Top Songs of 2018

Here’s my annual list based on play counts from iTunes. This year I listed to 1938 different songs, with the highest totals coming from Exotica or Surf bands. I listened to the Franz Ferdinand album a lot when it was released early in the year, but this was not one of their better albums.

Pleased to see “El Atacor!” and “Mr Moai’s Mash” at the top of the list, as I thought these were the two best songs this year. Videos are shown below, and the Moai video in particular is pretty incredible.

Song Artist Album Plays
El Atacor! Tikiyaki 5-0 Tone Control 17
Mr. Moai’s Mash Jason Lee and the R.I.P. Tides Monsters and Mai Tais 16
Taboo Tikiyaki 5-0 The Exotic Sounds of Tikiyaki 5-0 – EP 14
Sidewinder Tikiyaki 5-0 Tone Control 14
Always Ascending Franz Ferdinand Always Ascending 13
Elenor Bigsby Tikiyaki 5-0 Tone Control 13
Sit Next to Me Foster the People Sacred Hearts Club 12
Lotus Eater Foster the People Sacred Hearts Club 12
Song of Delilah Tikiyaki 5-0 The Exotic Sounds of Tikiyaki 5-0 – EP 12
Leave The Gun… Tikiyaki 5-0 Tone Control 12
The Ipcress Fil Tikiyaki 5-0 Tone Control 11
The Quiet Surf Tikiyaki 5-0 Tone Control 11
Miserlou The Tikigraphs Tikigraphs 10
Supernova Tikiyaki 5-0 The Exotic Sounds of Tikiyaki 5-0 – EP 9
Exotic in Blues The Tikiyaki Orchestra Idol Worship and Other Primitive Pleasures 9
S.H.C. Foster the People III – Single 8
Lazy Boy Franz Ferdinand Always Ascending 8
Paper Cages Franz Ferdinand Always Ascending 8
Feel the Love Go Franz Ferdinand Always Ascending 8
Slow Don’t Kill Me Slow Franz Ferdinand Always Ascending 8
Ride Or Die (feat. Foster the People) The Knocks Ride Or Die (feat. Foster the People) – Single 8
Sway The Tikigraphs Tikigraphs 8
Girl From Ipanema The Tikigraphs Tikigraphs 8
Return to Orchid Isle The Tikiyaki Orchestra Idol Worship and Other Primitive Pleasures 8
Esplanade The Tikiyaki Orchestra Idol Worship and Other Primitive Pleasures 8


Favorite Albums of 2017

It was a weird year music-wise for me. I listened to a total of 2345 songs according to iTunes play counts, which is up a lot from last year. Most of the increase was in the Exotica genre, where I loaded up on releases from past years including Tiki Joe’s Ocean and Tikiyaki Orchestra/Tikiyaki 5-0.

In terms of albums released in 2017, here is my ranking.

1. Voodoo III – Robert Drasnin
Plucked from obscurity in the 1990s when his 1959 exotica album Voodoo was discovered by tikiphiles, Drasnin spent his later years working on two follow-ups. Voodoo III was recorded just before his death and released in a limited edition at Tiki Oasis in 2015. The first “anyone can buy it” release was this year, so we’re counting it as a 2017 release. This is great stuff if you like Exotica, the mostly instrumental mix of jazz and Latin percussion. Voodoo III includes several songs with wordless-vocals. One song features sung lyrics, the appropriately entitled “Aloha.” It’s a great album.

2. Wonderful Wonderful – The Killers
A comeback album featuring one of their best singles, “The Man.” I still like the Killers and saw them live for the first time this year.

3. Number 1 Angel – Charli XCX
I was surprised I liked this “mixtape.” Most songs feature a hip-hop collaborator but I’m still digging Charli’s give-no-fucks attitude. I’m not sure what the genre is called but it is definitely more of a mellower electronica. I like Charli’s more alt/pop leaning material but this will do (I wasn’t a fan of her Pop 2 mixtape released at the end of the year)

4. I Love You Like a Brother – Alex Lahey
Song pop hooks from Australian alternative singer-songwriter Alex Lahey. Her single “Every Day’s the Weekend” was one of the best of the year.

5. Concrete and Gold – Foo Fighters
An OK release from the Foos, with a few songs I thought were really good but mostly were fairly generic. I totally dug the song “Sunday Rain” featuring regular drummer Taylor Hawkins on vocals and guest drummer Paul McCartney (the song does have a Beatles vibe).

6. Songs of Experience – U2
An okay album but nothing special from U2. Nothing overly catchy or memorable but at least I do like listening to it.

7. Witness – Katy Perry
I got this album when I purchased tickets to her concert, so I guess I’ll count it. Follows the more mellow pop trend. I liked the lead single “Chained to the Rhythm” but like most music fans felt this was a step back from the pop hooks we’re used it.

8. Spirit – Depeche Mode
Disappointing release with only one just-okay song “So Much Love.” Otherwise forgettable.

Top Albums of 2016

1- Call of the Islands – Ixtahuele

Call of the Islands by Ixtahuele
Call of the Islands by Ixtahuele

An easy call in what was generally a weak year.  Two years ago I rated Ixtahuele’s Mareld EP as number 4 on my top albums list (2014 was a very strong year), saying it might have ranked higher if it wasn’t just an EP. Well, the three tracks from Mareld returned this year as part of Ixtahuele’s second full-length album. Though maybe a step down from their incredible debut Pagan Rights, this is by no means a let down. These are thirteen original exotica tracks that rank up there with the best of the genre (extremely rare for any exotica group to have an album entirely of original compositions) . Such a fine mix of vibes+piano that would make Arthur Lyman and Martin Denny proud.

2- Honoka & Azita EP – Honoka & Azita

Hawaii’s ukulele sensations finally put out music for purchase after a couple years of YouTube videos. Their surf covers of “Miserlou” and “Wipeout” featured additional musicians but their original tune “Drop In” shows promise beyond novelty.

3- The Exotic Sounds of Tikiyaki 5-0 EP – Tikiyaki 5-0

This is the surf-oriented quartet variant of the Tikiyaki Orchestra, and their EP was a lot of fun. Check out the very good surf version of the exotica classic “Taboo.” I was looking for a modern surf group and this EP didn’t disappoint.

4- Super – Pet Shop Boys

Hard to follow 2013’s Electric album, but the template was largely similar with a focus on dance tracks rather than orchestral or acoustic experimentation. Some very strong tracks, including the single “The Pop Kids.”

5- This is what the truth feels like – Gwen Stefani

All the songs sound the same is sort of a plus and a minus. A big comeback for Stefani who’s last album was the largely forgettable Push and Shove with No Doubt. Though not as varied and dance oriented as Stefani’s first two solo albums, this one does have a great sound and some strong tracks such as “Rare” and “Make Me Like You.”

6- Hardwired… to Self Destruct – Metallica

A solid but unspectacular album from Metallica.

7- Strange Little Birds – Garbage

Ranked last, because it was my least favorite this year and among all the albums from Garbage. Which is not to say it’s awful, just “less awesome.”  Overall, this album had fewer outstanding songs than are typical for the average Garbage album, and the tempo was down too (evidence: the album’s best song “Even Though Our Love is Doomed“).

Most Listened Songs 2016

One of our annual posts here at is my list of most-listened songs. Had some desktop computer issues and so the counts and total played songs are likely somewhat off. I’m transitioning iPhone sync with a new desktop hence this list coming out a bit early. In any case, according to iTunes data I listened to a total of 1852 songs in 2016.

List of top songs include some holdovers from 2015 (including last year’s number one, “Mow That Lawn”). Plus, songs from new albums by Pet Shop Boys and Gwen Stefani. Song of the year was “The Pop Kids” that had the most plays including the various remixes and different versions of the song.

Name Artist Album Plays
Inner Sanctum Pet Shop Boys Super 30
Mow That Lawn Charli XCX Live At Positivus Festival 2015 26
The Pop Kids Pet Shop Boys Super 26
Hand in the Fire (featuring Charli XCX) Mr. Oizo Hand in the Fire EP 23
Dangerous (feat. Joywave) Big Data 2 22
Same Old Love Selena Gomez Revival 20
One-Hit Wonder Pet Shop Boys The Pop Kids – EP 19
Burn Pet Shop Boys Super 19
The Pop Kids (The Full Story) Pet Shop Boys The Pop Kids – EP 18
No Fun Charli XCX Vinyl: The Essentials (Best of Season 1) 15
Cool for the Summer Demi Lovato Cool for the Summer – Single 15
Cake by the Ocean DNCE SWAAY – EP 15
Kill the Lights (with Nile Rodgers) Alex Newell, Jess Glynne & DJ Cassidy Vinyl: The Essentials (Best of Season 1) 14
Make me like you Gwen Stefani This what the truth feels like 14
Where would i be? Gwen Stefani This what the truth feels like 13
In Bits Pet Shop Boys The Pop Kids – EP 13
Truth Gwen Stefani This what the truth feels like 12
Cascades Metric Pagans in Vegas 12
Play For Today The Cure Seventeen Seconds 11
You’re my favorite Gwen Stefani This what the truth feels like 11
Send me a picture Gwen Stefani This what the truth feels like 11
Other Side Metric Pagans in Vegas 11
Office Towers Escalate Metric Pagans in Vegas 11
Woman Like You Nasty Bits Vinyl: The Essentials (Best of Season 1) 11
The Pop Kids (Offer Nissim Drama Mix) Pet Shop Boys The Pop Kids (Remixes) – EP 11
Happiness Pet Shop Boys Super 11
Twenty-Something Pet Shop Boys Super 11
Pazzo! Pet Shop Boys Super 11
Undertow Pet Shop Boys Super 11

Favorite Albums of 2015

I purchased nine albums/extended plays released in 2015, and here’s my ranking.

Veruca Salt - Ghost Notes
Veruca Salt - Ghost Notes

1. Veruca Salt – Ghost Notes
One of my favorite albums from the 1990’s was the Veruca Salt album Eight Arms to Hold You, which sadly preceeded Nina Gordon’s departure from the group. A decade plus later the full original line-up reunited for an excellent combination of hard riffs, melodies, and harmonies. One of my favorite moments was the line from “Empty Bottle” that went “Banging my head against a wall of sound.” That’s Veruca Salt in a nutshell.

2. Metric – Pagans in Vegas
Canadian alternative vets Metric went into a very synth-y direction on their latest album. I really liked some of this material including some instrumental and experimental songs such as “The Face” and “Office Towers Escalate.” Mainstream songs such as “The Governess” and “The Shade” show that Metric is still one of the best groups at producing catchy alternative rock.

3. Editors – In Dream
Another nice post-punk revivial record from Editors, who’s last record I skipped. They too went into a more synth-heavy direction on this album. I also liked the alternative versions on the extended version of the album.

4. FFS – FFS
The most unexpected release was this collaboration from Franz Ferdinand and Sparks. While some songs felt like “Sparks” songs or “Franz Ferdinand” songs that were brought to the project, the epic “Collaborations Don’t Work” was seamless blending of styles. Some very strong material here, and it’s nice when popular “students” do effective and enjoyable projects with their “masters.”

5. Colin Hay – Next Year People
Another effective album of catchy and reflective material from Hay, who’s live show I caught this year as well. While in concert it’s mostly Hay and a guitar, the record features a full band sound. Hay’s voice is as effective as ever and this is one of his best solo efforts. I pre-ordered and received an autographed copy too.

6. Madona – Rebel Heart
There were lots of tracks I really liked, including the title song available on the extended version of the album. But there was a lot of weird and hip-hoppy material that really isn’t my thing (example: “Bitch I’m Madonna”).

7. David Gilmour – Rattle That Lock
The title track is amazing, but the rest of the album isn’t really that catchy. Kind of ironic that I prefer last year’s mostly instrumental Pink Floyd release to this.

8. Foo Fighters – Saint Cecilia EP
Their last album was nearly the top of my list in 2014, and one of my favorites of the last 10 years. But Saint Cecilia is pretty generic stuff. Which is okay since it was released for free as a bonus to their loyal fans.

9. Trans-Siberian Orchestra – Letters from the Labrynith
This came along with a purchase to their live concert and suffice to say that I’d have never bought it on it’s own.

Top 15 Albums of the Past Ten Years

Interesting the way that my favorite albums seemed to be clustered in certain years. This list is presented chronologically with no specific ranking.

Charli XCX – Sucker (2014)

Foo Fighters – Sonic Highways (2014)

Pet Shop Boys – Electric (2013)

Ixtahuele – Pagan Rights (2013)

Infant Sorrow – Get Him to the Greek (2010)

Metric – Fantasies (2009)

Franz Ferdinand – Tonight (2009)

Editors – In this Light and On This Evening (2009)

The Bravery – The Sun and the Moon Complete (2007-2008)

Kelly Clarkson – My December (2007)

Dewey Cox – Walk Hard Soundtrack (2007)

Dave Gahan – Hourglass (2007)

Rock Kills Kid – Are You Nervous? (2006)

Gwen Stefani – The Sweet Escape (2006)

Audioslave – Revelations (2006)

Top Albums of 2014

I purchased ten albums/extended plays released in 2014, and here’s my ranking.

1. The Black Keys – True Blue

black_keys_turn_blue_album_coverThis album reminds me of the kind of albums that were released in the 1970s, with an unstructured and relaxed vibe on many of the songs including the outstanding lead track “Weight of Love.” Excellent mix of guitar, drums, keyboards, and bass in roughly equal measure.

2. Foo Fighters – Sonic Highways

I really liked Dave Grohl’s 2013 Sound City film and soundtrack and Sonic Highways continues the musical exporation as an official Foo Fighters record. The HBO series was really fascinating and at times moving, and the musical tracks on this album are outstanding as well. The light keyboard touches are new for the band and a series of guest musicians made an impact too. None of those guests were better than Joe Walsh who’s killer solo on “Outside” might be the best guitar solo in years.

3. Charli XCX – Sucker

Had this been released earlier in the year it might have been number one. I really dig Charli’s whole thing, including her punkish F-you attitude. I wish more “pop” had the kind of analog instrumentation present on Sucker, including great use of guitars.

4. Ixhahuele – Mareld EP

This was a three-track EP from the Exotica group, following up their 2013 album debut (which was my number one album last year). Mareld is more of a “Les Baxter Exotica” than a “Martin Denny Exotica” record but the results are equally great. “But, Kevin, only three tracks. No wonder it’s high on your list.” To which I would say the EP is penalized on my list for only having those three tracks. This is a killer record.

5. U2 – Songs of the Innocence

So good I bought the CD with extra tracks even though Bono and Tim Cook were kind enough to provide it to me for free. Great stuff.

6. Pink Floyd – The Endless River

Surprisingly interesting and effective album of mostly instrumentals, including the bonus track “Nervana.” I loved Floyd’s ’94 effort The Division Bell and the material taken from those sessions is really good.

7. Foster the People – Supermodel

I thought there were some killer songs including my personal favorite, “Pseudologia Fantastica.” I am still liking what Mark Foster and company are selling.

8. Interpol – El Pintor

I skipped the group’s last album in 2010 but El Pintor definitely had a number of great tracks and proves there’s still live to Post-Punk Revival.

9. AC/DC – Rock or Bust

Sounds just like their last album, and the one before that and the one before that. Not that there’s anything wrong with it. Great riffs, but no song hooks that transcended the bluesy hard rock.

10. Stolen Idols – Midnight Offerings

Another modern Exotica group, with Jazz leanings that aren’t always my thing but overall the album was a good purchase. The Baxter covers of “Busy Port” and “Sophisticated Savage” done in a jazzy piano style were well done.

Most Listened To Songs of 2014

I listed to a total of 2669 songs in 2014 and here’s the list of the top 30 based on iTunes play counts. No surprise that spring releases from The Black Keys and Foster the People were high on this chart. Franz Ferdinand‘s 2013 release got lots of plays leading up to attending their concert in April.

Charli XCX‘s “Break the Rules” was played a total of 42 times, counting different remixes and versions in my library. That’s a pretty good showing considering those plays all took place after December 13.

Every year needs a novelty hit, and for me that was the “iPhone (MetroGnome Remix)” that featured riffs on Apple’s iPhone ringtones.

2669 unique songs is a big increase from previous years – 2009 (1431), 2010 (1539), 2011 (1337), 2012 (1479), and 2013 (1836).

Song Artist Album # Plays
Weight of Love The Black Keys Turn Blue 42
Fever The Black Keys Turn Blue 42
Turn Blue The Black Keys Turn Blue 33
In Time The Black Keys Turn Blue 28
Are You What You Want to Be? Foster the People Supermodel 27
The Factory Gates Kaiser Chiefs Education, Education, Education & War 27
Year In Review The Black Keys Turn Blue 25
Ask Yourself Foster the People Supermodel 25
Bullet In the Brain The Black Keys Turn Blue 24
Pseudologia Fantastica Foster the People Supermodel 24
Waiting On Words The Black Keys Turn Blue 23
Outside Foo Fighters Sonic Highways 23
Right Action Franz Ferdinand Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action 22
iPhone (MetroGnome Remix) MetroGnome Single 22
Something From Nothing Foo Fighters Sonic Highways 21
Coming of Age Foster the People Supermodel 21
The Angelic Welcome of Mr. Jones Foster the People Supermodel 20
Love Illumination Franz Ferdinand Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action 20
Mareld Ixtahuele Mareld – Single 20
Tighten Up The Black Keys Brothers (Deluxe) 19
It’s Up to You Now The Black Keys Turn Blue 19
10 Lovers The Black Keys Turn Blue 19
Nevermind Foster the People Supermodel 19
Best Friend Foster the People Supermodel 19
Colors of Hawaiki Ixtahuele Mareld – Single 19
Evil Eye Franz Ferdinand Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action 18
Bullet Franz Ferdinand Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action 18
Lonely Boy The Black Keys Lonely Boy – Single 17
Goodbye Lovers and Friends Franz Ferdinand Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action 17
Dirty Paws Of Monsters and Men My Head Is An Animal 17

40 Favorite Pet Shop Boys Songs

Here’s the list of my 40 favorite Pet Shop Boys songs. 40 seemed like a nice round number and when I tried to keep it to 30 I really felt I was missing some key tracks.  As you can see, this spans the group’s entire career with very few gaps – though does skew towards their early material.

Some stats:

  • Lots of singles, obviously, but also lots of remixes. So average song length is just over 5 minutes
  • 13 of 40 tracks are from singles releases (26 of 40 were singles in some form or another)
  • 7 of 40 tracks are B-sides or bonus tracks
  • 7 of 40 tracks are straight album tracks with no singles release
(Let’s Make Lots of Money) (Shep Pettibone Mastermix)
Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots of Money)
(US 12″) single
Was That What It Was? Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots of Money) single
I Want A Lover Please
Love Comes Quickly Please
Tonight Is Forever Please
Paninaro (Italian Remix) Disco
Suburbia (The Full Horror) Suburbia single
Jack The Lad Suburbia single
It’s A Sin (Disco Mix) It’s a Sin single
You Know Where You Went Wrong It’s a Sin single
What Have I Done To Deserve This? Actually
Rent Actually
Always On My Mind Always On My Mind single
Heart Heart single
Domino Dancing Introspective
It’s Alright It’s Alright single
Don’t Drop Bombs Results (Liza Minelli)
So Hard (Dub) So Hard single
Was It Worth It? (12″) Was It Worth It? single
Theatre Very
KDX 125 Relentless
Can You Forgive Her? (Swing Version) Yesterday, when I Was Mad single
Absolutely Fabulous (Rollo Our Tribe
Tongue In Cheek Mix)
Disco 2
Decadence Disco 2
Paninaro ’95 Paninaro ’95 single
Single Bilingual
Metamorphosis Bilingual
Up Against It Bilingual
For Your Own Good Nightlife
Radiophonic Nightlife
Home and Dry Release
Sexy Northerner Release (Bonus Disc)
Break 4 Love (US Radio Edit) Release (Bonus Disc)
Miracles Pop Art
Love Etc. Yes
Did You See Me Coming? Yes
Leaving Elysium
Axis Electric
Thursday (featuring Example) Electric
Vocal Electric

Favorite Song Right Now: “Leaving” by Pet Shop Boys

I’m started to get excited to see Pet Shop Boys on April 8 at the Fox Theater in Oakland. This was the same venue where they played last year, though in this case this is the kickoff show for their 2014 tour (which means I won’t be able to hear about the songs in the play list). Last year we saw a bunch of folks dressed up for the show, so I’m sure we’ll be seeing many festive outfits at the show in April. The Electric Tour in 2013 was great and while I don’t expect many changes I’m sure some of the songs will be swapped out.

In reviewing the track list from last year’s tour, one of the songs from the group’s 2012 album Elysium seemed to stand out. “Leaving” was the second single from the album, and I may have to revisit my previously negative comments about the album (the first from the group that I didn’t buy). This is a mid-tempo number but does seem to stick in your head after a couple listens. The video for the song is well done and with the black and white cinematography seems to set the tone perfectly.