2010: The Year In Review (sort of)

We've been pretty disconnected from the world of pop culture this year, so this wrap up is an abridged version of what we would normally put together at this time. So, we won't be going into much deep analysis and, for the most part, just list faves from the past 12 months. Enjoy!

The Holy Fuck Latin [Young Turks]

Kick ass instrumental electronica/dance played on rock-approved instrumentation. Closest thing to a classic we've heard in a while. More, please.

Runner up:
Flying Lotus Cosmogramma [Warp]

Adventurous batch of avant garde, mostly instrumental hip hop with a touch of jazz (think Prefuse 73 but further out there). Stellar.

Notable Mentions:
Deerhunter Halcyon Digest [4AD]
Girls Album [True Panther/Matador]
Jason Moran Ten [Blue Note]
Sufjan Stevens The Age of Adz [Asthmatic Kitty]
Surfer Blood Astro Coast [Kanine]
Wavves King of the Beach [Fat Possum]

We would've enjoyed Halcyon Digest more were it not for the deliberate lo-fi production--same with the Girls record--but the songwriting is solid, for the most part; jazz pianist Moran and his trio never disappoint--Ten is no exception; The Age of Adz is an inviting and interesting electronic departure--but not a surprising one--for Stevens; Astro Coast and King of the Beach both have their fuzzy, rockin' moments of pleasure.


Those Dancing Days "Fuckarias" [Wichita]

Described as Debbie Harry fronting The Attractions, the rockin' Swedish all-female quintet--who named themselves after a Led Zeppelin song--will release their sophomore album, Daydreams and Nightmares in March 2011, but the opening salvo is no joke. (Free download here.) Oh, and kudos to the killer drummer; that chick can really play. Damn!

Weezer Death to False Metal [DGC]

The best thing Weezer's done since the self-titled "green album" [DGC-2001] is not an inspired bunch of new tunes designed to give us faith in future Weezer releases but a mere spring cleaning exercise; a collection of outtakes spanning the band's entire major label career that never made the light of day for whatever reason. However, Death to False Metal is Weezer on a roll: a 10-track, half-hour joyride for anyone who's ever enjoyed their particular brand of punk pop/power pop. Ya got more like these, Rivers?

Oh, and the folks at Pitchfork don't like it, so you know it's got to be good. heh, heh

The Roots and Joanna Newsome

The woman with the most irritating voice in popular music teamed up with the Philadelphia groove machine on "Right On" from their album How I Got Over [Def Jam]. Thankfully, it wasn't the disaster it had the potential of becoming. Props to The Roots for actually making it work.

The Big C [Showtime]

The always delightful--and yummy--Laura Linney stars as Cathy,
a middle-aged suburban Minnesota school teacher/housewife with terminal skin cancer, trying to make sense of her illness and how to spend her final days. And yes, it's a comedy but a tasteful one.
Also stars Oliver Platt as Cathy's clueless, impulsive, immature, but well-meaning and supportive husband. No, he's not a stock character. The Big C is so much better than that. By far.

Runner up:
HBO's The Ricky Gervais Show, the animated version of the hilarious, world famous podcast featuring The Office co-creator Stephen Merchant and the incomparable Karl Pilkington.


Lady GaGa makes the Time 100 list

Sure, currently she may be one of the world's most popular artists, but influential? How exactly was that measured? Are there scores of artists copying her incredibly derivative music? Have we missed a rash of artists wearing birdcages on their heads? Maybe the folks that have been mesmerized by this amalgam of Carmen Miranda, early Madonna and Dale Bozzio, are so caught up in her bad performance art and empty tunes that they can't think straight. But Time magazine? Really?

Soca king Arrow; Mr. Fast 'n' Bulbous himself, Captain Beefheart; Michael Been of The Call and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club; R&B vocalist Solomon Burke; Mr. Alex Chilton; Peter Christopherson of Throbbing Gristle, Psychic TV, Coil, and the legendary graphic design firm Hipgnosis; singer, actor, and breakfast icon Jimmy Dean; Ronnie James Dio; Mike "Ace" Evans, bassist for '60s mod rockers The Action; The Knack frontman Doug Fieger; star of concert stage and screen Eddie Fisher; Pauly Fuemana of OMC (“How Bizarre”); vocalist/producer Harvey Fuqua; R&B vocalist Al Goodman (Ray, Goodman & Brown); Guru of seminal rap duo Gang Starr, and the Jazzmatazz project; '80s teen heartthrob Corey Haim; Bobby Hebb, singer-songwriter of “Sunny” fame; Mr. Dennis Hopper; the incomparable Lena Horne; original Big Star bassist Andy Hummel; reggae icon Gregory Isaacs; The Action vocalist Reg King; Tuli Kupferberg of The Fugs; T Lavitz, keyboardist for The Dixie Dregs; jazz vocalist Abbey Lincoln; Mark Linkous, the brains behind Sparklehorse; legendary rock photographer Jim Marshall; folk singer Kate McGarrigle; the one and only Malcolm McLaren; Sugar Minott; jazz saxophonist James Moody; singer/songwriter/guitarist Wil Owsley; the great Teddy Pendergrass; Pete Quaife, original bassist for The Kinks; garage rocker Jay Reatard; the Argentine Elvis, Sandro; P-Funk guitarist Gary Shider; Type O Negative frontman Peter Steele; Ari Up of The Slits; Tony West of The Searchers; Robert Wilson of The Gap Band; Tom "T-Bone" Wolk, 30-year bassist/collaborator with pop icons Hall & Oates.

This Bird Should Fly Again


[Lost Highway-2010]

Ah, Murphy’s Law: we knew the moment we'd post our year-end wrap up there would be an album we'd overlooked; or one released at the last minute that would rock our world but consequently not make our list of faves. This one happens to be the latter. Damn you, Ryan Adams and your Cardinals!

Considering these 22 tunes(!) are from the sessions that begat Easy Tiger [Lost Highway-2007] it’s quite baffling they’ve been shelved for the last few years, unless this was somehow tied to Adams' decision to quit the Cardinals, or the plan all along was to eventually release them at a later date. Then again, knowing as we do how prolific Adams is, and how it must be analogous to having root canal surgery for him not to share his songs with an adoring public, we shouldn't be too surprised to see them finally surface. (Lest we forget, Adams released 11 studio albums during the past decade. Yes, eleven.)

As for the current double platter itself, if you are of the faction that enjoys Adams’ alt-country leanings but have more of a hankering for his rock and roll exploits—namely, um, Rock n Roll [Lost Highway-2003] and Cardinology [Lost Highway-2008]—then Santa has just left you an early Christmas present. The head Cardinal and his mates are in full-on rock mode here and despite the common quality control pitfalls of a double album, Adams amply succeeds in putting together a batch of rockin’ tunes that may not reach the greatest of heights but do coalesce into a consistent album; arguably one of his best.

It seems utterly lame to label this double album as ‘all killer, no filler’--close enough, actually--but that’s what happens when a ridiculously good record comes your way. And III/IV does not let up. If this is truly the last we've heard from the Cardinals, their final bow has been quite the farewell.

Highlights: Plenty, but “Wasteland”, “Ultraviolet Light”, “Happy Birthday”, “No”, “Numbers” (is that the Mrs. doing harmonies, Ryan?), “Star Wars”, “My Favorite Song”, “P.S.”, and "Death and Rats" all stand out.


Are We The Only Ones Who Think...

...there would be very little fuss over his musical endeavors if he didn't just happen to be Steve Martin? It's not like he's some banjo virtuoso or anything.

What We're Listening To

BRENDAN BENSON Lapalco [Star Time]
DEERHUNTER Halcyon Digest [4AD]
FLYING LOTUS Cosmogramma [Warp]
NOVA (unreleased demos 2002)
YES Tales from Topographic Oceans [Atlantic]

What are YOU listening to?


From The Big Easy to Brooklyn

Brooklyn Academy of Music

We’ve been carrying on a personal boycott of the Brooklyn Academy of Music—you too, Brooklyn Brewery—once we learned of their support of the nefarious Atlantic Yards project, with its usage of eminent domain for public displacement and private development.
We clearly acknowledge that our stance will make less of an impact than that of a mosquito bite, but our disgust was enough to renounce what little allegiance we may have had with the Kings County cultural institution. More importantly, you should always be able to withhold your money and support to whomever and whenever you desire, right?

Thankfully, no money changed hands when we were invited by our old friend Mr. K—who got free tickets issued specifically for him—to see the first night of Red Hot + New Orleans featuring Dr. John, Irma Thomas, Ivan Neville, Kermit Ruffins, and musical director Troy Andrews aka Trombone Shorty.

The welcoming sight of large silver beads decorating BAM’s Howard Gilman Opera House gave way to a night of various NOLA sounds and talents, some of which blew the roof off the joint while a few left a bit to be desired. Dr. John and Irma Thomas’ respective performances were every bit as magical as one could’ve expected, if a tad brief.
Ivan Neville, who played keyboards throughout the evening, honored his family legacy with a rousing rendition of The Meters’ “Fire on the Bayou”; R&B singer Ledisi was a marvel to behold, wowing the audience with her killer vocal gymnastics and a fiery version of her tune “Knockin’”.

On the other hand, vocalist Marc Broussard was on the bland side, and Kermit Ruffins, who opened the show, was off key on both trumpet and voice, the latter glaringly so when he dueted with the aforementioned Ledisi on “What a Wonderful World”. That bad. Seriously.

If the star of the evening was the music of NOLA, Trombone Shorty was the spotlight. Along with his band Orleans Avenue, the 24 year old was nothing less than a seasoned pro, not only pulling together all these diverse musical strands in a fluid and coherent manner but showing off his monstrous talent and stage presence during his own portion of the show. Damn!

And yeah, they all came out on stage for the final encore: What else? “When The Saints Go Marching In”. But it wasn’t hokey. Kinda cool, actually.