Sonically a great year for live gigs, but not so for new music recordings, if you ask me. And the greatest of all gigs was the two week performance by the 17-year cicadas. Talk about the latest buzz. Looking forward to the return gig in 2030.
So, you may ask, if I wasn’t that excited about that many new releases this year, why do I POOP? Because I can POOP old stuff – reissues, archive recordings and so forth. After all, if the Grammy academy can give their biggest awards to collaboration between Chic and The Residents a/k/a Daft Punk, it must be that “Legacy is IN”.
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1. Hey Hey It’s…The Jeffrey Lewis & Peter Stampfel Band: A folk/rock Brigadoon, this project germinated in February, was recorded in the spring, and following a jaunty series of gigs at Mercury Lounge, Bowery Electric, and a whirlwind tour of the UK, evaporated by May. The best thing that either of the main protagonists have done (well, excepting Have Moicy). Tests at a leading university prove this is 17% more fun. Plus, the song of the year, Peter’s “You Can’t Tell Me What To Do, I’m Snooki”. But not, alas, Jeffrey’s “What Would Pussy Riot Do?”, which was written too late for the recording, but it did show up for the gigs.
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2. Dropkick Murphys – Signed and Sealed in Blood: The most melodic mash-up of Boston power-punk and Irish folk music elements that this gang has come up with yet.
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3. The Young Tradition – Oberlin 1968: Robust English acapella harmony singing from a lost concert recording
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4. The Felice Brothers – God Bless You Amigo: The Felices inna acoustic folk mode – similar to Mixtape but more polished.
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5. UNCUT Presents Younger Than Yesterday: Excellent tribute to the Byrds – freebie CD from the Nov. 2012 issue, with Beachwood Sparks, the Sadies, Simone Felice, Flamin’ Groovies, Nada Surf and so forth.
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6. The Beach Boys – Made in California – disc 6 specifically: Gorgeous vocal outtakes and demos from the 1960’s. Also worth searching for is the acapella version of God Only Knows on YouTube (and while you’re at it, look up the Beatles Abbey Road medley acapella)
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7. Alex Chilton – Electricity by Candlelight NYC 2-13-97: Pretty good quality audience recording, with Mr. Chilton in a relaxed mode exploring his musical influences and favorites during a power outage at the Knitting Factory.
8. Trombone Shorty – Say This To Say That: Sleeker & more vocals than in the past, but still some fierce brass hip-hop and funk excursions
8a. Youngblood Brass Band – Pax Volumi: ditto
9. Peter Broderick – Float 2013: Some local concerts this year led me to explore his back catalog – lovely stuff – electric and acoustic – this is an “enhanced” reissue of one of Peter’s early albums
9a. Broderick & Broderick: Peter is joined by his dad & his sister, who put out her own fine album in 2009.
9b. Nils Frahm – Spaces: Beautiful instrumental pieces from Broderick compatriot.
10. William Basinski – The Disintegration Loops: Perhaps the most ethereal ambient thing to come along since Eno’s Neroli from 1993.
11. Pop Ambient 2013 – 20 Jahre Kompakt: Always a good light ambient mix
12. Zomby – With Love: Critics burned it, but I liked the laid back dubstep
12a. Karl Bartos – Off The Record: Recalls some of Kraftwerk’s quieter numbers, and no duds this time.
14. Liberation Music – Spiritual Jazz and The Art of Protest on Flying Dutchman Records 1969-1974: Free-jazz favorite of the year, plus it has Louis Armstrong meets Leon Thomas on The Creator Has A Master Plan!
14a. Juma Sultan’s Aboriginal Music Society – Whispers from the Archives: Lost 1970’s loft-jazz with James Blood Ulmer.
15. Paul Buff Presents Highlights from the PAL and Original Sound Studio Archives Vols. 1-5: Early 60’s LA surf music, doo-wop, and novelty records, with Frank Zappa, Ray Collins and other Mothers lurking about – just where, your guess is as good as theirs…
16. Sun Araw + M. Geddes Gengras & RAW POWER Band Meets The Congos – ICON GIVE LIFE: Live roots reggae take on last year’s more dreamy electronic-enhanced thing
17. Recomposed by Max Richter – Vivaldi – The Four Seasons: Shimmering modern update of the classic
18. Arve Hendriksen – Places of Worship: Ambient landscapes of trumpet, electronics and percussion, some quiet vocals
18a. Arve Hendriksen – Solidification (Record Store Day 7LP-set -> Sakuteiki (2001), Chiaroscuro (2004), Strjon (2007), Chron (2012)) – Arve’s 2012 album plus 3 early albums – more quiet jazz trumpet ambience, some Eastern influences in places
18b. Portico Quartet – Live/Remix: more from the tasty jazz/electronics group
19. Josef Van Wissem – Nihil Obstat: Minimalist lute music – a bright, more composed, European take on Laraaji-type music
20. Maddy Prior with Hannah James & Giles Lewin – 3 for Joy: Prior’s clear vocals on classic English folksong leavened with Pennywhistlers-style Eastern European harmonies, for a change of pace
21. Bryan Ferry Orchestra – The Jazz Age: No Bonzos in sight? Presenting The Bryan Ferry Doo-Dah Band for your pleasure. Too bad there’s no vocals – was hoping to hear Ferry’s take on Tubas in the Moonlight.
Music-related Flicks: Ain’t In It For My Health: A Film About Levon Helm / 20 Feet from Stardom / Muscle Shoals /
Radio Unnameable / I Am Divine / and yes, I liked CBGB and Inside Llewyn Davis even tho’ you weren’t s’posed to
Not having been a great year for recordings, it was a wonderful year for live gigs:
First of all, nothing could beat the ambient surround sound of the Cicadas of July & August. And I had the best of it – surrounded by woods and cliffs of chirping cicadas, there were none in New Hamburg because we are just one big rock outcropping in the Hudson River – there is no place for them to burrow, so we didn’t have them diving at us from the trees (or the piles of dead ones when it was all over).
Second best gig was Adrian Sherwood & Pinch’s DJ set at Francois Kevorkian’s DeepSpace night at Cielo. (Ah ha! Finally an On-U Sound reference in my PoOp!) I was not that enthused by their singles (tho’ Music Killer is OK), but the great dub, funk, and even disco riddims from their set has heightened my anticipation for their soon come album. This year my On-U fix was mostly satisfied with Patrick Doktor’s resurrection of unreleased On-U baked master tapes on his Roots Locker radio show on DWradio.co.uk
Already mentioned the great Jeffrey Lewis & Peter Stampfel gigs from this spring, these and Peter’s own gigs with his Ether Frolic Mob, mostly at the Jalopy Theater in Brooklyn, have been a joy. And congrats to Ether Frolic-er Hubby Jenkins for becoming a Carolina Chocolate Drop!
The gigs by Malian artists Mamadou Kelly, Tartit with Imharhan, and Leila Gobi at BSP Lounge and at Bard’s Spiegeltent were rhythmically and vocally amazing – their albums on Germantown’s own Clermont Music label are all worthwhile, especially the Festival au Desert compilation.
Varispeed’s multi-location performance of Robert Ashley’s spoken-word opera, Perfect Lives, in Woodstock, Boiceville, Phoenicia, and Mt. Tremper in August was a hell of a lot of fun.
Some really dreamy performances by Peter Broderick & Heather Woods Broderick at The Falcon and at New Paltz’s very homey Tin Roof Sessions – very talented they are and the music was just as beautiful as their CD’s.
Must give props to the Ed Palermo Big Band, whose semi-regular gigs performing the music of Frank Zappa and others at The Falcon in Marlboro are tight, colorful and energizing.
And in Hartford, Doug Wimbish’s always super-funky WimBash with Living Colour and this year’s special guests, the reunited Sugarhill Gang backed by the original Sugarhill House Band (a/k/a Tack>>Head), and a fantastic trio of 7th graders from Brooklyn called Understanding The Truth who blew the house away with their performance.
So many other gigs: Elizabeth Mitchell at Maverick (with the Good Mrs. Padgett), at the High Meadow School (with Amy Helm), and at the Clearwater Revival. Naomi Shelton & The Gospel Queens at The Falcon. Toots & The Maytals at Bearsville. Gary U.S. Bonds at the Peekskill Jazz & Blues Festival. Gary Lucas at BSP Lounge. Scotland’s Battlefield Band at the new Town Crier in Beacon. What Cheer? Brigade Balkan brass band at Spiegeltent. Wreckless Eric & Amy Rigby at the ?Mystery Spot in Phoenicia. Gary Kvistad’s Drumboogie Festival in Woodstock. John Cale’s Life Along The Borderline – A Tribute to Nico at BAM. Arto Lindsay & Vinicius Cantuaria at The Standard in NYC. Simone Felice at Byrdcliffe. Baird Hersey & PRANA with Vera Lipen’s Russian bells at the Tibetan Center. The Stevie Wonder Tributon at Market Market. And not forgetting Sinterklaas (I marched with the Hudson Valley Gamelans this year – quel fun!)
Local bands: The Fasads, Strawberry Hill Fiddlers, Big Sky Ensemble, Whiskey Mountain, Dylan Foley, the Rosendale Improvement Association Brass Band & Social Club, Hudson Valley Gamelans Giri Mekar (with yours truly), Chandra Kanchana, Djam Gong, and Tembeng Sunda. All had great gigs and are worth seeing again.