Sunday, January 1, 2017

2016 - Lyme Disease (25 music albums)

2016? Some good things. Lot of horrible. But we breath. We keep trying to make the world better. And music the trusted companion through it all. Here are my favorite albums from 2016. Maybe not the best albums of 2016 (lot of talk of Beyonce and Frank Ocean but I never got around to them...maybe next year) but those albums that kept me coming back. Like that old football injury from high school. (I didn't play in high school, but I hear that kind of thing happens. So maybe more like lyme disease. I have that. I actually don't. But I thought about it a lot this year.)

In the past I have added the YouTube videos in the post but that is a giant pain in the ace. So not this year but probably more better (?) I did create a Spotify playlist. (If you don't have Spotify I did start at a YouTube playlist but didn't finish it. Let me know if you want that link.)

Top 11...ish

Teens of Denial - Car Seat HeadrestA slow burn for me; it took a few spins and I almost wrote it off but I really came to love this album. A clever rock album without a lot of frills (mostly just basic guitars and pianos and drums) but the song writing is genius and not predictable. Rock ain't dead.

Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful yet So Unaware of It - The 1975
A first glance this album seems like mindless pop but it's actually quite well written and musically thoughtful. Really catchy stuff but it's all got a lot of depth to it.

Spirit Phone - Lemon Demon
I have no idea why I like this album as much as I do but...I it as much as I like it. Which is a lot. It's sugary, fast, and the lyrics and themes are fantastic. Don't judge it too quickly. Give it a go.

22, A Million - Bon Iver
Very different then his first and that's part of the reason I love it. Didn't rest on his laurels. Heavy with effected instruments and vocal processing but none of it distracts from good song writing. A true "album."

Let Them Eat Chaos - Kate Tempest
I was a huge fan of Kate Tempest from her first album, Everybody Down, so I was happy that her sophmore album delivered. Much like her first, this is a an album that has to be listened to from start to finish, as it tells a story of indivuals trying to find meaningfulness in their own lives. It's traffic, inspiring, it's a story set to music. "Wake up and love more."

The Bible 2 - AJJ
An album, with Neutral Milk Hotel notes, by folk punk band AJJ (FKA Andrew Jackson Jihad). Has on it perhaps my favorite song of the year No More Shame, No More Fear, No More Dread.

Flotus - Lambchop
Lambchop have been around for a couple of decades but this is honestly the first I've ever listened by them. And from what I have read about this album it's somewhat of a reinvention of their sound but somehow  stills hold true to what they have always been. It's slow and requires you to take time with the album but it's generous. It's time to tell you it's story and that's what keeps me coming back. Lot of depth, and texture, and Vocoder, but in that very contemporary way where it's used genuinely as an instrument and it's sound is embraced.

The Miraculous - Anna von Hausswolff really just have to listen to it. She's an it's like an organist goes art rock. It's heavy, and moody, and most triumphant.

If You See Me, Say Yes - Flock of Dimes
Jenn Wasner of Wye Oak's solo project. If you are a fan of her more 80s pull on Wye Oak's Shriek, you will like this album. I did. Lots.

Till It's All Forgotten - Farao
A Norwegian multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter. The album is to me that perfect blend of acoustic, electronic, and percussion, all with a beautiful, Norwegian, voice. This was one of the first albums I listened to this year and I held on to it all year long.

The Magician - Andy Shauf
Andy Shauf has quickly become one of my favorite singer-songwriters. His last album (The Bearer of Bad News) and this one (The Magician) were on heavy rotation this year. Good songs. Inviting voice. And I really dig the horn arrangements on this album.

Next 9

A Moon Shaped Pool - Radiohead 
Emotions and Math - Margaret Glasby: Love her voice and the raw guitars.
Tween - Wye Oak: Somewhere between Civilian and Shriek.
A Sailor's Guide To Earth - Sturgill Simpson: I call it art-country. Good stuff.
The Magic - Deerhoof: I wrote these guys off for years but these last two albums have really hit home for me.
Ology - Gallant: Some fantastic R&B.
Citizen of Glass: Agnes Obel:Her last made my top 11 last year and I may have loved this one better but it just got beat out by a few others this year.
White Album - Weezer: Like Deerhoof: They won me back with their last two albums. Good album, top to bottom.
The Beautiful Game - Vulfpeck: All things Vulfpeck. They can do no wrong. Funk, soul, Stevie Wonder, Prince. All good things. It's all in there.

Honorable Metnions

Nonagon Infinity - King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard
Dawn - Ry X
The Colour in Anything - James Blake
Midwest Farmer's Daughter - Margo Price
 Ouroboros - Ray LaMontagne

Friday, January 1, 2016

32/33 - Let the Larry Birding Begin (A musical guide to my 2015)

2015...guten nacht. Seriously, you kind of sucked. But I've turned 33 now. The Year of The Bird has begun and it is going to be a good one.

It's odd that in 2015 albums by Wilco, Death Cab for Cutie, Muse, and Decemberists came out and not one of them made my list of top albums of the year. Not that what follows is definitive for all music in 2015 and all shall obey (it's just what connected with me personally this year) and but those bands have been perennials for me. They've delivered in the clutch. So perhaps this year marks a changing of the guard. At any rate, here are my top 11 albums from 2015...ish. Some technically were released in 2014 but I didn't have a chance to really dig 'em until 2015. And dug I did. I Dig Dug'd 'em alright.
And why 11? No, it has nothing to one louder, and all to do with my love of prime numbers. They are just super cool numbers. 10 is a nice even base number but 11 is a beautiful looking prime number, dontcha agree? Dontcha? Dontcha wish your girlfriend was hot like me? Dontcha?!
Here they be.

Carrie & Lowell: Sufjan Stevens

An album about a man coming to terms with his mother's abandonment and death. On the surface it all seems forlorn but is less about death and more about love. It's...beautiful. It's empty. It's full. It's moving, stripped down and bare. More than anything it is simply honest. And that honesty is inviting and comforting. The music is by no means ornate like Sufjan's normal repertoire but that is a positive thing with this album. His song writing really shines on this album. And few artists understand melody like Sufjan Stevens.

In short, Sufjan Steven's explained the album best (naturally): "It's something that was necessary for me to do in the wake of my mother's death—to pursue a sense of peace and serenity in spite of suffering. It's not really trying to say anything new, or prove anything, or innovate. It feels artless, which is a good thing. This is not my art project; this is my life.”

Personally though I disagree somewhat; this album is some of the best art I have heard in awhile.

Selections:  Fourth of July, John My Beloved, No Shade In the Shadow of the Cross

[Also if you are looking for some nice hip-hop/R&B check out a collaboration between Sufjan, Son Lux, and Serengeti called Sisyphus. Start with Rhythm of Devotion or Calm It Down]

Our Love: Caribou

It's hard to know what to say about this album except that I kept coming back to it all year. Like, all year. I suppose you would classify it as electronica (which if you've listened to some of Caribou's earlier albums it quite the departure) but I would hesitate to label it as such only because that comes with a connotation that the music has no emotional integrity or musical thoughtfulness. But this album is quite the opposite. This is the type of album that really does work best as an album, in it's fullness. Headphones on and loud, and let it all envelope you.

Selections:  Can't Do With The Thought, Silver, Back Home

Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit: Courtney Barnett

Yes!!! The guitars are loud and catchy and the lyrics are fantastic. For serious, fantastic. I love when an artist doesn't hide behind lyrics but embraces them with candor and fun. And plus she's from Australia and that's pretty cool too.

Selections: Elevator Operator, Pedestrian At Best, Dead Fox

 Seeds: TV on the Radio

Having never listened to TV On The Radio I can't say where this album fits into their catalog but according to the band "the record is, 1,000 percent, without a doubt, the best thing we've ever done." And I'll just agree with them. They've got a post punk-dance beat influenced-very-modern-rock aesthetic to them. Richly written and produced the song writing brought me in and it was the production craft and subtle trimmings that kept me coming back.

Selections: Quartz, Careful You, Trouble

Madman: Sean Rowe

This is my favorite singer-songwriter album to come out in a long time. It's warm and makes me smile. I can't help but bob my head and sing along to every track. Seeing him perform this album live was, aside from seeing Spoon perform (finally!), my favorite concert this year. The album just feels good.

Selections: Madman, Shine My Diamond Ring, The Drive, My Little Man

Labor Against Waste: Christopher Paul Stelling

It's roots music, mostly folk, with some blues and blue-grass at times. The majority of this album is just him, his guitar, and his voice with a band and string accompaniment on occasion. With such a sparse setting it's his finger-lickin-good fingerpicking and lyrical imagery that add the flourish to this album. It's deep and mostly feels optimistic. "I know my work ain't done until I can see the good in everyone."

Selections: Warm EnemyHorseBurial Shroud

Sound & Color: Alabama Shakes

If you are a fan of Heartless Bastards or The Black Keys you may love Alabama Shakes. Actually scratch that! Those similarities are too restrictive. Just give Alabama Shakes a good listen. They are two albums deep now and they knew what they were doing from the beginning. They embody everything from American roots-rock to vintage-soul to classic rock without ever feeling like they are merely of photocopy of those genres and truly feeling like they belong there. And Brittany Howard's voice is...ranging. Rough or soft as needed, but always in control quite like Janis Joplin.

Selections: Sound & Color, Don't Wanna Fight, Guess Who, Shoegazing
[(Also, if you dig Alabama Shakes check out Brittany Howard's other band called Thunderbitch

If I Was: The Staves

A rock-folk trio made up of three sisters (the sisters Staveley-Taylor) from England. Just good song writing and beautiful vocals/harmonies. The vocals are particularly what kept me coming back to this album. Produced by Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, this album is mostly about heartache. Love sometimes breaks and this is how it sounds.

Selections: Steady, Damn It All, Sadness Don't Own Me

Fading Frontier: Deerhunter

Deerhunter is an indie rock band with neo-psychedelia preferences in their past works; anybody who has read this blog in the past knows my struggles with psychedelia. But this album is far more accessible and more broadly influenced. In fact, along with the release of the album they released an "influence map" which shows the "musical influences" (there are other none-musical influences included) from R.E.M., Tom Petty, Al Green, and INXS. Not a bad combo at all if you are going for catchy but meaningful. Which this album is.

Selections: Breaker, Take Care, Snakeskin

II: Metz
This is the fix. This ones easy. The second album by the Canadian noise-rock trio. It's loud, it's noisy, it's fast, it's noisy. A 29-min punch. This is the fix.

Crank it.

Selections: Acetate, Spit You Out, I.O.U.

Ryan Adams: Ryan Adams
Between the work he did with The Cardinals and various side projects this is Ryan Adams 15+ album. The dude is prolific. Being so prolific can sometimes lead to some duds, but that is not what this album is. This is as good as Adams has ever produced. Plus it's got a real late 70s/80s singer-songwriter vibe and production value to it. Most often Tom Petty comes to my mind and I love it.

Selections: Am I Safe, Wrecking Ball, Stay With Me

 -Extra Credit -

Everybody Down: Kate Tempest - This one was just off the top 11. Kate Tempest is an award-winning poet, rapper, and playwright. This album is not a collection tracks but a story of characters dealing with love and daily bread. "More empathy, less greed." Lonely Daze, The Beigeness, Theme From Becky

Everything Will Be Alright In The End: Weezer - I know I was surprised too. But it's their best since Pinkerton. If you loved their first two albums give this a spin. You'll like it. I've Had It Up To Here

Flourish // Perish: Braids - This album was like a warm blanket/bath to me this year. And a great live show. December, Fruend

Ibeyi: Ibeyi - Twin French-Cuban sisters. Soul/jazz/pop/traditional sung in English and Yuroba. Ghosts

Monterey: Milk Carton Kids - Two brothers, two guitars, and two vocals. Nothing more. Nothing more needed! Monterey

La Isla Bonita: Deerhoof - For me the most accessible Deerhoof record to date. Paradise Girls, Tiny Bubbles 

American Soft: Chris Staples - Singer-Songwriter, a good old boy with good old songs. Dark Side of the Moon 

Traveller: Chris Stapleton - CMA 2015 album of the year, and very well deserved. Traveller, Parachute

To Pimp A Butterfly: Kendrick Lamar - One of the best, complete, and comprehensive rap albums I have listened to in a long time. If you grew up with 90s hip-hop you'll love the few G-funk throw-backs in this album. King Kunta, i


(If you have the Spotify and want a playlist of these songs, shoot me a message and I can give you a link.)

Monday, October 12, 2015

Devil's Haircut

Back in action. Action Jackson. Action Zakson. son.

309 - Creedence Clearwater Revival, Willy and the Poor Boys: Straight up CCR. I don't know anybody that doesn't like CCR on some level. Maybe except for Blake. Nah, I bet he don't like 'em. I've really only ever been a "best of" when it comes to CCR so I was happy this album didn't feel like it lacked from not being the "best of." Nice album through and through.

308 - Frank Sinatra, Songs for Swingin' Lovers!: I might catch some flack for this fact I'm sure I will...but I don't like Frank Sinatra. I won't say that he's not good. That bands he played with were great. But I just get this sick feeling in my stomach whenever I listen to him, like I'm stuck at a wedding I don't want to be at with celery in the chicken-salad, or that I'm watching a montage in a chick-flick showing all the good times this couple is having. This scene always precedes the "conflict act" wherein the couple breaks up or fights or sleeps with other people or all the above, only to have it all work out in the end by the means of forgiveness and honesty, at which time Frank comes back in to let us all know happily ever after is fully on. Dude. But I'll never begrudge anyone for liking him. I once tried to convince myself that I liked him too. (I vaguely remember this had something to do with me seeming more appealing to women.) It was also around the time I tried to convince myself that Peanuts was a humorous cartoon. That didn't work out either. But that had nothing to do with a girl. (And now that I think of it, the Peanuts movies and TV specials had excellent music by the one and only Vince Guaraldi. Seriously check out the albums "Cast Your Fate To the Wind" and an album he did with Bola Sete called "From All Sides." Both excellent choices.) Frank Sinatra will be just fine without my support.

307 - The Beatles, A Hard Day's Night: It's probably my favorite pre-Rubber Soul Beatles album. And few songs can take me back to the earliest days of experiencing music like the title song. I once had a roommate who hated the Beatles and he sited that song saying that's all they were. I tried to explain how they were so much more than A Hard Day's Night and even explain what their early song writing did for rock and roll song writing in general but it didn't help. I should have just made him a mix-tape. Regrets. If you've never explored the Beatles earlier stuff you couldn't find a better place to start. This or Help!

306 - Beck, Odelay: Hell yes! (Suck it Kanye!) There are singer/songwriters and there are artist/musicians. He's an artist that primarily expresses himself via music, and specifically it is in the variety of the music he produces that his "artisanship" expresses itself. Few musicians are capable of effectively expressing themselves and who there are in multiple genres like Beck has. And yes, most of what he releases, including such albums as Sea Change and Morning Phase, would be classified as alternative, however, the musical influences he expresses are genuine and not merely nodes to them. He's an artist for music's sake as his Record Club project and Song Reader album/sheet music would testify. Odelay is not where is started but it was the base upon which he created the rest of his career and blew away the winds of "one-hit-wonder" talk. Produced by the Dust Brothers, it's got plenty of sampling, cuts, musical inserts and it's use of mixed musical styles creates the sort of the interest and oddity you find in mixed medium or junk art. Alternative, noise rock, hip-hop, folk, country, electronic. Good stuff. You've probably heard The New Pollution and Where It's At so may I suggest NovacaneSissyneck or Ramshackle.

305 - Lucinda Williams, Car Wheels On A Gravel Road: Liked it. Really liked it. If you are fan of alt-country (or even country) or Sheryl Crow with a littler more growl then you should defs check this shiz. Folk, a little dirty, a little southern rock, and all wonderful. I'll own this one. Can't Let Go, Greenville, Joy

304 - Jeff Buckley, Grace: Likely everyone has heard Jeff Buckley's Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah, which I happen to feel is the best interpretation of that oft covered song. However, there is far more to this album then just one graceful sonnet. Seriously. It's as subtle at times and epic (without the butt) as rock can be. It's also got that quintessential 90's production sound, which I love. Of course it's on Rolling Stones Top 500 albums so it's earned a lot of praise from many but on the short list you can find Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, Bob Dylan, David Bowie, and it's not hard not to hear its influence on both the vocals and guitar voicing of Matt Bellamy from Muse. It's the type of album I am glad I found later in life; 'twill be fun to digest. Lilac Wine, Lover, You Should've Come Over, Eternal Life

303 - Bob Dylan, John Wesley Harding: I have a feeling that this album has to be understood in context of Dylan's full catalog but I don't have much of a reference for that. (Like I've mentioned before, Bob Dylan is one artist that I have been hoping to gain a better appreciation of along this journey but I feel like I need to just listen to each of his albums starting with the first and pushing on through.) With that said, I enjoyed it but nothing generally stood out to me. It was more country then folk, as far as Dylan is concerned and has All Along the Watchtower but it's hard for me to make a judgement call regarding it's spot in the annals of music history. Though I guess 303 is a good enough spot.

302 - Public Enemy, Fear of the Black Planet: I miss the art and creativity of sample heavy hip-hop from this era. (And they always make me think Mr. Barlow.) And this is thick with it. But it's more than just heavy beats; it's a complex album and like all the great rap albums from this time in America, it's socially conscience and a medium for an activists' voice to be heard. What's sad is that it's been 25 years since this album and the message is still true for as many now as it was then. Just look at the need for Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp A Butterfly. Brothers Gonna Work It Out, Fear Of A Black Planet, Fight The Power

301 -  Dolly Parton, Coat of Many Colors: It might not have been the Golden Era of Country but country was in full stride during the 1970's. And Dolly Parton was knee deep in it. One of the most emblematic female voices in country; sweet and strong. My impressions of Dolly Parton growing up was that she was just a big-breasted caricature of a country vocalist but quickly, once I actually had the...maturity (perhaps?) to listen to her music, I fell for her. Second only to Patsy Cline. Coat of Many Colors is a solid country album and I say give it a listen. There's substance here. (Most of you slacks out there are haters when it comes to country.) Travelin Man, My Blue Tears, The Way I See You

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Keep it funky

This time I mean it. Quick and dirty. I got behind. Let's clear the cache. I'm sorry there isn't a whole lot of quality content here but...

327 - Liz Phair, Exile in Guyville: I give it 50-50. She's angry and tired of the drama of dating or trying to find love or something like that. Early 90s, dyed in the wool.

326 - The Cure, Disintegration: Having only been a Cure fan on a "greatest hits" level and having felt that I was justified in that thought, this album proved me wrong. There is more to them I need to explore. The Cure captures an era in music and its esthetic...perfectly? I look forward to listening to Disintegration again.

325 - Eric Clapton, Slowhand: Yeah, I need to give this one another few spins. It's got a few hits which will bring me back but feels a little flat on the whole.

324 - David Bowie, Station to Station: It's hard to tell when Bowie was kind of on drugs or was really just on the drugs. More funky and jam band at times then his other stuff. Which I loved on some level and didn't on another. Won't be my favorite Bowie but I loved the funkier side and Golden Years will bring me back to this one.

323 - The Police, Ghost In the Machine: I really have begun to love The Police along this journey and this is probably my favorite so far...the title of this album might have something to do with that too...Too Much Information.

322 - Randy Newman, Sail Away: I could pretty much say for Randy Newman what I just said for The Police. But I'm more surprised by Randy Newman. Straight out of 1972, before Newman became, or was made to seem, like a caricature of himself. This album is simple and soft (mostly) and sad at times...the three S's of success in my book. (I just wrote this book.) Sail Away

321 - Nick Drake, Pink Moon: Nick Drake has long been the sound of English folk music for me. He makes me long to be in time and place that maybe never existed. It's a sound of hope and desperation, a poet's bread and butter. As a musician all I have ever tried to do is capture that same quality. (I've failed horribly at it but I've strived for it.) If you haven't ever listened to Nick Drake, do so now and start with Pink Moon. From the Morning, Place to Be

320 - Radiohead, Amnesiac: For how willing I was to accept Kid A (the sister album of Amnesiac) Amnesiac was a struggle for me. But with all the albums I love most, they have had to grow on me. I think good music has to challenge you as a listener. If you don't have to sit with it at first you won't sit with it in the long run. Dollars & Cents

319 - The Wailers, Burin': I suppose one of these days I'll really get into reggae on the whole but in the meantime The Wailer (Bob Marley) will have to do. If you like anything about Bob Marley then you'll love this album.

318 - The O'Jays, Back Stabbers: At this point 70s soul like the O'Jays will always be coupled for me with trying to buy used polyester pants at Savers. It's nostalgic for me but not for the 70s, as I never lived a day in them. With that said, this album has it's highlights but on the whole was far too...moody and dark for me. I like my Soul...well not that.

317 - Pixies, Surfer Rosa: Pixies is a band I have only been aware of, having only ever listened to "Where Is My Mind?" and "Here Comes Your Man", but have always felt I should give them a good sailors effort. They are always listed as a huge influence of most of the bands I loved growing up. With that said, Surfer Rosa didn't let me down, it's unpolished but inventive in all the right ways, but I need to give it a few more spins before I know what it means to me. It was hard to listen to it without listening to it through the filter of the bands I know. But in the meantime give Bone Machine a sailors effort.

316 - The Velvet Underground, The Velvet Underground: I am a sucker for Lou Reed. As such I really enjoyed this album and will be back for some more. Full of wispy guitars and a sound of a band full of guys not trying to get anywhere quickly. Pale Blue Eyes 

315 -  Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Damn the Torpedoes: YES! It's Tom Petty man. It's got Refugee, Here Comes My Girl, Even the Losers, and Don't Do Me Like That. The hits man. If you hate Tom Petty you're just a hater all around. And sad. Very very sad. He's a great songwriter and this album is a testament to that.

314 - Lauryn Hill, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill: Kanye West rapped"Lauryn Hill said her heart was in Zion. I wish her heart still was in rhyming cause who the kids gon' listen to, huh? I guess me if it isn't you." She combines soul with hip-hop in a way far more intimate and authentic than Nicki Minaj currently could hope for. However, I'm really no more inclined to listen to this album again then I would a Nicki Minaj album. It's not that it's not a good record, it's just not my tea. Or cup there of. In it's genre I'm sure it's tea worthiest. I'll take the singles from it though.

313 - Nirvana, Unplugged: If Nirvana were only ever a cover band. Not bad at all. I think most people would agree this live album belongs wholly within the canon of their studio albums. Few albums can remind me of when I first fell in love with music as this album does. The Man Who Sold the World 

312 - Jane's Addiction, Nothing's Shocking: I was plenty surprised with this album. Not that I  expecting to hate it but...really I don't know what I was expecting but I did enjoy it. If you have an affection for Tripping Daisy (which I do) or early Chili Peppers (which I do, sometimes) then you'll probably have an affection for this album. Mountain Song 

311 - Various Artists, The Sun Records Collection: Not an "album" just a collection of singles recorded at the birth place of rock'n'roll. Elvis, Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and the like and a lot of others I have never heard of. Though I did listen to it and enjoy it, I have a hard time with compilation albums like this being on the list. (Semantics?) Probably so. Rock didn't record "albums" like the rest of the albums on this list back then and this is an incredible collection of the work of artists that laid the foundation for the whole genre of rock. So how about this? If you are looking to explore the roots of rock and roll more, start here. No better place.

310 - Red Hot Chili Peppers, Blood Sugar Sex Magik: A whole lot of magic and even more sex. This is the Chili Peppers magnum opus. It's a group at its most defined and original. On Blood Sugar they lost all the spastic elements of previous albums and the songs are far more organized and directed.  The Power of Equality, Funky Monks

Keep it funky.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

32 - Longing and Songing

I've found turning 32 far harder than turning 30 ever was. Turning 30 was fun. Really I didn't feel as though I was entering another phase of my life. No, that was 32. I've never really let aging get to me until this year. And I think it has a lot to do with what kind of year it's been. A little over a year ago I was living in Salt Lake and I had recently been diagnosed with celiac disease. Since that time I've left my home behind, most of my family, life long friends. I moved from Salt Lake to Fort Worth and to Chicago. Started a job with a company doing the kind of work I have been looking for for a long time. I fell in love with a girl only to come to the heart breaking realization that it wasn't going to work out. In short, it's been a long/quick important year in my life.

Yoo-hoo or boo-hoo. (You can say it.) Anyone who's read my blog before (Hi Laura!) knows that I've never used it as a journal nor a medium for anything of importance. That paragraph I wrote was the most personal thing I've ever written on here. No, this blog is about...nothing really, but music mostly. Music has, since I was in jr. high, been a source of comfort and a tool for understanding myself and my self. Music is about communication and good music knows how to help the listener communicate with themselves. Lyrics are, I think for most of us, self-reflective. We hear in them what we want. Some songs may distinctly spell out a message but what that message means to us personally is still up to personal interpretation. And that's a beautiful thing. So, as this has been an important year in my life, music has played a pivotal roll in my life. I've come across a few new artists that have connected with me and a few albums I've been very grateful to have found. (And on an aside, I've also written a good measure (for me) of music this year and it's been the fulfillment of a goal of mine in many ways, but that's for another post.)

Anyways (underwears). Simply I  just wanted to share those albums that have meant a lot to me in the past year. They'll stay with me for awhile and most likely they'll always harken me back to a time of change. Nostalgia is a comfort. And smells like Old Spice. Here you are, and yes, I don't know why, but it's been The Year of Women. So, ladies first.

Shriek: Wye Oak
This is probably my favorite album of the year. Headphones are a must and must be cranked. The music is moving and the melodies are beautiful. 
Selections: Before, The Tower, Logic of Color

Actor: St. Vincent
(And really just all 5 of her albums have been on heavy rotation for me this year but especially Actor.)
St. Vincent has quickly became one of my favorite artists. Ever. All 5 of her albums are amazingly composed. She's a creative song writer, a fantastic guitar player, and knows melody.
Selections: Save Me From What I Want, Black Rainbow, Just the Same But Brand New

Tookah: Emiliana Torrini
Iceland, you've done it again, you're a genius. Torrini's soft voice guides you through acoustics and electronic beats alike.
Selections: Tookah, Caterpillar, Speed of Dark

A Thousand Shark's Teeth: My Brightest Diamond

I first got into My Brightest Diamond (Shara Worden) after hearing her sing on The Decemberists' The Hazards of Love. Her voice enthralls. It can enchant or chill you. This is chamber rock at its best. This album takes time. You've got to let it sit with you for awhile and melt but when it does I promise it's so colorful.
Selections: Ice and the Storm, From the Top of the World, To Pluto's Moon

Sylvan Esso: Sylvan Esso
Electropop. It grooves. It moves. But it doesn't suffer from a lack of soul. Aces.
Selections: Hey Mami, H.S.K.T., Coffee

Aventine: Agnes Obel
A beautifully acoustic album. It's soft and chalk full of mood and empty space.
Selections: Dorian, Run Cried the Crawling, The Curse

Shields: Grizzly Bear
It's like if psychedelia actually learned how to write songs. Heavy on the textures with vocals that hold it all together.
Selections: Sleeping Ute, Yet Again, gun-shy

They Want My Soul: Spoon
Another solid album by the boys from Austin. I was so excited for this and it delivered. Catchy, inviting, and organic as always. Seriously they are as consistent as any rock band can be and this is my favorite of theirs since Gimme Fiction.
Selections: Inside Out, Do You, Let Me Be Mine

Seldom Seen Kid: Elbow
Elbow, like St. Vincent, is another artist/group that I discovered later in their discography and have become completely invested in. Up to this point this album is probably my favorite and I have been knee-deep in it all year. If you haven't listened to them yet do so. Start here.
Selections: Starling, The Bones of You, Friends of Ours

Modern Vampires of the City: Vampire Weekend
Indi-pop from some breezy fellas. The hooks are real. The instrumentation is colorful. This album is far more thoughtful and constructed than their previous works. They seemed to change up their recipe for songs-writing and instrumentation but none of this is to say that it's not as good as their other albums.
Selections: Step, Everlasting Arms, Hey Ya

Honorable Mentions

Ghost Stories: Coldplay - Don't hate. It's great.

If Not Now, When: Incubus - A softer album by Incubus, because of which I think it was unfairly overlooked.

Himalayan: Band of Skulls - This gave their first album a run for it's money and I think their first album is one of the best of the last 10 years.

Let Go: Nada Surf - Judging Nada Surf solely off of Popular is like judging Radiohead solely off of Creep. They're infinitely more deep than that song and album. Not a particularly artistic band but good song writing lasts and this album is thick with it.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Ain't It Funky

I believe this is first group of albums that I've listened to on this voyage that I haven't just hated at least one album. There were a few so-so albums in the mix but not a bad go of it all in all.

There were a couple albums that I've listened to before and don't feel a need to really hash out, those being Superunknown (336) by Soundgarden and Help!(331) by The Beatles. Superunknown is by far Soundgardens best work and the only one of theirs I own. It's solid though. Help! is standard pre-Rubber Soul Beatles, catchy and cheeky but with solid song writing. Without Help! we wouldn't have Yesterday so...

Fine for a listen.
337 - Aqualung, Jethro Tull - A fairly anti-religious 70s rock album with plenty of kick-butt flute solos. Seriously the flute solos are actually pretty impressive at times. Up To Me is a great number.
334 - Squeezing Out Sparks, Graham Parker - This one I thought I would hate. And I think I did up front but the songs were just too catchy not to enjoy. A post punk pop artist who sounds a little more like Costello. Local Girls. I might come back to this one in time.
333 - Wild Gift, X - Early punk from the 70s. Nothing really stood out to me. But what I like about earlier punk is it came from a honest place and seemed like a vary natural progression in rock, in that, what they played and wrote wasn't influenced by what they thought the genre was suppose to be or suggest. Far more poppy then what punk became. It was just what they wanted it to be. Give it a go. In This House That I Call Home

Need to explore more.
339 - The Heart of Saturday Night, Tom Waits - This is the second or third by Waits that I have listened to on this list and I need to explore him more. I sold him short as an artist before but there is more musicianship and soul to him then just the craggled story teller I thought he was before. This album is late night blues/jazz. Had a Randy Newman fill to it, in a dirtier way of course. This one I'm looking forward to visited again. San Diego Serenade
338 - Cheap Thrills, Big Brother and The Holding Company - I thought "Oh great! The 60s again." I've struggled connecting to the core of 60s music. But this album cut through most of that. And for sure it was Janis Joplin. She had such a...grit to her voice and approach but yet in a way it was beautiful because of it. It was just free. And given the era she sang in that sounds cliche but really it's just apropos. Summertime, Piece of My Heart, Turtle Blues
332 - Shoot Out the Lights, Richard and Linda Thompson - Richard is a great guitar player and Linda's voice is beautiful. Some really great melodies in this album and that's what will bring me back. Walking On a Wire
328 - Daydream Nation, Sonic Youth - I can't really pick anything from this album to share right now. There are a lot of albums on this list that I hated and I feel made it on this list for the influence they had on their listeners and marked milestone in the development and arc of popular music. I feel like that is who Sonic Youth was and especially this album. They had such in influence on so many bands I love and mix in that with the fact that I didn't hate this album, I feel that I owe it to myself to explore it more. And maybe you should too. It may take a few spins to find in it what it has to offer.

Love is for the lucky.
336- In Rainbows, Radiohead - In my mind this album gave OK Computer a run for it's money. So really I'm saying it's in Radiohead's top 2 albums. It didn't break ground like OKC or Kid A but it didn't need to. It's a more simple album with solid songs and more than anything, the whole album has a very clear directive and cohesiveness to it. And watching them perform it live (Live From The Basement) showed me that every bit and texture they used on this album was purposeful and reproducible. Some of my favorites, All I Need, Recknor, and House of Cards. Disc 2 from this recording session is also packed full a greats like Bnagers + Mash.
330 - Tonight's the Night, Neil Young - A sad album about death and drugs. Or at least that's what I guess. Young's voice in its shaky and ragged quality is in its element. Borrowed Tune for sure, and Tired Eyes.
329 - In the Jungle Groove, James Brown - Yes, yes, and yes!!! Funk in all ways James Brown. In all ways awesome. Try listening to the first song It's a New Day (which has by far my favorite scream, like ever) and not want to dance and hug a stranger tight and big. Seriously, listen to this album. Horns and drums, guitars and bums. (I don't know what that means but it sounds right.)

Friday, September 26, 2014

Bat Out of Hell...sort of

Like a bat out of hell, I'm back at it. (Or simply I'm just typing on my laptop like a kid out of the burbs.)

356 through has been better but life has been worse. (It's a rainy gloomy day as I write this and it might effect my reviews. But sorry Dire Straits, you weren't getting through anyway.)

356 - 12 Songs, Randy Newman: I'm surprised myself, I now like two Randy Newman albums. My impression of him before I started this list was made by those deriding/mocking him. I had only ever heard The Monk theme song and that one song about friends or something he did for the soundtrack to Toy Story. Not bad songs but nothing I would press play on. 12 Songs was bluesy, breezy, cover girl album. The title really is perfect, it's just 12 songs. But it's a great collection of 12 songs. An odd Ray Charles flavor comes through in Randy Newman and I like it. I recommend Rosemary and Uncle Bob's Midnight Blues.

355- Having a Rave Up With The Yardbirds, The Yardbirds: For being such a Zeppelin fan I am surprised that I have never listened to the Yardbirds before. This last little stretch gave me two albums to listen to. Not a bad little piece this album is. Try on She's So Respectable
or Here 'Tis and see how they fit. Party rock anthems of their day.

354 - 52nd Street, Billy Joel: Standard Billy Joel. With Big Shot, My Life, and Zanzibar at its core it's hard to go wrong. If you like Billy Joel on any level then you'll love this album. I found it for a dollar at the DI on vinyl and I feel that is the only way I'd own this album but I'm glad I do.

353 - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Kanye West: The title says it all. It's Kanye West at his most self-absorbed and sexually obsessive. His samples are fresh and the beats are real. I don't feel a need to push Mr. West on anyone. If you like him you don't mind that he's the biggest douche in the biz, and if you hate him it's because he's the biggest the douche in the biz, it's not because his music isn't at the top of it's genre. If you like hip-hop then you got to give this album a chance.

352 - Brothers in Arms, Dire Straits: Moving on.

351 - Rust Never Sleeps, Neil Young and Crazy Horse: Neil Young has always felt like an artist who writes albums to be able to perform them; he's meant to be heard creating the music instead of just listening to it. It makes me sad that I have never seen him live myself but this album will have to do in the meantime. Powderfinger for sure stands out.

350 - Roger the Engineer, The Yardbirds: See above. As for the two Yardbird albums I have listened to on this list I prefer this one. I prefer more of the Brit pop side of the Yardbirds instead of their psychedelic tendencies but this album gives plenty of the former for me. If I was still in a band these days I would love to cover Lost Woman.

349 - The Black Album, Jay-Z: It's Jay-Z at the top. Encore, Change Clothes, Dirt of Your Shoulders, 99 Problems, Justify My Thug, and Lucifer. Probably his best most cohesive album.

348 - Muddy Waters Live at Newport 1960, Muddy Waters: Blues music, similar to Neil Young, is meant to heard live. It lives in the open air and thrives on the spontaneity, not tracked and layered but produced in the moment. This album has all that. Mojo Working and Hoochie Coochie Man.

347 - The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, Pink Floyd: Gross! The title is the only good thing about this album. Seriously ruined my day when I had to listen to this one. If you like psychedelic rock (I don't) you may like this album as it's oozing with it. It's Pink Floyd's roots but I am so glad it stayed at their roots.

346 - 3 Feet High and Rising, De La Soul: As much as I hate psychedelic rock I love the "native tongues" era of rap. This album couldn't have been made a few years after it was as it relies HEAVILY on the sampling but their is an art to sampling like this. The album is upbeat, quirky, with plenty of jazz and funk in the mix. Try out The Magic Number and Eye Know.

345 - Stop Making Sense, Talking Heads: This album is a live Talking Heads album and though I've talked a lot about live music during this post this album doesn't really apply in the same way. It's...alright. It was a fine listen at the time but I'll probably not being going back for seconds.

344 - Berlin, Lou Reed: A dark grouchy album, which is not what I expected from Lou Reed; where's Charley's Girl? But I kind of liked it. It has a real Bowie feel to it but not in a pandering kind of way, more like a brotherly kind of way. I am going to give this one a few more spins before I pass final judgement.

343 - Bat Out of Hell, Meat Loaf: Haha! This was a fun listen. (Because of his acting career I have a soft spot in my heart for Meat Loaf.) I was happy I listened to this but definitely won't be going back for seconds. The whole album is grandiose and each song felt like it was trying to win you in the fight of good and evil with its message and power-house vocals. Most interesting thing about this album is that some of the songs were originally meant for a Peter Pan musical which didn't happen. huh.

342 - Violator, Depeche Mode: One of my favorite Depeche Mode albums. Everybody knows Personal Jesus but I suggest World In My Eyes, Enjoy the Silence, or Policy of Truth. I often wonder if I would like Depeche Mode if two of my older brothers didn't love them so much but what is music without nostalgia? It's like Bill & Ted's without Keanu. They were made for each other.

341 - Play, Moby: Do I need to review this album? There's like 35 singles released from this album and Moby made googa money from it but on the whole the album doesn't attract me. It might be good for a road trip mix or maybe vacuuming to but I won't ever pick it apart and try to understand it like I do with the albums I love most.

340 - Damaged, Black Flag: If I was like 15 in 1981 I would have worn this record out. But I was like -1 so I feel as though I missed the boat. I don't understand it and I have little patience for a band who has trouble playing in time.