Archive for Brian Jonestown Massacre

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.

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.

 

 

White Fence Takes Top Honors On The 2014 Tulip Frenzy Top Ten List (c)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on December 6, 2014 by johnbuckley100

Robert Christgau famously wrote that Dylan’s The Basement Tapes was the best album of 1975, and would have been the best album of 1967, too, if it had been released the year it was recorded.  It goes without saying that if The Basement Tapes Complete were not a 47-year old document, it would have topped the 2014 Tulip Frenzy Top Ten List (c).

But it would be unfair to trump the excellent albums released this year with one of rock’s classics, released as it was from the vapors of the past.  And this year there were many excellent records vying for top honors.  Thee Oh Sees missed our list because it was a transition year for John Dwyer, and as much as we enjoyed Drop, recording without the band that made Floating Coffin such a delight was a disappointment.  Asteroid #4 eponymous release was in contention, but just missed.  There were some other close calls, competition was tight, but in the end, we think this is a pretty good list for you to scratch out and leave for Santa to find.

#10: Maui Tears by Sleepy Sun

Back in February, we wrote this:

Maui Tears is constructed along the blueprint specs that Stephen McBean used in Black Mountain’s Wilderness Heart: there’s tuneful, exciting, straight-ahead rock’n’roll (“The Lane”) followed by acoustic balladry you might have found on early Led Zep, and then immersion into the headphone imperatives of metal-psyche. “Outside” is, for our money, a better version of MBV than anything found on m b v. “11:32″ is a mere 4:10 worthy of punk-metal goodness, and on “Thielbar” you can catch a whiff of Black Rebel Motorcycle exhaust and it smells like… victory.”

Eight months later it still holds.

#9: Ganglion Reef by Wand

In late September, we wrote this:

Ganglion Reef, the 35-minute long debut album by L.A.’s Wand is sonic DMT, a short, intense trip you can take on your lunch break and return to work with a slightly loopy smile on your face. The best psychedelica, like the best punk, always had a gooey core of pop music at its center, catchy melodies being just as important — maybe more important, given the heavy winds the music otherwise generates — than anything aimed right at radio programmers. And so it is with Wand, a band that can appeal to anyone who made a mixtape including both Tame Impala and Unknown Mortal Orchestra. Even after powering through sludgy riffs that seem like a bulldozer plowing a highway in the Mariana Trench, they shift to some sweet-sounding harmonies bristling with hooks.”

#8: Brill Bruisers by The New Pornographers

We never actually wrote about Brill Bruisers, which comes about as close as we ever do to the mainstream.  For even though they qualify as Alt something or other, The New Pornographers are a big band, big following, no lack of critical attention.  When we saw them in November, it confirmed that Brill Brusiers was as good as Challengers, which we loved, though not as good as Twin Cinemas, of course.  How they do it — how they create completely polyester pop when what we love is all natural fibers is a miracle to behold.  And that’s what The New Pornos are, circa 2014.

#7 With Light And With Love by Woods

Having given Bend Beyond a #1 ranking in 2012, it was hard to see how Woods could top what was, we said then, a perfect album.  But here’s how we viewed this glorious record when it came in the spring:

“What’s different here is evident from the start, wherein album opener “Shepherd” has a pedal steel and Nicky Hopkins piano sound, a postcard from whatever country locale Woods has arrived in, far out of town and in touch with their Flying Burrito Brothers. We suppose that Woods — a Brooklyn band that records Upstate — has a shorter distance to travel than Darker My Love did when they veered into chiming ’60s country rock with Alive As You Are ( another Perfect Album that took Tulip Frenzy Album of the Year honors. And in fact, Tim Presley plays on this ‘un.) The country vibe sure is lovely, but better yet comes the Dylanesque “Leaves Like Glass,” whose instrumentation sounds like the tape was left rolling during the Blonde On Blonde sessions. We would dare anyone to listen to “Twin Steps” and not immediately plan on proceeding, with the missionary zeal of a programmed zombie, to catch this band live. And while the 9:07 title track sums up this band’s virtuosity and complexity in spades, it’s “Moving To The Left” that harkens, ironically, to the right of the radio dial, where in a perfect world it would remain, being played over and over throughout the summer months.”

#6 Dean Wareham by Dean Wareham

A solo album released by one of our heroes produced the pleasure we anticipated, and live with Britta, playing songs from Galaxie 500 and Luna, not to mention Dean and Britta and New Order, made this year a great moment to take stock of one of pop culture’s treasures.  Add to this the many interviews Warham sat for and the writing he published, and he added to the sum  of life’s pleasures.

Here’s what we wrote in March:

Dean Wareham is produced by My Morning Jacket’s Jim James and it is an old-fashioned, two-sided LP. Yes, of course, it’s a digital download and a CD, but it is structured pretty much as two distinct sides. Something that has always been hard to reconcile is Wareham’s admiration both for the songwriting of his friend Lou Reed and his taste for Glen Campbell. Yes, you read that right. But on his solo album, the softer first side and the harder-hitting second half for the first time make these seemingly irreconcilable aspects of his musical personality make sense. We have spent years culling our favorite songs from Luna albums onto play lists, which assumes also that there are songs we leave behind. But this is an album you can play all the way through, enjoying everything.

It really takes off in the album’s final 25 minutes, beginning with the breathtaking “Holding Pattern,” but we can’t imagine dropping the first side’s songs out of any playlist. “Babes In The Woods” finishes with a structure those who loved “Friendly Advice” from Luna’s live shows will surely recognize, and both versions of “Happy & Free” will bring a smile to the faces of anyone who’s spent the evening driving with Galaxie 500 or Luna on the tape deck.”

#5 Held In Splendor by Quilt

We played this record so often when it came out, we literally couldn’t listen to it again until recently.  Listening to it confirms what we believed when it was released in the spring: Quilt is a patchwork of sonic delight.

Here’s what we wrote in March:

“Shane Butler and Anna Fox Rochinski were art-school students when they formed Quilt at the dawn of the Obama years, and we bet their teachers shook their heads in dismay when they veered into music. For the rest of us, art school’s loss is our earbuds’ gain as angels dance around guitar and keyboard weirdness that can call to mind both Magic Trick and the Magic Castles in the span of a single song. Where Widowspeak lacks fiber, Quilt has just enough bulk to maintain a consistent weight. Held In Splendor is wonderfully produced, weird in the way Prince Rupert’s Drops are weird, thrilling in the way Woods are thrilling. Yeah, this is a good ‘un, and we’ll just state the obvious: if these guys really were from the late ’60s Bay Area, Altamont would never have happened, and by 2014 the land would be harmonious and we’d all be happy vegans. ‘Course, they’re in the here and now, and so you have the chance to hear ‘em now.”

#4 Manipulator by Ty Segall

We were a little disappointed when Manipulator came out, and then we realized we were behaving like an asshole.  Having chided Segall three years ago for not getting serious about putting down an album that could capture the music that would make him the hugest star, when the guy recorded a commercial masterpiece, we wrote, essentially, why isn’t he continuing to make songs just for us?  Yeah, we were wrong.

But we were right in this:

“On the title track, on songs like “It’s Over” and “Feel,” the magic is there. Oh brother, is it there. We exult in it, and hope those listening for the first time — and we suspect millions will — are moved by this ‘un to press the music wide-eyed on all their friends and family, and then go explore the earlier, rawer albums, and the associated recs by Thee Oh Sees and White Fence that have been made better by the knowledge that Ty was out back, recording his new one in a cheap and scuzzy garage.”

#3 V Is For Vaselines by The Vaselines

The Vaselines make us happy.  What more needs to be said.

Oh yeah, here’s how we first responded to this amazing album:

“And now comes V For Vaselines, the tightest, likely the most tuneful album of punk rock since Rocket To Russia, an album that if listened to on the Delta Shuttle (true story) provokes such aisle seat joy that cross aisle neighbors stare before you realize you are snapping your fingers and possibly singing along. Eugene and Frances have never sung better, the propulsive drumming is more infectious than Ebola, and the whole album swings. We wake in the middle of the night with “Crazy Lady” being powered through the Marshall amps inside our mind, and when we say that this song — actually, the whole album — reminds us of I (Heart) The Mekons, we of course are offering the highest praise. “Earth Is Speeding” is a reminder of what could have happened if Roxy Music, in 1977, had hopped on the punk rock bandwagon. Lovers once upon a time, adult collaborators these days, Kelly and McKee have literally never sounded better than they do on “Number One Crush,” with its great lyrical premise of tongue-tied love (“Being with you/Kills my IQ).”

#2 Revelation by The Brian Jonestown Massacre

Anton Newcombe’s career revival continued in 2014, and continues to this minute, as the just-released +-E.P. is even better than the two albums BJM have released in the past two years.  A successful European tour and his Twitter feed are just further indications that one of rock’s true geniuses is, at this point in his life, taking on a Dylan-esque late phase creative flowering, a metaphor we used when we wrote about Revelation last summer:

Revelation, which officially comes out tomorrow but happily was available to download last night, is so good, we wonder if it might be the Love and Theft to Aufheben‘s Time Out Of Mind, a portent not just of a return to greatness after a less-than-great creative patch, but an indicator that Newcombe’s best work, like Dylan’s, might someday be understood to have been made when his youth was behind him — to be not what he produced when he was a young and brash punk, but what came after a hard-earned perspective. I mean, there were days when few people might have expected Anton would be around to make an album in 2014 — but to discover that he’s produced one of the best albums of his career? Yeah, it’s got the right name: Revelation.

The album begins wonderfully, with the Swedish rocker “Vad Hande Med Dem” giving way to the Kurt Vile-ish “What You Isn’t.” By the time we get to “Memory Camp,” it doesn’t matter which members of the large tribe that have variously performed as BJM are playing behind Anton, it doesn’t matter that we’re in Berlin, not California, no other band or set of musicians — not even ones like the Morning After Girls who worshipped the sticky ground on which Anton walked — could produce a Brian Jonestown Massacre album half as good as this. By the time we got to “Food For Clouds,” we were grinning ear to ear. At “Memorymix,” we were ready to take the day off and just hole up, having committed to memory the phone number to the Dominos delivery folks. By “Xibalba” we were dancing around the house.”

#1 For The Recently Found Innocent by White Fence

We loved this record from the moment we heard it, and have played it on an almost daily basis since August.  We are so pleased to welcome Tim Presley back — yes, back — to the cherished #1 rank on Tulip Frenzy’s Top 10 List.  We can’t describe it better today than we did then:

“We knew what Presley could do, not just because his band Darker My Love released Tulip Frenzy’s #1 album in 2010, Alive As You Are. And in 2012, Presley and Segall collaborated on Hair, which qualified as no less than that year’s 2nd best album. And then, after we complained for what seems like ever that we wished Presley would get out of the bedroom and take his talents to a proper studio and record with a proper band, not to mention straighten up and comb his hair etc., he closed out the year with a live masterpiece — White Fence’s Live In San Francisco, which made our Top Ten List(c). What a hootenanny that one is! Maybe the best punk rock record of the last five years! You could hear John Dwyer of Thee Oh Sees chortling at the knobs, as he recorded Presley in all his barrre-chord glory. And now we can hear the impact of his friend Ty Segall, who plays drums and produces what is already apparent as the best batch of White Fence cookies to come out of the oven. Ever.

Whether he’s an introvert, or just likes the freedom of recording at home, the intervention by friends Dwyer and Segall to get Tim Presley to share with the world a better sounding version of the magic that takes place the moment he picks up a guitar is surely welcomed. We are done comparing Presley to Kurtz, gone up the river. On For The Recently Found Innocent he has brought his jangly guitar, his reverence for early Who and Kinks dynamics, his fondness for psychedelic chords, wispy vocals, the patchouli ambience… brought it all to a studio where Mr. Segall himself plays drums and marshals the Dolby hiss fighters to render this in damn near high fi!”

The Asteroid No. 4 Still Shoots Through The Night Sky

Posted in Music with tags , , , on October 26, 2014 by johnbuckley100

It’s been 15 years since Sounds of Psychedelphia caught The Asteroid No. 4 plummeting toward us, but on the space/time continuum, that moment is separated from this by but a blink of an eye.  They’ve moved, to San Francisco, which of course makes sense, since they comprise the entire narrative of psychedelic bands, from the Acid Tests to Marin and back, grokking country music along the way, only to return to tuneful folkrock roots. Ah, but they never fully leave the land of psychedelia.

The new album is simply called Asteroid #4, though it’s A4’s eighth, and it’s a beaut.  It has enough sitars to get Anton Newcombe smiling, even though his record label no longer puts their music out.  On this one A4 can invoke a lysergic afternoon (“Mount Meru”), and come back with a radio-perfect pop song like “Ropeless Free Climber,” which is so pure you can imagine Alex Honnold psyching himself up with it before clabbering up the Half Dome.

Look, for a decade and a half The Asteroid No.4 have undemonstrably plied the land as one of our great bands.  They have not lacked musical ambition, they just haven’t been careerists. Which is only one of the reasons you may not previously have genuflected before them, which you should do right now. They may even have a bit of a perverse streak, letting loose their country inclinations just when touring with the Brian Jonestown Massacre should have locked in their relationship with the kids who came for “Anemone.”  On The Asteroid #4, the band serves up something for everyone: those who want the trance rock to throb, and those who love ’em because they hear echoes of the Byrds.

We love ’em because they never disappoint, and eight albums in, The Asteroid #4 is a delight.

White Fence, And The Bands That Didn’t Make It Onto This Year’s Tulip Frenzy Top Ten List: An Explanation

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , on November 27, 2012 by johnbuckley100

Making a Top Ten List is hard in years when there is a lot of good new music.  And just when you think you’re done, inevitably you find you missed stuff.  (One of the most fun aspects of December is reading other people’s Top Ten lists and getting turned on to bands that had not punctured your force field.) But while we’re sure we’ll be doing, if not addenda, then at least announcements of bands we discovered after we’d cast our vote, right now we want to do something else. We thought we should report, if not on the runners up, then at least on the bands that were in contention, or should have been, but which didn’t make it, with some explanation of why not.

White Fence – Family Perfume, Volumes 1 and 2

Tim Presley is a deity in our house, with the shrine next to the bird feeder, on top of the old 8 Track.  Some will remember that Darker My Love’s last outing, Alive As You Are, was Tulip Frenzy’s Album of the Year in 2010.  Of course, Presley is represented on this year’s list by his collaboration with Ty Segall on Hair.  But while aspects of Family Perfume, the epic 29-song double album he released in two parts, in April and May, were as weirdly coherent as anything out of the E6 brotherhood, in the end, we found its extreme lo-fi production coupled with what we can only imagine was an intense psychedelic ambition was excessively confusing.  We almost wanted to shake Mr. Presley by his shoulders, urging him to focus.  We can say honestly that virtually everything his friend Segall does by his lonesome has visceral appeal, but as White Fence, recording all the instruments, Presley’s work is too ethereal, too diffuse.  There’s too much of it and, while snippets are appealing, ultimately it doesn’t rock. And while it is unfair, perhaps, to compare him to Ty Segall — a once in a decade talent — on a good day, Tim Presley’s one of the most compelling figures in all of rock’n’roll music.  Did we mention that just two years ago we gave an album he recorded with his colleagues in Darker My Love our highest honor?  White Fence — Presley and musicians, real sidemen, not imaginary friends – just launched a European tour.  May they knock ’em dead.  And come back and record an album as amazing as Tim Presley’s talent.  From where we sit, Family Perfume didn’t stink to high Heaven, but it just wasn’t it.  We play it, and enjoy it.  But we want more.  We want candy.

The dBs — Falling Off The Sky

God, it was magical hearing Peter Holsapple singing with Will Rigby and Gene Holder kicking down the tobacco barn behind him, and maybe doubly so to have the whole family together with Chris Stamey.  We loved Falling Off The Sky, a genuinely fun album recapturing the magic of Winston-Salem’s finest-ever export to Lower Manhattan.  Both Holsapple and Stamey’s songwriting was strong, and the band is as charming as ever they were.  “Send Me Something Real” was the best Stamey song in years, and “That Time Is Gone” was classic Holsapple. This is the case of a band just barely missing the list, beaten out by Patti Smith, of all people, whose Banga was just that much better.  They were half a game out of the playoffs when the season ended.  Wait ’til next year.

Brian Jonestown Massacre — Aufheben

We got so much joy out of hearing the first really good album from BJM in a decade, and performing the songs live this summer at 930, Anton Newcombe seemed to have a new lease on his plectrum.  In a weaker field, Aufheben would have made it, for it was in many ways classic Brian Jonestown Massacre.  But it wasn’t a weak field, and they didn’t.

Alejandro Escovedo — Big Station

Al’s third Tony Visconti-produced album in the last four years was good, but didn’t make the list because it was third-best among those offerings.  It was good, but something’s missing. We love Alejandro, but admit to a minor disillusionment now that, at least on this album, and for the last two or three tours, he’s gotten away from the larger orchestration of multiple guitars, rockin’ cellos, boogeying violins, etc.  This is a guy who for years would come through town each summer playing punk rock with a real band, and then a few months later return with just cellos. And he would rock just as hard with just the cellos. But when he plays punk rock in a pared-down quartet with just bass, Hector Munoz on drums, and a lead guitarist, something that was so magical about the old Alejandro is missing.  We mull the etiology: whether Al feels the need to play the hard rocker, or whether economics keeps him from performing with a larger set of musicians.  All we know is that, now that he is getting perhaps the most sympathetic listen of his career, with the strongest promotion (Hell, he has Bruce watching his back), and even finds his songs played on the radio… NOW is the time to tour with the whole shebang, the cellos and the peddle steel guitar, the violin and double guitars.  What once was the most magical act in rock’n’roll has been pared down to its essentials, but we want him to give us something more.  We want what Al offered all those many years when we dragged friends to see this guy they’d never heard of, only to have them so blown away, they quit their jobs to follow him like Deadheads.

Other Than The Magic Castles, How Were The Brian Jonestown Massacre, Mrs. Lincoln?

Posted in Music with tags , , , on August 23, 2012 by johnbuckley100

iPhone 4S

What a difference having a good album to push makes.  We’ve seen — and enjoyed immensely — the last four Brian Jonestown Massacre tours, but with the release earlier in the year of Aufheben, the first BJM album in a decade that rivals the best of their ’90s output, it was as if Anton Newcombe was reborn as a downright chatty (for him), occasionally pogoing multi-instrumentalist (okay, harmonica as well as guitar.) We counted four songs from the new album, or was it five?  They didn’t simply rely on classics from Take It From The Man; this was a set more evenly balanced between music from this decade and the previous ones.  The BJM’s live sound is so unique: a rhythm guitar army, Branca-esque in force, widens spectral mid-tones while Anton picks riffs that serve as careful filigrees over the main strumming squall.  (Having Matt Hollywood take on the singing duties from “Viholliseni Maalla” was a nice touch, and who knew he could sing in Finnish?)

Moreover, whoever would have thought we’d hear music like this in 2012?  Whoever would have thought Anton would be this strong and vital at this moment in time?  Not the last Dandy on Earth, that’s who.  Berlin agrees with him.  The band is revitalized by the new material.  They were fine last night.

Are The Magic Castles The Best Young Band In America?

Posted in Music with tags , , , , on August 23, 2012 by johnbuckley100

We saw the Magic Castles open for the Brian Jonestown Massacre at the 930 Club last night.  Too often, you have to endure opening acts to get to the main event, and few things are worse than having to sit through the thudding gyrations of bands you find just fundamentally lacking.  This is not so much the case when the BJM are in town; Anton Newcombe is many things, and one of them is a good mentor, as evidenced by how many of the bands we love have cited, on their websites, that they toured with the Brian Jonestown Massacre.  It’s like a punk rock Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval, playing with BJM, and it’s worth showing up an hour earlier than otherwise you might. We’ve liked The Young Sinclairs, and that Icelandic band, Singapore Sling, they had open for them in 2009, and didn’t we see the Flavor Crystals open for them once? But The Magic Castles were… magic.

Imagine John Densmore drumming while Dean Wareham and Sterling Morrison back up Neil Young.  We’d read the reference to them in last week’s issue of The New Yorker, capsule-previewing their opening for the BJM with that shorthand citation: a comparison to the Velvet Underground.  As some know, Tulip Frenzy has an office policy, rigidly enforced from the senior staff on down to the interns, to be curious about any band that is referenced in the same sentence as the VU, either as in, “They sound like the Velvet Underground,” or, “They sound nothing like the Velvet Underground.”  We don’t much care which way it goes; any such reference is worthy of our checking it out.  Only, when we saw them play last night, we didn’t think of the VU so much as First Communion Afterparty, the Doors, Luna, Kurt Vile, Fripp and Eno, or maybe it’s Cluster and Eno — all of them great character references.

So we didn’t know they were from Minneapolis, which makes some sense given the FCAP vibe.  They’re not really like the late and lamented psyche-tyros — granted, the Magic Castles’ music, especially as recorded, has these psilocybin traces of the color spectrum limning its edges, though not the lysergic propulsion of that other sadly mothballed Minneapolis band.  On vinyl, on the eponymous record they put out on Anton’s A Records, they’re more like an entrant into the Elephant 6 landscape: ’60’s vocals that emerge like beekeeping monks who have all just swallowed  something interesting spontaneously breaking out into song, while the guitar notes wind around their black-clad habits like a quietly buzzing but sonically active hive.  Live, though, they were tougher, more Summer of Luvish, a band we could imagine coming not from the Twin Cities but from our Notional Brooklyn, where the artisanal hippies have all gone to roost, tinkering in their workshops, a serious Portlandia where everything is made of fresh-baked fixins that have tasty undertones.  Yeah, the Magic Castles make you think this way.  Let’s hear more.

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