In no particular order, these are my favorite music releases from this year:

 

 

 

Angel Olsen……My Woman

Car Seat Headrest……Teens Of Denial

David Bowie……Blackstar

Kristin Kontrol……X-Communicate

Melanie Martinez……Cry Baby

Nice As F*#K……Self Titled

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds……Skeleton Tree

Phantogram……Three

Radiohead……A Moon Shaped Pool

Savages……Adore Life

Sunflower Bean……Human Ceremony

Pink Floyd……The Early Years, 1967-1972 (Cre/ation)

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!

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I was in the car driving home from work earlier this evening and I started to cry. Emotions began to amplify themselves within my mind. Life, beauty and death surrounded me. Why?

It was the powerful music I was listening to. I’ve been playing this album for over a month now, ever since it was released. Tonight I came to the conclusion that this was spiritual therapy. In fact, not only am I dedicating this blog entry to my niece Samantha, I am proclaiming that a certain album by a certain pair of artists is the most surprising, astonishing and inspiring one of 2016. In my opinion, of course.

This is a personal choice for me. I was going to do my usual countdown of top 10 favorite albums of the year but when a series of songs feel good on my ears and brings me to a place of overwhelming joy and sadness and can make me cry because I am suddenly appreciating everything around me, then I know this is the one to gravitate towards as my favorite album of the year. So let me get right to it.

The artist is Phantogram. They are an American music duo from New York. Josh Carter does vocals and guitars while Sarah Barthel provides vocals and keyboards. Both of them are unbelievable at what they do.

 

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You could define their music in a number of ways. Lets just say they fall under four major categories. Dream pop, trip hop, electronica and “Shoe gaze”could aptly describe them. I love their awesome rhythms, guitars that swirl, keyboards that transport me to outer space, voices that echo and vibrate and lyrics that move through me.

Their October 7th release of the record, simply titled Three, is something that I can’t seem to play enough of. The songs spin around in my head and they won’t let go of me. I have surrendered to their addictive sounds.

This album, ironically, received mediocre reviews from several online sources. I am not one of them. I can’t explain why there are so many negative and poor reviews but that just doesn’t seem to matter. Perhaps I am sentimental when it comes to heartbreaking songs about losing someone close and dear to you.

I have experienced much tragedy this year. I took group fitness instructor courses and attempted to pass a certification test TWICE and FAILED both times. I lost 2 of my grandmothers within the same week, believe it or not. My wife and I had a miscarriage earlier last summer, which was a deep and personal tragedy. I had several battles with depression as well. So maybe this record speaks to me in a really strong way. Sadness, melancholy and panic attacks surround my soul even as i go through the process of healing.

My niece and I connect in a really special way. We are like kindred spirits when it comes to words, poetry and music and I really believe that she will love this album. Its an engaging listen for the ears and the brain. I think the songs punch pretty hard right into the heart. They help someone like me cope with loss and failure. The songs reassure me that I am not alone trying to sort out my sensitive feelings in this world of opinions, hatred and jealousy. I reflect on the beauty that is all over me when I play these songs.

How can I put this? Its one of the best bands you never heard of. They aren’t quite mainstream but that is just fine with me. The mood of this record is deep, raw and real. I won’t go into great details anymore. I can only provide you with a video and trust that faith and hope will take you on this fantastic musical journey.

I highly recommend you listen to (and watch) this:

 

 

This became my new “go to” playlist so that the next time I am feeling down I can listen to it on repeat:

  1. Siouxsie and the Banshees Hong Kong Garden
  2. New Order Ceremony
  3. Colin Hay Beautiful World
  4. Velvet Underground Rock and Roll
  5. Blind Melon 3 is a Magic Number
  6. Pink Floyd Astronomy Domine
  7. Beach Boys Heroes and Villians
  8. Tom Petty Free Fallin’
  9. The Beatles Day Tripper
  10. The Black Keys Everlasting Light
  11. Japandroids The House That Heaven Built
  12. The Flaming Lips Do You Realize?
  13. Smashing Pumpkins Siva
  14. Weezer Buddy Holly
  15. The Tokens The Lion Sleeps Tonight
  16. Kristin Kontrol X-Communicate
  17. The Lively Ones Surf Rider
  18. Pink Floyd Shine On You Crazy Diamond Parts 1-7
  19. Imagine Dragons On Top Of The World
  20. Maroon 5 Moves Like Jagger

 

 

 

 

 

 

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For most people, this is a difficult thing to truly know. I mean, think about how many songs are out there. How can you possibly narrow it down to that ONE song that altered your perception, changed your fate, opened up your mind? Woke you up to a new world forever? It depends on a significant event perhaps. Or maybe it was repeated exposure to a song on the radio. Was it at a concert? Maybe during a music class lesson? For me it always seems to relate to my father and I listening to classic rock on the radio in one of his pickup trucks while I was growing up.

Whether we were driving to a ball game, camping trip, vacation or just around the corner to the store; classic rock was playing either through a cassette tape, cd player or simply on the radio. At home on the stereo pumping through vintage Allegro speakers, he would crank out records and cds of various artists. Most of these consisted of The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, CCR, The Cars, ZZ Top and finally Pink Floyd. Something about the latter struck me the most.

I remember being about 5 or 6 years old in the back seat of my  mom’s Plymouth Horizon. One of her many errands she would run during the day while I am intently listening to the radio. Usually it was WLS in Chicago AM radio. This disco sounding, rock jam song would play every now and then. It was actually Another Brick In The Wall by Pink Floyd. At that age, this song sounded really strange and yet quite interesting even though my young brain couldn’t quite understand its meaning. Then in 1987 another song by the Floyd was on MTV and the radio again. This one was entitled Learning To Fly. Another bizarre and artistic song by this enigmatic band that I did not know much about.

At age 11, I still was not collecting music really other than occasionally trading tapes with neighborhood friends or hearing what my dad played. It wasn’t until the late 80’s and early 90’s that I started feeling that “change” within me. This occurred in 2 stages. Stage one was when I was in his truck one day (I can’t remember the specific year but I guess I would have been in my early teens) probably when I was 13 or 14 and he played Dark Side of The Moon. This album blew my mind. Clocks ticking and then erupting into this loud chaos followed by these percussions keeping a steady beat with wailing guitars and these deep prophetic lyrics about “Time” and life & death. My dad played that album a lot and that song Time really spoke to me the most. Slide guitars and great vocals were enough to sell me on the band finally.

The second stage occurred a few years later. In the summer of 1994, my dad surprised me and bought 2 tickets for us to go see Pink Floyd live. It was my first concert ever. I was 18 years old. I was so pumped. The band takes the stage. I am among a crowd of 50,000 people with my dad screaming and shouting. They open up with this cosmic sounding, very British and aggressively massive sounding pop song. It was really rocking! I never heard it before. I was actually so turned on by this song! I kept thinking,”what was that?” While the concert was great, that song was festering in my brain. My dad and I did some research later on that week. Then one day I am in my bedroom and over hear that familiar song pumping through those Allegro speakers and I immediately ran into the living room and inquired about it. My dad was holding a disc in his hands. It was entitled “Piper At The Gates of Dawn” by Pink Floyd, featuring original singer, guitarist and song writer-Syd Barrett.

 

I learned of Syd Barrett in that moment. I never knew about him or the amazing body of work he contributed to that band. The song that I fell in love with is called Astronomy Domine. Totally spacey and cosmic and psychedelic! That song changed my life forever because I knew there was more Pink Floyd music out there that I never even knew existed before. I started to realize that every band has its beginnings before they become popular. Before they reach stardom, they have a starting point. Something that inspired them to make music to begin with. That night at the concert while standing in front of my chair gazing up at the stage I experienced something like never before. At age 18 that summer, I became educated that there’s this amazing story behind the band Pink Floyd. That it all began with a man named Syd. Syd Barrett’s experiments with sights and sounds and his eventual madness is what created albums like Dark Side of The Moon, Wish You Were Here and The Wall. Without his genius and absurdness, Pink Floyd would never have become as great as they did.

 

That single song, Astronomy Domine, shaped my life because I learned how to embrace all sides of life and music. There’s more than meets the eye and ears. I learned to go deeper than the surface. To explore beyond the obvious. I began to embrace the deep cuts and the hidden treasures of my own life each and every day.

2013 Favorite Album

Posted: May 27, 2016 in 40 Years of Noe
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“The Bones of What You Believe” is such a fantastic album. I love this record so much! It’s crazy awesome 80’s synthpop! What a fine tribute to the MTV new wave generation. Remember groups like Depeche Mode and Human League? You can hear the influence all over the record. So, they are two guys and a girl from Scotland. Each of them have enormous talent and musicianship. Synthesizers, samplers, guitars and gorgeous vocals coming from an awesome girl named Lauren. Did you know she has a Law Degree and was a Journalism major? Her voice is rather pretty and makes you wanna dance or go for a long drive and absorb this grand life. It’s organic because it flows through you like “tickle fits!”

Chvrches is pronounced like Churches, by the way.

The two dudes, Ian and Martin, are quite focused on their musical instruments and occasionally provide some cool masculine vocals as well. Every song gives me chills. What an addictive sound! It draws you in. It’s got this gigantic POP ENERGY that rushes through you like sugar on a sunny day. imageYou’re gonna want to drink a gallon of this ocean wave of pure poppy, bubble gum and highly accessible delightful hurricane buzz juice.

Enjoy

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In 2010, I started listening to more podcasts. NPR’s All Songs Considered was my favorite. In the Spring that year they played a song called “Everlasting Light” by The Black Keys. It was so catchy that we had that song playing at our Wedding later that year. The whole album, “Brothers” is pretty amazing. Just like 2010 was amazing! Wedding bells, college courses and brain surgery took place that year but The Black Keys got me through it all.

 

In 2011, I went through a depression period. I had a relapse from my surgery and had a grand mal seizure, suffered post par-tam depression after the wedding and dropped out of college. Me moved to a new apartment as well. But PJ Harvey’s record, “Let England Shake” was my cd of choice. I played it all the time. It was such an addictive sound. I wish she appeared more on my list of favorite albums. But this one definitely was worthy of the list.

 

In 2012, I began a new journey of my life. I started running again. My favorite record of the year 2012 was by a band called Japandroids. I don’t care what anyone says about this but it friggin rules! 2 guys only. A drummer and a guitarist. They just kill it! Drinking anthems mixed with the Husker Du type of melodies and patterns. The album begins and ends with the sound of fireworks. I listened to them when I would go for a jog in the morning, while training for 5k’s and triathlons. It makes me feel alive. It’s a garage band that sounds BIG and proof that 2 twenty something guys from Canada can perform shock therapy on your mood!

 

That’s all for now!!!

In 2007, Radiohead released the album “In Rainbows.” It was a surprise release on the internet where you could pay any amount for. It was listener’s choice. I think I paid five bucks. I listened to it quite often. In the car, mowing the lawn and grocery shopping. It was also my first year with an MP3 player. These guys never seize to amaze me!

In 2008, my friend Heidi let me borrow a record by a band called Vampire Weekend. It was a self-titled album. This music has such a catchy, jammy, tribal and party sound to it. I was surprised how amazing this one was. I still play it a lot. Good stuff.

The Flaming Lips released an album entitled “Embryonic” in 2009. A friend once said of this release: “Finally they’re WEIRD again!” It’s complex, silly and definitely has Syd Barrett moments of atmospheric sounds. Not to mention, Karen O (The Yeah Yeah Yeahs) is heard making animal sounds. A must own!

That’s all for now. See you later!

In 2005, Beck released an album entitled “Guero.” Beck switches up his sound all the time, but this is probably one of my favorite of his artistic personalities. There’s a distinct electronic element throughout the album, but it’s peppered with touches of rock, folk, and dare I say hip-hop! E-Pro is a monster, and Hell Yes gets stuck in my head every time I listen to it

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In 2006, Tool released their last album “10,000 days.”This is less mathematic than Lateralus (I love math rock), but this album is a true piece of art, especially “Right In Two.” Also I found Rosetta Stoned one of the most difficult songs Tool ever released. There is a bit of Folk on 10,000 Days (Wings Pt 2). Vicarious is also a key track. 🙂
PS: loved the stereoscopic glasses and the 3D artwork.

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Back in the late 60s Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys was in friendly competition with the Beatles and at one point he tried to release an album entitled “Smile” but there were complications with the other bandmembers and the record companies. Also he was having a nervous breakdown and it was related to massive drug use. So the album was shelved and essentially never really saw the light of day. It was supposed to surpass the genius music of “Pet Sounds.” It was referred to it as a “teenage symphony to God.” 
Then suddenly after 35 years or so it was dug back out and Brian re-recorded the whole album as he intended with new musicians helping him out. The music is daring and is constantly changing shifts essentially every 30 seconds yet it is quite complex in composition. Smile is the most infamous recording in music history because it was never officially released when it was supposed to be. Then in 2004, it finally got released, albeit re-recorded but it’s probably the most accurate composition and as good as it’s going to get. 
The whole thing is whimsical and pays tribute to Americana themes such as heroes and villains. Eating your vegetables and brushing your teeth and with talks about the infamous Chicago fire and even throws in the pocket symphony known as “good vibrations” so it’s all over the place yet it really is a masterpiece. 

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To start off, frankly, this is probably the best thing Ben Gibbard has ever done. Death Cab for Cutie’s a pretty good band, but I think that the Postal Service blows them clear out of the water. Ben Gibbard’s sensitive and sweet voice sounds much more natural and convincing alongside the ambient electronic music created by Jimmy Tambarello (of Dntel fame) than conventional indie pop/rock. The chemistry that these two share makes Give Up one of the best and most beautiful albums of 2003.

The album’s sound is the perfect mix of EDM and indie pop songwriting. The music and beats are subtle and soothing, and Ben Gibbard’s emotive, almost understated vocals compliment the music perfectly. This is undoubtedly a headphones album, and a great headphones album at that.

Give Up starts off incredibly strong, with its best song, “The District Sleeps Alone Tonight” leading the way. Strong melodies, strong lyrics, relaxing atmosphere, and ethereal backing vocals make this track infinitely memorable. Following it are the album’s other stronger tracks, especially “Such Great Heights,” “Clark Gable,” and my second favorite on Give Up, “This Place is a Prison.”

This is music that makes me smile. Beautifully crafted electro-pop with heartfelt lyrics. Ben’s vocal stylings that uncannily resemble Ben Folds’ fill in the bleeps and clicks with his sincere delivery. The ladies singing background, Jen Wood and Jenny Lewis, almost steal the show. The simply sweet and charming harmony their voices offer are the perfect complement to Mr. Gibbard’s.