seriously tho, how come they didn’t go with Kid Rock as an answer choice?
Wrong on so many levels.
Our bare bones blog for Barons. Bits on the band and beyond.
seriously tho, how come they didn’t go with Kid Rock as an answer choice?
Wrong on so many levels.
Warner Bros. Records
I guess this is technically a jazz record—I mean, it’s core is a piano-fronted jazz trio—but it’s so much thicker than that. Largo isn’t a set-up-some-room-mics-and-jam jazz record (although there’s super-impressive improvisation.) Instead, you’ll find scaffolded song structures and purposeful production that’s not as heavy-handed as textural overdubs tend to be on academic jazz records. Alright! All right. It is a jazz record. But Largo—which only deserves its name at fleeting moments throughout the album that are ultimately revealed as calculated context to juxtapose the more exciting ones—has distinct elements of hip hop, metal, salsa, rock, house, and blues (and includes covers of the Beatles and Radiohead and an homage to Black Sabbath) that all feel right.
Mehldau can shred and does. But he also engineers enough negative space to effectively emphasize
ome fall, you’ll invariably find lists of the best albums of the year, decade, millennium, epoch, etc. But you can’t possibly expect me to make any sort of legitimate judgment about music that has just dropped! So, instead, as you may know, I make lists of the best albums of 10 and 20 years back. (If I’m still doing this when I’m 30, I’ll have a bigger workload.) This is my third installment of my series of candidates for 2002. Matty (guitar/vox, 1/2) will compile his own best albums list; Radiohead didn’t release an album in 2002 so don’t count on a list from Aaron; Dan’s list would be really short since he spent the whole year listening to Songs for the Deaf. (can you blame him? me neither.) Anyway, here’s another record that might show up on my list. Coming soon.
A Christmas Album
Saddle Creek Records
Ever wonder what it would sound like if an atheist dead-panned your favorite Christmas songs? Me neither. But thank god it occurred to someone, because it’s awesome. I swear to god: this record
Seeing Jack White and Radiohead in the same week was interesting. Here is a list of ways my experiences differed:
Jack White played material from every conceivable corner of his career, reimagined by new set of disparate musicians; Radiohead’s set was mostly brand new, with the same lineup as 199whatever plus sometimes another drummer (Phiw x2.)
Jack White’s lighting was minimal but the costumes were very deliberate (including his awkward custom guitar strap); Radiohead’s lightshow was out of this world but they dressed comfortably.
I’d never seen solo Jack White; I’d seen Radiohead before.
Jack was in a packed “ballroom” (roseland); Radiohead was in a spacious “center” (prudential).
His encore came out of left field (almost literally) and shocked the crowd; their encores were expected and timed to the minute.
He improvised his setlist and kept everyone, even his bandmates, guessing in terms of titles, tempos, and tenacity; their setlist was so carefully executed that the cameramen filming for their huge gliding screens could accurately anticipate their movements and distort or superimpose live images seemingly effortlessly.
Each drummer—one from the girl band, one from the boy…er…male band—was super hard-hitting and uniquely impressive; both drummers were similarly subtle and solid.
He was in ctrl and calling the shots; they’d all called the shots beforehand.
Sloppy and organic; tight and packaged.
unique experience; expert performance.
And now (because it happened to occur to me while I was cooking dinner) the things that Jack White and Woody Allen have in common:
1) They work with varied and sometimes inconceivable collaborators (but always ultimately preserve their own voice.)
2) They’re self-obsessed but don’t take themselves too seriously.
3) They love reimagining an old medium and/or story-telling technique.
4) Make us evaluate relationships that test our social instincts for (not technically) incest.
5) Kind of do the same thing over and over again.
6) love-interest/muses (for a time)
7) want to be loved
The Barons have been dropping Top 10 Albums lists for months. Finally the calendar and the rest of the world is catching up. So we thought we’d keep going back as we have been. Matty already posted a Top 10 Albums of 2001 list that’s full of insight on the albums he picked given the time they dropped. This one belongs to Dylan. There’re some significant points of agreement but also some key differences that might have something to do with the difference between drummers and guitarist/singer/songwriters. (The difference, obviously, being that drummers have better taste in music.)
I don’t think anyone still listens to the same stuff they did in 7th and 8th grade. Well, I hope not.
Yeah. I know it’s not even December yet but, let’s be honest, every album I was looking forward to this year either already dropped (i.e. Battles, Mastodon, Beastie Boys) or probably never will (Dr. Dre, Soundgarden, Queens of the Stone Age) and any great album that I’m not excitedly anticipating I won’t discover until too late (i.e. 2012) anyway.
But, if we’re really being honest, as I’ve been before, these lists are transient (if not altogether bullshit.) So, since the year-end Top 10 list is invariably partial to the albums still in the honeymoon period and inevitably ignorant of others, I thought I’d start compiling “top 10 albums of the year” lists as far back as I listened to music. (You can check out my top 10 list from 1991, Matty’s top 10 list from 2001, and my list from last year. And yes, this is the reason we’re not a tighter live band—because we sit around and arbitrarily rank things instead of practicing.) In other words, while I took this list seriously, it will inevitably change as these albums get played-out, others grow on me, or I discover some that I don’t even know exist yet. I’m also jumping the gun significantly, by laying this down well before the year’s even over but anything that comes out now I won’t be able to evaluate fairly anyway since it’ll still be so fresh. (That happened with Kanye last year.)
Song of the year: “Ice Cream” – Battles
Let’s get my near misses out of the way first (in no particular order):
11) Plata Cosmonauta – The Adventures of the Silver Spaceman
“I just want to devour the world; I want to eat it all up.”
(Full disclosure: Plata is Zach (guitarist from Steer) and this is his solo/side-project; Steer is one of the Barons’s best buddy bands who we toured with last year; Steer is also the other 66.6% of my high school band Canvas: the Human. So yeah maybe I’m biased. But this isn’t pity or flattery.)
So this didn’t quite make my top 10 cut but it’s #1 on the list of most intimate albums of the year. His songs about water—“High on the Beach” “The River’s Got a Waterfall” and “Row Row Row Your Boat”—for some reason are particularly awesome but “Breath of Fire” and “Master Plan” also deserve much more than the ephemeral free download—technically, “name your own price”—that this album is. Yeah it sounds like Neil Young and Bright Eyes but it is much more dynamic and free (without being spastic or inconsistent) than you’d expect from something with such clear influences.
Foo Fighters – Wasting Light
“These are my famous last words!”
There are some awesome songs here solidly executed but there are also some bad ones that make it not a great album. More on that later.
Man Man – Life Fantastic
“And if you gotta crash your car in a lake to feel sane, I say do it”
As much as I love this album, it still just plays a little too much like a novelty (even though it’s way more accessible than their other stuff) for me to thoroughly love. I may get over that, though, once this crosses over into the nostalgia stage. (Apparently that’s possible, since I seem to be the only person who still absolutely loves the Dillinger Escape Plan.)
Alright. Now that you’ve read—or scrolled past—all of that, it’s a little closer to 2012. So (in reverse order, as I always forget to do—to sustain literally several seconds of suspense) hear they are:
Yacht - Shangri-la
“I’m here to tell you that the world’s last unpleasant experience will be a precisely dateable event! Yes! It will happen in our lifetimes if we commit all of our energy today to the task of Paradise Engineering!”
This album should be called Apopcalypse. It’s like the feel good pre-show workout mix for the dance party that’s going to end the universe. Reminiscent of El Guapo, these guys break it down to brilliant barefaced basics, synths, and bass hits. The ratio of simultaneous shamelessness to tastefulness is unprecedented. In other words, I don’t know that anything else ever has been this unabashedly honest (if not quite clunky enough to call it blunt) lyrically or otherwise. If you can’t get into this record, you need to take a deep breath and let your guard down.
Radiohead – King of Limbs
“I will shrink and I will disappear”
So even though the ratio of minutes (37:24) to dollars ($14 for decent sounding digital, including no physical components) is way out of whack, there’s undeniably some great stuff here. After writing this album off almost immediately, I went back and starting getting seduced. That’s how Radiohead albums usually work. But I can’t quite say I ever fell in love this time. If it weren’t for tracks #1, #2, and #4, this would be the greatest EP ever made. Or maybe, if they didn’t selfishly withhold songs like “The Daily Mail” they could’ve filled it out into a real respectable album. Unfortunately, it is what it is: a disappointingly self-indulgent effort with a few songs that so damn good that it has to be on this list.
Red Fang – Murder the Mountains
“Momma’s not okay, she lights a candle for every day that you’re away. Today could be the one she burns the mother fucker down.”
Somewhere between the sounds of Mastodon and Queens of the Stone Age (two of my favorite bands ever) these guys are legitimately the first new (not nu) metal band that I’ve fallen in love with since my mega metal/hardcore phase in high school. (Bands that I listened to in high school, like Red Fang’s tour mates Mastodon and Dillinger Escape Plan, have continued to release great albums since then but this is the first band that I’ve since begun to listen to. And Genghis Tron.) First and foremost, this album is heavy as shit (if you glugged concrete mix or something.) There’s no shyness of staying on one chugged chord for several bars. (I used “chugged” and “bars” in the same sentence!) But, like The Hunter, it’s also unabashedly accessible; at times, vocals fill out the chugs with melodies that will actually get stuck in your head. I love down to earth stoner rock that embraces the tambourine.
Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blue
This is not a perfect album—that horn chaos feels more contrived than the beautifully conceived and executed harmonies it’s supposed to counter—but it certainly satisfies the “complete thought” criterion in my imaginary rubric. Maybe more importantly, it is probably the best summation yet of the disillusioned, overeducated, pretentious, talented, entitled, mostly-white, American 20somethings currently grasping for an identity (by doing things like screaming silently on blogs about their favorite music.) If Helplessness Blues doesn’t quite feel as bold as Zuccotti Park, it’s at least more articulate. As Noreen Malone said,
“The folk music of the sixties was protest music, but there is nothing remotely political about this. Instead, the preoccupations are inward-turning, the title track serving as a gentle generational anthem: ‘I was raised up believing/I was somehow unique/Like a snowflake, distinct among snowflakes.’”
It’s a great point. And an appropriately self-reflective assessment of the album: it sure is beautiful but snowflakes melt.
(Note: I meant to write a review/post about this album when it first dropped but I ended up with this.)
Beastie Boys - Hot Sauce Committee Part Two
“Oh my God just look at me, Grampa been rappin’ since ‘83”
So in the ‘80s, these punks were a fresh, raw, cocky, alternative to electronic pop. With this album, they both get back to those doody-rhyme roots and exploit the synths and vocal effects they countered back in the day. It works though. Like their use of distorted guitars in the ‘80s, this album takes the dominant pop instrument (if I knew anything about synths and effects I’d be more specific) and uses it tastefully to make something that doesn’t sound like anything else except the Beasties. I’m glad they’re back. Like their other really good albums, there’s more musicians’ instinct than you generally get in hip-hop, most obviously on an instrumental track like “Multilateral Nuclear Disarmament” but you feel it everywhere in their willingness to keep it simple, as in “Say It” or “Crazy Ass Shit.” Even their ages-old technique of changing up the beat just a bit as another Beastie (especially MCA) is introduced somehow feels fresh every time. Their last album—not counting The Mix Up, their instrumental album which I actually really liked—To the 5 Burroughs was a little awkwardly sober but here they’re back to being the best at their own sound and proving that rhyme skills aren’t the point—probably the worst verse on the album belongs to Nas (on “Too Many Rappers”) who blows them out of the water lyrically but just doesn’t get it. On stage and in videos and interviews, there’s some obvious tension between the older, skinnier, coyer, Mike D (a.k.a. “The Jewish Brad Pitt”) and the other two but none of that comes through on the album. It’s all silliness in the best way. (We’ve blogged about this album title before; if you want to know what we think of the title, check this out.
That’s it for now. Obviously I’ve got the rest all worked out but I’ll save it for next week. Any complaints or predictions?