Tag Archives: Green Day

Awesome Albums of 2020 Top 13-1

17 Dec


Black Eyed Peas (8 awesome; 3 good; 1 ok; 2 meh; 1 dislike of 15 = 

53.3% awesome; 

20% good; 

Awesome good avg = 36.65%

80% OK & up; 

6.7% dislike

Awesome – dislike =

46.6% awesome

Awesome good avg – dislike =



Every song could just blend together on this album.  The theme is perfectly executed, where the individual songs can hold up on their own, but the album could be played and the listener might never know when one song ended and the next began.

At one point, I thought Translation would be my winning album of the year.  I decided to weight dislikes heavily though–b/c it takes a LOT for me to not like a song at all.  And I just can’t get behind using the word “bitch” to convey someone you don’t like or respect.  And it pains me to mark down Will I Am because I think he does have a good heart (he is my VERY favorite episome of Songland because he was so nice and fair and awesome), but I can’t get behind that one song…


Taylor Swift (6 Awesome; 7 good; 2 ok; 1 meh; 1 dislike of 17 = 

35.3% Awesome; 

43.8% good; 

avg awesome/good is 39.6%; 

88.2% ok & up. 

Dislike = 5.9%

Awesome – dislike = 29.4%

Awesome good avg – dislike = 33.7%


What a good album–it’s an understatement.  Taylor Swift again shows her dexterity as a writer and performer.  She really can do anything!  Do I like Dream-Pop?  Absolutely not.  But I like Taylor, she’s a sentimental favorite of mine, and I can appreciate what she’s done here.  This album’s strongest feature was the layered writing, which embedded so much information, that it drove multiple listens–genius.  Folklore is most definitely the most lyrically-robust album of the year.  Like Apple’s work, Taylor shows she has a keen knack for saying, showing, and musically burying meanings everywhere.  Just don’t call folklore “Alternative” IT IS NOT IN THE ALTERNATIVE GENRE.  This is most definitely an attempt at dream pop like Lorde and an inspiration to Taylor, Lana del Ray.  But more hooks and catchiness.  Taylor can’t help but to write earworms.  It’s a good departure and makes me excited for whatever is going to follow.

This album was also heavily penalized for a poorly written (in my opinion) hastily added song.  I expect more from a writer of Taylor’s caliber.  She could easily write a hundred better Covid songs, and she should have.  There’s really no excuse for just throwing a song on an album.


Lauren Alaina 

Getting Good (2 awesome; 2 good; 2 ok; meh; dislike of 6 = 

33% awesome

33% good

Awesome good avg = 33.3%

100% OK & up)


I never knew given the choice between some drinking break-up album and a more traditional country good-girl album, that I would prefer the latter.  But in this case I did.  I felt like the Getting Over Him wasn’t very authentic for Alaina.  I suggest she #1, just combine into an album in the future.  #2, stay true to herself, because without even knowing there was a choice I gravitated to her more true story.


Kenny Chesney  (4 awesome;6 good;2 ok; meh; dislike of  12= 

33.3% awesome;

50% good; 

Awesome good avg = 41.65%

100% OK and up)


It feels to me like Chesney knows the exact combination of elements to make a winning record.  And he’s combined them (as he always has) to make a good record.  What I’m not getting, is a lot of genuineness, authenticity, or enthusiasm for making music.  It all seems very detached and formulaic.  Also, this party guy is wearing thin, and feels a bit disingenuous to me.  I’d like to see an album with more introspective, that I can tell Chesney feels.


Brothers Osborne (4 aweseome 2 good 1 ok 3 meh OF 11 = 

36.4% awesome; 

18% good) =

Avg of awesome and good = 



The album takes a sharp turn on song 5.  It goes from trite, bro-party country to something better.  I wish they would cut out the first 4 songs, actually–it’s that much of a change.  


Green Day (4 awesome; 4 ok  of 10 = 

40% awesome; 

Awesome & OK avg =

60% good

80% ok & up)


I think this album utilized the piano better than some of their past works.  And that fast pounding on it, does a lot to increase excitement.  There is also a James Dean sort of 1950s enthusiastic rebel sound that’s still punk-pop, but a little retro.


Indigo girls (4 awesome;  4 good;  3 ok;  meh; dislike of 11 = 

36.3% awesome; 

36.3% good; 

Avg of awesome & good  =


100% OK and up.)


Selena Gomez  (7 awesome; 6 good; 4 ok; meh; dislike of 17  = 

41.2% awesome; 

35.3% good;  

Awesome good avg = 38.25%

100% Ok & up)


Does it feel personal to anyone else that Bieber got 4 Grammy nominations for an unpopular album, full of derivative lyrics, and Selena was snubbed?  Like, she calls him out in this album, this solid, good album.  But he gets the noms and she doesn’t?  It doesn’t make sense to me.  Unless politics and or money were involved…


The [Dixie] Chicks (5 awesome; 5 good; 1 OK; 1 meh; dislike of 12

41.7% Awesome; 

41.7% Good; 

Awesome good avg = 41.7%;

91.7% OK & up)

Grammy nominations proved that The Chicks still aren’t off the blacklist. Which is ridiculous considering the political polarization, and mainstreaming of talking $hit about the top politicians. And the Shit-Show that is Trump. The music industry should be groveling at their feet. And fans should be telling them they suffered from being ahead of their time. But here we are, back in hypocrisy-land.


Dua Lipa 5 awesome; 3 good; 1 OK; 2 meh of 11 =

45.5% awesome; 

17.3% good

Awesome good avg = 31.4%

81.1% OK & up)

The album reminds me a little of the ‘Bring It On’ Soundtrack.  Nothing ground-breaking here, but a fun listen all the same.  There are glimmers of potential on this album.  And when Dua Lipa embraces her own voice, that’s where things go right.  This artist reminds me of a hybrid between Katy Perry’s California-girl lite pop and 1980’s vanilla, Debbie Gibson. And too often she veers into the easy, superficial sound rather that challenging the status quo of pop. 


Aloe Blacc (8 awesome; 1 good; 1 ok; meh; dislike of 10 = 

80% awesome; 

10% good; 

Awesome good avg = 45% 

100% Ok and up)


Overall, a very strong album.. Each song builds on the last, and it fits a cohesive theme.  I’ve heard Blacc use his voice more and would have liked to see more low and super-high notes, but it still left me with a lot of feeling.


Fiona Apple (all good–heavy intellectual = 100%)

(8 awesome; 4 good; 1 ok; meh; dislike of 13 = 

61.5% awesome; 

30.8% good 

Awesome good avg = 46.15%

100% OK and up


I initially was happy to see Fiona Apple releasing music again, because it’s been a long drought, and she’s historically an artist I like.  And on first listen to the album, I could see there was a lot going on and it should be good.  Do I like to listen to it the most?  No. Do I think Apple had the most technically sound and spectacular album of 2020?  Yes.  I think she deserves album of the year Grammy.  But Apple doesn’t just hand it to you.  You have to work to understand and appreciate Fetch the Bolt Cutters.  And it’s also intentionally not that sweet and pretty and pleasing to the ear.  Apple has made known she can sing beautifully, and play piano with virtuosity, but here she chooses not to.  So it’s a little work to listen.  But also a cerebral masterpiece.  Smartest work of 2020–and that’s saying a lot with folklore on the scene.


Kesha (14 awesome, 2 OK of 16 = 

87.5% awesome; 

Awesome + ok avg = 

93.75% good

100% OK and up)


Green Day: Father of All… Album Review

3 Dec

Father of All…:  It repeats a lot.  The hand claps make it very poppy.

Fire, Ready, Aim:  I guess if hand claps are paired with a harder style of guitar it goes from poppy just to catchy.  I really like the use of piano in this.  It’s also cool they made a palindrome out of the phrase, “ready aim fire” which just makes it more interesting.

Oh Yeah!:  A meh for me.

Meet Me on the Roof:  Upbeat and immediately makes me enthusiastic.  I like the syncopated beat (even if hand claps are involved).

I Was a Teenage Teenager:  The deeper guitar notes are nice.  And maybe the faux-shouted lyrics put it more in the punk category–but just barely.  It’s decidedly pop–which is fine, but I don’t think it was what the band was going for?

Stab You in the Heart:  I got a big 1950s vibe from the beat, the hand claps, the ‘ohh-woo-woos’ and these particular guitar chords.  It’s fun to listen to this one.

Sugar Youth:  This is the song on the album that most represents their past sound.  It has more edgy singing style and some rebellious topic.  The beat is harder, and so is the guitar.  I’d like a little less of the retro and more of *this.  The play with both tempo and volume, which makes the song more interesting, and also lends to rebelliousness.

Junkies on a High:  This too, is more like their catalog, which I like.  And the guitar and piano add to the flavor of the song quite nicely.  Also, I like the meaning of the song.

Take the Money and Crawl:  The whistling at the very beginning, made me think of cowboys.  Then it takes a sharp left turn into a poppy, upbeat, sound.  One of the catchier songs on this album.

Graffitia:  I certainly think artist need to realize hand claps aren’t the only means to make a song catchy.  Use them sparingly, only when necessary, and only a little.  Despite a heavy on the hand claps, problem, this song is very catchy.  It’s ok of a closer.  I would have liked a bit more drama to end the album.

I think this album utilized the piano better than some of their past works.  And that fast pounding on it, does a lot to increase excitement.  There is also a James Dean sort of 1950s enthusiastic rebel sound that’s still punk-pop, but a little retro.

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.


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.


Best Music of 2014 [I Ran Out of Time]

2 Jan

This is supposed to be a post about my top 10 newly released albums of 2014.  As you know, I still haven’t posted 2013’s because I ran out of time then too.  Maybe I’ll just post the unfinished version since I’m now 2 years behind on it.  But this year I was not about to (totally) fail again!  So I just wrote a little blurb about each artist that ended up on my somewhat-narrowed list from throughout the year.  It’s not a true top 10, but gives you an idea of the ones that I found good enough to make my list.  The number of songs are the actual songs that made my list’s cut.  And number of songs I liked is an indication of how well I liked the 2014 album, but isn’t always indicative of a true spot on the list–some artists just had longer or shorter CDs.  So there you have it–and I hope you have the stamina to read this all the way through!


Imogen Heap (21 songs) had a long album, but the instrumental music was interesting.  I like things I can study to, or work without distraction to, and this fit the bill nicely.  It’s not my absolute favorite of the year, but it gets the job done.

Phillip Phillips (12 songs) was one of my favorite albums of 2014.  He has the characteristic foot-stomping sound and who wouldn’t like that?  “Thicket” had a nice instrumental background that added layers to the sound.  Aside from depth, it made the whole effort seem less poppy and more substantial.  I wish Behind the Light was more lyrically complex and less repetitive though.  I’d like more depth throughout the next record.

Mariah Carey (10 songs) has always been a favorite of mine–that gal can really belt it out!  And I can always FEEL what she’s singing about.  The long-title of the album sucks, but the songs are solid, featuring her characteristic range and emotion.

OK Go (10 songs) is in a top spot, but there are less favorite songs only because their album was shorter.  I think they’ve grown musically, and become less poppy (not that it was ever a bad thing for them).  Hungry Ghosts is still as catchy as ever, but their is an added layer of seriousness to them.

James Vincent McMorrow (10 songs) was a fortunate find.  The music is mellow like Bon Iver and just as easy to listen/study to.  Though the songs aren’t heavy, they bare no less weight.

Boys II Men (9 songs) are back!  I can truthfully say I enjoyed Collide as a present day effort–not just a retro throw back to my middle school years.  It even surpassed some of my staple-bands in 2014.  They have nice harmonies and developed a lot of emotion throughout the album.  “So What” was a soulful ballad of longing that moved me.  “Talkin Under Water” was another standout song.

Eric Clapton (9 songs) obviously knows how to make a successful record.  And Eric Clapton & Friends is no exception.  It has blues, rock, and country and features a smattering of other greats.  I especially liked the old-country “I’ll Be There.”

Jason Mraz (9 songs) is a sentimental favorite of mine since he was my very first concert.  YES! is quieter then his usual pop, and I can’t imagine what the single must have been because it lacks that one super-catchy tune.  I liked the more emotive depth and think it shows maturity.  It’s more serious, but I think with a few listens, all the songs would become favorites.

Spoon (9 songs).  I have always liked Spoon, and this album did not disappoint.  It’s relatively harder then their last effort, which was great to study to.  This one seemed to speak a little louder, but I could still concentrate on other things as I listened.  And instead of only one catchy song, there were a few on They Want My Soul.

Sarah McLachlan (9 songs) was much of the same.  Which is good, but sort of blah too.  I’ve always liked her low-key, feminine sound, but I wish she would take some more risks in her career.  “Monsters” did speak to me, and was my 2nd favorite track on Shine On.  The closer, “In Your Shoes” was my very favorite, because it had a very positive, and uplifting message behind a singable melody.

Lilly Allen (9 songs) has a smattering of different sounding sounds–which I liked.  “Hard Out Here” a feminist anthem, especially resonated with me.  And her cover of “Somewhere Only We Know” surprisingly–hit the mark.

Colbie Caillat (8 songs) put out one of my favorite 2014 albums, Gypsy Heart.  It was sassy/feisty, it was sweet, it was uplifting.  I thought it had good voice throughout the duration, and you know how I like the more bitter samplings, which were provided also.

The Script (8 songs) was never really on my radar before.  I only listened to No Sound Without Silence out of obligation because I recognized their name.  Surprisingly, it was of my favorite offerings of the year.  There was a wide vareity of sounds, from soft, to rocking, to an Irish-sounding fight/drinking-style song (“Paint the Town Green”).

Little Big Town (8 songs) is an eighties band, right?  I recognized the name, but not the sound.  I like the country-pop, the harmonies, and especially–the cheekiness.

Weezer (8 songs) has to be listened to as a collection.  The songs do best as an album unit, not really singing (pun) individually.  It’s a relaxed album, but also has punchy spots like “Cleopatra’s” number shouting segment.  Weezer is always catchy, but I like the range and harmonies highlighted here.  PS–I just love the cover art.

The Kooks (8 songs) are, I swear, a band on my “Feeling Groovy” CD of 1960s hits.  Is that accurate or is this a different band?  It reminds me of hipster music, actually.  Something I might hear at SXSW.  It’s got a quiet, cool, vibe so it’s good.

Jason Derulo (7 songs) had one of my favorite 2014 albums with Talk Dirty.  He jumped from the romantic “Will You Marry Me” to sexy club sex-staple “With the Lights On” flawlessly.  And “The Other Side” proves Jason can sing!  I love the high-notes and think it makes for a perfect single.  I like when an artist can display this range.

Maroon 5 (7 songs) was a long-awaited release for me.  But it spoke to me less then their past efforts.  Maybe it was the hype that let me down.  It was good, don’t get me wrong, I just thought it would be in the top two for the year.  “In Your Pocket” was a standout musically.  It’s the type of song that will get stuck in your head, and it showcases their vocal range and layers.  Unfortunately, I think the concept/lyrics are stupid.  Cheater, show me your phone?  Is this a thing now?  It may be because I’m anti-phone, but this seems random and lame.  “Sex and Candy” was successful–I like the Marcy Playground version more, but this slow, smoldering version was nice in a different way.

Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks (7 songs), aside from having an obnoxiously long name was a decent listen.  Though they sound very much like Ben Kweller to me.

Tim McGraw’s (7 songs) album started out quiet and I was disappointed he got a little old a tired.  BUT about halfway through the songs gained speed, and he cemented his place as one of the top country artists of today.  Anthems, love, drinking, and sing-alongs are all represented here.

Green Day (7 songs) probably should have ranked higher in my list.  I have very high expectations, because Dookie was amongst my first 12 CDs ever (BMG Music Club) and “Basket Case” is one of my all time favorite songs of ever.  So having said that, Demolicious was good.  And a good concept for between new release albums–just not enough.

Counting Crows (7 songs) talks through the songs too much, which is, apparently, a major pet-peeve for me.  I did like the songs though they were much like they always are.  I’d like to hear something refreshing, while still keeping to their roots.  “Scarecrow” was my favorite on Somewhere Under Wonderland.

I liked Train’s (7 songs) last album better.  It was catchy and had a couple stand-out songs.  This one has a sense of desperation and sadness to it.  Also, I feel like they tried to include a peppy/catchy song, but “Just a Memory” and “Angel in Blue Jeans” just comes across as poor renditions of “Drive By” sometimes crossed with “Somebody I Used to Know.”  I mean, it’s good, but it’s not really a happy sound–or original.

Enrique Iglesias (7 songs) had a star with “Heart Attack.”  I usually don’t like spanish-language albums, because I don’t know what they’re saying and lyrics are the major reason I love most music.  But his primarily spanish, SEX AND LOVE (are these all-caps Spotify, or a thing?) had a lot of longing behind the mystery lyrics, and as I said, the stand out song made this a keeper.

Lenny Kravitz (7 songs) has a solid 2014 contribution, but no song became my favorite.  I really liked his 2006? CD, so every following album seems a disappointment by comparison.  Strut was fine though, and it lacked nothing that I can put my finger on. . .

John Butler Trio (6 songs) transcends genres and I love that!  Blues, calypso, etc. . .  I liked the variety on Flesh & Blood best of all.  I also liked the low-key singing and the background music.

Lady Antebellum (6 songs) is so fun!  I love to listen to them, whether it’s when I’m chilling, in the car, or running.  And I liked 747 so much I consider it in my top 3 (probably, and we’ll see).

Weird All Yankovic (6 songs) is played out.  But is he?  Judge as you will, but I like him and think he’s clever.  I also like Vitamin String Orchestra, if that puts my mentality in perspective.  I saw a biography talking about how hard he works to find the perfect word replacements, and I respect that.  And yes, he’s not technically conceptualizing songs or writing music, but his job is not EASY.  I give him props for coming up with a fresh new spin on the Top-40 songs for decades.

Kristen Chenowetch (6 songs) sings some sort of show-tunes or opera–I’m not sure how you categorize it.  Anyway, it goes in my top selections, for sure.  I heard pure talent. . .  Once my initial shock and trepidation wore off.  I’m glad I listened through the whole album, instead of turning it off for genre-aversion reasons.  Small gal, BIG voice, and big talent.  Color me impressed.  If nothing else, check out, “Popular” which features multiple languages and humor.

Karmen (6 songs) seems like an anomaly to me–the style of music sounds immature.  Not as in novice, or bad–just like Ke$ha–like low maturity members.  But the beats are slammin’, the rapping impressive, and melodies stay with you.  Nothing immature about the production value of this album.

Melissa Etheridge (6 songs) obviously has to be mentioned for This is M.E..  I felt like she was past her prime and trying a little too hard.  The songs seemed contrived and formulaic.  An example, “A Little Bit of Me” with it’s sappy lyrics and na-na-nas had no edge at all–it was Disney, for lack of better word.  Still, after such a long career, the artist didn’t have a total miss.  Songs like “Ain’t that Bad” redeemed the 2014 effort with a raucous rock about lesbianic drama.  And “A Little Hard-Hearted” a lament about love-long-gone with meaningful lyrics spoke to me.  P.S.  Melissa SING, don’t talk through your tracks.

Timber Timber (6 songs) is kinda weird and discordant.  But I can get onto it.  It reminds me of listening to a Donnie Darko sort of thing.

Ray LaMotagne (6 songs) wasn’t as good without Brandi Carlile’s featured vocals, but it was an easy listen all the same.  I like the low key vibe–pre the usual.

Fray (5 songs) is a band I expect a lot from, and I was a little disappointed until the closer, “Love Don’t Die.”  The prior songs were fine, they were good–but not like before.  But the last song was so great it mostly made up for the lack of stand outs.

Shakira (5 songs) has that disgruntled ex-girlfriend vibe on her self-titled album.  In a dancable way–of course.  I especially liked “You Don’t Care About Me.”  Obviously, it’s one of my favorite releases of 2014.

Blake Shelton (5 songs) makes me feel like I’m at the only tavern in town.  “Neon Lights,” especially, made me reminisce about my small-town upbringing.  Bringing Back the Sunshine as a whole was that way–I had fun imagining myself in the middle of nowhere listening to some real country.

Likin Park (lost count) had a cool concept.  I thought it was neat that they released vocal tracks and instrumental background tracks in addition to the full songs.  Though, because the band has been one of my staples for a long time now, I didn’t really feel this album was up to par.  I couldn’t pick out a song that spoke to me as I usually can, let alone multiple songs. . .

311 (5 songs) is good syncopated, robot rock.  I like the slightly less edgy sound of Stereolithic.  Though it has wisps of POD, I think this band found some maturity, while still staying true to their main thing.

Bush (5 songs) always has their own distinct sound which is true of Man on the Run.  I like the rock, like the beat, and feel the industrial vibe they convey.  It’s not Razorblade Suitcase quality, but it’s not a loser either.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (5 songs) are a staple–obviously.  They’re also older, and settled into their careers, not necessarily striving to produce the most popular album of the year.  Still, they took risks with “Hypnotic Eye” and had a more bluesy sound that was interesting.

Johnny Cash (5 songs) posthumus album brought mixed feelings.  Was it released for the money or because the songs are too strong to remain unheard?  Unfortunately my opinion leans toward the former.  Though I did like the more country feel, and especially liked the actual singing, rather then talking through songs.  At least check out “She Used to Love Me a Lot” as I think it’s the best of the bunch.

Lana Del Ray (5 songs) sings. . .  Pouty music.  Is that a thing?  I feel it’s an accurate description for the dreamy, waif, sound she brings to the table.  I do like it because it’s easy on the ears and I always like anything that I can play while studying.

Beck (5 songs) was not an album I’d call a star–it was mostly just innocuous.  I feel like in the past, Beck shared his point of view, but these songs were quiet and a little meh. . .

Nick Jonas (4 songs) had many things going for him:  Catchy, singable, dancey, and that bitterness I like so well.  His self-titled album is at the top of my list for 2014 efforts, even though I only love-loved 4 of the songs.  Those few were so good, that the album rose above some other artists.

Mary J. Blige (4 songs) sang the songs of a spurned lover on Think Like a Man Too soundtrack.  Though this is her go-to genre–the brokenhearted, bitter ex–she is awesome at it.  And this is probably my favorite type of music just because the lyrics are meaningful and it evokes so much emotion.  Someone dispassionate or out to make a buck just can’t pull it off, so I liked this 2014 offering.

Christina Perri (4 songs) is one of THE best singers out there, but head or heart got a very slow start.  She didn’t show her chops until “i don’t wanna break” and into “Only Human.”  When she does her stuff, though, she does it well.  “be my forever” is another favorite song in the bunch, and one that will stay with you awhile.  PS–I’m not a fan of lowercase titles, just so you know lack of grammar doesn’t make you cool or give you edge–it just makes you look ignorant.  Speak English, not text–rant over.  And excuse any of my own spelling errors in this entire post-ha!

Jennifer Lopez (4 songs) has a very different, more mature, sound in all but “AKA.”  I like it a little better, actually, then the club and R&B/Rap pop stuff she used to do.  She shows amazing vocal range as well as heart, in “Let it be Me” and “Never Satisfied” is a pretty little song.  I like J-Lo 2.0.

The Doobie Brothers (4 songs) are legend.  But I thought Southbound was some sort of re-release because I already knew the songs.  After further investigation, I realized each song featured a current artist.  And it did breathe new life into old staples.  Good concept, good way to re-enter the spotlight.

Santana (4 songs) is a lot like DMB in that you can’t be a partial-fan.  You have to listen closely for subtleties in the music to appreciate it.  As a partial-fan, the album begins to blend together for me.  I can tell Santana knows what he is doing on that guitar.  And I like all the featured artists.

Annie Lennox (4 songs) had a good concept for Nostalgia.  And it’s a good way to get back out there, put out a new record, without all the hassle of conceptualizing and writing your own new material–despite sounding sarcastic, or snarky–I don’t mean it that way.  I feel she gave respect to the songs, and put her own bluesy stamp on each of them.  She especially gave a respectful and haunting version of “Strange Fruit” which is a brave thing for a white person to sing.

Nickelback (4 songs) found some maturity.  I especially like the uplifting vibe of “What are You Waiting for?”  They’ve all but abandoned their objectification of women and sexualized hard-rock for a still-rocking sound.

Better Than Ezra (4 songs) reminds me of the Blacked Eyed Peas combined with. . .  Something less dancy and lower key.  I could get on to this.  I felt like “Dollar Sign” was a nice message about appreciating the important things-not just being capitalistic.  I like the sentiment.

Cold War Kids (4 songs) are a little too. . .  Whiny.  Maybe that’s the word I’m going for here.  They have this pleading sound that’s a bit dramatic and off-putting, but I like the TYPE of music they do.

Foo Fighters (4 songs) were also among the artists who grew up in 2014.  They still rock, but it’s a little LESS hard–soft is not accurate.  I didn’t fall in love with any particular song though, so they’re toward the bottom of this list.

Hard Working Americans (4 songs) has a gravelly voice and feeling in their album.  It was similar to John Mellencamp–but with actual singing.  The idea of blue-collar rock music is a good one–especially when the vocals are executed properly.

Kenny Chesney (4 songs) is not someone I usually listen to.  “Rock Bottom” and “American Kids” are both really catchy and I liked the easy-listen.

Joan Osborne (4 songs) is still around–I’ll bet you didn’t realize that.  She had more of a beat and a jazzy feel then her “God is One of Us” days, and it works for her.  I always picture a Southern jazzy club when I listen as it’s smoky and bluesy in a folksy way.

Tori Amos (4 songs) is more of the same.  I like piano, but I’m never super-excited to listen to her.  And I’m not sure why, because she’s a feminist, she sings with heart and a message.  But it’s a little show-tunes, for me and sometimes comes across. . .  whiny.  I did like “Wild Ways” pretty well though.

Coldplay (4 songs) kind of pissed me off last year.  For the longest time ever, they refused to put their music on Spotify.  Which is super-lame, because the ads mean the artists get their money.  So I saw that as greedy-greedy and pointless.  Because they are RICH mo-fos.  But once I was able to hear the songs, I thought they were less than par with previous efforts.  So I’m not sure what all the secrecy was about.  Call me unimpressed.

Bruce Springstein (4 songs) is not a good singer.  But it’s not always just about vocal prowess.  I like the community feelings invoked throughout High Hopes.

Kid Ink (3 songs) “Hello” is amazing.  I had to mention this album for primarily that song, but I did like 2 more as well.

Lee Brice (3 songs) is a good-time good ‘ol country boy.  I like his softer country, especially his blue collar anthem, “Drinking Class.”

Ariana Grande (3 songs) sounds a lot like J-Lo–at least her voice does–to me.  I love an empowered, bitter rant song and “Problem” perfectly fits that bill.  Watch this gal!

Against Me! (3 songs) can be described in 2 words:  Cheeky and honest.  I liked the direction of Transgender Dysphoria Blues, and everything the title and the front artist stand for.  I think this album would be a bit stronger if a few earnest, slow songs were mixed in with the angry punk-rock vibe.

Pixies (3 songs) are new to me.  I thought they were a neo-punk band, but it’s more like The Foo Fighters after a hangover.  It’s rocking, but not with the strength behind it–a little toned down.

Manchester Orchestra (3 songs) was, as far as I knew, a Christmas thing.  But “HOPE” is not x-mas, it features nice harmonies and a quiet simmer of songs.  It’s a little bleak, but substantial all the same.

50 Cent (3 songs) primarily made my list for. . .  The cover art.  I know, I know, but it’s a pretty awesome-looking lion.  I also like the sentiment, toughness, and growl in “Animal Ambition,” the title track.

Toni Braxton (2 songs) is back!  Sort of.  You know how I love a bitter anthem, and she provides a good one with “I Wish.”  In it, she says what every ex thinks–and it’s a little bit of awesome.

The Vamps (2 songs) have a couple of stand out songs.  “Wild Heart” is a foot-stomping anthem of sorts.

Ryan Adams (2 songs) is a little depressing to listen to.  I’m not sure if that’s the intention or not.  I did like “Stay With Me,” so I thought this self-titled album deserved mention.

Pharrell Willimas (1 song) had a good album, but got edged out of the top 10 by the strong competition.  The standout, “Happy” is a catchy, danceable song with a positive message that I think deserves mention.

Young the Giant (1 really good, and all listenable songs) sounds (to me) like a cross between Arcade Fire and Keane. It’s chill enough to study to and a nice listen. It just isn’t assertive enough of a sound to be a contender for the top spots. They need to find their voice, and it needs to say more.

Mya (1 song) spoke to me on the album, I felt “meh” about the rest.  But “M-O-N-E-Y” is worth mention (pun!).

The Black Keys (1 song) had a superb last album, but Turn Blue was a disappointment.  Only one song, maybe two even made my list, and not because they were super-outstanding.

President’s of the USA (1 song) seems played out to me.  Maybe I’m past their target audience?  I only partially liked “Electric Spider” but found the rest of the album silly and tiresome.

Honorable mention:  The Flaming Lips.  The concept–a re-do of the Beatles–is outstanding!  I really love the idea.  Trouble is, With a Little Help from My Friends is largely unlistenable.  It’s hard to take a psychedelic, out-of-the-box hit like Sgt Pepper. . .  to a crazier state without crossing the line.  And cross the line, the Flaming Lips did.  I wanted to love it, but it’s just too much.  I love their bravery and their creativity though.

My Most listened in 2013

4 Jan

Next is my top artists that put out a CD in 2013.  But this one is purely statistical per data from LastFM.

DMB africa


10]  Movie Sounds Unlimited

9]  Maroon 5 & Michael Buble tied with 130 listens

8]  Relaxing Piano (study purposes)

7]  Mumford & Sons–which dropped so much in rank because of a worrysome, cliche article in “Rollingstone.”

6]  Matchbox 20 tied with London Philharmonic Orchestra (another studious listen)

5]  John Mayer has 152 in 2013.

4]  Tbilisi Orchestra that started out for studying, but became a favorite b/c of “Fast Movements.”

3]  Dave Matthews Band with 329 listensDMB NY 2010

2]  Brandi Carlile with 506 listens

1]  909 plays of Vitamin String Quartet for their fantastic vocal-less covers of all types of music that allows study WITH recognizable songs.

I surprised even myself.  This is the first year Indigo Girls weren’t #1–they didn’t even make the list!  I still love them, but they haven’t made a new album in awhile and I’m pretty particular about which versions of their songs I like.  So various live albums don’t cut it.  I thought more of my staple-artists would make an appearance, actually.  Taylor Swift, Sheryl Crow, Akon, and more are usually in top rotation.  I’m also surprised how few listens there are.  And this is because I was spreading the artists thin, by listening to a huge vareity instead of just a few favorite people/bands.  So it’s good to branch out.  I also didn’t realize how much I was studying–good for me with top spot, #4, 6, 8, and 10 all studious listens.  If I dip down in the list four spots of just regular music listening I get:

11]  Green Day

12]  Eisley

13]  -study-

14]  Phillip Phillips

15]  and David Grey


10]  “Canon in D Major”  Study, but a favorite too.  I want this one played at my “wedding” whatever form that event may take.

9]  “That Moon Song” by Gregory Alan Isakov, feat Brandi Carlile.  He is a relaxed, chill listen.  This is a song that make emotions choke up in your throat.  When Brandi comes in after the first verse, it’s hauntingly beautiful and always moves me.

8]  “I Will Wait” Mumford & Sons.  I had no idea I liked this song better then others in their catalog.  I do like their acoustic sounds, and any song really.

Brandi's band7]  “Closer to You” and “Rise Again”  Brandi Carlile.  Obviously.

6]  “I Didn’t” (tied with a random study song that must be on a lot of ipod play lists).  Another by Brandi.

5]  “Home,” Philip Phillips (live).  I like this because it’s an upbeat foot-stomper.  And the live version is really rooliking with the audience participating in literal foot stamping.

4]  “That Wasn’t Me.”  Though I don’t think it fits with the vibe of the rest of the album, I feel like it’s a substancial single that can really stand alone.  One of my fave Brandi songs.

3]  “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” Brandi Carlile covering John Denver.  I LOVE this!  The whole tribute album is cool–save for the horrible cover-photo.  Great for a road-trip especially.  DMB has a stand out song on it too.  Plus, John Denver always reminds me of Colorado–and THAT makes me excited to move.

2]  “So Much to Say,” by Dave Matthews Band, but it doesn’t really count b/c that was my Talent Show clogging song and I had to play it over and over for choreography, practice, and sound-check purposes.  So it’s skewed.

Brandi in Virginiareal 2]  “Raise Hell.”  So great a Brandi song.  It always helps me feel empowered and excited and it’s a great sing-along.

1]  “Hard Way Home” Brandi Carlile.  Best.  Ever.  Bear Creek is one of the best albums, maybe even my favorite better.  There’s a country feel, traveling/camping feel, and an authenticity to it.  And this song is the antithesis of that.  AND it speaks to my life, because I feel like I never have an easy path, but get things done all the same.

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Best of 2012: NEW ALBUMS

6 Jan

Best Music Produced in 2012:

Finally.  I intended on publishing this on New Years Eve when it’s a little more relevant.  These important decisions take time, and listening.  Several listenings to really pars apart the minute details between albums.  It’s a more subjective measure, then just copying LastFM statistics.  You can’t use the stats, because albums produced later in the year are at a disadvantage.  So this is based on my careful listening and whittling of songs–as well as my own unsubstantiated opinions and feelings.  Oh, and let’s get this out of the way right off the bat–I in no way italicized or put into quotations album or song titles.  This took a look time to write (as you can see by the post date of Jan 6), and I just didn’t devote any more time then necessary to grammar.  Just appreciate the music, and forget proper English, OK?  So finally, finally the long awaited, BEST OF 2012 ALBUMS blog (from good to *glorious–for you, mom).  Enjoy–I know I enjoyed listening and writing it.


Honorable Mentions:

30.  The Fray–which I found a little too churchy to stand up.

29.  Jack Johnson’s live HI benefit album, which featured many other artists, but was too libertine.

28.  Rhythms Del Mundo with their African remixes of popular songs.

the Fray

27.  Carrie Underwood-Blown Away

Meh–I can’t say I was.  I found it too poppy for the most part.  I want a little more range and a little more country twang from Carrie.  What I got was a very commercial effort and three songs I could settle on liking.  Maybe next album, Carrie will write more of her own material, get back to her roots, or at least construct the CD without sales figures and commercial appeal in mind.

Carrie Underwood

26.  Matt & Kim-Sidewalks

I suppose I like the IDEA of the album much more then I actually liked Sidewalks.  Indie music seems so cool, so hipster.  But each song was too similar to the next for me to really appreciate the whole album.  After a quick couple of listens I was tired of hearing the same song in slightly different variation.  I found only two songs which I liked for longer then a day.

25.  Ke$ha-Warrior

Mmmm, this one was good for working out, and I’m sure dancing.  I fount it to be a slightly immature record though.  Maybe I dislike a very genre-specific record.  It certainly makes sense that I redered a very country-pop, indie, and dance-pop albums to the bottom of my 2012 list.  On this one my attention was only captured momentarily, the songs were too poppy to hold up even over a week.  I think Ke$ha has potential as an artist if she can write a little deeper lyrics, while keeping the dancy beats.

24.  Jason Mraz-Love is a Four Letter Word

At first I was very enamored with Love is a Four Letter Word.  I couldn’t get enough of the catchy tunes, and Jason’s commentaries about the songs.  It just didn’t hold up over time though.  The more I listened, the more I got annoyed with certain songs, or intros to the songs.  So unfortunately  what started out as a very, very good thing, ended up on the chopping block so to speak.  By the end of the year I was left with just 5 songs I felt were outstanding and liked to play repeatedly.

where's Peter

23.  White Rabbits-Milk Famous

Apparently, in my best-of 2012, I require several things:  Originality, while being true to the expected sound.  Check.  Coolness factor.  They have it.  Many good songs, that mean something to me and that I can listen to anywhere and on repeat.  Sure.  Several Genres.  This is where the White Rabbits fell flat.  They are indy and hipster and original, and yet each song on Milk Famous was much the same.  Just OK.


22.  Pink-The Truth About Love

I like Pink.  Always have.  I don’t care how immature or how volatile a person she is.  And this album was no exception, I found songs I could sing to, feel emotionally, and dance with.  And I loved how she featured other artists for the first time.  Good things–I like six songs.  But a good, chart-topping, year wowing album requires more then one awesome single and a few notable duets.  There is just no way to put The Truth About Love at the top of any list.  When you listen, you know it’s the junk food of female pop artists. Pink may have a little more staying power then most, and she may have slightly more to say lyrically, but there is just something about this album that isn’t adult.  Despite serious subject matter, Pink is unable to delve deep into her (or my) psyche to warrant serious success.  I want more songs like “Sober” and “Who Knew” that really stop me in my tracks while still being singable.

21.  Alicia Keys-Girl On Fire

Alicia does a good job straddling the line between R&B, piano, pop, soul, and jazz music.  For that, I have to rank Girl on Fire toward the top-more albums of 2012.  In addition, good CD title too.  That said, I only liked six of the offerings.  Usually, with Alicia’s music, I can’t really LOVE each song, but grow attached to at least one.  Not so with Girl on Fire.  No song really grew on me as they had with past albums.  So she gets mediocre rank.

LF polar bear

20.  Minus the Bear-Infinity Overhead

I just expected more.  There was nothing wrong with Infinity Overhead (except that terrible, gritty video for “Steel & Blood”) but I had hoped for more.  The songs were good.  Easy listeners, that were repeatable.  Indy and cool and true to their roots.  I guess I looked forward to the album release so much that these seven songs I ended up liking most did not measure up.  Good music, but a let-down all the same.


19.  Dave Matthews Band-Away From the World

I really hate to say it–I do.  Especially as a relatively new fan, whose favorite moment of 2012 was The Gorge Concert on Labor Dave Weekend.  Away From the World wasn’t the best CD DMB has ever put out.  Sure, “Mercy” grows on you and the video concepts are amazing.  There are just no stand out songs, and certainly not of sufficent length, jams, or live footage.  Now, I’m hungering for a new album already, because 2012’s just didn’t do the band justice.  I wish I could rank this one higher. . .

18.  Alanis Morressette-Havoc and Bright Lights

I’m not afraid to say it–I loved Jagged Little Pieces.  Not a popular opinion anymore.  It was one of my staple CDs for years–still is in the case of a break up.  After Jagged though, Alanis sort of lost her edge for me.  I didn’t really love her efforts until this year.  And this album features a lot of songs I don’t hate.  Though I can’t really say I felt much toward them.  I would classify Havoc and Bright Lights as unobtrusive.  The best album Alanis has put out in years, but not a knock out, stand out by any means.  It’s good background or study music.

my x-mas 14

17.  Bon Iver-Stems Project

This album was produced very early in 2012.  And it’s sits toward the middle of my favorites list despite eventual categorization as just unobtrusive, because it has a couple things.  Different variations of the same song?  Surprisingly a good idea.  It has a very original vibe?  Yup.  Indie? sure.  Hipster? definitively.  And yet, it’s not presumptuous.  Stems Project may not have any stand-alone, stand out songs, but in it’s achievement as indy-hip minus the attitude, I commend it.

Fiona Apple-Criminal

16.  Fiona Apple-crazily long obnoxious title, I’m not going to try to write out.

Jarring.  That’s the most effective description I can think of for *insert longest most unwieldy album title of all time here*  This is over a couple of other artist offerings, because even though I could hardly listen to some of the songs, Fiona was saying something.  Sometimes in a good way, oftentimes exceeding my listening saturation point.  I do like that Fiona did her own thing.  She made her own rules, and really went for it–not keeping an eye on record label profits.  Respectful effort for sure, and I can see potential again, because we all know Fiona can be a little unstable and unpredictable as a person–though she channeled that nicely for the album.  I do suggest less shouting and a shorter title for the next project.  Oh, and by the way, I don’t know if anyone can beat Fiona’s singing chops with her garble-waver and range of pitch.

15.  Amy Ray-Lung of Love

I always have love for any half of the Indigo Girls.  And I feel like Lung of Love has a more country feel to it.  Which is an awesome addition to the rock, folk, and punk infused grooves she already has going.  Extra bonus points for incorporating Brandi Carlile’s voice.  I also like the other featured artists on this album.  Except, I don’t know what it is, but Amy Ray has this way of getting a momentum where every song has the same vibe.  Even with all those different genres and contributing artists.  I start to wonder where one songs ends and the other begins.  And it isn’t in a cohesive–this CD has a theme way.  It’s like she finds an original sound, then sticks to that same sound too much, so that by the end of the CD it’s not novel at all.  I say an album that goes together is fine–but too much of a good sound just becomes boring.

Indigo Girls

14.  A Fine Frenzy-PINES

I love the enchanting whimsy of A Fine Frenzy in general.  And this album, certainly gels together in a nice theme.  Problem the best presented cohesive package of the year.  The only trouble with PINES is the length of some of the songs.  A couple of my favorites are 6-7 minutes long.  A few are just extraneous in length.  Anyway, a nice dramatic effort, that will last in time for sure.

CO wildflower

13.  Green Day-Uno, Dose, Tres

Though there were technically three albums, I judge as one musical effort this year.  Of course, conceptually, the guys deserve kudos for thinking outside the box and producing three separate  yet combinable CDs each several months apart.  I think it’s a great marketing ploy, it’s different, and it’s creative.  Together-it’s a lot too many songs, that tend to blend toward one sound.  Many songs lack their own characteristics, instead being obvious “fillers.”  Yet, I’m not sure I would have liked the 12 songs I ended up liking well, AS much if they would have been on just one disc, as one offering.  So I rank Green Day as top of the middle in my 2012 list, if nothing else for their creativity in bucking a rigid label-system to produce three mini-albums at three intervals.

12.  Keane-Strangeland

There was a different vibe on 2012’s CD then Keane had in the past.  Still good, just another variety   The one thing I disliked was really based on a feeling, then tangible qualities.  I felt like Keane had a certain umm, what’s the right word?  Not arrogance–that’s too much.  Just a level of comfort and familiarity that comes with being sure of success.  I got the feeling Keane feels established enough to not TRY and struggle to make it anymore.  Which, they may have a well-established fan-base, but I think very few artists truly get to stop worrying about their number of listeners.  It ranked just slightly lower because it’s heavy Europe.  There is just a UK vibe that, as a true American (I suppose) turned me off.  This makes it sound like I didn’t like the record at all, which isn’t the case at all.  I felt very strongly toward the 12 songs I did like though, and there were plenty more offered on Strangeland.

11.  Eisley-The Valley

It’s difficult to believe that more then one person is singing.  The blending is impeccable.  I think the musicality, the beats especially, are improved from their last few albums.  If I had to describe what Eisley does to me when I listen to The Valley, it’s to tear delicately.  The lyrics and peaceful pitch gets inside my head and heart, and the emotion behind along with the instrumentation rips at my insides.  It’s a soft assault on my sensibilities.

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10.  Maroon 5-Overexposed

I have no idea what it is.  These guys are just different from everybody else.  I really can’t put my finger on what makes their music so outstanding.  They can say mean things in ways that get stuck in your head.  Their beat initiates dance moves unparalleled.  They are poppy, and seem uncategorizable (yeah, I make up words to suit my purposes) as anything else.  Yet, it isn’t mindless, bubble-gum dance pop that is fleeting and superficial.  A relative flurry of music in the last two years doesn’t hurt to keep them on the radar.  But it’s more than that, too.  I guess that’s what is so great about Overexposed–you don’t know what makes it shine, and why you can’t stop listening.  But you do.

9.  Trampled by Turtles-Stars & Satellites

Damn you Trampled by Turtles!  First off, they get marked down where no one else was even judged, for NOT having any merch featuring a group of turtles, or any turtle at all.  If an animal is in your band name you HAVE to have it on at least one piece of merchandise!  Rawr.  Anyway, the music–ugh, I wanted more fat-playing banjo and fiddle.  I wanted upbeat, dancing blue-grunge or whetever they call their hybrid bluegrass, country, rock, indy, folk music.  But Stars and Satellites was quiet and thoughtful.  Which is not bad.  Not at all.  Just not exactly what I wanted.  So even though I liked every single song, and found no problems (other than the afore-mentioned merch dearth) they are here.  Because the prior CD was better.  That’s all.

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8.  Lifehouse-Almeria

The same band, but just different enough to be totally new–that’s the beauty of Almeria.  I liked the bouncier, dancier songs, though they were still laid-back and chill as Lifehouse has ever been.  I liked this especially, because with such a dramatic change of style, it doesn’t seem forced or over-marketed.  I don’t see Lifehouse catering to record labels or commercial interests with this change.  It just feels like an establishment of maturity.  A great effort, and I can’t want for more.

7.  Ben Folds 5-The Sound of the Life On the Mind

Yay they’re back!  Ben Folds +/- Five is like a club.  You just have to know to understand.  And apparently, I hold membership, because I’m finding it difficult to explain this to outsiders:  It’s less piano (which I loved) but still awesome.  Though the songs on The Sound of the Life On the Mind (or something to that effect-damn, keep album titles short!) seem somehow more down-tempo they are still captivating.  And not really down-tempo.  I totally just said two opposing statements, but it makes sense if you compare the older stuff to this new release.  At any rate, I found seven really solid songs and can’t stop listening to them.  What else can you say, but listen?

6.  Matchbox Twenty-North

Another YAY, they’re back.  What’s the refrain–again with more feeling?  That’s how I felt with North.  It’s everything great about Matchbox 20, lyrically superior, emotion, singable, textured.  But with more feeling.  Every song resonated with me.  I left the CD wanting more.  That’s why they’re in this position.  Also, they don’t really transcend genres or have a purely original sound.  That’s not criticism, just when you have to rank the best albums of a year it comes down to the meticulous details to differentiate the top from the superior.  And these guys are comfortably at the top.

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5.  David Gray-Foundling

A surprise new favorite.  Like everybody else I had heard David Gray, liked some of the more popular songs, then regaled him to the background.  Between 2012 Draw the Line and Foundling, I found 20 songs that I could not tire of.  Yes, they are still good for the background, but the more I listened, the more I felt in tune with David’s unpretentious croonings.  A secret success, that’s already has a huge fan-base.  Add me.

4.  John Mayer-Born & Raised

Growth, so much growth can be ascertained from this album.  I’ve always liked John, but I found Born & Raised to be his best work yet.  It was just the right blend of emotional, country, soul-searching, and pop.  I liked nearly every song, and thought the effort raised above commercial marketing and genre alone.  He stood alone and was his own person, overcoming, sameness (cute guy + guitar) syndrome.  It feels like John grew up, and with that maturity found his real musical niche.

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3.  Adele-21

Oh the talent! I have nothing new to say, that hasn’t already been said or written throughout the year.  This gal is the real deal–no disputing that.  Belying her physical appearance, she can belt it out like a soul-queen.  Riveting and heart-felt, that’s how I would describe 21.  And the ONLY reason she doesn’t rate higher on my list, is she put the album out too early in the year.  Last January, and due to over-play, I’m somewhat over it.  As much as a person can be, anyway.  Not Adele’s fault, or by any lacking of the music quality at all either.  I’ve just had enough for now.  I see this album will be classic, and remain on best-off all-time lists.

2.  Brandi Carlile-Bear Creek

Believe you me–I wanted to pick Brandi’s CD as the top album of the year.  If only for cute-ness factor (Brandi’s not the album).  But there is that ONE song on Bear Creek that I alone just do not feel.  Everyone else likes it, but this is my list, and that song took the CD down a notch.  Anyway, Bear Creek is amazing.  I feel it transcends genres, is re-playable, goes with any activity or mood, and does well live. I also thing it will stand up to the test of time.

Brandi cute cowgirl

And–drumroll please–the number one album of 2012–as I see it:

1.  Mumford & Sons-Babel

Musically and lyrically.  Catchy with longevity.  Multiple listens in a variety of contexts.  I deem Babel the number one album of 2012, just because I was able to listen to it everywhere over and over without tiring of it.  Also, because I enthusiastically liked each song.  The ONLY downfall is Mumford & Sons don’t tour in the U.S. widely if at all.  I would happily take in a concert of theirs!