The Weinblog’s top albums of 2016

Most music listeners like to recap the year by posting a list of their favorite albums. But since the average person in this world is just your regular, everyday working man or woman, no one really cares what they think.

I, on the other hand, have a blog. Therefore, my opinion matters .00000000000008% more.

But anyway, in 2014 I started a tradition of ranking my favorite albums of the year (also: see 2015’s ranks). Bear in mind that this is not a list of what I believe are the overall best albums — just the ones that I liked the most because they suited my musical tastes.

Unfortunately, there was no Taylor Swift album to rank, but 2016 brought plenty other good music to listen to.

So let’s do it, shall we?


Good Advice
Basia Bulat


I had to give acknowledgment to this girl because she’s released four quality albums but still remains relatively unknown. As someone who has seen her live twice, I can attest that she is a ridiculously talented singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. Her songs will never be heard on the radio but they are still very accessible and smooth on the ears. I think the majority of people would enjoy her if they gave her a chance.

Return to Love


This is easily one of the best indie rock albums of the year. It is extremely clean punk rock and is well produced. Their 2014 release, Hoodwink’d, was really good but with this album it seems like they really found their sweet spot — or in other words, they went a LVL UP.



There are fewer reliable bands than Wilco, where you know exactly what you are getting with every release. I’ll admit it’s not much of a creative departure from their last couple of albums, but if you like Wilco, and the simple eloquence of their music, you will not be disappointed.

Remember Us to Life
Regina Spektor


I was a bit surprised by this album’s omission from most music blog’s year-end lists. Regina Spektor is one of the best underground indie/folk rock singers of our generation, with an entire catalog of extraordinary music. This album was highly anticipated after a four-year hiatus, and it does not disappoint. I’ll admit it is a little less quirky than your vintage Regina, but it still showcases her masterful vocal range. The album has that storytelling feel, and while listening to this album from start to finish, it’s easy to get lost in the world that Regina presents to us so beautifully.

Good Grief


The female duo’s new album took on a bit of a darker turn, for the better, and highlights the singer’s powerful vocals. The songs are very emotionally heavy, multi-layered and make for a terrific mix of singer-songwriter and indie pop.

You Want It Darker
Leonard Cohen


Hearing Leonard Cohen sing is like listening to spoken word poetry. But it’s just impossible to hear his surly growl of a voice and not become captivated by his powerful lyrics. It hits you right off the bat with the title track “You Want it Darker” and does not relent. Sadly, Cohen died this year, but he left us with one last piece of his soul.

Okkervil River


I’ve been listening to this band for years, but did not know that they were capable of a release like this. Rather than just sticking to their usual indie rock formula, they’ve turned it each track into an amazing production of a ballad, full of different stages. Each track is like listening to a miniature performance. Some of the harmonies and instrumentals are just so good, and grab your attention so potently, that they make you stop what you’re doing to listen.

Brian Fallon


This album is just flat-out wonderful. Brian Fallon, known as the voice of the excellent Gaslight Anthem, released his first solo album in 2016, and one gets the feeling that this is the type of music he always wanted to make. It’s much tamer and stripped down than that of Gaslight, but the songs present such simple yet poignant messages about love and enjoying life. I can listen to this album every day.

Midwest Farmer’s Daughter
Margo Price


This is definitely the surprise of the year. Margo Price sings about what she knows. Working on the farm, drinking and family. The album begins with its most beautiful track, “Hands of Stone,” and while it never returns to the level of that track for the duration of the record, it’s still a joy to listen to. Price really has a beautiful voice and it’s refreshing to hear her sing about the rawness of life as she knows it.

Moon Shaped Pool


Radiohead’s releases ever since the fantastic In Rainbows have been underwhelming, to say the least. But with Moon Shaped Pool, the songs are haunting yet much more accessible, while still continuing their experimental sound that has grown more and more with each release.

My Woman
Angel Olsen


Angel Olsen is no longer a secret. She is a singer-songwriter to the core, but this album definitely branches out a little bit and even shows us some new elements to Olsen’s vocal abilities. I think this album shows that she is more than just a storyteller — she can sing. Even with the evolution, the album still maintains her signature sound and confirms Angel Olsen’s rising star.

22, A Million
Bon Iver


There likely wasn’t a more polarizing release this year than this one. Bon Iver began as a singer-songwriter with Emma, Forever Ago, and then went a little more electronic with Bon Iver, Bon Iver, but he went full experimental in this one. And while electronic music tends to turn me off, Bon Iver has managed to find that perfect mix where it blends perfectly with his melodic vocals, while still maintaining that same sense of wonder and isolation that made him so appealing to his fan base. The album challenges your mind, and asks to be listened to over and over. And that’s what makes it the best album of 2016.


Rachel Platten, I’m gonna stand by you.

It’s always refreshing when a fresh face enters the music scene. But it’s even more refreshing when that face belongs to Rachel Platten.

You all know Rachel. You’ve sang “Fight Song” in the shower, during your morning drive to work, played it while jogging at the gym, and maybe performed it at karaoke night at your local bar.

Perhaps it even became your own personal mantra while you were going through a tough time in your life.

Too often, pop music lacks purpose. There’s never a deficiency of catchy, pleasurable sounding songs on the radio, but much of the time, when you get to the thick of the song, you find that it doesn’t really mean anything.

The song entertains for three minutes, and then it’s gone, and you don’t think about it again until you hear it on the radio days later.

But that’s not the case with a Rachel Platten song. They linger. They inspire. And when you hear one, it reminds you of all the good that exists in your life, and that can exist moving forward.

Rachel PlattenAnd that’s something that pop music desperately needed.

Her new album, Wildfire, was released on January 1, comprising the aforementioned “Fight Song,” and her current equally-as-inspiring single, “Stand By You.” Having purchased the album on iTunes, I also recommend “You Don’t Know My Heart” and “Angels in Chelsea.”

Watch any single Rachel Platten live performance. It doesn’t matter which one. Whether it’s in concert, in a studio, or on a talk show, and you’ll notice one thing in all of them — her unwavering smile.

When she sings, she seems genuinely euphoric. As in, she knows her words are probably affecting thousands of people in a positive way, and she totally recognizes it. She wants to lift people’s spirits and make us feel better. She relishes it. And it’s infectious.

I don’t think it’s an accident that Platten didn’t experience her breakthrough until her early 30s. I think years of adversity and a career stuck in limbo humbled and inspired her to write such uplifting songs.

And it obviously goes without saying that she’s stunningly gorgeous. We could talk all we want about inner beauty, but her outer beauty ain’t so bad, either.

But the point is, that in an era of music full of dubious role models, Rachel Platten is a bright light.

It may have taken a little while for her voice to be heard, but I think I speak for all music listeners when I say it was worth the wait.

And if anyone disagrees with me, I’ll introduce you to my fight song.

With my fist.

The Weinblog’s top albums of 2015

As the year winds down, the Weinblog continues to reflect on all that the year had to offer.

One of those things was music. Plenty of new releases made their way from the studio to our ear drums this year, and some were better than others.

This is the second straight year I’ve ranked what I thought were the best albums of the year, and after doing some serious listening over the recent weeks, I’ve narrowed it to 12.

And despite receiving my praise yesterday, you will not find Justin Bieber on this list.


Gypsy Heart
Colbie Caillat

Gypsy Heart

I debated what to put in the last spot for quite a while, and then decided that If I didn’t go with Colbie Caillat’s Gypsy Heart, I’d regret it for the rest of my life. OK, that’s maybe an exaggeration. But the songs on this album (particularly in the top half) are just so pure, so empowering and so well-intentioned that I thought I’d be remiss not to acknowledge it in era where musicians tends to forget that they have the unique ability to inspire young people with their words. There’s no tricks here. No over-the-top hooks. Just Colbie singing from her heart.

Death Cab for Cutie


Ben Gibbard has a unique ability to slow the tempo and invoke emotion with his voice without ever becoming too tedious. Kintsugi is further evidence of that. I can’t help but listen to Death Cab for Cutie and feel a sense of longing, or nostalgia … for what, I don’t know. But it’s there. Indeed, Kintusgi may even have an added flair of somberness tinged in since it’s the first release since Gibbard’s and Zooey Deschanel’s marriage fell apart. The album is bookended by its best tracks, “No Room in Frame” and “Binary Sea.”



Right out of the gate, Payola smacks you in the face with its heavy riffs, smash-mouth lyrics and aggressive attitude, and it maintains that edge throughout. The punk rock band, headed by Conor Oberst, just seemed like they were on a mission with this album, as they touch on many socioeconomic issues in their songs. But the result is a powerfully raw, angry and restless album that makes for a very lively and enjoyable listen.

Dark Bird is Home
The Tallest Man on Earth

Dark Bird is Home.jpg

Swedish singer-songwriter Kristian Matsson, known by his stage name The Tallest Man on Earth, is known for his raw and simple delivery. He’s just a man and his guitar, singing about life. But with Dark Bird is Home, Matsson adds a jingly, instrumental accompaniment that perfectly suits his voice and adds more depth to the tracks. The whole thing is just very pleasurable to listen to on many levels.

What’s Inside: Songs from Waitress
Sara Bareilles


Underrated as one of the best singer-songwriters of our generation, Bareilles sticks to her roots, singing about romance and relationships, but this time does it in a more theatrical way. Which is fine, as it shows us another element of her amazing talent. The theatrical feel makes perfect sense, as the songs were written by Bareilles as a score to a musical, which she decided to translate into a full-length album. The whole album is really good, but hits its stride at the end with tracks nine through 11, namely “You Matter To me,” “She Used to Be Mine” and “Everything Changes.”

Wilder Mind
Mumford & Sons

Wilder Mid

As a devoted Mumford & Sons fan ever since I first heard “Little Lion Man” on the radio in 2009, I was admittedly apprehensive when I learned the band was changing course, ditching the banjo for its forthcoming release and replacing it with the electric guitar. By doing so, they were essentially abandoning their folk roots, which is what made them who they are. Even after the first couple listens of Wilder Mind, I was still dubious — with the exception of “The Wolf,” which I liked from the get-go. But after stepping away for a couple of months and returning to the album with a fresh ear, there’s no doubt in my mind that this is awesome. It’s different, for sure, but at the heart of each track is still the same old Mumford & Sons. For the most part, the tracks are a little less explosive and more refined, but the band still displays their subtle brilliance to begin a track slowly and build to a dramatic climax, best exemplified in the track “Only Love.”

What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World
The Decemberists

What a Terrible World, What a Wonderful World

I’ve always loved The Decemberists, but seeing them live in Newport, Rhode Island this summer made me a fan for life. They are just such a cheerful, energetic bunch on stage. And they’re also very good at making music. What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World is a continuation of the band’s great catalog, an indie-rock serenade that you can’t possibly listen to without feeling your mood brighten. It’s endlessly hopeful and charming, and ends with a bang, with “A Beginning Song,” which may be my favorite Decemberists track ever.

Pageant Material
Kacey Musgraves

Pageant Material

There’s something so incredibly appealing in what Kacey Musgraves does. She possesses the furthest thing from powerhouse vocals, but has the unique ability to tell a story in every one of her songs. Her straightforward delivery really helps you pick up the lyrics, and you find that they are actually really funny and poignant, but at the same time, flow perfectly within the song without seeming too forced. I don’t know any other artist today that can match her ability to create songs that are so simple, yet so multi-layered. Just take a listen to the album’s title track “Pageant Material,” and really try to hear what she’s saying if you want to fully grasp Kacey’s brilliance. It’s a great follow-up to the Grammy-winning Same Trailer, Different Park, but with a little more sass and humor embedded within.

I Love You, Honeybear
Father John Misty

I Love You, Honeybear.jpg

I Love You, Honeybear is really an achievement in indie rock singer-songwriting, which I’m not sure was really a genre until Joshua Tillman, a.k.a. Father John Misty, made it his own with this release. There’s really nothing else like this in music today, and it’s a perfect example of how experimenting with music and lyrics can be a win-win for all. It’s not at all conventional, and will at times challenge your musical palate, but that’s a good thing.

The Firewatcher’s Daughter
Brandi Carlile


It’s about time this woman deserved her due. As far as vocal ability, Brandi Carlile is up there with almost anyone else in the music industry today. Her voice has so much depth and range that it almost works against her in the sense that it leaves her without a genre. She’s a hybrid of country, folk, rock and alternative. But whatever it is — it’s awesome. With The Firewatcher’s Daughter, Carlile really channeled all of her life inspiration into a beautiful anthology in an extremely mature fashion. There’s up-tempo rock mixed with slow ballads, all heavily imbued with emotion, and each of which showcase the extraordinary talents of Brandi Carlile.



Quite simply, nobody else in the world can do what Adele does. Her voice is second to none, and thus, 25 could not be recorded by anybody else.  I went into this album weary of praising it just because it’s Adele, and because critics will tell me I should, but it didn’t take long for me to appreciate it. The second single, “When We Were Young,” is an extremely powerful and emotive song, rich with feelings of nostalgia, that could go down as her biggest hit yet. The whole album is a tour de force driven by Adele’s bluesy and soulful voice, which is very refreshing in today’s bubblegum pop-driven contemporary music industry

Carrie & Lowell
Sufjan Stevens


There’s just something so soulfully haunting when it comes to Sufjan Stevens that it’s almost hard to listen to his music over and over again. But with Carrie & Lowell, Stevens created a much more accessible album that could not be more blissful or soothing. His almost whisper-like quality of singing puts the listener into a surreal, dreamlike state of mind. It’s absolutely criminal that the album was ignored by the Grammys this year, but in the grand scheme of things, the most important thing about music is the impact that it has on people, and I think the acclaim that the album has received speaks for itself. It’s chilling in so many ways, but never becomes depressing, and may even leave you with a small feeling of hope. And that, my friends, is why it’s the best album of 2015.

2015: The renaissance of Justin Bieber

If 2014 was the year of Matthew McConaughey’s resurgence, then I officially declare 2015 as the year Justin Bieber turned his own image around.

It’s something most people have been thinking — but not voicing aloud — since the mid-November release of his new album, Purpose. His music has not only dominated radio waves since then, but at this current moment in time, three tracks from that record sit in the top five of the Billboard Hot 100.

But Bieber’s reputation and lackluster discography leading up to this new release created an awkward situation for music listeners. We’re trained to not like him. To dismiss his music. To disavow all things Bieber.

However, the simple truth is that these new tracks are good. They’re nothing inventive, nor is it anywhere near the best of 2015, but it blends perfectly well in today’s pop music scene.

Justin Bieber

And slowly but surely, Bieber fans are coming out of the woodwork. This idea is exemplified perfectly in this funny video that I stumbled across on Facebook, of a British man listening to Bieber’s early music with disgust, and declaring that he will “never ever, ever, ever like this guy.”

Seconds later, the song changes to “Sorry,” one of Bieber’s new tracks, and the British guy hilariously changes course, as much as he hates to admit it.

Chalk up the success of the new album to quality production, smart collaborations, or basically anything but the vocals, but the fact of the matter is that the end product is pleasurable to the ears.

And you have to give the kid some credit. For the last few years, he was Public Enemy #1. No one liked him. They wanted him banished from the music scene at best, deported to Canada at worst.

Also, don’t think this is easy for me to admit. Justin Bieber has been one of my more consistent punch lines since I started this blog six years ago. Charlie Sheen came and went, The Situation is ancient history, and Donald Trump wasn’t even worth insulting until about six months ago.

But Bieber has always been there. Searching his name on this blog reveals of tidal wave of hate. Six pages worth, in fact.

I never saw this coming. I thought Bieber was more likely to have an Amanda Bynes-like mental breakdown than become a fan favorite ever again. So I must give credit where credit is due.

Many people will still choose to remain in denial about Bieber. Many will maintain that they’ve yet to hear “Sorry,” “What Do You Mean?” or “Where Are U Now.”

But you’ve already made up your mind, you just don’t know it yet. And when we look back on 2015, for better or worse, we will remember this as the year that Justin Bieber somehow, someway, made us all ito semi-Beliebers.

I said it.

Whenever ‘Uptown Funk’ plays, I change the station. Don’t believe me? Just watch.

I appreciate it when a song that dominates the radio waves and the charts is one that actually has instruments in it.

Bruno Mars has proven that he is an artist that embraces old school methods of showmanship. He’s rarely on stage by himself, usually backed by a full band, all of whom are in sync with the choreography.

He’s a vintage performer through and through, and evidenced it on the biggest stage at last year’s Super Bowl. His latest single, “Uptown Funk” — of which he’s actually credited as a featured artist; guitarist Mark Ronson gets the recording credit — is the latest example that showcases his artistry.

Bruno Mars Uptown FunkLike most of his latest songs, it’s upbeat, fun, funky and easy to dance to.

But like any other song, repetitiveness makes it grow old fast. I feel like we’ve been saying for two years now that Bruno Mars is finally the singer we’ve been waiting for — one who breaks the trend of pop stars producing songs that carry zero musical creativity. Mars, in contrast, makes actual music.

Thus, radio stations have felt compelled to spread that beacon of musical change by playing his music over and over and over.

And listeners, too, have fallen into the trap. Because Bruno Mars is different; because he has soul; because he is channeling Motown; we must like him, and it’s taboo to indicate otherwise.

I like Bruno Mars. But I will still be among the first to say that I am starting to get sick of his music. His last few songs have all started to blend together for me, and if I hear him scream “Don’t believe me? Just watch!” one more time, I’m going to throw an extremely childish and immature hissy fit. I hate to say it, but “Uptown Funk” is an instant station change for me now.

A lot of it is musical taste. Just because you respect a certain type of music doesn’t mean you have to fawn over it it. I personally enjoy more calm, orderly music rather than something that’s full throttle upbeat and dancy throughout.

Or maybe I simply hate brass instruments.

It’s likely just a consequence of constant radio play that’s killed the song for me, however, as radio tends to do.

My favorite Bruno Mars song remains his first breakthrough solo hit: “Just the Way You Are.” It’s a poignant, smooth ballad that’s extremely easy on the ears.

Until he gets back to that, I think I’m going to go on a Bruno Mars sabbatical.

Don’t believe me?

I don’t care.

It’s time to give some love to Ed Sheeran

Every guy wishes they had the ability to strum a few chords on a guitar, sing some passionate lyrics, and woo every woman within a 25-foot radius.

Being able to sing and play the guitar can compensate for any lack of game a man has. It’s the ultimate equalizer. But some people have it and some people don’t.

And then some people master it. Like Ed Sheeran. To date, the 24-year-old Englishman’s name has been said just two times on my blog. Since he’s a legitimately talented and soulful singer-songwriter, I thought it was time to finally give him some love.

Ed SheeranHe’s immensely popular right now, mostly among women, but if he keeps writing good music then I think men will start coming around soon, if they haven’t already.

“Thinking Out Loud” is his current popular song. It’s been all over the radio in your car and at your local Starbucks, and it will also probably be the most played song at weddings in 2015. But the track follows a formula that Sheeran has stayed true to in his short but highly successful career: simplicity.

His biggest hits, including “Lego House, “The A-Team” and “All of the Stars,” follow this blueprint. As does my personal favorite, “Sunburn.” There’s no gimmicks. No grandiose musical accompaniment. Just straight up acoustic guitar and a no-nonsense delivery. If you watch him sing live, he doesn’t prance around the stage. He just stands there and sings. 

But what sets him apart is his supreme songwriting ability and his extremely melodic tone. He has a damn good voice. Sometimes the problem with singer-songwriters is that there’s not much vocal range, and the more they sing, the more redundant it becomes. That hasn’t been the case with Sheeran. Granted, he’s only released two albums, but they contain such a diversity that you can’t help but feel that the best has yet to come.

It also doesn’t hurt that he has very distinct, raggedy red hair that has now become his trademark.

Success was probably inevitable considering his abilities, but Taylor Swift played a big part in launching his career, when they recorded a duet, “Everything Has Changed, on her 2012 album, and then invited him on tour with her. By the time the song was released as a single in July 2013, Sheeran was already well known, as his own single, “The A-Team” became a hit in the U.S. in late 2012. So Taylor may not get the credit for “discovering” Sheeran, but she definitely helped.

Regardless, because of that song, the two are now inexorably linked. Which is fine. It makes perfect sense, actually. They’re both singer-songwriters, they both sing about romance, and they both are on my iPod.

So Eddie, you no longer have to mope about being ignored on the Weinblog. I see you, brother. Keep doing you.

And since I can’t play the guitar or sing, I’ll have to make up for my lack of game in other ways. Like learning to juggle. Or honing my ventriloquist skills.

That’ll do it.

Grammys 2015: it’s not an awards show unless Kanye makes his presence known

For a moment, visions of the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards flashed before everyone’s eyes. Kanye West, who, six years ago, infamously stole the spotlight from Taylor Swift to show his support for Beyonce, was about do it again.

After alternative rocker Beck was announced as the winner of Album of the Year at last night’s 57th Grammys, Kanye returned to the stage, only to jokingly wave his hands, laugh, and return to his seat. The audience got a kick out of it, Beck-Kanye-West-Grammysand even Beck took it in stride.

It was all in good fun. Kanye, who’s public image took a drastic hit after that initial incident — including being called a “jackass” by our president — had clearly learned from his mistake, and in a very self-aware moment, poked some fun at his old self. Even Beyonce and Jay Z found it amusing.

Or was he joking?

Had Kanye simply never opened his mouth again for the remainder of the night, people would still be laughing along with him. Instead, they’re none too pleased.

It turns out that he seriously believed that Beyonce deserved the award, and he wanted the world to know about it. In a post-show interview with E!, he said, “I just know that the Grammys, if they want real artists to keep coming back, they need to stop playing with us. We ain’t gonna play with them no more. And Beck needs to respect artistry and he should’ve given his award to Beyonce.”

Fans of Beck have come out in full force to his defense. In a career that has spanned more than two decades, Beck has released 12 albums. He wrote, composed and produced his latest album, Morning Phase, and as one Twitter user pointed out, he played the guitar, keys, synthesizer, bass, tambourine, ukulele, charango, celeste, dulcimer, harmonica and the glockenspiel on it.

Kanye West can’t even spell half of those instruments.

Beck, meanwhile, has handled the situation flawlessly. Sam Smith Grammys

It’s just another incident on a long list of questionable decisions by Kanye West. There is absolutely no doubt of his artistry and talent. That’s undeniable, and any one who tries to discredit it is just wrong. I mean, there’s a reason that Paul McCartney wanted to work with him. He’s also won 21 Grammy awards.

But he continually butts his head into things that do not concern him. Beck won arguably the biggest award of his life last night, and Kanye had to grab some attention away. If he is so upset about how awards shows determine their winners, then he should start his own event. The Kanyes. Every award goes to Beyonce.

I think people are just sick of his shtick, and are especially upset that he tried to make his point by attacking Beck, who is as much of an artist as any one in the music industry today.

An unintended consequence of Kanye’s antics is that he has become a public relations wizard. By making himself look so bad, he makes his “victims” look like sympathetic heroes in comparison. Taylor Swift’s career catapulted to monumental levels of success following her rendezvous with Mr. West, and because of last night, Beck has never been more widely discussed on a mainstream level than he is right now.

Oh and for the record, Taylor and Kanye have since made up. 

On a personal note, some may recall I pegged Morning Phase as the best album of 2014. What’s ironic is that, for the last six years, I have posted here my top films of the year, and to date, none of my six selections for the year end best movie has ended up winning Best Picture at the Academy Awards. And yet, in my first year picking the year’s best albums, my top selection wins Album of the Year. Go figure.

And yes, I am humble bragging.

The rest of the Grammys was without drama, with Sam Smith taking home four awards, including Record of the Year. He Kristen Wiig Siagenuinely seems like a polite, cordial young man who is passionate about music, so I have no problem seeing him rewarded. Especially after the controversy he received from the Tom Petty copying fallout.

One pleasant surprise was seeing Kristen Wiig doing some interpretive dance with 12-year-old Maddie Zeidler during Sia’s performance of “Chandelier.” Wiig really is a multi-talented performer who doesn’t get enough love.

What nobody did see in last night’s telecast was Eminem win Best Rap Album for the Marshall Mathers LP, his 15th career Grammy, since it’s a category that’s apparently not deemed significant enough to be distributed live. I get that the Grammys are trying to become a bit more family-friendly, but isn’t that category a pretty big one?

Also, for the sixth straight year, I failed win the Grammy for Best Blogging.

I’m still petitioning the academy to instill that one.

Sorrowful, emotionally-driven songs that not enough people know about

I like sad songs.

Not because I like to feel sad, but because I prefer songs that are grounded in reality.

The perfect song to me is one that speaks to you about the harshness of life, but at the same time, expresses optimism. Sort of like, “Yeah, it can all suck sometimes, but it’s going to be all right.”

Nobody in this world is immune from sadness. Throughout the course of our lives, we will experience death, heartbreak, failure and sickness. There’s no escaping it.

And yet, life is pretty damn amazing. And there’s no where else I’d rather be than here.

I enjoy songs that can express that type of emotion. But the beauty of music is that it affects everybody differently. What I’d like to do right now is list several songs I believe most people are not aware of, that, to me, are deeply emotive and affecting.

Pour yourself a glass of whiskey and give ’em a listen. And my apologies for the YouTube overload.

Damien Jurado — Everything Trying

This song touches on all of the emotions. It’s so raw you can almost feel the sorrow inflecting in every single note, reminiscing about love lost. It was also featured in the Academy Award winning Italian film The Great Beauty.

Ryan Bingham — The Weary Kind

This country ballad centers around a feeling of regret. You could have done so much more in life.And yet, it tells us that it’s never too late to give it one more try. This song comes from the 2009 film Crazy Heart.

The Pierces — Give it All Back

These sisters have been making music for almost two decades and have criminally flown under the radar. I say it’s criminal because they’re extremely talented and deserve more recognition. This song is an anthem of emotion and I especially enjoy how it starts slow and builds to a momentous climax.

Alexi Murdoch — All of My Days

This too speaks to the long-winded, exhausting nature of life, with a reflective tone. It’s a simple song, just a man and his guitar, and that’s what I like about it.

Adam Cohen — Out of Bed

Apathy is the theme here. We all have so much to express, so much we want to do, and the only thing that’s stopping us from doing it is … ourselves.

A Fine Frenzy — Ashes and Wine

Alison Sudol, also known as A Fine Frenzy, also has never received her fair due. She’s released four great albums, has a fantastic voice, and listening to her music feels like you’re just sitting in a meadow, watching nature happen. This song is as emotionally haunting as it gets.

Nina Nesbitt — The Hardest Part

This 20-year-old Scottish singer-songwriter is about a year or two away from becoming big in the United States. I can feel it. This song about heartbreak is told from a girl’s perspective. But if you can’t sense the raw emotion involved, man or woman, then you’re just heartless. Or a sociopath.

Neil Halstead — Digging Shelters

What you have here is a very pleasant-sounding, flowing song that’s as captivating as it is melancholy. It’s also in last year’s film Enough Said starring Julie Louis-Dreyfus and James Gandolfini.

Neko Case — I Wish I Was the Moon

She wishes she was the moon. Need I say more?

My favorite time of the year … besides Christmas, or the summer, or baseball season, or basically any other time that’s not now.

Lets’s face it, January and February are the worst months of the year.

My apologies to any one born during them, but, you were born during a shitty time of the year. Why do they suck so much? Well, for one, it’s freezing outside. I am aware that the cold weather begins in November and December, but at least the frigid temperatures then is joined by the best holidays.

Once the luster of Christmas and New Year’s is over, we’re sick of the cold. So the first two months of the year pretty much are about endurance. Just getting through them. As I type this, it’s 12 degrees outside. Are you kidding me?

Bring me Spring.

GGUK_Sat_PUBut it’s not totally miserable. There is some enjoyment that comes with this time of year. In fact, the last couple of days has brought some of that joy. Of course, it’s a completely esoteric thing that only applies to music lovers, but … early January is when major music festivals announce their lineups.

I probably just lost 99.5 percent of people reading this. “That’s the one thing that redeems this point of the year? Seriously?” is probably what you are thinking.

But it’s more than major festivals like Coachella and Governor’s Ball announcing the plethora of bands that they will each be hosting, but rather, a reminder of times that lie ahead.

A reminder that summer — and nice weather — will be back sooner than we think. Coachella announced their lineup yesterday. Governors Ball today.

For music junkies, the announcements allow for several days of comparing which lineup is best — a debate music blogs have already begun. It becomes almost a question of territorial pride. East Coast vs. West Coast. Coachella is the bigger festival, being a two-weekend event that last summer accrued more than half of a million participants. Governors Ball, a modest weekend affair, drew a little more than a quarter of that.

So that it’s even a debate is a victory alone for the East Side. Yeah bitches.

In the coming weeks, other major festivals like Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza, Firefly, and my personal favorite, the Newport Folk Festival, will also announce their lineups, continuing to tease us of the summer fun that’s so close, yet so far.

January and February do have other good things. The Super Bowl and National Championship game. Oscar season. Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Valentin—- err, nevermind.

But, come on, if the best part of a month centers around things that aren’t even going to happen until a few months from now, you know it’s a terrible time of the year.

The Weinblog’s top albums of 2014

A new year may be upon us, but there’s still plenty of time to revisit 2014 and all it had to offer. While I opined recently that it may have been been one of the worst years ever for popular music, it was actually a pretty fantastic year for good music.

A lot of big names released new albums, namely U2, the Foo Fighters and Weezer, but a lot of artists also emerged this year thanks to a great release, and those are the ones that deserve special recognition.

So here is my personal list of the best albums of 2014. Since my year-end movie lists (look for that sometime next month) are a Top 12, I’ll stick with that same format.

Let’s get on with it.

Strand of Oaks


This album contains a nice mix of big-sounding power ballads and slower, smoother more poignant anthems. A rock project of Timothy Showalter, his booming voice draws similarities to that of Bruce Springsteen or the Gaslight Anthem. It all jives together to form a terrific album and definitely helped put him on the map in 2014.

Future Islands


This veteran group’s popularity was boosted by a surreal performance on David Letterman’s show earlier this year, but this album is so consistently good with energetic, dance floor-worthy hit after hit. If you like one song on the album, you like all of them.

Jack White


Jack White’s sound has definitely diverted from that of the White Stripes, but he’s still just as vivacious and innovate as ever with Lazaretto. While the album’s title track is an in-your-face, guitar heavy rock jam, more folksy songs like “Alone in My Home” are surprisingly sentimental. It’s really a nice mix and a great addition to White’s already masterful catalog.

Taylor Swift


I have to give some love to my girl. 1989 represented a noticeable change for the pop icon, whose past albums are full of country-pop crossover tracks, many of which offered an introspective, somber look on love. With this release, it’s all optimistic and upbeat, and most of all — fun. Her songwriting abilities continue to evolve and the number of albums sold only proves that Taylor Swift continues to be a tour de force.

The Voyager
Jenny Lewis


Speaking of exceptional singer-song writers, the former Rilo Kiley lead singer’s third studio album is one great track after another. Jenny Lewis has an extraordinary ability to feel like she’s telling you a story when she sings, and each song has its own catchy, distinct appeal.

Burn Your Fire for No Witness
Angel Olsen

Burn fire

It doesn’t get more raw than the new album by folk up-and-comer Angel Olsen, in her second release, who leaves everything out in the open in Burn Your Fire for No Witness. With some tracks, she serenades us with her haunting yet angelic voice, while others lean more towards a bigger indie-rock sound, providing a nice touch of diversity.

My Favourite Faded Fantasy
Damien Rice


This album might seem intimidating on the surface, with all but one track being longer than five minutes, but not listening to it for that reason would be doing yourself a great injustice. In his first release in eight years, Damien Rice reminds us why he might be the best male singer-songwriter working today. No one in my mind captures the mood associated with love and heartbreak better than Rice, and that’s exactly what every second of this album feels like. It’s chilling.

Stay Gold
First Aid Kit

Stay Gold

The ability of these Swedish sisters to harmonize is a real treat for the ears, and they take their talents to a whole new level with Stay Gold. The songs are so smooth and pleasant and it makes for a really soothing experience. Since their genre leans more towards folk, they’ll probably never be mainstream, but I’m sure their fans don’t mind.

Brill Bruisers
New Pornographers


The New Pornographers’ sixth album is an absolute triumph of indie pop. The band has never really confined itself to one particular sound, and Brill Bruisers is flawless evidence of that. it contains such an eclectic mix of hits, it’s startling. Each successive song sounds nothing like the last, and yet, the quality never lessens.

St. Vincent
St. Vincent

st vincent

Annie Clark does her own thing. But it’s her unique artistry that’s sometimes polarized listeners, even if she has always been met with critical acclaim. Her eponymous release is by far her most accessible, pop-oriented album, and it helped catapult her to mainstream stardom this year. The album is so good, and still holds firm to St. Vincent’s roots in experimental, psychedelic pop that will greatly appeal to the singer’s longtime fans.

Ryan Adams
Ryan Adams


Ryan Adams makes music as commonly as a regular person brushes their teeth. But it’s clear that he took a different approach and poured his soul into this year’s self-titled release. The result is a reflective, intimate and emotionally raw album that can’t help but speak directly to the listener’s heart.

Morning Phase

Morning Phase

My favorite type of music is when it’s melancholy and optimistic at the same time. And that’s exactly how I view Beck’s Morning Phase, which I have no problem labeling as a masterpiece. Listening to it evokes the type of emotion that makes you say, “The world can be a really trying place at times, but there’s no where else I’d rather be.” Each song, starting with the first note of the first track, is a kick to the gut in the best possible way. It’s somber and vibrant at the same time, and that’s what makes it the best album of 2014.