Tag Archives: Melissa Ethridge

2019 Album Countdown: Tight Race (11-4)

30 Dec

This is the section I agonized over.  I think each of these albums was number 1 on my list at one point or another, and I really had to listen for fine details to organize them in the best way.

 

11 Tegan and Sara

I have heard so, so, so much hype that these gals are the indie fave.  They are supposed to be like the hipster, ‘too-cool-for-school’ low-key awesome band.  I’ve listened to them many times, trying to understand what it’s all about, and I never caught on to it.  I wasn’t feeling the 80’s vibes and thought it was too light, too poetic. Too hipster, not me.

This record changed my mind.  And at one point I had it ranked 2nd, because despite the 1980’s sound that really describes the band, the sound was varied and diverse.  The stacking of elements, the lyrics, every song sounding different. They play their own instruments, of which many are represented in these tunes.  I had to give some respect for talent. But packaged in a lite-sounding way that belied the depth.

 

11 Goo Goo Dolls:

The entire album had very short songs.  They were catchy and easy to listen to though.  It was a throw-back to their 1990s sound, but updated.  It would have ranked higher if there was longer tracks or if there had been at least one huge stand out single.

-”Lights” low key; good beat.

-”Autumn Leaves” Strong singing with feeling.

-”Money, Fame…” different sounding.  Had a slight Fleetwood Mac vibe. 

-”Come to Me” nice romantic song, I could see played at weddings.

-“Miracle Pill” darker song that’s very catchy and has good piano.

-”Lost” has a gospel touch.  Maybe too much though?

 

10 Rob Thomas:

What I liked most of all on this album was the genuine nature of it.  I felt Thomas was especially earnest in each song.  But it does have a tendency to fall into the ‘trying too hard’ category too frequently.  The clap track and that sweater lyric as two examples. Also, it was just not as catchy or technically good as either Jack or Josh.

-”I Love It” Amped up song!  Totally 1980s breakdown.

-”One Less Day” Good beat that reminds me of a like train chugging combined with a common Cher song.  Good uplifting lyrics. Kind of an anti Peter-Pan thing.

-”Early in the Morning” A stripped down song with thoughtful lyrics and occasional piano popping through.

-”Hold On Forever” It’s nice and chipper.  There’s something I don’t like about it: The ‘sweater’ lyric for one to the skippy tune, which sounds familiar and is taken from something else I think.

-”The Man to Hold…” I slow and forgettable.

-”Can’t Help Me Now” is catchy with deep lyrics that I felt.

-”Pieces “ is my favorite track on the album.  It is orchestral and dramatic with sweeping vocals.  The piano featured at the end is beautiful.

 

9 Jack Savoretti:

This album is probably more technically good then some that I placed higher on my list.  It has deep lyrics and instrumentals that at times made me think of: piano, funk, guitar, disco, accordion, and orchestra-whew!  I like this album a lot because it’s low-key. Also it’s very diverse, sounding like a few different musical influences throughout.  But it’s further down in my top 10 because it just didn’t have the catchiness some of the other albums had. And sometimes the singing is (intentionally?) rough which I don’t really care for in music.

“Dying for…’ Americana style music, but not strong on the singing.

-”Beginning of Us” nice little lyrics (about child-birth?) with sweet piano chords.

-”Going Home” is my favorite song on the album!  It reminds me of that Beatles ‘Wonder Years’ theme song.  Jazzy.

-”Youth and Love” has a disco flair.  I like the fast lyrics and the Queen moments.  It features Mika (who is on my list elsewhere) and a French breakdown.  The instrumentals are key.

-”Love is On” has a disco feel and good string accompaniment.  Extra froggy singing though.

-”Singing to…” The John denver feel must come from the slow pace of the song.

-”What more” A Chris Issac influenced tune with heavy strings.

 

8 Josh Ritter:

First let me get this off my chest;  Oh my goodness, Brandi Carlile would sound so good in a duet!  I like this nice strumming, cowboy poetry kind of lyrical feel.  It’s soft rock with a faster, more energetic beat that made this album slightly more catchy than Jack’s.

-”Ground Don’t Want…” This song has a roots beet somewhat like the chugging of a train or something.  

-”Losing Battles” I like the guitar and I like that the song tells a story.

-”On the Water” It’s a good strum.

-”A New Man” Features heavy guitar (and some violine?) and is more upbeat than typical country.  It starts like Brandi’s song.

-”The Torch Committee” This one also tells a story and makes me think of a Medieval march to storm the castle.  There are smoldering strings and percussion that are quiet enough to give the attention to the lyrics. It increases in intensity throughout the song until the instrumentals become the total focal point at the end of the song.

-”where the Night…” Sure it has rough Spring stein-esque sining.  The upbeat tinkling of the piano makes it good though.

 

7 Mika

First of all, can I just say how happy I am that albums are so track-heavy in 2019?!  And unlike cassette-culture when there were 2 singles, most of the songs are not throw-aways.  Keep this going, music industry! Except Mika started out near the top of my list, but dropped down, down, down because the first half of the album is super-strong with each song making an impact.  But I did feel like the first half of the album was a bit stronger and more diverse of a sound, and the 2nd half kind of faded into the background. I do like the dancy, fun vibe.  And I enjoy deciphering Mika’s musical influences on each song.

-”Tiny Love” had a good beat, spoke of gay love, and was interesting to listen to even after several repeats.  I could hear the Queen influence strongly, and it turned out to be a good thing. And then the stripped down ending, made me listen closely, and I thought it was a good technique.

“Ice Cream” reminds me of George Michael with the almost spoken lyrics and high vocal pa

-”Paloma” I can tell Mika really paid homage to his musical influences throughout the entire album.  This song is piano-driven Billy Joel. It’s a little, quiet song as Dave would say, and I like the singing on the chorus.  The gospel backing is a nice touch.

-”Sanremo” has a very 1980’s Calypso vibe.  There is soft singing, claps, and very subtle Calypso notes.

-”Cry” the repeated ‘cry’ was actually a good sound.  But the rest of the song was forgettable.

-”Platform Ballerinas” Is it an upbeat song about gay culture?

-”Blue” sounds like Bon Iver, but I found it slow and a little boring.

 

6 Melissa Etheridge

This may be the most introspective Etheridge has ever been.  And it’s refreshing to hear.  Sure, there is still plenty of swagger in her rock also.  And some touches even reminded me of her ‘Yes I Am’ album (I’m pretty sure she used the exact same chords on a couple songs) but it was in a good way.  I think the best musical parts of the album was the Native American sounds she included.  It was an unexpected but good addition to her regular rock sounds.  The reason Melissa is 5th when I thought this was her best album since ‘Lucky’ (one of my all time overall favorites) is because she is a little bit sexist in some of the bitter songs.  I like a bitter song, but misogyny isn’t a selling point to me (from females or males) and it won’t age well.

-”Faded…” has almost a powow/native sound to it

-”Here comes the pain” I like that it’s earnest and introspective.  A nice break from all the swagger and pride.

-”Good Lookin” kinda sexist/bitter, about someone who lives in the bubble.

-”The Med Show” Native, but with her hard-rock strong singing.  Best song, maybe.

-”The Human Chain” lyrically weak attempt at political neutrality.  And come on, people with money, power, and fame with nothing to lose–please make a statement.  A real statement!

-”Miss you” catchy, is it about politics or love?

 

5 James Morrison:

It was a really tight race between spots 3-11 this year, with me having to listen over and over for details and subtle differences between albums.  This top 10 has not been thrown together, it was crafted very carefully with many justifications for each spot. This album got 5th place for 2 reasons:  All the influences of music genres make it very eclectic and uplifting of a track list.  I hear: Roots, soft rock, soul, gospel, jazz. Secondly, because of the intricate instrumental layering of each song.  You can tell a lot is going on and there had to be good planning and execution to get to the final product.  There seems to be two versions of each song. One that features stronger singing, then one that is stripped down and almost acoustic.  It’s interesting to hear both versions, even back to back. I didn’t feel like it was double songs, more like–oh I can hear distinct differences.  My complaint is that I did keep having to check if I’d reviewed songs, because the whole album sounds so homogenous.  

-”Feels Like…” This sounds so much like Ray Lamontange with the roots/fold feel and catchiness.

-’So Beautiful” I do like the repeat three times and obviously the high note.

-”Slowly” It’s impactful the way the verse is whispered, but the chorus is loud. Also impactful is the way ‘let it fall’ is repeated.  Nice piano also.

-”Brighter Kind…” I like the ascending words and notes.  

-”My Love Goes…” sweeping gospel flavor.  The last seconds are haunting in a beautiful way.

-”Broken Strings” This song features Nelly Furtado, but she doesn’t really bring her personality to the part.  Honestly, Kelly Clarkson would have been a better match (and has better singing ability).  

-”I Won’t Let…” The orchestral background adds a lot to this song.

-”too Late for…” I like the sentiment that true love isn’t perfect.  Mistakes are made, and you move forward. I think it’s a good message when so many songs insinuate that mistakes and disagreements aren’t part of true or real love.  Interesting instrumentals top it off.

 

  1. Bruce Springsteen

I think this is a theme album or soundtrack.  And those usually don’t factor very high on a countdown list of mine.  But this one in particular feels so right and comes together in a cohesive way that sticks with the theme.  And Bruce never has a good singing voice (in my opinion).  But the scratchiness is actually well-suited for the Western feel of this album.  This album has a very ‘Reno’ casino quality to it-I’m not sure if that was intentional.

-“Rhinestone Cowboy” is catchy.

-“Sleepy Joe’s Cafe” features an accordion and truck stop lyrics, which match the tone of the song somehow.  Also, the jazzy interlude spices it up.

-“Drive Fast” was long, boring, and droning–I needed to get where we were going already.  He mumble-sings and the born to run section sounds very classic ‘Springsteen’ ie, not my fave.

-“Western Stars” tells a lyrical story with a lot of detail that sounds like a good camping vibe.

-“Hitch Hikin’” is a little quiet song with very nice backing instrumentals.

-“Hungry Heart” is older sounding.

-“Thunder Road” has harmonica and in a good way, but the singing is more shout-singing = grating.

-“The River” is another song featuring a lot of nice details and a storyline invoking loneliness and travel.  But the singing is again particularly grating.

 

Tomorrow, on the last day of 2019, I will share my choices for the top 3 albums of the year!

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.