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Celebration Rock

Author: Cumulus Media Minneapolis / KXXR-FM

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Rock Critic Steven Hyden ("Your Favorite Band Is Killing Me", "Twilight Of The Gods") talks with rock stars and the country’s biggest music writers about what’s happening in rock. Presented by 93X ( and (
135 Episodes
Steve decided to take the podcast out of hibernation for this special one-off episode on the best albums of the 2010's, with special guest Ian Cohen. See for privacy information.
Our Favorite Albums of 2018

Our Favorite Albums of 2018


Every year of my professional life as a music critic, I've made year-end lists. Sometimes it was because I simply had to do it, but more often (especially when I was younger) I did it because I thought it was fun. Making a year-end list was like saying, "Here I am, this is what I think, and here's why I believe you should actually care." But now that I'm a little older and wiser, list-making feels more like work. In 2018, it was practically a job.  I don't know if that has to do with my age or the fact that, to me, 2018 felt like a "good, not great" year for music. As always, there were scores of albums that I really enjoyed. But in terms of records that felt like instant classics, or at least inspired me to get obsessed for a good week or two, 2018 seemed a little fallow.  Nevertheless, the 10 albums on my year-end list did manage to strike a chord with me, and I was excited to talk about them with my friend Ian Cohen, who shared his own top 10 list. Surprisingly, there's not a ton of overlap on our lists –- listen to us debate the merits of the 1975, Arctic Monkeys, Boygenius, Father John Misty, and Kacey Musgraves in this special "best of 2018" episode.  See for privacy information.
This week we return with another installment of Contrarian's Canon, our semi-regular series with Ryley Walker where we talk about great albums that for some reason have been maligned or forgotten about in the course of music history. This time, we explore an under-appreciated should-be classic by one of the greatest singer-songwriters ever, Joni Mitchell. While Mitchell is rightly celebrated for landmark '70s albums like Blue, Court & Spark, and The Hissing of Summer Lawns, she continued to put out excellent albums as she entered her 40s. After a fallow period in the '80s, Mitchell forged a comeback with 1991's Night Ride Home, an album that nodded to the jazzy folk sound of 1976's masterpiece Hejira while also reflecting on the changes in her life as a middle-aged artist.  For Walker, Night Ride Home is one of the best albums that Mitchell ever made, and for him the highlight "Come In From The Cold" is one of her best ever songs, with a sophisticated musical and lyrical structure that is communicated with simple, straight-forward grace. We both also confess our love of other early '90s albums by boomer-era rockers, including Jackson Browne's I'm Alive and Van Morrison's Hymns to the Silence. Are these late-career landmarks worth revisiting, or have Ryley and I slipped into an adult-contemporary coma? Step into the smoothness with us! See for privacy information.
Last month, we started a new game called Fantasy A&R, where we take a classic album and attempt to improve/mutilate it by making our own stupid suggestions, such as adding or subtracting songs, swapping in alternate versions, and other probably ill-advised ideas. The first time we played Fantasy A&R, it was with the Beatles' "White Album." This time, we decided to play with a band who's even bigger than the Beatles, at least in their own minds: Oasis. Between 1994 and 1996, Oasis put out two classic albums, Definitely Maybe and (What's the Story) Morning Glory, along with a series of classic singles that included scores of B-sides beloved by fans and later compiled on The Masterplan. But what if Oasis' record company decided instead to take the best songs from the albums and singles to create a 14-track super album? What it would look like? How painful would it be to cut songs out of two '90s masterpieces in order to make it happen?  In this episode, I'm joined by fellow music critic and Oasis fan Stuart Berman to come up with our own "ultimate" mid-'90s Oasis album. Naturally, we intensely disagreed when it came to our choices, particularly when it came to which Morning Glory deep cuts to include.  See for privacy information.
Back in 2016, I wrote a column in which I declared that The Last Waltz is the best Thanksgiving movie. "It affirms the faith in the power of ritual to heal — at least temporarily — whatever is awkward or unresolved or plain broken about your familial bonds," I wrote. "Sometimes, that belief is just enough to make things okay for a little while." Last year, I invited friend of the pod Hanif Abdurraqib to revisit the film with me, and marvel at the majesty of Van Morrison's purple suit and Robbie Robertson's ill-considered gold-plated guitar.  This Thanksgiving, I decided to keep the tradition going, firing up The Last Waltz once more with another friend of the pod, Steve Gorman. As the drummer of the Black Crowes, he watched the movie repeatedly on tour buses throughout the '90s, and over time came to recognize the weariness on the faces of The Band after years and years of touring. We talked about the unspoken resentments that linger in the film's interview sequences, as well as the subtle power of The Band's performances, which have not been diluted by the passage of time or the many, many rewatches.  See for privacy information.
In the week's episode of Celebration Rock we introduce a new game called Fantasy A&R, where we take a classic album and attempt to improve/mutilate it by making our own stupid suggestions, such as adding or subtracting songs, swapping in alternate versions, and other probably ill-advised ideas.  The first album up for discussion is ripe for editing: The Beatles self-titled 1968 double-record, popularly known as "The White Album." This masterpiece turns 50 on Nov. 22, a milestone recently commemorated with a pricey box set. But we're not interested in making "The White Album" even longer. Instead, we've posed the opposite challenge: What would a tight 12-track version of this classic look like? To help me figure this out, I've invited my friend Rob Mitchum to play Fantasy A&R with me. To be clear: We both agree that "The White Album" is better as a sprawling experience, in which weird curveballs like "Wild Honey Pie" sit next to undeniable bangers like "While My Guitar Gently Weeps." However, it's still fun to imagine what a shorter "White Album" would look like, if only because it's our chance to finally wipe "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" out of existence. Or is it? That song is kind of good, isn't it? Let's find out!  See for privacy information.
In the late '90s, the Dave Matthews Band was one of the biggest bands in the world. Each of their first three albums went multi-platinum, and their improvisational live shows made them a stadium headliner. And yet this hippie-friendly collective couldn't just put out any album that it pleased. In 1999 and 2000, they gathered at a house outside the band's hometown of Charlottesville, Va. to record songs that were eventually shelved in favor of a much poppier record released in 2001, Everyday. But when those songs, subsequently dubbed The Lillywhite Sessions — after the band's producer, Steve Lillywhite — leaked on Napster, they were adored by DMB's hard-core fans.  In this episode, I revisit The Lillywhite Sessions wth one of those fans, indie-rock artist Ryley Walker, for another installment of our Contrarian's Canon series. Unlike other albums discussed in Contrarian's Canon, Ryley and I disagree sharply on The Lillywhite Sessions — he loves the album so much that he covered it in its entirety for an upcoming record due out Nov. 16, whereas I ... can't stand this album or DMB in general. But I am willing to be persuaded! Can Ryley pull off the impossible make me actually like the Dave Matthews Band, the scourge of my late-'90s college years? See for privacy information.
On this week's episode of Celebration Rock I invited Pitchfork senior editor (and now friend of the podcast) Stacey Anderson to discuss this month's most notable indie-rock albums. Our discussion began with Pinegrove, who's latest album Skylight is an affecting alt-country-leaning album that's a worthy follow-up to the band's 2016 breakout Cardinal. But much of the discussion of this band — or conspicuous lack of discussion — stems from the charges of sexual coercion levied against frontman Evan Stephens Hall that prompted Hall to voluntarily push back the album's release and reschedule tour dates. Stacey and I explored whether it's possible to set that baggage aside when listening to the music — or whether it's even right to do that.  In the second half of the episode, we talked about two of the most reliable legacy artists in indie rock. Chan Marshall, who has put out records since the mid-'90s as Cat Power, returned in early October with her first album in six years, Wanderer, which ranks among her very best. As for Kurt Vile, he's been putting out consistently strong albums on a regular basis for a decade now. While his latest Bottle It In doesn't radically reinvent his formula of languid and meditative guitar jams, it suggests that his craftsmanship and lyrical insight are only growing richer with time.  Finally, Stacey and I share some recent recommendations: Robyn's pop confessional Honey for her, and Colter Wall's country throwback Songs of the Plains for me.  See for privacy information.
In the past few weeks, two of 2018's most anticipated rock albums have been released: Trench by Twenty One Pilots and Anthem of the Peaceful Army by Greta Van Fleet. In my review of Trench, I noted that Twenty One Pilots have created a deep and fascinating mythology that extends over several albums, while also creating mild, kind of bland music that's been hugely successful on streaming platforms. If Twenty One Pilots epitomize the trends that dominate pop in the current moment, Greta Van Fleet is a conscious throwback to the classic-rock past. The group is shamelessly derivative of Led Zeppelin, but is it possible to be good at imitation? For this episode, I invited my friend and Celebration Rock producer Derek Madden to discuss these albums. Turns out that we don't quite see eye-to-eye: Derek likes Twenty One Pilots more than I do, and he also can't quite excuse Greta Van Fleet's "borrowing" of Zeppelin's sound. Who's right? Listen to us politely disagree! See for privacy information.
Last month, I invited great indie-rock guitarist and hilarious Twitter user Ryley Walker on the podcast to talk about an album that impacted both of our lives as teenagers, dc Talk's '90s Christian-rock opus Jesus Freak. It was so much fun that it inspired a new semi-regular series that I'm calling Contrarian Canon, in which Ryley and I will discuss an album that we love that hasn't gotten a ton of love critically over the years. The latest record that we're adding to the Contrarian Canon is 1994's The Division Bell, which might very well be the least well-regarded Pink Floyd album ever. At the time, The Division Bell was controversial because it was made without Pink Floyd's long-time leader and principal songwriter, Roger Waters. Over time, it has come to be regarded as an afterthought in Pink Floyd's catalogue, an empty artistic shell made by a once-great band. But Ryley and I both really like this record! While it's true that The Division Bell doesn't compare with indisputable classics like Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here, and The Wall, it does a surprisingly good job of restoring Pink Floyd's classic sound, with extra emphasis on David Gilmour's majestic guitar playing. At the very least, we had fun revisiting the album recently while hanging out backstage and drinking Maker's Mark out of plastic cups. See for privacy information.
This month is the 15th anniversary of Logic Will Break Your Heart, the debut album by Montreal quartet The Stills, one of many scruffy, post-punk bands that followed in the wake of the Strokes in the early '00s. For a while, any band that sort of looked like the Strokes or sort of sounded like the Strokes had a shot at a major-label record deal. Many of those bands are now forgotten, but there are a handful of groups, like the Stills, that had at least one really good album in them. In this episode, critic Ian Cohen joins Steve in remembering some of those post-Strokes bands, including Secret Machines, Longwave, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Hot Hot Heat, and The Bravery.  See for privacy information.
Last Friday, a career-spanning box set called An American Treasure was released delving into the work of Tom Petty, in time for the one-year anniversary of the venerable rocker's death on Oct. 2. Unlike most retrospectives, An American Treasure largely eschews hits in order to illuminate some of the lesser known corners of Petty's music. But does this approach serve the man who wrote some of the best rock singles ever? I called up Steve Kandell, a writer and journalist whose work has appeared in Spin, Pitchfork and Buzzfeed, to talk about An American Treasure, and how our perceptions of Petty have changed (and in some cases improved) in the time since he passed.  See for privacy information.
If you've spent any time reading the liner notes of classic '90s rock albums, there's a very good chance you know the name Michael Beinhorn. As one of the era's top record producers, his credits include some of the best and most popular records of the decade: Soundgarden's Superunknown, Hole's Celebrity Skin, Marilyn Manson's Mechanical Animals, Soul Asylum's Grave Dancers Union, and many more. In a way, it was all a happy accident for Beinhorn, who got his start in New York City's avant-garde music scene in the early '80s. But after he co-wrote Herbie Hancock's electro-jazz smash hit "Rockit," Beinhorn became an in-demand producer, getting his big break in rock by working with the Red Hot Chili Peppers on their commercial breakthrough, 1989's Mother's Milk.  From there, he worked with some of the biggest personalities in alt-rock. Beinhorn is a warm conversationalist, and he was happy to tell stories about the making of some of his biggest projects. He discussed the struggles of making Superunknown, the awkwardness of dealing with drummer-related drama on Celebrity Skin, and whether the chaotic party atmosphere of Mechanical Animals ever got in the way of work.  See for privacy information.
Last month, I did a Celebration Rock episode on my favorite sleeper albums of 2018. This week, I figured that the need to talk about lesser known records is so great that it could sustain a semi-regular series of episodes. So, I called up my friend Jeremy Larson, the reviews editor at Pitchfork, and asked him if there were three albums from the past month that he thought could merit some extra conversation. Fortunately, he came up with three great choices: Low, Yves Tumor, and The Necks. And I had three picks of my own: The Lemon Twigs, Ruston Kelly, and Tomberlin. Between us, we came up with quite a variety of music, from a glam-style rock opera to confessional country to a mind-bending electronic to improvisational jazz. I guarantee you'll find something you love in this episode that you haven't already heard about. See for privacy information.
There used to be an old saying about how you should never talk about politics or religion in friendly conversation, because those are the topics guaranteed to make any interaction decidedly un-friendly. However, in the past few years, it's been seemingly impossible to avoid the most pressing social issues of the day, even in traditional sanctuaries like sports and pop culture. For this episode, I wanted to explore whether it's still possible for people who disagree ideologically to come tougher as music fans and geek out over a shared love of particular songs and albums. I also wanted to delve into a question I've long found fascinating: Given that pop music generally is dominated by liberal-minded artists, how do conservatives put that aside and enjoy the music?  I figured a good person to discuss this was Jeff Blehar, host of the Political Beats podcast, which features journalists and pundits from the left and right expounding on their favorite artists, including MSNBC's Chris Hayes and National Journal's Charles C.W. Cooke. A "Never Trump" conservative, Blehar regularly listens to bands who don't adhere to his personal viewpoints, including Radiohead and the Clash. Given the struggles that liberals have had in 2018 reconciling Kanye West's apparent support of Donald Trump, is it really possible to "separate the art from the artist" in terms of politics? It's a hard question, and Blehar and I had a great conversation trying to figure it out.  See for privacy information.
Back in May, I interviewed the hilarious and talented singer-songwriter Ryley Walker about his very good recent album, Deafman Glance. But one of the most memorable parts of the conversation was a tangent about Christian rock, which had been a part of both of our lives as teenagers growing up in the midwest. Ryley mentioned an album I hadn't thought about in years but had heard a lot in high school, dc Talk's 1995 double-platinum smash Jesus Freak. Clearly, this was a topic worth exploring in greater detail, so I called Ryley up and did a deep dive into an album that doesn't get mentioned much in official histories of '90s alt-rock, even though it was a touchstone for millions of semi-rebellious, church-going kids. See for privacy information.
In this episode, we review some of the most notable rock albums from the month of August, including the latest from two legacy acts and recent highlights by two of indie-rock's brightest young acts. Joining me is "friend of the pod" Ian Cohen, whose name you surely recognize from his many bylines at Pitchfork, Stereogum, Spin, and many other outlets. On the legacy end, we have Interpol and Death Cab For Cutie, two indie-rock favorites that have weathered some recent hit-or-miss albums to put out some well-regarded comeback records. While Ian and I disagree on the Interpol vs. Death Cab divide, we both concur that Mitski's Be The Cowboy and Foxing's Nearer My God are among the very best albums of the year. See for privacy information.
If you have read any music writing at all online in the past 20 years, there's a very good chance you have encountered Mark Richardson in some way. As a long-time writer and editor for Pitchfork, Richardson has been reviewing records for one of the internet's top music sites for two decades. But he's arguably had more impact as a mentor to countless music critics, many of whom paid tribute to Mark when he announced earlier this year that he was departing Pitchfork after serving as executive editor and editor-in-chief since 2011. Now that Richardson is no longer employed by Pitchfork — he plans to teach and write a new book — I figured I would invite him on the podcast for an exit interview of sorts. Thankfully, he agreed.  Not only does Mark give an insider account of Pitchfork's early days, we also talked about the many ways that music writing has changed since the late '90s and early '00s. In short, social media changed everything — it was once possible to write something totally silly and brave (and even kind of brilliant) in a record review and have it come and go like the proverbial felled tree in the forest. Things are different now, of course — better in some ways, worse in others. But Mark was thoughtful about all of it. See for privacy information.
Fifty years ago this summer, one of the greatest debut albums in rock history was released. Though when The Band put out 1968's Music From Big Pink, they weren't exactly unknown. Two years prior, they had backed Bob Dylan on his first "electric" tour, supporting the iconic singer-songwriter as he faced hostile audiences all around the world. When the tour ended and Dylan retreated to upstate New York, the members of The Band joined him, setting up camp at a large house they dubbed "Big Pink," because of the faded red siding.  What happened at that house has since become rock legend — Dylan and the Band collaborated on The Basement Tapes, a trove of home recordings that included future classics like "I Shall Be Released," "Tears Of Rage," and "This Wheel's On Fire." The Band also started working on the songs that would appear on their first record, like "The Weight," which was written by guitarist Robbie Robertson.  In order to delve deep into the album's creation, and celebrate the music that was created — which will be reissued Aug. 31 as part of a special anniversary edition — I figured the best person to speak with was Robertson, who fortunately agreed to share some of his favorite stories from that period. We discussed the brilliance of The Band's troubled piano player Richard Manuel, the identity of the real-life "Fanny" from "The Weight," how the Band evolved from a loud, bluesy bar band to a pastoral folk-rock outfit, and the way that the band members perfected their unique vocal blend, which Robertson's likens to "passing the ball around." See for privacy information.
Throughout the year, really good albums come and go with minimal attention. What happens to those records once they are sucked into the black hole of bottomless content? Are they gone forever? In this episode, we try to rescue some worthy recent releases that might have slipped your attention in the past several months. We guarantee that you will discover at least a few records that you didn't know about already. The guest this week is Chris Deville, a staff writer at Stereogum.  See for privacy information.
Comments (2)

Phillip Johnson

man where is the musi c. ok back to pandora

Aug 3rd

Phillip Johnson

let's kick it

Aug 3rd
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