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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.

Political Songs: The 2016 Election Selection

Political Songs: The 2016 Election Selection

hillary-and-donald-6-sm

Choose wisely.

Here is a list of political songs you need to listen to during the final two weeks leading up to the presidential election on November 8th.

As you may have figured out by now, one of the biggest issues of this election is racism. The first few political songs take us back to the mid sixties through the mid seventies. Yes our nation has made some progress since then, but these songs remind you about what was going on then and makes you wonder why it’s still going on now.

Read More Read More

How long before Chris Christie becomes a Democrat?

How long before Chris Christie becomes a Democrat?

Governor Chris Christie is pissed off at his fellow Republicans in the House because they did not vote to authorize $60B in federal aid to the Northeastern states hit hard by Hurricane Sandy.

He singled out John Boehner for his most vitriolic ire: “There’s only one group to blame for the continued suffering of these innocent victims — the House majority and their speaker, John Boehner.” Christie said he called Speaker Boehner four times after 11:20 p.m. and received no response. And of the Republicans’ refusal to vote, he said “it was disappointing and disgusting to watch.” Followed by, “Last night, the House of Representatives failed that most basic test of public service, and they did so with callous indifference to the suffering of the people of my state.”

You might recall that Governor Christie was the keynote speaker at the Republican Convention. Now he says he will not provide any support for House Republicans.

When Hurricane Sandy struck New Jersey in October, he called President Obama and Obama responded immediately. Governor Christie praised Obama for his quick response and attention to the crisis. Christie was tested on Fox News with questions about his support for the Obama and the way he handled the disaster, but he did not waiver in his support for the president doing the right thing even if it gave a Democrat a little bump in the polls.

And by entering into Obama’s circle, Christie finally got to meet New Jersey’s most famous citizen, The Boss, who he has seen in concert something like 130 times. No reports were available as to whether Chrisite creamed his jeans when he got a hug from Bruce Springsteen.

So it doesn’t seem too crazy of an idea to think that maybe Christie will become so upset with his party of out-of-touch whackos that he’ll switch parties. He should have no problem getting re-elected governor as a Democrat in the very blue state of New Jersey. And just a couple years after that, he could be running for president with his new friend Bruce Springsteen supporting him on the road.

Am I right? I might be and, if I am, you read it here first.

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.

Chris Christie, Hurricane Sandy, and Bruce Springsteen

Chris Christie, Hurricane Sandy, and Bruce Springsteen

These are lyrics from Bruce Springsteen’s, “Jack of All Trades” from his latest album, Wrecking Ball. 

The hurricane blows, brings the hard rain

When the blue sky breaks

It feels like the world’s gonna change

And we’ll start caring for each other

Like Jesus said that we might

I’m a jack of all trades, we’ll be all right

How’s that for Garden State prophecy? Huh? Pretty good stuff!

Governor Chris Christie has criticized Obama while campaigning for Romney but Christie is also a HUGE (and I mean that literally) fan of New Jersey’s most famous person, Bruce Springsteen. Read about it in The Atlantic If you’d like. And now he seems to be an Obama fan, because when it mattered, Obama was there for him and the citizens of his state who are reeling from destruction of Hurricane Sandy.

I was going to link directly to the YouTube video of Christie talking to the Fox News guys about the storm’s destructive blow to New Jersey and what great support he receieved from Obama, but Fox has pulled the video from YouTube. So instead you get this segment from The Daily Show that includes the Christie video.

Springsteen, who has not been a fan of Christie for obvious reasons, set aside their political disagreements and gave Christie a shout-out at last night’s show.

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)

Mitt Romney Joins the Birthers while Campaigning in Michigan

Mitt Romney Joins the Birthers while Campaigning in Michigan

Mitt Romney pandered to the birthers while in Michigan on Friday.

With roaring approval from a crowd of truth-denying fans and party loyalists that don’t believe President Obama was born in Hawaii, he said this:

 

“I love being home in this place where Ann and I were raised, where both of us were born. Ann was born at Henry Ford Hospital. I was born at Harper Hospital. No one’s ever asked to see my birth certificate. They know that this is the place where we were born and raised.”

The Romney camp tried to brush it off as “an offhand comment” or a joke.

Nice try, but in a country where:

“One in four Americans (and more than half of all Republicans) believe Obama was not born in this country, and thus is an illegitimate president. More than a dozen state legislatures have introduced “birther bills” demanding proof of Obama’s citizenship as a condition for putting him on the 2012 ballot.”

…it’s really nothing for a man running for President of the United States to joke about. And because two of the most prominent members of the birther movement, Donald Trump and Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, are scheduled to appear at next week’s Republican National Convention (if they don’t get blown away by Hurricane Isaac) I hardly think Romney didn’t intend his remark to be a deliberate diss of President Obama.

The Obama camp responded with:

Born in the U.S.A.
I was born in the U.S.A.
Born in the U.S.A.
I’m a long gone Daddy in the U.S.A.
Born in the U.S.A.
Born in the U.S.A.
Born in the U.S.A.
I’m a cool rocking Daddy in the U.S.A.

Bruce Springsteen Takes on the Marauders with Wrecking Ball

Bruce Springsteen Takes on the Marauders with Wrecking Ball

Bruce Springsteen’s new album, Wrecking Ball, was released on Tuesday. It’s his 17th and most overtly political album. Several of the songs could end up being a soundrack to the Occupy Wall Street movement – especially “Death to My Hometown,” in which he rages against the greedheads on Wall Street:

So, listen up Sonny Boy,
Be ready when they come
For they’ll be returning
Sure as the rising sun
Now get yourself a song to sing
And sing it ‘til you’re done
Sing it hard and sing it well
Send the robber barons straight to Hell
The greedy thieves who came around
And ate the flesh of everything they found
Whose crimes have gone unpunished now
Who walk the streets as free men now
They brought death to our hometown, boys,
Death to our hometown.

…and “Jack of All Trades” using the voice of a working man who sees it happen over and over again:

The banker man grows fat,
Working man grows thin
It’s all happened before and it’ll happen again
It’ll happen again, yeah they’ll bet your life

And they’ll win. (See post below.)

…but not before he thinks some bad thoughts:

If I had me a gun, I’d find the
Bastards and shoot ’em on sight.
Clarence Clemons, The Big Man, Rest in Peace

Clarence Clemons, The Big Man, Rest in Peace

Clarence Clemons

From The New York Times:

Clarence Clemons, the saxophonist in Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, whose jovial onstage manner, soul-rooted style and brotherly relationship with Mr. Springsteen made him one of rock’s most beloved sidemen, died on Saturday at a hospital in Palm Beach, Fla. He was 69.

The cause was complications of a stroke he suffered last Sunday at his home in Singer Island, Fla., a spokeswoman for Mr. Springsteen said.

In a statement released Saturday night, Mr. Springsteen called Mr. Clemons “my great friend, my partner.”

“With Clarence at my side, my band and I were able to tell a story far deeper than those simply contained in our music,” he added. “His life, his memory and his love will live on in that story and in our band.”  

From the beginnings of the E Street Band in 1972, Mr. Clemons played a central part in Mr. Springsteen’s music, complementing the group’s electric guitar and driving rhythms in songs like “Born to Run” and “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out” with muscular, melodic saxophone hooks that echoed doo-wop, soul and early rock ’n’ roll.

Listen to “Jungleland” today.

Best Music of 2010

Best Music of 2010

There were a whole lot of very good albums released in 2010, and it was a difficult task to come up with a list of the best 20 albums, because so many good ones didn’t make the cut.  Anyway, here’s my list:

Neil YoungLe Noise Neil Young has put out some really great albums and a few duds too.  This one produced by Daniel Lanois is one of his best.  It’s just Neil playing his guitars and singing about his life and career.  Key Tracks:  “Walk with Me” and “The Hitchhiker”

GrindermanGrinderman 2 Nick Cave is back with his smaller, much harder rocking group playing the role of a wolf man on the prowl for sex and love – anyway he can get it.  Key tracks:  “Heathen Child” and “Bellringer Blues”

SpoonTransference This one came out very early in 2010, and I always find myself going back to it.  Britt Daniel knows how to write catch pop tunes.  The best ones on the album are “The Mystery Zone” and “Written in Reverse.”

John Legend and The Roots Wake Up! I never really paid much attention to John Legend until I saw him perform live with The Roots at The Rally to Restore Sanity.  All the songs but one on this album are covers of old-school soul/funk/R&B songs.  The Roots are one of the most solid bands working today, and John Legend shines as a vocalist with them backing him up.  Favorites are Ernie Hines’s “Our Generation” and Bill Withers’ “I Can’t Write Left Handed.”

Justin Townes EarleHarlem River Blues I had never really paid much attention to Justin Townes Earle before I saw him at Bumbershoot this year.  His song writing and singing style are signature Austin style, and he sounds like he’s having a really great time singing these songs.  Favorite songs are “Harlem River Blues” and “Christchurch Woman.”

Isobel Campbell & Mark LaneganHawk Mark Lanegan’s gravely baritone voice kills me.  Isobel Campbell’s soft, sweet voice provides the perfect foil.  Together they remind me of another great duo from years back, Nancy Sinatra and Lee Greenwood.  Key tracks:  “Come Undone” and “Lately.”

The MynabirdsWhat We Lose in the Fire We Gain in the Flood This is another new band for me.  I was sucked in by the Memphis soul sound.  Laura Burhenn’s vocals remind me of another great one, Dusty Springfield.  Favorite songs are “What We Gained in the Fire” and “LA Rain.”

Black Rebel Motorcycle ClubBeat the Devil’s Tattoo I’ve been a fan of this band ever since their 2003 release, Take Them on Their Own.  This album is as good as the one that got me listening to the band.  “Aya” has got to be one of the best songs they’ve ever recorded.  I listen to it all the time.  Other key track is “River Styx.”

Jesca HoopHunting My Dress Who is this woman with the first name that is missing a syllable?  I don’t know… I’ve read that she used to be a nanny for Tom Waits’s kids.  I think she picked up some of his rhythms.  I love the percussion and vocal style on this album.  Key tracks are “Tulip” and “Murder of Birds.”

The RootsHow I Got Over See above about how this is one of the best bands working today.  I am not a big fan of rap music, and these guys do rap, but what makes them different is that they are a real band, and they have real melodies in their songs.  Love the band.  My favorites are “Walk Alone” and “The Fire.”

Danger Mouse and SparklehorseDark Night of the Soul This album is bittersweet.  Were it not for some kind of weird contract or legal issue between Danger Mouse and somebody, this would have been released last year before co-creator Mark Linkous, and Vic Chesnutt (who also appears on the album) both committed suicide.  I was a big fan of both of them, and was sad to see them go.  David Lynch is the third major party in this project, and he actually does vocals on a couple tracks and provides the visuals.  You must visit the website.  Key tracks are “Everytime I’m With You” and “Revenge” (featuring Wayne Coyne on vocals).

Johnny DowdWake up the Snakes Not enough people know about Johnny Dowd.  Given that this album wasn’t released in the U.S. this year (You can buy it on his website, and you’ll get a sticky note in his hand on the cd that says “Thanks.”), I have to conclude that he’s more popular in Europe than he is in his home country.  That’s a shame, because Johnny writes crazy good songs about love, death, Jesus, and murder.  This album is one of his more rocking ones.  I really like “Voices” and “Howling Wolf Blues.”

MoondoggiesTidelands This is the second album by the local group who refers to themselves as “The Everett Shit Kickers” in the liner notes.  I like this one better than their first one.  I think the song writing is better and the band is really tight on this album.  Best tracks are “Tidelands” and “Lead Me On.”

Tom Petty and the HeartbreakersMojo I had not bought a Tom Petty album for about 25 years.  I loved this guy back in the day, but he seemed to be wandering into territories I wasn’t all that interested in visiting – until this one.  I first heard a track from the album on the Blue Boulevard show that airs Wednesday nights on KSVR in Mount Vernon.  Star Anna was the guest via telephone, and she chose a new Tom Petty song.  I bought the record, and it’s worthy.  Key tracks are:  “High in the Morning” and “Running Man’s Bible.”

Alejandro EscovedoStreet Songs of Love I love this guy.  This album RAWKS!  Saw him live at the No Depression show this year.  He played several songs from this album with his way good band featuring David Pulkingham on guitar.  I really like “Silver Cloud” and “Faith.”

Laura VeirsJuly Flame Laura Veirs is a mom now.  Last time I saw her perform she was 8-1/2 months pregnant.  She was touring in support of this album, an it was one of the best shows I saw this year.  She and Tucker Martine are a perfect match.  I especially like “Sun is King” (because it is) and “Wide-Eyed, Legless.”

Blue GiantBlue Giant I saw this Portland band open for The Dandy Warhols last night at The Showbox, and one might think that my picking them for my top twenty was influenced too much by a recent show, but NO!  The show was great, and so was the show they did at The Tractor when they opened for and backed up Bobby Bare, Jr., but I bought the album last nigh, listened to it today, and it is a really good album.  Key tracks are “Blue Sunshine” and “Wesley.”

The Black KeysBrothers This blues rock duo got my attention back in 2004 when I saw them at Bumbershoot.  They were touring in support of Rubber Soul.  This album is almost as good as that one.  I really like “Tighten Up” and “Howlin’ For You.”

Bobby Bare, Jr.A Storm – A Tree – My Mother’s Head The album is named after an incident that led to a tree crashing through his mother’s house and hitting her on the head.  Bobby was on tour at the time, and he called her to make sure she was okay (she was) and he continued to tour.  But he was thinking about her… the song… the album title.  I think this album is his best since The Longest Meow.  Key tracks are “Your Goat is on Fire” and your new favorite Halloween song, “Rock and Roll Halloween.”

Otis TaylorClovis People Vol. 3 What’s a Clovis person?  Go look it up.  Otis plays a different kind of blues.  Not sure how it should be categorized, but I like it.  It’s mostly acoustic and the music is sparse, the lyrics open to interpretation.  I like “Hands on Your Stomach” and “Ain’t no Cowgirl.”

I don’t count re-issues in these lists each year, but a special mention must go out to one in particular.  Bruce Springsteen released a box set of Darkness on the Edge of Town, that includes the remastered cd, an excellent movie about the making of the album, a double cd of outtakes from the sessions titled The Promise, a 3-hour 1978 concert from Houston, and whole lot of other live footage.  For Springsteen fans, this is a must have.  Absolutely amazing stuff form Springsteen in his prime.  Key tracks are “The Promise,” “The Little Things (My Baby Does},” and “The Way” (Hidden track at following “City of Night”).