January Music Challenge 2020

Week 1

Everlast – Whitey Ford’s House of Pain

This album came from a recommendation from my brother. Our taste in music tends to align, and this one came with pretty high praise. However, I didn’t really find all that much merit to it. Not sure what it was about it. Many years ago I liked really Whitey Ford sings the blues, and I guess I was using that as a bench mark, and this one just didn’t do it for me.



Week 2

Buddy Guy – Damn Right, I’ve Got the Blues

There is a story behind my listening to this.

Last September or so when I returned to the DC area, my on and off again boss (and much more frequently friend) reached out to me about going to a concert. I am not entirely sure I know why he did this. On the one hand, I had been over worked by him for about two years at this, and he knew that he owed me. On the other hand, he genuinely didn’t have that much of a social outlet since he quit drinking, and sometimes he just needed someone to hang out with when he wanted to get away from his wife.

I was fine with either of these possibilities, although I could have just used an influx of money instead of tickets to see a concert. But he instead invited me to a concert, and i was happy to go.

I had never heard of Buddy Guy, and I can’t imagine I would have discovered him under my own power. And I also had no idea what to expect going into this concert. I had never before been to a blue concert (I’ve not been to many concerts, full stop), and I wasn’t really sure what to expect. Buddy Guy turned out to be pretty damn old, but he still knew how to turn out a show. I was particularly impressed by the banter he had with the audience.  he developed a great report, and it was a damn good show.

Leaving the concert, I looked at the ticket I had been given. It had cost about 70$. I was now definitely unsure what to think about it. This was now a hell of a gift. And it suggested to me that my boss really needed a friend.

All this did impact my ultimate listening to this album in a positive way. I think there is something about the style of blues I wouldn’t have picked up on without having gone to the concert. I had heard blues before, and it always seemed to be a little on the safe side for me. This is me being a product of my times: most music I grew up with had a share of swearing in it, and thus I tend to hear pathos in the swearing. Buddy’s album isn’t all that blue (read: vulgar), but remembering the concert let me hear the blue in the subtext of this blues.

It added something, be that nothing more than the recollection that this type of music was once the height of counter-culture.

Week 3

Michael Jackson – Thriller

Michael Jackson might be the reason I am undergoing this project. People talk up Michael Jackson so much that one can’t help but feel like they been left out of something magnificent if they, like myself, have never actually listened to an Michael Jackson. This is very similar to the high school notion that everyone is having sex but you. I was convinced that there was some magical day of high school where they gathered all the students together and let them listen to the great albums one needed to hear to be a culturally literate individual, and I was convinced that I had missed that day of school1.

Really, this is all to say that I had massive expectation about this album. But I am not entirely sure it lived up to that expectation. The songs that are good on it are that good – enough to warrant their notoriety and ubiquitous stature. What I am unclear about is the rest of the album. Much of it was pretty blasé, and all of it resonated its age.  For the most part, I could have lived a long healthy life never having heard of this before.

In other words, I get the hits, but I don’t get the misses. Nor am I sure that this album has a particularly higher rate of hits than other albums. Frankly, I think I could have lived an excellent live without having ever heard this whole thing.

This is why Hits radio stations exist.


Week 4

Weird Al Yankovich – Straight Outta Lynwood

I love a good parody. It’s one of those few genres that I genuinely enjoy. I think as far as music goes, parody can be some great stuff. Richard Cheese stands as one of the best examples, in that he really adds a lot to the music by bringing his own style to it.

At a song level, Weird Al is better. The comedy he adds to things is his secret sauce, and I find the fact that he is even able to match the singing styles to be an impressive feat. Where I think this music fails though is at an album level. It’s just strange listening to it song by song. It lacks a certain cohesiveness.

But the songs really are that good. That much is hard to escape. I’ll keep this album on my phone. Let’s see how long it lasts.



1 I’ve largely gotten over this now. It happened in grad school, when a friend and flatmate brought the character of Pangloss from Voltaire’s Candide, and everyone in the fucking nodded the head as if knowing who the fuck Pangloss was was just something everyone fucking did. That weekend I tracked down, purchased, and read a copy of Candide. After finishing it, I went to tell the flatmate who had given that presentation about my reading it.
“Oh, how is it?” he asked about the novella, “I’ve never read it.”
I promptly had a fucking Aneurysm.

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