Best CDs of 2019 According to an Old Guy Who Bought 4

2019 compact discs!

Biggest trends of 2019 in album covers in my outlier dimension: no names, no faces, and lots of black.

It’s that time again! The annual entry where I look back at the previous year as one of six people nationwide who still prefers compact discs to digital. I don’t splurge too much because it’s increasingly tougher for new music to catch my ear as I grow older and more finicky, and as my favorite acts of yesteryear die, stop recording, or turn toward musical directions that take them beyond my zones of interest. That usually means missing out on what the majority loves, thus further dragging me down the long plummet into total irrelevance.

I’m also not among the trendier listeners collecting vinyl…yet. One of my most underrated achievements in 2019 was acquiring my first new record player in over twenty years. I haven’t rushed out to stock up on new LPs yet because, honestly, I have a large stack of oldies and accumulated oddities I’d rather go through first before I go overboard. We’ll see where the future takes me. For now, it’s CDs all the way.

Well…not counting the two cassettes I bought this year. Talk about unexpected. Alas, both are disqualified from inclusion here because neither was a 2019 release.

The following list, then, comprises all the CDs — and only the CDs — that I acquired last year that were 2019 releases. None were bad, but we’re not into 4-way ties here on MCC, so somebody has to give. On with the countdown:

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“Bohemian Rhapsody”: No Escape From Reality

Bohemian Rhapsody!

Spot all the deeply meaningful moments with mirrors and win prizes!

Off the top of my head, here’s a quick ranking of the Best Picture winners and nominees directed by alleged sexual villains that I’ve watched to date:

  1. The Pianist
  2. Platoon
  3. Chinatown
  4. Born on the Fourth of July
  5. JFK
  6. Annie Hall
  7. Bohemian Rhapsody
  8. Midnight in Paris

…there could be more I’ve forgotten, or whose allegations are off my radar. I know there’re a few I’ve yet to see, such as Hannah and Her Sisters. Hollywood’s moral turpitude is nigh impossible to reconcile with single-minded pursuits such as my annual Oscar Quest, in which I watch every new Best Picture nominee no matter what, come what may, even if I have opinions and regrets about it in advance.

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Best CDs of 2018 According to an Old Guy Who Bought 6

2018 cds!

Pretty sure that paltry number still puts me in the upper 10% of American physical media shoppers.

It’s that time again! The annual entry where I look back at the previous year as one of seven people nationwide who still prefers compact discs to digital. I’d probably also count myself among the trendier listeners still collecting vinyl if my last record player hadn’t given up the ghost about twenty years ago. I don’t splurge too much because it’s increasingly tougher for new music to catch my ear as I grow older and more finicky, and as my favorite acts of yesteryear die, stop recording, or turn toward musical directions that take them beyond my zones of interest. That usually means missing out on what the majority loves, thus further dragging me down the long plummet into total irrelevance.

The following list, then, comprises every CD I acquired in 2018 that was also released in 2018. On with the countdown in all its lack of diversity, from the kinda-not-for-me to the unexpectedly inspirational.

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Mighty Mighty Bosstones and Dissonance & Dissent: Ska Night at the Vogue

Mighty Mighty Bosstones!

Never, ever let them forget your band’s name.

Dateline: August 21, 2018 — Tuesday night I found myself once again ignoring my social awkwardness issues and venturing out solo to the Vogue, Indianapolis’ number one nightclub for hosting bands that were in heavy rotation on my CD player throughout the ’90s. My wife Anne and I share a lot of important commonalities, but one of our smaller Venn diagrams is “musical preferences”. Nearly everyone I know with similar tastes lives in other states. Therefore I can either attend concerts alone, attend only when Anne wants to (not impossible but rare), make new friends to attend concerts with, or never experience live music again. Once every 1-2 years, I let option A win.

This year’s reason for me to leave the house and touch a dance floor: the Mighty Mighty Bosstones! If you don’t know the name offhand, your best chance of hearing them was the 1997 single “The Impression That I Get“, which achieved modest airplay beyond the usual alt-rock channels. They were among the first and few ska bands I listened to back in the day, still have four of their first five albums, but had lost track of them and countless other bands over the past 10-15 years. It was great to get reacquainted and find out they’re still recording and touring.

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My Life in Concerts, Part 3 of 3: Classical Geeks

Ewoks at Conseco!

That time Conseco Fieldhouse hosted grotesque samples of Ewok taxidermy.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Over the past few days, live performances have been on my mind for a couple of reasons I’ll get to at the end of this miniseries — to wit: my life at concerts over the past 25 years, mostly but not entirely rock-based, including a smattering of stand-up comedy and a pair of classical orchestras in more recent times. That number of years might sound impressive if I were a 30-year-old roadie and if the results were novella-length. As a 45-year-old introvert, I’m surprised they add up to as much as they do.

The next two concerts in my timeline shared quite a few traits. Both were at the same venue in downtown Indianapolis. My wife and son accompanied me for a change. Both featured large orchestras, multimedia displays, and original scores from entertainment media.

One of these presentations differed from all the other shows in this miniseries in a very noticeable way: we took photos!

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My Life in Concerts, Part 2 of 3: They Might Be Giants & Friends

2005-07-13 TMBG

They might be giants! They might be giants! They might be big! They might be lies! They might be big, big, fake, fake lies!

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Over the past few days, live performances have been on my mind for a couple of reasons I’ll get to at the end of this miniseries — to wit: my life at concerts over the past 25 years, mostly but not entirely rock-based, including a smattering of stand-up comedy and a pair of classical orchestras in more recent times. That number of years might sound impressive if I were a 30-year-old roadie and if the results were novella-length. As a 45-year-old introvert, I’m surprised they add up to as much as they do.

On with the chronological countdown!

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My Life at Concerts, Part 1 of 3: The First Four Shows

1992-07-22 GNR+Metallica!

You never forget your first, even if you walked out in disgust before it was over.

In my youth I was never the kind of music fan who attended a lot of concerts, frequented local scenes, had the money for tickets to arenas or stadiums, or had friends who invited me along to any of the above. My rock intake chiefly came via radio or physical media, very little in the way of firsthand experiences with a professional band standing and/or jumping around in front of me. As the years rolled on, isolated opportunities popped up here and there that got me out of the house and in the presence of live jamming. Eventually I learned the joys of an energetic crowd, an imperfect performance, and blessedly temporary tinnitus. It didn’t take long to learn that in-person rock acts were a vastly different experience from the three years I spent in junior high band playing bass clarinet.

I’ve been meaning for some time to compile those nights into a single chronological list for my own handy reference and sharing and whatnot. Over the past few days this has been on my mind for a couple of reasons I’ll get to at the end of this miniseries — to wit: my life at concerts over the past 25 years, mostly but not entirely rock-based, including a smattering of stand-up comedy and a pair of classical orchestras in more recent times. That number of years might sound impressive if I were a 30-year-old roadie and if the results were novella-length. As a 45-year-old introvert, I’m surprised they add up to as much as they do.

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Best CDs of 2017 According to an Old Guy Who Bought 8

Weezer and Japandroids!

One drawback to tangible recordings: they damage more easily. One of these arrived from Amazon pre-fractured; the other got knocked around a little in my car. But that lived-in look is part of the charm, too.

It’s that time again! The annual entry where I look back at the previous year as one of eight people nationwide who still prefers physical media to digital. I don’t splurge too much because new music tugs at my ear less and less as I grow older and stodgier, and as my favorite acts of yesteryear die, stop recording, or turn toward musical directions that take them beyond my zones of interest. Sometimes that means missing out on what the majority loves, even when it’s acts I’ve liked in the past. Exhibits A and B: the latest samples I caught from both Lorde and Taylor Swift left me underwhelmed and got left unsold on the few shelves still carrying CDs on our side of town.

The following list, then, comprises every CD I acquired in 2017 that was also released in 2017. On with the countdown in all its lack of diversity, from the least okay to the mostly splendid:

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Raggedy Anne and Randy: Our 2004 Road Trip Wedding Prologue

Goldens!

Hi! We’re the Goldens. This is who we are and what we did this one time.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: in recent weeks we’ve been sharing the stories of our annual road trips that we undertook before I launched MCC in April 2012. Starting from the beginning and working our way forward, so far we’ve covered 1999 to 2003. Making the leap to 2004 first requires a digression for an important milestone.

A while back we reprinted the he-said-she-said tale of our relationship in Part One and Part Two of a special two-part miniseries. After seventeen years of knowing each other as classmates, coworkers, neighbors, best friends, and eventually an official Dating Couple, in July 2004 Anne and I became husband and wife and our world was never the same, except for the part where we still did road trips every year.

The following is a retelling of our blessed, frequently awkward wedding day, a time of joy and music and accidents, two weeks before we embarked on that year’s fun, frequently awkward journey. The following essay was previously shared with a small circle of friends but has been given the “special edition” treatment for archiving here on MCC.

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Best CDs of 2016 According to an Old Guy Who Bought 8

Violent Femmes!

Fun alt-rock crossover trivia: the cover art to this comeback is by Barenaked Ladies keyboardist Kevin Hearn.

It’s that time again! The annual entry where I look back at the previous year, marvel that I’m still buying new music at all, reaffirm my disinterest in digital, and boast how I’m one of eleven people nationwide still buying CDs. I don’t buy a lot of them, though. I rarely connect with the Top 40 acts that get all the social media attention. My favorite bands tend to be old and denied promotional push from their labels, assuming they still have a contract. I’m open to hearing new bands, but my styles of choice are narrowing over the years and I’m a lot less enamored nowadays of bratty whippersnappers who overestimate their own wisdom. Fortunately my finicky criteria don’t eliminate all musical acts. Yet.

Right this way for the countdown!

Yes, There’s a Scene After the “Moana” End Credits

Moana!

With the invigorating Polynesian nautical epic Moana it’s time once again for Disney to flaunt their recovered mojo while the once-flawless Pixar pins their hopes on selling more Cars merchandise as well as the expensive, grim, Zack Snyder-looking commercial they made to go with all of it.

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2016 NYC Trip Photos #26: Do You Remember Rock & Roll Radio?

Ramones!

It’s mind-boggling to me that one of the greatest bands from the original American punk rock scene released their self-titled debut album a full forty years ago. When I learned the Queens Museum was hosting a temporary exhibit commemorating the anniversary of their recording career, it shot straight to the Top 5 on my vacation to-do list. Fortunately my wife and son were generous enough to allow this fan’s diversion.

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Ticketmaster Class Action Settlement Theatre Presents Bush and Chevelle

Farm Bureau Lawn Sunset!

The Farm Bureau Lawn stage at Indianapolis’ White River State Park, at sunset and between bands.

Dateline: July 26, 2016 — Tuesday night marked the first time I ever attended two concerts in the same calendar year. MCC followers may recall my previous outing to see Bloc Party and the Vaccines back in May, an enjoyable experience for this old man as long as he didn’t dwell on the negatives of being alone in a crowd.

Once again I found myself out of the house for an evening, surrounded by youngsters, and beset by mammoth rhythmic sound waves, some of which belonged to songs I liked. Full disclosure, though: this show wasn’t a first-choice activity. In fact, I forgot I even had the tickets till a few days prior.

Right this way for photos, set lists, and ticket-wrangling fun!

Indy 500 Festival Parade 2016 Photos #2: This Year’s Guests

Kevin Sorbo!

TV’s Hercules bids you welcome and asks that you keep your applause to a thundering roar.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

This year marked the sixth time my wife and I attended the Indianapolis 500 Festival Parade in downtown Indianapolis. It’s an annual date-day tradition for us —- partly to see the floats and high school marching bands, partly for the famous names and partly because I love the sight of a bustling downtown Indianapolis. The next six entries (to be posted over the next few days as quickly as time and attention span permit) represent a fraction of the pics my wife and I snapped. In many cases, encores and additional takes of specific subjects may be available if anyone out there is interested in seeing more, or is looking for a loved one who was in one of the many marching bands that day. For first-time MCC visitors, please note my wife and I are relative amateurs, absolutely not trained professional photographers, sharing these from a hobbyist standpoint because fun and joy.

In this entry: the actors, musicians, local politicians, and other notable personalities invited to join this year’s procession. We’re finding that we recognize fewer faces with each passing year, but maybe they’ll mean a lot more to you than to us. So enjoy for us!

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Bloc Party, The Vaccines, Oscar: My British Alt-Rock Party Night

Bloc Party at The Vogue!

Dateline: May 21, 2016 — Just woke up the morning after my first concert at The Vogue in 2½ years (see previous happy experience). At one of Indianapolis’ most well-known nightclubs in the heart of the Broad Ripple neighborhood, three catchy bands appeared on a single bill for an appallingly low price of $25. When I bought my ticket back in February, Bloc Party was the only reason and the only band on the bill. The Vaccines were added as co-billed headliners mere weeks before the main event. For the value and the all-around fantastic performances we got, I’m not complaining.

Right this way for photos and setlists!

This One’s for Her: An Evening With Barry Manilow

Anne!

My wife and I have many things in common, but our musical tastes diverge more widely than our interests in any other medium. Most musical acts that bother to include Indianapolis in their tours are so far off her radar that, until last night, she’d never been to a full-fledged capital-C Concert by a nationally famous musical act. My own concert history has been intermittent over the years (still kicking myself for skipping Social Distortion when they were in town last year), but I get out there every so often.

Then I found out Barry Manilow was coming to Indy, one of the big names on Anne’s list since childhood. As I said: divergent tastes. But I’m her husband and I love her thiiiiiiiis much and not all outings need to be about me me me. Also, my mom used to listen to local AM radio all the time when I was a kid, so it’s not as though he’s an utter stranger to me. So I cashed in all my internet cred, exchanged it for Good Husband points, and took the woman I love to her first concert, because that’s the kind of off-the-wall thing a happy, blessed marriage inspires a guy to do.

Right this way for the setlist and select photos!

Best CDs of 2015, According to an Old Guy Who Bought 7

Everclear!

I don’t get many musicians’ autographs, but when I do, it’s almost always in absentia. Alas.

It’s that time again! The annual entry where I look back at the previous year, marvel that I’m still buying new music at all, reaffirm my disinterest in digital, and boast how I’m one of twelve people nationwide still buying CDs. I don’t buy a lot of them, though. I rarely connect with the Top 40 acts that get all the social media attention. My favorite bands tend to be old and denied promotional push from their labels, assuming they still have a contract. I’m open to hearing new bands, but my styles of choice are narrowing over the years and I’m a lot less enamored nowadays of bratty whippersnappers who overestimate their own wisdom. Fortunately my finicky criteria don’t eliminate all musical acts.

The following list, then, comprises every CD I acquired in 2015 that was also released in 2015. On with the countdown, from least favorite to worthiest:

Right this way for those lucky-ish seven!

An Old Guy’s Very First “Weird Al” Yankovic Concert

Weird Al Yankovic!

Dateline: 5/28/2015 — Just got back from tonight’s “Weird Al” Yankovic concert at Indianapolis’ Old National Centre (formerly the Murat Shrine until new corporate overlords focus-grouped the history right out of its name). At my age, and with many Weird Al albums lining my shelves, you’d think this would’ve been my fifth or sixth time, or that perhaps I spend summers following him and studying his arcane accordion methods. Alas, such is not the case. Despite my inexcusable shame and four decades of poor timing, now I can say I’ve seen him live, and that’s another bucket list item crossed off with gusto.

The royal granddaddy of YouTube musical parodists was here in town touring for his most recent album, Mandatory Fun, much of which longtime MCC readers may remember hearing last year. My wife, a generous and loving woman to whom I owe and offer never-ending gratitude, bought me a ticket as an early birthday gift. She knows it’s rare that my favorite musicians come to Indy, and even rarer that I take advantage of such opportunities. Due to logistical issues I regretfully ended up attending solo, but the magic of modern technology allowed me to show her a couple of wobbly photos from the scene and send occasional confirmation that I was still in one piece and hadn’t been mugged or drugged or stomped flat in a mosh pit or tempted to desert her and become a full-time Weird Al roadie. I’m sure he has a years-long waiting list for that anyway.

Right this way for a few more pics and the complete set list!

Former Kickstarter Junkie V: Praise Lord and Gimme My Movies

Backstreet Angels!

Let it be known for the record that my copy of Mary Lou Lord’s long-delayed next album Backstreet Angels landed in my mailbox on April 23, 2015. This delivery came forty-five months after its Kickstarter campaign was launched and forty-one months after the original promised delivery date. Some of the delays in the last year or so were for totally understandable, disastrous reasons. Some of the delays in the first year or so, not really so much from our Peanut Gallery’s perspective.

But it’s here at last, it’s a thing that really exists, I can stop fuming about it, and it’s mostly kinda pretty if I skip the one song with the F-bomb on it. Sixteen tracks of pleasant jangle-pop that are a mixture of covers and collaborations, with song/writing credits including the likes of the Replacements’ Paul Westerberg, Beat Happening, the Green Pajamas, Nick Saloman from the Bevis Frond (with whom she was hoping to tour for this album at one point), and an ostensible up-‘n’-comer named Matt Minigell, with whom she was really, really excited to co-write and duet.

The first single, “My Buddy Valentine”, is up on YouTube and available on MP3 through Amazon, but I’m partial to her cover of Peter Bruntnell’s “By the Time My Head Gets to Phoenix”. The album itself has no wide-release date and no Amazon listing of its own yet. One of Lord’s last Kickstarter memos indicated this may end up being her last album ever, but as of yet I’ve seen no concrete plans to offer it beyond the disgruntled Kickstarter base.

And that wasn’t the only pokey Kickstarter project to deliver since my last update. Relatively speaking, it’s been a generous half-year for their zero-accountability site.

Hi. My name is Randy. It’s been thirty months since I last gave a single dime to a Kickstarter project.

“Whiplash”: Bang on the Drummer All Day

Whiplash!

I was in band for all three years of junior high. I was in the last group allowed to audition. By then all the cool saxophone slots were taken, I couldn’t make flutes or any brass instruments work, clarinet reeds tickled my mouth to distraction, and my rhythms were judged inadequate for their percussion needs. By process of elimination they assigned me to the bass clarinet, an instrument that’s like the love child of a clarinet and a saxophone that lacks the clout and pizzazz of either of its parents. The mouthpiece and reed were a larger, better fit for me than the normal, socially acceptable clarinets. I liked the sound, loved the foghorn rumble of the lower register. Higher octaves were like fingernails raking across my brain, and our parts were usually boring. The percussion-section runt who played the triangle frequently had more interesting measures to play than we did.

When my high school years approached, I was relieved that the art classes I’d dreamed of taking left no room for band class anymore. After I turned in my tenth-grade schedule, one of our conductors sat me and a few other quitters down for a Serious Talk, as if our decision to opt out of the grueling rigors of high-school marching band would ruin our lives and resumés, possibly turn us into dope fiends. It didn’t work. I was free.

I was surprised and saddened when quitting cost me a few friends. I wasn’t a virtuoso, but I wasn’t last chair. I do miss the elation of nailing complicated pieces, which were maybe 5% of my lifetime playlist. I’ve never regretted walking away from the monotony of dwelling among the second-string rabble cursed to play nothing but “BOMP. Bomp. BOMP. Bomp. BOMP. Bomp. BOMP. Bomp.” It would be inaccurate to joke that my parts could’ve been replaced by a machine, because that would imply my parts were essential enough for music scientists to consider them worth replacing.

The experience taught me a lot about music-making firsthand, about the importance of dedicated practice sessions, about sheet-music literacy basics, about inequality between instruments, and about my apparent unsuitability to this career track. I haven’t held a bass clarinet in twenty-seven years, but some of the old songs and the vocabulary still bounce around my head and resurface on occasion.

A lot of the lessons that I’d forgotten since then, Whiplash brought vividly back to mind.

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