Top 10 best albums of 2013 (so far): Dawes, The Band Perry, Jamie Lidell and more

It was the busta rhymes, it was the wursta times…

The year in music is off to a promising start, including the return of Mr. Sexyback and Daft Punk (new album Random Access Memories drops May 21). Jurassic 5 reunited, and even PSY is back with “Gentleman,” managing to one-up the ridiculousness of last year’s inescapable “Gangnam Style.” If you haven’t been paying attention, your ears deserve to listen to some quality new music.

THE BEST: 2013’s TOP 10 ALBUMS (through April)
1. Dawes – Stories Don’t End
They’ve previously collaborated with Jackson Browne, whose chillout-and-be-groovy Americana sound fits this California band perfectly, and this new album is so captivating I had to listen to it all the way through — twice — before I could even check out anything else that came out that week.

2. The Band Perry – Pioneer
If you say “I like everything but country,” you haven’t listened to The Band Perry (and a dozen other great artists). Sibling trio Kimberley, Reed and Neil Perry drop some fantastic harmonies and infectious hooks that you’ll love to sing along with in the car. Remember that song “If I Die Young”? That was just a glimpse of how good they are.

3. Justin Timberlake – The 20/20 Experience
You’ve heard this album by now. If it wasn’t JT, would we all think it’s so good? Perhaps not, but what I admire is that he and Timbaland didn’t fall into the trap of following popular music trends (i.e. dubstep or having David Guetta and Calvin Harris make the beats) and did their own thing. It’s groovy, and an expanded album (with 20 tracks, since it’s “20/20”) is due later this year.

4. Jamie Lidell – Jamie Lidell
If Beck were a British soul singer, he might sound like Jamie Lidell. Mix equal parts funk, soul, pop, dance, electronica and rock, let it simmer for 45 minutes, and then it’s bon appetit for your ears.

5. Eels – Wonderful, Glorious
Sometimes it’s hard to get in the mood to listen to Mark Oliver Everett, a.k.a. “E,” the one-man creative force behind Eels — because he makes so many different sounds. You’ve heard his songs in movies like Shrek, Knocked Up and Yes Man, but his entire genre-jumping discography is fantastic and mind-bogglingly unique. Check out the expanded edition of this album, too, for a few great B-sides and live versions of some of his past post-modern pop gems.

6. Ra Ra Riot – Beta Love
I may be biased because I knew several of the band’s members when they were students at Syracuse University where they first formed, but this is a solid album. Influenced in part by futurist thinker Ray Kurzweil, start with “Dance With Me” and enjoy.

7. Fall Out Boy – Save Rock and Roll
While it seems unlikely that Patrick Stump, Pete Wentz and co. can “save rock and roll,” the title track featuring Elton John is fantastic. Skip “Young Volcanoes” and “Rat A Tat” (featuring Courtney Love), and you’ve got a great album that will make any emo/pop/punk fan glad to see FOB is back.

8. The Black Crowes – Wiser For The Time
I don’t like the Black Crowes, which should tell you just how good this live compilation is. The blues-tinged southern rock group is back stronger than ever after going on hiatus, shining the brightest on updated renditions of their ’90s material, plus covers of Bob Dylan (“Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You”) and the Blind Willie Johnson-inspired “Oh The Rain.”

9. Steve Martin & Edie Brickell – Love Has Come For You
The guy from The Jerk and the girl who sang “What I Am” in the late ’80s? There’s a new She & Him in town, and this one’s easier to listen to multiple times than Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward. The banjo-playing comedian pairs up with the folk-singing wife of Paul Simon for a delightful mix of modern and traditional (“When you get to Asheville send me an email,” Brickell sings on the first track) that’s worth repeat listens.

10. Various Artists – The Music Is You: A Tribute to John Denver
I’ve always respected John Denver’s body of work, and these covers make me realize what a great songwriter he was. The world didn’t need another rendition of “Rocky Mountain High,” but check out fantastic contributions from Dave Matthews, Train, Brandi Carlile (“Take Me Home Country Roads”), Amos Lee, Old Crow Medicine Show and My Morning Jacket (“Leaving on a Jet Plane”).

Other new releases worth a listen: Free Energy’s Love Sign, Cold War Kids’ Dear Miss Lonelyhearts, Thao & The Get Down Stay Down’s We the Common, Fall Out Boy’s Save Rock and Roll (the title track featuring Elton John is fantastic) and Michael Buble’s To Be Loved (featuring a duet with Reese Witherspoon). Kid Cudi’s Indicud isn’t bad either, and I also still love New Kids On The Block’s single “Remix (I Like The).”

And the worst albums of 2013 (so far): Some musicians have been either mailing it in (we’re looking at you, Lil Wayne and or completely disappointing us. Avoid at all costs listening to the latest from Eric Clapton, Bon Jovi, They Might Be Giants, Orianthi (remember her?) and Limp Bizkit. Brad Paisley and LL Cool J managed to insult anyone with taste on “Accidental Racist,” but it’s not all LL’s fault — the rest of Paisley’s album is equally terrible, especially “Facebook Friends” and “Those Crazy Christians.” I still don’t understand why critics like Frank Turner so much (though I like a couple songs on his new “folk-punk” album Tape Deck Heart) and the latest from Phoenix doesn’t hold a candle to their previous gems like “1901,” “If It’s Not With You” and “Too Young.”

Also, Snoop Dogg, who’s been “reincarnated” as reggae artist Snoop Lion, appears to have proved that you can overdose on marijuana.

But on the bright side, there’s still plenty of artists with music coming out later this year. Keep your eyes (and ears) open for new material from Jimmy Eat World, Daft Punk, Lady Antebellum, Deltron 3030 (!), Goo Goo Dolls, Eminem, Hanson, KT Tunstall and Britney Spears. Chali 2NA released a new EP in March, so hopefully he and/or the rest of Jurassic 5 will also have more on the way. And on their upcoming third album, maybe Vampire Weekend will finally live up to the hype started 5 years ago. Maybe.

Have I missed anything? What are your favorite releases of 2013 so far? Let me know!

8 rules of live-tweeting ‘breaking news’ learned from the Boston bombing story

The 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, a horrifying event in and of itself, is a reminder of how scary the news can be when misinformation spreads. When explosions first happened, talking heads began speculating on the culprits and dozens of outlets misreported facts. As developments continued to unfold, newspapers, TV stations and other reporters made social media almost unbearable to follow as it became impossible to know what to believe. Most notably, The New York Post misidentified suspects (on the front page, no less) and inflated the number of casualties, while CNN and the AP were lambasted for claiming arrests were imminent or had taken place Wednesday before the FBI and Boston Police had even named who they were/are looking for.

1. Being right is more important than being first.
Being wrong once is a thousand times more damaging to a reputation than being second or third to report the news. After CNN and Fox News misreported the U.S. Supreme Court’s health care decision last year, now everything they say comes with a thought in the back of your mind: “Well, they were wrong before…” Trust takes months or years to earn and minutes to lose.

2. If it’s not your beat, don’t make it your beat.
I’m appalled at sports radio jocks, entertainment reporters and other professionals (especially in cities that aren’t Boston) who suddenly think they need to post a play-by-play on events they don’t normally cover. They’re not going to be reliable sources and their followers/readers/fans who want to hear about playoff games or celebrity gossip are going to be annoyed that they’re getting something else. Feel free to post major/confirmed updates or your own personal reactions but otherwise let the news reporters on the scene do their job.

3. Tweeting like you’re the only one with access to information.
CNN, ABC, AP and CBS News have a combined 15 million followers on Twitter — for starters. Social media users sometimes feel like they must update every human being on earth with every tidbit that gets tweeted, so that even the most casual news consumer feels like they’re being told the same thing all day long.

4. Scanners and dispatch audio are not reliable sources. (Neither are fake Twitter accounts.)
Phony callers, confused authorities on the scene, honest mistakes in the heat of the moment — just because something’s on a police scanner, doesn’t mean it’s true. Slate points out an interesting phenomenon on Friday where false information that Twitter was getting from the scanner was actually false information that the police on the scanner had gotten from Twitter, including updates from fake accounts.

5. Information, whether true or not, can sometimes cost lives.
During a manhunt or a standoff, sharing information about law enforcement locations or maneuvers can tip off the suspects. It’s 2013, so keep in mind they have smartphones and TVs, too. They can see everything that we’re saying about them — and they may thus take action that costs the lives of people who didn’t need to die.

6. “Sources,” “rumors,” “reports” are not the same as “official,” “confirmed,” and “announced.”
Every newspaper, TV station, radio station or news site is aiming to do two things: Inform their audience, and grow their audience. Sometimes to grow their audience (see: make money), they’ll stretch the length of a story or jump on it early with flimsy information. In the case of Boston and the Newtown shootings, “sources” that were incorrect led to false information spreading and innocent people being unfairly accused of crimes.

7. Breaking news that’s already broken.
You woke up at 7 a.m. and you’re just now reading a story that started at midnight? Don’t update everyone on the last seven hours. The world doesn’t revolve around your sleep schedule. That said, major brands still sometimes make the mistake of posting tweets about “breaking news” that a) they didn’t break and b) has been circulating for more than half an hour. When news moves at the speed of social media, breaking news is usually broken within 10 minutes.

8. Twitter is like the “telephone” game.
“Police are looking for a suspect who is wearing a baseball hat” can quickly turn into “Police have arrested a Boston Red Sox fan” if you’re not careful. Especially when limited by 140 characters, details get left out or changed for the sake of brevity. So when you tweet based on another person’s tweeted info, keep in mind they might’ve based theirs on another tweet and so on… consider it the 21st century version of the “telephone” game.

Phil Jackson evaluates Syracuse basketball’s Final Four loss to Michigan on Twitter

Phil Jackson on Twitter

Former NBA coaches Kurt Rambis, left, and Phil Jackson live-tweeted the 2013 Final Four games and offered thoughts on Syracuse basketball. (Photo via @JeanieBuss)

The 2013 NCAA Tournament has come to an end for the Syracuse basketball team after the Michigan Wolverines beat the Orange 61-56 on Saturday night. It marked the end of Jim Boeheim’s fantastic postseason turnaround after an embarrassing 61-39 loss to Georgetown on March 9 — SU went on to the Big East Championship and then defied bracket expectations with a run to the Final Four, and everyone’s looking for answers why Michael Carter-Williams, C.J. Fair, Brandon Triche and the rest of the Orange aren’t playing Louisville for the championship.

“Zen Master” Phil Jackson, one man who knows about winning, may have the answers. In his first attempt at live-tweeting, the legendary NBA coach shared his thoughts during both Final Four games (the first being between Wichita State and Louisville) while hanging out with former Los Angeles Lakers star Kurt Rambis.

“Don’t know who to pick as fav in this game..opponents must have a good game plan vs @Cuse must have high/low active posts vs the zone AND good shooter and rebounders and Michigan has the shooters,” Jackson wrote in a series of tweets. “Orange people are very quick defensively, but Cardinals and Orange teams met in the Big East finals and played during regular season… vs zones one if it’s a 2-3 zone you must mismatch point gd offense-if it’s a 1-3-1 must use 2 gd front.”

Some more highlights from the 67-year-old basketball guru’s live-tweeting of the Syracuse-Michigan showdown:

  • He didn’t offer NBA scouting reports on other players, but said Syracuse’s Carter-Williams “is a nice looking player-good size, handle, and can shoot from range… I’ve been educated on MCW, but he has the right form and I like his stroke.”
  • On Michigan’s Mitch McGary “Kurt and I laughed at the same time when McGary flinched on that pass @KRambis”
  • SU’s leading scorer C.J. “Fair is more than a Fair shooter…he’s good”
  • On momentum: “mo is on the orange side and it’s going to be a tight one”
  • On the Wolverines in the second half: “Poor shot selection by that yellow team…” and “Two bad plays by Michigan…McGary got up in the air to pass and then that 2 on 1 break-you must pass the ball” and “even if that was their last time out coach Beinlein had to get control of team. OOPs what was that call…?”
  • On UM’s defensive strategy for the last 15 seconds of the game: “Can’t let Orange get a 3 off…foul on the floor, but under 10secs…”
  • After backup guard Trevor Cooney tanked a layup attempt to tie the game: “Well-well it’s over and so am I…thanks for the intercourse all you bball fans.”

Jackson, who just joined the social network 10 days ago, is still learning how to share his thoughts in 140 characters or less but has already been verified on Twitter and gained more than 230,000 followers since his first (somewhat nonsensical) post explaining why he’s @PhilJackson11 and not another number: “11 champ;ipnsikp[ ringhs.” (The former coach of teams like the Los Angeles Lakers and the Chicago Bulls has 11 NBA championship rings and, as you might have guessed, @PhilJackson and @Phil_Jackson are already taken by other users on the site.)

“How many people know what a wheat shock really is? @krambis when I was a kid I helped my uncle bring in the harvest-he used a threasher,” he wrote during the Wichita State-Louisville game, explaining the Kansas-based team’s name of the Shockers. “First you had to cut the grain and put in in a shock and then transport it to the threasher. the combine did all the jobs at one time.”

So welcome to Twitter, Mr. Jackson. And thanks for sharing your thoughts on the end of an unforgettable season for Syracuse basketball fans. We’ll see Boeheim back as coach in the ACC next year — and I’ll be back with more lipreading tweets during games. And hopefully we’ll all see Jackson back coaching in the NBA soon.