Archive for Woods

White Fence’s “For The Recently Found Innocent” Is Tulip Frenzy’s Album of the Decade; Ty Segall Named Artist of the Decade

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 16, 2019 by johnbuckley100
White Fence For The Recently Found Innocent

That lowly scrum of slackers who moon about Tulip Frenzy’s Global HQ like the gangsters of the Bergin Hunt and Fish Club were hoping to avoid the debate over the decade’s best album. Things can go terribly wrong when you start such discussions.

Some of the gang’s resistance stems from their admittedly deep knowledge of rock’n’roll history, wherein choosing the best record from the decade not even past calls up Chou En Lai’s response to Henry Kissinger, who asked Chou’s opinion of the French Revolution: “Too early to say.” It was 1972.

Some of us are still squabbling over whether OK Computer or Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space were the best albums of the ’90s. Moreover, with the hindsight of 40 years, can you really pick the ’70’s best album?

Much of the unwillingness to dig in, though, was due to the team’s needing Thanksgiving to get a quorum, set time for debate and invoke cloture. We need a deadline, the looming end o’ year — not to mention all the other glam sites we compete with putting out their lists — to force a determination of which record ranks supreme. Choosing from a ten-year span when we haven’t fully considered the options from the present one seemed, if not quite ass backwards, then at least as unaligned with Cause and Effect as Slothrop’s map of conquests was with the Poisson distribution of fallen V2 rockets.

But then along came Friend of the Site Allen Goldberg who taunted us, in like late October, with Paste or someone’s list of the decade’s finest. While it named many of the right bands (e.g. Thee Oh Sees) it consistently chose the wrong record (e.g. Castlemania). Which prompted a remarkably coherent and efficient response from the Tulip Frenzy editors.

Pool cues, far from being raised in anger, were gently rested on felt. The mid-afternoon guzzling momentarily fell silent. We all got together and, like, talked it out.

One editor suggested, “Let’s just figure out which albums from 2019, if any, should be considered, and throw them into the mix; it’s not like we have to do our whole annual Top 10 list before we can say which ones would make the decadal grade.”

To my surprise, from outta left field came this logical suggestion: since Tulip Frenzy has done an annual Top List each year since 2010, why not look at which records were included and jump-start deliberations by culling from the 90 chosen in each of nine one-year increments?

There was no getting out of it. We would chose the decade’s best… 20 sounds like a good number … albums.

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Before we reveal the list in full, a few words about the decade. 2010 to 2020 was a really great decade for real rock’n’roll.

And yes, we’re painfully aware that rock’n’roll is no longer the common language of our culture. “Popular music” these days contains precious little rock’n’roll (have you seen that horror show which is the Grammies?) If you wanted to be mean, you might even say that Tulip Frenzy — which used to believe it was dedicated to a highly refined subset of “pop music” — is today better defined as passionate supporters of unpopular music. Un-pop. Yep, that’s us.

So we get it. When we publish our list of the 20 best albums of the 2010s, we know it will bear little resemblance to the Best of the ’10s lists from other, less discerning sites. We know it’s quite possible that just as several of the rock critters, if we may even call them that, who put together the list for, say, Rolling Stone may not know any of the bands on our list, we may not know any of the bands on theirs. (Could someone please explain to me who Beyonce is?) Which of us should be more shamed by that development?

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Of the previous five decades in which rock music has been, if not the dominant musical art form, at least pop music’s organizing principle, two 10-year cohorts comprise an unassailable, uncontroversial collection of the Greatest Music of All Time — the ’60s and the ’70s. Yes, a Boomer point of view, but no less true because of it. I mean, these days Millenials play as much music by the Beatles as we do…

One decade — the ‘Aughts, 2000-2009 — barely registers as having a musical personality, but maybe we’re confusing things because we can never settle on what that decade should even be called. Between the rise of neo-psychedelica – bands like First Communion Afterparty, for example — and the incredible Power Pop of The New Pornographers, it was a decade with tasty output. But at this point, Chou En Lai was right: it’s too early to tell whether the ‘Aughts can be seen as a decade of distinction.

The ’90s were, surprisingly, as great as the ’60s and the ’70s. Fully two-thirds of the music I listen to today was either made in or sprang from the ’90s. So many artists were either in their early glory — Brian Jonestown Massacre, Dandy Warhols, Luna — or in peak form, cf. Bob Dylan, Fugazi, R.E.M., Nirvana, Spiritualized, Radiohead, Pearl Jam, Whiskeytown, P.J. Harvey, Blur, Oasis, Jesus and Mary Chain, the Mekons, Matthew Sweet, Prince, Iggy Pop, Tom Petty, and I could go on. One could happily go to a Desert Isle with a ’90s-programmed juke box and foreswear all rescuing.

At the same time I know we can all agree that the ’80s sucked. Some of it was technical — the simultaneous advent of the CD and the adoption of synthesizers everywhere led to precious few albums that are today even listenable. Even in a decade in which R.E.M., U2 and the Pixies ruled the roost, so few albums sound good, it’s hard to spend time there. But the problems were more than technical, more than just the brittle transition from analog vinyl to digital CDs.

The ’80s reflected the tide going out to sea, taking the Clash and Gang of Four and Joy Division and Wire — all the great late ’70s bands — with it. Even though stalwarts like Lou Reed, the Replacements, Prince, Robyn Hitchcock, Galaxie 500, Sonic Youth, and early on, Bowie and the Stones all produced memorable ’80s albums, as decades go, it was a loser.

So where does all this leave us ranking the 2010s? Honestly, pretty high. Maybe not quite up there with ’90s, but ahead of the ’80s for sure, and about a furlong in front of its preceding ‘Aughts.

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The decade that began on New Year’s Day 2010 was driven by a handful of musicians about whom only a small portion of the world has ever heard. You and I — yes, you Bub — we all listen to Ty Segall, Thee Oh Sees, Tim Presley/White Fence, and Kelley Stoltz. To us, this cast of characters was as influential in making the 2010s a great musical decade as Mick Jagger, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix and Sly Stone were in making the ’60s great. They played a role as important as what Brian Eno, Patti Smith, David Bowie, Joe Strummer, Tom Verlaine, Lou Reed, and David Byrne did in the ’70s. And none of them ever has or — gotta admit it — likely will ever headline at Wembley Stadium or even Coachella.

But rock’n’roll in the ’10s was amazing, and if you want to give credit where it’s due, let’s just go ahead and name Ty Segall Artist of the Decade. I count 13 solo albums, two albums with the Ty Segall Band, one with Mikal Cronin, two with White Fence (Tim Presley), and I can’t even keep up with Fuzz, Gøggs, and all the other offshoots.

Even if we were scoring him based only on his own output, I’d put Ty ahead of his only two competitors — John Dwyer of Thee Oh Sees and Kelley Stoltz. But Ty’s impact can be felt on the generosity behind his producing first albums by Wand, Feels and Shannon Lay. And there are more I just can’t remember. For those of us in the rec room at Tulip Frenzy, it was an easy decision. We think the greatest music of a pretty great decade somehow ties back, if you’ll pardon the expression, to Ty Segall.

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With no further blathering here’s the list, in typical Casey Kasem reverse order:

The 20 Best Albums of the 2010s were:

20. Calexico Algiers (2012)

19. The Vaselines Sex With An Ex (2010)

18. Wire Change Becomes Us (2013)

17. Alejandro Escovedo Burn Something Beautiful (2016)

16. Parquet Courts. Sunbathing Animal (2014)

15. The New Pornographers Together (2010)

14. The Brian Jonestown Massacre Mini Album Thingy Wingy (2015)

13. Capsula In The Land of the Silver Sun (2011)

12. Robyn Hitchcock Robyn Hitchcock (2017)

11. Kelley Stoltz My Regime (2019)

10. Wand Laughing Matter (2019)

9. Ty Segall Freedom’s Goblin (2018)

8. PJ Harvey Let England Shake (2011)

7. Amen Dunes Love (2014)

6. Courtney Barnett The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas (2014)

5. Radiohead A Moon Shaped Pool (2016)

4. First Communion Afterparty Earth – Heat – Sound (2013)

3. Woods Bend Beyond (2012)

2. Thee Oh Sees Floating Coffin (2013)

1. White Fence For The Recently Found Innocent (2014)

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I probably should just leave you here, preferably with a budget to go buy these as vinyl albums so you can sit in your rec room discovering them in your own way. But let me help you out just a bit.

There was amazing consensus among the editors that the White Fence album — Tim Presley’s brilliant tour through British Invasion and ’60s psychedelica, with only Ty Segall, natch, accompanying him (on drums) — was the odds on best record of the decade. Of all the records here, this is the one that, we are confident, will hold up longer than the French Revolution.

One could have named any number of albums by John Dwyer as high on this list, whether put out under the moniker of Thee Oh Sees, Oh Sees, OCS, or whatevs. But Floating Coffin was his best album of an amazing decade. Here’s a band that started out as a folky duo, soon became the funnest punk band in the land, and these days sounds like Miles Davis leading Hawkwind. Floating Coffin is the very best of their mid-period punk’n’melodic chaos.

Woods has taken a step back of late, but they released four amazing albums in a row and Bend Beyond is the best, earthy, tuneful Upstate music recorded in Brooklyn, or was it the other way around? Note: this was the last album in which Kevin Morby played bass. Yes, Kevin Morby.

We never thought we’d hear a third First Communion Afterparty album, but this most exciting psychedelic band of the ‘Aughts managed to have a record released from the grave. By the time EarthHeat – Sound came out in 2013, ace Minneapolis bandleader Liam Watkins was on to his next ‘un, Driftwood Pyre, whose one and only album so far was amazing. But this one was really special. I happen to think First Communion Afterparty was the most amazing left-field entrant of the Century To Date — go find this album. Like, today.

Radiohead’s second album of the decade was… Radiohead’s best album of the decade. ‘Nuff said.

We know that people have gone nuts over Courtney Barnett’s first “proper” album, but really, it was the suturing together of her two E.P.s into A Sea of Split Peas that introduced her to me in 2014, a year before anyone Stateside was grokking on her, and it’s still her best work.

When we heard Amen Dunes in 2014, we could hardly believe how great and weird they are, or more accurately, he is. Damon McMahon’s reach for prime time with 2018’s Freedom was wonderful, but Love, its predecessor, is a desert island album. It is so weird! Even as it’s straightforward freak folk marrying, say, Devendra Banhart with Brian Eno. Love this rec!

PJ Harvey‘s Let England Shake was a work of power and delicacy, a vibrantly intelligent work, and we love it. The year it came out, we gave the Tulip Frenzy Top 10 honors to Radiohead’s King of Limbs. That’s a great album, but we should have given the honors to Harvey’s memorable invocation of — of all things — World War I.

Ty Segall put out a LOT OF MUSIC in the 2010s. Freedom’s Goblin, a double album with his touring band, including especially Mikal Cronin, is worthy of the great double albums from days of yore. It is his Electric Ladyland or Quadrophenia. A major work by a major artist, the Tulip Frenzy Artist o’ da Decade. It is also, if you’ve yet to discover him, a great entry point as it has it all — punk rock, No Wave skronk, Beatles-esque folk, even a fun detour into “The Loner”-era Neil Young. Did we mention it begins with an homage to his dog?

We can’t tell you whether Wand or Kelley Stoltz will be accorded the soon-to-be-announced 2019 Tulip Frenzy Album o’ The Year. So we clustered them together. Wand is now the most impressive band playing on the planet. With comparisons to Radiohead, you know that Wand’s making great music. Laughing Matter is brilliant.

Not to be outdone, Kelley Stoltz put out the single best album of his amazingly consistent, astonishingly creative career — and My Regime shows how far he has grown from his earlier work, about half of which could have been included on this list of the decade’s best.

The redoubtable Robyn Hitchcock must have known he was putting out his single greatest album of a long and stellar career — a journey in which he has, and I’m serious, written more good songs than anyone but Bob Dylan — because this was the only album in which his name suffices for the title.

Argentine-spawned, Bilbao-housed punk rock magicians Capsula have released a lot of good music since 2005 — this was the best of a good lot. It is a delight to hear a trio play with such abandon — and never give up the hooks or melody.

While the decade’s output by Anton Newcombe can best be found sprinkled across singles, E.P.s, and albums, we chose the 34-minute long Mini Album Thingy Wingy to represent the Brian Jonestown Massacre because, yeah, it was his/their best album.

Five more to go? Sheesh. Okay, the New Pornographers released four great albums in the decade and, yup, this’n’s the best. Hard to choose the best Parquet Courts album — a band so good that now young tyros like Bodega are walking in their shoes — but we think we have. Alejandro Escovedo can still crush it, and with Peter Buck and Scott McCaughey, he did. Wire may be from the ’70s, but when I saw them a couple of years ago, all the younger musicians in the audience were grinning, and this record takes songs actually written in 1979 (and released then as a bad, messy album) and properly records them in a 2013 studio. Kurt Cobain-faves The Vaselines walked out of Glaswegian history to record two wonderful 2010s albums, but I chose Sex With An Ex because of the sheer thrill it gave me to have them return. Finally, Calexico has given all of us at Tulip Frenzy World HQ much joy when we’ve seen them live, but this is the album of theirs that we play in full.

Stay tuned for the upcoming Tulip Frenzy 10 Best Albums of 2019 list, circa Thanksgiving. Once we’ve recovered from writing this…

Kevin Morby’s Gorgeous “City Music” Should Blare From Apartment Windows Everywhere

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , on June 17, 2017 by johnbuckley100

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Some years ago, when contemplating the life I would lead in New York after graduating from a college set in the fields and orchards of Western Mass, I would stare at the jacket of Donald Barthelme’s collection, City Life.  A couple in nightdress, he older and somewhat delirious, she younger and game for the dance, seemed to sum up how much better life would be in the big city.

Yesterday was Bloomsday, which celebrates unquestionably the greatest love song to a city ever written, and of course it was fitting that Kevin Morby released his magisterial new album, City Music. For those late to this story, Morby was the bass player in Woods, and co-bandleader of The Babies, and beginning in 2013, a solo artist whose powers increase record-by-record.  His paean to city life is as heartfelt as Joyce’s, and the respect he pays to certain moments in modern urban history resonates deeply with me.

The title track of last summer’s fine sophomore album, Singing Saw, invoked the magic of  Talking Heads’ More Songs About Buildings And Food, and on City Music, the sometime-New Yorker invokes Television, Talking Heads, Garland Jeffreys, Lou Reed, and the Ramones, to name just a few of Fun City’s champions. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that Dylan’s a New York artist too. Morby doesn’t.

In a lovely NPR piece published yesterday, Morby walks us through the album song by song. It’s worth a read, revealing as it does how this young artist absorbs influences and uses them as inspiration.  He cites “Marquee Moon,” as the source of the title track’s guitar sound, and it’s as fun to listen to as seeing Wilco cover the original by seminal New Yorkers Television.  On Singing Saw, Morby had the benefit of Sam Cohen as producer and a guitarist whose lines take these completely unexpected left turns; the ensemble assembled on City Life is a congenial and accomplished band that you’d love to see live.  Even on the slow songs, they swing.

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.

Around the time that we sat in our college dorm dreaming of joining the party in New York, we fixated on another great work of its time, Raymond Sokolov’s Native Intelligence.  The novel begins with the college admissions essay written by a young midwesterner who wants to go to Harvard to participate in the intellectual discussions he imagines exist there.  The opening chapter ends with the admissions officer’s notes, written in longhand in the margins: “Grades, SATs, and high-school recommendations all very high.  We will, of course, accept him, but I think he is going to be disappointed with Harvard and depressed by Radcliffe.  Another case of great expectations in the boondocks.”

Thank Heaven young Kevin Morby got on that bus.

 

 

Kevin Morby’s “Singing Saw”Cuts With A Well-Honed Blade

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on April 22, 2016 by johnbuckley100

When Kevin Morby left Woods right after they produced Bend Beyond, an unqualified masterpiece, it was an expression of confidence as startling as his leaving Kansas City at age 18, heading for the Big Apple on a bus.  Why would you leave the most accomplished, ambitious band in Brooklyn unless you had something to say?  Kevin Morby had something to say.

On two solo albums, 2013’s Harlem River, followed by Still Life one year later, we got a sporadic glimpse of how charming his urban take on alt.country songwriting could be.  Though he later moved from Brooklyn to L.A., on his new one, Singing Saw, he came back east to work with Sam Cohen (Apollo Sunshine, Yellowbirds)  and now we know just how deeply a sharp blade can cut wood, or if you’re of a certain cast of mind, cut Woods.

On the title track, Morby and his excellent musicians build to what ultimately sounds like an acoustic version of Talking Heads’ “Stay Hungry.”  “I Have Been To The Mountain” punctuates Calexico horns with a Sam Cohen guitar solo that peels the eyeballs. It’s on “Dorothy,” one of those perfect American rock songs that seems to have always existed — Morby just being the medium to wrestle it to tape — that we understand fully why he couldn’t have been content staying within Woods, for as simpatico as he is with Jeremy Earl’s restless musical vision, Morby, like Ron Wood before him, has his own record to do.  And now he’s finally done it: as gorgeous, ambitious, and pleasing an album as you’ll likely play this year.  (Ha! Ron Wood, Woods, cutting wood, singing saw — this album stirs up more than sawdust…)

We don’t know the geography of Brooklyn well enough to geolocate Morby’s position, but we do know Kings County bands well enough to locate his place.  On “Dorothy,” he reveals a debt to Phosphorescent’s Matthew Houk and his brilliance in hijacking the sound of Willie Nelson’s band and applying it to modern Americana.  On “Ferris Wheel,” it’s a different Brooklyn band that springs to mind — Damon McMahon’s Amen Dunes.  Yes, good company to keep… Woods, Calexico, Phosphorescent, Amen Dunes.  Did we mention Bob Dylan?

Placing Morby in the context of these other artists is meant only to give the uninitiated the coordinates of where to place his music on this brilliant album.  Given how banner advertising supporting Singing Saw has begun to stalk us on such expensive sites as the NewYorkTimes.com, we get the sense that the uninitiated to Morby will be fewer by weeks end. Don’t wait, don’t hesitate.  A young songwriter of impeccable pedigree has produced the work that will make his name.

On Widowspeak’s “All Yours,” The Sugar High Is Gone

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on September 17, 2015 by johnbuckley100

Two instruments vie for notice in Widowspeak’s music — Molly Hamilton’s pretty, ethereal voice and Robert Earl Thomas’s canny, spare guitar.  We have raved about their earlier work, but also worried that what Hamilton and Thomas too often deliver yields a sugar high.  Earlier work has been short on the gritty substance needed to sustain interest, not just over the long haul, but over a single album.  And yet, from the moment early in the summer that we heard “Girls,” a standout track on their recently released All Yours, it was clear that Widowspeak have matured into the fine band they have promised to be ever since the release of their initial, Jarvis Tavaniere-produced album.

The connection to Woods goes beyond Tavaniere, as All Yours reportedly comprises Hamilton and Thomas recording with Woods’ rhythm section in bucolic Columbia County.  Emigrants from Brooklyn, the couple have removed themselves from the hipsters’ paradise and by the banks of the Hudson produced their best music yet.  There were moments on Almanac, their second record, that were magical, but it was too often a cloying confection.  On All Yours, the songwriting is strong, the singing is gorgeous without being thinner than air, and Thomas’s guitar work shows lean muscle mass.  Think of the best tracks Syd Straw cut with The Golden Paliminos, Neko Case singing with the Mekons.  This is one dream pop album that sticks in your head even as the substance sticks to your ribs.

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!”

Parquet Courts’ “Sunbathing Animal” Is Out, And Summer May Now Commence

Posted in Music with tags , , , , on June 4, 2014 by johnbuckley100

When Parquet Courts play, we’re transported to a distant time when the best rock’n’roll in the world emanated not from Brooklyn, but Lower Manhattan.  They know this — they are very self-aware — and they play their 1970s Television roots to a fare-thee-well.  For a band of primitives, Parquet Courts know precisely what they’re doing.  And it is glorious.

They kick off the spankin’ new Sunbathing Animal with “Bodies Made Of,” and we are immediately in the hypnotic two-guitar grip of Lloyd and Verlaine playing “See No Evil,” with the underlying riff of “96 Tears” adding a garage-band reference to the ur-punk swing.  By the time we get to “Dear Ramona,” we have a magical invocation of Frank Black’s “Ramona” and Television’s “Venus,” replete with the dumb-boy glee-club and its “huh?” chorus.  And it just gets better from there, songs of a minute-thirty length alternating with seven-minute opi.

Parquet Courts do what the most thrilling punk bands of the late ’70s routinely effected, a gambit to which so few bands since then have been able to pull off: they play with such utter authority within their limitations that you can’t figure out whether they are genuinely constrained or art-school geniuses slumming on a project.  They manage to be raw and thrilling one moment, pretty and beguiling the next, and they understand the weight of a broader cohort of songs — a live set, an album — in which they can power through skronk and immediately return with the most melodic tune, picked out by the two guitarists (Andrew Savage and Austin Brown) who play with such consonance you would swear they are a pop band in secret.  If it could be said — yeah, we said it — that Wire was a band that was always at their most interesting just when their reach exceeded their grasp, let us state here that Parquet Courts are both conceptually ambitious but also seemingly in control: they pull off that magic trick where it seems they are playing beyond their ability, but really that’s all  just part of the act.  Or maybe the act is to make it seem like it’s part of the act — the very asking of that question giving an indication of their conceptual intelligence.  There may be no more thrilling punk band in the world today.

The spoken-voice “singing”probably seals Parquet Courts’ commercial fate, or at least it would if we were living in an era where radio mattered.  In a Spotify playlist world, it is possible these guys are inches away from global domination.  We just don’t know.  What we do know is that when Light Up Gold, their first widely released album, came out at the end of 2012, we immediately placed it in the 2013 Tulip Frenzy Top Ten List (c).  We know that when we saw them live last summer with Woods, we felt the warm wash of nostalgia flushed by the excitement of discovering something wholly new.  We know that with Sunbathing Animal, Parquet Courts have released an album that will induce sophomores at Brown to drop out en masse, their move to Williamsburg inspired by just this one thing.

Even though Parquet Courts should be seen in a beery fog of a thrashing crowd, feet all sticking to the parquet floor, their new ‘un is an album all the coolest sunbathing animals will play through ear buds, while the summer sun beats down on the tar roofs of Brooklyn, the beaches of Saint Tropez.  Better reach for the Coppertone, as the finest band plying the Austin-Brooklyn axis keeps you riveted to their 14-song revelation.

Quilt And Woods At The Rock & Roll Hotel Were More Like Rock & Roll Heaven

Posted in Music with tags , , , on April 27, 2014 by johnbuckley100

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Quilt, Leica C

It wasn’t accidental that two bands that each have produced one of the best albums released so far in 2014 played last night at D.C.’s Rock & Roll Hotel, for Quilt and Woods are, at present, joined like family members.  Woods’ Jason Taveniere produced Quilt’s second album, Held In Splendor, and on this tour at least, Quilt drummer John Andrews plays organ with Woods.  They have more kin connections than a village in West Virginia, and the show last night was one long stream of gorgeous melodies, guitar wizardry, a solid backbeat, and the occasional psychedelic rave-up.

Quilt wrapped us in Held In Splendor, their warm and radio-ready platter o’ harmonic convergence punctuated by intricate pop finger picking and gritty power chords.  Anna Fox Rochinski is a lyrical lead guitarist and an understated, somewhat shy front-woman, but when she and Shane Butler matched their vocal interplay with guitar fire, it brought to mind favorite two-guitar bands like Luna, the Soft Boys, even Television.  Quilt’s sound is jangling ’60s pop with three-part harmonies contained within the parameters of garage, folk, and psychedelica, which is pretty great territory to ply.  In fact, their new album is desert isle material, and the set last night proved they can do it live every bit as powerfully as in the studio.

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Quilt, Leica C, via the Rock & Roll Hotel’s mirror.

 

The crowd’s reaction to the best songs — “Mary Mountain,” “Just Dust,” “Tired & Buttered” — proclaims Quilt has, by their sophomore outing, established themselves as one of a handful of American bands worth tracking as they rise to what, should the cosmic order be proven, can only be inevitable world conquest.

Since the release a few weeks ago of  Woods’ With Light And Lovewe’ve concluded it is every bit the equal to Bend Beyond, which some will remember we called 2012’s best album, and even more than that: an absolutely perfect record. It should go without saying, this is a hard feat to pull off once, never mind twice.  But With Light And Love is astonishing — even prettier than its predecessor, and last night, despite a bad sound mix from the club, Woods revealed just what a treasure they’ve become.

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Woods, Leica C

The new bass player, Chuck Van Dyke, steps well into Kevin Morby’s shoes, and with Quilt’s John Andrews playing organ throughout, Woods’ sound had an emollient undercurrent that was as surprising as it was delightful.  They started out with “Leaves Like Glass,” which on the album sounds like an outtake from a mythic Dylan set and last night sounded like it was a jam in Memphis’ Ardent Studios. Jeremy Earl played acoustic through the early songs, including “Cali in a Cup,” but it was later in the set, when he had strapped on his electric guitar to play two of the highlights from the new album — “Moving To The Left” and “Twin Steps” — that it became clear how, even as amazing an album as Bend Beyond was, With Light And Love takes a giant step into the commercial mainstream, which we mean as a compliment.  They played the title tracks to both recent albums, which means 20 combined minutes of getting your head scalped, and we survived the pyrotechnics, a groggy smile on our putzes.  But it’s where Woods now confidently step into well-crafted pop songs that perhaps the band’s hidden ambitions begin to see the light.

A clue to the ground they currently occupy can be found on the sequencing on the new album of the songs “Full Moon” and “Only The Lonely.” On the former, Jason Taveniere plays George Harrison-inflected slide, and the latter is the title of a different Roy Orbison song.  Are they trying to emulate The Traveling Willburys?  No, they’re still a Brooklyn-based band of artisanal pop craft, still weird and wooly, though it could be said that invoking Roy Orbison is one way of placing Jeremy Earl’s astonishing voice, his high plains croon, in a more recognizable context.

We’ve seen Woods three times in 18 months.  In November 2012, when they played across the street at the old Red Palace, it was like seeing Sun Ra come back to Earth, fireworks going off in the mind.  Last night, with a new bass player and the sound of an organ ladling sweet honey on the guitars, the band was every bit as remarkable, but in a way that those with less adventuresome tastes could relate.

How delightful it is to see two so great bands in a club with a couple of hundred souls.  It’s only because of the injustice of life that we would see these bands on the H Street corridor and not downtown at the Verizon Center.  Optimists that we are, we think both bands will get there.

 

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