Saturday, December 30, 2006

2006 Music In Review - Part 2

Continuing my mini retrospective of favorite tunes this year:

sm Lightning Blue Eyes – Secret Machines, Ten Silver Drops. These young guys from Texas have a sound that is both totally unique and reminiscent of 70's hard rock, again, a little Floyd, 80’s industrial rock, even some hard rock stomping. I love the whole album, but this track and I Hate Pretending are outstanding. I read a lot of reviews of this one, and many cried the sophomore blues in comparison to their debut full length record Now Here Is Nowhere. I disagree. This one is better.

neko Lion's Jaws – Neko Case, Fox Confessor Brings the Flood. This disc is on most people’s best of lists, and rightly so. The songwriting is unbelievable, and Neko just has a stone cold gorgeous voice. As a lead singer in the New Pornographers, her sparkling voice doesn't have the same impact as on her solo records. There seems to be a little more of a twang, and as a result, the music soars. It’s tough to pick a favorite track, but I keep coming back to this one, Star Witness, and Maybe Sparrow. The whole disc is wonderful.

ew Tea and Theatre – The Who, Endless Wire. The last time I bought a new Who album (new music, not reissues) was 24 years ago, I was in college and the Who were riding on fumes. I honestly never thought I'd see another batch of new Who tunes. Endless Wire has moments of brilliance interspersed with some uneven, maybe overambitious music, but as a whole it’s growing on me. There's bits of Who's Next, Quadrophenia, Who Are You and even the pre-Tommy singles days woven into the music, which is at times grounding, and at other times too derivative. Tea and Theatre is nothing like anything that has come before from Pete and Roger. I first heard it performed live in Chicago in September, as Pete and Roger took the stage in a quiet, poignant acoustic moment to end the show. It was touching, and the song is equally moving on the disc.

gs Corvette - Golden Smog, Another Fine Day. I'm a big fan of Wilco and the Jayhawks. It's been eight years since the last Golden Smog record, Weird Tales. A supergroup combining Jeff Tweedy from Wilco, Gary Louris and Marc Perlman from the Jayhawks, and Dan Murphy from Soul Asylum. I get the feeling that Golden Smog is a diversion for the unofficial Smog leaders Tweedy and Louris, a way to explore different song styles and make music without the scrutiny they get from fans and critics when writing for their regular bands. This record has much less of a Tweedy influence than Weird Tales, and has loads of 60's and 70's pop rock influences.

potion Modern Times- The Black Keys, Magic Potion. If I told you the best blues music right now is being recorded by two white guys in their basement in Akron, you'd probably think I was nuts. Well folks, it's true. Heavy riffs, driving percussion and the ghosts of the Delta bluesmen, cut and recorded in very few takes, in a raw, primal manner. This is their fourth, and best record so far. A two-man band that makes a hell of a lot of noise, they are not a cheap imitation of the White Stripes. These guys are for real.

bdmt Nettie Moore - Bob Dylan - Modern Times. And then there's Dylan. Completing a trilogy of astonishing albums that started with 1997's Time Out of Mind, Modern Times is quite an achievement. A synthesis of many different musical styles that are distinctly American, the record becomes richer with each listen. There was a brief backlash shortly after it's release, with critics asserting plagiarism, but those accusations miss the point entirely. Dylan has always drawn heavily from music history and folklore. He's not stealing from the past, he'e embracing it, making it a part of his own musical legacy. If his Theme Time Radio Hour is any indication, Dylan's vast knowledge of American music should be treasured. What you hear in Modern Times is a blend of folk, blues, country, early rock and roll, a bit of jazz, crooning 1940's popular song, to name but a few, performed through the weary soul of a 65 -year old man. Netty Moore is a masterpiece. With a chorus taken from a 19th century folk song and lines borrowed from W.C. Handy, it's a heartbreaking wonder. Dylan was quoted this year as saying "I feel like I'm in my middle period. I have no plans of retiring." To me, that has to be the best music news of 2006.

Also worth noting, All This Time by the Heartless Bastards, and Firecracker, by the Wailin' Jennys, but I've run out of time for now. See you all next year. Drink responsibly and drive safely.



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