Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Album Review: Nas- Illmatic XX


A common theme in alien abduction movies is the victim's inability to account for an inexplicable loss of time.  It happened to me this week.  Instead of getting probed by lusty Martians, I simply hit play on the new reissue of Nas' Illmatic.  The wormhole effect elicited by twenty-year-old tracks like "One Time 4 Your Mind" made me oblivious to the outside world.  Hey Nas- what do you want from me?  Leave me alone!


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I saw John Cale for the first time last night.  Here's my review.

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The Museum of Dead People in my basement contains several albums and CDs by Jesse Winchester.  But I never saw the man perform and I never really connected with his music.  Only covers of Winchester's material- Ted Hawkins' rendition of "Biloxi" is a prime example- resonated with me.  Winchester died last week.

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The film portion of this weekend's Middle of the Map Fest features several music movies.

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Stik Figa released The Pookey Tape this week.

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Here's a most welcome blast from the past: live footage of BCR performing at Harlings in 1995.  The expression of the young woman dancing in front of the single camera reflects my affection for Black Crack Revue.

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When worlds collide.

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Brook Tuley of Bloodbirds released First Midnight.

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An instrumental version of Romeo Santos' Formula, Vol. 2 could conceivably make by year-end top albums list.  The blend of pop and bachata is intoxicating.  But man, I just can't take Santos's smarmy ad-libs.  The feature by Rhymes-with-Snake on the seventh track adds insult to injury.

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Vampire's self-titled album is great.  RIYL: death metal, Slayer, vampires.

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Snarky Puppy, hailed by many observers as a band capable of resurrecting interest in jazz, strikes me as an unholy mashup of Steely Dan and the Brecker Brothers.  Here's a sample (note the impressive view count).

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Chuck E. Weiss makes only three selections for "What's In My Bag?".  And it's possibly the best episode yet.

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I like what I've heard of Phronesis' new live album Life To Everything.  RIYL: Medeski Martin & Wood, the sound of people cheering for a piano trio, the Bad Plus.

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John McLaughlin's new The Boston Record is seventies-tastic.  RIYL: Mahavishnu Orchestra, solos, Jaco Pastorius.

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Woods' With Light and with Love is a righteous jam.  RIYL: If I Could Only Remember My Name, patchouli, All Things Must Pass.

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Emmure's "Like LaMotta" is this week's palate cleanser. 

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Kansas City Click: My official picks are published here.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Album Review: Gee Watts- 199X


Gee Watts is obsessed with Kendrick Lamar.  And why not?  Lamar is arguably the most important rapper alive. He also gave Watts' career a kick start by contributing a few bars to the Kansas City rapper's track "Watts R.I.O.T." last year.  Unfortunately, Watts' new album 199X sounds like an extended homage to Lamar's groundbreaking album Good Kid, M.A.A.D City.

Worse still, Watts isn't even the star of his own album.  The poetry of Purpose on the tracks "Mourning Soul" and "Hide & Seek" provide 199X's best moments.  Only on the sorrowful "Hide & Seek" and the hip-hop collage "Deeper Than Rap" can Watts' true potential be easily discerned.

During the opening moments of 199X, Watts admits that he "feel(s) like I might have let the town down."  I can't speak for anyone else, but he let me down.  I'm not about to jump off Watts' bandwagon, but I'm convinced that he has much more to offer than than can be heard on the disappointing 199X.


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I reviewed Dream Theater's concert at the Uptown Theater on Wednesday.

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I love the fact that there's a song titled "'02 Boschee".  Unfortunately, I don't love Chase Compton's composition.

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Slowly Rolling Camera created an appealing video for "Dream a Life".  RIYL: Portishead, jazz that's not jazz, Soul II Soul.

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Cloud Nothings' Here and Nowhere is RIYL: Japandroids, college radio in 1987, Fugazi.

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Free Aesop Rock!

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I think Steel Panther is hilarious.  (I'm a 14-year-old boy at heart.)

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I realize that it's an ignorant thing to suggest, but Tinariwen's Emmaar is a bit, um, samey.  RIYL: John Lee Hooker, repetition, Ali Farka Touré. 

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Originality isn't the strong suit of Black Label Society.  I adore Catacombs of the Black Vatican anyway.  RIYL: Ozzy, sledgehammers, Slash.

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Ibibio Sound Machine's self-titled album is RIYL: Angélique Kidjo, world parties, Antibalas.

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I'm unable to resist the charms of Tune-Yard's "Wait for a Minute".  RIYL: Graceland, tomorrow, Reflektor.

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Kansas City Click: My official picks are published here.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Surface Noise at Ink's Middle of the Map Fest


I don't share the musical sensibilities of the organizers of Ink's Middle of the Map Fest.  That doesn't mean that I couldn't find plenty to enjoy last weekend.  I caught at least two sets at each of the event's six stages in the 17 hours I logged at the festival.  All of my favorite performances, however, took place at the Riot Room.  Here's the top five:


Some of my commentary is incorporated into reports here and here.


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Your Friend's session for KJHK at the KU Natural History Museum is impressive. 

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I ponder Mike Dillon's Band of Outsiders at Plastic Sax.

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Wayne Henderson of the Jazz Crusaders has died.

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Atmosphere's "Kanye West" is a bit disappointing.

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The European piano trio Phronesis is doing interesting things.

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Dave Koz's rendition of the "Game of Thrones" theme has gone viral.

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B.B. King's performances continue to deteriorate.

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Kansas City Click: My official picks are published here.

(Original image of James Dewees by There Stands the Glass.)

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Concert Review: Shearwater, Death Vessel and Jesca Hoop at the Horseshoe Tavern



Tourism bureaus take note- music tourism isn't limited to major festivals.

On my first trip to Toronto in 1999, I saw Royal Trux at the famous El Mocambo in Toronto.  Fifteen years later, I made a beeline for the renowned Horseshoe Tavern to catch a triple bill of Shearwater, Death Vessel and Jesca Hoop.  (I also visited Massey Hall and the Sony Centre.)

Along with about 225 Canadians, I paid $15 to enter the room that looks a lot like the 39th Street version of Kansas City's Parody Hall.  Hoop, a former nanny for Tom Waits' brood, opened the show with a flighty solo set.  Her dusky voice is her strongest asset.

Death Vessel was the primary musical draw for me.  Blind Pilot and Bon Iver excepted, Death Vessel is the best chamber folk band I've seen.  Joel Thibodeau, the band's primary vocalist, resembles a young Paul Simon.  (Don't believe me? See for yourself.)  The remainder of the ensemble is similarly intriguing.

I've never been able to get into Shearwater.  I left thirty minutes into the headliner's set.


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I reviewed St. Vincent's concert Monday at Liberty Hall and Todd Rundgren's appearance at the VooDoo Lounge on Thursday.

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The sixth installment of the second season of the KC Cypher Series is salvaged by the Phantom.

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Stik Figa and DJ Sku go "Back 2 Kansas".

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John Velghe & the Prodigal Sons were captured in a 909 session.

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House music pioneer Frankie Knuckles has died.

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Here's a portion of Kelis' amazing performance at SXSW.

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I've yet to encounter a compilation of Bob Dylan covers on which I didn't find at least something to appreciate.  The new collection Bob Dylan in the 80's: Volume One contains several gems.  I immediately skipped to the slam dunk of Craig Finn interpreting "Sweetheart Like You," but other keepers include Carl Broemel's version of "Death Is Not the End" and Gene Ween and Slash's take on "Wiggle Wiggle."

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It's nice to see Carlene Carter back on the scene.

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Range of Light, S. Carey's delicate new chamber folk album, is RIYL: Bon Iver, the Garden of Eden, Iron & Wine.

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A few tracks on Beats Antique's A Thousand Faces - Act 2 are delightful.  RIYL: Renaissance fairs, Bassnectar, Cirque du Soleil.

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Before Jesca Hoop performed at the Horseshoe Tavern, the Mekons' "Empire of the Senseless" boomed through the sound system.  I watched three guys Shazam the great song as I realized I haven't listened to Rock 'n' Roll in years.  My priorities are all screwed up.

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Kansas City Click: My official picks are published here.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Monday, March 31, 2014

Concert Review: Kraftwerk at the Sony Centre in Toronto


A potentially stodgy concert by a quartet of immobile men with an average age of 57 was transformed into a visually exhilarating experience by lavish 3D effects in Toronto on Saturday.

I laughed hysterically as I was repeatedly slapped in the face by virtual flying objects including letters and spaceships during Kraftwerk's performance at the Sony Centre.  The members of the groundbreaking band stood behind podiums as stunning images hovered and flew over the capacity audience of 3,200. 

The concert had been sold out for weeks, but I pulled the trigger when the best seats in the house were released a few hours before the show.  Situated in the center about 15 rows back, I reveled in the perfect sound reproduction and outlandish display. 

I'm not a Kraftwerk fanatic but I reckoned that Saturday's performance was probably the only chance I'd ever have to see the innovators.  The impulsive gamble paid off.  Not only was it the second most visually stimulating concert I've seen (Kanye West's Yeezus tour may never be topped), the show has caused me to begin rethinking my relationship with all electronic music.

The Toronto Star and Exclaim offer proper reviews of the concert.


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Adam Faucett is an Arkansas-based singer-songwriter.  His astonishing new album Blind Water Finds Blind Water is RIYL: Jason Isbell, Winter's Bone, Steve Earle.

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The Men's Tomorrow's Hits is a hoot.  RIYL: Alex Chilton, scuzz, the Flamin' Groovies.

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Excerpts from a new ECM release by Benedicte Maurseth and Åsne Valland Nordli are beautiful.  RIYL: Márta Sebestyén, Game of Thrones, Anonymous 4.

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Linda Thompson is featured in a lovely episode of "What's In My Bag?"

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Kansas City Click: My official picks are published here.

(Original image by a sidekick of There Stands the Glass.)

Monday, March 24, 2014

Concert Review: The Mosh Lives Tour at Aftershock


As I stood in line outside the men's room at Aftershock on Saturday, I witnessed a group of strangers bonding over their military service.  Enlisted men with close-cropped hair swapped literal and figurative war stories with shaggy veterans.  The encounter made me proud to be a metal fan. 

I paid $20 to bang my head and push and shove the other members of the capacity audience of 450.  Emmure headlined a six-band bill that also featured Volumes, Thy Art Is Murder, Gideon, Sworn In and On The Shoulders Of Giants.

Thy Art is Murder, a gnarly Australian band, gave my favorite performance.  Violent songs like "Reign of Darkness" and "The Purest Strain of Hate" almost incited a jubilant riot.  There are worse ways to die than getting trampled in a mosh pit in Merriam, Kansas. 

Tuscaloosa's Gideon was almost as riveting.  Hearing the sweaty dudes in the mosh pit shout along to every hardcore outburst without breaking stride impressed me. 

Volumes, the Los Angeles-based band I had been most excited about seeing, was enormously disappointing.  I was surprised to find that the two vocalists were bros.  I can live with that, but their total frat move antics and the band's thin sound were unacceptable.

When you're sandwiched between Thy Art Is Murder and Emmure, that weak sh*t just doesn't cut it.  After all, "The Key To Keeping the Show Fresh Is… I'm Dead".


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My notes on Regina Carter's performance Sunday at Helzberg Hall are at Plastic Sax.

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Approach's 2013 album Make-Out With Violence is temporarily available as a free download.

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Mac Lethal meets Ellen.

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Gwar's Dave Brockie has died.

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Only Madlib's imaginative production makes Piñata, the bafflingly acclaimed album by Freddie Gibbs, bearable.  Not a fan.  RIYL: Shoutouts to TechN9ne, Jay Rock, Earl Sweatshirt cameos.

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"We Made It", a new track by Jay Z and Jay Electronica, is tone-deaf. 

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My Hank Williams collection was complete- until now.  The Garden Spot Programs, 1950 will be released in May.

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Kansas City Click: My official picks are published here.

(Original expert photography by There Stands the Glass.)

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Album Review: Drive-By Truckers- English Oceans



The heart regularly betrays the mind.

My intellect informs me that the precious time I spend repeatedly playing the tenth studio album by Drive-By Truckers would be better applied to a rigorous study of the latest effort by Vijay Iyer, investigating another reissue of African psychedelia or attending more performances by groundbreaking bands like Marijuana Deathsquads.  Alternative country, after all, is totally played out.

Not so fast. 

Many of English Oceans' smart, funny and sad songs speak directly to my experiences.  So what if ""Til He's Dead Or Rises" is a slavish imitation of Sticky Fingers-era Stones?  The album opener "Sh*t Shots Count" is the sort of Replacements-esque rocker that I thought I got out of my system in the 1990s.  Yet it moves me.  And "Primer Coat" is easily my favorite song of 2014.

English Oceans may not be a great album.  Hell, it may not even be a good album.  But I love it all the same.


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XV released two March Madness mix tapes.  RIYL: Wichita, Kid Cudi, wondering why XV isn't a star yet.

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Outsides covered Of Montreal to help promote the forthcoming Middle of the Map festival.

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Here's recent footage of a Turkish-inspired ensemble led by Beau Bledsoe.

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Indyground created a video for Farout's "Billy Hoyle."

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The War On Drugs' Lost In the Dream is the best album Dire Straits never made.  RIYL: Twin Shadow, long jams, Nils Lofgren.

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During one of the first warm days of the year, I spaced out while staring at drifting clouds for 30 minutes.  Beck's Morning Phase gives me the same sort of passive floating sensation.  RIYL: David Crosby, clouds, Autumn Defense.

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I'm down with the Pretty Reckless' Going To Hell.  RIYL: The Runaways, partying, Alice In Chains.

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An unassuming performance by Lowell Levinger, a founding member of the Youngbloods, delighted me at last month's Folk Alliance Conference.  His new album Down to the Roots features guest appearances by Ry Cooder and David Grisman.  RIYL: John Sebastian, authentic hippies, Mississippi John Hurt.

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Saxophonist Javon Jackson has the good sense to cover Stevie Wonder and Donny Hathaway on his new live album Expressions.  RIYL: Orrin Evans, jazz for the people, Stanley Turrentine.

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The Strypes' Snapshot is cute.  RIYL: Rockpile, good times and great oldies , the first Rolling Stones album.

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Imed Alibi is a Tunisian percussionist.  His new album Safar is RIYL: the future, Anouar Brahem, film scores.

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I already own original vinyl copies of a few of the Record Store Day 2014 special releases.  Make me an offer.

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Kansas City Click: My official picks are published here.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)