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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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A couple of announcements and some ‘Applause’

Hello readers! Long time, no see.

Well, I guess I should be honest outright about why I haven’t been writing here lately. Recently, I was picked up as a writer at the collaborative blog Nerdophiles. I’ve written three pieces for them so far, including a Dragon Con Survival Guide that has gotten a lot of traction since it went up yesterday. The experience of writing there has been delightful so far and I can’t wait to progress into the future with them!

Speaking of Dragon Con, I will be there! I’m not attending as press or as a performer, but I’ll be hanging around for sure. It’s likely that you’ll see me at the Pacific Rim fan meetup on Saturday and the Airship Races representing Steampunk Chronicle. Probably the Comic Book Pageant as well, knowing my dearest Lady Swales. At least I’m prepared!

Okay, onto the review.

Last week, Lady Gaga released her newest single ‘Applause’ into the world a week early to combat hackers who leaked the track. She followed this quickly with the official lyric video (which reminded me of how long its been since I’ve been to a drag show) and the gorgeously shot, but very bizarre official video.

Now, I was a little worried about sharing my thoughts on the song after Gaga posted this:

Ruh Roh...It doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence about writing in your blog about your thoughts on the song when you opinion is regarded as not relevant.

Then I remembered a very stupid detail: I’m a blogger, but I’m also a fan. Sure, I haven’t been able to see her live, but since the days of ‘Just Dance’ and ‘Poker Face,’ I’ve considered Lady Gaga one of my favorite pop stars. I was deliriously excited when the ‘Telephone’ video came out. I still cry about her ‘Speechless’ performance at the AMAs. I wrote a whole blog about how Born This Way grew on me as an album. I’ve cosplayed her. TWICE. I even bought and regularly wear her perfume.

It smells like fame, poisoning your boyfriend, and a little like apricots.

So, I think I can say the following with confidence:

‘Applause’ is one of the most boring pop songs I’ve heard in the past year. It seriously sounds like an unmemorable song from a 90s Europop band.

And I hate saying that! I’ve tried to like the song, but it’s like The Silence. As soon as it’s off, I forget I’ve heard it.

Well, that’s not entirely true. I can remember the chorus pretty well, but the song doesn’t make me want to go and listen to it on repeat. It doesn’t make me want actively avoid it the way I avoid ‘Blurred Lines’ by Robin Thicke either. It just… exists.

The thing for me though is that Lady Gaga isn’t suppose to just exist. She’s loud and memorable. Even if you don’t understand her, she’s making you talk about her. She’s digging your way into your head, even if it’s a song that offends multiple ethnic groups at once. I shouldn’t have to say I remember and like a Katy Perry song full of Dr. Luke’s lazy songwriting better than a Lady Gaga song, but that’s what’s been happening.

Of course, this isn’t me pitting one artist against another. It just makes me a bit concerned about ARTPOP if I’m not gelling to the first single. Then again, I wasn’t the biggest fan of ‘Born This Way’ and I ended up enjoying the album for the most part. Plus, it seems like Gaga is going a similar route that Bjork did with Biophilia and is including an app that goes along with the album. I’d like to see if it takes off and popularizes that approach.

Still, I’m not feeling the ‘Applause’. I know Gaga can do better and I hope she will do better with ARTPOP. Since I won’t know until November, I think I’ll just put The Fame Monster and ‘Q.U.E.E.N.’ and ‘Dance Apocalyptic’ by Janelle Monae on repeat in the meantime.

lady-gaga-applause-cover

 
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Posted by on August 21, 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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