50 Years, 50 Albums (2019): Thank U, Next by Ariana Grande

I will turn 50 in November of this year, so my project for 2023 will be to listen to and review one album from each year of my life, 1973 to 2022.  The only qualification is that it has to be an album I’ve not reviewed previously. 


Top Grossing Albums of 2019:

  1. Lover – Taylor Swift
  2. When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? – Billie Eilish
  3. Happiness Begins  – Jonas Brothers
  4. Fine Line – Harry Styles
  5. A Star is Born: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack – Lady Gaga & Bradley Cooper

Grammy Award for Album of the Year of 2019:

Other Albums I’ve Reviewed from 2019:

Album: thank u, next
Artist: Ariana Grande
Release Date: February 8, 2019
Label: Republic
Favorite Tracks:

  • NASA
  • make up
  • 7 rings
  • thank u, next


When I get to more recent years in the 50 Years project when I was actively reviewing albums at the time, I find myself pushed more outside my typical musical tastes.  Ariana Grande always struck me as a kindhearted and levelheaded person for a pop star, and this album is well-regarded.  I like Grande’s voice, and while the trap elements don’t interest me, they’re fortunately moderated by synthpop, dance, and even reggae influences.  Definitely not an album for me, but you know, it’s still pretty good.

Rating: ***


Song of the Week: “exodus the north star” by Yaya Bey

Yaya Bey – “exodus the north star”

Brooklyn artists Yaya Bey lays down soulful R&B vocals over a slow jazzy track that picks up a reggae beat when it speeds up.


Songs of the Week for 2023




Beatles Week – “Got to Get You Into My Life”

I was invited by Max at the PowerPop blog to contribute to Beatles Week by writing about my favorite Beatles song.  Now I have many favorite Beatles songs, including some more obscure ones, but one song immediately popped into my head.  It was probably the first song by the Beatles that I ever loved, even before I knew it was by the Beatles.  I copied the post below, but check out the original on the PowerPop blog and leave some comments there should you be so moved.


“Got to Get You Into My Life” is a song by The Beatles that was a top ten hit when I was a small child.  Except that The Beatles broke up more than 3 years before I was even born.  How could this be?  It was a mystery to me for a long time.  I didn’t even know it was a song by The Beatles until I was a teenager in the 1980s.  It puzzled me how I could remember “Got to Get You Into My Life” being in heavy rotation with the songs I heard played on the radio in my dad’s Chevy Nova back in the mid-70s.

I won’t keep you in suspense as long as I was.  It turns out that Capitol Records, The Beatles label in the United States, released “Got to Get You Into My Life” as a single on May 31, 1976.  Despite being a ten-year-old song at that point, it did well on the charts, peaking at #7 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the week of July 24, 1976.  It would be The Beatles last Top Ten hit until “Free As A Bird” in 1995.

The single was released to promote a compilation album that Capitol Records was promoting called Rock ‘n’ Roll Music.  The collection of 28 rockers culled from The Beatles’ previous releases was clearly Capitol looking to make some money off of a beloved band that wasn’t making any new music. It sold well, reaching number 2 on the Billboard album charts, ironically held out of the top spot by Paul McCartney’s Wings at the Speed of Sound.

The album cover for Rock ‘n’ Roll Music was designed to tap into the Fifties nostalgia craze of the 1970s with images of a jukebox, cars with big fins, and Marilyn Monroe.  The Beatles, notably were a Sixties band, but the title track is a cover of a Chuck Berry song from the Fifties, so there’s a tenuous connection. The Fifties nostalgia probably was kicked off by the doo wop cover act Sha Na Na performing at Woodstock in 1969 (the group would get a TV show that started in 1977. I loved Bowser).  The Broadway musical Grease (1972), the movie American Graffiti (1973), and the TV sitcom Happy Days (debuted in 1974), all continued this trend.  Even John Lennon got into the act with his 1974 album Rock ‘N’ Roll,  a collection of  covers of Lennon’s favorite songs from his youth.

But “Got to Get You Into My Life” is not a Fifties song.  It’s a Sixties song that became a hit in the Seventies partly because it really sounds like the soul and funk music that was dominating the charts at the time.  Does it not sound like it totally fits in with the Number One song of week of July 24, 1976, “Kiss and Say Goodbye” by The Manhattans (who despite their name were a New Jersey band who played Philadelphia soul).  Even better evidence that an old Beatles’ album track somehow captured the zeitgeist of Seventies funk and soul is that the Chicago R&B band Earth, Wind, & Fire released a cover of the song in July 1978 (their version peaked at #9 on the Hot 100).

But let’s go back to the Sixties, when the Beatles recorded the song.  The lineup for The Beatles recording the song was Paul McCartney on lead vocal and bass, John Lennon on rhythm guitar,  George Harrison on lead guitar, and Ringo star on drums and tambourine.  Producer George Martin also added organ.  But if you’re going to record an homage to Motown and Memphis soul, you’re going to need horns.  So a quintet of guest artists were brought in.

  • Eddie Thornton – trumpet. The Jamaican-born Thornton, known by the nickname Tan Tan, is likely the first Black guest musician on a Beatles recording since The Beatles didn’t have many guest artists prior to recording Revolver.
  • Ian Hamer – trumpet.  Hamer was a jazz artists who had a long career as a Liverpool big band leader.
  • Les Condon – trumpet.  The London-born Condon was a modern jazz pioneer who played with many of the top UK and American jazz acts.
  • Alan Branscombe – tenor saxophone.  Merseyside-born Branscombe was a sideman to numerous jazz band leaders over a four decade career.
  • Peter Coe – tenor saxophone. Coe was more of a pop musician and had previously played with the British R&B band Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames, contributing a sax solo to their UK #1 hit “Yeh Yeh.”

Having discussed many aspects of the song, let us finish with the lyrics.  It is a love song, of course.  Right? Well, according to McCartney “It’s actually an ode to pot.”  Legendarily, the Beatles were introduced to marijuana by Bob Dylan when they met in 1964, and the band grew to incorporate the drug into their creative process leading to this love song to pot.  Personally, I’m going to forget that I learned that because while I’ve never used marijuana, I have been in love.  The lyrics of this song so perfectly capture that feeling of meeting an intoxicating person (or plant) and connecting with them so fully that you just want to spend every moment you can with them.  Surely this is what Paul McCartney would feel when he met Linda Eastman in 1967.  In fact, they are famous for spending “every single day” of their lives together until Linda’s death in 1998. You can read the full lyrics and decide for yourself if this is a love song, a drug song, or (most likely) both.


50 Years, 50 Albums (1994): dubnobasswithmyheadman by Underworld

I will turn 50 in November of this year, so my project for 2023 will be to listen to and review one album from each year of my life, 1973 to 2022.  The only qualification is that it has to be an album I’ve not reviewed previously. 


Top Grossing Albums of 1994:

  1. Cracked Rear View – Hootie and the Blowfish
  2. Dookie – Green Day
  3. Cross Road – Bon Jovi
  4. Merry Christmas – Mariah Carey
  5. The Lion King – soundtrack

Grammy Award for Album of the Year of 1994:

  • MTV Unplugged – Tony Bennett
  • The Three Tenors in Concert 1994 – José Carreras, Plácido Domingo, Luciano Pavarotti, Zubin Mehta
  • Seal – Seal
  • Longing in Their Hearts – Bonnie Raitt
  • From the Cradle – Eric Clapton

Other Albums I’ve Reviewed from 1994:

Album: dubnobasswithmyheadman
Artist: Underworld
Release Date: 24 January 1994
Label: Junior Boy’s Own
Favorite Tracks:

  • Dark & Long
  • Mmm…Skyscraper I Love You
  • Dirty Epic
  • Cowgirl


I became acquainted with Underworld through “Born Slippy .NUXX,” featured on the Trainspotting soundtrack. While I’ve listened to various Underworld tracks over the years I’d never listened to an entire album.  dubnobasswithmyheadman is the group’s third album, but the first after breaking up and reforming as an electronic dance music group, or “techno” as we called them at the time (more specifically, acid house and dub).  The beats and grooves are great on this album.  But what sets Underworld apart are the lyrics which often have a poetic beauty with an impressionistic painting of a central theme of the song.

Rating: ****

Song of the Week: “Barley” by Water From Your Eyes

Water From Your Eyes – Barley

Water From Your Eyes, the duo from Brooklyn who documented the breakup of their romantic relationship on 2021’s Structure, remain together as a band.  “Barley” is the first song released from Everyone’s Crushed due out in late May.

Songs of the Week for 2023




50 Years, 50 Albums: Grievous Angel by Gram Parsons

I will turn 50 in November of this year, so my project for 2023 will be to listen to and review one album from each year of my life, 1973 to 2022.  The only qualification is that it has to be an album I’ve not reviewed previously. 


Top Grossing Albums of 1974:

  1.  Wings  –  Band on the Run
  2.  Elton John – Elton John’s Greatest Hits
  3.  Eric Clapton – 461 Ocean Boulevard
  4. Elton John – Caribou
  5. Joni Mitchell – Court and Spark

Grammy Award for Album of the Year of 1974:

Other Albums I’ve Reviewed from 1974:

Album: Grievous Angel
Artist: Gram Parsons
Release Date: January 1974
Label: Reprise
Favorite Tracks:

  • Hearts On Fire
  • $1000 Wedding
  • Medley Live from Northern Quebec: Cash on the Barrelhead/Hickory Wind
  • In My Hour of Darkness

Thoughts: I know a lot about Gram Parsons by reputation but have never listened to his solo releases so I thought this a good opportunity to address this.  A few thoughts on listening to Grievous Angel: 1. to my ears, this sounds more straight up country than country rock (or “Cosmic American Music” as Parsons called it). 2. the participation of Emmylou Harris as Parson’s duet partner is more significant than I realized.  In fact, she was supposed to be credited on the album cover, but Parsons’ widow removed her name and photo. Harris, of course, went on to a legendary career of her own.  3.  The album is overshadowed by the fact that Parsons’ was suffering from severe opioid and alcohol addiction during its production and died before it was release.  It’s hard to listen to this album and wonder “what if” Parsons had been able to survive his addictions.

Rating: ***1/2

Song of the Week: “False Spring” by Shelli Le Fay

Shelli Le Fay – “False Spring”

According to her Bandcamp page, Shelli Le Fay ” is a purveyor of ethereal moon punk, a fiery genre of folk that she invented.”  The Manchester-based indie artist spins a magical web with her dreamy folk.

Songs of the Week for 2023




Albums of the Month for 2023: Yo La Tengo, Algiers, and Little Fuss

Album: This Stupid World
Artist: Yo La Tengo
Release Date: February 10, 2023
Label: Matador
Favorite Tracks:

  • Sinatra Drive Breakdown
  • Fallout
  • Brain Capers
  • This Stupid World
  • Miles Away

Thoughts: Yo La Tengo’s 17th studio album is a return to form of sorts.  This is good because it’s reminiscent of the band’s late 90s peak when they turned out some of the greatest albums of all time.  But I can’t help feeling bad that a band as endlessly reinventive as Yo La Tengo is revisiting their sonic past.  That said, I’m glad they have abandoned the torpor of their releases from the past decade.  The songs are introspective and reflect on mortality and a feeling of apathy, but do so with raging guitars rather than lethargy.  The 7-and-a-half minute opening track, “Sinatra Drive Breakdown,” is a particularly good example of this.
Rating: ***1/2

Album: Shook
Artist: Algiers 
Release Date: February 24, 2023
Label: Matador
Favorite Tracks:

  • Everybody Shatter
  • Irreversible Damage
  • A Good Man
  • Something Wrong

Thoughts: Algiers, Yo La Tengo’s labelmates on Matador Records, return with their fourth studio album. The Algiers sound is hard to describe as it is built on traditional African-American genres such as soul, hip hop R&B, blues, and funk but with atonality, aggressive percussion, found footage, and folk culture. It’s been described as dystopian soul.  On Shook, Algiers bring in a number of guests including Big Rube, Mark Stewart, Zack De La Rocha, billy woods and Backxwash.  At times, the album feels overwhelmed by guest appearances to the point that it takes it away from this feeling like an Algiers album. That being said, with Algiers’ message of anti-racism and anti-colonialism central to their work, it makes sense for them to bring some allies into the fight. The Underside of Power was one of the great albums of recent years so I guess this feels a little underwhelming, but it’s still quite good.
Rating: ***

Album: Girls at Parties
Artist: Little Fuss
Release Date: January 19, 2023
Label: Self-produced
Favorite Tracks:

  • A Modern Olympia
  • Karma’s Team
  • Girls at Parties
  • Please Don’t Make Me Cry

Thoughts: Little Fuss is a quartet from Boston called the “buzziest band” at Berklee College of Music by WBUR.  A consciously feminist band, Little Fuss’ first full-length album is a concept album of sorts. “Basically it’s an album about a bunch of different girls at a party, or the same girl at a bunch of different parties, depending on which way you want to look at it,” says lead vocalist Olive Martinez.  The result is extremely hooky pop with a sometimes ethereal feel.
Rating: ****


2023 Album Reviews



  • Yo La Tengo – This Stupid World
  • Algiers – Shook
  • Little Fuss – Girls at Parties

50 Years, 50 Albums (1997): When I Was Born for the 7th Time

I will turn 50 in November of this year, so my project for 2023 will be to listen to and review one album from each year of my life, 1973 to 2022.  The only qualification is that it has to be an album I’ve not reviewed previously. 


Top Grossing Albums of 1997:

  1. Spice – Spice Girls
  2. Tragic Kingdom – No Doubt
  3. Falling Into You – Celine Dion
  4. Space Jam soundtrack
  5. Pieces Of You – Jewel

Grammy Award for Album of the Year of 1997:

  • Time Out of Mind – Bob Dylan
  • The Day – Babyface
  • This Fire – Paula Cole
  • Flaming Pie – Paul McCartney
  • OK Computer – Radiohead

Other Albums I’ve Reviewed from 1997:

Album: When I Was Born for the 7th Time
Artist: Cornershop
Release Date: 8 September 1997
Label: Wiiija
Favorite Tracks:

  • Sleep on the Left Side
  • Brimful of Asha
  • Butter the Soul
  • We’re in Yr Corner
  • What is Happening?
  • Good to Be on the Road Back Home
  • It’s Indian Tobacco My Friend
  • Candyman
  • Norwegian Wood


So far in 50 Years, 50 Albums project I’ve split listening to some old favorites with listening to albums for the first time.  When I Was Born for the 7th Time is an old favorite that I haven’t listened to in a long time. I remember considering this album for my list of 250 favorite albums last year and I now I regret that it didn’t make the cut! Cornershop are an indie rock band from Leceister, England.  Back in 1997 this album stood out because Cornershop included musical and lyrical references to the band members’ South Asian heritage which wasn’t all too common back then.

This album is truly eccletic as it mixes low-fi indie rock with raga rock, electronica, hip hop, retro-funk, folk music, classic rock, and sound collage.  The whole vibe this album gives off is relaxed and cool, and the lyrics are clever and incisive.  Guest artists include Paula Frazer (who duets on “Good to Be on the Road Back Home”), Justin Warfield (who raps on “Candyman”), and beat poet Allen Ginsberg (spoken word on “When the Light Appears Boy”).  The best known track is the classic “Brimful of Asha” which brought the band international attention after a remix by Norman Cook.  The album concludes with a cover of The Beatles “Norwegian Wood” translated into Punjabi, which brings the use of Indian music in English rock full circle.

Rating: ****1/2

Song of the Week: “All of the Time in the World to Kill” by The Milk Carton Kids

The Milk Carton Kids – “All of the Time in the World to Kill”

The new song from California indie folk duo The Milk Carton Kids manages to be both melancholy and uplifting at the same time, with absolutely gorgeous harmonies.

Songs of the Week for 2023