Archive for April, 2016

Tulip Frenzy Can’t Wait For Alicia Vikander In “Tulip Fever”… For The Purest Of Reasons

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on April 29, 2016 by johnbuckley100

Tulip FeverOur friend Allen Goldberg, knowing of our mania for all things tulip, sent us news yesterday morning that the lovely Alicia Vikander, fresh off her Oscar win, will soon grace a movie entitled Tulip Fever.  A quick look at the trailer reveals her to be a pearl-earring wearing young wife of a 17th Century Dutch burger played by Christoph Waltz, who  allows a handsome young Vermeer-type to paint her in private, and of course you knew what happens next even before I tell you Tom Stoppard wrote the screenplay.

Can’t wait.  And I must say that we are somewhat relieved that it’s called Tulip Fever, not Tulip Frenzy.  You see, even though our staff attorney is ready and willing to protect — and as fiercely as a wolverine — our rights to the name of this site, we kind of like the fact that young schoolchildren — doing research on the phenomenon by which the sane and even-tempered Dutch created the most famous financial bubble in history, besotted as they were with the ephemeral glories of  tulips — might be led by Mr. Google to our site on a day when we’re reviewing the new album by, say, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard.  Tulip Frenzy is many things, and at least one of them, we hope, is educational.

We honestly don’t know whence our obsession with tulips comes.  It’s a pretty healthy obsession to have, don’t you think? Could be worse, right? It’s encouraged by our family, even as they know that come the first week of April we will be as fixated on area tulip beds as any truffle pig sticking his snout into the ground.

Tulip Frenzy 2016-2

And it’s encouraged by friends like Allen who also sent us yesterday’s post in Atlas Obscura on how “The Most Beautiful Tulip In History Cost As Much As A House.”  Jeez, what a day.

Read about the fixation the Dutch had with “broken tulips,” those that are, like the ones depicted above, multicolored.  We are grateful to Allen for sending these stories our way, and we couldn’t be happier than we are right now reading up on  The Tulip Frenzy, preparing to see Tulip Fever in July.

Well, maybe if we could see these decidedly unbroken tulips all the time.

Tulip Fever 2

(Pictures 1 and 3 taken with the Leica M and 50mm Noctilux. Picture 2 taken with the Leica SL and 50mm APO-Summicron-Asph.)




The Azalea Frenzy Beckons

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on April 22, 2016 by johnbuckley100

Azalea Frenzy 2016-4

Kevin Morby’s “Singing Saw”Cuts With A Well-Honed Blade

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on April 22, 2016 by johnbuckley100

When Kevin Morby left Woods right after they produced Bend Beyond, an unqualified masterpiece, it was an expression of confidence as startling as his leaving Kansas City at age 18, heading for the Big Apple on a bus.  Why would you leave the most accomplished, ambitious band in Brooklyn unless you had something to say?  Kevin Morby had something to say.

On two solo albums, 2013’s Harlem River, followed by Still Life one year later, we got a sporadic glimpse of how charming his urban take on songwriting could be.  Though he later moved from Brooklyn to L.A., on his new one, Singing Saw, he came back east to work with Sam Cohen (Apollo Sunshine, Yellowbirds)  and now we know just how deeply a sharp blade can cut wood, or if you’re of a certain cast of mind, cut Woods.

On the title track, Morby and his excellent musicians build to what ultimately sounds like an acoustic version of Talking Heads’ “Stay Hungry.”  “I Have Been To The Mountain” punctuates Calexico horns with a Sam Cohen guitar solo that peels the eyeballs. It’s on “Dorothy,” one of those perfect American rock songs that seems to have always existed — Morby just being the medium to wrestle it to tape — that we understand fully why he couldn’t have been content staying within Woods, for as simpatico as he is with Jeremy Earl’s restless musical vision, Morby, like Ron Wood before him, has his own record to do.  And now he’s finally done it: as gorgeous, ambitious, and pleasing an album as you’ll likely play this year.  (Ha! Ron Wood, Woods, cutting wood, singing saw — this album stirs up more than sawdust…)

We don’t know the geography of Brooklyn well enough to geolocate Morby’s position, but we do know Kings County bands well enough to locate his place.  On “Dorothy,” he reveals a debt to Phosphorescent’s Matthew Houk and his brilliance in hijacking the sound of Willie Nelson’s band and applying it to modern Americana.  On “Ferris Wheel,” it’s a different Brooklyn band that springs to mind — Damon McMahon’s Amen Dunes.  Yes, good company to keep… Woods, Calexico, Phosphorescent, Amen Dunes.  Did we mention Bob Dylan?

Placing Morby in the context of these other artists is meant only to give the uninitiated the coordinates of where to place his music on this brilliant album.  Given how banner advertising supporting Singing Saw has begun to stalk us on such expensive sites as the, we get the sense that the uninitiated to Morby will be fewer by weeks end. Don’t wait, don’t hesitate.  A young songwriter of impeccable pedigree has produced the work that will make his name.

The Azalea Frenzy

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on April 22, 2016 by johnbuckley100

Our backyard is in riot.  Washington, D.C. Leica SL, 50mm APO-Summicron-Asph.

Azalea Frenzy 2016

Hoarse Of Voice, At The 930 Club, The Dandy Warhols Still Have Much To Say

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on April 18, 2016 by johnbuckley100

Dandy's Rule 1Courtney Taylor-Taylor’s voice was shredded from the back-to-back New York gigs this weekend, part of the price we always pay in D.C. getting first-rate bands on second-rate evenings (Sundays or Thursdays.) With show-must-go-on enthusiasm and a decidedly low-key vibe, the set was still powerful, evenly drawing from the first three albums while — and this was most delightful — showcasing how good are the best songs on Distortland, their first really good new album in some years.

That songs like “Search Party,” “All The Girls In London,” and the Cars-like “You Are Killing Me” more than held their own with faves like “Plan A,” “I Love You,” and “Bohemian Like You” is the best news we can deliver.  It has been a while since the Dandys’ new stuff sounded as vibrant as what they launched into space with during their late ’90s rise, and that Distortland has been on near constant rotation on our hard drive is as welcome news as spring’s arrival.

Dandy's Rule 3Courtney’s voice notwithstanding, the band played as well as they did when performing the entirety of Thirteen Tales Of Urban Bohemia here there years ago. There’s something remarkably sporting about a band that remains a foursome after all these years, with no calling in the supporting cast to deliver the goods. Brent De Boer remains one of rock’s great unheralded drummers, a timekeeper to be sure, but dynamic when it’s needed.  Peter Holmstrom is unflashy in his floppy hat, but hangs the wire holding up the canvas on which Courtney paints the songs.  Zia remains the heart and soul of the band, playing one-hand keyboard bass, leaving the other free for tambourine or keyboard frills.  If there is a single instrument in the Dandys possession you most want to hear, it’s Courtney’s voice, and though last night it was hoarse, he earnestly powered through.

Dandy's Rule 2Some years ago, in frustration, we wrote an obituary of sorts for what has been, and remains, one of our favorite bands.  We were struck by how, in contravention of the Dig! dichotomy, it was the Brian Jonestown Massacre that was thriving, the Dandys, on record at least, shadows of their former greatness.  Few things give us more pleasure than to report that, Yeah, Zia, you are still great live — and on record, showing new life, new possibilities, new things to say.

Walking On Bubbles

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on April 16, 2016 by johnbuckley100

So close, and so far, from the D.C. neighborhoods P.J. Harvey captures in The Hope Six Demonstration Project, a man walks on the overpass between buildings in D.C.’s Emerald City-like City Centre.  Leica M, 35mm Summilux FLE.

Floating On Bubbles 3


Grappling With P.J. Harvey’s Windshield Tour Of My City

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on April 16, 2016 by johnbuckley100

You’ve probably heard about P.J. Harvey’s new album, The Hope Six Demolition Project.  If you live in D.C., as I do, and haven’t paid attention, you may not know that over the past two decades she’s created at least two of the best albums in the history of rock’n’roll.  Yeah, a little obscure on this side of the pond, but a major artist. Her drive-by songwriting about some of Washington’s bleakest neighborhoods has caused a bit of a stir, and we admit that, based only on one of the early songs released, “The Community of Hope,” we were concerned.  Now that the entire album’s out in full, it’s easier to understand, and admire.  And yes, The Hope Six Demolition Project ranks with those two aforementioned masterpieces, Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea (2000) and Let England Shake (2011).

In this morning’s Washington Post, Chris Richards does a nice job of defining Harvey’s work as observational journalism.  On at least those songs emanating from a trip here in 2014, Polly’s artistic process seems to have been opening her eyes and her notebook, recording what she saw, and in a reportorial fashion, putting it to music.  And what she saw and reports on was, if not original — many artists, not to mention journalists and propagandists, have made comment on the disparities between Washington’s power and wealth and our disastrously neglected neighborhoods —  then it’s at least heartfelt and unique to her sensibility.  She serves up an unflattering slice of the city I live in, it may come from a “windshield tour”narrated by a D.C. reporter who didn’t even know the slight woman in the backseat of his car was one of the world’s most important rock stars, but because of her sensibility, she serves it up as art.  And make no mistake about it, it may be tonally flat, but it is art, and put your fears aside, it is real rock’n’roll.

Musically, this is pretty similar to Let England Shake, her award-winning album that focused on, of all things, the consequences of World War I on Britain.  Yeah, she’s never been content with “Yeah, yeah, yeah.” There’s the same martial drumming, the Greek chorus adding folk textures to her and John Parish’s guitar.  It is beautiful music, a complex and tonally gorgeous collection of songs.

And the thing you have to realize, also, is that The Hope Six Demonstration Project is an art project within an art project.  P.J. Harvey traveled with photographer and filmmaker Seamus Murphy to Kosovo and Afghanistan, as well as Anacostia and Ward 7 here in D.C., emerging not only with this album, but also a series of films (Murphy), and a book of photography (Murphy) and poetry (Harvey), entitled The Hollow Of The Hand.  And not only did this evolve into her new album, she recorded the album in a studio under observation, with fans able to purchase tickets to watch the creative process unspool.  This may seem like she simply spilled her notebook onto vinyl, but Harvey’s not an artist to do things simply.

We admire and empathize with what Harvey’s tried to pull off here, mostly successfully.  Yes, she was a “poverty tourist” when she came to Ward 7 D.C.  But at least she came.  She saw it from behind the safety of a windshield, but at least she came.  And when she adds the spiritual “Wade In The Water” to her take on the filthy Anacostia River, it’s powerful.  And when she captures the ironic poetry of liberal dreams cratering by the government having to destroy what HUD called Hope Six housing in order to improve the lives of poor people here, she’s merely revealing she has a very good ear.  (“The Hope Six Demolition Project” is an irresistible string of words, but you had to be there, as she was, to capture it.) And when she creates an album this beautiful, and this powerful, she’s revealing, once again, that Polly Jean Harvey is one of the very few artists in 2016 using rock’n’roll to grapple with the world at this level.


Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on April 12, 2016 by johnbuckley100

Tulip Frenzy 2016-3

On Black Mountain’s “IV”, The Unexpected Ingredient Is Sincerity

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on April 12, 2016 by johnbuckley100

Since Black Mountain’s eponymous debut in 2005, followed one year later by Pink Mountaintops’ maiden voyage, we’ve viewed both of Stephen McBean’s vehicles as tandem expressions of his already heterodox talents.  The influences on his songwriting apparent early on included Modern Dance-era Pere Ubu, New York’s No Wave bands, and when he and Amber Weber sang a duet on “Druganaut,” it sounded much more like Sly and The Family Stone than X, which was interesting.  The homages to Led Zeppelin, the cheesy Deep Purple keyboards, the clear reference to Station To Station-era Bowie: it soon all added up to a dazzling porridge, heavy and melodic at the same time, with deadly seriousness offset by antic glimpses.  Black Mountain could — and on the great Wilderness Heart did — play proto-metal and punk, back to back.  And with other band members launching such disparate vehicles as Lightning Dust and Blood Meridien, the Black Mountain Army was seemingly as potent a force in modern music as the Elephant Six Collective.

But even with certain surface charms, 2014’s Pink Mountaintops album, Get Back, was a turnoff.  Suddenly it triggered, at least in Tulip Frenzy’s World HQ, a reassessment, as it rendered McBean’s magpie plucking of influences suspect.  We wondered who the real McBean was: the distant bandleader launching his attack from Vancouver, or one more cool cat taking on the world from L.A.?  With only their fourth album in 11 years, we now have the answer, at least from Black Mountain: IV is their best full album since they took their name from the large pile of Afghani sitting on the table in front of them.

Even their naming convention is a reminder of the influence of Zep, but on IV, the seemingly biggest influences on McBean and company is their own prior work, as a band and an aggregation of the sister bands.  “You Can Dream” sounds like something Lightning Dust would play at Edinburgh Castle.  The opener, “Mothers Of The Sun,” is their best long-form construction since “Bastards Of Light.”  The combination of McBean and Weber has never sounded stronger, and on a song like “Constellations,” you have all of Black Mountain’s charms in one interplanetary locus.  After the last ersatz and kitschy Pink Mountaintops outing, McBean returns with something that sounds, dare we say it, sincere.

All is forgiven.  Black Mountain’s fourth record is their best yet.

Snow And Cold Rain A Gross Insult To The Tulips

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on April 9, 2016 by johnbuckley100

We took the Leica SL with the 50mm APO-Summicron-Asph out on a cold, rainy Saturday to find whether there was any sign of the Tulip Frenzy.  Found it, and my, what a nice rig this is to work with.  But tulips should not be subjected to such abuse.

Tulip Frenzy 2016-4

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