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Top 10 Music Videos of 2015

Untitled-110 years ago, the art of the music video seemed on the verge of extinction. With MTV’s move toward more mainstream programming, the music format that propelled the careers of artists like Madonna, Michael Jackson, and Britney Spears seemed to be a thing of the past. President Van Toeffler pronounced that, “The novelty of playing music videos has worn off,” and with that, the MTV generation died. Music videos lived on via video websites like YouTube and Vimeo, but the big budget endeavors of the 80s and 90s were far less of a common creation in a time of uncertainty in the music industry.

But in the past few years, the music video has found a rebirth. To compete with music streaming services like Spotify and Pandora, YouTube has advertised its self as a free alternative and even went so far as to create their own music awards show.  The result of this move has been staggering with more and more music fiends turning to YouTube for their listening experience. Some of the artistic music videos created in 2015 show what a resurgence the art form has had as of late. Here are my 10 favorite videos of the year.

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Top 40 Albums of 2015 (20-1)

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This year didn’t quite live up to the high expectations I had back in January. Artists like Chance the Rapper, Frank Ocean, Jai Paul, Kanye West, PJ Harvey, Radiohead, and The Wrens didn’t make good on their promise for a new full-length album in 2015. Fortunately, others were there to pick up the slack and provide us with some great albums. Below you will find this year’s edition of what I consider the top 40 albums of the year. To read the first 20 entries (40-21), CLICK HERE. On this list you’ll find albums from varying genres and possibly a few albums that are new to you. In a time where you can look up any song on a streaming service and hear it instantaneously, I hold on tightly to a love for the album as a whole, a collection of songs that work off each other, building toward one major theme or mood. As you will see in the list below, I’m a bit obsessed with new music and the art form that is the album. I take great pride in this list and hope that you find something worth checking out by the end.

(To hear my choices for the Top 10 Songs of 2015, go check out the latest Podcast HERE)

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Top 20 Albums of 2015 (So Far…) 10-1

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We are almost halfway through the year, and there have already been some great releases in 2015. With a stockpile of potentially great albums coming down the pipeline soon (Chance the Rapper, High On Fire, Beach House, Deafheaven, Frank Ocean, Jai Paul, Kanye West, Joanna Newsome, Majical Cloudz, Ghostface Killah, PJ Harvey, Radiohead, and allegedly, The Wrens) I’d like to take a breather and appreciate some of my favorite albums from the year so far. To try to keep some semblance of control, I’ve limited my list to 20 albums released prior to June 1st. Last week I posted the first half of the list (you can check it out HERE), and this week we will be looking at the top 10 albums.

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BDWPS Podcast: Episode #33

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In the latest episode of BDWPS Podcast, we check out some of the best music to come out in 2015 so far, including new music from Panda Bear, Sleater Kinney, Bjork, Elephant Micah, and Joey Bada$$. I also discuss the documentary “The Artist Formerly Known as Captain Beefheart,” and continue our journey through Robert Shelton’s Bob Dylan biography “No Direction Home.” Check it out HERE or subscribe to the podcast on Stictcher or iTunes (Search: BDWPS).

Track List:

Panda Bear “Boys Latin”
Sleater Kinney “Surface Envy”
Twerps “Back to You”
Joey Bada$$ “Paper Trail$”
Bjork “Lion Song”
The Sidekicks “Hell is Warm”
Elephant Micah “By the Canal”
Captain Beefheart “Low Yo Yo Stuff”
Bob Dylan “I Want You”

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Questioning the Scripture of Bill Hicks

Let’s face it – Bill Hicks was a genius.  Taking a cue from the all-time great George Carlin, Hicks infused his rebellious comedy routine with a heavy dose of philosophy. His views on society, government, religion, and drugs are still thought-provoking and profound 20-years later.  Recently while watching his 1992 special Relentless I had a moment of confusion.  While talking about the music industry’s penchant for performing fellatio on the Devil, Hick’s quipped, “Let me tell you something right now, you can print this in stone and don’t you ever forget it: any performer who ever sells a product on television is for now and all eternity removed from the artistic world.”

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You say Arena; I say Urina.

A few weeks ago, due to a series of mistakes by both Delta Airlines and myself, I found myself sitting in first class, sipping on a complementary vodka Red Bull, listening to The Walkmen’s “Lisbon” and stretching my lanky legs to their limit without fear of kicking or bumping a nearby passenger.  For the first time ever, I was enjoying a cross-country flight.  As I motioned the waitress for my 4th complementary drink, I thought to myself, “I’ll never be able to sit in coach again.”

Of course, I will; for the rest of my life as a matter of fact due to my lack of funds. But just like other facets in my life, the finer things have tainted my opinion of the commonplace.  Why eat a Pink Lady when you can have a Honey Crisp? Why drink a Bud Light when you can have a Dale’s Pale Ale? Why feast on a corn-fed flank steak when you can have a grain-fed t-bone? I refuse to sit in the upper deck at Spurs games after my unforgettable experiences in the lower deck, including the time I sat behind the team’s bench and witnessed David Robinson’s final game (oh, and did I mention they won their second championship that night?).  Not only do I prefer the up close and personal experience over viewing the game from 100 feet away, but the people down below seem more passionate, and dare I say, more knowledgeable of the game.

I’m the same way when it comes to live musical performances, although it’s actually much cheaper to see a band up close in an intimate venue rather than the sterile arena setting.  On average, people pay much more to sit in uncomfortable plastic seats located far, far away from performers  than they’d ever have to dish out at a local venue.

I hold this same sentiment toward outdoor music festivals. Last weekend the annual Austin City Limits Music Festival took place, and like every other year, people who know me as a lover of live music always ask me if I’m going. Back in 2004 I attended the festival, and I haven’t been back since. The experience wasn’t all bad; I did get so see artists like Cat Power, Broken Social Scene, and The Pixies, but I just can’t find enjoyment in the disconnect felt between the artist and the audience.  The bands perform miles away on a double barricaded, bouncer infested monstrosity of a stage.  Frank Black and the rest of The Pixies actually resembled pixies from my vantage point.

I'm pretty sure Kim Deal sat out and let Tinkerbell play the set.

The mixture of people milling around ACL didn’t make the experience much better – a mish-mash of hippies, yuppies, and families with babies in tow (it’s never too early to introduce your child to pot smoke and loud music!).  I have friends who find ACL to be a yearly highlight, but it’s just not my thing.  I’d rather see bands up close in venues with character, surrounded by like-minded patrons who are there for the music and not just an excuse to break out their tie-dye shirt.  If a Sam’s Club style bulk performance weekend is the reason you enjoy festivals like ACL, the South By Southwest Music Festival offers more bands (over 2000 in fact) and the majority of the performances take place in the cozy bars that line 6th Street.

You can go to this:

Or go to this:

In the smaller venue, the “arena detachment syndrome” disappears, and memories are made: Man Man giving the audiences instruments during the set, Les Savy Fav’s Tim Harrington nuzzling both me and my friend’s beards mid-set,  The Very Best inviting the entire crowd onto the stage, Death From Above 1979’s Sebastian Grainger jumping off his drum set and bull rushing the crowd with microphone in hand. This is what live performance is all about. While arena shows have their pre-planned skits, laser lights, movie screens, and choreography, the primal unpredictability of rock and roll still breathes in the smoky bars across this country.

If Lady GaGa really wants to be unpredictable she can take a cue from Tim Harrington and accost her "lil monsters" on stage.

The last real “arena” show I attended was Pearl Jam way back in 2003 at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater (just a hint: if you are seeing a show at a venue that is named after a corporate entity, the show will invariably stink).  Sleater Kinney opened for Pearl Jam, and they sounded great from row 83.  And that’s about all I can say: they sounded good. I wasn’t overtaken by the music, nor did I feel a connection with the ladies giving it their all on the enormous, barren stage.  There was such a wide fissure between the band and I that mid-way through the set I got up to grab some nachos and take a pee.  It’s not like I was missing much – I could always listen to their CD when I got home.

Fast forward two years: my friend PtheStudP and I were standing five feet away from the ladies of Sleater Kinney, doused in sweat and battling with the sea of lesbians that pogo-ed around us.  Sleater Kinney were tearing it up, sending the audience into a frenzy, all yearning in unison for more and more of Carrie Brownstein’s devisive guitar angst and Corin Tucker’s haunting howl that reverberated throughout the legendary SoKol Underground in Omaha, Nebraska.

After six songs, my friend informed me that he had to go to the restroom, an issue I had been dealing with myself.  Unlike my easy submission to nachos at the Pearl Jam show, I wouldn’t give in this time. We would tough it out. Two songs later, on the verge of peeing my pants, a decision had to be made. And here in lies the difference between an arena show and a small venue: at the Pearl Jam show I urinated in a urinal as the show went on; at the SoKol Underground my friend and I both pissed into beer bottles that soon after found themselves on the cement floor.  I can guarantee you’ll never see that level of commitment at an arena show.

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