As it happens, just about all of my favorite albums this year have been by women, with Aimee Mann’s Mental Illness vying for the top spot. Of course, when she promised her “saddest, slowest, most acoustic” album yet, I was destined to love it.
The Shins 2012 album Port of Morrow is one of my very favorites. In fact, I named it the best album of the 00’s so far back in 2014, and I don’t know if anything has dethroned it. There’s a list I’ll have to revisit next year.
Following up that pop masterpiece was going to be difficult, and I regretfully report that they didn’t quite hit it out of the park with this year’s Heartworms. One big caveat: I’ve given Heartworms just a handful of listens and it’s grown on me each time, so it might still climb in my estimation. But it’s no Port of Morrow.
Fewer than 20 new albums in a year is pretty lame by serious music fan standards. Music websites and magazines will publish Top 50 lists that might not even include some of these titles. But I tend to buy music by the artists I like, only occasionally dabbling in new artists, and I’m fine with that.
Reputation is pretty much what I expected based on the mostly disappointing pre-release singles. The good news is the rest of the album is a step up in quality, even if the subject matter is disappointingly more of the same. Dis tracks, love songs and meditations on what it’s like to be as famous as Taylor Swift.
Today’s Random Weekend selection had twice the chance of showing up because I have it on two different albums. Originally released as the final track of U2’s 1993 album Zooropa, it was later selected for Johnny Cash’s compilation album The Legend of Johnny Cash.
It’s the Cash album version that popped up when I spun the old iTunes wheel, but the two are identical (save for a minute of silence tacked on to the end of the U2 track).
Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve mostly featured MTV Unplugged performances that were milestones of one sort or another. Today I’m closing out the series with a performance that’s notable only because it’s a beautiful performance of one of my favorite songs.
10,000 Maniacs was a big enough deal in the early 90s to score two Unplugged appearances within a few years. The band appeared on the third-ever show (along with Michael Penn) in 1989 and returned for this performance in 1993, with special guest David Byrne.
Recorded and aired just a few months before lead singer Kurt Cobain’s suicide, this haunting appearance took on even more meaning following the news of his death. Stripped of the grunge trappings, bearing his soul onstage, it’s hard not to see Cobain’s tragic future in his sad eyes.