Monday, 2 January 2017

My Top Ten (Late) Albums of 2016 - Number 10

Every year it happens. As soon as I've decided on my Top Ten albums of the year, I start listening to something else that should have been in consideration. And then the new year stars and I start catching up on some of the records I've discovered in other people's year end lists, and damn, if a bunch of them aren't a whole lot better than the ones I had in mine. And every year, I wish I could roll back the clock and do my list over.

This year, I finally came up with an idea of how to deal with that: a second Top Ten, which will run throughout the next few months, wherein I can give some credit to the latecomers. They won't be featured in order of merit, just in order of discovery, and we may never know where they'd have ended up in the real countdown had I heard them sooner... but really, does it matter? All that really matters is I get to share some more cool tunes...

10. Kevin Devine - Instigator

I have featured Kevin Devine here before, but I only really knew one song by him (Guys With Record Collections) and I'll be honest, I'd pigeonholed him as a somewhat earnest, acoustic singer-songwritery type on the basis of that... so I really wasn't ready for the sound of his latest album. A younger, hipper work colleague kept banging on about him, saying how Instigator was his record of the year, so I thought I'd give it a go. I certainly didn't expect an album of pure, perfect power-pop that might even give Weezer a run for their money...

Magic Magnet gives you an idea of what to expect: guitars so chunky they could have elbowed their way out of a Silver Sun record, and singalong ba-ba-baaa choruses. Elsewhere, on Before You're Here, Devine fills the gap in my heart Fountains of Wayne left when they split up with some great storytelling and lyrical heft that goes way beyond the usual bubblegum thrills associated with power pop. Take No History as another example as New Yorker Devine describes the after effects of 9/11 more directly than I've heard before in a song...
The future was a plane through a skylight, over Tribeca at eight forty-five, 
My brother at a conference room table, watched the future rearrange all our lives, 
I was sleeping in her bed for the future, first in twenty and five miles away.
Her roommate knocked, he was a relative stranger,
'Kev, I need you to come out here, okay?' " Okay." 

The future was me drunk at my desk job, update the database to reflect the deceased, 
And if it's channeled as a digital graveyard, next to each name I typed a lowercase 'd'.
I was frightened by the face of the future, with habits of perpetual war. 
I called my father he said 'I know, I see it, I thought it made sense, I don't anymore.' 

The mosque on my corner, the firetrucks everywhere, 
The anger, the mourners, 
No history, it's dead in the air.
Best of all is Freddie Gray Blues, one of a seemingly endless number of songs I've heard recently tackling the issue of American cops killing young black men, but once again finding a new way to come at that subject...
When I’m talking these killer cop blues
I’m kinda talking my family to you
See, my dad was a cop
And his dad was a cop
And my uncles were cops
And my cousins were cops
I’m partly here because of cops
And I love all those cops
And I know not every cop
Is a racist, murdering cop
But this is bigger than the people I love
The system’s broken
Not breaking
It’s done


  1. I find the same problem every year Rol - in fact I have a post scheduled for Friday that features one of the albums I missed, except on this particular occasion it was my own stupid fault.
    I enjoyed these Kevin Devine tracks a great deal, not a name I'm familiar with, and the mere mention of Fountains of Wayne and Silver Sun in the same paragraph got me a little misty eyed.

    1. Yeah: those were the days...

      Glad you liked them, Swede.


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