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The Top 20 Albums of 2020 (1-5)

The Top 20 Albums of 2020 (1-5)

  1. Nick CaveIdiot Prayer. Nick Cave had a world tour planned for 2020 to promote his and The Bad Seeds excellent 2019 album Ghosteen. I bought tickets to a show scheduled for October in Seattle but, as with all the other shows on the tour, it was cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. No live shows? What could he do? He booked the Alexandra Palace and livestreamed a pay-per-view live show of just him at piano in a venue that can hold 7,500 people. Okay, so we all know Nick’s voice is a beautiful instrument, but what about that piano? Nick wrote this for The Red Hand Files:

The piano I played at Alexandra Palace was a Fazioli. There were limited pianos I could access during lockdown. There was, however, a Fazioli. I had never played one before but Dom Monks, the guy who recorded the Alexandra Palace performance, highly recommended this piano. The moment I sat down at the Fazioli, its warm, soft, nuanced sound spoke to me like no piano had spoken to me before. I was swept away by its extraordinary tonal range. It whispered to me. It roared at me. It was the most beautiful instrument I had ever played.

I watched the livestream show on July 23rd and was blown away by the intimacy of the performance. The songs take on a whole new character when performed without The Bad Seeds. You can’t help but focus on every word and Nick’s delivery of them.

Nick wrote in the liner notes for the album released in November:

On 19th June 2020, surrounded by COVID officers with tape measures and thermometers, masked-up gaffers and camera operators, nervous looking technicians and buckets of hand gel, we created something very strange and very beautiful that spoke into this uncertain time, but was in no way bowed by it.

The title track of the album was taken from the song of the same name on the 1997 release, The Boatman’s Call. There are six songs from that piano-based album, a few from Ghosteen, and other albums plus two Grinderman songs, including “Palaces of Montezuma”, which is one of my favorites on this album. As of now there are only two clips from the film available on YouTube. Here’s “Galleon Ship” from Ghosteen.

2. Lucinda WilliamsGood Souls Better Angels. Lucinda unleashed the devil when she put this album together. It’s visceral, raw dirty blues with a punk edge. With the lyrics she attacks the evil subjects in her songs, like Donald Trump in “Man Without a Soul”. She never says his name, but you know who she’s talking about. I’ve been a huge fan of hers at least since way back in 1998 when she put our her masterpiece, Car Wheels on a Gravel Road. Here she is performing the opening track of Good Souls Better Angels – her new masterpiece.

3. Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit – Reunions. Another great collection of songs by Jason Isbell. I chose “Overseas” because of the infectious guitar part – especially at the 3:05 mark of the album version and at 3:39 when Jason throws in some Crazy Horse like harmonic distortion. The video here is a live at-home recording for The Late Show, and it’s a wee bit longer than the album version. Enjoy!

4. Porridge RadioEvery Bad. I think I learned about this band by reading this review in The Guardian. From there I watched and listened to several YouTube videos, both “Lilac” and “Sweet” really got my attention. Dana Margolin’s voice is a very powerful instrument she uses to belt out some angsty screams. She is a very talented songwriter and singer, and she’s only 26, so I expect more great things from this band in the future. Here’s the closest thing to a pop song on the album. Pop is good!

5. Fontaines D.C.A Hero’s Death. Just over a year after their first album, Dogrel, was released to great acclaim, they dropped their second album. It’s different than the harder rocking first album. It’s a bit dark and brooding, and that’s probably why I like it. Check out this very weird video for the single, “A Hero’s Death”. Sort of Lynchian…

Happy Record Store Day 2012

Happy Record Store Day 2012

from Zippy…

“Do yourself a tremendous favour and go to a record store today. The relatively mild exertion of getting off your fat, computer-shackled ass and venturing out to find the object of your desire, the thrill of moving through actual space and time, through row upon row of records, and the tactile ecstasy of fondling the quested treasure—all this will augment and enrich the mental associations the music invokes in you for the rest of your life.”



“Yes, yes, I know. It’s easier to download music, and probably cheaper. But what’s playing on your favourite download store when you walk into it? Nothing, that’s what. Who are you going to meet in there? Nobody. Where are the notice boards offering flatshares and vacant slots in bands destined for superstardom? Who’s going to tell you to stop listening to that and start listening to this? Go ahead and save yourself a couple of quid. The saving will cost you a career, a set of cool friends, musical taste and, eventually, your soul. Record stores can’t save your life. But they can give you a better one.”

Nick Hornby, author, High Fidelity, Slam, (among others)


“Folks who work here are professors. Don’t replace all the knowers with guessors – keep’em open they’re the ears of the town”

Tom Waits


“I have watched independent record stores evaporate all over America and Europe. That’s why I go into as many as I can and buy records whenever possible. If we lose the independent record store, we lose big. Every time you buy your records at one of these places, it’s a blow to the empire.”

Henry Rollins


“You can’t roll a joint on an iPod – buy vinyl!”

Shelby Lynne

Best Music of 2010

Best Music of 2010

There were a whole lot of very good albums released in 2010, and it was a difficult task to come up with a list of the best 20 albums, because so many good ones didn’t make the cut.  Anyway, here’s my list:

Neil YoungLe Noise Neil Young has put out some really great albums and a few duds too.  This one produced by Daniel Lanois is one of his best.  It’s just Neil playing his guitars and singing about his life and career.  Key Tracks:  “Walk with Me” and “The Hitchhiker”

GrindermanGrinderman 2 Nick Cave is back with his smaller, much harder rocking group playing the role of a wolf man on the prowl for sex and love – anyway he can get it.  Key tracks:  “Heathen Child” and “Bellringer Blues”

SpoonTransference This one came out very early in 2010, and I always find myself going back to it.  Britt Daniel knows how to write catch pop tunes.  The best ones on the album are “The Mystery Zone” and “Written in Reverse.”

John Legend and The Roots Wake Up! I never really paid much attention to John Legend until I saw him perform live with The Roots at The Rally to Restore Sanity.  All the songs but one on this album are covers of old-school soul/funk/R&B songs.  The Roots are one of the most solid bands working today, and John Legend shines as a vocalist with them backing him up.  Favorites are Ernie Hines’s “Our Generation” and Bill Withers’ “I Can’t Write Left Handed.”

Justin Townes EarleHarlem River Blues I had never really paid much attention to Justin Townes Earle before I saw him at Bumbershoot this year.  His song writing and singing style are signature Austin style, and he sounds like he’s having a really great time singing these songs.  Favorite songs are “Harlem River Blues” and “Christchurch Woman.”

Isobel Campbell & Mark LaneganHawk Mark Lanegan’s gravely baritone voice kills me.  Isobel Campbell’s soft, sweet voice provides the perfect foil.  Together they remind me of another great duo from years back, Nancy Sinatra and Lee Greenwood.  Key tracks:  “Come Undone” and “Lately.”

The MynabirdsWhat We Lose in the Fire We Gain in the Flood This is another new band for me.  I was sucked in by the Memphis soul sound.  Laura Burhenn’s vocals remind me of another great one, Dusty Springfield.  Favorite songs are “What We Gained in the Fire” and “LA Rain.”

Black Rebel Motorcycle ClubBeat the Devil’s Tattoo I’ve been a fan of this band ever since their 2003 release, Take Them on Their Own.  This album is as good as the one that got me listening to the band.  “Aya” has got to be one of the best songs they’ve ever recorded.  I listen to it all the time.  Other key track is “River Styx.”

Jesca HoopHunting My Dress Who is this woman with the first name that is missing a syllable?  I don’t know… I’ve read that she used to be a nanny for Tom Waits’s kids.  I think she picked up some of his rhythms.  I love the percussion and vocal style on this album.  Key tracks are “Tulip” and “Murder of Birds.”

The RootsHow I Got Over See above about how this is one of the best bands working today.  I am not a big fan of rap music, and these guys do rap, but what makes them different is that they are a real band, and they have real melodies in their songs.  Love the band.  My favorites are “Walk Alone” and “The Fire.”

Danger Mouse and SparklehorseDark Night of the Soul This album is bittersweet.  Were it not for some kind of weird contract or legal issue between Danger Mouse and somebody, this would have been released last year before co-creator Mark Linkous, and Vic Chesnutt (who also appears on the album) both committed suicide.  I was a big fan of both of them, and was sad to see them go.  David Lynch is the third major party in this project, and he actually does vocals on a couple tracks and provides the visuals.  You must visit the website.  Key tracks are “Everytime I’m With You” and “Revenge” (featuring Wayne Coyne on vocals).

Johnny DowdWake up the Snakes Not enough people know about Johnny Dowd.  Given that this album wasn’t released in the U.S. this year (You can buy it on his website, and you’ll get a sticky note in his hand on the cd that says “Thanks.”), I have to conclude that he’s more popular in Europe than he is in his home country.  That’s a shame, because Johnny writes crazy good songs about love, death, Jesus, and murder.  This album is one of his more rocking ones.  I really like “Voices” and “Howling Wolf Blues.”

MoondoggiesTidelands This is the second album by the local group who refers to themselves as “The Everett Shit Kickers” in the liner notes.  I like this one better than their first one.  I think the song writing is better and the band is really tight on this album.  Best tracks are “Tidelands” and “Lead Me On.”

Tom Petty and the HeartbreakersMojo I had not bought a Tom Petty album for about 25 years.  I loved this guy back in the day, but he seemed to be wandering into territories I wasn’t all that interested in visiting – until this one.  I first heard a track from the album on the Blue Boulevard show that airs Wednesday nights on KSVR in Mount Vernon.  Star Anna was the guest via telephone, and she chose a new Tom Petty song.  I bought the record, and it’s worthy.  Key tracks are:  “High in the Morning” and “Running Man’s Bible.”

Alejandro EscovedoStreet Songs of Love I love this guy.  This album RAWKS!  Saw him live at the No Depression show this year.  He played several songs from this album with his way good band featuring David Pulkingham on guitar.  I really like “Silver Cloud” and “Faith.”

Laura VeirsJuly Flame Laura Veirs is a mom now.  Last time I saw her perform she was 8-1/2 months pregnant.  She was touring in support of this album, an it was one of the best shows I saw this year.  She and Tucker Martine are a perfect match.  I especially like “Sun is King” (because it is) and “Wide-Eyed, Legless.”

Blue GiantBlue Giant I saw this Portland band open for The Dandy Warhols last night at The Showbox, and one might think that my picking them for my top twenty was influenced too much by a recent show, but NO!  The show was great, and so was the show they did at The Tractor when they opened for and backed up Bobby Bare, Jr., but I bought the album last nigh, listened to it today, and it is a really good album.  Key tracks are “Blue Sunshine” and “Wesley.”

The Black KeysBrothers This blues rock duo got my attention back in 2004 when I saw them at Bumbershoot.  They were touring in support of Rubber Soul.  This album is almost as good as that one.  I really like “Tighten Up” and “Howlin’ For You.”

Bobby Bare, Jr.A Storm – A Tree – My Mother’s Head The album is named after an incident that led to a tree crashing through his mother’s house and hitting her on the head.  Bobby was on tour at the time, and he called her to make sure she was okay (she was) and he continued to tour.  But he was thinking about her… the song… the album title.  I think this album is his best since The Longest Meow.  Key tracks are “Your Goat is on Fire” and your new favorite Halloween song, “Rock and Roll Halloween.”

Otis TaylorClovis People Vol. 3 What’s a Clovis person?  Go look it up.  Otis plays a different kind of blues.  Not sure how it should be categorized, but I like it.  It’s mostly acoustic and the music is sparse, the lyrics open to interpretation.  I like “Hands on Your Stomach” and “Ain’t no Cowgirl.”

I don’t count re-issues in these lists each year, but a special mention must go out to one in particular.  Bruce Springsteen released a box set of Darkness on the Edge of Town, that includes the remastered cd, an excellent movie about the making of the album, a double cd of outtakes from the sessions titled The Promise, a 3-hour 1978 concert from Houston, and whole lot of other live footage.  For Springsteen fans, this is a must have.  Absolutely amazing stuff form Springsteen in his prime.  Key tracks are “The Promise,” “The Little Things (My Baby Does},” and “The Way” (Hidden track at following “City of Night”).

Catching Up with Nick Cave and Grinderman

Catching Up with Nick Cave and Grinderman

While flipping through the pages of the August 2010 issue of MOJO Magazine last night, I came across and advertisement for Grinderman’s upcoming European tour that I thought was pretty funny.  I went surfing around today for a digital copy of the ad, and I found it on a website called Nick Cave Fixes.  It’s “a blog for Nick Cave addicts & devotees.”  I definitely fall into that category.  So, please welcome this blog to the Blogroll.  You Nick Cave fans are now just a click away from all the latest news about Nick, the Bad Seed, Grinderman, The Birthday Party, and other related artists.

Here’s the ad:

Grinderman 2010 tour poster

The US release of Grinderman 2 is scheduled for September 14th.

Check out the Grinderman website for more details. You’ll lover the intro…

No US tour dates yet.

This post is all about catching up with Nick Cave and Grinderman, so I might as well direct you to this story in Paste Magazine about Nick’s recent novel, The Death of Bunny Munro, being made into a TV movie directed by John Hillcoat. He directed The Proposition, screenplay by Nick Cave, and The Road, soundtrack by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis.

Friday Night Videos – Kid Congo Powers, Scott H. Biram, and Grinderman

Friday Night Videos – Kid Congo Powers, Scott H. Biram, and Grinderman

I just bought the new album by Kid Congo and the Pink Monkey Birds titled Dracula Boots.  For those of you not familiar with Kid Congo, he’s the guitarist who formed The Gun Club with Jeffrey Lee Peirce way back in 1979, and then left to join The Cramps.  He rejoined The Gun Club to play on four albums from 1984 – 1991, and he also managed to hook up with The Bad Seeds to play on a few Nick Cave albums.

While in Austin last month with Zippy and Gorby, we saw Scott H. Biram perform at The Continental Club. He played several songs off his latest album, Something’s Wrong/Lost Forever. Scott looks, acts and sounds like a guy who lives in a shack at the junkyard down by the river. That’s probably not true at all, but that’s the impression I get… Here’s “Sinking Down” from the new album.

It is Friday night, and like I’ve said before, if you’re not listening to Nick, you might as well not be listening, so listen to this.