Friday, January 30, 2015

Friday Random 10

Happy Friday. Lovely midweek snowstorm up here - lots of hype coming in, the result - well, we got the 2 feet they said... didn't feel like all that terrible a storm though. Light, powdery snow, no power outages, the city (state) shut down, so the streets were clean - not bad. The subway, on the other hand, has failed to function all week, even before the snow. So it's been interesting getting around town.

Anyway - I am starting this year like last year - managing one post a week... Hopefully we can move on from that, but who knows. Right now - let's keep it simple - 10 random songs it is:

1. Theoretical Girls - computer Dating
2. Deerhoof - News From a Bird
3. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds - Where do We Go Now but Nowhere?
4. Minutemen - what is It?
5. Public Image Limited - This is PIL
6. George Harrison - Apple Scruffs
7. Gomez - Revolutionary Kind
8. Byrds - King Apathy III
9. Destroyer - European Oils
10. Junior Kimbrough - I Gotta Try You Girl

Video? Let's put up Junior Kimbrough - just music, but, such music:

and - another sound only, featuring Clarence White with the Byrds:

And - Gomez, live:

Friday, January 23, 2015

Friday Music Stuff

Nothing too much to say today - running late - so here's a quick random dump. Almost forgot it was Friday, again - a sad state of affairs. But iTunes seems to have taken pity, cause it's a nice selection, huh?

1. Six Organs of Admittance - Saint Cloud
2. Camper Van Beethoven - Eye of Fatima
3. Nick Cave and Warren Ellis - The Journey
4. Bloc Party - Mercury
5. Scott Walker - Rhymes of Goodbye
6. Mission of Burma - Trem Two
7. Billie Holiday - Trav'lin' Light
8. Deerhoof - Apple Bomb
9. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - The Good Son
10. Johnny Cash - Daddy Sang Bass

And video? Johnny of course:

And - here's a band I might have to write about one of these months - Mission of Burma, live, back at the end of their beginning:

And here's some very nice 80s video nostalgia - Camper Van!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Best Films of 2014

I have waited a couple weeks into the year to do this, for obvious reasons - Inherent Vice was released on the 9th - and I had to see it. It was a happy fact that Mr. Turner was also released last week, so I got to add 2 films fairly hight up the list.

What kind of year was 2014? for me as a filmgoer, my bad film watching habits continue. I am lazy in my dotage. I keep oping it will change, but it hasn't in the last few years, so probably not much hope of changing this year. As a blogger, it was terrible - I managed a couple posts for Wonders in the Dark's Romance countdown - a history post for Citizenfour - an Oscar post, of all things - and, I am relieved to discover, a post about the best film of 2013, Inside Llewyn Davis. (A strong contender for best of the decade, I think. Being one who counts decades alphabetically - the 10s start with the 1 in the 10s place - we are halfway through the decade already. That is a list I ought to contemplate as well. If I start now, I might get it posted before the 20s.) All in all - not much writing this year. I have to rectify that.

And for the films? Like a lot of years, there were stretches where there didn't seem to be anything around. (It would feel that way right now if I didn't have the option to keep seeing Inherent Vice every week, and go see Boyhood again.) I don't if that is justified - there are films put now that people seem to like... Looking back - it's not a bad year. Though maybe nothing quite overwhelming. I don't know. A very respectable year, rather than an exciting one.

All right - on with it: best 25 released (more or less) in Boston, in 2014:

1. Boyhood
2. Norte, the End of History
3. The Missing Picture
4. Only Lovers Left Alive
5. Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby Her/Him
6. Grand Budapest Hotel
7. The Babadook
8. Ida
9. Inherent Vice
10. The Rover
11. Love is Strange
12. Mr Turner
13. Dance of Reality
14. Like Father Like Son
15. The Immigrant
16. Citizenfour
17. Jimmy P
18. Force Majeure
19. Nymphomaniac (Vol 1)
20. Cavalry
21. 20,000 Days on Earth
22. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
23. Abuse of Weakness
24. Ernest & Clestine
25. Listen Up Philip

Not a bad collection, really. And the 10 best films made and debuted in 2014:

1. Boyhood
2. Grand Budapest Hotel
3. The Babadook
4. Inherent Vice
5. The Rover
6. Love is Strange
7. Mr. Turner
8. Citizenfour
9. Force Majeure
10. Cavalry

And now to look back at 2013 - starting with what I posted at the beginning of this year:

1. 12 Years a Slave
2. Blue is the Warmest Color
3. Inside Llewyn Davis
4. Computer Chess
5. Ain't them Bodies Saints
6. The Great Beauty
7. Upstream Color
8. Before Midnight
9. Enough Said
10. I Used to Be Darker

And now, what looks like the best of 2013, a year later:

1. Inside Llewyn Davis
2. Norte, the End of History
3. 12 Years a Slave
4. Blue is the Warmest Color
5. The Missing Picture
6. Only Lovers Left Alive
7. Disappearance fo Eleanor Rigby
8. A Touch of Sin
9. Jealousy
10. Ida
11. Dance of Reality
12. The Past
13. Computer Chess
14. Ain't them Bodies Saints
15. Like Father Like Son
16. The Immigrant
17. Jimmy P
18. Nymphomanac V 1
19. Abuse of Weakness
20. The Great Beauty
21. Her
22. American Hustle
23. Under the Skin
24. We're the Best
25. Upstream Color

Friday, January 16, 2015

Going Out to Frisco and Join a Psychedelic Band

Friday rolls around again. Music! Randomly selected, this week, for I am lazy!

I do hope things will start to perk up - Oscar Nominations are out - I don;t care too much about those, but the general end of the year film thing is always fun. I haven't posted a best of 2014 yet - I was waiting for Inherent Vice, to be plain - it will be up soon.

This will have to do for the moment though. Gonna have to go earn a dollar soon... sad. Makes me want to play my bongos in the dirt...

1. Tom Waits - Day after Tomorrow
2. X- We're Desperate
3. Times New Viking - No Time, No Hope
4. Pink Floyd - Flaming
5. Yo La Tengo - By Two's
6. Mission of Burma - Fame and Fortune
7. Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention - Flower punk
8. The Byrds - Mind Gardens
9. Neu! - Neuschnee
10. Six Organs of Admittance - OnReturning Home

Video? Here's Frank and the Mothers, and some old footage of hippies:

Here's The Pink Floyd, playing Flaming, live on TV, post Syd (just barely post-Syd.)

And some Vintage X - good for you on a Friday, no? get use to it!

Friday, January 09, 2015

What an Enormous and Encyclopedic Brain!

After a month of kind of cheating, it's back to our regularly scheduled Band of the Month. This one might look like it belongs with the last few - another 80s artist - but Nick Cave is very different from the bands I have been writing about. I heard the Bad Seeds back in the 80s, here and there - but I was not a fan. Not in the way I wasn't a fan of the Minutemen (from not really hearing them) - truth is, I actively disliked Nick Cave for a while. Not that I had heard much of him - a few songs on the radio maybe; saw the Bad Seeds in Wings of Desire (which went far toward turning me off, for some reason - they looked like such posers!); heard a record or two at a bookstore I was working at - probably Kicking Against the Pricks, since I seem to remember him making hash of Long Black Veil, though it might have been Tender Prey.... I didn't like it, though to be honest, I didn't think much about him. I put him down as one of those dull goth bores, and let it go. Years passed and I didn't think much about Nick Cave - saw his name here and there, was never moved to find out more about him, certainly not to listen to him.

And then I bought Murder Ballads. I don't know why I bought it; I don't really remember when (though I would guess around the fall of 2000; I think I bought it when I was living in Boston - I used to drop in the used record shops on Newbury street quite a lot, looking for bargains - that's certainly where I got it...) - but once I heard it, I loved it. The songs were great - Cave was funny and cool, and unlike when I heard him in the 80s, his stylization did not annoy me. Had he changed significantly since 89 or so? Had I? I don't know - I was certainly enough of a punk and post-punk fan in 1989 that I should have liked Cave; 10 years later I'd gone through a jazz period, then back to rock, mostly alternative (Sleater Kinney, Built to Spill, PJ Harvey - discovered and started worshipping the Minutemen - started listening to Captain Beefheart) - did that change how I heard Cave? PJ Harvey maybe - I suspect she is why I bought the record in the first place; I was becoming a serious fan of hers by the late 90s. But I don't know. Maybe I just listened more carefully - maybe I listened with my ears not with my eyes, paid attention to the noise, not the hairspray. Whatever it was, I liked it, and I started seeking out more of his work.

He grew on me. I don't know how fast - over the next few records (Nocturama, No More Shall We Part, up through Lyre of Orpheus and Abattoir Blues), maybe) there were always songs I liked (babe Im on fire, rock of Gibraltar, 15 feet of pure white snow, supernaturally), but I can't say I always loved the records. I listened to them - picked out the songs I liked - listened to them more.... And then Grinderman came out. It was what I wanted to hear just then - straightforward rock songs, with Cave's croony growl, and messy, noisy guitar - that was for me. It fell right in the middle of the weird folk and neo-psychedelia I liked then (Ben Chasney; Ghost/Boris - anything Kurihara; Times New Viking) - it was perfect. I was convinced, and I stayed convinced. Cave worked the style for a while - Dig, Lazarus, Dig sounds a lot like Grinderman; Grinderman 2 offered up more, and it solidified my more or less complete surrender to Cave. Push the Sky Away moves in another direction, but by now, I would go anywhere Cave took me.

That's basically been true for the last decade or so. I had a lot of catching up to do, but did it - picking up the old stuff when I had a chance and trying to listen to it - trying to finally hear it. Not as easy as it would have been in the 90s - iTunes has made listening to records seem like a quaint and old fashioned idea - though it is also true that Cave is one of the acts that has stayed in rotation on the CD player even after Steve Jobs ruined music. I have probably listened to Cave's CDs more in the last 10 years than anyone else. But I have caught up - figured out what I was missing. From the fairly straightforward post punk of the Birthday Party, through the goth cool of the early Bad Seeds, to the 90s croony stuff, up to the 00s rock - it is all good and all keeps getting better. I should have liked Cave in the 80s - it's only a step or two sideways from Pere Ubu (especially Mayo Thompson Pere Ubu) - listening to those songs now, From Her to Eternity or Avalanche - they sound so cool - pianos, the guitar scraping out of nowhere. There's still a lot of that in the new ones, more than you sometimes notice on first listen - Warren Ellis in particular is a very disruptive musical force - though the rhythms are more conventional, I suppose, more like rock (more like Tom Hermann Pere Ubu?) I liked the old stuff; and I went back to the crooning period - the mid 90s, the music that won me in the first time - picked up some of those records I was missing, and found I liked it more than ever. It helped that I listened to a lot of Van Der Graf Generator, Scott Walker, that sort of thing, in the early 00s - though Cave got me into them, as much as digging into them made me appreciate Cave.

And don't discount the Bad Seeds in this: Ellis in recent years has really put his stamp on the sound of the records - but they have always been tight and inventive and full of personality. The way the songs are put together - the mix of styles, the mix of simplicity and experimentation, the melodies and the noise, the prettiness and wig-outs - there's no end of what they can do, and they do it all brilliantly. Cave's records reward the attention, for their detail, their accumulation of sounds, everything - every song feels like an epic, every record feels like a collection of epics. Yep: he is in the pantheon now - maybe not with the Stones and Beatles, probably not really with Pere Ubu and Richard Thompson or The Velvets - but he probably doesn't fall far outside the top 5 or 6... And right now - 2014 - he continues to put out the most consistent, intelligent and impressive music of anyone. It is one of the things that drew me to him in the 00s - he was still putting out records that were as good as anything. He's been one of the 2-3 best acts of the 21st century, if not the very best.

And to gild the lily, he's become a very solid screenwriter, soundtrack writer and performer, and features in one of the best films of the year. It is all too much.

So here I am, with a huge pile of songs to choose among: the fact that I am still missing a couple records, and there are a couple I haven't listened to all the way through in order (more than once anyway) - doesn't really help. There is so much to choose from. The brilliant stories and words, the sounds, the pretty songs and the rock outs and the abrasive ones, all competing - we shall have to do the best we can.

Top 10 Songs:

1. When My Baby Comes - great as the song is, it's the instrumental second half, an unholy drone with a killer bass line, that puts it at the top.
2. Stagger Lee - earning that parental warning sticker.
3. Rock of Gibraltar - one of the pretty ones, with that killer turn at the end.
4. From her to Eternity - I think I can blame Win Wenders for turning me off from Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. I just associated them with whatever he was doing - with the bad things about Wings of Desire. But listen to the song - where the piano goes, Blixa's guitar coming in when it does, all the space - damn.
5. Red Right Hand
6. Palaces of Montezuma
7. Weeping Song
8. We Call Upon the Author
9. Let the Bells Ring - especially the live version; those ringing guitars!
10. We No Who You Are

Painful choices, getting down to that. All right - have to let it go. Video? Start with Grinderman, Nick Cave, guitar hero; Warren Ellis, violin hero:

Back toward the start - Birthday Party - Junkyard:

From Her to Eternity, 1989, just hammering it:

Calling on the author:

Mr. Stagger Lee (Austin City Limits) (language, violence, sex and blasphemy):

Come on baby let's get out of the cold!... Palaces of Montezuma on Jools Holland:

And video for We No Who U R:

Friday, January 02, 2015

First Friday of A New Year

Welcome to 2015. Among my resolutions for this year will be to try to listen to music more than I write about it - I don't know if I can make it or not. I go in cycles, listening to music - and the last few years have been a down one. My recent fixation on favorite bands might be a consequence of that - a desperate attempt at least once a month to rekindle the old passion... Which it does: I remember all the good things about listening to music, these bands, any bands - but passion doesn't translate into action. If action means listening to music for extended periods of time. Fortunately, it has translated into writing about music - I'll take it if that's what I've got, but it would be nice to hear more. I will blame technology - iTunes has broken up CDs, made it more work to listen to a record than to songs, etc. - there is that... and my CD player busted a couple years ago. There's that too. I have a new one coming though! so - we shall see, right?

Now? I would like to put up a best of 2014 list, but I don't think I could even choose among the CDs I did get last year. Let alone the songs. The only records that have made the least impression on me are the new TV on the Radio, new Pere Ubu, new Earth and new Scott Walker & Sunn O))) records. So - maybe I will get around to listening to some of the others - I hope so. What can I say?

Still, this being the first music post of the year - it ought to be something different, a bit special - so - maybe previews of coming attractions on the blog? No promises as to the order these bands appear - but they ought to show up, in some order or other.

1. Nick Cave & Bad Seeds - A Weeping Song
2. PJ Harvey - Down by the Water
3. Yoko Ono & Plastic Ono Band - Why Not?
4. Smokey Robinson - The Love I saw in You Way Just a Mirage
5. Sleater Kenney - You're No Rock and Roll Fun
6. TV on the Radio - Quartz
7. David Bowie - Rebel Rebel
8. AC/DC - Big Balls
9. Pink Floyd - Time
10. Mercury Rev - Hercules

Video? Nick and Blixa:

Sleater Kinney, soon to be back in action:

And a bit of Bowie:

Happy new year!