By Antony Lyon. Last year, my music listening habits surprised me; now I suspect they heralded the new normal. I make a lot of playlists – thirteen this year by my count. I enjoy the deliberate process of making a soundtrack for the moment, and I spent a lot of my listening time putting them together. My two most-spun albums this year were not from 2018. One was U2’s Songs Of Experience, which is a late 2017 album. Predictably, I listened to it a lot. As with any old friend, I (almost) forgive its flaws and only hear its virtues. As I said last year, it’s not an album that will convert late-period-U2 skeptics, but for the believers among us, it deepens a great band’s legacy. By a mile, my most-spun album is Teenage Fanclub’s Songs From Northern Britain. This 1998 album, a pastoral folk-rock exploration emerging from the Scottish Highlands, received a lovely polishing with a new remaster this year. This remastered edition coincided with a moment in my life, and now the album occupies one of those mystical spaces for me. I’m destined to listen to it on a walk in the Highlands and to weep like a child. I can’t wait. Continue reading
By Antony Lyon. Nothing I say is going to make you change your mind. You either want to listen to U2’s new album, Songs Of Experience, or you don’t. It really says more about you than it does U2. I have a long record of proselytizing about late-period U2, which says more about me than it does U2, I suppose. Continue reading
By Antony Lyon. This year, in a break with tradition, I’ve left my list unnumbered and included a few releases that violate the “new in 2017” selection principle. So you’ll find both a remastered anniversary deluxe edition and a 2016 album that I didn’t discover until this August on the list. This year I’ve chosen in the spirit rather than the letter of the law.
I listened to a lot of albums once, and I listened to a lot several times. I played some more often than others, but I rarely became obsessed with one. I spent a lot of time making playlists by collecting discovered single songs, rather than committing to whole albums. As a result, I don’t know how to rank these albums in a way that isn’t simply arbitrary. But to give it some sense of order, I’ve organized my reflections in genre clusters.
I don’t really have the wherewithal to bend my listening habits into a broader cultural critique, but I suspect it’s waiting there for someone more ambitious than I. This list is not hashtagged clickbait—“The Music List We Need Right Now!” It’s simply a list of what moved me and kept me moving this year. Continue reading
By Antony Lyon. This playlist takes its title from Leif Vollebekk’s “Into The Ether.” I’ve had his Twin Solitude on repeat for the last couple of weeks. It might be good to think of Quit Putting Me On as the companion piece to Vollebekk’s album. The playlist is roots music on land and under the water. Hope you enjoy it! Click to download S&N Mix 27: Quit Putting Me On. Continue reading
By Antony. My “Year In Music” doesn’t say anything about what was important in 2016. If it did, then Beyoncé would be #1, followed closely by several other powerful hip-hop records: A Tribe Called Quest, Chance the Rapper, Common, Solange, and Blood Orange. But this list isn’t about important things; it’s a record of what I was listening to in 2016. This year, I didn’t seek importance from music; I sought solace. I understand why people turn to music when the world is in upheaval, when they sense a darkness descending upon us. In fact, I’m often one of those people, but for some reason, this year, I didn’t. Perhaps it was because of my necessary turn toward the domestic with the birth of my first child. Whatever the reasons, I only emotionally connected with music that would return me to myself and settle my spirit even if only for a moment. So here’s my list of the albums that made my year in music: Continue reading
By Antony. The “Binge and Purge” series over at AV Club inspired these Singles Club mixes. Josh Modell, a music writer for the site, has amassed a 2,000-CD collection. He’s decided in 2016 that’s too many. His assessment of the records he’s keeping and those he’s tossing is sentimental and humorous, revealing something about how we age with our musical tastes. I passed it around to a few of the S&N writers, and from that sprung the Singles Club challenge:
Compile a playlist of songs from artists or albums that you, once upon a time, had some affection for, but which you now can reduce to a single song without ever missing the rest. Continue reading
By Antony. So I wrote a rant about the evils of nostalgia and then deleted it. For me, there’s nothing worse than finding myself in a public place and realizing that they’re playing the 90s Nostalgia Channel—or whatever Sirius XM, Beats, or Spotify call their versions. They cater to the walking dead. Those who stopped growing two decades ago. If your music taste has stagnated, I consider that a moral failure. Continue reading
By Antony. The world only stops for Adele. When most artists release an album, it disperses across various media outlets, climbs the iTunes download chart, and then, more than likely, disappears into the informational oblivion of the internet. Even a band as big as Coldplay is at risk of this happening to them.
Even as we continue turning art into information-packets, I knew the release of Coldplay’s A Head Full Of Dreams would be for me a small community event. The very same internet that destroys history also enables one to keep in touch with friends near and far. As I put on the new Coldplay on Friday, December 4th, I imagined three of my friends doing the same wherever they are. Continue reading
By Antony. This year I didn’t fall in love with many albums, but when I did, that album dominated my listening for weeks upon weeks and colored the life I was living. Glen Hansard’s Didn’t He Ramble is set to become the auditory anchor to late 2015. My wife and I went to see him perform at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles in early November. It was truly a religious experience for me. Hansard and his band spent half the show unplugged from the amps because the venue’s acoustics were so good—like a campfire with several thousand people. The fiddle player’s solo at the end of “McCormick’s Wall” was absolutely arresting. The show didn’t change me; it confirmed everything I’ve come to know and believe. Continue reading
By The S&N Staff. All things must end. And even though it took almost as long to count down our favorite albums of the 90s as it did to actually make it through the 90s, we’re finally ready to give you our top five. While it should come as no surprise that bands like Nirvana and Radiohead top out our list, you just may be surprised at which order they placed once the final votes were tallied. Continue reading
By The S&N Staff. Over the past few months, S&N has been counting down our list of the essential 90s albums. So far, we’ve seen historic albums from Nine Inch Nails, Biggie, Green Day, Beastie Boys, Counting Crows, Rage Against The Machine, Oasis, and plenty of others. Today, we finally reach the top 10, and it should comes as no surprise that there’s hip-hop, nerd rock, and of course, plenty of grunge. We start with a band better known for their 80s output—and a 1992 masterpiece that may (or may not) be their best work. Continue reading
By The S&N Staff. Earlier this month, the S&N staff began our countdown of the 25 most essential albums of the 90s. Number 25-21 featured groundbreaking works from Nine Inch Nails, Modest Mouse, Beastie Boys, Elliott Smith, and The Notorious B.I.G. Today, we continue the list with numbers 20-16: Continue reading
By The S&N Staff. There may be some generational bias at play here, but the 90s just might’ve been the peak of the album experience. In that gap in time between the MTV and radio dominance of the 80s and the Napster and iTunes takeover of the 2000s came a wave of rock and hip-hop artists who saw music as more than just a collection of singles. Whether fueled by nostalgia for the classic rock era of the concept LP, or a reflexive cynicism of “selling out,” these artists had ambitions toward a higher level of creativity. Continue reading
By Antony. Recently, a few things have reminded me of Britpop: Radiohead’s The Bends turned 20 a few weeks ago, Blur’s been killing it with a new album on the horizon, and I’ve been pondering what to make of the new Mumford & Sons song, which led me to contemplate who Coldplay is, which led me back to The Bends. All of this is to say, I decided to dig a little deeper into Britpop, and I’ve come to a conclusion: Britpop is not simply the triumphant run of a number of British bands in the mid-90s; it’s really what British rock has always been about and continues to be about.
It’s generally accepted that Britpop begins in 1993 with Suede’s self-titled debut and is most certainly finished by the time Oasis’s bloated third album, Be Here Now, is released in 1997. I want to tell the longer history of Britpop. Continue reading
By Antony. This was a good year to be into “bluegrass”—which has apparently become an umbrella term for all things folky, Americana, and alt-country. Eight of my fourteen picks land rather comfortably in that genre, and if I’d made the list longer it would be even clearer that this was a bluegrass year. Continue reading
By Antony. Some people journal. I’ve been known to record my thoughts here and there. But really, I try to channel my energy into projects that aren’t quite confessional. So I make mixes.
I collect songs. The list builds, gets unwieldily and jagged, and then, it begins to emerge. It’s rarely so purposeful as to have a unifying rule or even thematic consistency. It simply sounds right to me today. Continue reading
By Spencer and Antony. In the internet age, we rarely get true surprises when it comes to our entertainment. It’s a world full of spoiler alerts and leaked Instagram pictures from the set. The music industry doesn’t even try to keep anything under wraps for the most part; any moderately anticipated album is often available for streaming in its entirety some weeks or months ahead of its release date. So U2’s surprise release of Songs Of Innocence on Tuesday—as a free iTunes download, no less!—caught me completely off-guard. As Consequence Of Sound so aptly put it, U2 pulled off a Beyonce and a Radiohead at the same time! Continue reading
By Antony. When in doubt, begin where you began. I set out to familiarize myself with Glen Hansard’s work with The Frames and The Swell Season because I fell in love with his 2012 solo album Rhythm And Repose. Of course that was about two years ago, and I did nothing. The catalyst for finally doing it was that I saw Glen Hansard at the Hollywood Bowl a few weeks ago. He and his large band—about a dozen people—were fantastic. He overflowed with joy and gratitude, and his storytelling was absolutely charming. In fact, my only complaint was that some backstage miscommunication truncated Hansard’s set—though with a flash of Irish rebellion, he played nearly 30 minutes past curfew.
So in the afterglow of the show, I found the motivation to give some time to one of the finest folk musicians working today. What follows is what I’ve learned. Fair warning: I’m sure my list is heretical to any longtime Hansard follower and that doesn’t bother me one bit. Continue reading
Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
First Aid Kit’s Stay Gold is, in a way, a long meditation on Robert Frost’s “Nothing Gold Can Stay.” I don’t know if the Söderberg sisters found the poem as a nice way to sum up what they were already writing or if the poem itself opened previously locked doors to them. Either way, as a listener, the album and poem should be taken together, allowed to work on one another in turn. Continue reading
By Spencer, Antony, and Mark. Jack White’s second solo album, Lazaretto, dropped this week. Following a tradition started on our previous site, After The Radio, three of our S&N contributors engaged in a bi-coastal email conversation on the album and its place in the broader Jack White pantheon of musical experiences:
Spencer: After my first listen to Lazaretto, I think we can safely say that Jack White has fully walked away now from the minimalism that was so characteristic of his work with the White Stripes (and, to a lesser extent, The Raconteurs and The Dead Weather). It’s a continuation of what he did on his last solo album, Blunderbuss, which saw him experimenting with a much broader range of instrumentation and genres, from pianos and pedal steels to honky-tonk and bluegrass. Here, the use of the fiddle stands out in the transition between “Lazaretto” and “Temporary Ground,” along with more piano, more steel guitar, and a fatter bass sound than we’ve come to expect (especially for a guy whose first band didn’t even have one!). Continue reading