Archive for Tulip Frenzy Top 10 List

Tulip Frenzy’s Top 10 List Of Color Photographs We Took In 2016

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on December 17, 2016 by johnbuckley100


Leica MP-240, 50mm APO-Summicron Asph

If we are so critical of the music we listen to that, at year end, we actually rank it into Tulip Frenzy’s 2016 Top 10 List (c), shouldn’t we apply the same sensibility to our own photographs?  Well, hard to do, especially with a genuinely self-critical eye.  So should we instead simply list our own favorite photographs from the year without necessarily a rank order? Perhaps that’s better.

With the above image certified by its positioning as our favorite color photograph of the year, let’s follow with nine other favorites that, alas, fall in no particular order.  After all, you wouldn’t really want to list your children in order of favorites, would you?

This is somewhat revealing about a life split between cities and Greater Yellowstone, about photography split between Leica Ms and the new and incredible Leica SL.  What couldn’t make a Top 10 list are photos of tulips, and our other favorite still life images.  So let’s cheat a little. Here are our favorite 10 color images we took this year, followed by a lagniappe, a special gift: two favorite images to offer an even dozen. Oh screw it, three and we will call it a Baker’s Dozen. (You’ll understand why we needed to add that third one…) And tomorrow, or soon, we will publish our favorite black and white images we took in 2016.

Evening Walk

Leica MP-240, 50mm APO-Summicron-Asph

Parade Winner

Leica SL, Vario-Elmarit 24-90

Pride 2016-11Leica Mp-240, 35mm Summilux

SL ReviewLeica SL, 50mm Nociliux

venice-2Leica Mp-240, 50mm APO-Summicron-Asph

t-frenzy-top-10-color-5Leica MP-240, 50mm APO-Summicron-Asph

t-frenzy-top-10-color-4Leica SL, 50mm Noctilux

All Guest WelcomeLeica SL, Vario-Elmarit 24-90

Lamar Sunset 7Leica SL, Vario-Elmarit 24-90

And now, the bonus three images we are compelled to add.


Leica SL, 50mm APO-Summicron-Asph


Leica SL, 50mm Noctilux

And finally, we cannot publish favorite color images for 2016 without this one of our favorite girl, Violet, who died in September.


We Wish We’d Included Violet Woods, Amen Dunes, And Angel Olsen On The 2014 Tulip Frenzy Top 10 List

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on January 4, 2015 by johnbuckley100

It always happens.  We publish the Tulip Frenzy Top 10 List and then discover, often from others’ lists, recs we missed.  So before we tell you what we overlooked, let’s give thanks where it’s due.

From Uncut, we learned about Violet Woods.  From former Woods bassist Kevin Morby, we were turned on to The Amen Dunes.  And from NPR’s Bob Boilen, we learned of Angel Olsen.  Thank you all.

On the self-titled Violet Woods, Fuzzy Lights frontman Xavier — that’s the full name listed in the Uncut write-up — takes us on a quiet ride through British psych pop, and it is sonically gorgeous.  (We hadn’t heard of the Fuzzy Lights either, but that’s a different story.  Let’s just say that Violet Woods is Xavier’s louder band.)  We’re used to smart rock coming out of Cambridge, from Syd Barrett to the Soft Boys to Radiohead, but this is unpretentious guitar jangle that will be reassuringly familiar to anyone who loved The Perfect Disaster or Luna.  If you like Temples, think of  Violet Woods as the quieter, prettier sibling who was grokking on the San Francisco bands, not T. Rex.  We will be listening to this ‘un well into 2015.

That Kevin Morby, whom we admire, felt so strongly about Love, the new album by fellow Brooklynites Amen Dunes, to list it as Numero Uno on his top ten list made us sit up and take notice.  Cut from the same cloth as Kurt Vile and Devendra Banhart, Damon McMahon produces dreamy, droney low-fi pop that can lull and excite at the same time.  It’s a hard combination to pull off, soporific adrenaline, but on the marvelous Love, McMahon and his fellow musicians — usually acoustic guitar, a cello, little to no percussion — produce music for a cold and snowy day.  Gorgeous.

On Burn Your Fire For No Witness, Angel Olsen and a small combo alternately showcase her strikingly emotional quaver against a minimalist acoustic framework and kick the doors down.  It’s a similar dynamic to the one PJ Harvey puts to use, which we know is a hard comparison for a young artist to be saddled with, but yeah.  Angel Olsen’s antecedents are all those strong women who came down out of Appalachian hollers and caused jaws to drop in Nashville, Austin, and New York.  On this album, you have a perfectly self-contained combination of artist and musicians who mesmerize with the rhythm of their counterpoint between hard and soft, hot and cold.

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!”

Woods’ “Bend Beyond” Is A Gorgeous Psyche-Folk-Garage Melange, And A Perfect Album

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , on October 25, 2012 by johnbuckley100

If the slot for shimmering alterna-folk in last year’s Tulip Frenzy Top Ten List ™ had not been taken by Kurt Vile’s Smoke Ring For My Halo, then surely Woods’ Sun and Shade woulda made the cut.  An artisanal byproduct of Platonic Brooklyn, where everything is tasty and hand-crafted and somewhat left of center, Sun and Shade was like a Galaxie 500 record produced by Neil Young, punctuated with 7-minute ambient ragas.  It was pretty great, but excellent as it was, it is still a solid step below Woods’ astonishing Bend Beyond, available now in digital music stores hiding just behind your browser window.

Bend Beyond ranks in the Pantheon with Darker My Love’s Alive As You Are, John Hammond’s Southern Fried, Luna’s Penthouse, and The J. Geils Band.  You know where this is heading: yes, the declaration that Bend Beyond is a *perfect* record.  That’s right, perfect.  As we’ve commented before, perfect records are as rare as baseball pitchers’ perfect games.  (Even with that pronouncement, whether it will end up as Tulip Frenzy’s Album of the Year is not yet known, for as perfect as it may be, and it certainly is, the world has to account, and likely this year, for the greatness that is Ty Segall.  Does “World Historical” beat “perfect”?  We shall see.)

Bend Beyond does something we never even considered possible, it is an expression beyond our previously far too limited imagination, for it melds the aforementioned folk-rock marriage between Neil Young and Galaxie 500 to farfisa-lubricated garage rock with ambient traces of psychedelic fireworks exploding softly on the edge of your vision.  Somehow, like a Ben’n’Jerry’s flavor combo moved to the realm of geographic mash-ups, we have achieved this brilliant union of Brooklyn with Woodstock with Topanga Canyon sliding in muddy goo right on top of it, and the tasty output, while perhaps a mite bit lacking in carnivorous gristle, is nourishing and fine.

Go listen to “Find Them Empty” and tell me to my face that if it were slipped into a pail of nuggets taken from Lenny Kaye’s latest archaeological dig, you wouldn’t think it was the ’60s garage find o’ the year.

Tell me — we dare ye — that if you heard “Cali In A Cup” while lying outside on an autumn sunny day, headphones on while you stared at that red leaf falling from a maple tree, you wouldn’t contemplate chucking it all to go work in some Williamsburg wine bar, dedicating your evenings to reading Richard Brautigan novels.

Play “Is It Honest” loud from your Mustang while driving on Sunset Boulevard, and the remnants of the Paisley Underground would all march out with their hands up, their eyes blinking from behind Roger McGuinn half-shades.  “Hey man, what is that?”

It’s Woods’ Bend Beyond.

Like we said, a perfect album.

UPDATE: And so we find they are playing at D.C.’s Red Palace on November 2nd.  Ho ho ho. Can’t wait.

Do Kurt Vile And The War On Drugs Equal Some Philly Version Of The Elephant 6 Collective?

Posted in Music with tags , , , on December 14, 2011 by johnbuckley100

Just asking.  I mean if all the cross pollination between such bands as The Apples In Stereo, Olivia Tremor Control, and Neutral Milk Hotel make for a rock’n’roll hydra, how are we to think of The War On Drugs and their City of Brotherly Love confrere Kurt Vile, both of which put out pretty interesting 2011 albums?

What got us to thinking about this was their inclusion in the upper reaches of Uncut Magazine’s 50 Best Albums of 2011 list (which eventually they’ll post to their website, which we’ve linked to).  It was a good year for the Uncut list — no more declaring Joanna Newsom or Portishead the Artist of the Year; this time they went with the brave and quite exemplary choice of PJ Harvey.  Too often around this time, Tulip Frenzy is forced to grapple with their championship of artists we’ve completely missed, or at least discovered too late to put on our Top 10 List, such as in 2009 when we only discovered Darker My Love through their high ranking.  This year, there weren’t a lot of surprises, but their putting both The War on Drugs and Kurt Vile in the Top 20 made us give these acts, both of whom we already liked okay, a second look.

We can’ really remember the backstory, whether Adam Granduciel of TWOD played with Vile or the other way around.  We do know that just as The War On Drug’s Slave Ambient is a stronger album than their last ‘un, WagonWheel Blues, Vile’s Smoke Ring For My Halo is stronger than his earlier, and presumably equally ironically titled Constant Hitmaker.   Both albums could use someone springing Phil Spector from jail in order to give ’em an All Things Must Pass work over, as each make an attempt at a Wall of Sound, the problem being their walls are the stuff of the housing bubble, constructed of sheet rock, not granite.  Each of these bands could use a little Apple Corps money thrust upon them, and are worthy of it, or at least a production budget equal to their ambition.

Granduciel and The War On Drugs prove they have more voices than Jimmy Fallon, sounding at times like the Dylan of The Basement Tapes, Arcade Fire, even U2.  “Brothers” is one of the best songs of 2011, even if Slave Ambient, with its pockets of Fripp and Eno aether, ultimately feels a bit insubstantial.  Vile’s entire album, even though it was ranked by Uncut a few notches lower than his pals, has the grit of a recurring dream, even shrouded in low-fi sound gauze.  Yes, there are times you think you’ve listened to this movie soundtrack before — oh yeah, it was Elliott Smith adorning Good Will Hunting — but it’s better than that.  I’ve been listening to both albums constantly for the past week, and conclude that, if there were a fire, and I only had time to download one on a thumb drive, I’d take along Kurt Vile.  His album’s just that bit more haunting, magical.  But then I’d probably sneak back into the inferno to download “Brothers.”  Probably die trying. Worth it?  Time will tell.

Tulip Frenzy’s #1 Album of 2010: Darker My Love’s “Alive As You Are”

Posted in Music with tags , on November 30, 2010 by johnbuckley100

Let us admit that we can’t do better than the wag who said that Darker My Love’s Alive As You Are is “what the Byrds would have sounded like if they’d grown up listening to the Byrds.”  That’s particularly good, because it’s so accurate. Alive As You Are is a throwback that would have seemed derivative if it hadn’t been flawless — a flawless time capsule from the late ’60s woodshedding/gone-to-Marin era, a country rock gem.  One false note and maybe we would have questioned how a band whose leaders had once played with the Fall, and whose drummer was recruited from the Brian Jonestown Massacre, and whose first two albums plied the wire between punk rock and neo-psychedelica, could have produced an album as sunny and light as this.  Tim Presley and Rob Barbato are great singers, and superb songwriters, and these guys are to three-chord rock what Apollo Ohno is to the short track: they are graceful and precise, and know how to make their move.  Alive As You Are at first sounded like some weird detour, but we’ll be surprised if, no matter what sound comes next, they break the phyllo-thin crust of harmony and joy that encased this record so delicately. Since the advent of the cassette deck, we’re hard pressed to remember more than a handful of albums we’ve listened to in their entirety, over and over, without cutting off one downer or dog from our playlist.  The first J. Geils album.  The Clash.  Surfer Rosa by the Pixies. Take It From The Man! Darker My Love has just entered rare company: a band that has made a perfect album.  And in 2010, as in any other year, you can’t beat perfection.

Tulip Frenzy’s #2 Album of 2010: Alejandro Escovedo’s “Street Songs of Love”

Posted in Music with tags , on November 30, 2010 by johnbuckley100

Alejandro’s physical recovery from his collapse seven years ago from Hep C might have been enough: just being able to get out and play again, sober and with his head held high, would have been an accomplishment.   What is even more remarkable than just surviving is that after a perhaps understandably weak post-recovery album, The Boxing Mirror, his music has gotten stronger and better than ever before.  We really like Real Animal, and not just for the way he mined his own story to produce, with Chuck Prophet, a batch of great songs.  We liked how the album had a kick, and showcased a band that could snarl, as if Al wanted the world to know how he used to rock back in the day.  When his acoustic trio came through town a few times since, we saw glimmers of delicacy and power sometimes in the same phrase, and I think we expected his next album would be like one of his solo records from the 1990s, filled with rockers, sure, but notable more for the soft and pretty songs than the ones with punk resolve.  So we were totally unprepared for the sheer roar, the power and might of Street Songs of Love , probably the best album of Alejandro’s long and glorious career, and the hardest rocking album by an American punk this year.  Next year Al will turn 60, but he shows no sign of slowing down, pulling his punches, or going soft.  Thank God for life, sobriety, and whatever underlying rage that keeps propelling him forward.

Tulip Frenzy’s #3 Album of 2010: Kelley Stoltz’ “To Dreamers”

Posted in Music with tags , on November 30, 2010 by johnbuckley100

By what alchemy is it possible that Kelley Stoltz can produce these handcrafted geegaws, mostly playing the instruments all by himself, that still swing like a band playing after midnight, when the crowd’s gone home, just for the sheer joy of proving their craft?  Look, as some folks who hang out in these parts know, we believe an injustice was done to Kelley in 2008 when the jury at Tulip Frenzy awarded Bob Dylan Album Of  The Year honors for Tell Tale Signs, an album of older, unreleased tracks, while Stoltz’ Circular Sounds was clearly the best album recorded and produced in that year.  We would like, this year, to have awarded To Dreamers the laurels, but in the honors race, it was at best this year’s tribune, as the consulship was claimed, fair and square by someone else.  Look, here’s what Kelley Stoltz does: he writes songs that veer from Ray Davies-like storytelling perfection to whimsical explorations of oddball sounds, and makes albums that contain beauty, verve, and kicks.  That’s all.  And he does it with a sense of humor, but mostly the sense of dedication to craft normally thought to be the province of, say, that woman in Naples who spends her entire life sewing just button holes, nothing else.  Like Hans Chew (see below), Kelley Stoltz’s amazing To Dreamers is the kind of album that just doesn’t get made anymore.  Oh, sure, Prince can still crank out two, maybe three albums a day over in Paisley Park, without contact with a single other human being.  Stoltz’ work is more like that first John Fogerty album, that first Paul McCartney album, where an artist creates what he needs from the material he has: his own guitar, bass, and drums.  He does it his way.  We don’t want to emphasize solitude, because for all we know, Kelley may be the life of the party.  What we want to emphasize is craft, deliberation, artistic clarity, dedication.  All bundled up in album filled with whimsy, hooks, and rock’n’roll joy.

Tulip Frenzy’s #4 Album of 2010: Hans Chew’s “Tennessee And Other Stories”

Posted in Music with tags , on November 30, 2010 by johnbuckley100

Interestingly, in the same time frame in which Leon Russell released an album with Elton John — which admittedly we haven’t heard, but which we presume was recorded in a brightly lit, expensive studio, with wet bar and catering — the pianist who seems to have most absorbed the sound from Russell’s first album, Hans Chew, produced a solo album that by contrast is a hand-polished work of understated, oft-time raucous craftsmanship. This is a whole grain and locavore labor of love, a slice of border-state realism produced, where else, in Brooklyn.  If Elton and Leon’s album is a Carnival cruise ship, Tennessee and Other Stories is that Cris Craft beauty you want to cruise around in on top o’ Smoky Mountain lakes.  We admit to being mildly amused by it when first we heard it, but then we just couldn’t quit playing it, until there reached a point that we realized Chew’s roadhouse piano and Three Calendar restaurant home cooking had the grit of substance and the flavor of sweet honey.  And that it might just last, like a raree show oddity, and inspire generations with its purity, its great songwriting, and its quiet authenticity.  And man, this guy can play piano.

Tulip Frenzy #5 Album of 2010: The Black Angels’ “Phosphene Dreams”

Posted in Music with tags , on November 30, 2010 by johnbuckley100

If we’d wanted to have fun at the expense of our critical chops, we might list Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Black Dub, and the Black Keys, all of whom had decent albums in 2010, before these guys.  But the best of the black bands were The Black Angels, whose Phosphene Dreams was a revelation.  Earlier Black Angels’ albums have been one-dimensional affairs, and don’t get me wrong, with these guys, sometimes one dimension is enough.  Phosphene Dreams., though, had playfulness in its late ’60s reverb, and not just drones but melodies, and just as a song shaped up in some kind of predictable form, they’d juggle the iPhone and a new shape would appear.  If you were to draw a Venn Diagram and in one bubble had fellow Austinites the 13th Floor Elevators and, say, the Doors in the other, The Black Angels prowl the overlap.  Yes, too much of what they do is still limited by some of the same elements of beat and vocal phrasing, but this isn’t a band that plays outside the box, this is a band that plays outside the dimensions any box might fit in.  They opened for their pals Black Mountain on tour this fall, but this is one time where the opener’s album may have outshined the headliner.

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