THE HOLIDAY WEEKEND STARTS HERE... with FAVES 2020. I occasionally hear from folks who want to know what music -- from among all of the posts I do here -- I recommend. To some degree, I recommend all of it, unless I expressly write otherwise (e.g., it's not my thing, but it might be yours). With the holiday shopping season upon us, I have tried to make a list of reasonable size. It's an unordered list. I likely will have overlooked something that I really dig.
And note these are my faves; I'm not purporting to list the "Best" albums of the year. To be frank, the pandemic has probably skewed this year's list. Working from home for most of the year, the albums that gained purchase with me have tended to be those that reward a close listen, but do not necessarily demand it. For those Friends of Pate who go all the way back to the Music Works (for the rest of you, think the record store in High Fidelity), albums like the Meat Puppets' Up on the Sun or Danny & Dusty's Long Weekend could play on repeat all day long and those hanging out at the store could tune into or dial back on them mentally throughout an afternoon in between conversations, errands, meals and beer, alternately serving as inspiration and soundtrack.
THE REPLACEMENTS, TOM PETTY, NEIL YOUNG, AND PRINCE: Wait a minute, didn't I pick a Replacements super-deluxe reissue last year? Sure did! But first off, it's the Replacements. Second off, another side effect of pandemic lockdown is the tendency for people do do things like binge watch their old favorite movies; consider this the musical version of that. Pleased to Meet Me may not be as revelatory as last year's Dead Man's Pop, but still awfuly good. Similarly, Tom Petty's posthumous Wildflowers & All the Rest and Neil Young's Homegrown provide a full listen into chapters of two legendary careers that at best could be heard in fragments before. And I'm tossing the deluxe version of Prince's 1999 here because it came out too late for last year's list and even though I've genrally always liked Prince, I have only grown to appreciate Prince more over time. It's all good enough to make me feel less bad about the fact that most of these special reissues now cover material for which I was around the first time.
PHOEBE BRIDGERS: Punisher is a popular sort of pick, not least because it is probably the album of 2020 in terms of capturing its mood without being obviousabout it. But Bridgers might not have had the right release for the moment if she had not grown in terms of her lyrics (which were already quite good) and her arrangements (now more ambitious). People who know me won't be surprised that songs like "Kyoto," "ICU," and "Graceland Too" are the ones that grab me the most, but this one also very much falls into that category of putting it on and letiingt it seep in the back of brain through multiple plays.
PERFUME GENIUS: Absent the pandemic, Set My Heart On Fire Immediately might have been the album of 2020, less over-the-top than Mike Hadreas has been in the past and generally more effective. I don't think it's just my personal musical biases that lead me to think the more uptempo pop here works better than the slower material, which is a bit hit-and-miss.
EARLY JAMES: I would have thought that being produced by David Auerbach would have garnered more attention for Singing For My Supper (I bet James thought so too). Yet this truly nifty debut largely fell through the critical cracks, which is a shame. Although labeled as roots rock, this album is so much more, very much a type of classic pop/rock that would have come out in the mid-to-late Sixties, comfortable among Bacharach, Webb, Davies, and Walker without paying obvious homage to any of them (not an easy thing to do).
FLEET FOXES: After releases like Helplessness Blues and Crack-Up, the more uplifting Shore was probably destined to get the "return to form" treatment from critics. Certainly, Robin Pecknold seems to emphasize the more uplifting mood of this LP. But musically, it's as much a consolidation or reconciliation of everything the band has done, including some of the more adventurous turns of the two prior, more fraught albums. Their is a density and majesty in this production that comes closest to suggesting the more powerful sound the band has live, yet with layers and attention to detail that reward multiple listenings.
BONNY LIGHT HORSEMAN: Perhaps this century's iteration of Fairport Convention, Bonny Light Horseman puts an indie rock spin on traditional British folk, neither too stuffy and formalistic nor destructive of the delicacy of the underlying form. A fresh breeze whenever it enters your space.
ANDY SCHAUF: The Neon Skyline is what might be called a micro-concept album; the protagonist meets an old friend for drinks, reminisces about an ex-girlfriend, then runs into her. The intimate scale prevents the conceit from becoming too conceited. Also not as noir as I might have guessed from the title. Previously, I thought I detected a streak of early Rundgren in Schauf musically, but here he tends to remind me a little of early 70s Paul Simon in both its strummy acoustic guitars and in its observational lyrics.
THE JAYHAWKS: I'm always going to miss Marc Olson, but as with the dB's when Chris Stamey isn't around, the band effort usually remains quite strong, and XOXO is an impressive reminder of this. It's the sort of album that can fit right in among albums from The Band and the Flying Burrito Brothers-- or any of the artists and bands that picked up that vibe back in the day, like early 70s Van Morrisson or Volunteers-era Jefferson Airplane. XOXO may comment on the moment as well, but with a relatively deft touch (certainly more deft than the Airplane, for sure). Great music for an overstuffed couch in your coziest room on a rainy afternoon.
THE LEMON TWIGS: Songs for the General Public doesn't quite get this duo into the team photo with Redd Kross or the Hoodoo Gurus, but they're getting there, and I will take what I can get for now.
CORNERSHOP: I've put a couple of their tracks on Summer mixes, and England is a Garden is another slice of light psychedelic pop from a band that may not be prolific but is remarkably consistent.
THE JAMES HUNTER SIX: If you've been visiting here for a while, you know I'm a sucker for what some call retro but I would call timeless, very often in the soul genre. Nick of Time is not a big departure from the combo's Sam Cooke-meets-Sixties Van Morrison formula, and it's produced by Daptone Records' Bosco Mann, which is a pretty good marriage.
HAZEL ENGLISH has acksually been around a few years, but has not really sounded like she does on Wake UP! Here, she has perhaps a bit of early Dusty Springfield and some self-harmonizing that oddly recalls lighter songs by the Cranberries. Works for me, obvsly.
THE PRETENDERS: As with the fictional pitcher Orlando Rojas, it's always a bit uplifting to discover that a talent still has some fuel in the tank. You probably didn't know that Chrissie Hynde put out an album in 2020 that recalls the band's first three LPs and is nearly as good. But she did, and it's called Hate for Sale. My runner-up here would be The Psychedelic Furs' Made of Rain, which doesn't quite match the band's first three or four albums, but sheds the rot and bombast that began to set in by the time they were playing the big barns in days of yore.
ANDREW CARROLL is someone I became aware of through the Lodge 49 soundtrack. Though I have yet to watch the show, Carroll curated some nifty but largely obscure baraoque pop whle adding some of his own instrumentals. Then he released the You Are Here EP, which is short, but sweet.
TAYLOR SWIFT: You may have heard of her. You might be surprised that she makes my list because while I've always respected her talents as a songwriter, much of her oeuvre is not really in my wheelhouse and the personal drama that would filter back into much of it never really did much for me. Her surprise collaboration with The National's Aaron Dressner, folklore, could have been a pretentious trainwreck, a stab at indie-rock cred that revealed her limitations. Instead, Swift got out of her own head and into more a more writerly storytelling approach with delightful results, particularly "the last great american dynasty." Having mentioned The National, I'll note that the late-arriving solo LP from Matt Berninger, Serpentine Prison is also a likely fave, perhaps harkening a bit back to the band's earlier work. And while in the mainstream pop vein, I'll tip my imaginary cap to Haim, whose Women in Music Pt. III shows growth (if less surprsing than Swift's) and whose "Summer Girl" obviously apes Lou Reed (always steal from the best).
Anyway, that's a fairly representative sample. Were I able to muster my outrage on a more regular basis, Drive-By Truckers and Jason Isbell and Bob Mould would have been further up my mental chart. Many people love this year's Fiona Apple, tho she's never really done much for me. On another day, maybe it would be The Dream Syndicate or Destroyer or Angel Olsen. Or Margo Price or Courtney Marie Andrews. Or Thurston Moore or Laura Marling or Idles. Or...
A CHARLIE BROWN THANKSGIVING: It's always somewhere on the net.
WKRP: "Turkeys Away," in its entirety. And here's the turkey giveaway by itself. There's a WKRP purist backstory for this episode as well.
THANKSGIVING: George Washington's Thanksgiving Proclamation (1789). It was controversial at the time.
LIVING COLOUR gets almost two and a half hours of discussion and analysis on Political Beats with Steve Singiser, which I heard early via their new Patreon.
WEEKEND BOX OFFICE? Freaky repeats atop the chart with 1.2MM on a 66 percent drop. War With Grandpa places with 733K on a 44 percent drop. Let Him Go shows with 710K on a 59 percent drop. Jackie Chan's Vanguard opened in seventh place. Last year, Disney’s Frozen II opened with 130.3MM.
THE HOUSE OF MOUSE is looking at launching a number of its upcoming tentpole family films on Disney+ instead of the theatrical release bows that were envisioned when the films were developed and green lit.
COMING 2 AMERICA is coming 2 Amazon on March 5, 2021.
BEN AFFLECK & ANA de ARMAS were caught canoodling while taking a break from filming for their upcoming movie Deep Water.
MARTIN FREEMAN finds love with a French actress 21 years his junior.
ALEX TREBEK was cremated.
ALAN RICKMAN'S DIARIES are being published as a book and it's so sad that it's not an audiobook.
ROBERT ENGLUND (Freddy Krueger) is joining the cast of Stranger Things.
CHECK OUT THE CRITTERS big and small who are using Utah's first wildlife overpass to cross Interstate 80.
A CROW with knowledge of physics.
A SQUIRREL, drunk on fermented pears.
RESCUE BEAVER: More about the Beave.