Monday, December 29, 2014
1. Beyoncé - Beyoncé
Of course this album should be under 2014 consideration. How else to explain all the widespread adoration but only so few appearances on critics' year-end lists in 2013? It was released late last December, which was much too close to the end of the year for me and a lot of people to put into proper context of what it meant at the end of the calendar. Twelve months have passed since then and I can confidently say it's still the best thing I've heard in that span. One of the more intriguing developments of the pop world within the past few years was how her previous album, 4, felt like more than just an attempt to put together a radio-ready collection of songs and strove to keep up with some of her more adventurous contemporaries. This was surprising in that it felt like the first LP where we got a glimpse at Beyoncé The Artist and not just simply Beyoncé The Ridiculously Talented & Fierce Superwoman, which we had seen time and time again. The seeds of that experimentation fully blossomed on Beyoncé, her most challenging work yet. The usual Beyoncé trademarks were there, but instead of embracing their more commercial aspects, we were treated with more details that gave everything a personal feel. Girls still ran the world, but novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adicihe was there to explain why. You could still get her bodied, but you had to solve the riddle, and so on. It's a very rare thing when artists of Beyoncé's talent and stature make such bold moves while at the top of their game. That they pay off and in result in an amazing piece of work that's as dark and sexy as this is even rarer.
Thursday, December 11, 2014
Song that should have been higher in hindsight: Alicia Keys - "If I Ain't Got You" (original rank: #84)
Most guilt-wracked omissions: McFly - "Room On The 3rd Floor"; Mousse T feat. Emma Lanford - "Is It 'Cos I'm Cool"; Teddybears STLHM - "Hey Boy"
Song that should have been higher in hindsight: Out Hud - "It's For You" (#188)
Most guilt-wracked omission: Fefe Dobson - "Don't Let It Go To Your Head"
Song that should have been higher in hindsight: Yeah Yeah Yeahs - "Cheated Hearts" (#113)
Most guilt-wracked omission: The Long Blondes - "Once And Never Again"
Tuesday, December 02, 2014
I'll go ahead and get this out the way: Beyoncé. She's an obvious choice. If you've been in a coma or have been stuck in a time travel stasis, I'll briefly list why: the album crashed the iTunes website upon its stealth release, said album was accompanied with music videos for each track (unheard of for an artist of her stature), and it still sold over 800,000 in a shortened sales week without any promotion. And she's also Beyoncé, one of the most adored pop stars in the world and a perennial Grammy favorite. Last year, I had Justin Timberlake pegged as a sure shot, but I didn't take into account that him submitting both 20/20 Experience albums would go against him (I still believe he would've gotten the nod if only Pt. 1 was included). But make no mistake; this is Beyoncé's award to lose.
The rest of the field is more up for grabs, but smart money says to go with Sam Smith's In The Lonely Hour. His music is the kind that is endearing across multiple demographics and he has an authentic, soulful voice. While he hasn't had any major solo hits beyond "Stay With Me," his talent is not in doubt and already is a recognized name. That makes him a lock for Best New Artist, but the album itself, while a solid effort, may be deemed too ordinary for a revitalized blue ribbon panel (the secret group of voters that selects nominees for the general field from the top votes) that's trying to show that they can be hip (in the past five years alone, they've nominated Frank Ocean, Jack White, Arcade Fire, The Black Keys and Daft Punk). If their criteria is indeed tougher, In The Lonely Hour could be on the outs, but there are so few albums that have had the same impact both commercially and with critics.
Monday, December 01, 2014
Record of the Year
As always, I like to start off with my locks. Despite what I consider a pretty lackluster year as far as the quality of top 40 hits are concerned (2013 alone gave us "Royals," "Get Lucky," and "Wrecking Ball" just to name a few), there are always definite contenders. I'm a bit shakier this year than most, but overall, I feel like Beyoncé will be the one to beat this night. While "Drunk In Love" featuring Jay-Z was not the monstrous, axis-shifting hit like some of her other past general field nominations ("Crazy In Love," "Irreplaceable," "Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)"), it had a two-month stay within the top ten of the Billboard Hot 100 and could certainly be classified as one of the most meme-worthy songs of the year.
I really like Sam Smith's "Stay With Me" in this category as well. I'm a bit confused as to why the Darkchild version with Mary J. Blige was submitted instead of just the solo version since the song is already well-liked enough in its original incarnation. The only theory I have is that Smith's people might view Beyoncé as the biggest threat and deduced that Blige's inclusion might help be able to draw away some votes from the R&B voting contingent or probably those who would love to see Mary J. Blige rewarded in the general field after a 22-year career. There's also the risk that some voters might just be plain puzzled at having to vote for only a version with Blige, which is just a small portion of why I feel shaky about this year. Nonetheless, with or without Blige's vocals, it's still a very heartfelt song with a lot of emotional power behind it.
Wednesday, October 15, 2014
Wednesday, October 08, 2014
Thursday, September 04, 2014
I love how the first thing you hear on Blood Sugar Sex Magik is the riff at an FM radio quality. Everything else is in your face.— Ivan Mitchell (@hecticivan) August 22, 2014
I was late coming to BSSM. Didn't get it until about nine years after release. Used my birthday money to finally take the plunge.— Ivan Mitchell (@hecticivan) August 22, 2014
When "The Power Of Equality" came on, I was like "Ooh, new Peppers songs!" almost a full decade after the fact.— Ivan Mitchell (@hecticivan) August 22, 2014
Thursday, July 17, 2014
This month's edition of #classicalbumtweets will be coming up soon. Tonight is Fugees' The Score. I simply press play and tweet about it.
— Ivan Mitchell (@hecticivan) July 10, 2014
Just a heads up, I won't be dealing with the bonus tracks from The Score. The vision of an album ends when they start. Still enjoyable tho.— Ivan Mitchell (@hecticivan) July 10, 2014
Late Registration officially ends with "Gone," not "Late." You can hear it...— Ivan Mitchell (@hecticivan) July 10, 2014
Pushing play...now! #classicalbumtweets— Ivan Mitchell (@hecticivan) July 10, 2014
First time I heard "Red Intro," I immediately felt like I was going to be taken on a journey. So dramatic and felt like a sermon. Uncommon.— Ivan Mitchell (@hecticivan) July 10, 2014
Wednesday, July 16, 2014
Go Home Productions: Prototype (USSR) (The... by gohomeproductions
You can download Go Home Productions' latest album, Spliced Krispies Vol. 2 from his website and also check out the videos for each song on his YouTube account.
Tuesday, June 17, 2014
Every 2nd Wed. of the month, I put on a classic album and tweet about the experience. Tonight is D'Angelo's Voodoo. http://t.co/Nnv5lZLdx5— Ivan Mitchell (@hecticivan) June 11, 2014
Used to hate the thickness of Voodoo's booklet b/c it was always difficult sliding it back in the case. That corner! pic.twitter.com/Wf4ERVGkS4— Ivan Mitchell (@hecticivan) June 12, 2014
Would have loved to see the look on those expecting Brown Sugar 2 when those chants started on "Playa Playa." #classicalbumtweets— Ivan Mitchell (@hecticivan) June 12, 2014
Such a big difference in starting off with "Playa Playa." Lyrics are sometimes indiscernible. D'Angelo is basically kissing mainstream g'bye— Ivan Mitchell (@hecticivan) June 12, 2014
Tuesday, May 27, 2014
Album of the Year
1. Beyoncé - Beyoncé
What's in its favor: The world was turned upside down when Bey released her fifth album unannounced without any promotion and a music video created for each track. It became one of the biggest musical events of the decade. It also doesn't hurt that sales have been robust and it got not only some of the best reviews of her career, but for the year in general.
What might work against it: Albums by superstars in this category tend to have more than one big hit. So far it's only been "Drunk In Love."
2. Pharrell Williams - G I R L
What's in its favor: The momentum from all the goodwill he received during the summer of 2013 has carried over thanks to a little song called "Happy." The album has also been well-received by critics and yet to fall below #20 of the Billboard Top 200 nearly three months after its release.
What might work against it: Unless the critical reception has been absolutely astronomical, nominees here don't make it off the basis of just one song. Its chances hinge mainly on the chart performance of new single "Come Get It Bae" at this point.
3. Arcade Fire - Reflektor
What's in its favor: I've talked before about how the Grammys are trying to slowly regain credibility by rewarding acts that are seen as hip and purveyors of quality music. Arcade Fire has one of the strongest combinations of hip and mainstream going for them, which will continue to make them perennial contenders in AOTY. Reflektor was highly lauded upon release and in case you forgot, they actually beat out Eminem and Lady Gaga in this category a few years ago.
What might work against: The Suburbs, their past AOTY winner, was released during the summer and the surprise at its #1 debut shot them up in the eyes of the mainstream. By the time the eligibility period concluded at the end of September, the album was still relatively fresh. Reflektor was practically released at the beginning of the eligibility period, so there's a strong case it might already be forgotten.
Thursday, May 15, 2014
Pushing play now on Fleetwood Mac's Rumours. #classicalbumtweets— Ivan Mitchell (@hecticivan) May 15, 2014
"Second Hand News" just begs to be listened to in the sun while cracking open cold ones. #classicalbumtweets— Ivan Mitchell (@hecticivan) May 15, 2014
I'm not afraid to admit that I was first familiar with "Second Hand News" through Kid Rock's "Wasting Time." Had a strange aversion to Mac.— Ivan Mitchell (@hecticivan) May 15, 2014
Also, just assume that every song, my reaction is going to be "OMG, Lindsey Buckingham's guitar y'all." His picking is blissfully insane.— Ivan Mitchell (@hecticivan) May 15, 2014
Tuesday, May 13, 2014
Adeline Michele of Escort
One of the things that I didn't take into account was the amount of bands on the concert bill for that night. What that meant was that there was nary a quiet spot to be found at Metro, so portions of this interview with Adeline was recorded on a stairwell. It was slightly chaotic, but it felt fun because it made us feel like little kids.
"Came Out Of A Lady" is such a well-crafted pop tune and it's not very often that you find folks with jazz backgrounds able to create something that catchy. We discussed a bit about what it was like to transition from a world of theory to one of modern songwriting.
I was fighting off a cold, which is why my voice sounded extra seasoned here. One of my favorite things to do when interviewing a band is to ask them a fun question to begin with. For me, it helps to distinguish the different personalities as a listener. Cloud Control was pretty game when the topic of Harry Potter movies came up and I think that helped to set the tone for the rest of the interview.
I was still kind of recovering on this one as well (although I'll never admit to being fully sick). Overall, he was pretty excited to talk about his creative process and I feel like with electronic artists, there's always so much more to delve into than the time I usually allow for interviews. If you listen to the songs, there's all kinds of things one could explore as far as moods and certain techniques.
Thursday, April 10, 2014
Classic Album Tweets up soon Basically, I put on a well known album and tweet any insight I have on it as it plays. Jagged Little Pill 2nite
— Ivan Mitchell (@hecticivan) April 10, 2014
It's about to go down in just a few. Jagged Little Pill will get the Classic Album Tweets treatment. pic.twitter.com/c8WQ7VB8rK— Ivan Mitchell (@hecticivan) April 10, 2014
Just a little insight into my love for JLP: it was the first album I owned for myself. Most stuff I listened to was my stepsister's.— Ivan Mitchell (@hecticivan) April 10, 2014
My best friend in grade school dubbed a copy on cassette for me. He was the only other black kid that watched MTV as much as I did.— Ivan Mitchell (@hecticivan) April 10, 2014
Thursday, March 13, 2014
Basically how this thing goes is that on the 2nd Wednesday of every month, I'll play a classic album from my library and tweet about it.— Ivan Mitchell (@hecticivan) March 13, 2014
Pushing play on Purple Rain now. #albumtweets— Ivan Mitchell (@hecticivan) March 13, 2014
Almost forgot how angelic those opening chords on "Let's Go Crazy" were. You must hold your hand in the air. #albumtweets— Ivan Mitchell (@hecticivan) March 13, 2014
Sunday, March 02, 2014
1. 12 Years A Slave
The cultural significance of this movie will probably cement its place in the canon for years to come based on its unflinching portrayal of slavery, which was unmatched in its brutality. Importance and quality do not always go hand in hand, so as much as I would like to state that this is a great film because it gave an unfathomable reality to those only familiar with the relatively sanitized versions of the era delivered by Hollywood, it worked much deeper on an emotional level. There have been few cinematic experiences like 12 Years A Slave, the true story of freeman Solomon Northup who was kidnapped and sold into captivity. The brutality of the film was a necessary truth that could not concern itself with what's palatable for audiences and every heartwrenching moment served as a reminder of America's dark history. Steve McQueen, whose previous films Hunger and Shame also didn't hold anything back, has once again proven adept at being an expert observer of a gritty world that holds little hope. His films resonate with you long after the credits have finished rolling, all without any significant flash and grounded in unforgiving realism. The trio of excellent, anguished performances from Chiwitel Ejiofor, Lupita Nyong'o and Michael Fassbender provided as close to a breathing historical document of the period as we've ever gotten and transcended it into art, conveying the torment and pain of past generations that no viewer will ever forget.
Wednesday, February 12, 2014
I kinda wanted to write about College Dropout's 10 year anniversary, but decided to hold out for a future Ye album. So I'm live tweeting CD!
— Ivan Mitchell (@hecticivan) February 11, 2014
Getting ready to put on The College Dropout and tweet about the experience. Yes, this copy is ten years old. pic.twitter.com/8EXiJuvcdp
— Ivan Mitchell (@hecticivan) February 12, 2014
Sunday, January 26, 2014
7:17 Smart move by Lorde to put a different spin on a song that people have a hundred times over by now. Sparse, haunting and with plenty of room to show what she can do vocally. It also sends a message that she's interested in sticking around for a while.
7:25 Closing in on the half-hour mark and only one award has been handed out. I could think of several awards that I would rather see than a Hunter Hayes performance.
7:40 Katy Perry and Juicy J take the stage for "Dark Horse." Never been too high on the song, but the performance featured some interesting set pieces. Very witch influenced. Unfortunately I'm still not sold on the song.
Thursday, January 23, 2014
Record of the Year
Daft Punk featuring Pharrell Williams - "Get Lucky"
Imagine Dragons - "Radioactive"
Lorde - "Royals"
Bruno Mars - "Locked Out of Heaven"
Robin Thicke featuring T.I. and Pharrell Williams - "Blurred Lines"
Will win: Daft Punk - "Get Lucky"
Should win: "Get Lucky"
Overlooked: Kendrick Lamar - "Swimming Pools (Drank)," Kanye West - "Black Skinheads"
Album of the Year
Sara Bareilles - The Blessed Unrest
Daft Punk- Random Access Memories
Kendrick Lamar - Good Kid, m.A.A.d City
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis - The Heist
Taylor Swift - Red
Will win: Daft Punk - Random Access Memories
Should win: Kendrick Lamar - good kid, m.A.A.d city
Overlooked: Haim - Days Are Gone; Kacey Musgraves - Same Trailer, Different Park; Kanye West - Yeezus
Wednesday, January 08, 2014
15. Cibo Matto - Hotel Valentine
Long-awaited comebacks were in fashion last year (My Bloody Valentine, David Bowie, Justin Timberlake) and Cibo Matto looks to continue that trend with their first new album since 1999's Stereo * Type A. A lot has changed since then, but they now find themselves in a music landscape where their trippiness might be even more welcome.
14. Clipse's fourth album
What could possibly be bigger news than Pusha T rejoining his brother No Malice in the recording studio? The fact that Pharrell Williams AND Chad Hugo will be joining them. The output with these four men has always been strong and the potential for a classic is high.