One Sentence Reviews Of Headphone Nation’s 40 Favorite Albums Of The Decade (So Far): 2010 – 2014

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Congratulations – you made it halfway through the decade. How does it feel? Did you come up with a good nickname for this decade yet? Is it as catchy as “The Noughties”? What were the highlights?

It’s easy to get caught up looking back at a particular year (or years) and try to pick out the few highlights that defined the year out of all the countless events. For any pop culture publication, it’s a cheap, bias way to get more hits, and it usually doesn’t do the year justice to what it was actually like.

But hey, we all love to make these lists, and we all love to read these lists.

One of the ways to define a decade is by the most popular (i.e. the easiest to define) musical trends of the time: the 60s were the age of Psychedelia, the 70s saw the height of Big Hair Music (heavy rock and disco), the 80s were the dawn of Indie and MTV, the 90s the mass takeover of Pop music (Grunge-Pop, Britpop, Rap-Pop, Noise-Pop, Trip-Pop, Boy Band-Pop, Riot Grrrl-Pop, it goes on), and the last decade saw the boom of the streaming revolution that we’re still in the middle of. Obviously there were more to these decades than those broad themes, but it gets the job done.

So what is the trend that will define this decade? Is this the age of Doomsday Disco (EDM, Reflektor), Mumblecore (what much of “Indie Rock” has become), or Black Stadium Rock (Kanye West and the realization of his Thriller-sized ego)? Or will we just clump together all this music, much of it angry and noisy, and call it “Great Recession Music”?

It’s too early to tell – we’re only halfway through this decade. There’s no telling to what we’ll be listening to within the next five years and what albums will come to define this decade. So to try and find any sort of pattern in the beginning of 2015 is challenging and probably not necessary.

But like I said, we all love these lists – so let’s have a little fun.

Below is a list of my 40 favorite albums released between 2010 and 2014 and the albums that have defined this decade for me so far. I tried to make things more interesting by describing each album using only one sentence. Of course you cannot properly sum up an entire album in one sentence – but it’s fun to try to anyways!

Please note – this is NOT a list of the GREATEST albums of the decade. This is just a list of my personal favorites, and I hope I introduce you to some great albums that you might have missed in this decade. If this were a GREATEST list, then there would be some albums that I wouldn’t have omitted and some that I would have taken off. For example, Kendrick Lamar’s 2012 good kid, m.A.A.d city is without a doubt one of the best quality albums of the decade, but I have no personal attachment to it – I just like it because it’s good.

There are also lots of albums that I’ve heard are great but I’ve never sat down with and listened to all the way through (Frank Ocean, Grimes, Tame Impala, etc). When I do my inevitable End-Of-Decade list at the end of 2019, some of those albums might appear after I listen to them more.

Also, some of these albums on this list aren’t necessarily “good”, but there’s something about them that I absolutely love or can relate to. Maybe it’s because it’s from a favorite artist, or maybe I have a strong association with that album and where I first heard it or who/what it reminds me of. No matter the reason, these are the albums that I loved the most in this decade so far.

And yes, there’s a good chance that I left out one of your favorite albums. Please forgive me.

This list is in alphabetical order, and click on each album cover for a link to a song from the album.

 

Alright, let’s begin.

My 25+ Favorite Songs of 2014

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Another year, another playlist of my favorite songs of the year. This year’s playlist has a particular mix of random greatness, from gloriously loud guitar rock to jazzy electronics and everywhere in between. This year wasn’t as full of epic pop songs as last year, but there are still plenty of quality songs to hear from 2014.

Enjoy!

 

*p.s., as time goes on I’ll add other great songs from this year to this playlist that I forgot to include, twenty-five is just a good starting point.

 

 

Against Me! – “True Trans Soul Rebel”

Alvvays – “Adult Diversion”

Cloud Nothings – “I’m Not Part of Me”

Flying Lotus – “Never Catch Me (feat. Kendrick Lamar)”

Gerard Way – “No Shows”

Hamilton Leithauser – “Alexandra”

The Hold Steady – “Spinners”

Honeyblood – “Super Rat”

Lana Del Rey – “Brooklyn Baby”

Mastodon – “The Motherload”

Matt Kivel – “You and I Only”

The Men – “Another Night”

Modern Baseball – “Fine, Great”

Parquet Courts – “Sunbathing Animal”

Real Estate – “Had To Hear”

Reigning Sound – “My My”

Ryan Adams – “When The Summer Ends”

Seun Kuti & Egypt 80 – “IMF”

Sharon Van Etten – “Tarifa”

Spoon – “Do You”

St. Vincent – “I Prefer Your Love”

Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks – “Lariat”

Strand of Oaks – “Goshen ’97”

Sun Kil Moon – “Micheline”

The War On Drugs – “Red Eyes”

AND MORE!

Four Things I Didn’t Expect To Happen In 2014 (From Someone Who Missed It All)

Five months is a long time to be away. Without a working cellphone or laptop, I was blissfully out of touch with the world of music save the few english music magazines I managed to find. Our reliance on the Internet for most of our news is bittersweet; it’s bitter because it feels like at times you either have too much information or none of it at all, but it’s sweet because I can google all the news and music that I missed.

Last year was great for music because it seemed that every popular artist in the world decided to release music all at once (My Bloody Valentine released an album for goodness sakes). Most albums in 2013 were a lot of fun to talk about (how many arguments have you heard or partaken in for or against Yeezus?), but a lot of those albums I rarely go back to and listen for pure enjoyment.

It seems that, for me at least, 2014 has been more about quality than quantity. The War On Drugs made their best album, The Hold Steady are still alive, a few of my other favorites released music (Sharon Van Etten, Cloud Nothings, Beck, The Men) and I’ve become acquainted with Real Estate, Parquet Courts, How To Dress Well, St. Vincent, and other musicians I knew about before but whom all have converted me into true fans this year. This year has been the year of rookies, redemptions, and breakthroughs, and I think this year, more than other years, we’ve all discovered a few new favorite bands.

Of course this could also mean that 2014 is, if nothing else, just more in tune with my personal taste, the taste of a 21-year-old Midwest music lover who has to rely on the Internet for most of his music. The following are just a few particular things that I’ve noticed about the music that I missed in 2014. Many of these things won’t seem like a big deal to you. Maybe because you’ve seen this year slowly unfold and none of this seems sudden, or maybe you just disagree with me. But it’s fun to write about the halfway point of 2014 with a different perspective. Plus, I need to do a “halfway through 2014” post anyways, so here we go!

 

1. Guitar Rock Music Is Alive And Well

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Just to clarify — great guitar music, in all of its wonderful and diverse forms, has never died. There will always be great music made with Fender guitars plugged into Marshall amps with the occasional tremolo and delay pedals. But in 2014, more than most recent years, it seems that guitar music is not only getting by but actually thriving among popular music.

Whether it’s 90’s nostalgia (Cloud Nothings), Alex Chilton approved classic rock (The Men), Paul Westerberg approved melodic punk (Against Me!), 70’s New York City cool punk (Parquet Courts and Thee Oh Sees), or metal that Foo Fighters fans would like (Mastodon), every type of guitar player had an album to like in 2014.

 

And I don’t know if I can categorize the excellent new The War On Drugs album Lost In The Dream. The band’s previous album, the also excellent Slave Ambient, was a unique marriage of Tom Petty Americana with hints of dreamy guitars that aren’t quite shoegazing but just as pretty, and Lost In The Dream is just an overall improvement of that sound.

 

As of now, my favorite album of 2014 is Real Estate’s Atlas. In addition to having some of the best lyrics of the year, it’s also a great guitar album in the sense that any person just learning guitar can learn all these songs fairly easily, which makes the point that you don’t have to be a virtuoso to make excellent music.

 

All of a sudden, a guitar band doesn’t feel retro, and that’s a wonderful thing.

Also, because I love The Hold Steady, I really think the new album got a lot of undeserved panning.  Teeth Dreams, for all its flaws, is worth another listen.

 

2. No One Seems To Like Jack White Anymore

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Speaking of guitars, I was excited to come home and check out Lazaretto, the newest album from one of rock music’s most dependable crusaders, until I began reading all the mixed reviews on the album which then led to a widespread analysis on White’s legacy (Steven Hyden’s Grantland article is especially good concerning this).

The mixed reviews, along with some interesting interviews in which White attacked The Black Keys and other nice people, made me less thrilled to call myself a Jack White fan. I’ve always liked the idea of Jack White — a musician who takes inspiration from the past and tries to make it new in a way that tributes to the old ways while moving forward. But when I went back to all my White Stripes albums, I realized that most of these albums are, well, just ok. Yes, I know Elephant is a classic album and “Seven Nation Army” is an anthem of a generation and “Ball And Biscuit” is the sound of a guitar having sex, but the rest of the album? This is one of the few times where I 100% agree with a Pitchfork review. As for White’s many side projects — The Raconteurs, The Dead Weather, etc — each band has, at the very most, a handful of great songs that’ll remind you how much you miss The White Stripes.

I’ve listened to Lazaretto a couple of times and I agree with many of the reviews that I’ve read — it’s a more high-maintenance Blunderbuss with a few truly great songs hidden among mostly ok to good songs, much like every album Jack White has made after White Blood Cells.

But with all that said, Jack White is still, and will probably always be, the go to guitar champion for much of our generation. I still say that I’m a fan (De Stijl and White Blood Cells still sound great). Plus, in the end, White might have the last laugh.

 

3. 2014 Pop Music — The Ultimate Hangover Year

2013 was one of the greatest years for music in terms of how many popular and established bands released new music. 2014 didn’t have a chance from the start, and halfway through the year that still stands to be true.

The only major bands I know that everyone knows and loves (or at lest loves to hate) that released music this year was Coldplay and The Black Keys, and those albums are less than stellar. Lana Del Rey and Jack White are also more established names in popular music (for very different reasons), but I wouldn’t consider them in the realm of David Bowie, Justin Timberlake, and Kanye West popular, all of whom released new music last year. EDM and electronic pop still seems to be the dominate genre of throwaway hits on the radio, but it feels like the genre is losing momentum, especially after this and this.

There’s still plenty of time for pop music to figure something out, but until then it seems that the only man putting pop music on his back is…

 

4. Pharrell Williams Is Still Ruling The World

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When I left the states, everyone was still listening to “Get Lucky” every single day. Now it’s “Happy”, another product from the man who pretty much had the best year in 2013. Yes, most of you passionately hate this song by now, but this was the only universal hit that I seemed to missed. Also, G I R L is not a bad album, and I say that because I assume no one else has listened to the album after hearing “Happy” so much.

 

So so far so good for 2014. With the recent news of a new Ryan Adams album later this year, I’m already giddy to think of what my end-of-year best lists will consist of. Below you’ll find a Spotify playlist of my favorite songs of 2014 so far. I’m sure I’ve missed a lot more great music in 2014, so let me know if there’s anything else I need to hear!

 

Playlist: 20 Songs For August 2013 (Via Spotify)

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The month of August: back to school, back to college football, back to Breaking Bad, and back to listening to some cool tunes. This month’s playlist includes two bands that have “deer” in their names, I finally watch Wes Anderson’s Rushmore, and I pay tribute to The Postal Service and J.J. Cale.

Here are 20 songs for August 2013.

20 Songs For July 2013 (Via Spotify)

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July was a very busy month for me, but I still managed to distract myself by listening to a lot of music throughout my summer school finals (very hard to do right?).

This month’s playlist includes a special 4th of July song from Bruce Springsteen, deep cuts from The Replacements and Stones, and I finally get around to listening to Songs: Ohia and The Microphones.

Here are my 20 songs for July 2013.

Music Journal: Hello (Constructive) Summer!

Well ladies and gentlemen, my freshman year of college is at an end.  It was an incredible year and I look forward to coming back this fall.  However with that said, it’s time to enjoy some sunshine!

This summer will be hectic for me.  I will be taking summer classes and giving guitar lessons for pay.  But what I’m most excited for is my internship!  This summer I will intern with Consequence of Sound!  I’m very excited for this awesome learning experience to enhance my writing and blogging skills.

This will be a busy summer, but I will do my best to continue bringing the best of my music world to y’all.  Stay tuned throughout the summer for music news, reviews, and whatever the hell else I feel like posting.

This will definitely be a, wait for it, constructive summer!

 

Go out and enjoy the sunshine.

Tune in. Tune out. Live on.

Music Journal: Albums To Look Forward To (And To Dread) In 2012

Well 2012 is a go.  Every music publication is now back on the job and looking for the best music of the new year.  To make this hunt a little easier, here are some albums that I’m looking forward to in 2012.  There’s no way to say for sure what albums will succeed and which ones will fizzle, but these are some albums to be on the lookout for.

 

The Big Pink – Future This

This could be the MGMT record of 2012.  Expect good, and trippy, things from this band this year.

 

Lana Del Rey – Born to Die

She made a scene last year with her song “Video Games”, and she was dubbed by Gawker as, “the internet’s most hated singer” for her questionable background.  However, if the new album is anything like “Video Games”, then this will be a contender for album of the year.

 

Dr. Dog – Be The Void

I don’t own any Dr. Dog albums, but this might be the first.  The band sounds like a 60s pop band that was raised in the 90s, and I really like the first single off the new album.  This could be one of the bands I rediscover in 2012.

 

Paul McCartney – TBA

Paul McCartney has the right to release anything he wants – he was a Beatle for goodness sakes!  His solo albums have been an uneven mix (Chaos And Creation In The Backyard was terrific, and so were most of the Wings albums), but like I said, this guy can release whatever he wants.  Fuck yeah indeed Sir McCartney.

 

The Shins – Port of Morrow

Everyone’s favorite Beach Boys sound-a-like indie band (this is a compliment) is back with a new album.  This is a very likable band, and I’m sure this album will be great.

 

Bruce Springsteen – TBA

Judging from the picture above, Bruce Springsteen is really excited for his new album.  Same thing with McCartney, The Boss can release whatever he wants – he’s Bruce Springsteen for goodness sakes!  His work will be cut for him though with the loss of Clarence Clemons, who was a huge part of the E Street Band.  Regardless how the album does, a year with a new Springsteen album is better than a year without one.

 

Craig Finn – Clear Heart Full Eyes

The frontman for The Hold Steady has a solo album? Sold.

 

Mumford & Sons – TBA

This isn’t confirmed to be released this year, but be prepared for the sophomore album from the little English band that took the world by storm with their excellent debut.  Hopefully the album is good, or else these lads are in danger of becoming a one-album wonder.  Fingers crossed!

 

John Mayer – Born and Raised

This also isn’t confirmed for this year, but with the way things are looking expect at least a new song from the pop-blues man in 2012.  His throat sugary had many people worried, but I’m sure Mayer has some great things in store for us.  Again, fingers crossed!

 

D’Angelo – James River

I just started to listen to D’Angelo, and if James River is finally released this year, then we are all in for a treat.  Be wary though, this album was supposed to be released years ago but has been pushed back so many times it’s starting to become like Chinese Democracy (and we all know what happened there).  Even if the album doesn’t come out, at least we have Voodoo to comfort us.

 

And here are some albums I will probably not stand in line for on release day…

 

Black Sabbath – TBA

I have a bad feeling about this.  I’m really hoping I’m proven wrong, for their sakes.

 

Adam Lambert – Trespassing

Look at the picture above.  That’s what I thought.

 

Creed – TBA

It’s Creed.  That’s what I thought.

Top Lists: My Favorite Guitar Solos

What makes a great guitar solo?  Is it how fast or flashy it is, or how slow and soulful it is?  Does it sound like a voice that you could sing to, telling its own story?  Does it start small but then crescendos into a colossal showcase of talent and emotion?  Solos are great for different reasons, but the one thing all great solos have is soul.  The following solos are my favorites, and they’re each here for different reasons.  These aren’t necessarily the best solos I’ve ever heard, but each solo here has soul and shows what can happen when an talented guitarist is in harmony with his instrument.

The Beatles – “Something” (Guitar Player: George Harrison)

 

Jimi Hendrix & The Band Of Gypsys – “Machine Gun” (Guitar Player: Jimi Hendrix)

 

Wilco – “Impossible Germany” (Guitar Player: Niles Cline)

 

John Mayer – “Covered In Rain” (Guitar Player: John Mayer)

 

Led Zeppelin – “Heartbreaker” (Guitar Player: Jimmy Page)

 

Prince – “I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man” (Guitar Player: Prince)

 

Steely Dan – “Kid Charlemagne” (Guitar Player: Larry Carlton)

 

Sublime – “Santeria” (Guitar Player: Brad Nowell)

 

The White Stripes – “Ball And Biscuit” (Guitar Player: Jack White)

 

Pink Floyd – “Money” (Guitar Player: David Gilmour)

 

Tedeschi Trucks Band – “Midnight in Harlem” (Guitar Player: Derek Trucks)

 

Dire Straits – “Sultans of Swing” (Guitar Player: Mark Knopfler)

 

Were there any that I miss? Comment below or hit me up on twitter @HeadfoneNation

And before you say anything, Yes, “Stairway to Heaven” was denied from this list.  Sorry Wayne.

Top Lists: Top Bob Dylan Covers

Part 2 of his 70th birthday celebration!

I just did a list of my favorite Bob Dylan songs, now here are my favorite Dylan cover songs.  If you cannot get over this guy’s voice – you know who you are – maybe you’ll appreciate his songwriting when someone else does his songs.  Some of these covers are very familiar (I think we’ve all heard Jimi Hendrix’s “All Along The Watchtower” many times) while others are unexpectedly great (how about Dave Matthews doing “All Along The Watchtower”?).  Most of these songs are from the soundtrack to the Bob Dylan movie I’m Not There, highly recommend for any Dylan fan and even for those unfamiliar with him.  Hopefully these songs make you appreciate this man more before he bites the dust – he isn’t going to be around forever!

Jack Johnson/The Band – “I Shall Be Released”

Jimi Hendrix/Dave Matthews Band – “All Along The Watchtower”

Yo La Tengo – “Fourth Time Around”

Jeff Tweedy – “Simple Twist Of Fate”

Calexico and Charlotte Gainsbourg – “Just Like A Woman”

The Hold Steady – “Can I Please Crawl Out Your Window?”

The Black Keys – “The Wicked Messenger”

Jason Mraz – “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall”

Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova – “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere”

Calexico and Roger McGuinn – “One More Cup Of Coffee”

Mason Jennings – “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll”

Calexico and Jim James – “Goin’ to Acapulco”

Sufjan Stevens – “Ring Them Bells”

Norah Jones – “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight”

Playlist: 10 Great Songs About Chicago

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Soundtrack to the Windy City. If I missed any songs, comment below!

Sufjan Stevens – “Chicago”

Wilco – “Via Chicago”

Robert Johnson – “Sweet Home Chicago”

Kanye West – “Homecoming”

Frank Sinatra – “My Kind of Town”

Spoon – “Chicago at Night”

The Hold Steady – “Chicago Seemed Tried Last Night”

Ryan Adams – “Dear Chicago”

Freddy Cole – “On The South Side of Chicago”

Tom Waits – “Chicago”