As we get to the last of our end of year countdowns, it’s time to present the Top Twenty albums of 2017. Among this list you’ll find rock, metal, hip hop and many other configurations of genres. All these records were awesome and while many worthy records didn’t make the cut, these twenty five do a great job of showcasing the best sounds of the year. Enjoy!
BROKEN SOCIAL SCENE: HUG OF THUNDER
PORTUGAL. THE MAN: WOODSTOCK
MOSES SUMNEY: AROMANTICISM
THE XX: I SEE YOU
20. WOLF PARADE: CRY CRY CRY
After a lengthy hiatus, the foursome of Krug, Boeckner, DeCaro, and Thompson, released a record that’s just as good, if not better than what they delivered before taking time away from the industry. The album is at moments sinister, upbeat and eclectic, and further elevates their craft to a very interesting level. Hopefully they’ll stick around for more, because “Cry Cry Cry” is a record old and new fans alike can get behind.
19. PHOEBE BRIDGES: STRANGER IN THE ALPS
One of the loneliest sounding albums on the list finds us out the gate at number nineteen. Bridges sulks hazardously and openly about her struggles with depression and anxiety for our future using nothing more than her soft voice and eloquent guitar. It’s a tough album to get into and it forces you to examine your life in a different rear view. A remarkable record great for just you and your thoughts.
18. THE NATIONAL: SLEEP WELL BEAST
After so long, a total of seven albums now under their belt, the National are changing. However, some things stay the same. Matt Berninger in the vocal role maintains his sullen depression and agony while the brothers Dessner still maintain a tight sync with each other. New elements such a more synth heavy sound, and more speedy songs like “Day I Died” alongside the velocity of “Turtleneck” all add this new exciting energy to the band. The last record wasn’t anything remarkable, but I think on this one the National are back to the core and have accelerated into entirely new terrain.
17. JAPANESE BREAKFAST: SOFT SOUNDS FROM ANOTHER PLANET
Michelle Zauner as Japanese Breakfast is able to get sensual, and sexual with minimal effort, and it never seems like it’s being forced. From early on during her second album in two years, you can sense her lyrics and instrumentation are open to new routes of exploration. I haven’t heard the first record yet, but that’s mostly because of the aroma “Soft Sounds” gives off. It’s great for a lazy day at the house, or for a easy bike ride through the park, with only you and the energy of the day. If you haven’t dove in, you should, it’s some good stuff.
16. THE WAR ON DRUGS: A DEEPER UNDERSTANDING.
While the Adam Granduciel led War on Drugs has been gradually getting more and more traction with each release, on “A Deeper Understanding” the band ventures beyond their comfort zone. The result? A strong fourth album that is sure to lead to bigger pay days and more acclaim and acknowledgement. Listened to in a single listen, the ten songs join to make a cohesive album that’s filled with intricate musical arrangements and honest, personal lyrics that shine a light even more on the depth of the band.
15. GRIZZLY BEAR: PAINTED RUINS
It seems like every few years, another chapter in the vastly organic Grizzly Bear albums comes out, and Ed Droste, along with Dan Rossen, Chris Taylor, and Christopher Bear have somehow refined their sound even more than in the past. Songs like “Morning Sound,” perfectly paint a picture of the depth that the foursome are capable of. There’s not a bad song on the record, which helps to clear the way in a more cohesive style. They keep doing it, and I’m sure in a few years, they will have grown even more. For now, the Bear is hibernating, and touring.
14. NINE INCH NAILS: ADD VIOLENCE
This time last year, Reznor and Ross as nine inch nails released part one of a trilogy of Ep’s. This year we got this excellent new breath of fresh air with “Add Violence.” From the opening moments of “Less Than,” Reznor delves into experimentation after experimentation. “This isn’t the Place” is a unique beauty of eeriness, but the complex, descending nature of “The Background World” showcases Reznor’s rang as a vocalist, but also some of the craziest beats and noise he’s ever concocted.
13. SPOON: HOT THOUGHTS
I first heard this band over a decade ago, when they appeared on the Conan O’Brien show, and honestly I wasn’t impressed at all. However, the moment finally came for my understanding during the exciting, and varied sounds of “Hot Thoughts.” I’ve heard from longtime fans that they didn’t enjoy the album, so maybe everything got flipped on its head in terms of how far they pushed themselves. Lead single and title track has, for good reason been all over the radio for the last months, and other songs like “WhisperI’lllistentohearit” are minimally gothically inspired, with a dark undertone trying to get through the more beats driven sections of the song. This is repeated multiple times on the record and ultimately adds to the individuality of the Austin Texas based band.
12. FEIST: PLEASURE
When Leslie Feist releases an album you’re never quite sure which Feist will be showing herself to the world. Her first solo album “The Reminder” was an elegant, emotionally vulnerable but upbeat album, while “Metals’ fell flat with hard edges and a certain incoherent nature. However, with her amazing “Pleasure,” it seems as though she’s going back to her softly sung variance of folk rock. Even a song like “Any Party” has a down home ho-hum to it that makes it exciting, like something you’d hear in a western drama in the 60’s. “Century” featuring Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker is rustic in all the best ways a Feist song can be, joining another great track in the form of “Pleasure,” which for my money steals the entire album, which lands at number twelve on the Top Twenty Albums of 2017.
11.CONVERGE: THE DUSK IN US
It’s reassuring when a band of twenty plus years is still capable of making some of the best aggressive music around. Massachusetts natives Converge seem delighted and exposed as they venture through their ninth record. Openers like”A Single Tear,” tear open your awareness, while slow burning, cathartic tracks like the title track show just how much thought and emotion Bannon and Ballou and company have in their engine, ready to spew forth. Bannon’s voice is the driving force, but the storm enveloping everything else only adds to his deliberate moment of truth.
10. LCD SOUNDSYSTEM: AMERICAN DREAM
When a band comes back from a breakup, or whatever it was that LCD did a few years ago, you never quite know what the end result will be. In this case, we got a record that easily matches the eclectic wave that James Murphy and company found early in their career. All of the songs featured on “American Dream” weave and wind like before, but there’s a far amount of experimentation happening for the NYC Electro Punk pioneers. “I used to” rolls through a jungle cautiously yet focused on its end point, while “how do you sleep?” shines bright like a fire in a far off country, isolated by darkness and joy. After each album I wonder where this band can go, and each time they surprise but never disappoint. Let the second phase of LCD Soundsystem continue, and get excited for whatever result we’re treated with.
9. SAMPHA: PROCESS
This has been quite the year for the silky smooth voice and piano murmurings of Sampha Sisay, or just Sampha for short. From the early moments of his excellent “Process,” Sampha narrates a beautifully downtrodden song, but it doesn’t end with opener “Plastic 100* C.” in fact the emotional intensity only gets harder to work through, but it’s in those moments where his beauty soars through turmoil. The record to me harkens back to the distinct sounds of Joanna Newsom, Bjork or other musicians who have embraced the harp in recent years. It’s wonderfully pretty, and makes you want to share your emotional energy with the world after you get through a listen of the entirety of the record. If this is his high note, then later albums might suffer, but if this is Sampha just getting started, heart flutters and excitement be damned, because this could get very interesting.
8. FLEET FOXES: CRACK UP
I’ve been a fan since the early days, the “Sun Giant Ep” days, and it’s remarkable how much Robin Pecknold and company have grown into a beautiful, majestic creature that only shows it’s face for small amounts of time. “Crack Up” is no exception. From the early moments of the unisonally song “I am All That I Need…” you’re welcomed into the arms of a soothing voice and harmonic hymns that it’s impossible not to get swept up in the mess of things. Over the course of the eleven song record, you watch in awe as Pecknold and the rest of his Fleet Foxes spread their wings and build a world of music jumbled into something tangible and gorgeously layered. At this point, I’m happy with the amount of output these guys have, because every album has been immaculate, and i expect that trend to continue.
7. QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE: VILLAINS
Can this band make a bad album? The short answer, no. The long answer has to do with the gestation, growing period. Once again joining forces with Van Leuvan and welcoming John Theodore on his first record playing drums with the band, Queens take a chance and succeeds with producer Mark Ronson, and with this fresh air coming through, Homme and the other Queens are able to make it lighter to handle in some areas, while turning up the aggression and volume, sometimes during the same song, like what they accomplish on “The Evil has Landed.” It’s another reminder of how truly wonderful this band is, and why they’re still very much at the top of the rock n roll heap. If you think I’m wrong, just listen to “Head Like a Haunted House,” and tell me this isn’t classic QOTSA mixed with a little something extra.
6. FEVER RAY: PLUNGE
After nearly nine years, Karin Dreijer Andersson has returned to her Knife alter ego Fever Ray. This album, simply, is astounding and astonishing, much different form the first, but still pushing the boundaries of overt sexually that she so vehemently defends. This is a Pro- Woman Pro-Sex type albums, and Karin eats the narrative up, all sensual like. It’s refreshing that in this day and age, with all the sexual turmoil happening over and over again in various sections of the world that a woman can make a record as unapologetically overt in it’s sexuality. Upbeat tracks like “IDK About You” only add to the casual vibe prevalent through the record. It’s fun, sexy, graphic, and it only adds to the allure of one half of the Knife, Karin.
5. KENDRICK LAMAR: DAMN
Simply put, this shit is fire. Raised in the house of Dre and Snoop and gradually elevating himself to form a beast of his own creation, Kendrick Lamar is the without a doubt the most important solo rapper currently releasing music. If the also excellent “To Pimp a Butterfly” was Lamar’s presenting his ideas in a powerful, anti-authority warning shot, then “Damn” is the back up to that which sees Lamar signaling how far he’s willing to push his ideas to get what he wants, while opening the eyes of naysayers who simply dismiss rap as bullshit music not worthy of the bright lights of the best musicians unafraid to display their beliefs. It’s both booty bouncing music and protest music in a singular “fuck you” to all the enemies who are trying to destroy everything they see as unfit. With Kanye still doing something somewhere, and Jay Z having drifted even further from authentic rapper to “Look at how awesome it is to be Mr. Beyonce,” Lamar is the truth teller we all need.
4. LORDE: MELODRAMA
It’s rare for a major breakout star to have two albums as authentic and awesome as Lorde’s first two records have been. From the dimly light but gradually brightening opening of “Green Light,” you accept that not only has she grown as person, but her art has turned a corner to an intersection of brave honesty and smarts, and someone with a good enough x-factor that she somehow is big in circles ranging from indie to electronic fans to teenie boppers. A song like “Writer in the Dark” has all the brutal honesty to tackle a subject that we’ve all struggled with. It’s a song about life’s challenges and the difficulty of family. But it’s in that song that her true potential is burning to come out even more. Dave Grohl is right I think, when he mentioned Lorde as the future of alternative music. “Melodrama” has everything you’ll love, and more you'll grow to love with repeated listens.
3. RUN THE JEWELS: RTJ3
Ok so first things first. RTJ3 was suddenly released on everyone the day after Christmas last year, but it makes it onto this list mostly because of how close it was to 2017, but also because of the physical release, which was actually this year. Anyway onto the music, and well it’s another home run for the supergroup featuring Killer Mike and El-P, and they spare no expense to give us another near perfect record. It tackles quite a few tough lingering issues, including corruption of the highest order, the propensity of white police officers killing black people of various shapes and sizes, and the loss of friends and complacency in this hazardous world and country we’re currently living in. After all that though, this is still a record that allows you to have fun some of the time and dance your conflicted brain away. “Talk to Me,” is a siren for awareness, while “Panther like a Panther” is a filthy song with dirty, highly sexual lyrics(after all it’s still hip hop.) It’s a perfect record all around, and as the album closes with the one two punch of guests like Kamasi Washington Zack de la Rocha, it’s hard to brush this collection aside. All hail RTJ, they are the future storm of the rap world. My prediction: we haven’t seen anything yet.
2. BLACK ANGELS: DEATH SONG
This one for me is a long time coming in terms of getting around to. I’ve seen them three times, but never got into their studio albums. Until this year, when my roommate had them on and i was transfixed. “Death Song” is their fifth albums, and it’s as slow, doomladen and methodical as all the other ones, judging by what i’ve heard live. “Currency” brings the album to a heavy stepped opening, but from there they have many songs that captivate you. Songs like “I’d Kill for her,” “Estimate,” and the album closing explosion that is “Life Song” all tie into one messy but calm record that is sure to make you think about your past, present and future. It’s just one of those albums that can be enjoyed with one or two people around, but you all need to listen closely, or all the most interesting parts will blend into the background.
1. ST. VINCENT: MASSEDUCTION
From the early moments of this years number one, you get the distinct impression that Annie Clark is defying space and time. Her rock hard guitar has melted into a electro-rock aroma that is now fully filling her cup. It’s seductive in a “I won’t be ignored” way, but it’s very provocative in its delivery, which only helps to put even more ideas and music and concept in the brain of the listener. It’s a difficult listen at first, mostly due to how different it is compared to previous albums, but on listen after lister it installs itself as a powerful, evocative listen. Once you get to “Masseduction” the song, you’re already well aware of how different and energizing this neo-pop renaissance is. It’s a dangerous record for a world that needs to have different experiences shoved in faces, but it never worries you that it might go off the rail. With each album Clark is able to create a different scenario than anything else in alternative music. She’s a guitar god with a beautifully willful voice. She periodically changes her persona and adds another shimmering example of what a challenging artist pushing different views of morality, secuality, power, and the hunger to succeed. Think of her a Madonna type, able to contort and show different sides of herself with each new interpretation, except here Clark is actually writing the lyrics and music, which is something I doubt Madonna has done in a very long time. The Best album of 2017, “MASSEDUCTION,” by St. Vincent. Thanks for reading!
As we begin our second installment for the end of the year, we delve into the top ten songs that made life a little easier to enjoy. Some of these artist will show up again for our Top Twenty albums, but all of these songs are memorable for their own reasons. This list is filled with anthems, ballads about walking through darkness and various other emotions that all help to provoke the listener in a positive way. Without adding anything further, here we go with the ten best tracks of the year. Enjoy!
10. QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE, THE EVIL HAS LANDED, VILLIANS
Homme and company has always been known as a thinking man's rock band, intent with pushing the limits of their sound, but on “The Evil has Landed,” we get a little mix of the funky new Queens, intertwined with the chunky, thumpy guitar elements of their early tracks. The delivery is spot on and full of gusto, and only sees that raw attitude and swagger grow and exceed it’s space by the end of the song. It’s a slow, guitar filled ride, but as the song concludes it implodes in a flurry of drums, guitar, and pure swagger that only QOTSA is capable of delivering.
9. ST. VINCENT, SUGARBOY, MASSEDUCTION
Like a dangerous synth and knife party, Annie Clark, aka St. vincent, delivers a in your face, frantic track called “Sugarboy” in the early moments of her excellent new album, “Masseduction.” Many of the songs are top notch, but this track stands out so much because of how different it is compared to anything else she’s produced on her previous records. It’s scary and intimidating, and reaffirms the belief that Clarke is without a doubt one of the most exciting acts of recent years, and if she keeps releasing challenging albums and tracks like this, there’s no limit to how important and popular she can become.
8. NINE INCH NAILS, THIS ISN’T THE PLACE, ADD VIOLENCE
Over the last thirteen months as Nine Inch Nails, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross have slowly delivered two EPs, each similar in theme but different in musical attributes, they’ce delivered one of the best tracks not only of the year, but one of the most consistently good songs they’ve released. “This isn’t the Place” is a dark road, ominous with overhead lights and fog during the evening hours. Reznor’s voice creeps in, and in that moments he’s apprehensive, but sure of himself in a way only he can deliver. It’s really shiver inducing in that way. Both EPs (“Not the Actual Events,” and “Add Violence”) are solid and enjoying, but this track shines over all the other parts.
7. THE KILLERS, TYSON VS DOUGLAS, WONDERFUL, WONDERFUL
A song you may have missed on this album, but a song that also happens to elicit an amazing response once it envelops you. It’s fast paced, eye opening, and soaring in a way that only the Killers from Las Vegas are capable of doing with very little issue. The chorus is in your face, and sees Brandon Flowers letting his voice reach even the darkest corners. It all revolves around the faithful night “Iron” Mike was dethroned, but beyond that you get a song full of energy and regret. It’s one of the band’s best songs in years, and for it lands on the top half of the countdown.
6. PORTUGAL.THE MAN, FEEL IT STILL, WOODSTOCK
For the longest time I didn’t get these guys. Finally at Shaky Knees, upon realizing that this song was them?!, I was hooked. This track is a more hip hop infused track than they’ve been known for, but it’s awesome so it doesn’t really matter. It’s fun, and it’s varied appeal across multiple types of radio stations has shown that people still love a track with a good beat and high energy vocals. It still gets played in my car or house pretty often, which always helps to brighten a mood. It’s a great one if you haven’t heard.
5. KESHA, PRAYING, RAINBOW
Not that I was ever a fan of her before this record and song, but you simply can’t ignore a track this important, especially at a time like this. I won’t go into details that we likely all know at this point, but for the first time Kesha is actually using her voice for powerful, inciteful comments on her struggles to prove she had more to showcase than the typical dumb pop music she was known for before this song rightfully flooded the airwaves. For her anguish, and her treatment, and her resentment at how she’s been treated, she deserves this one.
4. KENDRICK LAMAR, HUMBLE, DAMN
Has any solo rapper had as much success in terms of brilliant song writing in the last five years as Lamar has? I’m not sure of that, but if Kendrick keeps making blistering tracks like “Humble,” then he’s already cemented his place in modern rap history. The rhymes elicited are fire to your ears, and the beat it grimey and gangster enough to make people of various colors join in while the enjoy top level rap music. Every track on the album is killer, but for the purposes of this countdown, “Humble” is here to represent the continued brilliance and excitement that Lamar delivers routinely.
3. LORDE,WRITER IN THE DARK, MELODRAMA
One of the most sorrowful songs of the year finds the list at number three. In “Writer in the Dark,” Lorde give a narrative that’s not only tragic song in terms of its theme, but it also seems to be Lorde’s lament about how insane this current climate is. It’s more poignant and introspective than nearly any other song on her still excellent “Melodrama,” but it sit nestled nicely along with the other highs she reaches. When she bellows “I find a way to be without you babe,” you feel her pain and anger over everything that’s happened in her life, while still not going into graphic personal detail. That metaphorical passion is one that pushes the song to excellence.
2. THE BLACK ANGELS, I'D KILL FOR HER, DEATH SONG
I‘m not sure what about this song drew me in, but I’m happy it did. It’s spooky from the opening drums beats, and as soon and the vocals of Christian Bland meld into the atmosphere, this song takes off in a haze of nighttime glory. The guitars glisten and portray dark intentions throughout the duration, but the real treasures are the lyrics. Being seduced by a witch of sorts, or maybe just an evil person, is always a great basis for a song, but the way the angels do it, your excitement is standing right near to your fear about what awaits you. It’s a big moment early in the album, and it finds its spot as the second best song of the year. Great for an evening bike riding.
1. RUN THE JEWELS, A REPORT TO THE SHAREHOLDERS/ KILL YOUR MASTERS, RUN THE JEWELS 3
Honestly, take your pick at your favorite track from this album and it would still stand a chance at landing on this year’s list. For me though, the finale of their nearly perfect “RTJ3” stands as the best song of the year. It’s eye opening in a way that makes your resent that fact that songs like this have to be created in the first place. It’s a track full of resentment in regards to our lopsided thought process, our issues with the little guy still fighting for his increasingly small cut. At its heart though, it’s a call to arms for everyone to stand up and be heard. The song is essentially two independent pieces out together to make one lengthy, sobering track, but they sync together in a way that makes it fluid and invigorating. The lyrics delivered from Mike, El, and special guest Zack De la Rocha all make “A Report to the Shareholders/ Kill Your Masters” my top rated song of the year. Listen, learn, and most importantly enjoy. These guys are hopefully just getting started.
Welcome back! Sorry it’s been so long since a post, but a lot has been going on. Anyway today we start the year end pieces. First up are the ten best shows I’ve witnessed in the last calendar year. These ten picks cover the bases from experimental to good ole' rock n roll, to giant productions and hip hop. in other words, there's something here for everyone. Hope you enjoy.
10. Japandroids, Republic Nola
From the moment the band emerged from the backstage area, they presented the crowd with a chaotically jubilant sixty minutes show with fan favorites and new hits all together. “Younger Us,” “Night of Wine and Roses” and various others brought the crowd into the game as their voices bellowed into one. The band manages to stay ahead of the curb in terms of emotional, heartfelt anthem based on the trials and joys of youthfulness, and its in that essence that the twosome thrives.
9. King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, One Eyed Jacks, Nola
As far as longevity goes, it remains uncertain just how prolific this band will be, but this year has been unreal for King Gizzard and company. Releasing five albums since January, the 7 piece mostly stuck to one of their recent sets,”Murder of the Universe,” but every note hit harder than the last, complete with psychedelic images and loud, chunky vibrations through the packed and sold out club. Those are some of the best shows at OEJ, and it helps to make the crowd feel as one as the band pummels on.
8. Zola Jesus, Gasa Gasa, Nola
About 18 months ago I saw Jesus midday at Houston’s Free Press Summer Fest. While the FPSF show was solid, this night at a tiny dive in New Orleans truly showcased Zola Jesus and her enigmatic, ominous endeavors in an intimate enough venue that enabled her to literally be among the crowd, face to face. In a moment where the crowd watched her get personal and mention her recent cold, she came off as brilliant and open, hoping for a precious moment. She delivered well and strong, and judging by the emotions of the crowd, most left satisfied. For that reason, Zola Jesus pops in at number eight on the best shows of 2017.
7. Sigur Ros, Saenger, Nola
Having seen Jonsi and company three times prior, I knew what to expect, but somehow this was as different and as mesmerizing compared to the other times. Playing two unique sets full of memorable tracks such as “Saegloupur,” “Festival,” and many others from their extensive catalogue, the attendees on this night sat in profound beauty as they went on a visceral, awe inspiring ride with the Icelandic trio. Note after note provoked joy, and the haunting lights and stage show only added to the opulents of the evening.
6. Grizzly Bear, Civic Theater, Nola
On a dreary night a few weeks ago, the Civic hosted one of the most reliable alternative bands of the last decade, and unsurprisingly the show was as top notch as their discography. Picking from songs from their recent “Painted Ruins,” all the way back to classics like “Two Weeks,” the Ed Droste, Daniel Rossen and company perfectly complimented the intimacy of the venue with a haunting, light on theatrics and stage visuals show that showcased their intricately wound rhythms. Highlights included new song “Morning Sound,” and the insane build up and winding road nature of what’s maybe the band’s best song, “Sun In Your Eyes.”
5. LCD Soundsystem, Orpheum Theater, Nola
A performance by NYC punk disco stalwarts LCD Soundsystem might not be as special as it was when they announced their reunion, but that in no way means they’ve lost their eagerness to perform. Each show still delivers with the type of energy that the band has been known for, for as long as they’ve been delivering classic albums. On this night, as part of the Voodoo Fest after show series, the band sold out the Orpheum in under two weeks, and played well past two a.m. on a busy saturday night in Nola. All their best tracks were presented to a capacity crowd. Showcasing tracks like the frantic “Movement” alongside others like the gradual swell of “Us V Them,” and the classic “Dance Yrself Clean,” meant that everyone got to shout, dance, and rock out to the stellar band, which includes James Murphy, Nancy Whang, Pat Mahoney and others.
4. Run the Jewels, Joy Theater, Nola
El-P and Killer Mike have, in just a few short years, skyrocketed from a club band to an act that is prepared to start filling up high profile spots on major festivals lineups, and it’s with good reason. Just ask any person who’s seen them, especially if it happened on the current tour. When you successfully have produced three albums that are all better than the previous one, you have a ton of room to make every show hit as hard as possible, and RTJ doesn’t miss that moments. Crowd interaction and excitement was high, and from the moment Uncle El and Mike launched into “Legend Has It,” we all knew this would be a fun, thrilling show. It’s likely that they don’t plan on going anywhere anytime soon, so be sure to jump in for your chance to see the single best rap group of the last ten years.
3. Phoenix, Shaky Knees Festival, Atlanta
During the final night of this amazing festival, something happened that has never happened during my two years of attending: a band was late. The sad part was that it was Phoenix, who were scheduled to close out the three day festival. While this was lame and an unhappy conclusion to a well organized festival, once the foursome from Paris presented themselves on stage, all of that frustration was quickly forgotten. They delivered exactly what you’d expect, on all fronts. A huge mirror positioned behind the band was able to make lights seem as though they had multiplied, and songs like “1901,” the eye opening transition of “Love like a Sunset,” and the powerful in your face energy of “Entertainment” all crushed the tired yet excited crowd in the middle of downtown Atlanta. It was the best show of the entire three day weekend, and for that, it shows up at number three on the year end best shows list.
2. Radiohead, Smoothie King Center, Nola
A Radiohead show is always an insanely special thing, but on this night, seeing the band for the fourth time was made even more excited by the woman, and other people I shared it with. Every note hits perfectly and precisely, just like it does on every album the band has constructed in their history. From the emotional release of “Fake Plastic Trees,” to the upbeat, more dancey rendition of “Burn the Witch,” it was clear that Thom, Ed, Johnny, Colin and Phil hadn’t lost any of their proficiency when it comes to staging concerts that will inspire you to look deep in your own body and soul, and to be just close enough to five geniuses that even if it’s only for two hours, all is right and everything's in its right place.
1. Roger Waters, American Airlines Center, Dallas
For years I’d been trying to see Waters. Afterall, his work with the other members of seminal prog rock, experimental band Pink Floyd still stand as some of the best overall music of well, forever. Finally on a hot ass night in Dallas in July, I got my chance, and what the sold out crowd was exposed to easily (in my opinion at least) stands as what is likely the best show I’ve ever seen in my life, even surpassing McCartney and Daft Punk. While many of the songs you’d expect to hear were presented, and enjoyed, for me it honestly didn’t matter. This was a unicorn that I was finally able to set my eyes on for well over two hours. Each note poured perfection out into the arena, and the massive stage show (complete with a set of screens that divided the audience in two for a brief portion of the show) only added to the theatricality of the evening. No opening act, minimal chatter with the crowd, and a very clear anti-Trump section of the show only reinforced the idea that art of any kind can be an act of resistance, and that Waters still has a lot to say about how he views the world at large. A once in a lifetime experience, and one that I’ll be remembering for as long as I’ll remember his rendition “Time,” “Wish you Were Here,” and countless other perfect songs that Waters helped to create. Thanks for reading!
Two things seem obvious when it comes to Vegas born Killers. One: They’ve made fun, thoughtful, rock and roll with minimal electronic aspects mostly brilliantly over the course of their fifteen plus year career. The second thing, at least upon my observations, is that a ton, and i mean a lot of people, hate this band. There seems to be little in between, but from my point of view, the Killers represent a band that produced a debut album that everyone loved, and from, there continued to make worthwhile music consistently( though not perfectly continuous), and have managed to become one of the few bands that has been able to say that they went from being one of the lower billed bands at festivals, to headlining them with ease. Here’s what I consider the Top Ten songs by the Brandon Flowers led Killers. Some are super obvious, but there’s more than one non-hit in this grouping, so there’s something here for casual fans and people that soak up all things The Killers. Enjoy!
10. Spaceman, Day & Age
Day & Age is probably the first album where people thought the band took a misstep, but there’s still a good amount of enjoyable music found on the record. On “Spaceman” the band veers more towards the pop side that they brought us on their debut, while managing to have better results on the mixing side of things then the band had in their early days. The song itself though, is a upbeat, classic Killers soundscape, with a glossy chorus that features Flowers quickly touching on “dream makers” and other fantastical elements. Not their crowning achievement for sure, but it’s quality enough to crack the top ten as we begin our countdown.
9. Andy, You’re a Star, Hot Fuss
The crunchy, yet rusty sounding guitar by David Keuning start the track on a lonely, moonlit road as the song unfolds. It’s a slow burn of a number, and it’s something I honestly wish they did more often. When Flower’s wonderfully melodic voice beckons to Andy, to inform his he’s a star, the song has reached further than most of the band's catalogue since. Musically the song isn’t the boisterous stadium killer the band has come to trademark, but on an album as brightly orchestrated and executed as “Hot Fuss,” “Andy, You’re a star” shines in stark contrast to the rest of the album, which is why it works so well in the first place.
8. My List, Sam’s Town
This is a tough one for me to write about honestly. For my ex and i, this was one of the first songs we ever experienced together, and it stayed a favorite of ours for the years that followed. “My List” fills a more sorrowful void then nearly any other song in the Killers catalogue, but that’s why it’s such an impressive song. Flowers crooning in regards to his love, his regret, and his optimism of the potential future make this song something truly special. The over reaching elements of the song are blatantly clear. This is a man desperate for the ability to do the right thing for his partner, while still staying true to himself. The chorus and crescendo at the end set it even higher up in terms of emotion, and it’s a tool the band uses to amazing effect on our number eight pick, “My List.”
7. On Top, Hot Fuss
Number seven on our list, “On Top,” always feels to me like it should be used in a montage in some 80’s driven action movie, but that’s neither here nor there. The keyboard beats on the song are laid down in a powerful but subtle way, in order to give the band, and Flowers especially, the room to really make the song an impactful one. It’s a song that feels just as comfortable in a dark bar dancing as it does at a mid day cook out as the sun begins to set. It’s relatively upbeat until the doors fly open more immediately as the track concludes, but there’s no denying this song, along with the majority of the songs on “Hot Fuss,” are reasons that the Killers have come as far as they have in the last decade.
6. This River is Wild, Sam’s Town
One thing this band will always do well is managing to write songs that leave the opportunity for huge sing alongs and even bigger vocal choruses. To me “Sam’s Town” will remain their best work, and it’s a selection like “This River is Wild” that serves as an example of why it’s aged so well. Flowers vocalizes how hard it is to stay on the straight and narrow,but he’s also able to explain his own faults in a way that seem both blunt and timid. He’s not happy about the choices he’s made, but he understands that on the road “trying to do what’s right,” there will be twists and turns. After all, the song is called “This River is Wild,” so yeah it shouldn’t be surprising how much the song is able to portray in terms of uncertainty.
5. Runaways, Battleborn
Basically this whole list is an after effect of me jamming out incessantly to this song for the last week. As an album, “Battle Born” is easily their least accomplished album, but that says very little about the song in general. Brandon’s vocals are soaringly visible and can easily fill a giant open field with thousands singing his words back to him. Also, I know drumming isn’t a thing the band is mentioned often in regards to, but Vannucci’s skills on “Runaways” nearly steals the show from the vocalist, though they don’t quite get there. Lastly, “Runaways” might be regarded as their best song on their worst album, but it’s an unbelievably strong track, and it ends up at number five on the Top Ten Killers songs.
4.Read My Mind, Sam’s Town
To me “Sam’s Town” was a move done to exemplify their desire to grow beyond how they were perceived during the first album cycle, but there’s way more to it. “Read My Mind” represents the Killers successfully going the route of Springsteen. A track like this has so much to offer. Everything from the Americana aspect prevalent through the song, to the nervous energy of a person going on a date. It’s also a song about regrets, and how little you actually know about what lurks in the brains of the people closest to you. It’s a song that exemplies middle america without even trying, and with this ability to put themselves in a vulnerable mind frame, the song is made that much stronger.
3. Jenny was a Friend of Mine, Hot Fuss
For years I sung these lyrics innocently enough. I don’t know why, but it always seemed to me like a lovelorn song about the end of a relationship,and in many ways that remains true. That is, until you realize the song is more than likely about taking someone’s life. The musical aspects are whirling, bright and darkly optimistic, but the under belly of the song hints at a much darker band than fans bargained for with some of the more pop friendly tracks. It’s an early reminder of how well the band can blur lines to convince you a song is about one thing when it’s not even remotely about that, and while “Jenny” in the song met her demise by someone she trusted, we are gifted a wonderful, bombastic song that opened up an album that brought the band to places they never thought possible.
2. When You Were Young. Sam’s Town
One of the band’s biggest hits finds us at Number two on the countdown. “When You were Young” details the lessons you learn through hard and good times alike. The music is immediate in a way but balanced enough to still leave room for vocalist Flowers to work his magic. What will tomorrow bring, and how will we handle it is also a topic discussed on the song, but it’s the presentation by the band, who all co-wrote this song, that makes it all the more important. The song always has a great juxtaposition regarding growing up. When we’re young we believe all these things, and we’re able to trust more people, but as we grow older, our bodies and souls are forced to confront the tough facts. There’s not always going to be a wonderful man to swoop you off your feet. It’s actually a really somber track in the way it takes our innocent childhood thoughts and forces those thoughts to come to terms with all the loss, sadness and humility a person learns as they get older and navigate this often cruel, misunderstood world.
1. All These Things that I’ve Done, Hot Fuss
Years ago, during a torrentially bad time for me, “All These Things that I’ve Done” was a liftboat for me. There’s no other way to say this. Talk shit all you want, but this song saved me and reminded me that we all need assistance from time to time. The song opens with a soft piano, ambient background noise, and of course, the trademark voice of swooner Brandon Flowers. During this dark period for myself, I was stubborn, resistant, and in way over my head in terms of how I was dealing with depression, fucked up decisions, and various other things I’ve managed to forget over the course of years. When you’re at that point in your life, and you hear this song, you feel as though the band is speaking to you. It was a perfectly sobering experience to be able to relate to the line “You know you gotta help me out,” and feel as though the song itself was actually playing a part in the betterment of my mental health. For that reason, as well as all the others i’ve named. “All These Things that I’ve Done,” tops the list of the Top Ten Killers songs. Thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed!
Songs about relationships, good and bad, are nothing new to music fans all over. They bring up moments of doubt, uncertainty of the future, and perhaps, memories of a past life. They can be detailed in personal experiences, or even pre-conceived notions of what should or should not happen in a relationship. This is where Kevin Parker’s Tame Impala comes into play.
Over the course of of three excellent records, Parker has managed to not only bring us some of the best alternative music of the last decade, but he’s also been able to find a niche in his creativity that doesn’t hobble him based on subject matter. While no official word has ever been given on how much Parker pulls from his personal life and past relationships in order to reach his fullest potential, many of his songs appear deeply experiential. Today we’ll be talking about Impala’s music, the way it helped me to overcome difficult breakups, and what this says about music as a whole. I hope you enjoy.
Even from the first track of Tame Impala’s debut album “Innerspeaker,” (which very well could be a metaphor for pouring out the turmoil and regrets that fill all of us from time to time) Parker is able to paint a vivid picture of a lovelorn man meandering contently “sitting around smoking weed.” The she in question on this song, titled “It is Not Meant to Be,” doesn’t appreciate Parker’s approach to life, and the song is a construct of the many things that could go wrong once you realize that the shoes of a particular relationship no longer are able to fit the feet of the participants. Mutterings of this nature are abound on many of these songs, but it is this first track that let’s us know that Tame Impala, and really Parker solely, are able to go there and bring this type of music to a place where few ever dared to stray. Part of why this works so well for Parker is that it comes off as genuine. Songs work best for mass audiences when you’re able to connect to experiences that the listener has also been through, and throughout many of his songs, Parker is able to do that with ease.
As you go further into his works though, influences and romantic nuances are trickled through many of the songs. This helped to make those first two albums so powerful in terms of emotions stemming from previous experiences. On Parker’s sophomore release, “Lonerism,” the themes of lost loves and regrettable moments sneak a little bit more into the forefront. On a track like “Why Don’t You Make Up Your Mind” from the first record “Innerspeaker,” the message is more narrow in terms of a typical person incapable of being decisive in regards to what they want, but Parker expands on that greatly on “Lonerism.”
Tame as an entity continually straddles the line between normally routine things in psych rock (i.e. visions of the future or of the end of the world), but what they add in grandiose imagery is only as good as the lyrics being presented, and this is where Parker kills it. Even a song like “Apocalypse Dreams,” seems like a letter from a person struggling to understand what is happening in his sphere of existence. The song is more about the monotonous nature of life and how nothing ever truly changes. Whether or not this is in regards to a former partner or not, it’s plays to the idea of the ability to romanticize anything, from a breakup that was always supposed to happen, or to the eventual death of our world. For every song whose meaning is indeterminate and abstract though, there’s a song like number four on “Lonerism,” “Mind Mischief.” The song and video alike are both built to perfect effect and fully burrow into the concept of unrequited love. When Parker belts out “She remembers my name,” you know the thrill of someone you feel connected to actually knowing who you are. This might seem strange for some, but as a person who’s had feelings for someone I barely knew, or who I was convinced had no idea I even existed, this concept is enthralling and exciting at the same time.
Above all else though, the song that most clearly speaks to heartbreak on the second album is without question “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards.” Many people have felt this way (I know I certainly have), but the pain involved in any long term relationship can have a crippling effect on the participants. This song works so well because it’s relatable, human, and the listener can quickly find themselves in the headspace of the musician sending out his signals of heartbreak, uncertainty and misdirection. I know the pain, specifically because I’ve lived through it. I’ve been at those points where I can recall a time where I heard a former partner's voice calling out to me, and I’ve felt stagnant in a position where there was no easy way out. The song’s brilliance and triumph are ones made from the blood, sweat and tears of it’s composer. On the third record though, all nodes or nuanced statements are essentially blown away for something much more literal, and in your face with the pain and openness exhibited.
The first obvious sign of this direction on the album comes to us during the song “Yes I’m Changing.” The record all in all is a mix between a typical psych-rock record with sweeping beats that pulsate, but there’s a very clear indication that this is a R&B classic breakup record simply done in the way that Parker had refined on the first two albums. Now while Parker has gone on record and said this is not a breakup album, it’s hard to see his logic when discussing it’s most personally profound tracks. That’s why “I’m Changing” is such a stark contrast to what had come before. I know the pain behind the song because, while I was still getting to know this record, a detachment from my ex-wife was taking place and enveloping every fiber of my being. This song became my pick me up and make me understand song, even though all the keys I needed to make sense of this terrible event were already in my head, waiting to be worked out.
In that track, you don’t get the impression of a good guy or a bad guy. Breakups are incredibly hard, and the more time you spend trying to make it work, the worse you feel when it ultimately ends. No one comes out the victor, just two more people with a little less trust and hope in their hearts. Over and over again on “Currents” you are thrust into that breakup mentality. Songs like “Eventually” drill the notion home that mistakes happen and that everyone will “Eventually” make their way through the downsides of failed love. When Parker croons “But I know that I'll be happier and I know you will too,” you feel the relief of knowing that even though it sucks at this moment, it does eventually become better. I, for one, can fully understand the concept of moving on is easier if I never knew a person, but with all that hard work, you’re able to grow and set out on a new path with your remade self to attempt to make something work in this toxic, never good enough world. Halfway through “Currents” we meet a song filled with classical romantic moments of regret, and of witnessing the person you want giving their attention to someone that isn’t you. That song “The Less I know the Better,” isn’t only the best track on the album, it seems to be the most rational and realistic. We’ve all felt how Parker feels when he explains how he “was doing fine without ya, ‘til I saw your face, now I can’t erase.” This section is a huge bomb of truth dropped, simply because we all know what the feelings and emotions running through you are like when these moments come up, usually as a relationship deteriorates and all sense of what is supposed to work and not work suddenly become a thing you can’t separate.
Songs like the one’s mentioned, as well as tracks further down the tracklist of the album (“Cause I’m a Man,” or album closer “New Person, Same Old Mistakes”) further build the notion that while “Currents” may not be an autobiography of a breakup in Parker’s life, at the very least it has an overarching theme of heartbreak, suffering and the resolve of a person trying to learn from their fuck ups and unfortunate circumstances, and how that pain can truly be a catalyst for change.
What lies next for Parker under the Tame Impala moniker remains to be seen, but if the fourth album is as big of a step in an unknown direction like “Currents” was, we could hopefully be in for more giant, experimental rock beats with introspective lyrics that are able to help ease the pain of creator and listener alike. Thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed!
In 1996, I was a metal head hating my life as I was moved to a very small town outside of Lafayette. For a kid from New Orleans, the backwards thinking, minimally entertaining atmosphere had me going crazy in terms of figuring out how I’d eventually get out of there. That year, over twenty years ago, also happens to be the year a lady from New Zealand would be born. Much like my world at the time, Lorde dreamt of getting out and making something of herself.
Jump ahead twenty years, and we currently live in a world where the music industry has a newish, shining star. Obviously I’m talking about Lorde. She’s been celebrated by Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters as the future of alternative music, parodied by the creators of South Park in a glorious non-offensive way(It’s not normally like that when Parker and Stone sets their sights on someone), and she’s become a very public figure who hangs out with the current queen of Straightforward Pop, Taylor Swift. All of those things are great, amazing and exciting, but it does little to actually explain why she’s become such a powerful musical force, even if she only has one album out and another one that was just recently released, in all it’s darkly, forwardly pop thinking mindframe
Her 2013 debut. “Pure Heroine,” was a nearly instantly well known record that resonated with “music snobs” like myself, but also with a wide audience who very well may be entrenched in traditional pop offerings. From the opening beats of the record, you can tell it’s something different than the glossy everyday ho-hum of her counterparts. Opening track “Tennis Court” weaves in and out, like a distant light coming full focus under the cover of darkness. Multiple tracks on the debut reinforce Lorde’s unique style of pop music, if you want to call it that.
Take a song like the infectiously playable “Royals.” The song is honest in a way that most music isn’t. On the track, Lorde pierces the cliches of modern music, while at the same time lamenting about how she’ll never be be just another pretty face. This serves her purpose in a more palpable and permanent way. Remember Kesha, or any of the other blantaly played down pop of the last few years. More than likely is the chance that while you may recognize songs from time to time, these artists aren’t meant to stay around. It’s a flavor of the month thing meant to be easily digestible and regurgitated quickly to turn profits for the business who run the record companies.
I mention that because Lorde has managed to ground herself quite favorably in that world, but where other fall on the backs of their one successful song, she presides over thinking man’s pop and turns it into something else entirely. She takes herself seriously as an artist, of course, but anyone who listens to her tracks should be able to see that while she may be known as a “pop music queen,” the concepts of normal pop music barely interest her, beyond the obvious digs at the cliched notions of your run of the mill radio music.
So what do you do after you’ve become a household name with songs that are the antithesis of modern music like “Team?” For Lorde, you go away for a little while, build your sound even more in the direction of dark synth pop than your previous record. Released in the last few weeks, Lorde’s second album “Melodrama,” has all the bite of the first album, but it’s influences are more varied than the theme of a young woman discovering her surroundings, both in the music industry and the outside world as a whole.
Opening the album with the incessantly danceable “Green Light,” it’s clear she’s evolved majorly from the girl whose brain often dreamed of seeing the world and getting out of her hometown. The record is focused and displays mature growth, in both its musicality, as well as sincerity. Not to imply at all that “Pure Heroine” wasn’t honest, but her outlook and perception of the world has changed in drastic ways over the last few years. This is most obvious on a song like “Writer in the Dark.” It’s my favorite song on the record, and mostly it’s because of how much she pushes herself during it’s three minute and thirty-seven seconds. The piano tapping notes slowly, but purposefully ways, it creates Lorde’s first ballad of sorts. The emotion is palpable, and it’s used to brilliant effect. Her voice soars as she expresses regret, sadness and poignancy in ways she simply wasn’t capable of in her early days. It’s a beautifully sad song, and one that proves that she wasn’t just a one trick pony(not like the rest of the album doesn’t also help to drill this point home).
While in the overarching narrative of musical stars and entertainers alike, Lorde as an artist has shown that not only is she album to fill voids with a variance of soundscapes and emotions, but her genuinely kind, patient nature has made audiences far and wide swoon over how someone seemingly as down to earth and honest can survive in the treacherous music industry. Perhaps it's all an act, or perhaps she is the artist that is most likely to succeed beyond traditional wavelengths. If she can keep delivering stellar albums and songs that make everyone want to sing, she just might grow to be as big as Queen B and Swift, although hopefully she’ll keep writing her own songs. That’s where her success is most vital. Stay true to yourself and write about what moves you, and you’ll never be blind in the dark.
So Bon Jovi was without a doubt one of the biggest bands of the 80’s. They were nearly untouchable, and hit after hit was sung by many a blue jean clad lady from the United States to the impoverished Ukraine. Today we’re going to discuss their music video for “ Always.” I’ve always liked the song, but I purposely haven’t watched to video before writing this so I’ll be surprised. Hopefully it’s not too bad, but this should be fun either way.
For some reason they open this one with a street fair on a little back yard that appears to be in South America, and while it has nothing to do with the song, now I want mexican food. Anyway the camera pans up and inward to an apartment with a very nice looking man with no shirt on laying in bed and he’s holding a picture. Now you don’t see the picture, but you know that’s some forlorn foreshadowing. The video has this weird thing going where it cuts back and forth to the band playing in a proper live setting, than to the band playing in a vacant warehouse, then back to the overall plot of the video. It’s really dumb.
So back to the main plot. The main guy character is played by the same guy who played Justin in another 90’s gem, the horror film Event Horizon. He’s in a room that’s very much the room a girl who likes Aerosmith would live in. The female in the video is Carla Gugino, who we all know from Spy Kids, Sin City, and Entourage. She’s dancing around in some sexy clothes, and he’s filming her, but the way it’s happening is so creepy it’s not even nice to watch. He has this disgusting porn star smirk on his face, and I think after I get my mexican food, I’ll need a shower. Also the camera is the size of my laptop. That’s how you know it’s dated.
Next is when it gets complicated. Keri Russell, of all people, is sleeping in the couch when those two “adults” come barging in all hopped up or whatever, and Carla is wearing a overgrown Dr. Seuss hat. Seriously the good ole’ Seuss would be rolling in his grave if he saw that. How is it that they can manage to a get a cat in the hat hat in this tar pit of a video but we can’t get another live action Seuss movie? Thanks again Mike Myers for ruining it for everyone. So this bitch is sleeping, but she wakes up and puts the Tv on to find the video you saw the couple making earlier, even though there’s no VCR anywhere in sight. Apparently Bon Jovi discovered the cloud 20 years before everyone else.
So Justin from Event Horizon and Felicity are on the couch, and he turns and looks at her, and it’s the goddamn creepiest look I’ve ever seen anyone give another human being in my life. It’s almost as if he’s marking his territory and telling her with his eyes “Where do you want me?” Ugh. Then we go back to another video of Jon Bon Jovi singing. Also what’s annoying is how in ever live playing segment, Jon’s hair is completely different. Like I know it’s a music video, but c’mon guys, you couldn’t have planned this a little better? This video has a more shake my head moments than fucking Norbit did.
After all of this Carla comes home and is stuck by the future when she sees Justin and Felicity doing the sexy, yet again on the fucking video tape. What is this guy thinking? And where is there always a video playing in his house. How can you rewind this fast?! SOMEONE EXPLAIN THIS TO ME! How can you rewind this fast!? After the discovery (Shall we say, an Event on the horizon?) Carla leaves the house and decides she wants to walk down the street with no shoes on. That road looks rough though, so hopefully she has some hobbit feet going so she’s not in agonizing pain as she walks away.
Naturally she finds a new guy, and goes to his apartment, and the place is the epitome of 90’s cool. He has a bed that's on risers, and sitting under a steel pyramid, so you know he’s awesome. They end up hooking up, and he paints her like Jack painting Kate in the Titanic. After that awesome night though Carla reconsiders after seeing the painting he drew of her and calls Justin to come to her, and this stranger's apartment they reconnect and make up. It’s short lived however, when Justin finds the painting and goes all ape shit crazy and starts trashing this dude’s place. Seriously though, how is it ok for him to do the sexy with Felicity but his hurt girlfriend isn’t allowed some guilt free fun?
After that Justin sets this poor guys loft on fire and leaves. The last thing you see is Justin sitting holding the picture, feeling like a douche, and he thinks he sees Carla, but it’s just a mirage. For some reason I thought she died in some tragic way, but no, that’s how this crapfest ends. Justin with no shirt on, and he’s crying to a Bon Jovi song. That was terrible, but that’s why the 90’s had to exist. So everyone would never forget.
Never Forget. This video exists. And also Mexican food.
If you’re a movie fan, chances are good you’ve seen at least one of the following films. Starting with Alien 3 and improving himself constantly over a storied filmography, Fincher is unmatched in his skill of creating ominous overtones, dark corners, and provocative stories that pull you in. Today we changed it up a little bit and present his top five films. Beware though, These contain spoilers to all of the films on the countdown. Enjoy!
5. ZODIAC, 2007
One of the most captivating and chilling times in the Bay Area is documented in this cold, distant and shadowy film. Jake Gyllenhaal and Robert Downey Jr. move the pieces every direction possible in their search for the foreboding Zodiac killer. Now while I can’t accurately describe what it was like to live through the fear presiding in the area, the tension moments in the movie, and the slow, deliberate pace pushed forth by Fincher do nothing to calm your fears of encroaching doom. Much like the actual killer, the movie relies on misdirection and nuance, and it’s a thriller that would make Hitchcock proud.
4. GONE GIRL, 2014
The movie and book are both highly entertaining, but the performances by Rosamund Pike and Ben Affleck help to separate the film in distinct ways from the book. A man comes home to find his wife gone, and he’s not a clue as to what happened to her. Slowly but surely though he recognizes that he’s not only being played tremendously, but the whole country has unanimously turned against him. Pike’s performance as a calm, brilliantly calculating villain is a thrill to watch, and Affleck’s unlikability in terms of being a bad husband make you wonder if he’s actually capable of what he’s accused of doing. A pitch perfect performance by both, and a story that unravels in unexpected ways, Gone girl is a movie worth watching and enjoying, but don’t go in thinking these people are likeable. They aren’t, and while Affleck goes through the wringer more than any person should ever, he’s not solely innocent.
3. THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, 2011
Easily my favorite movie of 2011. What Fincher, Craig and especially Rooney Mara accomplish is amazing. The books had been filmed as Swedish films years before, but I myself prefer this retelling. The intensity is prevalent all around, and Mara as Lisbeth Salander is a furious wonder to watch. The great things about Fincher’s movies is that much of what takes place is in the grey area. Even the people you’re rooting for aren’t the best people, but rather anti-heroes doing things they feel compelled to it. The movie is full of rapes, massive violence, and a few heartwarming moments, but in it’s nearly three hour runtime it’s very much a detective story as you follow the various leads that end up helping to close this case in the cold of the brutal Swedish winter. Also the score, brilliantly done by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross creates an underlying sense of dread as the various characters stumble towards the truth, kicking and screaming, both literally and figuratively.
2. SE7EN, 1995
In high school, my mom dropped me off to see this movie while she ran errands. I was late to the movie. The theater, black as the night, and the screen not helping in anyway to give light, set the stage. While the movie is methodical, technical and terrifying all in one, something else happened to me that day that set it apart from other movies. You see, the theater was so dark i literally sat next to a stranger, although i didn’t know it for a considerable period of time. It wasn’t until I covered my mouth at the horror of the Sloth victim that I felt my elbow brush up against this person, prompting me to scare myself to death and run to find another seat. Obviously after I moved I checked the seats next to me to make sure I wasn’t yet again next to some weirdo. All in all though, it’s one of the great modern horror films of all time, and everything from the opening, the thrilling chase scene, to the heartbreaking, gut wrenching finale have stayed in my head since that fateful day at the theater.
1. FIGHT CLUB, 1999
Many of these films are classics, but for me Fight Club remains one of the most powerful films I’ve ever seen. Featuring stellar performances from Norton, Pitt and Bonham- Carter make this movie what it is, even if all three of them are wildly out of their mind(s). I saw it in high school, before I even knew there was a book, so the massive reveal showcasing Norton as just another crazy person left me with my jaw firmly agape. It’s so well executed, that you never see it coming. The book is great and thrilling, but even the author, Chuck Palahniuk said adamantly that the movie is better, so who am I to argue. In Pitt and Norton, Fincher found his Jack and Tyler, and as they crash course through societies constructs and institutions, you finally understand that not all men are created equal. The movie also brilliantly adds a more appropriate ending, and for once, the little guys prove that with enough knowledge, patience, and loyalty from like minded people celebrating their cause, you truly can change the narrative of a world designed to keep us obedient.
Thanks for reading!
WRITERS NOTE: This was written for Jazzfest, but ended up not being used. Either way i hope you enjoy.
The year is 1992, and an album by a doctor was sweeping the nation. Song after song blew the hip hop game open, that’s not the entire story though. The album, “The Chronic,” released by Dr. Dre was memorable in many ways, but the most memorable moments on the album came from an unknown who stole tracks all over the album. This act, quickly discovered as Snoop Doggy Dogg wasn’t meant to only be a feature on someone else’s album, but rather a huge name in the rap world. This all turned out to be true.
If you enjoy getting down to rap, the chances are slim you’ve never heard of Dogg. Since the Chronic was lit in the early 90’s, he’s been one of the most trustworthy in the game. He continually releases album and tours big venues, and when he’s not doing that, you likely hear him guesting on various other artists’ records. “Drop it like it’s Hot” was a huge smash hit, as was “Beautiful,” both featuring the acclaimed hit maker Pharrell Williams.
The other thing you might know about Snoop is his insatiable love of Mary Jane. I mean, of course the guy we meet from the chronic will be end up being a pothead. I mention this only because as his image has gotten bigger, his acknowledgement and support of the green plant has become just another thing you can use to discuss his art. At the end of the day, I believe all of those things contribute to how solidly he’s viewed not only in the Rap world, but the general music industry also.
Back to the songs themselves though. From the debut “Doggystyle,” in 1993, he’s had tremendous skill in his ability to make gangster rap songs alongside more easily accessible tracks. His evolution is also important. Early Dogg was in your face animosity, much like the early days of N.W.A. and the others that came from it’s death.
Like much of the rap coming out of southern California around that time, tensions between minorities and police were used as a launching pad for ordinary local people to get their frustrations and thoughts out to a common cause. Snoop Dogg doesn’t do that exclusively. While he has serious, crime related songs(“Murder was the Case”) he also has songs like “Who Am I(What’s My Name).”
This has served him well. In 24 short years he’s gone from a guest on an album, to having a huge career for himself, and in the last few years his brand has steadily expanded. Aside from just being a rap star, he’s appeared in “Training Day” with Denzel, as well as the unexpected announcement that not only was he friends with Martha Stewart, but they have their own cooking show. Yes, it’s actually a real thing, seek it out and see what you think.
Since i started writing I’ve been chronicling the best moments in twelve month increments. Over the years I’ve picked many albums, some are still awesome, but on the other hand some have been known to fade in quality over time. Today we’re going to discuss my last five Number 1 albums of the years, and speculate and ultimately determine whether these were actually the best albums from that year, or if they simply found me at the right moment in time. Enjoy!
ALBUM OF THE YEAR: BON IVER, BON IVER
RUNNER UP:LYKKE LI, WOUNDED RHYMES
Back in 2011, I was already in love with Vernon’s first release as Bon Iver. When the second album hit though, it took over my life and was eventually named my album of the year. The album is poignant, heartbreaking and sobering, all of which Vernon does very well. At the time of the year end countdown, this was a pretty obvious number one for me. Sometimes you just know when you hear a record for the first time that it’s going to be an amazing influence in your life, and that was the case for the second Bon Iver record. However, the second place record, Wounded Rhymes by Swedish songstress Lykke Li was still a very important record. The loneliness and wounded nature of the album had a strong presence in my listening habits that year.
DID I MAKE THE RIGHT CHOICE?: Both albums are still very good and worth checking out, but sometimes an album finds you at the right time, and I believe that that’s the reason Bon Iver was selected as number one, and why it remains the correct choice.
ALBUM OF THE YEAR: PASSION PIT, GOSSAMER
RUNNER(s) UP: BAT FOR LASHES/ THE HAUNTED MAN, EL-P/ CANCER FOR CURE
Lets just put this down as quick as we can. That Passion Pit record was less about how good the record was, and more about the behind the scenes of my life at the time. I was struggling to graduate, plan a wedding, and grieve the loss of my grandmother, who was the person closest to me in my life. All of those things drove me to “Gossamer,” with it’s shining brightly instrumentals and hauntingly sad lyrics about the struggles of Michael Angelakos. Looking back though, this was very clearly not the record of the year. While I still enjoy the record on a minimal basis, the third Bat for Lashes record, and even more importantly, the third El-P album are way better in retrospect. “Cancer for Cure,” especially should’ve likely ended up as the Record of the Year. It’a jarring and confrontational hip hop album that showcases everything that is real and human about El-P, and it helped set the stage for the future of hip hop with the emergence of Run the Jewels.
DID I MAKE THE RIGHT CHOICE: Simply put, no. El-P or Bat for Lashes have both aged better.
ALBUM OF THE YEAR: QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE, ...LIKE CLOCKWORK
RUNNER UP: CHVRCHES, THE BONES OF WHAT YOU BELIEVE
I remember this being not particularly hard to determine in regards to the number one slot, but i do recall the order following that was difficult. Queens of the Stone Age, returning after more than five years with a new, excellent, career defining record was an obvious choice for number one, but the top three was rounded out by the debut Chvrches record, which is still an electro-pop masterpiece, and Kanye West’s frenzied, in your face, anti-establishment “Yeezus.” All three records are still wonderful in various ways, and while any of them could have easily been number one, I think the only change I would make it putting West at number two.
DID I MAKE THE RIGHT CHOICE: ...Like Clockwork has only gotten better in the years since it’s release, and while the other two records are still powerful, there wasn’t a record in 2013 that could’ve met the expectations for me like the way Joshua Homme and company managed to deliver with ..LC
ALBUM OF THE YEAR: BECK, MORNING PHASE
RUNNER UP: LYKKE LI, I NEVER LEARN
I remember this being a decision I went back and forth with for weeks before I finally settled on “Morning Phase.” Both of these records are exquisite and unraveling in emotional responses, to the point where I was even considering having a tie for the number one spot, Alas though, I chose Beck, but I’m still not even sure if i made the right choice. Beck’s record was a sort of return to form in the vein of his earlier masterpiece “Sea Change,” with it’s mellower atmospheres and expert instrumentation that we have come to expect from Mr. Hansen.
Lykke Li’s “I Never Learn,” though, soared in the same way as the first two parts in her trilogy of broken love songs and personal growth, resulting in another second place album of the year.
Like i said both records are still full of worthwhile moments. I’d say quite possibly that Beck’s album and Li’s album are both reminders of personal struggle and growth from that same struggle( Those themes are obvious on both records), and that’s why I was so connected to them.
DID I MAKE THE RIGHT CHOICE: Maybe, but i can’t be sure. These two records are still albums that both are easily qualifiable as Albums of the year, but i guess it sorta depends on what your personal styles are.
ALBUM OF THE YEAR: CHVRCHES, EVERY EYE OPEN
RUNNER UP: TAME IMPALA, CURRENTS
And finally we come to my choices from two years ago. My reactions to both of these albums were instant and satisfactory, which made the choosing even more difficult. Chvrches for me was a great second record that was largely ignored by other websites in regards to accolades, but there are many, many things that still hold weight two years later. It’s high energy record that (to me) proves they weren’t a one record fluke, and the production value, not to mention the classic nature of the new synth pop classic “Clearest Blue,” still stand tall among some of my favorite records.
The Tame Impala record though, is a very different record overall. It maintains Parker's gorgeously layered psychedelic stylings, while essentially being an R&B record that may or may not be a concept record about a breakup. It’s an excellent record still today, and like “Every Eye Open,” it still resonates with me.
DID I MAKE THE RIGHT CHOICE: I don’t think so. Like I said both albums are still very good, but “Currents” has aged better in more little ways than the Chvrches record. It also helps it’s case that I was struggling with the aftermath of a divorce, and if you’ve listened to Currents ever in your life, you’re well aware that Parker's regrets, torments and sense of closure are bleeding through every note over the course of the record.
Thanks for reading!
Landon Murray is a published writer and an avid lover of music, books and films. He's also a lover of the New Orleans Saints. He was born in 1982 and has a chainsaw tattoo on his arm.
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