The Weekend Review: April 2012 Report

Originally posted 2012-11-18 08:24:09. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

A Wasteland Companion (M. Ward)

Producer: M. Ward

Released: April 6, 2012

Rating:  3.5 / 5 stars

Top Two Tracks: “I Get Ideas” & “Primitive Girl”

 

The “Him” half of nostalgia-rock act She & Him is the more veteran act of the two, and it shows on his most recent release.  A Wasteland Companion is unassuming at most times, but tends to manage that fine balance between simple and boring, leaning ever more towards “chill.”  The Zooey Deschanel – the “She” in She & Him – duet “Sweetheart” doesn’t leap out as much as you might expect it to, but I suppose what can you expect from a one-off non-She & Him album track?  As per usual, a little reverb goes a long way to making M. Ward’s vocals pop in all the right ways for his instrumental sound.  At times, he draws outside the box, as in the distortion on his electric guitar in the standout “I Get Ideas.”  Across the album, the acoustic guitar sparkles and the lyrics propel the sounds, working them into a cohesive yet artistic whole.  Most tracks fly by, many at under three minutes, but this helps to keep up the pace of the album.  When Ward drops the at-times-distracting ambient sounds and focuses on his songs for the words and music as directly as possible, the result is fantastic; and, thankfully, there are enough of those moments represented across this album.

 

 

 

What Kind of World (Brendan Benson)

Producer: Brendan Benson

Released: April 21, 2012

Rating:  2 / 5 stars

Top Two Tracks: “Bad for Me” & “The Light of Day”

 

It’s not so much that What Kind of World is bad so much as it is underwhelming.  Early on, the album suffers from songwriting that can’t sustain the length of the tracks (and the songs aren’t that long).  Later, as the tracks are shorter, they are not as well-constructed as it has already been established a Brendan Benson song can be.  Most of the time, the songs seem more interested in being recorded versions of what must have been fun to play in the studio and would even be fun to play out live, but the overall constructions don’t stand up.  To be certain, there are moments of transcendence, but these are lost in the slow drag that is the larger trend of the album.  Those interested in more of the brilliance hinted at here should revisit 2009’s My Old, Familiar Friend, one of the great works of that year.

 

 

 

Blunderbuss (Jack White)

Producer: Jack White

Released: April 23, 2012

Rating:  4 / 5 stars

Top Two Tracks: “Freedom at 21” & “Love Interruption”

 

There is probably no album that Jack White could have released for his solo debut that would have fully made good on all the considerable expectations that have been building now for years.  With his talents and various influences spread throughout longer works of collaboration over the years – most recently, the Raconteurs and the Dead Weather, not to mention more subtle appearances as producer/player with artists like Wanda Jackson – there has always been a diverse range of moments where White’s influence has made itself recognizable.  Here, it is Jack White all the time, and the songs do – understandably, as on any album – fall into patterns and larger trends which are, at first, unusual for White’s work.  This all being said, given the opportunity, Blunderbuss is the deep, dark, quirky work that we expect and desire from White; tracks like the standout “Freedom at 21” and “Love Interruption,” back to back on the album, show off two sonic extremes that White has mastered.  The following song, the title track, takes it down a notch further even.  All in all, for me at least, this album suffered from the evil of high expectations.  It’s taken me the better part of the year to come back to the album again after the initial listening party that was the week after its release; what I’ve found is an excellent collection of well-written lyrics and overall eclectic songwriting: a strong album that is suggestive of the great work that is still to come from Jack White in the years to come.

 

 

 

Little Broken Hearts (Norah Jones)

Producer: Danger Mouse

Released: April 25, 2012

Rating:  3 / 5 stars

Top Two Tracks: “Good Morning” & “4 Broken Hearts”

 

In the past, I haven’t followed the music or the career of Norah Jones all that closely.  When I learned that Danger Mouse would be producing the new album, I was intrigued.  The resulting album Little Broken Hearts is predictably subversive: slow and elusive at times but always with a strong, quirky sense of rhythm.  Of course, Norah Jones’ vocals – as they did in her appearance on the Danger Mouse-produced Rome – are a beautifully layered coat of paint applied to the dry bones of the instrumentation.  Some tracks stand apart from the rest, perhaps most notably in the opener “Good Morning.”  Much of the album requires patience, which is perhaps a way of admitting it lacks drive at times, or at best that it is artistically rendered in such a way as to make easy listening, quick enjoyment difficult.

Yes, No, or Maybe So: One-Sentence Reviews of 2009 Albums

Originally posted 2010-03-27 12:30:03. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

(Arranged in ascending order by release date)

With so many albums being released every week, what are they all like?  Which are worth your time?  These one-sentence reviews are the answers to those questions!

Battle Studies – (John Mayer) – MAYBE

(November 17, 2009) – CLICK HERE FOR A FULL REVIEW Review: Battle Studies may not be Mayer’s best work, but as a thoughtfully arranged collection of songs, it’s head and shoulders above Continuum. Top Two Tracks: “Heartbreak Warfare” – “Assassin”

Alter the Ending – (Dashboard Confessional) – MAYBE

(November 10, 2009) Review: About mid-way through, some tracks begin to blend together, but there are some standout songs that are both upbeat and engaging. Top Two Tracks: “Belle of the Boulevard” – “Until Morning”

Sainthood – (Tegan and Sara) – MAYBE

(October 27, 2009) Review: Their best work since So Jealous. Top Two Tracks: “Someday” – “Don’t Rush”

One Fast Move or I’m Gone – (Jay Farrar & Ben Gibbard) – MAYBE

(October 20, 2009) Review: Not a breathtaking masterpiece by any means, but there is a hypnotic quality to the combination of Farrar and Gibbard’s sounds and Jack Kerouac’s words. Top Two Tracks: “These Roads Don’t Move” – “California Zephyr”

The Fountain – (Echo & the Bunnymen) – MAYBE SO

(October 12, 2009) Review: Most reviews have jumped to the extremes, and mine is no exception; The Fountain is an outstanding rock album from a band that most major music magazines have essentially ignored. Top Two Tracks: “Live of a Thousand Crimes” – “Drivetime”

Forget and Not Slow Down – (Relient K) – YES

(October 6, 2009) – CLICK HERE FOR A FULL REVIEW Review: Hands down the best concept album of the year, perhaps the best album of the year overall. Top Two Tracks: “Part of It” – “Sahara”

Backspacer – (Pearl Jam) – YES

(September 20, 2009) – CLICK HERE FOR A FULL REVIEW Review: This is the album that may single-handedly be responsible for my eventual hearing loss – it’s simply too much fun not to listen to at high volumes. Top Two Tracks: “Got Some” – “Speed of Sound”

Levitate – (Bruce Hornsby & the Noise Makers) – NO

(September 15, 2009) Review: I try to avoid comparisons to past work, but this new Hornsby album is just a little too far out from the norm for my tastes. Top Two Tracks: “Space is the Place” – “In the Low Country”

A Brief History of Love – (The Big Pink) – NO, PLEASE, NO!

(September 14, 2009) Review: I’m reminded of the Byrds song “Everybody Gets Burned” – if you have any respect for rock music, steer clear of this album and do your best to never consider this band and the amazing debut release of The Band (to which their name alludes) in the same thought. Top Two Tracks: n/a

Humbug – (Arctic Monkeys) – MAYBE SO

(August 25, 2009) Review: The distance between how little I like early songs like “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor” compared with how much I like this new release is vast; overall, Humbug has a cohesive, infectious, and interesting sound, blending alternative rock/punk stylings with echoes of the Who and the Moody Blues in all the right places. Top Two Tracks: “Crying Lightning” – “Cornerstone”

My Old, Familiar Friend – (Brendan Benson) – MAYBE SO

(August 18, 2009) Review: From “A Whole Lot Better” onward, Benson’s latest release is joyful power pop that borrows generously from the sixties and seventies; it’s a great deal of fun from start to finish. Top Two Tracks: “Garbage Day” – “Misery”

Release – (Sister Hazel) – MAYBE NOT

(August 18, 2009) Review: This album is the perfect choice for background music: it is consistently upbeat without being too frenetic, certainly won’t offend anyone, and yet isn’t likely to inspire or even excite anyone either – the heinous typos in the booklet don’t help their cause. Top Two Tracks: “Vacation Rain” – “Ghost in the Crowd”

Ursa Major – (Third Eye Blind) – MAYBE NOT

(August 17, 2009) Review: There will supposedly be another 3eb release soon titled Ursa Minor, culled from tracks that didn’t make the cut for this album; suffice it to say that Ursa Major gets an “eh” and barely a “Maybe Not” rating with the so-called best songs from their recent sessions, so… Top Two Tracks: “Bonfire” – “Summer Town”

xx – (The xx) – MAYBE SO

(August 17, 2009) Review: This debut release by the xx is a gripping, murky, beautiful collection of songs that won’t fail to draw you in to their world each listen. Top Two Tracks: “VCR” – “Shelter”

The Ruminant Band – (Fruit Bats) – MAYBE SO

(August 4, 2009) Review: Aptly titled after the Fruit Bats took twice as long as usual to release this record, The Ruminant Band is worth all the extra wait time:  still quirky but with a lot more energy, backbeat, and attention to making a great album, rather than just a compilation of songs. Top Two Tracks: “The Ruminant Band” – “Singing Joy to the World”

Strange Cousins From The West – (Clutch) – MAYBE NOT

(July 14, 2009) Review: You’ll have to go back to Blast Tyrant or so if you want original, innovative Clutch; what you’ll find here is confined by the blues parameters the band has imposed on themselves – which is not to say you won’t find largely powerful performances of largely predictably structured songs and a couple true gems. Top Two Tracks: “50,000 Unstoppable Watts” – “Minotaur”

Horehound – (The Dead Weather) – MAYBE SO

(July 14, 2009) Review: The Dead Weather certainly deserve credit for having forged a unique sound and presence – Jack White best described their music as “ferocious” – but the riffing, repetition, and other indulgences can be distracting; overall, as a debut release, Horehound is promising… Top Two Tracks: “I Cut Like A Buffalo” – “Hang You From the Heavens”

Ocean Eyes – (Owl City) – MAYBE

(July 14, 2009) Review: A bit too placid for me, but I can perceive at least part of the reason that this album’s simple, soothing numbers have spread so quickly and been embraced by so many. Top Two Tracks: “Fireflies” – “The Bird and the Worm”

American Central Dust – (Son Volt) – NO

(July 7, 2009) Review: As the title implies, Son Volt’s latest album could have been found buried in a collection of Americana; while it certainly hits high points on certain tracks, the simplicity of the arrangements and even the packaging (no lyrics – really?) confine this album to mediocrity. Top Two Tracks: “No Turning Back” – “Jukebox of Steel”

Leaving Wonderland…in a fit of rage – (Marcy Playground) – MAYBE

(July 7, 2009) – CLICK HERE FOR A FULL REVIEW Review: Overall, Leaving Wonderland hits emotional pay dirt with the theme of losing love and youth to the ravages of time, and yet John Wozniak’s lyrics and arrangements leave much to be desired in terms of depth and artistry. Top Two Tracks: “Gin and Money” – “I Burned the Bed”

Wilco (the album) – (Wilco) – YES

(June 30, 2009) – CLICK HERE FOR A FULL REVIEW Review: An atypically brief release, Wilco (the album) is dominated by a wide range of interesting sounds and ideas all packed into tight tracks that ebb and flow just right; multiple listens are a must. Top Two Tracks: “Wilco (the song)” – “You Never Know”

Big Whiskey & the GrooGrux King (Dave Matthews Band) – MAYBE

(June 2, 2009) Review: “DMB” has produced a very strong album that starts off with focused, expressive tracks yet lags somewhat in the second half’s instrumental, repetitive, and nonsensical indulgences. Top Two Tracks: “Funny The Way It Is” – “Time Bomb”

Secret, Profane, and Sugarcane (Elvis Costello) – MAYBE SO

(June 2, 2009) Review: Finally, a stripped-down recording from a rock artist that doesn’t reek of the urge to “jump on the acoustic train”; Costello’s songs here could just as convincingly  have been recorded a century ago. Top Two Tracks: “Complicated Shadows” – “Sulphur to Sugarcane”

21st Century Breakdown (Green Day) – YES

(May 15, 2009) – CLICK HERE FOR A FULL REVIEW Review: Another concept album of epic proportions from Green Day:  big, in-your-face power chords at some points, acoustic guitar and piano high in the mix at others, and strong vocals all around – a well-executed album from start to finish. Top Two Tracks: “Last Night on Earth” – “East Jesus Nowhere”

Together Through Life (Bob Dylan) – MAYBE SO

(April 28, 2009) – CLICK HERE FOR A FULL REVIEW Review: As per usual, Dylan says it best: “I know my fans will like it; other than that, I have no idea.” Top Two Tracks: “Shake Shake Mama” – “I Feel a Change Comin’ On”

Tinted Windows (Tinted Windows) – NO

(April 21, 2009) Review: I remembered while listening to this that there’s a reason I stopped buying Fountains of Wayne albums since Traffic & Weather, and there’s certainly a reason I’ve never bought Hanson albums. Top Two Tracks: “Back With You” – “Nothing to Me”

Halfway There (Jim Fusco) – YES

(April 7, 2009) – CLICK HERE FOR A FULL REVIEW Review: It’s as if all of Fusco’s previous work was only “halfway there” – combining ambitious vocals, innovative guitar parts, and a track listing that boasts eleven great songs, this is easily one of the great albums of 2009. Top Two Tracks: “I Got You” – “Ruins”

The Hazards of Love (The Decemberists) – MAYBE NOT

(March 24, 2009) Review: The Hazards of Love will keep you guessing and trying to piece it all together, but it may not get a lot of immediate repeat listens based on the quality of individual songs; kudos to the Decemberists if only for keeping the concept of the concept album alive and well! Top Two Tracks: “The Wanting Comes in Waves/Repaid” – “The Hazards of Love 4 (The Drowned)”

No Line On The Horizon (U2) – MAYBE NOT

(March 3, 2009) Review: There’s something to be said for Bono’s energy, but it’s not always enough on this record which fluctuates between moments of mastery and moments of mediocrity. Top Two Tracks: “I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight” – “Stand Up Comedy”

Keep It Hid (Dan Auerbach) – MAYBE

(February 10, 2009) Review: Essentially, what you would expect — gritty, bluesy rock with excellent guitar work. Top Two Tracks: “Heartbroken, In Disrepair” – “My Last Mistake”

Working On A Dream (Bruce Springsteen) – MAYBE SO

(January 27, 2009)  –  CLICK HERE FOR A FULL REVIEW Review: The past three Springsteen albums have been exercises in purposeful songwriting, raw acoustic and harmonica work, and upbeat pop/rock respectively — Working On A Dream has it all! Top Two Tracks: “What Love Can Do” – “Life Itself”

The Top Ten Rock Albums of 2009 – The Weekend Review

By Chris Moore:

Welcome to The Weekend Review in a different time slot, as the first part of a Chris Moore Monday two-fer.  This week, I took a look – and a listen – back at all of the great and, well, not so great rock music of 2009.  While I plan to release many mini-articles and lists over the next couple weeks, this seemed like a topic of enough substance for a full Weekend Review report.  So, without further ado, here are the top ten rock albums of 2009…

Honorable Mention:

My Old, Familiar Friend – Brendan Benson:

Better known this decade as “the other singer/guitarist” in the Raconteurs, Brendan Benson released a power pop gem this year in My Old, Familiar Friend.  Track after track, this album harkens back to some of the best, Byrds-iest sounds of the sixties.  This is not to say that it is overly derivative, but it is certainly a throw-back and will be a blast for any fan of tight, poppy classic rock songs.  And “A Whole Lot Better” is a nod to “Feel A Whole Lot Better,” right?

Number Ten:

Keep It Hid – Dan Auerbach:

Even though I initially rated this as a “Maybe Not” in my one-sentence review back in February, I have found this album to have a lot of staying power.  I remember thinking that this album might not wear well, that it would lose its initial luster upon too many listens.  And yet I’ve found just the opposite to be true.  Although Auerbach may be working solidly within a certain genre and sound, he stretches a considerable amount within that classification, incorporating a range of instruments – most notably acoustic guitar, electric guitar, and keyboards.  The songs range from gritty blues to soothing acoustic ballads to scorching rock numbers and back again several times before the album is over.  “Trouble Weighs a Ton” and “Goin’ Home” are fitting bookends for an album that deals largely in the distortion-drenched currency of the rock guitar soloist.  “My Last Mistake” channels the Jimi Hendrix Experience.  “Heartbroken, In Disrepair” and “Mean Monsoon” make you wish you could play like this.  In the end, this is only Auerbach’s first solo effort, and it certainly doesn’t show.

Number Nine:

Working on a Dream – Bruce Springsteen:

I will be the first to admit that Bruce Springsteen is an over-hyped artist, particularly by such popular rags as Rolling Stone, and yet the man can still produce an album.  Or, rather, Springsteen and his band.  You know, the E Street Band.  You may have heard of them.  Working on a Dream is thematically and sonically interwoven from start to finish and offers up some very interesting tracks to balance out the more formulaic ones.  “Queen of the Supermarket” is a classic story in song, written and sung as only Springsteen ever could.  “Outlaw Pete” provides an unusual but fitting opening for the album.  “What Love Can Do” is the track that would have attracted the interest of rock music fans back in the days when rock ruled the radio waves.  “Tomorrow Never Knows” and “Life Itself” are as beautiful as “The Last Carnival” and bonus track “The Wrestler” are bittersweet.  This provides proof positive that even this far into the game, the Boss is still progressing, maturing, and making great music.

Number Eight:

Horehound – The Dead Weather:

Better known to many as Jack White’s second side project, the Dead Weather have found a niche all their own, experimenting with the odd, the abstract, and the obscure.  If the Raconteurs provide a channel for White’s more mainstream rock leanings, then the Dead Weather more than satisfy the other end of that spectrum of musical desire.  From start to finish, you can’t quite be certain what they will throw at you next – “they,” of course, meaning lead singer Alison Mosshart, guitarist Dean Fertita, bassist Jack Lawrence, and drummer (that’s right, drummer!) Jack White.  “I Cut Like a Buffalo” is great metaphor and great rock.  Others, like “Hang You From the Heavens” and “Treat Me Like Your Mother,” are best described as infectious.  “New Pony” is the musical equivalent of finding a decimated muscle car in a junk yard, rotting away, and rebuilding it to shine with the best of the modern sports cars.  The first half of this album is admittedly stronger than the second half, but this is a debut effort, after all.

Number Seven:

Secret, Profane, & Sugarcane – Elvis Costello:

There couldn’t be an album more out of touch with the sounds and textures of modern music, and yet so inherently attuned to the emotions and undertones of that same aforementioned modern music.  As I mentioned earlier this year, these tracks sound like they could have come straight off of American folk music figure Harry Smith’s shelf.  Finally, I repeat, this is an acoustic album that sounds original and truly acoustic.  So many acoustic records of late have been helmed by otherwise successful rock artists looking for a way to stir up their recording process.  This feels more authentic than that.  “Sulphur to Sugarcane” is wonderfully humorous, less subtle than it is chauvinistic.  “Hidden Shame” and “Complicated Shadows” are so fun that you’ll quickly forget that they’re scaled-back numbers, while there is no ignoring the stark sadness in “I Dreamed of My Old Lover,” “How Deep is the Red,” and “Red Cotton.” 

Number Six:

Wilco (the album) – Wilco:

Few bands could pull off a song like “Wilco (the song),” but Wilco are not like other bands.  They’ve been everywhere – alt-country, folk rock, experimental music, alternative rock, jam-mentality work – and now they’ve arrived at a wonderfully entertaining conglomeration of many of their styles from the past fifteen years.  The aforementioned track is sincere and explores the true power and potential for healing that music provides.  “Country Disappeared” takes a bleaker view of things, while “Solitaire,” “I’ll Fight, and “You Never Know” take a more positive angle.  And, of course, “Deeper Down” and “Bull Black Nova” hint at the experimental possibilities that await us on future Wilco recordings…

Number Five:

Humbug – The Arctic Monkeys:

Humbug, for me, is one of the best albums of the year by a band that has stirred up much controversy over their excellence or lack thereof, depending on who you ask.  This should be a breakout album, a set of songs with the potential to unite – if only fleetingly – the sensibilities of fans of classic rock, punk rock, and more modern rock.  I was certainly surprised at how much I enjoyed this release, and it’s so wonderfully sequenced with sounds layered in all the right ways to keep you coming back to the individual tracks as well as the album as a whole.  “My Propeller” sets the tone for the record wonderfully.  “Cornerstone” is, well, the cornerstone for this release – it’s a witty, subversive little track that I can’t get enough of.  “Crying Lightning” and “Dance Little Liar” are driving, quirky, and catchy gems.  “Fire and The Thud” is a highpoint at the midpoint.  Although I would never have guessed it before this year, I will now be awaiting the next Arctic Monkeys release with excitement.

Number Four:

The Ruminant Band – The Fruit Bats:

The Fruit Bats put out a little disc called Spelled in Bones a few years ago.  I had it recommended to me, so I listened and even liked several of the songs.  After a few listens, though, I got tired of it.  It faded.  But there was something about the sound of the Fruit Bats that I found fantastic, and I felt like I saw more potential in them than they had managed to make good on.  I expected the same here, but what I found in The Ruminant Band was a quirky, catchy, lyrically provocative, and instrumentally exciting record.  I can find no better way to say it: this is one of absolute favorite little albums of the year!  The title track is straightforward, but fun.  “Tegucigalpa” is less straightforward and more heartfelt.  “Singing Joy to the World” is the best acoustic song to be released in a good long time.  “Primitive Man” is one of those great songs that you can entirely lose yourself in as you listen.  This is a home run for the Fruit Bats, one I didn’t see coming and yet couldn’t be more excited about.

Number Three:

Backspacer – Pearl Jam:

Let me start off by noting that this is simply not Pearl Jam’s best material.  Moving past that, let me continue by saying this is one of Pearl Jam’s most cohesive efforts since their debut Ten.  Track after track, this is a Vedder-led attack of tight, finely chiseled rock songs with some real gems.  As the title implies, the thematic common-ground throughout the record is that of assessing the issues at hand and erasing obstacles, bad blood, and just about everything that stands in the path to peace, independence, and self-confidence.  “Got Some” is one of their best efforts ever, which is really saying something.  “The Fixer” and “Supersonic” are perfect tours-de-force and redefine what great Pearl Jam tracks may sound like in the coming years.  “Just Breathe” is the closest they’ve gotten to a love song, as Vedder put it in an interview.  At every turn, Backspacer pleases and at just about a half hour in length, this is an album, that can be played over and over again. 

Number Two:

21st Century Breakdown – Green Day:

Up until the number one band on this list released their masterpiece, I thought that this would be the top album of the year for sure.  Instead, it suffers a minor bump down to the second position.  Regardless, Green Day has followed up American Idiot – which was hailed as their masterpiece – with an even better album.  They have really stretched out for this record, painting no less interesting a story than they did on their previous album.  The packaging is like a storybook, and the disc follows suit.  From beginning to end, 21st Century Breakdown tears it up and lays it out slowly in equal measure – and sometimes in the same song.  By the end of the album, the tone-setting title track has been followed up by what is one of the best concept albums in perhaps a decade.  “East Jesus Nowhere” and “Horseshoes and Handgrenades” are driving, unstoppably angry scorchers.  “21 Guns” and “Restless Heart Syndrome” are more subtle, beautiful tracks.  “21st Century Breakdown,” “Peacemaker,” “American Eulogy,” “See the Light,” and just about every other track on the album contributes in a similar but significant way to the overall theme of the whole.  Then there is “Know Your Enemy;” the decision to promote this is proof positive that boneheaded rock really does still sell.

Number One:

Forget and Not Slow Down – Relient K:

This has been a year of unexpected releases, not the least of which were noted below in Elvis Costello’s acoustic release, the Arctic Monkeys’ masterful album, and the Fruit Bats’ brilliant record.  It is fitting, then, that Relient K should score the number one album of the year with a release – not unlike The Ruminant Band – that I expected to like, not love.  And yet I love this album.  Forget and Not Slow Down is one of the most entertaining, energetic, and thoughtful post-breakup albums that I’ve had the pleasure to hear.  In many ways – and this is practically sacrilege – I would place this album in the company of Bob Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks and Paul McCartney’s Memory Almost Full, to name a couple.  It is certainly more focused as an artistic expression than an album like Ben Folds’ Way to Normal could ever be.  Matthew Thiessen isolated himself from society to work on this album, and the result is clear: the best Relient K album to date.  To be fair, I wasn’t a fan from the start, but it appears that I’ve become a huge fan just as the band has faded into the background, this outstanding record being ignored by just about all critics this year.  What have they missed?  They’ve missed “Part of It,” a somber and catchy song at the same time – a difficult combination to pull off.  They’ve missed “Therapy,” a song that I wish I could have available on many a similar drive through the country.  They’ve missed the beauty of “Savannah” and the bitter, bile-fueled “Sahara,” the blending of the tracks made possible by the intros and the outros, and a powerful pairing in the final two tracks.  Simply put, this is the year’s best album.