PB #5

Parker’s 10 Favorite Albums … Ever

These are in no particular order.

Dizzee Rascal | Boy In Da Corner

British rapper/producer Dizzee Rascal recorded Boy In Da Corner when he was 16 years old, and it stands today as one of the strongest mixes of hip hop vocals, garage beats, and grime synths. Rascal’s frenetic flow and inquisitive wordplay cemented him as one of the greatest UK rappers of all time.

Essential song: “I Luv U”

Johnny Cash | At Folsom Prison

“Hello, I’m Johnny Cash.” Never were these words more punctual than his raucous live performance at Folsom Prison in central California. Ever the sinner himself, Cash sung to murderers, rapists, and thieves to create one of the most visceral live albums ever recorded.

Essential song: “Folsom Prison Blues”

American Football | American Football

Sometimes, I like to be sad. Sometimes, being sad is out of my control. But the singular LP released by math-rock emo band American Football is the essential companion to sad feelings. Its unique use of jazz instrumentation to complement some of the prettiest guitar riffs in existence helped American Football break the mold of what it meant to be “emo”.

Essential song: “Never Meant”

Vampire Weekend | Modern Vampires of the City

Ezra Koenig’s lyrical genius alone would make this an album worth listening to. However, when you add orchestral instrumentation, varied topics (religion, love, etc.), and a wide variety of sonic influences, you get one of the best albums this decade.

Essential song: Step”

Fleetwood Mac | Rumors

One of the most carefully crafted LPs of all time, Rumors sold a then-record 800,000 copies in its first week of release. The songs here are simply beautiful, and it’s remarkable how every sonic aspect of the song (guitar, bassline, drums, vocals, etc.) falls neatly into place without overshadowing another.

Essential song: Go Your Own Way”

The Beach Boys | Pet Sounds

The Beach Boys were the birth of indie rock. Yes, there had been alternative rock bands before The Beach Boys, but none had done it this wellPet Sounds saw The Beach Boys innovate their sound with increased brass, and Brian Wilson’s songwriting had a marked effect on the band’s success.

Essential song: God Only Knows”

Pavement | Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain

The way lead singer Stephen Malkmus hangs onto every word he sings, coupled with the pretty (yet sometimes screechy) guitar underneath, leads to some fantastic tunes. The mathy drums and somewhat pretentious lyrics make Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain the quintessential college album.

Essential song: Gold Soundz”

Weezer | The Blue Album

Weezer’s debut introduced the world to Rivers Cuomo and all that he could provide. His lyrics were off-kilter (especially in the first half of the album) but The Blue Album was billed as alternative rock that could be played on mainstream radio. It lived up to those expectations.

Essential song: “Buddy Holly”

Ice Cube | The Predator

Released as a response to the early 90s’ Los Angeles riots, west coast rapper Ice Cube’s finest released expressed the frustration he felt as an LA native. His confidence and braggadocio come through nicely, and nothing sounds better blasting out of a car in the middle of summer.

Essential song: “It Was A Good Day”

Frank Ocean | channel ORANGE

This is my favorite album ever released. There is not a weak point on this album, as we see Frank Ocean’s narrative go from the highs of life (“Super Rich Kids”, “Sweet Life”) to the lows (“Crack Rock”, “Pilot Jones”) and everywhere in between. It’s sexy and sad, confident and weak, beautiful and ugly. For me, there isn’t a better music experience.

Essential song: Pyramids”

Advertisements

PB #4

Artist of the Week: Drake

Toronto MC Drake, real name Aubrey Graham, is one of the highest profile figures in contemporary hip hop music. His soft voice and brooding, self-absorbed lyrics give him a much-needed identity in an oversaturated rap scene. Drake’s early efforts, Thank Me Later and Take Care, were fine. They weren’t really outstanding, as Drake doesn’t necessarily have the rapping ability to set himself apart from other rappers. He is, however, an excellent producer and constantly finds himself at the center of pop culture conversations, whether it’s dating Rihanna or becoming the “social ambassador” for the Toronto Raptors.

Drake’s third LP, Nothing Was The Same, is where it all came together. He found the right mix of braggadocio (“Worst Behavior” and the hilarious “Started From The Bottom”) and vulnerable, sweet pop/R&B music (“Hold On, We’re Going Home”, “Girls Love Beyoncé”). “Hold On” is my favorite Drake song. The soft, relaxing chords provided along with Drake’s soothing voice (no rapping here) just haven’t gotten old.

Last October, Drake released three singles that many assumed would appear on his next album, Views From The 6. Of those, “How About Now” was my favorite. It’s a petty ode to the people who wouldn’t give him the time of day before his fame (“I’m up right now, and you suck right now”). However, last Thursday, Drake surprisingly dropped a 17-track mixtape, titled If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, to much fanfare and excitement.

Unfortunately, If You’re Reading This seems more like a track dump than a cohesive effort, and therefore appears to be a step back from Nothing Was The Same. The mixtape has some excellent tracks. “6 Man” and “Energy” are fine pieces of car rap, and “6 God” sees Drake enter into the fraternity of rap veterans (“I’m not new to this”). But many of the tracks seem to be filler. Songs lke “10 Bands” and “Know Yourself” are boring.

I’m really excited to listen to Views From The 6 when it releases, and hopefully we’ll get some of Drake’s lighter side which doesn’t appear on If You’re Reading This.

What I’m excited for:

This week, Passion Pit (one of my very favorite bands) released the album cover for their upcoming LP, Kindred, along with two promotional singles, “Lifted Up (1985)” and “Where The Sky Hangs”. “Lifted Up” was somewhat of a disappointment, as it didn’t seem to build on the excellence that was their sophomore album, Gossamer. However, “Where The Sky Hangs” is a major chord midtempo jam that elicits memories of “Constant Conversations”. All in all, I can’t wait for Kindred, which will be released April 25.

What I’m listening to this week:

Drake | “6 Man”

Passion Pit | “Where The Sky Hangs”

Speedy Ortiz | “Raising The Skate”

Hot Chip | “Ready For The Floor”

Dizzee Rascal | “Fix Up, Look Sharp”

PB #3

Artist of the Week: Father John Misty

It’s very rare for me to relate with an artist as well as I do with Father John Misty. At the same time, he wants to be all of the following: cynical yet loving, scornful yet open-hearted, judgmental yet understanding. I struggle with these as well, wanting to care about people and staying humorous and enjoyable without losing my edge or becoming generic. These relations, along with Father John Misty’s songwriting, humor, and orchestral instrumentation, make I Love You, Honeybear my favorite album in nearly two years.

Josh Tillman, the former drummer for indie folk band Fleet Foxes, rebranded himself two years ago as Father John Misty, the folk messiah with demons of his own. While I thought his debut as Misty was a pleasant listen, the lyrics were too ethereal and airy for me to get much concrete enjoyment out of it. The lead single off I Love You, Honeybear, “Bored In The USA”, evaporated my fears of lyrics without meaning. This is a very real track, one that explores the boredom that results from privilege, and how nothing is ever enough (Is this the part where I get all I ever wanted?). His use of a laugh track towards the end of the song draws to attention the lack of worries for privileged Americans, while students are having to pay off huge loans in a shoddy job market. It’s one of my favorite tracks.

While “Bored in the USA” leans toward the cynical side of Misty, a large portion of the album is dedicated exclusively to his wife. Most notably, the closing track “I Went To The Store One Day” is a beautiful reminiscence of the first meeting between Tillman and his (now) wife. The final lyrics of the album are the first words Tillman said when they met: Seen you around, what’s your name? 

It would be a shame if I didn’t mention Misty’s humor. Most of the time the humor is indirect and subtle, but the frustrated anger in the appropriately named “The Night Josh Tillman Came To Our Apt” is hilarious. He speaks of a woman whose mannerisms and words frustrate him to no end (She says, like literally, music is the air she breathes/ I wonder if she even knows what that word means/ Well, it’s literally not that.)

My favorite track from I Love You, Honeybear is the second single, “Chateau Lobby #4 (In C For Two Virgins)”. It’s a simple love letter to his wife, and it includes my favorite lyric of 2015: (I’ve never hated/ all the same things as somebody else/ since I remember). It’s on this track where Father John Misty connects the cynicism and open-hearted love for his wife in one place. It’s an apt summary of Misty’s love. I Love You, Honeybear explores tough internal issues for Misty, and the orchestral instrumentations compliment it well. This is the album of the year.

My Night With Jeff Bridges

Last week, actor Jeff Bridges released Sleeping Tapes, a sleep companionship album that was advertised during the Super Bowl. I decided to give it a whirl; it’s free, and all who download are encouraged to donate to No Kid Hungry, which aims to prevent child hunger.

Well, I’ll tell you one thing: this album will not help you sleep. However, the tracks on these tapes are some of the most fascinating and unique sounds I’ve ever heard. Bridges’s deep, creaky voice leads the listener through Temescal Canyon in Los Angeles, tells a story of a saxophone player, and even reveals that if Bridges drinks water before bed he’ll wake up to use the restroom. Listen to it; it’s a really interesting spin.

What I’m listening to this week: 

Father John Misty | “I Went To The Store One Day”

Kendrick Lamar | “The Blacker The Berry”

Madeon | “Pay No Mind” (feat. Passion Pit)

Cloud Nothings | “I’m Not Part Of Me”

Lil Herb | “Knucklehead” (feat. Earl Sweatshirt)

PB #2

Artist of the Week: Misterwives

Occasionally, when I listen to a new song for the first time, all of the different sonic elements come together to a soaring, joyous climax. I can’t help but smile. Misterwives gave me this sensation on both of the two first songs I had ever heard of them.

Misterwives is a Brooklyn, New York-based indie pop collective that was founded in 2012. In 2014, after signing to a Def Jam subsidiary, they released their first EP, Reflections, which gained fame after the eponymous lead single was iTunes’s Free Single of the Week last January. Their fame grew exponentially, and “Reflections” was featured in many Vines.

They have a lot more depth than your average Vine fodder. “Coffins” has deep lyrical meaning, and the downtempo electric piano chords add to the somber, yet hopeful, tone. Two weeks ago, Misterwives released their first single off their upcoming album, Our Own House, eponymously titled again. “Our Own House” starts small and just builds (similar to the lyrics [“we built our own house“]). The horns are bright and driving, and the quick-picked guitar adds to the pop vibe.

Still, Misterwives’s crowning achievement is “Reflections”. Not since CHVRCHES’s “The Mother We Share” have I heard a better pop chorus. Lead singer Mandy Lee Duffy’s vocals are perfectly accompanied by standard pop guitar-and-drum instrumentation and simple harmonies. Sometimes the simple things are the best.

What I’m Looking Forward To

A week from today (February 3), Father John Misty will release his second full-length LP. While I wasn’t a huge fan of the modern folk featured on his first album, the former Fleet Foxes frontman has entranced me with his first two singles, “Bored In The USA” and “Chateau Lobby #4 (In C For Two Virgins)”. Father John Misty’s innovative mix of humor, social awareness, and branding has left me eagerly awaiting what more he has in store. I Love You, Honeybear comes out February 10th.

What I’m listening to this week:

Misterwives | “Reflections”

Alvvays | “Next of Kin”

Mark Ronson | “Uptown Funk” (feat. Bruno Mars)

Purity Ring | “Ungirthed”

Kanye West | “Only One” (feat. Paul McCartney)