Tag Archives: albums

Review of Justin Timberlake’s Man of the Woods

21 Feb

I like outdoorsy stuff.  I think Brandi Carlile’s Bear Creek album was a perfect representation of that outside feeling.  It wasn’t on the nose like this, but the vibe hit the right notes and was in the right sound and genre.

Not so with this one.  I think my biggest criticism is the name of the album.  You’ll see what I mean. . .

  1. “Filthy”

The first 30 seconds are how you open an album!  Does it fit with the purported theme of this particular album?  Absolutely not.  There is nothing woodsy or outdoorsy about this electric/dance track.  It’s grand, it’s loud, and it’s futuristic.  I also like the robotic background noise.  And the breakdown at 2:45 minutes in has a cool horror movie sound to it.  What I didn’t like was the video on YouTube that ended in major objectification of women.  Why are skimpy bondage outfits and simulated humping necessary, Justin?

I don’t like any part of the spoken verse from Jessica Biel.  I’m glad they are a happy couple, and I don’t mind if he sings about her, or to her.  But that’s the extent of it–I don’t want her voice IN the music.  I don’t care if it’s supposed to be a story that pulls the album together.  Jessica–stay in the movies where you belong!

2.  “Midnight Summer Jam”

It’s a little retro in the singing–like something the Bee Gees would do.  But the funk sounds, and harmonica-like layers in the music bring it to a more 2018 sound.  Again, is it anything to do with the wilderness or roughing it?  Nope.  But good song if you take those expectations away.

3. “Sauce”

The beat is fun.  The song starts out sounding like something I could be into.  But then the lyrics are gross.  “I love your pink, you like my purple” ???  Ewwww.  And it’s repeated, unfortunately.  I have to think about that visual a few times.  If not for that I like the vibe of this one.  It’s funky and fun, and at one point Justin almost reminds me of Karmin.  Maybe there’s a karaoke mix without the words.

I am glad that Justin went for more, shorter tracks.  His last album had obnoxiously long songs.  And the more tracks the better, I think.  Give me my money’s worth!

4.  “Man of the Woods”

Seeing Justin dance in this video actually made me like the song more.  Which rarely happens.  Except, I wasn’t impressed with the later ballroom dancing.  Firstly, doesn’t Jessica have people to do her hair?  It looked super-ratty.  And she’s not a strong dancer, you could totally see him leading her.  I say she sticks to what she’s good at–acting.  Leave the dancing to JT.  Prior to seeing the video I thought this new woodsy vibe was a put-on.  Phoniness to cater to a certain audience, but after seeing Justin rock his plaid and vests on logs and in cabins–I realized he’s being authentic.  He is Mr. Happy now that he’s married and has kids, and a stable, relatively quiet life.

To me, this is nothing reminiscent of Montana–where I was born and a lot of my extended family still live.  Montana is being rugged, and self-sufficient, and maybe even a little uncouth (and most people in Montana are poor).  None of which describes Justin or Jessica.  But if you think about it, compared to LA, or even TN where entourages, and their people, and fans are always about–they DO feel like they’re off the grid.  In their cabin-mansion.  No, it’s not what you or I consider outdoorsy.  But to Justin–it totally is.

The song is kind of cool and catchy.  I like the syncopation, the echoed vocals, and the beat.  The lyrics are cute, and tell a story.  I think it’s my favorite track on the album–even though it is decidedly nothing to do with the woods.

5.  “Higher Higher”

This song could have been on any one of Timberlake’s albums.  It’s very “him.”  It’s everything that he’s known for, the romance, the easy dance sound, right down to the higher vocal range.

6.  “Wave”

This one has an interesting time key.  It’s unique, but it goes into some nice singing by Justin.  The lyrics, as usual, are a little banal.  I’m not sure I ever particularly liked the writing on Justin’s albums.  His specialty is the music blends, his vocal stylings, and obviously–the performance.  Not necessarily the words.  The break at 2:30 minutes in is unexpected and playful, and I like the percussion that follows.  Also, what’s a song without some whistling?  You can always expect to hear something out of place made cool and hip with Justin’s songs.

7.  “Supplies”

I like the rolling sounds (vocal trills?).  I like the background, and how it’s kind of bare.  The way the music goes reminds me of the ticking of a clock.  A countdown to the end, if you will.  The chorus is catchy, too.  This is my 2nd favorite song on the album.  I also liked the Hunger Games themed video for this one.  It supplemented the song perfectly.  Does it say to me camping or living off the land in a cabin?  No.  It says zombie apocalypse or end of the world.

8. “Morning Light”

The singing is very soulful.  And it’s typical Justin.  The lyrics are lovely, if not overly-sentimental.  The thing is, though Timberlake tends to run into the super-saccharine in his writing, I do think he MEANS it.  I don’t think he’s just writing garbage on paper to prove it’s a love song.  I feel like he might actually be that sensitive.  Alicia Keys features on this one, and the pairing is just right.  It’s a quiet song, but groovy and smokey and loving too.  It is probably what an actual evening with Justin is like.

9. “Say Something”

There’s hand-clapping.  There’s guitar.  But that’s about the extent of how country it gets.  This sounds more like a Ben Harper song, than ANY of the Hanks.  Chris stapleton is credited on this track, and he brings an earthy feel, but more funk and hippy-groove stuff that foot-stamping or truck drivin’ fare.  What I don’t really get is the message of the song.  At first, I thought it was going to be political.  And I was happy that Justin was going to use his fame to educate or SAY something.  But I didn’t love the, “sometimes the greatest way of sayin’ something, is to say nothing at all.”  I think that’s the opposite sentiment that we should have in these tumultuous times of NRA/mass shootings, pussy-grabbing Trump/me too movement, etc. . .

One of my favorite things about all of Justin’s songs is the unpredictability.  I might be able to stop a track in the middle of another artist and still have the gist of the song.  But you never know what you might miss in a Timberlake.

10.  “Hers” interlude.

First, the interlude died in the 90’s.  Second, the talking of Jessica Biel is too much.  But if I had to pick one of the spoken verses to like, it’s this one.  I can appreciate the intimacy she’s talking about, and how that’s love.

11. “Flannel”

It’s a sweet-sounding song, with some Prince–or whatever he was calling himself at the end–sounding talking.  And some Boys II Men-inspired harmonies.  But it’s a random subject-matter that I just can’t quite buy into.  I wish the words to this one were completely different.  Anything else.  Well, except your pink and my purple-ick!

By this time, I was so fed up with the spoken verse!  And this one goes on and on.  Lame.

12. “Montana”

This song could also be on any of Justin’s other albums.  There is electronic, and a funk beat.  He sings in a laid back way, and oozes sex-appeal and R&B sentiment.  If it had a different title it would be better.  To me, Montana sounds more like John Denver.  Or Charlie Daniels.  Even pow wow music.  But not this.  That’s not to say I don’t like the song–I just think it needs a name change.

13. “Breeze Off the Pond”

The writing on this one is almost terrible.  It’s a little too simple, almost childish.  But I like the tune of the song just fine.  Probably the weakest track on the CD though.  Maybe cutting it or saving it for the next release wouldn’t have been the worst thing.

14.  “Livin’ Off the Land”

I don’t really like the random talking up front.  I can see this one will inspire some awesome dancing at the concert (or on Netflix, I hope!) that I always adore.  I like the beat-boxing in the background, as it’s subtle.  And I like the catchiness.  Also, the lyrics are good too–for once.  It’s my third favorite track on Man of the Woods.  I like how it closes with a lot of string instrumentals, mixing some “country” in.

15. “The Hard Stuff”

I like the sentiment of this song.  How relationships aren’t always easy, and Justin isn’t expecting a free ride of all fun and games.  It shows he’s serious and real.  I respect that.  I think in real life Justin Timberlake is a real good guy.  Solid and dependable.  I’m glad he hits some notes and actually sings in this one, also.

16. “Young Man”

And the culmination of the CD is (predictably) the product of Justin and Jessica, their son.  And fatherly advice given my Justin to his boy.  It’s trite.  It’s cliche.  But it does complete the family theme of the album nicely.  It’s a nice arc, even if it’s too much.

So I get how this whole album was a love song to his wife.  And they had their special moments in the state of Montana.  So he’s all sentimental, and lovey.  What they are NOT, is rustic or outdoorsy.  Part of being woodsy is going without–living a sparse lifestyle.  And you just can’t do that in a mansion.  I think I (and the critics) would have liked this electronic/funk/R&B/dance album just fine, if Justin kept his camping fantasy to himself.  I’m going to think of the album’s theme more like the comfortable feeling Justin is living having a family.  I think if you think of “the woods” as symbolic of peace and quiet in your head-space, this album (with it’s silly title) is easier to swallow.  Had he named the album and some of the tracks ANYthing else, all would have been forgiven.  As it is, the album’s tone just doesn’t match what is supposed to be the theme.

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Song by Song. Brandi’s By the Way, I Forgive You

20 Feb

My Spotify went one track passed the new album, and it showed how almost, melancholy By the Way, I Forgive You sounds.  It’s subtle, but by comparison to the two prior albums, it’s a lot less light-hearted.

  1. “Everytime I Hear that Song”

It’s kind of a slow opening to the album.  I would have put something more upbeat in the first spot.  But the track definitely provides the foreshadowing for what is to come:  A sentimental, serious, from-the-heart string (pun!) of songs.  The chorus is very Fleetwood Mac.  I like what the song says though.  It talks about how bad relationships are actually good because it brings us to where we were supposed to be in life.  The trajectory of our love and family would be completely different without those failed relationships.  And hearing certain songs or seeing certain pictures, triggers those memories and makes us wonder what might have been or even sentimentalize what opportunities were lost because things didn’t go a better way.

2. “The Joke”

The message that the joke is on the detractors is a good one.  The band is saying, ‘you be you, and live your life, despite what others think about it.’  The background music is resonant, and swirling, and provides enough drama to help get the point across.

3.  “Hold Your Hand”

Probably my favorite track (so far) and absolutely my fave upon the first listen through.  It’s reminiscent of that old western style that focuses more on telling a story then singing.  It reminds me of Jonny Cash, and the way he talks through every song–but it’s better.  Because there are great key/cadence/style changes that show-case Brandi’s strong voice.  I like the combination of both styles in one song.  I like how it’s cheeky, yet strong on singing-technique.  This is what the band does very best–change it up in the middle of the song.  Think “The Story” and the title track, “Firewatcher’s Daughter.”   On this song, the shouting is so fun after the 2.5 min mark!  What I could do with less of is the bad-da-das.  But I can see them involving the audience in that at a concert so maybe it will turn out all right. . .

4.  “The Mother”

I’m not down on this song.  It’s one of, if not THE strongest songs on the album.  It’s just that I heard it so early, it didn’t feel like part of the rest of the album.  I like that this song conveys love, but realism, too.  It’s one of the few mom-songs that’s not entirely lovey-dovey, super-saccharine.  Here is what little edge Brandi has left.  Sure, she’s up in the family lift all gung-ho–but she knows what she’s not doing anymore also.  I like how Brandi acknowledges that she’s missing out on things, kids are messy, and motherhood is sometimes about being tired and giving up on your own wild flights of fancy.  Also, the video is cute.  Though, I wonder how many takes it took because Evangeline looks bored.

5.  “Whatever You Do”

Another slow song.  As a whole, I think the album would have benefitted from something a little more dancy by this point.  I love the line, “I never said I’m sorry, but I meant it.” It shows how serious the writing was for this latest album.  Very thoughtful lyrics are throughout.  The best part of the song for me is after 3:08 min when the instrumentals really come out loud.  It’s haunting, and melancholy, and final.

6.  “Fulton County Jane Doe”

I had really high hopes due to the title that this would be the raucous track of the album.  Alas, it’s another kind of internal dialogue that is quiet and lulling. I think Brandi’s yips at the end are the best thing about this one.

7.   “Sugartooth”

Searching.  Judging someone without walking in their shoes.  Bad habits that keep pulling you back.  Guns and suicide.  Finding peace in death.  Without reading the lyrics or hearing the backstory, I find this song a little meandering.  Is there one takeaway point or is it just a conglomeration of ideas?  I do enjoy how Brandi sounds like she means whatever she’s singing–whatever it’s about.

8. “Most of All”

How your parents are with you even when they’re not physically there.  You resemble them.  Your speech patterns end up sounding similar.  You internalize their lessons.  This one is also a little Fleetwood in the chorus, and I think that’s reaching a little.  I believe they should stop relying on their inspirations or fitting in a certain genre, and come up with something more original.  It’s nice that the song-lyrics go full circle though.  And the emphasis on family goes well with the rest of the album.

9. “Harder to Forgive”

I think this one might be the catchiest song on the album.  Finally!  One you want to sing with.  Though the subject matter is still sentimental and internally-probing, it has some happy sentiments in it as well.  “When every broken heart seemed like the end” shows that the band is not at that stage anymore.  I like how the song goes into a march.  Again, these cadence changes are some of the band’s best work.  Where I lose it though, is when the twin’s humming sounds like kazoos.  Not. a. fan.  I think maybe it was supposed to emulate the string section, but it sounds too circusy for the previous part of the song.  I do like how Brandi ends it on a partial scream.

10. “Party of One”

I like when Brandi takes to the piano.  She doesn’t do it nearly enough.  But this song is kind of a bummer to end on.  I would like them ending on a more uplifting note.  Or at least something the conveys some inner peace has been achieved as a result of all the afore-mentioned forgiveness.  Or else–what is the audience motivation to practice forgiveness?  Or what exactly is the album trying to say about forgiveness?  Just do it, despite the difficulty of it, to–feel alone and disappointed?  I think the message should be more uplifting and present some benefit from the forgiveness.  Not end on a divorce.  And the symphonic end is kind of nice, but it felt like they didn’t really know how to close out the album, so they just played and played.

 

So that was what I gleaned from listeninging only.  I’m excited to read the track notes, hear the stories behind the songs at concerts, and see articles on the content.  I probably missed a lot of the intent–I hope so!

 

Brandi Carlile: By the Way, I Forgive You

20 Feb

Let’s get the superficial out of the way first, why don’t we?

I hate the cover art on the album.  It makes Brandi look weird and old.  Like her face is dirty and she’s a hobo or something.  Speaking of physical appearance, I can’t help but be disappointed that Brandi looks old in the face.  And she’s gained weight.  And has mom hair.  The too-cool-for-school rock star vibe I used to see in her promo material and at concerts has been replaced with a mature-almost matronly tiredness.  And I hate that it matters to me.  I don’t want to believe I was only a fan because Brandi was nice to look at and seemed on the cusp of alternative-trends.  But I did used to really enjoy that finally, FINALLY the gays could have an icon that was attractive.  It’s not that common, you know.  So there is still the writing and singing talent, but that coolness is gone. . .

Another thing that had me questioning how fickle I may be as a fan was (very unfortunately) the music.  I mean, I like “The Mother” because it’s a unique take on a common subject.  But I’d heard it at a couple of concerts already.  And Mom songs are. . .  only so personal to me.  I also snuck listens to the first few singles on YouTube, and was really sad there was no Bear Creek-esk song.  Not even any upbeat song!  Where did Brandi’s edge go, I wondered?  It made it worse that all the videos were obviously from the same session, with no costume changes, no effects at all.  The band just played.  The songs all blended together sounding mostly the same.  I was dismayed that my fan-days were over.

But I have been listening, and buying the music, and contributing on Facebook comments, and attending concerts since the Indigo Girls (another one of my favorite bands) called Brandi the third Indigo Girl.  And I think Brandi is a good person–given all personal communications I’ve seen on her page and through media.  So I wanted to really like Brandi’s new stuff.

I listened to the album as a whole on Spotify (I pre-ordered the album, but cheaped out on shipping so it’s not here yet) with an open mind.  And I missed that upbeat song.  I wanted a “Hard Way Home,” “Dreams,” or “Alibi.”  But what I could appreciate right off was Brandi’s flawless, heartful singing.  And the instrumentation–the strings are beautiful.  I could hear right away Brandi was really going for it with her notes, too.  She can always hit them, but this album had a lot of passion that was easily discerned through her voice.

I listened again.  Once, I stopped listening for that amped up song that I long for, I could notice that By the Way, I Forgive You is a lyrically-driven CD.  Brandi and Tim and Phil wrote from their hearts and souls and you can absorb that after a few listens through the album.  So I come away, actually feeling like Brandi returned to her original fans by writing something closer to Give Up the Ghost, but at a different, more settled stage of life.  She did just what I have been asking her to do–go back to her roots and be her authentic self.

So she’s not nearly as cool as she used to be.  She looks tired.  Just like me.  She weighs more–just like me.  That happens in your 30s.  And the neat thing?  In your 30s you don’t really care as much about that stuff.  You learn what’s really important.  Family.  Love.  Forgiveness.  Moving forward.  So even though I started out bummed at Brandi’s new persona (ie NOT having one.  But stripping away the edges and just settling into herself) I’m, actually pleased about the direction.  So Brandi, please forgive me for objectifying you, and not remembering to look to your internal beauty and talent.

But Brandi, please do me a favor–still play the rockin’ songs at concerts, jazz up the studio version of at least ONE of the songs on this album so I want to jump, stomp my feet, and scream the lyrics–and on the next album include another amped up song. Or a few of them.  That’s all I ask.

2016 Albums

1 Jan

Here is my annual countdown of top albums.  I actually kept up on it throughout the year, and things are much better researched as a result.  I tried to listen to all the big name artists and my favorite artists as they came out in 2016.  And if I had extra time, I listened to genres I like or names I thought sounded cool, or whatever Spotify suggested.  This might be my best work yet!  From last 2016 album that made the cut, to my top choice for 2016’s album of the year:

 

26.  Melissa Etheridge:  I was pretty surprised myself at how far down the list her album felt.  The main problem?  Trying too hard, and it’s a pretty grave error.  I gave leniency to artists who tried something different (and fell a little short), who only came away with 1 or 2 songs I liked, or who just kinda did the same thing they’ve always done and sounded boring as a result.  But Etheridge, is lower, because it’s like she feels a little washed up and is insecure.  I liked “Born Under a Bad Sign” but it’s a cover and let’s face it, Homer Simpson sings that like a boss.  Melissa needs to regain confidence, have a message again, and regain some passion.

25.  Alicia Keys:  I wanted to like it.  I like the stripped down, no makeup cover.  I like the message of empowered women.  I did not, however, and unfortunately, really like the album.  I wanted it to be more piano-driven.  I wanted more range in the singing.  I wanted it to be a little softer.  What I got was a LOT of 1990’s throw-back, complete with pseudo telephone call interlude and everything.  I got a toughness.  I got disappointed.  I didn’t hate “Blended Family” and I thought “Pawn It All” with it’s soul/blues vibe was the stand-out song.

24.  Bon Iver- Experimental and jarring.  I liked the last albums because it was calming and relaxing.  This one is definitively-NOT.  I can see he was trying to do some avant-garrd electronic, but the music lost it’s dreamy, meditative quality in the process.

23.  Bruce Springstean:  I like this album better than I like his other stuff (not at all).  It sounds like a blue-collar worker that just got off a double shift and stepped up on the kariokee stage–a beer in hand, of course.  It’s gritty and rugged.

 

–>>We’re entering the neutral zone.  Nothing really BAD, but not super-interesting either<<——-

22.  Gavin DeGraw:  I can hear influences of Maroon 5 and Bruno Mars.  It’s OK, but DeGraw needs to find his own voice.

21.  The Head and the Heart:  I saw these guys open for Dave Matthews Band at the Gorge one year.  And I don’t remember a thing about them.  This album is much the same.  There is nothing wrong with the music.  It’s pleasing, it’s plesant enough, it’s fine.  It’s just hardly worth mention.

20.  Hank Williams:  This bawdy tavern album should precede this fictional evening of frightened rabbits.  It’s amped up, energetic, and rowdy–as it should be.  Nothing new here though.  One Trick Pony.

19. Frightened Rabbits:  It’s Irish music after the party.  When everyone has passed their drinking limit, and the raucous singing and jigging is done, and people are passing out or crying.  Still an integral part of the scene, but certainly not the upbeat story of the beginning of the night.

18. Brittany Spears:  Is ever the perky, dancy pop star in this new (and every previous) album.  This time she seems to have more command.  The lyrics indicate she’s taking control and will not be pushed around.  The tracks are intentional.

17.  Dawes- Easy-listening.  It’s good background with nothing wrong about it.  The reason it doesn’t rank higher, is that it also has nothing particularly interesting about it either.

16.  Elton John:  I have always liked Ser John, from the crazy-saucy 1970’s-1980’s sing-alongs to the quieter, more reserved “Peachtree Road” and “The Diving Board” CD’s.  This album falls in with the more subdued fare, and that’s fine.  But compared to the previous 2 albums, it’s a little. . .  Dare I say, boring.

15.  Kings of Leon- Hipster rock.  It’s a staple.  It’s good in the car.  It reminds me of Seattle.  This album is a good effort-though there’s not a “Sex on Fire” stunner ready for radio.  “Around the World” does come closest to main-stream appeal.

14.  James Vincent McMorrow:  This music is chill.  Good for background.  It’s the type of album you would play for a quiet dinner party or to relax in the tub.  It’s the vibe Bon Iver used to be–before all that experimental SOUND intruded.

13.  Sum 41:  What a surprise entry!  I did not expect much from this band-a decade past its peak.  I was happily pleased to hear a still punkish, but more mature set.  “The Fall and the Rise” rivals anything by Green Day.  It’s throbbing beat and rebel lyrics really open up the album and made me want to hear more.  “War” is another winner.

12.  Lady Gaga:  I can’t decide if I’m inspired or annoyed by Lady Gaga’s career directory.  She ripped off the Club Kid dress code, introducing it to the mainstream as if it were her own.  And now she’s shamelessly stealing Madonna’s singing arc, going from pop hits, to more serious fare.  It’s a good recipe for longevity, but I’m not so sure I’m ready to hear her more serious side (and see her business acumen in action).  And I stand by my opinion that the Superbowl’s national anthem was awful–even if I’m the only one alive who thinks that.  But it did help to contribute to the new image of maturity this album is going for.  The standout track on Joanne is most certainly “Million Reasons” which shows Lady Gaga isn’t just photo-worthy, but has inspiring lyrics and a good voice.  Bottom line-once you get used to the fact the party-phase is over, this album is a sturdy offering.

11.  OneRepublic-  They used to be one of my new favorite bands.  I thought the songs were catchy and I liked the Native American flair of the last album.  Except this album is SO electro-pop.  A total copy-cat of Daft Punk–who I don’t think are that great.  Yeah, I said it.  I think Daft Punk is over-hyped.  And ‘Oh My My’ is is rip off of that.  Still, this review isn’t a dislike–it’s just relative to previous works and other music on this list.  Despite my harsh criticisms, I do like several of the songs.  “Lift Me Up,” NbHD,” “Wherever I Go,” are catchy, and “Better” a Twenty-One Pilots-eske electro-pap (that’s the word I coined for pop-rap) gets stuck in my head every time I hear it.

10.  Green Day-  It’s a little wrote.  Maybe they’re past their prime.  And certainly if the band is still considered (sell-out) punk, it’s barely.  But they were one of the first bands I liked, they are one of the most continuously good producers of music, and there are a few stand out tracks.  “Bang Bang” is saucy and hard-core, probably the most punk on the album, and maybe for the last few albums.  My favorite track, and the best political statement is, “We Live in Troubled Times,” which in light of this Trump victory is a spotlight to current events, and a prophecy of the future.  “Revolution Radio” and “Still Breathing” are catchy.  The rest are a little tired, but in a dearth of (main-stream) punk artists–still relevant.

9.  The Avett Brothers:  This album feels more. . .  Communal.  It’s a sort of folksy, around-the-campfire sound.  “Satin Pulls the Strings” has the rock that I look for with The Avvett Brother’s material, but the rest of the tracks were a little lighter fare.  Like they have mellowed a little–or are trying to break into that Americana Grammy category.  “Divorce Seperation Blues” with the yodelling, harkens a Dude Ranch weekend–whimsical, yet relevant to today.  I think this is one of theose albums, that you grow an appreciation for the more you listen.  And the nature of this list is sort of listen once and rate.  I think I’ll like it more and more when I’m not judging for a countdown.

8.  The Lumineers:  I’ll be honest–I expected more.  Don’t get me wrong, ‘Cleopatra’ is listed toward the top of this list for a reason.  I just really, really liked the acoustic partially-bluegrass sounds of their last album.  But all that’s gone.  The bluegrass portion of the music, anyway.  It has that stripped down feel, and unpolished sound that has been secretly perfected.  But the foot tapping aspects are no more.  Still, “Ophelia” and “Cleopatra” are catchy, radio-worthy high points of the record.

–>  getting good<–

7.  Michael Buble:  We all know Buble is my boyfriend.  And I think his business plan of jumping into an empty genre, and pandering to the middle-aged women is a genius.  But I was torn this year.  I couldn’t decide if the album was–too much pandering and disengenuine, or the result of a true passion for the almost forgotten swing genre.  It goes pretty far to the Sinatra crooning sound.  I had to take some points off his ranking because the answer to that question wasn’t quite clear to me.  But if he does MEAN it, the album is another great work.  But certainly intent matters, here.  My favorite song, is “I Wanna be Around,”  which I could not tell at first if it was a love song or a break up song.   Another strong song is the “Nobody But Me, alternate version with trumpet.”

6.  Panic!  At the Disco:  High energy!  This album is certainly a rejuvenation for the band.  I don’t follow the band members, but the sound leads me to believe a major life obstacle has just been surmounted.  Everything feels new and hopeful and exciting.  I originally heard one of the tracks in Lake Tahoe, and I felt like I was behind the times.  Because it seemed like the song had already broken out ages ago–which was not the case.  It just FELT like I missed the boat, because this is one of those albums, then when you listen to it, makes you cooler than you actually are.  Also, with original ideas over sampled tunes, this is the newest album, that seems like a familiar, old friend.  Each song could be a single.  This is a party album, a running mix, and a car-trip standby.

5.  Adele:  Everything you expect from Adele:  The soulful sound, pitch-prefect singing, that longing voice conveying heart ache.  It’s a solid effort, and yes, even though “Hello” has been parodied to death–I still think it’s the stand-out track.  “River Lea” is also really nice

4.  Lukas Graham:  A new artist, but so good that the album made my best albums of 2016 list.  The first weekend I heard this self-titled album, by this Denmark native, I was ready to make it the number 1 album of 2016.  It’s good.  I love it.  It’s different–piano, rap, R&B, blues, rock and soul can all be heard.  The singing holds up, and can almost feel gospel.  The lyrics tell a story, and it feels spiritual.  My only negative is that the music doesn’t stand up to the test of time for one reason only.  I guess America isn’t as family-oriented as many countries, because after a bit, the common mention of family got a little distracting and. . .  Tiresome?  It isn’t like close family ties are boring or annoying to hear about, but Graham mentions his family in nearly every song–and it IS just this side of too much.  But that’s a small complaint.

3.  Regina Spektor:  I usually have to be in a certain mood to listen to Specktor.  And who doesn’t hate that damned, SUPER-long “Orange is the new Black” intro that goes on and on and on while showing creepy pieces of weird faces?!  I can’t STAND that, and after like a full 5 minutes it sucks the life right out of me.  Especially during a binge-watching marathon–which, P.S. there is no other way to watch the series.  We have the fast-forwarding down to a science, and I implore Netflix to only show the intro on the first episode of a season.  Because HATE!  Anyway, Specktor, or re-GINA (rhymes with female anatomy) as I call her can get too wail-ey and spoken word poetry for me.  Normally.  I really thought her newest album overcomes all that and is female music without being too much.  “Bleeding Heart” could even be a radio single.

–>great!<–

2.  Beats Antique-  A coworker played this, introducing me to the world music, circus, jazz electronic, that I believe has technically been around for years and years already.  And as I’ve listened more and more in 2016, I feel like I’ve already been a fan for years and years.  The music just attaches in your psyche and resonates.  I saw them in concert, and thought their stage show was severely lacking–especially for such an experienced and well traveled band.  While the music calls for tigers jumping through hoops, cobras in baskets, and belly dancers, the best they did was stand holding a golden hoop.  At any rate, I hope they go mainstream.  This album is worldly and electronic, and experimental as ever–like you’d hope.  But it also harkens back to Jazz and Blues and makes you feel like you’re sitting in a dark corner of Louisiana enjoying a hurricane.

1. Kaleo:  Technically, should be listed under best new artist, but was so great they made it to my best overall album of the year list.  Well-rounded and singable, but also seriously substantial.  I love “Way Down We Go” with such obvious gospel influence is the leading single.  The band is fun to listen to, but by no means lighthearted fare.  It inspires thought.  Take “Broken Bones” with its folksy, chain-gang feel.  It makes me look to history, and acknowledge the fact that music is one of the few places where black people have carved out a platform to talk about their lives, challenges, and political concerns.  Rap music didn’t just stem from nowhere.  “Automobile” hearkens back to that 1970s story-telling song vibe.  And it’s got a catchy hook also.  “All the Pretty Girls” sounds like Bon Iver and James Vincent McMorrow, in that it’s quiet and sweet.  But I think it’s more catchy than those artists with it’s get-it-stuck-in-your-head ‘won’t you lay me down’ chorus.