9 thoughts on “Music 2020

  1. Some thoughts I had while listening to and enjoying Poco’s eponymous album:

    1. Country without the twang–which comes close to being country pop;
    2. The musicianship stood out a bit, including the bass. I’m not sure if that was Timothy B. Schmidt, but whoever it was, I liked the playing.

  2. New stuff released this year I’ve checked out.

    Non-metal:

    Selena Gomez (Jan 10), Rare: Pop R&B. Slick. Musically not my cup of tea, which gets in the way of my enjoying the themes, which are very positive. I like that she’s toned down the sexiness from her last album and upped the women power. Probably need to keep revisiting this before it grows on me, if it’s capable of doing so.

    Alexandra Savior (Jan 10), The Archer: Dream pop, indie rock. This has more potential to hit me, but so far it hasn’t. I like the lyrics and presentation, and I’d go see her in concert, but nothing seems to be catching hold of me, which is a little disappointing. I wonder if I’m too old.

    Hawktail (Jan 10), Formations: Americana (but really I don’t know what to call it). Brittany Haas is my favorite bluegrass fiddler and I love almost everything she does. This group has a lot of energy but the album feels strangely subdued to me, and it’s really mellow. It’s also really pretty, and it’s growing on me, ‘though I admit my attention just kinda wanders in and out whenever it’s on. I wish I knew why.

    Stroke 9 (Jan 17), Califrio: Alterna-pop. So far the best non-metal album of the year for me. It’s mellow and groovy, much more like their recent songs than their older, more aggressive stuff (which includes “Little Black Backpack,” their one hit). I recommend it for any fan of early 2000s alt-rock who wish they weren’t too old for that music anymore.

    Stone Temple Pilots (Feb 7), Perdida. Acoustic alt-pop. This album is pretty as heck but it all sounds the same to me. The whole thing would be good for a late-night writing session playlist, which would keep your brain awake but not distract you from your task. Come to think of it, everything on this list so far would be, too.

    Still wanna check out the new albums by Echosmith, Huey Lewis and the News, Richard Marx, and Pet Shop Boys. New James Taylor coming at the end of the month.

    Metal:

    Sons of Apollo (Jan 17), MMXX: Proggy alt-pop-metal. This reminds me a lot of Asia, not musically but conceptually. Take a currently popular sound, but let really really really good proggy musicians play and write the songs. So the result is a a weird mix of Nickelback and Dream Theater. I like it, especially when the band kind of lets loose with the chops, as with several moments where keyboardist Derek Sherinian gets noodley. I wish I liked it more. The other band members are Mike Portnoy, Jeff Scott Soto, Bumblefoot, and Billy Sheehan.

    (to be continued)

  3. Amazon prime streams an older British(?) TV series on classic rock/pop albums. I recently watched one (made in the late 90s) on Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours.” Here are some thoughts that occurred as I watched this:

    –Lyrics, especially the meaning, is usually not something that really draws me to music, but I’m curious to check out more of Stevie Nicks’s songs. The lyrics for her songs on this album seem really good. They’re poetic without being cheesy in my view, and if someone wanted an example of good pop lyrics, I might choose her songs–and actually some of the lyrics of other songs on this album;

    –If there is such a thing as a pop album masterpiece, this might be one I feel comfortable mentioning.

    1. You wouldn’t be reaching. Only Thriller has more certified sales than Rumours.

      Thunder only happens when it’s raining
      Players only love you when they’re playing…

      Over the band’s whole output, I like the Christine McVie songs best, but my favorite Fleetwood Mac song is “The Chain,” a Lindsey Buckingham song, with “Landslide” (the live version), a Stevie Nicks song, a close second.

    2. You wouldn’t be reaching. Only Thriller has more certified sales than Rumours.

      I don’t think I would have guessed that, but it’s not really that surprising. Having said that I was thinking more in terms of aesthetic merits, not financial.

      but my favorite Fleetwood Mac song is “The Chain,” a Lindsey Buckingham song,…

      According to the documentary the band got credit for writing this. And Nicks claims that Buckingham was having trouble finishing the song, but he insisted. I can’t remember the reason, but she looked at some of her old songs or lyrics and thought it was perfect, and she claims that’s where the lyrics (or most of it) came from. It’s a really good song. The whole album has really good songs. I need to listen to see if the sequence of them work well, too.

      1. I wasn’t assuming you meant a financial pop masterpiece; I was saying it wouldn’t be a reach to make the claim that it’s a pop masterpiece, as more than 40 million sales indicate it’s touched a lot of people.

        The top-selling (certified) albums are quite a list of artistic achievement, although I can’t really speak to Come on Over except what I’ve heard on the radio: Thriller, Come on Over, Rumours, The Bodyguard (soundtrack, which I don’t care for), Back in Black, The Dark Side of the Moon, Saturday Night Fever (soundtrack), and Bat out of Hell.

    3. What I’m saying is that the financial success, even as a proxy for popularity, is a criterion I don’t give a lot of weight. If Rumours didn’t make the top 100 top selling albums, that would not change my position. Another album that came to mind is Steely Dan’s Aja. I have no idea how many units have been sold.

      I’m mostly focused on an album that would a) fit my definition of pop–versus rock, R&B, or another genre, and b) also fit my definition of a good-to-great work of art. Rumours seems like a really good candidate. By the way, I would lean towards choosing Off the Wall over Thriller; and I tend to think of both as more of an R&B album than a pop one, but I’d have to re-listen to both to be sure.

      Edit

      I forgot one other criteria. I’m also considering the way the songs fit together forming a cohesive whole, like a suite.This would preclude greatest hits or other compilation albums.

  4. The one thing cool about subscribing to an online music site is the ability to investigate songs of certain musicians you’ve liked only because of one or two songs. There are many musicians that have made songs that I’ve enjoyed, but I haven’t heard most of their songs or albums. Robbie Dupree is one example of this, and the other night I decided to listen to his other songs. When his “Steal Away” first came out, I really liked this song, and til this day, I enjoy singing this on karaoke. What if he made other songs like that? (I’m familiar with “Hot Rod Hearts,” but I didn’t like that one as much. Strangely, that song isn’t available on itunes.)

    Here are two that I kinda liked:

    More than the song or singing, the song is within a style that I really liked at the time this type of music was made. On some level this style and sound still appeals to me, although I can’t tell if it’s mostly nostalgia or just the music itself.

    Here’s one I like even more:

    What’s the opening remind you of? I’m not sure, but it seems like a cross between Paul Davis’s “Cool Night” vibe, which I like and CSN’s “Just a Song Before You Leave.” Also, the mood is in the same ball park as “Her Town.” This is sound I really like (but again, I don’t know how much nostalgia is fueling all of this).

    Another critical part that appeals to me is Michael McDonald-ish vocals–either from Dupree himself or the backround vocalists. I wonder if McDonald sang background on this, but when I tracked down the personnel listing it wasn’t him.

    Anyway, while listening to Duprees tracks, I started investigating some of the artists itunes recommended. Many of these musicians I had never heard of before–a group called, Pages; Bill LaBounty (actually I knew one of his songs, but his name was unfamiliar to me); and Ned Doheny. A part of me felt skeptical I would like their music. To my surprise, this proved wrong. It was like a discovered a catalogue of music done in this style–giving me the opportunity to hear what would essentially be new music but done in this older style. By the way, I guess some would call this yacht rock, which I’m not crazy about. I prefer the terms “marina pop” or even “beach funk” that I heard in this review of Doheny’s music. (“Beach funk” doesn’t really describe the music I mentioned here, but “marina pop” does.)

    Here’s one by Bill LaBounty in the same vein:

    One by Pages

    (This kind of has a Ambrosia vibe or maybe Player.)

    As for Ned Doheny, I can’t recall a song that would be a good example of the songs above. His music seems a bit different. Surprisingly, I think he had some of the most interesting music. More later.

    By the way, before I forget, I’d be interested in hearing if you guys discovered any good songs or albums from musicians who played only one or two songs you were familiar with.

  5. As I mentioned above, Ned Doheny was one of the more interesting discoveries in my exploration of Yacht Rock. I just re-read the Pitchfork review of a 2014 compilation that describes the music better than I could, so I would recommend reading that, to get a sense of his music. (I’ve lost interest in reading music reviews, but I thought this one was well-done.)

    Doheny’s music firmly rooted in pop, lyrically and in terms of the overall vibe. I do think that the music, instrumentation (horns) and arrangements are more interesting and sophisticated–at least enough to perk my ears up on first listen. Acoustic guitar (which I believe Doheny plays) is a constant presence, reminiscent of groups like America or Eagles. What’s interesting is when Doheny incorporates R&B-ish horn sections and funkier basslines.

    What I find hard to peg down is why Doheny and his music wasn’t more popular? A part of me thinks that the songs are OK-to-good, but lack the type of hooks to become really popular. The same might be said for Doheny’s vocals. He is not a bad singer, but I think one might be able to argue that his voice lacks charisma, if that makes sense. Something is lacking in his vocals or the music–but both are far from bad.

    One other thing about this music: I feel like there are a lot of echoes in the songs and Doheny’s voice of other 70’s musicians–the Eagles for one song, Al Stewart in another, America in another, Little River Band, and many more. This is not derivative or a bad thing–just a neutral observation. I’d suspect anyone who likes that type of music would want find something interesting in Doheny’s music.

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