Spotify Playlist: The Open Road

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There’s still plenty of summer left, which means you still got time to get in your car and take that road trip you’ve been meaning to take since you read ‘On The Road’. Or you can go visit your grandma who lives an hour away. Or you can go to the store and pick up some toilet paper. No matter where you’re going, you’ll need some good tunes for the road.

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Headphone Nation’s 100 Favorite Songs Of The Decade (So Far): 2010-2014

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Am I an idiot for thinking that I can only pick 100 songs to share with y’all and not feel guilty about all the other music that I’m leaving out? Is this list completely bias? Am I brain-dead from trying to write about why I love every single song on this list?

The answer is yes.

Reminder: this is a list of MY FAVORITE songs of the decade, not THE GREATEST songs of the decade. There is a key difference. Same rules apply to this list as they did for my favorite albums of the decade so far.

Also make sure to check out the spotify playlist with all these songs at the end of this list.

Alright, let’s begin.

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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.

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Headphone Nation’s Year In Review: 2014

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What better way to end 2014 than to give out some superlatives? As with any sort of end-of-year review, these awards reflect my personal taste and shouldn’t be taken as the final say on the year. Really my hope is that you’ll check out some new music that that you’d otherwise miss.

Also, make sure to click on the album cover for a link to a song off that album.

Alright, let’s begin.

 

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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!

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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!

 

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Playlist: 15 Songs For April 2012 (Via Spotify)

Time for some April showers – of good music that is.  This month’s mix is a little more on the rocking side, but there’s something here for everyone.  I even threw in a classical piece for all my sophisticated viewers out there.

Here are my 15 songs for April 2012.

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I Was There: The War On Drugs And Sharon Van Etten Live In Bloomington

Last night I saw a band you should know the War on Drugs and Sharon Van Etten at the famous Rhino’s stage in my very own neighborhood of Bloomington, IN.  Both acts were excellent live and, considering the shitty setting, were able to create a great and intimate atmosphere.

The War on Drugs started off the show, but not after an hour delay after some technical issues with the guitars, which lead guitarist and singer Adam Granduciel called, “a bad April’s fool’s joke.”  Once the instruments were ready the band wasted no time in their hour-long set.  The band sounded just as noisy, and groovy, as they do on record, which is great considering the difficulties they had to get the sound in the first place.  The noise could be a little in your face at times (especially being two feet from the stage!) but fans of their signature ambient rock sound loved it.

 

After a quick break, and a prime time to snag an awesome War on Drugs shirt, Sharon Van Etten and her band came on stage.  Sharon could possibly be the sweetest person I’ve seen perform.  When she wasn’t playing she would talk to the audience and crack jokes.  She was surprisingly tiny and had one of the cutest smiles I’ve ever seen.  She said this was her first time playing in Bloomington and she was having a great time here.  When she played however she became focused, turning into the folky rocker that sounded, and even looked, liked a tortured soul.  Most of her set was from her latest excellent album Tramp, and the songs sounded just as dark and beautiful live as they do on record, but Sharon is actually a better singer live.  She was truly mesmerizing, both in looks and sound, and her stripped-down sound was a nice change of pace from the War on Drug’s heavy sound.

 

I would normally be more specific about the songs that were played and would put the setlist here, but I cannot find it online and I can’t remember all the songs that were played last night.  But that doesn’t matter – all you need to know is that the War on Drugs are awesome and that you need to go out now and buy Tramp.

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You Should Know: The War on Drugs

Band Name – The War on Drugs

For People Who Like – My Bloody Valentine, Bruce Springsteen, Blonde On Blonde-era Bob Dylan

Recommended Listen – Slave Ambient

Interesting Fact – Kurt Vile was one of its founding members, playing guitar until 2008.  This band is also signed to Secret Canadian label, which is located out of Bloomington!

If Jack Kerouac were still alive, he would of loved The War on Drugs.  This is American road music for the 21st century hippie – trippy guitars with a steady beat with tales that have an American overtone.  If the band took away all its psychedelics, they would sound like The Band or Bruce Springsteen, but the acid guitars and the layers of sound works for the band.  So the next time you and your cool indie friends road trip cross-country, The War on Drugs should be on your playlist.

Their latest album, last year’s Slave Ambient, was a huge success, so expect more to come from these guys.  Here’s my favorite track off that album.

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