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* Favorite Vocal Albums of 2011 *

29th Dec 11 (Thu) 6 comments

I’ve been buying less music… or, at least a lot less mainstream (major label) music. This is also my fourth year now that I bought more instrumental CDs than vocal CDs. I think as I get older, I am drawn more towards jazz and other instrumental forms of expression. For that reason, the favorite vocal albums list goes first this go ’round. Hopefully my spilling out of music that I like finds interest with someone else. But if not, thanks for stopping by… check out the artists’ webpages, Facebox pages, yadda yadda yadda. A lot of these also made it on to my 2011 Mix CD (free streaming/download).

OK, now on to the best of what’s hit my ears this year…

Honorable Mentions: Iron & WineKiss Each Other Clean, Tres MtsThree Mountains, PomplamooseThe Album You Bought At Our Show (Thanks for That), MC FrontalotSolved and The RootsUndun.

BjörkBiophilia :: It started with an iPhone / iPad app… I was skeptical, but it turned out to be a really cool app and a really cool album.  I don’t think the actual music broke any new ground for Bjork, but her willingness to approach technology and manifest an album initially with a new format is what will keep her in the forefront for me.
Elysian FieldsLast Night on Earth :: Brooklyn-based sultry art rockers Elysian Fields don’t really tour outside of NYC often.  Jennifer Charles and Oren Bloedow find their way to Europe on occasion, but most U.S. fans only really have their studio albums to sate their musical desires.  This is their sixth full-length album in their near 16-year career.  Well crafted, well produced, lush vocals and folk meets dusky jazz.
BlackfieldWelcome to My DNA :: I was disappointed that I couldn’t make it out for this tour.  The album is good, albeit a little disjointed compared to their other two albums (probably due to Aviv Geffen doing more of the writing versus Steven Wilson who was busy with his solo album – see #9 below).  Nice orchestration and a solid offering from Blackfield.
Dream TheaterA Dramatic Turn of Events :: I almost didn’t buy this album.  I’m glad I did, but I’m still pretty pissed at the band for choosing to continue without founder/drummer Mike Portnoy after he expressed an interest in a short hiatus/breather.  They picked up a drummer I like (Mike Mangini, who i saw play with Extreme in 1995), but a BIG piece of what I loved about DT (after Kevin Moore left in 1994) was Mike Portnoy’s energy.  With his absence, I’m liking them less and less.  The album is good, but it’s way more bitter than sweet to me.
Foo FightersWasting Light :: Dave Grohl is a modern rock genius.  He rocks, he hooks, he continues to put out great music.
Steven Bernstein’s Millennial Territory OrchestraMTO Plays Sly :: A trumpet-led tribute to Sly and the Family Stone with guests vocalists.  This superb collection is less funk, but still quite enjoyable.  My favorite is the Antony-sung “Family Affair.”
Florence + the MachineCeremonials :: Soulful baroque-rock chanteuse won me over with their first album Lungs, even though I didn’t pick it up this year.  Her second album solidifies her as more than a fluke.  The album is dancey and dark.  Great for fans of Tori Amos & Kate Bush!
IncubusIf Not Now, When? :: Incubus took some time off so guitarist Mike Einziger could work on his degree at Harvard and singer Brandon Boyd could put out some art as well as his solo album.  They regrouped and put out an album that had a similar vibe to the ocean-groove Morning View.  They aren’t breaking new ground, but they still have a solid position in my ears.
The Jelly JamShall We Descend :: The supergroup of Ty Tabor (King’s X), John Myung (Dream Theater) and Rod Morgenstein (Dixie Dregs) finally found some time to hit the studio!  The result is an excellent rock album…
ChevelleHats Off to the Bull :: Chevelle are a sleeper in my collection.  I almost write them off and then with each album, I think how stupid it’d be to write them off.  Great hard rock with a vocalist that reminds me of Maynard (Tool, etc).  I really need to see this band live – I’ve yet to have a the chance…
My Brightest Diamond & Murat EyubogluLetters to Distant Cities :: A short spoken word album, featuring the words of Mustafa Ziyalan.  Words spoken by Shara Worden (My Brightest Diamond), backing music by Murat Eyubolu, with two songs sandwiching the poetry – one by MBD and one by Clare & the Reasons.  A great arty piece.
 
Jason LudwigTanglings :: Jason Ludwig returns to the Cincinnati music scene after his 2010 band break up (Noctaluca) with two full-length albums (Tanglings and Lost in Love).  Tanglings is my favorite of the two, but they’re both quite excellent.  Well-produced, well-arranged, creative singer-songwriter that reminds me of a cross between the pop of Glen Hansard (of the Swell Season and the Frames) and the creative of Daniel Johns (of Silverchair). If you don’t like these albums, I’d be surprised.
Hotel LightsGirl Graffiti :: Darren Jesse was the drummer for Ben Folds Five, and wrote one of my absolute favorite songs for them – “Magic” from The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner.  He puts down the sticks and picks up the guitar and vocal duties for Hotel Lights.  This is HL’s 3rd album, and he continues to impress me with his versatile skills.  Poppy indie rock.
EisleyThe Valley :: The long gap between The Valley and their last album was trying for the band.  After many contract dispute with their former label (Warner), they were finally set free.  Many bands don’t make it out of contract disputes alive – it’s easier to break up sometimes.  Well, thankfully it’s difficult for Eisley to break-up, as they’d still see each other at holidays and family get-togethers (the band consists of 3 sisters, a brother, and a cousin).  The Valley picks up where 2007’s Combinations left off.  Alt-pop-rock goodness.  Vocal duties traded off between sisters Sherri & Stacy…
Tori AmosNight of the Hunters :: This was Tori’s first album on classical label Deutsche Grammophon.  I was skeptical at first, not because of the classical bent.  I knew she could handle that… I was skeptical due to the first artwork that looked plastic (which sadly stayed) and her last studio album was a lackluster (IMO) holiday album (blech).  Tori enlists her daughter Natashya on some vocals, and delivers one of my favorite Tori albums since 2002’s Scarlet’s Walk.
David BazanStrange Negotiations :: Continuing in his solo expressions after the official ceasing of Pedro the Lion, David Bazan manifests wit, a sharp tongue, and a questioning mind into his DIY-indie rock.  This year, he toured quite a bit, solo and with a band.  An album last year (Curse Your Branches), an album this year, and another on the way.  He’s slogging away, trekking all over the country, and making some great music on the way.
Steven WilsonGrace for Drowning :: Porcupine Tree frontman Steven Wilson is a hard worker.  Whether he’s producing albums for others or making albums & touring with PT, Blackfield, No-Man, Storm Corrosion, or solo – he’s always busy each and every year.  This year brought his second solo album and a small tour.  The album is a bit more stripped down from his other projects.  It is reminiscent of Pink Floyd in spots – specifically this song “Home in Negative.”  He also rocks out a bit in the almost two hour double album… check out the video for “Track One” here (it’s a bit bleak then startling).  Gorgeous work.
WussyStrawberry :: Well, I was super happy when I found out that Wussy was putting out their fourth full-length studio album this year. They’re a fantastic rock quartet made up of Chuck Cleaver, Lisa Walker, Mark Messerly, and Joe Klug. They write catchy, poppy choruses and meld it perfectly with Midwest Americana-meets-indie-rock grit (or “Midwestern drone” as their press says).   Vocal duties are traded off with Chuck (of Ass Ponys) and Lisa (of Magic Words).
RadioheadThe King of Limbs :: I could probably put an “indie” icon next to Radiohead… I think technically they put TKOL out by themselves.  But they’re a huge superpower of a band.  I like this record, but I’ll admit that it’s still sinking in… I need to give it some more spins.  This album spawned a seven 7″ vinyl remix set.  The video for “Lotus Flower” also spawned a silly “Thom Yorke dancing” meme… one of my favorites being the tennis/fish and the “Single Ladies” editions.
Jeffrey FoucaultHorse Latitudes :: Jeffrey Foucault is a favorite Americana artist that I got turned on to by singer-songwriter/storyteller Peter Mulvey.  Jeffrey and Peter work together in the band Redbird (with David Goodrich and Jeffrey’s wife Kris Delmhorst).  I didn’t pick up Jeffrey’s albums until the past year and a half.  He’s definitely more on the cusp of country than I tend to traverse, but I dig his authenticity, poetic wit and charm.  He’s a delight on stage and a fantastic John Prine-esque songwriter for the new generation.
OpethHeritage :: Mikael Åkerfeldt hangs up the cookie monster vocals and “Swedish death metal” rattle and puts out a solid heavy metal album that is a tribute to his progressive metal ancestors.  I’ll admit, I miss the heavier side, but it’s still good to see Mikael evolve.
Over the RhineThe Long Surrender :: For those that don’t know Over the Rhine, they started out as a four piece in Cincinnati in 1989 and put out their “post-nuclear, pseudo-alternative, folk-tinged art-pop” indie debut ‘Til We Have Faces in 1991. After about a decade as a four-piece, Ric Hordinski (guitars) & Brian Kelley (drums) left.  Karin Bergquist (vocals) & Linford Detweiler (keys) carried on the Over the Rhine flame throughout the years… moving away from a rockier feel to a more folky-pop-Americana thing. What I like about Over the Rhine is they continually change and evolve into a different band with each album and each outing. I’ve seen them rock out, I’ve seen them jazz it up, I’ve seen them happy, I’ve seen them somber, I’ve seen them celebratory, and I’ve seen them tell stories that will make you laugh and cry.
dredgChuckles and Mr. Squeezy :: I love this band.  I hate the album title, but I love the band.  Modern progressive rock, tons of talent, thoughtful lyrics, none of that “prog wankery” that is generally detestable.  While it’s hard for them to follow-up the stunning The Pariah The Parrot The Delusion (from 2009), this new album does a hearty job of maintaining their quality rock standards.
My Brightest DiamondAll Things Will Unwind :: Shara Worden (aka My Brightest Diamond) took some time off since her last album – 2008′s A Thousand Shark’s Teeth.  She put out some stunning collaborations in the past three years (see #15 above) including her first kiddo; so the lapse in studio work was a-OK.  On this album, Shara teams up with NYC-based ensemble yMusic to create a lush backdrop for her gorgeous voice.  I can’t praise this album enough!
PusciferConditions of My Parole :: Tool / A Perfect Circle frontman Maynard James Keenan makes wine and makes other music in his time off from Tool and APC.  I loved Puscifer’s debut and the subsequent EP, but this album tops it all.  It’s a brilliant record, recorded in one of his wine cellars with his friends – featuring backing vocals from Carina Round.  It’s self-released by Puscifer music with a small distribution partner (available in indie shops, primarily).  The tour this year was great (I caught Seattle), and I’m glad they’re heading out in the spring again (I’ll be at Portland).

Check out the 2011 Mix for some samples, click the Amazon buttons for other samples, and support the music if you like what you hear!

My Other Favorites of 2011 Recaps:

~Dan – np: Trent Reznor & Atticus RossThe Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

Steven Wilson – Grace for Drowning (2011)

9th Jun 11 (Thu) 1 comment

Update 8/24: there’s a new video for the song “Track One” with the image below, as well as pre-order information at THIS BLOG.

After some news leaking slowly, Porcupine Tree/No-Man/Blackfield frontman Steven Wilson’s next solo album finally has a name… Grace For Drowning.  It also has a trailer…


http://www.gracefordrowning.com/

Recapping the news from prior posts:

  • it’ll be two 40-45 minute albums in the same package… due “Autumn 2011” (September-ish)
  • album names: Deform to Form a Star and Like Dust I Have Cleared From My Eye
  • pretty organic feel, mostly inspired by the darker end of vintage progressive music and some… movie soundtrack stuff (Morricone especially)
  • the usual array of excellent SW options: double-vinyl release, 5.1 surround sound, hard back book edition, CD, digital…
  • Update 7/19: free download… 9-minute full-track by signing up for the mailing list at http://www.gracefordrowning.com/

Stay up with his Facebook page and http://www.gracefordrowning.com/ for the scoop as it develops.  Steven just finished up his tour with Blackfield, and also in the works… Storm Corrosion with Opeth’s Mikael Akerfeldt (likely a 2012 release).

~Dan – np: Remy ZeroVilla Elaine

Steven Wilson’s upcoming double album

7th May 11 (Sat) Leave a comment

From Porcupine Tree frontman Steven Wilson’s facebook page about his upcoming solo work…

The new solo album website will probably launch in early June now. The music is done, but we’re still working on film material and the deluxe edition. It’s presented as two 40-45 minute albums in the same package (which begs the question; when is a double album not a double album? When it’s 2 single albums issued together!) The album titles are Deform to Form a Star and Like Dust I Have Cleared From My Eye.

Good question…personally, I’d still call that a double album, but whatever… it’s just semantics.

~Dan – np: The Book of KnotsTraineater

Blackfield – Waving (music video – 2011)

23rd Mar 11 (Wed) Leave a comment

The first single from Blackfield’s 3rd album Welcome To My DNA… “Waving”…

Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree / No-Man / etc) & Aviv Geffen are taking Blackfield on the road in North America this spring.  The album is on-sale at Amazon

~Dan – np: PfRThem

Steven Wilson’s 2nd solo album (2/21 update)

21st Feb 11 (Mon) Leave a comment

More news to tack onto the original announcement (go here for that).  This is also from Steven Wilson‘s facebook page:

Thanks for all the wonderful feedback regarding my new solo record! Sorry, but “Cut Ribbon” once again failed to make the cut – although the 12 tracks / 84 minutes of music I’ve selected for the main release is quite eclectic, it has in common a pretty organic feel, mostly inspired by the darker end of vintage progressive music and some… movie soundtrack stuff (Morricone especially). The sound palette is made up of things like strings, choir, woodwinds, mellotron, organ, piano, fender rhodes, jazz drums, and warmer guitar tones, so the shiny metal attack of Cut Ribbon just doesn’t fit. But the track is all mixed and finished and sounds good, so I’ll find somewhere to release it. Definitely the album will come out on double vinyl too. Love the new Radiohead album! Here’s another still from the work in progress films Lasse is working on to include on the blu-ray version of the album.

~Dan – np: EarthAngels of Darkness, Demons of Light 1

Steven Wilson’s 2nd solo album

15th Feb 11 (Tue) Leave a comment

Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree put out his first solo album, Insurgentes, in 2008.  He followed it up with the concept album The Incident from his day gig (Porcupine Tree) in 2009, a live PT DVD (Anesthetize) and Insurgentes DVD in 2010… and now, 2011 will shower us with at least two SW-related records: Blackfield‘s third album, Welcome to My DNA (with a world tour), and his second solo album (based on this news on his facebook page):

My second solo album is nearing completion. It will be in the form of 2 separate 40 minute albums released in the same 2 CD set, and will also come as a blu-ray with surround mix, high definition stereo and a lot of visual material (Lasse [Hoile] is already working hard on films for many of the songs, attached is a still from one of these we shot a couple of weeks ago to a song called “Index”). We’re also planning a special Insurgentes style hard back book edition with a full length bonus CD of additional material. A year in the making, this is without doubt my biggest project to date, perhaps my most ambitious and personal music, and with some phenomenal musicians and performances on it (drummer Nic France in particular is going to blow a lot of people away). We hope a website will launch around April/May to start previewing material, with the album scheduled for September. More soon….

There’s also Storm Corrosion… his collaboration with Mikael Akerfeldt of Opeth and Mike Portnoy (ex-Dream Theater).  TBD/TBA…

He’s a busy dude.

~Dan – np: Ozric TentaclesArborescence

Blackfield 2011 North American tour dates

8th Feb 11 (Tue) 2 comments

Porcupine Tree‘s Steven Wilson likes to stay busy.  One of better side projects is Blackfield with Israeli pop-singer Aviv Geffen.  They’ve got a new website (http://www.blackfield.org/), a new album coming out (Welcome to My DNA), and a tour coming up…

Blackfield 2011 North American Tour

  • 18th May Washington, DC, 9:30 Club USA
  • 19th May Philadelphia, PA, Theater of the Living Arts USA
  • 20th May New York, NY, Irving Plaza USA
  • 21st May Boston, MA, Royale Boston USA
  • 23rd May Montreal, QC, Le National CANADA
  • 25th May Cleveland, OH, House of Blues USA
  • 26th May Detroit, MA, St Andrew’s Hall USA
  • 27th May Chicago, IL, Park West USA
  • 31st May Seattle, WA, Studio Seven USA
  • 1st June Portland, OR, Aladdin Theater USA
  • 3rd June San Francisco, CA, Slim’s USA
  • 4th June Los Angeles, CA, El Rey Theatre USA
  • 6th June Mexico City, MEX, Metropolitan Theater MEXICO

Unrelated Sidenote: Over the Rhine‘s The Long Surrender comes out today.  It’s a fantastic Americana, singer-songwriter, sultry pop album.  Check it out (click album cover to the right for sound samples)… you can even download a song for free (for a limited time).

~Dan – np: Iron & WineKiss Each Other Clean

Steven Wilson’s TAPE EXPERIMENTS 1985-1986

9th Nov 10 (Tue) Leave a comment

Porcupine Tree frontman Steven Wilson is always putting out something… this week, he announced he’s making available Tape Experiments 1985-1986 on vinyl via Tone Float.

It was originally intended as a pre-order bonus to his Insurgentes dvd movie release (but withdrawn in favor of a much more recent piece of music), Steven Wilson decided to make his two and four track tape experiments from 1985/1986 available via Soundcloud (free legal download link).

Those tracks are now being released as 180 gram black vinyl album, entitled Tape Experiments 1985/1986.  In tie with the flaws of the original grimy cassettes they were taken from, the album is designed with the 70s vinyl bootleg records in mind (and in particular the legendary takrl label), complete with an insert cover.  The release date is November 29, 2010, and the album is available exclusively from the Tonefloat store.

~Dan – np: EisleyCombinations

Harmony Korine

28th Jan 09 (Wed) Leave a comment

Harmony Korine” will be the first single off of Steven Wilson‘s Insurgentes album.  It is being released on 7″ vinyl only with a non-LP b-side “The 78.”  It is available on black, white, and blood red (in limited quantities) via KScope.

Also reported on SWHQ.co.uk, over the next few weeks they’ll unveiling the Lasse Hoile video for “Harmony Korine,” downloadable remixes, and a remix competition.

~Dan – np: Marie McAuliffe’s Ark Sextet plays the music of Burt Bacharach

Porcupine Tree News

16th Dec 08 (Tue) 2 comments

Hot off the heels of Steven Wilson’s excellent Insurgentes solo album, this was posted on Porcupine Tree‘s blog about a new PT record in 2009:

Writing for the next Porcupine Tree studio record is well underway, with the band recently spending 2 weeks secluded in the English countryside working on new tracks. Recording of these pieces and a new 35 minute Steven Wilson song cycle is due to start in February, and tour plans are being put in place from September onwards following release of the new album.

I hope it’s as good as Insurgentes or at least much better than PT’s last two “band” offerings.

Steven Wilson is also going out on tour with Aviv Geffen next month:

16th Jan – Rotunda Club, Krakow, Poland
17th Jan – Postbanhof, Berlin, Germany
18th Jan – Knust, Hamburg, Germany
20th Jan – Luxor, Koln, Germany
21st Jan – Melkweg, Amsterdam, Netherlands
22nd Jan – Ampere, Munich, Germany
24th Jan – Cafe de la Danse, Paris, France
27th Jan – Proud Galleries, London, UK

The band will be the full Blackfield line up (with Tomer Z, Seffy Efrati, and Eran Mittelman).  There will be a few Blackfield songs performed, but most of the songs will be from Aviv’s forthcoming debut English language solo album (produced by Trevor Horn).

http://www.myspace.com/porcupinetree
http://www.porcupinetree.com/
http://www.swhq.co.uk/

~Dan – np: John ZornThe Crucible (with Mike Patton, Joey Baron, Trevor Dunn & Marc Ribot)

limited editions up the ying yang

24th Nov 08 (Mon) Leave a comment

(photo by xPyralisx)

Holy cow… I got (Porcupine Tree, No-man, Blackfield frontman) Steven Wilson‘s double-disc+dvd uber-deluxe edition of his first solo album Insurgentes in the mail today.  Holy cow.  Like, seriously… wow.  Gorgeous artwork.  Utterly gorgeous.  If most albums are just normal, this one is a Hyperbole Department’s Executive Management.  Check out http://www.swhq.co.uk/ for a trailer or two for the album.  The limited edition only had 3,000 pressings (for the 2CD/1DVD version) and 1,000 pressings for the (2CD/1DVD/vinyl version).  Alas, the normal album will be well worth the cover price as well (and out in Feb 2009 on KScope)… Steven Wilson is one artist in the rock scene that truly excites me lately.

I also got a notification for “not enough postage” on the Sigur Rós uber-deluxe edition of Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust.  Gotta pick that up at the post office tomorrow and bring my $3.28 to resolve the postal inequity.

I’ll post reviews with pics over the weekend, while I’m chillin’ the empty cavities where my wisdom teeth used to be.

~Dan – np: MSNBC Countdown Keith Olberman11/24/08 podcast
-and then after it ripped to my iTunes-
Steven WilsonInsurgentes

art

Steven Wilson’s Rad Self

19th Jul 08 (Sat) Leave a comment

Steven Wilson is a musical hero of mine. He’s the guitarist/singer/songwriter for Porcupine Tree, Blackfield (with Aviv Geffen), and No-Man (with Tim Bowness). He’s produced several other artists, most notably Swedish metal band Opeth. He’s got several other solo or collaboration side-projects like Bass Communion, I.E.M., and a song on the debut Office of Strategic Influence record (with another hero of mine — Kevin Moore & Jim Matheos). He’s a veritable berry farm harvest of prolificity… er… um… or something.

Per his web’s splash page, now he’s got a “proper solo album” in the works:

Niiiiice

While “TBD” at this time, knowing SW’s prior output level, Insurgentes will likely be out by year’s end.

http://www.swhq.co.uk/ (Steven’s webpage)

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

In unrelated news, Ozomatli (SoCal Latino rock/hip-hop outfit) & Chali 2Na (baritone rapper from Jurassic 5) are teaming up for a tour. Chali 2Na and Cut Chemist (also from J5) were the “hip-hop angle” on Ozo’s 1st album (in 1998). Cut is not on this tour (he’s been busy with DJ Shadow). Ozomatli & Chali 2Na will be in Portland (Crystal Ballroom) on Friday, Nov 7th – – and I’m currently scheduled to be up at a client that week… hmmm… here’s the rest of their tour plans (as of now):

10/26: Voodoo Music Experience – New Orleans, LA
10/27: Warehouse/Numbers – Houston, TX
10/29: Stubb’s – Austin, TX
10/30: House of Blues – Dallas, TX
10/31: Liberty Hall – Lawrence, KS
11/1-11/2: Fox Theatre – Boulder, CO
11/5: Wilma Theatre – Missoula, MT
11/6: Big Easy – Boise, ID
11/7: Crystal Ballroom – Portland, OR
11/8-/11/9: Showbox – Seattle, WA
11/12: Senator Theatre – Chico, CA
11/13: Crystal Bay Casino – Crystal Bay, NV

I really dig Chali 2Na… he’s my fave rapper from J5 (though Marc7, Akil & Soup are great as well). He’s done a lot of stuff recently with jamband Galactic that’s worth checkin’ out, too.

http://myspace.com/ozomatli
http://www.myspace.com/chali2na

~Dan – np: Thelonious Monk & Sonny RollinsThelonious Monk & Sonny Rollins

Favorite Concerts of 2007

24th Dec 07 (Mon) 2 comments

Well, there are still some 2007 CDs that may or may not arrive in my hands before the year’s over (specifically Eyvind Kang, Dave Douglas, Greydon Square, Radiohead, Doug Pinnick & La Mar Enfortunaall of which have Top 20 potential); so I’m not ready to post my “Best CDs of 2007” list, yet. Look for that one sometime in early 2008…

This blog is for my favorite concerts of 2007. I went to too many to recount in detail, but these are the tip-top ones…

  1. Music Now Festival 2007 (Pedro Soler, Bryce Dessner, David Cossin, the Clogs, the Havels, Osso, Amiina, My Brightest Diamond, Sufjan Stevens) at the Memorial Hall, Cincinnati-OH (4/5/07 to 4/7/07) my review
  2. Masada (John Zorn, Dave Douglas, Greg Cohen, Joey Baron) at the Rose Theatre at the Lincoln Center, New York-NY (3/10/07) my review
  3. Nellie McKay at the Shedd Institute, Eugene-OR (10/5/07) my review
  4. Silverchair at the Fillmore @ the TLA, Philadelphia-PA (7/28/07) review snippet
  5. Secret Chiefs 3 at the Bowery Ballroom, New York-NY (3/15/07) my review
  6. John Zorn’s Moonchild (Mike Patton, Trevor Dunn, Joey Baron) at the Moore Theatre, Seattle-WA (11/4/07) my review
  7. Holy Fuck at the Southgate House, Newport-KY (4/1/07) my review
  8. Antibalas at the Southgate House, Newport-KY (4/29/07) review snippet
  9. Noctaluca at the Taste of Cincinnati, Cincinnati-OH (5/28/07)
  10. Blackfield (Steven Wilson & Aviv Geffen) at the Bowery Ballroom, New York-NY (3/16/07) my review

OK, I guess I’ve still got coming up in 2007 Iron & Wine in Portland (12/2) and maybe David Bazan (Pedro the Lion) in Eugene (12/14); but the above concerts were my favorites of 2007…

Happy thanksgiving, yo! One thing I’m thankful for is definitely music… :-)

~Dan – np: npr jazz profiles (podcast) – duke ellington: the bandleader, pt. 1

12/24 Update: wow… I totally forgot the kick ass Zappa Plays Zappa show at Moonlite Gardens in Cincinnati, OH on 7/24/07. I think I forgot because I didn’t blog about it when it happened (gettin’ ready to quit my job and pack up and head west at the time)… but now reading this week’s CityBeat, tons of people listed it as a favorite, and man, I was at that show, too… Dweezil = awesomes! Ray White = awesomes! Frank on a big screen behind the band, singing and soloing with the live band = awesomes! 2nd time seeing the ZPZ tour in 2 years (completely different setlist, too). I think it needs to be a once-a-year thing… in perpetuity.

REVIEW: my crazy music-filled NYC trip in March 2007

17th Mar 07 (Sat) 4 comments

Wow… today is my “first day off” from a show since last Friday (2/9)…

Here’s how NYC “for business” played out on the “for enjoyment” sense of it…

SATURDAY 3/10
I arrived in town at 11:30am. Checked in, and then headed up to “scout out” the Lincoln Center’s Rose Theater as that’s where MASADA was playing that night. While I was there, I got word that there were two free jazz shows going on that afternoon that were sponsored by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of U.S. Department of State. It was apparently spreading jazz music to 3rd world countries, and this was the coming home show. I love jazz, and I love how sometimes governmental bodies put good money to use for the arts. It seems weird how we seem to only export bombs lately. Jazz is better than bombs, but less than food and medical aid. I guess I should just be glad that is wasn’t bombs or Christina Aguilera instead of jazz.

Anyway, the Ari Roland Quartet was the free 1pm show. Great quartet, not unlike some quartets that I like… more straight jazz, flashy but not experimental (IMO). Enjoyable, but not mind blowing. “Safe jazz,” if you ask me. Their drummer was pretty good. My favorite song was the one penned by their piano-player. The Cultures of Rhythm was the free 3pm show (both of these free shows were at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola at Lincoln Center). COR were a bit more interesting. It was a jazz quartet, but “bouncier.” And it featured djembe, drums, hammond organ and a trumpeter. Trumpet usually excites me more than safe saxaphone jazz. Anyway, this band (Culture of Rhythm) had a great vibe. Very enjoyable…

After these free shows, I was pooped… and headed back to my hotel in Chelsea for a nap. The evening show was Masada and Cecil Taylor at Lincoln Jazz Center’s Rose Theater. This was Masada’s last show ever. I drove down to Raleigh, NC, last fall to see tham at Duke. This show, they amazed even more. Masada has many incarnations (as do many of John Zorn’s projects), but the standard acoustic quartet of John Zorn on alto sax, Dave Douglas on trumpet, Greg Cohen on bass, and Joey Baron on drums is the true Masada band. Masada tunes are all written by John Zorn… he’s written upwards of 300 one-page melodic tunes. These one-page 16-bar songs become the framework for jazz improvization. While some of it becomes quite adventurous and “avant-garde,” it still remains very melodic — which can be scarce for John Zorn material. Anyway, the four members of Masada were ON that night. It was truly a beautiful hour+ of music. I’m sad that it’s their last show as this original quartet, but I’m glad that I got to see them twice. I didn’t stick around for Cecil… I had other shows I wanted to fit in…

I took the subway from Columbus Circle (near Central Park) all the way down to the Bowery… walked about a mile to get to the Stone (an avant-garde music space) and made it just in time to see the Joe Morris Trio. It was basically a guy (Joe Morris) noodling on a guitar while another guy (Daniel Levin) was noodling on a cello and another guy (Michael Evans) was noodling on a drumkit. Udon!

I was toying with the idea of heading way the fuck back uptown to Lincoln Center for the 11:30pm show for Kenny Werner‘s Lawn Chair Society. I dig the CD (and it features trumpeter Dave Douglas and saxaphonist Chris Potter), but I didn’t have tickets and thought it’d be sold out, and I knew Dave Douglas wasn’t playing in the band that night (and I had just seen Chris Potter play a few weeks earlier in Cincinnati). It was rainy and I didn’t find the subway stop where I left it last; so I walked about 2 miles to Union Center (my pedometer was upwards of 11 miles walked that 1st day — it got about half that every day afterwards). My sleepy head won out and I crashed back to my hotel in Chelsea eventually…

Oh, speaking of crashing… they had 7th Ave closed from 27th St to 23rd St most of the day on the Saturday and Sunday that I showed up because they were filming chase scenes for the upcoming Borne Ultimatum. I didn’t catch a peek at anyone famous (Matt Damon or anyone), but it was interesting to see how they blocked a major road off for the better part of the weekend. The secondary chase seemed to happen right outside my window (on 25th St)… it’ll be weird to see when that movie comes out if I recognize any of the street stuff…

SUNDAY 3/11 I had a lazy and cheap Sunday… went to the Downtown Music Gallery’s free shows (they do them every Sunday). I spend a lot of coin at DMG for avant-garde jazz; so I figured I’d take in some free stuff. At 6pm, I saw Jason Stein (sax from Chicago) and Mike Pride (percussion from Brooklyn) toy around with some sounds. It was pretty intense, and very much avant-garde. I dug it. Next up (7pm) was Susan Alcorn on lap-steel. It was mesmerizing, entrancing, but uninviting. It really zoned me out for a good 45 minutes. Very much avant-garde lapsteel. At least it wasn’t country, eh? rolleyes.gif

I was gonna catch two shows at the Stone after these free DMG shows, but I was worn out. Susan Alcorn fried my brain, or perhaps it was watching Jesus Camp that afternoon. Scary shit, that movie was…

MONDAY 3/12 Lazy Monday… I think I walked down to WTC and Statue of Liberty this morning, but I forget. That may have been Sunday morning (and then after got a shot of Johnny Walker Red at Elliott Smith‘s XO hangout). I didn’t pay for the ferry to Ellis Island… eh. Monday dinner was delightful. I caught some good thai grub with who law enforcement officers refer to as the “great-hatted bootlegger.” Keith was catching a Steve Earle show with a friend and we met up prior. Good food and conversation. Afterwards, I hussled out to the Jazz Standard (I forget what part of town). Brian Bromberg’s Downright Upright All-Stars were about 20 minutes in to their sold-out show, but the gate keeper let me sneak in to the standing-room-only part of the club. The club wreaked of pork and bbq sauce, but I guess that’s better than pork and bbq sauce and smoke… gotta love the smokin’ bans. Dave Weckl played dums for this band, and I had heard of his name before. Anyway, they played more accessible jazz (not safe, but not avant-garde). Very enjoyable stuff… I picked up their CD on the way out. I then headed to the Village Vanguard, and was gonna try to see the Village Vanguard Orchestra (a big band). They didn’t take credit cards at the door and I didn’t wanna shell out a lot of cash; so I quietly left and went back to my hotel. I was tired anyway…

TUESDAY 3/13 This was a Tonic night. I’m a big Ikue Mori fan… she is a laptop soundscape musician. Very avant-garde (‘cept her Painted Dessert is my favorite and it’s more traditional song structured). Anyway, Ikue Mori was playing a show with Briggan Krauss (on sax) and Jim Black (on percussion). It was quite avant-garde and was led by Briggan mostly. Ikue could have been there or not for all I know/care. Eh. Jim Black’s drumming was fantastic, but not drumming in the stricted sense. He played a lot of scraping movements along the cymbals… he also used a cello bow on the cymbals… he also covered his toms and snare with literally t-shirts to get a really muffled sound. It was weird, but good. The 10pm Tonic show was Ellery Eskelin (on sax), Lisle Ellis (on laptop and upright bass) and Erik Deutsch (on piano). I’ve enjoyed Ellery Eskelin’s guest spots on various jazz CDs I own. The show was good, but too dissonant for me at that point of the night; so I only stuck around for half of their set before heading back to the hotel.

WEDNESDAY 3/14 I opted out of the ambient-metal band ISIS. I love their sound, but just saw ’em a few months ago opening for Tool. I went back to Tonic instead for two bands that became the better choice. I saw Inlets and Edison Woods. Inlets was fantastic. It is fronted by Sebastian Kruger (who has played on My Brightest Diamond CDs). He is a multi-instrumentalist and has some great songs. He also has a dandy falsetto. Both his physical appearance and music sound bring to mind Jude and Sufjan having hot-n-nasty sex in your living room and popping out Sebastian as their “love-child.” So, yeah, in short, Inlets sounds like a man-on-man love-child. He washed up before getting on stage, mind you. Oh, and his EP is available FOR FREE at http://luvsound.org/. For Free. Next up was Edison Woods, which was a band much like Elysian Fields, yet maybe not as sultry. Their main vocalist/pianist didn’t have the best vocals ever, but their background vocalist had some operatic amazingness going. She should have been the lead vocalist. Oh well… the band also had cello and some brass and drums. I dug ’em… not as much as Elysian Fields, though. I’m bummed… Elysian Fields is playing at Joe’s this coming weekend. Keith, you should check Elysian Fields out. They’re Over the Rhine-y-ish…

THURSDAY 3/15 Thursday was one of the shows I was looking forward to the most (outside of the Masada show). Secret Chiefs 3 and Sleepytime Gorilla Museum at the Bowery Ballroom. I got there early enough, as I knew that SC3 was going on first, and they also had some limited edition vinyl singles that were rumored to be going quick on the SC3 board. I snagged my vinyl sets and a t-shirt. Trey Spruance (mastermind behind SC3 and Mr Bungle) was manning the table along with bassist and multi-instrumentalist Jason Schimmel (of SC3, but also in Estradasphere). My vinyl & t-shirt order total came up to a “magical number” per Trey. I just nodded in agreement and said “yeah.” I had no fucking idea what he was talking about… maybe because it was divisible by 9 or something. or maybe his brain is fried. Anyway, the artwork for the SC3 vinyl singles is kewl.

The show was anti-climatic. I mean, when I saw Estradaphere (a brother band of SC3’s) last year in Bloomington, they blew me away. Secret Chiefs 3 should have blown me away. The first three songs were utterly sloppy, though. By the 4th song, they started venturing into “known” territory and it sounded great. By the end, they had it going pretty good, but again, it was weird that it just wasn’t up to the level of tightness and musicianship that Estradasphere showed. I think Trey’s been off the road for too long… he hasn’t toured consistently since the Mr Bungle days. I think it showed. Also, they had two violinists (Anonymous 13 and Timb Harris)… I never knew A13 was a girl… but both she and Timb were good, but not as good as Timb was on the last Estradasphere tour. Other than the drums and basses, SC3 also busted out the Oud, Sas, Sarangi, Esraj, and probably even a Jalebi or two… and Trey doesn’t play any normal guitars… they’re all butchered and tuned oddly to some middle-eastern scale or something. It’s quaint.

Regardless of the seeming sloppiness at the beginning, it was still a fun evening… it was good to see SC3 play some great tunes like “Dolores Strike,” “Personnae: Halloween,” “Bereshith,” “Assassin’s Blade,” “Ship of Fools (Stone of Exile),” and definitely “Renunciation.” I only stuck around for a bit of Sleepytime Gorilla Museum’s set. They don’t do much for me on record (or live). I’d say the “Renunciation” encore and the vinyl singles (money directly into Trey’s hand) were the highlights.

FRIDAY 3/16 I saw a wonderful show at the Bowery Ballroom by Blackfield (Porcupine Tree’s Steven Wilson and Israeli popstar Aviv Geffen). I’ve posted a review in the blog as well. The opener was Jordan Rudess (of Dream Theater). I feel truly outraged at any elephant that lost its life to make pianos used by Jordan.

I think of any of the bands I saw… my wife (and others who aren’t into the avant-garde stuff) would have liked Masada, the Downright Upright All-Stars, Inlets, and Blackfield. SC3 was a bit too strange, even though she likes some of their recorded stuff.

Time for bed… biggrin.gif

~Dan

REVIEW: Blackfield @ the Bowery Ballroom (NYC – – 3/16/07)

17th Mar 07 (Sat) Leave a comment

The Blackfield show last night was excellent!!!

I showed up late (on purpose) as Jordan Rudess was opening. I had a slow subway ride to the Lower East Side, walked through the piles of snow to Leela Lounge (a tasty “hip” Indian restaurant), ate too much, then had a slow walk to the Bowery Ballroom. I still managed to catch about 20 minutes of Jordan’s set. I swear, it was painful. Nothing’s as boring as a rocker keyboardist playing piano-sounding keyboard classical-style songs for 45 minutes straight. I mean, yeah, he can play piano-board, but he still can’t write “a song” to save his life. I know I’ve griped about being bored at OTR shows. That’s mainly due to being tired and the music being slow. Jordan was truly bad, though (whereas OTR ain’t). I turned my iPod on and walked to the corner of the room to avoid it. I love love instrumental music. Jordan Rudess is just -ingly boring, though. The Dream Theater fans were eating it up like it was Chicken Pot Pie.

Ugh… I hate prog fans. No offense Steve, but I about had that reaction to you when you first started going on about PTree… “yeah, yeah, they’re a prog band.” They’re actually so much better than just about every prog band out there. Anyway, I’m glad that Porcupine Tree and Blackfield know things or two about song structure. I’m glad you pimped PT to me 4 years ago (wow… it doesn’t seem that long ago), but I couldn’t care less about the Dream Theater/Queensrÿche fans anymore… it’s just too much like watching a train wreck in a social setting.

Anyway, on to positive thoughts…

Blackfield came out. Steven Wilson was dressed like usual (t-shirt and jeans, glasses, floppy hair). Aviv Geffen (the other half of Blackfield’s songwriting) was dressed more like a rocker, dark shirt and tie, with glitter mascara and everything. The rest of the band was… the rest of the band (hired guns or friends or whatever). They played a good mix of Blackfield I & II songs (obviously). Steven also did his Cover Version I, which is Alanis Morissette‘s “Thank You.” It was just Steven singing and Aviv playing piano (no other band members on stage, and Steven not playing his guitar). It sounded great. Aviv also played a song on piano that was just him singing, too… I forget which song, but it was one of the quieter Aviv songs (maybe “The Hole in Me” than never got ‘boomed’ up like it does on disc).

Songs I know they played from I: Open Mind, Blackfield, Glow, Pain, The Hole in Me, Hello. Songs I know they played from II: Once, Miss U, Christenings, Epidemic, Where Is My Love?, End of the World. Other songs played: Alanis Morissette’s “Thank You” …and they probably played some that I’m forgetting…

I hope the filming turned out good for the upcoming DVD. I may have gotten into a few shots, as there was a guy filming the crowd some… I was in the back, though… so I doubt I’m in it too much… I bet the film crew started focusing on “shirtless Aviv” by the end… rolleyes.gif

~Dan

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