Playlist Review: 2014 According To Sub Pop

Sub Pop calling this Soundcloud playlist 2014 According To Sub Pop doesn’t say a lot for 2014 or for Sub Pop’s place in it, both of which I think probably deserve a little more credit than the quality of this playlist would indicate. My faith in the wisdom at Sub Pop combined with the 14/27 meh ratio confirms my theory that there’s just a lot of meh out there; a bunch of hipsters gazing at their navels and iPads, with nothing to say beyond reveling in simple percussion and snoozy snooze tunes.

Here’s the good stuff. This playlist has inspired me to check out albums from Luluc, J Mascis, The Notwist, Lyla Foy, and THUMPERS; and maybe Chad VanGaalen, GOAT, Mogwai, and King Tuff. Everything else I don’t need to dig any deeper into.

And the standout is The Notwist. All three of their songs get “Like,” but that’s like a “really like” for them. And since they’re all great but not shout out loud rise above awesome, I get the feeling the thing might work really well as an entire album.

Anyway, on to the song notes.

  1. Hide From The Sun – GOAT – Off to a good start here as this is just a flat-out good song from Swedish band GOAT. It’s got an upbeat tempo and a Middle-Eastern vibe. Not quite an instrumental, but the only lyrics are “ah ah ah.”
  2. #CAKE – Shabazz Palaces – I don’t understand what’s so mind-blowing about Shabazz Palaces. This is about eating cake. Repeatedly. If you can get past the repetitiveness, it’s a-ite. Maybe the hype was just all from a prior album.
  3. Where Are You (Hooray For Earth Remix) – Chad VanGaalen – The best of VanGaalen’s three tracks on here. The drum beat is what makes it stand out.
  4. Under These Hands – Dum Dum Girls – Zzzzzzz. Dum Dum Girls have a lot of hype around them, too, and maybe that’s also due to a prior album, because there’s nothing to this.
  5. Luluc – Small Window – This is great. I want to hear more from Luluc. If they’re able to mix it up, this kind of stuff can be awesome. If not, it will get old really quickly.
  6. J Mascis – Every Morning – Why did I not like Dinosaur Jr. in high school? I like everything I hear from J Mascis now.
  7. Matamoros – The Afghan Whigs – Not crazy about The Afghan Whigs, but I really like this song.
  8. So What – Avi Buffalo – And here we enter the first extended snooze fest of the playlist. This is nothing. There is nothing to this. Repetitive. Plus it’s repetitive.
  9. Oak Tree – Mirel Wagner – This is nice enough for its genre, but way too repetitive, spending way too much time on the main two chords.
  10. They Come In Gold – Shabazz Palaces – Better than his other one. If I were into listening to lyrics, I might figure out what’s awesome about this guy.
  11. There Is A Light – Rose Windows – Zzzzzz. I bet those All Songs Considered douches love this shit. Inoffensive with some blurry sounds and vocal harmonies. Fucking millenial hippies. I guess if you couldn’t get enough Fleet Foxes or needed them with a female singer, there’s this.
  12. Run Run Run (Ada Remix) – The Notwist – Yes! First new artist on the playlist that excites me, and they do it with all three of their tracks. To be fair, I really do like that Luluc song, but it’s not so much exciting. This is even a bit on the mellow side, but still, hipsters doing sonic experimentation with electronics and they didn’t forget about the songwriting aspect.
  13. Monster – Chad VanGaalen – Too repetitive/squeaky in chorus, but nice lyrics in verses.
  14. Work Work (feat. Cocc Pistol Cree) – Clipping – Again, seems like standard hip-hop to me, not sure what’s so amazing about them. Maybe I should stop taking my amazing cues from the Sub Pop twitter feed. I like the percussion, spesh at the top.
  15. Algiers – The Afghan Whigs – And I like this more than I usually like The Afghan Whigs, too. This would fit on a Gutter Twins record.
  16. Black Is The Color – Shearwater – And the champion of boring, as always…
  17. Where Are You? – Chad Van Gaalen – Like his last one, pretty nice, but a bit ponderous.
  18. Kong – The Notwist – Here’s jangly, upbeat, more straightforward kinda thing, but more awesome. The falsetto is so perfectly off key.
  19. Mercury Dime – Death Vessel – Annoying.
  20. Feather Tongue – Lyla Foy – One of my favorites. Definitely passes some good will on to her second track on here. Sweet synth sounds up top. Could use a bit more development on the songwriting front, but the raw material here is great.
  21. Ilsa Drown – Death Vessel – much better than her prior one on here. That one is probably dragging this one down the same way Lyla Foy’s first one pulls up her second one. Though I think “meh” is a more than fair rating.
  22. Close To The Glass – The Notwist – Closing it out strong for these guys with a cool percussion sound and beat dominating this off-beat track.
  23. Lost Boys And Girls Club – Dum Dum Girls – Kinda hard to believe neither of the Dum Dum Girls tracks got hate given how boring they are. Meh.
  24. Remurdered – Mogwai – Like so much of Mogwai, a real grabber at first, then six minutes later you’re like, “Still?”
  25. Easy – Lyla Foy – Pleasant. Again, pretty much all of the material is presented in the first 45 seconds or so and there’s not a lot of emotional development after that. Still, good.
  26. Unkinder (A Tougher Love) – THUMPERS – A real in your face rocker.
  27. Eyes Of The Muse – King Tuff – Almost a like. Quite a rocker, but there are points where I just…can’t…take it. For the longest time could have sworn he was saying “Look into the eyes of the moose,” which I like a lot better.

Mix: “Every Morning” (J Mascis)
Like: “Hide From The Sun” (GOAT), “Where Are You (Hooray For Earth Remix)” (Chad VanGaalen), “Small Window” (Luluc), “Matamoros” (The Afghan Whigs), “Run Run Run (Ada Remix)” (The Notwist), “Kong” (The Notwist), “Feather Tongue” (Lyla Foy), “Close To The Glass” (The Notwist), “Easy” (Lyla Foy), “Unkinder (A Tougher Love)” (THUMPERS)
Meh: “#CAKE” (Shabazz Palaces), “Under These Hands” (Dum Dum Girls), “So What” (Avi Buffalo), “Oak Tree” (Mirel Wagner), “They Come In Gold” (Shabazz Palaces), “There Is A Light” (Rose Windows), “Monster” (Chad VanGaalen), “Work Work (feat. Cocc Pistol Cree)” (Clipping), “Algiers” (The Afghan Whigs), “Black Is The Color” (Shearwater), “Where Are You? (Chad VanGaalen), “Ilsa Drown” (Death Vessel), “Lost Boys And Girls Club” (Dum Dum Girls), “Remurdered” (Mogwai), “Eyes Of The Muse” (King Tuff)
Hate: “Mercury Dime” (Death Vessel)

Playlist Review: Xbox Music Billboard Music Awards 2014 Finalists

I seriously have to stop reviewing these playlists. They’re so much more miss than hit. No idea how Christian music gets its own category, now how in the hell it accounts for like 17% of the songs on this playlist. And what does it mean to be an awards “finalist”? Is that the same thing as being nominated? Or is there like a play-in round?

Another query. Is there an industry that reviews Christian rock (there must be), and, if so, does it ever give anybody a negative review? Or is it just like, “yay, more propaganda”?

Quite a few of these songs I’ve covered in the past, either in the Choice Cuts February 2014 playlist review or the Best of 2013 playlist review.

Biggest surprise: Two of my faves here are Justin Bieber and TobyMac, who’s a Christian artist. I may have gone easy on the full/open ratings on many of the other songs.

  1. Drunk In Love – Beyoncé – [from choice cuts feb] What is the all the hype for re: this song? It’s pretty stupid. It’s got some good features…the way the song builds in the beginning is growing on me and it’s quite an energetic vocal workout and is impressively all over the place. But the “how the hell did this shit happen” and “beautiful bodies” lines are pandering and anything with Jay-Z on it is awful. Also [loudness wars]. Like the surfboard line. Hate the sampled laugh. Not sure how but I’m giving it open.
  2. Hold On, We’re Going Home – Drake – [from best of 2013] Maybe my favorite song on this mix. But still too fucking hot.
  3. Happy (Gru’s Theme From Despicable Me 2) – Pharrell Williams – [from Choice Cuts Feb] surprised I like this, but it’s kinda ok. Not loudness wars, which is so nice, so now I have a positive image of Pharrell Williams beyond just being a hanger-on in that Robin Thicke video.
  4. Wrecking Ball – Miley Cyrus – holy ass this sucks. Generic slow song, very 70’s bloated crap. Boring. Lyrics don’t make any sense: is she the wrecker or the wreckee?
  5. Radioactive – Imagine Dragons – [from Choice Cuts Feb] [loudness wars]. Okay, the music industry has successfully made the shitty sound of overdriven digital clipping the sound of new and fresh and oh my god you can’t even fight it anymore because a whole generation understands this sound as the sound of what they like. I am old. Fuck me.
  6. Royals – Lorde – swear I reviewed this elsewhere but can’t find it. whatever, fits with all the other lorde crap.
  7. Roar – Katy Perry – even worse than “Wrecking Ball”. This is the third song on this playlist I hadn’t reviewed before, and it’s the third that has a significant portion of its lyrics being some kind of stuttery “oh oh oh”. I guess that’s the hot shit now. I can’t believe how bad this is. She’s a tiger. Also she’s the eye of the tiger. And she’s louder than a lion. And when she roars she goes “oh oh oh oh oh-oh-oh”. Most of the Christian songs are better than this. What the hell, how many filters does a song have to get passed to be a Katy Perry single? How is this possible? How many people must have thought, “yeah, this is a good one”?
  8. Blurred Lines – Robin Thicke – [from best of 2013] The only thing I can think of when this song is Robin Thicke -> Alan Thicke -> Kirk Cameron -> Bananas are proof of God. Douchetastic. [Now] Glad to see the song/Robin getting maje criticism for such rapiness.
  9. Counting Stars – One Republic – what kind of an awful band name is that? This sucks but for some reason is the only song ever on the radio now.
  10. The Monster – Eminem – [from best of 2013] Very good but has that problem with hip-hop where the chorus is just repeated too often. And it’s one of those choruses that is like the same melodic line four times in a row. Ugh. Also big surprise is that this song is about him.
  11. Diamonds – Rihanna – This isn’t great, and is a bit too repetitive, but it’s solid and sometimes that’s all you can ask from Top 40. Not crazy about the affectation on “shine bright like a diamond,” but this four on the floor beat is getting me. Bennie of the doubt and call it full.
  12. Locked Out Of Heaven – Bruno Mars – think i like this quite a bit. stupid lyrics. Reminds me of Men At Work, maybe a little bit like The Police. Was not impressed with the Super Bowl halftime show, where he played this, but this is freakin’ awesome.
  13. Pompeii – Bastille – pretty good. Got an 80’s vibe and an All Songs Considered vibe, but it’s tight and bold, not snivelly. More of that “eh eh eh oh oh oh” lyrics at the beginning, which, by itself, removes it from mix consideration.
  14. The Way – Ariana Grande – I like this. I liked this a lot more when it was Mariah Carey’s first few albums.
  15. Wake Me Up (Radio Edit) – Avicii – [from best of 2013] Well hasn’t this been done a hundred times already? So I guess this guy is a DJ and the singer is another person (Aloe Blacc, who I swear I’ve heard elsewhere.) Anyway, the DJ stuff seems a-ite, but the vox and guitar really bug me.
  16. Mirrors – Justin Timberlake – Where does he get off making an eight-minute track? I mean, he’s a pop star, why is he not writing three-minute pop songs? Seriously, though, this is evidence of a new paradigm: our biggest stars aren’t writing for radio, they’re writing for the club, expecting their stuff to be chopped up and remixed by DJs. This is good and could be great at five minutes or so, but there’s an extended breakdown section that has no business being in there for any other reason than a live DJ remix. I know nobody’s making music for the way I consume it anymore, but I wish JT would have made an album full of radio edits. As it is, this album is a bit too much to swallow. The rhythm track is awesome. Full might be generous, but hell, it’s pretty good.
  17. Get Lucky – Daft Punk (feat. Pharrell Williams) – ]from best of 2013] When this song was blowing up this summer, one of my friends noted, “This song is so simple and straightforward. Can’t you imagine just anybody doing it? The only reason it’s huge is because Daft Punk did it.” I totally agree. But I also still really like it. Cognitive Dissonance. But there’s a craft here that extends beyond the simple song. The sounds are really well crafted and the way they weave in and out is expertly done. The rhythm is simple and repetitive, but I feel like there was a ton of love put into programming it perfectly right down to the microsecond so that certain parts of the track hit just a titch earlier than others…just perfectly to cause your body to move. It’s those kinds of details that cause this to be elevated above the pre-programmed track on your Casio keyboard.
  18. Clarity – Zedd – a different zedd was in Choice Cuts Feb playlist. That’s two strikes for Zedd.
  19. Can’t Hold Us (feat. Ray Dalton) – Macklemore – [from best of 2013] I can’t stand Macklemore, but I do like this song. But even then, I just like the singing, so I guess that means I just like Ray Dalton. Also my UW alumni magazine says Ryan Lewis is a pop music icon, but I don’t think they know what “icon” means.
  20. Harlem Shake – Baauer – was this song a hit? thought it was just the video. And even that was just like “next Gangman Style!” and even then it was more just “meme!” I can listen to this as background without getting pissed so open heart I guess, even though there is nothing special at all about it.
  21. Gangnam Style – Psy – So I never realized how crappy this song is without the video. I have such wonderful memories of this based on my then-two-year-old dancing along to the video anytime it showed up, but I don’t have any patience for the audio only.
  22. I Need Your Love – Calvin Harris – Recognize that female vocal. It’s Ellie Goulding. Who I don’t think I’ve heard much from, so maybe not. All female vox sound the same now. Pretty meh, but cool keys riff so I guess I’ll give it open.
  23. Do What U Want – Lady Gaga – [from best of 2013] Not her best stuff. The “do what we want” is kind of a theme, huh? “Follow Your Arrow,” “We Can’t Stop,” “Do What U Want.” “No invitations, it’s a private party.” If it’s a private party then you do need invitations. still squeaks into full heart territory. I feel like it’s Drake helping out. It’s R. Kelly.
  24. Cookie – R. Kelly – What do you think he’s trying to say here? This guy’s a parody of himself, you don’t even have to make fun of him. I guess he used to be a good singer? But this is just auto-tune and talking about aggressive oral sex over and over and over. “Mmm-mmm, ,like an Oreo/I want to lick the middle like an Oreo/Oreo, Oreo, like an Oreo/I want to bite it and get inside it ’till I get you gone.”
  25. Born To Die – Lana Del Rey – I just find her so boring. After the initial indie Internet scene hatred, I was ready to give her a chance. I don’t judge somebody’s music based on how they got into the biz, but the music is bad enough that, yeah, I’m ready to just write this off to connections and plastic surgery and the whole thing being a product machine that she positioned herself perfect for. Kudos for her getting Dan Auerbach to work with her. He’s super douchey about criticizing everybody else for being fake, not sure how he chose to work with this epitome of fake.
  26. Power Trip – J. Cole – jesus balls? another kris kross reference? Why are they all of a sudden getting name-checked repeatedly? Heavy bass beat, contentless lyrics in chorus. Fine in the background.
  27. Holy Grail – Jay-Z – [from best of 2013] Sophomoric. You can’t pull this off, Jay-Z. First of all, too much with the chorus…too many times. Second, you can’t pull of these lyrics: “I just can’t crack your code/One day your screaming you love me loud/The next day you’re so cold.” No, no, no. You are not getting the runaround from ladies the way a high school boy does, and even if one were to try that you wouldn’t have time for it. Finally, you can’t pull off the lyrics about how you can’t take your daughter for a walk because paparazzi, even if you do brush the lyrics aside immediately afterwards. You hardly have to parent. You probably have at least two live-in nannies. Nobody is feeling sorry for you because you can’t take your daughter for a walk. If you wanted, you could buy a private island and walk your daughter all around that island with nobody to bother you.
  28. Timber – Pitbull – Kinda gets an Avicii vibe going on with that … is it a harmonica? And the female vox with hand claps are a little too bright/in your face. Then there are the lyrics about Miley Cyrus twerking with no bra…timeless, amirite? But hell I could dance to this. Open.
  29. Crash My Party – Luke Bryan – Tripe lyrically (“Ain’t a spot downtown that’s rockin’ the way that you rock me”) and musically. Apparently this was a number one single, along with three other songs from this album. So Jesus Christ.
  30. Cruise – Florida Georgia Line – Holy shit, how in the hell do people listen this shit? “Baby you a song/Make me wanna roll my windows down and cruise.” “And this brand new Chevy with a lift kick/Would look a hell of a lot better with you up in it.”
  31. Wagon Wheel – Darius Rucker – A nice respite from the previous two tracks. Not great, but decent enough. I want to give it an open heart just because it’s head and shoulders above the rest of the crap in this genre, even though it’s pretty standard country rock. Hell, standard is good given the rest of it.
  32. Boys ‘Round Here (feat. Pistol Annie & Friends) – Blake Shelton – fuck, it’s always about beer and trucks. It’s all fucking tribalism with these guys. Chants of “redneck” and proudly stating what they don’t know. And glorification of chewing tobacco: do country stars ever take shit for this, or is it just rap and rock that does? You can listen to this, think of yourself as a boy around “here”, and hate boys round “there,” whether that’s the next town, the next state, or the big city. Lyrically it’s two songs in one where guys will here about beer and trucks (seriously) and fucking girls and the girls will hear about whooping and hollering and laughing and cuddling and kissing under the stars.
  33. My Songs Know What You Did In The Night (Light Em Up) – Fall Out Boy – This is straight out of hair metal, spesh the “I’m on fire!” line. They’re clearly just writing from the template now. The angst is gone and so is the passion.
  34. Safe And Sound – Capital Cities – cheesy 80’s shit passing as alterna rock. we already rejected this shit.
  35. Let Her Go – Passenger – that cheesy shit that All Songs Considers always plays, and all that shit is exactly the same.
  36. Story Of My Life – One Direction – boring. Lyrics are also somewhat cryptic…is he bemoaning the fact that he’s kind of a dick to her? At least that’s somewhat novel.
  37. Try – P!nk – Did we need another Cyndi Lauper? I mean, I like Cyndi Lauper, but what does P!nk do that Lauper didn’t do better?
  38. As Long As You Love Me – Justin Bieber – this is actually an awesome song. lyrics are stupid. Hard to believe this choad would be fine with just her love, even if they were starving. I mean, hunger, for crying out loud. “I’ll be your platinum, I’ll be your silver, I’ll be your gold.” Then there are the lyrics in the rap “‘Us,’ ‘trust’, two things I can’t spell without ‘U’.”
  39. We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together – Taylor Swift – The lyrics are juvenile, which of course is intentional, but they still grate. Except for that line about the indie record, that’s kinda funny. The song’s also sophomoric, but it’s not bad for its genre. And I think most of Swift’s are awful.
  40. I Will Wait – Mumford & Sons – Can’t decide if I love or hate Mumford & Sons. They’re kind of enjoyable, but also pretty superficial. I think here it’s safe enough to split the difference and leave it as an open heart until I figure it out.
  41. High Hopes – Bruce Springsteen – Hearing new Bruce Springsteen songs is like seeing your fat ex-girlfriend at the high school reunion. (NB: My high school girlfiend is not fat, it’s more of a general thing I’m mentioning.) Somewhere Clarence Clemons is rolling over in his grave: these are the worst kind of cheesy horns ever. Springsteen’s got high hopes, which he tells you over and over and fucking over. This sucks. Oh, he’s singing about a woman with a crying baby needing help and strength. He’s a cliche of himself now. And this just isn’t sincere coming from a jillionaire. It hasn’t been since Born In The U.S.A., but at least back then the music was awesome. His songs of social justice are still powerful, but not economic justice. Stupid two-note heavily synthed up guitar “solo.” God this is bad.
  42. Because We Can – Bon Jovi – God, even worse than Springsteen and has been miserably awful for longer.
  43. Vivir Mi Vida – Marc Anthony – Start of eight Latin songs in a row. I’m out of my element here. This is nice, like a really good blending of a few different Latin styles. Full heart is generous, but I tend to give the benefit of the doubt in playlists like this for artists I’m not really familiar with.
  44. Limbo – Daddy Yankee – Upbeat and modern-dancey. Fairly standard for the genre, seems kinda derivative, but has enough cool parts I will make it full.
  45. Loco – Enrique Iglesias – The worst no matter what language he’s singing in.
  46. Darte Un Beso – Prince Royce – Boring, sappy with that whispery high singing thing that’s supposed to be a stand in for breathless infatuation. Not as awful as Iglesias, but I am sure not into it.
  47. Propuesta Indecente – Romeo Santos – Half awful and overdone with rapey lyrics, and then half has some redeeming interesting parts.
  48. Mujer de Piedra – Gerardo Ortiz – Got a southwestern/mariachi feel to it. Like Los Lobos kind of veers into this territory from time to time.
  49. Ya Lo Sé – Jenni Rivera – Again with the southwestern/Los Lobos feel. This actually feels like a standard, though what the hell do I know?
  50. Hoy Tengo Ganas De Ti – Alejandro Fernández – Sounds like a Disney movie. Like Julio Iglesias type stuff. Which I guess I’ll take over Enrique Iglesias. But still.
  51. We Won’t Be Shaken – Building 429 – oh shit is this a Christian section? Why do they get their own fucking categories? And nine fucking tracks? This is boring. And singing a song about trusting in a fairy tale. It’s like singing a song about “I will not think critically about any evidence.” Terrible and boring.
  52. Overcomer – Mandisa – oh fucking god it is a Christian section. Decent enough song but the lyrics are, natch, infantile. References TobyMac in the lyrics.
  53. Help Me Find It – Sidewalk Prophets – And back to the standard Christian rock soft rock WLTE Lite FM crap. How many songs can we write about how we have problems but if we just turn ourselves over to God it’ll be cool? It must be infinite.
  54. Whom Shall I Fear (God Of Angel Armies) – Chris Tomlin – Not only ridiculously awful Christian rock that turns goes after the jingoistic nature of religion, but makes use of “whom.”
  55. Hello, My Name Is – Matthew West – And now we’re back to that “whoa oh oh oh oh oh” stuff we were getting so much of up at the top of this playlist. I like the Rick Springfield-esque guitar, so if I can ignore the lyrics I can keep it as open.
  56. Sick Of It – Skillet – Did metal get put after Christian? Oy. No, they’re Christian, too. Just sound different than the rest of the genre, which, well, at least there’s that. But this is just silly.
  57. Me Without You – TobyMac – also Christian so. But this is a sweet fucking song. It’d be mix if it weren’t Christian, and it’s not even explicitly Christian…the “you” could be a girl/guy. Most overt it gets is “you had me at belief.”
  58. I Need A Miracle – Third Day – “Didn’t know what he was looking for/Or even what he’d find” – well no duh. The name makes you think of shit like Three Doors Down and Third Eye Blind and that’s what you get. Excellent production, which is natch for this genre. That’s what they’ve got is super slick packaging.
  59. Amazing Grace – Alan Jackson – it’s hard to fuck up “Amazing Grace” and Alan Jackson doesn’t, though it doesn’t need to be this twangy.

Mix: “Hold On, We’re Going Home” (Drake), “Get Lucky (feat. Pharrell Williams)” (Daft Punk), “Locked Out Of Heaven” (Bruno Mars)
– “Happy (Gru’s Theme From Despicable Me 2)” (Pharrell Williams), “Diamonds” (Rihanna), “Pompeii” (Bastille), “Mirrors” (Justin Timberlake), “Can’t Hold Us (feat. Ray Dalton)” (Macklemore & Ryan Lewis), “Do What U Want” (Lady Gaga), “As Long As You Love Me” (Justin Bieber), “Vivir Mi Vida” (Marc Anthony), “Limbo” (Daddy Yankee), “Me Without You” (TobyMac)
– “Drunk In Love” (Beyoncé), “The Monster” (Eminem), “The Way” (Ariana Grande), “Harlem Shake” (Baauer), “I Need Your Love” (Calvin Harris), “Power Trip” (J. Cole), “Timber” (Pitbull), “Wagon Wheel” (Darius Rucker), “My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark (Light Em Up)” (Fall Out Boy), “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” (Taylor Swift), “I Will Wait” (Mumford & Sons), “Propuesta Indecente” (Romeo Santos), “Mujer de Piedra” (Gerardo Ortiz), “Ya Lo Sé” (Jenni Rivera), “Hello, My Name Is” (Matthew West), “Amazing Grace” (Alan Jackson)
– “Wrecking Ball” (Miley Cyrus), “Radioactive” (Imagine Dragons), “Royals” (Lorde), “Roar” (Katy Perry), “Blurred Lines” (Robin Thicke), “Counting Stars” (One Republic), “Wake Me Up (Radio Edit)” (Avicii), “Clarity” (Zedd), “Gangnam Style” (Psy), “Cookie” (R. Kelly), “Born To Die” (Lana Del Rey), “Holy Grail” (Jay-Z), “Crash My Party” (Luke Bryan), “Cruise” (Florida Georgia Line), “Boys ‘Round Here (feat. Pistol Annie & Friends)” (Blake Shelton), “Safe And Sound” (Capital Cities), “Let Her Go” (Passenger), “Story Of My Life” (One Direction), “Try” (P!nk), “High Hopes” (Bruce Springsteen), “Because We Can” (Bon Jovi), “Loco” (Enrique Iglesias), “Darte Un Beso” (Prince Royce), “Hoy Tengo Ganas De Ti” (Alejandro Fernández ), “We Won’t Be Shaken” (Building 429), “Overcomer” (Mandisa), “Help Me Find It” (Sidewalk Prophets), “Whom Shall I Fear (God Of Angel Armies)” (Chris Tomlin), “Sick Of It” (Skillet) “I Need A Miracle” (Third Day)

Xbox Music Playlist Review: Fantasy Metal: Unleash Your Inner Wizard

No, really, Xbox Music found 21 songs to put into a playlist in the “genre” of “fantasy metal.” And, yeah, it’s pretty much what you would expect. Knights, dragons, swords, an unusual amount of hammers…not sure what the obsession with hammers is. And, yeah, it’s pretty much as cheesy and silly as you’d expect, too. Spinal Tap lives…and how. I mean, God, do we really need this much fantasy metal? How many wanky guitar solos about evil demons can there be? This is what’s always bugged me about fantasy anyway, every thing is the superlativest of whatever it is, until the next chapter or book or whatever. And through it all I’m supposed to pretend like it’s common knowledge whether a wraith can defeat a ghoul or vice-versa.

There’s no innuendo here. I mean if a fantasy metal band writes a song called “Cloak Of Feathers,” it’s about a cloak of fucking feathres.

Clearly the sound of fantasy metal is cheesy synth on the guits and drums that sound like (or maybe even are) drum machines. That’s their clarion call…how you know you’re listening to fantasy metal, because otherwise I guess you wouldn’t know you were listening to fast, heavy drums and guitars playing a song about a ring broken into shards.

Still, some of the songs are pretty good…just don’t expect me to admit to that around girls.

  1. Valley Of The Damned – Dragonforce – A full heart may be generous. It’s damned good at times but, like so much here, suffers from bouts of cheesiness. But, man, this is mostly sweet.
  2. Cloak Of Feathers – The Sword – Has a vintage 70’s Dio-kind of feel to it, but a little better. Definitely worth holding on to this band as one I want to hear more of, so making full even though it’s a bit too long for it’s own good. But for “fantasy metal,” shit, it’s an exercise in self-restraint.
  3. 7 Days To The Wolves – Nightwish – It’s like some bizarro hip hop strings got in there somehow. pretty good, though. borderline full. ah hell, maybe i’ll keep it full cuz maybe i’ll want to listen to it later.
  4. Demonheart – Luca Turilli – here we’re much more in Dio territory and things start to get much more mediocre. there’s some cheesy carmina burana/operation:mindcrime vox that don’t end up working. Pretty sure this is a drum machine…too artificial.
  5. Sacrimony (Angel Of Afterlife) – Kamelot – meh. mostly inoffensive, but mostly boring and trope-filled. The top search result for “sacrimony” is urban dictionary, then a bunch of links for this song. I love how we’re just making up medieval-sounding names for s**t now. I don’t need this. It adds no value to the universe. At least that mopey horror movie montage thing near the end is unique.
  6. Any Means Necessary – Hammerfall – The chorus is ridic stupid, like so many in this playlist, but the rest of it is redeeming enough to warrant an open heart.
  7. The Sunk’n Norwegian – Alestorm – This sucks. What’s the point of that apostrophe? It’s still a syllabic “n”. God it makes me so angry that somebody made this.
  8. Another Strange Me – Blind Guardian – reminiscent of W.A.S.P.’s “The Real Me.” Is it supposed to be “Another Stranger Me”? Yes. Totally sounds like W.A.S.P. But that’s a good song and this one has its moments.
  9. Trollshaws – Battlelore – fucking flute. Jesus Christ, do these bands realize they’re fucking cliches? switches back and forth from growly cookie monster vox to a harpsichord synth/flute part. i actually kinda dig the growly part. Oh then after the second chorus they bring in a piano sound. They just can’t leave well enough alone. Then a goddmaned pan flute. Jesus, have some fucking pride.
  10. On The Morning Dew – Elvenking – they’re fucking called Elvenking. fucking renfest shit. These fairies start right off with the pan flute and lute shit. The album cover shows a fucking elvenking. Fucking elvenking. Because what, Led Zeppelin didn’t mine this genre enough? Christ.
  11. I Am The Night, Colour Me Black – Priestess – first band I’ve heard of. No, I think I’ve heard of Dragonforce and The Sword. Kind of Motorhead-ish. Almost Kyuss-y, but without the major fuzz on the guitars. Not quite as catchy as those bands. Full heart because there’s not so much going on in these.
  12. Knights Of Taragon – Freedom Call – Freedom Call…what is this a fucking tea party band? Got that cheesy horn synth sound you expect to hear at an NBA game. Kinda good, actually, without that guitar as horn MIDI controller, but argh that’s a black mark on it. Oh god, here comes the bridge. That sucks, too.
  13. Reign Of Terror – Rhapsody Of Fire – really, that’s their name? Have this as “at least open” but it’s really growing on me. there’s a bohemian rhapsody thing going on. Love that synth sound at about 4:10. But there’s no way I can make this full.
  14. Phoenix Down -The Unguided – I’ve heard this five or six times now and never notice it.
  15. Quest For The Hammer Of Glory – Gloryhammer – how meta. Oh god these lyrics suck. second hammer-based band name. Is a gloryhammer something that goes in a gloryhole?
  16. The Things We Believe In – Orden Ogan – stupid. Trope after trope and no passion. Fantasy metal by numbers.
  17. Black Templar – Legion Of The Damned – fast. deathy growl vox. I don’t really notice this much, either, but it’s so different from the rest and really pretty cool (you hardly notice the lyrics) that I kinda dig it.
  18. Holy War – Iron Mask – back to the cheesy synth sounding guitar. i don’t hate this.
  19. Zenith – Huntress – i think the chorus salvages this.
  20. At The Gates Of Morken – Fairyland – seriously, Fairyland. And yet it’s one of the better songs on here. A full heart is generous , but that’s how I do when I just have one song to go on for a band. And this does have some really cool parts. But, good god, Fairyland.
  21. Seawitch And The Sorcerer – Kivimetsän Druidi – This sucks because she’s doing some kind of operatic thing and so the ridic fast drummer behind her is produced into the backround b/c I guess they don’t want to rock over that vocal. I really don’t care for the strained vocal, like why bother, but I do find myself bobbing my head along to this at times. Cool, retro guitar riffs that would make Testament proud. Bordering open/broken.

– “Valley Of The Damned” (Dragonforce), “Cloak Of Feathers” (The Sword), “7 Days To The Wolves” (Nightwish), “I Am The Night, Colour Me Black” (Priestess), “At The Gates Of Morken” (Fairyland)
– “Demonheart” (Luca Turilli), “Any Means Necessary” (Hammerfall), “Another Stranger Me” (Blind Guardian), “Trollshaws” (Battlelore), “Knights Of Taragon” (Freedom Call), “Reign Of Terror” (Rhapsody Of Fire), “Black Templar” (Legion Of The Damned), “Holy War” (Iron Mask), “Zenith” (Huntress), “Seawitch And The Sorcerer” (Kivimetsän Druidi)
– “Sacrimony” (Kamelot), “The Sunk’n Norwegian” (Alestorm), “Quest For The Hammer Of Glory” (Gloryhammer), ” On The Morning Dew” (Elvenking), “Phoenix Down” (The Unguided), “The Things We Believe In” (Orden Ogan)

Playlist Review: Xbox Music Heavy Metal Showdown – Classic vs. New

Okay, Xbox Music, I’ll play along with the title of your playlist. Which is better, “classic” metal or “new” metal? A 30-song playlist with 15 each from either side. Let’s count how many places in each rating category:

Classic: Mix – 3, Full – 4, Open – 8, Broken – 0
New: Mix – 0, Full – 5, Open – 5, Broken – 3

So pretty clearly classic rules the day with seven that are full hearts or higher with no brokens, compared to five and three, respectively.

One thing that surprised me was how much new metal relies on certain sounds to signify that it’s, you know, metal, and metal from after 1992, at that. In particular, the sound of the vocals and guitars is very distinctive, even if the sound and the song aren’t that heavy. As if to say that, you know, even if we’re not really rocking it here, we’re announcing our tribal allegiance with the reverb on the voice and guitar.

I also don’t agree with a lot of their picks for each artist. Guns N’ Roses, Slayer, Anthrax, Megadeth, and Testament all have better songs they could have chosen. And I may have elevated rankings based on knowing I like the band’s larger catalog. So maybe they made the same mistakes picking for new where I am not familiar with the artists as much. Who knows? Though there I did elevate some from open to full if it seemed like a band I’d probably want to hear more of.

  1. War Pigs/Luke’s Wall – Black Sabbath – love this so much but can’t see mixing it now.
  2. You’re Not Alone – Of Mice & Men – borderline broken due to derivativeness in tone and composition and bad sound but will give bennie of doubt because if I don’t pay attention I can handle it. [loudness wars].
  3. Living After Midnight – Judas Priest – Judas Priest was so passe back when I was in high school. They still seem mostly thuddy to me. Yet they’ve enjoyed quite a resurgence in reverence awarded them as like the iconic metal band. Part of which is so weird now that Rob Halford is out and his fans back in the day would not have stood for that. Anyway, I can’t quite tease out how I feel about them. This song’s crazy catchy.
  4. Paradise (What About Us?) (feat. Tarja) – Hydra – Holy compression. This isn’t distorted, but it does lack dynamics. Cheesy, overdone. I feel like metal bands with female singers always fit into the narrow valkyrie thing going on here, but maybe that’s just my way of saying I don’t like it.
  5. Ace Of Spades – Motorhead – classic
  6. Hail To The King – Avenged Sevenfold – not bad but kind of a played out guitar riff. I think these guys basically exist to write songs that are fun to play on Rock Band.
  7. Holy Diver – Dio – Here’s another artist that is now totally revered where they were a joke 20 years ago. I’m even more squeamish about letting this be a real thing than I am about Judas Priest. I can hear why this is a classic of the genre, but I’ve heard this imitated too many ways to Sunday…I can’t like it…but maybe I can tolerate it.
  8. Here To Die – Five Finger Death Punch – the first of the new metal songs I really like. But I guess there have only been two really good classic ones up until this point.
  9. Eruption – Van Halen – Called it “like” in this review. Best thing about it is the echo…the sound of the guitar.
  10. Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel – Behemoth – The first deathy one. Those always take a bit for me but I’m warming up to it quite a bit.
  11. Metal Health (Bang Your Head) – Quiet Riot – Now I can hear how this is a worse song than “Holy Diver,” but I have such fond memories of being so young and loving this. So, guilty pleasure or whatever, but I love it, or at least the way I feel when I listen to it. Or is it “Come On Feel The Noise” I love so much? I think it is. Well this still gives me warm fuzzies. What a great album cover.
  12. Violence (Enough Is Enough) – A Day To Remember – screamy. but pretty good. especially before it gets to that chest pound with about one minute remaining.
  13. Round And Round – Ratt – again, warm fuzzies with this one, but I think this is just a really good song.
  14. No Way To Heal – Trivium – More of that Dream Theater accented-rapid-fire riff like we had with Avenged Sevenfold above. This is significantly better.
  15. Symphony Of Destruction (2004 Remaster) – Megadeth – The beginning of the end for Megadeth. Just such a lame song for what was a once very powerful band. Slow, boring.
  16. Blood – In This Moment – oh the melodrama. So much “I hate you” and for being overloved. God what a cliche. It’s awesome how they move from the verse to the chorus, but that’s the only good thing about this.
  17. Raining Blood – Slayer – I don’t think this is Slayer’s best song, but it’s pretty sweet.
  18. Going To Hell – The Pretty Reckless – This is the “don’t bless me father for I have sinned” whisper. God this is melodramatic and dumb. Great line: “For the ways that I hurt when I’m hiking up my skirt.”
  19. Cowboys From Hell – Pantera – Before Phil Anselmo turned into a total f**k. Worst fans ever (EVER) at concerts were Pantera fans. I’m pretty sure they all had miserable lives. Pantera was the only thing that understood them. But gawd this album had so much awesomeness on it.
  20. Sleepwalking – Bring Me The Horizon – sounds emo. not too bad.
  21. Madhouse – Anthrax – From Spreading The Disease, which I reviewed here and had this as keep.
  22. Spike In My Veins – Korn – Gee, with a title like that, I wonder if this is about drugs? why not just call it “Shooting Heroin.” Not a very good song, pretty boring, but harmless.
  23. Practice What You Preach – Testament – Along with a few others (e.g., “Madhouse”), just an odd choice for a band. Definitely not my favorite song of theirs. Pretty meh.
  24. Do Me A Favor – Stone Sour – pretty boring. And that opening riff is so derivative of…who? Green Day? I think I’m giving this open because I’m in a good mood.
  25. Black Metal – Venom – These guys are revered. But I’m not that into this song. It sounds terrible, too.
  26. In Due Time – Killswitch Engage – There’s that new metal sound, with the clean reverb on the voice in the chorus. And I find the switch between those vox, which feel fake, and the screaminess, which feels fake in a different way, very disconcerting. But clearly that’s the code that young metalheads are listening for. Still, this has some pretty sweet riffs. I might bump it up to full.
  27. Refuse/Resist – Sepultura – Again, this band has better songs. Where he sings. This is a little too much just beat you over the head with shouting.
  28. The Hangman’s Body Count – Volbeat – I was super pumped about this at one point, but now it just fits in with the other new metal stuff. The guitar at the beginning is a drag, but I like his voice. Guit could be brought to fore more in verses/chorus. I think since it’s just the one song I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt and call this full.
  29. Nighttrain – Guns N’ Roses – you could have picked anything from this album. I don’t even think of it as metal, just think of it as “right”.
  30. Freak Like Me – Halestorm – save the worst for last. Like The Pretty Reckless and In This Moment but without their somewhat redeeming characteristics. I hate this song but love Skid Row’s “Youth Gone Wild” even though they’re cut from the same cloth. Biggest difference is I was young for the earlier anthem, and I’m old for this one. Another difference is that there’s an “other,” an enemy in “Youth Gone Wild” we’re rebelling against. This is just freaks gathering to wave their flag together. Which, I don’t know, you’d think I’d be into that, too. But I guess an anthem for freaks seems dumb whereas an anthem for rebellion seems appropriate.

Mix: “Ace Of Spaces” (Motorhead), “Cowboys From Hell” (Pantera), “Nighttrain” (Guns N’ Roses)
– “War Pigs/Luke’s Wall” (Black Sabbath), “Here To Die” (Five Finger Death Punch), “Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel” (Behemoth), “Metal Health (Bang Your Head)”, (Quiet Riot), “Violence (Enough Is Enough)” (A Day To Remember), “Round And Round” (Ratt), “No Way To Heal” (Trivium), “Raining Blood” (Slayer), “The Hangman’s Body Count” (Volbeat)
– “You’re Not Alone” (Of Mice & Men), “Living After Midnight” (Judas Priest), “Hail To The King” (Avenged Sevenfold), “Holy Diver” (Dio), “Eruption” (Van Halen), “Symphony Of Destruction (2004 Remaster)” (Megadeth), “Blood” (In This Moment), “Sleepwalking” (Bring Me The Horizon), “Madhouse” (Anthrax), “Spike In My Veins” (Korn), “Practice What You Preach” (Testament), “Black Metal” (Venom), “Do Me A Favor” (Stone Sour), “In Due Time” (Killswitch Engage), “Refuse/Resist” (Sepultura)
– “Paradise (What About Us?) (feat. Tarja)” (Hydra), “Going To Hell” (The Pretty Reckless), “Freak Like Me” (Halestorm)

Playlist Review: Xbox Music Choice Cuts February 2014

At least I think that’s the title of the playlist, but due to Xbox Music’s dismal (i.e., non-existent without a direct link) dicoverability of curated playlists, I can’t be certain what it’s called.

Anyway, I really want well-curated playlists of what’s popular at any given time. Not because I think I’m going to suddenly see the merits in what the unwashed masses are listening to, but more because (i) I’m curious, (ii) I want to be able to understand the national conversation around what’s hot in music, and (iii) I kind of want to stay plugged in before and while my kids are listening to popular music.

And, really, how bad could it be to listen to what everybody else is listening to? The crowds must have some wisdom, right? At the worst it’s got to just be inoffensive blandness.

Holy crap is that wrong. This sucks. This is brutally annoying, and I really have to force my way through it. Why are all of you listening to shit? Stop listening to shit! I know hardly anybody is making anything worth listening to right now, but there must be music that’s better than this. Or, why do you have to listen to new music? What is it with music and, as Chuck Klosterman called it, the tyranny of the now?

It’s a cliche, but everything is just so overproduced. It just sounds too, too slick. It’s hard to believe there are even people behind these songs. It’s all so alienating.

Finally, new rule. I’ll just write [loudness wars] and you can just insert my rant about the loudness wars in there, because I’m getting sick of writing about it, and you’re sick of hearing about it. Not as sick as I am about hearing it, though.

Anyway, on to the shit.

  1. Can’t Remember To Forget You (feat. Rihanna) – Shakira – Have they successfully bleached Shakira now? This song features another new hot thing that everybody’s doing, this style of singing where you barely get out the syllable so it’s a bit more punchy, more rhythmic. I don’t really like it and then when everybody does it, ugh.
  2. Same Girl – Jennifer Lopez – [loudness wars]. I don’t want to like this, but I really do. Not the whole thing, but parts of it are very nice. Verses are great. Lyrics, spesh around the chorus, are dumb. And it goes too long and gets too repetitive.
  3. Drunk In Love – Beyoncé – What is the all the hype for re: this song? It’s pretty stupid. It’s got some good features…the way the song builds in the beginning is growing on me and it’s quite an energetic vocal workout and is impressively all over the place. But the “how the hell did this shit happen” and “beautiful bodies” lines are pandering and anything with Jay-Z on it is awful. Also [loudness wars]. Like the surfboard line. Hate the sampled laugh. Not sure how but I’m giving it open.
  4. Radioactive – Imagine Dragons – [loudness wars]. Okay, the music industry has successfully made the shitty sound of overdriven digital clipping the sound of new and fresh and oh my god you can’t even fight it anymore because a whole generation understands this sound as the sound of what they like. I am old. Fuck me.
  5. Party Girls – Ludacris – Is this supposed to be one of the most misogynistic things of all time? Or is this just like the music version of porn, where it is not even supposed to represent what sex really is to adults but fills some weird fantasy about a fantasy world that responsible music consumers know doesn’t really exist? “I beat the pussy to pieces”. “Titties plastic/That’s fantastic.” “I don’t say shit, they be gettin’ naked.” That “I beat the pussy to pieces” line is so just so sexy. << sarcasm. In the end, this sets a mood and I can go with it.
  6. Animals – Martin Garrix – Oh god I hate this. Doesn’t need to be half as long as it is. Dancey DJ stuff, but too simplisitic.
  7. I Want It All – Karmin – Well, she’s hot, but this is way too much. So right in your ears with the insipid music. Straight out of 1985.
  8. Ten Feet Tall – Afrojack – meh. Sappy treacle. Awful. Hate it from the opening notes. Then there’s that weird bwip sound in the chorus…so overproduced. Maybe he feels ten feet tall because he’s so much louder and better produced than his backup singer.
  9. Find You – Zedd – god this is a horrible stretch.
  10. You Make Me (Diplo & Ookay Remix) – Avicii – stupid raps and stupid melodies mixed stupidly. One of the worst. Probably not as bad as “Mmm Yeah,” but this is awful and stupid and so stupid stupid.
  11. Into The Blue – Kylie Minogue – Terrible drum (machine) sound. What was she thinking? Pretty bland. Stupid four on the floor with a stupid sappy bridge. Stupid inspirational.
  12. Air Balloon – Lily Allen – Aren’t pretty much all balloons air balloons? I think most kids’ songs are more advanced than this.
  13. I’m A Freak – Enrique Iglesias – ugh. “Fucks like an animal.”
  14. Happy (Gru’s Theme From Despicable Me 2) – Pharrell Williams – surprised I like this, but it’s kinda ok. Not loudness wars, which is so nice, so now I have a positive image of Pharrell Williams beyond just being a hanger-on in that Robin Thicke video.
  15. Say Something – A Great Big World – slow.  Male vox sounds like Ben Folds. Female is Christina Aguilera.
  16. Once Upon A Dream – Lana Del Rey – Keeping it slow. So boring. I guess the thing here is just her voice. I mean, this is about what I would expect out of a Disney song.
  17. Na Na – Trey Songz – It’s like that Na Hey song? I can get into this groove if I’m in the right mood. One of my favorites in the playlist. Making full b/c hell I need more of this genre full in my collection, but really it’s a high open.
  18. Make It Home – August Alsina – At first I was all, boy, this glorifies drugs and violence and all that then I realized he’s just telling the tale of a character (maybe) and I’m cool when white people sing about characters with flaws, so I was kind of being a hypocrite. My main complaint with this is takes that Boyz II Men layered quivering vocals thing to new heights of ridiculousness. Also auto tune used for a lot of that. But I do dig it. I feel like I can listen to this down at Leschi park with my car running and a huge cloud of pot smoke enveloping the car.
  19. We Alright – Young Money – wealth porn. ridiculous boasting at start but then takes a pretty quick turn into still boasting but awesomeness. I mean, not my favorite type of hip-hop, but in this group it’s not painful to listen to. “That ho betta know how to deep throat like a serpent.” << Gawd.
  20. Mmm Yeah (feat. Pitbull) – Austin Mahone – return of Hanson? Kind of. This kid wears a MN Wild hat in his promo pic because ? They’ve never been very good. Oh jesus a Kris Kross “Jump Jump” name drop. Because of course. What precociously successful artist pushing a song with an idiotic name wouldn’t want to be associated with that act? Also referencing “Jordan and Pippen.” Way to be modern. Good god. Plus horribly suck songage.
  21. Show Me – Kid Ink – “Let me put your panties to the side/Ima make you feel all right/Cuz Ima give you what you need, yeah”. Good grief. The second (if not third) song on this playlist that talks about moving panties to the side. Again, out of my comfort zone here, but I like this tune. Like “Na Na” it’s really probably a high open heart, but I’m moving to full b/c I’m diversifying, like in a financial sense, not in a race sense but that too I mean I’m just saying I’m not naive about how whitebread I still am.
  22. The Devil Is A Lie (feat. Jay-Z) – Rick Ross – Commits that horrible hip-hop sin where it’s just a two-bar sample, this time a three-note ascending horn riff, played over and over ad nauseum. Give it up. Plus Jay-Z, I just don’t like anything he does.
  23. Paranoid (feat. B.o.B.) – Ty Dolla $ign – This is about how both of his bitches are in the club. But it’s not even about that, it’s completely self-centered, about him. They’re setting him up. He’s paranoid. He’s high and drunk. Just can’t get over these lyrics to make it full even though it’s pretty a-ite.
  24. Talk Dirty (feat. 2 Chainz) – Jason Derülo – Sings part of this in a Jamiacan patois. Shockingly, about sexy times. Annoying repetitive horn riff ruins any chance the cool vocal rhythms had of saving it. And this is not the way to use handclaps (too much).
  25. Team – Lorde – crap. what is the appeal? So so boring.
  26. Come Alive (feat. Tory Y Moi) – Chromeo – appeatilng retro sounds. reminiscent of early Prince. Really I have this as at least open? Cuz I hate it now. Yeah, this is like for people who think it should be 1985 forever. Verses must have given it ‘at least open’, because the chorus is ass. So fine, open because maybe, maybe if I’m in the right mood.
  27. Love Me Again – John Newman – I think this is the leave britney alone guy. Poor man’s bad-years Elton John
  28. After The Disco – Broken Bells – Meh. Harmless. If a little too precious. No, this is annoying.
  29. Just Another Night – Icona Pop – boring 80’s shlock

Mix:
– “Happy (Gru’s Theme From Despicable Me 2)” (Pharrell Williams), “Na Na” (Trey Songz), “Show Me” (Kid Ink)
– “Can’t Remember To Forget You (ft. Rihanna)” (Shakira), “Same Girl” (Jennifer Lopez), “Drunk In Love” (Beyoncé), “Party Girls” (Ludacris), “Make It Home” (August Alsina), “We Alright” (Young Money), “Paranoid (feat. B.o.B.)” (Ty Dolla $ign), “Come Alive (feat. Toro Y Moi)” (Chromeo)
– “Radioactive” (Imagine Dragons), “Animals” (Martin Garrix), “I Want It All” (Karmin), “Ten Feet Tall” (Afrojack), “Find You” (Zedd), “You Make Me (Diplo & Ookay Remix)” (Avicii), “Into The Blue” (Kylie Minogue), “Air Balloon” (Lily Allen), “I’m A Freak” (Enrique Iglesias), “Say Something” (A Great Big World), “Once Upon A Dream” (Lana Del Rey), “Mmm Yeah (feat. Pitbull)” (Austin Mahone), “Talk Dirty (feat. 2 Chainz)” (Jason Derülo), “Team” (Lorde), “Love Me Again” (John Newman), “After The Disco” (Broken Bells), “Just Another Night” (Icona Pop)

Waxahatchee: “Hollow Bedroom”

This song was supposed to be reviewed in the Xbox Music Best Of 2013 playlist, but I couldn’t get it to download until much later.

Clocking in at 111 seconds, this is a female’s gravelly voice and two guitars, one more distorted than the other, playing basically arpeggiated chords, and then some gradually ascending, and then sometimes she mixes it up with some descending, power chords.

It’s pleasant enough, but I’m not aching to hear more. It’s a pretty big win for new music lately for it not to cause a strong negative reaction in me, so you could almost give it a full heart based on that, but no, open.

Playlist Review: Xbox Music’s Best Of 2013

I don’t expect an all-encompassing best of list to suit my tastes that well, but this compilation by Xbox Music is pretty disappointing. This makes me sound old, but I feel like music is in a pretty sad state in 2013. The best stuff being made is the Top 40 R&B, dance, hip-hop, pop, etc. The rock and indie scenes are decimated. Brooklyn’s full of hipsters who have re-discovered 1983 and just decided to recreate it on their iPad and release it as something new. But all I hear is Cutting Crew outtakes.

Also everything is mixed way too loud/hot. I’m sick of hearing it and you’re sick of hearing about it, so here’s my track by track breakdown.

  1. Can’t Hold Us (feat. Ray Dalton) – Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – I can’t stand Macklemore, but I do like this song. But even then, I just like the singing, so I guess that means I just like Ray Dalton. Also my UW alumni magazine says Ryan Lewis is a pop music icon, but I don’t think they know what “icon” means.
  2. The Wire – Haim – This doesn’t have to be recorded this hot. Totally mid-80’s. And just the same line over and over. Totally sucks.
  3. Diane Young – Vampire Weekend – Why is this recorded so hot? Fine song, but argh so nutsy sounds like crap.
  4. Hold On, We’re Going Home – Drake – Maybe my favorite song on the mix. But still too fucking hot.
  5. My Number – Foals – So 80’s. Kinda surprised I left it as open. Blegh. Naw, it’s going to broken. Sucks.
  6. Closer – Tegan And Sara – So 80’s. I feel like this band is capable of so much more, but I’m not really an expert. Terrible. Lots of “oohh oohhh ooohh ooh” lyrics. And there’s that rapid squeaky vocal rise on the end of a ton of their lines, including “closer,” and that is super annoying.
  7. Get Lucky (feat. Pharrell Williams) – Daft Punk – When this song was blowing up this summer, one of my friends noted, “This song is so simple and straightforward. Can’t you imagine just anybody doing it? The only reason it’s huge is because Daft Punk did it.” I totally agree. But I also still really like it. Cognitive Dissonance. But there’s a craft here that extends beyond the simple song. The sounds are really well crafted and the way they weave in and out is expertly done. The rhythm is simple and repetitive, but I feel like there was a ton of love put into programming it perfectly right down to the microsecond so that certain parts of the track hit just a titch earlier than others…just perfectly to cause your body to move. It’s those kinds of details that cause this to be elevated above the pre-programmed track on your Casio keyboard.
  8. Q.U.E.E.N. (feat. Erykah Badu) – Janelle Monáe – Given how huge Janelle Monáe is, I can’t believe there’s not a less boring song they could have picked for this. Just leaves me meh. At least until the rap. Hate the “even if it makes others uncomfortable” part.
  9. Shuggie – Foxygen – Laid back crooning. Pretty cool. Too hot, but that’s a little under the radar. Reminds me of some old school vocalist.
  10. Follow Your Arrow – Kacey Musgraves – SUCKS! I think she just needs to hang out with better people who allow her a little wiggle room between prude and drunk. How does something this stupid become a massive hit? Just because of cutesie references to gay love and marijuana being okay? HATE!
  11. Sirens – Pearl Jam – Argh, one of the worst from their album. And it’s like 5:40? Good lord. Reviewed.
  12. Easy Easy – King Krule – snot nosed brit. laid back. just him and a guitar. gawd guitar is so refreshing in 2013.
  13. Open Ended Life – The Avett Brothers – I listened to this album right when it came out due to liking one other Avett Brothers song. I didn’t like it. Spending some more time with this, it is a well-written song, but his voice drives me insane-o here. Late move to full as I’m listening to it loud.
  14. The Stars (Are Out Tonight) – David Bowie – Pretty much standard David Bowie. Why are so many lyrics on this playlist just “ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo?” I kinda like this song, but Bowie’s presentation often leaves me a little cold, it’s a bit too buttoned up British straight.
  15. The One That Got Away – The Civil Wars – I find The Civil Wars too repetitive and long, a problem exacerbated by their ridiculously slow tempi, but I do like the first half of most of their songs. This is 3.5 minutes, but only needs to be about 2.5. The ridiculous bridge is just them dragging things out to reach some magical length that they think is worthy of a song.
  16. Wakin On A Pretty Day – Kurt Vile – 9.5 minutes. Amazingly doesn’t seem that long. Seems long, just not that long. Which is even more surprising because he doesn’t cover a lot of ground. I do like it, though. You know, this is like one of those long Neil Young songs from On The Beach.
  17. 25 Bucks (feat. Purity Ring) – Danny Brown – He seems to be restrained with the sung-chorus thing here. Plus it’s a bit slower and longer and doesn’t repeat at each run, so it doesn’t get as worn thin.
  18. Weight – Mikal Cronin – Pretty good, upbeat, straightforward singer songwriter stuff, but less acoustic guitar than you associate with that genre. More keys and drums driving things (machine?). Multi-tracked vox.
  19. Holy Grail – Jay-Z – Sophomoric. You can’t pull this off, Jay-Z. First of all, too much with the chorus…too many times. Second, you can’t pull of these lyrics: “I just can’t crack your code/One day your screaming you love me loud/The next day you’re so cold.” No, no, no. You are not getting the runaround from ladies the way a high school boy does, and even if one were to try that you wouldn’t have time for it. Finally, you can’t pull off the lyrics about how you can’t take your daughter for a walk because paparazzi, even if you do brush the lyrics aside immediately afterwards. You hardly have to parent. You probably have at least two live-in nannies. Nobody is feeling sorry for you because you can’t take your daughter for a walk. If you wanted, you could buy a private island and walk your daughter all around that island with nobody to bother you.
  20. Overgrown – James Blake – Basically like every other James Blake song. Sounds great. but too long and repetitive.
  21. Tennis Court – Lorde – ugh boring. repetitive. do not get the hype.
  22. Chum – Earl Sweatshirt – Verse about him missing his dad makes me sad.
  23. Blurred Lines – Robin Thicke – The only thing I can think of when this song is Robin Thicke -> Alan Thicke -> Kirk Cameron -> Bananas are proof of God. Douchetastic.
  24. Turn It Around – Lucius – reviewed
  25. The Monster – Eminem – Very good but has that problem with hip-hop where the chorus is just repeated too often. And it’s one of those choruses that is like the same melodic line four times in a row. Ugh. Also big surprise is that this song is about him.
  26. Open – Rhye – On the 80’s tip, isn’t this just Sade?
  27. Take The Night Off – Laura Marling – Reminds me a lot of Kelly Joe Phelps.
  28. Daedalus (What We Have) – San Fermin – One of our haunts in Cambridge. Very slow. Cool orchestration with horns and chorus. Low voice sings almost deadpan throughout. Putting as full mostly out of intrigue.
  29. I Should Live In Salt – The National – Something just a little off with the delivery/rhythms here, but it’s pretty good. It’s in like 17.
  30. Wake Me Up (Radio Edit) – Avicii – Well hasn’t this been done a hundred times already? So I guess this guy is a DJ and the singer is another person (Aloe Blacc, who I swear I’ve heard elsewhere.) Anyway, the DJ stuff seems a-ite, but the vox and guitar really bug me.
  31. Here Comes The Night Time – Arcade Fire – too hot. A bunch of decent but not great songs from bands I’ve heard countless amazing things about. This is one of them. Also 6.5 minutes, wtf?
  32. Ride On / Right On – Phosphorescent – Just as laid back and hippie as you’d expect from the title. Sounds like jangling spurs.
  33. We Can’t Stop – Miley Cyrus – I want the popular shit to be good. Like Madonna or Lady Gaga. This is shite, though. Amazing production…amazing. Like, the studio work is fucking textbook. So good. The song and performance are complete shit. God what stupid lyrics.
  34. The Mother We Share – CHVRCHES – 80’s again. Lots of “oo oo ooo oo” lyrics. But a sweet little hooky song.
  35. Latch – Disclosure – oh god hate so bad. worst song on playlist. makes me angry in first few seconds.
  36. Suit & Tie – Justin Timberlake – Like this, I want the popular shit to be good like this. Though this is way too long and recorded TOO FUCKING HOT! Rapper is Jay-Z.
  37. Wildest Moments – Jessie Ware – Just like Lorde and the other one on here that sounds like Lorde. London Grammar? hate.
  38. Keep Your Eyes Peeled – Queens Of The Stone Age – blegh. these guys used to be so good.
  39. Chamakay – Blood Orange – Reminds me of Frank Ocean. Very breathy vox. Definitely in that mid-80’s vibe, but this one I really like. I’m going to try not to think too hard about it before I start to hate it. Tasty bass line at about 0:55.
  40. Hey Now – London Grammar – boring, oh so 80’s.
  41. Drop The Game – Flume – Meh. Loses despite his awesome name.
  42. Do What U Want – Lady Gaga – Not her best stuff. The “do what we want” is kind of a theme, huh? “Follow Your Arrow,” “We Can’t Stop,” “Do What U Want.” “No invitations, it’s a private party.” If it’s a private party then you do need invitations. still squeaks into full heart territory. I feel like it’s Drake helping out. It’s R. Kelly.
  43. Do I Wanna Know? – Arctic Monkeys – Kinda black keys rip-off-y. Still like my fave thing I’ve ever heard by these guys so fine full heart.
  44. She Will – Savages – Aggressive and punky. Somewhat intrigued, though I’m not crazy about it. Distorted.
  45. Born To Die – King Khan And the Shrines – Kinda dirty punk, like the vox are delivered totally lazy. A cleaned-up version of Sub Pop’s METZ. This is pretty cool. Got some nice horn sounds. And it’s produced really well, doesn’t sound too hot finally. I’ll move it into full because I do want to hear more of them.
  46. Stoked And Broke – FIDLAR – bratty snot nosed punk. I have to be in the right mood.
  47. Stoned And Starving – Parquet Courts – It’s about being stoned and starving. Too long for the content, but I like what’s there and on a mix like this I want to be generous about what … nah, f it, it’s an open heart.
  48. Man – Neko Case – A defense of men, boys, testosterone. Kinda clunks, but the strident guitar part is awesome. Might be full if not for the lyrics, which don’t resonate for me, and which don’t fit the rhythm the content wants them to have. There’s this part near the end, where it builds with a fast delivery, an f-bomb, crescendo, and then there’s a bit pause and she’s only got two words left (“showed you”) to spread out over several bars and it does not work.
  49. I Come From The Mountain – The Oh Sees – Noisy melodic punk. Okay.
  50. Black Skinhead – Kanye West – So how come Kanye can pull off the angry but Jay-Z can’t? Kanye’s more wiry. Jay-Z is kinda large and in charge. These are cultivated images, but the fact that Jay-Z has cultivated his business man king-like image means he CAN’T BITCH ABOUT NOT BEING ABLE TO TAKE HIS DAUGHTER FOR A WALK. Kanye and Eminem can, though. Because they’ve never let that chip get off of their shoulder.

Mix: “Hold On, We’re Doing Home” (Drake), “Get Lucky (feat. Pharrell Williams)” (Daft Punk)
– “Can’t Hold Us (feat. Ray Dalton)” (Macklemore & Ryan Lewis), “Shuggie” (Foxygen), “Easy Easy” (King Krule), “Open Ended Life” (The Avett Brothers), “The One That Got Away” (The Civil Wars), “Wakin On A Pretty Day” (Kurt Vile), “Weight” (Mikal Cronin), “25 Bucks (feat. Purity Ring)” (Danny Brown), “Overgrown” (James Blake), “Chum” (Earl Sweatshirt), “Turn It Around” (Lucius), “The Monster” (Eminem), “Daedalus (What We Have)” (San Fermin), “I Should Live In Salt” (The National), “Here Comes The Night Time” (Arcade Fire), “Ride On / Right On” (Phosphorescent), “The Mother We Share” (CHVRCHES), “Chamakay” (Blood Orange), “Do What You Want” (Lady Gaga), “Born To Die” (King Khan & The Shrines),”Do I Wanna Know?” (Arctic Monkeys), “Born To Die” (King Khan & The Shrines), “Black Skinhead” (Kanye West)
– “Diane Young” (Vampire Weekend), “Q.U.E.E.N. (feat. Erykah Badu)” (Janelle Monáe), “The Stars (Are Out Tonight)” (David Bowie), “Take The Night Off” (Laura Marling), “Suit & Tie” (Justin Timberlake), “She Will” (Savages), “Stoked And Broke” (FIDLAR), “Stoned And Starving” (Parquet Courts), “Man” (Neko Case), “I Come From The Mountains” (The Oh Sees)
– “The Wire” (Haim), “My Number” (Foals), “Closer” (Tegan And Sara), “Follow Your Arrow” (Kacey Musgraves), “Holy Grail” (Jay-Z), “Tennis Court” (Lorde), “Blurred Lines” (Robin Thicke), “Open” (Rhye), “Wake Me Up (Radio Edit)” (Avicii), “We Can’t Stop” (Miley Cyrus), “Latch” (Disclosure), “Wildest Moments” (Jessie Ware), “Keep Your Eyes Peeled” (Queens Of The Stone Age), “Hey Now” (London Grammar), “Drop The Game” (Flume)