32 thoughts on “Music 2019

  1. Weezer dropped an unannounced covers album today (surprise new albums are the new thing) and it’s rather wonderful. It is today’s leader for best album of 2019.

    Tracklist:
    Africa
    Everybody Wants to Rule the World
    Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)
    Take on Me (YEEEESSSS)
    Happy Together
    Paranoid
    Mr. Blue Sky
    No Scrubs
    Billie Jean
    Stand by Me

    New albums tomorrow from Evergrey and Shovels and Rope, so it may be a short reign, but in the meantime:

    https://open.spotify.com/album/65sHj9PvsbyD0uugGHjueN

    1. I went into this expecting significant changes to the originals, and I think that’s a big reason I came away disappointed. Maybe if I knew the songs would be performed in a very similar fashion to the originals, I might have been able to enjoy this more.

      I will say that I came away with a greater appreciation for “No Scrubs,” and TLC in general.

    2. Yeah, you do like those significant changes. I like a band playing a cover in the way the band plays generally. These songs sound like Weezer and that’s a good sound!

      I agree about the TLC song.

      1. I like a band playing a cover in the way the band plays generally.

        This is a different issue, though, right? A band or musician can play a song–the way they normally play, i.e., in their style–and either play close to the original rendition or do something very different. EWF’s “Got to Get You Into My Life” would be an example of this.

        I’m not familiar with Weezer’s music, so maybe that’s factoring in, too, somehow.

        Now, I’m trying to think of covers that hew close to the original that I like. I think Kalapana’s “Real Thing” and Glenn Medeiros’s “Nothing’s Gonna Change My Love for You” would be examples; and I might even like these versions better than the originals. I’m sure there are others, but those are two that come to mind first.

      2. Sure, that makes sense. And like you, I have favorite covers in both columns. I think especially if it’s a musician or band you like, you’ll enjoy a cover that’s not especially deviant because it’s the musician you like doing a song you like. Jimmy Buffett has covered a few Bruce Cockburn songs, and while they’re neither as good as the originals nor very deviant, I love hearing him perform them. Hey, that’s Jimmy Buffet! Singing a song by my favorite musician! 🙂

        I don’t expect you to listen to these, so ignore at will. But they’re a good band, and here are a couple of good songs you might like from them.

        But first, here is a song by Kay Starr called “Wheel of Fortune.”

        This song was Billboard’s number one song of 1952 — nine weeks at the top. When we were high-school seniors, this song was 25 years old.

        Here’s one of Weezer’s most popular songs, “Buddy Holly.”

        To high school seniors today, “Buddy Holly” is their “Wheel of Fortune,” except “Buddy Holly” wasn’t the number one song in 1994. 25 years old!

        This is probably their most recognizable song, “Hash Pipe.” Early in my teaching career I heard a lot of high school bands covering this song. Inappropriate for HBA, but I saved my bullets for when they played the Green Day masturbation song. Geez.

        When Weezer released its cover of Toto’s “Africa” last year, Toto returned the favor and covered “Hash Pipe.” I saw them play it in the encore in Lynn, Massachusetts!

        One more. This is my favorite song by them, “Beverly Hills.” It’s from 2005 so we were already geezers but they were still making music as good as when we were in our mid-20s.

        Just a smart, fun, punky band whose frontman is kind of a geek.

        1. I think especially if it’s a musician or band you like, you’ll enjoy a cover that’s not especially deviant because it’s the musician you like doing a song you like.

          Yeah, although I can’t think of many examples. I think most of the covers I like deviate from the original versions quite a bit.

          Based on those songs by Weezer, they sound like what I would call a pop-grunge band, or just rock n’ roll in the 1990s. I liked “Hash Pipe” the best. (Toto’s cover didn’t really grab me, for what it’s worth.)

          Oh, and why did you put the “Wheel of Fortune” song? Did some one cover it in the 80s?

        2. Do you consider Jimi’s cover of “All Along the Watchtower” to be especially different?

          What about C&K’s “We’re All Alone?”

          You might have responded better to the Toto cover of “Hash Pipe” if you were already familiar with the song, you know? Again, a band you like playing a song you (in this case maybe sorta) like. I loved watching them play this live.

          I included the video of “Wheel of Fortune” for a bit of historical perspective. To us, “Wheel of Fortune” sounded ancient when we were seniors in high school. To high-schoolers today, “Hash Pipe” is just as ancient. Does it sound old to you? How interesting is it that a band is still making relevant music 25 years later? What does it say that on the morning of its surprise release, the album was discussed on NPR as well as Vulture, Vox, and NME? If this “Hash Pipe” had been on the radio only seven years earlier, how would we have responded to it? Why, for so many people our age, did good pop music seem to cease existing sometime in our 20s? I try to stay aware of what’s popular, but I find less to like each year, it seems. Am I finally getting as old as too many of our classmates? Also, is my insistence that there must be great music out there today by artists I haven’t heard of yet indicative of my thirst to keep finding new things to be turned on by, or am I trying to prove something to myself, that I’m not the old people who said “they don’t write ’em like that anymore” or “there’s nothing good on the radio anymore” when hearing my favorite songs when I was a teenager?

          You know. Stuff like that. 🙂

          1. Do you consider Jimi’s cover of “All Along the Watchtower” to be especially different?

            After listening to both recently, I would say that Hendrix’s version is different enough. I might argue that riffs from guitar versus harmonica, alone, are enough.

            What about C&K’s “We’re All Alone?”

            Off the top of my head, I’d say no; and I like the original version (which I assume is by Boz Scaggs).

            But this brings up another issue. I think C&K have other covers, but those covers function as originals for me, because those are the only versions I’m familiar with. (This is similar to Kalapana’s version of “When the Morning Comes.”) What I would say about these songs is that I like them, and maybe enjoy them more than the original, but I would hesitate to choose this as one of the musician’s best song.

            Oh, I thought of some other covers in a similar vein:

            Naked Eyes’s cover of “There is Always Something There to Remind Me”
            Basia’s cover of “Until You Come Back to Me”

            You might have responded better to the Toto cover of “Hash Pipe” if you were already familiar with the song, you know?

            I tend to think this would decrease the chances.

            I included the video of “Wheel of Fortune” for a bit of historical perspective. To us, “Wheel of Fortune” sounded ancient when we were seniors in high school. To high-schoolers today, “Hash Pipe” is just as ancient. Does it sound old to you?

            No, but my sense is that the musical changes between from the 50s to the 80s were much greater than the changes between the 90s and now. The situation is similar to the changes between jazz from the 20s to the 50s, versus changes between jazz from the 90s to now.

            How interesting is it that a band is still making relevant music 25 years later? What does it say that on the morning of its surprise release, the album was discussed on NPR as well as Vulture, Vox, and NME?

            I think you know that some musicians just have staying power, but in this case, I suspect that there is a bit of nostalgia involved, a indication of Gen X bias. (This is assuming many of the critics writing about this are Gen Xers.)

            Also, is my insistence that there must be great music out there today by artists I haven’t heard of yet indicative of my thirst to keep finding new things to be turned on by, or am I trying to prove something to myself, that I’m not the old people who said “they don’t write ’em like that anymore” or “there’s nothing good on the radio anymore” when hearing my favorite songs when I was a teenager?

            I don’t know the answer to this, but for what it’s worth, I think there is great (pop/rock) music being made now. My guess is that when Gen Xers (or older people) claim that there isn’t great music being made anymore, they’re basically saying they’re not that interested in new music, I think .

            I also think the effects of time have a powerful impact on our perceptions of music being made now versus music being made in the past. (This applies to other art forms as well.) My sense is that the biggest difference is that the bad stuff from the past has been winnowed from our memories. That process hasn’t occurred for music in the present. I think this reinforces the impression that the current music scene isn’t as good as previous ones.

  2. This was released at the end of November but I didn’t hear it until a couple of weeks ago and I think it’s officially (for Grammy nominating purposes) a 2019 song. One of the pluses of hanging out in boba cafes is I’m being forced to hear all kinds of music I wouldn’t normally listen to.

    So this song by Mark Ronson (he’s the guy who did “Uptown Funk” with Bruno Mars) and Miley Cyrus, “Nothing Breaks Like a Heart,” really moved me. I learned they performed it on SNL in December. Sharing the SNL version here because I just saw the first minute of the official video, and it’s alternately stupid and NSFW.

    I love this sound, minus the terrible disco beat underneath. It sounds like it could have come right off the Hell or High Water soundtrack. Or like something the Highwaymen might have written.

    It’s my best song of 2019 so far.

  3. Here’s another song I discovered in a boba cafe. Lyrically, it’s a bit on the young side, like a songwriter still finding her groove, but I dig the melody and the singer’s voice. Sasha Sloan, “Older.” This is an official lyric video, not a real video. She hasn’t made a video of this yet. From an EP she released last year. The rest of the EP is pretty good too, but this is definitely the highlight.

  4. Okay, one more. I heard this one right after “Older” in whatever playlist they were playing in the cafe. I like the poppy lightness over the sorta dark lyrics, and I really like the lyrics and melody in the chorus. This is from October 2018. Zara Larsson, “Ruin My Life.”

  5. My R&B kick has been continuing, if not getting stronger–specifically R&B from the 70s and early 80s. It’s kinda weird. I don’t think I’ve enjoyed this type of music as much as I have been ever in my life; I’m starting to enjoy it as much as I enjoy jazz.

    I think one of the main reasons for this is the bass playing. I’m tempted to say that the 70s to early 80s is the most interesting period for the bass. The bass seems to have a slightly more prominent role, and with techniques like slapping and plucking, the sound of the instrument changed in an interesting way (at least if you like those developments, and I definitely do!). My sense is that at some point in the late 60s and early 70s, maybe with the advent of funk, musicians created space and a specialized role was created for each instrument in the rhythm section. This is the kind of thing that happened in jazz at some point, and that always appealed to me.

    Also, in this time period, R&B, funk, and soul also utilized a horn section. All of this makes the music richer, more interesting, while also providing this in a context of grooving.

    Finally, in this time period, there seems to be a freer exchange with jazz and that’s probably what’s drawing me to the music. Al Jarreau is a good example.

    By the way, I’m getting the sense that after the early 80s, the bass got less interesting, and I want to say that the rhythm sections got less interesting over time. The rhythms became more about the beat, via drums. One way I noticed this is by listening to the Whispers over time. They’ve been around a long time, and they changed with the times.

    Here are some examples. The first two are from 1979 and 1981 and they have the qualities that I mentioned liking above:

    And here’s another from 1981:

    Compare that to their hit in 1987:

  6. They were going for radio-friendly and “Rock Steady” was certainly that. And I agree, that genre wasn’t nearly (nearly!) as good in the 80s as in the 70s. You know that’s not my style, but I love 70s soul. When I was young and stupid (in my late 20s and early 30s) I planned to learn as much about 70s soul as I could, as soon as I’d learned everything about rock. It didn’t occur to me then than I was never going to learn everything about rock. Kind of disappointing. So 70s soul has always just been a little side piece for me.


    There’s this progressive rock band I like called Presto Ballet. When they put out their first album Peace Among the Ruins in 2005, I was blown away by how it sounded like 70s prog played by 2000s musicians, if that makes sense. The band played older instruments and recorded only on analog equipment to get the 70s sound, too. Kinda neat.

    Anyway. I found out only this week that they released a new album in mid-December, The Days Between, and this has been on endless replay pretty much since Monday.

    A highlight.

    1. They were going for radio-friendly and “Rock Steady” was certainly that.

      I think they’ve always wanted to be radio-friendly–it seems clear that they’re trying to get hits. That’s generally a damning comment, but I don’t mean it that way, as I really enjoy their music. But they really do seem to be wanting to make a hit. I’ll give one example. Earlier, I mentioned their knack for infectious R&B. One aspect of this is a formula to repeat the catchy chorus, almost incessantly. Think of songs like “Louie, Louie” or “Sususido.” The Whispers use this playbook a lot, and it’s very effective. Now, I don’t think this would work without the catchy hooks, good grooves, and appealing vocals.

      For whatever reason, pop music seemed to allow or include more interesting musical elements. Maybe the music was still new enough that creative options hadn’t been explored. Compare that to the last twenty years. Are the musical innovations and developments as significant and dramatic, or are they more modest? I’m actually not sure about this.

      In any event, I think the 80s saw the use of more preprogrammed electronic instrumentation, and that probably moved the music away from the type of qualities I mentioned.

      (I’m listening to PrestoBallet now, and I’ll comment on that later.)

    2. I listened to the PrestoBallet clip. It definitely has qualities that I know you like. For example, there is a exact, very clean, almost mechanical rhythmic and sonic quality that I think you like. Generally, I don’t really care for that…I’m trying to think of examples of music with a similar quality that I do like….Actually, I think Frank Zappa’s music can have this quality. I also like some of the minimalist classical music, but there isn’t the heavy metal sound, so maybe you wouldn’t care for this.

      On another note, I was listening to something that made me think of prog rock last night. It’s an early album by David Sylvian. I kinda liked the first song:

      I’m not keen on the vocalists, but I like the rhythm section, and the lopsided rhythms. This actually reminds me of King Crimson. I wonder if you would like this. (It’s not very similar to PrestoBallet, and I’m not sure if you would agree that it’s prog rock, but I was curious to see what you think of it.)

  7. That does sound kind of proggy but it’s way too danceable. Reminds me a lot of Nick Lowe, actually, but less poppy. It’s also dangerously close to that 80s new wave you say you hate.

    Within Temptation released its new album Friday and it’s my new Best Album of 2019. It’s female-fronted symphonic metal (the band has a male vocalist but uses him more for color than lead voice, most of the time) of the sort I really dig. It’s slightly less heavy than the bands I like most, but its accessbility really works on this anthemic album. This video is a live performance of my favorite song on the album so far, “Supernova.”

    This is Within Temptation’s best album. Reminds me of a less edgy Lacuna Coil and a (much) edgier Evanescence.

    As of February 3, my best albums of 2019 list looks like this.

    1. Within Temptation — Resist
    2. Presto Ballet — The Days Between
    3. Evergrey — The Atlantic
    4. Weezer — The Teal Album
    5. Steve Hackett — At the Edge of Light

    It definitely has qualities that I know you like. For example, there is a exact, very clean, almost mechanical rhythmic and sonic quality that I think you like.

    Eh. It’s not exactness or cleanness most of the time. It’s that in many of the genres I like, there’s an empahsis on instrumental technical dexterity, and the almost-mechanical quality is one form the technical dexterity takes. You might disagree, but Pat Metheny demonstrates the same kind of technical cleanness, maybe one reason we both like him. I mean, that’s not the only quality that distinguishes Metheny, but it’s one that I’ve always admired.

    There are a few bands whose rhythms’ technical exactness DO really turn me on, though. Minus the Bear comes to mind, and Tool, and Metallica. Minus the Bear’s rhythmic noodling makes me feel physically and spiritually good. Man, I don’t know many bands that do that to me this way. In fact, I respond so well to Zappa’s “Peaches en Regalia,” especially as played by Dweezil, partially because of Dweezil’s technical exactness.

    By the way, if I ever take electric guitar lessons and my instructor asks me who I want to play like, my first answer is going to be “messy as hell, like George Thorogood.”

    1. It’s also dangerously close to that 80s new wave you say you hate.

      Definitely, especially the vocals. I’m more tolerant of the vocals, but I’d say it’s my least favorite style, and a lot of times I just tolerate it. (By the way, I’d lump Adrian Belew’s vocals in a similar category; but, man, I really like his guitar playing. I also kinda like the lead singer for TV on the Radio, which is also in this vein. Then again, I’m rarely in the mood to listen to their music.)

      Eh. It’s not exactness or cleanness most of the time. It’s that in many of the genres I like, there’s an empahsis on instrumental technical dexterity, and the almost-mechanical quality is one form the technical dexterity takes.

      I guess I’m thinking relative to the music I like. Some of the music I like features technical dexterity as well, but I tend not to care for expressions that are really clean or mechanical, as in really on the beat. I like technical virtuosity, but I generally like the music to feel a little looser. When I comes to rock-based music, I also tend to like a sound that is grungier and raw. Also, I think a part of this involves the feeling in the playing. Some music can be technically great, but kinda cold. By the way, I can’t remember how you feel about John McLaughlin’s playing and the music of something like Mahavishnu Orchestra. When I first heard descriptions of this music, I thought I would love it. I did not.

      In fact, I respond so well to Zappa’s “Peaches en Regalia,” especially as played by Dweezil, partially because of Dweezil’s technical exactness.

      For what it’s worth, a lot of his music has that quality.

      By the way, if I ever take electric guitar lessons and my instructor asks me who I want to play like, my first answer is going to be “messy as hell, like George Thorogood.”

      But it seems like the musicians you really like now don’t play like that, though.

  8. This was pretty cool.

    In my opinion, the best example of the way each instrument and voice plays a more rhythmic role is “I Got the Feelin'”

    Also, they mention call and response in Brown’s music, but I wonder if he was the first to do this. I know this was something that occurred in jazz, and I’d be surprised if it didn’t occur before Brown.

    1. https://www.cnn.com/interactive/2019/02/us/james-brown-death-questions

      Have you read the CNN investigative series on the death of James Brown? I can’t exactly recommend it because I’ve only read part 1 of three parts, but I’m definitely in on reading the rest of it. The journalist was interviewed on Dan Le Batard last week and man, you can tell he thinks there are legitimate questions to be answered, but because he’s a serious journalist he wouldn’t speculate on the air or offer an opinion of what he thinks happened. Which is what got me to hunt the story down.

      I didn’t even know CNN did investigative reporting.

      1. No, I didn’t. For some reason, I’m not super interested in this topic. If and when you finish the story, let me know if you think it’s worth checking out.

  9. My favorite song (as of today) on the new Evergrey album. “End of Silence.”

    I love how heavy is the backbone of this song, and how pretty the vocal melody and piano parts are on top of it. The instrumental break beginning at 2:45 isn’t especially creative but for some reason I really dig it. I like the way it layers.

  10. As I listen to more R&B/soul/funk from the 70s and 80s, I’ve developed a simple hypothesis–namely, 1979-1981 was the peak musical moment for these genres–particularly in terms of the bass and the use of horn section. Or maybe a better word than “peak” is the cutoff. That is, this was the last glory days of the bass and horns. Perhaps both aspects of the music also reached its highest expressions at this point–that is something I will explore later. (I’m a little skeptical about this period being the highest expression of using horns, as several groups used a horn section quite creatively in the early 70s.)

    One group I’ve turned my attention to is Cameo. As far as I know, I only knew “Candy” and “Word Up” from them. I didn’t realize that they had a horn section (or used a horn section), and that was a pleasant surprise.

    The first clip below made me think of another song. See if you can guess which one:

    The next clip is noteworthy to me because I’m not sure I’ve ever heard funk/R&B that was so in your face and hard. I like rock that is hard and in your face, too, but generally R&B/soul lacks that quality. This song isn’t as hard as really hard rock or metal, nor does it have the same degree of power, but it’s moving in that direction.

  11. Living Colour is a group that I should like, but never really did (besides “Cult of Personality”). Every so often I go back and check them out to see if my response is different. In my most recent attempt, while my attitude hasn’t really changed, I found myself like Vernon Reid’s guitar playing a lot more. In previous conversations with Mitchell, I shared my attempt to find rock groups that had the same power and aggression as AC/DC or Van Halen. I think Reid’s guitar playing, in terms of in-your-face power, is in a similar ballpark as Eddie Van Halen. (I still prefer Van Halen, though.)

    I’m still not sure why their music doesn’t hit me. I think it may come down to the fact that I don’t really care for their songs.

    1. If you aren’t familiar with Doug Wimbish, Living Colour’s bass player, you should look him up. I would think you’d at least respond well to him.

      The songs thing is an issue; they don’t write the most memorable songs. But man, can they play their instruments. For me a good concert is about seeing musicians play, and Living Colour rips in concert. It’s a band of four really charismatic performers too, so even if I only knew one of their songs (not too far from the truth) I would have seen them play. And I’ll go again. I hope they come back!

      1. I’m not familiar with Wimbish, but based on what I’ve been hearing, the bass doesn’t really stand out to me. If you have any songs/performances you think I should check out, let me know.

        But man, can they play their instruments.

        I guess it’s not enough to really grab me?

          1. I found one on apple music, and I will check that out. But if you think of any other suggestions, let me know.

  12. As of March 4, these are my top 18 albums of 2019*.

    1. Dream Theater — Distance over Time
    2. Within Temptation — Resist
    3. Presto Ballet — The Days Between
    4. Avantasia — Moonglow
    5. Neal Morse Band — The Great Adventure
    6. Evergrey — The Atlantic
    7. Soen — Lotus
    8. Queensrÿche — The Verdict
    9. Weezer — The Teal Album
    10. Soilwork — Verkligheten
    11. Steve Hackett — At the Edge of Night
    12. Born of Osiris — The Simulation
    13. Delain — Hunter’s Moon (EP)
    14. Rhapsody of Fire — The Eighth Mountain
    15. Last in Line — II
    16. Metallica — Helping Hands … Live & Acoustic
    17. Overkill — The Wings of War
    18. In Flames — I, the Mask

    Albums I haven’t listend to yet but want to:

    Rock Goddess — This Time
    Tedeschi Trucks Band — Signs
    Della Mae — The Butcher Shoppe EP
    Weezer — Weezer (The Black Album)

    Albums I’m looking forward to in March:

    Children of Bodom — Hexed
    Týr — Hel
    Fallujah — Undying Light
    Devin Townsend — Empath
    Lee McKinney — Infinite Mind

    * I only really like 1 through 13, but I’m including everything I’ve listened (attentively) to as sort of a listening journal.

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