My Best Songs of 2O13

2013 was a pretty good year. I got a new job; my band is continuing to improve; my garden is growing larger; my car still runs after breaking a few times; my social circle continues to grow; I got to see my family for Thanksgiving; and this blog still exists even if I don’t post as much as I should which makes my brother hate me. I need to use this momentum and keep on pushing to improve every where I can. I am far happier now then when I was 18 and I sure hope I am twice as happy as I am now when I’m 38. Forget that law of diminishing returns shit.

I have made a list of my favorite songs of the year and not with a mathematical formula as our newest guest poster did two days ago. I went back through my posts and tried to pick the songs that were a soundtrack to my life as well as being relevent to the music of now. Many of these songs are contemporary but some are not. All had an influence on me this year and I hope you like them as well. Use this time of reflection not to beat yourself up, but instead to count your blessings and how you will work on being a better you.

Let’s kick it.

1. Lorde

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Lorde was probably the break out star of the year and her song “Royals” matched the hype. It’s got cool beats that lend to the EDM craze of the kids these days and lyrics that actually address the obsession the world has with money and status. As much as I’ve had a good year, this 16-year-old girl from New Zealand has had the best year of her life and I don’t think it will let up soon as I’ve continually heard her new jam on the radio. “Royals” makes me think of the last days of landscaping and how few good songs were popular on the radio. Now if we can just get some guitar solos and funky bass lines out of her.

2. Tame Impala

It just occurred to me that this next band is also from a land down under and is equally important to my year of ill music. They are relatively new, releasing their second album Lonerism this year.  I discovered Tame Impala from a an episode of the hit HBO show Girls  and then before I knew it, it was all over the radio. It’s one of those situations, like Lorde,  where the hype equals the quality of the music and I look forward to seeing what this band has in store next. Their mixture of electronic music with 60’s and 70’s psychedelia really piques my interest and I’ve enjoyed every song I’ve heard. It sounds like it’s mostly one guy, Kevin Parker of Australia, who creates the albums at home then tours with various musicians. So long-term, it can’t really break up and I’m excited to see what the future brings.

3. Queens of the Stone Age

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The Queens released a new album this year called Like Clockwork and everything I’ve heard from it thus far is awesome. For the first time in a long time, I may actually go out and buy this on CD.  This particular song has this really cool slide groove in it that is so Josh Homme, the lead singer/songwriter, which is an indicator to me that he has matured to the creative force he has always been working towards. I guess he got seriously ill and was in bed for months, contemplating never making music again. Instead, he wrote this album which is my favorite by them as of right now. This performance shows the awesomeness they are as a live band. There is a very good chance you will be reading an album review in the near future on this new album, hopefully before they start winning Grammys which is what looks like will happen. Rock on Queens of the Stone Age.

4. A Tribe Called Quest

I slipped onto a documentary on this group a few months back on the Palladia channel and stuck around because this song was playing on the beginning credits. The hook of “Walk on the Wild Side” is what drew me in but the sick drum beats and lyrics is what kept me. I know I made a resolution last year to write about hip-hop more and I did in the form of various pieces, but how have I missed Tribe for so long? I knew who Q-Tip was because of Chapelle’ s Show,however, knew nothing about the band that made him.  These dudes are so good! I guess they are on a hiatus now so I probably won’t be able to catch them live, but I’ve been working back through their stuff and I’m continually amazed. You will definitely be hearing more on Tribe this year.

5. Rest in Peace Lou Reed

Naturally, I had to make a quick statement on one of the big losses of rock and roll this year, the incredibly influential Lou Reed. It was a big blow and the one positive thing about it is that it forced my brother and I to examine the work of a legend in the music business. We already released pieces on this subject so I don’t want to harp on a subject and will keep it short. His music was amazing, his life was gritty and fantastic, and he inspired more people to play music than anyone else I can think of besides Jimi Hendrix. Lou, you will be missed.

6. J. Roddy Walston and the Business

I included this song and “Caroline”, which is my current favorite J Roddy song, on my busted muffler post last week.  The latter song has been listened to by me at least three times a day every day for a while and it doesn’t seem to be letting up. I love their vintage unique sound, I love their vocal harmonies, I love their energy, I just love this band. They are not a new band, having toured for over a decade and put the work in as road band and their latest album definitely has that feel.  J. Roddy will not play keyboards and lugs around a three hundred pound Yamaha piano to nearly every gig. This dedication is bad-ass  and I will be keeping this band on my radar.

7. Waylon Speed

I wrote a longer post about Waylon Speed last March right after I saw them and I still listen to “Silver and Gold” a lot. They actually read my piece and re-posted the link on their Facebook page which is one of the cooler things that has happened with this blog. I vaguely know the lead singer in that some college friends and I were half the crowd at their first few shows back in 2007 or 08 and we chatted a few times. My friend’s bluegrass band has done some shows with Speed’s lead singer and hopes are high that they will work more together in the future. This band rocks, sounds like metal mixed with country, and I can’t wait to see them again on tour this year. Support independent music!

8. ELO “Telephone Line”

I would call this song the sleeper hit of 2013 for me. I didn’t know much about Jeff Lynne until I saw this documentary called Mr. Blue Sky that I highly recommend. Then one night after a shower, we took some people back to my practice space and our 57-year-old drummer George Harrison put this song on the PA and it’s stuck on me ever since. Like so much I have to warn the woman I share an office with when I’m going to listen to it so she can put in her headphones. This version is my favorite because it’s just one man’s amazing voice with an acoustic guitar and piano. In the days of a hundred plus digital track recording and electronic music permeating everything, it’s refreshing to see a guy from the seventies who worked with the Beatles still going so strong.  I need to see ELO and asap.

I could go on forever but I want people to actually read all of this so here is where I will end. I love writing this blog and need to write more because it makes me happy and keeps me closer to my brother who lives on the other side of the country. I’ve shared what I liked this last year which shows what I’m getting into this coming year. Have a safe and productive 2014 dear readers and keep on rocking!

Ok, one more J. Roddy tune.

Quick Post: Telephone Line by Electric Light Orchestra

The quality is bad but this was my first introduction to this song. Every time I play it for anyone under the age of 35, they say “oh this is the song from Billy Madison”. I have to say, after watching this movie again recently, it has not survived the test of time for me. I found it incredibly stupid and will probably never watch it again, after seeing it a dozen times at least as a youth. Give me Happy Gilmore or The Wedding Singer anyday.

I’ve been listening to “Telephone Line” via YouTube at least twice a day for almost a month now. It all started after a particularly solid show at our local dive bar where we got some well-wishers to help load up gear in the van. Everyone who has ever been in a band knows that the load-in/out process is the worst part about playing out. My lead singer always says that we play for free, we just charge for moving gear which is an incredibly apt statement. My point is that we never turn down extra hands and on this night, positive feelings were high and we invited the few good Samaritans back to the jam spot for some unloading/acoustic picking.

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New Job Soundtrack

1. “Telephone Lines” -ELO

I listen to this song like three times a day. It’s about calling your ex and I’m not doing that but I love the vibe and the very high vocals. Further, it reminds me of the scene in BIlly Madison where Adam Sandler calls Steve Buscemi’s character to apologize for the former’s treatment of the latter in high school. As a result, we see Steve cross Billy Madison’s name of of his hit list and then apply lipstick, all to the tune of this song. I dunno, it just makes me laugh and my drummer George Harrison also plays thing song though the PA during band practice. Oh yeah, and Jeff Lynne is awesome.

I have started my new job and it is nothing like last year. Because we are spending some time developing a new alternative education program and curriculum, we don’t have assigned kids yet, much to the chagrin of many classroom teachers. Let me be forthright in saying I agree and empathize with them as much as I am excited for this opportunity. Most teachers are coming around and see that this is what our admins want us to do and that’s just how it is, but I’d imagine some will never see our viewpoint and will forever view us as slackers. I will have to live with that and try to kill them with kindness as the Elder J has advised me many times.

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Covers in Fantasy Time #1

After writing about the Notorious B.I.G. and guitar solos last week, as well as getting some of our highest views for our blog ever, my brother and I spent some time on the phone discussing what was working and what wasn’t. I need to post more because I’m a slacker (and he needs to learn to love Primus.)

As spring approaches, I need to step up my posting because, after this terrible winter, I’ll need to be outside a lot and I have no more excuses to slack off and can even have a beer or two to celebrate now that lent is over. My goal is to write a short piece and a longer piece each week so our collective brothers’ output is more equalized and I can stop feeling like I let down my big brother/best friend. A suggestion he had was for us both to write quick posts on covers, something he’s done in long form before.

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