Monday, December 31, 2012

The Top Music Videos of 2012

1. Bonnie "Prince" Billy- "I See a Darkness"
How can something so disturbing fill me with so much joy? (Old song, new video.)

2. Doomtree- "Bangarang"
"In the style of Doomtree."

3. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis- "Same Love"
It's about time.

4. Pig Destroyer- "The Diplomat"

5. Willis Earl Beal- "Evening's Kiss" video
"Fading away."

6. Brother Ali- "Only Life I Know"
Don't look away.

7. The Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band- "Devils Look Like Angels"
The devil is real.

8. Die Antwoord- "I Fink U Freeky"
Speaking of the devil...

9. Flying Lotus- "Until the Quiet Comes"
A dream supreme.

10. Psy- "Gangnam Style"
Keepin' it real.

I conducted a similar exercise in 2011.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Top Ten Kansas City Music Videos of 2012

1. SSION- "Earthquake"
Mac Lethal and Strange Music aren't the only Kansas City-affiliated entities making worthwhile music videos.  One of several brilliant Cody Critcheloe efforts tops the list of my ten favorite entries of 2012.    

2. Krizz Kaliko- "Hello Walls"
The sensitive side of Strange Music.

3. thePhantom*- "Say You Love Me"
Big time.

4. Diverse- "Ni**as in Paris"
Small budget humor. 

5. Ces Cru- "Colosseum"
Big budget humor.

6. Making Movies- "Hangover Blues"
Spot your favorite musician.

7. Steddy P- "Local Heroes"
"Love in the hometown."

8. Conflicts- "Nuketown"
Conflicts may be KC's best rock band.

9. AJ Young- "How Do You Deal"
Why isn't this guy a star?

10. Mac Lethal- "You're vs. Your"
Mac Lethal has mastered the medium.

Worthy videos by Ebony Tusks, Empty Spaces and Adam Lee & the Dead Horse Company were disqualified from consideration for being too cool for YouTube.  XV (316), Stik Figa (785) and Krystle Warren (+33) were disqualified because of their area codes. (I made an exception for SSION.)

I conducted similar exercises in 2011 and 2010.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Jimmy McCracklin, 1921-2012

At the advent of the CD era I decided to build a comprehensive collection of classic soul and R&B.   I began the process by acquiring material by giants like James Brown, Ray Charles, Solomon Burke and Aretha Franklin.  I was amazed to discover that the rewards didn't diminish as I worked my way down to the less heralded artists.  Bobby Byrd's funk, for instance, continues to enrich my life.  The quality of Don Covay's music is similarly astounding. 

I bought the pictured Jimmy McCracklin compilation for $8.99 at a CD Warehouse on September 18, 1997.  (The receipt is tucked into the booklet.)  Its contents blew my mind.  McCracklin could be as raw as Bobby Bland, as raunchy as Joe Turner and as soulful as Otis Redding.  The revelations didn't end there.

I discovered that the Beatles' "Get Back" is an, ahem, "tribute" to a McCracklin song of the same name.  "The Walk," recorded in 1957, obviously inspired countless songs.  And perhaps most notably, McCracklin wasn't really a bluesman.  McCracklin was a rock artist in the tradition of Ike Turner and Chuck Berry.  That McCracklin's music languishes in relative obscurity is a "Shame, Shame, Shame."  (A YouTube or Spotify upload of the classic song doesn't even exist!)

McCracklin died on December 20.

Fontella Bass has died.

I bet you didn't know that one of the best-selling classical albums of 2012 is by an ensemble based in rural Missouri.  Here's the EPK for Advent at Ephesus by the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles.

Year-end listening: I finally listened to Scott Walker's Bish Bosch.  In a parallel universe- perhaps one in which I'm a disgraced Hungarian prince- it's my favorite album of 2012…  I don't know how I overlooked Anaal Nathrakh's Vanitas while I compiled my year-end album list.  Songs like "Of Fire, and F***ing Pigs" are really working for me right now.  I'm not kidding…  And how in the world did I miss out on the Menzingers' "Good Things"?  It's even better than the Japandroids. 

Why haven't any of you jerks told me about nouveau honky tonker Jason Eady?  RIYL: The Hag.

I'm not surprised that Rhymes-with-snake is threatening to sue retailers for their use of a certain motto.  This blog receives cease-and-desist notifications for merely mentioning him by name. 

My discovery of the week: Oklahoma's Parker Millsap.  Kid has a voice.  RIYL: the otherwise annoying foot-stomping folk fad.

A lot of my pals are excited about forthcoming shows by Bloc Pary and Jeff Mangum,  I'm most looking forward to catching Danielle de Niese at the Folly Theater on February 1.

Kansas City Click: Parallax returns to Take Five Coffee + Bar on Friday.

Feel free to join me Saturday at the RecordBar for Bill Goffrier's show.  Alas, it probably won't sound anything like this.

Samantha Fish plays Knuckleheads on Sunday.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Marva Whitney, 1944-2012

After learning that Marva Whitney had passed, I attempted to explain her career to a teenager.  "She's the original Janelle Monae," I suggested.  "Like Monae, Whitney was a beautiful musician from Kansas City, Kansas, who rose to fame through her association with another artist."  Monae, of course, collaborated with Fun on one of the biggest hits of the new millennium.  Whitney worked with James Brown.  Tim Finn's 2006 interview with Brown includes fascinating insights into his relationship with Whitney.  Her death also serves as a bitter reminder of my limited influence.  Knowing that Whitney regularly performed in New York and Japan up until two or three years ago, I lobbied club owners, event programmers and Whitney's manager to book Whitney in Kansas City.  It never happened.

I discussed the year in music on KCUR's Up To Date last week.  Details are here.

Oh, Mac Lethal!

KCUR offers a multi-media profile of Amy Farrand.

Year-end listening: Bruno Mars' Unorthodox Jukebox is  a really good pop album…  Patti Smith's Banga would have made my year-end album list if I'd given it a proper airing prior to last week…  What I've heard of Willie Buck's Cell Phone Man is excellent.  RIYL: Delmark Records…  Algiers' "Blood" needs to be heard by people who appreciate mashups of Sun Ra, Eazy E, Sonic Youth and B.B. King… I've spent a lot of time listening to authorized bootlegs of Nicholas Payton concerts in 2012.  This one seems particularly good.

The Melvins'  animated tour diary is hilarious.

Matador Records chatted with Tom Ray of Vintage Vinyl.

Is it wrong to laugh at Danny Brown?

A guy from reggae legends The Meditations (!) recorded an excellent in-studio session for KJHK.

Kansas City Click: My official picks are published here.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Thursday, December 20, 2012

We Out Here Tryna Function: The Top Albums and Songs of 2012

The Best Song Wasn't the Single: The Top 25 Albums of 2012
Listen to the There Stands the Glass playlist at Spotify.

1. Frank Ocean- Channel Orange
My initial attempts to resist this album were pure folly.

2. Christian Scott- Christian aTunde Adjuah
A sonic wormhole that connects 1965 to 2045.

3. Meshuggah- Koloss
I required colossal sounds to ameliorate the challenges of 2012.

4. Killer Mike- R.A.P. Music
AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted, Fear of a Black Planet and Stankonia rolled into one.

5. Hilary Hahn & Hauschka- Silfra
To paraphrase Stevie Wonder, this is the music of my mind.

6. Pat Metheny- Unity Band
Everything that's good about Pat Metheny in one place.

7. Iris DeMent- Sing the Delta
The word "authenticity" was thrown around a lot in 2012.  DeMent is as real as it gets.

8. Kendrick Lamar- Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City
Smart and compelling, this great album raises the bar.

9. Lionel Loueke- Heritage
The Native Dancer of 2012 was produced by Robert Glasper.

10. Krizz Kaliko- Kickin' & Screamin'
Kaliko subverts the Strange Music assembly line to create a personal album about life as an outcast.

11. Lee Fields & The Expressions- Faithful Man

12. Gojira- L’Enfant Sauvage

13. Brody Buster Band- Will Die Young

14. Bob Dylan- Tempest

15. Esbjorn Svensson Trio- 301

16. Jack White- Blunderbuss

17. Robert Glasper- Black Radio

18. Making Movies- A La Deriva

19. Sly & Robbie- Blackwood Dub

20. High On Fire- De Vermis Mysteriis

21. Flying Lotus- Until the Quiet Comes

22. Slash- Apocalyptic Love

23. T.J. Martley- Meditations Vol. 1

24. XV- Popular Culture

24. Neneh Cherry & the Thing- The Cherry Thing

25. Steddy P.- Better Make Room

I'ma Show You How To Turn It Up a Notch- The Top 25 Singles of 2012
Listen to the There Stands the Glass playlist at Spotify.

1. Lil Debbie & Riff Raff- "Michelle Obama"
They're trolling.  (At least I think they are.)  I'm not.  (Or am I?)

2. Beach House- "Myth"
Helping me to make it.

3. Kix Brooks- "New To This Town"
Sometimes I get so very tired.

4. E-40- "Function"
It's harder than it looks.

5. Tracey Thorn- "Joy"
"Joy" is the best new holiday song in years.

6. Alabama Shakes- "Hold On"
"Come on girl- you got to get back up!"

7. Carly Rae Jepsen- "Call Me Maybe"
What's not to love about this slice of pop perfection?

8. Kasey Musgraves- "Merry Go 'Round"
A classic pain song.

9. Esperanza Spalding- "Black Gold"
The theme of self-respect is universal.

10. Eric Church- "Springsteen"
This one's personal.

11. Usher- "Dive"

12. Nicki Minaj- "Beez in the Trap"

13. The Weeknd- "Wicked Games"

14. Christina Perri- "Distance"

15. Twin Shadow- "Five Seconds"

16. Nas- "Daughters"'

17. Japandroids- "The House That Heaven Built"

18. Kellie Pickler- "100 Proof"

19. The xx- "Angels"

20. Stone Sour- "Absolute Zero"

21. Brandy- "Put It Down"

22. Carlos Vives- "Volvi a Nacer"

23. Elle Varner- "Refill"

24. Dierks Bentley- "Tip It On Back"

25. Scissor Sisters- "Only the Horses"

I conducted similar year-end surveys in 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007 and 2006.  My favorite concerts of 2012 are listed here.  The picks of many of my Kansas City-based colleagues are published here.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Monday, December 17, 2012

The 33 Best Live Performances of 2012

I realized a lifelong dream in March when I experienced a concert at Royal Albert Hall.  It's no surprise, consequently, that the fulfillment of my ambition is my favorite show of the year.  The death of Barney McKenna- the last original "flounder" of the Dubliners- three weeks later adds to a sad sense of additional significance to the show.

Mind-bending performances by Vijay Iyer, Enrico Rava and Tord Gustavsen assured me of jazz's ongoing artistic vitality.  CS Luxem's unhinged gig allowed me to relive of my roots in punk rock house concerts.  Primus appears at #7 not because I'm a big fan (I'm not), but because the 3D and Quadrophonic experience it offered permanently raised the bar.  I heard Philip Glass amplified and a sublime acoustic outing by Europa Galante.

Why 33?  I've witnessed 330 individual performances so far in 2012.  My streak of taking in at least 365 individual performances per year has come to an end.

The 33 Best Shows of 2012
1. The Dubliners- Royal Albert Hall

2. The Vijay Iyer Trio- Folly Theater

3. The People's Liberation Big Band- RecordBar

4. Enrico Rava's Tribe- Winningstad Theatre

5. Vivica Genaux and Europa Galante- Folly Theater

6. CS Luxem- FOKL Center

7. Primus- Uptown Theater

8. Pat Metheny- Folly Theater

9. The Tord Gustavsen Quartet- Queen Elizabeth Hall

10. Philip Glass and Tim Fain- Helzberg Hall

11. Slipknot- Cricket Wireless Amphitheater

12. The Matt Otto Quartet- Westport Coffee House

13. Dead Sara- Cricket Wireless Amphitheater

14. Kelly Clarkson- Independence Events Center

15. Trivium- Liberty Memorial Park

16. James Taylor- Starlight Theatre

17. The Anat Cohen Quartet- Folly Theater

18. Tech N9ne- The Midland

19. The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra- Folly Theater

20. Lamb of God- Uptown Theater

21. Mission of Burma- RecordBar

22. Hammerlord- Beaumont

23. The Gipsy Kings- The Midland

24. Bob Asher's tribute to Fela- RecordBar

25. Parallax- Take Five Coffee

26. Danzig- Uptown Theater

27. Mutemath- Beaumont

28. Alaturka- Kansas City Academy

29. Eddie Money- Old Shawnee Days

30. Delfeayo Marsalis- Blue Room

31. Bobby Watson with the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra- Unity Temple on the Plaza

32. Slash- The Midland

33. The McFadden Brothers- Gem Theater

The Ten Best Opening Acts of 2012
1. American Head Charge- Beaumont, for Mushroomhead

2. Foxy Shazam- The Midland, for Slash

3. Testament- The Midland, for Anthrax

4. Darius Rucker- Sprint Center, for Lady Antebellum

5. Christina Perri- Starlight Theatre, for Jason Mraz

6. Making Movies- Knuckleheads, for Los Lobos

7. Sylosis- Uptown Theater, for Lamb of God

8. Orgone- Crossroads KC, for the Dirty Dozen Brass Band

9. King's X- Uptown Theater, for Kansas

10. Uncle Lucius- Crossroads KC, for Shooter Jennings

I conducted similar exercises in 2011, 2010 and 2009.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Ravi Shankar, 1920-2012

I'd be lying if I suggested that the music of Ravi Shankar provided me with a spiritual awakening.  Yet his very existence played a vital role in my development as a listener.  Learning about the classical music of India via Shankar's celebrity was a genuine revelation.   Through Shankar I first became aware of a musical universe beyond the radio and Soul Train.   Or as Sun Ra put it, "There Are Worlds (They Have Not Told You Of)".  Shankar died earlier this week.

Here's the latest- and possibly the last- recording by the Natural State.  RIYL: Mumford & Sons, Emmylou Harris, First Aid Kit.

Man Bear's free new Infinity Cat EP is RIYL Big Star, Teenage Fanclub.

Bittersweet- listen to "Kevin Walsh working at Hitt Records on Christmas Eve".

I'd held off finalizing my year-end album list until I heard The Game's Jesus Piece.  I needn't have waited.  It's a bitter disappointment.

2 Chainz has arrived.

Kansas City Click: My official picks are published here.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Monday, December 10, 2012

Review: Jason Vivone & the Billy Bats- Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

Jason Vivone is one of the most respected blues musicians in Kansas City.  He and his band recently won the Missouri Lottery King of the Roots competition.  The ensemble will also represent the Kansas City Blues Society at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis next month. 

Vivone knows his way around a guitar.  He has a terrific voice.  His songwriting is clever.  His respectful admiration of women is commendable.  Vivone clearly knows what's good.  I just wish his new album Lather. Rinse. Repeat was better.  Sure, it's superior to the majority of the standard-issue boogie that passes for blues these days.  But I want more.  Vivone has the potential, I think, to achieve the artistic heights of Jack White, Robert Cray and Gary Clark, Jr.  I won't be satisfied until Vivone makes that climb.

Here's solid footage of Vivone and the Billy Bats performing Lather. Rinse. Repeat's "The Nina, The Pinta, The Santa Maria".

Lamb of God, In Flames, Hellyeah and Sylosis were excellent at the Uptown Theater on Saturday.  Here's my review.

Former Kansas Citian Ed Cassidy has died.  (Original tip via BGO.)

Jenni Rivera has died.

Fado Novato's recent performance on a local television show is wonderful.

The last Streetside Records outlet is closing.  The story makes no mention of the legendary Kevin Walsh. 

I gave Cat Power's Sun one last shot to sink in.  It didn't work.  I respect the effort but the album's just not for me.

Tracey Thorn gets it.  "Joy" is a track from her somber new Christmas album.

I finally got around to watching a recording of last month's Latin Grammys.  Three observations- Joan Sebastian gave the best performance.  Caetano Veloso is a genius.  And thousands of potential sales were lost because of Univision's ongoing failure to use captions to identify artists.

A video for Anna Gourari's "Ich ruf' zu Dir, Herr Jesu Christ" is exceedingly lovely.  

Kreayshawn is freaky genius.

Big Dipper has issued a new album.  Shh- it's a secret!

Kansas City Click: High On Fire is Monday's headliner at the Riot Room.

If it's still standing, the Riot Room hosts West End Motel on Tuesday.

Brian Setzer does whatever it is he does these days Wednesday at the Uptown.

Nikki Hill tears it up at Knuckleheads on Thursday.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Dave Brubeck, 1920-2012

Oh, so now everyone's a jazz fan?  That was my initial reaction upon seeing my social media feed light up with acknowledgements of Dave Brubeck's death yesterday.  Then I corrected myself.  The instant tributes from rockers, hip hop heads and people who I didn't even know cared about music were were entirely genuine.  Everybody, it turns out, loved Dave Brubeck.  He was a generous man and a groundbreaking musician.  And he had actual hits!  While I love the popular stuff, I'm particularly partial to 1975: The Duets: Originals, the sublime album pictured above.  Here's a solo version of "Summer Song" from the same era.  One last note- when I saw Chris and Dan Brubeck perform in January, they exhibited the same sort of warmth and humility associated with their father.  That's the highest praise I can offer the great man.  

Steve Paul surveys the Grammy nominations accorded to Joyce DiDonato (and the Kansas City Symphony by association), the Kansas City Chorale, Pat Metheny and Janelle Monáe (via Fun's "We Are Young).

"Go Jesus, it's your birthday!"  "Crustified Christmas" by R.A. the Rugged Man and Mac Lethal is hilariously sacrilegious. 

Earl misses his dad.

"F**kin' Problems", a collaboration between A$AP Rocky, 2 Chainz, Kendrick Lamar and Rhymes-with-Snake, is an abomination.

Jel & Odd Nosdam's free Geti Beats, Vol. 1 is RIYL hip hop circa 1983, Anticon, Stones Throw.

I usually don't care for hectoring, but dang, Brother Ali's scathing "Only Life I Know" is powerful.

Additional year-end discoveries inspired by best-of lists:
  • Delicate Steve's Positive Force reminds me of a gauzy George Harrison album.
  • I'd heard a few tracks by Tame Impala's Lonerism but I finally gave it a serious listen last night.  Don't tell the cool kids that Tame Impala is merely updating this.  (And I like it.)
  • I'm kind of embarrassed to admit that Ann Powers turned me on to Kacey Musgraves' "Merry Go 'Round" via All Songs Considered.  Great song. 

Kansas City Click: My official picks are published here.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Review: Goat- World Music

Along with thousands of other music-obsessed dweebs, I enjoy sifting through the avalanche of year-end lists every December.  While deriding or admiring the selections of list-makers is fun, my real goal is to discover titles I had overlooked.  Spin's list included World Music by Goat.  A blurb suggested it was "an atlas-worth of psychedelic sounds."  I obviously had to check it out.  Apparently, there's a backstory that has some factions of the indie-rock world abuzz.  As much as I like a good hoax in the vein of Yma Sumac and Klaatu, I really don't care who's responsible for the danceable haze.   Fela + Acid Mothers Temple?  I'm in.  Look and listen.

Kendrick Lamar's appearance at the Midland on Sunday infuriated me.  Here's my review.

Making Movies' Conciencia Colectiva, a free odds-and-ends mixtape, is very worthwhile.

I'm smitten by bentcousin's "I Think I Like Your Girlfriend More Than You".


Dread in-a Babylon, indeed.

Kansas City Click: John Stowell performs with Matt Otto at Westport Coffeehouse on Tuesday.

Speedwolf performs at the Riot Room on Wednesday.

Miles Bonny does his thing Thursday at the Kill Devil Club.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)