A Year Of Music

I love tracking my listening habits with Last.fm. It’s a simple application you can use with music programs such as iTunes, Windows Media Player, or for the modern age, Spotify. Obviously there are things I listen to, such as the radio in my car or Pandora when jogging, that don’t get recorded, but it’s fun to see my general listening habits visualized (at least I find it extremely fun)

This post is simply me, sharing my top artists from 2013 (well technically past 12 months so you get a little bit of 2014 thrown in there) and some commentary on why the top ten fifteen are there.  Some of the results were surprising to me!

lastfmAs I’ll probably discuss at one point in a post, I really like when a band has a solid album as opposed to three singles and nine filler songs so I can just push play and listen all the way through instead of having to cherry pick the songs I enjoy and make a playlist for each band.  That has a definite influence on what bands made the top fifteen.

albums1-5I am amused that Lana Del Rey would be my top artist, she’s not necessarily the most talented artist I enjoy. However, I listened to a lot of her over the summer because she was different without being too out there. I always am looking for that in music. She was also the kind of artist I could just put on a dozen songs and enjoy.

Broken Bells has seriously become one of my favorite bands of all time. A beautiful blend of Danger Mouse and the Shins? – you can’t go wrong. They only have 16 songs total on Spotify but still managed to get enough plays to take my number two spot. Every song is good, no joke. Love, love, love them.

Phoenix had a new album come out that was pretty solid.  Like many of their albums, it starts of with several very catchy songs but the quality kind of drops off by the end.

Fairly late in the year I found Ivan & Alyosha and fell in love. The first single I heard, Be Your Man, is actually quite upbeat, a stark contrast to their other music, which skews beautifully existential.  I can’t say enough good about this band.

They’ve been around a while, but I listened to a lot of The Shins because of my Broken Bells obsession. They’re just a great band all around, even if they didn’t have a new album drop last year.

albums6-10Ra Ra Riot’s album Beta Love came out last year and it was different enough from their existing music to be very exciting. The music was still upbeat and catchy like we’ve come to expect from the band, but it had much more of an electronic feel. This theme even carries over into lyrics on songs like Binary Mind and title track Beta Lovethat’s why I need this binary mind, so I can forget how lonely feels. Hmm, the more I think about it, the more I wish this could have been a full-blown concept album. It would have been ridiculously awesome.

I randomly got turned on to Metric’s 2012 album Synthetica (try spelling that right…) which opens up with a few very strong songs – Artificial Nocturne and Youth without Youth – but grows a considerably weaker midway through the album. Enjoying that album encouraged me to listen to some of their older singles as well.

I didn’t feel like I ever went out of my way to listen to Fleet Foxes, but they are one of those bands I can always put on at work for a rainy day, leading to their high ranking on the list.

Sleeper Agent was actually suggested to me by Spotify (thank you!) and is a wonderful upbeat catchy band.  Looking at the other artists on this list, you’d probably like them if you’re into Phoenix, Ra Ra Riot or Vampire Weekend.

Number ten is The Decemberists, another band I can put on for a cold, rainy day. Their albums range from overarching themes to full out concept albums.  Hazards of Love and Crane Wife are my favorites.

albums11-15I’m surprised Ellie Goulding wasn’t higher. She has two solid albums without filler songs, she was huge in 2013, and her voice is amazing. Her music was also destined for dubstep remixes, not sure if that’s a plus or a minus.

Bend Sinister I think I heard about in Nashville *tear* and they’ve got an album with some insanely catchy songs, like Don’t You Know and Man of Faith and Virtue.  The only gripe I have is that only about half of the songs on the album are of this quality.

A new album from Vampire Weekend sent them skyrocketing up the list.  Not necessarily as good as Contra, the album is solid and Unbelievers is seriously one of my favorite songs of the year.

When you see someone in concert, you naturally listen to their music leading up to the event to get excited, and afterwards in fond memory. I had the chance to see John Mayer this summer (and he is amazing live, let me tell you) and he had a pretty good album come this year out as well.  I will always miss the John Mayer Trio/Continuum era music, but I still have hope for him yet.

Even though I’ve been aware of them for years, for some reason I am on a huge Arctic Monkeys kick right now. I always enjoyed them, but never considered myself a “fan.” Their earlier music is irreverent, adolescent, pop-with-punk-influences, which is what I’ve defined them by. But upon listening to their late-2013 album AM I realized over the years they have gradually matured into a much more complex band. Several of the songs on this album, such as Do I Wanna Know? or I Wanna Be Yours, are dark and insightful, portraying a view of how twisted love and desire can become.

I’m passionate about music, so as you can see, writing about it comes easily. I could have rambled on about my top 100. Let me know what you think of my top 15 and if you see anything on there you’re not familiar with, take a listen!

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Why Frozen Might Be My Favorite Animated Movie

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I was getting life lessons all over the place.

(plot spoilers throughout)

Over Christmas break I saw the movie Frozen twice, each time with a dear friend.  Now I rarely see movies in theaters twice, unless they are really special (or a friend can talk me into it.)  During the first viewing my attitude towards the movie quickly shifted from “there’s nothing good out, I guess an animated movie can’t be too bad” to “OMG this movie gets me.”

You see, I didn’t really know what the movie was about (other than snow) and I had noticed the majority of people in the theater were moms with children, so I didn’t expect too much. For roughly the first 20-30 minutes I thought the movie was pleasant, but nothing I’d ever want to see again.

Now most movies, especially children’s ones, teach a lesson or two.  For example, Tangled teaches us the joy of getting out and seeing the world, Up teaches us to continue on living a vibrant life after loss, Shrek teaches us the value of inner beauty, and Toy Story teaches us friendship is one of the greatest things in life.  These are great, universal lessons, but do seem to be targeted to children.  Now bear with me, this has a point I’ll get to soon.

As I watched Frozen unfold, one of the princesses (Anna) sang about how excited she was for her sister’s coronation celebration.  She was going meet a perfect man and fall in love!  I felt my eyes roll to the back of my head. (Ever since Brave I’ve grown increasingly aware to the absurdity of Disney Princess Culture.)  But I figured, hey, this is a Disney movie, I guess it wouldn’t be the same without a cliche girl-meets-prince scenario!  And sure enough, Anna met a charming prince, they sang a sweet duet about their new-found love, ending in an engagement, and my eye rolling was getting out of control by this point and I think I was even producing audible sighs of annoyance.

Queen Elsa, secretly cursed with magic, gets upset and long story short, accidentally sends the kingdom into a deadly freeze and runs away to hide. Princess Anna leaves in search of Elsa, and a short while later runs into an outdoorsman (Kristoff) she recruits for help. Along the way she mentions everything from the ice magic affecting her kingdom to her new fiance.  Kristoff is less shocked by the impossible magic than he is about the engagement.  “You got engaged to someone you just met?!”  Later he comments in an unrelated situation, “I don’t trust your judgment” and then I realized this movie gets it.  This is the point in the movie where those valuable life lessons were finally coming to fruition.

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Let’s forget about Anna’s poor life choices for a minute here and focus on saving the kingdom.

Adventure and running for their lives ensues, and when things finally slow down they meet Kristoff’s family and the song Fixer Upper breaks out.  This song alone is enough to make the movie fantastic.  The morals this song packs into 2-3 minutes:

  • Nobody is perfect.
  • Just because somebody isn’t perfect doesn’t mean they can’t be a truly wonderful person.
  • Seriously, quit overly-romanticizing the idea of some perfect man or woman. Every chick flick you’ve seen from Dirty Dancing to Twilight has royally screwed up your view of how these things work.
  • Remember you can’t change people.  Being in a relationship may inspire people to want to be better, but it’s not a guarantee, and it’s not something you can actively make happen. Don’t go into a relationship having specific traits picked out you’re planning to force out of your significant other.
  • “People make bad choices if they’re mad or scared or stressed.”  AMEN.
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Olaf. He’s just a snowman, but he gets what love’s about.

Near the climax of the movie, Olaf, my favorite skull-less snowman, mentions “Love is putting someone else’s needs before yours.” Wow, this movie just told me one of the better definitions of love I’ve ever heard. I was about ready to stand up and applaud by this point.

In the end, much to the audience’s surprise, “true love” turns out to be the love between two sisters, not necessarily a romantic, hearts, roses & kisses, kind of love. YES. Romantic love is amazing, but have older Disney movies made us think we cannot find happiness without it? We often put too much emphasis on romantic love, and not enough on the love between friends and family members.  These relationships are just as critical to life as the former, and it’s great to see movies like Frozen and Brave teaching this to girls, both young and old.