Friday, December 31, 2010

The Best Most Listened-To Albums of 2010 - Winners

Here they are: the ten albums I listened to most this year, according to my Last.fm charts. This is an objective way of determining my favourite albums, whether I agree with the numbers or not. Let me know your own favourite music of the year, if you're into this whole music thing. Oh, and happy new year! Maybe this is the year your resolutions will actually happen.



10. of Montreal - False Priest

The bands that occupy the most space in my mind (and on my iPod) are the ones that constantly reinvent themselves while maintaining a core musical identity. of Montreal has managed to evolve significantly with each of their many albums; it's hard to even identify their first albums as the same musical creature that they are today. Yet each step is small and logical. False Priest continues where Skeletal Lamping left off, going in a slightly more funky but mature direction. It took me a bit longer to get into than other albums, but it definitely belongs on this list.





9. Katy Perry - Teenage Dream

I'm over being ashamed of loving shitty pop music. Singing about partying and relationships in the simplest of terms over the simplest of music may not be high art, but it's damn fun to listen to. If that first chorus of Firework doesn't make you want to go "oh oh oh", you're dead inside.




(see also)


8. Sia - We Are Born

More pop music done right comes courtesy of Sia. She's gone full-on dancy disco from her downtempo roots, and it suits her well. If Clap Your Hands doesn't make you want to clap your hands, you are dead inside.




Oookay, never seen that video before. WTF.


7. Sleigh Bells - Treats

Sleigh Bells' squeaky-clean-cheerleader-contrasted-with-dirty-noise musical aesthetic sounds like nothing else out there. I don't know if the gimmick can be maintained beyond one short album, but what an album it is.





6. Yeasayer - Odd Blood

I don't even know what the fuck to call this. Yeasayer's music is a "world music" tinged mess of genres, and overall I'd say Odd Blood is inconsistent at best. But while it may not be album of the year, it probably made this list largely due to the song O.N.E. being listened to on repeat. I rarely listen to a song more than once in the same day, but this one I couldn't resist. Let's go ahead and call it song of the year.





5. Broken Bells - Broken Bells

This union of Danger Mouse with the Shins' James Mercer has resulted in one of the most never-get-sick-of-it albums of the year. I don't know what the hell they're singing about most of the time, but it's such sweet music that it doesn't really matter.




Can we take a break to talk about Christina Hendricks for a minute? She is one of those people who I can acknowledge is objectively beautiful in many different ways, but deep down, she just doesn't do it for me. Those giant boobs and weird proportions throw something off; it's all interesting to look at  though. Maybe this is why so many straight women are drawn to her. And Mad Men! What's with that show? I gave it two chances and just couldn't get into it. The glimpse into another time with all its messed up values and exotic fashion is cool and all, but I'd like it more as backdrop to a show in which stuff actually happens.

Moving on:


4. Ke$ha - Animal

Shit. Ok I said I was through being ashamed of liking shitty pop, but this is as bad as it gets. I listened to this more than Broken Bells? Really? She doesn't even sing!


3. Massive Attack - Heligoland

At the height of their career, Massive Attack's Mezzanine brought on immediate depression with its pure dreariness. Over a decade later, that dreariness is largely gone, replaced with a more subtly dark collection. I probably wouldn't consciously put this in my top three, but it must have been enough of a fitting soundtrack to my life to occupy my ears for a large proportion of it.

[WARNING: the video below is completely totally NSFW. Don't click it at work. Seriously.]



Massive Attack Paradise Circus (HD) uncensored



2. Gorillaz - Plastic Beach

Sometimes the albums I listen to most are the ones I'm most ambivalent about. I wasn't sure what to think about Plastic Beach when I first heard it, but it intrigued me enough to keep listening, and eventually it grew on me enough that I'm happy with its placement here at number two. Stylo is another of those rare songs I can listen to over and over again.




Also check out the second album Gorillaz released this year, The Fall. It was made on an iPad while on the road. Jesus you guys, we live in a world where you can create an album on a slab of glass. Stream it here.


1. Stars - The Five Ghosts

Ah, good old Stars. Their emo melodrama is extremely cheesy, but sometimes cheesy is what you need, and I guess I was in the mood for dairy this year. This is kind of a concept album about the ghosts of dead kids or something. Whatever. If you can resist the catchiness of the "oooh oooh oooh"s in The Passenger, it is you, sir, who are dead inside.







Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Best Most Listened-To Albums of 2010 - Honourable Mentions

It's become a yearly December tradition to highlight the music I've been listening to in the previous year. I keep track of all my music listening through Last.fm, and often find myself disappointed when some of my favourite albums weren't actually the ones I listened to most (after all, longer albums and albums released earlier in the year have an unfair advantage). I'll be back tomorrow with the ten albums that objectively vibrated my eardrums the most, but here are ten that vibrated my heartdrums even if I only listened to them on special occasions.


Mumford and Sons - Sigh No More

Yeah yeah, everyone's talking about this album. But it holds a special place in my heart, because it was playing the first time I got laid after a significant dry spell. Apart from that, it's a solid little indie-folk record with a certain special quality that managed to shoot it into the mainstream.



Hot Chip - One Life Stand

Just watch this:






And the actual album is pretty kickass too.


Rihanna - Loud

As the title promises, Rihanna's latest is an irresistible celebration of sex, violence, and that special place where the two meet. After seeing her in concert, I think we have a pretty strong bond, Rihanna and I, and I'm glad this new album didn't mess it up. Just check out this hotness with Drake:






The boy's come a long way from Degrassi. Speaking of which:



Jakalope - Things That Go Jump in the Night

Jakalope are a perplexing band, headed by a producer who's worked with Marilyn Manson and Nine Inch Nails, but sounding more like pop with only a slight industrial edge. Even more out of left-field was their opening theme for Degrassi: The Next Generation, which sounded nothing like their previous music. Add to that an all-new lead singer, and this new album could have been a disaster. Luckily, that wasn't the case. Things That Go Jump in the Night sounds like maple syrup - sugary but with a wintery edge and an ineffable Canadian vibe.








Kanye West - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

[Insert fishsticks joke].

Despite everything, Kanye puts out some damn impressive music to back up his cocky douchebaggery. There's some self-indulgence that gets in the way (what the fuck is this Chris Rock shit in Blame Game?), but I still can't stop listening to this.


Girl Talk - All Day

It's just more songs mashed up in semi-clever ways, but it's hard to not love what Girl Talk does. Plus he gives it away free and somehow evades being shut down for copyright infringement, so that's worth rooting for.



Zeus - Say Us and Land of Talk - Cloak and Cipher

Both of these bands rocked LOLA Fest 2010 here in London, and both released kickass albums in 2010. I think we'll be seeing more of them. Well, even more than this:







Warpaint - The Fool

This came out of nowhere to be one of my favourite albums of the year. Comparisons with The xx (who put out one of my favourite albums last year) are appropriate, with the lazy dreamy vocals, sparse instruments, and occasional electronic layers. I don't know how I even stumbled across these dudes, but I am so glad I did.


Robyn - Body Talk (Parts 1, 2, and 3)

Robyn would actually have taken #3 on my top ten most listened to albums if all of Body Talk was considered one album. Her comeback from being a 90s two-hit-wonder has resulted in some of my favourite pop music of the year. I also dig the way she's released this trilogy, with short albums released every few months, as they are completed. This may be the future—or a step towards the future—of music distribution in a world where real-time updates are the norm. Like a Twitter stream of album releases.

Also:






Here are some more albums I love that came out this year:

  • OK Go - Of the Blue Colour of the Sky
  • Coheed and Cambria - Year of the Black Rainbow
  • Spoon - Transference
  • The Love Language - Libraries
  • Hanson - Shout it Out
  • Diamond Rings - Special Affectations
  • She & Him - Volume Two
  • Belle and Sebastian - Write About Love
  • The Arcade Fire - The Suburbs

Here are some albums that were OK but I just couldn't get into for some reason:

  • The National - High Violet
  • Weezer - Hurley
  • Ted Leo and the Pharmacists - The Brutalist Bricks
  • Crystal Castles - II

I'll be back tomorrow (if I have time) with my most listened-to albums of the year.





See also:



Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Life Isn't Supposed to Not Be Confusing

Last night I opened up my drafts folder on Twitter, and found the following half-finished thought that I'd saved earlier: "life isn't supposed to not be confusing." *

At first I dismissed it as a drunken tweet gone wrong, but once I got over the perplexing double-negative (how meta, drunk self), I realized that maybe there's something to it.

There's a lot of crap going on, out there in the world. So that we can navigate it without dying, Mother Nature shoves a whole bunch of competing subpeople into our brain. Hunger, thirst; long-term plans, conserving energy on the couch; love, lust—all of these desires squawk like baby birds crying for the momma bird of consciousness to barf up some attention.

Having a clear mind is the most unnatural thing in the world. A mess of swirling thoughts and emotions is the default state of a thinking person. Why? Because it works. The desire that needs attention the most is usually the one that gets it. If we are hungry enough, it won't stop the laziness and thoughts about chicks from squawking, but it'll be enough that we get off the couch and ward off starvation for one more day. If we didn't have to constantly be weighing options and desires, we wouldn't need brains. Confusion is the natural consequence of intelligence.



People act less confused than they are. Sometimes they even say perfectly coherent things. But with other people, we only see the final behavioural products of their internal turmoil. Like the tip of an iceberg, except underneath it's not all perfect crystalline structure, but a writhing mass of multicoloured tentacles. Basically, Cthulhu with an iceberg hat.

Confusion is a lot easier to deal with if we embrace it. Having a clear and linear mind is not something that most people will attain for any length of time, so why not just bask in a normal, healthy, jumbled mind? Plus, it makes those epiphanic moments when everything comes together and makes sense more recognizable as the rare and magical moments that they are.





1 Actually, it said "life isn't supposed to bot be confusing," but my sober self was able to get the idea.

See also: First Person Plural.




"The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the light into the peace and safety of a new dark age."
 -- H. P. Lovecraft, Call of Cthulhu


Monday, December 13, 2010

Loaf

Previously on Phronk.com: I laid out four things I wanted to get done in November: 1: Write a novel, 2: Grow a moustache, 3: Be alone forever, 4: Get a PhD.

I am sad to report that I only succeeded at #2 *. But you know what Meat Loaf says? He says to me, he says, don't be sad, because two out of three ain't bad. Two is only one more than one, and four is one more than three, so ... so uh ... I think Meat Loaf would agree that one out of four ain't bad either.

Am I right or am I right?

Besides, "PhDecember" has a nice ring to it, so I think I'll finish that up this month. Besides besides, writing a book in a month is a fun gimmick, but one I don't feel a strong need to have done more than once, and I've already done it twice (or thrice if you count this). The pressure of November did squeeze a little diamond of an idea into my head, so I'll polish that up over a more reasonable timescale.

There are my excuses for failing at life. December is another busy month, but I will find time to update you on its various happenings, blog. You know why? Because blog, baby, I want you, I need you, but there ain't no way I'm ever gonna ... leave you.



* And raised $135 as part of a team that raised $1854 for prostate cancer! Thanks everyone who supported Movember.







Sunday, December 05, 2010

How to Save London Ontario

First, I don't think London needs "saving." I love it here, and for what it is, it's a great place to live. There is always room for improving it, though, and there is a lot of talk lately about how to do that.

A fantastic project called Redraw London visually depicts solutions to some of London's problems (see also: Kevin Van Lierop's 100 Ways to Improve London project). One example is making Dundas Street car-free where it passes through downtown—a proposition that people have been talking about for years. Brian Frank addresses this in a a recent blog post. He sees Dundas as a sort of canary in a coalmine; if Dundas is healthy, London is (at least perceived to be) healthy. However, he has doubts that getting rid of cars will suddenly rejuvenate it.

So do I. I wouldn't complain about a quirky car-free street in London, but the problem I see is that it's a boring idea. Support for a pedestrian Dundas usually ends in "just like street [X] in [city Y]!" That is, it's been done before. Yawn. We're already named after another city, so let's try to do something else to stand out, eh? We can do better than imitation, because London is full of creative geniuses. I am a creative genius. Here is how to save London:

1. Screw a car-free Dundas; how about a bumper-car-only Dundas? It's transportation! It's an amusement park! It's both! Since crashing is part of the fun, this also solves that pesky drunk driving problem once and for all.



2. How about a street where graffiti is not only allowed, but encouraged? Think of that great new work on Clarence near Dundas, except times twenty, constantly changing and showcasing local talent.

3. How about being the best at something? The world's largest [awesome thing]. The best [awesome food] in the country. We probably already have something like this and just don't know it. It would be nice to have a feature that makes London unique in the world—a symbol other than trees that we can put on our posters and logos.

4. More seriously, how about a waterfront? We've got this beautiful river splashing straight through the heart of the city, and the only place we can see it from is Museum London and the restaurant in it. I like parks and all, but I'd be happy to see half of Harris Park transformed into another type of public waterfront space. Maybe even with a few businesses there. Like small stands that sell food you don't see everywhere else.

SAVIOR

5. How about a permanent beaver tail stand?

6. How about the world's best beaver tails?

I've got like infinity more ideas, only half of which involve deep-fried dough, but the ones here already involve a lot of bulldozing so maybe I should stop. If you live in London (and sorry for the boring post if you don't), think of your own ideas. Put them out there. Even the crappy ones can inspire better ones, and the best ones may become reality.





P.S. I already wrote some of these ideas in a drunken comment over on London Fuse.