Sunday, November 30, 2008

Seeing Sounds: 2008 In Review

The 25 Best Albums of 2008
1. Erykah Badu- New Amerikah Part One (4th World War)
2. Atmosphere- When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Sh*t Gold
3. The Game- LAX
4. Julieta Venegas- MTV Unplugged
5. Tech N9ne- Killer
6. Duffy- Rockferry
7. Chick Corea & Gary Burton- The New Crystal Silence
8. Girl Talk- Feed the Animals
9. Wynton Marsalis & Willie Nelson- Two Men With the Blues
10. Lil Wayne- Tha Carter III
11. N*E*R*D- Seeing Sounds
12. The Streets- Everything Is Borrowed
13. The Hold Steady- Stay Positive
14. 9th Wonder & Buckshot- The Formula
15. Nas- Nas
16. Ice Cube- Raw Footage
17. Ron Ron- Mr. No It All
18. The Saturday Knights- Mingle
19. Adele- Chasing Pavement
20. Two Cow Garage- Speaking In Cursive
21. The Gaslight Anthem- The '59 Sound
22. Steddy P- Dear Columbia
23. Coldplay- Viva la Vida
24. Dizzee Rascal- Maths + English
25. Kanye West- 808's & Heartbreak
For the first time in years, I haven't fallen in love with any new albums. Each of these titles is flawed. I placed Badu's glorious mess on top because she seems to be laughing at the blemishes in her music.

The 25 Best Songs of 2008
1. Noel Gourdin- "The River"
2. Marvin Sapp- "Never Would Have Made It"
3. Nas- "Be A N***** Too"
4. T.I.- "No Matter What"
5. Wiley- "Cash In My Pocket"
6. Jazmine Sullivan- "Need U Bad"
7. Ashton Shepherd- "Takin' Off This Pain"
8. Coldplay- "Viva La Vida"
9. Dolly Parton- "Jesus & Gravity"
10. Jaheim- "Never"
11. Trace Adkins- "You're Gonna Miss This"
12. Airborne- "Too Much Too Young Too Fast"
13. AC/DC- "Rock 'N Roll Train"
14. Idle Warship- "Fall Back"
15. Lil Wayne- "A Milli"
16. Kid Rock- "All Summer Long"
17. Eric Benet- "You're the Only One"
18. Hot Stylz- "Lookin' Boy"
19. Lyfe Jennings- "Never Never Land"
20. Lee Ann Womack- "Last Call"
21. Young Jeezy- "Put On"
22. Solange- "I Decided"
23. Janelle Monae- "Many Moons"
24. Sevendust- "Prodigal Son"
25. Ben Folds with Regina Spektor- "You Don't Know Me"
Lord, how I love "The River."

The Ten Best Songs of 2008 By Kansas City Artists
1. Donta Slusha- "Check My Posture"
2. XTA-C- "2 Fingers and a Hook (KC Anthem)"
3. Tech N9ne- "Crybaby"
4. The Abracadabras- "Petty Politics"
5. Ghosty- "Dumbo Wins Again"
6. Sliccs Gotcha- "Off Da Chain"
7. Barclay Martin- "Queen of This Town"
8. Innate Sounds- "Raise Up"
9. Mac Lethal- "Black Widow Spider"
10. Koufax- "Any Moment Now"
Although the rest of the world isn't paying much attention, it's been a great year for local music.

The 25 Best Live Performances of 2008
1. Alison Krauss & Robert Plant- Starlight Theater (fan video)
2. Maxwell- Uptown Theater
3. Tech N9ne- Uptown Theater (April show) (fan footage)
4. Stone Temple Pilots- Liberty Memorial (fan footage)
5. Kid Rock- Sprint Center (fan footage)
6. Sarah Buxton- Power & Light
7. Luciano- Beaumont Club (backstage footage)
8. Nikka Costa- Record Bar
9. Fourth of July- McCoys
10. The Mars Volta- Beaumont Club (fan footage)
11. Mac Lethal- Riot Room
12. Wynton Marsalis & the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra- Folly Theater
13. ZZ Top- Midland Theater
14. T.I.- Sandstone Amphitheater
15. Rodney Crowell- Frontier Park
16. Stefon Harris- Folly Theater
17. The Misfits- VooDoo Lounge
18. Busy Bee- Liberty Hall
19. Kristin Hersh- house party in Lee's Summit, MO
20. Ashes Divide- Liberty Memorial
21. Slipknot- Sandstone Amphitheater (fan footage)
22. Drowning Pool- VooDoo Lounge
23. The Redwalls- The Record Bar
24. Say Anything- Power & Light
25. Atmosphere- Liberty Hall
These are the best of the 253 individual performances I've witnessed so far in 2008.

The Five Best Opening Acts of 2008
1. Brandi Carlile (for Sheryl Crow at Starlight Theater)
2. Thrice (for Rise Against at the Uptown Theater)
3. Tesla (for Queensryche at the Midland Theater)
4. Meg & Dia (for Plain White T's at the Beaumont Club)
5. Lil Mama (for Chris Brown at the Sprint Center) (fan footage)
The headliners never stood a chance.

The Five Most Disappointing Live Performances of 2008
1. The Roots- VooDoo Lounge (fan footage)
2. Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band- Sprint Center (fan footage)
3. Lazy Lester- KCK Street Blues Festival
4. M.I.A.- Liberty Hall (fan footage)
5. Matisyahu- Crossroads KC (fan footage)
I had high hopes for each of these concerts; my expectations were not met.

(Original image of Dia Frampton of Meg & Dia by There Stands the Glass.)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Robert Lucas, 1962-2008


Robert Lucas was signing autographs the last time I saw him. He had just played a set with Canned Heat at a blues festival in Kansas City three or four years ago. I didn't catch the performance; I have a strong antipathy for recycled boogie. Yet I recall that image for two reasons. Almost every one of his fans was a biker. I was also struck by the thought that Lucas seemed far too young to be in the band. He was just 46 when he died Sunday. Layaway is one of several solid solo albums in which Lucas splits the difference between Howlin' Wolf and Tom Waits. (Tip via BGO.)

MC Breed died Saturday.

Richey Edwards of the Manic Street Preachers has been declared dead. It's a sad story. (Tip via BGO.)

I reviewed Tech N9ne's show Saturday night.

Mac Lethal's life almost ends at the 3:30 mark of this otherwise pointless Soulcrate Music tour vlog.

I briefly ponder MURS, the Clash and the concept of selling out here.

Kansas City Click: I could stop at the Czar Bar after tonight's Kansas-Syracuse game to catch Ghosty.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Corey Crowder- Love

The affair has ended.

Mainstream country radio hasn't quite figured out that dudes don't want to hear Taylor Swift. Most men want beer-drinkin' music with brains and (please forgive the crude indiscretion) balls.

That's Corey Crowder. He's staked out some valuable property on the musical landscape somewhere to the south of Dierks Bentley and just a little to the west of the Allman Brothers. He'd be an appropriate opening act for both Kid Rock and Tim McGraw.

I could use a little more punk-styled grit on his new Tooth & Nail release Gold and the Sand, but Crowder's tendency to keep James Taylor's melodic monolith in sight will probably serve him well.

Stop the presses! There's a late contender for 2008's song of the year. It's Wiley's "Cash In My Pocket". The accompanying video is also great.

This video moves me, and I'm not even a big Coldplay fan. (Found via a Twitter pal.)

Hammerlord is my new favorite local metal band.

I finally got around to watching an episode of Celebrity Rehab. A Google search confirmed my immediate hunch- one of the counselors is Bob Forrest of Thelonious Monster!

Kansas City Click: Tech N9ne returns to the Uptown Theater tonight.

Stefon Harris plays vibes Saturday at the Folly Theater.

Soulfly top the bill Sunday at the Beaumont.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Suzpecial- Break Away


Musical epiphanies inevitably become less frequent with age and experience.

While sound still sends chills down my spine on a regular basis, the most recent life-changing musical revelation I experienced came via the Run the Road compilation in 2005. It was my first exposure to British grime. The combination of Joy Division's iciness and hip hop's street poetry stunned me.

Much like many tracks on Atmosphere's When Life Gives You Lemons..., "Break Away" by Suzpecial bluntly addresses immediate domestic concerns. "I wish things were better..." I don't know if Suzpecial is guy, a duo or a collective. The British act doesn't blow my mind, but it's definitely effective.

The Plain White T's are woefully misunderstood. Their effort Sunday night represented the second best power pop performance I've seen this year. (The Redwalls were better.) Here's my review. And look out for Meg & Dia in '09.

"We're the Get Up Kids from Kansas City, Missouri."

I did my best to provoke Kansas City's jazz community today.

I'm Weezer-neutral but I love Rivers Cuomo for his "Let's Write a Sawng" series. The new chapter is particularly interesting.

Kansas City Click: Eldar's run at Jardine's continues through Thursday.

(Image from Suzpecial's MySpace.)

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Gaslight Anthem at the Uptown Theater

"Welcome to Casual Friday," Brian Fallon of The Gaslight Anthem told early arrivals Friday night at the Uptown Theater.

It was more like Opposite Day. The four bands on the tour- the Gaslight Anthem, Thrice, Alkaline Trio and Rise Against- were billed in reverse order of my personal preference.

Serving as the sacrificial opening act, the Gaslight Anthem were the most compelling band of the night. A thirty-minute opening slot at a punk show isn't the ideal forum to make a case for being the future of rock'n'roll. While the Gaslight Anthem didn't send shivers down my spine, they also did nothing to dissuade my faith in their potential.

Significantly, they weren't manic, sloppy and self-destructive like comparable true believers the Hold Steady or the Replacements. The Gaslight Anthem tried their best. Welcome to the new sincerity.

The emotional dynamics of "We Came To Dance" recalled fellow New Jersey resident Bruce Springsteen. (It was sort of like this.) "Angry Johnny and the Radio" sounded a lot like "Breakdown"-era Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers. (It felt something like this.)

Only time will tell if Fallon can achieve Springsteen-esque success. He may instead become a cult favorite like Joe Grushecky or Garland Jeffreys. Either way, I intend to be listening attentively. (The band returns to Kansas City December 10 for a radio station event at the Midland Theater.)

Thrice was second. Their brawny post-punk floored me. I had no idea that the Californians had progressed into an incredibly interesting band. Imagine Tool without the arena-rock impulses. A faithful cover of "Helter Skelter" seemed only natural.

Alkaline Trio provide the answer to an awkward question: What would have become of Green Day if Billie Joe Armstrong had never been struck with inspiration? The near-capacity crowd of about 1,400, however, didn't share my cynicism. Many sang along with every punk anthem. The Gaslight Anthem's Fallon joined them for a set-ending Misfits cover.

Blame it on election fatigue. I just wasn't in the mood for the strident political protest punk of Rise Against. I found watching the sea of people on the floor more entertaining than listening to the headliners. I left early.

After all, it was Opposite Day.

(Image of Brian Fallon taken from Rise of Beachmont's Flickr account.)

Friday, November 14, 2008

Jose Feliciano- Hot Burrito #1


Juanes may have cleaned up at last night's Latin Grammy Awards, but it also seemed that Jose Feliciano was everywhere. Univision made him the star of their red carpet coverage. He was visible when the cameras panned the audience. He was featured on the tribute to Gloria Estefan. And he even won the Best Contemporary Tropical Album award.

I had no idea that the 63-year-old remains so relevant. Young readers may be startled to hear that Feliciano's version of "Light My Fire" was probably more popular than the Doors' original. And do any of you remember his theme to Chico and the Man? Oh, (bad) memories.

Feliciano also recorded a soulful version of this Gram Parsons classic. It's contained on an insanely great collection. As good as it is, it makes me long for an Elvis Presley treatment.

My favorite performance last night was by the wonderful Julieta Venegas. Banda El Recodo blew my mind. Just look at the size of that band! It's also going to take a lot of tequila to erase the memory of Karyme Lozano snogging Kenny G's soprano sax.

I also watched the CMA Awards Wednesday night. How tedious was it? I thought the three best performances were by Kid Rock, the Eagles and Kenny Chesney.

Kansas City Click: The Gaslight Anthem, the subject of the previous There Stands the Glass post, open the show tonight at the Uptown Theater.

Kelley Hunt has a Kansas City-themed show Saturday at the Blue Room.

The Get Up Kids reunite for a Sunday show at the Record Bar.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Gaslight Anthem- Miles Davis & the Cool

On to the next town.

Passion. Desperation. Sweat. Faith. Simplicity. Hope.

Perhaps it was Chuck Berry who first successfully combined these disparate elements in a rock'n'roll song. He's been followed by the likes of Creedence Clearwater Revival, Bruce Springsteen, Social Distortion and the Hold Steady. Add the Gaslight Anthem to that distinctive list.

I'm just one of thousands who have fallen hard for the band this year. I was actually disappointed when I first heard "The '59 Sound" on commercial radio. I selfishly wanted the band to myself for a while; I'm angry that I hadn't discovered them a year or two ago. The New Jersey-based quartet is clearly the breakout rock act of 2008.

How could I resist "Miles Davis & the Cool"? In addition to the explicit reference of the title, the song alludes to Otis Redding, Bob Dylan and Elvis Costello. The '59 Sound is loaded with similarly memorable anthems.

The Gaslight Anthem's world tour takes them to Denver tonight. I hope to catch them at Kansas City's Uptown Theater on Friday. They'll also be featured on tomorrow's Fuse's "On Tour" broadcast at 6:30 p.m. EST.

Mac Lethal, Grieves and Soulcrate Music unite for this new Black Clover video.

Mitch Mitchell died this week. I was shocked to learn that he was only 62; Mitchell was just a baby while drumming for Jimi Hendrix. This essay is disrespectful but highly entertaining. The author references this remarkable video footage. It's probably how Mitchell would like to be remembered.

Kansas City Click: Bram Wijnands is joined by Hal Melia at the Blue Room.

(Image from the Gaslight Anthem's MySpace.)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Miriam Makeba, 1932-2008


I can't find the link, but I recently read about a prominent entertainer who had set funding aside for the making of a biopic with an as-yet undetermined subject. "That's crazy," I thought at the time. "Just pick a person already." If that celebrity read an obituary of Miriam Makeba this week, that speculation has surely ended. What an epic life "Mama Africa" lived! The high political, social and personal drama of Makeba's life spanned continents. She's heard here on a 1959 selection available on a typically excellent Rough Guide disc.

Cafe Tacuba disappointed me Saturday night. Here's my review.

Blip continues to wreck my life.

Kansas City Click: I continue to believe that "Dumbo Wins Again" is one of the best songs of 2008. Ghosty will play it tonight at the Czar Bar.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Esbjorn Svensson Trio- From Gagarin's Point of View


Five months have passed since the accidental death of Esbjorn Svensson. It's become increasingly apparent that the loss is one of the most significant of 2008. The European musician was 44. The Swede might have had decades of innovative, groundbreaking ahead.

I'll confess that I've resisted acknowledging the fact that much of the most interesting jazz of the last decade has come from Europe. Perhaps it's because musicians there are not confronted daily with the American politics of jazz. Europeans are freer.

Svensson infused jazz with elements of rock, new age, classical and electronica without cheapening the music. That's a rare feat. This track from an out-of-print 2001 release is a fine example. This stylized video is also instructive.

I'm a strong advocate of forward-thinking jazz acts like the Bad Plus. While Svensson was certainly part of that generational surge, he was also doing something that felt deeper and even more promising.

I must have a minimum of five hours of sleep in order to function as a human being. The outstanding Atmosphere show I attended Thursday night/Friday morning wiped me out. Here's my zombie-esque review.

Ray Ellis, arranger for the likes of the Four Lads, Bobby Darin and Doris Day, died October 24. (Tip via BGO.)

Kansas City Click: Tim Finn composed a great feature about Abigail Henderson. I previewed Saturday's benefit show at Davey's Uptown and Sunday's benefit show at the Record Bar in Tuesday's post.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Welcome To the Future

"Welcome to the future" is the annoying catchphrase of one of my good friends. It serves as an appropriate theme as I break with the usual format of There Stands the Glass to comment on three irregular topics.

I caught Hat Triq at my neighborhood shopping center the other day. Their very existence brings to life the theory that Guitar Hero and Rock Band are changing the way popular music is being consumed. I don't know these pre-teens and this video of them struggling through the Red Hot Chili Peppers' "Dani California" isn't mine. The original version of the song is featured on Rock Band; I'd be willing to wager everything that the band grew directly out of video play. Is this a good thing? I think so.

I laughed at the recent spate of essays suggesting that Twitter will render blogging irrelevant. How could a 140-character post compete with this format? Well, I discovered Blip last week. The ingenious site marries the social networking of Twitter with the joyous sense of discovery provided by music blogs. I became addicted instantly. Here's my Blip account.

While I'm on the subject, here's my Twitter account and my new Facebook account. There Stands the Glass will return to its usual format tomorrow- if I find the willpower to break away from Blip.

Kansas City Click: Joey DeFrancesco hits the Blue Room tonight.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Benefit For Abigail Henderson

Thanks, Howard.

Start making your plans for the weekend. Two of the best parties in Kansas City will be benefits in support of Abigail Henderson. The full schedule is here.

Friends and fans of the songwriter and vocalist, best known as a member of The Gaslights, are assisting Henderson with medical bills incurred by a bout with inflammatory breast cancer. Details are at Apocalypse Meow. I also recommend Hope Is My Middle Name, Henderson's deeply affecting blog.

Ten acts are participating Saturday at Davey's Uptown. Highlights include a reunion of local favorites Parlay and Sandoval. It's also likely the only time that the off-color sleaze of Bacon Shoe and the sincere folk of Kasey Rausch will share the same bill.

The nine acts Sunday at the Record Bar may be even more impressive. They include a Sister Mary Rotten Crotch reunion, the Pedal Jets, Kristie Stremel and Pendergast.

There Stands the Glass favorite Howard Iceberg is performing at Davey's Saturday. He'll also be selling November Nights, his first CD in five years. The package includes a DVD containing footage of Henderson performing with Iceberg and the Titanics. All proceeds from the sale of November Nights will go directly to Henderson.

The Pitch recently designated Iceberg as Kansas City's Best Songwriter. "Sentimental"- available on the benefit CD- shows why.

EDIT: The Titan Records listening party at the Record Bar Saturday afternoon is also part of the Henderson benefit. Read more about the new reissue Titan: It's All Pop! at Back To Rockville.

There Stands the Glass trainspotters: While composing this post, I discovered that this is the third time I've featured Iceberg. Ike Turner is the only other artist I've highlighted more than once in about 700 posts.

Yma Sumac died Saturday. Man, I hadn't even realized that she was still with us. (Tip via BGO.)

Jimmy Carl Black died Sunday. His late-career freak-folk collaboration with Eugene Chadbourne was remarkably prescient.

My pal BGO recently let me know that Frankie Venom died on October 15. I loved Teenage Head.

Kansas City Click: Hat Triq will almost certainly be pedestrian when they perform at Foo's this afternoon. But I love the idea of pre-teens playing Green Day and Ramones covers.

(Photo of Henderson lifted from Facebook.)