Monthly Archives: December 2012

‘Tramp’, or The Reason I Don’t Have a Top 10 List This Year

There are two more weeks of 2012, and the Internet is teeming with year-end countdowns of newsworthy moments, reality TV highlights, and – of course – music. While every other college radio DJ/music blogger out there has published a list of what they think was worth listening to this year, I’ve come to an unsettling realization, one that I hope to God does not discredit me in the field I want to enter. It’s embarrassing to admit, but it’s something I feel the need to share, nonetheless.

I could give a damn about the vast majority of the music released in 2012.

As I examine the iTunes playlist of music I’ve acquired this year, I see 1561 songs – 4.4 full days of music – that have been added in 2012. I’ve listened to half of those songs, but listened to only half of those more than once. A compulsive critic of the tracks in my iTunes library, I find that I considered only 6% of my music added in 2012 worthy of four or five stars.

Thinking about this, I’m ashamed. I started AMPlify in July and wrote a similar column for a student newspaper this semester. I even wrote a piece about what music I did and didn’t like this year, a sort of modified list of top albums. I’ll be frank, though – I was in a time crunch and did not give the full weight (or non-weight, as it were) to the music I wrote about. If I could go back a few weeks in time, this is the column I would have submitted.

I’ve heard Japandroids and Ty Segall and and most of the other artists with whom every music critic seems to have been enraptured this year. The simple truth is that I almost always ignored the new releases after a listen or two and returned to Sharon Van Etten’s Tramp instead. It was virtually the only music that mattered to me this year, with maybe a slight exception for Miriam Makeba and some electronic music given to me by friends. Admittedly my love for this record comes partly from the emotional connection I have with it, but even musically, it’s something I have come to know so well that I don’t think I’ve gone a day without listening to at least one Sharon song since a friend gave it to me ten months ago. Addicted may be too strong a word, though I haven’t been this into to an album in a long, long time. It has officially entered the ranks of The Reminder, Lungs, and Rabbit Fur Coat, all albums by other female artists, all albums that came out three or more years ago.

From cmj.com

Sharon Van Etten’s music was given to me when I was in a dramatic relationship that eventually disintegrated. I resisted Tramp at first; I listened to “Warsaw” and heard what sounded like Alanis Morrissette. I thought about throwing the CD in the trash. I was not going to be an angry woman who listened to angry woman music. But then a couple months later, I was under what can be described as nothing less than true emotional duress, and I credit Tramp for getting me through that. I’m mostly a happy camper now, but I remain attached to this album. Luckily it’s mostly because of the music at this point. That was true before I saw (and met!) SVE at the 9:30 Club in October, but it became even truer after.

It’s the details that make this album such a gem. It’s the perfect harmonies in every song. It’s the lines like “You’re the reason why I’ll move to the city/you’re why I’ll need to leave,” from “Give Out,” and the reassuringly simple lyrics of “We Are Fine” sung with Beirut’s Zach Condon. It’s the moment at 3:40 in “All I Can” when the song absolutely blooms. It’s the percussive, purposeful way Sharon sings “I am search-ing for your crimes,” in “Serpents” around 1:46. It’s both the hopelessness of “I’m Wrong” and the way it somehow doesn’t sound entirely unhappy. I could much more easily make a list of my top ten favorite moments on Tramp than I could make a list of my top ten favorite albums this year. There really are no other contenders.

If there’s one thing I’ve been reminded of after being a complete and utter failure at keeping up with the music of 2012, it is this – music is a deeply personal experience. You don’t need to keep up with all the blogs or charts or even your friends’ musical tastes if you’re just not into them. Give it a shot if that’s your thing, but if not, don’t let people give you crap for it. I’ve been told by a music journalist or two that my musical tastes are not diverse enough, which left me heartbroken at first, but today I’m quite all right with that.

If this post makes you want to go fall in love with Sharon Van Etten, please, give me a call, and I will be your guru – I’m sure we will have lots to talk about. But if it sounds massively unappealing, that’s cool too. Go find your soulmate of an album, and I only hope you fall for it as hard as I’ve fallen for this one.

Advertisements
Tagged , ,

Run This Town: Maintaining Sanity Through 4/28/13

A week ago, I did something straight up wacky. Frugal little me paid over $100 to register for a half marathon at the end of April. I’m not even a runner. Yes, there was a stint last year when I’d drag myself along for a few miles every couple of days, but never once have I considered myself a runner. So when my friend Hillary and I realized that – for some reason – we both had it in our heads to run 13.1 miles next spring, it was more than a little bold to seal the deal and sign up.

I used to be convinced that I could run sans music and do well just with the sounds around me, but the past few weeks of even the most basic training have taught me otherwise. I cannot imagine how I would have made it to the Lincoln Memorial today without Michael Jackson and Beyonce. I would probably still be toddling around somewhere on the waterfront if I hadn’t danced on my own with Robyn or been reminded by Bruce that I was born to run. And god, don’t get me started on trying to do anything in Yates without my iPod.

I don’t think there’s any specific formula to crafting running playlists – some people like super upbeat stuff, while others go for a consistent tempo so their pace doesn’t get too out of hand. I just know it’s not the method in Runner’s World, which suggested that my mom buy Eminem (yes, she did heed their advice, and no, it did not end well). So with all formula, rhyme, reason, and shame thrown out, here is just a fraction of my personal solution to the running playlist problem, an excerpt from the 200+ song run this town.

The tracks might be somewhat out of order; 8tracks was having some upload problems tonight. Below I’ve added a few comments to songs that might leave some people wondering who in their right mind would run to them.

  • “Love on Top” – Beyoncé
  • “Follow Me” – Muse
  • “Raise Me Up (Mississippi South) – Lana Del Rey – Steady, chill tempo + alluring vocals.
  • “Can’t Hold Us” – Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, feat. Ryan Dalton
  • “Only Girl (in the World)” – Rihanna
  • “Tupthumping” – Chumbawumba
  • “Dum Dum Mast Hai (remix)” – Band Baaja Baraat – A total outsider on this playlist, but it is so upbeat that it hardly matters that I can’t understand the words.
  • “Fade into Darkness” – Avicii
  • “We Found Love” – Rihanna feat. Calvin Harris
  • “P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)” – Michael Jackson
  • “You Make My Dreams” – Hall & Oates
  • “What More Can I Say” – Jay-Z + DJ Danger Mouse
  • “All These Things That I’ve Done” – The Killers
  • “Buddy Holly” – Weezer
  • “Never Had Nobody Like You” – M. Ward feat. Zooey Deschanel – Simple, steady and cute.
  • “Serpents” – Sharon Van Etten – I might be crazy for putting this on here, but it’s kind of a cathartic listen when combined with running.
  • “Animal” – Ellie Goulding – The last minute of this song is too perfect for the end of a run.
  • “Foxy Lady” – Jimi Hendrix
  • “Get Myself Together” – Robyn
  • “Take Me Out” – Franz Ferdinand
Tagged , ,

Sounds that Define 2012

[The following is my final column published for the guide, the lifestyle magazine of The Hoya. The print version of AMPlify runs every other Friday. You can find the originals by searching my name at thehoya.com. Just as a sidenote, I really wish I could have written more than 700 words for this one. Check back for my full best/meh/worst list later in the month.]

To be honest, I’m the biggest flip-flopper I know. I’ve gone back and forth between my views on everything from political issues and people to fashion and food so many times, I could give Mitt Romney a run for his money. Too often I see both sides of an issue. I nod during debates, regardless of whom is speaking, unless I hear something outrageous. But if there’s one part of my life where my opinions run deep, it’s music. With that in mind, I now bring to you the Definite Best and Worst Albums of 2012, according to AMPlify.

DEFINITELY THE BEST

Muse | ‘The 2nd Law’

In many ways, this album isn’t entirely different from Muse’s previous work. Pounding drumbeats, guitar solos, string sections, and raging bass lines accompany Matt Bellamy’s bellow-to-falsetto vocals. The sound is epic in Muse’s traditional style.

Somewhat surprisingly, Muse manages to tastefully incorporate a divisive genre — dubstep — on the entirety ofThe 2nd Law. Whether manifested in the heaviness we think of as true dubstep or in lighter electronic beats, the influence is all over this album and yields a new sound that never bores.

Sharon Van Etten | ‘Tramp’

Sharon Van Etten is not for the faint of heart. Her aching guitar-and-vocal-based music is frequently lumped into the singer-songwriter category, but that designation, reminiscent of tired coffee-shop talent, doesn’t begin to encompass the depth of her music. Van Etten paints not-so-pretty pictures of her past and sets them to subtly complex rhythms and harmonies that result in some of the best word-painting I’ve ever heard. Van Etten isn’t a one-trick pony either; she recently recorded a cover of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” with Rufus Wainwright that beautifully captures Christmas romance.

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis | ‘The Heist’

Admittedly, I am completely unqualified to judge hip-hop and rap, but this album has some of the greatest mass appeal of any album I’ve heard in a long time. With meaningful, thoughtful lyrics and catchy beats and hooks, this album is a clear winner.

DEFINITELY THE MEH

Mumford & Sons | ‘Babel’

If you love ragged vocals tinged with an English accent and accompanied by lots of banjo, you will like the title track of Babel. If you love listening to nothing but the aforementioned music for fifteen songs in a row, you will like this album. But if you, like me, could go for a little more variety in your music, this album is one to skip.

DEFINITELY THE WORST

Maroon 5 | ‘Overexposed’

Unlike Muse, Maroon 5 doesn’t quite have a grasp on how to tastefully update its sound, as proven by all the songs on the aptly named Overexposed. If you like Maroon 5 best for the soulful, daring songs on their debut album, Songs about Jane, you — like me — will be completely and utterly disappointed by this album.Overexposed could also have been named Overproduced. Cue the bells as we mourn the self-destruction Maroon 5 has put their music through.

Ellie Goulding | ‘Halcyon’

I’ve already written an earlier column detailing my disappointment with Ellie Goulding’s sophomore slump. In case you missed out, this album is to be avoided at all costs unless you want to hear a girly breakup album that is somehow supposed to be danceable.

Taylor Swift | ‘Red’

Let me start by saying that I am a big T-Swift fan and not ashamed of the number of times I’ve listened to Speak Now and Fearless. Do you remember when Taylor Swift was still considered a country artist? Neither does she, as evidenced by the majority of the songs on Red. While T-Swift has always toed the country-pop line in the past, on Red, she has full-on crossed to pop, and it hasn’t served her well. Her efforts to keep up with musical trends like electronica and dubstep leaves Red as a collection of cold, genre-less bunch of songs that — as we say in the country — is getting a bit too big for its britches.

Tagged , ,