Sorry for the lack of posts this past week. I hope that you’ve all had a wonderful holiday season! As our year comes to an end, it’s time to take a look back at all the things that brought us joy this year in media. All week, I’ll be talking about my favorite things from this year. Starting with this past year in music!
6.) Night Shades – Cobra Starship
I’ve been a fan of Cobra Starship for a very long time and have been very happy to see them gain so much success in the past few years. However, I wasn’t a huge fan of their third studio album Hot Mess. It felt disjointed and was a watered down version of the fantastic Viva La Cobra. It was quite literally a hot mess.
When I heard Cobra had a new album coming out, I was a little worried that they had perhaps lost their edge. I guess this left me in a position to be pleasantly surprised when I actually heard Night Shades. It’s not a hot mess. Not at all. It’s the most mature album Cobra Starship has released.
An album about love found and lost, the album perfectly mixes modern electropop with sounds from the 60s and 80s. These influences are most obvious on the songs ‘Fool Like Me’ (which features French band the Plasticines) and ‘Anything For Love’. However, the true standout song on this album is ‘Disaster Boy’, a catchy and emotional song about being in love with the wrong person with keytarist Victoria Asher on lead vocals.
Must Hear Tracks: ‘Disaster Boy’, ‘Fool Like Me’
5.) 21 – Adele
I’ve been familiar with Adele for some time now. After seeing her on a few quiz shows in 2009, I took a listen to her debut album 19. It was a fantastic album with a great single in ‘Chasing Pavements’. While the single did gain some ground with the VH1 crowd and Adele eventually won a Best New Artist Grammy, she didn’t seem to catch on too much with the mainstream. I became sure that Adele would be much like Kate Nash and Lily Allen. Popular in their home country, but only marginally known here in the US.
That was until 21 hit US shores.
Starting with the hit summer single ‘Rolling In The Deep’ and continuing with ‘Someone Like You’, 21 by Adele became the most inescapable album of the year. Not to mention the best selling. In a world where the autotuned often seems to win out in the pop market, Adele’s old school sound won out and helped to start turning the tides away from the endless barrage of party coming from the radio.
Must Hear Tracks: ‘Rumor Has It’, ‘Set Fire To The Rain’
4.) Vices and Virtues – Panic! at the Disco
Vices and Virtues had a strange way of coming into being. When the band started work on the album after getting off the road for their 2008 album Pretty. Odd., it wasn’t long until things started to shake up. In 2009, Panic! was split down the middle with bassist Jon Walker and lead guitarist and songwriter Ryan Ross leaving and lead singer Brendon Urie and drummer Spencer Smith staying behind.
For the next two years, Urie and Smith took a lot of time to evaluate and to create music as a newfound duo. At the end of this road, Vices and Virtues was created. An album about bidding a painful farewell to your past while looking forward to your future, V&V seems to pick up from the burlesque/baroque direction 2005’s A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out seemed to be going while mixing it with the lessons and musical maturity learned from Pretty. Odd. Produced by Butch Walker and John Feldman, Vices and Virtues is full of catchy songs, emotion, and Brendon Urie playing every instrument known to man.
Oh, and a Children’s choir helping with the big finale.
It’s that kind of album.
Must Hear Tracks: ‘Nearly Witches (Ever Since We Met)’, ‘Hurricane’
3.) Ceremonials – Florence and the Machine
Florence and the Machine gained some slight popularity when their previous hit single ‘Dog Days Are Over’ began to be played on the radio. With indie credibility intact, the Machine headed by machine Florence Welch released their newest album Ceremonials this September. A dark and very fluid record, Florence and the Machine carry on and improve the sound found on their 2009 release Lungs while mixing a certain gothic style reminiscent of Kate Bush.
The sound of the record though, while impressive (like the swimming through water feeling of lead single ‘What The Water Gave Me’), it would feel incomplete without a complimentary voice. Luckily, Florence Welch’s siren sounds help carry the visuals of the sound perfectly and bring a certain emotion to the music that is often hard to describe in words. She can cover the darkness in songs like ‘Seven Devils’, but she can also bring the light. When I hear ‘Shake It Out’, it feels like everything wrong will soon be righted.
But perhaps that is idea behind ceremony. It can be just as much about darkness and uncertainty as it about celebrating happiness and light.
Must Hear Tracks: ‘Shake It Out’, ‘Bedroom Hymns’
2.) Soul Punk – Patrick Stump
I was asked after this record came out who Patrick was. For those who don’t know, Patrick Stump is the powerhouse lead singer of Chicago Pop-Punk band Fall Out Boy. In October, he released his debut solo album Soul Punk.
The follow up question was, “Does the album sound anything like Fall Out Boy.”
“Actually, it sounds a lot like 80s Minneapolis Sound. You know… Prince… Morris Day and the Time…”
“So… nothing like Fall Out Boy?”
“No. Not really.”
While the record is a departure from the evolved Pop Punk sound that Fall Out Boy popularized, it shows that Patrick is not a one trick pony. Influenced by his love of Pop Music, R&B, and the swagger of The Time, Patrick mixes these sounds with the rock he’s known for. While his lyrics can sometimes be a bit… strange, Patrick sells it with catchy hooks and grooves that could make the hipsters sung about on ‘Cryptozoology’ dance. Not to mention his already powerful voice reaching its full potential.
Even more impressive is that every instrument on this record is played by Patrick himself, making it the most true solo record released this year. Mixed with the fact he has become a very charismatic front man live, Patrick has proven that he’s not just Fall Out Boy. In fact, he is so much more…
Must Hear Tracks: ‘Run Dry (X Heart X Fingers)/Cryptozoology’, ‘Everybody Wants Somebody’
1.) The Spade – Butch Walker and the Black Widows
In 2010, producer and mid-level solo artist Butch Walker formed a new band to play and released a record titled I Liked It Better When You Had No Heart. While the record was a fantastic album that took a more Americana turn for the ever-changing Walker, it still felt like it was Butch singing with a band to go along with his new sound.
This year, Butch didn’t release a solo album. He released a band record.
Tested and recorded live, Butch Walker and the Black Widows unleashed The Spade onto the world in August. While there’s still plenty of Butch’s usual storytelling to go around on this record, the band stands out just as much as Walker does. From the fantastic guitar playing of Fran Capitinelli across the whole record as well as his songwriting on ‘Sweethearts’ and ‘Bodegas and Blood’, to the drunken playfulness of Chris Unck on the song ‘Everysinglebodyelse’, and the happy defiance of Jake Sinclair on ‘Synthesizers’, it shows that Butch did not just pick these people to back him up. He picked them because they’re vastly talented and add something naturally wonderful to his music.
Of course, Butch still has his own moments on the record. So much of the record looks back on his past as he gets older. There are memories and reflections all over this record, but there is also a hint of sadness of leaving the places and people you love behind. This is especially evident in ‘Day Drunk’, which is easily the most emotional song on the record. However, there’s also reflection on what you have in the present and looking forward to the future in there too. It’s a human record with a real Southern twist.
And it has a fantastic closer about bar fights, too.
Must Hear Tracks: ‘Dublin Crow’, ‘Bodegas and Blood’
That’s it for today! Come back tomorrow where I’ll be talking about my favorite TV episodes of the past year.