Friday, December 30, 2011

Best of 2011: Songs from December

LP - Into the Wild
Don't be fooled by the uke-laden opening. It really starts rocking when you get into it.  Then you may recognize this song from the "Accessories" Citibank commercial where the woman puts her points toward the "rock she really had in mind."  It's a little weird to see a big bank, which let's just all admit is inherently evil, sell an ideal that counters popular patterns of female consumption.  Wait, she means climbing shoes! Instead of buying a diamond and fitting snugly into a stereotype, she climbs a big, freakin' mountain.  The new American dream in consumerism may not be to merely consume, but to experience.  (I bet they're calling them adventurcations now, but I feel a little sick every time I type a portmanteau.) As a left-wing, commie, socialist, hippie, conglomeration of derogatory terms I get called, I have to admit, the only way I could love this commercial more is if the voiceover said, "my girlfriend and I were thinking of going on vacation." Now, I try not to publicly make statements about a person's sexuality unless they do so openly, and I really don't know that much about LP except that she just signed to Warner Bros and is working on her debut album. So I'll just say that she has a pretty solid lesbian following. And every time the camera opens into that aerial shot, and LP's voice comes screeching in with, "Somebody left the gate open," I want to climb a big, freakin' mountain too. I hope somebody leaves my gate open. (That's not a euphemism.)

PS. If you go to her website, you can get a free download of this live recording.

The Black Keys - Tighten Up / Unknown Brother
I was a little late jumping onto the Black Keys bandwagon, but here I am.  Just about the time they released El Camino, I was putting "Tighten Up" and "Unknown Brother" on repeat.  I've listened to a lot of their music in the last month, but these are the only two songs that I've really fallen for. Though, after listening to the depress-fest that is "Unknown Brother"--Those jingle bells are really deceiving--"Tighten Up" is my favorite. When it came time to chose between which song to include on the list, I went with the one with the best video.

GROUPLOVE - Tongue Tied
If you've seen the new iPod Touch commercial featuring this New York based-band, you've probably walked around for hours afterwards singing, "Take me to your best friend's house. I loved you then; I love you now."

Gotye - Somebody I Used to Know
This song barely made the list.  I heard it in passing a few weeks ago, but didn't really like it.  Then I heard a great cover and had to compare.  Now, two days later, I can't stop listening. The combination of passionate voices in harmony and lyrics like "You can get addicted to a certain kind of sadness" and "Now and then, I think of all the times you screwed me over." It's a great breakup song.  Everyone knows the feeling of moving someone you once really loved into the "somebody I used to know" category.  Really, I'm pretty sure I wrote this song first, at least five times.

Ingrid Michaelson - Parachute / Parachute / Ghost / Somebody I Used to Know/ Every Single Song
I. Love. Ingrid. I love pretty much every single song she does. I had listened to Parachute a lot, but sometimes songs come back to you and touch you in a way that they never did before.  I really like the video too.  There was a huge backlash against it.  Apparently, a vocal portion of her fanbase (of which I am a member) thought the video "wasn't her," whatever the hell that means.  So she shot a new one that's more of an homage to New York than what happens if you take too much cold medicine and fall asleep reading The Little Prince.  Ingrid has a new album coming out next month, which is why I didn't already include the first single Ghost. More on that later.

And here's where a few covers come in. First, there's Ingrid's own cover of Gotye's song, then there's British popstar Cheryl Cole's cover of Parachute, which she took to the top of the UK charts. If you thought Ingrid's video was least it didn't have Flamenco dancers wearing their suspenders weirdly and gowns stolen from Oxbridge undergraduates.

Kensington - Let Go
You can't really sit still when this Dutch band gets going.  It doesn't matter that the entire chorus just repeats the contradictory lines, "We gotta let go. We gotta let go. We gotta hold on. We gotta hold on. We gotta let go" because it's so damn peppy.

Rounding up December has been pretty difficult because most of my favorite songs of the year, I started listening to (or listening to more) in December.  Like "Into the Wild," "Let Go" is packed full of energy, and they'd probably make my top 5 of the year. I'll be listening to both of these songs on repeat well into 2012.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Best of 2011: Songs from November

When I listen to "Attaboy", I imagine the opening credits of the movie about my life. It's a pretty short movie, for lack of interesting plot material.  And south Mississippi is played by Ireland.  But the thing that gets me about watching this video is that these musicians--each a master of his own instrument--recorded in the same room together, not in separately little cubes separated by thousands of miles and then pieced together by a skillful engineer.  And you can see how much they enjoy being Goat Rodeo.

I know I've already covered a lot of Sarah Jaffe in October's songs, but here's Clementine.  It's been about every third song in my ears for two months now. It's so good. Seriously, listen.

See? So good.

People are usually pretty shocked that I like One Republic.  They're boys! And they're on the radio! Hell, they're on commercials for Disney World.  But then, my friends are usually shocked at how much I love Disney World too.  But these are just great songs.

Here's another.

Best of 2011: Songs from October

If September was a month of male vocalists, the ladies invaded my iTunes with a vengeance in October.  One of those women was Sarah Jaffe.  This is one of those great finds that was sent my way by my buddy over at Engine145.  Even though we rarely agree on music (or Lenny Kravitz), she has a good ear for knowing stuff I'll like. This next one, just to warn you, is NSFW.

See, I told you.  The thing that makes this song scandalous is not the language, it's the fact that it's a woman using the language.  This is a cover of Drake's song, and no one bats an eye when he sings these lines.

"Bedroom Eyes" was a free download on iTunes one week, and it was one of those rare occasions when it's actually a good song. Dum Dum Girls have since become one of those bands like Fleet Foxes or The Black Keys that are available in vinyl at your local Urban Outfitters.  You know what I'm saying. But it will make you dance.  It's like Florence + the Machine, but without the annoyance of actually listening to Florence.

I first heard of BOY from Dorothy Surrenders, the best written blog on the internet. Really.  And that's all I have to say about the matter.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Best of 2011: Songs from September

When you're done watching that, I'll continue.  Go ahead, I'll be here all day.

Isn't that the  BEST thing EVER?! It's all I can do to keep myself from embedding it again.

This is City and Colour, the "band name" of Dallas Green. Get it?  Dallas Green /City and Colour. The u's because he's Canadian.  Anyway, this is a lovely song, that I liked the first second I heard his voice.

I've always loved Joe Purdy, but somehow this song had escaped me.  Purdy also sings one of the songs that I stayed on the repeat play list longer than maybe anything else....The City.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Best of 2011: Songs from August

I said when I started this list that many of these songs were not from 2011, and August's playlist really proves that. Two important things happened in my music-listening life back in August.  The first was that I finally got Spotify, after waiting for years for it to make it to this side of the Atlantic.  Spotify doesn't take the place of Pandora, but it does have some advantages, like listening to songs when you want to, instead of waiting for them to randomly show up.  The other advantage is the ability to make playlists and share them with friends, so if you've got a little Bill Withers obsession, like I do, you can share songs with other like-minded music fans.

The second thing happened, oddly enough, in a Starbucks, where I ran to get out of a storm.  I sat down, had a cup of coffee, and "Cry to Me" started playing.  And any child of the 80s knows exactly where they know this song from. So I took advantage of my newfound technology to set a retro playlist that kept me, well, grooving, as it were, through a very large stack of work. Here are a couple more songs from that Spotify playlist.

And in case you haven't figured out what playlists are good for, here's your final hint.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Best of 2011: Songs from July

Back in July I was pretty much still thinking about my birds and listening to Adele's "Someone Like You."  But when I wasn't doing that, I was listening to Over the Rhine, the Ohio based duo Linford Detweiler and Karin Bergquist, who've been married and making music together for a couple of decades now.  I went to see them back in March, thanks to my buddy Juli Thanki over at Engine145. Linford tells great stories, and Karin sings her ass off, and that's pretty much what everyone's looking for in a concert right?  Well, not everyone, but, you know, everyone not looking for meat dresses.  "Days Like This" is from their recent album The Long Surrender, but my favorite OTR song is still "Spark" from the 2005 record Drunkard's Prayer.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Best of 2011: Songs from June

Who were you expecting?

I don't know what took me so long. The album came out in February, and I didn't get it until June. Obviously, this was a major oversight on my part.  By June, I was sitting in empty rooms belting out the lyrics, and feeling the pulse of ever beat ripple through my soul.  Melodramatic much? Have you heard this song?  This song makes me want to tear open a bag of flour and burn down paper cities.

From the first notes of the piano, before her voice comes in, I always catch my breath before releasing in a long, slow exhale.  When I first heard "Rolling in the Deep" I was pretty certain that it was the best song every in the world ever, ever.  Then I heard "Someone Like You."  Then they set it to a black and white video in Paris.  It's like they put a giant bow on it and said "To Lori." It was made for me. You'll never convince me otherwise.

There are so many great songs on this album, from Don't You Remember to I Found a Boy, to  a handful of other bluesy, heart-wrenching ballads.

But it's really Someone Like You that makes everyone tingle.  Well, everyone with a heart and an iTunes account.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Best of 2011: Songs from May

It seems back in May that I went pretty mainstream for a while.  I can't even begin to tell you how happy I am to see Mumford & Sons and Adele at the top of all the nominations this year.  I'm one of those people that tunes into awards shows just to see GaGa get all bat shit, just so I know what the hell everyone is talking about the next day.  Usually, most of the night is spent with me yelling phrases like "That's not music!" and "Kids these days!" Mumford & Sons gets extra credit because their lead singer Marcus Mumford looks like Stephen Fry's straight love child.

I really have to thank the people of this website for making this post so much easier to write, and also for validating my weird "celebrities that look like celebrities compulsion."
So, in conclusion, "Little Lion Man" is a contagiously great foot-thumping song.  If you don't believe me, watch Sara Bareilles do it.

Isn't your whole day better?

And here's another song that everyone loved at first, clapped along with, then slowly started to hate.  I'm still on the "Dog Days" bandwaggon because it'sjust a great song for walking around the city, and to be honest, that's really what I'm after in music.  Whether you love or hate it, or loved it and now hate it, or hated it all along, I'm going to make this one wager.  Ten years from now, you're going to be driving for some long distance, and somehow this song is going to sneak in the playlist, or whatever we're calling it then, and you're going to start singing along with abandon, nostalgic for the days you couldn't escape Florence + the Machine. Then you'll get on your whatever we're using then and download it from the Cloud or iForce or whatever. Then you'll come across "You've Got the Love" and say "Oh! I hated this one too" and immediately start jamming.  Enjoy yourself, ten-years-older you, enjoy yourself.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Best of 2011: Songs from April

"Her Beautiful Ideas" by Guggenheim Grotto is my favorite video of the year.  It's also in probably in my top 3 songs.  It's so energetic and happy but with terribly depressing lyrics like "I just can't seem to get out of bed anymore," as it retraces a relationship that has somehow fallen apart.  When they sing, "Once she let it slip that I was the best of her beautiful ideas" there's a little glimpse into the intimate, confessional moments of love, followed by all the peppy passion of "Let's get naked and get under the sheets" repeated until it sounds almost angry. And then everything dissolves into strings.  Perfection. Listen to when happy.

For a more acoustic look at the Irish duo, here's "The Universe is Laughing," another song that stayed on repeat thanks to its tight harmonies. Also, it's just full of feeeeelings.

If it's sunny outside and you're wanting to hit the pavement for a good run or just to head out for work full of determination, I highly recommend "Her Beautiful Ideas."  If it's raining or overcast, and you happen to find yourself staring out a window into the mist or watching the rivulets merge and diverge, maybe Marques Toliver is exactly what you need. Listen to when sad.

There was a great piece in The Guardian earlier this year that talks about Toliver's experience busking in New York and London, and being recommended to Jools Holland by Adele.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Best of 2011: Songs from March

In July of 2010, Back Ted n Ted, a solo project by eclectic musician Ryan Green, released "The Mirror," a rather mediocre album of electro-pop.  But right there amongst forgettable songs more fitting to a John Hughes soundtrack than, you know, the twenty-first century, "Lose Control" jumps out at you, surging with adrenaline and catchy hooks.  It's like a five-hour energy drink for your ears-slash-soul.  Sadly, there's not a video for the song, so I'm posting a fan made video full of a curious montage of beautiful women and Conan O'Brien with a watermelon on his stomach.  But, even with the weird images, the lyrics still speak for themselves. Over the synth and the drum machine and the clapping, lines like "Every time I see someone running I think it's you" come through, speaking of that universal, yet unnamed, experience of catching ghostly glimpses of someone you still love.  Even if you know there's no chance of running into the person who just broke your heart, you're still flooded with panic every time you see a face or silhouette that even slightly resembles her, and everyone resembles her.

So here's a question: what has been in British water for the past few years that it keeps turning out soulful singer-songwriters, from the bevy of retro songstresses like Adele, Kate Nash, Amy Winehouse, et al, to the raspy blues of James Morrison and Paolo Nutini.  As you can see from the Jools Holland clip above, Nutini was only 19 when "Last Request" became the big hit off the 2006 record These Streets.  I had heard the song a few times on Pandora in '08 or so, but somehow last March the music gods really wanted me to pay closer attention, and I did.

Yeah, I don't even have a back story for this one.  But like the Black Eyed Peas' "I Got a Feelin" and Flo Rida's "Club Can't Handle Me," it's just an irrepressibly happy song on an increasingly longer list of songs that I really have no excuse for loving; I just can't help myself. So go ahead, throw your hands up in the air sometimes. You know you want to.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Best of 2011: Songs from February

Like yesterday's list, this one starts with a little cheating.  I first became obsessed with "Poison and Wine" about 6 months earlier. I don't even remember how I first heard of The Civil Wars, but I stumbled across this song and fell into the depths of sweet, painful love. Sometimes songs grow on you over time, or perhaps you like them but it takes a while to really pack the sentimental baggage into the them.  Other songs--very few songs--punch you in the gut with a visceral reaction that you can't explain or describe; you just respond instantly.  I think I knew I was going to love this song before the second bar.  I wore out the figurative grooves on their first EP, and when the band, made up of Joy Williams and John Paul White, announced they'd be releasing Barton Hallow, their first full length album, in early 2011, I looked forward to its release like I hadn't done an album since I was a teenager. I literally counted down the days.  By the time the album came out in February--and now, as I re-listen to it while writing--I was still obsessed with this song, and I got to watch the band's meteoric rise to stardom.  They made it onto many much more prestigious best-of lists this year, including Paste Magazine's 20 Best New Bands of the 2011 and NPR Music's 50 Favorite Albums. One of my other favorites from the Album was the beautifully haunting "Falling," which turns romance on its head with lines like "I can't help falling out of love with you."

I heard Matisyahu's "One Day" on the trailer to Waiting for Superman, and then spent hours (or at least 20 minutes) searching the internet for it.  It didn't stay on repeat play very long, but for the month of February, I really needed something peppy and uncharacteristically optimistic. It gets on my nerves sometimes now, but that's sort of why I'm making this list, to keep track of the music that made an impact on my life, so that I don't just lose it all.

Confessional: I got Metric's "Raw Sugar" from someone I went out with a few times.  So I had it on repeat for a week or two, but then it was prematurely taken off of repeat when the relationship didn't work out.  To be honest, the song made me feel a bit like an ass. Then I rediscovered it later, and it's still one of my favorite songs for walking around the city.  So, with every relationship, you learn a few things,  meet interesting people, make good memories, and, if you're lucky, get a great song out of it.

Best of 2011: Songs from January

It's that time of year when everyone posts their Best o' 2011 lists, so I thought I'd do a similar thing.  I'm not a music writer though, and I don't know much of what's been released this year.  And I like even less of what I have heard. (Also, get off my lawn, ya pesky kids) So this list will be in no way comprehensive or accurate.  What I've done instead is look back through my iTunes library at the songs I've added and became obsessed with each month of 2011.  That doesn't mean they're the best songs ever. It doesn't mean they were even released in 2011. Some of them are a few years old, in fact.

So the first song that got stuck on repeat play during 2011 was Greg Laswell's "Take Everything," one of many songs from the 2010 "Take a Bow" album. And this, I'll a little bit of a cheat.  I was obsessed with this song throughout the end of 2010, and it bled over into 2011. It's also one of my favorite music videos. I'm included here (because it's my blog and I can do whatever the hell I want right?) because, according to my iTunes, the other song I was obsessed with in January of 2011 was....TI and Rihanna's "Live Your Life." (Embedding is disabled.) This one is a few years old too, and...[mini-rant warning] TI annoys me, especially after his recent homophobic ramblings on behalf of Tracy Morgan's homophobic jokes.  TI says that gays threaten to "shut you down" if you disagree, but that's "not American." You should "have the right to be gay in peace, but if you're against it, you should have the right to be against it in peace."  So, if you are against a different racial minority or women, for instance, that's totally okay too. Whatever.  Anyway, so that's why I decided to give the lovely and charming Greg Laswell top billing. Because TI is a dickhead. Rihanna seems pretty great though.