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The Top 20 Albums of 2020 (11-20)

The Top 20 Albums of 2020 (11-20)

Here’s the bottom half of the top twenty albums of 2020.

11. David RamirezMy Love is a Hurricane. If first heard David Ramirez in 2015 when he released his first album on the Thirty Tigers label titled Fables. I’ve been paying attention to his music ever since. His 2020 release is more fleshed out with rich arrangements of guitar, piano, synths, and even a little electronic stuff that work really well with this breakup-themed album. “Coast to Coast” is standout track about hitting the road together with your lover to somehow escape a failing relationship.

12. Chuck ProphetThe Land that Time Forgot. Chuck Prophet consistently puts out great rock ‘n roll records, and this new one has to be one of his best. The closing track, “Get Off the Stage” got some good airplay in the runup to the election because the calls to get off the stage are directed at Donald Trump. Hopefully he will be off the mainstage a few weeks from now. The best track on the album is this one.

13. Phoebe BridgersPunisher. I’ve known of Phoebe Bridgers for a while, because she’s done some work with one of my favorite artists, Julien Baker, but I had not bought any of Phoebe’s albums until this year. Like Baker’s songs, Bridgers’ are very personal and draw you into her world – sometimes troubling, sometime not. Check out “ICU”.

14. Bob DylanRough and Rowdy Ways. Bob Dylan, age 79, has released 39 albums during his long career. On this album, he reflects on history and people and events that have shaped his life and his music. The 17-minute single, “Murder Most Foul” about President Kennedy’s assassination, was released on his YouTube channel a couple of weeks after we all went into quarantine. Fiona Apple plays piano on that track. The album was highly ranked in the best-of-2020 list of many major publications. Both MOJO and Uncut magazines ranked it number one.

15. Jim WhiteMisfit’s Jubilee. I’ve been a fan of Jim White ever since when in 1997 I mistakenly bought his first album, Wrong-Eyed Jesus, because I thought it included a song about a guy picking up a hitchhiker who ends up being Jesus, who pulls a gun on him and steals his car. The song I was looking for was “Gimme a Ride to Heaven” by Terry Allen on the 1983 album Bloodlines. Anyway, I was glad to have bought Jim’s first album, and I still listen to it often. Here’s what No Depression says about his new album:

A cross between a hysterical lunatic and a road-weary sage, Jim White really lets loose on the electrifying Misfit’s Jubilee, the latest installment in his ongoing quest to make sense of reality in all its dazzling weirdness.

Check out “The Divided States of America”.

16. Drive By TruckersThe Unraveling. This is another political album they wrote and recorded before the coronavirus quarantine started and it was released in early February. The album addresses many of America’s most troubling problems like opioid addiction, mass shootings, racial violence, extremism, and divisiveness. “Thoughts and Prayers” got a lot of airplay oh KEXP (#74 non their list), and it’s a very good song. I think “Rosemary With a Bible and Gun” is really great. (They released another new album last Friday titled The New OK. I bought it today and I’m listening to it right now for the first time, but it’s too late for consideration on this list or the accompanying cd I made a few weeks ago.)

17. Bruce SpringsteenLetter to You. Bruce is getting old. He’s 71, but he keeps writing great songs and sometimes releases them as solo albums but most times with the E Street Band. Interesting thing about this release is the cover does not say “and the E Street Band” after his name, but when you listen to it, it’s definitely them backing him up. Curious as I am, I read the fine print at the end of the liner notes, and found “Performed by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band”. I don’t know why they aren’t named on the cover. They were named on SNL last week. The music business is weird. Anyway, this album includes a couple of songs that he wrote when he was just a New Jersey punk trying to make a name for himself, and he’s revisited them and freshened them up for the better. Check out “Janey Needs a Shooter” and “Rainmaker” to hear what I’m talking about . The title track is also very good.

18. Lydia LovelessDaughter. It’s been four years since Lydia put out a new album. She’s been through a divorce since then, and more! Americana Highways says:

Since the release of Real, Lydia Loveless has been the subject of a documentary, got divorced, moved from her native Ohio to North Carolina, came forth with allegations of sexual harassment at her former record company and started her own label.

For fans and artist alike, it has seemed like an eternity. With the release of Daughter, (Honey, You’re Gonna Be Late Records), Lydia Loveless returns with songs of trials and tribulations and the detailed self-analysis of someone one who has been performing publicly for nearly half of her life.

The single “Wringer” is a great track. Check it out.

19. Angel OlsenWhole New Mess. This album contains the stripped down versions of the songs on last year’s All Mirrors. These recordings are pretty much just Angel Olsen singing with her own accompaniment on guitar. There are some quiet organ tracks on some songs. It’s all pretty raw and spacious sounding. It reminds me of what Nick Cave did for Idiot Prayer, and maybe even what Bruce Springsteen did on Nebraska. This video for “Waving Smiling” captures its essence.

20. PretendersHate for Sale. Chrissy Hynde finally found a suitable replacement for James Honeyman-Scott and put out a Pretenders album this year that sounds like it fits right in with the band’s first two albums from the early eighties. The new guitarist is James Walbourne. Listen to the title track and you’ll know what I’m talking about.

The Best Albums of 2016

The Best Albums of 2016

2016 was a terrible year in many ways, but it was a great year of music. Here is my list of the best albums of 2016.

1. Skeleton Tree, by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. This album was started before Nick’s son Arthur died in 2015. Understandably, that tragedy weighed heavily on Nick as he wrote the songs for this album. The album is sad in a beautiful way. If you haven’t seen the movie, One More Time with Feeling, that played in cinemas around the globe on the eve of the release of this album, you should.

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The Best Music of 2014

The Best Music of 2014

The album I listened to the most this year is the number one album of 2014: Angel OlsenBurn Your Fire for No Witness. The song that first caught my attention was “Hi Five”. After hearing it I immediately went out and bought the album. It has several great songs in styles ranging from pop rock to the very quiet, beautifully sung, intimate rumination, “Windows”, a song Pitchfork wrote off as an “indistinct closer”. I like it, so here’s the video.

The second best album of 2014 is Lydia Loveless – Somewhere Else. I didn’t know about Lydia when her album Indestructible Machine came out in 2011, otherwise it would have been on my 2011 list. Anyway, here’s a live recording of the title track to this year’s album.

Number three is Sharon Van Etten – Are We There. Sharon has one of the most powerful voices in music, and she shows it off quite well in this song.

Number four is the third in a series of The Jeffrey Lee Pierce Sessions Project titled Axels & Sockets. It’s a collective of many of my favorite musicians including Nick Cave, Debbie Harry, Mark Lanegan, Lydia Lunch, Warren Ellis, Mick Harvey, Kid Congo Powers, Iggy Pop, Mark Stewart, Thurston Moore, Jim Sclavunos, Primal Scream, Cyprus Grove, Ruby Throat, and Andrew Weatherall. They all work together to interpret the songs of the late Jeffrey Lee Pierce. I find myself listening to it all the time. Here’s a video for “Constant Limbo”.

Number Five is Thurston Moore – The Best Day. It’s like a really great Sonic Youth album, except there’s no Kim Gordon. Here’s the title track recorded live at KEXP.

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Pickathon 2014 Special Report from Happy Valley, Part 3

Pickathon 2014 Special Report from Happy Valley, Part 3

Day 3 started with Woods at the Woods stage, our second time seeing this band. In addition to their great hooks, I would add they make full use of the Hammond organ sounding keyboards and it sounded great. Then we were in great position to watch Angel Olsen. This time we had full success. Zippy summed it up this way, “she was totally awesome”. She was a little Cat Power, crossed with Jeff Buckley and a sprinkling of Roy Orbison. Then we caught a crowd pleaser, Shakey Graves. On to the utter train wreck that was Foxygen. They had sound problems from the get-go followed by lead-singer antics which included stripping off his sparkly shirt, spasmodic leaping around, and even an attempt to climb the stage tower soaking wet. The performance settled down for the back half of the set which was less scary and more enjoyable to watch. Then a fabulous performance by the Aussie, Courtney Barnett. That gal can rock. A wonderfully clean three piece that made my top three performances. As the sun set, we ended our Pickathon experience with a couple songs from the wonderful X. Ya can’t beat that. That does it from Happy Valley. This is Zippy, Jax and Missizippy signing off.

Friday Night Videos Featuring Angel Olsen, Sleepy Sun, and Marissa Nadler

Friday Night Videos Featuring Angel Olsen, Sleepy Sun, and Marissa Nadler

I’ve been listening to Angel Olsen‘s new album, Burn Your Fire For No Witness, a lot this week. You should too.

I’d never heard about Sleepy Sun until a few weeks ago when I read a review of their new album, Maui Tears, on Tulip Frenzy. Here’s a video for “The Lane” from the album.

I just bougth Marissa Nadler‘s new album, July, today. Here’s “Dead City Emily”, the track Pitchfork says is the hypnotic centerpiece of the album in their review.