According2g.com’s Top 15 Albums & Songs of 2015

Posted by The G on December 1, 2015 under G Reviews | 2 Comments to Read

Photos, videos, words and autographs obtained by G.

If you are unfamiliar with any of these bands, songs or albums listed below, I urge you to open your mind and check them out.  Maybe they won’t be your taste or maybe they will change your life!  And now… According2g.com’s top 15 albums + songs of 2015!!!

Currents by Tame Impala

Currents by Tame Impala

  1. “Currents” by Tame Impala.  By now you should know I am obsessed with this band.  They fuse psychedelic rock and and pop seamlessly on this album, their third, and I can’t get enough of it.  Lead singer Kevin Parker’s voice sounds like a fusion of John Lennon and George Harrison with a little bit of reverb on his vocals.  The opening track “Let It Happen” is over 7 minutes long and I listen to it over and over and over again and months later, I am still not sick of it.  By now you’d think I’d have the lyrics memorized, but the processing on his voice makes the end part sound like he’s signing “Shoobie doobie doobie” to me.  And I’m not complaining!  It makes me smile every time I put this song on repeat.  The songs on “Currents” move away from being so rock oriented and this collection of tracks are the grooviest songs Tame Impala has done to date.  If this is the direction they are headed in, I am ready to take the ride.  I recommend this album, but if albums aren’t your thing, check out “The Less I Know The Better,” “Let It Happen,” “Eventually,” “Cause I’m A Man” and “New Person, Same Old Mistakes.”  If those songs don’t rock your world, we are no longer friends 🙂
Honeymoon by Lana Del Rey

Honeymoon by Lana Del Rey

2. “Honeymoon” by Lana Del Rey.  I’m really glad the world finally stopped hating Lana Del Rey and came to the realization that there is no one else out there in the music scene that is like her.  From her dark lyrics to her noir-esque music, Lana’s songs sound like mini 5 minute soundtracks to David Lynch films that don’t exist yet.  Love her or hate her, no one else opens an album with a 6 minute song that is nearly a capella, save for an orchestral arrangement when the name of the song is sung.  Her lyrics are badass (“you could be a bad motherfucker, but that don’t make you a man”) but she still gets her heart broken (“Ever since my baby went away, it’s been the blackest day/ All I hear is Billie Holliday/ It’s all that I play”) and in between she name checks legends and talks about many of our favorite subjects including getting high by the beach, appreciating art deco and invites you to move to California and become a freak like her.  Oh Lana, you have my heart!

Alex Kapranos of FFS (Franz Ferdinand and Sparks)

Alex Kapranos of FFS (Franz Ferdinand and Sparks)

3. “FFS” by FFS (Franz Ferdinand and Sparks).  Who would have thought pairing 90s rockers Franz Ferdinand and 70s duo Sparks would have been such a great idea, but whoever matched these two bands up deserves a medal.  The 16 song (if you have the deluxe edition) album is as theatrical as a Broadway show and has enough grooves and quirky lyrics to make you listen to this album repeatedly, whilst occasionally laughing out loud at the absurdity.  The opener “Johnny Delusional” talks about not being attractive and trying to impress a hot woman.  With song titles like “Dictator’s Son,” “The Man Without a Tan,” “The Power Couple,” the band knows how to take the piss out of themselves.  In fact, the regular edition of the album closes out with “Collaborations Don’t Work,” and “Piss Off” which is obviously telling critics to piss off, since the results of this collaboration (that does work!) are some of the best work either band has done.  The deluxe edition features the song “So Many Bridges” and just from hearing the title, you think it’s going to be a reflective song, and instead they sing about how there are “so many bridges in the world to jump off from.”  This album rules!

Jarryd James

Jarryd James

4. “Thirty One” by Jarryd James.  Jarryd James is a singer/songwriter from Australia who has a nice mixture of soul, R&B and pop in his songs.  In the age of the piano ballad that makes you want to slit your wrists, Jarryd James is the relief as his music has a beat and many times, a funky little groove.  His album has yet to make a splash in America, but I think with the right marketing, he has the potential to be a big star.  I happened to see that he was playing a concert in New York and the promoter inserted a youtube link to his track “Do You Remember?” and I pressed play, heard about 5 seconds of the song and said “I need to see this guy sing.”  It was a great decision and I enjoyed every song I heard that night and when his album came out, I found the same love for every track on the record.  If you are looking for a starting point, let me recommend “Give Me Something” (for a more upbeat taste) and if you need a slow jam, check out “High.”  I really hope Jarryd’s career takes off because I love this album so much.  I am looking forward to hearing more from Jarryd James and you should be too!

Adele

Adele

5. “25” by Adele.  Hello!  A brilliant album of sad songs.  Adele is so charming when she is interviewed (I’ve met her 3 times and I can confirm the charm), her laugh makes the world a brighter place.  But sad songs are her specialty, so we’ve gotta let Adele be Adele.  Luckily songs like “Send my Love (To Your New Lover)” and “Water Under the Bridge” give us a glimpse of Adele when she is at her most up beat.  The world is her oyster, so hopefully we will get a tour and more music without having to wait years in between.  But Adele lives by her schedule perhaps if more artists did that, we’d get more artful works such as “25.”

Borns

Borns

6. “Dopamine” by Borns.  If T. Rex were alive and making music with the band MGMT in the age of the millennial, it would sound a lot like Borns.  His songs are groovy and soulful with a little bit of psychedelia mixed in.  You’ve got to watch the video for his single “Electric Love,” and if the song and video don’t blow you away, then try the title track “Dopamine,” which will have you repeating the chorus “wanna feel that stream of dopamine” over and over again.  “10,000 Emerald Pools” and “The Emotion” are two of my favorite songs on this great debut.  If you scour the archives of this site, you will find videos of Garrett Borns covering Bowie and Elton John.  You’re welcome!

Judith Hill

Judith Hill

7. “Back In Time” by Judith Hill.  Judith Hill is so bad ass!  She’s sung backing vocals for a list of legends including Elton John, Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson and for her latest album “Back in Time,” Prince produced it!  This production gives us a throwback to the purple proteges of the 1980s when every song on the record is great and it sounds like a Prince production.  I saw Judith Hill perform a few of these songs live and the studio renditions don’t do her voice justice because this woman can SING!  If you don’t throw your hands up church style when you hear songs like “Cry Cry Cry,” you might need to get your ears checked.  “As Trains Go By,” the album’s opener is that funk that is sorely missing from Prince’s own output these days and “Jammin’ in the Basement” will make you do just that.  Hopefully the world will catch on to the amazing Judith Hill because she deserves to have a career as great and powerful as her voice.

Kylie Minogue

Kylie Minogue

8. “Kylie Christmas” by Kylie Minogue.  Aside from a handful of rock songs, I typically despise Christmas music.  I was pleasantly surprised to find Kylie Minogue’s Christmas record to be a mix of classic x-mas songs with traditional arrangements (“It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” “Santa Claus is Coming To Town,” where they’ve seamlessly spliced in Frank Sinatra’s voice) to 1980’s covers (“2000 Miles” by the Pretenders, “Christmas Wrapping” by The Waitresses – but Kylie’s version is paired with Iggy Pop! and “Only You,” a Yaz(oo) cover “Only You” paired with funny man James Corden – proving he’s got a nice set of pipes) to a disco Christmas song – “100 Degrees,” a duet with her sister, Danii Minogue.  It’s got a little something for everyone and you’ll need the deluxe edition if you want some of the better tracks on the album.  Ho Ho Ho!

Disclosure

Disclosure

9. “Caracal” by Disclosure.  Not as strong as their debut, the sophomore release from the cute Lawrence brothers has some really strong tracks.  In fact, when the tracks are strong, they hit it out of the park and when they are weak, they are little more than album filler.  Their collaborations with The Weeknd (“Nocturnal”), Sam Smith (“Omen”) and Lorde (“Magnets”) make you wish they would do full albums with these artists.

Mark Ronson

Mark Ronson

10 “Uptown Special” by Mark Ronson.  Mark Ronson + Kevin Parker of Tame Impala = G Heaven.  There are in fact 3 collaborations with the pair including “Daffodils,” which is a track so funky, I’ve had it on repeat a lot this year.  But the collaborations don’t stop there, Ronson also works again with Andrew Wyatt of the electronic group Miike Snow (sic) as well as producer Jeff Bhasker and there’s even a little bit of Stevie Wonder’s harmonica featured to open the album.  The record also features the mega smash “Uptown Funk” with Bruno Mars, and to be honest, Bruno’s music is so derivative to my ears that this song sort of sounds like a Saturday Night Live parody of Eddie Murphy doing James Brown, but that’s just me.  The music is funky though, and that’s what matters.  This record is a little patchy in comparison to Ronson’s last effort “Record Collection,” but I still love it.

Young Empires

Young Empires

11. “The Gates” by Young Empires.   There is no greater champion for this band than me, and I was so excited that their full length debut record has finally seen the light of day.  Their music is dance rock, funk punk or “haute rock” as they like to say.  Call it what you want, there are 10 tracks to shake your ass on the dance floor and some of my favorite songs are the reggae tinged “Never Die Young,” “So Cruel,” and “Mercy.”  Below, you can check out a live version of “Sunshine.”  Apologies for it being so dark – that’s rock and roll!

Matt Bellamy of Muse

Matt Bellamy of Muse

12. “Drones” by Muse.  Not their strongest album, but there are so many Muse moments, from their very political lyrics, to Matt Bellamy’s high pitched voice, stadium anthem ready choruses and my favorite moment on the album – the song “Revolt” where Matt Bellamy tells the listener to do exactly that!  FUCK YEAH MUSE!

Bernard Sumner of New Order

Bernard Sumner of New Order

13. “Music Complete” by New Order.  Peter Hook is noticeably absent on bass, but there are guest stars a plenty that range from good “Superheated” (featuring Brandon Flowers of The Killers) to really good “Tutti Frutti” and “People on the High Line” (featuring Elly Jackson of LaRoux) to cringe worthy “Stray Dog” (featuring Iggy Pop).  The strongest tracks on the record, according2g are the obvious tribute to Peter Hook “Unlearn This Hatred” and “Plastic.”

 

Simon LeBon of Duran Duran

Simon LeBon of Duran Duran

14. “Paper Gods” by Duran Duran.  Duran Duran’s career in the 2000s has been all over the map as they released the near-career killing, but mostly pleasant “Pop Trash,” the comeback, but not hugely popular album “Astronaut,” the absolutely horrible “Red Carpet Massacre” (PLEASE don’t ever work with Timbaland again), the criminally underrated “All You Need Is Now” and the spotty “Paper Gods.”  As FFS somewhat rightly noted in entry number 3, collaborations don’t work.  This rings true for some truly WTF moments as DD have collaborated with Kieza on the otherwise good track “Last Night In the City” but she over-divas her vocals and that has no business on a Duran Duran album.  The first single “Pressure Off” also suffers from the ill conceived collaboration with Janelle Monae.  Don’t count Duran Duran out though – their live show is still great and Simon LeBon’s voice sounds better than it has in years.  They perhaps need to just focus on their strengths which are best made with the 4 remaining members of the band.

Janet Jackson

Janet Jackson

15. “Unbreakable” by Janet Jackson.   It’s just so good to hear Janet sing again after the death of her brother and almost a decade long hiatus, she could sing the phone book and it would have made the list.  Don’t ever leave us again Janet!  And check out “No Sleeep” (sic).  It’s classic JJ!

Deluxe Edition:

Madonna, D'Angelo

Madonna, D’Angelo

16 / 17.  “Rebel Heart” by Madonna and “Black Messiah” by D’Angelo and The Vanguard.  Both of these albums were released at the end of 2014, so they don’t really count.  Well, Madonna’s record leaked over 6 months early and didn’t see an official release until 2015, but the versions she picked to give the fans something different than what leaked are nearly all inferior to the leaked versions.   A pity, since this was Madonna’s strongest studio effort in a decade!  On the other hand, “Black Messiah” is a fucking masterpiece by the recluse of R&B, D’Angelo.  Every song on it is not only great, but essential listening.  Let’s hope he is inspired, after the universal love he got for this album, to continue to release music in intervals shorter than every 14 years.

Here are my Top 15 songs of 2015.  I’m going to save the commentary, so seek out these tracks!

  1. Erik Hassle – “No Words”
  2. Nervo (featuring Jake Shears, Kylie Minogue, Nile Rodgers) – “The Other Boys”
  3. Mac Demarco – “Just To Put Me Down”
  4. Father John Misty – “I Love You Honeybear”
  5. Yacht – “Matter”
  6. Leon Bridges – “River”
  7. Charli XCX – “Sucker”
  8. Duffy – “Whole Lotta Love”
  9. The Maccabees – “Marks To Prove It”
  10. Penguin Prison – “Show Me The Way”
  11. Guy Garvey – “Angela’s Eyes”
  12. Beck – “Dreams”
  13. Van Hunt – “The Fun Rises The Fun Sets”
  14. Lianne LaHavas – “Unstoppable”
  15. Courtney Barnett – “Small Poppies”

 

What’s on your list?

According2g.com’s Top 10 Albums of 2014

Posted by The G on December 1, 2014 under G Reviews | Be the First to Comment

Photo and words by G.  Autograph obtained in person by G.

Jessie Ware - Tough Love

Jessie Ware – Tough Love

 

  1. “Ultraviolence” by Lana Del Rey
  2. “Tough Love” by Jessie Ware
  3. “Royal Blood” by Royal Blood
  4. “Sun Structures” by Temples
  5. “In The Lonely Hour” by Sam Smith
  6. “Salad Days” by Mac Demarco
  7. “El Pintor” by Interpol
  8. “The London Sessions” by Mary J. Blige
  9. “We Want Your Soul” by Spoon
  10. “World Peace is None of Your Business” by Morrissey

What are yours?

According2g.com’s Top Albums of 2012

Posted by The G on December 1, 2012 under G Reviews | 4 Comments to Read

Photos by G.

So my list of top albums of 2012 will be divided into 3 sections.  First will be my top 5 albums of 2012.  Next will be 3 albums I like but I don’t love and finally will be the three biggest disappointments of the year.

My favorite 5.

Lonerism by Tame Impala

Lonerism by Tame Impala

1. “Lonerism” by Tame Impala.  Lana Del Rey’s album had been on heavy rotation with me for the first 9 months of the year and in October, when Tame Impala’s 2nd album “Lonerism” was released, I listened to it obsessively and still can’t get enough!  As a whole, the album is a musical journey and experience of epic psychedelic proportions.  Groovy guitars, rockin’ beats and lead singer Kevin Parker’s voice, which to me sounds like a perfect amalgam of John Lennon and George Harrison.  I love this album so much I am already dying in anticipation for their next album (which as of press time isn’t coming out any time soon).  My favorite track on the album is a song called “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards,” which seriously makes me feel like I am floating when I hear it.  And if you can track down the non-album bonus track “Led Zeppelin,” it’s a must hear!

Born To Die by Lana Del Rey

Born To Die by Lana Del Rey

2. “Born to Die” by Lana Del Rey.  There are two camps: Lana lovers and Lana haters.  It’s rare to see such a strong reaction to a singer, when there are artists out there that are obvious targets being completely devoid of talent.  Lana Del Rey is gorgeous and has a unique voice that sounds like a tragic torch song singer.  Her lyrics are all about being a bad girl and her adventures with bad boys.  The music definitely is a throwback to another time and the album is packed with great songs.  The heavenly and noir “Blue Jeans” and “Video Games” went viral and put Lana on the map.  The album came out in January and in November, she released a special “Paradise Edition” with 8 additional tracks and the songs are just as epic as the regular album tracks.

A Thing Called Divine Fits by Divine Fits

A Thing Called Divine Fits by Divine Fits

3. “A Thing Called Divine Fits” by Divine Fits.  Divine Fits is a super-group comprised of Britt Daniel from Spoon, Dan Boeckner from Wolf Parade (both on guitar and vocals), Sam Brown from New Bomb Turks (on drums) and Alex Fischel (on keyboards).   This combination makes for a solid and quite funky garage rock album.  I especially love the songs “For Your Heart” (with a great vocal delivery on the chorus “You better tell me why you keep me searching in the dark for your heart.”) and “My Love is Real” (which features another great line – “My love is real until it stops”).

Beacon by Two Door Cinema Club

Beacon by Two Door Cinema Club

4. “Beacon” by Two Door Cinema Club.  I love Two Door Cinema Club.  Their debut album made my best albums list when it was released in 2010 and I’m so happy to report that I enjoy their 2nd album so much.  TDCC has a winning formula – short, sweet and to the point dance/rock songs that are all upbeat and instantly catchy.   It’s hard to pick a favorite song since I like the entire record and I am so glad that there’s no sophomore jinx with Two Door Cinema Club.

Django Django by Django Django

Django Django by Django Django

5. “Django Django” by Django Django.  The debut album from the British (via Scotland) quartet is hard to define sonically.  It has elements of pop, rock, dance, shoegaze, grunge, garage rock, 90s alternative, chillwave and is another album that is very cohesive when you listen to it from start to finish.  Lead singer Vincent Neff’s voice sometimes sounds like David Gilmour from Pink Floyd and sometimes Django’s music sounds like Syd Barrett era Floyd, without sounding derivative.  So many of the songs including “Firewater,” “Love’s Dart,” “Life’s A Beach” and “Default” are so good that you will listen to them on repeat.

Bonus:

EP that I love:

Young Empires

Young Empires

5a.  “Wake All My Youth” by Young Empires.  When I discovered the music of Canadian dance/funk/punk band Young Empires, I fell in love at first listen.  Every one of their songs is danceable and catchy and I had their 7 track EP on repeat for months on end.  Since the EP was released, the trio has become a quartet (adding a drummer) and if you think the songs are good on record, wait until you hear them performed live.  They are transformed into an even bigger and more rocking dance party and I am praying that 2013 sees a full length release from Young Empires.

Albums I like but don’t love.

Elysium by Pet Shop Boys

Elysium by Pet Shop Boys

6. “Elysium” by Pet Shop Boys.  You know how I love my boys!  Their 2009 album “Yes” ranks amongst my favorite PSB albums and 25 years into their career, that is extra awesome.  They decided to work with Kayne West’s producer (lord knows why) and record the album in LA, so you’d kind of expect upbeat and punchy songs that you could listen to as you drive down Pacific Coast Highway.  Instead, the tracks are mostly slow and subdued.  The first song “Leaving” is a perfect upbeat PSB track and the final song “Requiem in Denim and Leopard Skin” is an epic closing track (that sounds incredibly similar to “DJ Culture Mix” that was released in the early 90s).  The B-sides from the album are quite good and they are a lot more upbeat than the album tracks and in fact a lot of the album tracks sound like they should be b-sides.  It’s refreshing that Pet Shop Boys are still capable of making good music because many of their contemporaries have long since lost it.

Julian Plenti Lives by Paul Banks

Julian Plenti Lives by Paul Banks

7. “Banks” by Paul Banks.  The lead singer of Interpol has made another solo record (and an EP).  Rather than use his alter-ego Julian Plenti, Banks uses his real name for a collection of good but not great songs. He also released the EP “Julian Plenti Lives…” (as pictured above) in 2012.  This is not to say there are not great songs on the album.  The lead off song “The Base” is excellent (and my favorite track on the record).  At the 2:37 mark when Paul sings “So steep,” is probably my favorite moment on the record.  There are a lot of Interpol-worthy tracks such as “Young Again” and “I’ll Sue You,” but a some instrumentals and a couple sample heavy tracks leave me thinking this is more like album filler.

Coexist by The XX

Coexist by The XX

8. “Co-Exist” by The XX.  This is an album that I really enjoy when I listen to it from start to finish.  It’s super mellow and is a really good early morning or late night album.  The problem I find is that I often like to make a playlist where I put all of my current favorite albums in and hit shuffle and when I hear many of these songs individually, often they are not the right vibe I am looking for.  In a way, it’s a casualty of the 2-second attention span generation to me.  Now, what I’d love to see for both of The XX’ albums are remix albums with thumping beats.  That would probably propel them into becoming one of my favorite groups.

The 2nd Law by Muse

The 2nd Law by Muse

9. “The 2nd Law” by Muse.  The songs on this album that are good, are not just good, they are some of the best songs EVER.  Opening up with the epic track “Supremacy,” the song is almost like an alt-rock version of “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen because it has elements of so many kinds of music in it.  In terms of epic-ness, the song sounds like a James Bond theme and I freely admit, the first time I listened to it, my mouth dropped open – which is a feat that doesn’t occur very often.  The lyrics are a continuation of “Uprising” which would become the world’s national anthem if it were up to me. The album also features really great and catchy rock songs like “Panic Station,” “Survival,” (whose first chorus is one of the best rock and roll moments of 2012) “Madness” and “Follow Me.”  A dub-step instrumental and a handful of weak tracks towards the end of the record as compared to the genius of the way the album opens are the Achilles heel of the record stopping it from it achieving world dominance.

Magic Hour by Scissor Sisters

Magic Hour by Scissor Sisters

10. “Magic Hour” by Scissor Sisters.  When I first heard this album, I had many “WTF?” moments, but the record grew on me over time.  It appeared that in desperation to have a worldwide hit record, the very unique band worked with a bunch of “it” producers.  I sort of understand this logic as they are huge in other parts of the world and their native United States just doesn’t seem to get it.  I truly think it’s tragic as I’ve had so much fun over the years seeing them perform and their albums are filled with catchy dance music that is a lot more fun than your typical mainstream fare and perhaps that is why they’ve been one of America’s best kept secrets.  If the US seemed to miss it from albums 1-3, the cat was let out of the bag with the summer anthem “Let’s Have A Kiki” which is an expression that has deservedly worked its way into the pop culture vernacular.

 

Albums that really disappointed me.

Gwen Stefani and Adrian Young of No Doubt.

11. “Push and Shove” by No Doubt.  I’m from Orange County, California where No Doubt are from, so not only have I been a fan of theirs for longer than you have, but I’ve been waiting more impatiently than you for a new record.  I think the band started to really lose creativity after their breakthrough album “Tragic Kingdom” was released.  They started to sound less like themselves and became “No Doubt lite” in attempt to sell more records.  Not to say they didn’t have some good songs, but overall both post-Tragic Kingdom albums were stinkers.  Lead singer Gwen Stefani’s solo albums are both terrible and completely soul-less despite working with every “it producer” under the sun.  Setting my standards really low for the new album, it surpassed my expectations and was even worse than I could have imagined!  Squeaky clean No Doubt ballads?  Obviously the band all has kids now and they’ve made it known that they would record only in between feeding times and family obligations.  The bad thing is, I thought they’d be able to conceal it better, but it clearly shows in the extremely dull tracks they have convinced themselves into saying in public are their best material.

Madonna

Madonna

12. “MDNA” by Madonna.  Another dull record.  Madonna tries to act like someone 20 years younger both on stage and on record – on stage by still showing the world her tits and on record by working with the flavor of the month producers.  STOP DOING THAT!  Just make a Madonna record!  Give us a dance groove that is irresistible and makes us want to forget our cares and throw our hands in the air.  That’s why the world fell in love with Madonna and that’s what people really want to hear.  Inserting raps by Nicki Minaj (with her touting how great Madonna is) is fucking embarrassing and not necessary.  Her song “I Don’t Give A” which is all about how much Madonna multitasks makes me feel as much pity for her as I do for spoiled rotten rich people that are complaining how hard they have it.  This mixed bag collection also features songs that sound like pale imitations of old songs, and it makes the listener want to reach for her older music instead.  Madonna shouldn’t be counted out entirely because she made the song “Gang Bang” which is unlike any song she’s ever done before and that gives me hope much more than her “poor me syndrome” and Kaballah filled lyrics give me.

Shirley Manson of Garbage

Shirley Manson of Garbage

13. “Not Your Kind of People” by Garbage.  It’s great that mid-90’s alt-rockers Garbage have set aside their differences and made a new record.  Many of the songs sound like classic era Garbage tracks but they suffer from not having the hooks that make you want to listen to their early stuff on repeat.  I love the track “Blood For Poppies” a lot, but I admit that it had to grow on me before I really fell in love with it, whereas I used to find myself falling in love instantly with Garbage songs.  Though the album is a little uneven, I won’t miss seeing them live because they still know how to rock an audience!

What were your favorites?  What disappointed you?  Don’t be shy.  But let’s keep the discussion on music, ok?

According2G’s Top 11 Albums of 2011

Posted by The G on December 1, 2011 under The G Spot | 3 Comments to Read

Photos by G.

Chris Glover of Penguin Prison

Chris Glover of Penguin Prison

“Penguin Prison” by Penguin Prison.  While most of the albums on this list are in no particular order, my favorite record of the year is definitely the self-titled album “Penguin Prison.”  In early 2010, I caught Penguin Prison in concert as an opening act and before the set was over, I became an instant fan.  Lead singer and PP brainchild Chris Glover is so talented.  Every song on his debut record could (and should) be a hit.  The record definitely sounds like a greatest hits album instead of a major label debut.  Sonically, Penguin Prison sounds like Off the Wall era Michael Jackson but as produced by LCD Soundsystem.  As a result, each song is pop perfection from the catchy-as-hell opener “Don’t Fuck With My Money” to the Radiohead-esque closer “Someone got Everything.”  As Chris Glover has cited hip hop, rap, pop, dance and country music  as the music he listens to, I would not be surprised if his future records infuse these diverse styles.  In an era where music is so dispensable, it’s very refreshing to have an album that I can listen to over and over again without getting sick of it.  Thanks PP!  Cannot wait to see what you come up with next!

Christopher Owens of Girls

Christopher Owens of Girls

Father, Son, Holy Ghost” by Girls.  This album took me by surprise.  When 2011 began, I’d never heard of Girls and by the middle of the concert, I couldn’t wait to make my way to the merch table and buy this album.  The album has a little bit of everything – power pop, gut-wrenching ballads and heavy metal!  The album flows great from start to finish and I have to limit myself from listening to it too much because they lyrics deal with love, loss and reconciliation and sometimes it’s too much for me to take.  You should definitely investigate lead singer Christopher Owens’ back story from cult-member (with his mom!) to drug addict.  It helps complete pieces of the puzzle and  in my opinion makes the album even more beautiful.  I highly recommend the heavy metal song “Die” as well as one of the most heart wrenching songs I’ve ever heard – “Vomit.”  The background vocals are worthy of a slot on a Pink Floyd record and Christopher Owens is so beautifully vulnerable when he sings the line “Come into my heart,” it gives me chills every time.

Mark Foster of Foster The People

“Torches” by Foster the People.  Foster the People have had an amazing 2011.  They started off the year playing small venues and they ended the year playing 2 sold out nights at the 3,000 capacity Terminal 5.  Rightfully so too.  Their debut album “Torches” is packed with catchy dance/pop and it’s another album that sounds like a greatest hits record instead of a debut.  A lot of people have perhaps rightly criticized the band for sounding too much like a fusion of MGMT, Peter Bjorn and John and Two Door Cinema Club, but luckily for me, I love all three bands so I am not bothered at all.  Their live show is a seizure inducing light show which allows the audience to dance like nobody’s looking, so if you like this record, definitely see Foster the People live.  I recommend the songs “Houdini” and “Miss You,” if you are looking for a place to start, but I think you’ll enjoy the entire record.

Plan B

“The Defamation of Strickland Banks” by Plan B.  This album was released in the UK in 2010, but it didn’t see a US release until 2011 so I am including it on this list.  Plan B is a rapper turned crooner, whose voice sounds like Smokey Robinson and he is not afraid to show off his rapping skills in his songs.  The album is a masterpiece from start to finish and the songs (and videos) connect the audience to the story of Strickland Banks, a singer who gets locked up for a crime he didn’t commit.  The only crime that has been committed is that Plan B is not a superstar in America.  There are so many sub-par artists out there and this record outshines all of them! The entire album is great, but I highly recommend  the silky smooth “Prayin,” the rockin’ “Stay Too Long,” and the funky “She Said.”

Lindsey Buckingham

Lindsey Buckingham

Seeds We Sow” by Lindsey Buckingham.  So many artists that I’ve followed for most of my life have unfortunately reached a creative zenith and have been putting out material beneath their greatness for years.  Not Lindsey Buckingham.  The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame singer/guitarist/creative director  for the off again/on again Fleetwood Mac seems to get better with age.  A few years ago, he released a solo album “Under the Skin” and it was the beginning of a new creative chapter in his life.  In a short few years, Lindsey has released 3 solo studio albums  (“Under The Skin,” “Gift of Screws” and “Seeds We Sow”) and all three are excellent.  Lindsey’s guitar playing is better than ever (which is hard to believe because I think he’s one of the best guitarists I’ve ever seen); his vocals are more powerful than ever and his melodies are so beautiful that if you’re having a reflective moment when you listen to his music, you might shed some tears.  “Seeds We Sow” is a near perfect album with rockers like “One Take,” the gorgeous ballad “Gone Too Far,” and the empowering anthem “In Our Own Time.”  Though we are talking only about 2011 here, I recommend you get all three of these albums and listen to them back to back because they are perfect companions to each other.

 

Anna Calvi

Anna Calvi

“Anna Calvi”  by Anna Calvi.  It’s hard to describe Anna Calvi’s sound, but the words “noir” and “otherworldly” come to mind.  Musically, the tracks are dark and moody and Anna’s voice is powerful.  Fans of Siouxsie Sioux or Florence Welch will enjoy this record too as Anna’s voice will give you chills.  I highly recommend you catch her live as well as she is great in person.  She’s very stylish, plays electric guitar like one of the great virtuosos and can hit all the notes in person.  My favorite songs on the album are “Suzanne and I,” “I’ll Be Your Man,” and “The Devil.”  The non-album track, her cover of Edith Piaf’s “Jezebel” is also fantastic!

Cody Critcheloe of Ssion

Cody Critcheloe of Ssion

“Bent” by Ssion.  Lead singer Cody Critcheloe gave away this entire album for free during the summer and if you are a regular reader of this site (and I thank you for your patronage), you have been enjoying this album ever since.  The album serves as a great party record for any mood.  If you are listening to it before you go out, you’ll want to put on “Listen to the Grrrls,” “Psy-Chic” or “Blonde With U.”  If you are just coming back from a night out and you need some chill-out grooves, “LuvBazaar,” “Growin’” and “Earthquake” will put you in the right frame of mind.  Ssion is another great band to see live as you won’t just be seeing great songs being performed, but you’ll also see great performance art.

Theophilus London

Theophilus London

Timez Are Weird These Days” by Theophilus London.  Mad props to Theophilus London because I don’t think I’ve enjoyed a rap album since Outkast’s last record which came out years ago.  The master of the mix-tape released his debut album this year and it’s great.  He mixes rock, rap and new wave in the best way possible.  He is a big fan of The Smiths, Prince and Kraftwerk and it shows in his songs.  I for one, appreciate the diversity. Highlights are “Stop It,” “Wine and Chocolates,” and “I Stand Alone.”

Duran Duran

Duran Duran

“All You Need Is Now” by Duran Duran.  Parts of this album were released as a preview in 2010, but the full album was not released until 2011 so I am including it on the list.  It’s my pleasure to say the following sentence – Duran Duran are back!  After making one of the worst albums I’ve ever heard, 2007’s disastrous “Red Carpet Massacre,” Duran Duran decided that working with one trick pony producers like Justin Timberlake and Timbaland do nothing for their music.  For “All You Need Is Now,” Duran Duran enlisted producer Mark Ronson, a fan of the band, and he produced a modern classic Duran record.  The album has the classic elements of their first 2 records while still sounding fresh.  The song “the Man Who Stole A Leopard,” is like a modern day “Chauffeur,” and “Girl Panic” would fit in on the “Rio” album with no problem.  It’s really disappointing that the record didn’t do better, but perhaps it had to do with the singles they released – like the weakest track on the album – the title track.  If you can get your hands on the special edition, I recommend that as there is a bonus DVD where the band and Mark Ronson talk about the making of every song.  It’s a really great thing to see for a really great collection of songs.

Van Hunt

Van Hunt

 

What Were You Hoping For” by Van Hunt.  If you follow Van Hunt’s career, you know that there are a lot of ups and downs.  On the negative side, a label dispute prevented his amazing third album “Popular” from being released.  On the positive side, Van Hunt is one of the most exciting artists out there.  He continues to expand his musical and stylistic vocabulary and that growth is ever present on “What Were You Hoping For?”  I think even the title alone suggests that Van Hunt is a real artist and he’s going to do what he wants.  It’s evidenced by some of the most atrocious album artwork I’ve ever seen.  But if you can get past the exterior, you’ll find one of the most exciting albums of 2011.  Van rocks a lot harder on this album than in the past, but one thing is certain, his lyrics are extremely deep and he is really pushing himself to take his music to the next level.  Songs like the punk-infused “Watching You Go Crazy Is Driving Me Insane” may not be a commercial hit, but I applaud Van Hunt for taking a creative risk.  It paid off!  The final track, “It’s a Mysterious Hustle” is probably my favorite track on the record as he just describes the craziness of life when things aren’t always what they seem.  A very appropriate final statement for the record, according2g.

Bonus:

Guy Garvey of Elbow

Guy Garvey of Elbow

“Build A Rocket Boys” by Elbow.  I love Elbow.  The only way to describe their music is with this word – Epic!  Each song is like a mini-symphony and this album is no different.  The record opens with the 8 minute epic “the Birds.”  Lead singer Guy Garvey asserts that “looking back is for the birds” and I couldn’t agree more.  While the album is slightly less perfect than their masterpiece from 2008, “The Seldom Seen Kid,” there are many great moments like the rocker “Neat Little Rows,” and the single “Lippy Kids,” which mentions the album’s title. Once again, I highly recommend seeing Elbow in concert if you get the chance because they sound just as great live as they do on record with one major difference – when you see them live, you get an ocean of people singing along!

 

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