Music in Review > 2010

Music in Review > 2010

I always like to look back at this time of year and think about the bands and music that helped me through the good times and craziness of last year. 2010 was a roller-coaster year for me personally, I took some great trips, clarified a lot of things in my career and had many friends take their life in different directions. I feel like these albums helped me power through, but remain reflective and introspective as well.

Without further BS, my favorite albums of 2010.

10 –> Vampire Weekend :: Contra

I can’t figure out why this album is landing this high up on the list. I loved it. Maybe its that it was released early in the year and I have moved on. It could be that I had unreasonably high expectations, and though I was not disappointed, I was not overwhelmed either. Regardless of its status on this list, this is a great sophomore album for what is turning into one of the most polarizing indie-bands. Hipsters love to hate them because other hipsters love to love them. Vampire’s broad knowledge and usage of a wide range of instruments and worldly musical stylings make Contra a triumph. I think Ezra Koenig is best compared to a young Paul Simon, with an earlier established interest in African music. I continue to look forward to whats next for this band.

Favorite Track :: Horchata
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09 –> Kid Cudi :: Man On The Moon II: The Legend Of Mr. Rager

Cudi’s sophomore studio album, and the sequel to his first. Still stuck in his (apparently ever-stoned) mind, Cudi remains king of the lethargic, yet incredibly elaborate groove. His lyrics and and production lay into the beat; pulling not only your body back and forth, but your mind as well. Better than Kanye’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy? Maybe. Its clear the influence is going both ways with these two.

Favorite Track :: REVOFEV (Revolution of the Evolution)
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08 –> Ratatat :: LP4

Taking their signature sound to another level here, Ratatat gives the world and mash-up artists a gold standard for electro-pop. You can dance harder to it. You can work longer to it. You can run farther to it. At its core this album is movement and energy provided in many ways by the afro-percussion prominent throughout LP4. Every track has a build and payoff, without the stress that usually accompanies such songs.

Favorite Track :: Tough… Bare Feast will give the best example, but the album is best listened to strait through.
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07 –> Frightened Rabbit :: Winter of Mixed Drinks

Been strongly behind this band since first listen in 2007, and notoriously missed their 2010 STL concert (I may have overreacted at work when I found out I missed it). My theory is that Scotland is genetically engineering incredible bands like the soviets developed gymnasts. Frightened Rabbit is a good illustration of this, and follow up to 2008’s incredibleMidnight Organ Fight is proof positive. While Organ Fight proved the band had serious chops, Winter proves they are ready for the mainstream as well. Solid Lyrics and powerful delivery keep a consistently impassioned vibe across all tracks, even transitioning some songs from simple ballads in to what amounts to an all out footballers chant.

Favorite Track :: Swim Until You Can’t See Land (sure its most popular, but it is truly a solid song)
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06 –> Spoon :: Transference

There is a good argument that Spoon could be the most popular and talented band you’ve never heard. Not you, but you. Expansive sound and an improvisational intuition make them just progressive enough to stay off the radio, but their affinity for their sound makes them easy to write off among music snobs. Spoon often can be recognized by their impeccable utilization of tempo and echoing guitar riffs, which are a staple on Transference. Well-written songs combined with dynamic instrumentation is enough put this album on the list, but the band’s transparent yet seamless experimentation on Transference make it a special addition to 2010.

Favorite Track :: I Saw the Light (Love when it flips the switch half way through)
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05 –> Gorillaz :: Plastic Beach

Can you call this a Gorillaz ALBUM? Not only was it based on a comic book turned into a movie of which the music told the story, but it also featured so many other artists. Snoop comes in at the beginning, followed by the likes of Lou Reed, De La Soul, Mos Def, and Bobby Womack. While star-studded, Gorillaz admiral this ship. Their style and skill at establishing a hook are apparent throughout. The streamlines of the album begs for it to be listened to in its entirety. There is something quite retro about what is clearly a very progressive and dynamic album. Could be the prominence of the Casio keyboard Life Aquatic-esque sound throughout.

Favorite Track :: Some Kind of Nature (feat. Lou Reed) (Might be all about Lou, but I love the sound here)
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04 –> Matt & Kim :: Sidewalks

This band has so much power and popular appeal. I can see why everyone from 10 year olds to the most avid music festival goer look to them for incredible performances. I tried hard not to be into them, but its hard. Almost impossible to avoid not only singing, but screaming along to these songs. Send the album to your mom, to your daughter and then buy it for yourself. Everyone will find something love here.

Favorite Track :: Cameras
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03 –> Yeasayer :: Odd Blood

I first heard Yeasayer on my favorite album from last year, the Dark Was The Night compilation album with the song Tightrope. One of my faves on an album of favorites. But when I checked out the bands’ other albums, I was less than impressed. So much so, that I basically wrote them off as a one-hit wonder of sorts. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Odd Blood is a titillating sonic adventure. An album you love to sing along with, but have no clue what the words actually are. This album has some pop sensibilities yet extremely dynamic, rendering it unplayable on the radio but enjoyable to anyone.

Favorite Track :: Madder Red (The video is awesomely weird)
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02 –> Beach House :: Teen Dream

Lead singer Victoria Legrand’s voice is the star of the show on Beach House’s third well-recieved studio album in a row, Teen Dream. Relaxing but impactful songs make the album great to work to, but possibly better for a long road trip. Beach House has a way with guitar riffs. They are instantly recognizable and you can’t help but turn it up when you hear it. This album is great song after great song. Moody for sure, but sometimes you need that for true inspiration.

Favorite Track :: Zebra
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01 –> Arcade Fire :: The Suburbs

I am convinced that Arcade Fire will be the Pink Floyd of my generation. Suburbs is on par with every other Arcade Fire effort, which might be an insult to some bands. Here however, it is one of the best compliments I can extend. They continue to dominate every album they create. Always provocative and smart, but more so on Suburbs. This album is for anyone who has ever felt the in-authenticity of the suburbs but pined for a glimmer of what it was like to be a kid again. Its a dilemma of my and probably other generations, we want to build something new, but in doing so we have to destroy something old, something we loved as children that has fallen ill. Thats how I read this album, and with lyrics that amount to poetry and instrumentation that equates a symphonic arrangement The Suburbs hits on all cylinders. By it today, but more important, go see Arcade Fire when they come to town. Don’t wait until you have no choice but to see the Australian Arcade Fire Experience in 2035.

Favorite Track :: Sprawl I & II (I consider this one song, complete spectrum of emotion here.)
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The Alternates ::

15. Goldfrapp – Head First (80’s Pop-throwback done particularly well.)

14. Fitz and the Tantrums – Pick’n Up The Pieces (Retro-sound of Frankie Valley, done in a contemporary way.)

13. The Dodos – Time to Die (Acoustic pick’n done extremely well, all great songs.)

12. The New Pornographers – Together (Big fan of this band and A.C. Newman, Great album with a big sound and expansive songs.)

11. Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (Damn it, Kanye! Too much hype, but great album across the board. Production value was #1, unfortunately I thought this was Kanye’s worst lyrical effort to date.)
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Those were the albums I was listening to, my faves. I could chat for hours on why or why not they have merit, but in the end we all know it just my opinion. Music is subjective to the Nth degree, which is why it remains so personal and important in peoples lives.

Hood Internet: Trillwave

Hood Internet: Trillwave

If you guys don’t follow and download all the new Hood Internet tracks like I do, you might have missed a lot over the past 6 months.

Good News! They (with help from “the fine people of Mishka…“) just released a new mixtape called Trillwave.

Mashups featuring everyone from (of course) Kanye, Phoenix, The Flaming Lips, Royksopp, Genesis, Diddy, Jay-Z, Yacht, Maps and about 20 others. All of which add up to one hell of a ride home from work, roll out to the bars or domination at a house party.

Anyway, enjoy the Mix Tape, and go see The Hood Internet when they come to your town. You won’t regret it.

Best Post-Beatles Song by a Former Beatle…

Best Post-Beatles Song by a Former Beatle…

It dawned on me today the the answer to this question was not at all hard for me.

“What is our favorite song by a Beatle in the Post-beatles era?”

That’s right, John? Paul? George? Hell, Ringo? Why not.

For me, hands down it’s “Got My Mind Set On You” by “Georgie Boy” Harrison as his friends called him.

The song dominates. It automatically makes you want to dance, or at least smile and kind-of wobble your head. Maybe do a Carlton from Fresh Prince if your feeling up to it. The song has a clear message, that is transcendental… if you want a girl it’s, “gonna take money, a whole lot of spending money”. This is true, just ask George’s ex-bandmate Sir Paul. Largest divorce settlement in British history. And lastly, amazing music video:

So, what about my Top 10, well I think this would be my list:

10 > “Nothing Too Much Just Out Of Sight” – Paul McCartney

This album came out last year, and was released under the artist The Fireman. It came out, at least to me, later that it was Paul. I like this song because it shows that with so many artist taking from The Beatles over the years, that Paul can be inspired by influences he’s hearing now. And then/still write and play in that realm.

09 > “Wonderful Christmastime” – Paul McCartney / “Happy Christmas (War is Over)” – John Lennon

That’s right. A tie. I feel that writing a Christmas song has got to be one of the hardest songs to write. It’s the one time throughout the year people are guaranteed to be listening to music. They are wanting something nostalgic, which is why A Christmas Song and Joy to the World is covered so much, so something new is not always invited. Plus, since the music is being played so much that if the song sucks, it’s very clear, very fast. But these two have become mainstays of the season, playing again and again without annoying (too much). One is pop-ie, the other cause oriented, but they both are quality songs that brighten my December. November. Part of October, now.

08 > “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” – Paul McCartney

I like “Butter pie”. What can I say?

07 > “My Sweet Lord” – George Harrison

You gotta love when an artist can take a fundamentally religious song, and make it a broadly popular and iconic track. You feel love, joy and excitement when you hear the song. And the lyrics are inspirational, yet not overdone.

06 > “Live and Let Die” – Paul McCartney

Arguably the best Bond song of all time. This song has an extreme range and depth. It’s a genuine Rock song, yet the strings and the chorus make it a beautiful song to listen to as well. I like to make a gun with my fingers, and duck around corners when listening to it. Sometimes somersaulting.

05 > “Say, Say, Say” – Paul McCartney

Paul and Michael. Can’t be beat (except by the next 4 songs).

04 > “Instant Karma!” – John Lennon

Classic. It’s been covered by everybody, but noone quite lands it like John. A rallying cry still today, regardless of your personal issues or endeavor.

03 > “Maybe I’m Amazed” – Paul McCartney

Beautiful love song. Heavy Rock. This is a love song for men. Huge range here as well. Paul’s vocals are spot on. Not to much screaming, not to much singing. Just right.

02 > “Imagine” by John Lennon

Probably most people’s number one. I love it. It’s sweet, has meaning. Its sad, inspirational and makes anyone who hears it feel empowered to change the world. Perfect song.


01 > “Got My Mind Set On You” by George Harrison

Again, perfect combo of salty and sweet. The epitome of a pop song. You here that drum track in the beginning, some synth and Georges voice, and you’re done. Two times out of 10, if “Imagine” comes on my iTunes, I’ll skip it. I never skip this song, in fact, in all likelihood I’ll play it twice.

Tell me your list. Comment here or find me on Facebook and Twitter.

Love and War

Love and War

Mark Ronson’s 2007 album Version has played a pivotal role in defining what I have been listening to for the past two years. It exemplifies exactly what I want out of music. I want it to make me feel. I want it to make me dance. I want it to make me proud that I am listening to it. Version and Ronson harness the soul of Motown, the pop of the late 80’s and the attitude of today’s elitists creative youth.

While the Midas touch is usually reserved for financial behemoths, I feel the argument can be made that Ronson has helped orchestrate the Second British Invasion with his finger prints all over the likes of Lilly Allen, Amy Winehouse and Adele. He’s also making waves with other acts like American rapper Rhymefest, Brit Rockers The Kaiser Chiefs and his protege Australian Daniel Merriweather… yeah the guy singing in Ronson’s biggest hit thus far and Smith’s cover “Stop Me”. This song is so good… try not to bang your hands on the steering wheel/desk/person in front of you when you hear the beat kick in.

If you liked that song, then I have good news for you. Last week Daniel Merriweather released his sophomore album “Love and War” masterfully produced by, you guessed it, Mark Ronson. Though this album is no Version, the style is there, and is the perfect fit for the soulful yet popularly palatable voice of Merriweather. Listen to any of these songs, picture Merriweather in your head, then (if you don’t know already) guess what his racial background is… I’ll tell you right now I was wrong.

Boy’s got soul.

At the same time that this album has all the characteristics of Ronson’s go-to sound (tambourine tempos with brass heavy, organ rich Motown/Philly soul) Merriweather really chills out for a few of the tracks, even eluding touches of Ben Harper (Cigarettes) and Prince (For Your Money) at points. These few variations make the album a lot fuller and will help keep singles jumping off this thing until his next album. I love this thing. There’s something here for everyone. Change and Red have been tapped as hits, and are quality cuts, but my ears can’t stop lusting for Impossible, Chainsaw and Water and a Flame Ft. Adele:

I don’t know if Ronson’s golden touch or status as Britain’s most Stylish Man (according to GQ) is enough to bless the american radio waves with any of the many hits from Merriweather’s “Love and War” any time soon, but really, who cares? Buy it for yourself, and impress your friends with your impeccable taste in music.

Or click here and D/L it for the next two days. But make sure you support the album if you like it, and tell everyone you know.

Fun work

Martin Luther King Tribute

I wanted to attempt this style  in February, and being Black History Month I chose the Rev. as my muse.

His face is made up of the words of his epic Lincoln Memorial “I have a dream…” speech.

Take a look. I am having it framed as I type.

Smoking Goat Branding

I like beer.

Beer high in flavor, alcohol and price. I brew at home, but wouldn’t consider myself very good at this point. I’m working on it.

We have friends in Louisiana who I would consider really good. I designed some branding for their forthcoming brewery down there.

The Smoking Goat will hopefully be amazing, especially if I get some good beer out of the deal.

Have a look. Then drink a beer and have a look again. Continue this process until the logo looks awesome.

New Poster

This is a poster I made for my buddy Dustin.

A classic quote from him as we drove by Effingham, IL’s infamous and huge cross.

I thought it would look good in his new apartment.

Sheltered Perceptions

I recently got the chance to work on a project for the Humane Society. Given the fact that every time I walk into an animal shelter I have to be talked down from taking home every animal in the place, I was happy to help in anyway I could.

With the majority of pet buying in the United States coming from breeders, mall pet shops and unfortunately mills, animal shelters (specifically the Humane Society) are left overflowing with pets that need loving homes. They are running into a perception problem however, and many misconceptions about shelter pets are accepted as fact, and often repeated as such.

To get past this, we decided to take the problem head on, and address the most common misconceptions individually.

Here is where we landed:

Humane Society - Misconceptions"Mutt"

Humane Society - Misconceptions - "Bark"

Lauren and Dan sit’n in a tree…

My good friend Lauren is getting married in July, and though I am extremely jealous of her fiance Dan (don’t tell my wife), I made their save the date cards.

I use VistaPrint to print these types of things. Though the quality suffers, and the rumor is that they are destroying local community printers nationwide, for the price they can’t be beat. Check them out next time you want to customize your own holiday card or invitation.

Here’s how Lauren’s STDs turned out: