Thursday, December 29, 2016

Top 10 CDs of 2016 - #10 - #6



Finally, with just a couple days to spare, my Top 10 of 2016, Number 10 – 6.

For those landing here for the first time, not sure who I am or why you are reading this, I am just a singer/songwriter who loves music more than most love life. HERE is the Preamble I posted yesterday, go read that, so you can understand this next section.

EPs – since I do not include EPs in my Top 10 CDs of the year, I did want to mention a few artists who released EPs that would have probably made the list, had they added a few more incredible songs: The River Kittens, The Sleep Rubies, The Wild Reeds, and William Wild.


This spot is always the hardest for me because there are approximately 20 albums all fighting it out for the final position on the Top 10 list. This year an instrumental band won, despite my clear, and unapologetic, love for great singers. Like many I learned about Explosions in the Sky through the Friday Night Lights movie and subsequent TV show. As a collector of football movies, I was a fan of both and became a fan of the music. With the exception of my collection of jazz recordings, the only other instrumental CDs I own are all from Explosions in the Sky, and I own everything they’ve put out. Their music speaks to the closet looper in me. The kid that recorded his first full length on an old 4-track using anything he could get his hands on to add layers and textures to the recording. So, I had to show this incredible four piece some love. The Wilderness is everything you would expect from Explosions. What they have created is much more than a painting on a canvas. It is a movie with expansive soundscapes that open up the mind and beg it to create the visuals and emotions that accompany the soundtrack.


I forget when I first learned about Warpaint, but I’ve been following them for a while now. Their 2014 self-titled release was probably #11 for the year, just outside of my Top 10. What helped them crack the top 10 this year was clear and decisive growth. This album shows maturity of voice and confidence of direction. They are doing their thing, and I am pretty sure they give zero fucks if anyone has a problem with their direction. You can always tell when a great band is being controlled by the machine because they put out some bubble gum piece of shit album that sounds like they are trying to sell CDs to the cool kids at the junior high lunch table, not the kids sitting in the back of the cafeteria writing poetry and losing themselves in their doodles. While I acknowledge a recording is an opportunity to expand beyond what a band can do live, it shouldn’t cause the listener to question the voice of the artist. Although Head Up is a great example of a band pushing themselves, of pushing boundaries, you can tell they are the ones driving the car, and the roadtrip they are taking us reminds us why we love to be on the road.  




Every time I put a curveball on the list I feel like I need to spend some time explaining, and for those that follow my blog, my Facebook page, or my Twitter page this selection may seem like a curveball. Those that really know me know my music collection is pretty diverse. What you see me posting daily is usually what I listened to the night before as I was going to bed. My wife has some very definitive opinions on what sleepy-time music is, so I am usually posting things on the softer side. That doesn’t mean that that is all I am listening to. While this is my first Beyonce CD, I do have a pretty good collection of female R&B singers, lots of Erykah Badu, India Arie, Lauryn Hill, and Alicia Keys. To this point, Beyonce always seemed to be speaking to a younger generation, but as folks get older the gap diminishes. Lemonade is powerful. It speaks to the musician in me. It speaks to the lover of big voices and expertly placed runs. It speaks to the poet soul that loves a good story. Most importantly it speaks to the step-dad who wants to encourage his very independent little girl to continue to be strong and brave, to never take shit from a man because no one deserve that. In all honesty, this could have been my #1 of the year. It is that strong, but it just didn’t get the same amount of spins as some of the other CDs. As I am listening to it now, I am not sure why, probably because it is too powerful for sleepy-time music.


I was bouncing between videos on KEXP; I heard Elena Tonra’s voice and the atmospheric guitars, and I was hooked. I went to my friend iTunes and bought everything I could. I am pretty sure I listened to nothing but Daughter for the entire month of February. It is rare that an album released in January makes my Top 10 list. The CD has to maintain relevance for 12 months, as I am continually distracted by new releases, but Not to Disappear did not disappear (Yeah, I just did that; come on, you telling me you weren’t thinking it? Please). I’ve mentioned this in other Top 10s, but I love when a recording gives space to the instruments. It’s so easy to set the beat and let it carry the song, but when there is space and movement it gives life to the songs. Daughter does an excellent job of allowing things to breathe in this recording. In addition to Tonra’s distinctive voice and the energy of the recording, when you peel away the instrumentation the lyrics are incredible:



No Care

No one asks me for dances because I only know how to flail
I always hit like I'm drowning, dead arms around him
I'd rather stand still, hold tightly to the walls

No care, no care in the world
No care, no care in the world
I don't care, I don't care anymore
I don't care, I don't care

Love you in a panic because I prefer to sit on fences
Spit-kissing on my sickbed
I'm not searching for replacements
But we are like broken instruments
Twisted up and wheezing out the runnels
Sleepless folks watching light grow
Through their early morning windows

I don't care, I don't care anymore
I don't care, I don't care

Oh, I'm too drunk to fight, hurlings curses at your surface
Because I'm aware, because it hurts that I'm in love again
And you have kissed my neck so your arguments are insane
Fighting over the way something was said
Well, I'm still here like a cheap threat

No care, no care in the world
No care, no care in the world
I don't care, I don't care anymore
I don't care, I don't care

Oh, there has only been one time where we fucked
And I felt like a bad memory
Like my spine was a reminder of her
And you said that you felt sick
I was so heavy hearted, lying side-on with you afterwards
How I wanted you to promise we would only make
How I wanted you to promise we would only make
How I wanted you to promise we would only make love
But my mouth felt like I was choking, broken glass
So I just slept it off
You see, my mouth felt like it could talk the end of us
So I just slept it off, slept it off

No care, no care in the world
No care, no care
I don't care, I don't care anymore
I don't care, I don't care

Ah, I'm too drunk to fight
I only wanted you to promise me we would only ever make love
But my mouth felt like I was choking, broken glass
So I just slept it off
Wanted you to promise me we would only ever make
Wanted you to promise me we would only ever make love


It was September 2008, Hotel Café was coming to Blueberry Hill, and I was going to see Rachael Yamagata for the first time. She did not disappoint; I’ve seen her five times since, including a roadtrip to Indianapolis, and she never disappoints. She is prolific, a sought after collaborator that is equally powerful behind 88 keys, 6 strings, or a microphone stand. Had I been doing a Top 10 list in 2008, Elephant… Teeth Sinking into Heart, would probably have been #1. I wore that album out. Listening to Tightrope Walker, I am sad that I haven’t had a chance to listen to this more. It is Yamagata at her best. The instrumentation strikes a beautiful balance between luscious acoustic instruments (“I’m Going Back” has some of the best strings I have heard recorded) and driving electro-pop. Her songwriting is earnest and thoughtful, and her voice is the smoke cloud where dreams are born.


As to prevent the post from being TOO long, I will give you #5 - #1 tomorrow. 

Stay tuned!!!

1 comment:

  1. Looking forward to seeing who beat out Rachael!

    ReplyDelete