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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.

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.

Nick Cave has Something to Say about Truth and Responsibility

Nick Cave has Something to Say about Truth and Responsibility

Nick Cave sends out a Red Hand File every week. This week’s file was about how we should listen to others and how we should speak while we try to adjust to this devastating coronavirus pandemic.

Now is the time to be cautious with our words, our opinions.

Now is a time to listen to those in more informed positions and to follow instructions, as difficult as that may be, as we step into the unprecedented unknowable. We should be careful about the noises we make — especially those with a public voice — and should not pretend to know what we do not. From within the clamour and tonnage of information and misinformation, of opinions and counter-opinions, of blame-games and grim prophecy and the most panic-inducing version of ‘Imagine’ ever recorded, emerges a simple message — wash your hands and (if you can) stay at home.

That sounds like good advice to most intelligent, caring people. But not to one ignorant and destructive man with a pugnacious public voice, him being President Donald Trump. He ignores more informed opinions, and he does pretend to know what he does not. He is now ignoring the advice of experts on his administration’s coronavirus team and he is amplifying lies and misinformation from dubious sources to rationalize his imperious plan to prioritize business-as-usual over the health and safety of people trying to survive the coronavirus pandemic.

From The Guardian:

[Trump] repeatedly refused to confirm that he would listen to public health authorities if they advised him to keep restrictive public health measures in place, even at a cost to the economy.

“We’ll see what happens,” he said.

“Our country was not built to be shut down,” Trump said. “This is not a country that was built for this.”

Trump said he expected life to return to normal very soon, much sooner than in three or four months. Asked if he meant the country would be re-opening in “weeks or months”, Trump said: “I’m not looking at months, I can tell you right now.”

Asked if Dr Anthony Fauci, the immunologist who has become the public face of the American scientific community during the pandemic, agreed with him on potentially re-opening the economy, Trump said: “He doesn’t not agree.”

He wants to see all of us back at our jobs by Easter, which is April 12th. That’s eighteen days from today. Based on what I’ve been reading about how fast the coronavirus is spreading in NYC and other places like right here in the Seattle area, that’s not going to happen if we all follow the advice of experts. Well at least the “experts” not named Donald Trump.

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!

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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KEXP Listeners’ Top 12 Artists of All Time

KEXP Listeners’ Top 12 Artists of All Time

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

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

Nirvana

X

Bob Marley

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

Neil Young

Prince

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.

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds at The Paramount Theatre in Seattle – July 2, 2014

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds at The Paramount Theatre in Seattle – July 2, 2014

Nick Cave and Mark Lanegan

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds played in front of an open-floor crowd at The Paramount Theater last night. That’s the best venue layout for Nick, because he feeds off the energy of the crowd – sucks it up and burns it bright on stage.

I will add links to other sites with better photos and reviews during the day. For now, here’s the set list.

Set List

We Real Cool
Jubilee Street
Tupelo
Red Right Hand
Mermaids
From Her to Eternity
Stranger than Kindness
Into My Arms
Sad Waters
God is in the House
The Weeping Song, with Mark Lanegan singing Blixa’s part (see above photo)
Higgs Boson Blues
The Mercy Seat
Stagger Lee
Push the Sky Away

Encore
The Lyre of Orpheus

Here’s the first review I’ve come across. It’s by Kathy Fennessy for The Stranger SLOG.

“Tupelo” was one of a few songs from early in Cave’s career. By this point, his discography is deep enough that he doesn’t need to dig that far back for gems, but I’m sure the audience appreciated it as much as I did (I noticed plenty of people my age and older, like King County Executive Dow Constantine, who was positioned near the front of the stage). “From Her to Eternity,” title track from Cave’s 1984 debut, came off especially well. Other highlights included “Red Right Hand” and “The Mercy Seat,” although I have to confess that I like the Johnny Cash cover so much I hoped Cave would use Rick Rubin’s arrangement (he didn’t).

And then, just when I was thinking how nice it would be for P.J. Harvey or Kylie Minogue to drop by—stranger things have happened—he brought out Lanegan for “The Weeping Song.” Mark sang the first half, Nick the second. Nothing revelatory, but it sounded good. “The great Mark Lanegan,” Cave said as he left the stage…

Excerpt from Morgan Schuler’s review for The Seattle Weekly:

From the moment the lights went down, Nick Cave flew onto the stage and as he danced his way from one side to the other through his first two songs, “We Real Cool” and “Jubilee Street”, the energy was high, save for a few breaks for piano ballads. Leaning into the crowd, pawing at the audience, grabbing hands and singing directly into the first row showed how much he loves his fans.

He didn’t slow down after those first two songs either, dancing in that weird funky way he has as if he’s using his hands to guide his movements around the floor and taking a small jump when the music gets really intense.

And check out Schuler’s 31 photos of the show. Here’s one.

Nick Cave’s Christ-Like Sacrifice for The Bad Seeds

Nick Cave’s Christ-Like Sacrifice for The Bad Seeds

Nick Cave stopped drinking about ten years ago. Here’s what he has to say about his commitment to sobriety during an interview by Tom Doyle in the February 2014 issue of MOJO Magazine:

Our car pulls up outside the Malmaison Hotel, where Cave sits alone at the base of a stone pillar, smoking a fag. MOJO joins him for one. It must be hard, I say, trying to maintain his sobriety while everyone around him gets pissed?

“It is sometimes,” he admits. “I mean, sometimes you just want everything to go away, y’know. Who doesn’t? And you don’t have that…ready sort of access to something to do that.”

His face suddenly lights up, as he’s struck by a thought.

“Y’know, I did a kind of Christ-like sacrifice for the health of the band,” he says. “I stopped drinking, so they could continue.”

Nick Cave just says No.
photo by Tom Oldham for MOJO Magazine

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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