Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Because Best-Of Lists Are Crap: Favorite Music Of 2013

Oy vey! Where exactly did 2013 go? It seems like I just wrote one of these Year-End lists last month ...er, 12 months ago. 

The twenty-unlucky saw the passing of Nelson Mandela (R.I.P.), the botched Obamacare website roll-out and Fox News' Megyn Kelly telling everyone Santa Claus can only be a whiter shade of pale. Oh, and "selfie" is the Oxford Dictionary's word of the year.

So, yeah: Oy vey!

Of course, 2013 was also another great year in music. And as many news reporting outlets will tell you, this years theme was... 1990's revivalism? Feminist empowerment? Kanye West's Kanye Westness? Yes, all of that and so much more. 

Indeed, 90's stalwarts such as Polvo, Daft Punk and My Bloody Valentine released long-awaited records this year. Female-fronted bands and musicians like Haim, The Julie Ruin and Beyoncé kinda, sorta, almost revived the long-too-dormant corpse of riot grrrl (I guess). And Kanye West released the best record ever recorded by a human being in the history of the world, or something like that (just ask these guys).

There was also the bitter rivalry between the reformed members of legendary L.A. punk rockers Black Flag and former members of that band, who go under the litigation-attracting moniker of Flag. Trent Reznor, who also released an album this year, simultaneously cast shade on The Arcade Fire's newest release while praising Davis Bowie's latest for being an rewarding repeat listener. And Kim Deal left the Pixies only to be replaced by The Muffs' Kim Shattuck, who was herself fired by the Frank Black via fax soon after. Yowza!

So the theme of this year (and really, doesn't every year require a theme?) really seemed to be a year in music looking for a theme. Soak in the mete, music reviewers!

Here then is my list of the 10 records I enjoyed the most from 2013. Please note that this most definitely is not a best-of list. Best-of lists are highly contentious and staggeringly stupid, and I don't purport to be one of those end-all, be-all music-reviewing taste maker hacks. That being said, here is my list of favorite recordings of the year:

1. My Bloody Valentine
m b v
Song: "Only Tomorrow" (mp3)

In the 22-year span between the dizzying swirl that is My Bloody Valentine's great sonic achievement, Loveless, and this, their latest album, promises of a follow-up strung fans along just enough become punchlines; after a while, it just didn't seem like it was ever going to happen. Then, one day earlier this year, Kevin Shields emerged from his control room and simply dropped m b v off at the Internet. As the nine songs on this album (six gauzy and dream-drenched, three bombastic and anxiety-inducing) would soon prove, that 22 year duration was worth the wait. Lacking Loveless's narrative arch, m b v is instead the sound of a band subtly expanding its fingertips further; each song here is its own vaporous, stand alone module. Belinda Butcher's breathy vocals are still the perfect compliment to Shield's tone-shifting perfectionism, as illustrated on tracks such as "New You," "Only Tomorrow" and the utterly sublime "If I Am." But it's the final act of this album that provides a honey-powered sonic wallop of droning energy surges (a counter-point to the album's chime-swept harmonic opener, "She Found Now"l), thus making, m b v a glorious, floating maelstrom to behold. Now we just need to wait for that promised follow-up EP to come out, give or take an additional 22 years. But let's hope it doesn't come to that.
2. Parquet Courts
Light Up Gold
Song: "Stoned and Starving" (via Bandcamp)

3. Perfect Pussy
I Have Lost All Desire For Feeling (Cassette EP)
Song: "I" (mp3)

4. Latyrx
The Second Record
Latyramid, Inc.
Song: "Exclamation Point Feat. Forrest Day" (via Soundcloud)

5. Sky Larkin
Wichita Recordings
Song: "Motto" (via Soundcloud)

6. Robert Pollard
Honey Locust Honky Tonk
GBV, Inc.
Song: "I Killed a Man That Looks Like You" (via Soundcloud)

7. Yo La Tengo
Matador Records
Song: "Ohm" (mp3)

8. Julia Holter
Loud City Songs
Song: "Maxim's I" (via Soundcloud)

9. Grouper
The Man Who Died In His Boat
Song: "Vital" (mp3)

10. Johnny Marr
The Messenger
Song: "The Right Thing Right" (mp3)

And now that I've provided you with a "Wait!-What-about-so-and-so?-They-released-one-of-the-best-albums-of-the-year.-This-list-is-bullshit!" list, here is a list of my other favorite things of the year:

Favorite Album Cover

Kanye West  
Def Jam Records

There's something deceptively brilliant about the spartan cover "artwork" gracing Kanye West's equally hyped and celebrated 2013 release. On the face of it, the cover of Yeezus literally doesn't seem like much: a clear CD case, Def Jam legalese gracing the outer edge of the disc itself and red overlapping sticker securing the whole shebang. It's almost as if West is intimating that the contents of this album actually matter more than the packaging around it. Any way you look at it, however, the Yeezus album cover is pretty damned iconic.

Favorite Song

Pharrell Williams
From the Despicable Me 2 Motion Picture Soundtrack
Back Lot Music

Every once in a while a mainstream song will come along that is just too damned good for my curmudgeonly, snobbish sensibilities to ignore. "Happy" by Pharrell Williams is one such song. Soulful, jubilant and and in possession of one hell of an addictive, hook-laden chorus, "Happy," (from the Despicable Me 2 soundtrack and Farrell's recently released epic 24-hour "12AM" music video), simply makes me happy when (repeatedly) listening to it. I honestly can't recall the last song that's made the same, dynamic impression on me quite like this one. Along with Batkid, "Happy" has possibly restored my faith in humanity. And that's saying a lot.

Here's Williams' anti-depression ode to joyousness and movement:

Favorite Video

Julie Ruin
"Oh Come On"
From the album Run Fast
Dischord Records

I love this video because it reminds me of those video from the 90's. You know the ones: a tight confined stage decorated with Christmas lights and shit, while all-up-in-their-grills camera zooms catch each and every face mug a seemingly unselfconscious band could muster. Stone Temple Pilots had one of these type of vidoes, but they were all way too serious and precious about it. The Julie Ruin's video for "Oh Come On" on the other hand is cheeky and fun. Plus, this song rocks in a crunchy-meets-shrieky way, and it definitely would not be at home on the Crow Motion Picture Soundtrack.

Favorite Live Show

Photo: OregonLive.com
Neko Case
The Pioneer Courthouse Square
Portland, OR
September 8th, 2013

Neko Case is an amazing songwriter, as her latest album The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You so easily illustrates. So it stands to reason that this gifted musician and storyteller (who also celebrated her 40th birthday this crisp, late summer night) would put on a good live show. Entering the cordoned-off (and packed!) Pioneer Square in the heart of downtown Portland, little did I know I'd be witnessing one of the best, most rollicking and absolutely fun live musical performances I've seen in a long, long time. Armed only with her songs, talent and wit, Neko Case and her band blazed through songs new and old, reverberating off the towering old building surrounding "Portland's Livingroom." Almost as lively and entertaining as the music itself, was the between-song banter between Case, her back-up singer Kelly Hogan, and the bearded "AARP" fellas in the band. Thinking back on this show - which benefited Cover Oregon, the state's new and regrettably flawed online medical marketplace - puts a smile on my face and the warm fuzzies in my heart. Damn good show, Ms. Case. Damn good!

Favorite Record Label

Sacred Bones Records

Okay, so none of the records on that list of 10 up there came out on Sacred Bones. So, why is this my favorite record label of the year. Because they released Crystal Stilts criminally over-looked album, Nature Noir. Because they released not one, not two, but three David Lynch-related records this year: Twin Peaks Season Two Music and More, the deluxe edition of the Eraserhead soundtrack and Lynch's latest album, The Big Dream. Because I like the uniformity of their album artwork, with the Sacred Bones logo in the upper left-hand corner. Because this New York-based label has a deep well of amazing artists such as Pharmakon, Moon Duo, The Men, Psychic Ills, etc. on their roster. Because they have awesome compilations like Killed By Deathrock Vol. 1 and Five Years of Sacred Bones Records. Because they kind of have a spooky vibe to 'em despite no overt appearances of being "spooky." Because I said so.

Favorite Movie

In A World
Written, Directed and Starring Lake Bell
Roadside Attractions

While 2013 gave cinema a bevy of truly fantastic films (12 Years a Slave, Her and Dallas Buyers Club, to name but a few), the one movie that I keep coming back to from this year is Lake Bell's fun, witty and observant directorial debut, In A World. Bell, of Children's Hospital fame, turns in a breezy and truly funny indie - which she also wrote and stars in - that taking place in that ever nebulous world of voiceover acting. Here she plays Carol, an underachieving voice acting coach, who when we meet her, is crashing with her father, Sam (Fred Melamed) - a man who also happens to be a legend in the voiceover community. Spurned by her father's lack of support, Carol seeks to land a sweetheart gig doing the voiceover for the trailer of a potential summer blockbuster in the Hunger Games vein, thus pitting her not only against her father, but another, more vainglorious voice actor, played by Ken Marino. Co-starring a host of familiar actors and comedians from shows such as Parks and Recreation, Party Down, The League, etc., In A World is at once a smart, charming and funny film. If this is what Lake Bell is capable of now, I can't see what she comes up with next.

Favorite Book

The Wes Anderson Collection by Matt Zoller Seitz
Abrams Books

One of these year-end reviews I'm going to actually review a novel that came that given year. Something with characters and plot and accolades on the front and back covers. I swear. How does next year sound? Until then, let me tell you about this coffee table blunt object, The Wes Anderson Collection. Written by Matt Zoller Seitz, this voluminous tome stretches over all seven of Wes Anderson's theatrically released films to date, featuring not only essays on each film, but a dearth of on-set images, behind the scenes photos, fan artwork, collected ephermera, compare and contrast still from films that inspired Anderson's work, and a spate of interviews with the director himself. More than any other book on the subject, Zoller Seitz gives fans of Wes Anderson's films the closest, revealing and colorful behind-the-curtain glimpses into what makes Wes Anderson's films so endearing and important to this filmmaker's fans.

Favorite Thing

Levi's 511 Commuter Jeans

I'm a Levi's jeans guy. I've owned jeans by other manufacturers, but honestly, they weren't quite the same. Levi's has a fit and feel that fits my considerable tuchus just right. As a bicycle rider, Levi's 514's have just enough give in the legs when riding, and the back pocket fits a U-Lock perfectly. But leave it to Levis to come up with the skinnier, more stretchy 511 Commuter Jeans. These 511's feature many rider-centric amenities, such as reflective strips inside the pant leg (so when you roll them up, the strip is on the outside cuff), a U-lock loop on the beltline over the back pocket, and water-resistant/dirt-repellent protective finish. Oh, and they pretty damned comfortable, to boot. My tuchus never had it so good.

Lastly, here are some Christmas presents for your ears. Just follow the links to my 8tracks.com some-songs-of-the-year compilations (click on the captions below the cover artwork):

Days of Past Past Futures - Vol. 1
Days of Past Futures - Vol. 2
Days of Past Futures - Vol. 3
Days of Past Futures - Vol. 4
Days of Past Futures - Vol. 5

Happy Birthday, Amy! XOXO

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Literally, The Best Podcast In The World

★★★★★ How Did This Get Made?

Sometimes you just want a podcast you don't have to think about; a little something to turn off your brain and inhale popcorn to. A podcast doesn't need to have good acting, or even some kind of hoity-toity, pseudo-intellectual plot to be awesome! HOW DID THIS GET MADE? IS THE BEST PODCAST EVER!!! If you like cray-cray action sequences, hawt sex scenes, and bombin' special effects, How Did This Get Made? is the podcast for you. If you're not a fan of fun, than your (sic) a PC hipster with no friends. FIVE STARS!!!

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Stranger In An Even Stranger Land

The Stranger
Watching Dead Empires In Decay

By now, musical electrician Leyland Kirby must know that he's making absolutely perfect soundtracks for urban exploring, right? His previous work under the moniker The Caretaker fused warped jazz 78s with hisses and clicks; the perfect accompaniment for navigating abandoned TB hospitals, shuttered auto plants or spooky-ass insane asylums (whatever floats your boat). Additionally, Kirby's recordings under his own name and V/Vm are both atmospheric and cheekily confounding (respectfully). His latest, possibly Albert Camus-inspired iteration, The Stranger, even goes so far as to depict a derelict apartment block on the cover of its debut LP, Watching Dead Empires In Decay (natch!)

Unlike his previous work however, Kirby's The Stranger has ratcheted-up the foreboding and dread, turning those explorations down peeled-paint hallways into fodder for nightmares ("Spiral of Decline"). And unlike his previous cut-n-paste recordings, Decay features a fully realized narrative from start to finish, complete with second act denouements taking place at the gates of Hell itself ("Where Are Our Monsters Now, Where Are Our Friends?") It's all quite glorious, mad-for-sadness stuff. For those of you (us) in a perpetually melancholy mood, Decay is manna from Hades.

Just take heed of the warning sign on the the front gates before you break in, k?

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween!

Here are three (3) tips make your Halloween night safe and memorable:

1. Always trick or treat with a buddy.

2. Whistle a happy lil' tune while you walk.

3. Relax with a movie* at the end of the night.

Have fun out there!

*Thanks to Red Letter Media for the movie recommendation.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Splendiforous Wes Anderson-tatstic Weblog Communiqué

Sometimes, Saturday Night Live can really surprise you. Between groan-inducing sketches they've only given themselves a week to workshop and rehearse, the hardworking cast and crew of SNL proves that they can still pull off a bit so masterful and nearly ingenious, you could possibly forgive them for allowing Miley Cyrus to host their show weeks earlier.

Such was the case with last Saturday's episode hosted by Edward Norton. Among several fairly humorous sketches ("Halloween Candy," "12 Days Not A Slave" and the always dependable Weekend Update), one sketch in particular stood-out.

The Midnight Coterie of Sinister Intruders proved to be fairly hilarious and spot on send-up of almost every single Wes Anderson-ism to date. Mining from Anderson's oeuvre (The Royal Tenenbaums, Moonrise Kingdom, The Fantastic Mr. Fox, et al.), this satire imagines what a "hand crafted" home invasion horror movie directed by the King of Twee could be.

Among several keenly observed Anderson tropes consisting of vintage tchotchkes, anamorphic pull-back tracking shots, stilted line deliveries, a folk rock-heavy soundtrack, and title card sequences with corresponding foley and Futura Bold font, Norton provided a near pitch perfect Owen Wilson impersonation. All that's missing is Bill Murray, an Anderson mainstay since Rushmore and former SNL cast member (natch!)

As a fan of Wes Anderson's film, I would totally see this movie if it were real. If for no other reason, really, than to know where I can get a copy of the song at 1:56 mark:

As good as Norton is in this send-up is, however, he could take voice lessons from the guy playing Wilson in this Wes Anderson spoof from a couple of years ago:

Of course, Anderson himself has a film coming out next year titled The Grand Budapest Hotel. And just like Moonrise Kingdom before it, this one also stars Edward Norton. Here is the for-some-reason-non-widescreen-shot trailer:

"You had me at Wes Anderson."

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Fiver - Episode X: Citizen Cain II: The Reckoning

     I've been meaning to post something here for a while if for no other reason than to knock that previous post featuring multi-visage Jason Voorhees' (pleasant to look at, though he may be) down a notch. It's been forever and a day since I posted one of my Fiver music reviews, so let's go with that. Yeah.

From the album Infinity Caller

     A fairly unconventional cover of '80's pop sensation Tiffany's hit single, but this Brooklyn band makes it all their own-- clamoring alt-90's guitar hooks and all.

"High Road"  (YouTube)
From the album Static

     Cults recently blew through my town to play a set of their patented candy-coated synth-pop. Did I go to see them? Nope! Instead, I looked this band up after the fact to see what they sounds like. Now, thanks to my stellar decision-making skills regarding the potential viewing of great live music, I'm thinking of getting "schmuck" tattooed backwards on my forehead. 

"State of Mine"  (mp3)
From the album Defend Yourself

     I remember the day in the mid-1990's when I stumbled upon Sebadoh. I was working at this really shitty record store that was essentially the exact opposite of what one would consider a cool record store-working experience to be (over-the-should micromanagement, sold-to-score used inventory, a plethora of novelty do-dad shit, etc, etc.) I did, however, find Bakesale on cassette there, so I suppose working a soul-destroying counter jockey job was worth discovering these lo-fi masters. 

"Watered Down"  (Soundcloud)
From the album Surfing Strange

     So this is that part in life when you realize the shit you were into in your twenties is now "retro." When you hear a girl in line at a coffee shop (who's 20 years your junior, but wearing thigh-high stocking like the ones your girlfriend from back when used to have) proclaim "The 80's thing is so over. Now the 90's are coming in." Suddenly my Peter Pan Complex doesn't feel all that precious anymore. At least all that retrofied music these days is pretty damned good.

Julia Holter
"Maxim I"  (Soundcloud)
From the album Loud City Song

     Does David Lynch still make movies anymore, or is he just coasting on his David Lynch-iness these days? Because if he decides to start making his wonderfully strange and effecting films again, he couldn't do better than incorporating a few of Julia Holter's songs into his soundtracks. Also she's both youthful and easy on the eyes: two qualities Mr. Lynch seems to appreciate in a woman--actress, musician or otherwise.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Happy Friday the 13th Everybody!

"Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch... "

I was never a horror movie fan. As a kid, splatter flicks always seemed a bit too cynical, dismal and hopeless for my fragile young wuss-ibilities. Honestly, I was never taken in by the charms of watching a maniac brutally kill people, and always wondered what the point of the whole shebang was anyway (to see people brutally killed over-and-over again. Duh!) But I have to give props to the "King of Horror Movie Characters" on this hollowed conjunction of day and date: Friday the 13th!

Instead of showing you a clip reel of Crystal Lake's most famous resident's deathblows (and boy howdy does this hockey masked madman L-O-V-E to kill him some fornicating teens), I chose instead to share the following clip (complete with a constant buzzing noise in the low-end frequency) from when Jason stopped by Arsenio Hall to discuss his then-new movie, Friday the 13th Part 8: Jason Takes Manhattan.


Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Music Compilation That Never Was

Save Mt. Sacramento was supposed to be the 40-song compilation that could have potentially earned Sacramento some much needed national respectability (foolhardy-har-har!) It was supposed to compliment the only other compilation of all-Sacramento bands produced thus far: Sacramento: City Beer. It featured up-and-coming local bands and musicians that, at the time, were getting some notice outside the city limits. This compilation could have been a contender ...if only it actually came out.

If you follow the hype (and who doesn't?), Sacramento, California wants to be a "world class city" (whatever that  means). According to most locals you talk to, Sacramento also wants to be a small, sleepy and unfussy little town. So, "world renowned" without providing visitors with world renowned stuff to do. They don't want things getting too exciting around here, I suppose.

In reality, Sacramento is California's "hella classy" capital city. It's the place where the gears of politics in the "Golden State" turn. Or don't. It's hard to tell if anything gets done in that arena these days, actually. The people doing and not doing their jobs still bring home considerable paychecks, despite the city's freeways being littered with garbage and auto accident remnants.

In addition, every building in Sacramento is some shade of beige. It's as if the city planners were bamboozled by a snake oil salesman who needed to unload gallons of baby shit-hued paint, and Sacramento was just the sucker he was looking for. And while this bland paint scheme may be great for pseudo-yuppie wives who dream of schtupping Fabio in a villa in Tuscany painted in soothing colors that compliment vanilla scented candles, it leaves Sacramento looking kinda boring and banal.

Mayyors (photo courtesy of Last.FM)
One of Sacramento's many saving graces (and it has quite a few--you just need to dig them out) is it's music scene. While live music venues in this town are scant (thank you, City of Sacramento and your red tape, hoop-jumping-through-ing micromanagement!), the bevy of talented musicians and bands that make up this town are not. Sacramento has given rise to a host of great bands over the years/decades: The New Breed, The Twinkeys, Tiger Trap, !!!, and Mayyors (to name but a very few). It's an ever evolving, ever revolving scene in "The City of Trees." Sacramento might not be the most entertaining city in the world, but it's not for a lack of highly-entertaining and talented musicians.

So it was on a trip to Portland in 2009 that I found myself in the boutique store for the record label Tender Loving Empire. Among the stacks LPs and CDs of local bands and musicians on the label's roster in the sale bin I discovered a locally sourced 2XCD compilation titled PDX Pop Now! This compilation series, which started in 2004, features 40 Portland-based bands, each of which is hand-picked by a committee of keen-eared volunteers. Housed in a hand silk-screened chipboard case, this annually produced compilation series gleefully radiates hometown pride.

My first thought just looking at this collection was, "Why doesn't Sacramento have something like this?"

It wasn't as if the bands weren't there. In some ways, Sacramento's music scene easily contended with the greatness of Portland's. Sure, that town that gave the world The Kingsmen, The Wipers, Sleater-Kinney, etc. And Portland's current roster of talent such as Menomena, The Thermals and The Helio Sequence are nothing to sneeze at. But Sacramento, on the other hand, features a much more grittier field of play from Portland's rain-slick streets. This is a town that celebrates it's "janky"-ness, and the music made here tends to be more interesting for it.

I give this over to the fact that creative things are harder to do successfully in Sacramento than they are in other places. There's a stratum of by-design tedium that has to be punched-through in order to get anything (music, art, literature, Peep-eating contests, etc.) off the ground in this town. Fueled more often than not by cheap beer, musicians in Sacramento usually start bands because they are talented, bored and mischievous.

The old Phono Select storefront, R.I.P.
Phono Select was an independent record shop in the heart of Sacramento's midtown. Owned and operated by former Tower Records vets Dal Basi and Nich Lujan, Phono catered to mostly punk and indie audiophiles, housing enough affordable and used vinyl to keep a record collector fat and happy for a fortnight or so. They carried local bands on local labels, and hosted cramped shows whenever touring indie bands like, say, King Tuff, blew through town. Phono Select was a refuge in a town that practically celebrates mainstream mediocrity. So, who better than them to put out a Sacramento-centric music compilation, right?

At the time, there were several bands taking off and getting blips on the national radar. Sea of Bees signed to a major label. Ganglians were getting approving nods from Pitchfork. Pregnant had their song "Selling Records" used as bumper music on the radio program Market Place. Chelsea Wolfe was scarring the libidos of he new-found fans. Sacramento's music scene was ripe for a compilation to document the scene as it was at that moment.

Dal and Nich were game to make this local compilation, and I set about cajoling 40 bands and musicians to appear on our compilation. Sometimes it was easy, and bands registered everything from "That would be awesome to "Sure, go for it" when solicited for a song. Sometimes, it was a bit more tricky. Sea of Bees appearance, for instance, came with the caveat from their new major label overlords that we could only produce CDs; no electronic sales via iTunes or Amazon (which would have been the antithesis of this record shop-born endeavor anyway, so okay). Then there was this one local heretofore unnamed jazz musician, dubious of the whole enterprise. After hearing my pitch, he actually asked, "What's your angle, man? How much you makin' off this?"

(Not planning on making jack shit back on this comp, we simply hoped to break even, if at all. Needless to say, this musician didn't submit a song).

After all 40 bands (including legendary high energy street busker Downtown James Brown) submitted their songs, we set about to get this thing--which we would title Save Mt. Sacramento (that we nicked from Scott Miller)--properly produced. Raleigh Moncreif would master both discs for a nominal price, while local scribe/musician Dennis Yudt wrote a clever little ditty introducing Sacramento's music scene to anyone who cared to learn about it. Up-and-coming local graphic designer and show poster artist Laura Matranga at Asbestos Press create the cover art and graphics. We were good to go. Soon Sacramento would have a music compilation it could rally around and be proud of. 

Then ...well, bupkis.

You see, the business of selling records is dicey prospect these days. More so in a town like Sacramento. This is, after all, where the record peddling behemoth Tower Records was once based. That is, until it fell in 2006. And it's where a small slice sanctuary like Phono Select struggled to stay afloat. Putting out a local compilation of music wasn't high on the priorities list when you're facing bills, low customer turnout and the end of your store front's lease (out with the record shop and in with yet another the women's clothing store!) Needless to say, Phono threw in the towel, and Save Mt. Sacramento couldn't do for itself what it's name suggested. 

Calls and emails to local indie labels to put this comp out went unanswered. No one seemed interested. It languished on the shelf, literally for years, collecting dust and not much else. In those intervening years, some the bands featured on this disc (Pets, Sister Crayon, Agent Ribbons, Chelsea Wolfe, and Flowerss) would move on to bigger cities in an effort to obtain higher profile recognition. New bands like Fine Steps, Gentleman Surfer, Death Grips, RAD, and Trash Talk (who moved to L.A.) stepped in, gained varying degrees of notice and notoriety. Save Mt. Sacramento became an obsolete curiosity: a collection of songs trapped in the amber of its time, locked away in the attic of an old Victorian owned by a serial killer, tossed under an old electric blank with frayed wires that's been repeatedly sprayed with cat piss.

Too bad, too, since it was a compilation that was pretty damned good (if I do say so myself). And that is why, nearly 5 years after it's inception that I decided to post Save Mt. Sacramento up on my 8tracks page for the world to hear. Give it a listen and know that you're enjoying a little slice of a time when Sacramento's music scene had it really, really good. Sure, music in the little town by the river it named after itself is still going strong. But for my lack-of-money, it doesn't get any better than this.

Save Mt. Sacramento track list:

Disc One
  1. Downtown James Brown "Keep Midtown Janky"
  2. Zach Hill "NASDAQ"
  3. Th' Losin Streaks "Fine Line"
  4. Ganglians "Blood On the Sand"
  5. Fancie "The Hill"
  6. The English Singles "Winter"
  7. Agent Ribbons "I'm Alright"
  8. Buk Buk Bigups "Wave Runner"
  9. Sister Crayon "(In) Reverse"
10. MC Ground Chuck "Can You Feel It"
11. Danny Offer "The Sound of Settling Down"
12. Two Sheds "Mind Wrecker"
13. Pregnant "Selling Records"
14. The Alkali Flats "Hogtied Over You (Live)"
15. Brianna Lea Pruitt "The Big Beautiful"
16. Art Lessing and The Flower Vato "Crabdigger"
17. Dead Western "Courageous Eye"
18. Electro Group "Dead Beats"
19. Charles Albright "Headphones"
20. Chelsea Wolfe "Pale On Pale"

Disc Two
  1. The Spiral States "She's A Lover"
  2. Pets Hit By a Wave"
  3. Sea of Bees "Marmalade (G. Caddilac Remix)"
  4. Matt K. Shrugg "Say No"
  5. The New Humans "Estranged Tide"
  6. The Standard Tribesmen "How Rupert Murdoch Don't Got Hip"
  7. Ricky Berger "Une Petite Berceuse"
  8. Waterfoul "Roam"
  9. Ashenden Papers "The Cycle"
10. Flowerss "Drag"
11. G. Green "No Big Deal"
12. Hearts+Horses "Piet"
13. BOATS! "21"
14. The Four Eyes "The One Road"
15. Appetite "Merry Anne"
16. The Bananas "Jus' Folks"
17. Baby Grand "Skyline"
18. Dog Party "Charlie"
19. Darksun Skypilot "Ol' Salt Lick"
20. Knock Knock "I Was Born"

Saturday, August 24, 2013

MY BLOODY VALENTINE - Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, San Francisco, 8/23/13

     My ears are still ringing.

    It's a singular, high-tensile tone that buzzes unrelentingly in my head. The swirling jet engine cacophony that caused this to happen seeped through my ear plugs and went in straight for the kill. I should be resentful or angry, even, but I was warned ahead of time. Twenty or so years ago, really.

      So it was that legendary Irish shoegaze foundation-pavers My Bloody Valentine glided into to San Francisco's Bill Graham Civic Auditorium to wash their fervent audience in equal parts distortion, feedback and honey sweet harmonies. And as is the legend of this band's propensity to play their blissed-out melodies at eardrum-shattering, audience patience-testing levels, My Bloody Valentine did not disappoint.

     Playing to a packed house (or auditorium, as it were), the mood was semi-charged. Against a blue-hued backdrop bearing the band's abbreviated self-titled album, m b v (released early this year), the capacity crowd consisting of fans old and new (hipsters, psychers, mods, goths, glitter punks, and a middle-aged woman in a mini skirt and sheer top accentuating her floppy breasts, etc.) waiting in anticipation, hollering and whooping sporadically. It wasn't until the lights finally dimmed and drummer Colm Ó Cíosóig bounded out on to the stage that the audience finally erupted into cheers and claps. He was soon followed by bassist Debbie Googe, guitarist and vocalist Bilinda Butcher, touring keyboardist and guitarist Jen Marco, and the man himself: My Bloody Valentines' OCD perfectionist and Jazz Master-manipulating tone bender, Kevin Shields.

      It was right then and there that I dawned on me: I'm in the same room with these people! The band responsible for what is widely considered an alt-indie masterpiece, Loveless. The band that promised a follow-up to that blistering, genre-defining album, and finally did so 22 years later despite one-off song releases, band break-ups, personal break-ups, and reunion tours. The band I've spent countless time, money and effort collecting every scrap of sonic minutia of since joyfully discovering back in 1994. There they were, not 20 feet away from where I stood. Not even the cold, hard, sole-destroying floors of the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium could diminish the sheer awe-inspired joy I felt at that moment being in this band's presence. 

      As pot smoke swirled above the crowd, My Bloody Valentine launched into the sonic boom wallop of "I Only Said." Butcher stood poised at her microphone, strumming her glitter green guitar and singing in her signature glazed coo, while Ó Cíosóig beat his drum kit into submission and Googe provided her crouched-knee bass dancing techniques. Shields, with his chin-length shag gone grey, was flanked by a rack of guitars on one side and a wall of amps that easily dwarfed the biggest Expidit bookshelf Ikea has to offer on the other. 

      "Play louder!" was the "free bird" of the night, and Shields and company were happy to oblige these oh-so clever members of their audience. Culling most of their set from Loveless, the band inter-spliced with material from that album's bookend releases, Isn't Anything and m b v , as well as EP cuts such "Cigarette In Your Bed" and "Honey Power" sprinkled in for good measure--all at the highest volume possible. At certain points during the show, ears where covered despite being corked with plugs (which were provided for free at the door by the management). Couples snaked out from the center of the crowd sporadically, perhaps overcome by the din, or to escape the epilepsy-inducing visuals projected on the wall behind the band. People went out into the hallways for a respite. Someone even reportedly passed out, and quickly regained consciousness again.

      It was glorious!

     In yet another signature move, the band closed their set, as they're notoriously want to to do, with an a feedback-drenched ender that went well past the 10 minute mark. This time it was an extended version of "You Made Me Realise" from Isn't Anything. Shields has sited in some review or another that he carries on these finale caterwauls until he feels that he has connected with the one person in the audience who at first doesn't get it, but then eventually submits to the ear-bleeding trance bombarding them. Once Shields has registered that said audience member is perfectly mesmerised, he and the band can then wrap it up. "Enjoying that sonic euphoria, yeah? Splendid. Well, goodnight everyone!"

     I wouldn't have missed this show for the world. Of course, I'll miss being able to hear anything without a constant ringing in my ears. But then again, after a night of music with this band, the new constant white noise companion in my head was well worth it.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Daughn With The Law

     So, it's been a couple of weeks (months...?) since I sent Sub Pop Records my completely random and unsolicited video script idea for their current roster artist/baritone-blasting hunk, Daughn Gibson. Gibson has a new record out this year titled Me Moan, which is the slickly-produced follow-up to his impressive 2012 haze wave debut, All Hell.

     Me Moan opens with a barn-burner titled "The Sound of Law." Needless to say, this is one of my favorite tracks of the year. It begins with a pensive, stabbing rhythm section and doesn't let up until Gibson is standing victorious, hi atop the bodies of other such golden throated troubadours like Stuart Staples, Aidan Moffet, Bill Callahan, Leonard Cohen, and the like. It's a damned good song!

     I must have listened to this ditty 10-20 in a row when it first came out. It's pretty damned badass. So taken with this song was I, that I began to see video-like scenarios of the song's narrative (or, at least what I thought the song was kinda, sorta about) in my head. This, then, led to the inspiration to write my frontal lobe-induced cinematic mind fart out as a script for a potential video.

     Upon discovering that Sub Pop hadn't produced a video for "The Sound of Law" yet (and instead went with a still picture video posted on YouTube), I thought I'd send my script in, completely unsolicited. I mean, who doesn't enjoy getting emails from random busy bodies, right?

     Well, I never did hear back from Sub Pop. Which is too bad, since I think this video idea ain't too shabby. It features a swaggering Gibson hitting on a girl in a dive bar. And it would have been relatively easy and economical to shoot. What's not to like?

     Anyhoo, you can read my script idea for Daughn Gibson's song "The Sound of Law" below. The lyrics were a bit hard to decipher, so I had to put "Lyrics That Follow" in the margins of the singing-dialog parts. It should be pretty easy to follow, though.



Daughn Gibson
“The Sound of Law”


Ext. - Bar/Afternoon

An old dive bar [song starts here].

Int. - Bar/Afternoon

The place is dark and dank, with old oak accents and velvet paintings of ancient seafaring ships. A smattering of patrons are seated in the booths along the opposite wall.

A lone BARTENDER is serving a beer (bottled) to a pretty YOUNG WOMAN at the bar.

The darkness inside this establishment is broken for a second or two by the light from outside as a young man named DAUGHN GIBSON makes his entrance.

There is a swagger in his step.

He instantly spots the young woman, tosses his keys and sunglasses on the bar and sits down beside her.

He motions to the bartender, makes a peace sign and taps both fingers at the bar in front of him.

The Bartender gives him a nod and retrieves Gibson’s drinks.

Gibson shifts his attention to the young woman and starts regaling her with a tale.

              My Daddy was beast…
                   (Lyrics that follow)

The young woman seems interested enough in Gibson. He’s good looking and has THAT voice. Why not?

The Bartender places a shot of whiskey and a beer in front of Gibson. Gibson slides a bill to The Bartender without taking his eyes off the Young Woman.

In telling his tale, Gibson’s gestures and motions gradually become more animated.

              He laid a kiss in my little hand…

Gibson smacks his hands together, shoots one off into the air.

              And blew that fucker off to Hell.
                   (Lyrics that follow)

The Young Woman laughs, warming to Gibson.

[Chorus] Gibson turns his attention to his drinks. He pounds the shot, and sips his beer.

              That girl keeps the sunset
              Close to the end of the road.
(Lyrics that follow)

Things between Gibson and The Young Woman are going pretty well, until…

(Con’t - Staring at his beer)
              Well they can keep my company
              When I was born along the highwayside.

[Bridge] Gibson’s mood has shifted. Talking about the “Sunset Girl” incident has drudged up some bad memories. The Young Woman can read it on his face.

Gibson takes out a cigarette, and is about to light it, but the Bartender points at the “No Smoking” sign on the wall.

(Con’t - Perturbed)
              You gotta moooooove…

[Chorus] Gibson’s gestures have become slightly more agitated. He’s just venting now, and has a wide-eyed “Who does that?” look on his face.

He doesn’t even look at The Young Woman who is now looking at him, skeptically.

              Let it go…
(Lyrics that follow)

The Bartender shakes his head (echoing “Let it go”) looking down at the wash sink. Sloshed patrons regard Gibson and The Young Girl with lazy inquisitive glances.

The Young Woman has obviously changed her mind about this ranting, neurotic dude.

As Gibson’s story comes to an end, he looks over at The Young Woman.

He motions to her with his index finger, then to himself with his thumb (same hand) giving her a “Whaddya say?” look.

The Young Woman smile-sneers a polite “no,” lays some money on the bar, turns and walks away.

Light cracks in once again, illuminating Gibson’s disappointed, but resigned face. Then the darkness resumes as the front door closes behind The Young Woman.

Gibson looks at The Bartender, who in turn shrugs back to Gibson.

“What can you do?”

Gibson turns back, sighs and takes a swig of his beer.