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Wrapping Up 2022

It’s been a weird year. Last year around this time I asked, “Do things just keep getting worse and worse, year after year after year? Is there any good reason to think that 2022 will be any better in any way than 2021?” Now I think 2022 actually was a little better than 2021.

There was still plenty of bad shit going down (Supreme Court, Ukraine, the climate, Afghanistan, Elon Musk, etc.), but on the other hand there seemed to be something of a reversion to sanity. Things like the midterm results (particularly in the Senate), the Alex Jones verdict, and the raid on Maralago suggest that the arc of the moral universe might be bending toward justice after all. But who knows? Right around 50% of the population is still willing to vote for Republicans despite everything that has happened over the past six years. (Or 40+ years, depending on your tolerance for oligarchy.) So it goes.

The Covid situation is getting better, although not as quickly as we’d all hoped. Comparing Covid to the Spanish Flu, it seems we haven’t gotten much smarter in a hundred years. They wrapped their shit up by 1921, while we continue to experience excess deaths with no end in sight. I still haven’t gotten it, but my wife tested positive right before Riot Fest and we had to miss it this year. Boo!

I fell down a deep rabbit hole when I discovered I could access my local newspaper’s historical archives and spent a bunch of time reading accounts of influenza in Michigan. After I had enough of the flu I started looking up my grandparents. My grandpa was apparently quite a bowler. This led me to researching my genealogy which became one of my big obsessions of 2022. Turns out I may qualify for Italian citizenship jure sanguinis on my mother’s side (although it sounds like an expensive pain in the ass to prove it). It can be a weird and disturbing journey, tracing your ancestors through the past. But it’s fascinating. And fun.

So that’s part of why I’ve shared way less new music in 2022 than in years past. I’ve been spending my “goof around” time getting Polish birth records translated into English and scouring old census data for people whose names aren’t indexed correctly. Thankfully, once again, Stephen Macaulay tireless filed a feature-length piece every Saturday for publication on Monday to keep the site alive.

But my genealogical diversions haven’t totally been in vain. There have been a few rock and roll correlations. When the 1950 census dropped I was able to find Muddy Waters living with Little Walter in Chicago, Elvis in Memphis, and John Lee Hooker in Detroit. It’s enthralling to work backwards and try to find their families in earlier censuses and other public records like marriage licenses, World War II draft registration documents, etc.

Speaking of world wars, another thing that distracted me from seeking out new music this year was the Ukrainian people’s heroic resistance to Russia’s invasion of their country. Like many people I was pretty pessimistic about the chances of a former Soviet republic standing up to the mighty Russian Bear. Being totally wrong about that made me question my tendency toward negativity in several other areas of my life. Maybe hope is a good thing after all? Who knew! In addition to forcing me to reframe my entire worldview, the war in Ukraine also inspired me to read into a bunch of military crap that had never interested me before: tactics, logistics, crossing bridges, truck tire maintenance, combined arms, attrition, ground lines of communication, all kinds of boring old-man-in-a-recliner stuff. (For the record, I don’t own a recliner. Yet!)

Of course, just like every year since the phonograph was invented, there were plenty of great records released in 2022. Some of my favorite artists put out albums that seemed to be aimed directly at me. The Mountain Goats’ Bleed Out was a whole album of up-tempo, guitar-driven vignettes of violence and crime. And although Wilco’s Cruel Country was not the country album its publicist claimed it was, it was a fine collection of well-crafted pop songs without the skronk and artsy-fartsiness of a lot of much of their 21st-century output.

This was made obvious by the expanded reissue of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, the last Wilco album featuring Jay Bennett. I just got the 8-CD version for Christmas (CDs nuts!) and haven’t had a chance to listen to the three discs that aren’t available on streaming services, but I can’t wait to dive in.

Another twentieth anniversary expanded release I enjoyed was the Libertines’ Up the Bracket with over three hours of demos, outtakes, and radio sessions. And we can’t forget to mention the Beatles’ expanded Revolver box. Not a ton of new stuff if you already had Anthology 2 but it all sounds great, and the original-speed “Rain” instrumental is as mind-blowing as Take 1 of “Tomorrow Never Knows” was when we heard it 25 years ago.

The album I kept going back to over and over has been Taylor Swift’s Midnights. I dismissed it initially as a step back from the direction she had taken on folklore and evermore, but I’ve since realized it’s as good as anything she’s done. It’s embarrassing for a grownup man to admit this, but she’s my favorite songwriter working today.

The other big lifestyle change in addition to my newfound optimism was that I finally got off Twitter. At the end of April I took a few weeks off after the initial talk of Elon Musk taking over and re-instating Donald Trump’s account. I survived without it, but was back to my old ways by the middle of June. I gave it up for good in November. Deleted my apps. Removed the embedded timeline in the sidebar over there –>. Stopped auto-tweeting GLONO posts. Dunzo. But now I’m on Mastodon. Which will probably become equally addictive. But at least it’s not owned by a loon-enabling oligarch! It’s still a little complicated to get going on, but if you’re interested and need any help, feel free to hit me up.

Have a happy, hopeful new year, everybody!

Apple Music: GLONO 2022

Spotify: GLONO 2022

Note: Some songs may be missing from these playlists either due to human error, unavailability at the time, or being yanked by the streaming services after we added them to the playlist. Also, both Spotify and Apple only show the first 100 songs in the embedded player; click through for the whole playlist.

Previous fins d’année: 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017.

Wrapping up 2021

Looking back I guess it was naive to think 2021 would be better. In reality, January 6 set the tone for the year. The kooks are mad and they’re going to fuck it up for the rest of us. Whether it’s democracy, public health, education, the environment, or basic civil rights, there’s a deplorable 15% of this country that throws a hissy fit whenever the reasonable majority doesn’t bow to their fragile feelings. And there’s an even larger number of people who are willing to either just ignore the lunatics or give them exactly whatever bullshit they’re demanding. Like eliminating mask requirements in schools and overturning Roe v. Wade.

So here we are. Is it me, or do things just keep getting worse and worse, year after year after year? Is there any good reason to think that 2022 will be any better in any way than 2021?

Who knows?

Once again, I got so bummed out that I often couldn’t bring myself up to the task of finding good new music to share with you all. And once again, every week without fail, Stephen Macaulay filed a new post every Saturday, keeping the site alive, and inspiring us all to keep on keeping on.

The thing other than doomscrolling that kept me from seeking out new music was spending an inordinate amount of time researching and compiling my ridiculous playlist of 94 years of rock and roll, wherein I selected one song per year going all the way back to 1927. That was a fun project but exhausting. (If you only listen to one song from it, at least check out Bessie Smith’s “I’m Wild About That Thing” from 1929. It’s awesome, hilarious, and dirrrrrty.)

Like every year, a lot of great music came out in 2021. An Overview on Phenomenal Nature by Cassandra Jenkins blew me away, and I listened to it non-stop on a loop in February. I loved the new Lucy Dacus, Lorde, and Liz Phair albums. And there were dozens of great singles, perhaps nothing quite as unexpected as Taylor Swift’s 10-minute version of “All Too Well.” I had never even heard the original version! But wow.

I enjoyed Todd Haynes’ visually stunning Velvet Underground documentary, although it gave short shrift to the Doug Yule era, which I made up for by digging back into The Complete Matrix Tapes and the deluxe editions of the self-titled album and Loaded.

And of course we Beatlemaniacs got the best Thanksgiving treat we could’ve ever hoped for with Peter Jackson’s 8-hour edit of the Get Back footage. I’ve been studying the Beatles since I was 15 — I’ve read countless books and watched countless documentaries — but this was the first time I’ve felt like I really understood them as human beings.

Another bit of overdoing it came in the form of Andrew Sandoval’s enormous, 740-page The Monkees: The Day-By-Day Story. I’m so happy I ordered this because it’s sold out now. But it’s bittersweet because it makes me regret not venturing out to catch Micky and Mike on their farewell tour. They played Detroit in November and then Nesmith died a month later. I had a few opportunities to see Nez in concert over the years and sadly I blew them all.

I only managed to get out to two concerts in 2021: my homies Mustard Plug at the Pyramid Scheme in August and then four days of Riot Fest in Chicago in September. Being in a small club like the Pyramid Scheme with a bunch of sweaty young people jumping around and screaming along to the songs was probably the riskiest thing I did all year. Sure, I was vaccinated — we all were, the band and venue required proof — but yikes we were all breathing the same dank air, and while some of us put our masks back on when we weren’t drinking, we were drinking most of the time we were there. Of course, back in August things weren’t nearly as bad as they’d get. Riot Fest, being 100% outdoors and requiring vax or negative tests, felt pretty safe.

So I managed to get through 2021 without getting covid. So that’s good.

And we did manage to share over 100 new songs in 2021. Six hours of music. That’s not a ton, but it’s not nothing. It’s something. Something good. And there’s always good new stuff coming out. Which gives you something to look forward to. It might even contribute to making 2022 better than 2021… But let’s not get carried away.

Continue reading Wrapping up 2021

Playlist: The GLONO History of Rock and Roll

Nerds like to argue about the first rock and roll song. There’s no definitive answer. But it’s older than most people think it is. Way before Elvis Presley stepped into Sun Studio. Maybe before he was even born.

A few weeks ago I was thinking about Sister Rosetta Tharpe and some of the unheralded founders of rock and roll. Or under-heralded anyway. Tharpe had a big hit with Lucky Millinder and his orchestra in 1942 with a song called “Rock Me” but I learned that she had released a version in 1938 with just her and her guitar. 1938! Wow, right? I started wondering how far back we could go and find stuff that could reasonably be considered rock and roll.

Pretty far, it turns out.

Of course, I have long subscribed to the Billy Joel method of genre classification: Hot funk, cool punk, even if it’s old junk, it’s still rock and roll to me.

So I made a playlist. One song per year without repeating artists. My criteria were straightforward: The song had to be good, preferably featuring guitar, ideally with sinful lyrics in some manner or other. Bonus points if they mentioned “rocking” and/or “rolling.”

I sought out stuff that combined elements of country/hillbilly with blues/race music and vice versa: the musical miscegeny achieved by marrying those two deeply American forms together.

These were the guiding principles for the pre-Elvis years anyway. After that, it got wigglier.

But there are so many great songs released every year. How do you pick just one? It’s hard. It’s frustrating. And it’s painful to leave off songs and artists you love and you know are important.

Continue reading Playlist: The GLONO History of Rock and Roll

Listening to What Elliot Scheiner Thinks Is Worthwhile (circa 2008)

Several years ago I had the opportunity and honor to meet and spend some time talking with Elliot Scheiner, a producer and engineer who has been behind the board for an array of musicians, most of whom are acutely aware of the importance of the sounds that we hear when we listen to their recorded music. A recording engineer is the person to takes all of the tracks that have been recorded during a session (realize that there are as many as 96 channels on a sound board, and multiple recordings of each instrument and vocal) and orchestrates them—perhaps a slice here, a bit there—into something that we think is a done-in-one work. It is the ear of someone like Scheiner that creates a seamless tapestry.

I had in a box a third generation iPod nano circa 2008 that contains music that Scheiner had selected. I’d forgotten about it. Needless to say, when I excavated it, there was no power and it seems that the battery is no longer able to hold a charge.

But I pulled out a connector and plugged it in.

And listened. . . .

“Take Me to the River,” Al Green. No, not Talking Heads. It was written by Al Green and Mabon Lewis Hodges. Hear Al’s scream between verses and you’ll not listen to Byrne again. “The sixteen candles burning on my wall/Turning me into the biggest fool of them all.”

“Eight Days a Week,” The Beatles. Shocking to realize that it was released in 1965. Actually, it was ’64 in the UK, but the world wasn’t small then, so it was a few months later. Eight days, but the band’s seventh #1 single on the Billboard Hot 100. The the phrase allegedly came from a chauffeur, describing how much he was working. Work. Not Love.

“Like a Star,” Corinne Bailey Rae. It isn’t a good thing when you do a Google search and the “People also ask” box has as its first question “What happened to Corinne Bailey Rae?” Good question. Probably more well known for her “Put Your Record On,” this song is subtle-yet-intricate. And leads you to wonder “What happened to Corinne Bailey Rae?”

“Fly Me to the Moon,” Diana Krall. It takes a lot of guts to do a cover of a song associated with Frank Sinatra and Count Basie. Yet Krall has vocally and musically more than the stuff to stand up to it. What’s interesting is that her voice isn’t sweet but strong. And it works.

“The Great Pagoda of Funn,” Donald Fagen. Steely Dan released Aja in the fall of ’77. Fagen released Morph the Cat, the album that includes this cut, in March 2006. I defy you to listen to this song and not hear Aja. With the current non-existence of Walter Becker, Fagen could tour doing this album and fully satisfy Dan fans. Or maybe he could call it “Steely Dann.”

Continue reading Listening to What Elliot Scheiner Thinks Is Worthwhile (circa 2008)

Wrapping up 2020

Good riddance to what has been, objectively, a very bad year.

343,000+ Americans have died of a disease that can be carried by people without symptoms and spread to people who might die. Most people who get it don’t get too sick. Some never even know they had it. And yet it’s already killed 1 in 1,000 Americans.

The most disturbing thing about 2020 has been how this virus has exposed how little Americans care about each other. How easy it’s been to shrug off thousands of people dying every day. How unwilling people are to inconvenience themselves for the sake of protecting the vulnerable. Half the country refuses to believe that doctors and nurses are telling the truth about the situation they’re dealing with in hospitals.

It’s impossible to get the country to agree on solutions when people are living in alternate realities. No common set of facts.

We made the decision at the end of 2016 to try to stay positive and keep this site focused on the good things happening in the world. Music has the power to make you feel better, even in the shittiest of times. Especially in the shittiest of times.

Looking back over our annual wrap-ups of previous years, I can’t even remember now why we thought 2018 was so bad, but it’s sad to think I couldn’t imagine it getting worse. It could. Much, much worse.

And here we are. At the end of a very bad year. There is some hope on the horizon. A vaccine is being distributed…albeit far more slowly than we were led to believe. We will have a new administration on January 20 despite the efforts of an unamerican, anti-democratic wannabe autocrat. We should all be thankful that our orange fuhrer is as inept as he is; a competent fascist could have easily stolen this election. The fact that our entire democracy came down to the lawfulness of a handful of local officials should make us shudder. Make no mistake: those few decent Republicans will certainly be replaced by unscrupulous monsters in the near future. And then what? Let’s hope we won’t have to find out.

But we made it through. Personally, there were times (weeks, months) where I didn’t feel up to the task of seeking out good new music to share. I just couldn’t conjure the energy. But throughout the entire year, our intrepid Stephen Macaulay filed 1,000 words to me every Saturday along with an email summing up his week. These missives inspired me to keep this site alive during a year when it would’ve been excusable to let it lie fallow…or die off altogether.

If you’ve followed GLONO for any amount of time you may have caught on that Mac is of a generation that witnessed the Faces at Cobo Hall. He saw the Stones on the Exile tour. Mac subscribed to the Fifth Estate and to Rolling Stone back when it was printed on newsprint. That is to say, Mac is like the cool uncle we all wish we had growing up, which puts him in a demographic that is more at risk to the serious effects of COVID-19.

Locked down in stricter quarantine than anyone else I know, Mac has carried our site through this year, and for that I will always be grateful.

Let’s all hope the distribution and administration of the vaccine gets straightened out quickly so we can have a shot at seeing each other in real life some time next year. Stay safe, stay healthy, and try to stay positive!

Jake and the GLONO posse

Continue reading Wrapping up 2020

A Gift of Neil

Neil Young’s 75th birthday was yesterday. Happy birthday, Neil. Sorry I’m late.

It’s weird to think I’ve been loving Neil for almost 30 years now. Like a lot of dudes who went to college in the early 90s I was heavily into the whole sixties counterculture scene. Jann Wenner’s influence over the rock and roll canon was still unquestioned. It felt important for serious music connoisseurs to know all that stuff.

I remember joining the Columbia House cd club one last time during my freshman year and one of my 12 picks was CSN(Y)’s So Far. I liked the Nash songs best. Clearly, I still had a lot to learn.

By my senior year I had graduated to Neil’s Decade, which became the soundtrack to many smoky evenings huddled around my pal George’s Mac putting together our underground newspaper or playing Maelstrom. George was my Neil Young spirit guide, providing guidance on the path to enlightenment.

After college my friends dispersed across the country but we kept in touch via brand new technology called an email listserv as well as sending handwritten letters through the good old U.S. mail. It was still the nineteen-hundreds after all. I was living at home with my mom, working a shitty factory job (English major), when I received a package from George in Toledo. It contained a cassette he compiled, titled The Killer, as something like a companion to Decade, the next step in my Neil education.

It blew my mind and made me realize the depth and intensity of Neil’s body of work.

Over the next several years as my obsession grew I scoured used record bins to fill in the rest of the blanks, eventually acquiring Neil’s complete discography on vinyl. It was so exciting to find an album I hadn’t heard before. New songs! The two holy grails were Time Fades Away and Journey Through the Past. At the same time, Neil was releasing new music (Harvest Moon, Sleeps with Angels, Mirrorball, Broken Arrow) and touring constantly. It was a great time to be a Neil fan.

And I owe it all to George and that mixtape.

Continue reading A Gift of Neil

Listen: Cosmic Cowboys, Longhaired Rednecks and Other Troublemakers

So every couple of years I like to re-read the 2012 Texas Monthly feature (“That ’70s Show”) on the 1972 Austin music scene that birthed the outlaw country movement. If you haven’t read it yet, just stop now and go read it and come back after you’re done.

Every time I read this fantastic oral history I pick up on new artists that for whatever reason I’ve overlooked before. The first time I read it I went out and tracked down a copy of Willis Alan Ramsey’s album. It’s amazing. This most recent time inspired me to look into the work of Mickey Newbury, which is kind of funny since he’s not even mentioned in the article. You know how it goes: you start googling around and one thing leads to another and all of a sudden you’re obsessed with something you’d never even thought about before.

It’s weird, though, that I’d never come across Mickey Newbury. “Luckenbach, Texas” is one of my all-time favorite songs and he’s namechecked in it: “Between Hank Williams’ pain songs and Newbury’s train songs…” How is it that I’d never bothered to look it up before? I’ve been listening to that song all my life — I still have my dad’s copy of Ol’ Waylon. I’m a music nerd; I feel compelled to uncover every reference and backstory of every song I love. Back in college I figured out who the “Jerry Jeff” from Willie’s chorus was and picked up a wild live two-record set that features the drunkest version of “Up Against the Wall, Redneck” ever recorded. But Newbury escaped me.

Newbury was pals with Townes Van Zandt and wrote “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)” and arranged “An American Trilogy.” These are songs I have known and loved for decades yet I never looked into their composer. All the best songwriters have proclaimed their love of Mickey Newbury (Kris Kristofferson said, “I learned more about songwriting from him than any other writer”), and in 2011 Drag City reissued his most highly regarded three albums plus a disc of rarities in a fancy box set featuring liner notes written by Ben Fong-Torres, Chris Campion, Kenny Rogers, Kristofferson, and Will Oldham. It’s available on streaming services…minus the liner notes, of course.

So anyway, I made a mix. 21 songs, 69 minutes long, one song per artist, sequenced to maximize listenability but it’s loosely chronological. It tells the story of what happened when country songwriters, mostly in Texas, stopped caring about Nashville conventions and started to embrace the hippies. The bulk of these songs are from 1972 and 73. Tom T. Hall joked about the “illusion of literacy” this new type of songwriting brought to the country music scene.

Buckle up as we take you from the sublime to the ridiculous (and back and forth again) across this sad and beautiful country where someone’s always doing something dirty that decent folks can frown on.

Praise the lord and pass the mescaline!

Continue reading Listen: Cosmic Cowboys, Longhaired Rednecks and Other Troublemakers

Wrapping Up 2019

Happy new year, everybody! Sorry this is a little later coming out than usual but we closed down GLONO HQ for the two weeks around Christmas and New Year’s and didn’t even look at a computer. Highly recommended. Next year maybe we’ll try to ignore the phones too.

While in 2018 we posted something new every single weekday, we were a little more lax in 2019. Our annual playlist of all the songs we posted about is only 119 tracks this year, compared to 202 in 2018 and 172 in 2017. Sorry (but not that sorry).

There was a ton of good music released in 2019, as there is every year. Sometimes it feels like it’s getting harder to find, and then sometimes good jams are unavoidable. “Old Town Road” was something else, huh?

My favorite album of the year, I’m You by Hallelujah the Hills, came out of nowhere and absolutely blew me away. It’s an album that explicitly deals with the stuff that Glorious Noise was founded on: exploring the convoluted relationship between musicians and listeners. I’m surprised and disappointed it hasn’t received the attention it deserves.

My favorite concert of the year was Sincere Engineer and the Hold Steady at Thalia Hall in Chicago. Both bands reminded me how good for your soul it is to get out and see bands with a bunch of other people. It’s church for people like us. I was going to write it up and then realized that back in 2014 I had already written exactly what I planned on saying. Still, I need to constantly remind myself to get out more. The older I get, the easier it is to retreat into my jammies and stay home.

My resolutions this year are to be nicer to the people I love and to go to more shows (and to eat better and exercise). If you’re reading this, feel free to hold me to it!

And what better way to do that than on our beloved old message board? I’d love to see message boards make a comeback. As much as I appreciate twitter for what it is, there’s something special about a bunch of likeminded community members yakking it up in their own space. Yeah, I know, #okboomer, ha ha, very funny, and while we’re at it, let’s bring back blogs in 2020, but seriously: get in there. We miss you. We mean it.

Take of yourself, try to stay sane, and let’s all hope things get better in 2020.

Jake and the GLONO posse

Continue reading Wrapping Up 2019

GLONO’s 21 Best Songs of 2018

Happy New Year!

Once again, as always, there were a ton of great songs released last year. Narrowing it down to the 21 best is a bit ridiculous, but it’s a digestible chunk of music to summarize the year.

My absolute favorite song of the year was also the most surprising: the Oak Ridge Boys’ “Pray to Jesus” blew my mind the first time I heard it and continues to blow we away with each listen. The fact that the Oak Ridge Boys of “Elvira” fame (1981) are not only still together but still sounding this good and recording material of this quality doesn’t make any sense. Or maybe it does! Everything was crazy in 2018.

In addition to “Pray to Jesus” we’ve compiled twenty more great songs from 2018 sequenced for maximum listening pleasure. Please enjoy!

21 Best Songs of 2018 on Spotify

Continue reading GLONO’s 21 Best Songs of 2018

2018: Good Riddance

What a year. How naive were we to think that 2016 was bad just because Prince and David Bowie died, Mitch McConnell was mean to President Obama, and Hillary Clinton lost the election to a game show host who made an entire career out of lying and cheating?

And then 2017 seemed bad too. But now 2018 had us actually locking children in cages and condoning the dismemberment of journalists, so it’s hard to imagine 2019 getting much worse, but who knows? There are 365 days to prove me wrong, and when crazy stuff happens literally every single day of the year, I’ll probably look back at this post and shake my head and think, awww, how cute, you didn’t think it could get worse…

I find myself wishing Hunter S. Thompson was around to help put our current events into context. His writing about the 70s still seems so relevant today. But then again, Nixon looks like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez compared to today’s G.O.P. And Reagan looks like Beto O’Rourke.

But hey, at least the Dems won the House and there was a bunch of good music released this year.

We posted something every weekday for the whole year, a consistency we hadn’t achieved in the 17-year history of this website.

And as I said last year, “We are not an algorithm. We’re a few dudes with dayjobs and strong opinions who tend to gravitate toward guitar music with something to say. You can trust us.”

So once again, we’ve been compiling the songs we’ve posted into a massive playlist which you can stream for yourself to decide if our taste jibes with your own. Dig it.

And let’s hope things get better in 2019.

Continue reading 2018: Good Riddance