I’ve been pretty down on Dave Matthews Band ever since the non-release of The Lillywhite Sessions, the bootleg album that remains their best work even if it never debuted officially. The band put out Everyday and Busted Stuff instead, the former a generic mess and the latter filled with lesser versions of the Lillywhite songs.
2005’s Stand Up didn’t even reach my radar… to this day, I don’t think I’ve heard a single one of its tracks. For all I know it’s a hidden masterpiece, but I believe it was received rather coolly by critics and fans alike. And then the band did nothing for a few years, after which they suffered the death of saxophonist LeRoi Moore, a beloved band member and the key element musically in so many of their best songs.
The first new album I bought in 2009 was Tinted Windows’ self-titled debut. These guys were the first of the “supergroups” that were so ubiquitous last year and initially the one I found most promising.
The lead songwriter is Adam Schlesinger of Fountains of Wayne and Taylor Hanson (the talented member of Hanson) handles lead vocals. The Smashing Pumpkins’ James Iha and Cheap Trick’s Bun E. Carlos round out the band but it’s the first two fellows I mentioned who had me excited. Both Fountains of Wayne and Hanson have a knack for power pop and this band promised to be power pop nirvana.
I have a small pile of CDs from the past year or so that I’ve never gotten around to reviewing. I even have draft posts sitting in the admin of the blog ready to go, but they’re sitting empty. I find it difficult to review albums, especially when I don’t feel strongly one way or the other and the artists aren’t in my stable of favorites. How many ways can you say “this is a pretty good album by a pretty good band?”
So I’m finally accepting that I’m never going to give these albums proper reviews but rather than ignore them entirely I’m going to pick a song from each to highlight the rest of this week as Songs of the Day.
I first heard of Miranda Lambert when her 2009 album Revolution was released last summer. The write-ups in Rolling Stone and Entertainment Weekly raved about the album, calling it the best country record of the year and one of the best overall, and remarked that Lambert had knocked one out of the park in her first outing since the acclaimed Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.
Such was my bias against country music at the time that I didn’t even think about picking up the album. Compare that to, say, the praise heaped on Lil Wayne’s Tha Carter III, which prompted me to buy that album despite my general disinterest in rap music. (I didn’t like Wayne’s album much at all, incidentally, so maybe that was a lesson learned).
For the longest time I had a knee-jerk negative reaction to anything that even resembled country music… it was the antithesis of the sort of “cool” music I was proud to like.
But then things got complicated, as things tend to do.
First it was the country detours by some of my favorite artists — Bob Dylan’s Nashville Skyline and Elvis Costello’s Almost Blue, for example. It was tempting to dismiss those albums as ill-advised experiments, but tickling the back of my brain was the complicating knowledge that ‘Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You’ and ‘A Good Year For the Roses’ are really good songs.
Of all the artists I listen to regularly, Shakira is perhaps the biggest test of my recent conclusion that it’s music — not lyrics — that means the most to me.
For one thing, Shakira’s best work has been recorded entirely in Spanish, so I have very little idea what she’s saying at all (and I don’t care). And second, her English-language songs alternate between generic love proclamations/condemnations and some of the most oddball, head-scratching lyrics you’re likely to find in a contemporary pop song. This is a woman who once titled a song ‘Poem to a Horse.’
I find it a lot harder to write CD reviews than movie reviews, partly because I need to listen to an album carefully several times before I feel comfortable writing about it and things pile up. So I have a handful of 2009 albums sitting unreviewed that I hope to get to over the next couple of weeks so I can have a proper summary of my year in music.
I don’t buy a ton of albums, not compared to true music hounds. I average maybe 15-20 per year, generally the new releases of artists I like and a few attempts to broaden my horizons by picking up something new that’s receiving a lot of acclaim.