Music

My 20 favorite albums of 2017

1. American Dream – LCD Soundsystem

From the first time I heard it (when it was released Sept. 1) to the last time (about 10 minutes before writing this), American Dream was my favorite album of the year. It’s rare I like something that much on first listen without getting sick of it, and coming from LCD Soundsystem, who’s albums and songs typically go on for a bit too long, this is easily their most concise and accessible. From the opener “oh baby”, a classic LCD Soundsystem slow-build track, through “tonight,” a classic dance-punk anthem, and the pulp-inspired single ‘call the police,” to the 12 minute electronic ballad that closes the album out, there isn’t a sour moment.

2. A Deeper Understanding – The War On Drugs

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My favorite songs of 2017

Here are my favorite songs that came out in 2017, separated into Alternative, Hip-hop, and Pop lists. Full playlists can be found on Spotify and are updated frequently. As always, thanks for listening!

Alternative/rock songs

  1. Cool Your Heart – Dirty Projectors
  2. call the police – LCD Soundsystem
  3. Star Roving – Slowdive
  4. Nothing To Find – The War On Drugs
  5. Something To Remember Me By – The Horrors
  6. Guilty Party – The National
  7. ameriacn dream – LCD Soundsystem
  8. Up All Night – The War On Drugs
  9. Funeral Pyre – Julien Baker
  10. Hologram – The Horrors
  11. The Body Is a Blade – Japanese Breakfast
  12. In Undertow – Alvvays
  13. emotional haircut – LCD Soundsystem
  14. The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness – The National
  15. 12 Steps – Japanese Breakfast
  16. Gwan – Rostam
  17. S.H.C. – Foster The People
  18. Up In Hudson – Dirty Projectors
  19. Song – Sylvan Esso
  20. Hot Thoughts – Spoon
  21. No Longer Making Time – Slowdive
  22. Beach Life-In-Death – Car Seat Headrest
  23. Machine – The Horrors
  24. Don’t Delete The Kisses – Wold Alice
  25. Darling – Real Estate
  26. Slip Away – Perfume Genius
  27. Thinking Of A Place – The War On Drugs
  28. Paradise – ANOHNI
  29. Diving Woman – Japanese Breakfast
  30. Villains of Circumstance – Queens of the Stone Age
  31. Never Been Wrong – Waxahatchee
  32. Lights of Home (St. Peter’s String Version) – U2
  33. I’m So Free – Beck
  34. Sometime/Someplace – Cornelius
  35. The Way You Used To Do – Queens of the Stone Age
  36. Up All Night – Beck
  37. Mourning Sound – Grizzly Bear
  38. Simple Season – Hippo Campus
  39. Friend Zone – Thundercat
  40. Pain – The War On Drugs
  41. Plimsoll Punks – Alvvays
  42. My Old Man – Mac DeMarco
  43. Road Head – Japanese Breakfast
  44. Espiritu Olimpico – Los Planetas
  45. Silver – Waxahatchee
  46. Little Bubbles – Dirty Projectors
  47. Tonya Harding (In D major) – Sufjan Stevens
  48. How to Boil an Egg – Courtney Barnett
  49. Feet Don’t Fail Me Now – Queens of the Stone Age
  50. Everything Now – Arcade Fire
  51. Dangerous – The XX
  52. The Little Things That Give You away – U2
  53. Wall Of Glass – Liam Gallagher
  54. The End Daughter
  55. Something For Your M.I.N.D. – Superorganism
  56. Explore – Sundara Karma
  57. Bike Dream – Rostam
  58. Still Beating – Mac DeMarco
  59. Evermore – Grandaddy
  60. The Economics of Emotion Labor – Wild Year

Hip-hop/R&B songs

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Best Songs Of 2016

by Nicholas Cicale (@nickcicale)

Here are my 25 favorite Alternative, Hip-hop, and Pop songs from 2016. Full playlists can be found on Spotify and are updated frequently. Thanks for listening!

Alternative/Rock Songs

  1. The Ballad of the Costa Concordia – Car Seat Headrest
  2. Tinker Tailor Soldier Sailor Rich Man Poor Man Beggar Man Thief – Radiohead
  3. All That Heaven Allows – Mercury Girls
  4. 33 “GOD” – Bon Iver
  5. Burn The Witch – Radiohead
  6. True Love Waits – Radiohead
  7. Wow – Beck
  8. Vincent – Car Seat Headrest
  9. Drone Bomb Me – ANOHNI
  10. Fill in the Blank – Car Seat Headrest
  11. Your American Girl – Mitski
  12. Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales – Car Seat Headrest
  13. Ariana – Mercury Girls
  14. Daydreaming – Radiohead
  15. Kick Jump Twist – Sylvan Esso
  16. I Need A Forest Fire – James Blake, Bon Iver
  17. Romantic – Mannequin Pussy
  18. Stranger to Stranger – Paul Simon
  19. Pain – LVL UP
  20. Roma Fade – Andrew Bird
  21. In Heaven – Japanese Breakfast
  22. Destroyed By Hippie Powers – Car Seat Headrest
  23. Apple Cider, I Don’t Mind – Modern Baseball
  24. Degraded – Preoccupations
  25. I Can’t Give Everything Away – David Bowie

Hip-Hop/R&B Songs

 

  1. Nights – Frank Ocean
  2. Ultralight Beam – Kanye West, Chance The Rapper
  3. All We Got – Chance The Rapper, Kanye West
  4. We The People… – A Tribe Called Quest
  5. THat Pat – ScHoolboy Q, Kanye West
  6. Real Friends – Kanye West
  7. Nobody Speak – DJ Shadow, Run The Jewels
  8. Really Doe – Danny Brown, Kendrick Lamar, Ab-Soul, Earl Sweatshirt
  9. Groovy Tony/Eddie Kane – ScHoolboy Q, Jadakiss
  10. War Ready – Vince Staples
  11. Parking Lot – Anderson .Paak
  12. Wat’s Wrong – Isaiah Rashad, Zacari, Kendrick Lamar
  13. Space Program – A Tribe Called Quest
  14. Devastated – Joey Bada$$
  15. Good As Hell – Lizzo
  16. Call Ticketron – Run The Jewels
  17. Untitled 02 – Kendrick Lamar
  18. What The Fuck Right Now – Tyler, The Creator
  19. Frankie Sinatra – The Avalanches, Danny Brown, MF Doom
  20. Weston Road Flows – Drake
  21. Wrist – Logic, Pusha T
  22. Overtime – ScHoolboy Q, Miguel, Justine Skye
  23. Two Birds, One Stone – Drake
  24. Come Down – Anderson .Paak
  25. Black Beatles – Rae Sremmurd, Gucci Mane

Pop Songs

  1. Go! – M83, MAI LAN
  2. Best To You – Blood Orange, Empress Of
  3. All Night – Beyonce
  4. Choose Me – James Blake
  5. Cranes in the Sky – Solange
  6. Work – Rihanna, Drake
  7. My Willing Heart – James Blake
  8. Diagram Girl – Beyond The Wizards Sleeve
  9. Augustine – Blood Orange
  10. One Dance – Drake, WizKid, Kyla
  11. Do It, Try It – M83
  12. Love Me Like That – The Knock, Carly Rae Jepsen
  13. New Song – Warpaint
  14. Never Be Like You – Flume, kai
  15. Freedom – Beyonce, Kendrick Lamar
  16. 24K Magic – Bruno Mars
  17. Subways – The Avalanches
  18. Move – Saint Motel
  19. Middle – DJ Snake, Bipolar Sunshine
  20. Into You – Ariana Grande
  21. Put That away And Talk To Me – James Blake
  22. Let Me Love You – DJ snake, Justin Bieber
  23. BOSS – Disclosure
  24. Tell Me the Truth – Lapsley
  25. Starboy – The Weeknd, Daft Punk

My Nostalgic Minnesota Playlist

by Nicholas Cicale

I’m about to start my drive from Minnesota down to Austin, Texas to start my new job at Community Impact Newspaper. I’ve lived in Mankato and worked as a reported in St. James, Minnesota for the last three years, and have found a lot of really awesome music while I was in the land of 10,000 lakes.  To celebrate, I made a playlist with a lot of the songs I discovered or got into along the way.

It’s definitely not everything I’ve listened to, but the songs that made a big impact, that when I first heard them I listened to over and over again, and that I associate nostalgically with a certain time or place or action in Minnesota.  I tried not to double up on albums too much, so it’s a pretty good mix of indie, rock, Hip-hop and pop songs.

The order is loosely chronological, starting with the first songs I discovered back in July 2013, and ending with the most recent song. Coincidently, the first and last songs are Beck tracks. “Defriended” was the first song I heard on the Current when Melissa and I were looking for apartments in Mankato and I thought it was amazing right away. (“Default” came on right after and I knew it would be a great radio station.)  “Wow” is the song we’ve been singing and joking about the last three weeks. You can trace the kinds of music I listened to, how the styles/tastes kind of change over time, which I thought was neat.

I think it’s pretty cool. Maybe no-one else will, but it’s still a good assortment of music if anyone’s looking for something cool to listen to.

Staff Picks: Best Music of 2015

Nick Alberico (@MeadowsLeague)

Favorite Songs of 2015

  1. Alright – Kendrick Lamar
  2. Reality in Motion – Tame Impala
  3. The Less I Know The Better – Tame Impala
  4. The Blacker The Berry – Kendrick Lamar
  5. Butterfly – grimes
  6. Cry For You (RAK Version) – Hot Chip
  7. Depreston – Courtney Barnett
  8. Elevator Operator – Courtney Barnett
  9. What Do You Mean? – Justin Bieber
  10. Realiti – grimes

Favorite Albums of 2015

  1. To Pimp a Butterfly – Kendrick Lamar

An eclectic album that utilizes many different musical elements, Kendrick Lamar has managed to put together the most engaging and substantive piece of work in recent memory.

Hip-hop’s new champion has demonstrated serious development from his last effort, good kid, M.A.A.D city. Artistically, Mr. Lamar has matured, opting for a less-accessible musical style that results in a more enticing product. While retaining much of the narrative elements of his previous LP, this time around they are significantly more ambiguous and feel less like a recount of events. (more…)

Best Albums of the 2010s

by Nicholas Cicale (@nickcicale)

We’re already six years into the 2010s, so I thought it would be a good time to list my favorite albums of the decade, so far anyway. This is a tentative list, so as I hear new things and change my mind on other albums the  list list will be update. I’ll try to do it regularly,  but at the very least I’ll add new albums to it at the end of each year. (more…)

BEST SONGS OF 2015

by Nicholas Cicale (@nickcicale)

The lists are a bit longer than usual because I liked a lot that came out this year, but here are my favorite Alternative, Hip-hop, and Pop songs from 2015. (more…)

BEST ALBUMS OF 2015

by Nicholas Cicale (@nickcicale)

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Carrie & Lowell is the year’s most personal album, and probably the darkest. Driven entirely by a folk guitar, a muted piano and Steven’s vocals, each track creates a portrait of the past, as he intimately whispers stories, his deepest thoughts and his fears. Obviously, many of the songs sound the same because they come from the same place, but there isn’t a weak song of the bunch and it’s rare to find an album that flows so seamlessly, and knows exactly what is it. Not one song is out of place, too long or too short. It just feels like one, complete story.

I’m more partial to the piano tracks, and the best is “Fourth of July,” a subtle and sipping piano backed by echoes and ambient harmonics and the album’s best moment is the outro to the title track, which sounds like a striped down version of the Inception soundtrack. But whether the song uses piano or is almost entirely an acoustic guitar, the complexity of sounds he’s able to create with the same instruments (and a handful of effects pedals) over and over again is impressive.

Screen Shot 2015-12-17 at 6.52.23 PM

To Pimp A Butterfly isn’t perfect by any means, and ultimately doesn’t reach the same heights as Good Kid, M.A.D.D. City, but these isn’t an artist out there as confident in their own product as Kendrick Lamar, who recreated his sound without sacrificing really anything that made us like him to begin with. Each song on the album is heavily detailed, layered in production and lyrically on point and culturally relevant.

You know you’re in for something new right away when you’re hit with a Flying Lotus jazz track with a funky Thundercat bassline. He follows that up with by spitting hot fire over a furious drum track on what, for all intents and purposes, should have been a throwaway interlude. Then we get into “King Kunta,” a throwback track that sounds like early Eminem and references the likes of James Brown. Throughout the album, you never know what’s coming next, as songs shift suddenly in mood and in style.

The album’s best tracks are “Alright” and “The Blacker The Berry,” but my favorite moment of the album might be the opening two minutes of “u.” There’s raw emotion, an unorthodox, ever changing flow, and unbelievable production. The screaming, the slow build of the virtuosic saxophone and piano, the female vocals echoing him in the background. It creates so much in such a short amount of time. Another strong moment is “Mortal Man”, which in an album littered with great production, might be the strongest and musically sounds like a part two to “Sing About Me”.

Screen Shot 2015-12-31 at 9.54.23 AM

Where Lonerism had vintage 60s charm, with garage-rocking single “Elephant” and tracks with psychedelic rock long form bridges reminiscent of The Doors, Currents is a new direction for Kevin Parker’s act, with dance synthesizers and computerized harpsichords replacing most of the guitar work and standard rock and roll sounds. The album is more polished, more upbeat and more modern.

The album is sandwiched by two epics that are over six minutes in length. The opener, “Let It Happen,” is a driving and ever evolving symphony made entirely of synthetic sounds, from the looping drum track to the vocodered vocals. The closing track, “New Person, Same Old Mistakes,” is similarly intricate, but much more plodding and baroque. There are also three simple interludes each under two minutes, two being electronic samples and a third short rock song, “Disciples,” which gives the album a nice variety of song lengths.

The only problem I have with Currents (which is the same problem I had with Lonerism) is many of the songs fill the same role on the album. While the lyrics might be a little different between them, “Love/Paranoia,” “Past Life,” “Yes I’m Changing,” and “Cause I’m A Man” are instrumentally all slow synth ballads. “Eventually” seems  similar on it’s surface, but stands out because it shifts time signatures, changes pace and transforms from beginning to end, making it one of the album’s best.

The other prominent song archetype is the upbeat synthpop tracks, like “The Moment,” and “The Less I Know The Better.”  “Disciples” also fits this mold, but is more guitar driven and helps transition into the next upbeat tune, “Reality In Motion,” the one song tied this album with their last. While completely fitting in with the modern, electronic theme of Currents, “Reality In Motion” carries drums and guitar reminiscent of “Endors Toi” and “Nothing That Has Happened…” (more…)