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

 

 

Concert List

 I’ve been going to live concerts since before I can remember. My parents took me along to Bluegrass and Irish festivals almost before I could say the word “music”  and going to live shows has sort of become a part of who I am.

I decided it’s probably a good idea to write down a list of every performer that I’ve seen (or can remember seeing). The only performers I didn’t list are from the Grand Ole Opry, which I’ve been to multiple times and can’t remember who all I’ve seen!

So here is my list of concerts

  • Hanson33 shows. This Time Around Tour 2000 (Louisville), Underneath Tour 2004 (Nashville & Louisville), Live & Electric Tour 2005 (Cincinnati & Bloomington), The Walk Tour 2007 (Chicago, Louisville, St. Louis, Indianapolis, Bloomington), The Walk Around the World Tour 2008 (Milwaukee, Louisville), Members Only Fan Club Concert 2009 (Tulsa), Use Your Soul Tour 2009 (St. Louis, Indianapolis, Detroit), Shout it Out Tour 2010 (Louisville), Musical Ride Tour 2011 (New Orleans), WZPL Jingle Jam (Indianapolis),  Members Only Fan Club Concert 2012 (Tulsa – two shows), Uncorked Festival 2013 (St. Louis), Anthem Tour 2013 (Cincinnati, Cleveland, Toronto), Roots and Rock and Roll Tour 2015 (Chicago – two shows), Members Only Fan Club Concert 2017 (Tulsa), Middle of Everywhere Tour 2017 (Nashville, Chicago), Members Only Concert MOE Tour 2017 (Chicago), String Theory (Washington D.C.), Indiana State Fair
  • M2M 
  • Ingram Hill – 4 shows
  • Locksley – 3 shows
  • HelloGoodbye
  • Steel Train
  • Sherwood
  • Rooney
  • Kate Voegele
  • Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers – 6 shows. 
  • Butch Walker – 2 shows
  • Matchbox Twenty
  • Phillip Phillips
  • The Veronicas
  • Keith Urban – 4 shows
  • Little Big Town
  • Kelly Clarkson – 4 shows
  • Maroon 5
  • Taylor Swift
  • Ed Sheran
  • Evanescence
  • Chevelle – 2 shows
  • Three Days Grace – three shows
  • Finger 11
  • Kenny Chesney
  • Gary Allen
  • LeAnn Rimes
  • Bryan White
  • Lila McCaan
  • Lori Morgan
  • Pam Tillis
  • Carlene Carter
  • Clay Aiken
  • Ben Jelen
  • Incubus
  • New Kids on the Block
  • No Doubt
  • Linkin Park
  • Kings of Leon
  • POD
  • Flyleaf – 2 shows
  • The Wreckers
  • Tyler Hilton
  • Jessica Harp
  • Alison Krauss
  • Great Big Sea – 4 shows
  • Cowboy Mouth – 5 shows
  • Blue October
  • Shinedown
  • Alter Bridge
  • Halestorm
  • Breaking Benjamin – two shows
  • Disturbed
  • Fuel
  • Staind – three shows
  • 3 Doors Down – two shows
  • Phil Vasser
  • Montgomery Gentry
  • Jewel
  • Gavin DeGraw
  • Joss Stone
  • The Fray
  • Thousand Foot Krutch
  • Creed
  • 12 Stones
  • Nickelback
  • Trapt
  • The Wilkinsons
  • Relient K
  • Audio Adrenaline
  • Jars of Clay
  • Stephen Curtis Chapman
  • Jennifer Knapp
  • LaRue
  • Michael W. Smith
  • Out of Eden
  • Amy Grant
  • Vince Gill
  • Point of Grace
  • Jaci Velasquez
  • Ryan Cabrera – 2 shows
  • Bonnie McKee
  • Flogging Molly
  • Paramore
  • Red Jumpsuit Apparatus
  • Sum 41
  • Meg & Dia
  • Lifehouse
  • Goo Goo Dolls
  • Colbie Caillat
  • Garth Brooks
  • Pam Tillis
  • Lorrie Morgan
  • Bon Jovi
  • Daughtry
  • Megan McCauley
  • Seether
  • Godsmack
  • Papa Roach
  • Hinder
  • Buckcherry
  • Motion City Soundrack
  • FUN
  • Avril Lavigne
  • Martina McBride
  • Lady Antebellum
  • Collin Raye
  • Loretta Lynn
  • Bill Monroe
  • Ricky Skaggs
  • Rachael Yamagata
  • Blessid Union of Souls
  • The Verve Pipe
  • Pat Green
  • Fitz and the Tantrums
  • Big Data
  • The Rolling Stones
  • Kacey Musgraves
  • Dixie Chicks
  • The Beach Boys
  • Carrie Underwood
  • Tim McGraw & Faith Hill
  • Michelle Branch
  • Garth Brooks
  • Billy Joel
  • The Eagles
  • Fleetwood Mac
  • Niall Horan
  • Maren Morris
  • Miranda Lambert

Album Review: Avril Lavigne (Self Titled)

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Avril Lavigne – Avril Lavigne

Before Taylor Swift and Miley Cyrus, there was Avril Lavigne, a tiny, teenaged, tie-wearing Canadian pop/punk princess who topped the charts with hits like “Complicated” and “I’m With You.”  Now, thirteen years later, Avril’s pushing thirty, recently married for the second time and desperately still trying to connect to today’s youth. And therein lies some of the problem with Avril Lavigne’s fifth, self-titled album (out November 5th).

Songs like “Rock and Roll” and “Bitchin’ Summer” keep the bratty, motherf***ing princess attitude and mimic earlier hits from two albums ago. And even though it’s catchy, lead single “Here’s to Never Growing Up” sounds like Nickelback-lite, probably because the song was co-written and produced by Nickelback lead singer and Mr. Lavigne himself, Chad Kroeger.

“Hello Kitty”, a weird tune that finds Avril rapping in Japanese and singing some of the worst lyrics ever written, should never, ever have been recorded, let alone made it on to an album. Do yourself a favor and skip this song entirely.

There are a few glimmers of hope, though – the duet with her husband, “Let Me Go” is a soaring piano ballad that sounds like something from an early Evanescence record. It’s easily the best song on the disc and has potential to be a huge hit. “Hush Hush”, “17” and “Give You What You Like” are also all really good songs on the album and prove that when Avril pushes herself artistically, she can really shine. Also worth a listen, an unlikely duet with Marilyn Manson called “Bad Girl.”

Like a lot of musicians these days, Avril has had some struggles with her record label, which may be why she’s shown very little artistic growth since her second (and best) album, Under My Skin. It seems like her label doesn’t quite know what to do with her, so they keep recycling the same kinds of tunes we’re used to hearing instead of releasing the good stuff. Trouble is, her fan base isn’t 15 anymore and they don’t want to hear Sk8ter Boi part 2, which is why she hasn’t truly had a hit since 2008. Maybe Avril should take her own advice from a popular song she penned for Kelly Clarkson and “take a risk, take a chance, make a change and breakaway.”

Album Review: Bangerz, by Miley Cyrus

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Album Review: Bangerz, Miley Cyrus

Bangerz: Something that radiates unbelievable swell or swag. (Source: urbandictionary.com)

And swag she does – Miley Cyrus’s new album Bangerz, her third post-Hannah Montana project, leans heavily on urban and hip hop stylings, courtesy of Atlanta based rap/hip-hop producer Mike Will Made It.  In fact, the entire direction of the album can pretty much be summed up in one line from her song “Do My Thang“: Oh yeah I’m a southern belle, I told ya’ll once before I get crazier than hell.” Surprisingly, crazy does not always equal bad on this year’s most talked about album.

If you can get past the über sexed up image of a former Disney starlet, aren’t bothered by songs peppered with profanity, drug use, mediocre vocal ability and some ridiculous lyrics, then there are a handful of tracks that are actually GOOD and worth listening to on this disc. The best cuts are the ones that don’t revolve around drugs and partying, but find Miley in a vulnerable state, wearing her heart on her sleeve. Songs like “Adore” and “My Darlin'” contain romantic musings and wistful nods to walking down the aisle (

I love lying next to you/I could do this for eternity/You and me/We’re meant to be in holy matrimony).  One has to wonder if most of the songs are an autobiographical representation of her failed relationship with Liam Hemsworth and how Miley’s dealing with the aftermath of an engagement gone wrong. Her second single “Wrecking Ball” is easily the best song on the album, but there are other standout tracks including the catchy Pharell produced “#GetitRight”, and “Drive.”

Bangerz musical influences mix together a throwback sound that’s reminiscent of early 90s hip hop, pop/rock and even country (“4×4” featuring Nelly). An unusual conglomeration of sounds, but strangely, they work here. And even though Miley’s not a gifted vocalist by any means, there are a few moments when you can hear something really good in her voice and wish she’d tap into that instead of the auto-tuned average pop performance found on most of the album.

No matter what you think of her “downward spiral,” Miley’s probably not really crazy, but embarking on a very carefully thought out publicity stunt involving the shedding of her clothes, twerking, tongues and foam fingers to put her back in the spotlight to boost album sales. Billy Ray doesn’t seem concerned about her, so maybe we should let her work her demons out – after all, she’s just being Miley.