Top 5 Albums of 2017

Late last year, I consciously made the decision to not write a “top 5 albums” list until I had heard all the album I wanted to hear.  With the Jen Cloher album, I have finally accomplished that (Top Five 2017 Remnants forthcoming).  Anyway, these were the five albums I enjoyed the most that had a 2017 release date.


5.  Roger Waters:  Is This the Life We Really Want?

Just WOW! Leave it to the former Pink Floyd member to write an album completely relevant to our current world.  “Picture a leader with no fucking brains” indeed.

4.  Father John Misty:  Pure Comedy

A truly original and weird album.  Bonus points for having Macaulay Culkin play “Kurt Cobain” in the screed against virtual reality.

3.  Run the Jewels:  Run the Jewels 3

Though Killer Mike has since said some stupid things, I gotta give it to RTJ for bringing their “A” game for the third consecutive time.  Plus, the inevitable return of de la Rocha on the mike…

2.  Mount Eerie:  A Crow Looked at Me

Musician Phil Everlum unexpectedly lost his wife to cancer in mid-2016 and he took his grief to an incredibly beautiful place.  He recorded his next album, detailing his experiences raising their child, in the their room with her musical instruments.  It’s a deeply personal album with astoundingly resonant results.

  1. The Mountain Goats:  Goths

There’s a reason John Darnielle has taken The Mountain Goats from him recording on a boombox to a full band touring experience.  The reason is because he is amazingly effective at telling stories.  Goths is a love letter to his youth, when he listened to heavy metal, not because he was depressed but because it made him feel better.

Let me just say…there’s a reason there’s a podcast called I Only Listen to The Mountain Goats


Boxer Jack Johnson pardoned


Jack Johnson was born in the 1870s, the son of former slaves, and was a boxer at the beginning of the 1900s who was formidable in the ring in an era when few African-Americans competed in the sport.  He flaunted his wealth and his affinity toward dating Caucasian women, leading him to become a reviled figure in the Jim Crow era.

His 1910 bout with “the great white hope” Jim Jeffries was billed as “The Fight of the Century”.  However, in 1912 he was arrested and convicted for driving his Caucasian girlfriend across state lines, effectively ending his career.  He eventually spent a year in prison for his “crime”.

He died in a car crash in 1968.  His story was told in a 1970 movie, “The Great White Hope” starring James Earl Jones, based upon a play which had won the Tony Award in 1969.


“They Say I’m Different”

I was reading an article in the NY Times while I was heating up my lunch at work…and it was about a documentary regarding the life of Betty Davis…

No, not Bette Davis, the actress who had the feud with Joan Crawford…Betty Davis, the former wife of Miles Davis.

She was a jazz/funk artist in the 1970s who’s material was sometimes to risque to be played on radio.

They say I’m different is currently making the festival circuit, including a screening and Q&A tonight in New York.

To:  Nikki Minaj, Cupcakke, Lil’ Kim (?) etc…you owe it to Betty Davis and to yourselves to cover some of her tunes.  Get her work out there into the public consciousness.

Song Review: Amanda Palmer & Jasmine Power – “Mr. Weinstein Will See You Now”

(EDIT: 5/23/18.  Added youtube link to the song)

Amanda Palmer recently announced to her supporters the impending release of a new track, tackling the #MeToo movement, more specifically the tribulations of the women who have accused Harvey Weinstein of sexual misconduct relating to propositioning women for sex in exchange for roles in films produced by his company, Miramax.

Jasmine Power is a Welsh songwriter who had met AFP the day before at a house party.  They decided to head to the studio to write a song together, not really having plans to tackle such heady subject matter.  Still, the result is a track reminiscent of the sort of track which would be played in a movie about a woman standing up for herself against a culture that wants to devalue her.

“Mr. Weinstein Will See You Now” tells the story of a woman who has been summoned up to a hotel room, not knowing that her steps will lead to a sexual encounter.  The antagonist has no remorse as he sends the woman off back into the hallway after she refuses to give in to his demands, even though it means her script will not be read by a powerful producer.

Amanda, who pays the part of the male aggressor, says near the end of the song “this never happened” to which Jasmine replies “I’m the one writing this”.  In other words, “your words have no power over me.  Word will get out regarding what you did”.  Therein lies the power behind the song.

In referencing timely subject matter, AFP and Jasmine Power tap into a movement that wasn’t necessarily theirs to be had.  Still, they had the lyrics approved by Rose McGowan, one of Mr. Weinstein’s accusers.  The result is a track that would sound at home on a movie soundtrack, but attention may help to bolster the stories of the more than 50 women who have brought down one of the most successful men in recent cinema.

It was 20 Years Ago Today…May 1998

Garbage:  Version 2.0

Version 2.0, the second album from Garbage, was released May 11, 1998.  It expanded on the sound of their first album, with lead singer Shirley Manson pushed her vocal performances to new places.

The album spawned four singles and eventually achieved platinum status in the United States, and was even nominated for album of the year at the Grammys.

“I Think I’m Paranoid” is one of those tracks which show off Shirley Manson’s vocal performance.  The song is written from such a viewpoint that it is unclear whether it’s about a person who is interested in her or whether it’s about drug use.  Personally, I think it’s about trying to cope with the demands of stardom.

“When I Grow Up” is track 3 on the album, but the last of 4 singles to be released.  Lyrically, the song seems to be about sexual experimentation, but thematically, it is probably more closely aligned with being mature enough to tell people what you want and not being afraid to voice that opinion…”damn the consequences”.  Again, not just about sexuality, but being a person who can make decisions for themselves.

“Special” was, to me, the most boring single from the album, but listening to it again gives me a new appreciation.  The song is rather straightforward, about the end of a relationship where the protagonist no longer has patience for somebody who cannot form an opinion of their own.  Plus the blatant allusion to Pretenders’ “Talk of the Town”…and getting the phrasing right on “couldn’t care less”…

The lead single from Version 2.0 was titled “Push It” and cleverly came in a single sleeve that looked like the “play” button of a computer.  It shows Shirley Manson coping with her new found levels of fame and feeling the need to push back against being overworked.  Sometimes that push back leads others to be hurt, and sometimes it takes you to new places.

Garbage has remained a fixture in alternative rock radio, but their popularity has waned since the days of Version 2.0.  Three years in a row, they released 10 inch singles on Record Store Day.  I picked up the excellent “Girls Talk” (f. Brody Dalle of The Distillers) and “Because the Night” (f. Screaming Females), a cover of a Patti Smith song.

Garbage are about to release a 20th anniversary expanded edition of Version 2.0, available here.

It was 20 Years Ago Today…April 1998

VAST:  Visual Audio Sensory Theater

Shoooot!  I forgot to write for April 1998.  VAST released their only album to receive widecritical attention on April 28, 1998.  It contained the refreshing blast called “Touched”.

The entire album was recorded using samples of monk chants, an 18 piece orchestra and electronic music.  “Touched” became popular largely because of the lyrics: “I’ll never love someone like you again/I’ll never love someone quite the way that I loved you”.

Several of the songs on this album, including the less lauded first single “Pretty when you cry”, were used in various episodes of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer spinoff Angel.

VAST continues to release material to this day.  The album Black Magic is scheduled for release in June/July 2018.  Available for preorder from the band here

Below is a video from their upcoming album.  I have not listend to it, but i intend to…




“This is America”

Childish Gambino’s (Donald Glover’s rap persona) new video for This is America, is a lot of things, but none of them are easy.

In the words of Stan from South Park…”Holy shit, dude”!