Showing posts with label the brilliancy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label the brilliancy. Show all posts

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

the top 25 best albums of 2013

And now we're down to the final list - my top twenty-five albums of 2013. This year, I reviewed 135 albums - and frankly, I should have done more. But I feel it's a plenty big sample size to discuss my choices, and all of these earned their slots on this list. I'll also try to keep this as quick as I possibly can - I've already talked about all of these albums in detail, and you should all check out my reviews if you want a more in-depth discussion. Also, my list isn't exactly going to correspond with common critical consensus - there are albums I have picked that have been ignored, and there are certain albums that some critics lauded that I didn't find nearly as strong. Got all that? Good, because we're not waiting any longer, let's GO!

the top 50 best songs of 2013 (PART TWO: 25-1)

Whew, that takes care of that.

Last one is the long-awaited albums of the year - stay tuned!

the top 50 best songs of 2013

Some of you are probably scratching your heads with confusion at the title of this list and wondering, 'Wait, didn't he already make this exact same list a few days ago?' Well, this list is significantly different than the last one, mostly because we're no longer talking about the hits. No, these are the songs, singles or otherwise, that appeared on the albums I listened through this year and stuck with me. They aren't the hits - most of you might not recognize the songs I mention, but all of them bear the highest of my personal recommendations. That's right, from the 135 albums I reviewed this year, these were my favourite songs. I'm not segregating them by genre or success - singles or deep cuts all have a chance to make this list, which was initially reduced from thousands down to 436, which was then narrowed down to fifty. And believe me, even with that I had to make some painful cuts, and what is on this list will surprise you. So, without any more delay, here are my Top 50 Songs of 2013! Let's get started!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

album review: 'the brilliancy ep' by the brilliancy

It really gets on my nerves that so many critics dismiss pop music.

Oh, certainly not as often as they used to, but more often than not, music critics tend to look down on pop and country and other genres that cater to mainstream radio with a certain condescension that drives me off the wall. Not only is ignorant of history (you all remember that The Beatles and Michael Jackson started out as pop acts, right) and denigrates the genre, it also places their genres of choice (often indie acts) on a higher pedestal. And the more I think about it, the more I become increasingly convinced that said pedestal isn't always earned - sure, there are plenty of independent acts that are pushing boundaries and are making interesting artistic statements, but just because they might adopt a less commercially successful aesthetic doesn't give them a complete pass if their lyrics or instrumentation aren't compelling. 

And when we circle back to the topic of good pop music, the conversation gets even trickier. What most people don't tend realize is that good pop music of any kind still requires a fair amount of talent to write and produce, and the formula to getting it right is constantly changing. In that element, I'd argue indie rock has it easier - without having to worry about mainstream airplay, they have the freedom to push boundaries and write songs about any topic under the sun, whereas pop music doesn't quite have that flexibility.

So what makes good pop music? Well, like all art, there's no defined formula, but I think I've managed to nail it down to three central concepts: solid instrumentation/production (complete with a hook), good lyrics/vocal-personality, and sincerity. Most pop songs can get mainstream airplay with two, maybe one-and-a-half out of three, but the best, most memorable pop songs get them all, and I can't stress enough how important these elements are (particularly sincerity). Getting simply one out of five might get you a passable song, but nothing more than that.

For example, let's talk about 'Call Me Maybe' by Carly Rae Jepsen, a song I don't particularly like that ruled the airwaves last year (you might have heard of it). In my books, I think the weakness in this song is the bland instrumentation (those aren't real strings, you're not fooling anyone) and the crappy lyrics, but Carly Rae Jepsen manages to salvage things with some personality and complete sincerity in her delivery. Compare this to Taylor Swift's '22', a song with a decent hook, but terrible lyrics and a complete lack of any sincere feeling, so the song just doesn't work for me. It's why songs like 'I Want It That Way' by the Backstreet Boys is such a great pop song (perfect across the board) and a song like Selena Gomez's 'Come And Get It' is such a dud (I'd give it half a point at best). And when you go back through pop music, it's extremely hard to find songs that would fit all of those criteria. Hell, even going into the independent scene I'd find a hard time locating songs that nail all three of these categories (depending on framing, independent music can occasionally get away with a lack of sincerity or a hook).

So with all of that in mind, let's talk about the self-titled EP from pop rock act The Brilliancy, and why it's probably going to make it on my list as one of the best albums of the year.

Youtube review after the jump

Monday, September 24, 2012

album review: 'the brilliancy (two song demo)' by the brilliancy AND live set

In my review of the new album by The Killers (Battle Born), I was asked whether or not I could provide a break-down of the trends in indie rock over the past eight years, perhaps providing some insight into why the genre never really took off outside of its niche until fairly recently (this does link to the review, I promise). And while I'm sure it would be of great interest for everyone for me to dissect the evolution of indie rock over the past eight years outside of the mainstream, it's also the sort of project that would prove rather difficult.

The first major problem you run into is that you immediately don't have a defined metric to measure the influence/popularity of the music. The Billboard Charts, flawed as they are, do a fairly decent job of charting what's popular in the US, even if they don't always provide good reasons why said songs are popular. But given that the indie scene has never really had coherent, organized charts, determining the trends and ideas that indie rock adopts over time is significantly more difficult to track. It also doesn't help matters that indie rock as a genre is so varied and eclectic (particularly with some of the weirder, underground bands) and (generally) more intelligent that the sphere of influences and trends aren't as defined and static as those in the mainstream. There isn't the same 'producer-driven' archetypes (like the prevalence of the Neptunes in the early-to-mid 2000s) in indie rock, simply because those widespread 'indie producers' weren't nearly as prominent and powerful as those in the pop or hip-hop scenes.

In fact, if we're going to be completely blunt, the lack of success of indie rock seemed to cause the scene to mutate even further, some segments becoming more and more inaccessible. Outside of isolated points, it's taken indie rock eight years to be relevant on the charts again, and in that time, some acts completely gave up on mainstream airplay and became so inaccessible that even Pitchfork had a difficult time puzzling out what the fuck the act was doing.

And even taking all of that in mind, it would be inaccurate to say the indie bands failed, per se. The majority of them kept on making music, mostly within their own purview. If anything, the indie acts didn't disappear, they just dropped out of sight of the pop charts. Now, there are all sorts of theories why this happened, and I have three that I'll share before I begin the review (trust me, these are both relevant).