While 2019 didn’t give me as many new albums to get truly excited about as a normal year would, the silver lining is that there also wasn’t much that I truly hated, either. I’d say most of the stuff I listened to this year ranged from “promising but flawed” to “moderately disappointing”, with only a few albums standing out for eliciting overly negative emotional reactions from me. Notably, these are all releases from artists I’ve enjoyed in some capacity in the past – I don’t make these lists to pick on easy targets or styles of music that would have been outside my wheelhouse to begin with. Here are the few 2019 releases that I would wholeheartedly recommend avoiding at all costs (and where applicable, embedded audio/video for the rare songs from these albums that I actually did enjoy).Continue reading
Here are my first impressions of the latest from Bon Iver, Iron & Wine, Skillet, Sleater-Kinney, The Last Bison, Lights, Jeff Tweedy, Robert Randolph & the Family Band, and Tool.Continue reading
Here’s the stuff that just didn’t do it for me this year. With one or two exceptions, I don’t listen to these artists expecting their music to be bad… I’ve heard at least a little something I enjoyed from everyone on this list in the past. Some of them just got lazy this year, while others seem aggressively committed to being the most obnoxiously lowest-common-denominator version of themselves that they can be. Neither of those things will land you on the good side of my year-end list-making bonanza. Having said that, I’ve made a good faith effort to embed a song I kinda liked from each of these albums, just to show that these records aren’t all bad.
Here are my first impressions of the latest releases from Flint Eastwood, Jim James,and Skillet.
For the third and final entry in this long-winded look back at the music that mattered to me this year, I present the cream of the crop – the albums that provided me with the most satisfying listening experience from beginning to end, which is a much more difficult feat than simply hooking me with a catchy song or two, and arguably a feat many artists have given up on in the age of digital music that can just as easily be released for bite-sized consumption on a sporadic schedule, rather than thought through as a fully-formed artistic statement. These albums don’t have that much in common with one another, but taken all together, they represent the weird snowball of influences that make up my musical tastes these days, ranging from old favorites who have resurfaced after lying dormant for many years, to buzz-gathering indie artists who have begun to break out of the blogosphere and into some version of “the mainstream”, to those who have given up entirely on mainstream fame and are content to Kickstarter and Indiegogo their way into fans’ hearts with no traditional support structure whatsoever. It’s all a very weird mix, but it’s all quite delicious.
When going over my least favorite music of the year, I have to point out as always that there is far worse music out there than anything on this list – mostly by artists who turned me off so much with a single or two, or with obnoxious public personas, that I wouldn’t want to listen to an album of theirs to begin with. But these are all sub-par albums I managed to listen to all the way through at least twice, by artists that I’ve genuinely enjoyed in the past (with maybe one exception).
We’ve reached the midpoint of my personal hit list now – at some point in the 40’s is where we cross the threshold from the material bubbling just under the “5 star” barrier, to the material that I feel fully earned the highest marks in each glowing review that I wrote. The higher up we go, the more unbridled my joy in going back and revisiting the great music that the 2000’s had to offer.Continue reading