Mark Rosen Poop 2016

2016. Where to begin? To paraphuck Charles Dickens, it was the worst of times . . . period. It was a year of unfathomable loss. Yes, the music world lost far too many big names, but that’s not the loss I am referring to. America lost its heart and its compassion, its soul, its purpose, its way. At this point, all I can ask Not-Mein-Fuhrer is to please not break anything too, too badly. Unfortunately I have very little faith in that happening. America has a president with serious and deep-rooted psychological problems who just might find unimaginable ways to undo 240 years of slow, steady progress in this country. I am preparing to keep the CAPS LOCK key in the default position for the next four years as I hang on for dear life.
As I type this, music is feeling pretty trivial. Nevertheless the POOP must go on.

Buy THE EXPLORERS CLUB – Together New or Used via Amazon
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What Brian Wilson would sound like today if he had not lost his voice (not to mention his marbles). A simple pop album that reveals just how simple it ISN’T with each listen. For an even more impressive glimpse into their music, check out their 2005 debut Freedom Wind (or at least the opening track “Forever” on YouTube).

Buy THE FLAT FIVE – It’s a World Of Love and Hope New or Used via Amazon
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2. THE FLAT FIVE – It’s a World Of Love and Hope
Charming, clever, twisted lyrics and wonderful, infectious, irresistible vocalizing make this the most smileworthy record of the year. Just plain fun.

Buy VARIOUS ARTISTS – Hillbillies In Hell: Country Music’s Tormented Testament (1952-1974) New or Used via Amazon
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3. VARIOUS ARTISTS – Hillbillies In Hell: Country Music’s Tormented Testament (1952-1974)
Twenty-eight country and hillbilly cautionary tales about the many diabolical manifestations of the Devil himself (Satan, LSD, murder, suicide, weed, psychosis, even Jesus himself). Whee, what fun. Great songs and great liner notes. This listens like a musical amusement park ride.

Buy VARIOUS ARTISTS – Surf-Age Nuggets: Trash & Twang Instrumentals: 1959-1966 New or Used via Amazon
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4. VARIOUS ARTISTS – Surf-Age Nuggets: Trash & Twang Instrumentals: 1959-1966
From 2015, this is an exhaustive 104 song comp of surf (and drag) guitar instrumentals, all clocking in at around 2:20, that have remained hopelessly under the radar until now. Not a one of these is duplicated on the Rhino Surf Box. Loving and ridiculously thorough track-by-track notes with full bios of groups that emerge from total obscurity to shoot the curl one last time.

Buy THE ROLLING STONES – Blue & Lonesome New or Used via Amazon
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5. THE ROLLING STONES – Blue & Lonesome
The Stones began their career by teaching us Americans about music being made in our own backyards, educating kids about guys named Muddy, Wolf and Bo. Half a century later, the Stones do it all over again, digging even deeper into their blues collections to educate the same, er, kids.

Buy Monkees - Good Times! New or Used via Amazon
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6. THE MONKEES – Good Times!
Hey, hey, we’re still the Monkees, monkeying around with songs by Andy Partridge, Rivers Cuomo and others. I didn’t really expect this to amount to much but after one listen, I’m a believer.

Buy VARIOUS ARTISTS – Day Of the Dead New or Used via Amazon
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7. VARIOUS ARTISTS – Day Of the Dead
Songs of the Grateful Dead re-imagined by many of the hip bands the kids like these days. Actually these bands make the music seamlessly relevant. It’s my own 24 song distillation of the 59 song release that makes my list.

Buy Robbie Fulks – Upland Stories New or Used via Amazon
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8. ROBBIE FULKS – Upland Stories
Fulks is like an Ivy League country singer, meaning he’s unlike any other country singer. This musical journey through rural America feels a wee different since November owing to the fact that I’m not quite ready to find poetry in Trump’s America. After seeing Fulks in December I’m convinced he didn’t think he was going to have this problem.

Rent VARIOUS ARTISTS – Wayfaring Strangers: Cosmic American Music via Amazon
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9. VARIOUS ARTISTS – Wayfaring Strangers: Cosmic American Music
A collection of unpolished, imperfect and unheard 70’s pre-Americana gems (way before the name was coined) that provide the missing links between Gram Parsons and Uncle Tupelo. Great concept and execution with notes as scholarly as liners get.

Rent THE MEKONS – Existentialism via Amazon
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10. THE MEKONS – Existentialism
The Mekons latest angry, folk, rock, country, punk, sea shanty, musical, political mashup was recorded live, mostly around a single microphone. I liked this record after the first few listens but found myself loving it while listening to it on inauguration day. The anti-Brexit song “Fear and Beer” could easily be applied to Rexit, America’s exit from reason.

11. YO LA TENGO – Murder In the Second Degree
Yo La Tengo’s follow-up to Yo La Tengo Is Murdering the Classics delivers another round of impromptu “interpretations” of requests phoned in as part of WFMU’s annual fund-raising marathon. This is NOT a warts-and-all collection. It’s an ALL-warts collection, and therein lies its charm.
12. KURT VILE – b’lieve I’m goin down
Being kinda new to the Vile catalog I didn’t hear this in 2015. Like his previous record, I find each song takes about two minutes before it gets under my skin. So actually it took this one a whole year plus two minutes to work its magic.
13. CASE/LANG/VEIRS – Live at OPB Studios
case/lang/veirs’ official album suffers from an almost impenetrable denseness that leaves me cold, but this live-in-the-studio track-for-track live performance is considerably more accessible. The between song banter adds a charm utterly missing in the official record. Download it here: . . . or watch it all on YouTube.
14. XTC – Drums & Wires instrumental mix (CD4 from the enhanced edition of Drums & Wires)
These are the musical backing tracks to the original album. Turns out that beneath the quirky vocals there was always an even quirkier musical bed. This came out in 2014; new to me.
15. VARIOUS ARTISTS – The Other Side Of the Trax: Stax-Volt Rarities 1964-1968
Stax records prided itself on, among other things, using quality songs as B-sides, so it should come as no surprise that these flipsides, all overlooked on the 9 volume box set, are all pretty stellar. Wonderful to hear the vintage sounds of Steve Cropper’s tasteful guitar lines, Al Jackson’s tight drumming, Booker T’s churchy keys and Duck Dunn’s funky bottom spread across 24 slices of southern soul, every song new to my ears.
16. VARIOUS ARTISTS – Kinked! Kinks Songs & Sessions 1964-1971
This collection of 60’s Kinks kovers (and a few Ray Davies compositions the Kinks never got to record) includes songs from their raw R&B beginnings as well as their late decade social commentary songs, all interpreted by a wide variety of 60’s dedicated followers of cool music.
17. TRIO – The Complete TRIO Collection
Trio’s first album remains a fave of mine. This set features a glorious remastering of #1 and their mediocre second album. But the real treasures can be found on the third disc of wonderful, unreleased material. This collection is particularly welcome since Dolly has lost her sweet squeak, Emmy can no longer sing well, and Linda can no longer sing at all.
18. SETH SWIRSKY – Circles and Squares
Pure pop confection from a guy who wears his Nilsson on one sleeve and his Brian Wilson on the other.
19. RICHARD BARONE – Sorrows & Promises: Greenwich Village In the 1960s
This record captures downtown NYC folk music from the period after the cool cats on Bleecker stopped banging on their bongos and before Barone started playing with his Bongos. Inspired choices and performances.
20. PENTANGLE – Finale
The entirety of the liner notes: “Finale was recorded live during the 2008 tour and sees the original line-up revisit their classic repertoire.” The difference between this collection and the live half of their Sweet Child album from 1968 is this sounds like you’re sitting third row center in an acoustically perfect concert hall.
21. PAUL SIMON – Stranger To Stranger
Who’d’ve thought that after 74 years and I dunno know how many albums, Simon had this musically and rhythmically challenging record in him. Still experimental after all these years.