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Looking for Music to Give? VH1 Chief Reprises His Pick List

Once again (like last year), as a service to readers looking for musical gifts this holiday season, The Wire has the exclusive on VH1 president Tom Calderone’s top albums of the year. Here are the former alt-rock radio jock’s picks — 14 for 2014 — and why he picked them:

The War on Drugs:Lost in the Dream. “Great new discovery for me. They have amazing, cool vocals and haunting drums. It’s an incredibly deep, deep CD.”

alt-J:This Is All Yours. “One of the most well-produced CDs of the year. Incredibly dense and incredibly unique.”

St. Vincent: Self-titled. “Sadly, I discovered her in London and not in the States, where she’s from. The music’s not only amazing on the album, but in person she’s an amazing performer. She’s truly blazing her own path but with subtle commercial sensibilities.”

Royal Blood: Self-titled. “Even though they will be classified in the two-person group genre, this thing rocks harder than I’ve heard in a long time.”

The Fat White Family:Champagne Holocaust. “If you’re looking for danger in rock, if you’re looking for something that will piss everyone off, this is the CD.”

Ingrid Michealson:Lights Out. “I’m a sucker for great, smart pop music and once again, Ingrid delivers.”

Benjamin Booker: Self-titled. “You heard it here first.”

Courtney Barnett:A Sea of Split Peas (double EP). “Singer-songwriter from ‘Down Under’ with incredibly clever lyrics. It’s very stream-of-consciousness and vibey, soulful rock music. She’s a rock star.”

Jungle: Self-titled. “Trippy, vibey British pop. Very unique and more meat hooks than a meat locker.”

Warpaint: Self-titled. “Love.”

Spoon:They Want My Soul. “If anyone thought that this was just a one-album band, one listen to this and you will find you were seriously wrong.”

Swans:To Be Kind. “Loud. Feedback. Awesome.”

The Orwells:Disgraceland. “One of my favorite lead singers of the year. Not as dangerous as The Fat White Family, but certainly edgy. And it’s all about the drums.”

Foo Fighters:Sonic Highway. “They’re keeping the light on for stadium rock ‘n’ roll.”

Net-Neutrality Blitz Yields Constant Comment

The Federal Communications Commission’s Internet-neutrality comments long ago spread beyond the official docket to an additional official docket, online petitions, videos and a phone-call blitz from one group.

FCC chairman Tom Wheeler said two weeks ago that among the 4 million comments in the docket were the entirety of War & Peace and a Whirlpool dishwasher manual. (Could that have been from House Energy & Commerce Committee chairman Fred Upton, whose grandfather, also Fred, co-founded Whirlpool?)

On the phone-call front, Title II advocates Fight for the Future promised to give the FCC a holiday break — one week starting Dec. 3 — from the campaign, which is said to have driven more than 55,000 calls to FCC desks in the past two months.

The Wire would believe it. We talked to a few staffers who said their voicemail was inundated with net-neutrality comments — most of them civil, but still clogging the system, as it were.

— John Eggerton

Smoked Out For 70th Birthday

Like The Wire, have you been a little puzzled about how often cable networks seem to run back-to-back 30-second PSAs showing Smokey Bear giving some conscientious camper a hug? Even this past Friday when, presumably, in a bleak midwinter, fire conditions around the country were really, really low?

We checked in with the Ad Council, which announced the campaign with some fanfare in July 2013. The PSAs, by Draftfcb, celebrate Smokey’s 70th year, which was 2014. The tagline “Only YOU can prevent wildfires,” is part of the longest- running PSA campaign in U.S. history.

With the milestone year passing, might some new ads take their place? Please?

An Ad Council rep said individual media outlets choose when and how often the PSAs run. “However, Smokey Bear is beloved and his message is as critical as it was seven decades ago. So far, media outlets have donated over $1 billion in time and space for his messages, and we believe the media will continue to embrace him in 2015 and beyond!” Oh well.

— Kent Gibbons