Music Journal: What I’ll Remember The Most About Music In 2011

2011 was a good year for music.  It got weird at times (LuLu anyone?), and sometimes things were just plain bad (LuLu anyone?), but in 2011 there was always something to talk about in the world of music…like Lulu.  There are a few among many moments that I’ll remember the most – the first time I saw the music video for “Yonkers”, the death of Amy Winehouse, the new Radiohead album suddenly being released and then all the extra drama over its quality, and many more.

Here’s what I’ll remember the most about music in 2o11.

2011: The Year of Adele

No one had a bigger year than Adele in 2011.  She was inescapable, and her mega hits “Rolling In The Deep” and “Someone Like You” played everywhere and at all times.  Her second album 21 is America’s best-selling album since Usher’s Confessions back from 2004, with 5.28 million copies sold and counting.  Many, including myself, got cynical about this Brit sensation and how big she got, but nobody can deny her talent.  Just listen below to her cover Bob Dylan, and realize the power that is Adele.

 

The “Yonkers” music video, and the arrival of Tyler The Creator and Odd Future.

The first time I saw this music video I didn’t know what to think, but I knew it would get big soon.  Sure enough, Tyler the Creator and the rest of his rap group Odd Future became famous, or infamous depending on the person.  If you’ve never seen this video then you’re in for a treat.

 

The End of R.E.M., The White Stripes, and LCD Soundsystem

Nothing last forever, even great bands have to end eventually.  This year, three major acts called it quits, each leaving a huge void in the music world where they made their impact.  R.E.M. basically invented what we call “Alternative” and “Indie” music (sorry for the bold claim, but it’s hard to dispute it).  The White Stripes were the leaders of the back-to-basics rock revival of the early 2000s, and Jack White is a modern-day guitar hero.  LCD Soundsystem, the creative vehicle of James Murphy, was to me the modern day David Bowie, an artist who combined various genres and creative unique music that refused to compromise commercial success for artistic value.  Each of these acts will be greatly missed.

 

Arcade Fire Wins A Grammy

Back in February Arcade Fire, the biggest band nobody knew, won the Grammy for best album for 2010’s fantastic The Suburbs. The win came as a shock, mainly because most people had never heard of this little big band from Canada.  The win was huge for the indie world, and showed that the Grammys weren’t totally out of touch with the world.  The video below is fun to watch, neither the announcers or the band could believe what had happened.  For the article I posted the day after the Grammys, click here.

 

The King of Limbs: Proof That Radiohead Can Do Anything And Still Be Loved

Radiohead have been known for pulling some big stunts, and this year’s shenanigans ranks up near the top.  Let’s backtrack to pre-King of Limbs.  Radiohead hasn’t released a proper album since 2007’s In Rainbows and have been hush-hush about their plans for an upcoming album.  Then all of a sudden, they tell the world they’ll release an album within the week!  Fans were freaking out, the Internet exploded, and both Radiohead fans and haters were curious.  This was a truly an event, and it just goes to show how popular Radiohead truly are, that they can get the world excited over an album in a time where the value of an album has gone dramatically down.

I remember counting down the days, waiting for what I was hoping to be the album of the year.  Then, in another crazy move, they released the album a day early!  I woke up to the news and within the hour I had the new Radiohead album.  I stopped everything, downloaded the album, began playing it on my iTunes, and I listened.  Thirty-seven quick minutes later the album was over, and a realization came, something I didn’t think I would ever hear myself say.

The new Radiohead album…kinda sucks.

The songs all sounded the same and I felt there was much left to be desired.  I was shocked that, after four years of nothing, this was the best the band who brought us The Bends and OK Computer could give us.  There was no way that Radiohead could have done this, that they put so much hype behind, what I truly thought at the time, a piece of crap.  I thought there had to be more, this was a cruel joke, there would be more music coming out.  More music never came out.  What followed was a huge division among fans and critics – you either loved or hated the album, no middle group.  I was apart of the latter, and I was bothered by how many people were raving about the album.

Much time has passed, and though I still don’t think it’s that great, I have come to appreciate some of The King of Limbs.  It’s art, and Radiohead have always created great art that is challenging.  I thought Kid A sucked when I first heard it, but over time it grew on me and now I love that album.  The  King of Limbs is nowhere near as good as Kid A, but it’s not a piece of crap.  Plus the album gave us my favorite music video of the year.

If anything, this event showed to me that Radiohead could do anything they want and still be loved.  Thom Yorke should released an album of him of just farting, just to see how well it does.  I’ll end this rant with a link to a Spin article released in 2009 about Radiohead.  It’s very interesting, and it might change your perspective about the band.  Read the article here.

 

Spotify: A Game Changer

Spotify finally came to the US, and it caught fire fast.  Spotify’s popularity could very well put an end to the MP3, with strictly all-digital music becoming the way of the future for music.  Good for fans, bad for the artist and labels, but it’s truly an evolution in the music industry.

 

The Death Of Amy Winehouse, And Other Great Losses

No death this year was as shocking as the death of famed British soul singer Amy Winehouse.  She died so young and unexpectedly, and her death at twenty-seven added her to the infamous twenty-seven club.  She was a true talent, a kind of artist with a voice and personality that comes only so often, and a promising career was cut tragically short.  This year we also lost Clarence Clemons, saxophone player and founding member of the E Street Band with Bruce Springsteen, famed musician-poet Gil Scott-Heron, and Steve Jobs, whose iPod technology changed how we listen to music.  All these and more talented people were taken from us in 2011, and they will be greatly missed.

 

And Of Course…Lulu

A bad idea that was even worse when realized.  Lou Reed and Metallica came together and created a piece of crap.  This album had so much buzz behind it, it was already one of the most talked about collaborations in recent time.  The backlash it has received only cements this album more into music history as the greatest WTF moment of 2011.

 

I’m sure I forgot some big events, but these are the events that defined 2011 for me.  It was a crazy year with many ups and down, but some fantastic music was released.  I’m excited to see what 2012 has in store for us.  Enjoy the rest of the holidays and have a fun and safe time bringing in the new year, and make sure to continue keeping up with Headphone Nation for all that is music.

Tune in. Tune out. Live on.

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Music Journal: My Favorite Albums of 2011

In 2011 the album became cool again.  This year I actually got excited for the release dates of many albums, something that hasn’t happened in a long time.  Though there wasn’t one huge album that towered over the rest, except maybe Adele’s second album in terms of album sales, there were a lot of great albums for almost every kind of music fan in 2011.  Here are my favorite albums released this year and then some honorable mentions.

James Blake – James Blake

One of the most powerful album I’ve heard in a long time, this will be the album that I’ll remember the most from this year.  The album is soulful and minimal, using post-dubstep electronics that are usually anything but minimal.  James Blake should be someone to look out for in the future, but his proper debut album has already established his place in music.

Bon Iver – Bon Iver

Before this album came out, Justin Vernon was known more for the story of his debut rather than the music itself (loner musician is sad, goes to a cabin in the winter woods, makes a record, becomes friends with Kanye West).  However with Bon Iver, he is no longer confined to his own myth.  Now he is, to me at least, the Peter Gabriel of our generation, a creative artist who is defining his career with such great songs such as “Calgary” and “Holocene”.  If For Emma, Forever Ago is his winter record, then this is his spring record.

Ryan Adams – Ashes & Fire

My favorite singer-songwriter finally released an album after a three year drought, and it did not disappoint.  It sounds like a classic Neil Young record, and it is stacked up there with Heartbreaker and Gold.  It’s good to have you back Mr. Adams.

Wilco – The Whole Love

Wilco had nothing to prove in 2011, but Jeff Tweedy and his most consistent lineup created a fantastic album anyway.  The album keeps the weird dream-pop of Being There and experimental of A Ghost Is Born, all while being one of Wilco’s most accessible albums.  Every song is great, but “One Sunday Morning” could be a top five Wilco song.

Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues

Where as their first album sounds medieval, Fleet Foxes’s second album sounds timeless.  This was the album I kept in my car the longest this year, it was the perfect driving album.  This album stopped this band from becoming a one-album wonder and shows a promising future from this band.

The Decemberists – The King Is Dead

The album I didn’t expect to love so much, especially considering the past work of the band that is the closest thing to a modern day Smiths.  Simple lyrics, stripped down production, lovable songs, what more do you want from an album?

Honorable Mentions (Albums You Should Still Check Out)

My Morning Jacket – Circuital

Drive Motion Picture Soundtrack

Foo Fighters – Wasting Light

Jay Z & Kanye West – Watch The Throne

Tom Waits – Bad As Me

M83 – Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming

The Strokes – Angles

This is an awesome album collection, and I am excited to see what I’ll be buying in 2012.

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Music Journal: My Favorite Songs of 2011

Well 2011 is almost at an end, and what a year it was.  There’s a lot to cover from this year, so for my first of three parts of my end-of-year review, I’ll play for you guys my favorite songs released this year.  There’s a variety of song here, from rap, electro, folk, rock, indie, and even cheesy 80s jazz pop (and that’s a compliment). Here are the songs, in alphabetical order by artist, released in 2011 that I listened to the most.  Enjoy.

“Mona Lisa” – Atlas Sound

“Wash.” – Bon Iver

“Swim Club” – The Cave Singers

“LES” – Childish Gambino

“Need You Now” – Cut Copy

“You Are A Tourist” – Death Cab for Cutie

“Kaputt” – Destroyer

“Over My Dead Body” – Drake

“Helplessness Blues” – Fleet Foxes

“Down in the Valley” – The Head And The Heart

“That’s My Bitch” – Jay-Z and Kanye West

“Video Games” – Lana Del Rey

“Midnight City” – M83

“Wonderful (The Way I Feel)” – My Morning Jacket

“Super Bass” – Nicki Minaj

“Taken For A Fool” – The Strokes

“Yonkers” – Tyler The Creator

“Fail Forever” – When Saints Go Machine

“One Sunday Morning” – Wilco

“Cameras” – Wiz Khalifa

Any songs that I left out? comment below or hit me up on twitter @BradyWGerber and let me know your favorite track from 2011.

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Music Journal: Miscellaneous Music Awards For 2011 (So Far!)

Because I couldn’t get enough of these awards, here are some more!

BEST ALBUM ARTWORK

Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues

MOST OVERPLAYED SONG

Adele – “Rolling In The Deep”

Terrific song, but I heard it once too many times.  There are even better tracks off of 21.

BIGGEST DISSAPOINTMENT

Radiohead – The King of Limbs

I love Radiohead, but this album wasn’t as good as it should have been.  It didn’t take me too long to get into Kid A, but after staying with the album for awhile I still found it boring.  Maybe the problem is that we expect too much from this band?

BEST MUSIC VIDEO

Radiohead – “Lotus Flower”

Even though I didn’t care for the album, this music video is perfect.

ALBUMS TO LOOK FORWARD TO FOR THE REST OF THE YEAR

Wilco – The Whole Love

Red Hot Chili Peppers – I’m With You

Kanye West & Jay Z – Watch The Throne

Lil Wayne – Tha Carter IV

Blitzen Trapper – American Goldwing

Das Racist – Relax

Blink 182 – Neighborhoods

Coldplay – TBA

Any other awards I forgot to mention?  Hit me up on Twitter @BradyWGerber

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Music Journal: The Best Albums and Songs of 2011 (So Far!)

Well it’s finally August and it’s the halfway point of the year (ok technically July is the halfway point, but I just got around to doing this; better late than never right?)  So far 2011 has been a pretty good year for music.  There were plenty of great albums that have come out, but I will say that there isn’t one album that towers over the rest.  Here are the albums and songs that I feel are the best ones to have come out this year so far.

Please remember this is all subjective!  I can only give my opinion and I’m sure people will disagree with me on some of my opinions.  Also, there were plenty of albums that came out this year that I haven’t gotten around to listening (Cut Copy, Ty The Creator, etc).  These awards only reflect my music taste and what I have been listening to this year so far.

BEST ALBUM

Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues

For a long time I was torn between picking Bon Iver or James Blake for this year’s best album so far.  These were the two albums I was most looking forward to, and in no way did these albums not match my expectations.  However, for every great moment on both of these albums there were plenty of filler, and sometimes I caught myself becoming bored.

Helplessness Blues completely caught me off guard.

This album is such a pleasure to listen to, and it works well as an album – all the songs complement each other and it rarely drags on (though “The Shrine / An Argument” is pushing it with its eight long minutes).  This album does not abandon the band’s freak-folk style that made them such a hit in the beginning – you gotta love those harmonies – but they are more confident this time around and they greatly expand their creativity without sacrificing the songs.  Compared to their debut album Fleet Foxes (which is still worth checking out), Helplessness Blues is more colorful, as shown by its beautiful album cover.  This album turned a former skeptic into a fan, and now I believe this band is worth following.

Honorable Mentions (aka you should still buy these albums)

Foo Fighters – Wasting Light

Bon Iver – Bon Iver

Yuck – Yuck

The Decemberists – The King Is Dead

The Strokes – Angels

James Blake – James Blake

BEST SONG

Fleet Foxes – “Helplessness Blues”

The highlight to an excellent album, this was the song that turned me into a fan.

Honorable Mentions

The Head and the Heart – “Down In The Valley”

Yuck – “Shook Down”

James Blake – “Limit To Your Love”

Bon Iver – “Calgary”

The Strokes – “Taken For A Fool”

Death Cab For Cutie – “You Are A Tourist”

Well how did I do?  Were my opinions not good enough for you, or did I hit the nail on the head?  Comment to let me know and also tweet your favorite albums and songs so far released this year @BradyWGerber.

Stay tuned for more music awards!

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