Monday, January 28, 2013

Best Albums Of 2012: #10 - 1

Here's part two and the conclusion to The Soundtrack Of My Life's "Best Albums Of 2012" list.  The top ten includes more than one album cover featuring an alarming amount of pink.  Three of the albums are debut records for the artist.  Most importantly, they're all spectacular.  Let's get started...

10. Dum Dum Girls - End Of Daze

End Of Daze is the only EP on this list.  It contains a mere five songs and one of them is a Strawberry Switchblade cover.  Three of the tracks were originally meant to be released as b-sides during the promotion of the band's last album, Only In Dreams.  It's somewhat of a miracle that this EP became the wonder that it is.  I would have never guessed that something so scattered, and really made up of obscurities mixed with stray ideas, could be so captivating.

9. Alicia Keys - Girl On Fire

I jumped on the Alicia Keys bandwagon when she released As I Am.  "No One" was blowing up on the radio and the record was a release day purchase for me.  I backtracked from there and discovered The Diary Of Alicia Keys, which would serve as a massive influence towards my own musical creations and use of keyboards.  However, Alicia's formula became somewhat stale over the years.  The Element Of Freedom came out in 2009 and, even though that album holds some stellar singles, I found myself skipping over a decent amount of the tracks.  On that note, Girl On Fire has completely reinvigorated my adoration for Alicia Keys.  There's absolutely zero filler on this record and Alicia is taking chances with new production methods.  She also collaborated with fresh faces such as Jamie xx, Gary Clark Jr., Emeli Sand√©, and Frank Ocean.  Girl On Fire is an album that deserves to be ranked among the best of her work.

8. Diamond Rings - Free Dimensional

Special Affections, Diamond Rings' debut album, was the result of an extended stay in a hospital.  The bedroom pop aspect and flamboyant image of Diamond Rings contrasted so violently with John O'Regan's voice that it was brilliant.  A sound setting of innocent keyboards and beats that rang the call of Casio was an unlikely pairing for such insightful lyrics.  Pop music can disguise the most provoking ideas.  For his second album, Diamond Rings went glam.  The production level has been doubled over and there's more of a superstar persona to his ways.  The Klaus Nomi outfit and rap bridges complete this package.

7. Neon Trees - Picture Show

I had the opportunity to witness a Neon Trees concert last summer and it was a truly amazing experience.  Meeting some of the band only made it even better, but that's a story for another day.  Picture Show took the alternative pop sound of their debut and added a new wave twist.  They swayed away from the standard pop song structure, although "Everybody Talks" is radio tailored, and expanded to unfamiliar territory.  "Teenage Sounds" is Billy Idol and "Mad Love" is a bit of Bruce Springsteen.  Some of my favorites from the bunch are the mellow tracks like "Close To You" and "Take Me For A Ride".

6. Sleigh Bells - Reign Of Terror

I still like to bring out Treats and blast in over the speakers every once in a while.  That record will forever hold many unforgettable memories.  Reign Of Terror was definitely a change of direction for the duo.  It took the band away from the wordless sing-along melodies and towards a guitar focused mashup of pop vocals and 80's stadium rock.  Luckily, they managed to keep that Sleigh Bells attitude.  The Reign Of Terror vinyl presentation is also one of the most impressive packages I acquired in 2012.  True. Shred. Guitar,

5. Divine Fits - A Thing Called Divine Fits

Let's face it, supergroups and collaborations between established musicians can be disappointing.  Metallica and Lou Reed is the only example necessary.  In contrast to that fact, Divine Fits created the best "supergroup" album in recent memory.  Britt Daniel of Spoon, Dan Boeckner of Handsome Furs and Wolf Parade, Sam Brown of New Bomb Turks, and Alex Fischel are responsible for this masterpiece.  A Thing Called Divine Fits is the perfect blend of a new project and the sounds of those associated bands.  But honestly, is Britt Daniel even capable of creating anything less than amazing?

4. Porcelain Raft - Strange Weekend

I became obsessed with Porcelain Raft in late 2011 after stumbling upon a few scattered singles and mismatched EP's.  The acoustic "Everything From You Hands" and a live version of "Backwords" were constantly on repeat.  When Strange Weekend came out last January, you better believe I snatched a copy of the limited white vinyl and fell in love with every moment of the record.  The studio version of "Backwords" would probably sit near the top of my "favorite songs of 2012" list.  From Mauro Remiddi's songwriting methods to the live performances, Porcelain Raft fascinates me.

3. Grimes - Visions

My first encounter with Grimes was an odd one.  Prior to Visions, I hadn't heard any of Claire Boucher's work.  Back in January when Visions was getting a ton of attention and critical acclaim, I listened to a few random tracks off of it.  It didn't strike me as anything special.  It wasn't until I heard "Genesis" that I sat back down and gave the entire record a spin.  Now I'm obsessed with everything about Grimes.  My favorite track on Visions changes every other day, but "Colour Of Moonlight (Antiochus)" with Doldrums sits on top most often.  Don't even get me started on the "Genesis" music video.

2. Amanda Palmer & The Grand Theft Orchestra - Theatre Is Evil

Everyone has some sort of radical opinion about Amanda Palmer.  Writers rant about how she's taking advantage of her fans and stealing the valuable time of musicians, but at the same time, her fanbase ranks among the most loyal followers that you could ever find.  Theatre Is Evil found its beginnings as the Kickstarter album that passed the million dollar mark.  It lives up to the hype.  I absolutely couldn't believe how solid this album was.  The standard tracklisting holds fifteen songs and clocks in as quite a hefty record, but every single moment is just as brilliant as the last.

1. Lana Del Rey - Born To Die / Paradise

Lana Del Rey captured the attention of the entire internet population.  She captivated and confused everyone.  Is she a scam with fake lips or is "Video Games" a masterpiece? Maybe both? Neither?  The mystery surrounding "Lizzy Grant" only made the situation more interesting.  By the time she released her debut album, Born to Die, most of the hipsters had thrown her away, but in an interesting turn of events, she became somewhat of a pop star with a following of devotee's who would trend  "Lana you're the bestest" all over social networks.  The pop crowd took her in after the now infamous Saturday Night Live performance.

When creating this list, Lana was a clear choice for the top spot.  Out of every artist, album, and single from 2012, I kept returning to Born To Die and never stopped talking about the Lana Del Rey hype.  It's so rare for an artist to magically appear and shoot to the top like Lana managed.  I've paired Born To Die together with her second album, Paradise, due to the idea that they're companion pieces. It's also simply because I love both albums.  "Ride", the lead single from Paradise, received the ten minute epic of a video that it deserved.  That video is probably the best representation of Lana Del Rey as an artist.

There's been talk that Lana may retire from her current career and focus on working behind the scenes, making music for film.  Maybe the stage life isn't for her.  Either way, she fell into the spotlight and and created my favorite album of 2012.

Andrea Dawn - Theories Of How We Can Be Friends

The inner circle of modern singer-songwriters that channel their music through the piano include prolific names such as Regina Spektor, Fiona Apple, Tori Amos, and Rufus Wainwright.  These artists each possess so much power in their own right and they've absolutely inspired countless of other musicians to compose and perform.  One of those performers that seems to have been struck by this inspiration is Andrea Dawn.  Andrea Dawn is an upcoming artist from Chicago whose debut album, Theories Of How We Can Be Friends, came out last year.  The record is a lush production of sweeping tales and it's also a pretty impressive introduction.

Andrea's music is centered around her sometimes soft, sometimes throaty, vocals and a heavy dose of piano.  The piano serves as a backbone to each song, providing riffs and chords.  "Numb And Fine" in particular even gets a little jazzy.  Her voice is held above every element of the music and is truly in the spotlight for the majority of the album.  I feel that the instances where a bit of reverb hits the production are when her voice hits its ideal peak.

The album's most fascinating moments are the teetering cinematic tracks like "Peter And The Sheep" and "Theories".  Andrea has stated that she's a fan of Danny Elfman's work, she even covered "Sally's Song", and it's fairly evident by the whimsical yet menacing arrangements of the tracks.  "Aren't We?", the album's closing song, takes a different route.  It creates the mental image of soft crooning over a dimmed venue, with couples observing from a distance as they slowly dance.  The song gives off such a free flowing mood and showcases another facet of the record.

I don't want to box her into a certain role, but Andrea Dawn's music fits perfectly among other contemporaries like Alison Sudol of A Fine Frenzy. One thing that stands out the most on Theories Of How We Can Be Friends is the amount of great melodies present on the record, which one could argue is the most vital part of a song.

You can purchase Theories Of How We Can Be Friends in both digital and physical formats here.  If you'd like to hear more of Andrea Dawn's music, head this way.  You can also stream the album using the player below...

Friday, January 18, 2013

Best Albums Of 2012: #20 - 11

The Soundtrack Of My Life's "Best Of 2012" list is finally here!  2012 was full of so many amazing albums, so this list was a challenging task.  I know I say that every year, but I really mean it this time.  I've decided to cut the list to twenty albums instead of my usual overflow.  Due to that limiting factor, quite a few albums that I adored will not be featured here.  Survival of the fittest!  Another new element is that instead of a top five, I've actually ranked each individual album on the list.  With all of this said, let's get started!  Here's the first part of the "Best Albums Of 2012" list...

20. Marina And The Diamonds - Electra Heart

Marina And The Diamonds suffers from the same symptoms as Robyn in the United States.  They're both amazing pop artists, (Let's be honest, though. Robyn is to Beyonc√© as Marina is to Kelly Rowland.)  but they can't seem to achieve a superstar level of success in the mainstream market.  As far as alter egos and musical characters go, Marina is dedicated to Electra Heart.  With tracks such as "Teen Idle", "Radioactive", and "The State Of Dreaming", Electra Heart is solid pop polished to its finest form.

19. Paloma Faith - Fall To Grace

Paloma Faith could and should be the next Adele sensation of America.  She has the voice and the style, and as an added bonus, "Picking Up The Pieces" is a "Rolling In The Deep" sized anthem.  Fall To Grace is powered by Paloma's powerhouse vocals and some wise production choices.  "Let Me Down Easy" might be under three minutes, but with its thundering bass and smokey vocals, it stands out as a shining highlight.

18. Trust - TRST

Right around the mark of 1:07 during "Shoom", the first track on TRST, there's a moment that hits me so hard every single time I hear it.  It's ridiculously haunting, and at that very instant Robert Alfons, the man behind Trust, has claimed you to himself for the entirety of the record.  TRST is a dark electro album that sounds like something from the more mysterious side of 80's new wave music.  Just look at that album cover and tell me you're not already hooked.  This album is such a magnificent debut for Trust.

17. Scissor Sisters - Magic Hour

Let's have a kiki!  Scissor Sisters fourth album, Magic Hour, is the follow up to 2010's Night Work, aka "that album with the guy's butt on the cover".  Honestly, I wore out Magic Hour towards the first half of 2012.  It was on repeat so often that I had to take a break from it.  It was just recently while creating this list that I started playing it again.  From the classic Scissor Sisters vibes of "Baby Come Home" to the electro-rap sounds of "Fuck Yeah", I really do love Magic Hour.  But the real star of the show is "Let's Have A Kiki".  I can't even begin to tell you how many people in my Twitter stream were ranting about having a kiki.  It was the summer hit that never managed to break into the US charts, aside from the Hot Dance Club chart where it went number one.

16. Crystal Castles - (III)

(III) is actually the first Crystal Castles album that I've listened to.  I know, call me a bad blogger/hipster/listener of music.  I've traveled back since then and listened to their previous releases, so you can't say I don't try.  With that said, I absolutely fell in love with this album.  I so desperately want to experience this album in a live setting.  Everything is chaos and I never want it to stop.

15. The xx - Coexist

This album received some mixed feedback and critics claimed that it was too similar to their debut album, but I feel like Coexist is an ideal sophomore record for The xx.  The xx manage to execute minimalism brilliantly.  It's more of an atmospheric record rather than one you may pop on as a crowd pleaser.  Be advised that I don't know what kind of crowds you hang out with.  With some of the year's most sensual vocal work, Coexist is beautiful.

14. Zedd - Clarity

I'm calling it now, Zedd is the electronic producer to watch out for in 2013.  He's already worked on a song with Justin Bieber and Nicki Minaj, which may not be such a great thing, and he's currently producing Lady Gaga's upcoming ARTPOP album.  His debut solo record may feature standout vocalists such as Ellie Goulding and Matthew Koma, but it's Zedd's solo tracks that glue the record together.  Clarity adds more to the genre than the other players in Zedd's realm of electronic production.  SHAVE IT UP!

13. fun. - Some Nights

The radio can really kill a song.  "We Are Young" and "Some Nights" have to be two of the most overplayed singles in every media format that existed during 2012.  With that unfortunate fact, fun.'s second album was a monumental step for the band.  They went from a group that found their home in the Fueled By Ramen crowd to one of the biggest pop acts in the country.  The album shows it, too.  Every track could be a hit and they made a few risky moves with songs like "One Foot" and "Stars".  Lucky for them, it paid off.

12. Bat For Lashes - The Haunted Man

While I'm not making a "best singles" list, "Laura" was definitely one of my favorite songs from 2012.  Natasha Khan's piano ballad is so beautiful that is almost overshadows the rest of the album, which is perfectly outstanding as well.  I could easily write paragraphs about that one song, but this is about The Haunted Man, an album that even further solidifies Bat For Lashes' discography.

11. The Killers - Battle Born

Ever since the release of Hot Fuss, The Killers have earned a spot as of one of my all time favorite bands.  That's not to say that they haven't had their ups and downs through the years.  I had a slip in faith when Day & Age came out.  But if it's one thing that I've learned, it's that every Killers album is a grower.  At the beginning of the year, I had projected that Battle Born would top this list.  While it instead sits at number eleven, Battle Born contains some soon to be Killers classics.  Just as I now love Day & Age, I'll probably love Battle Born even more a few years down the road.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

David Bowie Announces New Album "The Next Day" Listen To The Single "Where Are We Now?"

Happy Birthday, David Bowie!

Okay, so I'm going to try to write this from a journalistic standpoint, but in reality I'm having a complete fanboy meltdown.  For his 66th birthday, David Bowie has announced the release of his 24th studio album.  The Next Day will be released on March 8 in Australia and the 11th everywhere else excluding the US, where it will be released on the 12th.  This isn't just an ordinary album announcement, though.  Everything is complete, including the artwork, redesigned website, and a lead single with accompanying music video.  While we all thought he was relaxing and leading a more regular life, Bowie was actually planning his return to music.  Genius.

This new single is called "Where Are We Now?" and I find it difficult to believe that it's been about ten years since his last album.  The track's lyrics focus on the famed Berlin era of the 1970's.  Along with the music video, this is everything one could wish for.  Directed by Tony Oursler, you can either watch the embedded video or head on over to his website for an HD version. The single and album pre-order are up for download right now on iTunes.

The Next Day will be available as a standard fourteen track album or a deluxe edition with three extra songs.  David Bowie worked with producer Tony Visconti for this record.  Just take a moment or two and look at that revamped Heroes artwork again and then check out the full tracklisting below.

1. The Next Day
2. Dirty Boys
3. The Stars (Are Out Tonight)
4. Love is Lost
5. Where Are We Now?
6. Valentine's Day
7. If You Can See Me
8. I'd Rather Be High
9. Boss of Me
10. Dancing Out in Space
11. How Does the Grass Grow?
12. (You Will) Set the World on Fire
13. You Feel So Lonely You Could Die
14. Heat

Bonus Tracks:
15. So She
16. I’ll Take You There
17. Plan

I still can't believe this is actually happening.