Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Best Most Listened-To Albums of 2012: Top 20

Here are the 20 albums that I listened to the most this year. The first part of the top 35 is over here; as I mentioned there, it was an odd year for music. I don't even own many of the albums below; rather, I streamed them from various places.

Once again I've bolded some albums throughout this list. Call these my consciously chosen top albums, if I was going by something other than the number of times I've played them.

What were your most listened to / favourite albums of the year? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter, because obviously I need more music to listen to.


20. Electric Guest - Mondo

It's impossible not to think of Broken Bells when listening to Electric Guest, which makes sense given Danger Mouse's involvement in both bands. Mondo sounds like what Broken Bells' second album should have been, with a collection of dreamy yet intense genre-spanning songs. This was my go-to album for when I needed to drown the world office out with headphones.



19. Ellie Goulding - Halcyon

Probably the best pop album of the year. I am hopelessly in love with Ellie Goulding's voice. She could sing Instagram's terms of service and I'd feel all warm and fuzzy. Halcyon doesn't sound like all the other dance-pop out there, despite the almost cliche influence of dubstep (probably via boning Skrillex for a while) creeping in there once in a while.




18. Justin Bieber - Believe

Shut up. Seriously, shut the fuck up. Stop the Bieber hate. You're only hating because it's popular to hate stuff that's popular, which makes you just as bad as his army of wailing beliebers. This is a perfectly great pop album. As a grown person, you can admit that without questioning your sexuality or becoming creepy. Just let go. Believe.


17. Fergus and Geronimo - Funky Was the State of Affairs

This is just a whole lot of WTF. I don't remember buying this. I don't remember listening to this more than once. I'm listening now, and none of this makes sense... "Planet Earth is Pregnant For the 5th Time"??? I'm pretty sure it just jumped from 70s punk to a 3 minute track of a bunch of people talk-singing that cut to a little jazzy number. Where am I?


16. Muse - The 2nd Law

I love Muse more and more with every album they release, and The 2nd Law is no exception. Their last album, The Resistance, was influenced heavily by Queen. The 2nd Law doesn't abandon that influence, but layers new influences on top of it, with a dollop of U2 and a pinch of dubstep all mixed together to somehow sound only like an evolved Muse. Madness is probably the second-most stuck-in-my-head song of the year, only being beat by a certain hit that never, ever, ever, ever, ever wriggled its way out of my brain folds...






(Tied for 15). Taylor Swift - Red, Lana Del Rey - Born to Die, Carly Rae Jepsen - Kiss

Ah, my three favourite pop almost-princesses. Lana Del Rey is all fake hipster-pandering, but somehow it works. Taylor Swift makes an art out of complaining about relationships, but who can't relate with that? Ah, and Carly, with her slightly 80s vibe and squeaky clean simplicity, I think I love her most of all. Call Me Maybe obviously struck a nerve with everyone, but my vote is for Good Time (weirdly cross-posted on Owl City's latest album as well), with its forceful meaninglessness, as the best pop song of the year.


14. Hey Ocean! - Is

I never paid Vancouver's Hey Ocean! much attention until this year, dismissing them as just more bland Canadian indie rock. I was wrong. This albums is just irresistible  They're somewhat reminiscent of Stars (coming up later in this list), except even cheesier and more fun.


13. fun. - Some Nights

More hipster bullshit, but damn if it isn't effective. The first word that comes to mind to describe fun's music is fresh. It sounds light and airy, yet dramatic and over the top at the same time.



12. Stars - The North

Stars are regulars on these lists of mine, pumping out albums yearly. The North is mostly more of the same: cheesy retro-tinged emo-lite pop. The North is a little slicker than their early stuff, and not my favourite of theirs, but I guess I listened to it quite a bit.


11. Saltillo - Monocyte

This is the first music album that has actually scared me. Sparse violins play against echoey samples and electronic noise, like the soundtrack to a radio transmission from a haunted house. Try listening to this at 3 in the morning with the lights out.


10. Plaster - Let It All Out

Another one of those albums I randomly stumbled upon and couldn't stop listening to. This Montreal band's electro-rock is big and dirty. LIKE MY COCK.



9. Metric - Synthetica

I'd be surprised if Metric ever released an album that didn't make this list. Like all their music, I wasn't sure about Synthetica on first listen, but it grew on me every time until I craved it, like a fine chocolate. All of it fits together perfectly, managing to be equally at home in the giant speakers of an arena or the headphones of your bedroom.



8. Garbage - Not Your Kind of People

Garbage is back. I still remember seeing the video for Queer for the first time and immediately falling in love with this band (ok, mostly Shirley Manson), and that relationship continues to this day. It's been seven years since their last album, but Not Your Kind of People feels like the natural evolution of their previous work, blending the electronic influence of their middle albums with the griminess of others. At times it feels a bit forced, like a Garbage tribute band more than Garbage itself, but it still does it for me.


7. Grimes - Visions

Grimes is fucking weird. That would be apparent even listening to Visions, yet it's her most accessible album yet, with actual songs and whatnot. But that weirdness shines through to create something unlike anything else that's come out this year.

Like seriously:



Weird. I want to touch her eyebrows.



6. The Big Pink - Future This

Electronic-tinged britpop with a layer of retro darkness, The Big Pink's second album delivers more of the same as their first. Which isn't a bad thing. It borders on trying too hard to be inspiring and uplifting instead of just fun, but I managed to listen to it over and over without being inspired to do anything positive. Phew.



5. Now, Now - Threads

On paper, Now, Now is a pretty typical rock band. They'd almost pass as a 90s grunge act. But their gradually building songs perfect the formula spectacularly, and uuungh, Cacie Dalager's voice.


4. Sleigh Bells - Reign of Terror

When Sleigh Bells first made an appearance on this list, I questioned whether the dirty cheerleader gimmick could be maintained. I guess the answer is yes. They've evolved their sound while maintaing their unique aesthetic, and gotten a little heavier with the lyrics. Let's see if they can do it a third time.


3. Of Monsters and Men - My Head is an Animal

I don't know what the hell they're going on about ("my head is an animal?" what?), but the intensity and authenticity of these folky Icelandic dudes is irresistible. There is something magic about a guy and a girl sharing vocal duties (see above: Stars, Hey Ocean!), and it's used to full effect here. I couldn't stop listening to this album.


2. Marilyn Manson - Born Villain

When asked what my favourite band is, Marilyn Manson is still my most frequent response. I obviously listened to and enjoyed Born Villain this year, but among their discography I'd say it's mostly "meh." It maintains the status quo musically rather than experimenting with anything new, and lyrics that may have been shocking in the 90s aren't so much any more. It says something that even an average Marilyn Manson album still made #2 here, but maybe my lack of enthusiasm means I should hang up the black lipstick and find a new favourite band. Maybe something obscure, like...


1. Chairlift - Something

This is one of those albums that inexplicably struck a chord in me that wouldn't stop vibrating. Like La Roux in 2009, it's not necessarily the best album on this list, but I couldn't stay away from it for long. On paper it's typical 80s-inspired synthpop, but each song seems to have a twist that sets it apart; some discordant sound or distortion that keeps things interesting. Most people probably haven't heard Chairlift outside of their brief appearance in an Apple commercial a few years ago, but give Something a chance. It's great and awesome and something something.

That is everything. What did you listen to in 2012?

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Best Most Listened-To Albums of 2012 - #35 to #21

Every year I go through my Last.fm profile and identify my most listened-to albums to post here for consideration.

This year marked a radical shift in my music habits. iTunes Match allowed me access to my entire music collection wherever I went, but more importantly, my subscription to Rdio allowed me access to almost all music at a any time. A lot of my listening was just the week's lastest new releases. Compared to past years, this lead to listening to a larger number of albums fewer times.

Because of that, I'll mention 35 albums here instead of the usual top ten+. Here are the first 15, with the top 20 coming later this week. I will bold albums that deserve special attention (call them my consciously-chosen top albums, rather than the ones I just happened to listen to a lot).

But first:


Worst album of the year: Antony and the Johnsons - Cut the World

What the fuck is this shit? I like a few of their past songs, so I tried listening to this live album, but already by the second track, we're treated to a rambling spoken diatribe about feminism, religion, mangled science, and philosophy that probably only sounds deep if you're on drugs or highly unintelligent. "The water of the world is the blood of the woman's body, so that's what we crawled out of just as we crawled out of our mothers' wombs." What? Fuck off.

Ok, here are some better albums. I'll comment on a few.


35. Grizzly Bear - Shields

I never paid much attention to Grizzly Bear before this year, but their multi-layered, epic indie rock really did it for me this time around.

34. Hot Chip - In Our Heads
33. No Doubt - Push and Shove
32. Infected Mushroom - Army of Mushrooms
31. Trust - TRST


30. Christina Aguilera - Lotus

You'll notice a lot of pop music on this list. It was an interesting year for bubblegum pop, with the music getting edgier and more energetic while the sex-soaked lyrics got even more vapid and meaningless. When I think about it, that about describes my year, so it makes sense that I'd relate with the musical embodiment of it. Aguilera came back to fit right in with today's pop, while still bringing me back to my Xtina-loving, genie-rubbing days of 1999.

29. The Asteroids Galaxy Tour - Out of Frequency
28. The xx - Coexist


27. Purity Ring - Shrines

This album is just so damn pretty, but then you pay attention to the lyrics, and it's like, "wait, what?"

26. Nicki Minaj - Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded
25. The Twilight Sad - No One Can Ever Know
24. Jack White - Blunderbuss



23. Ke$ha - Warrior

Die Young is probably one of the best songs of the year, and the rest of this artlessly provocative album lives up to it. It just makes me want to get really sweaty and make terrible decisions.

22. Lioness - The Golden Killer


21. The Weeknd - Trilogy

I've never been a big R&B fan, but this collection of The Weeknd's three previously released mini-albums feels important. It incorporates several genres without sounding like anything that's come before,  and deals with heavier issues than you'd expect (especially from someone so young). And damn, this guy is talented; comparisons with Michael Jackson are not unwarranted (especially when you hear him covering Jackson on D.D.). I think we'll be hearing a lot more from The Weeknd.

That's all for now, but I'll be back later this week with the top twenty. Here's a sneak peek in graph form:




Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Tweeting With the Stars, Volume 9: Deepak Chopra Volume 3

Ok so like, you know how Deepak Chopra and I go way back? Our relationship started out like any other: I accused him of not understanding physics and he invited me back to his place. Soon we were talking about how this energy between us burns brighter than the sun. I thought it was going really well.

Well get this you guys: DEEPAK BROKE UP WITH ME. I'm so upset, but, like, let me try to explain. It started with this little subtweet which I think was totes about me since he knows I'm into psychology:

So then I was like:


And he was like:


And I was like HAHA look at that smiley face, he's obviously just flirting, good one Deepak. But NO, next thing I know, he's blocking me on Twitter! In front of all 1.25 million of his followers! I was, like, soooooo embarrassed.

OMGGG I am so angry. I mean, like, he was never that good to me anyway, you know? He usually just put random words together and called that depth, which was SO annoying ungh. And it for reals bugged me that he did immeasurable harm to millions of people by spreading pseudoscience and dangerous medical advice. Such a turn-off, you know?

So I'm glad it's over, Deepak Chopra. Go ... go be with your universe. Be one with it for all I care. Because you ain't never being one with this ever again.



See more of our torrid exchange on Storify: Phronk Gets Blocked by Deepak Choprah.



P.S. HIS CODENAME IS ERASER:



I fully expect Deepak to be shooting alligators soon.



See also:


Saturday, November 17, 2012

Review: Twilight: Breaking Dawn: Part 2 (SPOILERS)

Who the fuck is this?
Major spoilers ahead.

Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 2 is the year's bravest piece of storytelling. More than any other movie, it throws out all storytelling conventions completely. Tired tropes like "characters making rational decisions," "conflict," and "an ending" are eschewed in favor of its own brand of vampires-having-conversations entertainment.

When we last saw Bella, she'd recently become a vampire to keep from being eaten by her vampire/human baby, fathered by Edward and metaphorically peed on by Jacob to mark her as his property. Or something.

A scene early in the movie sets the tone. Jacob and Bella are getting in a shouting match over who owns her Gollum-like CGI baby, and it's looking like Bella might kill Jacob. Edward is just hanging back like "hey, don't worry about it, everything will turn out okay."

Then, here's where the story abandons what some would say is a defining feature of any plot: conflict. Because Edward was right. Everything actually turns out okay.




Try to think of any other movie where that happens. Where characters are put in a potentially dangerous situation, but then they work it out, and everything goes better than expected. There are no tough choices, no consequences to actions, no suffering, no sacrifices. They just talk it out, and everyone is happy. This theme carries throughout the movie.

Mind you, there is a lot of promise of conflict. After abandoning the "characters making rational choices" principal, the Cullens decide that the best way to convince one bad guy that their kid is harmless is to travel the world and convince seventeen other evil vampires to be "witnesses" that will have a big sleepover and hopefully influence the one bad guy when he shows up.

???
Oh, and all these vampires have mutant superpowers b-t-dubs. And each gets a few minutes of screen time so they are almost real characters. Seventeen loaded Chekhov's guns just waiting to unleash their cool powers and/or tragically get killed off.

Luckily, they don't need to. The plan works. Everything goes better than expected.

End movie.

Ok wait, it's not that simple. There's also Alice, whose superpower is "seeing the future." I put that in quotes, because throughout the movies I can't recall her future visions actually coming true. It's more like speculating about one possible future. Most humans have this superpower too, except they call it "a vivid imagination."

Anyway, Alice has her own plan, which is to disappear for most of the movie then show up out of nowhere at the end with a character that has never been even mentioned before, who demonstrates that the kid is harmless, and convinces the bad guys to go away even though they were kinda leaning that way anyway.

Her plan works.

End movie.

That's the story. Literally none of the setup matters at all except to explain plans that went off without a hitch. None of the vampires actually use their superpowers. Jacob's imprinting thing only leads him to growl once in a while. Nothing bad happens except some rather tense conversations. The bad guys get away. Everyone lives happily ever after.

Ok wait, there is one more twist.

Apparently the filmmakers were like "seriously Stephanie Meyer? Seriously? You forgot to write a real ending after putting people through four fucking books of this?" So they wrote their own ending, then show it to us through Alice's power of imagination.

What results is, seriously, one of the greatest action sequences in recent memory. The previous two hours of setup actually pay off. Relationships matter, characters die due to poor decisions and sacrifices, bad guys get what they deserve, and heads are awkwardly removed. The best part of the entire saga was not actually a part of the plot.

That is brave filmmaking. Because where else will you find a five-movie series where the best part is a tacked-on dream sequence that wasn't even in the book? The creators of Breaking Dawn pulled a reverse George Lucas. They saw that Greedo shooting first (or you know, nobody shooting at all) was a terrible idea and preemptively fucked with their own movie to make it better.

Bravo, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn: Part 2. Bravo.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Disguises

I love Halloween. It pushes people to leave their comfort zones by trying out a new identity for a while. Since Halloween costumes disguise people's identies, I had the hilarious thought that they could be called by what they are:

 

But then today I went shopping for my disguise, and discovered that I was not so original:

 

Not sure a pair of devil ears is an effective disguise, but okay.

Later, I found attempts attempts to "disguise" the true nature of costumes, in fear of people dressed in suits delivering, um, suits.

 

Others disguised themselves a little too well:

 

Guess who the hell it's supposed to be and win a prize!*

Happy Halloween everyone reading this. May you make terrible decisions while under the illusion that your identity is disguised.

 

 

* Legal notice: due to nonexistence of right answer, prize does not exist.



Thursday, October 18, 2012

Book Review: The Knife of Never Letting Go, by Patrick Ness

There are a whole lot of ideas flying around in The Knife of Never Letting Go. The central premise is that men can hear each other's thoughts, constantly giving off what they call "Noise." That'd be enough to keep things interesting, but then other ideas are layered on top of it: it takes place on an alien planet, all women were wiped out by a virus, and oh yeah, animals can talk. In fact, the book opens with:
"The first thing you find out when yer dog learns to talk is that dogs don't got nothing much to say. About anything."
That "yer" tips you off to the style the book is written in. It's told from the perspective of Todd, a twelve(ish) year old kid who actually talks like a kid. The novel is brilliantly written in his voice, with plenty of misspelled words, misunderstandings, and internal struggle. I find the parenthetical "shut up" after admitting any emotion to the reader particularly cute.

The point of view and style are a kid's, but the substance of the story is very much adult. It goes to some dark places, made all the darker by characters that are easy to care about. I shouldn't have read this at work, because it almost made me break down during my lunch break (shut up).

At least Ness takes responsibility for his actions:


I was ready to gushingly recommend this book like I've never gushingly recommended before, but there is one problem: it's the first in a series. It's very much the first in a series. By the end, I wasn't quite expecting cliffhanger after cliffhanger, followed by needing to read two more books. I suppose it's still a positive that it left me wanting more, but, uuungh.

Anyway, read my Noise: read this book.




Yes I see that typo in my tweet. Yes it makes me crazy. THANKS.


Saturday, September 22, 2012

"Shy at First Butt" - The Horrors of Internet Dating Volume 11

Click for embiggening

Welcome to another instalment of The Horrors of Internet Dating. I've been mostly single for a few months now, so I'm about ready to start filling the emptiness in my soul with browsing the seediest parts of the Internet and making questionable decisions.

Let's start positive, with some people who actually seem awesome.


Hot.

Fiery.

Um. Poopy?


Ok, so usually if someone says she is HILARIOUS, the opposite is true, but this rambling, contradictory mess of a profile turned out to be legit funny. Most profiles lack personality entirely, so, more like this pls.

Ok, let's have some more fun.


No wait, let's not. No fun allowed. Instead, let's get to the "horror" part:


Is there any good way to reply to a message like this? Do you really want a stranger critiquing your profile? And is this a good way start a relationship? The real answer was probably that you're just one of the 99% of the human population that I'm not attracted to. Sometimes I have to click a profile to determine that. But after this message, the deal breaker is that you send creepy messages to people on Plenty of Fish.


There are several things to point out in the above. First, no indication of whose profile this is. Second, guy in green looks like he's pooping. Third, random dude in the middle is the only one blanked out. Why? Did he special request to not be in any dating profile pics? Is he a secret agent or something? Is he Bansky?

People have other odd ways of protecting their friends' identities when they apparently haven't heard of cropping. (Only the black bars are mine in the pictures below)


Forget you, I wanna meet your friend who's somehow become pixelized IRL!


I don't think I want to meet you. Apparently standing beside you makes one a target for snipers. RIP lady with exploded head.

Um:



Kink is in and everything, but I'm pretty sure that's going too far. Speaking of kink though, let's end with a sneak preview of what will probably be my next blog post:

and



No problem! One Christian Grey coming right up. But don't wait for a message...I'll just use my riches to stalk you then imprison you in my sex dungeon. You asked for it!

Until next time. Stay sketchy my friends.