U2 Songs of Innocence
Forget what you’ve heard about U2’s new record. It’s all BS. Bono himself put it best: the release of Songs of Innocence “annoyed people who like to be annoyed.”
Honestly, what kind of world do we live in when one of the best bands in the world gives half a billion people some free music and they complain? Gosh, a world filled with complainers, apparently.
This album release was innovate and monumental. Technically, Apple purchased 500 million copies of the record, and then gave them away to their customers. So when Bono and Tim Cook did that finger touching thing, Songs of Innocence became the biggest selling album of all time. And, a fact that got lost in all of the outrage culture hubbub it that this is an absolutely incredible album.
Album opener “The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone)” is a classic U2 rocker that could be a cousin of “Vertigo.” It’s lyrics reflect the life-changing moment when Bono first heard The Ramones:
I woke up at the moment
When the miracle occurred
Heard a song that made some sense
Out of the world
Everything I ever lost
Now has been returned
In the most beautiful sound I’d ever heard
The rest of the album is just as good. “Every Breaking Wave” thumps along with a terrific Edge guitar beat. “California (There Is No End To Love)” is an epic ode to the West Coast that includes some crazy and surprising Beach Boys interpolations.
One standout among standouts is “Iris (Hold Me Close),” a heartbreakingly reassuring haunted love song about Bono’s mother, who died when he was a teenager.
The rest of the record maintains an impossibly high level of quality and awesomeness on songs like “Raised By Wolves” (a hard rock explosion that could be the grandchild of “Sunday, Bloody Sunday”) and the closing song “The Troubles,” featuring guest vocals from Lykke Li.
The whole thing is just fantastic. Go give it a listen! You probably already have it.
Foo Fighters Sonic Highways
Like U2, the Foos’ 2014 release is an innovate concept album. (Although less than 500 million people bought copies…)
If you haven’t heard Sonic Highways yet you are missing out. Dave Grohl and his band of rockers traveled around the country to soak up as much musical history as they could from eight different cities, and put it all together on the ultimate road trip record.
Each song is an entire world of its own, but they still fit together like a rock ‘n’ roll jigsaw puzzle.
I don’t want to say too much, because this is an album that needs to be experienced. Go listen. That’s all I’ll say. It’s great.
Taylor Swift 1989
Haters gonna hate, (hate, hate, hate, hate) but Taylor Swift put out a perfect pop record this year. Already one of the world’s best songwriters and entertainers, T Swizzle decided to go full synth ahead on 1989 (the year she was born, and the sound of the album she was aiming for) and she hit it right on the head.
“Out of the Woods” is the theme to an epic John Hughes movie that never happened. “All You Had To Do Was Stay” has some crazy high notes and rocks like Aerosmith at some points. “I Know Places” has a monster hook that will make you swoon. And it goes on and on.
So take a dose of Swiftomine, admit that you love her, and listen to some great pure sugar pop. You’ll feel better when you do.
“Weird Al” Yankovic Mandatory Fun
It’s pretty crazy when you think about it that every era of popular music for the past 35 years has had a Weird Al parody.
• “Like a Virgin” became “Like a Surgeon”
• “Smells Like Teen Spirit” became “Smells Like Nirvana”
• “Ridin’ Dirty” became “White and Nerdy”
The list goes on and on, and now includes “Happy” becoming “Tacky,” “Blurred Lines” becoming “Word Crimes,” and “Royals” becoming “Foil,” among many others.
What sets Weird Al apart from virtually every other parody artist is that he is supremely musically talented. I have a friend who has a master’s in music from Bard, and even he can’t tell the difference between the opening notes of Iggy’s “Fancy” and Weird Al’s “Handy.”
Al’s rhymes are also just so brilliant, especially on “Word Crimes.” He goes to lexical town.
Fun fact: “Word Crimes” cracked the Top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100, making him one of only three artists to have had Top 40 hits in the ’80s, ’90s, ’00s, and ’10s. The other two? Michael Jackson and Madonna.
Also be sure to check out Cheek to Cheek, the collaborative record of standards from Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga. She’s 28, he’s 88. She’s a former hit maker who has recently been the brunt of unfair criticism and dismissal. He’s Tony Bennett. It’s great, check it out.
A couple of albums that I didn’t totally love but still recommend are Coldplay’s Ghost Stories and Maroon 5’s V.
If 2011’s Mylo Xyloto was a sonic earthquake, then Ghost Stories is the aftershocks. It is very good, but it’s a breakup album, and kind of a wicked downer. But it’s still Coldplay, so it’s still very good.
As for Maroon 5, as a longtime fan I just keep hoping they will put out another record like Songs About Jane. While V never reaches that great level of 2002 rock-pop, it does have some pretty good 2014 pop-rock. And hey, it’s Maroon 5, so it’s still pretty good.
Well, those are my favorites as of right now. I’m probably forgetting something. But hey, here’s to more great music in 2015!