My Top 10 Favorite Albums Of 2011

As much as I hate to admit it…I’m not as into buying albums as I once was. It’s so much easier now with ITunes and other music outlets to simply pick & choose singles and a lot of times I would rather spend a dollar or two on a couple of songs rather than spend $12 on an entire album online. Shopping for music isn’t the same as it was 5 years ago and that is unfortunate. I used to really enjoy shopping for CD’s at the local music shop but those days seem to be gone now. It takes too much time and I haven’t got a few hours to waste going through bargain bins and racks of $20 CDs. So…I am sad to say that I don’t buy as many albums as I used to. But there were a few this year that I made the trip out to the store to get because I wanted the physical copy of it and so…without further adieu…here are my Top 10 favorite albums of 2011!

10. Teddybears – “Devil’s Music”
This Swedish band knows how to make you move your butt. From the opening track, they hit you with techno beats and silly lyrics that are just fun. And with a slew of artists making appearances (from The Flaming Lips to Cee Lo Green), they leave no beat unturned.

Favorite Tracks: Rocket Scientist, Devil’s Music

9. Foo Fighters – “Wasted Light”
From the opening track, David Grohl & company hit you with solid left hooks and slamming guitars and they have made another incredible rock album. It’s almost to the point now where you would think Grohl would phone in an album or two but when it comes to rocking out, there’s no one that can put together the melodies with the metal like the Foo.

Favorite Tracks: Bridge Burning, Rope, These Days

8. Social Distortion – “Hard Times & Nursery Rhymes”
7 years came and went between their 2004 album “Sex, Love and Rock N Roll” and this one but it was worth the wait! With their bluesy rock still as fresh as when they rolled it out of California in 1983, Mike Ness leads the way on this jam packed album. Solid from start to finish, it’s kind of refreshing that my favorite track on the album is actually a slower song.

Favorite Tracks: Bakersfield, California Hustle & Flow, Machine Gun Blues

7. Beastie Boys – “Hot Sauce Committee Part 2”
If ever there needed to be a return to their roots, The Beasties picked the perfect time. After a few overproduced albums and one cancer scare, Committee is a return to the glory days of chest thumpin’ and party bumpin’ of “You Gotta Fight For Your Right (To Party)”. Hooks and wicked beats pepper this album and it’s hard not to get motivated when you got this album boomin’ in your system.

Favorite Tracks: Here’s A Little Something For Ya, Don’t Play no Game I Can’t Win, Make Some Noise

6. Blue October – “Any Man In America”
I don’t know what to say about this album other than it is honest in every way. With his marriage falling apart, lead singer Justin Furstenfeld dove into his art and came out with one of the most curious and angry albums I have ever heard. The key is listening to it in its entirety as it goes from the beginning to the end of the relationship and where it stands, we’re not sure. But it sure is a fascinating journey.

Favorite Tracks: The Honesty, The Follow Through, You Waited Too Long

5. Gotye – “Making Mirrors”
Not gonna lie…I haven’t had this album very long. It came out in August but I just recently discovered it when it appeared on ITunes as a “selection I might like.” And man…I really do! It’s quirky and poppy and has all kinds of loops and whisperings and…well…you get the point. Wally De Backer is a unique talent and this album showcases his ability to find the perfect hook to go with his unique style.

Favorite Tracks: Eyes Wide Open, Save Me, No Easy Way Out, Somebody That I Used To Know

4. Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds
The half of Oasis that is known for writing the music continues to do so and he does it so well. This album is chock full of soaring guitars, Beatle-esque hooks and the famous Gallagher attitude.With brother Liam leading the charge for the rock band “Beady Eye,” Noel stays true to his roots and puts together a classic that I’ll be listening to for a very long time.

Favorite Tracks: Record Machine, AKA…What A Life, (Stranded On) The Wrong Beach

3. David Nail – “Sound Of A Million Dreams”
If there is one thing I love about country music, it’s that it can be familiar and yet new all at the same time. Taking a page from the Glen Campbell handbook, Nail has that smooth country croon that makes everything he sings about seem like it could be happening at this very moment. It could be love, it could be heartbreak, it could be a fleeting moment in time. But whatever it is, it grabs my attention and I can’t stop listening, wondering what will happen next. This will undoubtedly be one of my favorite country albums of all-time. Granted, only time will tell. But I enjoy ALL of the songs on this album and it’s damn near perfect in it’s pop country way.

Favorite Tracks: She Rides Away, That’s How I’ll Remember You, Let It Rain, I Thought You Knew

2. Black Keys – “El Camino”
There’s not a hotter rock band in the world right now than these guys. Straight outta my neck of the woods (Akron, OH is maybe 2 hours from my hometown), The Keys have won several Grammys and this highly anticipated 7th release was everything I hoped it would be. With fuzzy guitars and thumping drums, this album can only be played loud or it’s just not being played correctly. And the fact that it sounds like it’s straight from a 70’s porn flick gives it all that more street cred.

Favorite Tracks: Lonely Boy, Gold On The Ceiling, Money Maker

1. R.E.M. – “Collapse Into Now”
My world was rocked when one of my favorite bands of all-time called it quits earlier this year…but I totally understand. They’ve been together for almost 30 years and each member has other interests outside of the band so it makes sense. And it is only fitting that they call it a day with this album. Sounding almost like a collection of greatest hits that spanned their careers, this album, the 15th studio album in their collection, is far and away one of their best since drummer Bill Berry left the band in 1997. I am hoping that there are hundreds of new tracks in a vault somewhere that will be released over time however if that’s not the case, then this album is a classic that R.E.M. should be very proud to leave us with.

Favorite Tracks: It Happened Today, Oh My Heart, Discoverer, Mine Smell Like Honey, That Someone Is You, Blue


My Top 10 Favorite R.E.M. Songs

With R.E.M. calling it quits, I’ve decided to compile my Top 10 favorite songs by Stipe & Company. Having grown up listening to this band, believe me when I tell you that picking just 10 is a tough thing to do but here they are and truthfully…there is no particular order. I love them all equally…

10. “Living Well Is The Best Revenge” from the album “Accelerate”
Not one of the best R.E.M. albums but this track was a welcome return to form after getting sleepy in the post-Berry  timeline.

9. “Begin The Begin” from the album “Life’s Rich Pageant”
I found this song in my college days and played it out. Still one of my favorite songs by any band and always included in my workout mixes.

8. “Try Not To Breathe” from the album “Automatic For The People”
Oh sure, there are definitely more popular songs on the album, but THIS track was the diamond in the rough. Love the lyrics and it’s one of slower tempo songs by them that I honestly love.

7. “It Happened Today” from the album “Collapse Into Now”
This song showcases Stipe’s ability to convey emotion without even singing lyrics. At the end of the song he simply sings at the top of his lungs a chorus that rises to the heavens and it is beautiful. Wish I could have seen this one live…

6. “Fireplace” from the album “Document”
Making use of the saxophone for the first time, this has always been a favorite of mine.

5. “Life And How To Live It” from the album “Fables Of The Reconstruction”
Classic R.E.M. sound and once again Stipe’s soaring vocals and the tempo by Berry’s drums make this a classic!

4. “Me In Honey” from the album “Out Of Time”
The B-52’s Kate Pierson provides backing vocals as Michael Stipe sings about love gone south. It’s a great combination! And I wore this one out my senior year at Ohio University…

3. “The Wake-Up Bomb” from the album “New Adventures In Hi-Fi”
I distinctly remember hearing this one live before the album was released and thinking…”That is AWESOME!” And it is.

2. “Windout” from the album “Dead Letter Office”
Believe it or not, this song is from the soundtrack to the Tom Hanks movie, Bachelor Party. It’s featured in one of the scenes during the big party romp at the end of the movie. It’s mindless fun and one of the few songs by R.E.M. that is just that…mindless.

1. “The One I Love” from the album “Document”
Great song and the first I ever remember hearing by the band. It was their first song to chart on the Billboard 100 and will always be the one that most defines them to most people (well…it’s either this one or “It’s The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)”

R.E.M. Begins Again

One of my all-time favorite bands has pulled the plug after 31 years and I’m confused. I’m confused because this year they released what may be my favorite album of this year. I’m confused because this album seemed to return them to the greatness of their 80’s & early 90’s music. I’m confused because, quite frankly, they seemed to disappear for many years and then returned and seemed stronger than ever. Nevertheless, there it was on their website on 9/21/11 that they are “calling it a day” as a band and are leaving as friends who have moved on and have new interests to pursue.

This is, for me, sad news. There are few bands that I can honestly say that I would wait in line at midnight to buy their new albums. R.E.M. was one of those bands. I remember when I first became fan of R.E.M. It wasn’t in their early years. Actually, I had never heard of them until their breakout hit, “One I Love,” hit the pop charts in the summer of 1987. That was my senior year in high school and it was a staple in many mix tapes that I would make that year. The single will always be one of my favorite songs and to this day I hear it and it transports me back to my younger days. From there I went to college and ended up working in the radio industry. R.E.M. released “Green” in 1988 and I remember playing “Stand” and “Get Up” on AM radio and getting the album for free as the station got extra copies. I played it non-stop in my car and, even though it’s not the strongest R.E.M. album, it still resonates with me whenever I hear a song off it.

And then, in the early spring of 1991, I was a senior at Ohio University and program director of the campus radio station when “Out Of Time” was released. I imagine we played every track off the album in heavy rotation that year. I can’t hear a song from it that doesn’t remind me of that year in school. College is where I became who I am today. Those days spent with friends, working at the station, going to classes and enjoying my final year of school are all wrapped in “Out Of Time.” I hardly remember listening to anything else. And those days, in my mind, are as pure as any memory I have. From the super-hit “Losing My Religion” to the final track “Me And Honey,” there’s not a bad track on the album and it’s a classic by any standard.

The year after I graduated, in the fall of 1992, R.E.M. released “Automatic For The People” and, once again, I wore it out in my tape deck in my car, listening to it repeatedly that winter. It’s funny to me that “Everybody Hurts” became as big as it did because it’s one of my least favorites on “Automatic.” My personal favorite, “Try Not To Breathe,” never became a hit but it’s one of MY favorites by the band…

I will try not to worry you
I have seen things that you will never see
Leave it to memory me. Don’t dare me to breathe
I want you to remember, oh (you will never see)
I need something to fly (something to fly)
Over my grave again (you will never see)
I need something to breathe (something to breathe)
Baby, don’t shiver now
Why do you shiver? (I will see things you will never see)
I need something to breathe (something to breathe – I have seen things you will never see)
I want you to remember

In 1994, R.E.M. released “Monster.” On that album, the band went more mainstream rock with “What’s The Frequency, Kenneth?” and it was on their tour for this album that I that I finally got to see them live in Cincinnati in October of 1995. It was one of the best shows I’ve ever seen and I’ve seen many. Unfortunately it was also the only time I got to see them perform live. I remember them opening with “Kenneth” and blowing me away with their sonic power. I also recall Stipe singing “Let Me In” with his back to the audience and then whipping us into a frenzy with the show ending “It’s The End Of The World As We Know It.”  They also performed many songs from their upcoming album that I had never heard and I remember thinking that their next album was gonna rock harder than anything they had ever done before. And I was right.

After “New Adventures In Hi-Fi” was released in 1996 and it was everything I wanted it to be. From the sheer sonic force of “The Wake-Up Bomb” to the pounding “Leave,” I really don’t think this album gets the status it deserves. It ranks high as one of my favorite R.E.M. albums mostly because it’s a combination of so much of everything that R.E.M. was up to that time. In 1997, drummer Bill Berry left the band. Tired of the spotlight, he left with the band’s blessing but they seemed lost without him. They released 4 albums without him but never really seemed the same. Until this year and “Collapse Into Now.” And it might very well be my favorite album of the year to this point.

So now R.E.M. is no longer but I have to believe that there are more songs to be heard by this band. 31 years leaves a lot of opportunity to create music and I’m sure there are plenty of songs stored in a vault somewhere just waiting to be heard. They’ve already been inducted into the Rock N Roll Hall Of Fame (in 2006) and will always be mentioned whenever the discussion of greatest alternative bands of all-time comes up. With 15 studio albums, countless bootleg live albums and a few greatest hits collections, R.E.M. has made its mark on alternative rock radio and will always be one of my favorite bands forever.

Top 10 Albums to Bring With Me On A Deserted Island

Recently Jeff Pollack of the Huffington Post put together a Top 10 list of the albums he would choose to take with him if he was ever stranded on a deserted island. The way I see it…being on a deserted island sounds pretty darn good right about now…as long as I have a lifetime supply of food and beverages and sunblock. Oh…and a hammock. It would really suck having to sleep under a palm tree every night. Here are the albums I see fit to have in such a situation…

1. U2 – “The Joshua Tree”
Taking the top spot is my favorite album of all-time. With so many great songs and not one dog in the mix, I consider this to be the best of their best!
Best Track To Listen Too During A Tidal Wave: “Bullet The Blue Sky”

2. Alexander O’Neal – “Hearsay”
Oh I know…there are gonna be naysayers, but this truly is one of my favorite pop/R&B albums ever and it is a surprisingly strong body of work…even if it does include the cheesy dialogue snippets between songs.
Best Track To Listen To While Sleepin’ In My Hammock: “Sunshine” 

3. AC/DC – “Back In Black”
Although this may not be the most relaxing album to have when beachside, I still consider it to be one of the greatest rock albums of all-time! Whenever I wanna party, I throw this album on. Not one song disappoints (even “Let Me Put My Love Into You” has a classic rock anthem chorus!).
Best Track To Drink Pina Colada’s Too: “Have A Drink On Me” 

4. MuteMath – “Armistice”
Who says no one is releasing great albums anymore? In 2009, MuteMath unleashed this excellent album and I can say that not one track lags. So if I’m gonna be stranded, might as well have a little modern rock to jam too!
Best Track To Fend Off Electric Eels With: “Electrify” 

5. U2 – “Achtung Baby”
No one said I had to narrow it down t 1 album by my favorite band so I choose this classic from the early 90’s. Everyone dogs on U2’s post 80’s stuff but I really enjoyed their “Pop” era and this has so many awesome tracks on it that it also made Pollack’s list!
Best Track For When I Get Lonely: “Until The End Of The World” 

6. Prince – “Purple Rain”
If there is one album that reminds me of my youth it’s probably this album. “Purple Rain” was such a huge hit and with the other classic tracks on here, it takes me back to when I would listen to this on the roof of my house and crank it up!
Best Track To Play When I See A Ship In The Distance: “Take Me With U” 

7. INXS – “Welcome To Wherever You Are”
This 1992 album had only 1 hit song and was considered to be a mis-step by this great band but I disagree wholeheartedly. This is a GREAT album that was, unfortunately, released during the height of the grunge popularity. I love every track on this album!!!
Best Track To Listen Too When Talking To The Turtle That Has Crawled Onto The Island: “Communication” 

8. Journey – “Escape”
I remember when this album was HUGE in my younger days and the fact that it still rocks me to this day is a testament to this bands influence in my appreciation of rock n roll. Seriously…who else has pipes like Steve Perry back in the day? Hell…who has pipes like that now? No one, I say!
Best Track To Listen To When Longing For Companionship: “Who’s Crying Now” 

9. Gordon Lightfoot – “Sundown”
This one sticks out like a sore thumb but if I’m gonna be laying on a beach on a deserted island I’m gonna want something mellow to chill with and I’ve been chilling with this album since I was a kid. Is it a great album? Maybe not. But it is as mellow as I can get without being catatonic and Gordo has a way of making me feel all chillaxed inside.
Best Track To Listen Too While Hallucinating In The Summer Sun: “Seven Island Suite” 

10. R.E.M. – “Collapse Into Now”
Oh I know that this just came out this year and I understand that it got buried with all the other music that’s out there these days but I gotta tell you…this album reminds me of so many of REM’s classic songs that it’s like the greatest hits package that never existed. Each song is great and I pit it against any of their earlier albums from their “heyday.”
Best Track To Listen To When Being Rescued By A Passing Ship: “It Happened Today” 

30 Day Song Challenge: A Song That Reminds Me Of Somewhere

DAY 6 – A Song That Reminds Me Of Somewhere

This one is hard because truthfully…MANY songs remind me of Athens, OH. The 2 years that I attended college at Ohio University were 2 of the best years of my life and there was a lot of really great music that came out those 2 years. However…if I had to pick ONE song that always reminds me of my days there, I would pick “Texarkana” from R.E.M.’s “Out Of Time.” That album was HUGE at ACRN, our college radio station. I was the program director and I’m pretty sure that Tommy Hough had every track in the heavy rotation art some point. So there you have it…Texarkana reminds me of Ohio University.

R.E.M.’s “Collapse Into Now”

I went to buy the new R.E.M. CD at Best Buy on Tuesday but when I saw “The Walking Dead” on Blu-Ray and after hearing the first tune called “UBerlin” as a freebie on ITunes, I decided…”Eh…it can wait.” Then I read some reviews and decided I should have gotten it. And so, off I trudged BACK to Best Buy to get it and I wasn’t disappointed in the least. Many reviews of this, their first album in 3 years, have been split. Some are hailing it as a return to form while others are finding it to be a lot of the same. Well…depending on your opinion of R.E.M., they are BOTH correct. “Collapse Into Now” is every bit a return to form AND it is a lot of the same, as long as the same is the late 80’s/early 90’s R.E.M. And THAT is a very good time for them to return to.

It was in that 80’s/90’s time frame where they released “Green” (1987), “Out of Time” (1991) and “Automatic For The People” (1992). As much as I love those 3 albums, I also enjoyed the following 2 albums that really got the band rockin’ with “Monster” (1996) and “New Adventures In Hi Fi” (1996). This new album is like all 5 of these rolled into one disk. And the best part is that it’s all the best parts of all of those albums!

Starting at the beginning, “Discoverer” comes roaring in with lyrics that you’re not gonna hear out of any other more modern bands these days. I have to be honest, a lot of Stipe’s lyrics are more like poetry and I can’t even begin to understand them in their musical form. With its repetitive refrain, this song seems to me to be about a relationship that is maturing over time, but only the author knows the truth behind these words…

That just the slightest bit of finesse
Might have made a little less mess
But it was what it was
Let’s all get on with it now

“All The Best” issues a firing shot at newer bands who are looking to replace this band that has been making amazing music for over 25 years. R.E.M. is the definition of alternative rock and when Stipe sings the following, you know he’s looking for his foothold on the genre itself.

I hold the mirror off
You tell me what is what
You tell me which part of my story baby stuck, stuck, stuck
I’m in a part of your trees
That you don’t even understand
It’s just like my need to overstay my welcome man

Let’s sing it a rhyme
Let’s give it one more time
Let’s show the kids how to do it fine, fine, fine, fine

The above mentioned “UBerlin” is a much better song when heard in context with the rest of the album. Honestly, “Losing My Religion” has never been my favorite R.E.M. song, even though it is one of their most popular and this track reminds me of it. It drips with sentimentality and is one of the mellower songs on the album, but I find it growing on me more with repeated listenings.

Then we start getting into the meat of the album. Like I said, this album is almost a “Greatest Hits” of songs you’ve never heard. “Oh My Heart” is possibly the most beautiful song on here with the return of the mandolin and reminds me of the best tracks on “Out Of Time.”

The kids have a new take
A new take on faith
Pick up the pieces
Get carried away
I came home to city half erased
I came home to face what we faced

This place needs me here to start
This place is the beat of my heart

Track 5, “It Happened Today”, has Stipe doing some vocal gymnastics that doesn’t involve lyrics at all. Although this is an uplifting track, it’s when he simply starts humming and singing at about 2 minutes into the song that makes this track soar. I can’t but help cranking this one up whenever it comes on. It’s one of those songs that just gives you a sense of hope and is so amazing that you HAVE to turn it up.

“Every Day Is Yours To Win” is an odd little song because at the offset, the lyrics are simple and sort of jangly. But the more I hear it, the more it makes sense. It’s another uplifting song that transcends the lyrics. It’s not my favorite song on the album, but compared to anything else out there, this is amazing stuff…

With the brilliance (brilliance)
and the light (light)
with the sting (sting)
and the hide (hide)
and the road ahead of you.

I cannot tell a lie
It’s not all cherry pie
But it’s all there waiting for you
Yeah you

Possibly my favorite track on the album is “Mine Smell Like Honey.” It soars and rocks and is one of the greatest songs R.E.M. has in their vast library. Honestly, I have no idea what the lyrics mean (which is a typical of Stipe and company) because it’s all very cryptic, however I love the riff and it reminds me of the better parts of “New Adventures In Hi-Fi” which is one of my favorite R.E.M. albums!

I would dare you, but I know I don’t need to
You’re going to do just what you want to
You’re going to take the leavings here at the fairground
You’re going to sing the praises of your fruit

Mine smell like honey, uh!
Mine smell like honey, uh!
Mine smell like hu, hu, hu, hu, honey, uh!

Dig a hole, dig it deeper, deeper!
Climb a mountain, climb it steeper, steeper!
Dig a hole, dig it deeper, deeper!
Track a trail of honey through it all

The next track, “Walk It Back,” has been touted as the best song on the album by several reviewers and I can’t argue. It truly is a great song. As a matter of fact, it’s possibly the one that speaks to me the most, especially at this point in my life. Here it is…

I don’t even know what to say about the next track. Seriously…it’s almost like they just decided to be goofy. “Alligator_Aviator_Autopilot_Antimatter” is right up there with “It’s The End Of The World” in it’s delivery with Stipe & Peaches singing and reminds me of when Kate Pierson joins Stipe on “Out of Time” on “Me In Honey” except this could have easily been a B-52’s song. It’s bouncy and catchy and will drive you nuts once it gets stuck in your head!

The next 2 tracks are short & sweet. “That Someone Is You” is a straight ahead rocker (reminiscent of their early 80’s work) while “Me, Marlon Brando, Marlon Brando And I” is almost a concession speech which makes me wonder what Stipe is trying to tell us when he sings…

We live and dream about our heroes
I listened closely and I said
“I’m not sure where to place myself here, friend.
I might pawn the gold rings instead.”

The winners write the rulebooks, the histories and lullabies.

The final track, “Blue,” is eerily similiar to “E-Bow The Letter” from “New Adventures In Hi-Fi” with Patti Smith once again joining Stipe with her haunting vocals and the music even sounding like a direct reference. However the lyrics, once again, take this song above and beyond. This is really more of a poem written by Stipe. Is it a love poem? Is it a look at himself? Is it his cry out for acceptance? What do these lyrics mean? Maybe we’ll never know. But I love how they go…

I like you, love you, every coast of you.
I’ve seen your eddies and tides and hurricanes and cyclones.
Low ebb tide and high, full moon.
Up close and distant.
I read you.
Look, the sky, the sea, the ocean, the sun, the moon.
Blue, blue, blue, blue, blue, blue, blue blue, blue, blue, blue, blue.
Naked and blue.

Breathing with you. Touch. Change. Shift. Allow air. Window open. Drift. Drift away. Into now.

I want Whitman proud. Patti Lee proud. My brothers proud. My sisters proud. I want me. I want it all. I want sensational. Irresistible.

This is my time and I am thrilled to be alive.

Living. Blessed. I understand.

“Collapse Into Now” is the final album the band is contractually obligated to do for Warner Brothers. It’s also their 15th studio album. With music becoming more & more disposable, you have to wonder if a poet like Michael Stipe will continue to try to appeal to the masses. With R.E.M.’s induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2007, they really have nothing else to prove. Critics railed them for their post-Bill Berry work (“Reveal” & “Around The Sun”) and they came back with “Accelerate” and now this classic. With no tour scheduled and with the knowledge that Stipe, Peter Buck & Mike Mills have made their mark on rock & roll history, will they continue onward? Or will this be their swan song? It seems fitting that if this is their final album, it is a complex return to what made them so successful at the height of their careers and is every bit as good (if not better) than those albums all put together.

Tunes From ITunes_Febru…er…March Edition

No…this is NOT the set of the latest “Walking Dead” episode…

Wow! February just flew by and now it’s March already??? What happened? Oh well…March Madness is in the air and I’ve been working too much but I’ve still had time to download some new music and if there’s one thing that keeps me plowing through these cold, winter months…it’s good music. So here are some tracks to keep you warm while the ice and snow start to melt outside…

Radiohead – “Separator” (alternative)
Hypnotic and beautiful, Yorke & Co. have come up with another instant classic! I have to admit though, the backing instrumental kind of reminds me of Dario Gands’ “Voices”…but it’s still excellent!

Bright Eyes – “Shell Games” (alternative)
The modern Bob Dylan strikes again with some fancy lyric work and a catchy tune. This is a must have and is one of Conor Oberst’s better tunes off the new album “The People’s Key.”

Hugo – “99 Problems” and “Bread & Butter” (alternative)
Yes…it is a spin on the Jay Z song with a banjo and a driving beat that keeps your toes tappin’. As for “Bread”…well…let’s just say it has some edge to it. Download them both and keep hoping this guy releases an entire album of this stuff!

Ryan Adams & The Cardinals – “No” (rock)
I LOVED Adams’ “Rock N Roll” album from a while back and although everyone likes his acoustic guitar stuff, I’m all about his electric guitar. This track rocks with the best of his best and I love the lyrics…
“No wonder I fell

Nobody was underneath me there to catch me
When I go under and down again and on and on…”

Mona – “Listen To Your Love” (rock)
Catchy refrain and some deft guitar work sets this track apart from many rock tracks. Never heard of this band but I’m gonna keep an eye on them, especially after this track!

The Twilight Singers – “Blackbird and the Fox” (alternative)
Not my favorite TS track but still so much better than some of the stuff out there. A little melodic piece from Greg Dulli’s “other” band.

Runner Runner – “Hey Alli” (pop)
Like so many pop rock bands that sing about love and heartbreak, this is one of many. However if you have kids who dig The Disney Channel, this ain’t so bad.

PT Walkley – “Save The World” (alternative)
Great song! Love the horn section in the middle. Love the lyrics. Love the violins. Just an all-around fantastic little song!

The Cave Singers – “Black Leaf” (rock)
HOLY CRAP! Stealng a little bit of thunder from The Black Keys, this song KICKS and THRASHES you around in a bluesy frenzy! LOVE IT!

Lupe Fiasco – “Words I Never Said” (rap)
Hmmmm…the jury’s still out on this one. Like the loping beat and the refrain by Skylar Grey, but there is something a little too familiar here…

Paul Simon – “The Afterlife” (pop)
What a great return single from the better half of the 70’s supergroup (?) Simon & Garfunkel. Sounding very much like his heyday of “Graceland,” this song is a MUST!

Fleet Foxes – “Helplessness Blue” (alternative)
Speaking of Simon & Garfunkel…this sounds like a track that could have been released in the 60’s. Simon & Garfunkel…step aside! Here’s your replacement! Very mellow and songwriter-ish.

Beady Eye – “Wigwam” (rock)
The latest from Oasis…er…maybe not? Apparently one brother skipped out so now it’s the rest of the band and a new name. Very exciting. However this track is not. Kind of slow and long. But it IS Oas…wait…I just covered this…

The Hundred In The Hands – “Lovesick (Once Again)” (alternative)
Very catchy song, reminds me of classic Heart a little. Without the Wilson sister range. But still…not a bad track!

Wiz Khalifa – “Black & Yellow” (rap)
I’m sorry…but I LOVE this song. Too bad its by a Pittsburgh rapper. But still…it’s EXCELLENT!

Foster The People – Pumped Up Kicks (alternative)
Almost too hip for itself, this track is catchy as hell and plays well in my car stereo!

White Lies – “Bigger Than Us” (alternative)
I absolutely loved “Death” from their previous album, “To Lose My Life.” This track isn’t quite as strong, but it’s still up to par. Give it a listen, tell me what you think!

Iration – “Fresh Grounds EP” (alt-pop-reggae)
5 tracks of pure pop/reggae awesomeness! I loved this band’s album “Time Bomb” last year and this just continues the trend!
Favorite Track: “Can’t Wait”

Wye Oak – “Civilian” (alternative)
How much do I love this song? Let me count the ways…

Raphael Saadiq – “Stone Rollin'” (blues)
It’s always refreshing to hear a little blues that tries to mix it up. This song smokes up the room with a little harmonica and female backup singers that give it a sexy tinge. LOVE IT!

R.E.M. – “UBerlin” (alternative)
Michael Stipe and the boys are back and this song kind of hints to a return to the R.E.M. of “Around The Sun.” Not a good thing. I really don’t like this song at all but it was free and I LOVE their classic 80’s stuff so I’ll give ’em the benefit of the doubt. There had to be a reason this was free in ITunes…right?

Telekinesis – “Car Crash” (alt-pop)
Great beat, great guitar, great sound. And the leader, Michael Benjamin Lerner, is from Seattle! LOVE IT!

S. Carey – “In The Dirt” (alternative)
I just love this song. Pretty piano with hand claps in the background. Kind of mellow in all the right ways. I dig it…

CLASSIC TRACK OF THE WEEK: The English Beat – “Tears Of A Clown”
What happens when you take a classic R&B song, add a reggae beat and bring the tempo up a few notches? Pure pop goodness! And The Beat know how to do a remake the right way!


My Top 10 Favorite Saxophone Songs

I realize that the sax went out of style in 1989…and I’m okay with that. You don’t hear too many bands with a horn section anymore. But there are a few, such as The National and Spoon, who use a horn section and a few bands who still implement the sax here & there. So…I figured I’d present my Top 10 favorite songs that include the coolest, uncool instrument out there…

10. Al Stewart – “Time Passages/Year Of The Cat”
Oh…I know…that’s 2 songs! That’s cheating! But not really. If you think about it, the sax in both is eerily similiar and I love both songs equally. They both clock in over 6 minutes, both have a sax solo in the middle and both are the title track of each album from which they were released. Basically…they’re the same freakin’ song! But Al managed to sell them as 2…so I am saying BOTH belong here!

9. Violent Femmes – “I Held Her In My Arms”
Quirky isn’t exactly how I would describe this band. Everyone knows “Blister In The Sun”, but this track from 1986 is one of their best and the sax really kicks it up a notch!

8. The English Beat – “Mirror In The Bathroom”
With its bouncy beat and the catchy rhythm, I can’t NOT bop my head anytime I hear this little ditty.

7. Michael Stanley Band – “Someone Like You”
For the opening alone, this song belongs here. Seriously, the first 30 seconds reminds me why I love this instrument so much. It sounds like a heart yearning for love. It’s THAT good!

6. Oingo Boingo – “Dead Man’s Party”
Ok…if you are ever at a party at MY house, and this song isn’t playing at some point, you are allowed to kick me in the head as hard as you want. Because it is NOT a party until some Boingo has been played. It’s inevitable. And the sax in this song kicks butt. And it’s not just the sax…but the entire horn section that is just cool.

5. Eddie Money – “I Wanna Go Back”
Remember THIS little tune from a guy who could have been bigger if Huey Lewis hadn’t stolen his thunder? Okay…that might be a stretch, but I love so many of Eddie’s songs and no one ever plays them anymore? But I hear plenty of Huey Lewis on the radio. WTF?!? Whatever, this tune has a great sax intro and then it reappears at the end. LOVE it!

4. Bruce Springsteen – “Born To Run”
Oh Clarence. Where would the sax be without you? I mean, you could take just about ANY pop song, have Clarence blow on his wonderful sax and it would make the song 10 times better! And then you stick him with The Boss and you really can’t go wrong. So many songs to choose from, but I choose the signature song simply because his sax is the heartbeat of Bruce’s amazing tune.

3. Morphine – “Whisper”
This band was never gonna be huge. They weren’t built that way. 3 guys. That was it. And 1 of ’em played sax. They played what some called “low rock”. It’s as underground sounding as any music I’ve ever listened to and, if lead singer Mark Sandman (it’s even a cool name for a lead singer!) hadn’t died of a heart attack in 1999, this band would still be playing in smoky bars all across the world! This track is amazing! But it’s only one in a whole listing of great songs by Morphine.

2. R.E.M. – “Fireplace”
Not a band to use the sax, Michael Stipe & Company surprised everyone (and by everyone, I mean me) with this gem on their awesome album, “Document”. Quite possibly my all-time favorite REM track, and it IS because of the sax.

1. Gerry Rafferty – “Baker Street”
Think about it. If you are thinking “sax song”, where does YOUR mind drift? Seriously, the sax at the end of this song is so prolific in my mind, that it might very well be the reason I love the instrument so much. Just a little sidenote…according to Wikipedia, this song inspired a resurgence of saxophone use in music and commercials known as “The Baker Street Phenomenon” in 1978. Sax sales also jumped and the song itself went to #2 in the U.S. Soooo…some might consider this to be a one-hit wonder from the 70’s. I consider it to be a classic song that has always been an important part of my musical growth! Plus….it was covered by the Foo Fighters. And that automatically makes it cool…

Honorable Mention & late additions from readers….

Wham – “Careless Whisper”
Pink Floyd – “Us & Them”
Dire Straits – “Your Latest Trick”
Sade – “Is It A Crime”, “Smooth Operator”
Paul McCartney – “Silly Love Songs”
Skipper Wise – “Standing Outside In The Rain”
Breathe – “Hands To Heaven”
Bob Marley – “Roots, Rock & Reggae”
Kenny Loggins – “Danger Zone”
Ian Gomm – “Hold On”
Collective Soul – “Better Now”
OMD – “So In Love”
Billy Idol – “Catch My Fall”
All my life – Phil Collins
Sad Cafe – The Eagles
Bad to the bone – George Thorogood
Die Trying – Dave Matthews Band
Crack in time – Calvin Harris
River of time – van Morrison
You aint smiling – Audience
House on the hill – Audience
Inside Out – Pink Floyd
The Edge Of Glory – Lady Gaga
Last Friday Night – Katy Perry
Time – Culture Club