Friday, March 01, 2024

Retrospective Albums of the Year: 1974

I basically teased this idea in my Best Music of 2023 post. I've decided to retrospectively work on my top ten albums of years that preceded my annual list, which began in 1996. I'll be doing so by celebrating the 50th, 40th and 30th anniversaries of said albums. If I keep this up, I'll eventually be marking some 60th anniversaries as well, but since my 1964 list would be pretty weak, I'll be holding off on that for now.

For all of these lists, I'll allow for the benefit of hindsight, but for the years in which I actually listened to some of these albums, nostalgia will be a factor. 1974 was not one of those years.

10. Kiss - Kiss

My first favorite band's music hasn't aged really well, but their debut remains their best work, and evidence they know how to write melodic hard rock songs.

9. Tom Waits - The Heart of Saturday Night

This is actually the only Tom Waits album I've ever bought -- and I was turned on to it by Shawn Colvin's cover of the title track -- but it's a good one nonetheless.

8. Steely Dan - Pretzel Logic

My pal Lee once said you could arguably rank the first six Led Zeppelin albums in any order. I basically feel the same way about Steely Dan.

7. Gram Parsons - Grevious Angel

The Godfather of Country Rock's posthumously released final album was as great as everything that came before it.

6. Electric Light Orchestra - Eldorado

ELO is one of two bands in this top ten that I was a fan of in the '70s, Kiss being the other. But, I didn't discover the beauty of Eldorado until many years later, perhaps because "Can't Get it Out of My Head" is the only really big hit on this album. Obviously, I came around because I ranked it second in their discography back in 2010.

5. Big Star - Radio City

Not that you really have to choose one over the other, but I've always been an advocate that Chris Bell was the superior co-leader of this band. Considering this album was released after his departure, and is strictly an Alex Chilton affair, I probably don't have a leg to stand on there. Still, you should probably read this post about the Big Star documentary, and check out the film, to fully appreciate where I'm coming from.

4. Blue Öyster Cult - Secret Treaties

I became a BÖC fan in the early '80s. Their late '70s and early '80s output were my most frequent listens at the time, but when I decided to go back further, Secret Treaties was my first purchase. For a young fan, it was a bit of an acquired taste, but I now consider it the best album of their black-and-white era (so named for their first three album covers), and their second best overall.

3. Joni Mitchell - Court and Spark

For some reason, I kind of forgot how fantastic this album is. Probably my second favorite Joni album, which seems to be a recurring theme on this list.

2. Neil Young - On the Beach

I've never gotten around to completing my project ranking the entire Neil Young discography. It's pretty safe to say this one falls just outside of the top five, but easily makes the top ten.

1. King Crimson - Red

At the start of the pandemic, while I was working in my basement, I embarked on a project ranking my top 100 albums of all-time. For once, I actually saw it through to the end and in June of 2020, I completed the list but never posted about it. Nearly four years later, I'm sure the list needs some updating, so maybe you'll see it here eventually. Anyway, my point is Red is one of two King Crimson albums to make that list, and the only top 100 album from 1974.

Monday, December 25, 2023

Best Music of 2023

I can't really discuss the year in music of 2023 without bringing up Little Chuck.

As I mentioned last year, he started playing guitar and I'm really excited about the progress he's made. This year, he branched out from exclusively an AC/DC guy to also being a fan of everything Black Sabbath, including Ozzy and Dio solo, the short-lived band Heaven & Hell and some of the early Rainbow material.

We also saw our third AC/DC tribute band this year, so perhaps look forward to a post ranking them (Spoiler alert: they're all good). Maybe this year will be the year we get to see the real deal.

This year, I also started on an idea of retrospectively ranking my top ten for each year that preceded my annual ritual (which started in 1996), based on round number anniversaries. In other words, I worked on my lists for 1973, 1983 and 1993, but really only finalized two of three of them and never got the motivation to post about it. This might be another thing to expect in 2024, although my imagination is sometimes more ambitious than my actual motivation for following through.

Anyway, I'm going to roll out this year's top 25 albums by continuously updating this post, so stay tuned for more...

25. Runnner - Like Dying Stars, We're Reaching Out

24. Death Cab for Cutie - Asphalt Meadows (Acoustic)

23. The Ducks - High Flyin'

22. Neil Young - Before and After

21. Will Johnson - No Ordinary Crown

20. The Reds, Pinks and Purples - The Town That Cursed Your Name

19. The New Pornographers - Continue as Guest

18. Jess Williamson - Time Ain't Accidental

17. The Hold Steady - The Price of Progress

16. Sparklehorse - Bird Machine

This one gets my vote for saddest song of the year.

15. Califone - Villagers

14. Julie Byrne - The Greater Wings

13. The Lemon Twigs - Everything Harmony

12. Margo Price - Strays

11. Glen Hansard - All That Was East is West of Me Now

10. Anohni & The Johnsons - My Back Was a Bridge for You to Cross

9. Explosions in the Sky - End

8. Boygenius - The Record

7. The National - Laugh Track

The National enters some seriously uncharted territory with this one. More on that later...

6. Harp - Albion

This album by the former Midlake frontman was over a decade in the making. I'll say it was definitely worth the wait as a fan, but I can't speak for him.

5. The Natural Lines - The Natural Lines

Perhaps it was a mistake, but this album was initially attributed to Matt Pond PA by Spotify. Needless to say, I was confused when I later searched for it and had some difficulty finding it, but it is quite possibly his best effort yet.

4. Darlingside - Everything is Alive

Not sure if it's a first, but two local artists earned their way into my top five this year.

3. The National - First Two Pages of Frankenstein

I didn't realize it when I first decided that both albums by The National this year are top ten worthy, but this one established a new record as their 6th consecutive release to land in my top ten (breaking a tie with the Drive-By Truckers). Laugh Track, released after this one, makes it seven. Spoiler alert: my top two are also by artists who presently fall into this "can do no wrong in my book" category.

2. Lori McKenna - 1988

This Stoughton, Massachusetts native is this year's highest ranking local artist on her third consecutive top five album full of songs that really hit close to home, but probably none more than this one.

1. Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit - Weathervanes

It was quite the year for Mr. Isbell. Early in the year, he released "Running With Your Eyes Closed," which is perhaps the greatest music documentary I've ever seen. A little later came this, which just might be his best album; and is, of course, his first to top my list.

A covers album, which was a thank you to the citizens of Georgia for helping elect Joe Biden, is the only thing standing in his way of what would be five consecutive top tens.

Thanks again for paying attention to what I have to say. Happy Holidays and best wishes for a happy, safe and prosperous 2024!

Monday, January 02, 2023

Best Music of 2022 - Part 3

I usually wrap up this list on New Year's Eve. This year, I actually tried to write this post on Christmas Eve, but then I got too busy and was traveling over the holidays. So, here I am finalizing this thing a couple days into the New Year.

As always, thanks for reading and Happy New Year!

5. Bonny Light Horseman - Rolling Golden Holy

My top two candidates for show of the year were Dirty Deeds (an AC/DC cover band) at the Breakaway in Danvers and Bonny Light Horseman at the Sinclair in Cambridge. The latter was an amazing show, and probably worthy of the honor, but the Dirty Deeds show was Little Chuck's first and he met the lead singer and lead guitarist.

4. American Aquarium - Chicamacomico

3. Pedro the Lion - Havasu

2. Cloud Cult - Metamorphosis

Cloud Cult's fifth top ten album ties them with The National, Wilco and Drive-By Truckers for the most in the history of this list. 

1. Anais Mitchell - Anais Mitchell

Anais Mitchell (also a member of Bonny Light Horseman) becomes the fifth person to make the top ten twice in the same year, and the first since Jay Bennett in 2002.

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Best Music of 2022 - Part 2

And now for the top ten: 
10. Spiritualized - Everything Was Beautiful

9. First Aid Kit - Palomino

8. Craig Finn - A Legacy of Rentals

7. Death Cab for Cutie - Asphalt Meadows

6. Spoon - Lucifer on the Sofa

Friday, December 16, 2022

Best Music of 2022 - Part 1

2022 was another year that I placed less emphasis on new music than usual. It's probably because I'm getting old, but I've also reached a point where one partial listen to a new album is sometimes enough for a quick dismissal. It's possible I'm overlooking growers, but I've just reached a point where I just feel like spending more time with music I know I like.

Little Chuck's interest in music is another reason. He's still only into one band really -- AC/DC -- but he seems to be finding an appreciation for other music as well. But perhaps my musical highlight of the year is he started guitar lessons in March and has made amazing progress. I'm really excited to live vicariously through him on this one. 

All that being said, I still found 22 albums worth ranking in a year end list. So, without further ado, on to the first installment of my top 22 albums of 2022. 

22. Def Leppard - Diamond Star Halos

21. The Smile - A Light for Attracting Attention

20. Wilco - Cruel Country

19. Tomberlin - I Don't Know Who Needs to Hear This…

18. Camp Cope - Running With the Hurricane

17. MJ Lenderman - Boat Songs

16. The Reds, Pinks & Purples - Summer at Land's End

15. Pinegrove - 11:11

14. Stars - From Capelton Hill

13. Momma - Household Name

12. Drive-By Truckers - Welcome 2 Club XIII

11. Big Thief - Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You