Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The "Classic" of the year...better than the top 10!

If anyone was paying attention, this should have been missed in my top 10 albums.  It is far superior in every aspect to the others...so much so, Rolling Stone even agreed (and they are the worst critics ever!).

Modern Vampires of the City, Vampire Weekend

Buy it here

First, the album is so good that even people who no idea what the lyrics are about will love it. (I shack up with one such person.)

It starts with a beautiful song about being underemployed and living at home with parents. Visions of the "Occupy" movement and other Millenial generation angst come to mind, as the whole thing takes on a silly vibe. To keep us on edge, the specific worries of "Obvious Bicycle" give way to bigger existential concerns with "Unbelievers". "Step" is probably about music itself, although I've seen a million analyses of the lyrics and still am not sure. (I don't care, because "Wisdom's a gift but you'd trade it for youth. Age is an honor, it's still not the truth.")

"Diane Young" had to be called this, because it is making fun of Ke$ha.  The big thrill here is the connection between this song and "Don't Lie", which is just sick in every way.  So, let us seize the day of "youth" and not die young...it's about to get really good!

"A gardener told me some plants move, But I could not believe it 'til me and Hannah Hunt saw crawling vines and weeping willows"...Are you F'ing kidding me?  How can anyone come up with lyrics so magical?  Songs like this keep us grounded in real human process, as we deal with the universal concepts that weigh on our collective minds.  Next up is my least favorite.  This is the song all the other pop bands would probably write, if they were this talented musically.  We have angst, so hold me in your "everlasting arms", blah -blah-blah...  Then, we get down right weird.  I have no idea what is going on in "Finger Back", but I really like it.  Perhaps, it is about our love of torture (and I once had a child sit on my finger and made it bend back...it has become lore of vacations past!).

Onto the deeply religious pieces..."Worship You" must be about wondering how god is a meanie and loving at the same time.  Jews must think that their god has a sick sense of humor!  So, back at YA WEH!  "Ya Hey" is so funny and serious...brilliant...(p.s. I'm blogging, so I haven't said anything blasphemous.  I'm as clever as Ezra.)

The album slides to a close with a treatise on history repeating itself over and over, all through the eyes of a Manhattan viewpoint.  (Historical fact of interest...Indians originally "leased" the land on Manhattan to the Dutch for 99 years, or so they thought!)  A beautiful calmness brings us back to reality, and it ends.

Basically, Vampire Weekend created a masterpiece with their third album.  And, it seems so effortless.  

Albums 1-3

3 - Hesitation Marks, Nine Inch Nails ~ I hadn't planned to think of this album as such a great piece.  But as I began to "rank" art, I realized that this incarnation of my beloved NIN is downright awesome.  First, come back with "Came Back Haunted"...how does one re-invent oneself (see Haunted)?  So, I'm a sucker for all things dystopian (funny, Google doesn't seem to know that word and thinks it is misspelled???  Or, maybe it is an adjective and I am using it in a noun form???).  I digress (and sip another Manhattan).  The incredible use of sounds to convey a message like "Satellite" in unreal.  One can feel the data swirling overhead.   More then anything else though, Trent creates a new version of music by transforming instruments into something other-worldly.  Take the last few bars of "In Two"... if satan herself could play guitar and loved jazz, she couldn't have produce such sounds (I promise - turn it up with headphones on)...which instantly stop ][ and lead into "While I'm Still Here" (second best transition of the year!):

Only thing I've ever done

Ticking time is running out
Closest I have ever come
Ticking time is running out

Oh, so tired on my own
Ticking time is running out
Best days I have ever known
Ticking time is running out

Thankfully, someone didn't follow through on the suicide.  So, all we have are his Hesitation Marks.

2 - Tales of Us, Goldfrapp ~  Incongruous and subtle.  These are words to describe the surprise of the year.  When I heard Goldfrapp had a new album, I immediately dusted off the dance shoes and got really excited.  Then, it came out.  I was confused, stunned, verklempt.  How could my peeps put out something so "boring"?  However after 1476 listens, it is now confirmed to be the number 2 album of the year.  I love intensity in my music; and somehow, it is achieved in all its glory in the quietest and simplest by a cinematic view of humanity.  Slowly, every character comes to life.  "Drew", "Jo" and "Annabelle" feel like old friends (albeit probably dead). I've never been empathetic, but somehow these songs bring real emotion to life.  I actually care what is happening to "Simone".  One of the most poetic is "Clay"...best I can tell, soldiers fall in love only to die young wondering what might of been.  "Thea" may yet have remixes that fill the clubs, but in its simple form we can still sway to the mystical vision.  I have concerns ranking it #2, because time may put this in the stratosphere! Watch "Drew" here

1 - Trouble Will Find Me, The National ~  Downer, I know.  But, gloomy perfection can win the day.  From the first refrains of "I Should Live in Salt", you know the feeling of regret whether you've dealt with it yourself.   The self-loathing doesn't let up in "Demons", but one can at least groove a bit through the up tempo "Don't Swallow the Cap" and encourage the protagonist to "pat yourself on the back" and not kill himself.  Now that we are entrenched in a person's misery, "Fireproof" let's us mope about the fact that others seemingly have no problems.    The pace picks up as people start drowning in the "Sea of Love" and falling apart in "Graceless", but the themes remains dark.  Certainly a highlight for me is the offhanded mention of Morrissey's Bona Drag whilst pining that "(i've) become a television version of person with a broken heart" in "Pink Rabbits".  Every slow song will break your heart and cause you to wonder how we get through the isolation and desperation that exist in our modern world.  The atmospheric tone of the songs match the lyrics perfectly.  Maybe I'm becoming middle aged myself and questioning how it all works, because this album touched me more than all the others.  I want my maudlin music to be agonizingly raw yet beautiful, and this album delivers over and over (and over and over...A Richard Bunn will get the point!).

Buy Trouble Will Find Me

p.s.  There is actually one more to come...but, it just couldn't be grouped with the rest!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Albums 4 - 7

7 - AM, Arctic Monkeys ~ For those who like good old fashion rock and roll, this would be the album to buy.  The album begins with the Queen styled anthem "Do I Wanna Know", then keeps up the pace through the first 4 songs.  All of them just scream sex appeal!  Only as the middle slows down does the album suffer enough to keep it out of my top spots.  After that pause, it gets going again with "Fireside", "Why'd You Only Call me When Your High" and "Knee Socks".  The final number is an odd one, either love it or hate it apparently.  It seems stupid to me, but I've read reviews that list it as the best song of the year...go figure!

6 - Electric, Pet Shop Boys ~ To say that the Pet Shop Boys are "back" would imply that they went somewhere.  Well, they really didn't in my world.  But, the last several albums have been more sombre affairs with various music styles that were not intended for the dance floor.  No more!  From the "electric energy" through the pulsing Russian of "Bolshy", it is obvious that this album is meant to be on par with their greatest works.  The clever, literary themes of "Love is a Bourgeios Construct" make it an instant classic of "me think he doth protest too much" swirl.  Jump from that highlight straight into a 2am gay club and never miss a beat.  They play around with the synths, and throw us a Springsteen cover before sliding right back to their signature sound (even repeating specific cadences from their first album).  "Vocal" ends the ride with a song that is actually about me and my love of music.  (Stay tuned for the singles of the year for more glowing reviews!)

5 - ...Like Clockwork, Queens of the Stone Age ~ Mix sexy with blues and bravado, and you have the essence of QOTSA.   Add Dave Grohl, Trent Reznor and Sir Elton John and something really good happens.  For such a high powered band, the album actually starts slowly almost like a New Orleans style grind.  The guitar work through is incredibly wild, yet somehow always reconciles to the theme.  It doesn't take long to be blaring the car stereo and driving 110 MPH.  "If I Had A Tail" and "My God is the Sun" make me feel like a rock god (in my own little world).  Elton John adds banging piano and backing vocal to "Fairweather Friends", and he reminded us that what this band needed was a real "queen".  Josh is his most sexy on "Smooth Sailing", then the final songs wind down with an epic feel.

4 - Pedestrian Verse, Frightened Rabbit ~ First off, I have a bias toward existential musings and British (or in this case Scottish) pop music.  Universal themes of loneliness, family secrets, religiosity, hypocrisy, redemption and cultural melancholy permeate the songs.  The almost folksy delivery along with minor key hooks create a gothic picture of a cold, dismal northern land full of people with pain, yet there is always a sense of joy and hope.  Nowhere is this captured more brilliantly than "State Hospital", a sweeping tale of an ordinary life.  For some lyrical introduction, I'll simply give you the opening song "Acts of Man"...

I am that dickhead in the kitchen

Giving wine to your best girl's glass
I am the amateur pornographer
Unpleasant publisher by hand

I see the stumbling pinstriped trouser
Flecks of sick on an office shoe
Part of the fatty British average
Who lives in the houses around you

Not here, not here, heroic acts of man

Let's all crowd 'round the cowering body
Throw stocky fingers, bricks and stones
Let's promise every girl we marry
We'll always love them when we probably won't
While the knight in shitty armour
Rips the drunk out of her dress
One man tears into another
Hides a coward's heart in a lion's chest
Man, he breeds although he shouldn't
He's breeding just because he comes
Acts the father for a minute
Till the worst instincts return

Not here, not here, heroic acts of man

I have never wanted more, to be your man
And build a house around you
I am just like all the rest of them
Sorry, selfish, trying to improve

I'm here, I'm here, not heroic but I try

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Top Ten Albums - Bottom Third

10.5 - The Messenger, Johnny Marr ~ I know this is the top ten, but I couldn't find a way to do just 10 albums.  This album is incredible and better my "honorable mentions", but it is missing the quality of lyrics needed to break through my list.  Of course if this album had this fabulous music and all the hooks and cleverness, we'd be dealing with the number one album of the last 25 years by the best band of my lifetime.   The best songs are when Johnny gets close, like on "The Crack Up".  The music and words spin effortlessly.  Every album Marr joins ends up being classic, and his first solo doesn't disappoint.

10 - Reflektor, Arcade Fire ~ Magic happens throughout this monster release.  From the starting disco beats of "Reflektor" to questions about the "Afterlife", You just don't want to stop listening.  However,  I'd prefer about 11-15 minutes less music as part of the album.  Those songs would have made great extras (and, I would have bought them).  They just get in the way of an otherwise brilliant set of songs.  At year's end, my favorite track is "Awful Sound".  Honestly though, I'll be listening to this album for the rest of my life, and I am sure my ranking will evolve.

9 (tie) - The Bones of What You Believe, Chvrches & Heartthrob, Tegan and Sara ~ With no disrespect given, these 2 albums were interchangeable when I wanted good electronica with female leads.  I actually had a playlist with the 2 on random so much , that I couldn't identify one from the other.  Chvrches bring back hooks from the 80s and sing about big concepts that seem important (just like they did in the 80s).  Tegan and Sara create perfect pop with catchy tunes and beats.  I suggest these albums for anyone who needs to clean the house and is inspired by sing along dance @https://www.facebook.com/andrew.parker.7161?fref=ts !

8 - AMOK, Atoms For Peace ~ Obviously, Thom Yorke is good at whatever he does (albeit with lots of click clacking).  The real joy of this album is the smooth groove from the underlying bass lines.  Opening with "Before Your Very Eyes" and the refrain to "look out the window", one is captured with a sense of pondering.  Regrets are explored in "Default", yet one keeps slowly dancing to the beats.  "Ingenue" continues drifting by with an interesting bass counterplay to the repetitive synth theme.  The speed picks up slightly as the songs move toward "Stuck Together Pieces", which is just to cool to even describe with words.  For an album with so many interesting parts, it ends up feeling like a simple collection of songs that weave together seamlessly. Turn it up, close your eyes and slide away! 

Thursday, December 19, 2013


Tonight, we handle the honorable mentions in the album category.  For a variety of reasons, these just didn't quite reach the realm of great (or I just wasn't that into them).  They weren't bad...

Heroine - Lorde certainly added excitement to the year, and I really loved many of these songs.  However, I am not a suburban teenage girl; and as Morrissey says, "The songs they constantly play, say nothing to me about my life."

A, by Agnetha - The closest thing to an ABBA album in 30 years...

The Great Gatsby Soundtrack - I loved this movie and soundtrack, but there is not a place on the albums list for a soundtrack.  (This is my blog, my rules)

The Next Day - Hmmmm, I just couldn't put Bowie in the top 10...comparatively, it was just boring.

Splinter, by Gary Numan - Rock God Genius, as good as all his other albums (hint)

False Idols, by Tricky - Incredible, just like all his other albums

Haunted Man, by Bat 4 Lashes - Not sure yet...has its moments

Random Access Memories - So good, yet missing something in the non-single songs

Swings Both Ways, by Robbie Williams - Love!  But, I can't put an album with lazy covers in the top 10.

Kveikur, by Sigur Ros - A top 10 (when I am in the mood)

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Music posts for the year are coming...

As much as I love the lyric "tell da troof", Cher ain't making the top 15!

Viagra vs. Niagra

Where have we gone?  When Kennedy was shot, the soap opera was sponsored by Niagra Starch.  Today, I'm sure it is sponsored by Viagra.  Both cause stiffness, but still I wonder.