Thursday, March 22, 2018

New music ~ Miranda Lambert & Panic!

I was gonna discuss Keith Urban's horrifying new Frankensong more, but meh. It's bad. Don't listen to it. The end. If you want a new take on "Mama Tried," listen to Angaleena Presley's kickass "Mama I Tried."

DO listen to Miranda Lambert's "Keeper of the Flame," which is not a new song but her latest single, and one of my favourites from Weight of These Wings. Not only is it good, it sounds like it could genuinely be a hit. (That is, if radio actually plays it.) It's catchy, anthemic, and the theme fits the Stapleton-led direction I think country is trying to go right now. While the song itself sounds much more modern than traditional, the sentiment comes across in the tasteful instrumentation and Miranda's always-impassioned vocals. It's a good look for 2018, and I hope it sticks around. (I should probably relisten to Weight of These Wings, but damn it's so long...)

Soooo I can't lie, I kinda like Panic! At the Disco, random punctuation and all. I know, I know. Their last album Death of a Bachelor was kind of a guilty pleasure for me, not because I think it's bad - in fact, Brendan Urie is an amazing vocalist - but because this band is kinda for teenagers, right? I feel a little silly listening to them, it would be like listening to my old Smurfs albums and wait I would totally do that, never mind.

Anyway, they released two songs from their upcoming album and I gotta say, they're energetic and infectious AF. Not the kind of thing I usually listen to, but that's the beauty of it. It's not organic, like at all, but it does interesting, creative things with the production and Brendan Urie is as dynamic as always. I guess I'd call it dance rock, if something so synth-y could be called rock at all. It just goes a little harder than anything I'd call "pop." I think this might be what Fall Out Boy was trying to do, once again proving that Panic is better. And now that I'm done rambling like a 13 year old on livejournal, I'll just say this music probably isn't for most people who'd be reading a country and rock blog, and that's okay. If I dig it, I'm gonna talk about it. I'm actually looking forward to this album, with the most intriguing title of Pray for the Wicked.

2018 has been a decent year for music so far, and it's primed to get even better. Don't let me down.

tbt ~ 2000s country (Warning: unintended rant)

I've been having serious 2000s music nostalgia lately. It started with indie stuff like The Shins, New Pornographers, of Montreal, etc., and eventually drifted into country. I still listen to a lot of these songs, but there were also some half-forgotten gems. Lady Antebellum's early stuff sounds so pure and good. Catchy, well-produced pop country at its best. Randy Houser used to have grit and swagger to complement his vocal chops. And, because I'm the queen of bad timing, I was all set to praise Keith Urban's old stuff for actually being a cool mix of pop sensibilities and country instrumentation. Then he released something that can only be described as an atrocity, a desecration of the sacred "Mama Tried." With the "Issues" chick, of all people! Not just a pop singer, a TERRIBLE one! Don't go looking for it, I beg you. It's unholy. It will haunt you forever. But hey, that early stuff's still pretty decent.

A link, since the mythical "embed playlist" option has never shown up for me.

A few notes on the playlist. It's mostly in order by year, with a few exceptions of songs I forgot. Why you can't reorder songs is beyond me. We sent people into space 50 years ago but I can't have the technology to move a Chris Young song up a playlist. Okay, sure.

...I think that Keith Urban song made me a little salty. Can you blame me?

The list is not necessarily "the BEST country hits of the 2000s!" but the ones I know and remember most fondly. Nostalgia plays a part in some cases, but they're all songs I like. Mostly just the hits, though I did include a few album cuts from certain artists.

Notable exclusions:

As I've stated many times, I left country music almost completely behind in the early 2000s, due to the post-9/11 divisiveness. I started to come around in the mid-2000s but didn't fully come back until I heard Miranda Lambert the first time. So NO songs that remind me of the awful "stick a boot in yer ass" era of country were included. Not even Alan Jackson's comforting, apolitical "Where Were You," the only one of those songs I like. Nor the Dixie Chicks' "Not Ready to Make Nice," which I also like but reminds me of bad vibes I don't need in my life. I'm a forgiving soul so I did include Toby Keith's "Beer for My Horses," an actual good song. (The same cannot be said for "She's a Hottie," which should by all decency be Toby Keith's worst song, but isn't.)

This last one hurts. One of the first songs that drew me back into country was Buddy Jewell's "Help Pour Out the Rain (Lacey's Song)," a beautiful, simple song based around a child's questions about death, the afterlife, and God. This could be overly sentimental if done wrong, but it was done just right, with a beautiful melody and instrumentation to go along with it. The kind of song you come to country music for.

Cue a few years ago when I heard the song and was like, "HMM, I WONDER WHAT BUDDY JEWELL IS UP TO, HE WAS PRETTY GOOD," and BIG MISTAKE, guys. Maybe don't look up people from the past unless you wanna be disappointed, cause... look. I'm not gonna shun an artist for having different beliefs than me. I hate politics, and when you let it get in the way of music, politics wins, not you.

That said, I can't stress enough that bigotry is not a belief or political stance. White supremacy is a mental illness, as far as I'm concerned. So if you must, google Buddy Jewell "This Ain't Mexico," but I recommend you don't. I'm careful to not throw the word "racist" around like a football, but if this song is any indication, the man is an honest-to-God racist. I can maybe forgive "stick a boot in yer ass," but I can't forgive outright racism. Dude actually talks about loving fajitas and margaritas but DON'T SET FOOT OVER THE BORDER, AMIGO. So... how are they supposed to deliver the food you wanna shove in your taco hole without actually being there, genius? Chuck it over the border and hope someone in Texas catches it? "We like your food, but we don't want you here." FUCK. YOU. IN. YOUR. TACO. HOLE. So yeah, that's why a song I like isn't on my playlist. I can't even listen to it without thinking that the little girl must be white or he wouldn't be singing about her, and all the sentiment goes out the window along with your margarita puke, you fat redneck fuck.

Okay. That felt kinda good. I'm done now. :)

You know, I considered skipping the early years of the decade and starting in like, '04 to avoid all these ugly feelings coming back. But there were just too many good songs to leave out, so I'm gonna end on that positive note instead. I'd say overall it was a pretty good decade for country music, especially the mid-to-late part. Definitely worth revisiting.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Two more new country singles

By two more dudes, obviously.

Here we have Jake 'n Blake, which I'm sure makes delicious fried chicken (and I helped!), but how is it musically?

Well, ever since his promising start back in the day, Blake Shelton has gotten both worse and more famous. Maybe someday I'll understand why that's a thing. (See also: Luke Bryan.) From egregious bro-pandering like "Boys Round Here" to all the forgettable mid tempo AC sludge that I've, well, forgotten, Blake is someone I've long stopped caring about. His new song is called "I Lived It," and while it may be just more forgettable AC sludge to some, this one actually kinda speaks to me.

It gives me a 90s feel, not because it necessarily sounds like a 90s song, but it takes me back to those days when I loved country music. Which is maybe the point, considering it's about nostalgia and growing up in a bygone era. I mean #relatable, amirite?? But it's nothing that hasn't been done before, from Bucky Covington's "A Different World" to ironically, Miranda's "Automatic." And nostalgia is a tricky subject for me. If you hit my sweet spot you got me, but if it strikes me as "80s/90s kid pandering," it really pisses me off. I don't like some cynical asshole trying to cash in on my nostalgia. And some people may see this song as just that, but to me it feels real. Real enough. It's not as good as "Automatic," or something like Trace Adkins' "You're Gonna Miss This," but I enjoy listening to it. It gives me a good feeling. And Blake has always had a good voice that's been sadly wasted. Please, keep giving these songs to him and not no-talent personality voids like Cole Swindell and Thomas Rhett.

I'd like to say I like Jake Owen's new song, but... hooooo boy. Why are we still trying to make "American Kids" in 2018? I liked that song more than most, but it wasn't THAT great. This is another nostalgia song, and this time it hits all the wrong notes. It wasn't enough we had to endure Keith Urban's assault on John Cougar, now Jake here is taking a crack at him. What has he ever done to you guys?? Can these kind of songs just die already? At least Blake is talking about a unique experience and not piggybacking off an 80s song. (I know Blake didn't write "I Lived it," but he sings it like he did, which I guess counts for something.) Jake can do so much better than this, so why doesn't he?

I guess the bright side is, at least they're giving me stuff to talk about. I don't remember a single hit "country" song last year outside of the highest highs ("Tin Man" and Stapleton) and the lowest low ("Body Like a Pothole"). Everything else was so boringly in the middle.

I also want to make one more point about this whole Bebe Rexha/FGL debacle before hopefully retiring the subject forever. While I think country radio should be for country and country-adjacent music (no, Chris Stapleton isn't purely "country," but he fits), I don't mind artists going outside their genres at all. If pop and country people wanna work together, why the hell not?

The problem is, more often than not this has the opposite result of what you might think. Expanding beyond genre should push down walls and open up creativity, right? But that's not what's happening. Instead we're getting the most flavourless, middle of the road songs imaginable, from "Meant to Be" to Maren Morris' almost tragically aptly-named "The Middle." Since it's clearly not about exploring creative options, the only logical conclusion is it's about making a buck. So I don't wanna hear any sanctimonious crap about "pushing boundaries" from people like Bebe Rexha. BULL. SHIT. That's one of the least "boundary pushing" songs I've ever heard. You wanna genre-hop, do it, but MAKE GOOD MUSIC. This lazy monogenre crap is killing creativity rather than igniting it.

Friday, March 09, 2018

Friday Random Silliness

When you're a kid, sometimes the first place you hear a classic song is in a commercial. So now, no matter how many years go by or how many times I hear the song, the words to Love Me Tender will always be "love me tender, love me true, feed me something new." Curse you, dog food industry!

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Music Update

My current plan is to do a three-fer review of Brandi Carlile, Kacey Musgraves, and Blackberry Smoke in probably mid-April, so the albums have time to sit with me. That will still be one album per month, but gives me more listening time.

A nice February surprise for me was the Black Panther soundtrack, especially since I'm not usually a hip hop fan. Well some of the songs have a more r&b vibe, like "All the Stars" and "Pray for Me," and I've been listening to those a lot. I won't be doing an album review, but it's always nice when something pulls me into different genres. I can feel my mind expanding. It's a little tingly. Ahhhh.

I looked at the country chart today. Why, why did I do that. Okay, here we go.

I've heard good things about Ashley McBryde, I need to check her out.
EDIT: Yeah, I like this. I like this a LOT. Her album's coming out in March, so I might just make that review a four-fer. "Here's to the breakups that didn't break us." This is my kind of country song. Beautiful strong voice, a little Sara Evans. Okay, this is why I look at the charts. Every once in a while there's a gem I might miss.

That new Zac Brown Without the Band song is in the country top 40. Seriously, screw him for saying one thing and doing another for the almighty profit. I'd be fine with him making a pop song for pop radio, but this shows an utter lack of integrity from an artist I used to count as a favorite.

There's a Chase Rice song called "Three Chords and the Truth." Ha. Hahahahaha. I haven't heard it, but I'm guessing it's another attempt at de-broification. More like "Three Chords and the Truth Is I Haven't Known What the Hell to Do With My Career Since 2015." Live by the Axe body spray, die by the Axe body spray, bro.
EDIT: Okay I broke down and listened to this thing and it's still pretty bro-ey, just more toned down. But it's a girl in a car and drinking and name-dropping old songs and YAWN. Do these people ever do anything but travel in cars? I'm getting some Birdemic-level driving here.

Morgan Evans. Dylan Scott. Michael Ray. Chris Lane. Morgan Wallen. Jordan Davis. Devin Dawson. This is all the same person. Prove to me it isn't, I'll wait.

Dierks Bentley has a song called "Woman, Amen," apparently following in the footsteps of Keith Urban's "Female." How nice. Now can we have more actual women on the charts who aren't Bebe freaking Rexha? Amen.

I feel like I'm too old to unironically listen to someone called "Scotty" tbh.

In my last post I raised the question, Will Maren Morris ever make another good song? The answer appears to be no, no she will not. This "Rich" song... okay, I will say it has more personality than anything else I've heard from her since "My Church." But it sounds bad, like really really bad. The production is a mess, just noise being thrown in my ears. Like it genuinely sounds like it wasn't mixed right. I guess we have "busbee" to thank for that, whoever and whatever that is. I'm going with "cartoon bee from the 90s." And to that I say, buzz off! Hahahahahahkillme.

And um yeah, this thing totally takes from "The Joker" by Steve Miller Band, of all things. As a classic rock fan, this is something I could get behind if done right, but it sounds awful and her level of rock swagger is nil. (With the right production, Carrie Underwood could maybe pull this off.) And it's not awful because it's "not country." I'm no purist, there's plenty of pop country and rock country I dig the hell out of. Just make music that sounds good, that's all I ask.

Artists should be able to express themselves and make the music they want without feeling pigeonholed. Telling an artist they MUST make country music, and it must adhere to some arbitrary standard, is about as conducive to creativity and making good music as all the shit I hate on the other side of the argument (autotune, drum machines, etc). But here's the thing. If you're gonna lay claim to a defined genre of music, by all means feel free to experiment with it. But do it with some form of respect. If you give off the impression you don't actually care about country at all, then you shouldn't be marketed that way. The point of country shouldn't be to be as not-country as possible while still maintaining the tiniest shred so you can go, "See? See, that's country!" I mean... why do it if you don't like it?

Country music isn't about somebody hitting you upside the head with a banjo and telling you to play it or else, it's about taking the banjo and other traditions and making them your own. It's about having enough passion for what the genre is, and has been, to find your own lane on the highway. If your music shows no actual connection to country, why lay claim to it at all? I mean, I'm not gonna fly to France and say I'm French.

Monday, February 26, 2018

You know what's a WAY better song and sentiment than "Most People Are Good?" Montgomery Gentry's "Some People Change." This is a more realistic view of the world that still has a positive message without the whitewashing. Don't give up hope, some people change. You know, the ones that aren't good... at least not all the way through.

The Inevitable De-Broification of Bro Country

Before I comment on the quality of the music, can I just say lol? Like, lololololol? Because sometimes pop culture is so predictable and stupid I'm ashamed to be a part of it.

Bro country's been (mostly) dead for a while now, but it's like all the poor lost bros suddenly got torches lit under their asses to not be bros anymore, and stat!, and come up with something Deeper. Deeper, with a capital D. But is there any actual substance here, or just pandering?

Case 1. Marry Me, by Thomas Rhett

I already talked about this one, which turned out to be the warning shot. The non-bro Bat Signal to the rest of the Bat Bros. Or whatever. I'm losing this narrative fast, but not as fast as country music lost its narrative. Zing! Anywayyyy... my takeaway was that, while the song is decent, Rhett's vocals do nothing for me and he has the emotional range of a wicker basket. A photo of a wicker basket was posted, to much snickering glee on my end because I am twelve. And yeah, that's how I still feel. Give the song to a more emotive, gifted vocalist, say Chris Young, Darius Rucker, or Randy Houser, and you've got something.

Case 2. You Make It Easy, by Jason Aldean

Jason Aldean's a weird one for me. This is the guy who made "The Truth" and "Night Train," two songs I love. I don't love his voice, but it's fine enough to carry some good songs. But this is also the guy who made "Burnin' it Down" and "Dirt Road Anthem," and the tonal dissonance kinda makes you think he's just a singer for hire, not an Artist with Something to Say. And never have I felt that more than with this song. Oh it's way, WAY better than either of the latter, but... dude is trying to be Chris Stapleton. It's like, SO OBVIOUS. And there's only one Chris Stapleton. His voice and songwriting come from a real place, a desire to create and express genuine emotion through music. Aldean is riding a trend, and he'll ride the next trend, and the next. While he's not devoid of talent, it's hard to have much respect for him. Also, the couple times I've heard this song I finished the chorus off with a rousing "like Sunday morning!" which was oddly satisfying.

Case 3. Most People Are Good, by Luke Bryan

Well, there's a pandering title for you. Look, this isn't a bad song, and I do like an opportunity for Luke to remind people he can actually sing. I used to like this guy, after all. I just wish he'd show off his voice on something a little less middle of the road. Like "all lives matter," "most people are good" seems like a fitting rallying cry for these divisive times, ON THE SURFACE. I mean, most people want to hear they're good. But it's pretty easy to compartmentalize this shit, you know? Take Mr. Middle America Johnson, he's a good guy, always helps his neighbours, always donates to the church bake sale, claps extra loud for his kids in the school play even though they suck, you know, a great guy.

But dig a little deeper and all his neighbours and congregation and kids are white, and he doesn't know any people of colour or gay people (that he knows of). And maybe he's got some subconscious, casual bigotry that causes him to vote for those who actively seek to harm such people who are outside of his own circle. Does this make Mr. Johnson a bad person? Not necessarily, but it doesn't really make him good either, and that's why these sweeping messages don't work for me. I realize the point was probably to make it not political, but I don't think my point is political. THAT'S the problem, that things like being a bigot or not are considered "politics." I say this because I feel this song is for Mr. and Mrs. Middle America Johnson, and I think you have to look below the surface level there. Saying someone is good doesn't really help anyone; bursting the bubble they live in does.

I do like how he said no one should be ashamed for who they love. That's actually... really damn progressive for Luke Bryan and this kind of song, so good on ya. But overall, I think "Humble and Kind" does this better. It's reminding you to BE humble and kind, not saying that most people ARE humble and kind. Which is a flat ass lie, obviously.

I'll end this with how Tom Servo replied to "Only the good die young:" "Most people are morally ambiguous, which explains their random dying patterns." Because there's a MST3K quote for everything, and it's gonna be my new (non)hit country song.

Case 4. Break Up in the End, by Cole Swindell

AKA The Dance 2018, but with all the power stripped away. Okay, this isn't a bad song either. If it hadn't immediately struck me as wanting to be The Dance, and failing, I'd probably like it more. I'd definitely like it more if, like "Marry Me," it was sung by a more emotive vocalist. Bless his heart, he's trying, but Cole Swindell wishes he had the emotional range of a wicker basket. He has the emotional range of a bowl of poi.

This isn't Cole's first non-bro rodeo, in fact "You Should Be Here" was probably one of the first big shifts away, back in 2015. I feel bad criticizing that song, it's about his actual dead dad, but look... like these other songs, it just didn't hit me emotionally. The detail wasn't there, there was no raw emotion in his voice. If anything, this new song hits me a little more, just because it IS the same theme as The Dance, and it actually has pretty nice sounding production.

EDIT: I discussed "You Should Be Here" here. I called it "grief lite." Damn, 2016 me was cold.

Actually, another thing I wrote there pretty much sums things up. "If you wanna have a hit, make a song that will somehow resonate with everyone despite actually resonating with no one."

We're at the point where the biggest compliment you can give a song on country radio is that it "sounds country". That sucks, but maybe songs like these are how we start to equalize. These are probably some of the best, if not the best songs on country radio right now, and you can either take that as a sad indictment or a stepping stone. Things aren't great yet, but maybe this will lead to some actual great songs being heard. Or maybe it won't. I mean, I wish it didn't all feel so calculated. But I'll give these bros the same grade I gave Justin Timberlake: "You tried." It's better than "You're a lazy sack of shit," at least. We still have to solve the woman problem, but maybe having less toxic songs on the radio is at least a start? idk. I mean, there's also something out there called "Singles You Up," so we might just be heading for the apocalypse.

So what's next? Will Sam Hunt's next single just be a tastefully EDM-laced recording of him singing in the church choir? Will Florida Georgia Line ask to duet with someone actually talented, and get laughed all the way to Alabama? Will Brantley Gilbert find his way out of his own asshole? Will Maren Morris EVER make another good song??

Stay tuned, I guess?

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

RIP Daryle Singletary :(

Well shit, I just saw that Daryle Singletary died. What the hell?? He was younger than Kenny Chesney, Tim McGraw, and Keith Urban. Man, I wish his career could have stuck around like theirs did. He was great. "Amen Kind of Love" is in my top 10, if not top 5 favorite 90s country songs. I mean, if I was gonna use a single song to illustrate the kind of feel good country I like, here it is. Time may have passed him (and many other 90s artists) by, but I never forgot him and never will.

Music randoms

Okay, what's been going on here. Well, I've mostly been going over The Shins' discography and enjoying myself. Sooo many amazing songs in their catalogue, and Heartworms just grows on me with every listen. But then I got tired of enjoying myself, I guess, and decided to look at another trainwreck. Or at least a minor wreck, not the complete derailment and everything on fire sort of wreck that Fall Out Boy was.

So, I've never listened to a Justin Timberlake album. He's not my kind of artist, I never cared about 90s boy bands, I listened to pretty much nothing but country when the whole N*sync vs Backstreet Boys war was raging. Perhaps someday we'll read of it in history books. Anyway, I didn't pay him much attention until his duet with Chris Stapleton on "Tennessee Whiskey," which blew me the hell away. It's a good song to begin with, and wow did their voices sound great together. So having heard that the album would be more organic and rootsy (no, I never expected it to be "country"), and that Stapleton had a feature, I gave it a listen. Or rather, other than "Say Something," I gave it a preview, cause there was no way I was listening to that whole long ass album.

I didn't like "Filthy", and it seemed that releasing one of the least organic, rootsy songs I've ever heard as a leadoff single was either terrible marketing or an indication the album would not be as advertised. Turns out, it was kinda both. The song sounds like there's a robot drowning in the background, which makes me sad honestly, and who the hell wants to think about filthy hands preparing meat? You might as well just call your song "Salmonella." The overly obvious sexual metaphor is not sexy or helpful; I'm still just thinkin' about bacteria. Overall, I will give JT props for trying something a little different. I think he failed, but so many pop stars don't try at all since they don't have to, and I feel like there was at least an attempt at genuine artistry here. I mean, it doesn't feel cash-grabby, which automatically lends it sincerity. I just wish it was any good.

The only song I really care about, "Say Something" with Stapleton, is... okay. Just okay. Their voices still sound good together but it's nowhere near the powerhouse that "Tennessee Whiskey" was. I'm mostly left underwhelmed and feeling like I should just listen to a Stapleton album instead. What it did do is put Chris Stapleton in the top 10 of the pop charts. I don't think it will last, but at least we can say that happened in 2018.

What I got from the rest of the album wasn't so much "OMG this sucks!" as "You tried." I feel like in trying to be "deeper," he only revealed how shallow he is. He's the Anti-Kesha. Any attempted rootsiness does not feel organic, it feels like more of a pose. And the thing is, I don't think it is a pose, because to what end? I think it's genuine but still comes off feeling tryhard, because it just doesn't work.

On a more positive note, I finally checked out two more albums from last year, thanks to the Grammys of all things. First up was Lorde's Melodrama. I don't know if I've talked about Lorde here, but I like her. I enjoyed her first album, with "Tennis Court" being my favorite track. Her minimalist style doesn't blow me away, but it definitely has its place. It's a much better coffee house soundtrack than your typical boring White Guy with Acoustic Guitar. You know, like Arthur Johnson or whoever that guy was. Jack James? Anyway yeah, Lorde. While nothing hit me quite like "Tennis Court," I think Melodrama is overall a stronger album. It's very listenable if you're in the right mood, without any bad tracks. My favorite is "Homemade Dynamite." In fact, the little interlude where she goes, "Now you know it's really gonna blow *boom*" is probably my favorite two seconds in music last year. I also liked "Liability," "The Louvre," and "Perfect Places."

Next was Awaken, My Love! by Childish Gambino and yeah, this one's an honourable mention for my favorite albums. I put off listening to this because I loved "Redbone" so much and was afraid the album wouldn't hold up. Happily that was not the case, the whole album has that sweet vibe. There are a couple skippable songs here - his voice sounds really annoying on "California" - but overall this is a soulful, funky and dare I say, groovy experience to let wash over you. Groovy with a deliciously dark edge that sets it apart. I'll be playing this a lot come summer. Favourites other than "Redbone" are "Me and Your Mama," "Boogieman," and "Have Some Love."

Finally, "Finesse" keeps growing on me more every time I hear it. I LOVED New Jack Swing and still listen to quite a few songs from that era. So Bruno Mars making a Bell Biv Devoe style song? Yeah. HELL yeah. Not only do I hope this is the huge hit of the year like "Uptown Funk" was, I hope it brings back more of that sound. Fun, upbeat pop music with a great beat, what??! Pop music doesn't have to be dour, depressing, midtempo sludge? Why that's just crazy talk, sir. 🧐

New Brandi Carlile in a few days, so that will likely be my next post.

Thursday, February 01, 2018

tbt ~ Patty Loveless

A reminder that mainstream country used to sound like this, and there were women who weren't pop starlets. Lots of 'em.*

*just off the top of my head - Patty Loveless, Trisha Yearwood, Dolly Parton, Martina McBride, Lee Ann Womack, Pam Tillis, Sara Evans, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Alison Krauss, LeAnn Rimes, Highway 101 (female vocalist), The Judds, Reba, and Tanya Tucker. And yes, Shania, who is pop but totally has her own sound and personality. You're not gonna confuse Shania with anyone else, unlike today's few "country" women who aren't Miranda or Carrie.

Am I gonna keep hammering this into the ground? You betcha! This post was partly inspired by this lovely rant.
Maren Morris quickly went downhill for me after "My Church," and now she's working with "Zedd." Pretty sure he's come up here before but I don't remember for what. Ah right, the "feral cat playing a didgeridoo" song. Lovely.

I think the "bro" era is well and truly done with, Body Like a Mud Pit killed it once and for all, but there's still a long way to go in bringing women back. So I'll be back in the 90s, or listening to artists like Angaleena Presley, til the industry gets its head out of its butt. Well, you'll be waiting a mighty long time, you might say, but the 90s weren't THAT long ago. Is the road between there and here really so broken it can't be fixed? I know THE INTERNET is always the big scary monster that killed everything, and radio is scrambling to stay afloat, but... women WERE successful in the 90s. It's not like, "oh we can't afford to carry women anymore, sorry," when they've already been proven hitmakers. I don't get what's changed about that. All I know is country women deserve to be more than just be a throwback.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Music Monday ~ Updated Favorite Albums of 2017

Isn't it nice when I get to update a best list, as opposed to all the updates to my 2016 worst songs? Yeah, some great albums came out last year, and I didn't listen to half of them until this month because life can be kooky. This might still be updated on my listening journey but I feel pretty confident posting it now, especially in light of my latest discovery.

1-4 are in order, 5-10 are random.

1. Still Creeper, because nobody beats Creeper, or The Wiz.
2. Still Paramore, by a slight edge.
3. Alvvays ~ Antisocialites. What I think the Sundays would sound like in 2017. Even the album title fits.
4. Jaime Wyatt ~ Felony Blues. In light of all the great music I've listened to, this still hangs on at #4 despite its short length. Every song here connects and I love the cohesive theme. If it was any longer, maybe some of that theme would be obscured or less powerful, so I can't complain.

5. New Pornographers ~ Whiteout Conditions. How do they do this every single album. "Songcrafting" sounds like a pretentious as hell term but idk what else to call this. Beautiful album, and it's only grown on me once I got past the overwhelming amazingness of Brill Bruisers and stopped comparing the two.
6. The Shins ~ Heartworms. Holy crap, it's the Shins! I hadn't listened to these guys since Chutes Too Narrow, and that was in 2003. I looked it up. So, I listened to this this morning. Then I listened to it again. I wouldn't usually throw an album on a best list on such short notice, but this was indisputable. With all the older acts that disappointed me or I just liked but didn't love last year, The Shins and The New Pornographers nailed it with some classic indie pop. There's even a beautiful folk/Americana-tinged song called "Mildenhall." There are no "skippers" on this album for me, which is why it belongs here.

7. Hurray for the Riff Raff ~ The Navigator. By far the most distinctive and unusual album on this list, this could have been too exotic or artsy for me but it isn't. There's something straightforward about it that just hits me. It takes you on a journey. It's like energetic folk music. Folk with an edge.
8. Angaleena Presley ~ Wrangled. And, country with an edge. I need to check out her first album, but I'm gonna let this one sink in a little more first. It's important. This didn't get nearly as much attention as it should have, but I think it'll be a classic in 10 years. Groundswell, indeed.
9. Kesha ~ Rainbow. Still fucking great. This album will never make me anything but happy.
10. Sunny Sweeney ~ Trophy. Women in country have shit to say, and they're saying it beautifully. Keep making it and I'll keep listening. And again, I think time will be VERY kind to albums like this, even if the current climate isn't. Serious music listeners have long memories.

Honorable mentions:

Chris Stapleton ~ From A Room, Vol. 1. Yeah, the burnout was my fault. This is a really good album. I haven't listened to Vol. 2 yet.
Harry Styles ~ Okay, the uncredited guitar riff aside, I can't deny how much I like this. This is the ONLY album by a top 40 artist last year I'd call "rock." 70s light rock counts. Oh yes, it counts.
Doll Skin ~ Manic Pixie Dream Girl. This is just good, catchy rock music with a little pop punk vibe. If you're in the mood to just rock out, put on Shut Up, Daughter, Persephone, or pretty much anything from this album. There's a riot grrrl* element here, but unlike what keeps me from a lot of that style, the production sounds nice and clean.

*autocorrect changed this to "riot grill," which is absolutely a business I want to open.

This list is heavy on female artists, and that was not intentional. I listened to a LOT of male artists last year, but most of them either disappointed (Weezer, Beck) or were good enough but not up with what I included here (The Killers, The Maine, Zac Brown Band*). I'm so glad that Shins record came along ~ yay, something that actually exceeded my expectations! So while I support seeking out female artists, especially country ones, in this time that's being ridiculously and unfairly prohibitive, this isn't a statement on my part other than "this was my favorite music." If that in itself makes a statement, then I stand by it. :)

*OH, we'll be getting to his ass another time. Welcome Home was decent if not great, though.

And now, MUSIC!

Friday, January 26, 2018

Feel Good Friday

A bittersweet one today, as Lari White passed away this week, but she left us with one of my favorite feel good songs of the 90s. RIP. Thanks for the sunshine.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Music Monday ~ Music Criticism

While I'm not a music "critic," just a discerning listener, I try to take most critiques I do, positive or negative, seriously. Music is important to me. So I want to put out a few points about music criticism that I feel apply whether you're an actual critic or someone like me sitting on your couch in your Hello Kitty pjs.

1. "This isn't for me" vs "This is bad"

This is the most important distinction to make, and one that can be difficult. Of course "bad" is subjective, some people will like something you think is bad, and sometimes you'll even like something you think is bad. So how do I classify "bad" vs just not my taste? The number one answer to that is, LAZINESS. Lack of effort. This is often combined with blindly chasing trends. Hopping on the ol' bandwagon for some quick cha ching.

Let's take all this trap music as an example. In his worst hit songs of 2017 video, Todd in the Shadows said that while it's not for him, that doesn't automatically make it bad. Which is fair. However, in this case, I'd argue that much of this "music" actually is bad. Why is there so much of it? Why does it keep flooding the charts every week? It all sounds the same, the rappers all have the same name like "Lil Bunny Hop" or whatever, so why does it keep coming and coming? I think the answer's pretty obvious. It's cheap and easy to make. It requires very little effort or talent, and most of the lyrics are just the same words repeated over and over. Literally anyone could do this. I'm not saying anyone could do it and be successful, but I am saying the unsuccessful stuff probably wouldn't sound much worse or different from the successful stuff.

This goes double for The Chainsmokers, who are on record as saying they made music for "pussy" and hooking up with "hotter girls." THAT'S NOT HOW IT'S SUPPOSED TO WORK GUYS. You get girls by making great music. You get girls by being the fucking Rolling Stones. But they're successful so whatever, guess no one cares but me.

If you make as little effort as possible for as much reward as possible, if I see no discernible talent or artistry in your music, just dollar signs or... horniness, I'm calling it BAD.

2. Being stupid, offensive, or offensively stupid

I put in that last one specifically for "Body Like a Backroad." I'm not offended by the lyrics, but I am offended by the stupidity of the lyrics. Stupid hurts culture. So do misogynistic lyrics, as well as shallow so-called "feminist" lyrics. If I feel your song makes society an actual worse place, I'm calling it BAD.

3. "Experimenting" vs "Selling out"

This has been a big one with "rock" bands the last few years. I put rock in quotes because there really aren't any mainstream rock bands left. In fact, a lot of the bands I'm about to list were never rock rock, so we'll call them "bands that played actual instruments," or BTPAI, instead. Cause that's catchy.

Let's call this the Maroon 5 Effect. Was Maroon 5 ever a rock band? No, not really, but they were a band, and they had some kinda nice funk-pop songs back in the day like "Makes Me Wonder." But they stopped sounding like a band a while ago. A few years ago Imagine Dragons hit it big. I liked their early hits, I mean they were never like ROOOOOCK, but it was solid pop rock. Now I guess they still sound like a band, but a band of what? This is an example of two bands who might have once had integrity, but have successfully "sold out." And it's pretty damn obvious they're not experimenting artistically, they're going straight for the $$.

To be honest, neither of those bands offend me enough to call them "bad." But what have they wrought? In the past year, we've seen a glut of bands that would have fallen somewhere under the "rock" umbrella make these soulless, overproduced pop projects. Pop punk band All Time Low, Linkin Park, Weezer *sigh,* and most recently, Fall Out Boy. And none of them worked. Fans saw through it. It's happened in country too, with artists like Easton Corbin, Randy Houser, and Eli Young Band. Where did they go? Well, they weren't meant to be Sam Hunt, and since they decided to "fix" what wasn't broken, I kinda forgot they all existed til I went through my iTunes yesterday. It was kind of a "wow" moment, like why did these talented people have to go away?

Here's where criticism comes in. Another pop punk/rock band released a pure pop album last year, and it was my second favorite album of the year. Paramore is not only a great band but a great example. Don't automatically criticize a band for changing their sound. Analyze it. Figure out why it works for one album and not another. I can tell you why After Laughter works for me end none of those other albums do.

1. The lyrics resonate, they have something to say, which is an immediate indicator that it's not a "sell out."

2. The production is poppy, but not overdone like on that ear-bleeder of a Fall Out Boy album (and most modern production honestly). It suits the music perfectly.

3. Hayley Williams' voice, nuff said.

4. This last point is more subjective, but since the overall consensus seems to agree with me - it doesn't sound like it's begging to be played on the radio. It sounds organic, like it's own thing, a natural progression for the band. They're not trying to appeal to "the kids," they're just making music.

So change isn't automatically bad. Don't be one of those "I hate it because it's DIFFERENT" people. Because for all the sell out crap, the majority of which, ironically, seems to fail, sometimes there's genuine artistic growth. Even if you're not a critic, critical thinking is one of the most important skills you can hone. While music is made to be felt, there are certain metrics you can use to help determine "good," "bad," "not bad, just not for me," or "bad, but I like it for some reason, send help." Then, when you go off on something for being a piece of crap and someone's like, "you just don't like CHANGE, this is 2018 MAN, we LIKE things that suck!" you can point them to when you did, in fact, like change. They won't shut up, but at least you know you did your job right.

I'm going to end this by saying I listened to "In An Aeroplane Over the Sea" for the first time in years the other day, and it made me VERY EMOTIONAL. Sometimes, it's also good to just turn off your brain and feel the music. Sometimes that's the most honest critique of all.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Album Catchup, Part 2

Angaleena Presley ~ Wrangled

As a Pistol Annies fan this album was on my radar all year, but I didn't get around to it til I heard "Only Blood" on a year end list. And HOLY. PETE. That song reached out and grabbed me by the soul. I listened to the album that night, and wow. This is probably #5 on my 2017 favourites, by the way.

It's kind of like Brandy Clark's Big Day in a Small Town with an edge. The same kind of incisive, slice of life songwriting and effortlessly endearing vocals, but instead of the more narrative tone of Big Day, you get deeply personal stories from Presley's life, complete with lines like "if you bless my heart I'll slap your face." Oh yeah! This is my jam.

Wrangled opens with a very depressing song called "Dreams Don't Come True" that I weirdly love. If a Disney princess didn't get her happily ever after, this would be her song. And man, that's a story I wanna see. Except this is about fame, not love, and how she thought she'd "change the world with three chords and the truth." Well, you've changed my world a little bit, and that probably goes for anyone who's listened to this album, so that's something. It's funny, the second thing I thought of after hearing this song (the first being Disgruntled Disney Princess) was what I wrote about Taylor Swift and the ugliness of fame. Maybe it's better to be a respected critical darling than potential tabloid fodder. The whole world doesn't hear your music, which sucks, cause it deserves to be heard more than anything that's popular, but you're not gonna be writing lyrics like "why? because she's DEAD" either. So net positive, I say.

Every song here is worth talking about, but for the sake of brevity I'll skim a bit. "Outlaw" is an interesting song, gut-punchingly honest like everything on this album. Instead of boasting about being an outsider, she bemoans her lack of mainstream success, saying she is not brave and "Every fight I've ever fought, rule I've ever broke,
Was out of desperation." This is a beautiful moment of vulnerability that really resonates. You kind of get the feeling that since she can't conform even if she wants to ("Mama always said
God broke the mold when he made me
And I've spent my whole damn life
Tryin' to fit back in"), she wishes the mainstream could come to her, even just a little bit. But she's given up hope that will happen, as evidenced by the next song I wanna talk about.

"Country." Hooo boy. At first I wasn't feeling this but then I realized, this isn't a song, it's performance art. This is music in the same way punk is music. It's not meant to be pleasing, it's a means to a message. I appreciate its existence for what it is. "Backwoods, bonfire, here comes the hook, wooah ohhh woooah!" she squawks, off kilter, almost out of control. Then, "yeehaw!" Go get em, girl. 😘

More faves - "Mama I Tried," which brilliantly interpolates the classic "Mama Tried" while giving it a distinctly female bent. "Only Blood" is a fiery murder ballad with a killer bass riff. "Cheer Up Little Darling" interpolates the old spiritual "Farther Along" (one of my mother's staples) and is beautiful, hopeful and sad all at once. "Good Girl Down" has a simple message but is delivered with real swagger and confidence, a necessary feel-good track on an album full of anything but. Life can be pain, but you are who you are and you might as well own it. What else are you gonna do?

I LOVE this album. Angaleena is the voice country music needs right now, even if she's just preaching to the choir and the people who need to hear this won't, this is a statement that will stand the test of time. It's also a damn enjoyable album. I can even sway with "Country," if I'm in the right mood. I recommend whiskey. What, whiskey is a mood.

Okay, I'm gonna keep these next few a bit shorter. I hope. What can I say, Wrangled is a very "me" kind of album. 😇

Doll Skin ~ Manic Pixie Dream Girl

Like Creeper, this is a band that would sound right at home on rock radio, if rock radio wasn't busy still playing Nickelback wannabes. In 2018. Seriously, have you heard that piece of shit "Medicate" song? What bloody YEAR is this?? Anyway, yeah. This is an all-girl rock band, and they rock. They do a kickass cover of Alanis Morrisette's "Uninvited." They have a song called "Puncha Nazi." And crunchy, catchy tracks like "Shut Up (You Miss Me)," "Daughter," and "Persephone" were made to be rock hits. Seriously radio, these guys have hooks and clean, lovely production, there's no reason not to play them. Maybe we can leave 2002 where it belongs and bring some fresh sounds? Also, Manic Pixie Dream Girl is an awesome album title.

Hurray for the Riff Raff ~ The Navigator

Puerto Rican Americana music is something I did not know I needed, but very clearly did. Singer Alynda Segarra's voice has a lovely, rich tone, kind of like a rougher-edged Neko Case. Combined with the unique, subtly Latin-tinged instrumentation, this album feels like an adventure, a road trip through the less-travelled parts of town. The best way I can describe this is timeless. It doesn't sound like 2017, it doesn't sound old, it sounds like music that has always existed, somewhere, and always will. At once foreign and familiar, this is an odd mix of elements that just works. Man, I love music. I like every song here to some extent, but some favourites are "Living in the City," "The Navigator," "Pa'lante," "Rican Beach," and "Nothing's Gonna Change that Girl." This would probably be my #6 for the year.

And finally, a quirky little duo called Diet Cig. I heard about these guys from the Rock Critic (as well as Doll Skin), and I'm glad I did cause, you know, no 120 Minutes anymore. I wonder how many of these weird little alternative acts I've missed throughout the years. Anyway, this would have been one of my favorite albums when I was... 16? 18? 20? Somewhere in there or all of the above. While part of me has kind of outgrown music like this, another part is still 18 and vibing with it.

Singer Alex Luciano reminds me of Juliana Hatfield, which is probably why this takes me back to my teen years. In fact this album really reminds me of the Blake Babies' Sunburn, partly because of her voice but also just the raw, indie energy it exudes. This is a little lightweight for me to really gravitate towards now; I mean, you sure as hell don't wanna spin this after Hurray for the Riff Riff or Angaleena Presley, but it has its place. And 16 year old me is all aglow with edgy music discovery. ;)

I mean, right??

Also, "Barf Day" is my favorite song on the album. I finally have an outlet for my anger over my birthday being ruined last year. One 2017 demon successfully exorcised!

I'm sure I've still only scratched the surface of last year's good music, but I feel like I made progress and enriched my life in the process. It's nice when listening to music doesn't feel so... workmanlike? Anyway, here's a list of artists I'm eagerly awaiting new music from!

Confirmed or stated release in 2018:
Brandi Carlile, Kacey Musgraves, Weezer, Pistol Annies, Best Coast

Due for a new album:
Eric Church, Cage the Elephant, System of a Down (haha yeah right), maybe Honeyblood?

Album Catchup

I should probably not even do "best albums of the year" posts anymore, cause I always find great stuff after the fact, rendering them invalid. I blame/thank other people's lists for this. Here's how to get me to listen to an album by an unknown artist: play a snippet of one of the best songs in your video and if I like it, I'll go check out the album. That's all it takes. I have this weird aversion to listening to something blindly. idk.

So I have a new game plan this year, as long as nothing super shitty happens in my life. I'm going to listen to at least one new album every month. If nothing comes out in a month that interests me, I'll tackle something from another year. So that said, before I get to last year's catchup, what did I listen to this month?

Anderson East ~ Encore

I listened to something blindly! Go me. Okay, I was curious about Miranda's bf, and I'm not interested in Camila Cabello or Fall Out Boy*, so this was the clear winner for the slow month of January.

*any curiosity I might have had went out the window with that ear cancer they released last year

I don't know what I was expecting, but I'm not sure an old school soul record was it. Maybe more of a Stapleton country-soul type thing but no, this really isn't country like, at all. Which isn't to say it's bad. For me, this is mood music. This isn't something I'm gonna put in heavy rotation for walking, it's something to mix in late Saturday night with a glass of bourbon and maybe some Tom Waits and Rolling Stones.

I don't see myself returning to a lot of the songs here, but there are definitely some keepers, and I can't say enough good about East's distinctive, raspy voice and the well-suited production. The songs themselves just don't feel like anything I haven't heard before. It's very retro, and not in a cheesy way or anything, it has a sense of cool, it just doesn't really hit me save for a few songs. That said, this guy has a world of talent, I bet he sounds awesome live, and I'll be interested to see if his songs can match the power of his voice as his career progresses. Overall this just feels a bit safe, especially something like "If You Keep Leaving Me." Oh, and it probably goes without saying, but a good duet with Miranda would KILL. Those two voices together? Holy hell yes!

Top 3 faves: All On My Mind, King for a Day, Cabinet Door (the best songwriting here and also the most country, in lyrics if not production. Also makes a great companion to Waits' "House Where Nobody Lives.")

February's selection will be Brandi Carlile. I adored her last album, so very excited for that.

2017 catchup:

Alvvays ~ Antisocialites

This is now my #3 favorite album of 2017, beating out Jaime Wyatt simply by having 10 great songs vs 7. It almost even beat Paramore, considering After Laughter has one very skippable track and Antisocialites has none, but in the end the cohesive sound and themes of After Laughter were just too strong. It's practically a new wave concept album.

Where to even start with this album? Okay, the singer/songwriter for this band is Molly Rankin, and if you watched a lot of CMT in the 90s like I did, you'll remember her family's band, The Rankins. This is not a country-folk album, it's indie pop, but considering how effortlessly good this thing sounds, I'm not surprised there's a traditional music pedigree. The folk and Celtic undertones are there, but this is pure 90s-esque jangle pop along the lines of The Cranberries, The Sundays, The Darling Buds and The Primitives.

This album really reminded me of The Cranberries, so they were already at the front of my mind when Dolores O'Riordan passed away. Weird. If you're missing them and those other bands I mentioned, I can't possibly recommend Antisocialites enough. I'd also compare them to the band I found at the end of last year, Honeyblood, but more pop than rock. Just that sweet sound that hits me where I live. This is 6.99 on iTunes for 10 pieces of ear candy. Best deal you'll get all year.

Top 5 faves: Plimsoll Punks (this sounds like a lost Sundays song), Lollipop, Your Type, In Undertow, Dreams Tonite

This is getting long, so I'm making a new post for the rest.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

State of Music ~ early 2018

Happy new year! I'm only 17 days late, no big deal.

I'm feeling good about 2018 and nope, I'm not even gonna duck after saying that. This blog has been quiet lately, partly because I needed a break after all the year-end and movie stuff, but mostly because I've been catching up on music.

There was some good stuff I missed in 2017. Oh Lordy. In fact, one album is now my #3 favorite of the year. But we'll get to that in the next post. I have several albums I wanna discuss and well, it's taking awhile, so I wanted to at least post something in the meantime.

Unless there are major changes, my interest in mainstream pop and country is pretty much nil at this point, so expect mostly non-radio artists. Obviously, I will rave about anything great that might escape into the mainstream, and rant about anything especially egregious. But I wanna tune out the boring drone of the rest of it and focus on stuff that interests me. Turns out, there's a lot of it, and I'm gonna try to consume as much as possible while I'm in a good place without getting burned out.

Right now I'm mostly getting caught up on some country and alt-rock, since that's my main area of interest. But if this lovely feeling of open-mindedness continues, I want to try some other genres. I feel like I'm missing out on whole worlds by not getting into more hip hop, r&b, even some electronic stuff. I don't expect to like a ton of it, but even if I just get a handful of interesting, different sounding songs to pepper my playlists, I'm all in. This is inspired by my enjoyment of "Redbone," "I Feel it Coming," "It Ain't Me," and yes, even a few songs from Calvin Harris' album, of all things. But I like that. I want to be open-minded. We're living in a post-Kesha-is-awesome world, I'm all about being open.

Okay, quick "state of music." Not interested in most stuff in the top 100, but a few notes -

~ I feel like I say this every year, but I like the new Bruno Mars song. Thank you for giving me stuff to put on my best lists, cause that shit's a struggle. I love how every Bruno Mars song is about how awesome Bruno Mars is, yet somehow I still enjoy it. That takes talent.

~ Justin Timberlake - "my new album's gonna be more rootsy and organic!" First single - sounds like a robot in the shower.

~ Macklemore's last album was a bomb, but I'm happy to see the one good song, "Good Old Days" with Kesha, charting. Kesha saves the world again. It probably won't last long but seriously check it out, it's a good song.

~ "Marry Me" is a decent little country tune. Too bad it's sung by someone with the emotional range of a wicker basket.

"She don't wanna marry me. Cuz I'm a basket. Derp."

~ Nope, not even looking at the country chart with "Bebe Rexha and Florida Georgia Line" at the top. What a joke. Shark, consider yourself jumped.

State of music (of 1982) ~ here's a weird fact for you. The person who wrote "Stray Cat Strut" knew nothing about cat genetics. The "black and orange stray cat" would be a tortie and therefore female, not a "feline Casanova." CHILDHOOD RUINED. I wonder if I'm the first person to notice this?

Okay, that's it for that. Hope that was as illuminating as mainstream music deserves.

Before I get back to work on that albums post, I think it's time for another "keeping me honest" check. It could get really hipstery up in here and I don't wanna get lost up my own ass, so here are some unpopular opinions. Enjoy my shame!

It's 2018, and I still like "Hey There Delilah."

It's 2018, and I still like Macklemore. I'm rooting for you buddy.

It's 2018, and I still like M. Night Shyamalan. This was a more embarrassing admission a few years ago before he made The Visit and Split, but he still made The Happening and I enjoy the hell out of it, so there you go.

It's 2018, and I've had "MMMBop" by Hanson on heavy rotation since 1997. No shame whatsoever, that song is a jam.

My notion of myself as a Serious Music Person takes a hit when I realize I like pretty much any song I heard while on vacation. (Except Body Like a Backroad, I'm not a BARBARIAN.)

I never minded Pitbull or Flo Rida. Fun party music is fun. It has its place. Dreary party music is the real enemy.

Sam Hunt is everything that's wrong with everything and I can't stand most of his "music" but dammit, I still think "Leave the Night On" is a decent little pop song. To justify having this song in my iTunes, I changed "Sam Hunt" to "Mr. Turdburger," because I'm the maturest person ever.

I fucking love porgs!

Okay. I feel good and humbled now.

Finally, we lost another music great at the ridiculous age of 46. There was so much wonderful music in the 90s, so many amazing female-led bands, and the Cranberries always stood out because of Dolores O'Riordan's beautiful, distinctive, soaring voice. Thank you for the musical legacy. You will be missed.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Frightful Friday Part VIII ~ Melissa Takes Manitoba

There. I made it this far so I could make that stupid joke. Am I proud of myself? Yes, yes I am. Though right now you can keep Manitoba and the whole rest of Canada since it's like -4000 degrees.

I watched two movies over Christmas, the first being Krampus, a movie I'd been meaning to watch ever since it came out. This is from the director of Trick r Treat, one of my favorite modern horrors, and while I didn't love it quite as much I enjoyed the hell out of this movie. I had seen a few scenes already and LOVED the creature designs, so I went in knowing I'd probably dig it.

Here's what director Michael Dougherty is awesome at: setting the tone of a season. As someone with a very seasonal aesthetic, this appeals to me on an almost personal level. I swear he could make an Easter Bunny movie that would somehow make spring menacing, or a 4th of July movie with killer Uncle Sam or something that would make I Know What You Did Last Summer look like the Babysitter's Club. (I don't actually like I Know What You Did Last Summer, but it was the first thing that came to mind.)

Trick r Treat is definitive not just of Halloween but the whole Halloween season. The feeling, the atmosphere. You can almost smell it watching the movie, that wood smoke and apples smell. Ahhh. And Krampus* does the same for winter. While I love fall, I HATE winter. It's actually way more scary to me than Halloween, so any movie where winter itself is kind of a monster is gonna affect me. (Unless it's stupid, like the next movie.) That's part of why The Shining works so well, and also a big part of what works in Krampus. The family is trapped not only by the monsters, but by the storm. It adds a whole other layer of well, chillingness that you're just not gonna get in a Friday the 13th movie.

*autocorrect just corrected that to "cramps," and that is NOT a horror movie I wanna see.

The second thing that makes this work so well is the aforementioned creature design. It's nothing less than gorgeous. Everything has this intricate detail that's somehow oddly Christmassy, considering they're like demon toys and shit. I mean, it's weirdly kind of pretty, and Krampus himself is huge and imposing and just badass looking. It's some of my favorite design in a movie since well, Trick r Treat. And the ending was pretty weird and unsettling.

Of course I had to pick up Rifftrax' holiday offering, Jack Frost. As they specifically indicate, this is the serial killer snowman one, not the Michael Keaton one that came out the same year. Cause obvs I'm not watching heartwarming family shit on Christmas, who do you think I am?

Anyway, this movie was the exact opposite of Krampus. Some of the worst design I've EVER seen in a movie, and a piss poor job setting the season. For a movie about a snowman, set in a town called SNOMONTON, there's very little, um, snow? This was obviously filmed in California, you're not getting that shit past me. Our "snowman," which looks like a Dollar Store Christmas window display if the dollar store had window displays, constantly drops these nonsensical one liners like he's the Snow Terminator (Snowminator? That's about the level of joke you'll get in this movie) or something. Like he randomly says "WATCH OUT FOR YELLOW SNOW" but the only joke is "HE'S A SNOWMAN, GET IT??" there's never a peeing in snow gag or anything. Which I guess we can be thankful for? I can't tell if this movie actually thinks it's clever or is doing the "we know it's stupid but maybe it's so stupid you'll laugh" kinda thing. And I mean, I DID laugh. It's so ridiculous, and the Rifftrax guys reacting to the ridiculousness was spot on. Terrible movie, but as always I recommend the Rifftrax. A fun way to end Christmas weekend.

Only vaguely related, because movies, but I also saw Last Jedi right before Christmas and I really liked it. The story and characters were good but my favourite part was all the beautiful ANIMALS. I want a crystal critter!

I have a few more winter-themed scary movies left, so let's keep this going into January. I mean, it's not like there's anything else to do in January. What was Friday the 13th part 9 called again? ...oh right. Oh dear, no wonder I forgot. Okay, Friday Goes to Hell it is! Whatever I watch will be better than the horror movies they put in theatres in January, at least.

Thursday, December 28, 2017


For all the bad things that happened in 2017, personally and just in general, I've actually had a pretty good year since September. I just recently realized that; like wait, I've been happy for months! When did that happen? How did that happen? And I've been listening to music that makes me happy. Happier. There's something uniquely uplifting about certain songs from what I call the "indie golden age." Like, I listen to this and I think how blessed I am to have this music in my life and not just the crap they play on the radio. I'm not a hipster, I swear. This music just seems designed to make you feel good, you know?

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Wicked Good Wednesday ~ positivity!

Much of my year-end stuff was tinged with negativity, well even more so than usual. And not the fun kind of negativity, the glorious cathartic ranty kind, more like the "I'm tired, can I just go home?" kind. So I want to rectify that with a brief overview of all my favorite things this year.

2017 movies:

1. Get Out
2. The Disaster Artist
3. Guardians of the Galaxy 2
4. IT

New-to-me movies from other years:

1. The Conjuring 2
2. Pumpkinhead
3. The Gate
4. Krampus

TV/Netflix shows:

1. MST3K the Return - yayayayay this singularly made 2017 A-OK with me!
2. Bates Motel - my favorite non-MST3K show of all time went out with a bang. Brilliant.
3. Stranger Things - season 2 was just what I hoped it would be. The character growth and evolution is every bit as fascinating as the supernatural stuff, which is the sign of good storytelling.
4. Riverdale - I feel like I have a whole post in me about this show. It's a similar feel to "Pretty Little Liars" for me, another favorite guilty pleasure. I wouldn't call either show "good," exactly, but they're very entertaining camp with surprisingly good acting. I was never a soap opera fan, but if this is 2017's version of a soap, I'm in. This is a long way from 8-year old me reading the Archie comics, but it actually fits perfectly with my current aesthetic.

Beers/ciders I first tried this year:

1. No Boats on Sunday cider
2. Picker's Hut Winter Spice Cider
3. Alley Kat Long Johns Salted Caramel Ale
4. Tatamagouche Brewery, in general
5. oh let's face it, every craft beer I tried this year was my best friend

Songs, hits or otherwise (NOT IN ORDER):

1. Black Rain - Creeper
2. Spaceship - Kesha
3. Crickets - Creeper
4. From Outer Space - Jaime Wyatt
5. Whiteout Conditions ~ New Pornographers
6. Rainbow - Kesha
7. Run For Cover ~ The Killers
8. Avalanche Alley ~ New Pornographers
9. I Feel Like Hank Williams Tonight ~ Sunny Sweeney
10. Pool ~ Paramore
11. Redbone - Childish Gambino
12. Room 309 - Creeper*
13. Idle Worship - Paramore
14. Stone Hotel - Jaime Wyatt
15. Tin Man - Miranda Lambert
16. High Ticket Attractions ~ New Pornographers
17. Grow Old With Me ~ Sunny Sweeney
18. 26 ~ Paramore
19. Paper Cowboy ~ Margo Price
20. And the sentiment I'm taking with me into 2018... "Don't let the bastards get you down." ~ Kesha

*Creeper's "Suzanne," "Misery," and "Hiding with Boys" were first released before 2017 so they weren't eligible.

WHY YES, I did listen to the same handful of albums all year. What can I say, they're awesome. Also, I see a theme here. While country radio is dominated by the same white dude in jeans with many names, and pop radio plays women but they're mostly Selena Gomez wannabes, my list is primarily QUALITY FEMALE ARTISTS who need to be heard. So I'm ending this list with a shoutout to HAYLEY WILLIAMS, SUNNY SWEENEY, JAIME WYATT, NEKO CASE and KATHRYN CALDER of New Pornographers, HANNAH GREENWOOD of Creeper, MARGO PRICE, MIRANDA LAMBERT, and FUCK YEAH KESHA. Y'all are my heroes.

I know you don't like to be classified as "female artists" when you're just fucking ARTISTS, and I feel you. In fact, I didn't even notice how woman-heavy this list was until I read it over. And that's not anti-men at all, there are so many male artists I love, don't even get me started. Obviously most of Creeper's vocals are done by Will and I adore him. I guess what I mean is, this is kind of the Year of the Woman to me, at least until we reach a point where we no longer need such a thing, you know? So it's only fitting that so many female voices hit me this year.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Wicked Good Wednesday ~ Ed Sheeran? Really?

Wait, you mean we had another Ed Sheeran song to choose from? Why didn't we choose this? What exactly is wrong with us as a people?

Between the soulless, trend-chasing, plink-plonking "Shape of You," which I've already discussed at length, and this big, stirring, U2-at-their-best 80s rock anthem, which one did the public choose to make song of the year? Well, it's not 1987 so I think we know the answer. Plink plonk, something about dirty sheets, plink plonk. I guess "Castle on the Hill" was a "hit," barely, but I never heard it until yesterday and I heard "Shape of You" approximately 2,437 times this summer.

So screw people, is what I'm saying. No wait, I'm saying I really like "Castle on the Hill." This is the Ed Sheeran I want, don't disappoint m... oh, his current single is another boring ballad? And it's at number one? Right, people don't like big, upbeat, rousing songs anymore, they like insignificant snips they can put in their pocket and forget about. Yeah, let's just go with screw people. But also buy this song.

Friday, December 15, 2017

BONUS! Feel Good Friday

Because I can't stop listening to this album OMG

Frightful Friday Part VII ~ The New Blood

Not to be confused with The New Batch, which is the sequel to the movie I watched last night.

Yup, I watched Gremlins for the first time since the 80s and wow, that was a pretty amazing time capsule experience. Most of my favourite 80s stuff I've relived as an adult, but this one was firmly lodged in the memory of childhood. I wonder if that's why I held off so long on rewatching it, as if bringing it into adulthood would somehow ruin it.

It didn't.

I'm so glad I saved it though, because that was just the experience I needed now. I was immediately taken back to my 80s kid Christmases and believe me, ain't no Christmas like an 80s kid Christmas. That sweet pink Barbie Corvette Gizmo drives? Oh yeah, I got that sucker! Along with Barbie's dream pool and her cat (complete with little carrier) and her horse and her toilet. Yes, there was a Barbie toilet that flushed. We were truly living the dream. I don't care how much high-tech shit there is now, that toilet was cooler.

While the basics of the movie stuck with me, the "don't get them wet, don't feed them after midnight" and all that, I knew there'd be at least one detail I'd forgotten that would come flooding back in a rush of nostalgia. And it was that Corvette. I'm not sure I could come up with a more 80s scene than that (except maybe the gremlin FLASHDANCING IN PINK LEGWARMERS. Yes, that is a thing that happens in this movie. And I have no idea if it was self aware or just the 80s.) I actually remember my little Barbie-obsessed kid self yelling and cheering during the Corvette scene. So I got a little piece of my childhood back last night. Merry Christmas to me!

Oh I had a Gizmo doll too, but I don't think he fit in the Corvette.

Okay, this was more Nostalgia Friday than Frightful Friday, but it's a monster movie so it counts. Will I watch the sequel? Maybe, but I don't remember liking it very much. Next up - Krampus!

Thursday, December 14, 2017

tbt ~ 80s melodic guitar rock

Pat DiNizio, singer/songwriter for The Smithereens, died yesterday at the way too young age of 62. He might not be a household name, I don't know how many people even remember The Smithereens anymore, but they should. I sure do. They were great, and a big part of my musical formative years.

I got into R.E.M. at a young age, 12 maybe? That makes me sound like a cool kid but I wasn't, I was dorky as hell. But I was also smart and had good taste, so yeah, I went right from Madonna to R.E.M. and The Smithereens and The Connells, and other cool bands I've probably forgotten. When people think 80s music they probably think new wave and pop first, but it also was a great time for alt rock, college rock, power pop, whatever you wanna call it. MTV might be a hot mess now, but I would not be the person I am today if not for 120 Minutes, so I am eternally grateful to them for expanding my musical horizons. What I wouldn't give to have something like that today. Wouldn't even have to be videos, just songs.

After R.E.M., the band I was most into was The Smithereens. From the first song I heard on 120 Minutes (it was either "Only a Memory" or "House We Used to Live In"), I was hooked. I bought all their albums. They were all full of catchy, crunchy guitar songs, the kind I'm not sure see the light of day anymore. I'm sure someone's still making 'em, but everything seems to be tinged by electronic now. I'll listen to something labelled "alt rock" and I'm like, that's not rock?? If there's a guitar in there it's mushed so far into the mix it might as well be porridge.

In the late 80s my mom, grandma and I took a road trip to Athens, GA ~ a "Pilgrimage," if you will - to see the home of R.E.M. It was wonderful. I might have petted Michael Stipe's cat, or at least his neighbour's cat. Hey, at the very least, I got to pet a cat. The main soundtrack for the trip was, of course, R.E.M., but the second most played was The Smithereens Green Thoughts. It's a required listen if you like that kind of music. I revisited it yesterday and it really holds up, not just nostalgia-wise but great music wise.

Music, and the people who make it, become so intertwined in our lives that the first thing I thought of when I saw the news yesterday was that road trip, and my grandmother who's been gone for 20 years, and how grateful I am for that memory. The Smithereens helped make that, and I'd say it's much more than "only a memory." They helped shape my musical taste and who I am. Thank you, and RIP Pat DiNizio.

Good music has a way of leading you to more good music, and another band I really got into was The Connells.

Idk what he's wearing either but he's awesome, shut up.

Other than R.E.M., these bands aren't very well-known anymore except by music geeks and those of us who were there. I feel pretty blessed to have experienced all this music in my life, and because it's music, you never have to stop experiencing it. You can revisit it any time you like.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

"What Makes You Country"

I'm... not a Luke Bryan fan, in general. But something about this title irks me in a special, special way.

Okay Luke, if posing in nature wearing a plaid shirt is what makes you country, I'm the countriest bitch you'll ever meet.

Look at that dirt path, I bet it leads to an old shack where we can drink some 'shine and listen to Drake and you can talk about how country you are!

Look at that lake, let's take the boat out and you can get drunk and talk so much hate about "city folks" you forget to catch any fish! Maybe later we can drive the big old jacked up truck into it because they float, right?

(Oh, they float. We all float down here, Lukie.)

Look at that damn tree! Park the truck next to it (the new truck, the old one drowned in the lake), put down that tailgate and get to drinkin'! Those cows aren't going to tip themselves you know.

Ooh, a pretty trail in the woods, let's litter it with Bud Light cans and condom wrappers, yeehaw!


Oh shiiit son, a plaid shirt in a cornfield? That's TOO country, we're overcountrying, abort, ABORT!!

Oh nooo, not the pumpkin farm! Do you know how many BACK ROADS we had to take to get there?! At least I wasn't compared to any of them.

I've got a closet full of plaid and nothin' to lose, Luke Bryan! Come at me bro. 👊

That was fun. Luke Bryan sucks. Always remember that.

Monday, December 11, 2017

2017 songs I missed

Songs I hadn't heard, or forgot to mention.

Julia Michaels ~ "I've got issues, and one of them is how bad I need voice lessons!"

"Say You Won't Let Go" by Interchangeable White Guy with Acoustic Guitar #72* ~ What's the one constant in popular music? Boring adult contemporary ballads! Yaay. Seems like every year there's one of these samey-sounding "romantic" songs, as if by obligation. So what's the difference between a good ballad and a boring one? I mean, I like "Million Reasons." I guess for me ballads have to feel big, they need to be almost rock and roll in their intensity. They need to break stuff. I feel like you could walk into any coffeehouse anywhere and there'd be this guy playing this song. What's special or interesting about it?

*James Arthur, good Lord, I couldn't come up with a more generic name if I tried. Call him "Arthur James" and see if anyone even notices.

"Light it Up" by Luke Bryan ~ This song is about a phone. Really pushing those creative limits there, eh Luke?

"Mi Gente" by a bunch of people ~ Latin music can provide welcome energy to the dull pop charts, like putting mango salsa on a piece of plain fish. I was fine with "Despacito," though the original is better than Bieber. Obviously. But this? This is our 2017 entry for "what's that horrible noise?!" Except this time, the horrible noise isn't just a drop or a random sound effect. This thing plays on a continuous loop through the entire song. Or so I've heard, I can't get too far into it without a headache coming on. This hurts, not just my musical sensibilities but my actual body. That might be a new low, at least until we get to the next song.

I was wrong. There was a song I heard this year worse than "Body Like a Backroad," it just wasn't a hit. That song is "Young and Menace" by Fall Out Boy. I don't even hate FOB, their first album is some good old school pop punk nostalgia. But this... take everything you think you know about Fall Out Boy, the worst songs you've heard by them, and throw it all out the window cause this is so much worse than you could ever imagine. I didn't even think it was a real song. I will give Body Like a Backroad the most basic compliment possible and say it sounds like a song, kind of. Those are the depths we've reached here. This thing is a career killer.

I know I already talked about this "trap" thing but I have more to say, seeing how it's taken over music like an alien parasite. I'm obviously not a hip hop fan, but I still know a good song when I hear it. They played "King Kunta" at a game I went to last week and I was dancing in my seat, it's so good.


Now insert "Lil ____" here, cause they all seem to have the same name and sing the same song.

Day 67 of my coma. No change. :(

But here's the really awful part. From the subject matter of some of these songs, I'm guessing the slurriness is meant to sound like being on drugs, or maybe they sound that way cause they've taken too many drugs. I mean, it literally sounds like they're overdosing in every song. I get that rap has always had a history with drugs and violence, but this is particularly depressing. There's nothing glamorous about prescription drug abuse. You're doing this shit and not even making interesting music, it's just a waste.

And who are all the people listening to this? They can't all be drug addicts, so what's the appeal? "Hmm, I want to feel down without actually taking downers... ah, Lil Banana Peel, and then maybe some Lil Shoehorn! Woo, now I'm lit!" Wait, is this music supposed to make you lit or... what's the opposite of lit, dim? I'M SO CONFUSED. I hope this trend dies hard next year. It's not just unpleasant, it's unhealthy.

And what the hell is a "lil uzi vert??" Okay I know what an uzi is, but what's a vert? Vertical blinds? You shoot your vertical blinds with an uzi? That just seems uncalled for. What did the people at Levolor ever do to you??

"I Spy" by Kyle and Lil Helicopter or whatever ~ Hey! An actual upbeat, sunny hip hop song, I can dig... "I spy with my little eye, a girlie I can get 'cause she don't get too many likes"... oh. Oh. Gosh, that's not predatory or anything.🙄 You know, as a woman that line somehow offends me more than all the bitches and hoes and strippers songs combined, and I'm not one of those people who works at being offended. You could argue the bitches and hoes stuff has a theatricality to it. I don't like it, but it doesn't hit me on any real level. But, "I'm gonna take advantage of this less popular chick's vulnerability so I can have sex with her!" That's real. And it's ugly.

Bebe Rexha ~ I vaguely knew who she was before the whole "country" controversy, but I specifically listened to her and... she's fine. She can sing, she's an okay pop star. Before the FGL song, which is quite possibly the most generic thing I've ever heard btw, it makes "Say You Won't Let Go" sound like "Hey Jude," she seemed to be the kind of artist who always sings before a drop. She doesn't belong anywhere near country. Obviously, I mean OBVIOUSLY. Fix this mess.

"Malibu" by Miley Cyrus ~ We've found something almost as bad as Miley's high register, and that's Miley's low register. Either way she always sounds like she has to cough. I don't dislike this, but it bugs me that so many great vocalists will never be heard, while Miss Nepotism here can barely sing.

One Direction ~ these dudes all released solo music this year, no I'm not gonna remember all their names, and the only one that piqued my interest was Harry Styles. His album is good overall, however I soured on it when I learned he did not credit Badfinger for the guitar line he lifted directly from "Baby Blue" on "Ever Since New York." I mean, Taylor Swift credited Right Said Fred for a flow basically, and Styles lifts a whole melody without credit? I still think he's talented and he makes good use of the line but come on, you owe the original writers.

"New Year's Day" by Taylor Swift ~ JUST BECAUSE SOMETHING IS ACOUSTIC DOES NOT MAKE IT COUNTRY. Good grief. This is one of the few songs on reputation that actually sounds like a song to me. It's fine. Put it on pop radio, it'll be one of the better songs. But this insistence of putting pop songs on country radio has NOTHING to do with evolving or expanding musical taste, it has to do with making money, like everything damn else. Stop pretending it's anything else.

We listened to different genres in the 80s and 90s too. While they were more "cliquey" back then, top 40 radio actually played a decent mix of pop, rock, r&b, dance, country crossover, hip hop, etc. It was the melting pot of what was popular, and if anything it was more diverse back then because it actually played rock. But genre-specific stations like country stuck to country, as they should, or what's the point of even having different stations? Diversity isn't new, it's just being exploited now, and the quality of popular music is suffering for it.

Aaaand that's all for 2017, may you rest in self-perpetuating obscurity. Pull the plug, put the nail in the coffin, and crack open a cold one, you deserve it.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Other Favourites of 2017 ~ Albums, Songs... um, beers?

I probably should make a list of just beers cause I spent more time drinking this year than anything else.

So, albums in 2017. I didn't listen to as many as last year, and some I did I only listened to once. You can't really judge an album by one listen most of the time, but if I didn't feel like listening to it again, that could be seen as a criticism. Or it could just be my mindset. Yeah, a lot of stuff didn't really hit me this year. I don't know if it was really that lacklustre or if it was just me.

It's probably me. :(

So I kinda just want to get this over with tbh. It's weird, but ranting about stuff I hate actually feels better than talking about stuff I like. Maybe because there was so little of it, and that makes me sad. Part of that is my own doing, I'm sure there's a lot of great stuff I missed, but... I'VE HAD A YEAR. :(

It started out okay. There were some good albums released in the first half. My favourite show, MST3K, returned in April after an 18 year absence, making me the happiest I've been since the world jumped the shark last November. While the world decided that one shark wouldn't suffice, it had to jump Marineland and possibly the entire Atlantic Ocean, I was enjoying life at least.

Then May happened and before I could recover from that, August happened. This was a year of disappointing to downright traumatizing things, and to top that off, albums were either underwhelming or just not connecting. I'M LOOKING AT YOU, WEEZER. Of all the years I needed you guys, and you let me down with that boring squirrel fart of an album. (Autocorrect changed that to "surreal fart," which I am 1000% using for something.) One album that connected with me after the May shitstorm was Kesha's Rainbow. Of all the people in the world, Kesha gave me some hope this year. And honestly, I wouldn't have it any other way. That sort of weirdness and unpredictability is what keeps me going. It's kind of beautiful.

So here's the short list of what didn't disappoint, and a couple nice surprises.

1. Eternity, In Your Arms ~ Creeper

My most anticipated album of the year is also my favourite, hooray! Of course in true 2017 fashion, even my love for Creeper turned out one disappointment, as their Canadian tour was cancelled for some mysterious reason. Will I ever get to see them? Well, it sure as hell won't be next year, since they're coming to some shitty venue that doesn't even serve craft beer. Hard pass. OH, and get this! In the most 2017 shitstorm imaginable, the venue they were supposed to play this year, the one that sounded so nice, was shut down due to sexual harassment charges against the owner. Thanks, asshole, it's not like there are abundant venues for smaller bands in Edmonton, and now there's one less because you couldn't keep your dick to yourself. GAWD, fuck everything.

*deep breath* Okay, I can get through this. This is supposed to be a positive list. ANYWAY, at least I still have this album, this big, beautiful album. OH! And my actual favourite thing in 2017 - there's a song on here called "Room 309," and I LIVE IN APARTMENT 309. This is ridiculously life-affirming to me, for some reason. It's like a real life Easter egg.

2. After Laughter - Paramore

Paramore does Blondie-esque new wave; it's awesome. What more can I say? Just let this album wash over you. Oh, and "26" kinda sounds like a lost Takeoffs and Landings era Rilo Kiley track. It's stunning.

3. Felony Blues - Jaime Wyatt

Oh, precious early days of the year when I discovered new music! If only it ended up this way more of the time. This album just connected with me instantly, from the foot-tapping "Stone Hotel" to the introspective "From Outer Space" to the gorgeous cover of "Misery and Gin." If this was a little longer, it might have been #2. I mean damn, I'd have been thrilled with two or three more covers, from the way she handled Merle. And I love the concept of it; this is the kind of slice of life I look for in country music. Where else can a prison stint become art? It's awful that she was an addict and had to go to prison in the first place, but it sounds like she's turned her life around and we ended up with these beautiful songs.

4. Whiteout Conditions ~ The New Pornographers

And a late addition comes out strong! I already wrote about my love for this band and their melodic power pop, and this is yet another gem. It's not quite up with 2014's Brill Bruisers, but that's like saying one flower isn't as pretty as another, they're all flowers.

5. Trophy - Sunny Sweeney

I've enjoyed the majority of Sunny's work, but I think this is her best and most consistent album. This might be Peak Sunny. Which is not to say I think her next album will be a comedown, more like she hit her stride. Equal parts attitude and vulnerability, with great music and production to back her up, this album shows why I got into country and why I never give up on it, no matter how bad the mainstream gets. Just try not to think about all the undeserving shit they play on the radio instead of this, and you'll be fine.

6. Rainbow - Kesha

I don't love every song on this album, but the ones I do... oh man, the ones I do are among my favourites of the year. This album came along at just the right time and hit me just the right way. "Spaceship" is my favourite, but then there's "Bastards" and "Rainbow" and "Hunt You Down" and "Praying" and "Old Flames" and holy crap, "Godzilla" is so much fun, almost like one of those 80s novelty songs, and "Woman" is like "Man I feel Like a Woman" with the word "motherfucker" in it, and OMG, thank you Kesha. You don't know how much I needed this. I forgive you for all your past crappy songs. (And honestly, some of her older stuff is even worth checking out - Supernatural, Animal, Die Young, Warrior, even Party at a Rich Dude's House has a fun 80s rock sleaze vibe.)

As for some favourite songs, here's a handy Spotify playlist:

Other releases that were notable to me:

Chris Stapleton ~ As I mentioned in my best songs list, I think I've hit burnout on Stapleton for a while. I listened to From A Room Vol. 1 and I liked it, there's some damn good stuff there, but I didn't feel compelled to listen again. I don't know if that's me, or something lacking in the album. So I will revisit it and give Vol. 2 a listen sometime next year, with fresh ears.

Zac Brown Band ~ An album that seemed to be an attempt to return to their country roots, yet somehow left me cold. And there's nothing really wrong with it, the production is nice, Zac and the band all sound great (in fact, I recall some really nice instrumentation in spots). I guess the weakness is the songwriting itself, nothing really stuck out like on their past albums. Even the maligned Jekyll and Hyde had some real standout tracks. I heard the acoustic "Tomorrow Never Comes" in a shop the other day and didn't want to leave til it was done, it's so lovely. I'll revisit this one at some point, but I can't say it's a priority.

Beck ~ I really liked "Wow," so I was looking forward to this. Again, I've only listened once, but other than a handful of tracks it left me cold. Overproduction does not suit him, it takes too much of the Beck-ness away. Sometimes it works and provides nice layers of sound. I do like the title track "Colours," it has a sweet 80s dance vibe. But a lot of this just doesn't feel uniquely Beck. You hear it in a bar and it could be any pop dude, you know? For such an experimental artist, I have to call this a letdown. If you're like me and your favourite Beck is Odelay! Beck, this probably won't do much for you beyond a few cool tracks.

The Killers ~ You know, I really like this band, but I have to say that overall they make stronger songs than albums, and Wonderful Wonderful is no exception. There's some good stuff on here, but not enough for me to recommend the album as a whole. Check out Run for Cover, Rut, and Tyson vs Douglas though, that's some prime Killers.

The Maine ~ When I did my little retrospective of this band, who have done different sounds on different albums, I predicted their next album would stick with the American Candy sound. I was not wrong. And that's not necessarily a bad thing, the sound obviously suits them. But here's the thing. While I like that album, and I did enjoy Lovely Little Lonely to an extent, I found myself wishing more for the classic rock vibe of Pioneer or the darker tones of Forever Halloween. One album of lighter, airier pop rock worked for me, but I guess this was too much of a good thing. A lot of their fans loved this and I totally get why; this isn't a letdown album. This is just me. I found myself missing their rougher edge. Maybe their next album will take a new direction?

Weezer - *clenches fists* I already talked about this, and I don't want to raise my blood pressure talking about it again. This is the only album I listened to this year I didn't enjoy at all, and it's by one of my favourite artists. That's nothing new with Weezer, I just had such high hopes after their resurgence. This album has no teeth.

Harry Styles ~ A promising debut, dig the classic rock vibe. Credit Badfinger though, dude. (my next post will have more on this)

Margo Price ~ Two songs on her EP are among my favourites of the year, "Weakness" and "Paper Cowboy." That said, I haven't yet listened to the full-length album she dropped later in the year. I'm a little nervous. I've seen some kinda "ehh" reviews and I don't want to be disappointed again, especially when I liked her debut album and EP so much. I don't have the best approach to music listening right now, I know this.

Turnpike Troubadours ~ I've heard so much positive buzz around these guys, I need to just sit down and listen to them. I don't know why getting into a band seems like such a huge undertaking these days. I certainly like "The Housefire."

You know what it is with country, and why I think I've shifted more to rock? Country was always driving music for me, and I don't drive here. I walk everywhere, both for errands and for exercise. And I just like rock better for walking. So I think that's part of why I haven't gotten into many new country artists. And I can't stream music while walking, so first I have to determine whether I want to download it to my iPod. That requires sitting and listening, to which my brain says "you want to watch Youtube or Rifftrax or a cheesy movie instead." Not to mention half the time I listen to something new and it doesn't hit me. Well, that's par for the course. ANYWAY, I am gonna make a concerted effort to listen to this one damn band lol.

Oh and we didn't get that new System of a Down album, because of course we didn't. I could have used some good righteous anger this year.

Well, we're almost done with 2017. I'll have a "songs I missed" post and that's it, at least musically. Still planning another movie post or two. Tomorrow I'm seeing "The Disaster Artist," which I've been looking forward to all year. I'm pretty sure that won't let me down like most things I looked forward to this year. *fast-forward to tomorrow, sitting in the theatre all pumped with my popcorn and the projector explodes and catches fire* You know, that would be a pretty fitting end to the year.