31 December 2006

my top music releases of 2006

My top eight 2006 releases, or in other words, the eight cds i've played over and over and....well, you get the idea. Plus, if you don't like my 8 darlings there are 80 more from 10 other writers in the article!

Here you may find the nicely edited version: www.superstarcastic.com

Here is my longer, unedited version:

Some 2006 releases that changed my life, at least a little bit.

It's a lot of work to get out of town, especially when the town you live in is Denver. I got out of here two times this year. In March I drove almost sixteen hours straight to get to Austin for SXSW. It took six cans of Red Bull, (shudders) and only a few stops for fuel and food. The music made it worth all the effort, but it takes a long, long time after you leave Denver before you get to anyplace else that doesn't look like a likely spot for aliens to visit. It made me drive as fast as I could (hence the only sixteen hours of driving). Thanksgiving I decided to not risk the speeding tickets and took the train back home to Kentucky. Again, hours and hours of vast nothingness before signs of life appeared. Point being, living in Denver can feel as isolated as living on an island.

Okay, I was trying to get somewhere clever with that intro but lost it. Probably because trying to get somewhere clever takes you off the path of where you really need to go. So, lemme start this over with as basic and honest a start as I can. Any music I've deliberately chosen to listen to countless times qualifies as life impacting, at least for a time.

These are the 2006 releases I've employed the repeat button on, repeatedly, this past year:

  1. Porlolo – Storm and Season. I have certainty that I will never ever tire of hearing this album. Certainty isn't a regular visitor to my life. This is a beautiful collection of songs. Beautiful.
  2. Neko Case – Fox Confessor Brings the Flood. I love Neko Case and bought this the day it came out. On first listen I liked it, but disappointingly only kinda liked it. The songs didn't immediately take to my ear. But I've loved so much other Neko I kept listening. It has grown on me. Like bindweed choking out mainstream radio crabgrass. Very pretty.
  3. Paul K and the Weathermen – Panopticon. This guy had Will Oldham listening at his feet back in the day. Me too, but that's a less interesting comment. This is an ambitious three disc project, all hand made covers. Love it.
  4. Twilight Singers – Powder Burns. I could do more back in the day references what with Dulli/Whigs and Lanegan/Trees citations. But I don't need to. This record's pretty good without reminiscing.
  5. Bright Channel – Self Propelled. The lady at the old hotel up in Fairplay said Jeff Suthers looked like a young Donald Sutherland, but that's only because she's never seen Thurston Moore. Bright Channel proves they don't need an Albini after all. Might be my favorite Denver band to hear…and that's saying a lot.
  6. Head Like A Kite – Random Portraits of the Home Movie. I arrived late and totally missed this Seattle band's show at the Larimer. I had gone to see them solely on a friend's rec and had only a myspace idea of what they sounded like. So I bought their disc. I put it on and about immediately started dancing even though I was stone cold sober when I pressed play. Whoa.
  7. Cowboy Curse – Nod Up and Down (To the Simulcast Singing). Best Denver pop band? Might be. Nod Up and Down is addition to the proof that pop songs can be much more elaborately crafted than their easy to listen to exterior first lets on.
  8. Tarmints – Toil Like Devils. Yes, these sounds are definitely coming from inside Denver, but they can travel anywhere. There's a fierce rhythm not to be fooled with, guitars to match and as if that weren't enough, there's the unflinching eye of a poet in there too.

So, I fell asleep at the keyboard at this point last night and had a nightmare. It was cold and dark. I appeared to be in a cave. There were dim lights in the background. I stepped outside and it was even colder and smoky so I stepped back inside and it smelled bad and…wait, this sounds a lot like hanging out in the Larimer Lounge. Aha, this dream I could analyze. And it ties back into my clever introduction. No, I didn't get out of town much. Not in a physical sense and admittedly not so much in a musical sense either. But I did see 2/3 of the bands that made the releases I listened to the most this past year actually perform some of the songs on them. And that made all the difference to me.

13 December 2006

I am the DJ

DJ night

Boyfriend/Girlfriend at the 3 Kings Tavern

11 December 2006

Everybody said, ah, you'll be fine. And I believed them, but still I was getting really nervous about my guest dj gig at boyfriend/girlfriend as Ricardo was explaining to me and Tom how to operate the equipment. It seemed a little complicated. I had never done this before and in the days leading up to Monday night I had developed a little bit of a recurring panic-thought about standing up in the dj booth and causing disjointed and abrupt transitions or worse, causing silence. As it turns out I was fine, only living my little nightmare once and only for no more than a second before I adjusted and got the music back in order. I kept it as simple as possible and just as I was assured, things went fine. Mostly I had a complete blast playing songs I had picked out for so many friends at once. And then getting to spin with three friends who have about the most exceptionally awesome taste in music…well, it's an understatement to say it was way cool.

First let me say Ricardo and Nichole rock. No, wait, they rawk. And they are generous hosts. It is definitely a treat and even more than that, an honor, to be their guests. Even though both Tom and I wanted to play more than we had time for in the evening, I think we shared the time pretty nicely. No fighting about it anyway. Tom has astoundingly excellent taste in music and even more exceptional than that, probably one of the best and most comprehensive collections of Denver music around. Listeners Monday got a little taste of some of the best of it. Check his blog for the setlist. I was super happy to get one local band in there too. Much thanks to Jonathan Till for giving me a brand new Nathan & Stephen song, In the Air, to spin. Definitely the highlight of my set.

Oh my set…I went and overthought my set to a near absurd degree. But actually I do that sort of stuff anyway and it was fun stuff to think about and I don't care if it seems ridiculous. I took to heart the Lipgloss guideline of 2/3 familiarish music and 1/3 new or pushing-the-edges stuff. I also tried, in most cases, to pick music you could dance to if you absolutely had to at that very minute, though admittedly some of it was more danceable than others. I also let each of my three kids pick out one song for me to play.

Okay, my set list is sorta out of order because for all my meticulous planning I changed things around at the last minute and now I can't remember exactly how I played it. But just in case you were interested this is what I played:

Astral Plane – I heart Jonathan Richman. So very much.

Steady as She Goes – Raconteurs. Familiar, danceable, and good. And a fave of my son's. I didn't get around to his first pick, so this one counted as "his" song.

A Dime and A Cigarette – Head Like A Kite. I love Graig Markel's voice on this and this Seattle band plays some highly danceable stuff that's very cool and I hoped people would love it as much as I do, and judging by the dancing going on, I think at least a few people did.

The Letter – PJ Harvey. whoa, oh, oh, o-oh, whoo, oo, oo, oo. This song is evidence to my argument that you can't really, totally, write about music. Not exactly. And it's, um, yeah.

Here Comes Your Man – Pixies. Ultimate comfort in familiarity that never wears out. And Pixies were my daughter Alison's pick.

Seventeen Dirty Magazines – Modern Skirts. This song always makes me smile.

In the Air – Nathan & Stephen. As my pal Bosch would say, dripping ones and zeros. That new. So happy to play this.

Trash – New York Dolls. I had already decided on this before I heard Marky Ramone spin it at Lipgloss. Honest.

Toward the Waves/I'm Ready – Twilight Singers. Great song. Difficult to queue. I will complain to Dulli about this.

Haunt – Paul K and the Weathermen. Probably one of my favorite Paul K songs.

All I Want Is You – Roxy Music.

Come On Eileen – Dexy's Midnight Runners. Yes, my daughter's pick. But I like this near perfect pop song.

Safari – Breeders. One of the best Breeders songs and not played as much.

The Tide is High (Live) – Blondie. Fun.

I wanna be your dog – Stooges. Yeah.

Okay. I think that might cover it.

Thank you Ricardo.

Thank you Nichole.

Thank you Tom.

Thank you to everyone who came and listened.

04 December 2006

Show review: Margot & the Nuclear So and So's

Margot & the Nuclear So and So's / Dirty on Purpose
Category: Music

It was good to be back in town after a Thanksgiving week long trip back to my old Kentucky home. I still had to shed the sensation that I was moving on a train. I did not quite feel like I'd arrived. Not yet. I really wanted to get out to hear a good show and set things right again, so I was super happy to hear that Margot & the Nuclear So and So's were going to be pulling into town in their big black school bus again, stopping at the Larimer Lounge for another Denver show. And although this made the fourth time I've seen them this year, (and the third time at the Larimer) it was nothing old hat. I like this band. Obviously.

On tour with Margot & the Nuclear So and So's is Dirty on Purpose…that name makes me crack up. It is kinda funny in a simple and clever way, and that's fun. But I can't say I had more fun past the name. Listening to them wasn't that bad…they are not incompetent musicians or playing terrible music. But truth is I can't remember a single song. I only remember thinking that it seemed like they had listened to Joy Division or Franz Ferdinand maybe a lot and although I like those bands, this one wasn't making songs inspired by that stuff into anything I could begin to feel good about. Dirty on Purpose, and the first band of the evening whose name I totally forgot, both made me think about how very many bands there are out there, and how many guys have a Fender guitar in their living room and how many people are trying to make songs. And that's all cool with me. Really it is. People need to make stuff and be creative in the ways that move them. I get that. But like background chatter, nothing moving is added to the conversation. And sometimes I just don't want to listen. Yeah, I was tired and waiting for the band I wanted to hear to come on. But still, these openers really didn't make my night.

As I was waiting for Margot to play I thought about how my neice Tina says Margot writes essential break-up songs, you know the stuff your best friend puts on a mix tape to help you get over it all. And she's right, you know, with lyrics like "I miss you less and less every day / it's true the whiskey's had to wash you away / and it's clear to see / you're nothing special / you're a skeleton key." But that's only part of it. Great break up lyrics are not why I like Margot. I like them because they write good songs. I listen to this stuff pretty often, and the eight member band plays them better every time I see them. This past Wednesday they were unfortunately plagued with some mysterious buzzing and crackling from the bass, which tested the limit of singer/songwriter Richard Edwards' patience. He kept his cool… kinda. But just barely. But while the sound guy was trying to fix the problem percussionist Casey (you gotta check the dance moves on this kid) and trumpeter Hubert and the violinist/lap steel player Jesse Lee filled in the down time gaps with some improvisational music and storytelling that showed big time professionalism and kept the technical difficulties from halting the show. Partly they just pushed through it and played over the trouble.

Margot has gotten a lot of good press this year. Although the Larimer Lounge was pretty full, I've seen it much fuller and I thought there'd be more people at the show. I saw them talked about in SXSW, saw them in Harp and Paste magazine (who had their video on their dvd sampler.) Locally I've seen them written up in The Denver Post and there's even more. So with all that big talk you wonder how it'll affect a band. Sometimes it makes pressure that crushes a band to the point where they seem afraid to make a mistake and they come out with some watered down version of what everybody liked in the first place and it's all disapointing. But sometimes a band's beyond that, and for whatever reasons they get better. And I was glad to see evidence of this on Wednesday.

The first time I saw them, just this past January, they only had four songs on a disc and Hubert had told me that they were about to release their full length "The dust of retreat" on Artemis Records. "They're new" he said of their label. In fact at that time J. Mascis was their only label mate. Which I thought was pretty cool. I also learned then that these people all live together in the same house in Indianapolis when they are not touring and although I am amazed that nobody has killed anybody else yet, the togetherness really shows. No, not in a cloying way but in way that they don't seem like they ever stop playing together and work together in a synchronous way. They look like they are playing for fun. The new songs were exciting in that they really seem to be getting even better. That one… I didn't catch the name but I think it is tentatively titled "Payphone" (click here for Denton TX vid by Christie) ...Richard pulled out his Gretsch for it and it blew more than just me away… I can tell you now that people will be wanting to hit the repeat button on that one. Yay. And you know the best part? I finally felt like I'd arrived home.

Currently listening :
The Dust of Retreat
By Margot & the Nuclear So and So's
Release date: 28 March, 2006