Tag Archives: Frank Ocean

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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Review: Kanye West – Yeezus

Gat-DAYUM.

The sheer audacity to release a CD with no label or design.

The sheer audacity to release a CD with no label or design.

It took me a week to muster the energy and mental fortitude to tackle this album.  I saw SNL.  That shit was intense.  I heard the snippets.  This didn’t sound very cheery.  It’s summer: I want fun, sunshine and good vibes.  Not an angry, aggressive assault.  It felt like way too much to handle in one sitting.  And my suspicions weren’t that far off.  Luckily it’s the opposite of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy — tight and concise, it’s a 40-minute punch to the face.  Get ready for the year-end Best Of list death-match between this and Random Access Memories.  It’s going to be ugly (concise artistic statement vs. overblown indulgent masterpiece?  WHICH IS WHICH?!?!), but no matter what, Daft Punk wins.

Yeezus is heavy.  In every way.  The beats are the hardest, most industrial assaults since NIN’s The Downward Spiral.  The lyrics are vicious, spat out through the speakers like the best hateful Marilyn Manson tracks from the old days.  The content is absolutely draining.  A couple songs in and I’m already exhausted: I’m hyped up, my head is bobbing furiously and the lyrics are making me extremely uncomfortable.  This might be one of the best rock records of the year.  Therein lies the genius of Kanye.

My favorite Kanye albums are his more surprising ones (unsurprisingly).  The quirkiness of 808s and the genre-hopping of Graduation.  The grandiose insanity of …Dark Twisted Fantasy.  I enjoy his first two for gracing the world with some of the best rap singles in history, but as full statements, it’s all about 808s and Yeezus.  He’s getting shit for aping Death Grips, for these misogynistic lyrics and for yet another curveball.  Who the fuck cares.  This is art from one of the few geniuses we have today.

So let’s go for a ride.  I’m strapped in with my giant headphones, crouched over my computer, the bass from these beats resonating down into my gut.  See you on the other side!

1. “On Sight” – This opener lobs a bomb right to your head, courtesy of Daft Punk.  It sounds like Nine Inch Nails…and then Kanye starts rapping and it gets gross and offensive and snarling.  At one point in the din, he asks: “How much do I not give a fuck?”  Then drops a pretty soul sample.  As soon as you’re wooed into comfort, the beat kicks back in and you die.

2. “Black Skinhead” – Far and away my favorite track on this album.  It employs one of my favorite beat-motifs of all time (see: “The Beautiful People”, “Uprising”).  The drum smashes are just pummeling, good LORD.  Bouncy, jerky and unrelenting.  Can you mosh at a Kanye gig?  Because this tour is going to be crazy.  At the end he just starts rasping, “GAWD!  GAWD!”  I feel the same way.

3. “I Am A God” – This track’s liner notes actually say “Featuring: God.”  LOLZ.  Only fuckin’ Kanye.  This has more atmospheric depth and a sprawling Tron-scape kind of feel.  The steady digital drone is claustrophobic.  The swelling melody is goosebump-worthy…  This song is also home to some of my favorite lines on the album, all insanely egotistical and ridiculous, from this: “I just talked to Jesus/ He said what up, Yeezus?”… to, my favorite, this:  “In a French-ass restaurant/ Hurry up with my damn croissants!”  CROISSANTS.  The ending gives me chills, with Kanye screaming — like, terrified, I-cannot-breathe, someone-save-me shrieks — as the melody dips and Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) drops in to end it on an angelic note.

4. “New Slaves” – One of Kanye’s “Songs With A Message” and I love it.  He’s getting a lot of shit for copying Death Grips, but the thing is, he is Kanye.  Whoever he’s aping doesn’t matter: Death Grips are indie-favorites, a blip on the History of Music radar, a precise band with a precise style.  This is Kanye, oh He of backpack rap, auto-tune masterpieces, John Mayer, Chris Martin, Daft Punk, Bon Iver genre-smashing duets, and a cultural icon.  So when Kanye does something like this — which might sound like a punk duo going nowhere — it matters.  And he also does stuff that lesser groups don’t: he just keeps the twists coming.  This song is bleak, dark and ugly… then BOOM: at 2:51 — drumroll please — the song explodes from its prison with a glorious auto-tuned declaration of joy and FRANK. OCEAN.  The song endings on this album are stunners.

5. “Hold My Liquor” – This one starts out kinda dumb, but still has its shining moments.  At this point, these lyrics, man…. He is so angry.  I wonder what the fuck Kim is doing to him (or vice versa).  Is he even happy with the mother of his child?!  Anyway, this song has some really pretty instrumentation, despite all the nigga-this, nigga-that, which gets tiring.  But then, ooooooh, that guitar-solo ending drone is pure bliss.  Chief Keef and Bon Iver are both on this one, which is really even more whatdafuck piled onto the existing whatthehelllll.

6. “I’m In It” – Eesh, this track is disgusting (get a poncho!).  If you’re not a fan of rap-porn (which this pretty much is…), skip this track.  I couldn’t even listen to it with my sister in the same room; it was too embarrassing.  Cunnilingus, salad tossing, fisting, some racial insensitivity (relating to “eating” Asian with sweet and sour sauce) and all the things Kanye will do to you with his “reptile.”  It’s 50 Shades fetish shit with a gorgeous falsetto sample.  To bring it right back to my world (NIN, Manson, Tori), there’s even a lyrical “starfucker” interlude toward the end.  As repulsed as I was, the song was electrifying, hypnotic and strangely arousing.  I don’t even know anymore…

7. “Blood On The Leaves” – This is the one with the Nina Simone “Strange Fruit” sample… so, yeah: divisive.  This could have been on 808s: it’s dark, he’s auto-tuned.  It’s a huge banger with ominous marching band horns, though I’m with the rest of the critical public in questioning his use of this sample — with all the heaviness associated with it — on a song about gold-diggers and baby mammas.  Is he saying that all that bullshit is the black man’s modern day lynching?  Ick. I have no idea.  But it’s Kanye; he must have a reason.

8. “Guilt Trip” – Another unrelenting drone set atop the motif of da numba one “Chief Rocka,” one of my favorites.  Favorite line: “Star Wars fur/ yeah I’m rockin’ Chewbacca/ The one chief rocka/ Number one chief rocka.”  *Mic drop*  Another of my favorite lines is quite similar to one of my favorite Coldplay songs (“Violet Hill”): “If you love me so much, then why’d you let me go?”  Interestingly enough, DJ Premier’s real name is also Chris Martin.  Did Kanye do that on purpose?!?!  I don’t know what to believe anymore!  We end on a heavy Bjork Homogenic-era (see: the 90s) beat drop, right before the sound of an alarm…

9. “Send It Up” – This one is abrasive.  The lyrics are ugly.  The beat is irritating.  The mood is dark.  That goddamn alarm keeps sounding.  And it still sucks me right in.  I love noise, I love the din, I love when my ears tell me that this sound is not supposed to feel good.  And I love to dive headlong into it.  This is another NIN-track (but actually it’s the 4th Daft Punk production credit… they are really gunning for Trent on this album!) and you’ve also got a Beenie Man sample.  Again, whattheholyfuckinghell.

10. “Bound 2” – Yay, rejoice, old school Kanye fans!  It sounds like Late Registration!  College Dropout!  Graduation!  Hooray!  After nine songs of hell, this is a welcome finish.  It’s so throwback, it’s so leftfield.  I’m sitting here grinning like an idiot because Kanye really knows how to do it.  There’s still some flourishes of digital noise in here — lest we forget about Yeezus — and some line about “spunk on mink” (good luck getting that out!) which is hilarious.

And then we’re done.  It’s been 40 minutes.  Where’d the time go??!  That was exhausting.  Physically, mentally and — yes — even emotionally.  There’s a lot of ugly in here.  If I didn’t understand English, I’d have thought it was a great alt-metal album.  But he’s really got a lot of awkwardly hateful doozies in there that you just can’t shake.   This is his darkest stuff ever.  And it’s thrilling.

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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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2012 Albums of the Year

photo (8)

  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 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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