February 3, 2011
POP CULTURE: Music To My Ears: A 50,000 Foot Review Of The Current Rock and Pop Scenes (Part IV of IV)
Part I - Overview
Part II: The State of Rock and Alternative (the Artists)
Part III: The State of Pop and Other Current Radio Formats (the Artists)
The Best Albums of the Last Three Years
Top Ten Albums of 2010:
1. Grace Potter & the Nocturnals, Grace Potter & the Nocturnals
2. Slash, Slash
3. Hanson, Shout It Out
4. Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Mojo
5. Maroon 5, Hands All Over
6. Brandon Flowers, Flamingo
7. Sheryl Crow, 100 Miles From Memphis
8. The Saw Doctors, Further Adventures of...The Saw Doctors
9. The Black Keys, Brothers
10. She & Him, Volume Two
Honorable Mention - Kings of Leon, Come Around Sundown; Gin Blossoms, No Chocolate Cake.
Top Ten Albums of 2008-09:
1. Kelly Clarkson, All I Ever Wanted
2. The Killers, Day & Age
3. Bruce Springsteen, Working on a Dream
4. She & Him, Volume One
5. Kings of Leon, Only By The Night
6. Chickenfoot, Chickenfoot
7. U2, No Line on the Horizon
8. David Cook, David Cook
9. Brian Setzer, Songs From Lonely Avenue
10. Muse, Resistance
Honorable mention: Pink, Funhouse; Michael Buble, Crazy Love
That concludes my look at the people I've had enough exposure to to have something worth saying about them. Here's a quick look at the rest.
Not Worth My Time
There are a bunch of other recently active acts I've sampled or been exposed to and come away unimpressed, but who weren't really worth a full writeup:
The Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Mumford & Sons
My Morning Jacket
Florence and the Machine
Band of Horses
The Plain White Ts
The All-American Rejects
The Goo Goo Dolls
Lil' Wayne (his "rock" effort; obviously I'm not interested in rap)
Rage Against the Machine (Tom Morello has a good voice and unique guitar skills, but I'm not into Stalinism)
I'm not done; there are definitely a host of other artists I know I need to give a longer listen to, including:
-Wilco, which I'm hesitant to judge on a quick first impression.
-Most of Weezer's catalog (I only know 'Buddy Holly,' which is a really good song and a better video, and 'Island in the Sun'; I'm assured that there's more good stuff out there - they've put out nine studio albums - and Rivers Cuomo has a good pop music voice).
-Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears, an old-school R&B act.
-Airborne Toxic Event (I've liked what I've heard so far, especially 'Gasoline' and 'Sometime Around Midnight,' I just haven't gone far enough to figure out how many good songs they have).
-Josh Ritter (I like 'Rumor' and 'Mind's Eye')
-Alter Bridge (Myles Kennedy, the lead singer, did a couple of solid turns on Slash's album)
-AC/DC's output since 1981's For Those About To Rock, especially 2008's Black Ice.
-Bob Dylan's output since 1990's Under the Red Sky; I have a few of his later CDs now from my brother's collection.
-Rush's albums since 1991's Roll the Bones.
-Paramore, which has a couple decent-sounding songs, although I suspect I won't like enough of their stuff to buy more than a song or two.
-The rest of Black47's output besides 1998's outstanding Live in New York City.
-I need to give a fair hearing to Creed, but I seem to recall checking them out at one point and not being impressed. They seem to be hated by most of the same people who hate Nickelback, which should tell me something.
-Metallica's post-Black Album output (I did check out their album of covers, and didn't like most of them other than their cover of Bob Seger's 'Turn the Page,' which - this being neither here nor there - was used as Adam Dunn's music at Nationals Park).
-Possibly a few more of the suggestions from the comments to this post.
One Song Only
Other artists I've picked up just one post-2000 song by, but haven't yet heard anything suggesting I should dig deeper:
The Fratellis - 'Chelsea Dagger' (now that is a pop song).
Rock Kills Kid - 'Paralyzed'
Outkast - 'Hey Ya'
Cage the Elephant - 'Ain't No Rest For The Wicked'
Robert Francis - 'Junebug' (hat tip to Joe Posnanski on Francis, who bears watching)
The Dandy Warhols - 'Bohemian Like You'
Cee-Lo Green - 'F*** You'
Adele - 'Rolling in the Deep'
Cake - 'Comfort Eagle'
Snow Patrol - 'Take Back the City'
Macy Gray - 'Kissed It' (with Velvet Revolver - also her 1999 hit 'I Try')
Bedouin Soundclash - 'Until We Burn'
James Blunt - 'Stay The Night'
Chester French - 'She Loves Everybody'
Lena - 'Satellite'
Interpol - 'Slow Hands'
The Stills - 'Still In Love Song'
Matthew Sweet - 'Byrdgirl' (although 1990's 'Girlfriend' remains a power-pop standard)
Eric Hutchinson - 'OK It's Alright With Me'
Silversun Pickups - 'Lazy Eye'
Michael Franti & Spearhead - 'Sey Hey (I Love You)'
The Music - 'Freedom Fighters'
Sister Hazel - 'Hello It's Me'
Kaiser Chiefs - 'Ruby'
Soundtrack of Our Lives - 'Sister Surround'
The music scene is more fragmented than ever, and the golden age of mainstream mass-market rock, pop-rock and rock-influenced R&B will never return. But fans of Sixties pop, old time rock n' roll, Motown and Big Band shouldn't give up entirely on today's music world. If you look hard enough, there's still good music being made, interesting careers to follow, and good live shows to be attended.
I can't believe that you haven't tried The Gaslight Anthem. Start with their second album "The '59 Sound" (especially the title track) and their EP "Sink or Swim". Their latest album "American Slang" moved in a different sound and I don't enjoy it as much (although "The Boxer") is quite good.
Crank - do you not have Springsteen's "London Calling: Live in Hyde Park" DVD? I think it was released last year, a June 2009 concert from the Working on a Dream tour. It's a must-have. Coincidentally, the lead singer from The Gaslight Anthem guest vocals on No Surrender.
I do need to know more about the Gaslight Anthem, they seem to have a lot of fans in the Bruce-fan universe.
I'm not big on DVDs. Maybe I'll get it eventually but I'm more interested in audio I can put on my iPod.
I could write a reply almost as long as your post, but I'll just leave a few short bits:
Jars of Clay: Very underrated band. You've missed their best songs, apparently. Try "Fade To Gray", "Frail", "World's Apart", "Blind", "Liquid", "Sinking", and, for something completely different, "Hymn."
Muse: Not sure how Resistance isn't the top album of the decade, yet it barely cracked your top 10? Best band going right now, with The Killers in a close second.
Not a single mention of the Into the Wild sountrack by Eddie Vedder? Personally, maybe my favorite album of the decade. At least the best to listen to on a road trip.
Finally, how do you completely ignore Modest Mouse, the Foo Fighters and Cake, or did I miss it?
Thanks. Great post.
I admit that I'm still just starting to scratch the surface wrt Jars of Clay.
I loved "Learning to Fly," but I admit that I could do more catching up on the Foo Fighters. But my understanding was that their best work was in the 90s.
I did list one Cake song, haven't dug further with them. As for Modest Mouse, 'Dashboard' is on my list of songs to maybe get eventually, haven't heard more of their stuff.
If you buy one entire album, make it In Your Honour by the Foo Fighters. You won't be disappointed. Their best album ever. Nothing they've done since has come close. It's from this decade, BTW. You'll be surprised by the second disc. All acoustic, but some really great, different stuff. Virginia Moon may be the oddest song they've ever done, and it's not really rock like some of the outstanding rock songs on the first disc like DOA and No Way Back, but it's a really neat track. Thanks again.
nevermind - just saw you had mumford and sons on your "not worth it" list...
Red Hot Chili Peppers, i do not have any idea how you can have a conversation about post 95-97 music without including these guys!
Nice work here overall. Blasphemy to even breathe a mention of Rush in the same sentence as Muse!
Very little recent stuff interests me except Jack White and Joe Bonamassa. What's that you say? Who is Joe Bonamassa? Only one of the greatest guitar players actively touring, that's who! He won't get radio play but who cares, the radio sucks. Check out his albums So It's Like That and Live from Nowhere in Particular.
On the subject of great guitar players that you can still see up close and personal, Sonny Landreth is a fantastic slide player who hails from the Big Easy. Check out Grant Street and Levee Town, and FYI his most recent album From the Reach features collaborations with Mark Knopfler, Eric Clapton, Eric Johnson, Jimmy Buffet, Vince Gill, and Robben Ford.
On the subject of Rush, my own opinion is that with the exception of Snakes and Arrows their post-Roll the Bones albums each contain great material but taken as a whole is less inspiring overall than their earlier work. I'd argue that Vapor Trails is much better than it sounds as the production/recording is awful and it is rumored Lifeson will be remixing it (two remixed tracks were included on a recent compilation and sounded significantly better). All that said, three recent live albums (Rush in Rio, R30, and Snakes and Arrows Live) are fantastic. I also happen to think that Snakes and Arrows is their best all around effort in years. All with the caveat, of course, of assuming you like Rush. Love or hate with these guys it seems.
Hash Pipe by Weezer is my favorite tune of theirs. I am not remotely impressed with the Killers. I saw Sheryl Crow live a couple of summers ago in Central Park and her voice is spectacular.
Keep up the good work!
Just going to put a plug in for my personal favorite - Maria Mckee - Alt-Country before Alt Country was cool (1985 Lone Justice a near perfect debut album), solo worked careened all over the place and comes out sporadically - but writes her own songs, plays her own guitar and can really belt it out - Her take on wayfarin stranger is stunning - she did it on Letterman in 2001 - anyway great post
Oh boy. It looks like I have a LOT of songs to listen too. YouTube is going to get a workout.
I would give you some recommendations for music to try but I'm not really the right person to ask. My iPod has a wide variety of music both in era (going back to the 50s) and style, including a number of acts that you have declared unworthy, including a sampling of the dreaded Black Eyed Peas. But I might as well try.
On the Christian Rock front, along with Jars of Clay, who I highly recommend, you may want to give a try to Needtobreathe ("The Outsiders" album is excellent). Audio Adrenaline is also a very good, though more towards the alternative spectrum. The Newsboys combine pop-rock with a clever sense of humor - they're fun. And, of course, you have to try DC Talk and, if you like them, tobyMac who has gone on a successful solo career. On the harder side, you can try the album "Awake" by Skillet.
On the secular side, it baffles the mind how you have not delved into the Gaslight Anthem. I mean, seriously? Get to it, man. Weezer is also highly recommended, both for their music and their videos. Cake just released a new album and a couple of the tracks are getting played on the rock stations ("Sick of You", "Long Time"). Or, perhaps better yet, put on 107.1FM The Peak (you can stream it if you do not get radio reception) and listen to it all day. You'll probably find several artists to explore within a couple of hours.