Wednesday, December 28, 2016

OH, and my unofficial favorite song of 2016 is... from 1974, but I just heard it this year. That's right, it's the Dead Robot Song by the Pickled Babies from Rifftrax Swamp of the Ravens! I know, kinda an obvious choice, but sometimes the hits are hits for a reason.

*whispers* this one's actually my favorite.



I'm glad those crazy kids are gonna "stick it out." I was worried, with the implied threat of robot death and all.

Favorite (non-hit) Songs of 2016 ~ get right with the silence

Before I dive in, I wanna touch on "good" lists vs "bad" lists. Why do I enjoy watching/making "bad" lists? Don't I love music and want it to be happy? Yes, and that's why I enjoy the catharsis of ripping bad songs a new one SO MUCH. Maybe it's the MSTie in me; it's almost a new art form to rip on something terrible and turn it into something entertaining. Actually yeah, I'm gonna call it an art form. If I or someone else can write about a bad song and make it funny, or rant so hard it feels like JUSTICE, then a service has been done. A negative has been turned into a positive, albeit a twisted one.

"Good" lists are harder to do. Unless you have a personal anecdote, deep analysis, or just wanna rave about the amazingness of a song, how many ways is there to say "It's really good!" Good lists about popular songs are almost irrelevant. I make them anyway, because I'm a completionist and I like to give credit where it's due. But while the point of bad lists is mainly to entertain, I'd say the point of good lists is to educate. It's less about being wordy and more about putting music people might not have heard out there, and letting it speak for itself. So that's pretty much what I'll be doing for these last two lists. Less talk, more rock. (Except for number one, of course. :))

So with no further ado, my favorite song of 2016 is ---

Back to Nebraska, by Letters to Cleo!

Okay, I once said that all my favorite songs are about heartbreak or cancer, and I swear to God I don't know why this keeps happening, but yeah. This one's about cancer. I'm sorry. But it's really, really good. Like, remember when popular country songs used to tell stories that made you feel things and cry and stuff? This isn't a country song, but it tells a story in the same simple, heartbreaking way. Kay Hanley lost her best friend to cancer, and this is about the time they spent together before the end, and the silence after she was gone. It feels real because it is real, and it's strangely... not depressing? I mean it's sad, but something about her voice is also life-affirming. Making art from grief is one of the highest human achievements, and when done well, it always resonates. I lost my dad to cancer, but I don't think you have to have experienced that to really feel this song.

Letters to Cleo is my favorite band, and I think this is the best song of their career. I know I said the only widespread good thing to happen in 2016 was the Cubs winning, but LTC reuniting is at the very top of my personal list. I don't know how many people care, or have heard this song - considering there's only one live youtube video and no lyrics to be found anywhere, I guess I'm pretty alone here. But fuck it, this is a beautiful song, my favorite band got back together without missing a damn beat after sixteen years, and I'm gonna celebrate. The best part is, this isn't about nostalgia. Their new music is just as good, and in this case better, than their old stuff.

Trust 2016 to make me turn to a song about death to feel better, but like all good sad songs, there's a note of melancholy hope. Life goes on. Get right with the silence.

The EP is on iTunes and Spotify, and WELL worth a listen/purchase. I love this song, and I think a lot of other people would too, if only they turned off the droning noise of the radio. https://play.spotify.com/album/57nSt25naMBHcFDhRZAIUG

2. Since You've Gone to Heaven - Brandy Clark
Is it 2016, or is it just me with all the death stuff? I don't know, but this song was my number one for most of the year, until Back to Nebraska came out. Any year that LTC didn't reunite... like the past 16... this would have been number one. I like melancholy songs if they pack a punch, and hoo boy, this is the Song of 2016 on multiple levels. The death of a patriarch... the death of a family... the death of a small town... hopefully not the death of America. Cause yeah, especially now, that note kinda hangs over the song, giving it another layer that might not have been intended. But even unpeeling that layer and separating the song from the year's events, it's still a damn good and heart-wrenching analogy. This is why country music exists, and Brandy Clark is one of its best, most incisive songwriters. Her voice is lovely and poignant too. "Since you've gone to heaven, the whole world's gone to hell." If that doesn't resonate, I don't know what will.

3. Astral Projection - Creeper
Best rock chorus of the year. Possibly many years. Melodic and catchy as hell.

Okay, those are the three that really stood out for me. The following can all be considered "honorable mentions." Some I like better than others, but I'm not numbering them. Rule is one song per artist/album, with a couple exceptions because I can. mnyah. I'll have a Best of 2016 Spotify playlist with all these + more up soon.

Hurtin' on the Bottle - Margo Price
Okay if I had to pick an unofficial #4, it's probably this. Cause damn, what a jolt of pure country goodness. Margo Price's voice should be bottled as holy water, it's that pure. I am not ashamed of that corny line, nope.

Knives of New Orleans - Eric Church
My favorite non-single from a great album. This album was "actually" released in November 2015, but who cares. Do you care? Good, cause I don't care.

Sweet By and By - Miranda Lambert
I hope some stuff on her new album is as pure and ear-pleasing as this gem from the Southern Family album.

Suzanne - Creeper
Another Creeper song, but this is from their upcoming LP, not The Stranger EP, so I'm counting it. "I wanna die holding hands." This band is pretty much exactly my aesthetic.

Good Right Here - Letters to Cleo
Yeah, same band, same EP, but it's not every year your favorite band gets back together after 16 years! I could put every song on the EP here, it's that good, but this one is just a burst of pure sunshine. And we all need that sometimes.

California Kids - Weezer
Speaking of pure sunshine, picking just one song from the California-drenched White Album was tough. It's classic, catchy Weezer. In the end I went with this, cause it makes me happiest.

Los Angeles - Blink-182
And more Californianess! Yeah, this was my surprise album of the year. Just one melodic hook after another, but this harder-edged song is my favorite, and a new sound for Blink. Must be the Alkaline Trio influence. "Los Angeles, when will you save me?"

Forever Now - Green Day
And finishing up the "glorious return of the 90s bands," it's Green Day with one of my favorite songs they've ever done! "From the edge of the world" damn, this thing feels epic. And I'm probably the only person on earth to notice this, but the guitar part at the beginning sounds SO much like early REM.

Dark Necessities - Red Hot Chili Peppers
Another great song from a veteran band. This just felt like a classic the first time I heard it.

Roll Up - The Struts
The way he rolls those "r's" - pure JOY!

Aquasun - Basement
Not a 90s band, but a reasonable facsimile. Pure melodic post-grunge bliss right here. This was a good year for UK rock.

Babes Never Die - Honeyblood
A really good year for UK rock. This band is my latest discovery, and I'm hooked... on hooks. Cause the songs are really catchy ok I'm done.

Million Reasons - Lady Gaga
Theory: if this had been the first single released for her comeback instead of the meh "Perfect Illusion," it would have been huge. My favorite vocal performance of hers I've ever heard. Too bad it wasn't a hit, but really, this transcends hits. Especially considering the lifeless dreck that topped the chart almost all year long.

In Bloom - Sturgill Simpson
You know, I wanted to pick one of the original songs from Sailor's Guide, and I really do like "Brace for Impact" in all its 70s rock haze, but this Nirvana cover has just stayed with me all year. It's so weird, but so good! Maybe it's not so weird, really. Good music is good music, and I really like genre-bending when it's done right.

Losing Ground - Aubrie Sellers
Here's an album I meant to go back and listen to, and never did. Well, this is a really nice song from Lee Ann Womack's daughter. She has a bit more of an edge, and I like that.

Don't Threaten Me With a Good Time - Panic! At the Disco
Okay, Fall Out Boy and Panic at the Disco, I see you've found a way to make me listen to your poppy dance rock. Just add a surf guitar sample! First Uma Thurman, now this. I guess you guys found my kryptonite. (Honorable honorable mention to their song "Victorious" for having one of the best lyrics ever, "Eyes like broken Christmas lights.") And hey, silly dance rock makes great walking music, so another point for that. You got me. I hope you're happy.

Let it Burn - Blackberry Smoke
And now for something that actually rocks, straight out of the 70s! If you want a good old-fashioned rollicking song, with a touch of kiss-my-ass to send this year on its way, crank this. It just feels good.

The Walls Are Closing In/Hangman, and Back to the River - The Pretty Reckless
I went back and forth, and in the end couldn't decide between these two powerhouses from the Pretty Reckless. Like Creeper, I'm so glad I found this band this year. Finding new music that speaks to you really helps break down the lonely barrier of only listening to older stuff.

Wednesday Night Melody - Bleached
Someone grew up listening to Joan Jett. Good!

Christmas Makes Me Cry - Kacey Musgraves
Yup, a Christmas song! A very 2016 one. Whether this year got you down, or you have seasonal depression like me, a song like this helps ease you into the cheerier stuff. Hearing "it's ok to not be cheerful" actually helps you to be more cheerful. Because sometimes shit gets real, and it's nice to have that acknowledged, y'know? I am... not a Christmas song person, and the only album I've really enjoyed is that old Phil Spector one (because the Ronettes are AWESOME), but yeah, this really trimmed my tree. That sounded kind of dirty, didn't it? It did. I'm sorry.

And on that glorious note, I think I'm done! There were a LOT of albums I didn't get around to this year, including Miranda's, so the chance I left out a possible favorite song is pretty high. But you can't listen to all the music. And I will get to Miranda eventually, it's just... November! 24 songs! Are you trying to kill me?!

2016 Songs I Missed

Since I don't listen to the radio, I have to seek out most songs to actually hear them. With the exception of the biggest hits you get subjected to at the mall or bars, pop music is pretty avoidable once you hit adulthood. Which is possibly the singular reason I remain sane. So my worst lists generally feature the unavoidable crap, or stuff I hear critics pan so much I listen to out of morbid curiosity. And usually the songs on my best list are ones I actively seek out, especially country. So, here are a few I missed or have heard since I made my lists... for better or worse.

One Direction - Perfect
I don't think I've ever talked about One Direction. I'm a grown ass woman, why would I? They're about as relevant to my life as paste or safety scissors. But after seeing this on a couple grown-ups' best lists, I gave it a listen. 1. It has the same cadence as Taylor Swift's "Style." This is clearly not an accident. 2. This is gonna sound really weird, but bear with me - the first thing I thought when I heard this is it has kind of the vibe of a mid to late 90s pop-country song. Keep the melody and lyrics, change up the vocals, instrumentation, and production, and that's pretty much what this sounds like. I guess it's their last hit. It's not great, but it's not the worst.

Future is possibly the worst thing that ever happened to music. "Mumble rap" has destroyed mainstream hip hop the same way bro-country destroyed mainstream country and Nickelback destroyed mainstream rock. I have a grudging tolerance for "Commas," simply because I associate it with a movie I really liked. (Keanu, which also has a fun George Michael bit that serves as a pretty cool tribute. And an adorable kitten!) It works surprisingly well in a comedic setting. But this "Wicked" garbage is inexcusable. You thought Rihanna's "Work" was word slurry, this sounds like a drunk infant trying to pronounce its first word with a mouth full of novocaine. And that word is "wicked," for some reason. Bottom of the barrel dreck, and another add to the dishonorable mention pile. I wouldn't put it on the list; that'd be like calling it a real song.

Chris Brown is still around... barely? Blecch, I'd rather have the combined anti-charm of Charlie Puth, Shawn Mendes, and Justin Bieber than this sociopathic, narcissistic, un-self aware, lying, misogynist - oh wait, I suddenly started talking about the president-elect in the middle of a music review! PARDON ME. Yeah, you basically just elected Chris Brown president, folks. Good luck with that. At least this horrible "fuck you back to sleep" song was only barely a hit, so we don't have that to worry about. Just, you know... all the rest of it.

This Daya person is pretty bad, sounds like she walked fresh out of one of those lower tier singing shows into the studio, but I can't get too worked up about her. Not interesting enough. That line about Snow White making the dwarves do her chores can go straight to hell, though. I see you went to the Meghan Trainor school of "feminism," Daya. I don't see that working out in the long run.

Drake ft. "The Throne" (WTF?) - Pop Style
OMG, this song makes One Dance sound like Uptown Funk! This is the most boring, tone deaf, droney thing I've heard since... that Future song. Yeah, you don't have to travel too far in 2016 to hit shit. Also, you do know "the throne" means toilet, right? Is that the point?

Ruth B. - Lost Boy
This song has literally no point. I mean come on, even Fight Song has a point. Even Wiggle has a point - a terrible, terrible point about a woman's ass being like food, or... planets, but still a point. Lost Boy is a first grader's book report, only not as interesting. And this is coming from someone whose blog title COMES FROM PETER PAN. It's also oddly earwormy for such a squirrel fart of a song, so fuck you music industry.

X Ambassadors - Unsteady
"Renegade" was a late add to my honorable mentions last year, and I still like it with its driving beat. Yeah, I get the whole "car commercial" thing, but it had enough life and energy to rise above that for me. This, however, is calculated, pretentious, and boring.

The Weeknd - In the Night
And here's the main reason I wanted to make this list. HOW THE HELL DID I MISS THIS SONG? This sounds straight off of Thriller! Yeah, I absolutely love this, and while it's too late to add to my list, consider it a very honorable mention. The first song I heard by The Weeknd was "Earned It," which was almost as bad as the movie associated with it.* So, besides "Can't Feel My Face," 2015 did not make me a Weeknd fan. 2016, however, seems just right for his catchy nihilism. I'm feeling it. Great song!

*as a bad movie connoisseur, yes I watched 50 Shades. It actually wasn't that bad, I thought it was a pretty effective horror movie!

Selena Gomez - Hands to Myself
Quick, where's "The Throne," I need to throw up!

Charlie Puth (sigh) and Selena Gomez (sigh) - We Don't Talk Anymore
How about, "we don't sing anymore?" Not since the "new Americana" chick hooked up with the "selfie" guys has there been such a powerhouse of tedium! It's like the monster truck rally of boring!

Florida Georgia Line - HOLY
Oh right, these guys had a song this year. They're so relevant, I forgot! The acronym is DAFF (dumb as flying fuck) and the chorus doesn't make sense (you're holy, so I'm high on loving you?? I guess saying "I'm holy" would have pissed too many people off), but this is just meh to me. I mean, at least he's not "rapping."

There was WAY too much Bieber on the charts this year, and none of it is even interesting enough to talk about. Just more of the drab wallpaper soundtrack of 2016.

CHARLIE. FUCKING. PUTH.

There's a song called "I Hate U I Love U," which I can only imagine had its first draft smeared in fingerpaint. And what a dull, singsongy mess it is. People actually listen to this. People... somewhere... who?? The same ones who listen to the Chainsmokers? I don't know anymore.

Pink- Just Like Fire
I like Pink. But her comeback song this year, like Lady Gaga's, was extremely disappointing. Unlike "Perfect Illusion" it was a big hit, but also unlike Gaga, I don't know if she has killer songs like "Million Reasons" in her anymore. I hope so, because stuff like "So What" and "Don't Let Me Get Me" were pretty great. But this song is just like fire... extinguisher. This song is just like smothering a fire with a dish towel. This song is... okay, you get the point. It sucks.

There's a Future song with a Weeknd feature and nope, not even gonna listen. I don't wanna spend all my newfound goodwill for the Weeknd all at once!

"D.R.A.M. feat. Lil Yachty - Broccoli"
Yep, I copied that exactly as it was written, folks. I don't know what to make of it either. I'm not even sure which part of it is weirdest, but I guess I'm going with "Lil Yachty." Good luck, archaeologists of the future trying to figure out our culture, cause I can't even figure this out now!

Interchangeable purveyors of boredom like Bryson Tiller and Kent Jones - what do you even want me to say? Nothing. The answer is nothing.

DNCE - Cake By the Ocean
DNCE... DUNCE? Sure, let's just go with that. Decent groove, but ewwww. They literally made a song about someone having sand in their vagina. Why?? We GET it, former Disney stars. You're an ADULT, and you have SEX.

Mike Posner - I Took a Pill in Ibiza
One of the better pop songs of 2016 is by Mike Posner and yeah, let's just stick that in the time capsule cause it pretty much says it all. This song sounds as empty and downtrodden as everything else this year, but, like the Weeknd, it's actually supposed to sound that way. It's mood setting, vs sheer laziness. And if there's one thing I love it's self-awareness, so well done, Mike Posner. Not enough my style to make my list, but this is a case where I respect something even if it's not my taste.

"Needed Me" by Rihanna continues to be one of the most horrifying things I've ever heard. I shoulda put it on the list, dammit. I guess I was in denial about its existence, or at least its baffling popularity. THIS SOUNDS LIKE MACHINERY BREAKING DOWN! 😭😭😭

This "Desiigner" person is utter crap, I don't understand this ridiculous, pretentious, hipstery double "I" bullshit, but I don't see him being around in 2017, so I'm not gonna worry about it. Rae Sremmurd, on the other hand, that's something we've gotta worry about.

But for now, onto my best (non-hit) songs list! Then... eventually... after a break and some margaritas... albums.

Unpacking 2016, and where do we go from here?

Before I delve into my favorite songs and albums, I want to talk a little more about this year. I wasn't planning this post, but we lost someone yesterday who means a lot to me personally, and I have shit to say.

It's possible this blog would have never come into existence if it wasn't for Carrie Fisher. I read her book Postcards from the Edge when I was... 16, I think? and it hit me just the right way at just the right time. While I didn't have her struggles with addiction (and I partly thank the book for my never trying drugs), I related so much to her voice. Humorous and tragic - at the same time! Strong and vulnerable, confident and what-the-hell-am-I-doing-here. Her wit and absurdity in the face of not feeling like you fit into your surroundings was exactly what I needed. I started writing, using my own self-deprecating (and sometimes other-people-deprecating) humor. I've reread the book many times, as well as some of her other work, to the point it's become part of me.

When I started this blog in my twenties, at a time of depression and displacement, trying to make sense or at least some bittersweet laughs out of life, it was her voice I heard again. Her humor in darkness didn't only inspire me, it guided me. While I don't really write about myself anymore, I switched to pop culture topics years ago, that will always be the foundation of this blog. Sometimes I laugh at how "emo" I was, but hey, at least I mostly kept my sense of humor. There's strength in humor, in throwing your head back and laughing at the world and your problems. Carrie Fisher helped teach me that, and I don't even know how much I have to thank her for. I just know I'm truly thankful she touched my life. Her voice will be missed, especially now, dammit. RIP.

We lost a lot of wonderfully unique voices in 2016. Prince, David Bowie, Merle Haggard, Gene Wilder, Alan Rickman, George Michael. One of a kind people who will never be replaced. That's part of the reason why this year feels so damn heavy. So much loss. And when you add in the general climate of the world, the negativity and hate, the huge steps backwards culturally, it just seems unbearable.

Death is a part of life. Death of culture is not. While we can't replace the people we've lost - we're not meant to- their voices will live on. But... what of the new culture? Where's the next crop of unique voices? How have we come down to the Kardashians, Justin Bieber, Rae fucking Sremmurd? We're killing ourselves with mediocrity. Why? This isn't how it's supposed to work, dammit! The circle of life is broken.

We need to start making awesome people famous again, cause we're kinda running a shortage right now. This is why I feel 2016 is genuinely the worst year I've lived through. The mourning-to-celebrating ratio is ridiculous. Huge loss with so little gain. Regression, no progression. I mean, what happened this year that was good, on a wide scale? The Cubs winning is seriously the only thing I can think of. That's crazy. When this many bad things happen, we need good to help balance it out, and it's just not there. It's beyond frustrating that we've let ourselves get here, and each loss is a tragic reminder of where we are. Please, please let's do better. Support the things you love. Don't let them die. And for God's sake, don't just take what the media feeds you. It's been slowly poisoning our minds for a long time, and that's how we got here.

While I'm eager for this year to end, I know full well 2017 isn't gonna be great. No year could possibly be great with Trump and his vile cronies, in the US and overseas, in power. That only the most horrible people are happy right now is the most telling. I don't think even their happiness will last, maybe they're already starting to realize they've been duped (like, DUH).

We have little control over what those in power do. What we DO have power over is what we choose to click on. What we choose to read, watch, listen to. We can control a lot of what we allow into our minds, which in turn helps control our mood. I resolve to keep as much negativity out of my space as possible in the coming years, and to focus on music, humor, nature, all the things that make life a gift. I resolve to find new voices that resonate and help create, if not a 100% positive space, a real space. A liveable space.

But first, I'm gonna curl up and revisit an old friend.

Monday, December 12, 2016

New Music Monday

And on that note... probably my favorite thing in music is when you hear a brand new band that instantly makes you feel nostalgic. A few posts ago I mentioned 90s girly alt-rock, and a couple days after I stumbled across this UK band called Honeyblood. They're melodic, kinda grungy, and very 90s-inspired. If you liked anyone from Belly to The Sundays, these guys are well worth a listen. That said, this isn't a throwback at all, there's nothing gimmicky about this band. They're very much doing their own sound and I love it. I also love how it takes me back to what was a joyful time in music for me. The best of both worlds!





Music, depression, and nostalgia

A funny thing about music is the memories associated with it. Like, a song can take on an entire life of its own, completely apart from its original intent, simply from each listener's own experience. I've found myself in the odd position where I want to hear a song more if it's from a time I associate with happiness than one I don't, even if I technically "like" the other song better. It becomes almost ruined by circumstance. Or, a not so great song can be improved by nostalgia value.

The brain is such a weird, weird thing.

Music can also be transcendent, and that's the point I really want to make in this post, at the end of this awful year.

I've suffered from seasonal depression for a long time. I'm going through it right now. But there was one winter, I think it was late 2008 to early 2009, when it was the worst it's ever been. And there was a certain set of songs I listened to then, literally over and over. The main one, "Science vs Romance" by Rilo Kiley, had hundreds of plays on iTunes at the end of those 3 or so months. I feel like these songs genuinely kept me going, like a life support machine I couldn't turn off.

Some songs I remember playing constantly are "Science vs Romance," "Soul Meets Body" by Death Cab, "Over My Head" by The Fray, "Princely Ghetto" by Kay Hanley, "Girls Not Grey" by AFI, and "crushcrushcrush" by Paramore. (Yeah, I was really into indie/alt rock then.) You'd think I'd never want to hear any of them again, since I'd associate them with depression, but no! Something about these songs is so powerful that the magic still works, even now.

I don't remember how bad I felt when I listened to the music; I remember how much better it made me feel. And still does. That's the power of music. So while there are some songs I like I never want to hear again for whatever reason, and I can listen to the hell out of "Ice Ice Baby" because I loved the early 90s, some songs attach themselves to you in such a meaningful way that they always heal, at least a little.

I've heard a lot of great music this year, and I don't want to associate it with the rest of 2016. I don't want to lock it up because it makes me think of bad things. I want to remember it as what got me through 2016, and will help get me through the next bad time. I think I'm getting there, and it's a pretty powerful tool against depression, not to mention general the-world-is-terribleness. Maybe it's a sort of escape, but not really? Music is as real as anything else.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Completely random music post!

Before I get into the daunting task of relistening to all the albums I bought this year, here's a random little list! Why would listening to music I like be daunting? Well, it's kinda like studying for a test for something you're really into, but it's still a test. You have to have all your ducks in a row, and my ducks are usually all over the place. Also, this is a positive list to counteract all the 2016-induced negativity lately.

Top 7 Artists that LITERALLY Changed My Life:

1. Madonna
80s Madonna was my gateway into "real" music, i.e., songs not about choo-choo trains or sung by Smurfs. When I first heard "Borderline," I think I matured about 5 years in a day. I haven't been into Madonna for a long time, but I can still throw on any of her 80s albums and feel it.

2. REM
I was such a pop junkie in the 80s, and when I first heard REM's "Stand" it was the start of a HUGE musical shift. I still stayed connected with pop for a while, but the shift towards alt-rock (and later country, though unrelated) was permanent. Without REM, would I have later gotten into bands like Weezer and Green Day? They were a great gateway band, and just a great band (especially their early 80s stuff).

3. The Beatles
OMG so cliché! But clichés are clichés for a reason, and come on, every high schooler went through a Beatles phase (and also a Bob Marley phase.) What's great about those artists is they're not really a phase, they stay with you forever. The Beatles are significant for me not just for their own music, but how much they opened me up to other music of the 60s and 70s, which is a huge part of my library to this day. Another "if not for them, would any this have happened?" band that I'm eternally grateful for.

4. Garth Brooks
And ditto for Garth Brooks, except even bigger, because he opened me up to a whole new exciting genre! I grew up with country, folk and bluegrass because my parents were musicians and played those styles, but Garth made country into "not my parents' music." It was cool, it was fresh, it was exciting, and without him, would I have ever gotten into Alan Jackson, Brooks and Dunn, Patty Loveless and all my other 90s favorites? Would I be mourning the loss of quality mainstream country so hard today, if Garth hadn't helped ingrain it into my system? That's kind of a sad thought, actually. Okay, back to happy!

5. Letters to Cleo
Girly alt-rock owned my life in the mid-90s and I still love it SO MUCH. LTC actually reunited and made a kickass EP this year, and they're probably my favorite band of all time if I had to choose. When I need a go-to pick me up, I put on LTC or Kay's solo stuff. They also led me to bands like Veruca Salt, Belly/Tanya Donelly, Throwing Muses, etc.

6. Miranda Lambert
I've written here umpteen times about how I strayed from country post-9/11 and the whole Dixie Chicks fiasco, and how Miranda brought me back into the fold with her amazing debut album. Kerosene is one of the best debut albums I've ever heard, and it led to a string of other mostly great albums. (I didn't love Platinum, though there's enough good material to keep me going.) Getting back into country at this time also led me to Kellie Pickler, the Zac Brown Band, and of course Miranda's own Pistol Annies, which got me into Ashley Monroe, and so on. Yay!

I thought about ending the list here, but then a totally new thought occurred to me. When I inevitably lost interest in country again due to the sudden, staggering drop in quality and Luke Bryanification, there was an artist who once again helped bring me back in.

7. Kacey Musgraves
When I first heard "Follow Your Arrow" and fell in love, I didn't realize how deeply I missed new country music. I'd turned off the radio in disgust when "Country Girl Shake it for the Shrubbery" was in heavy rotation, and never turned it back on. While "Arrow" was a hit, Kacey was clearly not a slave to radio trends. And her spirit of independence opened me up to other artists, like Brandy Clark and Sturgill Simpson. I'd never really ventured outside mainstream country, because I liked most of it, so why would I? But this is a different time, and you have to be more open to find new stuff you like, and Kacey helped set me on that path. Also, she has the best aesthetic of any artist pretty much ever. Her costumes and staging are an art form almost on par with her songs, and I love the concept of "visual music." Very cool. She even made a cool Christmas album, for pete's sake!

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Worst Songs addendum: "What is that horrible noise?!"

A few days after I posted my worst songs list, I watched someone else's list, the first of approx. 1502 such videos I'll be watching this month. And I heard a song so rancid, so vile, so spit-in-the-face of all that's musical, it deserved its own category. A category that a couple songs on my own list belong to as well. *clears throat*

WHAT IS THAT HORRIBLE NOISE?!

Yes, 2016 decided to push all sorts of awful things on us in its 2016-ness, but an especially odd one is the sounds in some popular songs. It's like they're testing the limits of what can be called "music" and what should be called "an industrial accident." Here's the song in question:



Now wait!, you say, as you start listening to the song. This sounds like pretty standard pop fare, maybe even better than most! What's your problem, you just hate everythi-- OH DEAR GOD IS THAT A FERAL CAT PLAYING A DIDGERIDOO???

And the only answer I can give you is yes, yes that is a feral cat playing a didgeridoo. Badly. Why this song with apparently not just one but two producers features such a sound, I have no idea. Maybe they placed a bet on who could put the most ear-bleedingly repulsive noise in the song and still have people buy it. Some hipster ass producer is eatin' steak tonight! 2016, ladies and gentleman. That sentence actually sums up the year quite well, except the hipster ass producer is probably a vegan.

Sigh.

That song is now on my dishonorable mentions, obviously. (Excuse me, my "less shitty shit" list.) Too late to add it to the list, but I have to do something. As for songs I did mention, there are a couple that fit this category. The first made my less shitty shit list, and listening to it I'm not sure why I didn't put it on the worst list. Maybe because my poor, addled brain refused to accept it was actually a song.



WTF is that??!! That's an accident, not a song! What planet am I living on! AAAAAAAGGGGHHHHH!!! And why do these idiotic extra "i's" keep popping up in people's names? Is this some hipster thing I don't understand? Whatever it is, it drives me into a senseless rage every time I see it. God, I hate annoying, pretentious crap.

*deep breath* Okay. Just one more and I'm done cause this is actually making me angry.

I mentioned this one when I talked about "wa wa wa wa wa wa," and I probably should have included it too because seriously, the entire "song" is one long, horrible noise.



If that isn't the ugliest "chorus" (?) you've ever heard, I don't know what is. This sounds like some kind of broken-down carnival nightmare all the way through. Who would listen to this? Who would do that to their ears? I refuse to accept that in the space of ONE generation people's ears have mutated to the point where they enjoy listening to this. So what is going on?? Because this is utterly skin-crawling and yeah, I'm going back and adding it. Though calling it "less shitty shit" is way too complimentary.

Here's what Rihanna used to sound like, btw.



Like it or not, at least it sounds like a pop song. I'm not saying an artist should be stuck on one sound their whole career, but I am saying they should keep making actual songs. She went from "please don't stop the music" to DEAR GOD MAKE IT STOP, and that's pretty sad.

I really hope this trend doesn't bleed into 2017. Just let it die, please.

Monday, December 05, 2016

Top 10 Best HIT Songs of 2016

Let's get the other easy list out of the way, the top 10 best HIT songs of 2016! Most of today's hits suck, but at least there's a limited number of them for easy pickin'. BRIGHT SIDE ACHIEVED!

So, this list is gonna be REALLY boring, in that it's almost all Eric Church and Chris Stapleton songs. Not that they're boring, I guess predictable is a better word. And... lacking in variety. Cause yeah, this year really sucked.

The usual crap: I haven't heard a lot of this year's charting songs, because why would I do that to myself, so these are only the ones I have heard. Songs must have first hit the top 20 on the billboard pop or country chart in 2016. Otherwise, I'd just put Prince's "When Doves Cry" down ten times and go get a coffee.

HONORABLE MENTIONS:

Tim McGraw - Humble and Kind
Zac Brown Band - Castaway
Adele - When We Were Young
Carrie Underwood - Church Bells

Oh yeah, one more note. If Lady Gaga's GORGEOUS "Million Reasons" had hit the top 20 instead of the mediocre "Perfect Illusion," it would be at #3. Instead, it will be on my other favorite songs list, the one that doesn't rely on the general music listening public having a brain. Sigh.

10. My Church - Maren Morris
Same artist at #10 on my best and worst lists. This girl needs some focus.

9. Starboy - The Weeknd ft. Daft Punk
Wow, here's an artist that's grown on me. I loved "Can't Feel My Face" last year, but his other stuff left me kinda cold. I'm not much into electronic music, but this song just hits a groove, and I think it's opened me up to more of his music. Catchy, beautifully spacey production and his voice doesn't stick out like a sore, um, voice, like it does sometimes.

8. Stressed Out - twenty one pilots
This song might have been a little higher if I ever wanted to hear it again the rest of my life. Yeah, overplay isn't really the song's fault, but by God am I sick of this. It's good though, and such an unlikely hit. Where did this even come from?? Their other two hits this year didn't do much for me. Instead, I'd recommend "Tear in My Heart," "Ode to Sleep," and the beautiful poetry of "Car Radio."

7. Mr. Misunderstood - Eric Church
I can't say much more about this album at this point. I love it, I'm thrilled it's connected with people the way it has (not just critics), and it's elevated Eric Church from sort of "eh" to one of my favorite country artists in the space of a year.

6. I Met a Girl - William Michael Morgan
As I said in another post, this would have been a good song in the 90s. One of many with this rich, warm tone and vocals that wrap around you like a hug. A hug made of chocolate. In 2016, this is a small miracle. Please, let mainstream country continue in this direction, and please let WMM's stellar current single "Missing" make my 2017 list. This is a good song; it's an even better omen.

5. 24k Magic - Bruno Mars
I feel like the only two pop artists who'll make these lists with any regularity are Bruno Mars and The Weeknd. Maybe because they're making catchy, interesting music in the time of "wa wa wa wa wa wa." This isn't quite up with Uptown Funk, but that's like saying steak isn't quite up with lobster. Eat 'em both. Don't even put on a bib! Yolo, bitches. This is just pure pop sunshine in an utterly dreary year. 2016 needed Bruno Mars, and he delivered.

4. Kill a Word - Eric Church ft Rhiannon Giddens
"And I'd hang 'hate' so that it can't be heard
If I could only kill a word"
A pretty perfect song for our current climate. I hope people listen to what he's singing. Also, thank you for bringing Rhiannon Giddens to our attention, because she's wonderful.

3. Nobody to Blame - Chris Stapleton
This sounds almost straight out of my car radio in 1995. I don't think I have a better compliment than that.

2. Parachute - Chris Stapleton
Two top 20 hits for Chris Stapleton this year. You'd almost think 2016 didn't suck. But these songs should have charted higher, and also the rest of the year sucked. Anyway, this song is fantastic, maybe my favorite off of Traveller, which is one of my favorite country albums in many years. It didn't chart as high as some of the year's forgettable fluff, but I guarantee it will be remembered much, much longer. Honestly, who will remember "Came Here to Forget" or anything by Kane Brown or Dan + Shay in a year?? Nobody but diehard fans, I'd guess, while the soulful "Parachute" will quietly become a classic.

And speaking of classics...

1. Record Year - Eric Church
A song that in celebrating the classics becomes one itself. This was actually a HUGE hit, and I have no idea how, but I'm so happy! This song sounds like it was written for me. That it struck a chord with so many people makes me wonder if I'm not so alone after all. *listens to Old Dominion and Thomas Rhett* Yeah okay, I'm pretty alone. But at least I have Eric Church for company.

Yeeeeah, that was pretty boring. I'M SORRY. This year was just so awful. But on the positive side, I'll take the success of Eric Church, Chris Stapleton, and William Michael Morgan as a sign country might be returning to some semblance of sanity. I didn't listen to much country this year, outside of these specific artists I know I like. I'm really hoping 2017 rekindles my interest in the genre, because it's so very good when it's good.

And... that's it! Favorite non-top 20 songs and albums post will be next. This will require more research and relistening, so it'll be up when I'm feeling it. I also haven't listened to one VERY important album yet, so hopefully I can squeeze that in before I make my list. Considering it's a double album, it's gonna take a lot of squeezing. Cause, I'll be honest here. The last new album I listened to was The Pretty Reckless' Who You Sellin' For, which was released in late October. After the horrific event of November 8th, I haven't listened to any new music. I retreated into my safe little bunker of 70s-90s music and transported myself to another time. Because that's what I do. This time, I think I'm pretty justified, because who the hell wants to be here right now.

BUT ANYWAY. I wanna listen to that Miranda album, but I also wanna do it in the right frame of mind, so the albums list might be delayed til next year.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

IT'S THAT TIME OF THE YEAR!!!

That's right, time to get wicked drunk on eggnog, throw another Luke Bryan record on the fire, and make year end lists!

Part one: Top 10 Worst HIT Songs of 2016

I'll have two "good" posts coming later this month, one for songs and one for albums, so let's just get the bad out of the way. Though "getting the bad out of the way" in 2016 is kind of like "getting the oxygen out of the air," but whatever.

Guys. This year was awful. I'm talking rock-bottom. Both, you know, world-wise, sanity-wise, and also mainstream music-wise. I feel like this was the most dull, uninspired, lackluster year yet. We'll call it the Year of Minimum Effort for Maximum Results. I don't know why people continue to buy musical equivalents of paint-by-numbers pictures, but I don't know why a lot of things anymore. The world has turned and left me here, etc. (At least I still have Weezer.)

2016 was truly the worst of both worlds, in that basic human liberties are being debated, like that's a thing that needs to happen, yet all the popular music sounds like it was made by robots. No, not even robots. One singular, particularly unimaginative robot. If you're gonna send us back to the 50s, can we at least have some good music like Elvis or Buddy Holly?

That said, I personally had a pretty great music year, discovering a few new bands I LOVE and enjoying new music from old favorites. So I didn't spend too much time shaking my fist at the charts, or listening to mainstream pop and country at all. So this list will be only the songs I've heard. There are quite a few I haven't, especially on the country side, because zzzzzzzzzzzzz. Excuse me, I seem to have nodded off. To be eligible for the list, a song must have placed in the top 20 on the billboard pop or country chart THIS year. (If it first entered the top 20 last year, it's not eligible and I likely covered it last year anyway.)

DISHONORABLE MENTIONS - no wait, everyone says that. LESS SHITTY SHIT:

(Note: Soooooo many songs this year were just BORING, so I'll be skipping those unless they're egregiously boring.)

Black Beatles, by Rae Sriracha or whatever - You know when there's an artist so devoid of talent, so lacking in charisma, so undeserving of success, that you try to will them out of relevance with your mind? That's these guys for me. I'm not sure I've ever rooted so hard for a band not to make it. But here they are, with a number one song, calling themselves "black Beatles" no less, and it just makes me SO ANGRY! Not quite Trump levels of angry, but it's in the same "crap rising to the top" category. (You know, old people voted for Trump, millenials buy Rae Srurmenerr and Chainsmokers albums, but us poor Gen Xers have nothing but flannel and tears.) ☹️ Maybe there is a "black Beatles" out there somewhere, but it sure as hell isn't these untalented, unlikeable posers. This doesn't make the list only because it's the least trashy thing I've heard from them. God help us.

7 Years, by Lukas Graham - Something about this song just makes my skin crawl. I can't put it into words, but it's like it's trying so hard to be deep and failing. So hard. Also, dude named his whole band after himself. Not "The Lukas Graham Band," just his bloody name! Not even ADAM LEVINE did that. Pretentious! There's the word I was looking for. It does sound like an actual song though, which is low praise indeed, but in this year is high enough to keep it off my list.

One Dance, by Drake ft. blah blah who cares - You know, of my worst songs list from last year, one that grew on me is "Hotline Bling." I... I actually kind of like that song now. But this? This is everything I said about Hotline Bling, for real. This is nothing. I said I wasn't gonna put boring songs on here, but this is the perfect kind of boring to personify 2016 pop music.

Rock On, by Tucker Beathard - TUCKER. BEATHARD. I had to listen to this song before I put it on the list to confirm it's actually bad, and phew!, it is in fact bad. Not an interesting enough kind of bad you'd expect from someone named "Tucker Beathard" though, so it doesn't make the list.

Ju Ju on that Beat, by who gives a crap - Another effortless, substanceless piece of dance garbage like "Watch Me," made by talentless, flash in the pan nobodies. Calling them one-hit wonders will be generous; more like "pure dumb luck hit wonders." Hopefully the demise of Vine will make this shit go away, or at least confine it to whatever little corner of the world it belongs in and away from my ears.

Treat You Better, by Shawn Mendes - Hey kid, "nice guys" don't try to get girls to break up with their boyfriends. You're a douchebag in disguise! (Sung to "Devil in Disguise.") Can this guy please just go away so I don't have to talk about him again next year?

Panda, by gratuitous extra "I" go fuck yourself - This might have made the list, if I knew what the hell it was.

Gold, by gratuitous extra "I" go fuck yourself - This might have made the list, if I knew what the hell it was... hmm, I'm sensing a pattern here. This one sounds like someone spilled their orange juice all over the... chorus? and they were just like fuck it, we'll call it a feature! And it worked, cause idiots bought it. If you ever wanted the musical equivalent of a vhs tape with tracking problems, here you go.

Dibs, by Kelsea Ballerini - Boring, insipid, pop country, made notable only by her cloying, cutesy, overly twangy talk-singing. Blecch!

EDIT: Starving, by Hailee Steinfeld and not one, but two pretentious producer douchebags! - Hey! one of them said. Let's make a song that sounds like a feral cat playing a didgeridoo! Um, are you sure about that, Charlie? Yup, stick it right in there Steve! The people will love it! (I like to think of producers like "Zedd" actually being called Steve or Ted or Harry.) EDIT: Zedd's name is actually "Anton." Dammit, that's kind of cool, in a Bond villain way. Foiled again!

She's Got a Way with Words, by Blake Shelton - I love that this petty piece of crap ended Blake's number one streak. So fitting. Leaving it off the list purely cause I enjoy the Schadenfreude. Well, that and it's not as bad as anything on the list. Hoo boy.

10. 80s Mercedes, by Maren Morris - By pop standards, this is okay. Not good, just okay. By country standards... ha! like country has standards! That's a good one.

9. Home Alone Tonight, by Luke Bryan and Karen Fairchild - This song would be douchey, pathetic and immature if sung by teenagers. The fact that it's sung by two forty year olds almost makes it funny. Almost. "So put your drink down, throw your camera up, Flip it around and snap a payback picture
(Send it to my ex), I'll send it to my ex, And send them both a text saying, "We ain't going home alone tonight." Come on now, guys. Just come on. I don't usually tell people to "act their age," but nobody of any age should be acting that way in the first place.

8. Anything by the Chainsmokers - Because it all sounds the same. Chick singer drones over a beat that manages to be both dull and annoying simultaneously. Talentless douchebros; the Chase Rice of EDM. Yet somehow wildly successful. I DON'T GET YOU, MUSIC BUYING PUBLIC.

Also, re: Closer - YOOOOOOOOU CAAAAAAAAAAN'T SIIIIIIIIIING! Way to tap into the previously unexplored "mattress theft" fetish though. That's hot.

7. Wa wa wa wa wa wa, by Rihanna - Um, I don't want to sound insensitive, but did Rihanna suffer a stroke? You used to be able to make out most of what she was singing, unlike this mumbled, unintelligible slurry. It's also boring, and it was also number one for about 27 weeks, because we suck as a species. She charted another thing I'll charitably call a song called "Needed Me" that's actually worse, but this one is a poster child for Minimum Effort for Maximum Results. (EDIT: the broken-down carnival nightmare that is "Needed Me" definitely belongs in dishonorable mentions, at least. That thing makes my skin crawl.)

6. Beautiful Drug, by *sigh* Zac Brown Band - Having to put one of my favorite artists on this list pains me, but seriously FUCK this song and fuck everyone who let it be a hit on the "country" charts. If this had been contained to the pop charts it wouldn't even be on this list, but I have to take a stand against this madness.

5. Fix, by Chris Lane - Bad pop is bad, but bad "country" is SO. MUCH. WORSE. They made a "love" song that name drops BREAKING BAD. I don't know about you, but when I think romance, pretty much the last thing on my mind is WALTER FREAKING WHITE. About the only less sexy thing I can think of is "The Hills Have Eyes" and... oh, wait. Well, at least The Weeknd wasn't trying to make a love song.

4. Move, by Luke Bryan - That this tired, watered down, barely-a-song version of Country Girl Shake it For the Skunkweed is this low on the list should make you very, very afraid of what's to come.

3. TIE! Me Too and No, by Meghan Trainor - Remember when I said bad country was worse than bad pop? I... might have spoke too soon. I didn't think it was possible but Meghan Trainor managed to get more ear-bleedingly strident and annoying this year! 🎉 My utter loathing of these two songs is something that can only be described in the abstract; mere words cannot cover it. It's like that "You're exactly my brand of heroin" line from Twilight, except this is exactly my brand of ipecac. And this double dose of cringe is only at number three! Dear God, what have we wrought???

I talk more about "No" here: http://mrsrowsdower.blogspot.ca/2016_04_01_archive.html#125639388790967460
Pretty much the same goes for "Me Too," except it's worse.

2. Work From Home, by Fifth Harmony - Okay, maybe at a glance this doesn't look as awful as Meghan Trainor. It's not so in your face, full of itself you want to punch it in self-defense. It's just another song that drones the word "work" over and over again and we're used to those by now, right? There were two of 'em this year, and they were both big hits! For... some reason. But this one is so much worse. For one thing, Rihanna still has some personality and charisma, even after apparently being sent to the studio right after being thrown from a horse. I cannot say the same for these 5 sentient corn husks. Dear GOD, is this devoid of anything remotely resembling music. I have to defend Meghan Trainor here and say at least she isn't boring, in the same way a fiery plane crash isn't boring, but THIS? It's literally just the word "work" sung over and over in a monotone. Marvin the depressed robot would make more energetic music than this. I... I don't even know what to say. This was a hit! What does anyone see in this? And it's not even number one. Holy crap. I wanted to put this at number one, so bad, and yet...

1. TIE! T-Shit (not a typo) by Thomas Rhett, and Snapback, by old Dominion - What could possibly be worse than
"You don't gotta go to work, work, work, work, work, work, work
But you gotta put in work, work, work, work, work, work, work
You don't gotta go to work, work, work, work, work, work, work
Let my body do the work, work, work, work, work, work, work, work
We can work from home, oh, oh, oh oh"?

Two songs by "country" hacks that are entirely about a woman wearing a specific article of clothing. That's right, one wasn't enough! All the complex couture-related questions that weren't answered in "T-Shirt" were hopefully answered in "Snapback," and vice versa! But if not, never fear, cause I'm sure next year we'll get a slew of hits entitled "Wallet Chain," "Tighty Whities," "Golf Shoes," "Angel in Tube Socks," and "She Wears My Dockers Because She Loves Me." Or maybe not, because country seems to be regaining at least some of its senses. I hope so, cause these songs are about as low as we can sink. Please.

Note: while perusing the country charts, I noticed there's an artist called "Drake White." DRAKE. WHITE. THE COUNTRY SINGER. If that isn't the funniest damn thing you've ever heard, just try saying it again. God, I wish he'd gone all the way and just called himself White Drake. That's what all the "country" posers wanna be, anyway. (I haven't heard him, so apologies if he's actually good, but that name is pure GOLD!)

Okay! That was actually more fun than I thought anything about 2016 would be. Whew. I'll be back in a while with the good stuff. It'll take a little longer, since the good stuff requires more work work work work work work... or maybe it's wa wa wa wa wa wa. Peace!