Monthly Archives: December 2011

Smoke Pot, Smoke Pot, Everybody Smoke Pot…

What better way to end this year of 2011 than a freaked out cover of the Beatles by Oklahoma’s favorite wasted sons, The Flaming Lips.

I am wishing everyone a safe, healthy 2012.

Mark Sandman Documentary

I saw the band Morphine at the Fillmore in San Francisco on two consecutive nights back in June of 1995. Both shows were good, they belong in the list of the best concerts I have attended. The cool slide bass, the saxophone over the laid back drums, and Mark Sandman’s world-weary vocals. The album Cure For Pain is one of my all time favorites.

Poster for the Morphine Fillmore shows - June 95

The following trailer for a documentary on the life of Mark Sandman just came to my attention. This is on my ‘must see’ list.

My Picks of The Best Albums of 2011- Part 3

5) Wilco – The Whole Truth

There seems to be two sides to Wilco, the band with straight forward songs written in a typical style and the band that will deconstruct and reassemble songs in an interesting sonic structure. On The Whole Truth they try to find a middle ground between these two styles. The Art of Almost is a brilliant balancing of the experimental and the typical. The album is a full of contradictions.

4) Gary Clark, Jr. – The Bright Lights EP

An EP in the running for Best of the Year? Yes, it is just that good. This young man seems to have it all and will be one to watch in the upcoming years. Gary Clark, Jr can play low down blues guitar, play fluid like Jimi Hendrix or croon a sweet soul tune with the best of Memphis singers. The Bright Lights EP showcases his guitar playing and his songwriting. Not a bad start.

3) Paul Simon – So Beautiful, So What

Paul Simon deals with big questions on this album…is there an afterlife, is there a god, why do we repeat the same mistakes…all with dignity and a world beat. Maybe I am old school or maybe just old, but his songwriting resonated with me. Like all good works of art it makes you ponder. The Afterlife and Rewrite are both on my best song of the year list.

2) Wild Flag – Wild Flag

Carrie Brownstein (Slater-Kinney)and Mary Timony (Helium) form a band, they write songs that sound like Stones blues rock, Nuggets era garage rock, old school first wave punk and put out a hell of a rock album. Carrie and Mary trade off songs through out the release. Mary tends to be a little more quirky and complex with her compositions while Carrie is more straight ahead ‘pedal to the floor’.

1) Tom Waits – Bad As Me

The more I listen to Bad As Me the more convinced I am that it is close to perfect. Everything flows and the songwriting is edited down tight. You find the usual Tom Waits characters living in those songs…the world weary, the melancholy, the love-lost, the ‘I’m gonna leave my old life behind and start living anew’…and they are all good songs. But the one song that will stick with you is the antiwar song Hell Broke Luce. You will find no better or angrier song about the life of an enlisted military man stuck in a meaningless war.

My Picks of The Best Albums of 2011- Part 2

10) Kurt Vile – Smoke Ring For My Halo

Kurt Vile makes sonically dense confessional songs that are sounding less and less lo-hi these days. Not quite singing, but not quite mumbling he leads the listener through an album that sounds part diary and part affirmations. He has crafted a wonderful layered sound that will grow on you with each listen. Unless your ear is strictly tuned to the lo-hi indie scene you probably have never heard of Kurt Vile, but I think you will hear his name more in the future.

9) Middle Brother – Middle Brother

Middle Brother is made up of the frontmen of three bands (Deer Tick, The Dawes and Delta Spirit) which makes this sort of a supergroup of the indie rock world, but you would never know it. The music sounds fresh, not at all like a quickie side project. There is a great cover of the Replacements song Portland on the album full of solid originals.

8) The Black Keys – El Camino

A solid album of Nuggets sounding gems from the duo of Dan and Patrick. Producer/DJ Dangermouse has helped them craft an album of killer hooks and retro sounding modern music. Lonely Boy is a perfect groove driven single that you can imagine blasting out of a hundred AM radios on a warm summer night. This is the perfect summer album that just happened to be released in the winter. There is nothing cold or sterile about this bunch of songs.

7) My Morning Jacket – Circuital

My Morning Jacket are known as the band with the heavy reverb and that high smooth voice of singer Jim James. The music is hard to pin down. Part folk, part psychedelic space prog-rock, part head banging southern rock…on album they can be all over the musical map. On Circuital they still explore, but keep a tighter reign on the directions there explorations take. Not the perfect album that I expect to come from them, but not a let down.

6) PJ Harvey – Let England Shake

I confess. I miss the PJ Harvey of old. The guitars and gravelly blues voice. But this album might just change my mind. This work of art with her voice floating above the music and her lyrics about the great war and England’s place in the world is an intriguing album. It is not easy listening, you won’t be tapping your toes, but it held me captive when I listened to it.

My Picks of The Best Albums of 2011- Part 1

15) Ryan Adams – Ashes and Fire

Ryan got back to the task of making music in 2011 with this stripped down set. His best collection of songs since Heartbreaker. Ryan seems to be maturing and looking back on his youth while embracing love and the future. The music is mostly acoustic with color added with keyboards and electric guitar and fits perfectly with the mood of the new songs.

14) Thurston Moore – Demolished Thoughts

Thurston’s solo work tends to have the feel of ‘rushed side project’, but this record (with production by Beck) has the feel of a new organic beginning. Violins and acoustic guitars are not what one would expect from the Sonic Youth guitarist, but this form of chamber folk music works with Thurston’s open ended writing. I am interested in where this will lead and look forward to his next album.

13) Steve Earle – I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive

Recorded in five days and produced by T-Bone Burnett, Steve Earle’s 14th album is full of good songs. He is not as angry as he once was, but his honest writing can still pack a punch. Not a political album, but his song Little Emperor cuts former President George Bush and his ego down to size. Earle is at his best on his love song to his wife, Every Part of Me, this simple song of love and devotion is one of the best songs of the year.

12) Gillian Welch – The Harvest and the Sorrow

Gillian Welch makes timeless music. This album is full of great music and songs with the dark sense of living with hope in hopeless times. Gillian and David Rawlings blend their voices together to form a beautiful and haunting sound. I have read reviews dismissing this album. Don’t believe them. Scarlet Town, The Way It Goes, Hard Times are some of her best songs. The melodies will stick with you for days.

11) Off! – The First Four EPs

Fiftysomething Keith Morris has been in hardcore for years. Fronting Black Flag and the Circle Jerks he is an elder statesman and much respected among his peers. I never expected this blast of fresh music from Keith at this late of a date. But Off! floored me the first time I heard them. Straight forward angry punk with Keith’s snarled lyrics. 16 tracks delivered in just under 17 minutes. Classic stuff.

Song For the Rough Week Ahead…

I walk on concrete
I walk on sand
But I can’t find
A safe place to stand
I’m scared baby
I wanna’ run
This world’s crazy
Gimme’ the gun – Polly Jean Harvey ‘Big Exit

Miles Davis – Blue Xmas

My Favorite Archival Releases of 2011

2011 seemed to be the year of huge boxsets made up of remastered, expanded and repackaged ‘classics’. Some of these were the absolute definitive editions and some just reeked of the money grab. I have picked my top five of these archival releases that saw the light of day in 2011.

5) Miles Davis Quintet – LIVE in Europe 1967: The Bootleg Series Vol. One

Just when you thought there was nothing left in the Miles Davis vault worth releasing Columbia starts up a ‘Bootleg Series’. These recordings are from radio and television broadcasts recorded over a one week span on a tour of Europe by one of the greatest jazz bands ever…Herbie Hancock on piano, Wayne Shorter on saxophone, Ron Carter on bass, Tony Williams on drums and Miles Davis on trumpet. By late 1967 that band had recorded four albums together and were a  juggernaut on stage. This three CD/one DVD set is a improvised music fan’s dream.

4) Phish – Hampton/Winston-Salem 1997

Speaking of improvisation…this set highlights the creativity of America’s best jamband. In 1997 Phish had discovered funk and the joy of laying down a groove…then slowly building on that foundation and watching it grow and morph, usually into dark psychedelia. This is a document of three complete shows on their fall tour. The music is not always perfect (there are a few blown notes and some rough passages) but that just reminds you that the people creating this sublime music are human after all.

3) Grateful Dead – The Complete Europe 1972 Tour

Leave it up to the Grateful Dead to release a boxset of a complete tour. Innovative packaging with an essay on every show from various Dead scholars plus a book full of photos from the tour make this the high water mark for all other boxsets to aim for. This thing is massive and I must admit I have not listened to every note played on the discs, but I will. This is the sound of a band caring about the music and pushing the limits during the improvised sections. Way too pricey for the casual fan, but a must have for the hardcore Dead addict.

2) The Rolling Stones – Some Girls Expanded

When you listen to the outtakes from the Some Girls sessions you will notice the number of ‘country leaning‘ material left off the album proper. Had they added one more country sounding song to the album it would have change the way that the album is now viewed, which is as the Stones answer to the punk rock movement exploding at that time. Some Girls could have been a completely different album, but still as strong…only different. The outtakes hold up and Keith’s version of “We Had It All” is beautiful.

1) The Beach Boys – Smile

This has lived in my CD player since its release. It brings a smile to my face every time I listen to it and every time I listen I hear little nuances that I have overlooked before. ‘Smile’ is an absolute masterpiece of rock music.

Ryan Adams on the Henry Rollins Show

Henry and Ryan Comparing Tats

Song for the Rough Week Ahead…

A Bob Dylan Christmas song…huh? Yes, a Bob Dylan Christmas song…and a video to go along with it. Bob seems to have hit the eggnog heavily during the filming of this. The whole thing has that slight acid flashback quality to it. It is just flat out bizarre. Grab your own eggnog, throw another log into the fire and enjoy.

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