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Music Notes


Am ridiculously behind on all things music, so I am going to make this relatively brief (well not that brief) to reset. This is not some great post, but at least it is done and sometimes that’s all you can do in life.

One show I saw reasonably recently, though in truth it was a solid month ago, was Speedy Ortiz at some armory building in Cambridge. I love this band–so much, such smart feminist indie rock with great guitars. And this was a fun show for the band because Sadie DuPuis briefly attended MIT before dropping out and a bunch of her college friends were there and they were basically just like normal mid-30s nerds instead of super glamorous like she plays on stage. The show though was somewhat sabotaged by the questionable venue. This needed to be in a club. There was a bar, so it’s not like that was the issue, as if such a thing would be. It’s that it was too bright and too big for the band. I am still glad to have seen them and the new album is really good. It just wasn’t a great show. It was a good enough show. They are a good, smart band, but I don’t know if they are good enough to overcome a questionable venue.

I mentioned the death of Carla Bley, but if you missed that post last night, RIP once again.

I really appreciated this Iggy Pop discussion about listening to new music when you are old. I am not that old, but this pretty much sums it up:

I keep reading that we decline in our 70s so I try to keep using my brain. Discovering new music opens my mind and the element of surprise keeps me connected. I feel like I’m mining for diamonds – and when you find the diamond, you know. When I heard Chaise Longue by Wet Leg I got really excited: it’s cheeky, with a wicked groove, but it’s the vocals – they’re almost metronomic. You could ask 100 people to sing it and it wouldn’t sound the same.

I’m sick of hearing old boys say you shouldn’t use synthetic tools. If you’re rich and have a garage and a car, you could start a rock band. But there’s people using synthesisers to play with guitars, horns, hypnotic breaths, and it’s fantastic. If I hear anyone say: “Things aren’t as good as they used to be,” I tell them to listen to the Moses Boyd remix of Pace by Nubya Garcia. It’s fantastically advanced contemporary music that tugs at the heartstrings. From Sons of Kemet to the Comet Is Coming, there’s so much good stuff about now. At my age, it helps to remain curious.

Not only is that Wet Leg song really great, but the principle is strong. If you have given up on new music, you have given up on life. What is the point of continuing to live if you are not curious about new things? It’s just sad. So put aside the ELP and Rush and fucking Jimmy Buffett albums a bit commenters and listen to some stuff by people under 30. Or even under 40! Just try!!

Cool story about bringing back some mostly lost music of Pharoah Sanders.

Glad to see Jason Isbell throwing out playoff first pitches for his beloved Braves. He’s come a long ways since I saw him in little Texas clubs in 2007!

Playlist for the last 3 weeks:

  1. The Dillards, Back Porch Bluegrass
  2. Idles, Ultra Mono
  3. Townes Van Zandt, The Late Great Townes Van Zandt
  4. Handpicked: 25 Years of Bluegrass on Rounder Records, disc 1
  5. Neko Case, The Virginian
  6. Bill Laswell & Sussan Deyhim, Shy Angels
  7. Big Thief, U.F.O.F.
  8. Juliana Hatfield, Blood
  9. Pink Floyd, Meddle
  10. Billy Bang, Vietnam: The Aftermath
  11. Chris Gaffney, Loser’s Paradise
  12. Bobby Bare, Great American Saturday Night
  13. Stevie Wonder, Signed, Sealed, and Delivered
  14. Pistol Annies, Interstate Gospel
  15. Chris Stapleton, From a Room, Vol. 2
  16. Tom T. Hall, Faster Horses
  17. Wussy, self-titled
  18. John Moreland, Big Bad Luv
  19. Bois Sec Ardoin, Allons Danser
  20. The Blue Sky Boys, self-titled
  21. Bonnie Prince Billy, I See a Darkness
  22. Sarah Gayle Meech, Tennessee Love Song
  23. Sonic Youth, Sonic Nurse
  24. Ashley Monroe, Like a Rose
  25. Torres, Sprinter
  26. Butch Hancock, You Could’ve Walked Around the World
  27. Iron & Wine, The Creek Drank the Cradle
  28. Wussy, Strawberry
  29. Grateful Dead, Dick’s Picks, Vol.4 disc 1
  30. William Parker, Corn Meal Dance
  31. The Miles Davis Quarter, Live in Europe 1967, disc 2
  32. Will Oldham, Guarapero: Lost Blues 2
  33. Grateful Dead, Dick’s Picks, Vol. 3, disc 1
  34. Bill Frisell, Quartet
  35. The Tony Rice Unit, Manzanita
  36. Bikini Kill, Pussy Whipped
  37. Patterson Hood, Killers and Stars
  38. The Byrds, Sweetheart of the Rodeo
  39. Hayes Carll, You Get It All
  40. Aretha Franklin, Aretha Now
  41. The Gibson Brothers, Bona Fide
  42. Amy Helm, What the Flood Leaves Behind
  43. Larry Cordle, Pud Marcum’s Hanging
  44. Christopher Paul Stelling, Itinerant Arias
  45. Buck Owens, Complete Capitol Singles, 1967-1970
  46. Cindy, Free Advice
  47. Morgan Wade, Reckless
  48. Marianne Faithful, Broken English
  49. Guy Clark, Cold Dog Soup
  50. Jimmie Dale Gilmore and The Flatlanders, self-titled
  51. Gary Stewart, Out of Hand
  52. Laura Veirs, My Echo
  53. Hazel Dickens, Beyond the River Bend
  54. Jess Williamson, Time Ain’t Accidental
  55. Norman Blake, Back Home in Sulphur Springs
  56. Chris Stapleton, From a Room, Vol. 1
  57. Elizabeth Cook, Welder
  58. Drive By Truckers, Go Go Boots
  59. Willie Nelson, Last Man Standing
  60. John Moreland, In the Throes
  61. Indigo de Souza, All of This Will End
  62. Raye Zaragoza, Woman in Color
  63. The Handsome Family, Wilderness
  64. Nina Nastasia, Riderless Horse
  65. Old 97s, Fight Songs
  66. Cat Power, Sun
  67. PJ Harvey, Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea
  68. Marika Hackman, Any Human Friend
  69. Thumbscrew, Multicolored Midnight
  70. Iron & Wine, Our Endless Numbered Days
  71. Lucinda Williams, self-titled
  72. Sleaford Mods, UK Grim
  73. The Beatles, Revolver
  74. Ralph Stanley & The Clinch Mountain Boys, Hills of Home
  75. Doug Sahm & Band, self-titled
  76. Old Crow Medicine Show, Tennessee Pusher
  77. Pistol Annies, Interstate Gospel
  78. Sleater-Kinney, Dig Me Out
  79. Dim Lights, Thick Smoke and Hillbilly Music: 1960
  80. The York Brothers, King Records Singles 1947-1954
  81. Wussy, Ghosts
  82. Houndmouth, From the Hills Below the City
  83. Neil Young, Comes a Time
  84. Merle Haggard, It’s Not Love (But It’s Not Bad)
  85. The Juliana Hatfield Three, Whatever, My Love
  86. Whiney Rose, We Still Go to Rodeos
  87. Jimmie Dale Gilmore, After Awhile
  88. Screaming Females, All at Once
  89. John Coltrane, Live at the Village Vanguard
  90. Silver Jews, Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea
  91. Quantic and Nidia Gongora, Curao
  92. Pink Floyd, Wish You Were Here
  93. Screaming Females, Ugly
  94. Jade Jackson, Gilded
  95. Bruce Cockburn, High Winds White Sky
  96. Smog, Supper
  97. Wayne Hancock, A-Town Blues
  98. Bill Frisell, Unspeakable
  99. Nick Drake, Five Leaves Left
  100. Smog, A River Ain’t Too Much to Love
  101. Die Like a Dog Quartet, From Valley to Valley
  102. Courtney Barnett, Double EP
  103. Grateful Dead, American Beauty
  104. Drive By Truckers, The Dirty South
  105. Tom Waits, Rain Dogs
  106. Justin Townes Earle, Harlem River Blues
  107. Lori McKenna, The Balladeer
  108. Cracker, From Berkeley to Bakersfield, disc 1
  109. Joe Maneri/Mat Maneri/Joe Morris, Three Men Walking
  110. LCD Soundsystem, This is Happening
  111. Merle Haggard, Down Every Road, disc 1
  112. Eels, Blinking Lights, disc 1
  113. PJ Harvey, Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea
  114. Buddy Holly, self-titled

I kind of appreciate listening to 114 albums over 3 weeks and no album gets two listens.

Album Reviews:

Hedvig Mollestad Trio, Evil in Oslo

Rush and Dream Theater fans deserve their jazz too. This is that. Technically amazing, not aesthetically my thing at all. At least as a woman who truly does shred, she’s providing an example to girls that they too can like and even play pointless prog.


Noname, Sundial

What a huge talent. Definitely one of the best albums I’ve heard this year. Her brilliant use of politics combines with one of the smoothest flows I have ever heard in hip-hop to make just beautiful music. I have seen some criticism of this album because some of her collaborators are not perfect politically. Well, I can see that, but I am also not really a cancel culture kind of guy and people fuck up and they need some level of forgiveness. That’s easier to do when they are contributing to one of the greatest hip hop artists of the last decade.


Dave McMurray, Grateful Deadication

Do you like your Dead covers in a pretty cheesy sax tone? If you do, this is the album for you!

I love the Dead, though I don’t like some of the culture around the band that of course the band itself created. But what I don’t get is the instrumental cover bands. Because all McMurray is really doing here is playing his sax in the vocal parts that just isn’t interesting in any way. This just isn’t good music.


Rob Mazurek’s Exploding Star Orchestra, Lightning Dreamers

God, this is great. I saw this band at Big Ears earlier this year and as it turns out, there are a few albums, but this is the latest. It’s just Mazuerk, a trumpeter, getting some of the best guitar/bass/drum/keys players together to groove the fuck out of some ideas, while he only very occasionally solos over the top. This is like the best players in the world getting together and jamming around a groove. Who would not want to hear this?


Willie Nelson, I Don’t Know a Thing About Love: The Songs of Harlan Howard

Damn Willie sounds good. And of course late in life he is doing albums of long-forgotten country songwriters from his prime. I love this man! This is a solid, if not amazing, cover album. Could probably use a few more songs. But who cares, Willie is almost 90 and this is better than a lot of his 80s work. Now, a friend of mine who shall remained unnamed but who is a well known scholar and commenter on American music who commenters sometimes reference, told me he thinks Willie is using Auto-Tune. This is interesting. I really don’t care either way, but it could explain why he sounds better than he did a decade ago. My friend suggests this is how Auto-Tune was intended to be used, as opposed to using as an obvious effect that you see in so many acts.

I didn’t know what to say about this, but I found it interesting. In any case, a very worthy late Willie album.


Wet Leg, self-titled

“Chaise Longue” went viral and now that I have finally heard the album, I hear the song everywhere. Why not, it’s a prefect song, catchy and repetitive and brilliant. If they end up being a one-hit wonder, well nothing wrong with that. It’s a hell of a hit. The rest of the album though suggests there is more here. It’s not a great album, with your typical second half slump, but it’s a good album, with over half of it being clearly good songs.


Juan Luis Guerra 4.40, Literal

Some of the most pleasant Dominican music you will ever hear from this master of the form. Guerra is in his mid 60s and this is not the music of the modern dance floor. No reggaeton here. Call me ancient, but it was great to enter into the Dominican tradition before reggaeton took it over.


Perelman/Shipp/Cosgrove, Live in Carrboro

A hot set of wonderful improvisational music from Ivo Perelman on sax, Matthew Shipp on piano, and Jeff Cosgrove (who I don’t really know) on drums. This is 55 minutes of pure improv, with Shipp especially doing so much that it is almost hard to believe this is one person.


The Beths, Expert in a Dying Field

The Beths are one of my favorite rock bands in the last decade, but for whatever reason, getting around to their album from last year hadn’t happened. Too much music out there. I even saw them play much of this at Newport Folk Festival. Yeah, well, it is pretty damn good rock and roll. Also, as a historian, this is a greatest album title of all time. They were great live and this album is quite excellent. While I might suggest that a couple songs on the back half aren’t quite up to par, the rest of the album is so good that it deserves this grade. Just damn fine rock and roll from the southern hemisphere.


Bob Mould, Blue Hearts

I often think of late era Bob Mould like Guided by Voices. There’s a lot of music and it all kind of sounds the same from these aging punkers. The difference of course is that Mould has a lot to say, whereas Bob Pollard, well, he doesn’t. Is this that different from his previous work? Of course not. Is Mould still the crankiest man in rock and roll? Yes he is. I saw him last week and I can confirm this. Does he still fucking rock? Goddman right.


Duster, Together

This is pretty boring shoegaze right here. It’s supposed to be sad, but mostly it is whiny. And there just isn’t enough going on musically to give it a charge, even as it is abundantly clear they can bring noise when they want. At least they named a song “Sleepyhead” to describe my mood listening to this.


Tui, Pretty Little Mister

This is a little known old-time music project between Jake Blount, the Providence musician who has blown up in the last couple of years, and the fiddler Libby Weitnauer from Tennessee. What this intends to do is together both white and black string band traditions in conversation with each other. Being a true old-time project, it has a niche appeal, but it is a solid release of good songs and two excellent musicians who work together with mastery.


Tinariwen, Amatssou

It’s a Tinariwen album. They are all pretty much the same. This one has some slight variations in working with Daniel Lanois, which means strings and tones borrowed from American country music. That adds a bit of a twist, but it’s still very much a Tinariwen album and your opinion on this is likely to depend on how you feel about the African desert blues. I like it and I like the country on this. But otherwise the sound is the same as every other of their albums. Which is fine.


As always, this is an open thread for all things music and art and none things politics.

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