Friday, December 26, 2008

Oh what can you do with a sentimental heart? Best Albums of 08

18. Lil’ Wayne- Tha Carter III

While most tend to prefer Lil Wayne’s older CDs and mixes, Tha Carter III is a great album for him to spread into the mainstream. It might be true. Lil Wayne could have been right about being the best rapper alive. However, on this record, he needed help from a lot of famous rappers to keep himself afloat. Whether he’s got Kanye laying down beats, Jay-Z jumping in, or T-Pain stopping by, the star power is tremendous. Although he had a lot of help, as long as he rhymes I think I’ll be listening. True, his voice can be grating. Yeah, Lollipop might be one of the worst singles of the year. But I love his pop culture references and interesting flow. See I get better with time like a watch/Osh B'Gosh/ Posh Spice husband couldn't kick it like I kick it/ I Kix it no cereal like a landing/ and I sticks it. (Playing With Fire)

17. Lykke Li- Youth Novels

Although her lyrics are highly repetitive and her voice isn't extremely strong, the beats on 'Youth Novels' make the album what it is. They can make the simple words seem poignant and her voice becomes an instrument that helps makes the songs beautiful instead of the focus of the album. A lovely, if a bit saccharine, pop album. My favorites are 'Let it Fall' and 'Little Bit'.

16. The Ting Tings- We Started Nothing

An extremely catchy, drum heavy album with songs that will stay in your head for days. And days. And days. My personal favorite is “Shut Up and Let Me Go”. The other songs aren’t as good, but I can’t find a single song that I truly dislike. They are a cute band with a loud sound, and although this was truly one of the best albums in a year of a lot of great albums, I can’t see them being around too much longer. So I’ll enjoy this really fun CD while they last.

15. Various Artists- The Hotel Café Presents…Winter Songs

There’s Ingrid, Brandi Carlile, Fiona Apple, Lenka, Sara Bareilles, KT Turnstall, Kate Havnevik, and some of my other favorite female singers. The only flaw on the CD is Katy Perry’s ‘White Christmas’. The combination of Sara and Ingrid for the first track, ‘Winter Song’ is slow, moving, and sounds like a sledding song. My favorite new CD for the holiday season.

14. Lenka- Lenka

13. Ani Difranco- Red Letter Year
Ani‘s records generally are highly acoustic without any glossy production. This is not the case with Red Letter Year. There’s a more heavily produced feel, and a much more grown up flavor to the album that some fans will detest and some will see as an artist simply growing up. After seeing her live this year I tend to prefer her older stuff live and her newer stuff straight off the album with the strings and such filling out her songs about times as a lobbyist and her baby. She’s still the bisexual feminist with an ability to slam the guitar like no other tiny woman you have ever seen. She’s just a bit calmer while she’s doing it. For a great song on her perspective on religion and of course the patriarchal society we live in, check out the songs ‘The Atom’ and “Alla This’, my two favorite off of the album.

12. Girl Talk- Feed the Animals
Night Ripper is one of my favorite albums of all time. I really thought it couldn't get better than a guy straight out of Pittsburgh with a scraggly beard mixing Slim Thug and The Verve. Yet, with Feed the Animals he takes it to the next level. Adding more party songs to his rap/indie mixes makes a record just screaming to be blasted. Whether played before going out, before work, during a long run, Greg put musical ADD on the map, and Feed the Animal contains some sick mashups.

11. The Weepies- Hideaway
The Weepies have an older sound to them, a Simon and Garfunkel style with a female voice thrown in. They aren’t controversial. They aren’t saying things no one’s heard before. But they speak with one voice, with great harmonies, about love, loss, and the need to always press forward in life. And if they can do that with a soothing style and smiles on their faces than innovation is overrated. I’ll take a little bit of simplicity every now and again.

10. My Morning Jacket- Evil Urges

9. Uh Huh Her- Common Reaction
Last year I was obsessed with their EP. While it was a great CD, I still wasn't prepared for the awesome sounds of 'Common Reaction'. Camila Grey generally takes the lead vocals and keyboard and Leisha Hailey is usually rocking out with the bass and back up vocals. Unlike Leisha's past bands (The Murmurs, Gush) Uh Huh Her is a more electro-synth type of project. Camila's voice is soothing, but never boring, and Leisha has proven to be much more than 'that chick from the lesbian TV show' or the girl from the Yoplait commercials. There's an eighties throwback feel to most of the album which is fun, and done right. Often times bands think that eighties just means throwing some synth around, but it takes a bit more to perfect the energy of the era. Main complaint? The changing of the song 'Say So' which was amazing on the EP and changed to a radio friendly pop song for 'Common Reaction'. While the album is getting heavy rotation in the back of MTV reality shows it’s much more than a back drop to teen angst. Check out the song 'Covered' if you want a good feel of what the band is like, or 'Not a Love Song' if you listen to Top 40 radio.

8. Bon Iver- For Emma, Forever Ago
'Skinny Love' is a wonderful song. A beautiful song. In fact, it’s a heartbreaking, wonderful, beautiful song. Sometimes, when I hear a song that great I don't want to hear anything else from the artist, fearing I will be terribly let down. In this case, I should have started listening a lot earlier. The sound reminds me of one of those winter days where you fear you'll be chilled straight to the bone but there is enough sunlight that the cold becomes part of the beauty. The chilling sound of this album becomes part of why it’s so wonderful and listening to the whole thing allowed me to see the record as an experience rather than just one song.

7. The Mountain Goats- Heretic Pride
Darnielle is a spectacular lyricist. He writes as many characters, and I believe him as each one of them, whether he's a spy or a young girl. Simply put, Darnielle's style is different than anything else out there. Currently my favorite song is the title track which states "I'll feel so proud when the reckoning arrives. With an amazing discography like his, he has a lot to be proud of.

6. Sara Bareilles- Little Voice

I really can’t say enough about this CD. The first single, ‘Love Song’, is one of the few songs that got heavy radio play this summer that I did not switch off immediately. Her lyrics are clever, her piano playing skills are much better than most pop stars, and she seems to have the kind of attitude where her music comes first and fame is just a side effect. At the age of 29, she probably wasn’t expecting this kind of popular stardom. However, her radio friendly songs are better than anything else on the radio right now. Those who write her off due to her singles are missing out on some fun songs that you’d never hear without digging a little deeper. Her ballads, such as the wonderful ‘Gravity’ show off her great range and precise voice. ‘Fairy Tale’ is a feminist spin on Disney’s stories that all girls should listen to. ‘Vegas’ digs into the parts of all of us that want to just run away from the situations we’ve found ourselves in. Here’s to hoping for another album soon because she’s anything but a little voice.

5. Britney Spears- Circus

Britney knows how to make a smokin dance album. Well, the producers and musicians behind Britney certainly do. Circus is a hot record, filled with songs that will be blasted at the clubs for a long time. I really can’t get into the meanings behind the songs, because the lyrics do not matter. They simply don’t. Brit’s at her best when she’s repeating choruses with an insanely altered voice over a crazy beat. I’m a little more than a little bit obsessed with ‘Womanizer’ and ‘Mmm Papi’. Although some may disagree, I think Circus is better than ‘Blackout’ in the fact that while it may not have as many good songs, the ones that are god knock it out of the park. Because that’s Britney, bitch.

4. Fleet Foxes

The ultimate Americana album. They use older influences, like Fleetwood Mac, without ripping them off. I really don’t have much to say about this album except it brought me a feeling of love for the vast amount of land in our country. Whether talking about sunrises or mountains, whether going all out or holding back, the Fleet Foxes have by far made one of the most unique and touching albums of the year.

3. Janelle Monáe- Metropolis: The Chase Suite (Special Edition)

Concept records rarely hold my attention. Especially ones about androids named Cindy Mayweather and intergalactic laws being broken. However, since I first sad Janelle I knew I had to listen to her. After I blasted the song ‘Many Moons’ so many times I almost had the little rap at the end down, I realized that she was more than just the interesting chick signed by Diddy on Bad Boy. Her cover of ‘Smile’ is simply beautiful, and it’s easy to get caught up in the story the record tells, although some of the songs can stand alone. I can’t wait for her next suite, and I hope it’s as interesting as ‘The Chase’.

2. Jenny Lewis- Acid Tongue

Rilo Kiley has been one of my top three bands for about two years now. Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twin’s album has been on such heavy rotation since I got it that I fear I might become a slight country fan. When I heard Jenny Lewis was putting out a completely solo album made her way I was very excited and extremely nervous. I have high expectations when it comes to the red head, and I was afraid I’d be very disappointed. The first listen was an interesting one. In my excitement to hear the album I didn’t quite process it. Then came the vital second listen. When the title track came on I knew I was in love. Hearing ‘The Next Messiah’ clearly for the first time was incredible, knowing that she was probably speaking a bit more about her father (who played on the album) on this record after using her mother for inspiration when singing with the Watson twins. Hearing Elvis Costello on ‘Carpetbaggers’ let me know that this album could bridge generations, for I used to listen to ‘Allison’ with my dad when I was younger. Zooey D’s back up vocals added a bit of fun for her fans. Jenny Lewis’ first solo album did not disappoint, and I should have known that nervousness wasn’t necessary. Although I love Rilo Kiley, I can’t wait to hear her next venture.

1. She & Him- Volume One

A lovely, older sounding album. The problem with most records like this one is that it is simply not enough to make okay sounding tunes and give them a scratchy production as a gimmick. As a fantastic producer and wonderful guitarist, M Ward does a great job staying in the background. Although his work is worthy of recognition the true star in the band is Zooey Deschanel. Whether it's her slightly shy yet wise persona, her crystal voice, or just those shining blue eyes that you can picture as she sings, it's clear that Zooey is far more than an actress that sings on the side. Each song has a similar feel but they each have their own flavor. Volume One is a terrific start and I cannot wait for Volume Two.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

"There is homophobia in every corner and pocket of this world, but at the core

... you just love someone and want to make mix tapes for them" -Sara Quin

Trying to explain how I feel about the passing of Amendment 2 is painful. It makes me think about the extreme hate for those that aren't like the majority of Americans, and how people are so scared of anything different than them. Since there are so many laws that ban marriage for gays in Florida already, this was just a hateful and ignorant Amendment meant to demoralize the gay rights movement. Not to mention what it does to straight couples that simply chose not to get married, and senior citizens that chose to be in civil unions so that they can collect benefits from their dearly departed spouses.

They seem so very scared of us.
I look into the mirror,
For evil that just does not exist.
I don't see what they see.
Try to control the pull of one magnet to another.

Some people say that it's a small set back, that gay marriage will eventually be legal. Eventually is not good enough for me. In the fight for civil rights, in the fight for equality for all, it seems that gays are simply left out. Of course there is a large movement for equality but its obviously not close to big enough. I know I'm not helping nearly enough but I hope that even my small contributions will help the movement. With the props passed in Arizona and California I found it hard to believe in the 'hope' and 'change' that so many people feel right now.Californians, Floridians, and Arizona voters passed amendments banning gay marriages and voters in Arkansas disallowed couples that aren't married from adopting children, or even from being foster parents. Although last night was a large step forward to ending some discrimination with a black president, it was three major steps backwards for gay rights.

This week Brooke Smith got fired from Grey's...Really ABC, really? Apparently her story line wasn't being received well. Imagine that, a lesbian story line not being received well. A show that has interracial dating and claims to be colorblind doesn't seem to be blind to homosexuality. Did it cause a ratings drop? With the amount of lesbians simply watching for that storyline and the hardcore fans that have no problem with straight doctors hopping from bed to bed, I think the ratings were doing just fine. If they were dropping, maybe we could get some fresh writing on the how rather than dropping one of the best actresses on the show. At least we have Liz Lemon and her bi curious shoes on 30 Rock. Remember, visibility matters. Until homosexuality is considered mainstream and exhibited as 'normal' in the media many Americans will never accept gay people simply trying to live their lives with the rights of people who simply were born loving those of the opposite sex.


Friday, October 17, 2008

and I'm recording our history now on the bedroom wall

Oh Ani. Long before I knew your music I knew who you were. You’re a strong feminist, a crazy guitar player, owner of a small record label, and a chick with some crazy hair. I only had heard the song “Both Hands” when I saw Regina Spektor was playing at the Mann Center and you were the main act. Although I knew little about your music, Regina was a must see act for me, so I went along for the ride. Once I had heard Regina’s set I could have left happy. Her cute dress, insane piano skills, interesting noises and fun blue guitar had me satisfied.

The crowd was quiet, but perhaps a little restless. When Ani came on I knew why- a bunch of insane women screaming so loud that I simply not hear had somehow appeared out of the mild mannered crowd before intermission. A set filled with guitars, a cute androgynous drummer, a bassist and a… well, random percussionist were on the stage but every eye was on the minuscule woman beating the hell out of a guitar and singing her lungs out. In the song ‘You Had Time’, when her lover asks her if she played well she says “My fingers are sore and my voice is too.” It’s easy to see where these lyrics come from, for she growls out her lyrics, screams against the patriarchy in the US, and plays guitars that are bigger than her 5' 2" frame.

She’s an excellent performer and if she could have sung more about her opinions and said less, and if could have stood her drunk insane fans I’m sure I would immediately have become one of her largest fans. However, after the concert it took me a long time to get into her. I slowly eased in with ’32 Flavors’, her most famous song, and I cannot stop listening to ‘Two Little Girls’. I love the style of her older work for her new stuff is incredibly glossy compared to the extremely raw sound of songs like ‘Untouchable Face’. Artists grow as they age and since Ani has her own record label she can produce her music however she wants to. So, I’ll be the feminist college girl cliché and jump on the Difranco bandwagon with pride.

and I'm beyond your peripheral vision
so you might want to turn your head
cause someday you're going to get hungry
and eat most of the words you just said. -32 Flavors

Some days the line I walk
Turns out to be straight
Other days the line tends to deviate
I've got no criteria for sex or race
I just want to hear your voice
I just want to see your face –In or Out

So I guess I’ll just stand here with my back against the wall

while you distilled your whole life down to a 911 call –Two Little Girls

So I’m beginning to see some problems

with the on going work of my mind
and I’ve got myself a new mantra
it says: "don't forget to have a good time" –Present/Infant

You are a china shop, and I am a bull

you are really good food, and I am full –You Had Time

but you don't really care for music

do ya?

Putting on a good pair of headphones can change a song forever. A song can be beautiful live, usually due to the amazing experience of seeing the artist actually perform the song. During a car ride, a tune can transform your trip. Over laptop speakers beautiful lyrics can be heard loud and clear.

But headphones, big headphones, life changing headphones make music more than noise entering your ears to be processed by your brain. At a concert, on your computer, in the car, generally whenever music is a part of an experience there is not the same feeling as when music is the experience itself. Place them over your ears and nothing else in the world matters but hearing the smoothness of a new production or that rough hard acoustic sound where you hear the pounding of fingers on strings, the reverberation of the bass drum. I’m far from a musical expert but even I can hear the most subtle tones with my headphones tightly pressed to my ears.

As someone that does not follow any form of religion, or even consider myself a ‘spiritual’ person I still cannot deny that sometimes music makes me feel otherworldly. I cannot pray. I simply do not know how to communicate with anything that I cannot see. The song Hallelujah, originally by Leonard Cohen is as near to prayer as I can get. Some prefer Jeff Buckley’s gorgeous, yet sadly overused, raw voice over a guitar. Others love the original, mostly due to the fact that it is the first version. Rufus Wainwright’s ethereal voice compliments how beautifully his hands fly over the piano. Whether over produced or poorly recorded, these are the versions we know best. The song has become trite to some due to overexposure.However, other singers tend to perform it randomly during live sets. Those lucky enough to hear Damien Rice and Lisa Hannigan’s harmonies or Regina Spektor’s raw cries surely understand that this song is not just music. It’s a cry for a lover to hear the music of the heart. It’s reaching out for the trust of the listener. It references Samson’s story in order to show how a man can break. It is a scream of loneliness in the darkness of losing the one that you hold dear.

Focusing solely on a lyrically and musically profound song can alter you. Listening to Hallelujah with my head hugged by my earphones is about as close to a religious experience that I could ever imagine.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

so we're speeding towards that time of year

To the day that marks that you're not here.

I never imagined we'd lose one of us. Our group was strong. We were smart. We played hard and loved harder. Through the gossip, the betrayals, and the bitter fights there was a string pulling us close, sewing our hearts together, insuring our fates would be entwined. Walking into each others houses without knocking, long bike rides, a lot of laughter and quite a few tears.

How could a piece of our handpicked family ever go missing?
How could we survive without the one person who stayed mostly neutral?
How could we possibly make videos of our adventures without the girl who was attached to her camera?
Would we ever again fill up couches with way too many girls, eat far too much junk food, and watch The Goonies?

Listening to LFO or Kanye didn't seem right. Stepping near a tennis court would only invoke pain. Kicking around a soccer ball, hopping on a bike, even looking at a skateboard is like a dagger to the heart.

Once we had to do a project together where we had to find and pin down insects. Neither of us could agree on when to do the project, which caused a small fight. Of course the conflict was resolved quickly, she never stayed angry long. She never stayed anywhere long- as amazing as she was she'd never be pinned down, there was no box that could hold her exuberance.

I miss her every day, and I know nothing will change that. I miss her sense of adventure and her inventive ideas. It's painful every time that I reach for my phone to call her to tell her a story I know she'd love. But I know that missing her means that she is forever a part of me. I'll always love her. We'll all always love her. And that string that keeps us all together, it keeps her with us always.

and the words still ring,
once here now gone
and they echo through my head everyday
and I don't think they'll ever go away
just like thinking of your childhood home
but we cant go back we're on our own
oh, but i'm about to give this one more shot
and find it in myself

i'll find it in myself

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Yeah you, send a little smile my way

Yeah you, send a little love my way

50 Things that Make Me Happy

So, during class today we had to sit in silence for 15 minutes. This is the third time he's made us do this, so I decided to be positive and make a list. In no particular order, these are the fist 50 things that popped into my head:

  1. The Phillies
  2. Tegan and Sara
  3. Regina Spektor
  4. Fireworks
  5. Rilo Kiley
  6. Motorcycle rides through New Hope
  7. Lunch with Dad
  8. Winning
  9. The US Open
  10. Partying on porches
  11. Crushes
  12. Hoodies
  13. Black tank tops
  14. Teaching
  15. Writing well
  16. Harold & Maude
  17. Atlas Shrugged
  18. Hello Dolly!
  19. Making people laugh
  20. Alliterations
  21. Jennifer Beals
  22. My family around the table
  23. Legends of the Hidden Temple
  24. Collages
  25. Tailgating
  26. Heart to Hearts
  27. Haircuts
  28. Wawa
  29. Slurpees
  30. The Eagles
  31. Roomates
  32. Mattan
  33. Concerts
  34. Piercings
  35. Flip flops
  36. Tyler Park
  37. 30 Rock
  38. Pictures
  39. Home videos
  40. ANTM night
  41. Milkshakes
  42. King of Prussia
  43. Sunglasses
  44. My Dogs
  45. Our patio
  46. Scrabble
  47. Choirs
  48. Bottled water
  49. Theatres
  50. Making Mixes

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Top 18 Albums of 2007

18. The Bird and the Bee- The Bird and the Bee
With sick beats, Inara's soaring vocals, and the cover of a Peaches song I have listened to this album "Again and Again" and have yet to tire of it.

17. Taken By Trees- Open Field

16. Feist- The Reminder
Ohhh Leslie, not only are you a cute lil indiechick that rocks in Broken Social Scene, your debut to the masses in a great iPod commercial allowed the world to see your talent. Although the song is def not one of your best, it is bundles of fun and that's what a good pop song should be. Much like they remixed Let it Die into Open Season, I hope that The Reminder gets remixed into something new.

15. Robert Plant & Alison Krauss- Raising Sand
King of dark rock plus the Queen of bluegrass. And it works.

14. Kanye West- Graduation
Kanye took a little Daft Punk, threw in some Chris Martin and made a decent CD. A decent CD for Kanye is a great CD for anyone else, and if I could get his hooks out of my head I'm sure I'd find something to critisize. He's just plain good.

13. Radiohead- In Rainbows
Put on a good pair of headphones and melt into this album. All the critics def did and loved it.

12. Missy Higgins- On a Clear Night
Besides her cute accent, she's got talent. Strong lyrics, nice guitar, just good stuff. Good stuff Missy.

11. Amy Winehouse- Back to Black
I love this album. For the samples, for her slightly slurred words, for her strong voice, for the feeling behind the lyrics. I'm not a huge fan of her constant referances to her loser husband in what could be stellar lyrics. Whatevs tho, I'm Team Winehouse in all situations.

10. Uh Huh Her- I See Red
Honestly I wanted to love this EP (I guess it technically shouldn't be on this list since it's not an entire album, should it?). However, I didn't. I loved Leisha, I loved the song Explode, and I hated the rest. Until it grew on me like some electro-synth-chickrock-bacteria and I couldn't stop listening. I See Red is an amazing EP and I hope their new stuff will rock just as hard.

9. Metric- Grow Up and Blow Away

8. Lucinda Williams- West
It feels wrong to call her country. Lucinda Williams is an innovative writer with a smoky voice, and her music is better than the stuff out on country radio. She's what country was supposed to be, and was for a while until it turned into NASCAR love and bullshit songs focused on peeling off ticks and drinking. Fortunately, no one told Lucinda Williams about this change and she continues to rock.

7. Rilo Kiley- Under the Blacklight
Dear Rilo Kiley fans- shut up. This is a good album overall. It's fun. Yeah, it might be the Jenny Lewis show, but she's talented enough to pull off playing the guitar, bass, keyboard, cowbell, and being the lead singer. While wearing hot pants. Of course the band is going to revolve around her. No, this is not the Rilo of the past with meandering folky songs, but if bands stay stagnant they suffocate. Besides "Silver Lining" makes any of the album's mistakes totes worth it. The song rocks. Quite frankly, so does the album, no matter what the "fans" say.

6. Talib Kweli- Eardrum
Great collaborations, hot beats, intelligent rapping. Talib Kweli might be overtaking Mos Def as my favorite rapper. I mean, putting Norah Jones on a track? Sick stuff. "Used to use the club to hit and drag her by the hair/Still use the club to get her a martini or a beer/Try to get her home and put the smell of sex in the air".

5. Norah Jones- Not too Late
Speaking of Norah Jones- she wrote every song on this album. It was the first album I bought last year, and throughout the year I felt myself coming back to it over and over. I love her voice. Love.

4. Band of Horses- Cease to Begin
Nice, distinctive sound. "Is there a Ghost" is constantly in my head.

3. Kate Nash- Made of Bricks
"Nicest Thing" is the perfect unrequited love song. Perfect. "Foundations" is hilarious, along with "Skeleton" and "Mouthwash". I feel like this is just the beginning for Kate. Regina Spektor stylings with a British accent, what could be better?

2. Stars- In Our Bedroom After the War
Dramatic yet beautiful. If 'Personal" doesn't get to you, I don't know what will.

1. Tegan and Sara- The Con
I love Tegan and Sara. I love to watch them play music, I love to listen to them play, I think they are brilliant. Tegan's songs off the record are my favorite. I could listen to 'Nineteen' every day for the rest of my life and not get sick of it. The title track is another amazing Tegan hit. Sara really got it right with 'Like O, Like H'. Sugar, I'll spell this out, 'The Con' is the top album of the year in every way, shape, and form.