Recorded on January 9th, 2018
Many of the songs/pieces I loved this past year were released way before 2017 and came to me by way of my fellow music-obsessives @squealermusic, @fuzzsonic and @KingTritonStow. That full list is long and not shown here. The list below is limited to the stuff that was released (or re-released) in 2017. In no particular order, of course!
Marvin Pontiac (actually John Lurie) – “I Hope She Is Okay”
John Lurie. Still crazy and great.
Elder – “Sanctuary”
New riffs announce themselves at just the right time, every time.
Khan Jamal Creative Arts Ensemble – “Breath of Life”
Oh god YES. Originally released in 1973, re-released in 2017 by Eremite Records. @tywilc caught my attention (via @squealermusic, naturally) by pointing out this accurate assessment from the liner notes: “There’s not another record on the planet that sounds even remotely like vibraphonist Khan Jamal’s eccentric, one-of-a-kind masterpiece, Drum Dance To The Motherland.” The whole album is astounding.
Jax Deluca and Phong Tran – “Tardigrade Soul”
Well worth 32 minutes and 24 seconds.
Alex Cuba – “Chekere”
Also from WCVE World Music. I don’t love this whole album, but this song grabbed me.
Molly Burch – “Wrong for You”
What a little womb-universe she creates.
Ryuichi Sakamoto – “fullmoon”
Embarrassed to admit I’d never heard the Paul Bowles quote from “The Sheltering Sky” that starts this off.
Alvvays – “Archie, Marry Me”
Wise beyond their years. Not a wasted note. Swoon.
Priests – “Nothing Feels Natural”
Goodness, it’s like I’m staying up from midnight to 2am to watch “120 Minutes” in 1990 when I should be studying.
Recorded on July 3rd, 2017
Here’s a summer 2017 playlist I made. I’m having a hard time not adding to it as I think of more songs, but this is it for now. And it’s in no particular order, so you may as well shuffle it.
Also posted on Spotify.
|Missy Elliott||The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)||Supa Dupa Fly|
|Salt-N-Pepa, En Vogue||Whatta Man||The Best Of Salt-N-Pepa 20th Century Masters The Millennium Collection|
|Alvvays||Archie, Marry Me||Alvvays|
|Norma Tanega||Don’t Touch||Walkin’ My Cat Named Dog|
|Fred Neil||The Dolphins||The Many Sides Of Fred Neil|
|Dungen||Skit I Allt||Skit I Allt|
|LL Cool J||Mama Said Knock You Out||Mama Said Knock You Out|
|Washed Out||Feel It All Around||Life Of Leisure|
|Vieux Farka Touré||Future||Mon Pays|
|Janelle Monáe||Isn’t This The World||Hidden Figures: The Album|
|Connie Francis||My Heart Has A Mind Of Its Own||At Her Best|
|Angel Olsen||Shut Up Kiss Me||MY WOMAN|
|Oddisee||The Carter Barron||Rock Creek Park|
|Q-Tip||Breathe And Stop||Amplified|
|Mac Demarco||Salad Days||Salad Days|
|Looking Glass||Brandy (You’re A Fine Girl)||Looking Glass|
|Orpheus||I Can Make The Sun Rise||Joyful|
|The Spinners||Games People Play||Pick Of The Litter|
|Todd Rundgren||Hello It’s Me||Something/ Anything?|
|Grateful Dead||Playing In The Band - Lyceum Theatre, London, England 5/24/72||Europe ‘72 Vol. 2|
|Sandy Denny, Strawbs||On My Way||All Our Own Work|
|The Chills||Night of Chill Blue||The BBC Sessions|
|2Pac||All Eyez On Me||All Eyez On Me|
|Fairport Convention||Tale In Hard Time||Meet On The Ledge: The Classic Years (1967-1975)|
|Best Coast||Boyfriend||Crazy For You|
|D’Angelo||Untitled (How Does It Feel)||Voodoo|
|Broadcast||Come On Let’s Go||The Noise Made By People|
|Donovan||Epistle To Dippy - Single Version||Donovan’s Greatest Hits|
|Fleet Foxes||Ragged Wood||Fleet Foxes|
|The Kinks||Do You Remember Walter? - Mono Mix||The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society (Deluxe Expanded Edition)|
|Hope Sandoval and the Warm Inventions||On the Low||Bavarian Fruit Bread|
|Joni Mitchell||Cactus Tree||Joni Mitchell (AKA Song To A Seagull)|
|Steve Gunn||Water Wheel||Time Off|
|Alex Calder||Light Leave Your Eyes||Time|
|Ice Cube||It Was A Good Day||The Predator|
|Lucy Dacus||I Don’t Wanna Be Funny Anymore||No Burden|
|Warren G, Nate Dogg||Regulate||Regulate…G Funk Era (20th Anniversary)|
|Snoop Dogg, Pharrell Williams||Drop It Like It’s Hot||R&G (Rhythm & Gangsta): The Masterpiece|
|Boogarins||Falsa Folha De Rosto||MANUAL|
|The Clientele||I Had to Say This||Suburban Light|
|Beauty Pill||Dog With Rabbit In Mouth, Unharmed||Beauty Pill Describes Things As They Are|
|Skee-Lo||I Wish||I Wish|
|Nick Heyward||Whistle Down the Wind||North Of A Miracle|
|Sven Libaek||Music for Eels (from “Inner Space”)||Inner Space: The Lost Film Music of Sven Libaek|
|Focus||House Of The King||In And Out Of Focus|
|Salt-N-Pepa||Let’s Talk About Sex||Blacks’ Magic|
|Deerhunter||Desire Lines||Halcyon Digest|
|Sarah Harmer||Pendulums||All Of Our Names|
|The Shins||Girl Inform Me||Oh, Inverted World|
|Percy Faith & His Orchestra||The Theme from “A Summer Place”||16 Most Requested Songs|
|Devendra Banhart||Now That I Know||Cripple Crow|
|Thomas Dolby||The Flat Earth||The Flat Earth|
|Stevie Wonder||You Are The Sunshine Of My Life||Talking Book|
|Courtney Barnett||Nobody Really Cares If You Don’t Go to the Party||Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit|
|Astrud Gilberto, Antônio Carlos Jobim||Agua De Beber||The Astrud Gilberto Album|
|Led Zeppelin||Dancing Days||Houses Of The Holy|
|The Doobie Brothers||Black Water||What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits|
|Bee Gees||Night Fever||Saturday Night Fever (The Original Movie Soundtrack)|
|Marcos Valle||So Nice (Summer Samba)||Samba ‘68|
|Neil Young||Out On The Weekend||Harvest|
|Junior Kimbrough||Lonesome in My Home||First Recordings|
|Molly Burch||Downhearted||Please Be Mine|
|Scott Walker||Rhymes Of Goodbye||Scott 4|
|Dean & Britta||Out Walking||L’Avventura|
|Santana, Michelle Branch||The Game of Love - Main / Radio Mix||Shaman|
|Colbie Caillat||Fallin’ For You||Breakthrough|
|The Long Winters||Pushover||Putting The Days To Bed|
|New Order||Age Of Consent||Power, Corruption & Lies|
|Joe Jackson||You Can’t Get What You Want (Till You Know What You Want)||Greatest Hits: Joe Jackson|
|The Notorious B.I.G.||Juicy||Ready To Die The Remaster|
|New Radicals||You Get What You Give||Maybe You’ve Been Brainwashed Too|
|Prince||I Wanna Be Your Lover||Prince|
|Love||Wonder People [I Do Wonder] [Outtake - Original Mix]||Forever Changes: Alternate Mix and Outtakes|
|The Woodentops||Good Thing||Giant|
|Blake Babies||Out There||Sunburn|
|My Bloody Valentine||Off Your Face||Glider|
|Shrimp Boat||Free Love Overdrive||Cavale|
|The Ocean Blue||Cerulean||Cerulean|
|The Smiths||William, It Was Really Nothing||Hatful Of Hollow|
Recorded on January 23rd, 2017
Jaki Liebezeit, original drummer and founding member of Can, died yesterday. No, I didn’t know his name before this (the only Can names I could rattle off were Holger Czukay and Damo Suzuki), but I sure knew his drum work. If you’ve heard Neu! or Stereolab or Unrest or the Fall, you’ve heard Liebezeit’s influence.
The track above is practically a Can hit and is one of my favorites.
Recorded on January 14th, 2017
Thanks to my buddy Eric for hipping me to this crazy video of Dominic Fragman pulling off a one-man-band version of “Tom Sawyer” by Rush. Sure, it’s a bit of a liberal take on the song, but I couldn’t conceive of keeping these three things in my head at once and doing it that well for that long.
As YouTube forces a person to do, I went down the rabbit-hole. Meytal Cohen is a super talented drummer who only started playing when she was 18, and now she’s this good. Her arms are so relaxed, yet her attack is so accurate.
And then this, which proves she’s truly obsessed. How does she make it look so easy?
Recorded on January 6th, 2017
This is all I got tonight. “You can feel it getting down to the wire”, and thus I’ve been cramming, trying to cement all these Pat/Fat Benatar songs between my head and fingers. I no longer require a binder of scribbled cheat-notes to play the chords in the songs. The notes are now in my brain. Just need this half-page index showing the key for each song and a map of which patches go with which song, and which parts come from the Alesis Micron, or the iPhone running Midiflow, NanoStudio and iGrand Piano. The wonders of MIDI.
Recorded on December 26th, 2016
I’m sad to hear about George Michael. I wasn’t a big fan, but he was definitely part of the evolving musical landscape for a teenager in the 80s. I didn’t care much for Wham!, although I learned about “Last Christmas” many years later, and that song is way better than it has a right to be.
The George Michael song I really liked, back then and now, is “A Different Corner”. It sounded nothing like Wham! with its sparse arrangement, and it showed off Michael’s incredible pipes and gift for melody. I admit that what really hooked me at first was that giant, fat keyboard bass line.
If we thought 2016 was bad for celebrity deaths, I imagine 2017 will be even worse. Sorry that’s morbid, but the aging of our favorite actors, writers, and musicians, combined with the explosion of TV shows and movies over the past decades, will make us constantly aware of a seemingly endless parade of deaths next year, and the year after that.
Recorded on December 15th, 2016
We are all going to die.
Obvious? Yes, but deaths of beloved musicians like Greg Lake on December 7 drive this home to me harder than anything else does. It feels like a rug being jerked out from under the stereo, and all those years of hearing “Knife-Edge”, “Lucky Man”, “Still You Turn Me On”, and “I Believe in Father Christmas” are now cast in a different light. Suddenly you see that you were part of a decades-long music party where your favorite luminaries were always just “there”, and you were lucky enough to be alive at the same time as them. How could they ever die when they made so much great stuff? Why do we spend time on anything that isn’t completely fun and valuable if we’re here for only a blink?
We already lost Keith Emerson this year. I didn’t expect Greg Lake’s time to be up this soon. I’m sad that I’ve been so wrapped around other dire situations that I didn’t know this until today, when a friend said, “You heard about Greg Lake, right?” My mind immediately went to the worst-case scenario and I begged him not to let it be true. How is it that it wasn’t plastered all over the news sites? Lake wasn’t a minor rock star, but maybe he’s regarded as one in the accumulated eyes of the people left alive on Earth.
I need to dig out my Emerson, Lake & Palmer records, and buy the ones I’m still missing. My brother and I bonded over the “Knife-Edge” video above when The Today Show featured 20 seconds of it during an ELP feature in the 80s, because it was and still is completely bad-ass.
Carl Palmer, you’re the only one left to pass on the prog/symphonic/rock DNA of your bandmates now. May you enjoy many more years of making music.
Recorded on December 13th, 2016
Recorded on November 24th, 2016
In this time of upheaval, of living in the real upside-down, it is profoundly reassuring to learn that A Tribe Called Quest has a new album: We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your service
Pure art. I know they’re missing Phife Dawg, but man, they sound completely undiminished after all these years. Guest artists include André 3000, Elton John, Busta Rhymes, and Jack White among many others. It’s chill, it’s forceful, it’s intricate, and it’s gorgeous. Also, you can listen to it on Amazon Prime Music! I’m doing that now, but I’ll pony up to buy my own proper copy.
We are so lucky!
Recorded on October 29th, 2016
Here’s what I’ve been working on for an upcoming gig with Fat Benatar. All you need is an Alesis Micron, a MIDI controller keyboard, and some GarageBand instruments on the iPhone. I can’t read musical notation well enough to play to it in real time, so I have this crude system of chords and notes written out by name. It sort of works!
Recorded on October 27th, 2016
My friend Derek asked me about the crazy drum kit Questlove played when The Roots backed up Phil Collins on The Tonight Show. We wondered if the missing bottom heads on the toms were integral to recreating the classic sound or not. My feeling is that they were done that way to match how Collins played his kit back in the day, and they may have helped control the sound a bit on the live stage. Who knows?
Here’s where I did my research. A very fun read:
Recorded on October 16th, 2016
Tank and The Bangas opened for Big Freedia at Strange Matter tonight. Their two singers won a lot of hearts in a short time with their deft balance of quiet, pretty songs and wild-eyed, rapid-fire rap. Their band was on top of it, too. Tight and full of joy.
Big Freedia, 6’3” with a red checkered flannel shirt and long blonde hair, sounded like she was singing over a volcano that was waiting to erupt. Or maybe she was the volcano. Totally commanding presence from the very first second she went on. Eager volunteers were happy to be part of the stage show, bouncing next to the Queen Diva from New Orleans. This was the best show I’ve seen this year.
Recorded on October 9th, 2016
I guess this will happen more and more often. Musicians I love will pass away before I properly learn their names. Caroline Crawley, co-founder and singer of Shelleyan Orphan, has died.
A lot of 4AD-ish bands passed in and out of my Sony Walkman when I was in college in the early ’90s. I don’t even think Shelleyan Orphan were on 4AD, but you get the idea. Humroot was one of those albums where I got drawn in by one song (probably “Fishes”), got the record, and was pleasantly surprised to hear that all the other songs were just as good, and inhabited their own world, distinct from the other bands who were popular then. If you’ve never heard them, that record sounded like the cover art looked.
It’s silly and insignificant of me to write a single blog post about someone who made so much great art, but here we are.
Recorded on October 8th, 2016
Dan Bejar looked like he didn’t care if there were three people or 300, and rightly so. Nobody in the room was cooler than him. The songs, the songs.
GBV preaching the rock gospel.
GBV weren’t that loud - no earplugs were necessary, although we were prepared.
Bob, to the crowd: “We’re gonna play 50 songs. That’s less than $1 per song.”
I don’t remember the last time I saw someone with a hand-decorated Psychic TV-logo jean jacket, but she wore it well.
Our friend Tina, imagining what Bob says to his hired guns: “I’ve got 5,000 songs. Be ready.”
“Cut-out Witch” was a hit, judging by the crowd’s reaction.
I checked and Bob Pollard has now written many more songs (at least 2000+) than Mozart composed works (600+).
“Not Behind the Fighter Jet” also earned raucous applause and acknowledgement.
Bob’s legs at 58 are more flexible than mine at 45.
Bob handed out beers from the on-stage cooler to a few front-row fans.
GBV played three encores and ended with “Baba O’Riley”. BABA O’RILEY.
A few relevant lyrics from “Psychic Pilot Clocks Out”:
Service time is lonely
Live it up before you pass away
I feel life passing on by us…
Recorded on October 3rd, 2016
Thanks to the Orange-Faced One, the word “unhinged” has been thrown around a lot over the past few months, the last few weeks, and especially the last few days. But right now I’m thinking of a different, better “unhinged” — the kind of unhinged that all the bands at Gonerfest have in common.
Gonerfest is a long weekend of garage rock that happens in Memphis every fall. I’ve never been, but I will go someday. (The closest I’ve come was Chapel Hill’s dear departed Sleazefest in 2003 and 2004.) My friend Ron did a bang-up job of telling the musical story of this year’s Gonerfest on his Haywire Hour radio show tonight on Little Raleigh Radio. To get a taste of what we all missed, go to https://twitter.com/HaywireHour for tonight’s (and every week’s) setlist.
Gonerfest bands sound super-raw, inspired, loose-cannon-y, and they play music like their lives depend on it. All those qualities, and simply the existence of a subculture scene like this, give me faith in humanity. If nothing else, a festival where Reigning Sound and Black Lips are playing is a festival you want to be at.
If I can’t make it to Gonerfest 14 next year for some reason, I at least have to try to get down to Chapel Hill for the next Blackbeards Lost Weekend, which is from what I hear a similarly inspired event. I am way overdue for my booster shot!