Category: listen up!

best of 2014… finally.

I mean really. It’s 2016, and I am finally getting to this? Listen, this is all because of two things: work and school. Both of which are full time. I wanted to go ahead and do this really quick, and I will be brief, so that I can do 2015 as well. I am THAT behind. BAD BLOGGER! Oh well… as they say, life gets in the way. Here they are, my favorite albums of 2014.

I am only going to say a little bit about my top 5, the rest are just albums that I enjoyed that year, and that’s all we’ll say about that…

1) You + Me – rose ave. – So what do you get when you mesh two of my favorite vocalists together, harmonizing beautifully, playing my favorite type of music? A dream come true. City and Colour + P!nk = You + Me. Heaven. This album is absolutely perfect; scratch that, it would be perfect it had more tracks! Here’s hoping for more from You + Me.

2) Sam Smith – In The Lonely Hour – What can I say, this guy is amazing, and really took the music scene by storm in 2014. I expect to hear many more great things from him over his career, which should be long and fruitful. Great album, and tons of single-worthy tracks here.

3) Betty Who – Take Me When You Go – I first heard the single Somebody Loves You, and after that, I was smitten with Betty Who. When her album came out, I was even more mesmerized; it is fantastic. I have high hopes for her getting more airplay and exposure; she is a majorly talented artist, and this is great pop music!

Sia – 1000 Forms of Fear – First and foremost, Chandelier. Killer. Sia can not only write a killer hook and penn some real pop hits, but she can fucking SING. I loved this album, and just when I thought I had heard all of it, a new song would become my favorite of the moment. This is pop, and this is excellent.

Bear’s Den – Islands – I saw them open for Mumford and Sons, and then went to see them again at a local smaller venue because they were so great. This is an incredible album, and one that is very well crafted and plays spectacularly from beginning to end; not a bad track to be found. If you like Mumford and Sons, give them a try; you won’t be sorry!

And now the rest… not really in any particular order.

  • Beyonce – Beyonce (Platinum Edition)
  • Lady GaGa and Tony Bennett – Cheek To Cheek
  • Nina Persson – Animal Heart
  • Robyn & Royksopp – Do It Again
  • Taylor Swift – 1989
  • Trampled By Turtles – Wild Animals
  • Broods – Evergreen
  • Iggy Azalea – The New Classic/Reclassified
  • Ingrid Michaelson – Lights Out
  • Danity Kane – DK3
  • FKA Twigs – LP1
  • Ariana Grande – My Everything
  • Jessie J – Sweet Talker
  • Olly Murs – Never Been Better
  • One Direction – FOUR
  • The Script – No Sound Without Silence
  • Tove Lo – Queen of the Clouds
  • Jessie Ware – Tough Love
  • Bleachers – Strange Desire
  • Nicole Scherzinger – Big Fat Lie
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Soundtrack: Awesome Mix Vol 1

Why this took me so long? Who knows. Either way, here ya go. Next up, 2015. Geez.

sotd: City and Colour – Lover Come Back (acoustic)

Good God, I love this man. His voice is so pure and unflinchingly beautiful, it hits to the very core of my being when I hear him sing. This is a song off of his upcoming album, If I Should Go Before You, which, needless to say, I am greatly anticipating. I have read, and after hearing the first four songs, that he is going in a bit of a different, more hardened direction, where there are less acoustically driven songs, but I love everything that I have heard so far, and I know it will be like the rest of his stuff… simply amazing. I am excited for whatever direction Dallas takes us in… wherever we are going, I am there!

sotd: Sam Smith – Stay With Me

So apparently, Sam Smith was on SNL this past weekend, and I only found out when I just happened to flip it on. I was elated, as I have been OBSESSED with him lately, and for great reason; this guy is so ridiculously talented, and it showed strongly on his live performance of this song on SNL. I am not one who typically pre-orders albums, but I am doing just that for his debut, In The Lonely Hour, which is out on June 17th. This song is officially on repeat.

I am going to go ahead and officially say that this guy is definitely the next big thing. I expect GREAT things from him, and I can’t wait to hear more!!

sotd: City and Colour – Of Space and Time

of space and time by cityandcolour

Check this out; today’s song of the day is City and Colour’s gorgeous new single Of Space and Time, from his upcoming, as-yet-to-be-titled fourth release. Needless to say, I am freaking THRILLED that a new City and Colour album is slated for release in summer of 2013 (right around the corner), and this single firmly cements what I have known for a while now; Dallas Green is a musical genius. He is far and above my absolute favorite artist, and with each new release, he seems to only get better and better. I have had this song on repeat since I first heard it. This song is beautiful, both lyrically and melodically, and it’s depth and texture grows richer with each listen. I absolutely love when music like this comes to my ears, because it makes me just beam with warmth and makes me smile so big that I cannot explain. Music like this is why I am so passionate about the medium. I cannot wait for the new album!

Also, here is some excellent news: You can download this song for FREE today!! Go to this link, and you will have this gorgeous song on your iPod in no time!!

amazing news sotd: new Scissor Sisters!

Today, the Scissor Sisters posted the a song from their forthcoming album, Night Work, called Invisible Light, on their website. Thankfully, they also posted the song in its entirety on youtube, and as such, I get to gush about it here. Have a listen:

In a word? AMAZING.

The Scissor Sisters are back with their hotly anticipated follow up to Ta-Dah on June 28 with their third album, titled Night Work. I cannot wait!!!!

the 31 best of 2009: 1-5

The time has finally arrived; here is the best of the best in music from 2009. These are the five albums that I loved the most, and when I say that it was hard to rank them, believe me; these are certainly the cream of the music crop from 2009.

1: A Camp – Colonia
Featured in the very first 5SF of the year, A Camp’s Stronger than Jesus was the song that I had been literally waiting on for years, and a song that would map out what I could expect from what turned out to be my favorite album of 2009. When I say I waited for it for years, what I mean, is that I was so hungry for something new from A Camp after falling so hard for their amazing self-titled debut album (which came out waaaaay back in 2001!), that I just couldn’t believe that my dream was coming true so early on in 2009; and what a wonderful dream it would turn out to be. The release of Colonia was like being embraced by a warm hug from a long-lost friend, or like snuggling under your favorite blanket on a cold winter’s day; it just feels good from beginning to end. Nina Persson is one of my all time favorite female vocalists and musicians, and what started out as a side project during hiatus time with the Cardigans, has clearly grown into something mature and amazing. Together with her husband and their fellow bandmate, A Camp has become something of a phenomenon for me, capturing my attention wholly and completely with their work. Their song writing ability is powerful and the imagery invoked is powerful. I knew very, very early on that it was going to take a lot to beat out this album for my top spot in 2009, and as you can clearly see, nothing did. For me, this is an album that should be talked about much more than it was/is, which is certainly a shame, because it is fantastic from beginning to end. There isn’t a single place where this album isn’t wonderful, and I am just so pleased that it turned out to be such a wonderful effort from A Camp; one that surprised me in how easily it surpasses the brilliance of their debut. While one of my favorite bands of all time, The Cardigans, may be on (seemingly indefinite) hiatus, I take comfort and joy in knowing that lead singer Nina Persson and A Camp soldier on, and are bringing me some of the best indie-pop music out there today. A Camp, please don’t wait so long to bring your brilliance to the table again, because after this incredible and delicious taste, it would just be cruel to leave us for so long again. Simply put; this album is incredibly amazing. Standout Tracks: Bear On The Beach, Stronger Than Jesus, Chinatown, Golden Teeth and Silver Medals, Love Has Left the Room, The Weed Got Here First, My America.

2: Antony and the Johnsons – The Crying Light
I have to say one thing first about Antony and the Johnsons before I get into their amazing album The Crying Light; you will either fall head over heels in love with them, or you will probably hate them completely. I will openly admit that I started off in the hate column with regards to Antony and the Johnsons, because honestly, I don’t think that I truly got it. It was curiosity that brought me to them, because of how many people were talking about them; but it took several listens to their previous album, I Am a Bird Now, before something changed within me, and I found myself strongly in the love column forevermore. I gave myself over to the truly emotive and fragile nature that is Antony and the Johnsons, and the process, I found something so nuanced and beautiful that I am thankful I allowed myself to enjoy it. With regards to their newest release, The Crying Light, I can say, with unwavering conviction that this album is purely, and utterly, perfect. From the amazingly vivid lyrics, to the achingly beautiful performances (both vocally and musically), there really isn’t anything that you could say negatively about this album; well, perhaps nothing other than it just isn’t long enough, because I just don’t want it to end. Listen after listen, I took in each tender, well crafted experience that each song created, and I found that this is definitely one of those albums that could be labeled as a true classic at some point in the future. This is how music SHOULD be made. It surprised me the first time I heard this album, because of just how amazing it really is. Another World, the pinnacle of the album, came in a first taste on the EP of the same name, and truly is an epic masterpiece of music. The rest of the album compliments it, and even builds upon its foundation of beauty, making this easily one of the best albums I heard in 2009. With The Crying Light, Antony and the Johnsons have honestly moved me with their music (and continue to do so with each listen); and that’s powerful stuff indeed. Standout Tracks: Another World, Epilepsy is Dancing, The Crying Light, Dust and Water, Kiss My Name, Everglade.

3: Gossip – Music For Men
I will admit that in the beginning, I had a love/hate relationship with the Gossip. I wanted to love everything that they did, and I hated myself because I didn’t. It wasn’t until I saw the amazing live performance of Standing In The Way of Control that I got what Gossip was all about. Beth Ditto’s incredible vocals, backed by the emotive and hard hitting rock and roll sounds of the Gossip literally had me shaking my head, wondering why in the hell it took me so long to get on board; but it wasn’t until Music For Men that I totally committed to the power of the Gossip. With this album, they channeled Beth Ditto’s iconic vocals onto track after track of well polished, down and dirty, and masterful rock and roll. It’s hard to imagine that these guys aren’t having a good time while they make music like this, because when I hear it, it makes want to get up and dance until my legs fall off. When I listen to this album, I want to fucking ROCK. Overall, this album captured me, threw me in the trunk, and refused to release ransom demands, because there was no way it was going to let me go; and I am glad that it didn’t. This album made a huge splash with me in 2009, and it is one that continues to grow on me more and more with each listen; I literally, just cannot get enough of the Gossip’s Music For Men. Standout Tracks: Pop Goes the World, 8th Wonder, Heavy Cross, Men In Love, Love Long Distance, 2012.

4: Miike Snow – Miike Snow
This was definitely “from out of left field” album discoveries for me. I was looking through recently released stuff on iTunes, and this crazy cover captured my attention, so I figured I’d give it a listen; and boy, I am glad I did. Miike Snow is comprised of Swedish MEGA producers Bloodshy and Avant (they did Britney’s Toxic, for one), along with American Andrew Wyatt; and together, I can definitely say, that they made one of the most brilliant albums of 2009. Slick production, catchy rhythms, and danceable beats made this one of my most enjoyable finds early on in 2009; and one that was so consistently good, that it stayed with me throughout the rest of the year. Miike Snow’s self titled debut is one of those albums that I was screaming about early on, and after a while it seemed like everyone started catching on to how amazing the album truly is. There truly isn’t a bad song on the album, and save one track (the more downtrodden Sylvia), I can say that I truly love every track on this record. This is a truly impressive debut album, but it should be no surprise; especially when you consider what these guys brought to the table to begin with. Standout Tracks: Animal, Horse is Not a Home, Song For No One, In Search Of, Burial.

5: The Saturdays – Wordshaker
While their first single lacked the oomph I was was looking for, and did give me quick worry that it was a lackluster sign of what would be too quick of a follow up to their impressive debut, it did manage to grow on me quite quickly. As it grew on me, my anticipation for the forthcoming album grew, and it would be what followed the opening track that would be nothing short of pop perfection; Here Standing is hands down, one of the best songs of not only 2009, but one of the best pop songs I have heard in many, many years. Thankfully, it doesn’t stop there; as the album goes on, track after track, the pure, deliciousness of well made pop songs just keep coming. Even though it initially seemed that they had churned out another album “too soon”, what happened instead, was the Saturdays moved in and took the spot left open by Girls Aloud and the now defunct Sugababes; and in doing so they have taken the reigns of girl-group pop, and driven us to the next level. This album is FULL of singles, and it is was definitely a welcome addition to my music collection for 2009. While this is an album that I fully expect to see many more singles from, and one that (if given the proper chance), COULD be a possible crossover to the US for them, sadly, it will probably not happen as has been the case for most that have come before The Saturdays. However, it does make me feel better, that at least I was able to discover this gem, and share my glee and sheer delight for the Saturdays’ amazing contribution to pop music with Wordshaker, because pop music this good shouldn’t be missed; and if you stick with me, I will do my best to spread the word to all of you. If this album is any signal as to where the Saturdays are headed next, I think we can safely say that we should have known all along, because they told us back with their second single; they were going UP! Standout Tracks: Here Standing, Open Up, Lose Control, Ego, No One, Not Good Enough.

the 31 best of 2009: 6-10

6: Silversun Pickups – Swoon
Silversun Pickups really remind me of high school a lot, in that their music reminds me of the way that I felt when I first truly knew that I loved music. Much like the way early Smashing Pumpkins got me into alternative rock, the Silversun Pickups picked up that torch and keep the race going for me when I first heard their insanely good debut, Carnavas. Naturally, when I found out they were releasing a new album last year, I was bouncing around with excitement, and after hearing Swoon, I have to say, that Silversun Pickups really outdid themselves with this album. From the insane distortion-love-fest that is There’s No Secrets This Year (which, in my opinion, may be their best song to date), to the incredible lead single, Panic Switch, and throughout the rest of Swoon, Silversun Pickups proved that they were not going to settle for a sophomore slump; in fact, I more than happy to proclaim that Swoon soars above their debut. While I don’t really understand the ways in which they chose people for the “best new artist” category for the Grammys (for which Swoon got them nominated), it doesn’t surprise me in the least the Swoon managed to get Silversun Pickups on a lot of people’s radar this year, because this truly amazing band is making some fantastic music that MUST be heard, shared, and enjoyed. This is one of those albums that is perfect to put on when you are driving around, and want to just rock out; and that is just what I did many, many times last year (and continue to do now!). I am so glad that Swoon turned out to be as amazing of an album as it is, because it really builds on the taste that Cavarnas alluded to, and just how amazing and talented the Silversun Pickups turned out to be. Standout Tracks: There’s No Secrets This Year, Panic Switch, The Royal We, Substitution, Sort Of.

7: Mat Kearney – City of Black and White
What can I say about Mat Kearney other than he’s just simply wonderful? After falling pretty much head over heels for him with his “debut” (I use quotations, because it was more aptly described as his major label debut) Nothing Left To Lose, I was more than excited when I found out he would finally be releasing a follow up earlier last year. When I heard the lead single, Closer to Love, I became even more excited for the album, because it is definitely one of his best songs to date. When I finally got City of Black and White, I realized that it was worth the wait; Mat has grown as an artist, and taken something that he did so well before, and transformed it into something simply amazing on this new CD. From his heartfelt vocals, sweet rhythms, and rhymes woven throughout each track, and the way in which he melds rock and roll with a twinge of hip hop, City of Black and White is a truly wonderful collection of songs that show just how talented of a musician Mat really is. The cherry on top for me, was seeing Mat live again last year, and as he was the first time I saw him, he was practically flawless. This is one of those musicians that I will always be on the lookout for, because of just how consistently amazing his music has proven to be; with this most recent release being certainly no exception. Standout Tracks: Closer To Love, All I Have, Here We Go, On and On, New York To California, City of Black and White.

8: A Fine Frenzy – Bomb In A Birdcage
This album’s lead single was certainly an appropriately titled track; Bomb in a Birdcage was certainly one that would blow me away in 2009. I never really gelled with A Fine Frenzy’s first album, but once I gained a true appreciation of the aforementioned lead singleBlow Away, something told me to pay closer attention to her upcoming release. What I found, was an amazing album that captured my attention like she had never done before, and I found myself loving this album so much more than I was expecting. From beginning to end, A Fine Frenzy has created a beautiful, upbeat, catchy, and down right amazing pop album; one that I just can’t seem to get enough listens of. If you have been reading this blog for any amount of time, you should know by now that I am a sucker for a female piano-driven pop artist, and Allison Sudol (aka A Fine Frenzy) has solidified herself as one of my favorites with the release of the amazing Bomb in a Birdcage. The songs are so well written, both lyrically as well as the layered and beautiful arrangements, and I with each new listen, I actually find something new in each track that makes me love it more. There isn’t a misstep in sight with this album, which is fantastic from beginning to end. I am glad that I sat up and paid more attention this time around, because missing out on this album would certainly be a tragedy. I really can’t say it enough: A Fine Frenzy’s Bomb in a Birdcage is magnificent and it will blow you away, just like it did to me! Standout Tracks: Swan Song, Bird of the Summer, Blow Away, What I Wouldn’t Do, New Heights, Electric Twist.

9: Lady GaGa – The Fame Monster
So if there was any doubt in the lead up to Lady GaGa taking the throne as the next big thing in pop music, she pretty much put the death nell in that notion with the release of The Fame Monster. While it started out as only an 8 track “addendum” to her debut album released in 2008 year, The Fame, GaGa fought the music moguls and won the right to have The Fame Monster released as a separate album in 2009 (along with it being packaged with The Fame in the deluxe edition). However, regardless if it was an add on or not isn’t an issue, as with Monster, GaGa takes her innovative brand of pop and pushes it to the next level. From the insanely catchy, RA-RA’s of Bad Romance, all of the way through to the innovatively amazing album closer Teeth, GaGa just shows that not only is she not going away any time soon, but she plans to up the ante while she’s got our attention. On this album, I feel like GaGa has shared a lot more of herself; giving more raw performances with each track, matching her live show much more closely than ever before. Speaking of the album’s lead single, Bad Romance, GaGa also upped the ante on her equally innovative performance art, and released what many will agree was the one of the best music videos of the decade. Certainly she must be tired, because based on the consistent quality of her trail blazing take on the pop music scene, GaGa is only setting the bar higher and higher for her pop peers and herself; and she doesn’t appear to be slowing down any time soon. For me, The Fame Monster solidifies GaGa as one of the biggest (and best) things to happen to pop music in over a decade; and if this is any indication of the future, I expect to see a lot more GaGa, and I can’t wait. Standout Tracks: Bad Romance, Teeth, Speechless, Mouth, Telephone.

10: Passion Pit – Manners
The first time I heard the MASSIVE single Sleepyhead, I was instantly sitting there wondering to myself just where in the hell this amazingness came from. There have been tons of indie pop groups out there shovelling similar stuff down our throats for years, but never had I heard something as catchy as the amazing Sleepyhead. Well, several months later, they released the follow up track, The Reeling, which would be the lead single for their proper first album, Manners, to be released early in 2009. Needless to say, I realized I had stumbled very early on to something amazing, and I just couldn’t wait to get my hands on the then upcoming Passion Pit debut album. When Manners finally came out, what I got was nothing short of fantastic, and I instantly fell for this amazing indie-pop concoction. While Sleepyhead is still my favorite, there are many tracks on the album that make me wonder why these guys are more popular than they are; they really know what they are doing, and have made a pretty fucking amazing debut album. I am so glad that I found this one in 2009; it really deserves to be on a shitload of best of 2009 lists, and I know that I would have been kicking myself if I had missed out on this gem (and thankfully, I didn’t!). Standout Tracks: Sleepyhead, The Reeling, Little Secrets, Moth’s Wings, Let Your Love Grow Tall.

the 31 best of 2009: 11-15

First off, is anyone still paying attention? Sorry for the delays for those of you that are… Alright, so I know what you are thinking, and YES, I promise to finish this damn countdown. This past week was my first week of nursing school, and as a result, I have been crazy busy. However, that isn’t an excuse, it’s just what’s been going on, so without further excuse, let’s get the rest of this countdown done; I mean, it’s already 2010 for crying out loud, and I haven’t even told you about the best music of 2009!!

11: William Fitzsimmons – The Sparrow and The Crow
William Fitzsimmons falls into a category of artists that I have randomly discovered by beard; that is, I saw a picture of the artist (who has a beard), and thought to myself, “hmm… I must check this guy out” (because, well, I love a guy with a beard). Well, as with many other artists I have discovered by the way of the beard, I am glad that I did check William’s music out, because it is incredible. Much like fellow album favorite list member, Hayden, William is an amazing folk musician. William is decidedly more delicate and more quiet and relaxed than most of his folk peers, but the result is an album filled to the brim with delicate and intricately crafted songs about love, longing, and loss; all of which completely captured my ears and my heart. He also does incredibly right by pairing his beautiful voice with female vocals on the track I Don’t Feel It Anymore (Song of the Sparrow), making it one of my favorites on the album (William has a habit of pairing with great female vocalists; he paired Rosi Golan on her amazing track Hazy, from her (also amazing) album The Drifter and the Gypsy). Overall, if I could describe this album with three words, they would be tender, heartfelt, and beautiful. William may have drawn my attention initially with his looks and his beard, but he captured my heart with his beautiful music. This album is a collection of truly perfect folk songs; songs that are delightful, and peacefully wonderful to listen to. Standout Tracks: Please Forgive Me (Song of the Crow), Maybe Be Alright, I Don’t Feel It Anymore (Song of the Sparrow), Even Now, Further From You, Just Not Each Other.

12: Bat For Lashes – Two Suns
Definitely one of the more “out there” choices on my favorites list this year, Bat For Lashes certainly backs up her status as an alternative artist. She does her best to throw out anything formulaic and embraces the strange and unusual (to quote Lydia Deetz) in her music; making for a truly mystical and amazing aural experience with Two Suns. The album itself harnesses the haunting and achingly beautiful vocals of Natasha Khan (aka, Bat for Lashes), and transports you to musical landscape filled with undulating rhythms and fanciful tales of fantasy and adventure. While I will openly admit that I didn’t “get” Bat For Lashes the first time around with her debut album, when Two Suns came out, the lead single Daniel (which shares both name and imagery with the character of the same name, who simply needed to learn how to “sweep the leg”) captured my attention completely, and I instantly wanted to hear more of this amazing siren. Well, I gave Two Suns my undivided attention, and it washed over me and enveloped me with it’s beauty and grace. I was lucky enough to catch Bat For Lashes live back in August, and my love for all things Natasha Khan only intensified upon seeing her live show. This woman is amazing, and her vocals are nothing short of impressive; and with the quirky music to back it up, it’s no wonder that Two Suns finds itself on a myriad of best of lists for 2009. I love great surprises, and this album was filled to the brim with just that; musical surprises full of wonder and amazement. Standout Tracks: Moon and Moon, Siren Song, The Big Sleep, Travelling Woman, Daniel.

13: Elizabeth and the Catapult – Taller Children
Finding this album was one of those incredibly rare times when you stumble so blindly on something so beautiful, well made, and down right amazing, that you almost can’t believe that you found it the way you did. Specifically, it was the beautiful album art that drew my attention, but after one listen, it was the music behind that cover that really blew me away. To say that I wasn’t prepared for what Taller Children held upon my first listen is a major understatement. Elizabeth and the Catapult have mastered the realm of pop music that is perhaps my most favorite (the piano-driven singer-songwriter side), and in making this album, have given me a new group to seek out and cling to each thing that they offer from this moment on. From delicate, and expertly crafted perfection of songs like Apathy, to incredibly delightful upbeat melodies and downright dancehall fun of songs like Complimentary Me and Race You, Taller Children is a journey through what I consider to be the best thing about music. The album is a delightful listen from beginning to end, and nary a misstep occurs from the moment they begin. What’s also great about this fantastic record, is that it actually picks up steam, and manages to get better on through till the end. This album was a massive find in 2009, and one that I won’t be putting away any time soon. In fact, one of my biggest regrets of 2009 was missing their concert; I hope that I can remedy this misstep in 2010. Standout Tracks: Apathy, Just In Time, Rainiest Days of Summer, Golden Ink, Complimentary Me.

14: Hayden – The Place Where We Lived
While I will admit that this album didn’t resonate quite as strongly with me as his previous effort (and top ten favorite of mine from last year), The Place Where We Lived is another fantastic offering from this too often ignored Canadian folk master. While artists like Bright Eyes and Iron and Wine dominate the folk scene here in the US, it’s a major wonder of mine, why Hayden isn’t also heralded for his contribution to the music scene. His aching vocal, and tender, well written vocal journeys, wrapped nicely in a country-twinged folk package are a sheer delight, and could be directly compared to his aforementioned fellow musicians. That being said, I am glad that Hayden released another fabulous album this year, as more exposure is sure to get him the attention he deserves. If you were a fan of his previous work, this album should be a no-brainer for you, but if this is your first go-round, you shouldn’t be disappointed in the least; Hayden is a very talented musician, and this is just more great folk-rock to add to his already impressive musical resume. Standout Tracks: Let It Last, When The Night Came and Took Us, Living Grows On Us, Message From London.

15: Lily Allen – It’s Not Me, It’s You
As much as I loved Lily’s wonderful debut, Alright Still, I had a bit of worry about her follow up the first time I heard the lead single, The Fear. While I really liked it, I felt it was a more electronic, and decidedly more dance-y direction for her to take, and I while I did like it, I was worried Lily may have lost her edge. Well, my fear (ha!) was quickly quelled once I had a proper listen of the whole album, as what I heard was classic Lily, and quite fantastic throughout. The jaded lyrics, sung by her sweet voice, mixed with delightful melodies and arrangements made this a great album I definitely enjoyed through most of 2009. While she certainly took some different directions with this album, and relied on familiar melodies and several of the sounds of the music of yesterday (the intro to Fuck You is practically note for note the Carpenters (They Long To Be) Close To You), I think that she was able to put enough of a fresh spin on each track that she made it her own. Perhaps most of all, I have to applaud the fact that Lily always tells it like it is, and whether she’s condemning a less-than-there lover, or slamming a horrible previous US president, one thing is for sure; she certainly knows her way around a clever lyric, and is no stranger to delivering her delightful brand of vicious wit without batting an eyelash. I will note, that it is practically criminal that she didn’t include the amazing B-side Fag Hag on this album, as it would have clearly been the biggest standout favorite for me. Standout Tracks: He Wasn’t There, Chinese, The Fear, Him, Fuck You.

the 31 best of 2009: 21-25

21: Biffy Clyro – Only Revolutions
This album was probably one of my biggest surprises in 2009; considering that I had never even heard of Biffy Clyro before the midpoint of the year. I love it when I stumble onto new bands, and when I first heard The Captain, I knew I had stumbled onto a great one (a find that I happily bestow credit to BBC Radio 1!). Perhaps my favorite thing about Biffy Clyro is the complexity of their melodies and song arrangements. They do the “typical” rock and roll thing, but they craft their songs in such a way that you never know which way it is going to go; there are so many intricate elements in the layering of instruments, and the arrangement can often turn on a dime (they continually utilize unique time signatures that can change within a song). Not only do I love the way in which they make music, but the lead singer’s voice and especially his accent are both down right beautiful. On Only Revolutions, Biffy Clyro have made many songs that are clearly built with a careful attention to detail that is nothing short of impressive; I can’t even imagine how difficult some of these songs must be for them to play. The result is an album that utilizes essential elements of guitar-driven rock and roll, and twists them into something unexpected, nuanced, and extremely enjoyable. Standout Tracks: God & Satan, Mountains, The Captain, That Golden Rule.

22: Patrick Wolf – The Bachelor
While I did enjoy several songs from his previous album, The Magic Position, for some reason, it never really resonated with me on as deep a level as The Bachelor did this year (this is a major theme in my life for some reason). However, I never forgot about Patrick, because of his seemingly endless attention to detail and innovation with both his music, as well as his entire persona; there is something about him that I completely respect, because of the way this is reflected in his seemingly care free attitude. He is truly an artist that pays attention to every inch of his music, and broadcasts his personality both in his sound, as well as his appearance. Though he may be avant-garde in nearly every aspect of his style, I find that on The Bachelor, he has also made himself accessible; this album is chock full of extremely well orchestrated pop songs that forcefully push the boundary of pop music today. Patrick captured my attention fully with this album, and I love the unexpected elements peppered throughout the record; such as the brilliant (albeit sometimes creepy) use of Tilda Swinton narrating on several tracks. Overall, he has crafted an almost fairytale-like album, filled with twisting, popping, and dancing narrative-driven music; all of which beg to be devoured and savored to their last drop. Patrick is truly an innovative artist, and The Bachelor is a reflective, and brilliantly innovative album; which you would never know by the badly photoshopped art that serves as the album’s cover. Standout Tracks: Damaris, Hard Times, Blackdown, Thesis, Vulture.

23: Noah and the Whale – The First Days of Spring
Definitely more subdued and stripped down than their first debut, this album steers clear of the uber catchy pop sensibility of tracks like 5 Years Time, and instead, focuses clearly on well developed folk. The result, is some of the most beautiful songwriting to be put to music in 2009. Specifically, the track Blue Skies, is one of the most beautiful songs I have ever heard, and it is definitely one of my favorites from 2009 (it came in at #6 on my singles chart for this year). Overall, the album has a very solemn and raw feel to it, and the band really crafts what seems like a soundtrack to a beautiful film about love (which is most likely what they were going for, seeing as they did a film to accompany the album). I must say, that this album was a complete surprise for me, because I wasn’t really able to get into them other than their first single, the aforementioned 5 Years Time, so I am glad that this album really resonated with me. Some of the songs on here are just breathtakingly sweet, delightfully delicate, and utterly beautiful. Standout Tracks: Blue Skies (song starts about 30 seconds into the clip), The First Days of Spring, I Have Nothing, My Door Is Always Open.

24: Alexisonfire – Old Crows/Young Cardinals
While this is definitely the hardest album on this countdown, I have to say that it was the “softer side” of Alexisonfire that initially captured my attention; well, sort of. Last year, my number one album of the year was Bring Me Your Love by Dallas Green’s City and Colour project; and Dallas just happens to be one of the lead singers of Alexisonfire. Because I adore him, and City and Colour so much, I had to check out Alexisonfire’s new album Old Crows/Young Cardinals when it came out in June. What surprised me most, was that, even though it is stylistically very different from City and Colour, I really enjoyed it. To say that post-hardcore is not my kind of music is a drastic understatement, so I was just as surprised as any of you reading this probably are, because not only did I really like this album, but I knew almost instantly that it would be amongst my favorites for this year. This album is consistently well crafted from start to finish. The blaring guitars, banging drums, and very well written lyrics are driven by the emotive and powerful rock and roll that is echoed in the vocal delivery, as well as the musical arrangement. I also like the they show their softer side (and more of Dallas’ City and Colour-like influence) on a couple tracks, like Burial; which is the track that I would credit as making me initially take notice of this album. Burial may have made me piqued my interest, but it was the energetic all out rock and roll of tracks like the amazing Young Cardinals that had me blasting this from my speakers for months, and enjoying the album in its entirety, more and more, with each listen. My love of this album just goes to show, that if you open yourself up to something new, you might end up really liking it; and in the case of Alexisonfire, I most certainly do. Standout Tracks: Young Cardinals, Burial, Old Crows, Midnight Regulations.

25: VV Brown – Traveling Like The Light
To describe this album in three words, I would use the following: tenacious, energetic, and fresh. VV Brown drifted onto my radar when I heard her massive single, Shark In The Water, and I immediately knew I had stumbled onto something major. Once I had a proper listen of her debut, Travelling Like the Light, my suspicion was confirmed; VV Brown is a very talented musician. If I could compare her musical style to anything, I would say that she is probably best described as a mash up of Janelle Monae and the Pipettes; both of which are musical acts that I truly adore. VV’s take on pop, using big band elements, fresh beats, and her oh so beautiful voice is certainly a wonderful addition to the music I fell in love with in 2009; and it is yet another reminder of just how much amazing music comes from Britain. VV does share a lot in common with the aforementioned Monae, not only in appearance, but in her freshness, as well as her way of using simple, tried and true elements in her music. One thing is certain, however, both ladies are talented in their own right, and there is more than enough room for both of them on my ipod. Standout Tracks: Back In Time, Shark in the Water, Game Over, Everybody.

the 31 best of 2009: 26-31

UPDATE: Please notice that I added a link to at least one song by each artist, so you can listen to that song on youtube. Enjoy!

26: Matthew Barber – Ghost Notes
Matthew’s stripped down, beautiful acoustic folk-rock really took me be surprise; when I stumbled on his song, Easily Bruised, I really wasn’t expecting to find an entire album that was so equally wonderful. Vocally, Matthew bears some similarities to Ryan Adams, Bob Dylan, and Bruce Springsteen, yet he crafts his own tender precision with each song on Ghost Notes. Matthew’s musical style blends the delicate elements of folk, peppered with hints of a country twinge throughout the album; which, combined with the beautiful imagery in his lyrics, makes Ghost Notes a truly beautiful collection of songs. I think that it is his stripped down side that highlights his talent best, as some of the slowest, and most delicate songs on the album are above and beyond his best; such as the amazing track, and perhaps my favorite from the album, Where the River Bends. I will say right again, that this album was a pleasant surprise, and a great random find for me this year; I am more than pleased I heard it, as I knew right away it would definitely be amongst my favorites from this year… and as you can see, it certainly is. Standout Tracks: Where The River Bends; Modern Woman; Easily Bruised; Somebody, Sometime.

27: Anouk – For Bitter Or Worse
I first became aware of the Dutch singer Anouk when I heard her amazing song Lost a year or so ago; but it wasn’t until For Bitter or Worse that I can actually say that I truly got into her music. I noticed that she was releasing a new album this year, and after hearing the AMAZING lead single, Three Days in a Row, and the sheer vocal talent that she effortlessly throws about in that song (especially the incredibly crescendo at 3:16 seconds… um, can I get a WOW?), I knew I had to do myself a favor, check out the rest of this album. I’m glad that I did, because overall, For Bitter or Worse is fantastic. Anouk’s strongest attribute is her gritty, impressive voice, but she also weaves beautiful melodies with well written lyrics throughout the album, and together, they make for a truly weathered and very professional sounding rock album. After hearing this album for the first time, the only question I was left with, was WHY on earth is this woman not massively famous in the United States; or even globally, for that matter? Talent is clearly not the issue here (that voice!), and as such, it is certainly a wonder as to why Anouk isn’t more of a household name outside of her home country; she makes music that is nothing short of impressive. Regardless of how famous she ends up being here in the States, I can tell you one thing; with this album, she has definitely made a fan out of me. Standout Tracks: Lay It Down, Three Days in a Row, Woman, For Bitter or Worse.

28: Peter Bjorn and John – Living Thing
I fell in love with Peter Bjorn and John with their amazing album Writer’s Block. After hearing their new single, Nothing to Worry About, I was worried if that love would continue for their new album, because the song actually annoyed me at first. However, once I heard the song a few times, I found the PB and J in it that I loved, and I slowly, but surely came around. With the release of Living Thing, I will admit, that I wasn’t sold at first; missing this time, were the clever whistling and the insanely catchy indie pop that filled Writer’s Block, and in their place, was a noticeably harder, and more experimental edge to each song. However, much like the first single, I slowly came around, and ended up finding the root of Peter Bjorn and John at the heart of the album, and liking it as well. A few of the songs, like It Don’t Move Me, I got into instantly, because they are completely and utterly brilliant; and highlight just how talented Peter Bjorn and John are. It just goes to show, that there are bands out there that are capable of so much, that you never know what piece of their seemingly endless spectrum they are going to show you; and with Living Thing, Peter Bjorn and John have shown that they are definitely one of those bands. Standout Tracks: It Don’t Move Me, Nothing To Worry About, Just The Past, Last Night.

29: Jack Penate – Everything Is New
I’m going to start by saying how glad I am that Jack took a different direction for his aptly titled sophomore album, Everything Is New. While I enjoyed some of the rockabilly style he harnessed on his debut, it is definitely the more pop sensible Jack that I prefer. With this album, Jack focuses his effort on building true orchestrations, and in doing so, crafts elegant and grandiose pop arrangements on practically every track. While it is what many would consider a short album, clocking in at just shy of 34 minutes with 9 tracks, Jack has shown a great attention to detail this time around, and avoids the pitfall of having each song sound incredibly similar to the one that preceded it (as was the case with most of his debut). The elegance and beauty on this album highlights a really talented pop musician; one who has learned how to better utilize his rock and roll roots. For me, the deep (and at times, playful) beats, the horns, and the recorded-in-a-concert-hall feel that practically every track as to it, coupled with Jack’s tender, yet earnest vocals, make this album an enjoyable listening experience throughout. Standout Tracks: Pull My Heart Away, Be The One, Let’s All Die.

30: Noisettes – Wild Young Hearts
When I first heard Don’t Upset the Rhythm, I knew instantly that I had something to look forward to this year from The Noisettes. What followed, was the impressive Wild Young Hearts, an album that highlights not only a talented vocalist, but a band that draws on classic elements and playful melodies. The impressive and beautiful voice of Shingai Shoniwa will have you thinking you are listening to something straight out of 50s or 60s Motown, but the blaring guitars and thumping drum beats will remind you that you are actually hearing something fresh in 2009. This album follows the trend that Amy Winehouse reinvigorated with her 2007 effort, Back to Black, and continues the revitalization of that throwback sound today. What I loved most about this album, was the familiarity that permeated many of the tracks; like how parts of Never Forget You have a musical similarity to the theme song to Laverne and Shirley. While I fell instantly for the lead single, and quickly hopped on board with continued love for the album upon its release, I would definitely have to say that this is one of those albums that I should have spent a little more time with this year. Standout Tracks: Don’t Upset the Rhythm, Atticus, Never Forget You.

31: Kelly Clarkson – All I Ever Wanted
Starting off with the massive single, My Life Would Suck Without You, Kelly’s fourth album starts strong, and offers a much more radio-friendly album than her previous effort. Kelly’s voice is better than ever, and she soars in and out of rock-heavy break up anthems, and reigns it in for the tender ballads. Overall, the Kelly Clarkson that I fell for with Breakaway is back, and it is almost like the lackluster album between these two albums never happened. Kelly rightfully claimed a lot of chart success this year, and given the number of strong single-ready tracks left on All I Ever Wanted, I suspect that she will keep going strong in 2010 with the momentum off of this album. My only negative critique of this album concerns the tracks that fill the middle of the album, and distract away from the clearly superior, clearly single-worthy tracks. While these tracks can certainly be blamed for dragging Kelly down on my favorites list this year, I’m just glad that the chart-dominating Kelly Clarkson is back. Standout Tracks: Don’t Let Me Stop You (THIS MUST BE A SINGLE!), My Life Would Suck Without You, Ready, I Do Not Hook Up.