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Vic

Posted by on Dec 25, 2009

A funny pilgrim on a crazy crusade
A saucy chaucer, a sorry chapter mislaid
Whittled with an Exacto knife
Plum right through my load-bearing wall
I’m horrified now that I could do such a thing
But I thought I saw the singer

I’ve heard those chimes so many other times
But if I gave in, it had to have been
I whupped it out, and destroyed my selfish cocoon
Since I gave in, it had to have been
Since I gave in, I hope it had to have been

I’m not an optimist, I’m not a realist
I might be a sub-realist, but I can’t substantiate
It was bigger than me and I felt like a sick child
Dragged by a donkey through the myrtle

“Myrtle,” by Vic Chesnutt, 1964-2009.

"This Land Is Your Land" in 'Up In The Air'

Posted by on Dec 23, 2009 One Comment

Me and my friends completely lost our minds when we first heard Sharon Jones’ version of the Woody Guthrie anthem “This Land Is Your Land,” somewhere around 2004. It showed up as the B-side on a 45 called “What If We All Stopped Paying Taxes?” and it turned the hokey campfire sing-a-long into a minor-key floorbuster funk track. Suddenly, the song that we’d stopped paying attention to was resuscitated, the lyrics imbued with a new meaning, the power of the message restored. We all bought copies.

Even stronger was the forthright message from the band about the record, which was released specifically for the 2004 election:

We believe that our country has been hijacked by oil moguls, war profiteers, overfed corporations, and other assorted amoral billionaires. We refuse to believe the stories that they feed us through corporate owned and run media sources in their efforts to keep us in a state of fear and hate. We will resist the endemic apathy that allows them to use our hard earned tax dollars to fun illegal wars with dubious intent while here at home our education system is going bankrupt and our healthcare and social services are virtually nonexistent. We oppose the recruitment of our brothers and sisters from the poorest neighborhoods in the country to fight a badly planned and managed war that will only benefit the extremely wealthy. Though we are proud to be citizens of this country, we consider ourselves first and foremost to be citizens of the world. We believe that this land is our land, and that this land is your land.

-Sharon Jones, the Dap-Kings, and the entire Daptone Family

Damn. Short, quick and to the point. And just like that paragraph extrapolated a deeper meaning out of the overplayed song, so the arrangement considered the more sinister side of this land and those who run it.

The Daptone beatheads must have been bugging out over “This Land Is Your Land,” too, because the track later showed up on Jones’ flawless second album Naturally (do yourself a favor and buy it now, for real). In 2005, after Bush was re-elected, the song might have lost a little of its original purpose, but none of its spark.

Today I went to the movies and watched Up In The Air—a great film—and was elated to hear the familiar horn intro of “This Land Is Your Land” right at the start of the movie. Jason Reitman has done a wonderful thing with Sharon Jones’ recording, using it to highlight aerial shots from around the county of crop circles, city skylines, rivers and a cloverleaf ribbon of highway just as Jones sings the words “ribbon of highway.” Wonderful opening credits that brought all the song’s power rushing back.

Up In The Air is about a lot of things, but its central plot revolves around unemployment—basically, the fallout from eight years of our country getting really, really off track. Sharon Jones’ “This Land Is Your Land” is just one of many extremely well-placed bricks in a film of perfect structure that says a lot about how we live now, in the aftermath. (It also features Cut Chemist and Young M.C. in a thoroughly enjoyable cameo. And, you know, Clooney.) I’ll be rooting for it on the red carpet, and congratulations to Sharon Jones for the opening credits of the year.

The Top Albums of the Decade, 2000-2009

Posted by on Dec 15, 2009 6 Comments

While other music writers sharpen their prejudices and draw up hindsight-assisted “Albums that Defined the Decade” features, I think it’d be more honest to revisit my genuine annual top album rankings from all ten years of The Aughts. Yes, these are the actual year-end-best lists that I composed from 2000-2009, recovered with no small amount of tenacity from old hard drives, pieces of paper stuffed in boxes, CD-Rs, the backs of posters, photocopied record store gift guides, and email newsletters.

If anything, these records deserve far more company. (D’Angelo and Lucinda Williams would be obvious places to start.) Lists can often work like shackles, but I see them instead as springboards of discovery. Jeez, I’m still discovering more favorite albums of the 1950s! And if you’re a listener that’s at all passionate, then you probably are as well. This decade might be over, but it’s by no means completely wrapped up. Anyone insinuating otherwise is selling you something.

Anyway, without further ado—here’s what I was loving over the last ten years.

2000

1. Built to Spill – Live (Warner Bros.)
2. Steve Earle – Transcendental Blues (E-Squared / Artemis)
3. Jurassic 5 – Quality Control (Interscope)
4. Modest Mouse – The Moon and Antarctica (Epic)
5. Radiohead – Kid A (Capitol)
6. Kid Koala – Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (Ninja Tune)
7. Jets to Brazil – Four Cornered Night (Jade Tree)
8. James Carter – Chasin’ the Gypsy (Atlantic)
9. Bjork – Selmasongs (One Little Indian)
10. Blackalicious – Nia (Quannum)
11. Johnny Cash – American III: Solitary Man (American)
12. Belle and Sebastian – Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like a Peasant (Jeepster)
13. V/A – Xen Cuts: 10 Years of Ninja Tune Records (Ninja Tune)
14. Godspeed You Black Emperor – Raise Your Skinny Fists Like Antennae to Heaven (Constellation)
15. People Under the Stairs – Question in the Form of an Answer (Om)
16. Deltron – Deltron 3030 (75Ark)
17. The Clash – Live: From Here to Eternity (Epic)
18. V/A – Solesides’ Greatest Bumps (Quannum)
19. Beck – Midnite Vultures (Geffen)
20. V/A – Freight Train Boogie (Jackalope)

2001

1. Gillian Welch – Time (The Revelator) (Acony)
2. Cursive – Burst and Bloom (Saddle Creek)
3. Bob Dylan – Love and Theft (Columbia)
4. The Velvet Teen – The Great Beast February (Self-Released)
5. Atmosphere – Lucy Ford (Rhymesayers)
6. McCoy Tyner – Plays John Coltrane (Verve)
7. The Now Time Delegation – Watch for Today (In the Red)
8. Radiohead – Amnesiac (Capitol)
9. The Strokes – Is This It (RCA)
10. Aesop Rock – Labor Days (Def Jux)
11. The Jealous Sound – EP (Better Looking)
12. Greg Brown – Over and Under (Trailer Park)
13. Life in Braille – New York City Ending (Underground Sounds of America)
14. David Axelrod – S/T (Mo Wax)
15. DJ Shadow & Cut Chemist – Product Placement (One29)
16. Fred Eaglesmith – Ralph’s Last Show (Signature Sounds)
17. Buddy Guy – Sweet Tea (Silvertone)
18. Poets of Rhythm – Discern / Define (Quannum)
19. Robert Earl Keen – Gravitational Forces (Lost Highway)
20. V/A – Darker Than Blue: Soul From Jamdown (Blood and Fire)

2002

1. The Velvet Teen – Out of the Fierce Parade (Slowdance)
2. Jets to Brazil – Perfecting Loneliness (Jade Tree)
3. Desaparecidos – Read Music, Speak Spanish (Saddle Creek)
4. Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (Nonesuch)
5. DJ Shadow – The Private Press (MCA)
6. Tom Waits – Alice (Anti-)
7. Flaming Lips – Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots (Warner Bros.)
8. RJD2 – Deadringer (Rhymesayers)
9. Elvis Costello – When I Was Cruel (Island)
10. Jurassic 5 – Strength in Numbers (Interscope)
11. Chuck Prophet – No Other Love (New West)
12. Solomon Burke – Don’t Give Up On Me (Anti-)
13. Bob Dylan – Live 1975: Rolling Thunder Revue (Columbia)
14. Los Lobos – Good Morning Aztlán (Mammoth)
15. V/A – La Musica Della Mafia: Il Canto di Malavita (Play it Again Sam)
16. Converge – Jane Doe (Equal Vision)
17. Beck – Sea Change (Geffen)
18. D-Styles – Phantazmagorea (Tableturns)
19. Bright Eyes – Lifted (Saddle Creek)
20. V/A – Cuisine Non-Stop (Luaka Bop)

2003

1. Crooked Fingers – Red Devil Dawn (Merge)
2. Mountain Goats – Tallahassee (4AD)
3. Gillian Welch – Soul Journey (Acony)
4. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Fever to Tell (Interscope)
5. Ugly Duckling – Taste the Secret (Emperor Norton)
6. Stark Reality – Now (Stones Throw)
7. Against Me – As the Eternal Cowboy (Fat Wreck)
8. Carla Bozulich – Red Headed Stranger (Dicristina Stair Builders)
9. Broken Social Scene – You Forgot It in People (Arts & Crafts)
10. Detroit Cobras – Life, Love & Leaving (Sympathy)
11. Joe Strummer – Streetcore (Hellcat)
12. The Rapture – Echoes (DFA / Universal)
13. Soul Position – 8 Million Stories (Rhymesayers)
14. The New Trust – We Are Fast Moving Motherfuckers (Slowdance)
15. John Fahey – Red Cross (Revenant)
16. Shesus – Loves You… Loves You Not (Narnack)
17. Lyrics Born – Later That Day (Quannum)
18. D.D. Jackson – Suite for New York (Justin Time)
19. Ashtray – S/T (Self-Released)
20. V/A – Miami Sound (Soul Jazz)

2004

1. MF Doom & Madlib – Madvillian (Stones Throw)
2. The Velvet Teen – Elysium (Slowdance)
3. Nellie McKay – Get Away From Me (Sony)
4. Jolie Holland – Escondida (Anti-)
5. The Walkmen – Bows & Arrows (Record Collection)
6. Bjork – Medulla (One Little Indian)
7. Mastodon – Leviathan (Relapse)
8. Arcade Fire – Funeral (Merge)
9. RJD2 – Since We Last Spoke (Rhymesayers)
10. Green Day – American Idiot (Reprise)
11. Elliott Smith – From a Basement on a Hill (Anti-)
12. The Go! Team – Thunder Lightning Strike (Memphis Industries)
13. The Rum Diary – Poisons That Save Lives (Springman)
14. Usher – Confessions (LaFace / Arista)
15. Modest Mouse – Good News For People Who Like Bad News (Epic)
16. Haiku D’Etat – Coup de Theatre (Project Blowed)
17. Joanna Newsom – The Milk-Eyed Mender (Drag City)
18. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Abbatoir Blues / Lyre of Orpheus (Anti-)
19. Immortal Technique – Revolutionary Vol. 2 (Viper)
20. Howard Wiley – TwentyFirstCenturyNegro (Self-Released)

2005

1. M.I.A. – Arular (XL)
2. Edan – Beauty and the Beat (Lewis)
3. Black Mountain – Black Mountain (Jagjaguwar)
4. Common – Be (G.O.O.D. / Geffen)
5. Robert Earl Keen – What I Really Mean (Koch)
6. Sharon Jones – Naturally (Daptone)
7. Sonny Rollins – Without a Song: The 9/11 Concert (Milestone)
8. The Boredoms – Seadrum / House of Sun (Vice)
9. Four Tet – Everything Ecstatic (Domino)
10. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah – Clap Your Hands Say Yeah (Self-Released)

2006

1. Camille – Le Fil (Virgin)
2. My Morning Jacket – Okonokos (ATO)
3. Gotan Project – Lunatico (XL)
4. Ornette Coleman – Sound Grammar (Sound Grammar)
5. Tom Waits – Orphans (Anti-)
6. People Under The Stairs – Stepfather (PUTS)
7. Kris Kristofferson – This Old Road (New West)
8. The Slackers – Peculiar (Hellcat)
9. Mastodon – Blood Mountain (Reprise)
10. CSS – Cansei De Ser Sexy (Sub Pop)

2007

1. The Cribs – Men’s Needs, Women’s Needs, Whatever (Warner Bros.)
2. M. Ward – Post-War (Merge)
3. !!! – Myth Takes (Warp)
4. M.I.A. – Kala (XL)
5. The New Trust – Dark Is The Path Which Lies Before Us (Slowdance)
6. Arcade Fire – Neon Bible (Merge)
7. Jesu – Lifeline (Hydra Head)
8. David Murray – Sacred Ground (Justin Time)
9. Bassnectar – Underground Communication (Om)
10. Menomena – Friend and Foe (Barsuk)

2008

1. Q-Tip – The Renaissance (Universal Motown)
2. Of Montreal – Skeletal Lamping (Polyvinyl)
3. Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend (XL)
4. Grip Grand – Brokelore (Look)
5. K’naan – The Dusty Foot Philosopher (Interdependent)
6. Headlights – Some Racing, Some Stopping (Polyvinyl)
7. The Roots – Rising Down (Def Jam)
8. Jackson Conti – Sujinho (Mochilla)
9. Peter Brotzmann & Han Bennink – In Amherst (BRO)
10. Cassandra Wilson – Loverly (Blue Note)
11. Esau Mwamwaya & Radioclit – Are the Very Best (Ghettopop)
12. The New Trust – Get Vulnerable (TNT)
13. People Under The Stairs – Fun DMC (Gold Dust)
14. Portishead – Third (Island)
15. Okkervil River – The Stand-Ins (Jagjaguwar)
16. Titus Andronicus – The Airing of Grievances (Troubleman Unlimited)
17. Erykah Badu – New Amerykah Part One: 4th World War (Universal Motown)
18. Loma Prieta – Last City (Discos Huelgas)
19. Zomo – Best Of (Self-Released)
20. Jolie Holland – The Living and the Dead (Anti-)

2009

1. Dirty Projectors – Bitte Orca (Domino)
2. The-Dream – Love vs. Money (Def Jam)
3. K’naan – Troubadour (A&M / Octone)
4. Nellie McKay – Normal as Blueberry Pie (Verve)
5. Thorns of Life – Live at 924 Gilman (Torrent)
6. Sunn o))) – Monoliths and Dimensions (Southern Lord)
7. Tyondai Braxton – Central Market (Warp)
8. Nomo – Invisible Cities (Ubiquity)
9. P.O.S. – Never Better (Rhymesayers)
10. Litany for the Whale – Dolores (Molsook / PMM)
11. Grizzly Bear – Veckatimest (Warp)
12. Superchunk – Crossed Wires (Merge)
13. Not to Reason Why – Would You Hug Fire? (Pandacide / 1912)
14. Vijay Iyer Trio – Historicity (ACT)
15. Passion Pit – Manners (Frenchkiss / Columbia)
16. Adam Theis & the Jazz Mafia – Brass, Bows & Beats (Jazz Mafia)
17. Souls of Mischief – Montezuma’s Revenge (Heiro)
18. The Full Blast – Black Hole (Atavistic)
19. Finale – T.I.M.E. (River City)
20. Green Day – 21st Century Breakdown (Reprise)

(See more year-end lists from 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013.)

In News

SFJAZZ Spring Season Out of Control; Lou Donaldson, Tomasz Stanko, Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, Caetano Veloso, more

Posted by on Dec 14, 2009

Jesus Lord, why do they do it to us? SFJAZZ’s spring season is announced today, and once again the booking has turned up a crazy, diverse lineup full of wide-ranging talent and scattered must-sees. Exciting stuff to say the least.

On May 29, Blue Note legend Lou Donaldson blows soul-jazz roots at the Herbst. On Apr. 11, my man Tomasz Stanko drops in with his quintet to the Florence Gould Theatre at the Legion of Honor; the ticket includes entry to the museum. (Stanko’s recent tribute to Krystof Komeda is sublime.) Apr. 25 brings Charles Lloyd with Jason Moran, Reuben Rogers and Eric Harland to the Palace of Fine Arts; this quartet is incredible and shouldn’t be missed.

On Feb. 21, Touareg political pioneers Tinariwen plays the Palace of Fine Arts. Count the cratediggers on Apr. 17 for Brazilian pioneer Caetano Veloso singing at the Masonic, and on June 11, the excellent bassist Marcus Miller replays Miles Davis’ electric era at the Herbst.

It keeps going on! On May 1 it’s the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, the Chicago-bred sensations, playing two shows at the Palace of Fine Arts. On Mar. 20, the hip-hop–influenced Robert Glasper Quartet plays with Japanese star Hiromi at the Herbst Theatre. And Mar. 13 brings alto saxophonist and former Vijay Iyer collaborator Rudresh Manthappa to the Swedish American Music Hall.

Keith Jarrett, Pharoah Sanders and Joshua Redman all play separate solo shows, and Bobby McFerrin, Chris Thiele, Salif Keita and Max Raabe are in the mix, too. There’s way more; check out the full and complete lineup here, and if you’re like me, you’ll start saving up for tickets.

Live Review: Lady Gaga at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, San Francisco

Posted by on Dec 14, 2009 4 Comments

“Well, San Francisco,” cooed Lady Gaga, wearing one of dozens of bazonkers outfits eclipsed in ridiculousness only by the feathers, leotards, Mickey ears, sequined chokers and ill-fitting hot pants donned by her audience, “this is our first date together, which means I can suck your cock and still feel okay.”

So yeah, let us hail the emergence of a new pop star and all that. Lady Gaga sang, danced and swore her way into the shamelessly superficial affections of San Francisco for nearly two hours tonight, asserting her perfectionist dedication to fame, fashion, sex appeal and music. In that order. She also loves to say “fuck.” She may love to say “fuck” more than making music. Crass, vulgar, loves it. Selections from the Gaga patter book:

“I don’t know if you’ve heard, but I have a pretty tremendous dick.”

“Let me see your fucking teeth! I am not a dentist! I’m a free bitch!”

“Do you like my show so far? If you don’t, I don’t care, ’cause you can fucking leave!”

“Do you want to fuck me? Come on, San Francisco!”

Adding up the costume changes, set changes, stories about her fans and her pushy record label and her days living in a studio apartment plus legs legs legs dance dance dance skinny skinny skinny epic chorus part dance breakdown red bikini flip hair #1 song in the country scream scream gay gay gay keytar fame fame aliens tinkerbell i love you i love you i love you i love you hundreds of counterfeit tickets outside dance dance dance fuck off dance rah-rah ah-ah-ah-ah skinny skinny fame crawl crawl shake shake singy singy sing song, Lady Gaga is decidedly here to stay. Despite sometimes not making very much sense when talking to a crowd.

“Some of you may not know where to fit in in the world, but know that you always have a place with me. When you are lonely, I’ll be lonely too. And that is THE FAME!!” Huh?

“The way my fans work their cameras, it’s like kings writing the histories of their kingdoms.” Huh?

But fuck it, she was genuinely appreciative of her fans—she thanked them, like, 30 times, I swear—and put on A PARTY-BLIZZARD OF A SHOW. Entire auditorium letting hella loose for “Just Dance,” “Paparazzi,” “Poker Face,” “Shameless,” and big cluster-love we are one closer “Bad Romance.” (It helped that her warm-up music was 35 minutes of MJ, which killed it more than opener Kid Cudi.) Everything on point, choreographed or improved with such fluidity so as to look choreographed, real live actual singing, backup dancers great, huge spectacle. “How to Give Fans Their Money’s Worth,” by Lady Gaga, coming soon from Da Capo Press.

Gaga makes a big deal of being “from the underground” and doing things her own way, and it’s true—no major label is going to call a meeting to say, “You know, you’ve got the sound, the look, the moves, but what you really need is a video screen of a waifish girl throwing up all over you. Maybe you should also put the barrel of a machine gun in your mouth when you’re at the piano and tell your audience to fuck themselves.” That’s all her.

But what Gaga has is a fulfillment of dual needs; one for that uncensored down-to-earthness and another for something that we kinda forget in all this dancing on the grave of the record industry that we’ve been doing.  We need pop stars, no matter how obvious the myth. “The thing I hate more than anything is the truth,” bespoke Gaga at one point tonight, “I can’t stand the truth—in fact, I prefer a giant dose of bullshit.”

Fuck if Lady Gaga doesn’t have the whole illusion down.

The Cassette Gods Are Reading My Mind

Posted by on Dec 13, 2009

Domino Records released the Dirty Projectors’ Bitte Orca on cassette! It can be bought here.

Top 20 Albums of 2009

Posted by on Dec 9, 2009 One Comment

1. Dirty Projectors – Bitte Orca (Domino)

2. The-Dream – Love vs. Money (Def Jam)

3. K’naan – Troubadour (A&M / Octone)

4. Nellie McKay – Normal as Blueberry Pie (Verve)

5. Thorns of Life – Live at 924 Gilman (Torrent)

6. Sunn o))) – Monoliths and Dimensions (Southern Lord)

7. Tyondai Braxton – Central Market (Warp)

8. Nomo – Invisible Cities (Ubiquity)

9. P.O.S. – Never Better (Rhymesayers)

10. Litany for the Whale – Dolores (Molsook / PMM)

11. Grizzly Bear – Veckatimest (Warp)

12. Superchunk – Crossed Wires (Merge)

13. Not to Reason Why – Would You Hug Fire? (Pandacide / 1912)

14. Vijay Iyer Trio – Historicity (ACT)

15. Passion Pit – Manners (Frenchkiss / Columbia)

16. Adam Theis & the Jazz Mafia – Brass, Bows & Beats (Jazz Mafia)

17. Souls of Mischief – Montezuma’s Revenge (Heiro)

18. The Full Blast – Black Hole (Atavistic)

19. Finale – T.I.M.E. (River City)

20. Green Day – 21st Century Breakdown (Reprise)

In News

Johnny Downer, R.I.P.

Posted by on Dec 9, 2009 2 Comments

Like many of you, I heard the sad news that Johnny Downer, guitarist for the excellent Sonoma County band Free Peoples, died unexpectedly while vacationing in Mexico over the weekend. He leaves behind a huge group of loving family and friends, as well as his exemplary recorded work with Free Peoples. He played the hell out of the guitar, man. I saw him play with Free Peoples several times, and it was my pleasure to present his deserving band with a gold record award last year at the North Bay Music Awards. He will be missed.

Condolences are collecting here and here. A memorial is planned for Dec. 18 in Costa Mesa, CA, and the Hopmonk Tavern in Sebastopol is hosting a fittingly lengthy tribute show on January 9, from 4pm ’til close. More info, as it comes in, can be accessed here.

One Love

Posted by on Dec 7, 2009

My constituent David Sason has a cover story in the Bohemian this week about the rampant homophobia in reggae music, tracing it to the sources in Jamaica and examining the cultural roots of hatred. It’s worth a full read, and when you’re done, there’s even more here.

Dancehall artist Beenie Man has a quote in the article:

Beenie Man proudly performs his controversial songs, including “Damn,” which has him “dreaming of a new Jamaica” where he can “execute all gays.”

But perhaps it’s just a matter of semantics. In a 2006 statement, Beenie Man explained his point of view: “Jamaica is not against gay people. Gay means consented sex. What we have in Jamaica is not what it is in England, where two men live together. That’s not it in Jamaica, and these people fail to understand that. In Jamaica, gay is rape. It’s a big man with their money going into the ghetto and picking these little youth who ain’t got nothing. And then give them money and then involving them.

“There were 550 youths who got raped inna Jamaica, you know? And nobody seems to speak of that. Nobody sees the youth get raped and throat cut because the man who raped him, he knows him, and he doesn’t want him to go back and say he did it. And these things still happening.”

Obviously, Beenie Man is a confused individual with no proper set of logic and probably, I’m guessing, no gay friends. His explanation is about as preposterous as myself saying, “Santa Rosa is not against Canadians. Canadian means nice person. What we have in Santa Rosa is not like other places. In Santa Rosa, Canadian means fucking asshole. 550 youths were beat up by fucking assholes. Nobody seems to speak of that. All these fucking assholes are still around. That’s why I have a song called ‘Canadians Are Fucking Assholes.'”

In News

Things You Don't See at the Phoenix Everyday

Posted by on Dec 6, 2009

It’s always a special treat when Tom Gaffey, usually with a broom or an apple in his hand, takes the stage at his own theater to sing a song or two. This past weekend, as the Phoenix Theater celebrated its 105th anniversary, Toast Machine cajoled him into the spotlight for “Rock and Roll All Night”:

Such happenings came at the end of an unusual week for the Phoenix. On Thursday, Petaluma’s Kala Ukelele Co. hosted a ukelele workshop, where everyone in the crowd learned how to play a few chords. Any local hardcore bands looking for a ukelele player?