2014 Music Highlights

Following up on my movie highlights, I now present my music highlights for 2014. I (obviously) don’t keep logs of all the music I listen to & when. Fortunately Amazon Digital and my MP3 player do track what was purchased or imported when. Similar to my other highlights, these are by no means necessarily new to the world in 2014 but instead in most cases simply new to me. The first set of these are pretty well known and mostly pop-ish songs, but the collection down bottom much less so.

DJ Play

First, a bunch of actually new-ish songs that got their share of radio play last year, and in some cases much more than that.

AWOLNATIONSail
It’s a bit too reminiscent of Breaking Bads’ use of TV On The Radio’s DLZ, but one of the seasons of Longmire ends with this used pretty well, as the hero drives literally and figuratively on Denver.

Glitch MobFortune Days
Previously noted for We Can Make The World Stop, The Glitch Mob returns with another good one, this time just outside the dub step milieu.

Kid Ink feat. Chris BrownShow Me
I’m conflicted by this hip hop hit. As usual, I have trouble with hip hop’s generally boring attitudes toward women, as particularly exemplified by the terrible opener for the official video. I also especially don’t want to support domestic abuser and general asshole Chris Brown. But the melody is really good.

BastillePompeii
This verged on being well over played on the radio, and though potentially reading too much into it, I really like the vague hints of story elements in this.

Sam SmithStay With Me
Right on the line of overplayed, but I am a huge sucker for sappy, overwrought heartbreaks and a bit of piano.

Vance JoyRiptide
An absolutely great way to seed a flowing, upbeat Pandora playlist is to throw this one in.

Mr. ProbzWaves [Robin Schulz Radio Edit]
Robin Schulz is ridiculously everywhere on my Pandora streams with his edits, but this beachy, upbeat tune from Mr Probz is really nice.

Calvin HarrisSummer
A pop-ish tune with just enough warble, everything is better in the summer.

AviciiHey Brother
Tim Berg blows away a more rock-ish tune than usual, and the video even successfully adds a bit of depth.

Pirate Radio

Now some songs that are not so or not at all present on the radio, at least around the northeast US.

Upbeat

To begin, a few more upbeat tunes.

Aloe BlaccThe Man and I Need A Dollar
Blacc is the singer on 2013’s Avicii hit Wake Me Up, of which he also has a good acoustic rendition. These two songs are him in an uptempo soul, R&B mode.

BakermatOne Day (Vandaag)
A fast but light, sky-ful Dutch dance song with a nice touch of saxophone.

Clean Bandit feat. Jess GlynneRather Be
Simple, fun electronic pop with sharp, clean vocals and instrumental ornamentation somewhat unique in that genre.

Tom Hangs feat. ShermanologyBlessed [Tim Bergling/Tom Hangs/Avicii/whoever he is Edit]
As far as I can tell, this is a Tim Bergling song performed by Shermanology, produced under his Tom Hangs stagename and then remixed under his Avicii stagename.  A sequence of credits as awesome as it is confusing. But this is a great, uplifting tune.

Parra For Cuva feat. Anna NaklabWicked Games
Absolutely incredible, upbeat take on Chris Isaak’s classic Wicked Games. Although there’s several ultra-slow covers I really like, this is the definitive version for me.

Quieter

At the opposite end of the spectrum, some quieter thoughts.

Selah SueThis World
A great somewhat down-tempo soul song.

Jim JamesState Of The Art (A.E.I.O.U.)
Basically the only good outcome from the very disappointing The Blacklist. One headline renders this as “digital ennui,” which I think is fair. I’m not sure what genre I’d lump it into, but it’s really good.

BirdySkinny Love
The Bon Iver original is also really good, but I particularly love this even slower, quieter rendition of this folk-ish song. Probably the saddest song of the year.

Sharon Van EttenSerpents [Demo]
This ostensible demo version and the song overall is shockingly under-established to have had such major exposure— no official upload?! But it’s a really great broken folk/alternative song. Pretty popular despite basically no radio play when it was released a few years back—and really, I have little idea what station here outside XPN would play it—as it was used devastatingly at the close of the fourth episode of the fourth season of The Walking Dead.

2013 Music Highlights

Following up on my 2013 movie highlights, now the year’s soundtrack. This year was an absolutely fantastic one for music. I don’t keep a music log, but if you’ve been at an ECCC race this year you’ve heard—and danced to!—many or all of these.

DJ TJ, blowin' out yer mixers since 1981.

DJ TJ, blowin’ out yer mixers since 1981.

The New Old

First, some old-ish stuff I just discovered:

  • bobcaygeonThe Tragically Hip: Bobcaygeon
    • I have to confess I haven’t fully decipher all the meaning and references here, but I heard this first on a 3am drive through New England, and it’s perfect for that.
  • Storm Queen: Look Right Through
    • Some college station in State College, PA was playing the full ~40 minute album mix collection of this via Ministry of Sound while we were setting up bootleg camp way up near the firetower in Rothrock one night, incredible…
  • Curxes’ 1996 remix of Chvrches’ Recover
    • I confess to being behind the times with this one but it’s really good.
  • Anna Kendrick: Cups
  • Alex Clare: Too Close
  • Archive: Bullets
    • This is old, but forgive my tardiness! It’s best watched in the excellent Cyberpunk 2077 teaser (this recap video breaks down all the awesome going on in that trailer).

Honorable Mentions

Next, some newer honorable mentions included:

  • nexttomeEmeli Sande: Next To Me
  • The Yeah Yeah Yeahs: Subway
  • Robert DeLong: Global Concepts and One And The Same
  • Drake: Started From The Bottom
    • The non-explicit version and without the weird non-music bits in the video is actually way better.
  • Lana Del Rey: Summertime Sadness
  • Imagine Dragons: Radioactive
    • The video doesn’t fit the song well in my mind, but it’s interesting and well done. Pretty awesomely, and correctly, listeners on a local radio station voted these guys the top of both the station’s 2013 “Best of” and “Should Give It A Rest” lists.

The Beats

Now the best of the best music for 2013.

Leila Moss: Here’s My Boy
The backstory of this is actually fascinating: This is just a random open mic-ish live recording of a song from Beck’s Song Reader experiment, a collection of sheet music from which many many people have posted a wide variety of interpretations of the different songs. Beck himself, as far as I know, hasn’t put out any recordings of the music, so they’re all over the place. It’s a really neat project in creativity, music—particularly folk music—and publishing, taking a classic form of content dissemination and bringing it into the new age with YouTube videos plus a custom web portal, and so on. All that aside though, I just really like this recording.

stay

Rihanna: Stay
Despite ridiculous airtime I don’t think this ever managed to get old. Whatever else may be true of her—and her music’s by and large great—this year I think Rihanna did quite a bit to expand her genre range and style.

breakdie

Break and Die: Slow Down
This was released in 2010 but it just came across my radar and is incredible. Sadly there’s no actual video as far as I can tell. If you were going to make a music video of bicycle racing or extreme MTB riding, this would be my current untapped leading contender.

wakemeup

Avicii: Wake Me Up
Obviously Levels is still getting a ton of sample time in current songs (that link’s the Skrillex mix), and I remain an absolutely huge fan of My Feelings For You (Original Mix), but Wake Me Up is a whole other thing. Sure, it’s gotten a ton of airtime, but under the catchy beats I think it has a lot of poetry about growing up.

tetra

C2C: Le Banquet, Down the Road, The Beat, Delta, and Happy
These guys absolutely killed it with their late 2012 album Tetra. “Highlights” include all of the above, basically half the album. More thoughts and a breakdown of the historical elements in Le Banquet have been on this blog previously. The songs are fairly varied, so it’s worth sampling each whether or not you’re into any others. That’s a big part of the draw for me, just the joy and experimentation going on.




outrun

Kavinsky: First Blood, Protovision, Roadgame, and Nightcall
Some of these songs have been out before, but the new collected album OutRun is amazing. Highlights include the above, but the overall concept and some of the songs like Pacific Coast Highway that work best within that framework are also noteworthy.  Seriously—Kavinsky’s an ’80s videogamer, Converse-wearing, varsity jacket toting, Michael J Fox teen punk, throwback dude who died in a fiery Highway 101 car crash, was existentially merged with his now-daemonic Testarossa, and comes back as an undead badass to… Fight the law, kill dudes, save his girlfriend, and lay down phat beats, all possibly within the context of a videogame universe itself?! And there’s both multiple albums exploring this theme and, in an incredibly recursive meta move, a videogame?!?! Take my money, damnit, take it!  Take it all!



Next up: Books!  Everyone’s favorite un-dead media!

C2C—Le Banquet Historical Clips Rundown

One of my true musical highlights this year or so has been Tetra, a late 2012 album from French turntable/beat group C2C.  If you’ve raced at all in the ECCC in 2013, you’ve heard them, clearly enjoyed it, and tragically just not known it.  Anyway, almost all of Tetra is good, but a number of tracks are excellent.  My favorite is Le Banquet.  There’s no official video yet, but there are a number of clip compilations on YouTube.  Among the better done is a Marvel mashup, but a Snatch extract is actually probably the most compelling of these.  Among these options though I find it actually more interesting with just the audio:

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In any event, the primary lyrics of the song are actually spoken word sound samples.  Some of them are fairly immediately identifiable as actual recordings of speeches from historical figures.  Assuming—probably incorrectly—that they were all historical, I went looking to try and figure out all of them.  I couldn’t find any list or extensive references online, so below I present most of the sources to Le Banquet, as best as I can assemble.

UPDATE: This blog post, though in French, also has a good rundown of the sources.

C2C

First, a minor digression to highlight some of the other excellent tracks from Tetra which have official videos.

I first heard of the group & the album via Down the Road, played at 3am on some college radio station along the I95 corridor.  The official video is quite good:

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The Beat is also excellent, in both song and video:

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Delta is pretty different, and has a cool sci-fi cartoon narrative video:

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Taking the range even further, Happy is super different musically and has an accordingly different and great video, probably the best one due to the ongoing dance routine:

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The Cell, Because of You, F.U.Y.A, Arcades (another actual video, not just music), and Who are You (another fairly different entry stylistically from the core beat tracks) are also standouts.  That’s 10 tracks out of 14 with the others not bad, so it’s a high-value album.

Full Lyrics

But, back to Le Banquet.  First, the full primary lyrics:

C2C—Le Banquet

We are going to begin to act
Beginning, today
To do whatever needs to be done
Let’s get on with the job

World has turned over many times
And it transformed the history of man
Either the will or the skill to fight
We are ready to take part
But now further direction is required
Tonight, the battle has been joined
We will not fail
Regrettably, we now believe that only force will make him leave

I just wanna say this right now
That regardless of what they say about it
There is nothing new, only different
Never forget this
The future is to those who take it
All I say that nothing is easy, and the best things are the hardest

That isn’t enough

It is madness

Some men see things as they are and say why
I dream things that never were and say why not

Epic battle has ended
Thank you, good night, and farewell

Sources

Now, a break down of the sources as best I’ve been able to ascertain them:

C2C—Le Banquet

We are going to begin to act
Beginning, today

<quote not contiguous>

To do whatever needs to be done

President Ronald Reagan’s first inaugural address, 1981.

Let’s get on with the job

I’m not confident in this as I couldn’t find a clip or script, but it’s possibly from the 1960 film Sink the Bismarck.  It is not from the Johnny Horton song of the same name despite the phrase appearing in there.

World has turned over many times

General Douglas MacArthur’s Farewell Address to Congress, 1951.

And it transformed the history of man

No idea.  My first guess was a Kennedy, but I’m less certain on listening more closely. UPDATE: This appears to be from a Kennedy speech on the Cuban Missile Crisis, 1962.

Either the will or the skill to fight

<quote not contiguous>

We are ready to take part

Secretary of State John Foster Dulles’ statement on the fall of Dien Bien Phu, 1954.

 But now further direction is required

President John F. Kennedy’s Report to the American People on the Soviet Arms Buildup in Cuba, 1962.

Tonight, the battle has been joined

<quote not contiguous>

We will not fail

<quote not contiguous>

Regrettably, we now believe that only force will make him leave

President George H. W. Bush Address to the Nation Announcing Allied Military Action in the Persian Gulf, 1991.

I just wanna say this right now
That regardless of what they say about it

Vice-presidential candidate Richard Nixon Checkers Speech, 1952.

There’s nothing new, only different

Unknown. UPDATE: This is from an Adlai Stevenson presidential campaign speech, 1952.

Never forget this
The future is to those who take it

The sample could definitely be from the song Press Forward (Interlude) by Swollen Member, on their Black Magic album, 2006 (Youtube recording).  I couldn’t surmise if they created it, or in turn sampled it from somewhere else.  One source that has marked other lyrics of theirs as samples does not indicate that for this song. UPDATE: This is from an Adlai Stevenson presidential campaign speech, 1952.

All I say is that nothing is easy, and the best things are the hardest
That isn’t enough

No idea. UPDATE: This is from an Adlai Stevenson presidential campaign speech, 1952.

It is madness

I’m skeptical, particularly as I couldn’t run down an audio clip or a transcript, but it’s possible this is either a sample or, much more likely within that possibility, just a reference to a George McGovern quote from a rally in 1969, “We must learn that it is madness, not security, to devote 70% of our controllable federal budget to armaments and only 11% to the quality of life.”

Less likely, President Dwight D. Eisenhower also has this phrase in his 1956 Address Accepting the Republican Presidential Nomination. UPDATE: Listening to the audio, I now believe this to be the reference.

Some men see things as they are and say why
I dream things that never were and say why not

Ted Kennedy paraphrasing and eulogizing his brother Robert F. Kennedy, 1968.  RFK was in turn paraphrasing the Serpent in George Bernard Shaw’s play Back to Methuselah, 1921.  John F Kennedy was also known to make this reference.

Epic battle has ended

Again Secretary of State John Foster Dulles’ statement on the fall of Dien Bien Phu, 1954.

Thank you, good night, and farewell

The voice sounds an awful lot like the same as Dulles’ in the line before (or, potentially, whoever is reading his samples), but I couldn’t find it in any transcriptions or clips.  However, this is also the closing line of Spiro Agnew’s resignation speech, 1973, so presumably that’s the source.

Closing

Any leads on the unknowns would be greatly appreciated, send ’em in!

tetra