Best Albums of My Year

Everyone is making lists this time of year, so I wanted to craft one of my own. Usually this would be when I make a Best Albums of 2010 type of deal, but for the past year I've been really caught up in other things. It almost feels like I've been in a hole, listening to only a small fraction of good records that have come out in the past decade. This, among other things, also leads into why Huevos isn't as active as it used to be.

In October I got hired as a music writer to Louisville.com, my first real job in the journalism field. It was hard getting accustomed to writing articles so frequently, but I also feel that it has definitely improved my abilities, especially when it comes to being punctual. Therefore, most of my literary energy is taken up writing for their site rather than my own. I hope to avoid this becoming a problem in the approaching year, though it's hard to say how I'll feel about things by then. But despite being completely out of the musical loop, I still found a few records that really meant something to me during this stressful time of my life. So instead of trying to keep up with the usual line of 2010's most anticipated albums, I sought out records that were released relatively closer to the year I was born, in an attempt to re-connect with what came along in the decade I hardly remember. Obviously a majority of these turned out to be from the 90's, but I did find a few modern gems that I could probably see myself listening to years from now. They accompanied me through a difficult year, and I expect them to help me through the next. Below is a list of those records.

Boston Spaceships- Planets Are Blasted (2009)
If I haven't made it obvious enough yet, I'm a huge Robert Pollard fan. That isn't to say I suck dick on everything he releases, but I find myself continually influenced by his songwriting and musical style. Although I've liked Guided by Voices for a while, 2010 is when I really got into his other band Boston Spaceships. Along with the GBV classic lineup reunion, Pollard and the gang also managed to squeeze out a new Spaceships album this year titled Our Cubehouse Still Rocks, which I really liked too. Planets Are Blasted is a pretty straight-forward rock album, like a refined GBV with more cohesive songs and structure. What makes it really golden is how fresh Pollard can still make his songs sound, even if he may rehash a few melodies here and there. Fortunately, there's no re-hashing here.

Camper Van Beethoven- Telephone Free Landslide Victory (1985)
I remember doubting that Telephone dated back to 1985 the first time I heard it. Coincidentally, the same thought immediately came to mind when I heard 89's Key Lime Pie. It's clear that Camper Van Beethoven were ahead of the alternative curve that was to hit mainstream in the 90's. By that time, frontman David Lowery had already left Camper and went on to be co-founder of the more traditional rock band Cracker. I
came across a vinyl copy of Telephone a few months ago and it's been one of my favorite music purchases this year (right behind the German pressing of Pink Floyd's Animals on pink vinyl, obviously.)

Porno for Pyros- God's Good Urge (1996) and Porno for Pyros (1993)
I lump these two albums together because that's usually how I would listen to them: one right after the other. After being unfairly hesitant about liking Jane's Addiction, a friend of mine s
uggested I listen to Perry Farrell's other stint in Porno for Pyros. The first time I heard "Pets," I knew there was already an emotional connection I felt with this music. This somewhat instigated a search for more early 90's/late 80's music that could make me feel this way. I was looking for music that was released during the time period of my childhood because recalling those years has always felt sort of dreamlike to me. These albums were like flipping through a photo book that I don't remember, but I learned something about myself anyway.

Silver Jews- American Water (1998)
I guess you could say 2010 is when I started appreciating more boring 90's indie rock. Silver Jews aren’t boring to a bad extent, but David Berman’s singing voice always makes me want to fall asleep; perhaps it's the monotone, or too laid back. I do appreciate the occasional Stephen Malkmus vocals that pop up around their albums, though. Maybe that’s what keeps me awake? In any sense, I love American Water and Starlite Walker.
Silver Jews are clearly still engaging enough.

Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse- Dark Night of the Soul (2010)
There really couldn't have been a more exciting collaboration of effort than on Dark Night of the Soul. A cascade of music heroes including Wayne Coyne, Iggy Pop, Frank Black, Jason Lytle, James Mercer and several others each contributed their talents as tribute to the late Mark Linkous of Sparklehorse. All visual artwork for the album was done by David Lynch, who even himself provided vocals for two eerie songs on the record. What also made this special was the boxset (limited to only 5,000 copies) that included a hand-numbered book of photographs taken by Lynch; he referred to this as a visual narrative for the music. It makes me happy to listen through this record and know that it was done in spirit of Mark.
I believe he would have loved its outcome, too.

Technology vs. Horse- Four Against the Minotaur (2007)
Technology vs. Horse were the first band I interviewed for Louisville.com and one of the first band's that I've gotten to know personally. The band began to get a lot of press after winning a local Battle of the Bands competition, so I decided to take advantage of my connections and do a more in-depth perspective. Though, I must admit that I didn't really appreciate them until I witnessed their performance at Derby City Espresso back in July. They play a killer show and I don't think anyone can really get them unless they experience it too. They've got a really special thing going. I hold a lot of high hopes for this band and I will continue to log their success along the way. Four Against the Minotaur is my favorite of their three official releases, but I do have a weak spot for their debut Teddy Jam, silly as it may be. Louisville people take note: get to know this band! Then book them.

Sun Kil Moon- Admiral Fell Promises (2010)
Mark Kozelek's brand of folk music is often easily overlooked for its length. Most don't expect an extended folk tune to be exciting, and it's not, but there is a beauty within the subtlety of his songs. He represents complete respect towards the ways of finger-picking and clearly shows that he has already mastered this liberating technique. The only thing that may unsettle you is the heavy weight of emotion that he exerts into his music. Sometimes the downer is too down, and I often find myself becoming more depressed as the album goes on. Admiral Fell Promises has been a comforting companion to me this year as I've had more sleeping problems than usual. It has also been an emotional comfort when needed. It's simply too easy to keep yourself from connecting to these melodies, but
Kozelek comforts you all the way through.

Slint- Spiderland (1991)
Time and time again, Spiderland keeps popping up into my life significantly. Earlier this year I wrote an extended article about this legendary album for A Future in Noise, and it's the first record I've owned on vinyl, CD and digitally all at once. You know how people have musical identities? Maybe not, but I feel like Slint could very well be part of mine. I've delved a lot deeper into writing music this year than I ever have. It's actually gotten to the point where I'm fooling around on guitar more than I'm on the internet. Slint has been a big part of my year in that respect, because they're such a big influence on what I create. Discovering them has been one of the best things I've picked up from living in Louisville. So in a weird sense, I feel extremely connected to them. I've listened to Spiderland many, many times and the music still sounds fresh to me. It takes a really great piece of art to still
have such an impact to come back to.

The Smashing Pumpkins- Adore (1998)
Nathan Rich at Sexy Kangaroo sent me a copy of Adore on cassette tape over the summer. I figured I would give it a listen through because I realized that I haven’t actually listened to an entire album on tape before. (I don’t really consider the audio spanish lessons and sing-a-longs of my childhood to suffice as actual albums.) Because of this, Adore has become my favorite Pumpkins records thus far. When I caught them playing at the annual Forecastle Music Festival, it was more like Billy and the Corgans if ya feel me. And as expected, the only song they played from this album was "Ava Adore." I do give
Billy points for letting the audience pummel him with hundreds of glow sticks; it's become a fond image in my mind.

Pavement- Wowee Zowee (1995)
2010 was definitely a Pavement year for me, and it was definitely a Pavement year for them too. My favorite collection of their songs comes from side two of the Crooked Rain reissue L.A.'s Desert Origins. I didn't realize until later that a lot of those songs were also on Wowee Zowee, one of Pavement’s more bizarre efforts. I was fortunate enough to catch the band on their reunion tour when they played the Pitchfork festival, suitably synched up with the time I really started getting into them. The show was great from my perspective, but not great enough for me to keep Stephen Malkmus in my sight the entire time. Although I had only gotten familiar with Pavement at the beginning of the year, at that moment I felt like I was reliving something too. Like so many who spoke of their 90's shows, there was this uncontrollable giddiness that I felt before, during, and after the performance was over.
I walked away feeling both incredibly sad and satisfied, along with another checked box on my list of life goals.

Deerhunter- Halcyon Digest (2010)
Bradford Cox has had some bad luck with web sheriffing assholes in the past, but luckily they will be distracted enough with the release of Deerhunter's Halcyon Digest to not fool around with free Atlas Sound. Ever since the single "Helicopter" was released prior to the album, the anticipation was still almost impossible to withhold, and you could feel it around you. Halcyon was everything I hoped it would be, even far outshining 2008's Microcastle. Deerhunter seem to be the kind of band that continue to improve over time, and who can enrapture you in new experiences with every record they release.
There's a reason why Halcyon Digest persists to pop up in everyone's lists this year.

Cass McCombs- Dropping the Writ (2007)
Cass McCombs was one of the first acts to play at this year’s Pitchfork Music Festival, and my first one attended. After a rainy stint, the weather finally cheered up enough to provide a tolerable climate the remainder of the entire day. It was the first time I ever heard the word “Chicagwa.” Dropping the Writ has become a
favorite of mine over the summer, and it really exhibits McCombs's ability to belt it out beautifully. I'm still working on hitting the high notes in "Windfall."

Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band- Trout Mask Replica (1969)
It was only a little over a week ago that Mr. Don Van Vliet (a.k.a Captain Beefheart) passed away. After his death went public, I spent the day listening to Trout Mask Replica for the first time and felt foolish for not checking out these things sooner. I was familiar with "Willie the Pimp" and Bongo Fury, but nothing that wasn't Zappa related. I believe I am probably one of many who will hear about his death and discover these musical gems. Like several before him, the captain will finally get the recognition he deserves.

Honorable Mentions:
Freddy K- Stand by the Sea for Good Luck (2004)
Chavez- Gone Glimmering (1996)
Boston Spaceships- Our Cubehouse Still Rocks (2010)
Guided by Voices- Universal Truths and Cycles (2006)
Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks- Real Emotional Trash (2008)
The Black Keys- Brothers (2010)
The Cranberries- To the Faithful Departed (1996)
Swans- Cop/Young God (1984)
Jane's Addiction- Nothing Shocking (1988)


Vladee Divacc- Hoop Dreamz EP (2010)

Pitchfork has claimed new genres in waves. They have their darkwave, chillwave and Wavves, but what Pitchfork is currently (and unknowingly) let slip under their radar is a new brand of music. The style is set upon a balance of dark ambiance, howling, siren-like clamor and a love for the sport. This style of music is known as dunkwave, and let it be known that Huevos will be the first ever publication to endorse it.
Crafted by former Panda Steps in Chocolate boss, Christian Filardo, the contents of this EP fall into a much deeper and darker category than what has been heard on his work shared here in the past. I have known this musician long enough to trust nothing but quality music from his name, even if the artistic integrity of his sound may change dramatically. Versatility and a will for constant progression are what I believe to be incredibly important qualities to possess a musician. After knowing and listening to Christian's work over time- from all the way back to his first full length as Panda- I can confidently say that he carries these traits.
If you can imagine David Lynch filming and producing an NBA game, this EP would probably come close to how it would sound. There's a hint of unnerving nature (one that comes with most sports), but there is also something intriguing about its purpose. Most see basketball as a game of precision and really tall black dudes that can jump like Super Mario. Through an exploration of this highly regarded sport, the spirit of dunkwave emerges with its darker side. It's the side where everyone on the bench is brutally murdered, where everyone is guilty, and the court is left empty. It's when everyone has gone home and the jingling of the janitor's keys have already faded away, and the stirring turmoil of dunkwave begins. Hoop Dreamz contains no catchy anthems and hardly anything that I could legitimately label as a song. This EP is merely part of the birth. I want Huevos and all of its readers to serve as a loving, nurturing family for this delicate and fresh concept. Spread the word, and keep close for more material to come from dunkwave's very first proprietors, Vladee Divacc.

1. Chris Mullin
2. Expansion Teams
3. Phoenix Suns
4. Hoop Dreamz
5. John Stockton


Guided by Voices- Universal Truths and Cycles (2002)

"I can write six songs while sitting on the toilet, and three of them will be good."
--Robert Pollard

It's always a tasking argument when it comes to the importance of quality and quantity. There is hardly a population of artists that can accomplish both. Those of who we associate with this trait are folks like Frank Zappa, Sun Ra or even Pollard himself, though there are some uncomfortable exceptions. Some people have pinpointed that there was a stopping point in the Guided by Voices catalog, but I can hardly believe that some would cut it off before 2002. To cut off Universal Truths and Cycles hurts my heart more than it could hurt Pollard's; it's been such a long time since I've heard an incredible rock album like this.

For those accustomed to the two minutes-or-less, scratchy structures of the old GBV material, the production quality will be the most obvious factor to jump out. The cohesiveness between the songs has also improved over the years, but that isn't the only change. Since the classic lineup's split, the band brought in two former members of the Breeders for their new lineup started in '98; they also jumped around record labels before returning to Matador.

In my mind I divide this album like it is on the LP, split down the middle between the hefty 19 tracks that sprawl across it like a landscape. A quick, catchy introduction by "Wire Greyhounds" shows that Pollard didn't leave his good tunes back in the toilet bowl. Following after, "Skin Parade" delivers a sonic grind of trippy riffage and word play. The album takes a break from this experimentation come track five and whisks over a breath of poppy hooks in "Cheyenne"; I am still surprised that this wasn't a huge radio hit. While this was also one of the highest chart topping GBV album's at the time of it's release, it seems to have been long forgotten, buried underneath the heaps of Pollard releases to follow. It's really hard not to love an album that can manage to squeeze in the dessert crème brûlée as a lyric.

The songs on the record fluctuate around the traditional two minute mark, but there's also some that may venture passed four minutes: an uncommon trait for the band. "Car Language" is one of these uncommon slow burners, but the intense build through the track is rewarding. Though it isn't hard to reach the end of the album, the title track "Universal Truths and Cycles" is definitely a treat for anyone able to stick it out, set on a heavy-ass, infectious groove. In the closing song, the record ends on a positive note with Pollard repetitively singing "so God bless you." After the final click of closure from my record player, I tend to take this blessing to heart. The world of music is truly blessed to have a band like Guided by Voices around, who even after years of servitude are able to still deliver their own quality brand of ever-evolving music.


Technology vs. Horse

It is really criminal the amount of local acts and artists that go so easily unnoticed. What's surprising is that they're really not hard to find. Attend a show at Skull Alley with a five-for-one ticket lineup and you are sure to find a band that you absolutely love. Good talent is everywhere, but it comes in such a large dose that it may seem overwhelming for somebody just delving into the local scene. There is really nothing more exciting than witnessing and communicating with these great acts so up close. It's such a different feel from seeing a performer standing hundreds of heads away on a stage; something gets lost in that distance.
Last week I saw Bowling Green, Kentucky-based band Technology vs. Horse at Derby City Espresso in Louisville. It is clear that these men were not meant to be confined in their hometown, their sound descending far past what you would expect from their origin. On the group's latest effort Bearula: The Bear Dracula, they reveal a broad spectrum of influences that make this sound fairly difficult to pinpoint. The only things that come to mind are the likes of Zappa and Mike Patton: both iconic and prolific with their talent to create boundless concoctions of records. Technology vs. Horse seem to be fueled by this kind of inconsistency, with each of their albums sounding not only more progressive than the last, but also increasingly pleasing to the ears. These dudes are no strangers to fluctuating with the structures of rock music.
In person, the band is an odd bunch, described by singer Michael Farmer as an "unfuckable Roxy Music." It isn't uncommon to catch one of them donning a vampire cape during a show, and a hell of a show it is. While playing a set in front of a projection of Down by Law, Farmer (also known as the Kentucky Prophet) makes it a point to keep the experience interactive. Not only are you getting to hear great music, there is also definitely a tinge of entertainment to the show. It's rumored that the band may return to Louisville in October for a Nosferatu-themed set, but one can only hope this to be true.
With new bands starting up every day, it's sometimes hard to weed out the ones who really put forth an effort to stand out. Bands like Technology vs. Horse should be celebrated for this. While we're in a time when originality is white-washed over with gimmicks and effects, there are still bands like these that can completely blow you away. It's so refreshing to hear this new music that doesn't leave a pre-processed taste in your mouth. Keep a watch on these guys, they bound for supreme recognition.

Bearula:The Bear Dracula (2009)


Built to Spill @ Headliners Music Hall, Louisville

Built to Spill/Chikita Violenta
Sunday, August 29th, 2010
Headliners Music Hall
Better than: getting a second chance at life.

Back when I was introduced to Built to Spill, it never occurred to me that I would ever have the chance to see these rock heroes in person. All hope was lost when they arrived in Louisville two years ago with the Arizona cow-punks of Meat Puppets, scheduling an 18+ show, and I'm pretty sure the same thing happened again the next year. It's been a really frustrating effort on my part, but I finally got my night. I shook the hand of Doug Martsch and felt my face brighten like Christmas morning. It was like he transferred all of the evening's energy from his palm to mine.

Now that I am 18 and can legally have access to more shows, it makes me so much more grateful to have venues like Headliners who have played as a temporary hutch to so many fantastic acts. There wouldn't be opportunities like this without it. When hosting such a broad array of genres, performances and artists, there really isn't a better place to be when you want to see an amazing show. Of course, this night's lineup was no different. Although I have a tendency to be late upon my arrivals, I have always cut it close enough to catch the headlining act. This is, after all, the reason I am forking over twenty dollars. So even if I did miss Chikita Violenta's set, I still feel like I received well worth what I paid to attend.

With "The Plan," Built to Spill opened up the set in a burst of excitement. Any song from Keep it Like a Secret had a tendency to energize the crowd more than the rest, I noticed. Several shouts for "Broken Chairs" and "Carry the Zero" were commonly heard during in-between song tune-ups, but most of these requests weren't honored until our well deserved encore. Throughout the set, the band made it a point to explore their catalog without totally voiding their new material as well, honoring an oldie like "Three Years Ago Today" and fairly new tunes such as "Things Fall Apart," jamming it out when necessary. The new material translated well live, but it didn't seem to have as much kick as the kind of jams they've been playing for years. Midway through after pounding out "Sidewalk," Doug took a moment to tussle his head with a towel, already dripping with sweat. With his hair sticking out like a clown and a quick survey of the crowd, he announced "this is when the show really begins." And the magic erupted there.

Like the heroes of their era, it's not long before it will be time for Built to Spill to hang their hats for good. I would advise anyone to check out the remainder of their tour and try to make it to a show. Although it seems like they aren't finished for good, it's hard to say what the future will bring for this band. Maybe it could be for the best; Doug can still continue will solo work, or he could even go totally wild and bring back Treepeople. Time has been good to Built to Spill, but let's hope it doesn't spoil them either. It is a much too precious legacy to tarnish.


Elvis Perkins in Dearland- Elvis Perkins in Dearland (2009)

If you've seen the 1960's version of Psycho, then you already have a vague idea of who Elvis Perkins is. Not only is his father Anthony Perkins—one of film history's most distinct serial killers—his bloodline includes other famous personas, from his great grandmother and fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli to actress Marisa Berenson. It really only made sense for Elvis to receive the hereditary torch of fame. This time, in a different realm.

After suffering through the death of his mother who was a victim on the hijacked American Airlines flight that crashed into the twin towers (a day before the anniversary of his father's death, no less) Perkins wrote his first solo effort, Ash Wednesday, heavily based off of these events. Now accompanied by a backing band, Perkins had no interest in creating an Ash Wednesday II. It was time for the rest of the band to have a say, and within Elvis Perkins in Dearland the complimentary chemistry between these musicians is mystifying.

Opening tune "Shampoo" jumps from mellow folk, to poetry, to straight up jamming in the midst of what people call "feeling the music." The fact that these band members are also multi-instrumentalists plays into the vibrant and diverse sound of each track. This would be the defining factor that separates Elvis Perkins as a solo act and the talented collective that is the rest of Dearland. But this unity doesn't take away from the times where Perkins can truly shine. He did, after all, start out writing poetry before translating his work to music. "Send My Fond Regards to Lonelyville" displays this talent well, painting for the listener a homely picture against a soulful and bouncy, acoustic tune—right before a parade of horns come marching passed. But don't be fooled by these ballads; Elvis Perkins in Dearland can get seriously heavy. Check the chimes, organ and stomping riff that craft the folk-sludge of "I'll Be Arriving." It is obvious from here that Elvis Perkins is not new to fidgeting with the structures of folk, and a regular Dylan when a harmonica is to be had. If only I knew about this before I made my Best Of '09 list...


Amaranth- California Demon (2010)

Rock duos are underappreciated, and their significance is overlooked. Even in full bands of four or five guys, there's usually two that sync up and play off of each other exclusively that forms the critical foundation of any group. Most usually, it's down to the bassist and drummer that propel and drive each song into a natural groove and rhythm. The ill dubbed genre of math rock has been one of the more prominent styles to feature and spotlight this phenomenon, with a planted seed from Louisville's dark quartet Slint and mass influence from Heavy Vegetable and Don Cabellero throughout the '90s. One of modern year's most well respected, Hella, is a showcase of pure force and spastic melody within this sparse genre, led by the octopussian drummer hero Zach Hill and the eccentric Spencer Seim on guitar. Hold Your Horse Is and There's No 666 in Outer Space both remain as snob favorites, with the latter being Hella's only album to feature lead vocals. Those in question were performed by Aaron Ross, who later formed Amaranth with bandmate Seim to play and release—rather simply in description and sound—straight up rock music. So far they've only played in select basements around the California area, but their debut album is fully accessible and a substantial piece of work. Tracked live with presumably little overdubs, Ross and Seim sync up not unlike that of a youthful Bonham and Jones... a classier Perkins and Avery... a gentler Chippendale and Gibson.

Songwriting duties within California Demon are noticably split up: Ross's tracks are crafted with a sprawling chaos that beckons the anarchy of folk music, while Seim delivers what could be considered Hella if their emotions were to be awfully conservative. Regardless of who wrote what, each track is tightly rehearsed and brimming with purpose. If their contributed work on There's No 666 in Outer Space was an interstellar exercise in existentialism, then California Demon is a trip back to earth with a similar perception but a further view of it, and from a concentrated focus of two people rather than five. The album begs to be played as loud as the ears can handle, enclosing a full spectrum of claustrophobic sound, practically swirling and evolving like a fractal abused with psychedelics. It can be meticulously catchy and downright introspective when it wants, but more importantly its most appealing trait is the unforced development of the duo's unbridled self-expression. The basements they've been playing in aren't the surroundings of someone trying to cash in their celebrity status and make a few dimes, but the surroundings of living in the intimate moment of creation with family and friends, close and far.


Guided by Voices- King Shit & the Golden Boys (1995)

As if the day would never come, Guided by Voices are revisiting the spotlight once more. Earlier this month the band agreed to take on a reunion tour of their classic lineup circa '94-'96, and Robert Pollard has already announced to release five albums within a ten month span. However, none of these albums will be under the name GBV.

King Shit & the Golden Boys is as non-traditional as any of Guided by Voices' numerous records. It originated as part of the band's first box set released in 1995 suitably titled, Box. King Shit was included as an LP of previously unavailable material, reminiscing old tunes from Bee Thousand and miscellaneous demos from their first four releases. The record is satisfying in terms of the GBV signature lo-fi to the extreme, but the static and background noise doesn't take away from the beauty that the group has managed to slip in between grit through all of these years. Call it wankery, but I find that a lot of lo-fi recordings tend to be a lot more interesting than a solid studio cut. Maybe it's something about the buzzing, empty air, or the background noise you hear right before the first strike of a song. Nothing is more intimate than a pure, straight cut of a band playing together in a small room.

For those who are already familiar with Guided by Voices, it won't be hard to pinpoint old tunes and melodies found on previous releases from the prolific band. "At Odds with Dr. Genesis" can be easily recognized as an extended cut of Bee Thousand's gorgeous "Ester's Day." Other mellow songs like "Don't Stop Now," as unnerving as it may sound near the end, are fairly catchy and easy to come back to. It is a trait that makes a Guided by Voices track so prone to love: short, jingly tunes with a sentimental intimacy; Robert Pollard's silly and sometimes nonsensical lyrics are also a factor in this. You just can't help but love a lot of these songs.


"It's my birthday... aren't you going to sing happy birthday to me?"

The American Astronaut - "Party"

I turned 18, you guys.


Andrew Jackson Jihad @ Skull Alley, Louisville

My pal Devin and AJJ's Sean
Andrew Jackson Jihad/Laura Stevenson and the Cans/ The Wild/ Paul Baribeau/ beady/ The Ambulars
Thursday, May 27th, 2010
Skull Alley
Better than:
breakfast for dinner.

Never before has the letdown of a previous night's show effected me so anxiously the following day. As I'm beginning to piece together the blueprints for my life as a high school graduate, there has always been a nauseous skeptical feeling in the pit of my heart, even as things may seem they're going the way I wanted. Perhaps these feelings are normal, but the optimistic thrill I feel today seems like it was meant to be. Seeing Andrew Jackson Jihad at this peak in my life was destiny.

As this was my first time seeing AJJ in action, it was also my first time to attend a show at Skull Alley. Although it's small size may be climatically suffocating, the space still serves for a much more intimate show. In the long run, this is really all that matters; it's hard to pinpoint this kind of experience in the midst of a crowded arena. But the only things that keep those moments alive are the immense amount of talent and fanship that pour from the venue's walls. An exhausting familiarity found between the fans and musicians has created a close-knit environment that feels both comfortable to music scene queens and casual showgoers alike. This relationship bonds an understanding. Faulty strings and forgotten lyrics can be excused as a part of the show, and impromptu performances of cover songs are taken as a treat over filler. Attending this show has reminded me that these imperfections can sometimes transpire to be what truly complete an experience. And I guess that evening I was lucky.

Before headlining act Andrew Jackson Jihad took the stage, their predecessors of opening acts handled the small venue's spotlight surprisingly well. Among these artists was the Brooklyn-based collective Laura Stevenson and the Cans, who pounded out an impressive and moving set led under front woman Laura Stevenson's sweet croon. Paul Baribeau, a solo artist from Michigan, also presented himself quite intimately, who for a small instant was able to hush an entire venue of people.
It was mid-intermission when AJJ's Sean Bonnette broke me the news that the band's other half, Ben Gallaty, was unable to attend. In lieu of a duo performance, Sean executed a one man act of Andrew Jackson material, including both freshly written songs and older works from their debut record, People Who Can Eat People are the Luckiest People in the World. With "Rejoice" as the set's suitable opener, Sean veraciously strummed through AJJ's other standards, "No More Tears," "Brave as a Noun," and "Personal Space Invader." Near the set's close he surprised the crowd with the long awaited "People III," a song that picks up from where "People II: The Reckoning" had left off on their debut album.
It seems that despite the lack of Ben, Sean was able to perform comfortably as a solo act. Among the stage patter, Sean took time to explain some of the purposes behind his typically angry songwriting while also touching upon subjects like the nutritional mistreatment of the homeless. It was a serious inspiration to hear someone tell me to "be the best fucking human you can be."
Rest assured, I was promised by Sean that Ben will be present for their following Louisville show. Lucky for us that the group loves to play here. For those who may have missed Thursday evening's show, AJJ will be returning on June 24th for yet another round at Skull Alley. I hope to see you there.


Bobby Vinton- Blue Velvet (1963)

Like many easy listening artists of his time, there were only a handful of tracks Bobby Vinton could claim for his own. Ironically enough, the one song on this record that was actually written by Vinton himself, "Little Miss Blue," received little to no commercial success. His chart topping hits remained as the iconic "Blue Velvet" with "Blue on Blue" right on its heels, both of which played as candidates for the title of his soon to be best selling album. After being renamed Blue Velvet, this chart dominating record permanently engraved Bobby Vinton's name among the long and exclusive list of great vocalists. The remainder of the album is a diverse collection of jazz and pop covers that Vinton so willfully adapted to complete the album's blue concept. Therefore, every single track on the record has something to do with the color blue. Whether it is if Vinton himself feels like "Mr. Blue," or if he feels optimistic enough to invite you to his "Blue Heaven;" both the calming effects of Bobby's soothing, timeless voice and the color blue have a chilling inducement on the soul; the effect is almost romantic in a way.

After the success of Blue Velvet, Vinton's career was put on the back burner, although, his material continued to flourish among the Top 40. David Lynch titled his 1987 film "Blue Velvet" after the song, bringing a small wave of interest back to Vinton's music. Later on, his tracks were used in commercials and his voice was once again borrowed for something few artists can pull off with dignity: a Christmas album. He continued to release new records, but there has yet to be any to match up with Blue Velvet's success. Bobby Vinton was merely part of the curse. It's a curse where nothing you create outside of your peak years will ever overshadow your best selling material. But the older material always wins, doesn't it?


Happy Record Store Day~

While it's unfortunate that this year's Record Store Day is the same date as the obnoxious Thunder over Louisville celebration, I still encourage everybody to stop by your local music source and show some support. Most stores are hosting sales on vinyl/CDs, so it's the perfect day to nab something while it's cheap!
Pictured above is Ear-X-Tacy, Louisville's famous locally-owned record store. The business started in 1985 as a small outlet run by John Timmons whose stock was his own personal collection of music. Now, over twenty years later, Ear-X-Tacy has become a landmark for both music and movie lovers alike. Unfortunately, as with many modern record stores, the economy has begun to take its toll on this once thriving business. And as less people feel the need to purchase music in a physical form, places like Ear-X-Tacy are being closed down. Anyone from Louisville knows it wouldn't be the same without this sacred place. Even after only living here for three years, I hold a lot of sentimental value with this store.
To quit downloading music and to throw yourself in debt to buy it instead would be too much for me to ask. But I do ask for some acknowledgement. After all, there are things you simply can't experience from an illegal download.


Pink Mountaintops- Axis of Evol (2006)

Is there anything Jagjaguwar puts out that doesn't fucking rule? As a home to Dinosaur Jr.'s Farm, Women, Black Mountain and Sunset Rubdown, it's not hard to distinguish what the true answer may be. Pink Mountaintops is also not immune to this truth. Starting out in 2004 under the control of Black Mountain's crooning frontman Stephen McBean, the band released a self-titled under the name of The Pink Mountaintops, but since the release of Axis of Evol, they made a good call to drop "The" from their name.

Even though I started as an initial fan of McBean's similarly named band, Black Mountain, there was still room to be pleasantly surprised by Axis of Evol's continuous flair. It wouldn't be right to say it's more chic than a Black Mountain album, but it's definitely a little more controlled. You can really tell this is all McBean, from the solo acoustic opening tune "Comas" to a psychedelic voice overlay with Black Mountain bandmate Amber Webber on "Slaves." Contrary to what McBean's roots may suggest, the album's foray into electronic undertones is what really sets his side project apart from the stoner rock label he might have gained in his other involvements. But there's definitely a balance of those undertones with gentle acoustic ballads between these funky tracks. No nonsense here; McBean made a hell of an album.


R. Crumb's Heroes of Blues, Jazz & Country (2006)

One thing I love about Robert Crumb more than his drawings is his taste in music. Without him, I probably wouldn't have dared venture into weeding out the good blues/ragtime artists, even though I consider them one of my favorite styles of music. This CD came with a book I bought of the same title, which was based on a trading card series Crumb drew of old blues artists. It's a fairly good sized book, each section split into labeled sections (Heroes of the Blues, Pioneers of Country Music, and Early Jazz Greats), so it makes it easy to reference an artist if I need to. Each picture is drawn by Crumb himself, along with a small biography of the artist with their origin and time of activity. All of this, and a free CD! But for those of you who may not read, or who wouldn't want to trouble with a book, I'm being nice enough to offer this fantastic compilation for free. All songs were arranged by Crumb himself, all of which are highly regarded recommendations from the brilliant cartoonist. So, you have nothing to lose. And if you find yourself craving more, it wouldn't hurt to check out the soundtrack to Terry Zwigoff's disturbing and moving documentary, Crumb, based off the artist's life (conveniently found here). Enjoy!

1. Memphis Jug Band- On the Road Again
2. Blind Willie McTell- Dark Night Blues
3. Cannon's Jug Stompers- Minglewood Blues
4. Skip James- Hard Time Killin' Floor Blues
5. Jaybird Coleman- I'm Ganna Cross the River Jordan/ Some O' These Days
6. Charley Patton- High Water Everwhere
7. Frank Stokes- I Got Mine
8. "Dock" Boggs- Sugar Baby
9. Shelor Family- Big Bend Gal
10. Hayes Sheperd- The Peddler and his Wife
11. Crockett's Country Mountaineers- Little Rabbit
12. Burnett & Rutherford- All Night Long Blues
13. East Texas Serenaders- Mineola Rag
14. Weems String Band- Greenback Dollar
15. Bennie Monten's Kansas City Orchestra- Kater Street Rag
16. "King" Oliver's Creole Jazz Band- Sobbin' Blues
17. Parham-Picket Apollo Syncopaters- Mojo Strut
18. Frankie Franko & His Louisianians- Somebody Stole my Gal
19. Clarence William's Blue Five- Wild Cat Blues
20. "Jelly Roll" Morton's Red Hot Peppers- Kansas City Stomps
21. Jimmy Noone- King Joe


Holopaw- Quit +/or Fight (2005)

While you'd have to be pretty hard-pressed to not know who Modest Mouse is, there is sometimes the occasional fan who hasn't been exposed to Isaac Brock's side stint with Ugly Casanova. In fact, it's even easier to discredit its eclectic cast of cabin rockers. Brian Deck produced two of Iron & Wine's most critically acclaimed albums (Our Endless Numbered Days and The Shepherd's Dog), while Tim Rutili remains as the driving force of Califone. John Orth of the Florida-based band Holopaw is a grand element to Ugly Casanova's sound; with writing credits on four songs, he accompanied Brock on the microphone with a wavering voice that will soon be unmistakable to your ears.

Only formed just a year before Sharpen Your Teeth's release, Holopaw provides soothing, mellow folk jams and ballads with a certain grace and majesty that is as fragile as it is powerful. Maybe that's milking it a little too much, but every once in a while, "that" kind of music just happens to be composed and is left waiting to be discovered. The band's sophomore release, Quit +/or Fight, was and still is mostly forgotten, especially on the tails of their latest 2009 masterpiece, Oh, Glory. Oh, Wilderness. They're both excellent tapestries of pure musical charm, but today we'll be unearthing the former and giving it some extra necessary exposure.Quit +/or Fight may only run for half-an-hour, and it may be too delicate for some in terms of its cushiony execution and Orth's feminine croon, but underneath lies 11 resplendent tunes that beg to be loved. If it rubs you in the right spot, return the love and share it with others; Holopaw is far too brilliant to fall into the unknown.


The DarkSide of the Wall @ The Brown Theater, Louisville

The DarkSide of the Wall
Saturday, January 23rd, 2010
The Brown Theater
Better Than: Going to the dentist...?

I have spent at least ten minutes trying to remember what music I listened to in middle school through freshmen year of high school, and the only thing that prominently comes to mind are the words Pink Floyd. This is when I realized that through that entire period of my life I listened to virtually nothing else. There may be a foggy memory of Dinosaur Jr's Green Mind, or a Mars Volta album somewhere in the mix, but as far back as I can remember (and that's not very far), I lost my entire middle school/9th grade years to Pink Floyd, and there's no regret there. I've benefited from the binge. From an exhausting knowledge of their catalog, to a growing affection that becomes stronger as the years go by, I find that having such a strong connection to a band is like having affection for a kitten: it's unconditional. Even if they may piss on your rug that really tied the room together (Momentary Lapse of Reason, ahem), or split up because one of the members is a little bitch, you find a way to overlook that flaw. The great thing about having this affection for such a high capacity band like Pink Floyd is that there are so many different albums, eras, and sounds to get into at once. You're never left bored or pining for more; it is emotionally, physically (and maybe a little sexually) satisfying. The downside to liking a band like Floyd, though, is that two very significant members are already dead. Syd Barrett may have been kicked out of the troupe earlier on, but it doesn't stop that part of Pink Floyd from being totally irreplaceable. And speaking of which, how are we supposed to expect a reunion now that Richard Wright is dead? This is where tribute bands come into the equation.

There's always been a sort of 50/50 love-hate affection I've had with tribute bands, but when your long time favorite band is slowly dying off, sometimes you have no other choice, especially when you long to hear that music amplified to a live capacity. I've seen The Pink Floyd Experience twice: four years ago in Huntington, West Virginia and roughly one year ago while residing in Louisville. Both sets where sensually satisfying, but not because they played "Wish You Were Here"- in fact, they didn't play it at all. They were satisfying because they took time to cover virtually every era of Floyd, cascading from the late Division Bell to the ancient jam tune known as "Astronomy Domine." No Floyd was left behind. So after seeing this band twice, I've had pretty high expectations when it comes to these kinds of concerts.

The DarkSide of the Wall is a Louisville-based band consisting of what the website claims as "some of the top music and production talent in the region." Unfortunately, there is a difference between being exceptional and genuine. I totally understand the concept of playing what the crowd may want to hear, but sometimes the crowd isn't all middle aged washups. Perhaps there are eager high school girls crammed between drunkards who simply wish to hear a song from Obscured by Clouds, or maybe just a couple tracks from Relics. It's hardly a selfish thing to ask for; after all, why would we want to hear songs we hear consistently on 107.7 anyway? No luck. It was all strictly Dark Side and The Wall as their name so fittingly proclaims. Although I have no complaints about hearing "Welcome to the Machine" or "Pigs," I just kind of wished there would be more variety. You would be considered naive to think this set list did any justice.
But the set list wasn't the only problem I noticed with the band. There were several instances during the show where specific guitar solos were omitted in replacement for vocal solos instead. Take the second acoustic solo in "Wish You Were Here," the glorious moment when David Gilmour scat vocals with his guitar: completely ignored here. It's almost like the guitar player was either too stupid or too lazy to learn the solo. Even I know how to play that solo. I also noticed a problem with the band's guitar tones, specifically on songs like "Run Like Hell" or "Pigs" where the initial guitar tone is absolutely key. I've listened to these songs enough to know a wrong tone when I hear one. As opposed to the hollow and twang-like tone used in these tracks, the band adapted a more heavy and almost metalesque sound that didn't work well with the music they were supposed to be playing. The lead guitarist was also prone to jumping around the stage as if in a slow motion mosh pit, something I've never seen David Gilmour do on stage before. His only job is to play and look cute!

I feel I could fill up another paragraph or so about how I was close to walking out mid-show or about the sloppy vocals on "The Great Gig in the Sky," but I guess I should have seen this coming. I can't expect less-than-perfect musicians to give me the absolutely perfect show that I want. That's not what a tribute band is about. They may know how to play all the notes and use all the right lights at the right time, but it all comes down to the fact that it's not Floyd. Not even close. These are merely people like me, committed in their fanship, just in a different way. I know I wasn't fortunate enough to be born in a time where a Pink Floyd tour was the norm, but I wish that I could at least have a taste. Just a little bite.