Archive for Calexico

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


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.


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.



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.


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.



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.


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.



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.



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.


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.


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.

With New Albums By Ty Segall, Calexico, The Liminanas, and Candace, 2018 Is Off To A Helluva Start

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , , on March 12, 2018 by johnbuckley100


Ty Segall: Freedom’s Goblin

We’re not sure exactly why we’ve been so lackadaisical about reviewing Freedom’s Goblin, but we think it’s cuz we’ve been enjoying it so much we haven’t wanted to spoil things.  For this is the album that Ty has promised since approximately 2011, when Goodbye Bread, simple song structures and all, announced the arrival of a genuine rock tyro who would someday do Big Things.  That day, friends, that day is here.

2016’s Ty Segall gave a hint of what was just about to come, combining in a single L.P. all the joys we’ve come to associate with Ty over the years: patented fuzz punk, great songwriting and singing, some acoustic standouts, and even long experiments that harkened to the halcyon days of album rock (talking about you, Sticky Fingers.) Freedom’s Goblin is a quantum leap beyond anything Segall has ever done.

We’ve read comparisons to The Beatles, that little band’s so-called White Album, and they’re not far off.  For over the course of a double album, we get a virtuosic display of songwriting that stretches definitions even as the album locks in our sense of Segall as among the two or three most compelling forces in music this decade.  We get classic Segall rockers (“When Mommy Kills You,” “She,” “Shoot You Up,” “5 Feet Tall”), melodic acoustic marvels (“My Ladies On Fire,” “You Say All The Nice Things,” “I’m Free”),  but also experimental overtures making full use of Mikal Cronin’s incredible No Wave sax and arranging (“Rain,” “Alta,” “Prison,” “Talking,” and “The Main Pretender.”)  And his cover of Hot Chocolate’s “Everyone’s A Winner” not only calls to mind another artist who could record albums by himself or with a killer band — Prince — it reminds us of that great Dan Ingram line from the heyday of WABC’s playing disco hits: “That song’s so dirty it left a stain on our speaker.”

By moving to a band approach that makes full use of Cronin, Charles Moothart, and other musicians, Segall is free to relax and simply make the greatest record of his distinguished career.  He seems to have grown in parallel to Thee Oh Sees’ John Dwyer, a rocks’n’roll artist who, contending with today’s very different terms and conditions, is making music that easily competes with the best work of the ’60s, ’70s, and ’90s.  That we can mention Segall in the same breath as The Beatles is possibly the best thing about the otherwise benighted age we live in.


Calexico: The Thread That Keeps Us

One reason we haven’t written much in 2018 is because Ty Segall’s not the only artist to offer up, early in the new year, a double album that ranks as a career best.  A contender for the best album of the ‘Aughts was Calexico’s Carried To Dust, but we admit that we haven’t found their albums in the ’10s as achieving that high standard.  With The Thread That Keeps Us, Calexico reasserts themselves as marvels of melodic alt.pop that takes its cues from the Colorado River drainage into Mexico.

Joey Burns and John Convertino took their band on a road trip to the Pacific Coast to record this new one, but it still sounds like they’re playing at a house party on some spring evening deep in the saguaro forests near Tucson. Mexicali brass underscore the best songs played by an expanded combo. This is a very political album, for how could it not be when we live under a regime that has declared war on the very concept of honoring the Estados Unidos’ ties to our cultural equals south of the Rio Grande?

Calexico’s patented miracle concoction of strong songwriting, beautiful singing, and cross-cultural  grace has never sounded better than it does on The Thread That Keeps Us.


The Liminanas: Shadow People

It’s the connection to Anton Newcombe that first turned us onto the best garage band in Perpignon, France.  The Liminanas have come a long way from early albums that showcased Italian film music even as they sounded like Newcombe’s Brian Jonestown Massacre.  The song “Shadow People” was released on the E.P. “Istanbul Is Sleepy” last November, and thankfully the E.P.’s title song, sung by Anton, is also included in this early 2018 highlight.

It’s rare that band that has to rely, for the most part, on outside guests singing can both entertain and convey a sense of unity.  But in the Liminanas, and with Shadow People, we have an act that holds our attention and esteem.


Candace: New Future

A few years ago, when we were deep down the rabbit hole of listening to Minneapolis bands that, one way or another, had ties to First Communion Afterparty, a Twin City tipster told us we should check out Is/Is.  That band of young women changed their name  (for obvious reasons) to Candace, as well as their locale, following acts like the Shins to Portland.  New Future is their first full-length album, and we can’t stop listening to it. Yes, there will be comparisons to Chastity Belt, but Candace are much better musicians.  At times harkening to the world Dean Wareham inhabits — Galazie 500, Luna — and at other moments seeming like some Dream Pop confection, this is a debut album filled with melody and hooks. Whether or not Candace’s future is new, it is certainly bright.

Tulip Frenzy’s #6 Best Album of 2012 Was Calexico’s “Algiers”

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on November 23, 2012 by johnbuckley100

Not for the first time has Calexico, America’s finest purveyors of authentic Southwest musical chili con blood’n’guts, made it on our Top Ten List, and Algiers  was some kind of revelation.  As we noted, “Algiers wasn’t recorded, as you might have expected, in the roiling sandstorm of North Africa, but the Louisiana precinct of the same name.  And how does humidity leaven the Tucson-based band’s first album since the brilliant Carried To Dust from 2008?  It actually doesn’t seem to have affected it much at all.  Algiers may be the most radio friendly Calexico album to date, but it is still filled with enough slickrock mystery to animate a B. Traven novel, with all the humanity, though a lower body count, of something by Cormac McCarthy.  The latter may have migrated, like so many others, from Appalachia to the Deep South to the Southwest Desert, the reverse route of Calexico on at least this album, but he always maintains an essential American talent for mayhem, and so do Calexico, as American as pico de gallo.”

Calexico At 930 Club, Or The Evening Redness In The West

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on October 12, 2012 by johnbuckley100

iPhone 5

Calexico returned to D.C.’s 930 Club on a night when we might otherwise have been distracted.  As we walked from the parking lot to the club, we could see in the living room of the condo nearby Joe Biden grasping the jejeune Paul Ryan in a hammerlock, giving him a noogie, and our heart was still beating fast from Jayson Werth’s 13-pitch at-bat that ended in a memorable walk-off, enabling our Nats to live another day.  But by the time Joey Burns, John Convertino, and their ensemble were two songs into showcasing their glorious new album, Algiers,  the aperture of our mind focused sharply on just what an American treasure this Arizona border band truly is.

They returned to D.C. with a harder edge than when they last showed up, in 2008, promoting the magnificent Carried To Dust.  Where that album conjured Monument Valley spires, Anasazi mysteries, and a Mexican folkloric tradition, Algiers is a purer expression of pop craft, even as it’s purpose-built on top of south-of-the-border idioms.  Listen to “Sinner By The Sea,” which they returned with for the first encore, to see what we mean: it starts like something you’d hear late at night in a Vera Cruz dancehall, but keeps a slow, garage-rock beat before efflorescing into a Chris-Isaaks-meets-the-Fleshtones bit of rock’n’roll magic.  Last time ’round, Joey Burns played the lion’s share of guitar, with a pedal steel player and bassist the other stringed instrument supporters.  This time around, the core of Burns and Convertino returned with the multitalented Mexicali horns, but also a smokin’ young guitarist who seemed as adept on lap pedal as lead.  Convertino is the most confident drummer who ever led a band from so small a geographic section of his drum kit.  And the dexterity of the musicians switching between horns and accordions and keyboards was like watching an All Star team shift the infield.

So many traditions come together on stage with Calexico.  Alt-rock and folk meet Tijuana Brass, conjunto, and Colorado Delta blues.  There aren’t a lot of American bands that can convey such a sense of mystery.  Creedence Clearwater could do it by evoking Louisiana Delta mythos from the streets of Oakland.  Calexico is closer to the Blood Meridian archetypes they evoke, both physically, given their locus from Tucson, and in spirit, with a cross-border collection of ace musicians.  Last night at 930 they had our full attention, as they should.

Calexico’s “Algiers” Was Actually Last Week’s Best Album Release

Posted in Music with tags , , , on September 17, 2012 by johnbuckley100

Bob Dylan’s Tempest garnered all the acclaim, but the music we’ve been listening to most in Tulip Frenzy World HQ is Calexico’s Algiers.  It’s not that we don’t want to listen to 14-minute songs about the Titanic (and 40-minutes or so of the Bobster’s album is a superb return to the prior form that Together Through Life suggested had been reduced to bar-band renderings of boozy blues.)  It is that one of America’s great bands has produced a career highlight album filled with gorgeous melodies and thrilling beats we cannot for the life of us get out of our head.

The story of Bob Dylan and Calexico can maybe framed as the rivalry between America’s two great rivers.  The Mississippi is both lubricant and muse, Ole Man River.  But the Colorado — which (before Lake Powell and Lake Mead stole its bounty for thirsty Western cities and greedy farmers) at least used to empty silted runoff from the Rockies via a Mexican terminus — forms an almost entirely separate second musical delta.  Having been raised near its source, the septuagenarian Dylan might still be working the loamy riverbank of the Mississippi, but the Southwestern-based Calexico instead has worked the parched seams of the Colorado, which just happens to be America’s greatest artist. (Editor: huh?  Reply: Compare how the Grand Canyon is sculpted to anything produced by Winslow Homer or Jackson Pollack, and you’ll see why we accord it that status.)  As between Tabasco and Salsa, America is one big tasty musical treat, but it’s only when you think about the grand tradition of our nation West of the Mississippi that Calexico’s Mexicali-tinged rock’n’roll music begins to claim its place.  The Mississippi, with its blues and jazz and the gumbo and chitlin’ stewpot that cooked up rock’n’roll is where we’ve been; the Mariachi and Spaghetti Western fuzz-guitar twang that inspired Joey Burns and John Convertino may actually be where we’re going.

Yet Algiers wasn’t recorded, as you might have expected, in the roiling sandstorm of North Africa, but the Louisiana precinct of the same name.  And how does humidity leaven the Tucson-based band’s first album since the brilliant Carried To Dust from 2008?  It actually doesn’t seem to have affected it much at all.  Algiers may be the most radio friendly Calexico album to date, but it is still filled with enough slickrock mystery to animate a B. Traven novel, with all the humanity, though a lower body count, of something by Cormac McCarthy.  The latter may have migrated, like so many others, from Appalachia to the Deep South to the Southwest Desert, the reverse route of Calexico on at least this album, but he always maintains an essential American talent for mayhem, and so do Calexico, as American as pico de gallo.

Algiers is what’s been flowing through our ear buds, flowing with maybe just a bit more volume due to the heavier rainfall to be found east of the 100th Meridien.  It’s good to have Calexico back, with their rocking American folk songs that flow from an alternative American tradition.

Gold Candles From Calexico’s Saddlebags?

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on January 6, 2012 by johnbuckley100

“Take this candle with you,” sing Calexico on “Gift X-Change.”  Which got us to thinking of San Francisco artist Andrew Bennett’s Millennium-era Collapsed Candles masterpiece* — 2000 gold candles stuck in melting wax.

Leica M9, 50mm Noctilux shot wide open, looking up from the floor as the winter sun set.

* For more artwork by Andrew Bennett go here.

Calexico Empties The Saddlebags With Magical “Selections From Road Atlas (1998-2011)”

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on January 6, 2012 by johnbuckley100

They had us at the concept — for 13 years, Calexico would show up in dusty saloons and smoky gin halls, playing their parched Colorado River delta blues, and all the while — as card games are played by men with vests, and all the painted ladies smile from the stairwell — merchants in the back would sell limited edition vinyl, whole albums of music available only to their concertgoers.  In November, they released the whole shebang as a vinyl-only 600 record set.  (Okay, maybe not that many.)  But then — who knew, til the new Uncut told us? — our friends from the border region went and released a sort of greatest hits of their most obscure releases in a single, 16-cut package, and it is pure gold glinting from the tin shaker.

These aren’t throwaways, the chafe left over when the real records are done.  This sounds like as coherent a single record as their last ‘un, the magnificent Carried To Dust.  Yes, artisanal music flows from the sandy regions, not just Brooklyn.  And given their absence these last three years, we’ve been missing them a lot.  In fact, other than the Black Keys, Calexico is the only American band that seems complete with just two permanent members.  The strange thing about Selections From Road Atlas is that these specialty lagniappes for the long-converted make as powerful a testament for Calexico’s greatness as any single album they’ve ever done.  If you’ve crawled across the desert of American pop music and are thirsty for pure refreshment, those hombres from Tucson have come through once more.  They promise a new album sometime later this year.  Until then, 13 year’s worth of specialty confections from the Saguaro badlands will tide us over.

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