Saturday, April 23, 2011

Year's End Three {Hip-Hop/Pop}

This was the year Ben went hip-hop. You're gonna have to indulge me, as I lack all the vocab and cool to actually discuss this stuff without embarassing myself. But when I sat down to try to figure out what mattered to me this year, "Indie" just didn't cut it.

I did a lot of driving for my job this year, and most of the indie/country stuff I had with me just didn't sound that good on my Chevy stereo. Hip-hop did. So, with the aid of my used record store, I took myself on a crash course of rap and formed predictably strong opinions. Also, I allowed myself to like pop. Which, it turns out, makes all the difference in the world. (And luckily it was a really strong year for pop)

Honorable Mentions:

Lady Gaga. Ok, so she really didn't do anything this year except release Alejandro as a single (making Top 40 (aka Top 8) radio 12.5% more listenable) and wear a meat dress. But she makes me feel more optimistic than anything else about modern music (minus Kanye) and I am psyched about her new album. Also, Bad Romance still blows my mind, every single time.

Katy Perry, almost exclusively for Teenage Dream the song. She sings what could have been another vacuous single like her life depends on it.

Drake. Oh you fancy, huh? (Which is actually about how awesome it is when girls get their diplomas. Love it.) His album is 808's and Heartbreak, but not as good. Hope he worked the mopey out of his system. Cuz when he's on, he's undeniable and he brings mainstream hip-hop up along with him. Over is still sick as shit, tho.

Runner-Up: Robyn. Dancing On My Own. Sheezus.

10. Ke$ha. Please, don't throw eggs. Hear me out. Well, actually just read her Wikipedia page. I too figured she was some LA richgurl production. Which would make it a lot easier to deny her three great singles. But yeah, she's actually kinda legit. Love the story of sneaking on to Prince's mansion.

9. Flying Lotus. This one needed my full attention. Listened to it four times as background music and it just seemed hyperactive and directionless. On headphones it sounded like an epiphany an a salve for my over-Pop-ped ears.

8. Nicky Minaj. Best new everything. I wish I could afford to pay her to insult people for me.

7. Janaelle Monae. Like Kanye, she envisions an all-consuming hip-hop. She casts the net even wider, and her ambition pays off with some great songs, including 'Cold War,' my song of the second half of the year:

6. Big Boi. Don't block my shine, shorty.

5. Teebs. Sigur Ros for the more beat-inclined (sans Jonsi, but I'm so sick of that guy anyhow.) Will make your mornings better and your heart hurt less.

4. Rihanna. (Docked a spot cuz 'Rude Boy' gets stuck in my head. Yeah.) Her new album has three great songs, and as usual she is an assassin when called in to save someone's career with a chorus. (Mathers, party of one.) Also, ALL OF THE FUCKING LIGHTS.

3. Jeezy. Two real good mixtapes this year: Last Laugh and Trap or Die II. Stuff makes me feel ten feet tall.

2. Big K.R.I.T. I pray this guy makes it big. Got a huge heart, great ear. Could be a hip-hop hero. His free (?) album K.R.I.T. Wuz Here soundtracked all my worn-out drives home along Rock Creek, drinking in the twilight. Download it (Also, Voices is my ringtone)

BONUS BEST DISCOVERY=J Dilla who made the greatest life music

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Year's End, Part 2 {Indie :-/}

(writ prior to Xmas, so somewhat redundant.)

Its funny, the poorer I am, the more I hate pirating music. This whole year I don't think I copped anything without paying for it. Which makes me a chump, I know. But when you force yourself to pay for things, you actually have to think things through and figure out what you're actually gonna enjoy the most. Which seems obvious, but for a guy who burned 50 gigs from his radio station, its genuinely revolutionary.

[Also, everytime I think about torrenting the new National or something, the Gillian Welch song, 'Everything is Free' starts playing in my head. Dude, my Catholic Guilt Wu is strong.]

So I got 3 of these 6 off Amazon, which has really good deals on stuff the week it comes out, and the numbers count towards the Billboard Top 40, which is how Sufjan and The Arcade Fire, etc. did so well. So if you have $4.00 and want to help the band out, its a great way. (The other 3 I got off eMusic. Every time I cancel my subscription, they lure me back with some deal. Dastardly)
The Coincidentally Gravy-Specific Year in Indie, Best to Worst

The Gaslight Anthem-- This is the strongest of the bunch. It helped me get a lot of work (and running) done. I don't envy them trying to follow up The '59 Sound. I could say this about Every Single Band but I really think they'd benefit from listening to some Neil Young+Crazy Horse. The very few guitars solos in this thing were Edge-influenced. Can't wait to see them live. Almost took a bus to NYC to see them at Radio City Music Hall this summer. Probably woulda if I had anyone to go with.

Samamidon-- Great album,updating American folk and blues standards, making a new one, with 'Relief,' my song of first half of the year. an R. Kelly cover that becomes a viscerally healing thing:

Sufjan Stevens--So glad to see he's feeling better and re-enthusiastic about making music. Two great, almost-pop songs {Too Much, I Walked} and an invigorating amount of nonsense.

The Arcade Fire--One great, one very good song {Sprawl II, Ready to Start} and way too much Win nonsense.

Spoon-- Spoon would like you to know that you Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga was meant ironically.

The Hold Steady--Fuck you, Franz. No, really. Fuck you.

Albums I look forward to most in 2011, our last whole year.

Radiohead [Edit: Let's pretend this didn't happen]
My Morning Jacket
Dinosaur Jr.
Iron+Wine [kinda whiffed]
Mountain Goats [3 or 4 great songs]
Mount Eerie (?)
Califone (?)

sorry, this just turned into a list of my favorite bands.

I would love to know what you all dug this year. I definitely listened to a record-low number of new records, so any recommendations are extremely welcome. Also, tell me where I'm wrong. I know that I have an unreasonable grudge against The Suburbs. It just made me really angry to hear how it was some 'return to form' when Neon Bible was considerably better. (Also, that 'Rococo' song makes me want to punch the pasty out of Win's face.) I'm definitely a reactionary at heart.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011


So I don't know if the reunion thing is going to happen or not but it seems we are all busy at different times so here is an fyi if anyone is interested: Ian and I had been planning trip to Las Vegas for a while and we booked it for June 6-9th at Mandalay bay. Anyone who's free is welcome to meet up with us any time.

Monday, April 04, 2011


One of my favorite all-time Blazers and made the hall of fame this weekend. Best passing big man of all time.