Archive for the ‘music’ Category

Top 10 Favorite Artists of 2011

10. Fitz & The Tantrums

Favorite Song: Winds of Change
Favorite Album: Picking Up The Pieces
Source/Date of Most Interest: Lollapalooza/ December 11, 2011

I was never really into soul music. Ever. And so I was a little skeptical at first upon previewing the album since it just wasn’t really me. After getting a taste of several free downloads off of the album for songs like ‘Breakin’ The Chains of Love’ or their famous hit ‘MoneyGrabber’ I really felt like I had stumbled upon some great mood music to add into the soundtrack of my life. The music reminds me of what I used to listen to on the radio with my family when I was little. It sort of has a ‘funky’ feel to it that was great to sing along to (in my head) while doing homework or getting around on the bus. Fitz & The Tantrums was named ‘the band to watch’ by Rolling Stone in April, and I can definitely see why with this amazing album, without a single ‘filler’ song thrown in. I am pretty curious to see where this band goes in the future. Other great songs include the Austin Power’s groovyness of ‘L.O.V.’ or the slow, emotion-drenched ‘Tighter’.

9. Regina Spektor

Favorite Song: The Calculation
Favorite Album: Far
Source/ Date of Most Interest: 500 Days of Summer/ March 14, 2011

Ever since the soundtrack for the movie 500 Days of Summer came out in 2009, I was drawn into the two tracks that were sung by Regina, ‘Hero’ and ‘Us’ because of the innocence in her voice and the incredible piano playing. It wasn’t until this year that I decided to try her other music, after seeing Connor praise her over and over for months on end for her talents. Connor and I usually associated seasons to music, and I would definitely classify this album as winter, because I can just imagine coming in from the cold, bundling up with a mug of hot cocoa and having her music play in the background; its simply reviving, sweet and comforting, especially for songs such as ‘Eet’, ‘Samson’, or ‘Blue Lips’. At the same time, Regina adds such a quirky fun to some of her songs that really lightens up the mood, such as the playful imitation of an orca whale in ‘Folding Chair’ that makes me smile every time it plays.

8. Metric

Favorite Song: Gimme Sympathy
Favorite Album: Fantasies/ Plug-in, Plug Out EP
Source/ Date of Most Interest: Lollapalooza/ September 18, 2011

Connor and I were sort of scared away by the terrible review concerning the editing on the Fantasies album that we stuck originally to the acoustic EP with several songs from the album, which was absolutely incredible. Emily Haine’s voice is so soft and lighthearted when completely stripped of all of the unnecessary techno beats in the background and replaced with a guitar. ‘Gimme Sympathy’ reminds me of being little and sitting around a campfire roasting marshmallows, the movie ‘The Parent Trap’ and of course, The Beatles. Just like Regina Spektor, Emily has her own form of innocence on the EP that is so admirable. On the Fantasies album, the songs give off a completely different vibe, with a more in-your-face kind of electronic rock noise, yet still containing that sweet voice underneath, similar to how I view the inner voice behind all of the jumble of Sleigh Bells. There are still plenty of gems on Fantasies, such as the  delicate and lonely ‘Collect Call’ or the nocturnal pulsating beat of ‘Satellite Mind’.

7. Florence + The Machine

Favorite Song: Drumming Song
Favorite Album: Lungs
Source/ Date of Most Interest: Music Awards Show/ November 5, 2011

Florence + The Machine is a very unique artist that really captured my attention after I had gotten past the hit song ‘Dog Days Are Over’, which I now consider to be one of the lesser tracks on the album. Florence Welch has such a belting voice that isn’t afraid to scream out when the emotional context is right. The instrument choice for each song really complements her voice. On songs such as ‘Drumming Song’ the drums play a role as a sort of pounding heartbeat, which gives me the impression that I’m running off through a jungle and hearing this rather exotic, nature-driven beat in the background that is simply wild and free, just like the rest of the album. Of course, lungs are a major theme on the album, with many songs that although fast paced, really take your breath away. She also taps into several songs, such as ‘Between Two Lungs’ or ‘Cosmic Love’, relating to love on this album and creates such an effect such that you can imagine little birds tweeting and landing on your shoulder. You are lifted off your feet and transported away by a cupid Florence playing the harp. She can truly paint a scene through a set of songs.

6. Foster The People

Favorite Song: Helena Beat
Favorite Album: Torches
Source/ Date of Most Interest: Lollapalooza/ June 16, 2011

When I got this album, it was around the time that I got my first pair of wireless headphones. With music as catchy and cheerful as this, I couldn’t help but dance around my house and listen to these fresh, groovy, jazzy beats that Mark Foster, the lead singer, has concocted. After looking into music for Lollapalooza this year, I was taken aback by this incredible find. I originally thought it sounded somewhat similar to MGMT with its choice of synthesizers, but really, there is nothing truly like this. Although ‘Pumped Up Kicks’ has been the viral song off of this album raiding the charts for alternative music, I really don’t think it is the standout track. Songs such as ‘Call It What You Want’ or ‘Houdini’ will have you bobbing your heard to the beat. I had the pleasure of seeing this band up close live with Connor, and they were all the better and more entertaining. Despite the heat that day and the girls screaming, “take your shirt off!”, Foster kept his composure and delivered the public incredible music, all was good. Overall, if you let it take you away, this band’s music will quench the dancing spirit of your soul.

5. The Decemberists

Favorite Song: July, July!
Favorite Album: The Hazards of Love
Source/ Date of Most Interest: iTunes/ January 18, 2011

In 2010, I had originally looked into music by The Decemberists and was turned away by some of their songs. After their most recent album, ‘The King Is Dead’ was released, I really had a strong foothold to start exploring their music with more confidence. All of their albums are completely different from one another, and so it is difficult to judge the band in its entirety. What I enjoy about each song, whether country, rock, or folk, is how impressive the lyrics are for the music and how amazing Colin Meloy’s vocabulary is. Colin’s voice is interesting, I’ve found that it is almost exactly the same singing live as it is in recorded versions of his songs, which shows how real the music is. Out of the six albums, my favorite is The Hazards of Love because of its cohesiveness and how the album follows a sort of tale that is captivating and entwined with themes and recurring characters. I enjoy the very contrasting style of The Decemberists’ older albums, because they are in the style of sea shanties, such as on ‘Picaresque’ about people who may be weak and unimportant, but are brought into a new and intriguing light by Colin. The Decemberists are definitely an acquired taste for most people; some of my other favorite tracks are ‘O Valencia!’, ‘Rox In the Box’, and ‘Yankee Bayonet’.

4. The XX

Favorite Song: Islands
Favorite Album: XX
Source/ Date of Most Interest: iTunes/ January 1, 2011

The XX music is simple, calming, and smooth, but overall it works amazingly well. As Connor and I have found out, the XX album is effective music to listen to in order to help you get to sleep at night. I discovered this band over winter break 2010-2011 and  could not put this music aside. The two lead male and female “singers” have voices that form a perfect balance with each other. My favorite track is ‘Islands’ because of how Jamie’s, the female singer, voice is just so desperate, it makes you want to cuddle up with this music. This entire album is like an escape from daily life, it reminds me of sitting in a pool of comforting steam that is rising up and cleansing you from all around. I am really curious to hear the new album by this band that is scheduled to be released next year.

3. The Naked & Famous

Favorite Song: All of This
Favorite Album: Passive Me, Aggressive You
Source/ Date of Most Interest: iTunes/ June 24, 2011

The Naked & Famous were very fun to watch live, and that’s when I finally started to grasp onto their music. All the week before Connor was playing their music in the car when I went to North Carolina, and so I started to remember more and more each song by the time Lollapalooza came around. The Naked & Famous are pretty much the most Urban Outfitters style band that I’ve ever encountered, since their music is just the definition of Indie. I started to play their music more on my own time when I got into college, and it really became the mood for my experience during the first month and of school. The Naked & Famous are very summery and “chill” in their own way. I like how the lead singers build up the music in songs such as ‘The Sun’ or ‘Frayed’ getting louder and more tense. You expect an explosion of sound at any second, which is why it made me nervous the first time I played this in the car, but effects like these make this band so intriguing.

2. Freelance Whales

Favorite Song: Generator Second Floor
Favorite Album: Weathervanes
Source/ Date of Most Interest: Lollapalooza/ April 30, 2011

The Weathervanes album was one that after I looked into it, I thought, “why did it take this long  to discover this masterpiece?” Freelance Whales sets a mood similar to the nature theme of Florence + The Machine, minus the anger or strong emotion through voice. Instead, this album is mystical and eerie, sending shivers down my spine. The instruments are very unique; I can’t think of any other band that employs such elementary instruments such as a xylophone, banjo, triangle, and tambourine, and comes out with such beautiful music. What is most notable about this album are the Generator First and Second Floor songs that begin and end this album. The first: a chant of waking up, bringing rise to a rainbow of instruments. The latter: a cheerfully written song about death written in a positive light, painting an intimate afterlife with those who you care most about. The song ‘Broken Horse’ also stands out on this album as a sort of ghostly story that creeps up your back.

1. Bright Eyes/ Desaparecidos

Favorite Song: At The Bottom Of Everything
Favorite Album: Undecided
Source/ Date of Most Interest: Lollapalooza/ June 12, 2011

Conor Oberst is a musical genius: I don’t know of any other group capable of handling and mastering Americana, electronic, emo, folk, and rock music across a spread of several albums and still remain true to their own style. Just like The Decemberists, the band Bright Eyes such a long history that it is difficult to classify the style exactly. I’ve just been magnetized toward’s Conor’s music ever since discovering him when looking at bands for Lollapalooza. I am sad to say that The People’s Key album that came out in February was his last album with the band, which upsets me a great deal. Conor has a sort of weak, struggling voice that shines with raw emotion through music that no other performer can pull off. ‘At The Bottom Of Everything’ is my absolute favorite song by the band, because like straight from a Disney movie, it magically illuminates a comical and lively angle upon an up-and-coming death of passengers on an airplane. ‘Easy/Lucky/Free’ is another of my favorites; the song is like the light at the end of a dark and scary tunnel singing about hope and trying to warm your heart, despite the horrors of the hair-raising tunnel around you. ‘Four Winds’ is my most played by the band; the epic Americana violin starting the song reminds me of the western magic of Woody from Toy Story and every spaghetti western film I’ve ever seen. Bright Eyes may just as well be one of my favorite bands of all time, I have such a connection to this band’s amazing music.

Michael

Top 10 Favorite Artists of 2010

Over the year of 2010, my interest in music has increased tenfold. I had first received an iPod at the beginning of the year, knowing close to nothing about where my music interest laid. Pop? Rock? Alternative? I had no idea how to even classify the music that I found appealing to my eardrums. It took gradual experimentation to figure out the music that was right for me. Here are my top 10 favorite artists:

10. 30 Seconds To Mars.
Favorite Song: Kings and Queens
Favorite Album: This Is War

Source of Discovery: Trailer for the movie, Legend of the Guardians.
One word: epic. Ever since hearing a censored fragment of the song Kings and Queens in a movie trailer, I knew that this band had something unique about their voice. This song, along the rest of their most recent album This Is War, reminded me of the action, suspense, and drama associated with movies. I love how all of the songs tie back to the main theme of the album. Although the screaming voice of the lead singer Jared Leto takes a while to get used to, the mood of the music and voice is so genuine that just about every song paints a picture in your mind as you listen.


9. Motion City Soundtrack
Favorite Song: Pulp Fiction
Favorite Album: My Dinosaur Life
Source of Discovery: Saw most recent album on the homepage of iTunes
Growing up, I had heard music from this band, but it wasn’t until my discovery of the iPod that I started to pay attention to the sound and message of their music. The sound of their most recent album, My Dinosaur Life, struck me as particularly captivating; not only that but the cover art is incredible! I had noticed that the vocalist of the group, Justin Pierre, had more of a matured voice and catchier melody in this most recent album, which lead me towards investigation. Although their songs are mainly explicit and the lyrics are somewhat odd, the emotions associated with each song packs a powerful punch to the listener. This upbeat music is great to listen to when caught in a bad mood.


8. Jonsi/ Sigur Ros
Favorite Song: Grow Till Tall
Favorite Album: Go
Source of Discovery: Trailer for the Disney movie, Earth
What drew me in to this music was the impressive instrumental noise and talented voice of the vocalist Jonsi Birgisson. After hearing nature-inspired sounds in the trailer for Earth, I was drawn into the beauty and peace of this incredible harmony of instruments and voice. Jonsi is Icelandic, and so part of the lyrics of his songs are in his native language. This particular music seems to stand out from every genre I’ve come to be familiar with, which is what drew me towards continuing to listen to it. Their music may take a while to grow accustomed to, but it definitely is worth checking out.


7. Matt & Kim
Favorite Song: Good Ol’ Fashion Nightmare
Favorite Album: Grand

Source of Discovery: Earlier episode of the television series, Community
The duo Matt and Kim attracted me because their music reminds me of diversion and independence. Their rather stunning choice of instrumental backup may make their music sound raw and unappealing, but it definitely adds to their message of a carefree and nonjudgmental commotion. After hearing Matt & Kim play their most popular song Daylight at Lollapalooza in August, my belief was confirmed that these two artists and performers are wild and loose in not just their music, but their behavior, which makes them seem authentic by holding true to the sound of their music. Their new album comes out on November 2nd, so I’m definitely excited to hear their new material.


6. Owl City/ Sky Sailing
Favorite Song: A Little Opera Goes A Long Way
Favorite Album: An Airplane Carried Me To Bed

Source of Discovery: Word of mouth from sister
Owl City was the first -and only- artist under the genre of electronic music that appealed to me. I’ve found that this music eases the labor of doing homework and helps me brainstorm because the overall sound of each song leads at a miraculous opening of the mind.  The calm, passive voice of singer Adam Young adds a key element to why I enjoy this music. My favorite is his non-electronic album, An Airplane Carried Me to Bed, which is the most relaxing blend of instrument and voice I have ever heard. The cover artwork is absolutely stunning, creative, and beautiful. The music video for the song Brielle takes listeners on a peaceful, magical ride through Adam Young’s imagination.


5. Jukebox the Ghost
Favorite Song: The Stars
Favorite Album: Everything Under the Sun

Source of Discovery: Live at Lollapalooza 2010
This relatively unknown band definitely deserves some recognition. Jukebox the Ghost may not have the most powerful of lyrics, but the sound of their music is cheerful, catchy and playful. Every song on their most recent album, Everything Under the Sun, has a unique sound that is a result of the band members’ experimentation with different melodies. One of my friends has noted that their use of the piano is absolutely groundbreaking and shows the far extent of their talent. My encounter with this band live during Lollapalooza sparked something within me. Even without the use of voice enhancers and autotune, this band still creates amazing music unlike a large majority of popular artists.


4. Bruno Mars
Favorite Song: Count On Me
Favorite Album: It’s Better If You Don’t Understand EP

Source of Discovery: Heard on the radio with B.o.B. in Nothing on You
Although he is best known for the popular song, Just The Way You Are, there is another side to the music of this maestro. What I admire about Bruno Mars is that he uses his natural voice and his Hawaiian background in his music. He definitely has a wide range of sounds, from a slower Caribbean reggae to a swinging, fast-paced pop. I love how he approaches and executes genuine mainstream music from a unique angle and adds his own lifestyle to several of his songs, such as with The Lazy Song. Bruno Mars’ voice has reached long distances in only several months with the slow and steady gain of his popularity.


3. The Rocket Summer
Favorite Song: Brat Pack
Favorite Album: Do You Feel

Source of Discovery: Saw most recent album on the homepage of iTunes
After discovering this prized treasure of sounds in the cluttered mess of music on iTunes, I felt like I had hit a jackpot. Bryce Avary, the singer for The Rocket Summer adds a sort of jazz to his music with the smooth fluctuation of his high-range of pitch and usage of his smooth voice. The melody of each of these perfectly rendered songs overflows with soul and flair and made me beg for more. It was interesting hearing how the sounds of his albums changed over the years as he matured. Bryce Avary definitely deserves the success for his creation of such great music.


2. Arcade Fire
Favorite Song: Wake Up
Favorite Album: Neon Bible

Source of Discovery: Trailer for the movie, Where the Wild Things Are
The band has pretty dense and meaningful lyrics for many of their songs and the voice of Win Butler, the lead singer, suits it perfectly. I love how their albums are set to a variety of different themes and their respective songs reflect it. My personal favorite is the dark, depressing backdrop of the album Neon Bible because the emotions profoundly radiate from the overall sound; the realism of their music sends jitters through my body when I listen to it. I can definitely empathize with their most recent album, The Suburbs, since because of my location I can relate to several of the circumstances mentioned in the lyrics of certain songs.


1. The Shins/ Broken Bells
Favorite Song: Australia
Favorite Album: Wincing the Night Away
Source of Discovery: It was featured on the iTunes page for Arcade Fire’s Funeral
If there is any one artist who has one of the most exclusive styles of music, it is without a doubt The Shins. Their music sounds like a mash-up of Caribbean sounds, pirate shanties, and catchy beats. Whenever I turn on my iPod to listen, I’m lost in a sea of imagery. My all-time favorite album is Wincing the Night Away because of not only the awe-inspiring artwork, but because each song makes me feels as though I have transcended the distractions of my surroundings. The lyrics are surreal, just like the music. James Mercer’s voice blends well with this unique genre of music. He more recently began a project known as Broken Bells, which adds more of an electronic aspect to the music. All in all, I’ve been more than satisfied with Mercer’s music, and I can’t wait for the release of the next Shins album, which drops in 2011.