2016 Albums

My Favorite Records of 2016

I’m sitting and listening to the thudding bass and wailing vocals which kick off the new Childish Gambino record, “Awaken, My Love!”, as I consider the yearly slog through the exercise of ranking albums. This album certainly makes a strong case and, being freshly released in December, it has a decided edge over a few great releases that might’ve slipped off the immediate radar. But that’s what we’re attempting to assess, isn’t it? The question isn’t, “What albums did you like?” The question is, “What albums are truly noteworthy?” This album, with its unabashed references to Funkadelic and Prince might well belong on that sort of list. I’ll let it spin and see if it comes back around as we talk.

I’ve harped on giving up this year-end thing so many times that I’m bored with the standard excuses about feeling compelled by the quality of the material or wanting to offer a rebuttal to other lists. I’m not going to lie, I like to look back and see what has landed in my collection and heart. I do not like ranking items. How can I compare a cultural cornerstone artist to an up-and-coming musician with only a couple albums in her catalog? It’s patently ridiculous. So don’t look for rankings here. No bullet points or whatever, either. Consider that method off limits and don’t try to interpret the sequence of my narrative as an order of preference.

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Albums of 2015

Every year someone writes that the year passed and nothing grabbed them and it’s therefore a shit year for new music and let’s get on with next year. Immediately afterwards, someone else assembles a lengthy click-bait piece listing the fifty albums that some person with too much time on their hands could not be without. This plays out in an unrelenting back and forth beginning in November and ending sometime mid-February. The ongoing hash and rehash of the album of the year list nonsense has moved me to swear off such lists. Yet, here we are.

I know I said I wouldn’t do this again but I can’t let this year escape without some sort of survey of my favorites. In my utterly vain opinion, the things that I love are so worthy of your love that I feel obligated to shout about them into the Interweb nothingness in hopes that just one of you will hear my message and find, herein, at least one new thing or perhaps an old thing worthy of reappraisal. I will eschew the bulleted list format in favor of dense blocks of text because that will spare those of you who probably haven’t even read this far the burden of my opinion. I will also not rank anything. The albums mentioned below are all my favorites from this year though they may not, in fact, be all of my favorites. Continue reading

Rediscovering Oar

Chatting with a friend the other day, we stumbled onto the topic of ‘legendary’ or ‘landmark’ records. We made little distinction between those two labels and that of ‘infamous’ but a few titles tumbled out onto the table. “Pet Sounds” was one of the first and, when my friend noted that he hadn’t dug it for years after first listening until he learned more about its genesis, I expressed a bit of shock and countered with a confession of my own.

“A classic album stands up on its own whether you know its history or even like the music. Hell, you couldn’t have gotten me to like My Bloody Valentine’s “Loveless” back in the 90’s but I could tell that they were doing something powerful on there.”

(That’s true. In the mid-nineties, while I was expanding my musical vocabulary with older music across the boards of rock, pop, jazz, and folk, I neglected much of the contemporary material. I’ve been working to rectify this over the past ten years.)

As our discussion progressed, he asked me about Alexander ‘Skip’ Spence’s acclaimed solo record, “Oar”. Was it really a masterpiece as he’d often heard? Who was Skip Spence, anyway? Continue reading

Wilco – Wilco

Wilco (The Album)

With the release of their seventh studio album, Wilco has found an equilibrium between the various directions of its past releases. Having cast aside abstract experimentation in favor of more succinct melody and songwriting on their previous album, Sky Blue Sky, they, in some eyes, over simplified.  Now, they have rebounded with mature soundscapes, smart lyrics, lush melodies and more. No longer the alt-country kids who discovered synthesizers or the rock band that set aside their synthesizers for the sake of simply jamming, Wilco is a band that has found itself amongst all of these identities and embraced them for the better. This is Wilco (the album.)

Wilco by Crystal DiPietro

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