I always like to wait until the absolute last minute to make my album of the year list. The list is a sacred and cherished tradition for most music journalists and you never know what might creep onto shelves on the last Tuesday of the year.
That said my list is decidedly mainstream this year and I admit that I am musically stuck in the past and didn’t get around to hearing a lot of the new sounds that are driving the kids crazy. If you think my opinion is whack comment, that’s the whole point, because if there’s 6.6. Billion people on this planet there are bound to be 6.6. Billion opinions. Peace and best wishes for your 2009.
Number One: John Mellencamp / Life, Death, Love and Freedom
John Mellencmp promised and delivered with what might not be the year’s most danceable record but is certainly its most important. With a country in financial turmoil tracks like “Troubled Land” and “Longest Days” accurately reflect the emotions of many Americans. Other songs like “If I Die Sudden” tackle the loss of faith, while the politically charged “Jenna” is an open letter against racism. In a year when little Katy Perry has swept the charts with her pseudo-lesbian fantasies, Mellencamp manages to remind us that not everybody in America is incapacitated by simple pop ditties, shiny I-phones, and American Idol.
Number Two: Guns N’ Roses / Chinese Democracy
Drama, Drama, Drama, this albums almost mythical existence was surrounded by plenty of it. The thing is if you can set that aside what you what you have is an epic rock record that shows Axl Rose doing exactly what any good rock and roller should: spitting on the status quo and defying expectations. From the rocking title track to mind-bendingly un-stereotypical songs like “Catcher in the Rye” and ”Shackler’s Revenge,” Chinese Democracy refuses to follow the rules. No it is not Appetite for Destruction and that, coupled with Axl Rose’s to unique approach to fame promotion, disappointed many. Still those that “get” the record will understand why I gave it the number two spot.
Number Three: The Black Crowes / Warpaint
Alongside their other releases, Warpaint is a rather mellow record from a group that is easily one of the best live bands on the planet. The Black Crowes have long been seeking true artistic independence and Warpaint final achieves it in spades. The band sounds relaxed and unfiltered on tunes like “Oh, Josephine” and “Locust Street,” while flat out rocking the house with tracks like “Walk Believer Walk” and their cover of “God’s Got It.” This is an album that grows on you and reminds you that simplicity works and good rock and roll doesn’t have to be a huge spectacle to be fulfilling.