Monday, January 04, 2010
Drifting Along With The Tumbling Tumbleweeds
Well, we almost made it under the year's end radar. Today we've got the final round of our Top Albums of 2009. We're ecstatic to present our Top 10. Hope y'all enjoy.
As ever, there's a ton of great records that didn't make the cut, or we just haven't heard, so let us know what we missed.
Coming up after the New Year we've got our Favorite Re-Issues, a note about some significant deaths, a Chris Knox tribute (who's very much alive, thankfully), A Bassholes retrospective, some more Deep Blues Friday interviews in the can, and a whole bunch more, including a whole pile of Country stuff (remember that?). Oh, and a big announcement and a complete re-design. Busy little beavers, aint we?
And for those looking for a random Best of the Decade list, we're really not going to do it. But we'll give you the following, without comment:
Band Of The Decade: Yo La Tengo
"Solo" Artist Of The Decade (and a half): Richard Buckner
Record Of The Decade: Will Oldham and Rian Murphy: All Most Heaven E.P.
Make of that what you will.
As ever, most of these songs in our Top Albums of 2009 were pulled from vinyl, when possible. That's just the way it is.
Enjoy, argue, rant, etc.
The BRCM Top Albums Of 2009, Part 4
Strange Boys: ...And Girls Club
Imagine if Bobby Dylan were a Scotchguard-huffing laddie lad. Bunch of damn kids get off my lawn nonsense, snotty and over-sexed joyride. Forget your Spin-approved teen angst emo bullshit, this record is for the boozed up punk-ass bitch in all of us. Togas and sailing caps optional. Damn, we love this record. Over and over again.
Strange Boys: This Girl Taught Me A Dance (mp3)
Almighty Defenders: Almighty Defenders
King Khan And BBQ Show: Invisible Girl
Mark Sultan: Hold On 7"
Mark Sultan: I Am The End 7"
That we're madly in love with King Khan is a well-documented fact 'round these parts. So it's pretty fuckin' great when we get a year in which his partner in crime, Mark Sultan (aka BBQ) manages to outshine the King. Not that Khan's a slacker, as he manages to kick his brand of garage/funk/sleaze into the stratosphere on the gospel-inspired trash-fest that is the Almighty Defenders LP (with Mark Sultan and members of the Black Lips) and on the doo-wop, bubblegum sexploitation masterpiece Invisible Girl (again, with Mark Sultan as BBQ). But it's Sultan who steals the show on these records, his fuzz'n'scuzz approach leading the proceedings.
But then, Sultan releases a couple of essential 7"'s that showcase his versatility as a solo artist, cracked love songs as garbage genius, soul melody in a blender.
Oh, and here's what we wrote about the Almighty Defenders LP a couple of months ago: "...The album was recorded in a rumored booze-fueled few days, while the 'Lips were in exile at King Khan's house in Germany (while hiding from Indian authorities due to bad behaviour). Whether the details are true, or the stuff of myth'n'legend, doesn't matter much, since the record is a swirling mess of deep soul handclaps, hootenanny stomp, gristle-encrusted guitar sleaze, praise-god-hallelujah-let's fuck hollerin' goodness. It sounds like there's a party going on in god's pants, and the boys are the band at the end of the world."
The Almighty Defenders: All My Loving (mp3)
The King Khan and BBQ Show: Invisible Girl (mp3)
Mark Sultan: I Hear A New World (mp3)
Mark Sultan: I Am The End (mp3)
South Filthy: Undertakin' Daddy
South Filthy. Featuring Walter Daniels, Msr. Jeffrey Evans, Jack Oblivian, John Schooley, Earl Poole Ball, Ralph White, and a host of others. What else do you need to know?
Well, this record is the kind of rural countrybluesrawk goodness that pretty much defines the entire aesthetic we've forged here at Big Rock Candy Mountain. If we had a house band, it'd be South Filthy.
Still not enough? Daniels and Evans are in particularly fine form here, their down from the mountain brand of hillbilly blues careening wild manly around some classic covers and originals, bred by backroads and shotgun shacks long abandoned and rife with wilderness mash and moonshine still. Honestly, it's the very stuff that jukejoint dreams are made of.
South Filthy: Goin' Down South (mp3)
Phosphorescent: To Willie
Again, we really can't add anything to what we wrote earlier: "...Many have covered Nelson's songs over the years (he did start out as a songwriter, after all), but few have transformed those songs quite the way Phosphorescent does. The tunes allow Houck (Matthew Houck, Phosphorescent main man) to fully explore the Country'n'Western star long bubbling as underpinnings to his previous records, but still retain his unique persona. The fiddles and banjos and pedal steel guitars and the tightly structured three and half minute verse/chorus/verse nature of Nelson's writing push Phosphorescent to into a new territory, where he thrives.
Of course, there's always song selection, and the choices Houck makes seem tailor-fit. "Reasons To Quit", "Pick Up The Tempo", "I Gotta Get Drunk", and "The Party's Over" could have been written specifically for Phosphorescent, ruminations and late-nite regret.
It's hard to call a "covers" record a masterpiece, but this is no "covers" record. Phosphorescent makes these songs his own, forging the "olden times" with the new, the past with the future. It's a stunning transformation, both of Houck's own style and template, and Nelson's eternal grace and observation. What "To Willie" really does is miraculous. It makes you forget, for a time, the originals and becomes a new-created thing, posterity be damned."
Phosphorescent: I Gotta Get Drunk (mp3)
Phosphorescent: The Party's Over (mp3)
Willem Maker: New Moon Hand
The loneliest of sounds, a man with a guitar, bared and barren across a desert shined under distant glow of oasis or dream, the sands ever shifting and carrying a traveler beyond his fears and into a deeper well. Maker (aptly named) makes a noisome blues, chords of repetition ripping god from the heavens, mesmerized and hypnotic, then firing shots of buckshot sonic age into the sky. Maker's voice a whiskey honed thing of dusty beauty, every word and utterance a tale, lived and loved and lost, from howl to murmer.
Willem Maker: Stars Fell On (mp3)
Left Lane Cruiser: All You Can Eat
Quoting myself again "...Left Lane Cruiser kicks up a howling fuzz of dirt road holler, a hard-scrabble blues-punk blast created by messrs. Freddy J IV (Guitar, Vocals) and Brenn "Sausage Paw" Beck (Drums, Trash, Hollerin'), straight outta Ft. Wayne, Indiana. Somethin' aint right with these boys, and that's good. Mmmm mmmm good.
Somewhere there's a world where Left Lane Cruiser is blasting out of every '72 Chevy Nova and broke-ass VW van, the road a bleared smudge in the rear view mirror. Drums that burn down bridges full of oil and fire, a guitar fucked into submission with god shining his face across six strings of hillstomptrash skull-fuckery. Above it all a voice all cracker-ass kick and wail..."feed me, baby, and I'm yours".
It's filthy Delta swamp debris,washed ashore and hitchhiking it's way to the heart of last night's ramble."
Left Lane Cruiser: Ol' Fashioned (mp3)
James Hand: Shadow On The Ground
James Hand had our Album of the Year back in 2006. This album's almost as good. Hand is perhaps one of the last of a dying breed of great Honky Tonk singers and musicians. Hand plays a continually rarefied form of hard Country, one passed through mountain water and Texas dust, a twangy and hiccupping yodel traveling the darker roads where lonesome has lost the ability to cry. Hand can sound as old as the hills, filtering a strain of deep Southern Gothic, but the songs he writes are timeless, both in subject and the ability speak across years.
This record, like his previous one, is a pinnacle of all that is good about Country. No one else these days comes close. Really.
James Hand: Midnight Run (mp3)
Bob Log III: My Shit Is Perfect
Well, it's Bob Log, innit? Whether you're a fan of Doo Rag, Bob solo, or both, you sorta know what to expect.
A man in a jumper and some sort of space/motorcycle helmet, with a kick drum and six-string slider in tow. One man band? No. A one man sleaze blues shit kicker and ass pounder? You be your sweet patootie.
Bob Log doesn't come to bring you peace and love. He comes (and comes again...) to shake your boogie, party in your pants, fuck your shit up, and drink your boob scotch. If your soul was raised on back road stretches of shanty shacks and corn liquor stills, 50-cent strip clubs and 25-cent peep shows, hot-buttered possum carcass and outhouse moons, then Bob's yr creepy uncle.
Bob Log III: Goddamn Sounds Good (mp3)
Bob Log III: My Shit Is Perfect (mp3)
Bassholes: ...And Without A Name
Some other, lesser, band has stolen the phrase "blues explosion" for itself. The Bassholes sound absolutely nothing like that band. Not a bit. But that phrase probably fits the band better than the current owner. It should be noted that The Bassholes have been doing what they do since 1992, and singer/guitarist Don Howland was also a member of The Gibson Brothers (with South Filthy's Jeffrey Evans) for many years before that, going back to 1986. Just sayin'. We're working on a longer Bassholes retrospective later this month, so we'll leave the history lesson alone for now.
This record is loud. Fucking loud. And full of guttural howling and nasty, filthy guitar destruction. It's sheets of primal, Delta-spewed caveman noise. Drummer Bim Thomas is a force of pounding, spit-soaked mania, and Howland is at his very best, the preacher in the storm, circuit-riding, muddy from the long black road, foaming and rabid, rising from the silty bottom of the darkest river, singing the devil's hallelujah with the weight of whiskey and woe.
This is, apparently, a protest record of sorts. What the protest is, is up to you. We have our own ideas.
The Bassholes: (Don't You) Look Sideways At Me (mp3)
The Bassholes: (I Like) Smoke and Lightning (mp3)
John Paul Keith And The One Four Fives: Spills And Thrills
John Paul Keith And The One Four Fives: Knoxville Town 7"
(Caveat: This was released in a very small, independent pressing in very late 2008. But it got it's "proper" release this year via the mighty Big Legal Mess...so it counts, dammit)
A while back we wrote a post on "the perfect album", and how that phrase is bandied about way too much, and very few records actually deserve that tag. We don't throw out the term "perfect" very much, if at all. We don't believe we'd call any of the other records we've listed here this year, or in previous years' lists as "perfect". Close, particularly in the case of James Hand's "The Truth Will Set You Free", but not quite.
"Spills and Thrills" is a perfect record.
Earlier this year we wrote "...Imagine, if you will, the world's greatest Country bar band channeling the ghost of Buddy Holly, throwing it into the garbage can, shaking and stirring with equal measure trash, Bakersfield, and hiccuped Crickets southern soul. Filter it through a strainer of sugarcane fields and street grime, add a dash Hollies-mania to the level, and top with a healthy dose of bourbon.
John Paul Keith, his very self, is a lyricist and guitarist of timeless brilliance, shiny twangster and gutter-snipe troubadour of love, hope, lust and loss. Each song is a blistering, 3-minute how-do-ya-do of rock bliss and dos-i-do hayride, chased by the mystery train straight off the tracks. Your midnight mover and early morning shot glass served sweet and sour, dirty dish-rag included."
We had the opportunity to see the band open for, and serve as the backing band for, Jack Oblivian earlier this year. The set further cemented our belief in their genius, a rollicking night of sweaty rock'n'roll played as salvation.
If you like Rock'n'Roll, Country, Blues, Soul, Trash, Garage, Rhythm and Blues, Pop, or any kind of music with a guitar and voice, then this record should sit proudly on your shelf...no, better yet, on your turntable. Don't take it off. Just leave it there. You don't need anything else. If you don't like any of the above...well, you're probably dead from the waist down, and the waist up. And there's really no help at that point.
Our best record of the year, then. And years before and to come. The gauntlet is laid down. Better it, if you dare.
John Paul Keith and the One Four Fives: Lookin' For A Thrill (mp3)
John Paul Keith and the One Four Fives: Memphis Girls (mp3)
John Paul Keith and the One Four Fives: Smoke In A Bottle (mp3)
As ever, in this New Year, please consider supporting your local, independent businesses. Fight the man, man.