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.
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.
[Blackout's press photo, a/k/a the band photo that renders all previous and future band photos irrelevant.]
In all my years of excessive show-going, I don't think I'd ever attempted attending three different shows in one day, but with me having absolutely nothing else going on this lovely Saturday, I figured why the heck not. Right?
First stop was Union Pool for the second installment in their 2013 Summer Thunder weekly series. I've seen scores of shows at Union Pool, but this was the first time I'd ever seen one outdoors. Got there in time to catch the second half of opener Love As Laughter's set, which was highlighted by J Mascis joining in on guitar for the final song, a raunchy, slow two-chord monster that sounded an awful lot like Neil Young's "Like a Hurricane."
This foreshadowed what was *supposed* to come next - a performance by Mascis' Heavy Blanket side project. I thought that the Heavy Blanket album was too wanky, but I can totally get behind the psychedelic / bluesy / gratuitous guitar solo thing in the live setting. Unfortunately, with Mascis and his backing band right in the middle of their first song, they were told by what appeared to be venue management that the show was shut down because of noise complaints, and they complied after finishing that first song. This really sucks, and it doesn't bode well for the remainder of the Summer Thunder series, one would think, because it really wasn't all that loud.
[I talked with a few Union pool employees after the show who told me that the bar's elderly neighbors had complained about the noise, and Heavy Blanket posted on their Facebook today that, in fact, the cops had insisted on shutting it down. And simply moving the show inside wasn't an option. Sucks.]
Anyway, the show getting shut down was only the second worst thing that happened here, with the worst clearly being the dude wearing a Paramore tee shirt. Wtf? [Oh, yeah - don't bother watching the below video unless you really, really like looking at the backs of people's heads.]
So, tail between legs, I headed back to my apartment for a couple comfy hours before heading over to Vitus for White Widows with Blackout. Although I've heard both of these bands' studio work (the White Widows EP is pretty damn good), I'd never seen either of them live before. This was a free show, serving as a video shoot for a White Widows song. [Note: it looks like the band has officially changed its name to White Widows Pact, which makes sense, seeing as how "White Widows" was such a good name it had to have been used before. At this show, vocalist David Castillo introduced the band as "White Widows," so who knows.]
Blackout's set consisted largely of dirge-slow stoner / doom licks. Here's a small, unsatisfying tidbit:
White Widows was up next, and they brought the thunder, featuring heavy-as-fuck thrashy licks, dual lead vocals, and lightning quick drumming. These guys are tight as hell and I highly recommend their live show.
Needing to catch up on my pregame, I busted it out of Vitus a bit early and hurried back to my apartment to fuel up on cheap vodka. J train into Bowery, then walked over to Sullivan Hall... got inside at 11, just as Lawn Boys were finishing tuning up. This was my second time seeing these guys live, with the first being in late January, also at Sullivan Hall. I raved about the band's performance at that show, but they've somehow managed to further improve their jamming. The set was crammed to the gills with impressive type II improvisation.
Comparing any cover act to the band whose songs they're interpreting is rarely a flattering exercise, but Lawn Boys really stand out in that regard. For one, the song selection is spot-on, with nary a "Joy" or "Show of Life" or "Alaska" in sight, and these guys' attention to detail is really remarkable. What's more, they're unafraid to give big-time workouts to songs that Phish themselves rarely "jam out" these days - notably "AC / DC Bag," "Gumbo" and "Destiny" (the latter of which Phish has never really jammed out, to my knowledge) in the first set alone.
Highlights for me were the hilarious crowd participation during the "Secret Language" bits, said aforementioned "Bag," and "Gumbo," a "Gin" which seemingly channeled the legendary Great Went version, a jam on Daft Punk's "Get Lucky" jam in "2001," and, oh yeah, they nailed "Glide." Just a great show, with a rowdy, appreciative crowd, an extremely talented band, and holy shitballs what a setlist:
Set II: Ha Ha Ha$, Carini% > Twist&, Tweezer* > Ghost > 2001+, Gotta Jibboo, Harry Hood, Run Like an Antelope
Encore: Character Zero, Loving Cup, Tweezer Reprise
*with all fall down, Simpsons, and random note secret language in intro
**with Sand jam
***with Mind Left Body jam
@with NICU tease and extended Theme from the Bottom jam
# with plinko jam
$ band announced this was the 100th Phish song they've covered live
% brief Mind Left Body jam
& Oye Como Va jam
* with brief Tweezer Reprise tease in intro and with random note secret language
+ with Get Lucky [Daft Punk] jam
Lawn Boys played for over three hours with about a 20 minute setbreak, and I wound up not leaving Sullivan Hall until after 2:30 AM, and not getting home until about 3:30 thanks to the total joke that is late night J service. A pretty great Saturday, as well as great primer for Summer Tour '13 which.... HOLY SHIT I JUST REALIZED SUMMER TOUR IS LESS THAN A MONTH AWAY!!!!!!!!!!!!! YEAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!!!!!!!!
Turing Machine - What Is the Meaning of What -- Some of these tracks were recorded prior to drummer Gerry Fuchs' tragic death a few years ago. The rest of the band deliberated long and hard before deciding to complete these recordings, receiving assistance from some of Brooklyn's finest drummers along the way. It's Fuchs' relentlessly creative, propulsive drumming, in part, that makes this punchy krautrock album probably the best workout record of the year. Think Maserati but with more crunch and less reverb?
Best song: "Yeah, C'mon!"
Heavy Blanket - Heavy Blanket -- If you ever found yourself thinking, "man, I wish I could listen in on a J Mascis jam session when he's stoned off his ass," then this heaping plateful of noodly wankery might appeal to you more than it does me.
Beach House - Bloom -- Exactly two people have mentioned to me that they think this album "sucks." These people, in a nutshell, are assholes. (I know them well). Don't be an asshole.
Now, is Bloom as good as Teen Dream? No, it's not - there's a run of a few songs towards the end that don't quite live up to expectations. But let's not forget, people, Teen Dream is one of the finest records of the aughts, and, most importantly, Victoria Legrand's dusky vocals remain as irresistably charismatic as ever.
Best songs: "Myth," "Lazuli," "Wild," "Other People."