THE HOLIDAY WEEKEND STARTS HERE... with FAVES 2018! 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.
THE REPLACEMENTS: Yes, Dead Man’s Pop is a deluxe box set sort of thing, but it's The Replacements, so obviously it's goingto be on my list. And this one in particular because it features a new and improved mix of Don’t Tell a Soul that strips out the late-80s production tropes, thereby presenting the material in a manner much more consistent with the real band, additionally evidenced by the included live tracks from the era. One can fault any number of box sets as exploitation, but this one has real purpose (even if "purpose" was never opne of the Mats' strong suits).
NICK CAVE & THE BAD SEEDS: Ghosteen generally received the highest of critical accolades, and generally considered the third in a trilogy of Cave's meditations on mortality in the wae of the tragic death of his son. I'm always a bit reticent when it comes to celebrating the "suffering produces great art" trope, because on some level it puts fans in the position of rooting for suffering. But the suffering here was not of Cave's own making and the proof of greatness is in the songcraft.
BOB MOULD: It would be tempting to call Sunshine Rock a return to form, but also a bit unfair. In the first place, Mould is very good on a pretty consistent basis, so much so that he can be taken for granted, which is what makes his exceptional efforts get the "return to form" tag. Secondly, as the title implies, this is about as happy a Mould as we've heard over the decades, so it's not even really "form," lyrically.
LANA DEL REY is someone whom I have tended to appreciate more in theory over the years than love in practice,hoping she could reach her high point more often. On Norman Effing Rockwell!, she manages it by embracing the Laurel Canyon singer-songwriter aesthetic, with the help of pop impressario Jack Antonoff at the board -- which I was going to call "unlikely," but maybe not so much.
JENNY LEWIS, otoh, is someone whose material I have tended to like on average more than Del Rey's, going back to the Rilo Kiley days. Yet On The Line finds Lewis reaching a new level of artistic confidence, enough so that maybe the PR about it representing her getting her life more together might be more than puffery.
RAPHAEL SAADIQ: Longtime readers know I love those vintage soul sounds; the passing of Sharon Jones and Charles Bradley in recent years has created a bit of a vacuum in the subgenre. Rapael Saddiq isn't even really doing it anymore. But on Jimmy Lee, he takes a serious turn in the larger tradition of early 70s Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder, another entery in the "suffering fuels good work" file. Not what you might have expected it back in the day from a member of Tony! Toni! Toné!, but then again, you might not have expected it from Gaye or Wonder, either.
SHARON VAN ETTEN: Remind Me Tomorrow is a bit of a summation of her career, reatining the indie folk influences of her earlier work, but expanding her sonic pallette with from trip-hop iand electronic influences with an assist from producer John Congelton (at her direction, natch).And her lyrics remain at least as sharp as ever, despite having taken a bit of a break for television and parenthood.
WEYES BLOOD: Titanic Rising has all sorts of New Age-y and 90s musical touches. And yet I like it, so it's good enough to overcome all that in my mind.
THE NATIONAL continue to carry the banner of big indie rock and they continue to evolve, if not as drastically as R.E.M., U2, or even Radiohead in their respective heydays. I Am Easy to Find expands the band's palette with female voices, a move that might be dismissed as a male band's nod to wokeness if it didn't succeed as well as it does.
THE RACONTEURS perhaps carry the banner for more mainstream rock in an era where on my more curmudgeonly days I contemplate rock becoming a receding genre like jazz. Help Us Stranger melds Jack White's crunch and Brendan Benson's melodicism like a peanut butter cup (though that metaphor unfairly discounts what The Greenhornes' rhythm section brings to the mix).
BARONESS: I confess I knew nothing of them when Gold & Grey came out, but to call it the sort of great hard rock album I didn't think was being made anymore undersells the all the moments where psychedelia, prog and even Americana infuse themselves into the proceedings.
BIG THIEF: Is 2019 the year this band emerged as the sort of artistic force that will define the coming era? Or is it merely the year where a band hit its peak productivity, releasing two stellar LPs, U.F.O.F. and Two Hands, only to cool off (as Ty Segall seems to have done). When I was younger, I would be consumed with those sorts of questions, while now I'm just thankful for whatever we get.
PURPLE MOUNTAINS: The self-titled debut is also last album we're likely to hear from the late David Berman, formerly of Silver Jews. As such, it's again tempting to read too much into the darker passages, as the vagaries of life may not be reflected in the grooves. I prefer to focus on the fact that he picked up where he left off lyrically, wjhile perhaps leaning on his more mellow side musically to create a terrific set of songs.
THE LONG RYDERS: Don't call it a comeback, but Psychedelic Country Soul is a thoroughly comfortable continuation from a band which had largely faded from the scene, if never truly defunct. I might have said the same of Deserted, the latest from The Mekons.
EDWYN COLLINS: What I said about the Long Ryders, but across the pond. You can't help but root for a guy coming back from a debilitating stroke, but Badbea earns its praise without sympathy votes and with all of it's pseudo-Bowie flourishes. Others in this category would include Where The Action Is, from The Waterboys, which veers back toward rock (with even a callback to "Church Not Made With Hands"), and Humanworld, by Peter Perrett (of The Only Ones). In fact, I'm listenting to that Waterboys LP again right now, and I think maybe I should have led with it.
DEVENDRA BANHART: Ma is some distance from the"freak folk" of his earlier work, but maturity isn't always a bad thing, even in rock music.
THE HOLD STEADY: Thrashing Thru the Passion didn't get the buzz it should have with keyboardist Franz Nicolay rejoining the fold, perhaps because it wasn't as anthemic as an LP like Boys & Girls in America. But this one benefits from a looseness that recalls their even earlier days as a loose, rollinking bar band.
Anyway, that's a fairly representative sample. On another day, maybe it would be Angel Olsen, Bill Callahan and Deerhunter. Or Mikal Cronin, Wilco, and Whitney. Or Local Natives, White Denim, and Kim Gordon. 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.
THANKSGIVING: George Washington's Thanksgiving Proclamation (1789). It was controversial at the time. NOW SHOWING: This weekend's wide releases are Knives Out, which is currently scoring 95 percent on the ol' Tomatometer; and Queen & Slim, which is scoring 86 percent.