The 2014 Grammies: Who Should Win and Who Will Win

grammy

Now that music’s biggest night is set, it’s time to focus on the big four categories that will be given out this Sunday night.

Let’s start with Record of the Year.

Record of the Year:

Daft Punk – Get Lucky

Imagine Dragons – Radioactive

Lorde – Royals

Bruno Mars – Locked Out of Heaven

Robin Thicke, Pharrell Williams and T.I.- Blurred Lines

I’m going to start with saying that this is probably going to be the hardest category to predict.

Who Should Win: Lorde – Royals. I think that the female youth movement in the last few years with the rise of Adele and Taylor Swift gives Lorde the advantage in a room full of male competitors. She also has a bit of an advantage because she’s from overseas. The last time an American artist won Record of the Year was in 2011 when Lady Antebellum won for “Need You Now”.

Who Will Win: Bruno Mars – Locked Out of Heaven. While Mars has been quietly building a songwriting dynasty, a Super Bowl appearance next week certainly wouldn’t hurt Mars’ cause for being one of the biggest artists of the day. It also helps that along with Lorde’s Royals, his Locked Out of Heaven is the only other song nominated for both Record AND Song of the Year. I’m going to give it to Bruno Mars, but again, this is going to be the hardest category to predict.

Album of the Year:

Sara Bareilles – The Blessed Unrest

Daft Punk – Random Access Memories

Kendrick Lamar – Good Kid, M.A.A.D City

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – The Heist

Taylor Swift – Red

Who Should Win: Sara Bareilles – The Blessed Unrest. In one of the bigger surprise nominations, Sara Bareilles got nominated for the big one. Sara’s nomination kind of reminds me of when The Arcade Fire got nominated in 2011. In a category full of heavyweights, they managed to win Album of the Year for The Suburbs. I feel that Sara is in the same boat in which she would initially be considered the underdog only to end up the favorite.

Who Will Win: Taylor Swift – Red. Taylor Swift is 24 years old, has already won seven Grammy Awards and has “been there, done that”, winning an Album of the Year award in 2010 for Fearless. If she wins, she’ll make history by becoming the first female solo artist to have two solo albums win a Grammy Award for Album of the Year…and all of that before she hits a quarter of a century. The sky’s the limit.

Song of the Year:

Pink feat. Nate Ruess (of fun.) – Just Give Me A Reason

Bruno Mars – Locked Out of Heaven

Katy Perry – Roar

Lorde – Royals

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – Same Love

Who Should Win & Who Will Win: Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – Same Love. If there’s any lock in the Big Four, I say it’s this one. This song breaks all of the stereotypes of rap music. Many people mock rap calling it “Retards Attempting Poetry”. This is a song that not only tells Macklemore’s personal story in reference to his own personal struggle with sexuality, but pushes to the forefront the civil rights movement for marriage equality. No other song has been more relevant in the past year and I see a big victory for the duo.

Finally, Best New Artist.

Best New Artist:

James Blake

Kendrick Lamar

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis

Kacey Musgraves

Ed Sheeran

This is honestly another hard category to judge especially when you consider the history. The history of the award seems to reward recognition (Adele, Carrie Underwood, Norah Jones, Alicia Keys) just as much as it rewards obscurity (Marc Cohn, Shelby Lynne, Esperanza Spalding). So I think that’s how I’ll go and deal with this category.

Who Should Win: Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis are amongst the biggest nominees with seven on the night. They would seem like a slam dunk for this category and, to be honest, I wouldn’t be entirely surprised to see these guys win at all.

Who Will Win: James Blake. But I will vote against Macklemore and Ryan Lewis winning because I see the more obscure Blake winning. Blake’s interesting mix of electronic music and soul combined with his unique take on music production is a combination that, while relatively unknown to the mainstream, is a welcome and fresh take on music. I think you’ll be hearing Blake’s name for years to come, probably more on the production side of things than actually making it himself.

So there you have it, I only have one category of the Big Four as a pick to lock, but this doesn’t seem like a year where any one artist is going to run away from the pack. Until next year, folks!

Best of the Best 2013

Time to talk about my favorites of 2013. It’s been a long time, I shouldn’t have left you without some dope music to step to.

Albums:

1. Tesseract – Altered State – This album is everything an album should be…it’s cohesive, an emotional rollercoaster and filled with as many curveballs as you could imagine in a 52 minute concept record. Tesseract’s Altered State is my pinnacle release for 2013 because it pushed the boundaries for hard rock and metal music all year. How often are you going to hear a saxophone on a metal record and have it thematically coincide with the record? And consider that this band is only on their second full-length and on their THIRD lead singer. Ashe O’Hara is a keeper.

Must listen: Retrospect, Nocturne.

2. The Civil Wars – The Civil Wars – A shocking entry into my #2 selection, The Civil Wars put out an amazing record. If this is the last we hear of Joy Williams and John Paul White together, then it was well worth the pain and the drama that separated them. You don’t have to be a fan of country music to appreciate this record. You talk about emotional rollercoasters, this album is as gutwrenching and heartbreaking as any you’ll find. You may shed a few tears listening to some songs on the record.

Must listen: The One That Got Away, Disarm (Smashing Pumpkins cover)

3. Sevendust – Black Out the Sun – The most consistent band in the years that I’ve heavily listened to music. Sevendust puts out yet another gem in Black Out the Sun, one that will undoubtedly get looked over as most every record before it. For a band that’s been around for almost 20 years with as much respect in this industry as they have and only have one gold record to show for it is beyond baffling.

Must listen: Mountain, Picture Perfect

4. Karnivool – Asymmetry – Karnivool does it again, putting out yet another flawless record in Asymmetry, the band’s third. Ian Kenny is a musical genius, also fronting the highly touted Birds of Tokyo. Kenny made history this year in his native Australia by becoming the first artist to put out two #1 albums with different bands within the same calendar year. This is another band that is almost criminally robbed of American rock radio success.

Must listen: We Are, The Refusal

5. Dead Letter Circus – The Catalyst Fire – Damn you two bands for putting out albums within the same calendar year…damn you both even more for touring together in your native homeland and not giving any love to the States. Dead Letter Circus put out a massive record this year in The Catalyst Fire that picks up right where they left off with This Is The Warning and then burns its own path.

Must listen: Lodestar, I Am

6. Bellusira – Bellusira – A band to watch in the States in 2014, this band put out the best debut record I’ve heard since 2005′s Flyleaf and with attention from American management late this year, the sky’s the limit for this Aussie band. I’ve never heard such a young band exude such confidence and it shows on this record in droves.

Must listen: Cachango, Made Of

7. Being – Antropocene – A record that came out only days before the year ended, but managed to get on this list. This record is about an astronaut’s journey into space and it is every bit as lofty as the expectations were for a record that was 10 years in the making. The album’s collaborative machine (Misha Mansoor and Spencer Sotelo of Periphery, Brian Wade, Josh Clark, and Justin Gosnell of Vestascension, amongst many others) is what makes this album stand out amongst this list of beauties.

Must listen: Air Atlantic, Cosmonaut

8. Jolly – The Audio Guide to Happiness Volume II – An album that proves that, if anything, this was the year of the progressive rock artist. The complexity wasn’t as present on this Volume as it was on Volume I, but the diversity of this record and the appeal is what makes this one of the essential listens of 2013.

Must listen: Dust Nation Bleak, As Heard on Tape

9. Port Noir – Puls – Port Noir is probably my favorite three piece band right now. This Swedish band is another band that pushes the boundaries of what would be the norm on rock radio…perhaps not as much as others on this list, but brilliant as any band on this list. This album earned them an open with Karnivool and Tesseract and I would expect them to open for more great bands in 2014.

Must listen: Tide, Puls

10. Billie Joe + Norah – Foreverly – Another curveball in the top 10, this album is a complete reinterpretation of the country classic Songs Our Daddy Taught Us by The Everly Brothers. 55 years later, this record has a new life with an unexpected pair putting out one of the best records of their respective careers.

Must listen: Long Time Gone, Rockin’ Alone (In An Old Rocking Chair)

Songs:

1. Tesseract – Retrospect – Lyrically superior to anything I’ve heard this year, Tesseract hit a homerun both with this album AND with this song. Not entirely surprising that my favorite song would come from a song from my favorite album, but surprising in that it is not a single, which separates it from many songs on the list.

2. Karnivool – We Are – You’ve got to love the driving beat in this song, likely to become a Karnivool classic. I love how this song isn’t your typical four on the floor song and it has many different tempo changes during the course of the song. It’s unique to Karnivool who has been blessed with a myriad of signature sounds.

3. The Civil Wars – Disarm – The cover of The Smashing Pumpkins classic is as beautiful as it is heartbreaking, because it’s one of the last songs on what is potentially their last record. The stripped down song is just what this song needed and they made it their own.

4. Paramore – Ain’t It Fun – A song that stands out on this list because it is the most upbeat on the list by far. Paramore shocked the system by putting out a record that hearkens back to 90s R&B. It is Paramore’s catchiest song in their four albums to date…and that says A LOT about this song. This song is poised to be released as a single with a video and when it does, it will be huge. Bank on it.

5. Zach Sobiech – Clouds – A viral hit when it came out, this song by the 19 year old that was struck by cancer found solace in the one thing that made his world brighter, music. He knew what his end was. We will all face our end one day. I just hope that our end will be as optimistic and as hopeful as Sobiech’s, who passed away in May.

6. Meg Myers – Desire – This song is one of the sexiest songs I’ve ever heard. Interesting song from a former Jehovah’s Witness by the way. It’s the kind of song you don’t bring home to Mommy, but easily one of my favorites because it’s raw and as ravenous and real as sex can get.

7. Bellusira – Cachango – One of the catchiest songs I’ve heard all year and the video just makes it so much better. You know you want to dance with those kick ass seniors.

8. Dustin Kensrue – It’s Not Enough – The song from the Thrice frontman turned pastor is every bit as good as anything he’s ever put out as a member of Thrice and possibly better if that’s possible. Kensrue put out The Water and The Blood to little fanfare, but make no mistake, his songwriting is what brings people to the table…or in this case, the altar.

9. Seether – Seether – The band Seether covers a song by a band who originally did the song Seether and Seether is performing a song that wound up on their album called Seether. Whoa, that’s so meta.

10. Birds of Tokyo – Lanterns – A song that I feel could have been humongous in the States with a singalong chorus…because everything sounds like you need to get your ass to a dancefloor these days, this song would stick out like a gorgeous green thumb.

And there you have it, my craptacular review of a wonderful year of music that only got better as the year went on. See you all in 2014. I hope.

Ian Watkins: A Man Called Hypocrisy

ianwatkinssouthwalespolice_638

The worst fears of fans of the Welsh band Lostprophets were realized on November 26th when Ian Watkins, the lead singer, plead guilty to attempted child rape.

When it was announced that he had been arrested in mid December of last year, it had come as a shock to most everyone that had been fans of Lostprophets for over a decade.

The descriptions of the actions of Watkins are a far cry from the clean cut good guy image that he’d had for so many years. As a listener of Lostprophets myself, I’m absolutely floored and appalled that someone could do something so heinous.

It has been said that Watkins started turning a corner in 2007, isolating himself from the rest of the band and taking hard drugs. It only got worse from there.

In court, he accepted that he was a determined and committed pedophile. Two groupies of Watkins who’d been charged with him, abused their own children and made them available to Watkins to abuse for himself.

Watkins texted to one of the mothers that “If you belong to me, so does your baby”.

The password on his computer was “Ifuckkids”.

In a 45 minute webcam chat recorded and downloaded onto Watkins’ computer, Watkins and one of the mothers talked about making the baby have sex with animals and take drugs and in fact, a sample of hair on the child was tested positive for methamphetamine.

One of the women sent a picture of an oral sex act with her baby and the mother referred to her own child as Watkins’ “little fuck toy”.

There were videotapes found of a sexual encounter that Watkins had with a 16 year old in New York City in which he took her virginity and urinated on the girl. She’d flown in from Boston to see the band.

The attempted rape of a young boy was done where the Lostprophets were staying at a hotel in Sherperds Bush in April of 2012 right around the time that they were touring for their last album, Weapons.

ITV reporter Rupert Evelyn live tweeted the details of the case. He described it as the most graphic and distressing case of child abuse that he’d ever listened to.

Worse yet, is that the cops still had more that had yet to have been uncovered.

And with that, the 15 year history of the Lostprophets had been tainted forever. Those who wanted to believe his innocence from the beginning are now left wondering how all of this could come from someone they admired so much.

The uplifting messages that Watkins sent through his music are now tarnished forever.I hate to use the correlation, but it reminds me of when world-renowned and respected wrestler Chris Benoit killed his family and himself. Everyone felt really bad when it happened and couldn’t have imagined that he would have been capable of committing such an unthinkable act. As it stands now, he’s been “erased” from the history of the company that he worked for before his now infamous murder-suicide.

In football, after New England Patriots Pro Bowler tight end Aaron Hernandez had evidence tying him to multiple murders, the team released him, had fans bring jerseys carrying his number and replacing it with other merchandise and even slightly changing their logo, distancing themselves from him.

And I would imagine it’ll be the same with Watkins with stores banning the albums, fans destroying merchandise and deleting music from hard drives.

It’s quite a shame because the legacy that could have been left behind would have been filled with five solid albums of good music.

I feel bad for the children who were young enough to not know what was going on with them.

I feel bad for the band members who didn’t know what was going on and have to move on knowing what happened is now a part of their band’s legacy.

I feel duped by Ian Watkins, a man who used his celebrity status to commit deplorable acts against children. He’ll not be known as Ian Watkins, but rather, a man called hypocrisy.

Pay to Play

20663_artist

Guitarist and co-songwriter of Aeon, Daniel Dlimi, recently quit the band. Normally, you would think that the reason would be that you have a falling out with the band. That was not the case this time.

Guitarist and co-songwriter Daniel Dlimi has decided to leave Aeon after 12 years within the band.

Here is Daniel’s own words about his departure.

“It’s with a heavy heart that i finally have decided to call it quits. Why?!? I simply cant afford doing this no more.To tour with a band in our size, you actually loose money on each and every tour. For us, the expenses is always higher then the income, and if that wasn’t enough, i also need to take time of from my daytime job which means absolutely no income at all during the period of a tour plus the extra expenses i get from the tour that does not get covered by the tour-income. You see where this is going?We have done four tours this year alone and each one of them have made us loose money.

I have actually NEVER done a single tour and made a single dime in the end of the day. I am actually paying money to do shows for you guys. And the saddest thing about this is that the industry expects you to do so.

Something must be seriously fucked up when for example the driver, the sound guy, the merch guy, the tour manager etc makes more money on a tour compared to bands on the bill that is not headlining?!?The one thing i love doing the most with my band is actually being on stage performing for you guys. But my passion for the music simply won’t pay my bills.

And as we all know, the record industry is suffering as hell and the record sales are lower then ever. So the only way to grow your band bigger is to do new albums and tour like hell… If you are lucky enough, one day you will be at a level where you actually get paid for you job, And like i said, i can’t afford doing all the tours required to maybe one day be a big enough name to do headline tours and actually make money out of it.Neither do i see an option to stay with Aeon and only record albums since the reward for me with doing an album is to actually perform the songs on stage. And if i can’t do that, there is simply no point for me to go on.

So with this being said, i am now leaving the world as a “professional” musician. Because you are considered to be a professional musician if you have released 4 albums world wide and toured Europe, US, and Japan right?!? It’s ironic in many ways… It’s pure charity.

A big thanks from me to all the fans that has been supporting us through the years, Metal Blade Records for being a super professional label and not least, all the crazy and awesome guys in all the bands we have had the honor to toured with. Cheers!!!!”

More info to come….

Dlimi simply can’t afford to be in a band anymore because it puts him at a loss everytime he tours. You have to make money to survive and it makes no financial sense to tour because he loses money doing it.

I remember a story coming out a couple of years ago on Alternative Press about mid level bands having a hard time scraping by because even though they were successful selling albums and going on tours, it was an economical strain for the very same reasons that Dlimi described.

This is the reality of now though. It’s gotten to a point where people give up their passions because it’s just not economically feasible anymore. Rock and metal aren’t as popular as they had been years ago and even successful mid level bands are having a hard time selling out shows. And in the age of freemium streaming services like Spotify and Rdio, it’s become ever harder to survive on album sales alone.

The musical economy is mimicking real life economy where the top 5-10% are fine, but most everyone under that comfort level are struggling to break even.

Is our musical economy broken? How do we fix it so bands can comfortably break even whether it’s selling albums or touring? How do bands fix their current situation to prevent the system from being broken before they even go on tour?

This Miley Cyrus charade needs to stop…an editorial.

Miley1

miley-curys

Yes, it’s going to seem like another public shaming of Miley Cyrus, but I’d like to start off by saying that Miley Cyrus is a grown ass woman. She’s 20 years old and she can do what she wants.

The one thing though that’s pissed me off about this whole attention seeking ride she’s been on since her viral performance at the VMA’s more than anything is that there was a documentary on MTV called Miley The Movement that peered into her life during and after that VMA performance where in one part, Miley was upset that the paparazzi was after her.

So let me get this straight…you were so hard up for attention that you can’t stand when you get attention? It doesn’t make any sense.

21400d9e-3253-4f74-9933-85147c435c47

I’m not so much upset that she’s wagging her tongue around like a labrador retriever or twerking like she’s actually got a tail, it’s that she’s being a hypocrite by seeking attention while being upset because people are coming after her giving her the attention that she’s so desperately seeking.

Miley stands at the pulpit as the leader of the “Me, Myself, and I” Generation where this selfie taking, attention seeking tripe is accepted.

The self-professed “strategic hot mess” says that she’s in full control of her actions unlike the likes of Lindsay Lohan or Amanda Bynes who’ve drugged themselves to the point where their child star pasts are relics.

However, even though she’s said that she’s not the first to get attention like this and that Madonna and Britney did it before…look at what became of Britney for a time…


It’s going to get to Miley at some point. Let’s just hope that, for her sake, that she doesn’t put herself in any sort of physical danger.

Be careful what you ask for because you just might get it.

Featured Video: ONIX – Breathing Down My Neck

ONIX is a new female-fronted band that formed earlier this year in Melbourne, Australia and it seems like ONIX is going to be a force to be reckoned with.

Please don’t confuse ONIX with Onyx though…although a cover of this would be nice to come to think about it:


ONIX is:

Jessica Renee Kirby – Vocals

Vinny Mancuso – Guitar

Aaron Whitehead – Guitar

Chris Miller – Bass

Shane Evans – Drums


Vinny Mancuso may ring a bell for those of you who’ve followed The Urban Alternative from its conception. Mancuso has also played guitar for fellow Melbourne bands Freestate and Bellusira. This band seems to be just another hit on the list. There’s definitely more to come with this band although it’s unclear as to when there will be more released.

Featured Video: Cōpia – Hostility

412649_706921292667766_1838083562_o

Meet Cōpia, a four-piece from Melbourne, Australia that has a very diverse hard rock sound. It seems to be a mix of European symphonic metal combined with your melodic American radio ready rock.


This is their first video for a song called “Hostility” off of their debut album Eleven:Eleven. And if you like “Hostility”, you’re going to love their debut album which you can listen to right here…

Not much is known about the band, but I think they’ve got a brilliant sound so check out Hostility and their debut record.

Featured Video: Haken – Cockroach King

1270764_10151959727779744_860244799_o

Meet the band Haken, a six-piece band from London, England. This progressive metal band is soaring beyond everyone’s expectations. Formed in 2007, the band has played with the likes of King’s X, Dream Theater, and Evergrey. They are amongst the top progressive metal bands in all of Great Britain and have been tapped to play in the Progressive Nation at Sea Cruise for next February.


This is the video for “Cockroach King”. It is brilliant. It’s basically Queen…in Muppet form! Sesame Street would never be the same! It’s hysterical and, at times, disturbing.

But if you like Cockroach King, you might just like The Mountain, their debut album which you can hear here:

Something important that I shouldn’t leave out is that Haken rhymes with ‘bacon’. You’re welcome.

Unsung: The Charm The Fury

1266047_685746064787663_543285031_o

The Charm The Fury is a metalcore female-fronted band out of The Netherlands that’ll make your jaw drop at the sheer fury that this band possesses.

The Charm The Fury is:

Caroline Westendorp – Vocals

Mathijs Parent – Guitar

Rolf Perdok – Guitar

Lucas Arnoldussen – Bass

Mathijs Tieken – Drums


The Charm The Fury formed in 2010 and has been ripping metalcore a new asshole ever since. The Charm The Fury is inspired by bands like Underoath, August Burns Red and Every Time I Die.

There honestly aren’t a whole lot of females out there that can really represent the metal genre with such an iron fist.

You have Angela Gossow of Arch Enemy, Candace Kucsulain of Walls of Jericho, Otep, Alissa White-Gluz of The Agonist, and Alexis Brown of Straight Line Stitch that can flat out scream. Granted, these choices are the most popular, but it’s just that it’s not very common. Westendorp is making a case to join this brilliant list.


I love that it’s considered metalcore, but there’s quite the djent influence in their music as well. I could see them playing some one off shows with Periphery or bands of that ilk.

They just released an album called A Shade Of My Former Self. They have to be up for consideration for a Golden God for next year for Breakthrough Artist. I think they’re THAT good right now.

They’re not knocking on the door, they’re breaking it down and then stomping said door on your face. Brutal riffs, engaging melodies…damn, these Dutchies know how to rock.

Featured Video: Circles – Responses

Circles, the five piece from Melbourne that was one of the first bands that were covered on The Urban Alternative’s Unsung feature, is about to release Infinitas, their debut album on Basick Records on October 14th and it’s been a long time coming.


The video for “Responses” confronts child abuse and alcoholism, two very powerful topics. The galloping djenty riff is going to get stuck in your head. I think that Circles has really become a top level band in their circles because of this record, no pun intended.

Even though they consider this the first single from Infinitas, the album also features “Another Me”, the song that inspired the Unsung entry that has been one of my favorites and the brutal “As It Is Above”.