Month: October 2014

First Impressions: Flying Lotus, “You’re Dead!”

flyinglotusThe title of the new Flying Lotus album is not a joke, nor is it a red herring: You’re Dead! is singularly focused on human mortality, albeit with the crooked smile and occasional cartoonish energy implied by the exclamation point. There have been other albums about death, of course, but none quite like this one: Some of the latter-day Johnny Cash/Rick Rubin albums focused on death almost to the point of fetishizing it, the light at the end of the tunnel casting life’s final moments in sepia tones, preserving them in amber. Tom Waits’ Bone Machine, meanwhile, wed gritty realism to apocalyptic poetry and tall tales, the songs all frayed nerves and dark thoughts, the narrators marching ever toward the inevitable. On some of Dylan’s recent albums, he acknowledges that yes, even he is a mortal—and he shrugs and does a little soft-shoe. You’re Dead! is as much about life as it is death, human experience rendered all the more wondrous and profound because it is so temporary. The album is a protest against death; it’s offered under no delusion that death will be vanquished by our puny outstretched fists, but rather comes with the zealous knowing that even the act of protest itself is meaningful, and life-affirming.

The album is what sometimes gets referred to as a mind-fuck, as it inhabits its own unique space, its own astral plane that requires you to adjust your thinking and suspend your expectations, allowing yourself to get swept up in its own surreal logic. That’s not to say that it is a difficult record, though, and neither is it insular or exclusive. It is opening and accommodating to anyone. There are recognizable threads of jazz, R&B, electronic, gospel, and rock music contained here, and the music is just as visceral, exciting, and hooky as all that implies. It just moves so quickly—its 19 songs forming a more-or-less continuous suite of music, the mood radically changing every minute or two—that at first the effect is dizzying. Befitting its subject matter, You’re Dead! races to mark everything off its list, to savor as many flavors and colors and experiences as possible before the whole thing ends.

It begins with a kind of prelude, but quickly accelerates: Its first four songs form a breakneck suite of rock and hard bop and electronic flourishes, no less a luminary than Herbie Hancock showing up on one song to lay down some piano cords, roaring saxophone grounding others in the grit and heavy swing of jazz and soul music. (The Hancock track, more than any other, illuminates this album’s one flaw: The songs are all so good that you wish some of them would last longer; Herbie’s contributions come and go so quickly as to barely register, at least on first listen.) It culminates in a centerpiece track with Kendrick Lamar, who raps a defiant battle cry, staring death in the face and spitting in its eye. It’s emblematic of the record’s fighting spirit, and it brings those first few minutes to such a feverish boil that, unsurprisingly, the remainder of the album feels like a long cool-down, a necessary interlude for the listener’s pulse to slow.

That’s not to say the rest of the album is a bore. It keeps moving at a fairly brisk pace; it contains much humor, especially on a delightfully warped song called “Dead Man’s Tetris,” on which Snoop Dog and Captain Murphy (aka Flying Lotus in singer/songwriter mode) address us from the great beyond. It also gets pretty freaky, especially on the spooky, dark incantation “The Boys Who Died in Their Sleep,” which comes right after a song called “Descent into Madness.” The last song is called “The Protest,” wherein a chorus of voices promise us that they’ll live forever. We all know it isn’t true, but what of it? This music does what jazz and blues and soul music have always done: It sings; it goes on signing; it invites us to join in; it just gets louder with the acknowledgement that yes, someday, the song will end.

First Impressions: Weezer, “Everything Will Be Alright in the End”

weezerRivers Cuomo is nothing if not a rock and roll true believer, a point he makes most movingly on “Eulogy for a Rock Band,” from the new Weezer album Everything Will Be Alright in the End. It’s an oddly affecting song, not just for its trembling earnestness but perhaps also for the nagging suspicion that this eulogy could almost have been delivered, at various points, for Weezer, a band that’s been deep in the shit, effectively broken up, and reformed only to endure a decade-plus of middling reviews, polarized fans, and tentative creativity. The actual band Cuomo celebrates in “Eulogy” remains nameless, but is remembered fondly nevertheless: They may have died in obscurity, the song suggests, but their song goes on. And it matters.

On another song, “Back to the Shack,” Cuomo explicitly wonders whether Weezer might meet the same fate—but almost doesn’t mind: “If we died in obscurity, oh well/ At least we raised some hell.” And yes. That’s exactly it. One thinks of Orson Welles in the film F for Fake, paying homage to the great artists of yesteryear whose names are now lost to us but whose work resonates still: “A fact of life: we’re going to die. ‘Be of good heart,’ cry the dead artists out of the living past. ‘Our songs will all be silenced, but what of it? Go on singing.’ Maybe a man’s name doesn’t matter all that much.”

Everything Will Be Alright in the End is an album about raising hell, or more specifically about Weezer kicking up a ruckus on its own terms. “This is what I was meant to do,” Cuomo offers on “Back to the Shack,” and that’s as good an explanation as any as to why this album exists—good and satisfying. Everything sounds like an epiphany, at once modest and paradigm-shifting: For years Weezer and their fans have all gone on as though this was a band lost in the tall weeds, but with this new one Cuomo and the gang seem revitalized and refocused by the idea that big hooks and bigger guitars are all they’ve ever needed—all they were ever meant to do.

You can hear the album as sort of a repudiation of the group’s waywardness, weird experiments, and poorly-received albums of the last few years—especially the hip-hop and pop flirtations of Raditude, perhaps—and you can take references to “rockin’ out like it’s ’94,” combined with the rehiring of Ric Ocasek, who produced the Blue and Green albums, as pure back-to-basics moods, or even as apologies to the group’s long-suffering fans. The thing is, all of that’s undermined by the fact that Everything doesn’t sound all that much like the Blue Album; it’s got hair metal guitars and pure pop hooks, geeky lyrics and a new wave sheen—but what Weezer album doesn’t, really?

For as hard as they rock on “Back to the Shack,” for as driving as “Eulogy” is, for all the static and fuzz and frayed nerves in “Lonely Girl,” this is still the same Rivers Cuomo who has become, over time, a gifted and eccentric pop craftsman; where he expressed himself through raw emotion on Pinkerton, he now prefers to let hooks, guitars, and cheerfully sentimental or self-referential lyrics do the talking—and that’s no less valuable or no less rewarding, nor is it any less personal or any less authentic to Rivers, than the Pinkerton stuff. And so we have an album that ends with a miniature, mostly-instrumental prog rock suite; that builds from a cheery whistle and strummed acoustic guitar on “Da Vinci” and incorporates Beach Boy harmonies on “The British Are Coming,” both wonderfully low-key little pop songs that wouldn’t quite have fit in on the roaring Blue album. Even songs that sound at first like tried-and-true Weezer piledrivers reveal themselves to be slightly more complex in their construction, as on the jittery, halting “I’ve Had it Up to Here.” As if to show off what an effortless pop songwriter he’s become, Cuomo builds the album’s catchiest hook, on the song “Go Away,” from just two words.

Some of the spirit of ’94 is here, perhaps, yet the album never plays like a rehash or a retreat; it just sounds like Weezer being Weezer, and frankly doing a better job of it than they have since the Red album, if not Pinkerton. On paper, it doesn’t sound like it’s all that different from something like Hurley, but the perspective is new, and that, it turns out, makes all the difference in the world: It sounds like Cuomo’s belief in himself, and in Weezer, has been rekindled; like he no longer has to prove anything, to himself or to anybody—he just needs to raise some hell.

First Impressions: Prince, “Art Official Age”

princeIn his fantastic memoir Mo’ Meta Blues, Roots bandleader ?uestlove opines that the song “Housequake” marked the very last time Prince truly surprised anybody—and that was way back in 1987. That synopsis is true enough, unless you found yourself surprised by the Purple One’s exclusive Target distribution deal from a few years back, or to see him show up on an episode of The New Girl, and it encapsulates the basic post-2000 narrative surrounding Prince—namely, that he has long lost his zeal for exploration and discovery, for the freakish and the new, and has settled into a comfortable groove as a craftsman, churning out albums that are sometimes satisfying and sometimes boring but never unexpected, and never sounding like anything more than sturdy Prince LPs.

It’s true enough that nothing released this side of “Housequake” and its parent album, Sign ‘o’ the Times, has scaled the same heights as that landmark, nor even touched such classics as Dirty Mind, 1999, Purple Rain, or Parade—and Art Official Age, the latest in a long line of Prince comeback albums, does nothing to change that. To write it off simply for failing to live up to those classics is not only an uncharitable view, though, but also a slightly misleading one: Remember that Prince’s glory-days weirdness resulted in no small amount of brilliant music—he was, for a time, untouchable—but also a lot of baffling and frankly frustrating moves, albums where all the songs were placed on a single CD track, albums where unbearable soap opera dialog weighed down the otherwise enjoyable music, unfortunate stabs at hip-hop and triple-disc sets that missed their mark as often as they hit it.

To call Art Official Age a supremely well-crafted, sturdy Prince album, then, is not necessarily to damn it with faint praise: It’s not anywhere near as exhilarating as Purple Rain but it is, in truth, more enjoyable, appealing, and addictive than many of the albums he’s released since that time—including many of the quote-unquote weird ones. To boot: Even if it lacks in surprises, the album hardly lacks in tight grooves, memorable lyrics, strong songwriting, and consummate production. Prince may well be a buttoned-down professional these days, and that may be the last thing any of us ever wanted him to become, but if he’s lost most of his weirdness, he hasn’t lost his impeccable craft. The resulting album, when taken on its own terms, is immensely satisfying—more so than nearly anything he’s released since 2000; a far cry from his classics, yes, but also a far cry from the tepid 20Ten or LotusFlow3r albums, or even Planet Earth.

The terms on which we should take this album, incidentally, are as a straight-up R&B album, and as far as that goes, it’s really without peer, at least in 2014. Ignoring hip-hop altogether—just as well, since it’s always thrown him for a loop—Prince has constructed a killer set of old-school slow-jams and funk tunes, unmistakably traditional in their craft yet sounding sleek and modern at the same time. There is even, in truth, a bit of Prince weirdness in some of the lyrics, and in the vague sci-fi theme that surfaces from time to time; that kind of thing has become such a part of him that it’s hard for it to register as all that outlandish, but it certainly gives this set character that similar albums might lack.

And all of this, really, is enough: Prince is no longer charting new realms of inner and outer space, but if he can still make funny, sexy, and utterly groovewise slow jams like “Breakfast Can Wait,” or even a jumpin’ “Housequake” update like “The Gold Standard,” well, that’s ample material for a strong, memorable Prince record. It may not be surprising, but that hardly makes it unappealing.

Review: U2 Are Pilgrims on Their Way in “Songs of Innocence”

songsThe common knock against latter-day U2—one that’s routinely delivered even by the band’s most ardent fans—is that the band never quite recovered from the commercial and critical failure of Pop; that ever since that 1997 album sunk from the charts—in many respects the first true misstep from the biggest, most successful rock band of the last 30 years—Bono and crew have been desperately chasing down their 1980s muse, striving to make albums cut from the same comforting, well-worn cloth of The Joshua Tree and The Unforgettable Fire.

It’s a neat little narrative, both convenient and, at first blush, pretty truthful—but dig a bit deeper into their albums of the new millennium and it becomes apparent that it may be a bit too easy to accuse U2 of merely pining away for their 80s heyday. While it’s true that their latter-career reset album, All That You Can’t Leave Behind, eschews the irony and experimentation of their 90s albums in favor of big anthems and open-hearted emotion, it’s also true that they carried some of the lessons learned in the 90s with them, particularly about pop songcraft. “Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of” is a lightweight slab of blue-eyed soul that never could have fit on the brooding Unforgettable Fire or the tumultuous Joshua Tree, and even when U2 does self-consciously reach for past glories—as on “City of Blinding Lights,” a new-millennium anthem that hits the very same emotional notes as “Where the Streets Have No Name”—they can’t help but come at it from a different perspective: They hoist the song atop their shoulders like elder statesmen, wizened rock and roll survivors all too ready to take audience members by the hand and lead them toward inspiration and hope—not at all the same vibe as the searching, hungry “Where the Streets Have No Name.”

There are plenty of other examples besides, and sure enough: Songs like “A Man and a Woman” and “I’ll Go Crazy if I Can’t Go Crazy Tonight” offer hooky, lightweight pop, compact and focused solely on melody—songs that have more to do with the tight songraft of Achtung Baby than with the sprawl and the roar and the angst of their mid-80s albums; songs made by experienced craftsmen rather than rock and roll firebrands. Whether one finds such songs appealingly breezy or vaguely embarrassing is an open question, perhaps, but the point is this: While U2 may have spent the last 15 years making music that sounds like cookie-cutter U2, they’ve not actually made an album that returns to the specific spirit of any particular U2 classic, nor could they: They’re older now, and carry with them every experience and every lesson learned in their pursuit of the muse. They’re not repeating themselves: They’re finding new wrinkles in a signature aesthetic, allowing the sound of U2 to grow along with the men of U2.

What, then, does one make of a record like Songs of Innocence—an album that references vintage U2 as pointedly as any album they’ve made (listen to how “Every Breaking Wave” opens with what could almost be a sample from “With or Without You”) yet sounds as distinct, as much its own thing as any of their post-Pop recordings? Not only that, but the record—for all its anthemic reach, for all its stadium-ready chants, for all its open-hearted enthusiasm—is as clearly indebted to the studio effects of Achtung Baby and to their burgeoning skills as true pop songwriters as anything they’ve made since the 90s? One almost laments that the title Pop was already taken; it would have fit just fine here.

You can hear it most obviously in the more experimental numbers, first and foremost the album’s incredible closer, “The Troubles”—as rich and as moving a song as they’ve made in ages, an elliptical and haunting funhouse of voices and studio effects, Lykke Li singing the otherworldly hook but Bono rooting the song in clear-eyed self-realization. There are other songs here that vaguely recall the experimental bent of Achtung and Zooropa—the synth-driven “Sleep Like a Baby Tonight,” for example—but that’s merely one aspect of the album’s curious refraction of U2 past and present. While no one will mistake the album for anything but a carefully produced and thoroughly polished piece of music, “Cedarwood Road” rides a nasty, raucous guitar lick that’s more rock and roll than anything they’ve done this side of War. Though it isn’t as immediate as “Vertigo” or “Get on Your Boots,” the pummeling opener “The Miracle” is a crowd-riling singalong that’s actually more carefully written and arranged than either of those tracks, and thankfully less goofy and embarrassing. And about those new wrinkles: “California” opens with a harmonic ode to The Beach Boys, of all things, and though it morphs into an Edge-driven rocker, it’s far too breezy to be just another U2 anthem.

There are hooks throughout the album—big ones—and no song that drifts into atmospherics, extended soloing from The Edge, or “Streets”-styled grandeur; everything is tight, lean, and to the point. It’s appealing, actually, and is made all the more so by the nimbleness of the melodies and rhythms. Therein lies the biggest surprise on Songs of Innocence: Though U2 is notorious for its perfectionism, fussing over each song to the point where there’s nothing that could ever resemble true spontaneity or improvisation, and though this album was infamously worked on for a span of five years—multiple producers credited, and nearly half a dozen keyword players listed for the first track alone—the real miracle in all of this is its comparative lightness of touch. Yes, it’s still immaculate rather than raw—and really cutting loose and getting their hair ruffled a bit is what U2 still so desperately needs—but the heavy-handed Lanois/Eno production has been lifted in favor of a punchier sound masterminded by Danger Mouse. The result is U2’s most melodic album; its most fun; in many ways, its most straightforwardly appealing. The biggest difference between this album and the last two: Songs of Innocence offers the illusion that it wasn’t quite so fussed over.

You can hear the difference best, perhaps, on “Every Breaking Wave,” the closest thing the album has to a by-the-numbers U2 anthem. And it is a by-the-numbers U2 anthem, maybe, not just for its “With or Without You” intro but for its measured lead-up to an explosive, fist-bumping chorus. What’s notable is what the song lacks: There’s no Edge solo, no wooo—wooo refrain, and one of the sludgy production that bogged down, say, “Magnificent” or “City of Blinding Lights.” It draws its power from its mighty hook, it makes its point quickly, and it doesn’t contain a single wasted second. Not for nothing, the song also breaks away from the thematic material one tends to associate with U2 anthems: It’s neither a fight song like “Pride” nor a restless longing like “Streets,” but rather is an anthem of surrender, Bono singing about waves on a beach as though it’s his parting line before falling backwards into them, carried along by the song itself.

There is another way in which Songs of Innocence marks itself as distinct from other U2 records: It is, according to Bono’s typically half-reliable testimony, the most intimate and personal album U2 has ever written. When we talk about intimacy within the context of this band, of course, it means something a bit different than when we use the word to describe any other band: U2 belongs to the world and is zealous for turning every song into a battle cry; they are content with intimacy only when it’s sweeping enough to fill a stadium, and that’s as much a defining characteristic of U2 as anything. Nevertheless, there is a real sense in which Songs of Innocence marks a return to something, something the band has never really explored on tape: It’s a song rooted in childhood and adolescence, as seen from the vantage point of wisdom and age. It captures the hurt and the anger and the hopefulness, the fighting spirit that led these four men to become rock and rollers and to develop so great a Christ complex to begin with; they are indeed Songs of Innocence sung from a place of experience, the remove of time adding perspective and nuance but leaving some of that visceral, roiling emotion very much in place.

The album is, indeed, as flagrantly emotional as it is flagrantly melodic. The best way into its world is through its final song: “The Troubles” is a kind of self-reckoning, Bono coming to terms with the fact that he’s spent so many years trying to solve the world’s ills because he has been running from his own demons, the specters of his own troubled past. It is a conscious decision to turn his gaze, finally, inward, and it casts a light back over the ten songs that come before it.

Even their sequencing is revealing. “Iris” is a song of devotion to Bono’s mother—long his muse, but never referenced as explicitly as she is here. Iris Hewson died of a brain aneurism when her boy was still quite young, and it is, perhaps, no coincidence that her song is followed here by “Volcano,” which is all frayed nerves and bristling anger, a portrait of the artist as a young hothead, a flamethrower, a street fighting man. Hurt gives way to anger, and that anger colors much of what Bono delves into here; “Volcano” leads to the particularly Irish rage, indignation, and disillusionment of “Raised by Wolves,” and the troubled spiritual and political landscape of Bono’s youth shows up elsewhere in the predatory priest of “Sleep Like a Baby Tonight.”

Salvation comes in the form of Joey Ramone—who else?—whose rallying call in “The Miracle” sends Bono down the road to rock and roll stardom, toward belief in both his ability and his duty to turn his rage into holy ruckus. Critically, Ramone is not himself the door to Bono’s redemption, but merely a signpost for it: “The Miracle” shifts subtly from a song about the transformative gospel of rock and roll to a Gospel of another kind, Bono hearing Joey’s song as a distant echo of some heavenly anthem that brings total restoration and peace.

Again, what isn’t present on Songs of Innocence is as notable as what is. There are songs about acts of political violence and religious abuse that Bono witnessed as a young man, but there is no sloganeering, no crusading, and nothing that could rightly be characterized as an openly political song: Even when he’s singing about an IRA bombing in “Raised by Wolves,” the song isn’t actually about the bombing at all, but about the brokenheartedness and fractured psyche that Bono was left with. “The Miracle,” meanwhile, only tips its hat to Joey Ramone in the title, the lyrics left more ambiguous—and while some listeners may lament the lack of specificity, the song is hardly vacuous: It’s a song about awakening, discovery, passion, and hope. Joey Ramone is the catalyst but not actually the subject matter.

So here is the funny thing about Songs of Innocence: It’s an album about all the things U2 albums have always been about—remaining hopeful in a broken world, knowing that the kingdom come is both already and not yet here—but it’s about them in a different way. It’s an album about Bono, but a different side of him than usual. It’s an album that sounds, with every yelp and every guitar pedal, like a U2 album, but not like any particular U2 album, or even a particular U2 era.

Maybe its key is “Every Breaking Wave.” Maybe surrender is more than just an idea to these men: Maybe they’ve stopped running and are instead just floating—not stagnant and not complacent, but letting the waves of song and spirit carry them where they will. To me, this album doesn’t sound like U2 trying to be U2, but neither does it sound like U2 avoiding being U2; they’re simply doing what they do and what they’ve always done, but from a vantage point they’ve never been able to reach before. The change of perspective is everything, and it’s what makes Songs of Innocence sound so sweet—what makes it sound, for all the world, like the old made new again.

Deluge! Catching Up with Leonard Cohen, Lucinda Williams, Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga

popularproblemsMuch as I’d love to offer up a quick roundup of some of the fine, moving new records I’ve heard in October—and there are several noteworthy titles, believe you me—the truth is that I’ve not even shared my thoughts on all the significant new titles from September. That’s sort of embarrassing—because I’m so far behind—but also sort of great: Proof enough of what a rich year this has been, and continues to me.

There are actually just three titles left scribbled in my September music journal, and not yet covered on this blog; not quite a deluge on par with the last one, then, but a small and steady rainfall, at the very list. All three titles are worth your time:

  • I’ll start with the most surprising of the bunch: Popular Problems, new from Leonard Cohen. To be perfectly candid, Coen’s previous offering, Old Ideas, left a bad taste in my mouth; it remains one of the worst-produced albums I’ve ever heard, and the songs seem to fetishize death as much as they look for meaning in life. Popular Problems is something altogether surprising, then: While we may never hear an actually well-produced, musically rich Leonard Cohen album, this is the closest we’ve yet come, the album actually sounding like it was recorded live with real musicians in places; even when Leonard sticks to the synthesizers, he keeps things feeling fresher and more organic than he has in a long time, and even borrows some motifs from folk, blues, and country. But what’s best, of course, are the songs—funny, intimate, philosophical, political, and often quite moving—nowhere more so than on “Born in Chains,” which is a straight-up Easter song whether Cohen realizes it or not. Opener “Slow” is the perfectly wry, knowing Leonard Cohen anthem, while “You Got Me Singing” is an unspeakably moving, affirming closer. A beautiful and brilliant record—and the most surprising thing I’ve heard this year.
  • Another wonderful surprise: Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone, the double album from Lucinda Williams, and an absolute rock and roll monster. It’s too easy to call it her Exile on Main Street, yet the cliché fits—for the album’s sprawl, for its lived-in American roots feel, and even for its soulful use of gospel singers, here and there. The album opens with a lyric penned by the singer’s father, an invitation to empathy and compassion, and that sets the scene for a series of stories and sketches about characters who are often down and out, lost on the wrong side of love. The songs are direct and cut straight to the bone, lyrically and musically, and that leanness (a weird thing to say about a double album, I know) is what makes the album so appealing.
  • Finally, there is the not-at-all-bewildering collaboration from Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga, entitled Cheek to Cheek—which plays not a bit like a novelty, but simply like a very fine, elegant, often lively set of big band duets. The songs are all standards that we know by heart, but so what? The arrangements are not radical reinventions but they are certainly lush, elegant, and—most critically—deeply More to the point, though, Bennett and Gaga are perfect vocal foils: She’s a gifted jazz singer, and if she oversells a song or two, well, it contrasts nicely with the unflappable, totally laid-back Bennett. It’s a lot of fun.

Core Curriculum: My All-Time Favorite Records

rodThis is old news to those who follow me on Twitter or on Facebook, but perhaps worth parking here: I recently took advantage of the new user listmaking feature at All Music Guide to develop a list of my 100 favorite albums of all time. I’ve dubbed it the Core Curriculum, because in truth, this is where I’ve learned most everything worth knowing in my life. You can see the full 100 here; I may even draft a full, annotated list– here at the blog– some day, but no promises.

A few notes about the list:

  • I have tried very hard to limit my selections to just one per artist– an odd thing to say, perhaps, given that a full tenth of this list is given to Bob Dylan, and has five selections apiece from Costello and Ellington, four apiece from M. Davis and J. Henry, etc. Where multiple albums appear for the same artist, it is either because there isn’t any one album that summarizes everything I love about the artist in question (e.g., I love Trust and Painted from Memory for totally different reasons, and neither can quite be said to encapsulate everything great about Elvis Costello; same with Purple Rain and Sign O’ the Times for Prince), or because I simply cannot decide which album I really prefer (as in the two Elton John selections, the three electric Dylans, etc.) Meanwhile, I could have quite easily put half a dozen or more Over the Rhine albums on this list, but ultimately chose just one because it (The Long Surrender) hits on everything that’s great about that particular band.
  • I have generally tried to avoid box sets, except in a few scenarios where the box set is more definitive than the proper LPs (The Birth of Soul), the box set contains material that you just can’t find on proper LPs (the Faces box), or it’s a box set compiled from material that was recorded before proper LPs were really even a thing (Hot Fives and Hot Sevens).
  • If anyone is curious, the oldest music on this list is the Hot Fives and Hot Sevens stuff, circa 1927-ish; the newest, Joe Henry’s Invisible Hour, released just this year.
  • I am not even going to try to break any of this down by genre, because that’s just not something I see much value in; I will note that, insofar as all of these albums include variations on traditional forms, and are deeply rooted in American culture and tradition, I consider this to be basically a list of 100 folk albums.
  • Finally: Roger Ebert always said, of his Favorite Films list, that he never included anything on his list just because it was popular, but he also never excluded anything because it was popular. I am frankly proud that my list encompasses many of the “usual” desert island suspects, but also a few entries that I suspect are on nobody’s list but my own.