And then there was one. That’s right, Phil’s Picks is finally down to the last of its annual music ear-ender lists. The last of this year’s music-related “best of” lists is the proverbial peak of the mountain in the form of the year’s top new albums.
This year’s list of the top new albums is diverse to say the least. It features new releases from across the musical universe. From jazz to world to rock and even some bluegrass, this year’s list represents how much the musical universe produced this year.
As with every other list from Phil’s Picks, this final music-related list for this year features the Top 10 new releases and five additional honorable mention titles for a total of 15, all of which deserve their own share of applause. Without any further ado, here for your consideration is this year’s Top 10 New Albums.
PHIL’S PICKS’ 2021 TOP 10 NEW ALBUMS
Liquid Tension Experiment – 3
Gabor Lesko – Earthway
Devin Townsend – The Puzzle
Doug MacDonald Trio – Toluca Lake Jazz
Allison Russell – Outside Child
Walking Papers – Light Below
Dobet Gnahore – Coleur
Brasuka – Life With Passion
Peter Welker — Sidemen
Nik Bartsch – Entendre
Madre Vaca – The Elements
Billy F. Gibbons – Hardware
Marc Ribler – The Whole World Awaits You
Kris Rodgers & The Dirty Gems – Still Dirty
Gordie “Crazylegs” MacKeeman – Folk For Little Folk Volume 1
That’s it for this year’s music lists, but it’s not the end for this year’s “best of” lists. From here, the attention turns to the best of this year’s new TV and movie offerings, beginning with the year’s top new documentaries. Stay tuned!
The rock community turned out a whole bunch of great new content in 2021. From established acts to the up-and-comers, to the veterans, acts from across the rock community gave audiences plenty of reason to be happy this year. Now with only 21 days left in the year, that flow of new releases has slowed, though there is already lots of rock to look forward to in 2022, beginning early in the year. Until then though, Phil’s Picks has its annual list of this year’s top new rock albums to share.
As was the case with all of the other lists, this one was not easy to craft, either. Pop Evil returned this year with its powerful new album, Versatile. Liquid Tension Experiment (which is essentially the side project of three of Dream Theater’s members) returned for the first time in some years with its third record, too. Up-and-coming neo-classic rock band Greta Van Fleet worked hard this year with its new album to show that it wants to be known as its own act, not just a Led Zeppelin knockoff. Between this record, the others noted here and so many others, this year’s list of top new rock albums is diverse.
As with every other list presented by Phil’s Picks, it consists of the year’s top 10 new albums and five honorable mentions for a total of 15. Without any further ado, here for your consideration is Phil’s Picks’ 2021 Top 10 New Rock Albums.
PHIL’S PICKS 2021 TOP 10 NEW ROCK ALBUMS
Liquid Tension Experiment – 3
John 5 – Sinner
Billy F. Gibbons – Hardware
The Dead Daisies – Holy Ground
Mason Hill – Against The Wall
Candlebox – Wolves
Marc Ribler – The Whole World Awaits You
Myles Kennedy – The Ides of March
Pop Evil – Versatile
Dropkick Murphys – Turn Up That Dial
L.A. Guns – Checkered Past
Foo Fighters – Medicine at Midnight
Grand Royale – Carry On
Styx – Crash of the Crown
Greta Van Fleet – The Battle at Garden’s Gate
That’s it for this list, but wait, there’s more! Yes, there are still two more music lists to go before the attention turns to the best of the year’s new movie and TV categories. Stay tuned!
ZZ Top front man Billy F. Gibbons debuted the video for his new holiday tune this week.
Gibbons debuted the video for his new single, ‘Jingle Bell Blues‘ Thursday. Gibbons debuted the song by itself Nov. 9. The song is a cover of ‘Jingle Bells’ covered in Gibbons’/ZZ Top’s signature style, complete with pulsing harmonica solo. It is a 12-bar blues tune that gives the song a much deserved blues update, but also updates the song’s lyrics to a bit, too.
Gibbons talked about the new video in a prepared statement.
“The animators put me in a hot rod that looks suspiciously like our very own ’34 Ford-based ‘Whiskey Runner’ though they’ve made some few seasonal adjustments,” said Gibbons. “There’s considerable snowfall so the wheels are replaced midway by a set of skis and now there’s a pickup bed in the back so gifts can rain down from it. They have me doing a header into a chimney but it’s not clear if I get to to enjoy any cookies and milk for my efforts. Just the same, I’m really digging the snowman blowing some great blues harp in the time-honored Jimmy Reed style.”
Gibbons released his latest studio offering, his new album, Hardware early this year through Concord Records. It came less than two years after the release of his sophomore solo record, The Big Bad Blues.
More information on Billy F. Gibbons’ new single is available along with all of his latest news at:
ZZ Top front man Billy F. Gibbons is set to release his third solo album, Hardware Friday through Concord Records. Coming less than two years after the release of his sophomore solo record, The Big Bad Blues, this 12-song record stands out in part because of its featured songs. This will be discussed shortly. The arrangements featured throughout the album are just as important to address as the songs themselves. This will be addressed a little later. The songs’ sequencing rounds out the album’s most important elements. It will be discussed later, too. All three items noted here are important in their own right to the whole of the record’s presentation. All things considered, they make Hardware another successful new offering from Gibbons that his audiences and those of his band, ZZ Top will equally enjoy.
Hardware, the third solo record from Billy F. Gibbons, is another enjoyable offering from the longtime ZZ Top front man. That is due in no small part to its featured songs. The songs in question are original compositions, save for just one song, ‘Hey Baby, Que Paso,’ originally originally made famous by Augie Meyers, and later by The Texas Tornados. By comparison, Gibbons’ previous solo records, Perfectamundo and The Big Bad Blues were composed primarily of cover tunes, and far less of original works. For Gibbons to take such a risk and rely more on original music this time around is a nice change of pace. It shows Gibbons’ willingness to take more of a chance. That in itself gives audiences reason enough to give this album a chance.
Building on the appeal established through the album’s general presentation is the actual sound and stylistic approach to the songs featured throughout this album. While Gibbons (and ZZ Top’s) established audiences will find much of the album’s arrangements familiar in terms of sound and style, they will also find that Gibbons does branch out a little bit here. The most noticeable change of pace comes in the contemplative ballad, ‘Vagabond Man.’ It is in this song that Gibbons takes on the all-too-familiar topic of being out on the road and away from family and friends. So many acts across the musical universe have taken on that topic throughout the years. In the case of the song’s arrangement though, Gibbons’ subdued approach tugs at listeners’ heart strings so much without trying. He also tries something slightly different in ‘Spanish Fly.’ The song presents a distinct modern blues rock sound instead of the more typical southern rock sound for which Gibbons has been known for crafting during his career. It is another welcome change of pace from Gibbons. The steady tambourine beat and thick, rich bass drum beat against the backing choral vocals here collectively makes for so much interest. ‘Desert High,’ which closes out the 37-minute record, is another example of the importance of the arrangements featured in the record’s songs. The subdued arrangement here conjures thoughts of a specific song from The Doors at times. As the song progresses and really gets heavier, it still maintains its blues rock identity, but still has a touch of hard rock about it. It is really another change of style for Gibbons in this outing. When it and the other songs examined here are considered alongside the more familiar southern/blues-based rock for which Gibbons has come to be known, the whole makes the album’s overall musical content just as important as the approach that Gibbons took to this record.
On a side note, the lyrical content that accompanies the album’s musical content is largely familiar. As noted, there is that one contemplative piece in ‘Vagabond Man.’ Much of the record’s other lyrical content though, has to do with a woman in a variety of situations. ‘She’s on Fire’ is clearly about a man who’s wild for a woman. ‘My Lucky Card’ is also about a woman. In this case, Gibbons compares the woman to…well…a lucky poker card. ‘Spanish Fly’ makes reference to drugs and alcohol. This should be noted. But a woman is involved here, too. ‘Hey Baby, Que Paso’ is a cover, but also has to do with a woman. On another note, ‘Stackin’ Bones’ is its own unique song that is slightly familiar, lyrically, to ‘Spanish Fly’ just without the mention of the woman. That is putting it lightly. So considering all of this and the rest of the record’s lyrical themes, much of this record is lyrically just as familiar for audiences of Gibbons and ZZ Top as that in each side’s existing works. That makes the record even more accessible.
As much as Gibbons’ approach to the album and the album’s songs (and their lyrical counterparts) does for the record’s appeal, they are only a part of what makes the album so appealing. The sequencing of all of that content brings everything together, completing the record’s presentation. A full listen to Hardware reveals the album to be a mostly up-tempo record. There are a couple of moments that are laid back, but still manage to keep the album’s energy moving. At the album’s center though, audiences get a nice break point in the pairing of ‘Vagabond Man’ and ‘Spanish Fly.’ The two songs collectively pull the record back significantly and then gradually build things back up before the record really gets back up to speed in its energy and emotion in ‘West Coast Junkie.’ From there on to the album’s end, Gibbons keeps things moving solidly. This ensures listeners’ engagement and entertainment in its own right, too. When this is considered along with Gibbons’ approach to the album and the album’s content, the whole makes Hardware another great record from one of the greatest names in rock and the blues.
Billy F. Gibbons’ third solo album, Hardware, is a successful new offering from the veteran singer/guitarist. It is a step up from his first time albums. That is thanks in part to the approach that Gibbons took to the record. Instead of relying mainly on covers this time, he instead opted to make his original compositions the star. Only one of the record’s dozen total songs is a cover in this case. The musical (and lyrical) content featured within the songs shows that the risk that Gibbons took this time out paid off, too. It offered audiences something familiar and something slightly less so throughout. The sequencing of that total content brought everything together here, completing the album’s presentation. That mid-album break that was intentionally used here ensured that the record did not get monotonous and kept listeners’ attention and enjoyment. Keeping all of this in mind, the whole of these elements makes Hardware a presentation that is sure to earn just as much hardware as its predecessors.
Hardware is scheduled for release Friday through Concord Records. More information on the album is available along with all of Billy F. Gibbons’ latest news at: