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Best Of 2017: Albums Through November


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 – 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

3 – Taylor Swift – Reputation – Supplants innocence with knowledge at the corner of Sunset and Vine

4 – Gucci Mane – Mr. Davis – If  “Work In Progress (Intro)”  isn’t the best song Gucci has ever written, it is sure the best since he got out of prison, and if we will never get another Burrprint 2, what we are getting is a second act that stalled earlier this year when he seemed unable to follow up Everybody Looking with a better work. Mr. Davis is as clear eyed as Mane has ever been, the violent, bi-polar danger man has grown up and looking back he begins to piece together his experiences. This is as close to flawless as it gets, a major statement by a major artist on his wedding day

5 – Shamir – Revelations – Back from being dropped by his label, this is indie pop with an r&b heart and a collection of near perfect songs, starting with the astounding “90’s Kids”. From the single note strangeness of “Games” through the undisputable “Straight Boys,” everything works

6 – Kelly Clarkson – Meaning Of Life – Kelly has always had that voice and here she puts it to work on some gorgeous, soul, songs, which she sings with a biting and also a smooth implacable brilliance. Using modern recording techniques on the instrumentals (the beats that fuel “Heat”)  only adds to the timelessness

7 – 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

8 -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

9 – 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

10 – 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

11 – Kevin Barnes – She: A Tribute To Joni Mitchell EP – Five glorious, rearranged masterstrokes from bassist Kevin

12 – Brett Eldredge – Brett Eldredge – If Bro Country land was one awesome tune after another, with a sweet disposition and a joyful humanity and a complete love of women, it would sound like this

13 – Confused – Sam Huber – Future funk by a great vocalist and the True Groove Allstars

14 – Björk – Utopia – After the heartrending Vulnicura, this collection of new loves found and lost and found again in a swipe right world doesn’t hit as hard. However, it is an intense and loving naturalized feminine guided world of flutes and natural sounds. Just about perfect except, it could use some beats and also, there is no such thing as a pop song here

15 – 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

16 – 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

17 – Willow – The 1st – “Hey Mom, I met a boy, he plays guitar,” the seventeen year old begins on her glorious collection of teenage problems. “Hey dude, is love just whack…?” she worries a little later. Real music for real people, from a girl who is passionate about her life, even the boring parts

18– 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

19 – 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

21 – Robert Plant – Carry Fire -World music by other means meets Led Zep and leaves everyone better for the experience

22– 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

23  – 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

24 – Lil Peep – Come Over When You’re Sober, Pt. 1 – Drugs killed him but they also made him, this is breaking down.

25 – The Dream Syndicate – How Did I Find Myself Here –  Sometimes Wynn sounds like Lou, some times like James, mostly like himself. Sometimes the Dream Syndicate sound like the Byrds, sometimes like the Doors, usually like themselves. The title track is one of the top songs of the year and nothing dips much below there

26 – Rainbow – Kesha – With every reason to expect a major disaster of self pitying sob stories, Kesha has resurrected her career by widening her palate and maintaining her sense of humor, while delving every which way from the pop anthems we expected to country (yes, that’s Dolly Parton), pop ballads with Justin Tranter, rock with Eagles Of Death Metal and a couple of weird numbers to take us out. I haven’t mentioned “Woman,” which owns the catchiest chorus in existence

27 – 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

28 – 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.

29 – Worriers – Survival Pop –  Lauren Denitzio identifies as a queer feminist, not that it changes anything on this excellent collection of pop punk with hooks and tunes to overflow. This is their third album and they are all great

30 – Torres – Three Futures – Nice line in Anna Gaca’s Spin review: “Three Futures is a slow burn, but Torres doesn’t require speed, not when she can hold our attention with something more akin to intense eye contact.” That’s exactly right, the songs are quiet but they sound loud, they are intense rebuttals to male sexuality through a borderline misandrist and full time lesbian who rips sex away from history

Neil Young – Hitchhiker – Released for the first time, this original 1976 acoustic album is up there with Harvest and Comes A Time

Science Fiction – Brand New – The emo superheroes first album in eight years is a return with all of the band’s powers of angst and melancholia in tact and their songwriting skills at a peak. A masterpiece of 21st century despair, the final track “Batter Up” is one of the best songs of the year

Jonathan Dove- Jonathan Dove: In Damascus – for tenor and string quartet, “My Heart Is A Black Lump Of Coal,” is a swell of overwhelming sorrow that seems to flow across the ancient city through downed buildings and destroyed infrastructure. Performed by the Sacconi Quartet, the words are based upon Syrian poet Ali Safar’s response to the civil war. This is composer Jonathan Dove’s masterpiece, though two other pieces are nearly their equal

Smokepurpp – Deadstar –South Florida is this year’s Chicago, and this is the third great album from the developing baby trap scene. Whether R&b or straight up rap, it is endlessly inventive, and four of the first five songs are terrific and “Audi” is close on its tale (though he’d be better off with a BMW)

Yusuf / Cat Stevens – The Laughing Apple – You can’t go back in time, but you can try on these re-recorded demos from the 60s

Van Morrison – Roll With the Punches – An astonishing collection of 11 blues classics by Bo Diddley, Mose Allison, Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Lightnin’ Hopkins, and more, plus four new ones, “Transformation” a solid second tier cut

Lil Pump – Lil Pump – The 17 year old baby trap wunderkind is part of that entire South Florida Soundcloud rap scene, along with Smokepurpp who released a terrific album a coupla weeks ago. Smokepurpp is on three songs here, Gucci, Lil Yachty, 2 Chainz… they are all here, though the king of the hook you can never stop hearing once you hear it Chief Keef wins top honors with “Whitney”

Liam Gallagher – As You Were – Oasis like but darker and without Noel’s melodic gifts

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

Dreams Don’t Come True – Angaleena 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?

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

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

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

Kodak Black – Project Baby 2: All Grown Up (Deluxe) – More songs about attitude modifiers… nine to be precise. All excellent

Gregg Allman -Southern Blood –  A very strong last album, honoring the road he now leaves, the dead he has joined, and the ties that bind them together. Gregg was in terrific voice and Don Was claimed Gregg spent his last days listening to the masters

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

Buffy Sainte-Marie – Medicine Songs – I read “Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee” when I was fifteen and was sick to my stomach, I’ve never enjoyed westerns in quite the same way since. This is a mix and match of re-recordings from albums like Buffalo Soldier and Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, as well as some new songs. Should be enough to make us choke on our turkeys

Sleep Well Beast – The National – I prefer the poppier one before this, nothing here does it for me like “Don’t Swallow The Cap”. Even so, as brooding the National albums go, overweighed by emotional baggage, if you like it you’ll love it

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

21 Savage, Future, Metro Boomin – Without Warning – Gangsta trap by two of the most popular purveyors and one of the best producers. At first listen, Future is so much ahead of the JV 21 Savage it is unfair. But after awhile their voices sound real good together and 21 Savage is like the runt of a litter in a Sergio Leone Mafia movie, nicknamed Squirt, who shoots a cop in the second reel and is dead halfway through the fourth reel

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

Alex Haley – I Love You Like A Brother – “Songwriter and former ’99 Toyota Corolla owner” -goes her twitter handle and that ready wit is on show all the way through the album, even on the heavy duty “Lotto In Reverse”. The Australian wiseacre knows her way round and round and round a melody

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

#Update – Yandel – The main difference between Latin American pop and White American rock is that when Latin American pop bands break up they remain friends. The Wisin duet is a highlight on this fine mix of Latin Trap, Reggaeton and Latin pop songs

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?

Princess Nokia – 1992 Deluxe – Part of the Rat King family, one of the more exciting purveyors of rap adds a coupla EP tracks to her influential, door way for wimmen power album from last year

Syd – Always Never Home EP – Three songs, ten minutes, of moody glorious r&b… once Odd Futures resident DJ now she goes from strength to strength

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

Madonna – Rebel Heart Tour (Live) – Another live momento, recorded live(ish) in Sydney, but better than most because she was so great on that tour. The “True Blue”  is a true blueprint, the “Like A Virgin” her best live version ever, everything from the last album is terrific, and only some of the disco stuff, you know like “Candy Shop” is a fail

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

A Boogie Wit da Hoodie – The Bigger Artist – I’ve admired this guy since I caught  him opening for Drake last year, this has a similar moody r&b plus rap feel to it, “Say A” oozed hooky goodness and it remains a constant blue black inkiness modern soul jones

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

Benjamin Clementine – I Tell A Fly – This guy is the sort of major poet who plays the piano barefoot, and makes the world a better place for it

Blis – No One Cares – If you like the new Brand New, you’ll like this debut album from Atlanta, which adds hardcore to emocore loud soft rules and more. Try “Christian Girl”

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

Go Farther In Lightness – Gang of Youths – U2 Springsteen inspired classic rock fans from Australia, their sophomore effort is an old fashioned rock album of the first order, let’s hope the world is still into it

Project Baby 2 – Kodak Black –  “Why you gotta Jesus me?” Kodak and XXX wonder. A good question from the 20 year old rapper who, while not exactly part of the Soundcloud Rap scene, sounds like he knows the same mean streets, though a little more disciplined on this terrific rap album of girls and crime seeped in poverty

J. Roddy Walston & The Business – Destroyers Of The Soft Life – A fine exercise in old school rockers, with “Blade Of Truth” at the top of the class this time

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

Cut Copy – Haiku From Zero – Catchy, clever, collegiate electronic indie band from Australia finally nail it –

Daughter – Music From Before The Storm – From the game “Before The Storm”? eh? “Life Is Strange: Before the Storm is an episodic graphic adventure video game developed by Deck Nine and published by Square Enix. The first of three episodes was released on 31 August 2017 for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. It is set as a prequel to Life Is Strange, focusing on sixteen-year-old Chloe Price and her relationship with schoolmate Rachel Amber. Gameplay concerns itself mostly with the use of branching dialogues.” Be that as it may, this is a truly lovely instrumental album, like indie ambient soundtrack with noise – B+

LCD Soundsystem – american dream –  “oh baby” is as indiscrete a rip of 1975’s “Change Of Heart” as Nick Lowe’s “So It Goes” was of Steely Dan’s “Reelin In The Years”. “Tonite” is a great song, “Emotional Haircut” has a great name and the vocal doesn’t hit for a full 65 seconds, which makes em the Disco Biscuits without the funk. Not their best, not their worst, it doesn’t peak high enough and the lyrics are uniformly brilliant  – B+

The Rails – Other People – I am always nice to Kami Thompson because her Mom Linda is friends with me on Facebook and I’m scared she’ll block me if I’m mean. Not that it is very difficult to enjoy this Englishcana, Kami’s husband James Walbourne seems to be having a career high (if you assume the person singing lead wrote most of it). The guitar solo on “Drowned In Blue” is worth searching out. And I didn’t mention Fairport Convention once, though James sounds like his father-in-law on “Shame”

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

Under The Influence – Junior Sanchez – This is nearly perfect late 10s house music, it is all about the beats all the time, and great ones: listen to “Think About It,” the way the beats envelopes the hook every which way, like, to quote rock nyc scribe Mike Holcolm, a kangaroo carries its baby, listen to “Dreaming” where the backing track is great but in the back, it has a tune but the tune is a place setter. As the Calvin Harris’s of the world turn north to pop, the beats don’t matter as much, even Tiesto, Skillex, all the big boys, are thrilled by crossover, but Sanchez is about how beats function, his “Passionfruit” remix is insanely addictive, it’s like a stampeding housebeat, when Drake’s vocals actually comes in, it feels unneeded. Whatever else is happening in the song it oddly sounding muffled sweetness beat is there. If you liked that, you’ll love the album,  as fine a house record as you will hear this year

17 – XXXtentacion – The face of soundcloud rap is as soft and weird as ever, nothing like the live shows which our bizarre screamathons. Here everything is quiet and intense, “Everybody Dies In Their Nightmares” is so great it jumps out of any desire to tighten the reins on the genre. “Fuck Love”? You’d assume he’d be railing, but xxxTentacion is always standing over looking down at the cliff

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

Boyz II Men – Under the Streetlight – Excellent doo wop album, I just wish they’d brought in a coupla ringers for the high notes

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

Jon Langford – Four Lost Souls – Recorded at Muscles Shore via personal invitation, Langford has always dabbled in mainstream and here he adds Americana to his range. A touch too mainstream, from the Mekon great who personified punk fusion with country, and where is that ONE SONG? Still a stretch and a grower impeccably sung and performed, “Fish Out Of Water” is a quiet storm

Destroyer – Ken – The New Pornographer’s former drummer Kurt Dahle, comes into his own on this terrific art-rocker old school album, filled to overbrimming with ace songs. “Tinseltown Swimming In Blood” is the song of the week and if it wasn’t, it’d be “Cover From The Sun”. He is the missing link between Lou Reed and Mac DeMarco

Elizabeth & the Catapult – Keepsake – A gorgeous sounding mid-tempo rock-pop album by the always wonderful voiced Elizabeth Ziman

St. Vincent – MASSEDUCTION – I wouldn’t mind disliking this album, I thought she was pretty good at Governors Ball but not the second coming, and lesbian and buddies with David Byrne? What more could Pitch Craw Back Up Mac DeMarco’s Hole Fork want from life? Needless to add, they all but blew Annie in their review. Still, hard to deny songs as great as the title track and “New York” and “Los Angeless” -this is a very very good album

Future and Young Thug – SUPER SLIMEY – On his last mixtape, Future and Drake melded uncomfortably but they melded, here Future and Young Thug, two of Atlanta’s finest, sound great together, except  Young Thugs sounds relatively thin, even on “Relationship” earlier this year it wasn’t perfect. Which is a pity because Future sounds better than ever

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+

Lee Ann Womack – The Lonely, The Lonesome & The Gone – The covers are great, the originals less so, but “Someone Else’s Heartache” is the best song of the week. Call it East Texas Country soul, call it straight up old school country, either name works

Krept & Konan – 7 Days/7 Nights – Released as two albums, this UK hip hop hit is the best Drake rip you will ever hear musically, the London council flats rapping is  grime like, Days is more grime, Nights more r&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

Cyhi The Prynce – No Dope On Sundays – Back to the mean streets from the Kanye West collaborator, a gangsta who finds room for God… how much that helps is open to debate

Iron Maiden – The Book Of Souls: The Live Chapter – The live take on a great english style heavy metal album. If you like this you’ll love it

Midland – On The Rocks – Old school country rockers

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

Petals Of Power – Intermittent Explosive Disorder – Detroit natives Petals Of Power are 1977 punks who can veer sideways into glam, play loud and brash, and have a lead singer so grating and strong he should call himself Tommy Rotten

Jackie Greene – The Modern Lives Vol. 1 EP – World beating Americana with a fiddle and a harmonica, “Modern Life” itself is the song of the week

Converge – The Dusk In Us – Wow, the drummer on “Arkhipov Claim”. Just wow… The great metalcore band are pretty exhausting here, while the album is top of the genre

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

The Detroit Dives – House Caught Fire EP  – Five shots of pub rock from soul to garage to art rock, and including a cover of a Bee Gees classic. “Hometown Anthem” is an instant analog joy but the best is last with the title track a classic Southern rock beauty with one of the best guitar solos you’ll hear this year, if they can’t sell it themselves they should sell it to Govt Mule

Langhorne Slim – Lost At Last Vol 1 – This exceptional collection of singer songwriter confessionals and Americana strumming with a lively intelligence and skill is a complete revelation, the songwriting here couldn’t be better. Every song is worth your while

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

Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings – Soul Of A Woman – Always loved her voice but neo-soul hit me as bad r&b with bad soul songs. I am not sure i’ve changed my mind entirely but her singing is so powerful here, recorded between chemo sessions for the cancer that would eventually kill her, that I’ll just have to suck up my problems with the songs

Sia – Everyday Is Christmas – Sure all that won’t show her face is irritating posturing, and sure it makes for a brutal live show, but this is an excellent album of new seasonal songs

Talib Kweli – Radio Silence – A third of the classic Black Star team, this proves one more time that Talib is more than Mos Def’s sidekick. This is classic rap, all rhyming and mad skills and, on “Traveling Light” with Anderson Park, he is quite comfortable with r&b skills as well, the title track is so cool it includes Amber Coffman, sure that’s 2010 but it is 2010 in a good way

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

Tracy Lawrence – Good Ole Days – Two new songs, nine oldies, featured good ol boys all the way through, and a quick reminder why it isn’t you who hates new country music but new country music that hates you

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

Miya Folick – Give It To Me EP – Half Japanese and half normal is how a friend described her, but this full scale heads down hard rockin’ album is none of the above (by which I mean it doesn’t sound like Asian, certainly not K-Pop) yet still there is something about it so not average, she holds her words, stretches her lines and snaps em shut and the band hits hard and noisy like indie rock gone wild

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

Luis Miguel – ¡MÉXICO Por Siempre! – The great Mexican singer celebrates his heritage at just about the right time, with Disney’s day of the dead animated movie increasing interest in the country. An incredible baritone and mariachis as mainstream pop

Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – Who Built The Moon? – His best effort since Be Here Now finds Noel back with all his melodic skills in place and with his Beatles addiction on hold. It is wall of sound Brit rock and better

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

Sufjan Stevens – The Greatest Gift – The outtakes, remixes and demos from his masterpiece Carrie And Lowell. Not crazy about the remixes, crazy about everything else

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

50,000,000 Elvis Fan Can’t Be Wrong – Caroline Says -An absolute beauty of lo fi tunes sung in a hushed disquiet, plus album name of the week

Syleena Johnson – Rebirth Of Soul – Sweet soul music old school, a real pleasure especially lead off “Make Me Yours”

Dark Matter – Randy Newman – The difference between “Sail Away” and “Brothers” is that “Sail Away” was satire as high wire act genius and “Brothers” is a parlour trick performed once more. A great parlor trick, but nevertheless

Collection – Soccer Mommy – This is an awesome album and not for its indie soundcloud-y vibe, or its lo fi acoustic dreaminess, but because all the songs are smart, tuneful, sweet sounding and important

Ayo – Bomba Estéreo – Colombia’s Liliana Saumet and Simon Mejia follow up their breakthrough album with a terrific blast of dance music heaven, all on the floor dance beats and exultations to move your body,  “Independent of race and culture, we’re all the same when it comes to sharing the dance floor,” and I second that

PNB Rock – GTTM: Goin Thru The Motions – From Wikipedia: “Rakim Allen was born on December 9, 1991, in the Germantown neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and was primarily raised by his mother due to his father being murdered when he was 3 years old. In his teen years, he lived in Northeast Philadelphia. He grew up listening to rapper 2Pac and R&B group Jodeci. At the age of 13, Rakim was sent to a youth detention program for committing robberies and fighting in school. When he turned 19, he was sentenced to 33 months in prison for drug possession and other crimes. Allen was homeless for a short period after being released from prison…” And this is a terrific R&B hip hop album from a guy who has improved every track I’ve ever heard him on. The one with A Boogie, “Playa No More,” is unreal

All Pigs Must Die – Hostage Animal – A metal supergroup that is awe inspiringly brutal, a hard, relentless sink sludge screamathon, an astonishingly feat of fury – B+

WALK THE MOON – What If Nothing – An excellent collection of pop rock tracks, if it doesn’t hit it isn’t their fault

The Used – The Canyon – Never a fan but I could be wrong, you know. This is over an hour of emo “happy/sad” memento mori over a friend who committed suicide at The Canyons. Lead singer Bert McCracken manages a mood massively somber and right for such a painful subject and the pain and the release of pain are strong and vibrant, it encapsules our sense of vulnerability. With songs like “Selfies In Aleppo,” there is a PTSD just under the surface

Beach House 3 – Ty Dolla $ign – The rapper’s best friend knows his way round soul music and the pop charts, this is not what he does as a featured artist;  when Ty is doing it by himself, he wears his best pop credentials on his sleeve

Willie Nelson – Willie and the Boys: Willie’s Stash Vol. 2 – Willie and his kids cover Hank Williams and very well as well, swings nicely

Michael Head & The Red Elastic Band – Adiós Señor Pussycat –“Picasso” sounds like “If I Was A Carpenter”, “Overjoyed,” sounds like the Byrds, and everything else sounds like 60s folk-rock of the first order

Young Dolph – Thinking Out Loud – A week before this spectacular, irritating, whiny nursery rhymy gangsta album was released, with wit and violence off the streets of Memphis, YD was released from hospital after being shot  multiple times in LA

Various Artists – Tegan And Sara Present The Con X: Covers – LGBT stars and friends cover songs off The Con in celebration of the duo’s breakthrough album released ten years ago. Ruth B. wins the award for best song, with Cyndi Lauper’s straight up take on “Back In Your Head” coming in second. But nothing doesn’t work here, it is all excellent, especially because cover albums by various artists can be so uneven. Bleachers, MUNA, and Shamir all acquit themselves honorably

Brent Faiyaz – Sonder Son – The 22 year old soul singer wunderkind’s autobiography is a strange beauty of an album, moody not morose with a sound unlike anything else. This should hit hard on the whole world of neo-R&b fans of Frank Ocean and Solange

Dion – Kickin’ Child: The Lost Album 1965 – Tom Wilson produced neo-electric folk album by the doo wop giant. He wrote most of it but not the finest moment, no not the Dylan track but Tom Paxton’s sublime “I Can’t Help But Wonder Where I’m Bound”. You might wanna call this the missing link between Dylan and the Byrds but it actually goes like this: Dion, Dylan, Dion, Dylan, The Byrds. Dunno why it wasn’t released



Little Richard Here’s Little Richard (Deluxe) – If anything it sounds better now than when it was first released and the demos just add to the legend

Isaac Hayes – The Spirit Of Memphis (1962-1976) – A well appreciated nearly five hour compilation of the Stax giant’s past in one place. I hadn’t realized how great Carla Thomas is, I had realized how great the Emotions are, and I am embarrassed to note that my friend Tomas Doncker is quite right, my knowledge of r&b is suspect

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

Louis Armstrong – The Nightclubs – From a good to great period in his career (both the 20s and the 40s were better), and the recordings could’ve been better (“West End Blues” for one is hurt by it), it doesn’t answer the basic Armstrong paradigm, who will get his recorded output in some form of order. Billie Holiday was nearby in two songs, funny they didn’t perform “The Blues Are Brewing” together

George Michael – Listen Without Prejudice / MTV Unplugged (Deluxe) – Peak Michael’s plus outtakes

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

The Replacements – For Sale: Live At Maxwell’s 1986 – I saw these guys four times, three back in the day, once a coupla years ago. Back when I saw em, a little before this and a little after this was recorded, they were crap. Not here: 29 songs 82 minutes, all of it brilliant. Paul is in great voice, the band isn’t the shambolic meh I knew em as, and the new Tim songs fit in perfect… they shoulda included “Swinging Party” but they make up with “Color Me Impressed”

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

Green Day – Greatest Hits; God’s Favorite Band – This should fix your Green Day problem easily enough. No “J.A.R.” and that’s a real pity, No “Jesus Of Suburbia” either. Also, don’t call a song “Back In The USA” unless you’re covert Chuck. But song for song this is punk pop of the first orde

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

Bob Dylan – Trouble No More: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 13 / 1979-1981 – If you can afford it, by the complete version.

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

Elton John – Diamonds – It’s a little bit funnae… The first two Greatest Hits is where I go for this stuff, but I can live with this expanded to the nth degree version

The Who – Maximum As & Bs – Turning rebellion into money one mo’ gin and why not when the songs are this great, both sides of all the singles plus a great pun in the title, and while obviously, it hits a height and then sinks around the time Keith Moon died, it still works as a journey

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

The Singles – The Doors – Always better as a singles band than seers in the year of the snake, this should answer anybody’s problems with Jim

Husker Du – Savage Young Du –“ 69 chronologically sorted tracks, most live and 47 previously unreleased,” from the nascent hardcorers Minneapolis beginnings

Lucinda Williams – This Sweet Old World – Her 1992 album, the re-recorded “Sidewalks Of The City” is excellent

The Jam – 1977 – In The City and The Modern World, b sides from singles, demos, a John Peel session and some live songs. All vintage 1977

The Smiths – The Queen Is Dead (Deluxe Edition) – b sides, singles, demos and a live in Boston

R.E.M. – Automatic For The People (25th Anniversary Edition) – God Forbid they give us a demo of “Sweetness Follows”…

Aretha Franklin – Songs of Faith – The Gospel Soul of Aretha Franklin – Her debut album from 1956 is available for streaming. So stream it before she goes secular on you

Lydia Loveless – Boy Crazy and Single(s) – She will never write a song as great as “Boy Crazy” again, but these singles (including a cover of “Alison”) come awful close


Comment:  Ed back on top, Taylor nearby.

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US Top 10 Singles Tracking 6-24-22 – 6-30-22

By Iman Lababedi | July 6, 2022 |

Harry seems to have it sewn up

Best Of 2022: Albums by Artist In Alphabetical Order Through June 30th (Half Way Mark)

By Iman Lababedi | July 6, 2022 |

a superb songwriter who can fill an album with excellent country mainstreamers

Going Steady: New Singles 7-1-22 – 7-7-22 Reviewed

By Iman Lababedi | July 6, 2022 |

lovely tribute to her single mom

Eileen Shapiro: “Portfolio Of A Rockstar Journalist” Meets The Genesis Great Steve Hackett

By Eileen Shapiro | July 6, 2022 |

a classical guitarist and composer and has released more than 30 solo albums

Press Releases For July: Here Are The Artists

By Alyson Camus | July 6, 2022 |

“The song is about a mental institution”

Freakout Records Announce The 10th Annual Freakout Festival Taking Place on November 10-13 in Ballard (Seattle, WA)

By admin | July 5, 2022 |

a diverse arrangement of voices and sounds

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