Pete’s Music Highlights: My Top 12 of 2012

I’ve been as quiet here on Ickmusic as I ever have during its eight year run.  Worry not, nothing (outside of my family) has taken a back seat to music in my life. It still fuels everything I do. But there has been a definite lull in my desire to sit down and type out regular blog posts. I know it tears you up inside (whoever “you” may be).

But it’s okay, Ickmusic.com is still here when I need it. Like today, for instance, when I feel like sharing my music highlights from the year Twenty-Twelve.

Here are some of the albums, songs and live shows that enriched my world in 2012…

1. Album: Band of Horses – ‘Mirage Rock

Fans and critics who were praying for another Everything All The Time or Cease to Begin cried foul when Mirage Rock was released this year. Me? I ate it right up. The album, produced by legendary classic rock engineer/producer Glyn Johns (The Who, The Stones, to name a couple) definitely steers heavily into 70’s classic rock and even soft rock category. I am just fine with that. In fact, the wistfully sweet “Long Vows” and “Slow Cruel Hands of Time” are two of my favorites. But the boys sure crank it up with tunes like “Dumpster World”, “Knock Knock”, and the early 70’s Stones-ish “Electric Music.” Yep, I’m all in on this record. Oh, and if you’re looking for beauty, track down “Relly’s Dream” from the Sonic Ranch Sessions bonus disc on their deluxe edition. I spun this album start to finish more than any other release this year.

2. Show: World Party – Crescent Ballroom, Phoenix – 12-02-2012

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Thanks to Zia Records, the top independent record store here in Phoenix, I won a pair of tickets to see Karl Wallinger and his band World Party. As a big fan especially of the Goodbye Jumbo album, it was a rare honor to see Karl play an intimate venue like the Crescent Ballroom in downtown Phoenix (my #1 room in town). After a serious health scare in the early 2000’s (a brain aneurysm), Karl’s voice is as pure and dynamic as you’d hope for. Along with his sharp young Nashville bandmates, he tore through WP classics like “Is It Like Today”, “Ship of Fools”, “Way Down Now” and (my favorite) “Put The Message In The Box”; and also sat down at the keys for “She’s The One” and “God On My Side.” This gig far exceeded my expectations (I didn’t know what to expect, really), and I sincerely hope Karl continues on with making music and touring. I can’t wait to see him again.

Here’s a video I shot of Karl and violin/mandolin/harmony vocalist extraordinaire David Duffy singing “Mystery Girl” (bump up the quality to 720p or 1080p):

3. Show: Band of Horses, Marquee Theater, Tempe 10-26-2012

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I’d seen Band of Horses a couple of times before, but only in a festival setting (Austin City Limits). This first true headlining show came out of the cancelled Railroad Revival Tour with Willie Nelson. Ben Bridwell and the boys set up at Tempe’s Marquee Theater in late October and tore the roof off the dump. Drawing from all four of their studio albums with a couple covers thrown in (Them Two and Hour Glass, nice & obscure!), the songs were rambunctious, mellow, inspiring, wistful, beautiful, rocking… all the adjectives that reminded me (and the full house) why we love them so much. Not to mention getting to chat for a while with Ben after the show. The dude abides.

4. Album: Ryan Bingham – ‘Tomorrowland

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Give me the cool, gravelly roots/folk/country rockin’ twang of Ryan Bingham any day of week. Tomorrowland is a return to the more straight-ahead rockers that seemed to be missing on his last album, the T-Bone Burnett produced ‘Junky Star.’ He wastes no time on Tomorrowland’s opener, launching into “Beg for Broken Legs” with urgency and force. “Guess Who’s Knockin” is another strong one, featuring a satisfying F-bomb chorus. “Never Ending Show”, “Flower Bomb”, “The Road I’m On” – all standout tracks. If you haven’t checked out Tomorrowland (or Ryan Bingham) yet, you’re missing out. Just do it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ftBWG1U09OA

5. Show: Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band – Jobing.com Arena, Glendale 12-06-2012

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I took a couple of Bruce first timers a few hours early to go through the wristband lottery to try and get up near the front of the stage (“in the pit”, as they say). Sadly, our numbers were not of the lucky variety, and we were shut out. So we ended up behind the pit right next to the sound booth. The disappointment was very quickly washed away with Bruce’s first strum of the acoustic for the opener “Surprise, Surprise.” The first 30 minutes was a showcase of career nuggets: “No Surrender”, “I’m a Rocker”, “Hungry Heart”, “Prove It All Night”, “Trapped”, and “Lost in the Flood” – and all those before launching into the new Wrecking Ball material! Three plus hours from a tireless 63 year old and his very large troupe of supporting members – the E Street Band and then some. My eighteenth live Bruce experience, and yet another reminder why The Boss sits on the top of the pile in my world.

6. Show: Girls – Crescent Ballroom, Phoenix – 03-03-2012

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Who would’ve thought I was seeing Girls the band in one of their final performances? For not long after, frontman, songwriter, and singer Christopher Owens announced on Twitter that the band was done. He’s moving on in another musical direction (his debut solo album, Lysandre, comes out in just a couple weeks). So I am fortunate to have seen Christopher and the band play songs I’ve come to absolutely love since discovering them a couple of years ago: “Laura”, “Alex”, “Honey Bunny”, “Love Like a River”, “Die”…

Something about Christopher’s music draws me in – the beauty and innocence, the light in the darkness – and I’ll basically be following him around for however long he decides to make music. A great show – short, but sweet.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-J6aXK39qVQ

7. AlbumNeil Young & Crazy Horse – ‘Psychedelic Pill

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A 27 minute album opener with the lyrics “I wanna get a hip-hop haircut”? Check. Something about this record, particularly the longer running tunes (“Driftin’ Back”, “Ramada Inn”, “Walk Like a Giant”), really grabbed hold of me. It’s the loud, distorted (and long) guitar solos, it’s the way Neil sneers his way through the lyrics… It’s the unconventional and F-you attitude of it all. Everything Mr. Neil Young represents.

And of course Neil has a 27 minute long official video for “Driftin’ Back”…

8. Show: Lenny Kravitz – Comerica Theater, Phoenix – 02-12-2012

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Rock Star. Completely and indisputably. It’s fun to sit back and watch a performer just turn on all the glamor, glitz, and poses of a Rock Star. Lenny has perfected this persona over his 20+ years of performing. He’s got a quite the catalog to choose from, and watching him perform the hits (“Are You Gonna Go My Way” being my favorite) as well as tunes from his surprisingly strong latest album, ‘Black and White America‘, had us out of our seats the entire gig. Lenny has always been and remains a total badass. Such an entertaining show.

9. Song: Bruce Springsteen – “Jack of All Trades”

This is my favorite Bruce tune in years. I thought about including the whole ‘Wrecking Ball‘ on the “list”, but that wouldn’t be an honest assessment. While I enjoy Bruce’s Great Recession album from earlier this year, I just haven’t connected too much with the songs (of course, hearing them live is a whole ‘nother ball of wax – see above for my December 6th Bruce show). “Jack of All Trades” though, wow. A slow, dirge-like bass drum and piano start off the song. It builds and builds with each verse and ends with a forceful guitar solo from Tom Morello. The theme of strength, perseverance and optimism in the face of adversity is a common one in Bruce’s music, but he really connects with this tune in a goosebumps and tears kind of way.

“I’m the jack of all trades / honey we’ll be alright”

10. Album: Delta Spirit – ‘Delta Spirit

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Matt Vasquez and company continue to evolve, refusing to stay pigeonholed the way some fans prefer (see Mirage Rock comments). “California” was the lead single and the most obvious stray from their former indie/folk sound – a more electronic modern pop sound. But they still rock out – “Money Saves” is one of my favorites, as are “Tear It Up” and “Tellin’ the Mind.” Nothing matches my three standout tracks from their last album, ‘History From Below‘ – “911”, “Bushwick Blues” and “Salt in the Wound” – but that’s not a knock on this record. I love a band that explores new territory and challenges themselves to try something new – Delta Spirit is a band I’ll be following for years to come.

11. Album: Fred Eaglesmith – ‘6 Volts

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It wasn’t until about midway though the year that I reconnected with Canadian singer/songwriter Fred Eaglesmith. I listened to him in the late 90’s and early 00’s, but for some reason, I seemed to veer away. ‘6 Volts’ was released in January, and quickly reminded me what drew me to Fred: clever songwriting and storytelling, and great folk/root-rock sounds and rhythms. ‘”Betty” is a standout track from 6 Volts, with Fred conjuring up dark imagery on as cheerful a melody and cadence as possible: “Betty what’d you do with the gun? There’s strangers at my door / and there’s more where they come from / …was it the money, was it the drugs / was it somebody that you used to know / …Betty Betty why won’t you tell me”.

12. AlbumTrampled by Turtles – ‘Stars and Satellites

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Straight out of Duluth, Minnesota, I became aware of Trampled by Turtles when I saw them at the 2011 Newport Folk Festival. I’ve seen categorizations bandied about in the past for this band, like “newgrass” and “speedgrass”… but with this year’s release, people will have to search for new adjectives. They jump into more rootsy, Americana-inspired territory here, bringing the tempo down with some great tunes like “Midnight on the Interstate”, “Alone”, “Widower’s Heart” and “Beautiful.” Of course, they haven’t abandoned their bluegrass roots, their banjo and fiddle players remain. So if you want your speed fix, listen to “Don’t Look Down” or “Walt Whitman.”

We Take Care Of Our Own

Yeah, that’s right, Bruce. We sure do. Fuckin’-A right we do. That’s why you just helped us elect the right guy for president a week ago. You are amazing. You are wonderful.

You are a fucking monster.

And it was great to see you again after 25 years.

The last time I saw you was at the now giant parking lot next to the Mall of America but then the Met Center on the Tunnel of Love Tour. You played for four and a half hours and I loved every minute of it. Two days ago you played for just over three hours but I didn’t care because your set list was redonkulous.

You opened with “We Take Care Of Our Own” which was a nice exclamation point on the election. You had the house singing along early to “Out in the Street.” You delivered a powerful one-two punch with “Death To My Hometown” and “My City of Ruins,” the latter of which made me well up at not only the theme but how fucking beautiful your voice was…

Each song seemed to give you more energy just like it was 25 years ago when you were a young lad of 37. Body surfing for fuck’s sake to “Hungry Heart”…the unbridled energy of “Open All Night,” which was my wife’s fave…and I still can’t believe you were able to pull “Savin’ Up” out of your ass and play it perfectly. “Shackled and Drawn” reminded the crowd of just how good your new record is.

My personal fave was “Rosalita.” Same intensity. Same high energy. Same amount of sweat and multiple gallons of water.

The memories of the 88 year old dancing with Stevie to “Dancing in the Dark” and the various kids you pulled up on stage will be with me forever, dude. You are more than a boss. More than an icon.

You are….

For the rest of my photos, click here.

Bruce’s Opener in Berlin: “When I Leave Berlin”

This Boss guy sure knows how to endear himself to a crowd, doesn’t he? Last night in Berlin, Bruce kicked off the show with “When I Leave Berlin” by British folk artist Wizz Jones. I’ll admit to knowing next to shizz about Wizz, but turns out he’s one of the most revered, influential folk artists to come out of the UK. “When I Leave Berlin” was the title track of his fourth album released in 1973.

Not sure how the song got on to Bruce’s radar. It’s likely that he’s a Wizz fan, or maybe just as likely he Googled “songs about berlin” a few days before the gig? Who knows? Bruce does, actually.

But at any rate, watching this video earlier today was the first time I’d knowingly heard the tune. And the warm, heartfelt spirit that emanates from Bruce to the Berlin crowd was enough to put a smile on my face and a mist in my eyes. Maybe it’s the combined macht of my Bruce fandom and my German heritage, but it sure is a beautiful thing to behold…

IckMix 6: Move

I put this together for my brother a few months ago as a running/exercise companion. Since then, I’ve listened to it quite a few times on my runs, and quite simply, it pretty much kicks ass.

So download, throw it on your iPod/iPhone/SmartPhone of choice, and move! (Or, sit back in a La-Z-Boy with a strong cocktail. You do what you want, I’m not your daddy).

IckMix 6: Move (mp3)

[audio:ickmix6.mp3]

1. “Month of May” – Arcade Fire (3:51) | The Suburbs
2. “Bushwick Blues” – Delta Spirit (3:44) | History from Below
3. “Seaside Bar Song” – Bruce Springsteen (3:35) | Tracks
4. “Run Runaway” – Slade (5:01) | The Amazing Kamikaze Syndrome
5. “Now It’s On+ – Grandaddy (4:08)  | Sumday
6. “When My Time Comes” – Dawes (5:08) | North Hills
7. “A More Perfect Union” – Titus Andronicus (7:10) | The Monitor
8. “The Leader” – The Clash (1:42) | Sandinista!
9. “Boom Boom (Out Go The Lights)” – Pat Travers Band (5:06) | Pat Travers Band…Live! Go For What You Know
10. “Let’s Go Crazy (Special Dance Mix)” – Prince (7:37) | Ultimate
11. “Freedom Park” – Marah (4:35) | 20,000 Streets Under The Sky
12. “I Do (LP Version)” – J. Geils Band (3:08) | Monkey Island

The Friday Five: January 20, 2012

On the sixth day of every week, Michael Parr shuffles through his library to bring you five random tracks.

Friday Five

Friday Five : ‘frī-(,)dā,-dē ‘fīv : On the sixth day of every week, I hit the shuffle button on my iTunes, then share the first five tracks and thought for each track. Sometimes there is a playlist involved, occasionally we’ll have a 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:

“Stay” by Erykah Badu (from Live, 1997)

“I’ma test this out…” admits Badu at the beginning of this track, copping to the fact that she intended to cover the Rufus classic at the Soul Train awards show, but “got scared.” She then proceeds to absolutely kick the type of performance that will make the hair on the back of your neck stand on end.

“Pope” by Prince (from The Hits/The B-Sides, 1993)

“You don’t understand … I ain’t scared of you mutha fuckers!”

“Born in the U.S.A.” by Bruce Springsteen (from Greatest Hits, 1995)

I suppose I’m beholden to discuss The Boss’ new tune in this space, but I have only listened to it once or twice. The jury is still out, as far as I’m concerned. It’s not a bad song, it just seems a little heavy handed. While not as big a Springsteen fan as most of you that read the Five, I still felt the absence of Clarence at the close where his solo clearly should have been.

“Home Sweet Home” by Mötley Crüe (from Theatre of Pain, 1985)

Vince Neil recently played a show locally. I don’t know why that matters, I just found it odd to think he’s still out there trying to sustain some form of a career without the Crüe. I suppose that will all stop once their Vegas residency starts.

“Stuck With You” by Huey Lewis & The News (from Time Flies… The Best of Huey Lewis & The News, 1996)

“Stuck With You” is only behind “If This Is It” in my list of favorite Huey Lewis tunes.

What’s on your shuffle today?

Titus Andronicus!

Once in a while, a song comes along, lifts me up by the collar and slams me up against the wall. I had one of those moments with “A More Perfect Union”, the opener on the The Monitor, the latest record by New Jersey’s Titus Andronicus. The album/song start with a spoken word excerpt from an 1838 speech given by Abraham Lincoln – and when the guitars & drums crash in powerfully after the words “If destruction be our lot, we ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we will live forever, or die by suicide”, it’s off to the races.

The band clearly comes from the same school of raw, raucous power as the Clash, Bruce Springsteen, the Pogues, and the like. And singer Patrick Stickles has an irreverent, raging vocal delivery that reminds me of Conor Oberst – and I like Conor a lot when he’s pissed off.

The official video of “A More Perfect Union” skips the opening Lincoln intro, which is a shame, because it’s an integral piece of kicking the song into overdrive – from zero to sixty in a second. But you’ll get the vibe.

The Monitor comes highly recommended. Buy it for $5 on Amazon. I did. If you’re with me here in Arizona, I’ll see you April 18th for their show at the Rhythm Room.

Nap Time with Nils

I’m lucky enough to work from home. Usually when my “lunch hour” rolls around, I’ll throw on the running shoes and jog a few miles around the ‘hood. This arrangement has been surprisingly good for my health. Breaking up the day with a run clears my mind, puts everything into perspective, gets my blood pumping, and allows me the opportunity to be alone with Music. Love the arrangement.

Well, on Monday, it was overcast, scattered showers, and downright gloomy. I chose to utilize my free hour in the form of a n-a-p. How sweet it was. 50 minutes of midday relaxation. I dialed up E Street Radio on my iPhone SiriusXM app, and stumbled across Nils Lofgren‘s hour as guest DJ.

Listening to the show, I was in that euphoric, meditative state where you’re not fully conscious but you’re not fully asleep either. I was sort of floating through the ether – able to relax my mind, and at the same time soak in the music that Nils was playing.

He played his live version of the Star Spangled Banner, which was amazing. He played his Bruce favorites, like “Nothing Man”, “Man’s Job”, and “My City of Ruin”; he played an in-studio acoustic intro to “Countin’ on a Miracle”…

But what really hit me from Nils was when he played his version of “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face”. Yeah, the song made popular by Robert Flack almost 40 years ago (the tune was actually written by folk singer Ewan MacColl in 1957).

And man, it hit me in just the right spot. Hair stood up on my arms, the tear ducts activated a bit (only a bit, dammit I’m a macho man. No I’m not).

Lofgren’s high, tender voice soars in this version. Just beautiful. I think I’ll take more naps.

Nils Lofgren BandThe First Time Ever I Saw Your Face (mp3)

[audio:nils.mp3]

Buy Nils Lofgren Band Live.

Señorita, Come Sit By My Fire…

Watching Bruce sing “Rosalita” tonight on Palladia‘s airing of Hard Rock Calling 2009 prompted me to track down this video ASAP and post on the blog. If you know anything about the Boss, you know that this 1978 version of Rosie live in Phoenix is one of the quintessential live video documents of Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band.

It took place July 8th, 1978 at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix, Arizona. It was the main arena in town at the time. The Phoenix Suns played there. Nowadays, it’s brought back into service during the Arizona State Fair every October. I’ve seen Bob Dylan and Steve Miller in that old arena (not together, mind you).

According to Brucebase, the most reliable source for every Bruce Springsteen performance known to man (until ’08), this was the night after the legendary July 7th club show at the Roxy in L.A. (a show that I still have available for you fine folks to listen to). It’s the middle of a hot summer in the desert, Bruce is still flying high after one of the most exhilarating shows of this career, and let’s just say the atmosphere is electric.

It gets no better.