Best Albums of 2011

Maybe jumping the gun a little early here but even with one month left in the year I feel like I’m fairly happy with my choices. Again, please note I am no music expert and I just like what I like, so please enjoy.

1. COLLAPSE INTO NOW- R.E.M.

I have to admit my bias here, not only is R.E.M. my favourite band of all-time but this is their final album, as they broke up only a few months after its release. It’s a special record to me for sure, but before you start rolling your eyes, just keep in mind this isn’t Rolling Stone magazine or anything you’re reading here, I’m not trying to force any politics upon the three people who may be reading this. It’s my honest preference and a personal one. Every single track is an absolute winner, these are songs that have become a part of my life, this is a legendary band at the top of their form closing the curtains in triumph. History will prove this to be among R.E.M.’s best work.

2. STRANGE MERCY- St. Vincent

I would hardly make a habit of using the description “achingly beautiful,” but St. Vincent’s Annie Clark is worthy of such a phrase and has the voice to match. I think her ultimate appeal lies within the fact that she could have probably made a nice little career as an indie songbird, playing acoustic melodies that play in coffee bars, but she strives for something deeper and more expirimental, which makes her all the more admirable as an artist. With “Strange Mercy” Clarks tunes are as unique as ever. Her lyrics are cryptic but feel genuine. “Cruel” borders on something that’s as close as she’s probably get to a catchy hit song, “Surgeon” takes a fascination from a line Marilyn Monroe’s diary turning it into a track as only she could do, “Year of the Tiger” journeys into a year of depression for the singer, the album is a work of art and her best to date. I want to make sweet passionate love to it.

3. NINE TYPES OF LIGHT- TV on the Radio

It’s almost impossible to slap a genre on TV on the Radio. “Nine Types of Light” explores some heavy themes, so much so that it reaches an almost profound existensialism. But at the same time it just sounds so damn funky and awesome. It may not be as cool as “Return to Cookie Mountain” or even “Dear Science,” I suppose it all depends on your own preferences and moods, really, but this is yet another amazing release from an amazing group and undoubtedly one of 2011’s highlights. Below you’ll find every single song from the album accompanied by music video shorts. One Youtube commenter notes, “this should be a bigger deal.”

4. LET ENGLAND SHAKE- PJ Harvey

Call it a labour of love, call it a grand expirement, call it the epic it deserves to be classified as. I’ll have to be as blunt as possible here in saying that any list of ‘best of 2011’ albums that does not include PJ Harvey’s “Let England Shake” is in some serious need of reevaluation. If we can classify music as modern poetry, if we can have faith in the fact that music can actually mean something, more than just catchy little tunes, more than just 2-3 minute distractions from our daily lives, then “Let England Shake” herlads something special. This is a project to go down as legend, to be studied and analyzed, and be seen as important. Bravo, PJ.

5. SCREWS GET LOOSE- Those Darlin’s

I can’t say I’m a big country music fan, I really, really can’t. But this album feels like it was made by artists who don’t necessarily care too much for country but have an affection for it and the stories that it can tell, so hopefully we’re on the same page. The songs are simple but immensely enjoyable, it’s not as heavy as some of the other works listed here but it conveys its themes and emotions in a way that works fantastically. There are songs of the opposite side of unrequited love, about alcholism, bing-eating, spousal abuse and depression. It’s not to say this record is a downer, though. Let’s put it this way: it’s like the seen-it-all boozer at the end of the bar who will share a story with you for another beer and maybe a burger. I feel like I’m knocking the album but it’s the best way I can describe it.

6. HISINGEN BLUES- Graveyard 

They’ve been touted as the next-coming of Led Zepellin, which in a way is fair because the sound is definitely similar, but I never really got the point in saying one artist is the next this or that, so if you can just take “Hisingen Blues” for what it is you can appreciate its excellence. It rocks, the tunes are A+, and you get the sense that these guys are the real deal.

7. ROLLING BLACKOUTS- The Go! Team

“Rolling Blackouts” is just an explosion of exciting and bob-your-head-confusedly music. It’s not too much of a departure from The Go! Team’s other works, but it’s a solid reminder of what makes them so great and why what they do stands out. For example, a track such as “Ready To Go Steady” can be seen as a twist or tribute or even parody of one of those cheesy 50’s dinner love songs, and it is, but it works. It more than works. There is never a lull in “Rolling Blackouts” and it’s worthy of multiple plays. A delight on every level.

8. BORN THIS WAY- Lady Gaga

Pop is so fucking horrible, now more than ever, so it would seem like Lady Gaga being branded as the Queen of Pop would not be much more prestigeous than being crowned the King of Idiots. But you know what? This is a great album. Deal with it. It’s like pop culture vomit spewing out of the speakers and not in a bad way. It’s like rainbow coloured vomit that you could probably fuel your car with. You can criticize Lady Gaga all you want, hey, you can love her, hate her, feel like she’s some attention-starved whore who should stop dressing up in ridiculous outfits but either way she must be doing something right. This one of the year’s best albums and, again, please deal with it.

9. WOUNDED RHYMES- Lykke Li

Speaking of pop, “Wounded Rhymes” is like pop music that’s been dragged through the dirt a little bit. Lykke Li is an incredible artist and it’s entirely possible that this is going to be one of those albums you look back on when she’s super famous and say “nothing’s going to top her first album.”  Her musical journey through “Wounded Rhymes” is engrossing and she has a voice that breaks your heart.

10. THANK YOU, HAPPY BIRTHDAY- Cage The Elephant

Cage The Elephant doesn’t take themselves too seriously yet takes themselves seriously just enough that it works to their advantage. This is a fun album. It’s something you could play at a party and everyone would enjoy. It rocks hard just enough, but it has a sensitive side to it, but not so much that’s it’s lame wussy crap that bums everyone out. There’s just something about a track like “Around My Head” with vocals mimmicking a revving engine that I just find irresistable. This is their second album and these guys aren’t going anywhere.

 

Honorable mentions, listed alphabetically by album title:

 

21- Adele
FATHER, SON, HOLY GHOST- Girls
HELPLESSNESS BLUES- Fleet Foxes
HOT SAUCE COMMITTEE PART TWO- Beastie Boys
SHARE THE JOY- Vivian Girls
SOMETHING TO DIE FOR- The Sounds
WASTING LIGHT- The Foo Fighters

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Bob Dylan’s grandson is a rapper.

I listened to one of his tracks. Maybe it’s too early to say but I don’t think he inherited his grandfather’s flare for brilliant lyricism.

He sounds like this:

But he kind of reminds me of this:

The rap is bad, doesn’t sound like his granddad, but he shouldn’t be sad, having lots of money must be rad.

The Best Albums of 2010

The year is coming to an end and I guess now is as good of a time as any to look back on the music of 2010. I should mention right off the bat that I do not consider myself a music critic in any sense of the term, nor do I consider myself an expert on all things music. I’m simply a fan of good music and I like what I like. I do not have an encyclopedic knowledge of musical terms and probably couldn’t give you a thorough biographical account of the featured artists, so forgive me if my assessments aren’t entirely eloquent. With that in mind, may I humbly present to you my picks for the best albums of 2010.

1.BROTHERS, The Black Keys

There isn’t a single bad track on this album. It doesn’t once misfire, and never runs out of steam. From the escalating, inviting beats of its opener, “Everlasting Light” to the soulful Jerry Butler cover “Never Gonna Give You Up” and “These Days” as its closing songs, The Black Keys’ 6th album is a fantastic musical experience displaying an impressive evolution in sound without losing the bluesy roots that made the duo so unique and appealing in the first place. Their songs have graced countless films, TV shows, and commercials in the past years and you could picture lesser artists selling out, sitting back and collecting royalty checks, but with Brothers, The Black Keys move forward unblinkingly in new exciting ways. It fucking rocks.

2. CRAZY FOR YOU, Best Coast

This is the most addictive album of the year. It’s short and sweet, but for what it lacks in scope and grandeur, it certainly makes up for in its low-fi charms and catchy tunes. It’s impossible not to sort of fall in love with lead singer Bethany Cosentino, whose songs of heartbreak, boredom, and longing peer deep into the soul without being overly poetic or pretentious. She’s a cool chick with a rockin’ band and Crazy For You is that diamond in the rough that deserves your attention. Just look for the kitty by the palm trees. I’ll put this bluntly: Best Coast is the new band to keep and eye on. The fanbase is already solid and steadily growing, even Bill Murray is apparently a fan. Do you think you have better judgment than Bill Murray?

3.HIPPIES, Harlem

Speaking of bands to keep an eye on, Harlem has enjoyed a pretty successful year, busting out of the garage and into record stores with their second studio LP, Hippies. The drums and guitar are their friends. There’s no showing off here, only the essentials, which are used delightfully. Hippies sports a timeless, tried and true sound that may make you want to go out and surf or some shit. The songs are awesome. The second last track, “Pissed,” in particular is an indescribable joy to listen to. You owe it to yourself to take a listen below.

4.RECOVERY, Eminem

Eminem’s comeback was so grand it required two albums. While not many may share my opinion that last year’s Relapse is the superior album, least of all Eminem himself (who seems to be dissatisfied with it), Recovery is a triumph for the Detroit-rooted rap star, back in full force with something prove. The morbid, mind-bending raps are impressive as all hell and Eminem once again explores different themes and finds different sounds that make this release stand out. It’s insanity and energy that only Eminem can provide, accept no substitutes.

5. THE SUBURBS, Arcade Fire

I’d like to retract previous derogatory statements I have made about Montreal in the past. Surely it can’t be all that bad, especially if a band such as Arcade Fire can emerge from there. This is their third album, and it’s their best so far. It just may push them over the threshold of “Oh yeah I think I heard of them” to “OMFG they are my favourite.” As I write this, it was announced only yesterday that The Suburbs was nominated for a Grammy Award for Album Of The Year. Maybe Grammy Awards don’t mean all that much to most thinking people, but in an age of Katy Perry and Justin Bieber pop bullshit, it’s not just a victory, it’s a bold statement. Arcade Fire’s moving, reflective opus of where we’ve been and where we’re going is an instant classic.

6. MY BEAUTIFUL DARK TWISTED FANTASY, Kanye West

Just ignore for a minute all the Taylor Swift interrupting, all the inane ranting, and the ego too big for this planet, and it’s hard to ignore that Kanye West is truly a master of his craft. It’s been two years since his last album, and it was worth the wait. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is Kanye West’s most ambitious album since College Dropout. West attempts greatness and is largely successful, it’s a hip-hop epic with all the bells and whistles, and it’s as huge in scale as it is exciting. This is Kanye with his lyrical bullets blazing.

7. EYELID MOVIES, Phantogram

It’s melodic, dreamy, sometimes surreal and frightening. Phantogram often played as an opening act to other artists such as The XX, Metric, and Minus The Bear, but with their debut LP, Eyelid movies, they have the opportunity to shine fully. This is an easy album to get caught up and lose yourself in, synths, beats, and crackles dominate the tracks…it’s not derivative of other experts in this area of music: the sound is fresh and exciting. At the risk of sounding cliche’d, it’s candy for the ears.

8. SEA OF COWARDS, The Dead Weather

Ask Jack White how his wife and kids are, he’ll most likely reply “people tell me they’re doing great.” The busiest guy in rock n’ roll returns to The Dead Weather with Sea Of Cowards, the group’s second album in as many years.  It’s hard to say if it’s all that much better or worse than Horehound, but it rocks just as hard, if not harder. The instrumentals grind away like magic and Alison Mosshart’s vocal’s are just as commanding and thrilling. It’s a great rock album, it’s big, it’s loud, and it never goes soft.

9. VOLUME TWO, She & Him

This is the kind of album you want to stick in the CD player while driving your convertible through California in the hopes of making it big in the city of dreamers. There’s more “she” than “him” when it comes to the vocals, M.Ward steps aside to give Zoey Deschanel’s angelic voice dominate the tunes. My God, what a beautiful voice she has. If this acting thing doesn’t work out for her, I’m sure no one will be upset if she falls back on this. Volume II has the old fashioned simplicity of  song birds from the 60’s, but it works, and it works splendidly. It’s an album that melts the heart and touches the soul.

10. RECORD COLLECTION, Mark Ronson and the Business Int’l

This is a mixed bag, for sure. But there is rarely a dull moment on Mark Ronson’s Record Collection. There’s a little bit of everything. There’s 80’s style snyth and hip-hop that works just a well as tribute as it does satire. I can’t say too many “get up and dance” tunes contain much social commentary as “Bang Bang Bang,” and I can’t say I’ve heard many hip-hop ballads to cruising around town on a bicyle as heard with “The Bike Song.” It’s high spirited and quasi-experimental, and delves a little deeper than your average pop fare. Record Collection may not get the gold, but it sure as hell enters every event.

Honorable Mentions, listed alphabetically by album title:

THE ARCHANDROID, Janelle Monae
ASTRO COAST, Surfer Blood
CRYSTAL CASTLES II, Crystal Castles
INNERSPEAKER, Tame Impala
MAYA, M.I.A
ROMANCE IS BORING, Los Compesinos!
STUCK ON NOTHING, Free Energy
TOMORROW IN A YEAR, The Knife

Could this be the definitive Canadian rap song?

You decide:

Addams Family Broadway Musical? Really??

Dear readers, let me briefly present to you a brief history of The Addams Family:

First of course, there was the original TV show, starring John Astin. A television classic, and notable for being the first TV show to feature a married couple with an obvious sex life.

Then there was a cartoon at some point. And probably some straight to video junk, too. Who can really remember these things?


Then there were two pretty good movies in the 90’s. Raul Julia, Angelica Houston, Christopher Lloyd, a young Christina Ricci. Good stuff.

Then we got another TV show. It was produced by Haim Saban, who brought us the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers. It….wasn’t too good.

Now, in the grand tradition of Mel Brooks films like The Producers and Young Frankenstein, and the John Waters cult favourite Hairspray, the Addams Family has moved to Broadway, in a show with a musical twist, starring Nathan Lane. Really? Like, REALLY?? What good could possibly come from Pugsly and Wednesday belting out a musical number? And look at that picture, Pugsly’s way too damn thin.

I saw number from the show performed on Letterman tonight and Nathan Lane seems to be sporting a strange accent, perhaps an homage to Raul Julia, who, for all we know, couldn’t help it.

The one thing that could be good about this is Bebe Neuwirth (who played Lilith on “Cheers”) in the role of Morticia. Man, she may be in her 50’s, but she’s looking pretty hot. I think that pale look is good on her.

One indisputable thing about all incarnations of The Addams Family is that Morticia is hot. What is it about her? The creamy skin, the velvet black hair, that sultry, sexy voice, the tight, low-cut dress…you could even say that she is the original MILF. You can bet that not a lot of kids growing up in the 50’s wanted to plow June Cleaver.  At least, I hope not.

But anyway, I digress. I really hate these Broadway adaptions of pre-existing creations. Nothing against the talent of the cast, or anybody involved, but why the hell would you want to pay 350 dollars for tickets (if you’re lucky) to see something that you could see for free at 4Am on Nick At Night, or rent/buy for cheap on DVD. And at least then you don’t have to sit through the intrusive musical numbers that shouldn’t even be there in the first place.

I wish the best of luck to the show, I know Broadway is big money, and I’m sure it’ll win 80 Tony Awards and we’ll eventually get the inevitable mediocre film adaption…but I think it’s all so, so stupid.

The Best Albums of 2009

Watch this right now

Galactic Empire State of Mind

I can’t embed the video, so follow the link, bitches!

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