Monday, January 26, 2015

Album Review: Viet Cong


Maybe Bela Lugosi isn’t dead.  Viet Cong has crafted one of the best albums of its type since the likes of Bauhaus roamed the earth.  When I saw goth giant Peter Murphy perform at the Riot Room last year, I sensed that he was desperately searching for an interesting variation on the sound he helped create decades ago.  His backing band wasn’t about to accommodate him.  Viet Cong has the answer. 


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I contributed features on The Kansas City Bear Fighters and Bob Bowman to KCUR.

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Bo Dollis has died.  The Wild Magnolias’ 1988 release I’m Back... at Carnival Time was a formative album for me.  Here’s ”Carnival Time”.

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Edgar Froese of Tangerine Dream has died.

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Demis Roussos of Aphrodite’s Child and “Forever and Ever” has died.

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Joey Bada$$’s B4.DA.$$ is an enormous disappointment.  The advance singles are easily the strongest tracks on the album.

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The Intimate Truth, Ledesi’s new acoustic EP, is a tossed-off affair.  I like anyway.  RIYL: Leela James, coffeeshops, .M.J.

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Belle and Sebastian’s Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance is excellent.  While I hope to catch the band for the first time on their  current tour, the Scots' music just isn’t my thing.  RIYL: fops, Donovan, high tea.

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I’ve long been tempted to characterize Enter Shikari as the British version of Linkin Park.  While its earnestness is easy to mock, I admire the band’s goofy new concept album The Mindsweep.  RIYL: Rage Against the Machine, The Wall, Queensryche.  Here’s ”The Anaesthetist.

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Moonlight, the latest effort by Hanni El Khatib, is decent.  RIYL: Arthur Brown, angst, Jack White.  Here’s ”Moonlight”.

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Lupe Fiasco’s dopey lyrics are the most insufferable aspect of his wretched album Tetsuo & Youth

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In an alternate universe, the Decemberists would be my favorite band. Alas, I didn't major in medieval history and I don't have an open relationship with a clove cigarette-smoking and Spanish wine-drinking barista. One more thing- my awareness of the music of James Brown hinders my enjoyment the otherwise admirable new album What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World.

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The recycled Americana on Ryan Bingham’s Fear and Saturday Night is impressive.  RIYL: Lucero, intoxication, prime Joe Ely.

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The video for Fantasma’s ”Shangrila” is delightful.  Tip via Big Steve.

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You’d think I’d adore Sleater-Kinney.  You’d be wrong.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Monday, January 19, 2015

Album Review: Mark Ronson- Uptown Special


When What Up, Dog? was released in 1988, I was employed at a record store.  Many of my colleagues and customers lost their minds over the high-concept collision of soul and rock orchestrated by Don Was of Was (Not Was).  I didn’t appreciate it quite as much as most listeners.  In Uptown Special, however, I hear everything people claimed to love about What Up, Dog?.  Mark Ronson’s mind-bending combination of pop, rock, hip-hop and R&B is elevated by outstanding features from Bruno Mars, novelist Michael Chabon, Mystikal, Steve Wonder and a dude from Tame Impala. The project tops the best work of Don Was. ”Feel Right” is my favorite track. 



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I reviewed a concert by Earl Klugh.


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I reviewed a concert by the Black Lillies.


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I document the latest live and recorded work of the Paul Shinn Trio at Plastic Sax.  


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Kim Fowley has died


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A$AP Yams has died.


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Kansas City’s She’s a Keeper has released Westside Local.


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Swamp Dogg’s fine The White Man Made Me Do It came out a couple months ago, but it came to my attention only recently.  RIYL: Barrence Whitfield, music by music geeks, Sly Stone.


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Justin Townes Earle writes good songs, but I can’t tolerate the flat production on Absent Fathers.  RIYL: Lyle Lovett, psychotherapy, Jason Isbell.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Monday, January 12, 2015

Concert Review: Charles Gatschet and Matt Hopper at the Dubliner


I'm fairly certain that I was the only person among the handful of listeners at the Dubliner on Sunday evening that wasn't somehow affiliated with the weekly Here's to the Roots showcase.  It's a shame.  The performance by Kansas City guitarists Charles Gatschet and Matt Hopper was exquisite.  Squarely in the duet tradition of Herb Ellis/Joe Pass and Bucky Pizzarelli/Ed Laub, the pair traded leads on standards and compositions by the likes of Duke Ellington and Thelonious Monk.  Following an awkward interview with the tasteful guitarists, Havilah Bruders added impressive vocals to beautiful renditions of "Come Rain or Come Shine" and "Georgia."


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I reviewed the Kansas City Symphony and Yefim Bronfman on Friday.

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I contributed a Local Listen segment about Vinson Cole to KCUR's Up to Date.

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I admired Eddie Moore and the Outer Circle's appearance at Take Five Coffee + Bar on Saturday.

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Andraé Crouch has died.

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Elena Obraztsova has died.

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Anthony Saunders sings on "Dreaming", a track from Dominique Sanders' forthcoming album.

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I had to lie down for a bit after watching Henry Threadgill, Roscoe Mitchell, Muhal Richard Abrams, Larry Gray and Jack DeJohnette discuss their forthcoming ECM album.

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Kassé Mady Diabaté's Kiriké is wonderful.  RIYL: Toumani Diabaté, life, Habib Koité.

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"Recognition", a track from THEESatisfaction's forthcoming album, is RIYL: Dirty Projectors, funkateers, Shabazz Palaces.

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Daniel Herskedal's Slow Eastbound Train seems promising.

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A new release featuring Anna Netrebko served as my introduction to Tchaikovsky's "Iolanta."  I'm in love.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

I'm Feeling Low and the Fish Won't Bite


Just as the song suggests, a loud dose of vintage R&B almost always sets me straight when I'm blue.  When I'm ailing, however, even the sweetest music rankles me.  I'm back in the swing of attending performances, but I only lasted twenty minutes at a gig last night.  The flu is the enemy of music.


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I remember the late Kansas City drummer Tommy Ruskin at Plastic Sax.

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Little Jimmy Dickens has died.  I'm so glad I was able to see him a handful of times at the Grand Ole Opry.

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Guitarist Jeff Golub has died.

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Alberta Adams has died.

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D/Will created a video for "Keep Coming Back".

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I agree with the pontificators who suggest that the entirely decent "Only One," the new collaboration between Kanye West and Paul McCartney, is the worst thing West has released.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Sickness


An ongoing battle with the flu has left me feeling like a desiccated bird.  The following loose ends are all I muster at the moment.


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I reviewed Karrin Allyson's concert at the Folly Theater.

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The Kansas City Star published a few dozen top album lists.

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Deborah Brown is Plastic Sax's Person of the Year.

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I participated in a Best Music of 2014 program on KCUR's Up to Date.  I also contributed Local Listen segments about BCR and Oleta Adams to the show.

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I lost my mind over The Gobots' D-Boy Era in 2010.  What Happened to the World, the Jacka's new album, is the best thing he's done since then.  RIYL: Mac Dre, crack, Too Short.  Here's "Gang Starz".

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I had to stop listening to Beautiful Life, Jimmy Greene's tribute to his late daughter, when a children's choir entered on "Ana's Song."

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J. Cole's 2014 Forest Hills Drive is entertaining radio rap.  RIYL: Wale, rappers rapping about their careers, Kid Cudi.

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I regret not listening to Sunny Sweeney's Provoked sooner.  It may be the best contemporary country album of 2014.  RIYL: Miranda Lambert, cheatin' songs, Kacey Musgraves.

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Orange Goblin's Back From the Abyss is RIYL: Motorhead, beer, Black Sabbath.

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Sleaford Mod's Divide and Exit is a hoot.  RIYL: Art Brut, getting yelled at, The Fall.

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The hilarious Stromae demonstrates his great taste in a "What's In My Bag?" segment.

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I respect the fact that a lot of my friends adore TV on the Radio's Seeds, but the album is not for me.  At every turn I expect the band to break into "The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway."  RIYL: The Mars Volta, punk-prog, The Police's Synchronicity.  Here's "Happy Idiot".

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

No Quarter: The Top Reissues, Compilations and Soundtracks of 2014

Although the sounds on the top three titles listed below rearranged my DNA this year, I inadvertently neglected to include this list in my previous post.  Here's a corresponding Spotify playlist.

The Top Reissues, Compilations and Soundtracks of 2014
1. Francis Bebey- Psychedelic Sanza: 1982-1984
2. Various- Haiti Direct: Big Band, Mini Jazz & Twoubadou Sounds, 1960-1978
3. Various- The Sound of Siam, Volume 2- Molam & Luk Thung Isan from North-East Thailand 1970-1982
4. Miles Davis- Miles at The Fillmore: Miles Davis: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 3
5. Our Vinyl Weighs a Ton (soundtrack)
6. Marshall Allen Presents: Sun Ra and His Arkestra- In the Orbit of Ra
7. Wheedle's Groove: Seattle's Finest In Funk & Soul 1965-75
8. Eccentric Soul: The Way Out Label
9. Rolé: New Sounds of Brazil
10. Led Zeppelin- deluxe remasters

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Monday, December 15, 2014

Vote for Me Dummy: The Top Albums, Songs and Shows of 2014


The 50 Top Albums of 2014
Spotify playlist
I preferred Jim Lauderdale to Sturgill Simpson and Keyshia Cole to Mary J. Blige.

1. Flying Lotus- You're Dead!
2. St. Vincent- St. Vincent
3. Peter Schlamb- Tinks
4. Naomi Shelton & the Gospel Queens- Cold World
5. Against Me!- Transgender Dysphoria Blues
6. The Architects- Border Wars (Episode II)
7. Kris Bowers- Heroes + Misfits
8. Keyshia Cole- Point of No Return
9. Joyce DiDonato- Stella di Napoli
10. Young Fathers- Dead

11. Budos Band- Burnt Offering
12. Jim Lauderdale- I'm a Song
13. Down- Down IV: Part II
14. Shabazz Palaces- Lese Majesty
15. Kelis- Food
16. Pallbearer- Foundations of Burden
17. Toni Braxton and Babyface- Love, Marriage & Divorce
18. Da Cruz- Disco e Progresso
19. Danilo Pérez- Panama 500
20. Leela James- Fall For You

21. The Jacka- What Happened to the World
22. Spoon- They Want My Soul
23. Sturgill Simpson- Metamodern Sounds in Country Music
24. Joyce Yang- Wild Dreams
25. Pat Metheny Unity Group- Kin
26. David Binney- Anacapa
27. Future- Honest
28. D'Angelo- Black Messiah
29. Rosanne Cash- The River & the Thread
30. Ambrose Akinmusire- The Imagined Savior Is Far Easier to Paint

31. Mutilation Rites- Harbinger
32. Black Milk- If There's a Hell Below
33. Various Blonde- Summer High
34. The Popper- Values, Respect, Loyalty & Beliefs
35. Angelique Kidjo- Eve
36. Ben Miller Band- Any Way, Shape or Form
37. SZA- Z
38. Lecrae- Anomaly
39. Coltsblood- Into the Unfathomable Abyss
40. Pharrell Williams- Girl

41. Takuya Kuroda- Rising Son
42. Triptykon- Melana Chasmata
43. Bob Mould- Beauty & Ruin
44. Mary J. Blige- The London Sessions
44. Ledisi- The Truth
45. Juilliard String Quartet- Elliott Carter: The Five String Quartets
46. GoGo Penguin- v2.0
47. Iceage- Plowing Into the Field of Love
48. The Project H- We Live Among the Lines
49. Bohren & Der Club of Gore- Piano Nights
50. D/Will- Reset


The 50 Top Songs of 2014
Spotify playlist
It may have been a weak year for albums, but 2014 was a stellar year for songs.

1. Skating Polly- "Alabama Movies"
2. Rick Ross, Kanye West and Big Sean- "Sanctified"
3. Michael Jackson- "Love Never Felt So Good"
4. Kendrick Lamar- "i"
5. Jack White- "High Ball Stepper"
6. Mary J. Blige- "Whole Damn Year"
7. Jeremih and YG- "Don't Tell 'Em"
8. Zara McFarlane- "Open Heart"
9. Jason Eady- "One, Two... Many"
10. Sam Smith- "Stay With Me"

11. Ledisi- "The Truth"
12. Guided By Voices- "Vote for Me Dummy"
13. Drive-By Truckers- "Primer Coat"
14. Joey Bada$$- "Big Dusty"
15. Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks- "Lariat"
16. Freeway and the Jacka featuring Killa Mike- "Sunnah Boys"
17. Miniature Tigers- "Swimming Pool Blues"
18. Ex-Hex- "Beast"
19. Yelawolf- "'Til It's Gone"
20. Jhene Aiko- "The Worst"

21. Ume- "Black Stone"
22. Future with André 3000- "Benz Friendz"
23. Jenny Lewis- "Slippery Slopes"
24. Tech N9ne- "Strangeulation 1"
25. Robyn Hitchcock- "The Ghost In You"
26. T-Pain- "Drankin' Patna"
27. Black Lips- "Smiling"
28. Pharoahe Monch- "Damage"
29. Prince- "Funknroll"
30. FKA twigs- "Two Weeks"

31. Leela James featuring Anthony Hamilton- "Say That"
32. Rick Ross with Project Pat- "Elvis Presley Blvd."
33. Nick Waterhouse- "Sleeping Pills"
34. Die Antwoord- "Pitbull Terrier"
35. The Reverend Horton Heat- "Let Me Teach You How To Eat"
36. Doomtree- ".38 Airweight"
37. Julión Alvarez y su Norteño Banda- "Te Hubieras Ido Antes"
38. Tinashe- "2 On"
39. Yusuf- "Dying to Live"
40. Lizzo- "Paris"

41. Bonnie "Prince" Billy- "Quail and Dumplings"
42. Clipping- "Work Work"
43. Bobby Shmurda- "Hot Boy"
44. Beyoncé- "7/11"
45. Colbie Caillat- "Try"
46. Slipknot- "Custer"
47. F*cked Up- "Sun Glass"
48. Rickie Lee Jones- "Been on a Train"
49. Regina Carter- "Hickory Wind"
50. Big K.R.I.T.- "Cadillactica"


The 50 Top Shows of 2014
I'm going to fall about a dozen gigs short of my annual benchmark of 365.

1. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds- Midland theater
2. Jessica Care Moore- Blue Room
3. Pat Metheny Unity Group- Topeka Performing Arts Center
4. Kraftwerk- Sony Centre (Toronto)
5. Bettye LaVette- Knuckleheads
6. Marijuana Deathsquads- RecordBar
7. Pharaoh Sanders- Blues Alley (Washington D.C.)
8. Miguel Zenón- Blue Room
9. Spoon- Liberty Hall
10. Lecrae- Independence Events Center

11. Kronos Quartet- Helzberg Hall
12. T-Pain- Crossroads KC
13. Living Color- Knuckleheads
14. Marmozets- Warped Tour at Cricket Wireless Amphitheater
15. Charlie Hunter and Scott Amendola- The Brick
16. Deborah Brown with Joe Lovano and Terrel Stafford- Prairie Village Jazz Festival
17. Chrisette Michele- Uptown Theater
18. Tony Bennett- Muriel Kauffman Theatre
19. Nicola Benedetti- Folly Theater
20. Maze- Municipal Auditorium

21. Sam Baker and Mary Gauthier- Folly Theater
22. Allen Toussaint- Folly Theater
23. Ladysmith Black Mambazo- Liberty Hall
24. Bahia Orchestra Project- Helzberg Hall
25. Shabazz Palaces- Riot Room patio
26. Ingrid Laubrock and Tom Rainey- RecordBar
27. Nickel Creek- Uptown Theater
28. St. Vincent- Liberty Hall
29. Wolf Eyes- Riot Room patio
30. Joan Sebastian- Cricket Wireless Amphitheater

31. John Cale- Lawrence Arts Center
32. Black Label Society- Penn Valley Park
33. Morris Day & the Time- Parade Park
34. Burt Bacharach- Muriel Kauffman Theatre
35. Brad Cox- La Esquina
36. Marcus Hampton- Gem Theater
37. Regina Carter- Helzberg Hall
38. Lalah Hathaway- KC Live
39. Eric Taylor- Knuckleheads
40. Judas Priest- Midland theater

41. Brad Mehldau Trio- Folly Theater
42. Fitz & the Tantrums- KC Live
43. Eric Benét- KC Live
44. Peter Noone's Herman's Hermits- Town Center Plaza
45. John Scofield- Folly Theater
46. Guitarras Ibericas- Recital Hall at the Carlsen Center
47. The Kansas City Jazz Orchestra- Muriel Kauffman Theatre
48. Vine Street Rumble- Celebration at the Station at Union Station
49. Hunter Hayes- Sprint Center
50. Brother Ali- The Granada


The Ten Best Opening Acts of 2014
I get there early.

1.Suicidal Tendencies- Uptown Theater, for Slayer
2. Pusha T- Midland theater, for 2 Chainz
3. Kvelertak- Uptown Theater, for Mastodon
4. Electric Würms- Crossroads KC, for the Flaming Lips
5. King 810- Sprint Center, for Slipknot
6. Sarah Jarosz- Uptown Theater, for Nickel Creek
7. Thy Art Is Murder- Aftershock, for Emmure
8. Judy Collins- Knuckleheads, for Don McLean
9. Gary Clark, Jr.- for Kings of Leon, Sprint Center
10. Death Vessel- Horseshoe Tavern (Toronto), for Shearwater

(Original image of Hunter Hayes by There Stands the Glass.)