Monday, December 30, 2019

Favorite Songs of 2019

Hello Sunshine - Bruce Springsteen - Simply one of my favorite songs by Springsteen of all time. The only song I can remember that got me emotional on first listen. Multiple times. Don't know why. The song is perfectly crafted and built, layers building on each other.

I'd Do It All Again (Christmas Moon) - Chicago - Like Hello Sunshine, I got emotional on first listenn to this song. Not as many times, but it hits all the feels. Lou Pardini sings lead. Bossa nova complete with shuffle drumming and piano embellishments? This song had me in the first measure. Simply a gorgeous song. Pardini's voice is perfect for this kind of song, and the horns just layer themselves with him, perfectly in the pocket with tasteful accents, especially as they re-enter after the piano solo. Goose bump song. A new jazz standard for others to hear and sing? You betcha. Not sure who plays the piano solo, but man is it good. Lots of Christmas music reminds me of childhood. This is one of those tunes where the vibe is that of adults in love. This is the song you'd have playing over scenes of a movie in which the couple frolic in the snow, fall down while ice skating, and snuggle up together in an open horse-drawn wagon in Central Park. Loughnane's muted trumpet is the icing on this song. In addition--and this doesn't happen too often in Christmas songs--this is the song you can easily see being played for senior citizens, as they look back on their lives. Only two songs this year made me emotional on first listen (and sometimes subsequent listens), and this is one of them. The other: Hello Sunshine by Bruce Springsteen.

I Was Made of You - Alice Cooper - If Welcome 2 My Nightmare set the stage for all the legacy rock music I'd listen to in 2019, then this opening track to that album sets the stage for the fantastic collection of songs from this 2011 album. Dramatic, bold, slow simmering are all words I'd use to describe this album. The auto-tune is odd at first, but Cooper only uses it to remind folks he's still got good singing chops. The song builds and builds until Steve Hunter's guitar solo soars over the music. I can just imagine this opening an Alice Cooper show.

Fourteen Gears - Midland - All the songs on Let It Roll are great. While I was inspired to write a novel by "Mr. Lonely," (a great song complete with the singer calling out the steel guitar solo just like all great rock songs do), Fourteen Gears is probably my favorite from this album. It sits perfectly in that late 1980s/early 1990s country renaissance anchored by Garth Brooks, Brooks and Dunn, and all the other acts I listened to while frequently country bars in college. The chord progression actually makes it feel like an outtake from Springsteen's Western Stars.

California Summer Song - Tesla - A pitch-perfect slice of summer coming out of your speakers. You can "see" the video in your mind as you listen: beaches, surf, convertibles, young love, fires on the beach at sundown. How is this tune not more popular?

In and Out of Love - Perfect Plan - The first of two discoveries early in 2019 of bands that take the classic rock mold as a template and make some great new music. This tune takes that mold and updates it. Sure, In and Out of Love sounds like it should have come from a 1980s teen movie, but it's much more musically involved than that. The bass line chugs along, the harmonies are great, and lead singer Kent Hilli easily holds his own against any of the OG singers. This band is from Sweden, so I don't know if they ever tour in America, but I will happily and eagerly by a ticket.

Hurt - One Desire - Where Perfect Plan is a hard rock band, One Desire skews to the hair metal side of things. Their forefathers are Asia, Journey, Dream Theater, and Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Lead singer André Linman has a powerful voice that soars over the head-bopping driving music. The guitar solo by Jimmy Westerlund starts in a minor chord then provides a nice, melodic solo that would have have 80s teenagers raising their fists in triumph. And this band knows dynamics.

Always and Forever - Whitesnake - "Shut Up and Kiss Me" is the lead single from Whitesnake's new album is a perfect fist-pumping, head-bopping, driving with the windows down song, but it's the mid-tempo  "Always and Forever" that captured my heart on first listen. It's basically the main song from a 1980s teen movie directed by John Hughes, the kind that would play as a montage when the students of a high school from all social strata--the jocks, the cheerleaders, the nerds, the emos--come together to decorate the gym for the big end-of-school dance. Yup.You can hear it now, can't you? Doesn't mean it's not a fantastic song.

Here I Am - Jason Scheff - I could be tempted to select "Wonderful Day" as my favorite from Scheff's new album, but as it's basically a Chicago song (with brass), I'm going with the title track. Produced by Rascal Flatt's Jay Demarcus, the album showcases Scheff's first solo album since 1997's Chauncey. He sounds great on this song, especially on the first chorus. Really enjoy this song, and it could show up on any adult contemporary radio station across the nation.

Find Your Own Way Home - REO Speedwagon - This one arrived late in the year, just prior to Christmas Music All the Time. REO's Kevin Cronin's voice sounds fantastic on this mid-tempo power ballad (is that a trend?) and the rest of the band hasn't lost a step. At the time of its release in 2007, it had been eleven years since their last album. This song, with its lyrics of redemption, really play well as sung by an older, legacy rock band. Chord progressions are great, as is the bass line underneath, and the tasteful deployment of castanets.

Disintegrate - Def Leppard -  This instrumental track from 1999's Euphoria really got me this year. My son has been expanding his collection of Leppard's albums, and he got this in early summer. On first listen, I kept waiting for the vocals to start, then was happily surprised when none came. Lead guitarists Phil Collen wrote this tune. It has a bit of that 90s-era electronica laced throughout a driving rock rhythm. On first hearing the album, this was the only song I listened to twice before moving on to the next track.

Here's a link to my favorite albums of 2019

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