Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Top 25 Tracks of the Decade (So Far)


Pitchfork's polemical The 200 Best Tracks of the Decade (so far) post inspired me to compile my own list.  Although I don't necessarily share Pitchfork's sensibility, my smaller list includes eight of the same selections.  Where's the jazz?  Where's the metal?  Well, when I think about individual songs, I think about R&B and hip-hop.  All 25 of these songs released during the past 55 months thrill me.  Here's the Spotify playlist.

The Top 25 Tracks of the Decade (So Far)
1. Pusha T with Kendrick Lamar- "Nosetalgia"
2. Kendrick Lamar- "B****, Don't Kill My Vibe"
3. Lorde- "Royals"
4. Janelle Monae with Erykah Badu- "Q.U.E.E.N."
5. Jay-Z and Kanye West- "N***** In Paris"

6. Ledisi- "Pieces of Me"
7. Kanye West- "All of the Lights"
8. Tyler, the Creator- "Yonkers"
9. Earl Sweatshirt- "Chum"
10. Tech N9ne- "Worldwide Choppers"

11. Frank Ocean- "Thinkin' 'Bout You"
12. Jill Scott with Anthony Hamilton- "So In Love"
13. Josh Thompson- "Way Out Here"
14. Kanye West- "New Slaves"
15. John Legend- "All of Me"

16. Chrisette Michele- "A Couple of Forevers"
17. Miranda Lambert- "Baggage Claim"
18. Sleigh Bells- "Rill Rill"
19. Skating Polly- "So In Love"
20. Lil Debbie with Riff Raff- "Michelle Obama"

21. Nas and Damian Marley- "As We Enter"
22. Danny Brown- "Fields"
23. E-40- "Function"
24. LCD Soundsystem- "Drunk Girls"
25. Michael Jackson- "Love Never Felt So Good"

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Friday, August 15, 2014

Cretin Hop


Punk may have won several battles during the past few decades, but it's clearly lost the war against mainstream rock. 

I visited a friend who runs the vinyl department at 7th Heaven on my way to Starlight Theatre for last night's concert by Boston and Kansas.  He told me that young vinyl enthusiasts are purchasing scads of Boston records. 

Sure enough, I spotted several groups of teens among the audience that almost filled the venue. 

Boston and The Ramones were both released in 1976.  Thirty-eight years later, Tom Scholz faithfully recreates "Peace of Mind" for thousands of admirers while every original member of the Ramones is dead.  A new album by the post-Boston metal band Godsmack topped Billboard's album charts this week. 

Punk's defeat doesn't bother me much.  While I prefer "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend" to "Peace of Mind," I've always liked "More Than a Feeling" more than "Smells Like Teen Spirit."


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I reviewed a concert by Chrisette Michele and Raheem DeVaughn.

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I reviewed Joan Sebastian's first and final appearance in Kansas.

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Ziggy Marley performed at Crossroads KC this week.  Here's my review.

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Here's my review of Boston and Kansas.

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I contributed Local Listen segments to KCUR's "Up To Date" featuring The Kansas City Jazz Orchestra and Nuthatch-47.

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Dwight Frizzell's "Slippages" is very nice.

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Kasai Allstars' Beware the Fetish may be my favorite groove-based album of the year.

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Falty DL's In the Wild is as fresh as everyone says.  RIYL: Pole, vertigo, Flying Lotus.

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A lot of people enjoy making fun of Godsmack.  I'm not among them. The new album 1000hp is RIYL: Disturbed, life outside an ivory tower, Shinedown.  Here's the title track.

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Baxter Dury looks and sounds uncannily like his pop in the video for "Pleasure".

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Captain Black Big Band's Mother's Touch is RIYL: Orrin Evans, relevant swing, Charles Mingus.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Friday, August 08, 2014

Album Review: Ces Cru- Codename: Ego Stripper


My knock on Ces Cru has always centered on the content of the Kansas City duo's lyrics.  Godemis and Ubiquitous possess great flows, superior intelligence and wondrous energy, but I'm not terribly interested in songs about inebriation, conspiracy theories or their standing in the rap game.  Yet everything comes together on Codename: Ego Stripper.  I still prefer the beats on Ces Cru's self-released stuff, but there's no denying the additional power provided by the typically slick Strange Music production.  Besides, "Pressure" references my late friend Anne Winter.  I don't know where Codename: Ego Stripper will debut on Billboard's charts this week, but the project is clearly one of the best Kansas City albums of 2014.


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Teen pop sensation Gracie Schram made a video for "Yellow Shoes".

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The video for Shy Boys' "Life Is Peachy" is amusing.

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Dutch Newman's "Go Chicken Go" isn't about the Kansas City restaurant.

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Electric Needle Room have released a split EP with the Pennsylvania band the Worsh Ahts.

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I can't get the late Jimmy Scott out of my mind as I listen to Cold World, the new album by Naomi Shelton & the Gospel Queens.  RIYL: The Soul Stirrers, God, Albertina Walker.  Here's a video for "Sinner".

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Miriam of Norton Records has released an album of her own.  "My Love Has Gone" is the first single.

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Melissa Aldana & Crash Trio is an uncompromising jazz recording led by the winner of the 2013 Thelonious Monk competition.  RIYL: Matt Otto, freedom, Sonny Rollins.

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Lawrence English's noise on Wilderness of Mirrors is right up my alley.  Here's "Hapless Gatherer".  RIYL: the hum of machinery, Harold Budd, ringing ears.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Concert Review: Morris Day and the Time at the Heart of America Hot Dog Festival

It's always a relief when oldies concerts don't make me feel embarrassed for the artists and ashamed of myself for revisiting the past.  An appearance by Morris Day and the Time at the Heart of America Hot Dog Festival on Saturday could have been a disaster.  I ponied up $15 in spite of the dubious circumstances.  The delightful 90-minute show on the back lawn of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum exceeded my expectations.  The expert band powered by original drummer Jellybean Johnson and fronted by the wildly entertaining Morris Day faithfully recreated old favorites including "Ice Cream Castles," "777-9311," "Gigolos Get Lonely Too" and "Jungle Love."  The smiles of the fans participating in a dance contest reflect my appreciation.


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Here's my review of Mötley Crüe's final concert in Kansas City.

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Drummer Idris Muhammad has died.

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The brouhaha over The New Yorker's Sonny Rollins satire is ridiculous.  Is jazz isn't so fragile that it can't withstand a joke?  Here's the great man's reaction.

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Chuck D and Mavis Staples collaborate on "Give We the Pride."

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Is Clipping's CLPPNG a parody?  I can't tell.  Sounds great, though.  RIYL: Earl Sweatshirt, confusion, Death Grips.

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Friends & Lovers, the latest release from Marsha Ambrosius, is quite nice.  RIYL: Alicia Keys, freaks, Keyshia Cole.

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I'm fascinated by the bombastic sound of Hiromi's Alive.  RIYL: Brand X, rock production, Eldar Djangarov.


(Original images by There Stands the Glass.)

Friday, August 01, 2014

Album Review: Phil Neal & the Wornalls- Lifeline


I'm accustomed to embarrassing myself on the radio.  My latest faux pas occurred while I was talking up the latest album by Phil Neal & the Wornalls.  I suggested that I'd just as soon catch the Kansas City band at the RecordBar as make an investment in a ticket for Tom Petty & the Heartbreaker's concert at Sprint Center.  A colleague quickly pointed out that Petty's concert had been canceled.  Even so, I stand by my sentiment.  The Wornalls may not be as accomplished as the Heartbreakers and Neal's vocal range is even more limited than Petty's.  Yet the songs on the new album Lifeline are raw, honest and entirely relevant to my life.


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I spent over eight happy hours at Warped Tour on Thursday.  Here's my review.

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Last week's Local Listen segment for KCUR's Up To Date featured Jason Vivone and the Billy Bats.  This week's feature focused on the People's Liberation Big Band. 

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Bent Edge Punk documents Kansas City's early punk and new wave scene.  (Via Tony's Kansas City.)

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Impossibly strange fact: fans attending a Kansas City Kings game in 1978 were given free copies of Ian Matthews' Stealin' Home.  The album is being reissued by Omnivore Recordings.

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Is Nicholas Payton trolling on his new project Numbers?  The twelve pleasant grooves are almost interchangeable.  RIYL: soulful background music, Decoy, high concept.

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Ex-Cult's Midnight Passenger is very good.  RIYL: Iceage, thinking about the Sex Pistols, Stooges.

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Nothing's Guilty of Everything is RIYL: Deafheaven, brooding, My Bloody Valentine.

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Raheem DeVaughn's graphic King of Loveland 2 is RIYL: Prince, you already know, the Isley Brothers.

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".38 Airweight", the solid new single from Doomtree, is RIYL: Minneapolis, Aesop Rock, smart rappers.

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I intended to briefly audition Trampled By Turtles' Wild Animals.  Before I knew it, I'd enjoyed the entire album.  Twice.  RIYL: American Beauty, mornings, Fleet Foxes.

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It seems like several lifetimes ago that I loved Scruffy the Cat.  I spend a few hazy nights catching the band at the Lone Star and Parody Hall.  Here's the trailer for a new compilation of the band's roots rock. 

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Beach Music


My biggest concern while spending a few days in the California sunshine has stepping on a stingray.  The blissful environment wreaks havoc on my sonic acumen.  Of all the music I hear on the beach and on the boardwalk, the only two styles that sound right are contemporary country/pop hits like Florida Georgia Line's "Cruise" and classic West Coast hip-hop like Snoop Dogg's "Up Jump Tha Boogie".  I have little doubt that had I been raised in this environment, my interest in jazz would be negligible and my knowledge of ska would be deeper than the Pacific Ocean.


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Here's my Local Listen feature about Quixotic for KCUR's Up To Date.

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D/Will created a video for "Meeting With God."

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Gee Watts' latest video is "Gator Dance/Dreams".

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I prefer Richard Reed Parry's new classical album Music For Heart and Breathto the output of Arcade Fire.  RIYL: Nico Muhly, string sections, Terry Riley.

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The guys in Deltron 3030 reveal what's in their bags.

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Sean Jones' im.pro.vise never before seen is a fine mainstream jazz album.  RIYL: Orrin Evans, tradition, Wynton Marsalis.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Friday, July 18, 2014

Concert Review: Eric Taylor at Knuckleheads


Eric Taylor threatened to shoot me last night. 

I walked into the back room of Knuckleheads shortly after Taylor's first set began.  I was immediately entranced by the folk songs and halting speech of the Texan.  Even so, I was compelled to respond to a couple text messages about 15 minutes after I took a seat among the audience of ten. 

Taylor took offense. 

In a profanity laced tirade in which he referenced his open carry license, he demanded that I "turn off my f*cking cell phone."  Partly because his stage set consisted of a glass of red wine, a prescription pill canister and an unopened bottle of water, I heeded his warning without objection. 

I passed on appearances by Richard Buckner and Old Crow Medicine Show/Carolina Chocolate Drops in favor of paying $15 to see Taylor for the first time.  Still haunted by my failure to witness a performance by Townes Van Zandt, I figured I'd take a flier on Taylor.  Sure enough, Taylor told a tale or two about his former running buddy.

Taylor's stories were at the core of his two sets.  He spoke about the series of strokes he'd suffered, the deafness in his right ear, the physical pain he associates with abandonment by women, Pentecostal snake handling, heroin and moonshine.  A recording of Taylor's tribute to Bill Morrissey captures the tone of last night's performance.

His approach is in keeping with the Texas troubadour tradition of Vince Bell, Guy Clark, Steve Earle, Lyle Lovett, Billy Joe Shaver and his ex-wife Nanci Griffith.  A glowing profile in The Houston Chronicle serves as a helpful introduction for the uninitiated. 

I called Taylor out on his threat after the show.  He insisted that his ominous warning was merely "a bit" and that the prescription bottle was just a prop that contained guitar picks.  The mea culpa was unconvincing.


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I reviewed a concert by Pat Benatar/Neil Giraldo and Rick Springfield.

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Johnny Winter has died.  His production of Muddy Waters' Hard Again was among my primary entry points to blues. 

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Elaine Stritch has died.

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"Sound Bite" is a track from Ces Cru's forthcoming Ego Stripper album.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)