The bands/artists I spent the most time listening to during 2018 were: David Bowie (1969-1983), Eagles (1972-1979), Neil Young (1969-1970, 1975, 1979, 2005), Jethro Tull (1969-1972) Rush (1976-1978), Kraftwerk (1974-1978, 2003) Beck (1999-2002, 2006), Nine Inch Nails (1989-1994), Bob Dylan (1967, 1975) Emmylou Harris (both 1975 albums), Massive Attack (1991-1998), Enya (1988-1991), Fiona Apple (1996-1999), C.V. Jørgensen (1977-1980), and Tommy Seebach (1975-1986)
Blood on the Tracks by Bob Dylan (1975)
Recorded in the midst of marital discord, has been categorized as “a comeback” and “the definite breakup album”. I love the first half. His 1975 LP contains some of Dylan’s best known songs: Tangled Up in Blue, Simple Twist of Fate, and Shelter From the Storm.
Asked about the music, Bob Dylan remarked: “I wanted to defy time, so that the story took place in the present and past at the same time”
What’s Going On by Marvin Gaye (1971)
Breaking the mould of the traditional Motown sound, and told from the point of view of a returning Vietnam soldier. What’s Going On is arguably one of the best protest albums of all-time, about world conditions, drug abuse, poverty, the ecological disaster, the next generation, war, and other aspects. There’s an earnestness in Marvin Gaye’s vocal so you believe what he sings. The artwork reflects his project of looking outside of himself, with the iconic cover image presenting him in a rain coat looking towards the horizon.
Yet remarkably you can also just take the album for its relaxing mood and catchy songs that have become classics; What’s Going On, Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology), Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)
Sea Change by Beck (2002)
With a deliberately quieter sound featuring orchestral flourishes, a big departure from the funkiness of 1999’s Midnite Vultures. Going for an introspective, serious approach, I’ve heard Sea Change described as the definitive break-up album (and in a far more direct, matter-of-fact way than the ambiguous Blood on the Tracks mentioned above).
Certainly melancholy with lyrics such as “And the sun don’t shine, even when its day”. Beck is at his most vulnerable, using the songs as self-therapy, telling the listener about his loneliness and failed relationship, and in turn we can empathize and maybe relate. Lost Cause and Guess I’m Doing Fine are Beck classics. I’ve only listened to a third of his discography (as of March 2018) but this feels like Beck’s masterpiece. Whether you can handle the sadness is subjective. You need to be in the right mood and I’d only listen to it sparingly.