Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Top 10 Albums of 2013

2013 was an absolutely solid year for music. Some releases were unexpected releases, some were highly anticipated, and some were much better than expected. All in all, there were plenty of great records that made their debut this year, and I was very pleased and surprised with a lot of them. So, as a way to change things up and have some variety for the blog, I've compiled a list of my top 10 albums, although they are not in an order; that would be far too difficult to figure out. Instead, I've listed them below with some of my thoughts about each, as well as a song or two that really stood out.

My Top Albums of 2013:
  1. 30 Seconds To Mars - Love Lust Faith + Dreams
    Even though I knew that 30 Seconds To Mars took their time to make their albums and that a new one would be coming soon, this album completely took me by surprise, both with its release and its quality. I am definitely willing to continue to wait for their albums if they keep being this fantastic. It was an epic fantasy thriller, a wild ride of music that soared and rumbled. It was filled with songs that could stand alone and be excellent for radio, but the beauty of the album was how it played as a whole. With songs flowing right into others and wonderful instrumentals in-between, Love Lust Faith + Dreams was a soundtrack to an incredible story that 30 Seconds To Mars told with raw emotion and furious passion. The result is one of the best albums of the year, and probably my favorite album by them to date.
    My Favorite Songs: Birth & Bright Lights
  2. Paramore - Paramore
    Now this was an album I had been waiting a while for. After suffering the loss of two of their founding members, the world waited to see what Paramore would do. With this album, they sure got their response. The self-titled release from the group revealed a revitalized and energized sound that came in with an explosion and showed everyone that Paramore was not dead and gone. In fact, they came back better than ever, with a branching out of sound and styles that revealed the band's maturity and moving on from the past. With a balance of fun-natured tunes and more hard-hitting jams, Paramore is a pleasure to listen to from beginning to end. Songs like "Still Into You", "Ain't It Fun", and "Fast In My Car" show off the ability of the band to live life and enjoy it, while tracks like "Part II", "Now", and "Future" reveal that they acknowledge the hard things in life, and are willing to take them on. This album was even better than I expected, and I can't wait to see what they do in the future.
    My Favorite Songs: Part II & Future
  3. OneRepublic - Native
    After some delays, OneRepublic finally hit the public scene again this year with an album that very much surprised me. The leading single, "Feel Again", didn't catch my interest as much, but as I listened to the album when it released, I was incredibly impressed. Even though it took longer than expected, the result was a polished and solid record that was worth the wait. OneRepublic took their pop sound from the last record and made it even bigger, with songs like "Counting Stars", "If I Lose Myself", and "Life In Color" ready to hit stadiums and airwaves alike. Even though it was a pop-based album, they still brought in some other elements to help create stunningly beautiful tracks like "Can't Stop" and "Au Revior". "Can't Stop" is heart-broken lyrics over echoing hip-hop beats that comes together to become a huge cry of desperation, and "Au Revoir" is brooding about what ifs over moving string and piano lines to create a haunting piece. Not everything on the album is spectacular, but nothing on the album is bad. You can hear the quality and hard-work that went into this record, and I think they did a grand job, expanding their previous pop sound and incorporating other ideas and sounds that made the album a diverse piece of art.
    My Favorite Songs: Can't Stop & What You Wanted
  4. Oblivion - M83
    For me personally, this has to be the most surprising album on the list. I had never really listened to M83 and hadn't seen Oblivion, but my dad and I watched it near the end of the summer. Not only was I entranced by the movie, but the soundtrack had me hooked the more the movie went on. I hadn't fallen in love with a soundtrack like that since Tron: Legacy. I personally think the combination of classical sounds with electronic elements makes for stunning music, and this is one of those cases. It is much less electronic than Tron: Legacy, but it is just as intricate and visual. The huge soundscapes bring the mind the huge landscapes of the movie, and capture the intensity of the movie within the notes. It's also fantastic in that while the songs flow together flawlessly, they are identifiable as single songs, which is something I find hard to notice with classical film scores. Songs like "Earth 2077", "Starwaves", and "Jack's Dream" are all tracks that I can easily identify from start to end. It's soundtracks like this that make movies come to life, and give them another dimension that allows viewers to connect even more with the movies they love. 
  5. Fall Out Boy - Save Rock And Roll
    Fall Out Boy. The band that took the world by storm. Again. After a brief and vibrant hiatus, Fall Out Boy came back with an explosion that shook everywhere. They dropped their first album since 2008, an album that revealed the change that they went through while they were gone and the sound they wanted to make. They were able to record away from the world, away from expectations, and what resulted was one of their best albums. They changed their sound, yes, but thats what happens when bands grow up. They grow out of things, and this is the case. From the first single, "My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark (Light Em Up)", I knew this album was going to be something special. People have complained that the title of the album, Save Rock and Roll, is not an accurate description of the sound; they say it sounds too pop-influenced. What people forget, however, is that rock 'n roll isn't about guitars with distortion and a driving drumset. Rock 'n roll is about taking chances, about doing something that isn't expected, about going on a ledge and taking a leap of faith. That's exactly what Fall Out Boy did with this album; no one expected them to put synths and electronic beats and hip-hop influence in their music, but that's exactly what they did. It's polished, it's radio friendly, and it's rock 'n roll. I had never been a huge fan of FOB, but I've gotten hooked for sure now.
    My Favorite Songs: My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark (Light Em Up) & Save Rock and Roll
  6. Jimmy Eat World - Damage
    This was one of those albums I was not expecting to like as much as I did. I found out it was releasing a few weeks before it did, took an initial listen and didn't think much of it. I must have not been paying much attention on the first go round, however, because I tried it again a few days later and ended up buying the whole album after a few listens. I have always loved Bleed American, and I think they've struggled since then to make something that is at that same level; this is the album that finally did it. It's a bit more grown up than their earlier sound, but they found a way to channel the same energy and emotion that they had in the beginning of their career into this album. Songs like "Damage", "How'd You Have Me", and "No, Never" show they still have the ability to create upbeat anthems that could connect with fans, while songs like "Book of Love", "I Will Steal You Back", and "Byebyelove" show that rawness and darker undertones are not out of reach as these guys have aged. The album has a less polished sound than their last release, and I think it's that difference that made this album so much better. It felt a lot less forced, and much more natural for the group. It was the surprise hit of the summer for me, and renewed my faith in the band to create fantastic music like Bleed American.
    My Favorite Songs: Book of Love & Byebyelove
  7. Justin Timberlake - The 20/20 Experience
    JT came back this year, and he came back with a bang. After only recording for close to three weeks, he came out with 21 songs and two albums of pop gold. From the hip-hop beats to the throwback influence and extended songs everywhere, The 20/20 Experience spans genres and sounds to create one of the best records of the year, and one of the best in a long time. It all began with "Suit & Tie", the single that turned some away but put JT back in the spotlight. Part 1 was a huge success, being one of the top selling albums thanks to songs like "Pusher Love Girl", "Tunnel Vision", and "Mirrors". While those songs were the most pop and radio friendly, there were plenty of other songs that ventured into other genres, such as the jungle/exotic "Don't Hold The Wall" or the latin-influenced "Let The Groove Get In". The world was incredibly impressed with JT's comeback, but Part 1 wasn't the end; Part 2 hit the world a few months later, and I personally thought it was even better. Songs like "Take Back The Night", "TKO", and "Cabaret" are ready to hit the airwaves with glossy hooks, big band backings, and JT's incredible vocals. Others like "True Blood" and "Drink You Away" come off with different vibes, with the former channeling Michael Jackson's "Thriller" and the later dabbling in country. All in all, these albums presented some killer songs that show JT's power to dominate the music scene. Out of all the recent comebacks, this has to be one of those at the top. 
  8. Panic! At The Disco - Too Weird To Live, Too Rare To Die
    Panic has been up and down over the years, breaking out into the music scene with a new sound, losing half of their group, and coming back again stronger than ever. This album is no exception to their constant change of sound. This album draws on the 80's and electronic and comes out with a solid collection of songs. The opening "This Is Gospel" is one of the best songs Panic has ever done, with a energizing beat fueling high soaring vocals and roaring guitars. The intensity this song brought was continued throughout the album, on songs like "Miss Jackson", "Vegas Lights", and "Casual Affair". The band got in touch with its pop side as well with low-key "Girls/Girls/Boys" and makes-you-feel-like-you're-in-the-80's "Collar Full". The one song on the CD that is completely different from the rest is "The End Of All Things", a haunting and dark piano tune that makes you stop and truly listen. It is easily my favorite from the album, and possibly one of my favorite songs of all time. It reveals the true potential of the group, with its chilling vibe and utter beauty. With this album, Panic not only has one of the best albums of the year, but continues to show that they are not going down without a fight. 
  9. Linkin Park - Recharged
    Even though this album was a remix album, it was full of some of the best remixes I've ever heard, some of which came up to the par of the originals. It's been a while since Linkin Park did a remix album, with Reanimation coming out in 2002, but they did a fantastic job picking great collaborators to create a mix of hip-hop, dubstep, and dance anthems. The opening song, "A Light That Never Comes" is the only new material on the album, but is representative of everything that the band wanted to explore with these remixes. They collaborated with Steve Aoki for the dubstep/dance influence, had Mike write some killer raps, and brought it all together in an aggressive Linkin Park-nature. Their selection of collaborators was fantastic, bringing in known rappers such as Pusha T and Ryu from Styles of Beyond, and utilizing more unknowns like Bun B and Cody B. Ware to add some variety to their usual sound. Mike also wrote some new raps for the remixes that are easily some of the best he has written in years, hitting hard and turning people on their heads. They also brought in artists like Datsik, Killsonik, and Dirtyphonics to throw electronic distortion all over their tracks and make something fantastic. The wobbles and dirty synths found throughout the album fit with Linkin Park's repertoire incredibly well, enhancing their hard hitting nature and adding even more aggression into the music. All of these artists came together with Linkin Park to create some awesome remixes, and continue to show the versatility and adaptability of this band that has been one of my favorites over the years. 
  10. The Maine - Forever Halloween
    I didn't have a lot of expectations for this album, to be honest. I absolutely loved their last record, Pioneer, but wasn't terribly impressed with their singles for Forever Halloween. "Love & Drugs" and "Happy" took some getting used to, but once I did, I got hooked on them and the rest of the album. It continues on the path that Pioneer brought them to, moving away from their more mainstream early days and cementing themselves in a sound of their own choosing. They became more realistic, more cemented in what happened as people age and responsibilities and relationships make life not so carefree anymore. Songs like "Kennedy Curse", "These Four Words", and "Forever Halloween" reflect on hard times, lasting pain, and the struggles of dealing with adulthood. "These Four Words" is one of the best songs on the album, being a stripped down piano-driven track about love and the lack of it, and filled with vulnerability and honesty. Not all the songs are so somber, however; songs like "Happy", "Run", and (ironically) "Sad Songs" all have more upbeat natures, although they can get a bit down lyrically. That's part of the realism of the record though; it's not some polished and pretty tune that makes you want to dance blissfully, but songs of heart and emotion and humanity. That is why this album made it in my top list; it may not be the most catchy songs or the most cheery, but some of the most honest I've heard in a while.
Now, even though those albums were the ones that made the list, that doesn't mean there weren't others that came close. Here's a few that didn't make the cut, but definitely were great releases during the year.

Honorable Mentions:
  • Tonight Alive - The Other Side
    This album took the sophomore slump and beat it to a pulp. I was impressed by their debut, What Are You So Scared Of?, but this album blew my expectations out of the water. It took their darker nature, which I loved best, and brought it to the forefront, with aggressive songs like "Lonely Girl", "Hell and Back", and "Don't Wish". This album had a realistic sense to it, a lyrical vulnerability that helps you connect with the songs on an even deeper level.  I personally think these guys shine when they get gritty and raw, and that was what they did throughout this whole album. Some other standouts were "The Other Side", "The Fire", and "The Ocean". 
  • We Came As Romans - Tracing Back Roots
    These guys were one of my first "Hardcore" bands that I began listening to, and I have been following their career with great interest. This album saw them moving towards a more mainstream style while retaining their essence, which translates to having more generic song structures while keeping things intense, heavy, and uplifting. Songs like "Fade Away", "Never Let Me Go", and "Tell Me Now" all follow a more verse-chorus-verse-chorus type of pattern, but still contain great breakdowns and growling screams like they have always done. Another great part of this album was having David Stephens, their unclean vocalist, do clean vocalists, adding more variety to their songs. This album showed the continuing potential for what the band can become while showing off the great talent they have in this moment. 
  • A Day To Remember - Common Curtesy
    After many delays and legal issues, A Day To Remember finally released their long awaited Common Curtesy in late November, and it was definitely worth the wait. This could be their best album to date, with a huge collection of songs that range from upbeat and catchy to lots of distortion and raw rage. "Violence (Enough Is Enough)", "Sometimes You're The Hammer, Sometimes You're The Nail", and "Dead & Buried" are just a few of the hard-hitting tracks that reveal ADTR's ability to still get gritty and intense. They also had some more lighthearted songs, such as "The City Of Ocala" and "Right Back At It Again", which have their heaviness but have a more fun sense to them. There is also a couple of acoustically based songs, like "I'm ALready Gone" and "I Surrender" that reveal the gentle side of the band, and their ability to be soft and intimate instead of intense. I was really pleased when I began listening to this record, and am impressed with the band for what they put out, despite their opposition. 
  • The Maine - Imaginary Numbers EP
    This was truly a surprise release from the boys in The Maine. No one expected it, and no one expected it to be so incredibly good. This all acoustic, all original EP is a gem, a stunning set of 5 well done songs. Each have their own strengths that they bring to the collection, and each have qualities that make them stand out without outshining each other. "Raining In Paris" and "Visions" are love songs that bring to mind cloudy days spent inside warm and cozy. "Perfectly Out of Key" and "Room With No Windows" are different in sound, yet both are self-reflective pieces that take different looks at what life has done to us. The use of piano, guitar, percussion, and other instruments all comes together to create a sense of unity while having distinct songs. It was a short set of songs, but definitely full of creativity and continuing the honesty found in Forever Halloween
  • Pentatonix - PTX, Vol. 2
    Pentatonix is one of the most talent groups out there right now, there's no question about it. Their latest release was a prime example of why I can make this claim, with a new collection of originals and covers that showcase the musical abilities these five contain. Covers like "Can't Hold Us", "Save The World/Don't You Worry Child", and the masterpiece medley "Daft Punk" show their talent for taking any song they cover and making it their own. They also expanded the number of original songs on this album, with tracks like "Natural Disaster", "Love Again", and "Run To You" revealing the diversity and incredibly creativity Pentatonix has. "Love Again" is inspired by the EDM movement, and could easily be played right next to the hottest club hits today. "Run To You" is one of the most beautiful songs I have ever heard, and my personal favorite from the album with the strictly harmonic elements building into a huge and epic sound. With this release, Pentatonix shows that they are only just getting started and don't plan on stopping anytime soon. 

Friday, December 27, 2013

Five Song Friday - December 27th

 This is it! The final Five Song Friday of the year! I've been doing these for close to a year now, and I love sharing the music I listen to with everyone who reads. So thank you for being interested in what I write, it's what keeps me writing. This week there was a lot to choose from, since I was finally able to buy some songs I wanted thanks to gift cards. So check out what I've been listening to, and see what you like.

  1. Raining In Paris - The Maine
    The Maine is consistent in surprising their listeners with the soul and depth of their songs, and the Imaginary Numbers - EP, was no exception to this. "Raining In Paris" is a beautiful and soft piece about love and romance. The acoustic guitar leads the song, giving it a folky feel while John O'Callaghan sings gently and filled with emotion. The shaker and organ in the chorus add some color and texture, putting contrast in the song. It all comes together to create one of their strongest songs, in my opinion. It creates an atmosphere that is calming and enjoyable. 5/5
  2. Countdown - Dangerkids
    Dangerkids are definitely a band to watch, and this song is another example of their potential. Shamelessly harnessing the influence of Linkin Park, Dangerkids blend metalcore with rap and make it work. This song has breakdowns, it has raps, it has electronic influence and hits hard. Both their clean and unclean vocalists work together like a team, trading off and blending incredibly well. I really enjoy their rapper, who sounds so much like Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park that it's uncanny. Their use of electronics and strings also works together really well, adding more dimensions to their music that set them apart from their fellow hardcore bands. 5/5 
  3. Love Don't Die - The Fray
    This song is different than what The Fray has done in the past, but it works very well in this case. It's upbeat, it's catchy, and it's a bit edgy. The chorus is brighter, but overall it's got a bit of a gritty tone that catches you ear and makes you nod alone. I particularly enjoy how the main guitar line is acoustic, but it still sounds as edgy as an electric guitar. Isaac Slade's vocals are top notch, soaring incredibly high on the chorus and getting low and gritty on the verses. His voice is one of the most distinct in the music business, and one of the reasons why I continue to listen to the band. The backing vocals of the chorus are insanely high, and give it a ethereal emphasis that adds depth to the song that makes it stand out. 5/5
  4. I. Crawl - Childish Gambino
    I had never listened to Childish Gambino before, but I saw that he had a new album out, and decided to check it out to see if it was any good. This song was the stand out, with a raw beat that weaves in and out with the more delicate chorus. Childish Gambino's raps are short, but to the point and explosive. He has good rhythm as well as being lyrically smart. I hadn't planned on really buying anything from the album when I checked it out, but after this song, I might have to check out more of the tracks. 5/5 
  5. Legendary Lovers - Katy Perry
    Again with Katy Perry, I know. But I can't deny that her music is my guilty pleasure, and this song is no exception. With it's Asian influence, it, like the title, takes on a legendary vibe, combining some unique instrumental choices with big booming beats and Katy Perry's killer vocals. I really enjoy the pre-chorus, where she speeds up and the hip-hop influence is most prominent. The chorus is also solid as well, a polished hook that draws you in bit by bit. The song is seductive and mysterious, with its exotic flair catching your interest with every listen. The more I explore Katy Perry's latest album, the more I am seeing how great it is, and how excited I am to find more great songs. 5/5

Monday, December 23, 2013

Imaginary Numbers EP - The Maine

The Maine have been a busy bunch this year with a brand new album and two major tours under their belt (both of which I had the privilege of going to). You would think that after just wrapping up a co-headliner with Anberlin, they would take a break and relax. You'd be wrong, for here came Imaginary Numbers, an acoustic EP filled with 5 new original songs. It was a surprise for everyone, but an incredible treat for all who listened. It would have been expected if they had included maybe an original or two with acoustic versions of songs from Forever Halloween, but the Maine seems to be anything but expected.

This EP opens with "Raining In Paris", and is not so surprisingly a romantic tune that is perfect for a rainy day. That does not mean it is bad, by any means; in fact it's one of the strongest songs on the EP. From the lyrics and John O'Callaghan's falsetto to the stripped down instrumentation of acoustic guitars, a shaker, and subtle organ lines, the song makes you think of a moonlit evening in the City of Love. The chorus is my favorite part, with some really fantastic lyrics. Lines like "what good is a heart of gold, with no one to share it" and "my heart is in the city of love, but it's raining in Paris" really stick out as creative and memorable. In fact, well done lyrics are a common theme throughout the entire EP. "Room With No Windows", for example, is not nearly as moody as the previous song, and has a lighter and more laid back air about it, which results in some great lines like "and the only two things holding me here are whisky and women", which is a side of The Maine I particularly enjoy. They always are heartfelt in their work, regardless if it's a more serious song or if they're just having fun. You can definitely feel the authenticity in this song, as well as on the rest of the album. A stand out quality of this song is John's voice, which takes on a rustic and older feel that gives the song a brooding atmosphere. He has some lines that aren't the happiest, but he is able to sing them in a manner that does not make you feel down and sad. It's a realistic vibe. That is continued on the next song, "Perfectly Out Of Key", but in a bit of a darker direction. However, it is an absolutely beautiful song, and is probably my favorite out of them all. John's falsetto comes back on this one, but it sounds pained, as if he's even struggling to get the words out. "I'm just a bad haircut, some fashion from last week, no one really knows me at all" is a line that is not only well written, but cuts deep when you really hear it. This song is an even more simplistic instrumentation than the other songs, with just a piano and the vocals, but that helps contribute to the mood even more. It is a stripped down and vulnerable song, and that is a reflection of the artistry of this group of musicians. "Visions" continues to display their artistic talent, creeping back towards the more laid-back feel while still putting genuine emotions into the song. It has a romantic feel, but makes you think of someone far away, for the song speaks of someone who can only be seen in dreams. The vulnerability continues, for John "loathes these goddamn visions, but I just can't wait to fall back to sleep". There is a sense of conflict, a desire to move on and forget but an inability to do so. The instruments are a stand out for this song, with the acoustic picking providing some contrast and the harmonica giving the song a bit of a folky feel, which fits perfectly with The Maine and their progression of sound. The EP wraps up with "Lovely Sad", an almost 7 minute long track that begins with a dreamy and mellow melody of picked guitars and a keyboard that relaxes you and sets up the tone for the rest of the song. John impresses yet again with whisper-like vocals that are gentle and beautiful. This song is definitely less about the vocals and more about the instrumental, which isn't something you find too often anymore. Bands just go for radio play, and don't just let the music go. This song is a great example of a group finding something that works and going with it. It's a perfect ending for this EP, although I definitely wish they had put more songs in. However, it is still a fantastic set of songs, and I am very glad The Maine decided to put these songs together. It is a Christmas gift from them to the fans, and they have succeeded at making great songs yet again. 5/5

Raining In Paris - 3:47 (5/5)
Room With No Windows - 3:44 (5/5)
Perfectly Out Of Key - 3:58 (5/5)
Visions - 4:26 (5/5)
Lovely Sad - 6:52 (4/5)

Friday, December 20, 2013

Five Song Friday - December 20th

Happy Friday all! I hope your weeks went well, and that those of you on break from school have been relaxing from all the hard work. I may have been busy, but I've still had time to find some new music to add to my collection, and some tunes that have been coming up again and again. Check out what I've been listening to, and see what you enjoy.

(Disclaimer: Yes, this is an odd collection of songs. It's a Funky Five Song Friday)

  1. Perfectly Out Of Key - The Maine
    The Maine has been one of my favorites for a few years, and it's been wonderful watching them grow up and mature musically. Putting this song next to some of their early music doesn't even compare. The depth, musicality, and raw vulnerability found in this song is incredible, and hard to find in many other places. John O'Callaghan's falsetto is full of sorrow and regret, with the piano line and subtle synths helping to create this smoky and dark atmosphere. I particularly enjoy the lyrics of this piece, with some stand out and relatable lines floating throughout the song. This EP was a surprise, both in terms of the release of it, and the quality of the work. "Perfectly Out Of Key" is my favorite off the album, and possibly one of my favorite songs by the group. 5/5
  2. Jingle Bell Rock - Bobby Helms
    This has always been one of my holiday favorites, and it gets me in a joyful mood whenever it comes on. It has such an upbeat and cheerful nature about it; I don't know how you wouldn't feel better after listening to it. The vocals are superb, and the guitar gives the song that rocking groove. It's from an era of absolutely fantastic music, and has a timeless air to it. I don't always get the words right when I sing along, but it always brings Christmas to the mind and to the heart, and that's what is important. 5/5
  3. Californication - Red Hot Chili Peppers
    I've been listening to a lot of my music on shuffle lately, but this song has come up consistently. I never really listened to much of these guys growing up, so I've been discovering them more in recent years. It's slow, but I'm definitely taking a liking to them. This song is a more relaxed song, and that works very well for them. I like the laid-back nature, but I also enjoy that it can pick up the energy at times, providing some great contrast. The lyrics, as I've been listening more and more, are much deeper than I imagined, speaking of the consumerism and idolizing of movie stars and greed that can be found here in California. It's a side of the state that some don't like to put in a negative light, but it does have it's problems. However, I very much enjoy the song, and think that it works as both a powerful message and a soothing sound. 5/5
  4. You Won't Know - Brand New
    This album has been coming up a lot in my listening, and I'm growing to like it more and more as I listen, with this song being one of my favorites. It starts off more mellow and chilled out, although the vibe is still definitely dark and almost haunting. Then it kicks into high gear about a minute and a half in, becoming even more dark as well as angsty and raw. The vocals are more of screams than harmonies, and the guitars roar over the crashing of the drums to become a solid wave of sound that hits you and gets you pumped up. I really like the ominous nature of this song, and the record overall; it has an unpolished nature that seems to be slipping from music as of late. I know I'm late to the party on these guys, but it's worth it to get hooked even now. 5/5
  5. Birthday - Katy Perry
    Now, before any judgment is made on this selection, just think about a guilty pleasure you have as far as music goes. Katy Perry is mine, and I think that her stuff is fantastic. It's not the most creative or unique, but it's catchy and fun and sexy and I love it, so just accept it. Once you get past the mainstream aspect, I think this song is pretty great. It's upbeat, it's catchy, and Katy Perry has a great voice that slides over this track. I may be interpreting the song wrong (although I don't think I am), but she definitely comes off as seductive, both lyrically and with her voice, and that is something that works very well for her. I enjoy the instrumentation of this song, with the guitar line and horns giving the tune a retro feel that fits marvelously. The lyrics can be cheesy at times, like the bridge, "Let me get you in your birthday suit, it's time to bring out the big balloons", but pop music is about creating lines and tunes that stick, and that is certainly the case with this song. 5/5

Friday, December 13, 2013

Five Song Friday - December 13th

Oooo, Friday the 13th! I hope you all have had a wonderful week, especially those of you who suffered through finals. To those of you who haven't, keep up the good work! During this stressful week, I listened to a lot of music, so check out the songs I was using to get me through my tests and papers (which was a lot of Christmas music).

  1. Sowing Season (Yeah) - Brand New
    I'm slowly becoming more and more hooked on these guys. My collection of their music has now grown to include their last two albums, and The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me is one of my new favorites. This song kicks off the album with a bang, starting deceivingly quietly and then exploding into gritty guitars and throaty screams. I was only really familiar with Deja Entendu, and found this song, and the rest of the album, to be considerably darker, which works well. It's moody, but not depressing. It's got a bit of rage fueling it, and gets the blood pumping as you rock out to the raw nature of the song. I really enjoy this song, and I know I'll be talking about my other favorites from the rest of the album soon. 5/5
  2. Wonderful Christmastime - Paul McCartney
    I had never really heard this song before this Christmas season, and was introduced to it by a good friend of mine. It's not your normal Christmas song as far as instrumentation, but it definitely has that Christmas spirit in it. The lead synth line is a bit odd, but it gets stuck in your head quite easily. Paul McCartney's voice is one of the most distinct out there, and his does Christmas quite well. This one is a classic, although not your normal Christmas classic, and inspires the delight and wonder that only Christmas can bring. 5/5
  3. Little Saint Nick - The Beach Boys
    I absolutely love this song when the Christmas season rolls around. It's one of the few Christmas tunes that makes you feel like you're on the beach, but still makes you think of snow and all that jazz. Christmas music in general, and this song specifically, have this element of pure joy within them. They are able to capture a happiness that we sometimes forget about in the world, and songs like this one help remind of us the good times we have. This song will always be one of my favorite Christmas tunes, and I'm gonna be playing it until Christmas passes yet again. 5/5
  4. I See Fire - Ed Sheeran
    When I heard that Ed Sheeran was going to be doing a song for Desolation of Smaug, I wasn't quite sure how that would work. However, when I saw the midnight premiere this morning and this song began playing as the credits rolled, I instantly fell in love. Ed Sheeran is a fantastic musician, and he found a way to blend his signature sound with lyrics that perfectly fit the movie, but don't come off as cheesy. It is an utterly beautiful song, with a very simple instrumentation and fantastic harmonies. The picked guitar, the violin, the tambourine, and the cajón all come together to create a powerful and polished tune. I'm definitely going to be listening to this one on repeat for a while. 5/5
  5. All I Want For Christmas - Michael Bublé
    Michael Bublé has the voice of an angel, and this song is a exquisite example of that. He hovers low and gentle, but then will climb and soar, high and powerfully. I really enjoy the instrumentation of this song as well; it captures Christmas, and accentuates Bublé's voice without distracting from it. It's simple, but it gets the job done in a beautiful way. I've always thought this song was cheesy, but this version comes off very sincere and genuine. This album is only a couple years old now, but it is already a classic in my mind, and will be played in my home during Christmas for many years to come. 5/5

Friday, December 6, 2013

Five Song Friday - December 6th

Well, it's been a long week, but it's finally Friday. I hope your weeks have been well, and for those of you who are dealing with finals next week/already have, may the odds be ever in your favor. I myself have had a few, plus more next week, and so have been doing a lot of studying, which involves some motivational music to keep me going. Here's some of the songs I've been listening to this week, and since Christmas is rapidly approaching, there's some great classics in the mix as well.

  1. College Kids - Relient K
    Seeing that finals are baring down on us college kids, I thought this song was an appropriate song to include this week. I love the funny, yet serious nature about this song. You end up laughing at most of the things because they're painfully true. Lines like "I'm poor, I'm starving, I'm flat broke" and "Call it torture, call it university" highlight some of the real struggles that face the college student today. But, at the same time, you have to be able to sit back and laugh at it. That's why I enjoy this song, for it channels the fun energy of college but interlaces more serious lyrics. This is a great song for those very desperately needed study breaks. 5/5
  2. Ten Thousand Hours - Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
    I originally picked this song because I was listening to a lot more Macklemore since I almost had the chance to see him in concert, but then I realized that it would work for this finals situation as well. After all the studying we end up doing, it almost feels like we've been working on these papers and tests for 10,000 hours. Besides that, I genuinely enjoy this song. It is upbeat, has some great lyrics, but also has fantastic contrast thanks to the outro verse. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis are geniuses, and I am extremely excited to watch their career as they continue to bring issues to the light of day, but remember to have fun as well. 5/5
  3. White Christmas - Michael Bublé & Shania Twain
    This song is a Christmas classic, and Michael Bublé does a mighty fine job with his own version. I've always liked this song, and Bublé does a great job with making it feel modern, yet retaining that old-school appeal. The addition of Shania Twain to make it a duet is a nice twist, and not something found very often, so it stands out for this reason. I love the jazzy and classic nature of the song, which always works so well for Christmas songs since they're all from that era. If you haven't heard this version, or any of Bublé's Christmas CD, then go now, because you're missing out. 5/5
  4. It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas - Michael Bublé
    It's hard to deny how incredible Michael Bublé's voice is, and this is another song that he just shines on. It's another classic Christmas tune, and Michael Bublé's version will join the ranks of the greats. It opens with a very magical and wintery-sounding opening, bringing you to a snow covered small town in your imagination. The song flows so well, with a very laid-back and relaxing instrumentation that makes you want to curl up by the fire with a good book. I could listen to Bublé's CD for all of Christmas season, and this song is definitely one of my favorites. 5/5
  5. End Of Me - A Day To Remember
    I've been listening to this album a lot, and realizing more and more how great it is. This song is one of my favorites because it combines two elements that I love about ADTR; their hardcore nature, but ability to do acoustic songs so well. It opens with a beautiful picked guitar line and soft and vulnerable vocals, but eventually unfolds into a huge and gritty piece. The bridge is my favorite part, because it revisits the vulnerability found in the beginning, but in a raw and explosive nature that is absolutely stunning. I really enjoy this song, and the whole CD, which is slowly becoming my favorite by the group to date. 5/5