Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Today was a Day for "Unreleased Demos & Instrumentals" by The Smiths

About 10 days back a handful of new demos and outtakes from The Smiths started circulating--the best copies seem to come from a gray market double-LP set that hit various record stores in the U.S. and Great Britain earlier in the month. Some of the demos have not been in wide circulation before this release. I am trying to track down the rumored connections to the Wikileaks document dump but haven't solved the case as of yet. I'll keep you posted.

Download this treasure trove of high-quality tunes for yourself here.

The Hand That Rocks The Cradle
Reel Around The Fountain
Rusholme Ruffians
The Queen Is Dead
Sheila Take A Bow
This Night Has Opened My Eyes
Untitled One (Marr Instrumental)
There Is A Light That Never Goes Out
Is It Really So Strange?
Frankly, Mr. Shankly
Shoplifters Of The World Unite (Reprise)
Girlfriend In A Coma
Death Of A Disco Dancer
Paint A Vulgar Picture
Untitled Two (Marr Instrumental)

Monday, December 27, 2010

My Favorite Albums of 2010

Last week I posted my list of Favorite Archival Albums of 2010. Today's list is comprised of albums of "new" material released during this calendar year. It wasn't really too hard to keep up with new releases in 2010, as streaming services like [for the first half of the year],, NPR's First Listen, and allow one to stream albums for free. As well, vinyl and CD prices are fairly low right now which allowed me to purchase a good amount of PVC and polycarbonate platters, respectively.

Anyway, let's get to the list. I have known my likely favorite album of the year since early summer, though the rest of the list has been in flux up to this morning. I was shooting for a top 15 list, but I couldn't make 'em all fit without cheating. Here is the list of my 16 favorite albums of 2010, along with some honorable mentions:

1) Janelle Monáe – The ArchAndroid (at and stream on grooveshark)

It was not really much of a competition for the number one slot. This was by far and away my favorite album of the year. This release is all over the map musically, with no song sounding the same as the one before it--funk, soul, Disneyesque interludes, tripped-out folk, paranoia-infused crooning, sharp electric guitar licks, wistful ballads, etc. Plus it has the added benefit of being a concept album set in a futuristic sci-fi world with an interlocking storyline of survival and rebellion. It is as if Ms. Monae intentionally set about the task of punching all your faithful blogger's buttons, both musically and lyrically. I hope she "keeps it weird" as her career moves forward and that she stays this ambitious.

2) Titus Andronicus: The Monitor (at and stream on grooveshark)

Angst --> Ambition --> New Jersey -->Indulgence -->Brilliance

3) Blitzen Trapper – Destroyer of the Void (at and stream on grooveshark)

Few albums were in more frequent rotation this summer than the 5th album by Portland's BT. Starting with the prog turn(s) in the opening track and on through the laid-back vibe of the remainder of the album, it was the perfect soundtrack to my June through August. I think I am probably in the minority on this album as I like it even better than 2009's Furr (and also 2007's Wild Mountain Nation). BT have a knack for getting away with some fairly schmaltzy lyrics at times (on par with early career Neil Young). Yet they somehow work. I am not sure how they pull it off. After the Gold Rush, mofos.

4) Ty Segall -- Melted (at and stream on grooveshark)

The Bay Area's one and only garage psych king. One of my great finds of the last year. I am now working my way backward through the Segall oeuvre. Don't make him carry the Jay Reatard (RIP) mantle--give him some breathing room.

5) The Soft Pack – The Soft Pack (at and stream on grooveshark)

Yes, there are Jonathan Richman, Velvets, and surf rock influences here, but I think the band gives us considerable value-added with the nifty songwriting and the churning arrangements. Play this loud, mofos.

6) Bee vs. Moth -- Acronyms (at

I reviewed this album (well, sorta reviewed it and linked to some of the album's tunes) a few months back.

7) Joanna Newsom – Have One on Me (at and stream disc 1 on grooveshark)

I gave this wonderful triple-vinyl album a lengthy review back on the 1st of May.

8) The Budos Band – III (at and stream on grooveshark)

The soundtrack to what you should be doing right now instead of reading my blog.

9) Roky Erickson with Okkervil River – True Love Cast Out All Evil (at and stream on grooveshark)

Look, I’m not one of those dudes who is at your local indie record store, flipping quickly through the crates of vinyl, wearing a Roky shirt, and muttering about creatures with atom brains; but I am a fan of Roky and glad he can surface again with this great artistic update. I am not a big fan of the Okkervil River production and some of the arrangements, but the albums rises above those shortcomings. Goodbye Sweet Dreams.

10) The Fall – Your Future Our Clutter (at and stream on grooveshark)

American translation: Get off my lawn. Get off my Goddamn lawn.

11) Of Montreal – False Priest (at and stream on grooveshark)

I know that this album is underwhelming to certain OM fans, but Side 1A of the double vinyl set contains the best LP side of pop songs of the year for me. Sides 1B, 2A, and 2B are each a nice spin as well. I look forward to seeing where OM go next. "I participated in all your protests / Supported your stupid little blog / Got a Bowflex / Wore colored contacts to match your dress."

12) Grinderman – Grinderman 2 (at and stream on grooveshark)

Keep on keepin' on, Mr. Cave. Weird to be following you into middle-age. Who woulda thunk it? Mofo is 53. I hit the big 4-0 next month. Listen to this album instead of reading Tom Wolfe's Jonathan Franzen's Freedom. And certainly don't do both at the same time, etc.

13) Various Artists -- Broken Hearts and Dirty Windows: Songs of John Prine (at and stream on grooveshark)

A tribute album to one of my very favorite songwriters. The album includes prime Prine covers by the likes of Bon Iver, Conor Oberst, My Morning Jacket, Josh Ritter, Lambchop, Justin Townes Earle, The Avett Brothers, Old Crow Medicine Show, Sara Watkins, Drive-By Truckers, Deer Tick, and Those Darlins. I am only a fan of about half of these artists, but the majesty of Prine's songwriting shines through on each and every respectful track.

14) Ted Leo And The Pharmacists -- The Brutalist Bricks (at and stream on grooveshark)

Contains my favorite opening line of an album this year: "When the café doors exploded, I reacted, too. Reacted to you, reacted to you.”

15) Maximum Balloon -- Maximum Balloon [tied](at and stream on grooveshark)

This is Dave Sitek's (from TV on the Radio) solo album. Lots of special help on here: David Byrne, Karen O, Kyp Malone, and Theophilus London. I am very ready for a new TVotR release. Signs point to 2011?

15) Midlake -- The Courage of Others [tied](at and stream on grooveshark)

Grap your flute, don your cloak, and meet me in the forest. Hurry up, we have little time.

Some honorable mentions, in no particular order:
•White Denim – Last Day of Summer
•King Sunny Adé – Bábá Mo Túndé
•Mulatu Astatke – Steps Ahead
•Merle Haggard – I Am What I Am
•Various Artists -- Twistable Turnable Man: A Musical Tribute to Shel Silverstein
•Willie Nelson – Country Music
•Harlem – Hippies
•Thee Oh Sees – Warm Slime
•Trampled by Turtles -- Palomino
•Justin Townes Earle – Harlem River Blues
•Magnetic Fields – Realism
•AfroCubism – Afrocubism
•Superchunk - Majesty Shredding
•Peter Rowan Bluegrass Band – Legacy
•Nels Cline Singers – Initiate
•Ray Wylie Hubbard -- A: Enlightenment B: Endarkenment (Hint: There Is No C)
•Arcade Fire – The Suburbs
•Marc Ribot -- Silent Movies
•Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings – I Learned The Hard Way
•Phosphorescent – Here’s to Taking it Easy
•Wolf Parade – Expo 86
•Alejandro Escovedo – Street Songs of Love
•The Steeldrivers - Reckless
•Bryan Ferry – Olympia
•Laurie Anderson - Homeland
•The Dead Weather – Sea of Cowards
•Orquestra De Tambores De Alagoas -- Bantus E Caetes
•The Black Keys – Brothers
•Mavis Staples – You are Not Alone
•Konono No. 1 -- Assume Crash Position
•Richard Thompson – Dream Attic
•Menomena - Mines

Friday, December 17, 2010

This Morning is a Morning for Willie Nelson singing "Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down"

My sincere advice is to listen to Willie's 2010 [and/or Uncle Tupelo's 1992, and/or Medeski, Martin & Wood's 2009] version of this traditional song to cleanse the awful 2010 Robert Plant version from your brain (in case you have been exposed):

Tonight is a Night for the Decemberists covering the Grateful Dead (Row Jimmy edition)

A couple of days back the Decemberists released this Dead cover as the B side of a vinyl 7″ single.

The Decemberists - Row Jimmy (Grateful Dead cover) by jp917

Sunday, December 12, 2010

My Favorite Archival Albums of 2010

Within the next 10 days or so, I'll make sure to post my Favorite Albums of 2010 list. I don't have it completed, though I have started to make some progress.

Today's list, however, is comprised of music that wasn't released for the first time in 2010. These albums contain recordings from many years or even many decades ago. It is an exciting time to be a fan of music from earlier time periods, as new archival releases on vinyl and CD have been coming out at a remarkable clip.

I spend increasing amounts of time "living in the past" with my musical choices, and in recent years I have explored three main (related) areas of interest [beyond the standard rock/c&w/jazz/bluegrass that I usually listen to]: 1)hard driving U.S. regional funk from the late 1960s and early 1970s; 2)Nigerian and other W. African rock/funk/fusion music from the late 1960s and early 1970s; and 3)traditional/modern psychedelic/fusion music from other corners of the globe--most recently this has concentrated on Peru, Colombia, Turkey, and India, with the music primarily from the late 1960s and the 1970s.

The following 15 archival releases were my favorite of 2010 (in no particular order):

•Various Artists – The Roots of Chicha 2: Psychedelic Cumbias From Peru (available on Roots of Chicha 2)

A truly wondrous second collection of the formative years of chicha in Peru from the late 1960s into the 1970s.
Read an excerpt from the liner notes on the Barbes Records website and stream the album for yourself. A musical cup of coffee--day or night.


•Various Artists – The World Ends: Afro Rock & Psychedelia in 1970s Nigeria (Parts 1 & 2) (available on Soundway Records Presents The World Ends Afro Rock And Psychedelia In 1970s Nigeria)

The Nigerian Civil War lasted from summer of 1967 to the beginning of 1970. How many people eventually died as a result of the conflict? 1 million? 2 million? More? This two-disc collection compiles some of the rock music that was created in the wake of the brutal civil war and the humanitarian emergency that followed. It is 32 tracks of hard-rocking psychedelic mish-mash as traditional forms of Nigerian music were incorporated into Western, late 1960s rock music (or was it the other way around). Simply fantastic. Read a bit more on the album and check out some tracks for yourself on the Soundway website.


•Various Artists – Turkish Freakout! Psych-Folk Singles 1969-1980(available on Turkish Freakout!)

A groovin' compilation of 7" singles originally issued primarily in the 1970s on various labels based out of Istanbul. This is a hypnotic and hard-driving mix of traditional Turkish instrumentation with influences coming from the Western rock and psych scenes of the late 1960s.


•Jimi Hendrix – Valleys of Neptune
(available on Valleys Of Neptune)

Perhaps you remember all of the hype about these "new" Hendrix tunes from back in March. A very fun listen all the way through. RIP Jimi.


•Bob Dylan – The Witmark Demos (The Bootleg Series, Vol. 9, 1962-1964)
(available on The Witmark Demos: 1962-1964 (The Bootleg Series Vol. 9))

While I have had these heavily-bootlegged demos on tape for 15 years and on CDR for nearly a decade, this comprehensive official release in Dylan's bootleg series has cleaner sound than what I had from my Dylan tape trading days. This is must-have for collectors and an interesting listen for even the casual Dylan fan.


•Various Artists – Good God! Born Again Funk
(available on Good God! Born Again Funk)

The second release of funk-tinged gospel music by the small label called Numero Group. I highly recommend putting this on fairly loud early on a Sunday morning, with hot cup of tea in hand. Has the Word ever been this funky?


•Various Artists – Brazilian Guitar Fuzz Bananas
(available on Brazilian Guitar Fuzz Bananas)

Tropicalia and beyond. I talked about this release back in July.


Various Artists – California Funk: Rare Funk 45’s from the Golden State
(available on California Funk)

Another in the incredible regional funk compilations put out by Jazzman/Now-Again. These tunes collected from the original 7" recordings, are from the local early 1970s funk scenes in the Bay Area and Los Angeles. I would also recommend checking out the Texas, Carolina, Florida, and Midwest comps as well, mofos.


•Various Artists -- The Afrosound of Colombia Vol. 1
(available here on The Afrosound of Colombia Vol. 1)

Since travelling to Colombia in the early summer, I have been exploring the country's musical past and present. This has been a gem of a find, as it contains a cornucopia of tracks: Salsa, Descarga, Funk, Boogaloo, Tropical, Chicha, Bomba, Cumbia, and Afro-Beat.


•Various Artists -- Palenque Palenque: Champeta Criolla & Afro Roots in Colombia, 1975-91
(available on Palenque Palenque: Champeta Criolla & Afro)

More great music and "lost" recordings from Soundway. If music from northern Colombia fails to get you moving, then you have a problem. You can stream a couple of tunes and read a bit more about this release on the label's website here.


•Various Artists -- Afro-Beat Airways: West African Shockwaves, Ghana & Togo, 1972-1979
(available on Afro-Beat Airways)

If you dig the sound of Fela Kuti and the classic Afro-pop vibe, do I have an album for you. This collection from the folks at Analog Africa explores musical nuggets from Ghana and Togo. It is a very fun listen. Read more here.


•Various Artists -- Nigeria Afrobeat Special: The New Explosive Sound in 1970s Nigeria
(available on Nigeria Afrobeat Special: The New Explosive Sound in 1970s Nigeria)

More great 1970s Nigerian music from Soundway. We have had something like 12 Nigerian music collections from this time period and there isn't much overlap. It was a fertile time, mofos. Thankfully it is seeing the light of day outside of Nairobi record stores. More information and some MP3's on the label website here.


•Various Artists -- Nigeria Special 2: Modern Highlife 1970-6
(available on Nigeria Special 2: Modern Highlife 1970-6)

Superb compilation. I am still totally enthralled with this one as I only recently picked it up. Check out more information and some MP3's here. Soundway delivers again (make sure to listen to the original Nigeria Special compilation from a few years back.)


•Various Artists -- Psych Funk Sa-Re-Ga! Psychedelic Funk in India 1970-1983
(available on Psych Funk:Sa- Re Ga !)

This just came out last week and I have only listened to it a few times. Wow, it is a fun listen. The world needs more psych rock compilations from India! More info and some MP3's here.


•Rikki Ililonga & Musi-O-Tunya -- Dark Sunrise (1970s Rock from Zambia)
(available at Dark Sunrise)

I just picked up this compilation of the king of rock music from Zambia. So, so good. Listen to a track for yourself and read more here.


Viva globalization, mofos. We live in an amazing time of abundance with all sorts of dedicated labels that are collecting incredible music from decades past and releasing it. It is a glorious time to be a amateur musicologist. I'll be back with the list of my favorite new music from 2010 by the end of the year...