Top 10 Albums of 2015

Penultimate list of the year! Movies will be coming soon…

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10. Carly Rae Jepsen Emotion

A lot of people were really surprised by this record, but I never really was. I championed (and still do) “Call Me Maybe” as a perfect pop song and placed it as my number one song of 2012. Emotion is a strong pop album that never made much leeway on the radio despite its catchy 80s influenced style. Jepsen is our best pop star, you all just don’t know it.

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9. Titus Andronicus The Most Lamentable Tragedy

A 90-minute plus punk rock opera that filters the band’s punk influences through Bruce Springsteen’s everyman representation with an added experimental edge. It certainly doesn’t have the highs of The Monitor, but it is pretty consistent from beginning to end. Patrick Stickles brain will always come up with raging rock songs, intricate and complex enough to inspire a plethora of think pieces and this is everything I love rolled into one giant album.

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8. Julien Baker Sprained Ankle

Quite the opposite of The Most Lamentable Tragedy, Baker’s debut album is quiet and sparse. There are only nine songs here, most of which only feature Baker singing and playing guitar , but boy are these tracks affecting. She has claimed these songs represent her coming out of a place of depression and abuse and one can certainly see the inner-monologue taking place. It’s an internal struggle, with Baker battling over her own soul and just when you think the darkness will overcome, grace shines through.

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7. Future Beast Mode

A lot has been written about Future being the saddest rapper to brag about drugs, partying, and sexual affairs and this has certainly been the case across his two mixtapes (Beast Mode, 56 Nights), his full length (DS2), and collaboration with Drake (What a Time to Be Alive). There’s a weariness to the way he raps, an autotuned slur, that makes you wonder if he’s really enjoying any of it. DS2 was the most critically acclaimed of the bunch, What a Time had the most hype surrounding it, but my favorite was Beast Mode which I think shows Future at his most sincere.

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6. Grimes Art Angels

On Art Angels, Grimes takes pop music and puts it through the most eccentric filter it could probably go through while continuing to be pop. It’s pure bubblegum pop, but is also very weird. Grimes takes a page out of K-Pop–electronic pop songs that are given the spirit and enthusiasm of a high school cheer team. It works surprisingly wonderful and is so much fun to listen to.

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5. Vince Staples Summertime ’06

Staples’ studio full length debut is a biographical double album about one of the most important summers he ever had. It tells the tale of Staples growing up, learning who he was, and the outside factors imposing in on his life. There are stories of adolescent love, of depression, and of extreme violence. It’s one of the most complex coming-of-age stories I’ve ever experienced. Staples is one of the best young voices making music out there and he may have just come up with a masterpiece here.

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4. Courtney Barnett Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit

It’s hard to say what the best thing is that Barnett does, is it her ability to come up with rollicking rock songs? Her clever wordplay? The fact that she came up with the introvert anthem (sorry Alessia Cara)? All of these things point to why Sometimes I Sit is an amazing album. It’s funny, it’s thoughtful, it can be blasted on any road trip. Women are crushing it in indie rock and Barnett is there at the top.

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3. Tame Impala Currents

Currents shows Tame Impala at their most accessible, like Grimes their sound perfectly mixes their more experimental tendencies with mainstream pop’s aesthetic. Currents is a blend of EDM with a singer-songwriter’s vision. Kevin Parker has created dance music for indie rock kids, blending in disco and R&B influences to make an album that grew with every listen.

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2. Kendrick Lamar To Pimp a Butterfly

This was probably the album of the year, with Kendrick building on all the goodwill of good kid, mad city to make one of the most ambitious, sprawling, and important albums maybe ever? It’s funky, jazzy, and altogether not what you’d expect from the most hyped person in rap music. But that makes it even better, showing Kendrick as a true artist, one that pushes the genre forward. To Pimp a Butterfly was a necessary album in a year filled with racial strife and police brutality at the forefront of our national conversations. It’s celebratory of black culture, comforts all the pain, and is also deeply critical of inner-city violence. Kendrick is never what anybody wants him to be and I think that’s what makes him all the more important.

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1.Sufjan Stevens Carrie  & Lowell

While Kendrick spent time analyzing the affairs of a nation, Sufjan spends his time processing his inner-self, responding to the loss of his mother. It’s painstakingly personal, littered with references to the loss and the deep depression he went through as a result. Most of Sufjan’s work features beautiful, stripped down folk songs but these are usually places between quirky chamber pop tracks. Here we essentially get sad, contemplative Sufjan for 43 straight minutes, and as much as I love the baroque Sufjan, slowed down it is so beautiful.

Honorable mentions: Young Fathers White Men Are Black Men Too; Hop Along Painted Shut; Sports All of Something; Panda Bear Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper; Drake & Future What a Time to Be Alive

The Serialization of Carly Rae Jepsen’s Singles

Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” tells the story of a girl looking for love, wishing for things she can only dream of. She’s reached a point of melancholic content. But from there it develops into a highly vast world–one filled with heart and hope–malaise and dread. Jepsen has delivered a second single, “I Really Like You”, that continues the story of our couple, following their story beyond those early days of phone digits and hot nights into something we could have never imagined–it’s a serialized set of singles telling a story of Biblical proportions.


Call Me Maybe

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It opens with Jepsen sitting at the wishing well; she throws coins into the water, wondering like The Goonies‘ Mikey if dreams do come true and if there really is any treasure out there? Can she save her parents house from becoming a country club? Will she be captured by the Fratellis and just what happened to One Eyed Willy? (All of this is metaphorical of course.)

Carly Rae at the wishing well.
Carly Rae at the wishing well.

From there, Jepsen, our protagonist is met by a sudden image. Is it a mirage? An angel? It is hard to look right at him, after all. Are those ripped jeans? Are those eyes locking or is it just the wind breaking through on this hot night?

Now normally when a man meets a woman there are cultural protocols that must be followed. Man pursues woman, asks her out, for her number, uses pick up line, etc… But in the world, in this–the 21st CENTURY, things have begun to shift. Shock upon shock, a twist that can only be compared to the greats, Jepsen approaches this man to give him her number. It’s a traditionalist’s nightmare, but this is Canada after all, the rules are different here.

Unfortunately for Jepsen this man takes quite a while to give her a call. This guy, living in the upside down dating world he does probably got together with all his boy friends and they made sure he didn’t put himself out there too quickly. ‘Ain’t no girl gonna take advantage of my boy’ is probably what they might have said.

Alas, Jepsen gets the call, her soul falls for him and she can only express herself in illogical poetry, talking about missing him before they even met. And there the story ends, girl and boy’s hearts twirling together as they fall in…

Wait, what?

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Isn’t this story over? Can’t we imagine the happily ever after?

Nope.


Call Me Maybe II: I Really Like You

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It’s easy to tell this is the same boy as in the original, because of just how coy he is. He made her approach him, he waited to call her, and now he makes her wait to hold his hand. He’s quite the tease, but that doesn’t stop the couple from spending every waking hour together.

Jepsen again bursts out with joy in the presence of this guy, exclaiming her feelings with extreme repetition (really, really, really, really, really, really). But here she too expresses caution (this may be because of her always being in her own head), not willing to commit to that four letter word.

Despite her youthful vigor, Jepsen expresses quite a bit of maturity here. The first song (in what I assume will be a trilogy) showcased the progressivism present in our hero, but here we see growth. Jepsen knows and believes that l*** is a powerful word and she’s not willing to throw it around even if the guy has the most fantastic pair of ripped jeans or eyes that should be illegal because of just how cute they are. It’s too soon for that and wisely she sticks to milder forms of linguistic affection.

And yet, in a classic sequel moving onto a trilogy move, the song ends with an unanswered question. The Empire Strikes Back left us with a frozen Han Solo, Back to the Future II with a question of how to rescue Doc Brown from the wild west, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest with a dead Jack Sparrow, and now I Really Like You ends with a repeated question: I want you, do you want me, do you want me too?

Having bared her soul (again, in a very wise and mature manner) Jepsen is awaiting her answer. As we know, this boy takes it slow, he is not to be played for a fool here. And all we’re left with is speculation–a classic cliffhanger Jepsen, you really got us here.


What do you think will happen in part III?

Will it begin with him telling her his feelings? Will she be rejected or will the third push the trilogy beyond like and into l***? Will we see a marriage or perhaps a tragic ending with one of the lovers passing on and the other stuck in a forever unrequited love?

Maybe she will go the George Lucas route, giving us a grand finale in part III before coming back years later to provide unnecessary explanations for our characters (she likes wishing wells because her dad was a wishing well designer; he has ripped jeans because he was skateboarding!) only to sell the property to Disney a decade after that where they will take it back to the levels that it once was at (oh please please please please please please be true).

Whatever happens, it’s sure to get fans excited. Jepsen-ites everywhere are waiting for part III and until then we can only speculate.

Be sure to throw out your fan theories in the comments below, for now that’s all we’ve got.

Pop Culture This Week: 8/17

New pop culture this week! Now in a new (and much simpler format). Instead of going through every major release in music, tv, and film I will just highlight the top five (or so) releases you should now about this week. Because I am only doing five, my choices will tend toward things you’ve never heard of, rather than the major releases every knows about.

Crash Test

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Taking their UCB comedy show to a whole other level, Paul Scheer and Rob Huebel present a comedy special for Vimeo that all takes place on a bus as they tour around Los Angeles with a live audience. The special also guest stars Aziz Ansari, Rob Cordry, and Aubrey Plaza making appearances in the several pit stops that the comedians take along the way. It looks like a fun experiment, one that is particularly suited for the widespread interests of someone like Scheer (who among his many tv guest spots is in The League, hosts How Did This Get Made?, co-launched Wolfpop, and has a performance art podcast The Sylvester Stallone Show). Fans of alt-comedy will likely be into this.

Documentary Now

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While the mockumentary is well played out by now, the idea of actually parodying the art of documentary filmmaking feels like it’s ripe for satirization. Enter IFC’s new Seth Myers’ produced show Documentary Now–a six episode series presenting faux documentaries in the style of some of the most famous works in the genre (The Thin Blue LineGrey Gardens). In a genre that can often become far too serious in its sense of self-importance, Documentary Now will hopefully bring about some fresh air. The series stars Myers, Bill Hader, Fred Armisen, and Helen Mirren as the host.

Carly Rae Jepsen: Emotion

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Jepsen’s new album will likely be the year’s best pure pop album even if early singles didn’t really do great on the radio (but boy is “I Really Like You” great). Jepsen already has the decade’s best pop song under her belt and here she is joined by a plethora of great song writers in SIA, Shellback, Peter Svensson (The Cardigans), Rostam Batmanglij (Vampire Weekend) as well as a whole slew of other Swedish pop song writers. It’s a bummer that this didn’t come out earlier in the summer (like it did in Japan) as it’s the perfect sort of bubblegum pop that would have been the perfect soundtrack.

Grandma

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Lily Tomlin stars as the grandma of Julia Garner (who had a bit role in The Americans this season) who has recently found out she is pregnant. Garner asks her for money and they embark on a trip together with Tomlin looking out for her granddaughter in the way others don’t seem to be. Tomlin’s character appears to be outspoken, the sort of crazy old woman trope that can grow tiresome, but early positive reviews suggest it will be a much more touching film than crass old woman comedy.

American Ultra

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A movie that’s really come out of nowhere–I hadn’t heard of it until a couple weeks ago and there seems to be little buzz surrounding it leading up to its premiere. On its face it seems interesting–a couple of stoners (Jesse Eisenberg & Kristen Stewart) are thrust into the middle of a CIA assassination attempt and suddenly one realizes in Jason Bourne-like fashion that he is a highly trained hit man. It’s part stoner-comedy, part spy thriller and it could be really good or quite bad.

Other: The Hot Wives of Las Vegas