Slipknot, Stupidity, and Lyrical Depravity

One of my chief complaints, as someone who enjoys heavy music, is that practically none of the bands that play such music put more than two seconds of thought into their lyrical content. As a writer, I know that words matter, and I appreciate a thoughtful metaphor or a well-turned phrase. A good lyric isn’t necessary to make a song enjoyable, but there’s never any harm in adding more well-written elements to a track.

I can normally ignore the majority of banal, trite lyrics that I come across. Those are the sort that don’t say anything, that say their nothing in a bland and inoffensive way, and for the most part might as well not exist. These are the songs you sing along to without once bothering to think about what the words coming out of your mouth mean, if they mean anything at all. There is more than enough room in the world of music for these sorts of songs to thrive, and I have no problem with this reality. Not everything needs to aim for the highbrow, nor do I expect it to. I enjoy mindless fun like anyone else.

What I can’t enjoy is music that actively insults my intelligence. No matter what feeling an artist is trying to convey with their music, there is a way to say it without delving into the lowest forms of human depravity. Stereotypical bravado and pointless profanity do not make music more exciting, nor more ‘dangerous’. All that kind of lyricism does is show the contempt that an artist has, either for themselves or their audience.

I bring this us as a result of hearing a track from the new Slipknot album, entitled “Custer”. As a song, it’s an unremarkable peddling of modern American metal cliches, exactly the sort of thing that holds no appeal whatsoever to me. But what made the song so revolting were the lyrics, which go beyond the pale of adolescent stupidity, to the point where I would be ashamed of being the nearly middle aged adult who had to attach my name to them.

“Cut, cut, cut me up, then fuck, fuck, fuck me up” the chorus goes, killing a few of my brain cells by association.

There are ways of expressing hatred and anger eloquently, and there are ways of being cartoonishly vile like Cannibal Corpse, but the combination of vile hatred that begs to be taken seriously like Slipknot is expressing is disturbing. For one thing, there is the issue of mental health that is brought into question, but I doubt there is any true sincerity behind the words.

That leaves us with the position that those words were intentionally chosen because someone thought they were a good idea. The fact that I even have to write that sentence is why I have a hard time calling myself a fan of metal. I’m embarrassed to like any music that even gets lumped in with that kind of trash, however unfair that might be.

Slipknot is far from the only offender. Adrenaline Mob released a song on their horrid debut album with the chorus “are you motherfuckers feeling me?” No, no I am not. In fact, I wish I had never heard those words.  And calling your fans motherfuckers isn’t a good way of endearing yourself to them.  It’s juvenile, stupid, and shows how little brain power that band has as a collective unit.

I’m not asking for bands to try to become the next Shakespeare, but a little bit of thought put into their lyrics would be nice. As someone who has a brain, and uses it from time to time, I don’t want to feel dirty listening to the music I enjoy. As bad as I feel about those songs, I feel even worse that there are so many more people who don’t see the problem.

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Love, Hate, & Music

Love and hate are two sides of the same coin.

I continue to obsessively seek out new music because I love it.  There’s not much that can compare to finding a new record that scratches that itch, that makes you remember how much music can mean to you.  When that happens, it’s a small bit of magic, and it convinces me to keep going, even when the landscape looks bleak.  To that end, persistence has paid off this year, as I have collected more great new music than in any year I can remember.  This has been a fantastic year for music that fits my taste, and the amount of love I have felt for music is startling.

On the other hand, I have found that while my passion for music has not waned, my feelings in the opposite direction have.  Even when listening to music that is intolerable, I no longer find myself getting upset by what I’m hearing, angry that my time has been wasted by people who don’t seem to understand what music is.  There was a time when being angry about hearing awful albums was routine, and it fed into the passion for the amazing releases, so it has been interesting to see only one side of the equation wither and die.

The last album I can recall having that kind of reaction to was Manowar’s “The Lord Of Steel”.  Listening to that album was so painful, and such a slap in my face as a listener, that I couldn’t help but be viscerally offended by their putrid attempt at a record.  I have no love for Manowar, even if we share geography, and maybe that plays a part in me hating them so much.  They give me a bad name by proximity.

That album is now a couple years old, and in the time since then, I have had the opportunity to hear any number of horrible records.  The amount of black and death metal that is released is staggering, and almost all of it is against the grain of what I want to listen to.  And yet, as I continue to have to slog through so many of them, I don’t find myself getting upset.  I don’t know if it’s that I’ve gotten older, or if I’ve resigned myself to the reality of the music scene, but negative emotions no longer seem to creep up the way they once did.

I want to be worried about that, I want to be concerned that I don’t care the way I used to, but I’m finding it hard to do that.  As long as I am able to continue enjoying the great albums, I don’t see the problem in being apathetic towards the bad.  It might even be a healthier alternative.  So while it might seem as though music is losing it’s importance, being able to completely ignore Manowar sounds pretty good to me.

Weezer: Album By Album

With the new Weezer album fresh in my mind, the time seems right to take a step back and examine the band’s career.  Weezer has been a constant source of frustration for fans, although few can agree on exactly what it is the band should be doing in place of what it is they are.  For the large number of Weezer fans who are disappointed, there are fewer answers for the question of what went wrong.  For me, the story of Weezer amounts to how much it seems like the band gives a damn about what they’re doing.  Let’s start at the beginning:

The Blue Album:

Throughout the 90’s, there wasn’t a better example of guitar-based pop music released.  At least that’s the common line of thought.  “The Blue Album” is a very good record, but nostalgia has made us forget the flaws inherent in it.  The singles are especially strong, but the rest of the album pales in comparison.  “Buddy Holly” is rightfully a classic, as is “Say It Ain’t So”, but there really isn’t much meat on the bone beyond those two songs.  “My Name Is Jonas” doesn’t have a strong melody, “Only In Dreams” is was too long for its own good, and “In The Garage” is a lyrical conceit without much weight behind it.  “Holiday” is the best non-single, a bouncing melody wrapped up in a Beach Boys influence.  We weren’t used to hearing pop of this variety played with crunching distortion, and while “The Blue Album” was an introduction to a new alternative scene, it doesn’t hold up as a great piece of music.

Pinkerton:

The first of many steps Weezer took that angered fans, “Pinkerton” is clearly the best album Weezer has ever made.  Underneath the dingy distortion that plagues the guitars are a set of songs that show Rivers at his best as a songwriter.  His lyrics are personal, painful, and not yet stripped of any bit of intelligence.  What makes the album work so well is that not only are there great melodies in every song, but you can hear the passion Rivers had for these songs in the band’s playing.  They tear through the songs with an energy they never again had on record.  “Falling For You”, complete with key change, might just be Weezer’s finest song.

The Green Album:

Coming back from the hiatus the failure of “Pinkerton” caused, it was natural for Rivers to abandon the confessional songwriting of that album.  In fact, the complete absence of human emotion is the best asset of “The Green Album”.  It is a pure academic exercise in pop songwriting, which is accomplished to near perfection.  In its brief running time, “The Green Album” packs in so much catchy melody that emotion is never missed.  There isn’t enough time to scrutinize the songs for what they’re lacking.  They are exactly what they should be, and “The Green Album” is a fine testament to Rivers’ abilities.

Maladroit:

With a new lease on life, Weezer went back to experimenting, which resulted in “Maladroit”, an album that doesn’t exactly make sense.  There are moments of heavy metal fury, jazzy calm, and songs that aren’t sure what they’re supposed to be.  Some of the album is a dismal failure, while songs like “Dope Nose” and “Keep Fishin'” are quintessential Weezer.  What was obvious from this album was that Rivers no longer considered lyric writing an integral part of the creative process.  Lines like “cheese tastes so good on a burnt piece of lamb” was more than enough to tell us all that Weezer’s music was going to be ridiculous from here on out.

Make Believe:

“Beverly Hills” is Weezer’s worst, most annoying song.  The rest of “Make Believe”, however, is a really good album.  Rivers gave one more effort to write a genuine album that had some feeling behind it, and when the fans crapped on it, Weezer died for good.  Once you get past “Beverly Hills”, the album is the only album besides “Pinkerton” to even try to move the emotional dial.  Rivers obviously cared about these songs, and you can hear that in his vocal performance.  “Perfect Situation”, “This Is Such A Pity”, and “Freak Me Out” all have the kinds of melodies that make pop music great.  For whatever reason, they didn’t resonate with fans the way they did with me.

The Red Album:

After another disappointment, “The Red Album” was inevitable.  Rivers through everything against the wall, hoping something would stick, but nothing did.  It wasn’t a total failure.  “Pork And Beans” was a solid single, and “Dreamin'” was the kind of throwback pop song that Weezer does so well.  But this album marked the beginning of Weezer getting tired of being a band, with everyone taking turns doing everyone else’s job.  It’s a bad sign when people aren’t playing the instruments they’re best at, which only got worse…

Raditude:

This is the bottom of the barrel, an album so bad I pretend it doesn’t exist.  The band barely shows up on this record, the co-writers don’t seem to know who Weezer is, and the lyrics have finally gone brain-dead.  This was the desperate attempt to remain cool by people who didn’t understand that their time had moved on.  People in their 30s trying to talk to 16 year old girls are creepy, and that’s exactly what this album is.  Listening to it is painful, like you’re bearing witness to a man’s mental breakdown.  There isn’t a single redeemable feature of this record.

Hurley:

By default, “Hurley” had to be a better album, and it was.  By no means is it a very good record, but there are enough decent songs here to make it worthwhile.  “Hang On” is the highlight, as good a song as Rivers had written in several albums.  “Where’s My Sex” is a stupid song with stupid lyrics that need you to understand a story before they make sense, but it’s also absurdly fun.  Even the trash on this one isn’t as bad as the previous two records, which makes “Hurley” a point of hopeful optimism.

Everything Will Be Alright In The End:

As I wrote in my review, this is not a great Weezer album either.  Rivers spends a third of the record apologizing for everything he’s done wrong, but he never once sounds like he means any of it.  His vocals are so dispassionate that I’m almost led to believe this is all an act of trolling, to prove how gullible his fans are.  That being said, it’s a much better album than “Hurley”, with a better sense of melody than anything since “Make Believe”.  Rivers the lyricist is still on vacation, and several songs are insulting to my intelligence, but the melodies are slick and catchy.  And really, that’s all anyone wants from Weezer these days.  So on that level, the record is a success.

By my count, Weezer has made three very good to great records, two fairly good ones, and several we should erase fro our memories.  Given their legacy, the quality of their discography is stunning for how terrible it is.  If you played these records without knowing Weezer’s reputation, the idea that they are a beloved band, considered legends in certain scenes, would be ridiculous.  Weezer, when you look back at them, are an adequate band.  They were never great, and they may never again be good.  It pains me to say that, given how much of my own history is tied up in their music, but it’s the truth.

Weezer never deserved to be Weezer.

U2 And The Business Of Music

A lingering question that has plagued musicians since the dawn of the Age Of Napster has been what music is actually worth, and how to get people to pay for it.  As digital music became more than a mere pipe dream, and as broadband internet made entire catalogs available at the click of a mouse, the very nature of how we relate to the music we listen to has changed.  Loving music no longer meant having to drive down to the local record store, hoping that the album you picked up wasn’t a lie in the guise of hit singles.  Being a fan had long been a frustrating experience for fans, as we were at the whims of the record labels, having to swallow whatever bitter pill they wanted to shove down our throats.

The digital revolution changed that, because the power shifted from the hands of the producers to the hands of the consumers.  No longer did we have to sit back and blindly buy music that spin-writers told us was the gift of the gods.  We could hear, if only samples in lieu of whole albums, what was being offered before putting down our money on worthless albums.

Bands have struggled with this change, few understanding how to stop the bleeding decline in sales that had started even before digital music and a-la-carte purchasing had become established.  Some clung to the old ways, some embraced the possibilities of change, and the vast majority tried to pretend nothing had to change.  What was true then is true now, namely that record sales have not been the driving factor in band income for decades.  The shift has not made as much of an impact to the bottom line of bands as it has the labels, but those are not the terms in which the issue is talked about.

When Napster first came online, the argument made by the big-name bands was not that they were against digital music, but that they should be able to decide how their music got released.  It was a position that was not well argued, even if it is reasonable.  The bad PR campaign relegated that argument to the trash heap, forgotten and distorted the same way “Beam me up, Scotty” has become an untrue fact that everyone holds.

U2 have reminded me of this, as their release of “Songs Of Innocence” has once again pulled down the curtain on the disingenuous way the music industry works.  After giving their album away for free to anyone who wanted it, and many who didn’t, U2 has been in the cross-hairs of musicians who claim they are contributing to the death of the industry.  I am in no position to judge whether or not that is true, but there is a distinct irony running through all the talk and spin that continues the stereotype of the music industry being one of the most morally bankrupt entities in the world.

What U2 did may or may not have been a smart business move, but it was certainly a bold decision.  More than anything, what it was is the perfect illustration of the self-centered dishonesty that has always been a part of music.  U2 made an album, and they chose how they wanted the world to experience it.  They voluntarily eschewed the traditional model of album release, preferring to take a corporate sponsorship so it could reach as many people as possible, and at no cost to them.

Where is the dishonesty, you may ask?

If we were to ever believe musicians, all they ever wanted was the ability to control their own music.  U2 did exactly that, and yet it is not good enough.  As soon as a band makes a choice that doesn’t mesh with what is best for business, a choice that doesn’t maximize profits for everyone involved, it is criticized as heavily as the theft they claim has eroded the sales of stale, recycled music.

What should be happening here is that all bands should be applauding U2 for using their freedom of choice.  We shouldn’t need to be reminded, but music is supposed to be art before a business, a fact that sadly gets lost along the way.  Not every musician is going to have the same goal of making as much money as humanly possible from their work, and we, and other musicians, shouldn’t consider that a bad thing.  If bands want to give their music away to their fans, we shouldn’t be talking about what that means as far as establishing and feeding an age of entitlement, we should be talking about the artistic choices that lead bands in different directions.

It is possible that we could be headed in the direction of having two industries, one in which musicians who are in it for the art give their music away for free, while those in it for the money still offer theirs for a fee, but that wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing.  A shift to a model where less money is spent on music could have the opposite of the assumed effect, opening music up to a world of experimentation, where anything is once again possible, because corporate profits no longer need to be protected.  If the art is put in the hands of the people who truly do it for the love of creating, we will end up with fewer arena headlining acts with the (forced) broad appeal to capture national attention, but we would also end up with a music industry that is focused on making great music.

More than anything, the criticism U2 has received for their choice goes against everything artists have fought for since the beginnings of recorded music.  Artists have spent their entire careers, often at great personal and financial sacrifice, to gain control of their careers and their music.  Owning their own work is one of the most powerful statements an artist can make, and U2 is dodging verbal bullets for making use of that power.

It is a disgrace that people who live under the corporate thumb, who know perfectly well what it’s like to not have control over the work they have poured their blood and sweat into, are not supportive of a fellow artist in a position to do what they desire.  Perhaps there is a string of jealousy that is tripping them up, but it reveals an ugly side of the music business, which is that friendship and support only run as deep as the coffers.

From an artistic perspective, it makes no sense to hold U2’s actions against them, nor does it from a capitalistic perspective.  All of these arguments work on the assumption that music has an inherent value that must be paid, lest it be theft.  No matter how ardent a free-market believer, this assumption is based on a fiction.  Anything is only worth as much as people decide it is.  Gold is no more inherently valuable than any other metal.  It was desired, therefore became treasure and fought over.  If we decided gold was no longer useful tomorrow, it would become worthless overnight.  Music is a consumer product, no matter how much I wish it weren’t, and like any other product it is subject to the market.  The last fifteen years have shown us that there isn’t the same market for purchased music there once was.  This doesn’t mean music is worthless, or that society has fallen into moral decay.  All it means is that our priorities have shifted, and we believe our money is better spent in other places.

Fighting to keep a system in place that people no longer want isn’t just bad business, it’s antithetical to the foundation that free economies are supposedly based on.  The first VCR that was offered for sale cost $800.  Today, you can’t even buy one.  That’s not an indictment of the electronics companies for not being able to force people to continue paying for something they didn’t want anymore, it’s an acknowledgment that times and opinions change.  Being stuck in the past is not a principle, it’s a delusion.

Marketing stunts like U2’s might hasten the demise of the recording industry.  I can’t say.  Whether it does or not is irrelevant, because the industry is already contracting.  U2 might be one of the first to step off the cliff and take the leap of faith that their fans will be there to catch them, but someone needs to be.  If everyone waits until there is no other choice, a new market will have to be built from scratch.  For all we know, U2 might have discovered a sustainable model of driving ticket and merchandise sales that could more than offset the loss in album royalties.  If that is the case, there will be an extinction, given the amount of crow that will need to be eaten.

Regardless of the outcome, U2 took a risk with their own music, with their own future.  They exercised the freedom every artist wishes they could have.  They should not be crucified for doing the unpopular thing, they should be celebrated for taking control of their music and doing with it what they want.  The fact that so many artists don’t understand that is a depressing reminder of how little music means to the music industry anymore.

What To Do With Slayer…

As time marches on, and careers stretch into their third and fourth decade, there are few bands that will be able to endure with the same members who were there in the beginning.  Things happen, people change, and keeping an entire band on the same page for a lifetime is far more difficult than fans would want to admit.  Just like we get bored with hearing too much music that sounds the same, or, ironically, bands that change too much, the musicians themselves often get to the point where their bands become jobs.  They don’t have the same fire and passion for making music, but they continue on because it’s all they know.

Rarely do the challenges a band face involve death.  Most of these scenarios involve money and power, a degree of infighting that leads to a dysfunction that can’t be recovered from.  But every so often, there is something bigger than the band as a business.  In the case of Slayer, Jeff Hanneman’s death was more than a setback, it was a blow that put the band on life support.

The question is whether to pull the plug.

The answer is already out there that Slayer has no intention of calling it quits.  They are currently in the studio working on a new record, and another round of touring will soon follow.  Slayer is carrying on just as they always have, enduring and surviving, because that’s what they do.  Fans and outsiders may believe Slayer hasn’t made worthwhile music in twenty years, but Slayer persists.  Many might have thought Slayer should have hung it up even before Hanneman’s passing, but Slayer persists.  Slayer always persists.

Having an artistic sensibility myself, I try to defer to artists when it comes to their decisions.  I can rarely fault someone who wants to move in a new direction, or who wants to embark in something that they know will be unpopular.  It is their life, their art, and I am in no position to question their motives.  That doesn’t mean I will agree with them, or will even support them, but I seldom try to second-guess the legitimacy of their choices.

Slayer is in a situation where I may be doing just that.  With an uncertain future, there are three paths that the band can take.  They can 1) Continue on as though nothing has changed, 2) Become a legacy act that tours their hits while not making new music, or 3) Retire.  It should be obvious they they are not yet ready for the third option, but which of the first two is more reasonable?

I would like to split the difference.  From everything that has been said in the media, Slayer still has a number of songs Hanneman wrote but never finished.  Because of this, I have no problem with Slayer going into the studio to make the new record they are currently working on.  If it serves as a way to honor Hanneman’s legacy, and put out a few last songs of his, I see nothing wrong with it.

The problem arises when and if Slayer wants to make more records after this.  Looking through the band’s history, and which songs that continue to play night after night, Jeff Hanneman was responsible for the majority of them.  He was not just half of Slayer, in many ways he was Slayer.  His songs are the ones that built the band’s legacy, his songs are the ones the fans and the band continue to hold up as their best, and his songs are the ones that courted the controversy that made Slayer’s name.  Simply put; Slayer isn’t Slayer without Jeff Hanneman.

The idea of a Slayer album without songs written by Hanneman is impossible to fathom.  Kerry King may be capable of writing enough songs to fill records, but he never gave the band a direction and identity the way Hanneman did.  Without the both of them bringing their own personalities to the songwriting, Slayer will go from a three-dimensional band into a flat reproduction of who they used to be.  The gears may all still be in place, but the pendulum that drives them is missing.

Slayer should finish this record and go back out on the road.  They can play forever, as far as I’m concerned.  Filling arenas with their music and making people remember the legacy of Slayer is in some ways a noble thing to do.  They have lives to lead, so I would never say that playing their own music and making fans happy is a bad idea.  They can do that for as long as they want, so long as they can still do it well.

But once the new record is done, I have a hard time believing Slayer can survive as a creative entity.  This new record should be their last, not just because they will be half the band they have always been, but because there’s no need to sully their legacy with those future records.  Bands don’t make money selling albums, and Slayer doesn’t need new material to justify their touring.  Make this new record, celebrate Hanneman’s legacy, and the time will be right for Slayer to retire from the studio.  

Frankly, if they don’t take that advice, I’m not sure it would be Slayer anymore who makes that next record.

How To Listen To Music

Is there a ‘proper’ way of listening to music?

It’s a question that shouldn’t need to be asked, but one I have found myself confronted with on more than one occasion.  Especially because of my straddling the line between pop and metal, I have become acutely aware that fans of different genres of music approach what they hear in very different ways.

Pop fans tend to listen to music from the top down, with the vocal melody being the most important thing.  Without a catchy hook, the rest of the instrumentation can’t hold up as a legitimately great song.  This approach appeals to people who use music as more of a background attraction, as it’s easier to focus on just the one aspect of the song while doing other things.

In the rock, and especially metal world, the emphasis is reversed, and music is listened to from the bottom up.  The pounding rhythms of the drums are the foundation, then the guitars, while vocals are treated as a nice accent, but not nearly as important as the rest of the stew.  I have had fans tell me that listening to the vocals is the ‘wrong’ way of listening to metal, because everything is based on the drumming.

Which of these approaches is the ‘right’ one?  Neither, of course.

Music is a personal experience, and it follows that the proper way of listening to music is to focus on whatever aspects most appeal to you.  If you’re a singer, it’s natural that you would focus mostly on the vocal lines to define a great song, whereas a fan of relentless heaviness would instinctively gravitate towards the drums and guitars.  

Where people go wrong is in assuming that other people experience music in the same way they do.  Just because you might be fascinated by the timing of bass pedal strikes in a 5/8 time signature doesn’t mean everyone else will feel the same way.  Music is the driving force of some people’s lives, and is a side-note for others.  Neither approach is right, no matter how much we are inclined to side with our own experiences.

As for myself, both from my experiences starting out as a fan of pop music, and as a songwriter myself, I am of the mind that the vocals and the melody are the most important part of a song.  They are what define the difference between a musical idea and a song.  Songs are bigger than rhythms or riffs, which is a notion I feel gets lost when the music doesn’t give sufficient attention to the vocals.  Without that vocal, most songs are recurring segments of repeating riffs and beats.  That, to me, is not interesting enough to listen to.

But that is my opinion, and I’m not going to tell you that you’re wrong if you focus on another aspect of music.  It means we’re going to have wildly different opinions of bands like Meshuggah, but that’s the point of discussion.  We learn about how music is a nebulous entity that lives beyond ourselves, and how the different ways we interpret what we hear is akin to the different ways we see the world as a whole.  Music is a smaller metaphor, which makes it easier to understand.

The Best Of 2014… So Far

Last year featured what might have been the strongest contingent of great records since I started keeping track of my listening, with a Top Ten packed with records that I still feel as strongly about, even this far removed from writing the list.  I didn’t think it would be possible for this year to approach that level of quality, but I have been shocked to find that this year has been even better, and is easily the best year for music (for me) since I began compiling lists.  There has been plenty of forgettable music that I wish I didn’t hear, but there have been more great records this year than in any other I’ve experienced, and come the end of the year, I’m going to struggle to cut the list down to ten.

Before then, and as an introduction for the blog, I hereby present a few of my favorite records so far this year (in chronological order):

Transatlantic – “Kaleidoscope”

Transatlantic had already established themselves as my favorite prog band, and with “Kaleidoscope” they cemented that status.  The album is as epic as prog can get, boasting two 25+ minute tracks, but even at it’s most indulgent, the band knows how to cram their songs full of so many hooks that the songs never get lost in the music.  It is a stunning piece of work, one that blows me away, no matter how many times I hear it.

Emerson Hart – “Beauty In Disrepair”

Emerson Hart is my favorite songwriter, and he fronts my favorite band.  I’m biased towards his work, but that doesn’t discount the fact that I find “Beauty In Disrepair” to be a fantastic record, filled with the kind of memorably melodic songs that few others can write.  I’m not in the proper place in life to fully relate to the songs, but that doesn’t stop me from appreciating them.

Incura – “Incura”

This one caught me off guard, as I blindly listened to it without knowing anything about the band.  What happened is that I was shocked by their blend of hard rock, pop, and musical theater.  The record is an interesting dissection of hard rock tropes, never quite what you expect.  All I know is that it’s great music.

Blues Pills – “Blues Pills”

I had the opportunity to review their “Devil Man” EP last year, but that didn’t prepare me for how much I love this album.  They took the best aspects of their sound, and somehow made the parts I wasn’t keep on match that level.  It’s an album of bluesy hard rock, ripped straight from the olden days.  It’s not normally my kind of music, but they do it so well that I can’t help but be entranced.

Neal Morse – “Songs From November”

Aside from appearing at the start of this list with Transatlantic, Neal Morse has become one of the most important musical figures in my life, so it’s no surprise that his new album makes this list.  Neal has delivered a set of melodic pop songs that is as good as anything he’s ever written (which is saying something), and is exactly the kind of album I wanted to hear from him.  If there was justice in the world of pop music, an album like this would be getting mainstream attention.

So there we have it, a few of my favorite records of the year.  There are more I love just as much, and more will be coming in the remaining months of the year.  In what order they fall remains to be seen.  We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.