Thursday, March 15, 2012

Traipsing The 'Net: Ides of March Edition

Back with a triumphant return for a second week is Traipsing The 'Net, where we compile the highest-selling and best-reviewed albums, as well as the highest-selling, most played and hottest tracks. First up, let's take a look at the best-selling albums this past week:

Billboard 200: Top 10 highest-selling albums:
1. Bruce Springsteen - Wrecking Ball (debut)
2. Adele - 21
3. Various Artists - NOW 41
4. Lady Antebellum - Own The Night
5. Coldplay - Mylo Xyloto
6. Whitney Houston - Whitney: The Hits
7. Drake - Take Care
8. Lil Wayne - Tha Carter IV
9. Luke Bryan - Spring Break 4...Suntan City (debut)
10. Andrew Bird - Break It Yourself (debut)

The Boss's seventeenth studio album unseated the unstoppable Adele from the top position. Springsteen nabbed his tenth No. 1 album, tying him with Elvis Presley for third most. Only The Beatles (19) and Jay-Z (12) (?!) have had more. Even over a month after her untimely passing, Whitney Houston continues to top the charts like she used to in the '80s and '90s. Country fans continue to be a main driving force for fledgling album sales, as evidenced by Lady Antebellum and Luke Bryan. Indie darling Andrew Bird also cracks the Top 10 with his sixth LP.

New and Upcoming Music, by Metascore: Top 10 highest reviewed albums*:
1. The Mezingers - On The Impossible Past [93]
2. Burial - Kindred (EP) [89]
3. Anais Mitchell - Young Man In America [88]
4. Django Django - Django Django [87]
5. The Men - Open Your Heart [87]
6. Leonard Cohen - Old Ideas [85]
7. Goldfrapp - The Singles [85]
8. Karen Dalton - 1966 [84]
9. Earth - Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light, Vol. 2 [83]
10. Cloud Nothings - Attack on Memory [83]
* Albums must have at least 7 reviews to qualify. "New and Upcoming Music" compiles all albums released within the last three months. 

Nothing too different here. The Mezingers jump up to the top spot, but the same ten albums remain. I don't expect this chart to change much, except when an album has been out for over three months. The number in brackets indicates the album's Metascore. If you don't know what the Metascore is...come on, man.

Billboard Hot 100: Top 10 most popular songs:
1. "We Are Young" by fun. featuring Janelle Monae
2. "Stronger" by Kelly Clarkson
3. "Set Fire To The Rain" by Adele 
4. "Glad You Came" by The Wanted
5. "Somebody That I Used To Know" by Gotye featuring Kimbra
6. "Turn Me On" by David Guetta featuring Nicki Minaj
7. "Take Care" by Drake featuring Rihanna
8. "Young, Wild & Free" by Snoop Dogg & Wiz Khalifa featuring Bruno Mars
9. "Starships" by Nicki Minaj
10. "Part of Me" by Katy Perry

fun. has surged all the way to the top spot this week with their huge new single "We Are Young". fun. had always had a recipe for success, as evidenced by their infectious debut, Aim and Ignite, so good for them for getting the attention that they deserve (or to some cynics, "selling out").  Also, Gotye's surprise hit "Somebody That I Used To Know" cracks the Top 5.  Other than that, a lot of the same songs remain, with some flip-flopping here and there. 
, Top Tracks Chart: Top 10 most played songs by all users
1. "Somebody That I Used To Know" by Gotye
2. "Rolling In The Deep" by Adele
3. "Born To Die" by Lana Del Rey4. "Paradise" by Coldplay 
5. "Video Games" by Lana Del Rey
6. "Pumped Up Kicks" by Foster The People
7. "Midnight City" by M83
8. "We Found Love" by Rihanna featuring Calvin Harris
9. "Somebody Like You" by Adele
10. "Shake It Out" by Florence + The Machine 

Measured by how many unique listeners scrobble a particular track in a given week, this chart is notoriously stable, with this week being no exception.  Over 53,000 users played "Somebody That I Used To Know" last week, compared to "Rolling In The Deep"'s 44,000 and change. I've heard that M83 song is pretty good, too.

We Are Hunted Emerging Chart: Top 10 Hottest Tracks:
1. "Pillow Talk" by Wild Child
2. "Primadonna" by Marina and the Diamonds
3. "The Wave" by Miike Snow
4. "Before The Dive" by St. Lucia
5. "surely" by SBTRKT
6. "Be A Body" by Grimes
7. "Rained The Whole Time" by Shlohmo
8. "Neptune" by Lemonade
9. "Pouches of Tuna" by Action Bronson
10. "Numbers" by Logic

Click the link at the top to be sent to We Are Hunted's website, where you can stream the entire Top 99

Unlike the chart, We Are Hunted is constantly changing, making it an excellent source of brand new and up-and-coming songs. Literally no holdovers from last week, although another Grimes track enters the Top 10. Her new album, Visions, is quite good.

I figured I'd throw my own two cents into this mix, so here are five songs I'm currently addicted to right now:
1. "Underwater Bimbos From Outer Space" by Every Time I Die
2. "Express Yourself" by Diplo featuring Nicky Da B
3. "The Hope" by Scuba
4. "Arguing With Thermometers" by Enter Shikari
5. "Show Me" by Team Me

I'm still obsessed with ETID's lead single off of their excellent new record Ex Lives. It might be this year's "Good Neighbor" for me: Energetic and nearly relentless for nearly three minutes of bliss. The new Diplo song is simply extraordinary at scratching the itch that you didn't realize even existed. "Show Me" is a song I caught wind of via We Are Hunted, and it really reminds me of the lovechild between Passion Pit and Mew. Guardian says that they are "so full of glee, they make the Polyphonic Spree sound like a black metal band." Well put. I could easily see them blowing up in the near future.

That's it for this week's iteration of Traipsing The 'Net. As always, comments and suggestions are always welcome to help improve the segment and keep it another mainstay in the newly-revitalized Cassette Musique lineup.

Monday, March 12, 2012

This Week In Music News

In yet another Cassette Musique weekly feature (because we're pretty short on original content), we will give you a selection of music news and interesting links from the previous that week that we deem noteworthy and important enough for the frequenters of this blog to read.

For the week leading up to March 12th, 2012:

Westboro Baptist Church radicals deride Radiohead as "Freak monkey's [sic] with mediocre tunes keeps you busy and focused by lightness. It changes nothing, God is undoing and digging up and throwing down this nation." Other than the Westboro Baptist Church's apparent assumption that God does not care much about grammar, what can we glean from this? For one, they're quite astute when it comes to Radiohead's recent mediocrity. However, I really think they're attacking the wrong band.

Passion Pit is making progress on their new album, and it's going to be "expansive." I'm not sure what that means in relation to catchy synth-pop, but apparently singer Michael Angelakos is using something called a kaleidoloop to alter the pitch of his voice.  Apparently he already didn't sound enough like a girl on "Sleepyhead"...

The title of Fiona Apple's new album is, drumroll please....The Idler Wheel is wiser than the Driver of the Screw, and Whipping Cords will serve you more than Ropes will ever do. As acts such as Mew and Atlas Sound have shown, ridiculously long and incoherent album titles are a right of passage for pretentious indie bands. However, the lack of brevity in Ms. Apple's latest offering his child's play compared to her 1999 release, which featured an eight line poem for an album title. 

Diplo's new EP Express Yourself is being released in May. Do yourself a favor and listen to the lead single of the same name if you haven't already.

The music portion of South By Southwest (or SXSW for all you acronym-slinging hipsters) music festival, one of the several glorious musical gatherings that I desperately want but probably won't ever have the opportunity to go to, starts tomorrow. About 18,000 bands are playing, however some of the bigger acts include the aforementioned Fiona Apple, Lionel Richie, Skrillex, Bruce Springstein, Andrew Bird, Dan Deacon, The Magnetic Fields, John Mayer, and Norah Jones. 

Sleigh Bells has released a cover of Beyonce's "Irreplaceable."  Click here to hear the once bombastic noise pop duo further neuter themselves. Click here for a taste of what they used to sound like. 

The new EP from Burial, entitled Kindred, is the third most acclaimed original release of 2012 thus far. If you're a fan of downtempo/ambient dubstep, give standout track "Ashtray Wasp" a listen. 

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Lazy Sunday Playlist: March 11, 2012 Edition

The bear in the middle has the right idea
In what will hopefully be a recurring segment on Cassette Musique, each Sunday I will detail a playlist of songs that encapsulate what Sunday is all about: slow moving, contemplative, and sedate. Although some will undoubtedly call these songs "boring" at first glance, I prefer to think of them as occupying a higher plane of existence. They distill a serene tranquility that is oft underappreciated in a schizophrenic society that favors fleeting gratification over properly developed, long-term satisfaction. So with that in mind, promptly turn off your mind, and escape into an unexplored realm.

(Oh yeah, make sure to listen with headphones. Laptop speakers do not do these songs justice!)

Eluvium - Prelude for the Feelers
Eluvium is the brainchild of recording artist Matthew Cooper who, like many other artists in the genre, draws direct influence from ambient behemoth Brian Eno. "Prelude for the Feelers" moves at a slow, consistent pace throughout, layering a consortium of synths and violins over a helplessly sweet piano melody.

Hammock - Floating Away In Every Direction
Readers of this segment will become very familiar with Hammock, as they're one of my favorite bands and required listening for anyone looking to delve into ambient music. "Floating Away In Every Direction" is typical Hammock fare, interspersing a subdued electric guitar melody with layered atmospherics and various crescendos.

The Field - A Paw In My Face
The Field's debut release From Here We Go Sublime is quite simply one of the best albums of all time and was ranked by metacritic as the most critically acclaimed album of 2007. "A Paw In My Face", the album's second track, lays down a chorus of hypnotic, trance-like beats atop a smattering of whimsical noises and is a good starting point for new listeners.

John Murphy - The End
Straight off the 28 Days Later Soundtrack (because nothing says ambient relaxation like a zombie apocalypse), John Murphy's "The End" is short and sweet, clocking in at just under two minutes and including the sparse guitar melodies and layered synths indicative of a Hammock song.

Balmorhea - Bowsprit
Balmorhea is a six-piece instrumental band from Austin, TX that likes to spice things up by throwing a variety of unorthodox instruments into their distinct brand of ambient music. "Bowsprit" follows course, featuring sweeping violins and what sounds like banjo-plucking throughout.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Artist of the Week: ENTER SHIKARI

Fresh off the release of their third and most recent album, A Flash Flood of Colour, Enter Shikari is making waves with their unconventional and intensely satisfying blend of music. Equal parts metal, pop, and dubstep, Enter Shikari's music defies convention and is likely to elicit a chorus of "WTFs" from many upon initial exposure. Should I sing to it? Dance to it? Mosh to it? All three, at the same time, actually.

Originally hailing from Hertfordshire, England, the four-piece is still gaining mainstream popularity in the U.S. but is the benefactor of a strong radio presence and widespread support in their homeland. Their 2007 debut Take To The Skies debuted at #4 on the UK Albums Chart, while the aforementioned A Flash Flood of Colour charted at #1 in January. I was initially exposed to Enter Shikari's idiosyncratic stylings with the single "Sorry, You're Not A Winner," which was featured in EA Sports' NHL 08 video game and lays down one of the most creative closing breakdowns in metalcore history.

Fans of post-hardcore bands like Chiodos and Asking Alexandria will immediately identify with Enter Shikari's blend of clean and screamed vocals, metal-influenced riffs, and chugga-chugga breakdowns. However, what sets Enter Shikari apart from their peers has been a large and increasingly utilized dose of electronic elements, ranging from the nintendo-esque beeps in "Mothership," bouncy synths in "Labyrinth," to the heinously dirty dubstep wobble in "Arguing With Thermometers." The band has progressively embraced their electronic side with each additional release, culminating on A Flash Flood of Colour, which features four or five songs with significant electro-dubstep influences.

Vocalist Rou Reynolds, who has an amusing ability to maintain his British accent while singing, displays impressive vocal range, effortlessly segueing through spoken word, melodic croon, and guttural bark, sometimes all within one song. Reynolds' lyrics are highly political and activistic, typically deriding modern society's obsession with consumption and monetary gluttony at the expense of the environment and relationships. I could do without the overtly idealistic banter, but the band typically makes up for it with some killer instrumentation, such as in "Gandhi Mate, Gandhi." Like Reynolds' vocals, Enter Shikari's song structures are highly variable, with some displaying a typical verse-chorus-verse-chorus arrangement while others are the auditory transformation of a Jackson Pollack painting.

Fresh. That's the word that will continually come to mind when listening to Enter Shikari, particularly on their new record. No two songs sound the same, nor do they sound like songs from any other band. Fans of driving rock and electronic music, particularly those with an open mind, will likely dig the eclectic brand of dub-pop-core that Enter Shikari offers.


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Traipsing the 'Net: The Week's Popular Music

Oh hi, followers. Despite being thoroughly entrenched in a Dante's Inferno hell that some call "medical school", I am going to try to resuscitate (alright, I promise, no science or medicine jokes) my fledgling writing skills by doing something entirely unusual here at Cassette Musique: Update regularly.

I heard that derisive laughter from over here. Hear me out: Once a week, I want to compile a list of the most popular, most purchased, most played, highest-reviewed and up-and-coming music, complete with links and the such for listening pleasures. This is mostly impulsive, but I figured I'd try it out for a little bit.

I plan to display a Top 10 songs and albums from Billboard (most popular and purchased), Top 10 songs from (most played by users), Top 10 highest reviewed new (i.e. nothing re-released or live) albums from Metacritic and Top 10 emerging songs from We Are Hunted (up-and-coming).

Any album or song available on Spotify is linked, the entire Hot 100 playlist on Spotify is linked at the top of the list and the We Are Hunted list is directly linked to their website.  Without further ado, here we go:

Billboard 200: Top 10 highest-selling albums

1. Adele - 21
2. Whitney Houston - Whitney: The Greatest Hits
3. fun. - Some Nights
4. Tyga - Careless World: Rise of the Last King
5. Various Artists - NOW 41
6. Whitney Houston - The Bodyguard
7. Adele - 19
8. Chiddy Bang - Breakfast
9. Whitney Houston - Whitney Houston
10. Various Artists - 2012 Grammy Nominees

New and Upcoming Music, by Metascore: Top 10 highest reviewed albums*

1. Burial - Kindred (EP)
2. The Men - Open Your Heart
3. The Menzingers - On The Impossible Past
4. Anais Mitchell - Young Man in America
5. Django Django - Django Django
6. Leonard Cohen - Old Ideas
7. Goldfrapp - The Singles
8. Karen Dalton - 1966
9. Earth - Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light, Vol. 2
10. Cloud Nothings - Attack on Memory

* Albums must have at least 7 reviews to qualify. "New and Upcoming Music" compiles all albums released within the last three months.

Billboard Hot 100: Top 10 most popular songs

1. "Stronger" by Kelly Clarkson
2. "Set Fire To The Rain" by Adele
3. "We Are Young" by fun. featuring Janelle Monae
4. "Part of Me" by Katy Perry
5. "Glad You Came" by The Wanted
6. "We Found Love" by Rihanna featuring Calvin Harris
7. "Good Feeling" by Flo Rida
8. "Turn Me On" by David Guetta featuring Nicki Minaj
9. "Young, Wild & Free" by Snoop Dogg & Wiz Khalifa featuring Bruno Mars
10. "Starships" by Nicki Minaj

Click the link at the top to be sent to the Spotify playlist, where you can listen to all of the available songs on the Hot 100. Top Tracks Chart: Top 10 most played songs by all users

1. "Somebody That I Used To Know" by Gotye
2. "Rolling In The Deep" by Adele
3. "Born To Die" by Lana Del Rey
4. "Video Games" by Lana Del Rey
5. "Paradise" by Coldplay
6. "Pumped Up Kicks" by Foster The People
7. "Midnight City" by M83
8. "We Found Love" by Rihanna featuring Calvin Harris
9. "Somebody Like You" by Adele
10. "Set Fire To The Rain" by Adele

We Are Hunted Emerging Chart: Top 10 Hottest Tracks

1. "Out The Blue" by Sub Focus featuring Alicia Keys
2. "Live Your Life" by Yuna
3. "Better Off" by Haim
4. "Nova" by Burial + Four Tet
5. "This Head I Hold" by Electric Guest
6. "Chin" by Sleep Party People
7. "I Thought I Was An Alien" by Soko
8. "Weekend" by Last Dinosaurs
9. "Show Me" by Team Me
10. "Darlin' You're Sweet" by Wise Blood

Click the link at the top to be sent to We Are Hunted's website, where you can stream the entire Top 99.

I literally did this on a whim with some rare free time. There are a ton of things that could be done to improve the appearance and presentation, but the general idea appealed to me: Essentially combine reliable sources of different barometers for new music and put them in one place.

This is just a test run and suggestions would be just lovely. I would like to continue this, so hopefully it is useful to someone. Let me know what you think.