THE HOLIDAY WEEKEND STARTS HERE... with FAVES 2016! I occasionally hear from folks who want to know what music -- from among all of the posts I do here -- I recommend. To some degree, I recommend all of it, unless I expressly write otherwise (e.g., it's not my thing, but it might be yours). With the holiday shopping season upon us, I have tried to make a list of reasonable size. It's an unordered list. I likely will have overlooked something that I really dig. Some of these are grouped together, because that's the way they occurred to me at the moment. And note these are my faves; I'm not purporting to list the "Best" albums of the year.
CAR SEAT HEADREST: The pseudononymous Will Toledo makes my Faves for a second year running with Teens of Denial, the morehi-fi and all-original successor to Teens of Style. As far back as college, when people asked me why I like what was then "college rock," and has been equally poorly labeled as "alternative" orr "indie" music, one of my answers was (and is) the joy of watching or listenting to talent come into its own. Sure, not every percolating band band will become R.E.M., U2, or even the B-52s or the Go-Gos -- and that's okay; it doesn't mean that you can't also enjoy the artists people only discover and appreciate years later. Toledo is feeling his songwriting oats right about now and has the resources to realize his visions. What's not to like?
BEACH SLANG: A Loud Bash of Teenage Feelings is near-perfectly named and an example of a certain genre of punk-ish rock --think early-to-mid Replacements -- that you likely won't beat this year. Philsophically, "Future Mixtape for the Art Kids" (language warning) says what I just wrote, while musically, "Spin The Dial" and "Punks In a Disco" are shamelessly Westerbergian. If you're going to steal, steal from the best; Lord knows Westerberg did.
PARQUET COURTS: Insouciant, by turns angular and loopy, Human Performance tends to remind me of both mid-period Pavement and mid-period Meat Puppets without sounding very much like either of them. It's more the spirit of the album, which could easily soundtrack taking inventory of the imaginary record store in my noggin.
FRANKIE COSMOS: Next Thing, her first band-backed LP afaik, manages to be energetic without demaniding, and direct without being dramatic. Not an immediate grabber, but it wears well.
BOB MOULD: I really can't call Patch The Sky a return to form because for the most part, Mould is so dependably good. If there's pleasure to be had in the discovery of new artists, there's also some to be found in that level of consistemcy. It's a dark album, I suppose, but in that Townshendian "dance all over your problems" sort of way.
KING GIZZARD & THE LIZARD WIZARD: A confession: It would be more accurate for me to call Nonagon Infinity a guilty pleasure than a true Fave. And I don't own it, but finding my self streaming it. Is it early Black Sabbath meets early Metallica? The Sex Pistols taking on Hawkwind? A roaring monster assembled from those bands plus everything from Aerosmith to the Allmans to Santana to prog and psych? Yes. And by being all of those things, it manages to come off as relentless rather than tedious, with all the immediacy of a live performance.I probably could have used this spot to write about the great year Thee Oh Sees also had, but I suspect Pate bassist Mike Kelly will apperciate this LP far more.
ANDY SCHAUF: The Party would never soundtrack a toga party, but it might be the perfect thing for that get-together with friends where you settle into overstuffed sofas and drink on a cloudy weekend afternoon, especially if your friends are into stuff like vintage Todd Rundgren. You know, more Something/Anything? than "Bang on the Drum."
THE LEMON TWIGS: If Andy Schauf has a Rundgren-esque quality, maybe this brother act from Long Island bring more of a Harry Nilsson vibe on Do Hollywood. These two LPs make nice companion listening in that piano-based, 70's--pop influenced space. Maybe I should toss Randy Newman in there also. Maybe not as great as any of these, but the subgenre is one of my bags, baby.
RYLEY WALKER: Another repeat from last year. If Primrose Green had a bit of a early Van Morrison vibe, the finger-picking of Golden Sings That Have Been Sung reminds me more of Nick Drake. A more upbeat Nick Drake, to be sure, but it would be tough to be a more downbeat one. I think his vocals have improved also.
WHITNEY: That a couple of former Smith Westerns made Light Upon The Lake is a bit surprising, inasmuch as it channels a Laurel Canyon, early-70s singer songwriter feeling absent from their erlier band's work. Then again, sometimes mucsicians find themselves more the second time around (just ask Matthew Sweet).
STURGILL SIMPSON: A Sailor's Guide to Earth may be the first Cosmic Country album to make my Faves list, as the Flying Burrito Bros clearly predate this website, let alone these lists. Plus, the Dap-Kings turn up occasionally to give the thing a Gram Parsons goes Muscle Shoals effect.
THE JAYHAWKS: I won't pretend that I think Paging Mr. Proust is among their best albums, but it's still quite solid and rewarding. When you have a songwriter as talented as Gary Louris, the absence of Mark Olson stings less than it might otherwise (notice I said "less").
CHARLES BRADLEY: In a terrible year for soul fans in general, and Daptone Records in particular (after losing Miss Sharon Jones to cancer), at least we still have the terrific Changes, and Bradley fighting his own cancer diagnosis. Do you need to hear his take on "God Bless America"? You just might.
THE FRIGHTNRS: In another Daptone Records tragedy, Nothing More to Say wasn't released until a month after the passing of singer Dan Klein at age 33. The Frightnrs fit in well at Daptone, even if their sound is retro-reggae instead of vintage soul. When I was a college DJ, I filled in for one of the reggae guys on a Sunday or two, and the 60s/70s is where I always gravitated, so it's nice to have a new one.
THE JAMES HUNTER SIX: James Hunter continues to walk the path trod by Sam Cooke and early-to-mid Van Morrison on Hold On! I may never tire of recommending him.
DRIVE-BY TRUCKERS: American Band got much attention in this election year for its political content. But anyone who's listened to the band with any care know politics are woven into the band's back catalog as well. Fortunately, Patterson Hood is such a talented songwriter that it rarely comes across as didactic, even when (as here) it's a little more overt.
CASE/LANG/VEIRS: I would be tempted to call case/lang/veirs more than the sum of its parts, if Neko Case, k.d. lang, and Laura Veirs were not so excellent in their own rights. This first joint effort -- not their last, I hope -- offers much of what is best about each, but it is also clearly the product of a collaboration that produces something a smidge different and excellent in its own right.
DAVID BOWIE: When Blackstar was released just days before Bowie's death, we didn't know he had been working steadily to maximize his output in the face of his looming mortality. And Bowie being Bowie, he pushed the boundaries of popular miusic to the very end, bringing jazz. hip-hop, electronics and even a bit of folk into his last iteration of art rock. It's almost as if he was showing off to ensure we would miss him more.
LEONARD COHEN: Frankly, it's hard not to hear You Want It Darker in a similar vein to Blackstar. Musically, the album is less experimental than Bowie, more of closing a circle by returning somewhat to his earlier folk-pop sound. But both men are great lyricists, and some of Cohens' lyrics, not to mention some of his last public comments, encourage the speculation that he knew they could be his final public statements.
NICK CAVE & THE BAD SEEDS: And the tragedy keeps on coming. Skeleton Tree is pretty clearly related to the death of Cave's 15-year-old son Arthur, who fell off a cliff. Cave has been spare and sombre before -- as on The Boatman's Call and even on Push the Sky Away -- but this album is so masterfully bleak, so painful a listen that it almost seems wrong to deem it a Fave.
SCOTT WALKER: Not the Wisconsin Governor, the one-time third of The Walker Brothers, who has traveled from Top 40 luminescence to bold and persistent experimentation over the decades. Another confession: the soundtrack to The Childhood of a Leader may not even be a Fave, but my internet buddy Jeff Blehar inspired me into a Scott Walker renaissance this year. Ever ride the subway all night long? If you do, you may want to put on The Collection 1967-70, or perhaps the late Walker Bros reunion LP, Nite Flights. In fact, if you listen to those, you might also wonder whether Bowie wasn't having a similar renaissance when he was cooking up The Next Day and Blackstar.
IGGY POP: Okay, enough of the wallowing; let's have some Pop. Or, as the fictionalized Lester Bangs in Almost Famous would have it, "Ih-gee Paaaahhp." Post Pop Depression is anything but -- it's as lean, swaggering and bent on triumph as the man himself, seemingly drawing most from his Bowiest past work and drawing more raw power from Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age.
THE MONKEES: Hey, hey, I've been a fan since I was a child; my parents had some of the original LPs. A fifth-grade classmate I would meet again in high school turned me on to the later and the weirder material; before long, I was onto Mike Nesmith's solo LPs. All of this years before the Prefab Four's first MTV revival, though that was the tour I saw. In a year with relatively fewer of them, why not give yourself over to Good Times! How many albums will include vocals not only from the late Davy Jones, but also the late Harry Nilsson? Roughly half is retooled from the Monkees' vault, with songs written by Neil Diamond, Jeff Barry,Tommy Boyce & Bobby Hart, and so forth. The other half, aside from new Nesmith and Tork numbers, is penned by a newer generation of great tunesmiths, including Adam Schlessinger, Andy Partridge, Rivers Cuomo, and Noel Gallager & Paul Weller.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: Teenage Fanclub, Radiohead, Wire, Paul Simon, John K. Samson, School of Seven Bells, Lucinda Williams, Cass McCombs, Robert Pollard, Andrew Bird, Billy Bragg & Joe Henry, Descendents, White Denim, Wilco and Dinosaur Jr. are just a few more of those who put out albums worth blurbing this year, if I had managed my time better.
A CHARLIE BROWN THANKSGIVING: It's always somewhere on the net.
WKRP: "Turkeys Away," in its entirety. And here's the turkey giveaway by itself.
THANKSGIVING has a lot of myths, both traditional and the new "Pilgrims were evil" ones taught in some public schools. Not to mention the fights over kindergarteners dressing as Native Americans. However, if you read the journal of William Bradford -- who served some 35 years as governor of the Pilgims' colony -- you quickly discover that the Pilgrims' relationship with the natives was complex. Ultimately, Bradford quieted internal discontent by doing away with the collectivism of a company town and granting property rights.NOW SHOWING: This weekend's wide releases include: Pixar's Moana, which is currently scoring 97 percent on the ol' Tomatometer; Allied, which is currently scoring 64 percent; Bad Santa 2, scoring 26 percent, and Rules Don't Apply, scoring 59 percent.