Things we like -- end of year edition (for Phil Overeem)
1) Chris Butler, Easy Life. A masterpiece by the ex-Tin Huey/Waitresses obscuro pop genius. It's a concept album about the 1970 National Guard shooting of four Kent State University students (Butler was there) and a Quadrophenia-esque evocation of youth, from the perspective of maturity.
2) Unconscious Collective, Pleistocene Moon. The magnum opus of the free jazz/hardcore punk Gonzalez brothers (Yells At Eels, Akkolyte), this trio with terrifying guitarist Gregg Prickett puts all your food on one plate, with thunderous whirlwind jams that cover bases from prog to Ayler. Beautifully packaged with artwork by photog Ginger Berry. Also: seeing them perform this music live in a Dallas taqueria where the owner has a rock cover band that plays every Saturday, then they have punk/noise shows.
3) Beck, Morning Phase. Sure, it's kind of Sea Change, Vol. 2, and the signifier that surprised me was the Moody Blues, but this is some very centering music that got me through a period when I really needed it.
4) St. Vincent, S/T. Doesn't everybody love this? Gorgeous melodic songcraft meets killer beats meets sick guitar. Annie Clark is the new Prince.
5) Neil Young, A Letter Home. Before he flipped even further out and made a record with an orchestra, Old Neil cut this covers album in a recording booth in Jack White's record store. Got me thinking about Gordon Lightfoot in a positive way (this has been my folk-binge year; lots of Joni Mitchell and Nick Drake), and the messages to his mom are nice.
6) Wire Nest, S/T. Two once-and-future members of Fort Worth-Austin dub juggernaut Sub Oslo making mind-movie soundtracks that are a little bit dub, a little bit ambient, and totally hypnotic. Also: seeing a reunited Sub Oslo share a Lola's bill with Pinkish Black -- two of the best bands ever to come out of my city, playing for their family of friends.
7) The Relatives live at Fred's. Dallas gospel-soul outfit from the '70s evoked Norman Whitfield "psychedelic"-era Temptations and the first Funkadelic LP. And made 50 or 60 white people dance on their knees. Killer jam: "What's Wrong With America" from 2013's The Electric Word, which Jon Teague says "must be a very long song."
8) Ian McLagan at the Kessler. The man whose Wurlitzer piano and B-3 organ defined the sound of two of my favorite bands of all ti-i-ime (Small Faces, Faces) was also an affecting singer, engaging raconteur, and a sweet man. Hearing him play favorites from Those Two Bands and his last 20 years as an Austinite (including his swan song United States) to a full house from right in front of the stage at DFW's best listening room was a rare treat I'll cherish, especially in light of his sudden death a couple of months later. We've reached the age where you can never take another chance for granted.
9) Living Colour at the Kessler. A band of virtuosi that know how to entertain, and still have a lot to say. Their classic material sadly remains topical, and one wonders how the year of Mike Brown and Eric Garner will affect their album-in-progress Shade.
10) Fripp and Eno, Live In Paris 28.05.1975 and Robert Wyatt, Different Every Time. Music's a deep well, and this year I found myself going back and investigating stuff from my misspent yoof that I was too busy geeking out on the Who and Frank Zappa to attend to. The man who originally inspired me to play got me started by sharing some of Robert Fripp's Soundscapes, and another buddy fueled the fire with King Crimson's 21st Century King Crimson box. The Paris concert is a realization, utilizing the original loops and good audience recordings, of Fripp and Eno's equivalent to Stravinsky's Rite of Spring premiere. And Different Every Time is the career-spanning retrospective of the ex-Soft Machine political jazz rock eminence, who announced this year that he was through making music. So there.