Updates to Best of 2012

Torche: Harmonicraft (Volcrom, 2012).  A pretty mainstream rock record I like the way these guys play together and the way these songs feel.  The drummer has an undercover swing to his playing and that shit always helps an album over the top.  For fans of Jane’s Addiction and Stanford Prison Experiment to check out.

If the music business knew what they were doing these guys would be huge.

Lianne La Havas: Is Your Love Big Enough? (Nonesuch, 2012).  I haven’t felt a Nonesuch release in a long time, their stuff tends to be a bit buttery soft for my taste.  Say you find Esperanza Spaulding to be too wooden and proggy and Norah Jones to be too slackery, Miss La Havas may fit your tastes better.  This young lady can sing and she sings naturally.  She doesn’t have to try to sing beautifully, she just sings beautifully.  Big difference.  I think of this record as being like a Prince/Joni Mitchell record, a really great combining of musical styles.

More music biz apology, best customers etc

From marketing guru Seth Godin:

Apologizing to your best users is significantly more productive than blaming them for liking what you used to do.

As blogged yesterday, the music business should apologize but has not and will not.

But the second half of the above phrase really evokes what a lot of folks think about the music business.  Instead of trying to reconnect with best customers, the music business just moved down the food chain to sling mostly pop garbage to teens and tweens.

Teens and tweens are fairweather, barely formed humans and the idea that the music business prefers to do business with them rather than with adults who would be the best customers explains why there’s been no apology.

Bad business model I say.

Will the music business apologize the way Apple did?

I have many problems with the geek crowd.  They can be highly controlling and annoying, etc.  But Apple CEO Tim Cook apologized to customers for the shitty new map application.

I do think it’s a little weird to apologize for a business mistake.  I don’t get all up in these issues, that’s part of what annoys me about the tech crowd — the endless discussion of interfaces and guis and apis.  Aw, fuck it.

Apparently they shouldn’t have released that application and it sucks and he apologized.

In my opinion, the music business has a much longer list of sins they could apologize for:

1.  Suing their customers.
2.  Keeping CD prices high despite a record supply and falling demand.
3.  Screwing over artists since Day 1.

The idea that a big music bigwig would apologize to music lovers and customers is just unimaginable.

What would an apology accomplish?  It would show that the music business is in touch with reality and aware of the hole that they’re in and that they might be thinking of changing their ways and digging themselves out of this hole.

But it’s not going to happen because the music business is completely out of touch with reality and the reality of their customers.

Active Music Listening Friday September 28, 2012

YTD recordings listened to: 658
Good music, not recommended for purchase: 385
Not good music: 234
Buys: 21 (not all 2012 releases)
Possibles: Left Lane Cruiser/James Leg, Dennis Bovell, Seluah, Donnie and Joe Emerson,  Zani Diabate, Isaiah Toothtaker (2011), Ondatropica, Lianne Le Havas, Sidsel Endresen & Stan Westerhus, The Ones to Blame, Boyd Rivers, Abdoulaye Alhassane Toure, Cryptopsy, Nick Waterhouse, Patterson Hood, Wahid.

@@@ Torche: Harmonicraft (Volcom, 2012).  I came to this recording via a metal music mailorder.  It’s more updated classic rock than heavy metal, but it’s pretty good out of the gate with Letting Go.  The band has more than a spoonful of Jane’s Addiction influence going on.  They do a good job of catching a live vibe on these tunes — it doesn’t sound like they’ve played the tunes a million times before and they’re just trying to get them down perfect.

If the music business knew what they were doing these guys would be huge.  This album is going on my best of list for the year.

@@@ Lewis Nash: The Highest Mountain (Cellar Live, 2012).  I found this recording on the WMUA weekly playlist.  It’s burning straight jazz live recording with ample space for soloists to stretch out.  The focus here is on energy and ensemble playing.

@@@  Wooden Indian Burial Ground: Self-titled (Mon Amie, 2012).   Anchored by a beastly drummer, it’s too bad the rest of the band can’t keep up with him/her.  Oh wait, the organist tore out a pretty good solo.  I’m sure this is great live, but the song did not pull me in.

@@@  Jason Collett: Reckon (Arts and Crafts, 2012).  Starts out with a pretty great first song called Pacific Blue, but it comes down off that loveliness to a sort of late era John Lennon adult rock.    He’s got a very good voice and the album is very solid, I just thought I had hit a home run when I heard the first tune.  The attached video is very representative of the music on this record.



Active Music Listening Thursday September 27, 2012

YTD recordings listened to: 653
Good music, not recommended for purchase: 383
Not good music: 232
Buys: 21 (not all 2012 releases)
Possibles: Left Lane Cruiser/James Leg, Dennis Bovell, Seluah, Donnie and Joe Emerson,  Zani Diabate, Isaiah Toothtaker (2011), Ondatropica, Lianne Le Havas, Sidsel Endresen & Stan Westerhus, The Ones to Blame, Boyd Rivers, Abdoulaye Alhassane Toure, Cryptopsy, Nick Waterhouse, Patterson Hood, Wahid.

@@@ Wahid: Inside Silence (ADW, 2011).  I found this world music group over here at Splinters and Candy.  These guys have a record coming out called Road Poem, but this record is up on MOG.  I’m a fan of the oud — I dig the way it sounds and the contrast between the stringiness of the oud and the resonance of the frame drums is interesting.  This is not party music, it’s headphone music or hookah music.  If you are a fan of Indian classical music, this is similar.  A bit less ecstatic, but heavy nonetheless.  I’m gonna check this record out more when I have time.

I couldn’t find anything on Youtube but you can here a tune off the new record at the link at Splinters and Candy.

@@@ Loscil: Sketches from New Britain (Kranky, 2012).  I found this ambient record over here at Fluid Radio.  I think ambient music is very much like jazz — it can be a very personal like or dislike.  I don’t like the ambient music that revolves a lot around mechanical sounds and static and I can’t stand the New Age influenced ambient music.  I didn’t reall feel the first track on this record, but the second one heats up pretty good.  It’s in a sort of no man’s land stylistically.  There is a blend of repeating clouds of sound, and some synths and other assorted noises mixed in.  I’ve clipped that tune ‘Hastings Sunrise’ down below for youer listening pleasure.  This is some pretty high quality ambient music

@@@  Black Toe: Just Kids (Self-released, 2012).  I found this acoustic duo over here at Dingus Music.  I’m not the first in line for the confessional indie music, but this tune is as good as 95% of similarly styled music that’s being released by much larger outfits, multi-national companies even.  The singer sounds a bit like Norah Jones, which is neither good nor bad and the tune is dramatic without collapsing under the weight of cheese.  Check it out.

@@@  Other Lives: Mind the Gap (TBD Records, 2012).  I can see why these guys toured with Radiohead — they sport a mid tempo ambient orchestral rock sound.  A very British sound with a little beat of late Beatles vibe mixed in.  One of the better bands I’ve heard through a music publicist email.  I don’t think I like the singer that much and I don’t feel very drawn into the song, but it might work for you.

Read it and stream here.

@@@ Graph Rabbit: Snowblind (Butterscotch, out October 9th)  A blend of Sigur Ros, Radiohead, and an ambient electronic outfit.  Dreamy as hell, lush sounding and layered in a mindful and sophisticated way but not particularly powerful as a song.  I dig the sleigh bells, maybe it’s best Sigur Ros sings in a language I don’t understand.  Just a tad soft for my taste.


Active Music Listening Wednesday September 26, 2012

YTD recordings listened to: 648
Good music, not recommended for purchase: 381
Not good music: 230
Buys: 21 (not all 2012 releases)
Possibles: Left Lane Cruiser/James Leg, Dennis Bovell, Seluah, Donnie and Joe Emerson,  Zani Diabate, Isaiah Toothtaker (2011), Ondatropica, Lianne Le Havas, Sidsel Endresen & Stan Westerhus, The Ones to Blame, Boyd Rivers, Abdoulaye Alhassane Toure, Cryptopsy, Nick Waterhouse, Patterson Hood.

@@@  John Hiatt: Mystic Pinball (New West, 2012)  From the front page of MOG.  I’m a huge fan of John Hiatt’s older stuff, Bring the Family and Slow Turning which are pretty big shoes for an artist to fill.  While I wouldn’t say this record hits those peaks, this guys is a great no nonsense songwriter and I dig his meat and potatoes point of view, which is sorely missing from the precious realms of indie rock.  The band is straight and ahead and rock solid.  If folks don’t check out this record, they should check out some of Hiatt’s older music as he’s borderline national treasure material.

@@@ Lightning Bolt: Oblivion Hunter (Load, 2012).  Crushed for your pleasure — just an absolute distorto-fest.  The bass sound is just ridiculous, the vocals are completely unrecognizable and the drums are either hand drums or are tuned so tight.  This is pretty extreme music and I can appreciate it although I think I would prefer to see this circus live, it has to be head ripping extremis.  It’s this generation’s Butthole Surfers — more about a sound than a song.

@@@ Alcoholic Faith Mission: Ask Me This (Old Flame, 2012).  Found these guys via a PR email.  A long choral intro on the first track, I fear we are about to descend into some pop-tronica.  Oh, I’m wrong, it’s an indie band.  Wow, a lot of voices.  The second tune Alaska opens up with a solid guitar figure, handclaps, and more voices.  Oh my, the voice-iness of it all.  It’s an orchestral choral indie thing they have going here.  Not really my cup of tea, but it takes some skill to put this music together and if you’re feeling shiny and happy….this may ring your bell.

@@@  Elioan Radigue: Chry-ptus (Schoolmap, 2007).  If you are up for slow motion drone you should check this record out.  I think it’s lowering my heart rate.  This first piece is changing so slowly, it’s cool.  Drone folks should check this bad boy this is pretty heavy business.

@@@ Dum Dum Girls: End of Daze (Sub Pop, 2012).  Starts a bit noisy and swirls in a classic girl pop flavor and then busts out in a raucous guitar fest.  Has both rawness and polish.  The second tune, I’m Nothing is catchy  as hell.  I dig the singer and I haven’t given even the tiniest bit of respect to a Sub Pop record for a long long time.  This band has style.

Updates to Best of 2012 list

Thollem McDonas: The Gowanus Session (Porter, 2012).  McDonas on piano and big hitters William Parker on bass and Nels Cline on guitar.  For me this session has the right balance of skronk, and thunder, and noise and lyricism.  This session has one of my favorite characteristics of a great free jazz session.  The musicians may be playing something totally out, but at the same time it’s very connected to what the other musicians are playing.  (Added 9/26/12)

The Semi-Colon: Ndia Egbuo Ndia (Afro-Jigida) (Razor and Comb, 2012). An African music record, but focused much more on the guitar — it’s rather hornless.  The music is slinkier than the traditional pounding Afrobeat style and the guitar players lends the whole affair a rockin’ vibe.  The lead singer works a little in English and his native tongue.  The record has a slight off kilter weirdness to it that I really dig. (Added 9/26/12)

Honorable mention:

Chris Robinson Brotherhood: The Magic Door (Silver Arrow, 2012).  I have found this man’s music to be annoying for a long long time, so I’m shocked but I think this is a really good record.  Just short of a best of effort, partially due to my longstanding aversion.  Robinson combines jam rock, blues music, gospel, hippie music, and a little country flow to make something that is classic sounding but fresh at the same time. (Added 9/26/12)

Active Music Listening Tuesday September 25, 2012

YTD recordings listened to: 643
Good music, not recommended for purchase: 378
Not good music: 228
Buys: 19 (not all 2012 releases)
Possibles: Left Lane Cruiser/James Leg, Dennis Bovell, Seluah, Donnie and Joe Emerson,  Zani Diabate, Isaiah Toothtaker (2011), Ondatropica, Lianne Le Havas, Sidsel Endresen & Stan Westerhus, The Ones to Blame, Boyd Rivers, Abdoulaye Alhassane Toure, The Semi-Colons, Cryptopsy, Nick Waterhouse, Thollem McDonas, Patterson Hood.

@@@ John Frusciante: Letur-Lefr EP (Record Label, 2012)  This is music by a creative person.  Unpredictable, not hung up on genre or expectations.  I would say this music has similarities to medium early Prince — a lot of guitars mixed with electronic beats and some live drums and other electronic sounds.  There are ambient elements and other more recent elements that make it sound contemporary.  He also has rappers appearing on the EP so it’s a little bit all over the place but I think the songs hold together.  It’s not the greatest music I’ve heard out of him, but he’s definitely a musician I check out.

@@@  Mumford & Sons: Babel (Glassnote, 2012).  A very high energy album opener and a singer who can really pull you in with those quiet parts. This band is obviously under a lot of pressure to repeat the wild success of their debut.  These guys manage to be very dramatic without coming off as cheesy.  I think the songs are very good and catchy without being mind blowing and the focus on this record is the energy.

There is very little dynamic range to this record, it’s pretty loud for an acoustic record and there are spots where you can hear small amounts static in the singer’s voice.  I’m not sure I understand why they compressed this music so much.

@@@ No Doubt: Push and Shove (Interscope, 2012).  MOG new release section.  Folks are really into Gwen Stefani — she’s cute and charismatic.  However, this has little to do with the quality and content of a recording.  If it did, we would only have records by good looking people — oh wait, we kind of already have that.  The Cali rock band has somewhat morphed from a ska pop band into a techno-rock outfit with just a hair of ska.  They’re a party band, but I could not make it past the chorus of the second tune of ‘Looking Hot’.

@@@ Efterklang: Pirimida (4AD, 2012).  MOG front page.  An indie electronic/New Wave with a spoonful of ambient and just a touch of Peter Gabriel European sophistication.  This music is not about rocking and it’s surprisingly New Age toilet paper soft for an indie release.

@@@  Kreayshawn: Something about Kreay (Columbia, 2012).  A potty-mouthed garbage rapper being marketed as pop music.  She has no flow on the mic — I don’t know if she’s medicated when she records or what, but she’s not even adept at dropping her foul mouthed spiel.  There’s nothing special about Kreay, and I’m glad she can’t hear the haters.

That’s a wise strategy.

Active Music Listening Monday September 24, 2012

YTD recordings listened to: 638
Good music, not recommended for purchase: 376
Not good music: 225
Buys: 19 (not all 2012 releases)
Possibles: Left Lane Cruiser/James Leg, Dennis Bovell, Seluah, Donnie and Joe Emerson,  Zani Diabate, Isaiah Toothtaker (2011), Ondatropica, Lianne Le Havas, Sidsel Endresen & Stan Westerhus, The Ones to Blame, Boyd Rivers, Abdoulaye Alhassane Toure, The Semi-Colons, Cryptopsy, Nick Waterhouse, Thollem McDonas, Patterson Hood.

@@@ Patterson Hood: Heat Lightning Rumbles in the Distance (ATO, 2012)  On the MOG new release page.  I’m a bit shocked as this guy appears to want to write lyrics that people will listen to.  In addition the record is not compressed beyond recognition and there’s some quirkiness. I must admit I’m more than a bit shocked.  Wow, a major label release that sports a real singer, real songs, and normal record production.  And it’s downer music to boot.  Somebody must have slipped this into the ATO release line without permission.  I’m going to have to check this record out more.

@@@ Bent Beyond: Woods (Woodsist, 2012).  I found this recording on the front page of MOG.  Definitely a throwback to late 1960’s California hippie rock with a well done Neil Young inpsired guitar sound.  The first tune opens up with a verse and right into an instrumental jam.  I’m very open to finding this style of music annoying, but they do a good job on the first tune.    The singer adds a distinctly pastoral feel with an kinda folk-y falsetto.  He’s not a rock band lead singer and it works well.  This is not a record that I would naturally be up for, but they have a clear idea of who they are and make that easy for the listener to understand.

@@@ Mean Creek: Youth Companion (Old Flame, 2012).  I got to this tune from a music publicist email and this tune/record is being marketed as the most anticipated Boston record of the year.  The promo tune ‘Young and Wild’ is below.  I like the rhythm section but I don’t dig the over dramatic reverb delay on the lead singer.  Plus he sounds soft and his lyrics are recycled.  They’re a bit better than The Counting Crows, but that’s not a very high bar to get over.

@@@ Angelica Sanchez: A Little House (Clean Feed, 2011)  A release from last year on Portugal’s Clean Feed jazz label.  I saw she has a new release, but this one is on MOG.  On this solo recording she is by turns a percussive pounder and a lyrical piano player.  The first tune ‘Chantico’ is more in the jarring aggressive neighborhood while the second tune ‘I’ll Sign My Heart Away’ is more inside.  The third tune ‘Along the Edge’ really pulled me in — lyrical and rhythmically interesting.  I will circle back and listen to more of this record.

@@@ My Jerusalem: Preachers (Out October 2012 on The End Records).  Checking this tune from a PR email and you can stream it here. Marketed as spiritual swamp music, I like the sections where the singer loses it, but otherwise it’s pretty straightforward rock ‘n roll.  I enjoy the swampiness of J.J. Gray more — I would say that My Jerusalem is more of an indie swamp rock where the hipsters don’t want to get their shoes wet and dirty.

Music biz not as venal as Wall Street? C’mon.

From here:

“Whether there was any intelligent way to resist [the digital revolution] is an open question to me. It’s not like the newspaper and magazine business have done it any better,” said Danny Goldberg, former CEO of both Mercury Records and Warner Brothers Records, who now manages artists including Tom Morrello.

“I don’t think the music business is as venal as, say, Wall Street,” Goldberg said. “I also don’t think that tech companies and computer companies are populated by saints who only care about freedom.”

I agree that tech and computer companies are not stocked with saints, but I  completely disagree with his assessment of the music business.

The music business has, until very recently, had extensive connections with the mafia.  You can read the book Hit Men to get a better idea of who and what and when.

I don’t believe the mafia influence is there anymore but the culture of the music business is still very mafia-like.

In addition, the level of thieving, historical and present day is as profound and damaging as on Wall Street.

Lastly, the music business’ relationship with its customers is almost identical to the relationship Wall Street has with its customers.  It’s characterized by a complete absence of trust.