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Some More of the Best Music of 2020 so Far

Some More of the Best Music of 2020 so Far

It’s been a month since I put up any new music, and I’ve discovered several albums that are worth adding to the list. Let’s start with Nick Cave’s cover of “Cosmic Dancer” by T. Rex from the upcoming all-star tribute album titled, AngelHeaded Hipster set to be released on September 4, 2020. It will be a double album with 26 tracks featuring U2, Elton John, Joan Jett, Perry Farrell, Sean Lennon, Lucinda Williams, and more!

X had planned on touring to promote their new album, Alphabetland and then the coronavirus pandemic started, so no 40th anniversary tour for now. Hopefully they can reschedule it after the pandemic subsides so we can see the original lineup perform the new songs on this album mixed in with their hits dating back to 1980. Here’s one of the new songs. The album was released on streaming services last month. The physical albums will be available August 21st.

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit released the new Album, Reunions, this month. There was an early release on May 8th for independent record stores followed by a full release on May 15th. This album has garnered a lot of attention because of the stories of struggles Jason went through as he wrote the songs, including the one about drinking a shot of Listerine. If you want to learn more, watch his interview by Trevor Noah on The Daily Social Distancing Show.

I had never heard of Jaimie Wyatt until Greg Vandy played “Neon Cross” on The Roadhouse about a month ago. I really liked the song, so I did a little searching and found out it’s a song from her sophomore album of the same name produced by Shooter Jennings that will be released on May 29th. Jaimie says:

Neon Cross is a collection of my most vulnerable lyrics and vocal performances to date. My friend Shooter, our manager and most of the band had literally witnessed me as a walking disaster when I was grieving death, divorce, and trying to come out of the closet, while heavily self-medicating and nearly self-destructing with drugs and alcohol.

The album I’ve been listening to the most lately is Lucinda Williams’ Good Souls Better Angels. It’s a very bluesy country album with great guitar work by Stuart Mathis. The opening track is a cover of Memphis Minnie’s 1937 song, “You Can’t Rule Me”. It rocks.

More of the Best New Music of 2020 so Far

More of the Best New Music of 2020 so Far

Many people are not familiar with Terry Allen and the Panhandle Mystery Band. I think I first heard him on KEXP’s Swingin’ Doors show around twenty years ago when Don Slack played “Gimme a Ride to Heaven” from the the 1983 album Bloodlines. I bought that album and have been following him ever since. No Depression describes his new album, Just Like Moby Dick, like this;

Instead of a voyage on the Pequod, Allen takes his listeners on a journey that covers a lot of ground, from Houdini facing death after life in “Houdini Didn’t Like the Spiritualists” to a town lamenting the loss of its last local dancer in “Death of the Last Stripper.” Allen brings clown-killing vampires into the light on “City of the Vampires” and delivers the storytelling masterpiece “Pirate Jenny,” which serves as a nod to Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht’s original of the same name.

Here is “Sailin’ on Through”. Enjoy!

Drive By Truckers have been putting out great southern rock music for decades now. They are not shy about expressing their political views, so it’s no surprise that during this year of a presidential election they have released their most political album ever, The Unraveling. Here’s their response to the nutjob, Christian, second-amendment crowd who won’t do anything about the epidemic of mass killings committed with ridiculously powerful automatic weapons except offer up their “Thoughts and Prayers”.

Stephen Malkmus has put out several solo albums, and they all sound a little different – some sound similar to his seminal band Pavement, some a little like Sonic Youth, some are bit electronic, and this new one titled Traditional Techniques is less rock, less electric, more acoustic, and maybe sounds a little bit like Wilco.

This next one is the title track from Tré Burt’s new album, Caught it From the Rye. You will probably find that the instrumentation and vocals sound very much like someone you know. Sean Jewell over at American Standard Time, in a somewhat amusing fashion, goes to great lengths not to name that singer/songwriter, because well… Sean has his own set of principles to which he must adhere.

I, on the other hand, will name that person. He happens to be an artist I have been listing to quite a bit lately. Bob Dylan has released two new songs on YouTube in the past three weeks. I won’t post the actual videos, because they are already ubiquitous on the internet. “Murder Most Foul“, about the assassination of President Kennedy and what it means to the American psyche, was released a few weeks ago. Today he released “I Contain Multitudes” which seems to be about all the things that have influenced his work.

John Prine has Died from COVID-19

John Prine has Died from COVID-19

Here is the opening of his obituary published on No Depression‘s website:

After nine days in intensive care at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, John Prine passed away at the age of 73 due to complications from COVID-19. Last weekend, he was intubated — a process that involves inserting a tube down a patient’s throat to assist with moving air in and out of the lungs — as family members and the Oh Boy Records team continued to update fans on his condition via social media. Prine was a high-risk patient, due to his squamous cell cancer diagnosis in 1998, lung cancer in 2013, heart surgery last summer, and recent hip injury that canceled his February tour dates.

Beloved, of course, in the roots music community, Prine was also greatly respected around the world for his vivid, often humorous storytelling. Beginning with his 1971 self-titled album — a record that Rolling Stone dubbed one of the 500 greatest of all time, replete with classics like “Paradise” and “Angel from Montgomery” — and through to his 2018 LP Tree of Forgiveness, Prine captured the simplicities and the complexities of the human existence in stark and stunning glory.

Yesterday evening, friends texted me regarding his death, and I asked them what songs they would like to see posted. Here’s Zippy’s selection from John Prine’s first album.

And Jen chose “In Spite of Ourselves” the title track from his 1999 album.

Gorby chose what is probably his most-famous song covered by Bonnie Raitt.

And Kyri chose “When I Get to Heaven” live from Austin City Limits.

Rest in Peace John…

Marianne Faithfull Hospitalized with Coronavirus

Marianne Faithfull Hospitalized with Coronavirus

Rolling Stone has reported that Marianne Faithfull was admitted to a London hospital with cold-like symptoms and tested positive for coronavirus. Her manager, François Ravard, says she is stable and responding to treatments.

The album of hers that first caught my attention is her 1979 masterpiece, Broken English.

Here is the title track set to an “Anti-war film made with a montage of various images including Picasso, Goya, Heartfield, Daumier, Kollwitz, and others”.

And here is a video of Marianne working with Nick Cave and Warren Ellis in the studio recording “The Gypsy Faerie Queen” and getting interviewed by Nick.

John Prine is Hospitalized and Recovering from COVID-19 Symptoms

John Prine is Hospitalized and Recovering from COVID-19 Symptoms

From The Guardian:

The country musician John Prine has been hospitalised and is in now in a stable condition after experiencing symptoms of coronavirus. A post to his official Twitter account said that Prine, 73, had been taken to the hospital on Thursday and intubated on Saturday.

Via Mike Mills’ twitter feed, watch this video today.

Some of the Best New Music of 2020 so Far…

Some of the Best New Music of 2020 so Far…

There’s nothing better than listening to music while you are sheltering in place, so I have put together a few video tracks of my favorite albums that have been released this year.

I learned of Porridge Radio a few weeks ago, and I have been listening to them via YouTube because before the pandemic when I was able to go to Easy Street Records in West Seattle or Sonic Boom Records in Ballard, neither store had any of their music in stock. I guess I will have to order it and have it delivered.

Anyway, here is how Alexis Petridis describes “Lilac” in his review of their album Every Bad for The Guardian.

Lilac, meanwhile, turns that emotional journey on its head. This time around, Margolin repeats: “I don’t want to get bitter, I want us to get better, I want us to be kinder to ourselves and to each other.” What looks like a self-help platitude on paper slowly builds up a power at odds with its sentiment, becoming increasingly frenzied and raw-throated, in a way that completely undercuts any optimism. By the end of the song, it sounds confoundingly like a threat.

This tension of opposites is a recurring theme, not just in Margolin’s ability to destabilise a lyric with her voice, but in the words themselves. They’re big on inconsistency – “I don’t know what I want, but I know what I want” – and frequently sound like frantic internal dialogues that capture a very twentysomething brand of angst, where the realisation that you’re now an adult crashes against uncertainty about whether you’re doing adulthood correctly.

This next one is by Destroyer, a band, or basically a guy named Dan Bejar who I discovered from reading this Pitchfork review of his latest album, Have We Met.

In the extraordinary “Kinda Dark,” he delivers his apocalyptic verses in a distracted whisper over subdued electronic scenery. When the drums hit and the electric guitar attacks out of nowhere, it feels genuinely startling: the appearance of the looming threat he’s been slowly backing away from the whole time.

This sense of unease spans the record, making uptempo songs like the glittery “It Just Doesn’t Happen” and the soaring “Crimson Tide” sound like dispatches from a doomed adventure. Other songs exist in the cloud of smoke that’s left behind.

I first heard this new “supergroup” Bonny Light Horseman while wandering around Sonic Boom Records a couple months ago. The band members are Eric D. Johnson, Anaïs Mitchell, and Josh Kaufman – all of whom I am not that familiar with, but I guess many people are because they are SUPER. I was struck by the clarity of their sound and their perfect vocal harmonies, so I bought their eponymously titled debut album. The video is from a live performance and it sounds very muck like it does on the album. No Depression wrote this about it:

That winter [of 2018], they made the trek to Dreamland Recording in Woodstock, New York, for another quick session to finish what they hoped would be enough for a record. “When we went to Woodstock, we knew we were trying to finish a record, and I think the question became, how to record in a way that felt of-a-piece with the Berlin stuff in an environment that was so different,” Mitchell says. They had a blast over the course of two days, again standing close to one another, playing live without headphones, and joined by Michael Lewis (bass, saxophone) and JT Bates (drums, percussion), as well as engineer Bella Blasco and mixer D. James Goodwin. That live sound results in an intimate, but atmospheric vibe that permeates every song on the album. These sessions took on that same sense of immediacy the band felt in Berlin, particularly with songs like “Deep in Love” and “The Roving,” two of the album’s standouts.

This last one is by another singer I learned about this year while reading No Depression reviews. Her name is Kyshona Armstrong. Here’s a snippet from the review.

Kyshona Armstrong honed her craft in the state mental hospital. Not as an inmate, but as a teacher. She broadened her musical healing abilities in prisons and also in schools, working with children diagnosed with emotional behavior disorders.

The singer, who records under her first name, has said that she never wanted to be in the spotlight. Armstrong had aspirations to be a psychologist, but a music scholarship opened up new possibilities for her in the field of musical therapy. She eventually realized that her message could do good from the stage as well.

On the title cut, Kyshona urges people within the sound of her voice to start their activism by the simple act of listening: “I know you wanna help / but you’re deaf to the mission / Even when you see the hand I’m dealt / You pretend it’s my decision.”

And last but not least, Pearl Jam is releasing a new album titled Gigaton tomorrow. Alexis Petridis wrote this about “Quick Escape” for The Guardian:

Quick Escape does a lot of Pearl Jammy stuff – big soaring chorus, more guitar histrionics – but sets them against an atmosphere that’s authentically spacey and strange, as again befits lyrics that have taken on an entirely unwitting kind of currency. If you’re going to release a song about the human race facing such catastrophe that escaping to another planet feels appealing, now is probably the moment to do it.

That’s all for this week. I’ll try and do this more often – maybe every couple of weeks or so.

Amyl and the Sniffers plus Gary Oldman and the Poppers

Amyl and the Sniffers plus Gary Oldman and the Poppers

If you like seventies punk rock, you will like Amyl and the Sniffers from Melbourne, Australia. Lead singer Amy Taylor says, “We call it pub punk because we spend a lot of time in the pub”. It’s loud, fast, and noisy. Read about the band at NME. Here’s a quote from the article:

The Aussie four-piece party hard, but, somehow, play even harder. They’ve become an unmissable live prospect, resurrecting the energy of the snotty, trashy punks of years past. The result? Riotous gigs at which you might end up bruised or spat on, but you’ll probably have the night of your life.

When NME meets them, midway through their UK tour, they’ve already been leaving chaos in their wake. Shortly after arriving in London, a gobby pre-teen shouted at Amy, calling her “ugly”; in response, she offered to fight him and delivered a stinging putdown: “Fuck you mate – bet you’ve never even had a blowy”.

Here is the video for “Got You” from their debut album.

Of course when you think about the band name, you think of amyl nitrite, and when you think about that, you think about this scene from Léon: The Professional featuring Gary Oldman at his utmost creepiest.

Now go by the album and watch Léon again.

Anna von Hausswolff gives me chills

Anna von Hausswolff gives me chills

I’ve read reviews of Anna von Hausswolff’s previous albums in print magazines and online, but I had never bought any of her music. Then I read a four-star review of her new album, Dead Magic, in the April issue of MOJO Magazine where James McNair described her vocal performance for the song “The Mysterious Vanishing of Electra” as “…astonishing. With its whoops, shudders and sandpaper-throated expulsions, her singing sounds like an exorcism”. Okay then, tell me more! McNair describes where and how the album was created:

Recorded in nine days, largely using the hulking 20th century pipe-organ at Copenhagen’s Marmorkirken, or Marble Church, …With it’s spidery strings, drones, suspensions and drama-rich support from Hausswolff’s five-piece backing band, Dead Magic comes on like a horror soundtrack-in-waiting, its 47-minute journey bridged by just five songs. Thematically, it’s big on myths, legends and oblivion, and the darker more esoteric kind of magic you wouldn’t likely associate with Ali Bongo.

( I didn’t know who Ali Bongo was either.)

After reading the MOJO review, I searched around and found this article by Laura Snapes in The Guardian.

Never mind other people’s perceptions; she’s more perplexed by her reaction to her own music. “When I start becoming ugly, or raw or unfiltered, that’s also when the most interesting things happen,” she says. “But I feel shame because that’s not how you’re supposed to present yourself as a female. I’m quite a modern girl – and luckily in Sweden we have a very open mind towards women in arts – but I still get that feeling that I’m in a place I shouldn’t be, doing things you really shouldn’t do, like I’m fighting the ideals projected down from our ancestors.”

The paucity of women in extreme music means these stereotypes are even tougher to break: “They have to defend what they’re doing so hard because they’re in a male-dominated genre, so there’s more focus on them being female than on their work. It’s still weird for people to see someone screaming her nuts out, playing loud music. I think, how can it be shocking any more? We still haven’t broken down our idea of how the genders should be.” Old, male pipe organ custodians just about manage to avoid patting her on the head when they show her around their instruments. “Usually I just smile and let the music speak for itself, and then afterwards they’re always shocked and don’t know what to say any more.”

And then I watched this video, and you should too, like right now.

And then I bought the album.

It’s right in my wheelhouse. It’s like P.J. Harvey circa To Bring You My Love melded with Nick Cave’s Let Love In, Richard Wagner’s organ music, and the flying monkeys in The Wizard of Oz. It gave me chills and made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.

Buy it now and play it LOUD!

Chuck Berry died today

Chuck Berry died today

Back in my radio days at KUGS at WWU in Bellingham, Chuck Berry was a staple of the Saturday afternoon “Roots Rock” show. He was perhaps the first rock n’ roll guitar god, he was a talented songwriter, and a master showman. His disciples include first and foremost The Rolling Stones, and The Beatles, Bruce Springsteen, The Animals, and many more.

“If you tried to give rock and roll another name, you might call it ‘Chuck Berry’.” – John Lennon

The Best Albums of 2016

The Best Albums of 2016

2016 was a terrible year in many ways, but it was a great year of music. Here is my list of the best albums of 2016.

1. Skeleton Tree, by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. This album was started before Nick’s son Arthur died in 2015. Understandably, that tragedy weighed heavily on Nick as he wrote the songs for this album. The album is sad in a beautiful way. If you haven’t seen the movie, One More Time with Feeling, that played in cinemas around the globe on the eve of the release of this album, you should.

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