Archive for Kelley Stoltz

Kelley Stoltz Keeps Mining Gems And His Latest,”Que Aura,” Gleams Like A Diamond

Posted in Music with tags , , , on October 19, 2017 by johnbuckley100

12 Jacket (3mm Spine) [GDOB-30H3-007}The cover photo of what Kelley Stoltz calls his “proper new album,” Que Aura, looks like something you’d see in a Kusama Infinity Room, all dots of light in a psychedelic space.  Like Kusama, Stoltz for the most part works alone, assembling true solo albums with painstaking craftsmanship, each track capturing an instrument played only by him.

Unlike Kusama, who resides in an asylum, Stoltz gets out of the house to play with bands, including touring as a sideman with his heroes Echo and the Bunnymen.  But in his own studio, over the past decade, he’s created an eccentric but exceptionally important and delightful body of work. As a recording artist, he deserves to be mentioned in the same sentence with the Beatles, David Bowie, Alex Chilton, and Ray Davies. Que Aura, released in August, is his best album since 2008’s Circular Sounds, which we would nestle alongside Rubber Soul, Radio City, and Lodger in the Go Bag that, one step ahead o’ the apocalypse, we’d take to the proverbial desert island.

Listening to Que Aura back-to-back with Below The Branches, the 2006 album that was our introduction to him, is instructive.  Back then, Stoltz was like a one-man version of the Fab 4 + George Martin, crafting intricate pop classics on acoustic piano and guitar, backed where needed by steady bass playing, what sounds like a Rickenbacker 6-string, and solid, unobtrusive drumming.  This was an era in which Stoltz says he was using a microphone propped in a sock drawer for wont of a proper studio and equipment.  The music is gorgeous, thrilling, inspirational, the seeming influences all from the ’60s.

A little more than a decade later, Que Aura sounds like it was recorded in a German studio with this generation’s George Martin twiddling the knobs.  As a singer, Kelley’s affect is effortless, but here he sounds like he’s fronting a really fantastic band whose rhythm section can swing.  And of course, it’s all him — an incredibly difficult trick to pull off.

Over his previous three albums — 2010’s To Dreamers, 2013’s Double Exposure, and 2015’s In Triangle Time — Stoltz has moved away from the delicacy of his earlier work to bring in New Wave influences, to thicken the sound a bit with horns and synths, and clearly Will Sergeant’s guitar sound (Echo + Bunnymen) and mid-period Bowie have inspired him in recent years. Like a craftsman who, after years of creating one-of-a-kind designs… pushing his needle and thread through fabric under a solitary light bulb… who has succumbed to such labor-saving devices as the sewing machine, Stoltz has rolled a bank of electronic keyboards into his atelier.  Keyboards have ruined many a solo practitioner’s studio work, from Prince to Tame Impala, but even though we miss the Rickenbacker and acoustic piano sound of yore, on Que Aura, he makes it all work. He’s still creating gems, but much as I love the pre-2010 work, these shine brighter.

The songwriting as a whole is stronger than on any album since Circular Sounds.  “I’m Here For Now” ranks with Double Exposure’s “Still Feel” and the most infectious rockers of his career.  “Tranquilo” is the closest thing Stoltz has produced to a hit you could see coming out of the Motown basement, and it has the quirks and charms of his greatest songs before culminating with psychedelic panache.  On “Same Pattern,” it’s clear that Kelley has had a conversation about synths with his label, Mr. John Dwyer.  Out of 11 songs, there are two we don’t think we’ll be listening to a decade hence.  This is a glorious clutch of songs, rendered with enough analog guitars, bass, and drums to prevent the electronic keyboards from ever smearing the delicacy, like a surfeit of Hollandaise on poached eggs.

Speaking of John Dwyer, there’s a reason why the progenitor of Thee Oh Sees, not to mention Jack White, would be the “label heads” putting out Stoltz’s most recent work.  In days of yore, some A&R chap at Warner Bros would have figured out how to slide a Kelley Stoltz contract past Mo Ostin.  But without a generous label afloat on a pontoon of CD sales taking a flyer on a talent like his, Stoltz is embraced by his fellow artists who know brilliance when they hear it.  Just as, gentle reader who has journeyed this far, we know you do too.

We already have raved about Kelley Stoltz a time or two, given his records the highest marks on our 2010 and 2008 Top Ten Lists.  Somehow, even with all our raving, we have failed in getting him to perform at Madison Square Garden.  We’re not done trying.  And based on Que Aura, Kelley Stoltz is not done appearing at the top of Tulip Frenzy’s annual Top 10 List.

Driftwood Pyre Take Album Of The Year Honors In Tulip Frenzy’s 2015 Top Ten List

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on December 6, 2015 by johnbuckley100

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#1. Driftwood Pyre by Driftwood Pyre.

We were prone to liking Driftwood Pyre, the first album by the Minneapolis band we viewed as successors to First Communion Afterparty.  After all, FCAP’s Earth Heat Sound was Tulip Frenzy’s 2013 Album Of The Year, and we have long held them up as the best psych band of the modern age. But even so, we honestly didn’t think that this first record by Liam Watkins and company would sail past all contenders for Album Of The Year honors on its maiden voyage.  Combining the best elements from Watkins’ previous band — the emotionally vibrant slow strum of the guitar, the Mamas und Papas background vox, the psychedelic traces limning with chromatic aberration a vibrantly electric landscape — when the album came out we exulted like an archaeologist reclaiming a lost civilization.  Eureka! A little more of a straight-ahead rock band, with elements of Oasis, the Cramps, and even the Rolling Stones undergirding a well-produced set of uniformly good songs, we can rejoice in the way Driftwood Pyre carry the embers of its antecedents even as it strikes out onto a new, commercially solid, nonetheless uncompromising sound.

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#2. 1000 Days by Wand.

By our count, it was less than 365 days from the moment last year we saw Wand supporting Ty Segall at the 930 Club to the release of their third album in approximately a year.  1000 Days was instantly recognizable as a breakthrough, an incredibly ambitious work combining Eno-esque synths and prog song structures with the punk’n’thunder of this young band’s previous two recs.  Seeing them a few weeks ago at the Black Cat only confirmed that Cory Hanson has to be added to the roster of West Coast phenoms — Ty, John Dwyer of Thee Oh Sees, and Tim Presley of White Fence — keeping rock’n’roll alive and kicking in a hostile world.  The thing about 1000 Days is that it both seems like a mere extension to Golem and Ganglion Reef, Wand’s previous two albums, and is conceptually bolder, suggesting Hanson’s songwriting is growing magically, a sorcerer’s conjuring of talent that should bring them their deserved audience over the next 1000 days.

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#3. In Triangle Time by Kelley Stoltz

It took us a little bit of time to adjust to what our longtime fave Kelley Stoltz was up to with In Triangle Time.  We have so much admiration for how Stoltz has been able to create record after record of meticulously crafted pop songs while playing every imaginable instrument (look ma, no band!) that it took us a few days to realize In Triangle Time is a concept record, and that for someone who lived through that musical moment this album captures so well — the early ’80s interregnum between the first Echo and The Bunnymen singles and David Bowie’s Let’s Dance, between post-punk and the horrible mid-’80s drift that followed — it was okay that Kelley had put away the harpsichord and piano for electric keyboards, and switched the Ray Davies’ sensibility for songs that stretched the wire between such disparate poles as Captain Beefheart’s Ice Cream For Crow and Orchestral Maneuvers In The Dark.  As always, Kelley’s singing and musicianship are epic, and while we look forward to his next phase, and pine for a return to his ’60s weirdo sensibilities, when playing this genius’s latest, how can you not just want to dress like the cast of Deutschland ’83 and whirl around the room?

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#4. I Declare Nothing by Tess Parks and Anton Newcombe

The May-September collaboration between the Toronto-based singer Tess Parks and Anton Newcombe, the Berlin-based longtime leader of the Brian Jonestown Massacre, was even greater than we could have hoped for. Parks’ 2013 debut album, Blood Hot, already revealed her to be one of the many young artists who look to BJM the way Newcombe and his generation looked to the Velvet Underground, but what was remarkable here was how Newcombe stepped into the subordinate role, not merely letting Parks have the top billing, but letting her sing every song.  Maybe we shouldn’t have been surprised, for as early as “Anemone,” Anton has often stepped back and let women sing the best melodies. With Anton in the role of bandleader and guitarist, this was an album that sunk deep into our bones, a smoky, noir-ish sound that clashed with the bright sunshine of the summer out West where we listened to it every day.  Most people got it, but we could only laugh at the British rock critters who sniffed, “Well, it’s good, but it sounds just like a Brian Jonestown Massacre record.”  Yep, that’s why we loved it.

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#5. All Yours by Widowspeak

When “Girls” was released late last spring, we woke up and took notice.  We’d loved Widowspeak’s Jarvis Taveniere-produced debut in 2011, but found the follow-up, 2013’s Almanac, a trifle problematic, as Molly Hamilton’s ethereal voice, lathered on too thick, can be like a cake that’s all icing and air.  Yet “Girls” was a nutritious harmonic pastry, still sweet but plenty nourishing, and a few months later when “All Yours” was released, we prayed that the full album would be as good as those two songs.  Happily, Hamilton and Robert Earl Thomas’s move from Brooklyn to Upstate New York has filled their music with fresh Hudson Valley air, and any cloying sensibilities have been washed away.  The sugar high is gone, we happily declared with All Yours came out in September, and it was a wonderful backdrop to autumn.

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#6. Wire by Wire

I think we were supposed to take it as a statement that nearly 40 years after Wire announced themselves with Pink Flag — probably the single most influential punk debut of all time — they released a record simply entitled Wire. Wire is here, they declared, seemingly forever, releasing in 2015 music often as powerful and poignant as what was on Chairs Missing and their first-phase masterpiece, 154, which came out in 1978 and ’79, respectively. We exulted in what a gorgeous record Wire proved to be, but after the string of really strong records they’ve produced since the band reformed full time a decade ago — particularly 2011’s Red Barked Tree and 2013’s Change Becomes Us — we shoulda known better than to expect anything less.  Ah, but then we were flat out stunned, I guess is the word, by the strength of their show at the Black Cat last spring.  Colin Newman may not have the voice he once had, and on Wire he seemed to bow to reality by singing consistently melodic pop songs, not that cockney-rebellious thrashing punk of yore, but there is no question that the rhythm section of Robert “Gotobed” Grey and Bruce Gilbert is the Entwistle-Moon combo of the modern age, and with a minimalist young guitarist filling in, it’s no wonder that a young star like Courtney Barnett would exult on Twitter how amazing was the Wire show she saw in Berlin just a few weeks ago.

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#7. Sometimes I Sit And Think… And Sometimes I Just Sit by Courtney Barnett

Courtney Barnett was the breakout star of the year, at least in the commercially blinkered circles in which we so proudly travel.  Her sold out show at the 930 Club last May, fittingly on the same day as the DC Pride Parade, was in many ways D.C.’s concert of the year.  The CB3 are a powerful hard-thumping trio, a cross between The Attractions and Nirvana, and given how high-torque Barnett’s songs were on her debut rec, it’s no surprise that it was only after seeing her play live that we fully came to appreciate Sometimes I Sit And Think… And Sometimes I Just Sit. The release of that album sure caused us to sit and think, to dwell for some time trying to get our mind around it, for after months of babbling to everyone we met about how great The Double EP: A Sea Of Split Peas was, we were a little put off by how amped up the power pop was on the album.  Last year’s double EP was more relaxed, the faux-slacker message more aligned with the music, and we loved it no end.  When the album came out this spring, fairly bursting from our speakers, and it was clear that this wasn’t some Aussie Millennial yucking it up with pals; when it was obvious even to someone thick as us that Barnett is an incredibly ambitious rock-star-in-the-making, we were, yeah, slightly turned off.  But we came to terms with Courtney Barnett, oh yes we did, after seeing her live, and realizing that, with all the many analytical misses we’ve had over the years, assuming one fave artist after another was going to be yuge, yuge we say, here we had empirical evidence that Barnett was going for the brass ring, and unquestionably would grab it. And so we relaxed.  The paradox of Tulip Frenzy generally only raving about music few fans will buy was overwhelmed by the joy we ultimately felt at understanding, without a doubt, Courtney Barnett is going to be, uh, huge.  It’s going to be great.

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#8. Mutilator Defeated At Last by Thee Oh Sees

With Ty Segall off messing around with Fuzz and various other projects, and Tim Presley, with typical perversity, failing to follow up on the success of White Fence’s winner of last year’s Tulip Frenzy Album of the Year accolades (For The Recently Found Innocent), it fell to Thee Oh Sees’ John Dwyer to wave the West Coast freak flag, and on Mutilator Defeated At Last a new version of the band came through like a 21-gun salute bringing down a space ship.  We were apprehensive about what the record would sound like, for since Dwyer had broken up in 2013 with his epic bandmates in the prior version of Thee Oh Sees, and last year’s Drop saw a sudden loss of cabin pressure, as they say when things get a little rough, we didn’t know what to expect. But this version of Thee Oh Sees beat out White Fence as the pick ‘o the muddy litter at May’s LEVITATION/Austin Psych Fest, and oh yeah, the record was boss.  The double-drum set up of the youngsters Dwyer has recruited to the band thunders like elephants stampeding through your tent, and Dwyer’s manic songwriting is still the most exciting thing that’s happened to music since amplifiers.

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#9. Starflower by The Magic Castles

Minneapolis, as will be clear momentarily, was the Center of The Rock’n’Roll universe in 2015, as The Magic Castles joined their fellow Twin Cities citizens Driftwood Pyre on our Top Ten List.  A few years ago, on the basis of seeing them open for the Brian Jonestown Massacre, we asked if the Magic Castles might be the best young band in America.  While maybe that promise has eluded them, we found Starflower to be an amazing combination of Newcombe-esque songwriting/guitar layering and the most mysterious garage band sound since Lenny Kaye headed to Detroit with a cassette deck in hand.

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#10 The Shiver Of The Flavor Crystals by The Flavor Crystals

Lo and behold, a third Minneapolis band rounds out The 2015 Tulip Frenzy Top 10 List, adding symmetry to our ranking.  See if you notice the pattern: we first heard Flavor Crystals open for the Brian Jonestown Massacre, and yeah, their first album On Plastic seemed to find that crevice between Television and Luna in our brain’s musi-rogenous zone.  But their second and third albums didn’t quite pack the same punch.  The Shiver Of The Flavor Crystals sent a 50-Amp shiver up our spine. This is an album for a long car ride, for sitting at home while the snow drifts pile, it’s dreamy and slow, but it’s also exciting and breathtakingly beautiful.  After years in which it seemed like either San Francisco or Brooklyn were the places you’d want to be, Flavor Crystals — standing on the podium next to Driftwood Pyre and Magic Castles — signal Minnesota’s where it’s at.

“In Triangle Time” Is Another Side Of Kelley Stoltz

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on November 7, 2015 by johnbuckley100

By our count, In Triangle Time is Kelley Stoltz’s 7th album, and in the decade we’ve been listening to him, playing his music for all to hear, tuning into shortwave just to make out the distant early warning of new music beaming from his San Francisco atelier, he’s never made a record that was, on the scale between “unworthy” and “classic,” anything less than “remarkable.”  At least 10 of the 12 songs on this first album released by John Dwyer of Thee Oh Sees’ Castleface Records tip well to the right on that continuum — radio worthy, enormously tuneful, the product of an amazing band of musicians which, if you’d never heard anything about Kelley before, you wouldn’t realize were all him.

And yet just as Stoltz has produced an album either recorded in a “real” studio, or in surroundings seriously upgraded from when his home recordings had to be made with the microphone wedged into the socks drawer — legend has it that he couldn’t afford a mike stand — the sounds herein constitute a real departure, and it has taken us a bit to reckon with them.

Between 2006 and 2008, on Between The Branches and the magnificent Circular Sounds, Stoltz produced from a home studio music that exhibited the artisanal craftsmanship of a cobbler locked above the John Lobb store, hand stitching leather boots. His many fans loved these albums not just because of the amazing care that went into this harpsichord run, that Rickenbacker riff, the Aynsley Dunbar drum roll.  We loved this music because Kelley could self-harmonize better than Steve Miller on Your Saving Grace, because Powerman-era Ray Davies seemed a songwriting inspiration, because unlike the majority of musicians who have produced albums all by their lonesome — from Skip Spence to Paul McCartney, John Fogerty to Prince and even Ty Segall — Stoltz could play literally any instrument, from drums to piano to guitar, at least as well as any sideman he might have recruited to his Batstudio.  Through the entire run of Kelley Stoltz’s career, these amazing tourbillons he’s produced — songs with complicated wheels spinning in the middle of them — have contained surprises, startling moments.  Listening to a Kelley Stoltz song can be like biting into a chocolate and finding it has a nougat center, no wait, that’s key lime, oh, cherry.

Interestingly, the week before In Triangle Time was released, Stoltz released two items — a sort of grab bag of mostly substandard songs entitled The Scuzzy Inputs Of Willie Weird, but also an EP straightforwardly titled 4 New Cuts.  On the EP, there are at least two songs as good as anything Kelley’s ever done, and importantly, “Redirected” and “Some Things” have that classic, playful Kelley Stoltz sound, every bit as good as the best song on his last full album, 2013’s Double Exposure, which Jack White, like John Dwyer, set forth upon the world with a musician’s generous desire that all appreciate this guy who’s churned out record after record doing everything himself including, likely, pressing the vinyl.

So with evidence that Kelley is producing new music that sounds like his old music — New Cuts (emphasis mine) — what are we to make of his new album?  In Triangle Time shows what to many will seem like an entirely new side of the artist.  It has a big, booming sound, as if he’s moved from a two-track studio to wherever it is the latest Beyonce album was cut.  More than ever before, electric keyboards and bass dominate the instrumentation.  And the sound has shifted paradigms from the fairly delicate late-’60s craftsmanship of his records at the end of the ’00s, to that moment between ’79 and ’83 when synthesizers began to dominate New Wave music, just before it all got ruined by the brittle shift from vinyl to CDs.  In fact, comparing this album to what Kelley’s done previously is not so much like Dylan going electric as like your favorite photographer shifting from film to digital.

It’s ironic, we guess, that in clearly more comfortable surroundings, Kelley’s moved from finding that perfect acoustic piano sound to the seemingly easier pallet of electronic keyboards; you’d think it might be the opposite, right?  But when you consider what he’s doing here, it all makes sense.  If earlier, Stoltz was channeling the Kinks and the Who, here he channels favorites from that transition time between New Wave and the pop music that came after.  It is hugely inventive — on “You’re Not Ice,” he proves himself to be maybe the first artist ever to successfully channel Don Van Vliet in a song that pays homage to the best Captain Beefheart music of that long-ago age.  Kelley’s delved into Echo and the Bunnymen territory before, with his note-for-note rendition of Crocodiles.  Here the era is invoked in far more original fashion.

Maybe the best reference point for what we have here is Bowie, for on two consecutive songs — the Young Americans-sounding “Litter Love”, and on Wobbly, which could have been an outtake on any Bowie album between Lodger and Let’s Dance — we have a lovely invocation of the Thin White Duke.  And if you think about it, it would have been as unfair to slag Bowie when Let’s Dance came out — for not sounding like Ziggy or Aladdin Sane — as it would be to slag Kelley for not sounding like he did on Circular Sounds.

In Triangle Time is, as Double Exposure was before it, both an example of artistic growth and an instance where an artists seeks a bigger audience by getting away from the preciousness that attracts rock critters like yours truly.  We actually really like what he’s done here, even as we miss what he did before.  And we are tantalized by the release of 4 New Cuts, as it offers perhaps a clue to the Kelley Stoltz Classic sound that he might get back to in the future.  Or so we hope.

Quick, Kelley Stoltz Is Having A Garage Sale

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on October 31, 2015 by johnbuckley100

Next week, Kelley Stoltz is releasing his latest album, Triangle Time, on John Dwyer’s Castleface Records, and we can’t wait.  But hold on, what’s the meaning of the release in recent weeks of both the 4 New Cuts E.P. and an entire album entitled The Scuzzy Inputs of Willy Weird?  All we can think of is this is like that garage sale you have before moving into the new house.  And man, what gems are being taken to the curb?

On his official website, Kelley is said to be moving away from the baroque ’60s-steeped, Ray Davies influenced hand-crafted masterpieces in favor of a sound harkening to the post-punk era.  But for a lot of people, Kelley first announced himself with a note-for-note replica of Echo and the Bunnymen’s Crocodiles, so it’s not like the new album promises to be entirely a departure.

Now, we loved Circular Sounds and Below The Branches so much we accorded them high honors in Tulip Frenzy’s annual tally of the best ‘uns.  But honestly, To Dreamers and Double Exposure didn’t quite hit those high marks.  Now, though, in anticipation of a new rec, Kelley’s given us 17 new songs just to clear the way, and man, they are uniformly great! “Redirected” sounds like an outtake from Double Exposure that should have been a hit, and that’s just one of the 4 New Cuts.  And midway through The Scuzzy Inputs of Willy Weird we were forced to admit that, if this were the only thing Kelley put out this year, we’d still likely consider it for the Tulip Frenzy 2015 Top Ten List (c).

So quick, get to the garage sale and catch up on America’s foremost power-pop artisan before he puts out an album, Triangle Time, that he clearly thinks is even better.

The # 7 Album On The Tulip Frenzy 2013 Top Ten List ™ Is Kelley Stoltz’s “Double Exposure”

Posted in Music with tags , , , on December 8, 2013 by johnbuckley100

He’s been higher in previous years, but Double Exposure — while not as fine as Circular Sounds — is nonetheless a great album, and a terrific intro to one of America’s finest artists.

Here’s what we said earlier this fall when, at long last, we were able to lay our virtual mitts on these tracks:

“On the long-awaited Double Harmony, which is his tenth record, but more important than that, a record which upon early listens seems at least the equal of his magnificent 2008 release, Circular Sounds, he still has the capacity to surprise.  The title track is in a long line of exquisite Kelley Stoltz rockers; it could have easily been on 2010′s To Dreamers.  But it’s perhaps the only song on the album that doesn’t seem like a departure; throughout, Kelley reveals himself to be more ambitiously setting a bigger sail for a farther port. Go listen to “Still Feel,”   which would seem to contain all of Kelley’s 10-album’s worth of accumulated charm in a single, six-minute goblet.  Aficionados will grok to the considerably better sound quality than has heretofore been served up.  Yes, even when Kelley Stoltz records have have been lower-fi than Tom Thumb they have always been Semper Fi with sonic gorgeousness.  But this sounds as if, though he may be recording at home, someone’s rewired the place.  He is clearly — true anecdote — no longer propping up the mike in his top drawer and leaning over to sing into it; someone — Jack White? — has at least bought him a mike stand.”

 

Tulip Frenzy 2013 Top Ten List ™ Shortlist Announced

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 30, 2013 by johnbuckley100

So we promised Magic Trick that we would wait for River Of Souls, out Tuesday, before locking the ballot box on the Tulip Frenzy 2013 Top Ten List ™.  We  will save them a spot on the shortlist, okay?  Below, in NO PARTICULAR ORDER are the bands in consideration.

At Tulip Frenzy World HQ, the horse trading, lobbying, and outright bribery are in full force.  We’ve cast a sideways glance at our competitors, and let us just say that this was one of the rare years in which we did not automatically scoff at the Uncut Top 50 list, and they did settle one thing for us:  yes, the Parquet Courts album is to be considered this year, even though it actually was released last November.  But no one listened to it until January 1, when we were all suddenly forced to grapple with a) 2013, and b) the Parquet Courts’ greatness.  But mbv as the Album of The Year?  Please, nice to have Kevin Shields back but it’s not really that good.  Still, could have been worse.

We should note that we are NOT considering the Bob Dylan 1969 Isle of Wight release, even though it finally came out this year, and even though it is simply amazing.  Why is it ruled out by the judges? Because we don’t think that’s right to knock a band in their prime out of consideration just because another incredible album fought its way out of the Dylan archives.  But here’s a pretty great set of bands/artists who will be considered:

Houndstooth

David Bowie

Kurt Vile

Phosphorescent

Crocodiles

Robyn Hitchcock

Parquet Courts

Thee Oh Sees

Kelley Stoltz

Magic Trick

Neko Case

Capsula

Deathfix

Secret Colours

Kevin Morby

Wire

First Communion Afterparty

Mikal Cronin

In consideration: 18 artists.  It’s going to be a long few days of wrangling in these here parts. Stay tuned.

 

White Fence “Live In San Francisco” Shows The Benefits Of Tim Presley’s Getting Out Of The House

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , on November 21, 2013 by johnbuckley100

Tim Presley is a remarkable American rock’n’roll talent.  The last Darker My Love album, Alive As You Are, was so great, we awarded it Tulip Frenzy’s 2010 Album of The Year.  Higher-proof praise is legal only in countries that sell absinthe.

‘Cept we nearly did it all over again in 2012, when we called Hair, the album he and Ty Segall released, the second best rec of 2012.

So clearly, our admiration for Presley is up there with the warm feelings we hold for such luminaries as Jean-Claude Killy, Nelson Mandela, and Donald Barthelme.

But the thing is, we didn’t really like his work with White Fence, which most of the time bears the same relationship to a real live rock’n’roll band as, well, Tulip Frenzy bears to a real music blog.  See, White Fence is, in its previous recorded output, basically Presley sitting at home and recording his very interesting, very weird, rather slight songs, probably from his couch.  The White Fence albums are not to be confused with what Ty Segall does in a studio, when what sounds like a guitar army with a gorilla on drums turns out to be Ty alone, spitting out raucous and tuneful magnum opi all by himself.  It’s not like what Kelley Stoltz, just to name another Area Code 415 pop genius, does when he recreates the sound of the Lola Vs. Powerman-era Kinks without any assistance from another living humanoid.  The White Fence records all sound like great demos, and leave us yearning for the “real album” with “a real band.”

By this past May, even though we quite liked Cyclops Reap, we’d taken to comparing Presley to Kurtz, gone up the river, with the need for someone to go bring him back to HQ.  Living on the East Flank of the land, without much access to White Fence live, we were skeptical of listening to a White Fence record that twanged our woogy the way Presley’s work with Darker My Love or young Ty clearly did.  (Remember, we called Alive As You Areperfect record.)

But now comes White Fence: Live In San Francisco, and hallelujah, it is one of the hardest, bossest punk-meets-Byrds-in-Andy-Warhol’s Factory documents that you will ever hear.  Ever.  Great bashing drummer, multiple guitars, Presley singing into the microphone like he means it, it contains none of the fey and tentative, dreamy pop chops that the prior White Fence albums have.  “Pink Gorilla,” which was one of the best songs on Cyclops Reap, is magical, as is the other song from that album, “Chairs In The Dark.”  “Harness” is such gob-flying late ’70s British punk, you can imagine Fred Armisen playing on it.  So of course the Great Man of the Epoch, Thee Oh See’s John Dyer is a prime mover behind the release, and we can only imagine his no B.S. admonition to Presley: Tim, get out of the house and play these songs with a real band.

We are so glad he did.  This is the punk rock Album Of The Year.

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