Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Fav'rit Rekkids and Shows of 2013

Another year is rolling to a sickly end. I have to admit that I've lived through much better days, but at least there was a lot of good music, and I got out to several fabulous shows. So without further hugger-mugger, here is my year end list of my top 40 fav'rit rekkids, along with some highlight shots of the shows I made it to in 2013.

Neko Case. First Avenue. October 16th, 2013

1 Neko Case The Worse Things Get, the Harder I fight, the Harder I Fight, the More I love You (Anti)

The queen of alt-country indie rock returns from a mourning period with her finest work to date. Stunning. Daft Punk may have been the omnipresent single, but Case's "Man" was the best song of 2013.

2 Unknown Mortal Orchestra II (Jagjaguwar)

No sophomore slump here. Portland/Kiwiland's finest basement psychedelicists build on the promise of their first album. Aside from Neko's grandeur, this was hands down the best thing I heard all year, and easily the most heavily rotated disc in the office.

3 Yo La Tengo Fade (Matador)

The aging stalwarts of indie rock, Hoboken's finest surprised me with their best rekkid in over a decade, and possibly their most concise musical statement to date. 

4 Goldfrapp Tales of Us (Mute)

When Goldfrapp make stomping electro dance-pop rekkids I really like them. When they make moody, pastoral, electro-art-pop like this gem, I adore them. Check out the video at the top of the page for further evidence. Truly magnificent.

5 Youth Lagoon Wondrous Bughouse (Fat Possum)

This album might make the list just for having such a fantastic title. Continuing the Flaming Lips tradition of pretty, happy, songs about death, Youth Lagoon's second rekkid is a savory psychedelic stew for your ears.

6 Cian Ciaran They Are Nothing without Us (Strangetown)

The second solo outing from the erstwhile Super Furry Animals keyboardist is a doozy. Filled with lyrics which rage against the class divisions of the world, swimming in a broth of luscious harmonies and melodies reminiscent of his old band's best work.

7 Bibio Silver Wilkinson (Warp)

I don't know who coined the term "pastoral folk-tronica" (for all I know it could have been my co-worker), but there is no better way to describe this bit of wonderment. Standout track "A Tout a l'Heure" is one of the finest tunes of the year.

8 Connan Mockasin Caramel (Mexican Summer)

Skipping rope around the pencil-mustache-thin line between sexy and creepy, Caramel sees Connan Mockasin take his super-weird brand of psychedelic craziness even further underwater. Like Prince and Sud Barrett collaborating on a bizarre make-out album at the bottom of a swimming pool full of champagne and LSD.

9 Jacco Gardner Cabinet of Curiosities (Trouble in Mind)

A little dutch boy conjures up the ghosts of 1967 london and produces tasty fabulosity. If Roger Waters had gone insane and Pink Floyd had continued led by Syd Barrett and Richard Wright, they may have sounded a lot like this.

10 Soweto Kinch The Legend of Mike Smith (Soweto Kinch Recordings)

This is the one. This is the great hip-hop/ avant-garde jazz/ spoken word concept album you've been waiting for all this time. An epic tale of a day in the life of young British hip-hop artist trying to make it to an appointment. Fluid rhymes and radio-play storytelling interspersed with passages of pure, top grade post-bop jazz. Someday the world will wake up and recognize this man's genius.

Yo La Tengo. First Avenue. February 4th, 2013.

11 The Phoenix Foundation Fandango (Memphis Industries)

File under: Shimmering Grade A Kitchen Sink Kiwi Psych-Pop. Brilliant.

12 Crocodiles Crimes of Passion (Frenchkiss)

Satan's favorite surfing shoegazers' best outing yet.

13 Franz Ferdinand Right Thoughts Right Words Right Action (Domino)

Scotland's finest crooner-faced dance-punk masters' triumphant return.

14 Queens of the Stone Age …Like Clockwork (Matador)

Yet another master class from the finest heavy rock group working today.

15 Anna Calvi One Breath (Domino)

So many great second albums this year. Here is another. Siouxsie-esque post punk with fantastic flamenco/surf tinged guitar. I am digging Anna Calvi.

16 Lee Ranaldo and the Dust Last Night on Earth (Matador)

One of the grand old indie/alt guitar Gods lets loose.

17 Wire Change Becomes Us (Pink Flag)

Nearly four decades removed from their debut, Wire continues to regularly produce some of the finest art-punk in the business.

18 The Black Angels Indigo Meadow (Blue Horizon)

More yumminess from the latest bearers of the Texas garage psych banner.

19 Paul McCartney New (MPL)

Holy crap. Having just passed the 70 year milestone, Macca just dropped one of the finest records of his post-Beatles career. Totally gear, mate!

20 David Bowie The Next Day (CBS)

As long as we're giving props to the geriatric ward, the Thin White Duke's return from a decade-long hiatus was none to shabby itself.

Tame Impala. First Avenue. March 4th, 2013.

21 Washed Out Paracosm (Sub Pop)
22 Savages Silence Yourself (Matador)
23 Still Corners Strange Pleasures (Sub Pop)
24 Steve Mason Monkey Minds in the Devil’s Time (Domino)
26 Superchunk I Hate Music (Merge)
27 Arctic Monkeys AM (Domino)
28 Neon Neon Praxis Makes Perfect (Lex)
29 My Bloody Valentine mbv (mbv)
30 Elvis Costello and the Roots Wise Up Ghost (Blue Note)

Prissy Clerks. Hymie's Vintage Records. Record Store Day. April 20th,  2013

31 Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds Push the Sky Away (Bad Seed)
32 Daughter If You Leave (Glassnote)
33 Deerhunter Monomania (4AD)
34 The Besnard Lakes Until In Excess, Imperceptible UFO (Jagjaguwar)
35 Midlake Antiphon (Bella Union)

Bob Mould. Rock the Garden, Walker Art Center. June 15th, 2013.

36 Atoms for Peace Amok (XL)
37 Pond Hobo Rocket (Modular)
38 The Knife Shaking the Habitual (Mute)
39 Jake Bugg Shangri La (Island)
40 Bombino Nomad (Nonesuch)

Unknown Mortal Orchestra. Cedar Cultural Center. June 23rd, 2013.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Absentee Blogger's New Fav'rits

What the hell? Tell me it is not November already. Tell me it hasn't really been three months since my last post. Man. I suck at this. My apologies to the regular readers of this page. Seriously, both of you deserve so much more. My bad.

Don't let my conspicuous absence fool you, I have been acquiring new music at my regular, ridiculous pace. It's just that my own procrastination, combined with the events of everyday (and not so everyday) life, both suckalicious and otherwise, have prevented me from saying much about them here. I have in fact, amassed a rather large stack of new deliciousness over the last few months, but so much of it has fallen into the "very good" category, while not much has landed in the "undeniably great" pile. As I begin to look back on the musical year that is 2013, I'm finding that a lot of releases that I have already discussed during the first half of the year remain near the top of my "Best of 2013" list. That said, there have been at least two absolute winners in recent weeks, which I shall discuss presently.

Connan Mockasin Caramel (Phantasy)

The reigning king of Kiwi strangeness apparently spent a month locked in a Japanese hotel room concocting something truly extraordinary. This is quite simply one of the most delightfully odd albums I have ever heard in my life. It just came out yesterday. I'm just now giving it a second listen. Yet is has already penetrated my psyche and turned my brain to a puddle of sticky goo, oozing viscously around my cranium.

 I am not sure how to accurately describe its magnificent weirdness. I have commented elsewhere that it is "like a euro-synth-pop-new-romantic-80sR&B record played at the bottom of a swimming pool full of sauvignon blanc and LSD", and that it plays "hopscotch on the razor-thin line between sexy and creepy". One of Connan's fans put it nicely: "Connan has somehow managed to transform caramel into a psychedelic sex album processed through a funk machine". A friend of mine noted, "Forever Dolphin Love seemed to be approaching the edge Connan's particular kind of weird, but he seems to have found a whole new dimension where it can spread out". NME's review aptly began, "You’ve got to admire a guy willing to put out music that resembles Syd Barrett, Prince and Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac mashed up and played backwards". That not enough for you? These two reviews capture Caramel's essence beautifully.


Caramel is destined to be near the top of my "Best of 2013", but it will likely be overshadowed by...

Neko Case The Worse Things Get, the Harder I Fight, the Harder I Fight, the More I Love You (Anti)

The divine Ms. Neko has emerged from a period of mourning and depression and given us her finest and most personal album to date. I cannot say enough about this record, yet I don't really know what to say. Words fail me. It has one of the best titles ever. Each listen gives me goosebumps. Numerous moments make we want to weep openly. "Man", the first single from the album is the best song I've heard this year. It is a shame that Neko has been all but completely ostracized by the mainstream country music world, as she is the best country singer I've heard since Patsy Cline, and she deserves wider recognition for her brilliance.  The Worse Things Get, the Harder I Fight, the Harder I Fight, the More I Love You is my current frontrunner for best album of 2013. It may also be the best "alt-country" album ever made.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Best Artist You Never Heard Of or... My New Fav'rit Rekkid

Soweto Kinch maybe the greatest artist working in the world today who is all but completely unknown in the United States. Many people have attempted to fuse hip hop and jazz with varying degrees of success, and even when it works out well, it seems that the original discipline of the artist always shines through. Branford Marsalis' Buckshot Lefonque always feels like a jazz musician incorporating hip hop into his work. Likewise the best efforts of Madlib or Q-Tip, fabulous as they are, somehow feel like a hip hop artist incorporating jazz into their work. Soweto Kinch is that rare master of both forms.

Equally at home as a talented, thoughtful, and witty (sometimes gut-bustingly funny) wordsmith and MC, as well as being a truly fabulous post-bop composer and alto sax player (as evidenced in the above video), Kinch has released four fabulous albums to widespread critical acclaim in his native UK, including landing a Mercury Prize nomination. Yet he remains a virtually unknown entity on this side of the pond. He needs some colonial love and I think we all should give it to him.

His latest double album, The Legend of Mike Smith came out early in 2013 in the UK, but I have only recently been able to manage to buy it here (and only then in mp3 format). Like each of his previous rekkids, it may take some searching to get it in the US, but the rewards are well worth the effort. It is an ambitious, conceptual concept album which casts parables of the seven deadly sins upon one day in the life of an aspiring rapper, trying desperately to get to an important session. On the way he deals with nightmares of war, incidents of racism and police harassment, and the distractions of his own temptations, all the while with the voice of an impish, prankster Beelzebub in his ear.

On the whole, the album plays like a movie for your ears, and demands the kind of attention that such a description implies. Rewards can be found in the casual listen, but it really is best to take the time and experience it as one piece. It segues quite naturally from radio-play like narrative bits to masterful, sometimes very poignant, and other times riotously funny raps, to blazing outings of hip hop inflected, Ornette Coleman inspired jazz. Much like his previous salvo (2010s The New Emancipation, which also gets my highest recommendation), The Legend of Mike Smith is by turns beautiful, satiric, topical, beguiling, raucous, and rapturous, and always entertaining. It will likely pull off the double act of being both my favorite hip hop album of the year and my favorite jazz album of the year, and it is my current "New Fav'rit Rekkid".

Sunday, July 14, 2013

A Few Words About the Talking Heads

I was just listening to the Talking Heads' utterly transcendent cover of Al Green's "Take Me to the River", and it dawned on me that the true genius of the Talking Heads is in their remarkable transparency. Which is not to say that they are without substance, they are,in fact, quite substantial. I mean transparency in the sense that they seem to actively eschew any form of musical obfuscation. They not only create great works of art, but they create those works in a way that allows the observer to see (or hear) exactly how that work of art was made. All the pieces of the whole are easily distinguished and identifiable, yet the whole itself is never diminished by this fact. They somehow manage to produce work which is perfectly seamless while simultaneously showing you every seam.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Best of 2013 in 140 Characters or Less

We have reached the mid-point of 2013, and I have consumed an absurd amount of music in the last six months. Too much, really. I don't have the time to do it all justice, so here are my top 15 rekkids of 2013 thus far, summed up in tweet-sized bites...

1. Unknown Mortal Orchestra II (Jagjaguwar)
Zappa leads, Beefheart and Brian Wilson harmonies, GbV lo-fi sensibility. Pure deliciousness!

2. Yo La Tengo Fade (Matador)
Their best album in over a decade. Maybe their most concise ever. A triumph from one of the best!

3. Youth Lagoon Wondrous Bughouse (Fat Possum)
Immediately impactful like the Lips' The Soft Bulletin or Mercury Rev's Deserters' Songs.

4. Bibio Silver Wilkinson (Warp)
Pastoral folk-tronica of the highest order. "A Tout a l'Heure" is my song of the year.

5. Jacco Gardner Cabinet of Curiosities (Trouble in Mind)
If Waters had gone insane and left, and Syd had stayed, Pink Floyd may have sounded like this.

6. The Phoenix Foundation Fandango (Universal NZ)
Synth-laden Kiwi kitchen sink psych-pop. Candy for your ears.

7. Wire Change Becomes Us (Pink Flag)
A fabulous new art-punk salvo from perhaps the most underrated band ever.

8. Neon Neon Praxis Makes Perfect (Lex)
Crystalline conceptual synth-pop from Gruff Rhys and Boom Bip. Need I say more?

9. Queens of the Stone Age ...Like Clockwork (Matador)
Simply the best heavy rock band working today. Sooooo tasty!

10. Poni Hoax A State of War (Pan European)
French synth-pop masters of crooner-faced scrumptiousness.

11. The Besnard Lakes Until in Excess, Imperceptible UFO (Jagjaguwar)
Dreamy, shoe-gazey Canadian psych-pop joy.

12. Still Corners Strange Pleasures (Sub Pop)
Sparse, minimalist British pop wonderment!

13. The Black Angels Indigo Meadow (Blue Horizon)
Austin TX garage-psych masters. Like Clinic and the 13th Floor Elevators had a baby.

14. Steve Mason Monkey Minds in the Devil's Time (Double Six)
Erstwhile Beta Band frontman makes delightful, pensive indie-pop.

15. Atoms for Peace Amok (XL)
Thom Yorke, Flea, Nigel Godrich et al. You can imagine what happens.

And a bunch of other 2013 rekkids I have purchased and enjoyed...

Adam Ant Adam Ant is the BlueBlack Hussar in Marrying the Gunner’s Daughter (BlueBlack Hussar)
Bass drum of Death s/t (Innovative Leisure)
Bettie Serveert Oh, Mayhem! (Second Motion)
Billy Bragg Tooth & Nail (Cooking Vinyl)
BNLX LP (Susstones)
Charles Bradley Victim of Love (Daptone)
British Sea Power Machineries of Joy (Rough Trade)
Eric Burdon ‘Til Your River Runs Dry (ABKCO)
David Bowie The Next Day (Columbia)
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds Push the Sky Away (Bad Seed Ltd.)
Chelsea Light Moving s/t (Matador)
Mikal Cronin MCII (Merge)
Daughter If You Leave (4AD)
Deerhunter Monomania (4AD)
The Flaming Lips The Terror (WB)
Eleanor Friedberger Personal Record (Merge)
Guided by Voices English Little League (GbV)
Petra Haden Petra Goes to the Movies (Anti)
Hanni El Khatib Head in the Dirt (Innovative Leisure)
Robyn Hitchcock Love from London (Yep Roc)
Iggy & the Stooges Ready to Die (Fat Possum)
The Knife Shaking the Habitual (Rabid)
Mark Lanegan & Duke Garwood Black Pudding (Ipecac)
Majical Cloudz Impersonator (Matador)
Mudhoney Vanishing Point (Sub Pop)
My Bloody Valentine m b v (MBV)
The National Trouble Will Find Me (4AD)
Palma Violets 180 (Rough Trade_
Pere Ubu Lady from Shanghai (Fire)
Primal Scream More Light (Ignition)
Psychic Ills One Track Mind (Sacred Bones)
Sigur Ros Kveikur (XL)
The Strokes Comedown Machine (RCA)
Telekinesis Dormarion (Merge)
Vampire Weekend Modern Vampires (XL)
The Woggles The Big Beat (Wicked Cool)
Yeah Yeah Yeahs Mosquito (Interscope)

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Late to the Party and the Last to Leave, or My New Fav'rit Rekkids, Part 1

My apologies to anyone following this blog. I've been intending to write this post for weeks but haven't managed to find the time to do so. I have been engaged in a virtual orgy of music consumption since Record Store Day, and each week that I have put off writing this has only made the task seem more daunting. At any rate, I've been intending to write more in general, and this post in specific, and I've been failing. Mea maxima culpa.

So here's what happened. Repeatedly. Throughout my entire life.

I've always suspected that part of the reason why I became so obsessive about music is that it came to me so late. There was not a lot of music in my house growing up. Neither of my parents were anywhere near as into music as the rest of their ("Boomer") generation. My earliest musical exposure was almost entirely limited to school choir (I was once a pretty talented soprano, then one day I suddenly became a baritone and lost most of the vocal control I had as a child), whatever xmas carols and hymns I heard in church, and the classical and folk music that I would hear around the house. Sometime around the age of ten (circa 1980), my parents got divorced, I got my own bedroom, the first rekkids of my own, and I went nuts. Within a couple of years, all I wanted to do was collect records. Every dollar I could scrape together would go to the nearest record store. Then, right about when I started high school, a fabulous independent record store (Roadrunner Records) opened literally around the block from my house, compounding the problem. Essentially, I had arrived late to the party, but once I got there, I did not want to leave. This was the beginning of a pattern.

I collected records obsessively throughout the 1980s, and when CDs came around, I dismissed them almost entirely. They seemed to expensive and too plastic, and besides, I had already committed so much time and effort to my record collection, and I couldn't afford the upgrade to a CD player. Then in 1988, the year I graduated from high school, Frank Zappa (with whom I wan inordinately obsessed at the time) put out a new album Broadway the Hard Way which could not be had for love or money on vinyl, but was easily found on CD, and the CD had all these "bonus tracks". I bought the CD, but could only listen to it at a friend's house until I declared to my mother that I could not live without a CD player. Once again, I was late to the party. Once again, I did not want to leave.

At that point, I made a critical error. I over-committed to the CD. So much so that I sold off almost all of my vinyl. Within a few years my CD collection was huge, and my LP collection had shrunk to less than 50 titles, every one of them with some sort of collectibility factor justifying its presence. Then, sometime in the last decade (or maybe earlier) the vinyl resurrection began. As MP3s and file sharing began to make the CD more and more obsolete, record stores and record companies began to re-embrace vinyl more and more. To make a long story slightly less long, I was late to a few more parties. I was WAY late to the home computer party and way late to the MP3 party. Fortunately, part of my music collecting obsession has always been about loverly packaging and liner notes and tactile sensation and basically everything you cannot get without hard copy media. Consequently, I never got really sucked into the MP3 and file sharing party, though I do know people who did.

By way of maybe getting to the point, the vinyl resurrection is the latest party to which I arrived late, and has recently become the latest party that I never want to leave. I became more involved in collecting vinyl again a few years ago, when the first "official" Record Store Day took place. I have been a huge supporter of this event ever since, and in fact, I think it is the only event for which I've ever gotten up in the wee hours of the morning to wait in line for hours in the cold in order to get exclusive material. However, despite my love of Record Store Day, I had been resisting full commitment to reverting to vinyl. That changed a couple of months ago. After this year's event, and knowing that almost all new vinyl releases come standard with a free digital download (portability/iPod-ability is very important to me) I decided to more fully embrace vinyl records. I have officially changed my buying policy to vinyl first, CD second. Late again, still not wanting to leave.

That said, I haven't done a proper post about new music in way too long. The reason being not that there is not enough good music, but that, having once again arrived too late at an utterly fabulous party, I have gone absolutely buck-wild with it, and have been consuming almost too much new music to keep track of. I've been trying to keep track of all the new stuff, with an eye toward doing it all justice here, but there is so much that I can only give all too brief attention to all of the new things I've been listening to lately. So here are some brief blurbs on some of the new music I've encountered since my last entry. I think I'll call it...

My New Fav'rit Rekkids, Part 1:

Youth Lagoon Wondrous Bughouse (Fat Possum) - This is the rekkid I've been most eager to promote. It is one of those albums which haunted my mind almost immediately, in the same way that Pink Floyd's Piper at the Gates of Dawn did in my youth, and the Flaming Lips' The Soft Bulletin, Guided by Voices' Under the Bushes, under the Stars, Mercury Rev's Deserters' Songs, and Yo La Tengo's Electr-O-Pura (among others) did later. In fact, Youth Lagoon's mastermind, Trevor Powers seems to be cut from similar cloth at the Flaming Lips and Mercury Rev, and this new album is a magnificent bit of 21st century American psychedelic indie rock. Currently hovering behind Unknown Mortal Orchestra and Yo La Tengo on my best of 2013 list.

The Phoenix Foundation Fandango (Universal) - I just recently discovered these kiwi geniuses (which is odd, given my obsession with kiwi music of the past. I read a blurb on them in a recent issue of Mojo which said "for fans of Super Furry Animals...", which naturally captured my eye. While they don't actually sound that much like SFA, they do use a similar retro-kitchen-sink approach to making delicious, shimmering psych-pop. It's just that, while the Super Furrys are more obviously indebted to late Beatles and Brian Wison, the Phoenix Foundation is doing more of that early Rundgren and Fleetwood Mac thing that all the kids seem to be so into these days.

Savages Silence Yourself (Matador) - Honestly, the fact that a band can wear such obvious post-punk influences so proudly on its sleeve and somehow not sound in any way stale or even all that derivative is kind of miraculous. Sporting a singer who sounds almost exactly like Siouxsie, and songs that are cut from the Wire, Joy Division, and early Killing Joke mold, this rekkid is a magnificent example of a young band making old sounds seem entirely new.

Jacco Gardner Cabinet of Curiosities (Trouble in Mind) - More fabulous psychedelia from 2013. If Roger Waters had been the one who went off the rails, and Syd Barrett and Richard Wright had gone on to dominate the songwriting, Pink Floyd would have been a completely different band, and they might have sounded a LOT like Jacco Gardner.

Bibio Silver Winkinson (Warp) - I don't usually go into the "electronic" section of the record store, but when I do, it's to buy the new Bibio rekkid. Sharing a psychedelic lo-fi esthetic with Unknown Mortal Orchestra, but with a slightly more electro sensibility. This rekkid will end up in my top ten for the year, and the track "A Tout a l'Heure" might be my song of the year.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Record Store Day 2013

The Earth's inexorable journey around the Sun has brought us around to the third Saturday in April once again, and that means that the most holy day in my personal religious calendar is upon us once more. I speak, of course, of Record Store Day. That day when a certain select caliber of geeks assemble to celebrate their favorite independent purveyors of delicious discs of grooved vinyl. As a lifelong disciple of this odd little cult, I am compelled once again to make the early morning pilgrimage to the temples to pay homage (and no small amount of tithe) to the vinyl Gods. This is the story of my Record Store Day, the holy day, 2013.

Part One: The Electric Fetus

6:00am - Woke up, fell out of bed, dragged a comb... oh wait... that's someone else with hair. In any case, I drag myself out of bed, shower, and assemble my necessary necessaries. Checking the weather I am informed that the current temperature is a record low for this date. While the coincidence of a record low on Record Store Day may be amusing to some, the idea of standing on the corner of Franklin and 4th for over two hours in 23 degree weather is not pleasing. At least the Sun should be strong. The wife puts on a coat over her pajamas and we head out the door. 

6:50am - We arrive at the Electric Fetus and once again this year the line is already around the corner. The wife kisses me goodbye, shoves me out of the car, and leaves me to my fate. Taking my place in line, I note that despite arriving a few minutes later than last year, I seem to be a few spots ahead this year. I put this down to the weather. I put my headphones on, prop myself against the north wall of the Fetus and begin the long wait.

7:50am - One hour in. I am starting to get concerned about the state of my freezing toes. I can't wait to get to the East side of the building and into the stronger sun. At this point I overhear that the people at the head of the line with the bench and the blankets began their stakeout at 8:30 last night. I may be a little crazy, but those guys are nuts.

8:10am - Fetus employees finally begin to hand the numbers out determining the order that people may enter the cordoned off RSD exclusive release area. I am number 63, five spots earlier than last year, just as I suspected. I have no idea if this will make any difference. Once people receive their numbers, they are no longer compelled to stand in line, and many people seek a warmer spot to spend the remaining time before the doors open at 9. Having nowhere to go, I am compelled to stay, but thankfully the thinning line allows me to move to the considerably warmer side of the building. The sun and its reflection off the plate glass windows warm me nicely. My toes breathe a sigh of relief.

8:25am - I spy some familiar strangers. Two years ago there was a couple ahead of me in line who quite generously brought a couple of dozen Krispy Kreme donuts to share with people around them. At the time the woman was VERY pregnant. They walk past me now with no donuts, but with their child in tow. The geekdom is safe for another generation.

8:45am - I am lamenting the fact that the kind people from Dunn Bros. handing out free coffee are conspicuously absent. Note to self: No pocket cup.

9:00am - The doors open at last. The wait in the chilly exterior is over. The wait in the hot and crowded interior has begun. I grab a complimentary pastry from Glam Doll Donuts and a coffee courtesy of Angry Catfish Bicycle Shop & Coffee Bar. These are wonderful people. Let the waiting begin.

9:30am - After commiserating briefly with Bob the overworked manager, I start to wonder if that coffee may have been a mistake. I hope my number is called before nature does. Thankfully, the process seems to be moving faster than usual. I don't know if this bodes well or ill, but I'll take it.

9:50am - My number is up. They really are moving it along. I've never been in the exclusive area before 10am before. I enter the fray and join in the frenzied grab for choice nuggets.

10:00am - Finished with feeding frenzy, I head to the counter for a check-in and check-out with Bob. With a little help from my friends, I seem to have scored a goodly percentage of the most desired items on my list. Time to call the mrs for a ride home.

10:30am - Arrive home much earlier than expected. Time to use the facilities, have a snack, and sort the loot before the next journey.

Electric Fetus Scores. Tale of the Tape:

Record Store Day Exclusives:

Robyn Hitchcock There Goes the Ice double 12” 45
Stephen Malkmus and Friends Can’s “Ege Bamyasi” Played By Stephen Malkmus and Friends LP on green vinyl
Shuggie Otis Introducing Shuggie Otis LP
The Small Faces There Are But Four Small Faces LP
Tame Impala debut EP on raspberry red vinyl
The White Stripes Elephant double LP on red and black vinyl and white vinyl
The Animals The Animals Is Here 10” EP
The Black Keys/The Sooges No Fun split 7” on red and orange sunburst vinyl
Cheech & Chong featuring Alice Bowie Earache My Eye 7” on green vinyl
Husker Du Amusement double 7”
Moby & Mark Lanegan The Lonely Night 7”
Frank Zappa I’m the Slime/Montana 7” on green and blue marbled vinyl

Other Items:

Serge Gainsbourg Histoire de Melody Nelson LP
The Black Angels Indigo Meadow CD

Part Two: Hymie's Vintage Records' Record Store Block Party

12:45pm - Having recuperated from the morning's activities, the mrs and I head off to check out the doings at Hymie's Vintage Records.

1:00pm - Hymie's is a zoo. The rapid fire clerks are doing their level best, but with only one register they are swimming upstream. Meanwhile, I am finding waaaay too many pricey items calling my name. This could get ugly.

1:15pm - I have finally checked-out at Hymie's. I somehow managed to exceed my budget for this store by nearly 66%. What can I do? It's Record Store Day. The mrs and I head outside to check out the block party. Despite the unseasonable cold, the turnout is pretty nice for the party. The Sun has warmed the air to a much more manageable 40ish degrees, the band on stage is comporting itself admirably in the chill, and everyone seems to be having a pretty fabulous time. These are Minnesotans, after all. A little frigid air is not enough to spoil a party. A guy walks by carrying a huge box of records he has just purchased. Ah, Record Store Day...

1:20pm - The mrs and I duck into the neighboring cafe for a beverage and a snack. I am pleased to encounter my friend Douglas and his daughter. He assures me that I must stick around and check out the next band on stage outside at 1:45. We say "what the hell, why not?" and take a seat to enjoy our brief repast.

1:45pm - The aforementioned band, Prissy Clerks, takes the stage. Douglas was right to recommend them. Tasty post-Riot Grrrl indie rock a la the Bangs.

2:15pm - Prissy Clerks finish their set for an enthusiastic crowd. The mrs and I say our farewell to Douglas and head for home. I've been at it for over seven hours. I declare this Record Store Day another rousing success. So much fun. So many titles. So many People! Sooooo much delicious colored vinyl. Mmmmmmm... colored vinyl...

Hymie's Vintage Records Scores. Tale of the Tape:

Record Store Day Exclusive:

David Bowie The Stars (Are Out Tonight)/Where Are We Now? 7” on white vinyl

Others Items:

Blondie Parallel Lines used LP
Robyn Hitchcock and the Egyptians Fegmania used LP
Robyn Hitchcock and the Egyptians Globe of Frogs used LP
Gene Vincent Live at Town Hall Party 1958 &1959 LP
The Magic Christian – Original Sound Track used LP
The Small Faces Itchycoo Park/I’m Only Dreaming 7”
The Small Faces Tin Soldier/I Feel Much Better 7”

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Catching Up on the 1st Quarter of 2013

Over a quarter of this year of oh lawd 2013 is gone and to that quarter I say a hearty "good riddance!" Personal setbacks and the Winter that Would Not Die have drained me of my enthusiasm for most things, including this column. But it hasn't been all bad. There haven't been a ton of big new music releases this year, but what has come out has been pretty festive, including at least two bona fide masterpieces, as well as welcome returns from some old, old musical friends (actually, you'll have to forgive me if this entry reads like a who's who of the rock and roll geriatric ward). Besides, the minor family illnesses that have kept me tethered to the homestead have offered the opportunity to catch up on some of the big titles that I missed last year. So, in the interest of looking on the bright side of life, here is my best of the first quarter of 2013, along with some of my new favorites from 2012.

1. Unknown Mortal Orchestra II (Jagjaguwar)

I've already written extensively on this crunchy deliciousness, so I'll just say that this rekkid remains one of the great achievements of nouveau-psychedelia and is thus far in a heated battle for Rekkid of the Year with...

2. Yo La Tengo Fade (Matador)

... about which I have also gushed in a prior entry. The most darling of indie-rock darlings have gifted us with their best album in over a decade.

3. Wire Change Becomes Us (Pink Flag)

The grand old men of the art-punk industry return with a slate of new songs culled from and expanding upon instrumental fragments that were once part of their late-70s live show. By turns shimmeringly atmospheric and assertively charged, with lyrics both straightforward and deliberately obtuse, Change Becomes Us plays like both a brand new statement by a mature and seasoned collective, as well as an audio history of the band.

4. Atoms for Peace Amok (XL)

Thus far this has been a decade of all-star collaborations, and this is the latest example of the phenomenon. Amok finds Nigel Godrich, Joey Waronker, Mauro Refosco, and Flea getting together to assist in the gestation and birth of Thom Yorke's latest musical brain-child. The resulting jittery electronic rock laced with burbling funk provides an effective backdrop for Yorke's trademark desperate yelps and wails.

5. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds Push the Sky Away (Bad Seed Inc.)

Nick Cave continues his recent run of fabulous albums with a departure from his more aggressive releases of late, returning to a darker, quieter sound which should please fans of his bleaker, more acoustic works of old (I happen to like him both ways).

6. David Bowie The Next Day (Columbia)

The Thin White Duke emerges from semi-retirement with his first release in a decade. It is a fine outing indeed, don't get me wrong, but it doesn't quite live up to the enormous hype that much of the press heaped upon it prior to its release. Some critics were lauding it as a return to form after Heathen and Reality, which struck me as odd, as I found both of those rekkids to be pretty huge. As I said, The Next Day is a fine album, and a must for any Bowie fan. I don't think it is quite as good as his last two, but it's growing on me, and it is always good to hear from one of the true icons of rock and roll.

7. Bettie Serveert Oh, Mayhem! (Palomine)

More indie-rock goodness from Holland's finest Velvets/Pretenders disciples. As much tasty fun now as they were two decades ago.

8. The Woggles The Big Beat (Wicked Cool)

Athens, Georgia's finest purveyors of old school garage rock maximum r&b have not lost a step after 25 years. Pure, condensed, party-rockin' fun!

9. Chelsea Light Moving s/t (Matador)

Thurston Moore fills the Sonic Youth vacuum left behind by his unfortunate split with Kim Gordon with his latest rockin' teenage combo.

10. Robyn Hitchcock Love from London (Yep Roc)

Another quality release from one of the true greats.

Also good...

Adam Ant Adam Ant Is the Blueblack Hussar in Marrying the Gunner's Daughter (Blueblack Hussar)
Eric Burdon 'Til Your River Runs Dry (Abkco)
Pere Ubu Lady from Shanghai (Fire)
The Strokes Comedown Machine (RCA)

A pair of rekkids that would likely have cracked my top 20 of 2012:

1. Melody's Echo Chamber s/t (Fat Possum)

French singer Melody Prochet's collaboration with Tame Impala frontman Kevin Parker. Think Stereolab meets the new psych-rock. Sooooo delicious. Easily one of last year's best.

2. Dr. John Locked Down (Nonesuch)

Old Mac hooks up with the Black Keys' Dan Auerbach on this Grammy-winning (don't hold that against it) return to his turn of the 70s Night Tripper roots.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

My New Fav'rit Rekkid and Other Recent Bits

Between Yo La Tengo, Nick Cave, and the fabulous sophomore outing from Unknown Mortal Orchestra (simply titled II, and also my new fav'rit rekkid), 2013 is off to a pretty delicious start, I must say.

A couple of years ago, a muso friend of mine boldly stated that most music today (and in fact most music from the past four decades) is what he calls "melody-free music". I thought that was a rather narrow and largely inaccurate view and I told him so. There is plenty of quality melody in current music. I should know, I hear it every day. Case in point, Portland-by-way-of-New-Zealand psychedelic rock trio Unknown Mortal Orchestra.

When I first heard their debut album about a year ago, I was blown away by their sound. They were clearly well-versed in classic British psychedelia of the Soft Machine-Syd Barrett ilk, as well as 90's lo-fi and Elephant 6 indie-psych, and capable of standing beside such current masters as Dungen and Tame Impala while possessing a signature sound that also helps them stand out. Their new rekkid, while it did not hit me with the immediacy of their debut (the first cut, as they say, is indeed the deepest), repeated, somewhat obsessive listenings have shown it to be at least the equal of its predecessor.

Kiwi frontman Ruban Nielson has a true gift for melodic invention which at times seems to belong as much to a chamber ensemble or jazz combo as to a psychedelic band. Beefhearty harmonies and guitar fills that call to mind Hot Rats or Grand Wazoo era Zappa abound throughout. Almost classical arpeggiation - "Swim and Sleep (Like a Shark)" - fits nicely alongside crunchy power chords - "No Need for a Leader", and many tracks like the stunning "The Opposite of Afternoon" seem remarkably through composed for and indie rock act. Holding all of this together is the sound. All of these elements are emulsified by a psychedelic soup of compression, echoes, tremolo, and reverb that allows for every track to seem part of a cohesive whole. The entire production has a deliberately murky consistency that makes it sound like it is simultaneously being broadcast from the depths of the sea and the same corner of outer space that Lee "Scratch" Perry calls home.

Other Recent Activity

The new Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds album Push the Sky Away is a more brooding and less rock-inflected than his last couple of masterpieces, but is magnificent nonetheless.

Pepe Deluxe's whacked out, goofy, prog-psych-rock-opera epic Queen of the Wave is choice bit of fantasticness that would easily have cracked my top 10 rekkids of 2012 had I heard it in time.

Dutch indie stalwarts Bettie Serveert have a new rekkid out. It is called Oh, Mayhem! It rocks. That is all you need to know.

Slits guitarist Viv Albertine has emerged from the darkness with her solo debut The Vermillion Border after over two decades out of the music business. It's an arty, angry, post-punk affair. I likes it.

In a similar return from obscurity, Adam Ants clumsily-titled new album Adam Ant is the Blueblack Hussar in Marrying the Gunner's Daughter is a bit of an odd duck. It should please hardcore fans, but may baffle others.

Finally, grand old man of the industry Eric Burdon has a new solo album out entitled 'Til Your River Runs Dry. It's a pretty festive bit of old school blues laden rock from one of the last surviving greats of the British invasion

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Hoboken Shall Rise Again a.k.a The First Great Rekkid of 2013

2013 has, for the most part, picked up right where 2012 left off... sucktastic. One of the bright spots of the year thus far has been hearing a somewhat surprising bit of sonic wonderment from indie rock's most adorable and seasoned veterans. I'm talking, of course, about Yo La Tengo and their fabulous new album Fade, which is easily the first great rekkid of the year.

When I first heard that Yo La Tengo was putting out a new album, I gave my customary smile and shrug of the shoulders and thought, "well, I'll have to get that" and didn't give it much more thought than that. Interested, mildly enthused, but not overly excited. Then, a couple of weeks before its release date, I had a chance to hear an advance copy at work. My ears pricked up about halfway through and I thought, "now this IS something". After a couple of listens the January 15th release date absolutely could not come soon enough for me.

Don't get me wrong. Yo La Tengo's last few albums have all been quality affairs, well worth your time and interest. It's just that their 21st century works have all seemed to have that feel of a veteran band still doing high quality work without quite reaching the pinnacle of their glory days. Let's face it, there was a five album stretch from 1992's May I Sing with Me through 2000's And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out where each YLT release was something almost transcendent; a shimmering jewel whose every facet and tiny flaw only served to enhance its brilliance. Fade is a similar gemstone.

Clocking in at about 46 minutes, Fade is their most concise musical statement since 1993's Painful. In fact it may be their most magnificently minimal outing to date. It is easily their most cohesive and intimate rekkid since And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out. From its essentially one chord opening mantra "Ohm"(title and lyrics playing nicely with the connection between physics and Eastern philosophy), through the horn and string sprinkled swell of closer "Before We Run", Fade is a sonorous exercise in delicious atmosphere. Much of YLT's past can be heard throughout the rekkid. The deliciously languid "Two Trains" cops the casio hi hat beat from ATNTIIO's "Saturday". The fabulous "Stupid Things" would not be out of place on Painful or 1995's Electr-O-Pura. Yet these nods to the past seem less like recycling or self-homage, than a band learning from its past to create its present. At the center (or the beginning of side B, as it were) is the marvelously restrained "I'll Be Around", whose character sort of sums up my feelings about Fade as a whole: It's as if Yo La Tengo said to themselves, "We'd like to decorate a small section of time with music, but we don't want to do so much that we distract from the beauty of the silence".

Fade is gorgeous.