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
1.) SONG OF THE YEAR: Palma Violets - "Last of the Summer Wine"
Just like countless other great rock n' roll songs, this one's greater than the sum of its parts. Yeah, the intro's too long on this song. And so's the outro. The lyrics are moronic. (The "official" video is absolute garbage - see above.) And the chord progression isn't exactly original but... there's just somethin' about the classic guitar tone and the finesse they play the lick with and the sweet, sweet melody that slays me every time.
"How bad did this year suck?" you ask. Well, it sucked so bad that I had to change the rules to where live albums are disqualified just to keep an archival live release from being my Album of the Year. Why did I feel the need to even bother tweaking the formula? I DON'T FUCKING KNOW!!!!! So, I guess, congrats to Phish for having the year's best release overall. Huzzah!
Anyway, let's have at it, shall we........
1.) ALBUM OF THE YEAR - Deafheaven - Sunbather
A gorgeous, terrifying, exhausting album - casual listening this is not. While retaining the unrelenting brutality of black metal as the musical underpinning, Sunbather adds gorgeous, melodic guitar lines reminiscent of Explosions in the Sky, ratcheting up the drama with a keen Mogwai-esque understanding of how to manipulate quiet / loud dynamics.
2.)Ceramic Dog - Your Turn
This is a helluva album, and it's also a helluva unexpected album. It's incredibly rare that a musician who has attained Marc Ribot's level of success and renown in the jazz world chooses to express himself artistically in a manner that's as angry, ornery, and loud as Your Turn, but it's not simply experimenting with a mode of expression that's a triumph here; it's that the album is a smashing success. Your Turn takes its detours down several stylistc alleys (heavy blues / hard rock, grunge, distorted fusion jams reminiscent of late-period Hendrix, and even a cacophonous, distortion-heavy update of a classic jazz tune) while streamlining the more freeform, scattershot approach taken on the trio's more noodly previous album, Party Intellectuals.
Ribot's tone on Your Turn is furious, his desire to rock is unwaveringly unapologetic, and the music's heavy grooves are arresting. So, listen to this if you like great music, otherwise feel free to go fuck yourself.
3.) Jimi Hendrix - People, Hell and Angels
If you're skeptical of yet another posthumous Hendrix release, you should be; the list of "archival" stuff that's been pinched off in the 43 years since Hendrix' death is littered with shoddy quality bootleg material and inessential, often redundant crap, the sheer quantity of which greatly outpaces the (occasionally transcendent) worthwhile stuff by a large margin. Sure, I'm definitely a sucker for unreleased / archival stuff, but this release works surprisingly well on its own as a cohesive album. Comprised mostly of material Hendrix was working on as a follow up to Electric Ladyland, People, Hell and Angels allows the listener a rare glimpse at what might have been had Hendrix' appetite for heroin and pills been less fiendish.
4.) Palma Violets - 180
Earlier this year, Palma Violets were apparently the subject of the creepy-ass UK music press' embarrassing crush; of course, if you're actually regularly reading the NME you've likely already lost the battle. Regardless, this album is a real success, incorporating classic chord progressions, strong melodies, and a warm, inviting garagey sound into their sonic stew. Where many indie acts seem to be self-consciously stuck playing small ball, 180 is unafraid to swing for the fences, evoking the work of several of music's heavy hitters (J&MC, Stone Roses, Velvets, even Springsteen) without being dominated by their influences.
5.)The Men - New Moon
The Men are a band that's seemingly always in the middle of significant stylistic flux, and growing pains are to be expected as a side effect of significant experimentation. New Moon sees them attempting to situate their music on an AM AOR station circa 1976. But for all the genre hopping that they've done over the course of their relatively brief career, to their credit these guys seem like real students (and practitioners) of "what makes rock music great," instead of simply hipster dilettantes.
When I moved to Brooklyn during summer '08, I found myself going out to a ton of "extreme" metal shows, which very quickly converted me into being a fan of the (at the time) burgeoning black metal genre. There's something to be said about cranking every aspect of a musical performance up to eleven, and that's what I found appealing - there was, quite literally, no other presentation that one could witness in the live setting that was as intense.
However, after a bit, the orthodoxy of the genre really started to piss me off. When "kvlt" jackasses began attacking (and occasionally physically threatening) Liturgy's Hunter Hunt Hendrix for injecting some originality into the genre was a real turn-off, and left a bit of a sour taste in my mouth. Finally, I actually passed the fuck out while listening to a Krallice album during a plane flight from Los Angeles to JFK in late '09. A month later, I wrote a review of another black metal album as being "technically accomplished; bone-crushingly loud; forged from unimpeachable integrity; and virtually impossible to listen to in its entirety in one sitting." Yikes!
So, fast forward to a couple months ago, when a friend gave me Sunbather a month prior to its official release. My first listen to the album left me truly moved - for me, Deafheaven has breathed life into a tired archetype, infusing black metal's unflinching brutality with the delicate, emotive grace of Explosions in the Sky, with a definite apprecation of (and penchant for manipulating) quiet / loud dynamics.
At this show, I was unprepared for the singer's emo-inflected stage presence, near-constant posing, and, uh, his black gloves. I've read several rave reviews of Deafheaven's live show, but for whatever reason, I just wasn't buying it on this night.
I've become increasingly bored by the "kvlt"-imposed dogma within black metal's restrictive template, and, like Liturgy before them, Deafheaven succesfully tweak the formula (despite sounding nothing like Liturgy). While retaining the unrelenting brutality of black metal as the musical underpinning, Sunbather adds gorgeous, melodic guitar lines reminiscent of Explosions in the Sky, ratcheting up the drama with a keen Mogwai-esque mastery of quiet / loud dynamics.
Guided by Voices - English Little League
If you take issue with GbV's post-comeback output, you probably never liked the band in the first place. Each of 2012's *three* GbV full-lengths successfully hearkened back to the many strengths of the "classic" lineup, cramming Robert Pollard's fractured bits of grungy pop, Beefheartian experimental weirdness, and full-on guitar rock up against one another, punctuated every so often by Tobin Sprout's deceptively simple (yet delightful) melodicisms. This is the fourth full-length installment of the new chapter of old GbV, and their output has been so vastly superior to Robert Pollard's largely uninspired solo work of the past, oh, I dunno, eight years or so, that I sincerely hope Bob can continue to find new inspiration in this setting (despite recent assertions to the contrary).
Deerhunter - Monomania
The pre-release deluge of press for Monomania did little other than to show just how eagerly the indie world will bend over backwards to fellate Bradford Cox. While this album was widely referred to by fawning fanboys as "Deerhunter's garage rock album,' I fail to see the connection, other than the somewhat lo-fi recording techniques. Garage rock is generally characerized by simple yet catchy melodies, which are nowhere to be found on Monomania. Great (or even good) garage rock can be joyous and fun; this album is too narcissistic to be anything other than tedious. And finally, garage rock actually, you know, "rocks," which this album doesn't come close to doing at any point. While Cryptograms and Microcastle were fascinating albums, characterized by interesting textures and warped-yet-skillful melodic sensibilities, Deerhunter's last two albums seem to sadly fall into the traps of their fellow labelmates at hype factory 4AD, namely in that backstory, ego, and hipster cred trump actual decent songwriting.