Thursday, February 21, 2013

BRL's 2012 Year in Review

It's almost the end of February, which can only mean one thing: It's time for the BRL year-end wrap up. Continuing the long-standing BRL tradition of releasing a top albums list nearly 2 months later than every other blog, we are back again to unleash the vast amount of brilliant music that you should've been listening all year.

Now usually I would make a huge, muli-post countdown with a paragraph explaining why each album made the list, but I'm getting older and too tired to do that shit. Last year was a very odd one for me, as I went through a few major life changes, so I missed a few albums along the way (a lot of albums that came out from May-August got lost in the mix of job hunts, graduation, working a shitty job, and dwelling on the fact that I was 22 and living with my parents). So this list isn't nearly as comprehensive as my 2011 list - where I obsessively listened to every album that would potentially make a top albums list. But 2012 was a phenomenal year for both hip hop and "indie" rock, so without further adieu here are the top albums of the year (and here is my super-detailed Best Hip Hop Albums List I did for RapReviews.com):
2012: The year young Kendrick dominated. Granted you knew that two months ago.

  1. Kendrick Lamar - "good kid, m.A.A.d. city" (Score: 95)
  2. The xx - "Coexist" (Score: 92)
  3. Passion Pit - "Gossamer" (Score: 90)
  4. El-P - "Cancer4Cure" (Score: 89.5)
  5. Nas - "Life is Good" (Score: 88.5 - Tie Breaker Advantage)
  6. fun. - "Some Nights" (Score 88.5)
  7. Killer Mike - "R.A.P. Music" (Score: 88)
  8. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis - "The Heist" (Score: 87)
  9. Lana Del Rey - "Born to Die" (Score: 84.5 - Tie Breaker Advantage)
  10. Cloud Nothings - "Attack on Memory" (Score: 84.5 - Tie Breaker Advantage)
  11. Fiona Apple - "The Idler Wheel..." (Score: 84.5)
  12. Beach House - "Bloom" (Score: 84 - Tie Breaker Advantage)
  13. Big Boi - "Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors" (Score: 84 - Tie Breaker Advantage)
  14. Jack White - "Blunderbuss" (Score: 84)
  15. Frank Ocean - "channel:ORANGE" (Score: 83.5)
  16. Brother Ali - "Mourning in America, Dreaming in Color" (Score: 83)
  17. Ab-Soul - "Control System" (Score: 82.5)
  18. Jens Lekman - "I Know What Love Isn't" (Score: 82.5)
  19. Oddisee - "People Hear What They See" (Score: 82)
  20. Danny! - "Payback (2.0)" (Score: 81.5)
  21. Of Monsters and Men - "My Head is an Animal" (Score: 81)
  22. Peter Anthony Red (aka Tonedeff) - "The Projectionist" (Score: 80.5)
  23. Mac Lethal - "Irish Celebration" (released 12/31/11) (Score: 80)
  24. Murs & Fashawn - "This Generation" (Score: 79)
  25. Benjamin Gibbard - "Former Lives" (Score: 79)
  26. Big K.R.I.T. - "4 eva n a Day" (Score: 79)
  27. Andrew Bird - "Break It Yourself" (Score: 78.5)
  28. Alabama Shakes - "Boys & Girls" (Score: 77)
  29. Justin Townes Earl - "Nothing's Gonna Change How You Feel About Me Now" (Score: 77)
  30. Mumford & Sons - "Babel" (Score: 77)
  31. The Coup - "Sorry to Bother You" (Score: 76)
  32. Best Coast - "The Only Place" (Score: 76)
  33. Rapsody - "The Idea of Beautiful" (Score: 75.5)
  34. Bat for Lashes - "The Haunted Man" (Score: 75.5)
  35. P.O.S. - "We Don't Even Live Here" (Score: 75)
  36. Aesop Rock - "Skelethon" (Score: 75)
  37. Blu & Exile - "Give Me My Flowers While I Can Still Smell Them" (Score: 75)
  38. Substantial - "Home is Where the Art is" (Score: 74)
  39. Brother Ali - "The Bite-Marked Heart" (Score: 74)
  40. Perfume Genius - "Put Ur Back N 2 It" (Score: 73)

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Rhymes: Jeff Mangum: Man or Myth? (Concert Review)


(Photo courtesy of Blorb, who risked getting kicked out to take this totally unblurry photo)

It was a cool January night in Cleveland, Ohio. There was a slight breeze, but even with that it was much warmer than the average January 13 most Clevelandites are accustomed to. This was the night my friend (we’ll call her Blorb, so as to not expose her identity and because I’m sure it will annoy her to no end that she didn’t get a “shout out”) and I sought to confirm the existence of Neutral Milk Hotel’s frontman, Jeff Mangum.
We were no strangers to his body of work, as Blorb introduced me to Neutral Milk Hotel’s cult classic in the summer of 2010, and has since remained one of my favorite pieces of music. The title track of “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea” was the first song I ever played when I moved into my first house – the Troup House in Bowling Green, which now lives in infamy.
Blorb and I wandered the streets of Cleveland looking for the concert venue – the Masonic Auditorium, which we actually parked right next to but we didn’t see until about 15 minutes of walking around aimlessly. The venue was a pretty awesome building, and I made the clutch decision of opting to buy the mezzanine seating tickets as opposed to the general admission. Blorb and I sat in the front row of the mezzanine, next to some incredible douchey hipsters who entertained us between sets with their discussions of the affinity with Pabst Blue Ribbon and plaid-designed clothing.
After two lackluster opening bands – one crappy folk rock group and a acoustic guitar duo who spent way too much time awkwardly trying to communicate with the audience – we finally got to see if Mangum was a man or myth.
A man did indeed walk onto the stage of the Masonic Auditorium that night. To the surprise of few, he was fully bearded, resembling Tom Hanks in Castaway with a flannel shirt. He looked like your standard, yet undersized, lumberjack – that is, until he picked up his guitar. Within a few quick strums of his six-string the crowd’s palpable nervousness/uneasiness/anxiousness erupted into excitement and hysteria. He opened his set with one of the more popular songs in his former band’s brief catalog, “Two Headed Boy.” 

It takes a true talent for one man to sit down on a stool and play an acoustic instrument and mesmerize an entire auditorium full of people. Sure there was your basic assholes fighting and overzealous dancers, who would momentarily distract Blorb and I from Jeff, but his 13-song set ran seamlessly. The crowd sang along eerily to the opening lines of “King of Carrot Flowers pt. 2” almost in an almost culthood manner. Hearing the entire crowd sing along with “I love you Jesus Christ,” was like a hipster/Catholic church hybrid.
My personal favorite moment from the show is when Mangum played my two favorite NMH songs back-to-back, “Holland 1945” and “Oh, Comely” and just fucking nailing them. The former is among the heaviest tracks Neutral Milk Hotel has in their two LPs, and I was curious as to how he would manage to match the energy of the heavily distorted sounds with a single acoustic guitar. Sure it was less loud, but it was every bit of awesome. In the 15 years since “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea” released, Mangum’s voice is still as powerful, if not slightly off kilter as it was on the original record.  And the performance of the 8-minute “Aeroplane” centerpiece, “Oh, Comely” had the perfect builds and troughs as the studio recording, as you would hear the entire crowd screaming at the top of their lungs on the song’s highest moments, and you could hear a pin drop during its lowest.

After the predicatble, but necessary choice of “Aeroplane’s” title track as the encore, Blorb and I left the venue in search of a late-night meal. As we walked up and down Euclid Avenue looking for any open restaurant, we discussed what we had just witnessed. Mangum, who was infamous for being a recluse, was surprisingly easy-going during the show’s performance, making easy conversation with the crowed, and responding with a modest “thank you” when an audience member appropriately screamed “this is amazing!” So is Mangum a man or a myth? He did seem like a pretty normal guy, that is until he picked up his guitar and sang.

Monday, February 18, 2013

BEET LIFE: 6 Tips on How to Survive College


Hello BRL,

Your great leader has returned after spending months in exile, hiding from the apocalypse. I’m proud to say that, yes I’ve defeated the Mayans and I will probably live forever.
As you may or may not have noticed (most likely you have, come on, you know you love BRL more than your first born), I’ve been noticeably absent for most of the past 8 months or so. Yes, I’ve done a few “Artist Spotlight” posts here and there, but I haven’t really dedicated much time to this blog. Much of that has to do with the treacherous and unpredictability of life in the “real” world.
I’ve decided to take this blog in a little bit of a different direction. Yes, you will still get some of my brilliant musical knowledge and I will continue to do the occasional “Artist Spotlight,” but I want to focus on the “Life” aspect a little bit more here on Beets, Rhymes & Life. With my 23 years of life experience, I feel more than qualified to inform you peons on to live life and conquer your most modest goals. See without further adieu, here is the first of hopefully (but let’s be honest probably not) many Beet Life posts.

BEET LIFE: 6 Tips on How to Survive College

 

Last May I did what very few have ever been able to do, I graduated from the esteemed Bowling Green State University (better known as the Harvard of the Midwest) with a 3.2 GPA with a major in Print Journalism and a minor in Popular Culture (yes, that’s a real thing). So this more than qualifies me to tell you how to survive college life, so listen up you twatty 19 year-olds, and I’ll show you how to perform slightly above average academically and trick na├»ve women into thinking you’re cool.

Tip 1: Never turn down a free beer.

 

This is the first and most important piece of advice I can give. That’s why it’s number one because you’re probably going to get distracted by some asshole trying to Facebook chat you before you can read the whole list. When you arrive at college you will likely be 18-going-on-19. Which means you will spend roughly two and a half years at school trying to find beer.
If you’re reading this and you’re a college student, you probably don’t have a lot of friends, so you might be spending a lot of time sober. This, my friends, is a real fucking bummer. I was lucky enough my Freshman year to be decent enough friends with people who constantly had booze; I spent a lot of that year intoxicated – life was good. My Sophomore year however, those connections moved away and I spent a lot of time sober – a real fucking drag.
This is when I learned life’s most important lesson – NEVER turn down a free beer. You don’t feel like drinking tonight? You got class in ten minutes? You’re at work? You’re already completely blacked out and the mere scent of alcohol will cause you to projectile vomit all over your house and closest friends? Tough shit. You accept that beer with a smile, and you consume all 12 ounces. Who knows when you’ll have access to another opportunity like this?
Even after you’re of legal drinking age, you always accept the beer. By that time your student loan debt is pushing $40,000 and funds are tight. Thanks to my shamelessness, I’ve accumulated enough money to buy a decent home in Detroit – all thanks to generosity of my fellow drunkards.

Tip 2: If you’re going to go bowling, do it ironically. 

 

This may sound random, but some asshole is going to ask you to go bowling at some point in your college life. Hopefully it’s a girl you’re trying to nail, but most likely it’s some dude who helped you cheat on your biology exam, and you owe him. If it’s scenario A: sure go ahead and bowl, but I warn you take the game too seriously, she’s gonna think you’re lame because bowling is fucking lame. If you don’t take it seriously enough and she beats you, she’s going to think you’re a pussy and friend-zone your ass promptly. There’s a nice little gray area here. My suggestion: bowl like an asshole (my bowling technique consist of me chucking the ball down the lane like I’m passing a basketball), but be fucking good at it. Also make sure you are aloof at all times – about to pick up a spare? Throw the ball down the lane and head back to your seat and not look at the ball. If you do pick up said spare, go ahead and give an ironic Tiger Woods fist pump.

If its scenario B: exhaust every option to get out of it. You already have something going on that night. You’re way too drunk to do any sort of physical activity. You’re completely broke.  He’s buying? You can’t get out of it? Looks like you’re bowling, bro. But it doesn’t have to be all bad. Make sure there’s a group of people you’re bowling with. If it’s two dudes bowling people are going to make assumptions, and not only that but you’re going to run out of things to talk about with Mike from Biology pretty fucking quick when you find out he doesn’t watch football. Make sure there’s alcohol involved, and lots of it. Bowling is stupid. Even the asshole who run the bowling joint knows that, that’s why they serve beer in containers that look like something out of Beerfest. Drink as much booze as you can, and try to pay as little as you can. If Mike from Biology is dragging your ass here, he better be paying for your flat Coors Light.

Tip 3: If someone talks about a band you’ve never heard of, pretend you do?

 

There’s nothing worse than the asshole who plays the guitar, is a music major and thinks he knows everything there is to know about music. You’re on this website, so obviously you know a little bit about music – or at least enough to pretend to know something. Some wannabe-hipster is undoubtedly going to ask you about the new Sigur Ros album while you’re trying to order a French Vanilla Latte at Starbucks, at some point in your college life. Have you heard of Sigur Ros, possibly. Have you heard their new record, probably not. Do you want to listen to Sigur Ros? Fuck no. But you’re already paying $5 for a bitch-ass caffeinated drink, don’t let this clove-smoking douchebag make you feel small because you don’t download everything you’ve read about on Pitchfork.
If someone asks you about an artist and their music, always reply “yeah I heard it, the new album is pretty cool, but I like their first record better” (oh and using the word “record” instead of CD or album, makes you sound much cooler/more informed). This will always hold up in an argument no matter what. Even when it’s not true, you can always say something like “their new stuff is too polished for me” or “that first record was just so honest and raw” to support your claim. That’ll show ‘em.

Tip 4: Never schedule morning classes.

 

This one is probably the most obvious on the list, but you’d be surprised how many assholes like yourself drop the ball on this one. At some point in your college career, you’re going to overhear your roommates/friends talk about how nice it is to be done with classes for the day at 11 a.m. This is a fucking trap; don’t fall for it. Yeah your friends have the whole day to play Madden and watch Cops, but you know what? They start their day at 8 a.m. You are not that type of person. You’re the type of shit bag, who’s going to stay up until 3 a.m. watching Seinfeld re-runs, checking your Twitter and clicking through stupid ass memes on StumbleUpon.
You are not a morning person and you never will be. Just because you have one moment of enlightenment, don’t fuck up your entire semester because you felt inspired to make a lifestyle change. There really aren’t that many perks to starting your day at 8 and ending it at 11. Trust me no cool shit happens during the hours of 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. You know why? All the cool motherfuckers are still in class. You know when cool shit happens? 6 p.m. – 3 a.m. And guess who won’t be awake to see your friend Brian get shithouse drunk and jump off of your roof? That’s right your asshole friends who scheduled that 8 a.m. class.

Tip 5:  Wear sweatpants to class on the first day.

 

Every semester it’s the same – college campuses run rampant with students intoxicated with the promise of a fresh start deciding to dress like they’re going to a job interview to try and impress new classmates and teachers. This will not work for you. Yes, this will work for the chesty blonde, who decided to wear Daisy Duke jean shorts and a top that leaves little to the imagination. But you have not be blessed with physical attributes that will instantly make you seem attractive or interesting. You also don’t have the money or fashion sense to be able to consistently dress well.
How do I stand out, you ask? Easy set the bar very, very low. You’ve already showed up five minutes late to class and got a shitty seat, sitting next to the mouth breather who has a perpetual runny nose – because, like we mentioned before – you are NOT a morning person. So why rock your best shit on a day that’s already a wash? Here’s what you do – wear your sweatpants. Set your alarm for five minutes before your class starts, wake up, gargle some mouthwash, spray an inoffensive amount of AXE on yourself and get to class, you unimpressive bastard.
Now don’t worry about being the weird, smelly kid in class because you’re not that kid, you’re sitting next to that. Ah ha, showing up late on the first day and getting a miserable seat next to a miserable person all of a sudden has its perks. Since this gentleman has no social skills, you will be the cool guy in the group all semester, and there’s at least a slight chance he will be so appreciative of being next to another living person, he may do all of your work for you as well.
As the semester wears on, people will start giving less of a fuck about what they look like, and by then have already given up hope trying to bang that chick who wore the super short shorts on the first day. This is your time to shine my friend. With a level playing field you can now dust off those slacks that you bought for your cousins funeral, and be the best looking guy in your class.

Tip 6: Never carry cash on you.

 

I’ve found whenever I have cash on me, I end up spending it. The best way to save money is to never, ever have cash on you. The cute sorority girls asking for some money for some stupid cause you don’t give a shit about? Engage them, sure. After a few minutes of small talk and pretending to care about starving kids in India, reach into your wallet. Oh shit, you don’t have any cash. Darn. What, they don’t accept credit cards? Damn, you were really hoping you could give them a couple of bucks because this is a cause you truly believe in. And that, my friends is how you look like a good guy, without actually having to spend any money.
But you like to carry cash on me when you go out drinking, you say? You fucking fool. Do you know how many expenses you can get out of by simply saying, oh shit I don’t have any cash? Most bars have a minimum amount of money you have to spend in order to use a credit card. There’s no point in using your card if you’re only going to stay for one drink, oh my buddy’s got this round? Thanks man, I’ll totally get you next bar.
And let’s not forget tipping our waitresses. Yes she’s beautiful, slightly ethnic and is wearing a flattering top that gives you just enough of a view of her good parts that you can properly satisfy yourself to later. But when you’re buying a beer for $2.50 in cash, how much are you going to tip? 50 cents seems too little and you’re not gonna get a quick beer or a courtesy laugh the rest of the night. A $1.50 tip and you just spent $4 on a shitty Bud Light.  Now if you’re paying in cash over the course of an evening, a 50 cent tip for each beer is going to add up to like 6 or 7 bucks, and god knows how big of a whole in your pocket you’re going to burn if you tip $1.50 a drink. How to avoid this mess? Pay with your card. You drink all night on a tab, and at the end of the night you feel like that $4.76 tip was pretty damn generous. You sir, are the fucking man.