Thursday, December 31, 2015

"Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer
had a very shiny nose
and if you ever saw it
you would even say it glows.
All of the other reindeer
used to laugh and call him names
They never let poor Rudolph
join in any reindeer games.

Then one foggy Christmas eve
Santa came to say:
'Rudolph with your nose so bright,
won't you guide my sleigh tonight?'
THEN all the reindeer loved him
Cuz reindeer are dicks."

THE END of the holidays!! HAPPY NEW BEER!!! (a new year is just a date on the calendar, but a new beer is a thing of beauty.)

I don't make resolutions, I make threats. Don't suck, 2016, or I'll knock you back into 2015, so help me.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

I really dislike Meghan Trainor. Not just her musical output, but the persona she's created: every stereotype that's made me avoid so-called "chick culture."

But proving the blind squirrel theory right, her latest single "Like I'm Gonna Lose You," a duet with John Legend, is actually really nice. Part of it is John Legend classing it up; John Legend could class up a gas station men's room. But a lot of it is the song itself. This song could easily be reworked into a classic country duet, it already has a kind of country-soul vibe. If any country stars wanted to jump on its popularity, I sure wouldn't complain. Maybe, idk, Miranda Lambert & Chris Stapleton? Cause that would just KILL EVERYTHING. In the good way.

Meghan is the weakest part of the song. Her voice is fine, nothing special but I don't think it's awful like a lot of people seem to. It's more what she sings that annoys me than the sound of her voice, except when she gets really strident. But that's persona again, not lack of vocal capability. So here on a non-annoying song, she's actually listenable for once, if not great. Where I could see someone like Miranda, or maybe Cam, just setting this song on fire with smooth, sultry vocals, Meghan Trainor is not "sultry." Meghan Trainor always sounds like she's aggressively trying to sell you Girl Scout cookies. She's toned down here, but that's just it: it's "toned down Meghan Trainor," not the kind of true subtlety, depth, or emotion that would give the song its deserved poignancy. John Legend is a much better fit. He has a gorgeous voice that's often wasted on dull, middle of the road stuff like "All of Me." I hate when super talented artists do "safe" material. Nobody wants to hear Aretha Franklin cover Pat Boone, you know?

So yeah, I'll give credit where it's due. Mostly to John Legend and some really nice songwriting, but I can actually say I like a Meghan Trainor song. Maybe she'll tone down her act with maturity and become a more likable, well-rounded artist. I do think she has some potential. And speaking of potential... make the country duet of this song happen. It'll work with the right people, I guarantee it.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

It occurred to me, as I typed the immortal words "mitch better have my bunny" - people listen to stupid songs like "Bitch Better Have My Money," "I Don't Fuck With You," etc. just so they can goof on them, don't they? People don't think these songs are actually good, they just create a sort of large cultural umbrella of mockery. Like, "Yeah, this is bad, but I'm having a good time with its badness!"

That doesn't explain how mediocre shit like Fight Song gets popular, but I think I'm onto something. People like ridiculous, at least up to a point, likely because life can be very boring. I... sort of get it now. I just wish such ironic enjoyment didn't make undeserving "artists" actual money.

If this is true, I do feel bad for today's kids, if this is what they get out of popular songs. I can tell you one thing, growing up in the 80s I NEVER felt like I was born in "the wrong generation." If I'd had such self-awareness, and the power to see into the future, I would have said "I was born in exactly the right generation. This music and culture fits me perfectly." Oh, there was silly music that was enjoyed ironically in the 80s too*, but I feel there wasn't quite so much focus on that.

*Frankie Say Relax! Rock Me Amadeus! Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go! Wham's entire career! Even Material Girl up to a point, but I think that song is actually good!

I don't think I've heard any 80s/90s kid, then or now, say they were born in "the wrong generation." I remember there was already nostalgia for the 80s IN THE 90S, and the 90s were actually pretty great. There will always be 80s nostalgia. That decade just nailed it (at least the early-mid part. The late 80s suuucked, but everyone forgets that.) Death, taxes, cockroaches, and 80s nostalgia. These things in life are certain.

Music musings

Wow, it's been a month already since I made my best and worst songs lists. Maybe it was a tad early, but I wanted them to be my unfiltered opinion, with no chance of influence from other lists. (Also, I knew my best albums list would take a while, and I wanted to get the easier stuff done first.) Now that I've seen what's on some other lists, here's my perspective on a few of those songs. I will not be changing my lists, that would kinda defeat the point of doing them early. But if I was going to change them, I'd probably move a couple honorable mentions onto the list.

THE LIST: http://mrsrowsdower.blogspot.ca/2015_11_01_archive.html#862964098771776360
I didn't change any songs, but I did add commentary to a few of them.

Also, I might do separate pop and country lists next year, even though they get harder and harder to tell apart.

I already wrote this, but it almost pains me to have not included "Dear Future Husband" on the actual list. I hated that song the first time I heard it, and it just gets worse with repeated listens. I let the pleasant, ripped-off-from-Runaround-Sue melody impede my judgment, plus I'd already put a much worse Meghan Trainor song at #2. But yeah, I'd definitely take out the MUCH less offensive "Hotline Bling" for that piece of hot garbage. Hotline Bling is actually... okay.

I'm on the fence about "Fight Song." It's such a dull motivational shout* but can it really be called bad? Like on the same level as "Kick the Dust Up", or "Marvin Gaye", or "I Don't Fuck With You?" Okay, it's not on that level, nothing is, not even Hitler's toenail clippings.

But what is it about Fight Song? I think it's a case of a song being so bland, so trite, so many words saying nothing at all, that it actually goes past boring into bad. I'd say it's the Hallmark card of music, but Hallmark cards serve an actual purpose. This is the poster child for empty motivation, a literal motivation poster set to music. And the music is pseudo-inspirational movie trailer pap. This was tired when Kelly Clarkson did it years ago, and to hear such a watered-down version of even that in 2015 is downright insulting. It's the plain white label brand of music, the BEER of beer, the CRACKERS of crackers, the SONG of songs. I didn't put it on the actual list just for being generic, but I keep finding more and more to say about it. So I think it belongs there.

*yes, you can have a dull shout. Go stand on a beach or something and yell "I JUST DID MY TAXES WOOOOOOOO!"

I do think "Watch Me" is technically the worst hit song of the year, by the standard that something like that was an actual hit. It's like if an infomercial became a top rated tv show. Though people do watch reality tv and they're probably the same ones who think Watch Me is an actual song, so whatever. It's too inconsequential to put on a list though; that's like validating its existence.

I forgot about Rihanna's "Mitch Better Have My Bunny," err, "Bitch Better Have My Money" when doing my HMs, and I'm fine with that. Not even worth it. This is the best you can do, Rihanna? Okay then, I'll just forget it exists.

I seem to be one of the few who got enraged by the teen whininess of "Stitches." I don't think I've seen it on any other lists yet. To that I say, yay! I like having different opinions. And look, you don't have to write whiny shit just because you're a teen. Lorde proved that. So did Taylor Swift. "Teardrops on My Guitar" is a heartache song that was clearly written by a teenager, but it doesn't go into cringe territory. "Now that I'm without your kisses, I'll be needing stitches" is the second-worst lyric* in a hit song this year. Well, one that was actually trying, anyway.

*yeah, you can't really beat "let's Marvin Gaye and get it on."

Speaking of different opinions, my #5 pick was Selena Gomez's "Good for You," and I'm amazed it's getting any praise. It's such a nothing song, breathy vocals, no melody to speak of, some guest rapper chiming in, whoop de doo. YAWN.

Two songs that seem to be polarizing are "Honey I'm Good" and "Cool for the Summer." Honey I'm Good kind of annoys me, not just for the self-congratulatory pat on the back for... not cheating, but mostly because it sounds like Rednex "Cotton Eye Joe." Is that REALLY something we needed back? "Cool for the Summer" doesn't do anything for me, but it's not bad. The rock vibe is okay, though I totally don't buy her as a rock chick. She's a packaged kind of rock. A pet rock. lol.

Justin Bieber... sigh. I put two of his hits in the HMs and I have to be honest. I mostly put them there because he belongs on a "top 10 worst artist" list. The actual songs, except maybe that crying whale one (DEAR GOD SOMEONE GO HELP THAT POOR WHALE) are more dull than actually bad, and if they were by any other singer I could just ignore them. But they do belong in the HMs, because I'm sick of the "it's not BAD, so it's decent" line of thinking. Yes, he's not as bad as he used to be. I less want to punch his stupid haircut than lightly slap it. But that doesn't mean he's good, or even okay. He's matured into boring. Yay??!? He is not an interesting or emotive singer. Like, Sam Smith is a much better singer and I even find him dull, because I don't get any real emotional punch from him. So you can imagine the effect Bieber's dripping voice has on me.

Is he actually less annoying now, or is he just benefitting from the word "shawty" falling into disuse? Would he have matured to that point on his own, or did society do the job for him? Who knows. At any rate, it appears the "little punk" phase of his career may be over. And that was the interesting phase. So I guess we have to look forward to years and years of boring, safe pop music. Which means he probably won't appear on any future lists, and I won't have to talk about him ever again. THE END!

...Almost. Why did I pick "I Don't Fuck With You" over "Marvin Gaye" for worst of the year, when I seem to hate Marvin Gaye so much more? Well, Marvin Gaye is one of the worst songs of all time. And with lines like "When you leave me all alone, I'm like a dog without a bone" - in case you thought Meghan Trainor couldn't possibly flatter herself less than in Dear Future Doormat - it's also one of the most ill-conceived. It was DOA. But, it does have a melody. It does sound like a piece of... music. I Don't Fuck With You is probably the most un-musical piece of music I have ever heard. It's an ugly cacophony, and the lyrics? Well, Marvin Gaye is clearly trying to be good, or at least cute, and is in fact horrible. I Don't Fuck is clearly trying to be bad, and is in fact horrible. I've gotta call the lyrics a tie, which brings it down to the music, which is no bloody contest. So there you go.

New Music Tuesday

This album was released earlier this year, but I just found it this past month. If you're looking for a cool, vintage California feel, skip Lana del Rey and go for Best Coast. This isn't "deep" music, but it isn't trying to be.



Bonus! Best Coast's Bethany Cosentino guests on a track from Weezer's AMAZING 2014 album Everything Will Be Alright in the End:



There's a lot of shitty "retro" inspired music out there right now - Meghan Trainor, Thomas Rhett, etc., but this is how you do it right. This sounds like real, organic music, not a cheesy school play about the 60s.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Worthless Yahoo Headline of the Day

"Polls may actually underestimate Trump's support, study finds"

MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE!!


Thursday, December 17, 2015

tbt

A sweet track from one of my go-to happy place albums. I don't even want to think about what life would be like without this album. That's how major it is.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Chart thoughts

Favorite song in the Hot 100 I haven't talked about yet: "Stressed Out" by twenty one pilots. "Wish we could turn back time, to the good ol' days, when our momma sang us to sleep but now we're stressed out... Out of student loans and treehouse homes, we all would take the latter." That last line reminds me of my blog's tagline, which is taken from an 80s song by Too Much Joy. I kind of wish this song would change the world. It won't, but it's really sad we have to be stressed out so much of our lives.

"Fight Song" singer Rachel Platten continues her search for the Most Generic Song Title with "Stand By You." I guess "Hang in There" was just too revolutionary? I haven't actually heard the song, maybe it's hella deep, but... okay, lyric search time. "Even if we can't find heaven, I'll walk through hell with you, love, you're not alone, 'cause I'm gonna stand by you." That's actually... really goshdarn touching. Well, never mind. Still really boring title.

Drake and Future team up to see who can out-monotone mumble each other this time. I'm on the edge of my seat!

Luke Bryan ensures that every mainstream country song will have the word "tonight" in it til the end of time, with the pissy snoozefest "Home Alone Tonight." Someone wake up Karen Fairchild so she can go home and pretend this never happened.

Charlie Puth continues to exist, despite overwhelming evidence that he shouldn't.

Why weren't "Downtown" and "Wildest Dreams" bigger hits. I like those songs.

Why is that "New Americana" thing climbing up again DEAR GOD STOP IT BEFORE IT CONSUMES US ALL WITH ITS LEGAL MARIJUANA AND TEEN POETRY BULLSHIT (I have a possibly irrational hatred for this thing. It just GRATES).

Beautiful Drug is gonna tank hard. Sorry Zac, but the only thing worse than a sellout song is a really bad sellout song. Sung by a hypocrite. (I still dig you though. Mostly.)

...There are too many Biebers on this chart, I'm going out for a smoke.

New music Tuesday

Oh, it pains me to make a new post. I so wanted "Seriously, fuck onions. And Hitler" to be my last message from 2015. It's just... so fitting.

But we must carry on, and for a good cause. Music! I'll probably be doing this for a while on Tuesdays. It won't always be new new music, just new to me. I've got your days covered like days of the week underwear! or something.

Rolling Stone managed to spit forth another gem in their top 50 songs of 2015. This is the latest single from Kentucky garage-psychedelic-alt-rock band Cage the Elephant.



If you make a modern rock song that genuinely invokes the 70s, chances are I'll like it. And boy, do they nail that sound with "Trouble." The description for this song referenced "Crimson and Clover," which would legit be on my 10 favorite rock songs EVER list that I'll probably never make, proving that RS does still know what they're talking about when they actually try.

My brief overview of Cage the Elephant shows a cool discography. A lot of their singles are more uptempo and rollicking, some bluesy rock, really good stuff. I will slowly go through all their records within the next year, cause I like what I'm hearing. And as fun as the uptempo songs are, "Trouble" hits that sweet spot for me of a more mellow, yet still rocking, just plain cool song.

I'll just ignore the fact that this was #47, way below such musical masterpieces as "Trap Queen," "Fuck Up Some Commas," and "High By the Beach," and be happy it was put out there for discovery.



Monday, December 14, 2015

Monday musing

This holiday season, and heck, ima go crazy and say every season, let's make a pact to not be offended by anything except things that are actually offensive. Hitler, terrorists (actual ones, not imaginary ones), the KKK, these are appropriate targets for outrage. Chances are, your favorite movie or restaurant or music is not actually offensive, unless it's Hitler's Greatest Hits. Celebrating any holiday you want is not offensive, unless it's Hitlermas. Pretty sure that sandwich you're eating right now isn't offensive, unless... it has onions in it. Cause seriously, fuck onions. And Hitler. Okay, you get the point.

So let's all give each other a break. Cheers and peace.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Oh, Rolling Stone

When I was a kid, Rolling Stone was kinda my musical bible, or one of them anyway. I subscribed from when I was about 11 to my early 20s. (Yes, I was a very hipster 11 year old lol.) As I grew more into country and out of rock for a while, my interest waned. There were some incidents of poor journalism that turned me off. I haven't read RS, beyond a few random listy things, since I was probably 25.

But in my search for new music, I've been checking out their best songs/albums lists from the past few years. And how... odd they are. Plenty of non-mainstream stuff, but their mainstream choices? ...Quessssstionable. They picked "Biscuits" and right on for that, but they put it directly behind... "Bitch Better Have My Money???" I get they need to include mainstream, but there's a lot of good mainstream stuff. I mean, they picked "Can't Feel My Face" number one, and again right on. Cool song. "Hello" is number 6... but that whale-crying Bieber thing is #10?? "Trap Queen" and "Hotline Bling" at 2 and 3??? That ridiculous Future guy at 8?

My dislike for this mushmouthed trio is not because I'm not a rap fan. When I hear good rap it resonates. I get Kendrick Lamar. I get Nicki Minaj when she actually has a good verse (i.e., hardly ever). I get Dr. Dre, and Eminem, and a lot of the 80s/90s stuff I grew up with. But monotone word slurry and gargled autotune just don't do it for me, and I don't get the mass appeal. Vanilla Ice sounds better than this. At least you can hear what he's saying, and I'm pretty sure they're actual words.


Or, you know, you can keep saying "erry" like it's human words. I don't even know how to describe "Fetty Wap," other than "autotuned garling" or "scares the hell out of my cat." His voice(?) startles me. Like good God, that's bad! Oh yeah, they also picked "High By the Beach." Just in case you thought the only terrible mainstream music was rap, oh no! Here comes undead Lana del Rey to eat brains by the beach. I think I'd rather listen to a collection of Walking Dead zombie moans, they're more lifelike. And I liked a few tracks off Born to Die, before she slipped into a coma or whatever. Speaking of comas, "Good for You" was on there too. Just the worst mainstream dreck. And no Elle King. No Chris Stapleton. Seriously.

But that's nothing. The entire 2014 list is marred by a single song choice. Right there behind perennial favorite Beck lurks "No Flex Zone" by... sigh... Rae Sremmurd. One of the worst hit songs of recent memory, by possibly the very worst "artists." What are you thinking, Rolling Stone? Do you just randomly pick some mainstream crap out of a hat and hope no one will care, so you can go back to listening to Beck? Cause honestly, I wouldn't blame you. Or maybe they're confusing "biggest" with "best."

THAT SAID.

In the midst of all the worst noise 2015 had to offer, sat this little gem.



I'm not sure anything could fit into my current headspace better than this. I just found new music by some old bands I liked, this song inspires nostalgia rather than pander to it, and it opens with a piano that reminded me of MOTHERFREAKING LET IT BE. This is an anthem in the best sense, one that rings true emotionally and doesn't just rattle off vague inspirational phrases.

Holy volcano girl!!

Veruca Salt released an album this year. The original Veruca Salt, Nina Gordon and Louise Post, released a full-length studio album. The first one since the mid-90s. And I'm really digging it so far.



They sound amazing. They haven't missed a beat in 20 years.



There's something life-affirming about a band you loved in your teen/young adulthood still sounding relevant 20 years later. Rock on, Veruca Salt. I'm listening.

I have the most awesome musical vibe going on right now. A mix of classic to 90s/2000s to modern rock and some modern country. Kacey Musgraves and Chris Stapleton fit surprisingly well on a mostly-rock playlist. It's like, we're gonna slow it down a bit, but not lose any of the energy.

Oh and Ash released an album in 2015 too. I have so much to listen to. My advice for getting into new music if you've been out of it for awhile: pick out stuff that grabs you right away, and mix it in with some old favorites. And look out for bands you loved 10-20 years ago releasing new material, because they might still be killing it.

I'm gonna keep my lists of best albums of 2015 and favorite rock songs of the 2010s as is, I think, because that's where I was at then and I'll always dig those choices. I'm just adding so much more, so I'll make addendums in the form of new posts.

EDIT: Motion City Soundtrack also released a new album of their smart, catchy moog synthesizer-driven alt-pop, if you like that kind of thing. Which I do.

EDIT 2: albums to listen to/finish listening to (not my whole list, just the top):

Elle King - if the album as a whole surpasses "Exes and Ohs," my head might not be able to contain the awesomeness.
Tim McGraw - the lead single is just okay, but I've heard the album is good and "okay" is actually a step up from his recent lead singles.
Cam - very intrigued by this one
Brandy Zdan - started, love
Randy Rogers & Wade Bowen
Ash
Striking Matches - started, digging it
Motion City Soundtrack - started, digging it
Best Coast - started, digging it
Turnpike Troubadors, and the rest of the Saving County Music picks I haven't heard yet
Eric Church - I haven't been as into him as I feel I could be? Maybe this album will change that. Heard good things.

I'm going to be SO BUSY this winter hurray!!!

Friday, December 11, 2015

Feel Good Friday - honest to gosh rock music!!

True to my word, I've been scouring youtube for some awesome, current rock music. This is my favorite so far. If this doesn't make a rock fan feel good, I don't know what will.

From Wikipedia: "Royal Blood are an English rock duo formed in Brighton in 2013. The band's sound is reminiscent of and rooted in modern blues rock, hard rock, garage rock and psychedelic rock."

HELL.

YEAH.







The heavy, driving feel of 70s rock with a modern, kinda White Stripe-y vibe. And this is TWO. DUDES.

This album is from 2014, and I highly recommend it. I think Dean Winchester would approve.

Worthless blah blah of the blah - sigh

Don't check Yahoo headlines, I tell myself. The world is chugging along just fine, you don't need to invite its stupid into your living room. But... what if something happened I actually want to know about? Something cool, like sentient life was discovered on Mars, and they have really good taste in music?

Sigh.

"Clinton: Trump not funny"

Now it takes SPECIAL ASS CIRCUMSTANCES for me to get all meme-y, but the real question was, do I go for the obvious-yet-satisfying "WELL DUUUUUUUH," or something different? Answer: Supernatural. The answer is always Supernatural.


Also, the headline quote came from a woman who I'm 88% sure was replaced with a cyborg at some point. Gawd I can't wait til this stupid shit is over. It gives me that I HATE EVERYTHING feel, and I hate hating things. I like liking things, dammit. So on that note...

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

I regret not putting "Dear Future Husband" in my top 10 worst. I gave it a pass because it kinda sounds like Runaround Sue, but it's one of the most cloying, toxic songs I've ever heard. And hey, it kinda ripped off Runaround Sue! Not cool.

"Know we'll never see your family more than mine," delivered with a coy little winky smile. That's not cute, that's unhealthy. YOU NEED THERAPY, MEGHAN TRAINOR. YOU HAVE ISSUES. And maybe you should learn to cook, and so should your "future husband" (if you can find a pod person with no family or backbone). Cooking is fun for everyone. And healthy.

What would I take out? "Stitches?" Nah, that whiny load makes me want to do things that would require actual stitches. I guess I'd take out Drake's boring song, since Drake doesn't exactly inspire rage. It just annoyed me that such a nothing song was such a big... something, just because it's Drake. But OMG Dear Future Husband is so much worse than Flatline Bling. I'm not changing my list, but this post serves as a sort-of-retraction.

Discussion of Paramore's self-titled album, and personal vs impersonal music

And only two years late! Hey, that's cutting edge for me these days. :P

So this is the first completely non-country album I've bought in a long time. Like, you could kinda put Brandi Carlile or Blackberry Smoke under the country umbrella, but this is full-on pop-rock. It's entirely possible the last rock album I bought was Paramore's Riot!, back before I switched over to digital. That seems almost impossible, but I'm looking through my collection and only seeing a handful of singles. Damn, I've been out of it. So having relistened to their older music, and discovering 2009's Brand New Eyes which is my favorite of their albums to date, I gave Paramore a listen, despite being unimpressed by the singles. And I'm glad I did.

At first I was only going to buy certain tracks, since I didn't care for maybe 1/3 of the album. But here's the odd thing that changed my mind. I think I mentioned, when I was talking about Rilo Kiley's amazing The Execution of All Things, the little interlude parts about Jenny Lewis' parents' divorce, called "And That's How I Choose to Remember It." These were melancholy snapshots of the displaced childhood that kids of divorce often experience, set to eerily cheerful skating-rink organ music. It's extremely effective. And Paramore has three such interludes, with a ukulele instead of an organ. They're different in tone as well, more biting humor than sadness, more moving on to the future than looking back. But the comparison struck me, and pushed the album to a new level for me.

That said, I don't really care for any of the three singles or the song "Grow Up." The first single "Now" just doesn't appeal to me musically. The second, "Still Into You," isn't a bad song at all, just a little too sugary-poppy for my taste. I get the appeal, though. I also get the appeal of "Ain't it Fun," but it comes off a little too sarcastic for me to fully embrace it. Same as "Grow Up." A couple other songs are just meh for me. There's definitely sarcasm to the interludes too, but in a way that works for me. Maybe it's the ukulele.

The first track, "Fast in My Car," starts it off with a happy blast of energy. I have a bit of a bias towards this song, as it reminds me of Letters to Cleo's "Go!" in which Kay sings, "you're in my car now."



Sadly, "Go!" is not on youtube except for an extremely poor audio live recording, but it is on iTunes. Great stuff.

"Daydreaming" isn't a stand-out for me, but I do enjoy the sort of new wave feel. A little Blondie, and maybe a little Cranberries?

Part II and Last Hope are two of my favorites, the first with its big, rousing chorus and the second a slower, more introspective, Rilo Kiley-ish song.

"Anklebiters" is a fast, punkier track, and a fun listen for me. "Proof" is another favorite, pure catchy pop-rock fun that could have easily been a single.

Then we get to two of the standout tracks of the album, buried at the bottom for some reason. Both remind me of the crisp sound of Letters to Cleo, so I might be biased again, but even taking that out these are just great songs, and two of the most interesting lyrically. "(One of Those) Crazy Girls" is another catchy burst that reaches right out and grabs you. Maybe literally. The narrator of this song is scary and in denial, but at the end she finally gains self-awareness that "now I'm one of those crazy girls." And it's too late. "I’m gonna go to your closet, just so I can smell your skin.
As the chemicals swim, I know I’ll never love again." Yikes. A pretty sad song for being so damn big and catchy, but it has an energy that just works.

"Be Alone" has probably become my second-favorite after Last Hope. Another punchy, catchy LTC-ish type song, this has unusual lyrics that really resonate.



"So what if I don't have, a lot to talk about?
I shut my mouth and keep it locked until it counts...

"See, I ain't one to climb some social ladder to
Some Shangri-La that all the cool kids will abuse...

You should be alone,
Yeah, you should be alone,
You should be alone with me.
We could be alone,
Yeah, we could be alone,
But never get too lonely"

Well, there's something you don't see in today's crazy world of action, AN INTROVERT SONG! *insert Hallelujahs* Apparently Hayley Williams was inspired by this Oscar Wilde quote, at a time when she was going through self-reflection: "I think it's very healthy to spend time alone. You need to know how to be alone and not defined by another person."

Just hearing this sort of message with the tone of most pop and country songs today, constant socializing and clubs and partying even in damn cornfields, is refreshing to my soul. And that brings me to what I like about this album, and Paramore in general. Hayley Williams doesn't just have a naturally bright, appealing voice, she co-writes all her own material with another band member. You get a very personal experience when you listen to Paramore, and that's what's missing in today's popular music.

I mentioned in my worst hit songs list how pop and country music has become more and more impersonal. I think part of this is the dull, generic canned beats that permeate everything now, but I'd chalk it up even more to the songwriter-by-committee approach. The more writers there are, the worse the song seems to be. If there are 17 writers and one of them is the actual artist, they probably just contributed a "hey!" or something to get a songwriting credit. There's nothing wrong with an artist recording someone else's work, it's happened all the time throughout music history with some great results. I feel it's become so formulaic now that artists are bringing less and less of themselves to the material. Because how do you make yourself as generic as these songs are? We're not meant to be generic, we're meant to offer something unique, whether it's personal or an interpretation of someone else's work.

Listening to Paramore actually feels like listening to people rather than dollar signs. Hayley Williams is only 26 years old. I'm excited to watch her career progress. She's really one of the bright spots in popular music right now. And the band sounds damn good too. More of a pop sound on this album than their earlier work, but not in a "sellout" way. It still crunches. This album feels like an actual, natural evolution.

Monday, December 07, 2015

The world is insane, so I listen to music.

Both "sides" are so ridiculous, I don't want anything to do with them. Well, I'm on the anti-Trump side and have been all along, so I was #InBeforeFullOnHitler.

Maybe the world's current level of horribleness is also what's driving me to find new music. For answers, for solace, for something. Something else. Today's culture: "People disagree with me, so ima just DOUBLE DOWN on whatever it is NO MATTER WHAT." No listening, no compromise. Get over your persecution complex and sense of entitlement, folks. This is how stuff like Trump happens. One side's hyper-defensive of guns, religion, and xenophobia, the other side's hyper-defensive about racism and misogyny in all the wrong, small ways. Things that don't really matter, in the big picture. I hate Trump, but I think his supporters are partly reacting to the everything-is-offensive-yay idiots. See, everything's just reaction now. I feel like 24/7 news and social media have helped kill restraint and critical thinking, but of course the true fault lies with the perpetrators. We're better than this, people.

There's a lot of middle ground between xenophobia and homogenizing the shit out of culture til there's nothing of substance left. We don't want to offend different cultures in an increasingly global society, I get that. But here's a crazy idea: if you want to support different cultures, just let them be! Don't get offended! Shutting down one culture to not offend another is, by this very definition, offensive. And it makes things bland, robotic, and inauthentic. Don't take away my thing, and I won't take away your thing. And then the world is full of things, real things. If we learn to start thinking again, not just reacting, I think we can get there. It's possible, even if it's not probable the way things are going. And for God's sake, let's get all this stupid noise out of our heads and focus on something useful. Like music.

I'm gonna try to uphold my "news" ban as much as possible, but it's hard when I want to check FB and twitter. :( I kinda miss the days I didn't need those things, but hey, a lot of it's good too. "You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have, the facts of life." Maybe it all comes down to Charlotte Rae after all.

I think it's finally happened

I think I've finally turned the corner, musically. I've been wanting this to happen all year, and I did listen to more new stuff this year than I had in a long time, but it didn't quite come to fruition. Until now. It started when I made my "last time I was cool post," and then it hit me. I was nostalgic for those days, and the only way to bring back that feeling permanently is to explore new music again. And keep exploring. To be bold, and step out of my comfort zone (to find new comfort zones), and not be afraid of the robot bears anymore.

Basically, I'm nostalgic for something new. I guess if that's what it takes, I'll take it!

Is it safe to listen to modern rock radio yet, or does the spectre of Nickelback still loom?

Favorite rock songs by decade, pt 2!

80s: This was actually the easiest list, since a lot of my 80s stuff is more pop, but there's still enough good rock.

10. Crazy Train - Ozzy Osbourne
9. The One I Love - REM
8. Rainbow in the Dark - Dio
7. So. Central Rain - REM
6. Back on the Chain Gang - The Pretenders
5. Magic - The Cars
4. Sister Christian - Night Ranger
3. Driver 8 - REM - 80s REM was so jangly and crunchy and good, I could just list all their singles here
2. Another One Bites the Dust - Queen
1. Heat of the Moment - Asia - this is my 80s anthem. I crank it when I need to go Full 80s.

Runners-up:
Burnin' For You - Blue Oyster Cult, Edge of Seventeen- Stevie Nicks, Only the Young - Journey, Limelight- Rush, Africa - Toto, We Got the Beat - The Go-Gos, Invincible - Pat Benatar, Only a Memory - The Smithereens (love this album Green Thoughts), Something to Say - The Connells (a jangly pop-rock band with some great albums and very few singles), Don't Go Back to Rockville - REM

90s: The early to mid part of this decade was a glorious return to rock, from grunge to girly. The late 90s SUCKED. SO. HARD.

10. Heart Shaped Box - Nirvana - my favorite Nirvana hit, and the only one I'm not utterly sick of lol
9. Tiny Machine - The Darling Buds - underrated girly pop-rock from England. This album Crawdaddy is a favorite.
8. Interstate Love Song - Stone Temple Pilots - what can I say. I'm saddened by Scott Weiland's death, but happy to get back into his music after so many years. I guess that's a legacy, of sorts.
7. 1979 - The Smashing Pumpkins
6. Seether - Veruca Salt
6. Lose Control - Ash - more of a melodic indie rock band, but this is just an awesome driving rock song
5. Hold On - Tom Waits - I was gonna include something from Mule Variations out of PURE SPITE for how much the rest of the late 90s sucked, but this was actually a single! Great song, also sung beautifully by Emily Kinney on Walking Dead.
4. Possum Kingdom - The Toadies - does anyone else remember this?? They played this a lot on KROQ and I always cranked it. Great riff. This ROCKS.
3. Trippin' on a Hole in a Paper Heart - Stone Temple Pilots - I love Tiny Music. A great example of a band successfully evolving their sound. And this rocks.
2. On Your Own - Blur - when he sings "my joy of life is on a roll," however it's intended, it can't help but be infectious. Especially with the big, anthemic feel of this. A pretty uplifting song considering the title boils down to "we all die alone."
1. Here and Now - Letters to Cleo - LTC is probably, overall, my favorite band. If they'd had more singles, I could fill up this whole list and then some.

Runners-up: Where It's At - Beck, Lithium - Nirvana, Spiderwebs - No Doubt, Unglued - Stone Temple Pilots, Tumble in the Rough - Stone Temple Pilots, Brain Stew/Jaded - Green Day, The Good Life - Weezer, Here's Where the Story Ends - The Sundays, No Myth - Michael Penn (still really dig this album March), Wind of Change - The Scorpions (yeah this doesn't fit with the rest of the list lol, but I really do like this song. Soaring melody with beautiful arrangement), Pizza Cutter - Letters to Cleo (because it's my favorite LTC song, and I can)

2000s: This is actually gonna be harder than the 90s. I forgot how damn much good stuff there was, especially the early to mid part. I'm doing 15 again, even though I'm pretty clueless about this decade from 2007-on.

15. Fell in Love with a Girl - The White Stripes - Hello 2000s rock, nice to meet you.
14. Brick by Boring Brick - Paramore
13. Sweetness - Jimmy Eat World - this album really helped me get out of a funk in 2001
12. Hallelujah - Paramore
11. Walking Barefoot and There's a Star (tie) - Ash
10. Seven Nation Army - The White Stripes - so obvious choice, but just so good
9. Chop Suey! - System of a Down - harder edged than I usually go for, there's just something about this band's sound I like
8. Girl's Not Grey - AFI
7. Burn Baby Burn - Ash
6. After Hours - Rilo Kiley - this was a single! Like Letters to Cleo, I could put a lot of their album tracks here. Great band, more indie pop than rock, but they're too important not to count.
5. crushcrushcrush - Paramore
4. A Praise Chorus - Jimmy Eat World - great song that calls back my 60s favorite, Crimson and Clover. And some pretty cool lyrics of its own: "I'm on my feet, I'm on the floor, I'm good to go, now all I need is just to hear a song I know, I want to always feel like part of this was mine, I want to fall in love tonight"
3. Misery Business - Paramore - so much good stuff from Paramore! they remind me at times of LTC, Veruca Salt, Rilo Kiley, but they very much have their own sound.
2. Welcome to the Black Parade - My Chemical Romance - just a huge, anthemic feeling song. I love this. "We'll carry on, we'll carry on." This could have easily been #1.
1. Science vs Romance - Rilo Kiley - aka "my song" because I had over a hundred plays on this the first month I downloaded it. I pretty much inhaled this song, and I'm not even sick of it.

Runners-up:
The Middle - Jimmy Eat World (the song that kind of started it all for me), When You Were Young - The Killers, Ignorance - Paramore, Pressure - Paramore, The Adventure - Angels and Airwaves, The Ghost of You - My Chemical Romance, Hard to Explain - The Strokes, Island in the Sun - Weezer, Over My Head (Cable Car) - The Fray, The Fallen - Franz Ferdinand, Soul Meets Body - Death Cab for Cutie, Mr. Brightside - The Killers, Hands Down - Dashboard Confessional AND FINALLY, in this really awesome... well half decade, anyway, a track from my favorite (and single-less) album, former LTC singer Kay Hanley's Cherry Marmalade.



My main purpose in doing this, besides blogging, was to make an epic playlist of all these songs. So of course I have to have Kay. I might sneak in another one, too. :)

2010s: Well the decade is only half over, and I know pretty much NOTHING about today's rock scene, so this is definitely a work in progress. It'll take a lot to topple the top 3 though, those are pretty core for me already. I'm actually pleased with this list, considering.

10. Last Hope and Be Alone (tie) - Paramore - not singles, but two of my favorite tracks from their self-titled album, which I'll be posting about soon
9. Bulletproof Heart - My Chemical Romance - A kind of... happy? sounding song from MCR. Catchy, crunchy, rock and roll fun with a pounding riff.
8. Pompeii - Bastille - more indie pop than rock, but I love it and it's my list
7. Careful - Paramore - "The truth never set me free, so I did it myself." LOVE.
6. Exes and Ohs - Elle King - my favorite hit song of 2015! I'll be checking out her album very soon
5. Mountain Man - Crash Kings - this is a band I literally JUST found thanks to a youtube reviewer, and WOW, does this pop. Digging the album, too. I've missed making these kind of discoveries, so I'm going to start looking again. The album was released in 2009, but this song peaked in 2010, so you better believe I'm including it lol. I can use all the help I can get. This is a keyboard and percussion based rock band, and it works. Really fresh sound.


4. Living in the Song - Blackberry Smoke - cause this is definitely a rock band to me, and a welcome return to the more 70s/80s sound I've been missing
3. Come With Me Now - Kongos - I love this giant, stompy chorus and the build up to it. Accordian rock song, people. ACCORDIAN ROCK SONG. Maybe I'll play it back to back with that yodel rock song!
2. Holding All the Roses - Blackberry Smoke - not a single, but who cares, just the most amazing rock song I've already raved about
1. Elephant - Tame Impala - could a cooler song exist? Seriously? I heard this on "Bates Motel," and it sounded so familiar, I thought it was an old song I vaguely remembered. It has that instant classic feel.

Runners-up: Some Nights - fun. (kinda killed by hearing it too much, but still a great song and clever use of autotune), The Light Behind Your Eyes - My Chemical Romance (beautifully understated, but still feels dramatic), Carry On - fun. (the Queen comparison is very much real), Uma Thurman - Fall Out Boy (WHY DO I LIKE THIS SO MUCH), ** Back to the Shack - Weezer, Go Away - Weezer, California Nights - Best Coast, The Only Place - Best Coast

And that's it. For now. Time for more exploring.

Sunday, December 06, 2015

Favorite rock songs by decade! pt.1

I've been on a rock rampage lately - a rockpage? So a fun, casual list for a Sunday: favorite rock songs by decade, 50s-2010s.

- These are my personal favorites, not what I'm declaring to be the "best."

- Since we're getting into territory where I've heard and owned a lot of albums, I'm keeping it to mostly singles. They don't have to be charting singles. It pains me to do this, but if I have to consider 6 decades worth of album tracks, my brain will simply shut down. I might do favorite album cuts another time, but that will be a "project."

- I reserve the right to go over 10 songs for the 70s. :P And possibly the 60s and the 90s.

- Songs I associate with Supernatural automatically rate higher for me, especially ones I already loved like "Bad Moon Rising."

- "Rock" is a pretty big umbrella, so I just have to make judgment calls. I won't include anything egregiously pop, hip hop, etc., but there will be some indie and funk/r&b.

- Lists are in no order, except for #1. Some songs will have brief notes, some won't.

50s: this decade, and the 2010s, will be the hardest for me. Other than Elvis, Buddy Holly, and some early r&b, this is a pretty bleak Pat Boonescape of interchangeable dudes in cardigans.

10. Heartbreak Hotel - Elvis
9. Don't Be Cruel - Elvis
8. Twilight Time - The Platters - not rock, but a damn good song.
7. Come Go With Me - The Del-Vikings - a mixed race group in the 50's. Very cool stuff.
6. Blue Suede Shoes - Elvis
5. Everyday - Buddy Holly and the Crickets
4. Not Fade Away - Buddy Holly and the Crickets (and a killer Stones cover)
3. Jailhouse Rock - Elvis
2. School Days - Chuck Berry - Hail, hail rock and roll, deliver me from the days of old! Perfect lead-in to our next decade. :)
1. All I Have to Do is Dream - The Everly Brothers - Fun fact: REM's jangly, garagey version of this song is probably my favorite cover ever


No runners-up. I had to include a slow r&b song just to hit 10.

60s: Note - the early 60s are a mixed bag. Some cool stuff, some interchangeable dudes named Bobby. 1964 is when the good times really start rollin'. Top 15 16 this time, which still isn't half enough.

16. Hush - Deep Purple - I THOUGHT THIS WAS 70S I'M SORRY.
15. Ruby Tuesday - Rolling Stones
14. Somebody to Love - Jefferson Airplane
13. Can't Find My Way Home - Blind Faith
12. Blackbird - The Beatles
11. In the Midnight Hour - Wilson Pickett
10. The Letter - The Box Tops
9. Dance to the Music - Sly and the Family Stone
8. Strawberry Fields Forever - The Beatles
7. Nowhere to Run - Martha and the Vandellas
6. Can't Get Next to You - The Temptations
5. You Were on My Mind - We Five
4. Time Has Come Today - Chambers Brothers - just one of the coolest rock songs of all time. TIME!
3. All Along the Watchtower - Jimi Hendrix - oh wait, this is a cover. I think of this as a Hendrix song. Okay, well this is my favorite cover.
2. Bad Moon Rising - Creedence Clearwater Revival
1. Crimson and Clover - Tommy James and the Shondells - Probably my biggest "replay value" song. Every layer of this song hooks me and I never get tired of it. It's a drugged out sounding song, but I'm not on drugs. Maybe my brain is the drug lol. Also, a cool Joan Jett cover.

Runners-up: He's a Rebel - The Crystals (more pop maybe, but too damn good to not include), Tell Her No - The Zombies, It's Your Thing - The Isley Brothers, Can't Help Falling in Love - Elvis (probably my favorite rock ballad), I Like it Like That - Chris Kenner (also the Dave Clark Five version), Green River - CCR, Hide Your Love Away - The Beatles, Fun Fun Fun - The Beach Boys, Miserlou - Dick Dale (thank you Quentin Tarantino, for bringing this pure awesomeness to our generation), For Your Love - the Yardbirds, AND FINALY - Hey Jude, The Beatles. ALL HAIL THE 60s!!!

70s: Hoo boy. Greatest rock decade ever, start to finish. The late 70s are thought of as disco city, but, Boston! Foreigner! Blue Oyster Cult! COME ON. Again, top 16, which doesn't begin to do this decade justice.

16. Let it Be/ The Long and Winding Road - The Beatles - I'm putting these final Beatles hits together, because I like to play them back to back and they're equally beautiful.
15. Rock and Roll - Led Zeppelin - tough call between this and "Black Dog" but hey, this one's called Rock and Roll.
14. Rhiannon - Fleetwood Mac - my favorite song from one of the coolest, most distinctive voices in rock
13. Do Ya - Electric Light Orchestra - these guys get two songs on the list, cause they're awesome
12. Long, Long Way from Home - Foreigner - I dig so many Foreigner hits, but this lesser-known release from their first album is my fave. Also, Supernatural.
11. Ziggy Stardust - David Bowie - apparently this wasn't a single?? Well screw that, it's one of the coolest songs ever.
10. Wheel in the Sky - Journey - Don't Stop Believin' is a great anthem, but this is my Journey jam.
9. Peace of Mind - Boston - Boston was a tough call too, so I picked the song I personally relate to.
8. All Right Now - Free - one of the best road trip songs ever, and a Winchester classic of course :)
7. Godzilla - Blue Oyster Cult - I love me some Don't Fear the Reaper, but this is awesome and slightly less obvious
6. Bad Company - Bad Company
5. Long Train Running - The Doobie Brothers - that beautiful, soaring chorus! Where would you be now, without loooo-ooo-ooo-oove! Best road trip song ever?
4. Strange Magic - Electric Light Orchestra
3. Hotel California - The Eagles
2. Carry on Wayward Son - Kansas - WHO DIDN'T SEE THIS COMING? lol
1. Sweet Virginia - The Rolling Stones - what could possibly beat the quintessential Winchester Bromance song? Only the coolest track from the great Exile on Main Street. This song is timeless, yet still perfectly evokes the 70s. Listen to this at the end of the day with your beverage of choice and just chill.

Runners-up: Tumbling Dice - Rolling Stones, D'Yer Mak'er - Led Zeppelin (is it silly this is one of my favorite Led Zep songs? It just makes me so HAPPY), Question - The Moody Blues, Story in Your Eyes - The Moody Blues, Double Vision - Foreigner, Don't Look Back - Boston, Crazy Circles - Bad Company, Killer Queen - Queen, Jessica - The Allman Brothers Band (I'm not usually a huge instrumental fan, but this is such a feel good song), Barracuda - Heart, Fly By Night - Rush, Sister Golden Hair - America, Surrender - Cheap Trick (this is like eating a bowl of sugary cereal, if it was good for you), and anything mentioned in the notes of the list above.

This is almost identical to my SPN playlist lol.

To be continued!

Friday, December 04, 2015

On a lighter note...

This has to be one of the funniest dumb youtube comments I've ever seen. I usually avoid youtube comments, because sanity is a thing I value, but this just stood out like a shiny beacon. In response to a (rightly) negative review of a Justin Moore album:

"I happen to be a country singer myself, and I grew up in las Vegas, I have 50% southern blood because my dad's side is all southern, country music is what I grew up with, kiss my southern ass."

So...

Did you know that blood was regional?

Did you know that geography was hereditary?

Did you know you could have half a blood?

Is there a test for this?

Is all her DNA 50% southern, or just the blood?

For instance, what percentage southern are her hair follicles?

Are her fingerprints in the shape of Georgia, or at least the southern half of Georgia?

If you x-ray her, will you see how many bowls of grits she's eaten?

Is grit consumption also hereditary?

If you move, does your blood change?

Do I have Canadian blood now??

So, so many questions. Mind, BLOWN. And kiss my Californian-Floridian-New England-Canadian ass.

(...Maybe all the southern blood pumps directly to her ass. Does that mean she's 50% ass? And if I keep thinking about this, will I have 100% idiot blood? Cause I'm pretty sure that's transmitted through youtube comments.)

Friday special

I was pretty shaken when I saw, late last night, that Scott Weiland had died. It might not be surprising when an artist who battled addiction dies, but it can still be a shock to the system. STP was so ubiquitous in the early to mid-90s, and so firmly woven into my memories of that time. California and KROQ*. I'm not sure I can think of another band who so epitomizes the soundtrack of the day. They were also one of my favorite bands of the grunge/post-grunge era. Their songs, and Weiland in particular, had this amazing, unique energy that was very different to me from Nirvana, Pearl Jam, etc. I'll call it a California energy. A... brighter sound, maybe? Whatever it was, it was special. Purple and Tiny Music were two of my go-to albums.

*a lot of my memories of this band are because of radio. I wonder if KROQ still plays cool music.

I listened to some STP songs last night, especially my favorite "Trippin' On a Hole In a Paper Heart," after having not heard them for years. Not only do they hold up, they actually sound better with time. They genuinely rocked, and listening to them again was like a shot of adrenaline. He will be missed.

Not a feel good Friday today, but a tribute. And some great songs that might get you going.








Thursday, December 03, 2015

OMG it's done!!!

*pops cork*

*POPS ALL THE CORKS*

How do record critics ever sleep?

I'll be taking a break from heavy duty blogging for a bit, and taking in some new music. :)

My favorite albums of 2015, #3-1! + honorable mentions

3. Holidays & Wedding Rings - Jamie Lin Wilson
First off, a huge shout out to savingcountrymusic.com for introducing me to this artist and her beautiful album. Sometimes I'll tentatively poke into an album by an artist that's new to me, and if I like what I hear, make a note to revisit it when I'm in a "new music mood." That didn't happen with Holidays. The first song "Just Like Heartache" pulled me in, and I knew I had to hear every song and add it to my collection. This feels personal, and familiar, on first listen.

You can tell just from the title, this is an album about life. It's definitely on the singer/songwriter side, country but not big, giant country like Miranda Lambert. There's no guns a blazin'; more like if every song was like "The House that Built Me." But it feels big in its seeming smallness. This is the Every(wo)man record I was pining for. You'll want to play this all the way through, not just because every song is good, but because the album feels thematic, like going through someone's old picture album. The simple, traditional music fits seamlessly with her vocals and the tone of the lyrics. It's not anthemic and it doesn't need to be. Its ambitions lie in its storytelling: the moments, milestones and mementos of our everyday lives, the beauty and heartbreak that comes from just living. Often the things we treasure most, and miss when they're gone, are the little things. The holidays and wedding rings.

I'm loathe to pick out single tracks here, because I love this so much as a whole. But a few favorites:

Just Like Heartache - There's something about a melodic, upbeat song about pain that just gets to me. Maybe it gives it a note of hopefulness, that this feeling will pass? It's just a damn great sounding song. "Ain't it just like heartache, to be something you can't shake, with just any old lover."

You Left My Chair - co-written with Jason Eady, this is a beautiful take on life after a divorce. "When you leave things alone, it's a wonder they survive." Wow. You might have lost love, but part of you, like your favorite chair, will always remain. It will survive.

Whisper on My Skin - Her vulnerable, haunting vocals implore you to find joy in life's simple beauties, like the sunlight streaming in the window, from the point of view of one who's been down and never wants to go back there again. It's almost like a lullaby. I don't spend this song freely, because it always makes me cry.

Just Some Things, feat. Wade Bowen - If I had to pick a lone standout track, this is it. The cold slap of reality in the face of temptation. "There ain’t no grey, only white and black, and there’s just some things you can’t take back." Damn.

I can't recommend this album enough. If you like smart, melodic, emotionally resonant country music, it doesn't get much better than this.

2. Traveller - Chris Stapleton
There are still some willing to discount Chris Stapleton because of his part in some of recent country's worst songs. I'm not one of them. I can't fault a musician for putting food on the table. It's a hard business to make a living at. How many quality songs do you suppose he tried to peddle, and got turned down? And if he didn't write those terrible songs, someone else would have, maybe someone as hack and undeserving as Dallas Davidson. Stapleton has made a clear statement here in choosing what material went on his album, under his name, and if those shitty past songs helped this album get made, then they were by-God worth it. So I'm just gonna take Traveller at face value, and let someone else do the worrying.

I actually wanted to say that more than I want to discuss the album at much length, because everyone and their uncle Steve has talked about this album. What's left to say? Where do I start? Okay, his voice. If you've ever wanted to hear the vocal personification of a bottle of Jack Daniels, here you go. So it's no surprise he covered "Tennessee Whiskey," and completely made it his own. While he's more than capable of stone-cold country, his voice is at its core, a soul voice. He could do an album of 60s soul covers and it would be amazing and I would buy it and listen to it all the time. But what he's made with Traveller is something even better and more unique: a soulful country album.

Country and soul (true soul, Otis Redding soul, not that watered-down poppy-type r&b) have always seemed like two sides of the same coin to me. They're both born of the human condition more than say, rock or classical or any other genre, and they've both appealed to a wide audience, despite having pretty specific origins. They're styles that tap into something deep within, even for those of us far removed from where they actually originated. And that's what makes Traveller such a classic to me. I wouldn't describe this album as "combining genres," it's country (with some bluesy southern rock elements). But Stapleton has the kind of booming soul voice you don't normally hear in country, and it colors his material in the best way.

This would also make a great road trip album (it's called Traveller, so yeah), and "road" music is a personal favorite of mine. I've been on many road trips across the US, so the images evoked in these songs strike a real chord with me. I always wonder, how do those songs affect people who haven't been on the road much? Do they imagine the things I've seen? That's the great thing about it, you don't have to have "been there, done that" to enjoy it. There's just a romantic nature to the road that speaks to everyone. And it's one of the few things where the reality lives up to the romantic notions. There's also an undertone of melancholy; being on the road because you want to be lost. You can't tell where the road ends and you begin anymore, and that's just fine.

I also love sad or bittersweet songs about drinking and barrooms. They can be a dime a dozen in country music, but "Whiskey and You" and "Tennessee Whiskey" are top-notch. So if you love the road and whiskey as I do, this album is a great way to combine them without getting a DUI. ;)

Favorite tracks:

All of them? Okay, a few mentions since I'm not gonna run down the whole album.

Tennessee Whiskey - Vocal performance of the year.

Nobody to Blame - Straightforward country, this would have been big in the 90s. Kinda sounds like something Travis Tritt would have done. I hope this gains traction on radio, cause if you're looking for a country station and this is on, you'd actually be able to tell that you found one. "Turned my life into this country song, and I got nobody to blame but me." SING IT.

More of You - I wondered who was doing the lovely female harmonies on this album, and it turns out it's his wife, Morgaine. That's just beautiful, and so is this old-school country love song.

Traveller - "I don't know where I'm going, but I've got to go." That might be my favorite road lyric I've ever heard. I love songs that unearth those little truths of life. This was the first song I heard off this album, and not only is it great but it appealed to me specifically. In 2008, around the same time I made that post about trains, I wrote this: "My favorite place to be is lost. Like driving down a back road and you don't really know where you are but you want to keep going forever kind of lost. It feels right. Maybe because I don't really belong anywhere right now. But the open road... that belongs to everyone." The open road is an invitation, but it can also be a form of limbo, good or bad. Because what happens when you're lonely and you want to go home, but you can't?
"My heartbeat’s rhythm is a lonesome sound, just like the rubber turning on the ground, always lost and nowhere bound."

Maybe it's weird to be drawn to songs that relate to stuff I wrote when I was sad, but I am because it's real.

Whiskey and You - "Come tomorrow, I can walk in any store, it ain’t a problem, they’ll always sell me more
But your forgiveness, well, that’s something I can’t buy
There ain’t a thing that I can do, that’s the difference between whiskey and you"
This has a Tom Waits quality to it, and he's the master of the sad drinking song that makes you oddly want a drink. The piano has been drinking, not me. Whiskey might be ruining my life, but at least it's always there. That's because it doesn't have a soul, but hey. Sometimes you just need to get through the night. Also, I have a strong desire to hear him do Waits' "House Where Nobody Lives," because he would KILL IT.

Parachute - "You only need a drink when the whiskey is the only thing you have left to hold
Sun comes up and goes back down and falling feels like flying till you hit the ground
Say the word and I’ll be there for you baby, I will be your parachute."
This is a powerhouse, and a comfort. A different take from "Whiskey and You;" maybe there is hope for salvation after all. I like to listen to this one last. AND HOLY CRAP, HIS VOICE. *is reduced to goo*

Okay I could mention every song, but I wanna get this thing done before 2016.

1. Holding All the Roses - Blackberry Smoke

My favorite album of 2015 comes with the shortest description, because what do I really have to say other than "music Dean Winchester would crank in the Impala?" DONE.

Okay not quite, but almost. This is vintage road trip music, ripped from the glorious era of pounding, driving southern rock via the world's coolest time machine.* But this should not be considered "retro" or "throwback." There's nothing kitschy about it. This is the real deal, just done a few decades later. This is a pure, foot-stomping, rollicking good time, with a few mellow, thoughtful numbers that keep the party from getting too out of hand.

*if the time machine's rockin', don't come a-knockin'.

Music never dies, so it shouldn't have to be relegated to a certain time. Sure, we don't listen to say, 40s style pop anymore, but there's nothing intrinsic to tuneful Southern rock that says "dated like bell bottoms." Other than it being mercifully not electronic. This is keeping a worthy tradition alive. So grab this and Traveller for your next road adventure, along with the Allman Bros and CCR and Zeppelin. THIS. ALBUM. ROCKS. And don't call it a throwback. Call it my favorite album of 20-damn-15.

Favorite tracks:

Too High - This song is not about weed, sorry Kacey Musgraves. I wasn't sure what it was about - being unwilling or unable to get out of a bad situation, was the best I could do - so I looked it up. "“The song has to do with whatever plague is sucking a little town dry,” Blackberry Smoke singer and guitarist Charlie Starr tells Rolling Stone. “Whether it’s the meth epidemic or oxy." ...Damn, that's pretty heavy, especially considering the mellow, 70s country-rock vibe.

Fire in the Hole - Pure, heavy guitar-driven rock and roll. Hail.

Let Me Help You (Find the Door) - This manages to sound straight from the 70s and still fresh. Especially with lyrics like these:
"Why's it got to be the same damn thing, same damn song that everybody wants to sing
Same sons of bitches still rigging the game, they sell the same old faces with a brand new name...
Standing in the back with a shit eatin' grin, they were buying it once I bet they'll buy it again...
As long as it's the devil you know, I bet he got a piece of your soul."

I feel that one phrase describes the state of mainstream music and radio better than anything ever could. It's not comforting, but it is enlightening. And the song rocks.

Rock and Roll Again -
This needs to play at the end of a Supernatural episode. Maybe on the final episode when they've presumably conquered all the evil and drive off into the sunset.

No Way Back to Eden - A mellow, country-ish song with mournful lyrics. "We dipped ourselves in the river, but we never get clean
There’s no way back to Eden, from what I’ve seen... Oh this life, is dragging us one and all out of paradise." It can be hard sometimes, feeling a spiritual connection in a world gone mad. When you feel like you can't save yourself from the world's misery, and wonder if there's anything better waiting, or if we even deserve saving anymore. It's almost surprising how introspective these guys can be, considering how hard they rock. Damn, this is a great band. And I still believe that rock and roll can save your soul. :)

Woman in the Moon - An almost mystical song, this is one I really relate to. It's about someone who's born a little different, drawn to the darkness of night, his only guide the woman in the moon. This is one of my most-listened to tracks; I find it strangely comforting. This is probably also my favorite production on the album. It feels a little otherworldly, which just enhances a beautifully-written song. (Side note: the production can be a little heavy at times on the album, but it doesn't detract from my enjoyment.)

Living in the Song - "It’s like livin’ in the words of a song, I’ve been runnin’ from the hurt for too long
I don’t know how to say I was wrong, All I know is how to be gone"

HELP, I'M TRAPPED IN A COUNTRY SONG AND I CAN'T GET OUT! That would be.. terrible, really. This is a punchy power-pop-rocker with a hint of country, and my second-favorite track. Great, catchy melody and the absolutely tight, perfect instrumentation that's present on every song. Seriously, if I praised how great these guys' playing and arrangements are as much as they deserved, it would be redundant as hell.

Aaaaand my favorite song on my favorite album, which also happens to be my overall favorite song of the year!

Holding All the Roses - THIS ROCKS IN ALL WAYS A THING CAN POSSIBLY ROCK. IT ALSO ROLLS. I'm not sure what I love more, the driving beat, the melodic vocal line, or the delightful smorgasbord of instruments they throw into the cauldron. Fiddle? WHY NOT! And it works. If I ever make a list of my top 10 all time favorite rock songs, which I probably should, this will be on it. Though calling this "rock" is almost diminishing it by labeling it. And because it's so complex, with all these parts working together in beautiful, pounding harmony, it has endless replay value. Especially when you want to feel pumped up. It's great in the car, exercising, cleaning your kitchen, feeding your cat, and on every single Friday night til the end of time. The title is a declaration of winning, and this is a big win for music lovers.



Honorable mentions:

SINGLE - But You Like Country Music - Sunny Sweeney and Brennen Leigh
This isn't on an album, but it's totally worth a mention. Seriously screw politics, long live music!

The Underdog - Aaron Watson
This was one of my top albums most all year. Straightforward, energetic 90s-esque country with a positive message. I genuinely love this, but in the end I had to go with Cass County, the latest-released of my picks. It just spoke to me more. Still, a great effort by Aaron Watson and one I'll be returning to for a long time.

Favorite tracks: Fence Post, Freight Train, Getaway Truck (a good country truck song!), That's Why God Loves Cowboys, Wildfire

The Blade - Ashley Monroe
This is an honorable mention because I only just heard it recently, and am still digesting it. If I grow to love it as much as my top 6, maybe I'll have to revise the list. But for now - another fantastic female country voice shunned by radio for people like Kelsea Ballerini. Sigh. This is pretty much my idea of what a 2015 mainstream country album should be. It feels warm and familiar, but with plenty of fresh air and sunlight streaming in. Like an old house with the windows open.

Favorite tracks - The Blade (If you think good country metaphors have run dry, give this a listen - "For you, it's over; for me, it's not, I kept trying and you just stopped, now I know how you can sound so brave, cause you caught it by the handle, and I caught it by the blade"), Winning Streak (killer vocals), If the Devil Don't Want Me, Mayflowers, I'm Good at Leavin' (my favorite)

Jekyll + Hyde - Zac Brown Band
Yeah, I went there. Beautiful Drug aside, this album has way more good material than bad. Dress Blues, Loving You Easy, Homegrown, Tomorrow Never Comes(Acoustic), Remedy, I'll Be Your Man, and a pretty damn good rock song with Heavy is the Head. And yeah, I like the inevitable catchy beach song, Castaway, and hope it will be a single next summer. (Sorry folks, I'm one of those fans who eats up the "island" songs. They always sound so good, and they give me an excuse to make a margarita.) This is overall a solid album, and what worries me about the band isn't the album itself - ZBB has always experimented and have stated themselves they're not a country band- but releasing Beautiful Drug to country radio. That's new, and that's scary. But for now, I'll just enjoy the good stuff on Jekyll and Hyde.

My final thoughts for 2015. Well, I obviously still have a lot to explore from this year. I'm slow, I'll get there. Well slow sounds bad, let's go with... discerning. yeah. My goal is to be more adventurous in 2016, possibly even "cool" again. As much as I love country and classic rock, I need to get into more new rock, more cutting edge music. The current predilection for the electronic kinda soured me on exploring, like there's a... robot bear* lurking in the woods, but there's got to be more out there. I think my newfound love for Paramore helped wake me up. (Don't you love when a band you've always liked around the edges just suddenly hits you?) I mean, they're not cutting edge, they're pretty mainstream, but some stuff on their latest album reminds me of my rock chick days. It's worth a listen if you like female-fronted pop/rock, even if you don't care for the singles.

My final final thought. If there's one thing that's been reinforced for me lately, it's listen to albums. If an artist interests you, just listening to the singles is like only reading a few chapters of a book. And often, not even the most interesting chapters.

*robot bears, yikes!
Man, this album list is kicking my butt. The fun part is relistening to them, but it's like rereading a favorite book for a test. I guess it's my own fault for wanting to describe why each album resonates with me, instead of just "here's an album I like and here are the songs I like." Which I might just do next year. :P* I'm about halfway through #3-1 + honorable mentions. It might not be quite as detailed, because #2 has already been discussed to death by everyone and #1 just doesn't require tons of description.

*except of course I won't.

What to say isn't the hard part, it's making sure I say it right, and completely. Music is one of the few truly beautiful things in this world that's man-made, and I want to do it justice. I will never stop believing music is important, no matter what commercial radio says. Music isn't bloody wallpaper, it's nourishment for the soul. And on that geeky note, I'm gonna take a break from brain-using for a bit and listen to some dumb, catchy pop music. Pop music is the strawberry Pocky of nourishment. You're not gonna have it for dinner, but it always tastes surprisingly good for a snack.

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

My #4 & 5 favorite albums of the year!

For a discussion of #6, Kacey Musgraves' Pageant Material, see post below this one.

5. The Firewatcher's Daughter- Brandi Carlile

In 1999, a time mired in bad pop/rock (I live in daily fear that bands like Sugar Ray and Smashmouth are becoming nostalgic, for then we are doomed, and nostalgia will eat itself), overly glossy pop-country by Shania Twain and Faith Hill, and sappy country ballads you don't ever wanna hear outside of a wedding, a light shone in the distance. That light was Lucinda Williams' Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, still one of my very favorite albums. I remember the first time I listened to that CD; it was a game-changer for me. Now it's 2015, we're mired in another bad time for popular music, and this album hit me just the way Lucinda's did back then.

I don't even know how to describe this - country-tinged folk-rock? I feel like it would appeal to fans of all of those genres, so I'll just go with that. Impassioned vocals, thoughtful lyrics, catchy hooks, and more of a driving, rock pulse than you usually get with introspective singer-songwriter material. And that's what really sets this album apart for me. Don't get me wrong, I like some slower-paced music. My #4 choice offers a good selection of that. I'm just not really a fan of what Todd in the Shadows calls "white guy (or girl) with acoustic guitar" music. Even on the quieter songs, Brandi's voice makes this album a force of nature.

Favorite tracks:

Beginning to Feel the Years - one of the quieter songs on the album. Her vocals, and the simple message of being freed from the past by time, make this song resonate. "The hard times that I had, really don't seem all that bad, yesterday is long ago and far away."

Alibi - A bluesy rocker with a driving beat and great hook. The most upbeat track on the album.

Wherever is Your Heart - "You lose so many things you love as you grow." That's one of the hardest truths for me. How do you reconcile that? How do you find a place to belong when you feel so lost and apart from everything? And sometimes the only thing that connects you, is very far away.
"Even when you're high, you can get low, even with your friends you love, you're still alone
We always find the darkest place to go, God forgive our minds, we were born to roam

Though your feet may take you far from me, I know
Wherever is your heart I call home."

The Things I Regret - "But when you’re wearing on your sleeve, all the things you regret, you can only remember what you want to forget... Let them roll over me." The upbeat tempo gives this song a hopeful note - just keep moving, regrets and all. Take the risk that it'll get better. "But I keep pressing forward with my feet to the ground,
for a heart that is broken makes a beautiful sound."

The Eye - Damn, this is a beautiful song with gorgeous harmonies. Probably the countriest song on the album. "You can dance in a hurricane, but only if you're standing in the eye." Your troubles can empower you, seems to be a major theme of this album. Just stay around "another day."

I Belong to You - This is a love song down to the bones. It's kind of scary, but it sure feels real.
"I know I could be spending a little too much time with you, but time and too much don't belong together like we do
if I had all my yesterdays I'd give 'em to you too
I belong to you now"

and this killer of a final verse:

"I'm gonna die the exact same day as you, on the Golden Gate Bridge I'll hold your hand and howl at the moon
Scrape the sky with tired eyes, and I will come find you
and I ain't scared cuz I'm never gonna miss you"

When your greatest fear isn't death, but missing the one you love. That's an incredibly powerful line. I'm not sure I'd wish a love this intense on anyone cause man, this just digs into the soul in an almost uncomfortable way. But that's what makes it great, and my favorite song on a must-hear album.

4. Cass County - Don Henley
I'm a lifelong Eagles fan, and I genuinely don't get the... dislike? some seem to have for them. Being neutral on them, sure, it might not be your taste, but what on earth inspires such negativity? Maybe they're seen as aggressively middle of the road but damn, that is discounting some of the most consistently good songwriting to ever hit the mainstream. A lot of my favorite tracks have Glenn Frey on lead vocals, but let's look at, arguably, the two most classic Eagles hits: Desperado and Hotel California. Desperado is basically a country song, or about as country as country rock gets. Hotel California is a master of storytelling, one of the best written rock songs ever imo. The creepy, edgy music is perfectly atmospheric, as are Henley's vocals, and they both serve to emphasize the biggest star: the lyrics. It's not a country song, but it does what a good country song should do - pulls you into its story.

So having grown up listening to Don Henley sing these two songs, in particular, I wasn't the least bit surprised to hear he'd made a serious country album. And when I saw some of the guest artists - Dolly Parton! Miranda Lambert! Merle Haggard! Mick Jagger! - I knew I had to hear this. And it's even better than I expected. Not only does Henley sound like he's been singing country music his whole life, he so outshines most of today's country "stars" it's laughable. And going by the caliber of artists he brought in, I couldn't be happier he chose Miranda among them. She might be mainstream, she might have put out a few bad to questionable singles, but look at the body of her work. She's the real deal, and I think some of her best work is still to come. So I'm happy she got the seal of approval from a veteran like Henley, who clearly isn't out to shine anybody's shoes here. This is just music, plain and simple.

Favorite tracks:

The Brand New Tennessee Waltz - FIDDLE! *swoon*

Waiting Tables - About a waitress in a dead end town (presumably in Cass County)- "She's just waiting tables, biding her time til there's somewhere else to go." I listened to Cass County back to back with my #3 choice, and this song feels like it could be part of that album's narrative, too. How many people in the world live in limbo like this, and never find what they're looking for? A pretty sadly high number, I would guess. Something about hearing their stories told makes it a little better. Someone's listening.

The Cost of Living, feat. Merle Haggard - seriously, could there be a better song for Merle Haggard to duet on?
"So wear it like a royal crown
When you get old and gray, it's the cost of living, and everyone pays."
If ever a song felt wise, and earned, this is it. And it sounds amazing. There was a time you'd hear a song like this on radio, but now I just hope as many people hear it as possible. It's one of my favorites of the year, an unflinching look at aging and the price we all pay for the gift of life. If you're at a point where you're starting to feel marginalized by life, as I do sometimes when our culture just keeps skewing younger - don't. Life belongs to everyone, we all pay the same admission fee. Good and bad, at least it's ours. And it's worth it, so wear it like a royal crown.

Train in the Distance - I've always had a fascination with distant train whistles, so of course this song hit me right away. Here's a blog post of mine from 2008, when I was going through a rough time: "My favorite sound is the train late at night, riding out of town. Every night I wait for that low, distant whistle to take a part of me with it, out into the world. I wonder where my train-self goes. I wish I could go with her." And here's what Henley wrote:

"Summer nights at Gran-ma's house
Cozy in my bed
Dreams of far-off places and other lives to be led
Swirling in my head
Swirling in my head

And there's a train in the distance
There's a whistle calling
There's a train in the distance
Silver moonlight falling"

and then

"Now I am a grown man
Turning in my sleep
Debts and obligations
Family ties run deep
Promises to keep

You can ride that train to the far end of creation
Away from everything and everyone you know
You better make friends with your angels and your demons
They will be riding with you wherever you, may go
But, you have to go

There's a train in the distance
There's a whistle calling
There's a train in the distance
Autumn leaves are falling"

So yeah, this song speaks to me on a pretty personal level. And that ending verse, when he's older and the train metaphor takes on new meaning? Holy crap, did that get me. And I still love the sound of a distant train whistle at night. Oh, and Lucinda Williams harmonies, in case it wasn't awesome enough.

Bramble Rose, feat. Mick Jagger & Miranda Lambert - That this isn't my favorite track should speak volumes about what is. So, country Mick Jagger. Is AWESOME. Miranda sounds beautiful, completely in her element here. "So her love has turned as hard as a bramble rose, just a real good woman nobody knows." This is a cover, but it's brand new to me. It's pretty much a masterpiece with its evocative lyrics, seemingly odd trio of vocalists who come together amazingly, and beautiful instrumentation, particularly the soft, intimate mandolin.

When I Stop Dreaming, feat. Dolly Parton - This is also a cover that's new to me, but I would have guessed it was an old country song. It just has that classic feel. Dolly sounds AMAZING on this, you have to hear it to believe it. This is my second favorite country song of the year, and a stunning achievement. This better win a ton of awards, cause this is the definition of "earned it." And it's just damn beautiful to listen to. I hope to hear more duets from Don & Dolly, cause wow do they sound great together. Side note: I kinda miss classic country duets.

If all the "country" gunk out there is dirtying your ears, give this a listen. You'll feel clean.

Well damn, that went long again. I got caught up talking about trains. As you do. So I'm starting a new post for #s 3-1, cause 3 is kind of a doozy too.

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

My Top 6 Albums of the Year ~ number 6

Again, with the caveat that I haven't listened to a lot of albums this year, and the ones I have are all country or country-ish (southern rock or country/folk-tinged rock). If I didn't include a favorite, chances are I just haven't heard it yet (or it's in a genre I'm not really into). So this is a pretty narrow list, but it's where I'm at right now, and I really wanna talk about these albums. Man, I don't know how music critics listen to so many albums in a year. It takes me so long to digest just one. But then, I don't know how food critics digest all that linguine, either. :P Okay, let's go! And yeah, it's top 6, not 5.

6. Kacey Musgraves - Pageant Material

At first listen, I wasn't sure if this would make my year-end favorites or not. Let's get the negative out of the way first. There is a thematic sameyness to some of her songs, and there can be a feeling of superiority, BUT, every once in a while she shows this vulnerability in the midst of all that. While I do like and agree with many of the things she says, especially when she seems more populist than above-it-all, the real appeal of Kacey's music is her warm, inviting vocals that invoke traditional artists like Loretta or Dolly or more recently, Lee Ann Womack, and her musical arrangements. If you're aching to hear fiddle and steel guitar, this album will soothe at least some region of your soul. Every Kacey Musgraves song sounds great, and it's easy to listen to both of her albums all the way through.

I've made it pretty clear that I like belters like Miranda, Carrie, LeAnn Rimes, etc. But in some ways, I enjoy the artists whose music sounds effortlessly good, and organic, even more. Alan Jackson and George Strait are examples of male vocalists who sound like they could just wake up, start singin', and sound amazing. And Kacey Musgraves is a great example on the female side. Not just vocal-wise but musically, and maybe most importantly production-wise, this album just flows. Even songs with lyrics that sound almost boilerplate for Kacey, like "Miserable" or "Good Ol Boys Club" or "This Town," just sound so damn good, such a clear, fresh, modern and effortlessly flawless take on traditional country, that I still wanna listen.

Now to my favorite cuts. I was, of course, a huge fan of songs like "Blowin' Smoke," "Merry Go Round," and "Follow Your Arrow" from Same Trailer, Different Park, but I was hoping she'd mine more new territory on this album. Two of my other favorite cuts from that album are "It Is What It Is," a strikingly simple but moving song about relationships ("It is what is it, til it ain't anymore" - that kind of says it all, doesn't it?) and "Dandelion," a song which sounds like an alt-country version of 90s girly alt-rock. It's a simple little song about wishing for something you can't have, and I find it really affecting. When she sings with a more personal voice, rather than always talking about her neighbors, that's when the likable vulnerability shines through. And she's good at it, just as good as she is at the pointed commentary. And don't get me wrong, I like the social commentary aspect of her music, there's just a little too much of the same message. So that said, here are my favorite cuts from the album.

6. Biscuits - Yeah it's pretty much the same lyrical content as "Follow Your Arrow," but this is her catchiest song and just so damn fun to listen to. I was really hoping this would catch on at radio. But nope, gotta make room for those Kelsea Ballerini songs. Sigh.

5. High Time - Why, exactly, do I relate to so many pot songs? I'm a lifelong, avowed non-drug user. I guess I just substitute wine for weed in my head. :P But yeah, this is a comforting, relatable song even if you don't smoke, and that's when her songwriting really works for me. "Ain't gotta be alone to feel lonely, I'm gonna turn off my phone, start catching up with the old me." Who wouldn't relate to that, even if you choose a different form of release?

4. Are You Sure - a simply beautiful, traditional song featuring Willie Nelson. Considering this is a song with a twenty-something woman and an eighty-something man, it really works. Just goes to show how timeless country music can be, how it can bring together people who are generations removed. I had not heard the original version of this, but good call on bringing it back. More like this, please.

3. Fine - and more of this, please. Maybe her most affecting song yet. "I reach for the phone just to make sure it's on, And I'm fine." Okay, loneliness perfectly captured in two phrases. Lock up the studio, we're done here.

2. Pageant Material - This feels like a very personal snapshot of Kacey's upbringing in the traditional south. It has humor, and a strong message about just being who you are instead of who they want you to be, but that message feels earned here. It likely came from some genuine pain and lessons learned. It's not easy growing up different, but you can survive it if you remember who you are. Good message, great sounding song.

1. Dime Store Cowgirl - And this is probably my favorite country song of the year. This is Kacey embracing her roots unironically, recognizing the value of her upbringing in this big old world. "I'm happy with what I got, cause what I got is all I need, Just cause it don't cost a lot, don't cost a lot, don't mean it's cheap." That's a message we can all use. As stifling as growing up in a small, traditional town can be (I know this from experience), some of those values still have merit. Acknowledging that is what really shows Kacey's depth as a songwriter, as well as the dichotomy that someone like her has probably lived with her whole life. That's an interesting theme, and one I hope she continues to explore (partly because I relate to it myself). This is the song I wanted Kacey to make, and it's wonderful.

I hope she keeps growing as a songwriter, because in the end, this album shows much more of her strengths than her weaknesses, as well as some pretty flawless, crystal clear production work. I mean, it sounds like Kacey's singing directly to you. In your living room. And that's why it's here on my list, despite some initial disappointment. It's grown on me too, which is generally the sign of a good album. Despite the major highs (no pun intended :P) of these 6 songs, I could only put this album at number 6. But that's more out of a desire for her to expand her horizons, to live up to the songwriting potential of Dime Store Cowgirl or Fine on her next album, than a knock on Pageant Material. I can tell you that relistening to this album to write this was an uplifting experience. It left me feeling good. So yeah, this is a must-have album of 2015, in my not very humble opinion.

Okay, well that went long, lol. I guess I had a lot to say about Kacey. So I'm gonna split up this review from the rest of the list. The others won't be nearly as long, because I'm not split on them. I'll just discuss the general sound and theme of the albums and give my favorite tracks.
I will be doing a top 5 albums of the year (that I've listened to) post, at some point. Chris Stapleton will be on it, that's all I can say for sure. Well, obviously they'll only be the albums I've listened to lol. Though maybe I should do a top 5 albums I haven't listened to. As in, the ones with the most critical acclaim in genres I like that I haven't gotten around to yet. I'll certainly give all the Saving Country Music top albums a listen, if nothing else. And that "damn" Tim McGraw album. (Seriously, I'm so glad Tim is still around and making good music.)

I tend to focus on hits here, because hits are finite and easy to research. And some of them are actually good, which is important to point out. But I'd like this blog to have a little more of a musical legacy than "she liked a Jason Derulo song once." I don't buy as many albums as I used to, and I can't remember the last time I bought an album that wasn't country (or at least country-ish), but I did pick up some new favorites this year. These are still mostly mainstream artists, but the ones radio doesn't play for whatever reason. Probably because they're too good.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Oh hi, Maroon 5.



Hey, this actually isn't so... OH DEAR GOD THAT CHORUS WHY IS SOMEONE THROWING ADAM LEVINE OFF A ROOF HOLY MOSES THIS IS TERRIB- no wait, I'm still pretty indifferent to it. Damn. I've gotta say, as superpowers go, this is a pretty weak one. I would have preferred flying or invisibility or at the very least, indifference to Justin Bieber.

And hey, it's a pretty bold move to record a song while you're being castrated. And then thrown off a roof.

Monday music musings ~ the last time I was cool

First things first - Edmonton Eskimos, 2015 Grey Cup Champions!!! It's been a while since I've watched a hometown team win, and damn it felt good. Maybe I won't relinquish my Sports Fairy title quite yet. ;) The halftime show was Fall Out Boy lol. I didn't watch it, we switched to the Raptors game. Because sportsball>other things.

So let's talk about early to mid-2000s rock and pop-rock. This was kind of a last hurrah not just for me, but for any kind or quantity of good, "mainstream" rock. It's easy to forget that there was a surge of smart, energetic rock that came after Nickelback and Creed. So as much as I'd like to, I can't really fault them for killing it. (Or at least putting it into a coma - I'm not ready to declare mainstream rock dead yet.)

I have Fall Out Boy to thank for this. Listening to some of their early stuff, I was reminded of what I listened to in that approximate window between 2001-2006. I've said this before, but here's a piece of my musical map: I listened to pop, rock and country throughout the 90s and into the early 2000s, but country was my bread and butter. My go-to radio station. Post-9/11, that changed. My safe musical haven turned into "stick a boot in yer ass," and I was set adrift for a while. I remember listening to "Standing Still" by Jewel over and over again, cause it spoke to my general mood. Pop was mostly god-awful then, so eventually I found myself going back to something I hadn't been into since the mid-90s - alternative rock. Mainstream rock was still pretty Nickleback-y, and the worst of emo was about to hit our unsuspecting ears with Simple Plan and the like, but damn if there wasn't some good stuff put out then. Some of it became mainstream, and some of it feels like it's still my little secret. One of those bands is Ash, and their 2001 album Free All Angels.





If there's one album I can credit for getting me through that dark time, this is it. And it was followed by many more. Kay Hanley's Cherry Marmalade. The White Stripes, Jimmy Eat World, The Killers, The Hives, AFI, The Strokes, harder-edged stuff like System of a Down. I was really into Evanescence for a while. (A good thing to note about this time - some of the emo stuff is really awful, but not everything labelled emo is bad. Some of it was pretty authentic music.) I'm not sure if rock and roll was a logical reaction to 9/11, as it was to the Vietnam War, or if I just hadn't paid attention before then. A little later came stuff like Fall Out Boy, My Chemical Romance (I forgot how good they were!) and Paramore, a band I've become unsuspectingly obsessed with over the past few days. I remember liking them at the time, I think I had that CD with Misery Business on it. But my interest in rock was about to wane.

In 2006, I got back into country in a huge way. This is due almost entirely to Miranda Lambert, who was love at first listen, but we were well out of the footwear-stuck-in-anal-cavities era of country by then, and thank gawd. There was suddenly a lot to like: Josh Turner, a Brad Paisley duet with Dolly Parton, Dierks Bentley, Jamey Johnson, Little Big Town, and good stuff from old favorites like George Strait, Kenny Chesney, and Tim McGraw. And damn if I don't love that Wreckers album. What a beautiful, melodic example of pop-country done right. I put it in the same category as Lucy Hale's album. So yeah, I was back into country in a big way, and when ZBB hit a few years later, they kind of owned my soul for a while.

In that time I lost touch with whatever vestiges of good mainstream rock were left, and apparently so did most people, because when I went looking for it again it was all but gone. What happened? I have no fricking clue. Maybe electronic music is the new rock, and woe if it is. But at least Paramore's still around, and I like some cuts off their latest album. Just not the singles really. (Is this becoming more and more common? Idk, but you've really gotta check out albums to find good stuff). Like, this song is AMAZING.



This evokes Rilo Kiley for me, that kind of heartfelt alt-rock that makes you feel like part of something bigger. Something human. If, like me, you're a fan of girly alt-pop-rock bands like RK, Letters to Cleo, Veruca Salt, the Darling Buds, The Sundays, etc., Paramore is a great fit on that playlist. I have a revived interest in this genre. I'm maybe, almost, cool again! Or at least, getting there. I'm still listening to a lot of 10 year old music. But I'm slowly scrabbling my way towards the present. I mean, I can only listen to so much classic rock and 90s country til my brain needs a shot of adrenaline.

This isn't to say rock is inherently "cooler" than country - Chris Stapleton and Kacey Musgraves are two of the coolest musicians out there. But, other than those artists I know I like, I haven't listened to much new country lately either. This is partly because of the whole bro-country and radio sucks thing, but not entirely. I've just gotten bad at broadening my horizons. I tend to like music that reminds me of something, but you have to listen to it first to get that starry-eyed feeling about it. What I mean by "cool" - not the high school idea of it but something much bigger. It's both being on the cutting edge and timeless, the way the Rolling Stones are timelessly cool. Cool =/= trendy.

Because, I really don't wanna be the woman in this song, as much as I love the 80s. At least I don't have kids to tell me I'm uncool. I don't want to brag, but my cats think I'm pretty rad.



It's been about 10 years - maybe we're due another rock resurgence? Til then, here's the coolest rock song I've heard in a long damn time and my favorite song from last year.