Category Archives: top 5
Sorry, “one ring” is the wrong franchise, but still the right family of films at the top of the box office this weekend. The third installment of Peter Jackson’s Hobbit franchise, The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies, easily went there and back again, as many had expected, but what other films would round out the top 5?
Could we see an upset by an unheralded sequel to a beloved play about ghosts and women wearing black?
Follow me after the jump to find out of there was any shocks this past weekend!
In a year that might well be remembered for one of the worlds largest bands giving their album away for free – much to the chagrin of many music listeners, there’s was plenty of great music to get excited about.
Albums from Ryan Adams, U2, Taylor Swift, Beck, Foo Fighters and many others made the rounds on airwaves, speakers and ear buds in 2014. Still, some albums, some songs were more resilient, more beautiful, catchier and more…”top” than the others,
That’s what this list is for.
A list showcasing the Top 5 albums I heard this year, like I write every year. Here were the albums I played relentlessly. Are any of your favourites on it?
I don’t watch a lot of TV and if I’m not with my grandchildren, I’m either ghost hunting or writing paranormal stories. When I do watch, I like stories that deal with the supernatural, science fiction, or horror, so it was really hard to come up with just five favorites. “The Walking Dead” is my #1 favorite and my reviews of this brilliant show can be found here at Biff Bam Pop! I’m also a fan of “Doctor Who” and “Firefly,” but I will save my reviews of these two for another time. So let’s begin with my Top Five after the jump.
Everybody at Biff Bam Pop! is talking about Top Fives, so I guess it’s my turn. Put on your seat belts, because as the regular readers around here know already, my tastes are not normal. I liked Santa Claus and hated Dark Knight. It’s going to be a bumpy ride. Next, after the jump, my top fives in film, music, television, and comic books. Look out.
Biff Bam Pop has been sharing Top 5 Album lists each year for five years now. It’s a bit of crazy thought that we’ve ben doing it for so long, but we do love our music and we do love to share it with our friends.
The great thing about coming up with these sorts of catalogues is the discussion it stimulates with other music lovers. Andy Burns, BBP’s Editor-in-Chief, generally has a distinctly different compilation than what I put together at the end of every year. 2012 was no exception. You can read his thoroughly rockin’ list here.
When listening to music, and deeming it “best of” – I have one criteria that rates above all others: it’s got to be music that stays with me, an album that plays on repeat all throughout the year. It’s got to be something that stands the test of a sound bite as well as a second single: a musicianship that lasts a full album, a sound that entices, surprises and elicits emotion.
Here then, are my top 5 albums of 2012.
Another year rapidly draws to a close and, over the past twelve months, a plethora of amazing artists have released brilliant music for our thirsty ears.
We here at Biff Bam Pop! are big fans of music. Huge. Our lives, probably like yours, revolve around it at every moment: those uplifting tunes in our ear buds when we’re walking the west end with a swagger in our step, those melancholy sounds that keep us company during the downswing of a failing romance, the excessive beats per minute that make us raise our hands high in the air, our fists clenched in joy or even the sweet melodies that we hum while in the shower on a lazy Sunday morning.
Since 2008, we’re been giving you short lists of what we think the best albums of the past year have been. My mathematical criteria for picking “best albums” is pretty straightforward: a musical and lyrical artistry inherent in the songs, an emotional resonance that colours my moods and, of course, the number of times I actually listened to a particular album (multiplied by how often I think I’ll be listening to it in the future).
Without further ado, then, here’s what I hear as the Top 5 albums of 2011:
This list of my top albums of2010 has literally been in the making for 365 days. I know that sounds obvious, but I love writing this year-end column and I’ve been consciously “bumping” albums in favor of others all year long. Recently, I’ve had friends ask me what my top albums of the year are. After being slightly taken aback – and flattered – that they even had an interest in my opinion on the matter, I gave teasers to one or two of them, gave my entire list to one particular close friend (who was buying them all on Boxing Day) and told a few others to read this column. (Sorry to make you wait a bit!)
For the rest of you, I just hope to keep you mildly entertained for a couple of minutes and, perhaps, make you think about what the best albums you heard this year are. Feel free to tell me yours in the comments section below. With all the music that’s out there, I’m keen to know if there are any I might have missed.
The last few months has seen Andy B and I debating the merits of our favorite pieces of music with a true fan’s exuberance. You can read about his choices for the top 5 albums of 2010 here. Although we’ve discussed our faves, I think even our esteemed Editor-In-Chief will find one or two surprises on this particular list. They were surprises for me, too.
Without further ado, then…the top 5 albums of 2010 are:
5. The National – High Violet
I’m not a huge The National fan. Normally, I hear them somewhere in the background while my brother is playing one of their records either at his condo or in his car. Still, there was something about the sounds in High Violet that perked my ears – and those ears stayed perked for the better part of the year. Melancholy, serene, sometimes sultry but always affecting, High Violet, the bands fifth offering, always remained an engaging listen despite its rainy day sound.
In-between the staple morose sounds of The National, there were joyous moments to be found here. Bloodbuzz Ohio soars to new musical heights for the band with its haunting piano chimes and bursting drum loops, all coupled with lead singer, Matt Berninger, crooning, “I still owe money to the money I owe”. The song is made all the more haunting by his deep, baritone voice, a trait that runs, as it should, throughout the entirety of the record.
The slow build of England containing the lyric “You must be somewhere in London, you must be loving your life in the rain” picks up where the uplifiting Bloodbuzz Ohio stops, culminating in a stadium-sized sing-along that would end the album if not for the tender bedtime finale of Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks.
Slow, mainly quiet and respectful, yet still brimming with artistic desire, The National have created a sensitive album that submits and embraces human emotion. It might be raining outside but High Violet will bring a little sunshine to any grey day.
4. Vampire Weekend – Contra
Who wouldn’t want to be drinking Horchata in December?
That tasty, ground almond beverage is the title of the first track in Vampire Weekend’s second album, Contra – and it kicks the record off with quite a bang: deftly struck xylophone planks, rushing drum and bass grooves mixing effortlessly with programmed sound effects and sweeping strings. The song sounds marvelously like playfully bursting bathtub bubbles.
And that image is what makes Contra so brilliant. Amidst the sweet Paul Simon-esque vocals of singer Ezra Koenig is an album full of comforting, childlike fun and springtime noise. These are musicians enjoying their art and that joy is infectious. Contra is world beat in its sounds mixing indie art rock with ska, ambient electronica, rap and rave together into alchemist gold. Run will have you singing in your car while Diplomat’s Son will have you bopping your head when doing the laundry or vacuuming. The album closer, I Think Ur A Contra, on the other hand, will tuck you into bed on an early summer evening.
Lawsuits over album cover artwork aside, Contra is Vampire Weekend’s first number one in the charts, selling over 4000,000 in the United States alone. It should be in your collection as well. Heard whilst drinking horchata, of course.
3. Bran Van 3000 – The Garden
The city of Montreal gets represented in one of my year-end Top 5 lists again. There’s been some pretty special music coming out of that town the past decade and Bran Van 3000’s fourth album, The Garden, is a testament to that magic.
This 15 track recording, featuring guest appearances from musical artists normally found in circles I don’t generally gravitate towards – Jamaican rap, R & B, soul and modern, big box dance clubs, is an absolute delight from start to finish.
The Bran Van 3000 collective, Canada’s own Gorillaz, takes the listener on a journey seemingly through the length of a day. Utilizing string arrangements and acoustic guitar, we start with sounds and rhythms seemingly found in the early morning in songs like Oui Got Now and then move to hazy dub-based music in the afternoon, heard in You Too. Later, as daylight turns to starlight, the album picks itself up with party and dance floor beats. First single, Grace (Love On The Block), is amped up energy with its chorus of “la la la la la la la” – something that all the club kids will love. Jahrusalem ups the ante, harkening heavy house music comingled with flourishes of electronica and rap. World Party keeps the good times rolling with a syrupy bass groove, plucky guitar and soulful vocals while the seven minute long Stillwater Cats completes your aural adventure with a return to strings and electronic samples amidst a world beat sound.
Bran Van 3000’s latest is musical genius, their best offering yet, daring the listener to ever turn the music off. Putting it on your record player or iPod is akin to having your own personal DJ, someone who only plays the songs you’ve been dying to hear all of your life.
The Garden wins every time and listening to it, you will too.
2. Gorillaz – Plastic Beach
Working with Snoop Dog, Mos Def, Lou Reed and Bobby Womack on a new album? Having punk rock legends Paul Simonon and Mick Jones of The Clash back you up on bass and guitar respectively? That’s just not fair! It must be some kind of crazy dream – that’s the only explanation, right?
Well, something like that could only happen in the fictional, cartoon world of Gorillaz.
It’s a testament to Damon Albarn’s musical chops, ringleader of the virtual band, that he was able to assemble this all-star cast of musicians for the third offering from Gorillaz, the amazing Plastic Beach. With this band, a collective that changes from album to album, Albarn can move in any musical style that he wants and with the concept album Plastic Beach, it was funk, soul, hip-hop, electronica and rap – all rolled up in a pop-flavoured shell that interested him.
Perhaps not as affecting as the group’s last album, Demon Days, Plastic Beach still contains a number of top tunes running throughout it’s politically aware narrative of consumerism amidst natural resource shortage. Stylo is a kick ass, bass driven tour de force while On Melancholy Hill is a breezy and contented come down from the trappings of this digital age. Empire Ants and To Binge are beautiful songs, delicately presented by the sweet, quiet but powerful vocals of Yukimi Nagano of Little Dragon – live favourites to be sure. But it’s the Mos Def fronted poetry of Sweepstakes that demands to be heard here, a rolling drum-fuelled celebration of lower class culture rising above its station in life. An amazing piece of songwriting.
Plastic Beach by Gorillaz has something for everyone, always exuding a musical braveness that elevates it beyond the status quo, cartoon or not.
1. Arcade Fire – The Suburbs
Remember what I said about Montreal? Magic, I tell you, sheer magic.
It’s only their third album, but with The Suburbs, Arcade Fire seem to be older, wiser, perhaps slightly more melancholy, as they look back on a youth spent outside of the city limits. The album is a story of what those neighbourhoods are like, the people that live within them and the kinds of fiction (and non-fiction) that permeate through them.
It’s not story time, however. No, this is an album of truth, about the need to break away from the mundane, to seek out one’s path and find a place in this world. The glow of the big city lights, of course, relentlessly beckons.
Arcade Fire are still singing to the kids here. Rocking songs like Ready To Start and Month of May prove that hypothesis. Not entirely grown up just yet, however, the band still appeals to the older adult, found in that sense of understanding that only comes with experience. Why else would we get the guitar-driven, REM-feeling Modern Man or the Blondie inspired Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)? Arcade Fire are both masters and students of their art.
Still, it’s the lynchpin song, We Used To Wait, upon which the album revolves. This is the coda to a brilliant recording: that there was a time when information wasn’t so instant and that those bygone days were a better time, that there was more meaning to relationships back then. “Hope that something pure can last” wails singer Win Butler, a testament to instant gratification and the setting aside of the just received for the brand new about to arrive. Everything these days: records, homes, people, love – is disposable.
The Suburbs is a glorious rock album – both musically and thematically. It rises far above the mundane, kicking and screaming the entire way, orbiting a place in the musical landscape as something that all musicians should aspire: an instant, relevant and timeless classic that occupies it’s own place, set aside from all others.
Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs shines its own bright light, a triumph over so many things.
I didn’t think I was going to do this, but my friend Shep wound up asking for people’s lists of their 5 favourite albums of 2010, which got my brain and memory working. There were indeed some great releases this past year, but interestingly enough two on my list are from the last few months (even this week!). I didn’t include live albums, of which there were some great ones (Transatlantic’s Whirldwind Live and Dio’s Live At Donnington), or reissues which I thought were superb (Bruce Springsteen’s The Promise: The Darkness On The Edge Of Town Story, Jay Z’s The Hits: Volume One or Black Sabbath’s Heaven and Hell Deluxe Edition). This is purely the five studio albums which I’ve enjoyed the most this year.
In random order:
The Rescues – Let Loose The Horses. A fantastic debut album from one of the hottest bands in L.A. Criminally ignored when it was released, it has the best vocal harmonies I’ve heard in years.
Duran Duran – All You Need Is Now. Yes, it was only released on December 21st, but I can’t stop listening to it. The title track has an unreal chorus that would sound great on the radio. If you’ve ever loved Duran Duran, definitely check this one out.
Kanye West – My Dark Twisted Fantasy. A return to form after 2008’s 808’s And Heartbreaks, Kanye’s latest has got a great flow. I went from thinking that the track “Monster” had too much cursing to it being one of my fave tracks on the album, while the King Crimson sample on “Power” is worth the price of admission alone.
Arcade Fire – The Suburbs. An album that me and the wife and our baby can all listen to and dig.
LCD Soundsystem – This Is Happening. Somebody’s been listening to Talking Heads.
Well it’s the end of the decade where superhero and comic book films finally got their due. Top filmmakers and top stars attached themselves to all sort of characters that first appeared in the pages of Marvel, DC, Dark Horse or all sorts of other publishers. Some were great. Some not so much. But there was a lot to love in the past ten years. On that note, I figured I would list off my five favourite comic book films of the decade. Now I know that some BBP contributors and friends of mine will look at the list and at least utter a few random “wtf”s” about my picks. But like any list, this is purely subjective. At its most base, these are the films that I would happily throw on at any given moment, and I can’t say that about every comic book that came out, even the ones that scored lots of acclaim and roped in big box office dollars. So here we go:
5) Constantine (2005) – staring Keanu Reeves and directed by Francis Lawrence, Constantine is based on the DC/Vertigo comics character who first appeared in Swamp Thing and has had his own long running series. A personal favourite character of Biff Bam Pop’s JP, who was himself quite satisfied with this film, even though Reeves’ Constantine wasn’t British, which would have been a deal breaker to many a fan. But the strong script, with multiple intriguing plot points (a mysterious death, demons on the trail of the protagonists, and Constantine’s battle with his own mortality) made this not only a great comic book film, but a great man vs The Devil story, Speaking of Lucifer, Peter Stormare is absolutely riveting in his brief appearance as the Prince Of Darkness. A visually strong film, it’s a shame we have yet to see a sequel.
4) X-Men: The Last Stand (2006) – yes, I heard the collective grown but I really enjoy this film, in large part because of the minimal character development it features, instead replaced with balls to the wall action. The first two X-Men films spent a lot of time allowing us to get to know Wolverine, Cyclops, Storm, etc – the pay off comes in the third film, which is admittedly lacking in depth but in my mind makes up for it with a lot of battle. I realize that it isn’t as strong a film in terms of story or depth as X2: X-Men United, but for me it was a fitting wrap-up to the first trilogy. As for the deaths that occur that set a lot of fans off, I say bring them on. In the X-Men world, death is never permanent.
3) Spider-Man (2002) – while most would argue (myself included) that the sequel is superior in almost every, the first Spider-Man holds a special place in my heart. Sam Raimi’s film literally captured the brilliance that Steve Ditko and Stan Lee created all those years ago, and in one significant way improves upon them as well (organic webshooters! Makes total sense). Tobey Maguire is the perfect Peter Parker, while Willem Dafoe veers “this” close to over the top, but he never quite loses it as The Green Goblin. While all of the films have merit to them (yes, even the third, which while disappointing does have a fantastic performance from James Franco), the first Spider-Man film is simply that – the first, and in some ways the most endearing.
2) Superman Returns (2006) – I wrote my love for this film in one of my first Biff Bam Pop posting last year and my opinion hasn’t changed. It’s a beautiful film from beginning to end, with a stellar and should have been star making performance from Brandon Routh. While it has its flaws, like every film on the list, Superman Returns admirably grapples with the character and his standing as an alien among everyone around him. Yes, I too would have liked to see Superman hit a few things, but that’s not what this particular film was about and I’ve always had no problem accepting it. A fitting end to the Christopher Reeve/Richard Donner films and one that I think could grow in stature over the years.
1) The Incredible Hulk (2008) – after the innovative yet thoroughly convoluted Ang Lee-directed Hulk, this reboot from Edward Norton and director Louis Lettiere was a breath of fresh air and excitement, but even I’m surprised that it’s topped my list. In my world The Incredible Hulk is everything I want in a superhero film: great effects, a solid story, a great villain in Tim Roth (and to a lesser extent William Hurt’s Thunderbolt Ross), and a stellar performance from the lead. Norton nails the plight of Bruce Banner throughout the entire film, and his contribution to the script clearly demonstrates his love of the character and the comics. Though the Hulk is far from my favourite character, at the end of the day I think the Incredible Hulk is not only endlessly watchable, but features everything great about comic book movies.