I have been in shock since around 10:00 last night when it became clear to me that Donald Trump will be the next president. I have a friend who tells me we get the president we deserve, but what the fuck did we do to deserve a fear-mongering racist, bigoted, egotistical, pussy grabbing, narcissist with the vocabulary of a fifth grader and the temperament of colicky toddler in a hot car seat? I don’t know. I have some thoughts, but I haven’t strung them together yet.
I was going to when I got home tonight, but I turned on the radio and tuned into Greg Vandy’s Roadhouse on KEXP. I’m still listening, and it’s exactly what I need to hear right now.
Greg’s show is a heavy one tonight with old and new songs about the current state of our divided union, and many songs are by people I’ve never heard before, including this song by Radney Foster. It captured my attention first because of the powerful vocal quality and then because it’s a frightening vision of a demagogue’s power over the rubes.
It’s a single that was released in September. I think it will be on his upcoming album due out soon. It’s on my list.
I don’t know why it took me so long to put together this list of The Best Albums of 2015. Just too busy I guess. But now that football season is over, I’ve not much else to do this Valentine’s Day Sunday. Right now I’m just sittin’ around listening to vinyl, drinking Batch 15 IPA and eating some chocolate. Just the right combination to get me motivated enough to list the best albums of 2015 and embed some cool videos.
Wilco surprised everyone by dropping Star Wars for free! Not that I would download a crappy mp3 or anything like that. I waited for the hard copy and also saw them live at Marymoor Park on a warm summer evening last August. Here they are live on Stephen Colbert’s show performing “Random Name Generator”.
Melody Gardot is not on a lot of people’s radar, probably because her albums are found in the Jazz section of your local record store. Her latest album, Currency of Man, is jazz leaning towards blues and rock, and it has a sharp political edge to it. Perfect for the troubled times we live in. Here is the real standout track “Preacherman”. It’s a pretty intense video with a long introduction, so be patient. The song starts at about 2:50.
I’ve been a big fan of Johnny Dowd ever since I heard his 1999 album, Pictures from Life’s Other Side, and saw him live at The Tractor Tavern. His new album is titled That’s Your Wife on the Back of My Horse, and here’s a quirky video for “White Dolemite”.
Kurt Vile has been pretty prolific over the past few years, and every album he puts has something really great on it like “Pretty Pimpin'” from b’lieve i’m goin’ down.
I had not heard of Houndmouth before 2015, but they got some airplay on KEXP, and I liked what I heard, so I bought Little Neon Limelight. And I’m glad I did.
Nadine Shah has one of the most powerful singing voices. I love what she does with it on Fast Food. Too bad she isn’t appreciated much on this side of the Atlantic, because she should be. Then maybe she would tour here and I could see her live.
I heard about Israel Nash from friends who are really into his music. I bought 2014’s Rain Plans some time in 2015 and loved it. I missed his sold out show at The Sunset Tavern, but I did see his ridiculously short 30-minute set at Bumbershoot, and then saw what was one of the best shows of the year at The Crocodile in December in support of his latest album Silver Season. Here’s “Have You Seen L.A. Lately”.
And here’s ten more favorites from 2015 listed without video support.
Seattle super group RAW POWER. From left to right that’s Duff McKagan on bass, Mark Arm singing, Barrett Martin on drums, and Mike McCready on guitar. They played a forty-five minute set of Iggy and the Stooges covers at this KEXP/Market Foundation fund-raising event.
Today is the first full day of summer, so you need a list of songs that sound great on a hot sunny day. I’ve been listening to summer-themed songs and music that just feels right on a sunny day, and here’s my final list with a few comments and videos.
Where is the Sun? – Stag (2014)
I heard this song on Quilty’s show on KEXP a few weeks ago on a cloudy Sunday afternoon. Seattle is normally cloudy and damp until July 5th every year. So it’s no wonder a Seattle band would ride a somewhat melancholy song asking when the sun will show up. I stayed away from most songs that were a bit of downer, but this one works for an opening track because by the end it’s pretty upbeat. I should also mention that Seattle has had a great summer so far, even though summer didn’t officially start until today. We’ve already had seven days with high temperatures over eight degrees in June. We don’t normally get this kind of whether until July.
Pipeline – The Chantays (1962)
Perhaps my all-time favorite surf song. I never get tired of this classic.
Good Vibrations – The Beach Boys (1966)
Mr. E’s Beautiful Blues – Eels (2000)
Summertime Boy – Seasick Steve (2015)
I hadn’t really listened to Seasick Steve until this year when he put out Sonic Soul Surfer. Here’s the video.
Hot Fun in the Summertime – Sly and the Family Stone (1969)
Low Rider – War (1975)
Yes I know they have a song titled “Summer”, but I like this song in this set because it feels like summer, and if you are a fan of War, then it makes you think of “Summer”.
Mexican Radio – Wall of Voodoo (1983)
Driving and listening to the radio, and sometimes not understanding a word that is said.
Something good has to happen to you this Friday the 13th, right? You can make good happen by going to the Sunset Tavern to see the best Rock n’ Roll band in the world perform in a very intimate setting.
I got hooked on Capsula the first time I heard KEXP play a track off their 2009 album, Rising Mountains. Since then I’ve seen them play during CityArts Fest at The Comet, a free KEXP summer show at the Mural Amphitheater, The Triple Door, and at El Corazon (perhaps my least favorite venue in Seattle), so I am very glad to see them play a show in a great club in my own neighborhood this Friday. You should be too. Buy a ticket, take the ride. If you don’t, bad things might happen to you.
For those of you reading who don’t know about this band, here’s a video of them singing “Mejor No Hablar de Ciertas Cosas” (it translates to The Porcelain Horse) at a venue in what is now their home town; Bilbao, Spain.
That’s one they do in Spanish. Almost all the songs they do in the states are in English, so don’t let that get to you. It’s a great rock n’ roll song!
Anyway, if you want to know more about their sound, read about them on Tulip Frenzy.
KEXP completed its fall pledge drive yesterday, and during the week-long drive they counted down the top 437 artists of all time as voted on by listeners. Listeners had until September 19th to cast their votes for their top twelve. I’m not sure why the final list was 437. It could be that’s the total number of different artists that were chosen by listeners, or maybe it was an air-time issue – the number of songs they could get through during the daytime pledge-drive hours. (Anybody at KEXP reading this who knows why the list was 437?)
I listened to the station during my drives to and from work during the week, and I must say the banter from Kevin Cole, Troy Nelson, and Tilly (?) during the afternoon show was pretty entertaining. I especially liked Troy’s “80’s scream”. Just thinking about trying to imitate it makes my throat hurt.
Anyway, here’s the top twelve as voted on by listeners:
1 The Beatles 2 Radiohead 3 Led Zeppelin 4 The Clash 5 Nirvana 6 Pixies 7 David Bowie 8 Bob Dylan 9 The Rolling Stones 10 Neil Young 11 R.E.M. 12 Pink Floyd
I get that a lot of people of all generations like The Beatles, and the band has had a long time to grow a fan base, but I would have flipped The Rolling Stones’ spot for The Beatles’ spot. I listen to the Stones pretty often – mostly the late sixties through mid-seventies era, and those albums still sound pretty fresh to me. As for The Beatles, I listen to them once and a while, but I’ve grown tired of them.
No surprise that Radiohead placed high on the chart, because they used to win the album-of-the-year polls every time they put out a record. Led Zeppelin ahead of The Clash? Come on! Nirvana snuck in as the only American band in the top five.
Here’s my list from a couple weeks ago with corresponding KEXP rankings:
1 Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds (59 – not bad, but someday the rest of you will come around.) 2 Patti Smith (67 – really? Have you seen her live?) 3 Tom Waits (35 – but he had ten albums on their list of top 903 albums of all time.) 4 Johnny Cash (13 – about where I would expect.) 5 P.J. Harvey (56 – she deserves much better than this.) 6 The Clash (4) 7 Bob Dylan (8) 8 Bruce Springsteen (43 – he’s better than this, but not a surprising ranking for KEXP) 9 The Rolling Stones (9) 10 Nirvana (4) 11 X (85 – really? John Fuckin’ Doe? Listen to their first four albums again.) 12 Bob Marley (32 – perhaps his ranking will rise now that we can buy pot legally in this state.)
But what about Sufjan Stevens? I had a beef with fellow listeners after the Top 903 albums of all time poll. His Come on Feel the Illinois ranked #15 in that one – way ahead of much more worthy albums. For this poll he came in 89th. His star has faded because he hasn’t really done anything since.
Nothing else too surprising about the results. What do you all think?
Who are your top 12 musical artists of all time – KEXP wants to know
KEXP is gearing up for it’s fall pledge drive, and this time it’s asking listeners to vote on their top twelve artists of all time. They will be counting down through the list of top artists during their pledge drive that begins September 26th.
Gotta love the fluorescent lighting. (This ain’t no disco).
I first heard of this band while listening to NPR on the way to work one morning. Like they say in the interview, I couldn’t believe the voice I heard on the radio came out of this guy’s mouth. When he talks, his voice matches his appearance, but when he sings…not at all. They played a soulful 25-minute set, and made fans of everyone in the store.
2013 was an awesome year for music. There were many great albums put out by some of my favorite artists, and there were several outstanding albums put out by artists I’d never paid much attention to in previous years, and a few by brand new artists. That said, let’s get to the number one album of the year:
1. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Push the Sky Away. This is the album I listened to the most during the year. It is a quiet follow-up to the cacophonous noise of Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!! released five years earlier. The album sounds as spacious as the brightly lit room on the cover, but sounds much darker and as beautiful as the model on the cover – his wife, Susie Bick (in the nude!). Key tracks are “Jubilee Street” and “Higgs Boson Blues“. Here’s video about the making of the album.
2. Valerie June – Pushin’ Against a Stone. I first heard Valerie June on Greg Vandy’s show, The Roadhouse, on KEXP. I was captivated by her arresting voice and the expert blending of folk, country, blues, and country music. Her album was released in Europe early in the year, and you could watch videos and listen to it on the web, but it wasn’t released in the US until August. The album was coproduced by Kevin Augunas and Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys, who no doubt drew some extra attention from the press, and received great reviews in many major music publications. I bought it the day it came out and have been listening to it ever since. Key tracks are the title track and “Workin’ Woman Blues”. Here’s a video about Valerie and her debut album.
3. Holly Williams – The Highway. Prior to this year I had only heard Holly Williams singing her rendition of her grandfather’s, (Hank Williams, Sr. – she has the blood of Hank in her, and it shows) “Blue is My Heart” on the excellent album project titled The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams. I was hooked on her voice and her style after hearing the song, and then I read a great review of The Highway in Uncut Magazine and went looking for the album to buy. I ended up buying it from Amazon, and I have yet to see it stocked in a brick-and-mortar store. That’s because it was independently released on her own label Georgiana Records, which apparently wasn’t picked up by any distributors. That’s a shame, because this album is a real gem. Holly’s voice sits front and center of a mostly sparse and acoustic production. The songs are of the south and of her family. Key tracks are the opener, “Drinkin'” and the closer, a song about her grandmother June Bacon White, “Waitin’ on June”.
5. Low – The Invisible Way. I first learned of Low when they opened for Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds at The Fifth Avenue Theater in Seattle way back in 1998. The house was packed with people anxious to see Nick, and Low was kind of a quiet shoegazer band at the time, but I really like what I was hearing when I was able to hear it over the very loud man talking behind me. (I asked him to be quiet or leave. He stayed, but he was quiet.) Since then I’d heard them on the radio and liked the music, but never really got into them until this year. The Invisible Way was produced by Jeff Tweedy, and he has a way about bringing out the best in people. The album opens with a very humorous song, “Plastic Cup” sung by Alan Sparhawk. Mimi Parker sings backup on this one, but she takes the lead vocal on several songs on the album, including “Just Make it Stop“, another standout track.
6. Daughter – If You Leave. Elena Tonra is the leader of this London trio. I was hooked on this band the moment I first heard “Youth” on KEXP. The sound of their debut album is sparse and hypnotic, and the lyrics take you inward to a claustrophobic space. Beautiful record that I listen to all the time. “Amsterdam” is another standout track.
Capsula, for those who don’t know — and if you don’t, we pity you — are the finest punk rock band to ever emerge from South America, though for the past 13 years they’ve used Bilbao as their locus for world domination. It’s been paying off, too, as Solar Secrets, their recent album produced by Tony Visconti — fresh from his handling the chores for David Bowie’s The Next Day – has been topping Alternative charts in Europe. They may be the hardest working band in rock’n’roll these days. Based on the commitment they showed last night, wherein Martin Guevara and Coni Duchess bounced off one another, and then the ceiling, like those ping pong balls about to be plucked for the Powerball lottery, they may, at moments, also be the single best live band working today. The drummer — was that Ignacio Villarejo or someone else? — was like a locomotive, minus the smoke, and even when Guevara and Duchess were doing synchronized back flips, the musicianship would have made the Berlin Philharmonic seem like amateurs.
Longtime fans of Tulip Frenzy know we’ve been wild for Capsula for years and years. Ever since hearing 2006′s Songs & Circuits, we’ve viewed them as some magical combo of the Cramps, the Stooges, and the best ’70s radio pop. We can’t put it better than… we already have: “Capsula is a throwback to an era of punk rock that may not ever have existed, a remnant of a Platonic world where all songs are played fast, where the drummer keeps an animalistic beat for hours on end, a place where the pogoing guitarist can fill the stage and stage the fills with melody and soul as the girl bassist with the bunny ears rocks harder than Izzy Stradlin.