Music

2014 Year In Review: Albums of the Year

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Ah, the dreaded but loved Albums of the Year post. To be quite honest, I’m not entirely sure why I still bother to post it. My friends and I don’t really have lengthy conversations about our favorite albums of the year anymore. With Spotify and iTunes it’s actually really simple to keep track of the albums I loved and listened to bunches over the span of a year. Wow, I don’t seem very convincing to listen to, do I? Just like any other person, I know what I like and this is it. I’m by no means a musical expert. Sure, i know a lot of trivial facts that easily help me win the entertainment/music section of any board game or trivia contest, but I am far from all knowing that one artist sounds like another artist. You know like some well informed music reviewers can very easily do. Anyway, these are my favorite albums of the year. I’m not going to lie. I DID spend a good month straight listening to 1989 and I’m going to be listening to Four until probably forever (it’s just that good).

There’s really no particular order or ranking system although from my last little blurb it’s quite obvious I play favorites with at least two of these albums. I’ve included a link to one of my favorite tracks from each album as well as a link to stream the album on Spotify! Very convenient if I do say so myself.

So enjoy and let me know in the comments what you think of these albums, what some of your favorite albums of 2014 have been, or some albums you are looking forward to hearing in 2015!

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My Year in Music: 2014

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So like I mentioned previously for the next few days all of the posts on the blog are going to be fitting a year end extravaganza theme. Today’s post is my year in music. Yes, all the songs I loved this year whether I’m embarrassed by them or not.  What I’ve learned through this journey is I greatly appreciate a good pop tune from time to time. I’m not really ashamed of my choices for the year end mix. It’s kind of a mixture of different genres which is basically where my taste in music has always been, and many of the songs have been the soundtrack to some very fond memories I will have forever. I guess that idea entirely trumps music snobery. Er… that’s not a word but let’s roll with it. Just a note: the mix is a bigger than normal; running 25 songs long and clocks in at just over an hour and thirty minutes. Bit long, sorry!

Tracklist and streaming links to follow. My favorite albums of the year are coming tomorrow so get excited! See you then!

  1. Salute – Little Mix
  2. Bang Bang – Jessie J featuring Nicki Minaj & Ariana Grande
  3. Don’t Tell ‘Em – Jeremih featuring YG
  4. Uptown Funk – Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars
  5. Where Do Broken Hearts Go – One Direction
  6. Love Me Harder – Ariana Grande featuring the Weeknd
  7. Two Weeks – FKA Twigs
  8. Out of the Woods – Taylor Swift
  9. Begging for Thread – Banks
  10. Thinking Out Loud – Ed Sheeran
  11. She’s Not Me – Jenny Lewis
  12. Good Girls – 5 Seconds of Summer
  13. Drunk In Love – Beyoncé featuing Jay Z
  14. Break the Rules – Charli XCX
  15. Girl Almighty – One Direction
  16. Cecilia & the Satellite – Andrew McMahon & the Wilderness
  17. I’m Not the Only One – Sam Smith
  18. Jealous – Nick Jonas
  19. Digital Witness – St. Vincent
  20. Beg For It – Iggy Azalea featuring MO
  21. Robbers – The 1975
  22. Sweatpants – Childish Gambino
  23. Dark Horse – Katy Perry & Juicy J
  24. Rather Be – Clean Bandit & Jess Glyne
  25. God Only Knows – She & Him

Stream on: 8Tracks & Spotify

12 Days of Christmas: Day 03

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Soon the Christmas tunes will be a distant memory until next year, so why not take a listen to 4 of my favorite albums from this year. No shame in my game. Look for more of my favorite albums & songs of 2014 in the coming days, but for now purchase these over on Amazon: Taylor Swift 1989, One Direction Four, The 1975, Banks Goddess

Mixtape: Christmas 2014

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Ah, one week until Christmas Eve which just so happens to be one of my favorite days of the entire year. Of course not for the most obvious of reasons. Santa is a pretty cool guy though. It also means I’ll be spending a lot of time in the kitchen baking and cooking loads of meals, and attending holiday gatherings. Both of those occasions, at least according to me, require some great tunes which is why I’ve decided to share my yearly Christmas mix. My 2012 mix happens to be my most popular mix ever and I’m really proud of it, so this years fits the same theme and mood. There’s a mixture of classics and some newer versions in addition to some of my all time favorites.

Christmas music tends to be an acquired taste since it’s shoved down our throats beginning the day after Halloween no matter how good or bad the versions may be, so I did my best. I’ve also included one giant four hour long Spotify playlist of all sorts of holiday tunes. I didn’t mean for to be four hours, but sometimes a festive mood just begins to snowball.

Links and tracklisting to follow. Enjoy, and happy holidays!

  1. The Christmas Song – Nat King Cole
  2. White Christmas – Bing Crosby
  3. Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree – Brenda Lee
  4. It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas – Michael Buble
  5. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas – Sam Smith
  6. River – Joni Mitchell
  7. Christmas Must Be Tonight – Bahamas
  8. Real Love – Tom Odell
  9. It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year – Andy Williams
  10. Merry Christmas Darling – Christina Perri
  11. Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) – Darlene Love
  12. The Christmas Waltz – Peggy Lee
  13. Baby It’s Cold Outside – Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Jordan
  14. A Snow Globe Christmas – Pink Martini
  15. Dear Santa – Mr Little Jeans
  16. Santa Claus is Coming to Town – Woody Herman
  17. I’ll Be Home for Christmas – Bing Crosby
  18. Merry Christmas Baby – Otis Redding

Listen on 8Tracks or Spotify

Other playlists: The most popular Christmas 2012 / Massive Christmas playlist

In the Kitchen: Thanksgiving 2014

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Happy Thanksgiving Eve, my fellow Americans! Time to start prepping one of the largest meals of the year which requires (as far as I’m concerned) some great tunes. My prep begins quite early tomorrow so the music in this mix is mostly relaxing, indie pop and some of my current favorite songs. I made a Thanksgiving mix a few years ago which was much more jazzy and classic so this is bit of a departure from that. Basically, it’s perfect for a Thanksgiving brunch, Friendsgiving, working in the kitchen or even the travel home. Now a disclaimer, this is really my prep playlist this year so there will be songs by artists maybe you personally are not fond of. Trust me. Give it a chance. If not skip it and enjoy the rest!

Tracklisting and links below. Enjoy and have a Happy Thanksgiving!

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Now Hear Me Out: Taylor Swift’s 1989

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It’s been awhile since I’ve attempted to write about music here on the blog. Something I try to avoid mainly because I don’t feel I’m very good at it and because having a pretty diverse taste in music is a bit of a struggle. So I’m starting Now Hear Me Out because one of the biggest albums of the year dropped Monday and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to tell you why you should be listening to it.

First off I’ll admit I never gave Taylor Swift much thought. My younger sister loved Taylor many years ago which is where I originally heard her music and usually the only time I paid any attention was via that old timey medium, the radio. I always brushed it off, well, except for the occasional dance along session to 22. I’ll admit to that at least. Months ago, Ms. Swift dropped Shake It Off on the world and I was never the same. What began as a “oh, let’s see what this is about” listen became a full-blown love for the tune. It’s a radio staple. And even after all these countless listens I still love it. That, I hear, is the true definition of a hit. I dare anyone to listen to the radio without hearing it at least twice within an hour. There’s a great beat. It makes me want to jump around and dance like no one is watching. There’s also that great spoken breakdown which, honestly, is better on the recording than in live performances (see X Factor three weeks ago). This is an entirely new sound than previous Taylor Swift albums. It’s a giant crossover to the world of current pop music. It’s even poised to sell a million copies this week. It could be the most popular album this year behind the soundtrack to Frozen. That’s not even just my opinion, I’ve heard it so many places this week.

There are so many musical influences coming into play on 1989. Many of the songs have a clear late 80s/early 90s vibe to them which seems to be all the rage lately. The songs where Swift worked with Jack Antonoff definitely seem to have this influence more than others, but the album still is cohesive from beginning to end. Wildest Dreams feels like, as blasphemous as this could sound, like a Ultraviolence era Lana Del Rey track. Style feels like a lower end Kavinsky toss away track. Welcome to New York sounds like it belongs on an episode of the Carrie Diaries or Gossip Girl accompanying a long spanning shot of the city at night. Songs like Wonderland, Blank Space, and New Romance are worthy of being played at loud volumes. It’s certainly not without it’s low points. Particularly songs like Clean and I Know Places which I just don’t love as much as the others.

Of course there are endless songs about heartbreak and ex loves. What would pop music be without ex loves, I mean really? It’s entirely possible to remove rumors, public relationships (or PR ones if that’s more ones cup a tea), and reputations, and these songs could be anyone’s situation. It doesn’t matter that she may or may not mostly date famous people and, in turn, write songs about them. No one says the same about, say, Ed Sheeran, so maybe it’s time to let it go. It’s widely speculated Out of the Woods is about Harry Styles, and that’s fine; It’s a great tune regardless of its possible origins. The reason pop music is, just that, popular is because it’s easy to relate to. Hoping an ex will stop by (a la I Wish You Would) is something that happens after a breakup (Trust me, it makes more sense after hearing the song). Ms. Swift has made her music even more relatable now that she has made the full crossover to pop music, and after hearing this album, I hope she sticks around in this genre for a while.

Above all the main reason I think everyone should be taking a listen to 1989 is its quality. The lyrics aren’t (all) cheesy, the tunes are well produced and catchy, and serve their purpose (ie: bring joy and emotions to the masses). If anything, any troubles can be danced (or cried) away over the span of an hour and some odd minutes. The entire first part of the album cheers me up even if it probably shouldn’t. Hell, I’ve been quoting this album on Twitter (faux pas I know) all week. I guess what I’m trying to say is don’t just toss Taylor Swift aside or make some snide remark about it. The album truly is good (I wouldn’t be saying it if it weren’t true) and well made which is what music needs. This is the soundtrack to those days you want to put on bright red lips, a skirt, and pun entirely intended, Shake It Off.

PS: Don’t hate on people for liking the music they like. It makes you a jerk which isn’t cool.

And if you’re curious my favorite tracks are: Blank Space, Style, Out of the Woods, I Wish You Would & You Are in Love (from the Target deluxe edition)

October Mix: Halloween 2014

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For as long as I can remember Halloween has been a big deal in my family. Not only for trick or treating, but for every little aspect of the holiday. Is it a holiday? I don’t even know. My family embraces all of it; horror movie marathons, fun size candy bars, and, most importantly, scaring the daylights out of each other with hidden decorations and popping out of dark rooms with masks on. Seriously, I’ll never forget my dad jumping out of the hallway in an ape mask. I cried for 3 days I’m positive.

Every year I make a playlist and this year is no exception. They usually end up containing the same songs because, hey, a classic is a classic, right? But this year I decided just to cut to the chase and make a playlist of the cheesiest, cliche, and greatest Halloween songs. It’s perfect for a party situation or maybe just handing out treats to kids with grubby little hands who feel entirely entitled to candy you purchased with your adult money.

Tracklist and links are below. I also included links to all previous years mixes I made public. Hopefully something floats your boat.

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September Mix: Turn Down for WWAT

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I didn’t really have a solid theme for September’s mix. I went back and forth between just what I’ve been listening to a lot lately and just not doing one at all. Not that posting a mix really matters all that much to begin with. So what ended up being this months mix? A mixture. Some songs I had in current rotation so far this month and the other songs came from my weekend spend at Where We Are Tour. Before and in between acts they played plenty of tunes crossing a few genres. Some of them just stuck with me and ended up on this mix. Pictured above is one of my photos from one of the nights at the Rose Bowl before it filled to capacity with screaming girls and I went partially deaf. I wouldn’t have changed it for the world. My ears still hurt when I hear Midnight Memories.

Tracklisting and links below.

  1. Highway to Hell – AC/DC
  2. Everything is Embarrassing – Sky Ferreira
  3. Dark Horse – Katy Perry featuring Juicy J
  4. Go – Grimes featuring Blood Diamonds
  5. Little White Lies – One Direction
  6. Drunk in Love – Beyoncé featuring Jay Z
  7. Ready for Your Love – Gorgon City featuring MNEK
  8. What I Like About You – 5 Seconds of Summer
  9. Gecko – Oliver Heldens
  10. Break Free – Ariana Grande featuring Zedd
  11. Hideaway – Kiesza
  12. Changes – 2Pac
  13. Champagne Coast – Blood Orange
  14. Enjoy the Silence – Depeche Mode
  15. Crew Love – Drake featuring the Weekend
  16. Odd Look – Kavinsky featuring the Weekend
  17. Need You 100% – Duke Dumont featuring A.M.E.

Listen on Spotify or 8Tracks

5 Things: Guilty Pleasure Songs

The Oxford Dictionary defines a ‘guilty pleasure’ as “Something, such as a movie, television program, or piece of music, that one enjoys despite feeling that it is not generally held in high regard.” Everyone has these things we love but really don’t want anyone else to know about. Mine most often happens with music. I have written about all kinds of music here on the blog so it’s fairly certain to say I have a very diverse, eclectic taste. It comes from all sorts of places. My dad was a rock music listener. My mom more pop. My grandparents listened to all things 1950s/60s. When it comes to guilty pleasures, mine usually aren’t a secret. I typically don’t even feel all that guilty about liking them.

I will 100% sternly say how great a song is directly to your face if you call me out on it’s horrible qualities. Sometimes I’m doing it ironically and sometimes I’m really not. I’ll never tell. For the purposes of this post I tried to find songs I’m slightly ashamed to love, but shortly came to realize I’m not all that ashamed by them. In fact it was really hard to sift through what was ironic and what wasn’t. But in the end I came up with 5 and here they are.

22 – Taylor Swift

I’ll confess there’s quite a few Taylor Swift songs I may or may not enjoy. 22 is by far my favorite of those. It’s addicting. It’s danceable. It’s youthful and fun. I can’t help but sing along with it when it comes on. That said, she may be feeling 22, but I am not. In fact when I was 22, I wasn’t wearing cat ear headbands and having bike races with my friends in the backyard. I definitely wasn’t dressing like hipsters. I was going out to nightclubs, pretending overly expensive drinks were worth the hassle of watching slutty girls cry, and seeing a 1980s hair metal cover band in a now defunct dive bar. Okay so maybe that 1980s hair metal cover band were really awesome. Actually, jumping on a trampoline and dancing around wearing horned rimmed glasses sounds more my style in retrospect. Either way, I had (some) fun when I was 22, and this video makes 22 look way more fun that it actually is. I want to live in this video. Have cute clothes, dance around, and eat cake. But instead, I’m 27 and listening to Taylor Swift while pretending I don’t have grown up responsibilities. No shame because twinkle lights on swings no doubt solve everything.

Never Gonna Give You Up – Rick Astley 

I’ve never wondered what it would be like if a really rich white guy who owned a yacht decided to sing about relationships. The reason I’ve never had to wonder is because Rick Astley made that dream a reality with Never Gonna Give You Up. The song is super catchy. It’s impossible not to bust a move when it’s on and it’s forever stuck in my head once the song is over. I listened to it 30 minutes ago and it’s still going strong. It doesn’t get much better than this. The message here is pretty simple. Rick is never gonna give you up. He’s never gonna let you down. And he may wear double denim but he’s never gonna desert you. The video also has a really cool bartender, who quite honestly, could have quit his job to be a dancer. Maybe he felt no one could clean a bar with as much flair. He could have at least taught Rick better moves than the ‘white guy hip shuffle.’ I never get sick of this song. It’s the song internet dreams are made of. The Rick Roll is still one of my brother’s favorite pastimes. Only I’m never upset when it happens to me.

Mamma Mia – ABBA

Everyone knows the three things I love about Sweden: IKEA, chocolate, and of course, ABBA. ABBA was one of the greatest imports of the disco age. They had extremely catchy pop songs about a variety of subjects. Not only do they have the best pop songs imaginable, BUT the best matching outfits. I think there’s even a museum dedicated to the wonder known as ABBA. Mamma Mia isn’t my favorite ABBA song, but it’s really high up to the top. There’s not anything to dislike about it. This video has such great choreography not to mention a high production value. That zoom focus on the different mouths is brilliant. Way head of it’s time. It even spawned a musical with a plot I can’t really understand. Seriously what does it have to do with the themes of ABBA’s music? The only way I could love ABBA more is if it was played on near constant rotation in IKEA. Hey there’s an idea…everyone will avoid the shop and maybe I wouldn’t have to maneuver around confused lost souls trying to find the 17 boxes needed to put together a kitchen table.

We Can’t Stop – Miley Cyrus

Ah Miley Cyrus. Good ol’ Miley has the songs worthy of guilty pleasures. There’s The Climb which I love pretending I can hit the high notes on. There’s 7 Things which is filled to the brim with angst. The undisputed champion of songs about America: Party in the USA; which told me it was okay to move my hips like ‘yeah.’ And now We Can’t Stop which was a giant hit last summer. I tried to put off liking it for as long as possible and eventually it faded into obscurity. Recently I heard it on a playlist I was casually listening to and my instant reaction became ‘dammit, I like this song.’ I don’t like ‘twerking’ and I’m not an expert on ‘Molly’ far from it actually. I’m not sure what we ‘can’t stop’ or what we ‘won’t stop’ or who is policing parties for what people are saying/singing/loving, but Miley seems to think that’s a problem. All I know is I’m on board for a 3 minute song and a video filled with product placement.

Hold On – Wilson Phillips

In the 90s there was a super empowering girl group made up of daughters of famous rock musicians. They were called Wilson Phillips and their song Hold On was the jam. It was my jam. I was young, but I definitely loved it every time it came on the radio. But like most great songs they hit their peak and fade away to obscurity (aka lite radio with the greatest hits of 80s, 90s, and today). Thank god for the classic comedy Bridesmaids or I wouldn’t have renewed my passion for this jam. I hadn’t heard Hold On in at least 10 years up to that point and from the very first note it became hard to contain myself in the theater. It’s so inspirational. Someday somebody’s gonna make you wanna turn around and say goodbye. They are gonna hold you down and make you cry. But if you change, things will go your way. If you holdddddd on for one more day. Things will go your way. If anything the nature shots in this music video are revolutionary and worth the viewing all together. All I know is I sing along to this song at the top of my lungs in my car (passionate diva hand gestures and all) and I’m not even a little bit ashamed of it.

Friday Five: Songs for the perfect summer BBQ

Fourth of July. Time for Americans to celebrate our independence from Britain. Sorry about that whole tea thing, guys. There’s kind of a unspoken rule to spend the day relaxing or having a BBQ and when having a BBQ you need some really cool tunes, am I right? I’ve made quite a few playlists in my day, and I’m no expert, but I think there’s a few songs that need to go on (nearly) every BBQ playlist. For today’s Friday Five I’m sharing those with you as well as 5 bonus songs that I’m loving for summer ’14. So fire up the grill, grab a cold one and turn up these great tunes.

Cruel Summer – Bananarama

I don’t know loads about Bananarama as a band, but I do know one of them married the non-George Michael guy in Wham! and without a doubt their biggest hit was Venus (which was just made for razor commercials some 20 years later). I love Cruel Summer. It just evokes this feeling of lounging outside waiting to find something to do. If nothing else, it just really makes me want to crimp my hair, put on a pair of acid wash jorts, and sit out by the pool in an uncomfortable plastic chair by the pool. Totally tubular.

Summer Breeze – Seals and Crofts

What do you get when you mix boat shoes, a captain’s hat, and a nice J. Crew jumper? The perfect visual representation of Yacht Rock. Growing up the smooth oldies station constantly played this song and I just kind of grew to love it. If I had to listen to it once every few hours might as well learn to appreciate it. I love Yacht Rock as a genre, and I’m not entirely sure it’s ironically anymore. Summer Breeze just makes me want to watch a sunset while on a sailboat while drinking some fancy wine no one has ever heard of. Sounds like a dream…

Party in the USA – Miley Cyrus

How is this not the national anthem of the USA yet? It makes America sound like so much fun. Like we always have a Jay Z song on and we are all moving our hips like yeah. I’m not even going to pretend that this wasn’t my jam a couple summers ago. I still love it, and if anything it gets people dancing (and singing). Especially after a couple drinks, right? As Miley says, the butterflies fly away. And no one will ever speak of it again.

Juicy – Notorious B.I.G.

It wouldn’t be a summer playlist without some Biggie. Juicy is more of a late afternoon jam for BBQs. It just evokes this feeling of cruising or chilling while the sun goes down. There’s really nothing more to say than that. It’s just such a chill jam. Happy days.

(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction – The Rolling Stones

I wish I was around to experience summers in the 1960s. They probably weren’t much different than my childhood summers though: riding bikes and listening to the Stones. Satisfaction is one of my favorite Stones songs of all time, and not certainly because I had to listen to that horrid Britney Spears cover a million times and began to appreciate the original. It’s just a great song. And just gives off the vibes of a good time like a party scene of a film. Not to mention, who could forget this scene in Mad Men of Don Draper lighting a cigarette? I certainly can’t. It’s burned on the inside of my retinas.

Listen to these tracks here: Friday 5: BBQ Songs and below you’ll find 5 more bonus songs for summer 14!

Looking for some festive BBQ/4th of July Playlists? Look no further than here!
Spotify: Summer BBQ 1 / 4th of July / Summer BBQ 2 / America
8Tracks: Summer BBQ 1 / 4th of July / Summer BBQ 2 / America

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