Simon & Garfunkel’s great trick was to blur the boundaries between contemporary songwriting and traditional music. They made pop hits out of songs that had been in the culture for hundreds of years. They also wrote original songs that sounded like they’d been lifted straight … Continue reading Sparrow
Another gorgeous wave of dreampop from Savoir Adore. Their album Our Nature is one of my favorite records of the past decade, and probably the best example of dreampop as a genre, nebulous as it is. I haven’t listened to what they’ve done since they … Continue reading Sparrow
This song is some filthy smut. Or at least so I thought at the age of 12. I thought it was absolutely delightfully outrageous. I mean, did you hear? He wants to fuck your sweet ass. Hehe. Yeah, it’s a sex song. The Rolling Stones … Continue reading Sparks Will Fly
If I could retroactively make Melody A.M. one of my favorite records of 2001, I would do that. But I wasn’t seeking out new music in 2001, let alone making a list of favorite new records. Unbeknownst to me, Royksopp was setting the standard for … Continue reading Sparks
A Flaming Lips concert is a cynicism-free zone. With cynicism-free zones becoming increasingly endangered, if you should ever have the chance to see a Lips show, you should definitely jump on it. They have a great light show. Also, confetti and balloons like you’ve never … Continue reading The Spark That Bled
Here is part two (out of four) of the best records of 2019. As I said before, it’s been an unusually good year, and it’s an unusually long and diverse list. There are new works from old favorites and new favorites from new discoveries. I tried to cover as many bases as I could
1. Ghosteen – Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds
Nick Cave continues to explore an emotional landscape of grief and hope, grappling with the death of his son and how, in the aftermath of a life-changing tragedy, to move forward as an artist. It is both depressing and as bracing as a dive into frozen water.
2. Heard It In a Past Life – Maggie Rogers
3. Help Us Stranger – The Raconteurs
Like a lot of fans, I’d just about given up hope that Jack White would bring The Raconteurs back together. But here they are, and it sounds like no time has passed. Except for being, of course, a little bit older and wiser, it’s the same folksy roots rock than we expect from a Third Man product.
4. I Am Easy To Find – The National
5. Ilana (The Creator) – Mdou Moctar
Every year, thousands of records are released by artists all over the world that never connect with audiences outside their own local niche. But every once in a while an artist emerges who transcends genre. Mdou Moctar, of Niger, combines Taureg and Berber musical traditions with psychedelic rock reminiscent of Hendrix and Santana, making a melting-pot of an album with global appeal.
6. In the End – The Cranberries
The Cranberries were one of the definitive alternative rock bands of the 90’s, but in the decades since, they had largely been forgotten. It took the death of singer Dolores O’Riordan to get them back in the spotlight, and this posthumous album is a reminder of why they should, by all rights, have stayed popular.
7. The Lion King: The Gift – Beyonce
The Lion King remake may have been an exercise in gratuitous CGI, but bringing Beyonce on board was the best decision the Disney studio ever made. Bey’s companion album couldn’t be further away from the schlocky show tunes Elton John and Tim Rice cooked up in 1994. Leaning on uptempo Afropop, it showcases messages of positivity, courage and empowerment that are accessible enough for kiddos who loved the movie and sophisticated enough for adults who love Beyonce.
8. Love + Fear – Marina
After a short hiatus, Marina Diamandis dropped the “Diamonds” from her stage name, and moved in new, more intimate direction. Ditching the high-fructose pop she became famous for, Marina focuses on the songwriting chops she never got enough credit for. This record may not be uptempo enough for Froot lovers, but fans will recognize a more mature version of the vulnerable/witty singer, and will luxuriate in her amazing vocals.
9. LSD – Labrinth, Sia & Diplo
I love it when huge pop stars follow up their huge successes with something totally unexpected. Sia had a very great couple of years, and she followed up her string of hits by forming a supergroup with Labrinth and Diplo. Like the best supergroups it brings out the best in the supers. It’s the irreverent, fun, one-off album that keeps superstars from taking themselves too seriously.
10. No Treasure But Hope – Tindersticks
One gets the sense that all Tom Waits ever wanted was to be the piano player at some burlesque joint, preferably down the street from a greasy spoon. He really missed the boat on that one, growing up just when burlesque was going downhill. But … Continue reading Spare Parts II and Closing
In 1975 Tom Waits was seen as just another prematurely hoarse young man in a porkpie hat singing earnest songs about the travails of the drinking classes. Not entirely dissimilar from Bruce Springsteen or Randy Newman. It wasn’t selling him a whole lot of records … Continue reading Spare Parts I (A Nocturnal Emission)
You will pry my Doors LPs from my cold dead fingers, world. We might be moving further away from the kind of unhinged rock star megalomania that Jim Morrison represents. We’ve come to realize that Morrison was kind of a bad person, and very definitely … Continue reading Spanish Caravan
As usual when I listen to The Clash, I’m forced to conduct research. Their records may have retained their relevance because their anger cuts across the specifics of time, but many of those specifics have long ago faded from public consciousness. In this case, Joe … Continue reading Spanish Bombs