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The Top 20 Albums of 2020 (6-10)

The Top 20 Albums of 2020 (6-10)

Here is part two of my list of top twenty albums of 2020.

6. Lianne La HavasLianne La Havas. This eponymously titled album is her third following Blood from 2015 and Is Your Love Big Enough from 2012. I had not heard of her until I saw her on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert in 2015 when she sat in with the Jon Batiste and Stay Human band and performed “Green and Gold” from Blood. It was an and incredible performance backed by a great band, so I bought the album and began to learn more about her. She was born in London to a Greek father and Jamaican mother. Her father taught her how to play piano and guitar, and she sang in her school choir. She got a big break in her career when she was featured on Prince’s album Art Official Age, and sang with him in an epic 2014 Saturday Night Live performance of the song “Clouds”. The first single from her new album is a cover of Radiohead’s “Weird Fishes”, and it’s brilliant. Enjoy!

7. Bonny Light HorsemanBonny Light Horseman. This album was released in January, and I think it was the first new album I bought this year. As I wrote then, “I was struck by the clarity of their sound and their perfect vocal harmonies.” I must still be because I continue to play this album a lot. The group is made up of Anaïs Mitchell, Josh Kaufman, and Eric D. Johnson, who in the press materials wrote of the reworked traditional folk songs they recorded: “This record is about timeless humanity. These 500-year-old lyrics are so deeply applicable. ‘The Roving’ could be the plot of an ’80s teen movie: ‘I had a wild summer with this awesome girl then she broke my heart!’ How incredible is it that as humans we still just want to love and have sex and feel sad and fight? It’s ancient music that feels, emotionally, right now. It’s thoroughly modern.”

8. Terry Allen and the Panhandle Mystery BandJust Like Moby Dick. Terry Allen has been putting out some strange form of Texan alt-country absurdist songs and music since the seventies. He is also an accomplished writer, playwriter, sculptor, and visual artist. Check out his label bio here. This album includes his stalwart band, some family members who play various instruments and add backing vocals, and Charlie Sexton as co-producer, plus Shannon McNally, a new collaborator, provides prominent vocals on some songs. It’s a great collection of odd people and strange stories that’s well worth listening to over and over again. Here’s one of the odder songs about a circus visiting a city of vampires.

9. Fantastic NegritoHave You Lost Your Mind Yet? Well these days sometimes I think I have, and this album is the perfect for when I feel that way. I don’t think many people know of Fantastic Negrito (real name Xavier Amin Dphrepaulezz), but I think many people should – like you! His music draws on blues, R&B, roots music, a little psychedelia, and some great guitar work. Check out this video for “Chocolate Samurai” which features home videos solicited by Fantastic Negrito that show what his fans were doing to entertain themselves during quarantine.

10. Jerry JosephThe Beautiful Madness. This the most powerful political album I’ve heard in years. The album is produced by Patterson Hood of Drive By Truckers, who’ve put out their own great political music, but this one is a gut punch. Jerry Joseph is new to me this year, which is surprising. I’d like to be able to say I first heard Jerry Joseph on KEXP, but I cannot recall ever hearing him on the station (must be too many f-bombs in his songs), so I only know of the album because it was mentioned in a weekly No Depression email, and I read the review and I immediately bought the album. Here’s a little snip from the review:

On Jerry Joseph’s new record, The Beautiful Madness, he walks the line between darkness and light, good and evil, and does so masterfully as he somehow speaks into the current realities of life with songs that were written well before a virus ravaged the globe and the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd erupted protests and movements in the name of justice.

In other words, The Beautiful Madness is both prophetic and apocalyptic, quickly becoming a revelation for all who have ears to hear.

“Putting down the torch, surrender to the swell,” Joseph sings on opening track, “Days of Heaven.” “Ready for the dive, these are the days of heaven.” Co-written with Drive-By Truckers’ founding member Patterson Hood (who also produced the album), “Days of Heaven” sets the foundation for what’s to come on the rest of the record: living life on the brink of beautiful madness.

Here’s the video for “Sugar Smacks”.

Christopher Walken explains himself

Christopher Walken explains himself

Christopher Walken talks about his acting style and how learning his lines is so difficult in this Guardian article.

Walken grew up in Astoria, Queens, the kind of second-generation, melting-pot neighbourhood that has long since vanished in New York. He once told an interviewer he “grew up listening to people speaking broken English… and I probably speak English almost as a second language.” This may be the real key to his strange, almost stilted, delivery, alongside the fact that he made an early decision as an actor to wilfully disregard punctuation when reading his lines, a quirk that he guessed rightly would set him apart.

What’s the worst thing about his job? “Learning lines, for sure. I don’t know how people learn their lines quickly. It’s always been a tedious, agonising chore for me. I hate it. It takes me ages to know my lines. I just wish I could do movies with cue cards. That way, it’s easy. Not lazy, but easy. You know what? I wish I could live my whole life with cue cards. I really do.”

Both his delivery and his fondness for cue cards are quite evident in this installment of The Continental on SNL.

Patti Smith Turns 65 Today

Patti Smith Turns 65 Today

Happy 65th Birthday to Patti Smith born on this day in 1946.

You can watch her performing “Gloria” on Saturday Night Live on April 17, 1976 at age 29 by going here. (No embed allowed for this classic SNL performance.)

Or, if you are in New York City tonight or tomorrow night, you can celebrate her birthday and Lenny Kaye’s too, who turned 65 on December 27th, if you are lucky enough to have a ticket to her sold out shows at The Bowery Ballroom.

Or  you can just pour yourself a drink and propose a toast to Patti on this day.



The Rent is 2 Damn High Party Candidate – Jimmy McMillan

The Rent is 2 Damn High Party Candidate – Jimmy McMillan

There’s just-plain-dumb crazy like Christine O’Donnell and Sarah Palin, there’s mean crazy like Carl Paladino, there’s bitch  crazy like Michele Bachmann, there’s WTF crazy like Alvin Greene, there’s early-onset-of-Alzheimer’s crazy like Jan Brewer, and then there’s Jimmy McMillan.

Jimmy McMillan, The Rent is 2 Damn High Candidate, has taken crazy to a whole new level.

The facial hair
The glasses
The gloves
The poetic delivery

It’s like performance art.

via Gawker, this is Jimmy McMillan:

On the deficit: “It’s like a cancer. It will heal itself.”
On negative campaigning: “As a karate expert, I will not talk about anyone up here.”
On gay marriage: “The Rent Is 2 Damn High Party feels if you want to marry a shoe, I’ll marry you.”
On… Jesus, I have no clue what prompted this one: “We plan to bulldoze some of those mountains in Upstate to make New York an independent state. I want my own cable company; I want my own telephone company.”
On the rent: Too damn high.

And be sure and listen to this audio clip.

Crying Out Loud by maxread

For cryin’ out loud.
Open your eyes.
Can’t you see that?!
Can’t you see that?!
Can’t you see that?!

The rent.  It’s too DAMN high!

For cryin’ out loud…

As I watched and listened to McMillan, I was hoping that there will be a new Saturday Night Live this weekend.  They’ve got to do a parody of this guy.  But then I thought, how will they do a parody of a parody?  He’s better than SNL.  They should just bring him on the show as a guest host.  It might possibly be the best show they’ll ever do.