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Top 25 Albums of 2010

Posted by: on Dec 14, 2010 | Comments (1)

1. LCD Soundsystem – This is Happening (DFA/Virgin)

2. Yellow Swans – Going Places (Type)

3. Jóhann Jóhannsson – And in the Endless Pause There Came the Sound of Bees (Type)

4. Robyn – Body Talk Pt. 1 (Konichiwa/Interscope)

5. Titus Andronicus – The Monitor (XL)

6. Standard Fare – The Noyelle Beat (Bar None)

7. V/A – Welcome Home (Diggin’ the Universe): A Woodsist Compilation (Woodsist)

8. The Velvet Teen – No Star (Self-Released)

9. Jack Attack – My Rights Have Been Violated (Self-Released)

10. Jason Moran – Ten (Blue Note/EMI)

11. Nicki Minaj – Pink Friday (Young Money/Universal)

12. Goodriddler – The Strength of Weak Ties (Sell the Heart)

13. Grouper / Roy Montgomery – Vessel (Self-Released)

14. RVIVR – S/T (Rumbletowne)

15. Marco Benevento – Between the Needles and Nightfall (Royal Potato)

16. Hanalei – One Big Night (Big Scary Monsters/Brick Gun)

17. Superchunk – Majesty Shredding (Merge)

18. Hearse – Diagnosed (Self-Released)

19. Sam Amidon – I See the Sign (Bedroom Community)

20. M.I.A. – Maya (Interscope)

21. Evan Parker & John Weise – C-Section (PAN)

22. Daniel Bjarnason – Processions (Bedroom Community)

23. Flying Lotus – Cosmogramma (Warp)

24. Joseph Hammer – I Love You, Please Love Me Too (PAN)

25. Best Coast – Crazy for You (Mexican Summer)

The End of the Summer

Posted by: on Sep 7, 2008 | Comments (2)

It’s the end of the summer
Come to the time when we have to say goodbye

After watching seven different bands at Daredevils & Queens tonight, and after spending three days watching countless bands at the Insect Carnival last weekend, I have to say: summertime’s elusive promise, that delicate combination of freedom and togetherness so impossible to contain, has come and delivered its sweet kiss just in the nick of time. Soon it will be October, and we’ll spend our nights at home, and read Neil Gaiman novels and watch Richard Widmark movies, and talk about them to computer screens. But these last few weekends, at least, have been a last gasp of what living in Santa Rosa is all about.

It’s hard to put into words, these shows at the Insect Carnival and Daredevils & Queens, aside from saying that they’re probably best not put into words. They breathe, but how do you describe a breath? You inhale air, you exhale air. Right? Is it that simple?

The oldest of friends, the newest of strangers, the coldest of beers and the truest of bands. All under a sky just enough unclouded by city lights to allow a few stars to poke through. Shooting stars, even—the kind that you catch in their split-second streak, and when you discover that the person you’re next to saw it too, for a moment you are bonded if not by the music or the laws of attraction than at least by the very fact that you’re both under the same big sky.

The end of the summer means that people play John Prine and Jesus Lizard songs in the middle of a field, next to a mud pit full of naked people. The end of the summer means Jolie Holland ballads and clanging chains and bullhorns and a floor bending under the weight of people jumping up and down in rhythm. The end of the summer means sharing amps and sideways smiles and a hundred hugs. The end of the summer means a downtown alley full of people drinking free beer and fuck it if it’s Coors.

And the end of the summer means that as the wig-wearing auctioneers of Wine Country Weekend raise money by clowning their own dead counterculture of the 1960s, there are walls both concrete and wooded, both inside city limits and out, where a new culture is constantly being reborn. Where fresh blood is funneled into art, and music, and community, and life, and where money does not rule all. I repeat: where money does not rule all.

So thanks to the bands, and the people like Travis and Bryce and Kyle, and the hordes of people in this town who know a good thing when they see it and who seize it while it lasts.

The Velvet Teen at the Phoenix Theater

Posted by: on Mar 21, 2008 | Comments (0)

Partway through the Velvet Teen’s set last night at the Phoenix, Judah Nagler started noodling on the keyboard, playing snippets of music from game shows and Nintendo games. The crowd, of course, loved it, just as everyone at the Phoenix, whether they knew it or not, loved what it represented: that the Velvet Teen is loosening up. Weathering a difficult third album, a major lineup change, and a sporadic schedule, the band’s finally got their shit dialed back in, and last night’s show was the best Velvet Teen show I’ve seen in two years.

The set started with one of a few new songs—a good sign—but it wasn’t too long before they dipped into an oft-neglected back catalog, namely a brilliantly reworked “Red Like Roses” from Out Of The Fierce Parade. The opening keyboard chords, instantly recognizable, gave way to atmospheric guitar sounds from Matthew Izen that washed through the song like windblown silk. “Penecillin” sounded amazing, marking the welcome return of preset laptop tracks, and “Forlorn,” having found its home at the piano again, resonated across the crowd.

Sometimes I think the Velvet Teen should just re-record Cum Laude. “333” and “Building a Whale” have evolved into the violent Casey Deitz-driven juggernauts they were always meant to be, and the delicate mannerisms in the band’s expansive, slower version of “Noi Boi” bring out the song’s inner beauty. All told, it’s like they’ve settled in, kicked off their shoes, watched some Jeopardy! and played some Super Mario Bros., and learned how to breathe as a band again.

The topper on the band’s excellent set was the surprise encore—”Chimera Obscurant,” all 13 crashing, crazy minutes of it. For, like, the first time in forever. It’s a favorite of mine for reasons too long to get into here, and the Velvet Teen drove it straight through the heart of a raptured crowd, ditching the “free speech shouldn’t cost” stop and letting it just roll on and on and on and on and on and on and on. Pure bliss.

Opening bands: I missed Goodriddler, which sucks because Nick’s amazing, and I watched all of Aloha and remained underwhelmed. They’re like the band that has a lot of great things going for them—distorted vibes, interesting guitar phrases, an incredible drummer—but somehow they just don’t add up. My friend Josh is all over ‘em (“Sugar is sweet!” he remarked of the band’s 2002 full-length, completely unaware of what he’d just said), which is a sign that in five years, I’ll come around and slap myself on the head.

At the end of the night, people were still talking about Body or Brain, who played the lobby. Best new band right now, no contest. Upbeat, hyperjangly infectious pop, led by Jakie Lieber, a madman. Jakie plays unbelievable riffs on the electric guitar with his bare hands, no pick, and he simultaneously moves around like a clock spring that’s frantically uncoiling. I hunched down near the floor and watched as he jumped, kicked, slung the guitar around his back, tap-danced, did the fucking splits, and moonwalked, all while playing the guitar and not missing a note. I met him a few weekends ago while writing an article about his hardcore band, the Grand Color Crayon, and he’s also got solo recordings that sound like Doug Martsch’s acoustic stuff. Is there anything the kid can’t do? I mean, besides finally move out of Napa someday?

(Jakie jumps around way too fast to be photographed, and this is the best I could do. —–>)