Jan 8, 2017

2015 Year In Review Part V: The Tracks

We continue now with my favorite 75 songs of the year. As per my somewhat standard disclaimer, the traditional notion of a "single" is virtually meaningless in an age of multiple exclusive promo streams, YouTube, Bandcampe, etc. - so these are just 75 tracks that made me happy in 2015.

75. "Dumb" - Jazmine Sullivan f. Meek Mill
74. "I Know There's Gonna Be (Good Times)" - Jamie xx f. Young Thug & Popcaan
73. "Cumbia de Donde" - Calexico
72. "Sapokanikan" Joanna Newsom
71. "Grief" - Earl Sweatshirt
70. "Dream Lover" - Destroyer
69. "Will of the Ancient Call" - Crypt Sermon
68. "Dope Cloud" - Protomartyr
67. "Can't Keep Checking My Phone" - Unknown Mortal Orchestra
66. "In the Dreams of the Dead" - Tribulation
65. "Autodidact" - Swervedriver
64. "Brought to the Water" - Deafheaven
63. "False Hope" - Laura Marling
62. "Speed Trap Town" - Jason Isbell
61. "All Day" - Kanye West f. Theophilus London, Allan Kingdom & Paul McCartney
60. "Run Away With Me" - Carly Rae Jepsen
59. "Backlit" - Kowloon Walled City
58. "Sagres" - The Tallest Man On Earth
57. "Mutant Standard" - Oneohtrix Point Never
56. "On To Something Good" - Ashley Monroe
55. "Sparks" - Hilary Duff
54. "Sedona" - Houndmouth
53. "Carrion Flowers" - Chelsea Wolfe
52. "Huarache Lights" - Hot Chip
51. "Dimed Out" - Titus Andronicus
50. "Demon" - Shamir
49. "Dime Store Cowgirl" - Kacey Musgraves
48. "Stonemilker" - Bjork
47. "Something Soon" - Car Seat Headrest
46. "History" - One Direction
45. "Honeymoon" - Lana Del Rey
44. "Coffee" - Miguel
43. "Ozymandias" - Horrendous
42. "A Quick Death in Texas" - Clutch
41. "Lonesome Street" - Blur
40. "Pretty Pimpin'" - Kurt Vile
39. "Nobody's Empire" - Belle & Sebastian
38. "Twist My Fingaz" - YG
37. "If It Takes a Lifetime" - Jason Isbell
36. "The Hunt Eternal" - Dead To A Dying World
35. "Lift Me Up" - Vince Staples
34. "Paul" - Girl Band
33. "Snakeskin" - Deerhunter
32. "The Yabba" - Battles
31. "The Black Plot" - High On Fire
30. "The Rhythm Changes" - Kamasi Washington
29. "Missing U" - Dam-Funk
28. "The Night Josh Tillman Came To Our Apt." - Father John Misty
27. "Clearest Blue" - CHVCHES
26. "The Book of Souls" - Iron Maiden
25. "A New Wave" - Sleater Kinney
24. "Biscuits" - Kacey Musgraves
23. "Accelerate" - Susanne Sundfor
22. "Let It Happen" - Tame Impala
21. "Feel You" - Julia Holter
20. "Depreston" - Courtney Barnett
19. "The Blacker The Berry" - Kendrick Lamar
18. "Really Love" - D'Angelo
17. "Sweet Satisfaction" - Ryley Walker
16. "Should Have Known Better" - Sufjan Stevens
15. "Hello" - Erykah Badu
14. "Bitch Better Have My Money" - Rihanna
13. "Ship To Wreck" - Florence + The Machine
12. "Pedestrian at Best" - Courtney Barnett
11. "Kill v. Maim" - Grimes


10. "I Really Like You" - Carly Rae Jepsen
Honestly, I wasn't a huge fan of this song upon first hearing, it felt too cutesy and a little too on the nose to get me excited about the follow-up to her big breakthrough album. But as I got to know its parent album better, the song's simple charms wormed into my head and heart. While not my favorite track on the record, see below, it's still another great single from an artist that is proving herself to be the furthest thing from a one-hit wonder.


9. "The Legend of Chavo Guerrero" - The Mountain Goats
While I'm not an obsessive Mountain Goats stan, I've grown to be a big fan of most things into which John Darnielle pours his energies, whether it's a book, a blog post or a new album. I particularly love it when he digs into his, ahem, nerdier pursuits - as he does on his latest Mountain Goats record, exploring the world of professional wrestling. No matter the filter, Darnielle remains an astute observer of the human condition and a killer song writer. "The Legend of Chavo Guerrero" joins an already lengthly list of beautiful songs he's written.


8. "24 Frames" - Jason Isbell
As you can see in the list above, I was really pleased with what the former Drive-By Trucker had to offer on his latest solo record. "24 Frames" was the best of an already very strong bunch, using the number of frames that pass by the camera in a single second to tell one of his typical introspective, heartbreaking tales. It earned it's place on the list from the very first time I heard its most crippling line, "You thought God was an architect / Now you know he's something like a pipe bomb / Ready to blow".


7. "Can't Feel My Face" - The Weeknd
This was another inescapable pop song from 2015 that I didn't like all too much on my first exposure. It didn't help that I was really loath to actually engage with The Weeknd, since I wasn't all that impressed with his initial woe is me misogyny schtick. But he's developed an undeniable talent for writing a killer pop song when he wants, and this being one of the best of those. There's an inescapable Michael Jackson vibe in how effortless this feels and how easily it worms into your head.


6. "Angels" - Chance The Rapper f. Saba
Even without a proper release, mixtape or otherwise, under his own name in 2015, it was still a productive year for Chicago's rising superstar. After the collaborative release with some of his Chicago area friends, more on that soon, he released "Angels" - the lead single for his highly anticipated third full-length mixtape. Produced by the Norwegian Lido, this song bounces along as a conflicted ode to both Chicago and the two sides of expectations on Chance's career, bolstered by gospel harmonies and a horn section. It boded well for that third mixtape.


5. "Gimme All Your Love" - Alabama Shakes
It's been really cool to see this band so quickly adopted by the mainstream rock industry and Grammy voters. Not that either group means all that much, but it's still a kick for me when a genuinely talented new group slips through the cracks. It helps, of course, when you've got the powerhouse vocals of Brittany Howard leading the way. "Gimme All Your Love" didn't get quite as much radio shine as "Don't Wanna Fight" did, but I found this to be the longer lasting of the two.


4. "Making the Most of the Night" - Carly Rae Jepsen
I was really disappointed to see how quickly Emotion sank. Sure, it came with unrealistically high expectations when following up one of the best pop singles of the past half decade, but I'm still baffled that it didn't connect more with fans and radio listeners. The more time I spent with it, the more charms were revealed, and this was the track I played the most. It didn't have the biggest names attached to it, like some of the other tracks on this album did, but it didn't need them either. This was just a burst of near pop perfection that required no extra help.


3. "Sunday Candy" - Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment
The name may not seem familiar to the uninitiated, but anyone who watched the December 5th, 2015 episode of Saturday Night Live won't be able to forget the infectious joy that Chance The Rapper brought to the stage while performing it. The album this came from was the brainchild of Nico Segal and his band The Social Experiment, friends of Chance from Chicago's incredibly underrated music scene. The whole album is well worth tracking down, but this was the clear standout for a reason - it's a sweet tooth's earnest dream, with Chance's unabashedly professing his love for his grandmother. Only a heartless person couldn't find the charm in this one.


2. "King Kunta" - Kendrick Lamar
I'll likely have more to say about Kendrick Lamar in the coming days, so you'll have to forgive me being a little brief on this one. To Pimp A Butterfly was, among many other things, one of the most profoundly impactful political statements of the year. And "King Kunta" was one of the most impactful moments within it. Starting from the titular references on down, I could unpack the lyrics for days. But I'd much rather have you click on the link above and experience it for yourself.


1. "Alright" - Kendrick Lamar
Yes, his name has popped up a lot on this list, particularly in the top two spots. And, yes, you'll be reading it again before my yearly lists are finished. But it's all with good reason and if I were to select any single track from To Pimp A Butterfly to show off just why I find it to be such an important, life-affirming record, "Alright" would be it. It's the shining moment of hope amidst the anger, pain and confusion. That shining moment of hope that both negates and underscores that anger, pain and hurt. It's an important moment of hope. That shining moment of hope that doesn't excuse or forgive the anger, pain, and hurt, nor should it. That shining moment of hope that we all may need to cling to a little more tightly right now.

Jan 6, 2017

2015 Year In Review Part IV: The Live Albums

Even though I don't make it out to nearly as many live shows as I used to, the live music experience is still key to my enjoyment. Here's ten live releases from 2015 that spent a lot of time filling my ears.


10. Drive-By Truckers - It's Great To Be Alive! (ATO Records)
Although this is the band's fourth live release and that we're several years past the band's "classic" line-up, this seems like what may stand up as the definitive live document for this killer band. It's three discs long and draws from the band's entire discography, giving a great taste of their deep catalog and how the songs are brought to life on the stage.


9. Grateful Dead - Dave's Picks Volume 15 (Rhino)
After years of watching from the sidelines, 2015 was the first time I'd been able to take part in the Dave's Picks series as I ordered the last two volumes of the year from the band's site. Volume 15 features a show from Nashville back in 1978, near the end of the Godchaux era line-up. Though it lacks many of the obvious jam vehicle highlights (no "Dark Star", no "China > Rider"), the set more than makes up for it through a great "Estimated Prophet > Eyes of the World" and a lovely "Wharf Rat".


8. Jack DeJohnette - Made In Chicago (ECM)
Recorded at the Chicago Jazz Festival in 2013, this set captures DeJohnette in a reunion of sorts with some of his old AACM cohorts - Muhal Richard Abrams, Larry Gray, Roscoe Mitchell and Henry Threadgill. It's a wide ranging set that is both electrifying and lovely, a terrific document of legendary jazz artists. Good on ECM for making the set available to a wider audience.


7. Chris Robinson Brotherhood - Betty's Blends Vol. 2: Best from the West (Silver Arrow)
I've become a big fan of these guys over the past few years, appreciating the band's cosmic R&B funk take on the jam band scene. This set captures seven songs from the band's summer 2014 West Coast run, kicking off with their second set jam vehicle, "Vibration Light Suite". The Betty in the title is Betty Cantor-Jackson, the legendary archivist for none other than the Grateful Dead. She brings her great ear to the CRB, with grand results.


6. Ty Segall Band - Live in San Francisco (Castle Face)
Castle Face's ongoing live series that documents their bands live in San Francisco has been a blessing, continued here capturing Ty Segall and his band in a raucous set at The Rickshaw Shop. The set is heavy on 2011's Slaughterhouse, though one of the set's highlights is the chooglin' take on "Feel" from his Manipulator album. If, like me, you've yet to been able to get out to see a live Ty Segall show, this is probably your best next bet.


5. Neil Young & The Bluenotes - Bluenote Cafe (Reprise)
Even if we never do actually see Archives, Volume 2, I'm thankful that Neil's camp at least continues to dribble out occasional entries in the Archives Performance Series. This set is drawn from the tour following 1988's This Note's For You - not typically thought to be a career highlight. But this set reveals that while the album may have disappointed, the live configuration was pretty damn tight. There are plenty of highlights, but disc two is the bee knee's for me, culminating in a twenty-minute take on "Tonight's the Night".


4. Grateful Dead - Dave's Picks Volume 16 (Rhino)
For the last entry in 2015, Dave reaches back in the vaults for a show from March 1973 - when the band was fresh off the career highs of the 1972 European and late summer tours. As I expected to it going in, the half-hour "Dark Star" that led into "Eyes of the World" and a wonderful "Playing in the Band" was the highlight, but the entire show is a worthy addition to the collection of any Deadhead.


3. Phish - Amsterdam (JEMP)
We didn't get a Phish archival physical release in 2014, so I was pleased when it was announced that June was going to bring us an eight-disc box set comprised of three nights at the Paradiso in Amsterdam during the winter and summer of 1997. That year was a killer one in general for the band, these shows are among the peaks of a peak year. There are plenty of highlights spread over the three nights, including a gorgeous "Ghost" and a half-hour "Stash".


2. Grateful Dead - 30 Trips Around the Sun: The Definitive Live Story (Rhino)
The Dead celebrated their fiftieth anniversary in 2015, highlighted by some reunion shows that brought Trey Anastasio in to stand in for Jerry Garcia and some archival looks back into the past. I wish I'd had the spare $700 sitting around to get the massive 80-disc porch crusher that contained one entire live show for all thirty years of their touring career. Instead, I had to settle for this four-disc distillation that pulled one song from each of those shows. It's still an incredible trip through the band's history and showing the evolution of the group's sound through new members and new technology.


1. The Velvet Underground - The Complete Matrix Tapes (Universal)
As great as the Re-Loaded box set was, this four-disc set was the true holy grail of 2015 for Velvet Underground fans. The collects material from the band's two night stint at San Francisco's The Matrix in November of 1969. At this point, the band had released their self-titled album back in March and were working on what would become Loaded the following year. As you might expect, the band presents the material is sometimes drastically different form from what they'd had been, or would be, in their studio configurations. An absolute treasure trove of material from a legendary band at their absolute peak.

Jan 5, 2017

2015 Year In Review Part III: The Reissues / Compilations

Rolling along here, let's move on to my ten favorite reissues and compilations of 2015.


10. Iron & Wine - Archive Series Volume 1 (Black Cricket)
Even though I've liked the growth we've heard from Sam Beam over the years, I still love the material he first recorded under the Iron & Wine name back in 2002 and 2003. Which is why I was very excited to see the first entry in his Archive Series, which collects rare and unreleased tracks from the recording sessions of The Creek Drank The Cradle and The Sea & The Rhythm. If you are at all a fan of those records, this will be a worthwhile addition to your collection.


9. Ty Segall - Ty Rex (Goner Records)
As I mentioned in my EP wrap-up when talking about the Mr. Face double 7", there has been an element of glam rock creeping into Ty Segall's work over the past few years. This compilation helps explain why, as it pulls together two EPs worth of T. Rex covers. While he doesn't go for the obvious hits, it's still a lot of fun and easy to hear just how compatible the two artists are.


8. Swans - Filth (Young God)
I've really loved following the resurgence of Michael Gira's Swans over the past half decade or so, even though I missed out on their original run by being too young and in the wrong place at the wrong time. So I was pleased when Young God put together this lovely multi-disc reissue of their debut album from 1983, which adds on EP material and live performances from the era. Even without where the band would go, it's an important document of the noisy New York scene from the early 1980s.


7. Kenny Knight - Crossroads (Paradise of Bachelors)
The private press record from Colorado's Kenny Knight has been a highly prized collector's item for those interested chasing down those particular dark alleys of the music collecting world. Fortunately Paradise of Bachelors rescued the album from private shelves and in doing so proved that sometimes these private press records are very much worth reaching a larger audience. After spending many years in garage rock bands, Knight recorded this record in 1980 under the heavy influence of American Beauty-era Grateful Dead. Full of melancholy and pedal steel, this is a great time capsule.


6. Van Morrison - Astral Weeks / His Band and the Street Choir (Warner Bros.)
Growing up, I was never much of a Van Morrison fan. I'd heard "Brown Eyed Girl", "Moondance" and "Domino" so much that I thought I never needed to explore any further. Yeah, that was pretty wrong-headed, but fortunately these two reissues turned me around. Astral Weeks in particular won me over, particularly the lengthier tracks. Even Street Choir sold me on his R&B side. Probably not necessary for his diehards, but much appreciated for those of us just dipping in our toes.


5. Faces - 1970-1975: You Can Make Me Dance, Sing or Anything (Rhino)
I'm not sure that this presents the definitive versions or remasters of the band's work, but this was a much appreciated way for me to get all of their essential material for less that $40 - and it sounds just fine for me. This retrospective set collects the band's four studio albums (each including bonus live cuts, outtakes and session tracks), as well as a bonus disc of non-album singles and other stray droppings. For a guy (like me) that grew up hating Rod Stewart, it's been fun discovering just how great this band was.


4. Sun City Girls - Torch of the Mystics (Abduction)
As I've explored various corners of the musical world, particularly in those that tie back to folk and psych rock, I've kept coming across the name Sun City Girls as a touchstone. Add in discovering Sir Richard Bishop through his work in Rangda with Ben Chasny and Chris Corsano, and I started to feel like his former band was some missing chunk of my musical life. Their work isn't all that easy to track down these days, so I was happy to see a reissue of what many consider their most seminal work. And it's easy to see why, this reveals a group that never ceased searching and absorbing influences from, quite literally, all over the globe.


3. The Velvet Underground - Loaded Re-Loaded 45th Anniversary Edition (Atlantic)
The fantastic reissue campaign for The Velvet Underground's studio output concludes here, unless they're seriously seeing big money for a fat Squeeze era package, with the band's final album with Lou Reed. The album itself is terrific. Even if it never gets as experimental or "out" as their earlier releases, it's still a handful of some of the greatest rock and roll songs ever recorded. This deluxe box set adds in mono versions, demos, outtakes and an entire live set from Max's Kansas City. Essential for VU fans, almost as essential as their other archival release from 2015 (but more on that later).


2. Miles Davis - At Newport: 1955-1975: The Bootleg Series Vol. 4 (Sony Legacy)
I waffled on which list to include this with. While it technically is live material, it just seemed to make more sense in this category (complaints about this decision can be sent directly to the editor at the address on the tin). This collection does pretty much what it says, collecting a series of Miles' performances at the Newport Jazz Festival between 1955 and 1975. Most from the original Rhode Island location, but the later sets come from the German, Switzerland and New York variations. Anyone familiar with Miles' career knows exactly how much he evolved in those two decades and the music within is very reflective of that, ranging from an all-start jam with Thelonius Monk and Zoot Sims in 1955 to the extended "Funky Tonk" workout of 1975. Essential stuff.



1. The Flaming Lips - Heady Nuggs: 20 Years After Clouds Taste Metallic 1994-1997 (Warner Bros.)
When The Flaming Lips issued the three-disc Finally the Punk Rockers Are Taking Acid collecting back in 2002, it was an essential piece of my expanding musical universe. While this rounding up of that weird period after they broke into the alternative nation and crashed into Beverly Hills 90210 isn't quite as definitive, I've still found it to be a thrilling trip through a confusing point in the band's history. The EP material from this era is really nice to have, but what won me over was the blown-out fuzz and noise of the live disc included. This material won't be for everyone, not even some of the Lips' biggest fans, but I enjoyed the hell out of it.

Jan 4, 2017

2015 Year In Review Part II: The EPs

Staring in on the lists of my favorite music from 2015, we kick things off with the 10 EPs that most knocked my socks off.



10. Primitive Man - Home Is Where The Hated Is (Relapse)
I was impressed by this Denver doom-sludge group's debut, Scorn, back when Relapse reissued it a few years ago, but I'm more excited about the band's future with this follow-up EP. In four tracks in just over half an hour, the band explores all shades of heavy intensity that the album title might indicate. Things get even more interesting when they bring in elements of black and death metal, but the sludgy doom is where this band's heart lies.



9.  Mac DeMarco - Another One (Captured Tracks)
I almost left this one off of my list, after reading a few tales of this guy's frankly creepy escapades off the stage. But things never seemed to evolve much beyond the level of rumors and gossip, so I'm not going to boot the guy just yet. Basically this mini-LP finds DeMarco right in his sweet spot, low(er)-fi indie rock that isn't afraid of being accessible and wearing the classic rock influences right on the sleeves.



8. Black Tremor - Impending (Self-released)
Saskatoon's Black Tremor continue the grand tradition of exciting and boundary-pushing metal bands coming from our neighbor in the Great White North. On paper, this shouldn't work. An instrumental psych-doom trio featuring bass, drums and... violin. Yeah, violin. But it works great, with the subtle and droning music conjuring images of the incredibly cold and bleak Canadian prairie. A real surprise for me and I can't wait to see where they may go next.



7. Orchid - Sign of the Witch (Nuclear Blast)
After two full-lengths and a handful of EPs, Sign of the Witch is this San Francisco doom band's latest and second release since signing with Nuclear Blast. There's a healthy dose of Sabbath worship here, but let's not start pretending now like that's a bad thing. Besides these guys have the good sense to pull just as much from Dio era as they do from the Ozzy years. The title track isn't as immediate as the other three, but it's the one that I kept coming back to and hints at great things for the next release.



6. King Woman - Doubt (The Flenser)
I picked this one up on a tip from the fine folks over at Burning Ambulance, and I'm glad I followed up on it. Another San Francisco band, this quartet was founded by Kristina Esfandiari after leaving the also worthwhile shoegaze band, Whirr. Allowing her to flex some heavier muscles, King Woman's sound is rooted in psychedelic doom though still leaving plenty of room for the heady shoegaze swirl. Small wonder that Relapse has since snapped these guys up for a full-length due in 2017.



5. Aphex Twin - Computer Controlled Acoustic Instruments pt2 (Warp)
Coming hot on the heels of the rapturously received Syro and in the midst of various soundcloud data dumps, this half hour of additional music continued to show off the wide range of Richard D. James. As implied by the title, this is James playing around with acoustic instruments that are played by signals via various circuit boards, tying this into experimental music and prepared instruments from the last half century. Even without this framework, it still works really well as a another fine entry in James' late era catalog.



4. Kult of the Wizard - White Wizard (Self-released)
I honestly don't know a whole lot about this Minnesota quartet, other than this being the band's first release with a vocalist after a pair of instrumental EPs a few years back. Mahle Roth brings a nice touch with her haunting vocals, allowing these guys to rise above the rather crowded field of occult, stoner doom bands. Full disclosure, good Twitter pal and all-around good guy Erik Highter adds some great electronic noises to "Plasma Pool".



3. Coffins - Craving To Eternal Slumber (Hammerheart Records)
I've long been a fan of Tokyo death/doomers Coffins, but they are a difficult band to keep up with, considering the flood of singles, EPs and splits they put out every year. To my ears, this half hour EP was the high point of their 2015, leaning more heavily on the mid-tempo death metal riffs in their arsenal, but just as dirty and nasty as ever. These guys ain't for everyone, but it's hard to see why fans wouldn't be pleased by this.



2. Ty Segall - Mr. Face (Famous Class)
Technically a double 7" single (with some awesome 3D artwork), this comes close enough to qualify as an EP for me. The four tracks somewhat hint at a new direction for Segall, though none of them stray all that far from his wheelhouse. On the surface these tracks remind me more of '60s psych-rock than anything else, yet each filtered through the glam rock haze that Segall's been a fan of in recent times. It's a small dose for this prolific guy, but an important one.



1. Denner / Shermann - Satan's Tomb (Metal Blade)
For many of you that are fans of 1980's metal, those two names up there are pretty familiar. For the uninitiated, Hank Shermann and Michael Denner were the two original guitarists for the legendary Meryful Fate. While King Diamond is out doing his solo the thing, these two guys decided to get back together and form a new project, bringing in Marc Grabowski on bass, Snowy Shaw on drums and Cage's Sean Peck on vocals. No, he's no patch for King Diamond. But no one would be and Denner and Shermann's guitar pyrotechnics more than make up for it. A thrilling piece of throwback metal and an exciting teaser of the follow-up full-length.

Jan 2, 2017

2015 Year In Review Part I: The Introduction

As everyone else is just digesting the 2016 year-end lists, I'm just finally getting around to putting my 2015 lists out there. While I'm intentionally running a bit late (I prefer to actually wait until the calendar flips and I want to make my way through everything, not just what I've heard before an arbitrary deadline), it's never this intentionally late.

But here we are. Writing in retrospect, here in the waning days of 2016, 2015 seemed like a goddamn golden age by comparison. The world had it's problems, but the future didn't yet feel as bleak as it does now. Still, 2015 was a pretty decent year for me personally, if one that found me in a bit of a holding pattern. Same ongoing project at work that started in March of 2013, so nothing's really changed there. Still spending as much time as I can with my wonderfully curious and sharp son, enjoying how he looks at the world.

In terms of music, I can't say that there were any really overarching themes in my listening. I continued chasing further down many of the same rabbit holes I've enjoyed - the various strands of the metal family tree, stoner rock, with occasional forays into jazz. Otherwise just pulling what I liked from rock, indie rock, hip-hop, R&B and countless other genres. I've continued to slip further away from hip-hop and radio pop. This isn't anything intentional, I'd love to keep being impressed with what I hear, but when Drake is still held up as the paragon of interesting hip-hop AND R&B, well, no thanks.

Over the next few posts you'll see much of the same as past years as I present my favorite EPs, reissues/compilations, live albums, tracks and albums. But before we fully get started, here's a look at the past...

Albums of the Year:
2003: Outkast - Speakerboxx/The Love Below
2004: Modest Mouse - Good News for People Who Love Bad News
2005: Bloc Party - Silent Alarm
2006: Mastodon - Blood Mountain
2007: Battles - Mirrored
2008: Erykah Badu - New Amerykah Part One (4th World War)
2009: The Flaming Lips - Embryonic
2010: Janelle Monae - The ArchAndroid
2011: Fucked Up - David Comes To Life
2012: Goat - World Music
2013: Steven Wilson - The Raven That Refused To Sing (and Other Stories)
2014: D'Angelo and the Vanguard - Black Messiah

Singles of the Year:
2003: "Hey Ya" - Outkast
2004: "Take Me Out" - Franz Ferdinand
2005: "Since U Been Gone" - Kelly Clarkson
2006: "When You Were Young" - The Killers
2007: "Stronger" - Kanye West
2008: "Time To Pretend" - MGMT
2009: "My Girls" - Animal Collective
2010: "Fuck You" - Cee-Lo Green
2011: "Super Bass" - Nicki Minaj
2012: "Bad Religion" - Frank Ocean
2013: "The Wire" - Haim
2014: "i" - Kendrick Lamar

Jan 11, 2016

RIP David Bowie 1947-2015


I have to admit, this was shocking news to wake up to this morning. It wasn't just that I was a big fan, it wasn't just that I had recently been in another of my deep dives into his catalog, no, it was more that there had been so many reasons just recently to believe that he'd be around for a long time yet. Just two short days before he passed was the man's 69th birthday, not to mention the release of his 25th studio album, the well received Blackstar. A record that pointed to yet even new directions for a man never content to rest on his laurels or with sticking with what has worked well in the past.

I was slow to get into Bowie, mostly only acknowledging him through my childhood by the inescapable singles and classic rock staples that filtered through my world - the ubiquitous (for a child born in 1976) "Let's Dance", "Modern Love", "Blue Jean", "Fame '90", "Fame", "Space Oddity", "Rebel Rebel", not to mention his appearance in Labyrinth. It wasn't until college and he spent some time palling around with Trent Reznor and being covered by Kurt Cobain that I undertook my first of many deep dives. Immediately enamored by the early 70s run, I mostly stopped there, it took a few more years and a wider musical berth before I grabbed onto Station To Station, Low, and "Heroes". From there I was caught up and able to experience Bowie's career in real time, starting with Heathen. The excitement and thrill of his return with 2013's The Next Day was an absolute joy to experience, and I was really excited to hear what else Blackstar was to bring.

And I still haven't explored it all. As of this writing, I've still yet to hear many of his albums int heir entirety - Young Americans, Tonight, Never Let Me Down, Black Tie White Noise and both Tin Machines, to be specific. But I look forward to having unexplored terrain, knowing that with Bowie's restless mind and enormous talent there will be something unexpected around every corner. Pushing Ahead of the Dame was, has been, and will remain a treasure while I continue to explore the man's legacy.

I also have yet to crack open Blackstar, I picked it up on Friday but my busy weekend never allowed the time I wanted to sit with it. I was planning to listen today, but somehow I didn't think I could deal with it. Tomorrow. Or the next day. Or maybe I'll continue to console myself by randomly skipping through his massive catalog.

There are plenty of other, more thoughtful, knowing tributes to read out there today, so I'll just leave this with a clip of one of my favorite pieces of Bowie related ephemera - the scene in Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds when Shoshanna is preparing for "German Night" at the soon to be decimated movie theater while Bowie's "Cat People (Putting Out Fire)" plays. It's anachronistic, to say the least, but a powerful movie moment and one of the keys to unlocking Bowie's 80s work.



Jan 5, 2016

Phish NYE @ MSG - "Twist"

Probably the only blog out there that'll go from the 'Mats to Phish but, hey, here we are. One of these days I want to make it out to NYC for a NYE run at MSG, but for now I'll have to content myself with AUDs and the videos, like the one below, that surface on YouTube. This is an absolutely killer "Twist" that heads into some funky places, I especially dig when Trey steps on the gas out of the swampy, murky jam about 11 minutes in.

Once I work my way through the last two nights of the run, I'll offer up some thoughts in preparation for their upcoming three nights in Mexico.