Smartphones/Twitter in the classroom, an update

Before this semester, I blogged about changing the syllabus of our “Media Copywriting” course (BRC328) to not only discard the old “put your smartphones away in class” trope but to even encourage and embrace the use of technology — specifically Twitter — during class time.

I was pleasantly surprised with how many readers asked for updates, and I’d say: So far, so good. Perhaps better, especially when it has curried creativity.

First I used Twitter for instant feedback, asking the class to give their quick review as I showed things like the classic Charmin campaign referenced in the name of our textbook, Luke Sullivan’s “Hey Whipple, Squeeze This: The Classic Guide to Creating Great Ads.” I always ask for feedback using the #brc328 class hashtag.

Screen Shot 2014-02-24 at 9.22.05 PMSince advertising is about the instantaneous, in-the-moment reaction to content — humans generally think about ads in the moment, not in long-tail analytical ways, I found this very interesting. And found it funny how many times students words like “creepy,” “awkward” and “uncomfortable” to describe old Mr. Whipple spots.

But this week, we had in-class creativity exercises, with Twitter the expressive medium. I asked them to read a story — for example, on The Acting Company appearing on campus this week to stage “Hamlet” and the Tom Stoppard play it inspired, “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.” Some of the responses were bardic nuggets in themselves:
Screen Shot 2014-02-24 at 8.52.34 PMA Shakespeare reference is a plus. Or a good pop culture analogy …

Screen Shot 2014-02-24 at 8.52.54 PMBut this may be my favorite …

Screen Shot 2014-02-24 at 8.53.14 PM

It definitely encourages further use of Twitter during class. It succeeds in breaking up lecture time and finds new ways to include students in both the conversation and creative process. Stay tuned!

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Potential students have questions. Provide answers. Get creative.

A previous blog entry lamented the lame state of FAQ pages and other stale/outmoded non-helpful attempts to help future students. How do we get past that? We listen, we look for creative solutions and we work with our talented current students.

Screen shot 2014-02-10 at 10.16.55 AM

Our most notable effort is the Alyssa Answers Your Questions Q&As with student video blogger Alyssa Levenberg, part of her popular Alyssa Explains It All video blog series. The past two years, she has asked accepted students in our closed Class of 2017 and Class of 2018 Facebook groups to post questions she can answer in video form. The curious students — many of whom are still deciding between Oswego and other schools — have provided plenty of questions and this year (for the second time), Alyssa had so much that she developed a Part One and Part Two to accommodate all the answers.

These are not from-the-guidebook answers and this kind of project could worry any administrators who covet complete control of all communication channels. And while Alyssa gets questions on subjects students wouldn’t ask administrators in the first place, she handles them positively and constructively. She is an ambassador for Oswego (she’s interning with me this year) but I don’t stage manage her work … because, frankly, her video blogs wouldn’t be as successful if she didn’t have this kind of creative freedom. I may come back and say, “hey, maybe you can elaborate on this point for another video,” and sometimes we talk out potential video ideas, but once we sign off on a concept, she runs with it.

And if you’re considering Oswego, of course you would take Alyssa more seriously as a source than some old dude like me. Current students, I like to say, are what prospective students want to be because they can’t wait to get into college and live that life.

Screen shot 2014-02-10 at 10.13.54 AM

“What’s the best dorm to live in?” We heard this countless times, in various forms, in the Class of 2017 group but there is no one answer, because it depends on what you want and what you value. How to communicate this? Again, we decided to get creative and tap our talented students.

The resulting “Why live in ___________?” video series was a team effort. Alex, an awesome contact in Residence Life and Housing (whom we invited to be part of the 2017 group) saw the value and worked with colleagues to find students to “sell” why their hall was a great place to live. My graduate assistant videographer at the time, Kevin Graham, spent a lot of time on interviews and editing, and did a phenomenal job on the finished product.

While not everybody will sit through 13 videos, having the playlist on YouTube — and shared on social media and embedded on our site — means viewers can browse. Others may find individual videos via the power of YouTube (and its parent company, Google) for searches … it’s no coincidence we phrased the title as a question. But it works better than some administrator talking or impersonal virtual tour embedded in an app you have to download because it’s widely accessible and has current students pitching their homes.

We don’t use video for everything. Last year, when we would see multiple questions in our Facebook groups on a particular club or aspect of campus, our interns would blog on that subject and we’d post up the link. In short, we let our audience interest drive some of our creative process. If we value our potential students, we should keep them in mind as we create content. And if current students can serve as virtual ambassadors, entertainingly explaining what college is like, they can connect even better.

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FAQs: the goose barnacles of higher education

In the Middle Ages, even so-called learned men believed in the bizarre duality of goose barnacles and barnacle geese. Noticing that floating barnacles bore great resemblance to local waterfowl, they put 2 and 2 together, and got 22: These animals they dubbed barnacle geese certainly must spring from the fruit they called goose barnacles when the time was right. The two things looked so similar that despite any real evidence (correlation is not causation), it seemed a stout conclusion.

While science has moved past this, I can’t help but notice that we create our share of goose barnacles in higher education: We see what we think perfectly reasonable from our perspective even when it doesn’t resonate with the real world. I’d put the curious creatures known as Frequently Asked Questions/FAQ pages near the top of the list.

Yes, this happened at a school you may have heard of.

Yes, this happened at a school you may have heard of.

Have you visited any college FAQ pages recently? On many, you’ll find a lot of questions, but not necessarily ones that students actually, you know, frequently ask. Not all are as outlandish as “What is the mission statement of the college?” (sorry I’m not making that up), but many FAQs are simply the result of administrators deciding what they want to communicate and working backwards by creating answers then writing questions people would never ask.

Some content experts would like to see FAQ pages eliminated from college websites entirely. They raise a good point: If your website is really good at providing answers within its pages, users will find the answers they need without an FAQ. This is a noble aspiration, but in reality users want quick answers, and many colleges (like ours) have to rely on content editors (more than 300 on our campus) to maintain department, program, office and section websites. In a perfect world, you can somehow find a way to clean up a 20,000+ page website, but in an imperfect world FAQs may remain at least a temporary evil until you can miraculously heal your college’s digital body.

If internal forces still necessitate FAQs, at least make sure they involve real frequently asked questions. Since our office maintains and monitors social media channels frequented by prospective and incoming students, we see questions they ask may bear no resemblance to FAQs maintained by offices and programs addressing future students. How to reconcile fiction and reality? Take notes and set up meetings. For example, I met with the Orientation office and showed what our students actually asked was completely different than the program’s posted FAQ. I worked with offices and staff to add questions that were asked and remove questions that they even admitted they hadn’t heard asked in years.

But we went a step further. If a question came up over and over that wasn’t adequately addressed on oswego.edu, we made sure that main or primary pages (not just FAQs) were updated to address these questions. No, this shouldn’t be rocket science, but it seemed like a revelation to some folks.

I can’t emphasize enough: Listen to your customers. Our Class of 2018 Facebook group bubbles with earnest questions, many of which we have answers to — including some that a few students, honestly, haven’t seemed to have looked for on our site (where the info is prominently featured). I’ve sometimes taken a deep breath and reminded myself saying “let me Google that for you” would be a bad idea, but at the same time our customers’ experiences (which may include not using our website much) are our reality.

How can we bridge this gap? Ah, that will be the topic of my next next blog installment, which involves lots of listening and tapping student creativity. Stay tuned.

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What the decline of Facebook (or not) does (or doesn’t) mean to your brand.

Screen shot 2014-01-23 at 8.44.28 AM“Facebook is dead!”

You’ve seen that headline, or a similar one, by now, yes? About how young people are abandoning Facebook in droves, how it’s jumped the shark, how it’s bound for MySpaceCity.

Don’t believe the hype. In the blogosphere, Facebook has been killed off more times than Kenny from “South Park,” left for dead more times than Rasputin, been presumed vanquished more times than Doctor Who.

Q. Is Facebook losing primacy among young people?

A. Maybe. While the plural of anecdote is not data, I see indications many teens may be using Facebook as a network but not their main network any more. We opened our (closed) Accepted Students: Facebook Class of 2018 group about a week ago and nearly 300 accepted students already are making connections and some even said this interaction makes them choose Oswego (not bad for a dead network, eh?). Yet some say they’re not on Facebook much but encourage others to follow them on Twitter and Instagram to get to know them better.

Facebook. The Gateway to Twitter and Instagram. Not exactly Zuck’s next marketing phrase.

In any event, a Pew Research study released last year (albeit from 2012 research) found 94% of teens with a Facebook profile with 81% using it most often of any social network. Even with a 10% or 20% erosion, that’s still pretty strong market penetration.

Q. Is Facebook making it harder on marketers not willing or able to spend money?

A. Signs point to yes. Facebook hinted at this a while but now basically says advertising is an increasingly better way to gain reach than organic (i.e. normal) posts. This doesn’t mean your page is now worthless, just that it faces a stiffer test at getting attention if you can’t spend on advertising. And since Facebook has an annual subscription fee of $0, maybe you get what you pay for. It’s a shame that organizations like the Oswego County SPCA with few resources that are trying to place rescued animals with new homes, get donations to help feed its many sheltered cuties and spread the word about missing pets will find this harder to do, but maybe Facebook will change its mind again at some point.

Q. So, this is all means Facebook could be on decline, right?

A. Perhaps, but what does that mean? Nobody knows, really. As my friend and colleague Gary Ritzenthaler has pointed out, even if half of Facebook users suddenly up and left, it would likely remain the biggest and most influential social networking site. Facebook’s factbook lists 1.2 billion users, so if it declines to, say, 1 billion, does that make it a dead and useless network? Of course not.

Of course it’s sexy to say that Facebook is dead or employ other linkbait headline techniques, quoting such reliable sources as “our office intern,” “some kid we cornered on the street” or “our poolboy’s younger brother,” but those of us who work with students all the time know they still consider Facebook part of their lives. Let me repeat from earlier: Facebook may not be the be-all, end-all social network for teens any more, but chances are it’s still something they use. And if you’re trying to reach (or also reach) adults, the latest Pew Research points to 71% of those 18 and over still using it, 63% daily.

So if you run a Facebook page, what does this mean? It means … well, keep creating awesome content and providing the best customer service you can. If you have an important message and an advertising budget, consider this option … or not. In the greater social media picture, it reinforces that you shouldn’t (and never should have in the first place) put all your eggs in Facebook’s basket. Since Twitter and Instagram can be very powerful channels if done right, if you haven’t looked into them or other potential avenues, you should consider doing so.

But then you should always be testing and analyzing what’s working and not working in your communication, so chances are you already know how well Facebook works for you better than all the doomsaying bloggers in the world.

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Don’t hate the player (Richard Sherman), hate the game.

Malcolm Smith.

That’s the name of the Seahawks linebacker who hustled downfield to make a heads-up interception that will send Seattle to its second Super Bowl™ ever. You won’t remember his name, because he didn’t do what Richard Sherman did.

Sherman, as most of the world knows by now, is the All-Pro cornerback who made an amazing mid-air adjustment to tip the ball to Smith. Then adjusted a lot of attitudes just after the game when Erin Andrews asked him a question and he went off with the kind of trash talk he brings every minute of every game. Just as much of the Twitterverse had hit “send” on a congratulatory tweet to the Seahawks, Sherman suddenly changed the conversation.

My Twitter feed was divided between immediate haters of Sherman and those who found his candor “refreshing” and about what you’d expect right after a ferocious game between two teams that hate each other.

The most naive reaction came from professional communicators who suggested somebody should get Sherman to media relations training. Sherman has a communication degree from Stanford. He knows what he’s doing. He knows this is how he gets famous. And if you knew Richard Sherman — and almost nobody does — you wouldn’t have been very surprised.

*****

umadbro

Courtesy of Richard Sherman Twitpic

I’ve been a Seahawks fan longer than probably the majority of my Facebook friends have been alive. I’ve seen ups and downs with this franchise — more downs than ups, many years in the NFL desert — so this win was beyond exciting. I was disappointed in Sherman’s behavior because it taints the moment of victory and turned many fans (with a shallow understanding of the team and the game) against them for the Super Bowl™.

Richard Sherman is the best cornerback in the game. He led the league in interceptions, which is all the more amazing because quarterbacks so rarely throw his way. Sherman (correctly) noted that on the final play, the 49ers gambled by going at the Seahawks’ best defender. He has bravado, but he can back it up.

If you follow the Seahawks or are a hardcore football fan, you know this. If he played in New York, you’d know it. If he played among the East Coast media that sets our sporting agenda, you’d know it. But he plays up in the northwest corner of the country, where you have to do bold things to get attention.

He first gained notice when, after the rising Seahawks earned a surprising upset win over the Patriots last season, he tweeted a photo of himself and New England quarterback/media darling Tom Brady with a caption “U mad bro?” The sports establishment that reveres Brady was aghast some upstart would do such a thing, people with actual senses of humor found it funny, and soon enough the sports world returned to ignoring Seattle and its mouthy cornerback.

The Seahawks and the 49ers hate each other with a passion. The Seattle secondary and San Francisco receivers trash talk and taunt more than most, so it’s not surprising that Sherman and Michael Crabtree, the receiver he tipped the ball away from and ripped in his postgame interview, despise each other. The NFL likely will fine Sherman for his comments (probably less than the $50,000 they docked teammate Marshawn Lynch for not talking to the media) while realizing the swagger he brings and the rivalry between the two young teams will bring the league riches beyond belief.

*****

Russell Wilson is the kind of player coaches and PR staff dream about. In just his second year in the NFL, the humble Seahawk most believed too small to play his position in the league is now a franchise quarterback for a Super Bowl™-bound team. He says everything you’d want in his interviews about hard work and teammates and respect for opponents. He makes plays with his head, his legs and his arm. Wilson is known as the first player to show up for practice and the last to leave. Wilson’s face lights up when he tells heartwarming tales of visits to children’s hospitals, and how much he admires the brave young people he meets.

Russell Wilson is everything we say we want in our heroes.

So he’ll never be as famous as Richard Sherman.

*****

Fortune favors the brave. That line has been written many times about the Seahawks (mainly in Seattle, of course, because outside media barely paid attention to them until recently). Coach Pete Carroll and GM John Schneider built the Seahawks from also-rans to Super Bowl™ contenders in a few short years by taking lots of risks and creating a competitive atmosphere. They took risks on quarterbacks deemed too short, cornerbacks deemed too big, defensive lineman considered too small, and found a way to win. Mel Kiper and the shellacked-hair draft analysts who make a living pricing young players as if they are sides of beef, routinely give the Seahawks low grades in their drafts … but Wilson (third round), Sherman (fifth round) and others Kiper and others derided are among the best at their position, and undrafted free agent Doug Baldwin made a number of game-changing plays on Saturday.

Deciding to go for it on fourth down — where Wilson rifled a pass to another undrafted free agent receiver, Jermaine Kearse, for the go-ahead score — is the kind of thing most observers applaud … when it works. On the field, Sherman deflecting the pass to Smith to seal the Seahawks win and trip to the big game is something fans cheer.

But when the athletes we venerate for on-field bravado do something other than act as corporate spokespeople, the world acts with disgust. Fans tweet their dissatisfaction, not realizing they are merely making the target of their anger more famous and more ripe for several endorsement deals.

Richard Sherman knows this. Football is not the only game he plays better than almost anybody else. Russell Wilson can still become famous, and deserves to. Malcolm Smith can still become a prized football player. But only Richard Sherman has become the most talked-about athlete on the planet.

UPDATE: Sherman explains himself and his comments in a Monday Morning Quarterback column for Sports Illustrated. If you’re interested in knowing how he really is, it’s well worth a read.

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Why I’m deleting ‘no cellphones’ from my syllabus

When I started teaching Media Copywriting in fall 2005, the syllabus included a simple “cellphones should not be seen nor heard” line in it, with accompanying mini-lecture in class, that has remained. Until now.

tweetsStarting this semester, I’m fine if students use smartphones in class. I even hope they sometimes use them during class.

It’s a trend popping up other places, acknowledging smartphones as participatory instruments. I’ve never been a big fan of the classroom as one-way lecture megaphone. Yet the establishment position among academia resisted the inclusion of laptops and personal devices in classes. But we’ve long since reached a point where, to borrow a great line from education expert Mark Greenfield: “The question is no longer whether laptops belong in lecture halls, but whether lecture halls belong in universities.”

Consider this: My intern Alyssa (of Alyssa Explains It All fame) takes notes on her iPhone. At an astonishing rate, no less. It takes my stubby, uncoordinated fingers minutes to write a text, yet today’s students like Alyssa could compose a short essay in that time. Who are we to discriminate on what media they use for note-taking?

But smartphones can be worked into feedback and learning as well. I’ve previously given homework assignments asking students to tweet examples, responses and opinions — often with video links — on the #brc328 tag to set the tone for the next class. Why not ask them to tweet in class in response to questions or to use it as another regular feedback and discussion channel?

I’m not saying the first semester doing this won’t be a bit sloppy, and that it won’t require fine-tuning. Will students abuse the privilege and not pay attention while playing games or whatever on their smartphones? Maybe. Their loss. If they aren’t paying attention in class or taking good notes, it becomes apparent after a while and the consequences come naturally in their ability to do assignments and pass the test. I’m giving them responsibility and seeing how they use it. From my experience, I expect students to respond accordingly and receive the grade they deserve.

In any event, I’ll let you all know how it goes.

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A time to dance: Sweet 16 top 2013 albums

(Not a 2013 photo)

(Not a 2013 photo)

In terms of music, 2013 was a time to dance. So many notable dance/DJ/electronica albums came out in this year, and many show up near the top of my best releases list. What I rank as my top album isn’t a dance record per se, but it does feature a song called “Four Simple Words,” which are: “I want to dance.” And if 2013 didn’t feature (imho) any all-time-great albums, it did put a lot of really good releases into the mix.

16. “Ghost on Ghost,” Iron and Wine. The best song Sam Beam aka Iron and Wine cut this year was a cover of Stephen Foster’s “Hard Times Come Again No More” for a spellbinding promo of the BBC show “Copper.” It’s not on this album. What’s on this album is pleasant enough but not particularly memorable or compelling. Standout track: With its mix of folky arrangements, sweet harmonies and a brassy horn line, “Caught in the Briars” gets pleasantly stuck in your head quite easily.

15. “Reflektor,” Arcade Fire. Even us amateur music critics apparently are expected to cheer every time Arcade Fire sneezes, and erupt into gushing praise when they release an album. The overproduced “Reflektor” comes with the added artifice of being a “two-record set” that only tallies 13 tracks. Don’t get me wrong: I like this band’s music. This is a reasonably talented band putting out a decent fourth album (its fourth-best release, at that), no more, no less. Standout track: “You Already Know” layers grooves masterfully without drowning them in sound better than most of this effort.

14. “The Hurry and the Harm,” City and Colour. Listen to City and Colour’s back catalogue, and you sense they’ll put together a great album. “The Hurry and The Harm,” while a nice effort, isn’t it. Dallas Green’s soft distinctive vocals and hypnotic musical swells often hit the mark from time to time, but this album feels like too much filler to meet the greater potential. Standout track: While the title track is part of City and Colour’s canon of effortlessly likable songs, “Commentators” deserves special mention as the ultimate smackdown of anonymous online critics under a beautiful cover.

13. “Acoustics II,” Minus the Bear. This Pledge Music crowd-funded unplugged collection from Seattle’s kings of math rock strips down their often-complicated arrangements to reinforce the band’s skill as songwriters, arrangers and musicians. Any band who can breathe new life into their songs via acoustic treatment deserves the praise MtB tends to receive. Standout track: The stripped-down version of “Hooray” is an eminently likable, affectionate portrait of an unexpected Seattle snowstorm that unfolds masterfully like an audio Currier and Ives card.

12. “Pure Heroine,” Lorde. One facile (and not inaccurate) comparison for Lorde would be this year’s Adele, a teen whose propulsive and preternatural voice and smart lyrics demand attention. Or Tegan and Sara, to whom critics often compare her sound. Beyond the hype machine, this is a nice 10-track record that isn’t up the level of either of the above artists … although she clearly has the time and ability to grow into her acclaim. Standout track: “Royals” gets all the attention, but if the precisely arranged and executed “400 Lux” is indicative of her direction, the future is bright indeed.

11. “Magpie and the Dandelion,” The Avett Brothers. The Avett Brothers’ main blessing — their jaw-dropping 2009 masterpiece “I and Love and You” — is in a way its biggest curse, because what could they do for an encore? Curiously, these tracks came from the same recording sessions as 2012′s rather disappointing “The Carpenter,” but the new collection somehow outshines it. Perhaps being a bit less ambitious, but a bit more personal, makes it feel at least a rung better than “The Carpenter.” Standout track: “Good to You” is the kind of expansive, emotional storytelling that put the band on the map and will keep it relevant for years to come.

10. “Random Access Memories,” Daft Punk. This album is dazzling and dizzying, mesmerizing and mystifying. With an act as talented, imaginative and genre-spanning as Daft Punk, you’ll get quite the auditory party … which means hits as well as misses. But oh, when the band hits, the result is towering, fireworks-inducing home runs. Standout track: The incredibly fun and funky “Get Lucky” gets my vote for single of the year — good luck getting it out of your head.

9. “Event II,” Deltron 3030. This trip-hop concept album spent more time in the rumor mill than production process, but it’s worth the wait following to Deltron’s 2000 debut. Del the Funky Homosapian, Dan the Automator and Kid Koala — better known for their roles in the Gorillaz collective — envision a post-apocalyptic future where the technology we embrace has led humanity to ruin. Which sounds heavy, but the beats and hooks and raps flow so smooth, you may not even notice, especially on the double disc that features the 16-track album plus 11 instrumental versions. Standout track: “Pay the Price” is emblematic on how the various members’ masterful skills converge through rapping, samples and production are a potent combination.

8. “One More for the Road,” The Wiyos. I generally don’t include EPs in lists, but I’ll make an exception for this band that feels like it’s from a different time and space. The very talented trio plays what could be called a combination of roots folk, jump blues and Vaudeville with a bit of punk attitude. The Wiyos’ universe includes a lot of hobos and train-hopping, but it’s so appealing you almost want to bundle up a bindle and ride the rails. Standout track: “Milwaukee Blues,” written in the early 20th century by Charlie Poole, gets fiery new life that could make a dead man dance.

7. “Shadows,” Lenka. This PledgeMusic-powered release found the pop queen/new mom from Down Under shifting gears to release an album of lovely lullabies. She mostly stays on the sweet side of syrupy, thanks to evocative lyrics, a beautifully breathy voice and smart arrangements — which work fine in non-lullaby contexts as well. Standout track: The combination of layered vocal hooks, percussion and horn lines makes “Nothing Here But Love” a comforting, captivating song.

6. “A Song Across Wires,” BT. With all the up-and-coming DJs emerging, maybe it’s too easy to take Brian Transeau (better known by his initials) for granted. Then he drops something with the cinema-scale virtuosity of “A Song Across Wires,” and we remember. It comes packaged as 12 individual edited tracks (per record company request) plus its intended nearly 80-minute continuous play mix — the latter non-stop fantastic voyage the recommended method of consumption. Standout track: If BT wanted this released as one track, you can just cite the whole album. It works just fine.

5. “Bad Blood,” Bastille. Bastille is sort of this year’s Imagine Dragons, just missing a breakout hit or two appearing in every other ad or sporting-event bumper. Their earnest rock is worthy of such royal treatment. Bastille’s blend of heady lyrics (referencing everything from ancient Rome to the Bible to “Twin Peaks”), ample vocal hooks, diverse influences and smooth arrangements make for a winning debut album. Standout track: “Pompeii” infuses chants and smaller harmony lines, ’80s-style riffs, a wall of sound and other elements to near perfection.

4. “True,” Avicii. Instead of trying to list every genre this Swedish DJ taps, it would be easier to say what it isn’t: Like any other record released this year. Name a style of music and it’s probably on this record, and that’s what makes “True” so admirable and listenable. When the breathtaking musical trip is over, you’re left wanting more — the ultimate measure of a great record. Standout track: “Wake Me Up,” the first track and lead single, is as splendid an introduction as any, even if it (or any tune) isn’t indicative of the depth and breadth of this collection.

3. “Arrows of Desire,” Matthew Good. You can almost set your watch to the Vancouver-based singer-songwriter putting out 10 tracks of compelling rock every other year, and they always land in my top 10. The outspoken singer-singwriter’s tracks meander between personal and political, rock and pop, but killer melody lines in songs like “Via Delorosa,” “Had It Coming,” “Garden of Knives” and “Guns of Carolina” make this worth many listens. Standout track: “Via Delarosa” is probably the most catchy song Good has laid down in the past several years.

2. “Heartthrob,” Tegan and Sara. Has it really been four years since they released their last album? The Canadian twins’ catalogue and signature sound are staples by now to the point they seem to be everywhere. “Heartthrob” finds them in fine form, throwing a bit more electronica into their well-established and always-welcome hook-filled, clever-worded, heart-wrenching recipe. Standout track: The countrapuntal combination of “Go/Please Stay” in the outro chorus of “All Messed Up” is possibly the most beautiful/heartbreaking arrangement on record this year.

1. “Tape Deck Heart,” Frank Turner. Turner’s power pop/rock/post-punk songs don’t necessarily reinvent any genres, but they just plain work. Head-bopping rockers like “Recovery” and “Plain Sailing Weather” sit happily next to meditative ballads like “Polaroid Picture” and “Broken Piano.” The extended 17-track version provides icing on an already delicious cake. It’s the most bitter, sweet, bittersweet and best album of 2013. Standout track: Hard to choose, but I think the straight-out rock and smile-inducing lyrics of lead single “Recovery” probably puts it at the top of a stellar collection.

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