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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.

More of the Best New Music of 2020 so Far

More of the Best New Music of 2020 so Far

Many people are not familiar with Terry Allen and the Panhandle Mystery Band. I think I first heard him on KEXP’s Swingin’ Doors show around twenty years ago when Don Slack played “Gimme a Ride to Heaven” from the the 1983 album Bloodlines. I bought that album and have been following him ever since. No Depression describes his new album, Just Like Moby Dick, like this;

Instead of a voyage on the Pequod, Allen takes his listeners on a journey that covers a lot of ground, from Houdini facing death after life in “Houdini Didn’t Like the Spiritualists” to a town lamenting the loss of its last local dancer in “Death of the Last Stripper.” Allen brings clown-killing vampires into the light on “City of the Vampires” and delivers the storytelling masterpiece “Pirate Jenny,” which serves as a nod to Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht’s original of the same name.

Here is “Sailin’ on Through”. Enjoy!

Drive By Truckers have been putting out great southern rock music for decades now. They are not shy about expressing their political views, so it’s no surprise that during this year of a presidential election they have released their most political album ever, The Unraveling. Here’s their response to the nutjob, Christian, second-amendment crowd who won’t do anything about the epidemic of mass killings committed with ridiculously powerful automatic weapons except offer up their “Thoughts and Prayers”.

Stephen Malkmus has put out several solo albums, and they all sound a little different – some sound similar to his seminal band Pavement, some a little like Sonic Youth, some are bit electronic, and this new one titled Traditional Techniques is less rock, less electric, more acoustic, and maybe sounds a little bit like Wilco.

This next one is the title track from Tré Burt’s new album, Caught it From the Rye. You will probably find that the instrumentation and vocals sound very much like someone you know. Sean Jewell over at American Standard Time, in a somewhat amusing fashion, goes to great lengths not to name that singer/songwriter, because well… Sean has his own set of principles to which he must adhere.

I, on the other hand, will name that person. He happens to be an artist I have been listing to quite a bit lately. Bob Dylan has released two new songs on YouTube in the past three weeks. I won’t post the actual videos, because they are already ubiquitous on the internet. “Murder Most Foul“, about the assassination of President Kennedy and what it means to the American psyche, was released a few weeks ago. Today he released “I Contain Multitudes” which seems to be about all the things that have influenced his work.

The Best Music of 2012

The Best Music of 2012

It’s the last day of the year and I am finally getting around to posting my list of favorite albums of 2012.

The number one album goes to the one I listened to the most during the year, Standing at the Sky’s Edge, by Richard Hawley.

I have no idea how such a great album did not even make it on the KEXP listener’s poll of the top 120 albums. Watch the video. Take minute to request KEXP to play it, and buy the album.

Boys and Girls by Alabama Shakes comes in at number two.

KEXP listeners did approve of this album. It came in at Number 5.

Brian Jonestown Massacre comes in at Number 3 with Aufheben. Inexplicably missing from the KEXP list.

Bruce Springsteen put out his best album in many years. Wrecking Ball ranks Number 4 and it’s a perfect collection of political songs that was my soundtrack for the 2012 elections.

Dr. John put out his best album in decades. Locked Down was produced by Dan Auerback of The Black Keys, and he brought out the best of the Dr on this album.

No videos for the rest of this list. You know where to find them.

6. Banga, by Patti Smith
7. Sweet Heart, Sweet Light, by Spiritualized
8. Sonik Kicks, by Paul Weller
9. In Your Head, by Monophonics
10. Blues Funeral, by Mark Lanegan
11. Tempest, by Bob Dylan
12. Temple Beautiful, by Chuck Prophet
13. Blunderbuss, by Jack White
14. Circles, by Moon Duo
15. Sun, by Cat Power
16. O’ Be Joyful, by Shovels and Rope
17. Elegancia Tropical, by Bomba Estereo
18. Falling Off the Sky, by The dB’s
19. Twins, by Ty Segall
20. Synthetica, by Metric

I could go on but I’ll stop at twenty.

Tulip Frenzy chose Bend Beyond by Woods as the best album of the year. I recently bought it based on the review and it’s starting to grow on me. Other albums that caught my interest are Glad Rag Doll by Diana Krall featuring Marc Ribot on guitar, The House that Jack Built by Jesca Hoop, Tramp by Sharon Van Etten, Psychedelic Pill by Neil Young, Researching the Blues by Red Kross, and I Will Set You Free by Barry Adamson.

Political Songs – The 2012 Election Selection

Political Songs – The 2012 Election Selection

There’s just a little under four weeks until Election Day and you need a playlist of political songs to listen to from now until you vote.

Here’s a collection of songs that were mostly recorded in the past three years with a few oldies thrown in to keep it real.

It starts off with an appropriately titled song that tells how God and religion became intertwined with politics, then a song about monarchies, a few songs about greedheads, then about how the common man gets shafted by them, and a song in the voice of hard working man who does what he can, but would like to shoot the bastards. Next up are a couple of songs about racism in American and then a couple about how the oppressed ought to rise up and fight. The set closes with an uplifting song about how our generation must change the rules so that everyone gets an oppourtunity when it comes to education, jobs, and making a decent living doing what they want to do.

So put these tracks together however you can, and enjoy. Oh, and song-title links take you to lyrics, and album-title links take you to records label sites or Amazon for information about buying the music.

In the Beginning – Todd Snider, from Agnostic Hymns and Stoner Fables (2012)

Early Roman Kings – Bob Dylan, from Tempest (2012)

The Jolly Banker – Woody Guthrie, from Woody at 100 (1940)

No Banker Left Behind – Ry Cooder, from Pull Up Some Dust and Sit Down (2011)

National Ransom – Elvis Costello, from National Ransom (2010)

Everything’s Raisin’ – Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band, from The Wages (2010)

Tin Can Trust – Los Lobos, from Tin Can Trust

We Can’t Make it Here – Joan Baez, James McMurtry and Steve Earle, from Occupy This Album (2012)

Jack of All Trades – Bruce Springsteen, from Wrecking Ball (2012)

Talking at the Same Time – Tom Waits, from Bad as Me (2011)

I’m Dreaming of a White PresidentRandy Newman (2012, free mp3)

Cold Cold Feeling – Ry Cooder, from Election Special (2012)

Rising of the Ghetto – Ryan Bingham, from Tomorrowland (2012)

The Ghost of Tom Joad – Rage Against the Machine – from Renegades (2000)

Black Spartacus Heart Attack MachineTom Morello, from World Wide Rebel Songs (2011)

Come On Come On Come On – Jackson Browne, from Occupy This Album (2012)

Our Generation – John Legend and the Roots from Wake Up! (2010)

Friday Night Videos Featuring Lydia Loveless, Bob Dylan, and Richard Hawley

Friday Night Videos Featuring Lydia Loveless, Bob Dylan, and Richard Hawley

Here’s Lydia Loveless performing “Crazy” from her 2011 album Indestructible Machine, that would have made my top-ten list for 2011 had I only been smart enough to buy the album a year ago. She will be performing live at The Sunset Tavern on Saturday, October 13th.

Bob Dylan has a new album out, Tempest, and it’s getting rave reviews: Uncut Magazine gave it a 10, and MOJO Magazine gave it five stars. Here’s the video for the opening track, “Duquesne Whistle”.

Here’s the title track from Richard Hawley’s new album, Standing at the Sky’s Edge, that’s been on my hot rotation for the past couple of weeks.

Bob Dylan at Bumbershoot 2010

Bob Dylan at Bumbershoot 2010

I had not seen Bob Dylan since he toured with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers back in the eighties and did a show at the Tacoma Dome, so when he came to Bumbershoot this year, I had to go.

Dylan and Sexton 2

That’s Bob Dylan on the right and Charlie Sexton on guitar in the middle.  Charlie can play a mean guitar. 

Bob’s voice has, uh… changed over the years, and I wasn’t sure what to expect from him.  He started the show sounding like Tom Waits with a bad sinus infection, but his vocal chords loosened up as the show went on, and by the end, he still sounded very raspy, but much better than the start. 

Bob played quite a few songs from his latest albums.  The band was built to play those songs, but the songs from Highway 61 Revisited were easily translated into the blues-rock sound that these guys play, and play very well.

NPR Poll for Best Opening Track of an Album

NPR Poll for Best Opening Track of an Album

Today’s email from NPR included a link to this blog post asking readers to submit their choice for best opening track of an album.  I can think of a few.  My number one choice is:

“Gloria” on Patti Smith’s debut album Horses. Not only is that song the best opening track, it also has the best opening line.  The very first words you hear on the very first album by Patti Smith are, “Jesus died for somebody’s sins, but not mine.”  With that line and that song on that album with one of the greatest covers ever, she became an iconic rock ‘n roll figure that has inspired thousands of young punks and poets to express themselves through music.

Number two would be “Like a Rolling Stone” from Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited.

Number three is “London Calling” from the Clash album of the same name.

What are your favorites?  Leave a comment here and/or go to the NPR page and submit your choice before they close it down.

Best Albums of 2009

Best Albums of 2009

It’s New Year’s Eve and KEXP is just about ready to star their countdown of the best albums of 2009.  I’ll be listening and commenting on that later but, for now, here’s what you need to know.

The Top 10 Albums of 2009

1. Rising MountainsCapsula:  I first heard Capsula on KEXP on July 3rd and I was immediately hooked.  They are the most exciting band I’ve heard since discovering The Duke Spirit three years ago.  The band is originally from Buenes Aires, Argentina and they relocated to Bilbao, Spain.  They are a guitar driven, hard rocking band that knows how to write songs with catchy lyrics and great hooks.  The album is currently available as an import only.  You can get it at Amazon.  I suggest you go there now and buy it.  They will be coming to the U.S. in March for a show in NYC and then will be in Austin for SXSW.  See them if you can.  More about them here.

2. Something’s Wrong/Lost ForeverScott H. Biram:  Gorby turned me on to this guy by giving me an earlier album to listen to.  In May, I went to Austin with Gorby and Zippy, and we saw Scott live at The Continental Club.  GREAT one-man show.  I bought the album shortly after that, and I’ve been listening to it constantly.  Junkyard blues just don’t get any better than this.  Scott Biram will be in Seattle at the Tractor Tavern on Friday, February 12th.  See you there.

3. Truelove’s GutterRichard Hawley:  I read a review of this album in MOJO magazine, and immediately went out and bought it.  It is by far the most sonically interesting album of 2009.  He uses some really rare instruments:  the glass harmonica (based on the haunting tone you get when rubbing a wet finger around the rim of a wine glass – a.k.a. the hydrocrystalphone invented by Benjamin Franklin), the waterphone, the cristal Baschet, the ondes Martenot(kind of like a theremin), and a musical saw.  The key track on this album is “Remorse Code.”  Can’t stop listening to it. 

4. One Fast Move or I’m Gone, Kerouac’s Big Sur – Jay Farrar & Benjamin Gibbard:  I am a huge fan of Jack Kerouac, so I bought this they day it came out.  The cd is the soundtrack to a movie about Kerouac’s journey back to California to get some down time at Ferlinghetti’s seaside cabin.  The film is excellent.  It features readings of Big Sur by the man himself.  Kerouac’s voice is intoxicating.  I could listen to it for hours.  Oh, and the music by Farrar and Gibbard is stripped down and soulful.  I recommend “California Zephyr” and The “Void.”  They will be performing at The Showbox in Seattle on Sunday, January 24th.

5. Wilco (the album)Wilco:  The guitar work by Nels Cline on this record is incredible.  The songs are great.  Tweedy sounds great.  What more can you ask for from a Wilco album?

6. I and Love and You – The Avett Brothers:  This is a beautiful sounding album produced by Rick Rubin who fleshed out the trio of banjoists and drummer with piano and sometimes lush orchestration.  The title track and “Tin Man” are my favorites. 

7. BrokenSoulsavers:  This is Mark Lanegan at his best.  A dark brooding album that matches his voice perfectly.  He gets excellent vocal support from Rosa Agostino (a.k.a. Red Ghost), and Richard Hawley makes an appearance too.

8. Welcome JoyThe Cave Singers:  I heard of this band, but never really knew what they were about until I saw them at Bumbershoot.  It’s real rootsy stuff with catchy lyrics and great vocals.  “At the Cut” and “Leap” are my favorites.

9. The Spirit of ApolloN.A.S.A.:  That stands for North America South America.  It’s a duo that pulled together a whole lot of artists to sing vocals on twenty-some songs.  Who?  David Byrne, Chuck D, Tom Waits, Kool Keith, Kanye West, Mia, Del the Funky Homosapien, and more.  The first song I heard was “Spacious Thoughts” featuring Tom Waits and Kool Keith.  You just have to hear it.  The two with David Byrne, “The People Tree” and “Money” are really great.

10. A Woman A Man Walked ByP.J. Harvey & John Parish:  The album starts out with one of my favorite songs of the year, “Black Hearted Love,” a pop song, and then it veers off in all different directions.  Thanks to “That Irsih Fella on my block, I got to see P.J. and John put on a great show at The Moore Theater this year.  P.J. was in perfect form, and John and the band were tight.  They are PROFESSIONALS!

The Top Teen Albums of 2009

11. Tell ’em What Your Name Is – Black Joe Lewis and the Honeydrippers:  My Austin pals told me about this band last year.  Black Joe Lewis has a huge fan base in Austin, and I was lucky to see the band at a sold out show there in May.  I love the fun energy in this album.  “Get Yo Shit” and “I’m Broke” are the shit.

12. ¡Let Freedom Ring! – Chuck Prophet
13. Horehound – The Dead Weather
14. Middle Cyclone– Neko Case
15. Together Through Life – Bob Dylan
16. Hombre Lobo – Eels
17. Through the Devil Softly – Hope Sandoval and the Warm Inventions
18. Secret, Profane, & Sugarcane – Elvis Costello
19. The Eternal– Sonic Youth

and number 20…
Backspacer  – Pearl Jam

This year’s best series of reissues is of course the first four albums by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds out on Mute records:  The First Born is Dead, From Her to Eternity, Kicking Against the Pricks, and Your Funeral, My Trial.  Buy them all and play them loud.

The best live album of the year is Tom Waits’ Glitter and Doom.

Friday Night Videos – Richard Hawley, P.J. Harvey & John Parish, Bob Dylan

Friday Night Videos – Richard Hawley, P.J. Harvey & John Parish, Bob Dylan

From what may be the most sonically intriguing album of 2009, Richard Hawley’s Truelove’s Gutter.

And here’s “Black Hearted Love” from one of my favorite albums of 2009, P.J. Harvey and John Parish’s, A Woman A Man Walked By.

And just for fun, here’s Bob Dylan doing  “Must be Santa,” from Christmas in the Heart.