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Best 2018 Albums: Late for New Years, right in time for Chinese New Year and the Grammy Awards **edit 4/25/19**

5 Feb

30.  Cover songs and compilation albums don’t really qualify for my best of list.  But I wanted to give a special nod to this one, because I liked it.  And also, because I usually do singles, but this year I only found 2 so I am skipping singles and just shouting out this one:

Revamp (various artists)

“Bennie and the Jets” is distorted and spacey, reminiscent of Sargent Pepper’s Loneyly Hearts Club Band album.  “Candle in the Wind” is an unplugged version that evokes VH1 Storytellers. Miley Cyrus is surprisingly emotive in her rendition of “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me.”   Because Lady Gaga is such a shameless copycat of Madonna and her entire career trajectory, I often forget the gal can sing–and perhaps with more range than the material girl.  “Your Song” is a fitting choice for her, and she does it beautifully.  And Sam Smith is this next generation’s Elton John. His version of “Daniel” is impeccable.

Now from bottom to top. 

Here are albums I didn’t really care for:

  1. Playing Favorites, Meiko

I don’t get it.  She sings all covers.  But first, she makes them boring.  It’s all copy-cat songs, but done in the style of some weird-ass acoustic-guitar at the independent coffee shop.  Write your own songs, then we’ll talk…

  1. Delta, Mumford and Sons

Just when I was beginning to think maybe I was being too hard on them for changing their whole sound, Spotify snuck in “Little Lion Man.”  It reaffirmed my huge disappointment in where Mumford took their sound. This new album has no trace at all at the music that brought the band mainstream success.  It is slow, it’s not uptempo at all, and there is no acoustic/bango flair even a little bit. Big disappointment!

27. Life is Good on the Open Road, Trampled by Turtles

Firstly, it’s too long of a title.  More to the point, Why is their recent work so melancholy?  The sound is sad a forlorn and listening to this album bummed me out.  The best stuff is when they play super-fast, and this album had none of that.

26. Pray for the Wicked, Panic!  At The Disco

I thought this would be almost identical to Fall Out Boy since there are, like 2 bands in this genre.  Especially since both of these recent releases have religious album titles or song themes. Yet, what I got from this one was a decidedly bro-y vibe that I couldn’t get behind.  Nearly all the songs were of drinking and conjured up the worst type of frat-boy or party-monsters. I’d call this a miss, as it caters to a very specific, narrow audience.

And now the OK:

25. This House is Not for Sale, Bon Jovi

I always love Bon Jovi.  He is a legend, and all of his stuff has merit.  This album isn’t his strongest offering (or even in the top three) but it’s still good to listen to.  “Walls” and and title track, “This House is Not for Sale” are the strongest songs of the album. And I did miss that good ‘ol rock ballad that Bon Jovi is expert at writing and singing!

24.  Only Love, Jordan smith

Lyrically overwrought, but the guy has pipes!  “Feel Good” has a funk vibe that I like, and it’s really catchy.  I think the material could be toned down one or two levels as choirboy singing Disney covers leaps to mind, but the singing talent is there.  Lots of potential.

23. Golden Hour, Kacei Musgraves

I would call this poetry set to music.  Each song has great emphasis on the writing and lyrics.  I don’t really attach to it as a great album like a lot of critics and fans, and do not really think the hype is warranted.  It’s nice poems, but the singing of notes doesn’t really move me, and the songs don’t get stuck in my head…

22.  The Wandering Hearts, self titled album

They sound like a cross between Seal and Lady Antebellum.  The songs are pleasing, yet I feel a component is missing. It could be more catchy or passionate or something-I’m not certain what the last ingredient needs to be, but for now they have a lot of potential.

21.  Seasons Change, Scotty McCreary

The album is a feel good country album like those prior to This Hollywood country sound that has taken over. There are love songs and foot stompers.

20.  Bea Miller

It’s a pleasant reminder of the strong women who were so prominent in the 1990s

19.  Dark Horse, Devin Dawson

The title track is a strong, but low-key outlaw song.  “All On Me” is a stand-out. I like the voice, like the writing, and think this is an artist to watch.

18.  Nation of Two, Vance Joy

Initially I had this album ranked a lot lower because it is subtle.  I said that the album was a little too quiet and unassuming. “I’m going home” was the only catchy song, in my opinion.  Low-key is one thing, but a good hook shouldn’t be ignored entirely. When you listen (maybe ear buds were the difference? Or just more exposure?) multiple times the layers built into these songs become more obvious.  The instrumentation is varied and beautiful. And no, the songs aren’t catchy like straight pop, but they do grow on you.

The Good:

  1. Dogviolet, Laurel

Of course I want to place my name-twin’s album higher on the list and I do feel this mixing of sounds and genre-eclecticness has great potential.  It’s not strong on every track though. “Lovesick” is a mix of indie and folk with a little electronic flare.This album has an unmistakable sexuality about it.  Just the longing in the voice, and the “wanting” in the lyrics makes it sound that way. ”Recover” has that pleading to it that I’m referring to in the sexy, desperate way..  “Hold Tight” is just as catchy as Florence and the Machine and has that pop-indy vibe going. “All Star” is sensual, and bitter. And my favorite track is “Adored” which is pleading and angry at the same time.

  1. Volunteer, Old Crow Medicine Show

Happy-bluegrass.  Is there enough harmonica in music these days?  This album was fun to listen to with songs like “Methamphetamine” and the familiar tune “Flicker and Shine.”  It reminds me of Virginia City—or just Virginia mountain music.

  1.  No Roots EP, by Alice Merton

“Roots” reminds me of a more tribal Florence and the Machine.  There is a bit of funky playfulness. I can feel Merton’s feminism is each song, not so much due to any rawr lyrics, but more the combination of tenacity, strength, and longing in her voice.  “Lie to My Face” is the strongest song on the album, an anthem telling some deceitful, philandering partner where to shove their BS–in a sarcastic way.

  1.  Encore, by Anderson East

The back up singers lend a soleful, community feel to the songs.  “Girlfriend” is the stand out of the album. I saw them perform it live (as opener for Brandi Carlile) and it was meh–very lackluster.  For the studio-version, they added some more oomf. It has more percussion, more angst behind the vocals, and makes me feel when I hear it.  The other two songs I really liked were, ”All in my Mind” and “King for a Day” which are both very catchy.  In all, I wouldn’t say Encore is a contender for the top of my list.  But I do think Anderson East has a ton of potential, and we’ll be hearing more from them if they amp of their songs, and keep them interesting.

  1.  Vide Noir, Lord Huron

Sometimes, even I’m surprised about how this best album list shakes out.  I just listen and rank them against each other. And where they fall on the list is all about how that album only compares to the other albums from the year.  I will comment, of course, on person lives, concerts, and my personal biases, but the rank is about how that albums stack up against the other offerings of that year.  This is my second favorite band right now, because their concerts are near-perfect. The execution and energy is top-of-the-game stuff. They really need to put out a live album, because their studio work does not even come close to being as great as their performance at a concert!  “The Night We Met” feat Phoebe Bridgers, is a story song. “Ancient Names, (Part I)” is probably the best example for a new listener to sum up the band’s trademark sound. I like Vide Noir, because the songs all fit together in a cohesive way.  Now, let’s get on a concert album or compilation of live shows.  I’ll be first in line to buy that CD!

  1.  My New Moon, Amos Lee

This album is what I’d call stoner/hippy-rock.  It’s peaceful and easy to listen to, just like you’d expect.

  1.  Black Coffee, Beth Hart & Joe Bonamessa

“Black Coffee” will get stuck in your head and is a good single (and title) for the album.  And I especially liked the cover of “Sittin’ on Top of the World” as it showcased exactly how Beth Hart can take down to Earth material and jazz it up with her husky vibrato.  And Bonamessa really takes this into jam-brass territory with his seemingly improvised playing. It’s a sound that puts me right in a dark, smoky jazz night club. I need chicken and waffles after Black Coffee.

Top 10:

  1.  The Port Saint Joe, The Brothers Osborne

The deep voices, the harmony, the outlaw country attitude.  It’s a modernized throw-back to my grandfather’s country, and I like it.  I find it fun to listen to, and a little different, while being ultra-traditional.  I could drink to this, for sure. I could dance. I could do housework and feel bad-ass.  It’s nice to hear a band that isn’t a super-glamorized, polished version of music. Grand Ol Operey sounds without the slick-money sound of most other country.  

  1.  Mania, Fall Out Boy

They still have their signature sound, in a genre they pretty much pioneered.  He’s hitting the notes-like, whoa. The lyrics are some seriously thought-out writing.  “Bishops Night Trick”

Takes FOB out of frat-boy only status, sounding exactly like Panic at the Disco, into a serious place, where talent is evident.  The album has a theme and the songs flow nicely from one to the next. I’m as surprised as you this even made the list, let alone cracked the top ten.  They have an epic-sound in this album,(listen to “Church”) and a tight theme. It’s the singing, itself that really pushes this album to that next level.  Well done, FOB, you’ve risen above bro-status, into major-player.

  1.  Raising the Bar, Terry Clark

I initially rated this album toward the middle of my list.  The songs alone are OK. It’s the theme and flow of the album as a whole that really makes it special.  This is the album you write/listen to when you’re freshly divorced and back in your rural home town trying to readjust.  “Giving Up Given a Dawn” is exactly reminiscent of that sentiment. “The One That Got Away” is a good break up song, full of bitterness and regret.  And you know that kind of writing has a special place in my heart. I love a good, fuck you song. “”As Long as There’s a Bar” is a good down-trodden country song.  “Young as We are Tonight” is about moving on, maybe rebounding, definitely getting drunk and making questionable decisions. And the song that naturally follows, (or precedes, depending on how you look at it) is “Bloody Mary Morning” which speaks of morning drinking.  I think the album is cohesive, and has a strong theme. “Cowboys in this Town” is a strong single, which talks about this divorcee seeing other options for suitors–that might even be better than what’s his name. jA+ for finding a theme and really sticking to it, and making me feel like I’m part of a situation and in that place, both physically and mentally.

  1. By the Way, I Forgive You, Brandi Carlile

I have to put the disclaimer out there, that compared to Brandi’s own body of work I didn’t care for this album.  It’s obvious to me she is Grammy-pandering. An example is the contest for fans to play “The Joke” most number of times for opportunity to win things.  That, is a tactic to increase stats. And it’s plenty fair but desperate, and manipulative?  Yup, it’s that too. I’d like to see a more natural and organic fan growth and actual stats.  Not just from Brandi, but industry-wide. Let’s get the $$$$ out of music and talent IN. Still, it’s Brandi Carlile!  Compared to others she’s still a head above the rest. “Hold Out Your Hand” has fast parts, melodic pieces, and some sass.  It’s like the old cowboy talk-alongside and special and different. Really, the only reason she ranked even this high on the list is because her technical singing skills are better than anyone else this year.  In the future I’d like to see the songs have more variation from each other. These all blended together for me. And I hope she’ll put the twins a little more to the forefront instead of relegating them to background status as she has in the last two albums.

  1. Come  Tomorrow, Dave Matthews Band

This is more of a singing album (vs instrument jamming) then the band has had in quite some time.  I attribute it to the lack of Boyd Tinsley, which I am disappointed about. His violin made the band interesting and differentiated them from every other band.  Though, Tinsley was a mediocre violinist at best, it still added flavor. That being said–he had to go. That sex-abuse stuff just will not stand with me (and the band, apparently).  Though I would have liked more of a public response condemning that behavior. And I guess then I would have complained it was hypocritical considering live outtakes with objectification of women going on by Dave and Carter.  Clean up your acts. Anyway, more to the point of the album’s quality–I like the writing and I like the softness about it. Dave’s voice is admittedly, shot–all that smoking, drinking, and screaming to “Halloween” will eventually take it’s toll, as is evident in “That Girl is You” which is a screetchy-dog-sounding horribleness in the beginning.  Was it intentionally bad? I don’t know, but someone in the editing room should have spoken up and chopped it. That’s the one blemish, and the rest of the album stands up, with superb, well-thought lyrics and sweetly sung choruses. “Virginia in the Rain” is a good example of beautiful, romantic lyrics, that are nice to listen to on a date. Nothing compares to “Crush” but this set of songs is in the same category.  And will make for some nice slow-breaks in the concert. “Black and Blue Bird” (another bird-titled song?!) is a nice, slower song on this album. The rest of the songs are also very nice, and still have jam-potential as we heard at the Stateline Concert. DMB is getting older, and cracks show from time to time, but they still hold up. And they still know how to put on one of the best live shows!!!

Top 5 Albums of 2018:

  1. Songs for the Saints, Kenny Chesney

Do not count me amongst Chenney’s long-time fans, though I am aware he has had an enormous following for a long time.  I never got on to his stuff and didn’t really “get” the appeal. Actually, I thought it probably had more to do with the look of his butt in his jeans than his tunes.  Songs for the Saints is substantial though. I like the melding of easy-Jack Johnson-type strumming with island-country. “Get Along” is a good example of this hybrid. Easy-going, peaceful, fun to listen to.  And I’m not sure that “Ends of the Earth” isn’t a Kenny Chesney that features Lord Huron–I know a mash-up when I hear one (even an uncredited one).

  1. Man of the Woods, Justin Timberlake

Once I got a grip on the theme-and that the album is decidedly NOT rugged as the title implies, I liked it.  Read: there is nothing woodsy about the album. It’s a love letter to his wife and cozy lifestyle full of funk and pop lyrics.  Same funk and dance as usual, and the same saccharine lyrics (sometimes gross:  “your pink my purple”?  yuck!!!), too.  But also the same calliber of really bringing that performance aspect to the table that we have come to expect of JT.  Let’s see this one on Netflix also!

  1. This Ones for You,Too, Luke Combs

Because these songs were on such heavy rotation this year I kept feeling like it must be an older album.  “One Number Away,” “When it Rains, It Pours,” “Must’ve Never Met You” wait–are these new songs?? I’ve been hearing them on the radio forever.  They’re like old, familiar friends by now. But the record is from 2018 and the songs are so catchy they just took hold quickly. I think it’s a good mix of country and pop.  Gravelly-voiced, cheeky lyrics combined with hooks that stay with you. I can’t wait for more. If this is where country is headed I like it.

  1.  Home of the Strange, Young the Giant

“Something to Believe In” is strong, it’s catchy and makes me want to sing, and when the band performed the song live at Innings Festival it was so extra.  “Nothing’s Over” is a little more low-key (comparatively) and still catchy in a mesmerizing way. This is my favorite band right now, because they are so great in concert–very high energy.  And they can write catchy, yet lyrically-relevant material. I (of course) wanted to rank this CD in the number one spot, but I think Ben Harper catches a wider variety of sounds, harkens back to jazz/r&b/rock’s roots in America, and masters several different instruments.  But Young the Giant is going to take the world!

 

–>late addition–<

Oh no!  How can this happen?  I’ll tell you:  The email that had been my primary in the past gets auto-forwarded to my new primary email.  And this has always worked well.  I still give whatever email address and everything ends up in the one I check-no effort required.  And I use different addresses for different purposes.  So I was always receiving emails.  I might have noticed an issue if emails just stopped altogether.  But sometimes I’d forget my passwords on whatever and have it emailed, and just never get that email.  So I thought whatever it was I was using was acting all glitchy–since the email and password weren’t working.  And I can’t remember how I figured out there was an issue, but my email had stopped auto-fowarding.  Like, months and months ago though.  What a mess!  All my Amazon notices were going to an email that I wasn’t receiving, as was Geico, and (this brings me to the point of why the preceding paragraph is in my albums of the year blog) my music fan artist update stuff.  I was not getting Dave, Brandi, or the Indigo Girls.  What a travesty–I missed everything!

So I see TODAY that the Indigo Girls did an album with the symphony that I completely missed 😦  And Amy Ray put out an album in 2018. . .

Holler, Amy Ray

This is most definitely Ray’s best solo effort.  And is #2 on my list of albums of the year for 2018.  It’s the country/Americana that I think Brandi Carlile is trying to strive for (in order to get a Grammy in a smaller, category-which did end up working for her, she got 3?).  Ray, unlike Carlile (who as a fan, I think obviously strayed a little from her authenticity in the last 2 albums) stays true to herself in Holler.  I think Ray makes the transition to a new genre easily, and steers clear of disingenuousness.  Her gravely, rough voice works great with the material, and she is genuine to her past aesthetic (of folk/rock, sometimes punk–ish), while breaking into new territory.  The songs are still edgy and full of advocacy and rebelliousness, as Ray’s writing has always been.  But there’s a rural feeling to it that is fresh and welcome.

The varied instrumentation that always features in the Indigo Girl’s songs is still present here, and brings a homey, desolate vibe.  Banjo, violin, percussion, even brass brings to mind listening in a shed, a dilapidated shack, or in the middle of the woods.  I think this is the closest Amy Ray has ever gotten to her inner self.  Every listen just whispers authenticity-there is no put-on here, and it’s a subtle change.  I think Ray has found that sweet spot, and I hope her next album is similar to Hollar!  I’m sad I didn’t find it until the 2nd quarter of 2019.

And Drumroll Please……

The TOP album of 2018:

 

  1. Choke Cherry Tree, Ben Miller Band

A new face/voice.  Every song makes me want to listen more.  Each track seems to feature a different instrument.  

“Trapeze” has the melody of a patriotic march, and the lyrics of a circus.  The chorus Makes me think of the Bayou. It ends in a cacophony of brass and other things that sound familiar but I don’t hear enough to identify.  See what I mean about novel and interesting? “The Outsider” is like a church-picnic stomp. It makes me want to see the band live to see what they would do with it.  “Sketchbook” has a fast pace and a story-telling cadence. “Nothing Gets Me Down” is folksy-outlaw. See how each song is so unique, yet the compilation of songs goes together well?  And the brass flare-ups make “I Got Another One” special and different. “My Own Good Time” has a waltz time key. And the singing is very folksy-evoking campfire days of yore. “Mississippi Cure” is haunting with gorgeous strings, yet upbeat with some catchiness of a pop song. Lyrically it is the most powerful song on the album, bringing race into the conversation-but in an organic way- not forced or pandering. And I think an accordion is happening on the song.  It’s a stand-out on a stand-out album! I can’t wait to hear more from Ben Miller Band-there is a lot of talent and a lot of potential for them.

So there you have it.  The top 30 albums in a kind of lackluster (unless R&B is your jam) year.  Let’s hope there’s more different types of albums in 2019.

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.

 

Music: With Love (Part 4)

14 Jun

18. The song that you’d want to be playing in the background when you meet your soulmate

“Head Over Feet,” Alanis Moressette

I had no choice but to hear you, You stated your case time and again, I thought about it

You treat me like I’m a princess, I’m not used to liking that, You ask how my day was

You’ve already won me over in spite of me, And don’t be alarmed if I fall head over feet, Don’t be surprised if I love you for all that you are, I couldn’t help it, It’s all your fault

Your love is thick and it swallowed me whole, You’re so much braver than I gave you credit for, That’s not lip service

You’ve already won me over in spite of me, And don’t be alarmed if I fall head over feet, Don’t be surprised if I love you for all that you are, I couldn’t help it, It’s all your fault

You are the bearer of unconditional things, You held your breath and the door for me, Thanks for your patience

You’re the best listener that I’ve ever met, You’re my best friend, Best friend with benefits, What took me so long

I’ve never felt this healthy before, I’ve never wanted something rational, I am aware now, I am aware now

You’ve already won me over in spite of me, And don’t be alarmed if I fall head over feet, Don’t be surprised if I love you for all that you are, I couldn’t help it, It’s all your fault

24. Dedicate a song to someone special in your life.

-Michael Buble

-“Everything”

You’re a falling star, You’re the get away car.  You’re the line in the sand when I go too far.  You’re the swimming pool, on an August day.
And you’re the perfect thing to say.

And you play it coy, but it’s kinda cute.  Ah, When you smile at me you know exactly what you do.  Baby don’t pretend, that you don’t know it’s true.  Cause you can see it when I look at you.

[Chorus:]
And in this crazy life, and through these crazy times, It’s you, it’s you, You make me sing.  You’re every line, you’re every word, you’re everything.

You’re a carousel, you’re a wishing well, And you light me up, when you ring my bell.  You’re a mystery, you’re from outer space,
You’re every minute of my everyday.  And I can’t believe, uh that I’m your man, And I get to kiss you baby just because I can.  Whatever comes our way, ah we’ll see it through, And you know that’s what our love can do.

[Chorus:]
And in this crazy life, and through these crazy times, It’s you, it’s you, You make me sing, You’re every line, you’re every word, you’re everything.

So, La, La, La, La, La, La, La.  So, La, La, La, La, La, La, La

[Chorus:]
And in this crazy life, and through these crazy times, It’s you, it’s you, You make me sing.  You’re every line, you’re every word, you’re everything.  You’re every song, and I sing along.  ‘Cause you’re my everything.  Yeah, yeah

So, La, La, La, La, La, La, La.  So, La, La, La, La, La, La, La, La, La, La, La

25. Songs that you’d like to have with you on a desert island

-Elton John’s “Answer in the Sky”

http://www.last.fm/music/Elton+John/_/Answer+In+The+Sky

-Jo Dee Messina, “Bring on the Rain”

-John Mayer, “Bigger Than My Body”

-“Fighter,” by Christina Aguileria

22. A song that relaxes you

-Linkin Park piano music

http://www.last.fm/music/Linkin%2520Park/Piano%2520Instrumentals?ac=linkin%20park%20piano