Friday, July 13, 2012

Peanut butter and summer jams

As promised: something not as serious.  I devote a fair amount of writing to my thoughts on various movies I've seen on this here blog of mine, but that's the be expected, no?  I call myself some sort of movie encyclopedia, considering I'm the go-to when someone asks anything related to random movie trivia; I've spent more time at the theaters this summer than I have at home; hell, I'm going to school for cinema studies, and the more I think about my future the more I realize I better be behind a camera, or at the very least, I better be the next Ebert.  And so with all of that digression in mind, my point is that I thought I might shift gears and give light on what I'm listening to in these last remaining summer months, for no reason aside from (well, changing gears) the fact that I can.

The last time I shed light on my musical tastes I got considerable backlash, but that's to be expected: there's so much music out there that one isn't defined to a handful of selections unlike, say, preference in television shows.  It's a lot easier to relate to someone over a love for Game of Thrones than it is over the most obscure underground indie band whose name isn't even in a writable language because of the depth of the medium's scope - there are only so many genres of TV or movies and only so many options to actually watch that common likes and dislikes are easily discovered.  Musical taste, on the other hand, is hardly definitive - why, even in just my own iTunes library, you could go from a Lady Gaga pop song (it's likely, I have hundreds) to a classic rock song to a showtune to some weird rap song.  That being said: I feel like when it comes to musical taste it's imperative that respect is kept in check.  There's a fair chance that you, my current reader, will hate everything I'm about to list - you might not even consider it music whatsoever - but that doesn't automatically write off what I've listed as universally "bad."  It simply represents a personal opinion, an opinion exactly what this very post is: I will at no point say that this is rule.  It's what I like, regardless of if you think it's quality at all - that's the fun of this though, isn't it?  You might walk away wanting to listen to anything I've suggested, or you might find yourself on the comments section of this post to tear me down and assume everything I've spoken out against in this overtly-defensive and largely irrelevant paragraph, you damn cliche, but whatever - I'm game!

Anywaaaaays.  Yes, the point of this is to write about what I'd consider to be good music to be listening to this summer in a time devoid of any new Lady Gaga material.  (good mood material, that is - I'm not usually up for listening to Princess Die when I'm hanging out with my friends but nevertheless check it out it's beautifully written) Forgive the fact that I'm not well versed in the language needed to describe music quite like I am with movies.

212 | Azealia Banks
This song is fire.  It's begun to grab traction on the radio although the censorship is a discredit to the song - the word 'cunt' is used so many times I can't even begin to count, but considering I've become too liberal with the word I've completely embraced it.  Azealia Banks just has this something that I can't even begin to describe, and it's what makes the song so incredible.  It definitely has to do with her spitfire rhythm and her near-apathy when rapping as if she could do it in her sleep.  As much as I've gone crazy over this song I realize that it isn't for everyone - any time it's come on my mom has said "please change this Nicki Minaj song" - but it's at least worth a listen considering the last two people I've shared this with (one of whom does not like rap) were hooked within seconds.  Should you become as enamored with this song as I have been, and if rap is sorta your thing, she recently released a free nineteen-track mixtape entitled Fantasea which, although quite unlike 212 in its grittier and heavier rap tone, is still very impressive.  It's also worth saying: Azealia Banks wipes the floor with Nicki Minaj.

Runaways | The Killers
Already have I proved my previous point about the huge scope in music: I'm jumping from a female rapper to an alternative rock group.  A few days ago came the release of The Killers' first single from their upcoming album Battle Born, and it's undeniably them.  I've always loved The Killers, and I'd wager that Mr. Brightside is probably one of my all-time favourite songs, if not the top.  There's no use in even trying to go on about what makes the song so good, namely because I think The Killers might be moreso recognizable to you than the previous song where, reading again what I've written, I seem like Azealia Banks' official distributor.  If you've ever liked listening to any song of theirs, you'll obviously like Runaways; it's similar enough to their previous work to make the song familiar, yet it's different enough to add a progression to what they've done.  The escalation throughout the song is immersive.

Electra Heart | Marina and the Diamonds
Thought I'd change things up and make note of an entire album itself.  You might not recognize the name Marina and the Diamonds, yet there's a chance you might recognize the lead single from this sophomore (yeah, this is her second, a conceptual follow-up to The Family Jewels) album called Primadonna.  While the name is suggestive of a band, we find instead just Marina Diamondis - the mentioned 'Diamonds' are her fans, as she's said, ala Little Monsters - a Welsh import with one of the more distinctive voices in my musical library.  (I think it's because she sometimes sings with her accent - it's tough to explain) While The Family Jewels was largely experimental with its alternative-pop songs, Electra Heart finds a shift to a more traditional pop sound made unique by her voice.  The album as a whole works in concert with her current image - that is, bleach blonde hair and an indulgence in the archetypical blonde - as it deals with the overarching theme of the blonde starlet, fame, and its consequential downfall.  Songs like Bubblegum Bitch and Homewrecker take stabs at the stereotype while Teen Idle and Living Dead deal with the break of that facade.  The album (and her voice) takes some time to adjust to, but she's worth a look.  Songs of note: Teen Idle, the obvious highlight; Primadonna, Power & Control, The State of Dreaming, How to be a Heartbreaker.

National Anthem | Lana Del Rey
I'd be lying if I said I didn't write that lengthy preface almost specifically because I knew I'd mention Lana Del Rey.  I've spoken before about how polarizing she is, considering - even though I call myself a pretty big fan - I sometimes think she can't even sing; live performances tank more often than not and I don't overly appreciate the reliance on production to make songs enjoyable.  Regardless, National Anthem is the highlight to what I honestly think might be one of the strongest albums of the year, Born to Die.  (my misgivings aside, I'm not exaggerating when I say there isn't a single song that I don't dislike, it's that good - although you really need to be in a mood to listen to fifteen tracks with the same somber tone) With National Anthem we find her almost-rapping throughout the verses which lead up to a catchy chorus.  Worth mentioning is the video where she portrays Jackie Kennedy opposite A$AP Rocky as JFK; what seems like a controversial video plays out as extremely emotional and hauntingly beautiful.  This song screams summer.

Synthetica | Metric
The power of live performance: it took one free concert of only six songs to launch my obsession of Metric, a band who I've always enjoyed though never to this extent.  Fantasies seemed like a tall order to follow; with Synthetica Metric returns with grand scale, found in songs like Artificial Nocturne and my favourite, Speed the Collapse.  I'm completely in love with Emily Haines and her vocal style; she's a ball of energy while performing and that playfulness is apparent in a song like Lost Kitten, another one of my favourites, which is nearly creepy but definitely catchy.  The album takes only one misstep, a song called The Wanderlust which features Lou Reed.  His bizarre drawling dampens the song as a whole and I can't help but think that I might've enjoyed it had it been only Haines singing, but it's nothing a simple click of the skip button can't fix.  Proud to be a Canadian with bands like Metric repping us in the music industry.  Songs of note: everything.  I'm kidding: Speed the Collapse, Youth Without Youth, Lost Kitten, Breathing Underwater, Synthetica.

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