The Best Songs I Discovered This Year

Before we begin, here’s a random picture of Jeremy Sumpter playing Peter Pan in 2003. To this day 
I’ve never seen this live-action film version of the story, but when I first saw him on the movie cover,
my twelve-year-old heart went pitter patter.

Doing year end wrap-up style blogs is fun, but honestly, if I were to do a blog post about “the top songs of 2015,” I’d be pretty sorely disappointed, but frankly, the last few years haven’t been great years for music, particularly popular music. But then again, that’s just my opinion, and it doesn’t even matter anyway because this post is about my favorite songs that I DISCOVERED this year. So songs in this list are not necessarily new (in fact I don’t think a single song in this list is from this year), but they are songs that I discovered this year and spent a lot of time listening to. Frankly, this list was a lot longer because it was originally “the songs I listened to the most this year,” but I decided it was more fun to go with songs I discovered this year. That’s the rule that I mostly stick to, though some of them are songs I discovered before this year but listened to obsessively this year.

Also this rambling introductory paragraph is a good excuse why you shouldn’t listen to really fast Ben Folds music rambling into your ears because it makes it damn difficult to concentrate. One final thing I want to mention is that unlike most of my other fun little lists, these aren’t in any particular order.

Say Something
A Great Big World

I first heard this song around Christmas 2013 when it became a big hit, and the lyrics really hit me like a brick. 2015 has been a year which, for me, has been primarily defined by crushing depression, loneliness, fear, and a desperate struggle to get over a relationship that lasted three years and ended just before Christmas of 2014. My relationship was strained from the beginning, but when I first heard the words, “Say something I’m giving up on you,” it so perfectly described how I felt in my relationship that seemed completely stuck and moving nowhere. In the silence between us was a sadness and a void, and though I wasn’t ready to say it out loud yet, this song said it for me.

I spent considerable time this year curled up in bed crying and listening to this song, much like I did with Kesha’s “The Harold Song” back when I experienced another traumatic breakup a few years ago. I also want to mention that I usually listen to the original version of the song, though I enjoy the version with Christina Aguilera as well (in fact I was shocked to learn that the girl in the song was Christina because she doesn’t over-sing like usual, and manages to be soft and heartfelt; well done Christina).

Bigger On The Inside
Amanda Palmer

Oh god I think my heart is breaking already. I read Amanda’s book The Art of Asking earlier this year, and by read I mean I listened to the audiobook, and it was nice to hear Amanda’s voice telling the story. Not only that, but the audiobook actually featured ten songs from throughout her career, including the original version of Bigger On The Inside, which was talked about near the end of the book and played before the final chapter of the audiobook. The version of the song featured in the audiobook is simply Amanda, vocal and ukulele, and this song is about trying to deal with her best friend and mentor dying of cancer, as well as the communal heartbreak we all feel all the time; she even references a fan who sent her a letter about being raped, who said that they were scared and wanted to know how to keep fighting. You pretty much can’t listen to this song without your heart completely breaking. It’s gorgeous. When I first heard it I was driving with tears in my eyes.

Love Me Or Leave Me
Kerli

Okay, so I’m suddenly noticing that the majority of the songs I’ve listened to this year are sad, but hey, it’s been an upsetting year. This one I haven’t listened to nearly as much as the others, but I got into a relationship this year that unfortunately only lasted a few months, but early on, he showed me this song, and I loved it both because it reminded me of being with him and because it’s so beautiful. I first heard it while watching Kerli’s performance of various songs from Utopia in Estonia.

Nothing Really Matters
Madonna

I had a BIG Madonna phase this year. There were a few months where I listened to just about nothing but Madonna. I could have chosen quite a few songs here (Angel, Ray of Light, Falling Free, Easy Ride, Erotica, Deeper and Deeper, Vogue, Survival, Runaway Lover, Secret Garden, Human Nature, Music Inferno…. the list goes on and on), but ironically I chose the one Madonna song I discovered AFTER my two-month Madonna binge was completed. I was trying to show off Madonna’s flexibility and the huge amount of ground she’s covered in career to a boyfriend (mentioned earlier) and I remember that the Nothing Really Matters video had seemed kind of cool and creepy, and I found that I accidentally really loved both the video and the song, so I spent a while binge-listening.

Spinning Around
Kylie Minogue

I accidentally found this song a while back when listening to Kylie’s Aphrodite tour, because it was done right after Get Outta My Way, and I can see why because the songs have very similar choruses, so earlier this year I went through a short Kylie phase, and I started exploring some of her older music, and discovered that I really like Spinning Around. I listened to the live version from the Aphrodite tour, and found myself insatiably hungry for the studio version, and once I heard it I pretty much didn’t listen to much else for days on end.

Swallow
Emilie Autumn

I was only vaguely aware of Emilie Autumn before this year, and Fight Like A Girl is actually the only song of hers that I’d ever heard, but only once, when a friend shared the music video upon it’s release. My short-term boyfriend from earlier this year is a huge Emilie Autumn fan, and successfully converted me over to Emilie’s team by showing me her music, her poetry, her writing, and her story of mental illness and her struggle with it. I was very impressed with Emilie upon listening to her Opheliac Companion (which was about eight hours plus), where she talks about how she’s dealt with mental illness, rape, abuse, and expresses her creativity. It was very inspiring. Though Fight Like A Girl remains one of my favorite Emilie songs (it’s a freaking earworm, and it’s a fantastic battle anthem), the song that really one me over was Swallow, which is a six-minute long journey through something that might be underwater and might be floating through the air, and describes the struggle of taking antidepressants and accepting all that comes along with it, because it’s the only way to survive when you’re about to drown.

By the way, I had a very difficult time choosing one Emilie Autumn song because there have been three that I’ve listened to absolutely obsessively: Swallow, Fight Like A Girl, and Opheliac. I highly recommend all three of these, especially Opheliac since I didn’t talk much about it here.

Tusk
Fleetwood Mac

I went through a Fleetwood Mac / Stevie Nicks phase earlier in the year, also influenced by the aforementioned short-term boyfriend, whose favorite music is Stevie. I discovered a lot of songs I didn’t know, or songs I’d heard before but hadn’t given much time to, but I’d absolutely never heard Tusk before and I was shocked that I hadn’t, because it’s such a great uptempo rock song, with something of the feeling of dancing around a campfire mixed with marching band brass. I was pretty surprised that I’d never actually listened to a song that is apparently one of Fleetwood Mac’s hits, but then, they have so many hits that it’s difficult to know when you’ve heard them all.

Lost
Amanda Palmer & The Grand Theft Orchestra

I’ve had Amanda’s album Theatre Is Evil for a while, and even binge-listened to a few of the songs in the past few years, but I had never actually listened to Lost until I heard it on the audiobook of The Art of Asking. Funnily enough I actually didn’t finish listening to it when I heard it on the audiobook, but I came back to it later and found that it reduced me to a blubbering mess in the midst of all my heartbreak. “No one’s ever lost forever, they are caught inside your heart, if you garden them and water them they make you what you are.” I found myself driving down the road in the middle of the night and crying loudly just listening to this song on repeat (along with Want It Back, another song that’s happy, but heartbreaking).

Rather Be
Clean Bandit

I fell in love with this song the moment I first heard it on the radio back in 2014. Clean Bandit is one of those bands like Freemasons that just gets House music right, and I have a real love for House music. I can’t tell you why exactly, I just love how it seems to have this kind of depth, if that makes sense, and I’m talking about the way it sounds, it sounds deep. Like, physically deep. I know, describing music is something that doesn’t really make sense but there you have it. Anyhow, earlier this year I found myself listening to Rather Be on an infinite loop, and screaming with joy when I heard it. It’s one of the happiest songs I’ve ever heard, and it’s difficult to wear this one out (though I’ve moved on to some other Clean Bandit songs now, I recommend Stronger).

I Just Wanna Dance
Alison Jiear

Now, this song has apparently been kind of a gay party anthem for a few years, thanks to a dance remix, but even though I really enjoy the dance remix, it’s the original version of the song from Jerry Springer: The Opera that I adore. It’s funny, because Jerry Springer: The Opera is as silly and tongue-in-cheek as it sounds, but this song manages to be so incredibly expressive and beautiful, and what begins as the story of a white-trash poledancer turns into a gorgeous song about longing, the desire to cast aside all worry and a deep need to experience life. I found myself crying to this song more than once, and it was my go-to song right after my breakup.


Bernadette
IAMX

This one is a recent find. I’ve known about IAMX for a while, and always enjoyed the song Spit It Out (particularly it’s re-released single version and Imogen Heap’s remix), but I hadn’t really listened to his music in a while, because even though I liked a few of Chris Corner’s songs, and bought Kingdom of Welcome Addiction, nothing really stuck with me much. Earlier this year I decided to watch How To Get Away With Murder, and I was amazed at how great of a show it was, and at the end of the first episode I could hear a song called I Come With Knives, and though I’d never heard the song I immediately recognized Chris’ voice, and it turns out that IAMX is featured in almost every episode of the show, which adds an incredible depth to both the show and the music, because I find certain IAMX songs a lot more meaningful, having memories of the show attached to them.

Bernadette, however, is not featured in How To Get Away With Murder, and I think I must have found it just by seeing it in a related links bar on Youtube while watching other IAMX songs, and the moment I heard it I was addicted. Interestingly, I’ve gotten my little sister addicted to the song too. It’s this carnival cabaret song with toy pianos and strings and a theremin, and falls somewhere between Pink Floyd’s The Trial and some kind of creepy carnival dance. It’s entrancing.

~

There were a lot more than eleven, but I decided to narrow the list a bit. I didn’t include any of Ben Folds’ music, because I went through a phase earlier this year listening to his album Way To Normal, and also had a huge Dresden Dolls bender as well, but these are pretty much the big highlights of the songs that kept me company this year.

And now, here’s another sexy picture of Dylan O’Brien. I may need to make this a regular feature of blog posts.

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The Top Ten Worst Tori Amos Songs

Grrrrrrrrrrrrl

With any good artist, there are experiments. Sometimes these experiments are great, and sometimes they suck. Tori Amos has been experimenting her whole career. This worked very much in her favor for her first few albums. However, as she progressed, she got more and more experimental, and in my opinion, she left the area she was talented in (singer-songwriter music, with a lot of amazing piano and minimal production) and moved into an area in which she is absolutely horrible (electro darkwave techno with ridiculous lyrics that are entirely indiscernible and probably mean nothing). Tori is one of my favorite musicians in history, and definitely one of the most talented human beings to ever express themselves musically. However, over time, her music just became bland, uninteresting, and had less and less substance. Her first four albums are goldmines of meaning and passion. I don’t mind crazy lyrics or screeching, because my favorite album is Boys For Pele, where she did plenty of that. But beginning with her fifth album, every single record she’s put out has been about 12 to 13 tracks of total drivel with 3 or 4 moments of complete genius thrown in.

As such, there are technically a lot more terrible Tori songs than great, but the great ones more than make up for how atrocious the bad songs are. I think the most puzzling thing about Tori’s path in music is that she began to adopt this freaky singing accent that she never had before, and now she just seems to “ooh” and “aahh” every single word in a creepy warble that is neither appealing to the ears or touching to the spirit, the way her first few albums were. I love Tori to death, but after album four, her career just began a downhill slide into absolute madness, with, as I said, moments of genius thrown in here and there. In my opinion the last good record she produced was American Doll Posse, which was itself kind of an assault on the senses and began her trend of over-producing her music to the point that it’s barely music anymore and more of a cloud of nonsense noises amongst ridiculous lyrics that cannot have any real possible meaning. I hate the songs I hate as much as I love the songs I love, and here at the ten Tori Amos songs I hate the worst. Though I could list some obvious choices that fans are known to hate, like Ireland, Cars with Guitars, or maybe the rest of the Beekeeper but for a few tracks, I’m including songs I’ve actually listened to enough to hate. For instance, I’ve listened to the song The Bekeeper twice, and I hated it both times, but that’s not enough listens to really merit me hating it. These are the songs I’ve suffered through for no clear reason, hoping to find some good in, but ultimately coming up completely flat.

Tori Amos - Librarian

10. Angels
“They’re Trapping Angels by the Potomac, but it’s not how you think you’d be surprised. They Liberate
your Dreamscape…”

My first Tori Amos album was Tales of a Librarian. It seemed like a career retrsospective would be a good place to start. I didn’t know at the time, however, that not only were the song choices pretty bad, but the remasters butchered the original versions of the songs. However she threw in a couple of new tracks that were so terrible it made this mess of a “Greatest Hits” album even worse. Angels is the first of these. The album starts strong enough with Precious Things, but then dives face first into Angels, a boring track with a lot of good intention and well-meant lyrics about the destruction of the Native American peoples land and culture. However, it’s just a boring song that goes nowhere.

Tori Amos - Tales Of A Librarian

9. Snow Cherries From France
“All that summer we traveled the world never leaving his own back garden. Girls I didn’t know just what it could be, oh but he let me go sailing.”

The other new track included on Tales of a Librarian was equally as dull as Angels. I think this is some kind of song about liking a boy as a kid, or something? Something about a bike, and pretending sailing around a back yard? It’s just a snooze fest, and a really atrocious way to end a badly made retrospective. Just thinking about it makes me want to cry, it’s that dull.

Tori Amos - Photos23

8. Tear In Your Hand
“All the world is, all I am, the black of the blackest ocean, and that tear in your hand, all the world is danglin’ … danglin’…danglin for me darlin.”

I just don’t get this song. I know, she mentioned Neil Gaiman for the first time, I know it’s from that holy grail of Tori albums, the great Little Earthquakes. But I just don’t get this song. Nothing happens in it. The whole acoustic guitar thing, coupled with the whole major key thing, along with the whole this-song-has-meaningful-lyrics-that-are-lost-in-the-lackluster-presentation thing, just kill this for me. It’s one of the only bad spots on her first album.

China+Tori+Amos

7. China
“China, all the way to New York, maybe you got lost in Mexico.”

And here’s the other one. I can’t believe this was ever released as a single. This song is overly long, goes nowhere, and is a painfully slow, monotonous ballad about silverware and traveling the world and something about feeling distant and blah blah blah. It’s like Tori tried to write a pop song, and as we know, she is not good at writing pop songs. It feels boring and inauthentic.

Tori Amos - Photos14

6. Sweet Dreams
“Land land of liberty we’re run by a constipated man. When you live in the past you refuse to see when your daughter comes home 9 months pregnant…”

She just can’t do major keys. It’s like she tried to do a strong folk-ballad and out came… this. It’s a song about political corruption, but it’s just stupid. The president is constipated, and how can he have sweet dreams when he sucks at running the country? I get it Tori, but could you maybe make this song less boring? It’s a happy diddy, so why I do feel like stabbing forks into my ears?

Tori Amos - Photos15

5. Bliss
“Steady, as, it, comes, right, down, to, you, I’ve said it all…”

This one just gets to me. It’s like, one of her more popular songs. And I don’t understand why. It’s at this point that Tori began experimenting with, shall we say, shitty musical choices that did not suit her whatsoever. Also, the lyrics that were already cryptic just began to become outrageously stupid, to the point that I don’t even want to try and interpret them. She killed a monkey, or something. Also, the word is bliss. Not “blee-hees.” This is also when she began to sing with a freaky nonexistant accent and enunciate everything incorrectly. I’m all for creative freedom, but could the record company please have said to her, “Tori, redo these vocals so they don’t sound like a dying chicken.” It would have helped.

Tori Amos - Photos20

AND NOW, AN INTERMISSION

How to pronounce words the way Tori Amos does

A Normal Person: “Apple.”
Tori Amos: “Aye-pu-hull.”

A normal person: “Disgrace.”
Tori Amos: “Dee-hee-hee-ssss. Guh-ray-hee-sss-uh.”

A normal person: “Antidisestablishmentarianism.”
Tori Amos: “Cats… ice cream… Jesus cones…”

A normal person: “Zebra.”
Tori Amos: “Zee-hee-buh-ruh.”

A normal person: “Girl.”
Tori Amos: “Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrllllllllllllllllllll-HAH!”

A normal person: “Seventeen.”
Tori Amos: “Sey-hey-hey-hey-ven-tee-hee-heeeeeen.”

Etc. etc. etc. ad nasuem.

WE NOW RETURN TO YOUR PREVIOUSLY SCHEDULED COUNTDOWN

Tori Amos - A Piano (D)

4. Ode To My Clothes
“Somewhere in the hills of Ireland, there’s a Prada bag. And somewhere down the lane, there’s a dog in Gucci lace.”

Ah, we’re getting into the real shitty shit now. Some songs are just pointless exercises in pointlessness. Tori got bored and wrote a song about prada bags and her favorite shoes. That’s it. No hidden meaning. No representation of materialism versus spirituality. Just… prada bags, shoes, and clothes. That’s it. Nothing else to see here.

02l

3. Battle of Trees
“I’ve dodged bullets, and even poisoned arrows, only to be felled by the blade of a vowel.”

Beginning with The Beekeeper, every Tori album has become excruciating to listen to from beginning to end (they tend to be something like 45 tracks apiece, each with about 12 extraneous 1 minute songs about how excited she is to sing the next song, in the voice of some character or another). This one really kills the already slow and monotonous pace of Night of Hunters. It’s like… about speaking to trees, or something? And it goes on for nine fucking minutes. And she says the words “battle of trees” in there somewhere. It’s just… ugh.

Tori Amos - American Doll Posse (2)

2. Posse Bonus
“This is your posse bonus, this is your extra, this is your posse bonus, ’cause I like you. Because I like you, ’cause I like you, porcupine…”

This song almost get number one. This is literally a song that is informing you that the next three tracks are bonus tracks included on the album. That’s actually what this song is about. “This is your posse bonus, ’cause I like you.” It’s just a song about how you got some bonus tracks. It’s a waste of time and it hurts my soul to hear it. You may also free to include the stupid transitional songs like Devils and God, Programmable Soda, etc. in here. I do, however, enjoy Fat Slut. I don’t know why.

And finally, number one…

ANY SONG FEATURING NATASHYA HAWLEY, a.k.a. TASH AMOS, a.k.a. TORI’S DAUGHTER

INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO…

03

1. Cactus Practice, The Chase, Promise, Holly Ivy and Rose, Job’s Coffin, etc. etc.
“Watch me change to a grain of corn
A grain of corn?
Hear the alarm in your head
I’m the hen, black and red
And you’re in my barn
They would have won
Use your head or you’ll be dead.”

or my personal favorite pretentious lyric to hear come out of a ten year old’s mouth:

“There is a grid of disempowerment.”

Let me explain why these songs are so bad. The first reason is that they’re cheap shots. Rather than invest time and effort into composing your own song, you use the fact that your whole fan base knows you tried for years to unsuccessfully have a baby, suffered miscarriages and tremendous loss and heartache, and milk that sympathy by putting your very talented daughter (who unfortunately mimicks her mother’s horrendous new singing accent) into a song that is probably meandering and going nowhere, so that all your fans will like it and say “Wow, she’s come so FAR from those Choirgirl days!” We get it. Tori has suffered a lot. That’s why we LIKE her, guys. But you can’t defend every terrible album just by saying “Well she’s been through so much and I’m happy that she’s happy now!” I am too! That doesn’t make her shitty new music less shitty!

But I digress. Tash is actually a very talented vocalist. This clashes greatly with Tori, who is not only mostly untalented vocally at this point, but who also autotunes the shit out of her voice. Everything that escapes Tori’s lips is layered ten times, with her screechy harmonies in the background, while Tash’s voice is raspy, pure, and unedited, and quite beautiful. Tash being in the song just serves to point out how bad Tori has become. In Holly, Ivy, and Rose, Tash, who I believe was something like ten years old, sounds better than her mother. Then there’s the whole Night of Hunters album, where Tash, among other people, outshine Tori at every ocassion. The most pretentious of these songs are The Chase and Cactus Practice, which might actually be interesting songs if not for Tori’s horrible screechy cat-lady voice. Tori, just write music for Tash and let her sing it, or don’t invite her in, because she outshines you.

Tori Amos - Photos21

And in summation…

As far as I’m concerned the fiery-haired goddess is gone. She has been replaced by an insipid shell of her former self who seems to be genuinely happy in her life, but has her head so far up her own ass that she has lost all meaning. She butchers her old songs (the whole Gold Dust album was awful, despite the fact that the orchestrations were beautiful), writes horrifying new music, and puts out whole albums that are such an assault on the eardrums that they’re quite genuinely unlistenable. To this day I’ve never heard half of the tracks on Scarlet’s Walk, The Beekeeper, Abnormally Attracted To Sin, Strange Little Girls, To Venus and Back, Night of Hunters, Midwinter Graces, and especially not her new album Unrepentant Geraldines (those most pretentious album title EVER).

Tori once delved into deep spiritual worlds, pulled out the darkness and bled to death on stage for all to see, pouring out her soul and her pain and offering shelter and comfort to the listeners who needed it, me being among them. But now, her music has become a sad, sad tribute to what she used to be. She needs to just start making instrumental albums, because her talent for lyric-writing and singing have disappeared, but her fingers still press the keys of the piano perfectly. I stopped wishing for a good comeback a long time ago.

I know that’s kind of a sad note to end on, but it’s how I feel. I still love Tori’s music, it will always have a special place in my heart, but it seems that the raging inferno of talent has cooled to a still lake of boredom and monotony. Oh well, at least Kate Bush is still making good music.

New Poem: Sin

[“The teachings are a false tradition that should be thrown away.”]
Oh, please, don’t let me stand in your way
I might make you spill your beer
Or perhaps you’d run me down with your four wheeler
On Superbowl Sunday
Of course, of course, I’d never question you
And your exalted ways
For you know all, my enlightened
Drunken friend
I fall in disbelief of all that I’ve done
How could I have fought against your word, so righteous and true?
Your teachings strike a chord in me
And so subvert reality
So I can be programmed to obey
Dance on, dance on
This masquerade is just starting to get interesting
Will your rise to power come?
The Antichrist is all this organization’s followers
The end of the world will come when they’ve achieved religious reign
[“Poor child. It is better for you to die in hope than to live and suffer in despair.”]
Wicked humans, damnable humans,
Fall before the might of almighty God!
And that’s me, the minister of his word
For you are low and fallen
And you will all repent as I say to
And salvation my find fit to save you
And we will be together in the banquet in the sky and laugh and sing and know that all of those we hate
Burn, in, hell
Mothers don’t matter when we face the good lord
Love falls prey to law
Mercy is spared, because I changed my mind about who is worthy
It’s really just myself
Human nature finds its truest form
In a religion where it claims to ascend from piety
Human nature wins over faith and repentance
It brings some to power, and we’ve seen their malice
And to the others it just lingers and eats away from the inside out
Human nature burns wives and children on pyres
Human nature kills men who love one another
Human nature sends boys to die in battle
Because someone stole your toy and wouldn’t give it back
[“Now is the time to shape your stories.”]
In summation
Your gods are all creations
And not you theirs
And you will die at the hands of your creations
Unless you accept that they’re useless, and only eat away the world
Be free, believe in yourself
Believe in life
And believe for once that something good can happen without waiting for a bolt of lightning to kill the people you don’t understand
And GOD! For once, believe in someone else for a change
Believe in anyone, anything, that’s real
[“I dont know when it will be but someday, I will conquer it. And I will do it without false hope.”]

#11: Bridges in the Air

Bridges in the Air

I remember quiet nights, picking away at keys
Did you listen quietly, attentive and resigned?
You endured the sounds repeating, echoed in your mind
Together in the living room, you were always there
Late at night I’d hear the front door, as you stepped out for air
Monsters in a silent house, but you protected me
I could turn the lights out and fall asleep in peace

We would walk the moonlit streets, the highway by our house
Talking of the things we loved, and things we lived without
I lay gasping on the couch as you sat idly
I would fight you tooth and nail, but you weren’t the enemy
You refused to show me all the things that I showed you
Love, my brother, you’d say but only half of it was true
On a cold December night you hugged me by the fence
Packed your stuff and drove away, I haven’t seen you since

Do you think of trees and tracks, of bridges in the air?
And do you think about the past, the boy with golden hair?
We were always just alike, the same in every way
Please believe I understand why you couldn’t stay

A song about my brother, written to the melody of The Hush Sound’s You Are The Moon. 🙂