Archive for Tulip Frenzy Top 10 List

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.

Tulip Frenzy’s #6 Best Album of 2010: Black Mountain’s “Wilderness Heart”

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

Black Mountain has come a long way since Stephen McBean allegedly named the band for the stash of Afghani piled high on the table in front of him.  While their early sound owed much to No Wave bands and Pere Ubu, and while McBean’s protean songwriting takes on so many shapes he has to channel different songs between Black Mountain and the Pink Mountaintops, what they’ve grown into is a classic, early ’70s album-rock band with strains of metal and folk and punk.  It’s a pretty great combination, and when Wilderness Heart was released Tulip Frenzy rejoiced.  We like the formula — Seconal riffs followed by Sandy Denny folk followed by real rock’n’roll — and we like McBean, who is shaping up to be one of the most interesting figures in rock.  We love Amber Webber’s ululations, and whether it’s pounding out riffs in Black Mountain, or plying the B.C. villages with the Canadian equivalent of Americana with their band Blood Meridian, we have a soft spot for the immensely talented Matt Camirand (bass) and Joshua Wells (drummer extraordinaire.)  The novelty of Jeremy Schmidt’s greasy organ riffs in no small part make the band, but since we weren’t Deep Purple fans the first time round, there’s no reason to start being one now.  Still, the way these guys can settle into a groove on stage, and he breadth of McBean’s talents, make us fear the next time we have an opportunity to see them will be in a venue far larger than the 930 Club.  We admire them, and wish them well, even as we fear we’re losing them.

Tulip Frenzy’s #8 Best Album of 2010: Robyn Hitchcock’s “Propeller Time”

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

So we’ve deemed the reissued Exile On Main Street ineligible for consideration because it isn’t wholly new, but after picking up the red flag and going to the viewing booth, the refs have declared Robyn Hitchcock’s glorious Propeller Time (which we reviewed here ) as absolutely kosher, even though it was recorded in 2006.  Recorded and then banked in the vast vault in which, who knows, he may have six or seven folk-rock masterpieces stashed away, like that electrician who just showed up with 100 some-odd Picassos.  Not everything Robyn Hitchcock does merits accolades; too many of the acoustic guitar and piano ventures exhibit an excess of energy and an inability to edit.  But Propeller Time, while not as fine as Goodnight Oslo (recorded later, we believe, with the same musicians, including Peter Buck) still shows signs of his 4th Quarter rally, and mixes breathtakingly beautiful melodies with humor and rock’n’roll verve.

The Official Tulip Frenzy 2009 Top Ten List

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on November 24, 2009 by johnbuckley100

Just in time for your holiday shopping… the gang at Tulip Frenzy World HQ has voted.   The best albums of 2009 were:

1.  Sonic Youth    “The Eternal”

They are not young, though they’re certainly youthful, and while some of Sonic Youth’s most devoted fans would recoil at this judgment, Tulip Frenzy thinks 2006’s Rather Ripped and this year’s The Eternal are the best records they’ve released since the mid-’80s.  Incredibly sharp, able to turn on a silver dime, Sonic Youth have still got the basic formula of punk rock punctuated by sudden aural entropy.  Beat that.  And this year, no one could.

2. Assemble Head In Sunburst Sound  “When Sweet Sleep Returned”

We have asked ourselves if this is love on the rebound, if the reason we were so drawn to the second Assemble Head In Sunburst Sound album is because the other bestest neo-psychedelic band in the land, First Communion After Party, failed to release an album this year.  But it’s not true.  When Sweet Sleep Returned is equal parts spectacular San Fran guitar attack and dreamy loveliness.  This is a band that can rock as hard as The Warlocks, and then pivot to an interlude of, well, inter-‘ludes. This one filled our head with sunburst and other sounds throughout much of the summer and fall.

3.    Robyn Hitchcock   “Goodnight Oslo”

Yes, we’d probably enjoy Robyn Hitchcock singing an entomology textbook, and sometime over the past 30 years that he’s beguiled us, we probably have.  That he’s never sounded more self-assured, that his band has Peter Buck and Scott McCaughey playing in it, that(for the most part) he actually dropped the irony and insect bit to sing incredibly punchy pop songs wound ’round the twanging Byrdsy lead guitar he’s been brandishing since the Soft Boys rendered this Frequent Spinner Miles on our office playlist.

4.  Neko Case   “Middle Cyclone”

Here’s how important Neko Case is: because she wanted to push her own album this year, two of our favorite bands — The New Pornographers and Calexico — essentially sat the year out, the former because without Neko, why play?  the latter because they were backing her up.  Forget Neko’s pipes, her incredibly loud tomboy holler, this is a songwriter in the Flannery O’Connor tradition.  Middle Cyclone is a career highlight, and what a career this is proving to be, parked in the middle of the base path between alt.country and the hippest rock around, daring someone to tag her out.

5.  Reigning Sound   “Love And Curses”

It didn’t top their imperfectly heralded masterpiece, Time Bomb High School, but the Reigning Sound’s Love and Curses had me the moment I realized Greg Cartwright’s my favorite rock singer probably since John Lennon.  Just thinking about how a garage band laboring in the grease and sawdust of Asheville, NC could put out a record that spans the whole of rock’n’roll, with a dollop of blue-eyed soul, a sprinkle of punk, and a scoche of roots rock for good measure unpacked smiles wherever they were heard.

6.  Tinariwen  “Imidiwan: Companions”

We’re still trying to fathom how the most compelling Delta blues band we’ve heard since the Jelly Roll Kings conquered Arkansas could have emerged from the Touareg lands of Mali, but by now Tinariwen has figured out how to mix the village singalong with the ululations of the women folk atop an undulating beat that feels like you’re hanging on to a fast camel.  Never expected to spend this much time listening to music from the Sahara.  We’re glad we did, even if they may be a Khaddafian plot more diabolical than his hiring Italian models just to listen to him read the Koran.

7.  The Decembrists  “The Hazards Of Love”

We got over the need for concept albums around the time the Kinks stopped touring behind Preservation, but in another cultural mashup, The Decembrists, citizens of Portland, Oregon, released the best British folk album since Fotheringay.  Awfully pretty, ambitious, and bold, the only grabbing of the stereo dial this prompted when it came on in the car was to turn the volume up.

8.  Pearl Jam   “Backslider”

What does it say about music in Anno Domini 2009 that the finest punk rock extant was from Pearl Jam?  We are as sincere as they are; we’ve never been snide about these guys, and do not put irony on a higher shelf than straightforwardness, of which they’ve also carried a copious supply.  Apparently, boys just want to have fun, and it really sounded like they did making this excellent return to form.

9.  Wilco “Wilco”

Wilco, the album, was a bit of a let down for Wilco, the band.  But even when they miss the mark, they hit the spot, with an album that sounded like master musician Nels Cline wasn’t too proud to invoke his inner Wilbury.  Look, we expect something more from a band that, since 2001’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, has been in a league of their own. As it is, Wilco, the album, kept up the streak of us playing Wilco, the band for half the year’s weeks, and when you think about it, dominating 26 weeks of any given year for this long is like Threepeating the NBA Finals or something.

10.  Cracker  “Sunrise In The Land of Milk and Honey”

It’s not the soft spot we have for David Lowery that got this one clinging to the bottom rung of Tulip Frenzy’s Top Ten list.  Sure, after listening to enough Pearl Jam, you might want some irony, and Lowery’s served it up in spades, both in this Southern combo and among their West Coast brethren, Camper Van Beethoven.  The actual irony is just how much that Pearl Jam album reminded us of the near-equal grip Cracker has on those punkrock power chords.  You can’t have too much fun, and we thank the Lord on a regular interval that this too is Cracker’s attitude.

Pens Down, Ballots In: Top Ten List Imminent

Posted in Music with tags on November 24, 2009 by johnbuckley100

So maybe The Chesterfield Kings live album is the greatest live ‘un since Get Yer Ya-Yas Out (actually, it does sound pretty great.)  Doesn’t matter.  Pens are down.  Watch for the Official Tulip Frenzy 2009 Top Ten List of the best music out this year to be published imminently.  10-9-8-…

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