Saturday, December 30, 2017

My Favorite Albums of 2017!

Well, 2017 draws to a close. Personally and politically, not one of my best, but things are looking up for 2018. But musically, it was a VERY good year. In spite of continued upheaval in how music is made and distributed (and how artists get paid), there is a LOT of great art being made these days. I did a quick scan of all albums released this year and the list was in the thousands. Keep it coming folks! Here, in no particular order, are some of my favorites, with selected Youtube vids to give you a flavor of the album:

BARENAKED LADIES & THE PERSUASIONS
Ladies and Gentlemen: Barenaked Ladies and The Persuasions


Two great groups that go great together! So glad these guys met the Persuasions, and decided to do a project together. The Persuasions are a singing group that dates back to the 60's and they're still going strong. They've had a revival by occasionally singing with, and covering, unexpected artists such as Frank Zappa. This is a pure delight.




WIRE
Silver/Lead


Wire just keeps on giving, year after year, since the late 70's. They started out sort of punk, then quickly moved into "post punk" (helping to create the genre) and now they just do what they do. And it sounds so great to my ears.




RANDY NEWMAN
Dark Matter


I heart Randy. Into his 70s and writing some of his best songs ever. This one about Putin is funny. People asked if he'd write one about Trump and he said, "No, that'd be too easy, and I don't think anyone wants to hear more about him anyway."




ROBYN HITCHCOCK
Robyn Hitchcock (s/t)


Here's another guy who shows no sign of slowing down, now into his 60s. Existential & humorous lyrics to catchy tunes, his raison d'etre.




AIMEE MANN
Mental Illness


Okay I'm noticing a pattern here: Musicians who have weathered quite a lot in life and are persevering with their art. I love it! This is one of my favorite Aimee Mann albums so far. Quiet but powerful. And just lovely.




SLEAFORD MODS
English Tapas


The closest I get to rap music, but this is great stuff. Not good if you don't like your lyrics "colorful" to say the least, but man these guys sure nail the modern English life for people with not much to look forward to.




GARY NUMAN
Savage (Songs from a Broken World)


I followed Gary on Pledgemusic for almost two years while he tried, in fits and starts, to get this album made. It was the most interesting musical journey I've ever been on, getting to see and hear about what really goes into making a (hopefully) large-scale, commercial album. At one point he even spoke into the camera about having a nervous breakdown, where he couldn't move his hands for about 10 minutes, and just sat there frozen. This is what can happen when you put too much pressure on yourself to deliver. The result? Very, very good. I saw him in concert this fall and he looked happy and triumphant. His 11-year-old daughter Persia came out and sang with him on this song. He grinned and gave her a big hug afterwards. It was a great night.




MIKE GORDON
Ogogo


Better known as a member of ultra-jam band Phish, Mr. Gordon has also released five solo albums. This one is excellent.




THE NEW PORNOGRAPHERS
Whiteout Conditions


Lovely band, silly name. It's too bad, because this band led by A.C. Newman has been putting out great, catchy music for almost 20 years. This song is somehow soothing and uplifting, in spite of it apparently being about depression:




STEVEN WILSON
To The Bone


Former leader of epic prog band Porcupine Tree, this is one of my favorite solo albums of his so far (tied on my mental list with Hand Cannot Erase). The title song, with lyrics by one of my favorite songwriters of all-time, Andy Patridge of XTC, explores the idea of "subjective truth" to a catchy rhythm and some classically epic guitar playing.





COLIN HAY
Fierce Mercy


The continuing answer to "Whatever happened to that guy from Men At Work?" He's been cranking out solo albums since the 80's, each one consistently good, with a decidedly spiritual grounding. This latest is up there with the best of them. This track in particular is quiet and beautiful.




ST. VINCENT
Masseduction


This is the closest album on my list to a "major mainstream" release, and it's a great one. St. Vincent (aka Annie Clark) does some amazing work here, and makes some good social statements along the way.




NEIL FINN
Out Of Silence


This was easily the coolest thing that happened in music this year, and I'm not sure how many people even heard about it. Neil rehearsed the band and singers for about a month, and then recorded the whole album in one magical night, with only a few takes, and broadcast the whole thing live to watch. I stayed up and saw much of it. What an achievement. Icing on the cake that the songs are SO good. Check it all out!




RIDE
Weather Diaries


A great comeback story! I loved this original shoegaze band's stuff in the late 80's/early 90's, then they broke up, but finally rejoined with renewed friendships and good feelings in the last couple of years. This song off the new album is by far my favorite.




MAXIMO PARK
Risk To Exist


Love this band from northern England and they Britpoppy ways. They've got good (IMHO) socialist leanings and sing about that, as well as songs about not getting high. I can dig that!




SPARKS
Hippopotamus


The greatest, and funniest, band that few people have heard of. Formed in 1972 and still doing great stuff! This new album is no exception:




BLACK GRAPE
Pop Voodoo


Yet another "comeback" band. Shaun Ryder led (wrote and sang) for the Madchester scene Happy Mondays in the 80s, then formed Black Grape in the 90's and then went quiet for about 20 years. Here he, and they, are in all their sleazy glory. Welcome back!




CINDY WILSON
Change


Appopriately titled first solo album from original member of the beloved B-52's. I followed Cindy's new project on Pledgemusic and kept my expectations low, but the result was wonderful. Every track's a winner. Synthy beguiling.




That's it for 2017. Looking forward to another year of great music and that Next Big Favorite Thing.

David


Saturday, December 31, 2016

Favorite Songs of 2016

Many of these songs were included on fine albums in 2016, but these stood out particularly (and were not included in my Favorite Albums of 2016 list). Enjoy!

























Sunday, December 18, 2016

Favorite Rock Albums of 2016

Here are some of my favorite albums of 2016. Each of them had a powerful effect on me in one way or another, and I gave them repeat listens. Explore, please, and enjoy:


WIRE Nocturnal Koreans




SPEED OF THE STARS (Steve Kilbey of The Church, and Frank Kearns) Speed Of The Stars




THE JOY FORMIDABLE Hitch




THE LENNON CLAYPOOL DELIRIUM Monolith Of Phobos




BLACK MOUNTAIN IV




BOB MOULD Patch The Sky




SCHOOL OF SEVEN BELLS SVIIB



THE MONKEES Good Times!




DEERHOOF The Magic




MITSKI Puberty 2



MIND SPIDERS Prosthesis




KATE BUSH Before The Dawn




HIGH VIOLETS Heroes And Halos




DAVID BOWIE Blackstar




JON ANDERSON/ROINE STOLT Invention Of Knowledge