Tuesday, 31 December 2019

My Top 19 Albums of 2019 (Part 4)

This is it, then. A pretty shitty year, all told, both on the world stage and closer to home. Still, we must press on and concentrate on the things that do still bring us joy. For me, that's my boy, a constant source of fun, pride and love. And music... always there, always something to cling onto in the wreckage. Here's the best of this year's offerings, in my humble opinion, with no obvious surprise at the top...

4. Craig Finn - I Need A New War

The Hold Steady released their first album in five years, Thrashing Thru The Passion, and a fine record it was too. However, their frontman appears to have transcended the trappings of his own band, and his solo albums continue to rise into another league altogether. I Need Another War was another great example of why Craig Finn is probably the best short story writer in contemporary rock. The Raymond Carver comparison still holds true.

Top Track: Blankets

The detective was expensive
But he thought it was something he could solve
Found her serving breakfast
In a cafe in the Skyway in St. Paul
When we got to the Twin Cities
I said man I know some songs about this place
When they swept up all the empties the parties always seemed like such a waste

3. Jenny Lewis - On The Line

Having said all that about Craig Finn, here's someone who can actually challenge him to that short story crown... and in this case, I guess she takes the prize. Another artist who has transcended her former band (the excellent Rilo Kiley) and continues to develop in new and exciting directions. She's more musical than Craig - shades of Tom Petty, Aimee Mann and even the Shangri-Las on this record - which is why she places one step higher. But it was a close call.

I had tickets to see Jenny Lewis this summer - my only gig of the year. Then I ended up having to move house and missed the gig. Dag-nabbit.

Top Track: On The Line

It used to be Bobby forever
We were together, day and night
He left me for a super-fan
Called Caroline, oh

Before you let her under your sweater tonight
Listen to my heart beating
On the line

2. Lukas Nelson - Turn Off The News And Build A Garden

Song of the year right here. The rest of the album was pretty bloody amazing too, showing a diversity of styles most country / Americana artists would struggle to display. All those years gigging with Neil Young, and his dad, have obviously paid off for Willie's boy. There's even a bit of Jeff Lynne in this record. Stylish and poppy - a difficult trick to pull off these days.

Top Track (song of the year!): Turn Off The News And Build A Garden

I believe that every heart is kind
Some are just a little underused
Hatred is a symptom of the times
Lost in these uneducated blues

I just want to love you while I can
All these other thoughts have me confused
I don't need to try and understand
Maybe I'll get up, turn off the news

Turn off the news and build a garden
Just my neighbourhood and me
We might feel a bit less hardened
We might feel a bit more free

Turn off the news and raise your kids
Give them something to believe in
Teach them how to be good people
Give them hope that they can see
Hope that they can see
Turn off the news and build a garden with me

1. Bruce Springsteen - Western Stars

My Top Three Bruce Springsteen Albums are, in ever-changing order: Born To Run, Nebraska and Tunnel of Love. Who's have thought that thirty-plus years after the most recent of those, he'd have delivered a challenger for the coveted Number Four position? But if you're gonna go draw new water from the well, choosing a well in Jimmy Webb's backyard is a masterstroke...

Top Track: Are you kidding me? I could sit here all night trying to work that one out. Here's this week's favourite...

Happy New Year, everyone. I'd like to hope 2020 will be better than 2019, but I've reached the age where I realise that's pretty unlikely. Still, humanity may yet prove me wrong.

Thank you to the good people who read this blog, who keep me company in the darkness. Your visits are always much appreciated. Be well.


  1. At last - someone else who rates Tunnel Of Love as one of Brooce's finest.

    I'm off now to give that Jenny Lewis album another spin and try and work out what I missed back in Spring/Summer

  2. Tunnel of Love has always been my number one Springsteen album. I also agree with you that Western Stars is a mighty fine return to form.
    Thanks for your many recommendations throughout the years. All the best in the New Year for you and your son.

  3. I'm just gonna latch onto the end of these comments to wish you a Happy New Year buddy.

  4. And a Happy New Year to you and yours from me!

  5. Nebraska at number 1, Tunnel of Love 2nd - even if it's just for "One Step Up" and "Valentine's Day". And I think I posted that somewhere before...

  6. Yes, pressing on and concentrating on the things that do still bring us joy is the way to go. Happy New Year Rol!

  7. Rol, Outside of Nebraska I have never considered myself a huge fan of Springsteen's, but even I recognize a good album when I hear it. A very worthy No. 1. I enjoyed your list immensely. Happy New Year!

  8. I like the joyfulness of Tucson Train. Sometimes that's what we need to get us through a long winter.

    Shame you missed Jenny Lewis' concert. You can find a few of the live versions on YouTube

  9. Bit late but Happy New Year Rol - I've been loving hanging out in my local HMV of late as the whole of the central aisle is now dedicated to vinyl and because of visiting the various blogs I am now far more aware of some of the albums on display mentioned above (although not yet bitten the bullet and made a purchase). Loving the artwork on the album covers and am pleased to see we are finding our way back from purely digital mediums.

    Great that Bruce has made a record at this stage in his career which has found such favour with his fans - Not an easy thing to pull off.


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