If we’re being pragmatic during this pandemic, I suppose the only thing we should ask the Jolly Old Elf for is good health. But as fans of live music, we sure do miss concerts.
Hey, at least we can still hunker down in our own private
Idaho bunker and curl up with a good book… about music. Jeff Tweedy has a new one out. Bob Mehr’s book about the Replacements (Trouble Boys) is top-notch. Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello, Debbie Harry, Chrissie Hynde, Chris Frantz (Talking Heads and Tom Tom Club), Bob Mould, Kim Gordon (Sonic Youth), John Doe (X), Kristin Hersh (Throwing Muses), Viv Albertine (The Slits), Kathy Valentine (Go-Gos)… they’ve all written their musical/life story. Patti Smith’s books aren’t really about music, but they’re great. I’ve read a metric ton (or is that tonne?) of these tomes, and the only one I wouldn’t recommend is Mark Lanegan’s Sing Backwards and Weep — unless you think you’d enjoy 400 pages of him describing the various and sundry ways he tried to score drugs and/or got dope-sick. (Spoiler alert: pants-pooping is involved… multiple times.)
‘Tis the season for year-end lists
Oh sure, any hipster worth his/her fedora/cutoff mom jeans can cite chapter and verse of the Pitchfork list. But what about the favorites of this august group, the music cognoscenti of Cincinnati? (Also known as “the people who used to get a weekly spam email from some Damian dude.”) Kudos to “This Week in Live Music” (remember that?) list member Dan “The Reds are going to win it all in 2021!” Lewis for getting the (base)ball rolling on favorite albums of annus horribilis that was 2020. The good news is that the music wasn’t as horribilis as the annus. (That’s not nearly as dirty as it sounds!) Dan’s list is below, along with one from Dan’s way cooler son Cullen, and Dan’s way lamer friend (c’est moi). Note: if you really want to go down the “best of” rabbit hole, the Album of the Year site features links to dozens of year-end lists from all the usual suspects*. If you’d prefer a very succinct summary instead of a labor-intensive litany, list member Kevin Sullivan has you covered:
*For an unusual suspect (a Finnish guy with a predilection for folk/Americana music) with a very good list, check out One Chord to Another – HT to list member Rico for tipping us off to this site, which also features a nice weekly playlist of new tunes.
If you’d like to weigh in with your own “favorites of 2020” list, send it my way via email and I’ll create a Google Doc with everyone’s choices.
Is it live or is it Memorex?
Live gigs are in short supply, but every artist and their brother (this means you, Jim Belushi) has hopped on the livestream bandwagon. Most are now paid-ticket gigs, and several have taken a page from the Ticketmaster “charge ’em as much as you can” playbook with “front row” seats (basically a better camera angle, and sometimes a chance to have an awkward Zoom group chat with the artist before or after the show). A few shows are fundraisers — like this Facebook show from The Connells (love them!) that raised money for the National Independent Venue Association and the staff at the legendary Cat’s Cradle club in North Carolina. Very few virtual gigs are completely free – so let’s give it up for the local band Wussy, whose members have done a brilliant livestream show (on Facebook) nearly every Friday night for nine friggin’ months, and rarely, if ever, mention their tip jar. Ditto for Rob Fetters and his 23 “Fetters is Cheap” shows. [BTW, my ol’ radio pal Dave Tellmann and I have interviewed Rob Fetters, Mark Messerly from Wussy, John Curley from the Afghan Whigs, Dan McCabe (MOTR, Woodward Theater) and many more local luminaries on our “97X Rumblings from the Big Bush” podcast. If you’ve got two “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” worth of time to kill (each episode is ~20 minutes) why not give it a spin?]
Now for the sad interlude
We’ve lost a lot of great artists this year – John Prine, Neil Peart, Little Richard, Bill Withers, Adam Schlesinger, et al. And now Rita Houston, the legendary DJ and music director for WFUV in New York, has passed away after a six year battle with cancer. She turned on so many folks to so many great artists over the years, championing emerging artists on her station. The music was an eclectic mix of songs — the common denominator was Rita’s impeccable taste.
“Rita was the very first person to play my music on the radio. The only reason that matters is that it’s so important for a young person to know that someone they look up to believes in them. For me, she was that person.”Brandi Carlile, in her Instagram tribute to Rita.
Let’s lighten things up
This Hater’s Guide to the Williams-Sonoma Catalog doesn’t have anything to do with music, but it’s hilarious, and we all could use a few more laughs.
This is about the only way I can tolerate traditional Xmas music:
Lou Barlow covering Kacey Musgraves (with choreography by Lou’s daughter) is super-sweet, but not in a hyperglycemic way like Grandma’s Christmas fudge.
And finally, this gem of a video comes courtesy of list member Rob Ervin, who describes it thusly:
The ascots, the flared pants, the hair, the smiles, the choreography, the synth, the SG, the Tele, the big padded amps, the P bass, the abandoned drum kit. Please watch this on a device that you can crank the hell up. It has changed my life. This is a spiritual experience.
Bethesda North is bursting at the seams with Covid patients, yet in the pharmacy we stay on our toes by playing this over and over and over. Actually, I’ve never been less popular with my co-workers since I discovered this song. They are weak and can not hang with the raw power of Crazy Horses.
Oh yeah, Mormons rock!
Putting a pretty bow on it
As Dickens wrote in A Christmas Carol, “2020 sucks! Hard!” (Wait, maybe that was some graffiti I saw on an overpass… I get those confused a lot.)
But 2021 will be better – or your money back!
All the best to you and yours during this holiday season, and best wishes for a fun 2021!
Dan “the Man” Lewis:
1-3 (cant choose my fave)
Waxahatchee – Saint Cloud
Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – Sideways to Italy
The Mavericks – En Espanol
4) Dehd Flower of Devotion (thanks for hipping me, Cullen)
5) Drive By Truckers The New OK
6) The James Hunter Six Whatever It Takes
7) Car Seat Head Rest Making a Door Less Open
8) Khruangbin Moedehai (love that guitar sound)
9) Nick Lowe Walkabout
10) The Ar-Kaics Ar-Kaics Volume 1
- Arlo McKinley Die Midwestern (Cincy Boy)
- FC Fontaines Hero (I didn’t think it was close to their last one)
- Kevin Morby Sundowner
- Fleet Foxes Love Can I Believe You and Sunblind
- Cut Worms Nobody Lives here Anymore
- Bob Dylan Rough and Rowdy (still has the lyric thing going on)
- Chris Stapleton Starting Over like You should probably leave
- Sturgill Simpson like both of the Bluegrass albums
- Dawes IT Didn’t Fix Me
- Westerman Confirmation
- Cameo Rolling Blackouts
- Nicole Atkins Captain
- Day Wave Starting again
Futurebirds Teamwork listed as my fave from 2019 but the full album wasn’t released until Feb 2020 so will list again. Give it a shot.
Cullen “Son of The Man” Lewis
1.) 2nd Grade – Hit to Hit (Favorite of the year, an incredible debut that reminds me of Guided by Voices, Teenage Fanclub etc.)
2.) Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – Sideways to New Italy
3.) Kiwi Jr. – Football Money (Another amazing debut – was independent but signed to Sub Pop after the success of this record. Pavement reincarnate)
4.) Dehd – Flower of Devotion
5.) The Strokes – The New Abnormal (An incredible return to form)
6.) Pinegrove – Marigold
7.) Pure X – Pure X
8.) Phoebe Bridgers – Punisher
9.) Touche Amore – Lament
10.) Nation of Language – Introduction, Presence
Honorable mentions: Waxahatchee – Saint Cloud, Jon Mckiel – Bobby Joe Hope, Perfume Genius – Set My Heart on Fire Immediately, Kelly Lee Owens – Inner Song, Tennis – Swimmer, Empty Country – Empty Country, The KIllers – Imploding the Mirage
- Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – Cars in Space (3 guitars that go from 0-60 MPH from beginning to end. Nothing better!)
- Dehd – Desire (Album opener of the year)
- Caribou – Home
- Kiwi Jr. – Murder in the Cathedral
- 2nd Grade – Velodrome
- Waxahatchee – Can’t Do Much
- Jeff Tweedy – Love is the King
- The 1975 – If You’re too Shy Let Me Know
- The KIllers – My Own Souls Warning
- Pure X – Middle America
Damian “Barely a Man” D.
- Waxahatchee – Saint Cloud
- Lucinda Williams – Good Souls, Better Angels
- 2nd Grade – Hit to Hit
- dehd – Flower of Devotion
- Pillow Queens – In Waiting (HT to list member Dave Purcell for this one)
- Kiwi Jr. – Kiwi Jr.
- Matt Berninger – Serpentine Prison
- Phoebe Bridgers – Punisher
- Deep Sea Diver – Impossible Weight
- Fenne Lily – Breach
- Bob Mould – Blue Hearts
- Frances Quinlan – Likewise
Honorable mention: Teddy Thompson – Heartbreaker Please, Sunshine Boys – Work and Love, Perfume Genius – Set My Heart on Fire Immediately, Beabadoobee – Fake Flowers, Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band- Letter to You, Jason Isbell – Reunions, DBT – both releases, X – Alphabetland, Pretenders – Hate for Sale, Chris Stapleton – Starting Over