever been, it’s 9+ (!!!) minutes of head banging dance music.

 
And last but definitely not least, my good pal, Stephen Frost, with his new single, “Age of Gold.”  There’s a little Sean Lennon in there, some classic old-fashioned-y pop.  I’m just waiting for some Phil Spector Wall of Sound production to make it a classic.

 

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2012: Year In Concerts

Stray observations concerning this year’s gigs: Coldplay.  Coldplay Coldplay Coldplay.  Saw both American Idol and X-Factor, making me an official reality TV singing contest super fan.  I saw Phillip Phillips twice this year.  I can’t believe it either.  Also saw Fuel, for free, at a local festival full of drunken white trash.  You take what you can.  I’m so happy to be back in the US.

  1. ColdplayJuly 29, TD Garden, Boston, MA
    There’s nothing I could write to convey the absolutely ineffable surge of pure joy and happiness that this concert provided.  If you went to one of the shows, you know what I’m talking about.  If you didn’t get a chance to, this video recorded in Paris gives a nice glimpse.  Xylobands, man.  Fucking Xylobands.  It was the most interactive concert experience I’ve ever had in my lifetime of 300+ concerts.  I laughed, I cried, I screamed, and I nearly fainted at one point.  It’s concerts like this that make me pass on upcoming shows that I know won’t be as worth it.  If for some strange reason I could only go to one concert again and again for the rest of my life (Groundhog Day-style), it would be this one.

    Best of the year and, quite frankly, one of the best of all time.

    Best of the year and, quite frankly, one of the best of all time.

  2. The Killers, December 17, Agganis Arena, Boston, MA
    Wow.  Just wow.  I was scared…no, terrified… that this would be a monumental letdown brought upon by years and years of wishing and waiting and hoping (ahem, Oasis…).  I had been waiting since 2004.  I lived through a cancelled Beijing gig.  And now finally I could see The Killers.  First of all, they put on a fucking rock show.  Pyro.  Fireworks.  Confetti.  And they are no pussies either, killing it on guitar and Rock God stances.  Brandon Flowers has grown into one of the most charismatic frontmen of our time and I’m happy to have seen him chipper, charming and upbeat.  Touring behind my album of the year also didn’t hurt.  Hit after hit after hit, the singalongs just kept coming.  Simply exhausting.  In the happiest of ways.

    Battle born.

    Battle born.

  3. Kaiser Chiefs, March 6, Paradise Rock Club, Boston, MA
    Crammed into a tiny club with an odd assortment of Kaiser’s fans, I proceeded to experience one of the best singalong concerts of my career.  I forgot how much I love KC (and how well I remembered every single song lyric).  I lost my voice, was sore for days, but age be damned, it was worth it.

    Ricky messing around on the club's bar.  Very intimate performance...

    Ricky messing around on the club’s bar. Very intimate performance…

  4. Florence and the Machine, September 14, Comcast Center, Mansfield, MA
    I wanted a moment.  And I knew precisely which moment I wanted.  “During ‘No Light, No Light‘, I want a gusty breeze to blow through the crowd, awash in purple or blue light, flowing through Flo’s hair.”  And lo and behold, maybe I was a good boy that week, but that happened.  I couldn’t believe it.  For that “moment” (see #2 above), the sky was still, the stars were shining and the moon was bright, a cool steady breeze streamed through the amphitheater, we were bathed in dim purple light, and Flo let that sustained note rip through the night air.  Magically majestic.

    Pure majesty.

    Pure majesty.

  5. Keane, June 12, House of Blues, Boston, MA
    Much like the Kaisers gig, the Keane show was all about the singalong.  Although they were touring behind the relatively (even for Keane) boring album, Strangeland, it was still a great show.  The live setting improved those boring new album tracks and their old hits were just ripe for audience ecstasy.  Bafflingly, there were a bunch of rapey-looking douchebags there.  The ones next to us were scamming on girls.  Annoying jerks aside, it was nice to finally hear “Bedshaped” live.

    Not a bunch of pussies, as you'd expect...

    Not a bunch of pussies, as you’d expect…

  6. Of Monsters and Men, April 7, House of Blues, Boston, MA
    Seriously, getting in on a band’s big break is something special.  This was their first US tour and we were one of the first stops.  The HoB was PACKED to the top sections of the highest balcony and each song had a singalong progressively cheerier and more uplifting than the last.  It felt like a party with a band that had been around for decades.  Here’s hoping they stick around.

    Don't listen to a word I say... HEY!  Mumford x Bjork...

    Don’t listen to a word I say… HEY! Mumford x Bjork…

  7. Ours, June 28, Johnny D’s, Somerville, MA
    You don’t often get to stand face-to-face with one of your favorite singers of all time…while they’re performing, almost screaming directly into your face.  But what if you’re in a crappy dive, a local restaurant with a dance floor and booths?  It was sad, a bit pathetic and yet nothing to be ashamed of.  Ours is severely underrated.  They have shit luck.  But their debut album is one of my favorites of all time, one of my top 5 desert island discs.  So I’m glad they’re still trying, fighting to stick around.  It was hard to absorb all of the energy when half the crowd was munching on dinner, but I’m just happy they’re still here for their fans.

    He can see into your SOUL.

    He can see into your SOUL.

  8. Neon Trees, December 7, Lansdowne Pub, Boston, MA
    Yeah, I can’t believe it either.  This performance kicked ass.  We were there for a free radio show.  Tristan Prettyman and Phillip Phillips opened.  The crowd was full of mom-age women and girls in their late 20s.  An odd mix of an audience for this flamboyant band who has toured with The Killers and 30 Seconds to Mars.  But hot damn, as soon as they came on, I was a fan.  They have one of the best frontmen I’ve seen and they exuded such determined energy for such a lame audience that I was quite impressed.  I would have never, ever ever, in a bajillion years expected Neon Trees to put on such a great show.

    Hey, sexy lady~

    Hey, sexy lady~

  9. Joshua Ledet – American Idol Live!, August 26, Dunkin Donuts Center, Providence, RI
    You remember moment #1 from the previous section?  Yeah.  I got to experience it live.  In person.  It knocked me on my ass.  Sure it was nice to see Phillip Phillips sing “Home” with Deandre and Colton on harmony.  But Joshua took us all to church.

    Sorry Joshua, no pix of you, only Phillip Phillips.  I can't believe I saw this dude twice this year...

    Sorry Joshua, no pix of you, only Phillip Phillips. I can’t believe I saw this dude twice this year…

  10. Ingrid Michaelson and Greg Laswell, July 27, Lupo’s, Providence, RI
    What a double-billing: husband and wife, on tour together.  It’s like if Gwen and Gavin brought No Doubt and Bush back on the road together, except for the quiet, contemplative indie-folk crowd.  Greg underwhelmed us with an acoustic session (Bah!) but Ingrid gave us a satisfying mix of awesome musical talent and hilarious between-song banter.  If she had a show, I’d watch it.  Like New Girl, but less annoying than Zooey D.

    It's adorable because they're married IRL.

    It’s adorable because they’re married IRL.

  11. Fiona Apple, March 27, The Royale, Boston, MA
    In all fairness, it’s not her fault I was so underwhelmed.  After all, I had waited over a decade to see her, one of my favorite artists, and she was finally back for a tiny club comeback tour.  Holy shit, this was going to be orgasmic!  Incorrect.  Paying nearly $1 per minute of this dismally short set (less than a fucking hour!), I wanted more.  Not only more songs in general, but more older songs.  She played mostly new stuff, which is okay, but argh, she showed little love to Tidal and Extraordinary Machine.  WTF.  Thank god for good company.

    IMG_0329

    Fiona Apple, not making my $60 worthwhile.

  12. Tenacious D, July 2, Bank of America Pavilion, Boston, MA
    Hilarious.  Seeing those two tubby motherfuckers perform all their classics in front of a giant inflatable Cock-Phoenix (complete with giant testes, confetti cum AND a combo vagina/anus doorway) was something I had looked forward to for almost ten years.   Yeah, they’ve been around that long.  But what I didn’t realize was that, in the 10 years since “Wonder Boy,” I grew up.  Cock and ball jokes don’t crack me up as much as before.  Giggling about marijuana intake, anal sex and rocking out are also in the past.  I still love a good fart joke, but still, we were brought to the Altar of the D on a wave of nostalgia.  Unfortunately for me, it was more of a Goodbye than a Welcome Back.

    Oh look, it's a phoenix made of cock 'n balls!  I'm 13 years old!  This rules!  (Actually, it was kinda cool ;P)

    Oh look, it’s a phoenix made of cock ‘n balls! I’m 13 years old! This rules! (Actually, it was kinda cool ;P)

  13. Fuel, August 2, Mediera Festival, New Bedford, MA
    Lord on high, this was a fucking hot mess.  Even though we were literally a 5 minute walk away from the sofa to the “venue,” the crowd just ruined it.  Even though it was free.  Even though I’d been waiting a very long time to hear “Hemorrhage.”  Even though, like I said, we were a  5 minute walk away.  The combination of white and ghetto trash — all drunk, mind you — crammed together in a great awful slushie of August humidity just ruined it.  We heard “Shimmer” and got the fuck out.  No amount of “free” was worth it.

    White trash meltdown.

    White trash meltdown.

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