Editorial Archive

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#AOTW Tribute: Boston (the city)

300px-Boston_Financial_DistrictGenerally these articles are pretty fun and silly. I write about my issues with the world and the music I listen to while dealing with said issues. But I’m not in a fun mood these days. I have no reason to be. My personal life is a mess, my career is in a stand still, I’m about to be unemployed, and I can’t remember the last time that laughed for the hell of it. This week was even worse. A day that I hold near and dear was forever tarnished by the monstrous acts of a few. Sure the bombing of the Boston Marathon has saturated the media for the past few days, and sure you’ve heard enough about it, but I’m going to get my fucking say. Boston was my town. For a long time I felt like I didn’t have a home. Seattle had always been the place I grew up, but after the age of 15 I had never lived in a place for more than a year. It took me six years before finally settling down. Six years of the vagabond lifestyle before I finally landed in the city of Boston. It really is unlike any other place in America. It’s a blue-collar town where the people are hardened, but once you enter that inner circle, you are there forever. Boston has a special place in my heart. I was there for five years and I will always look back on those years as some of the happiest of my life. I may never be able to say that I am from Boston, but I will forever be able to say that, at one point, it was my home. This Week is an AOTW tribute to everyone from Allston to Downtown, from Southie to Cambridge, from the North End to Fenway; big ups to Boston and the music about you. We are all hanging with you.

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You can’t mention Boston without singing a Dropkick Murphys song. This band has become synonymous with the city for years, even more so since they released their track Shipping Up To Boston, which was attached to the film The Departed. These fine punk gents have been keeping the irish folk sound alive in one form or another since 1996. They rip. Huge energy, musicianship is flawless, and they can get a crowd going like you wouldn’t believe. I saw them in 2007 during the Red Sox World Series parade. They played on the back of flatbed truck as a drunk Jonathan Papelbon danced what might be deemed as a sorry excuse for a jig. The city was over run with people that day, and the Dropkick Murphies garnered nearly as much attention from the hordes as the new world champs.

I remember this shit like it was yesterday. I love these guys a lot, and then you read stuff like this and you love them more.

 

Another Boston song that isn’t a Boston song at all in reality, comes from the band The Standells, a 1960’s garage rock band that put out the track Dirty Water in 1966. This band is not from Boston. Hell they aren’t even from Worchester (pronounced WUHSTER). These assholes are from LA. And yeah…I count that as a knock against them. If you meet someone from LA and the first thing they say is, “I’m from LA”, you secretly hold it against them. I don’t care who you are. Hell, I live in LA now. Rarely do I enjoy the company of people who tell me they are from LA. Not only that but I generally don’t enjoy the music coming out of LA. But this song….this song is about a city I love and I am on board.

 

The last track I want to get into here is also forever paired with the city. Many life long locals will say they hate this track, but sometimes people don’t know what’s good for them. Since the dawn of playing Sweet Caroline during the 8th inning of Red Sox games, the team has won two World Series. One of the happiest memories I have in this town is going to a Red Sox game with three of my best friends on my 21st birthday. Beer was spilled, chats were had, and Sweet Caroline was most definitely sung.

 

The best part of this night was when we went to a bar afterwards where people were watching Monday Night Football  in relative silence. That was until my buddy Alex took it upon himself to put on Bon Jovi’s You Give Love A Bad Name. Alex is one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. No one hates Alex. But at that very moment, every on at The Tam wanted to punch his face in.

 

The Marathon has always been a welcomed tradition. It was on Monday, no class, the Red Sox played early, and the city for the most part turned into a big party. It was a one-day Mardi Gras. Generally my friends and I would throw a party the Sunday prior before and spend Patriots day wandering the streets in recovery. That was the way things were. It was always friendly, fun, and safe. That is not the way things are now. As I write this, Boston has become the center of attention with bloody headlines again. A shooting at MIT. I don’t know what’s going on with my adopted city, but I know the people living there, and anyone that has ever lived there will stand strong. Boston is not a city that flinches. If the people of Boston shied away from adversity, they never would have developed that accent. I love you Boston. I always have. Even when I was lost in your streets while being chased by a guy whose fiancé I may or may not have hooked up with. But that’s another story for another day. Stand strong Beantown

Big Hugs,

Kelly

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Editorial – Lil Wayne … Shut up, dude.

It’s not enough that I hate Lil Wayne’s voice, but now he’s done something else that makes me want to punch him in the mouth.

Thursday night, the obnoxious “rapper” tweeted that he was denied into Chesapeake Energy Arena that night when he wanted to watch the Oklahoma City Thunder take on the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference Finals (that’s basketball, for those who aren’t into sports). According to Billboard.com, team rep Dan Mahoney clarified to the public that the only reason he was was not allowed in the arena was because the game was sold out.

If Lil Wayne knew anything about sports, which I highly doubt since it appears he’s the worst kind of bandwagon fan, he would know that playoff game tickets are very difficult to come by, especially if his highness wants to sit in the front row. What does he expect? For OKC to shove aside paying customers and/or hometown fans to accommodate this celebrity that goes to games dressed like THIS!?

Speaking of hometown fans, Ticketmaster wasn’t even selling tickets to most people outside the general geographic area apparently. Why’s Weezy gotta make it all about him? All that shows is that he didn’t even make an attempt to try to buy tickets, otherwise he would have seen that notice. And to top it off, after insinuating that OKC didn’t have a valid excuse for denying him in his tweet, he finished it with “Wow. Smh. Go Spurs!” In computer speak, ‘smh’ means ‘shaking my head.’ What are you shaking those dirty ass dreads for, Weezy? He must be thinking, “How dare they!?” Then he automatically jumps onto the Spurs bandwagon after OKC doesn’t give him a ticket that doesn’t even exist in the first place.

When stars act like this, it makes me hate the human race. Weezy has this delusional idea that he is someone who can walk up to the ticket window of one of the best basketball teams in the world and demand front row tickets for the post season. Musicians and other celebrities who live their lives with this sort of mind set are in for the harsh reality that no, you’re not super human. You’re only human.

A disgusting one, at that.

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Single: Jack White-Love Interruption

Jack White is back! “Love Interruption,” is the debut single from the upcoming Jack White solo project, “Blunderbuss,” dropping April 24. “Blunderbuss” shouldn’t be confused with the episode of “Portlandia,” that features a fictional music festival. (I was secretly hoping it was going to have some affiliation with the show, because if you haven’t seen “Portlandia,” you are missing out.) However this is no fiction, Jack White is coming full force with an (I hate the over use of the word so forgive me) EPIC project.

“Blunderbuss,” an 18th century muzzle-loading firearm, seems like an appropriate title for the album based on the single alone. “Love Interruption” is a pretty violent song lyrically, “I want love to…stick a knife inside me…(my fingers) slam them in a doorway…murder my own mother…change my friends into enemies.” (See Below for more) The lyrics are poetry really- dark poetry-but beautiful nonetheless. Conversely, the accompaniment is a gentle acoustic guitar strumming that leads you to believe it will be a relaxed song. I was honestly shocked by the lyrical content, not because it was absurdly violent, it was not something I’ve come to expect from Jack White…however he may have gotten some influence from his side project the Dead Weather. Hopefully the entire album won’t be as creepy and dark.

I want love to
roll me over slowly
stick a knife inside me,
and twist it all around.

I want love to
grab my fingers gently
slam them in a doorway
put my face into the ground

I want love to
murder my own mother
and take her off to somewhere
like hell or up above.

I want love to
change my friends to enemies,
change my friends to enemies
and show me how it’s all my fault.

I wont let love disrupt, corrupt or interrupt me
I wont let love disrupt, corrupt or interrupt me
Yeah I wont let love disrupt, corrupt, or interrupt me anymore.

I want love to
walk right up and bite me
grab ahold of me and fight me
leave me dying on the ground.

And I want love to
split my mouth wide open and
cover up my ears,
and never let me hear a sound.

I want love to,
forget that you offended me
or how you have defended me,
when everybody tore me down.

Yeah I want love to
change my friends to enemies,
change my friends to enemies
and show me how it’s all my fault.

Yeah I wont let love disrupt, corrupt or interrupt me
I wont let love disrupt, corrupt or interrupt me
I wont let love disrupt, corrupt, or interrupt me anymore.

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20 Years Ago

20 Years ago.

I was seven years old in 1991. It was a pivotal year in my life. My family had been exposed to cable television for the first time, which played on our massive 13” television. It was the greatest thing to ever happen to a seven-year-old, only child.

Believe it or not, MTV (Music Television) at this time was playing music…on the television. (Crazy concept, I know.) During the summer break I was glued to the TV for at least a few hours throughout the day. Watching music videos and helping to form a base for what great music was, in addition to the classics that my parents had brought me up with. Fortunately for me, that year was a turning point for musical greatness….well, kindof. It was the beginning of great alternative music.

Top 5 music videos of 1991:

Nirvana- Smells Like Teen Spirit 

Nirvana’s “Nevermind” brought the grunge movement to the masses and became the soundtrack to a generation. It may have not been their intention, however it became a landmark in the music world, and changed the face of what “good” music was. When I first saw this video, I couldn’t look away. The coloring, camera work, and theme all had a very gritty feel; from the tattooed cheerleaders dressed in black, down to the focus on the janitor. Not to mention the song drove you to head bang, and was an introduction to a classic album. It may have not been until several years later that my dad copied the cd from my uncle onto cassette for us, but it was an album that influenced my musical preferences greatly.

Red Hot Chili Peppers-Under the Bridge 

Under the Bridge was a powerful song in terms of how it was a personal song, for everyone. I’m sure at some point; anyone has felt as if they “don’t have a partner” and this video really brought the point home.

Pearl Jam- Jeremy 

“Jeremy” is such a powerful video that speaks on the power of bullying and what it can do to people. It really tells a story and is a track to one of the best albums…ever.

Temple of the Dog- Hunger Strike

The video might not be that amazing, but the song is one of the best of the 90’s.

Michael Jackson- Black or White
I shat bricks when I first saw this video. The morphing effect was mind-blowing…for a seven year old.

and my personal favorite: Guns N’ Roses-November Rain

Best video/song of the time. Period.

 

If you were to concentrate the music into the best of the 90’s, you would have a very good mix. In my opinion, you can only consider 25% of the music then as being good. I feel like it has greatly influenced some of the best artists now, and we are the beneficiaries from the groundwork that was laid in the 90’s.

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Songs for new dads

It may not be my kid, but the past couple of weeks has been filled with blessing the life of a little one that someone else isn’t able to right now. This is my first kid I’ve had as a foster parent. What a pain in the ass. I was prepared, took all the classes I needed, even had nieces and nephews for real first-hand experience; but nothing can prepare you for the reality of having a baby in your life all day, every day.

That being said, here are some songs that remind me of the experience so far:

 

Expect shitty album reviews and editorials from here on out people, because I no longer am going to be able to sleep.

 

Not related, I just have the chorus of this song in my head.

 

More from Enter the Shell:

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Jam Stain Live
Album Review: No Regime
Reason Live on ETS
Album Review: Dead Weather
Album Review: Kele: The Boxer

 

 

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Concert Review :: Elton John

Sir Elton John performed before a sold-out crowd of more than 11,000 fans at the Spokane Arena, Friday night; I was lucky enough to be one of these fans.

Elton is a force to be reckoned with; vocals, piano performance, and an incredible amount of energy for a man who just turned 64, make him one of the highest quality acts still touring. Regardless of the excellent performance, the concert could have used more explosions, I wasn’t sure what to expect since this was one of the biggest name concerts I’ve ever taken part in. I was however; hoping for more extravagance…at least bust out a few pairs of goofy-ass glasses, Elton. He did have a rather interesting jacket on that had a design that incorporated the words “Music Magic” on it, which was an accurate description of the concert we experienced.

Highlights of the concert were a twenty-plus minute rendition of Rocket Man that was borderline mind-blowing, especially considering there isn’t really room to expand such a tight and concise song as Rocket Man, Elton managed to pull it off and that’s why he is the star that he is today. Another great performance was the classic, Benny and the Jets, Elton got the audience involved and we were all part of the show. He also confirmed my theory that the lyric is, “She’s got electric boobs, Mohawk shoes, you know I read it in a magazine,” or perhaps the sound in the arena was a little muffled; one of the two, I prefer to believe the former.

One thing that I could have lived with out was the middle part of the concert where he played some songs from the newer album, “the Union” which on the album is Elton John and Leon Russell, the concert it did not feature Leon Russell though. Since it was a “greatest hits” concert, it was bit of a bore (although I quite enjoyed the song “Gone to Shiloh”). I almost fell asleep a few times (granted I did wake up excessively early that day). There were times I felt that Elton was a little full of himself, and rightfully so. After every song he would get up and point at the audience, then try to roar the crowd up as if to say, “get up everybody…I’m f**king Elton John!!” It was just good showmanship and appreciation of the crowd, although it was a little goofy. He is a living legend though, so he is allowed.

I have always appreciated the music of Elton John, however I wouldn’t consider myself a hardcore fan, having only listened to a greatest hits album; needless to say I couldn’t sing along with this crowd for ¾ of the songs. My brother in-law and myself were disappointed by the lack of songs from the Lion King soundtrack, I suppose if I were Elton I would have left the cheesy Lion King songs out too, but c’mon Elton, you have fans to please over here!

He didn’t have much audience involvement, and didn’t really take time to talk to the audience either; I think he got about two sentences out the entire time, “this time we are going to rock out.” However, a 2 hour 45 minute show wouldn’t leave much time for talk.

 

Summary: To borrow a phrase from Barney on CBS’s How I Met Your Mother, “Elton John is Legend-…wait for it, because here is the setlist:

“Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding.”

“Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting.”

“Levon.”

“Madman Across the Water.”

“Tiny Dancer”

“Philadelphia Freedom.”

“Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.”

“Daniel.”

“Rocket Man.”

“I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues.”

Several new songs from “The Union,” including “Hey Ahab,” “Gone to Shiloh” and “Monkey Suit.”

“Take Me to the Pilot.”

“Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word.”

“Candle in the Wind.”

“Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me.”

“Burn Down the Mission.”

“Bennie and the Jets.”

“The Bitch is Back.”

“Crocodile Rock.”

Encore: “Your Song.”

-Dary”!

Check out this other great stuff from Enter the Shell:
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Album Review: Elton John & Leon Russell
Artist of the Week(Legend series)-Elton John
Cover Review-“Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”
Enter the Shell Show: Keri Kimmel

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Review:: GarageBand for iPad

I am a huge nerd.

Yesterday I actually waited in line after I got off of working (on my feet) for 8 hours, walked down the street to the Apple store and proceeded to stand for another 2 hours to try and get my hands on the latest and greatest from Apple, the iPad 2. By the time I was able to get to the front of the line, they were sold out. Not a big deal, since my plan was to sell it on eBay to rich people that didn’t want to wait in line and wanted to pay me more for my services…and then I could use the extra money to actually buy one for myself…not exactly the most noble aspirations.

All was not lost however, I was able to play with them in the store. And don’t despair iPad Christmas present recipients, its not a big difference over the your iPad. However, it does have some cool features, mostly the camera and the fact that it has a white version (ooooohhh, shiny.). I was glad I did get a chance to play with them  because I had my first hands on experience with GarageBand for the iPad. Needless to say, I downloaded it immediately for my iPad when I got home.

Now, GarageBand that comes on any Mac is great. It allows users to basically have a recording studio on their screen, and its awesome. As awesome as it may be for someone that loves music and takes more than 5 minutes to figure it out, for the average consumer, the program probably has only been opened to check it out, get intimidated by, and never used again.

GarageBand for iPad however is an interactive, fun, and very user-friendly experience. It turns your iPad into an amazing collection of touch screen instruments that not only sound amazing, but can be used for a very-real sounding, on the go recording session. The iPad version of GarageBand is for anyone, with its addition of “smart” instruments, it sets the stage for people with zero music experience or talent for that matter to be able to make beats, play notes and chords on an interactive, pressure sensitive, on-screen guitar, bass, keyboard and drum-set. The quality is there to be used for both the un-talented and talented alike. It also supports up to eight-tracks of recording pleasure.

Another awesome feature about GarageBand is the fact that you can plug real instruments (guitar or mic) into an interface to use the iPad as an amp, using different models of amp-sounds, boxes, and microphone effects. It also features a ton of loops, a sampler tool (so you can play Puff Daddy at home), a drum machine and a tuner-all of which I still haven’t played with, but from what I’ve heard, they are awesome.

The thing I like about GarageBand for the iPad is its accessibility to everyone, any age, and musicianship can appreciate this app. Not that it will ever happen, but the fact that we could produce the Enter the Shell show on an iPad is pretty rad.

I’m sure there is a set of musicians that will say its weak-sauce, and the usual Apple shit-talkers will find their qualms. The bottom line is GarageBand is a ridiculously cool and useful tool. It is possibly the best app available on the iPad, and will bring life to your “old” iPad and help you feel better about the fact that iPad2 just released, and you don’t have one. Oh, and I forgot to mention the price- $5, no that wasn’t a typo-it’s only $5 for an app that I would honestly consider paying a LOT more for, its certainly the biggest bargain of the app store. Definitely a must have app, I would buy an iPad just for this.

 

(more on GarageBand for the iPad on Apple.com)

 

Look below for more brilliant stuff from Enter the Shell:
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Mailo’s Top 10 Albums of 2010

Below are my top albums of 2010. Please note that this does not include live albums or eps, that would be too overwhelming!

10. We Are Born- Sia (released June 18th, 2010) – Although I didn’t give this album a great review, it has grown on me considerably. It also helps that Sia is one of the most amazing singers. Sia had a great year: she wrote a couple of tracks for Christina Aguilera and “We Are Born” was nominated for Album of the Year for the ARIA Awards. The album was produced by The Bird & The Bee’s Greg Kurstin and includes the hit song “Co-Dependant.”  The album also includes a Madonna cover of “Oh, Father” as well as the dance track “Clap Your Hands.”  Look for Sia to be coming to the US in 2011! Click here to buy it on Amazon!

9. Teen Dream – Beach House (released January 26th, 2010) – This was one of the first albums released in 2010, this album should appeal to most people.  I heard it for the first time and was blown away.  Thanks to my buddy Coby for turning me on to this album.  Teen Dream has a little of everything for everyone. Beach House has come along way since their debut album in 2006, which was a very impressive debut album that you should add to your collection. This album was received well by the “critics” and the bloggers of the world.  The album was produced by Chris Coady and featured the track “Used To Be.”  Currently, you can by an exclusive 2 disc set (CD + DVD) for $9.25 on Amazon,  you can purchase it by clicking here.

8. Under Control – Cary Brothers (released April 6th, 2010) – Cary is most famous for his work with the Hotel Café and “Garden State” soundtrack. This year he showed what a powerhouse he was in the Indie scene here in Los Angeles by releasing his sophomore album. The album features a beautifully stripped down cover of Level 42’s “Something About You,” which features vocals from Laura Jansen.  Upon its release, it was the #1 on the iTunes Indie Charts, all this with little to no radio airplay.  “Ghost Town” and “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” are stand out songs on the album.  Cary is getting ready to launch another tour with Joshua Radin, so look for them on the road in 2011! Click here to buy it on Amazon!

7. I Learned The Hard Way – Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings (released April 6th, 2010) – Sharon Jones has come a long way from her days as a back-up singer. Sharon Jones has made a name for herself by producing records with that 60’s/70’s nitty gritty sound. This album may not have the same sound as her previous three albums, yet it is still real R&B music, made by a group of people with funk! The album was produced by their bassist Gabriel “Bosco Mann” Roth and features the song “The Game Gets Old.”  This album will make many of the larger named lists, because of its authenticity and creativity!  Look for Sharon Jones and the gang to be touring in 2011, so look for them in a town near you! Click here to buy it on Amazon!

6. When the Madhouses Appear – The Fling (released August 31st, 2010) – The Fling is a band from Long Beach who made a major leap forward in 2010. By far one of the most anticipated interviews on the ETS Show. After the show, KY played the album in the office over and over again, so needless to say I heard this album enough that I actually had nightmares about it!  Their sound is very retro and reminds us all of a very popular UK band from the 60’s. Aside from their sound, their live shows are what makes this band stand out and why they have toured the world with their music!  The Fling will be doing a residency at Spaceland every Monday in January, so if you’re in the LA area, check them out! Click here to buy it on Amazon!

5. Nearer The Earth – Honey Child (released 2010) – This album was a late addition to my list, just having heard it within the past few weeks.  When I first heard this album, I was immediately blown away. The band members are from all over the world, but they mostly produce here in Los Angeles. This album may have been higher on the list if it weren’t for the flowing albums. Honey Child is currently in the studio, so that makes them a band to watch for in 2011. The band tours a lot, so check them out on their website.  Did I mention that you can download this entire album on their site for FREE? Click here to get this stellar album!  So check the band out on their website to get caught up on the latest Honey Child news!

4. Life in Letters – Lucy Schwartz (released September 28th, 2010) – Fresh off winning the first ever Shelly Award for Artist of the Year, Lucy did have an amazing 2010, which was topped off by opening for Brandi Carlile on New Year’s Eve. Lucy’s great year was due in large part to the release of this album.  She is also in the running for receiving an Oscar Nomination for her songs “Darling I Do” from Shrek Forever After and “Little One” for the movie Mother & Child.  Life in Letter was produced by Mitchell Froom, the album includes the hit songs: “Rain City,” “My Darling” and “Life In Letters.” There is no doubt that Lucy is destined for greatness! Click here to re-live Lucy in studio with the ETS Crew.  Click here to buy it on Amazon!

3. Plastic Beach – The Gorrillaz (released March 3rd, 2010) –

This album will be appearing in most lists, why? Because it is that good, that’s why! This album was one of the most anticipated albums of 2010 and it lived up to the hype. The production on the album was top notch and featured some of today’s hottest acts, like: Snoop Dogg, Little Boots, Lou Reed, De La Soul, Mos Def, Bobby Womack and Mick Jones to name a few.  The album was produced by the Gorillaz and features the tracks: “Welcome to the World of the Plastic Beach” and “Empire Ants.” Click here to buy it on Amazon!

2. Interpreting the Masters Vol. 1 – The Bird and The Bee (released March 23rd, 2010) – Another album that Sara and I agreed on was the Bird & the Bee’s third album. When I first heard that they were in studio recording a Hall & Oates cover album, I thought to myself that it would be a mistake. Boy was I wrong! With Inara’s beautiful voice and Greg’s groovy production, they took elements of the original songs and made them their own, while keeping the integrity of the originals.   Everyone who reads my blogs on a regular knows that Inara is my favorite singer, so it might shock you that this didn’t receive the top album honors.  While I gave them the edge for Song of the Year, there was one clear cut favorite for 2010.

1. To My Beloved Enemies – The Shimmies (released July 27th, 2010) – This is the best band that you’ve never heard of, unless of course you read my blogs! The Shimmies are a Chico based band who released their sophomore album in 2010. The album starts off with a bang and doesn’t let up. When listening to the album, it is clear that the band puts a lot of their emotions into their lyrics and it helps connect them with the listener. Buy There Album on Amazon

There it is, the best albums of 2010! Disagree? Give me your Top 10!  Special Thanks to Sara for EVERYTHING!  I wish her luck, but now that she’s gone, the WORLD IS MINE!!!!!!!!!

Here are some other pages on EnterTheShell.com that you may enjoy:

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Richard’s Best Albums of 2010

Music kicked off the new decade the same way it kicks off any year – on the whim of electrifying anticipation – anticipation that encompasses the hopeful success of emerging artists, the continuous success of today’s top voices and the hopeful resurgence of yesterday’s muses. We as music lovers are lucky, every year we have front row tickets to such passionate art and 2010 offered nothing less. The special thing about this year was simple, not only was it unforgettable for the fans, but it was increasingly unique for the artists. The first year of a new decade puts music makers in an incredible situation; the music they compose in that first year can set the tone for the next nine. What they did this year can potentially sum what music meant to us from 2010 to 2019. These ten albums were arguably the cream of the crop and even if they don’t mark the decade and the next nine years musically suck, well hell, at least we had this year.

The Suburbs – Arcade Fire

The Arcade Fire hit the nail on the head with their third album The Suburbs. From the bi-polar enthusiasm of it’s self-titled opening track, to the timeless gut of “We Used To Wait” and all the way to the epic cry of “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)” – husband and wife duo Win Butler and Regine Chassagne made songs about vulnerability set to an unholy level of epic-ness, all the while cementing themselves as some of the best musicians that have ever attempted to document the human condition. Click here to buy it on Amazon!

Contra – Vampire Weekend

Ezra Koenig and Rostam Batmanglij are happy people. Even if the statement isn’t true, as one half of New York based Vampire Weekend, the music they make certainly gives the impression. Their sophomore album Contra advanced from the colorful tones of their debut. They showed improved musicianship to accompany their omni-appealing music. Released last January, Koenig’s lightly high pitched voice and Batmanglij’s harmonious guitar strumming was a perfect way to begin the year. Click here to buy it on Amazon!

My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy – Kanye West

It’s ironic that the most sane statement that could be made about Kanye West is that he is delightfully insane. On his path to notoriety he has lost much respect from the general public while gaining a plethora of it from his peers. Throughout this rocky transition from saint to demon West, has released My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, this explosive piece of art is proving to be the best hip-hop album since, well his last album. The album displayed his seemingly-endless/distortedly-odd version of creativity, resulting in verbally dynamic numbers like “Monster,” and opera-sized numbers like “Runaway.” It is the big name honing, bag-o-samples, witty rap-filled album that has enjoying the most a douche bag-asshole can offer. Click here to buy it on Amazon!

Brothers – Black Keys

The Black Keys are masters at showing just how smooth and soulful two white boys from Akron, Ohio can sound. When you throw Dan Auerbach’s old school guitar stylings and the talented man-child drumming of Patrick Carney together into a studio, you get a deadly blues revival combo that is on the same level with Elmore James, The White Stripes and Muddy Waters. Brothers boasted the release of some wickedly good songs; “Tighten Up” (perhaps their greatest single), “Unknown Brother” (a heartfelt ode to the boys themselves) and “Sinister Kid.”  Paired with a flurry of exposure via television exposure, The Black Keys are living a newfound glory and with Brothers, the blues never felt so right. Click here to buy it on Amazon!

This Is Happening – LCD Soundsystem

When James Murphy started releasing albums as creator of LCD Soundsystem, the party loving, dance crazy musical collective, he offered a quirky dance alternative featuring sounds and feel that haven’t been heard in years. Releasing a month before summer 2010 was a genius move for the third (and reportedly final) album, This Is Happening popped off fun, high energy songs like “Drunk Girls,””Dance Yrself Clean” and “I Can Change.” Call it an early Christmas gift for hipsters who now had a record to shake their beards and asses too during their June/July/August 2010 parties. Click here to buy it on Amazon!

Broken Bells – Broken Bells

Dangermouse’s latest collaboration is quite different from his former partnerships. When he teamed up with the Shin’s front-man James Mercer he didn’t just set out to produce his album, he actually formed a group with him. The awesome group is called Broken Bells, and with their debut we were also subject to a self titled debut album. Broken Bells exists as a refreshing change of pace as a record chalk full of spacy, ominous jingles that cloud the line between rock and psychadelia. Click here to buy it on Amazon!

Congratulations – MGMT

This album one of two sleeper albums this year, at first listen it could not hold its own. But after a few go-arounds and the brash realization that Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser shelled the option to compose mainstream music, Congratulations revealed itself to be an intriguing piece. Drastically different than their debut Oracular Spectacular, the sophomore album packed a drug laced punch with its psychedelic-drug themes and various new wave/ pop music homages (“Song for Dan Treacy,” “Brian Eno,” “Flash Delerium,” “It’s Working”). Click here to buy it on Amazon!

/\/\/\Y/\ – MIA

Maya Arulpragasm is controversial. Her third album Maya boasted an alt-dance-hip-hop feel with technological based themes. A mini-video of her song “Born Free,” which featured a mass killing of redheads accompanied the release of Maya .Pair that with a highly publicized spat with New York Times writer Lynn Hirschberg, the fire that was her controversy burned strong. This year, she did what she wanted and its common knowledge that when rebellion and music mix, good things can happen. With this record many good things happened. Click here to buy it on Amazon!

Plastic Beach – Gorillaz

Plastic Beach was the other sleeper album of the year. The creator of the Gorillaz, Damon Alborn, eased up on the funk and hip-hop aspect of the music this time around. Substituting those absences with a diverse range of collaborators and synths, the Gorillaz absorbed a facelift. Click here to buy it on Amazon!

Come Around Sundown – Kings of Leon

The family that is the Kings of Leon outdid themselves this year. The band turned up the Southern rock in their music this year to produce some guitar heavy, raw music. A heavily anticipated album at the forefront of 2010, one fact remains after it was released – Followills know rock music. Click here to buy it on Amazon!

Here are some other pages you might like at ETS:

Free Music Download – California Wives “Blood Red Youth”

Album Review – My Chemical Romance “Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys”

Artist of the Week – Paul McCartney

Sara’s Best Albums of 2010

Sunday’s Blessings – Indio

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Sara’s Best Albums of 2010

As you may or may not know, I have decided to leave Enter The Shell and this will be my final blog. It has been an amazing two and a half years and I have nothing but love for Turrtle, Mailo, Richard, Ky and Justin. All walks of life have been in and out of the shell and I have enjoyed every single moment of it…And if I didn’t enjoy it, I definitely learned some lessons along the way. Being a part of ETS will be something I will always look back on fondly as an incredible life experience and as a professional training ground. There will be a huge void in my life without the shell! But I know I have made friends here and a little of the pain will be dulled because of that. So to all of you who have supported me, and most importantly, THE SHELL, I say thank you from the bottom of my heart!

Now, onto my picks for the best albums of 2010 [Click the titles for individual album reviews]!

The best album of 2010
The ArchAndroid: Suites II and III by Janelle Monáe

Well, I know you all saw it coming. From the moment I was exposed to this album in May, I was hooked. Not only does Monáe transcend genres perfectly in her debut, but this young woman is the role model that young girls need these days. In an era of the oversexed media and population, Monáe’s flare for fashion, dance and acceptance of all things music reminds girls (and people in general) to keep an open mind and be your own person. Her music is catchy, smart and fun. Hopefully Diddy (her mentor) doesn’t turn her into a pussycat doll somewhere down the line. Click here to buy it on Amazon!

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2. Sir Lucious Left Foot…The Son of Chico Dusty by Big Boi
I was never a huge fan of OutKast but for some reason, I was looking forward to Big Boi’s highly anticipated solo debut and purchased it the day it came out. It planted its seed and what grew within me was something massive…A Georgia peach tree from the dirrty south! Armed with the coolest beat in song-of-the-summer “Shutterbugg”, Chico Dusty is 2010’s gem, especially with smart lines like: “My recitals are vital and maybe needed for survival/Like the Bible or any other good book that you read/Why are 75 percent of our youth reading magazines?/’Cause they used to fantasy and it’s what they do to dreams/Call it fiction addiction ’cause the truth is a heavy thing/Remember when the levies screamed, made the folks evacuees?/Yeah I’m still speakin’ about it ’cause New Orleans ain’t clean/And when we shoutin’ ‘Dirty South’ I don’t think that is what we mean.” Click here to buy it on Amazon!

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3. Body Talk by Robyn
“Please state your full name for the record: ROBYN!” This Swedish firecracker left 2010’s pop starlets in the dust when she released three albums within one year. Body Talk, Pt. 1 was a good start and provided a universal list-topping single in “Dancing on My Own,” but Body Talk, Pt. 2 stepped up the game and left us wanting more! When the third installment was released, it was met with a little confusion (by me) as to why she would cheat us out of our money by making it consist mostly of songs from the first two releases. Upon listening to the album though, the listener discovers she wasn’t cheating us at all but really exposing us to the best pop explosion of 2010! Konichiwa Records was built on the foundation of musical freedom, as Robyn began it when Jive began to confine her vision. Well, one thing is for sure: Jive is kicking themselves in the ass right now. She has proved that, in her own words, “the whole industry knows better than to fuck with me!” Click here to buy it on Amazon!

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4. I Learned the Hard Way by Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings
After spending most of her life trying to make a career out of singing but only getting as far as the back-up mic, Sharon Jones was finally given the opportunity to shine in 2002. Her soul group’s fourth album, which was released in 2010, is further proof that this feisty mid-50-year-old is on the top of her game. So what if it took her a few decades to get noticed? The important thing is that in her prime, she is blowing away the competition in the neo-soul/revivalist musical movement and the group’s live shows are a living, breathing, dancing, grooving testament to that. Jones, at 54, still moves like she’s in her early 20’s and sings like she has all the wisdom in the world. The Dap-Kings are the perfect back-up band for Jones’ personality and lively voice, making this combo a 1-2 punch! Click here to buy it on Amazon!

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5. Distant Relatives by Nas & Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley
Though this album was released in May (the same day as Monáe’s, actually), I only recently discovered it. This Nas and Marley collaboration displays the talent of both artists. Their respective flows have such different styles yet they merge together nicely, all while delivering a profound message of togetherness and peace. Nas has always been known to have his own style in flow while Marley’s back-and-forth between singing and rapping add some softness and bite. A positive album out there is what this world needs and Relatives provides that in expressing love, peace and even questions that will hopefully make things better. The first step towards making change is asking questions, right? This album does that while still being creative and musically appealing. Click here to buy it on Amazon!

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6. Stuck on Nothing by Free Energy
The James Murphy-led outfit LCD Soundsystem has been on plenty of “Top Albums of 2010″ lists with their recent [and final?] release, This Is Happening. The album is good, but didn’t make my list. Instead, Murphy made an appearance in another way: with his perfect producing on Free Energy’s debut album. Stuck on Nothing is the perfect pop-rock record, reminiscent of 70’s and glam rock with a heavy dose of pop. The delicious hooks do their job and keep you hooked and the album has gotten great reviews across the boards from numerous musical outlets. Though Murphy’s little pet project (the band is also signed to his DFA label) has yet to break through into the “popular” realm, it is certainly making a name for itself as one of Spin Magazine’s favorite new acts. And more importantly, one of mine. Click here to buy it on Amazon!

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7. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy by Kanye West
Despite Mailo’s scathing review of West’s fifth full-length, West just won’t go away. Fueled by his own need for perfection, West pulled out the big [creative] guns for Fantasy. Melding together the perfect mix of classic College Dropout Kanye with the new 808’s and Heartbreak Kanye, the polarizing performer boasts what many are saying is the best of the year. I don’t agree that this album tops any of those above it, but I do agree that this album kicks ass. The production and engineering is superb (it even prompted an L.A. Times interview with the otherwise looked-over engineer of the album), the lyrics are typical emotional, silly, sarcastic Kanye and his celebrity pull is demonstrated in tracks like “Monster” and “All of the Lights.” Kudos, Kanye. Click here to buy it on Amazon!

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8. Interpreting the Masters, Vol. 1: A Tribute to Daryl Hall and John Oates by The Bird and the Bee
As I said before, when I heard the opening track of TBATB’s latest release, I exclaimed “ALBUM OF THE YEAR!” based solely on that. The album was released in March so obviously I was a little premature. But at any rate, Inara George and Greg Kurstin’s latest indie-pop-fest holds its own and did so for two months before Monáe bumped her down. Even though I don’t usually like to count cover albums as a legit album, Interpreting the Masters has shown me that that is not necessarily always the case, especially when the new act completely reinvents classic songs and still makes them work. George and Kurstin introduced a classic duo to a new generation with this release and I’m looking forward to them doing the same with [hopefully] some new volumes. Mailo and I have expressed our love for George for her creativity, uniqueness and style, but only I have a special song dedicated to me! Click here to buy it on Amazon!

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9. Contra by Vampire Weekend
VW have had a busy year having a commercially successful album, having their songs featured in seemingly every commercial on TV and a lawsuit filed against them by the woman on the cover of the album. Overshadowing that though is the greatness of the album in general. Lead singer Ezra Koenig’s charmful and sweet voice paired with rock and electronic sounds and beats makes this album a guaranteed way to make you move. Additional help from strings to New Wave influences help make Contra one of the best albums of the year. From songs about Mexican “aguas frescas” to reminiscing about gay, sugar daddy love affairs, Vampire Weekend makes anything sound cute. Click here to buy it on Amazon!

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10. Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager by Kid Cudi
After releasing one of 2009’s most highly anticipated albums which then became one of the best of 2009, Cudi turned around and released Rager. Dealing with the downfall after the success of MOTM1, Rager is considerably darker in tone and more mellow in sound as Cudi has suffered some dark times. Rager is quite personal and the listener almost finds him or herself in a conversation with the troubled man himself. The album’s single “Erase Me” is deplorable, despite it featuring Kanye West and “McLovin'” in the music video but the rest of the album is rife with gems like “Marijuana,” “Ashin’ Kusher,” “The Mood” and “Wild’n Cuz I’m Young.” Cudi has gone on record by saying he’s tired of hip-hop and is starting a rock band, which I’m not too thrilled about since “Erase Me” is probably a preview of what’s to come. If that’s the case though, at least we have two great original Kid Cudi albums. Click here to buy it on Amazon!

Here are some other pages you might like on ETS: