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.
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.
While Uncle Bob's recent suggestion that he may once again be growng tired of Guided by Voices as a projectis incredibly disappointing to fans of great rock music, things will be much less painful if he can continue putting out solo records like this one. This is *easily* Pollard's best solo release since 2005's From a Compound Eye, and in every way: gone are the unimaginative production and plinky guitars of the last umpteen Pollard joints, but fortunately staying put are the rejuvenated songwriting chops that made each of the four (!!) GbV albums over the last two years such a joy.
Crocodiles - Crimes of Passion
It's fitting that Raveonettes mastermind Sune Rose Wagner has taken on production duties for Crocodiles. First off, Wagner already produces Dum Dum Girls, who are fronted by Crocodiles main man Brandon Welchez' wife, Dee Dee. Second, Wagner is probably the world's foremost authority on how to make jangly, poppy, JAMC-indebted tunes sound great. Although Crimes of Passion lacks the ecstatic highs of previous Crocodiles releases, it's their most consistent record yet.
Strangelight - 9 Days
When a band names itself after a Fugazi song, you better believe that's a mission statement. Strangelight's music is indebted not only to the denizens of Dischord (and the ambassadors of Am Rep), but to the more current post-hardcore and noise bands that were inspired by those bands, some of which actually share members with Strangelight. Just as with these other bands' material, I generally tend to prefer the harder-edged stuff over the midtempo shit. This release tends to veer a little too far towards the latter for my tastes.
I, for one, think this was a fine year for music. I've been called out for giving out too many B+'s amongst my album grades over the last few months, but, if you think about it, it makes sense: at this point, I'm not going out of my way to listen to albums I think are going to be horrible. There are at least, what, 40-50 acts every year that are going to put out albums that I'm going to listen very closely to just based on my previous history enjoying the work of said acts; the rest of the stuff I end up hearing is based on either a (well-informed, I'd like to think) hunch or ideas from friends (usually Beafvy and Bricer). Again, it's not like I'm going around listening to the new Danielson or Grizzly Bear or Best Coast or Vivian Girls or whatever just so I can write something snarky and rubber stamp a "D-" on that garbage. Believe it or not, my time is actually worth more than that.
When 2012 was all said and done, I heard nearly 80 albums, with the final one being the EP Mogwai sneakily released this morning (spoiler alert: it's not worth spending actual money on). The majority of the albums listed below reached double digits in my play count on iTunes.
So, here's the list, unadorned by such frivolities as relevant information about the albums, cover art, or helpful links that would make it easier to locate the individual album reviews, wherever they may be on this site. [EDIT: fixed that.] I'd love to dress this post up and make it a little less bare-bones, but I'll be heading towards JFK in a few short hours, so yer on yer own.
So that's it for now, and I'll check in with y'all before Phish's upcoming 4-night run at MSG (unofficially titled "Four Bros, Four Shows"). HAPPY HOLIDAYS!
So, my goal was to post reviews for every '12 album I heard (about 80 or so) before posting year-end lists, but that ain't gonna happen, so here you have the first part of the "Jaleppies," aka my year-end best-of lists. Part 2 will probably be published Wednesday morning and will consist of the year's best albums, and Part 3 will be random stuff. Enjoy! (Or don't! I don't care! I'll be in Puerto Rico beetches!)
[Note that in a few of the entries below, two songs have been combined into one single entry. You can probably figure out why, but just in case you can't, it's because the songs run together on the album and as such they sound dumb when played apart from one another. Thank you for your patience and understanding.]
1.) Fang Island - "Asunder" (edit)
2.) Lower Dens - "Lamb"
3.) Melvins - "We Are Doomed"
4.) Lower Dens - "Brains" > "Stem"
[Note - I shot this video]
5.) Dan Friel - "Valedictorian"
6.) Tame Impala - "Feels Like We Only Go Backwards"
7.) Torche - "Kicking"
8.) Guided by Voices - "Keep It in Motion" > "Tyson's High School"
9.) The Men - "Oscillation"
10.) Dum Dum Girls - "Mine Tonight"
11.) Beach House - "Myth"
12.) Raveonettes - "Young and Cold"
13.) The Men - "Turn it Around"
14.) Melvins - "The War on Wisdom"
15.) Baroness - "Green Theme"
16.) Two Gallants - "Willie"
17.) Sleigh Bells - "Comeback Kid"
18.) Mount Carmel - "Swaggs"
19.) Pelican - "Ataraxia" > "Lathe Biosas"
20.) Fang Island - "Chompers"
21.) Tame Impala - "Music to Walk Home By"
22.) Guided by Voices - "Hangover Child"
23.) Van Halen - "She's the Woman"
24.) Six Organs of Admittance - "Even if You Knew"
Two Gallants - The Bloom and the Blight -- 6 or so years ago, on my now-discontinued "other" music blog, I wrote the following in my review of Two Gallants' What the Toll Tells:
Part of me wishes these guys would just bite the bullet and pick up a
kickass rhythm guitarist, but on the other hand that could severely fuck
up songs like "The Prodigal Son." Hmmm. What the fuck do I know.
Best to leave well enough alone, I guess.
Well, not to say that the bandmembers read my blog (or that anyone read it, for that matter), but they seem to have inadvertently, sort of, taken my advice - not by "hiring a kickass rhythm guitarist" (then they'd be Three Gallants, silly), but by upgrading their guitar tone from "wiry" to "earth-shaking." [Note: if the newly beefed up guitar doesn't sound like your idea of fun, fear not; the ballads are still roughshod and acoustic.]
Best songs: "Willie," "Halcyon Days," "Ride Away," "My Love Won't Wait."
Raveonettes - Observator-- This album features great melodies, gorgeous harmonies, disturbing lyrical topics, and excellent, excellent, EXCELLENT production. "So," you may ask, casual listener, "what sets Observator apart from every other previous great Raveonettes release?" Well, not much, which is what MAKES it great. Duh.
Can - The Lost Tapes box set -- A music journalist whom I both like and trust (hmmmm... so by process of elimination that has to be Mark Prindle) said something to the extent of 'this collection has stuff on it that rivals Can's best work.' Well, I'll assume he never got past the very first track, because that's really the only thing on here that rivals "Paperhouse" or "Spoon" or "Vitamin C" or "Halleluwah" or whatever. There is JUST enough good stuff on here to make this worthwhile for the casual Can fan; I can't speak for the Can die hards simply because I ain't one. Spoiler alert: you WILL hate Malcolm Mooney more than you already did after listening to this. Ten straight minutes of Mooney barking "ARE YOU WAITING FOR THE STREETCAR" is enough to make the Dalai Lama punch holes in the drywall.
Best song: "Millionenspiel," "Graublau," are the best studio pieces, and a couple of the live ones are worthwhile, too.