Hello readers! Sorry for such the long wait between posts. Life has been rather busy for me for the past couple of months. So much to the point I haven’t seen a summer movie since Iron Man 3! I plan on correcting that this week though with the release of Pacific Rim and you can expect my review of that come Friday.
Today though, I will be talking about my favorite albums of the year so far. Some I’ve already talked about in various places, but all have been enjoyed in some form or another. Plus, with some great albums I haven’t heard yet, need to listen to a few times more, and ones yet to come, I want to mark the albums that have already come out that might be forgotten later.
Oh, it kills me that I can’t put this higher on my list. I mean, I could , but the hair splitter that I am feels like it would be cheating since this album was only released in the US this year. It came out everywhere else in the world back in 2011. Still, Gin Wigmore’s brand of retro folk rock and roll has made me more excited than I’ve been in a long time about discovering a new artist. Part Betty Boop and part Loretta Lynn with a dose of whiskey and Coke, Wigmore’s Gravel and Wine is an energetic and emotional record about forging your own path after being defined by others for so long. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that producer Butch Walker has background vocals all over this record that are in perfect balance with Wigmore. If they ever did an album together, I’d be the first in line to buy.
Favorite Tracks: ‘Black Sheep’, ‘Man Like That’, ‘Sweet Hell’
6.) The 20/20 Experience by Justin Timberlake
Oh, how the prodigal son of pop returns. I would be lying if I sad I hadn’t been anticipating this day after years of watching Justin pursue acting and only sing with The Lonely Island and that one Timbaland song filled with terrible fast food puns. So naturally, the release of The 20/20 Experience was highly anticipated. I was a bit uncertain when I first heard ‘Suit and Tie’, but the more I warmed up to the song and the rest of the album, it was easy to see that it was a natural evolution from FutureSex/LoveSounds while calling in other influences. The long, almost orchestral pop tracks harken back a certain Prince groove while also pulling in influences from big band and classic R&B. I’m curious to see what Part 2 will bring from the cutting room floor, but the current Experience is pretty strong.
Favorite Tracks: ‘Mirrors,’ ‘That Girl,’ ‘Spaceship Coupe’
Ford Theatre Reunion is not an easy band to explain to people who don’t know them. Hell, they’re not an easy band to explain to people who know them. They’re punk rock and metal, but also part klezmer and folk storytellers at the same time. I’m fairly certain that the band feeds off that cognitive dissonance to find new ways to trip up their listeners. I say that with all the love in the world for a band that will write firstname.lastname@example.org on our email list. FTR’s latest release Famous Monsters deals with just that: monsters. About the fictional ones, the ones who will take them on, the very real ones that sneak into our lives, and how they’re very necessary to living. It is an extremely fun album that if you’re not paying attention too well, will sneak up on you with the horrors in the lyrics. Huh… I guess that makes Famous Monsters a monster in its own right.
Favorite Tracks: ‘The Ballad of Buffalo Jones,’ ‘Panzer Klaus,’ ‘Famous Monsters’
Speaking of monsters, here’s another album dealing with monsters in the most delightfully twisted way. I’ve already talked about this album at Steampunk Chronicle, but The Devil Herself is a wonderfully dark musical that deals with the supernatural and brings the supernatural into our boring lives. Megan’s bigger than life voice and Byrne’s folk accompaniment is what really drives it home and makes it the dark magic musical it is.
Favorite Tracks: ‘These Bones,’ ‘Skeletons,’ ‘Hometown Hero’
Professor Shyguy calls him “the poor nerd’s Justin Timberlake” and for good reason. Writing some of the nerdiest dance songs ever heard, the good Professor backs it up with dance moves, high energy, and a sweet falsetto tenor that ties it all together. On his second album Rated Heart, there’s a lot of the same nerdy topics that range from hilarious to kind of heart-breaking, but there’s also a lot of experimentation. ‘Science, Life, & ABCs’ is mind blowing when you’re made aware of the formula behind the song, and ‘Keywords & Dubstep’ brings him into the world of EDM as he sings about memes and Youtube. Fun and extremely catchy, Professor Shyguy merges the worlds of geekdom and pop with ease.
Favorite Tracks: ‘Keywords & Dubstep,’ ‘Weak,’ ‘Destroy Metroid’
If you want to be a cynical bastard, you could blame Daft Punk for the current dirge of EDM. Coming before others with the highly acclaimed Discovery, it’s hard not to see how Daft Punk influenced so many electronic artists in this current age. Especially with their mostly electronic album Human After All. It was that influence that drove the French duo to go the opposite direction with Random Access Memories. Instead of creating a purely electronic album, Daft Punk dove into the archives of what influenced them and created a disco album. A gorgeous one that uses mostly live instruments and old school synth techniques. It is probably the most jarring release to come out this year, but also one of the biggest risks-big rewards that I’ve heard in a while. What other band could make a straight up disco track (that may or may not be about Mexican monkeys according to multiple sources) with one of today’s biggest producers on lead vocal and have it take over the airwaves? No one, that’s who.
(Though, if you’re missing the more electronic Daft Punk, go listen to ‘On Sight,’ ‘Black Skinhead,’ ‘I Am a God,’ and ‘Send It Up’ off of Kanye West’s album Yeezus. If you like Pharrell Williams doing what he does best, go listen to ‘BBC’ off of Jay-Z’s Magna Carta Holy Grail and stop giving your money to ‘Blurred Lines’.)
Favorite tracks: ‘Get Lucky,’ ‘Touch,’ ‘Instant Crush’
1.) Save Rock and Roll by Fall Out Boy
You saw this coming. I’ve had a huge blog post about this album as well as a ton of feelings on my Tumblr and in real life when I saw them at The Tabernacle. It’s just a damn good album that pushes Fall Out Boy’s own boundaries and brings the rock back to radio. To be honest, it might be on the top of my list at the end of the year, but Janelle Monae IS releasing The Electric Lady in September. We’ll see. Just drop every preconception you have about Fall Out Boy and go listen to that beautiful bastard of an album. You’ll thank me later.
Favorite Tracks: ‘Rat a Tat,’ ‘Save Rock and Roll,’ ‘Miss Missing You’
Well, that’s it for today’s post. Come back later this week when I’ll have my thoughts on Pacific Rim!