A friend of mine posted a video on facebook a couple weeks ago. It’s for a song called ‘Work’ by up and coming hip-hop artist Iggy Azalea (see video below). Sure I could be accused of hopping on the bandwagon, as some young know-it-alls might say, but Iggy Azalea really seems like she has everything going for her at the moment. Her debut album, The New Classic, is set to drop in June. The two songs released already, ‘Work’ and ‘Bounce’, are two slices of club-friendly electronic heavy hip-hop.
Oh wait, you’re not familiar with Iggy? Well, hell, that’s ok, I wasn’t either until a couple weeks ago. She’s an Australian rapper who gained popularity through the new celebrity maker, YouTube. Back in 2011 she released a couple videos that went viral, one for the track ’Pu$$y’ and one in November 2011 for ‘My World’. Both tracks were featured on her first mixtape Ignorant Art. An official EP entitled Glory was released in May 2012 featuring guest appearances from T.I., B.o.B. and Pusha T. Her second mixtape produced by Diplo and FKi, Trap Gold, followed in late 2012 (available freely on her website). Besides being a hip-hop artist she’s also a model and is “The new face for Levi Jeans”.
Fast forward to 2013, as the release of her debut album approaches she released the afforementioned first single, ‘Work’ in March followed by ‘Bounce’ last week, with the video premiering today. The new video is direted by BRTHR and finds Azalea in India, extremely happy doing some Bollywood dancing and riding an elephant. Check it out:
If you like Iggy, why not follow her on Twitter, where she updates constantly (42000+ tweets) or on Facebook for song, album and mixtape updates.
No matter how much the Arts permeate our lives, they are often seen as ‘optional’ in the eyes of politicians and governments. At a Federal level the Stephen Harper led Conservatives have made Canada less environmentally, internationally and artistically friendly than it has been in years. In fact they celebrated their two year anniversary with a majority government and the Toronto Star has a good review of what they’ve done since then. No matter how much we criticize Canadian programming on the CBC, it was still ours and we secretly loved what we could get out of low-budget shows over the years. CBC’s funding has been cut drastically, CBC radio music studios have been closed almost everywhere, people have lost their jobs and we’re quickly losing our ability to embrace our peoples imagination and initiative as the Government tries to control the heart and soul of Canada’s media.
But that’s another story. What I’m concerned about is the Provincial Government and the recent funding cuts to the Edmonton Public Schools Music Enrichment Program. The Music Enrichment program has been a part of out city for over 50 years and gives students the opportunity to further their music studies after school in a safe environment with qualified instructors on a wide variety of musical instruments. This program benefits both students by encouraging their talents and parents by providing a safe, educational extracurricular activity. The students in this program are there based on their aptitude and commitment, these are students that want to play an instrument and may take it up as a profession in the future.
I never took part in this program, but there are thousands of people who have, many who have gone on to become full-time musicians or at least continued playing throughout their lives. It may not seem like much to some, but imagine cutting a school’s basketball or football team and see the uproar that would come from that. These students will go on to join orchestras, form bands, or maybe just play songs with their families, but in turn that will influence countless others. Our lives are shaped and lived by the culture that surrounds us and stifling that culture will make us look elsewhere and ultimately affect our growth as people and as a city. If you’ve ever seen the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, these are the students that become the musicians. If you’ve even seen a local jazz group, these are the students playing those songs. If you’ve ever seen a band at a local music venue, these students are that band. You get the picture.
Funding cuts to the Edmonton Public School Board from the Provincial Government has caused the School Board to look for ways to save money and ending the $220,000 Music Enrichment program was one way to save money. Now $220,000 per year is not a lot of money to continue a program that enriches hundreds of students lives per year and with the Government expecting a $5.2 Billion surplus in the next budget, it would be easy to save the program, which many parents, musicians and concerned individuals are trying to do. I would suggest signing this petition or writing your local MLA or the Premier directly.
Last day of April and we’ve been teased with Spring, but then Winter came back for a short reprieve. I made this mix throughout April and it contains 17 tracks released throughout 2013 that have found their way into my mind. Enjoy it at your leisure from the link below or on 8tracks here.
The Cover of the mix is brought to you by the beloved Corpse Flower, lovingly named ‘Putrella’, from Edmonton’s Muttart Conservatory. She bloomed just over a week ago, the first to do so in Western Canada. More info about the Corpse flower, latin: Amorphophallus titanum, can be found here.
Thanks for listening. -Kris
1. The Knife – Tooth For an Eye
The lead-off track of the Knife’s new 90 minute plus opus Shaking the Habitual combines the more experimental parts of Silent Shout with a lot of influence from their experimental score to the opera Tomorrow, in a Year. It’s likely the most accessible of all the tracks on the new album, which shows how willing they are to change their sound at their own discretion. A video accompanied the release of this track following the strange, yet humorous, videos that The Knife like to release.
2. James Blake – I am Sold
James Blake’s newest release, Overgrown, sees a slightly more straight-forward release from the young talent. ‘I am Sold’ is the second track on the album and was the one that caught me immediately. Influence from Burial is noted in the The repeated lyrics harken back to ‘The Wilhelm Scream‘ and ‘I Never Learned to Share’ from his self-titled debut, though musically it has a lot more going on it than those songs. A song that shows he is becoming more confident in his vocal ability, I sense even more from him over the next few years.
3.Phoenix – The Real Thing
Phoenix’s newest album, Bankrupt!, doesn’t live up to Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, but it does provide a safe opportunity to hear some of the best produced music out there, and good music at that. First single ‘Entertainment’ was catchy as hell, but lost some luster on repeated listening. ‘The Real Thing’ gets better and better with each listen, in a way I find quite similar to ‘Fences’ on their previous album.
4. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Under the Earth
Aptly titled, since I imagine this of the sound of the band digging and digging further into the ground, but not in any relation to their career. It’s almost a march with that extremely catchy drum beat that sounds amazing when the vocals and keyboards come in to accompany it.
5. Junip – So Clear
Jose Gonzales and company return with the same sound that made their album Fields one of favourites back in 2010. I could have put any track from their new self-titled album on here, but this one really stands out on first listen. Junip makes music that reminds me of the Autumn and Winter so it will be interesting listening to it on those hot Summer days, laying in the Sun, dreaming away.
6. Local Natives – Mt. Washington
Never was impressed by this band, but their new album has changed that. Some great tunes on Hummingbird, with this one being the most depressing and Death Cab for Cutie-like. Short, concise, but hits you right where you want it.
7. Caveman – Shut You Down
I don’t know much about this band, but I believe I was introduced to them on Stereogum. They remind me of Wild Nothing with the dreamy guitar highlighting many of the songs on the album. A great album that shows musicianship well beyond their years. Check out their website for more info.
8. Jessie Ware – Imagine it Was Us
Jessie Ware’s debut album Devotion was beautiful late-night fare harkening back to the smooth soul of the 1980′s. ‘Imagine it Was Us’ is the missing 80′s dance single that would have made the dance floor explode. It’s already been released as a single and as part of the deluxe re-release Gold Edition of Devotion available here or on iTunes.
9. Solar Bears – Cosmic Runner
The Solar Bears provide a nice jaunt through the last 15 years of laid-back electronic music on their sophomore album Supermigration. It’s a mix of everything for this Irish duo who try to put in all together and succeed on this sleeper of an album.
10. Major Lazer – You’re no Good
Less dancehall and more R&B permeate the lead-off track of the new Major Lazer album Free the Universe. Santigold, Vybz Kartel, Danielle Haim and Yasmin provide some stellar vocal work over a great beat from Diplo. I think the closest you’ll get to a slow jam from Major Lazer.
11. The Cave Singers – It’s A Crime
If a band could sound Canadian, but not be Canadian, these Seattle rockers would surely fit the bill. I’m disappointed I’ve never listened to them before as I’ve missed them live a bunch of times before. Check them out in May and June as they tour throughout Canada and the States.
12. Kurt Vile – Never Run Away
The short standard rock song comes from Vile’s newest release Walking on a Pretty Daze, an album that really cements his great songwriting and guitar abilities. He still sounds sleepy in every song, but this is what you’re going to want to put on when you just need to sit on a sunny day after work and relax.
13. Phosphorescent – The Quotidian Beasts
Throw some Springsteen, a little country and maybe even some Kurt Vile in there and you get this 8 minute journey from the newest release from Phosphorescent, Muchacho. The lyrics and the title make this almost definitely a song about drug abuse, the beauty of those swells are euphoric.
14. Pickwick – Brother Roland
Seeing these guys live a few weeks ago was really a treat and to everyone who missed them, make it a mission in your life to catch them live. Shaun defined their music as garage-soul. I think this is the best song to exemplify this. Also buy their album.
15. How to Destroy Angels – We Fade Away
Combine Nine Inch Nails with the soundtracks of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross and add some female vocals and you get How to Destroy Angels. Sure it sounds a lot like NIN, but in my opinion, better than anything Reznor’s released since Year Zero in 2007. I also thought Reznor wouldn’t be singing, but he’s on a few of the songs, including this one, that really just makes me want him to make a new Nine Inch Nails album. See them both live at the Mountain Oasis Electronic Music Summit in October in Asheville, North Carolina!
16. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Higgs Boson Blues
Push the Sky Away is quickly becoming my favourite Nick Cave album and this track is one of the highlights. I’ve never thought I’d hear Cave sing about Miley Cyrus or her alter-ego Hannah Montana, but he paints a morbid picture of life with this 8 minute bluesy dirge. It’s all about the atmosphere he creates.
17. Bombino – Tamiditine
Bombino was basically exploited by the Black Keys with his new album. It just sounds like they decided to play their music over his own stuff and make it sound like them. Sad really, but his amazing guitar playing is still in there. Check out Guitars From Agadez Volume 2 if you want to hear what he sounded like shortly after he escaped the tyranny in Niger.
Happy Valentine’s Day to all of you out there. I wanted to do an all Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds Valentine’s mix, but since 8tracks doesn’t allow that, here is the next best thing. Enjoy this mix alone, together or with a bottle of wine.
I’ve released this way too late. We’re already 44 days into 2013. Let’s get on with it!
50. Tame Impala – Lonerism
Give it time, give it time. Wanted to like it more, it kind of clicked in Australia. Now to just wait until it’s warm again.
49. Anais Mitchell – Young Man in America
Such a unique voice sometimes I love it sometimes I can’t stand it. I won’t deny the songwriting ability.
48. Dirty Projectors – Swing Lo Magellan
‘Gun Has No Trigger’ is my favourite song they’ve written. Not nearly as difficult Bitte Orca, and for that I thank them.
47. Sebastian Tellier – My God is Blue
French cheesy disco dance party.
46. Angus Stone – Broken Brights
Australian folk-rock singer takes you there and back again. Not normally my scene, but it feels like the edge of the outback.
45. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes – Here
Lo-fi and as sparse as you can be in a ten person band. Nothing as catchy as ‘Home’, but definitely more cohesive than the last one.
44. Bat For Lashes – The Haunted Man
Someone really wants to become Kate Bush. Tori Amos did before she got all contemporary pop, let’s hope Bat for Lashes keeps this up.
43. Moonface – With Siinai: Heartbreaking Bravery
Spencer Krug’s descent into darkness. It’s all doom and gloom up in here.
42. The Shins – Port of Morrow
James Mercer fired the whole band and proved that the Shins were basically a one-man band all along. Their most polished record yet, it also has some great music on it too!
41. Various Artists – Lawless (soundtrack)
The Bootleggers (a band which is basically Grinderman and Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds) curate this album which contains some excellent dark and dusty country covers of non-country music. Emmylou Harris joins in.
40. Sharon Van Etten – Tramp
I feel like crying when listening to Sharon sing.
39. Daphni – Jiaolong
A little bit more accessible than the previous works by the man formerly known as Caribou, formerly known as Manitoba (or is it the other way around?). It’s a dance party until the bleep-bloops come around.
38. Florrie – Late
Only 4 songs more from the English pop Goddess, but she’s back on form after her slightly disappointing Experiments EP.
37. Heartless Bastards – Arrow
Laid back rock from a band who was already too laid back. I wish for more rocking out, but i’ll respect the subtlety.
36. Fiona Apple – The Idler Wheel…
Fiona Apple is still angry, but she sounds older and raspier.
35. The Antlers – Undersea
Another EP on the list, this time from the band that had my number 2 album last year. It really does sound like you’re underwater except for the song that sound like Nintendo.
34. Father John Misty – Fear Fun
He left the Fleet Foxes to make some great music. I don’t believe he was the lead singer, but damn, he should of been.
33. Whitehorse – The Fate of the World Depends on the Kiss
Seeing them live really made me appreciate this album even more. I love when I can say that. I also love Melissa McClelland. Now to get Luke Doucet out of the picture…
32. Regina Spektor – What We Saw From the Cheap Seats
It’s been a year where I’ve had way more female singers on the list than usual. Why? Because they’re making the best music! Regina put out a lovely little album here, probably her most accessible yet.
31. Dum Dum Girls – End of Daze
This is where they take off. This is pure bliss in 5 songs. Beautiful.
30. Niki & The Dove – Instinct
You wanted The Knife to sound like a mainstream band, well maybe Niki is for you. Dancey, a bit experimental, but good ole’ Swedish pop.
29. Grimes – Visions
She had a good year.
28. The Avett Brothers – The Carpenter
Still good, but not as good as the last one. Maybe it sounded too much like the last one. I wonder…
27. Various Artists – Don’t Break My Love: A Collection of Lost Memories from Sunset & Clown
A great introduction to a label which doesn’t have much recognition. Also it’s a metal cube you plug in to your stereo. Talk about accessibility.
26. Killer Mike – R.A.P. Music
It feels like the 90′s again. Sometimes we need that.
25. Bear in Heaven – I Love You, It’s Cool
Is this the 80s or the 90s or just something I don’t understand since I wasn’t 18 in 1986.
24. Perfume Genius – Put Your Back N 2 It
A depressed man can make some very good music.
23. Shearwater – Animal Joy
Solid release, back on track, not as good as Rook though.
22. Schoolboy Q – Habits and Contradictions
This album is too long, which is to say it is the average length of time of a hip-hop album. It could have been gold, I’ll settle for silver, especially when it has two of my favourite songs of the year and a Portishead sample.
21. Olafur Arnalds – Another Happy Day
A little classical for your enjoyment. Shaun can tell you all about him if you ask nicely.
20. DIIV – Oshin
Hazy surfer shoegaze. The more I look at the cover the more it makes me want to listen to this album again.
19. The xx – Coexist
Their first album sounds like a non-stop party compared to this. Talk about a band showing restraint. Minimalism in rock music taken to a whole new level. I just wish it was as good as the last one.
18. Lana Del Ray – Born to Die
Up and down year for poor Lana. Terrible live performances after 2 big singles. I hear she’s gotten better. Her album is pretty good though, catchy, sexy and sultry.
17. Japandroids – Celebration Rock
It seems like I don’t listen to a lot of loud music based on this list. This acted as that angry album for me this year, even though it has a positive message. More Canadiana please.
16. Beach House – Bloom
If you’ve head a Beach House album you pretty much know what you’re in for with this one.
15. Cat Power – Sun
Chan doesn’t sound so sad anymore, i think she’s decided to get angry and take it out on a synthesizer. Is this a one-off or her new direction for the future. I miss her long hair.
14. Wild Nothing – Nocturne
Early 90s indie updated for all the young ones or the nostalgics. Something really catches me with this album, must be the nostalgia.
13. Poliça – Give You the Ghost
Drums and layered female vocals, surprisingly addictive.
12. Electric Guest – Mondo
A little bit electro, a little bit soul and a whole lotta Danger Mouse make this one work.
11. Frank Ocean – Channel orange
He basically made me start to associate the colour orange with music similar to his when really it should be more of an aquamarine. I liked a few songs, then a few more and now it’s all good.
10. Ellie Goulding – Halcyon
She became a dance queen, or shall we say almost. Ellie’s second album shows off her vocal chops once again, but it’s a livelier affair with chipmunk vocals, addictive choruses and some beats here and there. I only remember ‘Lights’ off her last one, I remember most of these. She should keep this up.
9. David Byrne & St. Vincent – Love This Giant
David Byrne is a bonafide hero. The music he created in his career has influenced so many bands that he could be solely responsible for much of New York’s sound in the 2000s. Here he collaborates with one of the indie world’s goddesses to create a new fresh sound. Backed by a large brass section, rather than relying on the typical 4 instrument arrangement, Love This Giant sounds unique and unlike anything either of these artists have done before.
8. First Aid Kit – The Lion’s Roar
Good old fashioned country music straight from the country we most associate with country music, Sweden. Let’s not dismiss Sweden as not having any affiliation with country music as Lee Hazlewood’s ‘A Cowboy in Sweden’ came from there many years ago. Two ladies from Sweden make some of the sweetest country-folk you could imagine and do it in a manner which does not disgrace the fine heritage of the genre, but also pays homage to the greats in a track called ‘Emmylou’.
7. Burial – Kindred EP
It’s only 3 songs and about 30 minutes long, but Burial’s Kindred EP easily deserves it’s place in the top ten album of 2012. There is a lot more going on in these songs, which are more like sonic collages, with the beginning and the end of each track sounding dramatically different from one another, often feeling like a whole different song. The highlight is ‘Loner’ where we are presented with the first Burial track that belongs in a club. It’s still really dark, but the beat just calls for your feet to take over. The other two tracks expand on his atmospheric sound and really set the bar high for anything he releases in the future.
6. Hot Chip – In Our Heads
It’s another Hot Chip album! Seems like every couple years a Hot Chip album ends up in my top ten and I say how great it is and how their next one could be their best yet. I admit now that I don’t think that is going to happen because every Hot Chip album is on that same great level and i’ve come to accept that. A consistently great band is very difficult to find and Hot chip is innovative and smart enough to remain in that category for many years to come. In Our Heads is even more reminiscent of the 1980s than their last album and many of the sounds and effects reinforce that. Whatever, its fun, its dancy and its just geeky enough to make it accessible for everyone.
5. Grizzly Bear – Shields
Grizzly Bear’s Veckatimest was nowhere to be found on my favourite albums list of 2009 as it did not click for me until 2010. Looking back it should of been in the top ten, maybe even the top 5. Shields is nothing like Veckatimest and that turned quite a few people off. Gone are the multi part harmonies, the strings, the gentleness. Instead Grizzly Bear turned into a rock band, a more complex rock band, but a rock band nonetheless. What Shields doesn’t lack though is great songs. At least 5 of the tracks on this album rank with Grizzly Bear’s best work. Sure there isn’t a ‘Two Weeks’ on the record, but the songs get under your skin after multiple listens and just drive to be listened to over and over. Shields was a departure from their previous work and I believe Grizzly Bear will go back to their earlier style on their next album. This will be the one in their catalogue looked back as the ‘different’ record, but some will consider their favourite.
4. Jessie Ware – Devotion
Last year I praised the return of 80s soul with Jamie Woon’s stellar Mirrorwriting. This year Jessie Ware has taken the 80s soul sound and refined it even further. She’s like a modern-day Sadé with smooth silky singing over songs that scream sensuality, but would not be out of place at a dance club. An album that could find its place on the dance floor, on the radio or in the bedroom, it hurts that more people are not aware of Jessie Ware and her revival of a type of music that has been missing for many years.
3. Kendrick Lamar – Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City
One of the few hip-hop albums that can claim correctly that it is consistently great from start to finish. Based on his previous output I didn’t think much would come out of this record, but positive reviews started to flood in, I gave it a listen and after a couple of times I was hooked. It’s rare for me to want to listen to a whole hip-hop album over and over, but Good Kid, m.A.A.d. City has the cohesiveness of a good movie or story. It doesn’t rely on interludes or skits unless they play a part in the autobiographical tale. It is full of great songwriting and smart production decisions. It is an updated story of growing up in Compton, reflecting on many of the same issues that gave rise to one of rap’s iconic groups, N.W.A.
2. Chromatics – Kill For Love
A 90 minute late night drive, windows down, a pack of cigarettes within arms reach and no destination. 80′s throwback, shoegaze, Italian-disco, songs that dissolve into silence, seductive female vocals. The Chromatics create a sexy haze of a record with Kill For Love. Starting with a stark cover of Neil Young’s ‘Hey Hey My My (Into The Black)’ flowing into the danceable title track the album weaves a journey through the darkest streets of night hitting stretches of neon-lidden strips and then back into the darkness. The vinyl version was released in hot pink which only reinforces the 80′s feel.
1. John Talabot – Fin
Being a fan on the sideline of electronic music for years, I’ve only had minor forays into the genre, though others have enlightened me on certain sub-sub genres. I can’t classify this album into one of those sub-genres, but it is house music. Possibly Spanish house since Talabot is from Barcelona. What I can tell you is that it has been my favourite album of 2012 since it was released early in the year. It is a culmination of all that makes electronic music good, this is and will continue to be my go-to album to show people what I like about electronic music.
It is full of cathartic payoffs after long build-ups. The songs seem to follow the same pattern buildup/payoff/breakdown/repeat, but the sounds utilized don’t make the album ever seem old or repetitive. It doesn’t sound new, but it sounds fresh and unique. And while it does have its stand-out tracks (see my top songs of 2012) it works much better as a whole, an hour long trip through the mind of one of the best electronic artists today. If I was ever to indulge in creating electronic music this the album I would hope to make, that’s the highest praise I think I can offer.
This year’s list was much more difficult than last year’s was. I’m normally an albums person, but this year I found myself listening to individual songs much more than whole albums. A bunch of tracks didn’t make the list including songs from the Dirty Projectors, Meg Myers, Death Grips, Diplo, Niki and the Dove and so on and so on. I hope you enjoy this list and feel free to listen to my Top 50 (in order) on 8tracks:
50. M.I.A. – Bad Girls
M.I.A. returned for this one-off in 2012. A great song, better than anything off her last album and one of the best videos of the year.
49. Beach House – Lazuli
Synth arpeggios combined with the Beach House haze bring the music. Layered vocal lines of ‘Like no other, you can’t be replaced’ over top really make this song stand out in their catalogue.
48. Ab-Soul – Black Lip Bastard (Remix) (Featuring Black Hippy)
A bonus track featuring all of Black Hippy, the hip-hop collective that includes Kendrick Lamar, Schoolboy Q, Jay Rock and Ab-Soul. Dark, lo-fi hip-hop goodness.
47. Yes Nice – Hot River
Locals make well with a perfectly produced pop song. Eagerly anticipating the release of their new album.
46. Psy – Gangnam Style
I’m sick of it now, but I really did like this song when it was just starting up. Korean Pop channeling LMFAO, a dance song with a message about the absurdity of class in Seoul. An equally absurd video and dance made it catch on fire.
45. Lee Fields – Faithful Man
Fields’ ‘Faithful Man’ harkens back to the day of Al Green and Sam Cooke with this slinky soul number.
44. Die Antwood – I Fink U Freeky
South African dance/rap music with lazers, beats and innocent sounding yet malicious female vocals.
43. Bear in Heaven – Sinful Nature
Sounds like chill wave in a standard song structure. The 1980′s through a piece of cellophane.
42. Japandroids – The House that Heaven Built
Loud, abrasive and earnest. The Japandroids sound like they are putting everything in to each song, ‘The House that Heaven Built’ is the cumulative pinnacle of Celebration Rock.
41. John Talabot – So Will Be Now (Featuring Pional)
The closing track on John Talabot’s amazing ⨏in. An end of the night, time to chill out song.
40. Lana Del Ray – Off to the Races
The best songs from Lana Del Ray’s Born to Die were released last year, see Top 50 songs of 2011, but this track proved that she still saved some good ones for her debut album.
39. Kanye West – Clique (Featuring Jay-Z & Big Sean)
Kanye’s GOOD MUSIC crew really came together on a few tracks this year. While Cruel Summer was more miss than hit, some tracks really showed how good Kanye is at music production.
38. Mother Mother – Let’s Fall in Love
Canadian alt-pop group release one of the catchiest tracks of 2012. A thankful return from Mother Mother after their disappointing 2011 album Eureka.
37. Matt & Kim – Let’s Go
Matt & Kim returned with their infectious upbeat music. A great track to sing a long to at the top of your lungs.
36. Kendrick Lamar – Swimming Pools (Drank)
So many great songs from Kendrick this year, but I picked this as the first out of two on the list. A slow burn of a hip-hop song with a glorious chorus.
35. Purity Ring – Obedear
Robotic electronic Cocteau Twins. Purity Ring takes you to a beautiful sinister place in this track.
34. Frank Ocean – Lost
The most singable sing-a-long song on Frank Ocean’s excellent channel ORANGE.
33. Andy Stott – Numb
I like to think of this as operatic techno. It’s not really opera at all, but there is something about the female vocals in this track that really make it unique.
32. Angus Stone – It was Blue
A driving dirge that was unexpected from Angus Stone. I like when singer/songwriters add some depth to their work.
31. Jessie Ware – Still Love Me
Jessie Ware’s music is updated 80′s soul. Imagine dancing really slowly in a club under the disco ball.
30. The Shins – The Rifle’s Spiral
The Shins return! Well really James Mercer and the new Shins as he fired the rest of the band. Same sound, a bit more oomph and this opener, which could be the best Shins song yet.
29. Bat For Lashes – Laura
Bat for Lashes is becoming more theatrical as her career progresses. I see her taking the reins from Tori Amos as the next Kate Bush. ‘Laura’ is a grower that really shows Natasha Khan’s vocal chops.
28. Poliça – Dark Star
This band reminds me of Sleigh Bells, not because they sound the same, which they don’t, but because they’re trying something different with a female vocalist. This is the ‘Rill Rill’ of their debut album.
27. Schoolboy Q – Hands on the Wheel (Featuring A$ap Rocky)
Built around a sample from Lissie’s live version of Kid Cudi’s ‘Pursuit of Happiness’ Schoolboy Q and A$ap Rocky rap about weed and booze. Trite lyrics but catchy as hell.
26. The Raveonettes – Curse the Night
My new favourite Raveonettes song. Could listen to on repeat for hours.
25. Rihanna – Diamonds
Not the best Rihanna song, but I haven’t been able to get it out of my head for the last 2 months. It became the theme of a trip i was recently on and it will always remind me of that.
24. Electric Guest – Troubleman
Eight minute epic that grooves along nicely. Soul pop from this young LA band.
23. Yeasayer – Henrietta
I’m so very sad that Yeasayer’s 2012 album was nowhere near as good as 2010′s Odd Blood. At least there were a couple good tracks on it, ‘Henrietta’ showing the great love song writing of this band.
22. Carly Rae Jepsen – Call Me Maybe
Pretty sure this was released in 2011, but officially released in 2012. Super addictive song that was everywhere at the beginning of the year. Beiber made it popular and for that I thank him.
21. Twin Shadow – Five Seconds
When making this list I totally forgot about this song and how i listened to it all the time in the Spring and Summer. It is a great track that really reminds me of music that was realized in the mid 2000s. Your indie dance track of the year.
20. Grizzly Bear – Yet Again
Difficult to pick a favourite from Shields, but i find this one stuck in my head most often.
19. Doe Paoro – Born Whole
It doesn’t do much, but what is there is perfect. The simplicity of this track is what makes it great.
18. Killer Mike – Untitled (Featuring Scar)
Reminiscent of early 1990′s rap, Killer Mike has a style that seems retro yet modern at the same time. This track and ‘Reagan’ are the standouts from his 2012 release.
17. Ellie Goulding – Only You
The danciest track on her album Halcyon finds Goulding using vocal manipulation, heavy beats and an incredibly addictive chorus. This is the farthest she’s travelled from her ealier music, and i really like it.
16. Dum Dum Girls – Lord Knows
First song by any Frankie Rose / Dum Dum Girls project that really stuck with me.
15. The xx – Chained
Most songs on Coexist feel incomplete, missing that final part that would make them great. ‘Chained’ is fantastic, but just misses the mark. If it had that extra push it would easily make the top ten.
14. Hot Chip – Motion Sickness
Consistently getting better album after album, the opener on In Our Heads is an example of a perfectly constructed dance song.
13. First Aid Kid – Emmylou
A great country song that relies on the influence of so many greats before it. You’d swear they were from Nashville, but these two girls are from Sweden.
12. Alabama Shakes – Hold On
Just some good old modern rock with a dash of the South, a dash of soul and roughness around the edges. I hear this has to be heard live to really be appreciated.
11. Jessie Ware – Wildest Moments
Another track from Jessie Ware, the Sadé of 2012.
10. Cat Power – Ruin
Lead off single from Cat Power’s first album of original material since The Greatest. Built around a piano riff, it is one of the fastest paced and rocky tracks Chan Marshall has ever done. A bleak look at the world today.
9. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – Thrift Shop
Holy crap, turn on the radio for the last couple months and this is on ALL THE TIME. It’s getting a bit old now sadly. 4 or 5 months ago Shaun posted this on the blog and based on it’s catchiness and a wicked video it became a hit. Now it’s huge. If you haven’t watched the video yet, make sure you check it out.
8. Chromatics – Lady
Part of a soundtrack for the world between waking and sleeping. This shoegaze, Italian disco, whatever you want to call it, track demands late night listening, preferably while driving at 3am.
7. Burial – Loner
A Burial song that you can actually dance to, at least for a couple minutes. Over the 8 minutes of ‘Loner’ you’re transported from horror film to dance club to rave to empty streets in the middle of the night to a freaky children’s show.
6. Schoolboy Q – There He Go
I feel like I have to apologize for the lyrics in this song. This isn’t for sensitive ears. This is just an amazing introduction song on Schoolboy’s Habits and Contradictions. It really sets the tone for the rest of the album and shows what you’re in store for the next hour. Dirty with an amazing flow and a great backing sample.
5. Kendrick Lamar – Backstreet Freestyle
When I first heard ‘Backstreet Freestyle’ it reminded me of Lil’ Wayne’s ‘A Milli’, but after many listens this is world’s above that track. The beat is perfect and there is a lot going on (especially if you listen to it on a 5.1 system) that you don’t pick up on first listen. The vocal build-up shows that Kendrick can do mean rap just as well as his usual laid back style.
4. John Talabot – Destiny (Featuring Pional)
If I was to create an electronic song I would likely make something like this. This song is very similar to the rest of the album, but Pional’s vocals add that extra je ne sais quoi. An excellent track for dancing, relaxing or driving.
3. Frank Ocean – Pyramids
I don’t think anyone thought that Frank Ocean was going to release a 10 minute track as a single preceding the release of channel ORANGE. Really two songs sequed together one an upbeat dance track, the second a slow jam, ‘Pyramids’ is the epic of the year.
2. Kanye West – Mercy (Featuring Big Sean, Pusha-T & 2 Chainz)
It starts off with a sample of what I though was Indian music (it’s actually dancehall), adds some bass, a sample about lamborgini’s and an eerie piano line that sounds slightly like steel drums. Then get some guys to rap over it. On first listen it didn’t really make sense to me, but it quickly grew to me my favourite hip hop song of 2012.
1. Chairlift – I Belong in Your Arms
Maybe I’m just a sucker for a cheesy 1980′s love song. This could have been in The Breakfast Club or Say Anything back then. It just makes me want to spin around in circles in the middle of the dance floor. I’m surprised it is my #1, but it just snuck up there and makes me smile.
Taking the world by storm is Korean rapper PSY, who on his sixth album, has crossed over internationally. #1 on the Itunes Video Music charts, viewed by over 50 million people on YouTube and being played across the world at sporting events, ‘Gangnam Style’ is the biggest Korean song to be released ever.
The thing is, is this song is catchy. The video is terrific, but the song, which sounds strikingly like LMFAO, begs to be played in clubs to create mass dance parties with everyone singing “hey sexy lady!”. The song is about finding the girl who fits all sides of the spectrum: professional and wild. The video is a humorous skewing of ‘Gangnam’ culture that would be familiar to Korean audiences, but it works all to well to other audiences. It has even spawned a female version featuring Korean pop darling Hyuna with a guest spot from PSY.
It is fairly obvious that PSY will only be known for this song in most of the world, but hopefully this creates more world wide interest in K-Pop.
Like PSY on Facebook, or check out PSY’s website, hopefully you can read Korean.
Things are happening. I returned home this evening with the thought to listen to the two new songs that had recently been released from The xx’s sophomore album Coexist. I was shocked to see that the new album had leaked onto the interwebs, so change of plan, I’m listening to the whole thing. I feel kind of bad hearing it this early before the release date, September 11, but I’m certainly going to pick it up when it comes out.
First single ‘Angels’ was a short, sweet track that confirmed that Coexist would not stray far from the sound of their debut album. A simple guitar line, sparse drums and Romy Madley-Croft’s effortless vocals repeating, “Being as in love with you as i am, love, love, love”. Check out the video below:
‘Chained’ is about as dancey as The xx get without being remixed. Romy and Oliver share vocal duties over a Burial-esque beat that ends as abruptly as it starts. From there the album follows a very similar pattern to xx with a few new elements showing a gradual progression of their sound. While it could be concluded that they are not growing as a band, others believed that they would not be able to replicate the sound of their debut, citing it as a one-off. I’m happy to have more, similar sounding, record that gives 11 more songs to supplement the sublime tracks of 2009.
After a couple listens Coexist plays out as a late night dance party with a serious dose of coming down thrown on top. One second you might be able to get up and move, but with the next track you’re thrown back in the corner at 2am.Vocals sound more confident and play a stronger role in song dynamics, Oliver’s range has drastically improved after three years of touring. It’s still preliminary, but I expect to be listening to Coexist daily for the next few months.
Coexist is currently available for preorder from The xx website in multiple formats: MP3, CD, LP and Deluxe LP. Settling for the regular vinyl may not be enough for fans, as the deluxe is on 180g heavyweight vinyl, comes in a special die-cut gatefold sleeve with extra-large booklet and a CD version of the album. If you’re lucky enough to have a ticket to one of their North American tour dates, you’ll receive a full download of their album when it is released on September 11. Speaking of their tour, it will be amazing. Spanish electronic musician John Talabot is opening for them, his album Fin is critically acclaimed and is my favourite record of 2013 so far. I wouldn’t object to being offered tickets to an xx show, I’m willing to fly almost anywhere to see them.
As Wilco’s studio output remains constant in release, there is a widening gap between their earlier works and the last couple albums. Thankfully, they have remained as voracious as ever on the road and consistently put on one of the best live shows in rock and roll. I’ve seen them three times at different points in their career and love how much energy is injected into every song. There have been live albums of Wilco before, but starting last month they have made it much easier to get your hands on concerts, days after performance.
Taking a cue from other bands that generate a live cult following because of their ability to stay ‘fresh’ on the road by playing varying set lists while maintaining a deep familiarity with their back catalogue, Wilco has released high quality recordings of many of their Summer concerts for public consumption. Wilco, unlike Pearl Jam and Phish, are releasing random shows in a series called “Roadcase“, which at the time of writing, has six volumes. Five shows from July and one from June are available from the Wilco Store in three downloadable formats: 256kbps MP3 for $9, ALAC for $12 and FLAC for $12. Not a bad deal, considering each concert has over 25 songs. I would recommend checking out a couple of the shows as Tweedy and co. mix up their sets quite a bit, but getting all six seems overkill except for the die-hard fan.
I’m currently checking out Roadcase #3, which was recorded live in Brooklyn, NY on July 23, 2012. It was the first of two shows Wilco played in Brooklyn and the band is in fine form (when are they not?). I have a few things I look for when listening to a live Wilco concert: 1) ‘I am Trying to Break Your Heart’ being on the setlist (this used to be in every show, but is only on 2 Roadcase shows so far!); 2) a healthy dose of songs from Being There (including a least one of the great disc openers ‘Sunken Treasure’ or ‘Misunderstood’); 3) A couple rarities; 4) And all or any of the following: ‘Poor Places’, ‘Shot in the Arm’ or ‘Reservations’. Every show covers a couple of these preferences, Roadcase 3 covers them all.
Initial impressions have created a desire to see Wilco live in concert. It’s been over five years and if these shows are any indication Wilco has not missed a beat. The songs from The Whole Love really come into their own when played live and Tweedy’s ferocious guitar playing gives them a new life when compared to their studio counterparts. Back catalogue songs don’t sound tired and old, even though they’ve been played hundreds of times. Overall, these shows are the best you’re going to get when you can’t see Wilco live. If they start releasing more this could be an expensive endeavour.
I’ve not listened to The Band that much, but there is no denying their influence. From their early days as Bob Dylan’s backing band to The Last Waltz they were pioneers of roots rock and one of the early iconic Canadian rock bands. ‘The Weight’ may be one of the best known rock songs of all time, though not many known its actual title or who sings it. I was listening to the radio on my way home and Levon Helm was described as the backbone of the The Band. Robbie Robertson may be the best known member and main song writer, but Levon was the glue before and after their first break-up.
I was fortunate enough to see Helm live in 2010 at the Edmonton Folk Music Festival, which the video below is from. He wasn’t able to sing much then, but just having his presence there was magical. We’ll miss you Levon, but you’ll live on through the amazing music you’ve left us.