Showing posts with label james mcmurtry. Show all posts
Showing posts with label james mcmurtry. Show all posts

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

the top 25 best albums of 2015 (VIDEO)

And now we've got the last of the lists - damn, this video took WAY too much work to get online...

Okay, next up... well, it's Rachel Platten, so nobody cares, but after that is Billboard BREAKDOWN, so stay tuned!

Saturday, January 2, 2016

the top 25 best albums of 2015

We're now onto my final list, the one that always produces a certain amount of frustration as I struggle to recognize the best of the best. And as I said in my last list, it's always difficult to narrow it down to the best of the best. And this year was probably the hardest yet, mostly because it started so damn strong and was able to sustain that momentum into late this year. And while I was able to trim this list down to 25. And thus for the sake of my own conscience, I need to mention a few Honourable Mentions in no particular order that just missed this list. 

Because believe me, when you have comeback records like No Cities To Love by Sleater-Kinney and Tetsuo & Youth by Lupe Fiasco that show huge returns to form, they deserve at least a shoutout. Hell, an album that features a creative rebirth like Baroness' Purple which dropped very late in the year deserves it too. And then you have underappreciated gems like Escape From Evil by Lower Dens, one of the great unsung synthpop records of this year. And on that note, as much it might be a bit of a contentious statement to say that hip-hop had a great year, I stand by it - when you have Earl Sweatshirt, Jay Rock, The Underachievers, Yelawolf, Pusha T and Czarface dropping stellar sophomore records, coupled with comebacks of unexpected quality from Ludacris and killer debuts from Joey Bada$$, all of which might have had a shot for this list in a weaker year, that's saying something. And that's not counting the list itself that's at least twenty percent hip-hop, but we'll get to that - hell, might as well start with...

Friday, January 1, 2016

the top 50 best songs of 2015

And now we're onto the list that's always the hardest for me to make, mostly because it requires by far the most work: the best songs of the year, overall. Not just hits, but singles and deep cuts from album ranging from widely successful to barely out of the underground.

And this year was harder than most, mostly because it was a damn great year for music. The charts may have been strong, but that was nothing compared to the cavalcade of great music we got, which meant that cutting this list down from thousands to around 630 to 165 to the fifty we have meant that there were a lot of painful cuts, so much so that I seriously considered instituting a one-song-per-album rule. In the end... I couldn't do it, because there were some records that were so unbelievably good that I had to include multiple entries. Now we'll be covering those albums in greater detail a bit later this week, but in the end I held to the rule that at most I could put three songs from any one album on this list - and that we easily had more of those makes my argument that was a damn solid year of music, probably better than last year's, all the more powerful. 

One more thing before we start: while I can describe music well and why it works for me on a technical level, most of the songs on this list cut a fair bit deeper than that, and thus I'll endeavor to provide some emotional context as to why they worked so well beyond a purely intellectual exercise. And of course it's my picks - there might some common overlap between my choices and other critics, but it would be disingenuous to choose tracks for 'cultural importance' rather than what really got to me more deeply.

So let's start with a track that completely threw me off-guard.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

the top albums/songs of the midyear - 2015 (VIDEO)

Almost forgot to put this video up. This was a ton of fun, really did love making this - always nice to talk about music that's actually all sorts of awesome.

So next up is Billboard BREAKDOWN, and then finally I might have time for this new Vince Staples... stay tuned!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

the top album/songs of the midyear - 2015

Last year when I put together this list, I was debating its very relevance. I mean, would it give away what would turn out to be my top albums of the year overall, or would it find an audience at all?

This year, the debate was different: I knew I had to do a midyear review for 2015 because there was so much quality that came out in the front half of the year that I'm honestly a little concerned I'm not going to get a chance to highlight it all. Between comebacks that delivered in spades, debuts that blew my mind, and records that seemed to have an abundance of creativity more than I would have ever expected, the first six months of 2015 have been overwhelming strong, to the point where keeping my list of albums to twelve was insanely difficult. It'll be incredible if the rest of the year keeps up this momentum, but for now, here is my top albums of 2015, thus far:

Monday, March 16, 2015

video review: 'complicated game' by james mcmurtry

Man, I was expecting this album to be good, but this was a welcome punch. Damn great record, I find more to love about it with every listen.

Next up... you know, I think it's time I finally cover that album. Not that one, the other one. Stay tuned!

album review: 'complicated game' by james mcmurtry

It's rare that country music gets angry these days. You know, get the blood pumping for a righteous cause, something that might cause someone to load up a shotgun, grab a bottle of hard bourbon, and roll out to kick some ass. The part of me that loves outlaw country has a certain fondness for this brand of music, but it's gotten increasingly rare in the modern day, especially when the causes behind said songs tend to develop an isolationist streak that doesn't wear well. Like it or not, most of country is a conservative genre, and considering most country songwriters don't tell dark stories any more, it means that anger can come across as reactionary, and that rarely works out well, especially when the cause can be less than just.

And let's be clear, this has been an issue for decades now, but a particularly ugly side of it reared in the mid-2000s, because country was a genre that got increasingly torn on political lines. As much as I don't like the Dixie Chicks, there was a certain righteous rage to 'Not Ready To Make Nice' at getting tarred and feathered by the country establishment for being anti-Bush on the War on Terror. Now history has vindicated The Dixie Chicks years too late for it to matter, but the issue I always took with their statements, musical or otherwise, was that their framing could come across as a little preachy. Which, really, is a classic example of the biggest and most accurate criticism hurled at liberals these days, in that they're not populist and consider themselves above the discourse. If liberals are so smart and want to help everyone, why do we talk down to the audience or not show real empathy?

You want to know who did this approach a lot better? Singer-songwriter James McMurtry, born in Texas, originally a country singer in the 90s, but it wasn't until 2005 and his critically acclaimed album Childish Things that he really struck gold with songs like 'We Can't Make It Here Anymore' that struck the perfect balance and was named by acclaimed music critic Robert Christgau as the best song of the decade. Nuanced, harshly critical and pointing the finger at the right people, framed as speaking with the people and not down to them, and with a real simmering undercurrent of rage that underscored every brutal detail of his material. It also helped matters he was a great songwriter who had excellent production, a ton of texture, and solid hooks - the man didn't just write great music, he wrote great stories with detail and humanity that you could easily imagine. Throw in thematic cohesion and a solid as hell performance and you can bet he won me over.

Now he followed Childish Things with Just Us Kids in 2008, which kept the sharp writing but cranked up the anger a little hotter with harsher, more aggressive grooves - all positives, I might add - but then for nearly seven years, he seemed to disappear, with only a live album holding us over. And yet now one of the best songwriters in the industry is back with a brand new record - does the fire hold now that Bush and Cheney are long gone?