Category Archives: HEAR This

Big Guava Music Festival 2014

Big Guava 14 Okie Balloon

The first annual Big Guava Music Festival (literally) stormed through Tampa Bay May 2 thru 4, 2014!  My prayers had been answered for this was my city’s first true music festival (besides the Sunset Music Festival), and the closest thing to Coachella to hit Tampa Bay shores.  The stormy weather may have hindered attendance the first two days, but Big Guava ended on a sunny, high-note by the third and final day.  Regardless of weather conditions, the residents of Tampa Bay need to WAKE. THE. HELL. UP!… and take advantage of such a fantastic music festival taking place in our backyard.  Coming from someone who works in the live music and concert industry, the challenge in bringing music acts to even perform in this state is difficult.  When a line-up such as this year’s Big Guava line-up is created, you get up off your couch, you buy tickets, and you attend.

As with anything new in this city, it’s just going to take time for Big Guava to reach the heights of success that it rightfully deserves.  Upon hearing Live Nation’s announcement for plans to present another Big Guava Music Festival next year, I let out a sign of relief that my prayers had once again been answered.  Hopefully, my prayers of Tampa proving not to be such a basic city will be answered when its citizens come out in droves to next year’s fest.

So enough of my tirade.  I now present, and in no particular order, my TOP 5 FAVORITE PERFORMANCES at this year’s Big Guava:


Magic Man:  There I was lying in a hammock in the Craft Beer Chill Zone at Big Guava, lounging until the next act I planned to see took the stage.  To find an available hammock in any of the Craft Beer sections at Big Guava was like finding the Holy Grail.  So when you happened to find an available one, you jump on it and rest on it as long as you can because this lethargic opportunity of downtime may not come back around again.  For me to abandon my hammock to check out the catchy music that was coming from the nearby Grove stage just goes to show what an electrifying band Magic Man are live.  Lead singer Alex Caplow stole the show, and (simply put) KILLED his band’s set with his Jagger-esque energy and moves, and vocals that soared thru the Fairground fields.  I wasn’t familiar with the pop rock band from Boston before Big Guava, but they have now become a regular staple on my Spotify.



Outkast:  The biggest disappointment of this year’s Coachella was hands-down Big Boi and Andre 3000’s much-hyped reunion.  There was no connection at all from the duo to their songs, or to the audience.  The flamboyant Andre 3000, sporting un-Andre 3000 attire comprised of a cap, hoodie and denim overalls, came across as drained, uninterested and depleted of his usual pizzazz.  The energy in the desert was a mixture of confusion and exhaustion, both from Outkast and the masses of festival-goers that began to rapidly thin out.  I cringed when Andre 3000 asked the Coachella audience if they were still there, and if they were tired.  By the time the duo performed the classic “Hey Ya!,” it was too late, for only a 1/4 of the audience that were originally lined up to see their set still remained to shake it like a Polaroid picture.  And barely did they do that.

So to my delight, Outkast invaded the Big Guava stage on their one and only Florida appearance and owned it.  The real Andre 3000 had returned, with a platinum-blonde wig and the funky, outrageous persona we’d come to love and expect.  The packed house sang along to every song, and gave the boys from Atlanta a true dirty South, warm welcome back.  After all, Outkast FINALLY proved that they were indeed back!



St. Lucia:  Jean-Philip Grobler makes the kind of music that reminds me of the breezy ballads from the 1980s that were sung by Sting, Phil Collins and Christopher Cross.  There’s a precise beauty to the way his distinctive voice sings melodies against a synthpop beat.  It’s polished.  It’s calming.  It’s cool.  Imagine how surprised I was to see his ability to also command a dancefloor as aggressively as he did when he performed the disco-fied “September” which may as well have been an ode to Dead or Alive.  St. Lucia‘s performance was commanding enough to even persuade Alex Caplow from Magic Man to let loose and dance in the middle of the festival crowd.



Chance The Rapper:  One of my absolute favorite thrills at any music festival is accidentally coming across a really amazing artist’s set, enjoying it, and thus becoming a new fan.  I was only inside of the Nectar Stage venue to cool off and sit down.  Chance The Rapper just so happened to be performing on the Nectar Stage.  Unlike Magic Man, I was actually familiar with Chance the Rapper, but his music never initially grasped me.  Truthfully, I never really gave his music a chance after his audacity to bring Justin Bieber as his surprise guest performer at this year’s Coachella.  No bueno Chance, no bueno.  So I sat down in the only air conditioned part of Big Guava, sipped on my beer, and could not help but be seduced by Chance The Rapper’s music, stage presence, and the way the near full-house was hooked and mesmerized.  Okay, Chance, you got me.  I’m a fan.  Just please, no more Justin Bieber guest performances until he gets his life together.



MS MR:  This New York duo’s Secondhand Rapture album was an honorable mention on my annual Top Albums of Year List for 2013.  Their dark indie rock sound may have been a noticeable contrast to being the earliest and very first performance on a very sunny Florida day, but MS MR brought along enthusiasm, spirit and soul to their set.  Vocalist Lizzy Plapinger’s scratchy yet soulful voice is what instantly reeled me in to liking MS MR, and it is an instrument that did not disappoint in a live setting.  A small bonus for seeing them live was me FINALLY learning how to pronounce their name.  All this time, I referred to them as “M. S. M. R.” when they their actual band name is pronounced “Miss Mister.”


Please click on thumbnail to enlarge / view photo: 

…until next year’s  Big Guava!

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Okie’s Favorite Albums of 2013

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:

  • King Con by Alex Winston
  • Kill for Love by Chromatics
  • Ten$ion by Die Antwoord
  • Halcyon by Ellie Goulding
  • Our Version of Events by Emeli Sande
  • A Joyful Noise by Gossip
  • Visions by Grimes
  • Rollerskater EP by Lindbergh Palace
  • Kaleidoscope Dream by Miguel
  • True EP by Solange
  • Confess by Twin Shadow
  • Nocturne by Wild Nothing

Click on a thumbnail to enlarge / view this year’s covers of my favorite albums of 2013:

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Jessie Ware + Mikky Ekko concert @ The State Theatre

Jesse Ware Mikky Ekko

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.

Jessie Ware B 2013 Jessie Ware A 2013

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.

Mikky Ekko Okie

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)

Mikky Ekko Tweet

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.)

Click on a thumbnail to enlarge / view image:

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If I Were Olivia Pope… fixing LADY GAGA

Lady Gaga Artpop

‘LADY GAGA IS OVER!’ proclaim the headlines. Her new single “Applause” receives a tepid response from critics and music buyers. She engages in a very public Twitter feud with gossip columnist Perez Hilton. After a disastrous trek in South America, the U.S. leg of her Born This Way Ball cancels due to a hip injury.

It’s hard to believe that it was just four years ago when Mother Monster scored her sixth consecutive #1 Billboard Pop Song with her Beyonce duet “Telephone.” Previous #1 singles “Bad Romance,” “Paparazzi” and “Just Dance” were still inescapable on the dancefloors and radio airwaves. As Tweeters followed her in record clicks, Forbes magazine crowned her as one The World’s Most Powerful Women.

Lady Gaga Old School

So obviously, a LOT has changed, and Stefani Germanotta is obviously suffering from an inevitable backlash that the superstars of her caliber have all experienced before her.  So I, an avid music listener shall channel my inner Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington’s crisis expert and fixer from ABC’s Scandal) and offer suggestions to YOU, Lady Gaga in hopes of propelling you back to the top of pop supremacy.

Your album is called ARTPOP, not CHARTPOP: “Applause” failed to outsell “Roar” by Katy Perry. So what? It also leaked online forcing you to send it to radio a week earlier than planned. Who cares? No one would have made such a huge deal of this if it weren’t for you hawking sales of “Applause” with your Twitter pleas and meet & greet contests that came across as desperate. 200K in sales is still commendable, and worthy of an applause. Follow the aesthetically layered theme of your new concept album, and focus on your craft.  Besides, any news outlet quick to point out the non-blockbuster sales of “Applause” could be overshadowed by your simple assertion that “it’s all about the art, and not the charts!”

Gaga Twitter Feud Perez Hilton

Sometimes Silence DOES speak louder than words: Whatever happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. So, whatever happened with Perez Hilton should have stayed with Perez Hilton. Yeah, his digs at your single were unnecessary, but were your public comments and replies ever required? You were vocal on your feed that he needs to leave you alone, prompting cynics to suggest that you’re playing the role of a victim. If you stood up to him with an Azealia Banks-style cussing, you would have been labeled a bitch. It’s a no-win situation, so why address or acknowledge him at all? Ignore him and move on. If he’s truly in your apartment building with intentions of stalking you, alert your security guards and the police, not all 39 million of your Twitter followers. With these silly celebrity feuds, the best response is usually always no response. Convince the world that you’re too busy planning a spectacular VMA performance to address Perez’s comments.  “Perez who?”

Although your words DO speak louder to your Little Monsters: Your fans known as Little Monsters are very passionate and vocal devotees. Any reviewer, fellow celebrity, blogger or forum user that speaks an ounce of criticism towards you will undoubtedly receive a bombastic lashing of epic militant proportions from one of them. WE ALL KNOW THIS. It’s just that your fans love and worship you so zealously that their vile and evil onslaught of words are no more than a reflection of their intense love and protection of you. So it came off as a bit of a surprise when you finally urged your fans to stop sending death threats to your naysayers, because it was appearing that you were only focused and consumed by your detractors. Your fans live by your every Tweet, so continue speaking up… but only when addressing them, and not just another hater.

Madonna Gaga

Embrace the Madonna comparisons: Face it, the Madonna comparisons will never go away. God created Adam and Eve, and Madonna created the pop star, the superstar, the music video star, the fashion chameleon, the very blueprint that you follow. So when the 20 billionth person likens your next magazine cover or music video to a Madonna magazine cover or music video, take it as a compliment and not as an insult to your creative mojo. Just as Madonna suffered the Marilyn Monroe comparisons in the early stages of her career, she never dismissed them but instead reveled in the connection by taking that persona to the next level. Kylie Minogue and Gwen Stefani have both remarked that Madonna has pretty much done everything there is to do as a female artist, and that it’s inevitable and an honor to be in her shadow.

Just Dance: You’re unique. You’re different. You’re edgy. We get it! You’re Lady Gaga, an artist. So can we just get back to the carefree fun music responsible for putting you on the map? No more overly contrived “Don’t Buy Applause” promo commercials. No more topless magazine photo shoots. No more meditating in the woods naked.  Give the world MORE killer live performances, MORE flawless vocals, and MORE dancing. Afterall, you said it best.  So why aren’t you following your very own words?…

“Just dance… gonna be okay…”

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Summer Anthems of 2013

With Memorial Day weekend officially coming to a conclusion, it is time to create a new Spotify playlist for my compiled annual list of 2013’s songs of summer.  These are the songs that should be on repeat during the next three months of air conditioning, fro yo and watching the last season of Dexter.

As a bonus, check out my Summer Anthems list from last year!

“Safe and Sound” by Capital Cities

“I could show you love | In a tidal wave of mystery | You’ll still be standing next to me”…  The Los Angeles duo known as Capital Cities deliver a feel-good optimistic message in this undeniably catchy indie-pop song that has summer anthem stamped all over it.  Bonus points to any song that includes an addictive trumpet riff.

“Falling” by Haim

“Into the fire feeling higher than the truth | I’m falling | I can feel the heat but I’m not burning”… Blending sounds of folk, pop and R&B, this Los Angeles group concoct a song that begs to be danced to in the middle of a California desert. Fun Fact: Haim is the last name of the three sisters in this group: Este, Danielle and Alana Haim.  This generation’s Wilson Phillips?

“Alive” by Empire of the Sun

Say hello to the future | Freedom is within you | Giving makes us feel good”…  Luke Steele and Nick Littlemore are back!… and no those aren’t the names of the latest Sean Cody sensations, but the Australian duo of Empire of the Sun who brought us one of the all-time summer anthems “Walking on a Dream.”  Their latest single boasts anthemic singing and a declaration of feeling alive.

“Young and Beautiful” by Lana Del Rey

Hot summer nights mid July | When you and I were forever wild | The crazy days, the city lights | The way you’d play with me like a child”…  the theme song of director Baz Luhrman’s splashy The Great Gatsby reboot is as hauntingly gorgeous as songstress Lana Del Rey’s debut single “Video Games.”  Love or hate Gatsby or any other Baz-helmed film, you cannot deny the power of the scenes he crafts of two lovers who lay eyes on one another while the film’s theme song plays in the background.  He hit the cinematic jackpot when Leonardo Dicaprio first sees Claire Danes in Romeo + Juliet set to the sounds of Desree’s “Kissing You”, and does it again when Leonardo’s Gatsby and Carey Mulligan’s Daisy reunite to “Young and Beautiful.”

“Waiting All Night” by Rudimental featuring Ella Eyre

“I’ve been waiting all night for you to tell me what you want | tell me, tell me that you need me”…  “Waiting All Night” stormed to the top of the UK charts fueled by the perfectly paired drum and bass surge and the rich vocals of Ella Eyre.  So whip out the glow sticks, blast this thumper on full-volume and listen to what the UK kids fell in love with.

“#Beautiful” by Miguel featuring Mariah Carey Mariah Carey featuring Miguel

“You’re beautiful, good lord, you’re f-cking beautiful | And I cant pretend that that doesnt mean a thing to me”… okay, so truthfully Miguel owns this song and he overshadows Mimi very effortlessly.  And yeah, the hashtag in the song title is a bit irksome and not one live performance of this song has slayed since its release.  (Last week’s Good Morning America anyone?)  But on the upside, a Mariah Carey single has not sounded this laid-back and groovy since “Always Be My Baby” which was released nearly 17 years ago.  So hats off to MC!

“Love Is All I Got” by Feed Me with Crystal Fighters

“Wake your soul with love in the morning | Feed your soul with love in the evening | Expand your soul with love on the weekend | Cause love is all I got”… One wouldn’t think this was a typical Feed Me song until DJ Jon Gooch’s signature dubstep climax unleashes a minute and 15 seconds in.  Bonus: Check out the equally catchy but different summer-worthy track “You & I” from Crystal Fighters.

“Imagine It Was Us” by Jessie Ware

“I don’t know if this is wrong, but it’s crept into my mind | I don’t know if this is love, but I think it’s worth a try”… Critics hailed her debut album as one of the best of last year, so when British singer-songwriter finally brought her Devotion album to the States, she thankfully included this 90s dancefloor groove.  It’s a throwback to the pre-Y2K era when the dance songs were R&B-flavored and being belted out by Lisa Stansfield, Cathy Dennis and Tara Kemp.  Jessie is just as much of a 90s bitch.

“Get Lucky” by Daft Punk featuring Pharrell Williams

“Like the legend of the phoenix | All ends with beginnings | What keeps the planet spinning | The force from the beginning”…  Ever since reports surfaced that the electronic duo was back in the studio collaborating with disco pioneers Nile Rodgers and Giorgio Moroder, anticipation for new Daft Punk material reached fever pitch heights .  The French musicians deliver a worthy comeback single featuring the silky smooth vocals of Pharrell Williams, living up to every fanclub member of the Daft Club’s expectations.

“Come and Get It” by Selena Gomez

“You got the kind of love that I want, let me get that | And baby once I get it, I’m yours no take-backs”… Selena Gomez?  Selena Gomez?!  Really?!  Yes, really!  Leave it to Taylor Swift’s B.F.F. to release that ineludible pop song that you can’t help but sing along to each and every billionth time that it is played.  It’s that annoyingly catchy song that gets stuck inside your head all day.  It’s that pop perfection classic you cannot escape.  It’s that song you hate to absolutely love.

Now stock those coolers full of ice and don’t forget to bring your koozie and headphones for it’s going to be one long, hot summer with a one helluva summer season soundtrack.

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Okie’s Favorite Albums of 2012

When I was 20-years-old and working at Barnes & Noble, I had to compile an annual list of my favorite albums, movies and songs that would be posted in the store as a STAFF’S PICK FOR (insert year here) section.  I haven’t made a year’s favorites list since working there, and haven’t been inspired to do so until my friend Areis posted his 5 favorite albums of 2012 online the other day.  So below (and in no specific order) are my Top 12 favorite albums of 2012, as in the below albums were released in the U.S. this year and were played to death on my iPod.

Favorite Albums 2012

My favorite albums of 2012, Pictured from L-R Top to Bottom: (1) King Con by Alex Winston, (2) Kill for Love by Chromatics, (3) Ten$ion by Die Antwoord, (4) Halcyon by Ellie Goulding, (5) Our Version of Events by Emeli Sande, (6) A Joyful Noise by Gossip, (7) Visions by Grimes, (8) Rollerskater EP by Lindbergh Palace, (9) Kaleidoscope Dream by Miguel, (10) True EP by Solange, (11) Confess by Twin Shadow and (12) Nocturne by Wild Nothing.


George Lewis Jr a.k.a. Twin Shadow released perhaps the catchiest album of the year filled with 1980’s New Wave pop ditties such as “Five Seconds” and “Patient.”  Check out the music video saga to those singles which drew inspiration from his novel, Night of the Silver Sun.


You’ve got to give it up for Beyonce’s younger sister.  Instead of following in the obvious footsteps of her diva sibling, Solange instead released an EP straight from the golden 1980’s pop era of Jody Watley and Madonna filled with insta-classics “Losing You” and “Lovers in the Parking Lot.”


The second album from Skrillex’s ex-girlfriend finds the singer-songwriter showcasing an edgier and more epic sound than her debut album. Check out tracks “Explosions” and lead single “Anything Could Happen.”


Ruth Radelet is the primary vocalist of Chromatics, and her voice colorlessly glides amid the collision of sounds on such standout tracks as “Back from the Grave” and “Lady.”

Check out my earlier review of Kill for Love by Chromatics RIGHT HERE.


The South African hip-hop ravers second studio album is completely over-the-top, outrageous and downright ridiculous.  Yet despite the excessive pageantry, the duo’s hooks are as addicive as they are undeniable.  Take a listen to their catchy “I Find U Freeky” or “Baby’s On Fire.”


Miguel’s second album is an R&B pop masterpiece that echoes the sounds of Marvin Gaye, Prince, R.Kelly and Stevie Wonder.  The R&B maestro recently scored (and rightfully so) a surprise Song of the Year Grammy nomination for his hit single, “Adorn.”


The Brooklyn-based band will seduce your ears with their sexy 1970’s retro-electro pop EP.  Synthesizers, spacey guitars and house beats provide the perfect backdrop for singer Leah Hayes’ lily white pure vocals on such tracks as “West Coast” and “Days Don’t Fade.”


Wild Nothing returned with their second studio album filled with more dream pop confections such as the title track and “Counting Days.”  Nocturne sounds like a breezy album that Fleetwood Mac would have recorded if they were just starting off in 2012.


Scottish singer-songwriter Emelie Sande’s debut opus is also the fastest selling album by a British recording artist in three year.  Our Version of Events perfectly flaunts the versatility of Sande’s voice, towering and commanding in standout track “Next To Me” and later soothing to the soul on “Read All About It Pt. 3.”


Amid the heavily layered synth beats and cacophonous sounds on Canadian recording artist Grimes’ third studio album, the singer’s monotonously airy voice provides a coordinating contrast especially on hynotic tracks “Genesis” and “Circumambient.”


What happens when a post-punk indie rock band collaborates with the production team responsible for Cher’s “Believe”?  A Joyful Noise is that sensational creation with Xenomania’s Brian Higgins, which adds a new layer and dimension to the band Gossip’s signature indie-punk sound.


The debut album from 25-year-old Alexandra Winston could easily be mistaken as a modern-day Kate Bush homage with her equally giddy soprano vocals.  Winston instead delivers a refreshing album of quirky, punchy tracks such as “Velvet Elvis” and “Medicine.”

  • Check out my favorite songs of last year RIGHT HERE.
  • Check out this year’s Summer Anthems RIGHT HERE.


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‘Kill for Love’ by Chromatics

For the past couple of days, I haven’t been able to listen to any other album than ChromaticsKill for Love on Spotify.  Seriously, I have become obsessed with the music on this album.  Maybe because electronic and dance music governed my Spotify Playlists’ attention over the last 12 months, and I am just grasping for something, anything new and dissimilar?  Or perhaps, Chromatics attained the feat of creating such bewitching music on Kill for Love that it would be a crime for me to go back to listening to Avicii, Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs and Felix Cartal all day at work as I am accustomed?

I did some clicking swiping around online to discover more about Chromatics, and was pleasantly surprised to find that their Italians Do It Better labelmates include Glass Candy and Desire whom I both love.  After I first heard “Under Your Spell” by Desire (featured in the 2011 Ryan Gosling film Drive), I was immediately intrigued by this newfound retro-sound.  Chromatics refine that retro-sound and elevate it to the next level by weaving a fusion of genres that range from cinematic noir-electro to New Wave ethereal pop.  Kill for Love presents a lo-key and lo-fi musical landscape that actually elicits excitement.

Ruth Radelet is the primary vocalist of Chromatics, and her voice colorlessly glides amid the collision of sounds on such standout tracks as “Back From The Grave” and “Lady.”  One of the obvious standouts on Kill for Love is the Portland, Oregon band’s take on the Neil Young 1979 classic “Hey Hey, My My (Into The Black)” simply rechristened as “Into The Black.”  This song is infamously known for its’ “it’s better to burn out than to fade away” lyric that was written in Kurt Cobain’s 1994 suicide letter.  Shot in Super 8 footage by director Alberto Rossini, the music video [below] adds even more layers of mystery to an already intriguing single.

With iTunes and Spotify, I’m not one to purchase actual CD’s these days but I couldn’t resist Kill for Love‘s bargain-basement $5.00 price tag on the Italians Do It Better Label website.  Embrace music and creativity by purchasing a copy online RIGHT HERE.


“Into The Black” by Chromatics

…and just because: here’s Oasis’s rocked out take on “Hey Hey, My My (Into The Black” Live At Wembley in 2000

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“Sweet Nothing” by Calvin Harris with Florence Welch

Just like Babyface  in the early 1990’s and Timbaland in the mid-2000’s, singer-songwriter-producer-DJ Calvin Harris has become the current it-boy with the midas touch in the music industry.  He gave Rihanna her biggest hit (save your Chris Brown jokes) and most beloved international smash-single “We Found Love” and saturated radio airwaves and Gym Workout iPod playlists with his very own “Feels So Close.”  “Call My Name” by British superstar Cheryl Cole is arguably her best single to date, and Scissor Sisters haven’t sounded as good on “Only The Horses” since their debut album.  Both songs were of course written and produced by Calvin Harris.

As Calvin Harris readies to release his third studio album, 18 Months on October 29, 2012, he recently unveiled his fifth (yes, fifth) single & music video from that upcoming album: a stunning collaboration with Florence Welch of Florence + The Machine called “Sweet Nothing.”

Sweet Nothing” is the Calvin Harris track I have been waiting for.  His music alone has always been so commanding, and “Sweet Nothing” demonstrates what happens when paired with a set of muscular vocals.  Earlier this year, we first heard the 26-year-old lead singer of Florence + The Machine collaborate with Calvin Harris when he remixed her band’s “Spectrum” single.  This time, “Sweet Nothing” marks the first: Flo belting out a song solely written for her by Calvin Harris.

…and it’s nothing but 100% pure ecstasy.  Enjoy below!

“Sweet Nothing” by Calvin Harris featuring Florence Welch

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“Angels” by The xx

So The xx finally released their much anticipated new single “Angels” yesterday, and to no surprise, it’s been a constant staple on my iPod, iTunes, Spotify, you name it.  My friend and yoga instructor and Prosecco bottle-chugging partner Melissa Carroll turned me on to The xx.  I remember her exact words when telling me about them: “oh Okie, it’s great music to play when writing… even though it’s stoner music for most people.”  And that it has been since that very introduction.  (I’m not referring to it as ganja background music.)

Vocals have not sounded more pure or as effortless as singer Romy Madley Croft’s do on “Angels.”  (Extra kudos to her name being Romy.)  Even stripped of any layered production, the song soothingly glides along yet reigns as the English band’s most powerful song to date.  Earlier interviews stated that the English indie-pop band’s next album would move into a more dance-oriented sound.  However, they chose their most mimimalist song to release as their lead single from an alleged “club” album.

Coexist, The xx’s second album, will be released on September 10, 2012 which cannot come any sooner since the band’s first album, xx, is still on my playlists’ heavy rotation.

“Light reflects from your shadow
It is more than I thought could exist
You move through the room
Like breathing was easy
If someone believed me
They would be
As in love with you as I am…”
from “Angels” by The xx

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Summer Anthems of 2012

Every season and especially in the summertime, my good friends Neil and Gina crown a song as our “anthem for the (insert season here).”  “Walking on Air” by Kerli, “Touch The Sky” by Kanye West with Lupe Fiasco and “Hot Summer” by Monrose were all previous anthems of our summertime past.  Being that both Neil and Gina are Northerners who willingly endure the cold winter months just to revel in the warmth of the summer season, these anthems signify a farewell to the gloom and an open arms welcome to the sunshine euphoria.

Instead of crowning just one song as the 2012 Summer Anthem, I’ve instead listed ten singles all worthy of the honorary title.

Ladies & gentlemen, I present to you the first 2012 Summer Anthem Soundtrack below:

“Spectrum” by Zedd featuring Matthew Koma

“We’ll run where lights won’t chase us, hide where love can save us…”   Not to be confused with the latest single from Florence + the Machine, producer/DJ Zedd’s collaboration with newcomer Matthew Koma delivers a breakdown starting at the 1:10 mark that has “summer anthem” written all over it!

“We’ll Be Coming Back” by Calvin Harris with Example

“I don’t even care if I know ya, outta our minds, sad to leave it all behind…”  Picking up where he left off with this spring’s anthem “Feel So Close,” current it-boy Calvin Harris teams up with UK singer Example on what can be described as “Feel So Close Part 2″… and that’s certainly not a bad thing.

“No Gravity” by Kerli

“You make me float free…”  Estonian dance-pop star Kerli’s latest single is an aestival concoction of everything sugary-pop and dance.  Bonus kudos: Her “Walking on Air” was the summer anthem of 2008.

“Celebrate” by Whitney Houston and Jordin Sparks

“See everybody’s been down in luck, Now finally things are looking up, The sun has chased all the rain away, No more obstacles in our away…”  The first single from the upcoming motion picture Sparkle soundtrack is a celebration of life, love, happiness, optimism and Whitney.  “Celebrate” is a simple reminder not of Whitney Houston, the troubled tabloid persona, but of Whitney Houston, the singer.

“Good Time” by Carly Rae Jepsen and Owl City

“Woke up on the right side of the bed…”  As if Miss Jepsen hasn’t already infiltrated your head with her inescapable “Call Me Maybe” ditty, she returns with Owl City to inflict further penetration with another super-catchy pop confection.

“Still Getting Younger” by Wynter Gordon

“I’m like a harbor, I can be your savior, Let me push you under, Don’t want no other baby, I got you covered, our love is growing and getting younger…”  This song is as timeless as its accompanying music video, which could have easily been released in 1987.

“Move In The Right Direction” by Gossip

“I’m moving forward with all of my might, I’m heading toward a new state of mind…”  The second single from Gossip’s A Joyful Noise release is a motivational self-help declaration that will send you straight to the dancefloor.  God bless Beth Ditto!

“Cameo Lover” by Kimbra

“You turn from the skies, You dance with your demise, I’ll be here when you come home…”  Out to prove that she’s not just the girl who sang on the Earth’s most overplayed song, Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used To Know,” singer Kimbra’s latest from her Vows album will undoubtedly help her loosen any potential one-hit wonder shackles.

“Get Free (Bonde do Role Remix)” by Major Lazer

“We’re all together in the same boat…”  From the musical project responsible for that  grating yet enslaving beat sampled on Beyonce’s “Run The World” comes their latest offering.  The Bonde do Role Remix brings a Bollywood-sound to their dance party.

“Birthday Girl” by Starshell

“I’m in here until it’s last call…”  After bursting onto the scene after co-penning Kanye West’s 2008 “Love Lockdown” hit single, singer LaNeah Menzies returns with her first single, an anthem in its own right for any birthday-celebrating lady.

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