[All hail Metz. Also, all hail this Metz tee shirt, which is appropriate to wear absolutely nowhere.]
OK, I gotta get this one done quick - the stamps have let me out of my cage just long enough for me to stretch my legs and get a drink of water. Let's do this.
THE BEST (AND WORST) ALBUMS OF 2015, pt. II
The King Khan and BBQ Show - Bad News Boys-- Reunion album for these garage-soul bad boy lifers. For all of their public bickering and onstage meltdowns, the fact that remains that the much of the best music *both* has made throughout their prolific careers has been in the company of one another. Grade: B-
Lightning Bolt - Fantasy Empire-- Ya had to laugh when purists fretted about Lightning Bolt's decision to finally record an album in a proper recording studio. What did people expect, a fucking No Doubt record?! Fortunately, the material on Fantasy Empire fits in nicely with much of Lightning Bolt's previous output, with the benefit of a little added clarity and dynamics. (Not to mention what's likely the best song of the year.) Grade: B
Liturgy - The Ark Work -- This is either one of the worst albums I've ever heard, or another chapter in what just might be the greatest troll in history. (Either way, trust me, you don't want to listen to it.) The ever-irascible Triple H has incorporated all manner of cheap, shitty-sounding keyboard effects here, while somehow transforming Greg Fox' once-mighty drum sound into something that makes the production on St. Anger sound like a job well done. Grade: F
Lower Dens - Escape From Evil -- It's a little disappointing that as the proper follow-up to their their deep, dark, thrilling breakthrough album (2012's Nootropics), Lower Dens has settled for more conventional songwriting and occasionally aimless, bland melodies. But this one is growing on me. Grade: B-
Metz - II -- True, Metz does only one thing, but they do that one thing better than any other band does ANYTHING. Just a devastatingly awesome sonic assault, and the likely Album of the Year. Grade: A
Mike Pace and the Child Actors - Best Boy -- Pleasant, wistful power pop from the former Oxford Collapse main man. Nothing on here manages to approximate the infectious awesomeness of Oxford Collapse's landmark (well, at least in my mind) Remember the Night Parties album, but it's still a decent listen. Grade: C+
My Morning Jacket - The Waterfall -- This is the type of Dad Rock you listen to if you really want your kids to think you're a total pussy. Grade: F
Palma Violets - Danger in the Club -- The Palmas' debut, 180, was a surprise success on the back of countless, uh, "repurposed" '70s UK post-punk riffs. Now that these blokes have actually gotten around to writing their own riffs, the results are predictable. Grade: D
Pelican - The Cliff -- The title track (and centerpiece) of this EP includes vocals, an anomaly in Pelican's nearly entirely instrumental / post-metal catalog. Amazing, then, that the lyrics (written from the point of view of a creepy, desperate man, seemingly on the precipice of committing a violent act against the unwilling object of his affections) hits the nail on the head so perfectly. Grade: B
A Place to Bury Strangers - Transfixiation -- Amazingly, probably their noisiest, most feedback-scarred release ever, and it's a good look for them. Best APTBS album overall since 2009's Exploding Head. Grade: B-
Ok, that's it for now. Will try to wrap this up next week, or not. Memphis tomorrow!
We're approximately 40% of the way through 2015, and nary an album review to be found on this sadly neglected, mildewed, has-been of a blog. At the time of this writing, we're finally in the thick of summer; a summer which will be characterized by oodles upon oodles of adult beverages, live music, travel, and nuptials. Oh, right, and stamps. Don't forget the stamps. I can't stress this enough people, NEVER FORGET THE GODDAMN STAMPS.
As of this moment, I've seen approximately 37 shows during the calendar year 2015, and I've heard about 36 albums / EPs, give or take. Naturally, I haven't spent enough time with all of those albums to have formulated a coherent, snarky opinion on each of them, but what say we talk about the ones that I have, hmmmmmm?
THE BEST (AND WORST) ALBUMS OF 2015, pt. I
Blanck Mass - Dumb Flesh-- this solo outing courtesy of one of the dudes from Fuck Buttons (not the guy who did the 8-bit thing earlier in the year) has a sound not dissimilar to his main gig. The maximalism and noisiness remains, but much of the epic melodicism is replaced here seemingly by a pervasive vibe of general uneasiness. I like it. Grade: B
Bop English - Constant Bop -- White Denim's main man James Petralli steps out on his first "solo" release, leaning heavily on many of WD's influences - namely blue-eyed soul, yacht rock, folk, dad rock, and other genres that don't really, y'know, "rock." What results sounds an awful lot like a kinda watered-down, less punchy version of what a normal White Denim record sounds like. Grade: B-
Built to Spill - Untethered Moon-- Initially, it was Doug Martsch's goal to record each successive BtS album with an entirely different lineup. Maybe it took trading his longtime rhythm section (as happened during the Untethered Moon sessions) for a pair of young bucks to rejuvenate the band's sound during the lengthy layoff following 2009's solid-if-at-times-lugubrious There Is No Enemy. Untethered Moon is the peppiest, liveliest, and downright funnest album of Martsch's career. Grade: A-
Crocodiles -Boys -- When I first saw Crocodiles live in a tiny room in 2009, the "band" somehow managed to make two dudes playing along to a backing CD seem bratty, punky, and ballsy. Now, five full-lengths into their career, Crocodiles seem to have settled into a rut of cranking out inessential (if pleasant) power pop recordes every year or so, entirely lacking the vitality of their earliest releases. Grade: C
Dan Deacon - Gliss Riffer --If anything, Dan Deacon is known less for his songwriting and more for whipping crowds of sweaty hipster kids into a frenzy with his irresistable DIY electronic goofiness. Gliss Riffer bears the most legitimately catchy moments of his career, "Build Voice" notwithstanding. Grade: B-
Delicate Steve - Live in Las Vegas -- As I witnessed personally when seeing Delicate Steve open up for Tame Impala last November, this is a band that is best appreciated live. At their best, they manage to approximate the enthusiasm and chops of the mighty Fang Island while reminiscing about a distant time when guitar heroes like Joe Satriani, Steve Vai and Gary Hoey could get their songs played on pop radio. #rememberthenineties Grade: B+
Godspeed You! Black Emperor - Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress -- Continuing Godspeed's post-hiatus resurgence, here's another undeniably massive slab of fire and brimstone, veering glacially from terrifying to gorgeous. Grade: A-
Inventions - Maze of Woods -- Is what's created by this Explosions in the Sky side project technically, "music?" Don't care, doesn't matter, shaddup. What it is is the single most immersive, relaxing album I've heard since Earth's outstanding The Bees Made Honey in the Lion's Skull. Grade: B+
Jon Spencer Blues Explosion - Freedom Tower -- These guys' ironic sneer has, at long last, collapsed under its own weight, which leaves JSBX with this, a limp, overly goofy ode to "old" NYC. Haven't really loved anything they've have done in some time now. Grade: C-
King Crimson - Live at the Orpheum -- Crimson is arguably the poster child for sacrificing genuine feeling for technique. Of course, this is absolute hogwash, perpetuated by critics who brand mastery of one's instrument beyond a Shaggs-ian level to be wankery. (In particular, the Wetton and Lake eras of Crim excelled onstage, as revealed in such live documents as the Epitaph and Great Deceiver box sets, as well as the Nightwatch and USA live albums.) However, I found this newest, three-drummer (!!!) iteration of the band to be dull and mechanical when I saw them last year, and Live at the Orpheum does little to sway that opinion. Grade: D
Plenty more albums to go - maybe I'll get to them soon, maybe I won't. TTFN.
Haunted Hearts toured Japan last year, but stateside shows have been scant. On this night, billed as NY's "only opportunity to hear Initiation played in full," Haunted Hearts managed to succeed while bringing few surprises to the table. The five piece band played Initiation front to back, tracks one thru eight in order, while sounding as confident and tight as though they're the tour-tested road warriors that they aren't.
So, my last MiYEMless writeup may have come across as more than a little bitter and whiny, and I'm OK with that. After all, I had only fled Miami mere hours before I typed that one up, and the foul taste that that city left in my mouth had not yet been cleared away by excessive overuse of assortedHallsproducts.
It's most important to remember that, above anything else, although I never have to go back to Miami *EVER* again (YAY!!!), my NYE Run mp3s will exist in perpetuity throughout the universe, or at least until my next castastrophic hard drive crash in about 15 minutes. Make no mistake - there was some damn fine music played over the four nights, although my previous post may have marginalized that crucial aspect of my trip.
Also, I want this post to kind of serve as a bit of a palate cleanser between MiYEMless and the rest of music in the year 2015. It's nearly a month since I got back from the Sunshine State, and it's (mercifully) time to finally close the book on NYE Run '14 - 15. Ok, let's wrap this up.
1.) Night 1, 12/31/14 - after a standard first set (anchored by the third straight outstanding NYE run "Wolfman's,") the boys dropped a legendary second set on us. One needs look no further than the "Ghost" > "Theme" > "Cities" segment for arguably the finest 40 minute stretch of music in 2014. (Close competition for that title comes from "Chalkdust" / "Light" / "Tweezer" from Randall's 3, the entirety of MPP2 set II, and the "Crosseyed" > "Light" > "Dogs" > "Lengthwise" > "Twist" > "Lengthwise" > "Twist" > "Manteca" > "Twist" sequence from Vegas 2.) In a year of stellar "Ghost"s, many of them followed a similar general blueprint: composed section > spooky-ish jam section > glorious major key jam. Well, this one skipped the weirdness, got straight into the pretty stuff, and included a *second* jam after a brief return to the "Ghost" theme. The "Theme" that followed was arguably the finest of the three relisten-worthy "Theme"s that have been performed during 3.0 (along with the 11/2/13 AC "Shaft"-quoting funkfest and SBB2's incredible Floyd-esque jam). And the "Cities" was possibly the best of all, jampacked with slinky funk and surprising melodicism. It was also great to see a couple of the Haunted House songs played in their entireties ("Martian Monster" to close the second set, and "Dogs" as the first song played in 2015), and folks went bonkers for the "The Birds" tease that linked "Theme" and "Cities."
2.) Night 2, 1/1/15, was probably the worst Phish show I've seen since the days when time still regularly turned elastic. It shouldn't ever speak well for a show when, in summation, one can report that the highlight was a "20 Years Later" with some extra length.
3.) Night 3, 1/2/15 started off with yet another tepid first set, but the "Mike's Groove" that started II is unquestionably the best that's been played during 3.0. For all of the recent talk about restoring the "second" jam to "Mike's," I have to say that one of the things I expected least from this tour would be the best "Weekapaug" I've ever seen live. If you haven't watched / heard this one multiple times by now, get to it.
5.) As mentioned in a previous post, I was fortunate enough to catch on with Boston's SteelCrew in the absence of any of my own crew being in Miami. We had so much goddamn fun 12/31, 300 level, extreme Page side, speaker worship, that we chose to spend all four nights in that exact same section, up in the rafters, hootin' and hollerin,' with plenty of room to hop around like jackasses.
6.) Heheheheheh, oh yeah. Before first set 12/31, I totally split my cheap-ass Old Navy cargo shorts right down the crotch. Thank goodness I was wearing a hardy pair of knit boxers, otherwise my junk would've been on full display throughout the rest of the evening. Anyway, sometime during the first set, I wound up groundscoring a bright pink feather boa and donning that for the rest of the show, which thankfully diverted people's attention away from the gaping hole in my groin. As a result, SteelCrew dubbed me "(My real name) with the Feathers" which is way better than "(My real name) with the exposed genitals."
7.) Also just prior to Set I 12/31, we noticed that the group of folks in the row directly in front of us had given one of their friends a "time out" (he appeared to have been a tad, uh, overserved) by shooing him to a few seats away. When I returned shortly after my third of 20+ bathroom breaks on the evening, the guy was gone, his friends were nowhere to be found, and all that remained in their stead were a few quarts of vomit on the floor. The row remained (understandably) unoccupied until the lights went down signaling the start of the show, at which point a gaggle of sparkly dressed girls gleefully flooded into the empty row despite our protests. Fucking gross!! Anyway, the guy who had done the puking came back later and wound up being a pretty decent guy, if a bit too remorselessly shame-free for my tastes.
8.) Not tryna narc anyone out over here (well, maybe a little), but an usher near our section was in cahoots with one of the bathroom mop guys and they were openly selling weed. That's the first time I've seen that at any venue, ever.
9.) While the food in Miami left a whole lot to be desired, I managed to actually have a pretty decent meal at La Casita, which in a nutshell was described as "where locals go who don't want to deal with (the self-proclaimed "World's Most Famous Cuban Restaurant,") Versailles. (I found Versailles to be massively overhyped. Service was indifferent, and the food sucked.) Anyway, here's a picture of the delicious chicharron de pollo appetizer, and below is a picture of the oxtail stew, which was pretty damn good, but still not as good as the Jamaican oxtail I've tried.
10.) Shakedown was a total frickin' disaster. The police presence rarely stretched across Biscayne Blvd., and when it did it was minimal. Sure, they made a few halfhearted attempts at shutting down the odd nitrous vendor every so often, but generally the wooks were left to their devices. What resulted was the most uncomfortably packed shakedown that I've ever experienced. Although I remained sober throughout the very vast majority of the run, I did notice that all manner of contraband appeared to be readily available. And yes, cans of Heady Topper were available.
11.) I had heard (possibly inaccurately) that the '09 New Years shows were so oversold that there were literally tickets on the ground outside the venue. As a result, I foolishly chose to travel to Miami with zero tickets in hand (something I hadn't done, to the best of my blighted memory, since Chula Vista '03). All this despite the fact that in the weeks leading up to the shows, ticket prices on StubHub had plummeted below $20 for a couple of the shows, in some cases cratering to as low as $12. Although I wound up getting tickets below face for each of the shows (paid between $30 and $50 for each night), coulda saved about a hundred bucks had I bought tickets beforehand. Whatevs, no biggie.
12.) All in all, a great run, and I'm glad I went. Sure, night 2 may have kinda bit the big one, but they can't all be winners, can they? When returning home from a run like this, it has to be considered a smashing success if one's biggest (musical) complaint is that they didn't play "Your Pet Cat."
Toodle-oo for now. Stiiiiiilllll Waiting on those Summer Tour dates........
[Miami really rolled out the red carpet for Phish and the Phans, renaming many longstanding, venerable local businesses to include Phish references. Many thanks to the Miami Chamber of Commerce for making us feel right at home!]
I had been hoping to update this blog daily during the MiYEM(less)i NYE run, but sadly there was no wireless ("wireless? What is that?? You mean WiFi??" the clueless front desk guy said to me) at the Chateaubleau Hotel, so here we sit. Nonetheless, I actually have internet access (for the moment, knock on wood) at the Travelodge Fort Myers Airport where I'll be spending tonight, so hopefully I can make up for some lost time here.
All in all, the trip was a successful one. I had been worried that, sans even a single member of my beloved "crew," I'd wind up feeling lonely, but thankfully that was the least of my worries. Boston's own SteelCrew, whom we'd first met when we shared a house with them at SPAC '13, adopted me for the run and it worked out great. Beds were soiled, meals were eaten twice, tall tales were told, I did all manner of chauffeuring / DDing, and generally I laughed waaaaaaayyyy more than I'd expected to on this run. Hoping to cross paths with them all during Summer Tour '15, or possibly before that during my next trip to Beantown.
Of course, logistically (and motiviationally) I suffered more than just a little bit, with much of my "day planning" consisting solely of me hurriedly consulting TripAdvisor while in transit. No LotBevs were mixed, few local landmarks were visited, and an inexcusably miniscule amount of time was spent near any kind of beach. Wound up doing a lot of sleeping in, and due to the astonishingly slow pace of seemingly *EVERY* aspect of life in / near Miami (more on this later), accomplishing even the simplest of tasks ate up so much of my time that most of my days basically went as follows:
1.) wake up 2.) clean the pipes 3.) errands 4.) meal 5.) back to hotel for shower 6.) pick up SteelCrew 7.) drive to venue 8.) tailgate 9.) head to shakedown / purchase ticket 10.) attend Phish concert 11.) rock the eff out 12.) drop SteelCrew at their hotel 13.) clean the pipes reprise 14.) gorge myself on leftovers from said earlier meal 15.) hit the hay.
Not that that's a shameful way to spend the day overall, but I'd bet there are some wonderful hikes that went unhiked, sights that were unseen, and tanned boobies and asses that went tragically un-gawked at. So it goes.
The music on this run traversed easily the widest gulf between "incredible" and "lackluster" that I've witnessed probably since, wait for it, Coventry. When the boys were on, we were treated to such highlights as one of the year's finest sets (12/31 II), possibly the finest "Weekapaug" I've ever seen (1/2), and a damn near perfect second stanza setlist for the ages that actually is as good as it looks on paper (1/3). When they weren't, we got uninspired first sets (truthfully, the first three shows) and unprecedented levels of bed-shitting in the form of (what has to be a record) *4* (!?!???!?!) consecutive ballads in Q4 (1/1). More than any other recent run, I can't wait to get back home tomorrow night and start plowing through my mp3s to see if my disparate feelings are merited.
In other news, the town of Miami can largely go suck a dick. I found it to be populated nearly exclusively by arrogant, humorless douchebags and possibly the worst drivers I've ever seen stateside. Service *everywhere* is maddeningly slow; nobody bothers to use their goddamn turn signals; the architecture is absolute crap. OK, maybe that last one isn't fair, since you can't blame a town simply because Taco Bell chose to boorishly co-opt the California Mission style, but face it, if you went to San Francisco and every house had the fucking Golden Arches on it, you'd secretly hope it would burn to the ground, and fast.
I was also amazed to find that the simple custom of waiting in line at a place of business is different in Miami than anywhere else. Three separate times (at three separate CVS's, actually, hahaha) the individual ahead of me in line made his / her purchase, only to have a friend / relative hop in front of me in line at the last second with his / her *own* pile of items, thereby inserting an entire full transaction before mine in the process. What the hell is that?!?! Now, don't get me wrong, this type of horseshit goes down regularly at bodegas near my apartment in Brooklyn, but it does, you just wad your two singles up into a ball, bounce it off the cashier's forehead, and shout "TAKING A GATORADE!" while walking out the door.
I regret not being better informed about good food options while I was in town. Yelp did a fairly decent job, but although I went into this trip excited about eating as much Cuban food as possible, I come home more than a bit disappointed. Maybe it's my own fault for choosing to eat food from a place that obnoxiously has "THE WORLD'S MOST FAMOUS CUBAN RESTAURANT" as its service mark. Long story short, I had hoped to unravel the mystery of what makes Cuban sandwiches so awesome, but now I'm all "so it's basically a ham sandwich panini, and they added pickles?" Really, who cares?
Hehehhhehheheheheh just re-read the above, and WOW that's a lot of bitching, but I swear to Jah that I had a really good time on the trip. Naptime for now, since I have to drive 100 miles north, back to Sarasota in the morning before catching my flight back to LGA. Tuddd out, for now.