Favourite things of 2014
I’m splitting this into three posts, because I actually have a lot to say about a number of these. So today’s post will be about music, Tuesday’s will be about … other stuff, and my third post, to arrive on New Year’s Eve, will be about nothing but comics.
I don’t usually talk about my music tastes on this blog. That’s not because I don’t have much to say, but because I don’t really listen to all that much mainstream music. In fact I can’t stand most of modern pop and find myself leaning toward the 80’s for that genre if anything, and I have nothing to add to what’s already been said about it. But I love music and I always have and there’s a lot to talk about this year, both good and bad.
I listen to pretty much every broad genre of music you could think of, from country (recently started listening to some Carrie Underwood), Jazz (Miles Davis was genius), rap (probably the kind of music I listen to the least), classical and a lot of rock and metal just to name a few. But the style I find myself listening to the most is Symphonic Metal, which is generally much more popular in Europe than it is in North America. It’s basically hard rock with heavy symphonic elements. It’s the style of music that Evanescence pretends to play, but it’s more energetic, more epic sounding and much more emotionally varied. It has a little bit of everything I like about music. So without further to do, here are my favourite things in music this year. I’ll be linking to a music video for every single winner, and maybe a few of the runner ups also.
Favourite newly discovered band
Everyone who listens to music a lot will occasionally discover “that new band” that really gets them excited. For me last year, it was Queen (not sure how I missed out on that for 26 years). I discovered a good number of artists and bands this year, but my favourite newly discovered band for the year isn’t even a contest. Introducing Epica, one of said Symphonic Metal bands.
I discovered Epica through the music video above while surfing YouTube one afternoon last year, and while I enjoyed the music video, I didn’t give the band too much thought beyond it. In September, I was browsing HMV and noticed an Epica CD (yes, I still buy CDs in store sometimes). Not knowing what else to buy and feeling the need to spend money, I picked up their Requirum for the Indifferent album and I’ve been hooked on the band ever since. Their sound certainly earns the word “Epic” in their band name, with big sounding choruses, power metal influences and Simone Simmon’s near operatic vocals. Yet when they perform softer songs, they sound beautiful. Their lyrics are also fairly deep, ranging from topics such as philosophy, science and even touching on religion (they generally lean toward Universalism in their lyrics).
Diana Krall, a Canadian Jazz/Lunge musician, and Earth Wind and Fire. Long story short, if you don’t like Earth Wind and Fire, you’ve either never heard them or you don’t understand what groove is.
Earth Wind and Fire – Shining Star
Most depressing moment
When Anberlin announced their breakup.
Anberlin has been among my favourite bands for years now, and Cities remains a masterpiece for rock music of any genre. Their reasons for breaking up are understandable – they want to go out with a bang and when they still get along, rather than either starting to hate each other or whimpering out with time. And they certainly went out with a bang – their final album, Lowborn, is almost as good as Cities. I’ll miss them, but at least I’ll have a collection full of great music and inspirational lyrics to look back on.
When I found out that UnderOath also broke up, somehow without me realizing it.
Favourite Comedic song
Parody music is really finding a home on YouTube these days, and that’s great. There’s Epic Rap Battles of History, Jon Lajoie (the Canadian responsible for Regular Everyday Normal Guy and unfortunately doesn’t post many videos anymore) and plenty more. But my favourite comedic music video for the year has to go to Weird Al, who used various video sites to promote his new album by releasing 8 music videos in 8 days. Which video could possibly be his best though?
Weird Al – Word Crimes
The song Word Crimes parodies, Blurred Lines, has a catchy theme but the lyrics sound … kind of rapey. I can’t listen to that song without feeling guilty, and I’m sure that’s the same for some others considering Robert Thickie’s new album bombed. Word Crimes not only fixes that whole guilty feelings thing, but it’s simultaneously groovy, funny and educational. Better yet, it really resonates with me as a writer. Weird Al has done numerous works of genius in his impressively long career as a parody artist and Word Crimes is among the best of them.
Epic Rap Battles of History – Ninja Turtles vs. Painters, Weird Al: First World Problems
This was a tougher category to pick an overall winner. The previously mentioned Anberlin: Lowborn is fantastic overall, with a wide-range of emotions, sounds that encompass much of Anberlin’s various styles over the years. Then there was Project 86’s Knives to the Future, which is a thematic continuation from their previous hardcore album, Wait for the Siren. Within Temptation, another Symphonic Metal band that I enjoy (they introduced me to the genre) released their new album Hydra, and it probably has the most influential song I’ve listened to this year. And of course Guardians of the Galaxy has what is probably the best licensed soundtrack in years. But in the end, I had to pick one.
Epica: The Quantum Enigma
Earlier I spoke of how epic Epica sounds, and their new album really ramps that up. The metal side of the album is heavier, but what really sets this apart is all the bombastic choruses in almost every song. Everything about this album sounds big – the more energetic songs have an operatic feel to them mixed with heavy drums, guitar riffs and growling. Even the one softer song sound big in a way, without needing to resort to noise. The closer is an epic, complex piece that clocks at just under 12 minutes yet remains fresh. The lyrics are also deeper than before, and you’re likely to keep discovering something new with every listen. This album is an absolute masterpiece for the Symphonic Metal genre.
All the albums I mentioned in the previous paragraph – Anberlin: Lowborn, Project 86: Knives to the Future, Within Temptation: Hydra, Guardians of the Galaxy: Awesome Mix Tape
Project 86 – Knives to the Future
Within Temptation – Whole World is Watching Us
Blue Swede – Hooked on a feeling
I hope you enjoyed a little peek into my music tastes. I know there wasn’t too much variety in the videos I posted above, so allow me to cap this post off with something classy.