“Luciferian Towers” (2017) by Godspeed You! Black Emperor

Categories: 2017 and Music.

I think it’s easy to listen to GY!BE and think that all their albums sound (somewhat) the same. I get that at some level. (I think it’s wrong, but I get it.) Rise and fall, rise and fall, rise and fall. The pattern of their compositions is certainly familiar even if the music within them is less repetitive that it might seem. Read More

Mogwai Young Team (1997)

Categories: 1997 and Music.

By 1997, post rock had existed for some time but I think you could make a compelling case that the sounds we most associate with post rock were still not that common within this horribly named genre, which is really a bunch of different genres. The grandeur and epic scale of much post rock was a new thing and most of the music called post rock before 1997 we might not even recognize as post rock now. 1997 feels like a watershed year in post rock, with the debuts of many of the great post rock bands coming in that Read More

Joya (1997) by Will Oldham

Categories: 1997 and Music.

Though I have heard far from all – not even half – of Will Olham’s music, I think it’s safe to say that Oldham is one of my favourite songwriters to debut in the 1990s. He may be my favourite. Something about his lyrics connect we me, even though I don’t always recognize his situations, beliefs and emotions. Like with some of my other favourite songwriters, I feel like I am listening to his soul, like I’m getting through the layer of artifice that most people put up around themselves. Read More

Around the Fur (1997) by Deftones

Categories: 1997 and Music.

Whenever I first heard the Deftones, I thought they were Nu Metal. I thought that because a) they were definitely marketed as part of that moment in time by the music video channels and b) I wasn’t one who was going to discern – it was all noise to me. Later on, I read some admiring reviews of this band (not this album though) I heard the term “alternative metal” thrown around. I’d become a fan of alternative metal in the interim. I figured I should check them out. Read More

So Much for the Afterglow (1997) by Everclear

Categories: 1997 and Music.

I don’t know this band save for “Wonderful” so I cannot tell you whether the Beach Boys-esque opening to the title track is a giant left turn or not. If it is, that’s brave of them. But, for those of us who do not know this band, it’s the wrong note to start the album. It tells us we’re getting one thing, and we get something else. Read More

Robbie Robertson (1987)

Categories: 1987 and Music.

When I was growing up my dad had a Robbie Robertson album, I don’t remember which one. When I discovered the Band, I had a hard time reconciling the memories I had of his solo music with The Band’s music – they seem to have been made by two totally different people, or at least by musicians with very, very different ideas of aesthetics. Read More

The 10 Best Neil Young Songs of All Time

Categories: Music.

See the Top 50 Neil Young Songs | Or, to read the introduction to this list, see the Top 100 Neil Young Songs I agonized over this Top 10 list of the Greatest Neil Young Songs. Every one of these songs would likely be in my Top 15 or Top 25 if I did it again in a few weeks, but there are definitely some songs in the Top 50 that I feel like I should have included in this list. Alas, there are only 10 spots. I apologize for the huge bias to basically one decade. This is my Read More

The Top 50 Neil Young Songs of All Time

Categories: Music.

This list of the Top 50 Neil Young Songs has been narrowed down from the hundreds of songs he wrote over time. I had a really hard time making it and many songs in the “Honourable Mentions” section of my Top 100 could have easily been on here instead. That Top 100 was a bit of a cop out, but this part of the list is truly ranked. So I hope you enjoy the Top 50 Neil Young Songs of All Time   50. “Running Dry” from Everybody Knows This is Nowhere (1969) An appeal to his new band to Read More

Neil Young’s 100 Best Songs

Categories: Music.

I attended a live recording of Slate’s Culture Gabfest recently in which Carl Wilson argued we are waiting too long to celebrate our greats once they’re dead, we should celebrate them while they’re still alive. Hence, this celebration of Neil Young. Bob Dylan is the Greatest (English language) Songwriter of All Time, changing the way people wrote lyrics in a way that nobody could ever do again. But of all the post-Dylan songwriters, you could argue Neil Young has created the greatest body of work: he has written more songs than just about anyone of his generation (save Dylan) and Read More

The Velvet Rope (1997) by Janet Jackson

Categories: 1997 and Music.

I had a very, very fixed idea of Janet Jackson before listening to that record. It was an idea essentially created by music videos (Janet Jackson is attractive) and the odd accidental radio exposure, but also created by the music industrial complex, which has generally marketed female performers in a particular way for quite a long time. This idea was complete wrong, in addition to being completely unfair. I am glad I listened to this record, because Janet Jackson is so much more than what I thought she was. Read More

Faith (1987) by George Michael

Categories: 1987 and Music.

I have never had any desire to listen to George Michael. Nothing about his music has ever really struck me. I find myself listening to this record only because of my podcast. It’s a weird combination of cheese and kitsch with earnestness and bravado. As someone who has only recently started (seriously) listening to music like this in the last couple of years, I am not quite sure what to do with it. Michael has a real knack for melody and I’d say that nearly every one of the melodies here is quite strong. The lyrics are a little less Read More

1999 (1982) by Prince

Categories: 1982 and Music.

Listening to this record immediately after Marvin Gaye’s Midnight Love is instructive: Prince shows how cutting edge musical technology can be used without permanently dating a record. Hint: it helps if you write good songs and it helps if you’re idiosyncratic. Prince has written a bunch of really catchy songs – even the songs he jams are really catchy. I can’t say I love Prince’s lyrics (I’m not sure I’ve heard a Prince so where I liked every word) but his songs are co catchy, his arrangements so interesting, his performances so great, that it really doesn’t matter. There’s the Read More

Midnight Love (1982) by Marvin Gaye

Categories: 1982 and Music.

I don’t know Marvin Gaye at all, beyond his most famous singles. I guess his Motown stuff is just too slick for me, so I never bothered. I still mean to listen to What’s Going On at some point but I just haven’t gotten there. I don’t know much about his personal life, either, beyond what I’ve read on Wikipedia. Read More

Lionel Richie (1982)

Categories: 1982 and Music.

I do not like Lionel Richie’s aesthetic: he is slick and sappy at the same time. That is a recipe for disaster, in my eyes (ears). But Richie has a rather incredible knack for melody. These songs are catchy, but it’s not just that. Some of his melodies for the ballads are super compelling, they almost win me over, despite the fact that I hate basically everything else about the songs. I’m pretty impressed in spite of myself. Now, if only the rest of the record were good. Read More

Kissing to be Clever (1982) by Culture Club

Categories: 1982 and Music.

I am a real completist. Even though I have been working hard against the impulse as an adult, more often than not the impulse wins out. So, for my podcast, I find myself listening to music I never would have bothered with, because it’s the anniversary of a particular record. Most of the time, my preconceptions get in the way but, occasionally, the music overwhelms my preconceptions. Read More

Street Survivors (1977) by Lynyrd Skynyrd

Categories: 1977 and Music.

This album is perhaps most famous for its unfortunate album cover, showing the band (nearly) engulfed in flames. Three days after this album was released, 2/7ths of Lynyrd Skynyrd and four other people, including one of their backing vocalists. The album then became their most successful, as is often the case with these things, but the band broke up due to the plane crash. (Obviously, they have reformed since.) Read More

Like a Mother Fucker (1977) by Heartbreakers

Categories: 1977 and Music.

Aka L.A.M.F. and these Heartbreakers are not to be confused by Tom Petty’s band of the same name. Recorded in the UK, this record still sounds extremely “New York.” In fact, the central feature of this record and the thing that I struggle with while listening to it is its huge resemblance to the New York Dolls. Basically, on this record, the Heartbreakers sound to me like The New York Dolls minus the camp. I’m not sure that’s a good thing. Read More

Talking Book (1972) by Stevie Wonder

Categories: 1972 and Music.

Of all R&B artists, I have been familiar with Stevie Wonder about as long as any, because Wonder was acceptable to the Oldies station I grew up with to a much greater extent than most of his contemporaries. (There was Motown of course – just the hits! – and a few Ray Charles hits, but nothing else from the ’70s beyond Stevie Wonder.) Read More

I’m Still in Love With You (1972) by Al Green

Categories: 1972 and Music.

The first time I heard an Al Green record, I must say I was disappointed. I had heard so much about his music over the years that I guess I was bound to be disappointed. In addition to the hype, I think I was probably disappointed by the lack of variation in the record. I know that’s typical of the genre but when you’ve brought yourself up on bands that genre-hop, sometimes it’s hard to get into single-genre stuff. Read More

Pleasures of the Harbor (1967) by Phil Ochs

Categories: 1967 and Music.

I have a heard a lot about Phil Ochs as a songwriter and he has been recommended to me both by the critics I used to read and by friends of mine. Yet I have still managed to barely hear any of his songs, and usually only covers. Like so many other artists, his music just feel between the cracks of my listening habits. Read More

One Nation Underground (1967) by Pearls Before Swine

Categories: 1967 and Music.

There is a school of thought about how music evolved before the internet that believes that music needs urbanization to really develop. This school of thought views music as evolving in scenes in specific major cities. The internet has made this no longer necessary as now anyone can communicate with anyone else and even create music without ever meeting each other. But I’m not sure the view was ever entirely correct as, at the height of the psychedelic era, there was a psychedelic scene in Texas (and likely other ones I have never heard of) and there was this band Read More

Chelsea Girl (1967) by Nico

Categories: 1967 and Music.

The first time I heard the Velvets’ early singles, with Nico on them, I didn’t like her voice. And for quite some time after, I don’t think I did. I’m pretty sure that, for a long time, I regarded her presence on that first album as some kind of weird aberration, forced upon them by Warhol, and completely at odds with what they were doing. (I’m not sure that’s true,I think that’s just how I felt.) Read More