Archive for Ty Segall

Ty Segall’s “First Taste” Is Simply Delicious

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on August 5, 2019 by johnbuckley100

Adding by subtracting, Ty Segall’s First Taste has a maximalist sound even though there’s not a single electric guitar played on it. What we have instead are Oh Sees-sounding double drums, mandolin and bouzoukis, and erstwhile wingman Mikal Cronin’s No Wave horn bleats cooking up a stew that, from first taste to last, satisfies the soul.

After twelve albums under his own name, three in the last year alone, is the notion of creating a rec without his trademark guitar just a gimmick? Here’s the official Tulip Frenzy take, based on late night debate and deep contemplation:

Many years ago, the novelist Walter Abish wrote Alphabetical Africa. This was an entire novel based on a concept of limitation: Chapter One was composed entirely of words beginning with the letter A, Chapter Two introduced words beginning with B, and so on until by Chapter 26 he had the whole alphabet at his disposal, only to limit himself, letter by letter, chapter by chapter, until he returned to just A in Chapter 52. That’s a gimmick! Pretty cool one – Abish pulled it off — but a gimmick nonetheless.

Ty’s playing with bouzoukis, double drums, multiple horns, mandolins and keyboards BUT NOT AN ELECTRIC GUITAR isn’t a gimmick or a limitation. In fact, this is his most maximalist album ever — and also, we must say, one of his very best.

Since the eponymous Ty Segall 18 months ago, the young genius has put out albums with White Fence, Gøng, and God knows who else, but he’s also produced, in Freedom’s Goblin, his first ever Tulip Frenzy Album o’ the Year, not to mention, earlier in 2019,, an incredible Steve Albini-produced live album (Deformed Lobes.) Ty was already free of expectations and limitations. He is producing consistently great work, without any need to play the role of guitar hero. He can do whatever the fuck he wants, even an album without a guitar lick. And of course he pulls it off.

In the past 18 months, he has produced songs that can be likened to the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Santana, James White and the Blacks/Contortions, and Neil Young, to name a few. On the guitar-less First Taste, we detect notes of the Mekons (the bouzouki rock), the Brian Jonestown Massacre (the sitar rock of the amazing “Radio”), and Thee Oh Sees, oh, everywhere. But it’s all Ty, plus his chums Charles Moothart (who co-drums with Ty,) and the aforementioned Cronin.

His palate is as broad as his palette. And his talent is nearly immeasurable. If for some bizarre reason — you’ve been held captive in the trunk of a car, you are just now returning from dog sledding to the North Pole — your exposure to Ty Segall has been limited, take a taste. The first one’s free. And I bet you can’t just eat one.

Almost At The Year’s Midpoint, Wand’s “Laughing Matter” Is The Best Album of 2019

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on May 20, 2019 by johnbuckley100

We’ve waited a month to review Laughing Matter, because we wanted to be certain. In that first rush when a great album suffuses synapses with the promise of a wild evening ahead — before the huge bats screech and swoop around the car, before you realize it’s been a week since you listened to anything else — it can be easy to proclaim that such-and-such is the best thing since The Beatles. A month in, though, and it’s clear Laughing Matter holds the high ground. It’s going to take the second coming of The White Album for any other band to produce a better one this year.

Wand has come a long way in a short time. The burst of activity that produced Golem and Ganglion Reef back to back between August 2014 and March 2015 might have led you to think singer/guitarist/songwriter Cory Hanson and epic drummer Evan Burroughs were on the metal end of mentor Ty Segall’s furious seesaw. But then came Catholic twin 1000 Days, a third album released just 395 days after the first album, and it was already a far more sophisticated outing every way.

Wand at the Black Cat in 2015

None of this prepared us for Plum, Tulip Frenzy’s 2017 (Co-) Album o’ The Year, when an expanded band could now produce rock’s only known song about the retirement of Charles De Gaulle. One had to grok on the leap Wand had taken to become, as we noted then, peers with Ty, Thee Oh Sees’ John Dwyer, and White Fence’s Tim Presley as not only the West Coast’s most fearsome progenitors of ace albums, but among the finest live bands in the world. It was, and is, a stunning album, and 18 months in, we listen to it all the time.

Wand at DC 9 in 2017

Last year, we had to determine whether Perfume, the abbreviated follow-up to Plum, was long enough to qualify for the same track as all the pretty horses in contention for the 2018 Tulip Frenzy Album o’ The Year honors.

Here’s how we described the deliberations: “Some of our editors held out the verdict that, at just under 30 minutes, Wand’s Perfume was more like an E.P.  At least not like a proper album, especially since last year’s Plum was clearly deserving of its (Co-) Album of the Year status.  But then we sat down the recalcitrant judges and played them the beautiful “I Will Keep You Up” and they began to weaken, one of the holdouts even willing to say, “That’s the most sublime song Cory Hansen has ever written and Wand’s ever released.” It was when we all listened together to the Tom Verlaine-like guitar perfection of “The Gift” that towels were thrown in and it was clear: Wand’s Perfume is a real album, and the 5th best of 2018.”

Wand’s Laughing Matter is the strongest album of A.D. 2019 to date. It has the heft of a double album, as if making up for Perfume‘s deficiencies, length-wise. It also contains two of the most gorgeous songs I’ve ever heard, the back-to-back showstoppers of “Rio Grande” and “Airplane.”

At first I didn’t understand all the Radiohead comparisons rock critters were throwing at ’em, because to me Laughing Matter just sounded like the inevitable next step after Plum and Perfume. I mean, Wand’s growth since 2014 rivals, I dunno, The Beatles between 1963 and 1968, but somehow I missed framing them within Radiohead’s geometry. The last two albums already showed Cory Hanson playing guitar in the same league as Tom Verlaine and Nels Cline, and the yin/yang between their minimalism and maximalism is one of the most unique experiences in rock.

But after a while I began to get it — Cory’s voice, while not as pretty as Thom Yorke’s, has some of the same delicacy and range, and they are now operating on a sonic scale comparable only to bands with the ambition of Radiohead and Wilco. Yes, arena bands, considered the finest of their era. And the last time we saw Wand play, it was at DC9 with its sub-200 capacity. (This is the tragedy of modern music, and don’t get us started.)

Sofia Arreguin’s voice is genuinely welcome addition, and the interstitial electronica that punctuates the album sounds like old school Cluster/Harmonia, which you must know makes me happy. We don’t often invoke Pitchfork’s writers, but Brian Howe got off a good ‘un in his stellar review a month ago when he allowed as how, on the album opener “Scarecrow,” “it sounds like Evan Burrows is playing his drums with dinosaur bones.” Yeah, from its opening notes the album packs a wallop, and one song in, on “Xoxo,” we are mesmerized.

The expanded band — two guitars, bass, drums and keyboards — plays brilliantly, flawlessly on this magical album with its poignant invocation of travel and love and traveling with and without one’s love. While wholly original, yes, we understand how Wand has absorbed lessons from both Radiohead and My Bloody Valentine. Which if you think of this last sentence, is like saying a writer has absorbed lessons from, say, James Joyce and Thomas Pynchon — I mean if you are going to be in any way derivative, aim high.

Wand shoots the moon with Laughing Matter, and it ain’t funny. It took me a month to be sure. This is the single best album since at least White Fence’s For The Recently Found Innocent, only the best album released in 2014, the year Wand came on the scene as a recording group. We don’t know what the rest of 2019 is holding back from us, nor the years ahead. All we know is that Wand is in the front ranks of our era’s greatest bands, and in Laughing Matter they have released a masterpiece. Again.

By a Muddy Furlong, FEELS’ “Post Earth” Is the Best Record of 2019 So Far

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on March 22, 2019 by johnbuckley100

In the summer of 2016, FEELS — an L.A. punk band we would never have discovered but for the fact that their eponymous first album was produced by Ty Segall — made us grin from ear to ear. Their musical lineage was as easy to identify as a freckle-faced redhead standing between two auburn-haired adults. Hole must have married X, we thought, and spawned a precocious young ‘un. It was one of those instantly fun records for which you willingly risk permanent hearing loss, because the only way to listen to it was to crank it through your earbuds loud enough that your public transport seat mates stare straight ahead even as they edge away. Did that for about a month solid, and promptly forgot about them.

Well, not entirely. A year later, the estimable Kevin Morby released Shannon Lay’s solo album on his Woodsist imprint, and it was a pretty, folky wonder all the more notable for the fact that the lovely singing and acoustic finger-picking came courtesy of one of FEELS’ two guitarists. Living Water was a complete non sequitur, like learning that before Nick Drake released Pink Moon, he played lead guitar for Free or something. Shannon Lay’s solo album was delicate and melodic, and BORE ABSOLUTELY NO RESEMBLANCE to the raucous, minimalist band that Segall had taken to the studio the year before.

Those two records were sufficiently great, and the musical distance between them was as alluringly broad as the Grand Canyon’s North and South Rim, so that when Post Earth was released in late February, we didn’t need to be asked twice to listen to it. It’s the best record we’ve heard so far this year, and by a muddy furlong.

Concept album, sorta, it starts with an obvious reference to our current situation: “All smiles DJT/War dogs on the street/The land of the free/One nation under fraud.”

By the end of the record we are “Post Earth,” and why not? If these guys are rocking on Mars, it would be well worth the trip.

Like getting your DNA profile back from 23 and Me, on their second album, we’ve discovered FEELS has relatives we never knew they had, and of course Sleater-Kinney gets a prominent branch on the family tree. But aside from placing them in their rough taxonomy, the only things you really need to know about FEELS are these: their songs pack a post-punk punch. And whereas on their first rec some of the tunes might take odd detours from the melody, on this ‘un, Laena Geronimo and Shannon Lay never veer far from hummability, and they are warbling angels even if they candy-crush it for a few measures before returning us back to a state of Pylonesque grace. There isn’t a dull moment on the record. It is absolutely astonishing, and deserves to be mentioned in the same paragraph as Gang o’ Four’s Entertainment and Sleater-Kinney’s Dig Me Out, to name two records you know they’ve listened to.

Look, this is shaping up to be a good year. We love Hand Habits’ gorgeous placeholder and The Brian Jonestown Massacre hits at least a few points better than Anton Newcombe’s late-season batting average. We just this morning downloaded Its Real by D.C. homegirl Mary Timony’s Ex Hex, and it is a powdered party in a packet, ready to be added to nitroglycerine. Capsula are back with Bestiarum, and the best punk band in Bilbao is once again rocking Spain so hard, we expect to see Iberia floating toward the Canary Islands. Yes, of course, it will be a national holiday when Wand’s Laughing Matter gets released, and what the Cosmonauts have let us hear from Star 69 gives us veritable chills. And Great Googlymoogly, the Mekons return to the scene in the weeks ahead.

But if the year ended today, Post Earth would grab the laurels, and we’d be happy. Coming around the track near the end of the first quarter, FEELS leaves everyone else wiping their goggles.

Coming To Terms With Tim Presley of White Fence

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on March 2, 2019 by johnbuckley100

Let’s start this here. The most interesting modern music since 2010 has been created by three Californian men, John Dwyer of Thee Oh Sees, Ty Segall of 1000 bands, and Tim Presley, mostly of White Fence. Of the three, Presley is — to me — the most enigmatic, the most frustrating, and in many ways, the greatest genius. We come here not to bury Presley, but to praise him.

It’s not a competition, really. In his various incarnations around Thee Oh Sees, Oh Sees, OCS, etc., Dwyer has produced a world of music that is never uninteresting. Ty Segall has made the classic rock’n’roll of our time, his impressive work ethic and protean abilities dazzling us with his growth into a towering industry unto himself. Both Dwyer — by recording 2013’s White Fence: Live in San Francisco — and Segall — by teaming up with Presley for two albums, Ty Segall and White Fence’s 2012 Hair and last year’s Joy, not to mention going into the studio with him and playing drums on the 2014 White Fence masterpiece, For The Recently Found Innocent — have helped their genius pal record the work that, were a comet to hit Los Angeles tomorrow, he’d be remembered by for all eternity.

Presley is the Bode Miller of rock’n’roll, often frustrating because he doesn’t live up to the potential others define for him — okay, me — but when he’s on, he gets gold medals, he is astounding. As with Bode, you get the feeling that Presley doesn’t really give a shit. Several of the albums he’s recorded under the name White Fence consist of tapes made in his room and released into the world in underwhelming lo-fi. Yet on Live in San Francisco, backed by an ace band, at the 2015 Levitation festival in the mud outside Austin where we first saw him, and — we’re getting there — last Monday night in Baltimore — its clear that Presley’s all in, that he can take those slight songs recorded in his bedroom and owing to his genius as guitarist, songwriter and performer, transform them into intoxicatingly weird punk rock grit. He knows what he’s got, he’s casually confident even if somewhat reticent. His talent is not something he wants to just throw away.

If so, though, then why are the two albums he recorded with Cate LeBon under the name Drinks so unsatisfying? Why is the most recent White Fence album — released by “Tim Presley & White Fence” as I Have To Feed Larry’s Hawk — ultimately reduced to a few great songs, two fascinating electronic music experiments, and some noodling you won’t listen to twice? Why the inconsistency? Does he have equally strong convictions about each of his incarnations?

We don’t know. But we know this. Monday night with Ty Segall at Ottobar in Baltimore, the two played glorious psychedelic punk rock. It was occasionally sloppy, a mess. And it was often transcendent. It became evident that in a strange parallel to the role Nick Lowe played with Dave Edmunds when they toured as Rockpile, Segall — the far bigger name, the person who’s cracked at least satellite radio — was there to actualize Presley. Like yeast making bread rise, Segall did his thing, which was to let the 300 thrashing bodies in a little firetrap with un-ironic signs forbidding crowd surfing appreciate the genius that is Tim Presley.

We’ve given up worrying about Tim Presley. We’re taking the long view. His 2010 album with Darker My Love, Alive As You Are, was Tulip Frenzy’s Album O’ The Year, as was White Fence’s For The Recently Found Innocent four years later. The White Fence live album ranks for us up there with Get Yer Ya-Yas Out and Live At Leeds as the best concert recordings ever. Seeing him with Ty this past week made me realize that about 25 minutes of their two albums together is pure and unadulterated bliss, among the best work either has ever made. Among the best music of the past decade.

We’re willing to sit through lo-fi albums made in Presley’s bedroom, underwhelming combos, slight solo albums and the like to get to the good stuff. You see, Tim Presley’s good stuff is for the ages.

Ty Segall’s “Freedom’s Goblin” Is Tulip Frenzy’s 2018 Album O’ The Year

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 2, 2018 by johnbuckley100

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Who are we kidding? Everyone knows the best record of 2018 is the reissue of The Beatles. Unless it was Bob Dylan’s More Blood, More Tracks. But given that technically neither album saw its original release in 2018 — the Beatles record came out half a century ago, and you’d be middle aged if you were born the year of Dylan’s album — let’s make way for the young ‘uns. And in this, 2018 was a good vintage.

1. Ty Segall     Freedom’s Goblin

We could not be happier that Ty released a double album that was chock full o’ classic songs, cooked up on his own or with the usual suspects, Mikal Cronin in particular.  We have been waiting for the better part of the decade for Ty to put everything together, and on Freedom’s Goblin he really did.  Full-band renderings of complete songs, stylistic impatience that heard him sound like Neil Young and No Wave bands nearly back to back, Freedom’s Goblin cemented Mr. Segall’s standing as his generation’s brightest light, even as it stood heads and tails above all others as the Album of The Year. That he subsequently released a prett-y fine rec of covers only brought even deeper appreciation for his version here of Hot Chocolate’s “Every 1’s A Winner,” which would have had Prince clamoring to join Ty’s funky band.

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2. Amen Dunes    Freedom

When Damon McMahon released Love in 2014, it might have landed from outer space; it was so original, so unique in its Freak Folk sound that  it was hard to get a grip on it. We looked forward to its follow up, and when it didn’t arrive the next year or the one after that, we got concerned. In January, though, “Miki Dora” was released and it was astonishing, a song about a real-life ’60s surfer that literally crested at the end, crashing on the beach with melody and power sufficient to sweep us all to sea. Freedom is a beautiful, ambitious and accomplished album, an attempt by McMahon to reach a bigger audience.  It succeeded on all fronts: strong songwriting, incredible singing, and a band that Dylan could snatch for his Never Ending Tour and it would all make sense.

 

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3. Menace Beach      Black Rainbow Sound

We admit that we’d never heard of the Leeds duo until Brix Smith, ex-Fall and current chief pirate in Brix & the Extricated, tweeted in August that she’d contributed to the new Menace Beach album.  One listen and we canceled our summer plans. Black Rainbow Sound may have spent more time in our earbuds than any other record the whole year long. While there were some reference points those of us lucky enough to have heard Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark the first time round, and even Young Marble Giants, could use to place them in their proper taxonomy, we’ve previously written that the combo of AC Newman and Neko Case, otherwise known as the New Pornographers, may be the portal through which to approach Menace Beach. All we know is that there wasn’t an album we listened to the whole year long that trawls as many hooks. Despite its synthetic composition, Black Rainbow Sound is the most natural power pop album of this year and many others.

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4. Brian Jonestown Massacre      Something Else

The Tulip Frenzy conference room erupted in more charges of cheating than were heard anywhere this year other than in the North Carolina Board of Elections, but the prevailing consensus, if not the rulebook, dictated that Anton Newcombe gets special credit unavailable to others.  The fact is, we listened to more good music produced by Anton this year than any other artist, but he’s so fucking prolific, he tends to drop songs that should go on the main album just because they’re done and he has a single he wants to put out. So in our mind — and in our judging — we included “Drained,” the B-side to “Hold That Thought,” which was both the first single and the first song on Something Else, the umptyumpth BJM album of the last decade.  And this put it over the top. Adding just that one song rendered an album featuring “Who Dreams of Cats” — among the best songs of Anton’s career — into something really special.  (The Full Newcombe this year would have included the second album Anton made with Tess Parks, plus that combo’s E.P. featuring “Grunwald,” a song so great Iggy Pop covered it in August.) So, yes, we apply special rules to Anton’s records.  He deserves it, and if you don’t know that, we have nothing to talk about.

 

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5. Wand      Perfume

It was a free for all, the judging room this year.  Some of our editors held out the verdict that, at just under 30 minutes, Wand’s Perfume was more like an E.P.  At least not like a proper album, especially since last year’s Plum was clearly deserving of its (Co-) Album of the Year status.  But then we sat down the recalcitrant judges and played them the beautiful “I Will Keep You Up” and they began to weaken, one of the holdouts even willing to say, “That’s the most sublime song Cory Hansen has ever written and Wand’s ever released.” It was when we all listened together to the Tom Verlaine-like guitar perfection of “The Gift” that towels were thrown in and it was clear: Wand’s Perfume is a real album, and the 5th best of 2018.

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6. Spiritualized      And Nothing Hurt

Jason Pierce famously claimed that And Nothing Hurt would be his final album, until people listened to it, went crazy, and petitioned him to do some more. Happily, we think he’s agreed. This was not as fine an album as 2012’s Sweet Heart, Sweet Light, but that was Spiritualized’s best album since Ladies and Gentleman, We Are Floating In Space, which was only the best album of the 1990s, which was only the best decade of music since the ’60s. So, you can see what And Nothing Hurt was up against, and what it pulled off: a soulful album, sung in Pierce’s typically exhausted voice, but backed up once again with a big band and chorus revolving around the tracks he put down in a home studio. This is a road album, something to put on the cassette deck strapped to the dashboard of the dark green 1971 XKE as you motor on up to the Cotswolds.  Gorgeous stuff.

 

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7. Oh Sees       Smote Reverser

John Dwyer has now recorded five albums with this version of Thee Oh Sees, and in the studio, the double-drum arrangement with him playing guitar like some combo of Hendrix, John McLaughlin and Pere Ubu’s Tom Herman really works.  Smote Reverser had the same combination of well-strategized opuses and songs that crush the skull.  On a song like “Last Peace,” which opens up into free-wheeling punk jazz that thrills the soul while still stunning the senses, it works.  On Deep Purple-inflected crushers like “Enrique El Cobrador,” we admit we yearn for the comparative delicacy of earlier incarnations. Still, in a year when Ty Segall takes top honors, we’re glad that Dwyer’s still in scoring distance. Next year could be his year.

 

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8.  Parquet Courts     Wide Awaaaake

The Parquet Courts have, since 2013, been such a reliable producer of great records we’ve overlooked ’em when it comes time to hand out the prizes.  Parquet Courts? Oh yeah, sure, I only listened to their record for, like, the entire summer, but now I’ve moved on to other things… Not this year! Like fellow Brooklynites Woods, Parkay Quartz have figured out how to incorporate reggae, Latin and ’70s funk into their output, and it’s all really good! These guys are so much of an institution that a band like Bodega could put out an album that is to Parquet Courts as, say, Teenage Fanclub were to Big Star, and no one even mentioned the pure homage! We love this band, and Wide Awake is just begging for the uninitiated to take the plunge.

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9. Calexico       The Thread That Keeps Us

Seeing Calexico again was one of the highlights of 2018, and so was listening to The Thread That Keeps Us, their best album since 2008’s Carried To Dust. The sheer conceptual grandeur of Joey Burns and John Covertino’s particular take on music that straddles our southern border had tremendous resonance in a year when evil forces tried to turn that permeable membrane into cement. When we hear the Mexicali horns on “Under The Wheels,” synapses fire like our taste buds after biting into a pepper. This is the soundtrack of America as it actually is, not as it is wished to be by MAGA-hatted assholes.

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10. The Limiñanas      Shadow People

Our year began in the cold of January listening to the hypnotic, glorious sounds of The Limiñanas, a duo from Perpignon, France caught deep in Anton Newcombe’s orbit, Praise the Lord. In fact, the song “Istanbul Is Sleepy” features Anton on vocals, and it may be his most powerful singing performance of the year. There is something about the infectious, garage propulsion of this band that makes one think of late night bacchanalia after the grapes are in, when Peter Hook plugs in his bass, as he did on this record, and Anton plugs in his guitar, and we’re all crawling over the stage in some cavernous warehouse, grokking deeply the global glories of rock’n’roll where you don’t even need to speak the language to know what’s great. Shadow People was incredible, and so are The Liminañas.

SHOCKER: Tulip Frenzy Jurors Deadlock, as Kelley Stoltz’ “Que Aura” and Wand’s “Plum” *TIE* for 2017 Album Of The Year

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , on December 2, 2017 by johnbuckley100

 

Dateline WASHINGTON — For the first time in the more than 10-year history of Tulip Frenzy’s annual Top 10 List of the year’s best albums, jurors were unable to reach a decision on the #1 Album Of The Year.  

Deadlocked between Kelley Stoltz’s Que Aura and Wand’s Plum, the publication’s editorial staff emerged from an all-night session that left Tulip Frenzy World HQ’s rumpus room as wrecked as Keith Richards’ teeth, pinned two album covers on the bulletin board, and collapsed in the lobby. Deliberations were so heated that hours later, when it was suggested that Kelley Stoltz should be listed before Wand — because both K and S precede W in the alphabet — new skirmishes broke out, until finally it was decreed that while alphabetical order would rule, readers should be informed that this ordering in no way implies Plum was any less stellar than Que Aura.  So, this ordering in no way implies Plum was any less stellar than Que Aura.

#1 Album of 2017 (tied): Que Aura by Kelley Stoltz

After having provided us with such immense pleasure over the past decade, and twice landing records in our Top 10 List, Kelley Stoltz triumphed in 2017 with possibly the best music of his career.

In October, when we caught up to Kelley Stoltz’s magnificent ninth album, Que Aurawe wrote:

“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’ as among 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 all 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 master, Mr. John Dwyer.  Out of 11 songs, there are but 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.”

We concluded, “We already have raved about Kelley Stoltz a time or two, given his records received high 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.”

We did not at that moment know how moved the Tulip Frenzy staff would be, insisting that Que Aura should take home all the marbles (tied).

Anyone who ever grokked the Beatles, was transfixed by Echo and Bunnymen, fell for David Bowie, or adored the Kinks should instantly adopt Kelley Stoltz as a cause.  Happily, Que Aura is an excellent place to start and it is Tulip Frenzy’s #1 Album of 2017 (tied).

#1 Album of 2017 (tied): Plum by Wand

On their fourth album, the young Angelinos who make up Wand recast themselves entirely.  A band whose first record was produced by Ty Segall, and sounded like it — raw guitar with metal roots, drums like rhinos escaping fire, Sabbath fuzz-tone bass guitar punctuated by the occasional acoustic hoedown — has grown enormously in the three years and three albums since.  In fact, we’d go so far as to say that in 2017, Wand have made the leap from being the little bros of Ty, Thee Oh Sees, and White Fence, emerging as the fourth leg of a sturdy West Coast table set for a long and glorious banquet.

After seeing them play an incredible set at DC 9, we wrote:

“We feel like Wand has grown up before our eyes, from their 930 Club debut in 2014 opening for Ty Segall to their stunning show at the Black Cat in 2015.  From the release of Ganglion Reef to Plum, they’ve grown from songs with titles like ‘Flying Golem’ and ‘Reaper Invert’ to becoming surely the only rock band extant to write a poignant song called ‘Charles De Gaulle.’”

We concluded, “Wand is at the height of their powers, but writing that we know they still have plenty of room to grow.  Some strong albums have been released this year by both Ty Segall and West Coast giant John Dwyer, whose Oh Sees made our August.  But among the West Coast’s finest, Wand’s come out on top, the best young band working today.  We stand back in awe at the prospect of what they’re capable of.”

With Plum, Tulip Frenzy’s #1 Album of 2017 (tied), Wand has cast its spell. We expect the world will be transfixed for a long time to come.

#3 Album of 2017: Orc by Oh Sees

In Orc, the 19th album John Dwyer has released under a rubric somewhere in the vicinity of Thee Oh Sees, he produced nothing less than a masterpiece.  Which is pretty good, since once again Dwyer is threatening to mothball Thee Oh Sees and go off hunting new whales in distant far-flung seas.

In August,we wrote:

“Here’s all you need to really know, if you are not someone whose large ganglia have twitched to Dwyer’s yips and the propulsive drumming of his 100-horsepower twin tyros lashed to the back of his guitar work.  The big question about punk rock was always what it would turn into when the primitives learned to play.  You know, not every band could be the Clash and by Sandinista be playing Mose Allison covers and pushing at the forefront of what then was called rap.  But at least three recs ago, Dwyer showed he could play guitar like Jimi Hendrix.  That he could compose complex rock songs with a power and beauty that rivaled anyone who’s ever admitted to participating in the genre.  That he seriously could, on the same album, mix punk, prog rock, garage, psychedelia, and pop.

“Last year, on the matched pair albums of An Odd Entrances and A Weird Exits we really could see adding jazz and Krautrock to that list. He is the magpie’s magpie, but that implies a lack of originality and in fact he’s the opposite.  A guy who as recently as 2011 was playing punk rock at high speeds is now capable of anything.  Here’s an example: on Orc‘s ‘Keys To The Castle,’ we start out on a light jog, John Dwyer singing harmony with (we hope) once + future Oh Sees singer Brigid Dawson, and ‘fore ya know it we’re traversing a steeper pitch with some classic punk chords as the song intensifies.  And then there is a pause… and we come back at slow mo’ speed with cello and organ and synth, in a lovely electric piano chordal half-walk, the sounds of space wrapping your face, and for the next four minutes, you are in a dream.”

We’re still dreaming, and listening to Orc as much as any Thee Oh Sees album not called Floating Coffin.  (It’s their best rec, and we listen to it weekly.). Orc is in that special category of albums we know will be copied from hard drive to hard drive all the way down to the iPhone LXV, the iPad Pro Invisible and beyond.

#4 Album of 2017: Robyn Hitchcock by Robyn Hitchcock

More than 35 years since he left the Soft Boys and released his first solo album, Robyn Hitchcock introduced himself to the world as Robyn Hitchcock, his most satisfying album since the Reagan Administration.  And when we say that, no one should think he’s been hiding under a rock — he’s placed high on the Tulip Frenzy Top 10 List (c) at least three times since 2008.

Last spring, when his eponymous umpteenth record was released, we went to see him play a solo set at nearby Jammin’ Java and had this to say about his new record:

“Hitchcock makes his home these days in Nashville, and thank Heaven he does, because his neighbor, Brendan Benson, was inspired to produce his newest record, requesting that it sound like The Soft Boys.  Robyn Hitchcock, released in late April, does sound like The Soft Boys’ two ’70s records, as well as his first solo album, Black Snake Diamond Role, which came out in ’81. Truth be told, it also sounds like the 19 studio albums he’s released since then.  That is the purest of compliments. Few are the artists who have changed so little over 40 years — and thank God for that.

“To the uninitiated: if you want a good entry point to Hitchcock’s work, at age 63, his new album provides it. From the hard rocking opener, “I Want To Tell You About What I Want,” to the gorgeous closer, “Time Coast,” it touches every base.  When rock critters describe Hitchcock’s influences and antecedents, Dylan, the Beatles, Kinks, and Byrds are the first references, with those looking to score points throwing Captain Beefheart in — not because he sounds like Don Van Vliet (though they do each possess multi-octave voices), but because of his absurdist sense of humor.  On the new record, Hitchcock sounds like… Dylan, the Beatles, Kinks, and Byrds, which is to say, after 40 years of record making, he sounds like Robyn Hitchcock, an artist who should be in their ranks, but somehow isn’t, except in our house, and those of uplifting gormandizers.”

You can probably tell from how that Tulip Frenzy piece ended just how much we have invested in Mr. Hitchcock: “Robyn Hitchcock is a national treasure — and he’s ours now, fuck Britain.  His shows should be performed at the Verizon Center, or at least he should be able to tour, like his hero Bob Dylan, minor-league ballparks.  At Jammin Java Wednesday night, he began his two sets with Dylan’s “Not Dark Yet,” and concluded it with “Visions of Johanna.”  In addition to covers of songs by Nick Drake and The Doors, he played 20 originals spanning 40 years of our devoted fandom, 40 years of pleasure. His body of work is so rich he could play 19 songs not on our list of his greatest ones and the evening still was glorious. That he is hilarious and eccentric is his charm and his undoing.  No one and nothing, not even time and commercial neglect, can take away his greatness.”

#5 Album of 2017: Endless Night by The Vacant Lots

This is the first time the Burlington-NYC duo of Jared Aurtaud and Brian MacFadyen have landed in our Top 10 List, but we doubt it will be the last.  Endless Night is one of those very rare perfect records, every song listenable, the whole greater than the sum of the parts.

Last spring, we wrote:  

“It might be easy to categorize The Vacant Lots as a sophisticated art project, given their album covers are as distinctive as their sound.  But from the very start, Jared Artaud and Brian MacFadyen proved their mix of garage psych and synth-driven pop was aimed at pleasing aural canals.  They have aimed to become a great band, associated with the likes of Dean Wareham, Anton Newcombe, Sonic Boom, and Alan Vega, and their debut album Departure has stayed on our playlist since the summer of 2014.  And yet none of this prepared us for Endless Night, which from its start to its historic finish is astonishing.

“Take the opener, “Night Nurse,” which has Artaud pick out a sinuous rockabilly lead above a disco beat, and quickly transports you into the demimonde of a tiny club, hermetically sealed against outside influences.  We’re going to be in for, well, a pleasurably endless night.  ‘Pleasure & Pain’ is not the first of these songs to call to mind progenitors Spaceman 3 and Spiritualized, and in fact, ‘Dividing Light’ has the power of Jason Pierce’s most compelling work.  Throughout Endless Night, the hitherto unappreciated juxtapositions of disco and techno, psych and soul,  rockabilly and garage, make the blood pulse like Molly just arrived.”

Looking back on our conclusion, we were downright prescient: “With Endless Night, The Vacant Lots serve notice that they’ve entered the front ranks, and we anticipate that when the story of 2017 is told — musically at least — and Top 10 lists are fashioned, The Vacant Lots will be among the last men standing.”

And so, of course, they are.

#6 Album of 2017: City Music by Kevin Morby

Ever since Kevin Morby wandered out of Woods and essentially grew up from his role in The Babies, he’s been a Top 10 threat.  Last year’s gorgeous Singing Saw was a contender, but in a competitive year didn’t quite make it.  But City Music was so good, it likely would have made our list if it had been released in 1968, or ’72, or even that banner year, 1997.

When it came out, we wrote:

“Morby’s voice isn’t particularly expressive, but his songwriting and storytelling more than make up for it, and his ambitions seem to be growing.  On Singing Saw, songs like ‘Dorothy’ and ‘I Have Been To The Mountain’ were so strong that they masked weaker material elsewhere on an album that was pretty universally acclaimed, including in these here parts.  There’s no such problem on City Music: every song, even the cover of the Germs’ ‘Caught In My Eye,’ will make you want to play this album loud enough to bug the neighbors in your stifling apartment building.

“A year ago, when Morby was able to tell the story of how he picked up and moved from Kansas City to Brooklyn, landing a few weeks later in Woods — then and now, a highlight of modern New York bands — the notion of the Bright Lights, Big City luring him from the midwest placed his narrative in familiar terms.  In City Life, he’s made it, he’s gone from the periphery to the center, like Dylan, like Jimmy Reed of Dunleith, Mississippi, who wrote the song, and Jay McInerney of Hartford, Connecticut, who wrote the book.”

Kevin Morby has fully arrived, able to make it in New York — or anywhere, really.  City Music made us appreciate city life in the heat of summer, no small feat in any year.

#7 Album of 2017: Ty Segall by Ty Segall

Ty came back from Emotional Mugger with a self-titled record that some compared to a greatest hits album.  There were tuneful pop songs, Lennon-esque rockers, trademark punk scrawlers — any of which could have found a home in his cornucopia of self-recorded, self-produced records released into the wild since the last decade.  But a compendium of familiar styles is not really a fair description, as there were new twists and turns that made us clutch the handle, lest we get flung into distant space.

When it kicked off the year, we were moved to state:

“On Ty Segall, the young genius has pulled together a collection of songs that are remarkably different from one another, but they don’t pull apart, they spin with centripetal force.  The most astonishing song of the lot is the 10:21 suite, “Warm Hands (Freedom Returned)”, which in five movements takes in the whole of Segall protege Wand’s prog, the Santana-influences of the Stones’ ‘Can’t You Hear Me Knocking,’ and two or three of Mr. Segall and his pal Mikal Cronin’s modern Power Pop’n’Punk flavorings.  It’s a tour de force.  But the whole album is, really.

“Since Segall’s advent at the beginning of this decade, rock’n’roll has been revived, and he’s the biggest reason.  Yes, we would still have Thee Oh Sees if Ty had not burst upon the scene.  But for at least seven years, Segall’s influence on other artists, and his own great output of self-produced, largely self-created records has added up to a movement.  He’s Shiva, creator and destroyer, making rock’n’roll relevant again.  With Manipulator a couple years back, he seemed to cast his lot with commercial success, and produced one of the catchiest collections of radio rock this side of the White Stripes or the Black Keys.  With Ty Segall, he’s gone for some thing bigger.  An *album* you mention in the same sentence as Sticky Fingers, Imperial Bedroom, even Sandinista.”

His acolytes, Wand, have leaped to the top o’ this list, but Ty is like a mid-career ballplayer who still hits with power, is still dominating the middle of the order, and can still take your breath away with his pure athleticism, when he wants.

#8 Album of 2017: Whiteout Conditions by The New Pornographers

They’ve been consistently so good for such a long time that you might take the New Pornographers for granted.  Listening to the superb Whiteout Conditions, we realized the New Pornographers are still capable of recorded greatness, and still occupy a special space in our hearts.

At the time, we went to see them at the 930 Club and wrote:

“Whiteout Conditions is the best New Pornographers’ album since the by-now classic Twin Cinema.  It’s hard to remember that when that record came out nearly 12 years ago, it was bemoaned for how the band had lost the oddness and caffeinated sheen of their first two astonishing albums.  Now, of course, we recognize Twin Cinema as a high point in Western Civ (and given how 2017 is going down, we’re increasingly worried that 2014’s Brill Bruisers might be seen by future historians as our civilization’s peak.)  Whiteout Conditions is a mix of everything we love about the band, bright and bouncy, profound when needed.  With songs like ‘High Ticket Attractions,’ which we can’t get out of our head, and new approaches like ‘Darling Shade,’ which sound like Martha and the Vandellas updated for the 21st Century, this Bejar-less edition of the band  flows like a lava tube off the edge of a cliff, powerfully smoking in the creation of new earth.

“That the New Pornographers are one of our very favorite bands defies certain logic.  Ordinarily, we treasure the analog sound of Fender guitars played by punk bands and The New Ps feature keyboard-driven synthetic sounds polished to a high gloss.  They’re not exactly a guilty pleasure or a secret passion, for we play their recs all the time, but the pleasure we get from listening to them is a bit like wearing only natural fibers in everyday life, while enjoying the chance to dress up in polyester.  Carl Newman clearly loved songwriters like Brian Wilson and bands like ELO, and us, not so much.  But last night at the 9:30 Club this band — capable of the most intricate studio albums — played a wonderfully organic set with four-part harmonies intact, the songs building and building so that by the time we got to ‘The Bleeding Heart Show’ encore, we could emerge from the club’s doors with a smile on our face, ready to face anything, up to and including all the laws that have changed.”

#9 Album of 2017: Damage And Joy by Jesus and Mary Chain

We never expected to hear new music again from Jesus and Mary Chain, even as the Reid Brothers reformed their act and hit the road.  While 1998’s Munki sat atop our list during that great year, we thought it would be their last recording session ever.  So when Damage And Joy came out this summer, we were filled with the latter even as our ears — after hearing them live a few times since 2012 — were still recovering from the former.  Maybe we’re saps for thinking this album is as good as we are convinced that it is — maybe this is like an old love who returns and you just can’t resist, even if she’s not right for you.  But no, this was a really great album, one of the year’s highlights, and deserves its place here.

When it came out, we wrote:

“In the time since they metaphorically burned their guitars, a lot has happened, and we’re not talking about all of the nasty changes in our world since the boom days of the late Clinton Administration.  Jim Reid got sober.  JAMC’s festival shows led to semi-regular touring, and despite — or because of — they way they turned the amps to 11, a new generation of fans for whom Psycho Candy was as distant, in some ways, as The Velvet Underground & Nico, saw them as the masters that they were.  It became inevitable that they would release new recorded music.

“We were unprepared for how great an album Damage And Joy is.  Purists may not like it because it’s not Finnegans Wake, it’s not difficult, it’s Dubliners: simple, easy to absorb, damn near perfect.  By the time December rolls around, we are certain it will remain high on our list of the year’s best albums.  It’s the Jesus and Mary Chain album we have waited for, somewhat anxiously, for a long, long time.

“We confess that we never loved Psycho Candy all that much.  The juxtaposition of Beach Boys’ songs, Sterling Morrison guitar, and Ramones’ propulsion against an industrial squall was interesting, but in many ways unlistenable.  Darklands was where we fell in love, with its spaciousness and gorgeous songwriting coalescing into a sound we could embrace.  Through those early ’90s hits, we hung on as they created a machine that was an early precursor of EDM while maintaining its linkage to real rock’n’roll.  For us, Stoned and Dethroned was the keeper, the classic, the songwriting at a peak, the wrestling match between melodies and riffs, between Jim’s hoarse whisper-singing and William’s guitar textures becoming not only one of the ’90s highlights, but an album for the ages.  When Munki came out in 1998 — perhaps rock’s greatest year — it was the culmination and the end of the line, Jim and William’s ambivalence — and conflict — were captured in the songs that began and ended the album: ‘I Love Rock’n’Roll’ followed by ‘I Hate Rock’n’Roll.’  But now they are back, and for the moment the ambivalence is gone.  Whatever happens from here, The Jesus and Mary Chain have returned from the dead, and the Hallelujah chorus is awesome to behold.”

#10 Album of 2017: Modern Living by The Living Eyes

We’re not going to quote an earlier review of Australian punks The Living Eyes’ magnificent Modern Living.  There isn’t one.  See, we just learned about them in the last 10 days — from the wonderfully comprehensive website, Raven Sings The Blues  — and while ordinarily it’s as dangerous to put an album this new on a year-end list as it is to march someone you’ve just met on a casino floor to the Vegas Chapel o’ Luv, we’re certain about this one: this is the Punk Record Of The Year, and a worthy way to round out our 2017 list.

Named for second best album by our favorite Aussie punk band, the legendary Radio Birdman — the equivalent of young British punks calling themselves The London Callings — The Living Eyes sound like they just took on the Undertones in some 1979 Battle of the Bands. With explicit nods to Birdman, and implicit nods to other Aussie forebears like the Saints and the Vines, maybe even The D4, Modern Living has the formula that has worked for bands as disparate as Rancid, Elastica and the Leaving Trains: all their songs have melodies! Even as they’re kicking in your stereo speakers, every song we’ve heard by The Living Eyes is hummable.  And the reason we are ready to walk straight from the initial spin of this album to this eternal coupling — they are forever joined to us by our putting them on our Top 10 List — is because we can’t get their songs out of their heads.

Full confession, we were tempted to have Brix and The Extricated take the final slot for Part 2, the wonderfully named album signaling the resurfacing of former members of the Fall 30 years after their Golden Age.  But as good as that record is, Modern Living blew us away. This isn’t Part 2 — this is the band’s initial foray into history and greatness.

 

 

 

Wand Brought Their Sweet “Plum” To DC9, And Played The Most Exciting Show In Memory

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , on October 9, 2017 by johnbuckley100

Wand 2017All images Leica Monochrom and 35mm Summicron v. IV

The D.J. was playing Television’s “Marquis Moon” when Cory Hanson climbed up on DC9’s stage last night and strapped on his Stratocaster.  He played along for a moment, which makes sense when you consider that our early warning on how powerful Wand’s new album Plum would be was when Hanson told Uncut, “I was reading about how Television wrote Marquis Moon and they’d go into their rehearsal space five days a week for four hours a day.  So I decided to go in six days a week for 10 hours a day.  We pushed harder to see what would happen.”

Wand released “Blue Cloud” a few weeks before pushing Plum out the door, putting us on notice that not only was Wand ready to rehearse like Television, they wanted to beat them at their own game.  And from the moment last night that Evan Burrows furiously kicked into “White Cat” and Hanson and new addition Robbie Cody began trading guitar lines like Verlaine and Lloyd, it was clear they had.  As great as Television were (and are), Billy Ficca is no Aynsley Dunbar, and Burrows is unquestionably the greatest drummer playing in a band today.

Wand 2017-3

We feel like Wand has grown up before our eyes, from their 930 Club debut in 2014 opening for Ty Segall to their stunning show at the Black Cat in 2015.  From the release of Ganglion Reef to Plum, they’ve grown from songs with titles like “Flying Golem” and “Reaper Invert” to becoming surely the only rock band extant to write a poignant song called “Charles De Gaulle.”

On their first two albums, born like Catholic twins maybe 10 months apart, their early roots showed the influence of mentor Ty Segall, with Black Sabbath chords played at speed metal tempi.  But Hanson’s always had a melodic grounding, and any band that could put “Growing Up Boys” on their first album was destined for great things.  With Plum — with shows like the one they put on last night — their destiny has arrived.  We can’t think of a better album released this year, nor a better show than we saw last night.

Since they were here last, Sofia Arrequin was added on keyboards and vocals, and with her arrival Wand’s sound has shifted from synth-heavy support for Hanson’s fluid guitar and pretty voice to a band playing with the fluidity of White Denim, the guitar interplay of the Soft Boys.  They’re a unit built around the core propulsion of a breeder reactor, but could only be riveted tighter if they rolled out of the Boeing factory.

Wand 2017-5

Cory Hanson has the preppy good looks of a Kennedy, and he came out in similar garb to what he was wearing last year when he and Burrows – for a few months putting Wand aside — toured as part of Ty Segall’s Muggers.  Since then, Hanson’s released a solo album as distant from Wand in it’s delicate sound as fellow Angeleno Shannon Lay’s Living Water is from her punk band Feels (also once produced by Ty Segall).  Taking a vacation from the thunder of Wand’s first two albums, and the ambitious prog-pop of their third outing 1000 Days was clearly good for the band, as were the additions of the two new members.

Wand 2017-6

Wand is at the height of their powers, but writing that we know they still have plenty of room to grow.  Some strong albums have been released this year by both Ty Segall and West Coast giant John Dwyer, whose Oh Sees made our August.  But among the West Coast’s finest, Wand’s come out on top, the best young band working today.  We stand back in awe at the prospect of what they’re capable of.

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