2013 Pop Culture Year in Review

2013 pop culture year in review
Music, movies, television, live performances, and more. 2013 was a great year for culture in many genres, which made this raving pop culture junkie a happy girl. What were my favorite pop culture experiences of 2013*? Here’s my recap.

Favorite Television Shows of 2013
Breaking Bad (I still can’t believe it’s over)
Community
New Girl
The Mindy Project
Orange is the New Black
House of Cards
Arrested Development

Favorite Concerts of 2013
Muse – Rose Garden, Portland, OR
Muse – Energy Solutions Arena, Salt Lake City, UT
Tegan and Sara with Walk Off the Earth – The Fillmore, Detroit, MI
Empire of the Sun – Twilight Concert Series, Salt Lake City, UT
Keane – Live from Berlin (it was a concert movie, but it was amazing)

Favorite Albums of 2013
Tegan and Sara – Heartthrob
Imagine Dragons – Night Visions
Keane – Best of Keane
Arcade Fire – Reflektor
Phoenix – Bankrupt!
Lorde – Pure Heroine
Lana Del Rey – Born to Die
John Mayer – Paradise Valley
Frozen Soundtrack
Daft Punk – Random Access Memories
Pearl Jam – Lightning Bolt

Favorite Movies of 2013
Frozen
Secret Life of Walter Mitty
The Great Gatsby
Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues
Ender’s Game
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Monsters University
Man of Steel
Oz the Great and Powerful

Favorite Songs of 2013
Imagine Dragons – Demons
Sara Bareilles – Brave
City and Colour – Thirst
The Killers – Miss Atomic Bomb
The Neighbourhood – Sweater Weather
M83 (featuring Susanne Sundfor) – Oblivion
Lorde – Royals
Lana Del Rey – Summertime Sadness
Daft Punk – Get Lucky
Biffy Clyro – Biblical
The 1975 – Chocolate
OneRepublic – Counting Stars
Barenaked Ladies – Odds Are
Bastille – Pompeii

Favorite Performances/Exhibits of 2013
Florencia en el Amazonas – Utah Opera
Watch Me Move – Detroit Institute of Arts
The Heidelberg Project – Detroit
The Fargo Tourist Bureau – Fargo, ND
Chris & Kevin’s Batman Wedding – Dana Point, CA

Favorite YouTube Videos of 2013

Hashtag – Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake
Walk Off The Earth – Red Hands
Tegan and Sara – Closer
Ylvis – The Fox (What Does the Fox Say?)
Prancercise: A Fitness Workout
The Ragtime Gals – “SexyBack” and “I Wanna Sex You Up”
Christmas Jammies

*note: Some songs, albums, and movies were released in 2012, but they were heavily enjoyed in 2013

Flashback Friday: “Flood” by They Might Be Giants

they might be giants flood albumLast week, Rosie and I roadtripped down to California. As is a necessity with any long car ride, you have to have a great roadtrip playlist. Since I updated my iPhone to iOS7, the shuffle function is wonky when I connect it to my car’s stereo system. Songs were playing by artist in clusters, and “Particle Man” came on. And “Whistling in the Dark.” And “Minimum Wage.” And “Istanbul – Not Constantinople.”

Even though I got my tonsils removed two weeks prior, it is practically impossible for me to listen to TMBG without singing along. So on this trip, I croaked a little and mostly danced on my seat. I looked across the car to my 13 year old daughter, who knew every word to the songs. She reminded me so much of myself at her age when I started listening to TMBG.

My first introduction to They Might Be Giants was in the fall of 1992. I was in a church production of “Hello Dolly” with my mom. Most of the rehearsals, my mom and I rode together. But when it was just the teens rehearsing, I usually got a ride with my neighbor Danny. I thought Danny was soooo cool. He was cute and mysterious and wore Converse All-Stars and t-shirts for bands I’d never heard of. My favorite part of these car rides was listening to these bands that I never heard of, or never played on the top 40 radio station.

One night we were coming home from rehearsal, and he turned on TMBG’s “Apollo 18” album. From the moment that “the statue got me high,” I was immediately in love. I wanted to listen to the whole album that night, and he let me borrow it. I asked Danny which other albums the band had released, and he said “You have to get Flood.” So I walked to Fred Meyer the next day and bought both albums.

They Might Be Giants 1990It’s crazy to think that it was over twenty years ago from that experience, because TMBG had already been around for a decade. John Flansburgh and John Linnell formed TMBG in 1982. Flansburgh (guitar, black plastic glasses) and Linnell (accordion, keyboards) met as teenagers in Lincoln, Massachusetts, and began writing songs together in high school. They attended different colleges, then later moved into the same apartment building in Brooklyn after college.

The first time that they performed, they went by the name El Grupo De Rock and Roll, and most of the audience members spoke Spanish. They quickly ditched that band name, and switched to a name  based on a passage of the book Don Quixote. Quixote thinks that the windmills look like evil giants. A friend’s ventriloquism act went by the name for a while, and Flansburgh and Linnell adopted it when they were looking for a band name.

After a bike accident that kept John F from performing, and John L’s apartment was burgled, they took a hiatus from performing. They began recording their songs onto an answering machine, and advertised “Dial-a-Song” in the Village Voice newspaper. People called in to listen to their songs, and it eventually led to a record deal. Flood is TMBG’s third studio album, preceded by the self-titled album “They Might Be Giants” in 1986 and “Lincoln” in 1988. Although the mixing process was analog, Flood was the first TMBG album to be digitally recorded.

The track list for Flood is as follows:
they might be giants dial a song

  • Theme from Flood
  • Birdhouse in Your Soul
  • Lucky Ball and Chain
  • Istanbul (Not Constantinople)
  • Dead
  • Your Racist Friend
  • Particle Man
  • Twisting
  • We Want a Rock
  • Someone Keeps Moving My Chair
  • Hearing Aid
  • Minimum Wage
  • Letterbox
  • Whistling in the Dark
  • Hot Cha
  • Women & Men
  • Sapphire Bullets of Pure Love
  • They Might Be Giants
  • Road Movie to Berlin

Flood debuted on the Billboard Top Pop Albums chart the week of February 10, 1990, spent 22 weeks on the chart, and peaked at #75. In the UK, the album peaked at #14 and was on the charts for 12 weeks. Flood is TMBG’s most popular and best-selling album, yet when it was released, Rolling Stone only gave the album “2 out of 5 stars.” On the album’s 20th anniversary, Flansburgh and Linnell’s greatest album was again featured in Rolling Stone. It’s a pretty fun recap.

Istanbul they might be giants

“There’s only one thing that I know how to do well
And I’ve often been told that you only can do
What you know how to do well
And that’s be you
Be what you’re like
Be like yourself
And so I’m having a wonderful time
But I’d rather be whistling in the dark
Whistling in the dark
Whistling in the dark”

When I moved to Utah in 1993, one of the first friends I made was Emily. We met in science class and started about the things we liked. While most if our music tastes didn’t mesh, we both loved and bonded over show tunes and TMBG. In fact, in 9th grade geography class, we did a combined project making up an imaginary land based completely upon They Might Be Giants. We were geeky, TMBG is geeky, and we didn’t care. A few years ago, Emily gave me a blue canary nightlight.

Although TMBG has released many albums since the early 90′s, none of them hold the same appeal for me as Flood. It’s juvenile enough to be appealing for kids, but clever and catchy for adults to love.

What is your favorite TMBG song? Do you have memories you love of listening to Flood? Can you listen to “Minimum Wage” without pretending to crack a whip?

Flashback Friday: “Right Here, Right Now” by Jesus Jones

right here right now jesus jonesEarlier this month, my daughter and I were talking about historical events I clearly remember from my childhood. We talked about the Challenger disaster, the student massacre in Tiananmen Square, Magic Johnson and the publicization of HIV and AIDS, and the fall of the Berlin Wall. Because my brother’s family lives in Germany, we talked a lot about the fall of communism, the end of the Cold War, and the reunification of Germany.

We talked about how significant events in history spark trends in pop culture. I told her that there were quite a few songs and albums that were inspired by the fall of this period of time, especially “Wind Of Change“ by the Scorpions, U2′s “Achtung Baby” album, and “Right Here, Right Now” by Jesus Jones.

jesus jones doubtJesus Jones is a British alternative dance band that formed in 1988. Mike Edwards, Iain Baker, and Jerry DeBorg decided to leave a band they were currently part of and form their own group.

They came up with the band name Jesus Jones on a beach in Spain, realizing that they were three “Joneses” sitting on a beach in Spain surrounded by people called Jesus. They released their second album “Doubt,” in which “Right Here, Right Now” was their most popular hit.

I saw the decade in, when it seemed
The world could change at the blink of an eye
And if anything
Then there’s your sign… of the times
I was alive and I waited, waited
I was alive and I waited for this
Right here, right now”

jesus jones doubt goldThe “Right Here, Right Now” single was released in September 1990, and was a #1 song on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart, also reaching #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 in July 1991. It peaked at number 31 on the UK Singles Chart. Jesus Jones’ song  ”Real Real Real” also got significant airplay worldwide in 1991. The album “Doubt” quickly hit Gold status in the UK, and gained Gold status in the US once “Right Here Right Now” hit #1 in the US. In late 1991, at the MTV Awards, they won the award for Best New Video.

right here right now jesus jones

Since the early 90′s, “Right Here, Right Now” has been used in commercials for TechTV and KMart, and was part of two different Canadian political campaigns. Alvin and the Chipmunks released a cover version of the song for a 2007 video game.

“Right here, right now
There is no other place I want to be
Right here, right now
Watching the world wake up from history”

Want to download the song and relive the “world wake up from history”? Click the link below.

Flashback Friday: “Unbelievable” by EMF

emf unbelievable schubert dip There are some songs that come onto the radio and I can’t help but groove in my seat (or do a little dance if I’m driving) and sing along. From the first “Ohhhhh!” and rhythmic cowbell thunking, I know it’s time to groove. One of the biggest hits of 1990/1991, and still gets me pumped up to this day, is “Unbelievable” by EMF.

EMF is a 1990′s alternative Britpop band who formed in Gloucestershire, UK. EMF’s catchy indie dance music was released on 3 studio albums, “Schubert Dip”, “Stigma”, and “Cha Cha Cha.” The band consists of James Atkins (vocals, guitars), Ian Dench (keyboards, guitars), Derry Brownson (keyboards/samples), Mark Decloedt (drums) and Zac Foley (bass).

EMF was signed by EMI/Parlophone after just 4 performances together, without producing a demo tape, and were known for their baggy shorts, sideways baseball caps, and lively techno/rock music. Ian Dench was the band’s primary songwriter, but the entire band was credited on the track for “Unbelievable”.

emf band

 

One thing I love about the song is that it’s a quintessential early nineties hit, but it still feels very contemporary. It has a cool techno groove that is mainstream enough to appeal to the masses. It rocks out without being too heavy, it’s peppy enough to get people of all ages dancing. The song was a regular recording on my homemade mixtapes (recorded off the radio, of course).

“The things you say
Your purple prose just gives you away
The things you say
You’re unbelievable! Ohhhhh!!!”

There are a few songs that pump me up every time I listen to them: “Going the Distance” by Cake, “Every Little Thing She Does is Magic” by The Police, “Gonna Make You Sweat” by C&C Music Factory, “Jump” by Kris Kross, and “To The Extreme” by Vanilla Ice. “Unbelievable” is also on this list for me. Whenever I add them a workout playlist, these songs can make me work out just a little harder. I’ve listened to it enough in my adulthood that my daughter has taken a liking to it, and she grooves out to it just as much as I do. I just hope she doesn’t notice the profanity in the song that I thought was just mumbling.

emf unbelievable singleCurious about what EMF means? There are a few theories. 1) The B-side of the “Unbelievable” single is a track titled “EMF.” The song includes the refrain: “E! Ecstasy! M! Motherf***er, motherf***er! F! From us to you…” 2) EMF is believed to be an abbreviation of “Epsom Mad Funkers”, the name of the fan club of the band New Order. It is also the name of EMF’s greatest hits album. 3) The song, “Head the Ball”, featured the repeating lines “Electromotive Force.” Take your pick, pop culture junkies!

Fun facts about the song: It was the 1000th #1 hit in Billboard’s chart history. It was ranked #31 on VH1′s 100 Greatest One-Hit Wonders in 2002, and #98 on VH1′s 100 Greatest Songs of the 90s in 2007. It has been covered my many different artists, including Shakira, Tom Jones, Weird Al Yankovic, and Alvin and the Chipmunks. It’s also been in a number of movies: “Space Jam,” “Coyote Ugly,” “The Taking of Beverly Hills,” “Hoodwinked.” and a variety of television commercials.

Does “Unbelievable” get you dancing too? Click below to download and download the song to relive the memories.

Like this post? Check out other posts about early 90′s music in my Flashback Friday series.

 

Flashback Friday: “Jump” by Kris Kross

totally krossed out kris krossThe Mac Daddy and the Daddy Mac.

Chris Kelly and Chris Smith were the ultimate trendsetters for the tween crowd in the early 90′s. Discovered in an Atlanta mall in 1990, the signed a recording deal with Ruffhouse Records and released their album “Totally Krossed Out” in 1992. “Jump” was their first, and biggest, hit song. The Mac Daddy and the Daddy Mac’s signature fashion statement was wearing their clothes backwards. How could you not want to try it yourself?

“Jump” was the fastest selling single in America since The Police’s “Every Breath You Take” in 1983. “Jump” jumped to #1 and stayed on top of the Billboard Hot 100 for 8 weeks. Kris Kross’ immediate popularity earned them a spot as opening act for Michael Jackson’s “Dangerous” tour.

How high? Real high
Cause I’m just so fly
A young loveable, hugable type of guy
And everything is to the back with a little slack
Cause inside out, it’s wiggida wiggida wiggida wack”

I was hooked on the song as soon as I heard it on Z100 in Portland. I listened intently to the radio so I could record the song onto a cassette tap and replay it like crazy. I loved the beat, I memorized the lyrics, and I loved that these boys were SO cool…and they were my same age! I wanted to be cool too…so I tried to wear my clothes backwards. I put on my stonewashed jeans and Portland Trailblazers button-down jersey on backwards…and it looked terrible. A girl with sprouting curves should NOT try to wear clothing backwards. As much as I wanted to follow a trend, I just couldn’t get the nerve to leave the house like that. But wow…I thought the boys at my school with backwards clothes were so stylin.

kris kross jump video

kris kross jump jumpIt’s a little bit strange to me…because I’ve been planning to publish this blog post all week. “Jump” has been on my list of songs to write about for Flashback Friday for a while. So when I heard the news on Friday that Chris Kelly had died, it felt like such an odd coincidence. “Jump” was a song that really takes me back to a fun time in my life, and I can’t say how many times I’ve listened to the song and jumped along.

So here’s to you, Chris Kelly. Thanks for the fun you gave my early teens with a thumping beat and fun rap to spout out with the song came on.

Ain’t nuthin’ sucker about Kris Kross we all that
So when they ask, “Do they rock?” say “Believe that!”

Flashback Friday: “Black” by Pearl Jam

Pearl Jam-TenIn 1991, the realities of being an emotional adolescent were on the upswing. It was the beginning of the grunge era, and my musical tastes switched from New Kids on the Block and poppy Top 40 hits…to songs with deeper meaning, more angst, and lyrics that spoke to my soul. One of the albums that defined my 7th grade year was “Ten” by Pearl Jam. Although “Jeremy” and “Evenflow” got more radio airplay, “Black” was the Pearl Jam song that I couldn’t stop listening to.

Although I had little to be dark and angsty at that age, beyond an unrequited crush on a boy who played guitar in my grade, I felt like the darkness of “Black” was real. I could feel the pain. I would sing and wail along with the lyrics.

Ooh, and all I taught her was everything
Ooh, I know she gave me all that she wore
And now my bitter hands chafe beneath the clouds
Of what was everything.
Oh, the pictures have all been washed in black, tattooed everything…


The MTV Unplugged version is also awesome.

pearl jam black cd bookletEddie Vedder’s voice was haunting, and I was always trying to figure out the meaning of the song as I listened to my CD on repeat. The lyrics insert in the CD didn’t have all of the words on it, just a scratched out section of the most important words in black and white.

Since this was before the Internet was in every home, a search query to find the lyrics wasn’t available. You had to listen over and over to figure out what was being said. And with me, I scribbled it out on notebook paper and would compare it with my friends’ interpretations.

When Eddie Vedder was asked the meaning behind the song, he said:

The song is about letting go. It’s very rare for a relationship to withstand the Earth’s gravitational pull and where it’s going to take people, and how they’re going to grow. I’ve heard it said that you can’t really have a true love unless it was a love unrequited. It’s a harsh one, because then your truest one is the one you can’t have forever.”

No matter how much you want to be with somebody, sometimes it will never be. “Black” by Pearl Jam taught me this. Which is why I listened to this song during every boyfriend breakup period of my adolescence.

I know someday you’ll have a beautiful life,
I know you’ll be a sun in somebody else’s sky, but why
Why, why can’t it be, can’t it be mine?

 

Wordless Wednesday: Live Bands Tonight

live bands tonight

Flashback Friday: “One” by U2

U2-Achtung-BabyAs with last week’s Flashback Friday selection “Enjoy the Silence,” the song “One” by U2 also defined my early adolescence.

The first U2 song I remember listening to was “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” (while actually knowing it was U2). I was having my 10th birthday party slumber party, and we had VH1 playing in the background (because MTV was forbidden – it was too “vulgar”). While my friends chatted about cute boys in our 4th grade class, I remember watching the video, mesmerized by Bono’s voice and alluring eyes. In the video, the band walks around Fremont Street in Las Vegas, and show a bit of a softer side to the rock band. Because it was in the days before YouTube, I didn’t have a way to just look up the video and watch more songs. But I always kept my eye out for U2 videos like “With or Without You.”

1n 1991, U2 released their “Achtung Baby” album, and that was the first U2 album I purchased. U2 has been my favorite band since 1992. Although I have other bands dear to my heart, such as Keane and The Beatles, I don’t always want to listen to the others. The song that immediately drew me in was “One.” The lyrics were so deep and could be interpreted in so many different ways.

Is it getting better?
Or do you feel the same?
Will it make it easier on you now?
You got someone to blame

Did I disappoint you?
Or leave a bad taste in your mouth?
You act like you never had love
And you want me to go without
Well it’s too late tonight
To drag the past out into the light
We’re one, but we’re not the same
We get to carry each other

u2 achtung baby 1991So what is the meaning behind the song “One”? The song was formulated right as East Germany and West Germany were reuniting. They recorded sessions in Berlin in late 1990. Bono recalls that “the melody, the structure—the whole thing was done in 15 minutes,” and the lyrics “just fell out of the sky, a gift”. “One” was inspired by the band members’ fracturing relationships, the German reunification, and Bono’s skepticism of the hippie idea of “oneness”. It was released as a single to benefit AIDS research. It is often used to promote human rights and social justice causes, and Bono named his charitable organization, the ONE Campaign, after the song.

“One” has been played at every single one of U2′s concerts since 1992. And it’s always a crowd favorite. One of my most special experiences with the song was belting it out with the rest of the crowd at Rice Stadium in 1997, during the Pop Mart tour.

One life, with each other
Sisters, brothers
One life
But we’re not the same
We get to carry each other, carry each other
One

Have you ever sung along to “One” at a U2 concert?

Flashback Friday: “Enjoy The Silence” by Depeche Mode

depeche mode enjoy the silenceWhen I decided to start my Flashback Friday series in 2011, I decided to choose music that was popular right around the time that I was my daughter’s age. So that meant choosing songs that were popular from 1990 on. The song that sparked my idea was “Enjoy the Silence” by Depeche Mode. I was listening to it in the car with Rosie on my birthday in 2009, and the radio station said something to the effect of “Did you know that ‘Enjoy the Silence’ was recorded twenty years ago today?”

Holy cow. One of my very favorite songs was released on my 10th birthday. February 5th, 1990.

It’s a song that defined my adolescence. It’s the song that made sense to me, and brought me into the underworld of alternative music. Once I discovered Depeche Mode’s “Violator” album, my music preferences forever changed away from traditional Top 40.

Not only did I love the rhythmic beats and soaring passionate vocals of David Gahan, the lyrics spoke to me.

depeche mode violator

Vows are spoken to be broken
Feelings are intense
Words are trivial
Pleasures remain
So does the pain
Words are meaningless and forgettable
All I ever wanted, all I ever needed is here in my arms
Words are very unnecessary
They can only do harm

depeche mode violator rose“Enjoy the Silence” was written and recorded in 1989, and the single was released on February 5th, 1990. It was the second single from their soon-to-be-released album “Violator.” It was Depeche Mode’s 24th single released in the United Kingdom, and many people consider it to be their signature song. The song one Best British Single at the 1991 BRIT awards.

It is one of Depeche Mode’s most popular and best known songs, and it has been recorded by other artists such as Tori Amos, Keane, Nada Surf, Breaking Benjamin…and even Susan Boyle. It peaked on the UK Singles Chart at number 6, which beat out their previous highest-charting single of “People are People” in 1984. The song reached number 8 on the US Billboard Hot 100, and became the only Depeche Mode single to achieve Top Ten status.

The song was written by Martin Gore, and was originally going to be a slow-paced ballad in C minor. Eventually, the band added upbeat back track with lots of drum and bass. In 2004, Depeche Mode released “Enjoy the Silence 04″ and it peaked at number 7 on the UK Singles Chart. Even over 20 years later, “Enjoy the Silence” is one of the most played songs on modern alternative radio stations.

I really do love this song. I had it as my cell phone ringtone for about 5 years, and still have it selected for certain contacts. I’ve remained a HUGE Depeche Mode fan through the years, and actually gave my husband a pair of tickets to a DM concert for our one year wedding anniversary. A lot of people my age think that Nirvana defined their generation, but I wasn’t as involved in the grunge scene as I was in the alternative/new wave scene.

Anyone else love “Enjoy the Silence”?

My Last Night With The CRV – The Breakup

honda test drive 2013

Breaking up is hard to do. Especially when you’re in love.

John Mayer has a song I love called “Spilt Screen Sadness“, which is about breaking up (even when you know you’re good together in so many ways).

“All you need is love is a lie, cause we had love, but we still said goodbye. Now we’re tired, battered fighters. And it stings when it’s nobody’s fault, cause there’s nothing to blame at the drop of your name. It’s only the air you took and the breath you left…”

Last night was my final night of my week with the 2013 Honda CRV EX-L that was lent to me by Ken Garff Honda of Orem. I needed to go up to Bountiful to borrow some snow pants for my daughter’s winter campout for school, so I figured it was a good time to take a nice long drive by myself.

Pearl Jam "Black"I’ve had many loves in my life. I’m one of those girls that falls hard and fast when she sees someone that’s a good match for her. That can be evidenced by the fact that I married my first husband less than four months after we met for the first time. It took a lot of restraint to wait a whole six months to marry Taylor.

But not all love is good for you, and last night I had to come to terms with the fact that it’s over for me and the CRV. Because the dealership wants it back. My week of the #HondaTestDrive is almost up.

True Story: Many of my breakups have happened while sitting in a dark car, listening to music, and trying to find the right words to say. And one of the songs playing during a breakup with a high school boyfriend was “Black” by Pearl Jam: “And now my bitter hands cradle broken glass of what was everything. All the pictures have all been washed in black, tattooed everything.”

Last night in the CRV, “Black” came up on shuffle. It reminded me of that breakup, and how I’ll be “breaking up” with the CRV tomorrow when Ken Garff gets it back. This line of the song was particularly poignant:

“I know someday you’ll have a beautiful life,
I know you’ll be a star in somebody else’s sky,
But why, why, why can’t it be, can’t it be mine?”

Last night became a sad night for me. I cranked up my angsty “melancholy” playlist and  sang at the top of my lungs. I also grabbed my last #PDR (a bottle of IBC Root Beer, mind you! I’m part of the Bloggers Against Drunk Driving campaign).

A full review of my week with the CRV will be published this week. Until my hands are pried from the smooth leather steering wheel, I’ll enjoy my last few moments with my love that was not meant to be.

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