20 music trends you may not have noticed
After running down the best 2015 albums from classic rockers and taking a look at the rock/pop and country/roots records you don’t want to miss from the past year, you’d think there would be nothing left to report. But there were a few stragglers left in my music inbox that I felt compelled to share. Herewith, then, my 2015 music notables (which is a lot nicer than saying “leftovers”).
Notable Release of Live Soundchecks: Leonard Cohen, “Can’t Forget.” Cohen seems determined to officially release live versions of his entire back catalogue, and good for him -- his ancient baritone has developed character that suits his subject matter.
Notable Odd Outbursts: Nate Ruess, “Grand Romantic.” The Fun singer’s solo debut has some fine tracks, but they tend to go off the rails when he breaks into bizarre and possibly involuntary hiccups and squawks, like he’s trying to walk into a freezing cold swimming pool.
Notable Use of Sharks: Katy Perry, Super Bowl XLIX.
Notable Use of Everything Else (Mentos, giant eyeballs, duct tape, Stars of David, rainbow flags, etc.): Miley Cyrus, everywhere.
Notable New Performance by a Dead Guy: Elvis Presley (with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra), “If I Can Dream.” Presley’s croon is actually well suited to having his original recordings merged with new orchestration from the esteemed RPO. Having them merged with Michael Buble, though, not so much -- their posthumous (for Elvis) duet on “Fever” is something you can't un-hear.
Notable Old Performance by a Live Guy: Dion, “Live at the Bitter End, 1971.” Dion was at the height of his folkie stage when he recorded this previously unreleased intimate show, and it’s great hearing him cover Dylan and Beatles classics -- but equally great hearing his solo versions of “The Wanderer” and “Ruby Baby.”
Notable Freebie: Bleachers, “Terrible Thrills, Vol. 2.” Is it bad that I like this version of Bleachers’ debut album, re-recorded with female vocalists, even better than the first one?
Notable Parentage: Elle King, “Love Stuff.” The voice behind “Ex's & Oh's” is probably sick of talking about this, but her father is comedian (“comedian?”) Rob Schneider. That’s only weird because he’s a complete goofball, and she’s one of the spunkiest young rock voices to come along in quite a while.
Notable Cast Album of a Hip-Hop Musical About A Founding Father: “Hello, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney!” Just kidding, it’s “Hamilton” -- but if you think about it that’s only slightly more likely.
Notable Late Career Detour: Steve Martin. Bluegrass banjo albums with Edie Brickell -- sure, why not?
Notable Book Soundtrack: “Sam Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock 'N' Roll.” I haven’t read Peter Guralnick’s book yet, but if it’s half as good as these 55 (!) Sun Records classics, it should be quite a read.
Notable Book Soundtrack (Money Grab Edition): Elvis Costello, “Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink.” Really Elvis, how many times do we have to buy these songs? Oh fine, shut up and take my money.
Notable Best Taylor Swift Impression: Ryan Adams, “1989.”
Notable Worst Taylor Swift Impression: Whatever Selena Gomez did, it was probably that.
Notable Shostakovich Impression: Ben Folds, “So There.”
Notable Christmas Album That's Actually Good: 'It's a Holiday Soul Party,' Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings. Between 'Ain't No Chimneys In The Projects' and their ode to big, er, ornaments 'Big Bulbs,' this is an instant classic.
Notable Ruining of an Otherwise Very Useful Word: Adele, “Hello.” Thanks Adele -- now I do an involuntary impression of you whenever I answer the phone. It’s starting to creep people out.
Notable Doorstop: Bruce Springsteen, “The Ties That Bind.” Pros: Goes deep into Springsteen’s “River” period. Cons: I can’t lift it.
Notable Neverending Series: Bob Dylan, “The Bootleg Series.” The latest installment, “The Cutting Edge 1965-1966,” is the 12th -- it revisits the “Blonde on Blonde” era and features 2-, 6- and 18-disc (!) editions, the latter of which makes Springsteen’s box look like a cassingle.
Notable ’80s Trend That Did Not Come Back: Cassingles.
Peter Chianca is author of Glory Days: Springsteen's Greatest Albums. Follow him on Twitter at @pchianca.