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Ashley’s Favorite Music of 2013

Well, here it is. The grand finale of my favorites of 2013. It took me two weeks to compose my thoughts on this topic… Or rather, I’ve been stupidly busy with work that I haven’t had a chance to write it. I like the first excuse better though.

Last year was a pretty damn good year. Favorites returned, new people surprised me, and there were some great indie stuff that popped up in my personal circle. I talked about some of it in the middle of last year, but what made it to the end? Well, let’s start with

Favorite Singles

Honorable Mention: ‘Roar’ by Katy Perry

I hate that I like this song. I hate that Katy Perry songs keep getting in my head and every time I say I don’t like it, it beats me into submission until I do. It happened again with ‘Roar’ to the point I would turn it up and belt Katy’s turn at an empowerment anthem after her divorce from Russell Brand. Though, due to Katy’s writing style, I still think she’s writing about Travis McCoy.

6.) TIE: ‘Get Lucky’ by Daft Punk and ‘Holy Grail’ by Jay-Z feat. Justin Timberlake

Lots of people got sick of these songs rather quickly, but strangely, I never did. Even though I couldn’t get into Magna Carta Holy Grail the way I did Watch The Throne, there were several tracks on the album that completely stood out to me like ‘BBC,’ ‘Picasso Baby,’ and ‘Jay Z Blue.’ The lead single of ‘Holy Grail’ was completely entrancing. I think I might have ended up liking Justin on this track more than on most of his singles from The 20/20 Experience. Well… most…

As for ‘Get Lucky,’ it really was everyone’s song of the year. It was a fun disco track that felt more genuine than any other track on the radio this summer. It also probably sealed the deal for the awesome year Pharrell had. Well, maybe it was that OTHER song, but I refuse to acknowledge the existence of the Canadian Creep.

5.) ‘This Is Gospel’ by Panic! at the Disco

I really only liked about half of Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die. The half I really liked was sexy, catchy and weirdly emotional. The half I didn’t was boring to the point it began to run together. Thankfully, the second single ‘This Is Gospel’ was on the half I liked. It’s a stand out song on the record even without single status due to the sung in a church like feeling of the song and the pure brutal emotion. I’ve cried to this song, and I’m not afraid to admit that. Even if the rest of the album is dull, I’m glad that this is the song that shines.

4.) ‘My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark (Light ‘Em Up)’ by Fall Out Boy

It’s been a year and a day since this song roared into my life and it hasn’t gotten old yet in the million times I’ve listened, screamed, drove and rocked out to this song. The band came back with a vengeance and this song did a great job of staking their claim in the year of music. Not to mention the Butch Walker handclaps certainly help.

3.) ‘Problem’ by Natalia Kills

This was the year I discovered Natalia Kills and I feel like it improved my life in so many ways. The album Trouble is full of gems, but the lead single ‘Problem’ was blowing cigarette smoke in my face with a smile and I was loving it. ‘Problem’ is an anthem for bad girls everywhere who love their vices and don’t give two fucks about who judges them. As I slipped into that side of me throughout the year, that song played in my head and guided my steps.

2.) ‘Closer’ by Tegan and Sara

I feel like a bad queer girl when I admit that I haven’t really listened to Tegan and Sara seriously. I know I would like them and I love the song ‘Hell,’ I just keep forgetting to listen to them. Still, even with my constant forgetfulness to listen to Tegan and Sara, I fell in love with the song ‘Closer.’ Never has a song so accurately reflected what it’s like to be so completely smitten with someone that all you want to do with them is get them to sit a bit closer to you. You bet I turned this up when I finally heard it on the radio.

1.) ‘Q.U.E.E.N.’ by Janelle Monae featuring Erykah Badu

In an alternate universe, this song became a massive hit, Janelle Monae gets the fame she so rightly deserves, and everyone recognized ‘Blurred Lines’ for the date rape song it is and lets Robin Thicke wallow in obscurity forever. Unfortunately, my physical body does not reside in that universe. However, I still have ‘Q.U.E.E.N.’ and I still have Monae rising, showing the world what she’s made of.

EPs

I should note that I usually never cover EPs, but this year had three that definitely stood out to me that are worth noting.

Who's gonna take you home tonight? [wikipedia.org]

Who’s gonna take you home tonight? [wikipedia.org]

3.) True Trans by Against Me!

This EP was more of a two-sided single to tide people over as they waited on Transgender Dysphoria Blues (that review is coming, by the way), but splitting hairs doesn’t take away from the fact that this EP is fantastic. It features acoustic versions of the song ‘True Trans Soul Rebel’ and ‘Fuckmylife666,’ which are probably two of my favorite songs on the record. On the record, the songs are plenty emotional, but there’s a personal vulnerability in the EP versions that pack more punch than their electric counterparts.

Must Hear Track: The entire thing. It’s two songs.

2.) Pax-AM Days by Fall Out Boy

This eight song EP that the band recorded over a drunken weekend in Ryan Adams’ studio only clocks in at 13 minutes. It’s the very definition of loud and fast with the band only taking one or two takes for each songs. It was an interesting experiment considering how perfectionist they can be. It was loud, fast, and rage filled like the early days, but with skills that don’t make the record too painful to listen to for long. I’m sad I didn’t get to run around a field blasting this album like I originally planned. THIS SPRING IN THE MOUNTAINS…

Must Hear Tracks: ‘Hot to the Touch, Cold on the Inside,’ ‘Caffeine Cold,’ ‘Love, Sex, Death’

1.) Peachtree Battle by Butch Walker

Wherever you are, that's my home. [butchwalker.com]

Wherever you are, that’s my home. [butchwalker.com]

I cried like a baby listening to this EP. I’ve cried even harder hearing these songs live. Butch has always been an emotional songwriter, but Peachtree Battle drives right to the heart. When Butch began writing the songs, his father had been on a slow decline in health and Butch began writing the five song EP to come to terms with his father’s mortality. Before the EP released, Big Butch Walker passed away, which ends up magnifying the emotional impact of the songs even more. It’s a personal reflection on the effect one person can have on our lives, especially one as big as a parent. Still, it’s not all about death. There are plenty of life lessons that Big Butch taught Butch in these songs too. Ones that we can all learn from.

Must Hear Tracks: ‘I’ve Been Waiting For This,’ ‘Let It Go Where It’s Supposed To,’ ‘Peachtree Battle’

Favorite Albums

Well, here they are. The cream of the crop. What albums prevailed to be my favorites in 2013?

I’m up all night to get lucky.

5.) Random Access Memories by Daft Punk

I think I ended up liking this album less as the year went on, but it doesn’t mean I don’t think it gets ragged on way too much. Daft Punk has always been about bringing art to electronic music and this album was very much about exploring their roots in several ways. Some of it was disco like ‘Lose Yourself to Dance’ and ‘Get Lucky.’ Some of it was more experimental. A lot of it really, but it works because there really isn’t anyone out there that gets it like Daft Punk. Just because I can get down to ‘Get Lucky’ doesn’t mean I can’t chill to ‘Touch’ or appreciate/rock out to the reverse engineering of ‘Giorgio by Moroder.’ It isn’t Discovery, but we need to stop expecting Daft Punk to make that album again.

Must Hear Tracks: ‘Touch,’ ‘Get Lucky,’ ‘Doin’ It Right’

4.) ARTPOP by Lady Gaga

I was worried about this album, but it ended up pleasantly surprising me in the end. It’s not flaw free, but ARTPOP is definitely one of the best albums Gaga has released. It was an honest and beautiful look at the life of an artist trying to balance her life and art. With some catchy dance numbers and lots of modern art, of course.

Must Hear Tracks: ‘Sexxx Dreams,’ ‘Do What U Want,’ ‘Artpop’

3.) Rated Heart by Professor Shyguy

I'll attack you once, you attack me back!

I’ll attack you once, you attack me back!

Meanwhile, I ended up liking this album more. Maybe I’m a little biased towards my friends, but Professor Shyguy can write a damn good chiptune pop song. Even if I don’t always get what he’s singing about, I can get down without hesitation. I feel like I should have a deeper reason of liking this record so much, but I don’t. It’s geeky, catchy, and fun, which is all I need sometimes. As I said before, “the Poor Nerd’s Justin Timberlake” mixes geekdom and pop music with ease.

Must Hear Tracks: ‘Keywords and Dubstep,’ ‘Weak,’ ‘Destroy Metroid’

2.) Trouble by Natalia Kills

I must confess, when one of my online friends asked me if I had heard the new Natalia Kills record, I had no earthly idea who the hell she was talking about. The album took forever to get on Spotify, but I ended up blasting ‘Problem’ for weeks until it did. Where I started to scream “I PUT MY HIGH HEELS ON SO I’M CLOSER TO GOD” at random points up until I finally bought the album and long since after. Much like ‘Problem,’ Trouble is an album about girls with their middle fingers in the air as they party, but it also shows the motivation and sadness that fuels it. Trouble isn’t just a party record, but a record about broken people putting on their best faces.

Must Hear Tracks: ‘Problem,’ ‘Stop Me,’ ‘Devils Don’t Fly’

1.) TIE: Save Rock and Roll by Fall Out Boy and The Electric Lady by Janelle Monae

I don't know where you're going, but do you have room for one more troubled soul?

I don’t know where you’re going, but do you have room for one more troubled soul?

I debated this for WEEKS. I’ve talked at length about these two albums online and in person to anyone who will listen. I’ve listened to them over and over again that I sing along with instrumentals. I’ve cried and rocked out to both of these artists live. And in the end, I could not decide which album I really wanted to put as my #1 of the year: Janelle Monae’s genre bending entry of love, heartache, and standing up for what you believe in her Metropolis epic or Fall Out Boy rediscovering themselves and setting out to make a record to inspire the next generation of garage bands. Both records meant a lot me last year while being simultaneously fantastic. What else can be said?

Must Hear Tracks:

Save Rock and Roll: ‘The Phoenix,’ ‘Rat a Tat,’ ‘Save Rock and Roll’

The Electric Lady: ‘Q.U.E.E.N,’ ‘Givin Em What They Love,’ ‘Victorious’

janelle-monae-album-cover-electric-lady-homepage

Well, that finishes up my favorites of last year. What were your favorites of last year? What did you disagree with me on? And don’t worry, we’ll stop dwelling on last year soon enough. My review of Transgender Dysphoria Blues is next.

 
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Posted by on February 6, 2014 in Music

 

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Six Things I Rarely Admit Out Loud

This post is a little more personal than my usual fare, but hey, it’s the holidays. A new year is about to start. I’m thankful for everything that’s changed in the past year or so, but there’s still a lot I’m holding onto. Maybe I should be honest about these things. Some are silly, some are serious, but they’re all true things about myself that I rarely admit for fear of being judged.

1.) I’m terrified of political discussions thanks to my family

My family is painfully conservative. Well, maybe that’s not completely true. It’s more like they fall on a scale of Libertarian to Tea Party. Still, one of my first memories is of my parents telling me that Bill Clinton was a bad man after I was talking about seeing a picture of the then president eating lunch with school kids and thinking that was cool. Not because I was interested in his politics. I was 5. I just thought it was cool he was eating lunch with kids.

Of course, I became my dad’s worst nightmare when my politics turned liberal feminist.

You think this would have encouraged me to stand up to my family and try to share my views, but nope. Every mention of liberalism was matched with scoffs and disdain with my family. I already feel like the outsider in my family for so many reasons that I’m about to touch on. Being liberal was something best kept to myself. And when I don’t, it just gets me chewed out, like the time I yelled at Sean Hannity on the radio for bitching about Common performing at the White House and my grandmother chewed me out for five minutes about how Common was actually a violent man.

This is probably why I hate internet arguments or talking politics with my friends on Facebook. I’ve permanently abstained from posting political things after day long arguments have been put on my feed because I shared the opinion that Lorde’s ‘Royals’ is kind of racist. I back out because of my own demented sense of self-preservation from a family that treats liberalism as the end of the world.

They seem to be okay with the fact I’m queer, but I could be kidding myself.

2.) I’ve had a lifelong fear that everyone secretly hates me and just doesn’t want to tell me

And I mean everyone. Family, friends, coworkers…

I don’t know exactly when this started. Maybe it’s just one of those human things or just being constantly teased in school, I feel like everyone just puts up a smile when I’m around and just laughs at me when I’m gone. I even feel this way about my own parents. That somehow, I’m just a disappointment to them. Because I’m not stereotypically pretty or that I went into communications instead of something more “prestigious.” That I like weird music or strange TV shows instead of being normal. That I turned out liberal instead of following blindly to make them happy.

I need constant assurance that people want to be around me, but then there are some days where it doesn’t feel like enough. That maybe I should just disappear and that no one will miss me.

There are days I know it’s not true and that I’m just paranoid, but if I get a glean that someone might actually not like me, it sends me into a tailspin because maybe I am as useless and terrible as everyone clearly thinks I am.

Maybe that’s just a side-effect of my anxiety.

3.) I’m really bad at saying what I want or how I’m really feeling

I grew up an only child. A spoiled one at that. I’m grateful for the fact I didn’t need to worry about much as a kid, but I wonder if my family constantly telling me how spoiled I was made me afraid to tell people what I want. Because saying ‘I want…’ is selfish, and I’m not allowed to be selfish. I have food, clothes, and a family that takes care of me. But it makes me afraid to say things like ‘I want you to give me just an hour of your time because I miss you,’ ‘I’m scared,’ or ‘I just don’t want to do this.’

Maybe it’s also my commitment and loyalty that bites me in the ass here. If I volunteer to bake hundreds of cupcakes, I need to commit. Don’t get mad if people don’t show up to help or think that all your work isn’t good enough for them. Don’t whine when you’re tired. If you bail, you fail. You fail, it gives you a reason for people to hate you.

I even fear saying this because I’m sure people will just see it as fishing for compliments or whining instead of being honest, but I want to be honest. I’m tired of being scared.

4.) My love of Butch Walker was slightly founded on a basis of spite

I still grouse about my middle and high school bully, who I will call ‘Sour Patch’ for the sake of this blog. I should let it go, but there’s a part of me that is driven by wanting to prove her wrong about everything she ever said about me.

And I’ll admit, part of that was Butch Walker.

Not every bit, of course. I still discovered he was from Cartersville after looking him up on Wikipedia one night the summer before my junior year of high school started and felt hopeful. A month later, a girl who later became one of my very best friends sent me his entire solo discography, but I was still very casual about.

And then there was Sour Patch.

I was sitting at lunch one day listening to songs from Left of Self-Centered when Sour Patch came sliding over to annoy me. Because we had separate classes for the first time since middle school and she missed doing that. She then looked at my iPod, gasped, and declared I wasn’t cool enough to listen to Butch Walker.

Right then, something flipped. I wasn’t cool enough, she said? Well then. I’m just going to have to listen to ALL the Butch Walker then because I sure as hell wasn’t going to live for her satisfaction.

Heh. I guess I have to thank her. Nearly seven and a half years later, my life has been made so much better because I REALLY started listening to an artist just to piss her off. So long and thanks for all the Butch.

5.) Butch and DragonCon are what tipped the scales for me to go to Georgia State.

I was severely depressed in my junior year of high school. Between IB making me feel like I was a complete dumbass and having no idea what I wanted to do with my life, I just hated getting out of bed and going to school in the morning.

But I still had to pick a school to go to, and I had no idea what I wanted. Except that I didn’t want to go to UGA because fuck going to college with everyone I hated in high school.

Sometime after the first time I saw Butch though, I decided screw it and to look into going into a music management program. The problem is that there were only two schools in Georgia that offered a Music Management major: Berry College and Georgia State University.

Berry College isn’t a bad school. In fact, it’s a lovely private school in Rome, Georgia, even if it is completely funded by the Cathy family to the point a LGBT organization couldn’t properly form on campus until just recently. However, it is in Rome. It was further out in the boonies than I already was and the once fact I remembered about Berry from when I was there at the camp on campus for a folk art program was that the deer outnumber the students 3 to 1.

Georgia State however was in the middle of Atlanta. Which meant city. Which meant no deer and that I was right around the corner from where the DragonCon hotels were. And I could keep going to Butch Walker shows.

I didn’t need to know anything else about GSU. That’s all I needed.

Probably a bad idea, but I think it worked out pretty well in the end.

6.) I used to write slash fanfiction.

Well, still do sometimes. It’s what really got me into fandom was participating in fanfiction and it helped me come to terms with my sexuality. Maybe not too shameful, but I needed to make this list an even six. What my main fandom squeeze was? Hey, some things need to stay secret.

Huh… you know what. I think I feel better now…

 
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Posted by on December 3, 2013 in Personal

 

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Out of Focus: A documentary I can’t be unbiased about

Ever since I started writing blogs and reviews online, I’ve had to learn to seem unbiased when writing. Well, maybe unbiased isn’t the right word. Reviews and editorials are a form of writing that ultimately boil down to bias and personal perspective, but it has made me learn to communicate my opinions in a way that isn’t capslocking my way through it, even if I want to. I definitely wanted to after I saw Pacific Rim.

But last night, I saw a film that I realized I could never talk about it in a fair way or communicate how people who aren’t as familiar with the source material might enjoy the film.

I still wanted to talk about it though.

This blog is about Butch Walker: Out of Focus.

MV5BMjI1NzQ3NzA4MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNDA5NTc3Nw@@._V1_I’ve talked about Butch Walker on this blog before. I’m sure I’m going to talk about him more after this post as well. It’s hard for me not to talk about him, really. He’s been a major influence on my life since I was 16 years old, confused, angry, and tired of living in Cartersville. His music got me through questioning my sexuality, endless crushes, my parents divorce, the death of my great-grandmother and grandpa, depression, and a whole host of other things that I’ve experienced in the last seven years. Several friendships I have were built on a mutual love of Butch Walker and his music. He was a driving force in my decision to move to Atlanta for college and I haven’t looked back since. I even have a tattoo of his lyrics on my leg.

It doesn’t hurt that he’s recognizes me now from all the shows I’ve been to and is happy to see me when I go to say hi to him afterwards. He’s not just a great musician, but he’s a sweetheart to boot.

When I heard that this documentary was happening (in fact, I was right behind the camera guy on the front row when Butch played The Variety Playhouse two years ago), I was pretty excited about it. Butch is kind of a private person about certain parts of his life that don’t involve music, so getting a documentary was exciting. Especially one directed by one of my favorite music video directors Shane Valdes.

It wasn’t until I was sobbing somewhat loudly in the Plaza Theater halfway through the film that I realized there’s no way I could ever talk about this film except from my perspective as a fan.

Some of the stuff in the film, I had seen before or known about from reading Drinking With Strangers. Some of it I had even seen in person. But the film itself really was a bit of a pull back of the curtain to a side of Butch rarely seen by fans. Focused around the recording of The Spade and a gig Butch played solo in England later that summer, Valdes and Peter Harding let us see the man at some of his most personal moments. From the in between moments that made up the recording sessions of The Spade to a strangely transposed rehearsal of ‘Passed Your Place, Saw Your Car, Thought of You’ in his hotel room to moments of him being a father to his son Jamie, it was parts of Butch I always knew were there, but had never gotten a chance to see. There are also very personal moments with just him and the camera that really assured me of how genuine Butch is as a person. He’s not in this industry for fame, money, or to even to try and change the world. He does it because he loves it, and he struggles with family and day to day like the rest of us, success or no.

Then there was the part with his dad.

OB-YV321_butchw_E_20130909102014

There’s a part in the film where the crew goes to speak with Big Butch and Melissa Walker, Butch’s parents. This was done two years ago when Big Butch’s health was failing, but he passed away at the end of August before the release of the film. I’ve heard stories about Big Butch through the years. I even have one myself from when I briefly met him after the release of I Liked It Better When You Had No Heart. It was always easy to see where Butch got it from and the stories I’ve heard of his parents’ support made me extremely happy to hear. It made it heartbreaking when Butch announced that his dad had passed away.

It was going in with that knowledge that made the ‘Day Drunk’ scene in the film harder to watch.

There’s a song on The Spade called ‘Day Drunk’. It’s essentially about Butch coming to terms with his dad’s condition and having to be away from Georgia because of work and family. He talks about it more in the film and reveals parts of the story I had not known about. I always knew it was about his dad. It’s right there in the song. When it came out though, my grandfather had passed away two months earlier after his struggle with lung cancer. That always made it hard for me to listen to ‘Day Drunk.’ My emotions about the time I didn’t get to spend with my grandfather or the fact I never really got to say goodbye to him would get conflated in the song. At best, I’d feel kind of sad before going into ‘Synthesizers.’ At worst, it would be actual crying. When I listen to The Spade casually, I sometimes skip over ‘Day Drunk’ depending on how I’m feeling.

In Out Of Focus though, it’s something I couldn’t skip. It’s Butch talking about the song overlaid with the recording of it, then overlaid with Big Butch talking about his own relationship with his father, hoping that Butch knows how much he loves him, and that he’ll always be there for him and Jamie. It’s the words of a man who knows his time is limited, but he still takes time to tell his family that he loves them more than anything else.

So when I cried, it wasn’t just for Butch and his father. It was for our shared hometowns. It was for the fact I miss my grandpa and wishing I had gotten to say my goodbyes before I left for Alaska that summer.

There were things I wish had been in the film. Maybe interviews of other past band members like the one with Darren Dodd. An introduction to Shovels and Rope instead of their brief cameo recording ‘Are You Getting All The Love You Need’ without saying who the hell Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst are to Butch. More concert footage, especially since the Atlanta show they recorded ended up relegated to the credits. Perhaps even interviews of people Butch has worked with.

In the end though, I realize that as much as I want those, the film was exactly what it needed to be. It was a portrait of a man I admire and getting to better understand who he is as a person and not just as an artist or producer. How his life fuels his passion and how he affects the people in his life and how they affect him. I know I’ll definitely watch it again, especially since it comes out tomorrow on iTunes and on VOD.

I don’t know how to recommend the film though because I’m so thoroughly invested in Butch that of course it was something I was going to watch. If you’re a fan, it’s definitely worth seeing. If you’ve heard of Butch through other artists like Pink, Panic! at the Disco or Fall Out Boy, but don’t really know who he is, it’s a good introduction to his life outside of that. If you have no idea who he is at all, then I really don’t know how you’ll view the film. Maybe it’ll bore you or pique your interest to look more into his music.

Which I kind of hope it will.

 
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Posted by on September 16, 2013 in Film, Music, Personal

 

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Defending The Faith: A Look at Fall Out Boy’s Save Rock and Roll

falloutboyWhile Fall Out Boy was on the dreaded hiatus and working on their own projects, I constantly swore up and down that the hiatus was going to be the best thing that ever happened to the band. I mean, it wasn’t like Blink-182. No one in the band was outright detesting the other and it wasn’t going to take a near death to get the band back on tour. It was just going to take time. Fall Out Boy just had to take some time off from Fall Out Boy, and they were going to come back stronger than ever.

I don’t think I anticipated how much they were going to knock the world off its feet when they returned though.

Back in February, Fall Out Boy not only announced the end of the hiatus, but a new album that they had recorded in secret with producer (and my personal hero) Butch Walker, a set of tour dates (see you June 2 at The Tabernacle!), and the first single ‘My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark (Light ‘Em Up)’.

Now, when the fandom realized that the band had done this all in secret, some puzzle pieces from the past year began to make sense. Like Patrick’s post about why he was stepping back from his solo stuff. Oh, you sneaky, sneaky boys. I even saw Butch live while they were working on the album and I was none the wiser!

But it’s okay, because the end result of them recording an album with no expectations on them is an album that far exceeds my own.

The image that let me know the rest of my year was going to be this band...

When the band announced Save Rock and Roll, they said the album was different from anything they had ever done, but encapsulated what Fall Out Boy was in 2013. I can honestly say that’s probably the most accurate description of Save Rock and Roll. There are signatures of older Fall Out Boy here, like Pete Wentz’s classic wordplay and the mix of pop-punk and metal influences that drive the rhythm section. But it’s also obvious that the boys have had a chance to play a little more during the hiatus. There’s a groove on songs like ‘Where Did The Party Go’ and ‘Miss Missing You’ that calls back to the Minneapolis Sound influences of Patrick Stump’s solo album Soul Punk. The bass wobble on ‘Death Valley’ and the general feel of ‘Just One Yesterday’ remind me of Black Cards. The thrashing guitars and drums on ‘The Mighty Fall’ and ‘Rat A Tat’ make me want to give another listen to The Damned Things and With Knives after hearing Joe and Andy get to flex their musical muscles a little more. The biggest surprise though was getting to hear all the boys provide background vocal harmonies, which I assume came along with the help of Walker.

Still, even with all these changes, it doesn’t feel like the band is trying to escape who they are. It might be jarring to casual fans or people who only know the songs they’ve heard on the radio, but those who have followed the band and their activities through the hiatus will see that this is a natural evolution. If anything, getting to explore new sounds and working with a producer that reminded them how to act like a band after three years off has strengthened their sound.

It also doesn’t hurt that the guest spots on this record are spot on.

Not seen: Patrick Stump's fanboy attackSince the days of Take This To Your Grave, Fall Out Boy has always managed to snag some great guests for their albums. From friends like William Beckett and Brendon Urie to major stars like Elvis Costello, Debbie Harry, and Jay-Z. They somehow managed to take the cake with Save Rock and Roll. There is the relative unknown of British singer Foxes, who offers beautiful ethereal vocals on ‘Just One Yesterday’. Rapper Big Sean drops a line on ‘The Mighty Fall’ that mixes extremely well with Wentz’s lyrics and keeps the flow of the song perfectly.

But really, it’s about those last two tracks.

‘Rat A Tat’ is a driving track that has grown on me the more I’ve heard it and makes me extremely excited to open my windows and drive as soon as the pollen stops blowing its load. It features Courtney Love doing a speak-sing on the track that’s manic, beautiful, and fits the track perfectly. When the album was leaked by the band the week before the album, I seriously thought that her parts were parts Wentz had written for himself initially before they decided to include Love. So imagine my surprise when I learned that every part that Love sings was written by Love herself. Her style meshes with Wentz’s like peanut butter and chocolate, and it’s a shame that people are going to write off this track just because of a continuing hate on for Love.

I will defend faith/Going down swinging‘Save Rock and Roll,’ the emotional title track, closes off the album in an epic way that only Fall Out Boy could do. It perfectly bookends the bombastic opener ‘The Phoenix’ and feels like the perfect in-house response to ‘What A Catch, Donnie’ from Folie a Deux. With gorgeous strings, the loop of ‘Chicago Is So Two Years Ago’ from Take This To Your Grave and the band singing “Oh no, we won’t go/Cause we don’t know how to quit,” the track assures the listener that Fall Out Boy isn’t going away again anytime soon. If ‘What A Catch, Donnie’ was about uncertainty, ‘Save Rock and Roll’ is about facing the future head on without forgetting what brought you here.

It doesn’t hurt that the track features an amazing vocal part from living legend and Fall Out Boy fan (I will never be over that) Sir Elton John. Hearing him sing alongside Patrick Stump while singing words written by Pete Wentz is so surreal, but amazing and just makes me cry even more. It feels like a decree from on high that Fall Out Boy is a part of an every evolving history of rock and roll. Genres change and it evolves with people who are willing to push the boundaries of the genre. Fall Out Boy wanted us to question what we consider ‘rock and roll’ with this album. Will they actually save rock and roll with their unique twists on the genre? It’s hard to say.

As many other reviewers have noticed before me though, I think this album certainly saved them.

Like young volcanoes...

 
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Posted by on April 19, 2013 in Music

 

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Liesel’s Yearly Favorites: Favorite Videos of 2011

Originally, this post was going to just be music videos, but then I started thinking of my favorite reviews and viral videos of the past year. So, why not review them all? This post will be split into three categories: Music, YouTube, and Reviews. Perhaps you’ve seen some of these, but hey… maybe not.

Six Favorite Music Videos

Honorable Mention: ‘House of Cards’ and ‘Dark Carnivale’ by Frenchy and the Punk

Have to give my friends Scott and Samantha credit. They know how to make fun videos that fit their sound and image perfectly. Steampunk mixed with a little dark fantasy, cabaret, and fairy dust. Both songs come from Happy Madness and are even more of a joy live.

6.) ‘Spotlight (Oh Nostalgia)’ – Patrick Stump

It’s sort of sad that this came out the same day as the ‘Born This Way’ video. While both songs carry the message of being yourself, Patrick’s comes across as a bit more genuine and uplifting. The video for the song enforces this, with real people (and one three legged dog) showing off their unique talents.

5.) ‘Summer of ’89’ – Butch Walker and the Black Widows

Butch Walker continues his 2011 theme of Nostalgia in this Shane Valdes directed video. While not as over the top as some of Valdes’ other videos, the video deliciously skewers tropes from the 80s hair metal that Walker grew up on. What really makes this video is a cameo from veteran actor Seymour Cassel as the very insistent video director. Valdes also directed a very post apocalyptic trailer for The Spade around the same time.

4.) ‘Otis’ – Jay-Z and Kanye West

As of writing this blog, I haven’t had a chance to listen to many tracks from the Jay-Z and Kanye West collaboration Watch The Throne. However, I LOVE the video for ‘Otis’, the joyride of a track that samples ‘Try A Little Tenderness’ by Otis Redding. The video, which features the coolest (and most dangerous looking) ride and a blink and you’ll miss it cameo from Aziz Ansari, fits the track perfectly and makes it hard to frown after watching it.

3.) ‘Last Friday Night (TGIF)’ – Katy Perry

I didn’t want to like this video because… well… Katy Perry. I was pleasantly surprised though when the funny and dayglo video brought together icons of three generations to tell the story of a wild Friday night. Go Uncle Kenny!

2.) ‘You And I’ – Lady GaGa

There seemed to be some debate over whether this video was Steampunk or not. While it was some sort of Retrofuture, it doesn’t take away from the fact that this video was a Burton-esque insight on loving others and loving yourself. Though, I think that’s what it’s about. I was rather distracted by GaGa’s alter ego of Jo Calderone. Ooo la la, sir…

1.) ‘Ready To Go (Get Me Out of Mind)’ – Panic! at the Disco

I’m sure some people thought I would bring up that very Steampunk video of Panic!’s on this list. While I do still enjoy that video, it did not bring as much joy as this beautifully done, musical inspired video for Panic!’s follow up single. Along with bringing way less drama, it’s just extremely happy and makes me want to go dancing out in the street with my umbrella.

Six Favorite YouTube Videos

6.) ‘Woody Allen Jesus’ by Tim Minchin

A song written by Minchin just in time for the holiday season, it was sadly cut from The Jonathan Ross Show due to fear of people taking offense to the sacrilege. Lucky for us, the internet exists for this such a thing.

5.) ‘Just Glue Some Gears On It (And Call It Steampunk)’

I tend to try and stay out of the debate of what constitutes Steampunk, but I have to give Sir Reginald Pikedevant, Esq. some credit for creating a wonderful chap hop song for all of us who have ever searched ‘Steampunk’ on Etsy and facepalmed.

4.) 500 Miles of Doctor Who

Created for David Tennant and Russell T. Davies’ last Doctor Who cast party, this video surfaced on the internet earlier this year. Along with The Ballad of Russell and Julie, this video reminds us all of how awesome the Davies years could be. Unlike The Ballad of Russell and Julie, it does it in three and a half Proclaimers filled minutes.

3.) Kermit sings ‘Life’s A Happy Song’ with Bret McKenzie

I’ve expressed my love for The Muppets several times on this blog already, but only because it was so wonderful and sincere. Of course, in true Muppet fashion, Kermit took a few moments to sing with the songwriter. Like Paul Williams before him, Bret McKenzie was joined on the piano by everyone’s favorite frog to sing a happy song.

2.) Like PB’s Status!

Gotta give Yamino credit for this one. She managed to create one hilarious Adventure Time themed thank you video for AskSugarlessGum and taking audio from Miles Jai’s Like My Status rant video. I don’t know how many times I watched this video and laughed my ass off. About the time it gets to Weeabo Bubblegum, I lose it every time and it just continues until the very end with autotuned LSP.

1.) Multiculturalism Go Wrong

I don’t know what to say about this video besides this is what happens when you let Steampunks rewrite certain scenes from Kevin Smith movies. In particular, the first scene with Hooper X in Chasing Amy. You’ve been warned.

Six Favorite Reviews

6.) Music Movies – Phantom of the Paradise

While nothing major happens in this joint review between Paw and Elisa from the Nostalgia Chick’s crew, it shines a favorable spotlight on one of my favorite cult movies. Not to mention some light on a few of Brian DePalma’s influences.

5.) A Bunch of Reviewers – The Last Airbender

After starting Avatar: The Last Airbender (review coming soon), I can understand all the rage the internet has let loose against M. Night Shyamalan and his adaptation. The funniest, most rage filled one, however, has to be this one with Rollo T, Y Ruler of Time, Todd in the Shadows, JesuOtaku, and tons of cameos. Sure, there’s pain, but there’s also an excellent Aasif Mandvi impersonation from Y.

4.) Nostalgia Chick – TLC and the 90s

Oftentimes, it has been the Nostalgia Chick to remind us that music brings about just as much nostalgia as a TV show or movie. While the review starts off in usual Nostalgia Chick territory with a humorous look back on the career of her favorite childhood group, it ends up with an honest reflection from Lindsay Ellis over the death of Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes back in 2002.

3.) Todd In The Shadows – ‘Sexy and I Know It’

While Channel Awesome’s most mysterious reviewer can tear apart a pop song with the best of them, it is very rare that he gets into true snob territory. That is, until this review. After giving up on this LMFAO song early, Kyle “Oancitizen” Kallgren convinces Todd to take a deeper look at the song. Quickly, the review turns into the most hilarious, hot aired filled analysis about a song about parading around with your shirt off ever to exist. Probably the only one, but who knows.

2.) Nostalgia Critic – Moulin Rouge!

Doug Walker has been involved in a lot of epic videos. Many of them within this past year. However, he certainly outdid himself in this review of Baz Lurhman’s 2001 movie musical. What easily could have been a scathing solo review becomes a 45 minute musical tribute to guilty pleasures with help from Rouge defenders Nostalgia Chick and brentalfloss.

1.) Brows Held High – The Man Who Fell To Earth

This video didn’t just make me start watching Brows Held High. It made me a fan of Kyle Kallgren for life. Set to the music of David Bowie, Kallgren sings his way through his usual high brow analysis of this 1976 science fiction. Except for some help during a musing set to ‘Dance Magic Dance’, he does this musical review solo, making it even more impressive.

Tomorrow, I will do my last reflection on 2011 by looking at my favorite things discovered this past year. Stay tuned!

 
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Posted by on December 30, 2011 in Internet, Music, Steampunk

 

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Liesel’s Yearly Favorites: Six Favorite Books Read in 2011

This list is somewhat different from the other lists. Due to the fact I’ve only read three books published in 2011 this year, I feel like it would be very uninteresting to only talk about those three books. Therefore, I’ve picked the six favorites out of the books I’ve read this year. And in my eyes, graphic novels and non-fiction are on the same footing.

6.) Phonogram: Rue Britannia by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie (2007)

After a fine woman named Emma suggested that I was a Phonomancer, I decided to check this series out since it had been quite sometime since I had read a new graphic novel.

For those who don’t know, Phonogram is a comic series that follows phonomancers, those who have magic control over music, around London. The first volume, Rue Britannia, follows David Kohl, who discovered his powers after getting into Britpop in the 90s. After his patron goddess Britannia goes missing, he must search for her, bringing back old memories and influences for him.

While many of the references were out of my sphere of knowledge (which was helped by a nice little glossary in the back) and David’s snobby hipster attitude can get fairly annoying, I have never read a work that so perfectly captures what it is to be in love with music. While neither David and I can play our own music, we do derive power from the music that saves us. Part of David’s weakness is that he cannot abandon his goddess, despite the fact she has very little power and most of her followers have switched over. It brought back memories of the music I loved when I realized I wanted music to be in my life forever and how it’s been hard to leave it behind entirely.

While I have yet to read Singles Club, I’m looking forward to knowing more about the world of Phonogram.

5.) Dreadnought by Cherie Priest (2010)

Cherie Priest has become well known for her Clockwork Century novels within the Steampunk community. Centered around a universe where Seattle is underground, the Civil War has gone on for twenty years, and zombies come about from a sickly gas, we see what would happen if war technology had won out in the years of the war between the states. While I have yet to read two of the books in the Century (Clementine and Ganymede), I did read the first two this year. While Boneshaker had a tendency to drag, Dreadnought was an exciting novel that captured a very long and arduous journey in 400 pages.

Following a recently widowed nurse named Mercy, Dreadnought follows her as she makes a journey through air, river, and train from Richmond, Virginia to Seattle, Washington to see her dying father. Crossing through enemy lines, Mercy inadvertently falls into the Union’s war effort. Not only is the action reflective of a very long and dangerous journey, but the characters Mercy meets are interesting and worthy of their own stories. In particular, I’d love to know more about the uppity Miss Theodora Clay, Mercy’s cabin mate through her journey on the Dreadnought.

Cherie Priest has a tendency to bring back characters in her universe. Here’s hoping that we see Mercy Lynch again.

4.) Nation by Terry Pratchett (2008)

I haven’t read much Terry Pratchett outside of Good Omens, but I decided to read Nation after reading a review of it online a couple of years ago. While the book does have some of Terry Pratchett’s traditional humor, the book ends up being a very emotional alternate history about a boy and a girl affected by a tsunami and how they have to rebuild.

The story follows a boy named Mau who was in the middle of his manhood ritual when a tsunami wiped out his entire village. The only person left on the island is a “ghost girl” named Daphne, who was on a wooden ship that washed up on the island on its way to port. As more people from the surrounding islands spill into what is left of Nation, Mau has to work with Daphne and others in order to preserve the island and protect who is left. While he questions the Gods of his culture, he begins to learn the history of his island.

Many have suggested that this story is Terry’s reflection on his Alzheimer’s, and I can sort of see it. Here, we have a story about someone who loses everything and tries so hard to save what is lost. So much of the emotion comes from Mau’s loneliness over being the last person left of his tribe. However, as the tagline of the novel says, “When much is taken, something is returned.” As much as this novel is about loss, it’s also about what you gain from that loss.

3.) Shockaholic by Carrie Fisher (2011)

I became a fan of Carrie Fisher as a writer after watching her one woman show Wishful Drinking late last year. Wishful Drinking is a funny and honest memoir from Fisher about her family, her experience as Princess Leia, and her Bipolar disorder. Shockaholic feels very much like an addendum to Wishful Drinking, but where the previous memoir was all about her, Shockaholic is a very honest reflection on the people she’s known.

The whole idea behind this followup is explained briefly in Wishful Drinking and elaborated on within the first chapter. Fisher has been undergoing Electroshock Therapy to help treat her Bipolar disorder. She explains that it is nothing like in the movies and that it has been a massive help for her. However, a downside of it is that she loses about four months worth of memory. After the initial introduction to her memory loss, Carrie tells us about various memories and reflections of her past. From her retelling of going toe-to-toe with Ted Kennedy while on a date with Chris Dodd to random memories of her first stepfather Harry Karl. However, the most telling chapter is towards the end, where she talks about her father Eddie Fisher, who recently passed away. She talks about how her relationship with him and how he was towards the end of his life. As someone who has lost a grandfather recently, it was an emotional read and so much more raw than anything else in Wishful Drinking. The book is not as funny as Wishful Drinking, but it is so tender and telling, showing yet another side of Fisher that we have never seen before.

2.) Drinking With Strangers by Butch Walker and Matt Diehl (2011)

As I showed in my album review list, I’m a huge fan of Butch Walker. His music has been a life force to me for the past five years and his albums have a special place in my heart and in my CD collection. When I heard he was writing a book, I was ecstatic to read it and soak in what he had to say.

Drinking With Strangers is equal parts memoir and how to guide to make it in the music industry. As a midlevel artist who has been working in the industry for more than 20 years as both an artist and a producer, Butch has stories a plenty to share. Some even include your favorite artists. One of my favorite stories in the book is about him and Gabe Saporta teasing and hitting each other during production of the last Midtown album. Also, it’s probably the first time I’ve ever understood how royalties work.

However, the book is not a rock’n’roll drugged out tell all. In fact, Butch keeps it very tame and doesn’t name names. Partially for legal reasons, I’m sure, but names are only dropped when things are positive. Instead, Drinking With Strangers really becomes a story about following your dreams, overcoming your obstacles, and enjoying life as it comes. It just happens to have stories about other rockstars interspersed throughout.

1.) The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins (2008 – 2010)

Perhaps it is cheating to list three books as my number one, but The Hunger Games is not a series of stand alone novels. It’s not a Battle Royale ripoff. The trilogy is a story about a girl who put herself in danger to protect her family and inadvertently started a war.

The world of The Hunger Games is what I’ve called a post-post-apocalypse. Where the world has rebuilt after an unknown disaster, but where the ones with money really do have all the power. The main concept may be a battle to the death involving children done for entertainment, but through that, we see that the world of Panem is brutal and puts these characters into a never ending cycle of poverty and oppression that keeps those outside of the Capitol bending towards their will. And yet, here we have Katniss Everdeen of District 12 becoming the Mockingjay, becoming a symbol of hope and resistance for a downtrodden nation. However, she’s reluctant and just so very… human. As the series progresses into a full blown war, we see the consequences of it and how it tears down someone so easily. It may be a futuristic setting, but The Hunger Games tells a very painful and very real human story.

Tomorrow, I’ll be talking about my favorite music videos and online videos of this past year!

 
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Posted by on December 29, 2011 in Books

 

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Liesel’s Yearly Favorites: Six Favorite Albums of 2011

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.

 
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Posted by on December 27, 2011 in Music

 

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