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Nov. 9th, 2017


NYC in November

I had a tradition of visiting New York City every November for many years, and this year and last I didn’t go. I didn’t even try to. I don’t think my romance with the place has ended entirely (what romance ever really ends entirely I ask you?), but I think it’ll be a while before I visit there again. I miss it intensely but for the time being NYC makes me sad, and I’m okay with that.

Jan. 9th, 2016


My Top 20 Singles Of 2015

It's a world of great singles that surprised us in 2015, and this is a list of the twenty that I loved the best.

01. "Will You Dance?" ~ The Bird And The Bee
A deliciously breezy summer jam that kept my head bopping all year long. I love the devil-may-care atitude of the lyrics, and the super fun video featuring Patton Oswalt (whom I adore). This went on just about every mix CD i handed out this year.

02. "Counting Down The Days" ~ Above & Beyond (featuring Gemma Hayes)
Oh how I love this song! It's elegant floaty chorus will get stuck in my head for days on end. And the video is a mini-recreation of the film "500 Days Of Summer" - which is so cool it has to be seen to be believed. More of a traditional singer/songwriter, Gemma is one of my absolute favorites of all time, and this is her first exploration of dance music. I'm addicted to the results.

03. "Magnets" ~ Disclosure (featuring Lorde)
It's slinky, it's sexy, it's brutal... and it's got such an excellent video. Lorde is bizarrely fascinating in her own right, with her stark appaearance and sharp tongued lyric jabs, but Disclosure perfectly matched her with a brilliant hurkey-lurkey, Brazillian samba beat and click-clacky production that really shoots this track into a whole other level of excellent.

04. "Bitch Better Have My Money" ~ Rihanna
My favorite video to sit people down and show them this year. It's shocking, violent, Tarantino-esque in it's time-hopping storytelling... and absolutely brilliant. So much swagger in fact, that anyone who questioned Rihanna's gangster cred will have to seriously eat their words.

05. "Criminals" ~ MS MR
A sort of not-so-even sophomore album from this pair that failed to hold much of my interest, did not take anything away from my rapturous love of this absolutely smashing single. It's dark, propulsive and catchy as hell.

06. "Lick My Lips" ~ Katharine McPhee
The Smash TV alumn returned to musical form in 2015 with a killer new album "Hysteria", and this hot lead-off single. It's so fresh, funky and soulful that it reminds me of a Teena Marie jam from the eighties. A smooth groove that has me constantly spinning this song on repeat.

07. "Player" ~ Tinashe (featuring Chris Brown)
"Got me all fucked up" - I can so relate. This song is such crisp, sexy R&B that it's positively irresistable - even with a guest appearance by the disgusting Chris Brown (who adds absolutely nothing whatsoever to the appeal of the track). I just love it, and the various styles of dancing in the video are all so awesome!

08. "Sparks" ~ Hillary Duff
I spent a lot of 2015 really in love with modern pop music. The inescapable production, the smart twisty hooks that all proved to be earworms, and the candy-colored videos that burned into my brain. This song was one of the best of them, and the whistle part is sonic crack. I also really love the Tindr app themed, spontaneous blind date music video that makes Hillary seem like a real person.

09. "Duvan" ~ Amason
Spacy ambient modern alternative rock from Sweden that is drenched in mood and atmospherics. The weird video doesn't do much to bring this down to earth, but that's a good thing - trust me.

10. "Sea Creatures" ~ SOAK.
Nineteen year old Bridie Monds-Watson hails from Derry in northern Ireland, but musically she calls herself SOAK. I love her quirky voice, and her simple plaintive lyrics about feeling different than other people who "Don't know what love is. They throw it around like it's worthless." The production has sort of a lo-fi garagey sound that reminds me of what Best Coast was doing a few years back. It's really lovely.

11. "Do You Remember" ~ Jarryd James
Australia has had some incredible upstart independant alternative pop music lately with Broods and Lorde making mind blowing albums recently. One of their touring mates was Jarryd James, and this dark dirge-like mantra of a song has really stuck to my bones since its release back in April. He's only released an EP so far, but if this track is any indication of what's in store from his debut album, I cannot wait to hear more!

12. "Same As You" ~ The Silent War
2015 brought marriage equality to the US on a federal level back in June, and this brilliant anthemic song was my soundtrack. Local Los Angeles solo singer/songwriters Garrison Starr and Adrianne (AG) put all their talents into making a new band together this year called The Silent War, and this gut-wrenching plea for equality will be available on their debut album coming out January 14th. Check it out!

13. "Lifespan" ~ Vaults
One of my favorite discovery bands of last year, I like everything they've released so far. After first hearing their song "One Last Night" on the soundtrack to "50 Shades of Grey", I then devoured their YouTube content and each video was even more thrilling and original than the last. This song however is their most haunting and tragic. A total heartbreaker.

14. "White Light" ~ Shura
Clocking in at over seven minutes long, this monster single from UK shoegazer, bedroom R&B, electronic indie darling Shura really dazzled me. It's extra-terrestrial themed video is lucious visually, and perfectly ramps up the drama of the song. If disco is still alive in 2015, this is it.

15. "Alive" ~ Sia
What can you say about Sia? She's fucking brilliant. This song is a menace... absolutely clobbering the listener with the sheer power of her voice and her astounding writing. Play this one loud.

16. "WTF (Where They From)" ~ Missy Elliott (featuring Pharrell Williams)
A master of visual trickery, sonic tomfoolery and utter ridiculousness - Missy gave us all a nice long break before returning this year to blow our minds with the Hip Hop song of the year. She takes everything we love about Hip Hop in the first place and throws it all in a Magic Bullet blender. It's almost impossible to keep up with her, she's so good it hurts. Welcome back girl. We missed you.

17. "The Other Boys" ~ Nervo (featuring Kylie Minogue, Jake Shears & Nile Rodgers)
Who's Nervo you ask? Who cares! With the triple threat powerhouse of guest stars featured here, Scissor Sisters' Jake Shears and his musical paramour Kylie Minogue bring some serious chops to pit up against Nile Rodgers classic disco groove. This song is hot as sin, and the video is so much fun!

18. "Goodbye" ~ Who Is Fancy
This was a slow grower on me... Took me a long time to warm up to. But after I finally knuckled down and watched all three music videos, then his performance on The Tonight Show I was sold. It's a great, retro-sounding song with big production and a phenomenal bridge. The marketing ploy of wondering who this guy is just added to the deliciousness.

19. "Kimono" ~ MNDR
Amanda Warner slays with this sultry, sexy little slice of a runway disco glitter bomb! It's the kind of song you want to vogue to in front of your vanity mirror. Sharp like the edge of a knife, the production keeps you gyrating until the very last pump of the beat. Sadly, there's no music video!

20. "Hello" ~ Adele
I'd have been lying if I didn't put this song on this list. I can't say I'm madly in love with the album yet, or that the background singers don't drive me crazy (they sound like they were borrowed from a Celine Dion ballad), but the emotional whallop of this song really socked me in the gut - much like I'm sure it has everyone else. It just hits so close to home, and as pervasive as it is - I really do love it.

Honorable mention goes out to "Spark" by Tina Dico, "Play It On My Radio" by Niki & The Dove, "Crooked Smile" by The Weepies, "Eyes Wide" by Meadowlark, and "Automatic" by ZHU (featuring AlunaGeorge) - the five of which would have rounded out my top twenty-five.

And there you have it. The twenty singles released in 2015 that connected with me the most. Got any songs you loved that I missed? Please leave me a comment and let me know? Or let me know what you think? If there's something you loved you maybe hadn't heard of before? I'd love to hear from you. Thanks for reading.

Jan. 6th, 2015


My Top 10 Albums Of 2014

Ahhh... the longplayer. LP for those of us old enough to remember such things. I fell in love with some pretty amazing albums in the past year, and I'm here to guide you through my favorites. 10 selections, all worthy of a good long listen-through from start to finish. And none of the same artists as on my top 20 singles list shall be mentioned here - just to keep things balanced and fair. Hope you enjoy!

01. "Bones + Longing" ~ Gemma Hayes
Equal parts singer/songwriter and atmospheric shoegazer, Irish chanteuse Gemma Hayes is now on her 5th studio album, and easily her trickiest, most rewarding record yet. This project originally got off the ground thanks to a successful pledgemusic.com campaign, and now a year later we are finally reaping the rewards. Ponderous, languid, dark hairpins through an emotional rollercoaster of songs - at turns desperate and stark then boisterous and bombastic - she has crafted an absolutely perfect album. I would challenge anyone to put this on during a nighttime drive and not be transported to the deepest recesses of their psyche.

Critical Cuts: "Making My Way" and "Chasing"

02. "Little Machines" ~ Lights
This is incredibly good, fresh sounding pop music with big production and massive, irresistable hooks. From the first time a friend showed me the "Up We Go" video, I was completely smitten. This is her 3rd studio album, and she keeps upping her game each time. There is not a single dud on this entire record (especially the deluxe edition bonus tracks). And she's just so damned likable! Might have something to do with her being Canadian.

Critical Cuts: "Meteorites" and "Portal"

03. "Torrential" ~ Emm Gryner
I've been an Emm Gryner fan since birth I think (since 1998 if I'm being truthful) and she never ever disappoints. On this, her 18th-ish studio recording, the Canadian indie goddess decided to go the pledgemusic.com route, and it was the most rewarding artistic interaction I've ever been a part of. Through updates, personal messages, phone calls, video diaries and online - she managed to make her fans feel like an integral part of the music making process in a very important way. I love this album so much. It might have made my number one album of the year were it not for the inclusion of an odd Xmas song that feels immensely out of place squished into this otherwise seemless tracklisting. If you've never heard her music before, now's your chance to check out a truly great singer/songwriter!

Critical Cuts: "Torrential" and "Bright Spot"

04. "Strangers" ~ RAC
Easily my most listened-to album of 2014, this one never left heavy rotation on my iphone, in my car, or on the overhead speakers at my work - I just cannot get enough of this CD. Each song features a different vocalist/songwriter/musician taking the lead and bringing some of their best output. RAC (formerly Remix Artist Collective) is now the solo indie-electronic project of André Allen Anjos. The original vision of the Remix Artist Collective was to maintain a style of remixing that strays from the "club mix" archetype, creating new incarnations of songs that stem from the original structure, but expand on their genre and musical arrangement. Typical RAC mixes and productions feature a unique blend of hip-hop and vintage drum machine samples, analog synthesizers, melodic hooks, and original instrumentation performed by the remix artists themselves. Unlike many electronic remixes, which are commonly technical and precise, RAC mixes embody a unique aesthetic based around emotion and nuance, an almost intangible warmth and innate playfulness.

Critical Cuts: "Cheap Sunglasses (feat. Matthew Koma)
" and "I Should've Guessed (feat. Speak)"

05. "Evergreen" ~ Broods
New Zealand brother sister duo Broods delivered such a strong debut this year it was impossible to ignore. I often found myself scratching my noggin wondering how this could be just their first record? It sounds so accomplished and masterful.The songwriting is most assuredly suggestive of their name - brooding. But the production is so crisp, so vast, so unique that it elevates the album from the broodingly mundane to the transcendent. They also managed to produce my favorite video of 2014 with the mournful, metaphoric "Never Gonna Change" which was also featured on their eponymous debut EP earlier in the year. I cannot recommend this album enough.

Critical Cuts: "Bridges" and "Sober"

06. "The Violet Flame" ~ Erasure
Vince and Andy's best album of new material in years. This time, instead of working out the songs on guitar or piano like they typically would, everything was composed to keyboards, synths and beats directly. The result is a hugely invigorated sound that pulses and swings through massive club-ready synth lines and anthem-like choruses that demand to be danced to. The lyrics are personal and heartfelt, Andy's voice has never sounded better (and that's saying something), plus Vince's production and programming are peerless. If you haven't payed attention to Erasure for a while, you owe it to yourself to check this album out. It's beyond excellent. It's a complete return to form.

Critical Cuts: "Reason" and "Smoke And Mirrors"

07. "1000 Forms Of Fear" ~ Sia
It was Sia's year. No question about it. From the huge success of "Chandelier" to the uber-weird, esoteric, backwards facing, performance art-esque live clips that trickeled out after her numerous talk and award show appearances, it seemed like everyone wanted to don a platinum Sia wig. It's an amazing album on top of all that... each song is a heartwrenching meditation on romantic isolation and interpersonal desperation. Forms of fear indeed - with almost no neurosis unturned or unexamined. You gotta get up into Sia's head while you're listening (as the cover non-photo would suggest) and hear her pound out her pathos and her passion. You will be glad you did.

Critical Cuts: "Fire Meet Gasoline" and "Elastic Heart"

08. "My Mother Has 4 Noses" ~ Jonatha Brooke
I would've given anything to see this now defunct almost one-woman show performed this year at the Duke theater in New York City. Unfortunately the performance I purchased tickets for was cancelled and the theatrical run of the show was cut short. That tragic news however, did not lesson my love of the accompanying cast recording. It's a play about a singer/songwriter taking care of her dying mother through the daily struggle of onset alzheimer's disease. Sounds like it would be a real bummer, right? But it really isn't. It's uplifting, powerfully moving and exceptionally beautiful music from an even more powerful show that I think ought to reach a lot more ears than it did. Moreso than any release on this list, I'd like to know what you thought of this one.

Critical Cuts: "My Misery" and "Superhero"

09. "In The Lonely Hour" ~ Sam Smith
This one was hard won. I really didn't get into it at first, but Sam's remarkable voice is only trumped by his fabulous songwriting and his warm, genuine personality, plus he's adorable... So much so that I eventually softened to the music. And the music is equally fabulous; warm soulful throwbacks, earnest pleading power ballads and the most romantic of love songs - all buoyed up by that incredible lilting voice of Sam's that could squeeze even the most frozen of hearts. R&B album of the year for sure.

Critical Cuts: "Like I Can" and "Make It To Me"

10. "New Eyes" ~ Clean Bandit
Dance music with real insruments, orchestral elements even, quirky guest vocals, nineties throwback production and massive house sound reminiscent of classic club music from the years I now consider formative. This is a great album from bow to stern. Every song features a different singer/songwriter and every song is dripping with personality and pizzaz as a result. I first saw the "Dust Clears" video and wondered what the hell I was seeing/hearing. Now I love it, and I cannot get enough of this big classic dance-off of an album. Party music for 2014 with an all-new spin that is not to be missed.

Critical Cuts: "Rather Be (feat. Jess Glynne)" and "A&E (feat. Kandaka Moore & Nikki Cislyn)"

And there you have it folks. My favorite tunes from this past 2014. Honorable mention goes out to "Hotel Valentine" by Cibo Matto, "The Voyager" by Jenny Lewis and "Whispers" by Tina Dico. These selections don't necessarily represent what's popular, not necessarily everyone's favorites, but the stuff that moved me - whether it be to tears, or just to shake my booty. I hope you enjoyed and maybe found some stuff you haven't heard of yet. If there's something you liked, or something you vehemently disagree with, something you think I may have missed or might enjoy - feel free to drop me a note. I'd love to hear back from you. Thanks for taking the time to read my ramblings!

Jan. 5th, 2015


My Top 20 Singles Of 2014

I love albums. Long players are more my style musically. But the popular music landscape these days is all about singles, and singles can still be wonderful. Great individual songs come along all year long and surprise you, winding up as the soundtrack to your perfect nighttime drive or your best winter parties. This year we heard a sublime set of singles hit the airwaves, and these are 20 great ones that knocked my socks off in 2014.

There's a video link just after each entry so you can see/hear what I'm talking about. Nobody that made my singles list will be featured on my albums list - and vice versa.

01. "Do It Again" ~ Röyksopp & Robyn
Proving (yet again) her complete and utter dominance of the pop art form, Robyn returned for a brief throw down this summer with her consumately swedish buddies Röyksopp to delight our ears and make our butts shake on the dance floor. This song is just so baddass! And the "I shouldn't but I can't help myself" lyrics are fantastic too!

02. "Habits (Stay High)" ~ Tove Lo
A huge breakout hit this year, with constant radio rotation and massive crossover appeal, came from Swedish import Tove Lo. Her catchy song hooks you in and is an irresistable earworm that seems to have infected nearly everyone. But the poppy sound belies some truly sad lyrics that are brought to life by the devastating video. Can't get enough of this one.

03. "Arcadia" ~ The Kite String Tangle
The Kite String Tangle is the solo project of alternative electronic artist and producer Danny Harley from Brisbane, Australia. His debut EP "Vessel" came out this past summer, and it's wonderful from start to finish. Gorgeous, thoughtful, ethereal music that soars with Danny's haunting voice. "Arcadia" is an excellent single that really squeezes your heart, and the accompanying video is truly a masterpiece.

04. "All About That Bass" ~ Meghan Trainor
Lot's of other artists dabbled in retro-sounding american soul music this year, but nobody could put up a body-positive, booty shaking, dance-your-butt-off single that made girls everywhere feel good about themselves like Meghan Trainor's debut. And the super fun video is a candy-colored dream come to life.

05. "Shake It Off" ~ Taylor Swift
Love to hate her? Hate to love her? Or just plain old love her? Either way, this was one of the funnest singles of the year. I've always said she can write good songs, but that her voice left a lot to be desired. Well here she must've hired a vocal coach or something, cause she sounds great. Taylor also does an excellent job of making fun of herself and keeping it very lighthearted in the sassy video.

06. "Go All Night" ~ Gorgon City (feat. Jennifer Hudson)
I believe this track is what one might call a "floor filler". One of the hottest dance songs of 2014 is a total throwback to 90's house music, but with a fresh modern twist and J-Hud wailing her diva best over the pulsing groove. Fierce is the first word that comes to mind when I hear this song. And the best word to describe the video (as well as Jennifer's awesome new hair) is flawless.

07. "Boom Clap" ~ Charli XCX
This song was featured on the soundtrack to the tragic teen cancer romance movie "The Fault In Our Stars", but don't hold that against it. It's epic pop perfection with a thundering anthemic chorus that demands to be sung along to at the top of your lungs... preferably witth a couple of your best girlfriends doing the sing-songy "on and on and on" part along with you.

08. "Good Mistake" ~ Mr Little Jeans
Don't let the precious name fool you. Mr Little Jeans, a.k.a Norwegian singer Monica Birkenes, makes propulsive, sometimes grand pop music with gnarled synth lines and alluring textures. "Good Mistake" is just about as icy cool a sounding song as I heard in all of 2014. In the video for this moody single, a trucker hopped up on meds finds himself traversing the haunted backroads of his past.

09. "Pills N Potions" ~ Nicki Minaj
This came straight out of left field, and was pretty much nothing like what I would have expected from Nicki. It's heartfelt, sweet, sincere and sad - plus the video is weird and beautiful. The Game does a really good job in the video of providing eye candy as well as humor and heart.

10. "Two Weeks" ~ FKA Twigs
A mind-blowing set of EPs came first, followed by what might just be the finest debut album from a new artist in ages. FKA Twigs completely redifines genres like soul and R&B, breaking them down and then taking them apart, adding freak-out visuals to each sonic treatise and ultimately delivering something so new and unique and musically visceral that it's rather difficult to explain. This super weird Queen Of The Damned inspired video might help clarify.

11. "Brain" ~ Banks
Los Angeles native Jillian Banks released a powerhouse of an album this year called "Goddess" that almost made my albums of the year list by a very narrow margin. Since it didn't make that cut, I'm featuring my favorite single from the album here. "Brain" is a scathing tell-off to a guy who maybe doesn't realize just how bad his bad behavior has become, and it's my favorite song for a late night drive all year.

12. "Gooey" ~ Glass Animals
I liked a lot of slow sexy music this year. The kind of stuff that you could grind someone up against a wall to. This track fits that description expertly, and is a very sultry, soulful sounding come-on. I love the uber-weird video for being entirely laced through with abstractness and sexual metaphor. Let the heavy petting commence!

13. "I Adore U" ~ Adore Delano
Adore Delano (né Danny Noriega) may have been a runner-up on season six of RuPaul's Drag Race, but the music he released in 2014 more than made up for his defeat in the competition. "I Adore U" is a heartbreakingly huge, soaring love song that tugs on all my heartstrings at once.

14. "Run Time" ~ Imogen Heap
Oh man this is just soooo good! A perfect crunchy, spastic electronic romp that brilliantly dissects the dissolution of a relationship. Get out quick before it gets even worse than it is! And the second half of the song - after the glacial, achingly arctic break down - sounds like an almost entirely different song. Love love love this woman, and the incredible music she makes!

15. "Self Control" ~ Kate Boy
Hailing from Sweden and Australia collectively, Kate Boy make really punchy electronic music that's big and bouncy and utterly irresistable. I've seen them live twice now, and they do not disappoint! I danced non-stop for the entire concert!

16. "Waves (Robin Shulz Radio Edit)" ~ Mr Probz
A friend in Chicago turned me onto this song a while back, and I've been playing it non-stop for months now. I'm happy to say it's currently receiving quite a lot of airplay on the radio and even in a few TV commercials. What a breezy, delicious slice of the sound of summer this is.

17. "Girls Chase Boys" ~ Ingrid Michaelson
It was the video that first drew me in. I couldn't resist an all-male mock-up of the classic eighties Robert Palmer "Simply Irresistible" video. But after I watched it, and realized there was a much smarter, funnier, gender-punk, non binary vibe going on, I was completely smitten. The accompanying album "Lights Out" is also really tremendously good. I highly recommend it as well.

18. "When You Were Mine" ~ Night Terrors Of 1927 (feat. Tegan and Sara)
This is a great collaboration, and an excellent introduction to this band I previously knew nothing about. Drenched in eighties tinged keyboards and electro-rock riffs that echo classics by Simple Minds, OMD and the like, canadian twins (and stars in their own right) Tegan and Sara punch up the drama on this tragic brokenhearted anthem. I love it.

19. "Dangerous Days" ~ Zola Jesus
Russian-American electronic, industrial, goth, experimental singer/songwriter Zola Jesus has released several great EPs and albums, but her latest "Taiga" is definitely her best work so far. I love the dark propulsive beat of this track, and her vocals just drive the whole song into a blissful transcendence. The video for "Dangerous Days" is filmed in some of the most beautiful natural backgrounds and locales you could ever wish to see.

20. "Carousel" ~ Melanie Martinez
A top six runner-up on season three of The Voice, it's Melanie's post television output that is really impressing me. Brilliantly produced twisted Tim Burton-esque gothic pop music that caught the ear of the crew over at American Horror Story - who liked her music so much, they started using "Carousel" in the ads for this season's "Freakshow". Great song, and excellent video too! Girl's got style!

And that's it... My 20 favoite singles released in 2014. Honorable mention goes out to "Giving Up Everything" by Natalie Merchant and "Are You Okay?" by Dum Dum Girls. Feel free to comment below with your thoughts and opinions. Anything you think I missed? What were your favorites? I would love to hear from you! Thanks for reading!

Jan. 1st, 2014


My 10 Favorite Albums Of 2013

There was a lot of great new music in 2013, and I've narrowed it down to my top ten favorite albums. Not guaranteeing you'll like it - but just putting the stuff I like out there to share. If you're like me, and very tactile, a long-player gives you so much more to dive into, and I still really appreciate the experience of an album from start to finish - especially if I can look at the artwork, read the lyrics and the liner notes, and soak up the mood the artist was trying to get across.

As is always the case when I make lists like these, there's a video link just after each entry so you can see/hear the music I'm referring to. No artist that made my albums list will be featured on my singles list - and vice versa.

01. "Heartthrob" ~ Tegan And Sara
I've been listening to these sisters since 2000, and over the course of their previous six albums they've always delivered interesting and dynamic sounding records that I enjoy more and more with each release. But this Greg Kurstin produced masterpiece came out of nowhere, surpassing everything they've recorded before. The sheen and gloss of a highly produced album could have spelled a disaster for artists with such an indie pedigree - but the exact opposite happened here, and the best most accomplished album of their career so far is the result. The songs are packed with a totally-crushed-out punch, the delivery is heartfelt and confident, and the sound is bewilderingly crisp and addictive. It's never left my heavy rotation playlist all year long, and I keep coming back to it and finding new things to amaze over.

Critical Cuts: "Shock To Your System", "I Was A Fool"

The Minutes
02. "The Minutes" ~ Alison Moyet
It's not fair to call this album a renaissance, seeing as Alison has been producing outstanding solo work for three decades now. But as far as many are concerned, it would seem that she'll never eclipse the initial success she experienced with Yazoo in the eighties. "The Minutes" arrived this year making a rather strong argument that her relationship with electronic music is just as vital and impressive now as it was all those years ago. Guy Sigsworth (the producer responsible for incredible work by Björk, Alanis Morissette, Frou Frou, etc…) found a perfect songwriting match in Alison, and this album proves beyond a shadow of a doubt her chops as a completely unique voice and talent in todays pop landscape.

Critical Cuts: "Right As Rain", "When I Was Your Girl"

Loud Like Love
03. "Loud Like Love" ~ Placebo
Somebody must've really destroyed Brian Molko, because every song on this (the band's seventh studio album) is fraught with bitterness and heartbreak. Where the album truly excels though, is that virtually every song has an undercurrent of hope that is inextinguishable. Huge soaring anthemic choruses like on first single "Too Many Friends" and on the album's title track take you way up high, while pain soaked self-recrimination on songs like "Exit Wounds" and "Begin The End" will take you lower than you might feel comfortable with. Squirm-worthy confessional moments abound, but the bold stadium sized production somehow makes the record sound massive and intimate at the same time. It's their best work so far, and I was such a devotee of 2003's "Sleeping With Ghosts" that I didn't think that was possible.

Critical Cuts: "Hold On To Me", "Begin The End"

The Bones Of What You Believe
04. "The Bones Of What You Believe" ~ Chvrches
Scottish synthpop trio Chvrches captivated many a blogger and indie music critic with the creative spelling of their band's name, but the real treasure was to be found on their debut album which is excellent from start to finish. Eschewing all the cliches of dated eighties synth music, these three instead infused their tracks with cutting edge production quality, and wore their R&B influences on their sleeves - covering tracks by Prince and Whitney Houston whenever they got the chance. Singer Lauren Mayberry's voice floats high above the dreamy keyboard programs creating an angelic chorus all her own when delivering menacing lyrics like "I will be a gun, and it's you I'll come for". A truly satisfying debut in every sense of the word, and well worthy of all the hype.

Critical Cuts: "Recover", "Night Sky"

05. "Settle" ~ Disclosure
There were collaboration/DJ type records released this year by many (Calvin Harris, Zedd, RAC, etc…) and they all followed a basic formula: recruit the best and brightest big-name singers and songwriters to let us produce their work and release it on our album under our name featuring them. That's all well and good, and many incredible songs were born of those collaborations. But with Disclosure, the formula was not only revised it was improved upon. Featuring a cast of virtual unknowns, each song heavily trafficked in its own unique sonic flavor - and the brothers Lawrence (Guy and Howard) set themselves to work at making everything into a remarkably smooth and cohesive collection of songs that sound as though they all hail from the same musical universe - trapped squarely on a packed 1990's dance floor. There's not a bad piece here - even the interludes are awesome - and you'll find yourself listening to this album on repeat over and over.

Critical Cuts: "You & Me (featuring Eliza Doolittle)", "Help Me Lose My Mind (featuring London Grammar)"

Days Are Gone
06. "Days Are Gone" ~ Haim
This debut record from the three Haim sisters (Este, Danielle and Alana) hailing from Los Angeles, has some of the best laid-back sun-drenched California pop music to come out since Fleetwood Mac's heyday. Often compared to their musical influences (such as the aforementioned Fleetwood Mac, as well as Michael Jackson, The Eagles, En Vogue and Sheryl Crow) the girls have crafted a record that sounds instantly classic. Elements of hip hop bombast and dreamy folk music dovetail together seamlessly. I can't help but picture this being played at summer picnics and backyard barbecues for years to come. The sound is a completely unique blend of everything they were raised on and yet it's completely their own.

Critical Cuts: "Let Me Go", "Days Are Gone"

Secondhand Rapture
07. "Secondhand Rapture" ~ Ms Mr
It's my year of new artists apparently… and between Lorde, Haim, Chvrches and Disclosure, Ms Mr's debut album "Secondhand Rapture" kept me captivated most of the year. Enough so to see them live in concert twice, and boy do they put on a badass live show. In fact, I'd say the visual element to this band is one of my favorite parts - crafting superb mind-bending music videos for all of their singles, they were my favorite band to sit somebody down in front of YouTube and say "Watch this… it's rad!". The songs are great too - strong, dark and occasionally brutal. But don't take my word for it, watch the videos and see for yourself.

Critical Cuts: "Think Of You", "No Trace"

The Blessed Unrest
08. "The Blessed Unrest" ~ Sara Bareilles
I'll admit I'm not crazy about the song "Little Black Dress", but I like everything else here very much. From the first single "Brave"(which reminds me of the lesser Katy Perry sound-alike song "Roar"?) all the way through the Target and iTunes bonus tracks, this is Sara's best album. I went song by song for months, making each one my new favorite for weeks at a time. It's a break-up album with real soul, and It's helped me let some big stuff go, get out of my own way a bit more, and not cling so tenaciously to my own hurt. If I met her, I'd tell her thanks for the incredible songs and for singing them like your life depended on it - because i'm pretty sure it did.

Critical Cuts: "Islands", "Chasing The Sun"

09. "Avalanche" ~ Quadron
Danish duo Quadron's second album "Avalanche" is drowning in neo-soul and R&B smoothness, with a collection of old-school sounding jams that would be right at home on a vintage Al Green record as much as they are here. The production flips a bit of that on it's tail end though, so this doesn't sound like a typical soul record at all. Instead it brings a fresh funky edge to traditional roots music that you're not likely to hear unless Erykah Badu & Angie Stone get in a time machine and travel back to 2001. Plus there's some pop fun to be had along the way too. Seeing vocalist and songwriter Coco O. perform this album live with a twelve piece band in a cemetery was one of my 2013 musical highlights.

Critical Cuts: "Favorite Star", "It's Gonna Get You"

Pure Heroine
10. "Pure Heroine" ~ Lorde
Now at the ripe-old age of seventeen, Lorde arrived this year as a new artist from New Zealand. So steeped in world-weary teenage ennui and disinterest that her music sounds as if she was born dark and jaded. Lyrics such as "It's a new art form showing people how little we care" brilliantly sum up the bored dynamic of today's internet-parented children, and appeal heartily to the angst-riddled days of my own bitter youth. Not at all polished, but with a voice as low and smokey smooth as aged bourbon, this record will really get you into your disdainful place. And the beats and production from her songwriting partner Joel Little are completely top-notch, masterfully pulling together her languidly aphoristic lyrics with her rattle-nerve pathos into a delicious, gritty urban sounding dystopia that you'll want to visit again and again.

Critical Cuts: "Glory And Gore", "Buzzcut Season"

And that was the year in albums for me. Lot's of great stuff to explore and hear. I can't recommend these records enough! But if there's something you think I missed, or something here you really loved too - please feel free to drop me a comment. I'd love to hear from you!

My 20 Favorite Singles of 2013

I've always been more of an album kind of guy, but that's not to say that singles can't still be great. Singles tend to pop up and surprise you all year, and they do the job of floating you along through a season; encapsulating your perfect summer drive or your best autumn dinner parties. This year we heard an excellent assortment of singles hit the airwaves, and these are 20 great ones that knocked it out of the park for me.

As is always the case with these lists I write, there's a video link just after each entry so you can see/hear what I'm talking about. Nobody that made my singles list will be featured on my albums list - and vice versa.

I Knew You Were Trouble
01. "I Knew You Were Trouble" ~ Taylor Swift
Radio-friendly pop completely dominated my speakers in 2013, and this one takes the cake. Downright irresistible, despite my total disinterest in anything Miss Swift has to offer otherwise. This song was impossible to get away from this year, and far better than it has any right to be. http://youtu.be/vNoKguSdy4Y

02. "Try" ~ P!nk
A super sad song masquerading as an uplifting power ballad. The epic, emotionally devastating video brilliantly riffs on Kate Bush's "Running Up That Hill" - dissecting a love relationship via modern dance. And while she's often done a disservice by mediocre material, this is easily one of Pink's best songs. http://youtu.be/yTCDVfMz15M

Say Something (featuring Christina Aguilera)
03. "Say Something" ~ A Great Big World (featuring Christina Aguilera)
I don't have enough good things to say about 2013's saddest, most heart-wrenching song. Stark, haunting and drowning in mournful resignation, this is the type of music that would probably never make it onto your radio, but (thanks to modern television) is nowadays often featured in montages and credits sequences. This song is tear-soaked desperation at it's finest. http://youtu.be/-2U0Ivkn2Ds

Let Go (featuring Kele & MNDR)
04. "Let Go" ~ RAC (featuring Kele & MNDR)
I'm gonna call it… This was the ultimate summer jam of 2013. Too bad it didn't get released until September. Bloc Party's Kele Okereke and electro upstart MNDR bring some serious "blast in in your jeep" chops to DJ/producer/tinkerer RAC's "put the top down" anthem for not taking life too seriously. The wickedly stylish music video also manages to somehow make cannibalism kind of charming. http://youtu.be/SeXBiXcEBkY

Breakfast Can Wait
05. "Breakfast Can Wait" ~ Prince
Smooooooooooooth doesn't begin to cover it. You can almost hear the sound of panties disintegrating as Prince croons lines like "I've been dreaming about you all night long" and "Call your job girl, tell 'em you're gonna be late". This is an expert level example of a master finely honing his craft… the tempo, the groove, the flow - it all adds up to one hell of a seduction. And the tweaked-out chipmunk voice modulations at the end are an instant sonic signature that only Prince could hope to get away with, executed flawlessly. http://youtu.be/GHbyNrGXpAA

Elastic Heart (featuring The Weeknd & Diplo)
06. "Elastic Heart" ~ Sia (featuring The Weeknd & Diplo)
Reluctant songwriting megastar Sia Furler wrote mega-hits for many an artist in 2013 (Celine Dion, Ne-Yo, Katy Perry, Britney Spears, etc…) but it was the song she saved for herself and dropped on the Hunger Games soundtrack that really took my breath away. Diplo's tricky dropped-out production and The Weeknd's yearning vocals perfectly accompany the "I Am Titanium" singer's soaring howl as she lyrically steels herself for hurt. http://youtu.be/0JsKlm4Fbac

We Can't Stop
07. "We Can't Stop" ~ Miley Cyrus
I don't have quite the same love for the accompanying album "Bangerz" that many critics and year-end lists seem to be spouting off about, but I cannot deny the irresistible charms of this overwhelmingly catchy lead single. From the avant-weird video clip to the complete visual transformation of a USA-is-OK mall of america girl into the Miley we see twerking now, I'm absolutely in love with this song. Bonus points for the acapella Jimmy Fallon/Roots assisted version on his late-night show. http://youtu.be/KzKLd9p4x3w

Clarity (Single)
08. "Clarity" ~ Zedd (featuring Foxes)
"You are the piece of me I wish I didn't need" sung hugely over a massive EDM floor-filler of a track. Zedd made a very impressive DJ album chock full of amazing vocal and songwriting talent this year, but when iTunes gave this song away for free in January, it never left my heavy rotation playlist all year long. Massive and amazing! http://youtu.be/IxxstCcJlsc

Safe And Sound
09. "Safe And Sound" ~ Capital Cities
I heard this everywhere - on radios, coming out of car windows, on the overhead in stores - without paying very much attention to it. A few months back however, when a friend sat me down and showed me the music video for the first time exclaiming "I really like this, and I think you'll like it too", I (of course) already knew the catchy trumpet-laden hook like the back of my hand. The video is a really charming pastiche of various dance dance styles through the eras. http://youtu.be/47dtFZ8CFo8

10. "Sacrilege" ~ Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Yeah Yeah Yeahs didn't do much this year to try and court public favor. Their album "Mosquito" (as well as this single) were both accompanied by the most horrendous cover art imaginable (go on… google it), and the astounding video for "Sacrilege" is without question the most brutal, challenging, time-bending, bar-setting music clip anybody filmed this year. The song itself is relentless, driving, drenched in gospel harmonies (reminiscent of Madonna's "Like A Prayer") and demands to be heard. http://youtu.be/jmRI3Ew4BvA

You've Got Time
11. "You've Got Time" ~ Regina Spektor
With many thanks to the Netflix original television series "Orange Is The New Black", this grinding assault of a rock single was propelled into the ears of thousands of viewers all around the globe as they binge-watched all twelve episodes of the fresh innovative series - making it Regina's most successful release to date. The song is great too, with a right-up-in-front bridge section that'll give you goosebumps every time she sings "Standing still is hard". http://youtu.be/w9_isl1jjHc

Fire Breather
12. "Fire Breather" ~ Laurel
She's really new, doesn't even have an album or an EP released yet, and she's been giving her songs away as free downloads on soundcloud. But the lack of experience is most assuredly not something you'd notice from listening to her music, which invokes the fury of a scorned Fiona Apple one minute, the world-weary bleakness of Lorde another, and then twists itself up into something altogether new and vibrant the next. "Mankind" was the song that made me pay attention to Laurel, but "Fire Breather" is the song that made me go bananas over her. http://youtu.be/VTt2GGszwKE

Pure Imagination
13. "Pure Imagination" ~ Fiona Apple
Speaking of Fiona Apple, she released an impressively beautiful cover version of the 1971 movie classic "Pure Imagination" from Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory (originally made magic by the incomparable Gene Wilder) but made the song entirely her own, wielding the lyrics like dark shadowy swords with the smokey timbre of her voice set against a chilling backdrop of chirping and sputtering icy cold electronic sounds. The downright neat animated video that came along with it is also very sweet and thought provoking. http://youtu.be/lUtnas5ScSE

Speed Of Dark
14. "Speed Of Dark" ~ Emilíana Torrini
Released in July, I have hardly had a single car trip or a late-night drive since that hasn't been accompanied by this dark, chilling song. You may only know Emilíana from the "Gollum's Song" she sang during the credits of Lord Of The Ring: The Two Towers, but her latest album Tookah is a really delicious treat. Like a musical bite of rich dark chocolate, it's incredibly satisfying. http://youtu.be/ytqvkWCpZf4

The Way We Are
15. "The Way We Are" ~ Kate Boy
The guys in the band were originally a trio from Sweden called Rocket Boy, but when they met singer/songwriter Kate Akhurst from Australia their new moniker of Kate Boy (making a conglomerate of their two names) was adopted. The sound they make together is fancy, fun and boisterous electronic music swimming in huge drum beats and sharp keyboard programming. I saw them live in LA this year and they knocked my socks off! Don't miss a chance to see them perform if you get one. http://youtu.be/G1-Zl6PGjKc

Ticky Ticky
16. "Ticky Ticky" ~ Owlle
I can't tell you all that much about Owlle except that she's french, and her full-length album "France" is due in late January 2014. What I can tell you is that "Ticky Ticky" is an infectiously fun single, and the video really is nutty and out there. I found her music by clicking on the video thumbnail on youtube after I had finished watching somebody else's vid and I thought the name sounded interesting. I certainly got lucky that time, coz I love this song! http://youtu.be/--a_SclfiU4

Kisses Down Low
17. "Kisses Down Low" ~ Kelly Rowland
This is really fun, sexy R&B music and Kelly has such a great time with it, it's hard to say no. The video is cheap, colorful and quirky, the song is tongue-in-cheek, and the album it heralds from is also really solid and listenable. Never so serious as the other Destiny's Child girls, I really like Kelly and I hope she keeps making great pop music like this for a long time. http://youtu.be/V0DJUTgkUIA

18. "DNA" ~ Empire Of The Sun
Representing an absolutely superb sophomore album release "Ice On The Dune" from these Aussie imports, this single strips away a bit of the austere psychedelic fancifulness that typically dogs a lot of their video clips and instead pits the boys against the gritty streets of LA's San Fernando Valley. By taking the costumes and pageantry out of context, the weirdness seems to make a bit more sense, and the kids of Southern California don't seem to mind one bit as the band pied-pipers them out to the streets on bicycles, storming the convenience stores for kegs and whipped cream and splashing down into swimming pools. http://youtu.be/iDN08Ia7CNI

Do What You Want
19. "Do What U Want" ~ Lady Gaga (featuring R. Kelly)
Admittedly, this song is pretty ridiculous. However, I contend that the dark disco funk it's laying down really makes one want to shake their ass. And her vocals are unimpeachable. There's an added layer of fascination for me though, because of the super strange live performances of this song that have been rolling out since it's release. First Lady G did her best awkward pant-suit wearing Molly Shannon Superstar dance moves on SNL, followed by the wacky Kennedy/Marilyn presidential performance at the AMA's, neither of which is to be outdone by the Christina Aguilera semi-lesbian-esque duet rendition she recently played out on The Voice. Good stuff! http://youtu.be/HgaWc3vxOhE

20. "Unconditionally" ~ Katy Perry
The video did it. At first, when I heard this song on the somewhat lackluster "Prism" album (but only lackluster in comparison to "Teenage Dream" as its predecessor) I didn't hear a hit at all. But once I saw the beautiful, grandiose music video with it's period inspired costumes and elegant portrayal of the simple message of the song, I was as good as gone. She did it again, and this time she didn't pull any punches. http://youtu.be/XjwZAa2EjKA

And that's it… Those are my favorite 20 singles released in 2013. Honorable mention goes out to "My Kind Of Love" by Emeli Sandé as well as "XO" by Beyoncé. Feel free to comment below with your thoughts, things you agree with, stuff you think I missed. I'd love to hear from you! Thanks for reading!

Jan. 1st, 2013


My 10 Favorite Albums of 2012

I haven't written an album or a singles list like this for several years, but as I find myself home from work and recovering from surgery, it seemed like the perfect time to look back and recap the year in music as it connected with me. I already posted my 20 favorite singles of the year (which was relatively easy to choose and write about), but these days for an entire album to break through and be consistent enough to listen to the whole thing can be much rarer. These ten albums have made their mark, and I thought they should be celebrated. Feel free to comment and let me know where you agree or disagree.

01. "Electra Heart" ~ Marina And The Diamonds
Marina made a splashy, trashy, art-pop-run-amuck debut with her 2010 album "The Family Jewels". Here she turns her focus inward to the human heart, and the things that were all over the map about her first record get distilled down to a knife-sharp, razor like dissection of love, relationships and heartbreak. Every track on the album is a standout, or could easily be a single in its own right. There's different track listings in the US and UK, bonus songs and deluxe editions floating around here and there, and they're all worthy of your complete attention. Check out how masterfully Marina transforms Skrillex style dubstep into a massive rock power ballad on "Lies", or how she cautions a possessive lover against trying to own each other in "Buy The Stars", or best of all the way she chides an icy partner in "Starring Role" with lyrics like "the only time you open up is when we get undressed".

Critical Cuts: "How To Be A Heartbreaker" and "Homewrecker"

02. "The Only Place" ~ Best Coast
Infinitely listenable, catchy radio-friendly sun-drenched California indie-pop-rock, with songs that remind of 1950's girl group hits one minute, and grungy garage band punk tricks the next. Most of the lyrics sound like they're ripped directly from a tortured teenage girl's diary, but that's actually part of the charm. And the entire record comes off as cohesive and expertly sequenced and paced. Drop this disc on during a Sunday afternoon drive or in the backyard at a BBQ and you'll be chilling and drinking in the vibes like sweet summer sunshine.

Critical Cuts: "The Only Place" and "Up All Night"

03. "Where Do You Go To Disappear?" ~ Tina Dico
A simple enough question one would think... Where do you go if you want to disappear completely? Vanish into a song? Head North toward the icy tundra? Fly deep into outer space? These and many other possibilities get explored on this stark insular album, and every song comes back at you with a hard won answer that's almost as complicated as the question. Tina's huge soulful voice comes soaring out of the center of each track, and the lyrics leave no stone unturned in finding the explanations of why you'd want to disappear in the first place. I hear something new and exciting every time I play this CD, and you will too.

Critical Cuts: "Moon To Let" and "True North"

04. "Hannah Georgas" ~ Hannah Georgas
Canadian singer/songwriter Hannah Georgas self-titled this, her third proper album because she felt it was the closest shed ever gotten to expressing herself as a writer and musician. I have to say, I agree. As a longtime fan, this is where Hannah's music really stretches and grows in new surprising directions and the resulting album is genuine to the bone, on top of being very original in its approach to indie pop/rock. Songs like "Enemies" and "Robotic" have bouncy dark electro bass lines that recall Blondie and The Cars, while a song like "Millions" could easily be the unborn baby of Rilo Kiley and "The GoGos".

Critical Cuts: "Shortie" and "What You Do To Me"

05. "Havoc And Bright Lights" ~ Alanis Morissette
Eight albums on and Alanis is making some of the best music of her entire career. I was initially a little put off by the upbeat first single "Guardian" and the sunshiny artwork for the record, but a closer inspection of the lyrics and slowly collecting MP3s of the album's eight various and sundry bonus tracks revealed a much darker and more self-reflective angle that I wasn't expecting. Every track has chops, and producer Guy Sigsworth finds really great ways to punch up the hooks and hummable parts, making each song into a smart intricate ear worm. The best track from the entire collection however, titled "No" happens to only be available on the Japanese edition of the CD, and will therefore be a challenge for listeners to get their hands on. It sounds a bit like perennial Alanis classic "Uninvited" but in a really excellent way.

Critical Cuts: "Recieve" and "Havoc"

06. "Kiss" ~ Carly Rae Jepsen
Inescapable, relentless, monster hit "Call Me Maybe" was assuredly the most pervasive single of 2012. But the maddening part of that, is how damn fun and addictive the song is. The entire album follows suit, and is delicious candy-coated pop at its best. Expertly produced, glossy and light as a feather, there's nothing more serious going in here than shameless flirting and resisting kisses. But that works brilliantly in the album's favor, and it proves to be one if those discs that's over and being replayed on repeat before you even realized you were hooked.

Critical Cuts: "Call Me Maybe" and "Your Heart Is A Muscle"

07. "Feed Me Diamonds" ~ MNDR
One of the freshest, most cutting edge electronic music acts to debut in a long time, Amanda Warner (or MNDR as she is often called for short) has been making amazing indietronica and IDM music for a few years now with artists like Mark Ronson featuring her (on breakout single "Bang Bang Bang"), and with her own singles and initial EP releases. "Feed Me Diamonds" is her first full-length LP, and she has plumbed new depths of originality and creativity, infusing each chilly keyboard lick and programmed loop and sample with wrenching amounts of human emotion. The gorgeous video clip for the title track features Raven of RuPaul's Drag Race fame.

Critical Cuts: "Feed Me Diamonds" and "I Go Away"

08. "Magic Hour" ~ Scissor Sisters
I have to admit, that unlike almost everyone else I know, I really didn't care much for the first two Scissor Sisters albums. When "Night Work" came out a few years ago, several tracks caught my ear (especially "Invisible Light") and I found myself paying attention for the first time to these queer-core bad kids of pop. This new album however, is an entirely different animal - consistent from start to finish, with a ragtag handful of influences worn securely on the band's sleeve. They singlehandedly resurrected 90's runway house ("Let's Have A Kiki"), drug out some splashy trashy hip hop cuts ("Shady Love"), honored their muse Elton John yet again ("Baby Come Home") and truly transcended their capabilities as a band by collaborating with super DJ Calvin Harris on the high-floating abstract elegant club smash "Only The Horses". It's a really compelling collection of elements that intrigues and has yet to wear out its welcome in my heavy rotation.

Critical Cuts: "Only The Horses" and "Let's Have A Kiki"

09. "Synthetica" ~ Metric
Not quite as amazing as 2009's "Fantasies" album, but not exactly trying to be either - "Synthetica" seems to be aiming for something a little more subtle and eloquent. Still snarly, strychnine laced and right up in your face with feline come-ons and trash-talking put-outs, the album pulls every punch it can manage, while still keeping a stylishly stiff upper lip. A great listen from start to finish, and the beautifully designed physical CD comes with a tiny hand mirror so you can read all the reverse printed text on the packaging. Very cool.

Critical Cuts: "Breathing Underwater" and "Lost Kitten"

10. "Pink Friday (Roman Reloaded)" ~ Nicki Minaj
This was hard to resist, and boy did I try. There's a big chunk of songs at the front of the album that are grating and far too rap heavy, but then about six songs in the tone changes and you're suddenly treated to a rock solid collection of buzzy, radio-friendly hip-hop laced dance songs and Rihanna style ballads that sizzle and get your head nodding before you even realize you're singing along. There's awesome collaborations with super producers David Guetta and RedOne, a heartfelt and rather sad duet with Chris Brown, and a big handful of fun colorful music videos to go along with the (count em) seven singles released so far. Nicki is at the top of her game, and having a blast.

Critical Cuts: "Turn Me On" and "Automitic"

Honorable mention also goes out to the following great albums: "Shrines" ~ Purity Ring, "Charmer" ~ Aimee Mann, "My Head Is An Animal" ~ Of Monsters And Men

Dec. 28th, 2012


My 20 Favorite Singles of 2012

Sadly, it's a singles world out there, and complete albums are becoming a rarity. But that doesn't mean there isn't some great new music that hit this year, and here's a list of the tracks that really really hit home with me. Let me know what you think?

01. "Part Of Me" ~ Katy Perry
Sure "Call Me Maybe" might have been the most pervasive and ubiquitous single of 2012, but I would like to humbly nominate "Part Of Me" as the record of the year. Katy Perry did more for me this year than any other artist, and was sort of a slow-burn that eventually took over my musical frame of mind completely. I got to the "Teenage Dream" party very late, but I think "the complete confection" version of the album may have saved my life - if not completely restored my faith in pop music. And the documentary movie of the same name was shockingly great.

02. "Flavor" ~ Tori Amos
A near perfect return to form for Tori, with her first proper music video in ages and some dark orchestral witchery cast over an old album cut - transforming the song into something altogether new and magical.

03. "Catch My Breath" ~ Kelly Clarkson
The best single of Kelly's career since she released "Since U Been Gone". Just don't watch the awful music video. Instead, turn the song up loud in your earbuds and listen to Ms. Clarkson tell it.

04. "Disparate Youth" ~ Santigold
This doesn't sound like any other music that's out there right now, and that's a good thing. Jangly reggae played on an upright piano, layered over powerful electric guitar stabs, a driving rollicking beat that sends the whole thing into a tailspin of elegiac strings and percolating synths. And at the top of it all, Santigold sings a haunting refrain all about fighting onward in the face of dashed dreams and broken hopes.

05. "Laura" ~ Bat For Lashes
Devastatingly beautiful, with a music video that'll just break your heart (featuring a decrepit old burnt-out theater queen), this track could potentially be Natasha Khan's masterwork. It's assuredly her most beautifully crafted single yet.

06. "Masterpiece" ~ Madonna
If Madonna's gonna record a ballad it usually has to be something pretty special for it to have drawn her attention in the first place. And if that ballad is gonna be released as a single, you better believe its an exceptional song. When that song wins a Golden Globe award, well... What more needs to be said? "Masterpiece" is a heartbreaking, near perfect rumination on unrequited love, and Madonna hits it out of the park. A total home run.

07. "Pieces Of Gold" ~ The Aikiu
While this would easily be a contender for best music video of the year, the song itself is actually incredibly catchy - and reminds of a deep album cut from a long forgotten eighties movie soundtrack. These Frenchmen have given nu-wave a classy tuxedo wearing porn star makeover, and it's sounding so fresh to me.

08. "Runaway" ~ Mr. Little Jeans
You hear this track and you go, "Who sings that?" Then you hear it again and you go, "Man that was good. I can't get it outta my head". I first heard Mr.Little Jeans in a PBS commercial, and I thought I was listening to a cover version of a Cars song, or possibly a new single from Goldfrapp. Turned out to be neither of those, just exceptionally good.

09. "Never Gonna Let You Go" ~ Esthero
I said goddamn! This hot song (more so than any other on this list) had me shaking my ass in the bathroom and singing into my hairbrush all year long. Equal parts Scissor Sisters, Elton John and Andre 3000, Esthero just turns this jam out while threatening to break your legs if you leave her. That's my kind of sass.

10. "All The Rowboats" ~ Regina Spektor
Usually trafficking in avant-weird whimsy and fanciful piano driven quirkiness, here Regina takes a turn towards the dark, brilliantly recasting museums as prisons for priceless masterpieces. Glass coffins, velvet ropes, security guards... All keeping art entombed in public mausoleums.

11. "Good Time" ~ Owl City & Carly Rae Jepsen
Fun fun fun! With its hooky "woo hoo" chorus and inane lyrics about being "down to get down", this anthemic feel-good slice of summertime fizz should have been blaring out of every car window in Southern California this year. Check it out, coz you won't be able to resist.

12. "Thrift Shop" ~ Macklemore & Ryan Lewis (featuring Wanz)
Dollar store swagger just drips off this jokey debut single brought forth by every white college bro who ever fancied himself as a rap superstar. What sets this apart from the pack though, is the "everyone is invited to the party" vibe of the song (big girls, black guys, hipsters, abuelas, children... etc) and the banging rump shaking horn sample the beat is built around. As a manager of a thrift shop for over six years now, I can't tell you how deftly accurate this is.

13. "Breath Of Life" ~ Florence + The Machine
The best part of the tepid "Snow White and the Huntsman"movie was easily this soaring, almost gospel-like dark dirge of a soundtrack cut from Florence + The Machine. Plaintively wailed and howled over a huge choir and a massive orchestra, Florence is begging for something to make her feel alive again. It's a song to be reckoned with.

14. "Diamonds" ~ Rihanna
Earworm x1000. This chorus will get stuck in your brain like no other single this year. But aside from that, Rihanna sounds great - lamenting in pitched up harmony with herself about that sort of idealized love that only exists in pop songs. Choosing to be happy and raising your arms to the universe might be just the magic she needs to capture the sun rays and ecstasy she's singing about.

15. "She Wolf (Falling To Pieces)" ~ David Guetta (featuring Sia)
This really has been Sia's year, especially considering she hasn't released any of her own material in a long while. But with "Titanium", "Wild Ones" and now "She Wolf" she's released the three strongest singles of her career (with large thanks due to super producer du jour David Guetta). "She Wolf (Falling To Pieces)" is truly exceptional however because it perfectly nails down the feeling of paling in comparison to another person. "Was I bait to pull you in?" beautifully draws out how victimized and used you can feel when your guy winds up with someone else.

16. "Forever" ~ Haim
Three sisters from the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles, California - they started out playing in a family band featuring their music-teacher parents. Since ousting the folks, they've honed their sound into a fresh funky mix of Michael Jackson style R&B and lazy sun-drenched Fleetwood Mac inspired harmonies. "Forever" has a great fun music video, and marks a confident fully-realized debut that is sure to be an act worthy of keeping your eye on.

17. "You Know Where To Find Me" ~ Imogen Heap
Okay... So... It's over. Maybe it ended badly. Maybe neither of you know what to do about it. Maybe it's complicated and painful. Maybe it's sad and it sucks. But the one thing you can do is just let him know where you'll be, so that when he's ready he can find you easily and get what he needs before he goes for good. And your "deep need to be needed" can just maybe feel squelched for a few minutes. You're not going anywhere, and it was probably pretty silly of you to think you ever might.

18. "Body Work" ~ Morgan Page (featuring Tegan & Sara)
The indie-rock Canadian twin sister lesbian powerhouse tries their hand at making a banging club track, and the results are delicious. I love the workout vibe of the video, with the vulnerable girls perfectly cast as housekeeping service workers - tending to the gym towels just as expertly as they tend to the song.

19. "Sunshine" ~ Little Dragon
Yukimi Nagano is from Gothenburg, Sweden. Her dad is Japanese, her mom is American. But with her band Little Dragon, she has a rich soulful voice reminiscent of black divas like Chaka Khan. And making fresh bouncy electronic music that percolates and bubbles relentlessly is their forte. "Sunshine" is from a yet-to-be-released new album that I've been anxiously awaiting and counting the days for.

20. "Genesis" ~ Grimes
Ice cold electronics and keyboards layered with haunting child-like vocals and angelic sounding atmospherics, Grimes dropped one of the most original sounding albums of this year. But it's the wackadoodle video for first single "Genesis" that really demands attention. Imagine if Alison Shaw from the Cranes made a visit to Vince Clark's studio and they did a bunch of whippets together before recording a record - you'd pretty much have this.

Honorable mention goes out to "I Belong In Your Arms" by Chairlift and "The Fox" by Niki And The Dove.

Jun. 11th, 2007



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