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2010 in Music

LIST OF REVIEWS:

Cassidy Haley and the Sunshine Rebels: The Fool (2010)
Michael Jackson: Michael (2010)
Johnny 5th Wheel & The Cowards: J5W (2010)
Phil Lewis: Movements in Space (2010)
Troy Meadows: Love Song for Astronomers (2013)
Mr Haynes: Up After Dark (2010)
OK Go: Of the Blue Colour of the Sky (2010)
Ringo Starr: Y Not (2010)


Cassidy Haley and the Sunshine Rebels: The Fool (2010)

Album Score: 10

Fortunately, the music in this album doesn't sound anything like you might expect from the cover. There are no “ethereal” pseudo-classical pieces, lyrics about mythical creatures, or pan flute solos to speak of. Rather, this is folk-pop oriented. Some of these songs are fully acoustic (with some atmospheric synthscapes for effect), but he also isn't afraid to occasionally throw in a dance groove here and there.

On the whole, these songs aren't too bad. The instrumentation is mostly organic. Acoustic guitar is always nice, of course, and he occasionally employs a violinist or cellist to noodle along independently with the vocal melody. I'd say his biggest strength as a songwriter is his ability to instill dramatic urgency in his songs. They tend to start out quietly, and the tension is ever-so-gradually built up until the final third when it has nothing left to do but explode. He's so proficient at it that I sometimes forget that the melodies are generally quite bland. Many of them sound an awful lot like those boring CCM ditties I hear played at my church.

I also don't like the way he sings. But I blame that on the media. He sounds like he's giving an American Idol performance. It's nothing but a lot of forced fanciness and fake soul. Take a listen to his cover of “Moon River,” and ask yourself if those extra notes he added to the melody were necessary. That said, I don't want to suggest that he has a poor singing voice. He's able to hit all his prescribed notes strongly. It's just that he comes across as a singer who doesn't believe what he sings. ...Then again, I suppose it doesn't matter since the lyrics are one cliché after another.

He starts the album off with two ballads. The first, “Prologue (The Fool, Part 1),” is a wholly decent piano song. Again, the “soulful” singing doesn't float my boat, but the melody is decent, and I like the sound of that hollow piano. “Fly” makes an OK listen; I can sit through it politely, but after it's through playing, I immediately forget about it. A great ballad will linger linger with me after it's through playing, but unfortunately “Fly” and almost everything else on The Fool is miles away from achieving that.

There is, however, one song that I rather like called “Whiskey in Churches.” If I were to guess what inspired him to make it, it would be the country-western glam of Elton John's Tumbleweed Connection. He concocts a fun, clappy groove for it, and for effect he adds some deep pulsating bass and twangy fuzz guitar. What's more, this song marks the only point in the album where I actually like listening to him sing. Particularly in the chorus when he endlessly repeats “Oh my god, my god, my god” in a too-cool-for-school manner. It works. If he chases that sound in future albums, I think he might be onto something. He concocts a similar sort of groove for “Spindle,” which is also a fun song, but without the country-western influence, it's not so distinctive.

Most of the songs in the second half are so non-distinctive that they're almost not worth mentioning, but I do like the energy he gets going with “Dying to Live.” Again, the melody isn't anything to write home about, but he handles its dramatic quality brilliantly by bringing in some youthful choir singers. Choirs in pop songs can sometimes seem pretentious and excessive, but not here; it serves only to usher in added energy at precisely the right moments.

All things considered, I'd say the only glaring mistake he made in this entire album was “Ride the Night,” which approaches boring electro-garbage territory. The groove is monotonous, and he processes his vocals in such a way that it sounds like CD is skipping. It's not a terrible song, but it adds absolutely nothing to this album.

I admit, I felt mildly panicked when I opened my mail and had my first glance of the album cover. It gave me the sense that I had finally come across the first bad album sent to me to review for promotional purposes, and the last thing I want to do is crush somebody's dreams. (I know, I'm just a blogger with no clout whatsoever, but some musicians are fragile, you know!) But to my delight, this album was actually quite decent. He should rethink his vocal style, and it couldn't hurt him to try to work out some more potent pop-hooks in his songs, but it's all quite tasteful. This album score is a solid 9, but that bad-ass chorus from “Whiskey in Churches” was enough to warrant a bump-up to a weak 10.

Read the track reviews:
The Fool


Michael Jackson: Michael (2010)

Album Score: 8

Michael Jackson died. In his wake, he left behind a vault of unreleased material, the contents of which his family were all-too-happy to sell Sony the distribution rights for $250 million. Unfortunately most of these songs weren't finished, and extensive post-production had to be done to them. Considering Sony shelled out such a lot of money for these songs, wouldn't you expect them to find a world-class sound engineer to polish these songs until they glow? There are millions of hungry fans out there, and they want new Michael Jackson songs that they'll be itching to put on as much as they put on Thriller. ...Or at least Dangerous. Right?

Even though the level of songs on this album is usually decent, the production standards are unfortunately atrocious. Michael Jackson's songwriting had always been hit-or-miss (usually hits), and they were backed up with some of the finest song production ever seen in pop music. The songs on Michael, on the other hand, are tinny and limp. By far my biggest complaint are the consistently dull drum machine rhythms. Instead of rhythms that inject life and excitement into the proceedings, these ones take away. ...In other words, the producers wanted to make this album sound as horribly modern as possible without putting much effort into it. They were far more interested in making a quick return in their investment than actually treating the source material with proper reverence.

“Best of Joy” has the distinction of being one of the final songs Jackson ever wrote; it's a ballad that seems right out of a late '70s Earth, Wind & Fire album. Well... I love those sorts of songs. It's written extremely well with a steady flow of hooks that's sung with a lovely falsetto. And yet the producers felt the need to layer on a dull, thwacky drum machine on top of it. A song like that doesn't really call for drum machines at all, does it? Get someone live in the studio who would piddle away nicely on his/her drum kit. Those loud drum machines just take too much focus away from the melody.

“Breaking News” was promoted as the hit single, and it's clearly the song that was polished the most. There was probably good reason that they singled it out: Its pop hooks are damn strong. In particular, it has a soaring middle-eight section that really takes off. The drum machines are a bummer, but at least they seemed to have been thought out a little better than most of the other songs. (I mean, there's a good fill or two provided... but they were careful not to get too good. They certainly weren't going to do anything that would earn them exemplary performance reviews.)

The last two songs of the album date all the way back to the Thriller era, and I guess it's no surprise that they're also some of the album's best written material. “Behind the Mask” is an excellent dance-pop number that I can only assume would have actually been included in Thriller if it weren't for that certain ex-Beatle who elbowed his way onto that album! The singing, no surprise, sounds more energetic and vibrant there than the more newly written songs, and the bass-groove makes me want to tap my foot. It's unfortunate that it couldn't have been given a more appropriate '80s-style production. (Ugh, that gross synth-flute sound, while playing some excellent melody lines, makes me want to puke!) Don't they know that by far the biggest audience for this album are middle aged right now? The other Thriller-era song, “Much to Soon,” is a nice albeit forgettable ballad. The producers had a tendency to layer on a syrupy heaping of synth-strings on it, but … hell, for once they had enough sense to leave the drum machines out of this ballad. A song without horrible drum machines is like music to my ears. ...Literally.

The beginning of “(I Like) The Way You Love Me” features a sound clip of Jackson introducing his studio musicians to this song for the first time. Interestingly, I can also hear Jackson beat-boxing a complicated rhythm he wanted for it. But whoever actually laid the drum machines on this track ended up completely ignoring it. It's very peculiar how the producers left behind indisputable proof that they weren't mixing these songs according to his wishes...

It's unfortunate that the Jackson family couldn't have given the task of producing this album to someone who was actually interested in upholding his legacy. But then again, when are they ever going to get another offer for $250 million for a vault of unfinished songs? I think these songs ought to have been released at some point, but it's clear they didn't do it correctly. If they were going to exhume Michael Jackson's corpse, they should have at least made something a little more fun.

Read the track reviews:
Michael


Johnny 5th Wheel & The Cowards: J5W (2010)

Album Score: 10

This four-song EP is so homemade that you can see it in its cover. It's right where the cowboy is holding the gun, and the construction paper was torn a bit. Not that there's anything wrong with that; I'd rather listen to an album made in someone's basement than a mass-produced pop album anytime. Particularly when this homemade music is so tuneful and good-natured. Well, this review won't be very long, and that's not only because it's an EP. It's also because this EP is breezy, silly, and doesn't want to be taken seriously. I consider that nothing less than a good thing.

The one song I'd definitely recommend that everyone go on their MySpace page to listen to is “Brotherly Love,” which is easily this EP's shining star. It's a folk song featuring a driving rhythm, and I can get caught up in extremely easily. The cherry on the top is the fiddle, which lends the song even more attitude and personality. I also like the vocal performance even though he might not have the strongest chops on the planet. Where he wins is that he sings it as though he's performing in a musical. That gives it extra charm.

The other three tracks sound like drinking songs to me! They're also all less than three minutes long whereas “Brotherly Love” is a whopping four and a half minutes. “Oh My Soul,” is a silly song with an accordion and a cute call-and-response interchange between the lead singer and an amateurish choir. The melody isn't too original, and it repeats an awful lot, but that's probably one of the main reasons it reminded me of a drinking song. The accordion also makes an appearance in the closing song, a waltz called “Follow the Wheel (Part III).” Unfortunately that song doesn't come off nearly as delightful; the melody isn't too interesting and that accordion sounds dead and cold. “I've Got a Secret” is a nice folk-pop song, and I like it, but it never catches fire for me.

Well, I just talked about all the songs, so there's probably no point in reading the track reviews. I basically repeated everything from there onto this main review body. So anyway, I wish this band luck. Unfortunately, it's nearly impossible for bands that write cute homemade folk music to sell a lot of music in this world, and yet these types of bands create some of the most charming music that ever gets released in this world. I hope Johnny 5th Wheel, a British band that formed in 2009, continues on in this vein. Perhaps they could strengthen up the melodies and lose some of those cliched “ompah” accordions. However even those songs have an undeniably fun and charming sense about them.

Read the track reviews:
J5W


Phil Lewis: Movements in Space (2010)

Album Score: 11

Man, the first few times I listened to this Phil Lewis album, I was utterly keyed up by it. These songs are bright and happy, and he sure knows how to write a melody. What is there not to like about that? Well, that strong first impression began to subside upon further listens when I began to notice that some of the melodies started to seem awfully cheesy. Also, it began to bug me how flat and uninteresting the orchestration of most of these songs are, in particular the rhythm sections. Usually the bass does nothing more throughout the album than mechanically play the same note over and over again, and the drum machine textures are similarly unimaginative. But as I said, this is a happy album with friendly melodies, and you'll probably like it if you want something unpretentious to put you into a good mood.

It opens up with a sunny, quasi-anthemic toe-tapper called “Let's Play” with its bright guitar riff and vocal melody sweetly sung by Lewis (I presume). His vocals are hardly unique, but he can hit all his notes easily, and its tone is just as friendly as his pop melodies are. The next song, “Sad,” doesn't seem to live up to its title, because it sounds just as warm and happy if not moreso. He might have brought in a few cheesy sounding hooks in the chorus, but it soars so well that I don't really care about that. What I said about poor instrumentation doesn't necessarily apply there, since he occasionally brings up some nicely placed “Kashmir” style epic strings.

“Shine” is such a solid song that I'd wager that it could have been a hit in the mid-'90s on an adult contemporary station. (I can't tell you why, but there's something that screams mid-'90s when I listen to that song.) It contains the album's only example of a solid rhythm section, featuring an involving bass-line that interacts well with this light programmed drum beats. The chorus is also excellent that not only contains strong hooks, but it seems to soar as he's singing it, like classic Duran Duran. (OK, it's not as infectious as the chorus of “Rio,” but it's in the same ballpark.)

After the fifth track, the album unfortunately seems to take a small dive, and I don't enjoy it quite as much. The melodies start to seem a little less compelling, and he even abandons his warm and optimistic tones in some of them. (Not that I don't like cold, sad or bittersweet songs, but Lewis seems to thrive best when he's just being happy-go-lucky.) “Sadness So Beautiful” is Lewis' attempt at a low-key ballad, and perhaps it's a little too low-key. It just doesn't catch fire. I like that he brings in a little buzzy glam guitar for “Burn Burn Burn,” which is toe tapping for sure, but somehow it doesn't quite pick up the storm by the end like I'd think it should. “New Star” is probably the most boring moment of the album, although it starts out well giving me a warm, holiday felling with some sweet piano, crunchy strings, and twinkly acoustic guitar... But that mood just seems to be lost once an ordinary and blandly instrumented chorus pops up.

A song like the closer “One Step At a Time,” probably has the least conventional instrumentation of the bunch with a complicated drum machine pattern and a somewhat interesting vocal melody. But the drum machine seems utterly disconnected to the vocals, and thus it doesn't have quite the drive that it needed to capture my attention and imagination.

According to his website Phil Lewis had been around in the music biz for around 15 years, and sampling some of his other albums, the man does show that he has a consistent gift for pop melodies, and Movements in Space is no exception to that. I might wish that parts of the instrumentation were better polished or more creative, which is what the left side of my brain is telling me what to say. But I can't deny that I listen to this album without having a big ole smile implanted on my face, so I am mildly recommending this. Don't expect anything revolutionary, but do expect to have a nice time with it.

Read the track reviews:
Movements in Space


Love Songs For Astronomers (2013)

Track Listing:
Planetarium A- / Red Planet B / An Atmospheric Composition A- / Outer Space Face C+ / Saturn's Rings C / Pulsar B+ / Space: The Final Frontier B+ / Starry Skies B / Smoke Signals A- / Starstuff A- / The Final Frontier B-

Self-produced, self-released albums can sometimes be a difficult bag, especially ones that are meant to be 'experimental.' Occasionally, the album can be a bit unnerving--such as in the six-minute “Saturn's Rings” which only uses one chord. However, the overall impression that I get of the album is that it is quite likable. This artist, by the way, is named Troy Meadows, and he asked me to review this album... probably about eight months ago. (I've not been very timely lately!)

Maybe the best song is the opener, “Planetarium,” a minimalist, thoughtful acoustic guitar piece with a nice melody. It seems to illustrate well the feeling of sitting in a Planetarium and quietly gazing at the fake stars. And I suppose the rest of songs of this album--all of which are outer space related--are the fruition of this continued gazing. That songs is followed up with “Red Planet,” which is what Lindsay Buckingham might sound like if he were singing a Snakefinger song. (There's the best description for that I can ever come up with.) I do wish the song had a little better pacing (or perhaps more rhythm), as I think it might have had the makings for something a little more than a good idea. “An Atmospheric Composition” sounds like the kind of spacey synthesizer music music you hear at planetarium shows, except this one's creepier (which isn't a bad thing at all). “Outer Space Face” makes for a difficult listen, as it consists of echoey, spoken-word dialog amidst a ringing synthesizer. I like the lyrics quite a lot, even if the synthesizer tones put me off a bit.

“Space: The Final Frontier” sounds like a weird Bruce Springsteen song. The melody is simple but catchy, and the singing is a bit flashy. However, completely un-Springsteen-like there is the prominent bongo drumming and the sound of an unprocessed synthesizer. Count that as one of the highlights of the album. Overall, I'd say I tend to like this album best when the songwriting structure is more conventional and the 'experimental' touches are relegated to background textures. Such as “Smoke Signals” a rapidly strung folk tune with a nice, simplistic melody and a barely-detectable synthesizer making 'wind-chime' effects in the background.

This is a fairly hit-or-miss album, but as usual, with albums like this, what I care to remember the most are the hits. I hope to hear more from him in the future. 10/15

Want to take a listen to this album? You can do so at this web address: http://troymeadows.bandcamp.com/album/vol-iii-love-songs-for-astronomers


Mr Haynes: Up After Dark (2010)

Album Score: 11

When I listen to 21st Century indie-pop music (which has been surprisingly frequent for me over the last 12 months), I find myself trying to figure out what decade from the latter half of the 20th Century that it was most influenced by. With Mr Haynes, it's probably the late '80s. Some of these songs ring like an intelligent college-rock band, but much of it also has a dash of shoe-gazing. (I'm not sure if trying to classify indie-pop music based on the previous century is just close-mindedness on my part, because there is a certain personality to 21st Century indie-pop that we didn't see at all in the '90s. But my rambling aside...)

What you have to know about Mr Haynes is that he likes using synthesizers and drum machines. The first two songs and the concluding song are bouncy and head-bobbing, and everything else seems to concentrate more on atmosphere. He has a soft and friendly toned singing voice, which occasionally morphs into a rather beautiful falsetto. Fortunately he doesn't abuse this falsetto, but he uses it only at opportune moments to achieve a dramatic effect. Also, virtually every song has a rather heavy space-age synthesizer backdrop, which works swimmingly at the beginning of the album, but it gets to be rather washy in the middle. He also told me that he's a multi-instrumentalist, so perhaps he played all of this stuff himself, which is a more impressive feat! (His name is Ben Haynes, so I suppose that's a fair assumption. I mean, if it were a band, and I were a member of the band, I'm not sure I'd want to go around telling people that I was "in" Mr Haynes.)

I think Mr Haynes, without a doubt, is at his best in the two pop songs right at the beginning of the album. (That comment should be supplemented with the well-documented fact that pop music and I have been great friends for a long time! Non-melodic, atmospheric music, on the other hand, not so much.) “Wasted Mouth” is as good of an album opener as any. It has a fun, bouncy bass line and a catchy and sweetly sung vocal melody. It even has a chorus that's just as catchy as the verses. “Waiting Here” is even better. Its electric piano groove, ultra-clean drum thwack, and falsetto-led vocals reminds me of listening to Al Green. The atmosphere is thick and absorbing, which gives the song an appealing extra dimension.

After that point, I'm a little less enthused by Up After Dark. The infectious vocal melodies start taking a backseat to the thickly laid synthesizers. Whenever there's a drum rhythm, it tends to come across as plain and monotonous. “Life Looking at Screens,” for instance, the drum just thumps along regularly for the whole thing, which for whatever reason becomes something of a distraction for me. I can say the same thing for “Some Day,” which is otherwise a nice song, but the very regular drum rhythm doesn't do much other than sound stiff.

At least there's a tendency for his textures to evolve throughout his pieces. “If All Fails Tonight” starts out quietly and atmospheric until the singing starts. My ears are piqued further when a full-on drum beat comes in. The only problem is that the evolution happens all too slowly. It isn't until the two-and-a-half minute mark when we start hearing the drums, and by then I have already checked out! What he does in the middle of this album is highly respectable and there are some delightful surprises, but they're few and widely scattered. I should also mention somewhere that none of these songs seem to have endings. They bleed into one another, sometimes so seamlessly that I don't even notice that the track had changed. Sometimes that can be cool (in particular the transition into the groove-happy “White Shirt, Pencil Skirt), but I start to become suspicious that the main reason he did this was to sneak away from writing endings! (I gave Pet Sounds a 15 rating, so I suppose endings aren't everything to me.)

While hardly a mind-blowing album, Up After Dark is respectable nonetheless. Mr Haynes has a friendly, sometimes beautiful, singing voice that hits all the right notes, which is an important fact to emphasize since we're talking about an artist so indie that he's not even on a label. On more than a few occasions, he writes melodies that have the capability of getting pleasantly stuck in my head. The thick atmospheres are usually finely textured and impressive. Yes, I said they are monotonous sometimes, but that doesn't turn out to be a deal-breaking problem. I mean, usually I start throwing Cs at songs in the track reviews if I start getting bored. A few spots got close, but nothing quite made it.

Read the track reviews:
Up After Dark


OK Go: Of the Blue Colour of the Sky (2010)

Album Score: 12

I usually don't listen to albums an awful lot before I review them. If I don't like them, they might just get three listens. If I do like them, maybe five. This album, on the other hand, I've listened to more than 10 times, all in one week, and I feel like I could keep on going. I don't think this is a masterpiece or anything, but there's just something about it that makes me want to keep returning. I find that strange, because this is a band I had previously written off as a good but somewhat ordinary power-pop outfit that somehow struck gold on YouTube a few years ago by running around on treadmills.

This album isn't nearly as high-energy and bubbly as their earlier works, a fact that might alienate a few of their fans. I might even wager to say these songs aren't as immediately appealing. This music is more mid-tempo, subdued, and soulful; they're exploring emotions more deeply, most of these songs either having hints of bitterness or loneliness behind them. At the same time, they don't sound whiny about anything, and their #1 concentration is on writing catchy pop hooks. I love albums like this with catchy pop hooks of course, but it's that subtly haunting nature of these songs that gives them that extra edge that keeps me coming back to it.

My favorite song here is quite easily “End Love,” so do take an occasion to stream that song on the Internet sometime if the mood strikes you. It's clearly a throwback to '80s synthesizer music, and its somewhat ordinary at that with familiar programmed synthesizer patterns and a robotic drumbeat. But if you've been following my reviews for awhile, you'll probably know that I have a little *thing* with synth-pop, and I am telling you that it is surely one of the better ones I've ever heard in my life. What I find so appealing about this song other than the infectious melody and groove is the friendly falsetto vocals exhibiting just a tiny hint of desperation.

Perhaps I'm a little more surprised that I really like the song with the vocoder on it, “Before the Earth Was Round.” When most pop stars use vocoders, it only makes their otherwise bland music seem even flatter. But these guys actually use it with a purpose, accentuating the sullen themes presented in the lyrics that seem to lament over the loss of blissful innocence from childhood. (“Before the earth was round / There was no end to things / No one tried to measure what they knew / Everything was warm / And everyone would love / And every contradiction was true / The sun worked twice as hard / And the moon was twice as far / And the sky was still honestly blue / The sky was still honestly blue.” Not great poetry but kind of chokes me up.

God, I can't believe I wrote most of this review already and only talked about two songs so far when I have so much more to talk about. (That's the hallmark indicator that I liked this album!) Interestingly all my favorite moments don't actually start occurring until the fifth track. Not that the first four songs are bad; the poppy opener is quite good, but some of those songs either can't quite catch their groove or start to fall apart a bit at the end. But tracks five through 13 are tops. The catchy mid-tempo “Skyscrapers” has a creepy but bubbly bassline and a little bit of funk guitar in the chorus. “White Knuckles” is my favorite of the pure power-pop songs that'll surely please big fans of their first album. “I Want You So Bad I Can't Breathe” has an appropriate title given the slight hint of desperation I hear in the vocal performance, but the main reason it's enjoyable is because of the subdued disco bass and a bright chorus. ...And there are so many more songs to shine a spotlight on!

I don't know, maybe I'm nuts for liking this album so much. I have my doubts that there will be too many other people out there who would agree with this glowing assessment. But I rather like being among the few people in the world to think something. Surely, these songs aren't greatly original, but do they really have to be? This is just a nice, rather unpretentious album that contains a lot of songs that I seem to take to heart. I hesitate strongly to throw the term “masterpiece” at this, but at least it's safe to say that this is my favorite OK Go album. By far.

Read the track reviews:
Of the Blue Colour of the Sky


Ringo Starr: Y Not (2010)

Album Score: 8

Believe it or not but our little friend Ringo is still alive and kicking (and I must say looks smashing for 69), and he's still cutting these lovable albums with tons of guest spots. I find comfort in that, but there's no point in expecting miracles out of him. Even his best albums in the '70s were kind of blah, and it's not like he went through spiritual cleansing since then to improve his act. So it should be no surprise that Y Not is very much a typical Ringo album: it's childish, it's unpretentious, and it's fun.

In fact, it's sheer childishness gets a little unsettling in “Peace Dream” in which Starr muses sweetly over the possibility of world peace and frequently alludes to John Lennon. (“No need for war no more / better things we're fighting for / no more hunger, no more pain / I hope the dream comes true some day”) But why should that be unsettling? Ringo's probably the only person left in the world who still thinks about these things. It's just a shame that song, co-written with Gary “Dream Weaver” Wright, is such a forgettable bar-rocker.

At least I like the opening song, “Fill in the Blanks,” with its upbeat rhythm, nice bass-line, and generic but well presented riff provided by Joe Walsh. It's a nice unassuming toe-tapper, and thus a perfect opener to any Ringo album. Paul McCartney does guest vocals on the cute ballad “Walk With You,” but he didn't help write it. That co-writing credit actually belongs to Van Dyke Parks! (Paul, why didn't you throw old Ringo a tune? Don't you like him anymore?)

Eurythmics' Dave Stewart surfaces on two of these songs, “The Other Side of Liverpool” and “Time,” but I find both of them to be pretty limp so I don't want to talk about them. On the other hand, I like his rehashing of an obscure 1992 B-side “Everyone Wins,” which is one of the more sweeter, melodic songs of the lot. My only complaint there is he uses a drum machine and a vocoder, both of which ought to be taboo for Ringo. Drummers should pride themselves more than this, and why would anyone be interested in hearing a tainted version of trademark boisterous party-time vocals?

That dumb vocoder effect even more prominent in the title track, which threatens to make the entire song unlistenable. Although I probably wasn't going to like that song much anyway, because it has one of the dumbest vocal melodies of all time. That is not so much an accomplishment for Ringo as it is just general laziness. I'm also not a fan of his adult-contemporary collaboration with Richard Marx, “Mystery of the Night.” Although that shouldn't be a huge surprise considering it's Richard Marx.

Don't think Ringo only collaborated with wrinkly old raisin heads for Y Not. He also took a little whiff of the Fountain of Youth and wrote a ditty with soul songstress Joss Stone, a chugging bar rocker “Who's Your Daddy.” It's funny to listen to Stone's frilly soul singing contrast with Ringo's distinctly karaoke style party-time vocals. I can't decide which one of them is out of their element. Perhaps neither of them are. Anyway, that's another one of these fun but unremarkable songs.

You might have noticed through the song titles that Ringo's taking a nostalgic look back in his life in Y Not. That's good for him, and I suppose a number of Beatles fans might appreciate that, but as you also might have noticed in that excerpt I printed up there, his lyric writing is pretty dumb. I doubt too many people are going to be moved by this.

I should mention that Ringo's previous album 2005's Choose Love is hands-down better than this. That is, it's still a typical Ringo album, but it's a good typical Ringo album and perfect if you want to listen to something silly, unpretentious and fun. It also doesn't rely so much on generic pub-rock music, which is a major plus in my book. So don't even touch Y Not with a 12-foot pole unless you've already fallen in love with Choose Love first.

Read the track reviews:
Y Not


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