TLW’s Best Albums of 2013: 11-20

Posted in Music on December 17th, 2013 by Nick

There were so many assclowns in music this year that it was almost exhausting. Miley got naked and stuck her tongue out, Robin Thicke got his thunder stolen, and Kanye said…I don’t actually know what he said because I didn’t understand any of it. I presume some shitty Pop-Country crossover tunes were made and some rappers rapped….but none of that tomfoolery is on this list.

Each year, I post my favorite 10 albums of the year. This year, I’m expanding that list to 20 and splitting it in half, starting with 11-20 in descending order. As I usually disclaim, my top picks are a mix between my personal faves, critically well-received albums I enjoyed, and albums that excel in the art of badassery. I love all genres equally, so I like to have a list that is representative and eclectic – that includes Rock, Indie, EDM, Singer-songwriter, Pop, you name it. As always, please leave me comments and let me know what YOUR favorites were! We can chat and argue and debate and have gay ol’ times.

ParamoreParamore20. Paramore – Self-titled
In my defense: I realize that I’m no longer 16 and that Pop-Punk is mostly terrible, but I love watching a young band morph, grow (up), and mature. The band underwent a line-up change this year, successfully segueing to soul-infused pop (“Ain’t It Fun?”) with some backbone, gusto and heart behind it (“Proof”, “Last Hope”) while still keeping a Pop-Rock core. They’ve got a lot of positive, youthful energy and if they keep reinventing themselves like they did on this record, they could be in it for the long haul.

220px-Random_Access_Memories19. Daft Punk – Random Access Memories
Elephant in the room: this album was not what I wanted, but after dealing with that initial disappointment, aren’t we better off having artists that surprise us? The masked robots gave us the year’s best song (“Get Lucky”) while storming through the industry the only way they know how: by doing, or not doing, whatever the fuck they wanted. No tour, minimal appearances and promo. The art stands on its own. And having Pharrell Williams and Nile Rodgers on deck didn’t hurt (“Lose Yourself to Dance”). “Give Life Back to Music” might not give life back to your New Year’s rager, but the album definitely serves up some solid pre-party jams.

220px-Isles_album_cover_(Wild_Belle)18. Wild Belle – Isles
Siblings Elliot and Natalie Bergman, aka Wild Belle, make me long for a warm summery day as I write this in a frigid, snow-laden December. Their debut album Isles is one of the most fun records of the year, fusing jazz, reggae and soul with indie rock. Toss in some sexy sax and a couple steel drums and I’m beyond sold. It’s a light album that’s easy listening on the surface, but carries more weight when digging deeper into its lyrical content. Don’t miss this one.

220px-Palma_Violets_18017. Palma Violets – 180
Sad to say, I felt Rock slightly lacked this year. Maybe that’s why this British foursome’s “Best of Friends” was such a relief to grasp onto. Their album 180 is mostly garage-y, with some psychedelic undertones attached to it. It’s not overproduced, which Rock suffers from far too often, but it’s not super low-fi either. It’s just dirty enough. An all-around consistent effort from one of this year’s more interesting up-and-comers.

Artpop_cover16. Lady Gaga – ARTPOP
Everyone should quit their whining. Though Gaga didn’t reinvent pop music as much as the lynch-mobbing blogosphere was expecting, ARTPOP still produced some of the year’s best pop (“Gypsy”, “Do What You Want”). Though I liked her before, I gravitated to ARTPOP thanks to its synth-heavy foundation and experimentation with EDM (I mean, did you even hear “Swine”!? And “Aura”? Hotness.) Style aside, her fearlessness is admirable. Love her or hate her, she doesn’t really give a fuck.

220px-Spreading_Rumours_Album_Art15. Grouplove – Spreading Rumours
Grouplove is another band having fun with synths and beats, and this experimentation makes their sophomore release that much more appealing. Having survived a sophomore slump, Grouplove stays true to themselves (no style of music is disregarded!), while straying outside their comfort zone for tracks like “Bitin’ the Bullet” and “Hippy Hill.” Those tracks are fresh and probably unfold nicely live, but “Borderlines and Aliens” is really the standout. Ari-ari-ari-gato! Gato!

fox14. Foxygen – We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic
From the very first measures of “In the Darkness,” Foxygen’s penchant for classic rock is on their sleeves. We Are the 21st Century is contemporary psychedelia at its best. What’s old is always new again, and that’s especially true for music. Foxygen is just one of the latest and greatest examples of that.

220px-The_Virginmarys-King_of_Conflict_(album_cover)13. The Virginmarys – King of Conflict
Proof, yet again, that most of the great Rock this year (the last few years?) came from England. This trio’s King of Conflict makes me oh, so happy. It’s loud, edgy, angst-ridden and everything you’d want in a balls-out, straight up Rock ‘n’ Roll record. No frills, no gimmicks. Just Rock.

220px-YeahYeahYeahsMosquito12. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Mosquito
Yeah Yeah Yeahs fourth album Mosquito is a complicated beast. It still has that weirdo, I’m-from-Brooklyn Post-Punk vibe going on, but the energy flow is off. In some ways, it feels more like a collection of one-offs, as opposed to a comprehensive album. But then again, it’s the fucking Yeah Yeah Yeahs and they don’t give a shit. From the little-searing riffs and full-blown choir on “Sacrilege” to the bizarre and blood-thirsty “Mosquito” to a rap by Dr. Octogon/Kool Keith to…a subway car? This album is off the wall, man. And then there’s that song about aliens? Yeah Yeah Yeahs have never been weirder. I hope they never change.

ArcadeFireReflektor11. Arcade Fire – Reflektor
I have never, ever been an Arcade Fire fan. I’ve tried and failed many times, but Reflektor really snuck up on me. From start to finish, the album takes you on a journey and the flow is so money you can just really get in the zone with it. What can be said about this band that hasn’t already been covered a bazillion times? Their multi-instrumental combined powers pave the way for horns, accordions, harps, cellos, xylophones and more, and all that awesome musicality shines in the title track, “Porno,” “We Exist,” “Here Comes the Night Time” and more. Guess they’re back on my radar because I fucking love this album. An aside: I went back to Funeral the other day and still thought it was pretentious as shit. Oh, well. But what they accomplish on this album is very impressive.

Sound off, gang! 1-10, coming soon.

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Music Monday: New Tracks from Lorde, Holy Ghost and Grouplove

Posted in Music on September 30th, 2013 by Nick

To make up for the lack of Music Monday posts in recent weeks, today’s is SUPERSIZED and super awesome. Lets dig.

LA’s indie-pop loving Grouplove recently released their second album entitled Spreading Rumours and there is zero sophomore slumping to be found on this disc. Not only does it keep in line with their signature gang-of-pop-misfits structure, but the band dives into other territories as well, testing the waters with dub-step, Pixies-style alternative and tongue-twisting, spitfire lyrics. The disc is remarkably strong throughout and the energy is contagious. Here’s my favorite cut, “Borderlines and Aliens” – (the “arigato” lyric WILL invade your life):

 

Everyone’s favorite Kiwi, Lorde, has finally unleashed her first full-length studio album - Pure Heroine came out last week and can now be tracked down on Spotify. While “Royals” is starting to show its age (it’s on the radio now – only a year too late!), it’s the newer single “Tennis Court” that is all the rage now…at least in my car. It’s a similar track to the former in terms of style and delivery, yet she still proves that this 16-year-old is wise beyond her years.  The video kinda freaks me out (not a fan of the get-up and creepy staring), but hey, she caught our attention and now she demands it.

 

Brooklyn synthpop duo Holy Ghost! also released a sophomore album earlier this month and it. is. fantastic. It’s cohesive, tight, and just as fun as their debut. I love it all so much that I really can’t pick out a standout, so I’ll play it safe and post the single, “Dumb Disco Ideas.” Fans of the self-titled will definitely want to check out the second release. Total danceparty.

Mondays suck, but music does not. Plug those headphones in and drown out the world around you.

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Music Mondays: Grouplove’s ‘Everyone’s Gonna Get High’

Posted in Music on February 4th, 2013 by Nick

Mainstream pop bands usually suck (fun. I’m looking at you), but Grouplove is one indie start-up that I hope capitalizes on their onward momentum and steamrolls the other shitty pop hodgepodge out of the way. They’re a five-piece motley crew of misfits who are perhaps best known for their iTunes hit “Tongue Tied.” But don’t hold that against them, gentle readers, for their album Never Trust A Happy Song is far deeper and more eclectic than their iTunes venture would probably lead you to think.

So their album is kind of “old” now (it came out in 2011), but the band just released a new song for the Girls soundtrack called “Everyone’s Gonna Get High,” and my ears think its pretty fucking excellent. It’s a chill track that builds gradually, chock-full of singalong lyrics and na-na-nas. It perfectly showcases blue-haired frontman Christian Zucconi’s vocals, slipping back and forth between notes and howls, which are supported effortlessly by keyboardist Hannah Hooper.

The band’s live show confirms that they are greater than the sum of their parts. Rarely have I seen every single member add so much to a set before. Bassist Sean Gadd grabs the mic and jaunts about the stage, Hooper swirls and twirls while taking lead, and Zucconi gladly steps back when it makes sense. Together, they’re a team on stage; Grouplove, the perfect name for their outfit.

So the new song: I dig it. You should dig it too. It’s the perfect summer campfire song. The sun has set, the keg has been kicked, some weirdo has nauseatingly pulled out his guitar, but once everyone is all lit and funky, they’re glad he did. That’s what it feels like to engage in some Grouplove.  I don’t know how this post turned into the prime setting for an orgy, but shit just got weird. Time for listening. Get high on this action:

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Festin’ It Up at Firefly: Three Days of Music and Madness

Posted in Live Shows, Music on July 25th, 2012 by Nick


I totally almost passed out at work today.

As I write this, my feet are blistered, my shins are sore, my neck, charred from too much natural Vitamin D. I still feel like I need to sleep for a week, mostly because I got my ass kicked and had the time of my life at Dover, Delaware’s brand spankin’ new Firefly Festival, held right around the corner from the city’s International Speedway.

For a first-time festival (and also my first!), Red Frog Events did a fantastic job in planning this three-day adult playground/shitshow. A fast-moving entrance line with little-to-no hassle and a smart layout of the grounds made for an efficient, organized weekend full of music, rain, sun and debauchery. A special vineyard area, hammock hangout, arcade, and Dogfish Head on-site brewery, equipped with the festival’s own branded brew (Firefly Ale!), kept festival goers happy, entertained, and drunken.

For a full list of bands or for more information about Firefly, head here, but here’s some (hopefully brief) commentary on the bands my gang saw throughout our experience:

FRIDAY:

Heartless Bastards – These guys really blew me away. Erika Wennerstrom’s voice was powerful and charged; the band, as a whole, completely tight, never missing a single beat or mini jam session. I liked them before, and I love them now.

OK Go

Walk the Moon – These guys are up-and-comers who have not quite reached mainstream appeal, but will definitely do so soon. They’re one iTunes commercial away from being mega-stars. Hailing from Ohio, these guys were young and had energy seething through their veins. Lots of face paint, lots of synths, and even a Bowie cover. Nice!

Bassnecter / Silversun Pickups – Kiiinda wish I stayed for the entire Bassnecter set. From what I did see, it was an experience for the kids who were fucked up enough.

Jack White – Hands down, the best set of the entire festival. White set the bar high, cruising through the catalogues of The White Stripes, The Raconteurs, and The Dead Weather, while scattering his solo tracks in between. White plays with no setlist, so his band usually has to be ready for anything. That they were.

SATURDAY:

Polica

Cults – Cutesy little duo that played superb afternoon surf/Motown/chill jams. Singer Madeline Follin is the kinda gal you want to take home to your Mom after buying her some chocolate and winning her a teddy bear at the carnival.

Grouplove – Speaking of Apple commercials, we saw Grouplove! They were loud, poppy, fun, blue-haired, harmonized, and killed a Whitney Houston cover. In fact, this band’s live show made my Festival Five!

Cake

Modest Mouse

Yeasayer – Yeasayer had to be called in as a last-minute replacement for Passion Pit, who cancelled. But dammit, I’m glad it worked out this way. Yeasayer was an intense, 80’s-inspired dance party. A must-see!

The Killers – The Killers used to be one of my favorite bands when they first hit the scene. Their set was filled with both new tracks that hadn’t even debuted yet and oldie-but-goodie faves, serving as a perfect nostalgic throwback for this festival-goer. YouTube new track “Here On Out,”; avoid “Flesh and Bone.” Oh, yeah. And a shitload of fireworks is very visually appealing for partiers who are….less than sober.

SUNDAY:

Penguin Prison – Electropop outfit led by Chris Glover. For having a rough noon timeslot, Glover brought the dance-party hours ahead of its time, making for a fantastic start to our last day there. Download “Multi-Millionaire” and love your life.

The Head and the Heart

AWOLNATION – Some might know AWOL from that one song that repeats the word “Sail” a lot, but trust: AWOLNATION is not a one-trick pony or one-hit wonder. Led by Aaron Bruno (formerly of Under the Influence of Giants), AWOL brought some much-needed Hard Rock to an otherwise indie festival. The electronic-rock sounds found on the album were all amplified by 11. Festival Five!

Fitz and the Tantrums – Fitz’s live show proves that vocalist Noelle Scaggs is underused on their debut, Pickin’ Up the Pieces. But let me tell you – she works well with Michael ‘Fitz’ Fitzpatrick, and their cover of the Eurythmics “Sweet Dreams” was unforgettable.

Girl Talk – DANCE. FUCKING. PARTY. (Dance party, that is. Not an orgy or any other weird sort of ‘fucking party’. That’d be pretty gross at a smelly festival).

The Black Keys – To be honest, I thought I was going to puke and had to take a time out. From what I heard through my stupor, they sounded pretty…Black-Keys-ish. That’s kind of my problem with these guys. Seven albums later and they still sound pretty same-ish. Good times, but in my opinion, White and The Killers outshined the Keys.

With no further adieu, here are my Festival Five!

1) Jack White
2) AWOLNATION
3) Grouplove
4) Heartless Bastards
5) The Killers

Honorable Mentions: Girl Talk, Penguin Prison

So there you have it, ladies, gents and music lovers! Would I recommend the Firefly Festival to others looking for a good time? Hell yes. In fact, a limited number of pre-sale wristbands go on sale TODAY for 2013! Don’t miss it – I know I won’t.

Were you at Firefly? Share your stories and let me know what your fest highlights were!

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