Top 10 Albums of 2014 (in no particular order)

2014 might have been kind of blah for pop music (I MISS U RIHANNA PLEASE RELEASE NEW MUSIC) except for the kween of pop Taylor Swift who released a synthpop lite record that turned out to be quite great (except SHAKE IT OFF, I legit do not fuck with that song).

2014 was killer for r&b and dance music, including surprising releases from D’Angelo and Aphex Twin, who maybe only tru 90s kids remember (ie: us old people). Mainstream rock music was boring as ever, and the indie releases that were hyped up didn’t really do much for me other that put me to sleep, so uh, I will be over here bopping to “Get On Your Knees” by Nicki Minaj and Ariana Grande while male music critics continue to pretend that indie rock is going to save the world or whatever.

THE LIST:

  1. Caribou- Our Love
  2. The Juan Maclean- In a Dream
  3. FKA Twigs- LP1
  4. Aphex Twin- Syro
  5. Freddie Gibbs and Madlib- Pinata
  6. Run The Jewels- Run The Jewels 2
  7. Katy B- Little Red
  8. D’Angelo- The Black Messiah
  9. Taylor Swift- 1989
  10. Tinashe- Aquarius

Honorable Mentions: Nicki Minaj- The Pinkprint, Charli XCX- Sucker, One Direction- Four, YG- My Krazy Life, White Lung- Deep Fantasy

One Direction Helping UK Bands Sell Records in America

I was reading this article today about One Direction’s impact on sales for other artists, and how they essentially broke “Talk Dirty” by Jason Derulo in the US and made Little Mix a top 10 selling album and previously, people like Ed Sheeran and Olly Murs have credited them for making their music more popular in America.

I thought it was really interesting to hear how just a single tweet by one of the band members could have such an impact on sales, or in this case, just featuring that Jason Derulo song in their livestream. I always think it’s nice when popular bands try to give props to lesser known bands in order to make them more popular.

In the 1990s a similar thing happened with Oasis and specifically Noel Gallagher, where he had such an impact that any band he mentioned liking became a huge seller (this subset of Britpop that Noel liked was dubbed “Noelrock” and consisted of bands like Cast and Ocean Colour Scene).

In the 1960s, teen magazines wrote a bunch of articles linking Buffalo Springfield to The Monkees after Peter mentioned how much he enjoyed their music, which gave them more of a national profile. A similar thing happened with Tim Buckley and Frank Zappa appearing on their television show.

Nostalgia and Pastiche in Music: Being Derivative Isn’t Always Bad

manufactured

“Now everyone has to be derived from somebody or something. Nothing new is born without parents. Poets stand on the shoulders of earlier poets and musicians, from the long-hair classicists to the long-hair popists, are also links in a chain of influence”

This is one of the best responses I’ve read about the concept of “manufactured” music being inferior to “real music” (what is real music and who decides, I wonder).

A lot of bands are criticized for being manufactured now, but the Monkees got much of the same critique when they came out. I’ve never understood who it was that decided that in order for music to be good and valued it had to completely break from the norms of what went before, so it’s nice to see a music critic in that era say the same thing.

I believe that nostalgia is just as powerful as something totally new. The Monkees obviously borrowed a lot from the Beatles and other successful British Invasion bands, but they also had an undefinable something that made them seem new and fresh, and stand out. That X-Factor, if you will.

A lot of great bands used nostalgia and derivative imagery and sounds in the development of their music and did it with 100% full intent and purpose.

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My Favorite Albums of 2013

disclosure settleListed somewhat in numerical order with absolutely no editorial comments.

1. Disclosure- Settle

2. Kanye West- Yeezus

3. M.I.A- Matangi

4. Drake- Nothing Was The Same

5. Savages- Silence Yourself

6. CHVRCHES- The Bones of What You Believe

7. James Blake- Overgrown

8. Arctic Monkeys- AM

9. Janelle Monae- The Electric Lady

10. William Onyeabor- Who Is William Onyeabor?

11. Jessy Lanza- Pull My Hair Back

12. Daft Punk- Random Access Memories

13. Sky Ferreria- Night Time, My Time

14. Charli XCX- True Romance

15. Ciara- Body Party

16. AlunaGeorge- Body Music

Honorable mentions: David Bowie, OMD, Pet Shop Boys, Blood Orange

Most improved: One Direction

Most Overrated: Duh, Arcade Fire and Haim

I Should Probably Listen to But Haven’t Yet: Vampire Weekend, Kacey Musgraves, Pusha T, Justin Timberlake.

*yes my list is skewed towards r&b and electronic music sorry not sorry

Neko Case dressed up as Adam Ant for Halloween

neko case as adam antPretty rad costume, in my humble opinion. I love when famous people stan for other famous people and the fact that Neko Case is a huge Adam Ant fangirl makes me want to discover more of her music.

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goth style

A goth inspired outfit currently sold by Forever 21

Goth is Dead, Long Live Goth

Everyone is going goth– again. Yesterday the New York Times did a trend piece on goth that’s worth a read.

Choice quote from the article, “Google searches for “creeper” style shoes have grown by more than 530 percent between September 2010 and September 2013. “The goth trend is no longer reserved for an underground subculture,” said Heidi Ware, head of fashion editorial and creative for eBay. A choker necklace is sold on the site every 55 seconds.”

This is on the heels of the recent Kanye West album, which bares an influence of goth and Nine Inch Nails industrial sounds and Rihanna tagging photos on Instagram as “ghettogoth” and posting photos of chokers for fashion inspiration. Goth is back, but did it really ever leave?

Classic Rockers and Hip Hoppers: A love/hate relationship?

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Debbie Harry, Fab 5 Freddy, Grandmaster Flash, Chris Stein, and an unidentified woman. 1981 NYC

Debbie Harry, Fab 5 Freddy, Grandmaster Flash, Chris Stein, and an unidentified woman. 1981 NYC

I saw two things online today that reminded me of the old tired question: Can you appreciate both classic rock and hip hop?

Of course, we all know by now that you can be a fan of both genres of music. But a stereotype still persists amongst young people especially that you are either in one camp or another. Or that classic rockers and hip hop players feel the same way.

The big news today is that Lou Reed, the moody L’enfant terrible of the Velvet Underground wrote a fawning review of Kanye West’s new album Yeezus, describing it as “Majestic and inspiring” and “nothing short of spectacular.” A lot of people were surprised because well, Lou Reed typically doesn’t like anything. And a lot of performers from the classic rock era are unfairly critical of anything in hip hop. At least once a week I see someone reblog that quote from the late George Harrison saying “all rap is crap.”

On the flip side, yesterday Snoop Lion (formerly Snoop Dogg, Snoop Doggy Dogg, Tha Doggfather, Calvin Broadaus) was asked his favorite heavy metal/rock bands in a reddit AMA and answered, “beatles rolling stones ramones tha list goes on.”

The fact that Snoop Lion openly admits to liking rock n roll based music is no real surprise, as anyone that knows about the formation and history of hip hop and rapping knows that MCs have long-since shown their appreciation of rock music by sampling bands like Led Zeppelin, Mountain, and the Turtles.

The misconception that rappers don’t show appreciation for rock music is getting really tired. If anything, it’s been the old timers who clearly didn’t understand rap or hip hop culture when it first arrived, and never bothered to dig deeper to learn what it’s all about.

I should add that some people in the rock genre were accepting and appreciative of hip hop in the early days, most notably the new wave and punk musicians in NYC in the late 70s (the first rap song to top the charts was Blondie’s Rapture in 1981), like the Talking Heads and Blondie. In the UK, Malcolm McLaren (always one to cash in on the new hot thing) made some classic electro-hip hop songs in the early 80s. Adam and the Ants’ “Ant Rap” hit in the top 5 on the UK charts in the fall of 1981.

But while a few of these musicians embraced hip hop, most did not. Hip hop culture was founded on the inclusion of all types of music; funk, soul, jazz, Afro, Latin, disco, rock n roll, etc. Hip hop’s ability to be inspired by the best of all musical cultures and constantly change to include these elements in their art is perhaps why hip hop has been the dominant music on the pop charts since the early 1990s, whereas rock has remained fairly stagnant for years.

The basic gist? Hip hop has always had love for rock n roll.

DJ Kool Herc, the pioneer for hip hop in the US in the mid 1970s played songs by James Brown and funk artists, but also dropped lost rock gems like “The Mexican” by Babe Ruth; songs that never even charted in America. The band Mountain has been sampled nearly 200 times in hip hop. You can hear the drum break of “When the Levee Breaks” by Led Zeppelin on songs by the Beastie Boys, Ice-T, Eminem, and nearly 80 other tracks. Hip hop producers and rappers were also fond of “The Big Beat” by Billy Squier, Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust’, “Voodoo Chile” by Jimi Hendrix, Steely Dan, Hall & Oates, Van Halen, and Aerosmith.

Recently hip hop has shown genius ways of incorporating rock. MIA’s anthem “Paper Planes” brought freshness to “Straight to Hell” by the Clash for a new generation (The Clash were another rock oriented band that was early to hype hip hop). Kanye West always samples obscure rock tracks, including King Crimson’s “21st Century Schzoid Man”
on his song “Power.”

Adam Ant tells a story about visiting NYC in 1981 and seeing breakdancers doing routines to songs by synth pioneer Gary Numan. Afrika Bambaataa, the famous DJ and creator of many of hip hop’s enduring traditions, was a huge fan of Numan, as well as Yellow Magic Orchestra and would spin these white new wave artists at his DJ and breakdancing battles. He didn’t care that they were “rock” based acts. Those records sounded flawless. The kids didn’t care either, whether music was black or white, r&b based or rock based, or made by an awkward German band of robots named Kraftwerk.

Kraftwerk, incidentally, became a huge influence on hip hop culture because of Afrika Bambaata, who sampled them on his first big hit “Planet Rock.”

The most famous instance of rock inspiring rap was when Run D.M.C, were freestyling verses over the song “Walk This Way” by Aerosmith, not knowing who Aerosmith was, but knowing it was a dope song. They ended up remaking the song with Aerosmith, which had an enormous impact on how rap was viewed in the pop realm and also brought Aerosmith back into favor ability after many years out of the spotlight.

Hip hop has always embraced and been inspired by rock music. And yes, a fair amount of rock acts have shown appreciation for hip hop. It’s OK to only like classic rock. It’s OK to only like hip hop. But to act like these two genres can’t coexist peacefully in your life or my life is an extremely outdated and wrong assumption, and I’m really tired of hearing it.

The Monkees – Porpoise Song (Theme From HEAD) 1968

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On last night’s episode of Mad Men, this lush and psychedelic Monkees gem was played, perhaps symbolizing what is to come on the series.

“Porpoise Song” is played at both the beginning and end of the Monkees 1968 cult classic film HEAD, symbolizing the Monkees suicide from the trappings of teen idol-dom. I can’t wait to find out what it symbolizes for Don Draper and co.

The song was written and produced by Goffin & King, here is the demo version.

Bad Song Requests

I’ve been a DJ for over six years now, and I feel like it is finally time to make a public service announcement for the benefit of DJs and dance club enthusiasts everywhere. I have compiled a list of the most common, most annoying, and most bizarre song requests that I get when I DJ. In preparation for this list, I have also informally consulted with my fellow DJs in the Lawrence and Chicago area and we surprisingly were in agreement on most of these terrible requests.

Most Requested Songs
Every time we DJ, we get requests for one or all of the following: Michael Jackson, Madonna, and Prince. Most often we get those requests right after playing one of the songs by the aforementioned artists, and I’m sorry dancers, but I am not playing two Madonna songs in a row. Inevitably it’s a frat boy that requests Michael Jackson, and it tends to be “Thriller”, which is a good song, but I will only play it on Halloween. No exceptions. When it comes to Madonna, I am not playing Like a Virgin, so don’t bother asking. She has way better dance songs.

Annoying Requests
Almost every time we DJ, we get requests to play Abba’s “Dancing Queen.” We usually have a pretty solid gay following on our dance nights, but the usual suspect of the Abba request tends to be a girl who is celebrating a birthday or there for a bachelorette party. I’m not going to be too harsh on Abba, they have some decent songs. I do not believe “Dancing Queen” is one of them. That song also is not very danceable, especially on a weekend night when we’re in the middle of a banging hip hop set. And you know what, I’m never playing an Abba song when I DJ. It’s never going to happen. Can people please stop requesting this stuff?

It seems like lately people have been requesting Girl Talk a lot. PLEASE DO NOT ASK A DJ TO PLAY GIRL TALK.
A) Most DJs hate Girl Talk.
I find Girl Talk to be an offensive use of sampling and I do not understand why someone would want to hear snippets of a shitty 1980s Steve Winwood song mixed up with a shitty Billy Idol song, or whatever the hell Girl Talk does.
B) Girl Talk is a bunch of crappy song snippets mixed together. Who wants to listen to that when they could just hear the whole song? Why do I want to hear 8 seconds of a badass Lil Wayne/Birdman song mixed with a shitty song when I could just play the whole Lil Wayne song by itself?

It’s All About Timing
DJing is usually a progression throughout the night. Good DJs tend to have a general plan of action for the night, usually beginning with music that’s chill, slower, and essentially good for people to talk over while they get drunk. DJs usually save their absolute bangers for the end of the night. If the bar closes at 2am, you can expect the DJ to play their absolute jams from 12:45 to last call. Therefore, I will not be playing your Ludacris request at 10pm. I will not be playing “Back That Ass Up” for your drunk ass at 9:45pm right when I get to the bar and set up. Those are songs we save until the absolute crowd peak at 1:15 am. Why would I waste a good song on three drunk people early in the night?

On the flip side, if it is 1:30am and we only have three songs to play before the night is over, I am not playing Al Green. Most likely, I played Al Green much earlier in the night when it went with the rest of my set.

There is a method to our madness when we DJ. Most DJs, unless they are specialized and only play Northern Soul or African funk or House music or what not, end the night with songs that they known are proven crowd pleasers. A lot of these songs tend of be of the dirty hip hop variety. Please do not request Culture Club at 1:40am, because Culture Club is a terrible request and it does not fit in with the Spank Rock/Trina/Salt-N-Pepa booty shakin vibe that is obviously happening right now.

And Finally…
-I will not play Britney Spears. Showing your breasts to the DJ in order for them to play your Britney Spears song will not help your case.
-I am not playing the Moulin Rouge soundtrack. I had someone request this last time we DJed. WTF?
-We have retired M.I.A’s “Paper Planes.” We will possibly bring it back around 2015 for nostalgia purposes.
-If you are obviously attending a weekend DANCE PARTY, please keep in mind that we are playing songs to DANCE TO. Therefore, requesting Yello’s “Oh Yeah” (aka the song from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off) is just bizarre.
-Not all 80s songs are created equal. We love requests for hot 80s songs, like “Pull Up To The Bumper” or “Nasty” or “Genius of Love”. We do not like requests for bad 80s music, like Belinda Carlisle (are her songs even danceable or memorable in any way?), Milli Vanilli, or 2 Legit 2 Quit.