Tag Archives: song

2016 Albums

1 Jan

Here is my annual countdown of top albums.  I actually kept up on it throughout the year, and things are much better researched as a result.  I tried to listen to all the big name artists and my favorite artists as they came out in 2016.  And if I had extra time, I listened to genres I like or names I thought sounded cool, or whatever Spotify suggested.  This might be my best work yet!  From last 2016 album that made the cut, to my top choice for 2016’s album of the year:

 

26.  Melissa Etheridge:  I was pretty surprised myself at how far down the list her album felt.  The main problem?  Trying too hard, and it’s a pretty grave error.  I gave leniency to artists who tried something different (and fell a little short), who only came away with 1 or 2 songs I liked, or who just kinda did the same thing they’ve always done and sounded boring as a result.  But Etheridge, is lower, because it’s like she feels a little washed up and is insecure.  I liked “Born Under a Bad Sign” but it’s a cover and let’s face it, Homer Simpson sings that like a boss.  Melissa needs to regain confidence, have a message again, and regain some passion.

25.  Alicia Keys:  I wanted to like it.  I like the stripped down, no makeup cover.  I like the message of empowered women.  I did not, however, and unfortunately, really like the album.  I wanted it to be more piano-driven.  I wanted more range in the singing.  I wanted it to be a little softer.  What I got was a LOT of 1990’s throw-back, complete with pseudo telephone call interlude and everything.  I got a toughness.  I got disappointed.  I didn’t hate “Blended Family” and I thought “Pawn It All” with it’s soul/blues vibe was the stand-out song.

24.  Bon Iver- Experimental and jarring.  I liked the last albums because it was calming and relaxing.  This one is definitively-NOT.  I can see he was trying to do some avant-garrd electronic, but the music lost it’s dreamy, meditative quality in the process.

23.  Bruce Springstean:  I like this album better than I like his other stuff (not at all).  It sounds like a blue-collar worker that just got off a double shift and stepped up on the kariokee stage–a beer in hand, of course.  It’s gritty and rugged.

 

–>>We’re entering the neutral zone.  Nothing really BAD, but not super-interesting either<<——-

22.  Gavin DeGraw:  I can hear influences of Maroon 5 and Bruno Mars.  It’s OK, but DeGraw needs to find his own voice.

21.  The Head and the Heart:  I saw these guys open for Dave Matthews Band at the Gorge one year.  And I don’t remember a thing about them.  This album is much the same.  There is nothing wrong with the music.  It’s pleasing, it’s plesant enough, it’s fine.  It’s just hardly worth mention.

20.  Hank Williams:  This bawdy tavern album should precede this fictional evening of frightened rabbits.  It’s amped up, energetic, and rowdy–as it should be.  Nothing new here though.  One Trick Pony.

19. Frightened Rabbits:  It’s Irish music after the party.  When everyone has passed their drinking limit, and the raucous singing and jigging is done, and people are passing out or crying.  Still an integral part of the scene, but certainly not the upbeat story of the beginning of the night.

18. Brittany Spears:  Is ever the perky, dancy pop star in this new (and every previous) album.  This time she seems to have more command.  The lyrics indicate she’s taking control and will not be pushed around.  The tracks are intentional.

17.  Dawes- Easy-listening.  It’s good background with nothing wrong about it.  The reason it doesn’t rank higher, is that it also has nothing particularly interesting about it either.

16.  Elton John:  I have always liked Ser John, from the crazy-saucy 1970’s-1980’s sing-alongs to the quieter, more reserved “Peachtree Road” and “The Diving Board” CD’s.  This album falls in with the more subdued fare, and that’s fine.  But compared to the previous 2 albums, it’s a little. . .  Dare I say, boring.

15.  Kings of Leon- Hipster rock.  It’s a staple.  It’s good in the car.  It reminds me of Seattle.  This album is a good effort-though there’s not a “Sex on Fire” stunner ready for radio.  “Around the World” does come closest to main-stream appeal.

14.  James Vincent McMorrow:  This music is chill.  Good for background.  It’s the type of album you would play for a quiet dinner party or to relax in the tub.  It’s the vibe Bon Iver used to be–before all that experimental SOUND intruded.

13.  Sum 41:  What a surprise entry!  I did not expect much from this band-a decade past its peak.  I was happily pleased to hear a still punkish, but more mature set.  “The Fall and the Rise” rivals anything by Green Day.  It’s throbbing beat and rebel lyrics really open up the album and made me want to hear more.  “War” is another winner.

12.  Lady Gaga:  I can’t decide if I’m inspired or annoyed by Lady Gaga’s career directory.  She ripped off the Club Kid dress code, introducing it to the mainstream as if it were her own.  And now she’s shamelessly stealing Madonna’s singing arc, going from pop hits, to more serious fare.  It’s a good recipe for longevity, but I’m not so sure I’m ready to hear her more serious side (and see her business acumen in action).  And I stand by my opinion that the Superbowl’s national anthem was awful–even if I’m the only one alive who thinks that.  But it did help to contribute to the new image of maturity this album is going for.  The standout track on Joanne is most certainly “Million Reasons” which shows Lady Gaga isn’t just photo-worthy, but has inspiring lyrics and a good voice.  Bottom line-once you get used to the fact the party-phase is over, this album is a sturdy offering.

11.  OneRepublic-  They used to be one of my new favorite bands.  I thought the songs were catchy and I liked the Native American flair of the last album.  Except this album is SO electro-pop.  A total copy-cat of Daft Punk–who I don’t think are that great.  Yeah, I said it.  I think Daft Punk is over-hyped.  And ‘Oh My My’ is is rip off of that.  Still, this review isn’t a dislike–it’s just relative to previous works and other music on this list.  Despite my harsh criticisms, I do like several of the songs.  “Lift Me Up,” NbHD,” “Wherever I Go,” are catchy, and “Better” a Twenty-One Pilots-eske electro-pap (that’s the word I coined for pop-rap) gets stuck in my head every time I hear it.

10.  Green Day-  It’s a little wrote.  Maybe they’re past their prime.  And certainly if the band is still considered (sell-out) punk, it’s barely.  But they were one of the first bands I liked, they are one of the most continuously good producers of music, and there are a few stand out tracks.  “Bang Bang” is saucy and hard-core, probably the most punk on the album, and maybe for the last few albums.  My favorite track, and the best political statement is, “We Live in Troubled Times,” which in light of this Trump victory is a spotlight to current events, and a prophecy of the future.  “Revolution Radio” and “Still Breathing” are catchy.  The rest are a little tired, but in a dearth of (main-stream) punk artists–still relevant.

9.  The Avett Brothers:  This album feels more. . .  Communal.  It’s a sort of folksy, around-the-campfire sound.  “Satin Pulls the Strings” has the rock that I look for with The Avvett Brother’s material, but the rest of the tracks were a little lighter fare.  Like they have mellowed a little–or are trying to break into that Americana Grammy category.  “Divorce Seperation Blues” with the yodelling, harkens a Dude Ranch weekend–whimsical, yet relevant to today.  I think this is one of theose albums, that you grow an appreciation for the more you listen.  And the nature of this list is sort of listen once and rate.  I think I’ll like it more and more when I’m not judging for a countdown.

8.  The Lumineers:  I’ll be honest–I expected more.  Don’t get me wrong, ‘Cleopatra’ is listed toward the top of this list for a reason.  I just really, really liked the acoustic partially-bluegrass sounds of their last album.  But all that’s gone.  The bluegrass portion of the music, anyway.  It has that stripped down feel, and unpolished sound that has been secretly perfected.  But the foot tapping aspects are no more.  Still, “Ophelia” and “Cleopatra” are catchy, radio-worthy high points of the record.

–>  getting good<–

7.  Michael Buble:  We all know Buble is my boyfriend.  And I think his business plan of jumping into an empty genre, and pandering to the middle-aged women is a genius.  But I was torn this year.  I couldn’t decide if the album was–too much pandering and disengenuine, or the result of a true passion for the almost forgotten swing genre.  It goes pretty far to the Sinatra crooning sound.  I had to take some points off his ranking because the answer to that question wasn’t quite clear to me.  But if he does MEAN it, the album is another great work.  But certainly intent matters, here.  My favorite song, is “I Wanna be Around,”  which I could not tell at first if it was a love song or a break up song.   Another strong song is the “Nobody But Me, alternate version with trumpet.”

6.  Panic!  At the Disco:  High energy!  This album is certainly a rejuvenation for the band.  I don’t follow the band members, but the sound leads me to believe a major life obstacle has just been surmounted.  Everything feels new and hopeful and exciting.  I originally heard one of the tracks in Lake Tahoe, and I felt like I was behind the times.  Because it seemed like the song had already broken out ages ago–which was not the case.  It just FELT like I missed the boat, because this is one of those albums, then when you listen to it, makes you cooler than you actually are.  Also, with original ideas over sampled tunes, this is the newest album, that seems like a familiar, old friend.  Each song could be a single.  This is a party album, a running mix, and a car-trip standby.

5.  Adele:  Everything you expect from Adele:  The soulful sound, pitch-prefect singing, that longing voice conveying heart ache.  It’s a solid effort, and yes, even though “Hello” has been parodied to death–I still think it’s the stand-out track.  “River Lea” is also really nice

4.  Lukas Graham:  A new artist, but so good that the album made my best albums of 2016 list.  The first weekend I heard this self-titled album, by this Denmark native, I was ready to make it the number 1 album of 2016.  It’s good.  I love it.  It’s different–piano, rap, R&B, blues, rock and soul can all be heard.  The singing holds up, and can almost feel gospel.  The lyrics tell a story, and it feels spiritual.  My only negative is that the music doesn’t stand up to the test of time for one reason only.  I guess America isn’t as family-oriented as many countries, because after a bit, the common mention of family got a little distracting and. . .  Tiresome?  It isn’t like close family ties are boring or annoying to hear about, but Graham mentions his family in nearly every song–and it IS just this side of too much.  But that’s a small complaint.

3.  Regina Spektor:  I usually have to be in a certain mood to listen to Specktor.  And who doesn’t hate that damned, SUPER-long “Orange is the new Black” intro that goes on and on and on while showing creepy pieces of weird faces?!  I can’t STAND that, and after like a full 5 minutes it sucks the life right out of me.  Especially during a binge-watching marathon–which, P.S. there is no other way to watch the series.  We have the fast-forwarding down to a science, and I implore Netflix to only show the intro on the first episode of a season.  Because HATE!  Anyway, Specktor, or re-GINA (rhymes with female anatomy) as I call her can get too wail-ey and spoken word poetry for me.  Normally.  I really thought her newest album overcomes all that and is female music without being too much.  “Bleeding Heart” could even be a radio single.

–>great!<–

2.  Beats Antique-  A coworker played this, introducing me to the world music, circus, jazz electronic, that I believe has technically been around for years and years already.  And as I’ve listened more and more in 2016, I feel like I’ve already been a fan for years and years.  The music just attaches in your psyche and resonates.  I saw them in concert, and thought their stage show was severely lacking–especially for such an experienced and well traveled band.  While the music calls for tigers jumping through hoops, cobras in baskets, and belly dancers, the best they did was stand holding a golden hoop.  At any rate, I hope they go mainstream.  This album is worldly and electronic, and experimental as ever–like you’d hope.  But it also harkens back to Jazz and Blues and makes you feel like you’re sitting in a dark corner of Louisiana enjoying a hurricane.

1. Kaleo:  Technically, should be listed under best new artist, but was so great they made it to my best overall album of the year list.  Well-rounded and singable, but also seriously substantial.  I love “Way Down We Go” with such obvious gospel influence is the leading single.  The band is fun to listen to, but by no means lighthearted fare.  It inspires thought.  Take “Broken Bones” with its folksy, chain-gang feel.  It makes me look to history, and acknowledge the fact that music is one of the few places where black people have carved out a platform to talk about their lives, challenges, and political concerns.  Rap music didn’t just stem from nowhere.  “Automobile” hearkens back to that 1970s story-telling song vibe.  And it’s got a catchy hook also.  “All the Pretty Girls” sounds like Bon Iver and James Vincent McMorrow, in that it’s quiet and sweet.  But I think it’s more catchy than those artists with it’s get-it-stuck-in-your-head ‘won’t you lay me down’ chorus.

 

2016: Best Songs

28 Dec

Singles selected by me.  Some true singles, others culled from an album, some artists you know, many you don’t.  All my opinions.

-“American Woman” Ghostbusters Soundtrack by Muddy magnolias- A march and a rap and a call to feminism.  I’d like to see the Muddy Magnolias’ other works.

-“Back to the Light” Giraffe Tongue Orchestra-  I WANTED to love this band, because the name is adorable and I can just see the merch possibilities.  It’s a little too screamy for my taste though.

-“Broken Bones” CRX- Has a good beat and a sound sorta like OK Go, with that hollow-echo type sound.

-“Can’t Let You Do It” Eric Clapton-  Like hearing jazz on the train.  It’s a little soulful, but just chugs along.

-“Company of Strangers” Third Eye Blind- I remember Third Eye Blinds glory days in the 1990s.  And I really wanted to like their new album–after all, I didn’t know they were a thing anymore.  Alas, they are not.  The album was largely washed up, plain, and irrelevant.  But out of it I did pluck this song.  Strong rock roots, some nice lyrics, and a good chorus.

-“Don’t Wanna Know” Maroon 5 feat Kendrick Lamar-  I admit it, I’m not super in the Lamar fan club.  I find it chipmunkee, Alvin without the sass.  Also I feel like Maroon 5 has pre-douche and post douche songs, the before and after point that Adam Lambert thought he was the shit.  This is kinda a nice little song, but it isn’t really Maroon 5, and is most definitely POST-douche.

-“The Entertainer” KT Tunstall- I liked when Tunstall was writing songs that drag queens were belting out at Pride.  This is no “Black Horse and the Cherry Tree” which is sort of a let down.  A quiet reprieve is fine for an artist, but I’m ready for her to get back to it, already.

-“F*** Apologies” Jojo feat Wiz Khalifa- With lyrics that go, “And honestly I was just about to pick up the phone, and then I realized that I di int do nothing wrong, what you want from me, I would say I’m sorry if I really meant it”.  It’s Jojo at her cheekiest.  I’m happy to see her more empowered.  And of course I love a break up song.

-“Galveston” Jeffrey Martin-  Quiet Mellencamp.  This song is poetry in tune.  It’s more about the words than the singing.  It’s a little depressed, but it’s a story depth.

-“Glory”Donny MaCaslin- Good jazz, heavy on the trumpet.  Not too fussy, but a little erratic as jazz should be.

-“Heart in a Cage” Chris Thile- has some acoustic-type country-strumming.  Is sort of that hipster bluegrass I’ve been liking lately.  Also, some nice lyrics and syncopation.

-“Jungle” Saint Mesa- I’d listen to more.  It has some singing, and rain-forest-sound breakdown, and a half-speed-rap.

-“I’m Not Afraid” (Ghostbuster’s Theme) Fall Out Boy feat Missy Elliott-  It’s a good update to the initial release.  Maybe not AS catchy, but what could be?  And Elliott, as always, sounds exactly the same.

-“I’m Sixteen” Dolly Parton- She’s sassy, it’s a feminist message, and there’s a deep base vocal in the background.  This is why we love Dolly no matter how old she gets.

-“Kill ’em with Kindness” Selena Gomez- What is this percussion called?  This is one of the 3 popular drum lines that I hear in EVERY song in the top ten lists.  And I feel like this genre, (R&B, electro-pop, dance–whatever it is) has overwhelmed mainstream music as of late.  And I’m not that into it.  It’s not bad, just not what I gravitate toward.  I like the message of this song (and the random whistling).

-“Little Spoon” Grover Anderson-  The next country love song.  It may be this decade’s “Forever and Ever, Amen” or “Remember When.”  We’re talking, sweet love song–and it just might be my favorite single this year.

-“Love My Life” Robbie Williams- I feel sorry for Robbie Williams.  I feel like he keeps searching for a genre he can excel in, but the search goes on and on.  He tried rock, did electronic, dipped into swing (before realizing Michael Buble is unstoppable in that arena), and now has slumped into the dregs of spiritual music.  The lowest of the low expectations.  It’s barely mainstream music anymore–like giving up.  This song, itself is very uplifting and I like the message, but I’m afraid this might be the last nail in the coffin of Williams’uncertain, meandering career.

-“Love on Me” Galantis-  Touches of Calypto here, some chipmunk distortion there, it’s a pure-pop lovely.

-“Might as Well be Gone” The Pixies- A breaking up sort of tune.  Sometimes discordant just like the subject matter, but lovely (if not bleak) singing.

-“Move Me” Sara Watkins- Like Lisse without so much anger.  Strong singing.

-“Nights” Snow the Product feat w. Darling- Seems like a smart gal, and it’s a rap.

-“Nothings Over” Young the Giant-  The song feels a little operatic.  Or in the same vein as Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” without the cheesiness and theater.  It’s 4-plus minutes, and it is serious.

-“Please Don’t Go”Joel Adams- Humming, there’s something we don’t hear enough these days.  This song has it, and it’s a good, please stay song.  Very sweetly sung.

 

-“Shout Out to My Ex”Little Mix- It’s an upbeat hate song.  It’s all about moving on and moving up.  Uplifting with just enough trash to make me happy–and make me laugh a lot.

-“Somethin’ Bad” Miranda Lambert & Carrie Underwood-  Best duet of 2016!  Maybe in country music.  It’s about these two sass-lasses worked together.  The result is nothing short of awesome.  Let’s see a whole album together!

-“The Stage” Avenged Sevenfold- hard, amped-up, and all with a Spanish finish–it’ one to jam out to.

-“Thick of It” Mary J Blige-  Sometimes Mary is too much.  This is not one of those times.  She speaks the truth and keeps it real without going Mary-mode.

-“Too Good” Drake feat. Rhianna-  It’s a good break up song, and you know how I always like those.

-“Tragedy” Norah Jones- I usually don’t care for Jones that much.  I find her a little boring.  But this track is jazzy and bluesy in a way that I like.

-“Universe of Life” Feeder- A hard-rock edge to a Nervana-type 1990’s Seattle sound.  It works, especially with the break-down sections.

-“Wind & Anchor” The National Parks- Like sitting in a drum circle on the beach, singing together about an unwanted, impending break-up.

-“Writing on the Wall” Bear’s Den- It’s like Postal Service, but less brit.  I like the song, but I like the name of the band better, and I hope they do great things because I’ll bet their merch is outstanding!

-“You & Me” Marc E. Bassy- That awkward moment when you run into your ex.  Sung with rap/R&B/reggae flair.

-“Zillionaire” Flo Rida- This was still great to dance to, and made me want more!

Goose Song

8 May

Cool and I are always talking to, and especially singing to our cats.  I’ve told you about our language of dropped liquids (/l/ & /r//) and how sometimes our MeowEEZE sneaks out of our apartment into our conversations with real people.  And how we don’t really care about being crazy cat ladys.  There are worse things.

Sloppy's electric throw 1

Sloppy-Joe Cool’s song (she had many, but her name-sake song) was to the tune of Beethoven’s 5th:

Sloppy Joe Cool

Sloppy Joe Cool

Sloppy Joe Cool Sloppy Joe Cool Sloppy Joe Cool

Kitty!

 

Choco-Luv’s song also features her name prominently:

Choco-Luv Choco-Luv Choco-Luv Choco-Luv

Choco-Luv Choco-Luv Choco-Luvups

Hay Hay Hay!

 

But I think Goose’s song is a real master-piece.  We are constantly calling this kitty different names, depending on what he’s doing at the time–he’s often doing funny or ornery things so in accordance his song goes:

Goose 2012He’s a goose

He’s a man

He’s a coon

He’s a Cat

He’s a turkey, he’s a lion, he’s a mongoose

He’s a big cat

He’s a fat cat

but he’s a real good buddy

+/- (‘cept when he’s not)

 

I just wanted to share how fun our lives are because of our beloved pets.  In other news, I got my Audiometry final exam grade back today.  I got 98%!!!!!!!!  So my final course grade is a 97.4% A+.  I am so proud of that because I really buckled down and worked so hard for it.  Throughout the semester, but BIG-time at the end.  I’m especially happy about it because I was afraid after losing so many points on exam 3, intimidated by the test format/grading/demeanor of the instructor, and worried about losing my overall grade and all-important GPA.  And despite the pressure, I stepped up and pulled it out.

I want to make clear that the course content was not as conceptually challenging as many classes, though there was a lot of things to cover.  Classes that have been more difficult:  Math of any type, physics, biochem, chem lab, chemistry, nutrition, animal physiology, anatomy, genetics, and speech & hearing sciences to name the most notorious in my memory.  All the same, because of the instructor, it’s been one of my most hard-fought A’s I’ve ever ever gotten (behind Physics 2 b/c math used to be my nemesis and Biochem b/c it was conceptually challenging, had TONS of material, and involved a lot of rote memorization of vocab/cycles/structures).

Even though I don’t have (much of) a job, I think I’m going to treat myself with a new pair of boots.  Boots because they go on clearance in the spring when stores are trying to clear the large inventory and they are something I can use this winter and especially in Colorado.  Now, it’s time to celebrate!

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Best of 2012: NEW ALBUMS

6 Jan

Best Music Produced in 2012:

Finally.  I intended on publishing this on New Years Eve when it’s a little more relevant.  These important decisions take time, and listening.  Several listenings to really pars apart the minute details between albums.  It’s a more subjective measure, then just copying LastFM statistics.  You can’t use the stats, because albums produced later in the year are at a disadvantage.  So this is based on my careful listening and whittling of songs–as well as my own unsubstantiated opinions and feelings.  Oh, and let’s get this out of the way right off the bat–I in no way italicized or put into quotations album or song titles.  This took a look time to write (as you can see by the post date of Jan 6), and I just didn’t devote any more time then necessary to grammar.  Just appreciate the music, and forget proper English, OK?  So finally, finally the long awaited, BEST OF 2012 ALBUMS blog (from good to *glorious–for you, mom).  Enjoy–I know I enjoyed listening and writing it.

Thriller

Honorable Mentions:

30.  The Fray–which I found a little too churchy to stand up.

29.  Jack Johnson’s live HI benefit album, which featured many other artists, but was too libertine.

28.  Rhythms Del Mundo with their African remixes of popular songs.

the Fray

27.  Carrie Underwood-Blown Away

Meh–I can’t say I was.  I found it too poppy for the most part.  I want a little more range and a little more country twang from Carrie.  What I got was a very commercial effort and three songs I could settle on liking.  Maybe next album, Carrie will write more of her own material, get back to her roots, or at least construct the CD without sales figures and commercial appeal in mind.

Carrie Underwood

26.  Matt & Kim-Sidewalks

I suppose I like the IDEA of the album much more then I actually liked Sidewalks.  Indie music seems so cool, so hipster.  But each song was too similar to the next for me to really appreciate the whole album.  After a quick couple of listens I was tired of hearing the same song in slightly different variation.  I found only two songs which I liked for longer then a day.

25.  Ke$ha-Warrior

Mmmm, this one was good for working out, and I’m sure dancing.  I fount it to be a slightly immature record though.  Maybe I dislike a very genre-specific record.  It certainly makes sense that I redered a very country-pop, indie, and dance-pop albums to the bottom of my 2012 list.  On this one my attention was only captured momentarily, the songs were too poppy to hold up even over a week.  I think Ke$ha has potential as an artist if she can write a little deeper lyrics, while keeping the dancy beats.

24.  Jason Mraz-Love is a Four Letter Word

At first I was very enamored with Love is a Four Letter Word.  I couldn’t get enough of the catchy tunes, and Jason’s commentaries about the songs.  It just didn’t hold up over time though.  The more I listened, the more I got annoyed with certain songs, or intros to the songs.  So unfortunately  what started out as a very, very good thing, ended up on the chopping block so to speak.  By the end of the year I was left with just 5 songs I felt were outstanding and liked to play repeatedly.

where's Peter

23.  White Rabbits-Milk Famous

Apparently, in my best-of 2012, I require several things:  Originality, while being true to the expected sound.  Check.  Coolness factor.  They have it.  Many good songs, that mean something to me and that I can listen to anywhere and on repeat.  Sure.  Several Genres.  This is where the White Rabbits fell flat.  They are indy and hipster and original, and yet each song on Milk Famous was much the same.  Just OK.

cherry

22.  Pink-The Truth About Love

I like Pink.  Always have.  I don’t care how immature or how volatile a person she is.  And this album was no exception, I found songs I could sing to, feel emotionally, and dance with.  And I loved how she featured other artists for the first time.  Good things–I like six songs.  But a good, chart-topping, year wowing album requires more then one awesome single and a few notable duets.  There is just no way to put The Truth About Love at the top of any list.  When you listen, you know it’s the junk food of female pop artists. Pink may have a little more staying power then most, and she may have slightly more to say lyrically, but there is just something about this album that isn’t adult.  Despite serious subject matter, Pink is unable to delve deep into her (or my) psyche to warrant serious success.  I want more songs like “Sober” and “Who Knew” that really stop me in my tracks while still being singable.

21.  Alicia Keys-Girl On Fire

Alicia does a good job straddling the line between R&B, piano, pop, soul, and jazz music.  For that, I have to rank Girl on Fire toward the top-more albums of 2012.  In addition, good CD title too.  That said, I only liked six of the offerings.  Usually, with Alicia’s music, I can’t really LOVE each song, but grow attached to at least one.  Not so with Girl on Fire.  No song really grew on me as they had with past albums.  So she gets mediocre rank.

LF polar bear

20.  Minus the Bear-Infinity Overhead

I just expected more.  There was nothing wrong with Infinity Overhead (except that terrible, gritty video for “Steel & Blood”) but I had hoped for more.  The songs were good.  Easy listeners, that were repeatable.  Indy and cool and true to their roots.  I guess I looked forward to the album release so much that these seven songs I ended up liking most did not measure up.  Good music, but a let-down all the same.

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19.  Dave Matthews Band-Away From the World

I really hate to say it–I do.  Especially as a relatively new fan, whose favorite moment of 2012 was The Gorge Concert on Labor Dave Weekend.  Away From the World wasn’t the best CD DMB has ever put out.  Sure, “Mercy” grows on you and the video concepts are amazing.  There are just no stand out songs, and certainly not of sufficent length, jams, or live footage.  Now, I’m hungering for a new album already, because 2012’s just didn’t do the band justice.  I wish I could rank this one higher. . .

18.  Alanis Morressette-Havoc and Bright Lights

I’m not afraid to say it–I loved Jagged Little Pieces.  Not a popular opinion anymore.  It was one of my staple CDs for years–still is in the case of a break up.  After Jagged though, Alanis sort of lost her edge for me.  I didn’t really love her efforts until this year.  And this album features a lot of songs I don’t hate.  Though I can’t really say I felt much toward them.  I would classify Havoc and Bright Lights as unobtrusive.  The best album Alanis has put out in years, but not a knock out, stand out by any means.  It’s good background or study music.

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17.  Bon Iver-Stems Project

This album was produced very early in 2012.  And it’s sits toward the middle of my favorites list despite eventual categorization as just unobtrusive, because it has a couple things.  Different variations of the same song?  Surprisingly a good idea.  It has a very original vibe?  Yup.  Indie? sure.  Hipster? definitively.  And yet, it’s not presumptuous.  Stems Project may not have any stand-alone, stand out songs, but in it’s achievement as indy-hip minus the attitude, I commend it.

Fiona Apple-Criminal

16.  Fiona Apple-crazily long obnoxious title, I’m not going to try to write out.

Jarring.  That’s the most effective description I can think of for *insert longest most unwieldy album title of all time here*  This is over a couple of other artist offerings, because even though I could hardly listen to some of the songs, Fiona was saying something.  Sometimes in a good way, oftentimes exceeding my listening saturation point.  I do like that Fiona did her own thing.  She made her own rules, and really went for it–not keeping an eye on record label profits.  Respectful effort for sure, and I can see potential again, because we all know Fiona can be a little unstable and unpredictable as a person–though she channeled that nicely for the album.  I do suggest less shouting and a shorter title for the next project.  Oh, and by the way, I don’t know if anyone can beat Fiona’s singing chops with her garble-waver and range of pitch.

15.  Amy Ray-Lung of Love

I always have love for any half of the Indigo Girls.  And I feel like Lung of Love has a more country feel to it.  Which is an awesome addition to the rock, folk, and punk infused grooves she already has going.  Extra bonus points for incorporating Brandi Carlile’s voice.  I also like the other featured artists on this album.  Except, I don’t know what it is, but Amy Ray has this way of getting a momentum where every song has the same vibe.  Even with all those different genres and contributing artists.  I start to wonder where one songs ends and the other begins.  And it isn’t in a cohesive–this CD has a theme way.  It’s like she finds an original sound, then sticks to that same sound too much, so that by the end of the CD it’s not novel at all.  I say an album that goes together is fine–but too much of a good sound just becomes boring.

Indigo Girls

14.  A Fine Frenzy-PINES

I love the enchanting whimsy of A Fine Frenzy in general.  And this album, certainly gels together in a nice theme.  Problem the best presented cohesive package of the year.  The only trouble with PINES is the length of some of the songs.  A couple of my favorites are 6-7 minutes long.  A few are just extraneous in length.  Anyway, a nice dramatic effort, that will last in time for sure.

CO wildflower

13.  Green Day-Uno, Dose, Tres

Though there were technically three albums, I judge as one musical effort this year.  Of course, conceptually, the guys deserve kudos for thinking outside the box and producing three separate  yet combinable CDs each several months apart.  I think it’s a great marketing ploy, it’s different, and it’s creative.  Together-it’s a lot too many songs, that tend to blend toward one sound.  Many songs lack their own characteristics, instead being obvious “fillers.”  Yet, I’m not sure I would have liked the 12 songs I ended up liking well, AS much if they would have been on just one disc, as one offering.  So I rank Green Day as top of the middle in my 2012 list, if nothing else for their creativity in bucking a rigid label-system to produce three mini-albums at three intervals.

12.  Keane-Strangeland

There was a different vibe on 2012’s CD then Keane had in the past.  Still good, just another variety   The one thing I disliked was really based on a feeling, then tangible qualities.  I felt like Keane had a certain umm, what’s the right word?  Not arrogance–that’s too much.  Just a level of comfort and familiarity that comes with being sure of success.  I got the feeling Keane feels established enough to not TRY and struggle to make it anymore.  Which, they may have a well-established fan-base, but I think very few artists truly get to stop worrying about their number of listeners.  It ranked just slightly lower because it’s heavy Europe.  There is just a UK vibe that, as a true American (I suppose) turned me off.  This makes it sound like I didn’t like the record at all, which isn’t the case at all.  I felt very strongly toward the 12 songs I did like though, and there were plenty more offered on Strangeland.

11.  Eisley-The Valley

It’s difficult to believe that more then one person is singing.  The blending is impeccable.  I think the musicality, the beats especially, are improved from their last few albums.  If I had to describe what Eisley does to me when I listen to The Valley, it’s to tear delicately.  The lyrics and peaceful pitch gets inside my head and heart, and the emotion behind along with the instrumentation rips at my insides.  It’s a soft assault on my sensibilities.

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10.  Maroon 5-Overexposed

I have no idea what it is.  These guys are just different from everybody else.  I really can’t put my finger on what makes their music so outstanding.  They can say mean things in ways that get stuck in your head.  Their beat initiates dance moves unparalleled.  They are poppy, and seem uncategorizable (yeah, I make up words to suit my purposes) as anything else.  Yet, it isn’t mindless, bubble-gum dance pop that is fleeting and superficial.  A relative flurry of music in the last two years doesn’t hurt to keep them on the radar.  But it’s more than that, too.  I guess that’s what is so great about Overexposed–you don’t know what makes it shine, and why you can’t stop listening.  But you do.

9.  Trampled by Turtles-Stars & Satellites

Damn you Trampled by Turtles!  First off, they get marked down where no one else was even judged, for NOT having any merch featuring a group of turtles, or any turtle at all.  If an animal is in your band name you HAVE to have it on at least one piece of merchandise!  Rawr.  Anyway, the music–ugh, I wanted more fat-playing banjo and fiddle.  I wanted upbeat, dancing blue-grunge or whetever they call their hybrid bluegrass, country, rock, indy, folk music.  But Stars and Satellites was quiet and thoughtful.  Which is not bad.  Not at all.  Just not exactly what I wanted.  So even though I liked every single song, and found no problems (other than the afore-mentioned merch dearth) they are here.  Because the prior CD was better.  That’s all.

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8.  Lifehouse-Almeria

The same band, but just different enough to be totally new–that’s the beauty of Almeria.  I liked the bouncier, dancier songs, though they were still laid-back and chill as Lifehouse has ever been.  I liked this especially, because with such a dramatic change of style, it doesn’t seem forced or over-marketed.  I don’t see Lifehouse catering to record labels or commercial interests with this change.  It just feels like an establishment of maturity.  A great effort, and I can’t want for more.

7.  Ben Folds 5-The Sound of the Life On the Mind

Yay they’re back!  Ben Folds +/- Five is like a club.  You just have to know to understand.  And apparently, I hold membership, because I’m finding it difficult to explain this to outsiders:  It’s less piano (which I loved) but still awesome.  Though the songs on The Sound of the Life On the Mind (or something to that effect-damn, keep album titles short!) seem somehow more down-tempo they are still captivating.  And not really down-tempo.  I totally just said two opposing statements, but it makes sense if you compare the older stuff to this new release.  At any rate, I found seven really solid songs and can’t stop listening to them.  What else can you say, but listen?

6.  Matchbox Twenty-North

Another YAY, they’re back.  What’s the refrain–again with more feeling?  That’s how I felt with North.  It’s everything great about Matchbox 20, lyrically superior, emotion, singable, textured.  But with more feeling.  Every song resonated with me.  I left the CD wanting more.  That’s why they’re in this position.  Also, they don’t really transcend genres or have a purely original sound.  That’s not criticism, just when you have to rank the best albums of a year it comes down to the meticulous details to differentiate the top from the superior.  And these guys are comfortably at the top.

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5.  David Gray-Foundling

A surprise new favorite.  Like everybody else I had heard David Gray, liked some of the more popular songs, then regaled him to the background.  Between 2012 Draw the Line and Foundling, I found 20 songs that I could not tire of.  Yes, they are still good for the background, but the more I listened, the more I felt in tune with David’s unpretentious croonings.  A secret success, that’s already has a huge fan-base.  Add me.

4.  John Mayer-Born & Raised

Growth, so much growth can be ascertained from this album.  I’ve always liked John, but I found Born & Raised to be his best work yet.  It was just the right blend of emotional, country, soul-searching, and pop.  I liked nearly every song, and thought the effort raised above commercial marketing and genre alone.  He stood alone and was his own person, overcoming, sameness (cute guy + guitar) syndrome.  It feels like John grew up, and with that maturity found his real musical niche.

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3.  Adele-21

Oh the talent! I have nothing new to say, that hasn’t already been said or written throughout the year.  This gal is the real deal–no disputing that.  Belying her physical appearance, she can belt it out like a soul-queen.  Riveting and heart-felt, that’s how I would describe 21.  And the ONLY reason she doesn’t rate higher on my list, is she put the album out too early in the year.  Last January, and due to over-play, I’m somewhat over it.  As much as a person can be, anyway.  Not Adele’s fault, or by any lacking of the music quality at all either.  I’ve just had enough for now.  I see this album will be classic, and remain on best-off all-time lists.

2.  Brandi Carlile-Bear Creek

Believe you me–I wanted to pick Brandi’s CD as the top album of the year.  If only for cute-ness factor (Brandi’s not the album).  But there is that ONE song on Bear Creek that I alone just do not feel.  Everyone else likes it, but this is my list, and that song took the CD down a notch.  Anyway, Bear Creek is amazing.  I feel it transcends genres, is re-playable, goes with any activity or mood, and does well live. I also thing it will stand up to the test of time.

Brandi cute cowgirl

And–drumroll please–the number one album of 2012–as I see it:

1.  Mumford & Sons-Babel

Musically and lyrically.  Catchy with longevity.  Multiple listens in a variety of contexts.  I deem Babel the number one album of 2012, just because I was able to listen to it everywhere over and over without tiring of it.  Also, because I enthusiastically liked each song.  The ONLY downfall is Mumford & Sons don’t tour in the U.S. widely if at all.  I would happily take in a concert of theirs!

Tattoos Perform with the Seattle Symphony

25 Nov

Brandi Carlile returned to Benaroya Hall in Seattle to play with the Symphony.  And best of all, we splurged for (good) tickets!

It was nice being at a ritzier place then we can usually afford.  We got to wait inside a mezzanine  instead of outside in the cold, they let us in to the auditorium a tad bit early, no one pushed, screamed, or seemed drunk and obnoxious, and we had actual assigned seats.  All things I love.  I wish I could always have my musical concert experience sans annoyance!

I thought more people should have dressed formally.  This was a symphony show after all.

I was surprised that wine was not allowed inside the concert hall.  “Frasier” led me to believe wine was a staple at symphonies, operas, and ballets.

Though I clearly benefited from it, I was amazed no ushers were policing use of flash photography or video taping though both were explicitly prohibited.

How could I forgot this on my first draft:  Promptness.  I love it, and it was displayed.  Right at 8 PM, when my ticket stated doors open, someone announced Brandi and she (fastening her last shirt button) and the band ran out on stage.

Like the rest of her fans, I feel like I know Brandi Carlile personally because of the way she interacts with the crowd at concerts.  It feels like talking to a friend.

The Seattle crowd was much more mannered then Spokane, though you could tell they were still enjoying themselves.

The venue was obviously acoustically superior.  When Brandi and her band went unplugged it was crystal clear.

Brandi’s songs sound spectacular with orchestral accompaniment (no surprise here).

One of the best moments, in my opinion, was the transition from the little Pike Place buddies to the twins.  And both sounded amazing–in different ways.

I guess I’m the only one who doesn’t “get” Keep Your Heart Young.  It always seems to be a crowd favorite, and is a new staple.  I guess I just feel as if the song is a story, and I’ve already heard it.  I also guess I’m the only one who feels this way.

Like everybody else, I loved Brandi’s rendition of Jolene, though I think it’s funny she’s singing about, “Please don’t take my MAN,” as a lesbian and all.

OK, so not being from Seattle, or very old during the grunge era, I don’t think I fully appreciated when the Pearl Jam dude made a special appearance.  I gather from the crowd though, that this was a seriously special moment in music history.  I have to say, I think Tim Reynolds is a better player–maybe I’m just too far out of the loop.

It’s a small annoyance, but an irk all the same–these people had a standing ovation for every song toward the end.  And if I stayed sitting, all I could see were (fat) asses in front of me.  But if I stood, all I could see were heads and shoulders of the many rows in front of me.

I loved the show and had a wonderful time!

Of note, when that auditorium packed to the gills with fans exited the auditorium through the halls, it was as quiet as a library.  A very weird feeling, indeed.  And vastly different from Spokane.

Disappointingly enough, I (again) did not take the opportunity to meet Brandi after the show.  If there was an opportunity.  Cool had been crabby and tired throughout the show, I was tired and wanting to get the six hour drive (especially over the potentially snowy, foggy pass) over with, and I did not have anything to be signed.  Again.  And like always, I’m regretful about it now.  ONE day I will meet Brandi!  It’s a good excuse to attend many more shows–not that I need one 😉

And one more thought:  Why is nobody else talking about this?!  I have tirelessly combed the internet for news, reviews, or other blogs talking about Brandi’s trio of recent Seattle Symphony concerts only to see–nothing.  Except the one abbreviated article from Friday’s show.  For shame.  Get on it, people.  It was amazing–talk it up!

Bear Creek Reviewed

10 Jun

I really like the sound of this whole album.  It’s somehow. . .  different.  It feels like a good camping or hiking CD, and reminds me of those country/folk/oldies songs that my dad likes to sing aloud.  Yet it is still hip, and still very Brandi.  And though I didn’t absolutely LOVE every song on the CD (when does that happen anyway?  Rarely) I like Bear Creek as a whole.  I’ll go song by song, in order from my favorite to not-so-much:

That Wasn’t Me

One of my very favorite songs on the album–and in the top faves in her library.  When it was released prior to the rest of the CD, I listened a million times.  That said, I thought it was the one song that didn’t cohesively FIT with the rest of the tracks on the CD.  So I didn’t include it in faves for Bear Creek, looking at it as more of a single.  It has a different feeling and a sound unique to the rest.  I wonder why this was the single that was pre-released. . .  Just because I don’t feel it is a good representation of Bear Creek.  At any rate, no complaints about the song–I like the premise behind it and it’s beautifully sung/played.

Rise Again

I thought this was the definite standout track on Bear Creek.  And maybe I’m alone here, but it took a ridiculous amount of listens (5-6?) to figure out what lyrics she was singing–though I could tell immediately the words were sung with great passion.  I was struck right away with how much feeling emoted from this song.

Hard Way Home

This song kinda snuck by me upon my first few listens.  I guess all lyrically superior tunes are like that.  Lines like, “I just count the rain,” and the metaphor liking herself to the engine wishing for someone to be her wheel, well, how great is that?  It’s my second fave track on the album, and the one I think SHOULD have been released as the first single as best representation of Bear Creek.  It’s got the folksy-country thing goin’ on, the clapping, harmonies, a story, and heartfelt singing.  I especially like when the first stanza is reiterated in a syncopated way toward the end.  My 2nd favorite track because of the getting better the more you listen factor.

Raise Hell

Very Reminiscent of Johnny Cash–in a good way.  Sort of talking more than singing just as he does.  Except she really belts out the chorus.  This one is excellent because it’s feisty, it’s catchy, and it’s a good sing aloud.  Toward the top of my fave Bear Creek and Brandi songs.  I love the guitar when she starts to sign “turn me head. . .”  I’ll be belting this one out with Brandi when I attend one of her concerts.

A Promise to Keep

The harmony with the twins is astounding.  The Indigo Girls would be proud–I’m sure they ARE!  This one had gospel undertones that I like listening to, and reminds me of Appalachia for whatever reason.  It ties with the next listed track for 4th best.

What Did I Ever Come Here For

This song could speak to anybody.  It ties for fourth fave because it makes me think of some time or other in my own life each time I play it.  It’s about love.  It’s about rejection.  It’s about regret.  Every lesbian person could understand where Brandi is coming from in this track.  It’s something everyone has gone through.

I’ll Still be Here

The “. . .  if it all disappears. . .”  moves me.  It is probably awesome to see Brandi sing that “all” in concert–it’s really belted out.  It falls 5th, because of the passionate “all.”

Save Part of Yourself

This song is kind of neutral to me–it contributes well to the rest of the album, but I’m not certain it’s strong enough to stand alone.  The clapping, the woo, woo, woos, the sort of acoustic feel.  It’s like Brandi’s staple songs but in a style to fit the rest of the Bear Creek.  This track wasn’t an instant hit with me, but it’s growing on me as I listen.

100

Where are we on my favorites?  7th?  This song could easily be on one of Brandi’s earlier records.  It talks of dreams, and has a love-disappointment-aging sort of theme like a lot of her songs do.  Instrumentally, it is one of the weaker songs on the record.  Maybe a live jam-out session with the band would make it pop.  Lyrically, I like it though.

In the Morrow

This song is at a disadvantage.  It’s kind of a let down because it follows the power of “Rise Again.”  I think I would like this one more if it were earlier in the line-up.  Do I hear some kind of bango or mandolin or something?  I like that.  And I enjoy the combined singing in the chorus, and the hopefulness of the track.  But it’s just not as good as “Rise Again,” so it’s sort of a let down each time it follows. . .

Heart’s Content

With the sweet piano backing and the lilt in Brandi’s voice, this one reminds me of Doris Day.  Especially with the double-sing (is that a thing?) or Brandi harmonizing with herself, it is like a 1950s sweetly sung song.  It’s toward the bottom of the list only because it’s not very deep, emotional, or controversial–which also fits with the Doris Day thing she’s got going on.  And I just KNOW she wrote this to sing at symphony halls with that cello featured.  Can’t wait to hear it with The Seattle Symphony!

Keep Your Heart Young

Ok, Ok I really WANT to like this song.  This is the “new song” she played at the half of the concert we went to.  So it has sentimental value to me.  It’s in a story-telling style like your folkey-country songs, and I like those (I’m thinking “Big John” right now).  The message is to appreciate what you have and keep your innocence as long as possible, which I’m all-about.  The harmony vocals are nice.  Trouble is, I got tired of it really fast.  I blame it on the story–I felt like it was a childhood storybook that I re-read 6 times in a day, and could repeat without looking at the words.

Just Kids

Last place–but it doesn’t mean I HATE it.  I found the intro too long and quiet.  I’m sure it will be better with the orchestra playing it.  And the singing was too. . . breezy/dreamy.   I just wasn’t feeling it that much–I’ll bet there are a lot of people that dig this though.  I just wanted it to be. . .  Catchier?  Something. . .  It seemed tediously long every time it played.

So the recap?  I have been wearing out my Spotify by listening to Bear Creek.  A good musical effort, with very few complaints or criticisms from me.  Now, if Brandi Carlile will only come in my vicinity (a day before a day off work/school, please and thank you) to promote it–I’m there!!!

My Interpretation of “Yoke”

15 Mar

refer to the last entry for a line by line analysis of Amy Ray’s lyrics.

Amy Ray is addressing someone deceitful and closed off.  I think the someone represents all of us listeners’ dark, non-caring side.  She mentions a “she” that (I think) could be interpreted a couple of ways (or even both ways).  The “she” is nature/environment/Earth/all living creatures or the “she” could be a loving, yet naive woman in a relationship.

The main message of the song is even though it isn’t in our past history, and it may be difficult for our psyche, people need to work together, be open, and loving or “she” will be destroyed.  Depending on the listener, the “she” is different and so are the implications.  If “she” is the environment, being bad and taking advantage of her will result in Earth’s destruction and the ultimate annihilation of humankind as well.  If the person listening to the songs thinks of “she” as a woman in a relationship, trying to play upon her helplessness in order to control her will result in eventual loneliness.

Amy is telling us we are here to figure out how to overcome our greed and deceptive core to appreciate what we have, treat the “she” in our lives with openness and honesty, and return her love.  If we succeed in working together, loving one-another without manipulation and not as a means of controlling another; and if we love the beauty of the animal kingdom and land, instead of over-hunting and over-consuming them–we will reach a higher plane.

In short, the song sounds so forlorn because Amy is asking all of us to stop carelessly and thoughtlessly grasping everything of our hearts desire.  She is saying going after everything we want has consequences for loving relationships and at a higher level, our planet.  She is imploring us to yoke together like oxen in a herd of hope and hold tightly (with grubby hands) to what we already have.