Monday, November 25, 2013

My Top 10 Albums of 2013

This is always the toughest post of the year.  Selecting my favourite albums is a very difficult task because I live in a singles driven world.

I have no problem admitting that I love all genres of music including bubble gum pop.  I actually love pop music and have no problem telling you this.  Every time I hear Miley's wrecking ball I'm blown away at the vocals.  Without the video this song is Miley at her finest.  I'm not saying the video isn't good - because it's fantastic - but the song on its own is killer.  I digress.

2013 has delivered countless hits and seen some unsuspecting superstars hit the charts and change the game.  Lorde is the best example of this because at 17 this New Zealander went in the opposite direction of any other 17 year old on the planet when it came to song writing.  She turned heads, broke records and just signed a 2 million dollar publishing deal.  This was the single most refreshing album to come out this year and I really hope it rubs off on more to come.

My top 10 are in no particular order other than to say that Arctic Monkeys is head and shoulders above the rest.  In my opinion this is their finest work to date.  It's fucking epic.

Here are my picks for this year's finest albums and why...

Arctic Monkeys - 'AM' came out in September of this year and knocked me on my ass.  Alex's voice cuts through on each and every track on this album.  You can hear his northern English accent but it's got really attitude and soul.  The harmonies are perfect and the guitar solos unmatched by anyone this year.  This album has been a staple since I first got my hands on it and I'm certain it will be for some time to come.

I don't drive that often but was excited to do this past weekend as I literally heard 'Do I Wanna Know' 5 times on the way to and from visiting my family in the suburbs.  I love that radio is playing that track.  

Here's a standout track 'One for the Road'.

Kurt Vile - 'Wakin On A Pretty Daze' was released back in April.  I didn't pay much attention at that time but when it was suggested as something I should check out by Spotify because I had just listened to Led Zeppelin I had to.  I hardly ever listen to algorithms but am glad I did for this one.

Here's a nice intro track called 'Wakin On A Pretty Day'.

Drake - 'Nothing Was The Same' came out on September 24th of this year.  I know that exact date because it was in my Twitter, Instagram and Facebook feed for about 3 months in advance.  

Drake seems to be someone that you either love or hate - and if you're the later I don't understand why. Drake is from Toronto and this city should be super proud of what he's doing.  This is his city and hip hop is his.  He continues to put the country on the map while creating some of the finest beats, grooves and rhymes around.  I loved 2011's 'Take Care' but this one has already surprised me time and time again.  

'Started From The Bottom' was cool and 'Hold On, We're Coming Home' is an anthem - but this is my favourite all time Drake track 'Too Much'

J. Cole - 'Born Sinner' came out in June.  It came out the same day as 'Yeesus' by Kanye West.  I like the Kanye record - but REALLY like this Cole album.  His mixed tape from 2011 was what got me hooked.  He's smart and deep but god damn cool as fuck.

This whole album is worth a listen and might I suggest you start with 'Rich Niggaz'.

Arcade Fire - 'Reflektor' just came out last month and is likely on every top 10 list.  I wasn't sold at first but that's simply because I hadn't taken the time.

My favourite thing about this album is that it was my good friend Tim that convinced me.  He played it over and over at a cottage weekend away.  It was mind blowing.  The combination of Win and Regine's vocals and English French is perfection.  'Joan of Arc' is stunning and among the finest tracks I've heard in my life.

This might very well go down as the equivalent to Radiohead's 'OK Computer' for a generation.

The 1975's self-titled debut was finally released in September across North America.  I've talked about them on a few occasions here - so it shouldn't come as a surprise that they've made my list. 

It truly is perfect pop music and really should be used as a soundtrack to a coming of age film.

From SXSW until now they have been a mainstay for me.  I guarantee that they will break the North American market next year.

The Belle Game - 'Ritual Tradition Habit' is a beautiful album.  I really don't know what to say other than they are worth exploring further.  I had heard their name a few times but in the last couple months I really gave it a listen.  Andrea Lo's vocals will melt your heart and ears and make you want to get up and dance.  This band are from Canada and there's no reason why they shouldn't be massive the world over.

Here's a beauty track off the album entitled 'Wait Up For You'.

Biffy Clyro - 'Opposites' (Double album) came out way back in January of this year.  I am a fan of everything that they have ever put out.  They never disappoint and are unbelievable in concert.  I saw them a few times in 2013 including at Air Canada Centre as they opened for Muse and again as they headlined their own sold out gig at The Opera House.  

This double album boasts singles like 'Black Chandelier', 'Biblical', Victory Over Th Sun' and the title track 'Opposites'.  My favourite thing about this album was that they actually came into our offices to play a few songs from that album as seen here.

City and Colour - 'The Hurry and the Harm' is Dallas Green's equivalent to Neil Young's 'Harvest' in my opinion.  The title track is haunting and gorgeous all at once and showcases this man's strength in songwriting. 

The album has hits that won't end with 3 radio singles.  This is just the beginning for the album that came out in June as Dallas and his band have just announced their largest Canadian tour to date.  Stadium status indeed.  

Check out 'Harder Than Stone' below.

Lorde - 'Pure Heroine' came out in September.  The single 'Royals' saw it's official release back in March but now that it's nearing December the track has spent some serious time at the top of Billboard's hot 100 Chart and doesn't seem to be going away any time soon.

This is not a one hot wonder - in fact this is just the start to a long career in song-writing for young Ella Maria Lani Yelich-O'Connor.

Thanks for reading/listening,


Friday, November 8, 2013

Ode to New York City

This past weekend I was reminded why New York City truly is the greatest city on earth. I had the pleasure of taking part in the 2013 New York City Marathon that takes runners through all 5 Burroughs. I got to run alongside a record 50,000 + people that included a few friends and Raffy.

It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life and even though it was tough I enjoyed every step of the 26.2 miles.  Running some of the most famous streets in the world was surreal as they were lined with people 5 deep on either side.  It was honestly felt I was like running through a movie scene for a few hours.

The people on NYC take so much pride in their city and even more so in their own neighborhoods. From the richest parts of 5th Avenue to the mean streets of Atlantic Avenue - the people of NYC came out to cheer on the marathoners in droves.

I always run with headphones as I find it helps me get lost in the music while being free along a route. This was different. Although I created a killer play list that included tons of Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, and Beatles I didn't even press play once.  There's so much music at each block from gospel choirs, high school bands, local cover bands to DJs and more.

Here are some songs that will be forever burned into my brain and why.

The marathon starts in Staten Island at the bottom the Verrazano Narrows Bridge.  Staten Island is sometimes the forgotten Burrough but it's home to Wu Tang.  I love Wu Tang but will always think of the following 2 songs as this is what was playing over loud speakers when that cannon went off last Sunday morning to start the race.

Frank Sinatra - 'New York, New York'

The Rolling Stones - 'Start Me Up'

Brooklyn is MASSIVE.  The bridge from Staten Island brings you right into this world class Burrough which is so diverse and wonderful.  It winds through some of the most beautiful streets that remind you of Sesame Street and other TV shows.  From the hoods to the hipsters Brooklyn encompasses majority of this foot race and shows it's true colours and character at every block.  There were lots of choirs and bands in this part of the run - but I will forever be thankful for those DJs spinning the tracks I wanted to hear as I passed through.  Here are a couple of beauties and I'm so glad they are this obvious.

Notorious B.I.G. - 'Juicy'

Beastie Boys - 'No Sleep Till Brooklyn'

You're not in Queens for all that long - but the when you are it's the hardest part of that run in my opinion.  Climbing the Queensboro Bridge seemed like it would never end.  There's also no crowd on the bridge and so the silence is deafening.  All you hear are foot steps and heavy breathing.  Before you hit that bridge there are many restaurants and bars playing music from speakers outside their establishments.  There's also people playing music from their apartment windows.  That's where I heard this beauty...

Run DMC featuring Jason Nevins - 'It's Like That'

I will however always think of The Ramones - 'Rockaway Beach' when it comes to Queens NY.  Far Rockaway is a sliver of land on the Atlantic which was destroyed by last year's Hurricane Sandy.  Raffy and her friend where supposed to run this marathon last year - but once they cancelled it we decided to head out to the Rockaways and volunteer in the hurricane relief.  That place was a mess and form an already impoverished area of the city this hurricane did the people of Queens no favours.  It was an eye opener and glad we were able to help in some way.
The Ramones - 'Rockaway Beach'

The Bronx is the home to the famous Apollo Theater which boasts legendary appearances over the years from Motown greats like Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight and The Pips to Ray Charles, Marvin Gaye, Michael Jackson and so many more.  I did however hear this banger as I rounded the corner to the bridge back into Manhattan.

Big Pun - 'Still Not A Player'

Manhattan is where the madness ends.  The race crosses back into Manhattan at the Madison Avenue Bridge at 139th street.  It makes it way to 5th Avenue all the way to Geggenheim Museum and then into Central Park.  I was a bit delirious at this point and don't recall hearing too many songs.  It was all crowds screaming and encouraging you to push yourself as it was almost over.  The only song I do recall was so stereotypical yet perfect at the same time.  It was none other than Jay Z featuring Alicia Keys - 'Empire State of Mind'.

If you ever get the chance to participate in this great race don't hesitate - do it.  

Thanks for reading/listening,