Infinite Shuffle

December 31, 2015

Best of 2015

Filed under: Best of — assman41 @ 8:56 pm

As you can tell by looking at this site, I had another subpar year when it came to blogging about music. I had a handful of posts in the first half of the year then dropped off the grid at nearly the exact same time as 2014.

Alas, music just isn’t as big a part of my life as it once was. But that’s not gonna stop me from sharing my thoughts on the year that was in music.

During my heyday, I would generally download albums, listen on my iPod, and rank the songs on iTunes’ five-star basis. Nowadays, I use Google Play almost exclusively to listen to music, so the most I can give to songs is a thumbs up or down. Also, the bulk of my listening is via playlists that are curated by a third party rather than full albums.

I found myself playing catch-up the past couple of weeks, trying to expose myself to as many of the “best” albums I could. But there’s still plenty that I either couldn’t get to or that simply fell through the cracks. Nevertheless, here is Infinite Shuffle’s take on music circa 2015.

STUFF I LIKED A LOT

  • CHVRCHESEvery Open Eye … None of these lists is in any particular order. However, if I was going to rank albums, this Scottish group would probably be at the top. … Thumbs up: “Never Ending Circles”, “Leave a Trace”, “Empty Threat”, “Make Them Gold” and “Keep You On My Side”
  • Beach HouseDepression Cherry … This group can do no wrong. … Thumbs up: “Sparks” and “Bluebird”
  • Courtney BarnettSometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit … I was worried this Aussie wouldn’t be able to continue her strong start from several EPs on this debut full-length, but my fears were quickly abated. … Thumbs up: “Pedestrian At Best”, “Depreston” and “Nobody Really Cares If You Don’t Go to the Party”
  • Chastity Belt – Time To Go Home … This is a group that I wanted to write about all year but never found the motivation. Hearing it first via NPR’s SXSW primer then throughout the year on the Music Choice Indie channel, this all-female shoegazing quartet stuck with me throughout the year. … Thumbs up: “Joke” and “Time to Go Home”
  • Alabama ShakesSound & Color … I wasn’t exactly enamored with their debut album, so I was leery about this one. But they won me over with a more experimental sound. … Thumbs up: “Don’t Wanna Fight”, “Shoegaze” and “Sound and Color”
  • Modest Mouse – Strangers To Ourselves … This one was probably my biggest surprise of the year. I’ve never been a big fan of this group and have only liked a handful of its songs. But they knocked it out of the park on their first studio album in eight years. … Thumbs up: “The Ground Walks, with Time in a Box” and “Lampshades on Fire”
  • Title FightHyperview … This was one of my favorite discoveries this year. And it’s probably a good thing I didn’t find out about them sooner, since it wasn’t until this disc when things finally clicked. … Thumbs up: “Liar’s Love”, “Your Pain Is Mine Now”, “Mrahc” and “Rose of Sharon”
  • TurnoverPeripheral Vision … Another great find that shares several traits with Title Fight. … Thumbs up: “Humming”, “Cutting My Fingers Off”, “New Scream”, “Diazepam” and “Take My Head”
  • The Decemberists – What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World … I doubt this group will ever make an album that doesn’t make my best-of-the-year list. … Thumbs up: “Make You Better”, “The Singer Addresses His Audience”, “Philomena” and “A Beginning Song”
  • Hop Along – Painted Shut … This was another group I’ve been wanting to blog about all year. In fact, I started a post in July, but never finished it. This is probably one of the most underrated albums of the year. … Thumbs up: “Waitress”
  • Kacey MusgravesPageant Material … This felt a little too much like a continuation of her debut album. But, considering how great the precursor was, she can be forgiven for going back to the well. … Thumbs up: “Biscuits”, “Dime Store Cowgirl”, “Pageant Material”, “Family Is Family” and “Cup of Tea”
  • Kurt Vilebelieve i’m going down … Just more of what you’d expect from one of the best solo artists in indie-rock today. … Thumbs up: “Pretty Pimpin”
  • Best CoastCalifornia Nights … When this group first hit the indie scene five or six years ago — depending upon how hip you were back then — it garnered a great deal of much-deserved hype. Three albums later, and these Cali kids are consistently putting out a top-notch mixture of surf-pop and shoegaze. … Thumbs up: “Feeling OK”
  • Chris Stapleton – Traveller … Each year, there’s usually one country album that piques my interest. I hadn’t even heard of this troubadour until I was forced to watch the CMA Awards and he was up for just about every big honor. This is the kind of anti-bro country music that could actually get me interested in the genre. … Thumbs up: “Traveller”, “Tennessee Whiskey”, “Parachute” and “Fire Away”
  • DMA’s – self-titled EP … These lads from Down Under sound like the second coming of Oasis, Blur and all the best Brit Pop had to offer — just 10-times better. … Thumbs up: “Laced”, “Feels Like 37” and “So We Know”
  • FoalsWhat Went Down … There weren’t necessarily any standout tracks, just a few notable ones. But the album as a whole was a solid listen throughout. So much so, that it’s one you can listen to at any time and enjoy. … Thumbs up: “Mountain at My Gates”, “Night Swimmers”, “Lonely Hunter” and “A Knife in the Ocean”.
  • Wolf Alice – My Love Is Cool … “Bros” and “Moaning Lisa Smile” are probably two of the best songs of the year. “Your Loves Whore” is also solid.
  • Josh Ritter – Sermon on the Rocks … I’d never paid any attention to Josh Ritter until I heard “Gettin’ Ready To Get Down” a few months ago, and it might be my favorite song of the year. This album is a fun listen — not necessarily elite, just fun. Other notable tracks include “Young Moses” and “Homecoming”.

STUFF THAT WAS DECENT BUT NOT AMAZING

  • Death Cab for Cutie – Kintsugi … Long considered my favorite band, these guys have definitely fallen off from their prime. That being said, they’re still putting out solid music, just not elite-level stuff. … Thumbs up: “Black Sun” was the first single, but I think “Little Wanderer” and “The Ghosts of Beverly Drive” are even better.
  • Florence and the Machine – How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful … This album was definitely a good listen — and “Ship To Wreck” should be considered among the top songs of the year — but it isn’t one of the year’s best. … Thumbs up: “Third Eye” and “Make Up Your Mind”
  • Deerhunter – Fading Frontier … I think it may finally be time for me to give Bradford Cox’s crew the respect it deserves. I’ve been avoiding this group for years, since being forced to watch it at Bonnaroo and having Halcyon Digest shoved down my throat in 2010. My contempt began to dissolve a bit in 2013 with the release of Monomania, but I wasn’t convinced until now. There aren’t any real standouts here — although “Breaker” is probably my favorite — just a lot of solid tunes.
  • Grimes – Art Angels … I have a feeling I’ll never love an entire Grimes album. But, man, she knows how to churn out some catchy singles. … Thumbs up: “Flesh Without Blood” and “Realiti”
  • Sleater-Kinney – No Cities to Love … I wish I could get into this band, but I’ve just never been able to. I respect it greatly — particularly Carrie Brownstein — but, other than the occasional single, I just can’t buy in. That being said, this album was certainly tolerable, and I did enjoy “Bury Our Friends” and “A New Wave”.
  • Destroyer – Poison Season … It sounds like pretty much any other Destroyer album, which is an acquired taste. … Thumbs up: “Dream Lover”
  • The Arcs – Yours, Dreamily … As you would expect, it’s very reminiscent of The Black Keys, but there seems to be a more laid-back vibe than in Dan Auerbach’s main gig. … Thumbs up: “Put a Flower in Your Pocket”
  • Gwenno – Y Dyfdd Olaf … I definitely had heard nothing of this artist until a week ago. Turns out she puts out some decent music.
  • Miguel – Wildheart … If I was much of an R&B fan, I’m sure I’d love this. I can tell that he has a lot of talent, and, one day, he may create an album that I fall in love with. But I’d certainly rather listen to this than stuff in the next category.

STUFF CRITICS LOVED BUT I DIDN’T MUCH CARE FOR

  • Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly … This was pretty much a given; so much so that I wasn’t even going to give it a spin. But, considering how universally lauded it was, I figured I should at least show it some respect. That said, it’s just not my cup of tea.
  • The Weekend – Beauty Behind the Madness … As much hype as this artist and album received throughout the year, it didn’t show up on nearly as many “best of” lists as I would’ve expected. Perhaps that’s because of the reprehensible lyrics found throughout. This disc had so many things going for it, but the lyrics overshadowed everything else. And it’s the reason why something comparable such as Miguel’s album is earning more accolades this time of year. … Thumbs up: “Can’t Feel My Face” and “In the Night”
  • Tame Impala – Currents … I wrote off this band from the moment it came on the scene several years ago. But I occasionally second-guess myself after liking a random song. Then I listen to the album, and it turns out there are only a few songs worth my time. … Thumbs up: “Cause I’m a Man,” “Eventually” and “Let It Happen”
  • Carly Rae Jepsen – E-MO-TION … Everyone was so happy to see this Canuck finally break free from her “Call Me Maybe” curse. That’s all well and good, but she still produces music that is way too mainstream and derivative. She sounds like a poor man’s version of Taylor Swift, and I only have room for one pop queen on my playlist.
  • Jamie xxIn Colour … I’m a big fan of The xx, but their fans need to be warned that Jamie Smith’s solo project is almost nothing like his main work. Other than “Loud Places”, this album is unlistenable.
  • Girl Band – Holding Hands with Jamie … I nearly bought this album a few months ago, while in a local record store, based solely on its location in an “employees’ picks” section. Thankfully, I had a chance to sample it beforehand, because there isn’t a single bit of redeemable music on this disc.
  • Tobias Jesso Jr. – Goon … The kid sounds like a hybrid of all the various Beatles’ solo work. He’s got potential, but I’ll pass for now.
  • Halsey – Badlands … “New Americana” channels the wordplay and apathetic rapping of Lorde’s “Royals”. Other than that, meh.
  • Titus Andronicus – The Most Lamentable Tragedy
  • ProtomartyrThe Agent Intellect

STUFF I’M SURE I’D LIKE IF I ACTUALLY LISTENED TO IT

  • Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell
  • Father John Misty – I Love You, Honeybear
  • Torres – Sprinter
  • Jason Isbell – Something More Than Free
  • Wilco – Star Wars
  • Sun Kil Moon – Universal Themes
  • EL VY – Return to the Moon
  • DawesAll Your Favorite Bands
  • Mac DeMarco – Another One
  • Desparecidos – Payola
  • The Lone BellowThen Came the Morning
  • The Mountain Goats – Beat the Champ
  • Adele – 25
  • Beach House – Thank Your Lucky Stars

STUFF I STILL NEED TO LISTEN TO THAT OTHERS HAVE LIKED

  • Natalie Prass – self-titled
  • The Districts – A Flourish and a Spoil
  • Twerps – Range Anxiety
  • Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Multi-Love
  • Marina and the Diamonds – Froot
  • Ezra Furman – Perpetual Motion People
  • Julia Holter – Have You in My Wilderness
  • Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Style
  • Jenny Hval – Apocalypse, girl
  • Alex G – Beach Music
  • Grill – Before the World Was Big
  • Joan Shelley – Over and Even
  • Bully – Feels Like
  • Jessica Pratt – On Your Own Love Again
  • Beach Slang – The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us
  • Hound mouth – Little Neon Limelight
  • Seaford Mods – Key Markets

December 31, 2014

Best of 2014 – My list

Filed under: Best of — assman41 @ 8:45 pm

If you’ve happened upon this blog post via the home page, you may notice that, until now, the most recent post had been from June. Various factors contributed to my hiatus, not least of which was a lack of motivation.

While I’m still battling said dearth, I would’ve regretted not putting out some sort of Best of 2014 list. It’s something I look forward to every year, and I know my reader(s) feel the same way.

Unfortunately, since my music listening has been sporadic at best the past several months, this list will be anything but comprehensive. As of this summer, I’d only had a few albums and songs on my running end-of-the-year list. But there has been plenty of music that has piqued my interest since then, and it deserves some sort of recognition.

So, here goes nothing …

HALFWAY POINT

By June, I had written about three bands that I figured were worthy of year-end praise.

  • Run River NorthRun River North … Favorite song: “Lying Beast” … My penultimate post this spring was on a band that I remain ecstatic about. This group of six Korean-Americans channeled their inner Of Monsters and Men and put out of the year’s best albums — even if no one is actually talking about them right now.
  • HighasakiteSilent Treatment … Favorite song: “Leaving No Traces” … Released in April, this Norwegian outfit’s first full-length album has been criminally overlooked on most end-of-the-year lists. It’s jam-packed with songs that evoke comparisons to Lykke Li and First Aid Kit but also stand out on their own.
  • Bad ThingsBad Things … Favorite song: “Caught Inside” … This is the indie group best known as snowboarder Shaun White’s side project. The album doesn’t necessarily have any standouts, but put together, they form an album that is at least worthy of honorable mention status.

STILL TO COME

The list of artists I intend to write about has been growing since the summer, but there are a few that have been at the top of the list all along. They all released albums this year that have received multiple spins by this blogger, and they’ll all eventually get their day in the sun here.

In the meantime, here are some brief thoughts on each.

  • Bleachers – Strange Desire … This side project from Jack Antonoff — better known as a member of fun. and boyfriend to Lena Dunham — put out its debut album to much acclaim in July and has spawned several radio singles. The opening track, “Wild Heart”, was not one of them, but I consider it my favorite. Other notable songs include “I Wanna Get Better”, “Shadow” and “Rollercoaster”.
  • PHOX – PHOX … Having only listened to this album a couple of times, I have yet to deem any tracks as standouts, but that’s OK, because overall, it’s a solid release. Great as background music, this group conjures memories of fellow Madison product Zola Jesus and Sharon Van Etten.
  • Mac DeMarco – Salad Days … When I listened to this Canadian singer’s sophomore album in April, I remember being a little turned off by the hype it was receiving at the time. But I begrudgingly admitted that it was pretty solid was something I would need to spend some more time with. I still have yet to do so, but I can safely say that it at least deserves recognition here.

TOP OF THEIR GAME

There were a few established acts that put out, arguably, career-defining albums this year. One of them I have written about in the past, while the others are well-known enough that there really isn’t anything new I could bring to the table.

  • The War on DrugsLost in the Dream … The third album from this Philadelphia crew takes the group’s trademark mix of dreamy vibes, catchy beats and lo-fi instrumentation to the next level. Notable tracks include “Under Pressure”, “An Ocean In Between the Waves” and “Red Eyes”. But, really, the entire album is top notch.
  • Jenny Lewis – The Voyager … The former lead singer for Rilo Kiley is no stranger to great music. In addition to that band’s catalog, she’d already put out two acclaimed solo albums before releasing a third in July. With nary a hiccup, it captures all that is good about this still underrated songstress. The standouts are “She’s Not Me” and “Just One of the Guys”.
  • Against Me! – Transgender Dysphoria Blues … The album received a great deal of hype as the first release after lead singer Laura Jane Grace came out as a transgender woman. But the backstory could only carry it so far. The reason it’s still receiving praise more than 11 months after its January release is because of the quality of the songs. The opening title track is the standout, but the group maintains a high level throughout.

HONORABLE MENTION

There were also plenty of other established artists that have received accolades for their releases this year. Alas, I can’t give them my full support, since I’ve only listened to one or two tracks from any given album.

However, considering their track record, I’m confident they are at least worth mentioning here.

POSSIBLE PRECURSORS

There were also several songs I heard this year that I fell in love with, but I never got around to checking out the rest of the albums. So, depending upon my future research, you may be reading more about these acts in the coming months.

  • James – “Movin'”
  • Strand of Oaks – “Goshen ’97”
  • Alvvays – “Party Police”
  • Little Racer – “Dancin'”
  • Echostream – “Cool Kids”

STANDOUT SINGLES

Speaking of singles, here’s a mixture of songs that stood out to me this year, even if their albums weren’t totally deserving of such high praise.

  • Jamestown Revival – “California (Cast Iron Soul)”
  • KONGOS – “Come With Me Now”
  • Mr. Little Jeans – “Runaway”
  • Hozier – “Take Me To Church”
  • FKA twigs – “Two Weeks”
  • Taylor Swift – “Blank Space” and “Shake It Off”

January 9, 2014

Best of 2013 – Everyone else

Filed under: Best of — assman41 @ 3:34 pm

Last week, I listed my favorite music from the past year. This week, as I’ve done the past several years, I’ve compiled as many of the various end-of-the-year lists that I could find for your viewing pleasure. Judging from the assorted critics, it appears as though Kanye West’s Yeezus was the most popular release of the year. But Vampire Weekend gave him a run for his money.

  • The A.V. Club … No. 1 album: Kanye West – Yeezus
  • Alternative Press … No. 1 album: twenty | one | pilots – Vessel
  • American Songwriter … No. 1 album: Jason Isbell – Southeastern
  • Billboard … No. 1 album: Beyonce – BeyonceNo. 1 song: Miley Cyrus – “We Can’t Stop”
  • CMJ … No. 1 album: Phosphorescent – Muchacho
  • Consequence of Sound … No. 1 album: Kanye West – YeezusNo. 1 song: Lorde – “Royals”
  • Culture Vulture (New York Times) … No. 1 album: Brandy Clark – 12 Stories
  • The Daily Beast … No. 1 album: Kanye West – Yeezus
  • Drowned In Sound … No. 1 album: Hookworms – Pearl Mystic
  • Entertainment Weekly … No. 1 album: Kanye West – Yeezus
  • Exclaim … No. 1 rock/pop album: Arcade Fire – ReflektorNo. 1 country/folk/blues album: Daniel Romano – Come Cry With Me
  • The Fly … No. 1 album: Parquet Courts – Light Up Gold
  • The Guardian … No. 1 album: Kanye West – YeezusNo. 1 song: Daft Punk (feat. Pharrell and Nile Rodgers) – “Get Lucky”
  • The L Magazine … No. 1 album: Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City
  • Los Angeles Times … No. 1 album: Daft Punk – Random Access Memories
  • Magnet … No. 1 album: Okkervil River – The Silver Gymnasium
  • MetacriticNo. 1 album: Deafheaven – Sunbather
  • Mojo … No. 1 album: Bill Callahan – Dream River
  • NME … No. 1 album: Arctic Monkeys – AM
  • Now Magazine … No. 1 album: Kanye West – Yeezus
  • The Oregonian … No. 1 album: The Staves – Dead & Born & Grown
  • Paste … No. 1 album: Phosphorescent – MuchachoNo. 1 song: Janelle Monae (feat. Erykah Badu) – “Q.U.E.E.N.”
  • Pitchfork … No. 1 album: Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the CityNo. 1 song: Drake (feat. Majid Jordan) – “Hold On, We’re Going Home”
  • Rolling Stone … No. 1 album: Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the CityNo. 1 song: Daft Punk (feat. Pharrell and Nile Rodgers) – “Get Lucky
  • The Skinny … No. 1 album: Fuck Buttons – Slow Focus
  • Slate … No. 1 album: Daft Punk – Random Access Memories … No. 1 song: Daft Punk (feat. Pharrell and Nile Rodgers) – “Get Lucky”
  • Spin … No. 1 album: Kanye West – Yeezus
  • Stereogum … No. 1 album: Kanye West – Yeezus
  • Time … No. 1 album: Kanye West – Yeezus
  • Uncut … No. 1 album: My Bloody Valentine –  m b v
  • Under the Radar … No. 1 album: Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City
  • Variety … No. 1 album: Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City
  • Washington Post … No. 1 album: Kacey Musgraves – Same Trailer Different Park

January 2, 2014

Best of 2013 – My list

Filed under: Best of — assman41 @ 1:41 am

As I looked back on the music I’d listened to in the past 12 months, my suspicions were immediately confirmed — I didn’t listen to as much new stuff as I want and need to.

Rather than constantly seeking out new bands through a variety of blogs and websites as I have usually done, I found myself reaching into the recent past and listening to acts that I’d either forgotten about or just missed completely.

So, when I set forth to compile a list of the year’s best music, it turned out that my range of possible choices was relatively narrow. And, while all of the music listed below is high quality, I know it’s not as all-encompassing as it should be. For that I am sorry. And I can only hope to do better in the coming year.

THE 10 ALBUMS I THINK EVERYONE SHOULD LISTEN TO

(I didn’t realize this until I alphabetized my list, but six of these bands start with L. That’s rather uncanny.)

  • British India Controller … Favorite song: “I Can Make You Love Me”
  • CHVRCHESThe Bones of What You Believe … Favorite song: “The Mother We Share”
  • Mikal CroninMCII … Favorite song: “Shake It Out”
  • LeaguesYou Belong Here … Favorite song: “Walking Backwards”
  • Little Green CarsAbsolute Zero … Favorite songs: “Harper Lee” and “The John Wayne”
  • The Lone Bellow – self-titled … Favorite song: “Green Eyes and a Heart of Gold”
  • LordePure Heroine … Favorite song: “Royals”
  • The Love LanguageRuby Red … Favorite song: “Calm Down”
  • LuciusWildewoman … Favorite song: “Hey, Doreen”
  • Kacey MusgravesSame Trailer Different Park … Favorite songs: “Merry Go ’round” and “Follow Your Arrow”

A COUPLE OF EPs THAT ARE WORTH A MENTION

  • Twin Forks – self-titled … Favorite songs: “Something We Just Know” and “Back To You”
  • Wildcat! Wildcat! – self-titled … Favorite song: “Mr. Quiche”

A FEW SONGS THAT STOOD OUT IN MY MIND

  • Diarrhea Planet – “The Sound of My Ceiling Fan”
  • HAIM – “Don’t Save Me”
  • HAIM – “The Wire”
  • Ivan & Alyosha – “Running For Cover”
  • Just Handshakes – “London Bound”
  • Phosphorescent – “Song For Zula”
  • San Fermin – “Sonsick”

December 31, 2012

Best of 2012 – My list

Filed under: Best of — assman41 @ 12:01 am

Rather than restrict myself to a set number of items to include in my various lists, I just went with whatever felt right. So, without further ado, I give you my Best of 2012 list, by the numbers:

THE 14 ALBUMS THAT I LIKED THE MOST

  • Of Monsters and MenMy Head Is an Animal … Favorite song: “Little Talks”
    Ever since I first heard “Little Talks” late last year, I have been in love with this album. I’m surprised by the lack of respect it received from all the critics out there.
  • First Aid KitThe Lion’s Roar … Favorite song: “Emmylou”
    This one is solid throughout and made a late run at the top spot, but it finished in a close second. The album was a huge step up for this group.
  • The DarlingtonsDecades Dance … Favorite song: “To Break a Heart”
    I recall singing this album’s praises a few months ago, but when I went back to listen to it recently, I’d forgotten how amazing it was.
  • Dry the RiverShallow Bed … Favorite song: “History Book”
    This is a great album start to finish. And it’s even more amazing to see in a live setting.
  • The Lumineers – self-titled … Favorite song: “Ho Hey”
    These guys seemed to come out of nowhere to become everyone’s favorite indie band. I suppose the Bing commercial didn’t hurt, but really, it was the power of their music that propelled them.
  • SuckersCandy Salad … Favorite song: “Bricks To the Bones”
    These guys were something of a dark horse for me. I figured they were nothing more than an honorable mention, but after several listens, the album continued to grow on me steadily moved its way up my chart.
  • Milo Greene – self-titled … Favorite song: “1957”
    Ever since seeing these guys on Last Call with Carson Daly, I could tell they had some talent. Then I listened to their album a few times and confirmed it.
  • Now, NowThreads … Favorite song: “Lucie, Too”
    Like Yuck a year ago, this band surprised me with how much its music grew on me over the course of the album.
  • Kishi Bashi151a … Favorite song: “Bright Whites”
    This is the artist that the gents over at All Songs Considered trumpeted throughout the year. And with good reason. He has a sound that is different from anything out there today.
  • Rah RahThe Poet’s Dead … Favorite song: “Prairie Girl”
    While there weren’t necessarily a lot of standout tracks on this album, the band’s sound is one that I will never grow tired of.
  • The Sun ParadeYossis … Favorite song: “Nothing Lasts Forever”
    This was just some random album I discovered through Plixid.com, and it turned out to be a rare gem.
  • Best CoastThe Only Place … Favorite song: “The Only Place”
    Like First Aid Kit, this group took a huge step forward in 2012. With its tighter tunes and short length, this is an album that can be played all day on repeat.
  • Sharon Van EttenTramp … Favorite song: “Serpents”
    It’s difficult not to become entranced by her voice. And on this album, she got some help from her friends and put out her most complete offering to date.
  • Alabama ShakesBoys & Girls … Favorite song: “Hold On”
    This band had been hyped since the latter portion of 2011, but it managed to live up to its billing by putting out an incredibly soulful album and one of the best songs of the year.

THE NINE SONGS THAT WERE ALSO WORTH NOTING

  • Japandroids – “The House That Heaven Built”
  • fun. – “We Are Young”
  • Team Me – “With My Hands Covering Both of My Eyes I Am Too Scared To Have a Look at You Now”
  • Fort Atlantic – “Let Your Heart Hold Fast”
  • Cloud Nothings – “Stay Useless”
  • Factories – “It’ll Be Alright”
  • Bahamas – “Lost in the Light”
  • Greg Laswell – “Come Back Down” (feat. Sara Bereilles)
  • Django Django – “Default”

THE 10 ESTABLISHED ARTISTS WHO PUT OUT SOLID ALBUMS

  • Avett Brothers – The Carpenter … Favorite song: “Live and Die”
  • Beach House – Bloom … Favorite song: “Other People”
  • Benjamin Gibbard – Former Lives … Favorite song: “Teardrop Windows”
  • Grizzly Bear – Shields … Favorite song: “Speak In Rounds”
  • Mumford & Sons – Babel … Favorite song: “I Will Wait”
  • The Shins – Port of Morrow … Favorite song: “Simple Song”
  • The Walkmen – Heaven … Favorite song: “Heaven”
  • Jack White – Blunderbuss … Favorite song: “Love Interruption”
  • Wild Nothing – Nocturne … Favorite song: “Only Heather”
  • The XX – Coexist … Favorite song: “Angels”

THE ONE ALBUM I PLAYED THE MOST IN 2012

  • The VaccinesWhat Did You Expect From the Vaccines … Favorite song: “Wreckin’ Bar (Ra Ra Ra)”
    Although it came out in May 2011, I didn’t discover it until a year later. And I have since played it 17 times. They also put out an album this year — Come of Age — but it pales in comparison to the debut.

THE NINE ALBUMS I MAY HAVE MISSED

After scanning numerous end-of-the-year lists, there were some albums that I knew little to nothing about but piqued my interest.

  • DIIV – Oshin
  • Field Music – Plumb
  • Lower Dens – Nootropics
  • The Maccabees – Given To the Wild
  • Anais Mitchell – Young Man In America
  • Passion Pit – Gossamer
  • Perfume Genius – Put Your Back N 2 It
  • Toy – self-titled
  • Twin Shadow – Confess

December 30, 2012

Best of 2012 – Everyone else

Filed under: Best of — assman41 @ 12:01 am

As I’ve done each of the past few years, here’s a compilation of the various tastemakers’ “best of the year” lists. There were a lot of different No. 1 albums, but it seems as though Frank Ocean was the most critically acclaimed of the year.

And don’t worry. I’ll post my own list tomorrow.

  • A.V. Club … No. 1 album: Frank Ocean – “Channel Orange”
  • Alternative Press … No. 1 album: The Gaslight Anthem – “Handwritten”
  • Amazon. com … No. 1 album: Of Monsters and Men – “My Head Is an Animal” … No. 1 song: Delta Spirit – “California”
  • American Songwriter … No. 1 album: Bob Dylan – “Tempest” … No. 1 song: Shovels & Rope – “Birmingham”
  • BBC Music … No. 1 album: Kendrick Lamar – “good kid, M.A.A.D. city”
  • Clash … No. 1 album: Bobby Womack – “The Bravest Man In the Universe”
  • Consequence of Sound … No. 1 album: Frank Ocean – “Channel Orange”
  • DIY … No. 1 album: Liars – “WIXIW”
  • Drowned In Sound … No. 1 album: Sharon Van Etten – “Tramp”
  • Entertainment Weekly … No. 1 album: Frank Ocean – “Channel Orange”
  • Filter … No. 1 album: Tame Impala – “Lonerism”
  • The Fly … No. 1 album: Sharon Van Etten – “Tramp”
  • Gigwise … No. 1 album: Twin Shadow – “Confess”
  • Gorilla vs. Bear … No. 1 album: Grimes – “Visions” … No. 1 song: Usher – “Climax”
  • The Guardian … No. 1 album: Frank Ocean – “Channel Orange” … No. 1 song: Carly Rae Jepsen – “Call Me Maybe”
  • Insound … No. 1 album: Kendrick Lamar – “good kid, M.A.A.D. city”
  • Magnet … No. 1 album: The Walkmen – “Heaven”
  • Metacritic … No. 1 album: Frank Ocean – “Channel Orange”
  • MOJO … No. 1 album: Jack White – “Blunderbuss”
  • musicOMH … No. 1 album: Frank Ocean – “Channel Orange”
  • NME … No. 1 album: Tame Impala – “Lonerism”
  • NPR (All Songs Considered, listeners’ picks) … No. 1 album: Mumford & Sons – “Babel”
  • No Ripcord … No. 1 album: Kendrick Lamar – “good kid, M.A.A.D. city”
  • Obscure Sound … No. 1 album: Tame Impala – “Lonerism”
  • Paste … No. 1 album: Frank Ocean – “Channel Orange”
  • Pitchfork … No. 1 album: Kendrick Lamar – “good kid, M.A.A.D. city” … No. 1 song: Grimes – “Oblivion”
  • PopMatters … No. 1 album: Frank Ocean – “Channel Orange”
  • Pretty Much Amazing … No. 1 album: Fiona Apple – “Idler Wheel …” … No. 1 song: Fiona Apple – “Every Single Night”
  • Rolling Stone … No. 1 album: Bruce Springsteen – “Wrecking Ball” … No. 1 song: Alabama Shakes – “Hold On”
  • Rough Trade Shops … No. 1 album: Grimes – “Visions”
  • Spin … No. 1 album: Frank Ocean – “Channel Orange”
  • Spinner … No. 1 album: Fiona Apple – “Idler Wheel …”
  • Stereogum … No. 1 album: Fiona Apple – “Idler Wheel …”
  • TIME … No. 1 album: Fiona Apple – “Idler Wheel …”
  • Uncut … No. 1 album: Leonard Cohen – “Old Ideas”
  • Under the Radar … No. 1 album: Wild Nothing – “Nocturne”
  • Urban Outfitters … No. 1 album: Tame Impala – “Lonerism”

January 2, 2012

Best of 2011 – Everyone else

Filed under: Best of — assman41 @ 12:01 am

Just as I did last year and the year before that, I have compiled as many end-of-the-year lists as I could find. And, in case you missed it, here’s my list.

A.V. Club … No. 1 album: Wye Oak, “Civilian”

AmazonNo. 1 album: Adele, “21” … No. 1 song: Adele, “Rolling in the Deep” … No. 1 alt/indie album: tUnE-yArDs “w h o k i l l” … No. 1 alt/indie song: M83, “Midnight City”

American Songwriter … No. 1 album: Wilco, The Whole LoveNo. 1 song: Hayes Carll, “Another Like You”

BBC Music … No. 1 album: PJ Harvey, “Let England Shake”

Billboard … No. 1 album: Adele, “21” … No. 1 song: Nicki Minaj, “Super Bass”

Drowned In Sound … No. 1 album: The Antlers, “Burst Apart”

Exclaim! … No. 1 album: Bon Iver, “Bon Iver”

Filter … No. 1 album: M83, “Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming”

KCRW … No. 1 album: TV on the Radio, “Nine Types of Light”

MTV (Bigger Than Sound … No. 1 Album: Girls, “Father, Son, Holy Ghost”

Magnet … No. 1 album: Yuck, “Yuck”

Metacritic … No. 1 album: PJ Harvey, “Let England Shake”

Mojo … No. 1 album: PJ Harvey, “Let England Shake”

NME … No. 1 album: PJ Harvey, “Let England Shake” … No. 1 song: Lana Del Rey, “Video Games”

The Observer … No. 1 album: Gillian Welch, “The Harrow & the Harvest”

Obscure Sound … No. 1 album: Destroyer, “Kaputt”

Paste … No. 1 album: Bon Iver, “Bon Iver” … No. 1 song: Fleet Foxes, “Helplessness Blues”

Picadilly Records … No. 1 album: Peaking Lights, “936”

PopMatters … No. 1 album: Fleet Foxes, “Helplessness Blues” … No. 1 indie rock album: Future Islands, “On the Water” … No. 1 indie pop album: The Caribbean, “Discontinued Perfume”

Prefix … No. 1 album: Shabazz Palaces, “Black Up”

The Record Exchange … No. 1 album: Youth Lagoon, “The Year of Hibernation”

Rise … No. 1 album: The War On Drugs, “Slave Ambient”

Rolling Stone … No. 1 album: Adele, “21”

Rough Trade Shops … No. 1 album: Josh T. Person, “Last of the Country Gentlemen”

The Sonic Medium … No. 1 album: Kurt Vile, “Smoke Ring For My Halo”

Spin … No. 1 album: Fucked Up, “David Comes To Life” … No. 1 song: Adele, “Rolling In the Deep”

Spinner … No. 1 album: EMA, “Past-Life Martyred Saints”

Stereogum … No. 1 album: Girls, “Father, Son, Holy Ghost”

TIME … No. 1 album: Adele, “21”

Treble … No. 1 album: St. Vincent, “Strange Mercy”

Uncut … No. 1 album: PJ Harvey, “Let England Shake”

Under the Radar … No. 1 album: St. Vincent, “Strange Mercy”

Urban Outfitters … No. 1 album: The War On Drugs, “Slave Ambient”

WNRN … No. 1 album: The Head and the Heart, “The Head and the Heart” (I wouldn’t put too much stock into the rankings of this one. The War On Drugs are No. 91, while Blink-182 is No. 63.)

January 1, 2012

Best of 2011 – My list

Filed under: Best of — assman41 @ 12:01 am

Despite a lot of excellent live music experiences this year, I kept finding myself bemoaning the lack of standout albums released in 2011. There were only a few that I knew deserved recognition.

But rather than just write some rant about the poor quality of music this year, I went back and re-listened to everything I’d heard from the past 12 months — as well as some other stuff that I knew was worthy of consideration.

The end result? It really wasn’t as bad a year as I kept making it out to be. By the time I was done, I’d found 20 albums and 10 bonus songs that deserved to be honored.

Normally, I just list everything in alphabetical order. But, as I was compiling my list, I was forced to rank everything and make some tough decisions. And, since I’m a sportswriter by trade, I figured it’d be fitting if I broke things into a first and second team.

And, just like last year, I put together a playlist of all the best songs I could find (which turned out to be barely half of the 30 I searched for).

Anyway, without further ado, I give you the Best of 2011.

FIRST TEAM

  • The Decemberists – The King Is Dead … As far as I’m concerned, these guys can do no wrong. After several highly praised concept albums, the Portland crew stripped things down and put out an album full of great songs and no filler. … Favorite song: “Down By the Water”
  • Yuck – Yuck … At first I was apprehensive about this album. But after my first listen, I knew this was a disc I was gonna love all year long. This was a close second to The Decemberists. … Favorite song: “Georgia”
  • Cults – Cults … I can’t help but smile every time I listen to this album. These guys latched on to the lo-fi, old-school girl group sound that has become popular and took it to another level. … Favorite song: “Go Outside”
  • The Rural Alberta Advantage – Departing … I never got into Neutral Milk Hotel during their heyday, but this group is a nice consolation. I saw them live and met them afterwards, and it just added to my love for them and this album. … Favorite song: “Two Lovers”
  • Wye Oak – Civilian … I’d known of this band for a while, but after seeing them live at SXSW, I was totally sold. This album is great to just sit back and relax to. … Favorite song: “Holy Holy”
  • The Head and the Heart – The Head and the Heart … Another band that I’ve seen live (in 2010) and missed seeing a couple of times this year, this Seattle crew is just the latest in a wave of great solid indie folk acts. … Favorite song: “Lost In My Mind”
  • Young the Giant – Young the Giant … This album is full of catchy tunes, and I’d love to get the chance to see them live someday. … Favorite song: “My Body”
  • Grouplove – Never Trust a Happy Song … I was worried this would be one of those groups with one or two great singles and nothing else. But this album has plenty of solid indie-pop tracks. … Favorite song: “Tongue Tied”
  • The War On Drugs – Slave Ambient … Yet another band I saw live this year, this third disc (second LP) by the group adds to a strong catalog of catchy, groovy indie folk with a tinge of psychedelia. … Favorite song: “Baby Missiles”
  • Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues … While their debut album was great, I worried that this follow-up would be too similar. Thankfully, it’s not. No longer sounding like a band that lives in a cabin in the woods, the group channels its inner Simon & Garfunkel en route to some amazing folk-rock. Favorite song: “Helplessness Blues”

SECOND TEAM

  • The Cave Singers – No Witch … Favorite song: “Gifts and the Raft”
  • Rival Schools – Pedals … Favorite song: “A Parts For B Actors”
  • Death Cab For Cutie – Codes and Keys … Favorite song: “You Are a Tourist”
  • Tammar – Visits … Favorite song: “Deep Witness”
  • The Black Keys – El Camino … Favorite song: “Lonely Boy”
  • The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – Belong … Favorite song: “Heart in Your Heartbreak”
  • Wilco – The Whole Love … Favorite song: “I Might”
  • Real Estate – Days … Favorite song: “It’s Real”
  • Apex Manor – The Year of Magical Drinking … Favorite song: “Southern Decline”
  • Big Scary – Vacation … Favorite song: “Mix Tape”

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Since writing this post earlier in the week, I have listened to a handful of albums that received solid reviews during the past year. For one reason or another, I had just kinda overlooked them until now. And, as it turned out, I was quite keen on all of them. If I’d given them more listens earlier in the year, there’s a decent chance they would’ve made the above lists.

  • Girls – Father, Son, Holy Ghost … Favorite song: “Alex”
  • Lonely Forest – Arrows … Favorite song: “Turn Off This Song and Go Outside”
  • Lykke Li – Wounded Rhymes … Favorite song: “Get Some”
  • Youth Lagoon – Year of Hibernation … Favorite song: “Daydream”

I look forward to giving all of these albums repeated listens soon and sharing my thoughts in the near future.

TOP SINGLES (That weren’t on an aforementioned album)

Check back tomorrow for my annual compilation of end-of-the-year lists from around the internet.

January 5, 2011

Best of the ’80s

Filed under: Best of — assman41 @ 6:01 am

As I drove home from a recent night out, I was enjoying a local radio station’s weekly ’80s Weekend playlist. And in the span of a few songs, I heard my two most favorite ’80s songs.

It made me think of a conversation I had with my brother a few days earlier regarding this very matter — what would be on your list of favorite ’80s songs?

So, I decided I should actually compile said list. I figured I would come up with my top 10 tracks of the decade. But I quickly breezed past that and was already into the mid-30s when I decided I should just limit myself to 25. Needless to say, there were some great songs that didn’t make the cut.


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While thinking of all the various songs I wanted to include, I couldn’t help but also picture many of the corresponding videos. Back then, songs and videos were so linked, it’s hard to separate them in your mind.

So, in addition to putting together an audio playlist, I thought it would be cool to post a video playlist.

THE LIST

  1. Belinda Carlisle – “Heaven Is a Place On Earth” … I have no idea why I love this so much. I just do. I love her voice, and when I play this, I think back to listening to it all the time on my older sister’s cassette player.
  2. Culture Club – “Karma Chameleon” … If my brother had his way, this would be No. 1. Growing up in the same household with someone who used — and still does — idolize Boy George, it’s no wonder this song is so ingrained in my head.
  3. Big Country – “In a Big Country” … I love everything about this song — the opening guitar riff, instrumental breakdown in the middle, the whiny Scottish vocals. I’ve had this as a ringtone on multiple phones.
  4. USA For Africa – “We Are the World” … When you put that many amazing singers in one room together, you can’t help but make magic. And hearing the dreadful 25th anniversary cover for Haiti relief just shows how great the original was.
  5. Go-Go’s – “Vacation” … Again, I can’t get enough of Belinda Carlisle’s vocals. I especially love the chorus when she’s backed by her bandmates.
  6. Pat Benatar – “Shadows of the Night” … She’s got a lot of great songs, but this is the one I’ve always loved the most. Perhaps it’s that powerful, authoritative chorus.
  7. Queen and David Bowie – “Under Pressure” … Two legendary voices combining to make pure gold. And nowadays, thanks to the movie Grosse Point Blank, whenever I hear this song, I can’t help but think of the scene where John Cusack is holding the baby at the reunion.
  8. A Flock of Seagulls – “I Ran (So Far Away)” … This song just reeks of the ’80s and early MTV. Lead singer Mike Score has yet to be topped in the annals of awesome hairstyles, and, as for the song itself, those killer synth riffs are hard to beat.
  9. A-ha – “Take On Me” … Go ahead, listen to this song and try not to picture the video. … See, you couldn’t, could ya? By the way, the Family Guy parody was amazing.
  10. Cyndi Lauper – “Time After Time” … This isn’t necessarily the first song that people think about when her name comes up, but what can I say, I’m a sucker for ballads.
  11. Nena – “99 Luftballoons” … Has their ever been a catchier song about the Cold War and Mutually Assured Destruction? The best part is that both the German and English versions mention Captain Kirk, but in totally different spots.
  12. The Buggles – “Video Killed the Radio Star” … If this hadn’t been the very first video played on MTV, do you think anyone would remember it? I guess we’ll never know. But it’s so awesome that it doesn’t really matter.
  13. Alphaville – “Forever Young” … I doubt many people realize this song is about a nuclear holocaust — especially the car company that used it in a commercial a few years ago. But hey, if you want to slow-dance to this song, I won’t judge you. It’s a great tune.
  14. The Bangles – “Walk Like an Egyptian” … I know I’m not the only one who, when this song reaches its apex, stops everything and tries to whistle along in perfect sync Susanna Hoffs and the gals.
  15. The Cure – “Pictures of You” … It seems almost dirty, but the first time I remember hearing this song was on a photo printer commercial or something like that. It quickly became my favorite song in a truly hefty catalog by these goth forefathers.
  16. U2 – “Pride (In the Name of Love)” … Speaking of a band with an endless supply of amazing songs, it’s hard to narrow my top five faves, let alone one. But this song has always revved me up whenever I hear it, and the fact that it’s all about Martin Luther King just adds to its mystique.
  17. Madonna – “Like a Prayer” … The video’s probably a bit over the top, but I have to give her props for losing a Pepsi endorsement deal because of it. Looking back, this song probably doesn’t really sound like many, if any, of the other songs in her vast arsenal. Maybe that’s why I like it so much.
  18. Berlin – “Take My Breath Away” … Seriously, how can you not love this song? It’s the ballads to top all ballads. Also, I’m pretty sure it was my homecoming or prom song during my junior or senior year — which just goes to show how unoriginal my peers were.
  19. Real Life – “Send Me An Angel” … I first heard this song in the ultimate BMX movie, RAD, and I was instantly hooked. I can’t help but hear this song and picture Cru Jones doing the bicycle boogie with Christian Hollings.
  20. Madonna – “Crazy For You” … It’s from the movie Vision Quest, but I’ve never actually seen it. I’ve only heard the song, and, let’s just put it this way: If I ever actually get married, this song will be played at my wedding.
  21. Outfield – “Your Love” … I was only a toddler in the mid-’80s, so I have no idea if this is true, but whenever I hear this song, I just assume that’s the whole vibe that permeated the years 1984-87.
  22. Scandal – “The Warrior” … If I paid attention to the lyrics, I’m sure I wouldn’t be able to take this song seriously. Thankfully, I never have. Whenever I hear this tune, I’m reminded of my junior high days when I used to help out my older sister with her newspaper route and we had this song blaring from a compilation disc.
  23. Huey Lewis & The News – “Power of Love” … Michael J. Fox, riding his skateboard and getting pulled behind a moving Jeep … ’nuff said.
  24. Talking Heads – “Road To Nowhere” … I absolutely love the intro to this song and I probably let it overcompensate for a tune that is otherwise simply above average. Also, I can’t hear this song and not think about the final scene from the classic Fred Savage movie, Little Monsters.
  25. Michael Jackson – “Man in the Mirror” … I figured I had to include at least one song of his on this list, considering he was the biggest star of the decade. While this wasn’t among his biggest hits, it’s the one I’ve always enjoyed the most.

By the way, I included a bonus video at the end of the playlist. The song is technically from the ’60s, but it re-entered the charts a couple of decades later. It just so happens to be my favorite song and movie of all-time.

January 2, 2011

Best of 2010 – Everyone else

Filed under: Best of — assman41 @ 12:01 am

Just as I did last year, here is an aggregation of as many end-of-the-year lists as I could find from all the sources out there. And, in case you missed it, here is my own Best of 2010 list.

  • A.V. Club … No. 1 album: Kanye West, “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy”
  • Amazon. comNo. 1 album: Mumford & Sons, “Sigh No More” … No. 1 song: Cee Lo Green, “Fuck You” … No. 1 alt/indie album: Arcade Fire, “The Suburbs” … No. 1 alt/indie song: Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti, “Round and Round”
  • American Songwirter … No. 1 album: The Black Keys, “Brothers”
  • Billboard … No. 1 album: Kanye West, “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy”
  • Clash … No. 1 album: Arcade Fire, “The Suburbs”
  • DIY … No. 1 album: The National, “High Violet”
  • Drowned in Sound … No. 1 album: Emeralds, “Does It Look Like I’m Here?”
  • Entertainment Weekly … No. 1 album: Kanye West, “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy”
  • Exclaim! … No. 1 Pop/Rock album: Arcade Fire, “The Suburbs”
  • Fact … No. 1 album: Forest Swords, “Dagger Paths”
  • Filter … No. 1 album: LCD Soundsystem, “This Is Happening”
  • The Guardian … No. 1 album: Janelle Monae, “The ArchAndroid”
  • Gigwise … No. 1 album: Arcade Fire, “The Suburbs” … No. 1 song: Kanye West, “Monster” (ft. Jay-Z, Rick Ross, Bon Iver and Nicki Minaj)
  • Gorilla Vs. Bear … No. 1 album: Beach House, “Teen Dream”
  • The Guardian … No. 1 album: Janelle Monae, “The ArchAndroid”
  • A Heart Is a Spade … No. 1 album: Beach House, “Teen Dream”
  • Magnet … No. 1 album: Beach House, “Teen Dream”
  • Metacritic … No. 1 album: Kanye West, “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy”
  • Mojo … No. 1 album: John Grant, “Queen of Denmark”
  • MTV … No. 1 album: Kanye West, “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy”
  • MySpace … No. 1 album: Yeasayer, “Odd Blood” … I’d like to note the neat posters that were created for each album on the list.
  • NMENo. 1 album: These New Puritans, “Hidden” … No. 1 song: Foals, “Spanish Sahara”
  • Paste … No. 1 album: LCD Soundsystem, “This Is Happening”
  • Pitchfork.comNo. 1 album: Kanye West, “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” … No. 1 song: Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti, “Round and Round” … It should be noted that this listing needs to be taken with a grain of salt as P4K only gave Mumford & Sons a 2.1 rating out of 10. As a friend astutely pointed out, Marcus Mumford must have banged the reviewer’s girlfriend or something.
  • PrefixNo. 1 album: Kanye West, “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy”
  • Qthemusic.com … No. 1 album: Arcade Fire, “The Suburbs”
  • Rolling Stone … No. 1 album: Kanye West, “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy”
  • Spin … No. 1 album: Kanye West, “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy”
  • Spinner … No. 1 album: Beach House, “Teen Dream”
  • Stereogum … No. 1 album: Kanye West, “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” … No. 1 EP: Zola Jesus, “Stridulum”
  • Time … No. 1 album: Kanye West, “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy”
  • Uncut … No. 1 album: Joanna Newsom, “Have One On Me”
  • Under the Radar … No. 1 album: Sufjan Stevens, “The Age of Adz”
  • Urban OutfittersNo. 1 album: Beach House, “Teen Dream” … the peeps at UO did something very cool, not only listing their top 20 albums, but also getting each of those bands to submit a top-5 list of their own.
  • WNRN … No. 1 album: Mumford & Sons, “Sigh No More”
  • You Ain’t No Picasso … No. 1 album: Portugal. The Man, “American Ghetto”
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