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Arctic Monkeys, Kanye West among the year’s best albums

- December 28th, 2013

In 2013, the music world saw Miley Cyrus twerk her way into everyone’s living room, the polarizing figure that is Kanye West had tongues wagging once again with a new album (as well as a new baby), Beyonce shocked the industry by dropping a new effort out of the blue, and the Thin White Duke made a triumphant return after a decade-long absence.

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My best albums of 2013 include some of these artists, but there were plenty of other notable musical acts that served as my soundtrack this past year. You’ll also see a few big albums from Canadian superstars, while lauded by many, I took a pass on — you won’t see Drake or Arcade Fire’s latest efforts on this list. Please, don’t strangle me with the red and white flag.

Take a listen, and let me know what you think in the comments.

10. Chvrches
The Bones of What You Believe
(Universal)

’80s-influenced synth pop was back in a big way this year, and leading the charge was this Scottish trio, showcased by the sweet, catchy, melodic vocals of frontlady Lauren Mayberry. I dare you put this one down.

ESSENTIAL TRACKS: “The Mother We Share,” “We Sink.”

The Mother We Share by CHVRCHES on Grooveshark

9. Nine Inch Nails
Hesistation Marks
(Universal)

To my delight, Trent Reznor is just as dark, miserable and powerful as he’s ever been on NIN’s latest.

ESSENTIAL TRACKS: “Copy of A,” “Came Back Haunted.”

Copy of A by Nine Inch Nails on Grooveshark

8. Kings of Leon
Mechanical Bull
(RCA)

The Kings make a triumphant return after going on hiatus following lead singer Caleb Followill’s now-infamous boozy concert in Texas a few years back. Their best since 2008′s “Only by the Night.”

ESSENTIAL TRACKS: “Temple,” “Beautiful War.”

Temple by Kings of Leon on Grooveshark

7. Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Mosquito
(Universal)

The art-rock threesome — led by flamboyant singer Karen O — spent four years on a new canvas, and it turned out to be a picture of beauty.

ESSENTIAL TRACKS: “Sacrilege,” “Slave.”

Sacrilege by Yeah Yeah Yeahs on Grooveshark

6. David Bowie
The Next Day
(Sony)

He may have been away for almost 10 years, but judging by the power and range of “Next Day,” Bowie never lost a step. Let’s hope his follow-up is not titled “The Next Decade.”

ESSENTIAL TRACKS: “The Stars (Are Out Tonight),” “Love is Lost.”

Love Is Lost by David Bowie on Grooveshark

5. Vampire Weekend
Modern Vampires of the City
(XL Recordings)

These Vampires have more than enough bite on their third try, and were a big highlight at the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival back in April.

ESSENTIAL TRACKS: “Unbelievers,” “Diane Young.”

Unbelievers by Vampire Weekend on Grooveshark

4. A$AP Rocky
Long.Live.A$AP
(Sony)

Rakim Mayers, a.k.a. A$AP Rocky, took the rap world by storm by hitting No. 1 on the Billboard charts with some big hits and a pretty good guest list of stars.

ESSENTIAL TRACKS: “F***in’ Problems,” “Wild for the Night.”

Wild For The Night feat. Skrillex by A$AP Rocky on Grooveshark

3. Queens of the Stone Age
…Like Clockwork
(Matador)

A brush with death left the coolest guy in rock, Josh Homme, feeling like a mere mortal. What results is some of the most dark and beautiful tunes the band has ever put out.

ESSENTIAL TRACKS: “My God is the Sun,” “If I Had a Tail.”

My God Is the Sun by Queens of the Stone Age on Grooveshark

2. Kanye West
Yeezus
(Def Jam/Universal)

You see there’s leaders and there’s followers,
But I’d rather be a d*** than a swallower

Yup, Kanye made his mark in 2013 – and that’s even without the Kardashian sideshow. The most polarizing figure in modern music unleashes a torrent of firecrackers — from the kick-ass intro “On Sight,” you know the self-anointed rap god is about to back up his big mouth.

ESSENTIAL TRACKS: “Blood on the Leaves,” “Black Skinhead.”

Blood on the Leaves by Kanye West on Grooveshark


1. Arctic Monkeys
AM
(Domino)

One of the most consistently good rock bands in recent memory is finally getting tons of attention on this side of the Atlantic, even without a stand out hit track. Let’s hear it for the old school way of making it big — with great albums.

ESSENTIAL TRACKS: “Do I Wanna Know,” “Arabella.”

Do I Wanna Know? by Arctic Monkeys on Grooveshark

The new and improved ultimate Halloween playlist

- October 29th, 2013

It’s trick or treat season once again, and it’s also time to clear the cobwebs off the rickety old Halloween playlist and hand out some new ear candy.

We went through the best of the best last year, so this time around, we’re going to go through some fresh spine-chilling 2013 titles to rock your bloody socks off.

And please, don’t chop our heads off if your favourite didn’t make the list — you can add your own spooktacular tune to the comment section at the bottom of the page.

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Nine Inch Nails, “Came Back Haunted”

What better way to kick off a scary crop of tunes then with the master of mope himself, Trent Reznor? This solid, spooky track from Nine Inch Nails’ latest disc, “Hesitation Marks,” sets the tone with lyrics such as: “Now I’ve got something you have to see/They put something inside of me/The smile is red and its eyes are black/I don’t think I’ll be coming back.” Yes, we’re ha-ha-haunted already.

The Neighbourhood, “Afraid”

You may be familiar with the California alt-rockers for their hit “Sweater Weather,” but their second single from their debut album, “I Love You,” will send you running for the hills with its dark hooks and edgy sound.

Cage the Elephant, “Come a Little Closer”

Three albums in, it’s about time we all got a little closer to the rockin’ Kentucky fivesome. Their latest, “Melophobia,” may mean a fear of music, but there really is nothing to be wary of in their case. Or is there? Muhahahaha.

New Beat Fund, “Scare Me”

This quirky and hair-raising track may have you either enthralled or completely annoyed. Either way, it has done its job.

Vampire Weekend, “Unbelievers”

Okay, we’ll admit that this won’t exactly have you shakin’ in your boots, but the band’s spooky name gives us free reign to give it a plug. Besides, it’s one of the great songs of ’13 and it’ll get the undead to come alive.

NONONO, “Pumpin Blood”

“It’s your heart, it’s alive, it’s pumpin’ blood,” shouts Nonono lead singer Stina Wäppling. Thanks for the tip. Anyways, this ridiculously catchy, yet melancholy debut song from the Swedish trio will have you whistling in your zombie costume.

Queens of the Stone Age, “Keep Your Eyes Peeled”

This creepy lead-off track to the Josh Homme-led band’s latest (and damn fine) “…Like Clockwork” sets the bloodcurdling theme for the rest of the album. There will be blood.

Kanye West, “Blood on the Leaves”

We know he wouldn’t be surprised that he made our list. Whatever side of the Kanye fence you sit on, there’s no denying the power and spell that this track holds. All bow down to Yeezus! Or not.’

Bridge School webcast to feature Arcade Fire, QOTSA

- October 22nd, 2013

if you’re a music fan and you don’t have any plans Saturday night, you now have something to do.

Neil Young’s annual Bridge School Benefit Concert’s first night of the two-night all-acoustic event will be livestreamed on Oct. 26th (bookmark this page and watch it below).

Artists scheduled to appear on the webcast are Montreal’s Arcade Fire, Crosby Stills, Nash & Young, Queens of the Stone Age, My Morning Jacket, Nanaimo’s Diana Krall, Jack Johnson, Elvis Costello, Fun., Heart and Jenny Lewis.

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The concert begins at 8 p.m. ET from the Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountainview, California.

The Bridge School is an organization which aims to educate children with severe speech and physical disabilities. For almost three decades, Neil Young and his wife, Pegi, have organized and curated the Annual Bridge School Benefit Concerts in order to raise funds and awareness for the organization.

Missing out on Lollapalooza? Watch it here

- August 1st, 2013

If you are among the millions of music fans that are chapped over the fact that you’re missing out on Lollapalooza in Chicago this weekend, fear not.

The venerable music festival, which runs tomorrow (Aug. 2) through until Sunday, has just released its live webcast schedule, and it’s jam-packed with some damn fine acts. Friday, you can catch the likes of Queens of the Stone Age, the Killers and Nine Inch Nails. Saturday, you can tune in to see the Lumineers, the Postal Service and Mumford & Sons, while Sunday ends with Vampire Weekend, the Cure and Phoenix.

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And all of this for free. And we all know, free is good. The full sked of artists and times (which are all local), as well as the webcast can be seen at the bottom of this page. While you’re at it, feel free to comment on all the bands you’re taking in!

Enjoy! I know we will.

Friday

2:30pm – Smith Westerns
3:30pm – Icona Pop
4:15pm – Crystal Castles
5:15pm – Imagine Dragons
6:15pm – Queens of the Stone Age
7:30pm – Band of Horses
8:30pm – The Killers
10:00pm – Nine Inch Nails

Saturday

2:15pm – Ben Howard
3:00pm – Court Yard Hounds
4:00pm – Local Natives
5:00pm – Ellie Goulding
6:00pm – The National
7:15pm – The Lumineers
8:30pm – The Postal Service
10:00pm – Mumford & Sons

Sunday

2:30pm – Alex Clare
3:45pm – Wild Nothing
4:30pm – Two Door Cinema Club
5:30pm – Alt-J
6:30pm – Steve Aoki
7:00pm – Vampire Weekend
8:15pm – The Cure
10:15pm – Phoenix

Twitter: @johnwillms
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Arctic Monkeys announce new album

- June 24th, 2013

Sheffield rockers Arctic Monkeys are jumping back into the rock ‘n roll fray with a brand new album.

The disc, simply titled AM, will be released on September 10, and includes 11 new tracks.

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James Ford, who produced their last three records, including 2011′s critically acclaimed Suck It and See was once again at the controls.

The lead single, Do I Wanna Know, was released last week via iTunes (see the video below), while the standalone single from last year, R U Mine, makes an appearance on the new effort.

Queens of the Stone Age frontman Josh Homme, Pete Thomas and Bill Ryder Jones are among the guests on AM.

Here’s the full tracklisting:

1. Do I Wanna Know?
2. R U Mine?
3. One For The Road
4. Arabella
5. I Want It All
6. No. 1 Party Anthem
7. Mad Sounds
8. Fireside
9. Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?
10. Snap Out Of It
11. Knee Socks
12. I Wanna Be Yours

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