I have some down time as I’m trying to clean out my external hard drives from old back-ups and started listening to some of my music on iTunes. I am not always up-to-speed on the new “in” music for the year and sometimes it takes me a few years before I really appreciate an album. This year there were some really stand out albums that came out and that I really enjoyed listening to. Here are five of my favorites.
5. Lady Gaga — Born This Way
I guess it wouldn’t be me unless I did mention Lady Gaga somewhere in my breakdown for the year. She not only came out with one full-length album, she also released a remix album of the tracks on “Born This Way” at the end of the year. While this isn’t my favorite Lady Gaga album, that would be “The Fame Monster,” I did find some songs on this album that I fell in love with and of course there were a few that made me want to rip off my ears. As a whole, I enjoyed the new territory and I did expect more from her, but I did find myself listening to this album a whole hell of a lot.
4. Amanda Palmer — Amanda Palmer Goes Down Under
I use to follow Amanda Palmer religiously on Twitter for a few years, but after a while even an ardent fan can get too much Amanda Palmer, which is why it took me a little after the fact to find out about her “Goes Down Under” album that came out. It wasn’t until I heard, and saw, the remix of “Map of Tasmania” that I was hooked into this cheeky set of tunes that she wrote while touring the “Land Down Under.” My favorite is definitely “Map of Tasmania” and I would definitely go out and get the remix versions by “The Young Punx” which feature Peaches.
3. Teddybears — Devil’s Music
I had inadvertently listened to Teddybears over the past few years without really knowing it and it finally dawned on me after I heard Robyn’s cover of “Cobrastyle” where I had heard it before. This year they released another great album following up on their 2006 debut “Soft Machine” titled “Devil’s Music.” It’s wide and varied but keeps a consistent strength of songs through the whole album from start to finish. They also team up with some great guests artists including Eve, The Flaming Lips, the aforementioned Robyn, and my personal favorite, CeeLo Green & The B-52′s on the track “Cho-Cha.”
2. Florence + the Machine — Ceremonials
I had listened off and on to Florence + the Machine’s previous album “Lungs” earlier in the year, but it never made a huge impact on me. When I heard their initial offering of “What The Water Gave Me” a few months ago, I was ravenous! When the full album came out a few months later, I could just put it on and listen to the whole album as I worked and it seemed each song was as good or better than the last.
1. Darren Hayes — Secret Codes & Battleships
Without a doubt, “Secret Codes & Battleships” was the album I was waiting most intensely for the entire year. Darren Hayes had been working on this album for the better part of two years and constantly teased his fans with updates here and there about the progress of the body of work. When it finally did come out in October, I was amazed at how perfectly themed the entire collection was. I rated each song of the 12 track album 5 stars in my library. I bought the super-deluxe fan edition which included a vinyl record just because I ended up loving this album so much (I don’t own a record player!) The second CD included in the fan edition wasn’t anything to sneeze at either. It included some very well-archetechtured songs that for one reason or another did not fit into the grand scheme of the album as a whole. Mysteriously, after some digging around, I had found a song titled “I Wanna Know” by Darren Hayes earlier on in the year that I absolutely loved and hoped would be released on this album — it wasn’t, and it wasn’t found on the CD of extras either. Why I can’t seem to find a release of this song will be lost to the ages, but I hope one day it will end up somewhere worthwhile.
These artists didn’t release a new album this year but they did pass along singles or “teaser” tracks to whet our appetites.
I Will Never Be the Same – Hold (Instrumental), Fantasy
I am a huge fan of Josh Atchley’s ”I Will Never Be the Same” project and supremely upset that I’ve never been able to see him live because he’s all the way in Los Angelos, and I will probably never get the chance to go there anyway. That being said, I’ve been frothing at the mouth since his “Standby” album release in 2009 for more music and he has been slowly releasing a few teaser tracks here and there and hopefully he will be releasing a full-length album later this year. You can listen to these teaser tracks on his SoundCloud page. My personal favorites are “Hold (Instrumental)” and “Fantasy.”
Marina & The Diamonds – Radioactive EP
I was turned on to Marina & The Diamonds whenever I saw a fan-made video which integrated the majority of her songs from “The Family Jewels” into a remix that accompanied a professional-level music video featuring some of our well-loved princess fairy-tales from history. She released an EP late last year called “Radioactive.” It varies greatly from her previous album, but I have to say the song is extremely catchy and dance-worthly. I am looking forward to a full-length album whenever she decides to release it.
Last month, prior to going on our Aruban adventure, Adam’s friend Dima convinced us to go see Die Antwoord down in Williamsburg that Sunday night.
Apparently I’ve been living under a rock for the better part of a year (or I don’t follow Boing Boing which, no I don’t) and have never heard of them. Before going, I watched their “Zef Side” video on YouTube and didn’t really pay attention. I wish I had because I had a killer (not to mention HILARIOUS) time at the show on July 25th.
The night started off desperately slow. Whoever was the tech did a horrible job because the amps were turned up way too high for the venue and I did something I’ve never done before… bought ear plugs! It was Williamsburg, so obviously the place was crawling with 30 year olds or older hipsters which just made the experience annoying.
The first act was ridiculous, and not in a good way. Three very plain white guys were on the stage. Two on mics and one on a MacBook computer. Really, I would have been better off being at home watching the two slackers from down the street running head first into each other than wasting my time watching these dude jump around the stage lip-syching to their “awesome beats” occasionally screaming into the microphone about how awesome everything is.
It was a gift from God when they were finally done. I was in search of ear plugs and found some by the bar which made the rest of the night much more bearable.
The second act wasn’t much better and the booze at the bar didn’t dull the pain. Do they just pick these guys off the streets? It looked like a bunch of homeless scenesters on drugs floating around the stage. The sound was just noise, but I’m sure they had some sort of important thing to say about world peace, capitalism… or puppies… I dunno, I wasn’t paying much attention.
I’m glad I decided to stay because nothing could have prepared me for the next set coming up.
While the group set up a face of a man with progeria was projected on-screen as a screen saver. His name is Leon Botha who I later learned is a performance artist from South Africa who has become somewhat of an auxiliary member of Die Antwoord. He has appeared in a few of their promotional materials as well as their music video for “Enter the Ninja”
Soon Ninja (Watkin Tudor Jones) and Yo-Landi Vi$$er appeared on stage and began their set. The hipsters of Williamsburg loved it. It was so campy but at the same time were very valid rhymes, beats and electric sounds. Both of them wore matching white sweatsuits adorned with random graffiti. Later during “Rich Bitch,” Yo-Landi would don a heavy winter jacket and break away from the sweatpants to show off skin-tight gold leggings that she would display to the front row and offer her rear for them to smack. Ninja would also get into the wardrobe changing game and show off his iconic “Dark Side of the Moon” boxers made popular by the “Zef Side” YouTube video.
All in all a good night was had by all and afterwards I ended up downloading their EP available from iTunes. It was just announced recently that they have signed with Interscope Records and plan to release a full CD sometime soon. Hopefully, we’ll get to hear more of the stuff released from “$O$” record that was distributed for free earlier this year.
You can find more pictures at Brooklyn Vegan’s website as well as more about how Die Antwoord totally are more awesome than M.I.A. who was pretty disgusting and sucked at her set the night before.
I’ve been trying really hard to get to more concerts now than when I was in college. I feel it’s a great experience to expand your knowledge of a performer to actually see them live. I just want to say that I am really upset I wasn’t able to score tickets to see Lady Gaga while she was in NYC! I signed on at exactly 10am when the sale started and wasn’t able to even reserve one seat, let alone the three I really wanted. The concert tickets were about $50-$70 a pop originally and on places like Stub Hub they were going for $500. Re-dick-u-lous. This is why I appreciate bands like Nine Inch Nails who require names on tickets and then proof of identity when you go to the concerts (at least that’s what they did when they did the small venue circuit over the summer.) It sucks if it ends up that you can’t go to the concert because you can’t re-sell them, but the overall cost for the fan is much lower and you don’t have this secondary market popping up that exists only to screw real fans over.
I’ve been listening to Little Boots since I got a free iTunes sampler earlier this year which included her track “Stuck on Repeat.” Samplers are usually a hit or miss for me, and I was immediately hooked on her sound and personality. Unfortunately, she has only really released tracks in the UK and there are only a handful of legit releases someone from the States can get their hands on. I’ve gobbled up most of her EPs and Remix tracks via iTunes and she even offered a mash-up track off of her website that is composed some released and non-released music.
Boy was I excited when I found out via her mailing-list that not only was she going to do a tour, albeit short, in the United States, but that she was coming to NYC! To make it even better, she was going to be in town a mere days before my birthday! (HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME!) I scarfed up two tickets for me and Adam to see her and it only costed about $20 for each ticket. That was a steal for me!
Last night was the night and I was wowed! Not only from Little Boot’s performance and energy but by the two opening bands that night: Plastiscines and Yes Giantess. I should have realized I would have enjoyed Yes Giantess by the remix they did of Little Boots’ “Earthquake” that she released a couple weeks ago.
The Plastiscines were an all-female group with a hard edge. From what I could tell they were French due to their accents, after doing some research I found out I was right. I like being able to hear powerful women who don’t come off as whiney or bitches and they didn’t disappoint. I’m sorry to admit this, but I was really impressed with their hair and clothing too! To be able to rock and look good while doing it? Fab!
Yes Giantess was also a pleasant surprise. As we waited for them to make up the stage I watched the crew put together the different synthesizers and keyboards that the team were going to play and then there was a lone Mac laptop with red electrical tape spelling out “YES” sitting on there as well. These guys were outright nerds and seemed to have a jolly time up there banging away on the keys.
Then came the headliner: Little Boots. I had read Perez Hilton earlier in the day and knew she was to do a surprise set on whatever local event he was having that night in NYC, but I did notice it was here a few times peaking around the corner on the stage while the other acts played so Perez’s thing must not have been long. She had a disco-ball-esque dress on that refracted the stage light that shined in various directions. She has total control of the stage and is very adept at starting audience participation.
If you aren’t familiar with Little Boots’ YouTube videos, she performs with Tenori-On by Yamaha on some of her tracks. The device is so nerdy and dramatically different from all of the classical and modern day instruments out there. As I have interpreted it, you have to be competent in being able to program the machine and then can use your programming and sound bites to play. The most obvious song that you hear it on is “Meddle.”
Another interesting “instrument” she used was some sort of light beam that was sitting on a synthesizer and depending on how she moved her hand the sound would be different. I have no idea what it is called but it was awesome.
She wrapped up the night without playing “Stuck on Repeat” and I was getting a bit nervous! That was my favorite song and I think her most well-known. After exiting the stage everyone stayed on the dance floor and called for her to come back on. Then the first few bars of the song started to play and the crowd went wild! Everyone was satisfied.
She played all the songs I knew of plus ones I hadn’t heard yet since her debut album “Hands” isn’t available in the States yet so I can only hope that one day we’ll be able to hear it. I’m really excited about what she has to offer to indie electronic music and I hope people in the states will be able to share in it really soon!
“Standby” is the freshman album from “I Will Never Be The Same“. The man behind the band is newcomer Josh Atchley. From the band’s website, he details that through a year and a half of writing, playing, production and marketing, he has started from scratch to create the apocalyptic sound of “Standby.”
Atchley is the write, lyricist, and sole album band member (except for help on some of the drumming) which reminds me of Trent Reznor solo efforts with his band Nine Inch Nails. Atchley and the live band members of I Will Never Be The Same have started touring the album on the west coast (sadly, I have yet to see anything performed live or on video by the band.) He has dreams of touring the band across the country and hopefully, around the world.
His live band members include of course himself, Josh Atchley (Vocals, Lead Guitars, Keyboards), Brittany Bao (Keyboard/Synth), Taylor Haycraft (Guitars), Francis Ten (Bass), and Adam Waldon (Drums). Haycraft and Ten are also of the band “West Indian Girl” that specializes in some serious psychedelic music, not my cup of tea but check it out if interested!
The album starts with the contemplative “Prelude” and segues into the powerful “I Am Not The One.” “Worldless” exhibits the eminent warnings from the previous tracks and then glides into the electric “Starfields.” Atchley apparently is a fan of fire and includes two tracks alluding to the destructor, “Burn” and “Set Your World On Fire” have much grittier vocals but keeps to the beauty of the album. The other tracks on the album include thoughts and missives to another, the speaker alone and recalling the past. “Eyes Turning Black” is like the final chapter of the story, the world has died with everything with it. The sense that someone has died and the life you saw in their eyes has “faded to black.” “Superloop” is the ending thought that concludes with “Cry Little Sister,” a cover of the “Lost Boys” soundtrack theme by Gerard McMann and Michael Mainieri.
My favorite tracks off this album are “Worldless,” “Starfields,” “Last Goodbye,” “Eyes Turning Black,” and “Cry Little Sister.”
Here is a full track listing:
- Prelude (1:42)
- I Am Not the One (4:18)
- Worldless (3:25)
- Starfields (4:39)
- Burn (4:46)
- Speak (4:14)
- All For You (5:48)
- Last Goodbye (5:45)
- Set Your World On Fire (5:34)
- Eyes Turning Black (5:29)
- Superloop (5:27)
- Cry Little Sister (5:00)
You can pick up the album (electronic download only as of now) via your favorite electronic store: Amazon.com, iTunes, Fixt or eMusic. Also be sure to check out the band’s MySpace (if even just to listen to the music I talked about here), Facebook Page, and Josh even has an entertaining Twitter account as well.
And there you go, my first attempt at an album review! Check out this album and let me know what your thoughts are.