Favorite Albums of 2016

There were some pretty good albums released in 2016. Here are my favorites for the year.

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Keith Urban – Ripcord
With each album, Keith Urban seems to move further and further from the country sound. Ripcord is no exception and infuses EDM with banjos and synth beats. There’s even  a collaboration with Pitbull on the track “Sun Don’t Let Me Down.” It may not be traditional country but it’s still a fun, upbeat pop-country album that’s perfect for listening to when driving around town on a sunny day.
Songs to download: Wasted Time; John Couger, John Deere & John 3:16; Habit of You; The Fighter; Break on Me and Blue Ain’t Your Color.

 

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Gwen Stefani – This is What the Truth Feels Like
The third solo studio album from No Doubt’s lead singer, This is What the Truth Feels Like is inspired by the break-up of her marriage to Gavin Rossdale. Heartbreak usually results in great music and Gwen delivers with a more personal album than her previous efforts. There are a couple of really bad tracks near the middle but for the most part a solid album that I’ve been listening to on repeat ever since it’s release in March.
Songs to Download: Misery; Make Me Like You; Truth; Used to Love You; Send Me a Picture; Me Without You

 

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Lacey Sturm – Life Screams
The first solo album from Flyleaf’s former lead singer  continues in the same style as her previous three albums with the band. Life Screams roars positively and loudly with lyrics of hope  screamed and sung over crunchy rock guitars and string arrangements. Worth the wait and should please any Flyleaf fan who preferred her style over their current lead singer.
Songs to Download: Impossible; The Soldier; Rot; You Are Not Alone; Life Screams

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Fitz and the Tantrums – Self Titled
I wasn’t sure that I liked this one the first time I heard it all the way through but some albums just have to grow on you. It’s a little slicker and a little more produced than their previous two efforts but every Fitz and the Tantrums album is different and that’s partially what makes them a great band. This self-titled CD has an 80s pop vibe that’s full of earworms. Check them out live sometime.
Songs to Download: Handclap; Complicated; Burn it Down; Get Right Back

 

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Kings of Leon – Walls
Back in 2008, you could not escape Kings of Leon. Use Somebody” was on the radio ALL THE TIME. They were a huge sensation over night although they’d been releasing music for years before mainstream caught on. Then the lead singer had alcohol problems, some birds pooped on a crowd of fans and the band released a couple of dud albums no one really liked. Then Walls happened. I resisted it at first because I figured it was terrible like the last two but after reading several glowing reviews, decided to listen and was pleasantly surprised. Not as good as Only By the Night but definitely a stand out album of 2016.
Songs to download: Waste a Moment; Reverend; Around the World; Find Me; Walls

 

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Miranda Lambert – The Weight of These Wings
Miranda Lambert has always seemed to make the kind of music she wants to make yet still manages to have commercial success and is one of the few women country radio will actually play. This double album comes after a much public divorce from Blake Shelton and is filled with personal and emotional songs about heartbreak, healing and moving on. There really isn’t a bad song and that’s saying a lot for a double album with twenty-four songs.
Songs to download: Vice; Highway Vagabond; Use My Heart; Tin Man; Keeper of the Flame; Six Degrees of Separation 

 

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Bruno Mars – 24K Magic
It’s been four years since Bruno Mars released an album of new music. Four years! It doesn’t seem that long because of the success of Uptown Funk and his memorable Super Bowl half-time performance but Bruno is back once again with his funky, throwback style. There are only nine songs on this album but it’s definitely quality stuff. IMO, Bruno is the Michael Jackson of our day.
Songs to download: 24K Magic; Chunky; Versace on the Floor; That’s What I Like

 

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Maren Morris – Hero
The BEST album of 2016. Like many country albums today, Hero blurs the line between country and pop but there are throwbacks to classic country on this one as well. It’s brilliant, catchy and the songs are full of great hooks that will have you humming them all day long.
Songs to download: My Church, Sugar, I Could Use a Love Song, 80s Mercedes, Drunk Girls Don’t Cry

 

 

2013 Grammy Awards Recap

The Grammy Awards are my favorite awards show all year – partly because I’m such a huge fan of music and partly because I enjoy picking the winners and seeing how many I get right. I’ve been watching the Grammys for as long as I can remember & still have several years in the late 90s taped on old VHS tapes. (Side note: I’m still bitter about Paula Cole and her hairy armpits robbing Hanson of the Best New Artist Grammy in 1998 – it was a tragic moment for a 14-year-old super fan.)

The past few Grammy Awards have just been so-so, but last night was one of the best I had seen in a long time. There were a few, good surprises, like Kelly Clarkson’s AMAZING album Stronger winning (and beating Fun, the favorite to win) for Best Pop Vocal Album. And as a long-time fan of the female-fronted rock band Halestorm, I was pleasantly surprised to see them win their first Grammy for Best Hard Rock/Metal performance.

The Black Keys had a fantastic performance and went on to win best Rock Album, best Rock Song and best Rock Performance for Lonely Boy. 

In the Country category, Little Big Town is FINALLY getting some recognition from the recording industry and stealing awards away from Lady Antebellum, who in my opinion, shouldn’t be winning them anyway. I am disappointed that Miranda Lambert lost to Zac Brown Band for the Best Country album, though.

The Grammys got it right by awarding Mumford and Sons’ Babel the Album of the Year and it’s refreshing to see a fantastic folk-rock band like Mumford and Sons winning in major categories as well as outselling Justin Beiber on the charts.

So let’s talk about the performances. Taylor Swift opened the show with We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together and while she sounded great, her performance was really quite baffling. Why she chose a stage get-up resembling something from Alice in Wonderland is beyond me, but it really just did not work. She should take a few cues from Kelly Clarkson, whose tribute to Carol King and Patti Page was simple and straight-forward but showed that if you’ve got the voice, you don’t need all the flashy gimmicks to go along with your performance. I believe KC could sing anything and it would sound amazing.

I’m not a fan of reggae, but the Bob Marley tribute with Bruno Mars, Rihanna, Sting and Ziggy and Damien Marley was a pretty fun time. Bruno Mars has been killing it lately with his songs and stint as a SNL host and I think his star is only going to get brighter.

Speaking of Rihanna, it was nice to see her do a stripped down performance for once. The song may not have been that exciting, but sometimes her vocals can get lost in her flashy performances. It was nice to be reminded that the girl can actually sing. Now if only she’d use her brain to ditch Chris Brown.

Let’s talk let-downs. Country wasn’t cool last night. Miranda Lambert’s duet with Dierks Bentley sounded weak and strained. Over You was one of the best Country songs last year, but the beautiful melody somehow got lost in the overpowering backing band. A real disappointment.

Carrie Underwood’s color-changing dress distracted everyone from her flawless performance, not to mention she had to stay in one spot throughout her medley of Blown Away/Two Black Cadillacs.

Frank Ocean’s performance was off-key and bland. His song, Forest Gump, sounded like a bunch of random ideas thrown together over a few piano chords. I do not get this guy at all.

While, the Lumineers easily have one of the catchiest and sweetest songs of the year,  they’re just not meant to play for big stadiums. Their style and sound works best in a theater or intimate club & while it’s great to see an indie act get some well-deserved recognition, I have a feeling they’re going to be a one-hit wonder.

I’m probably going to get a lot of flack for this, but Justin Timberlake’s new song is terrible. It conjures images of leisure suits, disco ball and the Bee Gees and I can’t help but think that if this song is the best thing he can come up with after a seven year hiatus from music, then he should probably stick to writing funny songs with Andy Sandberg for SNL skits.

All in all, though, it was a pretty good night of performances and well deserved winners. Only 364 days until the 2014 Grammys 😉