Thursday, December 28, 2017

Top 20 Albums of 2017

20. Slowdive-Slowdive

After a 22 year absence, Reading's Slowdive returns with yet another late night, chill out dream pop masterpiece.

19. Pwr Bttm-Pageant

This band could do quite well in the early 1980s. The whole record is just fun!

18. Kasabian-For Crying Out Loud

Leicester's own turn out another great record. This one is even stronger than the last one. A real foot stomper!

17. Ride-Weather Diaries

I thought Ride was done 20 years ago. They weren't. Thank God. Their music is fucking beautiful.

16. Alvvays-Antisocialites

Toronto's Alvvays are a most welcome breath of fresh air to the music scene. This entire record is pop bliss. "Dreams Tonight made my Top 20 tracks of the year. Here's another cut that reminds me a great deal of Suzanna Hoffs.

15. The Charlatans-Different Days

The West Midlands of the United Kingdom can claim this gem of band that has brought us over 25 years of fab music. They started with baggy pants music, coasted through Brit Pop, and are still around churning out a new record every couple of years. Here's the title track.

14. Fazerdaze-Morningside

Amelia Murray from Auckland, New Zealand is the brain child behind this dreamy music. This is her first full length record and it's perfect for summer days at the lake.

13. Bruno Mars-24K Magic

Ah, are so awesome with this Morris Day kissed record. Kick it out, brother!

12. Run the Jewels-Rtj3

Killer Mike and El-P produced the track of the year with "Hey Kids." The whole album is an instant rap classic. Here's my other favorite track from the record.

11. Strand of Oaks-Hard Love

Timothy Showalter has proven that there are indeed good things that come from Indiana. This is his fifth record and it's an absolute gem. Here's a dreamy track that reminds me a great deal of Ryan Adams.

10. San Cisco-The Water

I wish this band from Freemantle, Western Australia could see massive success here in the United States. They had a decent shot back in 2011 and 2012 in my hometown in Minneapolis but they just didn't quite make it. They still are all the rage down under, though, and enjoy an indie following in the rest of the world.

Their latest record is just as good as their previous two. Here's a track.

9. Ryan Adams-Prisoner

Ryan Adams is the best artist from North America today. No one even comes close. His music deeply evokes the soul of the United States. He's a total and complete fucking genius and I cherish each release of music that he offers to the world.

His latest effort, a deep lament over his breakup with Mandy Moore, is yet another stunning achievement. The whole album is amazing and that's why I couldn't pick just one track for my Top 20 tracks list.

8. Beck-Colors

The new Beck album starts off sounding like the third Friendly Fires album that doesn't exist yet. As the album progresses he gets into more familiar territory but this new direction is most welcome.

7. Thundercat-Drunk

Thundercat is the stage name for LA's Stephen Bruner. He obviously spent a lot of time listening to Todd Rundgren because this album feels a lot like "Wizard, A True Star." I also hear some King Crimson in there as well as Smile-era Brian Wilson. And then, of course, his own unique oddness which is bloody magnificent.

6. Liam Gallagher-As You Were

Liam goes solo! And guess what? It's MEGA! Beady Eye was a nice band but Liam works well on his own just like his older bro. Here's a very Beatles-esque track....

5. Blaenavon-That's Your Lot

Next to The Blossoms, Hampshire's Blaenavon are the best new band in the UK. What a stellar debut record.

4. Stereophonics-Scream Above The Sounds

Kelly and the lads from Cwmaman, Wales return with a triumphant record that is their best since Language, Sex, Violence, Other. The music is cinematic in nature with a plethora of new stories set to strike deep in your soul. Here's one of them....

3. Noel Gallagher-Who Built the Moon?

Noel's third release is the finest of his now 5 year old solo career. What an epic piece of work! It's easy to recognize that he took a great deal of care with each track.

2. BNQT-Volume 1

What kind of album do you suppose Fran Healy (Travis), Alex Kapranos (Franz Ferdinand), Eric Pulido (Midlake), Ben Bridwell (Band of Horses) and Jason Lytle (Grandaddy), backed by other members of Midlake (Jesse Chandler, Joey McClellan and McKenzie Smith) might make?

A fucking great one!

I'm always a little wary of supergroups but this one really worked. They had two tracks that made my Top 20 Tracks of 2017.

1. Childhood-Universal High

I've always been a sucker for soul music. It's so hopeful and stirs great optimism in me for the future. This is exactly why Nottingham's Childhood get the nod for album of the year. When their first LP (Lacuna)  came out in 2014, I thought it was great. They sounded like another great British Dream Pop band.

For their second album, front man Ben Romans-Hopcraft decided to take the reins and drive the project. The result is a 70's inspired soul album that evokes nostalgia for a bygone era. The only fault I can find in the record is that it's only 10 tracks and I wanted more. But that's just how many cuts would have been on a 70's soul album, right?

Top 20 Tracks of 2017

Hey folks, it's that time Top 20 tracks of 2017. Counting down from 20...

First up is #20 and Westlake Village, California's own Foxygen with  "Follow the Leader," a stellar track that sends me right back to my days of listening to WLS on this really crappy AM radio I had. It sounds like it came out in 1979!

#19 of my Top 20 Tracks of 2017...Philly's own Strand of Oaks with fab track, "Radio Kids." There's an urgent story in this track that really hit me.

#18 on my Top 20 tracks of 2017...New Zealand's Fazerdaze with "Jennifer." A summery wisp of a track, this one was played quite a bit during tennis coaching and moonlit walks in July and August.


 #17 of my Top 20 tracks of 2017...Freemantle, Australia’s own San Cisco. This is from their 3rd LP, The Water. I really wish they would catch on here in the States more...


#16 of my Top 20 Tracks of 2017...super group BNQT with their 70s dripped track, "Unlikely Force." This could have easily been a soft rock hit in 1978. Band of Horses frontman Ben Bridwell handles the vocals and songwriting duties on this track.


#15 of my Top 20 Tracks of 2017...Portland's own Chromatics with "Shadow." There was no way I could make a Top 20 list without featuring a song from the Best TV show of 2017, Twin Peaks: The Return. Even though this track first came out in 2015, it set a certain tone for this year with the series revival and beyond.


#14 of my Top 20 tracks of 2017..."Wall of Glass" by Manchester's own Liam Gallagher. Obviously, I'm going to like anything the Gallagher bros do and it's pretty boss that we now basically get two Oasis albums every other year. But Liam did a great job with this track and the whole LP. Much better than Beady Eye. And it was great seeing him in the Main Room just a few weeks back!


#13 of my Top 20 tracks of 2017...Honolulu's Bruno Mars with "24K Magic." What a fun track!! It came out at the very end of 2016 so it doesn't really count for that year. I played it (and the whole record) constantly this year as it reminded me a great deal of The Time and Prince.


#12 of Top 20 tracks of 2017...Todd Rundgren and Donald Fagan with "Tin Foil Hat." In the first year of the Trump presidency, there is really no better track. This marks the first collaboration between two of my big music heroes. Perhaps Todd should fill in occasionally for the recently passed Walter Becker.


#11 of Top 20 tracks of 2017..."Tokyo" by LA's own Thundercat taken from his magnificent LP, Drunk. This song (and indeed the entire record) reminds me a great deal of the previous entry on my list, Todd Rundgren. This song makes me want to go to Tokyo!

#10 of my Top 20 Tracks of 2017..."Wow" by Beck. Every album Beck makes is wonderful. Most of this record sounds like the 3rd Friendly Fires album that has yet to materialize. But this track is vintage Beck. So glad I finally got to see him this year!

#9 of my Top 20 Tracks of 2017...."The Man" by The Killers. Brandon Flowers and Co. are back with this (ahem) killer track. I want to sing this song to every woman I have ever known!

#8 of my Top 20 Tracks of 2017...Hampshire's own Blaenavon with "Let's Pray." Most reminiscent of the Smiths, this track off of their debut LP (That's Your Lot) was in heavy rotation with me this year. No doubt, one of the most exciting new UK bands....

 #7 of my Top 20 Tracks of 2017...West Midlanders The Charlatans with corker of a cut, "Hey Sunrise." I've been a fan of this band for over 25 years. They were a precursor to the '90s Brit Pop era and they've stayed strong for this entire time.

 #6 of my Top 20 Tracks of 2017...Toronto's own Alvvays with "Dreams Tonight." Hands down, the most beautiful track of the year. I'm always a sucker for romantic tales...

#5 of my Top 20 Tracks of 2017...another entry from the supergroup, BNQT. "Hey Banana" is a slinky, Jim Morrison-esque number sung by Alex Kapranos (Franz Ferdinand). I really love this song...

#4 of my Top 20 Tracks of 2017..."It's A Beautiful World" by Noel Gallagher. Noel has outdone himself with his latest LP, "Who Built the Moon?" This is my favorite track.

#3 of my Top 20 Tracks of 2017..."California Light" by Nottingham's own Childhood. This band should run a clinic on how to remake yourself. Their first album was shoe gaze Brit pop. This track, from their 2nd LP, Universal High, is straight up soul and sounds bloody magnificent. Nearly the track of the year if it weren't for the top 2.

#2 of my Top 20 Tracks of 2017...Cwamaman, Wales' own Stereophonics with "What's All The Fuss About?" A most cinematic track from Kelly and the lads this time around. I like how the song just goes and goes until it doesn't.

And the #1 track of 2017...drum roll, please...."Hey Kids" by Run the Jewels. This track helped me a great deal throughout 2017 get through Donald Trump's first year in office. It's angry, irreverent, loud, obnoxious and wonderful. Killer Mike is a beast.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Remembering Tom Petty

I've started and stopped several posts about the passing of Tom Petty and each time I just don't get it right. Perhaps it's because his musical career has been so personal to my life. Up until the first time I saw Petty live in 1985, I'd mostly seen Todd Rundgren shows. I caught REM and Stevie Ray Vaughn in the summer of 1984 but that was really it. My live music experience was deeply Rundgrenesque.

In the summer of 1985, I was asked by a friend of mine if I wanted to see Petty at Alpine Valley. She had 5th row seats! Petty was touring his Southern Accents LP and it sounded completely amazing so I went. I really needed to go, actually, because that summer I had finally got Tom Petty.

My girlfriend and I had broken up a few months previous to the show and I found a great deal of solace in his music. His lyrics of lost love and his downright cool attitude were very appealing to me at the time and I became completely obsessed with his music as it made me feel better about losing my first, great love.

In many ways, Tom Petty was a slow boil for me. I loved "Breakdown" and "American Girl" when I was a kid. Damn The Torpedoes was a favorite of mine to play when I pretend DJ'd at the radio station where my dad worked. Hard Promises, at the time, had little impact on me. Long After Dark had a few tracks that were played extensively on MTV so I dug those quite a bit. "Change of Heart" struck me as being a solid rocker.

As the summer of 1985 started, I decided it was time to fully wallow about my lost love so I immersed myself in all of Petty's releases, including his just released Southern Accents. The summer of 1985 was the summer of Tom Petty.

Seeing him live for the first time that year was nothing short of extraordinary. He quickly became a mostly annual event in my life, making him my second most viewed live act behind Rundgren.

Below is the list of shows I have seen over the years complete with set lists.

June 23rd, 1985
June 27, 1986
June 19, 1987
February 20, 1990
September 10, 1995
August 3, 1999
July 23, 2008
June 22, 2010

I have very personal memories of each of these shows. The 1999 show was the one and only time my wife saw TP and she fell asleep! We found out later that she was pregnant with our first child. The 1986 show was the first show my younger sister had ever seen and we went as a whole family. I close my eyes and I can remember each of these 8 shows. I count myself as being very lucky having seen him that many times.

Tom Petty's catalog doesn't have a bad record. They are all amazing and I highly recommend each one. I could go on and on about what each album meant to me (and I may at some point in the future) but that would take away from the unique experience of remembering or discovering his music on an individual level He put 13 albums and various other songs out into the world to become part of YOUR life.

I only hope that his music means as much to you as it did and still does to me.

Note: The photos shown above are from the 2010 show. I took them personally

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Autumn Music Series: Iris DeMent

There is something about folk music in the fall that just fits. A nice violin conjures up the image of a barn at harvest time and the people of "our town" all coming together for an evening of music and fellowship.

Cue Iris DeMent's 1992 offering, "Our Town" from her debut album, Infamous Angel. I've adored this track for many years and it's a great addition to any fall playlist. Personally, I have always believed that every story ever told is some sort of iteration of Thornton Wilder's 1938 play of the same name. No doubt this is true of music as well.

Here's a great performance of the track with Emmylou Harris.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Autumn Music Series: Laura Veirs

It's been pretty hot up here in the North Woods but that didn't stop the calendar turning into my favorite season of the year...AUTUMN!! Of course, that means it's time to return to my favorite songs of this season which fit perfectly with a nice glass of Pinot Noir and a loved one with which to snuggle.

First up is Laura Veirs, who hails from Portland, Oregon by way of Carleton College in my home state of Minnesota. Her 2010 release, July Flame, has an amazing track on it called "Wild Eyed, Legless." The strings are gorgeous and lilting...her voice is nice and echo-y...the bird call guitars shimmer in the good for Fall....

Friday, July 28, 2017

Paul Weller First Solo Release 25th Anniversary

Just over 25 years ago, Paul Weller released his first solo album, leaving behind his two enormously successful bands, The Jam and The Style Council, forever. Thankfully, he's never looked back and has threatened anyone and everyone (verbally and physically) who suggests any sort of nostalgic reunions with former bands. His solo career has seen 13 studio albums, 5 live albums, 39 singles and 3 EPs-each magnificent in their own way.

But back in 1992 things didn't look so good for the Modfather. He had no record deal and wondered just what the fuck he was going to do with his life, especially having just had kids with Style Council band mate, DC Lee. The last Council album, Modernism: A New Decade, was refused in 1989 by Polydor, his record label at the time, for being shite. Odd, because it was just a year or two later when this exact type of music became all the rage in England and around the world. Record company execs...seriously, what the fuck do they know?!?

The Style Council broke up shortly after their last album couldn't see the light of day and Weller went radio silent. He played a gig on December 5, 1990 in which he played some new songs as well as old Style Council and Jam tracks. The new songs sounded very heavily influenced by the burgeoning Acid Jazz scene that was taking the world by storm. 1991 saw the release of the first new material from Weller in nearly three years. The single, "Into Tomorrow" by the Paul Weller Movement was received to near universal acclaim. I think I actually wore out my CD copy, playing it over and over again and never growing tired of each of the four tracks. But the question remained...when would a full length come out?

1992 was nearly half way done before I heard that Pony Canyon in Japan had agreed to release Paul Weller, the self titled and first solo album from our hero. On 29 April, 1992 I picked up my copy from The Electric Fetus, world famous record store in my hometown of Minneapolis. I rushed home to my apartment in Uptown to give it a listen.

What spilled out of my speakers was nothing short of stunning. It was all of those wonderful things about Weller that I loved with the addition of this very soulful and funky style of music that sounded almost hippy as well.The first track that stood out for me was the tres romantique "Remember How We Started." That track ended up being a huge part of my soundtrack for the summer of 1992. I had just broken up with my girlfriend of 2+ years and was in awful shape. This track, along with the rest of the album, emotionally supported me in a multitude of ways. "Above the Clouds" lifted me up spiritually. "Bull Rush" was a great rocker to unleash to. "I Didn't Mean To Hurt You" hit right to my soul.

The standout track and the song of the summer (hands down) was "Round and Round." The origins of this track go back to the Weller produced Slam Slam LP, Free Your Feelings. Weller's wife at the time, DC Lee, was the front person for this group and she does a great job with the track. But it didn't really achieve full blossom until Weller re-recorded it for this album. Check it out.

Talk about the perfect summer song...blissful, sweet, mystical...every time I listen to it, I feel like I'm transported to some European beach or possibly South America. My mind just floats away with this track and I always feel healed after listening to it.

This record is easily in my top ten albums of all time. It's certainly my favorite of his entire career. I only have a few quibbles with it. The UK release, which didn't come until September 1, 1992, omitted "Here's A New Thing" and added a weaker (but still good) track, "Strange Museum." Actually, the original version of "Here's A New Thing" from the Into Tomorrow EP is far superior to the one on the album and should have been included. They also shifted the running around from the Japanese release which I didn't like. It works and sounds best if you get the Japanese version which I have linked above.

As a postscript, I had the good fortune of seeing Mr. Weller for the first time in my musical life that same summer. My friend Matt and I trekked down to the Vic Theater in Chicago and got to see him in support of this record. He also previewed many tracks from his next record, Wild Wood, at this show. It was amazing. He played for so long that they started shutting the place down on him during the middle of his second encore!

So fucking mod...

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Coldplay's Kaleidoscope EP

I miss the British EP and/or single. It was a glorious format for several decades. You'd get a track that was maybe from an album, forthcoming or current release. Maybe not. And then you'd get anywhere from 2-4 tracks that weren't available anywhere else. It was like a secret treasure between you and the band. But the advent of digital downloading more or less did away with this format. Now it's just a single track to download and rarely an EP or single.

Thankfully, London's Coldplay has resurrected this format with their fab new EP, Kaleidoscope. Containing only 5 tracks, Kaleidoscope represents several points in Coldplay's career. The first track, "All I Can Think About Is You," reminds a me a lot of X & Y era Coldplay. I haven't been as excited about their newer staff so it's nice to seem the return to form. The second track is a cousin to the song "Miracles" from 2015's A Head Full of Dreams. It's more reminiscent of their newer stuff, complete with guest rap artist. It's a strong track but not as good as the first. "ALIENS" is up next and we dive back to early 2000s Coldplay. This is without a doubt my favorite track on the EP.  It glides effortlessly.

The EP finishes up with a live track, "Something Just Like This" (classic Coldplay anthem...sinalong and lighted smart phones aloft) and "Hypnotised" (Brian Eno produced lushness). I downloaded a digital copy but I plan on buying this amazing EP when it comes out as a physical copy on 4 August. Check it out!

Sunday, July 9, 2017

2017 Song of the Summer

There aren't enough positive adjectives to describe BNQT's debut album, Volume 1. A supergroup of sorts, BNQT contains members of Midlake, Franz Ferdinand, Band of Horses, Granddaddy, and Travis. All of the tracks are stellar but "Unlikely Force" reminds me of many summers past with its 1970s dripped vocals and L.A. sound. This is one of two Ben Bridwell (Band of Horses) offerings that are totally mega.

Put this track at the top of  your 2017 summer playlist!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

From A Liar To A Knight: Todd Rundgren, White Knight

I've been a fan of Todd Rundgren since I was 10 years old. My dad came home from work one day in the late spring of 1978 with a copy of Hermit of Mink Hollow and took my downstairs to his hippie man cave to play it. He had been a fan for a while and I remembered hearing bits and pieces of Todd in my early childhood but this was the first record that I ever really fell in love with. We played it over and over again for weeks and every time it sounded better. I then went back and devoured all of Todd's earlier albums.

After that day, I bought every one of his records the day they came out. I have seen Todd 20 times live, more than any of my other favorite artists, and every show has been amazing and wonderful.

Todd's latest gift to the world is White Knight and it's the album I thought he would make after 2004's Liars. In looking at Todd's 21st century work, I enjoyed Arena (GOR), didn't think much of Johnson (over produced blues), thought State fell a little short but was still cyber punk cool, and generally dug Global Nation. These five albums that came out between Liars and White Knight sated my Todd needs but weren't on the level of either of these records. Liars is still one of my favorite Todd records, reminding me of all the reason why the Runt rules. White Knight matches it note for note.

Calling on a cavalcade of guest stars, Todd has turned out a strong contender for Album of the Year 2017. We have all the requisite keyboard driven pop songs ("Come," "Fiction"), the goofy song ("Buy My T") and a great Utopia-esque song ("Let's Do This") that reminds me of late 70s/early 80s Todd.

"Sleep" sounds an awful lot like Todd wrote it for XTC. Joe Walsh has never sounded better on guitar. "Deaf Ears" features Trent Reznor and sounds like, well, Trent Reznor. It also reminds me a great deal of 1994's No World Order. "Chance For Us" features the man who Todd taught how to sing-Daryl Hall.

But the best track is clearly "Tin Foil Hat" featuring Donald Fagen on lead vox. Being a huge Steely Dan fan, I was over the moon about two of my heroes collaborating for the first time. It sounds like a long last Dan track from the Royal Scam era yet still retains inherent Todd-ness. Of course, the topic of the song is fucking hilarious! Check it out below and go buy this record!!

Friday, April 14, 2017

Taking the Sword From The Lady in the Lake

I've always viewed great British bands in an Arthurian fashion. Like the knights who accepted the sword from the Lady in the Lake, each new group seizes the mythical energy that emanates from the Holy Land of music and makes it their own.

The latest lads to take up the adventure are Hampshire's own, Blaenavon. Their online bio states that they are merely "three lads with a story to tell."


Their first offering to the world is called "That's Your Lot" and it's magnificent. I hear all the great British bands that have gone before them plus their own unique sound. I also can make out hints of Viola Beach which makes my heart all warm and fuzzy. Here's their first single...

Saturday, March 25, 2017

First Top Album of 2017: Drunk by Thundercat

The first great new album of 2017 is here and it's Thundercat's magnificent offering, "Drunk." This album is a massive breath of fresh air and will no doubt be in my top ten for the year.

Combing influences that range from Todd Rundgren, R & B, Brian Wilson and hip hop, Thundercat's third album has completely enthralled me since it's release last month.

Here's a track which illustrates the style of the record.

Friday, February 10, 2017

16 Days!

Let's go back to those glory days of the late 1990s and revisit Ryan Adams' first band, Whiskeytown. I've had this track on my mind all day today as this is exactly how long I've had the worst cold I've ever had in my life. I think I'm finally over it so...thank God!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

The Return of Temples

I've been a huge fan of Kettering's own Temples since they burst on the scene in 2012 with a series of singles and their first album, Sun Structures. Their playbook is straight up psychedelic pop and it works fabulously.

They have a new album dropping on March 3rd called Volcano. Here is a track from it.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Bringing It In With Bruno

I can't think of a better way to slide into the first few weeks of 2017 than with Bruno Mars' latest offering, 24K Magic. I have been thoroughly enjoying this record over the last few weeks. It's just plain fun! My fave track brings me back to those early Prince and The Time days when the funk was thick as the barbecue sauce. Chunky!