Monday, December 28, 2015

Let’s All Get Up and Dance to a Song

One of the most most delightful aspects of my holiday season was watching the eldest member of my brood rediscover the Beatles catalog during her brief visit to her childhood home.  On the day the band’s music was made available to streaming services, I observed her reactions to relatively deep tracks like “Your Mother Should Know” and “Dig a Pony” and sang along with her to old favorites like “Blackbird” and “In My Life.”  All together now...

I write weekly music previews for The Kansas City Star and Ink magazine.

Tim Finn of The Kansas City Star compiled a few dozen year-end album and song lists.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Monday, December 21, 2015

He Was a Friend of Mine

You don’t want to be my friend.

Four of my closest high school pals are dead.  I haven't spoken to a few others in years.  Maybe that’s why I reacted so poorly when a former classmate I’ve loved since the day we met in 1979 dropped a disheartening bomb on me during a break at last week’s appearance by Adam Lambert at the Silverstein Eye Centers Arena.

While I discussed the merits of Pentatonix with his child, my friend casually mentioned that it was the first live music event he’d attended since he accompanied me to a 2001 show by Prince at Municipal Auditorium.

I responded by inviting the girl to move into my home to escape her unsound living conditions.  What’s worse- my failure to insist that my friend join me at any given show during the past 14 years or his inability to maintain a balanced life?

Then again, maybe the joke’s on me.  While I’ve spent much of my adult life listening to loud music in dark rooms, my friend has become a successful attorney and a prominent community leader.

What have I done?

I reviewed a concert by Adam Lambert and Pentatonix.

I played songs by Samantha Fish, Eddie Moore and the Outer Circle, Chris Hazelton’s Boogaloo 7, Kendrick Lamar, Rudresh Mahanthappa and Lila Downs during my appearance on KCUR’s Up To Date last week.  Here’s the podcast.

I write weekly music previews for The Kansas City Star and Ink magazine.

I contribute weekly Local Listen segments to KCUR.

I took notes at a performance by the Brian Scarborough Quintet at the Westport CoffeeHouse.

(Original image of Lemony Snicket at the Plaza Library by There Stands the Glass.)

Monday, December 14, 2015

Hi, How Are You?

The second season of the Amazon series Transparent traumatized me.  It’s not the show’s primary theme of malleable gender identity that rattled my nerves.  A straight male character named Josh Pfefferman induced unwelcome flashbacks to the years I spent as a music distribution sales rep.  Josh, a self-centered weasel who intends to launch a record label, closely resembles a subset of men I once dealt with every day.  Listening to entitled guys almost exactly like Josh demand that albums by developing acts like the fictional folk-pop band Fussy Puss be stocked on shelves of Wal-Mart was the bane of my existence. 

I reviewed Tech N9ne’s sold-out concert at the Midland theater.

I reviewed Todd Rundgren’s return to the VooDoo.

In what may most be my most subversive act of the year, I played punk rock (Radkey), jazz (Matt Villinger), rap (Tech N9ne), hip-hop (Donnie Trumpet & the Social Experiment), R&B (Jill Scott) and pop (Rihanna) during my guest appearance on the AAA station 90.9 The Bridge last week.  You can stream or download a podcast version of my misbehavior here.  I suppose I owe the staff and the listeners of the non-commercial radio station an apology.

Scott Weiland died last week.  I ranked the reunited Stone Temple Pilots’ headlining appearance at the 2008 edition of Rockfest as one of the best concerts of the decade.  I also reviewed the first concert of Weiland’s 2009 solo tour.  The buzz in advance of that show was extremely negative but Weiland was great that night.

Four of the top five releases in No Depression’s year-end reader’s poll have black-and-white or sepia-toned album covers.

Jon Benjamin Well, I Should Have…* is amusing for about five minutes.  The premise- a comedian plays piano with a legit jazz band- gets old in a hurry.  The trailer is funnier than the album.

I’m not the least bit embarrassed to admit that I’m partial to Buckcherry’s sleaze-rock.  Rock 'n' Roll is RIYL: Kiss, STDs, Aerosmith circa ‘76.  Here’s ”Tight Pants”.

The recent reissue of Gloria Ann Taylor material doesn’t live up to the hype.  RIYL: psych guitar noodling, Big Brother and the Holding Company, forced vocals.

Much of Van Hunt’s murky The Fun Rises, The Fun Sets makes even the biggest disappointments of Sly Stone and Prince seem competent.

Archy Marshall’s A New Place 2 Drown is RIYL: Young Fathers, gloom, King Krule.

Cam’s Untamed is acceptable mainstream country.  RIYL: Miranda Lambert, Nashville, Sunny Sweeney.  Here’s ”Burning House.

The use of an accordion in an experimental jazz context sounds entirely natural to me on Old Time Musketry’s Drifter.

(Original image of Daniel Johnston-inspired graffiti by There Stands the Glass.)

Monday, December 07, 2015

Woke Up an Optimist: The Best Albums, Songs and Shows of 2015

The 50 Top Albums of 2015 (Spotify playlist)

1. Kendrick Lamar- To Pimp a Butterfly
2. Jill Scott- Woman
3. Rudresh Mahanthappa- Bird Calls
4. Eddie Moore and the Outer Circle- Live in Kansas City
5. Vince Staples- Summertime ‘06
6. Valentina Lisitsa- Plays Philip Glass
7. Ghostface Killah and Badbadnotgood- Sour Soul
8. Torche- Restarter
9. Lalah Hathaway- Live
10. Tech N9ne- Special Effects

11. Bilal- In Another Life
12. Marc Cary- Rhodes Ahead, Vol. 2
13. Mark Ronson- Uptown Special
14. Young Fathers- White Men Are Black Men Too
15. Jodeci- The Past, The Present, The Future
16. Mbongwana Star- From Kinshasa
17. Matthew Shipp Trio- The Conduct of Jazz
18. Jazmine Sullivan- Reality Show
19. Action Bronson- Mr. Wonderful
20. Alabama Shakes- Sound & Vision

21. Bassekou Kouyate and Ngoni Ba- Ba Power
22. The Game- The Documentary 2 and The Documentary 2.5
23. J.D. McPherson- Let the Good Times Roll
24. Downtown Boys- Full Communism
25. Bob Dylan- Shadows In the Night
26. Viet Cong- Viet Cong
27. Charles Gayle Trio- Christ Everlasting
28. Donnie Trumpet & the Social Experiment- Surf
29. Donny McCaslin- Fast Future
30. Dead Sara- Pleasure to Meet You

31. Charlie Hunter- Let the Bells Ring On
32. Matt Kane & the Kansas City Generations Sextet- Acknowledgement
33. Carlos Vives- Más Corazón Profundo Tour: En Vivo Desde La Bahía De Santa Marta
34. Miguel- Wildheart
35. Dwight Yoakam- Second Hand Heart
36. Seattle Symphony- Dutilleux 2
37. Thunderbitch- Thunderbitch
38. Chris Stapleton- Traveller
39. Angie Stone- Dream
40. Dominique Sanders- A True Story Based On…

41. Myra Melford- Snowy Egret
42. The Grisly Hand- Flesh & Gold
43. Omar Souleyman- Bahdeni Nami
44. The Cox Family- Gone Like the Cotton
45. Earl Sweatshirt- I Don’t Like Sh*t, I Don’t Go Outside
46. Deafheaven- New Bermuda
47. Tony Bennett and Bill Charlap- The Silver Lining: The Songs of Jerome Kern
48. Kamasi Washington- The Epic
49. Samantha Fish- Wild Heart
50. Wilco- Star Wars

The Five Top EPs of 2015
1. Thundercat- Beyond/Where the Giants Roam
2. Myra Melford- Live At the Stone
3. Bummer- Spank
4. Ces Cru- Recession Proof
5. Wondaland Presents: The Eephus

The Five Top Reissues and Compilations of 2015
1. The Supreme Jubilees- It’ll All Be Over
2. Miles Davis- At Newport: 1955-1975: The Bootleg Series Vol. 4
3. Next Stop Soweto: Zulu Rock, Afro-Disco and Mbaqanga 1975-1985
4. Bob Dylan- The Cutting Edge 1965-1966
5. Thomas Mapfumo- Lion Songs: Essential Tracks in the Making of Zimbabwe

The 50 Top Songs of 2015 (Spotify playlist)

1. Kendrick Lamar- “Alright”
2. Donnie Trumpet & the Social Experiment- “Sunday Candy”
3. Rihanna, Kanye West and Paul McCartney- “FourFiveSeconds”
4. Tyrese- “Shame”
5. Tyler, the Creator with Kanye West and Lil Wayne- “Smuckers”
6. Lila Downs- “Balas y Chocolate”
7. Butch Walker- “21+”
8. Mark Ronson with Mystikal- “Feel Right”
9. Future- “Commas”
10. The Popper- “I’m KC”

11. Kenny Lattimore and Lalah Hathaway- “Nothing Like You”
12. Action Bronson with Chance the Rapper- “Baby Blue”
13. Bomba Estéreo- “Fiesta”
14. John Moreland- “Cherokee”
15. Courtney Barnett- “Dead Fox”
16. Venom- “Long Haired Punks”
17. Kanye West- “All Day”
18. Charlie Wilson- “Touched By an Angel”
19. Joywave- “Nice House”
20. Chedda Da Connect- “Flicka Da Wrist”

21. Miguel- “Coffee”
22. The Weeknd- “Can’t Feel My Face”
23. Big Sean with Drake and Kanye West- “Blessings”
24. Kim Burrell- “Thank You Jesus (That’s What He’s Done)”
25. The Go! Team- “The Scene Between”
26. Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear- “Silent Movies”
27. Chris Stapleton- “Whiskey and You”
28. Yelawolf- “Whiskey in a Bottle”
29. Fetty Wap- “My Way”
30. Lyfe Jennings- “#Hashtag”

31. Missy Elliott- “WTF (Where They From)”
32. E-40- “Choices (Yup)”
33. Youth Lagoon- “Highway Patrol Stun Gun”
34. Emily King- “Distance”
35. Ryan Bingham- “Fear and Saturday Night”
36. La Maquinaria Norteña- "Para Qué Amarte"
37. Father John Misty- “The Ideal Husband”
38. Dr*ke and Future- “Diamonds Dancing”
39. David Banner- “My Uzi”
40. Justin Bieber, Skrillex and Diplo- "Where Are Ü Now" 

41. Rihanna- “B*tch Better Have My Money”
42. Wolf Alice- “You’re a Germ”
43. Radkey- “Le Song”
44. Sleater-Kinney- “Bury Our Friends”
45. Beach Slang- “Bad Art & Weirdo Ideas”
46. José James- “Lover Man”
47. Sarah Ross- “Shotgun”
48. Young Thug with Birdman- “Constantly Hating”
49. Alan Jackson- “Angels and Alcohol”
50. Pops Staples- “Better Home”

The 50 Top Shows of 2015

1. Miguel- Midland theater
2. Chance the Rapper- Midland theater
3. Mark Dresser, Myra Melford and Matt Wilson- Take Five Coffee + Bar
4. Charlie Wilson- Sprint Center
5. Lee Konitz with the Dave Douglas Quintet- Jazz Standard (NYC)
6. Juan Gabriel- Sprint Center
7. The Rolling Stones- Arrowhead Stadium
8. Sufjan Stevens- Midland theater
9. Bobby Watson Quartet- Folly Theater
10. Tech N9ne- Rockfest at Penn Valley Park

11. Joyce DiDonato with the Philadelphia Orchestra- Carnegie Hall (NYC)
12. Merle Haggard- Uptown Theater
13. Tropicalisimo Apache- Barney Allis Plaza
14. Teddy Riley- Starlight Theatre, opening for Keith Sweat
15. Chris Brown- Sprint Center
16. Wichita Grand Opera’s Turnadot- Yardley Hall
17. Helmet- RecordBar
18. Diana Krall- Midland
19. Lauren Krum with the Project H- Westport Coffee House
20. Sleater-Kinney- Uptown Theater

21. Four Fists- Riot Room
22. Julian Davis- Living Room
23. Avishai Cohen, Tal Mashiach and Nasheet Waits- Take Five Coffee + Bar
24. Max Raabe and Palast Orchester- Helzberg Hall
25. Crobots- Rockfest at Penn Valley Park
26. Luke Bell- Riot Room patio
27. Ben Miller Band- Uptown Theater, opening for Blackberry Smoke
28. Bill Frisell- White Theatre
29. Peter Schlamb’s Electric Tinks- RecordBar
30. Hellyeah- Midland theater

31. Maroon 5- Sprint Center
32. Counterparts- Aftershock
33. Ebony Tusks- Riot Room patio
34. Delbert McClinton- Paola Roots Fest
35. Failure- Liberty Hall
36. Doug E. Fresh- Municipal Auditorium, for opening for Guy
37. Chris Hazelton’s Boogaloo 7- Green Lady Lounge
38. Eddie Moore and the Outer Circle- Take Five Coffee + Bar
39. John Doe- Knuckleheads
40. Boots- Midland theater, opening for Run the Jewels

41. Noah Preminger Quartet- 55 Club (NYC)
42. Kansas City Symphony with Yafim Bronfman- Helzberg Hall
43. Duncan Burnett and the Ministry- Riot Room patio
44. Gregg Allman- Ameristar Casino
45. Radradriot- Records With Merritt
46. People’s Liberation Big Band- RecordBar
47. Smashing Pumpkins- Midland theater
48. Robert Randolph & the Family Band- Town Center Plaza
49. Todd Rundgren- VooDoo
50. Drop a Grand- The Brick

I compiled composed similar lists in 2014, 2013 (albums, songs and shows), 2012 (albums and songs and shows), 2011 (albums and songs and shows), 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007 (albums, songs and shows) and 2006.

(Original image of Juan Gabriel by There Stands the Glass.)