Wednesday, March 29, 2017

McQ's Super Prolific Singles Artists Of 1967 Shout Out

Okay, we're at that pont where we are going to start counting down our favorite singles of 1967 and 2015 along with our favorite albums of 2015.

But before we do, I want to give a quick shout out to three acts who were just so off-the-charts prolific and consistently great in 1967 that I simply had to cut off how many songs of theirs I included in our final 1967 singles countdown lest they eat up near half the spots and leave many other great artists completely acknowledged.

I am, of course, talking about The Beatles, The Doors, and The Jimi Hendrix Experience, each of whom released not one but two full-length albums in 1967, and some historically famous singles to boot.

For the best sense of how great these artists we're in 1967, just check out this videos and spotify links for the singles I left out of my countdown - the volume and average quality level is jaw dropping.


The Crystal Ship

People Are Strange

Soul Kitchen

Moonlight Drive

Back Door Man

When The Music's Over


Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

With A Little Help From My Friends

Hello Goodbye

Baby, You're A Rich Man

The Fool On The Hill

When I'm Sixty Four

Lovely Rita

The Magical Mystery Tour

All You Need Is Love


Stone Free

Red House


Manic Depression

Castles Made Of Sand

Hey Joe

Love Or Confusion

If 6 Was 9

I Don't Live Today

Bold As Love

Are You Experienced?

Monday, March 27, 2017

McQ's #68 Album Of 2015 - 25 - Adele

The mega platinum follow up to her megaplatinum break-out album 21, Adele's 25 can be neatly summarize as more of the same as 21, but less - much, much less.  

On near every level - lyrical themes, vocal styling, orchestration, song sequencing and pacing - 25 seems determined to capture lightning in a bottle a second time out, but whereas 21 was powered by the sincerity of the genuine heartbrake Adele was going through during that album's creation, 25 comes off as a calculated and insincere attempt to reproduce that moment, and the material is all the worse for it.

That's not to say that there aren't some good songs on this album, or that the production isn't first rate, or that Adele is in poor voice, but anyone who hasn't already heard 25 should knowgoing in that the thrills are far fewer this time around.

Opener Hello was a huge hit striving for the same bigness of Rolling In The Deep, but it just comes off as bombastic and overwrought to me, and several of the ballads, especially When We Were Young, Love In The Dark, and All I Ask, play treacly and bland.

Better are I Miss You, which also plays to Adele's hugeness of voice but has much more emotional urgency to it than Hello, Send My Love (To Your New Lover), which successfully hits the quirkier, bouncier second track vibe occupied by Rumour Has It on 21, the 60s flavored, Spanish guitar accented torch song Million Years Ago, and my favorite track, the rousing closer Sweetest Devotion.

But again, however professional, well sung, or well-produced 25 may be,  the air of crass studio calculation hangs over every note.  Fans of monster-voiced, female British belters would be far better served checking out Florence And The Machine's not great but more stylistically daring minor comeback How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful, which will finished much higher in our 2015 year-end rankings.

Status: Mild Recommend

Track Listing:
1. Hello - 6
2. Send My Love (To Your New Lover) - 7
3. I Miss You - 7 
4. When We Were Young - 6 
5. Remedy - 7
6. Water Under The Bridge - 7 
7. River Lea - 7
8. Love In The Dark - 6
9. Million Years Ago - 8
10. All I Ask - 6 
11. Sweetest Devotion -  9 
Intangibles - Below Average 

Here's the official videos for 25's opening two tracks - Hello and Send My Love (To Your New Lover).

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

McQ's #69 Album Of 2015 - COMPTON: A SOUNDTRACK BY DR. DRE

It's been a long, influential haul since rap's first billionaire and quite possibly its most legendary producer released his last album, 1999's 2001.

In the interim, Dr. Dre has helped jump start or further the careers of many of the genre's most iconic talents, from Eminem to 50 Cent, The Game to more recent proteges like Anderson Paak, Whiz Kalifa and Kendrick Lamar, not to mention launching a monstrously successful celebrity headphone enterprise in Beats and the streaming service Tidal, both since sold to Apple for beaucoup dollars. So yeah, the doctor has been one busy man.

The only thing he hadn't been able to do up until 2015 was complete his next album.

For years, the studio perfectionist toiled intermittently between producing stints on planned third release Detox.  Fan anticipation grew and grew, often stoked by Dre's own plugs in featured verses on other artist's tracks or by actual dropped Detox singles, most notably the Eminem-fronted I Need A Doctor, which became the biggest hit of Dre's career.  But all that pent-up excitement was gradually dashed by 2014, when whispers began to circulate that Dre had decided to scrap the project.

In its place, he dove hastily (at least by his own glacial work-pace standards) into Compton, a new collection of songs inspired and informed by his work on the N.W.A. biopic Straight Outta Compton, and lo and behold, in a short manner of time he had it ready for release in conjunction with the film.

Featuring turns from seemingly dozens of Dre's career collaborators, from the aforementioned Eminem and The Game, to other hip-hop luminaries including Ice Cube, Snoop Dog, Jill Scott, John Connor, Justus, BJ The Chicago Kid, King Metz, and Xzibit, it's a veritable who's who of gangsta / west coast rap and many make memorable contributions, though it's probably the youngest contributors, Kendrick Lamar and Anderson Paak, who shine brightest.

But the most interesting thing about Compton - the almost comically dated, Bill Kurtis sampling intro aside -  is how contemporary the whole affair sounds.

Never one to linger on his past laurels, what Dre has delivered here is no G-Funk encore, but rather a head-first dive into the styles and sounds of hip-hop today. For the most part, Compton was met with glowing reviews, and while it continues to grow on me and at some later date I may view this album in a much higher light, at present I can only give Compton a mild recommend.

To me, it feels like in chasing the contemporary sounds, in trying to keep up with the kids, Dre's lost a bit of himself in the process, especially with respect to the beats,  and in conversations I've had with friends and other long-time fans, I know that I am not alone in this thinking.

What emerges ultimately then is a very professional, stylistically expansive, workman-like album that will probably have tremendous appeal to the younger generation of hip-hop fans because it's so in-step with the times, but that may leave many older fans hoping for more of that old-skol NWA power-crunch or Chronic-styled super-funk a bit underwhelmed, if not straight-up disappointed.

For me, the material that works best has little to do with Dre's traditional Gangsta posturing, and more to do with where his head is at now regardng his ongoing creative process.  And even though in one way my favorite track on the album It's All On Me plays like a story-beat-by-story-beat synopsis of Straight Outta Compton the movie, what emerges most in the song is the unrelenting pressure and duty this top flight content creator feels to the huge pool of artists who remain dependent on him to keep their own careers going. Other tracks like All In A Day's Work touch on similar issues.

For those wanting harder-hitting grooves, the nasty One Shot One Kill featuring John Conner and Snoop is definitely your best bet. I also liked Satisfiction and the Anderson Paak-led Animals.

On the flip-side, I hate Loose Cannons, a gratuitous descent into Kim-styled woman-in-peril theatrics combined with a cheesy cliche Goodfellas-styled burial scene.  Unlike Kim or maybe Cube's You Can't Fade Me, Loose Cannons possesses none of those two tracks top-flight musical artistry or genuine personal connection to make the rampant misogyny in any way worth processing.

But my biggest issue with Compton is of a more general nature.

I just wish Dre hadn't gone so out of his way to sound current and had instead dug in his stylistic heels in a curmudgeonly way, for while hip-hop as message will never lack for content, especially in this racially charged Trump-era we've entered, hip-hop as music has a real beat problem right now.

So many of the present instrumental trends in the genre, while at times interesting and clearly sorting through the possibilities of some new technologies, are just so bland and lacking in punch when compared to what's come before, that sadly, at least for me, in embracing today's sounds so fully, this most dynamic and exciting of hip hop producers has allowed too much of today's blandness into his sound as well, and every time I listen to Compton, though I do enjoy many moments (this is in no way a bad album), the relative blandness of the beats on Comptom compared to Dre's past body of work is always my enduring final impression.

Status: Mild Recommend

Cherry Picker's Best Bets: It's All On Me, One Shot One Kill, Satisfiction, Animals

Track Listing:
1. Intro - 7
2. Talk About It - 7
3. Genocide - 6
4. It's All On Me - 8
5. All In A Day's Work - 7
6. Darkside/Gone - 6
7. Loose Cannons - 3
8. Issues - 7
9. Deep Water - 7
10. One Shot One Kill - 8
11. Just Another Day - 7
12. For The Love Of Money - 6
13. Satisfiction - 7
14. Animals - 8
15. Medicine Man - 7
16. Talking To My Diary - 7
Intangibles - Average to slightly low

There are no official videos for any of the songs from Compton presently available. 

Monday, March 13, 2017

McQ's #70 Album Of 2015 - B'LIEVE I'M GOIN DOWN - Kurt Vile

As its contradictory cover photo and inner sleeve artwork imply, Kurt Vile's I B'lieve I'm Goin Down is an album with two primary goals that would seem, on initial impression, to be at cross-purposes; create a set of songs with the low-key, homespun, hanging-on-the-front-porch intimacy of 2011's primarily acoustic Smoke Ring For My Halo, but also give those songs the nuanced, highly processed studio work over of 2013's heavier, more psychedelic Wakin' On A Pretty Daze.

And on the surface, Vile appears to succeed.

This is unquestionably a collection of laid-back songs that sounds, on first listen, like you hearing it seated in that open chair next to Kurt on the cover, but which upon closer examination couldn't even exist without that plethora of distortion pedals and gear depicted in the album's inner sleeve artwork.

Unfortunately, while Vile does attain his overall stylistic goals, this is a record that only triumphs in the second arena.

I cannot say enough good things about the quality of the production on this album and the fascinating, subtle, wonky touches, but it is all in the service of the of some of the laziest, most lyrically insipid songs Vile (or frankly anyone I've listened to regularly in recent memory) has written.

While the album has no goofy laughter, it's not much of a stretch to say that otherwise many of I B'lieve I'm Goin Down's lyrical passages hit with the same stoned-out "Hey Bro," intellectual anti-wallop of a Beavis and Butthead conversation.

There are a few exceptions. Lost My Head There is a forthright, genuine attempt by Vile to deal with some personal anger-management demons, and best song Pretty Pimpin, while intentionally silly, just works on hitting a relatable moment of positive self-evaluation we've all experienced a few times in our life in a charming, offhand way.

But aside from that, what develops over most of B'lieve I'm Goin Down's twelve song run is one of the most schizophrenic listening experiences of 2015, dragged down by the unrelenting low energy of the music and the barely trying lyrics, but constantly elevated by the exceptional studio work.  If I were judging this album purely on song quality, it would end up second-to-last in our rankings, but because of that production work, I've moved the album up several notches in our year-end assessment.

So while I would still direct listeners checking out Vile for the first time to the much better Smoke Ring and/or Wakin', from Lost My Head There's killer coda, to Stand Inside's awesome electric guitar and piano accents, from Kidding Around's ethereal backing vocals to Wild Imagination's gorgeous closing vibes - I B'lieve I'm Goin Down is an album well worth hearing for the production and arrangement touches alone, no matter how limited the songs.

Status: Mild Recommend

Cherry Picker's Best Bets: Pretty Pimpin', Dust Bunnies, Stand Inside, Wild Imagination

Track Listing:
1. Pretty Pimpin - 9
2. I'm An Outlaw - 7
3. Dust Bunnies - 8
4. That's Life Tho (Almost Hate To Say) - 6
5. Wheelhouse - 5
6. Life Like This - 6
7. All In A Daze Work - 6
8. Lost My Head There - 7
9. Stand Inside - 7
10. Bad Omens - 7
11. Kidding Around - 7
12. Wild Imagination - 8
Intangibles - Slightly Low

Here are the official videos for Pretty Pimpin' and Life Like This, and a live in-studio performance of one of the album's other better tracks Dust Bunnies.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

McQ's #71 Album Of 2015 - I WASN'T BORN TO LOSE YOU - Swervedriver

Returning in 2015 with their first record of new material in over fifteen years, UK shoegaze act Swervedriver delivers an album that seems sure to delight their small but dedicated fanbase.

Always one of the warmest and hardest-rocking bands to emerge out of the genre's late-80s/early 90s golden era, Swervedriver hits all of their signature touchstones on I Wasn't Born To Lose You - the wildly varied, inventive guitar tones, the driving, jangly riffs, and tons of lyrics about driving in cars - and it's a solidly crafted record, but one that doesn't add up to much more than a pleasant surface listen for me.

Much of this is just a reflection of my personal relationship with shoegaze - a genre I've consistently liked, but rarely loved - but some is directly related to the band.

Compared to most other shoegaze acts, the band's mid-range, male-only vocals, though by no means bad, tend to lack the more hypnotic pull of peers like My Bloody Valentine, Ride and Lush or recent acts like School Of Seven Bells.

There is also a bit of clunkiness to some of the album's harder rocking songs, especially Setting Sun and Red Queens Arms Race.

But those limitations aside, there is still much to appreciate about I Wasn't Born To Lose You, some of those experimental guitar tones are downright inspired, and the album does boast a few tracks that rise above the general swirl.

Autodidact is a nifty, propulsive, jangly opener, lead riff-heavy single Deep Wound is a first-rate, straightforward rocker, For A Day Like Tomorrow is yet another 2015 track that obtains its glory mostly through an extended, beautifully orchestrated instrumental denouement, and then there's the album's one near-masterpiece, English Subtitles, a pysch-rock tour-de-force that achieves an almost Eight Miles High-level of vocal and instrumental grandeur and is without question one of my favorite tracks of the year.

Status: Mild Recommend

Cherry Picker's Best Bets: Autodidact, For A Day Like Tomorrow, English Subtitles, Deep Wound

Track Listing:
1. Autodidact - 8
2. Last Rites -7
3. For A Day Like Tomorrow - 7
4. Setting Sun - 6
5. Everso - 7
6. English Subtitles - 9
7. Red Queen Arms Race - 6
8. Deep Wound - 8 -
9. Lone Star - 6
10. I Wonder? - 6
Inangibles - Slightly Low

Here is the official video for Deep Wound and I believe stylistically similar fan-created videos for my other two favorite tracks from the album Autodidact and the glorious English Subtitles.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

McQ's #72 Album Of 2015 - SHACKLE'S GIFT - Zun Zun Egui

Shackle's Gift is the at times dynamic second release from the now defunct Bristol, England-based multicultural jam band Zun Zun Equi.

Formed in 2008 after a chance meeting between Mauritian vocalist/lead guitarist Kushul Gaya and Japanese keyboardist Yoshino Shigihara who had both recently expatriated to Bristol, the band's music is an unpredictable, propulsive polyrhythmic stew of various international genres - tropicalia, afrobeat, psychedelia, funk,  Ethiopian Jazz - not that dissimilar from the music of much older American acts like The Dave Matthews Band or Poi Dog Pondering, but harder hitting.

And like those bands, Zun Zun Egui is an exceptionally talented collection of musicians (Gaya's guitar fills, in particular, are impressive), but a collection whose music is constantly toeing that very fine jam-band line between pyrotechnic transcendence and outright cheese.

For the first half of Shackle's Gift, transcendence clearly wins out.

Opener Rigid Man kicks things off with a rollicking, afro-beat-driven start, then after the decent African Tree, we hit the album's two best tracks, the slow, punishing, almost industrial-flavored Ruby, which really builds up a lot of internal tension, and the earnest I Want You To Know, which concludes with a weird, extended, spiky guitar outro that for my money is the best moment of the entire album.

But right after I Want You To Know comes the well-meaning but tedious Soul Scratch, a song that should have served as a nice change of pace after all the pyrotechnics before but instead just brings the whole affair down, and after that point, that undercurrent of Aaron Bruno AWOL Nation-type cheesiness that lies latent in all of Gaya's vocals rises to the surface, and aside from decent closer City Thunder, which gets to the heart of the band's sense of dislocation, the back half of the album never fully recovers.

Still for the first half of this record alone and the band's interesting, unpredictable sound, Shackle's Gift is well worth checking out.

And I'm seriously P. O.'d at Coachella for never booking these guys before they broke up - this is a style of music that screams to be heard live.

Status: Mild Recommend

Cherry Pickers Best Bets: Rigid Man, Ruby, I Want You To Know, City Thunder

Track Listing:
1. Rigid Man - 8
2. African Tree - 7
3. Ruby - 8
4. I Want You To Know - 8
5. Soul Scratch - 5
6. Tickle The Line - 6
7. The Sweetest Part Of Life - 6
8. Late Bloomer - 6
9. City Thunder - 7
Intangibles - Average To Slightly Low

Here are videos for the tracks Ruby and African Tree.