Favorite Albums of 2016

50. Explosions In The Sky - The Wilderness
49. Kanye West - The Life Of Pablo
48. Mitski - Puberty 2
47. Lisa Hannigan - At Swin
46. S U R V I V E - RR7349
45. Lapsley - Long Way Home
44. Your Friend - Gumption
43. Angel Olsen - My Woman
42. Wild Nothing - Life Of Pause
41. Berwanger - Exorcism Rock
40. Preoccupations - Preoccupations
39. Charles Bradley - Changes
38. BJ Barnham - Rockingham
37. Childish Gambino - Awaken, My Love
36. M83 - Junk
35. Twin Peaks - Down In Heaven
34. Wilco - Schmilco
33. The Radio Dept. - Running Out Of Love
32. Ben Lubeck - Rented Rooms
31. Frank Ocean - Blonde
30. The I Don't Cares - Wild Stab
29. Parker Millsap - The Very Last Day
28. Black Mountain - IV
27. Conor Oberst - Ruminations
26. Local Natives - Sunlit Youth
25. A Tribe Called Quest - We Got It From Here...Thank You 4 Your Services
24. Julia Jacklin - Don't Let the Kids Win
23. Cymbals Eat Guitars - Pretty Years
22. Anderson Paak - Malibu
21. Weyes Blood - Front Row Seat to Earth

20. Leonard Cohen - You Want It Darker

19. Big Smoke - Time Is Golden

18. Beach Slang - A Loud Bash Of Teenage Feelings

17. The Avalanches - Wildflower

16. Big Thief - Masterpiece

15. Lydia Loveless - Real

14. Drive-By Truckers - American Band

13. Chance The Rapper - Coloring Book

12. DIIV - Is The Is Are

11. Kevin Morby - Singing Saw

10. Sturgill Simpson - A Sailor's Guide To Earth

9. Pinegrove - Cardinal

8. Radiohead - A Moon Shaped Pool

7. Sunflower Bean - Human Ceremony

6. Car Seat Headrest - Teens Of Denial

5. Hamilton Leithauser + Rostam - I Had A Dream That You Were Mine

4. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Skeleton Tree

3. Hiss Golden Messenger - Heart Like A Levee

2. David Bowie - Blackstar

1. Whitney - Light Upon The Lake



Listen to John Moreland

Add another artist to the "I can't believe I've never written anything about them on the site before" category. This time it's Oklahoma songwriter, John Moreland.

I know I get hyperbolic too often here but Moreland really might be the best songwriter around not named Isbell. Hell, after seeing him for the second time last weekend, Moreland might be the best. With the storytelling chops of Springsteen and a voice that sounds like home, Moreland has made two of my favorite albums of the past few years with 2013's In The Throes and 2015's High On Tulsa Heat. No other artist I can think of (other than the aforementioned Jason Isbell) writes as many heartbreaking songs & lyrics that can completely gut you. I could quote his lyrics all damn day, but here are some favorites:

"Well i'm the kind of love it hurts to look at / maybe we should take it as a sign / when im strung out on leaving / exhaulting all my demons / and you don't care enough for me to cry"

"We read all the right books, we sang songs we misunderstood / and with or without any reason, we did rebellion what justice we could"

"And I apologize if I seem a little overwhelmed / I’m thirsty, but the holy keep on pissing in my well / I had a purpose and a song that was true / But I ain’t ever had a lick of sense when it comes to you"

I could keep going but you get the point. Seriously, go get In The Throes and listen to it immediately. If you listen to it by yourself with a bottle of whiskey at 1am without bawling like a baby you're a stronger person than I am.

Here is Moreland playing 'Break My Heart Sweetly' on Colbert:

'Hang Me In The Tulsa County Stars' from SXSW:


Album: Day Of The Dead

Every time summer comes around I start pulling my Grateful Dead albums back out. No band gets as much undeserved hate as The Dead. Even if you hate jam bands, it's hard to deny the songwriting and the band put out at least 2-3 classic studio albums. That's why I was so excited to hear about the Day Of The Dead tribute album. Curated by members of The National, the albums participant list is insane: The National, The War On Drugs, Phosphorescent, Jenny Lewis, Jim James, Grizzly Bear, Kurt Vile, J. Mascis, Bonnie 'Prince' Billy, Perfume Genius, Sharon Van Etten, Courtney Barnett, Angel Olsen, Wilco, Charles Bradley, The Tallest Man on Earth, Cass McCombs,  Lucinda Williams, Local Natives, The Walkmen, Real Estate, Hiss Golden Messenger, Stephen Malkmus, Fucked Up and many, many more.

Here are some highlights:

Jim James & Friends - 'Candyman'

Bonnie 'Prince' Billy & Friends - 'Ruben and Cherise'

Daniel Rossen, Christopher Bear & The National - 'Terrapin Station (Suite)'



New Music: Til Willis & Erratic Cowboy - Habit of Being EP

Lawrence's Til Willis and his band Erratic Cowboy are back again with a new four song EP. It's Willis' 15th release but it's his first that has been pressed on vinyl.

Willis' music always reminds me of a punk-rock Springsteen or Steve Earle, especially his vocals. The new EP, Habit of Being, is no different. My only complaint about the EP is that I wish some of the songs and the EP as a whole were longer. The second track, 'Happy Birthday to the Bomb' is a gorgeous track that clocks in at exactly one minute. The following track, 'Nobody Calls Me Home', reminds me of some of the best tracks from The Replacements with a fantastic guitar riff, but it's less than a minute long as well.

The highlight of the EP for me is the closing track 'When the Snow Melts'. It really highlights what a great songwriter Willis is.

You can listen to the EP on Willis' soundcloud page and you can order the 7" on his website.



Middle of the Map Festival: Day One (5/4)

I've probably said it here before but the Middle of the Map festival is my favorite music week/weekend of the year. I love researching new bands to see who I want to check out and trying to create a schedule that allows me to see as many bands as possible. This year over the four days I caught most or all of 29 different performances. Here are the highlights from day one:

Baskery @ Californos

The first set of the festival I caught ended up being one of the best of the whole day. Baskery are a trio of sisters from Sweden. The set of instruments comprising an acoustic guitar, banjo and stand-up bass certainly seem like they'd belong to a normal bluegrass band, but Baskery are anything but.

They were extremely high energy and the addition of the drums made for a pretty rocking set. If not many people knew of the group before the festival, they definitely gained a roomful of new fans last Wednesday.

LA Witch @ Ernie Biggs

After checking out a ton of bands I'd never heard of on Spotify before the festival, one of the groups I was most excited to see was another all female trio: LA Witch.

The group plays loud and fuzzy punk rock with a ton of reverb. If you know me at all, you know I love anything with a lot of reverb so I was in heaven. A lot of times punk rock music can sound thin but the heft of the reverb and drone made LA Witch's sound fill the room quite nicely.

Fullbloods @ Californos Patio

Fullbloods are a KC band that I was already familiar with before MOTM, but hadn't gotten a chance to see live yet. They're a part of the High Dive record label which has some of my favorite local bands on their artist roster. It's lazy but I love comparing bands I see to existing bands I know and love and It's impossible to describe Fullbloods sounds without mentioning Steely Dan. The bands share that same mellow funk/r&b/jazz sound. Although I don't really care for Steely Dan much, I love Fullbloods and their new album. I'm never sure exactly how a bands sound will translate from record to live performance and I can say without a doubt that Fullbloods are a really talented live band. Make sure to check them out if you get a chance.

Roosevelt Dime @ Westport Saloon

The very last band of the evening we caught was Brooklyn's Roosevelt Dime. I went into the show expecting some solid bluegrass but got much more as the band incorporates elements of blues, R&B and Americana. I was exhausted by this time and wished I could have stayed for the whole set but I'll definitely try and catch them if they come through town again.

Other bands I saw on Wednesday:

Quirk & Ruckus
Via Luna
Ensemble Ibérica



Jill Andrews @ The Madrid Review (supporting Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors)- 4/23/16

Well, this is somewhat exciting- technically this my first legitimate concert review, and by "legitimate" I mean existing. Whether it's actually legitimate or not is up to our lawyers.

The evening did not start well upon arrival, as I realized I had left my little notebook and pen to write my notes down in the car. I couldn't use my phone effectively as I felt I would need two hands, and I needed one to hold a beer. I felt bummed that I hadn't even managed to accomplish what I assume is the second-most important task in reviewing a show after actually being at the show. However, my spirits rose immediately after having a Purple Rain (which wasn't anything special, but I felt like I was honoring Prince even though he didn't drink), so I decided to adapt. Rather than write about the specific songs and my reactions to each one, I decided to look at  the overall experience of listening to Ms. Andrews, as well as my observations on the Americana/folk-rock scene that night.

Americana - or whatever fits your mind for this genre - is an interesting breed of music, in that I am not sure if there's another brand of music where competent musicianship, quality singing and decent lyrics can really make the concert experience lukewarm and meh-able.This style of music fits within some consistent trappings: generally you have at least one acoustic which is often kicking the song off (might even be using a capo on the 2nd or 4th fret), open chords, and multiple harmonies. Even when these are performed well, the ears begin to mix them with the multitudes of other bands that are doing the same thing. You find yourself moving towards the back, towards the exits or at least to the bar, so you can have a conversation and maybe sit at a table.

And the thing is, the music could still be good, perhaps really good, but if there's not one little thing that sparks your brain to notice- a distinct voice, really unusual lyrics or phrasings - then it all becomes background. Other genres can skate by on being solely competent and grab your attention because they are angry and loud by nature and you have no choice to be focused on them. They might have a light show or a lead singer who puts on some sort of one-act interpretation of Faust while backed by three lead guitar players. But Americana shares that folksy politeness in sound where it can be easy to excuse yourself from the room. For Americana artists to stand out is doubly impressive compared to other genres.

So, with this in my mind, what did I think of Andrews the first time I saw her? She started out by herself on an acoustic, wearing a comfy sundress and a natural smile, and I thought to myself "Well, this has the chance of fitting into my "Slippery Slope of Americana" logic. She has a strong voice and a good sense of melody, but I wasn't sure I was going to stay focused for the whole set, or have it leave me with any impact.

Then, after the second song, she brought out her touring guitarist whose name started with a "J" and if I hadn't forgotten my notepad I would have remembered it- and the vibe of the performance changed. The guitarist provided a great layer to the music that would have been missed if Andrews was straight solo (Andrews's albums are well-fleshed out by an entire band and solid production), using effects to not overwhelm but support, and that shimmering layer brought more power to the lyrics. I also enjoyed her soloing- simple but with a nice bite to cut through the folsky sweetness and hinted at the darker lyrics inside the song. J's added vocal melodies (which made me think of First Aid Kit) also fit well with Andrews and it's a credit to the two of them for meshing well. I don't know how long they have been playing together on this tour or prior, but for the rest of the set, I was locked in.

So my final review? If you are an Americana fan, or want to see a good musician that can add a little bit extra to her performance (outside of somewhat awkward stage banter), I recommend catching Andrews next time she's in town. I'd be curious to be there with a full-backing band, as she more than held her own with just two guitars.


PS- Matt and I discussed if there would be a Prince cover performed, and which one it would be. Matt believed it would be "Nothing Compares 2 U", and I agreed. Turns out Drew Holcombe covered it, so we won the night.


RIP Prince

Too many of these posts recently. Without a doubt in David Bowie and now Prince, we've lost two of the most original artistic minded musical geniuses that have walked this earth.

Here are a couple of videos....

'Purple Rain' at the Super Bowl:

Prince w/ Tom Petty, Steve Winwood, Jeff Lynne and Dhani Harrison playing 'While My Guitar Gently Weeps':


Upcoming Show: Jill Andrews @ The Madrid 4/23

I've been slacking on posting recommended shows recently, but I wanted to get something up about a show I'll be checking out this weekend. On this Saturday, April 23rd, Jill Andrews will be playing at The Madrid opening for Drew Holcomb.

Jill has been putting out records for a few years now but I didn't discover her until her newest album, The War Inside, came out last year. Her music can best be described as pop-rock, but it's definitely got some southern/Appalachian influences as well. The highlights for me are the album opener 'Get Up, Get On' and the duet with Seth Avett 'I'm So In Love With You', but the entire album is well worth your time.

The headliner Drew Holcomb is touring behind his newest album Medicine which was recorded with his band The Neighbors.

This should be a really good show so don't miss it! Also, check out her new video for the song 'Get Up, Get On' below:



Recommended Shows (4/4 - 4/10)

Thursday: Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band @ Sprint Center

I unfortunately won't be in town for this show, but I can't recommend it enough. No one puts on a live show like Springsteen and he's touring behind the release of The River boxset and will  be performing the album in full.

Friday: Kurt Vile & The Violators @ The Granada

I caught Kurt a couple of years ago at The Granada and it was a great show. Once again I'll be missing this one but he's a great live performer and this show is highly recommended.

Saturday: Savages @ The Granada

The Granada is coming with a ton of great shows recently (makes me wish KC still had a venue that size). Post-Punk group Savages most recent album, Adore Life, is well worth your time. Of course there is a trio of great shows when I won't be in town so make sure you hit one or all of these up in my honor.


Recommended Shows (3/28 - 4/3)

Thursday: Murder By Death @ The Granada

One of my favorite live bands of the past few years is back again in Thursday. After a couple of appearances at Middle Of The Map in KC this time the band will be in Lawrence at The Granada. Make sure you get there early for the opener, Tim Barry.

Saturday: Split Lip Rayfield @ The Bottleneck

If you've spent any time in Lawrence or KC in the past 20 years and haven't been to a Split Lip show, what the hell are you doing with your time? The band is a live force and are always a good time if you can catch their show.

The Dandy Warhols @ The Riot Room

Although I've never loved this band, I know fellow JoC staff member Chris is a big fan. The Dandy Warhols do seem too big for a venue the size of The Riot Room, so if you want to catch this show get tickets early.



I want to say that when Matt hired me back, I was not given the impression that we were to contribute over three posts a month...

WHEW!!! Was I wrong!  Mr. Schram came down on me hard. I was brought into the office at 8:00 am, and it was just...it was just brutal. But, a well-deserved critique on my shortcomings as a writer AND a husband, apparently. I don't know how the meeting went with Witmer, but let's assume it was worse?

So, to half-ass the quota that's been assigned to me, I'm going to rip off a video Matt sent me and critique it. This will be followed in the next few days with the next "What the F##% is Wrong with You?".

The Video

Chicago "Look Away"

As a caveat to this post, I do not like Chicago- when I was 12 in 1988 they made me reminded me of my parents. That was where they were at on the cool spectrum to me in the music world.  I don't think that would change my analysis of this music video, but I wanted to point that out.

This video is so 80s it's like watching a scene from "American Psycho", where this is playing in the background. It's a spoof video made two years ago by Adam McKay, or an introductory skit on Jimmy Fallon to introduce Kevin Bacon or Josh Brolin. It's  too 80s to be 80s, but it was actually made in the 80s. And clearly, the director was an assistant DP on "Working Girl" or "Mannequin".

I also am assuming he went on to develop the story for "Pretty Woman".

Based on the lyrics, lame Don Johnson has been dumped by a lingerie model at the same time lingerie Model #2 dumps her sugar daddy CEO/mafia stereotype. They yell and scream at both of them, and Victoria's Secret #3 loses her haberdashery boxes,which leads straight to #4 blowing up a goddamn limo (I shall call her Patricia Bateman). #3 meets up with #5 to throw a watch away and spy on #6, and #7 carries flowers on a street and is them embarrassed when the wind catches her coat and reveals her garter, even though she was wearing only underwear the whole time. There's a 10-second clip of the band, which is the only time they appear in the video because this is art and it's not about the band. God, in 1988 they looked older than my dad. #8 walks in an elevator with a swimsuit on and then puts on power blazer, so  everything is fine

The Lame DJ is sad again, probably due to his 30 lb. rotary phone messing with his shoulder, and the video ends.

That would have been the pitch the director through the label, to which they did a line of coke off  #5's back and said "Let's do it!" and it probably cost $20,000 to make. God, the 80s  were so stupid. Wasn't this song about just a breakup? And just moving on? Instead the video is a sexist women's liberation statement about being yourself and not being defined by men as long as you;re also dressed in a fashion that would get you arrested today if you weren't performing on a stage.

This is why wishing you were in the 80s- assuming you're 50- makes you pathetic, misogynistic asshole. Or you're someone who actually is glad Fuller House exists for any reason other hate-watching.

To cleanse your eyes and remind you that the 1980s video scene should only be mocked, here's Robin Sparkles:

Please provide any suggestions of a quality 80s video that stands up to the test of time and taste...

See you in a few days. Go to Middle of the Map if you're in the KC area!



New Music: Parker Millsap

It took me all of two tracks into Parker Millsap's self-titled album to know I was going to be a huge fan. A friend recommended him to me a few weeks back and since then I've been basically obsessed. Hailing from Oklahoma, Parker is in his 20's but seems much older based off his voice and songwriting prowess.

He already has two albums under his belt and is readying the third, The Very Last Day, for a March 25th release. One of the tracks from The Very Last Day, 'Heaven Sent', has already been featured on NPR's "Songs We Love" and is about a young, gay man coming out to his preacher father. It's a really powerful song and hopefully is a good indication as to how great this new album will be.

You can pre-order the new album from his website and check out tour dates there as well. He's not currently coming to KC but if that changes, we'll let you know.

Check out the video for his single, 'Truck Stop Gospel', off his self-titled album below.



Recommended Shows (3/4 - 3/10)

Saturday: Kacey Musgraves @ The Midland

I can't remember a time in Country music where more artists are commercially and critical viable than right now. Kacey Musgraves is the perfect example of someone who is embraced by country fans and general music fans alike. Count me in as someone who's enjoyed her last couple of albums.

Saturday: Lee Fields & The Expressions @ The Granada

Also on Saturday in Lawrence is legendary soul artist Lee Fields. He's been recording music for decades, but his recent albums with The Expressions has brought him new mainstream attention. He puts on a great live show that's well worth the trip to Lawrence.

Thursday: Titus Andronicus / Craig Finn @ The Bottleneck

In Lawrence next week is a fantastic double bill featuring New Jersey's Titus Andronicus. Opening the show is Craig Finn who is better known as the frontman for The Hold Steady. Both bands on the bill have tremendous energy in their live shows so this should be a really good time.


Middle Of The Map Festival Announces 2016 Lineup

I've said this many times now, but the Middle Of The Map Festival is without a doubt one of my favorite weekends of the year. They announced the lineup this week and once again it shows what a force this festival has become for Kansas City.

Highlights for me include Aimee Mann, Vince Staples, Charles Bradley, The Besnard Lakes, Your Friend, Shy Boys, Berwanger and The Grisly Hand. However, spending the weeks leading up to the festival discovering new bands to check out is one of my favorite parts of the fest. Even if you haven't heard of a single band on the lineup, if you love music buy a ticket and I guarantee you'll have a blast.



Recommended Shows (2/26 - 3/3)

Friday: Wavves & Best Coast @ The Midland

I don't absolutely love Wavves or Best Coast, but having seen both live I can say they do both put on good shows. It's also a pretty great pairing for a fun Friday night show if you don't have anything going on.

Saturday: Dwight Yoakam @ The Uptown

There aren't too many country music artists that have been commercially and critically lauded like Dwight Yoakam. There also aren't many that are still putting out interesting music 30+ years into their career. If you haven't seen him before, he's really good.

Wednesday: Radkey @ The Bottleneck

We've written about them frequently here, but you'll have another opportunity to check out one of the area's best bands next week in Lawrence. Radkey put on some of the most consistently fun shows I've seen in the past few years so check them out.


Recommended Shows This Week (2/19 - 2/25)

Since we're starting the blog going again full steam, I thought I'd start posting weekly show recommendations again. So if you're looking for something to do this weekend or next week, here are the shows I think you should check out.

Friday: Possessed By Paul James @ The Replay

Possessed By Paul James is actually a one-man-band by Konrad Wert. I don't know a ton about him but I know I can't get enough of his song 'Hurricane'. He'll be playing an early show tonight (in just a few hours!) in Lawrence.

Saturday: Rayland Baxter @ The Granada

I saw Rayland Baxter last month open for Jason Isbell. He was great and now we have a chance to see him playing a headlining show Saturday in Lawrence. His new album, Imaginary Man, is definitely worth a listen.
Sunday: Freakwater @ The Riot Room

The reunited Freakwater, who have put out a bunch of really great Americana/Alt-Country albums going back to the early 1990's, have a new album out (Scheherazade). Their tour behind Scheherazade will bring them to The Riot Room on Sunday night. It should be a really fun time.


What The F*** Is Wrong With You??: The New Guy Reluctantly Reviews Bruce Springsteen's "Nebraska"

What's crackin', Internet?  Let me take a moment to introduce myself.  I'm Scott, the new Assistant WebLog Content Creation Intern here at The Jeopardy of Contentment.  You may have read Chris' extremely flattering introduction here.  Although I appreciate his exuberant eloquence, it was all pretty much bullshit.  I'm just a guy who happens to own a couple CD's, played in a few local bands,  and lucked into writing a book series teaching junior-high-aged kids how to start a band.  (I mean seriously, when you're 13, starting a band is easy as fuck.  But they payed me more than I ever made actually playing in a band, so yeah, irony.)

Annnyyyyywwwaaayyyyy....so, writing on this blog will be a bit of a challenge for me.  Chris has forgotten more about music than I'll ever know, and Matt has forgotten more about music than Chris will ever know. (They are both pretty forgetful.  Which makes it easy to steal their change when the JoC office orders lunch and I'm sent to go get it. Thanks for the free Panini, suckers!)  Chris and Matt get deep into the new stuff.  Like three-knuckle deep-deep.  I swear to God that Matt hears about bands before they even form.  I'm more of a pop hook/melody/production appreciation guy, and  I'll listen to anything that Pandora or AppleMusic randomly plays.  Seriously.  I own Taylor Swift's "Fearless" on CD.  And The Revolting Cocks' "Linger Ficken Good".  Those two albums have no business being together on a shelf.  Yet, here they are. Proof!

So yeah, my stuff on this blog is gonna come from the mind of the guy that payed actual money for the CD's you see pictured above.  You remember earlier, when I said I'd listen to anything?  Well, that was kind of a lie.  I'm not really into sparse "guy/girl and guitar and sad bastard lyrics" stuff.  You know, the self-important musicians that think their four arpeggiated acoustic guitar chords and earnest lyrics about super important issues makes their album an important contribution to art.  That may be, Mr. Singer-Songwriter, but if I play that shit in the car, I'm going to fall asleep. And die. And I don't want your art to literally kill me.  Jesus!  Let someone play some drums!  Plug your guitar in!  Give me an interesting riff that I can hum to myself two days later and wonder where the fuck I heard it!
(Exception: Elliot Smith, because he makes me cry. In a good way. Don't judge me!) 

So imagine how pleased I was to hear that Chris had selected my first What The F*** Is Wrong With You? album review, and it was Bruce Springsteen's "Nebraska".  Fuck.  
(Should I be typing "F***" instead of "fuck", since that's how it's represented in the post title?  Oh well.  I'm sure someone will edit me if that's a rule or something. )

Just to recap, if you're not familiar with the rules of this review series, I'll cut and paste the guidelines from Matt's last post, in which he cut and pasted from Chris' previous post: (side note: our adult intramural sports team should be called the "Control C, Control V's")

1. It's an album that has influenced or affected one of us in some personal, emotional or culturally significant manner.
2. It as impacted the work of others - either contemporaries or future artists, and that influence is generally acknowledged by listeners/critics worldwide. It doesn't need to be a huge seller, either, although that's fine, too.
3. The album doesn't  have to be unknown to the listener, as we would like to think that could be a difficult since we surely know a little about a lot out there, and the listener could even have listened to the album sometime before.
4. It can't  be something the listener has ever had on heavy rotation or has a strong sense of the individual songs on the album- the album may exist in their world but it's more of haze than something concrete.

I don't know much about this album, so let's just visit our friends over at Wikipedia. I'm sure they have verified facts to share.  They say:

Nebraska is the sixth studio album, and the first acoustic album by Bruce Springsteen. The album was released on September 30, 1982, by Columbia Records.
Sparsely-recorded on a cassette-tape Portastudio, the tracks on Nebraska were originally intended as demos of songs to be recorded with the E Street Band. However, Springsteen ultimately decided to release the demos himself. Nebraska remains one of the most highly regarded albums in his catalogue. The songs on Nebraska both deal with ordinary, blue collar characters who face a challenge or a turning point in their lives, but also outsiders, criminals and mass murderers, who have little hope for the future - or no future at all, as in the title track, where the main character is sentenced to death in the electric chair. Unlike his previous albums, very little salvation and grace is present within the songs. The album's uncompromising sound and mood, combined with its dark lyrical content has been described by a music critic as "one of the most challenging albums ever released by a major star on a major record label."[2]

When I read "one of the most challenging albums ever released by a major star on a major record label", you know what I think?  I think they meant "this was a piece of crap that had no chance of becoming an album, except that Bruce Fucking Springsteen wrote it.  So we kind of had to release it.  Dammit."
Maybe I'm being too hard on the album before even listening to it. That hardly seems fair, and I apologize.  So I'll just pop my pirated copy into the ol'  MP3-o-tronic machine, and give this a whirl.  Ready? Here goes.

TRACK 1:  The aptly titled "Nebraska"

0:00  Ok, we have some harmonica, with some mellow guitar behind it.  Holy shit.  Is this a Bob Dylan cover??  
0:31  The Boss' distinctive voice comes in.  Definitely not a Dylan cover.  If this was recorded on a Portastudio, then it was the nicest gold-plated flagship model of Portastudio ever. The production and the recording is really nice.  The guitar sounds amazing, Bruce's vocals are bare, and they sound incredible. The harmonica, oddly enough, sounds like a harmonica.  God damn it.  Now I want to scrap my recording rig and buy a Portastudio.
1:05   Isn't Springsteen from Jersey? What's with the southern twang?  I've been to Lincoln, Mr. Springsteen.  They do NOT talk like that there.  They talk about football. 
2:12  Well...that took a dark lyrical turn.  Apparently the narrator murdered everything in his path, and doesn't regret it.  The jury finds him guilty, so he gets the electric chair.  Kudos for the contrast between the pleasant melody and the "dark as Aunt Mavis' Coffee" lyrics.  (Note to self: check to see if they even have the death penalty in Nebraska)
3:11 Harmonica solo bridge!
3:38 "Why'd ya do it, Mister?  Why??"  "I'm just bad, that's why. Deuces!" (poses for electric chair selfie)
3:54  Harmonica outro!

Shit.  I didn't hate that nearly as much as I thought I would. I actually liked it. I'm going to have to go erase all that stuff I typed up above where I mocked this album before listening to it. I kind of feel like a jerk. I hope that the rest of the album is terrible, so I can justify my prejudice.

Song Verdict:  B

TRACK 2: Yes! I mean NO! It's a terrible honky tonk intro! Vindication! I must press "stop".

 I'm going to take a break, and listen to that title track again so that awful honky tonk doesn't ruin it.  Then I'm going to bed, where I will lie awake for hours and contemplate my actual appreciation for that title track.  What does this mean?  Am I a Springsteen fan now?  Are my beloved Riot Grrl albums going to mock me as a "corporate sell-out"?  Ugh. I hate Chris.

I had horrible dreams about Bruce Springsteen murdering people in Nebraska while driving a pink Cadillac. He got away with it, because he drove 800 miles without seeing a cop. Ok. Let's continue.

TRACK 2: "Atlantic City"

Wait!  Where's the honky-tonk intro?  Either that was a terrible dream, or the MP3-o-tronic was on "random play". Let's hope it's the former. I'd hate for that intro to rear its ugly head later.

0:00  The acoustic guitar takes the forefront on the opening, and Bruce starts singing immediately.  Thanks for putting the harmonica in your pocket, Bruce. I'm digging this one so far.  Lyrically, chicken men are getting blown up in Philly, and there's gonna be a "rumble".  I'm getting a social-awareness vibe here. And for some reason, I like it. "Everything dies baby, and that's a fact".  Was Springsteen in desperate need of a hug during the recording of this album?
0:30  Background vocals with heavy reverb. They make me sad. I'm sure that's the intent.
0:55  God damn it.  Four measures of harmonica.
1:03  Working man theme, getting a job, trying to save money. So Springsteen.
1:58  This bridge is amazing.  Mandolin in the background.  Nice touch.  The production is again amazing.  I really REALLY gotta get myself one of those Portastudios.
2:27  Slowing things down.  Tempo change?  Right on.  The ol' "repeat the chorus build up strip down" outro trick. Well played, Mr. Springsteen.  Well played.

I liked that one even more than the first one.  Despite the race-riot/gambling addiction mixed messages.  I can't believe it.  So far, this album is good.  Let's hope there are some real stinkers coming up.

Song Verdict: B+

Track 3: "Mansion on the Hill"

0:00 More harmonica!  Is this the title track again? It is eerily similar so far.
0:35 Edge of town? Factories? Unattainable mansions on the hill?  Please go on, Bruce.  Tell me more.
1:32  Uh oh.  His dad is taking him on a ride at night.  Given the previous lyrical content, there's no way this ends well for anyone.  
2:05  Harmonica solo bridge!
2:35 "Urban music playing".  What exactly is urban music in 1982?  Grandmaster Flash? The Sugarhill Gang? I don't think anyone working in a factory or a mill or in a cornfield in 1982 in the midwest listened to Grandmaster Flash.
3:36  Harmonica outro.  Come on! 

I think this song was the demo for the title track, before Bruce's bad day that caused him to write murder lyrics.  It's about poor people gazing longingly at the mansion on the hill?  Appreciate what you have, because that's all you'll ever get?  Ok.  

Song Verdict: D+ (I could have gone C- here, but I'm trying to justify my prejudiced ass-holery from earlier) 

Track 4: "Johnny 99"

0:00  There's a shrieking woman trapped in the trunk!
0:16  There it is. The auto plant closed. Ralph can't get a job.  
0:30  The honky-tonk guitar is getting some crescendo here.  Increased heartland fervor from The Boss.  
0:50  Johnny is drunk and waving his gun around! He's four five seconds from wildin'!  Sucker punched by an off-duty cop.  Game over, Son.  
1:30  Just when you thought it was taking a break for a track, the harmonica busts back in!
2:30  Time to feel sorry for Johnny 99.  He's losing his house.  Bruce predicts the housing crisis, 32 years early! Johnny 99 blames his crimes on poverty.  He says he's better off dead.  I think Johnny 99 is kind of a whining bitch. 
3:09.  Harmonica outro.  Again. 

Do you know what's better than this song?
Johnny 99 should be almost 20 times better than me, but he's not.

Song Verdict: D+

Track 5: "Highway Patrolman"

0:00  Nice guitar sound.  Again, Bruce's vocals sound raw and amazing.  Despite him using them to give what amounts to a Match.com profile of a law enforcement officer.
0:45  The cop has a bad seed brother!  He's up to no good! But the cop looks the other way, because nepotism. 
1:17  I'll be honest. I like this chorus. I don't want to, but I do. There's some weird sharing of some girl named Maria going on, which seems odd. 
2:00  Bad Seed brother joins the army in 1965. The cop starts a farm and marries the brother's girlfriend. There's no way this ends up good for anyone.
2:40  The harmonica has been relegated to the background on this track, and production-wise, it's effective and haunting.  
3:18  Here it comes. The bad news phone call. The brother's up to no good again.
4:36  Car chase! Action! Uh oh! Sounds like the bad seed brother had a Thelma and Louise moment, or he escaped to Canada.  It's not clear.

Song Verdict:   C  (it's a D song saved by a B chorus)

Track 6:  "State Trooper"  

0:00 I'm really liking this dark intro.  Muted guitar, and hushed vocals. The vocals have some noticeable delay and reverb on them, which is a change from the previous tracks, but it sounds amazing. I really REALLY gotta get one of those Portastudios.
1:32  Apparently this song is about not wanting to get pulled over? And State Troopers get to marry hot chicks? Either way, this song is awesome so far.
2:25  Bruce Springsteen inexplicably shouts and it scares me. It's the sonic equivalent of one of those seemingly tranquil videos you watch on the internet and at the end the scary monster jumps out and screams and you shit yourself.  I mean, I personally didn't shit myself, but I have a friend who did.  A friend from Canada.
3:00 more shouting! This song cures hiccups.

I would love to hear what this song would have evolved into if it had ever graduated from "demo" state.  Wow.  Bonus points for keeping the harmonica in your pocket, Bruce.

Song Verdict:  A   

Track 7: "Used Cars"

0:00  More sparse guitar, background harmonica, bare vocals.  Just like most of the other songs on the album.
1:10  Is that a fucking xylophone??
1:22  "Brand new used car" is an excellent lyric.
1:45  Blue collar working man middle class family blah blah
2:33  The harmonica, not content to stay in the back, runs to the front of the stage.  Or pushes it's fader up on the mixing deck.  I'm starting to suspect that the harmonica is the diva in this band.

Meh.  Meh minus.

Song Verdict:  C  I neither loved or hated this song.  If this song was a restaurant, it would be Chilli's.

Track 8: "Open All Night"

0:00 Aaaaaannndddd the horrible honky-tonk intro finally crashes the sad bastard party.  Seriously, this song is like that jock in high school that gets all hooped up on whippets and red bull and then he crashes the serious goth party the drama kids are having.  "Shut up, Chet!  We're trying to listen to Morrisey here! Your unfocused energy is ruining our choreographed crying!"
0:15  What. The. Fuck.  Is this just a rip-off of "Greased Lightning"?  Mr. Springsteen, please stop vocally masturbating about your car.  
1:31  What?  What are you saying??  Why are the vocals suddenly incomprehensible?  The production on this track sounds exactly like it was recorded on a Portastudio.  I no longer wish to purchase one.
2:58  Chris owes me three minutes of my life back.

Song Verdict:  F-

Track 9: "My Father's House"

0:00 No way this track can be as bad as the last one.  It's trying to, but it's not quite there.  We have the now familiar acoustic guitar with the fairly subdued vocals taking the forefront.  A bit reverb on the vocal track.  It's not as effective here as the dry vocals would have been.  
0:30  Ok, I'm getting a serious gospel vibe here.  Maybe it's the "daaaarrrrrrkneesss falls" vocal roll.  Very un-Springsteen, so bonus points are awarded.
1:30  I like the lyrical theme.  It's a scared kid running home through the woods at night, terrified of the boogie man/devil behind him, running to the comfort of his father's house.  This is much more interesting than the factory worker trying to buy a big house, or getting all murderous on some folks in Lincoln.
2:15  Diva Harmonica pops up for a few measures, just to be a dick and try to ruin this interesting song.
3:30  Ok, sadness.  Bruce Springsteen was sad as fuck in 1982.  The song tells a story, and (SPOILER ALERT!) it doesn't end well.  

I liked this one a lot.  Maybe it got a boost by the utter disdain I felt for the previous track.  

Song Verdict:  B+

Track 10:  "Reason to Believe"

0:00  Diva Harmonica kicks things off.  
0:30  We have a honky tonk guitar threatening to come out!  It's back there, Bruce is doing his best to hold it back!  
1:30  What is that backing instrument?  A harpsichord?  I like this song and have no idea why.  Maybe I've just been pummeled into submission for the last 10 tracks.  
2:03  I think Springsteen just lit a cigarette.  IN. THE. VOCAL. BOOTH.  On the microphone.  That is awesome!  Even more awesome is that the engineer/producer didn't edit that out.  Yes.  That makes the song even more amazing.  You win, anonymous sound engineer!
3:20  What the hell?  Hopeful lyrics?  Come on Bruce!  Did the album test poorly with focus groups, so you threw in a happier ending?  It's ok. Your lighter click and subsequent inhale on the vocal mic gives you license to do whatever the fuck you want.  Carry on.

I liked this one.  Because music.  I think The Boss finally got that hug he'd been longing for.

Song Verdict: A


This wasn't nearly as awful as I'd anticipated.  I have a newfound appreciation for Bruce Springsteen's lyrical prowess.  That dude can turn a phrase.  I also learned a few things about myself:

1) I don't hate drum-free music as much as I thought I did.
2) I really fucking hate the harmonica.

(Politically Correct Disclaimer)  I can see how a lot of people would enjoy this album, and I can see how it was a turning point for Springsteen's career.  If he can release a demo tape, and it gets hailed as a "classic", then he must be doing something right.  It's easy to connect the dots from "Nebraska" to "Born in the USA", which I listened to quite a bit when I was a kid.  Because it was all over the radio.     I couldn't escape it.  They both have that blue-collar working-man vibe.  "Nebraska" is like "Born in the USA"'s sad little brother, who is equally talented, yet disproportionately more pessimistic.  Plus, his drummer quit.  I'm glad Chris suggested this album for me to review (despite my repeated vitriol towards him). I can't say that it'll be on my heavy rotation list any time soon, but I feel that I've filled a gaping hole in my musical knowledge.  At the very least I can pull this knowledge out at parties to impress people.  "Hey, have you heard Springsteen's "Nebraska"?  It's sooooo dark!  You gonna eat the last of that spinach dip? Thanks!"

So far, I think Matt, Chris, and I have all given our assigned albums a "B" grade.  Maybe we should rename this series "What The B Is Wrong With You?"  The three of us have widely differing musical tastes, so it will be interesting to see how long after this review it takes for them to fire me.

Thanks for reading all the way to the bottom! 




New Song/Video: Whitney - 'No Woman'

A new band that I'm really excited about hearing more stuff from in 2016 in Chicago's Whitney. The band is made up from former members of Unknown Mortal Orchestra and Smith Westerns and their sound has been described as "country/soul". Whatever you want to call it their new track, 'No Woman', is really beautiful and has been on repeat in my house all week. The band has music prepped for later in 2016 from the Secret Canadian label and when there is more news on that front, I'll try and post it here. In the meantime check out the video for 'No Woman'.



JoC Welcomes New Contributor Scott Witmer

The Jeopardy of Contentment is proud to introduce our newest contributor, Scott Witmer.

After passing a rigorous interview process of knowing the two people who write for this blog, Scott was welcomed with open arms.

Scott brings a great wealth of musical knowledge and enthusiasm. Not only is he a consumer of music, Scott also provides perspective as a songwriter, as a producer and recording engineer, and as a published music author. 

Yes, he actually was paid for writing. And now he writes for us! Man, that's a lot of pressure...

We look forward to his upcoming posts, and he'll be kicking off with the third entry in our "What the F*** is Wrong with You?" series.


Stream New Album From Your Friend: Gumption

Lawrence's very own Taryn Miller, who records under the name Your Friend, is getting set to release her first full length album on Domino Records this Friday. Until then she's put the album up on her Soundcloud page so we can all stream it for the next few days. She's definitely the most talented local musician I can recall in a very long time and her fanbase nationally should continue to grow with her new album, Gumption.

Stream the album below.

You also have the chance to check out her album release show tomorrow night at Liberty Hall in Lawrence.

Finally, her video for the track 'Tame One' off her outstanding Jekyll/Hyde EP can be seen below. If you've spent any time in Lawrence there are a lot of recognizable spots throughout the video.



What The F*** Is Wrong With You?: The Kinks

I started writing this blog post over a week ago and then, like the reason this blog took on a long hiatus, life happened. Multiple sick kids and trips to urgent care along with a crazy busy week at work put this on the back burner. However, with things settling down I'm ready to dig into my first album review that Chris has recommended.

Just to review the rules from Chris's first blog post in this series:

1. It's an album that has influenced or affected one of us in some personal, emotional or culturally significant manner.
2. It as impacted the work of others - either contemporaries or future artists, and that influence is generally acknowledged by listeners/critics worldwide. It doesn't need to a huge seller, either, although that's fine, too.
3. The album doesn't  have to be unknown to the listener, as we would like to think that could be a difficult since we surely know a little about a lot out there, and the listener could even have listened to the album sometime before.
4. It can't  be something the listener has ever had on heavy rotation or has a strong sense of the individual songs on the album- the album may exist in their world but it's more of haze than something concrete.

The Artist: The Kinks
The Album: The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society
The Listener: Matt
The Presenter: Chris

I'm going to lose some portion of my music nerd membership card, but I honestly don't know much about The Kinks beyond their really famous tracks. I know they are a band composed of two British brothers (Ray and Dave Davies) who don't get along very well but somehow aren't Oasis? Chris definitely has a type when it comes to bands, especially bands composed of two fighting brothers. Bonus points if they're from the UK (sorry Black Crowes).

Track 1: 'The Village Green Preservation Society'

I actually know this song. It's a good one, it's got a nice groove to it. You know how sometimes you can't tell that a band is from the UK because their accents are hidden by their singing voice? Well, that's not an issue with for Ray Davies, he sounds super British. I'm not a huge lyric guy but from one listen I can tell this song is clearly about Disney character and various jams and jellies. Grade: B+

Track 2: 'Do You Remember Walter'

The first five seconds of this song sound like the last part of 'A Day In The Life'. Is that on purpose? The music on this song again is top notch, it's impossible to not bob your head to these first couple of tracks. Grade: B-

Track 3: 'Picture Book'

There is no doubt in my mind that these guys can write the hell out of a pop song. The melodies are really fantastic. The lyrics aren't very deep, but that's okay because if they were it wouldn't fit with the bouncy feel of the music. Looking through old pictures is something just about everyone can identify with. Grade: A-

Track 4: 'Johnny Thunder'

I've heard this one before...I read this track was said to have influenced Pete Townsend and I think it shows through on some of the earlier records from The Who. The album I picked for Chris had mostly 6-8 minutes tracks while almost all of the tracks on this album are under three minutes. It's hard to get all my thoughts down without the next track starting. Grade: B

Track 5 - 'Last of the Steam Powered Trains'

Just when I write about all of the songs being under three minutes, the only song that exceeds four minutes starts. The addition of harmonica and a really good bluesy guitar riff make this one of the more interesting songs so far. If you beefed this song up a little bit it could verge on hard-rock and I certainly dig that. I also really enjoyed the middle where the tempo sped up, it makes me wish the beginning of this album rocked a little more because clearly this band has it in them to do so. Grade: A

Track 6: 'Big Sky'

My first impressions of this album was that it was going to be cutesy brit-pop, but then the last track and this one comes on and blows away my expectations. That guitar riff in 'Big Sky' once again shows that this a rock band at heart that writes catchy pop tunes. Clearly not a one-note album by any means. I'm not a giant fan of talk-singing unless it's Craig Finn or Eddie Argos, but it still doesn't ruin this song for me. Grade: B+

Track 7: 'Sitting By the Riverside'

This song didn't do a whole lot for me...especially following the more rocking two tracks that preceded this one. Grade: C

Track 8: 'Animal Farm'

Something about this track seems much more lush than a lot of the rest the album up to this point. There is definitely a silliness in much of the lyrics and I don't mean that as a criticism by any means, the music albums demands whimsy. Grade: B

Track 9: 'Village Green'

Goddamn these guys are super British. Is this the first track with orchestration behind it? I can't remember any before this. This also seems like the kind of track that is in a Wes Anderson movie. If it hasn't been used already, it should be. Grade B-

Track 10: 'Starstruck'

This is another track that didn't really stand out much to me. It's not bad by any means, it's nice filler in between more interesting songs is all. Grade: C

Track 11: 'Phenomenal Cat'

I'm not great at reading into song meanings, but I'm able to decipher that this song is about a feline that was especially noteworthy. I get an early Pink Floyd vibe from this song....it's definitely the most psychedelic track so far and the sped up vocals are really creepy. The song kind of sticks out like a sore thumb though. Grade C+

Track 12: 'All of My Friends Were There'

The first thirty second of this track made me think it was another throw-away but I really enjoyed the chorus. Grade: B-

Track 13: 'Wicked Annabella'

Oh man, I really dig this songs instantly. It starts out with a nice drumbeat and distorted guitar riff. I really enjoy the feel of these tracks, especially next to some of the lighter stuff. I knew I recognized this song from a nice cover version done by one of my favorites: Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats. This song is great. Grade: A-

Track 14: 'Monica'

Although this song doesn't have an edge to it like some of my other favorites, the whole calypso thing is new and I enjoy hearing them step out of their pop comfort zone. I find the album the most interesting when they're doing things I don't expect. Grade: B

Track 15: 'People Take Picture of Each Other'

I'm usually a big fan of closing tracks but this song didn't really stand out much for me. I like the addition of piano and it's another track with a good groove to it. I also like a well placed chorus of a few "La La La's" but other than that I wanted more out of this song. Grade: C

Overall Grade: B

I just realized I gave this album the same grade Chris gave Disintegration. Kind of boring, huh? We need some music hot takes and controversy at some point I suppose, but what do you expect when we're picking "classic" albums for each other to review. Even though Chris and I have strong music tastes that can vary greatly at times, I also think both of us can appreciate good music, even if it's not a genre or style that we're huge fans of.

This album overall is really enjoyable. I found a few of the songs very pedestrian and I'd be curious to listen to the original twelve tracklist the album was originally released with. I find this album most interesting when the band was doing things I didn't expect them to do. I do find it fascinating that this is usually regarded as the bands greatest album, but it doesn't have a single song that most non-Kinks fans would know. I think this was a great pick by Chris and I look forward to coming up with his next album to review.