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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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Now is not the time to be a Steamhipster!

Hello again, readers. First off, I’d like to apologize upfront for my sparse updates in January. The month was hectic for me both personally and professionally and it left me little time and inspiration to actually write my blog.

However, I do have some good news! Starting later this month, I will be writing a regular column for Steampunk Chronicle! I will still be doing occasional media reviews, but once a month, I will be focusing on fundraising projects and philanthropy in the Steampunk community. I will have more information on that soon, so stay tuned!

Today though, I’m here to talk about something more serious. Something that is plaguing the Steampunk community as it continues to grow. I’m talking, of course, about Steamhipsterness.

The Steamhipster, for those unaware, are those who have a regular temper tantrum anytime anything vaguely Steampunk hits the mainstream and says that the genre has been killed at least every few months. This can be a reaction to anything, like a Steampunk episode of a TV series, but most of the Steamhipster’s tantrums are directed towards music. The first known example of this phenomena happened in January 2011 when Panic! at the Disco released the video for ‘The Ballad of Mona Lisa’ unto the world. The video featured a Steampunk wake organized by the League of S.T.E.A.M. and had Panic! letting everyone know they were saying goodbye to their past. Of course, most Steamhipsters could not see this. They cried that Brendon and Spencer had killed Steampunk, even though they have been a band with a consistent victorian aesthetic since they had a budget to throw around. How is making a Steampunk video and forcing Jake Sinclair to play banjo not the next logical step?!

What came next is debatable. Panic! was the dead horse for most of the year, but some people think Lady GaGa’s ‘You and I’ was Steampunk. It was some kind of retrofuturism, but I thought it was mostly about how hot GaGa is a Jo Calderone. T-Pain dressed as Captain Robert on the cover of his latest album, but that was more confusingly amusing more than anything else. Victoria’s Secret had a Victorian inspired section of this year’s fashion show, but all that really brought on was weird opinions about underwear (sidenote: no, we do not need to be returning to corsets, garters, and stockings as regular wear). However, the community was not prepared for the storm that would be Justin Bieber singing ‘Santa Claus Is Coming To Town’.

The video, which features clips from Arthur Christmas and a $3,000 leather and brass glove created by artist Ian Finch-Feld, takes place in a Steampunk version of Santa’s workshop. The focus is obviously on Bieber, but there’s also some pretty cool scenery, dancing, and fashion. It’s not the best thing ever, but it’s actually pretty nice looking. Of course, forget all that stuff. Bieber went Steampunk! Forget that Panic at the Gym Class Fall Out band! Steampunk is dead now and Bieber is holding the smoking gun! IT’S ALL OVERRRRRRRRRRRR!

Until last week, when Nicki Minaj and David Guetta upped the ante with ‘Turn Me On’.

The video reminds me of a Steampunk Frankenstein story, with an inventor trying to create a perfect creation and the creation getting away from him. The gearwork CG is pretty fantastic, and the costumes are wonderful.  Of course, once again, the Steamhipsters cry out that Steampunk is…

Okay, you know what. Stop.

Just.

Stop.

If we’re going to declare that Steampunk is dead every time it goes mainstream, the mainstream isn’t going to be the one that kills it.

There’s a reason so many musicians have started using Steampunk in their videos. And it’s the same reason so many of us flocked to it in the first place. It’s because it’s awesome.

Visually and conceptually, Steampunk is an awesome thing. You have ladies looking sexy in gear that hasn’t been considered attractive in years, technology running on clockwork and steam, and Tesla winning. When a band is producing a music video for a single, they want to focus on making a memorable video that will get people talking and thinking about your product and ultimately buying it. Steampunk looks cool, and people will remember your video if the woman who killed Brendon Urie is caught in a net canon or see Nicki Minaj being made out of gears. For better or worse, by complaining endlessly about so and so “killing” Steampunk, we’re ultimately doing what the artist wants by talking about them.

Complaining is not worst thing the community does though by practicing Steamhipsterness. Stifling potential creativity is.

I mean, it’s bad enough that we aren’t celebrating the fact that The League of S.T.E.A.M. has an expanded audience, had large props scene across the country as Panic! at the Disco toured, and went beyond their $10,000 Kickstarter goal for their second season. It’s bad enough that no one wants to acknowledge the artist who sold a $3,000 piece to Justin Bieber because he sold it to Justin Bieber. It’s bad enough that we forget that the producers of the ‘Turn Me On’ video put out a casting call for Steampunks in LA to play the plastic automotons. The community just wants to focus on the fact that Steampunk is mainstream, and that’s bad.

But by focusing on what’s “bad”, it puts the community in this mindset to exile those who come from the “bad”. What if the next great leather maker came into the community because they saw it in a Panic! at the Disco video, or a potential hatmaker gets interested in Steampunk because they liked the one Nicki Minaj wore? Will we be exiling them because they admit that this is where they came from? How is that any worse than a goth who followed Abney Park to their Steampunk change, someone who got into Steampunk because they saw it at Dragon*Con, or because they saw a Steampunk band open for Voltaire and thought it looked like fun?

The point is that we can’t judge a person for discovering Steampunk from a Justin Bieber video. It’s not any worse than the way you discovered it or the moment you decided you wanted to be a part of that universe. Our community is growing and we simply cannot adhere to the same rules anymore. Cherie Priest recognizes this. Why can’t everyone else?

Steampunk Community, now is not the time to be a Steamhipster! People are noticing us and we’re getting more awesome by the second. If you spend so much time focusing on how the mainstream is interpreting us and how you wish they would stay out or how Steampunk bands should get the budget for these videos, you’ll lose focus on those who really need it or what kind of things are actually coming in because of the mainstream attention. If there’s anything that will really leave this community behind and kill the genre, it will be that mindset. Not a pop-punk band wearing gears and goggles.

And PS… The Bieber video only has a little over 6 million hits on YouTube. The Panic! at the Disco video has over 16 million, but it has been out for a year. Minaj and Guetta have over 12 million and it has been a week. Morals of the Story: Bieber didn’t kill Steampunk, and “You can be the King, but watch the Queen conquer.”

 
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Posted by on February 7, 2012 in Steampunk

 

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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 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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