[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!
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
Yeah, this one's not even close. After being fortunate enough to attend 12 shows during Summer Tour, then 9 of 12 shows on Phish's Fall Tour (and couch touring the other three), I have to say that these sonsabitches haven't performed / improvised at this level since the legendary Fall Tour '97 / NYE Run '97 / Island Tour '98 era. With '13 NYE Run just 5 days away, we can only hope that they deliver something close to what went down from late October thru early November. STOKED BRAH.
In Russian Circles' sonic arsenal, the atmospherics are the glue that binds their whole bag of tricks together. Curtis, formerly of Secret Machines (and a touring member of Interpol), has helmed the last three (excellent) Russian Circles albums, helping to shape the band's evocative, dramatic music into something that's entirely lyrical despite being totally wordless.
This one's kinda a dark horse. It's loud and fast, which will help you keep the RPMS up. But the fact that it's scary as fuck will want to make you outrun it like it's a relentless methed-up boogeyman who's looking to get some tail. (Yours.)
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.
Not gonna lie. I went into this show kinda expecting to come out the other side of it disliking Palma Violets. I've had their debut record, 180, in heavy rotation for the last couple months, but there's something about it that had me thinking the live show could wind up being a bunch of poncy, preening, poser bullshit. Boy, am I glad that I was I wrong.
Palma Violets put on a great set - everything one could possibly hope for from this band of upstart Brits. Beverages were thrown, choruses received the shout-along treatment en masse, pogoing was, uh, pogoed (?), and asses were rocked. So, while I've been recently starting to let certain things about 180 bother me (the lyrics; the fact that they seem to rip off "Sweet Jane" on half of their songs, etc.), I left this show with an appreciation for Palma Violets' deft wrangling of rock / classic punk tropes. In many instances this makes itself evident in the little things, like their gift for pacing - they're great at taking it down a notch at just the right moments, which makes those rousing choruses just seem that much more rockin'. Also, it's obvious that these guys really, REALLY seem to enjoy performing.
Booking Webster Hall may have been a bit audacious (the floor was far from full, and the entire balcony was reserved for VIP), but those who were in the crowd came to party, and at times Webster Hall's dancefloor was buckling to the beat of all the pogoers. The band set the precedent for rowdiness early on, when bassist / singer Chilli chucked a cup of ice into the crowd at the beginning of the set, and as is evident in the videos I captured, the crowd returned the favor many times over throughout the set. Great night!
Apparently Palma Violets played a show at Glasslands the following night, and I bet shit got bonkers. They're in Mexico early next week before coming back up the West Coast, so check 'em out if you're into stuff that's awesome.
Palma Violets are apparently the subject of the creepy-ass UK music press' current 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.
Coliseum - Sister Faith
If you're a huge fan of Coliseum's brand of brooding, bleak post-hardcore, this album has plenty of what you're looking for. Of particular interest to me, however, are the few songs on here which display a new appreciation for melody and dynamics, notably the Torche-ish "Fuzzbang" and the excellent "Late Night Trains."
Philip H. Anselmo & the Illegals - Walk Through Exits Only
Phil Anselmo may be unquestioned metal royalty, but this release underscores how difficult it can be to try to do it without another talented, creative foil in the fold. Walk Through Exits Only is uninspired and totally hookless, lacking any real personality to speak of, seemingly content with its 'meh'ness.