Posts Tagged ‘Arcade Fire’

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.

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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.

 

Here it is, folks, another round up of the year’s hits, misses and surprises. (Note: this break down is based solely on my personal opinion, and is not a reflection of popularity, success or earnings.) Enjoy!

Best Indie Album – AM by The Arctic Monkeys

An impressive fifth album from these Brit-rockers. Their sound seems to have matured, and draws the listener in, intriguing them with mellow rock tracks highlighted with electronic accents, reminiscent of 80s synth-pop.

Best Teen Sensation – Lorde

She’s 16 and putting out music way beyond her years, and even surpassing some of her veteran colleagues. She will undoubtedly be around for a very long time. You go, girl.

Worst Teen Sensation – Austin Mahone

He’s 17 and putting out music that’s tired, overdone, and lacking substance. He will soon be replaced by his very own carbon copy. Sorry, buddy.

Best New Artist – Bastille

This four-man band from the UK has took over my musical mind this year. It’s hard to place them in a single genre because they take elements of rock, indie, pop, and electronic and make them all shine. There’s something about the lyrics, something about the music, something about lead singer Dan Smith’s voice. When they fuse together, it’s innovative, harmonious, original, and it just makes sense.

Worst New Artist – A$AP Rocky

He has a dollar sign in his name, just like pop star Ke$ha. That is not a good thing. Rap music has taken a turn for the worse over the last few years, and it has become incomprehensible how so many of them are so successful. He’s no exception; in fact it’s probably why he has these issues:

Most Successful Secret Album – Beyoncé by Beyoncé

She wins this category mostly because she was the only contender. Dropping an iTunes-only visual album (ie each track accompanied by a video) in mid-December had never been done. As if that was not enough, Bey managed to pull this off with no one – including the media – knowing about it until it was released; in fact she set Internet ablaze. I think it’s about time we all hail Queen B.

Best Soundtrack – Great Gatsby

Lana Del Rey, The xx, Beyoncé, Jay-Z, Florence and the Machine, Gotye, Sia. Not sure how many more reasons you need.

Douchebag of the Year – Kanye West

He claimed leather jogging pants was his idea, and no one else’s. This year alone, he compared himself to Michael Jackson, Steve Jobs, and God. He got into a Twitter-feud with Jimmy Kimmel. He’s obsessed with himself and Kim Kardashian – his girlfriend/baby mama/finacee/soon-to-be-wife – and feels like the rest of the world should be too. Hence this video. Hence the winner of this category.

Best Summer Song – “I Need Your Love” by Calvin Harris feat. Ellie Goulding

Harris is already a champion DJ, and Goulding’s voice is unbelievably infectious. It’s fun, it’s light, it’s care free. Everything summer should be.

Least Lovable Artist – Katy Perry

She’s redundant, she’s ordinary, and she’s formulaic. She’s boring, she’s predictable, and she lacks any sense of creativity. My disdain for her is so intense, I actually have a visceral reaction to her music, and am done hearing her roar.

Most Lovable Artist – Imagine Dragons

This band from Las Vegas is just so darn delightful. Their music is uplifting, and during live shows, they are full of excitement, like kids in a candy store. In spite of their successes, they remain humble and grateful for the opportunity to play their music to the masses. I have yet to get tired of them, and that’s saying a lot.

Biggest Loss to the Music Industry – Lou Reed

Reed was an original and founding member of The Velvet Underground, one of the most influential rock bands of all time. He also managed to have a solo career after the band split up, and created his own music for over thirty years. A true icon.

Most Pretentious Artist – The Arcade Fire

For their upcoming tour in support of Reflektor, this Grammy-winning band put out a press release stating fans attending their live shows must wear a costume or formal attire. It’s unclear what the consequences are if their demands are not met, but regardless of their musical prowess, who do the think they are?

Worst Collaboration Track – “Cruise” by Florida Georgia Line feat. Nelly

Country duo Florida Georgia Line team up with rapper Nelly, in a failed attempt to marry both genres. It does not help that Florida Georgia Line look like the biggest douchebags on the planet, who have no game at all. Add to that the fact this video features sub par “video hos” who seem completely out of place. I do not know which musician is more pathetic for trying to use the other for fame, but neither one succeeds.

Best Collaboration Track – “#Beautiful” by Mariah Carey feat. Miguel

Regardless of Mariah’s diva tendencies, there’s no denying she has one of the best voices out there. Combine that with the sexiness and sultriness Miguel’s vocals bring, and what you get is this gorgeous track. Mariah strikes again.

Most Overexposed Artist – Miley Cyrus

She developed an obsession with dressing either semi or fully naked. We have all (unfortunately) seen far too much of her unhygienic tongue, and she felt the need to not only try to twerk, but also to suggestively use a foam finger. None of that however, seemed to have stopped her tracks from playing everywhere. She can’t stop, she won’t stop. Must be because she’s a wrecking ball.

Has-Beens of the Year – 98 Degrees

The 90s boy band put out an album this year, 13 years too late because no one cares about them anymore. They tried to stay relevant by joining Boyz II Men (down one member) and NKOTB on “The Package ” Tour. Riding the coattails of other washed up boy bands is no way to resurrect a career, boys.

Most Mancrushed Musician – Justin Timberlake

He’s got the voice. He’s got the moves. He’s got the charm. He plays guitar and piano, he’s well dressed, he collaborated with the one and only Jay-Z. His bromance with Jimmy Fallon is endearing, and his SNL appearances pretty hilarious. And he puts out videos like this – why would you not want to be like him?

Best Live Show – Macklemore & Ryan Lewis @ Osheaga Music Festival, Montreal

This year was a bit slower than most when it came to live shows. Several stood out, but none really reached unreal heights, except this super charming hip-hop duo who were entertaining, interactive, and incredibly full of energy. The crowd was living off adrenaline the entire show, including moments like this:

Best Rap Album – Marshall Mathers LP2 by Eminem

It’s Eminem at the height of his game. Rhymes you would not believe spit perfectly, rapidly and with the right amount of umph to turn heads, without having to drop Tom Ford’s name. He’s angry, he’s comical, he’s dark, he’s real. Hell, he’s Eminem.

Album of the Year – Trouble Will Find Me by The National

What else is there to say, other than this is one of the most beautifully written albums I have heard in a long time. Every track, from start to finish endlessly evokes emotions, to the point where you find yourself distracted because you get so involved with the music. Berninger’s controlled voice both subtly and eloquently adds many layers to the music. It’s truly a work of art.

Worst Song of the Year – “Accidental Racist” by Brad Paisley feat. LL Cool J

The problem with combining two genres of music is that it can sometimes completely backfire. This track tells the tale of a white man going into a coffee shop sporting a Confederate flag on his t-shirt. The barista is a black man who takes offense to this t-shirt and the track becomes a dialogue about slavery, racism, other things. They have both tried to explain themselves publicly, but none of it makes sense.

Song of the Year – “Wake Me Up” by Avicii feat. Aloe Blacc

EDM is becoming more and more successful by the minute, and Avicii is one of the younger DJs immersed in the scene. Avicii introduced a country/blues-esque feel to the track with Blacc’s vocals, and took it to the next level by fusing two genres that are typically worlds apart. It’s creative, it’s ingenious, plus it’s freaking catchy.