Tuesday, April 18, 2017

2017 - 1 quarter down...here's what I love so far... (video form)

A little past the ¼ pole of 2017….here is a look at my favorite songs of the year so far. (in no particular order)

Elbow – Magnificent

Their 7th full length is right up there with their best yet, and the lead single is a BIG reason why…

Elbow – Little Fictions

Pretty obvious, I love the record…

Spoon – Hot Thoughts

Title track off another spectacular record…

Ryan Adams – Do You Still Love Me

There are like 9 different era’s of rock ALL rolled into 1 with the lead track from the new album…

Aimee Mann – Rollercoasters

Mental Illness is an incredible album…and this is my favorite from it…

Bonus – Look what I found
Ted Leo and Aimee Mann – Voices Carry

No words needed

Friday, December 23, 2016

The Top 15 Albums of 2016 - Part 2 (The Top 6)

If you missed part 1, you can access it HERE

Continuing on! Here are my top 6 records of 2016. As always, remember the Doug Rules:
No Live
No Best Of
No Comps

6 – Jimmy Eat World - Integrity Blues

Family men now
No longer in the Middle
Rocking once again

5 – Into It Over It - Standards

After two great ones
Evan delivers Standards
It's even better

4 – Nothing – Tired Of Tomorrow

Shoegaze and voice haze
Dominic writes his opus
No sophomore jinx here

(side note, I did a full review of this record which can be found HERE)

3 – Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool

From Creep until this
And everything in between
Pure bliss and brilliance

2 – Bob Mould – Patch The Sky

One from the top spot
Record is no less awesome
Formidable year

1 – Pinegrove - Cardinal

Four words reserved for
The very best of the tippy top:
It Is Near Perfect

Thursday, December 22, 2016

The TOP 15 Albums of 2016 .... Part 1

I have been in agony...

This year has been great for music. Not great....TREMENDOUS for new music. And I have listened and fretted and listened more and fretted more. Why??
1) I committed to myself that I would rank a top X records every year since I started this in 2013. Seems easy enough....right? But...
2) There are SO many good records, I did not know what the cutoff number would be for a ranking....and then once I did....
3) I still had to RANK them and my goodness it was difficult. Any one of the top 4 has sat at #1 on some variation of this list, multiple times. Once I hit enter, I am sure I will want to change it again! And it's not as if 5-15 were easy to figure out either! So...ok....got the SORTA KINDA ranking done...publish right? Nope...
4) I am suffering through writers block! It happens to me from time to time, and this year, just happened at the WRONG time. I tried to go the short video route, but honestly, I looked goofy, so I scrapped that idea. And then, thanks to my brother's inventive Christmas Card message this year, the idea of short, haikus for each record seemed imminently conceivable! And thus, the list is finally ready to go!

So, here is the bottom of the top 15 list, with the top 6 to be published tomorrow. As always, normal rules apply
No Live
No Best Of
No Comps


14 - The Hotelier - Goodness

A small band from Mass
Pornographic album cover
Goodness it is great

13 – Paul Simon - Stranger to Stranger

Do not let Wristband
Be the song in which you judge
Record as a whole

12 - Green Day – Revolution Radio / Blink 182 – California

Two Bands, One Genre
Comebacks both, but close to same
Had to be a tie

11 – Dinosaur Jr – Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not

Mascis and the boys
Continue on the journey
Acclaimed second act

10 – Teenage Fanclub – Here

Still Going Very Strong
Twenty Five years since Concept
Sounds like yesterday

9 – Bon Iver – 22 a Million

Vernon back to Bon
Falsetto his very best friend
Almost made top 5

8 – Gaz Coombes – Matador

Going by US date
Released last year in UK
Don’t care, it’s my list

7 – American Football – LP2

17 between
LP1 and LP2
Breathtaking emo

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Concert Review - Peter Gabriel and Sting - The Rock Paper Scissors Tour

When Peter Gabriel and Sting announced the forthcoming co-headlining tour at the turn of the year, my instant and first reaction was “who opens?” The name, “Rock, Paper Scissors”, seemed to imply that it would be that, a flip of the coin, a product of chance, (maybe) a rotating status from show to show. And even I, the avowed Peter Gabriel SUPER-fan had to have a good think: who would the crowd be there to see MORE? For as much commercial success as So brought Gabriel, even I, in an objective moment, would probably admit that Sting had the larger body of work, had the more POPULAR body of work, and had the more crowd appealing (for live performance) body of work. So, I was ready to acquiesce. Not grudgingly in the least, mind you, as I would put Sting in my top 15 favorites as well.

And then, something really great started to come out from both camps. This would be a different type of show. There would be no opening act, and neither of these legendary artists would have to pull the curtain for the other. It was to be a total collaborative effort. My first reaction was one of unreal excitement. YES! This could ABSOLUTELY work SO well. I started to list out in my head the reasons WHY, despite only sharing a stage for brief interludes at Amnesty Intl shows back in 1987, this would be seamless, and not present even the remotest difficulty. The criteria was so evident, I thought:

They’re both BRITISH!

They both left bands on somewhat bad terms to go solo!!


*more thinking*

*even more thinki….*

OH! OH OH OH! Sting played with Stewart Copeland in the Police! And Stewart lent his hi-hat talent to Red Rain on the So album….oh my GOD this is going to work!

So, of course, I started to let doubt creep in. Could it really work? Would it come across as campy? Would one clearly overshadow the other, and have a hard time erasing that look from their face? Would THEY have fun?

One of the last clips I watched, about 3 months before the tour was to kick off, Sting spoke two lines that made me think it was all going to be fine: “We’re going to play the hits…why wouldn’t we?” and “I may play a Peter song, he might play a Sting song”. With those two (paraphrased) notions, I was ready to soak it all in.

I attended the Rock Paper Scissors show at Nikon Jones Beach Theater in Long Island, NY on June 24th. What follows are a series of random (but somewhat cohesive) thoughts on the night. I can’t do the show justice in a traditional review format.

--- From the start of the evening, we noticed one thing pretty quickly. We weren’t skewing the demo up or down in anyway. We WERE the demo. 15,000 40-somethings, some in Sting shirts, some in Peter shirts (ok, I only saw ME in a Peter shirt…..) plenty of strap-on sandals for the guys, plenty of big sunglasses for the women. Conversations around us ranged from the Brexit results, to how tasty the lobster roll was from the food truck, to youth soccer..etc… If anything, this was not a crowd that was necessarily “ready to ROCK!”, but were buzzing with anticipation. (and probably the $15 Tito’s lemonades)

--- Seeing the stage, you could immediately tell that this was not your ordinary concert set-up. Two drum kits, multiple guitar and bass rigs, three piano/keyboard stations, and as the music kicked up, screens with the names of upwards of 14 musicians. (divided cheekily into “red” and “blue” teams for each band) It was Peter who came out first, but not with just his band, but also the backup singer and drummer from Sting’s band as well. For me, within the first 15 seconds, I was in heaven, as the opening tribal rhythm sounds of The Rhythm of the Heat pounded through the sound system. (with both drummers pounding so perfectly in time) I have never seen Peter do this song live, as it very rarely has seen a set list since the So tour 25+ years ago, yet it was the opening salvo for the many years prior. The red lights pulsed with the beat. The music swelled, Peter in fine voice leading the charge, and as people continued to file in, and the sun set slowly behind our seats, the tone was set.

--- Conversely, Sting came out (with a MAYBE 8 second lull in between songs 1 and 2) and launched right into a universally known, and easy-to-sing-along with “If I Ever Lose My Faith In You”. Within the first minute, it was VERY apparent that he was here to a) have fun and b) (as promised) do the hits. The energy was a TOTAL dichotomy of the dark opener from Gabriel, and brought the crowd to a higher level, very quickly.

--- When the two addressed the crowd in the early stages of the show, they let us know, (amongst other things, such as the connective thread of dairy cows between them….I can’t believe I didn’t mention that earlier!) that this night was about fun, and a “karaoke battle between team red and team blue”. (capped by Peter referring to his counterpart as “Mr. Sting” for the first of many times, in many iterations, including “Mr. Sting Sumner” and “Mr. Gordon Sting”) The result of the song swapping ranged from tremendous to tremendous.
The highlights:

Sting takes on Shock The Monkey – A straight forward interpretation, Sting and his band made the song their own nonetheless. At age 64, Sting has not lost a step in the least. His vocals, powerful and commanding, brought a new voice to a classic composition.

Peter takes on If You Love Somebody Set Them Free– In direct contrast to the earlier exchanges, outside of the words, there was nothing recognizable to the original Blue Turtles era tune. And that is not at all a bad thing. In the vein of the Scratch My Back series Gabriel did a few years back (covering popular songs from a variety of artists, interpreted by him and the New Blood orchestra) Set Them Free took the sound and shape of a boozy, jazz club torch song, complete with Gabriel crooning in his lowest register.

--- Both men throughout their adult lives, have pledged support for numerous causes; performing for them, donating time and money, organizing benefits…etc… And on this night, they used their voice to recognize some of the goings on in the world, including:

Sting dedicating a tremendous version of Fragile to the victims and families of the Orlando nightclub mass shooting.
Peter shouting out Red Rain to the witness.org group in attendance, as well as the organization as a whole.
Peter singing a new song (and a beautiful one at that) Love Will Heal, to the memory of recently slain UK politician Jo Cox.

--- Back to Sting….my goodness. He has been doing this for 4 decades. Touring, and recording, and guesting, and more touring, and more recording…one would forgive him if his voice started to show some wear and tear. People would TOTALLY understand if reaching the high notes of Roxanne, or Message In A Bottle was just not possible anymore. But here is the thing. A total of ONE song was dropped in key. ONE! (Invisible Sun for the record) For everything else, it was as if you dropped the needle on Ghost in the Machine or Nothing Like The Sun, pitch perfect to the original recording. I can not state it enough how impressive this was.

And while we are here, the man ALSO knows his crowd. Whether it be the vast number of songs he pulled from the Police catalog, the solo hits he crafted thereafter, hell, even the songs he shared with Peter (Games Without Frontiers most notably) he just KNOWS the spot. That moment in the song that calls for a little audience participation. Whether it be a traditional call and response (ie: Message in a Bottle) or trailing off vocals to let the crowd take over (ie: Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic) the man makes it look easy. And for us, all the better, as again, it’s “the hits”, we knew every word.

---They played almost 3 hours, they did 28 songs, it was prolonged moments of breathlessness….so in a bit of the finest nitpicking, one song from each that I WISH was played:

Sting - Little Wing - Why? Well, first of all, Dominic Miller, Sting’s longtime touring guitarist, is one of the most under-rated players around. He could handle the Hendrix stylings (although the Sting recorded version takes a lot of jazz-lite liberties with the original) with ease. Secondly, and most importantly, it took me 15 minutes to think of this one. The set list was THAT good.
Peter-Mercy Street - A little easier, as I could easily select Darkness to come off of the track list. BUT, I DO like that Gabriel broke out a song from the little appreciated UP record, so again, nitpicky

---Two funny lines from Peter:
As the bands left the stage following an incredible rendering of In Your Eyes to “close the show”, Peter deadpanned, back to audience, “this is when we pretend to go home”. The encore was obvious, of course.
The two vocalists shared responsibility for the (very apt for venue) tremendously overlooked Englishman In New York. Peter, who took the second verse, seemed to be having an issue hearing the music through his in-ear monitors, and was struggling to find the notes….and he let us know by concluding the verse with the adlib lyric “i am clearly not aware of what key”

---Best song from each? Tough to narrow down to one…but I’ll be short, and try
Sting - Roxanne - With it’s traditional beginning and end, but interspersed with a lengthy, running jazz line in the middle (complete with whipping in Aint No Sunshine as well) and, as noted, the crowd participation, it slightly ranks ahead of every other song, which are all tied for a close second.
Peter - Sledgehammer - This is a tough one, as this seems like such the easy pick, and I don’t always like going with the grain. However, here’s the thing…it closed the show, Sting took a verse, the place was dancing, and it made every emotion come all at once. Since it’s release over 25 years ago, it has held the mantle of a top 3 song for me, (yes, I did a post on that monstrosity known as “my favorite song ever”….) and it will STILL be there in 25 minutes, 25 hours, and another 25 years. It’s just that damn good.

I look down and see, I am already at 1900 words, and I feel like I could write 2000 more….and still not REALLY capture how near-pitch-perfect this night was. Granted, bias for me (my favorite artist, and another in my top 15 of all time) perfect company (her second Sting show – the first one being 25 years ago….which we were both at…but not together. And her very first PG show) an outstanding venue (holy WOW, first time for me seeing a show at Jones Beach in Long Island, definitely will not be the last….i could do 900 words on the food trucks alone) and outstanding weather. Without question, a top 3 show all time for me (of 200+ shows) and PROBABLY, factoring everything, my favorite ever.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

My Mid-Year 2016 Ultimate Summer Playlist

The Mid-Year Play List

It’s amazing how in some cases, time can stand still, and in others, it seems to fly by. The genesis of this list, definitely stems from the latter. From time to time, I struggle with a bit of writers exhaustion, my self-described deference to the word “block”. While putting together the top 10 of the 90s list, I suddenly felt this exhaustion. I WANT to write about #6….but the words are just coming out tired. So, Plan B as it may be, is to reflect back on the speedy half year of music and develop a summer play list. As most of you know, I am not the world’s biggest digital music connoisseur, as I would rather hold a record in hand, study the cover art, pour over the liner notes, and watch the needle of a turntable move closer and closer to the middle of the black circle. That said, I TOTALLY get the appeal of Spotify, Tidal..etc… for everyday consumption. In that spirit, what follows is a “one song per artist” list of my favorite songs of the first half of 2016….and yes….one of them IS in digital form on my iPhone. (and in the spirit of every mixed tape/CD I ever made, I also tracked the list for listening pleasure and cohesion purposes. Shuffle as you wish)

Pinegrove – Old Friends (from the album “Cardinal”)
Atop (the close relative of upon) most critics "best of the year" lists...with very due cause.

Steve Gunn – Ancient Jewels (from the album “Eyes On The Lines”)
I worried a few songs into this release, that I accidently bought a Dead and Friends record...still not sure to be honest...

Weezer – California Kids (from the album “Weezer – the White Album”)
Rivers and the boys take their talents to South Beach...er... Cali.

Mudcrutch – Beautiful World (from the album “Mudcrutch2”)
Surprisingly, my favorite from the record is not a Petty-led tune. And that's, ok.

Catfish And The Bottleman – 7 (from the album “The Ride”)
Is this the newest act to try and claim the UK throne? Wonder how they feel about BrExit....

case/lang/veirs – Best Kept Secret (from the album “case/lang/veris”)
"Who are three women who have never been in my kitchen, Alex"

Band Of Horses – Casual Party (from the album “Why Are You Ok”)
When I usually think Band of Horses, upbeat pop number falls about 34257th on the list of things i think...

Nada Surf – Cold To See Clear (from the album “You Know Who You Are”)
Matthew Caws and company return with a dynamic record opener...and a video ode to PowerPoint

Bob Mould – You Say You (from the album “Patch The Sky”)
Honestly, I could have chosen any of the first 4 songs of the album...and changed my mind a few times.

Nothing – A.C.D. (from the album “Tired Of Tomorrow”)
Still probably at the top of my list for record of the year...but, you know, 6 more months to go...

Real Friends – Mess (from the album “The Home Inside My Head”)
Token pop-punk tune for the list, other wise known as "Preston's ears perk up"

Into It Over It – Closing Argument (from the album “Standards”)
One of the best names for a band going...even if it really is just one dude making all of the music...

The Hotelier – You In This Light (from the album “Goodness”)
Winner for the coveted "Record Cover I'm embarrassed to have out and displayed in my home" award...but a damn catchy album

Gaz Coombes –Detroit (from the album “Matador”)
Going by the U.S. release date on this one, as it has been a hit in the UK for about a year now...

Radiohead – Daydreaming (from the album “A Moon Shaped Pool”)
Could have gone a few different ways off of this masterpiece of a return from Yorke and Co.

Paul Simon – Insomniac’s Lullaby (from the album “Stranger To Stranger”)
Still AWESOME after all these years...probably crazy too. And shorter, I really think he is shrinking...

So, there it is....

I like ending on a slow, soft, "goodbye" note, and the newest from Paul Simon does just that.


What if we wanted to keep it going....

...and end on the perfect summer song?


Justin Timberlake – Can’t Stop The Feeling (single edition)
Two words...Man Crush...

Friday, June 10, 2016

My Take On.....The Top 10 Albums of the 1990s - #7

Ah….time….how precious it is. And, in some cases, what we like to forget. Moments in our memories that somehow include: Koosh Balls, Birkenstocks, overalls, 90210 and (shudder) DIAL-UP ISPs. But, luckily, the MUSIC of the 1990s made a more promising, indelible mark, and in the case of some, live on as classic art in the truest sense. Welcome back, as I continue to countdown the top 10 albums of the 90s. In case you missed them, here’s what has come to pass so far.

First Post – Numbers 10 and 9

Second Post – Number 8

To quote the universal heartthrobs known as Color Me Badd…Thinkin’ Back…

7: Oasis – (What’s the Story) Morning Glory

Since I got the obscure pick out of the way at #10, why not go high and inside and deliver the (maybe) controversial one here. Look, I get it, they check ALL of the boxes why a vast majority would dislike a band:

Obnoxious Lead Singer? – CHECK
Sound a little TOO much like a seminal 60’s band? – Oh My Gosh BOLD MARKER CHECK
Proclaim to be the biggest band in the world? – probably since they were in a garage CHECK
(and in this distinct time frame) NOT Dave Mathews? - What Would You Say! CHECK

I’m nodding along with you, I totally understand….but here’s the thing. All that, whether put to the side or glared at directly, does not take away from the simple fact, that this is not only a tremendous piece of work, but was groundbreaking(ish). It can be argued, that up until the point that "Live Forever" (from the debut record Definitely Maybe) made some noise on U.S. terrestrial radio, (ask your folks, kids) there REALLY hadn’t been a British band that cracked the code for about 10-15 years.

Because of some of the records that came out in the 80s, and others we will talk about later down (up?) the list, the American 20-something was listening to more “alternative rock” than just about any other genre. And in that alternative town, there were many streets: Grunge Blvd, TrippyJam Ave, Jangley St….and Oasis with THIS record, started to pave BritPop Road. Were there other UK bands with them trying to grab the asphalt to pour? Sure! Blur with Song 2 (or, as most refer to it…the WHOOHOO song) was a decent radio hit, but in the U.S. ranks right alongside Tommy Tutone’s Jenny for one hit wonders. Stone Roses TRIED to win over a stateside audience by totally changing their sound with Love Spreads. Those of us who loved them from the first album (in my top 10 of the 1980s) recoiled at the Zepplin-like departure; those who didn’t know them, save for the hype, cast them astray.

So, in a way, it’s even more astounding that this band, with ALL of those check marks I pointed out earlier, was able to take the momentum from their first release, and build on it tremendously.

Morning Glory is a band at full throttle, putting care into every note, every beat, every measure of sound. It produced not one, but TWO #1 singles on the Billboard Modern Rock chart. “Wonderwall”, the first of these, is a standout track. Straightforward in its simplicity, it draws the listener in from the jump, with the recognizable Noel Gallagher (the nicer? of the two brothers) guitar setting the tone, before Liam’s (yup, he would be the bad brother) distinct voice (rasp and whine…oooooh that would be a GREAT name for a 2016 post-rock indie band from Idaho!) comes over the top. It’s not tricky, it’s not overt, but damn does it grab you instantly and not let go. The other chart topper, “Champagne Supernova”, to me, is even better. A composition written for (UK) stadiums, with psychedelic over AND undertones, (the music is Sgt. Peppers 101…in the best way possible) to be enjoyed as it washes over the listener, and starts to invade the part of them that FEELS the song. And really, if you can weave in an image of a cannonball rolling in a hallway, how can you go wrong? The record is not just those songs however. “Roll With It” “Some Might Say” and “Don’t Look Back In Anger” not only received moderate radio exposure, but became live set staples for a decade-plus for the band. Is there filler? Yes, but even that is pretty good for filler sake. Sadly, like the band at #8 on my list, this would be the zenith for Oasis.

The subsequent releases, while having very high highs, did not have the mass appeal that one (read: LIAM) would have hoped or thought they deserved/earned. (I will say as an aside, I do believe Standing on the Shoulder of Giants is a much better record than it gets credit for) If you haven’t listened to Morning Glory in a while, I would implore you to give it a spin, it might be better than you remembered…

….or the checks in the boxes may still get in the way.

Comments? Hit me up on:
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Coming Up NEXT :
A band starts version 2.0 of themselves…

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

My Take On.....The Top 10 Albums of the 1990s - #8

As we continue our journey back to the 1990s, and the wonderful music it brought, a link to the 1st post in this series. The criteria, the honorable mentions, and #10 and #9.


To quote the seminal artist Shannon…..Let the Music Play….

8: Smashing Pumpkins – Siamese Dream

The first of a few “know the moment” records for me on this list. Let me explain…

Working in college radio at the time (as well as drumming in my college band Pale Kellys), I had become well aware of the buzz surrounding Smashing Pumpkins very early on. The release of their debut, Gish on tiny Caroline Records, did little to dent the mainstream, barely cracking the Billboard 200 weekly list (at 196…for all of one week). However, college radio SWARMED to it, playing and re-playing “hits” like Siva and Rhinoceros, partly because of the sound, and partly to be ahead of the potential next big thing. The music world buzzed (swarm, now buzz….bee theme?) a bit more, fueled by the success of the “grunge” movement, to ALSO find that elusive thing.

Word started to filter out through publications such as College Music Journal, that the Chicago based group would be working with Butch Vig (again), heading to remote Georgia (the state) and would be releasing the follow up record on Virgin (the record label). For a while, that’s all that was known, save for stories of the number of labels that wanted to be “the one” to get the major label debut. (as it is, Virgin records was a partner of the much smaller Caroline…so they didn’t stray too far). After some time (and much discussed turmoil while recording) the first single was announced, and weeks later, subsequently shipped to college radio. My “know the moment”: I was the music director at the time, and knew what was (pretty much) in every padded envelope that we received on a Monday or Tuesday. When I saw the Virgin Records logo in the upper left hand corner, I knew what I was holding. With the strength of Superman (ok…just go with me on that one) I ripped it open, marveled at the CD single cover art (a toddler in sepia tone) and BEGGED the on-air host to abandon whatever it was he was about to play next. (knowing this guy, I spared the campus of another Rick Astley 3-fer…) “Cherub Rock” started with a very simple snare drum roll….twice…followed by a light guitar, and for the first 6 seconds, I thought “oh no, did they tone it down?”, and by the time the word “down” hit my mind, I had the answer, as the already-trademark fuzz and power of the Iha/Corgan guitar duo came roaring through. At that moment, I knew what (the world) I had been waiting for, was going to be just fine.

Weeks later, Siamese Dream was released to a much broader audience, with much greater success (Billboard top 10) than its predecessor. The carrying thing for the Pumpkins on this record, is very obvious: they do loud boisterous, yet the soft sublime….and most times within the same track. Look no further than the singles released. “Mayonnaise”, “Rocket”, “Today”, all have moments blissfully edging the abyss of silence before roaring with the fury of a million watts. Throughout the entire scope of the record, front to back, the songs layer and unfurl simultaneously, all fueled by the distinctive drum sound, the power guitar chords, and the unmistakable Billy Corgan snarl.

Sadly, this would be the apex for the band, as the next record, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness (an overblown grab at greatness that fell quite short) all the way to the most recent Monuments to an Elegy (ugh…akin to Rocky V, let’s just pretend it didn’t happen) have never been at or NEAR the level that Siamese Dream propelled them in the direction of. And that, is a shame, as if the path had continued, we could be looking back at one of the greatest rock bands of the past 30 years. Instead, we at LEAST have this. Thankfully.

Comments? Hit me up on:
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Coming Up NEXT :
We go abroad, across the pond, anticipate the invasion….pick your cliché!