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Month: December 2009

Pete’s Favorite Albums of the 00’s

Quick Note: I didn’t want to bombard my Top 10 with Springsteen and Prince albums, so I chose my favorites of theirs from the 00’s. Did I spend more time with  M.I.A.’s Arular than with Bruce’s Magic or Prince’s Musicology?  No way.  Just so you know, I limited my picks to one album per artist.

And now, on to the completely subjective look at 10 of my favorite albums of the decade!

10. Prince – The Rainbow Children (2001)

rainbowchildren

Jazzy, funky, and dipping deeply into P’s then new-found life as a Jehovah’s Witness, this album connected with me more than any Prince album of the 00’s (and nope, no JW am I). As much as the 54 second “Wedding Feast” makes me cringe, the album makes up for it with great tracks like “Digital Garden”, “The Work, Pt. 1”, and “The Sensual Everafter”.

Favorite tune: “1+1+1 is 3” (mp3) – to me, easily the funkiest Prince song of the 00’s.

9. M.I.A. – Arular (2005)

arular

I couldn’t leave the girls out! M.I.A. came out of nowhere halfway through the decade with her brand of world-influenced electronic hip-hop. I love her attitude, her style, her accent, and she ain’t so bad lookin’ either. I think this is one of those love it or hate it albums. My wife can’t stand it. But for me, songs like “Pull Up The People”, “Fire Fire”, and “Amazon” just, er, do it for me, okay?

Favorite tune: “Bucky Done Gun” – super sexy militant rappin’ time:

8. Steve Earle – Jerusalem (2002)

jerusalem

Steve had a lot to say about the state of our country after 9/11 and the ensuing conflicts overseas. Of course he was his controversial self with “John Walker’s Blues”. He was fierce as hell on “Ashes to Ashes” and “Amerika V. 6.0 (The Best We Can Do)”. And he looked for a world of peace in the gentle album closer, “Jerusalem”. A great album top to bottom.

Favorite tune: “What’s a Simple Man To Do?” (mp3) – an organ-driven barnburner of a tune about a Mexican drug smuggler’s letter to his madre.

7. Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2002)

yhf

Sure, some people think this is the obligatory best of the decade album – even if they think it doesn’t merit it. But guess what, it’s completely subjective, and certain albums connect with certain people. YHF was on constant rotation early in the decade. Wilco’s creativity and originality were through the roof in the late 90’s to early 00’s. The changes in direction between Being There, Summerteeth, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, and A Ghost is Born are startling.

Favorite tune: The “War on War” and “Jesus, Etc.” combo special.

6. Grandaddy – The Sophtware Slump (2000)

sophtwareslump

The brainchild of Jason Lytle, this futuristic, tech-themed album – with its gorgeous, sweeping electronic-based melodies – blew me away. Who would’ve guess I’d have such strong feelings about songs like “”Broken Household Appliance National Forest” and “Miner at the Dial-a-View”?

Favorite tune: “The Crystal Lake” and the beautiful “So You’ll Aim Toward the Sky” (YouTube).

5. Arcade Fire – Funeral (2004)

funeral

Win Butler and his merry troupe of noisemakers got my attention with “Old Flame” from their self-titled EP. And when I heard this album, I was hooked.

Favorite tune: “Wake Up” (YouTube) – especially after seeing them live at the Austin City Limits Music Festival. A sea of people singing “Whoooa-ooooa Whoooa-oooo-oooo-ooo”.

4. Bruce Springsteen – We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions (2006)

seegersessions

When Bruce takes a break from the E Street Band, you never know what you’re gonna get. And with the Sessions record, it was a return to the roots of American folk music, and he brought along about 15-20 of his friends for the ride. This album provided countless hours of joy around our house. And the tour stop through Phoenix was an absolute thrill for me and my wife. Hey Bruce, bring back the Sessions Band!!

Favorite tune: “Pay Me My Money Down”. A family favorite. The kids still sing it.

3. Band of Horses – Cease to Begin (2008)

ceasetobegin

2. Band of Horses – Everything All the Time (2006)

everything

Thank God these guys came along. Led by the gentle voice of Ben Bridwell, the first two Band of Horses albums are folk/indie masterpieces. There isn’t a bit of filler in either of these, and I look forward to following these guys for the rest of my lifetime.

Favorite tune: “Monsters” [mp3] (from EATT) and “Windows Blues” [mp3] (from CTB) – surprise, the slower tunes.

1. Marah – Kids in Philly (2000)

kidsinphilly

In 2000, when I was going through some “woe is me” / “whaddya mean I can’t get this girl back”-type stuff, this album picked me up, punched me in the nuts, and knocked me back over. I was living down by the new Tempe Town Lake, and I’d run around it a few nights a week – I’d start running as the opening banjo riff of “Faraway You” ignited the album, and I wouldn’t stop ’til the closing street harmonies of “This Town”. The album was super cathartic, and every time I listen to it, I think of that summer of 2000. August 2000 also included one of the best rock ‘n roll shows I’ve ever seen: Marah at Tempe’s now defunct Long Wong’s – a small, sweat-soaked bar. I’ll never forget the energy of Dave, Serge and the boys that night. The album and band encapsulate what stripped down rock ‘n roll is all about.

Favorite Tune: “Round Eye Blues” (mp3) – capturing the spirit of Motown and Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound, this is a vivid and beautiful song, sung in the perspective of a young man in Vietnam:

Fables tell of men who fell
With swords dangling from their chest
The old guys down at the taproom swear
The Japs could kill you best
But late at night I could still hear the cries
Of three black guys I seen take it in the face
I think about them sweet Motown girls they left behind
And the assholes that took their place

Goosebumps every time.

When all is said and done, this is the album that affected me most personally, and therefore must be crowned: Pete’s Album of the 00’s!

Markadelphia’s Best of the Noughties

The last decade of music was fucking amazing. One would think that being the Brit Rock maniac that I am I would be all about the 90s. While I did enjoy that decade, the music that came out in the last ten years made me wish it was a woman that I could kiss deeply and shower her with love and affection.

So what were the best ones? Here is my Top Ten with comments followed by my other 40 to round out the Top 50 CDs of the Noughties!

10. The Coral – Roots and Echoes (2007). Haunting, beautiful and brilliant. The best album of their career. Also contains my son’s favorite song of all time–“Cobwebs.” A psychedelic kiss…

9. Friendly Fires – Friendly Fires (2008).

Like Ennis Del Mar, I can’t quit this album. They musically illustrate what it’s like to “Jump in the Pool” on the track of the same name. Wow! Every track is a dime. And they are a great live band. See them.

8. Mercury Rev – The Secret Migration (2005). From the first sound of this disc, the listener begins a sacred feminine journey that is a kiss to be cherished forever.

7. Coldplay – Parachutes (2000). Their first album is still my favorite. “High Speed” is the very definition of dream pop. Memories of those I love wash over me when I hear it…

6. The Kooks – Inside In/Inside Out (2006).

A stunner of a debut. Pop bliss wrapped in an amorous red bow.

5. The Fratellis – Costello Music (2006). Sometimes you hear a record for the first time and yet you have known it your whole life. This is one of those records. “Her’s is the tonic and mine is the gin”–mega…

4. Arctic Monkeys – Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I Am Not (2006).

The heirs to the Beatles and Oasis. This disc is filled with love soaked Brit tales that are guaranteed to warm the heart and make us all Holy Knights of the British Empire.

3. Sterephonics – Just Enough Education To Perform (2001). Their finest album.  NME will never forgive Kelly for “Mr Writer” and I think that is fucking wonderful.

2. The Subways – All Or Nothing (2008). The album that has defined my life. I think Billy and I are kindred spirits. Listening to this record is an answer to the question “Just what is Mark’s romance with women and music all about?”

1. Brian Wilson – Smile (2004).

An album 38 years in the making. Even in 2004 (just as in 1966), the concept of this album is light years ahead of its time. Brian Wilson is a genius. He is the American John Lennon. I was fortunate enough to see this album performed live in its entirety. It left me with no doubt that there is a higher power because, in addition to being the best show I have ever seen, Smile is one of the purest forms of beauty I have ever heard.

The rest of the best…

11. The Verve-Forth, 12. Keane-Hopes and Fears, 13. Doves-The Last Broadcast, 14. Snow Patrol-A Hundred Million Suns, 15. The Subways-Young For Eternity, 16. Delays-Faded Seaside Glamour, 17. Joe Jackson-Volume 4, 18. Ryan Adams-Love Is Hell, 19. The Kooks-Konk, 20. Coldplay-X and Y, 21. Snow Patrol-The Final Straw, 22. Stereophonics-You Gotta Go There To Come Back, 23. Doves-The Last Broadcast, 24. Saint Etienne-Finnesterre, 25. Travis-The Invisible Band, 26. U2-All That You Can’t Leave Behind, 27. Todd Rundgren-Liars, 28. Planet P Project-Go Out Dancing Pt.1, 29. The Last Shadow Puppets-The Age of the Understatement, 30. Kings of Leon-Holy Roller Novocaine EP, 31. Tom Petty-The Last DJ, 32. Doves-Some Cities, 33. Stereophonics-Language, Sex, Violence, Other, 34. Phoenix-United, 35. The Libertines-Up The Bracket, 36. Muse-Black Holes and Revelations, 37. Green Day-American Idiot, 38. Neil Young-Silver and Gold, 39. Beck-Guero, 40. Starsailor-Love Is Here, 41. Captain-This is Hazelville, 42. Kaiser Chiefs-Employment, 43. The Strokes-Is This It? 44. The Vines-Highly Evolved, 45. Paul McCartney-Chaos and Creation in the Backyard, 46. Stereophonics-Keep Calm and Carry On, 47. Yeah Yeah Yeahs-EP, 48. Neil Finn-One Nil/One All, 49. John Starkey-Live at Jitters, 50. Oasis-Dig Out Your Soul

Jeff Tweedy at the Orpheum Theater in Phoenix

Seeing my favorite artists live in a full band setting is obviously one of life’s great thrills – Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, Steve Earle & the Dukes, Los Lobos, Wilco… But just as thrilling for me is witnessing more intimate showcases: the solo acoustic show. To be able to sit down and study the architect of the songs you love, as they play for you in a small theater – just the artist, a guitar and a microphone – you’re able to get a deeper understanding of the artist and his work.

I’ve had the privilege to sit and watch my favorites in these intimate-type settings: Springsteen on the Tom Joad and Devils and Dust tours, Steve Earle on several occasions, David Hidalgo & Louis Perez at a small theater in Tucson – and last night, Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy.

I’ve followed Jeff and his band since Mermaid Avenue bowled me over in 1998. From that point, I’ve devoured everything they’ve released. For me, it all comes back around to that one unique characteristic: the golden, sweet & raspy vocal chords of Jeff Tweedy.

Last night, in the ornate and acoustically divine Orpheum Theater in downtown Phoenix, the voice was in prime form, filling the small venue – from low whispers to tuneful wails. I don’t mean to get all dramatic and schmaltzy on you all, but it was such a special experience for me and the several hundred that filled the theater. Outside of a few entertaining exchanges between songs, the crowd was perfectly quiet – letting each song live and breathe – with only the sounds of Tweedy’s voice and acoustic guitar wafting perfectly in the air.

Tweedy’s set list dipped into the Wilco songbook (e.g. “Passenger Side”, “A Shot in the Arm”, “Sunken Treasure”, “How To Fight Loneliness”, “Hummingbird”, “Impossible Germany”, “You & I”), his own solo material (“Bob Dylan’s 49th Beard”), Uncle Tupelo (“”Acuff-Rose”), as well as his side project/”supergroup” Golden Smog (“Please Tell My Brother” was one of the most poignant moments).

One great spontaneous moment came when he veered from the set list for a cover of the Handsome Family’s “So Much Wine”, a dark Christmas tale of a broken relationship. I had never heard the original, and clearly I was missing out on some wonderful lyrics:  “Where the state highway starts I stopped my car / I got out and stared up at the stars / As meteors died and shot ‘cross the sky / I thought about your sad, shining eyes.”    Picture Tweedy singing this in a mournful country shuffle… it was magic.

Another special moment came with “Jesus, etc.”, as Jeff shared vocal duties with the crowd. It wasn’t the messy sing-a-long you’ve heard at some shows. Rather, it was a very clear and succinct, spot-on rendition, and it made the small venue feel even smaller and more intimate.

After wrapping up “I’m the Man Who Loves You” (dedicated to his wife Susie, who was in attendance with his family), Jeff  stepped away from the mic for the last couple of  songs, standing at the edge of the stage with no PA. “This is what it’ll be like when we lose power”, he joked, referring to a post-apocalyptic world.

This moment summed up the entire evening… here was one of the most gifted singer-songwriters of our generation, in a one-off performance – and it wasn’t about the glitz and glamor of a rock ‘n roll band. It wasn’t about effects. And hell, it wasn’t even about amplification.. It was a man and his guitar singing his songs, playing from the heart and soul, and connecting with each and every one of us lucky enough to be in attendance.

Photos: Photographer Holly Carlyle snapped some incredible photographs from the evening. Check them out here.

Set List (thanks to azcentral):

Sunken Treasure
Remember The Mountain Bed
Please Tell My Brother
Hummingbird
Country Disappeared
The Ruling Class
I Am Trying To Break Your Heart
Bob Dylan’s 49th Beard
You and I
Muzzle of Bees
How To Fight Loneliness
Impossible Germany
In A Future Age
Passenger Side
So Much Wine
Spiders (Kidsmoke)
A Shot in the Arm

Encore:

Heavy Metal Drummer
Jesus, Etc.
I’m the Man Who Loves You
Someone Else’s Song
Acuff-Rose

Late Night Christmas

With things being as hectic as can be in my household, it’s the little things that bring home the holiday spirit. Last night, after spending some time shopping with my wife, we collapsed into the couch and flipped on Letterman just in time to catch Darlene Love perform her classic “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home).”

Merry Christmas to you and yours.

Remembering Joe Strummer / Live Clash from Jamaica

Today marks the seventh anniversary of Joe Strummer‘s untimely death at the age of 50 (due to a heart defect). To mark the occasion, and to celebrate the legend – born John Graham Mellor in Ankara, Turkey – here’s a nice boot from the Clash at the height of their popularity.

Touring behind their hit album Combat Rock, the tour took them through Montego Bay, Jamaica for the Jamaican World Music Festival. The Grateful Dead had headlined the night before, and this night, it was the Clash’s turn.

According to the Clash resource Black Market Clash, the “Bob Marley Centre” was nothing more than an immense gravel parking lot with a stage at one end. Earlier acts of the evening included Rick James, Jimmy Buffett, the English Beat, and Bob Weir’s band, Bobby and the Midnites. By the time the Clash came on, it was closing in on dawn.

So enjoy the show, and pass it on to those snot-nosed shits who think they know music, but can’t tell you who Joe Strummer is.

Rest in Peace Joe…

The Clash at the Jamaican World Music Festival (download)
Bob Marley Centre – Montego Bay, JA
November 27, 1982

Introduction
London Calling
Police on My Back
The Guns of Brixton
Magnificent 7
Armagideon Time
The Magnificent 7
Junco Partner
Spanish Bombs
One More Time
Train In Vain
Bankrobber
This is Radio Clash
Clampdown
Should I Stay or Should I Go
Rock the Casbah
Straight to Hell
I Fought the Law

The Friday Five: December 18, 2009

http://ickmusic.com/pics/FridayFive06.png

Friday Five : ˈfrī-(ˌ)dā,-dē ˈfīv : On the sixth day of every week I hit the shuffle button on my iTunes and share my five and drop a little knowledge and insight for each track. Sometimes there is a playlist involved, sometimes there isn’t. Sometimes we have guest, but most of the time it’s just me. The rest is up to you, our friends and readers! Fire up your media player of choice and share the first five random track of your shuffle in the comments.

The Five:

Ani DiFranco – “Hell Yeah” (from Out of Range, 1994)

It’s been a while since an artist has appeared two weeks in a row. I lost touch with Ani somewhere after Revelling/Reckoning, but never lost love for her frank and beautiful songs. Out of Range was a record that came along at a turning point in my life, providing solace within its reflective songs.

Richard Hell & The Voidoids – “Love Comes In Spurts” (mp3) (from Blank Generation, 1977)

My memory of this song is tied entirely to the 1990 film “Pump Up the Volume”. I remember spending weekends at my friend’s house and watching marathons of it over and over.

Ugly Kid Joe – “Cats in the Cradle” (mp3) (from America’s Least Wanted, 1992)

I’ll admit to having this album primarily for the track “Everything About You”. When Tesla took their take on the Five Man Electrical Band track “Signs” all the way to number eight on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, it became customary for the pop metal acts of the day to include a slightly obscure folk song in lieu of a power ballad. Ugly Kid Joe topped Tesla by taking the Harry Chapin classic all the way to number six.

Radiohead – “Karma Police” (from OK Computer, 1997)

This record took nearly 10 years to connect with me. When released in 1997, I was far too preoccupied with the Third Wave Ska and Indie Rock bands of the day to be bothered with Radiohead. I came back to the record after hearing the brilliant Kid A and now consider it to be one of my favorite records of all time.

U2 – “Get on Your Boots” (from No Line on the Horizon, 2009)

Every time I hear this track I can’t help but think it’s just a sub-par version of The Escape Club track “Wild, Wild West”. This release was disappointing to me, more for its lack of the caliber of songwriting that I’ve come to expect than anything else.

I showed you mine, what is on your five?

When Doves Cry / Beautifully Broken

It’s been a while since I’ve discovered a gem in my own music library – one that I don’t recall ever hearing. I’ve listened to Gov’t Mule’s 2003 live album (Deepest End: Live in Concert) before, but I don’t remember hearing what I heard tonight: a slow and bluesy “When Doves Cry” sung by Warren Haynes. Prince’s classic tune bookends the tune “Beautifully Broken”. Only the chorus is sung, but the way it weaves its way into the full song makes it one of the best interpretations of a Prince tune I’ve heard.

I’m sure there are a few groups in the jam band scene that have tackled Prince’s music. The only cover that comes to mind is Phish’s take on “Purple Rain”, which always seemed like more of an attempt to be humorous than a respectful and heartfelt interpretation of the work (must be the vacuum cleaner solo).

With an artist like Warren Haynes though, you can bet that he’ll put his heart and soul into any song he performs – and it’s evident here with “When Doves Cry” and “Beautifully Broken”. There’s a passion in the vocals and every pluck of his guitar string. And with a heavy duty powerhouse like Gov’t Mule backing it all up – well – I’m damn sure I’ll have this on regular rotation for some time to come.

Gov’t Mule – When Doves Cry / Beautifully Broken (mp3)

From The Deepest End: Live in Concert.

Chromeo’s Night by Night

I finally got around to checking out this new Chromeo tune over at Gonzo’s site, and I like what I’m hearing. For anyone who has any part of their musical sensibilities rooted in 80’s funk & electro – and you’re interested in hearing a modern twist on it – then Chromeo is your band…