Albums Bought in Missoula and the Stores That Nourished Them

(In rough order of preference.)

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unity, The Nashville Sound (Thirty Tigers)

Isbell and his group deliver their strongest outing with songwriting and ensemble work riding the same wire from start to finish. Particularly potent, never-falter trio of songs in the middle: “White Man’s World” (highlights the state of a cluster of incredibly difficult issues), “If We were Vampires” (death like they don’t hardly ever write about it no more), “Anxiety” (ordinary confessional numbers can just get off the psyche couch and go home).

Neil Young, Bottom Line 1974 (Coffee Tea or Me)

I bought this as a good gamble (see comments on Rockin’ Rudy’s below) but then read online that it was a huge fan favorite and about four tracks in you have to hear and agree. First, Young is in as relaxed and ebullient a mood as i can recall and slips from fun to scorching passion without a blink. Ten of the 11 songs from the show were unreleased at the time of the performance (the bonus tracks are a meh demo of “For the Turnstiles” and a superb “Flying on the Ground Is Wrong” from another show). Young’s explanation for how to cook pot and honey and why he gets tired of doing the same numbers night after night are stone classics.

Blondie, Pollinator (BMG)

A virtuoso display of making the old new and interweaving change and continuity. Harry and Stein are as smart, resourceful and literate as anyone to work in rock and roll and their funhouse-mirror eroticism is a treat and a tingle. Also, Harry don’t sound like any 72-year-old I’ve ever heard.

Old 97’s, Graveyard Whistling (ATO)

Timely reminder that “veteran act” is a neutral term unless you earn its implied honors. Push your established sounds and words, show frequent flashes of casual mastery. “Bad Luck Charm,” “She Hates Everybody,” “Turns Out I’m Trouble.”

Roscoe Mitchell & the Note Factory, Song for My Sister (Pi, 2002)

Another vet making the most of extended experience and wisdom. There were some noises back in the day that the lack of all-out free jazzing on this was some sort of surrender. Piffle. Just (“just”) proves Mitchell can write in more styles and with more emotions than you knew before.

Arcade Fire, Everything Now (in partnership with …)

Yeah, yeah — the complaints stick to some degree. You have fun until you look deeper and there’s no there there. But at least two cheers are deserved and that title track is an instant best-of number.

Extra Golden, Hera Ma Nono (Thrill Jockey, 2007)

Unusual band I enjoy a lot whenever I get around to them. Know how to do laid-back and alert and sturdy threads of percussion in pop-song structures. Worth getting to know if you don’t.

Yothu Yindi, Tribal Voice (New Management, 1992)

I sought this out because I knew it was the first outlet for Geoffrey Yunupingu , who recently passed and was noted as the best-selling Aboriginal musician of all time. I was underwhelmed because he seemed to belong to a bland trans-cultural category: mild and MOR with some touches of exotic spice. This is more uptempo and funky and how I will remember the performers. Still doesn’t belong in the same boundary-skipping paragraph as Tanya Tagaq and Hun Huur-Tuu.

THE STORES:

Even if you are not a music fan, you have to check out Rockin’ Rudy’s when you are in town. (I did not visit the related vinyl store because I am firmly in the business of not acquiring any more LPs.) For a number of years, my visits to RR were bring-downs because the music department kept shrinking as the other goodies took up more and more space. It was all but an announcement that physical recorded music was on its way out. Much to the store’s credit, RR has now taken a stance that physical music is here to stay — expanding both the vinyl and CD floor space.

My favorite section is simply marked “Imports” (code for “Bootlegs”). I know that founder Bruce Micklus is a firm Neil Young booster — Rockin’ Rudy’s is the only place I ran across a copy of Young’s Rock’n’Roll Cowboy, one of the most incredible bootlegs ever made — so I felt very confident picking up Bottom Line 1974. Also, I was wowed that Isabell’s The Nashville Sound was a freakin’ Best Seller. Place attracts a good-taste clientele.

I had been gone from Missoula for 20 years when Ear Candy was started, but lemme tell ya, if it had been around in my campus days I would have been in three or four times every week. And now, a trip to town is not complete without a visit. I won’t call the decor a throwback, but rather, timeless — heaps and piles and hyper-full rows and shelves and … every music nut visits such a place in dreams. And you realize how much it takes sharp ears and taste to keep proper exotic stocks (they ain’t big on Top 40 at Ear Candy). I had forgotten about the Roscoe Mitchell — there it was to correct my mistake. Thrill Jockey had sent me Extra Golden back in the day, but had somehow missed Hera Ma Nono and I could not imagine a better place to run across it. Often I take a shot on inviting comp or single-artist ambient/dub because they have such ace selections. But this time I lacked the guts.

PS: I had the urge to buy the new Lindsey Buckingham/Christine McVie, not least since latter-day Fleetwood Mac was one of MB’s all-time faves. But then I couldn’t deal with the fact that this would be the first album with these players that she would never hear.

[This post is finished.  My gout is better.]

The Air Is Still and the Light Is Cool #21

New York Art Quartet, S/T, (ESP 2009 reissue of 1965 LP)

Maybe more obvious than other “Air Is Still” selections, but I love this record more every time I play it and it wrapped me up the first time I played it (on vinyl) when I was beginning to understand free jazz after moving to Cambridge in 1977.

Here’s the basic scoop.

Rudd (and Tchicai) dominate, not only because they wrote all the material — except Amiri Baraka’s precise, lacerating addition of his own “Black Dada Nihilismus” (feels utterly up-to-this-moment) — but because the trombonist and the alto sax player share an approach/understanding of free jazz that makes it no enemy of the lyrical, the playful, the song-like. But unbounded as any improvisations. This really is a prime choice to play for those who say they don’t like/understand “free jazz.”

Sweat Soundtrack #2

  1. Lagbaja, WebeforeMe (PDSE, 2001) Nigerian oddball with admirable ideals and an ensemble that is almost too pure-percussion for me. Redeeming feature: recurrent sense of humor. Here’s some scoop.
  2. Various, Give Peace a Dance: A CND Compilation (CND, 1991) Enjoyable, but more dated than I hoped in that most unfamiliar names on it are not remembered for a reason.
  3. Various, True Spirit: Tresor Berlin (Tresor, 2002). Euro take on Detroit Techno. On the relentless side, but runs over your objections like an electronic tank.
  4. Richard Thompson, Grizzly Man (soundtrack) (Cooking Vinyl, 2005). I agree this is most effective in the context of the documentary (a side feature of the DVD shows Thompson improvising the themes as he watches the footage). But the wide-open-spaces feel mixed with melancholy and just that wisp of ominous is irresistible. The movie is a masterpiece about how nature is itself, not anyone’s dreams or fears.
  5. Various, Sugar and Poison (Virgin, 1996)
  6. Various, Guitars on Mars (Virgin, 1997)
  7. David Toop, Sound Body (Samadhisound, 2006) (As many visitors will know the last three feature Toop either as compiler or performer.) Seem more eccentric than I recalled, though his sequencing is his own and Sugar is the clear pick. Must add that a fascinating bonus is that I swear even the most familiar tunes — many of them, anyway — are in subtle remixes that pull them into the undulating smokewaves.

First-Half Soundtrack 2017

  1. Magnetic Fields, “Wonder Where I’m From”
  2. The Creation, “Biff Bang Pow” (stereo version)
  3. Gorillaz (feat. Peven Everett). “Strobelite”
  4. Lowell Davidson Trio, “Strong Tears”
  5. Nicole Mitchell/Tomeka Reid/Mike Reed, “Light on the Path”
  6. Alice Coltrane, “Rama Rama”
  7. Kendrick Lamar, “Blood”
  8. On Fillmore, “Master Moon”
  9. Tom Ze, “Sexo”
  10. Jens Lekman, “To Know Your Mission”
  11. The XX, “Test Me”
  12. The New Pornographers, “Whiteout Conditions”
  13. Matthew Stevens, “Sparkle and Fade”
  14. Carl Craig, “Sandstorms” (from Versus)

 

Include all my faves? No.

All tracks considered standouts? Yes.

Fussed-over sequence? Nope — instinct and memory plus a few dabs of re-listening for the right track.

Everything released 2017? No, but pretty close.

Everything encountered first in 2017? No, but damn close.

Sweat Soundtrack #1

Two developments.

In Rome, the schedule pressured me into doing my workout first thing in the morning — before coffee even (changing clothes would have delayed the start of the day too much). Thought it would be painful, even a temptation to skip. Discovered there was really something to this business of eating nothing before exercise. Helped wake me up, dandy preparation for a long day of walking. So that’s what I have continued to do.

At home, I decided this week to make the soundtrack first thing in the morning strictly a crate dive into items not played for a goodly while (thrill of delighted rediscovery vs. yargh! what was I thinking?).

So, after the first entry, which was usual newie, here’s the list of oldies:

 

  1. The New Pornographers, Whiteout Conditions
  2. Stereolab, Sound-Dust (Elektra, 2007)
  3. Trans Am, Sex Change (Thrill Jockey, 2007)
  4. Various/DJ Christian Pronovost, Go Deep Miami 2005 (self-release) (a reminder of a highly eclectic dance scene from a dozen years ago in Miami, I have a couple other anthologies in this style and like them a great deal)
  5. Small Faces, The BBC Sessions (Fuel, 2000) (Rugged but right.)
  6. The Mystic Revelation of Rastafari, Grounation (Dynamic Sound, 1990) (More peculiar and perfect each time I hear it.)
  7. Lanterna, Highways (Badman, 2004) (Closest thing to ambient and restful.)

 

“Covering” The Scene

As I’ve said before I’ve never been more uncertain that I hear all the releases I should every year. The outlets and information sources have never been so scattered. I’ve never felt so many PR providers have no idea what I cover.

But every year I hit a point, usually around this time or a little later, when I conclude that enough innovative, captivating and durable music is being produced to keep me jiggling for another year. Here’s the three that put me over in 2017 (all played for the first time in the last few days):

Bearthoven, Trios (Cantaloupe) Karl Larson piano, Pat Swoboda bass, Matt Evens percussion/drums. Six piece belonging to the vague New Music category, the only writers I know at all being Anthony Vine. Best effect: breaks ways loose of the often too-cozy tent of piano-trio sound.

Jay Som, Everybody Works (Polyvinyl). Jay Som belongs to the vague bedroom pop category and is a solo project of Melisa Duterte, with a few added voices. A fresh twist of intimacy and a needed reminder that all single-soul projects don’t have to sound stunted or samey.

Migos, Culture (Quality Control). I don’t pretend to keep up with hip-hop like I should, but I’m still abashed this trio slipped under my radar until now. In the grand tradition of Atlanta rappers, they’re rootsy and funny and sensual and casually scary at times. Still probing the personalities.

1st Playlist 2017

I assembled a batch of records to show a big music fan we intended to see in DC (though we did not end up doing so) what had most fascinated me during 2017. Hardly definitive and clearly not all from 2017, I will try to annotate it later, but may not …

The Ecstatic Music of Alice Coltrane: Turiyasangitananda (Luaka Bop)

The Creation, Action Painting (Numero Group, reissue of complete works)

Lowell Davidson Trio, S/T (ESP, 1965, 2008 remastered CD)

Gorillaz, Humanz (Warner Bros./Parlophone)

Kendrick Lamare, Damn. (TDE)

Jens Lekman, Life Will See You Now (Secretly Canadian)

Low Cut Connie, “Dirty Pictures” (part 1) (Contender)

Donny McCaslin, Beyond Now (Notema)

The Magnetic Fields, 50 Song Memoir (Nonesuch)

Metalwood, S/T (self-released, 1997)

Nicole Mitchell/Tomeka Reid/Mike Reed, Artifacts (482 Music, 2015)

Joe Morris Quartet, A Cloud of Black Birds (AUM Fidelity, 1998)

On Fillmore, Extended Vacation (Dead Oceans, 2009)

Art Pepper, the Hollywood All-Star Sessions (Galaxy, 1997)

Oumou Sangare, Mogoya (No Format)

Matthew Stevens, Preverbal (Ropeadope)

The XX, I See You (Young Turks)