Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Best of 2011...according to me.

Here it is finally, my lists of the best albums and songs of the year.

Out of the 38 releases (one of them happens to be an EP which is on this list) I've listened to from this year, these are the 10 (and 5 honorable mentions) that made the most impact:

1. Florence + The Machine - Ceremonials
2. Le Butcherettes - Sin Sin Sin
3. †††(Crosses) - † EP
4. Ringo Deathstarr - Colour Trip
5. M83 - Hurry Up, We're Dreaming
6. Lykke Li - Wounded Rhymes
7. Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues
8. The Naked and Famous - Passive Me, Aggressive You
9. Rihanna - Talk That Talk
10. Lady Gaga - Born This Way

1. Washed Out - Within And Without
2. Friendly Fires - Pala
3. The Black Keys - El Camino
4. Ladytron - Gravity the Seducer
5. Foster The People - Torches

1. Florence + The Machine - What the Water Gave Me
2. M83 - Midnight City
3. Le Butcherettes - Henry Don't Got Love
4. ††† - op†ion
5. Florence + The Machine - Shake It Out
6. Florence + The Machine - No Light, No Light
7. Silversun Pickups - Seasick
8. Lady Gaga - Judas
9. Rihanna - We Found Love
10. Britney Spears - Till The World Ends
11. The Naked and Famous - Young Blood (technically 2010, but whatever)
12. Ringo Deathstarr - Two Girls
13. ††† - †heholyghs†
14. Lady Gaga - Scheisse
15. Charli XCX - Nuclear Seasons
17. Lykke Li - I Follow Rivers
18. Lady Gaga - Heavy Metal Lover
19. Foster The People - Helena Beat
20. Lana Del Rey - Video Games
21. Friendly Fires - Live Those Days Tonight
22. The Black Keys - Little Black Submarines
23. Dum Dum Girls - Coming Down
24. Lana Del Rey - Born To Die
25. Drake - Take Care (feat. Rihanna)

Monday, December 12, 2011

Album Review: Torches by Foster the People

As much hype as there has been around them, Foster The People's debut album Torches is actually really solid. Of course they gained prominence from the catchy, lyrically morbid Peter Bjorn & John sounding track Pumped Up Kicks which was overplayed on Alternative Rock/Pop Top 40 stations alike. This is also one of those cases where that single is isolated from the rest of the album. So, depending on your taste you could either love Pumped Up Kicks and hate the rest of the album or hate that song and like the album. The second single Helena Beat is a much better representation of what you'll find on this album. Some other highlights would be Waste, Houdini, and bonus track Broken Jaw. The band's sound is a nice blend of pop and electronic with some interesting lyrics. There's definitely more depth to them than you'd think there'd be. It makes for something a little more worthwhile, but they can also be played to simply brighten your mood.

Houdini by Foster The People

Monday, December 5, 2011

Artist Spotlight: Ringo Deathstarr

This is a band I'm pretty psyched to introduce as they are a local band here in Austin Texas called, get this, Ringo Deathstarr. Awesome name, right? It turns out their music is just as awesome.

I discovered them by way of My Bloody Valentine who I've just gotten really into this year (no lie, they're already #2 on my top artists). If you're not familiar with MBV, they're basically the pioneers of music that's classified under the genre of shoegaze which is basically anything with "washy guitars" (as Chino Moreno calls it), lots of feedback and understated but pleasant vocals. This describes Ringo Deathstarr pretty well, but they recall the sounds of The Jesus and Mary Chain (another feedback heavy band with more of a punk sensibility) as well.

Anyway, they came out with an album this year called Colour Trip which is my third choice for favorite albums of this year. It's actually a little hard to describe why I like this album, but I'll just say it's great to chill out to. Shoegaze is a genre that doesn't rely heavily on lyrics, if you're even able to understand them at all. They're mostly just words that sound pleasant. For the most part, you can understand Ringo Deathstarr's lyrics, but I don't find them that important to really focus on anyway. It's really just about how the songs make you feel when you listen to them. I would just advise you to give them a shot. Some key tracks are Imagine Hearts, Two Girls, Kaleidescope, Chloe, and Other Things.

Ringo Deathstarr - Imagine Hearts by Club AC30

Monday, November 28, 2011

Artist Spotlight: Florence + The Machine

Admittedly, it took me a while to get into Florence + the Machine. I had heard Dog Days Are Over and thought it was a nice song, but never thought much more of it. It wasn't until I was forced to hear the debut Lungs album at least 3 times at my job one day when the regular music playlist wasn't working. I was already sold from the first listen, especially the song Rabbit Heart (Raise it Up). Their songs are so catchy and bombastic to me, which I love. The production on most of the them is incredible to me; the harp and drums really get me. Also, I like that there is a bit of variety in the songs, which I think is smart. It shows that Florence can go in whichever directions she chooses to. Lyrically, I can relate to a lot of the themes that Florence sings about. My favorite song right now would be Blinding. Everything about that song is perfect to me, and the line "No more dreaming like a girl so in love with the wrong world" really stands out to me. As a reviewer from Drowned Sound so accurately pointed out, "listening to Florence and the Machine can sometimes feel like being led by the hand through a story world by a girl who has forgotten to grow up." To me, they are like the perfect pop music- I can dance to the songs and really feel them because they actually have meaning.

Which leads me to her new album, Ceremonials. Now, this album to me has a very different feel to me than the first. Lungs has more of an airy daytime feel to me, while Ceremonials has a much darker vibe throughout. That's something that I don't mind at all, seeing as how I've always been drawn to darker sounding music in general. The few lighter songs on the album actually had to take some getting used to. The only real problem I have with this album is the fact that it's much longer than Lungs and really does drag on at some points. I feel like the first three songs (which include the buzz song What The Water Gave Me and single Shake it Out) are perfect, but then the next three I could really do without. From then on the only other song I would take out is All This and Heaven Too. If I listen to the album without those songs, it's much more enjoyable to me. I am including the first three bonus tracks in this as well because I actually feel like those are definitely three of my favorite songs that didn't quite make it on the album (I'm not really sure why- they're amazing and better than some of the ones on the album). The electronic track Remain Nameless has a completely different feel than the rest of the songs, so I can understand it's omission from the album. Even so, it could have been a nice change of pace. I'm still deciding which I album I like better. As I see it now, Lungs seems to have some of my absolute favorite F+tm songs, while Ceremonials flows better as a whole with many good songs.
“I want my music to sound like throwing yourself out of a tree or off a tall building or as if you’re being sucked down into the ocean and you can’t breathe. It’s something overwhelming and all-encompassing that fills you up, and you’re either going to explode with it, or you’re just going to disappear.”
Florence + the Machine - Only If For A Night by Talenthouse

Monday, November 21, 2011

Artist Spotlight: Le Butcherettes

"You take my dress off, yeah you take my dress off, yeah you take my pretty dress off!" If you think that lyric would be a come-on, you'd be wrong. Coming from Teri Gender Bender it's a threat. Introducing one of my new favorite bands from this year, Le Butcherettes. They're a Mexican garage rock group (but they sing in English for now). They've opened for bands like Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Dead Weather, Deftones, Queens of the Stone Age, The Flaming Lips and most recently Iggy and the Stooges.

I saw them open for Deftones on June 4th in Austin. While I was not initially blown away by the songs themselves, the music sounded good and I was quite intrigued with their lead singer/guitarist/keyboardist, Teresa Suarez aka Teri Gender Bender, who wore a bloody apron over her dress and performed like there was a constant fire under her ass. She had this energy and intensity about her that I liked. Her passionate and unpredictable performance is exactly what I look for in a live show setting. Simply put, Teri is a nutcase and I love it. Upon listening to their album the next day and watching some interviews, I began to see what she was all about and found that I actually have things in common with her. She insists that off stage she is very shy and a "pushover," something I can definitely identify with. I love that she can completely shut that side off when she is on stage. I'd love to be able to be that honest with people.

"I’ve always been a firm believer in expressing yourself to the fullest. Some days I might be tired, other days I might be sick but I always try my hardest to relieve myself from passive aggressiveness especially when I am playing. I’ve been teaching myself to be good to others no matter how I feel, even when people don’t deserve anything from me I still give. People can take advantage of that because I am such a pushover. I’m working on that. On stage I take that shit out. I take it out and expose myself in a lot of ways. Dangerous ways and personal ways."
The band originally consisted of Teri and Auryn Jolene and they took more of a feminist approach to their music. Early live shows included the duo dressed as 50's housewives to emphasize the stereotypical woman, and Teri played with raw meat, eggs and blood on stage. Their first release was an EP called Kiss & Kill. While that EP has a certain raw energy to it, it does have a slight immature feel that I don't like as well as the new album, Sin Sin Sin. Omar Rodriguez Lopez (of the prog rock band The Mars Volta whom I'm quite a fan of) took notice of them and produced the record- it's a great debut. The band now consists of Gabe Serbian (of The Locust) on drums and Jonathan Hitschke (of Hella) on bass. The feminist theme is still in there, but lyrically it's a lot more expansive, mature, clever, and also quite humorous at times. The songs themselves are still quite simple, but more developed. I also like the variety on the album- I would say almost no two songs sound the same, which with my limited knowledge of garage rock, seems to be a little rare. The keyboard is a great addition to the songs and gives them a different feel, such as the foot stomping opener Tonight and the cabaret-style The Actress That Ate Rosseau. I also must praise Teri's awesomely versatile voice- I think it's a great asset to her. Her voice can depict a feeling of vulnerability one minute (The Leibniz Language) and be completely in command the next (New York, Dress Off). She can also take on songs with a more pop sensibility with ease, as seen on the extremely catchy Henry Don't Got Love, one of my favorites from the record. Other standouts are I'm Getting Sick of You and Dress Off, the latter which only contains drums and Teri's vocals and is probably the song with the closest energy to the band's live performance. Though, I can honestly say I love every song except for the closer Mr. Tolstoi- the Russian-sounding beat is a little too annoying to me most of the time. Overall, I highly recommend you listen to this album if any of the above sounds the least bit interesting to you. If I haven't persuaded you, then I'll let Teri do it herself. Check out the awesome music video for Henry Don't Got Love below. And hopefully this will persuade you to see them in concert as well, because it's quite an experience you won't soon forget.

"I don’t want to yell my whole life. I want to express myself in a darker way now. I don’t want to use feminism anymore because I was let down by the non- existent movement. I want feminism to use ME as an example instead. I won’t let the movement down because I am not a movement, I am an individual. I just have to be myself and work on art with the purest of intentions. Sin Sin Sin was made to free me of my “so-called sins” laid on my mind in a machismo country which has so many strong and unfearing women and men. I am not afraid. This album is for the men and women that are fed guilt mixed with hatred for not marrying young, for thinking of themselves before others, for trying to see life differently."
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