As each year passes, I've found it more difficult to remember what I took in culturally: did I watch/listen/read that? I'm going to use this space to catalogue my favorites, starting with music! Please let me preface that obviously this isn't the list, but just my list as I don't listen to all styles and genres of music. My list is in alphabetical order, but I if I had to pick my favorite musical discovery of this year, it would be Lorde.
Arcade Fire | Reflektor Arcade Fire is a band that I regret to admit I didn't fully understand when I first heard them. Why do they have, like, 20 members? What is with the costumes? I even had the opportunity to see them live a few years ago, but I declined and Jordan brought his brother instead. Despite my earlier mistake, I have grown to like them a lot. This album is a combination of dissonant rhythms and melodies that blend together to create a full rich sound. The dance type songs don't feel rushed either – perfect for dancing.
Andrew Belle | Black Bear Everyone needs that album. You know what I'm talking about, the album that you put on to let out a good cry, read a book, take a nap, work creatively or enjoy some good marriage snuggle time ;-) This isn't background music, but mood setting music: pure emotive and honestly simply beautiful. Andrew Belle's Black Bear just kind of blew me away.
Beyoncé | Beyoncé Beyoncé almost didn't make this list because her album snuck up on all of us! I was a Destiny's Child fan (I can still recite all of the lyrics from "Say My Name", despite not having heard the song in years), but Beyoncé always led that train. While, I've admired Beyoncé, this album is the first one of hers where I've actually liked the entire journey not just the pit stops (i.e. singles). Job well done, Mrs. Carter. Or as Jordan said, "I can't believe how good this album is."
Favorite Song: XO |iTunes|
Ellie Goulding | Halcyon Days Technically, this is a re-release of her 2012 album, Halcyon, so I'm cheating bit. BUT there are ten new songs, so I'm just going to count it as something separate! Jordan and I first discovered Ellie when she performed on SNL in May of 2011. I was so impressed, I bought her album, Lights, and have followed her career ever since. The lyrics on this album are storytelling like a folk song, but her breathy voice and ethereal dance music creates a style all to her own.
Lorde | Pure Herion It's kind of amazing to think that a 16 year-old from NZ could take the US music scene by storm in only a few months, but that's exactly what happened this summer with Lorde. I have probably listened to this album the most this year, particularly when I am getting ready in the morning and I need some extra pep!
Paul McCartney | NEW I love that Paul McCartney still puts out new music... and thankfully, it is also really really good. Jordan and I saw Sir Paul live at Wrigley Field a few years ago and he was amazing: played for three hours without stopping for anything, even to drink water! I also think it's pretty cool that George Martin's son was one of the producers on this album. If you like the Beatles sound and Paul's songwriting then you may fall in love with this album and how some new elements are fused with the old.
M.I.A. | Matangi M.I.A. is just cool and that coolness echoes in her music. Matangi is little mixture of R&B, world music beats, synth sounds, and a whole lot of confidence. M.I.A.'s lyrics are like that friend who says what everyone else is thinking but is too afraid to say out loud. This is apparent in her take on the YOLO trend, explained in the song "Y.A.L.A.", "If you only live once, why we keep doing the same [stuff]?"
Paramore | Paramore I admired Paramore's earlier music, but it was a little young sounding for me. I kinda got tired of the pop punk music of my youth (Fall Out Boy, New Found Glory, etc.). Thankfully, I have Jordan who tends to know what's up on good music and who encouraged me to take a fresh listen. This album is a mature Paramore and delivers wonderful pop rock songs. And even if this isn't your style, you can't deny Haley Williams can SAAANG.
Katy Perry | Prism I just love Katy. Prism is reminiscent of the less moody/grunge 1990s music and I mean that as a compliment! S Club 7, anyone? When I was little, I let myself fully embrace the pop ballads and sang my little heart out while roller blading down my street wearing overalls :-) There are also great messages mixed in through out this album. In "It Takes Two", which is essentially a song about breaking up, instead of blaming the other she speaks about how we must be the first to say "I'm sorry."
Phoenix | Bankrupt! Back in the early years of dating (2005), Jordan came to me with the discovery of a new band, Phoenix. Well, new to us at least :-) I loved them instantly and Thomas Mars (lead singer) is instantly cooler because he's married to Sofia Coppola (one of my favorite, young film directors). Jordan and I saw them play a sold out show at the Aragon Ballroom this September and it was one of the best nights of this year. Bankrupt! is full of intimate lyrics paired with anthemic melodies and slightly aloof-synth-dance style rock & roll.
Justin Timberlake | The 20/20 Experience I grew up in that prime time to fully embrace the boy band, but I never did. My access to music mainly came from my older brothers (Blink 182 to the Cranberries), but I always knew Justin had something special. Jordan and I have really enjoyed his appearances on SNL and would wonder if a return to music would happen! This album sounds deliberate, a clear stepping stone to set him apart from basically everyone he was associated with early on in his music career (watching the members of 'N sync perform next to him during this year's VMA's was just sad). This album is a little less pop and a little more soul.
Vampire Weekend | Modern Vampires of the City I will always associate Vampire Weekend with my naive newly-wed days (as their first album released the same year as our wedding), and just like I continue to mature so does Vampire Weekend. They came on the scene with the vibe of preppy east-coast rockers mixed with some Paul Simon Graceland musical vibes. This third release has pushed aside collegiate songs for lyrics that evoke thoughts that arise as we/they reach their 30s. "Wisdom's a gift/But you'd trade it for youth."
Their dance like quality hasn't completely vanished though, Jordan and I may sometimes put on this album and dance around our apartment listening to "Diane Young".
Kanye West | Yeezus Despite myself, I absolutely bought into this album. It's at times crass, abrasive, genius, or any other polarizing adjective you want to throw into the mix, but it also didn't sound like anything else I listened to this year. It's masterful in the way that it pushes boundaries and sets itself in a class all its own. I don't know if I can say it better than the New York Times:
“An aggressive demand for attention…Yeezus arrives with all eyes and ears on Mr. West…Mr. West’s response to all that scrutiny is an album that stays as combative as its opening zap …the album is one long, efficient, inventive kick in the head.”
What were some of your favorite albums this year?
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