Archive for Top Ten List 2013

The #1 Album On The 2013 Tulip Frenzy Top Ten List ™ Is First Communion Afterparty’s “Earth Heat Sound”

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

You may not be surprised by this choice, given how we raved about it, but we were.  The odds were against our saying Earth Heat Sound was the best album of 2013, because until mid-summer, we’d given up on ever hearing the thing.  

By now you know the saga: Tulip Frenzy’s collective belief that First Communion Afterparty were the best band in America, only to find out, sometime after the fact, that they broke up in 2009 or so.  We despaired of ever hearing this record.  And then came word… a mysterious email from Minneapolis… a hint the band was playing one more time… or maybe twice, as they were going to have a record release party…. Did you say record release?  But this must mean… Yes, and they released it a few weeks ago, and our life is complete.  Well, more complete.

Here’s what we wrote:

“Counter to every storyline you might expect, following the conventions of Hollywood, Earth Heat Sound is no disappointment.  It’s an astonishingly great album, showing the growth we would have expected after Sorry For All The Mondays revealed them to be the single greatest buncha hippies at work in our savage land.  What were the circumstances under which the album was recorded, and how it fits into the saga of their breakup, we do not know.  What we know is that bittersweet feeling of being grateful we have this to listen to, and even more distraught that there may never be anything again quite like it.

“Jesus Told You,” which gets things going, captures what’s so special about this band.  Layers of drums and tambourine undergird Joe Werner’s sitar-treated lead guitar, as Liam Watkins strums and sings along with Carin Barno in some Haight-Ashbury choir.  Watkins’ voice always has a punk rock weariness, but when bassist Sarah Rose and keyboard player Marie DeBris wrap their angelic tongues around Carin’s purty warbles, there’s a Mamas’n’Papas sweetness to the overall psyche effect.  That’s the band in miniature: melodic songwriting, ’60s guitar, a deep-bottomed, energetic rhythm section, and a chorus of voices singing around a campfire in Golden Gate Park during The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.  Sparks fly, timelessness rules.

“Balloons” is a reminder that underneath the dreamy vocals and the layers of guitars and keyboards, this is a band powered by Nic Grafstrom, a drummer of the Aynsley Dunbar/Bev Bevan school o’ tricks.  ”Featherhead,” emanates from the Skyline, Starlight EP, but in this fresh context shows how much growth the band made between that first studio album and this.  ”Field of Flowers/Spring Rites” and “Shone Brightly” are two of the songs that, via YouTube, always promised that when Earth Heat Sound was released, it would be a killer.  Included here, our more than three-year vigil for the album was time well spent.

The antecedent that constantly comes most to mind when listening to FCAP, exemplified by a song like “Sleep Away,” is the Jefferson Airplane, which prior to 1970 not only made great records, they were a fantastic live band. “Featherhead” is that rare song here that shows a contemporary influence, in this case My Bloody Valentine.  It’s the exception that proves the rule: First Communion Afterparty were/are sui generis, a band that harkens to the greatest sounds of the Summer o’ Love, while being utterly contemporary.  Admittedly, ending the album with “21AAA”, a 14-minute song, is a bit of a throwback, and yeah, we’ll listen to it about as often as we listen to Ummagumma, but still.

Well done, First Communion Afterparty.  How a band this original, this fine, this thrilling could slip away from us makes the poignancy of the departure only sweeter.

A public service announcement: to buy Earth Heat Soundgo here.  Order it in vinyl, and you’ll get a card to download it too.”

Yep, still not out on iTunes.  WORTH THE EFFORT to buy via the link above.

The # 2 Album On The 2013 Tulip Frenzy Top Ten List ™ Is Thee Oh Sees “Floating Coffin”

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

Smart readers can probably catch the link between several of our favorite recs this year — John Dwyer of Thee Oh Sees, who is a one-man carnival of fine rock’n’roll.  We love Thee Oh Sees, but never more than when Floating Coffin came out, when we were forced to ask if it was the best album since Meet The Beatles.  As we shall, see, there was one better record in 2013, but that ‘un won by a nostril hair.

As we said at the time:

“Look, Thee Oh Sees will likely always come off on record like a band trying to bottle the sweaty reek of their live set, and make no mistake, Floating Coffin undulates with the bodies in front of the stage, beer spew on party dresses, that 2:00 AM feeling where not only do you realize you can’t get to work the next day, but why should you?  They deliver the epiphany that leads to quitting said job so as to dedicate one’s life to becoming Thee Oh Sees’ roadie, or at least something more productive and meaningful than cubicle life in the Googleplex.  But Floating Coffin does so much more. Just take “Strawberries 1+ 2,” a song that begins like arena rock and ends up like Fripp and Eno.  They may tear up the place, but this is not a bar band.  This is a band that a dozen or so records into their career (we’re serious now) are exploring new territory like lunar captains with a thirst for yonder galaxies.

We thought the bossest pop song of 2012 was Thee Oh Sees’ “Hang A Picture,” which may reveal more about us than it does about them, but the point is — and returning to our initial riff — these guys have confounded the model by which bands that produce new albums every six months just keep playing the same stuff.  You have no idea what Thee Oh Sees are going to come out with next!  A No Wave rock opera.  Speed-metal yodeling.  Eddy Cochran backed by zithers. We are completely serious: this is a band that through sheer dint of trying proves every mother’s maxim that if only little Johnny puts his mind to it, he can do anything.  If little Johnny is John Dwyer, the answer is yes, yes he can.  And you would be well advised to catch up.  Sometimes when a band is so good but has such a head start, you don’t know where to jump in. Floating Coffin is an excellent place to begin.”

The #3 Album On The 2013 Tulip Frenzy Top Ten List ™ Is David Bowie’s “The Next Day”

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

We were astonished then — and are astonished now — that Bowie released an album this year that ranks with Lodger, Station To Station, and Low as high points of a hugely important career.  No, it’s not Diamond Dogs, nor The Rise and Fall Of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars.  But it’s also not any of the albums that from 1980 on devalued what Bowie had done in the ’70s.  When The Next Day came out, we were filled with gratitude, and admiration, and joy that we could listen to late-phase Bowie like we listen to late-phase Dylan: an artist who, in maturity, still is capable of producing important work.

As we said at the time:

“To place what an unexpected pleasure it is to listen to The Next Day, it helps to remember that the last time listening to Bowie made us grin from ear to ear was in the climactic scene in Inglourious Basterds, as Shosanna prepares to burn the theater down, and Tarrantino cribbed from the terrible movie Cat People to play Bowie’s “Cat People (Putting Out Fire)” as the soundtrack to imminent conflagration. It’s not a particularly good song, though by the early ’80s, it seems like it was about as exciting as Bowie could be.  Yet in the context of Tarrantino’s movie, it was hilarious, and gave us a jolt.  But it was also a sad reminder of how much Bowie really mattered to us in the 1970s — during that string of pearls that began with Hunky Dory and did not end until his final fling with Eno in Lodger.

The return of Bowie to relevance and greatness reminds us, actually, of how exciting it was in 1997 to hear Bob Dylan’s Time Out Of Mind.  Good Lord, we thought, as it came on the radio, he still has it, little knowing that Dylan would go on to create at least two albums that rank with anything he did in the ’60s.  And so we hope it is with Bowie, that upon his return at this level of excellence, as a 66-year old, post-heart attack senior citizen, he can keep producing at the level of The Next Day.”

 

 

The # 4 Album On The 2013 Tulip Frenzy Top Ten List Is Mikal Cronin’s “MCII”

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

We loved Mikal Cronin’s MCII so much that weeks after we first heard it, we began to obsess over it.  We literally couldn’t get it out of our mind — or play anything else.  From Ty Segall friend and acolyte, to superstar in his own right, Mikal’s second album was an amazing confection of power pop and rockn’roll, the songwriting strong, the playing sharp.

Here’s what we thought at the time:

“We enjoyed Mikal Cronin’s first solo album, but honestly, the reason we were so interested in him was in his role as a Ty Segal sideman and collaborator. The reflected glory, the association, was sufficient to get our attention, but to hold it, he needed to produce a record we wanted to listen to as avidly as anything done by his harder rocking, shaggy friend.  Happily, now comes his wonderful second album, MCII, which fits directly into a modern power pop milieu familiar to anyone who loves the New Pornographers/A.C. Newman or Brendan Benson/Raconteurs.

But damn if, on the third album’s third song, “Am I Wrong” — the song on which Ty lends a hand — you don’t immediately think of Kelley Stoltz.  Wait, you don’t mean… Yes! We have the missing link!  The twain has met,  Ty Segall and Kelley Stoltz are connected!  See the electricity arc! Somewhere busking in the middle of Union Square, we see Ty and Kelley backing up Mikal, who by now has joined their ranks!

It’s a terrific album.  It would take the FBI to distinguish between the falsetto registers that Mikal and A.C. Newman can sometimes hit, which is a compliment.  In fact, there are moments when we swear we’re listening to the new album by Woods.  But this is a wholly original, deeply satisfying foray into modern American power pop, and wholly worthy of your interest in its own right, not just as an extension of Segallmania.”

 

The #5 Album On The Tulip Frenzy 2013 Top Ten List ™ Is Crocodiles’ “Crimes Of Passion”

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

We hadn’t actually heard the earlier Crocodiles albums, which meant we listened to Crimes Of Passion without the bias of some reviewers who had to establish their dissatisfaction with Crocodiles’ intense love of The Jesus and Mary Chain before they could admit how much fun this was.  Our reaction to the rock critters’ dismissal was, first, JAMC is not such a bad band to worship.  Second, on the magnificent Crimes Of Passion,  Crocodiles were amazingly heterodox, quoting everything from mid-Sixties’ Stones to the best contempo garage bands.  We have listened to this album weekly for months; it is absolutely great.

Or as we said then:

“Crimes Of Passion is so everlasting yummy we are willing to put it up on our current roster of California Hall of Famers including Thee Oh Sees, Ty Segall, and Mikal Cronin.  We can understand why there have been comparisons to the Jesus and Mary Chain, but while such references usually refer to a band fuzzing up a Velvets’n’Beach Boys sound, this reference is different: singer Brandon Welchez sounds a fair bit like Jim Reid, and in context, it does harken to JAMC at their most tuneful.

On Crimes of Passion, Crocodiles throw the Jesus and Mary Chain, Between The Buttons-era Stones, and the garage rock of the Fleshtones into a blender and the result is a Big Gulp smoothee of the best rock’n’roll of the year.  If you’re keeping score at home, this is a band to put money on, as the odds are great you’re going to be hearing about them again when the Tulip Frenzy jury goes into deliberations for our 2013 Top Ten List.  They’re that good.  And between Crimes of Passion and Capsula’s Solar Secrets, we’re reaching for our headphones and the SPF 50, hoping to extend the summer for a few more weeks.”

 

The #6 Album On The Tulip Frenzy 2013 Top Ten List ™ Is Neko Case’s “The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You”

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

When asked to name our favorite American writers, we would put Neko Case up there with Thomas McGuane and Thomas Pynchon.  When asked to name our favorite singers, she’s in a category of, if not one, at least on the tippy top shelf.  We loved this album when it was released at summer’s end, and think it is her finest work, not including some of the high points of The New Pornographers sonic output.

When it came out, we said this:

“Lest you think, from the title, that Neko’s joined Fiona Apple’s ranks, The Worse Things Get… is the least baroque, most straight ahead rock’n’roll album of her distinguished solo career, even as it retains all of the complex folk song structures we’ve grown to love.  For someone who was introduced to most of  the world through the high camp pop dynamics of the New Pornographers, Neko’s solo albums have always been something way different, as different from those albums as Utah’s Dirty Devil River is from Vancouver Harbour.   We have loved Neko’s voice from the first moment we heard it, but if you had to mark the moment it truly captured our heart, it was actually when she sang backup to Sally Timms on the Mekons’ “City of London” on Journey To The End Of Night. There was just something about the emollient power of her vocals that lassoed our left ventricle and yanked.  But there was such a leap between the pop dynamics of her early role in the New Pornos, which eventually morphed into true co-equal status with A.C. Newman, and the solo albums she recorded with the likes of Calexico and Giant Sand, that while we admired the raw ambition of her songwriting, we didn’t really love the albums.  They were work, punctuated by some songs so great you immediately created a new playlist just to have them star on it.

Even on the great Blacklisted, in which Neko’s funny, marvelous lyrics seemed like a beautiful woman spouting Kant, just to show she’s not just another pretty face, we found the music slow going.  Again, the metaphor to torture is these songs were often like a creek in the beautiful high desert compared to the easy and torrential flow of the Columbia, up there in the geography of the New Pornographers.  We didn’t much enjoy Fox Confessor Brings The Flood,  though Middle Cyclone took on some of the aspect of her satisfying solo album, The Tigers Have Spoken, on which, with a great live band, she kicked ass.  We played Middle Cyclone a lot.  But since we’ve downloaded The Worse Things Get, we can’t stop listening to it — an indicator this is something different, something a little easier, poppier, and yeah, better.”

To our ears, it has only gotten better in the subsequent months.

 

 

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.”

 

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