Top Albums of 2014

I purchased ten albums/extended plays released in 2014, and here’s my ranking.

1. The Black Keys - True Blue

black_keys_turn_blue_album_coverThis album reminds me of the kind of albums that were released in the 1970s, with an unstructured and relaxed vibe on many of the songs including the outstanding lead track “Weight of Love.” Excellent mix of guitar, drums, keyboards, and bass in roughly equal measure.

2. Foo Fighters - Sonic Highways

I really liked Dave Grohl’s 2013 Sound City film and soundtrack and Sonic Highways continues the musical exporation as an official Foo Fighters record. The HBO series was really fascinating and at times moving, and the musical tracks on this album are outstanding as well. The light keyboard touches are new for the band and a series of guest musicians made an impact too. None of those guests were better than Joe Walsh who’s killer solo on “Outside” might be the best guitar solo in years.

3. Charli XCX - Sucker

Had this been released earlier in the year it might have been number one. I really dig Charli’s whole thing, including her punkish F-you attitude. I wish more “pop” had the kind of analog instrumentation present on Sucker, including great use of guitars.

4. Ixhahuele - Mareld EP

This was a three-track EP from the Exotica group, following up their 2013 album debut (which was my number one album last year). Mareld is more of a “Les Baxter Exotica” than a “Martin Denny Exotica” record but the results are equally great. “But, Kevin, only three tracks. No wonder it’s high on your list.” To which I would say the EP is penalized on my list for only having those three tracks. This is a killer record.

5. U2 - Songs of the Innocence

So good I bought the CD with extra tracks even though Bono and Tim Cook were kind enough to provide it to me for free. Great stuff.

6. Pink Floyd - The Endless River

Surprisingly interesting and effective album of mostly instrumentals, including the bonus track “Nervana.” I loved Floyd’s ’94 effort The Division Bell and the material taken from those sessions is really good.

7. Foster the People - Supermodel

I thought there were some killer songs including my personal favorite, “Pseudologia Fantastica.” I am still liking what Mark Foster and company are selling.

8. Interpol - El Pintor

I skipped the group’s last album in 2010 but El Pintor definitely had a number of great tracks and proves there’s still live to Post-Punk Revival.

9. AC/DC - Rock or Bust

Sounds just like their last album, and the one before that and the one before that. Not that there’s anything wrong with it. Great riffs, but no song hooks that transcended the bluesy hard rock.

10. Stolen Idols - Midnight Offerings

Another modern Exotica group, with Jazz leanings that aren’t always my thing but overall the album was a good purchase. The Baxter covers of “Busy Port” and “Sophisticated Savage” done in a jazzy piano style were well done.

Most Listened To Songs of 2014

I listed to a total of 2669 songs in 2014 and here’s the list of the top 30 based on iTunes play counts. No surprise that spring releases from The Black Keys and Foster the People were high on this chart. Franz Ferdinand’s 2013 release got lots of plays leading up to attending their concert in April.

Charli XCX’s “Break the Rules” was played a total of 42 times, counting different remixes and versions in my library. That’s a pretty good showing considering those plays all took place after December 13.

Every year needs a novelty hit, and for me that was the “iPhone (MetroGnome Remix)” that featured riffs on Apple’s iPhone ringtones.

2669 unique songs is a big increase from previous years - 2009 (1431), 2010 (1539), 2011 (1337), 2012 (1479), and 2013 (1836).

Song Artist Album # Plays
Weight of Love The Black Keys Turn Blue 42
Fever The Black Keys Turn Blue 42
Turn Blue The Black Keys Turn Blue 33
In Time The Black Keys Turn Blue 28
Are You What You Want to Be? Foster the People Supermodel 27
The Factory Gates Kaiser Chiefs Education, Education, Education & War 27
Year In Review The Black Keys Turn Blue 25
Ask Yourself Foster the People Supermodel 25
Bullet In the Brain The Black Keys Turn Blue 24
Pseudologia Fantastica Foster the People Supermodel 24
Waiting On Words The Black Keys Turn Blue 23
Outside Foo Fighters Sonic Highways 23
Right Action Franz Ferdinand Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action 22
iPhone (MetroGnome Remix) MetroGnome Single 22
Something From Nothing Foo Fighters Sonic Highways 21
Coming of Age Foster the People Supermodel 21
The Angelic Welcome of Mr. Jones Foster the People Supermodel 20
Love Illumination Franz Ferdinand Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action 20
Mareld Ixtahuele Mareld - Single 20
Tighten Up The Black Keys Brothers (Deluxe) 19
It’s Up to You Now The Black Keys Turn Blue 19
10 Lovers The Black Keys Turn Blue 19
Nevermind Foster the People Supermodel 19
Best Friend Foster the People Supermodel 19
Colors of Hawaiki Ixtahuele Mareld - Single 19
Evil Eye Franz Ferdinand Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action 18
Bullet Franz Ferdinand Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action 18
Lonely Boy The Black Keys Lonely Boy - Single 17
Goodbye Lovers and Friends Franz Ferdinand Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action 17
Dirty Paws Of Monsters and Men My Head Is An Animal 17

Giraffe Encounter at Safari West

For Easter we traveled to the Santa Rosa area for a little mini trip. On Sunday we played around in the pool at the hotel, where I had a fun time filming Quinn.

On Monday, we went to Safari West for an early tour of the animal park. We got to sit on the top of the truck for the first portion of the tour, where we had an up close and personal encounter with a giraffe. Up. Close. And. Personal.

40 Favorite Pet Shop Boys Songs

Here’s the list of my 40 favorite Pet Shop Boys songs. 40 seemed like a nice round number and when I tried to keep it to 30 I really felt I was missing some key tracks.  As you can see, this spans the group’s entire career with very few gaps - though does skew towards their early material.

Some stats:

  • Lots of singles, obviously, but also lots of remixes. So average song length is just over 5 minutes
  • 13 of 40 tracks are from singles releases (26 of 40 were singles in some form or another)
  • 7 of 40 tracks are B-sides or bonus tracks
  • 7 of 40 tracks are straight album tracks with no singles release
(Let’s Make Lots of Money) (Shep Pettibone Mastermix)
Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots of Money)
(US 12″) single
Was That What It Was? Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots of Money) single
I Want A Lover Please
Love Comes Quickly Please
Tonight Is Forever Please
Paninaro (Italian Remix) Disco
Suburbia (The Full Horror) Suburbia single
Jack The Lad Suburbia single
It’s A Sin (Disco Mix) It’s a Sin single
You Know Where You Went Wrong It’s a Sin single
What Have I Done To Deserve This? Actually
Rent Actually
Always On My Mind Always On My Mind single
Heart Heart single
Domino Dancing Introspective
It’s Alright It’s Alright single
Don’t Drop Bombs Results (Liza Minelli)
So Hard (Dub) So Hard single
Was It Worth It? (12″) Was It Worth It? single
Theatre Very
KDX 125 Relentless
Can You Forgive Her? (Swing Version) Yesterday, when I Was Mad single
Absolutely Fabulous (Rollo Our Tribe
Tongue In Cheek Mix)
Disco 2
Decadence Disco 2
Paninaro ‘95 Paninaro ‘95 single
Single Bilingual
Metamorphosis Bilingual
Up Against It Bilingual
For Your Own Good Nightlife
Radiophonic Nightlife
Home and Dry Release
Sexy Northerner Release (Bonus Disc)
Break 4 Love (US Radio Edit) Release (Bonus Disc)
Miracles Pop Art
Love Etc. Yes
Did You See Me Coming? Yes
Leaving Elysium
Axis Electric
Thursday (featuring Example) Electric
Vocal Electric

Favorite Song Right Now: “Leaving” by Pet Shop Boys

I’m started to get excited to see Pet Shop Boys on April 8 at the Fox Theater in Oakland. This was the same venue where they played last year, though in this case this is the kickoff show for their 2014 tour (which means I won’t be able to hear about the songs in the play list). Last year we saw a bunch of folks dressed up for the show, so I’m sure we’ll be seeing many festive outfits at the show in April. The Electric Tour in 2013 was great and while I don’t expect many changes I’m sure some of the songs will be swapped out.

In reviewing the track list from last year’s tour, one of the songs from the group’s 2012 album Elysium seemed to stand out. “Leaving” was the second single from the album, and I may have to revisit my previously negative comments about the album (the first from the group that I didn’t buy). This is a mid-tempo number but does seem to stick in your head after a couple listens. The video for the song is well done and with the black and white cinematography seems to set the tone perfectly.

Fearless Oscar Predictions 2014

Are are my picks for 2014. Most years, I get around 18/24 picks correct, though last year I got 20/24. Am pretty confident in most of these except for Best Picture (where I almost picked 12 Years a Slave) and Best Supporting Actress (where if support for 12 Years is a soft I’d see Jennifer Lawrence winning). By picking Gravity for Best Picture and Nyong’o for Supporting Actress I’m sort of splitting the difference; gotta get at least one of these correct.

Update: 18/24 this year (winners in bold)

Best Picture: Gravity

Best Actor: Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club)

Best Actress: Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)

Best Supporting Actor: Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club)

Best Supporting Actress: Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave)

Best Director: Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity)

Best Adapted Screenplay: John Ridley (12 Years a Slave)

Best Original Screenplay: David O. Russell and Eric Singer (American Hustle)

Best Foreign Film: Italy, The Great Beauty

Best Documentary Feature: 20 Feet from Stardom

Best Animated Feature: Frozen

Film Editing: Captain Phillips

Best Song: “Let It Go” (Frozen)

Best Original Score: Steven Price (Gravity)

Best Cinematography: Emmanuel Lubezki (Gravity)

Costume Design: American Hustle

Makeup and Hairstyling: Dallas Buyers Club

Production Design: The Great Gatsby

Sound Editing: Gravity

Sound Mixing: Gravity

Visual Effects: Gravity

Short Film, Live Action: The Voorman Problem

Short Film, Animated: Get a Horse!

Documentary Short Subject: The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life