New Year means new music. To keep up and track all the music of the new year i’ve made a handy dandy spread sheet, my new little pet project.
2013 has been a great year in music, with tons of stuff I probably missed and music you may have missed too. So I have managed to compile what I feel is a strong list of this year’s top 10 albums which you should all check out if you have not already. Now on any given day the order of this list could change, with some not being on the list at all and replaced by others that just missed the cut. So head on below and enjoy.
10. Pure Heroine – Lorde
17 year old Lorde’s debut album Pure Heroine carries a sense of maturity that is rare for someone so young. Unlike many young artists who try to be edgy and fail, Lorde accomplishes creating a strong and mature album based on her talents alone. Writing about the common themes of love, loneliness, and growing up, the 17 year old crafts songs that listeners of any age can relate to as evident in the coming of age, “Ribs,” and “A World Alone.” School yard romance? This album covers it. Late night drives and drinking? This album covers it. House parties and sleepovers? Covered. Contemplating one’s existence in the world? The wise beyond her years, 17 year old Lorde has got it covered.
9. Heartthrob – Tegan & Sara
It was only natural that Tegan and Sara’s musical progression evolve into the great work of electronic pop that is Heartthrob. Unlike their past work, Heartthrob takes the twins’ talent with the synthesizer and electronic music, that has always complimented Tegan and Sara’s songs, away from the background and thrusts it up front with full force. The best example of this new approach featured in the power ballad “Now I’m All Messed Up” and your new favorite make out song, “Closer.” Combined with the sisters’ natural ability to write meaningful and heart tugging lyrics, Heartthrob is an album that can be enjoyed by new audiences as well as the OG Tegan & Sara fan.
8. Parts of Speech – Dessa
Hailing from Minneapolis, Minnesota, Dessa is a rapper, singer, spoken word artist, B.A. in Philosophy holder, and 1/7th of the indie Hip Hop collective known as Doomtree. In Parts of Speech you can hear how all her different talents and background contribute to her own unique sound. In every song, except “I’m Going Down” a Bruce Springsteen cover, Dessa seems to make sure that every word she writes is integral to the theme of her song, which I find is hard to do in rap. “The Man I Knew” is a great track to “raise your glass to easy choices” to as you move on from a past lover. In “Fighting Fish” Dessa shows she is a dangerous talent whether spitting rhymes or singing notes. It’s Dessa’s combination of her tight flow and gritty choruses that ties together the seams of the album’s great production and Parts of Speech a strong and unique work of art that cannot be compared.
7. Reflektor – Arcade Fire
Once again the Grammy Award winning Arcade Fire has put forth another strong effort in an already impressive discography. With Reflektor, Arcade Fire has seemed to reboot their music style with an infusion of native Haitian rara music, as best featured on “Here Comes the Night Time,” a song that plays out like a festival of celebration. The album isn’t all celebration though. “Normal Person” is a straightforward and ballsy rock song that questions authority. Song like “Reflektor” and “Afterlife” cover more transcendental themes, with questions on life and existence. Despite this diversity, Reflektor has a continuous which contributes to the album as whole body of work.
6. The 1975 – The 1975
The 1975’s Self Titled debut has garnered a ton of attention this past year and for good reason. It’s all typical rock: sex, drugs, love, hope, fear, and death, but packaged in a new sound never heard before. It’s equal parts rock, pop, and surprisingly r&b. It’s indie guitars playing poppy riffs to the rhythm of drums played along side sound samples. It’s sexy, but plays smooth and mellow. Listen to songs such as the hit single “Chocolate” and the pop tune “Girls,” and you’ll see that the album has all the edge of a rock band with all the charm of a boy band.
5. The Bones of What You Believe – Chvrches
The Bones of What You Believe is the debut album of Scottish trio Chvrches (pronounced Churches). According to the band they chose the name Chvrches, using a Roman “V” just because they “thought it sounded cool,” which is an adequate description of the album, “cool.” The album is the result of the perfect execution between drum machines, synthesizers, and good ol songwriting with neither one overpowering the other. The first track of the album “The Mother We Share” establishes this formula as the synthesizers open the album to a flurry of claps and beats, leading into Lauren Mayberry’s spilling drama and catchy choruses that anchor the album.
4. Days Are Gone – Haim
Haim’s debut, Days Are Gone, is where Fleetwood Mac meets Hanson, with sprinkle of Hip Hop & R&B for an extra kick. The sisters Haim, play a style of old rock with a sleek and modern finish. Songs like “Forever” and “The Wire” are tracks that are catchy and radio ready, but played with old school guitar riffs and bass lines. The songs are driven by the sisters’ proficiency in their instruments that both shines with every track and also contributes to the whole of each song. Combined with Haim’s crisp lyricism, Days are Gone if full of good tunes that will hopefully inspire future family bands.
3. Modern Vampires of the City – Vampire Weekend
Modern Vampires of the City is certainly the quartet’s most straight forward album, with the slow and mellow “Hannah Hunt” the only curveball in the album. Despite this approach, the album comes off somewhat spiritual, with tracks like “Everlasting Arms,” “Worship You,” and “Ya Hey” playing out like indie-worship songs, while “Unbelievers” may be an atheist-worship song. Overall the album’s strength lies in its cohesiveness, an effortless flow that exists track to track and throughout the whole album.
2. The 20/20 Experience – Justin Timberlake
The 20/20 Experience was sure well worth the wait. Where most artists are trending towards the big club hit, Justin Timberlake chose to craft an album with more class, thus the whole suit and tie, JT and The Tennessee Kids band stand move. With it’s shortest track being “That Girl” at 4:48 minutes, the long tracks on The 20/20 Experience allows Timberlake to experiment in ways he never has before. Yes he and producer Timbaland are well known for their fondness for intros, and outros as heard in their past work. But the duo has never “let it ride” with the creativity of the 8:03 “Pusher Lover Girl .” Personally, my favorite moment of the track is the transition into the outro in “Mirrors.” The radio edit version just doesn’t do the song justice.
1. Trouble Will Find Me – The National
Congratulations to The National for their much deserved Grammy Nomination on their latest album Trouble Will Find Me for best Alternative Album. It has been way past due that this band receive the credit it deserves. I’m not sure why now they are getting the attention. Not much has changed. The songs are still emotional and depressing, lead singer Matt Berninger still sings with his signature baritone voice, and the rest of the band is still composed of the brothers Dessner and the brothers Devendorf. When many bands perfect their sound, they often branch out and move on to cover new ground, incorporate new genres into their music, and discover new audiences. With the band’s past two albums, I was certain that the band had perfected their sound. And yet, Trouble Will Find Me shows improvement in the same direction. What I am getting to is that, where other bands find new audiences by constantly changing, The National has managed to gain prominence by scaffolding upon their same signature sound, despite the dangers of hitting a musical plateau. Berninger isn’t going to change the way he sings. You definitely wont see him hit notes that will blow your mind. But you can feel the weight of emotion as he croons in the desperate “I Need My Girl” or in the ironically uplifting “Graceless.” You can also count on the band to compliment Beringer’s voice with a composition that will flourish along his gut spilling lyrics as heard best heard in “Slipped.” And just when you think the band is on autopilot, the they knows when to change the pace, as can be heard in the sudden shift of confidence to depression in “This is The Last Time.” Trouble Will Find Me proves that a band can never really perfect a certain sound, they can only make it better and better. Kinda like a college paper, there is always room for improvement.
Well that wraps it up. Please do feel free what you think of the list, whether you like it, hate it, wondering why I didn’t include Yeezus, have recommendations, found a new obsession, want to point out grammar mistakes, or critique me on my writing in general, in which case, i’m sorry. I’ve been out school for 2 years and seem to have forgotten how to write intelligently. Also, don’t let anyone tell you there’s no good music anymore, because I wrote a damn list.
I’m not sure what lies ahead in 2014 but I am looking forward to it. As I grow older my music taste continues to change and for the better. Perhaps Brand New will release a new album…. haha… yeah okay. I’m still upset I didn’t get tickets to the Starland Ballroom show. Damn scalpers selling out the show in 2 minutes…
Well if you made it all the way down to the bottom, thank you so much for reading.
Happy New Years
Somewhere in Orange County, California there is a man, who is a drummer, who plays in a band that goes by the name Thrice. This man is Riley Breckenridge who also writes a cool little weekly blog for OC Weekly called Riley’s Three Things. Basically Riley writes about things in threes on various topics from Blake Griffin to Noisy Neighbors. Sadly, about 4 months ago Riley’s Three Things went on hiatus due to personal issues. So to fill the void left by Mr. Breckenridge’s lovely blogs I have decided to pay homage to him by making the theme of this blog in Threes. Alright lets get started….
THREE ALBUMS TO LISTEN TO WHEN TAKING THE BUS/PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION
Not all of us are blessed with wheels. Some of us are restricted to the use of public transportation whether by circumstances of location or otherwise. Now i don’t know about you, but i, a NJTRANSIT regular, feel denied from wonderful joy riding tunes, or basically, fun songs to listen to when you’re in the car. Lets face it, bus users are denied the experience of say, racing down rattlesnake speedway with bruce springsteen or the fun of rollin down the street, smokin indo, sippin on gin and juice. If you think differently, and that you can bump to hyped up joyriding tunes the same way on the bus, then you are mistaken and either is that girl blasting the latest overproduced cover from Glee for everyone on the bus to here through her poorly abused ear buds (i love you Glee but lately the production value on you’re recordings are horrible) or that guy rapping out-loud to his ipod rather poorly, mumbling in between in every N word. For the most part these albums are instrumental/visual since i don’t think there are any songs with lyrics that convey the feeling of taking public transportation. Please note that these albums are picked from my experience taking the bus and may not transition to trains the same way.
1) Explosions In The Sky – How Strange, Innocence How Strange, Innocence captures the feeling of a commute perfectly, the morning rush as well as the dull waiting moments. Explosions in the Sky, known for their narrative musical style and guitar work, are able to portray the everyday hustle and bustle of the morning rush. Through a mix of mellow guitar leads and fast paced drum rolls the band captures the camaraderie of a working force waking up every morning and struggling to make the paper chase almost as if it were a sacred daily ritual.
2) Eluvium – Similes
When i think Eluvium’s Similes i think “zombie mode.” Now what’s “zombie mode”? Zombie mode is that state of being when you’re half asleep walking in between bus transfers or trying to work a power nap on the train while that same evangelist guy is doing that same sermon that he does every single day. Before you know it, you’re at your last stop of your commute ready or dreading to begin your work or classes. It’s like a self-induced mini ambien. I can’t explain this feeling further, except with a quote from Similes’ first track “The Motion Makes me Last,” where Mathew Cooper, the mastermind behind Eluvium, croons “What is it that has my mind so hypnotized?/When shapes are for looking at/ And their colors create my mood/ I’m a vessel between two places I’ve never been.” Topped of with Cooper’s mastery of the piano keys, Similes creates that ambient feeling that simulates that ambien feeling.
3) Sigur Ros – Takk
This past winter was a cold one, with enough snow storms to make me, a spry young twenty year old, feel middle aged lower back pains after multiple days of shoveling. The past cold harsh winter did not make my commute any easier. All the disdaining aspects of the commute were amplified, waiting for the bus outside, carefully walking in between bus-stops avoiding black ice, and that very uncomfortable feeling when your jeans are wet and sticking to your legs. But when I put on my ear-buds and play Takk, the post-rock band from Iceland makes me see the winter wasteland as a winter wonderland. The walk through the snow is instead an adventurous trek. Maybe it’s because there’s something magical about lead singer, Joni’s voice spewing Icelandic gibberish (listen to his work and try tell me different), or Sigur Ros’s mastery of bells and whistles as well as all instruments that “click” and “clack” and “ding” and “dong” that enables them to make track after track, some of the most beautiful modern day compositions to listen to. Eitherway, Takk has the ability to alleviate the experiences of even the most dreaded commutes.
When Donald Glover is not busy on the set NBC’s hit show Community or as a member of sketch comedy group Derick Comedy, Donald Glover invests his time into his musical side project as the rapper ‘Childish Gambino.’ But in contrast to Glover’s hilarious portrayal of community college student Troy Barnes or his writing for Tracy Morgan on 30 Rock, Childish Gambino is nothing but serious.
The opening track, “Be Alone,” is a dark and melancholy tune in which Glover expresses the anxiety that comes with relationships and his ever growing career. The track shows how serious Glover is about his music career as he exclaims, “Hard for a pitchfork, soft for a Rockefeller/ Music was my side chick, but now we’re moving in together,” voicing his complaints on being ousted from both the underground community and mainstream rap game. “Be Alone” is a track that shows Glover, unlike many rappers who boisterously exclaim their pompous and egotistical behavior, is open to reveal a more sensitive face on his music resulting in incredible emotionally driven tracks.
The next song, “Freaks and Geeks,” is definitely the gem of the 5 track EP. In contrast to the EP’s opener, “Freaks and Geeks” shows that Glover can be as pompous as the most well known rappers. Over what sounds like a simple click track but on steroids, Glover raps about the highlight of every rappers life, women, as he says “OK, I’m down with the black girls of every single culture/Filipino, Armenian girls on my sofa/ Yeah, I like a white girl, sometimes we get together/Need a thick chick though, so it’s black and yellow, black and yellow.
“My Shine” is a proper balance of Glover’s ability to show off and stunt hard while also providing passion and personality behind his words. The result is a song where Glover about his uniqueness as an individual and rapper. Accompanied by a dazzling guitar rift, “My Shine” shows an optimistic Glover ready to prove himself to the world.
The most straightforward song on EP is “Lights Turned On” which is not necessarily a bad thing. Pumped full of synthesizer beats “Lights Turned On” can definitely drive any club goers wild with its catchy chorus, “I want the lights turned on/
Show me how you do it/ Show me what you doin’/I don’t wanna lose/ Have them lights turned on /Show me what you doin’/ Show me what you do to me, me .”
The EP’s closer “Not Going Back” is reminiscent of the anxiety of “Be Alone” only reemerging with a stronger front against the obstacles that stand in Glover’s path who starts the track singing (forgot to mention that Glover is also a pretty good singer) “, “It seems like they all want me to fail/ But I’m not goin’ back/Not goin’ back, baby.”
It may seem to many that EP is the culmination of Glover’s desire to prove to the world of his greatness. In my humble opinion, NYU Graduate, comedian, actor, writer, and rapper Donald Glover has far exceeded all expectations of what a person can be. So if anything, EP just shows how hungry Glover aka Childish Gambino really is. If only we were all that ambitious…
You can download the EP for free here at www.iamdonald.com/theep