Monday, December 23, 2013

Musicule's Faves and Fumbles of 2013

It's time to dust Musicule off just in time for the end of the year. You'd never guess from the dust that appears on this website, but music still does mean a lot to me - I voraciously listen to and buy music throughout the year. One of my clients for work is Pandora and I'm always on the hunt for music I've never heard or music that will become a favorite for me. Here are some of my favorite music things from 2013:
  • Climbing back on the Coverville bandwagon (and rediscovering podcasts again) - An interesting casualty of the the iPhone's success was the extinction of the iPod. It's not often that a company developed a technology that thoroughly eliminates one of its own biggest products. Well Apple did it. For me, an unintentional casualty of the iPod's demise was that I stopped listening to podcasts. It wasn't a conscious decision...it just happened. From about 2008 to 2013, I can count on one hand how many podcast episodes I listened to. Then one day a few months ago, I remembered that there was one podcast that I particularly enjoyed back in the day that was called Coverville. Surely it didn't still exist, right? WRONG! Not only does it still exist, it's better than ever. Once I looked it up and realized that it was still a thing, I was hooked all over again. Brian Ibbot does an amazing job with this podcast. Whether you're addicted to song covers or just have a passing interest, his podcast is worth listening to. Find it here or in your podcast app on your phone. Coverville restored my faith in podcasts again.
  • Visiting the town where Duran Duran's New Moon on Monday was filmed - Outside of music milestones, one of my highlights of the year was our vacation to Paris. A sub-highlight of that trip was when Mrs. Musicule didn't mind a side roadtrip to the town of Noyers, which is two miles outside of Paris. Noyers, you see, is where Duran Duran filmed most of the video for their 1983 hit, New Moon on Monday. I was in my element... I don't think anyone's taken more photos in that village since the video was filmed there 30 years ago!

This time La Luna: No torch to light and wave, but I didn't care - I was on hallowed Duran Duran ground. Next stop, the yacht from Rio!
  • Vevo - If you're not familiar with Vevo, it's what MTV used to do - play videos. It's like MTV meets YouTube meets Pandora. If you have Apple TV, you can start up Vevo and let it play, and it will play music videos to your heart's content.
  • Isolated tracks from Hungry Like the Wolf - I have 24 different version's of Duran Duran's "Hungry Like the Wolf" in my iTunes library. I'm not saying this to brag or pointing it out because I'm ashamed of this fact. It's just what it is. My completest nature, paired with my love of Duran Duran means that I'm the type of person who has 24 different versions of a song in their library. Imagine my surprise when I discovered the other day that Youtube houses not one, but four different isolated track recordings of Hungry Like the Wolf. My favorite? This one: 

  • Janelle MonĂ¡e's Dance Apocalyptic - 2013 was a great year for fun songs: Get Lucky, Blurred Lines, Thrift Shop and many more, but in the end, I think my favorite fun song was Janelle's jumpy track that genre- and decade-hops all over the place. It's as infectious as anything out there.
  • The surprising catchiness of Robin Thicke - I have to confess that until Blurred Lines came out, I didn't think much of Mr. Thickeson - I had written him off as a bit of an opportunist riding the coattails of his dad and that he could transform into something that sounded just enough like Justin Timberlake to garner a fan or two. That was before he came out with the one-two punch of Blurred Lines and Give it 2U. These are two great songs that I didn't think he had in him. I hope he can keep this up.
  • Texas' The Conversation - One of my favorite bands from college was Texas. They came out of nowhere in 1989 with I Don't Want a Lover, and at least in the US, seemed to disappear. However, they managed to put out a decent body of work over the years. I managed to check in on them from time to time to see how they were sounded (which was surprisingly consistent). Flash forward to this year, where they had fallen off my radar. In September, I was in a truck stop in France, thumbing through the CD bin just to see what was there and, OH SNAP, guess what I saw? A NEW Texas album! I bought it on impulse and loved it. I am thrilled that they're still around:
  • Vanessa Paradis' La Seine - It's official: I'm old enough to get tuned into music by my son. For months, he'd been telling me about this great movie he watched called A Monster in Paris. I didn't think much of it, until Mrs. Musicule selected the movie for one of our family music nights. This is a great song from an unlikely source:
  • Rediscovering David Bowie's Station to Station - 2013 was the year I took up running. I'm equal parts amazed and proud that I enjoy it as much as I do. A huge part of my running regiment is making sure my iPhone is loaded up with suitable music. I've gone to great lengths to make sure my running library had the right songs with the right BPMs, I've relied on Pandora's "Alternative Endurance Training Radio" and I've run to Coverville on occasion. One song that I've rediscovered thanks to running is David Bowie's Station to Station... it's one of those songs that could have only come out of the 70s, when rock dinosaurs like Yes and Pink Floyd put out songs that could be deemed "short" when they clocked in under the 6 minute mark. Bowie's take on that is as theatric as anything to come out of that period. By the time he's telling me that it's "not the side effects of the cocaine" and that it's "too late" to be late again, I'm usually clocking in a respectable pace.
  • The interesting year for the Monkees - Last year was a sad year for the Monkees with the death of Davy Jones. Out of his death came something entirely unexpected: The return of Michael Nesmith to the Monkee family with a tour of the three remaining members. I had the fortune to to be able to see this show in Napa over the summer, and it was, for me, a great ending for them - they sounded great, nicely mourned Davy and put on a wonderful victory lap of a show. I don't know if it's the last time they'll perform together, but it felt like a high note they could go out on. Breaking Bad also featured their "Goin' Down" in a sweet montage this year. 
  • Regina Spektor's You Got Time - TV is nailing on the music front these days. I can't tell you how many times I've Shazaamed a TV show to get the name of a song that's featured. Netflix got into original programming in a big way this year with new episodes of Arrested Development, House of Cards and Orange is the New Black. In the latter, Regina kills it with a great theme song.
  • Surprise returns - I already mentioned the surprise return of Texas, but for me, two other welcome surprise returns were Alison Moyet and David Bowie. Alison, whom I've adored going back to her Yazoo days came out with a fantastic album with the haunting track, When I Was Your Girl. As for Mr. Bowie, for someone who'd become practically reclusive, it was wonderful to have a new album from him to absorb. One can't say it was a return to a particular form for Bowie, but considering how many different personas he's taken over the years, the fact that he came back with one older, wiser and more introspective, felt about right. His Dancing Out in Space was a particular favorite of mine. David, Alfie, we're glad you're back
  • Searching for Sugarman - Technically, this came out in 2012, but I only got around to watching it this year. The filmmaker might have taken some creative licenses with the story, but it is a great story. Worth watching:
  • Macklemore and Lewis - Another one my son got me into. Thrift Shop is DAMN infectious!
  • Skee-Lo's return - Remeber "I Wish"? A great one-hit wonder from Skee-Lo back in 1995. Thanks to Toyota, they used the track in a series of ads this year. My favorite one featured a rabbit in a hat with a bat. Sadly the '64 Impala was nowhere to be seen...

  • Music discovered on PopXport - I have a TV guilty pleasure. Every week, I watch the German pop music show, PopXport. Mrs. Musicle already bemoans the amount of German pop music in my library, thanks to Nena, but I'm steadfastly adamant that the next wave of great music is going to come from Germany. This year, I downloaded some great tracks from Lena, Boy and Mia Diekow, thanks to their exposure on PopXport. Check local listings!
  • Aimee Mann and Ben Gibbard's Bigger Than Love - Aimee Mann will always have welcome home here at Musicule, whether its for her contribution to music or her missing toe in Big Lebowski. While no new album from her in 2013, we did get a great gem from her in the form of a duet with Ben Gibbard. Thanks Aimee!
Those were the high points, now for a few low points...we won't dwell:
  • Katy Perry's return - I like the fun Katy a lot more than the anthemic one. Less Roar, more Hot n Cold, please.
  • KT Tunstall's Empire // Crescent Moon - I'm a card-carrying, poster-toting fan of KT, but I'm sensing a law of diminished returns with her albums of late. Her newest didn't do much for me, although I did like her cover of Don Henley's Boys of Summer.
  • Justin Timberlake's return - The 20/20 Experience? I keep waiting for a song to grip me from either parts of this album. Nothing yet.
  • TV Mania's Board with Prozac and the Internet? - This is a Duran Duran side project, recorded in 1996 but "misplaced" by Nick Rhodes until this year. Some things are better lost. This is a half-baked, "Emporer Has No Clothes" project that confirmed that Duran Duran had lost its way in the mid/late '90s.
What were some of your faves and flops for 2013? Post them in the comments section below or Tweet them to me with the hashtag #musicule. For the music mentioned in this post, check out the playlist I've created below: