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Thursday, July 15, 2010

7 Pop Albums No Dude Should Be Ashamed to Love

Pop music gets a bad wrap these days, and for good reason. The majority of modern pop music is just the same song, regurgitated and sprinkled with an extra layer of glitter. Click here if you don’t believe me. But there is some good stuff out there too. The problem is, your average dude’s perception of modern pop music is that it’s girly, chick music made for preteen girly-chicks; which isn’t an entirely invalid assessment. The flipside is that most dudes are also going to think that the only music out there for them is going to be the macho-man, power chord-filled (POWER!!! RAWR!!!) nonsense that gets played on modern rock stations. But hey, there’s nothing wrong with loving pop music as long as it’s good! After all, a dude who only listens to Nickelback isn’t really a dude at all. He’s just a douche.

7. Yelle: Pop-Up (2007) – Don’t think I would set out to compose a list like this without giving your manliness a little bit of a challenge. The country of France is like one big inside joke to us in the States, especially when it concerns issues of masculinity. So if you’re going to give pop music an honest shot, why not put yourself out there by listening to a little bit of French pop music. That’s right, Yelle is a French pop band with songs sung entirely in (you guessed it) French! If that alone makes you want to pop in your Staind CD and drink a Keystone, you may want to skip ahead. However, if you’re down for some inventive, catchy dance-pop, grab a copy of this album and get ready to experience something unlike anything you’ve ever heard on American radio. Definitely download: “A Cause Des Garçons”

6. Ellie Goulding: Lights (2010) – Now that we’ve left France behind, why not make a stop in the U.K. to introduce you to Ellie Goulding? Goulding is fairly well-known in her home nation for her own form of pop music, which relies heavily on dancy, club beats and better-than-average lyricism. The lyrical prowess could stem from her oft-referenced folk background, but don’t let that throw you off because Lights is a pop album through and through. So why should you, a dude amongst dudes, listen to Ellie Goulding? Simple. It’s really good. It’s what Miley Cyrus would sound like if she weren’t spoonfed ridiculous lyrics. It’s what Katy Perry would sound like if she didn’t rely on producers whose only goal is to make her sound pander to the lowest common denominator. And she’s super cute. Which is cool too. Definitely download: “Guns and Horses”
5. The Bird and the Bee: Ray Guns are Not Just the Future (2009) – The Bird and the Bee is a boy-girl pop duo from California whose sound is pop for sure, but also draws heavily from jazz and lounge music. Ray Guns is their sophomore album and ended up getting a respectable ranking among my Top 15 Albums of 2009. There’s a little bit for everybody here; from straight-up dance songs, to more bubblegum fare. One of the great things about this album is its diversity, so if you’re not immediately sucked into its web of awesome pop goodness, give it a few more tracks before you dismiss it entirely. Definitely download: “Ray Gun”
4. Fiona Apple: Extraordinary Machine (2005) – The only thing more agonizing then wait for Fiona’s 2005 masterpiece is the wait that many are enduring in anticipation of the follow-up. Why? Because Extraordinary Machine is one of the most perfect pieces of pop music to arrive in this century! Fiona may still reside in the body of a small white female, but she’s got the soul and vocal capacity of Aretha or Gloria! Listening to her pour out her heart on ballads is like witnessing a tragedy of Shakespearian gravity. At the same time, Fiona’s not one to shy away from her playful side, which she does magnificently on “Tymps” and “Not About Love.” As an artist, she arguably possesses more talent than any one else on this list, and for that alone you should listen. Definitely download: “Tymps”

3. Cibo Matto: Viva! La Woman (1996) – Because pop music is rarely timeless and usually only relevant during for a short period of time after its creation, the majority of the music listed here was made within the last seven years. Why then do I include Cibo Matto’s debut, which is now more than 14 years old? Because Viva! La Woman is an album that was so ahead of its time that, even now, it sounds like nothing else on this planet. Pop is only one genre to which this album could be pinned, but if you find yourself famished for trip-hop, rock, or just music about food in general, then it works well there too. That’s not to say that Cibo Matto is in any way accessible. There are very few people who will throw this album on and immediately fall in love with it. But it features some of the most creative production and unique lyrics that I’ve yet to hear in my 26 years! Cibo Matto’s approach to creating music is something that continues to perplex people to this day. If part of being a dude is being adventurous…this is about as adventurous as pop music gets! Definitely download: “Birthday Cake”

2. The Postal Service: Give Up (2003) – There are a few dudes out there who still hold to the tried-and-true caveman method of bagging a classy lady. However, there are also those of us who prefer to inject a little emotion into our relationships with the fairer sex. For us, The Postal Service’s one and only album serves as an excellent companion. It not only serves as this writer’s personal favorite pop album, but my top album of the last decade and of all time as well! Death Cab for Cutie’s Ben Gibbard teamed up with Dntel’s Jimmy Tamborello to create an electronic pop album that was unlike anything ever heard before, and better than any wannabe that has come since (lookin’ right at you, Owl City). At its most cliché, pop music is about love. The great thing about Give Up is that it takes love and presents it in an entirely non-clichéd way. Countless pop artists have written about a love that “looks and sounds like a movie,” but only The Postal Service has actually described the making of a home-movie in which Gibbard tries to recreate that idealistic love. I only wish I were man enough to try to pull that off! Definitely download: “The District Sleeps Alone Tonight”

1. Wallpaper.: Doodoo Face (2009) – For the uninitiated, Wallpaper is a pop/funk duo from Oakland, California that makes songs about partying, drinking, sex, and not paying utilities. Yes, Wallpaper takes the top spot here because unlike every other album on this list Doodoo Face seems specifically crafted for a male audience. There are songs that mention throwing up in the bathroom stall, sex with celebrities, pre-partying, and dating models; all stuff that any self-respecting dude can certainly appreciate! But beyond lyrical content, Doodoo Face also contains some of the freshest production and catchiest melodies to ever grace pop musicdom. It may take you some time to get past the heavy auto-tune, but it’s worth it. Totally worth it. Definitely download: “ddd”

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Thursday, July 01, 2010

The Top 5 Songs of 2010 (So Far...)

We're officially halfway through 2010, and damn there was some good music that came out!  Here's the best of it.

5. "Infinity Guitars" by Sleigh Bells, from the album, Treats - I could throw down a lot of criticism on Sleigh Bells for their repetitive music and meaningless lyrics, but instead I choose to love every bit of the dance rock madness that they put out. "Infinity Guitars" stands tall above the rest for the last 40 seconds only. A distorted, bass-heavy breakdown that shatters all preconceived notions of what "heavy" music really is. God, I love it so much! Speakers up as loud as they can go, people! Don't half-ass this stuff!

4. " Up in the Dark" by The New Pornographers, from the album, Together - The New Pornographers have always had a pretty tight sound, but they've rarely sounded as perfect as they do on this standout track from their awesome new album. The vocal back and forth between Carl Newman and Neko Case obviously steals the show here, but the rest of the band are playing their hearts out as well. Few songs have been able to illicit such joy from me, but this one does it without missing a beat.

3. "One Touch" by LCD Soundsystem, from the album, This is Happening - James Murphy has never been one to shy away from long-ass tracks, but even an 8-minute dance song seems like he may be pushing it a bit. On paper, at least, because "One Touch" is not only one of the catchiest songs of 2010, but one of the most consistently captivating ones as well. Between the unparalleled production and the artist's engaging wordplay, there's so much to love about this song and almost nothing to hate.

2. "Flash Delirium" by MGMT, from the album, Congratulations - When I reviewed Congratulations a few months ago, I was quick to point out that it's a very difficult album to get into. After a few weeks of letting it digest, I handed it a 7/10 rating and went on my merry way, not realizing that the album wasn't yet finished with me. Since then, Congratulations has become a frontrunner for "Album of the Year" and "Flash Delirium" plays a large role in that. According to my iTunes, I've logged over 45 listens to this song in the last 3 months alone and I'm still not tired of it! If you haven't heard it at least 5 times, you're missing out There are always new things to discover.

1. "Zebra" by Beach House, from the album, Teen Dream - I first listened to Teen Dream at the beginning of the year when it released. It wasn't until several months later when I would cross paths with it again. During that second run through, this song stuck out and it hasn't left me yet. Every other song on this list is an upbeat, fun track. That really speaks a lot to what I've been into this year. The fact that "Zebra" - a methodical, passionate, ballad by any standard - takes top honors here is a testament to its brilliance. It is one of the most beautifully simple songs I've ever heard, and I'm in love with it. You should be too.

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