If you’ve read my blog at all in the last nine months or so, you know why I’ve been sharing what I have. Every week, some of my co-workers and I have been sharing some of our favorite music with one another. Except, they’re not my coworkers anymore.
And we’re supposed to review it, rate it, and share that with one another, but that doesn’t always happen.
So, first of all, let’s tackle the Grammys for just a second. I don’t think much of them. It’s a fun honor, and a pretty big footnote on Wikipedia, but the Grammys rarely reflect the true “best music of the year.” I know, that’s a subjective opinion, but I feel like the Grammys (well, all award shows do this, really) consistently choose from a limited pool of mainstream artists, and then predictably choose the safe choice. But it doesn’t mean what they choose is bad. In fact, most albums that get nominated are very good. But they’re predictable. Safe. Boring. Some prefer that, I suppose. I just think it’s the mainstream patting itself on the back. I think – at least for artists, musicians, etc. – that doing what you do and doing it well is more important than trying to do what everyone else thinks you should do. I think things like the Country Music Awards are a better idea. But even genre specific awards may still not be the best idea. And if people still want a showdown between the best-in-class, then we can have a Grammy shootout show.
But I don’t want to get into a rant, so I’ll move on.
I was surprised how few of the Albums of the Year (Album of the Years?) I’ve enjoyed. The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is one, of course. But while it may have been a huge deal when it was released, I don’t think it’s their best work. They had other albums nominated that didn’t win: Help!, Revolver, Magical Mystery Tour and Abbey Road. You know what I think of Abbey Road, but I also think Help! and Revolver are better than Sgt. Pepper. And Magical Mystery Tour is kind of an even wash.
And we’ve already covered some during the course of our little game, like Carol King’s Tapestry, Stevie Wonder’s Songs in the Key of Life, Fleetwood Mac’s Rumors, the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack, and Mumford and Sons’ Babel. Unless you want to count nominees, too, in which case Don McClean’s American Pie, Lady Gaga’s Born this Way, John Mayer’s Continuum, the Grease soundtrack, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ The Heist, Radiohead’s In Rainbows, Sam Smith’s In the Lonely Hour, and MC Hammer’s Please Hammer Don’t Hurt ‘Em are also on our list.
There are others I thought about sharing, but most of my Simon and Garfunkel listening has been greatest hits. Same with Crosby, Stills and Nash – although they were only ever nominated and never won.
That leaves the Alison Krauss & Robert Plant collaboration, Raising Sand, and one other – which I ultimately shared because I think it’s less likely to get shared, as well as in hopes that someone else will share Raising Sand. But first, the other suggestions.
Beck – Morning Phase (2014)
Beck is a musical chameleon. He can convincingly make folk, rap, dance, electronic, or rock, and sometimes fuse them all into one song. Not only that, but he convincingly portrays a wide range of emotions too – humorous, subtle, wacky, sad, happy, euphoric, thoughtful and occasionally heartbroken.
Sometimes he gets in a certain mood, and decides to make an album full of a focussed sound. And that’s what Morning Phase is: a desert folk album primed for road trips.
This was great. This may be the best album I’ve heard in a long time. I’m not sure knew what I was getting into.
Musically, it’s just a chill, mostly acoustic little album. But it reminds me of a mix between Pink Floyd’s The Wall and Blitzen Trapper’s Furr. Maybe with a little solo John Lennon thrown in there, too. Heart is a Drum is especially Floydian. This whole album is a mix of a lot of the things I love in non-body moving music.
Another part of it is, on a more meta level, this feels like the kind of music that would play during the part of the indie film (maybe near the end, right before everything resolves) which is my life right now. I think you know what I’m talking about. Emotionally, this is exactly the kind of album I need.
I think the highlight of the album is Blue Moon. It literally gave me chills. And it made me want to whip out my mandolin.
I totally agree that this should have won album of the year. I think it’s the best thing I’ve heard released last year. 5/5
Norah Jones – Come Away with Me (2002)
Welcome to what I would call a fusion of jazz and country. Norah Jones took home six Grammys in 2003 and said she actually felt bad about it.
It’s chill, but it’s musically more complicated than you might think. She just doesn’t let it get muddied up with too many other musicians. When she needs bass or drums, she has bass or drums. If she just needs piano and her voice, she’ll just use those. She’s thinking about what the song needs, not what the egos of band mates think. When you’re a solo artist with studio musicians you can think like that. The rest of us have to voluntarily step back at times. Unfortunately, some musicians never know when the music needs them to step back. In my experience, metal bands are the worst, but bluegrass and jazz musicians aren’t always so great at that either. And it’s not just amateur bands either. There are plenty of professional musicians who don’t always get that sometimes less stuff going on allows for a greater emotional experience.
Again, I’m stopping there to avoiding going into full on rant mode.
Only about half of the songs are by her or her bass player, Lee Alexander, but even the covers feel like she is sincerely sharing her own heart-felt experiences.
Also, not that this has anything to do with her music, but she comes from music roots. Her dad, Ravi Shankar, was the guy who taught Beatle George Harrison how to play sitar – an associate that earned Shankar enough popularity to get invited to play at Woodstock.
Here’s what the other guys had to say about it:
“I tend to think of Norah Jones as the beginning of the old-school retro soul trend that is now in full force with artists like Adele or Sam Smith. Those artists specifically are more R&B in their approach, but definite line can be drawn back to this album as opening the door I think.
First time I had even heard or heard of Norah Jones was right after my mission. I looked into what artists made a mark while I was gone, and noticed she cleaned house at the Grammy’s. Suddenly, her new album Feels Like Home was on its way and everyone (EVERYONE) seemed to be salivating over it. So, my first album experience with her ended up being that second one, which maybe by association I tend to enjoy a little more. I like the folkiness of it. But, Come Away With Me is definitely a modern classic as far as contemporary pop is concerned. Songs like her version of “Turn Me On” are so smooth and enjoyable. My favorite track on the album though is actually her cover of the 1938 song “The Nearness of You.” Over the years I’ve edited a few wedding videos, and this one is a go-to for me every time. Some may think that being tagged to so many wedding videos would cheapen the song’s appeal, and I suppose sometimes that’s true. But for my money, her golden voice over that simple piano makes for one of the best love songs I know of. So wonderful.
Norah is one of those artists I will always respect no matter how much I actually listen to her. It’s definitely music that requires a certain mood, but when that mood hits, it is pure bliss. Plus…she hot. This first album of her’s is a cultural classic in the genre that really did influence a lot of mainstream trends, more so then it probably gets credit for. And with good reason. It’s really really hard not to like it.” 8.5/10 -Chris
Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below.