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Yesterday a co-worker challenged me to help her name and compile a playlist for her 20’s-themed New Year’s Eve party.

Coming up with the name was easy: “N*ggaz in Paris at Midnight”

I cohered the most popular song off Watch The Throne with Woody Allen’s charming movie starring Owen Wilson and Marion Cotillard. How clever and appropriate considering the plot of Midnight in Paris celebrates the glitz and glamor of Fitzgerald, Hemingway and Cole Porter. (In Paris! At Midnight!) If you still don’t understand the genius of my party name, you need a lesson in 2011 pop culture as both the song and the film were big hits this year.

Coming up with songs was the hard part. The first NYE song that usually comes to mind (unfortunately) is Tonight’s Going to Be A Good Night by The Black Eyed Peas. I hate that song, but I associate it with Pepsi commercials and Superbowls and that terrible romantic comedy starring Ashton Kutcher and Lea Michele. I just imagine Mazeltov toasts and jumping off sofas when I hear The Black Eyed Peas, and therefore consider it a fitting New Year’s Eve anthem. (This is irrelevant, but eating actual black eyed peas is a New Year’s tradition too).

Furthermore, consider DJ Earworm’s 2011 Zeitgeist – 80% of this is Katy Perry, whose songs are catchy, but ultimately pretty bad. How do we sum up the year without wanting to slice our ears off?

A few gems come to mind: Foster The People’s Pumped Up Kicks and SuperBass by Nicki Minaj strike me as really enjoyable pop songs that have some merit. They’re simple, catchy, fun and not stupid – my personal criteria for a successful pop song. Rihanna and Calvin Harris’ We Found Love is starting to grow on me too. However, this could easily deteriorate into a hopeless mess if I hear it too often. I think LMFAO is really dumb, but at least Party Rock Anthem and Sexy And I Know It always incite dancing. Or shuffling, or wiggle-wiggling etc.

Left to my own devices, my New Year’s playlist would consist of Death Cab For Cutie’s tragic song about existentialism and pretending to feel different as time passes by. I’d possibly add Auld Lang Syne by the Beach Boys for tradition’s sake, but ultimately – New Year’s Eve should be celebrated with friends, a special someone (if you have one) and champagne (mental note: add Like a G6 to hypothetical playlist). You should be Partying Up with DMX and Jumping Around with House of Pain. Then you should kiss someone and laugh.

I don’t have a favorite soundtrack from 2011; all of the soundtracks that made my final cut (ha!) differ as much as the films they accompany so it was too hard to judge. However, I did develop a poll so you readers can voice your opinions on the matter.

I don’t think soundtracks get nearly enough credit for enhancing the cinematic experience. There are a few exceptions – namely when sparkly divas with booming vocal chords belt out epic love ballads that are instant radio hits i.e. “My Heart Will Go On” by Celine Dion, “I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson’s “Will You Be There” from Free Willy.

Few people know that I played cello in orchestra for roughly 9 years. Therefore, I’ve grown to appreciate the value of rich string compositions, dynamics and full-bodied scores. If you go to the symphony and watch a live performance of The Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings or Planet Earth scores, I bet you’ll leave with a totally new appreciation for the depth and complexities that go into scoring a film or television series.

The Drive soundtrack is definitely one of my favorites. It’s filled with 80’s era synth and lots of noisy bleepity bloops. Kavinsky’s “Nightcall” is kicked off by a dark creepy howl at the moon, almost as if it belonged on the Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn soundtrack instead. A Real Hero by College ft. Electric Youth also stands out as a beautiful and ethereal favorite that has gotten numerous play counts on my iPod.

Daft Punk

Additionally, The Chemical Brothers and Daft Punk both created epic, predominantly instrumental scores for Hanna and TRON: Legacy.  I especially enjoy some of the remixes on the TRON: Legacy R3CONF1GUR3D album from the likes of The Glitch Mob, Boys Noize, Pretty Lights and Avicii.

I’m a sucker for cover songs too. Most of the soundtracks I’ve chosen are wordless, but several artists collaborated to create fun, spunky songs for The Muppet Movie and it’s fantastic! My personal favorite would have to be Andrew Bird’s mellow and poignant cover of It’s Not Easy Being Green complete with acoustic strings and violin. Stupendous!

Finally, I couldn’t leave this teaser from The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo off my list. Even though the full soundtrack hasn’t been officially released, I have an ominous feeling that this soundtrack will be as heavy, unsettling and suspenseful as the novel the film is based on. After their masterful score for The Social Network, I can’t wait to hear what Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross conjured up for this dark, disturbing movie. Karen O’s “Immigrant Song” cover kicked my ass the first time I heard it and I hope the official music video gets you as psyched for the film release as I am.

Choosing my favorite tracks of 2011 was easier than I thought. I racked my brain over which albums deserved to grace my top 10 list, but somehow, choosing songs was easier. Groundbreaking songs just stick to you. After one or two listens, they have you hooked and you can listen to them on repeat without getting burned out. My top five is pretty diverse, spanning a variety of musical genres, but that “sticky” quality applies to each one of them.

I first discovered Civilization after watching this badass teaser ad for Adidas. The real video and full song exists somewhere in the Youtube galaxy, but I wanted to share the Adidas ad because this was my first taste of the new Justice record, which I happen to love. This song is epic. Indicative of many Justice songs, Civilization just hits so hard. This song reminds me of an anthem of a civilization comparable to the Spartans in 300. I mean, a million drums? That’s a lot of drums. Slipknot has 3 drummers, but in Civilization, Justice incites the participation of a million drummers in unison. That’s some powerful shit.

1. Civilization, Justice

2. Midnight City, M83 – That catchy, honking beat is a force to be reckoned with. Lest we forget, there’s a badass sax solo in there too.

3. Video Games, Lana Del Rey – This gorgeous, dreamy song is singlehandedly responsible for Lana Del Rey’s name peppering headlines on every indie music blog and music media site in 2011. Her new album is one of the most anticipated releases of 2012 and I can’t wait to hear what else she has up those flouncy sleeves. Lana’s voice has so much depth – it’s delicate, yet convicted and I dare you not to like it.

4. Dance A$$, Big Sean – This song doesn’t require much explanation. The contents are explicit, the flows are fluid. It deserves a crown, bitch, right on that…

5. Whirring, The Joy Formidable – This is such a great rock song. I never even heard of The Joy Formidable until Mark Hoppus tweeted that Whirring was his favorite song a few months ago. Prompted by this, I gave it a listen and was instantly hooked. It’s very cacophonous and melodic at the same time. Quite incredible considering The Joy Formidable (like Blink 182) is only a 3-piece band. Plus, the adorable little Welch front woman, Ritzy Bryan does have a sweet, sing-song voice, but man, can she shred.

Note-worthy runner-ups:

  • How Deep Is Your Love, The Rapture
  • Amor Fati, Washed Out
  • Lonely Boy, The Black Keys

2011 has flown by, and as I slovenly sit on my couch watching reruns of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, I’ve determined that 2011 has been one of the most eventful and memorable years I’ve ever had. I realize that Thanksgiving’s over and Christmas is right around the corner, but I am so thankful that I have a stable career and live in one of the most eccentric, beautiful and fun cities in the US. The company I keep has been fantastic too – so friends, thank you for being smart, funny and awesome.

I already shared my list of Top 10 albums of the year, but the next series of posts will highlight other parts of 2011 worth noting. Hope you enjoy and happy holidays!

I first discovered the term “Wintry Mix” during my sophomore year of college when it appeared on my weather bug widget. Somehow, meteorologists created a delightful sounding euphemism for an otherwise miserable weather pattern involving snow, rain and biting winds.

The term stuck and now serves as the delightful pun-inspired name for my holiday playlist on Spotify!

I took some liberties while creating this playlist. What originally started as a Christmas-centric compilation of songs slowly evolved into a mixture of holiday tunes covered creatively by some talented artists (Julian Casablancas’ “Christmas Treat”, “Carol Of The Bells by the bird and the bee) and far-fetched associations to holidays and the winter season (“Snow Days” by Real Estate and “One Big Holiday” by My Morning Jacket).

I will admit that this playlist is flawed since my selections were limited to Spotify’s offerings. In a perfect world, Death Cab’s “Baby, Please Come Home” and “Blue Christmas” by Bright Eyes would have been included. I actually think the She & Him Christmas record is a tad dull and consider Zooey’s Elf soundtrack rendition of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” better than her version with M. Ward. There are also way too many Beach Boys Christmas classics to choose from, so none were included. But any time you pair poppy Christmas carols with the Beach Boys’ full-bodied harmonies, you get a winning combination.

"I am just a snowman, and I'm looking for a snowgirl." - R. Kelly

I will say my favorite part of creating this playlist was discovering Dipset’s Christmas album. I had no knowledge of its existence until this morning and man, am I glad there is a real song called “Ballin’ On Xmas.” Lastly, but surely not least, I’ve been dying for the appropriate occasion to break out R. Kelly’s “A Love Letter Christmas” remix!?!? He is just a snowman, and he’s looking for a snowgirl. Deep lyrics, I tell you.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year – not necessarily because it’s Christmas because yes, this holiday season is filled with laughter and cheer – but also capitalism, greed and lying to children if your family practices the whole Santa tradition.

For those of you who have survived, December signifies the end of another year in which you’ve hopefully grown or learned something valuable. It’s also the time of year when we look retrospectively at the past 12 months and determine what we’ve accomplished, what we’ve learned and what we’ve liked.

Several music blogs have already compiled their best albums of 2011 lists, as if the ones released after Dec. 7 are somehow irrelevant. Check out the lists from Paste, Rolling Stone and Stereogum.

I always struggle with making a list of my own, especially after reviewing lists compiled by other critics. Somehow I feel inferior for disagreeing about King of Limbs making the top 10 or fail to grasp the fuss surrounding Adele. Ultimately, I wonder if my ears became defective or if I just have bad taste. I also merely forget what came out when so excellent albums from Q1 just slip my ever-waning memory.

However, Hype Machine made it super easy for you to create your own Zeitgeist this year. Here’s my top 10 (so far, after all it is only Dec. 7). I wouldn’t consider myself a critic or a musical expert by any means, but I do listen avidly and often. My top 10 is pretty diverse, but I thoroughly enjoyed each of them for a variety of reasons. If it means anything, M83, Washed Out and Bon Iver have peppered the Top 2011 lists of several blogs, so I don’t think my musical opinions are completely invalid. But if my fickle self can compile a list, you can too – and you should.

Photo by Emo's Lounge

I’ve come to the conclusion that I shouldn’t own a pet or raise children at this point in my life. If I did assume such responsibilities, I’d be rightfully accused of negligence since I’ve let this blog gather dust for almost a month. It’s a sad thing.

One of my New Year’s Resolutions is to write diligently and often in this blog because I think it will be good practice and therapeutic in a way. Ergo, hopefully there will be an upswing in my writing activity for the remainder of the year.

On with the review:

This past weekend, I went to the Big Sean show at Emo’s. Rap shows can be hit or miss. I tend to enjoy almost every one I attend, but I’m never quite sure what to expect. In my limited experience, hip hop shows are oftentimes held in obscenely large arenas filled with light shows and scantily-clad back-up dancers, which is not an entirely bad thing. On the other hand, some rap concerts are held in manageable, moderately-sized venues with affordable, standing room only tickets, fostering an environment in which it is:

1. easier to see
2. easier to dance your a$$ (a$$ a$$ a$$) off

If you haven’t caught on to my contextual clues, Big Sean’s show at Emo’s was a rap show of the latter variety and my friends and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

For someone so slim of stature and young in age, Big Sean definitely exhibited a swagger well beyond his 23 years. Sporting his signature snapback, Big Sean’s flows were extremely fast, fluid and fun.

A huge benefit from these smaller, more intimate shows is the energy in the crowd, which was highly engaged and absolutely electric. Understandably, a verbatim crowd sing-a-long occurred during Dance A$$ regardless if you were a white girl, black girl, tall girl, short girl, small girl or a skinny girl. Or a guy meeting any of those descriptive criteria for that matter.

B-B-B-Big Sean receives two enthusiastic thumbs up from me for delivering a dope concert for us G.O.O.D. Music fans. By the end of the night, I was sloppy drunk and made out with an acquaintance I went to high school with – meaning I went stupid. And based on his lyrics, I bet you a bill from his Bible-sized wallet that Big Sean would consider that a success.