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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

Yeah Yeah Yeahs put on powerful performance on Letterman

- April 6th, 2013

New York’s Yeah Yeah Yeahs brought some soul power to the Late Show With David Letterman last night.

The band, along with the gospel choir the Broadway Inspiration Voices, performed Sacrilege, the new single off their forthcoming album, Mosquito (watch below).

yyys

Frontlady Karen O, decked out in an Elvis-inspired yellow get up, belted out the tune with a smile on her face, and she wasn’t the only one happy. Letterman was clearly impressed, saying emphatically, “that was wonderful, that’s all we’re looking for!”

Mosquito, their fourth studio effort, will be released on April 16.

Next up for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs will be gigs at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival on April 12 and 19th. Yours truly will be on hand for a full report.

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Coachella fans in an uproar over lineup that includes headliners Red Hot Chili Peppers, Blur, Stone Roses and Phoenix

- January 25th, 2013

There are sour notes emanating from Coachella fans, in reaction to the music festival’s lineup announcement in the wee hours of this morning.

In what some are calling one of the weakest lineups in years, fans have taken to social media to air their displeasure. “We waited for this?” “Where’s the big headliner?” “I’m selling my airline tickets!” Yes, all direct quotes from their official Facebook page.

And of course, I wouldn’t be doing my job if I wasn’t scrutinizing the lineup myself.

Fans have raised a legitimate beef – where is the marquee, blow-you-away headliner? No offense to Phoenix, but the French band hardly deserves top billing at one of the biggest musical events of the year. Ditto for Stone Roses and Blur – it’s not the early ’90s anymore, and it’s not a UK fest catering to 40-something hipsters with British accents.

Also, my biggest grievance, the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Big name for sure, but every time I’ve seen them through the years, sadly, the opening band has consistently outplayed them.

So is all lost for the thousands of music fans that will still get crazy from the heat of the California desert in April? Hardly.

coachella
If you get the musical microscope out and focus in on the small font on the concert poster, you’ll find it’s the lesser lights that are going to shine.

Bands like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, the Lumineers, Grizzly Bear, Vampire Weekend, the xx, and a reunited Postal Service will all easily make up for the lack of electricity up top.

In addition to the young bucks, there are some veterans that may give them a run – Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Violent Femmes (who are reuniting for the gig), New Order, Wu-Tang Clan (also back together for the first time in years) and Lou Reed – you read correctly – Lou friggin’ Reed – will all grace the stage without walkers or hearing aids of any kind (EDITOR’S NOTE – he has now cancelled his appearance).

Heck, there’s even some top notch CanCon on the list with Tegan and Sara, Metric, Stars and Vancouver’s Japandroids.

So worry not. For those who’ve already made their travel plans, no need to refund your plane ticket. Just keep in mind that most of the stage heat will be generated during the day. Bring extra sunscreen.

The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival takes place at the Empire Polo Grounds in Indio, Calif., and runs over two weekends: April 12 to 14 and April 19 to 21 (the same acts are on both weekends). Tickets go on sale HERE on Tuesday at 7 a.m. (EST).

What do you think of the lineup? Sound off in the comment section below.

Follow me: @johnwillms
Friend me: facebook.com/john.williams1

Friday, April 12 & 19

Blur, The Stone Roses, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Modest Mouse, Lou Reed, Jurassic 5, Grinderman, Bassnectar, Dog Blood, How to Destroy Angels, Passion Pit, Tegan and Sara, Band of Horses, Beach House, Metric, Local Natives, Of Monsters and Men, Infected Mushroom, Japandroids, Divine Fits, Stars, Johnny Marr, Luciano, Wolfgang Gartner, Nicky Romero, Modestep, Tommy Trash, Thomas Gold, the Shouting Matches, Dillon Francis, Four Tet, Aesop Rock, Alt-J, Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine, TNGHT, Jake Bugg, Earl Sweatshirt, Polica, Sparks, Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra, Purity Ring, Lee Scratch Perry, Dam-Funk, DJ Harvey, Jamie xx, Seth Troxler, Youth Lagoon, Deathfix, C2C, Beardyman, Lord Huron, Palma Violets, IO Echo, Skinny Lister, the Neighbourhood, Sam XL Pure Filth Sound

Saturday, April 13 and 20

Phoenix, the XX, the Postal Service, Sigur Ros, New Order, Hot Chip, Grizzly Bear, Knife Party, Benny Benassi, Two Door Cinema Club, Moby, Descendents, Yeasayer, Franz Ferdinand, Violent Femmes, Simian Mobile Disco, Spiritualized, Puscifer, Cafe Tacuba, Portugal, the Man, the Make-Up, Bat for Lashes, Richie Hawtin, Major Lazer, Fedde Le Grand, Dropkick Murphys, FOALS, Ben Howard, 2 Chainz, Janelle Monae, Danny Brown, Wild Nothing, Booka Shade, Bingo Players, Allen Stone, El-P, the Selecter, Pusha T, Kill the Noise, the Evens, Biffy Clyro, Theophilus London, Baauer, Zane Lowe, Trash Talk, Birdy Nam Nam, Action Bronson, Jason Bentley, the Wombats, Guards, Mona, Savages, Shovels & Rope, Huoratron, Kurt Vile, Reignwolf, Cassy, 3Ball MTY, Kids These Days, the 2 Bears, the Colourist, Vintage Trouble

Sunday, April 14 and 21

Red Hot Chili Peppers, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Vampire Weekend, Social Distortion, Wu-Tang Clan, Pretty Lights, Eric Prydz, Tame Impala, the Lumineers, Dead Can Dance, La Roux, James Blake, Excision Grimes, the Gaslight Anthem, the Faint, Hardwell, Paul Oakenfold, Dinosaur Jr., Raider Klan, OMD, Roni Size, the Airborne Toxic Event, Father John Misty, Tanlines, Rodriguez, Alex Clare, Paul Kalkbrenner, Jessie Ware, Loco Dice, Jamie Jones, the Three O’Clock, Disclosure, Mimosa, Cloud Nothings, Parov Stelar Band, Julio Bashmore, Thee Oh Sees, Dub Fx, Maya Jane Coles, JEFF the Brotherhood, Smith Westerns, Dirtyphonics, Joris Voorn, Hanni El Khatib, Danny Avila, Ghost, DIIV, Little Green Cars, Mord Fustang, James McCartney, Unicorn Kid, Robert DeLong, White Arrows, Deep Vally, Wild Belle, Adrian Lux, Ladies Night

New Yeah Yeah Yeahs album coming in April

- January 14th, 2013

New York alt rockers Yeah Yeah Yeahs are back, and there is definitely a buzz about the new album — as well as its title.

The band’s fourth studio disc, “”Mosquito,” will be released on April 16 in North America,  with a deluxe album bundle that can be pre-ordered via their official website right now.

yyys

It’s Karen O & co’s first record since 2009′s “It’s Blitz.”

“We would love for this music to make our fans feeeeel something, for it to stir some shit up inside of them, whatever that may be,” said Karen O in a statement. “So much feeling went into this record, it was the rope ladder thrown down into the ditch for us to climb up and dust ourselves off. I hope others can climb up it too; we’re excited to share the good vibes.”

The band released a teaser video on YouTube (below) for the album, which features a behind-the-scenes look at the recording of the album, and it also shows a different look to O – she’s sporting longer, blonde hair now.
Most of “Mosquito” was recorded at Sonic Ranch in Tornilla, Texas, which production by Dave Sitek (TV on the Radio), Nick Launay (Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds) as well as one track by James Murphy (LCD Soundsystem).