End Of Year Report: 12 Different Perspectives On Music In 2013

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If you’re a fan of mainstream and indie variations of rock music i.e. Arcade Fire, Kurt Vile, Arctic Monkeys and Vampire Weekend, 2013 was a good year for you.

If you’re closer to my dad’s age and was still wishing for that new My Bloody Valentine and David Bowie album or that Replacements reunion back in January, 2013 was a good year for you.

If you’re Pharrell, 2013 was a good year for you.

If you’re Kanye West, 2013 was a good year for you.

If you’re a female pop star and your name isn’t Lady Gaga, 2013 was a good year for you.

If you’re a Lou Reed fan, 2013 was not a good year for you (though you probably went back through all your old Reed records and rediscovered your love for Transformer and “Street Hassle”, so maybe it was a good year).

If you like music, 2013 was a good year for you. 2013 was a good year for (almost) everyone, but there are several different way to look at this past year. Here are 12 of those perspectives as we celebrate the end of a historic year in music.

2013: The Year Of Lou Reed’s Passing

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One of rock music’s most influential poets and explorers passed away in 2013, and fans around the world went back to their Velvet Underground and Transformer records and mourned. It was one of those deaths that united all people to celebrated an incredible life, for Reed was one of those few musicians that nearly everyone knew, even if they didn’t know that song they really liked is called “Walk On The Wild Side” (or that it’s about cross-dressing). Even towards the end of his life, Reed never stopped exploring the possibilities of music, and we’ll miss his sense of wonder and beauty that he found in even the ugliest of places.

Check out these 10 songs that’ll introduce you to Lou Reed.

 

2013: The Year Of Impressive Women

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2013 was a quite a year for women in music. You had Miley Cyrus, Lorde, Janelle Monae, Kacey Musgraves, Beyonce, and Brandy Clark all making headlines and selling tons of records in 2013 (“tons” is adjusted to a modern time when few musicians are selling enough records to keep their jobs). We also had new music from Lady Gaga and, though Artpop wasn’t as good as we all thought it would be, it’s big news whenever a new Gaga album is released (in fact, it’s even bigger news that Artpop flopped and that the modern pop era that she helped create has moved on from her). And on the other side of the spectrum, we had Laura Marling, Haim, Savages, Sky Ferreira and more ladies making some of the best alternative music of 2013.

 

2013: The Year Of Nostalgia

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If you told me on December 31, 2012 that in the next 12 months we would have new music from My Bloody Valentine, David Bowie, Pearl Jam, Nine Inch Nails, Dismemberment Plan, Boards of Canada and Jay Z AND that The Replacements, Neutral Milk Hotel, The Postal Service, The Breeders and *NSYNC (!) would reunite and perform, I would have told you that you were crazy. Well 2013 was a crazy year indeed.

 

2013: The Year Of The Modern Classics

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Vampire Weekend made their best album, Kanye West made his Kid A to My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy‘s Ok Computer, Arcade Fire loosened up and still made an enduring rock record, Daft Punk returned with the biggest hit of their career, Arctic Monkeys became the best soul-rock band in the world, James Blake won the Mercury Prize, and we heard new music from Kurt Vile, The Strokes, The National, Kings Of Leon, Justin Timberlake, Nick Cave, Queens of the Stone Age and many more.

Yeah, 2013 was a year for modern classics.

 

2013: The Year Of The Rookie

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Back in January we didn’t know much about Haim, Palma Violets, Lady Lamb the Beekeeper, CHVRCHES, Foxygen, Disclosure, Chance The Rapper, Savages, Perfect Pussy and Lorde, but now we all know who theses guys are.

 

2013: The Year Of Trying To Figure Out Spotify

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It’s hard to remember life before Spotify and before having the ability to stream nearly every song you wanted to hear anytime you had an internet connection. For music fans Spotify is a blessing, a free gateway to (almost) any song you want to stream. For artists however, it’s a completely different story.

In 2013 Spotify became one the dominant music streamers in America, and we began to understand its place within a music industry that desperately needs to adjust to how most people listen to music. Those who oppose Spotify’s model include prominent musicians such as David Byrne, Thom Yorke, Beck, and many more who claim that Spotify still hurts musicians with their money breakdown.

The above picture is from a Stereogum article discussing how Spotify works and how it makes money and pays back the artists.

Only time will tell if the Spotify model can last and, more importantly, if it can be changed to benefit the musicians, but in 2013 there was movement (good or bad) to determine a future for the music industry.

 

2013: The Year Of The Open Letter

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In the age of smartphones and social media, it’s nice to see that musicians are keeping in touch by writing letters to each other and letting us all see what they’re saying.

Sinead O’Connor Reaches Out To Miley Cyrus To Not Whore Herself Out

Sinead O’Connor Writes Another Letter To Miley After She Compares Her To Amanda Bynes

Sufjan Stevens Corrects Miley Cyrus On Her Grammer

(But then we have this awesome Miley Sinead mash-up video that makes the whole fued ironic)

Childish Gambino Writes A Letter Via Marriott Hotel Stationaries

GoldieBlox To The Beastie Boys Concerning Girls

Jay Z’s song “Open Letter” Addressed

 

2013: The Year Of The Fox

 

2013: The Year Of The Rise And Fall Of The Harlem Shake

 

2013: The Year Of Pharrell

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Here are some of the things that Pharrell accomplished in 2013:

  • He was nominated for seven grammy awards for this upcoming Grammys.
  • He created the first 24 hour music video for his song “Happy”, which you can view here.
  • He’s featured on Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” and Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines”, two of the biggest hits of 2013.
  • He helped produce Jay Z, Azealia Banks, 2 Chainz, Mike Posner, Nelly, Mac Miller, Mayer Hawthorne, John Legend, The Weeknd, Aloe Blacc, Miley Cyrus, Pusha T and many more.
  • He helped produce the soundtrack for Despicable Me 2 and Man Of Steel, two of the biggest summer movies of 2013.
  • He got married and celebrated his 40th birthday (serious, the dude looks 20 and he’s 40).
  • He announced his next solo record for next year which will have the help of Columbia Records, and it’ll feature “no rapping”.
  • He seems like a real chill guy.

So yeah, Pharrell won 2013.

 

2013: The Year of Creative Album Releases

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In 2013 there were many popular musicians who were either willing (or desperate) to make their album release THE event of the year, which required a lot of creativity (and money). This year was full of creative releases that built up so much hype, or in some cases there was no time for hype to build. Here are some examples:

  • In 2013 Arcade Fire became The Reflektors and released cryptic messages via chalk on walls and performed with big heads on The Colbert Report and released the album on YouTube for one day that was matched to the visuals of the movie Black Orpheus, one of the key inspirations behind Reflektor.
  • Jay Z and Kanye, both members of The Throne mind you, released major solo albums in 2013, but they both promoted their albums in the most polar opposite ways. Magna Carta Holy Grail was announced via The NBA Finals and Jay Z partnered up with Samsung to sponsor the album. Yeezus had no radio, no TV, no sponsors – only Kanye himself proclaiming he was a God on one of the most memorable SNL performances of all time. He also projected his face on the sides of buildings and premiered a softcore-porn music video on Ellen. In short, Jay Z was corporate America, and Kanye was the counterculture.
  • For their Lollapalooza set, Death Grips decided not to show up at their own show (or they never planned on showing up, we’ll never know) and then they canceled the rest of their 2013 tour. And oh yeah, they happened to release a new album (Government Plates) to a sharply divided fan base and had everyone else talking about it – it appears that from now on, whenever someone unexpectedly drops a new album, it’s called “pulling a Death Grips”.
  • Childish Gambino released a massive 72-page screenplay for this year’s Because The Internet.
  • Daft Punk unveiled Random Access Memories by premiering “Get Lucky” at Coachella which was followed by multiple billboards and SNL appearances.
  • Katy Perry promoted Prism via a gold truck.
  • Very recently, Beyonce dropped her self-titled album out of nowhere. This technique has worked with Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails and other indie artists (like I said before, Death Grips), but for a pop megastar like Beyonce to do this it was potentially revolutionary.

 

2013: The Year of Insanely Great Music

In addition to all these artists I’ve mentioned before, we also had great music from Deafheaven, Mikal Cronin, John Mayer, MGMT, Drake, Iron and Wine, Josh Ritter, Phoenix, The Thermals, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Phosphorescent and so many more. There were countless other hit songs that I didn’t include that are in my Spotify playlist of my favorite songs of 2013, and there were plenty of great records that I didn’t have room to talk about that are included in my list of my favorite albums of 2013. And of course, it was a fun year for Headphone Nation – there was never a time when there was nothing to talk about.

Here’s to a mind-blowing 2013, and here’s to what 2014 might bring us.

Happy holidays y’all.

Brady is the founder of Headphone Nation. He’s responsible for all this mess. Sorry about that. He’s also on Twitter @BradyWGerber

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What You Missed From Last Night’s VMAs (From Someone Who Didn’t Watch The VMAs)

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Last night I made the conscious decision to miss the 2013 MTV VMAs. It was not out of despite for the award show (in fact this year had plenty of great music videos) but I had a commitment to another major event that I just couldn’t get out of (*cough* Breaking Bad *cough*).

I do not regret my decision, but after looking at all the various headlines from last night I realized that I missed a pretty good VMAs. Now keep in mind that a good VMA show means that it’s still the VMAs, so there were still plenty of cringe-tastic moments (most of them having to do with Miley Cyrus and Taylor Swift). But in 2013 there were a few redeeming performances and news. Here’s some that I could find.

Kanye West performed “Blood On The Leaves”, and it was incredible.

 

One Direction won Song of the Summer (but the best part was Vampire Weekend introducing them).

 

Lady Gaga can still rock a good live show…

 

…but now we know that Katy Perry can too.

 

Eminem will release a new album this November produced by Rick Rubin and Dr. Dre.

The NYSNC reunion lasted exactly one minute and twenty seconds. But it was still great.

Every ten seconds the camera would focus on Taylor Swift to watch her awkwardly dance.

And Miley Cyrus has a problem.

 

AND THAT’S IT FOLKS

Oh, and Daft Punk didn’t perform, but their presentation of Taylor Swift’s award will still be talked about for a month. That’s Daft Punk for ya.

Brady is the founder of Headphone Nation. He’s responsible for all this mess. Sorry about that. He’s also on Twitter @BradyWGerber

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(At Least) 7 Albums To Look Forward To In 2013

After reading Consequence of Sound’s list of their most excited releases for 2013, I was compelled to make my own list of albums I’m looking forward to listening (hopefully!) this year. A lot of the due dates and album artworks are not confirmed yet, so I’m working with what I got.

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My Bloody Valentine – TBD

Mention the band My Bloody Valentine to your hipster friend and he will become bubbly and ramble on about how their 1991 album Loveless is one of THE greatest albums of all time (no, like really, like, THE GREATEST). Teasing aside (Loveless is indeed worth looking into), the band’s sudden announcement of a new album in over 22 years is causing quite the ruckus. Expectations are impossibly high, but My Bloody Valentine is a band that could actually match those expectations.  This is already 2013’s most scrutinized album, but it could also be its best.

Release date – Apparently January, since the band has confirmed that the album is 100% completed.

 

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Jim James – Regions of Light and Sound of God

I have no idea what to expect from My Morning Jacket’s lead man’s first solo album, but judging from the album cover I’d say he’ll cover a little bit of everything. Hey who knows, maybe It’ll attract more My Morning Jacket fans, and that’s always a good thing.

Release date – February 5th

 

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Atoms For Peace – Amok

The debut album from a band consisting of Radiohead’s Thom Yorke and Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Flea? Yes please.

Release date – February 18th

 

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Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Push the Sky Away

As fantastic as Nick Cave is, it seems that he and the Bad Seeds don’t have an accessible album for any newcomer interested in this living legend. Push the Sky Away might very well be that much needed album. Or it could be just another Nick Cave record, which would still be awesome.

Release date – February 19th

 

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HAIM – TBD

I first hear HAIM (pronounced like “lime”) last month from their single, “Forever”, and I immediately fell in love with these girls. A lot of comparisons to Fleetwood Mac are being thrown around, but that doesn’t quite do justice to HAIM’s well crafted indie pop that doesn’t feel in any way dated.

Release date – Sometime in March

 

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Phoenix – TBD

Their smash 2009 album Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix grabbed the entire world’s attention with their French electro-pop that could sum up what indie rock sounded like in the late 2000s, but now it’s time for their much desired follow up. No word on the overall album’s sound, but apparently it’s very “experimental”, whatever that means…

Release date – April

 

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Kurt Vile – Wakin On A Pretty Daze

Vile himself described his new album as, “Just rock”. Good enough for me.

Release date – Spring

 

Here are some more releases that I’m looking forward to in 2013, but unfortunately I have almost no knowledge of release dates (some of these might not even be released this year).

Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Arcade Fire

Cloud Nothings

Daft Punk

James Blake

Lady Gaga

Vampire Weekend

 

Here’s to 2013!

Brady is the founder of Headphone Nation. He’s responsible for all this mess. Sorry about that. He’s also on Twitter @BradyWGerber

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Grammy Nominations: Who Should Win, Who Will Win, And Who Got Snubbed

The Grammy nominations have been announced, and there were a lot of pleasant surprises.  Some things I expected (Kanye West and Adele with the most nominations), but there were some genuine shockers (Bon Iver getting so many nominations, Kanye’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy not up for Album of the Year).  Here is the list for the most prominent awards and their nominees along with who I think should win, who will probably win, and who I believe got snubbed out of a well-deserved chance at this year’s Grammys.  Also to clarify, Song of the Year means that it was the best written song and the award goes to the songwriters.  Record of the Year is the best sounding song and goes to the performers and producers.

Album of the Year

Adele – 21

Foo Fighters – Wasting Light

Lady Gaga – Born This Way

Bruno Mars – Do-Wops & Hooligans

Rihanna – Loud

Who Should Win: None of these.  I’m very unimpressed with this selection.  The only album here I’ve heard is Wasting Light which is a great album, but there were much better albums that came out this year.

Who Will Win: 21, because that’s what most people heard all year.

Who Got Snubbed: Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. This was truly the album of the year.  It was commercially successful while still being artistically strong.  The Purple Rain of our generation (might not be a good comparison musically, but hopefully you get what I mean).

Record of the Year

Bon Iver – “Holocene”

Adele – “Rolling in the Deep”

Mumford & Sons – “The Cave”

Bruno Mars – “Grenade”

Katy Perry – “Firework”

Who Should Win: “Holocene”.  The production of this song is gorgeous and is matched with an equally gorgeous vocal work from Justin Vernon.  A highlight from a truly great album.

Who Will Win: “Rolling in the Deep”.  It was impossible to escape this song, and unfortunately I bet most people have never heard “Holocene” (for those people, please click here).  But then again, I said the same thing about Arcade Fire at last year’s Grammys.

Who Got Snubbed: The Strokes – “Taken For A Fool”.  Listen to the song here and see if you agree.

Song of the Year

Kanye West – “All of the Lights”

Mumford & Sons – “The Cave”

Bruno Mars – “Grenade”

Bon Iver – “Holocene”

Adele – “Rolling in the Deep”

Who Should Win: “The Cave”.  This is such a great and uplifting song, something that has been missing from popular music for a long time.

Who Will Win: “Rolling in the Deep”.  Same reason as why it’ll win Record of the Year.

Who Got Snubbed: The Head And The Heart – “Down In The Valley”.  A simple yet powerful song.  Click here to make up your mind on it.

Best New Artist

Bon Iver

J. Cole

Nicki Minaj

Skrillex

The Band Perry

Who Should Win: Either Bon Iver or Nicki Minaj.  Both have been around for a decent time making quality music, but they are now getting due credit.  I’ll be happy just as long as J. Cole, Skrillex, or The Band Perry doesn’t win the award.

Who Will Win: This is a tough call.  Probably Nicki Minaj but there’s a decent chance for Bon Iver.

Who Got Snubbed: The Head And The Heart.  I’m not sure if they would be eligible, but this is a solid band with a promising future.

Best Rock Album

Foo Fighters – Wasting Light

Jeff Beck – Rock ‘N’ Roll Party Honoring Les Paul

Kings of Leon – Come Around Sundown

Red Hot Chili Peppers – I’m With You

Wilco – The Whole Love

Who Should Win: The Whole Love.  I’m so glad Wilco gets recognition from the Grammys.  This was by far my favorite album out of all of these, and I actually listened to all of these (expect Jeff Beck).

Who Will Win: Wasting Light.  The album did well commercially and it really is a great album.

Who Got Snubbed: The Strokes – Angels.  This might not be the band’s best album, but it was better than most of the albums on this list.

Best Alternative Album

Bon Iver – Bon Iver

Death Cab For Cutie – Codes and Keys

Foster the People – Torches

My Morning Jacket – Circuital

Radiohead – The King of Limbs

Who Should Win: Bon Iver.  For goodness sake please give Justin Vernon a Grammy.

Who Will Win: No Idea: This is a hard call because all these albums did equally well commercially.  Radiohead is probably the most well known band here, but they don’t deserve this Grammy.

Who Got Snubbed: Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues.  This album had my vote for the best album of the year so far.  Though my opinion may have changed, this album still deserves a Grammy.

Best Rap Album

Jay-Z & Kanye West – Watch the Throne

Lil Wayne – Tha Carter IV

Lupe Fiasco – Lasers

Nicki Minaj – Pink Friday

Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

Who Should Win: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.  The least the Grammys can do for Kanye is to give him this award to make up for not being nominated for Album of the Year.

Who Will Win: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.  I have faith that the Grammys won’t screw this up, but anything can happen.

Who Got Snubbed: Nobody.  That’s because MBDTF deserves this award.

Other Thoughts On This Year’s Grammys

James Blake should have been nominated for Electronica Album of the Year.

Congratulations to Fleet Foxes for being nominated for Folk Album of the Year.

So how did I do?  Are my predictions accurate or way out of line?  Comment below or Tweet at me (@BradyWGerber) and let me know who should bring home the big trophies at this year’s Grammys.


Brady is the founder of Headphone Nation. He’s responsible for all this mess. Sorry about that. He’s also on Twitter @BradyWGerber

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