Sunday, December 16, 2012

Top 25 Songs of 2012

Every now and then I find myself envious of blogs that only cover a particular genre. Now would be one of those times. While it may be easy to list the top hip-hop tracks or dance songs, I listen to everything. Originally at 82 songs, revised to 47 and eventually to 25; I hope this post can be seen as evidence of how strong music is right now. It doesn't matter if you are on a major label or sharing your bedroom recordings on Soundcloud, good music will find its way.

#25. The Shins - No Way Down
After another roster shuffle, James Mercer returned to his favorite project and resurrected The Shins with the release of Port of Morrow. In recent interviews he said that most of the changes that occurred were for the betterment of the songs and product. On No Way Down, you definitely can hear it. 

#24. The Hives - If I Had A Cent
God bless The Hives, seriously. What they manage to do in one minute and twenty-seven seconds, Green Day can't accomplish in three full albums. Up next for them, an opening slot on Pink's US tour.

#23. Tanlines - All Of Me
While this Brooklyn duo has been criticized for not having their own sound, All Of Me was simply too good to ignore. So what if it sounds like something from Yeasayer or MGMT. Things could be worse, much worse. 

#22. The Tallest Man on Earth - 1904 [Free Download]
Without a doubt, the most viewed post of the year was The Tallest Man on Earth. His release There's No Leaving Now, was incredible and the cornerstone was 1904

#21. Kendrick Lamar - Swimming Pools (Drank)
On almost every track of Kendrick's good kid, mA.A.d city you'll find the confessions of this country's inner city. Collectively, it makes for an amazing journey. Swimming Pools (Drank) has just enough shine to be a jewel among the rubble.

#20. Fiona Apple - Periphery
And the award for best use of velcro goes to... Fiona Apple! Behind the assembly line piano, you'll find that familiar tear. Is it a wallet? A brace? Shoes? Who cares. Unconventional is what we've come to expect from her and it comes through effortlessly.

#19. RAC - Hollywood (ft. Penguin Prison) [Free Download]
RAC has gained quite a following with his amazing remixes. However, this year he found time to hook up with Penguin Prison for his first original song. No word on whether this single will turn into an album. I sure hope so.

#18. Best Coast - The Only Place [Free Download]
Beth Cosentino's love affair with California continues. The Only Place has all the gleam of a gorgeous day and might be a direct response to Death Cab For Cuties' LA bashing Why You'd Want To Live Here.

#17. Band of Horses - How To Live
As a whole Mirage Rock was a disappointment for me, but How To Live nails it in every aspect. The harmonies, the Allman Brothers riff, the soulful solo; I can't find a single thing wrong with it.

#16. Lana Del Rey ft. Wiz Khalifa - Money is the Anthem [Free Download]
DJ Black Irish mashed up these 2 artists and almost broke the internet. The entire album Born Too Fly finds M.I.A., Lil Wayne and Wale adding verses to the most loved/hated artist of the year.

#15. Miike Snow - The Wave
Hands down the best snare drum of the year. A highlight among many from this year's Happy To You. Although I am still upset about their canceled show at the Congress in September...

#14. Animal Collective - Applesauce
This song sounds like tumbling down a hill on acid. Say no to drugs, kids.

#13. Asher Roth - Turnip The Beet
Asher Roth was just giving away jams this summer. Case in point this ridiculous track that had me rewinding for days to try and keep up with his flow. Also see the Smokey Robinson sampling Good Morning View, built for your next summer cookout.

#12. Kill Paris - I Do Love You [Free Download]
I briefly thought of having this song as part of my remix post, but it's more than that. LA's Corey Baker use of samples is closer to Kanye, than most of the dance scene. Here he takes a classic oldie by GQ and makes it all his own.

#11. Andrew Bird - Near Death Experience, Experience
Only Andrew Bird can make plane crashes and cancer seem so whimsical. Honestly, any song from Break It Yourself could have found its way onto this list. 

#10. John Mayer - Love Is A Verb
I must have listened to Born and Raised, more than any other album this year. Mostly because I wanted to like it so much. Sadly, that never happened. Thankfully, Love Is A Verb should replace Daughters the next time he comes to town.

#9. Childish Gambino - One Up (ft. Steve G. Lover)
Best verse of the year. "Bino lay it down and work it out like a sit-up." Get the full mix tape Royalty, at

#8. Absofacto - Lies
How Absofacto has not been signed to a record deal is beyond me. Although he might not need them. Using Kickstarter, he managed to press his debut album Sinking Islands and is hard at work on new material.

#7. Azealia Banks - Jumanji [Free Download]
Ever since she was the first announced artist for Coachella, it's been her year. While we wait for her debut album, she gave fans a taste with her mix tape, Fantasea.

#6. Blende - Fake Love
When I first heard this song I immediately thought it was a long-lost Justice track, especially with those strings. Those looking for even more energy can pick up Villa's remix for free on Blende's Facebook page.

#5. Desaparecidos - MariKKKopa
One of my all-time favorite bands reconvened and out popped 2 new songs! Conor Oberst's punk outfit sounds as angry as ever, and looking back on their only album, a little prophetic. MariKKKopa is an open indictment of Sheriff Joe, complete with an utterly brazen sound byte.

#4. Purity Ring - Fineshrines
Something happens when I hear Megan James sing. I hope it happens to you too. Spoiler Alert: their debut Shrines will find its way to my best albums post.

#3. Jack White - Sixteen Saltines
Why do I get the feeling that Jack White has a few hundred songs just like this locked away? The man with limitless talent did it again with Blunderbuss

#2. Kanye West - Clique (ft. Big Sean & Jay-Z)
Producer Hit-Boy followed up his hit N*ggas In Paris with another monster. Clique was so good, it even made Big Sean sound like a superstar as he traded verses with two of the biggest, Kanye and Jay-Z.

#1. Frank Ocean - Pyramids [Free Download]
Who saw John Mayer making it onto this list twice? While Mr. Mayer's contribution to Pyramids might be minimal at best, it's just another example of Frank Ocean's talent. Clocking in at a shade under 10 minutes, it never loses focus and still finds time to stretch out, especially the second half.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Top 5 Remixes of 2012

Let the year-end madness begin! While I'm happy to say that 2012 was a big year for the blog, no one is having a bigger/better year than the Electronic genre. The lazy title of Electronic Dance Music (EDM) seemed to be everywhere, including for the first time, on a Grammy ballot. There's some serious talent on this list. Here we go...

#5. Bingo Players - Rattle (Luminox Remix)
If this is your first introduction to Trap Style, you are missing out. A hybrid that keeps the bass heavy, the beat punishing and the tone dirty; it was unavoidable. Key players like Flosstradamus and Baauer are killing it right now, but Luminox's remix for Rattle is the best I heard all year. Originally from Chicago, now in Phoenix, this guy is putting out quality stuff.

#4. Passion Pit - Constant Conversation (St. Lucia Remix) [FREE DOWNLOAD]
Passion Pit released their second album this year and immediately I was hooked on Constant Conversations. The R&B vibe gets kicked up a few notches, courtesy of New York's St. Lucia. Part hazy dream, part slow jam, if this is number 4, what's next?

#3. Justice - On'n'On (Brodinski Remix)
Improving on a Justice track is no easy task, unless you're Brodinski. His work with the vocals alone merit a spot on this list. Chopped, Screwed, Looped; he did it all and dance floors ate it up. Sadly, this track is still a Beatport exclusive, so don't go searching iTunes.

#2. Classixx - Stranger Love (RAC Remix)
What would a year-end list be without RAC? They are at it again with this mesmerizing remix that ends way too soon. This remix of Stranger Love can be found on Chapter One, a compilation of RAC's best work featuring: Phoenix, Chromeo, Temper Trap and more.

#1. Hot Chip - How Do You Do (Todd Terje Remix)
When A-Trak calls you a "fucking genius", you've done your job. Somehow Todd Terje found just the right amount of simplicity and flare with those cascading notes to make a classic. It doesn't get any better than this.

Up Next: The Top 25 Songs of 2012.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Ray LaMontagne - Chicago Theatre, November 30, 2012

Ray LaMontagne returned to Chicago Friday night for the first of two sold out shows at the Chicago Theatre. Although this recent tour is being sold as a "solo" tour, "acoustic" would be a better word, as Ray was accompanied by Zachariah Hickman on upright bass for the entire show. Either way, the 20-song set was a real treat for fans, as his entire catalog was represented and a few surprises too.

The stage set the tone for the night. An incredibly simple design of a small office or barn, with a wooden end table and antique phonograph for a little warmth. Behind them two exposed spot lights would change from time to time, reminiscent of a high school play.

Those who have listened to Ray since his exceptional debut in 2004, should already know that he doesn't need much else other than his gravelly voice and a guitar. Opening with New York City's Killing Me, the song transformed into a slow, bleak confessional. Where the original had the help of slide guitar and shuffling drums from his usual backing band, The Pariah Dogs, this one was isolated and aching.

Sarah was another highlight, focusing on reflective lyrics, lines like "There ain't a thing I can say that will ever repair/And you, who had so much advice and yet couldn't share" found a true spotlight.

As Ray has grown in popularity, so has his ability to share stories with his audience. While mentioning his visit with Mayor Emanuel, he also shared his concern about the recent election; "It's very troubling to think that someone would think people expect a hand out, when all they really need is some help up."

Some songs received a slight makeover, most notably Jolene. The guitar was forceful and direct, so much that I mistook it for an earlier, unreleased song. Even the verses seemed shorter, almost spoken. That could have been in part to Ray recent poor health. The 2 shows prior to Friday night in Atlanta and Nashville were postponed due to strep throat.

Never was it more evident than during Trouble, where the soaring refrain, particularly the word "saved" never found its height. After that the duo became a trio, as Irish Singer/Songwriter, Lisa Hannigan joined the group for the next 8 songs. Her stunning duet with Ray on A Falling Through, was made for the acoustics of the Chicago Theatre.

One Lonesome Saddle was a real surprise. Ray introduced it as an outtake from the Trouble LP, but it truly is much more than that. The song is actually the title track to a demo album he made before being signed to a label. It may not be the first song he ever wrote, but it was a clear example of his talent from day one.

You Are The Best Thing transformed into a emphatic statement, another song that found new life with less flash than the original, but devotion to spare. Following that with Like Rock & Roll and Radio, almost became too much to bear as his song of days past and the confusion of a lost relationship rang true for a speechless audience.

The tour continues on to Ohio and back to Tennessee for the rescheduled dates. Please check him out if you have the chance. The poster above was designed by Methane Studios. Arrive early for a chance to buy a few signed by Ray, or head over to Methane's site for a print, limited to 530, signed and number by the original artist.

1. New York City's Killing Me
2. For The Summer
3. Empty
4. Beg, Steal, Borrow
5. Sarah
6. Jolene
7. Old Before Your Time
8. Trouble
9. A Falling Through *
10. I Still Care For You *
11. Gone Away From Me *
12. Be Here Now *
13. One Lonesome Saddle *
14. Winter Birds *
15. Meg White *
16. Gossip In The Grain *
17. Repo Man
18. O Sleep * (Lisa Hannigan Cover)
19. You Are The Best Thing
20. Like Rock & Roll and Radio

* with Lisa Hannigan