Turn It Up 2012: My top 10 songs, albums of the year (and then some)

For some, 2012 was the year “Twilight” ended but the world didn’t. For me, it was another chance to discover great music from surprising sources — when I was obsessed with ’90s big beat like The Chemical Brothers, who would’ve guessed that 15 years later I’d become a fan of alt country (Drive-By Truckers! Tift Merritt!) or folk rock (Brandi Carlile!) or Swedish indie pop (Jens Lekman! First Aid Kit!)?? My tastes have changed, evolved, and broadened over the years — perhaps even more so now that I don’t work in radio and my hunger for finding great new artists is just as strong as ever. I love reading year-end music lists, and then comparing them to my own. Below are my favorite songs, albums (and then some) of 2012. Tune in and turn it up, kids!

BEST SONGS OF 2012
10. R. Kelly – “Fool For You”
9. Missy Higgins – “If I’m Honest”
8. The Shins – “Simple Song”
7. Elle Varner – “So Fly”
6. Shearwater – “You As You Were”
5. The Coup – “Magic Clap”
4. Frank Ocean – “Bad Religion”
3. Regina Spektor – “Don’t Leave Me (Ne Me Quitte Pas)”
2. Blackberry Smoke – “Everybody Knows She’s Mine”
1. Jason Mraz – “I Won’t Give Up”

BEST POP/ETC. SONGS OF 2012
10. Usher – “Climax” (Flosstradamus and Diplo Remix)
9. Nas – “Reach Out” f/ Mary J. Blige
8. Little Mix – “Wings”
7. Rita Ora – “How We Do (Party)”
6. will.i.am – “Scream and Shout” f/ Britney Spears
5. Ellie Goulding – “Anything Could Happen”
4. fun. – “Some Nights”
3. Gotye – “Somebody That I Used To Know” f/ Kimbra
2. One Direction – “What Makes You Beautiful”
1. Carly Rae Jepsen – “Call Me Maybe”

SONGS I LOVED AND WAS OBSESSED WITH FOR TWO WEEKS
10. Lana Del Rey vs. Notorious B.I.G. – “Notorious Origin”
9. Adele – “Skyfall”
8. Kid Koala – “3 Bit Blues” <— blues meets hip-hop turntablism
7. Jackson 5 – "If The Shoe Don't Fit"
6. The Rolling Stones – "Doom and Gloom"
5. Chiddy Bang – "Ray Charles"
4. Rye Rye – "Never Will Be Mine" f/ Robyn
3. Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros – "Mayla"
2. Carolina Chocolate Drops – "You Be Illin'" <— Run DMC cover for Record Store Day
1. Masters in France – "Playing With My Friends"

2012’s BEST ALBUMS
*Honorable mentions: Alabama Shakes, Mumford & Sons, The Avett Brothers, Plan B, Bettye LaVette, The Little Willies, Jason Mraz, Fatboy Slim
10. Joss Stone – The Soul Sessions Vol. 2
9. Green Day – Uno!, Dos!, !Tre! <— yes, that's three albums
8. Jens Lekman – I Know What Love Isn’t
7. Melanie Fiona – The MF Life
6. Grace Potter – The Lion The Beast The Beat
5. The Gaslight Anthem – Handwritten
4. Brandi Carlile – Bear Creek
3. Frank Ocean – Channel Orange
2. Solange – True (EP)
1. K’Naan – Country, God or the Girl <— guests incl. Bono, Keith Richards, will.i.am, Mark Foster, Nas, Nelly Furtado

BEST SHOWS I SAW LIVE IN 2012
5. Arrested Development / Sophistafunk
4. ‘Here Lies Love’ (musical written by David Byrne and Fatboy Slim)
3. Yellow Dubmarine
2. LL Cool J / DJ Z-Trip
1. DJ Shadow

THE YEAR’S BIGGEST MUSIC DISAPPOINTMENTS
5. Re: Generation (collaborations like Skrillex with The Doors, Pretty Lights with Ralph Stanley & LeAnn Rimes? Good, fun concept but bad sounds.)
4. The Avalanches (still no new album yet! Again!)
3. Dubstep (the genre’s already starting to sound played out)
2. The Civil Wars (everyone just discovered how awesome they are, and they broke up)
1. The Ting Tings (their second album bombed… what happened to all those fun hand claps??!?)

What were your favorite songs/albums/etc of the year? Leave a comment below! I love listening to and discovering great new music!

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My top 10 favorite posts on syracuse.com (so far)

This week marks my one year anniversary working at syracuse.com — it was in August 2010 that I made the decision to leave radio behind and embark on a new career, and I’ve especially enjoyed the opportunity it’s given me to write more. Among other things I do for syracuse.com, I cover a number of topics including entertainment, technology, social media, Syracuse University, viral videos, Central New York events, business news, concerts coming to CNY (see: Show Patrol), online trends and more.

Here are my top 10 favorite posts that I’ve written in the past year:
10. Why is your mom posting “I like it on the floor” on Facebook?
This was one of my first articles, and I enjoyed raising a little snark over a ridiculous web trend (though for a good cause, to support breast cancer awareness).
9. Did your zodiac sign change? Central New York is having an identity crisis
No, no one’s zodiac sign changed but in January everyone seemed to be freaking out at the “news” that it might have. I collected local reactions on social media, and it became one of the most popular articles I’ve ever written.
8. Syracuse University named No. 12 party school in nation
Princeton Review’s comparison of schools in terms of “partying” always struck me as impossible to quantify, but this was the highest SU had been on the list since before I was an SU student (2002-2005) so current students, alumni and CNY residents all took notice of the new ranking.
7. Is Jennifer Aniston a homewrecker just like Angelina Jolie?
For more than five years, fans of Aniston have praised her acting (which she’s never won an Emmy or Oscar for) mostly out of sympathy after Jolie effectively “stole” her husband. Turns out Aniston basically stole her current boyfriend from another woman, too.
6. Is May 21st the end of the world? How would you spend your last night in CNY?
People mocked Harold Camping’s prediction that May 21 would bring the Rapture, but I wanted to raise a different question. If the world really were to end, how would you spend your last night? I interviewed people in CNY for a video and article and enjoyed hearing their responses.
5. Viral Video of the Day: Baby finds mom blowing nose both terrifying and hilarious
Every day I pick a video that’s gone (or going) viral to write about on syracuse.com — this was the most popular one, and despite my resistance to enjoy baby videos I still find this one hilarious and charming.
4. Michael Jordan’s daughter Jasmine prepares to start college at Syracuse University
This one was interesting because through Twitter I discovered — and subsequently I broke the news — that MJ’s daughter was starting at SU this fall. Some people criticized it for not being “newsworthy,” but the story went insanely viral. TV, radio, and more sites picked up the story, including Huffington Post, Fuse and BET. Jasmine’s number of Twitter followers grew from 2,200 to 3,500 in just days.
3. Who owns the pictures you upload on the web? Probably not you.
I researched copyright ownership rules of photo-sharing sites like Facebook, Flickr, Picasa, Twitpic and more — and wanted people (especially professional photographers and models) to realize that posting photos on such sites usually means giving up ownership and allowing them to sell/license your images.
2. Crazy concert riders? K-Rockathon bands demand booze, DVDs, baby wipes and a garden gnome
I also did a photo retrospective of K-Rockathon’s last 15 years and backstage coverage of this year’s event, but I especially enjoyed reading through bands’ backstage demands because I’m a big music geek.
1. AT&T vs. Verizon iPhone – A comparison chart to help you choose [Infographic]
I created my first infographic to help readers pick the best iPhone for their needs. Though Verizon’s data plans are no longer unlimited, the rest of the information is still accurate and relevant today to people choosing smartphone carriers.

Thanks for reading!

Happy birthday, Freddie Mercury: My top 10 Queen songs


September 5, 2011 would have been Freddie Mercury’s 65th birthday. (Happy birfday, Freddie!) The enigmatic Queen singer was 45 when he died of AIDS in 1991, twenty years ago, but he left behind an awesome library of music that few bands have been able to even measure up to. Whether you want to call it operatic rock, vocal metal, or just straight-up classic rock, the music of Queen from 1973 to 1989 was just phenomenal.

Have you ever met someone who says they don’t like Queen? Or doesn’t know their music?? I hope not. If you ever do, you have two options — either shun them for life and never speak to them again, or have them listen to a dozen songs and show them the error of their ways. Start with these ten songs…

My Top 10 Queen Songs:
1. I Want To Break Free
2. Bohemian Rhapsody
3. Under Pressure (with David Bowie)
4. Somebody To Love
5. We Will Rock You
6. Fat Bottomed Girls
7. Crazy Little Thing Called Love
8. Don’t Stop Me Now
9. I Was Born To Love You
10. Stone Cold Crazy

Mercury wrote or co-wrote seven of those ten songs. Of course, usually I write top 5 lists but it’s hard enough to reduce Queen’s music to just 10 great songs. I’d be much more comfortable with a top 25 list, so I could include classics like “Another One Bites The Dust” and “We Are The Champions” and “Let Me Live” and “Killer Queen” and… you get the idea. (I’m not a fan of the Queen + Paul Rodgers or the Queen + Robbie Williams material, but I still respect the musicians’ efforts. It’s just not the same without Freddie.)

By the way, did you know that Freddie’s real name was Farrokh Bulsara? He spent the vast majority of his life in London, England, but he was born in Zanzibar and lived in India for some time. In 2000, when I was 16, I visited London with my family and one of the places we saw was Freddie Mercury’s home where fans have spray-painted the powerful messages of his lyrics along the gate surrounding the house. Here’s a picture of me standing in front of it, next to the title of my favorite Queen song, “I Want To Break Free”:

Freddie Mercury's London home

16-year-old Geoff standing outside Freddie Mercury's London home in 2000. Were those shorts ever fashionable?

Top 10 Funniest 911 Calls

The 911 emergency phone number is just that – for emergencies.  But with the advent of the internet, it’s so easy to spread just how dumb people are and brand them for life as “the McEmergency lady” when you hear about them calling 911 three times to complain that McDonald’s ran out of Chicken McNuggets.  And believe it or not, she barely even makes the top five.  Here’s the rest of the Top 10 Funniest 911 Calls (from Manofest.com):

10. Man calls 911 after having an erection for four days straight 
9. Redneck hits a deer with his car
8. Burger King is out of Lemonade
7.  Mom doesn’t like her disrespectful son (and calls him not-so-nice NSFW names)
6. Kid calls 911 for help on a math problem
5. 911 dispatcher makes a horribly inappropriate joke (“OK, did you want us to come over and shoot her?”)
4. McDonald’s is out of Chicken McNuggets (she got arrested after calling 911 three times)
3. DWI suspect calls 911 as train hits Ferrari he left on tracks (this happened last week!)
2. Fat woman upset that Burger King got her order wrong
1. The funniest 911 call ever:

I love how the reporter can’t keep a straight face after airing the call.  Who could?  Afroman?