Best of 2012

Posted in Music on January 31st, 2013 by Tom

So it’s late, but that’s life.

Best Albums of 2012!

It was a necessary step for me to begin to get back on the music horse after a pretty abysmal showing November – January.

As always, hit up the Music Calendar for my personal checklist of stuff to check out in the coming months!

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Posted in Music on October 14th, 2010 by Tom

I always worry that I review things too quickly, and that a review is better if done from afar, but the site could use an update, and I’ve been listening to this album a ton since picking it up two weeks ago, so why not?!

Flamingo is Brandon Flowers’ solo foray, and I’m comfortable saying that it is exactly the record you think it is. Flowers is the component of the Vegas-based Killers which pushes the music from being bargain-bin New Wave synthpop to something epic. Sure, maybe he pushes a little too hard, and then people call him melodramatic, and the accusation isn’t entirely unfair.

But out on his own, Flowers no longer needs to push or pull anyone or anything. The record sounds more or less like a Killers album where Flowers got to make all the decisions. This works out really well in some places, and falls flat in a few others. For instance, the opening track: ‘Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas.’ I guess I’m just sick of Brandon Flowers singing to me about Las Vegas. Isn’t that what Sam’s Town was all about? Is there really that much more to say? I don’t think so, but that’s me.

After that, ‘Only The Young’, which has a pretty crazy video, starts to get things going into a better direction. The first really great track is the third, ‘Hard Enough‘. It wouldn’t be an indie side-project without the requisite Jenny-Lewis-Guest-Vocal-Track, and Flowers doesn’t leave us hanging, and Lewis’s vocals really are a fantastic accent to this heart-felt tune.

‘Hard Enough’
[ mp3 ♫ ]

I like the following track, ‘Jilted Lovers & Broken Hearts’ because it gets a little closer to having the “punch” that defines the best Killers tracks, really building towards a pretty epic finale: this is one track where he pulls it off.

The second half of the record is a mixed bag. ‘Playing With Fire’ is a solid song, if a little bit lengthy and slow at almost 6 minutes. The next pair, ‘Was It Something I Said?’ and ‘Magdalena’ are too alike and jangle-ly to really be that great. There’s definitely moments where you can feel something cool going on, but these ones are pretty stock “Brandon Flowers sings about some event happening with some girl taking place in an ambiguously south-western setting” type songs. Not bad, but kinda blah.

One of my favorite tracks of the past summer is the late-breaker ‘Crossfire’. It’s disappointing that more of the material couldn’t have hit this sweet-spot of drama and emotion paired with as much restraint as Flowers can muster, because it really makes for great music. Whoever the house band percussionist was, they seem to do particularly well on this track. Also: the video has Charlize Thereon in it, and is really great in an action-packed sort of way.

Disappointing then that this is followed with ‘On the Floor’, the most boring, preachy piece of music out of the ten tracks. I appreciate artists trying to play around with more traditional styles of music (here: gospel, soul), but damn does it stick out like a sore thumb, and sound like crap to boot.

Luckily, the closer is really, really good. Oddly named, ‘Swallow It’ has a really curious message about the merits of growing up, taking responsibility, and it dials down the grandiose style of most of the bigger songs before it while still having a really distinct sound. I like this one so much I usually listen to it twice before moving on to a different record.

‘Swallow It’
[ mp3 ♫ ]

All in all, it’s like I said: this is exactly what you would expect from a record by, about, and largely for Brandon Flowers. I think he still is at his best as the larger-than-life component he plays in the Killers, but if you even remotely enjoy his past work, it’s hard to go wrong with Flamingo.

Aside: Seriously, though: can we be done with Las Vegas after this? …please?

Brandon Flowers – Flamingo

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Killers Concert, with Wild Light

Posted in Music on July 24th, 2009 by Tom

Recap from May

Earlier this ‘summer’, I made a command decision to got see the Killers in concert back in good ol’ KC. A few caveats, though:
1) it wasn’t summer, it was the weekend before finals. oops.
2) They were in Bonner Springs, KC. ick.

Oh well. It was way worth it. Every time they release an album, they hit basically the same place at the same time; I know this because I saw them in 2004 (at the Uptown for Hot Fuss), and 2007 (at City Market for Sam’s Town) both on or around my birthday, May 10th! This cycle is apparently no different, and so on May 2nd, Allison and I saddled up to head out to the Verizon Wireless Sandstone Some Other Corporate Sponsor Maybe Amphitheater to go see the Killers! Ahhhhhhhh! I was really excited, despite the impending pile of work I was leaving behind in Kirksville… or maybe rather because of it.

One of the most pleasant parts of the evening, I’m surprised to say, was the warm-up act. Normally these groups are not terribly well known, and are warming the crowd up for a reason: they aren’t as good as the people you came to see. For me in particular, I have a hard time warming up to music on the first (or 5th) listen-through. The opener for the Killers, Wild Light, managed to get me pretty pumped though. I see why they were touring with Flowers and Co.; if you like one, you’re pretty sure to enjoy the other.

It’s standard new-wave revival fare, but well-polished, and with lots of good hooks! Their one big song which everyone seemed to know is a catchy antithesis to Phantom Planet’s ‘California’. It’s called ‘California on My Mind’ and has mad cussing in it! They played it off with just enough angst that you kinda wanted to go, “Yeah! Fuck California.” You think they play that out west? Who knows.

Anyways, I wanted to post a few tracks that people don’t know, but should. They basically filled a set taking the most engaging material from their 2009 album Adult Nights. Of the 13 track, they must have played 8 or 9, because I snagged this album a few weeks later, and all the song titles seemed familiar. A particularly good one that I feel like sums up the best Wild Light has to offer is ‘Call Home

It isn’t quite as electronic as a Killers or the Bravery, but certainly more up-tempo than an Editors or an Interpol. I’d also say it’s a good deal more accessible than similar sounding artists, the Killers excluded from that, obviously.

It was tough to pick the second track; I had it between the song which follows ‘Call Home’ and the closer. I put of the following track, ‘Heart Attack’ because I’ve seen the closer, titled ‘Red House’ online elsewhere. I highly encourage you to find that song, it’s fantastic [and another point for Noble on the Tom Hates Closers front…]. ‘Heart Attack‘ is another stand-out track that gives you a good idea what Wild Light is going for.

All-in-all, I was glad to pick up the record. It’s not explosively fantastic, nor is it revolutionary, but it’s mellow enough listening that you can just kinda chill to it without it being so brooding that it depressed you on an otherwise-pretty-good-day. Highly recommended.

Now, as you may have guessed from my album rankings of 2008, and the fact that I’ve seen them twice live already, the Killers would have to basically kill my family to ruin my evening. In the absence of such an event, I thought the show was fantastic. The set list was as follows:

This Is Your Life
Somebody Told Me
For Reasons Unknown
Joy Ride
I Can’t Stay
Bling (Confession of a King)
Shadowplay (Joy Division cover)
Smile Like You Mean It
Change Your Mind
A Dustland Fairytale
Sam’s Town
Read My Mind
Mr. Brightside
All These Things That I’ve Done

Jenny Was a Friend of Mine
When You Were Young

Opening with Human was a shrewd move, because everyone instantly lost their shit. It was kinda funny to watch. I was surprised by the number of Sam’s Town tracks that persevered, like ‘For Reasons Unknown’, ‘Read My Mind’, and even ‘Bones’ in the encore, of all things! Not that I dislike any of these, but for me Sam’s magic was in the opening and the closing, with those songs just kinda holding the line in the middle.

With 5 tracks from Hot Fuss, 7 from Sam’s Town, and 6 from the album they were touring, Day & Age, the spread was pretty dead-on; they even played their cover of Joy Division’s ‘Shadow Play‘ which the crowd stumbled on because a lot of them had never heard it. First, shame for not knowing your Joy Division. Second, they released it on their b-sides, so I’ve no sympathy.

Again, I’m surprised that their sophomore effort was so heavily represented, but whatever. I got to hear ‘When You Were Young’ as the final closing to the set, which was pretty awesome; there were explosions and fire and a whole meaner of visually stimulating things going on there. They Day & Age material they picked was great, mostly because I get really into ‘A Dustland Fairytale‘ and when the real-deal is drowning out my own poor rendition of this superb track, it doesn’t get much better than that.

One gripe? They didn’t play ‘Losing Touch‘, the opening track [ergo I’m predisposed to think is the best song on the record], which I love to pieces. I kept kinda waiting, but they didn’t play it. Sad! It’s posted here so you will not have to endure a similar stress…

The show was great! I bought a t-shirt and everything. We (where we = Allison, intrepid photojournalist that she is) even took a few pictures, which are posted right below:

NOTE: The images themselves are pretty big; just a head’s up.

So it was a good show. I usually only make it to one or two concerts a year, and so I’m glad this one lived up to / exceeded expectations.

Adult Nights – Wild Light
Day & Age – The Killers

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