Saturday, December 14, 2013

Top 10 Favorite Albums of 2013

Another year down and time for another list of the best albums I found this year.

When I was 12, I found a pressure value that allowed for a release of emotion that momentarily calmed down from the constant bouncing of my foot or tapping of my pencil long enough for me to be reflective and introspective on my life. I was a pensive, hyperactive kid who never fully accepted what adults were trying to tell him and I felt their agendas more than most kids my age. I was a natural fit for journal writing as a kid and kept them until my early 30's. I couldn't play a note of music but lyrics became a passion of mine and the love of lyrics kept me searching for great music every year.

Now writing was something I have never been particularly good at (even today) but it was the profession of my uncle. I basically thought my mother's brother was the Michael Jordan of life during my teenage years so with his encouragement, I decided the exercise of putting words to paper to express myself would be something good to do. As an adult, journals became an important part of my ability to stay away from New England for 12 years while I was working in radio but the benefits of using them have been with me for a long time.  

Journals and the Top 10 music lists started one December day in 1989 when I took a notepad out and starting to list things that were on my mind and in my life. I listed the places I went, the cities I hoped to go the next year, girls I liked, the best things that had happened in the world that year, the music I was listening to was scribbled down in list form. I've always been able to offer up an opinion on nearly anything so ranking things from 1 to 10 was just natural for me even at 12.  I wrote my rankings all in one of those black notebooks that we all used for school and kept it under my bed for security.  

The writing wasn't very deep but it did help me look back on what I had in my life and what I should have been thankful for. I have never done much reflecting at Thanksgiving, like most people. There isn't a great reason for that except that New Year's seemed like a more natural time for reflection since it felt like something was ending and there was soon to be a new beginning. I have always hated endings, probably because my parents split, but the act of writing each December allowed me close to book, per say, on some of the things in my life that were bothering me. My parents got divorced that year and my mom would be getting married again within the next few years. It was therapeutic for a pissed off kid.

I eventually stopped writing about my life at the end of every year and focused more on the day-to-day but I didn't stop listing my favorite albums for the year every December.

I'm reminded of the calming influence of words on days like today, when I wish that manslaughter was legal in Massachusetts as our parade of horrible drivers snake their way through crowded intersections while texting away with their infant child in the backseat. One day, I'll write about my friendship with anger and how I have used it over the years for fuel, but today is about the end of the 2013 year and the music that I found over the last 12 months.... 

So many things happened to me this year, marriage, baby on the way etc ... that I really didn't do a good job of finding new artists like I normally do. This list won't be filled with bands that nobody has heard of and you might even find it a touch boring. However, I'm big on tradition and I have a lot of fun doing these lists ... so, thanks for reading. 

10. Former Lives - Ben Gibbard

My wife and I have an ongoing joke going about the lead singer of The Postal Service and Death Cab For Cutie. She thinks Ben is a castrated male who has never gotten a girl in his life. I quickly point out that he has dated the likes of Zooey Deschanel, who I think is hot but that only pisses her off more. But because she is my wife, she understands my love of this kind of music. Ben went solo for the first time in 2013 and the results were mixed by the critics. I didn't fall head over heals for the record but it's solid and worth owning if you like Death Cab's earlier work.

Aimee Mann is on my MT Rushmore for female singers ... so I had to pick this track for the list since she guest sings on it.

9. Give Up  - The Postal Service 10-year anniversary release 

In 2003, the before-mentioned Ben Gibbard was in a band called The Postal Service in Seattle. It never got huge outside of indi-rock fans but it had a loyal following that grew after Death Cab became a big act a few years ago. I came across them in 2007 and loved the album and was pissed to learn they had split up. So, of course, when I heard that a 10-year anniversary album was coming out, a double-album at that, I had to have it. Because my wife is my wife and I love her dearly, she surprised me with the album one afternoon right after it was released even though she hates it. The album is as good in 2013 as it was 10 years ago.


8. Night Visions - Imagine Dragons 

Rock music is dead. Can we all agree that if one of the best album that we can deliver in the genre is this release, that the genre is dead and might be gone for good? I don't mean that to destroy this band because the album is on my list for a reason, I like a lot, but like I mentioned in my favorite 10 songs of the year, this band will be forgotten in a year. We will see this band on VH1 in 10 years when they look back at the music of 2013 and you will say 'yeah, that was a good record. What happened to them?'. Thank goodness for Arcard Fire.

7. Our Version of Events - Emeli Sande'

This album was bought on a whim as my wife and I were driving to breakfast one Sunday afternoon this summer. I love Brit music and we were listening to an acoustic performance of this song on NPR and we bought it on the ride there via my iPhone. It blew us away and Emile's voice is legit throughout the record. I don't normally like this type of music but it's a really fun album if you give it time to grow on you. It's not a homerun, first play kind of record but worth your time.

6. Indicud - Kid Cudi 

Ok, so this album is so fucking confusing that it's borderline genius. Kid is tripping on several tracks ... high on all of them and I'm not really sure he knew what he was doing but it's like listening to a musical version of throwing shit at the wall to see what works. I don't know if I love this album or I hate it. For that reason, it gets high marks for making me listen to try to figure out what the hell Kid was trying to do with this.

5. Reflektor - Arcade Fire

Some people think this is the best album of the year and I wouldn't argue if that's your opinion. I like it a lot but I find it lacking some of the memorable songs as their previous release "The Suburbs" had. I think this is the future of rock music as this is the best rock album of the year.

4. Self-Titled - The Civil Wars 

I picked two songs from this album for my favorite 10 of the year. So, it would be the logical thought that this would be my favorite album of the year right? Wrong. The first 9 tracks are fucking unreal. I love ... I mean LOVE them....and then we get to the last 3 tracks of the album and it falls apart. It's like the having the greatest dinner ever and cake being burnt to a black crisp. Whoever had the idea to cover "Disarm" by the Smashing Pumpkins should have their head checked cause it is a disaster. Because of the last 3 tracks, I couldn't pick it as my favorite album and had to drop it down a bunch.

3. Let's Be Still - The Head and the Heart 

I've written a lot about this band and their second album did not disappoint. It's more melancholy than their first album and doesn't have a major radio hit on it but it's very strong from start to finish. I was pretty mad that I missed them in Boston this time around.

2. Marshall Mathers LP2 - Eminem 

What am I going to say here that you don't already know about this album? It's a huge record and has multiple number 1 hits on it. Em can't do what he did in the 1990's .... he can't shock us anymore and that's actually a great thing because he goes on attack mode on the album without worrying about the FCC and anyone else for that matter. His use of sports name and references in his raps is truly awesome. I love this song ... maybe it's cause it speaks to me a little lol. Great rap album.

1. Magpie and the Dandelion - The Avett Brothers

This was hard. Everyone always wants to know what your favorite album is but to be honest, any of the top 4 could be in this slot. It was a great year for albums and a lot of fun to listen to them. This album was the one I was the most excited to listen to and I have loved it for months. For that reason, I give it props in the top spot for delivering on the anticipation.

Thanks for reading this for another year!!! Feel free to let me know your thoughts and share your favorites too!!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

My Favorite 10 Songs of 2013

So, I failed.

The last time I posted on this blog, I was all excited to get back to writing about life, sports, music etc and I thought I was motived to provide blog posts that were worthy of the internet's time. That was January of 2013 ... today is December 7th, 2013 and this will be my first post since the first month of the year. Yet, here I am again, ready to declare that I will find the time in 2014 to be a better blogger.

See, the reason I really love this blog is because of music.

This blog have never been about sports, radio or running a business. I guess it was in the beginning, but it quickly became the place where I get to talk about what I like to listen to. At the end of each year, this space becomes a journal of my personal music selections. That's not reason enough to have a blog though. I mean, shit, who reads a blog for a post once a year!? However, I'm going to be better because, well, I have no f'ing choice now. I need an outlet.

You might ask why I don't I have a choice? It's because 2013 was the craziest year of my life and I think I took maybe an hour to reflect on it all. I got married in September and then we found out that we are expecting our first child in November. 2014 will be the most tranformational year of my life, as we will welcome a new edition in July. Bye-bye normal life right? I need to carve out some "me" time to reflect on what is about to happen to me.

Let's get back to the point of this post though ... Every since I was 13, I've done a top 10 lists of my favorite bands, songs, music etc. I don't know why it's important do to it at the end of each year except I just know that it is.

Maybe it's because music is why I got into radio and keeping track of my new discoveries allows me to stay connected and in-touch. Going to concerts is a rarity now after years of seeing about 1 per month, I rarely have the time. So, I have to keep my ears open to new sounds whenever I can and I like to share. Plus, when I do this list, I get to pretend like I am a music critic even though I only write about what I like ... not about what I don't.

After that explanation, here is the list of my Top 10 favorite songs of 2013. Feel free to tell me what you think.

10. Love Fills The Plate - Chasing Blue 

I will be completely shocked if any of you know this song. This is the song that Theresa (my wife) and I picked for our first dance as Man and Wife. It's from the local band Chasing Blue, who played our wedding in September. In fact, there is not a studio recording of this song yet, only this radio appearance performance. The band wrote the song in the spring of 2013 and only started playing in during the early summer months. We heard it at a concert at a tiny little church outside of Boston that the band played in June and we immediately selected it.

We love this song for so many reasons.

9. Eavesdrop - The Civil Wars 

My next post will be about my Top 10 favorite albums of the year and The Civil Wars self-titled second album will have a strong showing. It's really too bad that these two have had so many problems because they are really a talented pop-country-folk duo. This song really stood out on the album to me.

8.  Master Hunter - Laura Marling 

If you have followed this blog, you know that I have loved Laura Marling for a long time. Unfortunately, her albums are getting away from what made me love her and it's pretty frustrating to be honest. She has grown up but while doing so, she has tried to become show her maturity through complex sounds and melodies that I don't like. I know it's simple to say that her early work was better but it's really true, in my opinion. Her lastest album "Once an Eagle" fell short of the mark with me but it did produce a few memorable tracks. I liked this one the best and I'm still a fan but I hope we see her get back to simple nature of her earlier work soon.

7. Shut Up - Savages 

I do this list because I get to point out songs that I loved from bands that I might not have a ton of connection with or experience listening to yet. Savages, along bands like The XX, fall into this category for me and I hope to learn more about this interesting English group in 2014. I grew up listening to singer/songwriter/poets like Ani DiFranco and Sinead O'Connor and the first minute of "Shut Up" awoke memories of mid-90's songs that featured deep questioning and fire. Really like this song's message a lot.

6. Team - Lorde 

So 2013 was a flippin huge year for the teenage sensation Lorde. Her huge hit "Royals" was played all over the radio for most of the summer and into the later parts of 2013. My wife loves the track, as do many people, and I get why. It's very catchy and it speaks about a lot of issues women have with today's world. However, in what is normally the case with me, I liked a different track by her this year. "Team" showed the ability to write more than just 1-hit and I think showcased a talent that will be around for years to come.

5. Same Love - Macklemore and Ryan Lewis

This song is simply brilliant. It could easily be my favorite of the year but the competition was steep this year. I'm not going to write a ton here because the fact that I selected this song should tell you everything you need to know about my feelings on it. We need more music like this in 2014.

4. Round Here - Florida Georgia Line

My country music listening has dropped DRAMATICALLY since my years in Omaha, Des Moines and Huntsville. That's not really a slap at the genre because I'm not exposed it much anymore, so my country choices are slim. I have to go find new songs and that leaves me with mostly top 25 type tracks in my ears. My wife still listens to country music a ton, so I get a little bit from her as well, but this song got stuck in my head for a good month. It's an awesome summer driving song.

4. (tie) Blowin Smoke - Kacey Musgraves

Another fun track that Theresa reminded me that I loved in 2013.

3. Radio Active - Imagine Dragons 

"Night Vision", the first full length album from Imagine Dragons, will be picked for "Rock Album of the Year" by many publications. I'm not sure if that's because it's that good or that rock music sucks right now. It will be on my list of favorite albums from 2013, yet, I feel like the band won't be around very long. Their sound is not all that unique and I feel the subject matter addressed in the music is very "now" and safe. I'm very interested to be proven wrong because "Radio Active" is a really strong track.

2. The One That Got Away - The Civil Wars 

So welcome to the song that everyone listened to in order to try to figure out what the hell happened to these two. Did they sleep together? Did they fall in love with each other or out of love with their spouse? What. The. Hell. Happened!? This band can't tour together in support of this album because they can't be around each other.... which sucks because this song is awesome. The second album was pushed hard by the label and for good reason, but until these two figure out how to work together again ... this might be the last we hear from these two.

and finally ...

1. The Monster - Eminem feat. Rihanna

Can Em and Rihanna just make an entire album together please? I'm serious. They are amazing when they mix their voices and abilities. Em's 40 now... which shows how old I am but he is just getting better. It's crazy when my 14-year old sister can sing along to old Em tracks because his music still hits home with kids. He's been with us for a long time, doing his thing. "Marshall Mathers 2" is freaking awesome and yes, that's a pretty big tease for what my favorite album of the year will be but I have been playing this album on repeat for weeks. I'm glad he's back doing what made him great. Rap'ing. He doesn't need to shock us anymore. Just entertain us and show off his amazing skills.

In case you are wondering - Lady Gaga's song at top is an honorable mention ...  next ... my favorite 10 albums of 2013....