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Who are your top 12 musical artists of all time – KEXP wants to know

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.

These listener polls never turn out the way I would like them to, and sometimes they are so far off the mark I wonder if all the other listeners are even listening to the same radio station.

That said, here is my list of top twelve for you all to review and critique at your leisure.

The top six that should be on everyone’s list:

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

Patti Smith

Tom Waits

Johnny Cash

P.J. Harvey

The Clash

The next tier of six

Bob Dylan

Bruce Springsteen

The Rolling Stones



Bob Marley

That makes twelve, but if I could vote for more, I’d choose:

Neil Young


Jimi Hendrix

Mark Lanegan

Public Enemy

Hank Williams, Sr.

Elvis Costello

Sonic Youth

That’s twenty. I could go on, but I won’t.

So keep these artists in mind (especially the top 6, because they belong at the top) when you go to KEXP to cast your votes.

You have until 6:00 p.m. this Friday, so don’t delay. Vote now!
Check back when the pledge drive ends on October 3rd to see who the listeners picked.

St. Paul and the Broken Bones at Sonic Boom on Record Store Day 2014

St. Paul and the Broken Bones at Sonic Boom on Record Store Day 2014

St. Paul & the Broken Bones performed on KEXP at the start of Troy Nelson’s show today at 3:00 p.m. and then at Sonic Boom Records at 6:00 p.m., and then a sold-out show at The Tractor Tavern.

Here they are at Sonic Boom.

RSD St Paul and the Broken Bones

This is cracker soul.

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.

Check them out on YouTube.

The Best Albums of 2013

The Best Albums of 2013

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 SeedsPush 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 JunePushin’ 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 WilliamsThe 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”.

4. Kurt Vile and The ViolatorsWakin’ on a Pretty Daze. If you like guitars and catchy melodies, you’ll love this album. It reminds me of some really great Neil Young albums I’d listened to very loud while driving around on a hot summer day. Go read Tulip Frenzy for a review. Key tracks are the title track and “Snowflakes are Dancing”.

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. DaughterIf 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.

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Capsula – The Best Rock n’ Roll Band in the World – is in Seattle Today

Capsula – The Best Rock n’ Roll Band in the World – is in Seattle Today

I’m not the only person who thinks Capsula is the best rock n’ roll band in the world. Check out what John Buckley over at Tulip Frenzy has to say about their November 23rd performance at The Black Cat in Washington D.C.:

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.

They’ll be playing live on KEXP today at 1:00 p.m. on Cheryl Waters’ show and then they’ll head to El Corazón to set up for their 9:00 show.

Buy a ticket. Take the ride.

Friday Night Videos Featuring Nadine Shah, Anna Calvi, and Daughter

Friday Night Videos Featuring Nadine Shah, Anna Calvi, and Daughter

A couple of weeks ago I posted a Friday Night Vidoes focused on the music of women artists in 2013. Tonight I offer you part two in the series.

Keep in mind while you watch these that today is the last day you can cast your votes in teh KEXP Best of 2013 poll. You might want to vote for these gals. {If you cast your vote for Nadine Shah, you’ll have to enter type it in yourself: Nadine Shah – Love Your Dum and Mad (Redeye Label)}.

I bought Nadine Shah’s album based on this review I read at Pitchfork:

Love Your Dum and Mad begins with this insistent clanging; it’s guitarist Simon McCabe hammering away on a zither, making some industrial-grade din– the noise perfectly mimicing a train crossing signal. It’s an anxious sound, the soundtrack of impatiently waiting, of staying clear of a powerful, inevitable force that could crush you. The jing-jing-jing of this lasts for the nearly four minutes of the album opener “Aching Bones”, a dark droning concoction of martial drums, blown-out bass, and pricks of parlor piano. All is static until Nadine Shah arrives and unfurls her velvet voice, singing of a love that destroys– and setting the tone for a dark record that does not relent.

Much of Shah’s press attention’s referenced some fantasy patrilineage, that she sounds like the product of a PJ Harvey/Nick Cave union. Like Harvey, she sounds mournful, powerstrutting between lust and vengeance– regardless of what she’s singing about; the sang-froid and cruelty that cut through Dum and Mad is perhaps where the Cave’s distilled from. But Shah’s actual lineage sheds more light on her sound: growing up Shah’s Pakistani father sang Urdu ghazals around the house, a form of Arabic poetry about love and loss. Most every song on Dum and Mad is about a love that was, a past that poisons the future, and being undone by the true nature of a love. She sings in the now about what went wrong– the memory propelling the misery.

I am a huge fan of Nick Cave and P.J. Harvey, so gave it a try, and I’m glad I did. Here’s a video for “Aching Bones” in which Nadine slurps down some oysters. I love that.

Pitchfork could just as well have compared her to Anna Calvi. Here’s a track from her latest album, One Breath.

I featured Daughter in a Friday Night Videos earlier this year. I love their album If You Leave, but I also love their cover of Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky”.

Don’t forget to vote for your favorites albums of 2013 on KEXP today.

Friday Night Videos Featuring Daughter, KT Tunstall, and Valerie June

Friday Night Videos Featuring Daughter, KT Tunstall, and Valerie June

I bought Daughter‘s album, If You Leave, this week because I’d heard a few of the songs on KEXP and liked them all. I’ve listened to it four or five times now, and I like it more every time I listen to it.

The song I’ve heard most often on the radio isn’t on the album. It’s their brilliant cover of Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky”. If you haven’t heard it yet, you need to listen to it now.

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Here’s a track from KT Tunstall‘s new album, Invisible Empire/Crescent Moon. I’ve not really listened to her before, but I took a chance and bought it based on excellent reviews in Mojo and Uncut. I like it.

Valerie June‘s album, Pushin’ Against a Stone, was released earlier this year in Europe and has been getting a lot of attention in the music press. It will be released in the US on August 13th.

Capsula previews new songs at The Triple Door

Capsula previews new songs at The Triple Door

Capsula finished recording their new album, Solar Secrets, at Saint Claire Studio in Kentucky with Tony Visconti producing. While he is mixing the album that is due out in August, the band is on the road as the opening act for Ose Mutantes.

The show was Wednesday night at The Triple Door, Seattle’s dinner-club music venue. It’s nothing like The Funhouse, The Comet Tavern  (de puta madre!), or the Mural Amphitheater – the three venues Capsula has played in past shows.

I’ve seen a few shows at The Triple Door, and I wasn’t sure how Capsula would play to a crowd of mostly older music fans who were all seated at their tables eating dinner and sipping on their drinks as they waited to see the headliner, Ose Mutantes.

Capsula had no problem adapting to the venue. They opened with a song from Rising Mountains, and followed with their cover of “Moonage Daydream” from the Ziggy album and, during his guitar solo, Martin Guevara got down from the stage, jutted back and forth between tables, and then climbed on top of a booth to play out the solo. The band had the crowd in its hands from that point on.

They played a couple of new songs from Solar Secrets, but I don’t recall the titles. I do remember the songs rocked and sounded great. I think it was during one of the new songs when Martin scraped the neck of his guitar across the edge of the stage to start some feedback and then held it above his head and banged on it like it was a percussion instrument. Loved it.

Before the last song of the set, Martin said “I don’t know if you can get out of your seats here, but you should for just this last song, if it’s okay.” Many people obliged.

Capsula Triple Door 1Cory and I were able to talk to their tour manager in the merch booth and later to the band. We found out they’ll be heading back to Europe this summer and hope to return to Seattle during their U.S. tour to support the new album. Martin said he would really like to play the KEXP Barbecue at the Mural Amphitheater this year. (Anybody from KEXP reading this? Make it happen!)

They also did an in-studio performance for KEXP on Wednesday afternoon, and thanks to the magic of the intertubes, you can listen to it right here, right now.

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Push the Sky Away – US Release: 02/19/2013

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Push the Sky Away – US Release: 02/19/2013


From an interview by Alexis Petridis for The Guardian:

The cover was shot in his bedroom, a few streets away from where we are sitting. It features his wife, model Susie Bick, naked, something Cave is at pains to point out wasn’t his idea. He walked in on his wife’s photoshoot for a French magazine, the photographer happened to press the shutter button and that was that: “I was more reluctant to use it than she was, to be honest.”

That shot is in sharp contrast to Cheryl Waters’ image of Nick Cave the reclusive songwriter hunched over a typewriter at his desk in a dim, kerosene-lamp lit room. I remember when she posed a rather ridiculous question to him during a 2008 interview about whether or not he was connected to the modern world of computers and the internet. He responded with something like, “Is this interview live? If not, you might want to go back and edit out that last question.”

Back to the interview…

The city seeps into the lyrics too, on a song called Jubilee Street: the titular home of Headmasters’ hairdressers, the Jubilee Library and a branch of Tesco Express rather improbably taking its place amid what you might call the more classic Cavian lyrical concerns of violence, sex and strikingly drawn visions of Armageddon.

He was keen, he says, to “move away from guitar-orientated music and that classic Nick Cave ballad style, to let a little bit of air and a little bit of light in”. Still, as he points out, some things never change. “I don’t think the lyrical concerns have altered particularly.”

The deluxe edition comes with a facsimile of the notebook Cave worked out the album’s lyrics in. “Some of it’s dreadful and painful to read, but I just thought – what the fuck,” he says, before getting the actual notebook out and offering me a brief precis of his working methods. “Pages and pages of absolute shit,” he sighs, turning them over. “Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit. And just every now and then something, little tiny ideas start to come out.”

Here’s part of a review of the album by Stuart Berman on Pitchfork:

Push the Sky Away presents an uncharacteristically weightless, eerily atmospheric sound; in lieu of crossover ballads like “Into My Arms” and “People Ain’t No Good”, we have foggy reveries built upon ominously rumbling bass lines, twitchy rhythmic tics, and hushed-voice intimations. It may not erupt with same force as the Bad Seeds’ stormiest gestures, but the underlying menace fuelling it remains.

Cave and his increasingly prominent foil, Warren Ellis, could experiment with textures and loops (to the point of spawning a remix album). These production intricacies form the bedrock of Push the Sky Away, which is less a showcase for Bad Seeds’ powerhouse prowess than a reconstructed fever-dream memory of it, transmuting the familiar into something foreign. There’s a sense of the Bad Seeds expanding their sound and unlearning it at the same time.

I’ve heard three songs off the new album, “We No Who U R“, “Jubilee Street“, and “Higgs Boson Blues” and liked all of them. I’ll have to wait until tomorrow to hear the whole album, and until Sunday, April 7th to see him live at The Paramount Theater.

The Best Music of 2012

The Best Music of 2012

It’s the last day of the year and I am finally getting around to posting my list of favorite albums of 2012.

The number one album goes to the one I listened to the most during the year, Standing at the Sky’s Edge, by Richard Hawley.

I have no idea how such a great album did not even make it on the KEXP listener’s poll of the top 120 albums. Watch the video. Take minute to request KEXP to play it, and buy the album.

Boys and Girls by Alabama Shakes comes in at number two.

KEXP listeners did approve of this album. It came in at Number 5.

Brian Jonestown Massacre comes in at Number 3 with Aufheben. Inexplicably missing from the KEXP list.

Bruce Springsteen put out his best album in many years. Wrecking Ball ranks Number 4 and it’s a perfect collection of political songs that was my soundtrack for the 2012 elections.

Dr. John put out his best album in decades. Locked Down was produced by Dan Auerback of The Black Keys, and he brought out the best of the Dr on this album.

No videos for the rest of this list. You know where to find them.

6. Banga, by Patti Smith
7. Sweet Heart, Sweet Light, by Spiritualized
8. Sonik Kicks, by Paul Weller
9. In Your Head, by Monophonics
10. Blues Funeral, by Mark Lanegan
11. Tempest, by Bob Dylan
12. Temple Beautiful, by Chuck Prophet
13. Blunderbuss, by Jack White
14. Circles, by Moon Duo
15. Sun, by Cat Power
16. O’ Be Joyful, by Shovels and Rope
17. Elegancia Tropical, by Bomba Estereo
18. Falling Off the Sky, by The dB’s
19. Twins, by Ty Segall
20. Synthetica, by Metric

I could go on but I’ll stop at twenty.

Tulip Frenzy chose Bend Beyond by Woods as the best album of the year. I recently bought it based on the review and it’s starting to grow on me. Other albums that caught my interest are Glad Rag Doll by Diana Krall featuring Marc Ribot on guitar, The House that Jack Built by Jesca Hoop, Tramp by Sharon Van Etten, Psychedelic Pill by Neil Young, Researching the Blues by Red Kross, and I Will Set You Free by Barry Adamson.

KEXP 40th Anniversary Top 40 of Past 40 Years

KEXP 40th Anniversary Top 40 of Past 40 Years

All week during KEXP’s pledge drive, they have been playing the top albums of the past 40 years as voted on by their supporters to celebrate their 40th Anniversary. The list is 650 albums long. Like me, you probably liked a lot of it, and didn’t like some of it.

You can read the whole list of 650 albums on the KEXP Top 40 of the Last 40 years here.

Here is their top 40:




RadioheadOK Computer




The ClashLondon Calling


U2The Joshua Tree


Arcade FireFuneral


David BowieThe Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust


RadioheadKid A


Pink FloydDark Side Of The Moon


WilcoYankee Hotel Foxtrot


Bob DylanBlood On The Tracks


Sex PistolsNever Mind The Bollocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols


Beastie BoysPaul’s Boutique


The Rolling StonesExile On Mainstreet


Michael JacksonThriller


Joy DivisionUnknown Pleasures


Pearl JamTen


Prince and the RevolutionPurple Rain


The CureDisintegration


PixiesSurfer Rosa


Neutral Milk HotelIn the Aeroplane Over The Sea


RadioheadThe Bends


Talking HeadsStop Making Sense


Led ZeppelinHouses Of The Holy


Fleetwood MacRumors


R.E.M.Automatic For The People


Paul SimonGraceland


New OrderPower, Corruption and Lies


The SmithsThe Queen Is Dead


Smashing PumpkinsSiamese Dream


The Flaming LipsYoshimi vs. The Pink Robots


RadioheadIn Rainbows


Led ZeppelinPhysical Graffiti


Beastie BoysLicensed To Ill




Violent FemmesViolent Femmes


Neil YoungHarvest


Jeff BuckleyGrace


Sonic YouthDaydream Nation


Sufjan StevensIllinoise



And now you may be asking yourself why this list of the top 40 goes to number 41. Well let me tell you: In my opinion, Sufjan Stevens’ album is not worthy of being on this list and R.E.M.’s Murmur is.

Sufjan bores the hell out of me.

Placement matters. Fore example, when KEXP did their top 903 albums of all time back in 2008. Sufjan placed 15th of all time, and Patti Smith placed 104th. (Anyone that tells me that Illinoise is better than Horses I immediately dismiss as a fool). So as I am glad to see that enough people have come to their senses to drop Sufjan’s album 26 places since 2008 and move Patti Smith’s Horses up 52 spots from 104th to 52nd, I still cannot accept that Illinoise is in KEXP’s top-40 list. Again I must ask who the hell are my fellow KEXP supporters and why do they like such boring music? And I won’t go too far out on a limb to predict that, in the next multi-generational poll, the fools will all have forgotten Illinoise, and Horses will prevail.

Enough of that…

What’s most interesting about these lists besides who made it to the top ten (Congratulations to Nirvana for taking the Number One spot over Radiohead, who usually places Number One in these polls, and yes I have come to appreciate Radiohead more since the last multigenerational poll [more about that here, although I prefer The Bends over OK Computer, but nevermind]) are the albums missing from the list.

What’s missing?

Scott H. Biram – Something’s Wrong/Lost Forever

Capsula – In the Land of Silver Souls

The Duke Spirit – Cuts Across the Land

Jim White – Wrong Eyed Jesus

Nick Cave – every album except Let Love In that placed 591st.

Richard Hawley – True Love’s Gutter

Lydia Loveless – Indestructible Machine

Alejandro Escovedo – Gravity

Just to name a few…

I can’t blame KEXP for these omissions, because they play and promote all of the above artists who are missing, so all I’m left with is their listeners.

Wake up KEXP listeners! There are way better artists than many of the 650 listed, but you just aren’t paying attention. Maybe some of the ones I’ve pointed out are not in your wheelhouse. I get that, and I also get that expanding your horizons is why KEXP is so loved around the world.

So next time you hear Capsula, Jim White, The Duke Spirit, Scott H. (the “H” stands for “FUCK YOU”) Biram, Alejandro Escovedo, or Lydia Loveless – pay attention and expand your horizons. You might really like some of this stuff. You might even like it more than you think you like Sufjan Stevens!

Oh… I forgot I was done with that.

Oh well, whatever, nevermind.