Best Music of 2015 According to the Only Person Who Matters, Me

What’s this? A new post?

Hey, don’t blame me! Not my fault I can’t find a company to work for that won’t fucking implode because it’s run by morons who’ve bought into this whole start up BS. Polishing resumes is getting to be a full time job.

But, anyway here’s a list of the best albums of 2015, in bullet point order. Because there are no special flowers in music:

Best EP of 2015

Best old album discovered in 2015

  • Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds — The Good Son

And there we go! Collecting all my Twitter best of. Will there be more reviews this year? Who knows what lurks in the shadows of sleepy blogs? Do people even know about blogs these days? Are blogs the new vinyl?

End Of Year List, Part 1 — 2012

Why My Top 10 is Better than The Onion AV Club’s (and Probably Yours)

In my youth, I tried my hand at writing music reviews professionally. This was a bad idea on many fronts. For example, industry pay rates are still stuck in Charles Dickinson times (for real), and freelancing causes a tax situation so fucked up that you will hate yourself for the poor choices in life you have made. Namely freelancing.

Anyway, this is my way of saying that I have experience in music criticism, and I know why my list is better than the AV Club’s. There are two major reasons:

#1 — Endurance

Professional: When you are reviewing professionally, you get an endless stream of free, shitty music. And you get piles of stuff that may not be bad, but is completely not to your tastes. After slogging through this mighty slush pile, week after week, your senses dull.

Suddenly, a mediocre, competent album breaks the tedium. You fall in love with it! It’s not shit! The End Of Year list is filled with the best of the shit pile!

If you are lucky. If you’re not, then you also get whatever reviews someone has paid bribes to promote. Trust me, even back in the Zine era, I knew popular “good guy” publications that only had a review section for it’s revenue stream. I get the sense that the AV Club is above this. They are not the “good guy” I’m alluding to.

Me: I vet, buy, and listen to ALL of the music I review. I not only have personal but monetary investment in this music. I buy the best, and list the best of the best.

#2 – Trial by Committee:

The AV club has some fucked up nomination/vote combo that makes sure that whatever individual vision put into the list is homogenized to tasteless oatmeal.

Also, they have a self loathing streak that forces them to review mass market dreck like Ke$ha. See, they’re not snobs!

So there. That’s my argument. I may be wrong. I may be hard on the AV Club, but I read those guys every day. I like to think that’s the greatest complement you can pay a writer.

Lock Down This Rock!! – 10 – Where The Music Lives

I like music. I have a band. I’m gonna tell you all about it. 

 What I look for in rock: guitars, melody, guitars, energy, guitars, and guitars.

Do you know where the music lives in this Brave New World? I know where some of it is. Here are some great sources for discovering all the kool bandz before the kids do! These are the shows I currently listen to.

Want to hear me rant about today’s infinite access? I bet you don’t. Let’s just say, you kids don’t know how good you have it. Back in the day, all you had were sporadically published ‘zines, that one cool dude’s opinion, and evaluations of the cover artwork to guide you in choosing your next music purchase. All of which I kinda miss.

The Evan “Funk” Davis Show
Evan’s show is a mix of obsessive 70’s crate digging, and gems pulled from the new bin at WFMU. Available live, and archived on the inner web, which is how I listen. Evan introduced me to Pujol, Ready Stance, The Shoppers, and many more. A great supporter of up and coming bands.

The Best Show on WFMU
Tom Scharpling’s long form comedy radio program is almost impossible to explain. It’s a strange, alternate world where music trivia informs slow burn parody, live callers get shot down in flames, and a place where Tom can take gripe about subjects both profane and obscure. And he kicks off each show with about half an hour of prime music that needs to be evangelized.

Portland has has a hole in its local radio scene for many moons. But KZME is the closest station we’ve got to WFMU on this coast. They take playing local bands seriously. I could do with some more rock and less sensitive beard music, but it does reflect the current underground in PDX.

The Cherry Blossom Clinic
Sense a pattern with all these WFMU shows? The station is a lesson in listener supported, free form radio done right. Terre T plays dabbles more in the garage-y side of rock, and often has local acts perform in studio.

Rock the Nation with Dr. Stahl
New show that showcases much of the rock and punk side of Portland, which has been woefully under-represented as of late. Now here is a program that you would NEVER find without the limitless possibilities of the innerweb.  Classic, straight up big hair metal and great local punk/rock releases. It’s kinda irresistible, even for butt rock non-fans. Here’s to hoping it sticks around!

The End!

Lock Down This Rock!! – 06 – Minty Rosa/Pretty Please

I like music. I have a band. I’m gonna tell you all about it. 

 What I look for in rock: guitars, melody, guitars, energy, guitars, and guitars.

Can we get local?

*Pulls shades shut*
*Sits at stark office desk*
*Puts on glasses*
*Tents fingers*
*Stares at you, frowning, for too long*

Everyone is so serious when talking about local bands. Like they’re a heavy responsibility. A cross to bear. Or perhaps an albatross to wear.

Maybe that’s the eggshell effect. Egos are fragile, and shit gets real when you’re typing words that PEPOLE YOU KNOW might read. Internet commenters, you will never have to feel this particular anxiety. But alas, I am not anonymous. Merely wallowing in obscurity.

Anyway, screw all that. I like Minty Rosa. I like their album Pretty Please. You may think that they’re too far into the Punk realm for me. You’re wrong. Short energetic bursts of metal tinged rock. I believe they used to call it Hard Rock before the Cafes took it over? I dunno. They’re loud, punchy, have some great hooks, and Hilarie belts out choruses from the very core of her being. Did I mention the songs are short? My favorite ones seem only more so.

So yeah, you’re missing out is what I’m saying.

Check ’em out!!

Lock Down this Rock!! – 05 – John Wesley Coleman/Last Donkey Show

I like music. I have a band. I’m gonna tell you all about it. 

 What I look for in rock: guitars, melody, guitars, energy, guitars, and guitars.

You guys are going to hear a lot about Art. Many years ago, we bonded over The Breeders. That, and the fact that we were the only halfway sane people working in a warehouse rife with heroin abuse, thievery, and bile. What we went through to deliver high priced, useless trinkets to bored, rich folk…

Anyway, Art pointed out that if you took all the great songs from John Wesley Coleman’s brand new solo album (The Last Donkey Show), and mixed them up with the best tracks from his other band’s brand new album (Golden Boys – Dirty Fingernails), you’d have a hell of an album. Such is the curse of the prolific songwriter.

I’m going to talk about The Last Donkey Show here. It has high highs. It has so-so lows. It has a good attitude, and some rocking, garage-y singles about Clowns and babies and Draculas. Which is a bit charming. And as you can probably suss out from the title, there’s a bit debauchery as well.

I really like it when a band loves playing, and wants everyone to know. Enthusiasm is contagious. As are the highlights of The Last Donkey Show.

Check ’em out!!

Lock Down this Rock – 03 – Royal Headache, S/T

I like music. I have a band. I’m gonna tell you all about it. 

 What I look for in rock: guitars, melody, guitars, energy, guitars, and guitars.
You ever have one of those fitful nights of sleep, filled with tossing, turning, and panic that manifests itself as a certainty that you are going to die because you have a mosquito bite, and probably have Eastern Equine Encephalitis now? And then somehow wake up refreshed? Such is my life.

What does this have to do with Royal Headache? Let’s see… they’re from Australia, are descended from The Jam/Paul Weller branch of the punk family tree, and like short, short songs. So no, the above have nothing to do with Royal Headache, other than they both exist in my rambling brain.

I have previously tried to share my feelings on this self titled disc by these boys from down under. The comment I got back is that all their songs are too similar. This is great if you like them, and devastating if you don’t. They’re an ‘all-in’ kinda band.

The guitar is full of jangle, and many of their songs ramp up to highway speeds, but I think the vocals stand out as their greatest weapon. The singer obviously comes from a Town Called Malice, and I was suspicious of this at first, but I’ve decided that I don’t find it annoyingly derivative. I’ve decided that I enjoy their immediacy and melody. Upbeat driving music. Good for a Friday afternoon, when you’re waiting on the clock to slowly tick down to the weekend.

Check ’em out!

Lock Down this Rock!! – 02 – Pujol/United States of Being

I like music. I have a band. I’m gonna tell you all about it. 

 What I look for in rock: guitars, melody, guitars, energy, guitars, and guitars.

Pujol, “United States of Being”

I’m going to die at any moment. I ain’t got time to mess around.

That’s what it feels like to be 41. And it’s why music is such a part of my life again. Looking over the years, and sampling many different ideas, I find myself coming back to what has brought me the most joy in life. That’s what getting a prescription to statins will do to you. I’m buying Doctor Who actions figures too, if you were wondering.

And why wait to review this new Pujol album? True, I’ve only listened to it once. On the bus. On the way in to work. Stogy critics would deny themselves the pleasure of writing about a piece of music until they’ve had ample chance to soak in all nuance, and ponder greatly as to it’s place and meaning in the Universe. And then pat themselves on the back. Maybe smoke a pipe. Screw that. This pushes the Pavlovian happy rock button at the base of my neo-cortex. I’m gonna talk about it.

It’s interesting how the right amount of guitar, rock and pop instantly grabs me. A golden ratio, if you will. The United States of Being has songs that don’t screw around. Upbeat, direct and to the point, melody, clever turns of phrase, and a touch of psychedelia.

I know jack and shit about this band. I bought this solely because I heard a track on WFMU. And I’m okay with that. It’s the Innerweb 2.0, right?

Check them out!

Postscript, two weeks later: E and a G too, E and a G, Y.

Post-postscript, a few minutes later: Fine, okay, I did some research. Pujol refers to Daniel Pujol. He’s hedging his musical bets by pursuing a graduate degree in Global Affairs. Smart man.

Lock Down This Rock!! – 01 – Ceremony/Zoo

Hey everyone, it’s the debut of my new music review column!

Yes, yes, I know. It’s the same title I used for my Classic Hawaii 5-0 review column! I have a theory that it’s clever.

Here’s the tagline!:

I like music. I have a band. I’m gonna tell you all about it. 

 What I look for in rock: guitars, melody, guitars, energy, guitars, and guitars.

Here’s the review!:

Ceremony, “Zoo”

The last time I tried my hand at music criticism, I was dead broke and my career was in the shitter. Thankless does not begin to explain the experience. You get a stack of bands you have no interest in that you must write about, get paid at rates that Charles Dickens would have found appalling, and make so little that the tax damage at the end of the year actually may cost you more than if you wiled the days away eating chips and salsa and watching Columbo. Music (and movie) criticism was adding insult to injury.

So why would I want to even consider that horror show again?

Well, I like music.

Let me tell you about Ceremony.

I have a theory about punk rock. Actually, I might have a few. Anyway, there’s a big family tree, and modern bands descended from different branches. I had this thought when first listening to Zoo: “Man, I really like bands from the Wire arm of the Punk Family Tree, way better than the Ramones branch.”

You get loud, you get the herky jerky, you get the thoughtful fury. What’s not to like?

Getting back to Zoo: I like the tightly honed sound. Was surprised in a few spots, which is rare these days. In an era where many popular bands drink sleepy-time tea before practice, I appreciate their energy.

Songwriting is good, but a bit one dimensional. Or one worded. Listen – you’ll see what I mean.

All in all, a solid double. Exciting, but you wish that they’d got under the ball a bit and sent it out of the park.

Check ’em out!

Lock Down This Rock!! S4, E13!

An irregular review series of choice Hawaii 5-0 episodes

Air Cargo – Is This Any Way to Run a Paradise?
Essential-meter: 8/10

What does Steve McGarrett like more than getting whipped up into a storm of righteous indignation over a injustice? Getting worked up over TWO injustices. Ecoterrorism has come to the islands, and Steve gets to be angry at both vigilantes and industrialists. He has so much on his plate that he even is gracious enough to let Kono get a crack at a Very Important Speech.

Taking the identity of the Hawaiian God of war, the green crusader moves from “pranks” that win McGarrett’s begrudging respect, directly to a Dead Pool of rich people. Which McGarrett isn’t as thrilled about. Kahili leaves little tikis in gaudy gourds around to document his deeds. And in the end, it’s strongly implied that he immolates himself in the cane field (or spontaneous combustion?) like the buddhist monks protesting the Vietnam police action. Kono hurls the last tiki in the flames, because expressing ‘disgust’ is way out of his acting wheelhouse.

Awesome Moments:

  • McGarrett totally hits on an ornithologist that tells him that the feathers used on the tiki presents are from a super endangered bird with only 2 nests left. And having handed him this clue on a sliver platter, he does nothing with it!
  • Steve seemingly knows everyone on the island. When he walks into the natural history building, the director gives him a hearty welcome.
  • McGarrett is generally annoyed at hippies, and a running joke is that none of these pencil neck peacenicks could physically have pulled off these acts.
  • Man, them are some mighty fine posters.
  • You can further see McGarrett’s view of the ecological movement in a fake Kahili who wears a mu-mu, and turns himself in to “spread the word”. Get a load of this, Dano!