Morrissey – Revelation: A pretty well-done bootleg floating around of B-sides from the Viva Hate / Kill Uncle / Your Arsenal sessions, i.e. the wizardry era of Moz. “Please Help the Cause Against Loneliness” is pure Morrissey. Bonus points for nailing the classic artwork style. I haven’t been feeling his last few albums.
Grouper – Dragging a Dead Deer Up a Hill: Liz Harris and I spent a couple summers together in the same circle of friends, usually involving swimming. Either at houses in the McDonald neighborhood or Doran Beach after lots of PBR. It took me a while to pick up her latest album. It’s gorgeous.
Byard Lancaster – Sounds of Liberation: Philadelphia avant jazz from 1972. The basslines really make it. Nothing comes out of Philadelphia without a solid bass line, even after Sun Ra moved there in 1970 and distorted the groove. The first 100 copies of this LP are handmade by Byard himself, now sold out. Regular versions here.
Terry Allen – Lubbock (On Everything): The renegade Texas stoner-country movement of the 1970s should have a modern equal, but it doesn’t. Allen here is incredible, singing about art, bennies, the FFA, jukeboxes, lost dreams and cocaine. Lloyd Maines all over that sucker. I’d love to see him at Studio E.
Alicia Keys – The Element of Freedom: The long, minute-and-a-half drum/piano outro to “Try Sleeping With a Broken Heart” is such an exquisite moment and yet every radio station fades it. The whole record crept up on me after nearly barfing at the quasi-empowering intro. “I’m Ready” makes me walk sideways.
Boredoms – Rebore Vol. 3: Japanese noise rock gods remixed by DJ Krush with inconsistent results. Krush is the master at setting and then adhering to a mood, but there’s so many tributaries to Boredoms’ music that he gets distracted and skittish. That said, seeing this band live is a religious experience.
Titus Andronicus – The Monitor: “This is a song about the Louisiana Purchase,” he said, opening for No Age two years ago. I was overwhelmed with nine minutes of uncut ache and fury. Is that song on any album? I asked the singer. No, it’s a new one. Two years later, finally, “Four Score and Seven” sees the light of day.
Beastie Boys – Paul’s Boutique: So, I guess this was in that Dear You / Pinkerton category of ‘slept on’ albums, or something? According to someone who wasn’t me or anyone I knew in 1989? Cause we played it to death. Those 33 1/3 books are hit and miss, but Dan Leroy did an outstanding job with this one.
Ron Carter – Uptown Conversation: The best moments in music are transcendental. I cannot explain how engrossing this record is to me. “Doom,” which closes the album, grabs you like a mugger in an alley and doesn’t let go for six minutes; it’s “Peace Piece” meets “Myself When I Am Real” with Carter sliding through oil.
This Heat – Live: It’s disappointing to draw a parallel to Throbbing Gristle only to later see Wikipedia beating you to the punch. Nevertheless. You still can’t dance to Throbbing Gristle. Dying to find this band’s studio albums; looking for recommendations between their debut and Deceit. Jockeying for latter.
Paten Locke – Super Ramen Rocketship: If, let’s say, you’re a new dad, who hasn’t quite yet found the right hip-hop song that expresses your feelings for your daughter. If, let’s say, you also favor triple-threat MCs/Producers/DJs who put those feelings in rhyme. If, let’s say, you discover “After You.” Then all is well.
John Lewis – The John Lewis Piano: The whole MJQ clan acquired this derisive “classically trained” tag that was hard to live down. That’s what happens when you release Blues on Bach. But you know what? Some guy beating the shit out of a piano still sounds like some guy beating the shit out of a piano.
RKL – It’s a Beautiful Feeling: Sir, are you by chance looking for a 7″ you had long ago? Have you been scouring the Earth for this hardcore gem, featuring a rapid-fire condemnation of meth addiction that you put on every mixtape you made in junior high? Sir, that record is two blocks away from your house, at a garage sale.
The Black Keys – Attack & Release (Nonesuch): I’d always written off these guys as a retro act, because for years that’s essentially what they were. But for this completely excellent album, they’ve dropped all ties to Cream and sound off with fresh sonic fabric: there’s organ, flute, tambourine, piano, bass clarinet, and the whole thing has an incredibly warm, organic quality to it that their last album lacked. The songs are great, Marc Ribot and Ralph Carney are on it, Danger Mouse doesn’t cheese it up too hard and the whole thing’s a slam dunk. If this is the new white boy blues, sign me up.
Nick Cave – Dig, Lazarus, Dig! (Anti-): Homeboy is on a roll. I loved Abbatoir Blues, didn’t care for Grinderman, but this is back on track. “Moonland” has that great brooding quality, and there’s a few litanies with spoken-sung lyrics, as in “We Call Upon the Author.” Not too many people can pull off the sermon thing the way Nick Cave does, and he gets downright Dylanesque on the 8-minute closing cut, “More News From Nowhere.”
Boredoms – Super Roots 9 (Thrill Jockey): Other than Seadrum / House of Sun, there’s been no existing recording of the Boredoms that comes close to capturing the band’s mind-blowing live shows. Until now. This live set, from 2004, has the three-drummer setup with Yamatsuka Eye on electronics and—get this—a 24-piece choir. If you’ve been longing for more of the drum-based pounding that the Boredoms plunged headlong into at the turn of the millennium, pick this up.
Man Man – Rabbit Habits (Anti-): This will inevitably get compared to Tom Waits, but that’s not fair to either Waits nor Man Man. Sure, there’s circus elements, gravelly vocals, and stompy bluesy tracks (“Big Trouble”), but on the whole this is just a really quirky, creative record. Yes, the guitarist has obviously been studying his Ribot (“Easy Eats or Dirty Doctor Galapagos”) and the vocalist goes into those high squeaks that Waits nails so well (“Top Drawer”) but I don’t think Waits fans will find a lot here to embrace. It’s more of a Sleepytime Gorilla Museum thing.
Mountain Goats – Tallahassee (4AD): The victory of this day is beyond instant human comprehension, my friends. The Mountain Goats’ Tallahassee, after six years, has finally been released on vinyl. Praise almighty, 4AD! This was the second greatest album released in the year 2002 and remains the best Mountain Goats album by far. One of the most mesmerizing opening songs ever—such construction, such poetry—and “No Children” will fuck you up so badly you won’t know what hit you. Get this, get this, get this.
Unless you own a ticket stub from seeing God, I can guarantee that you’ve never seen anything like the Boredoms.
As for me, I’d witnessed neither deity when I bought my tickets to Tuesday’s show at the Fillmore, but after what can only be described as one of the most inspiring and incredible performances ever given, I feel like I got a 2-for-1 deal.
First off, the band set up in the middle of the floor of the Fillmore, with towers of speakers placed in each corner of the room. Three drum sets bordered the stage, all facing each other, alongside a gigantic tower of electric guitars, sawed flat at the ends and bracketed together with their necks sticking out on either side. Racks of electronics, percussion, keyboards, and amplifiers lined the circular setup, and the Fillmore’s lights landed squarely in the center of it all like a boxing ring. In other words: holy shit.
The Boredoms, one by one, entered through the crowd and climbed on stage, and all the lights went out—even the Fillmore’s purple chandeliers. Boredoms ringleader Yamatsuka Eye appeared with illuminated globes on his hands, and an unholy static ravaged the speakers, like an extraterrestrial message that flitted in and out of recognizance as Eye thrashed his arms around and around. His head tilted back towards the ceiling, and he repeatedly shouted something resembling “hello,” as if trying to contact life on other planes in the swarm of strange theremin-like hand noise.
Suddenly, three drummers simultaneously pounded a propulsive, hectic beat, and Eye worked an electronics board, adding more and more layers to the already thick sound. A slowly building crescendo built dramatically over the next six minutes, until Eye grabbed a five-foot staff and, with a sweeping, athletic motion, slammed it against the tower of electric guitars, striking all seven necks at once with a powerful, thundering curdle of distortion that shook the entire audience like the walls of Jericho. The drums raced on, and Eye flipped his dreadlocks around to shout more things to the sky, slamming himself upon the tower of guitars, and I’ll be damned if somewhere in the middle of it all I didn’t see the ceiling open up and the divine light of salvation fill the room.
This was no regular noise jam: throughout the set, a tight compositional structure was clear, despite the grand illusion of improvisational mania. Themes emerged, then disappeared, then re-emerged 20 minutes later. Yoshimi turned away from her drums and played keyboards, then sang, then turned back to her drums to participate in triple call-and-response drum fills while singing. Eye adjusted the capos placed on the guitars to create different notes, beating their strings individually in repeating patterns and hammering away at them collectively during climaxes with cymbals and vocals.
How does one react to this music? Many stared, agape and dumbfounded. Some threw their arms up and pumped their fists. Still others tried various forms of interpretive swirly-dancing, appropriately coinciding with the sounds swirling around all four corners of the room. I didn’t know how to react; I was mesmerized. When it ended, over an hour later, the crowd clapped and clapped and clapped and probably didn’t even want an encore—we all just needed to.
But the most amazing thing, I think, is that after a full set of Olympic gymnastics, after jumping and heaving and dancing, and after a beautiful encore that eventually came and closed the night out with appropriate serenity, Eye climbed off the stage and onto a pair of crutches, hobbling backstage. Can Eye really not walk, and could all of that energy and physical exertion really have come from a disabled man? Unbelievable.