Thursday, December 29, 2011

Best Songs of 2011: Bonus Finds

Like many music bloggers, I recently posted my top 10 songs of the year.  Being a music fan, of course I had to check out the other lists from around the internet.  After exhaustively going through the lists of my favorite music blogs, I have found 5 more songs which are worth checking out.

1. Stepdad - My Leather My Fur My Nails
Stepdad is an electronic pop band from Michigan who have released an EP and this is the lead single from the album.  I love this kind of music, and what's great is the rest of the album is just as good.  They remind me of a happy version of The Bloodhound Gang.  Here is the video for their song.  Note: it is a very strange video, so you might want to just listen to the song. 

2. Dragonette - Pick Up the Phone
Dragonette is a cool Canadian band with an electronic sound and pop likeability.  They have a nice female lead singer and good songwriting.  I have heard several good songs from them so far and this one is my favorite.  I would definitely keep them on my radar.

3. Clams Casino - I'm God
Clams Casino is a new innovative hip hop producer from New Jersey.  With so many beats sounding the same these days, Clams is really stretching the boundaries by producing atmospheric beats that are at times even better without vocals over them.  Here is one of his instrumental hits called I'm God.

4. Azealia Banks - 212
Azealia Banks is like a cross between Nicki Manaj and Santigold.  In this song she comes through with 4 distinct vocal styles over a pumping house beat produced by Lazy Jay.  The vocals are equally dirty as they are brilliant.  Expect big things from her in the near future. 

5. Danny Banks - Monopoly
Danny Banks has an intense raw rap style which really stands out over the seas of rappers out there these days.  His personal style and outlook on the hip hop scene is different as well.  Monopoly has a bunch of punchlines over an electronic buzzing beat.  Get this one for free off his new album.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Best Shows of 2011 - Top 20

I love watching tv so this year I decided to make a list of the best tv shows of the year.  I had originally intended to make a top 10 list, but there were so many good shows, I decided to extended it to a top 20 list.  Because I don't have cable or satellite tv, most of these shows are major network shows so keep that in mind if some of your favorite shows from premium channels are not on here. These are my favorite shows of 2011.

1. Breaking Bad
This show does get a lot of praise from fans and critics alike, and it is well deserved.  Bryan Cranston and the entire cast make this show thrilling and dramatic to watch week after week.  Having finished up it's 4th season, this was a good one, but not my favorite of the series.  Still, I am very much looking forward to the next season. 

2. Big Brother
This is one of the most addictive reality shows out there.  Big Brother has been on for over 10 seasons and I only recently started watching it a couple years ago.  It airs 3 times a week and I make sure to catch every episode.  The drama and scheming that plays out among the house guests is exciting to watch.  I can't wait until next season!

3. Secret Millionaire
This show doesn't get as much attention as some of the other shows, but it is one of my favorites.  In this one, Millionaires go undercover into poor communities and get to know people.  At the end of the week, they give money to the people who are in need.  It is a good hearted show that makes a difference in the lives of the people on it.  We need more shows on tv like this one.

4. Rules of Engagement
Another great show that does not get talked about very much is Rules of Engagement.  It is one of the best comedies on tv right now.  The characters are likeable and the writing is very funny.  This show has been on for several seasons for a reason.  If you like sit-coms and haven't seen this one, give it a chance.

5. Human Target
Human Target was a fantastic action drama that had it's second and unfortunately final season this year.  It's kind of like Mission Impossible each week where Chance and his crew have to save someone from being killed.  The characters were great and the episodes were fun and exciting.  If you missed this one, be sure to watch it online or on dvd.

6. Parks and Recreation
Parks and Rec is on a lot of people's best shows of the year list and for good reason. It is another one of the most funny shows on tv right now.  They have a great cast who work well together.  It is similar to The Office in terms of style, but as The Office has gone downhill, Parks is at the top of its game.

7. So You Think You Can Dance
You don't have to be into dancing to like this show.  I'm not a dancer, but I love watching SYTYCD for the contestants, judges, and of course the lovely host Kat Deeley.  This competition show finds America's favorite dancer each year.  The talent is amazing showcasing all different styles of dance, and the contestants themselves are just as great as we learn about them throughout the season.

8. Hell's Kitchen
You either love him or hate him.  I happen to really enjoy watching Gordon Ramsay and specifically his show Hell's Kitchen.  In this one, a group of chefs compete each week to become the next head chef at a nice restaurant.  There is tons of drama and action in each episode as you might expect with chef Ramsay.

9. America's Next Top Model
Ok, this one is a bit of a guilty pleasure.  ANTM had it's All Star season this year where they brought back some of the most popular models from the past 15 seasons. While I am not a fan of Tyra herself, I do enjoy this show.  There is a nice combination of reality drama mixed with artistic photography and competition.  This season had a lot of great contestants as well as some controversy.

10. Friday Night Lights
FNL had it's 5th and final season this year.  I did not even watch the first 4 seasons, but I got hooked on this last one and I'm glad I did.  The show was like a movie following this football coach, his family, the players, and the community in a small town.  There was a lot of good acting and the story was well written.

11. America's Next Great Restaurant
This was a new show that debuted this year where a group of restaurant entrepreneurs compete with each other to get the support and funding to open a new restaurant chain. Each week they competed to developed their brand and their food while being judged by experts in the food industry.  It was a good show and I hope it comes back for another season.

12. Outsourced
Outsourced was a new comedy that premiered this year but unfortunately was canceled after the first season.  It did not get a lot of support, but I really enjoyed the show and thought it was original and funny.  The show follows an American who was sent to India to manage a telemarketing group.  There were many lovable characters and hilarious moments throughout the season. 

13. Undercover Boss
In this show, CEO's of companies go undercover in their own business to see how it really is as an entry level worker in their company.  They get to see what goes on behind the scenes in their own company and find out what people really think about them.  This is another feel good show where at the end, the CEO rewards the good employees for their hard work and dedication to the company.

14. Man Up
Man Up was another new comedy that got overlooked and ultimately canceled before it even finished it's first season.  This was once of the funniest new comedies on TV, but apparently did not get high enough ratings.  It follows a group of guys, and their relationships with each other and their families.  It's hard to describe, but the characters are very funny and this one is definitely worth watching.  You can see the final unaired episodes on or Hulu. 

15. Globe Trekker
Globe Trekker is a travel show that follows different guides as the venture to far off destinations around the world.  It is always interesting and relaxing to watch and learn about distant cities and countries from the comfort of your own home.  The show is well produced and the guides are very likeable.

16. X-Factor
Simon Cowell's new singing competition show debut in the US this year and overall it was pretty good.  It was fresh departure from American Idol which I have grown tired of.  In X-Factor individuals or groups of just about any age can try out for a spot on the show.  There were a lot of emotional moments and amazing singing as they found America's next pop stars.

17. Same Name
Same Name was a fun show that took celebrities and regular people who happened to have the same name, and had them switch lives for a week.  The famous person lives the normal live, and the normal person lives like the famous person.  The results are entertaining as you might imagine.

18. America's Got Talent
This was another one of those big budget talent competition shows.  What I like about this one is the diversity of the talent.  You get to see a lot of unique acts performing incredible feats as they compete to win a grand prize of money and a Vegas show. 

19. Love In The Wild 
Love In The Wild was a new reality show that took a bunch of singles and put them in Costa Rica to compete in challenges while being paired up randomly with each other.  Each week they could stay with their partner or switch.  The lowest performing group would be sent home.  Overall the show was fun to watch and the scenery of Costa Rica was beautiful.

20. Raising Hope
Rounding out our top 20 shows of the year is the light hearted comedy Raising Hope which follows a young dad, his baby, and his wacky family.  The show has some great characters and is different enough to stay fresh and bring the laughs each week. 

Check out the best tv shows of 2012 here

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

10 Best Youtube Channels of 2011

One of my favorite things to do each day is check my subscriptions feed on Youtube for new videos that have been posted. The combination of Youtube plus the subscriptions feature is a great because it lets you keep track of your favorite Youtubers and get notifications about the new videos they upload.

I follow over 100 different channels and in this post I share my top 10 picks for 2011. These channels were active in 2011 and produced high quality content. For this list, I tried to stay away from the super popular channels that everyone knows about so if you are wondering why some of those are not on here, that is the reason.

Here are my top 10 favorite Youtube channels of 2011:

1. BF vs GF / Prank vs Prank
Jesse and Jeana from BFvsGF and PrankvsPrank have had a huge year and that is why they are number 1 on the list. They are a couple from the New Jersey/Philadelphia area who play pranks on each other and vlog their daily lives for us to watch each day. They are fun, entertaining, and have a loving relationship.
This is one of my favorite pranks where Jeana messes with Jesse using a universal remote.

2. Barely Political / Key of Awesome
Mark and Todd from Barely Political are the multi-talented duo behind the Key of Awesome music video parodies, puppet sketches, and various other comedic videos. They are masters of creating different characters and constructing laugh out loud worthy videos.
In this sketch, they have to decide on who should be fired from the team.

3. Simple Pickup
Simple Pickup consists of 3 guys who go out in public and try to pick up girls using a variety of odd tactics such as using quotes, dressing in costume, and behaving in an unconventional manner. This channel is as much entertaining as it is educational. Their videos will amaze you and make you laugh at the same time.
Here is the first one they did where they used internet references to pick up girls.

4. Bad Lip Reading
I have mentioned BLR several times over the past year because I have become a huge fan. In case you've never heard of them, Bad Lip Reading is a channel that takes music videos and completely turns them into new songs with different music and vocals. The results are remarkably good as original songs are created in the process. Their talent even earned them a spot in my 10 Best Songs of the Year list.
In this video, Justin Bieber and the guy from Rascal Flatts sing passionately about jumping beans.

5. Mediocre Films
Greg Benson from Mediocre Films has been around for a while, but recently he has put out some of the most hilarious and groundbreaking videos earning him a well deserved spot in the top 10 Youtube channels list. He does pranks, interviews, and the occasional music video, all which are likely to make you laugh.
In this video, Greg takes a simple idea such as pointing and uses it to prank people on the street.

6. The Wine Kone
Tony Wine is part creepy, part innovative, and part comedy genius. He is sort of like a dark horse in the Youtube scene, yet his talent is undeniable and you will be giggling at his videos even if you know it is wrong.
Here's one where he tells a story about an awkward interaction he had with a stranger.

7. Melissav87
Melissa Villasenor gained attention this year with her impressions act on the show America’s Got Talent. She was great on that show, and lucky for us, she has a Youtube channel where she posts her videos doing celebrity impressions and original characters.
Here's a reel where she does 21 different impressions.

8. MyHarto
Hannah Hart is a lovable young woman who is known for her Youtube series "My Drunk Kitchen" where she haphazardly cooks a dish while getting drunk in the process. While the food may not always turn out well, the video always do.
Here's a music video she made with Andrew from Songs to Wear Pants To.

9. Chess Club Comedy
I just recently discovered this sketch comedy group and while their channel is new, the makers of the videos have been doing their thing for a while and it shows. With just a couple videos released so far, both hilarious, this is definitely one of the channels to keep on your radar for the next year.
In this video, a husband loses his cool when his wife makes him guess too much.

10. Dave and Ethan
Dave and Ethan are a comedy duo who make videos where they interact with other people either by dating or interviewing.  They also tour the country and perform comedy bits for live audiences.
In this video, they go on the subway and try to pick up girls with a variety of tactics and pickup lines. 

If you liked these videos, please leave a comment below. What are some of your favorite Youtube channels?

Check out my previous top 10 Youtube channel list with some different channels and videos here.

To see the 10 Best Youtube Channels for 2012 go here.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

10 Best Songs of 2011

2011 was a great year in music which made selecting the 10 best songs all the more difficult.  Over the past year I have collected a wide variety of songs and reviewed all of them to come up with the top 10 picks of the year.  Some of the guidelines for this list include:

- No artist repeats throughout the list.
- Song does not have to be released in 2011, it could be the year before.
- Omission of super popular songs.

Here are my picks for the top 10 songs of 2011:

1. Outasight - Tonight is the Night

Outasight is a singer/rapper who broke into mainstream this year with his hit Tonight is the Night which was featured in a Pepsi commercial.  This song has all the makings of a "song of the year" including good production, catchiness, and overall likeability.  Outasight's music is a fresh mix of funk, pop, and hip hop.  If you like these styles, be sure to look him up as he has a bunch of other great songs.

2. Demi Lavato - Skyscraper

Demi Lavato comes in at number 2 with this emotional well written song called Skyscraper.  In this song she has been broken down by a relationship, but is rising back like a skyscraper as the lyrics suggest.  This is one of those songs you can really feel.  It's the kind of song that can give you chills.

3. Meghan Tonjes - This Year

Independent singer songwriter Meghan Tonjes has had a huge year.  Gaining popularity from doing cover songs on Youtube, she has made a name for herself and has even released orginal songs such as this one called This Year.  It's an inspirational song that predict how this year is going to be a good one.  The message in this song certainly came true for her.

4. The Grates - Carve Your Name

The Grates are one of my new favorite bands of the year.  They are currently a 2 piece (former 3 piece) band from Australia who make fun, catchy indie rock songs.  This song, Carve Your Name, is not from their newest album, but it is my favorite song from them.  Their lead single from this year, Turn Me On, is also worth checking out.

5. Matisyahu - Miracle

I don't know what is it about Matisyahu, but the guy really knows how to make a hit song.  This one called Miracle debuted late last year.  It is powerful, uplifting, and has a great beat.  Matisyahu is on a hot streak having had his song One Day featured on last year's 10 Best list.

6. Bad Lip Reading - Rockin' All Night Long

Bad Lip Reading is a mysterious Youtube artist who takes other music video and creates completely original music and vocals to go with them by over dubbing the lyrics.  This idea is innovative as is, but when you realize that these songs are professional quality and actually better than the original songs, that's when you know you have something special.  Here's is my favorite of the year from them called Rockin' All Night Long where they used a Taylor Swift video and really made it a bangin' song.   

7. Alicia Keys - Try Sleeping With A Broken Heart

I found this one early in the year and while it is not from 2011, it was so good that I had to feature it in my top 10 songs of the year.  I'm not a huge Alicia Keys fan, but this song really struck a chord with me.  I love the instrumental and the vocals go perfectly with it. 

8. Nicki Minaj ft. Swizz Beatz - Catch Me

Like the previous song, I am not a fan of Nicki Minaj, but the collaboration here with producer Swizz Beatz really made this song a stand out.  The structure and beat are very different from most songs you hear these days.  It has several different elements from rap, to singing, to spacy vocals.  Catch Me is an emotional song with a beat that stays interesting even after multiple listens. 

9. Kylie Minogue - Get Outta My Way

I found this song through a Youtube video where a guy named Phil had it playing in his headphones while he danced around the subway among unsuspecting passengers.  Get Outta My Way is a catchy dance pop song with loops and layers that will get stuck in your head if you are not careful. 

10. Small Black - Moon Killer

It was tough to round out this list, but after much deliberation, I selected this song by a New York electronic band called Small Black.  The song Moon Killer has a sweeping instrumental and wondrous vocals that fill out the track and make it dreamlike.  Enjoy!

If you liked the songs on this list, be sure to leave a comment below!

Check out last years list: Top 11 Songs of 2010.

Also check out the Ten Best Songs of 2012

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Music Recommendations: Small Black, Avicii, Skizzy Mars

I'm getting excited for my top 10 songs of 2011 blog which will be posted in a couple of weeks, but until then, I thought I would share 3 songs that you should check out in the mean time.

First up is a song called Moon Killer by a group called Small Black.  I don't know too much about the group.  I found this song while browsing some music blogs.  The song has a dreamy electronic sound with vocals to match.  Have a listen.
Small Black - Moon Killer

Next is a new song by Avicii and Nicky Romero.  Apparently it is a leak and hasn't officially been named yet, but it does use a sample by Justice from the song D.A.N.C.E..  The song is much of what you would expect from Avicii with a danceable beat and catchy melodies.  Try not to get this one stuck in your head ofter 1 listen.
Avicii and Nicky Romero - D.A.N.C.E.?
(Track Removed)

Lastly is a song by a rapper named Skizzy Mars called Tara.  While I don't really care for the rapper himself, the instrumental is great with samples from Gwen Stefani.  Not too much else to say, so enjoy!
Skizzy Mars - Tara

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Nielson Ratings Need to Be Replaced

The Nielson ratings system needs to be abolished.  If you don't know what it is, it is an ancient system of tracking what a small percentage of the country is watching on tv.  These ratings are then used to decide which shows will be kept on the air and which ones will be canceled.

The problem is, they are not working.  Good shows are constantly getting canceled and bad shows are constantly being kept on the air.  I'm convinced these Nielson ratings are incredibly inaccurate to what people are actually watching.

If we are going to base so much on ratings, it needs to be a much better system.  Every viewer must be accounted for, not just a tiny percentage of "Nielson Families".  Does anyone even know someone who participates in these ratings?  I sure don't.  All shows watched need to be accounted for and in all formats including online, recorded, mobile etc.

I am tired of seeing great shows getting canceled because of low Nielson ratings.  Why has this system not been updated?  There have been so many advancements in technology and yet the ratings system is still the same as it has been in the past. Come on tv industry.  Something has to be done about this.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Signature Dishes - Cheap, Healthy, Easy to Prepare Meals

I don't do a lot of cooking, but I do have a few dishes I make that I thought I would share with you.  These meals are healthy and easy to make, not to mention, they are very affordable.  Below you will find the ingredients, directions on how to make it, and a picture of how it looks when it's done.  

Rice with Black Beans and Mixed Vegetables

Ingredients: Instant Brown Rice (Uncle Bens), Black Beans (Bush's), Green Giant Frozen Mixed Vegetables (Broccoli and Peppers) in the box, Butter.

Directions: Preparing this is very easy.  Cook the rice according to the box.  It takes about 10 minutes.  Cook the veggies in the microwave from a couple minutes.  Warm up the beans in the microwave for about 20 seconds.  Put some butter on the rice and then mix everything together on the plate.  You can decide on the amounts of each depending on your serving size.  The cost for the meal is under $2.

Pasta with Mixed Vegetables 

Ingredients: Pasta (Barilla Mezzi Rigatoni), Marinara Sauce (Rinaldi No Salt Added), Green Giant Mixed Vegetables (Carrot, Cucumber, Green Beans) in the box, Butter.

Directions: This one is similar to the previous dish except it is pasta instead of rice.  Cook the pasta according to the directions on the box.  Cook the vegetables in the microwave for a couple minutes.  Put the pasta on the plate, add some butter, and put the vegetables on top, and you are ready to go!  Like the rice dish, this one cost less than $2 for the meal.

Tips: I usually get at least 2 meals out of each preparation, and 2 preparations for each box of pasta and rice, so it comes out to about 4 meals per box.  You can substitute different ingredients and brands, for example, using a different rice or pasta, or a different kind of vegetable.  For health tips, I recommend not using a lot of butter to keep the saturated fat down.  Also for the sauce, look for low sodium varieties to keep the sodium content down.

I hope you like these quick, healthy, economical recipes.  If you try them, let me know what you think!