Friday, December 18, 2009

Best of 2009

I love holiday songs and could listen to them all year long, but I have a rule; no Christmas music until I have digested my turkey and trimmings. Right now I’m listening to Natty and Nice: A Reggae Christmas and Six Degrees Collection: Christmas Remixed. But that’s not why I’m writing. This post has to do with my favorite discs from 2009. Here goes.

The Avett Brothers - I and Love and You (Sony, 29 Sept 09)
I describe these guys as Black & Bluegrass and this is their best release to date. They hold to many Bluegrass traditions, but their live shows have more energy than an atomic bomb and nearly as explosive.

Neko Case – Middle Cyclone (Anti, 3 Mar 09)
Wow! That’s all I can say, wow! Got to see her at Bumbershoot ’08.

Ravi Coltrane – Blending Times (Savoy Jazz, 13 Jan 09)
It has to be tough to live is the shadow of a legend. Ravi shows no signs that it’s a burden. He’s put together a solid combo, isn’t afraid to let them shine and shine they do on this great Jazz disc.

The Black Crowes - Before the Frost/After the Freeze (Red Distribution, 1 Sept 09)
I’ve seen the Brothers Robinson 3 times, including a great show in November of this year. These tracks were recorded live at Levon Helm’s Woodstock studio and performance hall (OK, OK it’s a barn) and truly demonstrates how the boys have matured as songwriters and musicians.

eels - Hombre Lobo: 12 Songs of Desire (Vagrant Records, 2 Jun 09)
Take a blues influenced, retro, rock sound, strip it down, add some distortion, fold in a lot of attitude and you have Hombre Lobo...

Fink - Sort of Revolution (Ninja Tune, 22 May 09)
If Nick Drake lived long enough to incorporate an ever-so-slight Techno pulse into the bottom end of his music, this is what it would sound like.

Grand Archives - Keep in Mind Frankenstein (Sub Pop, 15 Sept 09)
The Emerald City’s own created another disc of perfectly blended harmonies in their version of the Folk tradition.

Mayer Hawthorne- A Strange Arrangement (Stones Throw, 8 Sept 09)Sweet Soulful sounds from Ann Arbor by a geeky looking white guy in a cardigan and Buddy Holly glasses. Buy this record now! One of my great finds from Bumbershoot ’09.

Hoots & Hellmouth - Holy Open Secret (Mad Dragon Records, 2 Jun 09)
A solid sophomore effort from the Philly quartet who provided the best live show I saw in 2009 (the energy from their show could power a city for a week). Mostly, it’s Folk Rock delivered with the fervor of a Pentecostal preacher in a tent revival meeting.

Joe Henry - Blood From Stars (Anti, 18 Aug 09)
I love Joe Henry’s sweet melodies, his jazzy arrangements, his poetic lyrics and his spot-on delivery. What I’m trying to say is I love Joe Henry’s music. He reminds of Tom Waits and Ricki Lee Jones.

Levon Helm-Electric Dirt (Vanguard Records, 30 Jun 09)
A few years back Levon was dealing with cancer and a very rocky financial situation. Hard to believe! This is his second great album since coming back. Who needs The Band to reunite as long as Levon can make a disc like this?

The Lonely Forest-We Sing the Body Electric (Burning Building Recordings, 21 Apr 09)A debut from a young band of straight on Rock from Anacortes, WA .Very, very nice.

Manchester Orchestra-Mean Everything to Nothing (Sony, 21 Apr 09)Atlanta Rockers tearing it up with attitude!

Mindy Smith- Stupid Love (Vanguard Records, 11 Aug 09)Third album and best yet, from this very talented Nashville transplant by way of Long Island. Two things I like about her; she gives me hope for the future of C&W and she’s not Taylor Swift. I saw her at Bumbershoot ’04.

Telekinesis-Telekinesis (Merge Records, 7 Apr 09)Bright, Pop sounds reminding me of the snappy tunes from the New Wave era. A crowd pleaser at Bumbershoot ’09.

Vieux Farka Toure – Fondo (Six Degrees, 12 May 09)
Blues Mali style. His dad did an album with Ry Cooder a few years ago.

Westerly- This Lonesome Town (Westerly, Mar 09)Northwest quartet playing C&W (mostly originals) with catchy hooks, great melodies and honey-sweet harmonies. Saw them at the Kingston Arts & Crafts Festival in June.

Vetiver-Tight Knit (Sub Pop, 17 Feb 09)They pay homage to the Folk tradition with playful, sometimes Jazzy songs. I love this band.

Volcano Choir – Unmap (Jagjaguwar, 22 Sept 09)
A collection of very talented people from Wisconsin including Bon Iver. Slow, somber, Folky tunes.

More to follow...

Sunday, September 27, 2009

So Many Records and Shows...

Since my last post I saw some great acts at Bumbershoot '09. The weather sucked and it's the first time in many years that I've not gone every day.
I saw James Taylor at the Puyallup Fair last Saturday. He was fantastic!!!! While walking the fairgrounds before the show I saw a food vendor called "Fried Everything" including fried butter (the snack for those with extremely low cholesterol).
I have included quite a few artists in this post, but these are the discs I have been listening to for the past few months.
More to follow...

Kasey Chambers & Shane Nicholson – Rattlin’ Bones (Sugarhill, 21 Apr 08)
Who says great Country music has to come from Nashville. Aussies Chambers & Nicholson must have been weaned on Bluegrass and C&W.

Charlie Haden & Friends – Rambling Boy (Decca, 23 Sept 08)
Jazz bassist Haden is spot on with a disc of excellent, traditional Country sounds.

Levon Helm-Electric Dirt (Vanguard Records, 30 Jun 09)
Levon’s second album since recovering from throat cancer, a bit more rocking than the first. Reminiscent of the work of his former group, The Band. Excellent!

Mindy Smith- Stupid Love (Vanguard Records, 11 Aug 09)
Third album (and best yet) from this Nashville transplant by way of Long Island. (Bumbershoot ’04).

Various Artists - Country & Western Hit Parade 1945-1950 Dim Lights, Thick Smoke and Hillbilly Music (Bear Family, 9 Dec 08) Bob Wills, Ernest Tubb, Merle Travis and other Country legends take you back to the post-war era.

Westerly- This Lonesome Town (Westerly, Mar 09)
Saw them at the Kingston Arts & Crafts Festival in June. Way too small a crowd for this Northwest quartet playing originals with catchy hooks, great melodies and honey-sweet harmonies. They kick ass.

Vetiver-Tight Knit (Sub Pop, 17 Feb 09)
While their MySpace site indicates that they play Thrash / Black Metal / Christian Rap that couldn’t be further from the truth. They’re paying homage to the Folk tradition (like their talented contemporaries Bon Iver, Grand Archives, Hoots & Hellmouth) with solid song-writing, musicianship and production. I love this band.

Mayer Hawthorne- A Strange Arrangement (Stones Throw, 8 Sept 09)
Sweet Soulful sounds from Ann Arbor by a geeky looking white guy in a cardigan and Buddy Holly glasses. Buy this record now! One of my great finds from Bumbershoot ’09.

Raphael Saadiq-The Way I See It (Sony, 16 Sept 09)
OK, so I’m late to the party on this one. When I first heard this disc from former Tony! Toni! TonĂ©! member I would have bet the farm that this was an unreleased jewel from Berry Gordy’s Mowtown archives. Not so. For those of you pining for songs from one of the most artistic eras in American music, Saadiq has put together something reminiscent of The Impressions, The Miracles, The Temptations and Marvin Gaye. Another great act from Bumbershoot ’09.

Dehli 2 Dublin Remixed (Nov 08)
Tasty world beats from a rather eclectic troop of musicians, Celtic fiddle, sitar, lots of Central Asian performers, a DJ and a few rappers all sewn together with a toe-tapping bass & drum bottom that had the entire crowd at Bumbershoot ’09 pulsing to the rhythms.

Dept. of Energy-Held By Waits (Roam Records, 8 May 07)
I don’t know how I never heard of this Seattle band, but they lit up the EMP’s Sky Church at Bumbershoot ’09 with sound and vision.

The Lonely Forest-We Sing the Body Electric (Burning Building Recordings, 21 Apr 09)
Hailing from tiny Anacortes, WA, they write and play like they’ve been touring the world for decades. Another band shining brightly at EMP’s Sky Church during Bumbershoot ’09. Nicely done!

Manchester Orchestra-Mean Everything to Nothing (Sony, 21 Apr 09)
Atlanta Rockers tearing it up with attitude!

Roman Candle-Oh Tall Tree in the Ear
Chapel Hill Folk-Rockers make great music.

Telekinesis-Telekinesis (Merge Records, 7 Apr 09)
Bright, Pop sounds reminding me of the snappy tunes from the New Wave era. A crowd pleaser at Bumbershoot ’09.

Classic Rock Releases
Van Morrison-Astral Weeks Live at the Hollywood Bowl (Listen To the Lion Records, 24 Feb 09)
Arguably the most influential album Van ever released and it's performed live with some of the original studio musicians. When can we expect a tour around Tupelo Honey, Moondance or St. Dominic’s Preview?

Eric Clapton & Steve Winwood-Live at Madison Square Garden (Reprise, 19 May 09)
Do I really need to say anything at all?

Monday, August 31, 2009

2009 Bumbershoot Preview

Sorry for the short notice. I have been Hella-busy. The asterisks are acts I recommend. See you this weekend.
More to follow....

Saturday, 5 Sept 09

Samsung Mobile Mainstage
Katy Perry
She kissed a girl and liked it!

All-American Rejects
Rock, production is fine, but can’t really distinguish them from a lot of other bands.

*Old 97s
Old school Rock sound leaning toward Rock-a-Billy and Alt-Country.

Sheryl Crow
Sheryl has left Las Vegas to soak up the sun in Seattle.

Rockstar Stage
Sick Puppies
Loud, aggressive, angry young man Rock-n-Roll.

*Iglu & Hartly
Is it Dance, Techno or Hip-Hop? Yes and it’s upbeat and fun!

Gang Gang Dance
Dance music with a worldly pulse, get on your feet.

Loud, aggressive, angry young man Rock-n-Roll.

Fisher Green Stage
*Adrian Xavier

*Mayer Hawthorne
Sweet soulful sounds from a geeky looking white guy.

Thick and juicy Hip-Hop from DC.

Os Mutantes
Brazilian Pop.

De La Soul
Two decades in the trenches and still churning out smooth Hip-Hop grooves.

Starbucks Stage
Kristen Ward
Local talent sharing singer/songwriter Folk-Rock.

Kim Field & The Mighty Titans of Tone
Slow and smokey, rough and rowdy Blues from Seattle.

*Massy Ferguson
The self-proclaimed People’s Band rockin’ from Seattle.

Carrie Rodriguez
Folk Rock from a consummate entertainer with great pipes.

Eric Hutchinson
Catchy Pop tunes, reminds me of Billy Joel.

World Party
Rock that pops from the foggy isles.

Broad Street Stage
Slower, mostly Rock-based songs. Reminds me of Neil Young

Natalie Portman’s Shaved Head
Seattle’s very own Electro-Dance group.

*Low Vs Diamond
Excellently arranged and delivered Rock’n’Roll.

Matt & Kim
Electro-Pop from NY.

Electro-Pop California style.

*The Long Winters
I love this band!!!! Excellent Rock from one of Seattle’s own.

Northwest Court
The Not-Its
Pop for the younger set.

We Are Golden
Elaborately arranged Rock with great musicianship and vocals.

Latin Pop Rock from NY.

Eleni Mandell
Folk Rock. Nice voice.

*Elvis Perkins
LA Folk Rock phenom.

EMP Skychurch
*Dyno Jamz
To quote EMP, “West Coast cool jazz to East Coast 80s hip-hop”

New Wave, Electro-Rockers from Seattle.

Past Lives
Seattle rockers.

In your face Rock from Seattle. Suck it bitches!

The Whore Moans
More in your face Rock from Seattle.

Great Rock sound. I love this band!

Kay Kay and His Weathered Underground
Reminds me of Queen’s cabaret approach to Rock.

Sunday, 6 September 09

Samsung Mobile Mainstage
Cold War Kids
Rockin’ in from LA.

*Yeah Yeah Yeahs
If Chrissie Hynde was starting in music today she’d be in this band.

*Michael Franti
World Beat from the Bay Area. I dare you to sit still.

Jason Mraz
Smooth, Pop sounds from Southern California.

Rockstar Stage
Rockstar Winner

Maximo Park
UK Rock, rather tasty.

Swollen Members
Hip-Hop from Vancouver, BC

No Age
It’s knocking-over-trash-cans-with-a-chainsaw Rock.

Self-described as Electro-Punk, I’m inclined to agree.

Fisher Green Stage
Kore Ionz
“Water for roots. Love of reggae. Fire for rock.” Ya mon…

Dyme Def
Portland Hip-Hop.

Extra Golden
Music from Kenya by way of a Chicago record label.

*Common Market
Do yourself a favor and see these guys, Seattle Hip-Hop.

*Roy Ayers
Jazz, Funk & Soul, what more could you ask for?

*Raphael Saadiq
Soul and R&B with an old school sound.

Starbucks Stage
Handful of Luvin’
Interesting Folk Rock.

The Dusty 45s
3 chord guitar and a whole lotta shaking goin’on

The Honey Brothers
Canadian quintet playing World Beat Pop tunes.

Sera Cahoone
Somber, Soulful Country from a former Indie-Rock drummer.

Dave Alvin & The Guilty Women
A walking, talking lexicon of American Roots music.

Brett Dennen
If Jack Johnson and Tracy Chapman had a child…Funkified Folky Pop.

Broad Street Stage
Hey Marseilles
Folk music.

Mt St Helens Vietnam Band

United States of Electronica, need I say more?

Vivian Girls
NYC punkers

*Holy F**k
Original instrumental electronic Rock.

*The Helio Sequence
Pop Rockers from Portland.

Northwest Court
Central Services presents the Board of Education
Kiddie Pop.

Steve Griggs Quintet
Jazz, but I can’t hear it because he has no Myspace page.

Mark Taylor Quartet

Michael Shrieve’s Spellbinder
Latin Jazz!

Paul Oscher
Blues, Blues, Blues.

Todd Snider
Blues, Folk, Country and Rock.

EMP Skychurch
The Kindness Kind
Local Rockers.

*Black Whales
These guys are good, basic Rock’N’Roll.

Parenthetical Girls
Chamber Rock from Everett by way of Portland.

New Wave Rockers from Seattle.

Sleepy Eyes of Death
Electro-Rock from the Emerald City.

Local Hip-Hop

DJ Spooky That Subliminal Kid
No tunes on the MySpace player.

Monday, 7 September 09

Samsung Mobile Mainstage
The Knux
Hip-Hop from Hollywood , by way of New orleans, California

*The Black Eyed Peas
Saw Fergie a few years ago, this should be fun.

Franz Ferdinand
Rocking along

Modest Mouse
Issaquah Rock band.

Rockstar Stage
Rockstar Winner

Forgive Durden performing Razia’s Show
Not entirely sure what this is

Dead Confederate
Hard Rocking boys from Georgia.

Audrye Sessions
“…polished, propulsive rock songs and gentle, stripped-down tunes…”

3 Inches of Blood
Just exactly what you’d expect from a band called 3 Inches of Blood.

Fisher Green Stage
Seattle Hip-Hop

Dehli 2 Dublin
Celtic melodies and Indian beats with a little Hip-Hop for good measure.

*The New Mastersounds
Funky, Soulful, Bluesy.

Janelle Monae
Soul/R&B, Pop, Great vocals!

Vieux Farka Toure
Mali sensation keeps the family tradition alive and well.

Sly & Robbie
Reggae from Bob Marley’s rhythm section.

Starbucks Stage
Tyler Bryant
Tyler’s talented, but way too young to play authentic blues.

The Minus 5
Pop-Rockers going strong.

Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears
No tunes on the MySpace player.

*The Devil Makes Three
Fun, bright Country sounds.

*The Cave Singers
Saw ‘em on the NW stage a few years back. Great music!

Keller Williams
Acoustic Funk, Folk, Country and whatever else he feels like doing.

Broad Street Stage
No doubt about it Rock’N’Roll.

Say Hi
Rock and it’s not too bad at all.

Pop Rock from sultry singing siren.

Jazzy grooves switch to in-your-face Rock guitar.

UK Rock somberly

Yeah, they Rock.

Northwest Court
Anomie Belle
Electronic, somber approaches to Rock.

Recess Monkey
Kid focused Pop.

Grand Hallway
Folk Rock with a Japanese influence. That’s what their MySpace page says.

Oren Lavie
Jazzie, electronic background with soulful vocals. Sounds a bit like Nick Drake.

Portland Cello Project
This is not your father’s cello band.

Nicely done Pop from Down Under

EMP Skychurch
*Department of Energy
Great original Rock.

Point Juncture, WA
More Rock from Portland.

The Lonely Forest
Anacortes own Rock, WOW! Go see this band.

Champagne Champagne
Local Hip-Hop

Pop & Hip-Hop.

Hippity-Hoppity Techno

Head Like a Kite
Shoegaze, WTF? Who comes up with these?

Thursday, January 1, 2009

The Best of 2008

I hope all of you had a wonderful holiday season. My musical faves for 2008...

New discoveries: Bedouin Soundclash (Canadian Reggae), Bon Iver (Somber & Soulful Folk), Cheb I. Sabbah (Traditional Central Asian w/bass & drums), Colour Revolt (Straight on Rock n Roll), Fleet Foxes (Sweet Harmonic Folk), Giant Bear (Country Rock), Grand Archives (Sweet Harmonic Folk), Hoots and Hellmouth (Country Rock), Horse Feathers (Sweet Harmonic Folk, my favorite CD of the year), The Moondoggies (We don't need The Band to reunite as long as these guys are playing), Vampire Weekend (Hard to nail the genre, but it's fun and I like it), West Indian Girl (Psychedelic Pop).

Older bands with great 2008 releases: AC/DC (The best CD they have ever done), The Black Crowes (Solid effort from America's answer to The Rolling Stones), Blue Mountain (Country Rock), Merle Haggard (Merle unplugged), Sun Kil Moon (Mark Kozelek makes great wooden music) , The Waifs (The sisters from Down Under release their best disc yet).

I should mention the two shows I saw in the latter part of 2008 that were not featured in my blog:

Greg Brown-Illsley Ball Nordstrom Recital Hall, Benaroya Hall, Seattle. 17 Oct 08. I met my wife at a Greg Brown show at the Back Stage many years ago and I've been partial to him ever since. He is he consummate entertainer, musician, songwriter and storyteller. He played a wonderful mix of older and newer material. His rich baritone and acoustic guitar delighted a nearly filled hall. If you like folk from a soulful, bluesy perspective go see Greg the next time he's in town. If you're looking for a Greg Brown CD I would recommend Covenant (Red House Records, 8 Aug 2000)

The English Beat-The Showbox, Seattle. 4 Dec 08.
30 years and counting with their last release in 1982 (I have it on vinyl) they've had a lot of time to perfect their craft. It's no secret that Dave Wakeling and his band enjoy playing music. You can see it in the performance. And they are very good at what they enjoy.
I was fortunate to witness the show from a great vantage point, seated by the small bar (thanks John) and I had several good friends with me. It was a fantastic show from the opening chords of Whine and Grine/Stand Down Margaret to my favorite Beat song, Save It For Later We had to catch a boat so we missed the encore, but was told that they played a new song. Could a new English Beat CD be in the works for 2009? One can only hope.

Happy New Year!

More to follow...