Notes, February 2020 Edition

Here’s some music that I’ve been listening to, thinking about, or discussing lately.

MCIII, by Mikal Cronin. This is a common path for new music for me – one song by an artist will appear on the soundtrack to a movie or show that I like, and since I tend to pay a lot of attention to the soundtrack choices in visual storytelling, I’ll give them a deeper listen. The songs that really stand out when listened to in that way then entice me to pick up an entire album and maybe an entire discography (thank you, Spotify). That’s how I found Mikal Cronin, and he’s great. I can hear his influences in both British Invasion-style music, the 90’s alt scene he clearly grew up through, and a lot of singer-songwriter influences. Despite the clarity of these impacts, he has a very original sound and very emotional resonance.

Volume 1, by The Traveling Wilburys. I’m absolutely ashamed to say that I was sleeping on the Traveling Wilburys. Despite Tom Petty being one of my favorite artists of all time, and definitely loving to various degrees the other members of this supergroup, it just really slipped through the cracks. I vaguely knew of the existence of this project but had never really gone deep into it. Now I have, and it was like coming home. I miss Tom Petty dearly and hearing what to me was “new” music with his voice was wonderful. Just because something was popular doesn’t mean everyone knows about it, and of course this project was over 30 years ago, so plenty of people today might not know how good this is. Give it a listen. If you like, you can also listen to their second and only other album, titled – hilariously – Volume 3. George Harrison was a prankster.

Revolution Radio, by Green Day. Yes, Green Day two months in a row. They’re one of my favorite bands, and a few days ago they dropped a new album. I gave it a listen and it’s pretty good, but it also reminded me to go back to the last album they released, which is amazing. Green Day’s career has divided itself neatly into specific eras with distinct sounds, and with the release of “Father Of All Motherfuckers” (pardon the cursing, it’s the actual title of the album) a new era has clearly begun. That makes Revolution Radio the capstone in their most commercially successful era, spanning from American Idiot to that album, and listening to it knowing that context makes it even better.

Social Distortion, by Social Distortion. I generally try to act in a civilized manner. I pay my bills, I brush my teeth, and I never ever throw a whiskey bottle through the windshield of a police car to cause a distraction so I can break a pool cue over the head of the trucker that tried to put his cigarette out on my leather jacket, and then take his Zippo and pack of Lucky Strikes off his unconscious body and light one up just before the cops tackle me and throw me in handcuffs. But sometimes you want to feel like you just did all that without actually suffering the consequences – and for those times, this album has you covered.

Barabajagal, by Donovan. Something I always absolutely love is when I find music that has really good underlying technical proficiency supporting a kind of music that is just unabashedly weird. This is why I love They Might be Giants, Cake, Frank Zappa, David Bowie, “Weird Al” Yankovic, and of course Donovan. If you can get me really tapping along with my eyes closed and letting music wash over me, but at the same time your album is both about the fictional mythology of the lost continent of Atlantis and also how much you love your shirt, then let me tell you that you have me hooked. In the same way that Social Distortion gives me that sweet post-street-fight high without the broken nose, Donovan makes me feel like I did a whole bunch of great drugs that I didn’t actually do.

Enjoy, everyone. May your life be filled with wonderful music – and if it is, share it with me!

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