Tag Archives: Kelly Clarkson

2015 Favorites (So Far)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bottom 9

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

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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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