Grammy Winners (compared to my predictions)

Record of the Year: (ugh. This category has some really weak nominees this year)
* Really Love – D’Angelo And The Vanguard
* Uptown Funk – Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars
* Thinking Out Loud – Ed Sheeran
* Blank Space – Taylor Swift
* Can’t Feel My Face – The Weeknd

Should win: Really Love
Will win: Uptown Funk
Did win: Uptown Funk
Too bad. Uptown Funk was at the top of my worst list.

Album of the Year: (on the other hand, Album only has one lame nominee)
* Sound and Color – Alabama Shakes
* To Pimp a Butterfly – Kendrick Lamar
* Traveller – Chris Stapleton
* 1989 – Taylor Swift
* Beauty Behind The Madness – The Weeknd

Should win: Sound and Color
Will Win: To Pimp a Butterfly
Did Win: 1989

Song of the Year:
* Alright – Kendrick Duckworth, Mark Anthony Spears & Pharrell Williams, songwriters (Kendrick Lamar)
* Blank Space – Max Martin, Shellback & Taylor Swift, songwriters (Taylor Swift)
*Girl Crush – Hillary Lindsey, Lori McKenna & Liz Rose, songwriters (Little Big Town)
* See You Again –  Andrew Cedar, Justin Franks, Charles Puth & Cameron Thomaz, songwriters (Wiz Khalifa featuring Charlie Puth)
* Thinking Out Loud – Ed Sheeran & Amy Wadge, songwriters (Ed Sheeran)

Should Win: Girl Crush
Will Win: Thinking Out Loud
Did Win: Thinking Out Loud

Best New Artist:
* Courtney Barnett
* James Bay
* Sam Hunt
* Tori Kelly
* Meghan Trainor

Should Win: James Bay
Will Win: Courtney Barnett
Did Win: Meghan Trainor
Meh. Sam Hunt would have been less deserving, and so would Tori Kelly. But Title is not a great album overall and not as strong as either of the ones I pointed out.

Best Pop Solo Performance:
* Heartbeat Song – Kelly Clarkson
* Love Me Like You Do – Ellie Goulding
* Thinking Out Loud – Ed Sheeran
* Blank Space – Taylor Swift
* Can’t Feel My Face – The Weeknd

Should Win: Thinking Out Loud
Will Win: Blank Space
Did Win: Thinking Out Loud

Best Pop Duo/Group Performance:
* Ship To Wreck – Florence + The Machine
* Sugar – Maroon 5
* Uptown Funk – Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars
* Bad Blood – Taylor Swift ft. Kendrick Lamar
* See You Again – Wiz Khalifa Ft. Charlie Puth

Should Win: Ship To Wreck
Will Win: Uptown Funk
Did Win: Uptown Funk

 

Best Pop Vocal Album:
* Piece by Piece – Kelly Clarkson
* How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful – Florence + The Machine
* Uptown Special – Mark Ronson
* 1989 – Taylor Swift
* Before This World – James Taylor

Should Win: How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful
Will Win: 1989
Did Win: 1989

Best Rock Performance:
* Don’t Wanna Fight – Alabama Shakes
* What Kind of Man – Florence + The Machine
* Something from Nothing – Foo Fighters
* Ex’s & Oh’s – Elle King
* Moaning Lisa Smile – Wolf Alice

Should Win: Don’t Wanna Fight
Will Win: Something From Nothing
Did Win: Don’t Wanna Fight

Best Rock Song:
* Don’t Wanna Fight – Alabama Shakes, songwriters (Alabama Shakes)
* Ex’s & Oh’s – Dave Bassett & Elle King, songwriters (Elle King
* Hold Back the River – Iain Archer & James Bay, songwriters (James Bay)
* Lydia – Richard Meyer, Ryan Meyer & Johnny Stevens, songwriters (Highly Suspect)
* What Kind of Man – John Hill, Tom Hull & Florence Welch, songwriters (Florence + The Machine)

Should Win: Don’t Wanna Fight
Will Win: Don’t Wanna Fight
Did Win: Don’t Wanna Fight

Best Rock Album:
* Chaos and The Calm – James Bay
* Kintsugi – Death Cab for Cutie
* Mister Asylum – Highly Suspect
* Drones – Muse
* 5: The Gray Chapter – Slipknot

Should Win: Drones
Will Win: Drones
Did Win: Drones

Best Alternative Music Album:
* Sound and Color – Alabama Shakes
* Vulnicura – Bjork
* The Waterfall – My Morning Jacket
* Currents – Tame Impala
* Star Wars – Wilco

Should Win: Currents
Will Win: Currents
Did Win: Sound and Color
I’m glad Alabama Shakes is being recognized. But they aren’t an alternative band.

Best Country Solo Performance:
* Burning House – Cam
* Traveller – Chris Stapleton
* Little Toy Guns – Carrie Underwood
* John Cougar, John Deere, and John 3:16- Keith Urban
* Chances Are – Lee Ann Womack

Should Win: Traveller
Will Win: Traveller
Did Win: Traveller

Best Country Album:
* Montevallo – Sam Hunt
* Pain Killer – Little Big Town
* The Blade – Ashley Monroe
* Pageant Material – Kasey Musgraves
* Traveller – Chris Stapleton

Should Win: Traveller
Will Win: Traveller
Did Win: Traveller

Best American Roots Performance:
* And Am I Born To Die – Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn
* Born To Play Guitar – Buddy Guy
* City of Our Lady – The Milk Carton Kids
* Julep – Punch Brothers
* See That My Grave is Kept Clean – Mavis Staples

Should Win: Any of them are worthy. This is the category so far that has been strongest top to bottom. But I’m leaning And Am I Born To Die
Will Win: See That My Grave is Kept Clean
Did Win: See That My Grave is Kept Clean
Mavis is always a favorite.

Best American Roots Song:
* All Night Long – Raul Malo, songwriter (The Mavericks)
* The Cost of Living –  Don Henley & Stan Lynch, songwriters (Don Henley & Merle Haggard)
* Julep -Chris Eldridge, Paul Kowert, Noam Pikelny, Chris Thile & Gabe Witcher, songwriters (Punch Brothers)
* The Travelling Kind – Cory Chisel, Rodney Crowell & Emmylou Harris, songwriters (Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell)
* 24 Frames – Jason Isbell, songwriter (Jason Isbell)

Should Win: The Travelling Kind
Will Win: The Cost of Living
Did Win: 24 Frames
Didn’t love the song. But the voters did, evidently. z

Best Americana Album:
* The Firewatcher’s Daughter – Brandi Carlisle
* The Travelling Kind – Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell
* Something More Than Free – Jason Isbell
* Mono – The Mavericks
* The Phosphorescent Blues – Punch Brothers

Should Win: The Travelling Kind
Will Win: Mono
Did Win: Something More Than Free
Not my choice, but doesn’t surprise me either.

Best Folk Album:
* Wood, Wire, & Words – Norman Blake
* Béla Fleck And Abigail Washburn – Béla Fleck And Abigail Washburn
* Tomorrow is My Turn – Rhiannon Giddens
* Servant of Love – Patty Griffin
* Didn’t He Ramble – Glen Hansard

Should Win: Servant of Love
Will Win: Béla Fleck And Abigail Washburn
Did Win: Béla Fleck And Abigail Washburn

Album Review: Synesthetica by Radiation City

Yeah, I know what you are thinking…who is Radiation City? That’s what I was thinking when I started listening to this album. I mean, I’d read a few reviews here and there, so I knew Synesthetica was their third studio album, the creation of which was done in fits and starts, and was threatend with the break-up of the bands and the breakup of core members singer/keyboardist Lizzie Ellison and guitarist Cameron Spies.
The album itself is a shortish 9 tracks and 39 minutes. It’s filled with lush songs reminiscent of a lot of late 60s/early 70s pop (think The Mamas and the Papas or the Beach Boys) mixed with the dream pop sensibilities of the 2010s, and a healthy dose of synth-pop sounds and latin beats.

While the record is a confident, well-realized pop album, it does suffer a bit from the modern malaise I’ve been seeing in records this year – an overall sense of sameness. There is a lot of similarity in the overall feel of each track on Synesthetica. From a fan standpoint, this might not be an actual issue, but it kind of reduced my desire to spend a lot of time invested in the album over time. I will pick out some favorite tracks, of course, but this album as a whole won’t be broken out as much.

Recommendation: Stream It

Song I have a Playlist for:Oil Show,Come and Go,Futures
Clunkers I will Thumbs Down: Didn’t really have one.

Grammy Nominees (with occasional commentary)

I’m going to pick winners – who I think should win and who I think will win for the Grammys (they are on February 15th this year). I’m not going to pick every category (Hey, I don’t like everything). And I’m only going to list what I pick – It’s long enough as it is without listing all the music I didn’t listen to this year.

Record of the Year: (ugh. This category has some really weak nominees this year)
* Really Love – D’Angelo And The Vanguard
* Uptown Funk – Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars
* Thinking Out Loud – Ed Sheeran
* Blank Space – Taylor Swift
* Can’t Feel My Face – The Weeknd

Should win: Really Love
Will win: Uptown Funk
Uptown Funk was my worst song of the year, but people all over the place seem to like it. Blank Space isn’t even the best single off 1989. Can’t Feel My Face was a pointless mess. So, even though I’m not a huge R&B fan, I think Really Love was probably a better song than Thinking Out Loud (which I liked better for a while but I’m sick of now).

Album of the Year: (on the other hand, Album only has one lame nominee)
* Sound and Color – Alabama Shakes
* To Pimp a Butterfly – Kendrick Lamar
* Traveller – Chris Stapleton
* 1989 – Taylor Swift
* Beauty Behind The Madness – The Weeknd

Should win: Sound and Color
Will Win: To Pimp a Butterfly
Really, as long as that crap from The Weeknd doesn’t win, I will be happy. But Sound and Color was energetic and personal. I liked Traveller and 1989, too. Rap isn’t my thing, but I recognize that Kendrick Lamar put out a really well-made album.

Song of the Year:
* Alright – Kendrick Duckworth, Mark Anthony Spears & Pharrell Williams, songwriters (Kendrick Lamar)
* Blank Space – Max Martin, Shellback & Taylor Swift, songwriters (Taylor Swift)
*Girl Crush – Hillary Lindsey, Lori McKenna & Liz Rose, songwriters (Little Big Town)
* See You Again –  Andrew Cedar, Justin Franks, Charles Puth & Cameron Thomaz, songwriters (Wiz Khalifa featuring Charlie Puth)
* Thinking Out Loud – Ed Sheeran & Amy Wadge, songwriters (Ed Sheeran)

Should Win: Girl Crush
Will Win: Thinking Out Loud
Girl Crush is the only song on the list I don’t change the radio station when it comes on. It’s the only song I didn’t get sick of.  So that’s why I think it should win. There’s something to be said for a song that, even when it’s overplayed, doesn’t drive you away.

Best New Artist:
* Courtney Barnett
* James Bay
* Sam Hunt
* Tori Kelly
* Meghan Trainor

Should Win: James Bay
Will Win: Courtney Barnett
I can’t say that I think this a particularly strong group for New Artist. Courtney Barnett doesn’t impress me at all. Sam Hunt’s bro country double down is the last thing country music needed. Nobody had a strong album first track to last track, IMO. James Bay had the strongest for me.

Best Pop Solo Performance:
* Heartbeat Song – Kelly Clarkson
* Love Me Like You Do – Ellie Goulding
* Thinking Out Loud – Ed Sheeran
* Blank Space – Taylor Swift
* Can’t Feel My Face – The Weeknd

Should Win: Thinking Out Loud
Will Win: Blank Space
For me, this is down to Thinking Out Loud and Heartbeat Song. Yes, I liked Kelly Clarkson’s poppy anthem. But I think it’s overproduced.

Best Pop Duo/Group Performance:
* Ship To Wreck – Florence + The Machine
* Sugar – Maroon 5
* Uptown Funk – Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars
* Bad Blood – Taylor Swift ft. Kendrick Lamar
* See You Again – Wiz Khalifa Ft. Charlie Puth

Should Win: Ship To Wreck
Will Win: Uptown Funk
This category is emblematic of the crossover power of major artists now adays.  But Uptown Funk is crap. Sugar is plablum. Bad Blood is a radio cut that sounds nothing like the album cut (yes, I hold that against it). And it’s not a very good song. Ship To Wreck is fabulous and See You Again is pretty good.

 

Best Pop Vocal Album:
* Piece by Piece – Kelly Clarkson
* How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful – Florence + The Machine
* Uptown Special – Mark Ronson
* 1989 – Taylor Swift
* Before This World – James Taylor

Should Win: How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful
Will Win: 1989
The Taylor Swift juggernaut will show up here.

 

Best Rock Performance:
* Don’t Wanna Fight – Alabama Shakes
* What Kind of Man – Florence + The Machine
* Something from Nothing – Foo Fighters
* Ex’s & Oh’s – Elle King
* Moaning Lisa Smile – Wolf Alice

Should Win: Don’t Wanna Fight
Will Win: Something From Nothing
I don’t actually dislike Something From Nothing. It’s just that nothing distinguishes it in my mind from any other Foo Fighter song. The hazards of a large catalog, I guess. The only song that I really don’t think should win is Ex’s & Oh’s for the fatigue factor.

Best Rock Song:
* Don’t Wanna Fight – Alabama Shakes, songwriters (Alabama Shakes)
* Ex’s & Oh’s – Dave Bassett & Elle King, songwriters (Elle King
* Hold Back the River – Iain Archer & James Bay, songwriters (James Bay)
* Lydia – Richard Meyer, Ryan Meyer & Johnny Stevens, songwriters (Highly Suspect)
* What Kind of Man – John Hill, Tom Hull & Florence Welch, songwriters (Florence + The Machine)

Should Win: Don’t Wanna Fight
Will Win: Don’t Wanna Fight
This category is the sort of thing that always trips me up.  To me, there are only 2 rock songs in this list – Don’t Wanna Fight and Lydia. And I think Don’t Wanna Fight is a better song. But the people involved think that 2 pop songs and roots song also belong here. And straight up, I still think Don’t Wanna Fight will win, but Ex’s & Oh’s and Lydia both seem to be spoilers here. I love Hold Back the River and What Kind of Man, but they just don’t fit the category at all to me.

Best Rock Album:
* Chaos and The Calm – James Bay
* Kintsugi – Death Cab for Cutie
* Mister Asylum – Highly Suspect
* Drones – Muse
* 5: The Gray Chapter – Slipknot

Should Win: Drones
Will Win: Drones
Once again, the people doing the nominating are going to trip me up. Chaos and the Calm is a roots/folk album. Kitsungi  is alternative. So I don’t think they will win. Mister Asylum was kind of uneven for me, but I only listened to it all the way through once. I’m not a Slipknot fan. So Muse seems like the obivous choice. But the only album I really don’t see winning some what is Chaos and The Calm.

Best Alternative Music Album:
* Sound and Color – Alabama Shakes
* Vulnicura – Bjork
* The Waterfall – My Morning Jacket
* Currents – Tame Impala
* Star Wars – Wilco

Should Win: Currents
Will Win: Currents
Sound and Color belonged in best Rock Album. Kintsugi belonged here. Now, discounting that I liked Sound and Color better, it doesn’t fit the category, and I can’t pick it here. I probably wouldn’t pick Kintsugi over Currents, which is what I think is the best in category.  I’m guessing Currents will win, because I didn’t see The Waterfall on nearly as many best of lists this year. And neither Star Wars or Vulnicura were as high as Currents on most lists.

Best Country Solo Performance:
* Burning House – Cam
* Traveller – Chris Stapleton
* Little Toy Guns – Carrie Underwood
* John Cougar, John Deere, and John 3:16- Keith Urban
* Chances Are – Lee Ann Womack

Should Win: Traveller
Will Win: Traveller

Best Country Album:
* Montevallo – Sam Hunt
* Pain Killer – Little Big Town
* The Blade – Ashley Monroe
* Pageant Material – Kasey Musgraves
* Traveller – Chris Stapleton

Should Win: Traveller
Will Win: Traveller

Best American Roots Performance:
* And Am I Born To Die – Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn
* Born To Play Guitar – Buddy Guy
* City of Our Lady – The Milk Carton Kids
* Julep – Punch Brothers
* See That My Grave is Kept Clean – Mavis Staples

Should Win: Any of them are worthy. This is the category so far that has been strongest top to bottom. But I’m leaning And Am I Born To Die
Will Win: See That My Grave is Kept Clean

Best American Roots Song:
* All Night Long – Raul Malo, songwriter (The Mavericks)
* The Cost of Living –  Don Henley & Stan Lynch, songwriters (Don Henley & Merle Haggard)
* Julep -Chris Eldridge, Paul Kowert, Noam Pikelny, Chris Thile & Gabe Witcher, songwriters (Punch Brothers)
* The Travelling Kind – Cory Chisel, Rodney Crowell & Emmylou Harris, songwriters (Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell)
* 24 Frames – Jason Isbell, songwriter (Jason Isbell)

Should Win: The Travelling Kind
Will Win: The Cost of Living

Best Americana Album:
* The Firewatcher’s Daughter – Brandi Carlisle
* The Travelling Kind – Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell
* Something More Than Free – Jason Isbell
* Mono – The Mavericks
* The Phosphorescent Blues – Punch Brothers

Should Win: The Travelling Kind
Will Win: Mono

Best Folk Album:
* Wood, Wire, & Words – Norman Blake
* Béla Fleck And Abigail Washburn – Béla Fleck And Abigail Washburn
* Tomorrow is My Turn – Rhiannon Giddens
* Servant of Love – Patty Griffin
* Didn’t He Ramble – Glen Hansard

Should Win: Servant of Love
Will Win: Béla Fleck And Abigail Washburn

The complete list is here.

Song Spotlight: This Will End by The Oh Hellos

 

So, the Oh Hellos are kind of an alt-country/folk rock/Irish music band out of Texas. I missed their album Dear Wormwood last October when it came out, or it probably would have been on my top albums from last year.

This Will End is a great song that I came across in a totally random manner, i.e. Pandora. It was good enough that I felt like making it a spotlight song.

New Releases starting February 12th

February 12:
Landless – Eight Bells
Skifflin’ – The Skiffle Players
II – Magrudergrind
Synthia – The Jezabels
Cardinal – Pinegrover
You Say Party – You Say Party
Right Hand Left Hand – Right Hand Left Hand
Statik KXNG – Statik KXNG
SVIIB – School of Seven Bells
South, West, North, East – Stephen Kellogg
Good Advice – Basia Bulat
Synthetica – Radiation City
Operator – Telegram
A Season in Hull – The Wave Pictures
K 2.0 – Kula Shaker
My Wild West – Lissie
Hipersia – El Guincho
Down to My Last Bad Habit – Vince Gill
Everybody’s Dying To Meet You – Flowers
Ritual’s – Rotting Christ
Wynonna & the Big Noise – Wynonna & the Big Noise
Lost In Forever – Beyond the Black
Mitra – Paus
Drive North – SWMRS
Love is a Fridge – Me and My Drummer
You Are Going To Hate This – The Frights
Family Dinner – Volume 2 – Snarky Puppy
Life Screams – Lacey Sturms
Give It Back To You – The Record Company
Time of My Life – Ronan Keating
Hymns – Joey + Rory
Memory Care Unit – Secret Boyfriend
Letting Go…Slow – Lorrie Morgan
Better Strange – James Supercave
Né So – Rokia Traoré
Child Sacrifice – Pill Friends
Wild Birds Live Tour – Peter Murphy
Mistress – Facial
All of Me – Dirty Dishes

February 14:
Vibes – DKRaps
Smoove Jones – Mýa

February 16:
Here Be Monster – Motorpsycho
Mercy – Fake Boyfriend

February 17:
Euphoria – AMTHST

Song Spotlight – See You Again by Elle King

Everyone has probably heard Elle King’s big hit Ex’s and Oh’s on the radio. Personally, I’m a little tired of that one. See You Again, on the other hand, was my favorite song off her album Love Stuff, which was one of my favorite albums from last year.

Elle King has a big voice, but, as this track shows, she’s capable of surprising delicacy. And, as is often the case, I like her singing against a single guitar.

 

Song Spotlight – King of the World by Blue

I really like the close vocal harmony of this sort of music. Yeah, it hearkens back to the late fifties and early sixties, but hey, there was some great music then.

Blue had this song on their 5th studio album, Colours, released in March of 2015. This was one of my favorite songs from last year, even if the whole album didn’t make my list.

Album Review – All I Need – Foxes

All I Need is a quintesessital 2010’s pop album. From big, dance-friendly pop singles like Body Talk to open-hearted ballads like If You Leave Me Now to big throated numbers like Wicked LoveAll I Need delivers radio-friendly modern pop that’s enjoyable and easy to listen to.

By the same token, that is its greatest fault, as well. While Louisa Rose Allen has crafted an album that is lyrically more personal than her first out, it is musically less varied. It’s easy to lose All I Need to the background when you want to be more invested in what you’re listening to.

Recommendation: Stream It

Songs I have a Playlist for: Better LoveWicked LoveLose My Cool

Clunkers I will Thumbs Down: Devil Side

Releases: Starting February 5

All the new music I can account for starting with

February 5:
Is the Is Are – DIIV
Big Black Coat – Junior Boys
All I Need – Foxes
commontime – Field Music
Human Ceremony – Sunflower Bean
The Ghosts of Highway 20 – Lucinda Williams
The Phsychedelic Swamp – Dr. Dog
Majid Jordan – Majid Jordan
Akróasis – Obscura
Cascades – High Highs
Escapements- Beacon
Though Rock Fish Scale – Nap Eyes
Pool – PORCHES.
Hellelujah – Drowning Pool
Mass Gothic – Mass Gothic
Begin – Lion Babe
the gamble – nonkeen
Khalifa – Wiz Khalifa
Timeslip Roadmender – Clouds
Wonderful Crazy Night – Elton John
Zvi II: Death Stops Us All – Zvi
Opus – Eric Prydz
Avocet (Reissue) – Bert Jansch
Phenotype – Textures
X (No Absolutes) – Prong
Slime Season 3 – Young Thug
Personal Life – Two Inch Astronaut
We Are King – King
Ace – Scooter
Language Barrier – Shirlett Ammons
The Heart Contortionists – Pleasant Grove
Tha Truth, Pt. 2 – Trae tha Truth
Porta Bohemica – Trixie Whiteley
Hillbilly Rockstar – Moccasin Creek
Holding Patterns – Laurence Fox
Dømkirke (Reissue) – Sunn O)))
Marathon – Francis
Here as in Heaven – Elevation Worship
The Driver – Charles Kelley
Ezekiel’s Has – Seven Sisters of Sleep
Janus – Matt Kivel
Ladies & Gentlemen – The Infamous Stringdusters
White Light Fever – Rancho Relaxo
No More Lamps in the Morning – Josephine Foster
Above the Prarie – The Pines
Lolita Nation (Reissue) – Game Theory
Heaven Adores You – Elliot Smith
The Anti-Circle – World Be Free
The Album Paranoia – Ulrika Spacek
Different Sun – Electric Eye
Tan – Lafawndah
Idealist – Mind Enterprises
Song and Dance Man – Jason Collett
Hidden City – The Cult
An Arabesque – Cloudland Canyon
Long Time Traveller – Jeb Loy Nichols
Scheherazade – Freakwater
What Do People Do All Day? – Working for a Nucldear Free City
Fun’s Cool – The Prettiots
KINGSIZED – Dressy Bessy
Back On My Wall – Burnt Palms
King – Fleshgod Apocalypse
Victory Motel Sessions – King Mud

February 6:
EVOL – Future

February 8:
Masala – Jibóia
Incognito  Mode – Heights Beats

February 11:
Waves – Kanye West