I’m a little tardy on this and I’m extremely tardy on the Top 2017 Albums Of The Year. You’ll see that still… at some point. Having a kid and not having a slacker office job with oodles of downtime delays creative writing. Anyway, let’s focus on this year so far.

Though there have been really good albums at this point in time of 2018 this has by far been the weakest halftime report yet. Not to take anything away from anyone but nothing so far has completely blown me away. The best of the bunch is Will Toledo’s creative conduit Car Seat Headrest and like 2016 he again leads the field at the half. Now the narrative will undoubtedly be whether or not Toledo can hold onto that coveted #1 spot the rest of the year. His 2016 opus Teens Of Denial held the top spot all the way into late November only to be toppled by eventual winner Metallica with Hardwired… To Self Destruct. Car Seat Headrest had to settle for a superb runner-up. Now with his 2nd straight epic in this year’s Twin Fantasy does it have the strength to hold on to that top spot he’s been in since February? I’ll say this I don’t think it’s as strong as 2016’s Teens Of Denial and I still think it’s anybody’s year. The problem is that there doesn’t seem to be any legitmate contenders to be coming along any time soon.

Car Seat Headrest may be able to take advantage of 2016 and 2017 being ridiculously stacked with incredible albums thus thinning out the 2018 releases. That and some traditional powerhouses of these lists in previous years have remained dormant. Acts like Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, The Black Keys, The Gaslight Anthem, Mumford & Sons, My Morning Jacket, and The Hold Steady have now gone three to four or even more years without a release and no time table for a return on the horizon. Other main event acts like Pearl Jam and The Rolling Stones seem to be waiting until 2019 or later to put out new albums.

One formidable contender recently was announced as releasing an album supposedly in November, that being Muse. Muse is one of only three acts to win the #1 spot twice (Metallica and The Black Keys being the others) and if they could topple Car Seat Headrest and win again they would be the sole three-time #1 spot winners. Could November once again be Will Toledo’s Achilles heel?

Another possible candidate could be Ryan Adams. He’s been feverishly working on what appears to be a new album at Electric Ladyland Studios as well as teasing releasing multiple already completed projects including two alternate versions of last year’s outstanding Prisoner and the legendary shelved Blackhole. Die-hard Ryan Adams fans have been salivating for years over the potential release of Blackhole and if it’s as good as mythologized it could easily knock Twin Fantasy out of that top spot. Will we see that, Prisoner  2 and 3, something completely different, all of the above, or none of the above? It could be a banner year for Ryan Adams, the only one stopping it is himself.

Other stellar albums include Kyle Craft’s Full Circle Nightmare following his 2016 breakout Dolls Of Highland which narrowly missed out on a stacked Top 10 that year and he’s looking to rectify that this time around. Father John Misty released his third excellent album in four years and two front men are attempting to step out of the long-cast shadows of their brilliant bands with solo efforts of their own. Jim James of My Morning Jacket with Uniform Distortion and Brian Fallon of The Gaslight Anthem with Sleepwalkers.

Here’s to the 2nd half and hoping it picks up the slack and here’s the rest of the Top 25 Albums of 2018 at Halftime:

  1. Car Seat Headrest- Twin Fanstasy
  2. Kyle Craft- Full Circle Nightmare
  3. Father John Misty- God’s Favorite Customer
  4. Brian Fallon- Sleepwalkers
  5. Jim James- Uniform Distortion
  6. Dawes- Passwords
  7. Rolling Blackout Coastal Fever- Hope Downs
  8. Shakey Graves- Can’t Wake Up
  9. Parker Millsap- Other Arrangements
  10. Frank Turner- Be More Kind
  11. Fantastic Negrito- Please Don’t Be Dead
  12. Ty Segall- Freedom’s Goblin
  13. Ghost- Prequelle
  14. Ryley Walker- Deafman Glance
  15. Courtney Barnett- Tell Me How You Really Feel
  16. Arctic Monkeys- Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino
  17. Lord Huron- Vide Noir
  18. King Tuff- The Other
  19. Buddy Guy- The Blues Is Alive And Well
  20. Gold Connections- Popular Fiction
  21. Okkervil River- In The Rainbow Rain
  22. Strand Of Oaks- Harder Love
  23. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club- Wrong Creatures
  24. The Wild Feathers- Greetings From The Neon Frontier
  25. Svvamp- 2





528267_10151540753533896_115658189_n BLACK SABBATH- 13

8.7 / 10



35 years is a long time. And as hyper-evolving and tumultuous as the music industry is, that’s the equivalent to an eon or at the very least an era of mountain-building. That’s the length of time it’s been since Heavy Metal pioneers Black Sabbath have released a record with original front man/madman Ozzy Osbourne. After 1978’s Never Say Die! amidst a swirling storm of drugs and booze, the well had run dry and the light had dimmed. It proved to be too dark even for the band that thrived on the blackest, bleakest fathoms and it was the closing of the first chapter of Black Sabbath. Guitarist Tony Iommi decided to fire Osbourne (Actually leaving drummer Bill Ward to take out the garbage and break the news to Ozzy) and continue on under the Sabbath banner without him.

The two divergent roads out of the wilderness saw Ozzy enjoy a successful solo career while Iommi, Ward and bassist Geezer Butler recruited Ronnie James Dio (Rainbow, Dio) and had a Sabbath resurgence with stellar albums Heaven and Hell and Mob Rules. There were more highs and lows for both parties, but nothing could match the run of classic albums Black Sabbath, Paranoid, Master Of Reality, Vol. 4, Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, and Sabotage of the original line-up. A reunion and a burying of the hatchet seemed inevitable. Thus the journey to 13 and the redemption of Black Sabbath began.

The making of 13 has been a long and arduous process. After a series of successful reunion tours in the late ‘90s, the band convened in the studio with producing mastermind and Guru Rick Rubin in early 2001. But Ozzy was called away to finish work on another solo record and then became a reality TV star while the rest of the band later reunited once more with Dio under the name Heaven & Hell until Ronnie’s death in 2010. The original members reformed yet again in late 2011 to announce a string of live dates and that they would also be returning to the studio again with Rubin for a new album. By this time Rubin had returned another Metal titan to prominence in Metallica with their 2008 thrash masterpiece Death Magnetic, he was clearly the right man to helm 13.

Setbacks continued though when Iommi was diagnosed with lymphoma in early 2012 and Bill Ward quit the band shortly after due to a contract dispute. Ozzy, Iommi, and Butler decided to continue on without Ward and hired Rage Against the Machine/Audioslave drummer Brad Wilk to lay down the drum tracks for the 13 sessions.

Within the first second of opener “End of the Beginning” it’s clear that 13 is an unapologetic and unforgiving all-out blitzkrieg. A mythical beast that’s been slumbering for decades, Iommi blasts through the Earth’s mantle with a titanic riff releasing all of the demons of the underworld behind it. The beast has awoken, staggered and confused at first, but in a new even more harsh world it soon realizes it shall thrive once more and the hunger creeps back into its gut. Where most bands would get bogged down in the primordial sludge of this pace, Black Sabbath flourish with it and relish it. The militant lurch sounds like billowing storm clouds gathering on the edge of town in a foreboding spectacle. A tempo change shifts perspective as if from the same clouds comes the fiery gallop of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse before giving way to Iommi’s unbridled sinewy solos and more gargantuan riffing. “God Is Dead?” is a nine-minute juggernaut (Or even a Supernaut maybe?) that crashes through the cathedral gates of a Satanic church. Momentum turns chaotic as Butler runs roughshod on bass and Wilk’s drums sound as if they’re bombs pummeling the earth’s surface. Butler and Wilk collide like tectonic plates creating an ominous rumble, Iommi’s high tension wire riff serves as an air-raid siren before a pit opens below unable to sustain the sheer force anymore and Ozzy confirms to the congregation of the damned that yes in fact, “God is Dead.” “Loner” follows a similar riff and groove to that of “N.I.B.” It’s a subject Sabbath relates to well, the social outcast, seemingly ostracized from society and humanity forced to walk the vastness of a scorched landscape alone. Ozzy sings of the vagrant trudging over a barren terrain with a boulder of corroded conscience and guilt on his back as he laments, “The secrets of his past life deep inside his head. I wonder if he will be happy when he’s dead.” Tumbling deeper down the rabbit hole of madness is “Zeitgeist,” a sonic companion to that of “Planet Caravan” from Paranoid. Psychedelic and hypnotic but far less menacing at least on the surface, Ozzy provides an uneasy serenade and Iommi showcases his range with a more docile, nearly tender acoustic guitar playing with gentle washes of electric guitar to create the murky space ballad. The bludgeoning hammer immediately comes a-crushin’ though afterwards with “Age Of Reason” with Iommi arguably at his finest. A monolithic riff, as burly and brawny as anything Sabbath’s ever produced shows that there is no finite number to the amount of incredible heavy riffs that Iommi can conjure, a true maestro further cementing the legacy of a man that molded the sound of an entire genre. Ozzy too sounds reinvigorated, as is the case throughout the entire record. He’s born anew as if he’s in the middle of his ‘70s prime, howling like the prince of darkness millions have come to worship as he sings, “These times are heavy and you’re all alone. The battle’s over but the war goes on.” From there, Iommi launches into an unruly solo with wild abandon, a dazzling lightning strike display that doubles as a ferocious tempest laying waste to everything in its wake. “Live Forever” seems to want you to do anything but that. Run for your life through the twisted wreckage of a city that the beast has crippled as a barrage of flaming debris reigns down around you. “Damaged Soul” plays right into Sabbath’s open palm/claw, teetering between right and wrong, heaven and hell as Ozzy sings, “God of the almighty never answers their call. Satan is just waiting for the righteous to fall to him.” Iommi piles on more guitar wizardry with a lengthy six-string workout as Ozzy honks on harmonica. The behemoth closer “Dear Father” features the incomparable electric avalanche of Iommi, one final witching hour rampage as the sins of the father are met with a fierce reckoning, “Your molestations of the cross you defiled, a man once holy now despised and reviled. You took possession while confessing my sins and now you have to face whatever death brings.” The beast finally lumbers out of sight, back into the abyss from which it came leaving a trail of carnage in its path. The only sound left, that familiar lonesome tolling bell in the distance in the pouring rain. It’s as if everything between that same bell in 1970 and now has been happenstance, inescapable.

For Black Sabbath, 13 has proven to be better than anyone could’ve imagined, it really had no business being this great. But everyone that worked on this project knew what was at stake. Archetypes of timeless music, culled from the same molten lava from which Heavy Metal was born. Nearly 45 years ago this band was the genesis of something that they could not have possibly comprehended would become this massive. Without a doubt, a true masterpiece that can stand alongside the best works in their canon. It’s hard to say if they’ll make another record after this, but if this is the grand finale in this macabre career, what a way to bow out.

Black SabbathUnholy Trinity: Geezer Butler, Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi (Left to Right)

-Matt Ireland



This is Bob Dylan’s first released song from his much-anticipated new album Tempest out September 11th. The song is titled, “Early Roman Kings”. The song is a bluesy dirge most similar to “My Wife’s Home Town” from Together Through Life. The prominent instrument is David Hildalgo’s accordion. The accordion was a prominent fixture on Together Through Life. Bob’s lyrics are lysergic and it’s a small dose of the darkness we may be in for on Tempest. Bob’s voice is gravelly as usual but his phrasing and inflections are top notch. A good start!

Bruce turns 60…


It’s pretty hard to believe how old some of my idols are getting these days. But to say that Bruce Springsteen is turning 60 today seems even harder to fathom. The man that always embodied everything that makes Rock & Roll so great. The exuberance, the hope, the faith, the fear, the passion, the dedication, the journey, the love, the angst, the epic, the youth. The youth, that last one man. 60 years old, the line, “We ain’t that young anymore.” from ‘Thunder Road’ couldn’t be more perfect for the moment. One thing that I can take solace in though is Springsteen seems to defy aging. Sure he looks around 60 (even though I personally believe he didn’t start aging till around 2004), but make no mistake about it, he is STILL THE BOSS. If you’ve never seen a live show of his, to this day, they are still marathons that are truly something to behold. He’s getting up there in years, but his shows now are some of the greatest ever. And it’s not only Springsteen himself, but the E Street Band seems to still be on top of their game as well. I’ve been to two of his shows now this year, both being 3+ hours long. Now before you go off saying other acts play that long, 1.) They are probably not even half his age 2.) They’re probably jam bands who just stand stationary 3.) You’re seeing multiple acts during that time slot. For a man who’s 60 it still puts me in awe the amount of physicality he puts into his shows. You know the Boss will never let you down. While some of his other peers lost their way under substance abuse or other misfortunes, Bruce stayed the course and chose to stick to making great music instead. THAT is why he’s the Boss. Well just one of the reasons, but that one I might admire the most. An artist, a man that you can look up to, that your children, your grandchildren can look up to.

How about the show? It was incredible… again. An opener is NEVER needed for Springsteen. Despite having reserved seats this time, I still didn’t let it hold me back from getting wild and probably stinking out the joint, or at least those immediately around me with B.O. and pry some farts that snuck out too. Anyway, Bruce came out with the E Street Band a little after 8:00pm like a gangbuster. The House Party rockin’ ‘Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out’ began the good times flow, followed by the fist pumping ‘Badlands’, a song that must have the Gods somewhere with two fist pumps in unison shouting “BAD-LANDS!” It’s always truly something to behold. It was a great thrill to hear ‘Candy’s Room’ with Max’s jet propulsion drumming and Springsteen’s spiraling guitar solo. ‘Outlaw Pete’ was incredible and appropriately enough got PJ jacked. ‘Hungry Heart’ was great to hear live for the first time and was a huge crowd favorite. There was the pile-driving rocker ‘Seeds’ that Moss was banking on. “FUCKIN’ SEEDS!” -Matt Moss. ‘Johnny 99’ was transformed from a sparse acoustic arrangement once again into a muscular rockabilly jam, followed by Nils Lofgren melting faces and exploding heads during a blistering solo to close ‘Youngstown’. Bruce then took requests that began with a great cover of the Stones’ ‘Satisfaction’, ‘Cadillac Ranch’, and the unstumpable E Street Band pulled through on ‘The Wanderer’. I was really glad to hear ‘Incident On 57th Street’, not only cause it’s one of my favorite Boss tunes, but because it was great to have one of PJ’s favorite obscurities played. A great rendition too. As Springsteen cut through the arena with a solo to close out the song I’m thinking, “Man I’m so used to this song roll effortlessly right into the raucous rave-up Rosalita on the album. How great would it be…” Then without missing a beat the band roars into ‘Rosalita’. Incredible once again. Man I love that song, it’ll put me in a great mood no matter what. Bruce then rolled out several great tunes from The Rising with the classic ‘Promised Land’ sandwiched in there. When ‘Born To Run’ hit the Des Moines crowd I knew I should probably tone down my howling and singing when I could taste a bit of blood in the back of my throat. ‘Thunder Road’ was fantastic, and the outro is still the greatest in Rock & Roll. ‘American Land’ was great, a song that will make you want to slam a pint and then whip the shit out of some Yankees fans. He closed it out with ‘Dancing In The Dark’ followed by ‘Glory Days’, sending everyone home happy thanking the audience for a great ‘Birthday Party!’. Bruce and the band exited the stage around 11:30pm. Here’s some extended details from Backstreets…

September 21 / Wells Fargo Arena / Des Moines, IA Notes: (Courtesy Backstreets.com)

Bruce and the band hit Des Moines just two days before Springsteen’s 60th, the closest we’ll get to a birthday show. Lots of “Happy Birthday” signs scattered around, including those words emblazoned across the shirts of two women in the crowd, who got a lot of screen time. There wasn’t a full house for the party, with much of the deck curtained off, but as is often the case, Springsteen seemed to work harder because of it.

It was an energetic show from the start, kicking off with a powerhouse trio of “Tenth Avenue,” “Badlands,” and “Candy’s Room,” with a blistering solo from the birthday boy. Max pounded the drums all night. “Two Hearts” included the “It Takes Two” outro, and by the sixth song, Springsteen circled the pit on “Hungry Heart” for the third show in a row. Tonights Recession Trio wrapped with “Youngstown,” Nils again blowing minds with his solo.

Then came a choice request set. In a WXRT interview this morning, Little Steven called the recent E Street Band world debut of “Satisfaction” “one of the greatest moments of our career.” Tonight they reprised it, bashing out the Stones classic for the second time ever. “Cadillac Ranch” followed before another first: Dion’s “The Wanderer.” Bruce and the band had a particularly long meeting before this one, but soon enough they were working it out, with an impromptu lyric change: “I tear open my shirt, I got Rosalita on my chest!” The sign for this one read, “The Wanderer… Stumped?” After their performance, Bruce tore the sign up.

You can request “Incident on 57th Street.” And Bruce and the band might play it, and you know it’ll be good. But you never know just how good it’s going to be. Tonight’s was stellar. Bruce stretched out his solo, and this was one for the ages. To top it off, they followed it, just as on the Wild & Innocent album, with a rare mid-set “Rosalita.” (Sorry, no “New York City Serenade” to close it all out.) A couple songs later, a rare “Into the Fire” was an extra request, Bruce propping the sign agains the mic stand. Lovely emotional color from Curtis and Cindy.

In the encore, Steven led the crowd in a sloppy “Happy Birthday” for the Boss. Bruce had a wry smile as he sang “we ain’t that young anymore” in “Thunder Road.” But as he told the crowd, thanking them for coming out to the show, “We’re having the best times of our lives.” Which, hovering around 60, is saying something. Soon, Springsteen had an octogenarian up on stage with him for some “Dancing in the Dark,” a nice reminder that it ain’t exactly autumn yet. Wrapping it all up fittingly with “Glory Days,” Springsteen finally hollered, “Thanks for a great birthday party!”
– photographs by Andy Lyons

Tenth Avenue Freeze-out
Candy’s Room
Two Hearts
Outlaw Pete
Hungry Heart
Working on a Dream
Johnny 99
(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction
Cadillac Ranch
The Wanderer
Incident on 57th Street
Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)
Waitin’ on a Sunny Day
The Promised Land
Into the Fire
Lonesome Day
The Rising
Born to Run
* * *
Thunder Road
Hard Times
Bobby Jean
American Land
Dancing in the Dark
Glory Days

Dear Mr. Bruce Springsteen,

Thank you so much for everything you’ve ever done for me. Personally, you’ll never know how many times your music, words, and actions have saved me from certain bad turns. I owe you so much, probably a summation that I’ll never be able to add up to, so I’ll just write this letter instead on a random blog. You deserve everything great in this world for your never ending dedication to your fans and the world in general. A reciprocating loyalty between fans and performer that is unmatched by ANY other artist. From your struggles to make it to the Big Top stuck in the swamps of Jersey, to you being hailed as ‘The Future of Rock & Roll’ in the rise to rock’s pantheon, the Glory Days of the 80’s, the contemplative 90’s, and the return to glory work horse ethic this decade it’s been one hell of a ride following you. And you know what? I’d like to envision this. For guy who’s seemingly always wanted the freedom of a long stretch of highway in a ’69 Chevy, this ride has been just like that. But as he looks down at the fuel gauge, something’s a little off. Instead of the fuel amount it says 60 years. Then he rubs the dust from his eyes that must have been kicked up off the road from that last stretch from Monroe to Angeline. He looks back down and sees the tank is nowhere close to empty. With that he peels off down the road on wheels of fire he traded for wings. Born to Run indeed, and he ain’t stoppin’ anytime soon. I’ve said it so many times it sounds cliche, but once more… Thanks Boss.

Man, I dug pretty deep for that last part, didn’t know I had it in me.

Happy 60th Bruce, may I live forever. And may you live forever and a day.

Wilco capture their self-portrait on the seventh take:

wilco the album


Wilco (From left): Glenn Kotche, Mikael Jorgensen, Jeff Tweedy, Nels Cline, Pat Sansone, and John Stirratt.

It’s fitting that Wilco named their seventh studio album Wilco (The Album). The record serves as a snapshot of the flavors from their previous six. Whether it be the indie rock/Alternative country conglomerates of their early days, the wild turn of the century electronic experimentation, the fuzzed-out barnstorming Crazy Horse guitar attack, or the tuneful sunrise appropriated songs of their latter recordings. All of the little flourishes and brush strokes can be found here as a sonic template for the new album.

It’s easy to get swept up in the tongue and cheek nature of the album’s lead-off track called, what else? “Wilco (The song)”. As the song progresses you become more aware that the track is actually really good. Over a 60’s garage rock groove, it serves as Wilco’s call-to-arms to their legions of fans. Frontman Jeff Tweedy gives you a “Sonic shoulder” to cry on as he sings, “Are you under the impression/ This isn’t your life?/ Do you dabble in depression?/ Is someone twisting a knife in your back?/ Are you being attacked?/ Oh, this is a fact that you need to know/ Oh, Wilco… Wilco… Wilco will love you baby.” “One Wing” is a beautiful forlorn sonic sunset ballad with haunting guitar blurb echoes as Tweedy laments, “One wing will never ever fly, dear/ Neither yours nor mine, I fear/ We can only wave goodbye” before giving way to an outro of guitar pyrotechnics from Nels Cline. “Bull Black Nova” is the cleverly disguised murder ballad dressed in the electronics similar to tunes off Yankee Hotel Foxtrot or A Ghost is Born. Like the spiders from “Kidsmoke”, it creeps across the midnight landscape as Tweedy spins the dark narrative of his freshly murdered girlfriend at his hands now with the dilemma of blood covering everything. There’s plenty more crackling sparking guitar freakouts from the Wilco camp as well in there. “You And I” features singer/songwriter Feist singing a duet with Tweedy on a straightforward mellow acoustic driven track that would fit in perfectly on Sky Blue Sky. “You Never Know” and “Country Disappeared” appear to be slightly ambiguous social commentaries in the vein of previous songs like “Jesus Etc.” or “Ashes of American Flags”. Tweedy comments on every human’s nature to believe their generation has the worst kind of conditions, and are always teetering at the end of times. “It’s a dream down a well/ It’s a long, heavy hell” he sings before the deceptively breezy lush refrain states, “I don’t care anymore.” Like the song’s title suggests, you’d never know Tweedy is singing about the doomsday clock everyone seems to inherently have. “Country Disappeared” is balanced more toward specific times and the current status of America. With the ongoing chaos of an economic crunch it’s not hard to associate with lines like, “So every evening we can watch from above/ Crush the cities like a bug/ Fold ourselves into each other’s blood/ Turn our faces up to the sun.” “Solitaire” is a stripped down Nashville twilight boxcar ride that gives way to perhaps the most accessible track on the record “I’ll Fight”. If the radio airwaves had the room or the desire for Wilco that they deserve, this wouldn’t be too bad of a place to start.Whether it’s singing to a solemn lover reaching out to them in the deepest dark waters, or mirroring “Wilco (The Song)” as a vow to their fans, it’s an enduring tale of devotion as Tweedy sings, “I will go, I will go, I will go/ Into the war’s waters, I will wade/ And I will know without remorse/ Or regret the fairness of our trade.” The final track “Everlasting Everything” is yet another tale of the endurance of love similar to the closer of Sky Blue Sky “On and On and On”. A fitting coda of a band continuing to endure and soldier ahead.

Wilco (The Album) is a fine collection of songs, that may not exactly reach some of the lofty peaks of their previous works. Wilco’s brilliance has always relied on breaking barriers and forging into undiscovered territories like pioneers. It isn’t as stunning in scope as Summerteeth or have quite the ambitious sonic frontiers that made Yankee Hotel Foxtrot or A Ghost is Born 21st Century masterpieces, but by borrowing elements and essential blueprints from those albums and others it comes close. The album is more or less a summary of how far they’ve come. They don’t necessarily offer anything completely new or groundbreaking on this record but it’s ready to embrace you should you allow it. The album will definitely grow on listeners with each spin, unearthing new gems and great moments each time. It leaves fans with a feeling that there’s no telling where they’ll go next, and for Wilco fans that’s a pretty satisfying feeling.

1. Wilco (The Song)√

2. Deeper Down

3. One Wing√

4. Bull Black Nova√

5. You And I

6. You Never Know√

7. Country Disappeared√

8. Solitaire

9. I’ll Fight√

10. Sonny Feeling

11. Everlasting Everything