St. Paul & The Broken Bones

My Top Ten Albums of 2014

Title is self explanatory and besides that, I really don’t like to wait so we’ll just get right to it, shall we?  Plus I don’t fuck around with all that Casey Kasem countdown type shit.  I’ll give #1 to you right off the bat.  I’ll even throw in 5 extra albums so that makes it a Top 15 list.  Who else is going to give you that?  Nobody.

But first, some rules.  The albums had to be released in 2014.  I take the rankings directly from my last.fm listening charts, which my kids cannot dilute nor influence.  These are truly the albums I listened to the most in the year of 2014, whether I like it or not.  I will also include a playlist with a couple of my favorite songs off each album.  If you agree to these rules, come out of your corners, let’s shake hands, and get down to business.

1.  They Want My Soul by Spoon:  Are you kidding me?  A Texas rock band?  I’ve been a fan for just about as long as they’ve been around, which is a long time.  I listened to this album pretty much nonstop, driving 12 hours straight to get my kids home in time for the first day of school after our annual summer trip to Texas.  The album was released the very same day I left Texas for Bama and it was a life saver.  If a band ever got together in the studio and said “Hey, let’s make an album specifically for this fan, for this exact day of her life”, this would be that album for me.  I loved it on that horrific day and still can listen to it without skipping songs today.  And if you know me, that says a lot.

2.  Crosses by Crosses (†††):  Again, are you kidding me?  This is a side project of Chino Moreno, who normally is head honcho for the Deftones.  I love Chino Moreno, okay?  Let’s just get that out of the way.  But I’m not deaf and if I didn’t like his side project, I wouldn’t listen.  Chino has a way with lyrics that no one I’ve ever listened to has.  I’m a lyric whore, I’ve said it before, and he is my pimp, no doubt about it.  Every single one of his lyrics tops anything that Jane Austen ever wrote for Mr. Darcy and if you know me, that says a lot.  He will hate fuck you in one song and then make sweet, slow love to you in the next, cap it off with a wedding ring and beg you to have his babies.  Holy shit.

3.  Royal Blood by Royal Blood:  Debut album from the British rock duo Royal Blood.  Another one hit out of the park for me.  I could listen to this whole thing without stopping or skipping and that is rare for me.  Just good old rock and roll, nothing really new but they sound so damned fresh.  The songs are sexy as hell and I love their lyrics.  A few songs, I could swear the lyrics could have been written by Jack White.  Run, don’t walk, to listen to them.

4.  Ryan Adams by Ryan Adams:  I’ve been a fan of Ryan Adams ever since I first heard his cover of “Wonderwall”.  I know that’s not a long time for some of you diehards but since then, I have been devouring anything new the man puts out.  This whole album is just good.  It just is.  The man can rarely do wrong by me but this album will always be special to me.

5.  Do To The Beast by The Afghan Whigs:  The first album by the Afghan Whigs in over a decade, I was so excited to listen to this for the first time.  Although I didn’t appreciate the entire album, at least half of it is loved, and that’s more than I can ask for these days.

6.  Half The City by St. Paul & The Broken Bones:  My music blogger friend, Fran, posted a video of these guys and I was gone.  They are Birmingham boys and I wrote about seeing them here in concert in their hometown here.

7.  Lazaretto by Jack White:  I did not get to see Jack White in concert this year but I absolutely loved his new album, and then of course, this happened.

8.  La Gárgola by Chevelle:  I think this album also dropped the day I drove the 12 hours straight back to Bama.  Regardless, I hadn’t heard it yet and it blew me away.  This was my badass album of the year.  I mean, listen to “Take Out The Gunman” and you’ll either want to shoot something or get to a gym as quickly as possible.  This was my workout album of the year, for sure.  Chevelle’s lead singer, Pete Loeffler, is at his best when he goes from subdued and brooding with barely contained rage to completely unhinged and screaming the very next beat.  Check out “One Ocean” for a complete about face.  It’s a truly beautiful song and shows some range of what they can do when they’re not taking ass and kicking names.  Or kicking ass and taking names.  Pete can do whatever the hell he wants.  Don’t question him.

9.  Tremors by SOHN:  Tremors was my laid back, chill album of the year.  I would fall asleep to this album and that’s not a bad thing.  The lyrics are still there, still passionate and sexy and everything I look for but the whole thing just says “relax”.  Not typically my normal thing but I’m glad I found them.  Definitely look forward to seeing what they have up next.

10.  Strange Desire by Bleachers:  This was the debut album of the American indie band Bleachers and it instantly got to me the way The Neighbourhood’s album did last year.  Fresh sounding, great lyrics and songs.  “Rollercoaster” was definitely my summer jam and “Wake Me” makes my heart race like few songs do.

11.  Indie Cindy by Pixies:  I’m a huge Pixies fan but this one was quite the let down.  The only reason it’s here is because I listened to Blue Eyed Hexe so much, I think I broke the internet for a couple days after it was released.  It is a staple on my workout playlist.  It’s the Pixies, in one song.

12.  Versus by Emerosa:  The third album by the post-hardcore band, I hadn’t really listened to anything by them before.  They can sound very pop-rocky much like Framing Handley, but there’s something else to them.  My favorite tracks from this album showcase that difference, the depth.  My favorite tracks from this album aren’t the typical pop rock ones but the ones that bring on the angst and anger for which I’m such a sucker for.

13.  X by Ed Sheeran:  I still don’t know what to do with this guy, to be honest.  I like him but he did that thing with Taylor Swift and that’s just hard for me to get past.  He’s adorable and he has a wicked sense of humor so a couple of the songs from this album boosted the album into my year favorites.

14.  Hesitant Alien by Gerard Way:  Gerard is the former lead singer of the band My Chemical Romance and I was devastated when they broke up a couple years ago.  MCR released a greatest hits album this year and it was actually #2 on my album chart but I didn’t include it because it was a greatest hits album.  Gerard Way can do no wrong in my musical book.  The king of angst himself, I relate to his songs probably more than I ever have any other writer/singer.  Justin from Blue October is the only other one who can come close.  I didn’t like the whole album but I liked enough of it that it’s a success for me.  It has all the quirkiness of Gerard and enough of MCR that makes me feel warm and gooey inside.  I hope he keeps putting good stuff out.

15.  Bed On Fire by Butch Walker:  A bit of a cheat  because this is actually a single, the album doesn’t come out until February, I believe.  This showed up on my last.fm charts as an album and I’m listening to this single constantly so I’ll include it, even as a cheat.  Butch lost his father last year and although it’s his right to mourn his father for however long it takes, I was hoping he’d get back to his normal style of writing soon.  Listening to Butch under normal circumstances alternately makes me want to fill the biggest glass I can find with wine and sit in front of a huge ass fireplace buck naked or get naked after drinking an insane amount of hard liquor and climb onto a bar somewhere to dance in protest over getting older.  Either way, I’m naked and at this time of year, that’s not a good thing.  Trust me.  I haven’t seen him in concert yet but this happened this year.

Honorable Mention, Black Widow by In This Moment:  I was editing this for the final time before publishing and realized there are no women on this list, which isn’t too surprising.  I have a hangup about most girl bands, women singers, etc.  I just relate to males more musically but I was shocked that In This Moment didn’t appear.  I listen to them a lot, especially while working out at the gym.  The lead singer, Maria Brink, is a complete and total badass.  She can sing beautiful notes in a breathtaking ballad and then scream louder and fiercer than any metal dude out there today.  Also, her lyrics are amazing.  Chick’s been through some shit.  I’d love to know her.  Check them out.

I hope your musical year was as good as mine was.  Some years it seems slim pickings but this year was actually a goldmine as far as good albums go.  I hope you find a few that you like in this list.  If you discovered a band or album you love this year that’s not on this list, please let me know!

Concert Review: St. Paul & The Broken Bones

I have resided in Birmingham, Alabama for the last six years yet I first heard of a local Birmingham band named St. Paul & The Broken Bones from a friend who lives in New Jersey.  True story.

My friend posted this video and I instantly fell in love with the lead singer, Paul Janeway, who looks as unassuming as a Macy’s shoe clerk but has the soul of Otis Redding when he opens his mouth to sing.

 

I eagerly waited for their first full length album to be released and I was not disappointed in “Half The City”.  In the meantime, the band was building up quite a following, appearing on every late night talk show around, and stunning people with their sound, which is really nothing new but very refreshing in this age of computer generated music and generic, recycled lyrics.

I got to experience this band’s vintage yet new sound and feel on November 13th when I had the privilege of seeing St. Paul & The Broken Bones play a sold out show at the historic Alabama Theatre.  I had bought tickets in a brutal online battle, which led the band to announce a second show on November 14 and it quickly sold out also.  Birmingham was very excited to have the hometown band back, it seemed.

E and I arrived at the show early and were very surprised by the crowd in attendance.  It was a much older crowd, for the most part, than we are used to at concerts.  We could have easily been going to see a Statler Brothers concert on a Sunday afternoon, judging by the crowd.

We were seated in the upper balcony, which didn’t afford a great view but again, I was just happy to have tickets.  I settled in with a beer and we waited.

Suddenly, an ordinary looking young man wearing jeans and a red hoodie with “Roll Tide” scrawled across the front appeared at the microphone.  No one recognized him.  He then said “Hi, I’m Paul of The Broken Bones” and then everyone came alive.  Paul, by the way, was named after Paul “Bear” Bryant, the greatest coach (so far) in Alabama football history.  Also, I would be completely remiss here if I didn’t type in all caps “ROLL TIDE”.

Paul introduced a friend of his who would open up the show.  To be honest, I can’t even remember the guy’s name but he was from Oklahoma and really good.  It was just him, his guitar and an attached harmonica.  He was personable and funny with his short stories in between songs and didn’t overstay his welcome.

But the crowd was ready to see their hometown boys.  Paul got emotional a couple of times, telling the crowd his grandmother was in the audience, seeing the band live for the first time.  He also said he had seen B.B. King and Tom Waits play in the same theatre, had watched Christmas movies there also (we’re taking our kids to a Christmas movie marathon there in just a couple weeks) and now he and his band were playing two sold out shows in his hometown theatre.  It was truly moving to see him living his dream on stage.

The band performed the entire “Half The City” album plus a few covers, including David Bowie’s Moonage Daydream and Radiohead’s Fake Plastic Trees.  The covers were distinctly St. Paul and if you didn’t know the lyrics, you probably would never have known they weren’t their own songs.

My favorite cover of the night was their closing song.  It is also my favorite Otis Redding song. Here is a video of that exact performance:

 

Would I shell out more of my own bucks to see this band live again?  Absolutely.  Hopefully, the next album will be out before we know it and they’ll come on back home to perform again.

Here’s their album “Half The City” on Spotify, for your listening pleasure.

Spotify Survivor: New Music On My Starred Playlist

Some of you know I religiously check out the New Releases on Spotify every Tuesday night.  This sounds like a lot of work if you think about all the new releases from every genre that’s released every week but it’s pretty easy for me and really doesn’t take longer than around 30 minutes.

I’m a speed listener, if you will.  I know within a few seconds of listening to a song if I’m going to like it or not.  I listen to the first few seconds of a song then skip to somewhere around the middle and listen for a few seconds.  I then make a decision on whether or not that song deserves to be placed on my “Starred” playlist for further exploration later.

Don’t preach to me that I’m missing out on a lot or that I’m not a music purist because I don’t buy into the whole “album as a concept” philosophy.  There are a few exceptions where the whole album as a concept thing has worked and actually made sense and I’ve respected and liked those albums much more for it but those instances are few and far between.

Side rant or as my husband calls it, “Look!  Something Shiny”!:  I think music snobbery/bullying is at a peak right now.  I’ve actually been called narrow minded because I didn’t want to listen to some bearded dude’s wrist slasher of an album which he made all by himself in a secluded log cabin in Bumfuck, Idaho using only tin cans, string he made himself from squirrel innards, a blank cassette and a boombox.

Bad music is bad music and I don’t have time for it.  Listening to a song I instantly don’t like another dozen times will not warm me up to it.  Also, if a song title includes the words “truck”, “dog”, “trailer” or “badonkadonk”, I don’t even listen.  Trace Adkins is totally fucked based solely on that criteria.  And if you’ve ever written a song that included those words, I say to you, sir or madam:  Fuck you and stop making the collective South look like a bunch of stupid ass wipes.

I’m actually not in a bad mood.  I promise.

I realize that music is very personal.  That song you absolutely love, I may loathe with a level of hatred not known to man ever before and vice versa but I happen to think I have a pretty broad range of musical interests.  I have everything from Mozart to Slayer in my music library.  The concerts I have seen or will see this year range from St. Paul & The Broken Bones to Rob Zombie.  I love a very well made country song.  Well, ones that don’t include the words truck, dog, trailer or badonkadonk.

With all that said, when I add a new song to my Starred playlist, I give it a few days.  Most do not prove themselves worthy to become a regular fixture in my life so they are deleted and banished to my music graveyard forever, God rest their souls.

I listen to a lot of music.  A lot.  You would be shocked if I broke it down.  I thought it’d be fun to go back through the last few months of my Spotify listening records and make a playlist of new releases or at least recent releases that survived culling and were not voted off the island.

 

These songs won’t be for everyone but I’m betting if you’re friends with me, you’ll gain a few new favorites yourself.  Let me know in the comments if I introduced you to your new favorite or if I introduced you to an artist you’ve never heard before.  If you’re that crazy bearded dude with the squirrel innards, just go away.  I hear Trace Adkins is really lonely.