Wednesday, December 26, 2012

2012 Review - Music

Is it just me or does every election year coincide with a kick ass year in music?  Probably just me.

Anyway, I usually look to my iPod for my list of year end favorites and was shocked at what album wound up on my most listened to list.  As always, I'm no music expert, just someone who knows what I like. 

Off we go.  Be warned, there was a lot of great music out this year.  Might be a lengthy list.  Settle in and prepare to spend some time listening to a few samples. 

MUST HAVES

The Black Keys - El Camino:  This was my most listened to album of the year according to my sentient, music clogged, iPod.  What's surprising is I got this last December.  That it's still in constant rotation could - quite possibly - mean that this is one of the best releases of the past decade.  Several of these songs have already embedded themselves in my brain forever.

For your consideration:  'Lonely Boy' (which has one of the best opening riffs ever and is quickly becoming a pop culture staple), or 'Gold On The Ceiling' or 'Little Black Submarine'.  Or just go pick this up.  You won't find a bad song. 


Baroness - Yellow & Green:  To give you an idea how far this group has expanded their sound, remember that they still 'technically' fall under the hard rock category.  Now listen to this song.  Yes, it could be their shortened twist on 'Stairway to Heaven', but check out the songs below and tell me they not only are trying to reinvent themselves, but also dragging rock into a new, diverse age of enlightenment.  Keep it up, fellas!

For your consideration: 'March to the Sea' and a live version of 'Take My Bones Away'


Divine Fits - A Thing Called Divine Fits:  The lead singers of a band I love (Spoon) and a band I like (Wolf Parade) join forces to create a quirky, funky, additictively strange album.  The songs can initially sound like out takes of their original groups, but repeated listenings prove that cross collaboration can bring out the best in everyone involved. 

For your consideration: One of my favorites, 'Flaggin' A Ride'.  As a bonus here is 'Baby Get Worse' live from Letterman.


The Word Alive - Life Cycles:  Every now and then a band decides to take two different types of music and mash them together.  No, it doesn't always work, but when it does - as it does here - the results can be exhilarating.  Cramming dance, metal, screamcore, pop and punk together is one thing, but making it seem effortlessly organic is remarkable. 

For your consideration:  Don't be scared away by the initial metal underpinnings of their songs.  Instead focus on the other elements and the remarkable beauty incorporated into them.  I do realize this isn't for anyone, but give it a chance.  I'll start you off slowly with 'Astral Plane'

Ready for more?  Here is 'Hidden Lakes' which could be the most danceable metal song ever recorded.

One more.  Here is the title track, 'Life Cycles' which starts off with the angry screaming and machine gun drum staple of most metal bands only to morph (2:44 mark or so) into a beautiful reflection on what it means to grow up.  And then it gets angry again. 


Torche - Harmonicraft: Finely crafted hard rock, with crunching bass and stellar guitars.  Think of this as a more melodic version of Tool. 

For your consideration:  'Roaming' and a live version of 'Kicking'.  I'll let these speak for themselves.


Menomena - Moms:  A shockingly honest album with hatred, embarrassment, and hope for both themselves and everyone that had a hand in creating them along the way.  Lyrics like 'Heavy are the branches hanging from my fucked up family tree' or 'You brought me into this shit show without a penny or a plan' pretty much sum it up.  The music - varied and wonderful - is what brings you back.

For your consideration: 'Plumage' and - one of my favorites of the year - 'Pique', which I may or may not have listened to five times in a row when I first heard it.  I can neither confirm nor deny such things. 


Future of the Left - The Plot Against Common Sense:  Raw, strange, hilarious, and completely in a class by themselves.  I'll just give you the songs and you can make up your own minds.  My mind was made up when I realized I had listened to nothing but this album for an entire week during my commute back and forth to work.  Nothing says endorsement like obsession.

For your consideration:  'Beneath The Waves An Ocean' and the video for 'Sheena Is a T-Shirt Salesman' 'She paid for our equipment with her tits'.



Bob Mould - Silver Age:  The veteran from Husker Du and Sugar cops an attitude and decides to show all these young punks how it's really done.  Between this new material and touring for his old 'Copper Blue' album, 2012 should be known as the year of Mould. 

For your consideration:  Here is Mould and his band performing 'The Descent' on Letterman.  Would you have thought someone that looks like a high school science teacher could rock like this?  Enjoy some 'Star Machine' as well.  It's on me. 



HONORABLE MENTIONS

Accelerators - Fuel for the Fire:  Fast, fun, Ramones-like punk pop. 

For your consideration: A live version of 'Statues'


Hot Water Music - Exister:  The Florida band hones and neatens up their sound without losing any of the rock and roll raggedness that makes them ferocious. 

For your consideration:  An acoustic, live version of 'State of Grace'


Anathema - Weather Systems:  An alluring album length ode to lost relationships and regret that I still go back and listen to on a regular basis.  Not sure how long these guys and girls have been around, but they're on my radar.

For your consideration:  Live version of 'Lightning Song'.  Sound isn't great, but you get the idea.


Blood Red Shoes - In Time To Voices:  My one and always Crush of the Month makes this list not due to beauty, but talent.  Amazing what one guitar and a set of drums can accomplish. 

For your consideration:  The video for 'Cold'.  The anger within the song makes me wonder if these two are at each other's throats all the time.  Fine line between love and hate.  She is so sexy, though, it may be worth it to take her abuse. 


Django Django - Django Django:  Easily one of the best debuts of the year.  Weird, Beach Boy inspired pop that runs off into strange, instrumental directions at times.  Would love to see these guys live as they're probably a blast. 

For your consideration:  The video for 'Hail Bop' that's just as strange as I would have expected. Can't wait to see where they go from here.  And that could be anywhere.


Fang Island - Major:  Not as free wheeling and fun as their debut, but they expand their sound just enough to call it growth while retaining their hard rock, guitar based backbone that reminds me of Lindsey Buckingham at his most enjoyable.  I get the feeling we're on the verge of something great with these guys.  Their next may knock our collective socks off.  Which is good since I just got new socks, so I'm stocked for a while. 

For your consideration: 'Sisterly' which begs the question of how someone fires their sister. 


The Fixx - Beautiful Friction:  No shit, these guys are still around and pumping out good music.  I always thought they were under rated back in the 80s (listen to 'One Things Leads To Another' again...it still holds up).  Here they prove relevance has nothing to do with age. 

For your consideration:  Live versions of 'Follow That Cab' (from this album) and 'Secret Separation'.


The Menzingers - On The Impossible Past: The Philly band rocks it out with Springsteen type lyrics that vividly flesh out lives of dysfunction, partying and anger.

For your consideration: The excellent 'Gates'.


WTF SECTION

LostProphets - The Betrayed:  One of my favorite bands puts out what seems like rejects from every other album in their catalogue.  The title might as well refer to every fan that paid for this.  Are they fulfilling a contractual obligation with this? 


Fun. - Some Nights:  Don't get me wrong, some of these songs are enjoyable and I like that they attempt to capture the epic sound of vintage Queen at times, but why they thought Autotune was needed on some of these songs is beyond me.  The lead singer can belt them out with the best.  Plus some of these songs just don't work.  For every song I enjoyed there was a jaw clenching 'WHY?!' thrown in for no reason I will ever figure out. 

Think that's it for this year.  I'm probably missing some like I always do.  I'll add any urgent ones to the comment section if I think of anything.  Carry on, good folks. 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

2012 Review - Television

Holy shit did this year fly by!  Can you believe we're here already?  CAN YOU??!!  Oh, right.  I can't hear you.

Anyway, I still  had plenty of time for watching the boob tube so let's get right to it.

REQUIRED VIEWING

The Walking Dead:  While last season teetered and stuttered and spun its wheels for a bit, it still packed plenty of wallop when it was over.  This season has been balls to the wall; killing off major characters as quickly and efficiently as ninja sword lady kills little zombie girls.  To be fair, Wifey wants no part of this show.  She tried to catch up with me over the summer, but checked out when Rick started smearing zombie intestines all over him in order to disguise himself while walking through Atlanta.  She walked in last season just in time to see a zombie head get run over by a truck's tire. This may not be for everyone is what I'm trying to say.

Modern Family:  What else needs to be said?  The most consistently laugh out loud show on television.  Julie Bowen is still super hot, too. 

Live From Daryl's House:  Daryl Hall (yes, from Hall and Oates) invites different musical guests (Cee Lo Green, Plain White Ts, Neon Trees) to his house in upstate New York to perform hits from past and present.  If you have any appreciation for music and the dynamics of collaboration, search this one out.  I believe it has a regular home on Palladia, but you can watch most performances online, as well (check out the Guster episode).  The sheer joy of playing is visible in the faces and attitudes of everyone who takes part. 

Check out this clip with Joe Walsh jamming with the gang.  Hall's regular band members start off worrying about technical proficiency and sticking with the song.  By the middle, everyone is in full swing and having a ball, as evidenced by a quick shot of the drummer. 

Interspersed with the music is a cooking segment and interviews with the guests.  He even has an unplugged room which is put to terrific use.  If you stumble across this, spend some quality time with Daryl, who, by the way, still sounds fantastic. 

Part of me wonders if I enjoy this show so much because Hall basically lives the life I want: Live in a great home while cool people come to hang out.  Oh, and he gets paid for it.  Damn him!

Sidenote:  Joe Walsh summed up what is wrong with the current state of music perfectly.  Over dinner he brings up Beyonce winning a Grammy for one of her songs.  'The song had five writers and three producers' he says, '...the song HAD EIGHT WORDS!!'

The Good Wife:  I'll admit it slacked a bit towards the end of last season, but the introduction of Kalinda's scum bag, yet somehow endearing husband put the edge back in this show.  Cary coming back to the firm and the potential bankruptcy helped, too.  Still one of the most well written shows on television. 

Community:  Yes, it's weird and uneven and has more backstage drama than any show since Saturday Night Live, but, at it's best, it reinvents what we should expect from a half hour comedy.

Parks and Rec/30 Rock:  These two shows pack more laughs into 30 minutes than any show on television (even Modern Family).  30 Rock in particular machine guns so many jokes into an episode I have to rewind when I realized I missed something. 

Boardwalk Empire:  One of the greatest characters ever (Gyp) nearly made us forget the loss of Jimmy.  As psychotic and damaged as he was, he made me look forward to every episode. 


SHOWING PROMISE

New Girl:  Still funny, but seems to be trying too hard this season.  Every now and then they kill it (like Schmidt's self organized birthday party - 'Now I will dance with fire'), but beginning to strain a bit at the seams. 

GoOn:  Really took off after the first few episodes when it stopped trying to cram sensitivity into every 30 minutes and embraced its natural lunacy and dysfunction.  If there was ever a vehicle for Perry's natural sarcasm and ball busting ability, this is it.  Kudos to Harold (or was he Kumar?) for getting back into comedy.  He and Perry are great together. 

Suburgatory:  Getting too touchy feely for my liking.  The entire premise is the cynical, jaded, city teenage girl plopped into plastic, perfect, suburban fakery.  Sadly, the suburbs are changing the girl and not the other way around.  Still has it's moments that make it worth sticking around. 


FADING FROM GLORY

The Office:  It's actually better than it was last year and I'll keep watching since it's the last season, but still not nearly as good.  It really should have signed off when Carrell did. 

Revenge:  That didn't last long.  What started as a guilty pleasure, fast paced, revenge obsessed story has morphed into every nighttime soap opera ever.  Excuse me, Emily?  I know you're hot and all, but would you mind getting back to taking actual revenge on someone?  Anyone?


OFF THE WATCH LIST

Up All Night:  What a disaster.  The creators kept messing with the premise, introducing new characters and changing the format (it goes before a live audience next).  Then it took two wildly successful people and made them insanely insecure about everything and everybody.  Could quite possibly be the worst show on television right now. 

Jersey Shore:  Just like seven million other people.

Animal Practice:  Came and went so fast it barely registered


MARATHON CATCH UP

Breaking Bad:  I love Netflix for the sole reason of allowing me to get mid way through season 2 of this show that (fingers crossed) may become one of my favorites of all time.  So good I risk the chance of spending an entire weekend watching one episode after another.  Can't wait to finish up in time for the last season.  Although I don't think I'm going to make it. 

Game of Thrones:  HBO finally took my advice and allowed everyone to watch the first two seasons in one fell swoop.  I am caught up, fully invested and ready to roll for the upcoming season.  Boo yeah!

That's it for now friends.  If I don't get the music entry up before next week, enjoy the holidays.