“I can’t drown my demons. They know how to swim.”
- Bring Me The Horizon, ”Can You Feel My Heart?” song
Alex Winston, Alicia Keys, AlunaGeorge, Arthur Ashin, Autre Ne Veut, Bastille, Beyonce, Big Scary, Blood Orange, Britney Spears, Chasing Grace, Chrissie Hynde, Chromatics, Chvrches, Daft Punk, Dev Hynes, Die Antwoord, Disclosure, Drake, Ellie Goulding, Emeli Sande, Empire of the Sun, Expose, Fleetwood Mac, Frank Ocean, Gossip, Grimes, Haim, HEAR This, James Blake, Kanye West, La Roux, Lana Del Rey, Lindbergh Palace, Madonna, Miguel, MS MR, Music Video, Mykki Blanco, North West, Robyn, Sade, Solange, Spotify, The xx, Twin Shadow, Wild Nothing
Halfway through the first month of 2014, and I am finally able to compile my annual list of my favorite albums of 2013. So what was the holdup? I simply forgot what music was actually released last year. Last year more than any other, I jumped around from album to album, from song to song, from artist to artist. No one album completely owned my eardrums the entire year. Sure, there were a handful of albums that received their healthy rotation of spins, but nothing comparable to years before where I played an album from front to back, left to right and back again nearly the entire 365 days. It wasn’t that last year’s crop of releases weren’t addictive, but moreso that there was way too much music to listen to!
So in alphabetical order, here are my favorite albums of 2013:
Anxiety by Autre Ne Veut
I was shocked to find out that Arthur Ashin, the voice behind Autre Ne Veut was American, born and raised. I fail to give the U.S. its proper due when such a unique-sounding album is released by automatically assuming that the responsible artist MUST be from anywhere but here. What genre do you classify the music on Anxiety? I never once wondered until I started to write this entry. Alternative R&B? Perhaps. New Soul? Maybe. Great Music? Most definitely. And that is all you need to know.
BEYONCE‘ by Beyonce’
In the year of overhyped and underwhelming releases from everyone’s pop diva faves, Queen Bey emerged overnight literally out of nowhere to prove that she’s the “Supreme” of the music industry: well respected, critically acclaimed, admired by the kids and still owning the popular music landscape. BEYONCE’ finds Mrs. Carter channeling everyone from Madonna (“Haunted”) to Alicia Keys (“Heaven”) to Drake (“Mine”), but doing it so effortlessly and sometimes even better.
Cupid Deluxe by Blood Orange
It was reported that British singer-songwriter Dev Hynes’ penned songs for Britney Spears’ most recent album failed to make the cut. If any of them sounded half as vulnerable and personal yet utterly sweet as the tracks on the second album by Blood Orange, the electronic musical project of Hynes, than it’s surely Britney Jean’s loss.
The Bones of What You Believe by Chvrches
Scottish synth-poppers Chvrches pick up where La Roux last left, yet simplify that sound with more refined vocals (courtesy of lead singer Lauren Mayberry) and an overall much crisper sound. It’s the perfect album that can double as the one to pump out loudly in your car, or to play at a much lower volume while working at the office. Try it either way.
Settle by Disclosure
Don’t get me wrong, Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories is a fine album. It’s just that it didn’t do what Disclosure’s Settle accomplished: persuading you to join the dancefloor. If Daft Punk’s album was the sound of disco and electronic music making love, Settle was full-on, hardcore audio penetration between 90s house and any lucky listener.
Ice On The Dune by Empire of the Sun
Their look? Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome: The Atlantic City Musical directed by Bobby Trendy. Their sound? A meteor shower of frothy dream pop that I am head over metallic-baby blue stiletto heel in love with.
Days Are Gone by Haim
One moment: Fleetwood Mac. Another: Expose’. Chrissie Hynde’s un-biological daughters released one of the catchiest albums of the year filled with hooks that required dedicated effort to sing along to because of the oft-rapid fire singing. Need proof? Sing “Falling” or “Forever” during your next shower.
Overgrown by James Blake
One may have to be in a certain mood when listening to James Blake’s second studio album. It’s that same mood one has to be in when pressing play on a Sade album, or more recently, anything by Frank Ocean. I am in love with Mr. Blake’s voice: haunting, emotional and a few times androgynous, so I suppose that I am always in the mood to listen to his soulful album.
Yeezus by Kanye West
Love him or hate him, there is a reason why North West’s daddy is topping most year-end Critics’ Best Of list with his sixth studio album. Never content staying within one defined genre of music, Yeezus finds Mr. West delving deeper into industrial and electronic music. The result: an aggressive, frantic and maddening soundscape of vainglorious perfection.
Pure Heroine by Lorde
Lorde’s debut album is on this list? Yes, the 17-year-old Kiwi responsible for releasing the song (“Royals”) that might cause my ears to bleed if I am ever subjected to hearing it again managed to put out the best pop album of the year. (To prevent any potential BeyHive sting, BEYONCE‘ is an R&B album.) In fact, “Royals” is my least favorite song on the entire album that sounds like the lovechild of Robyn and Lana Del Rey blessed by The xx.
Special Shout-Outs to Secondhand Rapture by MS MR, Bad Blood by Bastille, Dinner Will Be Served by Chasing Grace and the Twin Rivers EP by Big Scary who all received ample plays on my Spotify this year.
From last year’s post - My favorite albums of 2012:
Click on a thumbnail to enlarge / view this year’s covers of my favorite albums of 2013:
FINALLY… a New Years that was epic!
Year after year of either last-minute or zero New Years Eve plans, I actually had a fabulous gameplan to welcome 2014. Jocelyn secured a private cabana at the sold-out Rooftop Eve party in Hyde Park Village, and invited a few friends to help her “drank” bottles of Grey Goose and Moët. It had been nearly a decade since I rang in a brand spankin’ new year at such a massive event that I completely forgot how much fun they truly were. I had slowly become one of those social naysayers who branded New Years parties as amateur night when in truth, getting older had gotten the worst of me. Being hangover-free in my 20s had escalated to weeklong hangovers in my 30s. Afternoon naps were necessities and not perks. Given my recent track record, I had pretty much reverted into being an amateur myself. So who really cares? Amateur night or not… get me out of the house and let it rain vodka!
Any event that transports me out of Tampa with its energy, decor and pizzazz is a must-attend event, and I gladly add The Rooftop Eve party to that list of local events. Any individual seeking a posh, swanky and fun New Years Eve partay, add The Rooftop Eve party to YOUR calendar list. It’s definitely worth every penny of the admission price.
THANK YOU Queen Jocelyn for the tickets. Happy New Year everyone, may 2014 be in your favor.
My mother has 9 brothers and sisters. From them, I have over 60 first cousins and 50 second cousins. Being that my family was either living in Europe or on the opposite U.S. coast, I didn’t have much interaction with my extended family growing up In fact, I first met the majority of my relatives at my grandmother’s memorial service in Seattle nearly 8 years ago. They welcomed me with open, loving arms. They fed me. They housed me. They shared their personal stories, photos and memories with me. These people were my blood, and it sadly took the tragedy of my grandmother’s passing to introduce us to one another.
Last month, I was reunited with a handful of my relatives and family but thankfully for a much happier occasion: to celebrate Trina’s wedding to Dwight. So much time had passed since we last saw one another that even my own nieces and nephews had no clue who I was or that I even existed. The last time I saw any of my brother’s children, they were pretty much all newborns or just learning how to walk. Now these babies were all grown up, talking and being very inquisitive, wondering how I knew each of their names, ages and what costumes they each sported this past Halloween. In fact, most of them knew that they were in town for “a girl named Trina’s” wedding, but none of them remembered or knew that Trina was their aunt and their father’s sister. It was the absolute cutest thing when they finally put everything together and figured out that we were all related.
Trina and Dwight’s sunset wedding was gorgeous.
One of the many highlights of the evening was my Uncle Mikuli’s (mom’s second youngest brother) toast. As he welcomed Dwight to the family, he placed an emphasis on the value of family citing how many traveled from New Zealand, Samoa and all over the world just to be there. He then introduced the money dance, an island tradition at Samoan weddings. Despite my sister’s wedding being very non-traditional, it was a welcome homage to my family’s roots, a souvenir of the past and a reminder to always remember the importance of family.
fam·i·ly fam(ə)lē noun: where life begins and love never ends
[Fun Fact: I've been told by numerous cousins that my siblings and I are the most "Americanized" of the family, and that we even speak with slight Southern accents. (?!)]
Congratulations again Dwight and Katrina!
“Faded” by Bear Mountain… the latest ‘PRESS REPEAT’ song on Spotify!
Amee Joshi, Areis Evans, Beyonce, Bow Ties and Clutches, Britney Spears, Corina Baltz, Fashion, Florida Museum of Photographic Art, Friends of Joshua House Foundation, iTunes, Jaden Shapiro, Jaime Thompson, Janet Jackson, Jay Z, Jenn Marie, Jess Hille, Jocelyn Brenner, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, LaKishia Knowles, Monique Reed, Rasha Kelly, Rihanna, Rod Moreau, The Fashion Movement
Earlier this month, I attended the 2nd Annual Bow Ties & Clutches event at the Florida Museum of Photographic Art (FMOPA). It was my first time attending the Best of the Bay Award-winning event (which required all guests to either sport a bow tie or clutch) and stepping foot inside the FMOPA downtown. Bow Ties & Clutches, presented by a local fashion events and marketing company The Fashion Movement was an enjoyable evening of fashion, cocktails and mingling. Proceeds from the event benefited the Friends of Joshua House Foundation, Inc., an organization that provides a safe haven for abused, abandoned and neglected children.
For the fashion event, I channeled my inner Lexx Miyake-Mugler and went for a K.Pop boy band meets Rhythm Nation look. And YES I sported a bow tie… conveniently pinned to my coat.
Bravo to The Fashion Movement for hosting a wonderful event that benefited such a valuable cause.
“Drunk in Love” by Beyonce with Jay-Z: Despite her obvious Rihanna impersonation in the music video, I just cannot get enough of Mrs. Carter’s new single. In fact, I cannot get enough of BEYONCE, her surprise album and music video collection that was quietly released to iTunes last Friday without any announcement or promotion. Love her or hate her, you have to bow down to Bey’s marketing genius behind this album’s surprise release. She relied on word of mouth buzz to spread the word of her new album’s availability, gave fans no option but to purchase the ENTIRE album, ensured that her entire album was listened to by releasing an accompanying music video to every single track, and sold nearly a million copies in a mere three days.
In today’s social media era of creating gargantuan hype around a project with trending hashtags, teaser photos and videos, release date countdowns, and “surprise” album leaks, Beyonce’s risky gamble of no promotion paid off BIG TIME. BEYONCE: The Visual Album sold more in its first three days than the COMBINED first-week sales of superstar Miss Spears’ Britney Jean, Katy Perry’s heavily-hyped Prism and Lady Gaga’s overhyped ARTpop , proving that you don’t need a golden semi-truck, a helicopter dress, or numerous “personal” Twitter Q&As to sell quality music.
To you Beyonce Giselle Knowles-Carter, I gladly bow down.
Every year, I host some type of birthday party for myself, with last year’s celebration being the absolute best one yet. This year, my plan was to celebrate with each of my best friends over one-on-one lunches and dinners in Tampa before jettisoning off to Chicago to spend time with my other family.
And while in Chicago, my vacation goals were as follow:
After all, I had officially entered my mid-30s so it’s all about taking it easy from here on out. Relax. Relate. Release.
My traveling partner-in-crime Mike joined the Chicago fun, and recruited new friend Jonathan to drive-up and join in as well. I hung out with Sterling and Adam, experienced a drive-by dinner visit from Rusty and embarked on a culinary cruise through Chicago where I ate the most delicious food imaginable.
My first stop began with a visit to Alinea, the #2 Top Rated restaurant in the U.S., the #15 Top Rated restaurant in the world and the venue that served me my most-expensive meal ever. How to describe Alinea? It was a ticketed establishment for starters, meaning you had to buy a ticket to dine at the restaurant. Despite their sold-out schedule, Neil was fortunate to secure 4 tickets to Alinea. Tickets allowed one to enjoy a finely crafted 14-course meal of molecular gastronomy dishes, with each creation paired with a different wine, champagne, beer and/or sake. The dishes were so beautiful, that at times, I didn’t want to eat them out of guilt that I would be destroying miniature visual works-of-art.
Desserts that were plated on the entire dinner table and resembling a Jackson Pollock piece… Bites suspended on wires and pins… Tastings that were time-sensitive to eat because the wax bowl would melt if you weren’t fast enough… Burning leaves and pine to play with your sense of smell… Dehydrated green apple filled with helium served as a balloon…
There were moments where everyone at the dinner table collectively closed their eyes and sighed upon a first bite. The dishes were THAT unbelievably and heavenly appetizing and orgasmic. I failed to snap any photos of the dishes, because I wanted to take in every single second at Alinea. So the below photos are ones that I found online to help give you a visual idea of what was served.
My food orgasm continued the following evening at Vince and Gina’s Dinner Party at their house. She recruited her friend Ken to help create an 8-course meal paired with different wines and champagnes.
On the menu that evening:
Photos of the dishes are below and were taken by moi. Fill me up with bubbly and I apparently become as snap-happy with the phone camera as I become Chatty Cathy.
Gina: “Okie, we’re old now. This is what we’re supposed to do now. Dinner parties, wine and conversation. Welcome to your mid-30s!”
…annnddd I’m not mad at that! Gina’s fabulous dinner party actually inspired me to host my own Saketini and Appetizer Party for my close friends, and reminded me to always enjoy life by the glass.
The weekend wouldn’t be complete without giving a BIG thank you to Neil for the VIP, non-Gen Pop hospitality and friendship. Happy Birthday (again) to me!
Here is the souvenir menu from Alinea for those curious foodies:
“Play by Play” by Autre Ne Veut: Yet another song that Neil got me obsessing over and playing on REPEAT…
Anye Cole, Areis Evans, Carla Vaughan, Clay Barnhart, Fifty Shades of Grey, Haleigh Barchard, Halloween, Jenn Marie, Jess Hille, Katrina Wilson, Kelly Hughes, Lady Gaga, Legacy Productions Group, Lorena Ivonne, Mercedes Ellis, Mike Hammonds, Niely Cornacchia, R Kelly, Radko Keleman, Steven Ballard, Temptation Halloween Party, The RITZ Ybor, TLC, Traye Matthews, Tyreese Map
Since I was a child and even as a candy-addict adult, I just never got into the whole concept of dressing up in costume, trick or treating, getting spooked out and celebrating Halloween. In fact, I can count on one hand the number of times that I’ve ever dressed up, with six years ago being the last time that I donned a costume.
With Tampa’s largest Halloween party called Temptation taking place at my work on Halloween night, along with one of my best friends hosting a Halloween party at her abode the weekend after, I decided to get into the All Hallows’ Eve groove and break tradition by dressing up. I constructed my first Halloween costume (Fifty Shades of Grey) from Home Depot paint sample color cards for the Temptation party, and lazily threw together whatever I could scrounge from my closet (Dirty Hipster Sex meets Ooooooohhh… on the TLC Tip!) for Jess’s party.
Two Halloween costumes in one year? Sometimes, I spook myself out.
Temptation Halloween Party: The Haunted Theatre
@ The RITZ Ybor on October 31, 2013
Jess’s Halloween Party
Saturday, November 2, 2013
“Do What U Want” by Lady Gaga featuring R. Kelly: Hands down, Mother Monster’s most hypnotic and BEST single since “Pokerface”!
Anye Cole, Bobby Caldwell, Carole Liparoto, Chelsea Rawl, Corina Baltz, Grammy Awards, HEAR This, Jenn Marie, Jess Hille, Jessie Ware, Katie James, Martika, Marvin Gaye, Mikky Ekko, Paul Trusik, Rihanna, Rod Moreau, Sade, Sadique Waseem, Sanniel Sanabia, SEE This, The State Theatre, Zacharias Pieri
I first fell in love with Jessie Ware after listening to her critically-acclaimed Devotion album. I first fell in love with Mikky Ekko upon hearing his silky-smooth voice gliding across Rihanna’s blockbuster single “Stay” (that he also co-wrote and produced.) What a thrill it was to see both of them perform live at The State Theatre in St. Pete this past Wednesday.
Mikky crooned his way through current single “Kids” and of course the #1 hit “Stay” which he reminded the crowd that he performed at the Grammy Awards earlier this year…. and rightfully so since it was hands down the performance highlight of this year’s Grammy night!
Jessie kicked off her set with a cover of Martika’s “Love This Will Be Done” and kept the cover train going with Bobby Caldwell’s “What You Won’t Do For Love” and Marvin Gaye’s “I Want You,” the latter perfectly interlaced with her debut single “Running.” I can forgive her for not performing the heavenly”Taking In Water” because the rest of her set which consisted of staples “Wildest Moments” and “Imagine It Was Us” along with a brand new song were just as divine. I remember once trying to describe Jessie Ware’s sound to a friend of mine, and could only remark that she is this generation’s Sade… classy, sophisticated and just cool.
It was a welcome embrace to witness two newer artists in today’s crowded music scene solely rely on genuine talent and artistry rather than gimmickry and media stunts to entertain a crowd.
Working in the concert industry, one thing that I love and admire is when an artist emerges from backstage to mingle with the crowd and their fans. I was able to meet (a very friendly + laidback) Mikky Ekko who mentioned that he is still working on his album which should see a release date sometime early next year. He was also a good sport for allowing Rod,
Shane O’Neil and I to sing our “song“ that we wrote together in front of him. Granted, Rod sorta ambushed him with this spontaneous performance, but he seemed to find the intended hilarity in it all. (SEE TWEET EXCHANGE BELOW)
DEFINITELY take a listen to Jessie Ware’s soulful debut album Devotion, check out Mikky Ekko’s catchy “Kids” music video below, see them both on tour while you can, and read my friend Carole’s review on tbt Soundcheck that perfectly sums up the night (and where I “borrowed” two of the above photos from for this post.)
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Every Labor Day weekend involves reuniting with all of the New York and Chicago peeps at a destination not in one of those cities (or Tampa). (READ: The Big Easy & Back!) To my Jambalaya & Hurricane guzzling delight, New Orleans was once again chosen as this year’s location. I don’t know what exactly happened that weekend. It almost felt as if it never even took place, because it all happened so fast. I only remember that the entire time just felt good. It felt good to let loose. It felt good to reunite with my best friends and other family. It felt good to meet new friends. It felt good to just get away. I can’t come up with another way to describe the trip other than playing “It Feels Good” by Tony Toni Tone’.
Oh, I also remember eating raw oysters every single day for lunch and dinner.
…until Labor Day Weekend 2014!
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The Theme Song of Labor Day Weekend 2013: “Triumphant” by Mariah Carey? Huh? I am afraid this song oddly became the anthem for Jason, Billy and I when lost in the French Quarter. Don’t ask… because we wouldn’t be able to explain it to you.