Another year gone by, another year filled with musical delights. We lost quite a few musical legends starting in December of 2015 – Scott Weiland, Lemmy Kilmister, David Bowie, Prince, Sharon Jones, Leonard Cohen, and George Michael to name just a few (and let’s not mention an overall list of artists who have left us in 2016). I lost my Aunt unexpectedly back in February the morning after attending a Black Sabbath show. The year was filled with unexpected highs and unexpected lows for me. As with anything in life, sometimes you have to feel bad to feel good (and vice versa). I made some friends, lost some friends, and reconnected with some old friends. Throughout it all, I had music playing. Here are my top albums of 2016:
When we last heard from the Pet Shop Boys, we were treated to an electronic masterpiece in the form of Electric. It is hard to believe that almost 3 years has elapsed since that masterpiece of an album. Super once again finds Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe working with producer Stuart Price. In fact, this album is being called the 2nd in a planned trilogy with Price. To that end, Super continues with the club ready anthems re-established on Electric whist dropping most of the melancholy found on 2012’s Elysium. At this stage in their career – 30+ years, 13th studio album – I think it is fair to ask if the Pet Shop Boys have anything left to say. Super answers this conclusively – yes they do.
Another year gone by too quickly. Nothing left to do but try and recount all the great music releases of 2013. We saw the return of David Bowie, (3) new Mark Kozelek records, band reunions, and high-profile hip-hop releases. We also saw people upset with Miley Cyrus quite a bit and while I don’t enjoy her music I thought that the controversies were overblown. I was really looking forward to the new Eminem record but ended up liking only a few songs. Kanye West’s new record didn’t really do anything for me and I couldn’t get into the long-awaited My Bloody Valentine. My list is lacking some of those albums that are on other sites – some of them I didn’t dig all that much and some of them I just didn’t replay very much.What can I say? I march to my own beat. On the flip side, I loved every Mark Kozelek related album, discovered a few gems, and rocked out to Black Sabbath. So here’s a look at 50 music releases from 2013 that I played over and over again. I’ll see you in about a week with the 1st article of 2014.
2012’s record Elysium by the The Pet Shop Boys sparked reviews that varied in tone and critique. It was sometimes mentioned as beautifully autumnal and sad but also criticized as sounding tired and slightly bitter (often within the same review) – for me it was a record that grew in stature with each listen. I mentioned in my review that it was “not quite a masterpiece, but has some very special, very Pet Shop Boys moments.” I stand by that statement, 9 months later. I will say that one of the singles from that record – “Leaving” – stands as one of my favorite Pet Shop Boys songs of all time – a perfect embodiment of melancholy and hope. Historical revisionism is a curious thing and appears to be alive and well with the release of the latest Pet Shop Boys record, Electric. It is easy to fall into that trap when faced with a record that is a masterpiece because everything that immediately preceded its release seems dull in comparison. So it goes with the Pet Shop Boys in 2013. I loved last years record, but it couldn’t prepare me for the non-stop delight that is Electric.
Attack of the Killer Track! is a series that explores lesser known tracks from artists from a variety of genres. Some of the tracks were singles, some of them were obscure b-sides or long forgotten album tracks. One thing is certain – all of them are killer tracks.
John Lennon’s life is well documented – both in print and on film (usually at the request of Mr. Lennon himself as well as Yoko Ono). His work with The Beatles changed the way musicians record and made the path from The Beatles to the Pet Shop Boys very clear by way of tape manipulation and sampling. When you get to his solo career public opinion seems to be a little more divided – not so with me. The back to basics approach of his solo records really suits what Lennon was trying to do away from the band setting. His works have been reissued, remastered, and he even had some of his “works in progress” released in a box set about 15 years ago. Two of his demos were remade into Beatles songs for the anthology album / video series. One of the finest songs John Lennon ever laid to tape was considered for the Beatles reunion and rejected by producer Jeff Lynn (of Electric Light Orchestra fame) because of an incessant buzzing that is on the tape. It has never been officially released which is a damn shame – it is a haunting portrayal of love and loss. The track appears to have been cut at home (The Dakota) sometime between 1975 and 1979. The emotion in John Lennon’s voice feels very real and there is a sadness lurking beneath the surface. The piano accompaniment provides a melancholy atmosphere and allows the weight of Lennon’s words to sink in with the listener. I picked up a bootleg back in the mid 90’s and have returned to it quite often over the years. The perfect John Lennon song, still officially unreleased as of 2013 and it breaks my heart every time I listen to it. Key lyrics:
I know it’s true
It’s all because of You
And if I make it through
It’s all because of you…
And now and then
If we must start again
And we will know for sure
23 albums touched by the hand of God in 2012 – a non-numbered list of albums that I’ve played over and over that were released in 2012. Some of them were reviewed here on Jason’s Jukebox, some of them weren’t. All of them are worth your time and attention. The last look back at an amazing year of music. I’ll see you later this week with my 1st review of 2013.
The past is always with us – for better or worse. Collectively, our highs and lows have brought us to where we are now – or what is known as “the present”. For recording artists (that sounds old-fashioned doesn’t it?), that can be a daunting proposition. The Pet Shop Boys have been huge stars in the UK and Europe for all of their 25+ year career. In the United States it has been a very different story. Despite a rapid fan base willing to buy each release (guilty as charged) their commercial prospects have been on a downward trajectory since 1993’s Very (some would argue it began even earlier). Creatively, however, the duo have been very consistent and churn out electro-pop masterpieces every 18 to 24 months.