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Best Of 2017: Albums Through July

1 – ÷ (Divide) – Ed Sheeran – This is his FutureSex/LoveSounds moment, an undeniable pop triumph from EDM to Irish jigs, Motown soul to big pop ballads, Sheeran wrote or co-wrote every song and the only other hand I can clearly see is son of Derry Johnny McDaid. The only pop masterwork of 2017 with a chance in hell of bettering it is the upcoming Taylor Swift. But this is the best pop record since 1989,  a flawless pop stroke that puts Sheeran at the top of the pop firmament

2 – A Crow Looked At Me – Mount Eerie –  Phil Elverum, reeling from  the death of his wife musician Geneviève Castrée at the age of 35, made an album about it. It opens eleven days  after her death and closes three months after her death and is an accurate vision of grief and mourning. Early, very early, Elverum sings death is not for making art or singing about, and dismisses poetry. So what s it? It is a utilitarian album for use by the stricken

3 -Melodrama – Lorde – In which Lorde spends a year in New York partying and recording an album with Jack Antonoff and by some alchemical miracle, returns to the business of popstar with an excellent album of proto-hedonism and heartache

4 – Freedom Highway – Rhiannon Giddens – Story songs of slavery and its aftermath that peaks sky high and never falters, it moves through the black experience with its eye firmly on the prize of ebony Americana

5 – Prisoner  And Prisoner (B-Sides)– Ryan Adams – Classic rock meets singer songwriter Geffen style on Adams dissection of the emotional devastation leading to divorce, plus he may well be a complete dick, but Prisoner is one of the best albums of the year and B-sides, odds and sods that didn’t make it on the album is almost its equal. 17 songs of unfailing and unflinching emotional devastation

6 – Chuck – Chuck Berry – One part love letter to his long suffering wife to two parts stroll down the different avenues of rock Chuck had taken through the ages: a live track, a blues take, an American songbook classic, a Cuban twist but only the Great 28 rock and roll takes, three of them, are awe-inspiring

7- Kids On The Street – Justin Townes Earle – I was trying to decide which song to put on a new releases playlist, and there were so many choices it paralyzed me. I finally chose one at random

8 – Kiddo EP – Jessie Reyez – Toronto stripper via Columbia, Reyez joins the Weeknd world of pitch black r&b with the exception of the dancey “Blue Ribbon”. All of it works, “Fuck It” could be a hit and “Shutter Island” should be a hit. I am notoriously lousy at A&R but I predict big things for this woman

9 – Pageant – PWR BTTM – Ben is embroiled in a sexual molestation controversy and is in worlds of trouble, and that is a real pity because this terrific sophomore album is as great as the early Girls. If they can weather the storm, Pageant’s just about relentlessly brilliant alt rock sissypower (or do I mean queercore?) should move em up a notch. “When you are queer you are always 19? Quite right

10 – Memories… Do Not Open – The Chainsmokers – The EDM duo had a terrific 2016, a better 2017, and with the release of this debut album have proven themselves a hit making machine, with one slice of mainstream pop after another. By the end of the album they do  the undoable, they make Florida Georgia Line sound real good

11 – Capacity – Big Thief – The best indie record not about your significant other croaking is simultaneously the best folk record of the year made by folks who don’t write folk music, an astonishing, lovely, disturbed and quiet look backwards to look forwards filled with sadness and sweetness and stories , and best of all “Mary,” about shared loved and written by Adrianne Lenker for her best friend

12 – Triplicate (Sampler) – Bob Dylan – The entire album is a must buy, till then then the sampler is available for streaming. Ten songs and it stands as simple proof that Dylan was quite right to triple down. While his reasoning is perplexing (and we could sure use some new Dylan composed song), consider this as a place where the shifting sands of time come home one more time: it stands as a monument to everything Dylan destroyed. If you are going to go for the entire album, it starts near the top with a terrific “I Guess I’ll Have To Change My Plans

13 – How The West Was Won – Peter Perrett – The great and only one has a new album, an ode to his wife of over 40 years the great Zena and survival beyond the limits of complicity or necessity, and as good as you dreamt it was. Perrett, after a twenty-one year hiatus, returns with all his skills, and much of his cynicism, intact on an album that fits in well with the first three Only Ones album. It is either the power of love or the trick of alchemy but either way, you’ll find these tracks of old school One Wave enthralling and gorgeous, both aching and solid, the heroin replaced by heroine. You won’t skip anything but the title track and “Man Of Extremes” are world class. One more thing, he should have recorded it under his band

14 – The Fate Of The Furious: The Album – Various Artists – Young Thug, Lil Uzi Vert, Kodak Black, Migos,A Boogie Wit Da Hood  -a virtual who’s who of upcoming Atlanta rappers, plus some other stuff… a great way to catch up, but also give Kodak Black’s album a listen

15 – HNDRXX – Future – In which Future discovers he has the skills to perform r&b and The Weeknd and Rihanna are the icing on the cake.

16 – Windy City – Alison Krauss – She hasn’t released a solo country album this century so these covers of country nuggets would be welcome anyway. But it is more than welcome because it is Moondog Matinee obscure and yet if you love this stuff you’ll love it maybe as much as I do

17 – Dreams Don’t Come True – Angeleena Presley – A little on the slow side but the songs are pretty stellar and there is a reason why Presley is a Pistol Annie in her spare time: she is a sincere woman who knows her way round a straight up country song, and anyway, how many BPMs do we really need?

18 – Gang Signs & Prayers – Stormzy – Stormzy has been pushing this like the second coming, he said to the Guardian: “The main thing with me is my young black kings and  this ain’t to ostracise young black women or old white men, or Asians, it’s not to ostracise anyone, it’s just to say, ‘OK, young black men in my country, when it comes to who is going to achieve, you are always the very last.’ So I need to talk to my young black kings, because I’m one of you, we who are always last. ”The album opens with a declaration of selfhood: “I ain’t never been a victim, never been a  target.” And then the album works a middle ground

19 – You Will Regret – Ski Mask The Slump God – xxxtentacion’s buddy, they met in Juv, this is louder and more fun than the Soundcamp revolution tends to be, when I first heard about this sound and gave em a spin I was surprised it wasn’t more fun. This makes all the sense in the world, all drugs and danger and childish rhymes, and a whole lotta fun – B+

20 -New Facts Emerge – The Fall – “I crave drama” Mark E. Smith growls in his signature speak drawl on “Victoria Train Station Massacre” -as obtuse a reference to the the Ariana Grande terrorist attack as you will ever hear. The song is a masterpiece, a pure Fall nobody else in the world does it because nobody else in the world has ever wanted to and even if they did this mix of professional amateurish art prole is not as easy as it looks, everything is its equal, everything goes its own way

Carrie And Lowell Live – Sufjan Stevens – The entire album, plus two songs off The Age Of Adz and a cover of “Hotline Bling,” recorded on November 9th, 2015 at North Charleston Performing Arts Center in South Carolina

Godfather – Wiley – “I know what I’m like and I know what I’m not like”, the Godfather of grime warns early, and here the London legend has a flow equal to all but the best of his US counterparts: the samples are minimal, the beats irresistible, and the rhymes overpowering. This is his 11th album… also it may be his best, and his others were great, and, astoundingly, he initially refused to release it

The Psalms – Jessi Colter – Here is an unwitting guest overview off “Jessi Colter recorded The Psalms with Lenny Kaye, the guitarist best known for his collaboration with Patti Smith. The pair became acquainted when Kaye was assisting Colter’s late husband Waylon Jennings in writing his autobiography and, during this time, the writer discovered that the singer would often sit at her piano and improvise melodies to passages from the Book of Psalms. Kaye held two sessions in 2007 and 2008 then spent the next several years augmenting the spare sketches with tastefully chosen musicians.” Astonishingly powerful stuff, this is what Christian music should sound like

Paradise EP – ANOHNI – “I don’t wanna ricochet…”  “Ricochet,” from this strange and disturbingly gorgeous alt by other means EP is a highlight, but it is only a matter of degrees, another vision from a sound that moves from ambient horror to quasi folk mood, all with her terrific voice

I’ll Bet I Can Make You Love Me…At Gunpoint – The Freudian Sluts – Say what you will about John Mendelssohn, he has the power of his convictions, and on the first album from his UK iteration, he has pieced together a high drama quotient rock album with a world class lead singer and the sort of songs Stephin Merritt dreams of writing. Sometimes you think its cheekiness is gonna get the better of the band, “I Married A Knobhead” is better than in sounds, but at its best, the first two songs will stop you dead, it is a as original as Mendelssohn claims it is, maybe more so

50 Years Of Blonde On Blonde (Live) – Old Crow Medicine Show – This would be easy to screw up and these bluegrass rockers don’t come close. Listen to the violins on “One Of Us Must Know (Sooner Or Later),” to the respectful rockabilly of “Absolutely Sweet Marie,” the speeded up “Sad Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands”: it is unmistakable, Old Crow Medicine Show nail every single thing they need to and come out with their reputation enhanced. Actually, I prefer their “Sad Eyed Lady…”

I Decided – Big Sean – In which Big Sean looks back (again) and forward (surprise), solipsistic sure but what he knows he shares, same as ever. And “Bounce Back” is a great single that should have done better.

Bless Up – Shinobi Ninja – There was a time when Shinobi Ninja were AC/DC for a new century, they did what they did, funk rock, they did it exceedingly well, and then they did it again. But that was some eight years ago, and Bless Up is a wide ranging soundscape that includes everything from rap to Americana, mood psychedelic garage and folk in wolves clothing. An exceedingly enjoyable return not to form (the worse you even say about the Ninjas is that they’re better live) but on what amounts to their tenth album, a doubling down on their skills and charm as they emerge from their unique sound with a new set of skills

We All Want The Same things – Craig Finn – More songs about low lifes in the Twin Cities, except this may be as good a solo album as Finn has ever recorded. While there is no “Honolulu Blues” or “Balcony,” still much more than on the spotty Faith In The Future,  he narrows his vision and sharpens his songs

Robert Cray and Hi Rhythm – Robert Cray – I saw this cat a coupla years ago holding his own between Buddy Guy, BB King, and Eric Clapton, so he knows the blues. but does he know soul? Here Cray gets the late Willie Mitchell’s house band the Hi Rhythms and performs some ace soul songs from the likes of Bill Withers and Tony Joe white along with some originals, and comes out sounding just great

Future – Future – Vastly superior on record than on stage, these seventeen outstanding tracks find him shoplifting, cooking crack, and making money on the would be autobiography that cuts the difference between trap and goth nightmare tracks. As always, it’s the voice, one of the top five around, sells it from one end to the other

Deadbeats Compilation Volume 1 – Various Artists – Very impressive all beats and electronica all the time from the EDM label headed by Zed, including the Dead one himself , who is no better than Pusher and Kid Froopy -who opens the album somewhere entirely

The Navigator – Hurray For The Riff Raff -Alynda Segarra – The former poster child for superior Americana delves into her Puerto Rican heritage, though despite the title track it sounds much the same and just as good. As protest music goes, I’ll certainly take it. “Living In The City” needs no such caveat and “Pa’lante” is big time artistry, “I just want to fall in love and not fuck it up and feel something,” she claims. Can I get an Amen?

Painting Pictures – Kodak Black – Black was raised in the Pompano Beach public housing project and at the tender age of 19 has already been to jail, but if he can keep it together his voices grates like a teenage hoodlum and he looks back not in anger but with an unblinking cynicism. This is the post-Atlanta generation coming into their own and the tracks are constantly clever and vicious self-regard with love from Haiti

Outlaw: Celebrating The Music Of Waylon Jennings – Various Artists – Not bad live tribute album, Chris Stapleton kills “I Ain’t Living Long Like This,” Lee An Womack is represented twice, wife Jessi Colter represents, Jamey Johnson has his best vocal in years, Alison Krauss, who has already had an excellent year, represents, with Jamey on one song and solo on the other, Eric Church rips it up, Kris Kristofferson is on hand and another Highwayman, Willie Nelson, sings the last five songs. An outstanding tribute

Savage Times – Hanni El Khatib – The enemy of Trump nation, a half Mexican, half Palestinian guitarist, gets his world music garage rock pop side on with this constantly smart rock album,. A coupla more tracks tracking the line between us and them as strong as “Gonna Die Alone” -a monolithic pop track waiting on a rap verse, and he could well crossover as he compiles his last handful of EPs in one place

Rules – Annie Hardy – “Here comes the train, it takes my baby away…” Hardy repeats throughout this derailment of an album memento mori to her late baby son and her late significant other. So uneasy to listen to, it shines a light into the darkness and only finds more darkness

The Chief – Jidenna – The Nigerian soul man broke through with “Classic Man” a coupla years ago and when I saw him live he was holding his own and then some between Vince Staples and Future. On his first album, he is a classy classic man with sure the usual but also a sort of disquiet dignity unlike his contemporaries. This has excellent r&b songs and hard hitting flows that sounds like nothing else in hip hop today

Billy Porter Presents:  The Soul Of Richard Rodgers – Billy Porter – The terrific Broadway performer doesn’t quite update the brilliant composer and more sticks him in a bathhouse in 1975… and who am I to complain? “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Out Of My Hair” is earth shattering. The featured artists are first rate, the sound as much fun as you think it is

Double Parked – Luxuriant Sedans – Flawless blues rockers like the last 40 years never happened. Imagine the Fabulous Thunderbirds shooting black jack shots in a blue collar bar. Got it? This is the band playing in the backroom

Heart Of Love – Phoebe Legere – The cabaret alt star of your dreams goes honky tonkin’ on this terrific set of original weirdness

Tremaine The Album – Trey Songz – It’s a Christmas miracle, Trey makes a good album. The r&b singer with the abs who puts the pussy in pussy, has recorded a fine collection of ear tingling straight up, emotive, soul. I am shocked… start with “#1 Fan”. ps I hated all the singles at the time, only now I love em in context…

Apocalipstick – Cherry Glazerr – For an album to be as good as this title, Apocalipstick, it better be pretty good and for a song to be as good as this title “Told You I’d Be With The Boys”, it is gonna have to rock as hard as the Stones (if Mick Jagger was a girl), and it is both. Meet Clementine Creevy -a superb songwriter with a good garage pop band

The Trigger Complex – T.S.O.L. – The early LA punks 11th album is as good as punk gets: hard, sweet, smart rocker after another and really, what else do you need?

Intoxicated Women – Mick Harvey – In which Bad Seed Mick continues translating bad ass Serge Gainsbourg into English, except for Je T’aime… Moi Non Plus” which he translates into German

Culture – Migos – The click clack of trap and an attitude wearying in its nastiness. But really, it ends up addictive (you probably notice how good “Bad And Bougee” sounds right now) and it is absolutely the sound of today and the best at it.

Live In Paris – Sleater-Kinney – I saw em on this tour and they sucked though that was due to the venue. This live one isn’t bad at all, I wish I’d seen it. Plus, from “I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone” to “Dig Me Out”, they take care of us old timers

Mr. Misunderstood On The Rocks: Live And (Mostly) Unplugged – Eric Church – The only problem with this 32 minute EP from November 2016 (though new to streaming) is that it may mean we will miss a live album from his current three hour show. Still, that opening track is very very good

You Only Live 2wice – Freddie Gibbs – A mad match half hour of full on rap, eight tracks of flow and more flow highlighted by the peerless “Crushed Glass”. Gibbs best work in maybe six years

No Grave But The Sea – Alestorm – I knew I loved this album of piracy and metal from the first drum roll and have seldom been so taken with an album in a genre I have no great love for. Piratecore needs no  excuses, it is tremendous hard rockin’ fun, let’s hope the new Johnny Depp movie is half as good –

Party – Aldous Huxley – Produced by John Parrish, this is a very strong, singer songwriter corollary to any form of joy via New Zealand

Ayer Y Hoy – Banda El Recodo de Cruz Lizarraga – One of the biggest bands in Trad Mexican history, Cruz formed them in 1938 and they have continued ever since, even after his passing in 1995. If you want to hear traditional Mexican music, this is as good as it gets -all horns and accordion as it exemplifies Ranchero. Its pop ballads leave me a little cold, but the livelier it gets the better it becomes… “Conga Roja” is terrific

Teenage Emotions – Lil Yachty – This is a lot livelier than the singles so far… The nineteen year old Yachty calls it bubblegum trap and the expansion from the Migos featured “Peek-A-Boo” to the personal best “Dirty Mouth” to the even the hooks have hooks “Harley” is so great it puts both the teenage and the emotions into the title. The autotune gets a little much, but otherwise this is one of the great debut albums

Connect The Dots – MisterWives – On the heels of their opening slot on the Panic! At The Disco arena tour, this is the one that should blow em up to the next level and it will. Here is the album Paramore failed to provide last week, gooey chewy dance pop with a rocky rhythm section and a first rate Hayley Williams wannabe in Mandy Lee

The God Box – David Banner – Mississippi son Banner is yet another legendary rapper except he handles the mantle well on this three years gestating agitprop black bad tempered rap, he gestated so long that he resurrects Elvis in “Elvis” but only the make him the poster boy for cultural approbation. .Nonsense, of course, and stop listening to Chuck D,  It’s still a great song

Amelie – Original Cast Of Amelie – Composed by Daniel Messé of the roots-music group Hem and Nathan Tysen, I recently advised a friend that I’d rather have my eyes boiled in liquid nitrogen then see it, but that was before I heard the album,  this is the best new musical score since Hamilton. A simple, underplayed weirdness unlike modern musicals (because it wasn’t work shopped to death),Philippa Soo (of “Hamilton” of course) has a perfect joy for these songs. A real shocker, I might not get to see the musical (it closes tomorrow) but the soundtrack I will listen to more than once

Straw In The Woods – The Steel Woods – This is where country is Americana is country, the band is absolutely world class steely eyed country rock… the problem is, first the singer over sings and more importantly, the songs kinda suck. Even so, these guys sound absolutely terrific

Pilot Talk: Trilogy – Curren$y – The great 2000s rapper has brought together his three Pillow Talk albums on one release and stuck it on streaming services for the first… earnestly excellent tracks that don’t turn dark and to dust on you, and world class rhyming by a King of Louisiana. If you love rap you must give it a shot

Harry Styles – Harry Styles – A coupla standouts among the Brit pop ordinaire and modern sounding production values, classic rockisms and acoustic guitars. Plus loads of sex and lashings of cool from the  former One Directioner. But it is missing a great song, though “Two Ghosts” is a standout that comes close and any song with “New York ” in its title gets a get out of jail free card

American Epic: The Soundtrack – Various Artists –  recordings  from the Appalachians to the Mississippi Delta dating from the early 1920s and are the first blues, country and gospel recordings. The  – Nas-Jack White performance of Memphis Jug Band’s “On The Road Again” is not included

Pollinator – Blondie – In their earliest incarnation, Blondie were a great recorded band who couldn’t get out of the way of Debbie Harry’s ice cold chic on stage, then they got really great live but sucked on record. Here, they don’t suck on record. With songwriters from Dev Hynes to Johnny Marr on commission only, Blondie nail one great song after. Their best since, no not No Exit , but Autoamerican

Turn Up The Quiet – Diana Krall – Nobody does quiet jazz as well as Krall, this is an ace album of gorgeous, perfectly performed, NKC-y trioism (or four or five, but the trios are for the purists), that pays huge dividends for those who have anticipated this return for so long, at least since 2009

Cover Stories: Brandi Carlile Celebrates 10 Years Of The Story (An Album To Benefit War Child) – Various Artists – The album was always excellent but this tribute album, with Pearl Jam and Adele at the top of their game, and Shovel And Rope, the Avett Brothers, Dolly Parton, Kris Kristofferson, and more, performing these lovely story songs near the top of their craft. Especially Adele

Astoria Roots Live – Filtron M – The follow up to their 2014 mandatory debut EP, Manu Koch is in celebratory mode on this instrumental jazz experimental and yet mainstream sound which adds worldbeat drums to organ strangeness and tidal wave mindmelds. A post-futuristic pop blender sound worth absorbing

Strength Of A Woman – Mary J. Blige – A powerful testament to the elastic heart that is Mary J., who recovered from an “All ABout Eve” type betrayal and divorce with last year’s excellent tour and this battled down, beautifully sung, brimming with rage and beauty, break up album. One of her best to date. “Set You Free” is a new height

50 Years Of Blonde On Blonde (Live) – Old Crow Medicine Show – This would be easy to screw up and these bluegrass rockers don’t come close. Listen to the violins on “One Of Us Must Know (Sooner Or Later),” to the respectful rockabilly of “Absolutely Sweet Marie,” the speeded up “Sad Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands”: it is unmistakable, Old Crow Medicine Show nail every single thing they need to and come out with their reputation enhanced. Actually, I prefer their “Sad Eyed Lady…”

Robert Cray and Hi Rhythm – Robert Cray – I saw this cat a coupla years ago holding his own between Buddy Guy, BB King, and Eric Clapton, so he knows the blues. but does he know soul? Here Cray gets the late Willie Mitchell’s house band the Hi Rhythms and performs some ace soul songs from the likes of Bill Withers and Tony Joe white along with some originals, and comes out sounding just great

4:44 – Jay-Z – “The Story Of O.J.” runs circles round the rest of the album, an astonishing treatise on the black experience that puts Chris Rock’s “You wouldn’t be me if you could, and I’m rich” to life. The always edgy racism that fuels the USA much as cotton pickers fueled the South is a hard truth that resonates well beyond the album and into the heart of Jay-Z’s career and rap itself. The rest of the album is all of a piece filled with obvious samples, self-deluding half truths, and into, and out of the closet, as he prostrates himself before Queen Bey and the rest of his woman filled world, including mother and daughter. The revenge of the gods, of course. If “Family Feud” isn’t his worst song, it is his worst important song and “Smile” about his mother who came out as a lesbian, uses the wrong Stevie Wonder sample: for God’s sake, this is a reason for rejoicing: love has found love not needs to find it. But the one mistake so huge that it is the album: he forgot that we loved Jay-Z not because of who he said he was because of how he sounded (we don’t love No I.D. in the slightest -the miserable fuck) and this doesn’t sound like fun

Sons Of The Palomino – The Sons Of The Palomino – Jeffrey Steele has a song called “Authentic” here, and authentic is what these country rocks plus fiddle are and then some. With a great roundup of everybody from Emmylou Harris to Vince Gill (that’s John Anderson on the above mentioned track), the songs are just fine, the performances first rate all the way through, and the atmosphere takes you all back to the Hollywood club back in the early 1990s, an exceptional album

TLC – TLC – Much more than you’d expect, the first Single “Way back” is better in context and “Haters” is a giddy banger. Lisa is missed and so is Dallas but somewhere they find the people they were circa Fan Mail

Layers – UZ – Terrific EDM trap album from the previously anonymous French DJ

The Underside Of Power – Algiers – While it is too good to suffer from the sophomore jinx, Algiers are less unique and more beat heavy agitprop everyman on their new release. Remember the first time you heard “Remains”? There is no equivalent here, so their singular ferocious anger only will have to take you deeper and sonic groove will have to take you along with it… an atmospheric horror show that is the soundtrack of the summer of hell

Music From The American Epic Sessions – Various Artists – I saw Neil Young cut a track with Jack White direct to vinyl on Fallon a year or so ago on the old (I mean old) machine they refurbish here. You remember, like the one Elvis used for his mommy. This album features Jack and the same machine covering old blues and hillbilly songs featuring the likes of Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Elton John, Alabama Shakes, Rhiannon Giddens and many denizens of Americana. Brought together by T-Bone Burnett, it sounds so much better than you think it does, with Nas taking first place and Elton first runner up

Big Fish Theory – Vince Staples – There is a whole lotta difference between Summertime ’06 and one is that crime and poverty is intrinsically more interesting than violence and money. It is still a great album though it could use a “Norf Norf” – B+

Positively Bob: Willie Nile Sings Bob Dylan – Sure, this is Nile picking up a paycheck, but he has earned the money on this collection of New Wave arranged Zim classics, well sung, well performed, completely thought out. Highlights include an early “The Times they Are A-Changin’” and a latter day sainted “Every Grain Of Sand”. But it is all worth your time, Nile can seemingly do no wrong

Pretty Girls Love Trap – 2 Chainz – “You need to get off my lawn… please,” 2 Chainz warns on this grown up rap album filled with mid-tempo trap with everyone from Gucci Mane to Migos along for the ride but not getting in the way – B+

Other – Alison Moyet – The great Yaz lead singer singing Brechtian soul tracks like Scott Walker with schizophrenia

Fake Sugar – Beth Ditto – Ditto has a terrific voice and she uses it to great effect on her first solo album, an even keeled set of modern disco and soul moves

The Nashville Sound – Jason Isbell And the 400 Unit – The woke Mr. Isbell kicks himself for listening to racist jokes when he was a kid. As good a reason as any to make a terrific country-rock Americana album

Something To Tell You – Haim – This isn’t close to a perfect update of 70s SoCal pop rock, but it isn’t bad either. They have a ton of good songs, no dogs, but, and here we get there, not a single great one either. You can’t be Christine McVie if you can’t write “Over My Head” and they circle it and circle it, listen to “Nothing’s Wrong,” without nailing it

Turn Around EP – Sam Huber – The Finnish funk monster sounds like Lou Reed fronting Parliament on one song and the ultimate Sparks cover band on another, the third is art funk Scandinavian style

Out In The Storm – Waxahatchee – The bedsitland girl from Alabama returns with her fourth, and her best, album to date: strong indie rockers with a full band to take that lo fi vibe and add groove. A break up song, the opener “Never Been Wrong,” is the best thing she has ever written and the spiritual organ that intros “Recite Remorse” proves just how far forward she has come as an arranger. The songs were always there

Wind – Eric Roberson – One of the finer r&b albums of the year, a place where smooth jazz meets a solid bottom and horns are nearly always melodic

Sacred Hearts Club – Foster The People – I had these indie pop dance beats guys down as one hit wonders after “Pumped Up Kicks” but nah, these guys deserve a coupla hits off this one, starting with “Doing It For The Money”. And while “Love Like Sid And Nancy” might not be the best song, it is still a tough little EDM track  and has the strongest sentiment

Lust For Life – Lana Del Rey – This is her fourth great album in a row, it takes her nowhere she hasn’t been before and it doesn’t have a flat out masterpiece like “High On The Beach,” but there is a sense where she doesn’t find suicide a solution anymore, and if she sees possibility only within a web of disquiet, she sees it anyway

Golden – Romeo Santos – I was never convinced by either Aventura or Santos solo, always a touch too laid back for my tastes. But this is a leap forward, the drums are more effusive, the songs stick out whether you will or not,  the hooks click in, sometimes acoustic guitar hooks, sometimes bongos, and by the time you reach the song with Daddy Yankee it is all over. Hey, maybe Bachata doesn’t suck

Morse Code – Sage The Gemini – West Coast rapper has one hot dance track after another on his first release in three years -if you go to clubs you won’t be able to get away from him this summer. Too much autotune but when he hits it right, try the early “Reverse,” it is just about untouchable

Paranormal – Alice Cooper – Apparently rock and roll is a reflex muscle Cooper still has, this is all cannibals and transgendered singalongs by the dirty desperado still going strong.. great fun though I wish there was a “School’s Out” somewhere or the other. Till then the Billy Gibbons duet will have to do  – B+

Good For You – Amine – “Black girls love me ’cause a nigga got some feta and white girls love me like my first name Coachella” That’s  Amine’s awesome “Yellow” and Nelly joins him for the chorus.  Amine has a good line of patter and he has a whole lotta of them on this easygoing rap album -very hooky, very sweet and cool, plus he knows how to use featured rappers, Offset is terrific

Everything Now – Arcade Fire – What do you expect with a Daft Punk and a Pulp handling production duties? A dance album? You got it, and a good one with sharp ideas and sharper drums. Plus “Creature Comforts” is one of the best songs of the year

Power Of Peace – Isley Brothers, Santana – Covering Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye is one thing, covering Swamp Dogg is something else again, and Ronald and Carlos on “Total Destruction Of Your Mind” is the song of the week. This is a spectacular, hard rocking, classicist sound by the last band ever standing and the first runner up

Nervous System EP – Julia Michaels – The problem here is that when you are a pop song composer, and Julia is a major pop song composer, your EP must hit blazing, and “Issues” didn’t hit as big as it should have, and “Uh Huh” -a terrific piece of ear candy with a hook that sings itself, didn’t hit at all.  Why? She decided to underproduce it

Strength Of A Woman – Mary J. Blige – A powerful testament to the elastic heart that is Mary J., who recovered from an “All ABout Eve” type betrayal and divorce with last year’s excellent tour and this battled down, beautifully sung, brimming with rage and beauty, break up album. One of her best to date. “Set You Free” is a new height



A Boy From Tupelo: The Complete 1953-1955 Sun Sessions Recordings  – Elvis Presley – The thing about historic artifacts is that, in our lifespans, they are acts of remembrance, and these are memories that last lifetimes

Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – The act you’ve known for all these years plus session takes and a stereo remix.

The Authorized Bang Sessions – Van Morrison – “The first disc focuses on the original masters from Morrison’s Bang sessions, the second I is rarities from the sessions” but the third!!! “dubbed the Contractual Obligation Session, as it closed Morrison’s tenure with the label – contains 32 short, stripped-down and less-refined songs”. I hadn’t heard “Shake It Mabel” before… Sublime

The Authorized Bang Sessions – Van Morrison – “The first disc focuses on the original masters from Morrison’s Bang sessions, the second I is rarities from the sessions” but the third!!! “dubbed the Contractual Obligation Session, as it closed Morrison’s tenure with the label – contains 32 short, stripped-down and less-refined songs”. I hadn’t heard “Shake It Mabel” before… Sublime

The Savory Collection Volume Three – Various Artists – “Created by recording engineer William Savory, the Savory Collection includes more than 100 hours of recordings made from live New York City radio broadcasts between 1935 and 1941 and never heard since their initial airing…” Fats Waller is over this one with the great Jack Teagarden on trombone

Timeless – The All-Time Greatest Hits – Bee Gees-  Oh yeah? where is “One” then? “Islands In The Stream”?  – the Bee Gees were the least great greatest band of all time, and if it wasn’t for the disco era they wouldn’t be that. This is an alright primer for the beginner

1967 Sunshine Tomorrow – The Beach Boys – ” a remastered Wild Honey — complete with the record’s first-ever stereo mix — and adds 54 rare recordings from the era, including the unreleased Lei’d in Hawaii live LP, other concert performances captured during the late ’60s and outtakes from the sessions for Wild Honey and Smiley Smile…” Translation: Wild Honey isn’t Pet Sounds but what the hell, it still deserves much love

The Last Concert (Live from The Astrodome) – Selena – The late Princess of Latino Pop near the end of her life and at the height of her skills, Selena added Gloria Estefan disco verve to her hotshot Latino super glorious stardom. She opens with a disco medley before throwing down “La Carcacha” like 21st century disco dream world proto-reggeaton. This reissue includes the DVD as well, she looks impossibly young and alive and if you want to remember the woman, remember her this way

Purple Rain Deluxe – Prince – This is how you do it, the entire album re-mastered, tons of outtakes, and tons of seven inchers, B Sides, and dance mixes. The only thing missing is a live album from the same time period… which you can get with the Box Set

OK Computer OKNOTOK 1997 2017 – Radiohead – The prog rock of the future, and while at the time it bored me silly till I saw em live, today it stands as the essence of presciencence. This 20th anniversary re-issue is all that and a bag of crisps

Take Me Home And Make Me Like – Alex Chilton –  unrehearsed, first-take recordings by Alex Chilton, recorded in 1975, it says here… pretty excellent and very exciting rock and roll full on fun and games, filled with Beatle and Eddie Cochran and alternative takes of songs that would appear a coupla years later. .. – A

Looking Forward: The Roots Of Big Star – Chris Bell – The tragic Big Star guitarist and leader’s pre-Big Star, great at pop, less great at psychedelia, and overall a master ripe for reassessment through his band Rock City, Ice Water, and the Wallabys, this is a must hear as a missing link between the Beatles and Big Star

Bastille Day EP – The White Stripes – The entire first White Stripes concert ever, only three songs of course, 20 years after the fact, now available for streaming. Two songs off the eponymous debut and a cover of “Love Potion # 9. Distorted guitar blues noise plus thumping and the cover is knockout

Leave Home – The Ramones – How odd is it to hear a 33 minute sprint stretched to 176 minutes, and how funny to hear rough cuts of rough songs. The live at CBGBs from 1977  is pretty excellent as well. It’s just a pity the Brudders aren’t around to luxuriate in it all

Comment:  I try to keep the top twenty at least in order of preference, but after that it is more random.


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