Tag Archives: Mumford & Sons

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

5 Feb

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

Revamp (various artists)

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

Now from bottom to top. 

Here are albums I didn’t really care for:

  1. Playing Favorites, Meiko

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

  1. Delta, Mumford and Sons

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

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

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

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

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

And now the OK:

25. This House is Not for Sale, Bon Jovi

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

24.  Only Love, Jordan smith

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

23. Golden Hour, Kacei Musgraves

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

22.  The Wandering Hearts, self titled album

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

21.  Seasons Change, Scotty McCreary

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

20.  Bea Miller

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

19.  Dark Horse, Devin Dawson

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

18.  Nation of Two, Vance Joy

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

The Good:

  1. Dogviolet, Laurel

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

  1. Volunteer, Old Crow Medicine Show

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

  1.  No Roots EP, by Alice Merton

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

  1.  Encore, by Anderson East

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

  1.  Vide Noir, Lord Huron

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

  1.  My New Moon, Amos Lee

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

  1.  Black Coffee, Beth Hart & Joe Bonamessa

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

Top 10:

  1.  The Port Saint Joe, The Brothers Osborne

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

  1.  Mania, Fall Out Boy

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

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

  1.  Raising the Bar, Terry Clark

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

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

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

  1. Come  Tomorrow, Dave Matthews Band

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

Top 5 Albums of 2018:

  1. Songs for the Saints, Kenny Chesney

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

  1. Man of the Woods, Justin Timberlake

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

  1. This Ones for You,Too, Luke Combs

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

  1.  Home of the Strange, Young the Giant

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

 

–>late addition–<

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

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

Holler, Amy Ray

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

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

And Drumroll Please……

The TOP album of 2018:

 

  1. Choke Cherry Tree, Ben Miller Band

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

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

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

Robo-Music: Countdown of Top Albums from 2015

29 Dec

I’m not certain if it’s this era in music I don’t really care for or if it’s the tastes of Utah.  Here in Salt Lake City, at least, everyone is in to DJs.  And electronic.  And very pop-1980s throwbacks.  It’s nothing live, nothing that has heart.  And that’s the whole thing for me.  I need substantial lyrics and some belting out.  Instrumentation.  The popular music in the Salt Lake City area is computer-generated or superficial.  So I feel like I’m musically starved.  And I hope it’s just this region that doesn’t know the story.  I did manage to scrape up some contenders for this list.

music- robot 2

This list was compiled based on album alone. Catalog, concerts, expectations, hype, and cuteness were not factors.  And as an aside, I posted this before really going through it with a fine-toothed comb, so to speak.  In the interest of time.  I’ve been  notorious in previous years for wanting to perfect these or wanting to listen to ALL the options, then not ever posting them.  Or posting them a year late.  So up it goes, but I may edit or add some things later.

 

DIDN’T Likes (Worst to Don’t Love Listening):

Diddy

What happened to the Puffy/Biggy days when there was a melody or two within the rap?  This is harsh and displeasing.  Almost grating.  I think it’s that electronic influence rearing it’s ugly head again.   Also, rapping was not really a thing (which is the point?) so I didn’t really connect with any lyrics either.  A disappointment.

Sleater-Kinney

Some people might like “No Cities to Love”.  I am not one of them.  But I don’t think this album is bad, it seems well thought-out and well-executed.  It is just not my taste AT ALL.

Sara Bareilles

I have liked her past albums.  Like a lot.  I think she is one of few that speaks for feminists.  And that’s so important, especially in the male-dominated music industry.  This album was barely listen-able for me.  It felt like a cheesy Disney soundtrack or a musical.  Very overwrought and sappy to the point of-barf.  I hope she goes back to her roots.

Matt and Kim

It’s TOO harsh.  I understand they are supposed to be electronic and robotic.  But “New Glow”  is robots in a war.  I need something to sing to, some catchy chorus, somewhere.  All the noise makes that difficult to find.  And even as an exercise album, which I expect substantially less from lyrically, it was too jarring and too syncopated.

music- robot

Blah-Neutral, Try Harder in the Future, and Up and Coming in no particular order (Medium-Passion from Me):

Emmylou Harris, Rodney Crowell

The first two songs made me think they were going to steal the Grammy from Brandi.  Which, despite a flagging enthusiasm for Brandi’s latest, I most definitely want her to WIN that prize.  So I was horrified, I really liked a couple of Emmylou’s songs.  It’s old country and Americana as the category has nominated her for, but every song was not a winner.  The album lost steam in a few places.  Aside from some boring tunes, it’s a down-home oldy-feeling work of art that a person could listen to one or two times before totally losing interest.

Jason Isbell

It’s hard not to compare Isbell to Brandi Carlile–since they’re up for the same Grammy and all.  But, this artist is ranked under Brandi, because I said I would look at the albums singularly.  And his is a whole different thing.  I think in some ways it is more listen-able then “Firewatcher’s Daughter” in that it makes easy, background music.  I like the gentleness of the sound.  But when it comes down to it, I personally like catchy things sung well and with feeling.  And this album has no hooks or unbelievable vocal range, as Brandi’s does.  But it’s a chill-mood and none of the songs are unlikeable (which I can’t always say about Brandi’s songs).  So check it out–but it BETTER not steal Brandi Carlile’s Grammy if it knows what’s good for it!

Kelly Clarkson

More of the same.  I’ve always liked Clarkson, especially her breaking up songs.  Except, I feel like her albums and sound are becoming more and more of a manufactured machine.  The genuineness is simply  not there.  I think Clarkson should write from her heart and sing from her soul rather then doing mathematical calculations in trying to secure top chart numbers and album sales.  I want to hear her stripped down and authentic–even at the risk of being less corporate.

Tim McGraw

Went skating.  Skating by on prior success, on his image, and on his fan-base.  I thought there was nothing at all special about this album.  I would like to see him strive for the next work–I know he is capable of growth, of branching out, and getting out of his comfort zone a little.  This album was put out for the sake of remaining relevant, and unfortunately, you can tell.

Jewel

On the other hand, Jewel tried too hard.  I can hear that she tried to replicate her earlier success.  But the effort had a disingenuous, forced quality about it that I didn’t like.  The poetry was there, some sweet-signing, and a little discord.  Folk was full-force, but “Picking Up the Pieces” still wasn’t comparable to “Pieces of Me” as I’m sure she intended.  Jewel formerly sold out and went straight pop for the money.  Then she tried to recapture success easily by going to the easier realm of country.  After that failed, she’s floundering–and it shows.  I wish Jewel would forget the record sales and corporate numbers and actually be genuine.  I think she has a place in music–but it’s not going to be  through her own force of will.  She needs to get in tune (pun!) with herself and her story if she’s going to get out of her slump.

Papa Roach

Also offered nothing really special or nothing really groundbreaking here.  I used to like their rebellious sound.  The blend of punk, pop, and rock they had going.  Now, it’s a little formulaic, with no real standouts.  Can’t music forgo corporate manufacture and be real?!

Avicii

“Stories” could be a great album.  But the first album, “True” (?) that I listened to raised my expectations very high so this newest one was sort of a big yawn for me.  After falling in LOVE with the last album, I just could find anything to attach to in this one.  I think it’s still OK, but it hardly equals “True.”

music- electronic

Worth Mentioning (but not a blurb):

Adele-  probably would rank on my list, but no Spotify, no rank.

Christine and the Queens- self titled

Death Cab for Cutie- Kintsugi

The Decemberists- What a Terrible World. . .

Imagine Dragons- Smoke + Mirros

Kendrick Lamar- To Pimp a Butterfly

Luke Bryan- Kill the Lights

Sports- All of Something

music- robot 3

 

AAANNNNNND Top Albums of 2015 Countdown from Good to Very Best:

11 (honorable mention).

Kid Rock

Dave Matthews Band’s Lovely Ladies must have stepped into the recording studio with Kid Rock.  This album is good, but very, very different from previous efforts.  It’s more grown up and country/blues, than rebel rock.  I liked the gospel and southern flair and thought they were appropriate to the tracks.  The thing that would make the album stronger is a little more variation in the songs.  They all started to sound the same to me.  And though cohesive as an album, even the 80’s hard-rock Gods knew to throw in a ballad once in awhile.  There should be something that doesn’t meet expectations in here to really flesh it out.  And fans of the first few albums–prepare your ears–I’m not sure you’re going to like this even a little bit.

 

10.  rebel heart

Madonna

This album would have ranked higher, because the songs that I like, I really, REALLY like.  But there was some electronic/club influence that I’m trying to get away from—as you heard.  My top 10 is all about the human aspect of music.  What I liked was the variability in the album.  It all meshed together, but the songs were distinct and had different feels and influences in them.  We have a broken heart, dancy-club, a Jamaican sound, and of course electronic.  I especially give top marks for this seldom-seen vulnerability in many of the tracks.  It’s a softer, riskier sound for Madonna, and I feel like I know her better as a person because of it.  Of course I also like the stronger side of her personality and artistry, and that’s here as well.  Madonna’s sound has matured and she has leaned tons from her years topping the charts–but she’s still got IT.

9.  firewatchers daughter

Brandi Carlile

Let me just get it out there.  No, I have to soften it a little by saying Brandi is perhaps my favorite artist of the last 6 years.  And her shows are THE best!  She seems genuine and she’s personable, and of course she’s cute.  So my expectations for a new album were SKY-high.  Bear Creek was phenomenal, in my opinion.  The follow-up was sure to be even better.  But it wasn’t.  Not to me, at least–the rest of the world seems to disagree and is finally catching on to MY band.  Washington state, especially Seattle, feel like the band is OURS.  So I very much hate to say “Firewatcher’s Daughter” just seemed to meander too far to the right for me.  I’m not saying it was bad by any means.  But usually I attach to all but 1, or maybe 2 songs on Brandi’s albums.  This time, I only really-liked 2-3.  “These Things I Regret” was good and I think sort of a fan-song.  It was more the old style, the one I fell in love with.  “Mainstream Kid” with its strength and rock-flavor is the other obvious hit on the record.  And “Wherever is Your Heart” shows the band’s range and energy.  Honorable mention goes to “The Stranger at my Door” for most awesome song-ending ever.   The rest?  Too. . .  I don’t know, maybe just not MY style.  “The Eye” is not an album-song.  It’s meant for the live, breath-taking, ‘wow that’s almost a Capella  and look how they blend together as a group’ sentiment.  But even live (at the Gorge) the choruses repeat to the point of boredom and it just got tedious to me.  The Avette Brother’s cover is good.  But it also bothers me.  One, it seems too soon cover them–the Avettes (though their catalog is HUGE) are JUST going mainstream.  Mostly, though it seems (as gleaned from show commentaries and interviews) to be Brandi’s love song to her family and a gay anthem (from her perspective, I gather).  But it’s obviously written (and unchanged) for brothers, or at least siblings.  With the ‘which one of us would Dad be proud of’ stuff.  I want her to tailor it to her needs or really, just leave it to the Avette Brothers.  And “Wilder, We’re Chained” if it’s not a direct Fleetwood Mac cover, it’s MUCH too similar, and with “The Eye” having that same tone, it just feels like a throw away song.  I guess I won’t go into any more specific song detail (because I already wrote that blog) but I feel compelled to justify my options.  I don’t like “going against” my favorites.  Because–I feel guilty for being disappointed.  I am happy Brandi Carlile’s career is finally taking off in a mainstream way and she’s getting some long-deserved media-attention.  But, I hope Brandi Carlile does not continue to scout territory which takes her farther away from her core group of fans.  I liked the former albums–even if they didn’t garner all the attention, hype, and accolades.  Though they should have and I don’t know why she’s just now blowing up–it’s long overdue.  Maybe now that everybody’s watching she can go back to the more rock-folk style that I like better?

8.  Kacey Musgravespageant material

I like it:  A cheeky country gal.  The songs are catchy and foster an independent rebel spirit that I like, and that I think is totally necessary in the still good-ol boys country network.  I think she’ll join modern trail-blazers Shania Twain, Carrie Underwood, and especially Miranda Lambert as the new spunky voice of country women, working to bust stereotypes and get outside of the social norms.  This album gives me an idea of what Musgraves stands for, and I like that message even better then the songs.

7.storyteller

Carrie Underwood

Is back to herself–thank goodness!  I love her bitter songs where she gets feisty and this album has that in spades.  Seeing Underwood sell-out and try to please mainstream (impossible/boring) was sad, so “Storyteller” is all the better.  It offers almost every song as independent woman, talking trash to some loser who mistreated her.  The passion in Underwood’s voice is back to go nicely with her always strong voice.  Love.  And I hope she remains true to her roots from now on.

6.

Mumford & Sonswilder mind

I loved their sound so much.  When “Babel” exploded onto the scene, it was stripped down, featured a kind of country feel, and was completely different.  So I’m a little disappointed the band has chosen to deviate to the sound that contributed to their huge mainstream popularity.  I liked it because it WAS different and not the normal mainstream sound.  But alas, though I’m not sure I’m on board with the band changing its tune (another pun!), but I’m judging “Wilder Mind” by itself.  And it’s masterfully done.  Really, it’s a solid work as a group.  You can listen to the album over and over and it’s a really great work.  There are no real individual songs that pop though.  And as a side-note to the band–get back to your acoustic roots.

5.Mika-1st albumMika

Mika- The Origin of Love

Yes, this album is pretty-pure pop.  BUT it is strong in a socially-conscious way.  Mike SAYS something in this album.  Opposed to Cee Lo’s closet-case, Mike is totally uninhibited gay.  Like, old-school, flamboyant, proud to be a little feminine, gay.  This album is an anthem for all the homos everywhere, even going so far as to ask, “Where Have All the Gay Guys Gone?”  And the songs are catchy and dancy which doesn’t hurt one bit.

4.  The Indigo Girlsone lost day

When I was just thinking about the album, I felt sorry that I was a little disappointed in it.  “One Lost Day” is not an evolution.  Some past albums were much stronger, showed more growth, or talked more of political issues.  But if the Indigo Girls can do anything, they can subtly change their sound to remain relevant in current times.  Just look back at how long they’ve been around.  And just TRY to sound two very similar albums from there—they are all different.  And apparently, in order to be relevant in 2015, you have to have an electronic or strong-pop flavor.  I couldn’t remember any stand-out songs when I thought about the tracks of “One Lost Day,”  and I even thought maybe the new album was a little too pop.  When I actually turned on the songs to hone in on my  list-placement, I remembered why the Indigo Girls are masters at what they do:  The album has a clear ark and tells a cohesive story. Each song contributes to an overall story.   The songs are polished and you know the duo has absolutely perfected their writing/recording process.  But there is always a feeling-invoked and an authenticity about their works.  Yes, obvious success and maybe a little pandering is going on, but The Indigo Girls still have their amazing harmonies, their political ideologies, and a personal story to tell.  I call this one polished, but not superficial.

3.  Beth Hart

Beth Hart

I didn’t even want to sample Hart’s new album, because Douche had told me once that she attended a Beth Hart concert and the artist was sloppy.  Like, obviously impaired, and asking the audience for drugs while performing on stage.  And I’m not into supporting obvious drug-addicts.   BUT I came across a recent article about Beth Hart outlining her addiction, new sobriety, and bipolar diagnosis.  So I listened to “Better Than Home”.  And I’m glad I did!  It’s bluesy and stands out from the crowd right now.  Hart’s voice is resonant and her lyrics deep.  Also, she has this vibrato singing style that’s very technical and amazing.  It’s a different sound in a sea of similar female voices.

2.Vanessa Carlton

Vanessa Carlton

Where did she come from?!  All I remember is that “A Thousand Miles” song that was over-played to the extreme until it became hostile to listen to again.  But “Liberman” is so great.  It’s a stripped-down feel, heavy on the piano, and with good song-writing.  It’s a chill listen without being boring.  I don’t know if you could over-play this album–it’s sure been heavy on my rotation and I’ve yet to tire of it.  Think Ben Folds Five, but with a female vocalist.

  1.  Cee Lo GreenHeart Blanche

This is totally beside the point, but does anyone else think Green is a seriously closeted gay?  This album sets off my gay-dar.  It’s upbeat and dancy, but in a good way.  I may not have a lot to write about the album, but I want to convey it’s a fun, yet serious album that has good singing, true writing, and I found it very pleasing to my ears.

Cee Lo Green- gay

P.S.  Yes!  I finished this entire post, BEFORE the next year.  This is the first time in 3(?) years I can say that.  I am very pleased, and this means good omens for 2016.

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

Artists:

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

Songs:

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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A Music Update

22 Jul

Here is a fun post in honor of me going back to my part-time schedule tomorrow and being productive for the last 27 days of summer (WHERE DID THAT TIME GO?!):

The formula is taken from my last FM stats.  This captures i-tunes, i-pods, Spotify, all of it.  Also, I looked at each time increment captured and got an average that is representative of long and short term listening habits.

1.  MY FAVORITE LISTENING FORUM:

-Spotify.  It’s not perfect, and it always craps out when I try to use it to sync my i-pod, but it has almost everything and it’s free.  Sure, I could do without the ads, especially the ones that jump under my mouse when I scroll, but it’s still less spammy then Apple.

2.  FAVORITE ARTIST (most to least played status)

-Brandi Carlile avg 2nd

-Indigo Girls avg 7th = DMB avg 7th

-Maroon 5 avg 8th

-Mumford & Sons avg 9th

-Taylor Swift avg 10th

3.  FAVORITE SONG LYRICS

-Right now, “Age of Worry” by John Mayer resonates with me

4.  TOP PLAYED SONG

-in the last 6 months = Brandi Carlile’s remake of “Take Me Home, Country Roads”

– for the last year = Brandi Carlile “Hard Way Home”

-overall = Taylor Swift “Mean”

5.  TOP PLAYED BAND

-still the Indigo Girls overall with 6,253 listens

-in the last year, DMB = 1,441 listens

-past 6 months = Brandi Carlile = 448 listens

6.  BEST STUDY MUSIC

-Vitamin String Quartet

-I like the fast movements of Tbilisi Orchestra

http://youtu.be/83XU3aKZxiA

7.  BEST RUNNING MUSIC

-“Here Comes the Boom,” Nelly

-“Lose Yourself,” Eminem

-“My Time,” Fabolous

8.  BEST DRIVING MUSIC

-John Denver

-Trampled by Turtles

—>

Can I just say A] I must be tired because I’ve been working on this post for a ridiculous 2 hours now and B] I am now totally obsessed with watching DMB on YouTube now?  There is everything!  The show I actually saw at the Gorge, official videos, lyrics, and fan stuff!!!!  I never go on YouTube–THIS must be the reason, it’s a vortex-time-stealing machine. . .

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.

Thriller

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.

cherry

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.

IMG_20120901_173242

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.

NV Feb 2010 241

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.

turtle line 2

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!

Best of 2012: LISTENING

1 Jan

Where do you even start when trying to say your favorite 10 artists in the year?  Well, it’s an impossible task–so you turn to the quantitative data, of course.  Here is what Last FM says I liked best in the last year, based on my own scrobbles.

MY Favorites in 2012 (as per Last FM stats):

10.  Maroon 5

It seems these guys had a frenzy of albums, remixes, and singles this year.  I like them because there’s a syncopated beat unlike anyone else.  More listens are in order for 2013!

9.  The Avett Brothers

Rogue bastards snuck in.  I listened in order to prepare for Labor Dave Weekend.  They were opening, and I thought I’d attempt to gain an appreciation.  And their discography is quite extensive, though I can’t say I ever caught on to them.  But here they are in my top-listened. . .

8.  Jason Mraz

What with a new album out, and of course a sentimental favorite of mine since he was my first concert ever–I am not surprised he still frequents my most-listened list.

7.  Taylor Swift

I WISH she had produced a new album, or had more songs.  This place on the lst seems low compared to how much I like her songs.  Her writing really speaks to me.  Plus, I saw her biography once and am super-impressed that she was hired as a song-writer (for other artists) so young.

6.  Mumford & Sons.

Love!  My current favorite album.  I enjoy every single song, which hardly ever happens.  The only downfall is they never tour in the U.S.

5.  Piano Tribute Players

On the list because I can’t always study to violins, and I had not discovered where the heck the heavily advertised Classify was actually located.  Good covers all the same though.

4.  Indigo Girls.

Thanks to Spotify, and easy access to many artists all the time, I branched out this year.  My Indigo Girls are still a (if not THE) fave, but the fell to 4 due to exposure.  Still amazing.

3.  Brandi Carlile.

Younger.  Cuter.  Closer in proximity.  Transcending genres.  Here’s some love for my secret girlfriend Brandi.  I never tire of her music or concerts.  I always hunger for more.  And one day, maybe I’ll finally get to meet her.

2.  Vitamin String Quartet.

Really a tribute to how much a studied last year more then anything.  I listened to lyric-less music to study, and they are #2 most played.  Yay good grades.

1.  DMB

Somehow, I became a real fan.  I’m not sure when it happened because really, they were Cool’s thing and I was just supportive.  I never before had “felt” them, even though “Crash” was amongst the very first 12 CDs I ever owned (thanks BMG Music Club!).  Sometime, in listening and in preparing for and attending the Gorge concert–I became hard-core.  Now I have more listens then Cool.  And their cute, and amazing selection of merch doesn’t hurt either.