Heheheheheheh. Ah, 2014: another year where I tell myself 'this is the year my obsessive show-going addiction ends;' another year where I see more shows than anyone I know who isn't employed at a performance space / venue. WHEEEEEEEEE!!!!
A quick list of locations where I've seen shows this year:
--Brooklyn (double natch)
--on a boat circling Manhattan
--Commerce City, CO
--Miami (in 7 days!)
As of this very moment, I've seen 93 concerts this year, and I've got at least three more coming up - Uncle Ebenezer at Knitting Factory Saturday night, Television (first time seeing them) at Irving Plaza on 12/28, and a little up-and-coming rock band who I think are called Assface in Miami on New Year's. The following is my totally subjective, largely meaningless, and wholly amusing (to me) recap of the best stuff I saw in '14.
Oh, and Happy Holidays to all!
The Ten Best Phish Shows I Saw All Year:
1.) Phish, 10/31/14 MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas
2.) Phish, 7/13/14 Randall's Island, NYC
3.) Phish, 7/27/14 Merriweather Post Pavilion, Columbia, MD
4.) Phish, 8/29/14 Dick's Sporting Goods Park, Commerce City, CO
5.) Phish, 11/2/14 MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas
6.) Phish, 10/22/14 Santa Barbara Bowl, Santa Barbara
7.) Phish, 7/26/14 Merriweather Post Pavilion, Columbia, MD
8.) Phish, 10/28/14 Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, San Fran
9.) Phish, 7/11/14 Randall's Island, NYC
10.) Phish, 8/31/14 Dicks Sporting Goods Park, Commerce City, CO
An outstanding rock record in an era when such things are increasingly rare. Although Adam Granduciel's Tom Petty fetish is obvious throughout Lost in the Dream, he exhibits an uncanny ability to avoid sounding clicheed in a domain that seemingly has little virgin territory. Beyond his songcraft (and even his singing voice), this is Granduciel's greatest debt to Petty.
2.) Dope Body - Lifer
Those who simply lump Dope Body in with the new wave of 90s noise rock revivalists are missing a major point. Yes, there are plenty of AmRep and Touch and Go-indebted idiosyncracies embedded throughout Lifer, but I dare anyone to show me an album by the likes of Drive Like Jehu, Polvo or The Jesus Lizard that is anywhere near as hooky as this one.
3.) The Austerity Program - Beyond Calculation
Several degrees of magnitude more intense, furious, and generally awesome than two geniuses with a drum machine have any right being.
4.) Beck - Morning Phase
Taken as a companion piece to 2002's Sea Change, Morning Phase manages to deal with similar topics (heartbreak, loneliness, growin' old) without being as overbearingly morose as Sea Change. Much unlike its predecessor, Morning Phase actually winds up with a vaguely pleasant, positive overall tone.
5.) Earthless Meets Heavy Blanket - In a Dutch Haze
As the story goes, Earthless guitarist Isaiah Mitchell was unable to make it to the gig at which this album was recorded, allowing Heavy Blanket's J Mascis (also of Dinosaur Jr, natch) and Graham Clise the opportunity to save the day in Mitchell's stead. What results is nearly an hour of pure, explosive, unbridled improv, even more berserk and unhinged than a typical Earthless live joint. Yes, there's some sloppiness and wheel-spinning on here, but the peaks on this match the most frenzied jamming from Earthless' proper catalog.
6.) The Raveonettes - Pe'ahi
While little has changed with the compositional style and framework behind Sune Rose Wagner's melodic surf-noir mini masterpieces, his eagerness to experiment with varied instrumentation gives Pe'ahi a different flavor than all previous Ravonettes releases. This time around, the subject matter touches on the recent passing of Wagner's estranged, alcoholic father, giving much of the material a particularly caustic bite.
7.) The Men - Tomorrow's Hits
After a bevy of releases featuring styles ranging from explosive noise to kraut-everything to acoustic folk, these shape-shifting Brooklyn punks (*former* punks?!) can credibly add "70s Classic Rock FM Radio" to the list of genres they've successfully conquered.
8.) Todd Terje - It's Album Time
If you're the type of bitter old curmudgeon who hates young whippersnappers *and* their crappy, soulless EDM, fear not - this is an electronic album that you can really (choose one: a.) sink your dentures into; b.) wrap your adult diaper around; c.) stir into your high-fiber supplement beverage so as to provide superior flavor). It's Album Time mixes legit bangers with cool downtempo shit and enough cleverness and humor to make even the most geriatric old-timer respect (and love!) our robot ovelords.
9.)Bobby Bare, Jr. - Undefeated
The perennially underrated alt-country lifer finds songwriting inspiration in love and loss (in particular, the dissolution of his relationship as depicted in the documentary, Don't Follow Me (I'm Lost)), interminable, low-reward touring, and the inherent sadness of absentee fatherhood. But it's not all doom and gloom; "North of Alabama by Morning" is a tale of dogged perseverence, and album closer "Don't Stand at the Stove" is an undeniable barn-burning rocker.
10.) (the) Melvins - Hold It In
You'd think that the Melvins joining forces with Butthole Surfers Gibby Haynes and Paul Leary would result in some epic weirdness, but oddly the opposite happens. While Hold It In is one of the two or three least experimental / most straightforward studio efforts in the Melvins' 30-plus year history, something something bone-crushing riffs, something something hilarious song titles.
11.) Guided by Voices - Cool Planet
12.) Perfume Genius - Too Bright
13.) Haunted Hearts - Initiation
14.) Pelican - Arktika
15.) Sharon Van Etten - Are We There
16.) Hookworms - The Hum
17.) Mogwai - Rave Tapes
18.) Guided by Voices - Motivational Jumpsuit
19.) Early Man - Thank God You've Got the Answers for All of Us
20.) Floor - Oblation
21.) Queen - Live at the Rainbow
22.) Mogwai - Music Industry 3, Fitness Industry 1 EP
"Sir, may I offer you some honey with your barbed wire?" When spitting out some of the most heartbreakingly personal lyrics ever written, it softens the blow when said lyrics are delivered by an artist with some of the finest pipes in the business.
Producer of the Year: Todd Terje
On It's Album Time, Terje manages to employ (and master) such an incredibly diverse array of sonic awesomeness that it's absolutely frickin' amazing the record doesn't sound scattershot and spread terribly thin. (It doesn't, and it's one of the year's best.)
Guitar Performance of the Year: Adam Granduciel (on The War on Drugs' Lost in the Dream)
Never flashy, always classy with his "beer commercial lead guitar shit," Granduciel manages to evoke both Tom Petty *and* Mike Campbell throughout The War on Drugs' sprawling masterpiece.
Best Album for a Lazy Sunday afternoon: Beck - Morning Phase
Much more appropriate for this purpose than, say, Midnight Vultures, which is only good for dispersing crowds filled with people who have good taste in music.
Best Workout Album and Best Driving Album: Earthless Meets Heavy Blanket - In a Dutch Haze
One track, 53 minutes; all manner of ridiculous guitar solos, mindbending riffs, and galloping rhythms. Perfect for my drive from Brooklyn to Long Island (almost to the minute), and equally perfect to listen to while crushing some cardio and losing some L B's, you fat slob.
My Most Listened-to Album of the Year, According to iTunes: The War on Drugs - Lost in the Dream
It's only fitting that I'd award the Album of the Year trophy to the one with most listens (spoiler alert). Still immensely rewarding, 23 full listens in.
My Most Listened-To New Songs of the Year, According to iTunes:
1.) Guided by Voices - "Littlest League Possible" - 49 plays 2.) Guided by Voices - "Planet Score" - 47 plays 3.) The War on Drugs - "An Ocean in Between the Waves" - 41 plays 4.) Floor - "Sister Sophia" - 39 plays 5.) The Men - "Pearly Gates" - 38 plays 6.) Dum Dum Girls - "Little Minx" - 36 plays 7.) Mogwai - "Simon Ferocious" - 35 plays 8.) Beck - "Morning" - 34 plays 9.) The War on Drugs - "Burning" - 33 plays 10.) (tie) Bobby Bare, Jr. - "Don't Stand at the Stove" - 31 plays 10.) (tie) The Raveonettes - "Endless Sleeper" - 31 plays 10.) (tie) The Men - "Different Days" - 31 plays
Quote of the Year: Jon Fishman, 7/27/14 Merriweather
"The workers have come back from their day in the fields Jennifer Dances - and she cooks me a fuckin' meal That's all the words I know to this song Jennifer..... MY DONG!"
Assholes of the Year: Scott Stapp (and his fans)
Of course, the usual suspects (Dave Mustaine, Ted Nugent, Varg Vikernes, Exene Cervenka) would be worthy choices in pretty much any year, but Scott Stapp's recent descent into homelessness and insolvency is the freshest "what an asshole!" moment in our minds.
But should he be fully blamed? At best, he's a minimally talented, totally delusional, semi-literate Tea Party-level moron with a fucking messiah complex to boot. Mocking Scott Stapp is like stealing candy from a quadruple amputee. This is a man who would've never been anything without the legions of tone-deaf whiskey tango morons that made Creed a multiplatinum band.
(or watch one of the *two* videos I shot of this song before Tomorrow's Hits was released)
Todd Terje - Swing Star pt. 2
The Austerity Program - "Song 32"
Death Vessel - "Island Vapors" apparently hasn't been uploaded to YouTube, so instead watch this live video of homeslice performing "Block My Eye" (from the previous Death Vessel album) live in studio.
Holy schnikies, has it been nearly five months already since my last Jalepzerz post?! Sure, time has passed, seasons have changed, and adult beverages have been consumed en masse, but honestly I still have no friggin' clue how often I'm going to be able to write for this blog going forward. Sobeit. Regardless, this past weekend, when it's disgustingly humid out and I'm dealing with the tail end of a nasty case of WookFlu, might as well fire up some of the ol' keyboard tap-tap-taparoo.
Oh, yeah - I should have a bunch of show reviews from Summer Tour coming up in the weeks ahead, but for now I'm'a try to tackle some of the best non-Phish stuff of the year. As such, here's the 10 best albums of the year, in approximate best-to-least-best order. There's obviously a ton of potentially great albums coming out over these next few months (Death From Above 1979, Melvins, Perfume Genius, etc.), so it's pretty likely this list will look much different at year's end, yadda yadda yadda.
The 10 Best Albums of 2014, So Far.
The War on Drugs - Lost in the Dream -- An outstanding rock record, during an era in which such things are increasingly rare. Although Adam Granduciel's Tom Petty fetish is evident throughout, Granduciel has an uncanny ability to avoid sounding clicheed in a domain that seemingly has little virgin territory. Beyond his songcraft (and even his singing voice), this is Granduciel's greatest debt to Petty.
Earthless - In a Dutch Haze -- As the story goes, at the last minute Earthless guitarist Isaiah Mitchell was unable to make it to the show at which this was recorded, allowing Heavy Blanket's J Mascis (also of Dinosaur Jr, natch) and Graham Clise the opportunity to save the day. What results is nearly an hour of pure, explosive, unbridled improv, even more berserk and unhinged than a typical Earthless live joint. Yes, there's some sloppiness and spinning of wheels on here, but the peaks on this match the most frenzied jamming from Earthless' proper catalog.
Beck - Morning Phase -- Taken as a companion piece to 2002's Sea Change, Morning Phase manages to deal with similar topics (heartbreak, loneliness, growin' old) without being as overbearingly morose, actually winding up with a vaguely inspirational overall tone.
The Raveonettes - Pe'ahi -- While little has changed in the way that Sune Rose Wagner composes his melodic surf-noir mini masterpieces, his willingness to experiment with varied instrumentation gives Pe'ahi a different flavor than all previous Ravonettes releases. This time around, the subject matter touches on the recent passing of Wagner's estranged, alcoholic father, giving some of the material (in particular "Summer Ends") a caustic bite.
The Men - Tomorrow's Hits -- Although a few of the moments on Tomorrow's Hits seem a little bit trite (the horns on "Another Night," in particular) these shape-shifting (former??) Brooklyn punks can credibly add "70s FM Radio" to their list of conquered genres.
The Austerity Program - Beyond Calculation -- Infinitely more intense, furious, and generally awesome than two geniuses with a drum machine have any right being.
Todd Terje - It's Album Time -- To me at least, it's high praise to mention that several of these songs could be easily mistaken for alternate backing tracks from Gorillaz' excellent Plastic Beach album. It's Album Time is relentlessly diverse, reimagining the best work of contemporary electronic artists (Holy Fuck, Maserati, Ratatat before they jumped the shark), tipping its cap to classic '80s synthpop sounds, as well as indulging in other assorted playful goofiness.
Bobby Bare, Jr. - Undefeated -- The perennially underrated alt-country lifer finds songwriting inspiration in heartbreak (in particular, the dissolution of his relationship as depicted in the documentary, Don't Follow Me (I'm Lost)), interminable, low-reward touring, and the inherent sadness of absentee fatherhood. But it's not all doom and gloom; "North of Alabama by Morning" is a tale of dogged perseverence, and album closer "Don't Stand at the Stove" is an undeniable barn-burning rocker.
Sharon Van Etten - Are We There -- Three major features set Sharon Van Etten apart from generic confessional coffeehouse claptrap. First, her lyrics are so deeply evocative and self-deprecating that hearing them can, at times, be uncomfortable. Second, she possesses a singing voice gorgeous enough to swath her pointed words in soothing honey. Third, she has an uncommon gift for pop songwriting unmatched by other current artists with the dreaded "singer-songwriter" tag (this album would be worth it for the incredible "Tarifa" alone).
Guided by Voices - Cool Planet -- basically a toss-up here between Cool Planet and GbV's *other* 2014 release, Motivational Jumpsuit, this one gets the nod due to superior contributions from GbV second-fiddle Tobin Sprout. Yes, GbV's musical landscape is dotted with all manner of in-jokes and throwaways, but to those who have the necessary patience, that just makes discovering their diamonds in the rough all that much more rewarding.
Honorable mention: Guided by Voices - Motivational Jumpsuit; Haunted Hearts - Initiation; Floor - Oblation; Swans - To Be Kind; Pelican - Arktika; Low Fat Getting High - Poor Circulation; Mogwai - Rave Tapes; Death Vessel - Island Intervals.
This right here is the rockin'est track we've heard from Jalepzerz Fave(TM) Bobby Bare, Jr. since his excellent The Longest Meow album. It's the lead track from his upcoming Undefeated album, which comes out April 15th. Read about it at spin.com here.
If you're a fan, or even if you're just a fan of great music documentaries, be sure to check out Don't Follow Me (I'm Lost), which details Bare Jr.'s life around the time of the release of his previous album, A Storm, A Tree, My Mother's Head. I watched it last weekend, and it's highly recommended - the film manages to both break *and* warm the viewer's heart at points throughout, plus it includes plenty of live footage of Bare Jr. performing many of his best songs. You can rent it here for $4.99, or you can buy a DVD copy direct from the artist himself here.
Whew. Whatta year, amirite?! Yes, new music may have been a bit lacking, but fortunately the one constant that remains is that there's a shit-ton of great live music coming through NYC year-round. When I moved to Williamsburg in '08, I did so almost entirely because of the proximity to so many music venues; nearly 6 years later, that remains my biggest motivation for sticking around.
In fact, my show-going affliction reached new heights this year - I did a rough count last week, and if I wind up going to the New Mastersounds afterparty following the Phish show on December 29th, I will have seen a robust *98* distinct concerts in 2013. According to Jalepzerz' / MeatBox archives, that's a personal record (although I've eclipsed 90 shows in several other years), and as proof, I uploaded literally hundreds of videos to my YouTube channel, effectively documenting my own crime spree.
So, here I sit on Christmas Eve, workin' on my final post of the year for this blog; a post that focuses solely on the highlights of my showgoing for the year. In 4 evenings, Phish NYE Run starts, and if some notable, epic shit goes down, several of these lists could be (at the very least) a bit out of whack and (at most) completely irrelevant. I welcome that. :->
See you in the new year, everyone!
Best Live Show of the Year - Phish at Hampton Coliseum, 10/20/13
Top 10 Phish shows I personally attended this year:
10.) 10/25/13 DCU 9.) 11/1/13 AC 8.) 8/4/13 BGCA 7.) 11/2/13 AC 6.) 7/6/13 SPAC (fuck off, I loved this damn show) 5.) 10/19/13 Hampton 4.) 7/14/13 Merriweather 3.) 10/27/13 Hartford 2.) 10/26/13 DCU 1.) 10/20/13 Hampton
The best three non-Phish arena shows I saw in 2013:
16.) Split Open and Melt at SPAC, July 6 15.) Rock and Roll at BGCA, August 3 14.) Crosseyed and Painless at Holmdel, July 10 13.) Twist > Under Pressure at AC, November 1 12.) Theme from the Bottom > Shaft theme at AC, November 2 11.) Drowned at Worcester, October 26 10.) Harry Hood at Merriweather 9.) Runaway Jim at BGCA, August 4 8.) Stash at Merriweather, July 14 7.) Carini at SPAC, July 6 6.) Carini at AC, October 31 5.) Golden Age at Hartford, October 27 4.) Piper > Taking Care of Business at Hampton, October 20 (yup, this is cheating) 3.) Light at Merriweather, July 14 2.) Seven Below at BGCA, August 2 (in spite of the butchered composed section) 1.) Carini at Hampton, October 18
"I've been holed up, working on writing the most miserable batch of songs ever... it's our goal for these songs to leave you depressed and miserable," Bobby Bare Jr. announced at his recent Mercury Lounge show, before launching into one of the evening's many fine new songs. The moment was quintessential Bobby Bare Jr., in that he eagerly (and humorously) plays the part of self-deprecating sad-sack, slugging beer and shit-talking, but he delivers with better tunes and stage skills than any alt-country act, and it's not even fucking close. How his work remains so underrated, I haven't a clue.
I became an "accidental" fan of Bobby Bare Jr.'s music when I was present at his set as the opening act at a show in September, 2006 at Webster Hall, during which his country-inflected rock tunes (rock-inflected country tunes?) made the subsequent set by headliners Drive-By Truckers totally irrelevant. I bought everything I could find by the dude, noting that many of his studio albums leaned a little too much towards traditional C&W for my tastes, although I grew especially fond of his Nick Nacks and Paddy Whacks live album and the mostly live OK - I'm Sorry... EP.
Much to my delight, his next studio album (and first new one after I became a fan), the excellent The Longest Meow, was recorded mostly live in the studio (in one 11 hour session), capturing the thrills and spills of his always-excellent live show. Since then, I've seen Bobby Bare, Jr. perform many times with his always-roving cast of fellow Nashville residents, and it's incredible to me that the quality of the performances can remain at such a high level with the live lineup in seemingly constant flux.
Tonight's set kicked off with with "Mayonnaise Brain," a song Bare, Jr. has said was written about witnessing The Pixies melt faces at a live performance. [The Pixies are one of Bare's most obvious influences; he has performed in a Pixies cover band, he has covered "Where Is My Mind" in concert and on record, and many of his songs share a quirky power-pop sensibility with the best Pixies work.] "Valentine," one of my personal favorites, (and a recent Song of the Week) was up next (see above for video). A new song, one with a bassline that sounded like Booker T and the MG's playing Floyd's "Any Colour You Like" followed. Fuckin' sweet there.
The next run of songs (not including new ones, which I don't know the names of, obviously) included some of his better contemplative material - "I'll Be Around," "Don't Go to Chattanoonga," and "Visit Me in Music City." For some reason, directly following "I'll Be Around," a gaggle of 50-something striped-shirt douchebags (why were they at the show in the first place?) began streaming out of the room. Bare announced, "well, that's the best song we know; that's the best song you, the audience, will hear tonight, so yer all free to leave," which drew laughs from the faithful. Bare continued humorously complimenting the fleeing shitnutses: "see? Those motherfuckers know what they're doing! Smart folks." "Terrible Sunrise" (introduced as "a song written about realizing you need to stop hangin' out with your drug friends") fucking rocked, and contained a full-on jam of the Star Wars theme song... if only my video (below) hadn't run out before the song's thrilling climax.
I should mention that I REALLY enjoyed the new material, which was a good thing because he played at least a half dozen new songs. Most of them really rocked, which bodes well for a new album, whenever that may materialize. Bare has taken the helm on a couple of interesting projects over the last few years (shit man, whatever pays the bills), including a Shel Silverstein tribute album which featuring artists as diverse as My Morning Jacket, Andrew Bird, and Kris Kristofferson. His 2009 American Bread EP was a collection of his covers of songs by the band Bread. At this show, his version of the song "Cover of the Rolling Stone" (originally written by Silverstein, commonly known as a Dr. Hook song) was top notch, as was his subsequent take on The Smiths' "What Difference Does It Make?", a longtime Bare setlist staple.
The final "old" song of the evening, "Borrow Your Cape," was the only track performed off of The Longest Meow, highlighted by a cacophonous, Big Rock Finale (which unfortunately was cut off when my iPhone ran out of space... AGAIN, goddamn it). The set ended with another pair of new originals, the last one of which Bare described as being the song he's most proud of composing. (It was pretty great.) Bare graciously thanked the remaining crowd for sticking around and staying out late on a Tuesday evening, but when was the last time I got 90 minutes worth of rockin' great tunes on a Tuesday night? Sheee-it.