Ty Segall’s “Freedom’s Goblin” Is Tulip Frenzy’s 2018 Album O’ The Year

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 2, 2018 by johnbuckley100

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Who are we kidding? Everyone knows the best record of 2018 is the reissue of The Beatles. Unless it was Bob Dylan’s More Blood, More Tracks. But given that technically neither album saw its original release in 2018 — the Beatles record came out half a century ago, and you’d be middle aged if you were born the year of Dylan’s album — let’s make way for the young ‘uns. And in this, 2018 was a good vintage.

1. Ty Segall     Freedom’s Goblin

We could not be happier that Ty released a double album that was chock full o’ classic songs, cooked up on his own or with the usual suspects, Mikal Cronin in particular.  We have been waiting for the better part of the decade for Ty to put everything together, and on Freedom’s Goblin he really did.  Full-band renderings of complete songs, stylistic impatience that heard him sound like Neil Young and No Wave bands nearly back to back, Freedom’s Goblin cemented Mr. Segall’s standing as his generation’s brightest light, even as it stood heads and tails above all others as the Album of The Year. That he subsequently released a prett-y fine rec of covers only brought even deeper appreciation for his version here of Hot Chocolate’s “Every 1’s A Winner,” which would have had Prince clamoring to join Ty’s funky band.

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2. Amen Dunes    Freedom

When Damon McMahon released Love in 2014, it might have landed from outer space; it was so original, so unique in its Freak Folk sound that  it was hard to get a grip on it. We looked forward to its follow up, and when it didn’t arrive the next year or the one after that, we got concerned. In January, though, “Miki Dora” was released and it was astonishing, a song about a real-life ’60s surfer that literally crested at the end, crashing on the beach with melody and power sufficient to sweep us all to sea. Freedom is a beautiful, ambitious and accomplished album, an attempt by McMahon to reach a bigger audience.  It succeeded on all fronts: strong songwriting, incredible singing, and a band that Dylan could snatch for his Never Ending Tour and it would all make sense.

 

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3. Menace Beach      Black Rainbow Sound

We admit that we’d never heard of the Leeds duo until Brix Smith, ex-Fall and current chief pirate in Brix & the Extricated, tweeted in August that she’d contributed to the new Menace Beach album.  One listen and we canceled our summer plans. Black Rainbow Sound may have spent more time in our earbuds than any other record the whole year long. While there were some reference points those of us lucky enough to have heard Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark the first time round, and even Young Marble Giants, could use to place them in their proper taxonomy, we’ve previously written that the combo of AC Newman and Neko Case, otherwise known as the New Pornographers, may be the portal through which to approach Menace Beach. All we know is that there wasn’t an album we listened to the whole year long that trawls as many hooks. Despite its synthetic composition, Black Rainbow Sound is the most natural power pop album of this year and many others.

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4. Brian Jonestown Massacre      Something Else

The Tulip Frenzy conference room erupted in more charges of cheating than were heard anywhere this year other than in the North Carolina Board of Elections, but the prevailing consensus, if not the rulebook, dictated that Anton Newcombe gets special credit unavailable to others.  The fact is, we listened to more good music produced by Anton this year than any other artist, but he’s so fucking prolific, he tends to drop songs that should go on the main album just because they’re done and he has a single he wants to put out. So in our mind — and in our judging — we included “Drained,” the B-side to “Hold That Thought,” which was both the first single and the first song on Something Else, the umptyumpth BJM album of the last decade.  And this put it over the top. Adding just that one song rendered an album featuring “Who Dreams of Cats” — among the best songs of Anton’s career — into something really special.  (The Full Newcombe this year would have included the second album Anton made with Tess Parks, plus that combo’s E.P. featuring “Grunwald,” a song so great Iggy Pop covered it in August.) So, yes, we apply special rules to Anton’s records.  He deserves it, and if you don’t know that, we have nothing to talk about.

 

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5. Wand      Perfume

It was a free for all, the judging room this year.  Some of our editors held out the verdict that, at just under 30 minutes, Wand’s Perfume was more like an E.P.  At least not like a proper album, especially since last year’s Plum was clearly deserving of its (Co-) Album of the Year status.  But then we sat down the recalcitrant judges and played them the beautiful “I Will Keep You Up” and they began to weaken, one of the holdouts even willing to say, “That’s the most sublime song Cory Hansen has ever written and Wand’s ever released.” It was when we all listened together to the Tom Verlaine-like guitar perfection of “The Gift” that towels were thrown in and it was clear: Wand’s Perfume is a real album, and the 5th best of 2018.

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6. Spiritualized      And Nothing Hurt

Jason Pierce famously claimed that And Nothing Hurt would be his final album, until people listened to it, went crazy, and petitioned him to do some more. Happily, we think he’s agreed. This was not as fine an album as 2012’s Sweet Heart, Sweet Light, but that was Spiritualized’s best album since Ladies and Gentleman, We Are Floating In Space, which was only the best album of the 1990s, which was only the best decade of music since the ’60s. So, you can see what And Nothing Hurt was up against, and what it pulled off: a soulful album, sung in Pierce’s typically exhausted voice, but backed up once again with a big band and chorus revolving around the tracks he put down in a home studio. This is a road album, something to put on the cassette deck strapped to the dashboard of the dark green 1971 XKE as you motor on up to the Cotswolds.  Gorgeous stuff.

 

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7. Oh Sees       Smote Reverser

John Dwyer has now recorded five albums with this version of Thee Oh Sees, and in the studio, the double-drum arrangement with him playing guitar like some combo of Hendrix, John McLaughlin and Pere Ubu’s Tom Herman really works.  Smote Reverser had the same combination of well-strategized opuses and songs that crush the skull.  On a song like “Last Peace,” which opens up into free-wheeling punk jazz that thrills the soul while still stunning the senses, it works.  On Deep Purple-inflected crushers like “Enrique El Cobrador,” we admit we yearn for the comparative delicacy of earlier incarnations. Still, in a year when Ty Segall takes top honors, we’re glad that Dwyer’s still in scoring distance. Next year could be his year.

 

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8.  Parquet Courts     Wide Awaaaake

The Parquet Courts have, since 2013, been such a reliable producer of great records we’ve overlooked ’em when it comes time to hand out the prizes.  Parquet Courts? Oh yeah, sure, I only listened to their record for, like, the entire summer, but now I’ve moved on to other things… Not this year! Like fellow Brooklynites Woods, Parkay Quartz have figured out how to incorporate reggae, Latin and ’70s funk into their output, and it’s all really good! These guys are so much of an institution that a band like Bodega could put out an album that is to Parquet Courts as, say, Teenage Fanclub were to Big Star, and no one even mentioned the pure homage! We love this band, and Wide Awake is just begging for the uninitiated to take the plunge.

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9. Calexico       The Thread That Keeps Us

Seeing Calexico again was one of the highlights of 2018, and so was listening to The Thread That Keeps Us, their best album since 2008’s Carried To Dust. The sheer conceptual grandeur of Joey Burns and John Covertino’s particular take on music that straddles our southern border had tremendous resonance in a year when evil forces tried to turn that permeable membrane into cement. When we hear the Mexicali horns on “Under The Wheels,” synapses fire like our taste buds after biting into a pepper. This is the soundtrack of America as it actually is, not as it is wished to be by MAGA-hatted assholes.

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10. The Limiñanas      Shadow People

Our year began in the cold of January listening to the hypnotic, glorious sounds of The Limiñanas, a duo from Perpignon, France caught deep in Anton Newcombe’s orbit, Praise the Lord. In fact, the song “Istanbul Is Sleepy” features Anton on vocals, and it may be his most powerful singing performance of the year. There is something about the infectious, garage propulsion of this band that makes one think of late night bacchanalia after the grapes are in, when Peter Hook plugs in his bass, as he did on this record, and Anton plugs in his guitar, and we’re all crawling over the stage in some cavernous warehouse, grokking deeply the global glories of rock’n’roll where you don’t even need to speak the language to know what’s great. Shadow People was incredible, and so are The Liminañas.

On The Fortnight Between The Beatles’ White Album and the Rolling Stones’ “Beggars Banquet”

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , on November 17, 2018 by johnbuckley100

 

All week long, we’ve immersed ourselves in the 6-CD 50th anniversary release of The Beatles.  In both Giles Martin’s revelatory new mix and with the legendary Esher Demos finally available, the album opens up in a way that both highlights the collective genius that was The Beatles, and provides a master course in band creativity.  But we had not realized until yesterday that while The White Album came out on November 22nd, 1968, what is likely the Rolling Stones’ greatest album, Beggars Banquet, followed two weeks later on December 6th.  Two weeks that changed our musical world.

They couldn’t be more different.  The Beatles is packed to the gills with creativity, whimsy, at once hard rocking and delicate, a summing up of the pop music Lennon and McCartney had been producing since Rubber Soul and something far different; a carry over from the near psychedelic past of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and the off-balance Magical Mystery Tour and something wholly new.  Beggars Banquet, on the other hand, is a quieter, country-blues return to basics as the Stones reconfigured themselves largely without founding member Brian Jones, incorporating Nicky Hopkins, the greatest piano-playing side man in rock, as functionally a full member of the band.

The Beatles were winding themselves up to the explosion that would shut down the band, the inevitable end where the creativity among three of the greatest songwriters the world has known would, like a rocket with a MIRV warhead, shoot off in separate directions.  The Stones, with songs like “Street Fighting Man” and “Stray Cat Blues,” prepared for a run as a live band that would continue to this day.

We don’t want to set this up as a competition.  In some ways, it’s no contest.  The Beatles may be the single greatest album of music the surprisingly long-lasting genre known as rock has ever produced.  And yet Beggars Banquet could well be my entry in the next edition of Stranded, that wonderful Greil Marcus-edited book in which rock critters were forced to choose a single album to take with them to a desert island.

In part because we have the Esher Demos, where we can get a sense of how the Beatles returned from the Maharishi’s Rishikesh retreat with competing notebooks filled with songs, in part because we finally, through the liner notes, understand who played what and how the songs came together, the White Album is comprehensible not just as an iconic, massive collection of songs, but as a single piece of art. A deep dive suggests that John Lennon, in the creative turmoil that was leaving Cynthia and falling in love with Yoko, produced his greatest batch of songs; Paul McCartney, long slagged as a control freak, was the multi-instrumentalist genius that helped both Lennon’s and George Harrison’s songs reach their full potential.

What is perhaps best about the new release is the way that Giles Martin has reconfigured the songs from the inside out, and with a mix that undoes, largely, what his father did with the technology and sensibility of his day.  Martin fils reveals for our ears what long has been hidden.  Quick example: on “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” Eric Clapton’s guitar, which long dominated our understanding of the song, is reduced in the mix, but the piano and acoustic guitar in the middle now shine brighter.  It’s not subtle, it’s amazing. And that’s just one example among many that take less exalted songs like “Birthday” and “Why Don’t We Do It In The Road” and places them on a pedestal, and elevates “Dear Prudence,” likely our favorite Beatles song ever, allowing us to see the whole world in 3:55.

Beggars Banquet wasn’t designed to be a competitor to The Beatles.  Where the Beatles were, less than 18 months later, still building on Sgt. Pepper’s (Magical Mystery Tour having been the rare misstep made understandable by the realization that it came in the immediate wake of Brian Epstein’s death), the Stones were living down their derivative flop, Their Satanic Majesty’s Request.  The Beatles were pushing to see just how far they could go, while the Stones were getting back to basics, playing the blues, woodshedding with acoustic guitars, but also going deep into a new formula of songwriting that, between December ’68 and May ’72, when Exile On Main Street was released, would culminate in their iconic oeuvre.  Both bands had a remarkable work ethic — the Beatles exhausting the studio staff (George Martin went on a holiday to Greece midway through the sessions) as they perfected their album, the Stones setting off on a half-century run of touring, largely off the strength of songs from Beggars Banquet and the next three albums. It’s hard not to admire both bands at some core level, though in part because of the work here, in part because they left us just 18 months later, it’s harder not to think the Beatles were gods, the Stones amazingly talented mortals.

We love Beggars Banquet, and the new mix, released yesterday to mark its 50th birthday on December 6th, is the one we will listen to now, as we still do often.  But this new mix and six-CD release of The Beatles is the greatest musical event of the season, as it was in 1968.

To have two of the greatest albums in the history of the art form come out within a fortnight of one another shows just how volcanic were the cultural forces in play in 1968.  We face, in 2018, an even greater crisis than we did in ’68, but the music being released this year does not seem likely to be so remembered 50 years from now.  We know a smart 21-year old who, when asked if he can appreciate the Beatles, replies instantly, “The Beatles invented music.”  And so they did.  If you’ve any doubt on that score, just listen to the new release of the White Album.

Dylan’s “Blood On The Tracks” Finally Lives Up To Its Name

Posted in Music with tags , , on November 2, 2018 by johnbuckley100

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Gloss on the tracks may have been a better way of describing Dylan’s greatest collection of love songs, at least as they were first released into the world.  We didn’t know that before, but we do now that the underlying songs, what Dylan first intended to release as a follow up to Planet Waves, have been revealed.

I had known from Clinton Heylin’s excellent biography Behind the Shades that Dylan recorded most of these songs, in September 1974, in the familiar confines of the Columbia Records studios in New York, several with just his guitar and harmonica as accompaniment.  And I knew that somewhere along the way, he’d scrapped those versions, recorded in less than a week, only to re-record them with a band in Minneapolis. His brother, as I recall, had predicted the album would be a commercial flop, and after the success of Planet Waves and his ’74 tour with the Band, Dylan wanted his comeback, and his return to Columbia after his interlude with Geffen Records, to continue.

What I didn’t know until I read Jon Pareles’ surprisingly good piece this week in the Times was that when Blood On The Tracks was released in 1975, Dylan had the tracks slightly speeded up, which to me accounts for why, classic song that it may be, “Tangled Up In Blue” has never been completely satisfying.  It has always seemed just a little off.

On the one-album set, released today, of outtakes entitled More Blood, More Tracks, the version of “Tangled Up In Blue,” with just Dylan and his acoustic guitar is a revelation.  Hearing it in this version has a similar impact to hearing the versions of “Someday Baby” or “Can’t Wait” on The Bootleg Series, Vol. 8: Tell Tale Signs.  You can never again go back to listening to the “original,” never go back to the song that was released.  In almost every case, the versions Dylan, or his management and record company, chose not to release are more raw, more emotionally affecting, less commercial than what we first heard.

As with those songs, and so much of what comes out on his remarkable Bootleg Series, all of the songs on More Blood, More Tracks are the way we should have heard them.  The real Blood On the Tracks, finally available, consists of simple, blues-based acoustic folk songs, enraptured memories of the women in his life — Suze Rotolo, Sara Lownds, Ellen Bernstein — narrated by a series of characters invented for just this occasion.

Instead what we got in 1975, and what was still good enough that it has long been considered one of Dylan’s classic works, was a sped-up, fairly slick pop album, even if the instrumentation was dependent on its folk underpinnings.

But this is the real thing — “Meet Me in the Morning” containing all the pain of Dylan having to explain to his children why their mother wasn’t with them, “Simple Twist of Fate” cutting deep enough for real blood to drip from the turntable’s needle.

Dylan once had to chase away the likes of A.J. Weberman, who was intent on literally going through his garbage in order to find out more about the resonant cultural figure of his age.  We live now in an era in which, due to the miracles of technology, scientists and restorers can look under the paint to see Leonardo’s original brushstrokes.  Bob Dylan, Nobel laureate, has for more than 20 years freely flung open the vaults and shown us everything that was in there, sparing us from having to go through his garbage or operate an X-ray machine to find out what’s underneath the art that was released into the world.  Little by little, bit by bit, he’s giving us everything.

Today we learned how much was missing from an album already considered one of the high points of the ’70s.  Today we learned how great Blood on the Tracks really is.  This is a revelation and we are, all of us, so much better for it.

 

The High Heel Race Is Bigger Than Ever

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on October 31, 2018 by johnbuckley100

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All images Leica SL and 75mm Noctilux

D.C.’s High Heel Race has gotten so big, they ask spectators to sign up in advance, so they can estimate a crowd count.  Let’s just assume that each year, weather permitting, it’s going to get bigger and bigger.

If you’d like to see monochrome images from years past, you might want to go here. If you want to see how it looked in 2018, see below.

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Tess Parks & Anton Newcombe Continue Their Glorious Run

Posted in Music with tags , , , , on October 15, 2018 by johnbuckley100

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In August, word came that, the night before, Iggy Pop had performed “Grunewald,” the best song of Tess Parks & Anton Newcombe’s “Right On” E.P.  This was the ultimate tip of the cap from one old pro to another (slightly younger one.)  We’ve been playing “Grunewald” for months, a song that sounds like something The Koolaid Electric Company could riff on the whole night through.

On their eponymous new album, Tess Parks & Anton Newcombe continue their work together three years after releasing I Declare Nothing, one of 2015’s best records.  Tess Parks & Anton Newcombe proves that each is the other’s muse.  Newcombe has long worked with female vocalists in the Brian Jonestown Massacre, from Miranda Lee Richards to Sarabeth Tucek, and Parks sang on last year’s “Fingertips” single.  Recording together, though, seems to encourage Newcombe to dig deep into his bucket of velvet hooks, and the results are seldom less than glorious.

Over the weekend, I put together a playlist comprising the best songs the Brian Jonestown Massacre have released over the past five years, coupled with the best songs Anton’s recorded with Tess on their two albums and E.P.  The playlist is three hours long.

Tess Parks has a limited range and a husky voice, but on the evidence of her strong 2013 album Blood Hot she doesn’t actually have to record with Newcombe to find something to say.  She’s a fascinating artist in her own right — and he is, this many years in, proving that being creative is the best revenge.  Their recorded relationship reminds us of how Dave Roback and Hope Sandoval come together in Mazzy Star.  Sandoval may have the more beguiling voice, but Parks and Newcombe together are every bit as magical.

 

 

In Eighteen Months of Going to Protests, the Only “Paid Mob” We’ve Witnessed In Washington is Trump, his Family and his Cronies

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on October 11, 2018 by johnbuckley100

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Back in January 2017, when things seemed most bleak — we had no real idea how bad things would yet become — we went to the Women’s March and it was uplifting.  To see hundreds of thousands of people, young and old, black and white, thronging the Nation’s Capital to protest against Trump was a remarkable experience, and we pledged then that we’d continue to go to protests and document them.  In fact, we created a gallery documenting these protests over on our sister site, TulipFrenzyPhotography.com.

We understand that, going into the final few weeks of the election, it has become a Republican talking point that those who’ve shown up to protest Trump, and most recently, the Kavanaugh SCOTUS nomination, are a “paid mob.”  Hmm.  Let’s go through some of these demonstrations, via photos of attendees, and see if they look like they needed George Soros to write them a check before they showed up.  In the interests of brevity, I’ll show only a few photos per demonstration.  And admittedly, because I went to so many, not all of them were uploaded to Word Press, and so I’m left here tapping only into images of only those demonstrations I wrote about on Tulip Frenzy.  For photos of the Kavanaugh demonstrations, go see my Instagram: @tulip_frenzy.

womens-march-15womens-march-34These were attendees from the Women’s March.  Do they look like a “paid mob” to you?

A week or so later, people began coming out to protest Trump’s evil Muslim Ban.  Do these look like paid protesters?

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Continued protestors against the Muslim Ban.  Paid mob? I don’t think so.

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Next came the Tax March.

Then the March for Science.  Paid mob?  You decide.

The Climate March.  These people look like it too money to get them out?

March For Truth-4I think this was the March for Truth.

These people, including Lin-Manuel Miranda, came out in protest of Trump’s failure to deal with the devastation in Puerto Rico.  Paid mob?

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The March for Black Women last fall was inspiring.

And then there was the Anniversary of the Women’s March in January.

We could go on and on.  The protests we saw in Washington last week renewed our spirits.  Calling any of these American families protesting for our rights “a paid mob” is just more derp and hooey, exactly what we’ve come to expect from our President and his cronies.  They’re the real paid mob.  Lock’em up.

Receding Memories of The Summer Of 2018 Preserved In 25 Images

Posted in photography with tags on September 16, 2018 by johnbuckley100

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Over on our sister site Tulip Frenzy Photography we have updated several galleries and added new ones.  And yes, this is a shameless effort to get you to go there.  But before the summer of 2018 recedes in our memory, allow us to show some — okay, an indisciplined sample of 25 — of favorite images from a well-documented summer.  And if you like any of ’em, on our photo site you’ll see how easy it is to purchase ’em.

As makes sense if you consider that our time in D.C. is not spent with a camera glued to our hand in quite the same way it tends to be during the time we spend out West, most of what follows was taken in the Greater Yellowstone.  In fact, let’s show our favorite pictures from D.C. before we dive into images from the Mountain West.

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Okay now.  Onto the Tetons, more or less in chronological order.

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