Monthly Archives: January 2013

Most Underrated Artists of 2012

Most Underrated Artists of 2012

Here are just a few. I obviously can’t list them all. This is only a jumping-off point for you mainstreamers. So, please, music nerds and those with terrible taste, don’t send me hate messages about how the Avenged Sevenfold, or Chopin, discography should be on here.

Rock

As if Brandon Flowers [The Killers frontman] hasn’t been busy enough with his new album Battle Born (incidentally, also making the list), he’s been handpicking his legacy– an emerging band called Imagine Dragons. Released in September, this beast of Flowers’ creation has taken on a life of its own. After the song “It’s Time” worked its way into several movies, shows, & late-night programs, their roar was finally heard, being nominated for “Best Rock Video” at the VMA’s. By then, of course, they had already put out another album, Night VisionsBut go listen to both. I was pleasantly surprised by lyrics and unique sound, while maintaining a rocker quality.

If you’re like me, you’re wondering why you hadn’t heard of them until lately. Amazon.com called the band their “Favorite Rock artist of 2012.” Billboard Magazine listed them as one of “2012’s Brightest New Stars.” Perhaps we will see more of them soon in 2013.

And, am I the only one who noticed The Fray kind of….disappeared from the popular music scene after their chart-topping songs “How to Save a Life” and “Over My Head”…..??!

I think they have now finally matured, with the latest album Scars & Stories, both lyrically and instrumentally, but hey, this is America’s jukebox. I don’t control it; anyways, I’m sure it’s already too full with Beiber and Miley Cyrus. This is just a suggestion. If you liked their earlier stuff, I think you might like their new stuff even more.

Branching in between the categories of Rock and Singer/Songwriter is my discovery of  The White Buffalo, competing for the elusive “all-American” sound on this blog. Gaining their fame only recently by the show “Sons of Anarchy,” I stumbled upon them, then listened to the new album “Once Upon A Time, In The West”. My favorite songs currently of their’s are The PilotI Wish It Was True, and their cover of House of The Rising Sun.

I can’t describe the music better than the band itself:

The White Buffalo represents an authentic homage to the times of hard touring, hard drinking artists who truly lived what they sang about. Seamlessly moving from heartfelt ballads to raucous bar songs, The White Buffalo sings with honesty and thoughtful reflection as he travels the road, sharing his music. Everything about him is big, from his imposing physical size to his amazing vocal range. From his whiskey-drenched, growling lows to heart-stopping highs, The White Buffalo paints a touching picture, whether he stands alone or performs with his energetic, charismatic band

Download for free here

 

Singer/Songwriter

Tyler Hilton‘s  new album “Forget the Storm” has finally broken him out of the one-cast mold we’ve heard in the past ones. He’s really shown a new spark of inspiration since his days in acting [Walk The Line – Elvis; Charlie Bartlett; One Tree Hilll] yet somehow struggled to gain popularity among the masses. I’m not sure how that happens, because he does have quality music, with surprisingly good lyrics. Perhaps he didn’t have time to fully put into his music career until late, but he’s sounding more confident and diverse. He’s gained a rocker edge, though not completely lost from his mellow “Missing You” days. He has songs like “Prince of Nothing Charming,” but also bold rock anthems like “Loaded Gun

I have no idea how City & Colour‘s new album Little Hell went unnoticed. There’s not even enough space on here for me to rant about Dallas Green’s genius. So I’m not going to. Just go listen. (You may recognize this old one – “The Girl”

Parker Millsap: For my Okie friends, you might check out this guy, who I can only assume to be a long lost relative of Johnny Cash. Actually, wherever you live, do it. He’s officially my favorite underrated artist of 2012

“Parker Millsap and Michael Rose are essentially a force of nature. To compare them to any person, place, or thing is redundant. They are like nothing in the music market and their audience is probably clapping with one hand with that fat naked Buddha leading the devotees’ applause. Comparison is futile. Still, we strive to label that we may pass information on to our peers.” via parkermillsap.com

So here I go, I’ll try my best:
Born and bred in the heart of the American promised land,  this is exactly where I met Parker along his rambling tour — in downtown Oklahoma City. (though he plays shows in Texas too). He was hired as live entertainment for the (boring) Oklahoma Creativity Conference, which me and my friend Sally quickly decided to ditch and sneak off to our own private concert. There aren’t many who I can honestly say are”refreshing” or “enable us to breathe deep again,” but this troubadour has earned the title.  I was drawn in by the lyrics, showing the obvious marks of a captivating storyteller, like a ballad or incantation or something out of literature. He is either highly educated in the fine arts, and translates it into colloquial speak, or is just very street-smart, poetically speaking. Yet, his performance didn’t seemed strained’; he did it all so cooly, with that…haunting…groan fr0m the very depths of  his person. Right then, somehow, I knew these were more than lyrics, these were stories from his life, all of our lives; moreover, a larger narrative of America. Maybe what intrigued me, as it will you, is I couldn’t immediately nail him down (which is what we immediately want to do – stereotype & categorize). Was he country, alternative rock, folk, or what? In any case, it had the sound of something both unique and familiar, like a love-sick lullaby you must’ve heard sung you to sleep before, half-aware of the words.  I listened to this one-man act: a wicked-sweet howl it was- like a craving for tangy-sour dichotomy on the tongue- it both perspired and inspired the taste for more, as he wildly played numerous instruments, eagerly interacted with the crowd (us), kissed the harmonica  passionately, and stomped his foot, all at once. Standing there, listening, alone,  in the lobby, I had to think — this is the epitome of underrated. 

You can also listen to a few of his songs here.

Also, if you like those, check out the artist M.Ward. Listen to my favorite album, bootleg recordings, here. He literally recorded these albums in an attic, I think, for the vintage sound.

 

Indie/Folk

Ron Pope, famous for “A Drop in The Ocean,” should be on this list. I can’t believe people don’t know this guy. He’s more of a pop-acoustic-indie rock, but I don’t know where else to put him. He’s an interesting blend. Even if just for the lyrics, go look him up. He’s one of my favorite lyricists and writing inspirations, hands down.

Of Monsters and Men: This band is taking up the American airwaves, more and more, as they have gained popularity in the past few months. But they are actually from Iceland. You may have heard their songs, Mountain Sound & Little Talks peaking on the billboard charts, but you might check out the rest of the album. Especially if you’re a Mumford fan. Personally, my favorite is King & Lionheart.

Run RiverNorth (formerly known as Monsters Calling Home): More than anything, I was just so damn intrigued by how this band gained popularity, and wondered where they would go. I don’t want to spoil the story, but basically they went from unknown status to the Jimmy Kimmel Show. My favorite songs are Foxbeard and Growing Up. You can buy/listen to their EP here.

The Lumineers: Although the selft-titled album debuted in April, this unknown Denver band finally broke big with the song, “Ho Hey” in December. It was played on the radio, rising to the #11 spot on Billboard. Whether they stay a one-hit-wonder, or rise to fame is up to you. Check out the rest of the songs on the album and let me know what you think. Give it a full listen though; their songs tend to have a build-up.

If you like those, check out Best Coast, who has the sound of growing up, the sound of teenage transition, on their lips, with a little punk-indie edge.

 

Ambient Music

William Fitzsimmons, an Illinois-based singer-songwriter with a Masters in counseling, is I placed in this category for his raw, solo performances, as well as his synth remixes on the album “Derivatives.” Whichever you prefer. Most likely you’ve heard his (breakout) song Passion Play, as it was aired on countless TV shows.

Tycho : My personal favorite, a smooth blend of coffee-house melodies & silent-movie-like electronic cardio. No lyrics, almost all synth- a modern jazz. Great for studying or writing papers.

Washed Out, the most chill of the bunch, for those late hours of tedious work, when you’re too stressed to listen to fast BPM’s.

 

Techno Beats

Kap Slap: Specializing in all high BPM’s & crazy electronic-cardio remixes of famous songs. If you need workout music, look no further. One track of his will suffice. Seriously. He has a 1 hour-long track he made downloadable for freeon his facebook page. It’s the Back to School Mix. How appropriate.  I guarantee you, there is nothing (worth doing) in this world you shouldn’t be able to accomplish, within the time it takes to drink a cup of coffee & play the length of this energy-boosting track. My sister can attest to this; it’s the only way I passed biology last semester.

DJ Trademark: Vocal mash-ups are this artist’s specialty, with seamless transitions between popular songs, focusing on the art of blending high-quality jams, rather than creating fast techno-rave beats.

 

Stringed-Instrument groups

I’m going to put Hunter Hayes in this category. As I mentioned in my Top Pop Artists of 2012 blog a couple weeks ago (An Apocalypse Can’t Stop the Music),   At 21, playing more instruments than he is old, he’s not your average “country legend” or “band”. Check out the music video Storm Warning. Watch how many stringed instruments he plays.

In late 2011, while working at a country music station, I predicted him to be the rising star of 2012. He had not gained popularity for any of his singles then, but I saw something in him, something which would later inspire me to write these music blogs. I liked to play this game with my co-workers, “Who to watch for.” I told my boss Hayes had talent, that he would get big someday and we should interview him. My boss laughed at me, as if I knew more than him. Well, a year later, his song “Wanted” was chosen as the #5 best country song by Billboard and had three Grammy nominations, winning “Best New Artist.” I only have one thing to say: Who’s the boss now?!!

Seryn: Turn it up and jam-out in the car. Straight outta my hometown, this band, from Denton, Texas, is like Bon Iver on steriods -multiple voices shouting without reserve.  Have some patience with this band. I find them to be the one you “warm up to” after a few listens, but not after just the first time. Their music has long portions of instrumentals between harmonized vocals, but good things come to those who wait. The build-up & release is so, so worth it. Believe me.
Listen/Buy here.

[“Using a variety of instruments including guitar, ukulele, kalimba, accordion, bass, drums, viola, percussion and more…”]

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This Year, Resolve to Work Out Your Brain Too: 10 Healthy Tips

 

For those making resolutions to hit the gym this year….

You might want to consider working out your brain too.

Here’s why:

If you don’t start now, you won’t have half as many stories to tell your grandchildren.

You simply won’t remember. Seriously.

In Layman’s terms, our memories are kind of like a huge library. If you keep shoving them into the back of the dusty corner, you’ll eventually forget where you put them.

Now, I’m not talking about dementia or Alzheimer’s. This begins happening as soon as your brain reaches maturation. You are not exempt if you are only 40, or even 20.

Childhood memories slowly begin to fade away, and only the significant events remain.  Sure, some item or person may suddenly jolt your memory, but you will be less likely to remember that on your own.

 

Recognition Vs. Recall

Note: There is a difference between recognition and recall. —-Recognition is the association of a memory with an event or physical object you’ve encountered. So, you might see a baseball glove and suddenly remember how your grandfather took you to a Texas Ranger’s game. Recall is more like a Fill-In-The-Blank. It’s not even multiple choice. You have to remember something, with nothing in front of you to help.

 

So, what to do about this?

Well, the brain is a muscle, like any part of your body. Time to pump the iron.

If you’re looking to improve your memory, with training techniques, there might be far more indirect brain benefits than you realize:

It will keep you telling those hilarious stories at social events, lower your stress, keep you better organized, stay mentally healthy, more alert, and better grasp concepts.

 

My 10 Practical Tips:

Yes, I’m hitting you with the diet stuff first. Let’s get it out of the way. Hey, if it makes you feel better, I’m medically allowed to add wine to this list.

  • Get enough sleep.

(Yes it’s that simple. No, we don’t do it.)   Nothing makes for a foggy day like being sleep-deprived. The reverse is true: nothing makes you feel more alive and alert than a full night’s sleep.

  • Carry around a notebook

Whether you’re nostalgic or frustrated, a new parent- creating a book of bedtime stories, or collecting material for your memoir, ALWAYS carry a notebook with you. everywhere. Best advice I can give you.

  • Exercise

Stimulates production of new synapses, essentially new pathways which are applicable to any situation (whereas learning Sudoku might not help except in number-related puzzles). Also, the increased oxygen to the brain= good thing. Trust me. Last but not least, when you work out, (whether cardio or weights) it releases the feel-good chemical endorphins. (see link for targeted work-out tips)

  • Play video games   (for real)

Neuroscientist Yaakov Stern of Columbia University said in an article, “It requires motor control, visual search, working memory, long-term memory, and decision making,”  [also ability to control and switch attention among different tasks.] “People get better on tests of memory, motor speed, visual-spatial skills, and tasks requiring cognitive flexibility.”

  • Stay creative.

Don’t just do busy-work and boring work. Do something everday you love, for you. Writer Charles Bukowski didn’t believe in the “tortured genius.” He believes our motives affect our performance.

  • Laugh

It’s good for the soul. And apparently your memory retention? Also, don’t forget to laugh at yourself! Many memories are embarrassing, but don’t let that stop you. You might find some of them hilarious now, which you swore you’d never speak of again. In fact, tell it to a friend. Laugh until you cry. You never know, it might bring up other pieces of the event, if it happened with a friend.

  • Drink green tea.

Not only is it good for your brain, it actually has 7 other healthy benefits.

  • No More Mean Girls. Make real friends & real memories.

Surround yourself with healthy relationships. Ok fine, we can still watch the movie. I just mean, friends are the ultimate memory booster. They always remember stuff for you, good or bad. They induce those memory recall situations. Not to mention, people are the most important memories.

  • Try meditation, reading an old book, visiting where you grew up, yoga,  crosswords & Sudoku, using Mnemonic devices, active listening to radio news, trivia games, or (my favorite) photo albums.


I’d love to know:

What proven method did I leave out?

What unconventional method works for you?

What’s your strongest memory?

What triggers your flashbacks?

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2012 for Dummies: An Apocalypse Can’t Stop the Music

If you’ve been living in an abandoned silo-bunker for the past year, preparing for the apocalypse, here’s what you should know:

Well, nothing happened on 12.12.12, except for a volley disappointed Grumpy-Cat memes and massive hangovers the next morning.  Of course, its a bummer for the southern folks who’ve bought out all the crossbows & assault weapons, but sorry folks, the zombies won’t be coming out to play anytime soon.

(It’s safe to resurface now, but don’t contact your real estate agent just yet. Those underground bomb-shelters are going for a steep price on the 2013 market, as the fiscal cliff loomingly approaches. Remember, my Alabama Slammer friends, those unused stockpiles of liquor and ammunition may come in handy if the apocalypse was just a military code-word for Operation Shit-Storm: world “peace” 2013.)

The Skinny on What You Missed

Nicky Minaj got weirder. And worse at singing. While gaining popularity. Yes, apparently that’s possible. Hail to the chief of ‘Merican reasoning.

And if that wasn’t proof enough Americans don’t listen to the lyrics, we made Psy’s “Gangam Style” the most watched video. ever. [Really? — ever?]

Skrillex is still pumping out beats only white kids can dance to. (hey, ya gotta give ’em somethin)

Carly Rae Jepson is still waiting for him to call her. Maybe. We’ve heard rumors, but we’re not sure.

Mumford & Sons made banjos the coolest instrument to learn. But no matter how hard you try, you will never be THAT cool.

Pitbull‘s still rapping about stuff…..which nobody can quite make out, except, MR. WORLDWIDE!, but everyone loves it.

People are still unsure of how to pronounce Gotye.

LMFAO is still being party-rocked to at numerous lame high-school parties around the world.

Nobody has yet to hear any other song by Foster The People, except “Pumped Up Kicks.” Kids, if you read this 20 years later, please don’t over-think it. They probably conspired with M.I.A. & their song “Paper Planes” to have a hipster duel. They take it to the streets to shoot it out.  In West Side Story fashion, that is.

Wiz Khalifa stopped making music altogether, focusing all his energy on smoking copious amounts of cannabis, pondering whether to grow out some dreads in unique Marley-esque fashion, and writing super-obscure, tween-loveable tweets.

Not to worry though; some things never change. Jason Aldean, Eric Church, Kenny Chesney, Blake Shelton, and Luke Bryan  are all still taking Chevys down dirt roads to the square dance, chuggin beer, balin’ hay, hittin’ on pretty lil’ thangs, watchin corn grow into whiskey, often at the same time……while gaining southern listeners. Need I further explain?

This previously mentioned cowboy hat-toting, country-rock blend excludes one melody of ingredients. This exception is the 30-some instrument-playing Hunter Hayes [Storm Warning]. At 21, playing more instruments than he is old, he’s not your average “country legend.”  In late 2011, while working at a country music station, I predicted him to be the rising star of 2012. He was not even on the Billboard map then, but I liked to play this game with my co-workers, “Who to watch for.” I told my boss he  had talent; he would get big someday and we should interview him. My boss laughed at me, as if I knew more than him. Well, his song “Wanted” was chosen as the #5 best country song by Billboard and had three Grammy nominations, winning “Best New Artist.” I only have one thing to say: Who’s the boss now?!!

You can still blow someone’s mind by telling them Lady Antebellum or The Band Perry isn’t a girl band.

The first boy band since Justin Timerberlake‘s acne days has surfaced atop the musical waters, from nowhere, with a brooding, pop-bromance vengeance: One Direction. Rumors are they spent billions of dollars producing their high-quality music video for the song “What Makes You Beautiful,” which somehow got voted “Most Share-worthy Video?? [I’m sorry. Forgot to say, “Insert sarcasm here] It’s truly the end of times people.

 Demi Lovato, looking all grown up now, has put her Barney days ( starring as Angela) behind her. But she hasn’t forgotten her upbringing altogether. When she’s not off starting a new philanthropic movement for kids, writing, or singing, or acting, {or being a semi-professional race-car driver/amateur tattoo artist?} she found time to accept her VMA award. That award was for her platinum single “Skyscraper”, the “Best Video with a Message” I guess old habits die hard. She was supposed to release the 1st single for her 2013 album in December, but she never did. So keep your eyes peeled….errrr ears tuned.

Taylor Swift cycled through another 3 or 4 boyfriends. Of course, that’s not really news to you. But we got the chart-grossing album “Red” out of it, which is impossible to even summarize. So I won’t. Enough has been said already. I think, after the majority of the songs in your album hit the Billboard Top 10, they should have to make a whole new award-category for you.

The woman-empowering, modern day powderpuff girl is the most likely, but least capable candidate to rule America one day.  And as long as Taylor Swift hasn’t gone through menopause, we’ll still have hope and love (albeit pessimistic)  in our life, for years to comeMere days after finishing her “Red” album, a barista mixed up her drink order. In other unrelated news, she’s writing a new song about coffee-shop romance gone bad. Expect an album in 2013.

Lady Gaga showed up to the VMA’s this time as her male alter ego – Jo Calderone. Seriously. Since last year’s “f*****g meat-dress” was too tame a wardrobe choice. Ah yes, teaching boys and girls around the world to “be themselves.” And by be yourself, she means “be anything but you.”  Now, I’m no psychiatrist, but I think this is less of “Jo” coming out, and more of “Gaga’s”  high school insecurities, from which she apparently never graduated.

Lady-gaga-jo-calderone-08062011-02_large

When she’s not getting kicked out of Gaga-indifferent countries along her “Born This Way” world- tour & working on her new 2013 album “ARTPOP,” she’s been working on a collaborative album with the classy and reserved Tony Bennett. Well if that’s not split-personality for you, I don’t know what its. She’s also acting in some upcoming movies and starring in Terry Richardson’s documentary about her life. No doubt, 2012 is the calm before the storm, as this woman prepares to take over pop-culture with the odd-ocalypse.

Adele’s still singing whiny songs to the tune of her 49 cat-producers at home, while finding time to lose the very weight she claims she didn’t need to earlier this year.  The nose-job was because she had a deviated septum, not because she wanted another shade of white; God knows the camera couldn’t handle that glare anyway.  Oh, and something about her being the 1st to have an album going 8 times platinum. Nonetheless, I’m pretty sure something must be in the water. Mostly because she’s setting fire to it, somehow, and we’re all still drinking it up like rats in a beer pong maze.

In other news, I’m pretty sure Kanye still thinks he’s Jesus (throwing middle fingers to the world instead of forgiveness), although he didn’t turn over any tables at this year’s VMA awards. So Taylor Swift got to breathe a sigh of melo-dramatic relief. In fact he pulled out, altogether, from September’s show. I can’t say the same respect was extended to Kim Kardashian, who was the reason for this move. They sat on the sidelines this year, instead announcing to everyone the pregnancy of the dreaded beast, born too little too late for the apocalypse takeover: a Love Lockdown baby. Congrats Kanye, now you’re locked into writing Usher-esque, baby-daddy lyrics for the rest of your career.

    Our girl “Katy Perry”, the gospel artist formerly known as Katheryn Elizabeth Hudson, has too many awards to even read off. Most impressive though, is her ability to stay high on the charts, year round, even without an album out. Between her numerous hits from the same album [Teenage Dream, Last Friday Night, California Gurls, Firework, Peacock,The One That Got Away,  E.T.] her career isn’t in jeopardy, despite the fact that it will have been 3 years between albums. Her new one is rumored for summer ’13.

And although KP hasn’t put out a new album since “Teenage Dream,” she was somehow still nominated for “Video of the Year,” [2012] with her surprise summer single “Wide Awake.” And although she fell short of that winning that big title this year at the VMA’s, she scored the “Best Art Direction” trophy. No surprise there. She’s been an innovative, creative-junkie since the time of her Pentacostal days, secretly dancing and directing music videos in her bedroom. In fact, she co-released her own bio/concert-documentary movie in July, “Part of Me,” which was, surprisingly, one of the successful documentaries of all time.

I think we are all a bit intrigued by KP’s “born again” reference in “Wide Awake”. What to expect from the new album? Truly nobody knows. I think she’s trying to compete with Lady Gaga on the in-your-face lyrics and the weirdness/ fashionable scale.  Either way, for some odd reason I always want to go watch “The New Girl” every-time I look at her.

  

   It was a wild up & down ride for Rihanna this year, making history with her award-winning video “We Found Love,” a bold statement about closing the chapter on relationships gone wrong.  Then she got all sentimental and took a trip down memory lane, shacking back up with wife-beater-wearing Chris Brown. But hey, “Do as I say, not as I do,” right?” Her new album, ironically named “Unapologetic,”  debuted in November with the song “Diamonds,”  perhaps hinting at ‘ol Chris Beaty to make it up to her with some bling. I guess some people are just beyond help. Listen, I know the new album cover bares all of Rihanna’s vulnerabilities (aka body), proving the bruises are gone, but was this taken before or after the Brown re-bound? At any rate, you made Rihanna the most digitally downloaded artist, just in the U.S. alone.

While on the topic of hip-hop and new haircuts, I’ve decided to place “the Biebs” in this category. It’s not like America knows the difference anymore. It’s all pop-club-rap-rock anyways now.

    Like the kids on Boy Meets World (soon to become Girl Meets World in 2013), the whole world has watched him grow up. One CNN article put it best: “As a star birthed by YouTube and raised by Twitter, Justin Bieber has never had the luxury of growing up outside the public eye. In the two years between his breakout 2010 LP, “My World 2.0,” and “Believe,” his second proper full-length, Bieber has had to go through cultural puberty and actual puberty…”

This year, testosterone hit more than just Rihanna. Posting pictures of his abs and fresh tats, the Biebs has really proven himself to an aging tween audience, who is now growing into their large, adolescent ears. He has embraced the haircut and the voice change with a positive outlook, taking the opportunity to completely reinvent his sound and style.

And as much as I can’ wait for the CIA to roll out their best snipers and eliminate the threat to our hypnotized, mush-for-brains society, I have to hand it to him — it’s clear he’s worked hard to become the AMA Artist of the Year. America agrees, boosting numerous singles to the charts, such as:

Boyfriend, As Long As You Love Me, All Around the World, Thought of You

Usher, his mentor, who apparently has nowhere else to go with his career, has been introducing him to artists like Drake & Nicky Minaj. I think we all know how this story ends up. They made a movie about it in 2003 with Jamie Kennedy, called “Malibu’s Most Wanted. It’s about the white boy who….

Well, maybe it’s better if you just watch the trailer.

 

 

 

On that more humorous note ladies & gentlemen,

I wish you a Happy New Year.

-D.R.-

[Keep the change ya filthy animal]

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