A Deeper Side of Phil Collins

Phil Collins

Phil Collins, 2016, in need of a shave

Do you like Phil Collins? If you’re anything like me (or Patrick Bateman), you answered that question with a rabid “HELL YEAH I DO!” before realizing that you’re the only person in the room with foam coming out of your mouth.

Believe it or not, Phil Collins isn’t exactly the most popular person on the planet today (I know, I’m surprised too). Peter Gabriel would rather go on a nostalgia tour with Sting than team up with Collins and the Genesis gang again. Even Adele isn’t answering his calls, and as we all know, she LOVES talking on the phone.

Why has Phil Collins been seemingly shunned by the rest of society? Well, it’s probably because there was a point in time when you couldn’t get enough of Phil Collins. For most of the 80s and 90s, the man was EVERYWHERE: your car radio, MTV, both locations of Live Aid (Philadelphia and London), and Miami Vice. He couldn’t even take a shower without having to entertain somebody somewhere. Not only was Phil Collins’ solo career taking flight, that other band he was in, Genesis, was reaching the peak of their commercial success at the same damn time.

But one can only be under the spotlight for so long before burning up, and Phil Collins was in it longer than usual. Is it better to burn out than to fade away? Well, Phil kind of did both.

Other than his Academy Award-winning single for the Disney movie Tarzan, “You’ll Be In My Heart,” (which spent 19 weeks at Number 1 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart), the critics were relentless towards Phil’s music, as was the case throughout most of his career in front of the drums in Genesis. Collins’ last original studio album, 2002’s Testify, was the worst-reviewed album at the time of its release.

Physical health was beginning to become a concern as well. At first, he was having issues with his hearing. After his reunion tour with Genesis in 2007, it was revealed that Collins could no longer play the drums after dislocating vertebrae in his upper neck, affecting his ability to hold a drumstick. All these years of constant performing (not to mention the constant dissent from critics) had physically and mentally worn Collins down. His self-esteem, once his defining trait on and off the stage, had hit an all-time low. In a 2010 interview with Rolling Stone, Collins was painted as a lonely old man who was more interested in collecting artifacts from the Alamo (of all things) than playing music again. He even alluded to feelings of depression, claiming that he had contemplated committing suicide, but resisting for the sake of his children. So, for the first time in his career, Phil Collins stayed quiet.

For decades, Phil was always there – always ready to provide a drum fill or score a Disney movie. So, we in turn took him for granted, and you don’t know what you got ‘til it’s gone, right? For Phil Collins, the recent years of solitude have done wonders for his reputation. During Phil’s time off the face of the Earth, Genesis has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and festering Genesis reunion pleas from fans have only grown stronger. More telling is the fact that many of today’s top musicians have found an appreciation for his music. For instance, members of Arcade Fire, The Strokes, and Bon Iver covered “In the Air Tonight” a few years ago in Montreal. Electro-pop duo Phantogram recently released a cover of “Take Me Home” (so did JoJo, who apparently still does things). Even rappers like Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, Nas, Cam’ron, and Action Bronson have all sampled Collins’ music (because, you know, when I think of rap, I immediately think of Phil Collins). As the kids would say, it’s lit! Now, notable indie music blogs like Stereogum and Pitchfork are even covering Phil Collins news (including his recent performance at the US Open tennis tournament in New York in September) in between their daily Kanye West features.

It seems the time is right for Phil Collins to stage a comeback of sorts. After rereleasing his solo albums earlier this year with his now age-worn, wrinkly face spread on the covers, Collins is now set to publish his new memoir Not Dead Yet on October 25. We’ve all seen his face on those album covers, and now we’ll finally get a glimpse inside his head.

The book promises to be an honest look at the iconic pop singer’s life and career, one which many people think they know when in reality, only the surface has been scratched. Phil’s rise to stardom is already a fascinating story, because there was a chance it never was going to happen in the first place. The drum kit was Phil’s sanctuary – a fort of cymbals and toms to hide behind while the theatrical and charismatic Peter Gabriel ran the show in Genesis. When Gabriel quit the band, Collins was shoved into the spotlight on a whim, and in turn, he managed to overtop Gabriel at his own game, without the help of any mask. It’s sure to be an entertaining and enlightening read.

So, since the world is about to get a deeper view into the life of Phil Collins with Not Dead Yet, I figured why not take a moment and listen to some of the deeper cuts from Phil Collins’ storied musical career (“Gabriel-only” Genesis fans need not apply).

Genesis – “Please Don’t Ask”

One of Phil’s first tracks he wrote for Genesis, “Please Don’t Ask” is a brutally honest song about a man going through going through the motions of being newly-divorced and learning to deal with his new life. It’s Phil at his most vulnerable, which you can hear clearly in his voice, and it’s perhaps his most endearing performance.

Genesis – “More Fool Me” (live 1973)

This early live rendition of “More Fool Me” (from the Genesis Archives box set) features a young and uncharacteristically timid Phil Collins at the mic for the first time as a member of Genesis, and only Phil could deliver a song so touching. Collins practically coos into the microphone, with his voice soft to the touch. His singing would become more powerful and confident in the years to come.

Genesis – “You Might Recall”

I don’t understand why Genesis decided to leave this song off Abacab and put the goofy “Whodunnit?” in its place. It would’ve made for a perfect centerpiece to an admittedly disjointed album. But hey,   Abacab has since become certified double Platinum – selling 2 million copies worldwide – so what the hell do I know?

Genesis – “Los Endos”

Hard core Genesis fans know this gem from A Trick of the Tail, as it has been a staple in their show for years, but casual fans may have missed this frantic instrumental. On the band’s first record without Peter Gabriel, Genesis sounds rejuvenated with Phil at the helm, and “Los Endos” sees them firing on all cylinders. Although Phil doesn’t sing on this one, his finger prints are all over this. This was his baby.

Genesis – “Fading Lights”

We Can’t Dance might not have been a fan favorite, but you have to admit, THIS is how you close out an album. On “Fading Lights,” Genesis not only ended the album in style but they also put an emphatic punctuation mark to close this chapter of the band’s history. (By the way, can we all pretend that We Can’t Dance was the last Genesis album? Yes? Great! So it’s settled: there were no Genesis albums recorded after We Can’t Dance… none whatsoever… certainly none with a different singer and drummer, because that would be ridiculous. In fact, that wouldn’t be a Genesis album at all.)

Brand X – “And So To F”

Oh yeah, Phil Collins had another band: Brand X. Collins played drums for this British jazz fusion outfit on and off in his spare time for about 5 years before finally leaving to focus on Genesis and his solo career full time. This track, off the band’s 1979 album Product, is a great example of Phil’s unique drum styling and timing.

John Martyn – “Can’t Turn Back the Years” feat. Phil Collins

British singer-songwriter John Martyn collaborated with Phil Collins a few times over the years, with Collins playing drums and singing backup vocals on Martyn’s albums Grace and Danger and Glorious Fool (which was also produced by Collins). Before Martyn’s death in 2009, he and Collins recorded this track (originally on Collins’ Both Sides) for an album that was later released posthumously in 2011 titled Heaven and Earth. Martyn’s weary vocal delivery here adds new meaning and depth to Collins’ words. While Martyn made the song great, it’s still nothing without Phil Collins’ knack for a catchy ballad.

Phil Collins – “Colours”

Say what you want about Phil Collins, but there’s no denying the man has a knack for writing epic songs that provide the most bang for your buck. Sometimes they’re in short, compact tunes like “Against All Odds,” but other times, Phil can’t help but write a longer song that could’ve fit on a latter-day Genesis record like this one from …But Seriously.

Phil Collins – “It’s In Your Eyes”

Ok, I realize this isn’t THAT much of a deep cut since it has an official music video, but any chance to see Phil Collins play a guitar is pretty rare. Since this song is from an album that was released WAY later in his solo career (1996’s Dance Into The Light), it’s been unfairly neglected. It’s a delightful little pop song in the vein of George Harrison. Speaking of whom, did you know Phil Collins played the congas on “Art of Dying” from Harrison’s All Things Must Pass? I guess being an audience member in the film for A Hard Days Night wasn’t Phil’s only Beatles-related claim to fame. The more you know!

Phil Collins – “Thunder and Lightning”

Funky Phil Collins is the best. And… wait… this song has a music video too?! I thought I was being so clever with these “deep cuts.” What the hell, man? You’re making me look bad! I think Phil just loves being filmed while walking around casually as he lip-syncs his songs. He’s probably making a music video right now while he brushes his teeth. I bet he’s wearing suspenders too.

Phil Collins – “We Said Hello, Goodbye (Don’t Look Back)”

As a B-side to “Take Me Home,” this song tends to get overlooked, which is a shame because it’s one of his best ballads. No way would this song have fit on No Jacket Required, one of the most essential albums of the 80’s, but it’s a clinic in tasteful pop songwriting. That echo-y piano plunk, the build-up, the climax… it’s Phil Collins pretending to be Elton John, but without the glam.






To WXPN, with love

I’m in love.

It’s been a while since I’ve posted something here, but I have a burning in my heart that MUST be shared with the world. I feel like Buddy the Elf, twirling into his father’s big meeting with the “angry elf”. I’m in love and I don’t care who knows it!

Yes, I am in love. I am in love with 88.5 FM WXPN, Philadelphia’s best and most vital radio station.

How did this happen? Well, as chance would have it, I was driving on I-76 into Philadelphia (well, “driving” may be a stretch… more like slowly seeping eastward), and I felt the need to listen to something other than my collection of music on my iPod. So, I turned to my old friend the radio, something I don’t normally do. The last time I honestly enjoyed listening to the radio was probably when I was still driving around with my mom and “How Bizarre”  was being played.

After I switched the radio on, WXPN was the first station I landed on, right there at the beginning of the dial. And what to my wondering ears should appear but the XPN Morning Show with Kristen Kurtis and Bob Bumbers, playing one of my favorite artists – Courtney Barnett – on the radio of all places, a medium usually reserved for teeny-boppers and Rihanna.

From there, I was hooked. It didn’t take much. That morning, I was serenaded by some current & old favorites of mine, but was also introduced to artists like Sarah Jarosz, Lake Street Drive, and Oh Pep!. They even played a few great tracks off of the Day of the Dead compilation (including the great rendition of “Sugaree” by Phosphorescent, Jenny Lewis & Friends). It was love at first listen, I tell ya.

WXPN, a non-commercial, member-supported radio service of the University of Pennsylvania, strives to connect artists and audiences with a particular emphasis on new and significant artists and music. You won’t hear any commercials clogging up airtime (other than the occasional PSA). What you WILL hear is a celebration rock, blues, folk, and world music, giving many local and indie artists an opportunity to be heard. The next song you hear could be your new favorite band, and your new favorite band could be living next door (or hey, it could be me… sorry for the shameless self-promotion).They’ll play The National, David Bowie, Car Seat Headrest, The Strokes, Kurt Vile, Bruce Springsteen, and… well, you get the picture. Hell, any radio station that is willing to play “Watcher of the Skies” by Genesis in the middle of the day has my heart forever.

Since that fateful day cupid took a hold of my car radio, DJs like Helen Leicht and Dan Reed and programs like “New Music Tuesday”, “Throwback Thursday”, and “Friday Mixtape” have given me faith that radio, at least in Philadelphia, can still play a vital role in a community. WXPN also produces the live music program The World Cafe with host David Dye, a program that distributed nationally to over 200 stations across the country through NPR Music. 88.5 FM WXPN is proof that radio can still expand your musical tastes and not simply pander to it.

Yes, I am in love with a radio station, and it is a love that grows stronger with every listen.

You too can fall in love with WXPN on your computer here: xpn.org.



V for Validation – Villanova Wins!


Villanova Wildcats, 2016 NCAA National Champions

by Jeff Yerger

NOTE: I wrote this yesterday, April 5, 2016, hence the time frame here. 

It’s been nearly 24 hours since Villanova’s historic NCAA Championship win over the University of North Carolina, and I’m still giddy with the emotions from last night. My calves hurt from jumping uncontrollably after Kris Jenkins nailed the game-winning three. I think I have a bump in my head from jumping into a TV. My legs ache from walking/jumping/skipping a Lancaster Avenue jam-packed with ecstatic fans like me from Gullifty’s Bar in Bryn Mawr to Villanova’s main campus. My face hurts from smiling like an idiot during the whole celebration up until I went to bed. And I’ve never felt better.

77-74, Villanova wins… is this real life? Did any of this actually happen? Did Jenkins really make that three, or is it still in the air? Was that actually Charles Barkley bouncing up and down like a school girl? To Villanova alumni and/or fans like me across the globe, this has been fairy tale material. Villanova’s not supposed to win these kinds of games. Only Kentucky, Duke, Kansas, and UNC are allowed to win championships, right? Not some Catholic school outside of Philadelphia. Four years ago, Villanova was written off. Today, a group of scrappy kids who grew up in the greater Philadelphia area have transcended into college basketball legends. Kris Jenkins has become a folk hero. Seniors Ryan Arcidiacono and Daniel Ochefu blossomed into superstars before our eyes in four years. These are our guys, man. They did it!

NCAA Basketball: Final Four Championship Game-Villanova vs North Carolina

Yeah, I’m still at a loss for words as to how to describe this feeling (although the word “relief” and the phrase “I can now die happy” come to mind). Last night was everything I dreamed of and more, and yet, I’m not sure I could’ve pictured a more perfect moment. It was so damn perfect. This is why we love sports. We live and die by one game, one shot, one play, one moment. Games like last night’s are why we subject ourselves to years of agony and frustration, because the reward can be so damn sweet.

On a personal level, Villanova winning the national championship means the world to me, and it is something I will cherish for the rest of my life. Villanova has always been a huge part of my life. Most of my family attended Villanova. My grandmother worked at the law school, while my grandfather was a professor in the library science department. My sister and I literally would not be here if it weren’t for Villanova, as our parents met there during their senior year. I’m so so lucky that they were able to afford to send me there when it was my time for college, and I don’t thank them enough for it.  To me, this win is for them; for us.

As for the rest of us, Villanova becoming national champions is validation with a capital “V” – validation for every “Piccolo Girl” tear, every early March Madness exit, and every player who has set foot in the Pavillion. It is validation for Big 5 basketball, and the great basketball culture the city of Philadelphia has to offer. It is validation for the “Nova Nation” – for every student, parent, professor, staff, alumni, and fan. It is validation for every sleepless night studying. It is validation for every dollar spent on student loans. It is validation for taking a chance and submitting an application to attend Villanova University. Villanova’s win validates the pride we all have for this great school and its community. It’s way more than basketball.

This year’s Villanova Basketball team played with an unmatched amount of heart, courage, and sportsmanship. They always hustled, and they never faltered under pressure, winning many games and countless hearts in the process. Every player on this team played an important role in this championship, from the walk-ons to the video coordinator, because that’s what great teams do. We always knew we had a great coach in Jay Wright, who now has a new ring to add to his spectacular wardrobe. We always knew we had a great team that was capable of great things, and it’s about time we got some validation. We earned it.

Slonk So Hard


Slonk Donkerson, Mercury Lounge, New York, NY  2.26.16 Photo by Jeff Yerger

I have no idea what the name Slonk Donkerson means. It could be a sandwich, a disease, or the name of an alien from a galaxy far away. Frankly, I don’t care what it means, but it feels like it’s been around forever.

Slonk Donkerson, a Brooklyn-based band of long time friends Dylan Vandenhoeck (bass/lead vocals), Zack O’Brien (formerly drums, now guitar/backup vocals), and Parker W. Silzer IV (guitar/vocals), absolutely rocked the Mercury Lounge in New York City Friday, February 26. They’re everything you could possibly want in a band: poise, attitude, rawness, and slick rock and roll that pays homage to The Replacements, Husker Du, and even the bands those groups stood against like Van Halen, 80’s Genesis, and Rush. Plus, Vandenhoeck is a mullet-clad frontman who plays a fretless, five-string bass…  I mean, come on, how cool is that?

On paper, this concept sounds so insincere and perhaps a little cheesy, but man, Slonk Donkerson is the exact opposite. It’s not just enough to sound like bits and pieces of these bands, you have to evoke the feeling and energy that comes along with the sound. Slonk brought that kind of musical excitement to the Mercury Lounge Friday. It was a kind of excitement that I haven’t felt since I saw The Replacements for the first time at Forrest Hills in 2014. Plus, they’re crowd-pleasers. I have the utmost respect for a band that’s not too proud to play a song or two that the crowd wants the hear. I’m not even sure “Watching Every Channel at Once” and “Build Something / Break Even” (my two immediate favorites) were on the setlist, but when the crowd shouted out for them, they played them.

Their new album, The Lunar Martini Motorbike Club and Their Respective Destinies is…well… weirdly named but wildly fun. Slonk has a unique talent for combining a million different sounds and different ideas into one 3:00 song. While it’s evoking familiar sounds, Slonk Donkerson is so different than anything coming out of Brooklyn. It’s refreshing. I highly recommend seeing this band at one of their many shows in the New York City area (here’s hoping they travel down to Philly where I am now). They’re a great band with a bright future and a killer live show. It’s as Slonk as that!

Go listen to their album on Soundcloud or better yet, buy it on iTunes.


The (Frustrating) Life of Pablo

“Name one genius that ain’t crazy.”

It’s finally happened. Kanye West has actually gone insane. His mind has always been in a perpetual state of motion, constantly redirecting his attention from music to art to fashion to Twitter and to God-knows what else. On his latest The Life of Pablo, Kanye’s ego has finally the better of him. The rollout for TLOP was an absolute shit show of empty promises and false starts (it still is). The album itself is an absolute mess. I’m not even confident it’s finished. In fact, I hope it really isn’t finished. If TLOP actually turns out to be an experiment on how the music media will seemingly eat up anything he shits out on both Tidal and Twitter, then I will certainly tip my “Yeezus” cap to him. Until then, I cannot sit here and defend this record.

Not that he needs me to. For all the shit Kanye West gets for is actions outside the studio (some of it deserved, most of it not), people tend to forget that he is a truly gifted musician. Kanye West is a man with a unique gift of musical knowledge and a golden touch for sampling and producing. He is a smart person brimming with ideas and enthusiasm, who can be as articulate as a professor when he wants to be. That’s why it’s frustrating that Kanye West would release such a deliberately half-hassed product, but I like to think he knows what he’s doing. It’s like Kanye knows that even if he farts in a microphone, critics will love it anyway. After listening to some of these lyrics, he did exactly that. He spewed a lot of that sort of crap on Yeezus, but at least on that record, the music had purpose and razor-sharp focus. Every word he spoke came across like an exorcising of demons, and we all bought it. On TLOP, the lyrics are cringe-worthy just for the sake of being cringe-worthy, and now I find myself wondering if everything that was said on Yeezus was just as cheap and insincere. As attention-getters, the X-rated lyrics work, but in the end, many of the songs suffer for the ignorance.

But it’s not just the lyrics that are way sub-par. The music, 90% of it not even produced by West himself, is consistently inconsistent and relentlessly frustrating. You keep waiting for songs like “FML” and “Highlights”, which have SO much potential, to become fully realized. Instead, they feel tossed aside from a man bored with his own creation.

Take the track “30 Hours” for example. Initially, it’s one of the best songs on the album, as Kanye raps like he’s still wearing pink polos over a beat that would fit right in on The College Dropout. It’s hard-hitting, direct, and damn good. That is, until it isn’t. Like a NJ Transit train headed to Penn Station, Kanye inexplicably stops. He just gives up on the song, turning a potential show-stopper into a glorified demo. Instead of finishing the song out, he blabbers on about bonus tracks, mumbles a barely conceived verse idea, and even answers his damn cell phone. He just leaves all of that in there! Critics will tell you this is art – the sound of a scatterbrained man at work – but I’m here to tell you this is bullshit. Any track that features Andre 3000 but doesn’t actually have Andre 3000 rapping (or doing anything, really) on the song is bullshit. The two rappers had a chance at a banger, but instead settled for an under-cooked piece of meat. It’s the story of this album, really. Kanye settles; he never attacks. And he wants Tidal users to pay $20 for this? Come on, man. Would you buy a car with no wheels for $50,000?

Now, that’s not to say that TLOP doesn’t have its moments of clarity. Like I said, it’s easy to forget that Kanye West is a gifted producer. The skeletal “Ultralight Beam” delivers on Kanye’s Twitter promise of this album being a “gospel album.” Ever the curator, Kanye lets the young Chance the Rapper steal the spotlight with the most captivating verse on a Kanye West album since Nicki Minaj’s ferocious debut on “Monsters”. The first true taste of TLOP back in January, “Real Friends,” is another understated but beautiful gem, with a moody, haunting piano setting the scene for Kanye to once again play the bad friend and even worse family member. It’s one of those songs that reminds you why you root for Kanye in the first place. The best song on TLOP by far is “No More Parties in LA,” and it’s one of the best songs of the year so far. It’s a perfect example of what makes Kanye West so great, and also what makes this album so frustration because of how it could’ve been so much more. Kanye, along with Kendrick Lamar(!), just let loose on this track. The three samples on here, including Junie Morrison’s “Suzie Thundertussy,” have no right being on the same track together, yet it sounds so seamless and captivating. It’s the most fully realized this album gets, and I can guarantee you’re going to be hearing a lot more of it blaring out of car stereos this summer.

I want to sit down with Kanye West. I want to tell him that he’s capable of so much more. We all know this, and I think he knows it too. So, why is he settling for this? I want to know why he isn’t pushing himself to be better, like all the greats. Or maybe he’s pushing to hard… no one man should have all that power, right? I’m not looking for the old Kanye; I’m just looking for a sign that the man is still willing to continue to push himself musically, and not merely settle. Give me a chance to interview him, to buy him a beer he desperately seems to need. I want to ask him all these things and more. He’d probably tell me to fuck off, and if he did, I’d be happy because at least that would mean the fire isn’t out.

Sunday Barrel Best of 2015


Welcome to another edition of the annual Sunday Barrel Year-End Celebration, where we’ll take a look back at the best music to come out of 2015. December is the time of year where music blogs such as this like to pretend that music is a sport that can easily be broken down into rankings so readers like you can grumble and complain. That’s what the internet is all about, right? As with any “sport,” there are bound to be winners and losers (unless you play in Bettman’s NHL, then EVERYONE’s a winner), let’s take a look at some of the biggest winners and losers of 2015.



No offense, Philadelphia, but when did you become cool?* As I was looking through my favorite music from this and recent years, I noticed a startling number of bands come from Philadelphia or the surrounding area. I mean, look at this list:

  • The War on Drugs
  • Kurt Vile
  • Pissed Jeans
  • Hop Along
  • Free Energy
  • Amanda X
  • Strand of Oaks
  • Nothing
  • Beach Slang
  • Restorations

This city is stacked! If there was such a thing as a Fantasy Music League, Philadelphia would dominate. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are many great musicians in the ranks, playing shows at great Philly venues like World Café Live, MilkBoy, Johnny Brendas, First Unitarian Church, etc., waiting their turn for national recognition. Thanks to these bands, venues, and radio stations like WXPN and Radio 104.5, Philadelphia’s music scene is truly thriving.

*This is no way an endorsement for any major sport team based in Philadelphia. Also, please note that the phrase “No offense, Philadelphia” is a trademark of all Philadelphia sports.


Another aspect I noticed about my favorite music from this and recent years is the amount of women just killing it in music right now. Most of the bands I listen to feature at least one female member. Music is now led by women, and it’s about damn time we recognize. Adele is setting fire to the rain and the billboard charts, single-handedly saving the music industry (and perhaps destroying the music streaming) in the process. Meanwhile, Taylor Swift and her ever-growing squad have taken over the radio and your local arenas, Beyoncé will probably drop a surprise album tomorrow, and a new Rihanna album is right around the corner (we think). But I’m not just talking about pop starlets, as there are many powerful, strong, and talented young women making noise away from the Top 40 charts. Female-fronted artists like Bully, Screaming Females, Grimes, CHVRCHES, Hop Along, and Courtney Barnett all released some of the best music this year, and they’re only getting started.

Tom freakin’ Petty

I’m not sure how it happened, but Tom Petty is inescapable. Not Tom Petty himself, but his sound. Who knew Tom Petty was so prolific? The dude started his 2015 off by winning a lawsuit for songwriting credits on Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me,” as it was decided that it sounds a little too close to Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down.” How did Petty handle it? He called it “a musical accident,” saying in a statement, “All my years of songwriting have shown me these things can happen. The word lawsuit was never even said and was never my intention. I wish Sam all the best for his ongoing career. Peace and love to all.“ How chill is that? The dude abides, man. If only the Gaye Family Estate was half as sympathetic. Legally, many new artists and veterans alike are getting in on the Tom Petty action. Last year, The War on Drugs carried the Petty torch with their magnificent roots-rock opus Lost in a Dream. In 2015, the “Petty Trend” continued. On his latest album, b’lieve I’m goin down, Kurt Vile (a friend of The War on Drugs, of course) is at the top of his Petty game. The great song “Pretty Pimpin’” recalls Petty’s laid-back, stoner’s brand of classic rock. But it’s not just Kurt Vile who’s livin’ like a refugee. Ryan Adams, who had a great 2015 of his own, nailed a Tom Petty-covering-Taylor-Swift impression on his version of Swift’s 1989. Hell, even Deerhunter and Tallest Man on Earth took the Petty sound for a spin on their respective albums. So, tell your dad or your uncle: classic rock is back baby! I, for one, can’t wait for the year when the Peter Frampton sound comes around.



I’m done defending this band. When word of a new Coldplay album in 2015 surfaced, I felt they had every chance to make a truly great album after breaking new ground on Ghost Stories. That album, while a little uneven, had some inspired moments, reminding us that Coldplay is one of the few mainstream pop acts that challenges their listeners which each release. But this pile of crap – their seventh (and possibly last) album, A Head Full of Dreams – I cannot defend. I never thought I’d say it, but it makes me yearn for the days when Coldplay had rushes of blood in their head rather than meaningless dreams (A Rush of Blood to the Head is a great pop album that will only get better with age). What happened to the old Coldplay? Songs like “Clocks,” “Magic,” or even “Paradise,” I can defend. But “Adventure of a Lifetime”? I can’t even. There is no redeeming quality about this new album. There are no hooks and no earworms here, both of which Chris Martin always had a knack for. A Head Full of Dreams is just a mish-mash of sound, and I now know what Coldplay sounds like to people who hate them.

Spotify, Tidal, Apple Music – Streaming Music

I get the feeling that the major music industry still doesn’t know what to do with the Internet. 15 years since Napster came in like a wrecking ball, major labels have seemingly shrugged their shoulders and said “fuck it”, giving the music away for free after all with little-to-no benefit to the actual artists. Streaming music is now controlled by three major services: Spotify, Tidal, and Apple Music. This past year saw these services aggressively competing for real estate on the same barren island. It’s like Lord of the Flies, and Jay Z is Piggy. The millionaire posse of artists representing Tidal spent most of 2015 practically begging for our business, with not much to offer but “exclusive” videos and shows. Their main schtik was that they’d be working “for the artists”, but so far, very few listeners have bought into it. While it’s fundamentally great to have free and open access to this amount of music, it’s not benefitting anyone but label owners. Artists like Coldplay, Taylor Swift, and Adele – arguably the world’s biggest pop stars – have not offered their music for streaming. Adele’s new album 25 has sold 6 million copies in four weeks in the US alone. In today’s world, that kind of number is unheard of! And you want to know how she was able to do this? She did not make 25 available on music streaming services. If you wanted to hear the album, you had to shell out the dough. It’s a great strategy for her, but unfortunately, smaller artists wouldn’t be able to get away with this. While free exposure on the internet is great for any new band, they’d be lying if they said that money wasn’t a concern. Something needs to be done for the up-and-comers so they can get their fair share. What that plan might look like, I haven’t a clue, but I’m sure something can be done. It’s too bad Jay Z and his friends are more worried about the money in their own pockets.

YouTube and David Letterman

This might be one that only matters to me, but remember those great performances on Late Night with David Letterman over the years? I’m talking Ryan Adams, Future Islands, The Strokes, etc. Well, they’re all gone! None of these legendary performances are available to watch on YouTube anymore… well, at least the ones on the now-deleted Letterman YouTube channel. Come on, man! Just because Letterman retired, doesn’t mean all the great musical moments from the show should go too.


TOP SONGS of 2015

Honorable Mentions:

Cheerleader, Omi

Watching Every Channel At Once, Slonk Donkerson

Style, Ryan Adams

Can’t Keep Checking My Phone, Unknown Mortal Orchestra

Continental Shelf, Viet Cong

Never Get You Right, Brandon Flowers

Gifts for the Earth, Deafheaven

Trace Me Onto You, Title Fight


50. Lonely Town, Brandon Flowers

49. 679 (feat. Remy Boyz), Fetty Wap

48. Desperate Guy, The Fratellis

47. Nobody Really Cares If You Don’t Go to the Party, Courtney Barnett

46. Ship To Wreck, Florence and the Machine

45. The Less I Know The Better, Tame Impala

44. Pretty Pimpin, Kurt Vile

43. Multi-Love, Unknown Mortal Orchestra

42. Forget It’s A Dream, Communions

41. All Day, Kanye West

40. Darkness of the Dream, The Tallest Man On Earth

39. I Can Do No Wrong, American Wrestlers

38. Powerful Man, Hop Along

37. Bought to the Water, Deafheaven

36. Six, Bully

35. The Ideal Husband, Father John Misty

34. Repetition, Purity Ring

33. Complexity, Eagles of Death Metal

32. Levels, Nick Jonas

31. Ripe, Screaming Females

30. I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times) (feat. Young Thug & Popcaan), Jamie xx

29. Feeling Ok, Best Coast

28. Thief, The Fratellis

27. Push Pull, Purity Ring

26. My Body, Armstrong Leigh

25. Rose Of Sharon, Title Fight

24. Depreston, Courtney Barnett

23. Breaker, Deerhunter

22. Kill V. Maim, Grimes

21. The Moment, Tame Impala

20. How Much a Dollar Cost (feat. James Fauntleroy & Ronald Isley), Kendrick Lamar

19. Chateau Lobby #4 (In C For Two Virgins), Father John Misty

18. Necessary Evil, Unknown Mortal Orchestra

17. Snakeskin, Deerhunter

16. Leave A Trace, CHVRCHES

15. The Blacker the Berry, Kendrick Lamar

14. Flesh Without Blood, Grimes

13. Gosh, Jamie xx

12. Uptown Funk (featuring Bruno Mars), Mark Ronson

11. Lock All The Doors, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds

10.Can’t Feel My Face, The Weeknd

It’s weird we now live in a world where The Weeknd is one of the biggest pop stars on the planet. It wasn’t that long ago when Abel Tesfaye was releasing mysterious mixtapes of drugged-out, moody R&B songs whilst remaining anonymous to the public. Tesfaye’s still got a little bit of that baggage with him, but he hits the nail on the head on “Can’t Feel My Face,” a song that struts and grooves like a smooth criminal. It’s definitely the best Top 40 song of the year for me.

  1. Down Side Of Me, CHVRCHES

What I like about CHVCHES, other than the juicy synths in each song, is that on their newest album, Every Open Eye, they didn’t rush to change their sound on what’s only their 2nd record. Instead, they improved every aspect of what made their first album so great. The production is a little slicker, the melodies are a little catchier, and Lauren Mayberry’s voice gets stronger with every performance. “Down Side of Me” is a deep cut from an album full of radio-friendly bangers, but I think it’s the most emotionally powerful of the bunch.

  1. Trying, Bully

It’s a damn shame this band wasn’t around 20 years ago, because this song would be everywhere, after every final Cobain chord fades. In a way, that’s exactly what Bully does on their debut album: pick up where Nirvana left off, that is if Nirvana was fronted by the lovechild of Courtney Love and Gwen Stefani. Guitarist/Vocalist Alicia Bognanno is a leading force, delivering her brutally honest lyrics with scorching tongue. Plus, she produced the whole thing herself. Somewhere in the heart of Chicago, Steve Albini must be proud of his former intern.

  1. Pedestrian at Best, Courtney Barnett

“Put me on a pedestal and I’ll only disappoint you / Tell me I’m exceptional, I promise to exploit you.” Courtney Barnett has quickly become one of the best lyricists this generation has to offer. Her words are funny, poignant, and strong. I was blown away when I first heard this song back in March. At times on her A Sea of Split Peas Double EP, Courtney’s songs, much like her words, tended to ramble on as her mind would audibly wander. On “Pedestrian,” Courtney and her backing band of scoundrels have found a laser-sharp focus with more than enough pep to knock you off your feet.

  1. Sister Cities, Hop Along

Hop Along’s newest album, Painted Shut, is a revealing set of angsty indie-rock. Everything about it is so human, which has a lot to do with the urgency in the music and Quinlan’s voice. Hailing from Philly, Hop Along’s songs are about growing up quickly despite feeling helpless and weak at times. On “Sister Cities,” Frances Quinlan’s voice strains with a defeated exasperation, like she’s just so sick of this shit around her, although she’s not yet ready to give up.

  1. Alright, Kendrick Lamar

I’m already sick of hearing about the upcoming presidential election. They’re all fart-sniffers and snake-oil salesmen/women, in my humble opinion. Everyone has their different and respective opinions on what are the big issues in America, but there’s no denying that one of the biggest issues plaguing out country is the continuing racial divide. On Kendrick Lamar’s hip-hop masterpiece To Pimp A Butterfly, he speaks of the real life struggles black Americans face every day, against some of the very people who are supposed to be protecting them. On the best song of the album, “Alright,” he paints a bleak picture, citing the oppression and depression he’s experienced in his hometown: “We hate popo / wanna kill us dead in the street for sure.” When all seems hopeless, Kendrick proudly reminds us that despite all this, “we gon be alright.” It’s a simple, universal message that points to a peaceful future. It seeks to unite, not divide, and points to a future of opportunity. It doesn’t matter whether you’re black, white, yellow, purple, or blue… the message is the same: “we gon be alright,” Now THAT’S a change I can believe in.

4. Luna, Deafheaven

Following up a groundbreaking album like 2013’s Sunbather can be a daunting task, but Deafheaven are hitting their stride. New Bermuda is a different but better album. “Luna,” the second of five songs on the album, pulverizes anything on Sunbather. The first half of the song is absolutely brutal, as George Clarke pushes his screams to the limit over guitarist Kerry McCoy’s Slayer-like attack. The wonderful thing about Deafheaven, and what makes them so great, is that as dark as things get with them, there is always a moment of relief and light around the corner that counterbalances the darkness. The final few minutes of “Luna” is an eruption of ecstasy and relief so powerful, it’ll make you cry. I have no idea what Clark is singing on this song (or the whole album, really) but quite frankly, it doesn’t matter. The one word I can make out at the end is “suburbia,” and in the moment on the song, it’s the most beautiful word I’ve ever heard.

  1. I Went To The Store One Day, Father John Misty

Father John Misty is one cynical bastard. Every word he utters on the gorgeous I Love You, Honeybear is sung with a sly grin and a tongue firmly in cheek. Father John Misty, himself, is a persona Josh Tillman can hide behind so he can get away with singing about love, marriage, and changing his dastardly ways without sounding like a complete asshole with an acoustic guitar. As much as I like the sarcastic Father John Misty, the album’s best moment is when the mask is stripped away and it’s Josh Tillman, just another asshole with an acoustic guitar. On the album closer, “I Went To the Store One Day,” Tillman is at his most vulnerable, talking about his desire for a lifelong marriage and a quiet life in the south. He doesn’t mince words or make any jokes here. This love between him and his new wife Emma is complicated, beautiful, and real. Yet, it started out so simply at some grocery store in southern California. Out of all the great lyrics on I Love You, Honeybear, Tillman save’s his best and most impactful for the very end.

  1. Let It Happen, Tame Impala

Kevin Parker, the mastermind behind Tame Impala, doesn’t want to get caught in the same place for too long. Like any great musician, he’s changing but he still wants us to come along for the ride. It’s a theme that’s omnipresent on his brilliant new album Currents. Sure, Parker could’ve easily pulled another psych-rock opus like Lonerism out of his ass, and it probably would’ve been great. But thanks to Currents, we now know that’s not how Parker’s mind works. That’s not how anything works in life, and sometimes, you just gotta let it happen. That’s what Kevin Parker struggles with on his best album opener to date. It’s an urgent and frantic song that borrows traits from Tame Impala’s past songs while hinting at the change that blooms on the rest of the album. The music itself highlights the struggle in Kevin Parker’s mind, but in the end, he does what he wants and moves forward. The sound is progressive as the song twists and turns, leading up to a exhilarating vocoder-assisted climax. If you had told me Daft Punk produced the middle section, I would’ve believed you. But no, this is all Kevin Parker, and on “Let It Happen,” it’s amazing what he can do no matter what muse he follows.

  1. REALiTi (Demo), Grimes

It’s been a long time since we heard from Grimes. Her last album, Visions, gave her some major street-cred among indie critics and fans alike. Despite it’s spacey weirdness, Visions was a pop-album at heart straight out of the mind of an eccentric young woman out of Canada named Claire Boucher. However, after nearly 3 years since that album’s release, we didn’t hear much from Boucher. In 2014, she gave us “Go,” a Skrillex-ed out jam that was originally written for Rihanna (who didn’t want it) and was supposed to be featured on a Grimes album that Boucher herself abandoned to start from scratch. At this point, fans were left to wonder if Visions was just a fluke. Little did we know, Boucher spent the better of three years teaching herself how to play different instruments like the guitar and violin, as well as mastering her production skills. Finally, in March, we heard the initial fruits of Boucher’s labor: an unmastered/unmixed demo called “REALiTi,” released only to hold fans over for her November album Art Angels. I know what you’re thinking (other than “do I have to read this whole thing?”): a demo? Really? Yes, really. This demo is hardly a demo at all. In fact, this unfinished product is so well-produced, it’s miles better than your highly polished Top 40 summer jam. But that’s not the only thing that makes this song so great. “REALiTi” is smooth combination of chill-wave, synth-pop, and Napster-era techno, making for an irresistible jam that can only be made by Grimes. There’s simply nothing like it.


TOP ALBUMS of 2015

30. 1989, Ryan Adams

29. II, METZ

28. Sounds & Color, Alabama Shakes

27. California Nights, Best Coast

26. The Lunar Martini Motorcycle Club, Slonk Donkerson

25. Dark Bird Is Home, The Tallest Man On Earth

24. Another Eternity, Purity Ring

23. American Wrestlers, American Wrestlers

22. The Desired Effect, Brandon Flowers

21. b’lieve i’m goin down…, Kurt Vile

20. Chasing Yesterday, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds

19. Communions EP, Communions

18. Fading Frontier, Deerhunter

17. The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us, Beach Slang

16. Zipper Down, Eagles Of Death Metal

15. The Magic Whip, Blur

14. Painted Shut, Hop Along

13. Rose Mountain, Screaming Females

12. Multi-Love, Unknown Mortal Orchestra

11. Eyes Wide, Tongue Tied, The Fratellis

10. Hyperview , Title Fight

9. Feels Like, Bully

8. To Pimp a Butterfly, Kendrick Lamar

7. Every Open Eye, CHVRCHES

6. In Colour, Jamie xx

5. I Love You, Honeybear, Father John Misty

4. Art Angels, Grimes

3. Currents, Tame Impala

2. Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit, Courtney Barnett

1 New Bermuda, Deafheaven

2015 was an embarrassment of riches for music geeks like me. I highly recommend listening to all of the albums I listed above, as each of them could easily be #1. It’s been THAT good of a year in music.

If you’re still one of those people who ignorantly believes that there’s no good music out there anymore, there’s no better time than now to turn off the radio and try one of these albums out. I’m not saying to completely disregard everything in the Top 40, because there’s a lot of good stuff there too. But if you think that’s all the new music there is, that’s like drinking Bud Light all your life without ever tasting an IPA or a fine wine. There’s a lot of beauty out there, you just have to know where to listen.

For example, Courtney Barnett, a talented young woman from Australia, released an incredible new album chock full of fun, honest rock and roll. Barnett’s a gifted songwriter who has a unique way with words. She tells stories that will make you laugh and break your heart, squeezing every last word out of her head until she runs out of breath before the next verse. Sometimes I Sit and Think is one hell of a debut from a musician that has a truly bright and exciting future. If you’re going to start with any album from this list, make sure it’s hers.

As for me, my favorite album from this year is Deafheaven’s New Bermuda. I’ve written about it extensively in the past, so at this point, there’s not much more to say except I still can’t get enough of it. I’ve never had an album punch me so hard in the gut emotionally and musically. If death-metal isn’t your thing, I totally understand. It isn’t mine either, and it’s too bad the death-metal moniker is going to scare a lot of people away from this great band. The thing about Deafheaven is they aren’t interested in adhering to the metal genre as it is traditionally known. Out of all the genres of music, metal tends to be the most stubborn. Metal fans are like a cult, and if any band deviates from the norm (that is, if a band tries to evolve as any good band should), they’re spit upon. Deafheaven is a band that can’t be pigeon-holed into one genre. They’re too unique for that; too forward-thinking. New Bermuda defies any single genre. The album is a seamless blend of thrash metal Metallica, Explosions in the Sky and their post-rock grandeur, and Oasis at the peak of Britpop. The result is absolutely breathtaking, and for that, it is my favorite album of 2015.

An Apology Letter to the New York Mets

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 21:  David Wright #5 of the New York Mets celebrates with his teammates after defeating the Chicago Cubs in game four of the 2015 MLB National League Championship Series at Wrigley Field on October 21, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois.  The Mets defeated the Cubs with a score of 8 to 3 to sweep the Championship Series.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

CHICAGO, IL – OCTOBER 21: David Wright #5 of the New York Mets celebrates with his teammates after defeating the Chicago Cubs in game four of the 2015 MLB National League Championship Series at Wrigley Field on October 21, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. The Mets defeated the Cubs with a score of 8 to 3 to sweep the Championship Series. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Dear Mets,

Congratulations. Congratulations on your well-earned National League Pennant. For a while there, I never thought this day would come, and now I can only say one thing: I’m sorry. I’m truly sorry my fandom for you ever waned. This is not me hopping aboard the bandwagon, for I’ve always been a supporter. This is me coming to my senses, not taking leave of them.

All my life, I have been surrounded by loud and proud Yankee fans (emphasis on the LOUD). Every baseball season, it’s the same old story: the Yankees and their fans brag about shit-ton of championships they bought… I mean won, while the Mets biggest accomplishment in the past 20 years was Keith Hernandez’s Seinfeld appearance. Yet, despite being blinded by pinstripes, I stayed true to my team of permanent underdogs. The universe wasn’t yet graced with my presence for the 1986 World Series, so the Mets of the 90s/2000s are all I have. I’ll always remember Mike Piazza’s calm demeanor in the batter’s box, before he would unleash a lightning bolt of a swing that’d send the baseball to the nearest runway at LaGuardia. I’ll also never forget the likes of John Olerud, Al Leiter, John Franco, Eduardo Alfonso… all these guys were my baseball heroes back when I could barely swing an aluminum bat. The Mets didn’t always sport the best players in the MLB, and but these guys were MY players, dammit, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

But then I went to college in Philadelphia during the first year of what I like to call the “Great Mets Collapse,” and suddenly being a Mets fan wasn’t so easy. Of course, the Phillies just happened to be on the rise those years while the Mets choked more than Pierce Brosnan eating a piece of shrimp. In Philadelphia, Phillie fans came out of the woodwork, if only to join the #LOLMets bandwagon. I was humiliated. I was suddenly being persecuted for my beliefs in a team that always wanted us to believe in them. Instead of my folk heroes of youth, all I had to cling onto (other than Mr. Met in human form:  David Wright) was Jason Bay, Ike Davis, and… for some reason… Gary Sheffield.

I was angry. I mean, you guys were involved in a fucking Ponzi scheme for Christ sake! How was I supposed to defend you? I never wanted it to be like this. Because of all this, the Mets were no longer on my radar. Baseball, in general, had become a dying interest of mine. In the past, I always had room for the Mets despite my rabid New York Ranger obsession. Yet during these years, I felt betrayed, and it was hard to find a silver lining in my Mets.

Within the last few years, I began to appreciate the beauty of baseball again, coming to terms with my team’s mediocrity. I mean, the Mets couldn’t be bad forever right? Baseball, at least to me, is about hanging out with family or friends in the summer, having a few beers, and watching a game develop and grow. That’s what the American dream is all about, and that’s what summer should be about. I came to this realization last year at Citi Field, for a meaningless game between the Mets and the Miami Marlins. It was just my dad and I, and despite the Mets losing 5 – 1, we still had the best time; just two guys drinking, bonding, and enjoying a warm summer night. The Mets were back on my radar again, and after this year, they have become more than just a fleeting blip.

So, my dearest New York Mets, I hope you will forgive me. This has been one hell of a season, and man, it has been damn fun to watch. Your pitching, your guts, your crying short stops, and your otherworldly 2nd baseman have given me hope in this gutsy little team of superheroes from Queens. The darker the days, the sweeter the light is at the end, and right now, this light is shining brightly. As I mentioned earlier, Yankee fans may be loud, but that sound is fading. We Met fans have kept our mouths shut all these years, and for the first time in a long time, our vocal chords are warmed up and ready to be heard.

You’ve already made us proud this season, and perhaps you have conquered the biggest accomplishment of all: you have made us Met fans believe in the amazin’ again. As for me, I’m sorry it took so long for me to catch up. I just got stuck.