Boy, today is a brutal day for me pain-wise. Most days, I feel like I have rhad a dun 15 miles after playing several games of basketball. Today, I feel like that plus I feel like someone has beaten me with a baseball bat. And, that’s how I woke up. So, refreshed is not a word in my vocabulary anymore. So, I am going to try to use this blog to help me forget the pain.
Yesterday, I said that I had a difficult time determining a number one album. But, to be honest, I had a difficult time finding 50 albums that I really enjoyed this year. I felt that most of the albums on this list were a couple of good tunes with some filler. Or, like I said before, there were albums by artists that were completely overrated. Yes, I understand that rock music must move forward, but noise for the sake of noise is not rock and roll. Maybe Lester Bangs was correct back in the late Seventies when he declared rock music to be dead. We may be witnessing the “jazzification” of pop music, which means to me that we are only going to get popular drivel or simply angular tones. I think melody is being lost as the basis of a song, only made hard by metal artists or soft by pop artists, with most genres in between.
After much digging, I finalized my Top 50. Let’s pick up where we left off yesterday, at number 30.
30. Wilco – Schmilco. Well, Wilco seems to be packing it in on most of this album. But, when they do put forth some effort, the result is transcendent, like they used to be.
29. William Bell – This Is Where I Live. I love early-Seventies soul, and Mr. Bell, who was last popular in the early-Seventies, has made an album of classic soul music.
28. The Legal Matters – Conrad. Power pop music has been underground for a while now. Thank goodness this band formed to bring back a classic, jangling sound.
27. Astronoid – AIR. My older son heard this album at a friend’s house and told me about it. I thought that bands had forgotten how to sound powerful. Well, Astronoid is here to remind everyone what a power band sounds like, as they verge on a metal sound.
26. The Shelters – The Shelters. Here is another album that takes one back to the sound of middle American music made popular by artists like Tom Petty (who produced the album), John Mellencamp and Bob Seger. The Shelters are just what the doctor ordered.
25. Green Day – Revolution Radio. Green Day is finding out that growing up punk is no easy task. But, after creating a Broadway musical out of their classic American Idiot, the band tried to make a large concept album, followed by three single albums released a month apart. All of those albums were noble attempts, but musical failures. On this album, Green Day keep it simple and just use their adult anger to write some great punk songs.
24. ABC – The Lexicon of Love II. Back in the early days of MTV, ABC was a new wave band that was place in heavy rotation with their Motown-influenced Lexicon of Love album that spawned two Top 10 hits, “The Look of Love” and “Poison Arrow”. Then, the band tried to make their sound grow over the years, until they came full circle to finally make that long-overdue follow-up album. Well, here it is.
23. Charles Bradley – Changes. Yet another strong album of soul music that sounds like Bradley brought it with him directly from songsthe 1970s.
22. Metallica – Hardwired…To Self-Destruct. Much like Green Day, Metallica has struggled with the idea of taking metal into maturity. They have struggled with the task ever since they hit the big time with The Black Album. But, the guys may have discovered how to do this now. This is the sound of Metallica finding their way into middle age.
21. Seth Swirsky – Circles and Squares. I really shouldn’t complain so much about the state of music in 2016 because this year has been a stellar year for power pop. Swirsky had created a set of great pop songs made powerful by a tough band, not unlike Cheap Trick.
20. Margo Price – Midwest Farmer’s Daughter. In a year when Loretta Lynne released a strong country album, Margo Price comes along sounding as though she were Lorretta’s granddaughter, not just in style but in voice and writings.
19. Paul Simon – Stranger to Stranger. One of rock music’s greatest songwriters created a near classic album with this one. Stranger to Stranger has Simon writing songs in the styles of his various incarnations.
18. Sturgill Simpson – A Sailor’s Guide to Earth. Simpson may be country music’s best songwriting going. He seems to be updating that Outlaw Country sound of the Seventies. As a testament to Simpson’s greatness as an artist, listen to his countrified version of Nirvana’s “In Bloom”.
17. Maren Morris – Hero. This newcomer is mixing soul and country much like Dusty Springfield did back in the day. Now, that’s HUGE shoes to follow you, Miss Morris, throughout your career.
16. Miles Nielsen – Heavy Metal. First off, don’t let the title fool you. Cheap Trick’s Rick Nielsen’s other son released this power pop/Americana gem to little fanfare. Second, Miles is his own man following his own muse. What a great album Miles.
15.The 1975 – I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware of It. Just when you thought new wave was dead, along comes the 1975 to remind you how great that music was. This is where the fun was in 2016.
14. David Brookings & the Average Lookings – David Brookings & the Average Lookings. Here’s yet another great power pop/punk-pop album that was released this year. These guys must have had fun making this album because every song makes me smile.
13. Nikki & the Dove – Everybody’s Heart Is Broken Now. Hey, Beyoncé! THIS is how to make a fun pop/dance record.
12. Teenage Fanclub – Here. Teenage Fanclub has been updating the Big Star power pop sound for nearly 30 years. Now, this is an example of power pop moving down a more mellow path.
11. Bob Mould – Patch the Sky. The old Hüsker Dü/Sugar leader is back with another powerful set of punk songs with an underlying melody. Just the way he used to do it in that first band of his.
Now, we are ready for my Top 10. So, see you tomorrow!