Friday, January 01, 2016

Kat's Korner: 2015 In Music

Kat: Jann Wenner will just have to die.

The lesson of 2015, in fact, was just that.

The founder of ROLLING STONE was bi in San Francisco in the 60s but up and moved the magazine to the Big Apple and hid behind his 'wife' until 2011 - even though he and his live in male lover were outed in 1995.  It was the '00s when the nearly sixty-something Jann could finally be honest enough to publicly admit he'd built a life with a man.

Ralph Gleason, his one-time mentor, used to marvel over Jann's penchant for dishonesty and self-hatred.

It's that self-hatred that led Jann to publish, in early 2003, the homophobic attack and myth -- "bug chasers" -- of gay men actively seeking out the HIV virues.

Jann's self-hatred and long pretense also explains ROLLING STONE's long aversion to women.  For example, early on ROLLING STONE published a volume of their first ROLLING STONE INTERVIEWS (a second volume would follow in the 90s) and women really were ignored.  Because the magazine never interviewed women?

No, because Jann was busy trying to play 'manly' to dispel rumors of his gay reality.

A closeted man can work overtime to damage the lives of gay men and all women.

So the fact that, for example, Cass Elliott had done a ROLLING STONE INTERVIEW back in 1968 were concealed in the volume.

A gay man who rejects his mentor's advice to come out of the closet and instead marries a woman to hide his true sexuality is a man who is going to actively degrade women and their accomplishments.

And, yes, that explains how The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has so few women in it.

Cass isn't in it as a solo, Cher isn't in it either -- not as a member of Sonny &  Cher, not as one of rock's most pioneering and trailblazing solo singers.  Carly Simon has been passed over every year.

Son of a gun . . .

And now Janet Jackson as well.

The Beastie Boys -- who hit with LICENSE TO ILL the same year Janet hit with CONTROL -- are in the Hall but Janet still isn't.

Jann will not change.  A few years ago in an interview with Charlie Rose on PBS, Jann could finally publicly acknowledge that he lived with a man (Matt Nye, since 1995) but he still couldn't call himself "gay."

His discomfort and closet hiding means we all suffer.

And we're just going to have to wait these types out.

It was like that with segregationists, remember?

They really believed, for example, that a Whites only water fountain was needed.

Today, the idea's offensive and absurd.

But even after the Civil Rights Movement put an end to that, there were still people who believed in that and we just had to wait for them to die off.

As women were yet again ignored in the latest round of inductions for The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (five acts inducted, not a woman among them), it's clear we'll just have to wait for Hall founder Jann S. Wenner to die off.


1)  Janet's UNBREAKABLE.

It's so clear that even Jann should see it from his closet, Janet had the album of 2015.  No one else came close.  It's the album Prince should have released -- focused, alive, grinding.  It was a trimphant return for Janet and a powerful reminder that the Jackson name still means a great deal in music.



Ringo wasn't the best songwriter in the band -- not with John, George and Paul to compete with.  And, honestly, he probably was the biggest question mark when it came to solo careers.  But in 2015, he reminded everyone of what he offered best: Joy.  POSTCARDS FROM PARADISE is a joyful album.  John was the confessor, George was the philosopher and Paul was the drone churning it out (when, working with Elvis Costello during the "My Brave Face" period, Paul finally discovered anger, it seemed like a revelation -- so bland was his output).  Ringo gets bragging rights for 2015 for this solid and joyful album.

3) Sleater-Kinney's NO CITY TO LOVE.

A strong footed return lacked only one important element: Timing.  January albums always get sleighted.  Either you're like me and just not wanting to weigh in on anything for at least a month after a year-in-review or else you weigh in but can't offer any real perspective because it's the first album -- or at least first big album -- of the year.  It's one of the ten best of 2015 and that would be more evident if it had been released a little later in the year.


4) Steve Grand's ALL AMERICAN BOY.

2014's internet sensation released an album in 2015 which more than demonstrated Grand was no flash in the pan.  "Back To California" is, in many ways, an awkward song -- it's supposed to be.  Like a real artist, Steve doesn't pretty it up but let's the awkwardness off the chain and ends up with a deeply moving song.  He's a singer-songwriter in the best sense of the term and this album should be the start of a long and glorious discography.  "Stay" will lift you up on even a really dark day.


5) Wilco's STAR WARS.

Jeff Tweedy and company?  If 2014 found U2 proving Thomas Wolfe a truth teller that YOU CAN'T GO HOME AGAIN, 2015 found the Chicago-based band under scoring Arundhait Roy's THE GOD OF SMALL THINGS.  Albums are small things these days -- as Spotify's Beatles streaming list made clear.  But for true music lovers, there's also the satisfaction of a real meal and STAR WARS was just that.  Wilco's shaping up the be the band that the world counts on.  That's a lot of weight to carry but, as STAR WARS makes clear, the band's a heavy hitter.


Disc one is just the 2014 album.  But disc two?  As Elaine's rave noted, it's reason to buy the set all over again.  You get him dueting with Mary J. Blige on "Stay With Me," him covering Whitney Houston ("How Will I Know?") and Amy Winehouse ("Love Is A Losing Game"), singing "Lay Me Down" with John Legend, and more.  It's not just a tide-me-over-till-the-new-album bonus disc, it's a revelation all on its own.


7) Carly Simon's SONGS FROM THE TREES.

This collection only featured two new songs -- so one new song per disc basically.  But it managed to be among the year's best as Carly dug through her early output (largely stopping with the mid-80s) and the remastering allowing even the most devoted Carly listener to rediscover the music.  What was supposed to serve as a musical companion piece to her best selling memoir BOYS IN THE TREES ended up working as a glorious stand-alone.

8) Kendrick Lamar's TO PIMP A BUTTERFLY.

Once upon a time, I liked rap.  I liked it when it was funky and alive.  I liked it when it captured something real.  Around the time millionaire posers -- Jay-Z, Puff Daddy, et al. -- began churning it out, it was a genere I no longer bothered with except for Kanye West who can create ecstacy or just be infuriating but who always writes about life experiences.  Dak-Ho was the first to tell me to listen to Kendrick Lamar's album.  Then, a few weeks later, Cedric was telling me I had to listen.  Still I resisted.  Burned too many times.  And I'm no purist.  I'll give 50 Cent his due to this day.  But rap -- at least in the male solo field -- has seemed like a dying genre.  If you feel that way too, it's probably time you forced yourself to listen to TO PIMP A BUTTERFLY -- language and misogyny warnings apply -- because it will blow you away.  Choice cut?  "King Kunta."

9) Joanna Newsom's DIVERS.

This album is another example of poor timing.  Released at the end of Octorber as though it were Sony's annual Barbara Streisand holiday offering or Neil Diamond's latest product rushed out so shareholders can get those Christmas bonuses, what the album instead needed was time to buil.  I love it.  I haven't had time to go beyond that.  An album this complex needs repeat listens.  And when you're dashing to Thanksgiving with the folks, finishing holiday shopping, showing up at various holiday parties and dinners, you've usually got Christmas tunes blasting throughout.  So there's really not time needed to give a late fall release the attention it deserves.  This should have been issued in the spring.


10) Rickie Lee Jones' THE OTHER SIDE OF DESIRE.

Rickie Lee closes out my top ten with an album that stands as not just one of the year's best but also one of her own best.  And that's really saying something -- FLYING COWBOYS, her self-titled debut, PIRATES, THE SERMON ON EXPOSITION BOULEVARD, TRAFFIC FROM PARADISE, etc are a lot to live up to.  But THE OTHER SIDE OF DESIRE kicks off with "Jimmy Choos" and never lets up.

Click here for my 2004 music piecehere for 20052006 in music2007 in musichere for 2008here  for my 2009 piece, here for my look at the decadehere for my 2010 piecehere for my 2011 piece,  here for my 2012 piece, here for my 2013 piece. and here for my 2014 piece.