Me? I like songs.
Alex Bleeker and the Freaks
I have a country agenda of my own, but it’s grim and violent, and has nothing to do with music. Alex Bleeker’s Country Agenda, on the other hand, is what you get when a Brooklynite from a band I don’t care about (Real Estate) tries to sound like another band I don’t care about (the Grateful Dead). It’s a fail-safe recipe for who-gives-a-fuck, and yet here I am, licking Bleeker’s bowl. Life is truly full of surprises.
Second Hand Heart
Effortlessly fab. I don’t use those words lightly, as Yoakam’s penchant for ’60s pop from the Beach Boys to the Searchers—both subtly quoted in the title track, dear trainspotters—has never been so seamlessly integrated into his hillbilly deluxe.
Marvellously suicidal, frighteningly delicate acoustic folk, hatched in Sweden, recorded in rural France, all of it primed to dispel the tiresome braggadocio and narcissism of modern R&B, the endless wrongheadedness of “empowering” distaff pop, the crippled circle-jerk that is indie rock, and the ever-deepening alienation of life here in Shit Town, B.C. (Just quoting her Indiegogo pitch here.)
I’m not sure I’m enjoying this country-radio barnburner the way I’m supposed to, but I can’t imagine it makes any difference to the fiercely talented Ms. Musgraves. Opener “High Time” is countrypolitan retro dialled to maximum hokiness, with a hook built around somebody whistling. Marty Robbins and Bobbie Gentry nod their heads in approval.
The London Souls
Here Come the Girls
This is the year that I renounced rock music (seriously—fuck off, rock music), but sometimes you have to put ideology aside and gratefully accept that somebody went and made the Badfinger record that should have followed Straight Up.
Promised Land Sound
For Use and Delight
All of this year’s choices are really little communiqués to my past selves, with this one being addressed to the flu-stricken kid listening to Music From Big Pink for the first time while he tripped on NeoCitran and Bell’s Scotch on his 19th birthday.
Boy oh boy, he’s asking for trouble with that name (actually borrowed from his mother, but still). Then those first few swooning, orchestral seconds of “Who Do You Think You Are?” come at ya like a lost Glen Campbell classic and boom, there you are, on my top 10.
Blasko throws everything into the hopper, from Giorgio Moroder–esque blips and squelches to new-wave urban funk, creating an ahistoric mindspace into which she then steps, a scary goddess with towering superemotions and the talent to blast your heart open. Or a bunch of very good love songs, if you like.
It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time
Full-blown go-go twattery from the U.K. “With you, I’m alright, it’s just everybody else who can fuck off and die,” he sings (flatly) in “The New Adam & Eve”. Or “our song”, as it’s known at my house.
Tobias Jesso Jr.
I’m just a sentimental old fluff, deep down (and even on the surface). Does North Van native Tobias Jesso Jr. really need any help from me, here at the end of his favourite year, pimping this gloriously accomplished singer-songwriter debut? Probably not. Does he need a Jesse Eisenberg joke? Debatable.