Last year’s release roster reads like a Tower Records marquee from 30 years ago: Bruce Springsteen, Prince, Suzanne Vega, Bryan Ferry, Jackson Browne, Chick Corea, Annie Lennox, U2, Robert Plant—even Pink Floyd. While only a few of these folks crested my top songs, most of their albums merit listening. I remain tickled that so many are sustaining their creative powers for so long. The artists here are like old friends, people I’ve grown up listening to. Some are peers—people I’ve followed with interest, comparing our responses to life as it unfolds. One is an actual friend. Some, of course, are much younger than me (Taylor Swift, Ben Howard, others). I don’t listen with age in mind, but it’s interesting to note, in part because it sheds light on why there’s so much music being made. People get going and they don’t stop! We never had an inkling that this would be the case in rock ‘n’ roll, despite living examples from jazz and classical music.
New music continues to be refashioned from styles of yore. Meghan Trainor’s smash hit “All About That Bass” resembles nothing so much as ’50s girl pop (lyrics excepted!), and “Wolverine Blues” from Henry Butler and Steven Bernstein channels the carefree spirit of horn music from the 1920s. Performance chops are in far greater supply than compositional sparks, making cover songs more appealing every day. Singing talents like Usher and Jennifer Hudson languish for want of material. There’s no shortage of heartfelt, but relatively few people are writing lyrics that speak to me. We have craftspeople who use colorful words, find interesting rhymes, and get their meters right—gifted wordsmiths who know how to fit words to music. But where are the musical poets who start the conversation on different terms, inspiring our lives and calling our tears? Several are among the folks who made my list.
20 July 2015