Every once and a while a I click on The Duke Spirit link in the blogroll (you should too) to see what’s going on with the band, and this week I found out they have a single out that I had not heard and they have video to go with it. Here it is…
More often I click on the Nick Cave link to see what’s new. He is putting out an album with The Bad Seeds on Februay 19th titled Push the Sky Away. I read a review of the album in Uncut Magazine last night. They wrote:
… a record whose thoughtful tone and drifting, becalmed manner have very little to do with rock ‘n roll and much more to do with the sonic colouration explored by Cave and Ellis in their soundtracks. Ellis is clearly the musical driving force here, particularly now that Mick Harvey has departed the band. His string and keyboard loops hang over the songs like mist, haunting the action with a deep, contemplative melancholy; and freed from the imperative of carrying guitar riffs, the drums and percussion of Thomas Wydler and Jim Sclavunos are able to explore more intimate, subtle rhythms, allowing the songs to find their own pulses, rather than urging them to more explosive efforts.
The effect is transformative: for all the comparative lack of overt activity, there is a much greater expressivity about the songs on Push the Sky Away, even when nothing seems to be happening. It’s as if the new approach were better able to reveal the emotional currents working beneath the songs’ surfaces, rather than be preoccupied with the surface activity. This works wonders with Cave’s songs, as by his own admission he’s more of a voyeuristic, narrative songwriter than an emotional miner: here, the music fills in the unwritten emotional content lurking behind his observations.
Here’s the video for the first single, “We No Who U R” (that looks like a Prince title, but it doesn’t sound anything like Prince).
While you are at it, you should watch “Jubilee Street” too. Uncensored version here (sign in required) and Walmart version here. (Do they sell any Nick Cave albums at Walmart? I have no idea.)
I also read Mojo Magazine. Johnny Marr is on the cover of the February 2013 issue, and it includes a cd compilation featuring Johnny Marr playing guitar on his new album and on tracks by many of the artists he’s collaborated with over the years. Here’s a video for the the title track of The Messenger and, like Nick, he too is walking through the woods.
I had not been a big fan of Johnny Marr, but I think I am now.
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:
The Joshua Tree
The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust
Dark Side Of The Moon
Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
Blood On The Tracks
Never Mind The Bollocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols
The Rolling Stones
Exile On Mainstreet
Prince and the Revolution
Neutral Milk Hotel
In the Aeroplane Over The Sea
Stop Making Sense
Houses Of The Holy
Automatic For The People
Power, Corruption and Lies
The Queen Is Dead
The Flaming Lips
Yoshimi vs. The Pink Robots
Licensed To Ill
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.
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!
Okay so I am a couple weeks late getting this list posted for several reasons, but mainly because it’s so difficult to choose which twenty of the fifty-six 2011 albums I purchased belong on the list.
The top five are the albums I’ve listened to the most during the year, and two of the top five are by groups that don’t get anywhere near the attention they deserve, especially in the United States.
1. Capsula – In the Land of Silver Souls. This is the album I’ve listened to probably a hundred times, and I never tire of it. Their sound is part seventies Bowie, part Stooges, part Sonic Youth, a pinch of Link Wray, and a whole lot of “it.” Martin Guevara on guitar and vocals, Coni Duchess on bass and vocals, and Ignacio Villarejo on drums take all of their influences an blend them into one of the best sounding sonic stews I’ve ever heard. Top tracks are “Wild Fascination,” “Communication,” and “Hit ‘n’ Miss.”
Now that you’ve watched that video, you’ll probably want to go buy the CD. Good luck. Right here in Seattle where’ve they’ve been in heavy rotation on KEXP and have played two shows in the past six months (The Comet and the KEXP BBQ), you can’t find their music at Sonic Boom, Easy Street Records, Silver Platters, or any other store I’ve wandered into. The album is on the BCore Disc label, which must have very poor distribution in the U.S. Amazon sometimes has it, and you can buy it from the band for $10 if you go to a show. So what I guess I am saying is go to a show, see the band, buy their music, spread the word. (I guess you pod people can download it too.)
2. P.J. Harvey – Let England Shake. When I read that P.J. was working on an album of songs she plays on an autoharp, I thought that’s gonna be pretty weird. What it is, is a masterpiece – an incredibly focused, forceful collection of passionate and sometimes angry songs about war. Here’s one of the twelve films by Seamus Murphy that are available on YouTube and on a DVD now available in the UK that hasn’t yet made it across the pond.
3. Tom Waits – Bad as Me. It’s been a long time since Tom Waits put out an album of all new songs, and it was worth the wait. Tom uses all his voices in this album. He delivers the rockers “Bad as Me” and “Satisfied” in a howling gravelly voice with a nice shout-out to Mick and Keith, and “Back in the Crowd” and “Last Leaf” in deep, slightly raspy melodious voice.
4. The Decemberists – The King is Dead. I had heard the Decemberists on the radio quite a few times, but I never paid much attention to them until this album came out. This is a pop album that the band says was influenced by Siouxsie and the Banshees, XTC, and R.E.M. (Peter Buck plays guitar on three songs.) Top tracks are “Calamity Song,” “Down by the Water” and “This is Why We Fight.”
Be sure and watch the video for “Calamity Song” too. It was inspired by the David Foster Walace novel, Infinite Jest.
5. The Duke Spirit – Bruiser. This album was released in Europe in September and has not yet been released in the U.S. where they don’t get near the attention they deserve. KEXP has recently started playing a couple of tracks, so maybe the band will get a little traction and release their album in the U.S. soon. Liela Moss has one of the sexiest voices in rock ‘n roll today, and the band backs her up brilliantly. Key tracks are “Don’t Wait,” and “Surrender.”
7. The Low Anthem – Smart Flesh. This album will grow on you. With lyrics like, “Then she left me here reeling with that time-release feeling/Like a long wisp of hunger, I swung from the ceiling” how could it not?
9. Viva Voce – The Future Will Destroy You. The album was released on the first day of summer and this guitar-heavy, retro-psychedelic-pop record instantly became the soundtrack to my summer. It’s a great one to listen to while driving through the city on the way home.
10. Anna Calvi – Anna Calvi. She’s got pipes, she can play guitar, and she’s got impeccable taste. Here’s a list of her influential albums from the November 2011 issue of Uncut Magazine: Aladdin Sane – David Bowie, Death of a Ladies’ Man – Leonard Cohen, Heaven or Las Vegas – Cocteau Twins, Gris-Gris – Dr. John, Grace – Jeff Buckley, The Ecstasy of Gold – Ennio Morricone, Quartet for the End of Time – Olivier Messiaen, Let Love In – Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Wild is the Wind – Nina Simone, and Limehouse Blues – Django Reinhardt. ‘Nuff said.
19. John Doe – Keeper. It’s John’s “happy” record. No, really. Listen to “Little Tiger” and “Lucky Penny.”
20.Wild Flag – Wild Flag. Carrie Brownstein’s new band: “What is the sound of an avalanche taking out a dolphin? What do get when you cross a hamburger with a hot dog? The answer is: WILD FLAG.”
Honorable mentions to: Dave Alvin, The Cave Singers, Danger Mouse and Daniel Luppi, Ry Cooder, Drive By Truckers, Jason Isbell, The Kills, The Pimps of Joytime, The Roots, Sons and Daughters, Tinariwen, Trombone Shorty, and Thurston Moore.
The Duke Spirit release their third album, Bruiser
Bruiser has arrived, and it packs a wallop. The Duke Spirit is not a particularly fancy band — they are a rock band (no real need for a modifier, though we’ll throw in the letters “alt” lest anyone confuse ‘em for, like, Def Leppard), with two guitars, bass and drums, and in Liela Moss, they have my favorite female singer in the world. Save for, well, Neko Case. And Sally Timms. They don’t layer acoustic guitars and glockenspiels into the mix. Instead, they drive over you with a dark blue Range Rover. Their music is powerful, and stylish, and very direct. Six years since their first album, it is possible that the Duke Spirit have reached musical middle age, since Bruiser is perhaps a bit thick around the middle. Yes, this is a darkly melodic album whose songs often begin with the bass and drums accelerating into about third gear before we hear Liela’s gorgeous voice or the two guitarists crash the party. There’s a reason they didn’t name this album Floats Like A Hummingbird or else Stings Like A Bee. A heavyweight British bruiser Bruiser turns out to be.
‘Cept, of course, for Liela’s voice. There is that. If Liela’s voice were a character in literature, it would be Katje in Gravity’s Rainbow: flirtatious, incredibly sexy, continental, chamelon-like, dangerous, and tough. If Liela’s voice had a face, though, it would be the young Jacqueline Bisset: beautiful, intriguing, though not particularly mysterious. (click on the link above to read the rest.)
I too am a huge fan of The Duke Spirit, and I love Liela’s voicee, so after reading this, I decided I could not wait until some time in November, so I ordered the import from Amazon.
Until it arrives, I’ll have to settle for what I can find on YouTube. Here’s video of The Duke Spirit performing “Don’t Wait” on Jools Holland last month.
As long as I am in this music posting mode., I might as well tell you about another article I recently read in The Atlantic.
First the setup: I bought the October 2011 issue of Mojo Magazinelast week, and the CD compilation that came with it is titled Return to The Dark Side of the Moon, a reinvention of the original 1973 album by several groups covering the songs plus a few songs from Wish You Were Here.
I put the disc in my car and listened to it on the way to work and on the way home. I’d probably listened to the Pink Floyd album at least a hundred times, so I know it note by note, word by word. I was, however, not familiar with any of the artists on the reinvention album, and I ended up liking a few of the covers. I especially liked The Pineapple Thief’s cover of “Money.” But, I was much more interested in hearing another band performing “The Great Gig in the Sky,” because that track – with the wordless melody sung by Clare Torry – tripped me out more than anything else on the record. How could anyone cover that song? The Last Hurrah!! gave it a go but it was kind of a letdown. So when I got home I figured what the hell, I’ll just load up my Pink Floyd cd’s, listen to the original recordings, and chill while drinking a beer.
The new issue of The Atlantic had arrived in the mail that day and I came across an article by JamesParker titled, “Everything Old – Our obsession with music nostalgia is strangling pop.” I thought to myself: This is weird. Here I am, listening to an album recorded 38 years ago that sold over 45 million copies reading an article about our obsession with music nostalgia. I was thinking I should change out the cd’s before reading it because I am not one of those people that is stuck in some kind of time warp where the only music I listen to now is music I discovered while in high school and college. (I left the Floyd running.)
So I read through the article:
Has pop culture, uh, stopped? Why do the major musical developments of the past decade include Guitar Hero, reunion tours, hip karaoke, the rise of the tribute band, pop stars made entirely from bits of other pop stars, and Van Morrison re-performing Astral Weeks? Lady Gaga, bless her radical retro soul, is Cher after three weeks in Warhol’s Factory. Cee Lo is Motown with swearing. This month, even as Roger Waters breaks temporarily from his transglobal plod-through of Pink Floyd’s 32-year-old rock opera, The Wall, Roger Daltrey sallies forth with a production of The Who’s 42-year-old rock opera, Tommy. One salutes the unkillability of these gentlemen, one reveres their work, but, honestly.
Early in Retromania, Simon Reynolds’s recent compendious and slightly nauseating (in a good way) account of pop-cultural backward-looking, the author visits 315 Bowery—once the site of the punk club CBGB, now a John Varvatos clothing boutique. Reynolds is on the heritage trail: he’s already been to the British Music Experience in London…
The floating simultaneity and endless availability of all recorded music, the deadening sophistication of the average listener—these are not spurs to Art. “It’s glaringly obvious,” Reynolds writes (indisputably in my view), “that all the astounding, time-space rearranging developments in the dissemination, storing and accessing of audio data have not spawned a single new form of music.” The key word in there is data. Encoded, flattened, trimmed, compressed, and abused, music in the digital age is turning its back on us. It’s a fact, Jack: MP3s sound horrible. I suspect they are bad for your brain. Dionysus will not be treated as information.
We might of course be old farts, Reynolds and I, with old-fart ears and old-fart memories, freaked out by the world that is blossoming at our old-fart fingertips. It may be that to complain (as he does) of feeling “splayed and stuffed” when you go online is merely to say: Yes, I am middle-aged. But Retromania goes deeper. Burrowing backward in search of retro’s first cause, Reynolds traces the reactionary roots of punk rock—its claim to be rescuing rock and roll from the bloatations of the early ’70s.
He concludes with “the fix is in” as if it’s all been done, so what now?
Well I disagree. The fix is not in. There are so many new bands making really great music these days. I left the article thinking that Mr. Parker needs to stop thinking and writing about the past and start paying attention to bands that are making great music now. He thinks that many new artists borrow from the past, but I say, who doesn’t? So what? It’s okay to take something from the past as long as you don’t just copy it, but move it forward.
So James Parker and Simon Reynolds, if you come across this site, may I suggest for your listening pleasure the following bands:
Saul Williams – The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of Niggy Tardust
Jakob Dylan – Seeing Things
The Moondoggies – Don’t be a Stranger
Kathleen Edwards – Asking for Flowers
The Kills – Midnight Boom
The Black Keys – Attack and Release
Jenny Lewis – Acid Tongue
Mudhoney – The Lucky Ones
Wussy – Left for Dead
The Pretenders – Break up the Concrete
The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band –The Whole Fam Damnily
R.E.M. – Accelerate
Flogging Molly – Float
Hank III – Damn Right Rebel Proud
Dandy Warhols – Earth to the Dandy Warhols
I’ve surfed around and looked at lists put out by Mojo Magazine, Uncut Magazine, Paste Magazine, and NPR. What I found is that people seem to prefer softer, soulful sounds this year. My list has a lot of entries that buck that trend. That’s probably because this year, for me anyway, was an intensely nerve racking year. During the very long primary season and general election, I found myself mostly listening to music that matched my high level of nervous agitation throughout the whole process.
Anyway, there are a few polls out there where you can still cast your votes for best albums of 2008. I’d start with the KEXP Top 90.3 poll because it closes tomorrow.