Thursday, December 11, 2014

The 2014 TQ Music Awards

Jim James of My Morning Jacket
Welcome to my annual year end music review post. If you have the patience to read all of it, you will see:
- My ten awards with winners and runners up
- Embedded Spotify playlist of my favorite tracks
- More explanation of how I chose my award winners
- Photos of note I posted to Instagram from the shows I attended
[Previous Year End Reviews: 2013, 2012, 2011]

1. The “Perpetual Repeat” Song of the Year: "Seasons (Waiting On You)" by Future Islands
Runner up: "Do It Again" by Röyksopp and Robyn

2. The “Share with All Friends” Album of the Year: The Inevitable End by Röyksopp [with the Do It Again mini album of Röyksopp and Robyn]
Runner up: Into the Wide by Delta Spirit

3. The “If Every One Could Be Like This” Concert of the Year: Delta Spirit at Vic Theatre
Runner up: Kevin Drew at Lincoln Hall

4. The “Phoenix” Becoming Too Big To Not Easily See Again: The War On Drugs
Runner up: The National

5. The “Franz Ferdinand” Must Now See Every Time They’re In Town: Delta Spirit
Runner up: Sylvan Esso

6. The “Bon Iver” Regret of the Year: Only seeing half of the Local Natives set in Las Vegas
Runner up: not seeing Alvvays and Varsity at Beat Kitchen

7. The “Medulla” Most Disappointing Album: Michael by Les Sins
Runner up: Supermodel by Foster the People

8. The “Should I Quit You” Most Disappointing Concert: The Knife at Aragon Ballroom
Runner up: Ought at Empty Bottle

9. The “Shadenfradue” Guilty Pleasure Track of the Year: "Shake It Off" by Taylor Swift
Runner up: "Turn Down For What" by DJ Snake and Lil Jon featuring Juicy J, 2 Chainz, and French Montana

10. The "Buy an iPod stereo for the car" Best Decision I made in 2014: Informing my cousin that a favorite band of his (Guided By Voices) was performing a block away from my apartment.
Runner up: Asking Jim James for a picture.

1. If you haven't watched the video from Future Islands performing on The Late Show with David Letterman, please scroll up and watch it. Watching that video was exactly how I discovered that amazing song, sadly just a week after a local show of theirs sold out. Thankfully, the band rolled back through town and I was able to see this song live, which appears to have become a prerequisite for a song winning this award.

For the second straight year, my "song of the summer" finishes just below the top spot. It also helped that my summer was punctuated from an amazing live performance of "Do It Again" - complete with graffiti cannon - at Pritzker Pavillion (arguably the most scenic spot for music in all of Chicago). Speaking of that concert...

2. This is my list, and I'm able to bend the rules if I want, which is why I'm combining Röyksopp's Do It Again five track mini album with Roybn with the full length album released a few months after the aforementioned concert into my favorite album of the year. Call it a disjoined double-album, there isn't a weak spot on either album that features tempo blasting tracks alongside introspective instrumentals.

Delta Spirt's latest album may not be called its best from their most loyal fans, but it is easily their largest album. It deserves this ranking on my list because of how well it was expressed live, leading me to my next point...

3. Delta Spirit's concert was stellar enough to force a change to my Favorite Band rankings. It also required a separate blog post: Delta Spirit at The Vic. I usually shy away from concert review blog posts, unless something like a failed pick up attempt almost ruins it.

I had so much fun both the night of Kevin Drew's Lincoln Hall show, but also in the months leading up to it. The latest album that Drew was supporting may not have been his best, but the track "Mexican Aftershow Party" sparked a thousand inside jokes and a hashtag that I desperately wanted to trend. The tour in support of this album had a few issues, many shows were cancelled, and it appears that Drew had to recruit a few friends to help him close out his truncated trip in Chicago. This lead to an unofficial Broken Social Scene mini-reunion complete with more than a couple BSS songs. Drew gave a small shout out to the #MexcianAfterpartyShow efforts, but sadly didn't join us for a burrito next door. (It didn't lower my opinion of the food I devoured with a Mart-On-Special fueled hunger)

4. The War On Drugs headlined this year's Hideout Block Party. At first glance I wasn't sure if they were big enough name to be a headliner (the previous night of the fest featured Death Cab For Cutie). I was wrong. Their sound is huge, their latest album may be their best, they are officially the most successful effort ever named "The War On Drugs."

The National is already huge. They sold out four straight nights at the Chicago Theatre's for beard's sake. However I have always been lucky enough to see them easily enough, highlighted from my friend winning the Ticketmaster lottery with the seats he got us this year. This luck is sure to run out, which is why I'm listing them here.

5. This is a tough answer to expound without repeating myself - but now that Delta Spirit is in my Top Ten favorite acts, I need to see them again every time they return. For more reasons than just the song I have on the above playlist, the album I think is the second best this year, or the concert I wrote about earlier... It's also because there's a small group of friends who have similar opinions about this band, and I know I will have a fun time if we can all reunite to see them again.

One of those fellow Delta Spirit fans pointed me in Slyvan Esso's direction. Never underestimate the importance of friends helping you discover new music.

6. Local Natives released my second favorite album of 2013. If it wasn't for losing a head-to-head concert matchup with Franz Ferdinand last year, I would've seen them earlier. Thankfully, they were playing a brand new venue in Las Vegas while I was there on vacation. The 2014 Vegas Vacation is (with the possible exception of my first Vegas Trip) was the best Vegas vacation I've had in my ten trips to the town. However, part of what made the trip fun was the nonstop aspect of it, and when it came time for the Local Natives show, I had nothing left in my tank - and chose to leave it early to make sure I didn't die on the strip.

I need to see Varsity in 2015. I know someone in the band. I have been invited to many of their shows. I feel bad that I haven't seen them yet. I understand that Alvvays is about to blow up and may never get a chance to see them in a place this small ever again.

7. Not sure what I expected out of Les Sins. I like Toro Y Moi, and hoped the debut solo album would've been... I don't know. Also - Foster The People - this album was fine, I guess, but I think they will always just be a pumped up kick in a bottle for me.

8. The Knife was great for my concert resume, but because I wasn't a big fan of their latest album, this show was underwhelming. As far as Ought is concerned, they came in extremely recommended, but couldn't compete with the adrenalin rush of a public bus stop yelling match between me and a former friend before the concert.

9. If I get the opportunity to hijack the playlist at your party, BOTH "Shake It Off" and "Turn Down For What" will be played.

10. My cousin Steve and I aren't too close, at least in terms of how many of my friends refer to their close cousins. He lives in another state and we don't see each other beyond maybe one family holiday a year. But I've always looked up to him and respected him. He's now a single father of four and has a life more difficult than I know. When I learned of a Block Party featuring one of his favorite bands (Guided By Voices) was happening in my neighborhood, I sent him a simple note about it and offered my apartment as lodging. This led to him bringing two of his daughters to Chicago (which was the first concert experience for his youngest daughter) and created the most beautiful musical memory for the year. There's so much more I want to gush about the 24 hours they spent in my company, but this is a public blog post.

Only a moment such as my cousin holding up his daughter so she could rock out to a band nobody realized was months away from breaking up could have topped what also happened this year... While at Lebowski Fest (an annual "overgrown birthday party with the same bowling movie party theme" event in Louisville) I saw local hero Jim James also enjoying my favorite movie of all time. I asked Lebowski Fest's cofounder/president/dictator/saint if he thought he'd be cool if I asked for a picture. I received a very Dude-like non answer, but chose to pursue it anyways. I could've said a lot more, like how I make sure "One Big Holiday" is always blasting with my car windows down when I drive over the Ohio River, but instead just said thank you and how much I appreciated both his band and solo albums and concerts. The picture is at the top of this post.

Special Music Mention of 2014:
I need to talk about U2.
U2 was my first "favorite" band.
We fell out of love after the horrid No Line Left On The Horizon album.
Then the excellent, genre smashing, podcast "U Talking U2 To Me" with Adam Scott and Scott Aukerman changed everything.
"Bonobos, Thedge, Adam Claytwothousandpounds, and Larry Mullen's son" did a "very U2 thing" with the new album release.
Many went apeshit.
Bono fell off his bike.
I defend U2.
I defend their right to act as total self important publicity engines, which is collateral damage if you want rock stars.
Today I learned a friend had secured tickets to see them perform in 2015.
I haven't seen U2 live since 2001.
Today was, in fact, a Beautiful Day.

If you don't like U2, don't listen to them. If you don't want U2 on your iPod, delete the album. Are you that concerned about how pristine your mostly-stolen music library is after this? Are you incapable of deleting something you could have either not downloaded or known better to not have an automatic download setting on your device? Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses? I'm sorry if you were Stuck In A Moment You Can't Get Out Of.

For those that don't know, I quit taking in-concert photography last year. I explained my logic in a Danger!Sound essay. I strongly suggest you read the article my close friend wrote on the topic for Medium's new music centric site Cuepoint: Raise Your Smartphone To The Sky.

Thank you very much for reading. To close, here is the concert log (through IG posts) from 2014:

(Concord in January)
(Schubas in February)
(Double Door in February)
Local Natives
(Brooklyn Bowl in March)
The National
(Chicago Theatre in April)
The Knife
(Aragon in April)

I Break Horses
(Empty Bottle in April)

(Beat Kitchen in June)
Fuck Buttons
(Bottom Lounge in June)
Delta Spirit
(Taste of Randolph in June)
Guided By Voices
(Green Music Fest in July)
Blackbird Blackbird
(Empty Bottle in July)
Diarrhea Planet
(Wicker Park Fest in July)
(The Vic in August)
Machinegun Mojo
(Hideout in August)

Röyksopp and Robyn
(Pritzker in August)
Arcade Fire
(United Center in August)

Death Cab For Cutie
(Hideout Block Party in September)
The War On Drugs
(Hideout Block Party in September)
(Empty Bottle in September)
Delta Spirit
(The Vic in October)
Kevin Drew
(Lincoln Hall in November)
(Subterranean in November)
(The Vic in November)
St. Vincent / Future Islands
(Chicago Theatre in December)

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