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2016: Best Albums Through November 30th, 2016


Coloring Book – Chance The Rapper – Part of me thinks, the Junior Varsity Yeezus, but so what? How bad can that be? A perfect Gospel album about the birth of his daughter and making his baby mama his fiancee and and perhaps his wife. The purest and happiest album of the week, the month… the year?

Lemonade – Beyoncé – Her fourth masterpiece in succession, peaks sky high and never comes too far down. Simply, the best in class…

Skeleton Tree – Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – If you can get past the horror, what you have is an orchestrated, relentless beauty in the face of horror. “Distant Sky” is a uniquely perfect organ slow sweet sadness, spiritual in nature if not in intention, and typical of the way in which Cave’s relentless gloom over the years, is put into use to detail not the story but the moments of pure tragedy

The Life Of Pablo – Kanye West – It lacks concentration and sometimes the lyric gets clunky, and it is still is the best piece of music as sound you’ll hear this year.

Blackstar – David Bowie – We’ve heard four of the five songs before and there is nothing approaching the old touch, but it sounds like nothing else you’ll hear this year, a trip hop beat, skronk jazz doomsday scenario.

Malibu – Anderson Paak – a self portrait, peaking very very high and maintaining it with only an occasional falter on this state of the art hip hop triumph. “Come Down” a masterpiece and the The Game and Talib Kweli are fine featured artists

Miracles: Lost And Found – Marla Mase – Or more songs about Facebook and family.

The Flesh Is Weak – James Chance And The Contortions – There is a relentless, driven crazed to the band that echoes back through Buy to a here and now where the only proper response is screaming and shouting like James Brown in a US hell

Cashmere – Swet Shop Boys – Anybody surprised to see a Das Racist here? A truly brilliant state of the sub-continent, side of Islam lads living with Western world racial profiling. “I’m so fly bitch but I’m on a no fly list…” Words to live by, and shout out to Heems and Riz for really representing

Hardwired… To Self Destruct – Metallica – Apparently their breathtaking set at Global Citizen last September was no fluke, this is a heads down no nonsense heavy metal masterpiece that puts all the contenders to the back of the line, if you love this stuff this is the stuff to love

A Loud Bash Of Teenage Feelings – Beach Slang – “Play it loud, play it fast, play me something that will always last…” is how Beach Slang announce themselves at the start of what we expected would be a terrific sophomore album, and then do it. The world has needed a Replacement influenced band and now we have one: “Spin The Dial” channels the Westerberg magic and that’s picked almost at random. Twenty-nine minutes of rock for them thar youngsters to groove via Philadelphia. Consider it more songs about teenagers and alcohol

You Want It Darker – Leonard Cohen – If Cohen, a great poet poet, had won the nobel prize for literature, you’d have heard no complaints from me. He is also, along with Zimmy himself, the exception that proves the rule as to finite songwriting gifts. His last FOUR albums (yes, the live one as well), including this wintery work of dark beauty, have been masterful. Leonard has claimed to be ready for death, in song here, and interview, but for all his quiet I’ve turned my back on the devil Gospel endings, he sounds a way off

Gunslinger – Garth Brooks – First rate country rock, old fashioned in the best way and despite compaints of a lack of risk, personally I am as sick of risk as I’ve ever been of anything and appreciate these ten, straight up no chase Brooksian country slices of white bread country roll. Sure, your need for a song called “Baby Let’s Lay Down And Dance” might not be mine, but either way, this is the one to hear if it is.Hell, even the ballads are pretty good. Considered a little treading water, I really can’t find a fault with it. At $5 from Amazon, an absolute steal

For Better Or Worse – John Prine – Prine sings duets with female contemporaries on popular and semi-popular country standards

Polaris – Annabelle Lord-Patey – Teen scion of folk singers, makes a debut about love, not so love, and being a teenage with melodies to spare.

Blonde – Frank Ocean – Finally reaches streaming services, so we can put “White Ferrari” on our playlist… now how about the soundtrack to the “Endless” video?

Bloom Forever – Thomas Cohen – Heartbreaking songs about the death of his wife Peaches Geldof-Cohen, with the gloom seldom moving. A brave and powerful statement of intense personal loss

Talking Quietly Of Anything With You – Free Cake For Every Creature – An out of left field contender for album of the year, Katie Bennett has released a flawless collection of self-realizing lo fi art pop strum and dream pop strokes. Astounding stuff with not a bad moment in the entire collection and the lick which doubles as a hook on the single is only beaten by the literally atmospheric “First Storm Of The Summer” . Plus best band name ever

DNCE – DNCE – Joe Jonas’ exceptionally successful attempt to reinvent himself as the leader of a glammy dance band for the modern reaches its zenith with this enormously fun debut album, a blast of youth and energy, dance and good times, from one end to another

Aim – M.I.A. – I love everything M.I.A. has ever done, including the Wikileeks mixtape and including her live performances. But if this had been the follow up to Kaya, she would have lived up to her world conquering capabilities. M.I.A. as poppy as possible and still rhyming Devon with Yemen

Lazarus – Various Artists – Remember Michael C. Hall? His mpressive performance as “Hedwig” on Broadway, had a lot of Bowie in it. Yeah, he is the real deal as the lead in David’s musical. These arranged for musical theatre rock multi voices Bowie songs, refitted to a sequel to “The Man Who Fell To Earth” storyline, promises a great deal when the production finally reaches the Great White Way. The entire cast album was recorded the day after Bowie’s death… except for the three new songs, recorded at the same sessions that brought us Blackstar. The new “No Plan” is a standout of the new songs, and the other two final recorded performances resonate even further than musical, which resonates far enough

American Tunes – Allen Toussaint – The great pianist died last November and this final album isis a more than fitting farewell. Jazz inflected piano based songs from the likes of Professor Longhair and (!)Paul Simon (the title track). The terrific Rhiannon Giddens adds her voice to two Duke Ellington songs and the entire enterprise is topped off by a smooth and elegant instrumental on his signature “Southern Nights”. The perfect conclusion to a glorious career

Quiero Creedence – Various Artists – “Rodando, rodando, rodando en el río…” look, I am the guy who ripped that Fogerty and friends variant on CCR to shreds last year, so when I say this is brilliant, take my word, this is fucking brilliant. I don’t know many of the Latin American bands tributing CCR here, Los Lobos, Juan Gabriel, Ozomatli, Los Lonely Boys, a coupla others, but everybody is great and the “Proud Mary” by El Tri is a revelation. It roars, it stomps, the drums are at the forefront, and the energy is relentless in a great way. A complete shocker

The Malibu Sessions – Colbie Caillat – She lost her way over her past two MOR moves albums which didn’t sell and didn’t deserve to. All is forgiven on this quietly stunning pop album. From one end to another, every song is wonderful, every word precise and gorgeous, like the best day of the summer. Released on her own label, this is the woman the way she wants to be heard, and if it isn’t a smash she can take pride on a real achievement on this tremendous return to form, it’s as though she’s written forty minutes of “I Do”

The Dreaming Room – Laura Mvula – This isn’t neo soul, it is art soul. And so was her first album which was a goodie but this is more than that. “Show Me Love” is so strange and off center and emotionally fulfilling, it is one of those cases where you can’t believe your ears. You have to listen again. And Nan, a taping of a phone conversation between Laura and her deeply religious Grandmother should be majorly precious and it isn’t incredibly enough. If those are highlights, constant listening is rewarded in coloration and details, in the sharpest of orchestrations and the most distinct and unique songs.

Endless – Frank Ocean – A video album in conjunction with the upcoming release of his eagerly anticipated album dropping some time this weekend, Endless. It features Frank building a staircase while low key r&b mood music plays. This might play better with people who don’t obsess about him than those who do, compared to, say, PARTYNEXTDOOR, this is sheer genius at rest: contemplative and downbeat,yet clever, musical, open to interpretation, and absorbing. Will the album have a different setlist

This Is Where I Live – William Bell – Wanna know why neo soul sucks? Listen to William Bell, the composer of the epic “You Don’t Miss Your Water”, new album of classic soul. If Maxwell, who I love, could write a song as great as “The House Always Wins”, he would do. So would you. The 76 year old Bell is one of the Stax/Volt giants and listening to this superb album, it is invigorating and very very depressing

I Like It When You Sleep, For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It -The 1975 – This is the best album of the week because it is the most ambitious album of the week, and it hangs together as a concept album, though not in a story bound way. For 1975, it will break them hugely in the US: this will make them big, big stars here and while it isn’t as great as we think it is (it lacks the consistency of greatness), in 2016 has the stamina and stature of a masterclass in rock pop self-consciousness

Blood // Sugar // Secs // Traffic – The Gotobeds – The problem is there is no “New York Sucks” to take you by surprise and strategy. But once you’ve said that, everything else about it is the definition of a great sophomore album. The DNA is the same, but songs like “Red Alphabet” define the aging process for bands who have just signed to a major indie like Sub Pop. It is the same only better, it rocks but not to distraction, willing to stagger in place when it feels like while it sheds and merges its post-punk influence

Blisters EP – Serpentwithfeet – Queer soul and pop postmodernism by the beautiful voiced Josiah Wise on a stunning EP, five songs, all moving explorations of gay love and the complexities that happen when “the chord connecting us two is made of gossamer” -what a warning. I wish there was more

Fire – Amy Klein – Where punk sensibility, feminist idealistic grrrl self confidence and a classic rock sensibility meet up to pull a major variation on the rock and roll anthem. It is like Sleater Kinney without the quirkiness, it plays itself straight and therein lies the variant

Patch the Sky – Bob Mould – He reminds me more and more of Van Morrison in the 90s, consistent excellence on album after album, this is his ninth of the century, third of the decade, and it is quite as good as, say, Beauty And Ruin. You get the feeling he could do it forever, and really any writer with a song as great as “Pray For Rain” buried in the middle here somewhere, deserves to do it forever

What I’m Feelin’ – Anthony Hamilton- Back with producer Mark Batson, this is Hamilton’s masterpiece, old school meets new school, state of the art r&b moving from trap to Gospel to 80s soul, unified by his powerful Southern fried tenor. The first two songs are so perfect they are the best start of a record this year

Let Them Eat Chaos – Kate Tempest – You can only be new once, so this sophomore effort boils down to more of the very, very good agitprop rhyming and rapping, spoken word in time, plus first rate beats. Can’t be bad, isn’t bad, but isn’t a surprise or an innovation

Side Pony – Lake Street Dive – A dance, a haircut, an attitude, and a ton of pop and blue eyed soul songs about sex.

Blisters In The Pit Of My Heart – Martha – This is the best emo band in the world today, the UK punks have so many melodies and hooks in their arsenal that they never stop exploding into the veneer of pop worship and the Buzzcockian worldview of punk as guitar and tunes. A superb sophomore effort

Mind of Mine – Zayn – If the weeknd joined One Direction, learnt to sing as well as Malik, and then fired everybody and rearranged their last album, you’d have this statement of intent. At its best, which would definitely include the Farsi language “Flower”, it is quite excellent and at its worse, Zayn always has that falsetto to get him through. Yes, I think Naughty Boy should’ve produced it, but that is probably my biggest complaint

When You Walk A Long Distance You Are Tired – Mothers – Somewhere between Americana, indie, folk and singer songwriter, lies this compelling and intensely depressing set of songs by Kristine Leschper. Downbeat, lo fi, but not mellow, there is a sense of mutated strings hovering and ready to die

Full Circle – Loretta Lynn – 12 years after her disappointing Jack White produced album, this is a superb collection of recorded oldies and brand new tracks, with Loretta completely timeless on sweet agro “Fist City” and agro sweetness “Everybody Wants To Go To Heaven”. There’s a special place in heaven for the Elvis Costello duet ,”Everything It Takes”

Upland Stories – Robbie Fulks – Steve Crawford recently told me that this is what everybody said the last Jason Isbell album was. Nice line, I thought, but I’ll be the judge. Crawford is right, of course, the journey alt country stalwart journeyman Fulks has released the album we’ve been waiting for. It starts at the top with the flawless “Alabama At Night” and it falls from there because it has no choice, but it never falls far

xxx EP – Pussy Riot – We’ve been waiting for a great protest song and now we have one, “Make America Great Again” is a modified bossa nova and the exact opposite of the Pussy Riot punk ethos in song ethos (the following two tracks come closer), but it is one part immigrant song and one part travelogue, and all part tough ideas that need to be repeated: open borders will make America great again they claim, and they have the song to back it up

Wildflower – The Avalanches – These Aussies are incredible, they take the sample album to whole other levels of unadulterated fun, sampling and cut and matching rap, hip, soul, funk, classic rock and everything else and somehow creating real songs. “Frankie Sinatra” is a calliope of Gypsy tune and circus traumas. Like whiskers on kittens (yep, it’s here -still on “Frankie SInatra”) it is one of your favorite things

Give Me A Groove EP – Charlie Funk – Funk is a paid up member of the True Groove Funk EP, but he is more than that: on this debut EP he surges through with an indelible personality, a glammy pop front man with sex and style. “Sexy Cutie” is a an All Stars showstopper, “It’s Not A Joke” a horn riddled mood funk, “Lunch In Babylon” art rock and the title track the national anthem

Aa – Baauer – Electronica is to EDM what Americana is to country, and I wasn’t crazy about Baauer’s novelty hit from 2013 “Harlem Shake” to start with. Still, Baauer is about as good as you’re gonna get at this stuff, the opening track “Church” is all alchemic uplift and while it spends too much time spinning its wheels, much like the album there is payoffs. Anybody up adds M.I.A. to K-Pop master G-Dragon and make it better than you thought it would be, on one song, and Pusha T with Future (who finds the perfect Macklemore dis) on another, isn’t your average novelty or your average electronic DJ

24 Karat – Bruno Mars – I wasn’t crazy about the title track, but over the course of an album Bruno has it going on big time. With the exception of the lousy second single ballad “Versace On The Floor”, this is 80s style r&b for the digital age. skillful as you can get, and, wide ranging as far as it goes. This should maintain his pop dominance even while the last single stiffed

Empire Builder – Laura Gibson – The Portland folkie who came out of the same scene that gave us The Decemberists, has crafted a set of songs about transience, small diamond shaped beauties that all do their job exceedingly well, if what they want to do is make you sigh softly underneath your breath

KINGSIZED – Dressy Bessy – Indie meets power pop with so many catchy melodies? You’d be excused for wondering what century it is. At first it’s a shocker but a little more research finds Dressy Bessy part of the Elephant Six Collective and Apples Of Stereo’s John Hill on guitar. But don’t let the marquee dazzle you, this is Tammy Ealom’s tough and girlie vocals album to hit or miss and she doesn’t miss once

Big Day In A Small Town – Brandy Clark – The follow up to 12 Stories, is an additional 11 stories by the best of the new breed of country girl songwriters who have paid their due and become singers as well. The quality of writing here simply can’t be higher, there isn’t a dud in the pack, and it makes her contemporaries seem like also rans. It might not be fair to use Brandy to beat on Kacey Musgraves (who she has written with) or newbies like Maren Morris, but it is just about irresistible. “The Girl Next Door” has levels upon levels while rocking righteously

City – Law Holt – Law is part of the scene that brought us the great Young Fathers, so indie mainstream gone experiential seems to be the form, “Summer’s Coming” would be a song of the summer, and in any world, why the heck did “Love Drive Through” not make the Top 10 in the UK? – B+

The Bird And The Rifle – Lori McKenna – The problem here isn’t the songwriting, which is epic, and consistent, the problem is the sound, that bores well before the country songwriter is done with us -odd right, an album without a naff song can’t hold your attention – B+

Life’s What You Make It – Placebo – A cover, two new ones, an earlier single and two live cuts and still pretty terrific: sounds like what Oasis would sound like if they were fronted by David Bowie instead of John Lennon

Growing Over Life – Wretch 32 – Part of the Grime crew Combination Chain Gang, and a major player who never got the recognition of a Spekta, though on the strength of this rap and soul, he should have. Towards the end of the album both Laura Mvula (who has one of the best albums of the year to her credit) and Emile Sande make guest appearances, and are welcome but not needed. This is populist modern Afro-pop, an exquisite series of melodies and raps and a major coming of age for Jermaine Scott. If this doesn’t break here, chalk it down to bad luck

saintmoteltelevision – Saint Motel – Saint Motel have been terrific at everything they’ve ever tried, and have brought glam rock to classic rock to EDM, where Holy Ghost! meets T-Rex. It’s a good place to be, and while sales haven’t caught up with them yet, this is the sort of terrific dance album that’s a product placement away from doing it for them. They break the pop charts they’ve always stood as their goal, right here

Milestones – Chrisette Michelle – After breaking with Def Jam, this is Michelle’s first album as an independent, and the hip hop go to singer Queen of the hook, has fashioned a very fine r&b album for adults, sounding oddly un-rap and more mainstream Divaish. “Steady” is Rihanna with a much better singer

Everybody Looking – Gucci Mane – Out of prison and six days in the lab, a roaring return to form from the best ATlanta rapper to date, explaining his distressing life as a recovering drug addict. If it isn’t 2009, it is just the first step on his return to the top

untitled unmastered – Kendrick Lamar – Demos that never made it on to To Pimp A Butterfly, and since I was in the minority who thought Pimp was good not great, and since this is a Mix Tape type release, it should be worse, but it isn’t. Less is more, it is clear, uncluttered, deeply imaginative rap songs. And on the sixth track, you might be convinced he can find the space between raindrops.

It Doesn’t Have To Make Sense – Ingrid Michaelson – Lilith fair was never this cool, a sweet, smart singer songwriter, with one anthem “Celebrate”, worth celebrating, and two potential hits

Transit Blues – The Devil Wears Prada – Their conservative Christianity gets in the way of their live performances but not their recorded input. This is Christiancore as Satan blowback straight to hell: a loud, raucous, mind blowing experience that doesn’t stop exploding for an instant, except between songs where silence descends for a moment like a veil between worlds. “Daughter” is the song of the week

Viola Beach – Viola Beach – They sounded like a purer and, if possible, more English early Arctic Monkeys, and had every possibility of making it just that big. This is an entirely satisfactory debut album, held together by the excellent opening track and breakthrough song “Swings And Waterslides” and closed with their other hit “Boys That Sing” -the latter a sad epitaph to rock and roll and young men. In between it doesn’t quite maintain the energy level but the band doesn’t level off either, you’d enjoy it even if the sad ending didn’t overwhelm you.

Writing of Blues and Yellows – Billie Marten – If the problem with Laura Marling is that she believes my reviews about her, the problem with Billie Marten is she has only just started double dating so I haven’t reviewed her. The 17 year old folkie, however, has some of the DNA of a Laura, an ear for melody, and a stretched out on your grave moodiness

Young In All The Wrong Ways – Sara Watkins – The Nickel Creek singer, provides a confessional of uncommon beauty, “a post-breakup, post-label shakeup, identity crisis in the making,” as Popmatters noted. One of those albums that is so good you go in search of disappointments (“Move Me” -if that helps); the title track is one of the best songs of the week.

Before The Flood – Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross – Soundtrack to a global warming documentary. I’ve admired this duo’s electronic dreamscape soundtracks ever since “The Social Network”, they are one of the few people who perform incidental music I want to hear. With the help of Mogwai, here, it’s a nervy, nightmare drone album that continues their unblemished legacy

Death Of A Bachelor – Panic! At The Disco – better than Fall Out Boy, and that includes the execrable “Victorious”. For sure, “Crazy=Genius” is the best song you’ve ever heard that name checks Brian Wilson, Dennis Wilson and puns on “mike, love” and the best song ever about being 28 and peering down the loaded gun of 30. And then it gets really good.

Red Lips – Cerrone – 70s disco producer counters Moroder with a straightforward disco funk album that works all the way through. Justin Timberlake should give him a call right now, and till then it is all good but Aloe Blacc is all over his song… wow, that Yasmin song is gonna give Niles a run for his money -the bass solo has you conjuring Edwards

Mark Kozelek Sings Favorites – Mark Kozelek – Red House Painters and Sun Kil Moon lead singer covers glorious songs like “Moon River” and “Something Stupid” with immaculate precision and a glorious tenor both dramatic and understated

Romantic – Mannequin Pussy – Powerful punk meets power pop, explodes into melody and back, try “Beside Yourself” -which sounds like trance-y dreamscape shoegaze and isn’t. Actually, just about everything here will get you there, so dip in

The Heart Speaks In Whispers – Corinne Bailey Rae – The thing about time is that it doesn’t stop and you can either follow it or you can be left behind. Corinne follows it on these songs of new romantic exercise, sweeter, and more light hearted (and nearly as good as) than her last one, The Sea. I guess that’s what new love can do

Anti – Rihanna – The kick is, this is a drug induced, unfocussed, mess of an album. But the only mistake is one of omission, “Bitch Better Have My Money” should’ve been included. Only “Desperado” from the first six tracks are open to debate, the ballads are pretty good, the fast ones better, and Trevor a bigger aid than Chris Brown, though not than Jay Z

God Don’t Never Change: The Songs Of Blind Willie Johnson – Various Artists – The Tom Waits and Lucinda Williams performances are sublime

blackSummer’snight – Maxwell – The first single, “Lake By The Ocean” was such a drag, you might have checked out before you checked out Maxwell’s first album in seven years. But it is a loss leader and despite Maxwell’s Musiq Soulchild vibe, and Prince like falsetto, this is often as not Maxwell the soul man as well. “All The Ways Love Can Feel”, the opening song, is first class pop soul that might have emerged from the 1999 outtakes, and even ballads like “190xo” work out in the end

Blues – Alabama 3 – So, was Hank Williams high when he took that last drive? I dunno, but these woozy weirdos from the UK make you believe it is only right that it would be, as they detail one rock star death after another… and that’s just the first track. Unlike anything else around, and that’s saying something in 2016

Ocean – Parekh & Singh – Dream pop via India and man is it dreamy, one gorgeous pop melody after another unerringly reaching for your pleasure zone. It is all good but “I Love You Baby, I Love You Doll”. However, it does go on a bit

The Lexicon Of Love II – ABC – Given the decades between them, II isn’t bad, actually it is kinda like Star Wars VII, it is similar without being the same, but not exactly great and missing something somewhere in the mix. I loved VII and I love LOLII, just not as much as I wish I did

Konnichiwa – Skepta – The Grime superstar’s latest is the sine qua non of the form, a straight up state of the art Grime album, one well executed track after another. Wiley makes an appearance on the fame ain’t what you think it is, even if every day is Saturday on “Corn On The Cob”, Pharrell is on the what must be the single “Number”

American Band – Drive-By Truckers – Easy to hate in principle, this collection of protest songs is very very good, for one reason only: They wrote the songs that were needed.The lyrics are too blunt and that’s the only complaint: DBT have a voice and they they have a point of view and they maintain their political and social horror vision right the way through. “Once They Banned Imagine” is a song of the year

Avocet – Bert Jansch – A re-release of the late Scottish folkie’s 1979 instrumental classic… a complete delight, especially the seventeen minute title track

Wild Stab – The I Don’t Cares – After a couple of disappointing songs last year, this seemed like it was gonna be na alt rock star circle jerk, but Paul Westerberg is too good a writer and every time he takes the lead is magical and even when he doesn’t Juliana Hatfield is up to it. A delightfully swift witted, fast on its feet rock triumph

Pylon Live – Pylon – From relatively late in the Athens, GA poster children’s first shot, in other words 1983, it really couldn’t have aged much better, all angular hooks and bubbled up pop hooks, it is like a jingle triangle geometric dream pop test world – B+

You Are Going To Hate This – The Frights – Sophomore effort is killer, it would be of interest for only its doo wop meets punk “All I Need”, but they sustain the sound for thirty minutes with invariably excellent results

Emily’s D+evolution – Esperanza Spalding – Her fifth album finds the excellent jazz bassist with all powers still in tact. The hour long deluxe version is a flawless exercise in modern jazz singing

Carved From Tides – Message To Bears -Jerome Alexander’s instrumental (mostly) lush and lovely tracks reach their height with the glorious “I’ll Lead You There” but maintain a contemplative, fascinated veneer throughout. Go in search of “When You’re Gone”

Gameshow – Two Door Cinema Club – The overhauled Irish rock band sound terrific on this blue eyed soul dance album, a major shift that I hope works for them

Instinctive Drowning – Red Pill – The alcoholism, depression, and suicide attempts of Detroit MC Chris Orrick, are detailed in excruciating detail, but excruciating in a good way, in a pain shared way, on his sophomore album. The insistence that if you can’t die, you must live puts the lie to his “the new normal is hopeless” mantra

Vices et Mensonges – Violence Conjugale – French post punks who when they buckle down makes the language sound as vicious as the beats, a true rarity. A true rarity as well? It sounds like it is good enough to be from the US or the UK. French EDM we know, even French rap, but French industrial post punk rock? Well, well! Mais ca plane pour moi

Wonderful Crazy Night – Elton John – No, this isn’t Don’t Shoot me, I’m Only The Piano Player, but at 68 years of age Elton still has the old skills to call on from time to time, around half this album is really really good. And though the world might well ignore it, it is still a fine piece of proto-glam piano pop

Air For Free – Relient K – Woaaaah, these Christian power poppers write melodies in their sleep and this is as strong a selection of pop rockers as you will hear this year. It peaks early with the first rate “Bummer” but all of it is very fine stuff. Not quite CCM, not quite alt rock, it delivers on the middle ground

Wynonna & The Big Noise, – Wynonna & The Big Noise – Big Red is back with, with he exception of a Christmas album and a Greatest Hits, her first new disk in 13 years ,With featured appearances from Jason Isbell, Susan Tedeschi, and Derek Trucks, she takes her small and powerful band through a raucous, sing your guts out ride, that never lags, Christ Stapleton co-wrote the Tedeschi opener

New York Is My Home – Dion – The title track with Paul Simon is killer and the rest of it is no better or worse than a typical Dion blues album

Colleen Green EP – Colleen Green – New England’s answer to Bethany Cosentino without the Brian Wilson jones, this EP has six songs and they are all great, including the lyrics, she might not want to go to the disco, but she would be quite at home there

Porta Bohemica – Trixie Whitley – Anyone who has heard Trixie play guitar might have wanted a bluesier exercise, but what we got was an album as influenced by Daniel Lanois’s Oh Mercy field of sounds as it is by the blues or by long journeys (the Porta Bohemica is a European Orient express). Where it leads to is the deepest of emotional black holes, a place so quiet it is ineluctable, and ends up just being the sound of blue piano keys, secretively

The Cracks That Built The Wall – Communist Daughter – Somewhat on the depressingly gorgeous side, coulda been Americana with a tad more folk in its tail but is actually lo-fi pop of the first order. from Minneapolis

So Many Things – Annie Sofie von Otter, Brooklyn Rider – Brooklyn Rider are a string quartet, Annie is the Mezzo-Soprano and Costello collaborator on For The Stars, here they mix modern classical compositions with current art rock, and it consistently improves upon what you think you are gonna get. The two Costello tracks are goodies, better than in their original incantations, plus two from Bjork, one from Kate Bush… very dramatic stuff

Fingers Crossed – Ian Hunter And The Rant Band – Hunter has been on a tear since 2009’s Man Overboard and while his main subject today is Ian Hunter road warrior, it is a good subject and this is his third slice of classic rock UK style in a row. I guess Ian can just write em right, right now

COLLEGROVE – 2 Chainz – Lil Wayne is all over this fine rap collaboration, all good, some real fun, and “Rolls Royce Weather Every Day” a reminder how much better their life is to ours

Midwest Farmer’s Daughter – Margo Price – She might wanna think about writing less stories, when she goes in deep she loses me. And sure, this deeply influenced by ’70s country gals needs to be better to survive the comparisons, still I’ll take “How The Mighty Have Fallen” over “Merry Go Round” any time you choose

The Very Last Day – Parker Millsap – A modern day Jason Isbell, and this might break Parker big time

New View – Eleanor Friedberger – I was expecting a goodie, the coupla songs I’d heard were all aces, but this goes a touch too Lillith Fest before it ends. At its best there is an addictive tunefulness and a hard headed singer to pull em through . Shout out to that guitar solo on “Because I Asked You”

In The Magic Hour – Aoife Donovon – If Donovan is a journeyman vocalist and an Brooklyn indie stalwart, she is one whose time has come on this immaculately sung and arranged modern singer songwriter album, that summons Joni, but doesn’t stay there

Feed The Fire – Promise And The Monster – this is Billie Lindahl, who exude an enthralling ghostly sensuality on song after song

Masterpiece – Big Thief – The title track is something of a masterpiece itself, as Big Thief lead singer Adrianne Lenke sad and sorry singer comes to terms with life without her best friend. Everything else here is nearly as good in a indie rock pop singer songwriter Saddle Creek sort of way – B+

Impulse – Boyfrndz – If this is modern prog rock, deal me in. Huge songs, arranged into layers of pulsating sound, that pulse and hum from one hard riff and one melodic impulse to another by this big time Austin rock band

On Your Feet – Original Broadway Cast – I enjoyed the musical and I enjoy this Cast album more than “Hamilton” and “American Psycho” combined. Why? Because Gloria Estefan sang real songs so we get to hear real songs

Skilled Mechanics – Tricky – Former trip hop superstar, the Tricky kid is on his game with these funky rhythm beat tracks. But then he is always on his game and if this sounds like more of the same, it is more of the same of something no one else has ever done . “Don’t Go” is a blueprint tricky track

Hypercaffium Spazzinate – Descendents – This is SOCal punk, and, despite the aging subject matter, and despite the death of guitarist Frank Navetta back in 2008, their first album in twelve years is an energetic punky pop melody and speed that sounds the way you’d want it to, like Superchunk meets Sugar, the comeback kids? We all want them to win…

Love Letter For Fire – Sam Beam, Jesca Hoop – I’ve never much enjoyed Iron And Wine, they are a little too sincere for my tastes, and by little I mean a lot. But this album is quieter and smarter, a steady series of extremely skilful Americana which echoes The Civil Wars from a great distance

Eric Benet – Eric Benet – The world never forgave Eric for cheating on Halle Berry, and this despite his masterpiece, 2010’s Lost In Time. Six years later, this is a return to form for the soulman, not a major album but consistently pleasurable genre exercise as good or better than anything left in the lost art form

Ibifornia – Cassius – Featuring Mike D, Ryan Tedder, Cat Power, and, Nr, Neptune himself Pharrell, the French duo’s first album since 2006 is their best since 1999, all house bop disco moves of the first order, try the 13 minute album closer, “Action XXL”

The Traveller – Baaba Maal – Senegal superstar foes electronica, that’s the short story. The large story is if there were more songs that rocked out with the persuasiveness of “Fulani Rock”, this would be the big time crossover he has been striving for since forever

The Long Way Home – Show Of Hands – If this is UK Americana, which it isn’t, or English folk, though without the clever clever of Fairport Convention, which it is, it is awful good

Views – Drake – Better than I initially thought, it takes awhile to sink in, and yes, it is a little boring, but the sound is very much what Drake does and after awhile you can hear it through the gloom

40KI – Steve Aoki – Straight up no chaser house music EP, a real pleasure to leave the fiddling about MOR moves out for a change

Prima Donna EP – Vince Staples – After the contender for best album of 2016, Summer ’06, as dark a vision of Compton as you’ll ever hear, Staples returns with a full frontal rap of the moment move, except it isn’t: more suicidal nightmares with rhymes to spare and a terrific title track, though if you’ve ever seen him life, you might wonder just how unhappy he is and how can a song called “Smile” have so much sorrow?

No, My Name Is Jeffery – Young Thug – His THIRD album of the year, a collection of odes to Young Thug’s idols, from Rihanna to Harambe, the gorilla who was murdered while protecting a child that fell into the her cage. With a Caribbean feel brought on by Wyclef Jean, and a pop sensibility, that is all calypso soul, this one by the Atlanta rapper is maybe the most rap like album since Gucci (also one of Young Thug’s idols here) got out of jail, is the keeper

Let Me Get By – Tedeschi Trucks Driver – Not so fast with the Jam Band Crown abdicated by the Allman Brothers.. While the soul songs are fabulous, the Americana songs are nothing much, the quirk tracks odd though not unpleasant and the blues a drag till the solo kicks em over … maybe they should follow Eat A Peach’s lead and do a half live, half studio effort

We Are King – King – We were expecting great things from these soulful LA singers, and four years after “The Story” we got it. If you’ve heard the hype, believe it: these are three sisters who were great when I saw their showcase years ago, and while the production is overdone, they sing deep harmonies and improve everything they touch

The Ghost Of Highway 20 – Lucinda Williams – The mother of all daddy issues, Lucinda was sent reeling at the passing of her poet daddy Miller Williams a year ago, and this is pretty much a memento mori from a woman who can drag on and on at the best of times. Still, 2014’s double album Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone was pretty good, the tour was even better and if this goes on a bit, when she nails it, the terrific “Place In My Heart”, it makes up for a Springsteen with change to spare

Real – Lydia Loveless – Two years after she broke through with her Liz Phair goes to Nashville “Head”, Lydia’s latest is missing that one huge song but makes up for it with a Stones type country guitar album of Grand Ole Opry worthy rock em track after track

Popcorn Fish Guinea Pig – Museum Mouth – First rate power pop punk tracks, filled with energy and explosions, hard to find a bad track, maybe “Riff From My Head” is a little obvious.Or a best track, maybe “Lacquer”. Somewhere in the middle lies the rest on this early Los Campesinos vocal sound alike rock out

Gwen Stefani – This Is What The Truth Feels Like… The problem here is Gwen is eleven years older and she will never surprise us again the way she did with her first solo album, the EDM craftier pop masterpiece Love, Angel, Music, Baby. Having said that, this crafty pop quasi-biographical chart potentate moves are better than her last No Doubt and solo albums combined. It doesn’t matter in the slightest

The Bible 2 – AJJ – Punk folk teenage dramas played loud, straight, fast forward, word song stories of distilled disasters, everything here is fabulous, even the guitar solo on “Terrifyer”, but start at the beginning “Cody’s Theme” -the best song since that Paul Westerberg tribute a coupla weeks back

A Seat At The Table – Solange – Beyonce’s kid sister has always been more than simply Beyonce’s kid sister, with an ear for indie (which she taught to Bey, it is hard to imagine “Hold Up” without Solange’s influence), and a deep neo soul arrogance, smart enough to be modern, real enough to work on stage. Her first album since 2012’s excellent True is her best to date. “Junie” is a typical disco meets funk, meets finger picked bass piece of aural intoxication, though everything here is great and with 21 tracks , things could’ve gone wrong. At the very least, hold up for the producer Q Tip appearance at the very least

Johannesburg – Mumford And Sons – The mini album is another South Africa gumboots meets Western singer songwriter in folk drag, classic rockists. Five songs, one a cover, all great, “Wona” a positive ID on “Gumboots” is best on record, but they don’t capture the magic beauty rockism of the live “There Will Be A Time” here. Kudos to all, especially Beatenberg test, but it sounds great

Be Yourself – Tamara Rutkovska – The most interesting pop singer since Meghan Trainor showed, she has the slighted of accents and adds beatbox to bass hooks and pop gooey bubblegum

Magical Solutions To Everyday Struggles – Telstar Sound Drone – Via Copenhagen, this sounds like a Primal Scream steal, the way the new Primal Scream sounds like a Primal Scream steal, only a lot better. “Mentes De Ácido”called it “Velvet Underground covering ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’” and who am I to disagree? “Drugs Work” is one of the best songs of the week

Live At Easy Street – The Sonics – A live album from 2015 by these old school garage rockers who just get better and better…. down and dirty rollicking rocker after down and dirty rollicking rocker and hats off to the sax player on “Boss Hoss”

Fun’s Cool – The Prettiots – half of this duo is Lulu Landolfi, of Care Bears On Fire, who once blew me away opening for Titus Andronicus, and another former member of whom started a great band that disappeared, Claire’s Diary. These guys are smart tuneful, very funny and remarkably cool, somewhere between tongue in cheek and tongue in mouth

Standards – Into It. Over It. – Emo singer songwriter Evan Weiss may have been this good all along and I missed it, or this may be a personal best, but either way the quality of songwriting here, even the more angular “No EQ”, the bluesier “Who You Are Does Not Equal What You Are”, and definitely the Elvis Depressedly all grow up ish “Closing Arguments”, are good enough for me to assume he hasn’t done it before

Kindness For Weakness – Homeboy Sandman – If rap, as opposed to hip hop, is your scene, this guy raps very well, the voice could be stronger, but the slow and the rhymes are immaculate. If Grime came from the States it might sound like this. “Real New York” is terrific

Mi Vicio y Mi Adiccion – Kevin Ortiz – Latin pop but with less ballads and more horns and bop than you’re used to

American Appetite – Harriet – Dawes’ former keyboard player Alex Casnoff’s new band Harriet have something Dawes never had, astounding consistency. This is Socal indie pop with an eye on the 70s, but willing to ignore the 70s and go its own way. An occasional misstep, the title track is too clever for its own good, is more than made up with by first rate rocker “Inheritance”

Hopelessness – ANOHNI – I’ve always loved Anthony’s voice and it is the best thing about this crossover to the mainstream attempt, gone is the Bon Iver in skirts vibe, replaced by gorgeous blue eyed soul textured pop maneuvers. “Watch Me” may be the song of the week.

Don’t Be Afraid – Tami Neilson – Powerful voice blues country singer via New Zealand, here she sings some fair songs till they blow your mind

Dream Darling – The Slow Show – Slow steaming rock mood ballads with a great baritone leading the way, this Manchester (England!) guys never falter: it is like waking up for a sweet dream to remember your girlfriend died the week before

Keep Me Singing – Van Morrison – This isn’t a great album, but it is quintessential Van Morrison and would have fit right in with those string of 90s albums: a little blues, a little Caledonia folk, some soul, some prosaic lyric weirdness, a little traditional, a little ritual… and missing the sort of songs that made him a legend, but not the voice that went with the legend

Daydream – Empty Houses – From the opening drum roll -as pure a stick on skin as you’ll hear, bending towards a “Twist And SHout” shout out and then a Motown sideways jolt into a fine pop song, you know this Indie pop band have their own agenda. From there they mine 60s pop for the modern age with creativity and passion

Creon – Rorcal – Death metal has never been so symphonic, it sounds like a thunderstorm at sea, waves and waves of hugeness flowing over you, drowning in sound. Quite something – B+

Back On My Wall – Burnt palms – So modern punk pop, which this nominally is, sounds a whole lot like Bangles jangle, which this certainly does

Pigeonheart – DM Stith – A sad sack emotional boy with an ear for acoustics and a way with a pro tools, this is a surprise pleasure

Wolves of Want – Bent Shapes – Boston indie rockers, with a post-punk feel and a way with a song, actually quite a few songs, this is a straightforward beauty of an album. Simply but effective rock pop and “Realisation Hits” is as good as it gets

New Misery – Cullen Omori – First I hated Smith Western, then I loved them, and now their vocalist has gone solo with this singer-songwriter confessional indie album (on Sub Pop) and I admire him at least from a distance. “And Yet The World Still Turns” is lo fi symphonic dream pop – B+

Hot Sauce – The Madcaps – If they’re meant to be funny, this French bands humor doesn’t travel, but if they are meant to be straight up no chaser garage rock, they do it well

I Long To See You – Charles Lloyd and The Marvels – saxophonist Lloyd’s new band play fresh arrangements of rock, folk, jazz, hey is that country and western, pop hits, sometimes a Gregory Porter or a Norah Jones adds vocals

Misty Shrub EP – Bird Dog – Despite being from Malibu, these guys have a rustic indie folk with beard vibes offset by an ambient sound based around soaring harmonies. And even better than you think it is

Suicide Songs – MONEY – Somewhere between funny and manic depressive, this is modern shoegaze from Manchester

Spagat Der Liebe – Klaus Johann Grobe – Swiss DJ duo, write MOR EDM the way it should be, heavy on the tech and beats, with a 70s Farfisa here and there, and strong could only be done this way songs

Don’t You – Wet – So far, so hype, so good, with these consistently talented synth poppers

The Colour In Anything – James Blake – Blake is a genius but I can’t take him for more than a couple of songs at a time, slow, sad, electronica, Bon Iver (who perform on one track), as machine music. I saw him at T5 a coupla years ago, and loved him and still nearly fell asleep. The same happened here

Majesty – Flamingods – “Majesty was written and arranged with a conceptual narrative, cohesive both musically and lyrically following the story of protagonist Yuka on his journey of enlightenment through an exotic jungle landscape.” I know what you’re thinking but you’re wrong, this is an enormously beautiful psychedelic soundscape of dream music, especially the first half, and “Anya” may well be the best track of the week

Arias – Pumeza Matshikiza – Lovely soprano, compared to Maria Callas, though I can’t hear it. These Arias are superbly sung and even if you aren’t an opera fan hang around for “La Paloma”, the original version of Presley’s “No More” -you’ll adore it

A Sense Of Falling: Strange Geometry Outtakes EP – The Clientele – I don’t know why these didn’t make the album, gorgeous and melodic 60s inspired pop rock

Introducing Karl Blau – Karl Blau – This is a surprise find, a country covers album, including well trodden tracks with long pedigrees such as “To Love Somebody”, “No Regrets”, and “That’s How I Got To Memphis”, plus a nearly ten minute version Link Wray’s “Fallin’ Rain”, which K Records alumni Blau (the “Introducing” must be a genre reference) justifies every step of the way. His “No Regrets” is an intelligent rejoinder to Scott Walker’s old cover

Dawn – RY X – Strum and sing, yes, lo fi absolutely, but consistently interesting and worth listening to

Statik Kxng – Statik Selektah – Why is everything to do with Slaughterhouse so good? Slaughterhouse emcee KXNG Crooked hooks up with DJ Statik Selektah, and the result is a well rapped, well versed, terrific sounding album, head and shoulders above the dark sampled business as usual Drake influenced sounds we hear all year

The Electric Warlock Acid Witch Satanic Orgy Celebration Dispenser – Rob Zombie – “The Life And Times Of A Teenage Rock God” is the song Marilyn Manson hasn’t nailed down in twenty years, and if nothing else is as good, all of it is world class Zombie metal blood and guts even the electronic workout. Plus, at 31 minutes in length you are only a rotation away from hearing “Teenage Rock God” again

3001: A Laced Odyssey – Flatbush Zombies – Flatbush Zombies is Meechy Darko, Zombie Juice and Erick “The Architect” Elliott, all three are excellent nyc rappers, and at their best, even at their second best, they are all handle the chores with efficiency, and the long one that ends the album is one of their best. Not crazy about their backing tracks

Colin Stetson Presents Sorrow A Reimagining of Henryk Górecki’s 3rd Symphony – Colin Stetson – Using woodwind (his instrument of choice) and synthesizers and electric guitars, plus standard orchestration, let’s see where he goes in three movements: “The first is a 15th-century Polish lament of Mary, mother of Jesus, the second a message written on the wall of a Gestapo cell during World War II, and the third a Silesian folk song of a mother searching for her son killed by the Germans in the Silesian uprisings.”, so it goes deeply into the Polish late 20th Century’s symphony, and discovers a sounder larger and sometimes the equal of the original and quite beautiful, and very very sad

I’ve Got A Way – Kelsey Waldon – She has the voice of an Iris DeMent, if not the songs. Which is not to say there is anything wrong with Kelsey’s songs in the slightest, there isn’t. Not in the slightest

Wanderlust – Little Big Town – Four part harmonies their speciality, with good to great songs and a modern veneer provided by the producer, one Pharrell Williams. And they are joined by Justin Timberlake on the fine “Cmon”. Otherwise, WIlliams and the band wrote every song and they all work. “One Of Those Days” is a must hear

99¢ – Santigold – 99 Cent – Santigold – Sure, we’ve already heard five of these songs, one was iffy, one was a great pop track, and the other three relatively minor. And that’s the way the album goes as well, wonderful disco songs, relentlessly cheerful and upbeat, with a Caribbean lilt for spice. Another fine album

Free Will – Freeway – I never understood why this Philadelphian rapper never broke through, and this, if a touch old fashioned, is filled with really good tracks. I prefer it to the new Drake, with the outstanding “Addiction” leading the way, “Bennie And Stella” (with a truly remarkably catchy hook) bringing up the rear and everything else at least middling

S+@dium Rock : Five Nights at the Opera – Titus Andronicus – If ever a band deserved a Bruce Springsteen-ish, five album live retrospective, this band is that. Instead, Patrick skims the best moments off last years (terrific) rock opera. What a waste though waste or not, Titus Andronicus is one of the greatest live bands ever, and this is pretty darn terrific. It just isn’t enough

Twentyears – Air – One side greatest hits, one side rarities and odds and sods, both sides excellent

Your Girlfriend Thinks I’m The Shit EP – Round2Crew – Pop rap that sounds like a modern day LFO, a good giggle with memorable pop moments

Brahms: The Four Symphonies Live – Detroit Symphony Orchestra – If Johannes Brahms was a rock star, he would be Ray Davies, as great as the greatest but a step behind in public perception. If only he had written an opera, right? These four symphonies are delightful and beautiful, full of character and intelligence

Inside Another Side – Paul Foglino – When the folk revival finally kicks in, Foglino will be there ahead of us all, with this excellent collection of acoustic guitar flavored songs. The former bassist for 5 Chinese Brothers, studied with Dave Van Zonk, and has been playing around town ever since. This collection contains the eagerly awaited “That’s How I Know” -a live staple which the Wiggles should cover. But there are no disappointments here

Stranger To Stranger – Paul Simon – Paul’s more than legitimate thanatological stresses is smarter and scarier on “The Werewolf” than it was five years ago on “The Afterlife” five years ago, but “The Afterlife” was a better song. Song for song, that’s the problem with his electronica meets mutated African beats. It doesn’t sound as good as even his first album of the ’10s. There is no “Dazzling Blue”…. having said all of that, it is still good enough

Leave Me Alone – Hind – Madrid chick band add pop punk to occasional Latin flow and uncomfortable lyrics to general badassness, just waiting on Taylor Swift endorsement to break Stateside

Paramount – It Lies Within – Hardcore metal from industrial slums Flint, Michigan is a no nonsense ear bleeding treat. Start with “Lights The Way” just to remind yourself there are melodies as well

For Mark, Your Son – Lando Chill – On paper, Tucson’s favorite son Lando Chill is an iffy proposition, and the spoken word intro to the album will have you fearing the worst. But it is less rap, and much less spoken word, than neo-soul experimentation of the first order. Start with “Early In The Morning”, which sounds like Barry White without Barry White, and move on to “Unenamored” long dead daddy track and then start really dipping in

Talk Tight – Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – Pop punk tracks catchy pro-melody hookiness

Hold On! – The James Hunter Six – terrific English blue eyed soul guy with that strange jazz inflected soulfulness that was apparently invented by Georgie Fame. Terrific stuff

Long Play – The Wealthy West – Alt-country but don’t leave yet, Brandon Kinder, for it is he, has a terrific voice, and the songs are wistful sad beauties

Eternal Returns – United Fruits – “The songs captivate what it’s like to fall in love, to feel pain from falling in love, letting go of love, and the fear of being alive”claims a United Fruit, and actually, that’s what it sounds like, loud indie rock-pop from Glasgow, teeming with melodies and guitars

That’s Hip Hop – Joell Ortiz – Slaughterhouses’ MC is a master rapper and this is old school as fuck, plus the actually rapping is hard to doubt at all: this man has a terrific voice, can rhyme well, knows a hook and knows what flow is.Even the samples are terrific, listen to “Fall Back”

Dreamless – Fallujah – Brainy prog metal electronica, the sort of stuff you might imagine from a band named after a battleground for the US in Iraq

Animal Races – Cool Ghouls – 60s psychedelia comes of age, without the heaviness of a Brian Jonestown, but with a consistent airy exploration of drug sounds and pop, a goodie especially the title track… that one kills

Hella Personal Film Festival – Open Mike Eagle & Paul White -This is a uniquely clever rap album, the West Coast eclecticist Open Mike Eagle is a smart lyricist and a good rapper and here he is joined by English DJ Paul White, who gives him a huge pool to splash around in.

Crush – High Water – This is a singer songwriter Will Epstein and a techno guy producing Nicolas Jaar and if that has you falling asleep, I feel your pain I truly do, but wait till you hear Will’s cover of Lucinda William’s “Change The Locks”, you won’t be sleeping then. Just as good is opening track “Moonlight Mind” -an early album lullaby dreamscape

Inceste EP – Imperial Triumphant – Black metal plus wild noise, a terrific 20 minutes of headbanging crunch and industrial strength everything

Boy King – Wild Beasts – A classicists UK rock sound but maybe the best at it around today, with a lead singer, Hayden Thorpe, who channels some of Bono’s intensity. A hit single earlier this year, “Get Your Bang On” isn’t the tip of the iceberg but it isn’t the best song wither. That belongs to the terrific blues in concept “Alpha Female”, it does drag bad here and there but makes it through by the end

Collect – 18+ – Samia is from Honolulu, Justin from Berlin, and the duo’s second album is a goodie, moody dark sounds with hip hop in its DNA. All of it is good, two voices, delayed and far apart coming together, it uses rap sing speak to its own ends. “Wet Blunts” is better than good

The Lexicon Of Love II – ABC – Given the decades between them, II isn’t bad, actually it is kinda like Star Wars VII, it is similar without being the same, but not exactly great and missing something somewhere in the mix. I loved VII and I love LOLII, just not as much as I wish I did

Fallen Angels – Bob Dylan – I wish there was more “Polka Dots And Moonbeams” and less “Come Rain Or Come Shine” but even so, the arrangements are rewritten for Dylan’s Americana band and sound unlike the versions you’ve heard all these years at least on that level, and the vocals hit their notes, with phrasing that belongs to Dylan and yet honors the precedent

Black – Dierks Bentley – I’ve loved Dierk ever since watching him out perform Brad Paisley at MSG years ago, and this has done nothing to change my high opinion. Strong,well played, country songs, that rock when necessary, well sung and despite its muscle, it doesn’t push you too hard. Named for his wife. He makes it seem so easy you wonder why no one else does it

Never Enough – Public Access TV – The New York based indie pop rockers, lead by former Be Your Own Pet’s John Eatherly (who sounds like Julian Casablancas with less drugs), are ready for their close up on this catchy debut album which should cement their position as the city’s favorite sons

Mayday – Boys Noize – Germany’s Boys Noize is the last and final absolute House to rave master DJ, and here collaborations with Hudson Mohawke, Spank Rock, Poliça, Remy Banks and Benga, changes nothing. They don’t make em like this any more

Mark Kozelek Sings Favorites – Mark Kozelek – Red House Painters and Sun Kil Moon lead singer covers glorious songs like “Moon River” and “Something Stupid” with immaculate precision and a glorious tenor both dramatic and understated

Remember Us To Life – Regina Spektor – Four years on, this ain’t bad Regina, but it isn’t great either. “Grand Hotel” is a good song, there a lot of good songs. But there is no “Small Town Moon” or “All The Rowboats” -let alone “Ink Stains”. So on a curve, it is her worse to date, though as a standalone it more than provides us with great piano based singer songwriter songs with literate and clever lyrics and first rate tunes

V – Tiger Army – Sound like Del Shannon, not prime Shannon but even so…

Por Favor – Brett Dennen – This guy seems incapable of writing a bad song, maybe a little quiet, maybe a touch boring, but even so, the songs are always great. Here as well, just another Brett Dennen album filled with pop rock low impact but charming and effortless singer songwriter moves

Cowardly Deeds – Randolph’s Leap – The eight piece via Glasgow have a way with a song and if it seems over arduous the songs are always good enough, “Not Thinking” is typically playful and lovely

Everything At Once – Travis – They were always a good band in theory and a bore in practise, here they are still a little on the boring and tasteful UK rock side but not so much that the sheer wealth of material stops it from being a fine set of songs, boring but fine

Mac Gollehon And The Hispanic Mechanics – Mac Gollehon And The Hispanic Mechanics – Powerful mix and match of salsa drums, neo-soul jazziness and r&b flavored takedowns of mammoth proportions, half of which are remixes, all of which are dance tracks, and one of which, “Eleganza” is all of the above at one time

Black – Dierks Bentley – I’ve loved Dierk ever since watching him out perform Brad Paisley at MSG years ago, and this has done nothing to change my high opinion. Strong,well played, country songs, that rock when necessary, well sung and despite its muscle, it doesn’t push you too hard. Named for his wife. He makes it seem so easy you wonder why no one else does it

Sweet Charity Original London Production – Various Artist – Juliet Prowse’s 1966 turn, pretty darn good for the late Elvis cohort on “GI Blues”. Juliet’s “If My Friends Could See Me Now” is one of the best

Blood, Bath And Beyond – Copywrite – “I’m a bad man in a bad mood”, the Columbus, Ohio rapper warns, and he goes on to prove it on this endlessly witty and vicious song cycle

Light On The Lake – Whitney – A little samey but these two Smith Western survivors have released a fine of soul country tracks that go from strength to strength, so that makes two for two viz former SWs

Black Terry Cat – Xenia Rubinos – Cross pollinated electronic soul that defies such an easy categorization. Xenia is a fine singer and her songs are modern pop tropes of the first order

The Switch – Emily King – 60s MOR pop but with a rock veneer, if this is mainstream pop it is great mainstream pop, “Good Friend” is great, “Off Center” has the best outro in the business, and every song catches your ear and keeps i

Summertime – Willie Nelson – I am not a fan of either Bonnie or Willie, but I am affair of Gershwin and even as a nonfriend, there is a great spirit behind these covers. You wanna stick Willie in a room with Bucky Pizzarelli, somebody to give him just a touch more swing. Still, at 82 years of age this has life and real power to it

Spiritual Songs For Lovers To Sing – Luh – Heavy duty electronic beats and soulful singing goes Goth, “I&I” is an original vibrating thing that works, the rest of it by the former Wu Lye lead singer Ellery Roberts and his main squeeze, artist Ebony Hoorn have created a passionate ill temperate album

Masterpiece – Big Thief – The title track is something of a masterpiece itself, as Big Thief lead singer Adrianne Lenke sad and sorry singer comes to terms with life without her best friend. Everything else here is nearly as good in a indie rock pop singer songwriter Saddle Creek sort of way

Impulse – Boyfrndz – If this is modern prog rock, deal me in. Huge songs, arranged into layers of pulsating sound, that pulse and hum from one hard riff and one melodic impulse to another by this big time Austin rock band

Ephemera – Little Green Cars – Imagine if Paul Simon, and not just any Paul Simon but Paul Simon (1972) Paul Simon was from Dublin, and was sometimes a woman, and you will have a feel for this truly lovely indie pop album.

Pop Deluxe – Mari Wilson – This is an updated You Break My Heart In 17 Places, without the winking, superb straightforward covers of 1960s pop hits

One Day All of This Won’t Matter Any More – Slow Club – Very lovely folk pop songs via Sheffield, “Rebecca Casanova” is a must hear, and it isn’t the only ear candy. All the songs sound modern but in a timeless way, and the song structures ebb and flow with ease and sensitivity. Both of the singers are terrific, especially Rebecca Taylor, whose vocal on “In Waves” is simply spectacular

Bobby Tarantino – Logic – I couldn’t take last year’s concept album but this one? Even the sketch track works and “Flexicution” is about as much fun as I’ve had all year. A surprise drop mixtape, with the Pusha T featured “Wrist” and both “Slave” and “Slave II” -he is like a white Drake with a better sense of humor but not as many great tracks… except this time he has even more great tracks

Adult Teen – Lisa Prank – One woman emo pop lo fi electric guitar and drum machine, but it is much catchier than that sounds, the songs don’t sound all of a piece because they revolve around pop melodies not riffology and the brave new world of girls emoting (hi there Free Cake For Every cre), try “Drive Anywhere” which sounds very ordinary till the bridge becomes a melodic explosion

Burden Piece – Clique – Loud but melodic power pop punk bank from Philly with a terrifical musical dynamism, especially when they use two lead singers, that maintains your attention

Pure And Simple – Dolly Parton – Ten love songs, all by Dolly, all pure and simple and lovely. Her best album since Better Day includes her best song since “In The Meantime” in the title track, and while it drags from time to time, in short doses it is a fine collection of new songs from a great country songwriter

Year Of The Rabbit EP – Eskimeaux – Hot on the heels of her buddy Frankie Cosmos album, this sublime four songs of lo-fi smart singer songwriterly beauties, adds a pop veneer on her first rate confessionals. A hidden gem

Fire In The Church – Montana Of 300 – I love the tracks this guys has, and his voice has a first rate undertow to it, “Fighting Demons, Dropping Jewels” is as clever as a state of his life can be, and while it is dated as far as it goes, so what?

A Cure For Loneliness – Peter Wolf – “Some Other Time, Some Other Place” is the best song of the week, it sounds like an old Rod Stewart classic.”It’s Raining”, originally planned as a duet with Bobby Womack, would have been greater with the late master, but is still pretty darn wonderful. And if the rest of the albbum is a subdued J. Geils, well, what’s wrong with that

Blastoma – Ngaiire – Former Chet Faker back up singer, provides a glorious and soulful vocal for these slow burn pop songs, the songs are good as well

There’s A Lot Going On – Vic Mensa – If all you know is “Wolves”, or his stuff on Chance’s Acid Rap mixtape, this will set you straight. A very good rapper, who here goes political by the second track, and “Sixteen Shots” is the best agitprop rap I’ve heard, better than Kendrick, definitely better that Jay Z’s obvious “Spiritual”

Mariner – Cult Of Luna, Julie Christmas – Symphonic metalcore with so much power and with a great singer who wails her way in from time to time and a screamo from the bowels of hell who, er, harmonizes? – B+

Peach – Culture Abuse – Impressive California former noise pinks, now loud pop punk with a penchant for catchy is as catchy does, try late entry “Turn It Off” -about as clear a rave up, and as well executed a pop track as you’ll hear this week

#GPG – Guizmo – This is the real deal, 90s style rap only in French by a man who can really rap and, indeed, sounds to non French ears like he has something to say: powerful stuff. The guy had covered “Gangsta Paradise” in the past and this is closely related to US hip hop but it isn’t pop, it is darker

BIG BABY D.R.A.M. – D.R.A.M. – Sure “Broccoli” was a killer track, though Lil Yachty sucked live, this album is a pure pop move, and a constant pleasure whether it’s the fast and smooth “Monticello Ave”, the neo-soul Erykah Badu featured “WiFi”, or the soul pop “Misunderstood” with Young Thug, who knows a thing or two about pop himself

Rita Wilson – Rita WIlson – Sure, she is an actress first and this is a bit dilettantish. BUT, Rita co-wrote all the songs and she has a lovely voice… and the songs are pretty good in a So-Cal singer songwriter MOR sort of way. Plus she is cute, the same age as me, and married to good guy Tom Hanks so…

Borderland State – J Churcher – Beautiful sounding crooner with ornate but not too ornate orchestration at the service of fine and big ballads… but not too big

Kin – KT Tunstall – Singer songwriter oldschool by a real talent who shoulda broke bigger here. One good song after another, that’s all

Impossible Dream – Haley Bonar – Dreamscape folkie electronics, only as good as the songs and the songs are great

Teens Of Denial – Car Seat Headrest – Another bedsitland singer songwriter, though this is pretty darn advanced, breakthrough mode, for Matador Recording artist (as they say in the trades) Will Toledo. It’s like emo if emo was fucking awesome. “Friends are better with drugs”, Will claims, friend are also better with this album

Give A Glimpse Of What Yer Not – Dinosaur Jr – The band settle down as elder statesmen of hard rock meets punk freshness and this is exactly what they do, the sort of DJ that is about what it is. Hard rock folk and strum, electric darklands boogie, and great guitar all over the place. It takes a while and while this album defines treading water, it treads water in an upwards direction, perfecting what they already know

Joanne – Lady Gaga – Pop stars default used to be rock, now it is Americana. But will it sell? The excellent first single “Perfect Illusion” didn’t and if that didn’t, how will the album it came from manage to? Better than Born This Way and Artpop, it has the remnants of the little monsters superhero, tied to improved songwriting and improved singing, but a loosening grasp on the world of pop

Penitentiary Chances – Boosie Badazz, C-Murder – Boosie is well beyond badass on these doom laden songs, his fourth album of 2016. Boosie went to prison in 2004, C-Murder is currently incarcerated and this has all the immediacy of a body blow in a prison courtyard rumble. The duo were in the same dorm at one point and this has veracity to spare,from “Dear Supreme Court” to “Black Babies Don’t Mourn”. the rapping is hard as nails, the sentiments snapshots of a life many of us can’t, or don’t want to imagine, and on track after track they use fine if straight lace words to a life as lived

Skybreak – Zo! – Knockout r&b album, old fashioned in an 80s way but still just about perfect by this utility player

Furnaces – Ed Harcourt – Flood is a big time producer but he does UK alternative rocker Harcourt few favors on this dark and brooding beauty of an album. Luckily, Harcourt has come up with the best collection of his career, highlighted by the bad trip “Nothing But A Bad Trip” and the self explanatory “Occupational Hazard”

Lily – Christy Moore – If you remember his earlier group Moving Hearts, once a favorite of mine, you will understand that a step quieter and a step older makes Christy’s solo work no less beautiful. If you don’t know his earlier band, you are in for a real treat. The opening track is a beautiful thing

Pure Plush Bone Cage – Turtlenecked – ” “I wanted to see how many ideas I could cram into each song, so I think the weird unfurling nature of the songs is deliberate” claims Mr. Turtle himself, Harrison Smith. That’s good but that he manages a post-punk, post-modernism, sound manifesto that does just that is remarkable. Best named song of the week: “Black Flag’s Nervous Breakdown

California Sunrise – Jon Pardi – Pretty good traditional country rockers, “Out Of Style” is a good Kris Kristofferson rip, though the title track is self sufficient

Second Home – DOGBRETH – First, what a horrible band name and second if you are gonna perform power pop, you must have the tunes. And Dogbreth have em to spare on this spare and pretty but vivacious album

For The Good Times: A Tribute To Ray Price – Willie Nelson – I have a blindspot when it comes to Willie, he put me to sleep on stage once too often, and all that pot stuff is a drag. Even so, Ray Price was a terrific songwriter, the “For The Good Times” is definitive, and Nashville’s the Time Jumpers perform excellent back up

Painting Of A Panic Attack – Frightened Rabbit – I have never been a fan of this Scottish indie band, but somewhere over the years they’ve added backbone to their dreamy anxious pop sound. Mark Deming claims 2013’s Pedestrian Verse was the breakthrough, but I hear it on “I Wish I Was Sober” and especially “An Otherwise Disappointing Life” -gateway drugs to a very beautiful and sad yet strong album

Fishing Blues – Atmosphere – A Minneapolis legendary rapper, Slug has been around for decades (since 1989!) and for good reason, if he doesn’t have the flow that doesn’t mean he can’t construct big time rap songs, behind excellent beats, gorgeous backing tracks, and more songs about women and love and sex and women and sex

I Will Be Nothing Without Your Love – The Ready Set – A rock nyc fave from way way back (here is a 2011 interview), Jordan has improved with age, his skills at songwriting are unquestionable, and his tuneful exuberance a true pleasure

Melon Collie and the Infinite Radness: Part One EP – Tokyo Police Club – Headline of the week: this one from Spin’s debut of the EP: “Tokyo Police Club’s Effusive New EP Turns Pumpkins Into Pumpkinade”. It’s funny because it’s true…

Yes Lawd – Nxworries – Parenthetically speaking, this has been Anderson Paak’s year, starting with an album, Malibu, in my top five STILL, and ending here, with his beats master Knxwledge collaboration on an album that could well end up in my top twenty. Nineteen neo-R&B meets hip hop soul tracks of unfaltering finesse

Singing Saw – Kevin Morby – It sounds like Americana but in a good way, which isn’t a surprise because I’ve liked everything I’ve heard him from both his previous bands the Babies and especially Woods (my token Brooklyn indie band). This is a terrific collection of Americana soul song

Westerner – John Doe – Rockabilly John, it doesn’t kick in till the third way mark, but then it steadies up nicely with the good “My Darling, Blue Skies” and especially “Go Baby Go”. Then it settles in nice with prime John Doe story song “Sweet Reward” and maintains an even see how we are grown up through to the end

Golden Sings That Have Been Sung (Deep Cuts Edition) – Ryley Walker – The good news is this ain’t going anywhere so I won’t have to worry about writing the album title again, the bad news is that this sublime David Crosbyish guitar folkish album deserves to go somewhere. Try the first song

Son Of A Pimp, Pt 2 – Mistah F.A.B. – The hook on “Not In Love Anymore” is so good, it runs away with a song so good it is difficult to run away. The rest of the album is as much fun as rap ever gets, very enjoyable stuff, try it really, I love it like Ricky loves Lucy (one of his of course)

Burden Piece – Clique – Loud but melodic power pop punk bank from Philly with a terrifical musical dynamism, especially when they use two lead singers, that maintains your attention

Pyr – Ghold – If you go for sludge, this is the slow sink ever downwards you want, the eleven minute opener is aces in my book

Lovers – Nels Cline – The Wilco guitarist, just as well known as an avant garde jazzman, is neither on this smooth jazz opus with a full band. Timeless, unless the time is the 1950s

Atrocity Exhibition – Danny Brown – More songs about cunninligus and coke, or how to be orally fixated without sounding like a prat. With a unique, nasally whine of a voice and a flow that makes everything sound cool and funny if a flow can sound like an adjective, and backing tapes that the Guardian recently compared to Captain Beefheart, this is mainstream rap that sounds experimental, a power popping perfection on “Really Doe” where he is joined by Kendrick Lamar (which figures) and Earl Sweatshirt (which certainly doesn’t), and that ain’t the best. There is no worse, so test drive anything you want

Homages – Benjamin Grosvenor – The British pianist performs works where great composers pay tribute to their predecessors: “Both Mendelssohn and Franck look back to the Prelude & Fugue form made so popular by Bach, while Busoni takes Bach’s great solo violin Chaconne and reinterprets it in a bold and imaginative transcription for piano. Chopin breathes new life into the traditional Barcarolle of Venetian gondoliers, followed ten years later by Liszt’s tribute to Italian folksong, Venezia e Napoli.”

Glass: Prophecies – Anton Batagov – Philip Glass re-arranged for solo piano and better than you think it is, Koyaanisqatsi and Einstein On The Beach highlights are completely alive here

Better Together – Gaither Vocal Band – Grammy winning Gospel harmony band, bring all the fun of revelation on this light on its feet C and M but not quite contemporary sounding dreaminess. Finally some joy for being lead out of bondage

The Sun’s Tirade – Isaiah Rashad – Top Dawg know a good rapper when they hear one, and Rashad’s sophomore effort is a very good one. Coming back from the brink of addiction to pills and alcohol which left the album unrecorded, it was pretty much worth the wait. Rap and soul slow burns, beautiful done – B+

Earth – Neil Young – If you love the half half “Love And Only Love” off this live album from last year’s tour with Promise Of The Real. you will love the entire thing. While there aren’t the songs on your Neil Young playlist, three of them, including “People Want to Hear About Love” off the ecologically sound The Monsanto years, are on mine. The natural bees buzzing stuff is an annoyance

Tweens – Wye Oak – This Baltimore duo were always part of the sort of Brooklyn bill that had me pegging em electronic folkies, which they aren’t, they are indie rock folkies, and here they have loud but not calamitous rocking folkies on one goodie after another. This is one of those albums that deserve time so the hooks and melodies can settle in – B+

Centres – Ian William Craig – “performed on broken cassette players, thrifted reel-to-reels and desiccating tape” according to Rolling Stone, it is dream and nightmare mood modulated sounds, the Canadian composer is an opera trained vocalist and the the voice is just another element in this quiet and beautiful like a cemetery at daybreak sound. If you want to get your feet wet try “Purpose (Is No Country)”

If You See Me, Say Yes – Flock Of Dimes – This is Jenn Wasner of Wye Oak -a band always better than its name. This is a very poppy thing, a little left field right? An electronics driven album that takes you and keeps you in through one great song after another, seriously playful and prosaic poetry

Mindfullness – Flyying Colours – ROVI mentioned Ride, but I am thinking My Bloody Valentine, myself. Just real loud with melody… so maybe Ride as well

Tunnel Vision On Your Part EP – Happyness – When I claim UK rock is dead, I forget about indie popsters like these guys, who were terrific when I saw em live, and maintain your interest right through this fine 20 minute EP. Plus the lead singer has one of those voices

Artist – A Boogie Wit A Hood – Superb when he opened for Drake earlier this year, this New Yorker has skills to spare and while this doesn’t capture how much fun he can be, it still heralds the arrival of a new major player in the scene. Trust me on this, I am the guy who wrote about Chance two years before he hit… “Friend Zone” is finally available for streaming

Shape Shift With Me – Against Me! – More of the same from Laura, brimming with fun hard rockers and cool attitudes by the punk who expressed transgender politics for a generation. “Boyfriend” is killer and the bluesy and brilliant “Delicate, Petite And Other Things I Will Never Be” expresses the dichotomy of changing sexes

I Remember – Alunageorge -As a long time non believer, I am happy to admit that the electronic duo, featuring a fine singer (Aluna) and a first rate producer (George) maintain it well over the entire album of state of the art pop. Being hip is being hip, but adding Dreezy AND Leikeli, on “Mean What I Mean”, goes beyond posturing, into the realm of exemplary taste. “Full Swing” is where soul meets tech, and everything here is as powerful and fully formed as pop ever gets

Death Resonance – Soilwork – A loud, big sounding metal album of the first rankL a timeless battering ram

The Easy Truth – Apollo Brown & Skyzoo – The other side of rap, semi-underground rhymin’ and sampling from all points on the compass, nod to it

22, A Million – Bon Iver – After a five year gap, Bon Iver return with a high tech album of folk tracks with beats, completely current, very confident, but still stuck somewhere in Wisconsin conceptually. “00000 Million” is a perfect Bon Iver song, “715 – Creeks” is Pitch Perfect break up by other means, and if you give the rest of it the time, you’ll hear electronic voice manipulation give way to piano and back, while the instrumentation rearranges itself in your ear. It takes concentration but it is worth the effort

Red Lips – Cerrone – 70s disco producer counters Moroder with a straightforward disco funk album that works all the way through. Justin Timberlake should give him a call right now, and till then it is all good but Aloe Blacc is all over his song… wow, that Yasmin song is gonna give Niles a run for his money -the bass solo has you conjuring Edwards

Blues – Alabama 3 – So, was Hank Williams high when he took that last drive? I dunno, but these woozy weirdos from the UK make you believe it is only right that it would be, as they detail one rock star death after another… and that’s just the first track. Unlike anything else around, and that’s saying something in 2016

Romantic – Mannequin Pussy – Powerful punk meets power pop, explodes into melody and back, try “Beside Yourself” -which sounds like trance-y dreamscape shoegaze and isn’t. Actually, just about everything here will get you there, so dip in

Ocean – Parekh & Singh – Dream pop via India and man is it dreamy, one gorgeous pop melody after another unerringly reaching for your pleasure zone. It is all good but “I Love You Baby, I Love You Doll”. However, it does go on a bit

Bucket List Project – Saba – Indie rapper, with a rhyme worth hearing, and a sound unique that comes from the same place (aka West Chicago) as Chance and the rest of the good guys of rap. The wraparound concept isn’t much, but the takeaway is a collection of more than fine rap songs -and I mean songs. The early one two “Stoney” and “GPS” (with Twista!) will tell you the story

xxx EP – Pussy Riot – We’ve been waiting for a great protest song and now we have one, “Make America Great Again” is a modified bossa nova and the exact opposite of the Pussy Riot punk ethos in song ethos (the following two tracks come closer), but it is one part immigrant song and one part travelogue, and all part tough ideas that need to be repeated: open borders will make America great again they claim, and they have the song to back it up

Tkay – Tkay Maidza – From Australia via Zimbabwe, Tkay’s first album announces a major popstar, who adds world music to rap and EDM, with constant rewards, M.I.A.ish only younger and more fun

Red Friday EP – YG – Hot on the heels of Still Brazzy, this is a fast hard hit in the plexus, one joint after another, and song for song it is as good as the Cali man gets… plus, after “FDT” he can do no wrong right now

Nightride – Tinashe – alt-r&b, “Lucid Dreaming”, the opening song, sounds like one, and the rest of the album is equally dreamscape poppy with soul songs from the actress-model. An intoxicating and beautiful album that stands out and in at the same time

We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your service – A Tribe Called Quest – Their first album in 18 years, and also their last after Phife Dawg’s death earlier this year. What the death means is Q Tip, am outro poly-polemic artist, will miss Phife’s street bound rhymes. But it doesn’t affect this 18 song, step in where they stepped off, guest filled (I mean everyone from Elton John to Kendrick Lamar), extremely good, like as good s just about anything they’ve done, return to power. Just in time as the final song on the album, “The Donald” makes clear

Slop EP – Forth Wanderers – Teen band from New Jersey so you know how that goes, and go it does on this moody yet hidden exuberant piece of distracted indie pop. “Know Better” is so good, it carries everything in its path this week

Just… Fabulous Rock ‘N’ Roll – Cliff Richard – Two weeks after the virulently terrible Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Elvis Presley posthumous #1 UK album, his contemporary Cliff Richard shows how it is done with a terrific “Blue Suede Shoes” that completely respects his memory. This is Cliff’s second great rock and roll album of the 10s, and it is really perfect. Well sung, well performed, some songs you know some songs you don’t know so much, plus a hard rocking “Move It”, lotsa Berry and Elvis on top

24 Hours – Olly Murs – His break-up album, but Olly doesn’t do heartache very often and only “Grow Up” is a true slapdown. The rest of it is superior English pop. Personally, I prefer it to the new Robbie Williams

Side Hustle EP – Phoebe Nir – The title track is a real keeper, a new wave dance track with a wittiness forth right swinginess, the Iggy cover is a goodie, and the only thing missing is “Red Tape Nation” -but we’re gonna have to wait for that one

Slugger – Sad13 – Speedy Ortiz’s lead singer Sadie Dupuis goes solo to very strong effect, mainstream indie pop yes, but drenched in melody and cleverness. The hallmarks of a good album pop pickers, is consistency

Devil Music – The Men – Giving rock and roll a good name, this is loud and abrasive, but smart and harsh, twisty rocked out greatness. They don’t make em this good anymore at all

24 Karat – Bruno Mars – I wasn’t crazy about the title track, but over the course of an album Bruno has it going on big time. With the exception of the lousy second single ballad “Versace On The Floor”, this is 80s style r&b for the digital age. skillful as you can get, and, wide ranging as far as it goes. This should maintain his pop dominance even while the last single stiffed

“.. It’s Too Late to Stop Now … Volumes II, III, IV & DVD” (3 CDs and 1 DVD) – Van Morrison – Extending what could well be considered one of the greatest livers ever, these adds taken from the same concerts in 1973 (Troubadour, Rainbow) loses nothing and adds only more terrific performances. The DVD is awesome, if Van’s pants were any tighter he could have proven it was turned on. Oh, and Van looks hysterically miserable during a singalong to “I Just Want To Make Love To You”

Pure McCartney – Paul McCartney – Got a catalog? Re-release it. No surprises here for the fan, but a couple of the 67 tracks, “English Tea” for one, “Fine Line” for another stands up really really well (both off the terrific Chaos And Creation In The Backyard), But too many dogs you’d hoped to never hear again, “Ebony And Ivory”, “Let ‘Em In”, “Say Say Say” and personal worse “Mull Of Kintyre”. Still, if you have the time, Paulie makes the case once and for all: he is the greatest melodist since Gershwin

Live From A&R Studios – The Allman Brothers – Dating from 1971, Butch Trucks told Rolling Stone: ““That the crowd couldn’t see us didn’t mean a damn thing. Duane had two very iconic statements he used a lot. One was ‘This ain’t no fashion show.’ The other was ‘This ain’t no ballet.’ We were up there to play music. All you need is ears. You don’t need to be able to see it. We weren’t putting on a show. And those fans that made it into A&R were, I would imagine, the ones who came to see us at the Fillmore East every time. And they were there to hear what we had to play, not to see how cute we were or how big our dicks were.” I’m gonna be dead 20 years and they will still be releasing live recordings.

Genuine: The Alan Jackson Story – Alan Jackson – Originally available late last year through Walmart only, 59 songs from his Arista Nashville years. Included “Chattahoochee” and “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere” and “Here In The Real World” and tons more, plus eight tracks you ain’t heard before. If you need more convincing, this is not your scene because you shouldn’t

Way Down In The Jungle Room – Elvis Presley – This one is major, it is the 1976 recordings at Presley’s Graceland den repurposed as a studio, “The Jungle Room”. Recorded February 2-8, 1976 and October 28-30, 1976, the first CD is a compilation of previously released tracks, which means you’re stuck with Felton Jarvis overdubs, but the second CD is the unreleased stuff, what engineer Matt Ross-Spang has done here, cleaning up and offering out the original recordings, is a gift from the gods of Elvis. After the atrocious Presley and the Philadelphia Philharmonic album last year, this is a joy for all of us

The Complete Trio Recordings – Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt – Both of the 80s albums, and a taste of the third albums unreleased and different takes. Which had me scurrying to Itunes because I remembered I was being offered completion, and over and above the two original albums, it didn’t hit me as complete.So I bought the entire collection and got my hands on all 20 new releases instead of the measly 5 songs on Spotify. That was the plan, wasn’t it? -the complete complete Trio is two hours and twenty seven minutes, an additional hour, of time well spent.

Who Can I Be Now? (1974 – 1976) – David Bowie – Off Pitchfork, this nine album set is: “The previously unreleased album, The Gouster (which eventually became Young Americans). It also has remastered editions of Diamond Dogs, Young Americans, Station to Station (in original and 2010 mixes), David Live (in original and 2005 mixes), and Live Nassau Coliseum ’76”. I didn’t know the title track, and it is a goodie, otherwise head straight to album #4 for The Gouster

The Black Parade/Living With Ghost (10th Anniversary) – My Chemical Romance – Poor ol’ Gerard Way, The Black Parade convinced everybody, including himself, that Gerard is a genius. And the following ten years taught us otherwise. It stands up alright, the best is as bubbleyummy and funny and bleak as you remember, and the rest isn’t. The new album of demos and rough mixes is fun enough for completest

Becoming The Beach Boys: The Complete Hite & Dorinda Morgan Sessions – The Beach Boys – Not everybody is in the market for six takes of “Surfer Girl” or eight takes of “Surfin’” plus demo and master, this isn’t for you, but if you care a damn about the Beach Boys, this is the more than history, it is exposition

Ramones 40th Anniversary Deluxe Edition – The Ramones – That’s the way to do it, the album, mono mixes, the singles, demos and a live from the Roxy 1976 concert

The Last Waltz – The Band – The movie was a lost opportunity because Martin Scorsese overestimated Robbie Robertson’s appeal, but the music was terrific. There are number of versions out there right now, this one off spotify is the 2002 take, with a couple of rehearsals thrown in for taste. To celebrate its 40th Anniversary for making money for nothing

Live At The Hollywood Bowl – The Beatles – There is that old semi-boot live in Germany, there is the mid-70s release of this album never to return, and there is the live on the roof tracks off Let It Be and that’s it for live Beatles. I loved the first iteration of Hollywood Bowl (a 1964 and a 1965 concert stuyck together, as Jack Hurta mentioned), and prefer this. It is the cleanest sound you’ll get and it is proof that even deafened by the screams, they sounded fine and both John and Paul could really sing. The actual album is a little strange, “Long Tall Sally” was the end of the concert but then it circles back for some bonus tracks. It takes you out of the dream of being there. Both Paul and John are as witty, charming and sweet natured as you could hope for. More than history, less than an important addition to the canon, it’s the Beatles, they are live, what’s not to like?

Complete Third – Big Star – Demos, rough takes, alternate vocals, alternate versions -the full monty for Big Star freaks. I’m not one but even so, this is a terrific album given the works it deserves

Be Here Now (Deluxe Edition) – Oasis – Album number three separated the boys from the men, and me, being a man, thought it was a masterpiece of melodic riff guitar rocking genius and one of the boys greatest moments. And I was right, as this three hour plus, right over the top, extravaganza proves: the live tracks are great, the outtakes are great, the singles are great. Yeah, the lyrics do suck but I forgive em -ps: the CD box set is pretty terrific as well

Out Of Time (25th Anniversary Edition) – R.E.M. – The only unqualified masterpiece by the Athens indie boys, so the only one that deserves a deluxe version. There are a few formats floating around, this one off Spotify is the album plus demos

4Ever – Prince – 40 WB tracks from the obvious to the obvious, with a coupla wild cards two thirds of the way through aka the oblivious. If you want only one Prince album… but why would you want only one Prince album?

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The Daisy Jopling Band To Perform “Who’s Who” At The Transfiguration Church In Tarrytown, NY Sunday May 12th, 2024 7 PM ET

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