This week’s musical highlight for me was seeing Patterson Hood play City Winery in Boston. This is exactly two weeks after his Drive By Truckers bandmate Mike Cooley played there so that was a great November. It’s so wonderful to see these guys play solo shows because they play a bunch of songs that never, ever get played live. I mean, Hood started with “Monument Valley,” the last song off Brighter than Creation’s Dark, which was last played by the band in 2015. He has three solo albums too and threw in five songs off those. Even in his solo shows, it’s usually one or two. So that’s a ton of fun. Yeah sure, you get some of the standards too–“Sink Hole,” “The Living Bubba,” “Heathens. Nothing wrong with that. It’s just a completely different musical experience than a DBT show. No, I’m not going to argue it’s quite equal to DBT live–The Big Rock Show is a real thing. But it’s a damn sight welcome. This was my 3rd Hood solo show, having first seen him in about 2005 and then again in 2017. Of course there’s 24 DBT shows on top of that….Here’s the setlist for those of you interested in such things.
It is now December. That means a month of year end lists. But here’s my thing–how can you possibly know what the best albums of the year are at the beginning of December. There’s a whole month to listen to stuff you haven’t heard yet!!! And to listen to other stuff again! I know this is all marketing or whatever and since not much new stuff gets released in December, sites are looking for filler. But there’s still an essentially meaningless but to me important principle that the more you can hear and the more you can hear it means that you can make a better year end list on January 1 than December 1. My friends, that’s called some motherfucking math.
Hard week in the music world in terms of lost greats. Paul handled the Christine McVie obit and I think was pretty right on. Dr. Feelgood is not exactly my favorite band in history but Wilko Johnson was certainly a legend. I hadn’t heard the Fame or Flashdance theme songs in forever and I don’t think I knew who Irene Cara even was, but I sure know those songs as so do you.
Usually, I find listsicles annoying, but Rolling Stone’s 50 Worst Decisions in Music History is pretty funny. The Stones hiring the Hells Angels for Altamont is clearly and correctly #1, Jerry Lee marrying his cousin is #2, Decca refusing to sign The Beatles is #3, Clapton’s anti-vax idiocy is #4, and the 99 Woodstock festival is #5. Hard to argue though Clapton has been finished for so long I don’t know that it’s an epic bad decision so much as it is an old racist asshole being an old anti-vaxxer asshole.
In case you were wondering what happened to the fascist member of Mumford & Sons, he’s appearing on the White Power Hour now, no doubt followed by Glenn Greenwald.
One of the all time great clubs is no more–Nashville’s Exit/In
This week’s playlist. Good number of albums for a week I think. Lot of Neil.
- Morgan Wade, Reckless
- Kevin Morby, This is a Photograph
- Rhiannon Giddens, Freedom Highway
- Tammy Wynette, 20 Greatest Hits
- Camera Obscura, Let’s Get Out of This Country
- Riddy Arman, self-titled
- Shovels & Rope, Little Seeds
- Mates of State, Re-Arrange Us
- Robbie Fulks, Georgia Hard
- Run the Jewels, RTJ4
- Bill Callahan, Apocalypse
- Neil Young, Zuma
- The Rolling Stones, Between the Buttons
- Skeeter Davis, Cloudy, With Occasional Tears
- Billy Joe Shaver, Old Five and Dimers Like Me
- Silver Jews, The Natural Bridge
- Marissa Nadler, For My Crimes
- Old 97s, Fight Songs
- Flying Burrito Brothers, Farther Along: The Best of
- Matt Sweeney & Bonnie Prince Billy, Superwolves
- PJ Harvey, Let England Shake
- Pistol Annies, Interstate Gospel
- Archie Shepp, The Way Ahead
- Lydia Loveless, Somewhere Else
- Tom Russell, Road to Bayamon
- Wussy, self-titled
- Neil Young, Harvest Moon
- John Hartford, Aereo-Plane
- Cracker, From Berkeley to Bakersfield, disc 1
- Sly and the Family Stone, There’s a Riot Goin On
- Cult Cargo: Grand Bahama Goombay
- Richard and Linda Thompson, I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight
- Don Gibson, Oh, Lonesome Me
- Ray Price, Another Bridge to Burn
- Miles Davis, Live Europe 1967, disc 3
- Federico Aubele, Gran Hotel Buenos Aires
- Blood Orange, Negro Swan
- Neil Young, Live Rust
- Butch Hancock, West Texas Waltzes and Dust-Blown Tractor Tunes
- Sleater-Kinney, No Cities to Love
- Grateful Dead, One from the Vault, (San Francisco, 8/13/75) disc 1
- Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers, Hard Bop
- Stan Getz & Joao Gilberto, Getz/Gilberto
- Catherine Irwin, Little Heater
- V/A, Touch My Heart: A Tribute to Johnny Paycheck
- Merle Haggard, Down Every Road, disc 2
- Drive By Truckers, The Unraveling
- Merle Haggard, If We Make It Through December
- Stevie Wonder, Talking Book
- Rodney Crowell, But What Will the Neighbors Think?
- Emmylou Harris, Pieces of the Sky
- Purple Mountains, self-titled
- Waxahatchee, Out in the Storm
- Willie Nelson, Phases and Stages
- Tropical Fuck Storm, A Laughing Death in Meatspace
La Luz, Floating Features
This is the 2018 release from this band of women who play surf-rock inspired pop, which you’d like to think wasn’t such a novelty at this point but still kind of is. It’s fine, solid tunes, decent vocals.
Julia Jacklin, Pre Pleasure
While I wish she’d rock out a little more, Jacklin is such a superior songwriter that I can not only take this generally slower album, but immediate fall in love with it. This is a generational voice of young women, someone who can take expectations and experiences around sex and breakups and mothers and bodies and turn them into straight-forward narratives of brilliant insights, with just enough hooks to keep one engaged too. Maybe the best musical artist currently working in Australia and that’s a very high bar.
Trauma Harness, Ten Years of Trauma
I suppose it’s unusual for the first album you hear from a band to be an odds and sods thing, but that’s what happened between me and this British post-punk band. Overall, I found the band to be more enjoyable in an OK way than great.
Tame Impala, The Slow Rush
People sure love this electropop band. I find this 2020 album to be….fine. It’s decent songwriting but I’m probably never going to embrace the world of electronics it requires to love this music. Within the world of creating accessible electronic music, obviously it’s a super successful project. To me, it’s a little boring and the electronics are a little annoying.
Julian Lage, View with a Room
To me, Lage sounds like Bill Frisell at his peak, before the latter devoted himself to soundscapes for boomers. Lage is an interesting guitarist, someone who like Frisell plays the silences as much as the notes. Their tones even sound similar. I do wish he would take a few more risks in his production, but you have to respect the craft. In the world of contemporary non-explicitly jazz guitarists, I probably prefer William Tyler’s work, but Lage is certainly worth a listen at the very least.
Garrett Saracho/Ali Shaheed Muhammad/Adrian Younge, Garrett Saracho JID 015
Excellent new entry into the Jazz is Dead series. Saracho is a pianist who released a single album in 1973 that got torpedoed due to record company bullshit. The album became something of a cult thing. But he’s still around and Muhammad and Younge continue recording the lost geniuses of jazz by bringing him out of retirement for his first album in 49 years. It’s damned funky too. Cool stuff. God bless this project.
Bill Callahan, YTI⅃AƎЯ
Callahan, one of my all time favorite musicians despite his rather limited voice, went a long time in between albums in the late 2010s. He got married, became a father in his 50s, and then started writing like a fiend. Shepherd in a Sheepskin Coat was pretty disappointing and I worried that he might be finished. But he came back with Gold Record and while there were a couple of clunkers there were also a couple of incredibly beautiful songs. The new album is mostly very good, the best of the three as an album. What’s interesting to me is listening to him grow as a person. The Smog albums were pretty misogynist really. He was a dark dude. But now he’s…not. He writes about family, about peace, about the universe. He’s been described as a bit of a Buddhist monk before because of his sedate yet compelling live performances, but he’s starting to embrace this mentality as a songwriter too. He’s hardly unaware of the hellish twenty-first century, but he’s also managed to move past the anger, at least to an extent.
No Age, People Helping People
I’ve always thought No Age was a good band without them being a real favorite of mine and I still feel this way based on their new album. This is a bit of a change, but a useful one. It prioritizes more instrumental numbers than usual and even a number of songs without any drums. It’s more ambient while still being rock and roll. It’s a short, tight little album of somewhat experimental rock with a little less noise than normal. Not bad at all.
Maggie Rogers, Surrender
When Rogers released Heard It in a Past Life in 2019, it was to great acclaim. But a heavily produced pop album for someone with a folkie tinge always seemed a bit weird. I liked the album without loving it, but I was really curious as to what she would do next. The answer was to take a bit of time and to take a little more control over the process of the album without abandoning either the pop or the folkie side. This is a less produced but still very confident pop album. It’s received less attention that her debut, but that’s almost inevitable with someone who really isn’t a Big Pop Star. She’s not made to be Beyoncé or Rhianna or even Stevie Nicks. She is made to be herself. This is a rock and roll album that is more PJ Harvey than pop. Some of the songs deal with the least interesting topic on earth–fame–but mostly they stay rooted in someone determined to be a reasonably normal person.
Damien Jurado, Reggae Film Star
While Jurado has never been my favorite artists, there’s just such warmth in his voice and lyrics that it’s hard not to respect what he is doing here. He’s what you listen to if you want some modern folk sitting around by a warm fire in January. This is a solid entry into his now very large catalog. “What Happened to the Class of 65?” is particularly strong.
Iceage, Seek Shelter
OK, but not all that interesting punkish rock. A lot of reviews were pretty positive here, but I guess I just didn’t get what this album was intending to do. What do I know? Not much. Or maybe I just don’t like the Danes. But I found this to be acceptable without being too much more than that. Listen to it for yourself while I try and figure this out some more.
As always, this is an open thread for all things music and art and none things politics.