Ends in Two: Favorite songs and albums of 2022

As promised, I’m about to go through my music library to check out what came out this past year and shake the dustbunnies out of my brain to remind myself how many great songs and albums came out in 2022. Like the last couple of pandemic years, the music scene has kind of been all over the place — not necessarily in a bad way, but it’s definitely shaken things up to the point where the unexpected is the norm. Let’s take a listen…

The Smile, “You Will Never Work in Television Again” single, released 5 January. Radiohead members Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood joined up with their drummer friend Tom Skinner from Sons of Kemet as a creative outlet during the pandemic and surprised everyone with a decidedly punkish sound that might be Radiohead at its most frantic. They’d eventually release a full album later in the year.

The Weeknd, Dawn FM, released 7 January. His latest is kind of…weird? Yet really fun and funky? And features in-between smooth-jazz-DJ voice-overs by…Jim Carrey? I’m still not entirely sure what he was trying to say with this record, but it’s a great listen nonetheless. “Sacrifice” in particular is my favorite off the album.

Cat Power, Covers, released 14 January. Chan Marshall has been known to record unique and fascinating covers of other people’s music, and this latest batch is full of gems. Her take on Frank Ocean’s “Bad Religion” got quite a bit of airplay on KEXP at the beginning of the year and it’s a wonderful take on an already quirky track.

Miles Kane, Change the Show, released 21 January. Kane, also known as part of the supergroup The Last Shadow Puppets, takes the classic British soul swing sound and tweaks it with humor and maybe a bit of strangeness and the result is earwormy fun.

Kids On a Crime Spree, Fall in Love Not in Line, released 21 January. I’ve been intrigued by Slumberland Records these days for several reasons: much of their roster is super-local (one or two coming from my own neighborhood!), and much of that same roster often records in a semi lo-fi way, providing a very loose ‘bedroom recording’ feel that reminds me of…well, my own band The Flying Bohemians, actually! Extra props for this particular Oakland band for naming themselves after a newspaper story headline about problem youths in Foster City on the peninsula…which became the inspiration for the movie Over the Edge.

Yard Act, The Overload, released 21 January. This goofy punk band from Leeds provided probably my first favorite track of the year with the title song from their debut album. I kind of see them as what The Fall would sound like if they played twice as fast and Mark E Smith hadn’t been so damn grumpy all the time, but they have a really fun and hilarious charm all their own. The whole album’s well worth checking out.

The Smile, “The Smoke” single, released 27 January. The band followed up with another new single leaning ever so slightly more towards Radiohead but remaining unique to their own style. This one definitely showcases Greenwood’s penchant for increasingly complex riffs and musical phrases and Yorke’s unnatural ability to easily shoehorn vocals within them.

Paul Draper, Cult Leader Tactics, released 28 January. The second solo album from the ex-lead singer of Mansun continues his foray into tension-filled alternative rock, this time featuring friend and Porcupine Tree singer Steven Wilson on the lead single “Omega Man”. Props to Draper for filming this video in the exclusion zone in Chernobyl to really drive the theme of isolation home.

The Beatles, Get Back: The Rooftop Performance, released 28 January. Tying in with the utterly amazing Peter Jackson miniseries, this release finally provides fans with the full rooftop show that ended up being the band’s final live show (of sorts). We got to see it on the (very!) big screen on IMAX and it was so much fun!

Our Lady Peace, Spiritual Machines II, released 28 January. A sequel to an underrated and fascinating record about Ray Kurzweil’s book about artificial intelligence, The Age of Spiritual Machines, this one revisits the predictions he’d made in the book to see what has come to pass and what has not.

**

Next Up: February tunage!

Ending in Two

Yeah, I know…I’ve gone on record multiple times that years ending in two are awesome years in music. And 2022 saw a lot of great releases! But I think it’s me this time out that didn’t do my due diligence and connect as deeply with it all as I should have. It’s not that it didn’t interest me, as a lot of it did. It’s that I didn’t allow myself to resonate with it.

I’ve been using variations of the word ‘resonance’ a lot lately, in two different ways. Musically, it means “the quality in a sound of being deep, full, and reverberating.” Emotionally, it means “the ability to evoke or suggest images, memories, and emotions.” Both are important to me: things that hit me in the heart not just emotionally but creatively.

And I haven’t been letting myself do either of them over the past couple of years. Maybe it’s partly the pandemic’s fault for holding back or blocking so many musicians out there. Maybe it’s partly my own fault for not making a strong enough attempt to make that connection in the first place. Maybe it’s also partly my own fault for focusing on the acquiring (yay for being a discography completist!) and less on the music itself. Maybe it’s that I listen to KEXP so frequently that I don’t give myself enough time to relisten to what I already have in my collection. Maybe it’s that my Day Job doesn’t allow me the ability to listen to my collection while working. Maybe it’s just too many real world distractions. It could be a lot of things.

I think what I’ll be doing in the next couple of weeks is do a monthly overview of 2022 to reconnect myself with this year’s releases and posting them here. There were a lot of great songs and albums out there that I loved but for some reason never completely connected to. And I’d like to see what I might have forgotten. Maybe I’ll reconnect with them this time around.

Let’s start with what has resonated with me: “Golden Air” by Sun’s Signature — the first new music from Elizabeth Fraser in many years. I absolutely adore the EP it’s from and I think that’s a good place to start!

Stay tuned for more!

Best of 2021

Nation of Language, A Way Forward

Every now and again we have a year with a lot of great albums, some immediate personal favorites…but for some reason, little of it resonates to the extent that they’re going to be all-time favorites I’d be listening for years to come. That’s not to say that they’re bad albums, or even forgetful ones! It could be due to Just How Life Has Been As Of Late (after all, this pandemic thing is still putting the kibosh on a lot of uplifting celebration), or it could be a personal thing (my mind has been focusing on numerous things other than my ever-expanding musical tastes).

I spent more time this year listening to KEXP streaming online than actually listening to any of the music I might have acquired during the past year. In a way it felt like those high school days of yore when I went through a spell of listening to WAMH on a daily basis and only listening to albums at night (except that my nights these days are watching TV with A in the living room). And just like that era, I’m (hopefully) making some personal changes to my life in the new year that might necessitate me not listening to John In the Morning every weekday. [Unlike those high school days of yore, KEXP archives their shows for a few days so I should be able to listen in at a later time.]

Next year is a ‘2’ year, which means that I’m expecting some mind-bogglingly stellar albums that will become all-time favorites. I know, I know…it’s only a pet theory of mine, but it hasn’t steered me wrong yet. There have been hints of it in the preview singles being dropped over the last couple of months, and the few new release news bites that have slipped out. Whatever comes, I’m looking forward to it!

That said, here is my list of favorite albums, songs, and other releases in 2021. These are in no particular order this time, other than that my top favorites are in boldface. I highly suggest checking them all out, as they’re all great and worth a listen or five!

TOP ALBUMS
Roosevelt, Polydans
Nation of Language, A Way Forward
Grandbrothers, All the Unknown
Flock of Dimes, Head of Roses
Dry Cleaning, New Long Leg
Hooverphonic, Hidden Stories
Wolf Alice, Blue Weekend
Japanese Breakfast, Jubilee
Quivers, Golden Doubt
CHVRCHES, Screen Violence
Sleigh Bells, Texis
Low, HEY WHAT
Film School, We Weren’t Here
Coldplay, Music of the Spheres
Elbow, Flying Dream 1
Failure, Wild Type Droid
Miss Gritt, Impostor EP
The Beatles, Let It Be [Super Deluxe]
Snoh Aalegra, Temporary Highs in the Violet Skies
Foo Fighters, Medicine at Midnight

TOP SINGLES
Imagine Dragons feat. JID, “Enemy”
The Clockworks, “Throw It All Away”
Miss Grit, “Blonde”
Sleigh Bells, “Locust Laced”
Nation of Language, “Across That Fine Line”
Roosevelt, “Echoes”
Teenage Sequence, “All This Art”
Ambar Lucid, “Space Cowgirl”
CHVRCHES, “Cry Little Sister”
Girlfriends and Boyfriends, “Your Touch”
Dry Cleaning, “Scratchcard Lanyard”
Seatbelts, “TANK! [Flix Mix]”
Wet Leg, “Chaise Longue”
Jose Gonzalez, “El Invento”
Flock of Dimes, “Price of Blue”
Yola, “Stand for Myself”
Parquet Courts, “Walking at a Downtown Pace”
Jack White, “Taking Me Back”
Yard Act, “Dark Days”
Breeze, “Come Around”

…and more Best-Ofs…

Box Sets, Compilations, Reissues and Remasters
The Beatles, Let It Be [Super Deluxe]
George Harrison, All Things Must Pass 50th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition
John Lennon, John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band (Ultimate Collection)
Various Artists, Bills & Aches & Blues (40 Years of 4AD)
Various Artists, Caught Beneath the Landslide: The Other Side of Britpop and the 90s
Supergrass, In It for the Money [Deluxe Expanded Edition]
POD, Satellite [Expanded Edition]
Death Cab for Cutie, The Photo Album [Deluxe Edition]
Radiohead, KID A MNESIA
Seatbelts, Cowboy Bebop (Soundtrack from the Netflix Series)
David Bowie, Brilliant Adventure (1992-2001)
U2, Achtung Baby [30th Anniversary Edition]

EPs and Singles
Ambar Lucid, Get Lost in the Music EP
Miss Grit, Impostor EP
Thom Yorke, “Creep [Very 2021 RMX]”
Wet Leg, “Chaise Longue”
Working Men’s Club, “X”
Bowling for Soup, “Growing Old Sucks (But Everybody’s Doing It)”
Teenage Sequence, “All This Art”
Imagine Dragons feat. JID, “Enemy””
Big Wreck, Big Wreck 7.1 EP
The Clockworks, “Throw It All Away”

Keepin’ It Local (Bands from My Hood)
The Reds, Pinks & Purples, Uncommon Weather
Chime School, Chime School
The Umbrellas, The Umbrellas
Cindy, 1:2

*

…and that’s it for Walk in Silence for 2021! I’ll be taking the first week of January off just to enjoy the remainder of the holiday season and prep myself for the plans I have for the new year. Here’s to hoping everyone’s 2022 is stellar!

The Singles 2021

Here we are, as promised — my end of year mixtape! As with the last few years, my listening habits have pretty much been listening to KEXP online or whatever tunage I happened to download. And this time out I’ve created a Spotify playlist out of it for your listening enjoyment!

This past year has been kind of a strange one musically — a lot of records made during lockdown, incomplete sessions rejiggered as EPs and standalone singles, and songs that have been kicking around in the vaults for a bit — so while there may not be as much coherence or intensity behind some of it, the gems that are out there were pretty flippin’ phenomenal. Stay tuned for my best-of-year lists on Thursday!

SIDE A
1. Imagine Dragons feat. JID, “Enemy [from the League of Legends series ‘Arcane’]”
2. Roosevelt, “Echoes”
3. The Clockworks, “Throw It All Away”
4. Girlfriends and Boyfriends, “Your Touch”
5. Miss Grit, “Blonde”
6. Grandbrothers, “What We See”
7. Celeste, “Stop This Flame”
8. Arlo Parks, “Hurt”
9. Flock of Dimes, “Price of Blue”
10. Yola, “Stand for Myself”

SIDE B
1. Yard Act, “Dark Days”
2. Parquet Courts, “Walking at a Downtown Pace”
3. Siamese Youth, “So Far from Home”
4. Flyying Colours, “White Knuckles”
5. Sleigh Bells, “Locust Laced”
6. Dry Cleaning, “Scratchcard Lanyard”
7. K/DA, “Villain”
8. Jungle, “Keep Moving”
9. Wolf Alice, “The Last Man On Earth”
10. Teenage Sequence, “All This Art”
11. Nation of Language, “A Word & a Wave”

SIDE C
1. Seatbelts, “TANK! [Flix Mix]
2. The Beatles, “I’ve Got a Feeling [2021 Mix]”
3. Nation of Language, “Across That Fine Line”
4. Bachelor, “Stay in the Car”
5. Breeze, “Come Around”
6. Coldplay, “Higher Power”
7. CHVRCHES, “Cry Little Sister”
8. Snoh Aalegra, “In Your Eyes”
9. New Candys, “Twin Mime”
10. They Might Be Giants, “Super Cool”
11. Geese, “Low Era”
12. Duran Duran, “Invisible”

SIDE D
1. Goat Girl, “Sad Cowboy”
2. Hooverphonic, “The Wrong Place”
3. Sleaford Mods, “Nudge It”
4. Jack White, “Taking Me Back”
5. Fotoform, “Running”
6. Hatchie, “This Enchanted”
7. Amyl and the Sniffers, “Guided By Angels”
8. Film School, “Superperfection”
9. Public Service Broadcasting, “People, Let’s Dance”
10. ABBA, “I Still Have Faith in You”
11. Ambar Lucid, “Space Cowgirl”

SIDE E
1. Foo Fighters, “Waiting On a War”
2. Bill Janovitz, “Coming Up Close”*
3. Ora the Molecule, “Die to Be a Butterfly”
4. IDLES, “The Beachland Ballroom”
5. Thom Yorke, “Creep [Very 2021 RMX]”
6. Sleaford Mods, “Mork ‘n Mindy”
7. Wet Leg, “Chaise Longue”
8. tUnE-yArDs, “nowhere, man”
9. Grandbrothers, “Silver”
10. Roosevelt, “See You Again”

SIDE F
1. Field Music, “Orion from the Street”
2. Danny Elfman, “True”
3. Ambar Lucid, “Get Lost in the Music”
4. Low, “Days Like These”
5. The Goon Sax, “In the Stone”
6. Makthaverskan, “Maktologen”
7. Anna Schulze, “A New Way”
8. Ghost of Vroom, “Rona Pollona”
9. Shame, “Human, for a Minute”
10. Jane Weaver, “The Revolution of Super Visions”
11. The Verve Pipe, “Forever Reaching”

SIDE G
1. RUFUS DU SOL, “Alive”
2. Big Wreck, “Beano”
3. Goat Girl, “Badibaba”
4. Jose Gonzalez, “El Invento”
5. Delvon Lamarr, Organ Trio, “Call Your Mom”
6. Lucy Dacus, “Hot & Heavy”
7. Dropkick Murphys, “Mick Jones Nicked My Pudding”
8. Lost Horizons, “Every Beat That Passed”
9. Pond, “America’s Cup”
10. Porcupine Tree, “Harridan”

SIDE H
1. Garbage, “No Gods No Monsters”
2. Django Django, “Glowing in the Dark”
3. Billy Bragg, “Mid-Century Modern”
4. Nation of Language, “This Fractured Mind”
5. Sneaker Pimps, “Alibis”
6. Matt Nathanson, “Even Better Than the Real Thing”
7. Japanese Breakfast, “Be Sweet”
8. Mr Twin Sister, “Fantasy”
9. Elbow, “Flying Dream 1”
10. CHVRCHES, “How Not to Drown”
11. The Beatles, “Get Back [2021 Mix]”

Fly-By: Happy Holidays

Taking this week off from the music blog because why not? I felt like relaxing on the days leading up to Christmas. The shopping is done, the boxes are put away, and the nog is mixed in with my morning coffee. Life is good.

In the meantime, here’s the London Symphony Orchestra playing Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker. We went to see San Francisco Ballet’s performance on the 12th — we go every single year (and streamed it from their site when there were none due to Covid) — and I’ve come to love this work from one of my favorite composers.

Happy holidays! See you next week for the year-end mixtape and best-of lists!

Everybody Had a Hard Year

It’s been a long year of confusion, change, loss, frustration, wonder, perseverance, and pretty much everything in between. Living in a pandemic will do that to a person. I’ve tried to keep a positive and open mind during it all, even when I’d log onto the news sites and social media and see people making terrible decisions based on fear, ignorance, greed or outright hate. I sometimes have to remind myself that this is part of life, and it’s happened before and will happen again in the future. I dearly hope not as a constant onslaught, of course. As long as I remain true to my own wishes, desires and hopes, with minimal distractions.

Here’s to hoping that 2022 goes in the right directions, at least.

Best of 2020 and Singles Mix

Source: cover of ‘Ultra Mono’ by Idles. The image seems to fit this year’s events quite accurately.

What a weirdass year. Yeah? Let’s not do that again. Or if we have to, let’s do it without so much of the drama, okay?

ANYWAY. Here it is, the last day of the year, and I’m squeezing this post in during the last few remaining hours of the day/month/year. I don’t use Spotify that much at all so I don’t have any “this is what you listened to most” (or, to follow the recent meme, the “your playlist sucks because…”). I know I listened to KEXP the most, with the rest of my mp3 collection coming a close second. The station kept me sane, somewhat distracted, and in a calm mood for the most part, for which I thank them, especially morning DJ John Richards and midday DJ Cheryl Waters.

Do I have anything left to say about 2020? Not really. It was a year of difference and change for me and I’ve already talked about it over at Welcome to Bridgetown. Other than that…I just want to keep moving forward.

So! Here’s the top albums, songs, and a few other bits of enjoyment that kept me going this past year. Enjoy! (NOTE: I left off the YouTube links on the mixtape on the second half here, but I may edit them in at a later date.)

TOP ALBUMS:
20. Hum, Inlet
19. PVRIS, Use Me
18. Indigo Girls, Look Long
17. Phish, Sigma Oasis
16. Nation of Language, Introduction, Presence
15. Hayley Williams, Petals for Armor
14. HAIM, Women in Music Pt III
13. Taylor Swift, Folklore/Evermore
12. Sault, Untitled (Rise)
11. Pearl Jam, Gigaton
10. Idles, Ultra Mono
9. Prince, Sign o’ the Times (Super Deluxe Edition)
8. Secret Machines, Awake in the Brain Chamber
7. The Beths, Jump Rope Gazers
6. Bob Moses, Desire EP
5. BRONSON, BRONSON
4. K-DA, All Out EP
3. EoB, Earth
2. Deserta, Black Aura My Sun
1. Doves, The Universal Want

TOP SINGLES
20. Deserta, “Monica”
19. Green Day, “Father of All…”
18. EoB, “Olympik”
17. HAIM, “The Steps”
16. Sault, “I Just Want to Dance”
15. Secret Machines, “3, 4, 5, Let’s Stay Alive”
14. The Psychedelic Furs, “You’ll Be Mine”
13. Sault, “Free”
12. Bombay Bicycle Club, “Everything Else Has Gone Wrong”
11. Bob Mould, “American Crisis”
10. The Weeknd, “Blinding Lights”
9. Hayley Williams, “Simmer”
8. K-DA, “The Baddest”
7. BRONSON, “Dawn”
6. The Beths, “I’m Not Getting Excited”
5. K-DA, “More”
4. Fontaines DC, “Televised Mind”
3. Bob Moses & ZHU, “Desire”
2. Doves, “Carousels”
1. Idles, “Grounds”

….and more Best-Ofs…

Welcome Returns: Bands Reformed/Reactivated and Newly Recorded
Stabbing Westaward, Dead and Gone EP
Stone Temple Pilots, Perdida
The Boomtown Rats, Citizens of Boomtown
X, Alphabetland
Badly Drawn Boy, Banana Skin Shoes
Hum, Inlet
Secret Machines, Awake in the Brain Chamber
Semisonic, You’re Not Alone EP
Michael Penn, “A Revival”
Midnight Oil, The Makarrata Project EP
The Network, Money Money 2020 Pt II: We Told Ya So!

Surviving the Pandemic: What Kept Me Going
Elbow, #elbowrooms videos
Crowded House, Live from Home videos
Seatbelts, Session Starducks videos
KEXP, Live from the Front Yard series

Box Sets, Reissues, and Remasters
Depeche Mode, MODE
Supergrass, The Strange Ones 1994-2008
Porcupine Tree, In Absentia (Deluxe Edition)
The Primitives, Bloom! The Full Syory 1985-1992
Paul McCartney, Flaming Pie (Archive Collection)
Prince, Sign o’ the Times (Super Deluxe Edition)
John Lennon, Gimme Some Truth (Deluxe)

***

THE SINGLES 2020

SIDE A
1. Secret Machines, “3, 4, 5, Let’s Stay Alive”
2. The Beths, “I’m Not Getting Excited”
3. Bob Moses & ZHU, “Desire”
4. Fontaines DC, “Televised Mind”
5. Idles, “Grounds”
6. Bob Mould, “American Crisis”
7. Pearl Jam, “Dance of the Clairvoyants”
8. Bombay Bicycle Club, “Everything Else Has Gone Wrong”
9. K-DA, “More”
10. Deserta, “Monica”
11. Cut Copy, “Love Is All We Share”

SIDE B
1. Doves, “Carousels”
2. The Psychedelic Furs, “You’ll Be Mine”
3. Green Day, “Father of All…”
4. Pet Shop Boys, “Will-O-the-Wisp”
5. Sault, “Free”
6. Hayley Williams, “Simmer”
7. HAIM, “The Steps”
8. Run the Jewels, “Ooh LA LA”
9. Nation of Language, “The Wall & I”
10. BRONSON, “Dawn”

SIDE C
1. Annie, “The Countdown to the End of the World”
2. EoB, “Shangri-La”
3. Hinds, “Good Bad Times”
4. The Weeknd, “Blinding Lights”
5. Green Day, “Oh Yeah!”
6. Semisonic, “You’re Not Alone”
7. beabadoobee, “Worth It”
8. Billie Eilish, “My Future”
9. Bruce Springsteen, “Letter to You”
10. Hum, “Step Into You”
11. Cults, “Spit You Out”
12. Paul McCartney, “Find My Way”

SIDE D
1. BRONSON, “Heart Attack”
2. Secret Machines, “Everything Starts”
3. Pearl Jam, “Superblood Wolfmoon”
4. Gorillaz, “Désolé”
5. GoGo Penguin, “Atomised”
6. Hotels, “Queens (West African Peanut Soup)”
7. Idles, “A Hymn”
8. Phoebe Bridgers, “Kyoto”
9. Working Men’s Club, “John Cooper Clarke”
10. The Avalanches, “Interstellar Love”

SIDE E
1. Gorillaz, “Strange Timez”
2. Billie Joe Armstrong, “Kids in America”
3. Throwing Muses, “Dark Blue”
4. Hayley Williams, “Roses/Lotus/Violet/Iris”
5. Glass Animals, “Your Love (Déjà Vu)”
6. Phantogram, “Ceremony”
7. Doves, “Universal Want””
8. Deserta, “Save Me”
9. EoB, “Olympik”

SIDE F
1. Gerogia, “About Work the Dancefloor”
2. K-DA, “The Baddest”
3. I DONT KNOW HOW BUT THEY FOUND ME, “Leave Me Alone”
4. Holy Fuck, “Luxe”
5. The Naked and Famous, “Recover”
6. Future Islands, “For Sure”
7. Michael Penn, “A Revival”
8. Kestrels, “Don’t Dream”
9. Soccer Mommy, “Yellow Is the Color of Her Eyes”
10. Supercrush, “Be Kind to Me”
11. Wire, “Cactused”

SIDE G
1. I DONT KNOW HOW BUT THEY FOUND ME, “Nobody Likes the Opening Band”
2. Secret Machines, “Everything’s Under”
3. Gorillaz, “Aries”
4. PVRIS, “Use Me”
5. Tunde Adebimpe, “People”
6. Semisonic, “Basement Tapes”
7. Destroyer, “Crimson Tide”
8. Pearl Jam, “Alright”
9. Annie, “The Streets Where I Belong”
10. Ty Segall, “Jump Into the Fire”
11. BRONSON, “Keep Moving”

SIDE H
1. Indigo Girls, “Look Long”
2. Khruangbin & Leon Bridges, “Texas Sun”
3. Hinds, “Spanish Bombs”
4. The Avalanches, “Running Red Lights”
5. Sault, “I Just Want to Dance”
6. Idles, “Mr. Motivator”
7. Bob Mould, “Next Generation”
8. Stone Temple Pilots, “Perdida”
9. Phish, “Leaves”
10. Jónsi & Elizabeth Fraser, “Cannibal”
11. Death Cab for Cutie, “Fall On Me”

***

See ya on the flip side, y’all.

End of Year Review IV

Whew! It’s another long one, as September had quite a few great records that dropped, some of which I had to skip due to space. This was definitely not your typical fourth quarter, as we weren’t inundated with thousands of new releases looking for a quick cash-in or a spin on the charts. In any other year, I’m sure the sales departments would be tearing out their hair because of this, but instead, we’re all running with what we’ve got, and in the process we’re getting some solid records out of it.

Throwing Muses, Sun Racket, released 4 September. I always love when Kristin Hersh releases a Muses record, because it’s always guaranteed to be weird and noisy fun!

Doves, The Universal Want, released 11 September. Another 90s fan and critic favorite returns with a surprise record that just blasts so many other 2020 records out of the park. This album contains the same power and drive of their previous albums, and it was well worth the wait. It’s one of my favorites of the year.

Sault, Untitled (Rise), released 18 September. The second of two Sault albums dropping this year, this one is slightly shorter and features more pop and radio-friendly tunes.

Semisonic, You’re Not Alone EP, released 18 September. Yet another great surprise return! This is a super fun EP full of catchy melodies.

Bob Mould, Blue Hearts, released 25 September. After several loud-but-introspective records from Mould, he lets out all his anger and frustration over the current administration and the pathetic situation it’s gotten us into. A powerful record and one of his best.

Prince, Sign o’ the Times (Super Deluxe Edition), released 25 September. If there’s one record I’ve been waiting for all year, it’s this one. If you thought the original 1987 record was amazing, this one provides so much more that went into making it, including tracks from the aborted Camille, Crystal Ball and Dream Factory projects, plus a complete live show.

IDLES, Ultra Mono, released 25 September. A fantastic third album from this Bristol band, one that’s no less aggressive than their previous but also inserts some surprisingly heartfelt melodies and lyrics as well. “Grounds” is in my top ten of the year, not to mention my Top Song To Crank Up Insanely Loud.

Annie, Dark Hearts, released 16 October. A lovely and dreamy record produced by Stefan Storm of The Sound of Arrows, and one that’s been playing during my writing sessions for the new projects. I definitely need to check out her back catalogue!

Bruce Springsteen, Letter to You, released 23 October. Some of Bruce’s best songs are when he’s in an introspective mood, and this year has been a perfect time for that. This record kind of reminds me of Tunnel of Love, in that it’s got some great radio-friendly tunes but also some dark and ponderous songs as well.

Michael Penn, “A Revival” single, released 28 October. We haven’t heard any new music from Penn in years, so this surprise release hits just that much harder. Extra points for being quite possibly the only rock musician to use the word “commonweal”!

K-DA, All Out EP, released 6 November. I’m finding myself drawn more and more to k-pop and this kind of genre, especially when it’s produced to sound absolutely effing amazing in headphones and speakers. This project could easily be so throwaway, yet the songwriters behind it all keep pushing out such fun sounds!

The Avalanches, We Will Always Love You, released 11 December. This quirky group releases yet another stellar record packed with cameos, guests and unexpected samples, and it’s all sorts of fun.

Paul McCartney, McCartney III, released 18 December. Like 1970’s original and 1980’s II, this is a solo record in the truest sense of the word, done on his own during the pandemic (or “recorded in rockdown”, as the teaser says…). It’s Macca doing what he loves best, experimenting with sounds and soundscapes.

*

Thanks for sticking around! We’ll have one more post on Thursday, this one being my end-of-year lists and mixtape track listing!

End of Year Review III

By the middle of the year I was starting to get a little antsy. I’d stopped writing sometime in April on purpose, because I needed to clear my head. Apparently that took a bit longer than usual, as there was a lot in there that needed purging and clearing out. I was lucky enough to be able to a) throw out a lot of preconceptions about my life and my writing that were hindering me, and b) take my time finding out what does work for me. I kept myself busy by figuring out who I was and what I wanted to do from here on in. By the end of the third quarter, I’d rebuilt my whiteboard schedule and started writing again.

The Beths, Jump Rope Gazers, released 10 July. I seem to be drawn to bands from Down Under lately, and this band provided me with a really fun jangly pop record for prime summer listening. They reminded me a lot of the Boston bands I used to listen to in the 90s (and Letters to Cleo in particular).

Taylor Swift, folklore, released 24 July. This was not only a surprise release, it was a surprisingly excellent release that captured the attention of new fans, old fans, and critics alike. It’s some of her best work to date.

The Naked and Famous, Recover, released 24 July. Like many other records released this year, this is more reserved and introspective than their earlier work. The electronics, which are usually a major part of their sound, are pulled far back this time, bringing the inner soul of the songs to the fore.

Fontaines DC, A Hero’s Death, released 31 July. On the other hand, some bands chose to strip away pretense and soft edge and just come out with guns blazing. FDC’s newest is louder, angrier, and a much needed kick in the ass.

Paul McCartney, Flaming Pie (Archive Collection), released 31 July. Sir Macca’s been busy this year! First off is a lovely remaster/expansion of this great album from 1997 that’s equal parts embracing his Beatle past and holding tight to his relationship with Linda.

The Psychedelic Furs, Made of Rain, released 31 July. Their first studio record since 1991 (!!) has a rich, full sound similar to their Book of Days and World Outside records and it’s a welcome return to form.

BRONSON, BRONSON, released 7 August. This one’s on my top ten of the year list! It’s got that laid back electro groove I love (similar to Haelos and Bob Moses) that hits all the right spots. It’s also on my writing session playlist, perfect for my latest projects!

Secret Machines, Awake in the Brain Chamber, released 21 August. I do of course also love the sound of a loud reverb wash just pouring over me, and SM returns with another epic record that just soars everywhere. Another on my writing session playlist!

K/DA, “The Baddest” single, released 27 August. Again: I don’t play League of Legends, nor do I have the time or the brainspace do to so, but damn if their original music doesn’t kick my ass! I loved “Pop/Stars” from a few years back, so I’m thrilled that (G)I-DLE and co. decided to expand on this idea and release a new song, with an EP soon after!

Bob Moses, Desire EP, released 28 August. I do so love the cinematic quality this band projects, which means that they’re always showing up whenever I’m doing some heavy writing work. Give this one a listen with some good earphones and you’ll see why I love them so much.

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Coming up: a return to writing and a final wave of great music!

End of Year Review II

April started with me spending some long overdue time off from any Day Job stress. My last day there had been uneventful and after I logged off, I purged every file and email I’d saved for the last several years, unplugged the laptop, and boxed it up. It was out and dropped off at the post office the next day. If I was going to embrace this freedom, I was going to do it right and with a clean slate.

I did keep my hours, though. I woke up at 6am, showered first and made the morning coffee. I kept busy by house cleaning, doing errands and catching up on long-delayed projects that I wanted to finish (or at least get caught up on). I didn’t start writing again, however. That was another stress purge and process rethink that would take just a little bit longer. But I’d return to it eventually.

And of course I did a lot of listening.

Phish, Sigma Oasis, released 3 April. One of the first rescheduled releases during the early part of the pandemic — the band felt it would benefit their fans to hear new recordings in lieu of a delayed or cancelled tour. It’s one of their most enjoyable and consistently tight records in recent memory.

Local H, Lifers, released 10 April. This band has only gotten better with age. It’s not nearly as angry as 2015’s Hey Killer but it’s just as hard and rocking. Check out the amazing album closer “Innocents”, a rerecording of their 2018 single and produced by king of loud, Steve Albini.

EoB, Earth, released 17 April. Radiohead guitarist Ed O’Brien’s first solo album surprised me as much as it delighted me; I’d expected at least some musical similarity to his main band (there is — it sounds a lot like Hail to the Thief in some spots), but I hadn’t expected him to lean so much on the semi-electronic ambient beats. The result sounds just a little bit like U2’s Zooropa but that’s meant as a compliment, as it’s a pleasure to listen to and get lost in.

Hayley Williams, Petals for Armor, released 8 May. The lead singer of Paramore’s first solo album might be a slightly quieter affair than her band’s hard-edged sound, but the songs are no less powerful. She’s traded volume for tension here and it works brilliantly.

Nation of Language, Introduction, Presence, released 22 May. Taking a page from 80s college rock with its soupy reverb and synth melodies (and thus screaming out this is totally something J would listen to…), it’s a wonderful album worth checking out and getting lost in. Also worth a listen is their recent standalone single, a cover of Pixies’ “Gouge Away”.

Indigo Girls, Look Long, released 22 May. I’ve long been a fan of this duo, and this particular album has to be one of my favorites of theirs. It sounds a bit like their early to mid 90s heyday (circa Swamp Ophelia, mostly) and updated to current sounds and events. It’s just as strong as their classic ’89 self-titled record and definitely one of my favorite releases of the year.

Hinds, The Prettiest Curse, released 5 June. An enjoyable super catchy indie rock record from a foursome from Madrid, Spain, they got some heavy rotation on KEXP during the summer. Also check out their really fun cover of The Clash’s “Spanish Bombs”, which they released later in the year!

GoGo Penguin, GoGo Penguin, released 12 June. One of my favorite finds over the last couple of years, this jazz trio melds alt.rock grooves and techno beats into something altogether different and it sounds glorious.

Wire, 10:20, released 19 June. These guys surprise-dropped an additional album for 2020, this one featuring outtakes from their previous recent releases as well as rerecordings of classic tracks. “Over Theirs” in particular sounds even more menacing than the original.

Phoebe Bridgers, Punisher, released 19 June. She’s been showing up all over the place with other singers lately — with Conor Oberst in Better Oblivion Community Center, as well as with Lucy Dacus and Julien Baker in boygenius — and she’s even recently dropped an additional EP tied in with this release.

Sault, Untitled (Black Is), released 19 June. This curious band is now four albums deep and still nobody really knows who they are, but their records are just fabulous. They’ll swing from experimental to trip-hoppy to soul and pop and back again, never quite staying in one place. One of my favorite finds of the last couple of years!

Hum, Inlet, released 23 June. One of many unexpected and wholly welcome returns to bands after an extremely long hiatus for this year, this 90s favorite vanished sometime around 2000 but resurfaced occasionally for touring purposes until they slowly built up this new release over the course of a few years.

HAIM, Women in Music Pt III, released 26 June. This trio continues with their catchy-as-hell countrified SoCal rock and it’s one of their best. They’ve expanded their sound with a harder edge and even more adventurous production.

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More to come!