Category Archives: Music Reviews

2013 Year in WTF Music Review

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One of my favorite times of the year is December. Some might think that’s because of Christmas… but nay, my favorite holiday is my birthday because we all have some degree of narcissism. Some might think that’s because of the snow… but no, you try walking up UW-Madison’s Bascom Hill in over a foot of snow. Some even might think that it’s because of the holiday season in general… but no, I live in Chicago, IL and I hate tourists so add that with Michigan Avenue and you’ll find I pretty much stay in my house during the holiday season. The reason December is one of my favorite times of the year is because of all the “2013 Year in Review” posts that come out. Whenever I read one of these posts, my thoughts are either 1) “oh right that happened, I tried to forget,” 2) “No way! That totally happened in 1999, not 2013,” or 3) “LOL I should have read the news more often, when did this happen.”

Obviously, this is a music review website, so I should probably focus on 2013 Year in Review: Music, but I really do urge you to take a look at the more general news story versions of 2013 Year in Review posts because I guarantee you missed the dumbest things that happened this year. Here’s my review of 2013 Music though… enjoy…

1. Big artists released new albums.

Katy Perry’s Prism (October 22): First time to my site? I’m obsessed with Katy Perry. Although not the best album of the year (we’ll get to my opinions on the best later), it is hands down an awesome album. Prism doesn’t stray too far from the sounds of Teenage Dream, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing for someone like Katy Perry. With hits like “Roar,” “Walking on Air,” “Dark Horse,” and “Unconditionally” already being constantly replayed on the radio after just one month, Katy Perry clearly doesn’t need to change her sound. Plus, she’s Katy Perry – just try not to love her.

Justin Timberlake’s The 20/20 Experience (March 19): JT came back. Technically, JT came back twice since The 20/20 Experience was released in two parts. The first part debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, selling 968,000 copies in its first week. People were excited for JT to say the least.

Kanye West’s Yeezus (June 18): Guess what? I’ve never listened to this album. But hey, it came out and it was huge. I haven’t really given Kanye West the time of day since he named his child Blue Ivy. The album deserves some recognition though because Yeezus debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, selling 327,000 copies in its first week. Plus, we’ve all seen that music video for “Bound 2” right?

OneRepublic’s Native (March 26): This album was actually meant for 2012 (circa August 27th, 2012 with “Feel Again”), but wasn’t ready in time, and was thus released in 2013. I have no problem with an artist publically announcing that their album is not ready in time – beautiful things take time, right? And oh my god, Native is beautiful. Native peaked at number four on the Billboard 200, but a solid number one in my heart (still not the best album in my mind, have patience).

Honorable mentions: 1) Beyonce, 4 (March 29); 2) Drake, Nothing Was the Same (September 24); 3) Jay Z, Magna Carta Holy Grail (July 9).

2. There were a lot of really, really bad reunions.

This year was like the reunion of the 90s. First there was Destiny’s Child at the 2013 SuperBowl Half-Time Show. It literally lasted like 20 seconds and I’m pretty sure they didn’t even turn on Kelly or Michelle’s microphones. Great attempt #1 though, Music Industry. The second reunion was NSYNC at the 2013 VMAs. It lasted a little longer, and at one point Justin Timberlake was actually in the background. In addition, the whole time, you’re like “oh their microphones aren’t on either” and then all of the sudden, JC decides to sing the most unnecessary “baby, baby, baby” just to prove he thinks he’s still memorable. The final reunion of 2013 was TLC at the American Music Awards. They sang “Waterfalls.” Like no, “Scrubs” or go home.

3. EDM made some great moves.

Daft Punk. Random Access Memories had to have been one of the most anticipated albums of 2013, or maybe I was just so anxious for it that I felt the rest of the world was too. We hadn’t heard new Daft Punk since Human After All dropped in 2005, so Random Access Memories was eight years overdue. The album is the duo’s most successful album overall, as it debuted at number one in over 20 countries worldwide and eventually reached number one on 23 different charts.

Avicii. True was Avicii’s debut studio album and it is amazing. The album first came to listeners’ ears in April 2013 when Avicii released a 60-minute mix on SoundCloud, and then it continued to reach ears when Avicii played over 40 total minutes of the album at Ultra Music Festival in his set. The three singles released from the album – “Wake Me Up,” “You Make Me,” and “Hey Brother” – have been quite successful, too. Although the album only peaked at number four on the Billboard 200, it’s no doubt that this was an exciting year for Avicii.

EDC. Electronic Daisy Carnival made a lot of moves this year. I don’t think we need to discuss that it happened, that it increased in size, that it spread to new locations, or that it was probably amazing (I obviously didn’t make it this year… or any year so far, but it is on my bucket list). What EDC really taught us this year was the true positive economic impact that festivals have despite what non-festival goers think and protest. If you still don’t believe that festivals are GREAT and POSITIVE, check out Insomniac Event’s Economic Analysis of EDC Chicago 2013.

Swedish House Mafia. Although the soundtrack for the One Last Tour came out in 2012, the tour started and ended in 2013. I had tickets, but school comes first (my mother told me that… trust me, I would have been there) so I didn’t make it. Over 1 million fans saw the end of the Swedish House Mafia era on their last tour – that doesn’t include the people, like myself, who tuned in to see their final performance together at Ultra Music Festival.  “We came, we raved, and we fucking love you.”

4. Miley Cyrus made her mark. It happened, it was necessary to include it in the review, but we don’t need to speak about it more.

5. Nielsen/Billboard released the mid-year Music Industry Report. The trends: vinyl sales up, streams up, digital track sales down. So what we really see here is an increase in hipsters listening to vinyls (just kidding, I have my own collection that I love), a lot of people listening to music on Spotify, and a lot less people purchasing music with a lot more people illegally downloading music. But really, the report is really interesting and I’m very interested to see the end-of-year report, too.

6. A lot of really great albums came out from new artists.

CHVRCHES, The Bones of What You Believe (September 24). While CHVRCHES didn’t first come to the scene in 2013, they’re pretty new and The Bones of What You Believe was their first studio album that dropped this year. The album got some great recognition too: it was number 32 on Rolling Stone’s 50 Best Albums of 2013 and received a score of 81/100 on Metacritic, indicating “universal acclaim.” In addition, it reached number one on the US Independent Albums chart.

Lorde, Pure Heroine (September 27). Lorde has to be one of the biggest new names in 2013. …Like “Royals” – I’ve heard that song every day for the past six months at least. She even just had her cover of the Tears for Fears song “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” included on the Catching Fire soundtrack. Her album, Pure Heroine, peaked at number three on the Billboard 200. Lorde is seriously talented and her voice is seriously unique. The girl is 16 – ponder that for a bit.

HAIM, Days Are Gone (September 30). HAIM (anyone Jewish, please help) has actually been around for a while, but their first album, Days Are Gone, was just released in 2013, a few months ago. The album has some great new sounds (similar to Fleetwood Mac, I hear), but my favorite is definitely “Send Me Down.”

7. My personal opinion… The Number 1 Album of 2013: The Great Gatsby Soundtrack.

Do soundtracks count as albums when it comes to figuring out the best one of the year? They do in my mind. The Gatsby soundtrack was huge. If you didn’t like the Gatsby soundtrack, it’s safe to say you actually do not have a soul. Regardless of your feelings toward the movie (if you didn’t like it, you didn’t read the book, plain and simple), you have to love the soundtrack. There were huge names associated with this album: Jay Z, Beyoncé, Will.I.Am, Fergie, and Florence + the Machine. There were new artists on this album: Lana Del Rey, The xx, Gotye, Nero, and Sia (ok those aren’t new, but less known at the time). When the track list and first trailer for the movie including some of the songs came out, the album started becoming highly anticipated. The album blew away predicted sales and chart performance. Within its first week of release, it had sold over 137,000 copies and was at number two on the Billboard 200. The Gatsby soundtrack deserved all the recognition it got and more – my Twitter feed and my Facebook news feed were filled with Gatsby Soundtrack links for weeks after the release – it was everywhere and it deserved to be. Sure, it didn’t strike a number one, but sometimes we need to look at the content of the album rather than the sales and chart positions of the album.

8. Finally, the end of year mashups that were released YESTERDAY:

My feelings on the infamous Miley Cyrus.

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No one has shown up more in the media these past few weeks than Miley Cyrus (that’s really not a statistically true statement, to my knowledge). Miley’s presence in the media has been mostly negative mixed with a little bit of positive and a lot of album promotion. In my honest opinion, I could not really care less about Miley. However, it’s impossible to completely ignore her because her presence is simply everywhere: BuzzFeed, Facebook, Twitter, iTunes, Rolling Stone, Billboard, etc. In general though, I don’t hate Miley Cyrus. Her new music sucks - let me clarify, her new music sucks, not her voice - and I will never be someone that’s going to purchase Bangerz, and therefore, I will never be someone who is going to review Bangerz (weird, but I think you have to listen to an album in order to review it). I can’t help but listen to “Wrecking Ball” and “We Can’t Stop” over and over again though. Why? Because I’m a college student living with and hanging out with 20-somethings who love the songs. You’ll never find these songs downloaded on my iPod, but you’ll also never see me on a Thursday, Friday, or Saturday night protesting them either.

I was anti-Miley. Then I read Rolling Stone’s cover story. She was honest in that article and made me realize something very important that most people, I think, are missing: she doesn’t deny anything and we should have all seen this coming.

From Rolling Stone Cover Story:
“Miley has been planting the seeds for her big transition to adulthood for the past five years. She was 15 when she weathered her first scandal, when she posed for Vanity Fair wearing a sheet that made her look topless. (“I feel so embarrassed,” she said in a statement. “And I apologize to my fans, who I care so deeply about.”) A year later came a pole-dancing stunt at the Teen Choice Awards (the “pole” was on an ice cream cart; the dancing was PG at most). The following year she was photographed in Spain drinking a beer at age 17, and a month after that, TMZ posted a video of her taking a rip from a bong. (Miley claimed it was legal salvia.) And yet, in millions of people’s eyes, she’s still Hannah Montana – which may be part of the problem.”

That is the issue: we still see Miley Cyrus as Hannah Montana. Honestly, her transition from Hannah to Miley started the day she introduced Miley Cyrus. She never really hid the fact that she wasn’t Hannah Montana from any of us. She wouldn’t have even ditched “Hannah Montana” if she wanted to stay that innocent forever. Her change of appearance and change in personality came from some deep, meaningful reason (according to her it was meaningful – I mean I don’t see spending time in Detroit as a need to look like Angelica’s doll, Cynthia). But still, she’s not denying anything. Oh, she’s just being Miley.

Maybe I’m wrong (kidding, it’s an opinion, so I’m not wrong), but reading that Rolling Stone article actually changed my perspective. We should have all seen 2013 Miley Cyrus coming in 2010 when “I Can’t Be Tamed” was released… but we didn’t, we just danced and sang along, thinking she was an innocent little kid. And you know what, she’s still better than Lady Gaga.

Here’s some of the “music” released recently.

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“Let’s Go (feat. Chris Brown)” by will.i.am

So, if you haven’t heard the controversy over this track, I’ll attempt to give my best amount of knowledgeable background. Mat Zo and Arty collaborated on a track titled “Rebound” on Anjunabeats. Then, Will.I.Am. and Chris Brown collaborate and commercialize “Let’s Go” … which is honestly the exact same song. They didn’t even remix the original… they just added lyrics. And the best part? They didn’t get permission and they didn’t give credit to the original producers.

“What do I know? I give it to legal I’m not no attourney. I did my piece. I gave credit to the person who did it, It’s not my fault he didn’t tell me about the other guy. So who’s to blame? I didn’t know, I wasn’t in the room when you made it. You shoulda told me you had a collaborator.” – Will.I.Am. in response.

You’ve got to be kidding me. Literally… I could have told you that Arty was a collaborator on the original track, “Rebound” by Mat Zo, just by typing “Rebound by Mat Zo” into Google… and guess what?! I’m not even an attorney! Silly how common sense works.

Then we have this great display of American intelligence:

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Holy mother of God. First of all, the grammar and spelling in this tweet is less developed than a 3-year-old toddler’s. Second, according to Chris Brown’s tweet and completely logical thought process, it really doesn’t matter if I ever disregard the law or engage in copyright infringement… as long as someone asked me to do it.

2.0 by 98 Degrees

I get that bands take hiatuses and then later release their “comeback” album, but this is one band that probably should have stuck to acting on reality shows, becoming members of Chippendales, and trying to run for mayor. Although, to be fair, they failed at their attempts to succeed at those careers too. They came back together so long after they broke up that they were surprised they blew up on Twitter and Facebook… welcome to the new media, grandpas. This album is terrible. Just listen to the first single, “Microphone,” which I can’t even figure out what genre to label it as – it’s a terrible mix between electronic, pop, and autotune. Side note: it’s also about oral sex. Sorry, but there’s something terribly wrong about 40 year olds singing songs about oral sex that target the pre-teen segment of the world. The best part is that when being questioned if they knew the song was about oral sex, they respond by saying they thought it was about singing in a microphone. Really… if the song was truly about microphones it would not contain the lyrics, “I’ll make you scream at the top of your lungs.” To entertain you, here’s some quotes from them in their interview with The Daily Beast:

“We made a conscious decision that we weren’t going to write on this record. We wrote 11 of the 13 on the last record.”

Thank god your so dedicated to be the best possible musicians you can be!

“New music from 98 Degrees was something that we were getting requests for so we wanted to do it for that.”

Can I please get a show of hands of people who were requesting new 98 Degrees music?

“You can’t decide to come out and release a pop record when music is in a rock phase. It won’t be as successful. You really have to wait and time it right, and everything lined up to make this the right time.”

They argued that they waited until pop music became the biggest genre to release their album… so wait – they waited until EDM was blowing up to release a pop album.

“When people asked how does it feel to be a boy band, even in 2000, we always said, “Well we’re more of a man band,” because even then we were 27, 25—we weren’t necessarily boys.”

‘Man band’?? Stop. That makes you sound even more childish than ‘boy band’.

David Guetta feat. Ne-Yo, Akon – “Play Hard”

David Guetta… I used to have so much faith in you. I’ve been trying to plan my summer festival season around seeing you and now I’ll stick to Spring Awakening and Lollapalooza. The beginning of this music video made me want to hurt someone: that whole ghetto/badass build up with all the cash and creepy looking people just to get a pair of the ugliest boots I’ve ever seen in my life made me want to puke all over my computer and then throw it across the room. Also, “Play Hard” samples (without credit might I add) Alice Deejay’s “Better Off Alone” – two important comments on this. First, is it impossible for artists to come up with their own beats these days? It’s honestly becoming pathetic. Second, THIS SONG DOES NOT SAMPLE WIZ KHALIFA’S “SAY YEAH.” ARE YOU KIDDING ME? There’s a special place in hell for all of the people on YouTube commenting such things as…

“This song is stolen from Wiz KhalifaWork hard play hard ad say yeah. i think david Guetta is an ashole.”

1. No, it’s not. 2. Grammar: it’s your friend. 3. It’s spelled “asshole” not “ashole,” you idiot.

“Sounds like Wiz Khalifa’s “Say Yeah”…”

OMG You’re right!!! And you know what Wiz Khalifa’s “Say Yeah” sounds like? ALICE DEEJAY.

#TBT: Music in 1981

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After not checking the iTunes store for 2 weeks, I checked it out today and I was like “WTF this is the worst Top 10 list I’ve ever seen.” Although right now my iTunes library is on shuffle and I’m also like “WTF this is the worst music I’ve ever heard.” So, take that as you will. This caused me to reflect on the good days of music. Naturally, I’m starting with 1981, which, since I wasn’t technically (but really in no way shape or form) alive, I’m relying on a lot of Google to point me to the big moments.

1. MTV Launched on August 1, 1981

…And 31 years later, we’re still dealing with it. But really, it was awesome in 1981. Whereas now its tagline is probably something along the lines of “I want to be Made into a Jersey Shore Teen Mom,” when it was launched, it was “I want my MTV.” Real surprise: the “M” actually stood for “Music.” LOL. Yeah. Anyway, they opened with The Buggles “Video Killed the Radio Star” and with that music videos were born. It was 24 hours each day of music videos – what could be better than that? MTV gave name to people like Michael Jackson and Madonna (well the Madonna of the 80s – the name she has now is all on her own). To think that we went from “Ladies and Gentleman, rock and rock” to “Next on 16 and Pregnant” in 30 years is just pathetic.

2. Kim Carnes – “Bette Davis Eyes”

This was the number 1 song of the year according to Billboard’s end of the year charts. And that’s also really all I have to comment on about this song.

3. This song was released.

And then we all wished we were Jessie’s Girl. Also, if you don’t know this song then you’ve been living under a rock because every good samaritan should know every lyric (or at least be able to make up some really good substitutes like me) to this song.

4. This album was released.

On July 31, 1981, Journey released the album Escape and it included one of the greatest songs (duh, in my opinion) ever: “Don’t Stop Believin’.” However, that song is clearly only of the greatest songs ever in my opinion because it peaked at number 9 on Billboard’s Hot 100. Other singles off this album included “Who’s Crying Now?” at #4 and “Open Arms” at #2. But like really, who cared about any song other than “Don’t Stop Believin”? Oh, that’s just me? K.

5. Bob Marley passed away.

On May 11, 1981, Bob Marley passed away due to cancer. But don’t worry, to this day, every teenager still goes through a phase in his life where he gets high and pretends that Bob Marley is singing the anthem to his life.

Songs I Never Want to Hear Again in 2013

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The popular music of today is absolutely terrible and while I do listen to it, I would also not miss most of it if was never played again. Also as a disclaimer, I fully admit to listening to all of these songs multiple times, alone and at the numerous college pregames, which without drunken college students, I’m pretty sure none of these songs would ever even make it to the public.

1. Toby Keith – “Red Solo Cup”

This song is literally about a red solo cup… a red plastic cup… Nothing else. No deeper meaning. No metaphor. Just a cup.

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2. Psy – “Gangnam Style”

This song is actually worse than Rebecca Black’s “Friday.” It’s not even in English, yet it’s also not even all in the same language; at least commit to one consistent language. Have you ever actually looked at the translation of the lyrics? No, probably not because that would take actual effort. The lyrics are literally, “A classy girl who knows how to enjoy the freedom of a cup of coffee.” That is almost worse than Justin Bieber telling every teenage girl that they would survive starvation as long as they love him.

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3. Taylor Swift – “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”

No one was ever trying to get back together with you, Tay, I promise. And no one likes it when you stop the general flow of the song to talk in the middle in an annoyed voice.

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4. Madonna ft Nicki Minaj – “Give Me All Your Luvin”

This was just another pathetic comeback for Madonna. It’s almost worse that Madonna was good music when music was still good. She was the queen of pop and then she comes back in 2012 with a song that only illustrates her inability to correctly spell the word love. Honestly, she paired with Nicki Minaj and M.I.A. while chanting “L.U.V. Madonna” and thought it would be a good song? Never play it again.

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5. Flo Rida – “I Cry”

If you would like to hear this song, may I suggest listening to the original and better song by Bingo Players. Hint: the title of the song is “Cry” and Flo Rida will never actually give them any credit for it.

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6. Rihanna ft. Chris Brown – “Birthday Cake”

Here’s the first thing that’s wrong with this song: Rihanna featuring Chris Brown. If you really need an explanation on why that’s bothersome, type “Chris Brown beats Rihanna” into Google because that will sum it up in the most vulgar way. Then google “Jenny Johnson and Chris Brown” because that’s the best comedic summary of him as a person. I remember the first time I heard this song and thought about how terrible it was so I tried to look it up by the lyrics, but failed when I realized that the only lyric was “cake.”

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7. Drake – “The Motto”

Because “YOLO” should have never become a thing.

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8. Skylar Grey ft. Emimen – “C’mon Let Me Ride”

I had a lot of hope for Skylar Grey after the P. Diddy single “Coming Home” and her help on “Love the Way You Lie.” Then I heard “Invisible” and I had even more hope for her. The hope even continued growing after hearing the Kaskade remix of “Invsible” and the DJ R3hab remix of “Dance Without You.” And then I heard “C’Mon Let Me Ride” and I no longer have any hopes for her in the music industry. There is no aspect of this song that should ever be considered catchy or good.

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9. Flo Rida – “Whistle”

We just really did not need another song that when translated from radio-appropriate to its real meaning is simply telling every listener how to give proper oral sex. First 50 Cent tainted my 12-year-old mind by telling me that lollipops were simply magic sticks that needed to be sucked, and now today, young minds are tainted with Flo Rida telling them to put their lips around the whistle and start real slow.

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10. Nicki Minaj

There is no one song. Let’s just get rid of Nicki Minaj.

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However, you can play Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” every day.

JJAMZ is my new jam. And yeah, this is a corny title…

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Wait, really… how did I not know this group existed? The music industry combined Maroon 5′s James Valentine, Rilo Kiley and Bright Eyes’ Jason Boesel, Phantom Planet’s Alex Greenwald, and The Like’s Z Berg…. and it slid past me? I love it. I can study to it or I can dance to it. I absolutely love it. And you should too.

From TotalAssault:

JJAMZ Premiere New Video for “Suicide Pact”

Los Angeles indie-pop supergroup JJAMZ have just premiered the new lyric video for “Suicide Pact,” the title track from their critically acclaimed debut album. The clip is a black and white found footage affair featuring the upbeat song’s melancholy lyrics in both English and French. “Suicide Pact” is the third single from the album, following “Never Enough” and “Heartbeat.”

Created by director, Eddie O’Keefe, the footage in “Suicide Pact” was pulled mostly from fifties and sixties teen delinquent b-movies. “I’m a big fan of that cinema sub-genre and so most of the footage was pulled from my own collection of exploitation nonsense,” says O’Keefe. “A few sequences were taken from anti-drug public service announcements as well; stuff you might have seen in health class in 1959.”

JJAMZ, initially started as a break from each member’s respective bands, is comprised of Maroon 5′s James Valentine, Rilo Kiley and Bright Eyes’ Jason Boesel, Phantom Planet’s Alex Greenwald, The Like’s Z Berg, and Michael Runion.

Time Out New York called Suicide Pact “the year’s best indie-rock record, full of sticky tunes, chewy guitar textures and some excellently icy vocals.” The band will appear at a handful of showcases this weekend for CMJ Music Marathon in NYC, and will then kick off a run of fall dates including Boston, Washington, Philly, Chicago (full schedule below).

The band will close out the tour in Los Angeles with a special performance at The Troubadour on November 7th with Mini Mansions supporting. Tickets for the show are available now on Ticketfly.

Suicide Pact is available now on iTunes via Dangerbird Records.

CMJ Schedule:
Oct 17 – The Brooklyn Bowl, Brooklyn, NY (The Hype Machine showcase @7PM)
Oct 18 – The Bowery Electric, New York, NY (The AudioPerv showcase @9:20PM)
Oct 18 – Santos Party House, New York, NY (Neon Gold Records Showcase @11:30PM)
Oct 19 – The Studio at Webster Hall, New York, NY (CAA showcase @10PM)
Oct 20 – Spike Hill, Brooklyn, NY (Baeblemusic showcase @9PM)
Oct 21 – Great Scott. Boston, MA
Oct 22 – Jammin Java, Washington, DC
Oct 23 – North Star Bar, Philadelphia, PA
Oct 26 – House of Blues, Chicago, IL
Oct 27 – The Blue Moose Tap House, Iowa City, IA
Oct 28 – Triple Rock, Minneapolis, MN
Nov 7 – Troubadour, Los Angeles, CA (Mini Mansions supporting)

Calvin Harris’s latest single “Sweet Nothing” with Florence Welch

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So, I won’t completely admit to downloading this song on September 20th when it first hit YouTube, but I will say that prior to the early release today, my iTunes play count was up to 78 plays. This song taunted me too much to not give it an early listen; I mean, they started advertising “Sweet Nothing” all over Facebook in July. You can’t combine two of my favorite things – Calvin Harris and Florence Welch – and expect me to remain completely legal.

For those of you who are just hearing “Sweet Nothing” today, I both applaud you, and welcome you to one of the best collaborations of the year. It’s not even just Florence’s voice that attached me to this song; without Calvin Harris, the goddess herself couldn’t even complete this tune. In fact, it isn’t even until the chorus of the song that Flo’s power flies out of her vocals. Throughout the song, Harris’s beats are the heart and center of the song. There’s literally never a dull moment in the song: Calvin keeps pushing the beats, building suspense all the way up until the chorus.

The fifth official single from his album, 18 Months, due out October 30th, “Sweet Nothing” has got to be some of Calvin Harris’s best work. Even without Flo, the beats themselves could have made for a fantastic dance song; we were just lucky we got Flo’s vocals added.

Download here!

Ellie Goulding’s new album, Halcyon, out October 9th, 2012

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Article first published as Music Review: Ellie Goulding - Halcyon on Blogcritics.

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With her hit single, “Lights,” Ellie Goulding made a name for herself, and the United States quickly fell in love with her. Her name was plastered everywhere as “Lights” became one of the most covered songs of the year, being remixed by DJs such as Kap Slap, Max Gordon, and the most popular, Bassnectar. Since “Lights,” Ellie Goulding has had many other hits to keep her popularity including “Starry Eyed” and her cover of Elton John’s “Your Song.” Now, over a year past the release date for her first album, Lights, Goulding is releasing her second album, Halcyon, on October 9, and listeners can expect that same amazing sound they are familiar with.

Halcyon is full of electronic sounds, beautiful harmonies, and amazing vocals. It’s hard to choose the must-listen songs because, in all honesty, every song is a must-listen. The first single from Halcyon, “Anything Could Happen,” features a very upbeat sound, which is especially apparent in the chorus, where the electronic rhythm takes over. In addition, the broad range of vocal levels that Goulding expresses is partnered with exceptional harmonies. “Anything Could Happen” does a great job for setting the stage for many of the songs on the album such as “Hanging On,” “Figure 8,” and “Don’t Say a Word.”

People might most be familiar with “Hanging On” from the single that Goulding partnered with Tinie Tempah on, which can be found on the deluxe edition of the album; however, the version on Halcyon is just as amazing. The song starts with an increasing electronic beat accompanied by high-pitch vocals. When the beat drops at the chorus, the music seems to overcome the vocals before leveling out and finding equilibrium. Unlike anticipated, the beat does not remain constant throughout the song, but instead becomes heavier toward the end of the song.

“Figure 8” starts off suspenseful, beginning as if the vocals are stirring up the beat – they almost resemble a chant. Then, the chorus picks up the overall feel of the song with a very strong piano beat lingering in the background, as if someone was pounding the keys with all of his or her might. However, what brings about that familiar Goulding sound is the calm and steady electronic beat that builds up throughout the entire song, from beginning to end.

Another song with a very suspenseful beginning is “Don’t Say a Word.” The song starts off with a very slow beginning: a haunting feel that allows us to hear the range of Goulding’s vocals. The song gives us a feel for the deeper, darker side of Goulding’s sound. Ultimately, “Don’t Say A Word” moves into a very electronic beat, similar to “Figure 8,” while still maintaining the vocals that are unique to it.

On another note, Halcyon also features songs on a completely different spectrum. “My Blood” is an absolute must-listen. At the start of the song, for the first verse, the vocals almost do not even resemble Goulding; it definitely provides a new, unexpected sound from her. No fear, however, because the chorus is the same familiar voice that we expect from her. In addition, the song features extremely fantastic harmony and piano accompaniment. I’m not sure why, but this song truly makes me want to dance in the rain.

A personal favorite, “Explosions” really confuses you because you expect something completely different due to the title of the song, but instead you’re surprised in a good way. This song has so much going on and so much packed into four minutes. “Explosions” features a very choir-like sounding harmony, strings rather than an electric beat, a piano that joins the strings with a very fast paced and repetitive sound, and finally percussion that joins in with a very steady and soft beat. The background music almost seems to tell a story, truly expressing the meaning of the song.

Finally, the title song, “Halcyon,” features a calm, steady beginning beat with speedy lyrics and beautiful harmonies. Then, the chorus begins, truly separating itself from the rest of the song. What also stands out is the post-chorus sound, which is filled with fade-ins and fade-outs that just bring more attention to her amazing vocals.

Overall, Halcyon will just continue to make fans fall in love with Ellie Goulding. She maintains her unique vocals throughout the entire album. In addition, she continues to show her electronic side while introducing a new, deeper side of her vocals. Simply put, Halcyon is a must-listen album.

No Doubt’s back with new album, ‘Push and Shove’

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After 11 years away, No Doubt will release a new album on Tuesday, September 25, 2012. Now, when I heard that the band would be getting back together to release a new album, Push and Shove, my emotions were a little confused. I couldn’t decide if I was overjoyed at the idea of one of my favorite old-time bands releasing new music or scared at the idea that it would not live up to my standards. When the first single, “Settle Down,” made its way to the music scene, I was pleasantly surprised, but ultimately started telling myself that I needed to expect a different sound for the full album.

Before we start this review, you should know that I love the album, but I feel like “Settle Down” led me astray as to what the album would actually sound like. I was expecting a little more circa-1995, but instead the album gives us a No Doubt that’s trying to hold onto its unique sound while still adapt to today’s Top 40 sound. However, there are still some amazing songs on this album that make you so glad No Doubt got back together.

The second song on the album, “Looking Hot,” will definitely appeal to the Top 40 radio listeners of today with its dance/pop feel. “Looking Hot” also captures the classic No Doubt genre of ska and reggae. It’s definitely worth a listen from past, present, and future No Doubt fans.

“Sparkle” is the true heard of No Doubt and this song will appeal most to the real, diehard No Doubt fans. The first ten seconds of the song alone made my ears perk up with excitement because it sounded so familiar. I could immediately just picture the band performing and Gwen Stefani doing her strut across the stage. “Sparkle” is completed with the outbreak of a brass sound.

Another very classic No Doubt sound comes from “Undercover.” This song is the perfect combination of percussion and vocal, topped off with a very necessary and amazing guitar break. However, that familiar No Doubt sound only becomes apparent in the chorus. The song separate from the chorus is, of course, still quite great.

Push and Shove also contains several slower ballads that do a great job of capturing the power of Gwen Stefani’s vocals, such as “Undone” and “Easy.” My personal favorite song on the album is by far, “Push and Shove,” the title-song. It’s a mixture of numerous genres of music including EDM, reggae, and ska. With the help of Major Lazer and Busy Signal, No Doubt almost creates a completely new sound. In addition, the chorus is just simply amazing. If there was one song you chose to listen to from Push and Shove, this should be that song.

Overall, No Doubt should have no problem bouncing back into the music scene with Push and Shove. The album has the power to both disappoint dedicated fans and attract new listeners, but if you go into with an open and excited mind like I did, you’ll fall equally in love.

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From Total Assault:

“The E! Network will be airing an hour long feature next Monday about the band and their history. No Doubt members will be rolling out exclusive archival content on their Facebook page throughout the next few days in anticipation of the show, which airs September 24th at 9 pm ET/PT. Also happening next week: Fuse TV is hosting a 24 hour network takeover next Tuesday in honor of the release, and No Doubt is scheduled to perform twice on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, on both Tuesday, September 25th and Wednesday, September 26th – check local listings for times.”

The album is now available for purchase/download on iTunes: http://smarturl.it/PushAndShoveAlbum

Lollapalooza 2012: Recap

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Warning that none of these videos are mine considering I broke my phone in the middle of Day 2…

Day 1: Physical Fights

To be honest, I spent minimal amounts of time at Lollapalooza on day one: partially because I had to work that morning, but also because when you start a fight, it’s time to walk away. Also, in reality, if the guy hadn’t been tripping on every drug he could find in his medicine cabinet that morning, my shove to the gut would have felt like a pat on the back since I lack the ability to pick up a 5lb weight. On another note, in my short time there, I started with Porter Robinson. Now, according to my Tiesto ticket stub from September, I have apparently seen Porter Robinson before. However, I would say Lolla was the first time I actually listened or paid attention to him. He puts on a good show, but I wouldn’t say there’s really anything to set him apart and make him extremely unique. Then there’s Nero… why in my sane and completely sober mind I thought it would be a smart idea to work my way to the second row of a Nero concert at a massive festival, I will never understand. To all Nero fans: you scare the living Hell out of me. However, Nero was fantastic. Definitely different than Porter Robinson, but simply awesome. My only complaint with the concerts themselves is the fact that they were in the daytime because my personal favorite part is the lights show. And yes, I realize the point of Lolla is an all-day festival. My first day of Lolla ended there as I walked out covered in an unhealthy amount of other people’s sweat, praying that I had no open wounds in which diseases could have spread.

Day 2: Evacuation

You know what’s not fun? Being on the train on the way to Lollapalooza and having your friend receive a phone call telling you that the festival is being evacuated and not to come. Once I heard that, I cursed Mother Nature and decided if there was not a torrential downpour, someone would probably be injured at the expense of my anger. Thankfully the festival opened back up at 6pm – although I didn’t mind the extra two hours to eat everything in my kitchen. I started at Calvin Harris – my most anticipated concert of the weekend. After fighting my way up about 150 rows, dancing and getting covered in about three inches of mud, and losing everyone I was with, I made it to the front section to enjoy my favorite Scottish DJ. I fell in love with the music itself” the beats, the lights, the bass. However, Calvin, I get that you’ve publicly announced you’ll “no longer be singing” so you can “focus on producing,” but COME ON, at least let me enjoy some pre-recordings of your extremely orgasmic voice. I definitely would have preferred to hear some more vocals. Afterwards, I headed to Avicii – and yes, I actually made it to the concert this time (oh, memories). Avicii, as always, sounded fantastic, looked exceptional, and put on a memorable show. But really… the reason his show is so memorable is because it’s the exact same setlist as every other show he puts on – just more condensed. However, it was still a blast and ended in me being offered a job as a zumba instructor. After Avicii, the night ended because I needed to find a lake – or sprinklers – to wash my mud-covered body. Never did find that lake…

Day 3: Sweet, Sweet Bliss.

Lollapalooza day three was by far the best day of the entire festival if you exclude the first group I saw: The DumDum Girls?? Honestly I now understand why no one goes to the festival before 3pm… the early bands are just repulsive. Never. Again. While waiting for Florence + the Machine (round three) to go on stage, I did catch J. Cole’s show. For never hearing his music before in my life, the concert was pretty decent and the crowd was pretty tame, but it’s just not my kind of music. However, Florence + the Machine definitely is and they were just as amazing at Lollapalooza as they were the first two times I saw them. I would definitely say that Florence Welch did a much better job interacting with the audience than any other artist I saw at the festival did. As with every concert, she involved the crowd in both “Raise It Up” and “Dog Days are Over.” At one point, she stepped off the stage to run through the separated sections of the grass. She spun, she sang, she resembled a goddess… seriously, my love for her just grows everyday. After Florence, I tried my best to catch a portion of Miike Snow, but after seeing the size of the crowd, it just was not worth it since I wanted to see Kaskade close out the festival so badly. And did he ever. By far the best light show of any EDM artist I’ve ever seen – and I’ve gone to one too many concerts in my life. You could just tell that he was enjoying putting on the show as much as every person in the crowd was enjoying being there. My only complaint with Kaskade’s show was that it had to end. He even came on stage 15 minutes early so that he could play longer, but at 10pm it had to end… stupid Chicago curfew.

So that’s my Lolla recap. And I’m really starting to realize that in 3 days of concert going, I managed to only see approximately seven shows… what was I doing?