Tag Archives: the fray

Best Music of 2014 [I Ran Out of Time]

2 Jan

This is supposed to be a post about my top 10 newly released albums of 2014.  As you know, I still haven’t posted 2013’s because I ran out of time then too.  Maybe I’ll just post the unfinished version since I’m now 2 years behind on it.  But this year I was not about to (totally) fail again!  So I just wrote a little blurb about each artist that ended up on my somewhat-narrowed list from throughout the year.  It’s not a true top 10, but gives you an idea of the ones that I found good enough to make my list.  The number of songs are the actual songs that made my list’s cut.  And number of songs I liked is an indication of how well I liked the 2014 album, but isn’t always indicative of a true spot on the list–some artists just had longer or shorter CDs.  So there you have it–and I hope you have the stamina to read this all the way through!

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Imogen Heap (21 songs) had a long album, but the instrumental music was interesting.  I like things I can study to, or work without distraction to, and this fit the bill nicely.  It’s not my absolute favorite of the year, but it gets the job done.

Phillip Phillips (12 songs) was one of my favorite albums of 2014.  He has the characteristic foot-stomping sound and who wouldn’t like that?  “Thicket” had a nice instrumental background that added layers to the sound.  Aside from depth, it made the whole effort seem less poppy and more substantial.  I wish Behind the Light was more lyrically complex and less repetitive though.  I’d like more depth throughout the next record.

Mariah Carey (10 songs) has always been a favorite of mine–that gal can really belt it out!  And I can always FEEL what she’s singing about.  The long-title of the album sucks, but the songs are solid, featuring her characteristic range and emotion.

OK Go (10 songs) is in a top spot, but there are less favorite songs only because their album was shorter.  I think they’ve grown musically, and become less poppy (not that it was ever a bad thing for them).  Hungry Ghosts is still as catchy as ever, but their is an added layer of seriousness to them.

James Vincent McMorrow (10 songs) was a fortunate find.  The music is mellow like Bon Iver and just as easy to listen/study to.  Though the songs aren’t heavy, they bare no less weight.

Boys II Men (9 songs) are back!  I can truthfully say I enjoyed Collide as a present day effort–not just a retro throw back to my middle school years.  It even surpassed some of my staple-bands in 2014.  They have nice harmonies and developed a lot of emotion throughout the album.  “So What” was a soulful ballad of longing that moved me.  “Talkin Under Water” was another standout song.

Eric Clapton (9 songs) obviously knows how to make a successful record.  And Eric Clapton & Friends is no exception.  It has blues, rock, and country and features a smattering of other greats.  I especially liked the old-country “I’ll Be There.”

Jason Mraz (9 songs) is a sentimental favorite of mine since he was my very first concert.  YES! is quieter then his usual pop, and I can’t imagine what the single must have been because it lacks that one super-catchy tune.  I liked the more emotive depth and think it shows maturity.  It’s more serious, but I think with a few listens, all the songs would become favorites.

Spoon (9 songs).  I have always liked Spoon, and this album did not disappoint.  It’s relatively harder then their last effort, which was great to study to.  This one seemed to speak a little louder, but I could still concentrate on other things as I listened.  And instead of only one catchy song, there were a few on They Want My Soul.

Sarah McLachlan (9 songs) was much of the same.  Which is good, but sort of blah too.  I’ve always liked her low-key, feminine sound, but I wish she would take some more risks in her career.  “Monsters” did speak to me, and was my 2nd favorite track on Shine On.  The closer, “In Your Shoes” was my very favorite, because it had a very positive, and uplifting message behind a singable melody.

Lilly Allen (9 songs) has a smattering of different sounding sounds–which I liked.  “Hard Out Here” a feminist anthem, especially resonated with me.  And her cover of “Somewhere Only We Know” surprisingly–hit the mark.

Colbie Caillat (8 songs) put out one of my favorite 2014 albums, Gypsy Heart.  It was sassy/feisty, it was sweet, it was uplifting.  I thought it had good voice throughout the duration, and you know how I like the more bitter samplings, which were provided also.

The Script (8 songs) was never really on my radar before.  I only listened to No Sound Without Silence out of obligation because I recognized their name.  Surprisingly, it was of my favorite offerings of the year.  There was a wide vareity of sounds, from soft, to rocking, to an Irish-sounding fight/drinking-style song (“Paint the Town Green”).

Little Big Town (8 songs) is an eighties band, right?  I recognized the name, but not the sound.  I like the country-pop, the harmonies, and especially–the cheekiness.

Weezer (8 songs) has to be listened to as a collection.  The songs do best as an album unit, not really singing (pun) individually.  It’s a relaxed album, but also has punchy spots like “Cleopatra’s” number shouting segment.  Weezer is always catchy, but I like the range and harmonies highlighted here.  PS–I just love the cover art.

The Kooks (8 songs) are, I swear, a band on my “Feeling Groovy” CD of 1960s hits.  Is that accurate or is this a different band?  It reminds me of hipster music, actually.  Something I might hear at SXSW.  It’s got a quiet, cool, vibe so it’s good.

Jason Derulo (7 songs) had one of my favorite 2014 albums with Talk Dirty.  He jumped from the romantic “Will You Marry Me” to sexy club sex-staple “With the Lights On” flawlessly.  And “The Other Side” proves Jason can sing!  I love the high-notes and think it makes for a perfect single.  I like when an artist can display this range.

Maroon 5 (7 songs) was a long-awaited release for me.  But it spoke to me less then their past efforts.  Maybe it was the hype that let me down.  It was good, don’t get me wrong, I just thought it would be in the top two for the year.  “In Your Pocket” was a standout musically.  It’s the type of song that will get stuck in your head, and it showcases their vocal range and layers.  Unfortunately, I think the concept/lyrics are stupid.  Cheater, show me your phone?  Is this a thing now?  It may be because I’m anti-phone, but this seems random and lame.  “Sex and Candy” was successful–I like the Marcy Playground version more, but this slow, smoldering version was nice in a different way.

Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks (7 songs), aside from having an obnoxiously long name was a decent listen.  Though they sound very much like Ben Kweller to me.

Tim McGraw’s (7 songs) album started out quiet and I was disappointed he got a little old a tired.  BUT about halfway through the songs gained speed, and he cemented his place as one of the top country artists of today.  Anthems, love, drinking, and sing-alongs are all represented here.

Green Day (7 songs) probably should have ranked higher in my list.  I have very high expectations, because Dookie was amongst my first 12 CDs ever (BMG Music Club) and “Basket Case” is one of my all time favorite songs of ever.  So having said that, Demolicious was good.  And a good concept for between new release albums–just not enough.

Counting Crows (7 songs) talks through the songs too much, which is, apparently, a major pet-peeve for me.  I did like the songs though they were much like they always are.  I’d like to hear something refreshing, while still keeping to their roots.  “Scarecrow” was my favorite on Somewhere Under Wonderland.

I liked Train’s (7 songs) last album better.  It was catchy and had a couple stand-out songs.  This one has a sense of desperation and sadness to it.  Also, I feel like they tried to include a peppy/catchy song, but “Just a Memory” and “Angel in Blue Jeans” just comes across as poor renditions of “Drive By” sometimes crossed with “Somebody I Used to Know.”  I mean, it’s good, but it’s not really a happy sound–or original.

Enrique Iglesias (7 songs) had a star with “Heart Attack.”  I usually don’t like spanish-language albums, because I don’t know what they’re saying and lyrics are the major reason I love most music.  But his primarily spanish, SEX AND LOVE (are these all-caps Spotify, or a thing?) had a lot of longing behind the mystery lyrics, and as I said, the stand out song made this a keeper.

Lenny Kravitz (7 songs) has a solid 2014 contribution, but no song became my favorite.  I really liked his 2006? CD, so every following album seems a disappointment by comparison.  Strut was fine though, and it lacked nothing that I can put my finger on. . .

John Butler Trio (6 songs) transcends genres and I love that!  Blues, calypso, etc. . .  I liked the variety on Flesh & Blood best of all.  I also liked the low-key singing and the background music.

Lady Antebellum (6 songs) is so fun!  I love to listen to them, whether it’s when I’m chilling, in the car, or running.  And I liked 747 so much I consider it in my top 3 (probably, and we’ll see).

Weird All Yankovic (6 songs) is played out.  But is he?  Judge as you will, but I like him and think he’s clever.  I also like Vitamin String Orchestra, if that puts my mentality in perspective.  I saw a biography talking about how hard he works to find the perfect word replacements, and I respect that.  And yes, he’s not technically conceptualizing songs or writing music, but his job is not EASY.  I give him props for coming up with a fresh new spin on the Top-40 songs for decades.

Kristen Chenowetch (6 songs) sings some sort of show-tunes or opera–I’m not sure how you categorize it.  Anyway, it goes in my top selections, for sure.  I heard pure talent. . .  Once my initial shock and trepidation wore off.  I’m glad I listened through the whole album, instead of turning it off for genre-aversion reasons.  Small gal, BIG voice, and big talent.  Color me impressed.  If nothing else, check out, “Popular” which features multiple languages and humor.

Karmen (6 songs) seems like an anomaly to me–the style of music sounds immature.  Not as in novice, or bad–just like Ke$ha–like low maturity members.  But the beats are slammin’, the rapping impressive, and melodies stay with you.  Nothing immature about the production value of this album.

Melissa Etheridge (6 songs) obviously has to be mentioned for This is M.E..  I felt like she was past her prime and trying a little too hard.  The songs seemed contrived and formulaic.  An example, “A Little Bit of Me” with it’s sappy lyrics and na-na-nas had no edge at all–it was Disney, for lack of better word.  Still, after such a long career, the artist didn’t have a total miss.  Songs like “Ain’t that Bad” redeemed the 2014 effort with a raucous rock about lesbianic drama.  And “A Little Hard-Hearted” a lament about love-long-gone with meaningful lyrics spoke to me.  P.S.  Melissa SING, don’t talk through your tracks.

Timber Timber (6 songs) is kinda weird and discordant.  But I can get onto it.  It reminds me of listening to a Donnie Darko sort of thing.

Ray LaMotagne (6 songs) wasn’t as good without Brandi Carlile’s featured vocals, but it was an easy listen all the same.  I like the low key vibe–pre the usual.

Fray (5 songs) is a band I expect a lot from, and I was a little disappointed until the closer, “Love Don’t Die.”  The prior songs were fine, they were good–but not like before.  But the last song was so great it mostly made up for the lack of stand outs.

Shakira (5 songs) has that disgruntled ex-girlfriend vibe on her self-titled album.  In a dancable way–of course.  I especially liked “You Don’t Care About Me.”  Obviously, it’s one of my favorite releases of 2014.

Blake Shelton (5 songs) makes me feel like I’m at the only tavern in town.  “Neon Lights,” especially, made me reminisce about my small-town upbringing.  Bringing Back the Sunshine as a whole was that way–I had fun imagining myself in the middle of nowhere listening to some real country.

Likin Park (lost count) had a cool concept.  I thought it was neat that they released vocal tracks and instrumental background tracks in addition to the full songs.  Though, because the band has been one of my staples for a long time now, I didn’t really feel this album was up to par.  I couldn’t pick out a song that spoke to me as I usually can, let alone multiple songs. . .

311 (5 songs) is good syncopated, robot rock.  I like the slightly less edgy sound of Stereolithic.  Though it has wisps of POD, I think this band found some maturity, while still staying true to their main thing.

Bush (5 songs) always has their own distinct sound which is true of Man on the Run.  I like the rock, like the beat, and feel the industrial vibe they convey.  It’s not Razorblade Suitcase quality, but it’s not a loser either.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (5 songs) are a staple–obviously.  They’re also older, and settled into their careers, not necessarily striving to produce the most popular album of the year.  Still, they took risks with “Hypnotic Eye” and had a more bluesy sound that was interesting.

Johnny Cash (5 songs) posthumus album brought mixed feelings.  Was it released for the money or because the songs are too strong to remain unheard?  Unfortunately my opinion leans toward the former.  Though I did like the more country feel, and especially liked the actual singing, rather then talking through songs.  At least check out “She Used to Love Me a Lot” as I think it’s the best of the bunch.

Lana Del Ray (5 songs) sings. . .  Pouty music.  Is that a thing?  I feel it’s an accurate description for the dreamy, waif, sound she brings to the table.  I do like it because it’s easy on the ears and I always like anything that I can play while studying.

Beck (5 songs) was not an album I’d call a star–it was mostly just innocuous.  I feel like in the past, Beck shared his point of view, but these songs were quiet and a little meh. . .

Nick Jonas (4 songs) had many things going for him:  Catchy, singable, dancey, and that bitterness I like so well.  His self-titled album is at the top of my list for 2014 efforts, even though I only love-loved 4 of the songs.  Those few were so good, that the album rose above some other artists.

Mary J. Blige (4 songs) sang the songs of a spurned lover on Think Like a Man Too soundtrack.  Though this is her go-to genre–the brokenhearted, bitter ex–she is awesome at it.  And this is probably my favorite type of music just because the lyrics are meaningful and it evokes so much emotion.  Someone dispassionate or out to make a buck just can’t pull it off, so I liked this 2014 offering.

Christina Perri (4 songs) is one of THE best singers out there, but head or heart got a very slow start.  She didn’t show her chops until “i don’t wanna break” and into “Only Human.”  When she does her stuff, though, she does it well.  “be my forever” is another favorite song in the bunch, and one that will stay with you awhile.  PS–I’m not a fan of lowercase titles, just so you know lack of grammar doesn’t make you cool or give you edge–it just makes you look ignorant.  Speak English, not text–rant over.  And excuse any of my own spelling errors in this entire post-ha!

Jennifer Lopez (4 songs) has a very different, more mature, sound in all but “AKA.”  I like it a little better, actually, then the club and R&B/Rap pop stuff she used to do.  She shows amazing vocal range as well as heart, in “Let it be Me” and “Never Satisfied” is a pretty little song.  I like J-Lo 2.0.

The Doobie Brothers (4 songs) are legend.  But I thought Southbound was some sort of re-release because I already knew the songs.  After further investigation, I realized each song featured a current artist.  And it did breathe new life into old staples.  Good concept, good way to re-enter the spotlight.

Santana (4 songs) is a lot like DMB in that you can’t be a partial-fan.  You have to listen closely for subtleties in the music to appreciate it.  As a partial-fan, the album begins to blend together for me.  I can tell Santana knows what he is doing on that guitar.  And I like all the featured artists.

Annie Lennox (4 songs) had a good concept for Nostalgia.  And it’s a good way to get back out there, put out a new record, without all the hassle of conceptualizing and writing your own new material–despite sounding sarcastic, or snarky–I don’t mean it that way.  I feel she gave respect to the songs, and put her own bluesy stamp on each of them.  She especially gave a respectful and haunting version of “Strange Fruit” which is a brave thing for a white person to sing.

Nickelback (4 songs) found some maturity.  I especially like the uplifting vibe of “What are You Waiting for?”  They’ve all but abandoned their objectification of women and sexualized hard-rock for a still-rocking sound.

Better Than Ezra (4 songs) reminds me of the Blacked Eyed Peas combined with. . .  Something less dancy and lower key.  I could get on to this.  I felt like “Dollar Sign” was a nice message about appreciating the important things-not just being capitalistic.  I like the sentiment.

Cold War Kids (4 songs) are a little too. . .  Whiny.  Maybe that’s the word I’m going for here.  They have this pleading sound that’s a bit dramatic and off-putting, but I like the TYPE of music they do.

Foo Fighters (4 songs) were also among the artists who grew up in 2014.  They still rock, but it’s a little LESS hard–soft is not accurate.  I didn’t fall in love with any particular song though, so they’re toward the bottom of this list.

Hard Working Americans (4 songs) has a gravelly voice and feeling in their album.  It was similar to John Mellencamp–but with actual singing.  The idea of blue-collar rock music is a good one–especially when the vocals are executed properly.

Kenny Chesney (4 songs) is not someone I usually listen to.  “Rock Bottom” and “American Kids” are both really catchy and I liked the easy-listen.

Joan Osborne (4 songs) is still around–I’ll bet you didn’t realize that.  She had more of a beat and a jazzy feel then her “God is One of Us” days, and it works for her.  I always picture a Southern jazzy club when I listen as it’s smoky and bluesy in a folksy way.

Tori Amos (4 songs) is more of the same.  I like piano, but I’m never super-excited to listen to her.  And I’m not sure why, because she’s a feminist, she sings with heart and a message.  But it’s a little show-tunes, for me and sometimes comes across. . .  whiny.  I did like “Wild Ways” pretty well though.

Coldplay (4 songs) kind of pissed me off last year.  For the longest time ever, they refused to put their music on Spotify.  Which is super-lame, because the ads mean the artists get their money.  So I saw that as greedy-greedy and pointless.  Because they are RICH mo-fos.  But once I was able to hear the songs, I thought they were less than par with previous efforts.  So I’m not sure what all the secrecy was about.  Call me unimpressed.

Bruce Springstein (4 songs) is not a good singer.  But it’s not always just about vocal prowess.  I like the community feelings invoked throughout High Hopes.

Kid Ink (3 songs) “Hello” is amazing.  I had to mention this album for primarily that song, but I did like 2 more as well.

Lee Brice (3 songs) is a good-time good ‘ol country boy.  I like his softer country, especially his blue collar anthem, “Drinking Class.”

Ariana Grande (3 songs) sounds a lot like J-Lo–at least her voice does–to me.  I love an empowered, bitter rant song and “Problem” perfectly fits that bill.  Watch this gal!

Against Me! (3 songs) can be described in 2 words:  Cheeky and honest.  I liked the direction of Transgender Dysphoria Blues, and everything the title and the front artist stand for.  I think this album would be a bit stronger if a few earnest, slow songs were mixed in with the angry punk-rock vibe.

Pixies (3 songs) are new to me.  I thought they were a neo-punk band, but it’s more like The Foo Fighters after a hangover.  It’s rocking, but not with the strength behind it–a little toned down.

Manchester Orchestra (3 songs) was, as far as I knew, a Christmas thing.  But “HOPE” is not x-mas, it features nice harmonies and a quiet simmer of songs.  It’s a little bleak, but substantial all the same.

50 Cent (3 songs) primarily made my list for. . .  The cover art.  I know, I know, but it’s a pretty awesome-looking lion.  I also like the sentiment, toughness, and growl in “Animal Ambition,” the title track.

Toni Braxton (2 songs) is back!  Sort of.  You know how I love a bitter anthem, and she provides a good one with “I Wish.”  In it, she says what every ex thinks–and it’s a little bit of awesome.

The Vamps (2 songs) have a couple of stand out songs.  “Wild Heart” is a foot-stomping anthem of sorts.

Ryan Adams (2 songs) is a little depressing to listen to.  I’m not sure if that’s the intention or not.  I did like “Stay With Me,” so I thought this self-titled album deserved mention.

Pharrell Willimas (1 song) had a good album, but got edged out of the top 10 by the strong competition.  The standout, “Happy” is a catchy, danceable song with a positive message that I think deserves mention.

Young the Giant (1 really good, and all listenable songs) sounds (to me) like a cross between Arcade Fire and Keane. It’s chill enough to study to and a nice listen. It just isn’t assertive enough of a sound to be a contender for the top spots. They need to find their voice, and it needs to say more.

Mya (1 song) spoke to me on the album, I felt “meh” about the rest.  But “M-O-N-E-Y” is worth mention (pun!).

The Black Keys (1 song) had a superb last album, but Turn Blue was a disappointment.  Only one song, maybe two even made my list, and not because they were super-outstanding.

President’s of the USA (1 song) seems played out to me.  Maybe I’m past their target audience?  I only partially liked “Electric Spider” but found the rest of the album silly and tiresome.

Honorable mention:  The Flaming Lips.  The concept–a re-do of the Beatles–is outstanding!  I really love the idea.  Trouble is, With a Little Help from My Friends is largely unlistenable.  It’s hard to take a psychedelic, out-of-the-box hit like Sgt Pepper. . .  to a crazier state without crossing the line.  And cross the line, the Flaming Lips did.  I wanted to love it, but it’s just too much.  I love their bravery and their creativity though.

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.

IMG_20120901_173242

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.

NV Feb 2010 241

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.

turtle line 2

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.

N. lights 10

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.

fireworks 13

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!

The Basics-Music I Love. . . And Don’t.

9 Jun

My favorite and least favorite music:

01. Your favorite song (post an mp3 if you can!)

-Pacabel Canon in D, played on electric violin

02. Your least favorite song

Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata”

-Anna’s Little Learners played this song EVERY day at nap time.

03. Your favorite artist/band

The Fray

04. Your least favorite artist/band

-There are two:

-a band that never sings and thinks they’re so clever. . .

-Cake

-and harsh, screaming that can’t really pass for singing:

-Godsmack

05. Favorite song lyrics

-“Anything but Down” by Sheryl Crow

I light your cigarettes, I bring you apples from the vine, How quickly you forget, I run the bath and pour the wine, I bring you everything that floats into your mind

But you don’t bring me anything but down, You don’t bring me anything but down, You don’t bring me anything but down, When you come ’round

You are a raging sea, I pull myself out everyday, I plea insanity, Cause I can’t leave but I can’t stay, You say, won’t you come find me and yes is what I say

You don’t bring me anything but down, You don’t bring me anything but down, Everything is crashing to the ground

Maybe I’m not your perfect kind, Maybe I’m not what you had in mind, Maybe we’re just killing time

You with your silky words, And your eyes of green and blue, You with your steel beliefs, That don’t match anything you do, It was so much easier before you became you

You don’t bring me anything but down, You don’t bring me anything but down, Everything just crashes to the ground, When you come around, When you come around

No more playing seek and hide, No more long and wasted nights, Can’t you make it easy on yourself

I know you wish you were strong, You wish you were never wrong, Well, I got some wishes of my own

06. Your top played song on iTunes/your music player

“So What,” Pink

07. Your top most played artist on iTunes/music player

Indigo Girls

-DUH-