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Showing posts from October, 2008

Born to Run

Music has crept into the 2008 election in interesting ways, with some curious song choices at John McCain rallies (I heard one report of Danger Zone being played; I think maybe it was chosen because it's from Top Gun, which features a character called Maverick, but if you're suggesting to your supporters that you'll take them "right into the danger zone" I don't think that's a message you want to convey). I don't know about Kenny Loggins, but many artists have taken exception to their songs at being used at McCain/Palin rallies, feeling that it indicates some level of endorsement.

Barack Obama has unabashed love from many artists, including the Beastie Boys, Jay-Z, and Bruce Springsteen, all of whom are doing concerts in his honor. On one hand the notion is laughable, as evidenced by this Onion article. But I can't blame the artists for doing these benefits. Everyone wants to feel like they're contributing.
That's why I feel I need to say so…

Rock Bottom: Elton John

The one constant in every established artist's oeuvre is the bad album, the one that's reviled by both fans and critics. Those unlovable albums are the ones this feature, Rock Bottom, is concerned with.

Here's how it works: I've consulted two main sources, the AllMusic Guide (for the critical point-of-view) and Amazon.com (for the fan perspective*). The album with the lowest combined rating from both sources is the one I'll consider the worst. I may not always agree with the choice, and my reviews will reflect that. I'll also offer a considered alternative.Finally, there are some limits. The following types of albums don't count: 1) b-sides or remix compilations, 2) live albums, 3) albums recorded when the band was missing a vital member, and 4) forays into a different genres (i.e. classical).

*A note about Amazon.com. I consider this the fan perspective, because most people who choose to review albums on this site are adoring fans of the artist in question.…

Rock Bottom: XTC

The one constant in every established artist's oeuvre is the bad album, the one that's reviled by both fans and critics. Those unlovable albums are the ones this feature, Rock Bottom, is concerned with.

Here's how it works: I've consulted two main sources, the AllMusic Guide (for the critical point-of-view) and Amazon.com (for the fan perspective*). The album with the lowest combined rating from both sources is the one I'll consider the worst. I may not always agree with the choice, and my reviews will reflect that. I'll also offer a considered alternative.Finally, there are some limits. The following types of albums don't count: 1) b-sides or remix compilations, 2) live albums, 3) albums recorded when the band was missing a vital member, and 4) forays into a different genres (i.e. classical).

*A note about Amazon.com. I consider this the fan perspective, because most people who choose to review albums on this site are adoring fans of the artist in question. …

193. Ben Folds: Way to Normal (2008)

All hail the King of the Break-Up Song.

Many have vied for the throne, but all are pretenders when compared to Ben Folds. On his 1995 debut, Alice Childress and The Last Polka worked their regretful way into our hearts. 1996's Whatever and Ever Amen stepped it up a notch, with Fair, Selfless, Cold, and Composed, Smoke, Evaporated, and Song for the Dumped each addressing broken relationships in their own unique ways. 1999's The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner gave us the grandeur of Mess and Don't Change Your Plans. Folds only gave us Gone on his first solo effort, Rockin' the Suburbs, instead focusing on character pieces and love songs. He came back with a vengeance on 2005's Songs for Silverman: Landed, Give Judy My Notice, Trusted, You To Thank, and Time all explored the fineries of romantic failure.

Anyone can write a lot of songs on the same subject, but Folds' genius is a gift for devastating detail that makes you feel like he has lived every mome…

Rock Bottom: James Taylor

The one constant in every established artist's oeuvre is the bad album, the one that's reviled by both fans and critics. Those unlovable albums are the ones this feature, Rock Bottom, is concerned with.

Here's how it works: I've consulted three sources, the AllMusic Guide and Rolling Stone (for the critical point-of-view) and Amazon.com (for the fan perspective*). The album with the lowest combined rating from both sources is the one I'll consider the worst. I may not always agree with the choice, and my reviews will reflect that. I'll also offer a considered alternative.Finally, there are some limits. The following types of albums don't count: 1) b-sides or remix compilations, 2) live albums, 3) albums recorded when the band was missing a vital member, and 4) forays into a different genres (i.e. classical).

*A note about Amazon.com. I consider this the fan perspective, because most people who choose to review albums on this site are adoring fans of the artis…

Boys' Rock

The fall is already treating us really well, with these three releases making especially strong showings on my various music conveyance devices. All are surprising in their own unique ways.

189. Elbow: The Seldom-Seen Kid (2008)

It only took 18 years, but Elbow finally got my attention with this amazing album. The sound is big and majestic; the lyrics are up-close and personal. Singer Guy Garvey has a rough, accented voice that contrasts well with his band's polished sound, and the album is expertly sequenced.

Personal favorites include a lovely, swooning ballad called Mirrorball, the oblique and swampy Grounds For Divorce, and the joyous love song One Day Like This.

No offense to Coldplay, but this is what the meandering Viva La Vida should have sounded like. It's bound to be on a lot of best-of-the-year lists, if that kind of thing matters to you. Grade: A Fave Song:Mirrorball


190. The Broken West: Now or Heaven (2008)

ARTISTIC LEAPS are always tricky. Go too far and you risk alie…