Archive

Archive for the ‘The Top 11’ Category
01 Jan

The Top 11: Favorite Albums of 2013

If 2013 has taught me anything, it is to get back on board with this blog! Since I’ve been busy with my other blog, PopRedux80, I haven’t had time to concentrate on this one. Hopefully, I’ll rectify that this coming year. (Ah – a new year’s resolution!).

For the most part, music this past year was pretty good and I think an improvement over 2012. I discovered some new artists who delivered excellent debuts and also heard solid efforts by artists I’ve previously followed. I still found myself craving older stuff and got totally lost in collecting Northern Soul, fleshing out more of my old 80s faves, and deep diving into the Nilsson catalog. Although CDs are still my primary purchase point, I’m getting more digitally inclined and have downloaded more this year. Spotify has been a constant companion and despite those folks who think it’s bad for artists, it has opened up my ears to a lot more music that I would not normally have heard and I have purchased music and supported artists due to this access (and I subscribe to the service). I’ve taken part in Kickstarter and Pledge Music campaigns this year (including the one for my #1 album of the year) and look forward to doing more funding. I still think the business of music is in flux and will be for a while, but while this is happening it’s still the music that matters and here are my faves that kept the beat alive for me this past year.

1. “To Hell with You” by Bleu – Bleu’s second funding campaign proved to be even more successful than the first and along with that came his most adventurous outing to date. He takes you on a journey that starts with an orchestral overture and deftly moves through power pop, electronica, and even rap. Some fans grumbled about the side steps out of Bleu’s power pop wheelhouse, but I thought it was awesome to see an artist grow yet still maintain their identity. Hands down it was the disc I played the most through the year and each time I hear it, I end up thinking that I can’t wait to find out what he does next. This is one of my favorite tracks. The album should be available in iTunes soon and also on BandCamp.

2. “Random Access Memories” by Daft Punk – I’m not the biggest fan of EDM, but when it is done like this album, I’m totally on board. Plus, Paul freakin’ Williams is on here! This one has made a ton of “best of year” lists and rightly so.

3. “Tales of Us” by Goldfrapp – Sumptuous and haunting, they tone down the hot 80s beats of their last outing for something quiet and beautiful. For me, they have yet to disappoint.

4. “Samson & Delilah” by VV Brown – Talk about a change of direction, this disc completely tosses out the fun pop of her debut in favor of dark electro grooves. When artists make such a drastic change, the odds are not in their favor that it will work. For Brown it does in spades and it shows the beginnings of a true chameleon, which is quite exciting. Too bad it virtually got ignored here in the US.

5. “Departure & Farewell” by Hem – It has been way too long since their last disc and this picks up where they left off. Their music is precious and almost fragile, but it seems with age there is an added strength that has made this effort more confident. I’m glad I finally got to see them live this year – they did not disappoint.

6. “The Next Day” by David Bowie – In a mega-long career like Bowie’s, there is that inevitable moment when a new disc is heralded as a return to their classic sound and it usually is not (and it usually disappoints). In this case, it was spot-on. There is a lot of sound here from various Bowie periods, yet he does it all in a way that makes it fresh.

7. “In Time” by The Mavericks – Absent for ten years, this group comes back as if they never left. Solid songs, tight playing, and Raul Malo’s voice still soaring, this was as good of a comeback as anyone could hope to have.

8. “Same Trailer Different Park” by Kacey Musgraves – Although technically not a debut (she had a couple self/indie discs), it was her first major release and so for me this was the best debut album of the year. Musgraves sounds great, but it is her writing that is the real star here. If she can keep up (or exceed) this quality, she has superstar written all over her.

9. “Swings Both Ways” by Robbie Williams – Released in the UK near the end of the year, this scattered disc of originals and standards plays surprisingly well. It can be fun, serious, and quite campy and Williams pulls it off like a musical magic trick. The wink-wink title kind of lets you know what you are in for and luckily it is for a good time.

10. “The Electric Lady” by Janelle Monae – Keeping up with the theme set by her prior two discs, Monae comes out again with another disc of interesting jams and oddities surrounded by a slightly incoherent story. It plays just as big as her last epic and can get a little tiresome, but she is always interesting.

11. “ARTPOP” by Lady Gaga – I never thought this would appear on my list. On first listen, I didn’t like the album. A lot of it seemed to replay stuff she has already done and was almost laughable (not in a good way). But the more listened to it, the more it stuck with me. She doesn’t advance her craft here, however the results become more interesting with each listen and I found myself digging it and her new family of characters.

Honorable Mentions:  “All’s Well that Ends Well” by The Candle Thieves, “Wonderful, Glorious” by Eels, “Speak a Little Louder” by Diane Birch, “Pure Heroine” by Lorde, “The Diving Board” by Elton John, “Heartthrob” by Tegan and Sara, “The Lone Bellow” by The Lone Bellow, “Forever Endeavour” by Ron Sexsmith, “Electric” by Pet Shop Boys.

Categories: Music, The Top 11 Tags:
10 Feb

The Top 11: Favorite Albums of 2012

If I could choose a word to describe the year in albums, I’d probably go with “bleh.” While there was some quality discs done, there was nothing released that would even come close to making it into my all-time favorites list. In fact, for a good chunk of the year I was hooked on older albums by artists I recently discovered. For me, there were no potential classics in the bunch and none that I listened to so intently and so often that I know the album front to back. But there were some that caught my attention and the following would be my favorites for the year.

1.  “Making Mirrors” by Gotye – Okay, yes, I know that chances are good he will come and go like yesterday’s dinner, but I really liked quite a lot of this album. It may not be the best and may only be remembered by its one major hit, but I think of all new albums listened to this year, I spun this one the most.

2.  “Some Nights” by fun. – I thoroughly enjoyed the updated retro sound of this disc. Parts of it are very Queen-esque and it sounds wonderful. They are an appropriately named band.

3.  “Blunderbuss” by Jack White – This one surprised me. The White Stripes were hit and miss with me so I never fully jumped on that bandwagon. But “Love Interruption” bowled me over and “Sixteen Saltines” stomped on me. I doubt it will win but I’m pulling for this to get the Grammy for Album of the Year.

4.  “Someday” by Susanna Hoffs – Again, another great surprise. Although it really shouldn’t be. She had been doing great work with Matthew Sweet on a couple of duet albums and the Bangles put out a fine collection last year. But I think it was just the expertly breezy and effortless sounding songs that hooked me. It sounds like an artist in her prime to me.

5.  “NORDO” by Air Traffic Controller – The crazy, catchy “Hurry Hurry” is the highlight, but the album is filled with terrific songs from this Boston-based band, produced by the brilliant Bleu.

6.  “Heaven” by Rebecca Ferguson – A runner-up on the UK’s “X-Factor,” the disc does not sound like the typical singing contest release. It sounds like a full-fledged artist who had some control over direction and writing her material. Once in a great while these show do find someone truly talented, and she is one of them.

7.  “Our Version of Events” by Emeli Sande – Another British singer/writer who I just happened upon while watching videos on a plane from the UK back home. I loved her song “Heaven,” but the album goes way deeper. This was the best-selling album in the UK last year and it is well-deserved. It’s a shame it didn’t catch fire here in the US.

8.  “The Sound of the Life in the Mind” by Ben Folds Five – The group’s return to the studio was welcomed and did not disappoint. The sound is there as well as a lot of the material, but at this point in time they are too long in the tooth to get college-quirky with “Draw a Crowd” stating “draw dicks on a wall.” But overall, a solid return.

9.  “The Truth About Love” by P!nk – She always has quality singles and solid album cuts, but it really all comes together on this disc. Probably her best overall album.

10.  “Out of the Game” by Rufus Wainwright – Oh, thank ye Mr. Wainwright for getting out of the dirge funk and getting back to what makes you special. It’s not all sunshine and roses (and shouldn’t be), but this was like the parting of the clouds and rays of light warming things up.

11.  “Fanatic” by Heart – Their previous album “Red Velvet Car” was outstanding. This one doesn’t quite match that quality, but it is still damn good. While some long-standing rock artists have softened their sound and struggle writing quality material, it’s great to see someone like Heart still out there, still rockin’, and still writing solid tunes.

Honorable Mentions:  “Wrecking Ball” by Bruce Springsteen, “Magic Hour” by Scissor Sisters, “Release Me” by Barbra Streisand, “Tinsel and Lights” by Tracey Thorn, “Skulk” by Jim Moray, “4th Street Feeling” by Melissa Etheridge, “A Different Kind of Truth” by Van Halen, “Synthetica” by Metric

Categories: Music, The Top 11 Tags:
01 Jan

The Top 11: Favorite Songs of 2012

I’m not sure if I was a big fan of the music put out in 2012. When going back over the albums and songs that I either purchased or listened to, I realized that there were very few that I spun over and over again. There was quality stuff released, but just not as much that really hooked me. But like every year there are always songs that stand out and received repeated plays (and tweets) over the year. The following are my personal favorites for 2012. They may not be for everyone, and that is okay. Music is very subjective and that’s what makes lists like this fun to share. You never know when you may discover something awesome on one!

1.  “I Feel Better” by Gotye – His other song was the top chart single of the year, but this track from his album was the one that hooked me. A little retro blue-eyed soul ala Steve Winwood. I played this track more than any other this year.

2.  “Into the Wild” by LP – This song I had heard on a commercial and it was the voice that drew me to it. I found the song and was blown away. Seek out the live version on YouTube. It is awesome. Can’t wait for a full album.

3.  “Shoulder to Shoulder” by Rebecca Ferguson – A contestant from the British X-Factor, she released a terrific album that didn’t catch here. It is unfortunate as this really lovely ballad should prove. Y’all missed out on this one.

4.  “Sixteen Saltines” by Jack White – A massive blast of White Stripey-ness that I could not get out of my head. Grabbed me from the opening line and never let up.

5.  “Somebody That I Used to Know” by Gotye – I discovered this track long before it was a single in the US and I played it for someone and told them “this song is gonna be huge.” I was not wrong.

6.  “Hurry Hurry” by Air Traffic Controller – The brilliant Bleu co-wrote this immensely catchy and fun song and turned into a major earworm for me earlier this year.

7.  “Some Nights” by fun. – I really liked “We Are Young,” but when I got the album, it was this opening track that caught my attention. They really did bring a lot of “fun.” to this year.

8.  “Love Interruption” by Jack White – The chorus of this song got tattooed in my head for a while and it was a real ear worm. But in a good way.

9.  “Fall From Grace” by Meat Loaf – His new album slipped through the cracks here although it was a hit in other countries. This track was co-written by Bleu (the second on this list) and is the best song on the disc. Should have been the lead single.

10.  “Maybe” by Emeli Sande – I was on a plane back from the UK and was playing videos as I didn’t want to watch a movie and this artist came up with her song “Heaven.” I thought it was pretty great so I got the disc. This ballad was my favorite from the album.

11.  “Run Run Run” by The Explorers Club – This was one of those freak things were I just happened to listen to an album by chance. It was total retro love at first listen.

Honorable Mentions:  “Picture Me” by Susanna Hoffs, “Big Love” by Jim Moray, “Home” by Phillip Phillips, “Bite Your Tongue” by Chantal Claret, “If I Didn’t Know Better” by Sam Palladio/Clare Bowen, “Undermine” by Charles Esten/Hayden Panettiere, “Safe and Sound” by Taylor Swift/Civil Wars, “Heaven” by Emeli Sande, “What Now” by Rihanna, “Oh My!” by Haley Reinhart, “Wild” by Gregory Douglass

Categories: Music, The Top 11 Tags:
18 Dec

The Top 11 Albums 2011

Comments off

If I had to use one word to describe the music of 2011, I think it would have to be “meh.” There wasn’t much that excited my ears and I found myself going through phases of obtaining old stuff instead of latching onto the new. My favorite reissue was “Instant Replay” by the Monkees and that set me off on a Monkee spree that isn’t over yet. I think the one thing that I’m realizing in this new digital age is that I don’t invest myself into music as much as I did previously. I think that is because there is so much you can get or listen to for free (via a services like Spotify or sites where anyone can upload their latest stuff) that I don’t take the time to sit and listen much anymore. With LPs or CDs, I’ve spent my money and time actually buying something. I have invested in someone’s product. Therefore, I take the time to listen, follow lyrics, and pay attention to what the artist has created. These days, I can tell you I’ve listed to a top album and probably liked it, but I can’t remember anything from it – basically, one quick listen and out. I’m really sad about this and I still have yet to find a way to fully adapt to the digital world. But 2011 wasn’t a total loss. I did find music I enjoyed and purchased. Here are the albums that I did invest my time, money, and ears:

Albums

1. “Ghost on the Canvas” by Glen Campbell – I’m probably just as shocked to find this at the top of my list, but I really loved this final release. What a way to go out. And considering the reason he has to leave the business, the songs take on a new meaning. I think this was very under-appreciated upon release and I hope it can develop the admiration and respect it deserves in the coming years.

2. “21” by Adele – Okay, I’m a bit pissed about this one. I latched onto this album right from the start. “Rolling in the Deep” was floundering on the charts and I was jamming to it in disbelief that it wasn’t a #1 song. Then the Adele frenzy started and I kept thinking – where were you people months ago? On the good side, it is nice that an album can indeed grown these days and not be a quick flash in the pan.

3. “Long Player, Late Bloomer” by Ron Sexsmith – His last couple of discs were a bit low-key and I didn’t connect with them. But this was a stunner. Upbeat and peppy, it was the opposite of his semi-maudlin collections. And he even sounds happy! Well, as happy as his sad-dog voice can get. One of his best.

4. “Lucid” by Gregory Douglass – I will say that here is an artist that came to me via the digital world. Found him on a website after his previous album “Battler” came out. I enjoyed it and began to follow him. When this came out, I was so pleased that I had discovered him. Check him out and his website – he does really interesting covers and shoots videos for them.

5. “Helplessness Blues” by Fleet Foxes – Oh, my hippie-dippie folkies, how I do love thee. Not quite as brilliant as their self-titled disc, but this has moments of pure pleasure that bowl me over.

6. “Smash” – Martin Solveig – I believe he is working with Madonna currently, which should be interesting. He is huge in Europe but hasn’t made a splash here.  Too bad as this disc is far better than anything David Guetta has done recently. I’m not much into the DJ scene, but this disc totally clicked with me.

7. “Sweetheart of the Sun” by the Bangles – Again, who could have predicted this would be on my list? Not me! What a nice return for them. Terrific songs and it feels both fresh and comfortable. For me, this is their best overall album.

8. “Bad As Me” by Tom Waits – We may have to wait lengthy times between fresh material, but when the music hits, he doesn’t disappoint. An acquired taste for some, he is required listening for me.

9. “El Camino” by the Black Keys – I liked the last disc, “Brothers,” but still wasn’t jumping on the bandwagon. I am now. Delicious burning rock. This is also one of those rare discs where you can look at the cover/title and just know it will be great. I just stared at that mini-van cover and title and knew it was a winner.

10. “The King is Dead” by Decemberists – After they got more grand and operatic, the group scales back to basics and comes up with a nice set of songs that you easily sail through. I thought this was the right album at the right time for them.

11. “Beauty Queen Sister” by Indigo Girls – They have managed to be one of the most consistent groups out there. The writing is always good, they rarely falter, and they don’t try to reinvent themselves or do things that don’t reflect who they are. Some collections are better than others, but it is rare to not find something to like on their discs. This one is no exception.

Other notables:  “The Rip Tide” by Beirut, “Talk That Talk” by Rihanna, “Ashore” by June Tabor, “Live: The Storyteller” by Todd Snider, “Blessed” by Lucinda Williams, “Stone Rollin'” by Raphael Saadiq, “Dirty Jeans and Mudslide Hymns” by John Hiatt, “All You Need Is Now” by Duran Duran, “Katla” by Ida Maria, “Ceremonials” by Florence + the Machine, “Ragged Kingdom” by June Tabor and Oysterband

Categories: Music, The Top 11 Tags:
04 Jan

theBlippity’s Favorite Music of 2010

If I had one word to sum up the year in music, I would probably choose “dismal.” A second word might be “depressing,” not because of the music offered, but because I think 2010 might represent the year I started to get old. Some of you may have parents (or, OMG, grandparents) that hit their prime in the late 60s/early 70s. If so, they were probably hooked into some of the best music ever created around that time. Now, they may still look fondly on that music but I would probably venture to guess that most of them have their iPods loaded with Sting (after the Police, but before the lute), Josh Groban, Celine Dion, etc. If you asked them about Arcade Fire, they would probably say “what arcade and why did it catch fire?” And if you played a song for them, they probably wouldn’t get it. Well, 2010 marked the first year that I started not to get it. I am sad and depressed.

I’ve been able to listen to a large chunk of albums that reviewers and magazines have crowned as the best of the year – folks like Arcade Fire, The Black Keys, Sleigh Bells, Mumford & Sons, Gorillaz, etc. Many I have listened to a couple of times and I have to say…I don’t get it. I appreciate the craft involved and that these folks are trying to move music forward, but I find myself being left behind. It’s the first time I’ve ever really felt that. And while some of my top picks are also on “best of” lists, it seems like I really went with a retro sound that was safe and comfortable. I couldn’t find anything on the fringe that challenged me and introduced me to something new that hooked my ear. Even the singer/songwriters I usually rely on didn’t come through for me. So, am I getting old? Is my taste starting to be all in my mouth? Will I buy my first Josh Groban CD this year? (Sadly, I almost did – his new disc was produced by Rick Rubin and he covered Nick Cave…Nick freakin’ Cave!!) I’m hoping I get my groove back and discover some great music in the new year. If not, for Christmas next year everyone can get me hits discs by Celine, Josh, Andrea Bocelli, and Sting. Oh, BTW, I already have all of Michael Buble’s discs…oh, man I’m old.

Besides my oldness, I thought 2010 was a bit of a low point in music. Was there really anything released that could even come close to being required listening or a “classic” 10 years from now? Not really. It was kind of the year of Eminem, but that was about it. I purchased a lot of music this year, but two-thirds of it was reissues and collections. I’d say it was the lowest “new” music year I’ve ever had. But that doesn’t mean there wasn’t bright spots and I still had a hard time choosing what was to be on theBlippity Top 11 of the year. So let’s get to it. Here are the Top 11 Songs and Albums that I thoroughly enjoyed this year – regardless of my old fogey status:

Top 11 Albums

Oh 80's, how I love thee...

1. “Head First” – Goldfrapp

2. “Four” – Bleu

3. “Red Velvet Car” – Heart

4. “Body Talk” – Robyn

5. “The ArchAndroid” – Janelle Monae

6. “The Lady Killer” – Cee-Lo Green

7. “No Better Than This” – John Mellencamp

8. “Travelling Like the Light” – V.V. Brown

9. “Night Work” – Scissor Sisters

10. “Interpreting the Masters, Vol. 1: A Tribute to Daryl Hall & John Oats” – The Bird and the Bee

11. “I Learned the Hard Way” – Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings

Honorable Mentions:  “Loud” – Rihanna, “God Willin’ & the Creek Don’t Rise” – Ray LaMontagne & the Pariah Dogs, “Wreck Your Wheels” – Kim Richey, “Lungs” – Florence + the Machine, “Something for Everybody” – Devo

Top 11 Songs

Still rockin' like its 1977...

1. “Wheels” – Heart

2. “Rocket” – Goldfrapp

3. “F*** You” – Cee-Lo Green

4. “Alive” – Goldfrapp

5. “Dancing On My Own” – Robyn

6. “Singin’ In Tongues” – Bleu

7. “Fire with Fire” – Scissor Sisters

8. “Cheers (Drink to That)” – Rihanna

9. “Shark in the Water” – V.V. Brown

10. “Dog Days Are Over” – Florence + the Machine

11. “Teenage Dream” – Katy Perry

Honorable Mentions: “Ya Catch More Flies with Honey Than Vinegar” – Bleu, “Like Rock & Roll and Radio” – Ray LaMontagne & the Pariah Dogs, “Keys” – Kim Richey, “Trainwrecks” – Weezer, “Well Well Well” – Duffy, “Soldier of Love” – Sade, “Still This Side of Gone” – Alison Moorer

Categories: Commentary, Music, The Top 11 Tags: