Posts Tagged ‘Arcade Fire’

It’s pretty certain most us would like to put 2017 behind us, and move forward to the (hopefully) better and brighter 2018. Musically speaking, 2017 was a decent year, so let’s celebrate all it had to offer (Note: once again, these are solely my opinions, and as usual I didn’t listen to every single record that was released this year.)

Best Rap Album: DAMN. by Kendrick Lamar

I’ll be honest: I didn’t fully get the “hype” behind Lamar until this album came out. It wins because Lamar’s lyrics are smart, honest, and he’s actually saying something. Plus, the album as a whole is a solid mix of rhymes, dope beats, and a whole lotta love.

Guiltiest Pleasure: “There’s Nothin’ Holding Me Back” by Shawn Mendes

He’s so plain and vanilla; boring and unoriginal. Yet this songs makes me dance, and I just can’t help it.

Worst Collaboration: “Something Just Like This” Coldplay + The Chainsmokers

Coldplay has been dead to me for some time now. The minute they shed everything that made them them, I cut the cord. The Chainsmokers were never on my good list, because there’s nothing good about them. This is a musical abomination on so many levels.

Best Collaboration – “I Know You” by Craig David feat. Bastille

David’s smooth vocals against Bastille’s rock operatic ones; David’s R&B sound, with Bastille’s rock-electronic vibe. Mash it all together and what you get is beautiful music. Not to mention: Craig David is back!

Best Latin Collaboration: “Mi Gente” by J Balvin, Willy William feat. Beyoncé

The original of this infectious track has over 1.4 billion views on YouTube alone. Add Queen Bey into the mix and it’s completely unstoppable.

Most Surprising Track: “Rockstar” Post Malone feat. 21 Savage

At first glance, Post Malone leaves nothing to be desired. That should teach me to judge a book by its cover. Although he screams drug addict trailer trash, with nasty grills and hair that hasn’t been washed in months, his music is actually pretty good (I can’t believe I just admitted that.)

Most Disappointing Track: “Walk on Water” by Eminem feat. Beyoncé

This wins this category because in spite of its huge potential, it falls flat. The content of Em’s flow is pretty good, but his delivery is lazy, slurry and sounds a little too much like Macklemore (sorry Em!) Bey’s chorus makes the track listenable, but otherwise, it’s a bit of a snoozefest (I can’t believe I just admitted that.)

Best Indie Track: “Nobody Else Will be There” by The National

It’s moody, dark, and puts your stomach in knots. Everything a National song is supposed to be.

Worst Indie Track: “Feel It Still” by Portugal. The Man

It’s so catchy that it very quickly becomes too catchy, which automatically makes it intolerable. It’s just trying too hard.

Best Club Track: “Unforgettable” by French Montana feat. Swae Lee

I dare you not to bust a move right now.

Best R&B Track: “Skywalker” by Miguel feat. Travis Scott

One of the best tracks off Miguel’s release War & Leisure, it shows off his velvety vocals, a sick beat, and also appeared on HBO’s smash hit Insecure.

Best New Artist: Amy Shark

Delicate vocals full of vulnerability and soul, Australia’s Shark is a singer-songwriter who has managed to dominate radio waves, in spite of the fact she’s only ever released a 6-track EP. Look out for her in 2018.

Worst New Artist: Cardi B

There are just so many things about Cardi B that, despite my best efforts, I just can’t.

Best Track from an Ex-Member of One Direction: “Sign of the Times” by Harry Styles

This track wins mostly because the sound is just more to my liking. A little more rock ‘n roll, a little edgier. Niall’s offering was too cheesy boy band pop; Zayn’s was too over the top and all over the place.

Worst Track from an Ex-Member of One Direction: “Strip That Down” by Liam Payne feat. Quavo 

Payne just isn’t vocally strong enough to be a solo act. Everything about this screams someone who’s a little too keen on changing his image. Newsflash, Liam: it’s not working.

Best TV Soundtrack: Big Little Lies

It has everything from Leon Bridges, to Alabama Shakes, to Martha Wainwright. Oh, and this killer theme song.

Best Movie Soundtrack: Atomic Blonde

Question: what’s better than watching a stiletto-wearing Charlize Theron kick ass to the sound of new wave/rock/pop/punk 80s music? Answer: nothing.

Best Canadian Album: Everything Now by Arcade Fire

I will agree that Arcade Fire is definitely an acquired taste. But once you get into them, there’s something unique about the way they make music and put it all together, that sets them apart. This wasn’t their best album, but a solid one nonetheless.

Best Comeback: N.E.R.D.

It’s been 7 years since N.E.R.D. released an album, and 16 years (!) since their anthem “Rock Star” was released. This year’s No One Ever Really Dies is such a force, both musically and lyrically; there’s nothing out there that sounds anything like it. Bravo.

Worst Comeback: Theory of  a Deadman

Technically ToaD put out an album in 2014, but let’s be honest – it’s been at least 12 years since they released anything anyone heard, and, frankly, it should’ve stayed that way. They are, and have always been a poor man’s Nickelback.

Most Underrated Artist: Billie Eilish

Ms. Eilish released her debut EP, Don’t Smile at Me, this summer. At only 15 years old (!), she blew me away.

Most Overrated Artist: Ed Sheeran

Look, I know it’s easy to come down hard on Sheeran, but it’s just as hard not to. His music is formulaic, his vocals aren’t anything special, and he’s a ginger. Somehow, he’s heralded as the best of the best, and his smugness exacerbates with each accolade. I will never understand his appeal.

Best Cover Song: “Bitter Sweet Symphony” by London Grammar 

The key to a good cover song is to maintain the integrity of the song, while putting your own spin on it. London Grammar has done exactly this with The Verve’s 1997 classic. Grammar stripped it down, and made it more haunting. As far as covers go, it’s perfection. Not to mention, lead singer Hannah Reid kills it on vocals.

Worst Cover Song: “You Get What You Give” by Felix Cartal

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – if you’re going to cover a song, make sure it’s a song that’s worth covering. The New Radicals’ original from 1998, wasn’t a good song. It was mediocre at best. Then completely changing the sound from pop/rock to techno is an even worse decision.

Best Live Show: The xx 

I’ve been to my fair share of concerts, and I can say without a doubt, The xx came out on top this year. Their music builds up so subtly, until it takes over and pulls at every emotion inside your body. The only option you have left is to dance off the emotional wreck you have become – it’s the best way to heal.

Worst Album: Reputation by Taylor Swift

Swift needs to take a chill pill. Her attempt at shedding her “good girl” image is so predictable, and so not working. No one believes her to be this villainous vixen (except maybe her millions of fans.) She tried to throw shade at the Kardashian-Wests, her music gets worse and worse with every album, and she needs to stop with the red lipstick.

Album of the Year: I See You by The xx

This album has the ability to make you feel things you never thought you could feel; it’ll make you hear things in ways you never thought possible; it’ll break your heart, sweep you off your feet; it’ll understand you like your best friend, and hurt you like your past love. All while making it impossible to resist dancing like no one’s watching.

Worst Song: “Take a Knee…My Ass” by Neal McCoy

This requires zero explanation.

Song of the Year: “Performance” by The xx

The first time I heard this song, it permeated through my skin, invaded my soul and sunk my heart; time actually stopped. The story it tells is one that resonates with us all, and its honesty is so real, it hurts. In a good way.

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I have to admit right off the bat that this year was not all that impressive when it came to music. Nonetheless, a closer look at the best and the worst of this year is a must. So here we go. (Note: this list is solely based on my choices, having nothing to do with popularity, sales; also, as hard as I try, I have not listened to every single album by every single artist released this year.)

Best New Artist – Hozier

This soulful meets rock ‘n roll Irish bloke knows how to do music well. Really well. From the power of his hit single “Take Me to Church” to the soft simplicity of his track “Work Song,” his versatility shines. He’s going to be around a long while.

Best Canadian Album – Advanced Basics by Ubiquitous Synergy Seeker

I’ll admit this is a bit of a stretch. It’s a crowdsourced 7-track EP, which did not reach to the top of any charts. However, there’s just something so Canadian, so humble, so affable about this band and their music, I couldn’t deny them this title.

Worst New Artist – Magic!

Normally, I try and avoid taking jabs at fellow Canadians, but these guys kind of deserve it. They say they’re reggae-pop, and although there is absolutely nothing wrong with fusing genres together, they execute neither one of them well. It’s like half-ass reggae, with lame pop.

Best Summer Song – “Rather Be” by Clean Bandit feat. Jess Glynne

This song just feels like summer. Cruisin’ down the streets, top down, enjoying the summer heat.

Best 90s Comeback – Bush

When I think about this band, all I see is the 90s. They epitomized it: from their sound, to lead singer Gavin Rossdale’s relationship with No Doubt lead singer Gwen Stefani; not to mention, it was the first ever rock concert I attended. Though they’re not the same as they used to be, it’s great to have them back.

Douchebags of the Year – Arcade Fire

I’ve already admitted this year that Arcade Fire confuses me. They make wonderful music that makes everything sparkle, but then they act like morons. They win this title because they insisted their fans show up in a costume or formal attire to attend their live shows. Pretentious, much?

Most Overrated Song – “All About that Bass” by Meghan Trainor

I’m not sure why this song has received so much attention. Yes, it for once highlights voluptuous women (in a non-grotesque kind of way,) but that’s about it. The lyrics are lame, the video’s pastel colours are nauseating, and the 50’s throwback sound is ruined by her nasal voice. I am not about that bass.

Most Underrated Album – Ghost Stories by Coldplay

It wasn’t an album as much as it was a work of art. So much was said, in so few words, as the music did most of the talking. I was completely surprised by the maturity and introspection in this album, as Coldplay hasn’t put out an album true to their abilities in quite some time. Bravo.

Best Rap Album – 2014 Forest Hill Drive by J. Cole

I’m not incredibly familiar with J. Cole’s older material, but he has a lot to say on this album. It’s not the crass hip-hop scene we’re used to. It’s more mature, thought out, and patient. I’m impressed.

Best Collaboration – “Love Me Harder” by Ariana Grande & The Weeknd

The sultriness in her voice, and the velvety smoothness in his, show how each of them bring their own style to the track, their own interpretations of angst and yearning. Add that to the 80s vibe in the music, and it’s a pretty great track.

Worst Collaboration – “Booty” by Jennifer Lopez feat. Iggy Azalea

This obsession with highlighting the female derrière in music this year is absurd. What happened to actually making music?

Guiltiest Pleasure – “Bailando” by Enrique Iglesias, feat. Sean Paul, Descemer Bueno and Gente de Zona

I can’t help it. Maybe because Sean Paul can do no wrong; maybe because Enrique’s intense gaze makes it feel like he’s penetrating your soul, in a way that makes you giddy inside. The street dancing, the traditional dancing, the overall sexiness of the video makes you want to think this song is lame, but it just isn’t. Baby girl.

Best Choreography in a Video – “Hideaway” by Kiesza

This song is covered in 80s shout outs. From the synth-pop sound, to the wardrobe, to the dance moves. All perfectly executed, in sync, and apparently the entire video was done in one take.

Worst Choreography in a Video – “7/11” by Beyoncé

Maybe I’m showing my age here, but I don’t get this video. It seems to be Beyoncé just freestyle dancing, in what seems to be a home made video. She’s on her balcony, in her bathroom; then randomly drops playing dice on someone’s behind. I think it’s supposed to show her crazy, fun, free side. I think.

Worst Album of the Year – Talk Dirty by Jason Derulo

This album is actually the worst. Jason Derulo is a thug wannabe who can’t dance, trying to pretend he gets all these ladies. Except I’m pretty sure that only happens in his videos, and not at all in real life. I bet anything his idol is Chris Brown too. Get a clue, Derulo: no one wants to talk dirty to you.

Album of the Year – Rose Ave. by You + Me

Although this album wasn’t a blockbuster hit, it still stands apart from the rest. Combining the talents of Dallas Green (of City and Colour) and Pink, they created an indie rock/country/soul album which hit all the right notes. Her powerful, emotional vocals; with his soft-spoken, and  equally emotional vocals, made every track on the album shine.

Worst Song of the Year – “Anaconda” by Nicki Minaj

I can’t. I just can’t.

Song of the Year – “Stay With Me” by Sam Smith

He’s powerful, vulnerable, and writes lyrics that really hit home. His emotions run deep, and are felt in every note, every inflection. The gospel-like choir in the background just gives that extra heat to the track, allowing Smith to become it. He is this song; and so are all of us.

I have always been a firm believer in the idea that a musician’s actions can affect the way we listen to their music. Although their personal lives should not affect their professional ones, sometimes it can’t be helped. Ever since Chris Brown decided to beat women without remorse, it’s really hard to support his music. Kanye West’s antics and off-base moronic things he’s said, are just too distracting to take any music he makes seriously. Lorde’s anti-everything attitude is old and tired, and completely disinterested me out of her music. Recently, however, my convictions have been tested, and I find myself at a crossroad. Here’s the story.

Aracde Fire first graced the music scene with their debut album Funeral in 2004. A lot of ears perked up, a lot of critics were blown away. They have a unique sound  with the combination of male and female lead vocals courtesy of husband and wife Win Butler and Régine Chassagne. The flurry of instruments in their catalogue, including accordion, xylophone, glockenspiel and organ, bring their music to another level. Add the right amount of rock, emotion, fun, and humble Canadian charm; what you get is pretty fantastic. Tracks like “Rebellion (Lies)” and “Wake Up” spoke to a lot of people, and started AF’s journey into the music industry.

 

Everyone had big expectations for their sophomore album, where extra scrutiny is always placed to see if a band is either a one-album wonder, or a serious contender. Once again, AF blew people away with 2007’s Neon Bible. One great tune after another, all sort of creeping up on you. They don’t sound like anthems or tracks that would leave lasting impressions, but they all linger around in your mind. They stick with you in a good way. They are orchestral and moody; lyrically poignant and relevant. It’s songs like the soulful “My Body is a Cage,” and the chilling “Oceans of Noise” that sets these guys apart from other bands. Neon Bible put AF at the top of the indie music scene. Which essentially means they were über famous, but only to a certain crowd of people. Mainstream amidst the minority.

 

 It wasn’t until their third album, 2010’s The Suburbs, that they seeped their way deeper into all music scenes. It’s a mix of all kinds of sounds, and is a near perfect album from every angle. The indie music scene thought so, as did The Grammys, awarding it Album of the Year. It was a big, huge deal because the crossover from indie superstars to mainstream Grammy-level superstar is supremely difficult and incredibly rare. Songs like “We Used to Wait” and “Ready to Start” were infectious from the minute they were released. Catchy, but not in an unpleasant Taylor Swift kind of way. Earworms welcomed with open arms. Winning the most coveted award at the Grammys was a big day for AF. But a concerning one too.

 

It’s not that AF didn’t deserve the Grammy win, but now they were launched into a completely different stratosphere. Generally speaking, with increased popularity, comes a change in attitude. The bigger a band gets, the more obnoxious they tend to become. Whether it’s an ego thing, or a coping mechanism for all the new found fame, whatever the reason. A year after releasing The Suburbs (and six months after the Grammy win,) the band re-released a deluxe version of the album, including bonus tracks, and a DVD consisting of a 30-minute short film directed by Spike Jonze, entitled Scenes from the Suburbs; plus a documentary called Behind the Scenes from the Suburbs. And of course an 80-page booklet of lyrics and photos taken during the making of the mini-movie. I know a lot of musicians release bonus material, so it’s not like this is completely outrageous. It’s just pretty damn narcissistic.

 

By the time they were ready to release their fourth album, 2013’s Reflektor, I had pretty well decided to not get involved with them anymore. Leading up to its release, they started a cryptic campaign where a symbol with the word “Reflektor”, was posted on city walls all over the world, in a graffiti-like way. All of a sudden, they thought enough people in the world cared enough about them to be intrigued by these vague logos (as if the people of the world had nothing better to do.) They even created a giant mural in Manhattan confirming that was going to be the name of their next album, and posted a release date. The only word that comes to mind is megalomaniac. I mean, come on. Get over yourselves already. I was glad I opted not to participate in the hoopla surrounding the album, and I went on my merry way.

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When they embarked on the Reflektor Tour, I had no intention of attending. Again, I was pleased with my decision, especially when I heard they insisted that attendees either dress in costume or in formal attire otherwise they will not be allowed to enter their show. Who exactly do they think they are? It’s like they live in their own world; an exclusive and artsy one, where they can’t function at the same level as “regular” people. They became pretentious. Annoying. Obnoxious. So obvious they needed to be written off.

So here’s the problem: their music is so damn good, I can’t write it off. I can’t stop listening. When “Here Comes the Night Time” comes on the radio, my hips move; I wanna jig, I wanna dance, I’m automatically in a good mood. I’m still very aware of their self-obsessiveness, but I’m also very aware of their incredible music. Now some of you reading this may not quite fully understand why this is such a predicament. I feel like I’ve been defeated; like my moral code on what’s acceptable and what isn’t is up for debate. They embody so many things I cannot stand, yet I can’t get enough of their music. For the first time ever, I can’t separate the two. They’re pulling me in with their artistry, but dragging me out with their pomposity. And I’m torn.