I was lucky enough to see my 22nd Drive By Truckers show at the Royale in Boston last Thursday. It was also the last day of classes for me until September, which made the show doubly awesome. Making it triple awesome was that Lydia Loveless opened for them and I’ve wanted to see her for years. Now, she’s amazing, but it would be so much better with a full band. She has the big booming voice and the attitude to make a solo show work, but there are simply the limitations of being an opening act without your band behind you. But I got to see her play “Head” and “Verlaine Shot Rimbaud” and “Daughter” and a bunch of other great tunes. So that was cool, but I still really want to see her in a proper show, or at least with a drummer.
As for DBT, what is there even to say at this point? It was fucking great. I remain astounded every time I see them and what an awesome rock show they put on. I’ve seen them 22 times now and I have ever seen a bad show? No. I’ve certainly seen them on better nights and nights that were less successful, but the only times I’ve thought it was less than great were when it was a bad venue or the one time that Hood’s voice was totally giving out during the show. And those remained extremely professional and high quality shows. I would call this an above-average show, which is pretty damn good by any reasonable standard. They played four songs off the upcoming album. Three of them sounded pretty great, especially Hood’s “The Driver.” The two Cooley songs definitely rocked but his lyrics are so knotty that it’s hard to follow them live without knowing the songs. Hood’s “We Will Never Wake You Up in the Morning” sounds like a good song, but it’s also a little slow and a little long so might not be the greatest live tune. But we will see. As for the the rest of the set, it included two songs that I had only seen once before–“The Deeper In” and “My Sweet Annette” and one song that was the first time they had played it in the three dozen or so shows they’ve already played this year–“Heroin Again.” They aren’t really playing any political songs right now except for Cooley doing “Ramon Casiano” and “English Oceans.” I guess Hood just isn’t feeling “Babies in Cages” or “What It Means” or “Guns of Umpqua” and I hardly blame him. But those are good songs. In any case, a damn fine show plus I will be seeing them twice more this month.
I thought I’d do an exercise with my music. Since I keep track of everything I listen to on my itunes, it becomes a useful thing, though something that changes every time I get a new computer. As for this computer, it goes back to early 2020. The albums I’ve listened to the most in that time are mostly what you would expect–DBT, Wussy, John Moreland, other long-time favorites. But what happens when I consider classic country or jazz, i.e., genres where I have a ton of albums but listen to them fairly widely and not repeating the same albums. So here are the top 10 most listened to albums since then, by the ranking of whatever song has the most listens (since that’s more or less it anyway but also includes shuffle days). Also, I am defining classic country as pre-2000 for the sake of an easy definition that also erases contemporary albums like those of Elizabeth Cook that I like a lot and listen to all the time. Anyway, here’s the country list:
- Billie Joe Shaver, Old Five and Dimers Like Me
- Merle Haggard, Down Every Road, Disc 1
- Tom T. Hall, New Train Same Rider
- Willie Nelson, Phases and Stages
- Buck Owens, Before You Go
- George Jones, The Essential George Jones, Disc 2
- Lucinda Williams, Lucinda Williams
- Ray Price, Night Life
- Waylon Jennings, Dreaming My Dreams
- Willie Nelson, Red Headed Stranger
The one particularly interesting thing about the country list is that only Willie ends up with two albums in the top 10 and that’s not in fact interesting given how universally beloved his mid-70s work remains. Otherwise, this was pretty predictable, other than those particular Buck and T albums being there as opposed to others I think of as slightly better. Sometimes the classics are classics for a reason.
Now for jazz, with no time limitations
- Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society, Real Enemies
- Vijay Iyer Trio, Break Stuff
- Fred Frith Trio, Another Day in Fucking Paradise
- Mary Halvorson/Tomas Fujiwara/Benoit Delbecq/Taylor Ho Bynum, Illegal Crowns
- Jamie Saft/Joe Morris/Charles Downs, Mountains
- John Coltrane, Giant Steps
- Leroy Jenkins, Space Minds, New Worlds, Survival of America
- Sun Ra, Singles
- Mary Halvorson Septet, Illusionary Sea
- Matthew Shipp, Equilibrium
Now that’s a pretty random set! I listen to the Argue album frequently in the car so I expected that, but otherwise, it’s a big huh. Some great material there though.
This week’s big musical passing is Mickey Gilley, who was the bard of late 70s dance club country music and who thus appropriately was in Urban Cowboy.
How Pet Sounds is a pretty racist album, not because it is overtly racist, but because it goes so far to classify rock and roll as an extremely white genre of music.
Slipknot, We Are Not Your Kind
I continued to move ahead with my metal project to see if there’s anything in this music I can enjoy. Third week in a row. So I decided on the well-known band Slipknot’s 2019 album. It’s….alright. In the end, what I hate about this music is the vocal stylings. I don’t think I’m ever going to recover from that. I grant that the lyrics are more clear here than in a lot of metal and there’s even actual singing at times. But the other problem here is that a lot of the real singing is pretty cheesy rock, so I don’t think it works very well either. Yeah, not much here for me.
Elizabeth & The Catapult, sincerely, e
When music historians look back over the early 2020s, a key part of their analysis is going to have to revolve around the many pandemic albums, when musicians from all genres put together little stripped-down projects to fill the time. This Elizabeth & The Catapult album is among these. Songs about smiling beneath your mask at what human interactions you can get, not to mention the erotic desire you can’t fulfill in isolation. This is a mostly lovely little album of piano singer-songwriter music.
Dave Rempis, The Covid Tapes
Same Covid-related material as above, except this time in the jazz realm. Like too many jazz albums, only 4 of the 10 songs are available via streaming on Bandcamp, but at least in this case, they add up to about 50 minutes of music, plenty to provide some initial thoughts here. This consists of Rempis, the well known Chicago saxophonist, doing solo covers of some classics in a church (including “On Green Dolphin Street” and “Isfahan” and then him recording in a park with some of his friends, including the cellist Tomeka Reid, the drummers Tim Daisy and Tyler Damon, and the bassist Joshua Abrams. This was some pandemic safe recording. Mostly it works, though it naturally feels there’s some background ambience in the park recordings. I’m rarely a big fan of solo recordings in jazz, but his saxophone solo versions of jazz classics work well enough. Of course a bigger sound would be nice throughout, but for a pandemic recording, this is pretty good stuff.
Only some of this embedded performance is on the album, but this is some of what it is drawn from.
Young Fathers, Tape Two
Nice little project from all the way back in 2013, although a bit short and perhaps a bit less than fully baked nearly a decade down the road. This Scottish hip-hop group brings a wide variety of sounds into their work, not only from their fellow hip-hop artists, but also from Africa, pop, ambient, a whole lot else. The songs are short and they are dense, but at times I think they needed to step back and figure out if everything really worked here. That said, it remains a worthy album nearly a decade after its release.
Death Lust, Chastity
This 2018 album is a lot chiller than I expected for a punk band, at least on the first few tracks. Eventually the punk comes out more strongly and it gets pretty loud. Maybe Canadians can only get loud and mean for only so long. This definitely is the music of the pissed off Toronto suburbs, which the band has always embraced as their home country but also what they are reacting against. Of course, being angry about growing up in the burbs is hardly fresh material, but they do a fairly good job of making something new out of it. Moreover, this really is an honest album about emotional pain and that’s not always easy to pull off without self-indulgence, of which there is mercifully little here.
Perfume Genius, Set My Heart on Fire Immediately
Sometimes there’s an album that everyone seems to like that I just don’t really get, at least on the first listen. Now, I am perfectly aware that my connection to a piece of music might well be conditioned on my mood at a given moment. So I do feel the need on stuff people like a lot to give it another shot, just in case the problem is me. That’s how I feel here. I mentioned that I wasn’t getting this album really on Twitter and immediately Tyler Mahan Coe of Cocaine & Rhinestones fame responded with a video of what I should be digging. I certainly respect his opinion, but I dunno, this wasn’t hitting me the way it seems to everyone else. So you can all tell me what I am missing here.
Hurray for the Riff Raff, Life on Earth
Powerful, political album. This, I definitely dug immediately. Alynda Segarra is just a brilliant songwriter who really gets at the suffering people feel and the need to provide some kind of voice for them, including anthems to sing along too–“Palante,” from her previous album, wouldn’t be bad at a rally and would be a hell of a lot more interesting than people playing “Solidarity Forever” again. Segarra defines this as a “nature punk” album, which I guess means outrage at a world that oppresses people and destroys nature, though there’s more attention paid to the former. In any case, “Precious Cargo” is one of the best songs about the horrors of American immigration policy I’ve heard. I immediately purchased this album and expect it to be near the top of my Best of 2022 list. Right now, only the Rosalia is equal to it in my view. And I bought that album this week too.
As always, this is an open thread for all things music and art and none things politics. OK, maybe political songs. Anyway, you know what I mean.