Tag Archives: Alt-J

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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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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2012 Albums of the Year

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  1. The Killers – Battle Born

    Like my #1 album of 2010 — Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs — The Killers landed in my top spot by way of pure heart and foolish emotions.  This is an album for where I am right now, at this moment, in my life.  Gorillaz made the “best” album of 2010, but they didn’t reach into my soul, my being.  Here, The Killers — and by “The Killers” I mean Brandon Flowers, another 31-year old — have made one of their best records.  Gone is the sleaze and youthful energy of Hot Fuss.  This is the perfection of what they have been aiming for since Sam’s Town: a collection of great American songs about love, loss, change and the Wild West.  Whereas Sam’s Town sounded like a bunch of boys trying to capture a sound, Battle Born sounds confident, mature and entirely authentic.  Each song is stadium ready (“Runaways,” “Flesh And Bone,” “Miss Atomic Bomb,” “Battle Born”).  Each song has a hook and melody as catchy as any gem off Hot Fuss (“The Way It Was,” “A Matter of Time,” “From Here On Out”).  It’s not as drama-club goofy as Sam’s Town, but it is as earnest (“Be Still”).  They’re still biting The Boss, but instead of sounding like a cheap rip-off, now it sounds like a respectful nod.  There is not a single song I skip; in fact, I relish the arrival of each successive song.  I haven’t felt this way about an album at all this year.  The standout track for me — and again, we’re sensing a trend here — is the absolute heartbreaker, “Here With Me.”  Upon first listen, the first time I heard the chorus, I just started crying.  It was so unexpected and surprising that I had to laugh.  But it hit me so hard and uncovered a couple emotions that I haven’t quite got under control yet.  And isn’t that what the best music can do?  Elicit an emotional response, some memory, some scene, a glimpse to a time you either forgot or tried to bury.  This entire album does that for me (though not as powerfully and intensely as “Here With Me”).  In some silly way, I wonder if it’s just life’s path and growing up.  Even though Brandon Flowers is a rich, married Mormon with kids, he’s writing songs that somehow hit his fellow 31 Clubber square in the soul (incidentally, just like Win Butler of Arcade Fire).  And he’s been doing it since 2004.  If their output continues to be this good, I look forward to aging with this band.

  2. Frank Ocean – channel orange

    This was supposed to be my #1 album of 2012.  Then The Killers came along and reminded me why I love them so much.  Sorry Frank.  Overall, this may be a better “album” —  by which I mean a better overall narrative and listening experience.  But it didn’t hit me as hard in the right spots as The Killers.  On that note, the spots: my heart and soul.  This impossibly smooth album is pained, heartfelt, earnest and real.  A little too real.  Exactly what I want in my music.  It’s not cold, distant and drugged out like The Weeknd, or overproduced and drugs/pussy/party dancefloor bait like Miguel.  This shit is real.  Frank injects such a deep, soulful and human element to these tracks that it’s almost emo-R&B.  Surely his coming out didn’t hurt him; it only endeared him more to me.  What a brave move, calculated or not.  “Thinkin’ Bout You,”  “Forrest Gump,” and the landmark “Bad Religion” provide enough lyrical content to back up his famous letter to his first love.  Funked up numbers like “Monks” and “Sweet Life” have earworms so catchy that I unexpectedly burst into humming at random times throughout the day.  Even a forty-second throwaway interlude “Fertilizer” is awesome.  But it’s that mega, gigantor, EPIC AS A MUFUKKAH 10-minute “Pyramids” that cements his genius.

  3. Muse – The 2nd Law

    In all honesty, this almost didn’t make it into the top 5.  Why?  Well, I think it was a case of premature ejaculation, if you will.  When I first heard it, I went bonkers.  Each song was so shockingly unique and catchy, it was like they had figured out all the right formulas and wrote an album of perfect prog-pop-rock.  The ideal rock album for the iTunes playlist world we live in.  Then I got kind of bored.  Each song is so good it could potentially be a single, but the danger is that the experience of listening to the entire album suffers for that.  Why listen to all 12 songs when I can skip around the narrative to the gems that get me off right away?  Whereas we went on a journey on the previous albums, The 2nd Law is chock-full of heavy hitters.  So it sat unloved for a while.  Then I dusted it off and gave it another go.  And it still blows me away.  Slamming dubstep bursts on “Follow Me,” “Unsustainable,” and blissful love tune, “Madness” are infectious.  That Olympic song isn’t as terrible when presented in this narrative; its ridiculousness simply bookended by songs that are equally, if not more, outlandish.  Perfect example: “Panic Station.”  What the fuck is this?!  Prince?  MJ?  Stevie Wonder?  Queen?  All of these and more.  It’s quite possibly their stupidest song ever, but it kicks so much ass I don’t even care.  We hated “Supermassive Black Hole” when that came out (“Waaaaah, it doesn’t sound like Muse!!!!!!!!”  D:), yet now it’s classic.  This is still one of my least-favorite Muse albums (tie between this and their debut), but it’s still Muse.  And their worst output is still better than most other bands’ bests.

  4. Metric – Synthetica

    Fast paced alt-pop sung by one of my favorite female vocalists around today.  It’s sleek, stylish and sexy, with just the amount of heavy to keep it from being too-precious indie alternative.  This is not as stadium-anthem-heavy as their prior album, Fantasies, but manages to be so tight and focused you want to sing along as if you were in a giant arena.  Lead single “Youth Without Youth” reminds me of a nice blend of Muse’s “Uprising” and Marilyn Manson’s “Beautiful People”… it’s got “that beat,” if you know what I’m talking about.  “Speed the Collapse” and “Synthetica” are driving guitar-blasts perfect for high speeds in your car.  “Clone” and “Lost Kitten” will please those aforementioned precious indie fans.  Lou Reed even pops his grizzled head in for a few lines on “The Wanderlust.”  This is a darker endeavor, more innocence lost since the years of Fantasies.  I think I like it better.

  5. Bat for Lashes – The Haunted Man

    Boy, my first-listen of this album was at the wrong time.  I hated it at first, but oh Natasha Khan, you know how to get me.  I should never have doubted you.  Yes, it is not as exciting and visceral as Two Suns.  Yes, it most certainly is not as mystical, dark and spooky as Fur and Gold.  This is a sparse, introspective affair.  I’ll liken it to her Vespertine, as opposed to the Post and Homogenic of her previous two releases.  It took awhile, but it’s a grower.  “All Your Gold,” “Horses of the Sun,” and “Oh Yeah” will sate old fans of her beat-heavy bangers.  While the rest of you introspective sad-sacks will revel in everything else.  The clear standout for me is the title track, which starts simple, tosses in a scary men’s choir, and then absolutely erupts into the most glorious low-end rumble-bass of all time.  And then the horns kick in.  Pass me a cigarette, please!  Seriously: I sit in my car and queue this song *just* to FEEL that sensation.  It’s like my molecules are being liberated into the heavens.  Utter bliss.

  6. Lana Del Rey – Born To Die

    You know the buzz.  You know the backlash.  You read my defense.  You have your own opinion.  She’s polarizing, that is certain.  But forget for a second the plastic-surgery barbie doll and all the headlines.  Listen to the songs.  They are catchy. as. fuck.  With her mix of glamorous diva majesty and modern hip-hop sampling, LDR and her team of writers crafted a collection of such lush, sensual, beat-heavy tracks.  Some songs are sweeping; some are perfect for head nodding (“Carmen,” “Born To Die,” “Video Games,” “Dark Paradise”).  “Blue Jeans” is the clear standout.  Others are more upbeat.  “National Anthem,” “Off To The Races,” “Summertime Sadness” and “Diet Mountain Dew” remind me of Poe: danceable, poppy and playful.  Haters gon’ hate, but I still love this sexy little Frankenstein.

  7. Of Monsters And Men – My Head Is An Animal

    Forget all this “Mumford-from-Iceland” bullshit.  You know who they remind me of?  Arcade Fire, circa 2005.  Gigantic singalongs.  Kitchen-sink instrumentation.  Overearnest folksiness.  Lots of “hey”s and “ho”s.  This album is quite perfect, even if some songs might sound kind of similar.  I’ll take this over Mumford or the Lumineers ANY DAY.  Maybe it’s the female vocalist.  Maybe it’s the harmonies.  Or maybe it’s because they just sound so natural, happy and together.  This is some feel good shit right here.  “Little Talks” will be the song they’re going to be known for for eternity, but “King and Lionheart,” “Dirty Paws,” and “Six Weeks” are so much better.  If you’re on the fence, go see them live.  It’ll be one of the happiest nights of your life.  There’s just such a joy to this group.  It’s infectious.

  8. The Black Keys – El Camino

    “This was released in 2011!  How can it be best of 2012?!?!”  Well, the Grammys can do it, so fuck you.  This album was, in fact, released almost exactly one year ago: December 6, 2011.  How can I get to know an album in less than a month to include it on a best of list?  Exactly.  This album blew the fuck up in 2012, mainly on the backs of perfect booty-jam “Lonely Boy”( and its amazing video) and ubiquitous movie-trailer soundtrack, “Gold On The Ceiling.”  Thank Christ for Danger Mouse, who transformed their too-gritty-for-my-tastes garage sound into a tighter, more polished animal.  And boy does that help.  The riffs here are delicious.  And yet, it’s the quiet kid in the corner, “Little Black Submarines,” that packs the biggest punch.  After some contemplative acoustic yearning, the track explodes with the biggest riffage this side of Zeppelin.  Whoo-doggy did I get a lot of exercise with my kitchen-guitar (see: broom) and Guitar Hero miming.  On a record chock-full of huge rock and roll songs, it’s this sleeper epic that kicked my ass hardest.

  9. Silversun Pickups – Neck of the Woods

    Opening with the jarring “Skin Graph,” which sounds like something the teen son of the Engineers from Prometheus would have listened to, Silversun return with an album that’s not as good as Swoon but still much better than the sloppy Carnavas.  Things get digital here (the dance-y “The Pit”), more sinister (“Simmer”), more introspective (“Here We Are”).  The orchestra from Swoon has since been fired.  Things aren’t as grand and sweeping anymore.  It its place is a computer.  Now they seem to be bunkering down, focusing (“Gun-Shy Sunshine,” a fantastic title).  The crappy fixer-upper house on the cover of the CD is a good clue to their current state.  It’s not a bad set, but there’s nothing that swept me off my feet quite like on Swoon.  It’s colder on this album.  More uncomfortable.  They still rock the fuck out (my favorites “Mean Spirits,” “Dots and Dashes (Enough Already)” and “Out of Breath”), and for that I’m grateful.  Full album here.

  10. No Doubt – Push And Shove

    I know, I know: I’m surprised this is on the list too.  Not because I’m a lying snob who is too good for our friends in No Doubt.  No.  I LOVE No Doubt.  I’m surprised because this album is not that great. It’s good.  But it’s not what you’d expect after a decade of silence.  Here’s the deal: half of the songs are fucking awesome.  These are the “No Doubt” songs like “Settle Down,” “Looking Hot,” “Sparkle” and “Heaven.”  They have the classic ND sound.  They are upbeat and quirky.  Then you have the other half, which to me sound like Gwen’s solo shit…  the saccharine ballads, the boring straightforward adult pop sons.  Snoooooooooze.  They are perfectly OK songs, but for a decade-in-the-making No Doubt comeback record?  LAZY.  The centerpiece of the album is the title track, which the band called their “Bohemian Rhapsody.”  I didn’t get it at first.  Did they think they were that good?  No, I think they meant it in terms of stylistic tone shifts.  You got the bouncy reggae-ska verses…and then all of a sudden, you’re hit with a churning back-and-forth wave on the chorus.  The so called “push and shove.”  It’s one of my favorite songs of the year.  For that reason alone, the album deserves to be here.  But since the rest of the songs range from “pretty awesome” to “okay” I consider it justifiable to include one of the most iconic American bands, and one of my all-time favorites, on this pithy meaningless list.

  11. Stars – The North

    Indie synth-pop.  My cup of tea.  They’ve been around, but this is my first real experience with Stars.  And I loved it.  The melodies are catchy.  The beats are catchy.  The boy-girl intervox are catchy.  Why didn’t I get into them sooner?!  If you close your eyes and think really hard, you could transport yourself back to the 80s.  If the 80s had better production…  It’s dream-pop of the most enjoyable order.  “The Theory of Relativity” and “A Song is a Weapon” are my clear standouts.  This album is not going to change my life anytime soon, but you may catch me swaying my head with a serene smile on my face, enjoying the simplicity of a perfectly fine pop album.

  12. The Shins – Port Of Morrow

    Of all the albums to fall down my chart this year, The Shins took the biggest tumble.  If you asked me back in March, I’d have told you they’d be in the top 5 by year-end.  I guess things changed.  Overall, the album is good.  But the standouts stood out and the rest fell to the wayside.  Still, on the strength of one of their best tracks (“Simple Song”) and a handful of other new iPod staples (“Rifle’s Spiral,”It’s Only Life,” “40 Mark Strasse”).  It’s a surprisingly sad and emotional album, the darkness hidden behind their brand of playful indie.  But it’s those emotional tracks that stayed with me and for that I really like this album.

  13. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros – Here

    Happy happy, joy joy.  Albums like this make me want to move to California.  Find a beach, a tanned honey in a bikini with long tangled hair, and just live life in the sun.  It’s a short set, just 9 songs long.  But these little ditties put a good ol’ fire under my feet.    Get up and dance like a hippie.  “Man On Fire” has smooth and lush harmonies that erupt into a barnburner.  “That’s What’s Up” is a glorious ode to love.  My standout is “Dear Believer,” a mid-tempo finger-snapper that swells up into rich harmonic chorus that gives me such tingles I get emotional.  Something about this song.  Ah, such warm feelings.  Everything here warms you up and makes you smile.  It’s just so refreshing and simple.

  14. Ellie Goulding – Halcyon

    If you’d have told me that the girl who wrote Lights (the album) would go on to write this album in a year’s time, I would have scoffed.  She made a light-year jump from the cute, sometimes folksy, sometimes playful little scamp on her debut to this fierce beast on her sophomore effort, much like Florence’s jump from Lungs to Ceremonials.  The dubstep is in full swing here, but so are other electronic soundscapes and atmospheres.  It’s a gorgeous affair that I’m still trying to comprehend.  Pop gem radio single “Anything Could Happen” took a while to get me, but I love it now.  However it’s the gigantic bomb-drop duo of “Figure 8” and “Holding On” that really get me.  These songs are massive (say it with an English accent… yes, like that.  THAT kind of mas-sive…).  It’s like she’s put me into a giant inflatable ball and dropped me out of space.  The drop alone on “Holding On” is worth the price of admission.  I have a feeling this album will end up with me far after 2012 and half the other albums on this list.  We’re just not there yet.  Full album here.

  15. alt-J – An Awesome Wave

    Man, these freaks make some beautiful music.  Radiohead x Battles x Hot Chip.  I was hooked with “Fitzpleasure,” the wackiest shit I heard in 2012.  One iTunes user commented that it sounded like Adam Sandler, and by gum, it kinda does.  But once you get past that initial gigglefest, the sheer creativity of the instrumentation and the poetry of the gobbledygook lyrics engulf you.  It’s cerebral and nerdy, but funky and fucking awesome too.  Of the friends I introduced to the CD, most are in love with it.  And yet we still can’t really explain why.  It’s so different.  So unlike anything we’ve heard.  If you want a new challenge, make it this.  Try “Tessellate,” “Dissolve Me,” “Matilda,” “Breezeblocks” or “Bloodflood.”  If you like it, enjoy that feeling of discovery.

    Honorable Mentionables:

    1. Gary Clark Jr – Blak and Blu

    God save me for putting this guitar god in the same company as the two younguns below.  It’s just that I was not completely grabbed by his stunning debut.  Not yet.  Maybe I will be later.  Lazy excuse?  Maybe.  But it’s just too dense, too awesome.  Opening track “Ain’t Messin’ Around” is one of my favorite songs of the year.  Guitar-wank monstrosity “Numb” gets deep into my bones.  “Travis County” is such pure old school rock and roll it makes my balls hurt.  Seriously, this album kicks ass and it should, by all accounts, be up there in the Top 15.  I just don’t feel it completely yet.  And that’s really important.  But if you want the BEST rock and roll album of the year — and by that, I mean to include real rhythm and blues, real riffs, rockabilly, whateverthefuck, pure awesomeness — then you better pick this album up.  I need more time to fully appreciate it.  Maybe it’s too much awesome for me to comprehend… puny mortal that I am.

    2. Justin Bieber – Believe

    Oh yeah, you better believe it.  Hate all you want, mufukkahs, but Justin Bieber (and his producers…) is a talented little shit.  Based on the strength of his three singles alone (“Boyfriend,” “As Long As You Love Me,” and “Beauty and a Beat”), the kid deserves a lot of credit.  The Grammy’s unfairly snubbed him, which I don’t really get.  These songs are great.  People said it was his bid at maturity, like when Timberlake went from ‘N Sync to his solo career.  However, I think it’s more like the jump from ‘N Sync’s No Strings Attached — youthful and immature pop —  to ‘N Sync’s Pop — their first real bid at maturity, that still didn’t feel as mature as they wanted it to be.  Does that make sense?  Whatever.  Maybe his next album will be that “real” jump to JT’s solo level of artistic credibility.  Remember, people laughed at ‘N Sync and Justin too.  “Pop suck!  Limp Bizkit forever!!!!”  We’ll see if Biebs can prove all the haters wrong.

    3. Taylor Swift – Red

    This girl is unstoppable.  I don’t even own the album yet and somehow I already know half of it.  She’s a juggernaut.  Just accept it.  I have.  I may not have put her up there with the rest of the cool kids, but she wins in the end: I’ll be humming her damn songs for the next couple decades.

 

 

 

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2012 Song Favorites: Videos and Moments

If you survived — or even bothered to read — that overblown list of songs, thank you and congratulations on many years of extended life.  If you discovered even one new “favorite” from that enormous glut, I’ll consider my time on earth to be a success.  Here I present my favorite videos of the year, as well as the “moments” — the brief glimpses of songs that keep me coming back over and over again.  Call it an addiction to goosebumps.

 

Favorite Videos

psy

1. PSY – “Gangnam Style

I’ll never forget the first time I saw this video and thought it was the most amazing thing ever.  Then a couple weeks later, the rest of the world had the same realization.  Yes, I just hipster-cred’ed PSY.  Witty, hilarious and the catchiest thing to come out of Korea since plastic surgery, I’m still not sick of this song.  I know, I can’t believe it either.

2. Coldplay – “Princess of China

Shaw Bros x Coldplay x Rihanna = amazing. 克利斯 马丁 万岁!

3. Of Monsters and Men – “Little Talks

Gorgeous, magical little clip in the vein of Tim Pope’s old cutout videos (ref. Coldplay “Trouble“).  I’m hipster cred’ing this bitch too, as you can refer to my post from the beginning of the year.

4. Alt-J – “Fitzpleasure

Goofy band (in the vein of Battles and Hot Chip) greenlighting a dark, lush video dripping with sexual and religious imagery?  Sold.

5. Juliet – “My First Hardcore Song

I still get a kick out of this 8-year old Aussie growling about her dog Grommit and opening up a mosh pit on a trampoline with her stuffed animals.  She kicks more ass than many bands these days…

6. The Black Keys – “Lonely Boy

Chubby dancing nerd.  No, not Psy.  This is Carlton Banks at 50.  Amaaaaazing.

7. Bjork – “Mutual Core

This is what it looks like when rocks fuck and fight.  And vomit and bleed and rage.  Such an elemental and visceral experience for the hardest thing Bjork has recorded since Homogenic.  Churning, pulsing, and thrusting with buzzsaw hardcore breaks.  It’s amazing.  And all a little terrifying.

8. The Rolling Stones – “Doom and Gloom

Noomi Rapace’s boobs.  Because I didn’t see enough in the Millennium trilogy movies.

9. How To Destroy Angels – “Ice Age

Trent, wifey and his pals hole up in a cabin at the edge of the earth during the apocalypse, playing a sparse tune that is oddly warming and organic.

10. Lana Del Rey – “Blue Jeans

Wanky.

 

My Favorite Moments

These are the points of the song where I get chills.  Go crazy.  Giggle with anticipation.  Turn up the volume.  Cry uncontrollably.  Strip my clothes off.  Play the broom like a guitar.  Not all at the same time though…

  1. Joshua Ledet – “It’s A Man’s, Man’s, Man’s World
    There’s a point at 2:32 where he unleashes such a pure and passionate “HOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” that it just sends shocks of goosebumps through my brain.  Like every single time.  You can’t even fucking come close to this kid’s power.  Like Winehouse hijacking “Valerie” from the Zutons and Hendrix swiping “Watchtower” from Dylan, this will forever be his song (sorry James Brown).  Gatdayum! 
  2. Florence and the Machine – “No Light, No Light
    The moment at 3:07 with the synth line, when the heavens open and Flo belts out a sustained 15 second wail.  Fuck. Me.
  3. Bat for Lashes – “The Haunted Man
    At 2:54 (3:13 on the live video link), there comes a swell of low-end rumbling goodness that, if you’re sitting in a car, will surge from the bottoms of your feet up through the hairs on your head.  It is so blissful that sometimes I just sit and wait for it with my eyes closed (parked, of course).
  4. Muse – “Madness
    The prettiest delivery of any Muse love lyric.  Ever.  4:10 “I need your looooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooove” followed by a smooth and sweeping crash.  Thank you, Kate Hudson.
  5. Ellie Goulding – “Holding On
    The drop at 1:22.  Whoooooooooooosh.
  6. The Black Keys – “Little Black Submarines
    When it turns into a Led Zeppelin song at 2:08.  *Neil strips, grabs the broom-guitar, and tears up the kitchen*
  7. Regina Spektor – “Open
    At 2:38, something so jarring, so unexpected, and so uncomfortable happens, that your previous enjoyment of the song is suddenly shaken.  And yet it has its intended effect: you feel suffocated, gasping for air like a fish suffocating to death on dry land.
  8. Taylor Swift – “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together
    The lines: “This is exhausting” (2:23) & “… with some indie record that’s much cooler than mine” (1:19)
  9. Howard Shore – “Song of the Lonely Mountain/Thorin’s Song
    When the dwarfs start singing.  Awesome.  And then the sweeping orchestra comes in a wave over the Misty Mountains.  Goosebumps.  I think I watched the trailer a couple hundred times just to keep hearing this segment.

 

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2012 Mixtape: My Favorite Songs of the Year

2012 songs

2012 was an amazing year for music.  I haven’t had such a good year since 2009… and 2006 before that.  Is this some kind of Every-3-Years trend?!  There was just so much goodness to go around that compiling this list gave me such a glut of songs that I’ve decided — for your sake — to break it up into categories.  Let the ADD commence!

My 2012 Mixtape: The Best of the Best

What constitutes “the best of the best”?  Well since tastes differ, let’s just say this is not a list of songs I — his royal highness — deem to be the best musical output of 2012.  These are simply my personal favorites.  The ones that drove the play count on my iTunes and iPod through the roof (before my computer crashed and I lost everything).  The ones I never skip on random shuffle.  The ones that I’m still listening to with relish, however many months after they were released.  The ones that’ll remind me of 2012.

  1. Muse – “Madness” – perhaps their finest love song, took forever to grow on me, but it’s worth every single listen *just* to hear that final “I need your love” wail.  Shivers.
  2. No Doubt – “Push and Shove” – on an otherwise OK album, this clear standout is an epic jam that sounds like an old ND reggae-ska tune had a baby with some watered-down dubstep babydaddy.
  3. David Guetta feat. Lil’ Wayne and That-Piece-of-Shit – “I Can Only Imagine” – God help me, I do not allow anything with Chris Brown onto my personal devices, but this fucking song is just the best dance track of the year, morals be damned.  If you’re ever stuck in traffic next to me while this song is playing, bring protection from all the awesomeness. Breezy you win this round.
  4. The Killers – “Runaways” – this just reminds me of the 80s: bad leather, big chorused power pop, lame cowboy vibe.  Like “Madness,” this took a while to grow on me, but then it never let go.  So pretentious and grand.
  5. Frank Ocean – “Pyramids” – the most epic song of 2012.  Clocking in at nearly 10 minutes, it’s basically 2 songs for 1.  The first half, a space-funk odyssey about Cleopatra, is the shiiiiiiiit.  Part Prince, part Gap Band.  The second half is a blissed-out jam about strippers at the Pyramid. This will go down as one of my favorite songs of all time.  Fuck, it’s good.
  6. Florence and the Machine – “No Light, No Light” – and now we’re at the 2nd most epic song of 2012.  Majestic and grand, the full gospel of Flo at max power.  Her sustained note at the end is enough to send me over the edge of fanatical bliss.
  7. Phillip Phillips – “Home” – who would have thought an American Idol winner would have one of the best songs of 2012?  It’s sweet, uplifting, heartfelt and perfectly plain.
  8. PSY – “Gangnam Style” – yeah, it’s in my top 10.  Suck it.  Inexplicably, against all laws of nature, I am not sick of this song yet.  Destined (doomed?) to go down in history as THE one-hit wonder of 2012 (sorry Carly Rae), it’s world’s better than previous title-holder, “Macarena.” God bless this chubby Korean hero: he broke K-Pop into the American masses.  Something Rain, Girls Generation, Wonder Girls and Super Junior failed to do.
  9. Metric – “Breathing Underwater” – blissed out indie-pop with one of my favorite choruses of 2012.  “Is this my life, or am I breathing underwater?”  What does it MEAN???  I couldn’t tell you, but all I know is that I feel the same way as Emily Haines.  Love. This. Song.
  10. Linkin Park – “Powerless” – this is basically the “Numb” or “In The End” of their recent album, Living Things.  In typical genius LP fashion, it’s catchy, brooding, full of despair, pianos and sound effects, and you can totally sing along to it.  I played the shit out of this track.
  11. Usher – “Scream” – I first heard this song on SNL.  I jumped off my sofa, turned the volume up and proceeded to have a midnight dance party in my pajamas.  This song gets my blood pumping in all kinds of nasty ways.  Dance pop perfection.
  12. Kelly Clarkson – “Dark Side” – in a year full of dark female pop songs, this was my queen.  Katy Perry, Pink and Rihanna had great ones too, but Kelly brings the catchy melody like no other.  I’ll boldly put this at #2 behind Breakaway for best KClark albums.
  13. Of Monsters and Men – “Little Talks” – what’s that?  You remember I told you about them back in February?  Yeah you did.  I first heard this gem on WFNX (RIP) and bought tickets to their first Boston concert about 1 minute after first listen.  It’s great to discover a new band.
  14. Joshua Ledet – “It’s A Man’s, Man’s, Man’s World” – this blew me the fuck away.  Just listen to it.  Those notes he hits at the end?  Yeah, I just came too.  What a force.  This is his song now.
  15. fun. – “Some Nights” – it took forever, but I finally succumbed to fun.  We all need an anthem.  This is grand post-emo goodness via Queen and hip-hop production.  I love fun.
  16. The Black Keys – “Lonely Boy” – in late December and early January, this was my JAM.  Over the year, it was relegated to the sidelines.  But a song this catchy and rollicking deserves a spot in my coveted list.  Try NOT shaking your ass to this song, you statue.
  17. Ellie Goulding – “Lights” – when the hell did this song come out?  Last year?  Two years ago?  First time I heard Ellie was in an H&M in Tokyo in 2010, when this album was out.  But it’s #1 in the US this year?  I’m so confused.  Whatever, it’s amazing.  The bridge between her debut and her 2012 dub-fluenced opus.
  18. Coldplay & Rihanna – “Princess of China” – you know how I feel about this song.  The collision of worlds results in a perfect song, full of yearning, pain and passion.
  19. The Rolling Stones – “Doom and Gloom” – these geriatric motherfuckers still rock harder than 99% of the younger dudes in the business right now.  They haven’t written a song this good in decades.  Welcome back, boys.
  20. Maroon 5 – “One More Night” – my pleas to Ryan Murphy for a Glee mash-up of this song and Ace of Base’s “All That She Wants” have been heretofore ignored, but a boy can dream.  I hated this song at first, but hot damn, after a few listens, it’s revealed itself to be one of M5’s best songs.  Oh Adam, how you slay us.
  21. Alt-J – “Fitzpleasure” – thank you, iTunes free single of the week.  This Mercury Prize (i.e. the UK’s best album of the year) winner is a weird and funky number that fans of Hot Chip and Battles might enjoy.  One commenter said it sounds like Adam Sandler, because it’s total gobbledygook nonsense (seriously, that link above is to the lyric video.  WTF?!).  That ruined it for a couple seconds…then that deep dirty groove hooked me right back in.  Gloriously weird.
  22. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros – “Dear Believer” – these freaknik hippie weirdos make music that bring me back to ’60s SoCal (because I was totally there).  Lush, warm and soothing. It’s the sound of love.  “Reaching for heaven is what I’m on earth to do.”  Amen.
  23. The Shins – “Simple Song” – like “Breathing Underwater,” this track bore to my core on the strength of a simple lyric: “I know that things can really get rough/when you go in alone. Don’t go thinking you gotta be tough/and bleed like a stone.”  Again, it just speaks to me.
  24. Pink – “Try” – hot damn, what power.  And did you see that video???  Pink’s artistic integrity can’t be fucked with now.  It’s tough.  It’s pretty.  It’s so…Pink.
  25. Bruno Mars – “Locked Out of Heaven” – I’m never a fan of such obvious sex reference, but hot damn, this Police +  MJ’s “Beat It” tune is a party starter.   Watch the live performance to add a little kick to your step.
  26. Ingrid Michaelson – “End of the World” – a love song for the zombie apocalypse.
  27. Karmin – “Brokenhearted” – I hated them at first.  Everything said “annoying poser fakes!”  Despite the fact that they live in Brookline.  Despite the fact that their music is really catchy.  Cred be damned, I Love This Song.  One of the few tracks that have survived the entire year.
  28. Ke$ha – “Die Young” – didn’t like it at first, and then I watched the AMA performance where – *gasp!* – I saw that she could really sing.  And banging on giant drums ALWAYS wins me over.  Less obnoxious than her previous output, I can actually see her growing as an *gasp!* artist.
  29. Carly Rae Jepsen – “Call Me Maybe” – don’t fight it.  It’s one of the best pop songs ever.  Get over it.
  30.  Lana Del Rey – “Blue Jeans” – I’ll defend her to the end.  This song is pure audio sex.

Neil’s 2012 Playlists: The Best of the Rest

DANCE PARTY!:

  1. Nicki Minaj – Va Va Voom/Starships
  2. Calvin Harris feat. Florence Welch – Sweet Nothing
  3. Rihanna – Where Have You Been?
  4. Havana Brown and Pitbull – We Run The Night

The P-Word (“Pop”):

  1. Katy Perry – Wide Awake
  2. One Direction – One Thing
  3. Alicia Keys – Girl On Fire
  4. Carrie Underwood – Blown Away

Played The Fuck Out (But I Still Like It):

  1. Gotye and Kimbra – Somebody That I Used To Know
  2. Maroon 5 – One More Night
  3. Rihanna – Diamonds
  4. Owl City and Carly Rae Jepsen – Good Time
  5. Ellie Goulding – Lights
  6. Neon Trees – Everybody Talks
  7. PSY – Gangnam Style
  8. Usher – Scream
  9. Taylor Swift – We Are Never, Ever Getting Back Together
  10. fun. – Some Nights
  11. Phillip Phillips – Home
  12. Bruno Mars – Locked Out Of Heaven
  13. Flo Rida feat. Sia – Wild Ones

WUBWUBWUBWUBWUB: The Best Dubstep Infections of the Year

  1. Taylor Swift – I Knew You Were Trouble
  2. Ellie Goulding – Hanging On
  3. Justin Bieber – As Long As You Love Me
  4. Muse – Follow Me/Unsustainable
  5. Alex Clare – Too Close

Rock Isn’t Dead (Yet):

  1. The Black Keys – Gold On The Ceiling
  2. Linkin Park – Burn It Down
  3. Gary Clark Jr. – Numb/Ain’t Messin’ Around
  4. Beasto Blanco – Breakdown
  5. The Parlor Mob – Into the Sun
  6. Kaiser Chiefs – Little Shocks
  7. Frank Turner – I Still Believe
  8. Foxy Shazaam – I Like It
  9. Jack White – 16 Saltines

Rock Songs That Made Me Cry

  1. The Killers – Here With Me
  2. The Black Keys – Little Black Submarine
  3. Coldplay – Up In Flames
  4. Muse – Madness
  5. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros – Dear Believer
  6. The Shins – Simple Song

Alt/Indie/Whateverthefuck

  1. Bat for Lashes – Oh Yeah
  2. Connor Youngblood – The Warpath
  3. Keane – Silenced By The Night
  4. Snow Patrol – Called Out In The Dark
  5. Paul Banks (Interpol) – The Base
  6. Metric – Youth Without Youth
  7. Garbage – Sugar
  8. Charli XCX – Nuclear Seasons
  9. Santigold – Big Mouth

Songs That ALWAYS Make Me Change The Station

  1. Ed Sheeran – The A Team
  2. Chris Brown – Don’t Wake Me Up
  3. The Lumineers – Ho Hey
  4. Imagine Dragons – It’s Time

The Year In Disappointment (i.e. Albums I Should Have Loved But Didn’t)

  1. Garbage – Not Your Kind of People
  2. Fiona Apple – The Idler Wheel
  3. Keane – Strangeland
  4. how to destroy angels – An Omen
  5. Scissor Sisters – Magic Hour
  6. Tori Amos – Gold Dust
  7. Tenacious D – Rize of the Fenix
  8. Kaiser Chiefs – The Future Is Medieval
  9. Madonna – MDNA
  10. The Cranberries – Roses
  11. G.O.O.D. Music – Cruel Summer

Most Overrated (a.k.a. We Won’t Remember You In 2013)

  1. Sleigh Bells
  2. Azalea Banks
  3. Grimes

Favorite Remixes (That Made The Originals Better)

1. Gotye and KimbraSomebody That I Used To Know (DJ Mike D)

Add a deceptively simple beat and change the song entirely.  This is the one they play on the pop stations that you can’t find anywhere.

2. Rita OraR.I.P. (Delta Heavy remix)

Add screaming digital machine-gun blasts to bring a mediocre R&B-step song into Skrillex territory.  The drop is so spine-tingling on this one…I can’t even.

3. Lana Del ReyBlue Jeans (Penguin Prison remix)

Add a sexy New Wave synth beat to an already sexy track and you’ve got something so good it was added to the deluxe re-edition of the album.

4. Ellie GouldingFigure 8 (Alias Radio Edit)

Less dubstep, more house.  More untz-untz, less wubwubwub.  This old man prefers dancing the night away rather than getting mosh-raped to death by drugged-out bros.  Always.

Favorite Movie Tunes

1. Adele – “Skyfall” (Skyfall)

When’s the last time a song made a movie better, and vice versa?  A huge track.

2. Neil Finn and Howard Shore – “Song of the Lonely Mountain” (The Hobbit)

Chills.  Absolute chills.

3. Mary J. Blige and Julianne Hough – “Harden My Heart” (Rock of Ages)

In a movie filled with lots of Glee-style singalong karaoke, Mary J. comes in and pulls a Mercedes, absolutely destroying everyone else with her sheer power and depth.  The chills just shoot out of me when she steps on the scene at 1:24.

4. Linkin Park – “Powerless” (Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter)

Best part of the movie.  For many of you, that will make the perception of the movie that much worse.

5. AKB48 – “Sugar Rush” (Wreck-It Ralph)

Not only one of the best movies of the year, but also one of the best musical credit endings ever.  I was already on a nostalgia high from the film; this just kicked everything into overdrive.

6. Arcade Fire – “Abraham’s Daughter” (The Hunger Games)

If this brooding, intense song doesn’t put you in the right kind of fuzzy mood to kill kids weaker than you and slaughter for survival, then please, you can make a run for the cornucopia first.  Thanks.

 

Up next: Favorite videos, favorite moments and…. FAVORITE ALBUMS OF 2012.

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