Thursday, November 14, 2013

A SoS update

"album cover" pose before rocking out to Taking Back Sunday
 June 10. That was the last time I posted in this blog. I promised myself I was going to do better with writing. And even though there is a lack of it going on here, I have actually done well with that promise.

A few weeks after that post, I answered a tweet about contributing to an online magazine named CONFRONT. The funny thing about a guy typing those words from Alabama is that the magazine is based out of Montreal. Yeah, in Canada.

Shortly after the initial correspondence I was accepted and named a contributor. And since then I have posted quite a bit to the site in the form of music news, album reviews, a couple show reviews and a few interviews.

This blog will probably be updated with my top 25 songs of the year and possibly end of the year awards. A tradition in my writing - a most anticipated list with my friend Mike - will hopefully make a return but in possible plans it may show up in audio form.

Below are a few highlights from my short time there. Click if you would like to see what I've been up to.

An interview with Brad Shultz of Cage the Elephant (I'm most proud of that one)

A look at the music of Lorde

A review of a Taking Back Sunday show

A review of the newest album from The Swellers (in which I compare it to the Fast and Furious franchise)

A look at the music of Avicii

A look at "Vessel" by Twenty One Pilots (one of my favorite albums this year)

Monday, June 10, 2013

An Interview with New Politics (plus album review)

New Politics: Louis Vecchio, Soren Hansen, David Boyd)
(photo courtesy of RCA records)

I’ve been a fan of New Politics since the fall of 2010 when I was able to catch them on tour as the opener for Neon Trees. They had just released their debut self-titled album and the lead single “Yeah Yeah Yeah” was featured on alternative stations and video game soundtracks. The band stole the show that night and continued to gain more fans as opening acts for other artists and on the festival circuit.

Fast forward three years and it’s a bit of deja vu. In March, I was able to catch them once again as an opening act for Twenty One Pilots on an MTV “Artist to Watch” tour and, once again, the band stole the show. “Harlem,” the lead single from “A Bad Girl in Harlem,” was on the charts and making appearances in commercials. That show came two months before “A Bad Girl in Harlem” was to be released and when they were announced as an opener for certain dates on Fall Out Boy’s “Save Rock and Roll” Tour, I successfully attempted to arrange a sit-down with the band before the show to talk about the new album.

A fan's crowd shot from The Tabernacle in Atlanta
(photo courtesy of
Later in the night, the band would take the stage to warm up the crowd before Fall Out Boy tore the roof off. And as an opener, the band exceeded what was asked of them. That feeling was in the air again - the band had won over new fans who would go back and tell everybody else about what a great live act New Politics is - from breakdancing in the middle of the set to standing ON the crowd to getting everybody involved. I would highly recommend checking them out if you get the chance.

Below is a review of the newest album before going into a chat with the trio.

New Politics - A Bad Girl in Harlem (3.5 stars)

New Politics’ self-titled debut was a solid 3 star album and a perfect debut from the (at that time) full Denmark trio. David Boyd, Soren Hansen and Poul Amaliel made up an energetic band with energetic anthems such as “Yeah Yeah Yeah” and “Dignity.” The in-your-face feel barely slowed on the album and it was as great as it was raw.

A Bad Girl in Harlem was the band’s polished and refined follow up, with radio-ready singles (“Harlem”) and even re-edited songs (“Give Me Hope”). It’s the first release with Long Island drummer Louis Vecchio and it’s apparent the unit is acting as a whole on the ten-track effort.

In a bit of a double-edged sword, the album’s weakness is also a surge of personal strength. Unlike the self-titled debut, there are ballads (“Stuck on You”) and optimistic uplifters (“Overcome”). While the songs are good in their own right, and showcase the band's range, they do sap the energy found in the debut and it takes a bit away from the follow up.

The band at their absolute best is “Just Like Me,” a roaring track that never lets up from the initial press of play. But songs like “Tonight You’re Perfect” and “Berlin” show a band that’s ready to not only play loud and fast, but can write good songs that are ready to be heard by, and played for, many.

A Bad Girl in Harlem shows the progression of New Politics as a ride that’s going to go fast and slow, but will have a lot of twists and turns that keeps things exciting.

New Politics - The Interview 
(photo courtesy of
Q: How was the approach to writing the album different this time around?

Soren: Very different approach. It’s so easy to build walls around who you are as a band and we definitely had done that. It’s funny how you can think it’s so far away (from the first album), but it’s not. It’s us playing, it’s us recording, it’s us writing the songs. The main thing about this album... we wanted to write good songs and wanted to be really honest. David always says this and I think it’s a good point - the first album was a different time for us. We never really thought about all these things that happened since we moved to America.

Q: Did living in America play into the approach?

David: Absolutely. You’re equally inspired and influenced by your surrounding. It also has a lot to do with what you’re going through as an individual. That reflection of that emotion that goes out and then gets returned.

Louis: Like getting denied by all the American girls.

David: Or not (laughs).

Q: Talking about your surroundings, is that where the album title came from?

David: I think so. But at the same time a lot of it’s not thought out. It kind of just goes the way it goes and it becomes what it becomes. I don’t know if we’re 100% aware of what we’re doing when we’re doing it. It makes sense maybe after, once it’s done. But when we’re putting those pieces of the puzzle together you can’t see the whole picture until it’s done.

Soren: Do you know that feeling when you’re doing something and you know you have your hands on something real and it’s honest? We wrote so many songs that we could handpick only honest songs. If you try to write something and you’re head is in that process, you can be 100% sure that it’s not going to work. If you do it just honest and naive … then the song will write itself.

David: That was the first barrier we had to break when we started writing. How do we get away from our nest? You know, we wanted to recapture that feeling - making an honest song that you want to play for others. That reflects something that you’re proud of. We had that feeling when we made the first album. So we’re trying to capture that feeling again.

Q: Is that why you guys tackled the ballad (“Stuck on You”)?

Soren: We needed to be pushed to write this album. We sent that song to our management and thought “There’s no way we’re going to be able to do this” and they called five minutes after and were like “Are you ---- serious? That might be the next single for you guys.” And it’s so weird - creativity is something you can’t put your finger on what it is but you just know when it’s right.

David: From the first album to the second album, there is that difference. But I think it also had to do with us really pushing each other. We also have to develop and show new sides of us and go into different areas with our music. I think that’s very important for any artist.

Q: Do those songs give you a chance to slow down on stage? Because I’ve seen you twice and you are all over the place.

David: (laughs) I think they do.

Soren: I think that when you suddenly have two albums and when we have a chance to sit down and make a proper headlining set - which I can’t wait for - I think it’s going to be extremely awesome to make a set that is based on that production of us having a lot of choices instead of just going “1 2 3 4 AAHHH” and then we get off stage. Because we always do that - it’s our nature to do that. But it’s also going to be cool to show more sides. Because you limit yourself if you don’t allow other sources of creativity to be a part of your act.

David: But we spoke about that the other day. The more that we’re developing, we also have to develop the show as well and learn to use that energy in a different way. There’s only so many times we can throw a guitar in the air or stand on our heads, you know what I mean?

Soren: Here's a fun note that may answer some questions: on the first album, that was my first time ever playing guitar. I’m actually a piano player. So to be able use my main instrument on stage would also be really cool. That’s definitely going to happen. It would even be fun to do some piano stuff with songs from the first album.

Q: What made you guys want to re-edit “Give Me Hope?” 

Louis: That’s actually a funny story because “Give Me Hope” was before I was in the band but I know that what you’re hearing now is actually the way it was written before.

Soren: It just became more of a punky song on the first album because that suited that album a little better. But we always loved this version. It was just cool to give it another chance.

David: It’s also very relevant to today’s music and what’s happening with the scene. It’s done, it’s there - why not put it on and give it another chance.

Q: Any highlights from touring the states the past few years?

David: The thing that I find very interesting is the reality of moving from Denmark to here - when it all happened in Denmark it happened so quick. Going through what we went through in the past few years was so insane. We’ve played hundreds of concerts and we’ve toured America and really grown attached to it in a way.

Soren: Absolutely the most insane thing any of us have tried. This is a dream. It’s such an honor that we are able to live in America. It’s something that we always wanted to do. Our fan base is absolutely wonderful. We have so much positivity. It’s just the best thing that’s happened to any of us.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Review: Tegan and Sara - "Heartthrob"

In late January, Canadian sister-duo Tegan and Sara released their seventh studio album, Heartthrob. Below are the quick details.

Rating: 5 stars

Why: When you have multiple studio albums to your credit, the question inevitably will come as to whether or not to tweak your sound. To the sisters' credit, that's exactly what they did with Heartthrob. There hasn't been an album that has come around in a long while that sounds nothing like an artist's previous releases, while also keeping their same mentality. Acoustic tracks are nowhere to be found here while EDM backdrops and 80s influences are heard mostly everywhere. It was a daring move - but it paid off. It was a refresher for the band, but at the same time showed how talented they are. Make no mistake, this is one of the most upbeat releases you will hear this year and could challenge pop radio for air time. But what makes it stand out is that it is also deceptively dark. While there are moments of intense passion ("Closer") there are also moments of pure heartache ("Now I'm All Messed Up").

Five star ratings don't go around often and I'm sure there are plenty of people who will disagree with me on this. Newer fans may feel it's a bit too generic upon first listens while older fans may feel turned off with the dramatic change of sound. Both are valid opinions to have but what I feel gives it the perfect rating is the dare they made for themselves and the ability to jump head first. And make some outstanding tracks while they were at it.

So if you want a short, to the point review of this album stop reading after this paragraph. I'm sure most of the people who clicked on a link to this will have their own opinion anyway. But if you have the time, scroll a little more to see why this album is truly special (in my opinion).

Why I really like this album

When it comes to music listening, I prefer to have experiences. Sometimes that means a single song that can have a lyric that sticks with you and makes you immediately press rewind. Sometimes it means a concept album, where characters play out parts like a production carried out in the listener's ears. Other times it just simply means getting lost in the songs from the first to the final track.

Heartthrob contains all those elements.

But what really gets me about this album, is how across ten songs (excluding the bonus tracks) there is a wide range of emotions. And those emotions reflect exactly what anyone who has ever been in a passionate relationship that for whatever reason just didn't work out has experienced. 

(Before I go forward, let me say that if you ask Tegan and Sara Quin about these songs they will be able to tell you stories of how they came about. But I read a while ago that music, much like paintings and other forms of art, is left up to the viewer/listener to interpret in their own ways once the piece is finished. And that's what I do below.)

Let's start with the title of the album. What comes to mind when I think of a "heartthrob" is a celebrity crush. Someone who you gush about when they are on TV or you see them in magazines. You know details that you shouldn't know, such as middle names or birthdays, and you put them on a pedestal. In that regard, it was a perfect album title for a batch of songs that all reflect the same person. A "heartthrob" in a relationship sense can be someone you've had a crush on for a while, finally get but it never plays out the way you want it in your head. (Imagine going to dinner with your celebrity crush - how do you think it would realistically go?)

The album goes through all the phases, though not necessarily in order. 

First, there comes the intense passion. The part where you want to keep conversations going even if you have nothing to say. Or spend time with a person even if all you do is end up staring at each other's eyes. It's like in (500) Days of Summer when you first see Tom talk about all the things he likes in Summer. This is heard in "Drove Me Wild" ("When I picture you I think if your smile / And it drives me wild / Your laugh escaping you, your head thrown to the side / And it drives me wild). When it gets time for action to take precedent over words, that's when "Closer" comes in. ("All you think of lately is getting underneath me / All I dream of lately is how to get you underneath me").

If things continue, eventually the "L" word gets thrown around. It's a scary area that involves putting yourself out there for another person to see. In "Love They Say," Tegan and Sara do an amazing job of taking simple lyrics ("The first time you held my hand, I knew I was meant for you / The first time you kissed my lips / I knew I was meant for you") and singing them in a way where you can feel the desperation, as if one person is trying to convince the other that something is going on between the two.

Then, more often than not, that love is not returned. "Shock To Your System" can mean a myriad of different things, but for me it discusses the all-around feeling of knowing you're in too deep and there is no easy way to turn back, even though you're going to try your hardest ("You got a shock to your system
 / Pull yourself out of it
 / I know that shock to your system
 / Knocked your heart right out of sync"). And while it can be of no direct intention, the other person in the situation can often make you feel as if there's something there when there really isn't. It could be because they are confused and trying to figure things out themselves, but it still comes off as one-sided as heard in "How Come You Don't Want Me" ("How come you don't want me now? / Why don't you want to wait this out? / How come you always lead me on, never take my call, hear me out?").

Then comes the end. No matter if it's at the hand of the heartthrob or not, inevitable heartbreak occurs. This gives way to reflection, and songs like "I Was a Fool" show that the lover may not necessarily be innocent in the entire scenario, even if their only crime was wanting to capture the idea of being in love ("If you’re worried that I might've changed, left behind all of my foolish ways / You best be looking for somebody else, without a foolish heart"). 

But when it's over, is it really over? Again, showing the brilliant musical stylings of Tegan and Sara to take a simple idea but make it something so much more powerful, the song "Now I'm All Messed Up" captures all those honest moments in a simple "Go / Stay" back and forth found toward the end of the song.

A wildcard is thrown in when a situation comes up that most don't think about. Most times your relationship is going to be known by other people and often times those people can become a part of your relationship. They pull you in different ways and try to influence you, to the point where sometimes a relationship can either be held together or ended too soon because of outside influences. For me, this is where "I'm Not Your Hero" comes in ("Sometimes it feels like the side that I'm on, plays the toughest hand, holds the longest stand / Sometimes it feels like I'm all that they've got, it's so hard to know I'm not what they want").

And then that can translate in to the post breakup - "I Couldn't Be Your Friend" - where one has to standup/own up for/ to what they did ("Now you wanna say / I was a liar / Led you astray / I won't deny it I did what they thought would be good for me). But elsewhere the admittance is that going back to normal is a lost concept ("Does your body shake when you get around me? Does your body wake when you think about me?")

Finally, there comes to the time to move on - "Goodybe, Goodbye." The anger that comes from realizing there was never a shot to begin with ("You coulda warned me, knowing there was nothing I could do to change you") and the acceptance of knowing that it's over because of very valid reasons ("You never really loved me, never really, never really loved me, loved me like they did").

So in the end, Heartthrob is a rollercoaster of emotions that can make you dance with tears in your eyes. On the surface - it's a party record, good driving tunes and some easy listening. Dig a little deeper and you find a great story excellently told and very much worth listening to.

And those are the best kinds of albums.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Most Anticipated 2013

A new year means new music and the Internet is always happy with new music. With that in mind, I reached out to friend and frequent collaborater Mike to reunite for our third dual "Most Anticipated" post. The following are our thoughts heading in to the musical year of 2013.

Paramore - Paramore (April 9)

Matt: If controversy creates interest, then Paramore is one of the most popular acts in music. After lighting up the Internet a couple years back with the high school-type stories that surrounded the Farro brothers departure from the band, the reenergized trio is pushing on. Five songs have been released since the lineup change, one for the "Transformers" soundtrack, a three-song EP and the first single off the upcoming self-titled fourth record. “Now,” along with the other tracks, show that Paramore is more than ready and able to keep going. More than a dozen tracks were revealed to be a part of the record so fans are in for a treat come April.

Atoms For Peace - Amok (February 25)

Mike: Thom Yorke and Flea for the price of one LP? Count me interested. While the spacey “Judge, Jury & Executioner” sounds like an anxious computer at some cosmic dive bar, expect some red-hot grooves this time around. There’s life outside of Radiohead and the Red Hot Chili Peppers for these two famed musicians, let’s hear what that sounds like.

The Black Keys - TBA (2013)

Matt -  While technically not confirmed for a 2013 release, all signs indicate the follow-up to El Camino will arrive at some point this year. The duo have said they are going in the studio this spring to work on new material and that may be the smartest move for one of the hottest acts in the industry. Though they've deviated from their early sound, the past two records have been fantastic and can only be built upon.

Jimmy Eat World - TBA (2013)

Mike: Edgier and brasher, Jimmy Eat World are promising a record that really goes for the throat in 2013. Recent twitter posts suggest the album is in its final mixing stages, but the real surprise is to see where they go after the emotive, and Marshall stacked fuzz of 2007’s Invented.

Vampire Weekend - TBA (May 6)

Matt: Vampire Weekend was one of many bands to take advantage of Internet buzz and be one of the first “hipster” bands to make it to the meanstream in the second half of the 2000s. Their first album could have been considered a one-off (like so many others from that time period) but their follow-up was just as good. Now, three years later Vampire Weekend will return once again. The live performance of “Unbelievers” on Jimmy Kimmel shows the band hasn’t changed much and that could bode well for an album that will be mostly about the question of if they can perform more so than the music itself.

Queens Of The Stone Age - TBA (April/May 2013)

Mike: Josh Homme has a party on his hands because Dave Grohl is laying down drum tracks and everyone from Trent Reznor to Nick Olveri are laying down vocals. Whether the new Queens record will continue to explore the angular robot-rock of Era Vulgaris is anyone’s guess, but it sounds like they’re having fun making it.

Cage the Elephant - TBA (2013)

Matt: Not much is known about Cage the Elephant’s third album, but that could be a good thing. The debut provided some catchy, albeit schizophrenic rock that netted their biggest song to date in “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked.” The follow-up sounded the same, but with more effort shown in the production side. All that has been posted for the untitled third record is studio footage from working on songs, but if these guys make anything half as good as the first two then it will be good. Anything more than that and we could be looking at a surprise hit of 2013.

Sleigh Bells - TBA (2013)

Mike: Sounds like Alexis Krauss and Derek Miller are antsy. After their 2012 world-conquering tour, the Internet’s favorite bubblegum-pop by way of Slayer contingent are reportedly hard at work on their follow up to the bone crushing Reign Of Terror. Viva la feedback.

Bayside - TBA (2013)

Matt: When you break out during the emo phase of the early 2000s, it’s hard to come out as anything different. Ask a lot of similar bands, from Taking Back Sunday to Fall Out Boy - it’s hard to make new music when you are constantly being compared to what you put out during that time period. But Bayside has begun to break out as a credible rock band, with 2011’s Killing Time serving as a surprisingly strong record. All that’s been said is a Facebook post that a new album is coming in 2013 and longtime fans have been excited. The most interesting part of new material: can Bayside breakout and earn some new fans in 2013?

Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Mosquito (April 16)

Mike: Mayhem comes in many forms for Karen O; gone are the post-disco blonde trappings of It’s Blitz! and enter the tribal, dubby, “Sympathy For The Devil” swagger of Mosquito. If the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' live previews are any indication, this record should be a real barnburner.

Honorable Mentions


Black Sabbath - 13 (June)
James Blake - TBA (2013)
M.I.A.- Mantangi (April 15)
My Bloody Valentine - TBA (2013)


Senses Fail - Renacer (March 26)
New Politics - TBA (2013)
The Neighbourhood - TBA (2013)
Justin Timberlake - The 20/20 Experience (2013)
Taking Back Sunday - TBA (*possibly* [hopefully] 2013)

Sunday, January 13, 2013

2012 "End of the Year" Awards

Album of the Year 

Alabama Shakes - Boys and Girls

I’ve gushed about these guys before, devoting an entire post to them earlier in the year with a five-star review. My opinion hasn’t changed. For me, they beat out everyone else because of the quality they put out at the age in which they did. They are vastly young and under-experienced in comparison to others with releases this year but that doesn’t stop them from putting out a musical experience. It’s an album that my grandmother and my cousin could love and is sure to be looked to again in the future as the debut that started it all. Oh yeah, the home-state connection doesn’t hurt either.

Other nominations: 

Bad Books - II
The Black Keys - El Camino (Dec 2011)
fun. - Some Nights
The Gaslight Anthem - Handwritten
Kendrick Lamar - good kid, m.A.A.d city
Mumford and Sons - Babel
Of Monsters and Men - My Head is an Animal
Silversun Pickups - Neck of the Woods

Artist of the Year 


While fun. topped the pop charts over the year, don’t let that pigeonhole them into one category. This is a great band who deserves all the praise handed to them (expect them to take away at least one award at the Grammys). From a hit album, to fantastic videos to one of the best concerts I ever attended, 2012 was the year of fun.

Other nominations:
The Gaslight Anthem
The Black Keys
Kendrick Lamar

Debut Album of the Year

Alabama Shakes - Boys and Girls

(See above)

Other nominations:
Walk the Moon - Walk the Moon
Imagine Dragons - Night Visions
Of Monsters and Men - My Head is an Animal

Comeback Album of the Year

Linkin Park - Living Things; Anberlin - Vital

The last time we saw both Linkin Park and Anberlin, things weren’t looking good. Both tried new, different directions and the results weren’t what fans expected or wanted. This year, both not only returned to form but possibly even stronger. Living Things is filled with some LP’s best material in years and Vital that was grossly overlooked, showcasing a band that could be one of the best if marketed right. 

Sophomore Surge (AKA The Opposite of a Sophomore Slump) 

Mumford and Sons - Babel 

When Sigh No More was released to the world, it was a hard to find a music fan who wasn’t absolutely in love with it. It set the bar ridiculously high for a follow-up, but Mumford and Sons just may have put out something even better. Here’s to hoping they can continue to the trend with LP#3

Other nominations:
Neon Trees - Picture Show
Bad Books - II
The xx - Coexist
Band of Skulls - Sweet Sour
Sleigh Bells - Reign of Terror
fun. - Some Nights 

Most Disappointing 

No Doubt - Push and Shove

11 years is a long to build anticipation, so it can be forgiven if fans of No Doubt maybe overhyped the band’s return. Well, it could be if Push and Shove wasn’t so... lifeless. I’m not sure what approach Stefani and company were going for (and there’s a possibility that under different circumstances it could be halfway decent) but it is one of the fastest discarded albums in my listening history.


Gotye - Making Mirrors

I will go on record as saying I liked “Somebody I Used to Know” at first. But the more I listened the more I thought that Kimbra’s part is what made the song and after listening to the rest of the album I confirmed that to be true. When I listened to the album, it felt like I was listening to nothing. There wasn’t anything that stuck out to me so it still puzzles me to this day that there are some who think this was great. Though I have my own selections that will make some scratch their head (see the “pop album” category) so I guess to each their own.

Other nomination:

Frank Ocean - Channel Orange 


Benjamin Gibbard - Former Lives 

This album went so far under the radar that I even forgot I purchased it at one point. It’s definitely different than what can be heard on Death Cab for Cutie releases, but not by much. Former Lives allows Gibbard to stretch out a bit, giving the tracks more of a loose feel. Instead of crying in the dark, this is laying in the sun kind of music.

Other nominations:

The Avett Brothers - The Carpenter
Anberlin - Vital 

Pop Album of the Year

Taylor Swift - Red; P!nk - The Truth About Love 

While on opposite ends of the cookie-cutter to bad-girl spectrum, the new albums from Taylor Swift and Pink are closer in comparison than one might think. Both have mindless jams (“Never Getting Back Together”, “Slut Like You”) and ballads that showcase their range (“I Almost Do”, “Just Give Me a Reason"). In fact, take away Pink’s parental advisory sticker and have Swift sing about something else other than young love and both camps could probably come together to enjoy these. Pop doesn’t need a lot of depth to it to be great, it just needs to be fun. And both of these were.

Other nominations:

Maroon 5 - Overexposed 

Rap / Hip Hop Album of the Year 

Kendrick Lamar - good kid, m.A.A.d city

As stated before, Kendrick Lamar deserves every bit of praise thrown his way for his debut album. It goes great lengths in order to tell a great story, but the music is still good. Make no mistake, Lamar can flow with the best of them and shows it off here. The scary thing? He’s just getting started.

Honorable mention: Childish Gambino - Royalty (mixtape) If Kendrick Lamar hadn’t have come along, I would have seriously put this mixtape as rap album of the year. It was head and shoulders above last year’s major label debut Camp, where Glover seemed to try to do too much. But Royalty was was a shining example of hip hop at its finest. 

Other nominations:

2 Chainz - Based on a T.R.U. Story
Nas - Life is Good
Rick Ross - God Forgives, I Don't
Kanye West presents G.O.O.D. Music - Cruel Summer
Lupe Fiasco - Food & Liqour II: The Great American Rap Album Part 1  

Rock Album of the Year

The Gaslight Anthem - Handwritten

The last few years has seen so many variations to the “rock” category that it was refreshing to hear some good old-fashioned rock and roll. Handwritten is pure songwriting that’s put to instruments and played loud. With multiple albums in, if you have longtime fans debating if it’s one of the best in the discography then you know you produced a hit. 

Other nominations:

Jack White - Blunderbuss\
Silversun Pickups - Neck of the Woods
Pierce the Veil - Collide With the Sky
Muse - The 2nd Law   

Most Ambitious

Green Day - The Uno, Dos and Tre trilogy 

Putting here because I personally loved this release, but the confusion of three separate albums makes it hard to rank. It wasn’t perfect, but the effort has to be commended. 

(For more on these releases, click here here and here)

Other Notable Releases of 2012

Matt and Kim - Lightning
All American Rejects - Kids in the Street
Say Anything - Anarchy, My Dear
Motion City Soundtrack - Go
Bloc Party - Four 
B.o.B. - Strange Clouds
Minus the Bear - Infinity Overhead;\
Gary Clark Jr. - Blak and Blu 

Artists Who Showed Up on the Radar

Atlas Genius, Animal Kingdom, Capital Cities, The Neighbourhood, Morning Parade, Pop etc, Reptar, Tanlines, Wolf Gang


How about a gigantic playlist featuring 160 songs of 2012? Here you go...

And a HUGE thank you to Allison for the graphic at the top of the page!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

2012 Songs of The Year

*Note: I'm going to try something a little different this year. This is a post that will be constantly updated throughout the month in a countdown format. Each day that a song is revealed, I will post the link on here and explain a bit about that particular track.

*Second note: This will apply to all "of the year" posts going forward. My criteria for these selections were my favorites + what I feel truly resembled the best. I say that because there is NO WAY that I could get to all the music that was released in the year so chances are your favorite song/album/artist might be left out (unless we have the same music tastes, then that should be covered).

And with that, let's get to the songs:

#1. Jack White - Sixteen Saltines

I’ll admit - this one even surprises me. But after the soft “Love Interruption” I began to become disinterested in Jack White’s solo effort. Then I heard "Sixteen Saltines." Then proceeded to hear it about 200 more times throughout the year. It was a big radio single on the station I listen to and an instant volume pusher in the “up” direction. Why did it get the top spot? Because at the end of the day, I have a rock and roll heart and this is a damn good rock and roll song.

Listen here

#2. Sleigh Bells - "Demons"

You know those songs that you instantly fall in love with the first time you hear them? That happened for me the first time I clicked play on “Demons.” It takes everything about the over-popular electronic sound of today and combines it with the blistering jean-jacket-metal sound of the 80s. It’s loud. And it’s great.

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#3. fun. featuring Janelle Monae - "We Are Young"

I’m sure this gets some scoffs as it traded places with “Call Me Maybe” and “Somebody That I Used to Know” as one of the most played songs in 2012, but I’ll be damned if that doesn’t make it any less of a good song. The drumming buildup combined with the anthemic chorus is topped off by a guest appearance by Janelle Monae. And it was a track that definitely helped fun. set the world on fire.

#4. Alabama Shakes - "Be Mine"

Alabama Shakes burst onto the scene in 2012, with a sound that most resembled a tamer, female-fronted Black Keys (or a throwback to Led Zeppelin if that’s a better comparison for you). Nestled toward the end of their debut album, Boys and Girls, sits “Be Mine,” a roaring track that features frontwoman Brittany Howard stand for her man (and drop an F bomb in the process).

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#5. Mumford and Sons - "Ghosts That We Knew"

Before Babel finally saw the light of day, a few tracks made their way to the Internet via concert footage and studio sessions. One of those was “Ghosts” (later changed to include “That We Knew”). It was a gentler song and very unlike the lead-single “I Will Wait” and example that pain can be beautiful.

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#6. The Gaslight Anthem - "Mulholland Drive"

Sometimes it not so much what a line says, but how it’s delivered. On “Mulholland Drive,” each time Brian Fallon croons “I’d just die if you ever took your love away” you feel like he literally means it. Just one example of the greatness to be found on Handwritten.

#7. Yellowcard - "Ten"

Yellowcard have come back strong, releasing albums in both 2011 and 2012. Among the violin-driven frenzy stood the acoustic ballad “Ten.” If you’ve heard it, you know why it’s good. If you haven’t, I don’t want to spoil it for you. Just press play and listen to the story unfold but be warned - it’s kind of a tear-jerker.

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#8a. Green Day - "Let Yourself Go"
#8b. Green Day - "Amy"
#8c. Green Day - "Dirty Rotten Bastards"

It was hard to escape Green Day in the latter part of 2012 as they released three separate studio albums (which were discussed at length here here and here). Even as a fan, wading through all those songs was admittedly daunting but well worth it to find some treasures. There were a lot of standout tracks, but these were my favorites from each respective release. “Let Yourself Go” is full of energy and in-your-face appeal; “Amy” is a tearjerker ballad that rivals “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)”; and “Dirty Rotten Bastards” is a return to the rock-opera-in-a-bottle that was found sprinkled into American Idiot and 21st Century Breakdown.

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#9. Silversun Pickups - "The Pit"

For their third album, Silversun Pickups went a bit more experimental, even more so than gazy rockers found in previous releases. On "The Pit," an electro-beat with a modified drum-pattern help set the background for this trippy track. Lead vocalist Brian Aubert takes front stage, but Nikki Monninger's background coos add to the feel of a standout track on a fantastic album.

#10. Of Monsters and Men - "Little Talks"

First making listeners take notice in 2011, the debut effort from Icelandic guys and gals Of Monsters and Men had a stateside release in 2012. Their "foreign folk" sound is one that is at times soothing and others haunting. "Little Talks," the lead-single off of My Head is An Animal is an example of the former, and is just one example of intricate storytelling found on the album.

#11. Kendrick Lamar - Swimming Pools (Drank)

After some underground releases, Kendrick Lamar burst onto the main scene in 2012 to much (deserved) applause. Backed by a heavyweight such as Dr. Dre and it was clear that Lamar meant business. One of the first songs to introduce him to the world was "Swimming Pools," a standout track if for anything else that it's bait-and-switch use of party feel but lyrics that aren't saying what you think they are based on first listen.

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#12. Pink featuring Nate Ruess of fun. - Just Give Me a Reason

Amidst the girls who are waiting on guys to call them (maybe) or letting them know that they are never (ever) getting back together, Pink quietly came out with the best pop album of the year. There was so much diversity and the shining spots included guest vocals from Eminem and Lily Allen. But fun. frontman Nate Ruess shows up here to complete a back-and-forth full of piano and full of heart.

#13. Bad Books - "It Never Stops"

The hybrid of Kevin Devine and Manchester Orchestra released a second effort in 2012, one that you will definitely hear more about in a separate post. After "Forest Whitaker" was released that showed Bad Books go in a different direction, "It Never Stops" was the follow up that showed the group is still good at getting down to the basics. The tracks shows the harmony between Devine and Andy Hull at its best and helped propel II to one of the best albums of the year.

#14. The Black Keys - "Little Black Submarines"

The Black Keys have added more tools to their musical belt in recent years, but their talent really shines when it’s just two guys and the bare basics. “Little Black Submarines” works for that reason. This song (featured on a Dec 2011 release but gaining momentum throughout 2012) starts off with Auerbach’s acoustic wailing and features Carney coming in softly before the song explodes. It’s a perfect example of all things Black Keys.

#15. My Chemical Romance - "Tomorrow's Money"

“Tomorrow’s Money” was one of two songs first released in the Conventional Weapons EP set, featuring songs that were scrapped prior to the release of Danger Days. So far, these are head scratchers as to why they weren’t released on a studio album because they could have been massive. "Tomorrow’s Money" in particular shows that when MCR is firing on all cylinders they can be one of the best in the business.

#16. Pierce the Veil featuring Kellin Quinn - "King for a Day"

PTV has been one of my favorite bands for a while and it's always been surprising because they aren't in a genre I normally listen to. Even more surprising is this song's placement in my 2012 reflection. But I can't help it - it's that good. It's hard, it's fast, it's well-written. If this song doesn't get you ready to conquer the day, you don't have a pulse.

#17. Linkin Park - Victimized

Linkin Park is in a weird stage in their career. They can't really go "back" but some of the forward progressing songs they have just aren't working. So Living Things was not only a breath of fresh air, but "Victimized" was a nostalgic blast. It was reminiscent of all things early LP, not by style but with energy and gave the new album a nice upside.

#18. The xx - "Angels"

Call it a change of heart, but I was never a huge fan of The xx until I heard this song. There's something about the hauntingly dramatic mood of this track that starts off their sophomore effort, Angels. It blends all of the elements that make this band what they are known for and made people like me take notice in 2012.

#19. Frank Ocean - "Thinking About You"

When you have opportunities you make the most of them and Frank Ocean did just that in 2012. Add me to the list who had heard the name but never the music; that is until back-to-back national performances at the VMAs and SNL. Afterward, I became an immediate fan of this song (and seriously, who doesn’t love to sing falsetto to match Ocean’s delivery).

#20. Band of Skulls - "Lay My Head Down"

A band flying under the alternative radar, Band of Skulls can rock with the best of them. But as most good bands can do, they know when to slow it down. Take “Lay My Head Down” for example. A slow, Civil Wars-esque buildup leads to a fantastic, yet simple guitar solo for one of the more underrated songs of the year.

#21. The Avett Brothers - "Live and Die"

If there is a charge of mainstream-folk coming to the airwaves, the leaders have got to be Mumford and Sons and the Avett Brothers. On “Live and Die,” the Bros. show why the sound is taking over. Yes, it was on a GAP commercial. But yes, it’s still a good song.

#22. Rick Ross featuring Andre 3000 - "Sixteen"

The more records Rick Ross puts out, the more legitimate Rick Ross becomes. And it doesn't get much more legitimate than Andre 3000. The two hooked up for this track that displays the best of rap and the worst of radio - mainly that this 8-minute masterpiece could never be turned into a single. And it doesn't need to be. Just press play and enjoy.

#23. Neon Trees - "Trust"

Neon Trees came out with a great sophomore effort in 2012, though not as full of singles as 2010's Habits. "Trust" is an example of that - not exactly radio friendly but still easily the best song on Picture Show. It shows the group can give a nod to the past while moving forward to the future.

#24. Muse - "Panic Station"

After a sort-of concept album in 2009, Muse came back in 2012 throwing pretty much everything at the wall for The 2nd Law. Found within the grandest arena rock and dubstep influenced throwdowns sits this Prince meets Michael Jackson meets Muse jam session. It's also one of the few times a Muse track comes with a Parental Advisory warning, but it helps take the song up just a notch.

#25. Kanye West, Big Sean, Pusha T, 2 Chainz - "Mercy"

As great as Kanye West's solo albums have been throughout his entire career, I truly feel Yeezy shines best on guest appearances. So on this track, released on the G.O.O.D. Music compilation Cruel Summer, shows him at his strongest. The beat changes when West gets on the track, an affect to give his spot even more of a presence. Though this write-up is about West, the other three on the track hold their own and make this one of the better rap songs of 2012 (and try, TRY to listen to this multiple times and not want to yell out "2 CHAINZ")

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