March ’21


We’re almost three months into 2021 and the most interesting album I’ve heard so far is from Justin Bieber, which, I’m sorry, is a sad commentary on new music, or me, or something! I’ve given several 2021 albums a spin and have found absolutely nothing that inspires me as of yet. By this point last year there were several exceptional albums out (Mac Miller’s comes to mind). Of course Covid messed up everything, including recording and working with other musicians, the repercussions of which are now evident on the barren music scene. Which may be why this Bieber album stands out. I won’t knock what the guy’s done in the past other than to say it never really clicked with me. But this one has some solid tunes, particularly late in the game (it’s back-heavy with the good stuff). It’s solid from “Peaches” on (the last five songs). Couldn’t help but make the comparison with Lauv’s great album from a year ago. Both young, white, spindly, blonde dudes with silky vocals, but the Lauv album is far, far superior to this one. But Bieber’s got the name recognition, which is often worth more than good songwriting.  


I had a last-minute change to the final 1975 list. Tom Waits’ brilliant Nighthawks at the Diner was included from the get-go. Then I mixed it with the other nine albums and found the vibe completely off, so I bumped it. Then I listened to it again, start-to-finish, and concluded it’s too special to be ignored (the issue of incongruity was resolved by NOT mixing Nighthawks with the other nine albums, but finishing the mix with the entire record, in order, as it really needs to be heard). Part of my original concern was that it sounds like a live album, and live albums don’t qualifying for these lists. But Nighthawks was not intended to be performed in front of an audience.  Having a group of people in the recording studio was an afterthought. Since none of the cuts had previously been released, and it was recorded in a legit studio, it is undeniably a studio album, despite all the clapping and laughing. Which brings up another point. At times, Nighthawks comes off as a comedy album (this from the opening minute: “I’m so horny the crack of dawn better be careful”). Someone unfamiliar with Waits might confuse this for a standup routine accompanied by piano. But Waits is unquestionably a musician, and a brilliant one at that, who just so happens to be gifted with a twisted and delightful sense of humor. In other 1975 news, the biggest surprise on this list is the Wings album. I have a healthy appreciation for Paul McCartney, but never would have predicted a top ten finish on any of these lists. But this is a collection of mostly infection pop tunes. The hit “Listen to What the Man Said” remains lovable after all these years, although the title never would get the green light today. As for top record of the year, there’s really no contest. Physical Graffiti never fails to blow my mind. Considering it’s pushing fifty-years old, it probably always will. 

Ten Best 1975

1. Led Zeppelin, Physical Graffiti 
2. Fleetwood Mac, Fleetwood Mac
3. Pink Floyd, Wish You Were Here
4. Patti Smith, Horses
5. Bob Dylan, Blood On The Tracks
6. Wings, Venus And Mars
7. Electric Light Orchestra, Face the Music
8. Willie Nelson, Red Headed Stranger
9. Roxy Music, Siren
10. Tom Waits, Nighthawks at the Diner

HONORABLE MENTION: Linda Ronstadt, Prisoner in Disguise; Little Feat, The Last Record Album; Neil Young, Tonight’s The Night; Elton John, Rock of the Westies; Bob Seger, Beautiful Loser; Earth, Wind & Fire, That’s the Way of the World; Lou Reed, Coney Island Baby; Steely Dan, Katy Lied; David Bowie, Young Americans; Paul Simon, Still Crazy After All These Years; Bob Dylan & The Band, The Basement Tapes; Parliament, Mothership Connection; The Who, The Who By Numbers; Brian Eno, Another Green World; Queen, A Night at the Opera


The biggest surprise in reviewing 2007 was discovering The Apples in Stereo, an indie pop/rock collective out of Denver that’s been around since the early Nineties but brand new to my ears. Comparisons to the Electric Light Orchestra and The Beach Boys seem spot on. The chord progression on one of my favorite cuts, “Play Tough,” is reminiscent of the Beatles’ “All You Need Is Love.” Think catchy and jangly and you’ll get the picture. The Lucinda Williams record slipped through the cracks for me when it first came out. I’ve been a big fan for years but never got around to West until now. The depth of emotion in her songwriting and vocals always draws me in, and this album feels particularly impassioned. “What If” is particularly special. A simple idea about pondering a world where everything is the opposite of how we know it. What if the prostitute was queen? she wonders. What if the sun rose too soon, and then just disappeared? It ends with the heady thought: what if people loved one another in equal amounts?  But my album of the year for 2007 goes to Rufus Wainwright for this record which I’ve loved since its release. His nasally and monotone delivery is an acquired taste, I get it. But my musical palate is entirely satisfied here, as over-the-top dramatic and orchestral as it can be at times. I love every cut, although some rise to the ranks of inimitable, like “Leaving For Paris No. 2,” “Sanssouci” and “Slideshow.” 

Ten Best 2007

1. Rufus Wainwright, Release the Stars
2. Lucinda Williams, West
3. The Apples in Stereo, New Magnetic Wonder
4. Tinariwen, Aman Iman: Water Is Life
5. LCD Soundsystem, Sound of Silver
6. Foo Fighters, Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace
7. The Avett Brothers, Emotionalism
8. Wilco, Sky Blue Sky
9. Radiohead, In Rainbows
10. Mavis Staples, We’ll Never Turn Back

HONORABLE MENTION: Bon Iver, For Emma, Forever Ago; Iron & Wine, The Shepherd’s Dog; Glenn Mercer, Wheels in Motion; Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, Raising Sand; The Shins, Wincing the Night Away; The National, Boxer; Tori Amos, American Doll Posse; Kings of Leon, Because Of The Times; Gogol Bordello, Super Taranta!; Grinderman, Grinderman; Against Me!, New Wave; Band of Horses, Cease to Begin


The world is moving infinitesimally closer to normalcy with each vaccine jabbed into an arm. In the spirit of New Year’s resolutions, I’ve made some new world resolutions, since this ungodly virus will leave everything a little (or a lot) different than we remember. For M4S, that means a shift in focus, a little more music curating, a little less writing. This blog has always been about music first, but I have spent more time writing than curating. Moving forward, the plan is to flip that. If you haven’t checked out the playlists (linked above, or on Spotify under DJay3), maybe give them a listen. I’m a harsh self-critic. When I look at anything (er, pretty much everything) I’ve ever written, I’m always unsatisfied. Invariably I feel like it could be better. Not so with the playlists. I’ve spent years building them and when I take a breather and go back to listen, I’m really quite impressed, not by anything I’ve done, necessarily, but at how fantastical the music is. The plan is to continue building these lists for every year I’ve been alive (18 years completed so far, many more to come, cause I’m oldish). Postings will mostly be commentary on complete years, once the lists are finalized. Just like before the pandemic, you can reach me on Twitter @Music4Sativa. In the meantime, Turn it Up and Carry On.