The Rolling Clone Blogazine

 In addition to writing and recording my own music, I thoroughly enjoy writing reviews of other artists' work.  If you desire to have your work reviewed, please email info@danmiraldi.com.

The Rolling Clone Blogazine!

Favorite Albums of 2018 

Remember when I used to write album reviews?  Remember when I would write lengthy explanations as to why I chose things for my lists? Me too.  Anyway, I lack the time to do that.  This year is soon to be over.  Before then, here is my list of 2018 records.  These ones were the ones that kept me listening and inspired this past year:  

1. Paul McCartney – Egypt Station 

Paul McCartney is one of the greatest of all time – if not the greatest.  He is 76 years old.  He has nothing left to prove.  Yet, he chooses to give us an incredible new album, Egypt Station.   

Favorite track: “I Don’t Know” 

2. Frank Turner – Be More Kind 

Frank Turner’s Be More Kind is powerful and thoughtful protest record.  It takes on right-wing extremism and delivers a message in a very palatable way.  At the center of this album, is Turner’s incredible songwriting.   

Favorite track: “Make America Great Again” 

3. The Fratellis – In Your Sweet Time 

In 2007 (I think), the Fratellis had a song in an Apple commercial.  Since then, the band’s career has cooled, at least in the US.  This year’s In Your Sweet Time was never going to give us as any radio hits. Regardless, the hooks are there. It’s great power-pop from a forgotten corner of the rock music universe.   

Favorite track: “Sugartown” 

4. Soccer Mommy – Clean  

Soccer Mommy is one of the new artists who I am most excited about this year.  Her debut album Clean blends modern indie singer-songwriter vibes with nineties pop-rock sensibilities.  It’s a record that keeps on giving the more you listen to it.  

Favorite track: “Last Girl” 

5. MXPX – MXPX  

MXPX have largely stayed in the same vein of pop-punk for their career.  Like the Ramones and AC/DC before them, they don’t vary the formula, but some records are inevitably better than others.  This self-titled and crowd-funded collection is one of the band’s best and is their finest output since 2005’s Panic.  There are a lot of annoying pop punk bands out there.  MXPX is not one of them.  MXPX is a manifesto of everything the band is and is a gift to their fans.  It’s great.  

Favorite track: “Let’s Ride” 

6. Brian Fallon – Sleepwalkers 

Springsteen disciple Brian Fallon’s second solo record finds him exploring a more Motown-influenced sound. It hits hard, but also grooves.  Don’t worry; it works! 

Favorite track: “Etta James” 

7. Snail Mail – Lush 

Another new discovery for this year, Snail Mail’s debut album Lush combines elements of Nirvana-esque grunge with reverbed-out post-punk.  The album is both tough and vulnerable for the inner teenager in all of us.   

Favorite track: “Full Control” 

8. Milo Greene – Adult Contemporary  

Milo Greene’s Adult Contemporary is interesting in that it blends elements of folky Americana with eighties Fleetwood Mac and Vagabond Heart era Rod Stewart.  It’s the band’s third album and an all-round great listening experience.  I recommend listening to it when traveling.   

Favorite track: “Young at Heart” 

9. Roger Daltrey – As Long As I Have You  

In 1965, Roger Daltrey was fired from the Who for punching Keith Moon and flushing the band’s drugs down the toilet after the band performed an amphetamine-fueled mess of a concert.  His plan was to start a soul band.  Before those plans were fully realized, he was rehired and the rest is history.  However, on his new solo record, we get to hear Daltrey sing kind of soul music that he dug as a teenager.  Daltrey is primarily and interpreter of other people’s songwriting and such is the case on As Long As I Have You.  Daltrey, having had vocal surgery in recent years, has his voice back.  It’s great to hear him sing with such power.  Plus, Pete Townshend guests on a few songs, adding some extra guitar firepower.   

Favorite track: “How Far” 

10. Ace Frehley – Spaceman 

My judgment is not clouded. This album rocks.  Ace is not going to give Bob Dylan caliber lyrics, but the songs feel good.  They have hooks and Ace’s guitar playing is so so sweet.  It reminds you why and how he inspired an entire generation of guitarists. It also proves he’s still got it. Enough said.   

Favorite track: “Rockin’ With the Boys”

Best Albums of 2017 

1. Roger Waters – Is This The Life We Really Want? 

It has been 25 years since the last proper Roger Waters' solo album. Is This The Life We Really Want? is Waters' greatest work since Pink Floyd’s The Wall. Not only did he conjure up that classic Floyd sound, he made a concept record that starkly and poignantly captures the trauma and hypocrisy of the Trump-era. At age 74, Waters pulls no punches and proves that his artistic flame still brightly burns. 

Essential tracks: “Smell the Roses”, “Déjà Vu”, and “Picture That” 

2. JD McPherson – Undivided Heart & Soul 

With a sound that crosses throwback Eddie Cochran with modern garage rock, JD McPherson delivered a killer record that was both timeless and fresh sounding. Undivided Heart & Soul is loaded with sassy rockers like “Desperate Love,” “Style is a Losing Game” and the title track but also provides beautiful ballads like “Hunting For Sugar.” All in all, the album is 40 minutes of pure rock and roll delight. 

Essential tracks: "Style is a Losing Game", "Under the Spell of City Lights" & "Hunting for Sugar"

3. J. Roddy Walston & the Business – Destroyers of the Soft Life 

J. Roddy and Co. accomplished a tricky thing this past year. With Destroyers of the Soft Life, they expand beyond the Jerry Lee Lewis meets Black Keys and Zeppelin vibes of their first three albums to deliver an album with a more modern commercial shimmer. It’s done so tastefully that it feels like a natural progression as the band eyes a wider audience. Like Nirvana, underneath the music’s gritty rockness are great songs with big pop hooks. Don’t miss out on this band or album. 

4. Foo Fighters – Concrete and Gold 

The Foos decided to mix things up this go round and teamed up pop producer Greg Kurtstin. Concrete and Gold is a heavy record but also very melodic. It is politically aware, but at the same time still fun. Further, it is also one of the band’s most consistent albums. Besides 2011’s Wasting Light, Concrete and Gold is the best Foo Fighters album of the 21st century. Lastly, there are a number of music superstar cameos tastefully sprinkled throughout the music. Go listen and see if you can figure out who and where they are! 

Essential tracks: “La Dee Dah”, “The Sky is a Neighborhood” and “Sunday Rain.” 

5. John Mark McMillan – Mercury & Lightening 

In Mercury & Lightening, John Mark McMillan looks at the modern world and sees all the reasons why he should be jaded. However, throughout the album’s journey, he does not give into despair. He fights back and presents a stellar and uplifting collection of songs. Sonically, the album blends ambient modern-indie pop production with vibes of Born in the USA-era Springsteen. All in all, Mercury and Lightening is thoughtful and compelling and should not be missed. 

Essential tracks: “Mercury & Lightening” and “No Country” 

6. Queens of the Stone Age – Villains 

Villains somehow hits like a modernized quirky punkish dancing lovechild of late 70s Zeppelin and Bowie. The album doesn’t quit and that’s why it’s on this list. 

Essential tracks: “Feet Don’t Fail Me”, “The Way You Used To” & “Head Like a Haunted House” 

7. Dan Auerbach – Waiting on a Song 

Waiting on a Song shows the Black Keys front man embracing a retro Nashville-tinged singer-songwriter sound. This album is fun, accessible and joyful. It goes down smoothly. 

Essential tracks: “Waiting on a Song”, “Shine on Me,” & “Malibu Man” 

8. Death From Above 1979 – Outrage! Is Now 

Loaded with big sludgy rock riffs, you can head bang to this album until your skull flies off. This album is lean and mean. Rock and roll is still alive and well! 

Essential tracks: “Freeze Me”, “Caught Up,” & “Freeze Me” 

9. Deep Purple – Infinite 

Yes, there is a new Deep Purple record. Yes, they have actually been regularly releasing great new music since the last time Ritchie Blackmore quit the band back in 1993. The Bob Ezrin produced Infinite has that Deep Purple signature sound complete with stellar guitar riffs and blazing organ solos. Sure, Ian Gillan’s voice has changed a bit as he has aged, but he still sings with conviction and delivers the goods. 

Essential tracks: “Hip Boots” and “One Night in Vegas” 

10. Blondie – Pollinator 

The cool thing about this album is that it is both new wave and modern. The Blondie sound is something that has always evolved. Like the new Deep Purple album, for most people, this album slipped through the cracks, but Blondie made a record that can stand proudly next to their best work. Tracks like “Doom or Destiny”, “Long Time” and “Gravity” kick ass. And like Ian Gillan, Debbie Harry’s voice has changed a bit with age, she has still got her edge. I hope they don’t retire just yet! 

Essential tracks: “Doom or Destiny,” “Long Time” and “Gravity”

Music For Marching 

My new record Love Under Fire was made so that people could have modern fight songs during these trying political times. I have always been a person who enjoyed 1960s and 70s rock. From that era, there are plenty of iconic protest songs that radiate relevantly today. Songs like Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth” and Edwin Starr’s “War” were influential and inspired me while writing and recording this new EP. However, this playlist is not about the past. This playlist features only songs from Love Under Fire and protest songs that are from the twenty-first century. Rock musicians still write songs that reflect the current climate. Although the genre may not seem as popular as it once was, it is still very much alive and able to deliver powerful social commentary. Here’s what I’ve included: 

Green Day “American Idiot” – Written during the George W. Bush years, this 2004 classic was immediately a relevant rallying cry post-election. I still don’t want to be an American idiot. 

Foo Fighters “La Dee Da” - This track came out this September and it is an inspired critique of Trump’s divisive rhetoric, calling it the “American ruse” and following it with a chorus: “Hate – if I want to. Love – who I like.” 

John Mark McMillan “No Country” – My friend John Mark released this as a single shortly after the election. Overall the song is a powerful reflection on disillusionment, values and a quest for understanding where he fits in this modern American setting. 

Drive By Truckers “What It Means” – This subdued Americana track has a voice of an outsider validating the message of the Black Lives Matter movement. It is a thoughtful and poignant ballad and gets right down to what many people feel whenever there is another unjust killing by the police. 

Prophets of Rage “Unfuck the World” – This super group is made up of members of Rage Against the Machine, Cypress Hill and Public Enemy. The political angst is there in the chorus of: “No hatred. Fuck racists. Blank faces. Time's hangin' 
one nation unification the vibration unfuck the world!” This blunt anthem of truth pulls no punches. 

Lenny Kravitz “Love Revolution” – Lenny Kravitz was definitely channeling 1960s and 70s protest music when he penned this rocker. He released the track in 2008 during the George W. Bush years, but the songs call for a “love revolution” during war torn times is always valid. 

Blink-182 “Anthem Part 2” – This song came out in 2001 before 9/11. However, I heard a band play it this past January following the Trump inauguration and the lyrics felt incredibly relevant. It warns of political agendas of corporations and politicians and carries of a message of not being silent.

Best Albums of 2016 

1. David Bowie - Blackstar 
  
Two days before he died, David Bowie left his fans with one doozy of a parting gift.  Blackstar is a masterpiece that shows that even in death this icon was still pushing boundaries and finding ways to surprise, challenge and delight his audience.  From front to back, this album is worth multiple listens. 
  

2. Green Day – Revolution Radio 

  
Forever youthful, Green Day made the record we needed in 2016.  It’s an honest portrait of the struggles facing this world and call to action.  They know to make politics catchy, but also can deliver power-pop gems like “Youngblood.”  There is not a dud on this album.  
  

3. Eleanor Friedberger – New View 

  
Eleanor Friedberger continues to be one of the most underrated lyricists around.  Her third solo album expands upon the ground of 2013’s Personal Record.  She mixes in more flavors of early 70s Dylan and it works.  “Sweetest Girl” and “Cathy With the Curly Hair” are simply excellent.  
  

4. Weezer – Weezer (White Album) 

  
On the band’s tenth album, Weezer capture the joy of awkward young love.  The album’s huge choruses sound both distinctively Weezer and fresh.  Songs like “California Kids,” “Thank God For Girls,” and “King of the World” stand proudly with the band’s best work. 
  

5. Eric Clapton – I Still Do 

  
Despite fighting a neurological illness that make playing guitar difficult, Slowhand released a stellar blues-rock jewel of an album.  Read the full RCB review here
  

6. The Thermals – We Disappear 

  
The Thermals continue to be one of the most consistent and underrated punk bands around.  The band does not stray from the formula of their earlier albums and that is totally fine.  The Thermals are fierce and so is this record.  Don’t miss out on great songs like “Thinking of You” and “My Heart Went Cold”. 
  

7. Blink-182 – California 

  
A Tom DeLonge-less Blink-182 circled the wagons and made a sonic sequel to 2001’s Take Off Your Pants and Jacket.  It’s not the deepest album of the year, but it sure is a lot of fun.  Read the full RCB review here
  


8. NEEDTOBREATHE – HARD LOVE
  
Yes, I spent three months hearing this material played live over and over while traveling with them on the Tour De Compadres this fall, but this genre-bending album rocks.  It fuses newer pop textures with old school rock, soul and Americana.  The title track and songs like “Great Night,” “Money & Fame” and “Let’s Stay Home Tonight” anchor this album as one of the year’s best.   
  

9. Brian Fallon – Painkillers 

  
The Gaslight Anthem frontman’s solo album continues his exploration of neo-Springsteen rock.  Fallon is a great excellent songwriter and lyricist who wears his influences on his sleeve.  Highlights include the title track, “Wonderful Life” and “Mojo Hand.” 
  

10. Rolling Stones – Blue & Lonesome 

  
Any new material from the Stones is welcomed.  On Blue & Lonesome, the guys get back to the music that first brought them together.  Take this gift and be grateful.  
  
  
 

Chestertons Release New Single “Heaven” 


Cleveland’s Chestertons have dropped a new jam, “Heaven,” from their forthcoming EP.  The song begins with an ambient arena rock guitar build that recalls bands like U2 and Angels & Airwaves.  However, as soon Kevin Bianchi’s beautiful vocal kicks in, you know that you’re listening to something distinctive and different.  The song shifts into a driving and memorable chorus that asks: “Do you know what it’s like to be recklessly loved?”  “Heaven” is accessible and likeable on the first the listen.  If the Chestertons keep up this kind of momentum on the rest of the EP, we’re all in for a treat.  You can hear the song by clicking here

Out of the Shadows . . . 

Meet the Shadow Division, the four-piece rock outfit based out of Cleveland, OH featuring: Max Espinosa (vocals and guitar), Michael Ridley (guitar), Joe LaGuardia (bass) and Kevin Hannah (drums).  On their self-titled debut EP, the band weaves a sonic tapestry that fuses the best elements of 80s and 90s alternative, 2000s indie and modern punk.  Think of bands like the Explosion, U2 and Midtown mixed together with a hint of Taking Back Sunday (minus the screaming).  Shadow Division’s songs have heavy hooks, pop sensibilities and well-crafted lyrics that balance between themes of angst and vulnerability.  The group worked with producer Jim Stewart, and each track cuts through with a crisp excitement and urgency.  Honestly, the EP flows from front to back without a dud in the batch.  It’s a promising debut by a band with ambition and potential for great things.  Check this record out and catch them in the clubs of Cleveland and beyond . . .

Blink-182 Go Back to the Basics 


With California, we have a rebooted Blink-182 deciding how to carry on after parting ways with co-lead-singer and guitarist Tom DeLonge.  In many ways the album is very nostalgic and plays heavily to the music of the band’s Enema of the State and Take Off Your Pants and Jacket commercial glory days.  However, do not be critical of this choice.  The band is refinding its footing by going back to the sound that first made kids love them.  California is an album made with an eye on the fans.  Mark Hoppus, Travis Barker and new member Matt Skiba (of Alkaline Trio-fame) knew that this album would be scrutinized to death, especially given the absence of DeLonge.  Teaming with producer John Feldmann, they circled the wagons and delivered the most Blinky-sounding Blink-182 album they could muster.  This concept may drive some cynicism among listeners.  Fans will miss the Mark Hoppus-Tom DeLonge back and forth vocal deliveries, but when you focus on the songs, you realize that this record sounds like the Blink-182 that made you want to fall in love with the girl at the rock show.  Also, Matt Skiba is no slouch.  He may not have been the immediate obvious choice for a replacement for DeLonge, but he’s a pretty solid “step-dad” and shares similar musical roots to Barker and Hoppus.  Skiba fills the DeLonge roll guitar-wise, but he sings like Matt Skiba.  
  
Kick back and enjoy the early-2000’s throwback sounds of “She’s Out of Her Mind,” “Kings of the Weekend,” “No Future” and the lead single “Bored to Death.”  The album hits a few less inspiring moments with “Rabbit Hole,” “Home Is Such a Lonely Place” and the title track.  Goofy mini-tracks like “Built This Pool” and “Brohemian Rhapsody” recall the sophomoric charm of old-school Blink-182.  Keep an open mind.   There is plenty of summer fun to be found on this record. 
  
Essential tracks:  “Bored to Death,” “She’s Out of Her Mind,” & “Kings of the Weekend.” 
  
 

Tegan and Sara - Love You To Death 


Having reached a new level of commercial success on 2013's Heartthrob, Tegan and Sara continue in the same indie pop vein with their latest effort, Love You To Death.  However, the follow up is not as compelling.  LYTD is certainly not bad, but when held up against its predecessor and masterpieces like So Jealous and The Con, LYTD’s limitations show.  There are solid songs like “Faint of Heart” with its big eighties pop chorus, also the anthemic "Stop Desire" as well as the harshly honest ballad “100x.”  Yet, LYTD lacks a monster single like “Closer” (from Heartthrob).  “Closer” was infectious but had an explosive emotional weight that made it great.  Further, Tegan and Sara up until this point have always been a band that always moved forward and evolved with each release.  Each album was united by similar lyrical themes, but the production style shifted.  LYTD is less ambitious and feels more like they are treading water.  Again, LYTD is not a bad album.  Tegan and Sara are still a great band.  It is just that they've been better.

Essential tracks: "Stop Desire," "100x" & "Faint of Heart."

Clapton Still Does  


At 71, Eric Clapton proves that he still has his fire.  The icon's newest record, I Still Do, is a swampy and soulful blues journey that is arguably the man's finest album since his 2004 tribute to Robert Johnson, Me and Mr. Johnson.  Although Clapton has admitted that a neurological disorder is making guitar playing more difficult for him, none of that shows as Old Slowhand gracefully feels his way through a collection of originals and covers.  I Still Do is produced by the legendary Glyn Johns who helmed Clapton’s 1970s classics Slowhand and Backless, which contain some of Clapton’s biggest hits.  
  
I Still Do does not have any real duds.  There are some more forgettable tracks like Clapton’s “Catch the Blues” and “Little Man, You’ve Had a Busy Day.”  However, they do not detract from the overall listening experience.  Clapton really grooves on his covers of JJ Cale’s “Can’t Let You Do It” and “Somebody's Knocking'”.  “I Will Be There” features Ed Sheeran (credited as Angelo Mysterioso, a pseudonym first employed by George Harrison when he guested with Clapton’s band Cream in 1968).  Other standouts are his take on Dylan’s “I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine,” Robert Johnson’s “Stones In My Passing” and the opener “Alabama Women.”  
  
On his original “Spiral” he sings: “You don't know how much this means to have this music in me.  I just keep playing these blues hoping that I don't lose.  I just keep playing my song hoping that I get along.  You don't know how much it means to have this music in me.”  On I Still Do, these words are especially poignant.  The bluesman sounds inspired.  Despite Clapton’s physical ailments, the guitarist says he is not done.  Let’s hope so.  

Essential tracks: "Can't Let You Do It", "Somebody Knockin'", "Spiral" and "Stones In My Passing."
 

Rocky Return of P!ATD 


Brendan Urie is a great vocalist and front man.  He is the sole remaining original Panic! member and has been dutifully keeping the brand alive by delivering inspired live shows and a steady flow of new music.  However, in a nutshell, the new Panic! At The Disco album, Death Of A Bachelor, is cripplingly uneven.  The greatest flaw of the album is that the albums worst songs all hit at the beginning of the album.   “Victorious,” “Don’t Threaten Me With A Good Time,” and “Emperor’s New Clothes” come off as substance-lacking Fall Out Boy throwaways.   “Hallelujah” is the exception to this on the album’s opening with its sampling of Chicago “Questions 67 and 68” and catchy chorus.  So if you wade through the garbage at the front of the album, you actually hit some good stuff.  
  
Urie’s love of Sinatra is a good thing.  He lets that flag fly on the album’s title track as well as on the closer “The Impossible Year.”  Then, you also get your more traditional Panic! songs with fun jams like “LA Devotee,” “Golden Days,” “House of Memories” and “The Good, The Bad And The Dirty.”  It’s in these songs that the merit of Death Of A Bachelor comes through.  This album is probably the band’s least compelling album, but there are enough redeeming moments for us to not write Urie and Co. off.  
  
Essential tracks: “Golden Days,” “Hallelujah,” and “House of Memories.”