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DriveTime Diary 1/8-10/13

In 2013 music, David Bowie, Drive Time music on January 13, 2014 at 4:36 am

I thought I might attempt to keep track of the music I listen to during my morning commute this year, jotting a few lines about each CD.

Oh no, I certainly don’t listen to morning radio. It probably sounds ultra snobbish (I don’t even listen to NPR!), but my bottom line is simply that I just want to hear some cool tunes in the morning. Of my choosing. Or at least of the choosing my 20-sided dice.

Here’s what I listened to during my three morning commutes last week. I will be focusing on music of 2013 for awhile, but gradually will move on to other randomly-selected albums.

1/8/13 The Next Day-David Bowie (2013). I celebrated Elvis Bowie Day by listening to both of the birthday gentlemen, but started off with Bowie in the morning. It had been exactly one year earlier that Bowie gave us all the first inkling that he had a new album on its way, when he debuted the moody ballad “Where Are We Now?”, with the album following a few months later, to generally positive reviews. Generally. Not everyone loved The Next Day, but my initial impression was good.

You hear much these days about the “death of the album,” but I can think of several CDs released in 2013, across genres from country through mainstream pop, that were made to be listened to as album-length experiences, whether the listening public wanted such experiences or not. The Next Day is one such album. There are no catchy hit singles here for Bowie to ride up the charts. Just a collection of songs the make more sense together than they do separately.

As it happens, my patience with the concept of the album has become more limited just like so many other people’s. Therefore, it wasn’t until months after the release of The Next Day that I gave it a few good solid beginning-to-end listens. But, as so often happens, with each successive listen I found more to like. This is not Bowie being revolutionary, but this is Bowie touching on where he is today, while using elements of his past music to structure the new songs. And I like that.

1/9/13 Love Has Come For You-Steve Martin & Edie Brickell (2013). This not-quite-bluegrass album (banjo melodies written by Martin; lyrics by Brickell; various other instrumentation as needed) couldn’t be more musically different than the Bowie album, but it shares that same core trait: Love Has Come For You works best when you giv e it a full listen in one sitting (which is easier to accomplish than it is with the longer The Next Day). This is because there is no apparent hit single to drive you to the album, but it’s also because the cumulative effect of Martin’s tunes and Brickell’s lyrics is more compelling than playing any one particular song. While I haven’t followed Brickell’s career, I like her storytelling on Love Has Come For You and listening to the entire album allows her recurring themes–childhood/parenthood and mortality in particular–to build in intriguing ways. Not a concept album by any means, Love Has Come For You is, instead, more like a collection of short stories, each one different but ultimately inter-related.

1/10/13 Now That’s What I Call Music 46-various artists (2013). Much more than any year in quite awhile, I was aware of Top 40 radio in 2013. I think that’s why, on New Year’s Eve afternoon, I felt compelled to pick up the 2013 Now CDs. My 16-year-old son tells me that these CDs aren’t really indicative of what music was really like in 2013 (where’s Kanye?) and on a certain level he’s correct, but as snapshots go, Now CDs serve pretty much the same function as the K-tel records of years gone by did.

This particular CD, the 46th in the U.S. series, starts out strong with one of my favorite hits of the year, and the greatest Police song not written or recorded by the Police, “Locked Out of Heaven” by Bruno Mars. From there we segue directly into Justin Timberlake’s catchy return to pop, “Suit and Tie.” A nice pair of tunes and it saves me the trouble of actually buying an entire Bruno Mars CD (though, as we’ll find out in some future week, I eventually caved on Timberlake).

After that magic pair of tunes, things are hit-and-miss, which is par for the Now course, particularly if you are outside the demographic for these tunes, which I most certainly am. But there are other highlights for me: I particularly like Taylor Swifts “I Knew You Were Trouble” and Flo Rida is always fun. Speaking of fun, though, I know that many people love the band fun. (represented here by their own “Carry On” and “Just Give Me a Reason,” the Pink/Nate Ruess duet) but I spell their kind of fun, “eh.”

That’s it for last week. Tomorrow begins a new week of morning commutes, so you may find me reporting back here next weekend with another edition of DriveTime Diary.

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