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Best Albums of 2014

If there’s one common thread among the 20 albums to make my list this year, it’s eclecticism. The emergence of services like Spotify and even YouTube not only make finding a wider gamut of music possible, it also undoubtedly influences those who make the music. Not only do the artists represented here exemplify a wider spectrum of genre than I’ve ever had before, the albums themselves often integrate several styles within their own confines.   In a true testament to the quality of music I discovered this year, this was probably the most difficult year-end ranking I’ve ever had to form, and the gap from top to bottom is probably narrower than any I can remember. I can’t claim to have listened to all of the musics, but I have expanded my field from years past because there was just so much good music out there this year. For your enjoyment:   20) Run the Jewels, Run the Jewels 2 – Well regarded as solo artists, the styles of Killer Mike and El-P complement each other nicely, and they creatively mix their roles by trading both verses and lines. El-P’s production is also solid, and he adds subtle unexpected twists more »

Best Albums of 2013

In many ways, 2013 proved to be a challenging and difficult year.  The economy continues to struggle, Congress doesn’t work, acts of extreme violence dominate the news, and the NSA is right behind you right now.  Music’s response?  Screw it; let’s dance.  The amount of quality music that also happened to be catchy as hell that came out in 2013 was staggering, and many bands reinvented their sounds in ways that blended old styles with something a bit more upbeat. As always, this list can hardly claim to be comprehensive, but these are 12 great albums that came out in 2013 that pushed the boundaries of what it means to make music with great curiosity and ambition: 12) Franz Ferdinand, Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action – More unapologetically upbeat than their most recent work, Action follows 2013’s mantra of dancing your troubles away.  It also finds the band returning to the winning balance of hooks, substance, and pub-crawl wit that made their first two albums so great. Essential Listening: “Right Action”, “Goodbye Lovers and Friends” 11) Nine Inch Nails, Hesitation Marks – After an extended hiatus that saw its leader win a friggin’ Oscar, NIN returned in 2013 with more »

Devil in the Details: 5 great drum songs

There’s something that I absolutely love about the drum set, and I have no idea what it is.  Drums are incapable of carrying even a simple melody, so why am I so drawn to them as an agent of music?  Perhaps it is because a drum set offers so many sonic possibilities in its unique combination of otherwise disparate instruments.  Or maybe the fact that I have virtually no talent for playing them myself elevates them an unattainable status for me. Really, though, it’s because they make music sound so damn good. But what makes a great drum part?  For me, the best rock/pop drummers are not always the ones that will blow you away with their Thor-like virtuosity.  For a drum part to be great, it has to groove.  You do not necessarily have to be able to dance to it, but it certainly helps.  For it to be truly great, a drum part must lend itself to increasing rewards on return listens.  If I am floored by a drummer after hearing them play a song for the first time, that’s great, but I want to have my mind blown even more after the fifth time I listen to more »