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  • Top 50 Albums of 2016

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    On January 6, 2017 • By

    savages the band live

     

    Well here we are once again – another year passed as we are hurled into the unknown future. 2016 has been an absolute whirlwind for everyone involved, there’s no questioning that. But what’s great is, no matter what challenges we face, no matter how much hope is lost or how bleak certain parts of the future look, we can always depend on great art to be released. And many times, chaos in the world can breed our most beloved works.

    As I look back on 2016, I’ve come to realize that music is probably the art form I consume the most. I am usually working day and night on film projects so I don’t get to catch as many movies as I would like (this is something I want to change in 2017). When I get a few hours free before I go to bed, it’s hard to convince myself to spend it leisurely when I know there is so much work I have left to do. This is also the reason why I don’t get to read too many books, even though I LOVE reading (despite the fact that I’m a bit of a slow reader). But music has a portability that movies and books often don’t. I can take it anywhere, which allows me to soak in sounds no matter what I’m doing. (Yes, I know I could do audiobooks like this too but I’m not a huge audiobook fan. I like highlighting stuff and flipping back and forth)

    This is why I think music is such a bigger part of our lives than many people realize. It’s everywhere you go; it’s all over TV, movies, it’s in grocery stores, clothing shops, restaurants. And speaking of “everywhere you go”, 2016 may be the year where streaming reached its pivotal turning point. Streaming has exploded and I don’t think there’s any going back, for better or worse. The good news is that paid subscriptions have risen a ton within the last year. The bad news is, artists are still paid tiny fractions of what they should be earning. The other bad news is the amount of downloads has decreased considerably. The streaming paradigm says something about our cultural philosophies as a whole – we want access to everything, all the time, everywhere we go. Even if that means not actually owning the songs.

    On some levels, it’s hard to argue against that model strictly speaking from the point of view of the consumer. You pay a monthly fee and get access to millions of songs that you can play wherever you go, as much as you want. And the monthly fee is usually less than the cost of one single album. It’s cheap and convenient – which is what practically every consumer wants. I imagine streaming is only going to get bigger so I hope the royalty rates for artists continue to climb.

    But anywaysssss….enough of that, let’s get to business. As always, I want to make it clear that these are my PERSONAL FAVORITES and I’m not saying these are the undisputed, objectively best albums of 2016. These are MY top albums, plain and simple, that adhere to my musical tastes. The good news is, I have a pretty decent taste in music so no bullshit will be found here – that I can guarantee. And although I put them in a certain order, you must understand that every single one of these albums is fantastic. The number 50 album on this list is better than most of the music I heard last year so please, give every album on this list a chance.

    Here we go!

    50. Holy Wave – Freaks of Nurture
    49. Eureka California – Versus
    48. Seth Bogart – Seth Bogart
    47. Chance the rapper – Coloring Book
    46. King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard – Nonagon Infinity
    45. Whitney – Light Upon the Lake
    44. Empire of the Sun – Two Vines
    43. Explosions In The Sky – The Wilderness
    42. Deakin – Sleep Cycle
    41. Kendrick Lamar – Untitled Unmastered
    40. Jenny Hval – Blood Bitch
    39. Night Moves – Pennied Days
    38. Porches – Pool
    37. Leonard Cohen – You Want It Darker
    36. Young Thug – Jeffrey
    35. Maxwell – blackSUMMER’Snight
    34. Local Natives – Sunlit Youth
    33. ANOHNI – hopelessness
    32. Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels 3
    31. Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Denial
    30. Woods – City Sun Eater In The River of Light
    29. of Montreal – Innocence Reaches
    28. MMOTHS – Luneworks
    27. Frightened Rabbit – Painting Of A Panic Attack
    26. Crystal Castles – Amnesty (I)
    25. Julianna Barwick – Will
    24. Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith & Suzanne Ciani – Sunergy
    23. Vince Staples – Prima Donna
    22. White Lung – Paradise
    21. Frank Ocean – Blonde
    20. Angel Olsen – My Woman
    19. Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool
    18. Schoolboy Q – Blank Face LP
    17. Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds – Skeleton Tree
    16. Peter, Bjorn and John – Breakin Point
    15. Kevin Morby – Singing Saw
    14. Holy Fuck – Congrats
    13. M83 – Junk
    12. Beyonce – Lemonade
    11. Paul Jebanasam – Continuum
    10. Kanye West – The Life of Pablo
    9. Brandy Clark – Big Day in a Small Town
    8. JEFF the Brotherhood – Zone
    7. Bon Iver – 22, a Million
    6. Solange – A Seat at the Table
    5. The Avalanches – Wildflower
    4. Ra Ra Riot – Need Your Light
    3. Yeasayer – Amen & Goodbye
    2. David Bowie – Blackstar
    1. Savages – Adore Life

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  • Top 50 Albums of 2015

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    On January 8, 2016 • By

    panda bear

     

    Here we are again! Another year gone, another review of the best music that soundtracked our lives. To me, it seems the industry as a whole has gone through changes, but a lot of which point to previous decades. Not too long ago, I was having a discussion with someone as to what this decade’s musical identity sounds like. It’s easy to pinpoint sounds from the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, even perhaps the 90’s, but what kind of identifiable sound have we cultivated from 2010-2015? It’s hard to say because so many artists have culled their audible sheen from decades long past. Hell, Taylor Swift rebuilt her latest aesthetic after the sounds of the 80’s and has been wearing it as a badge of honor. Have we become more nostalgic as a culture? Although I’m sure every generation has their fair share of “back-in-my-day” fist shaking, the current population seems very intent on revisiting a known-good well of entertainment.

    You can even look at our movie landscape as an example: two of the biggest hits of the year came from continuations of Jurassic Park and Star Wars. When listening to music, it seems that a lot is snatched from the steely sounds of the 80’s along with R&B/Neo-soul of the 90’s. Everyone seems to be looking back in some sort of way. What decades will the next few years pull from? Will it advance into the future? I don’t know, obviously, and this subject could turn into an entire article itself.

    To step away from the aesthetic stylings of the music, I want to touch on the attitudes of the public as a whole. I’ve probably said it before that I really hate it when someone exclaims “there’s no good music being made anymore” because it’s A.) completely untrue and B.) downright lazy. There is SO much music being put out now, there is an album for every niche and need you can think of. To further illustrate the point though, I want to talk a bit about my own personal listening habits. See, this year, I tried to keep track of how many albums I listened to. Here is my final calculation:

    • 180 albums (that I managed to track. There may be more I didn’t track)
    • 80+ albums I didn’t have time to get around to (that are in my queue)

    Keep in mind that all of those albums above are recommendations or have great reviews. Meaning, those are the BEST of the BEST from each month! More than 250 albums and those are ranging from mid-level indie to major label. Who knows how many great small label/local albums were released that were barely promoted.

    My point is, there is no excuse for not listening to great music. There is an abundance of it released every year and all you have to do is check for it. While streaming services like Spotify, Tidal and the like are still controversial, they make it easier for you, as a listener, to discover great music. Need a few places to start? I recommend looking at Allmusic.com’s Editors Choice, Pitchfork’s Best New Albums, and Stereogum’s Heavy Rotation.

    Alright, enough babbling and philosophizing. You didn’t come here for my words! You came here for the LIST! Here it is below, in all it’s glory:

     

    50.) The Cribs – For All My Sisters

    49.) Wilco – Star Wars

    48.) Lower Dens – Escape from Evil

    47.) Earl Sweatshirt – I don’t like shit, I don’t go outside

    46.) Mark Ronson – Uptown Special

    45.) Holly Herndon – Platform

    44.) Miley Cyrus – Miley Cyrus and Her Dead Petz

    43.) Sleater-Kinney – No Cities to Love

    42.) A$AP Rocky – At.Long.Last.A$AP

    41.) Tyler, the Creator – Cherry Bomb

    40.) Sam Prekop – The Republic

    39.) Skylar Spence – Prom King

    38.) Wavves –  V

    37.) Screaming Females – Rose Mountain

    36.) CHVRCHES – Every Eye Open

    35.) Chelsea Wolfe – Abyss

    34.) Belle &  Sebastian – Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance

    33.) Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit & Think and Sometimes I just sit

    32.) Jessica Pratt – On Your Own Love Again

    31.) The Amazing – Picture You

    30.) Destroyer – Poison Season

    29.) Coldplay – A Head Full of Dreams

    28.) Grimes – Art Angels

    27.) Milo Greene – Save Yourself

    26.) Madeon – Adventure

    25.) Tobias Jesso Jr – goon

    24.) The Go! Team – The Scene Between

    23.) FKA Twigs – M3LL155X

    22.) Miguel – Wildheart

    21.) Beach House – Depression Cherry

    20.) Tame Impala – Currents

    19.) Toro y Moi – What For?

    18.) Blur – Magic Whip

    17.) Deerhunter – Fading Frontier

    16.) Deafheaven –  New Bermuda

    15.) Arca – Mutant

    14.) Kamasi Washington – The Epic

    13.) Baroness – Purple

    12.) Father John Misty – I Love You Honeybear

    11.) Neon Indian – Vega Intl. Night School

    10.) FFS – FFS

    9.) Dr.  Dre – Compton

    8.) Jamie XX – In Color

    7.) Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly

    6.) Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell

    5.) Florence + the machine – How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful

    4.) Panda Bear – Panda Bear vs the Grim Reaper

    3.) Oneohtrix Point Never – Garden of Delete

    2.) Carly Rae Jepsen – Emotion

    1.) HEALTH – Death Magic

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  • Top 50 Albums of 2014

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    On January 12, 2015 • By

    Copyright - digboston

    Copyright – digboston

     

    As with 2013, it is apparent that our music industry is bursting apart with creativity (although it would nice if it was bursting with $$$ as well to support our artists). While not quite the monster year that we saw in 2013, there is more than enough great music to keep us listening 24/7 without being disappointed.

    Thinking about overall trends in music of 2014, it’s hard to pinpoint an exact correlating theme or motif. If I had to guess, I would suggest anxiety seemed to be a common thread in the lyrics and mood of this year’s music. Our relationship with technology and existentialism also seemed to recur a bit. It makes sense to me – it seems that we are in an anxious state of living, a constant tension and push-pull that may not always be in front of our faces but man, is it always felt. The 1960’s and 1970’s were partially remembered for the state of paranoia the masses felt thanks to war, assassinations and crooked politics. Now, while the world is still at war in certain parts, the paranoia may be partially self inflicted thanks to technology and shattered expectations. It is natural for our art to reflect that.

    Where we go from here is anyone’s guess. Will the “newness” of technology completely wear off? There has been a resurgence of the D.I.Y aesthetic (sometimes going a bit too far) and a general sense of “back to basics” – perhaps 2015 will be the year when the scales tip more in that direction. Maybe streaming will start paying more and the industry will rebound a bit monetarily. Hell, maybe these cheap gas prices will hold and the masses will have more entertainment dollars to spend. Either way, we are at the point where more great music is made today and is as easily obtainable as it’s ever been. We may always have anxiety and issues to work through, but we will always have music to help make things just a tad bit better.

    Here are my top 50 albums of 2014

    50.) Wild Beasts – Present Tense
    49.) Owl John – Owl John
    48.) Fucked Up – Glass Boys
    47.) Carla Bozulich – Boy
    46.) Chromeo – White Women
    45.) Dry the River – Alarms in the Heart
    44.) The Ghost of a Saber tooth Tiger – Midnight Sun
    43.) Arca – Xen
    42.) Real Estate – Atlas
    41.) Ingrid Michaelson – Lights Out
    40.) The Black Keys – Turn Blue
    39.) Foxygen – …And Star Power
    38.) Wye Oak – Shriek
    37.) Nothing – Guilty of Everything
    36.) Swans – To Be Kind
    35.) Mac DeMarco – Salad Days
    34.) Twin Peaks – Wild Onion
    33.) Sunny Day in Glasgow – Sea When Absent
    32.) Royksopp & Robyn – Do it Again
    31.) Sia – 1000 Forms of Fear
    30.) Future Islands – Singles
    29.) Shabazz Palaces – Lese Majesty
    28.) Caribou – Our Love
    27.) J Mascis – Tied to a Star
    26.) St. Vincent – St. Vincent
    25.) Lykke Li – I Never Learn
    24.) Trey Songz – Trigga
    23.) Death from Above 1979 – The Physical World
    22.) Bahamas – Bahamas is Alfie
    21.) Spoon – They Want My Soul
    20.) Woods – With Light With Love
    19.) Sally Seltmann – Hey Daydreamer
    18.) Ariel Pink – pom pom
    17.) La Roux – Trouble in Paradise
    16.) White Lung – Deep Fantasy
    15.) La Sera – Hour of the Dawn
    14.) Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels 2
    13.) Perfect Pussy – Say Yes to Love
    12.) EMA – The Future’s Void
    11.) Mr. Twin Sister – Mr. Twin Sister
    10.) The New Pornographers – Brill Bruisers
    9.) Flying Lotus – You’re Dead!
    8.) Panopticon – Roads to the North
    7.) Morgan Delt – Morgan Delt
    6.) Ben Frost – A U R O R A
    5.) Interpol – El Pintor
    4.) Jenny Lewis – Voyager
    3.) Todd Terje – It’s Album Time
    2.) Avey Tare’s Slasher Flicks – Enter the Slasher House
    1.) War on Drugs – Lost in the Dream

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  • Top 50 Albums of 2013

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    On January 21, 2014 • By

    QOTSA-Queens-of-the-stone-age

    I’ve said it several times this past year and I will say it again –

    2013 was the best year of music since 1967

    I stand behind that statement 100%. Although many would cry about how nothing will compare to the good old days, years from now, everyone will see just what a monumental year of music it was. This was the year where some of our biggest modern bands released some of their biggest albums to date. Bands who had been out of the loop for a while made huge comebacks (Daft Punk, Queens of the Stone Age and Boards of Canada for starters).

    The scope and variety of sound is immense in these times. Nothing is off limits and genres/labels are becoming more and more useless. I mean, what do you call The Flaming Lips‘ album, The Terror? How do you put that into a box? The audio technological revolution – which saw professional equipment come down to affordable prices – has stabilized for a few years now, which means more musicians have been able to fully utilize the tools at their disposal. It may not seem important at first glance but it truly is; when you don’t have to worry about which button to push, you can let the notes flow through you like water.

    Sales have gone down so much that, with hardly any expectations of getting insanely rich, people have instead focused on the art of music creation. I do believe it is a problem and hope that albums sales will someday bounce back to early 2000s levels but at the same time, it acts as a kind of filter. You have to REALLY love making albums and performing in order to stay afloat in the industry. Perhaps Spotify will reach their level of members that will allow them to triple their payouts, as they have been saying. Maybe not. Who knows where its all going.

    For now, it doesn’t matter. Our world is overflowing with life-changing music and we, the listeners, benefit the most. So here it is, the Top 50 Albums of 2013.

     

    50.) Pelican – Forever Becoming

    49.) Mikal Cronin – MC II

    48.) Haim – Days Are Gone

    47.) Cults – Static

    46.) Carcass – Surgical Steel

    45.) Ashley Monroe – Like a Rose

    44.) Lady Gaga – Artpop

    43.) Savages – Silence Yourself

    42.) Pure Bathing Culture – Moon Tides

    41.) A$AP Rocky – Long Live A$AP

    40.) Sally Shapiro – Somewhere Else

    39.) Foxygen – We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic

    38.) Frightened Rabbit – Pedestrian Verse

    37.) The 1975 – Self Titled

    36.) Kavinsky – Outrun

    35.) Au Revoir Simone – Move in Spectrums

    34.) Fuck Buttons – Slow Focus

    33.) Pusha T – My Name is My Name

    32.) Iron and Wine – Ghost on Ghost

    31.) Tegan and Sara – Heartthrob

    30.) Darkside – Psychic

    29.) James Blake – Overgrown

    28.) Youth Lagoon – Wondrous Bughouse

    27.) Jon Hopkins – Immunity

    26.) Icona Pop – This Is…

    25.) Washed Out – Paracosm

    24.) Paul McCartney – New

    23.) Iceage – You’re Nothing

    22.) Ducktails – The Flower Lane

    21.) Javelin – Hi Beams

    20.) Dale Earnhardt Jr Jr – The Speed of Things

    19.) The National – Trouble Will Find Me

    18.) Oneohtrix Point Never – R Plus 7

    17.) The Strokes – Come Down Machine

    16.) Deafheaven – Sunbather

    15.) Arcade Fire – Reflektor

    14.) Paramore – Self Titled

    13.) Queens of the Stone Age – Like Clockwork…

    12.) Julianna Barwick – Nepenthe

    11.) Neko Case – The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight…

    10.) Phoenix – Bankrupt!

    9.) Local Natives – Hummingbird

    8.) Nine Inch Nails – Hesitation Marks

    7.) Tim Hecker – Virgins

    6.) Arctic Monkeys – AM

    5.) Anamanaguchi – Endless Fantasy

    4.) Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City

    3.) Kanye West – Yeezus

    2.) Flaming Lips – The Terror

    1.) Daft Punk – Random Access Memories

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  • Top 5 Most Anticipated Movies of August 2013

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    On August 5, 2013 • By

    the-worlds-end

    August is packed with a ton of films. Let’s take a gander, shall we?

    5.) Elysium

     Set in the year 2154, where the very wealthy live on a man-made space station while the rest of the population resides on a ruined Earth, a man takes on a mission that could bring equality to the polarized worlds.

    Back in 2009, director Niell Blomkamp made a splash with his film District 9. I wasn’t a huge fan of the story (I felt the writing to be a bit lazy) but I enjoyed the look of the film and the direction style. I also especially enjoyed the CGI, which is something I do not say often. The alien characters looked utterly real and believable, which is all the more shocking when you find out the movie had a budget of around $30 million. Niell smartly involved the visual effects department very early on in the filming process and it paid off in a film that looked like it was made for $100 million.

    Now he got that $100 million budget (well, $90 million but close enough) and as an audience, we get a bigger film on a much grander scale. This futuristic sci-fi shows a future society where earth is polluted, overcrowded and full of low income families. The rich have built themselves a giant space station and moved in as a means to stay far away from the low lifes down below. In comes best-friend-to-Ben-Affleck Matt Damon, an ex-convict who decides to do something about it, attempting to infiltrate this rich society in the sky.

    After several disappointing sci-fi films this year that missed the mark (-cough- After Earth -cough-) Elysium can hopefully erase those memories and provide something that has depth along with the propulsive sci-fi action you would expect.

     

    4.) The Grandmaster

    The story of martial-arts master Ip Man, the man who trained Bruce Lee.

    Wong Kar Wai has been making colorful, unique films for a long time now. His latest is The Grandmaster, a film centering around Ip Man, the legendary martial arts master who trained Bruce Lee. Although yes, there are a few other Ip Man movies out there, they were not directed by Wong Kar Wai. That makes all the difference. His style/direction is impeccable and if you don’t believe me, go watch Chungking Express. Now imagine that film crossed with martial arts and you have something that every movie fan should see.

     

    3.) The Spectacular Now

    A hard-partying high school senior’s philosophy on life changes when he meets the not-so-typical “nice girl.”

    I’ll be honest, I am not usually a big fan of coming of age films. Why? Because it is the go-to story of every damn independent newcomer, plaguing hundreds of film festivals around the world. Every. Single. Year. The problem is, many of these newcomers think their lives are so interesting that if you are simply painfully honest, it will result in an entertaining movie. Sorry my friends, this is not true. Yes, honesty is certainly an admirable quality to have when telling a realistic story but you still need to have an interesting story with interesting characters where interesting things happen. Basically, they are boring and very hard to sit through.

    So when a coming-of-age story works, it is a very exciting thing to behold. Submarine was my favorite movie of 2011 and it was a brilliant coming-of-age story. The Spectacular Now seems to be another standout story in this vein. Written by the guys who wrote (500) Days of Summer, it’s a story of an alcoholic popular high school guy who becomes friends with a sort of outcast girl. Sounds cliche, right? Well apparently the story more than makes up for it. It has been getting solid reviews all year long and should be worth watching.

     

    2.) Kick-Ass 2

    The costumed high-school hero Kick-Ass joins with a group of normal citizens who have been inspired to fight crime in costume. Meanwhile, the Red Mist plots an act of revenge that will affect everyone Kick-Ass knows.

    One of the most unique comic book movies of recent times has to be Kick-Ass. In a land where 99% of comic book adaptations are rated PG-13, Kick-Ass came packed with blood-splattered human microwaves and a pre-teen girl who loves the word ‘cunt’ (and who doesn’t, really?). It was unabashedly vulgar and crude with a toxic mix of comedy and violence. And it was awesome.

    Perhaps because of this, Kick-Ass wasn’t a major hit here in the United States. I mean yeah, it did fairly well for itself by earning more than triple its budget back at the box office but a sequel was nowhere near guaranteed. Thankfully, we got one anyways and the trailers seem to indicate that it picks up exactly where the last one left off. The only variable is the fact that this installment is written/directed by Jeff Wadlow (Cry_Wolf and Never Back Down) instead of Mathew Vaughn (the original director) and Jane Goldman (co-writer). What could save it is the fact that it should stay fairly true to the comic it is adapted from.

     

    1.) The World’s End

    Five friends who reunite in an attempt to top their epic pub crawl from 20 years earlier unwittingly become humankind’s only hope for survival.

    Why should you see this movie? How about Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and Edgar Wright back together again. After striking gold with Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, the trio return with The World’s End, a film revolving around bar hopping and aliens. Edgar Wright has yet to make a shitty film and early praise has been very high for this film. Go see it, seriously.

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