About Us


There is a good chance you found us accidentally by using the word “taint” in your search (If you found us on purpose, you deserve our accolades). Of course we don’t know what you were looking for, but you stumbled on a damn cool project. Look around; let us help send you on a musical journey. Here you will find a number of album reviews from the strange and extreme to the tame and mainstream. Our reviewers are a bunch of obsessive miscreants. Most of us are avid music collectors and have been involved in the music world for decades. A couple of us have been in or are still in bands.

There are no rules on Tickle Your Taint Blog. Our reviewers might make you laugh, or piss you off; both results are legitimate. One reviewer might write a glowing review of an album another might tear it apart. We may end up adopting a single review system, such as five stars, or each reviewer may use his own or none at all. We may have a new review every week or we could end up with one every six months. This blog exists as a social experiment to build community among a diverse group of music maniacs – our reviewers and hopefully you. Pull down your knickers, lube up and join us in tickling yours and our taints.

If you are in a band, have released a physical (rather than an MP3) CD or record, and would like us to review your efforts, contact us at tickleyourtaint@yahoo.com

Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 Top Ten (and Then Some) Music Obsessions


The taint ticklers are music addicts, seeking out both old and new music. In what follows, you will find our end of the year lists of music-related obsessions for 2012.        


Anita Papsmear

Top 21 Musical Smears of 2012.

It is time once again for that annual exam known as Anita’s Top 21 Musical Smears of 2012. This year’s indie music whirlwind blew through my fallopian tubes faster than a chunk of bloody prime rib during a blue-light special at zombiefest.

Let’s just jump right into the list:

1. Divine Fits, A Thing Called Divine Fits (Merge, 2012).
Yes, I know, it is not the coolest move to name an indie super group’s CD the “Best of 2012,” but these guys threw down some of the most infectious big beats of the year. Overall, the tunes are so stellar that I can easily forgive a couple of the tracks that don’t provide the same impact as “The Salton Sea,” “For Your Heart,” and “Would That Not Be Nice.” I can’t get enough of this disc. Note: play it loud on some really good speakers!

The rest of my favorite CDs are listed in no particular order—I love them all and they have all endured rigorous listening, which has earned them the coveted “5 out of 5 Smears” rating. Before you get to the list, I would like to take this opportunity to wish you lil’ taint readers peace, love, happiness, and abundance in 2013! Benevolently yours in music and good gynecological health—happy smearing,
Anita

2. Beach House, Bloom (Sub Pop, 2012).
Sigh…they did it again!

3. Mark Lanegan Band, Blues Funeral (4AD, 2012).
The man they call Mark Lanegan can do no wrong, and in 2012 he made another near perfect CD.

4. School of Seven Bells, Ghostory (Vagrant, 2012).
From dreamy to dance-y, this disc delivers. Check out “Lafaye” and “Scavenger.”

5. The XX, Coexist (Young Turks, 2012).
This is a great make-out CD. Just sayin’….

6. Wintersleep, Hello Hum (Roll Call, 2012).
I loved their 2010 New Inheritors as well. This is Wintersleep’s fifth release and it finds them providing the same great songwriting and humable melodies that charmed me out of my pants the first time I heard them. Singer Paul Murphy’s voice is so pure and beautiful it gives me uterine chills.

7. Delta Spirit, Delta Spirit (Rounder, 2012).
Another great release from this band from the land that they call San Diego. By now they are a musical staple on most indie rock plates. On their 2012 self-titled release their songwriting has reached a new level. There are some perfect pop-rock songs on this CD—most notably, “Tellin’ The Mind” and “California.”

8. The Heavy, The Glorious Dead (Counter, 2012).
These guys had a huge amount of pressure to top 2009’s The House That Dirt Built, which is a perfect album and spawned the mega-huge single, “How You Like Me Now.”  I think they pulled it off. If The Glorious Dead is not a better CD, it is at least equal to previous album. I don’t think there is a stinker among the ten tracks. I also have a bit of a smeary crush on singer, Kelvin Swaby.

9. Band of Skulls, Sweet Sour (Vagrant, 2012).
Band of Skulls hailing from Southhampton, England. Sweet Sour is an awesome sophomore release. They haven’t let me down yet. I can hardly wait for their junior year.

10. Shearwater, Animal Joy (Sub Pop, 2012).
This CD is filled with beautiful songs—absolutely beautiful, amazing songs. It is my unofficial #2 on the list (and I am not referring to feces).

11. Twin Shadow, Confess (4AD, 2012).
They say 2012 was the year for resolving our past lives. That statement holds true listening to Twin Shadow’s Confess. Eleven divinely inspired 80’s dance gems. Me like-y! Me like-y a lot!

12. Citizens!, Here We Are (Import, 2012).
This is a fun and mostly upbeat, quirky album. It is something you would expect from a band that intentionally includes an exclamation point in their name. What a refreshing vinegar and water surprise. Welcome to America, Citizens!

13. Tame Ipala, Lonerism (Modular, 2012).
A great release—downright groovy.

14. Rodriguez, Searching For Sugar Man (Light In The Attic, 2012).
As politically relevant today as when the songs were first written, this soundtrack is an amazing collection from a man that should have been as big as Dylan. Lyrical masterpieces wrapped in sweet, catchy melodies. This is a must have CD for every collection.

15. Crocodiles, Endless Flowers (French Kiss, 2012).
Awesome gothic confections! Oh my! “Hung Up On A Flower,” “Sunday,” and “Surfing With Lucifer”—yummy!

16. DeVotchka, Live With the Denver Symphony (Cicero, 2012).
Not new material, but classics remade with lovely orchestration. It’s easy. Easy like Sunday morning.

17. King Tuff, King Tuff (Sub Pop, 2012).
King Tuff is a one-man musical wonder otherwise known as Kyle Thomas. He proves himself a very capable tour guide through a musically varied world with each track capturing a fresh homemade sound.

18. Liars, WIXIW (Mute, 2012).
From atmospheric pleasures like “Octagon,” to a cool dance-floor ditty “Bump,” there is no doubt that this disc will end up on many “Best Of” lists in 2012.

19. Yeasayer, Fragrant World (Secretly Canadian, 2012).
I love this band! Light one up and press play!

20. Cat Power, Sun (Matador, 2012).
Lovely disc. The fiber, if you will, in a gentle movement.

21. Diamond Rugs, Diamond Rugs (12th Street, 2012).
A super group comprised of Deer Tick’s John McCauley and Robbie Crowell, Black Lips’ Ian Saint Pe, Los Lobos’ Steve Berlin, Dead Confederate’s Hardy Morris, and Six Finger Satellite’s Bryan Defresne. That’s a mouthful! They bring it on this CD with a mix of varied musical influences. Their different musical styles have woven songs that seem to have already stood the test of time. It’s great fun.

Extra good things for 2012:

Best Compilation:  MOJO Magazine’s Power, Corruption & Lies’ Covered: A Tribute To New Order

Best Eps of 2012: 
Dum Dum Girls, End of Daze (Sup Pop, 2012)
How To Destroy Angels, An Omen (Interscope, 2012)

Honorable Mentions:
Jaill, Traps (2012)
Jack White, Blunderbuss (2012)
Richard Hawley, Standing At the Edge of the Sky (2012)
Tanlines, Mixed Emotions (2012)


Class Warrior

Warning: Much of this represents my attempt to get a handle on all the metal I missed in the 1980s. I listened to a ton of the stuff—literally hundreds of albums—especially in the first half of this year. When you expose yourself to a decade’s worth of metal (and the current bands directly influenced by this period) in that short of a time span, much of it is bound to coalesce into an indistinguishable long-haired mass of denim and leather. That is exactly what happened. Most of it was good, some of it sucked, and a few rose above the rest, either because of their awesomeness or their ability to stick in my head for some other reason. There is a loose theme to the metal I liked—a careful reading will uncover it. Here they are, along with whatever else I enjoyed this year.

Terrible Feelings, Shadows (2012).
I love their singles from 2011. I awaited this album eagerly. Unfortunately, it is not as good as their seven inches, but it still rocks. There is enough variety here to keep punk rock fans interested all the way through the album. They toured the United States twice this past year, but each and every show was several hundred miles away from me. An unforgivable offense!

Blood Ceremony, Living with the Ancients (2011).
I listened to this album on the advice of Null, who included it in his 2011 year-end list. This album rules! Doom metal with awesome wicked female vocals, a flute, and keyboards! The occult-themed lyrics are wonderful. All you need is one look at the picture below (found on their Facebook site) to tell you whether you will like this album or not:



Masshysteri, Masshysteri (2010).
It took me a while to get into this album—two years, in fact—but once I did, I really rocked out. Do you like X? That’s the sort of thing these Swedes were going for—dual male/female harmonies, un-distorted guitars strumming both full and power chords, and mid-tempo songs with an emphasis on melody. I suppose the fact that it’s all sung in Swedish is important to mention. A funny thing I noticed: I don’t care which language a punk band uses, but I only like metal bands that use English lyrics. I am unsure why I feel this way. Does this make me a metal elitist?

Metal Inquisitor, Unconditional Absolution (2010).
This German band rocks! Imagine a mix of late Bon Scott-era AC/DC, Judas Priest circa 1984, and...uh...some other heavy metal bands, and there you go! On their previous album they mixed in some U.S. thrash metal, but that’s mostly (and thankfully) gone from here. I associate this album with painting my deck. I slapped on some metal brown and heavy white! Air guitar spatters are everywhere!

Iron Maiden, Seventh Son of a Seventh Son (1988).
Prior to 2012, I had given this album only a few casual listens. When Maiden announced earlier this year that they were touring with a Seventh Son-inspired set, I threw on the album. Very quickly I realized that it was a genius effort. I declare Seventh Son to be Maiden’s finest album. These are the songs that I have listened to the most this year—I probably listened to it more than all other music combined! Do I really need to describe this record to you? Odds are very high that a reader of this blog has heard it already. If not, you know what to do!

This album makes me think of all the Iron Maiden blacklight posters on Kloghole’s man-cave walls.

Iron Angel, Hellish Crossfire (1985).
Quite clearly this band was young. I would be surprised if the case were otherwise. What we have here is some hard rockin’ traditional German metal with Satanic/evil lyrics cranked up to eleven. How can you go wrong with song titles like “Sinner 666,” “Black Mass,” and “Wife of the Devil?” It gets old pretty quickly, but the songs apparently are memorable enough that I put it on my end-of-year list!

Manowar, Hail to England (1984).
So cheesy, yet so enjoyable! My favorite song is the last one—“Bridge of Death.” “Satan, don’t forsake me!” You probably know already if you like this or not—just thought I would re-introduce it to your consciousness. It makes me think of trudging through the frozen snow on the way to the bus stop earlier this year. The fires of Hell were keeping my blackened essence warm.

Running Wild, Gates to Purgatory (1984).
I heard a little rumor that one or more reviewers are planning to tackle this record, so I won’t say much. This is a great album, though. It has connected two disconnected parts of my life—Satan worship and a desire for revolution. I now have a new expression for this—Liberation Satanism! “How long do you want to be the wictim (sic) of state power and force / Stand up and struggle for freedom and be Lucifer’s friend.” Haha, “wictim.” This is better than their early pirate metal albums, which are quite good themselves. The title of the first one—Under Jolly Roger—once caused me to leave a university meeting because I was experiencing uncontrollable laughter.

“But there is someone, a fallen angel, and he teaches us to say NO!”

Taist of Iron, Resurrection (1984).
These folks were a kinda mediocre metal band from Tacoma, Washington, with one exception: their amazing vocalist! At times she seems to be channeling Aretha Franklin (!) with her expressive, gravelly voice. Track down this album and tell me I’m wrong. Lyrics (no surprise!) feature occult and satanic themes, which I eat up by the sacrificial altarfull. Worst song name: an instrumental they decided to call “Metal Taco.”

The Dicks, Kill From the Heart (1983).
What are you waiting for? This record just got reissued this year! Go fucking buy it! This is the second best punk rock album of the 1980s. You cannot go wrong with this, unless you are a robot. Rarely has such raw musical anger been unleashed on the world. CD comes with bonus Dicks Hate the Police seven inch from 1980, which is even better than Kill From the Heart.


Dave:




Two thousand twelve has not been a very active year for me in terms of music. I’ve just had bigger fish to fry, but there are some things I thought I’d throw out there that I’ve really enjoyed that might have flown under the radar.

Irepress, Soul Eye Sea I (2009).
I’ve been listening to this record for a couple years now, but I think this band is a diamond in the rough if there ever was one as far as progressive post-rock is concerned. I’ll be reviewing this record very soon.

Ix, The Deoming Process (2012).
This is a local progressive post-hardcore band from Portland, Oregon that is doing some really interesting stuff. They are working with musical progressions reminiscent of King Crimson and filter them through the Northwest dissonant sludge filter of the nineties. If you like any of the Amphetamine Reptile bands, look these guys up on www.bandcamp.com.

NovaShroud, Matter of Mind (2012).
I worked with these guys on mastering this record and think it is a really neat listen. They mix musically mature, intricate acoustic guitar compositions with modern rock/metal to come up with a really cool fusion album. You can also download this record at www.bandcamp.com.

Skeleton Key, Gravity Is the Enemy (2012).
These guys just write really solid, interesting rock tunes that are hinged on solid melodies and a very creative focus on rhythm structures created by the interplay of instruments with a wild alternative percussion setup.

Unsane, Wreck (2012).
This sort of stuff lit the spark that got me into playing music initially—big driving power chord riffs that drive things along relentlessly with raw power and when the slide or harmonica come in I can feel the workin’ man’s fire start to rage.


Dismal:

Cool Music from 2012

O’Death, Outside (2011).
Granted it’s an album from 2011, but I just found out about these New Jersey dark country folk punks and totally dig the fuck out of them. If I can get off my ass I’ll do a review of them. Listen to the album and fall in love with it.

Atari Teenage Riot, The Future of War (2002, remastered 2012).
This album was remastered this year. I have no idea if it’s better than the original. I just love the sheer chaotic Atari and Star Wars-themed hardcore electro-grind noise insanity of this band, and the remaster gave me an excuse to put this on a list. One of my favorite bands ever. Total coverage.

Rome, Fester (2012).
This mini-album is a preview of the upcoming Hell Money. Rome is one of the best neo-folk bands around. It’s mastermind Jerome Reuter is a fucking genius and a beast of songwriter. If you like Nick Cave, get on this. If you want a soundtrack for your depression, exile, revolution, and/or existential dilemmas, Rome’s got you covered.

Cult of Youth, Love Will Prevail (2012).
Sean Ragon and company have been killing it with their no-wave/post punk/spaghetti western-influenced brand of neo-folk. Do yourself a favor and check this and their self-titled debut out.

Wolfbrigade, Damned (2012).
This album is a triumphant return for one of Sweden’s best råpunk and d-takt bands. If you like to rock give it a listen. If you love punk get it. If you love metal get it. If you have a pulse and want to bang your head, listen to Wolfbrigade.

Propagandhi, Failed States (2012).
These dudes get better with age. This album is the proof.

Acephalix, Deathless Master (2012).
This is the second full-length outing from San Francisco’s masters of Death Crust. Killer.

Graveyard, Lights Out (2012).
Sweden’s devil-loving 70s doom throwbacks return with their third killer album. It’s a move away from their overt love of Lucifer and into a stark political landscape, but it’s healthy and they nail it down. “Ain’t no light in my tunnel, but the gold tooth in the devil’s smile.”

Enslaved, Riitiir (2012).
This album is the next chapter in their ever-evolving blackened esoteric Viking prog metal. Enslaved continues to be one of the more interesting and forward-thinking metal bands. This is the band Tool prays to be.

Wintersun, Time I (2012).
I have yet to listen to this, but it makes my list because it is a new album by Finland’s crown jewel of melodic death and power metal.

Honorable mention:
Russian hooligans extraordinaire Leningrad had a killer new album, full of their trademark drunkness, violence, and intolerance of all things Western. While I can’t back their ideology, I do love their drunk sneer and horn section. Unrelated news: Criterion rereleased Aki Kaurismäki’s Leningrad Cowboys movies back in late 2011, which are the best musical satires of the Cold War ever. Greatest cover band ever.


Five-Inch Taint

2012 has been a great year for me musically. I spent the first half of it treading the Triangle of North Carolina in search of music, while the second half was spent searching the Salt city for shows. Both places, while certainly not the greatest locations to live, certainly have to be commended for the music that they are able to bring in. In total I was able to see 45 different shows, 1 festival, and over 150 different bands (I even was able to see some bands twice…fuck yes Iron Maiden). All of this was made possible due to the joy that is student loans—making my life today fantastic, at the small expense of making me miserable in the future! According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, college tuition and fees are up 559 percent of their 1985 cost and state spending on education is down—education, that damn discretionary spending part of the state budget. This means that there are more loans available for slackers like me to stay in school as long as possible and I’m obviously reaping all the benefits. Who said monopoly-finance capitalism supported by neoliberal policies was a bad thing?

Anyway, North Carolina and Utah have offered me very different concert going experiences that span my diverse musical instruments. The best shows in North Carolina were definitely of the alt-country/country/indie variety. Shortly after the New Year, while housesitting in Asheville, I was fortunate enough to see the great Fred Eaglesmith. Yes, our loud-mouthed neighbor from American Jr., made the trek to his not so kindred brethren down south. The music was great but the banter was even better. Throughout the set the audience was making requests much the chagrin of Mr. Eaglesmith. At one point, he stopped playing and told the audience to “shut the fuck up!” He then went on to explain that he spent a great deal of time crafting this set list—which he reminded us was his job—and he wasn’t going to change it to satisfy the desires of the crowd. This was truly a highlight of the year as it renewed my hope in musicians who chose to do this for the craft of making music and entertaining and not for pacifying some of the dolts in attendance. Also, his invective wit, sprinkled throughout the show, added a great tension. “You know, what you folks call socialism down here, up in Canada, we call that sharing,” he said in between songs about the tough life of the rural Canadian. His uncompromising attitude, vicious tongue, and excellent musicianship made that a night to remember. The second great show in North Carolina was Horse Feathers at Local 506 in Carrboro. This was the perfect venue to see them—small, intimate, and no frills. Their melodic singing filled the room, mixing with their more orchestral style of music, intoxicating all who were in attendance. It was one of those shows that you never wanted to end but that ended at the perfect time.

A few months later, I arrived in Salt Lake Shitty to a veritable cornucopia of metal, hardcore, and good ol’ punk rock. All of these were necessary as the Mormonism of this truly depraved state was suffocating me. There were three shows that really stuck out to me: Japandroids, Red Fang/Black Tusk, and NOFX. Japandroids, despite their name, are not droids from Japan but rather two Canadian gents who rock the fuck out on the guitar and drums. Yes, this type of duo is well-worn territory in indie rock, but they have, between them, enough energy to fill up a room ten times the size of the venue they played. Red Fang and Black Tusk on one billing? Are you fucking kidding me? Am I in taint-tickling heaven? Modern metal at its finest was on display that night as Black Tusk riled up the crowd with their vicious thrashy riffs while Red Fang further stirred us up with their more throw-back, stoner style. I tried to stay out of the mosh-pit—which I am beginning to realize is a young man’s game—but still got fairly well beaten by people with very little regard for their body or anyone else’s for that matter. Finally, NOFX (just their performance, not the rest of the show…see end of year grievances) rocked the fuck out of Salt Lake. They opened their show with a hearty: “If you’re a Mormon, you’re an asshole,” which prompted 20 or 30 people to leave the show. I knew it was going to be a good night. As I stood on the fringes (again) singing along to every song I saw the kids with a good-sized mosh pit going on all night. You have to hand it to the citizens of Salt Lake Shitty they know how to have a good time at the shows.

Now, the year wasn’t all fun and games at the concerts. There were also a lot of solid records released this year of which I’ll list five of my favorites:

5. Dum Dum Girls, End of Daze (Sub Pop! Records, 2012).
This record was one of the finest of the year. It is pop-indie at its darkest (and, therefore, best). A 5-song EP filled with lo-fi ballads provides the panoramic setting for their melancholic lyrics of death, remorse, and mourning. 

4. Cross Stitched Eyes, Decomposition (Alternative Tentacles, 2012).
If Rudimentary Peni and Killing Joke had a massive orgy they would give birth to this band. Seriously, these guys rock and represent some of the best punk rock of today.

3. The Sword, Apocryphon (Razor & Tie, 2012).
If you don’t like this album, then fuck you. Their throwback stylings are hooky as fuck and a joy to listen to. Many a mornings on my way to the office were spent listening to this album.

2. Opposition Rising, Aftermathematics (Opposition Records, 2012).
This band represents the latest and greatest in Boston hardcore. Their 10 song LP is furious and in your face replete with anti-capitalist, anti-state, and anti-authority goodness. Listening to them will make you want to beat the shit out of rich people and band together to help the poor.

1. Cannibal Corpse, Torture (Metal Blade records, 2012).
Torture is, by far, the greatest album of the year. More brutal, more technical, more awesome than any album they’ve ever released, Torture represents all that is good in death metal without any of the pretension or hang ups of the genre. George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher has an incredible vocal range, which matches the amazing musicianship of the band. I have listened to this album well over a hundred times this year and still cannot get enough of it.


Jimmy (Explosive Diarrhea) B.

Shows: I didn’t attend a lot of shows in 2012, but I saw three of the best concerts I have ever experienced.

1. Blue Oyster Cult, Marion County Fair. I love BOC and had wanted to see them live for a long time. My wife and daughter attended with me, and we were part of a small but dedicated audience. Everyone talks about how rabid Rush fans are. I believe BOC fans are equally as dedicated. It was a real pleasure and honor to watch a great rock band with these great fans.

2. Iron Maiden, Auburn, WA. I took my daughter to the Seattle area to pay homage to Bruce and the boys. I usually get bored at large stadium shows, but this one was fucking awesome. It was even more special because Teenage “Explosive Diarrhea” had a great time.
3. Russian Circles and So I Watch You from Afar (SIWYFA), Doug Fir (or Furless Doug as one of my buddies calls it), Portland, OR. I have seen Russian Circles several times, and they always put on a good show. It was the opener SIWYFA that stole the show. I was already familiar with them, but I was ill prepared for their stage presence. They have it all: prog. moments, a post rock feel, amazing musicianship, and a love of performing that cannot be faked.
Records: 2012 was a mixed bag of new obsessions. I seem to get more eclectic as I get older. In August, I visited my sister who gave me a box of records one of her old roommates left behind; it was full of jazz and rock. Several of these items make the list below. Although the list is numbered, the selections are in alphabetic order.

1. Bob Dylan, Desire (1976).

I have never been a big Dylan fan, but this record has changed my mind. The song “Hurricane” caught my attention immediately and now ranks as my favorite Dylan song.

2. Bill Withers.

I found Bill in the box of goodies from my sister. And I had to ask myself, “How the hell did I get to middle age without knowing about Bill Withers?” We all know his cheese-ball song “Stand By Me,” which is an okay song. But, you must check out “Ain’t No Sunshine.” If you decide to experiment with Soul music, check out Bill W.

3. Cosmic Debris, Kings of Outer Space (2010).
Cosmic Debris is another surprise addition (to me) to this list. I have never liked Rockabilly, but there is something about Cosmic Debris that grabs me. Maybe it’s their quirky sense of humor.
4. Cough, Ritual Abuse (2010).
For some reason, I bought very little metal in 2012. Cough was one of perhaps a dozen metal albums. Cough falls within the doom metal category, but they are different than other doom bands think Black Sabbath meets black metal, without all the gimmicky black metal bullshit.
5. Ian Hunter, When I am President (2012).
I had no idea who Ian Hunter was until I heard him interviewed on NPR. He was a member of Mott the Hoople, a band I never liked. But as a solo artist, Hunter is a very good singer songwriter.
6. Killing Joke, MMXII (2012).
Killing Joke has had a long and productive career. Most bands seem to run out of mojo after five or six albums, but MMXII might be Killing Joke’s best record.
7. Miles Davis, Bitches Brew (1970).
It is a little embarrassing that I am just now familiarizing myself with Miles Davis. Everything good you have ever heard about Bitches Brew is true. Everyone should own a copy of this record.
8. Onslaught, The Force (1986).
I had this album back in the mid-80s, but I had a little mishap with a floor heater and melted it. I recently bought it again, and it is every bit as good as I remember. Onslaught is probably the best metal band from the 80s that didn’t get signed to a major label.
9. Ozric Tentacles.
Ozric Tentacles is a little hard to describe. I don’t know if they would be more properly classified as jazz, rock, or jazz fusion. They make music that is similar to the band Yes, but without the same coldness or pretension. It is progressive, but accessible.
10. Rush, Clockwork Angels (2012).
I have been waiting years for Clockwork Angels. I wasn’t immediately taken by this record. It took several listens to really grasp what they were doing on this one. It is possibly the best record Rush has done since Grace Under Pressure.
11. Sean Wheeler and Zander Schloss, Walk the Invisible (2010).
Wheeler and Schloss are punk rock musicians who decided to get together and make a folk record. I saw them live at the Wonder Ballroom in Portland, OR. They opened for someone, I don’t remember who, and they stole the show. Their song, “A Song About Songs” made me tear up. I won’t spoil it for you—go listen to it.
12. Stanley Clarke.
Holy shit this guy can play bass. His self-titled album is fucking great.
13. Stinking Lizaveta.
Prior to 2012, I had a couple Stinking Lizaveta albums, but something clicked this year, and I bought them all. It is now one of my life goals to see these folks live.
14. The Bob Seeger System.
In 2012, I bought two records by The Bob Seeger System. I have always liked Bob Seeger, but I think these two albums are his best. The anti-war song, “Leaning on My Dream,” from the album Mongrel is fantastic.
15. Townes Van Zandt, Townes Van Zandt (1969).
I watched a documentary about Townes and couldn’t believe how good of a songwriter this dude is. Before the film had even ended, I jumped online and order his self-titled album.
16. Volta Do Mar, At the Speed of Light or Day (2001).
A few years ago I bought a split record with Murder by Death and Volta Do Mar. I started searching for Volta Do Mar albums. I bought a couple albums, but At the Speed of Light or Day eluded me. When I would find a copy, it was always more than I wanted to spend. Finally, I found an affordable copy. I listened to this record for several weeks straight.

Kloghole

Well, it is that time of year when I get to assess what the fuck went down in the past 12 months. I find it fucking discouraging that each year for about half a decade now I have to contemplate whether this was the shittiest fucking year of my life to date. This one comes close, but only manages to be the unrelenting coda of the pinnacle of despair and brutality that was three years ago.

Some of this year’s highlights include:

Watching a racist den of jackals fabricate attacks against a coworker including accusing her of drinking in her office and soliciting a graduate student to spy on her.

Putting up with a sign outside my office (posted by said jackals) instructing students of color to go sit in the lobby (i.e. back of the bus) instead of waiting for me or a fellow colleague outside our offices.

Sitting in a meeting for the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences and being called a bad teacher in front of the Dean who did nothing because the ignorant, slimy, bulbous, festering cesspool who said it was a friend of hers.

Teaching twice the load as other faculty and listening to them complain about being so overworked.

Getting twice the students added to my theory course two weeks before classes start because theory is not a “skills class” despite the fact that I already teach more students than everyone else in the department and require more out of my students than the lazy fuckers who decided it wasn’t a “skills class.”

Observing the one-year anniversary of my Dad’s death by watching my brother dig the twisted, incinerated corpse of his cat out of charred ruins of what was once our family home.

So, as you can imagine, my dark fucking mood was not lightened by the holiday season or the fact that this wasn’t the worst fucking year of my life. My musical choices reflect this darkened spirit, and I found it increasingly difficult to feign fucking joy even with great fucking friends. I was close to fucking retching at a Michael Franti show in Fort Collins because the guy was so fucking infectiously happy, and the goddamn crowd was all fucking jumping around like they all had a fucking tank of nitrous shoved up their ass. The world is going to fuck, but let’s all dance around like a bunch of fucking fairies on a tranquil, wooded plain! Fuck! Made me want to suck on the business-end of a shotgun.

I did manage to see a few gritty shows this year. Luckily for me, James McMurtry and Fred Eaglesmith swung through town to give some me a bit of twangy working-class ballading. McMurtry drug out “Levelland” and “Too Long in the Wasteland.”  I think he also did “We Can’t Make it Here Anymore.” No fucking shit! I also love “Chochtaw Bingo” because of the reference to an SKS rifle. Love that shit.

I also was able to go to Iron Maiden twice with some good friends and family. I also saw a few metal shows. The original lineup of COC played a hell of a show. I saw a new band, Havok, with Null and SoDak on Null’s recommendation. It was a small show, and we went right up to the stage. It has been a while since I did a bit of thrashing. Beat the hell out of watching yippies dance around with giddy fucking smiles on their faces.

I also got to see a local band, Face of Oblivian, play a show or two. When we left one of the shows, I got to talking with a former student of mine in the band. We shot the shit for quite a while in the Minnesota winter chill, and then I jumped in my car to go home. I must have been in a bit of a hurry because I got the attention of the local police, who fucking pull me out of the fucking car to do fucking sobriety tests. Lame ass fucking bullshit meant to fucking bore you into fucking up. It had been three hours since my last drink, so I knew I was fucking fine, so this was all a bit annoying. I just wanted to get the fuck home - christ! So, I get the “follow the fucking pen trick” for about an hour and a half. Then I have to stand on one fucking leg and touch my fucking nose. Then I had to try to put one sock on without sitting down. Then it was some fucking thing about hopping along a line and doing a fucking pirouette after five and a half steps one way and seven steps back....Finally, I fucked up on my last triple spin backflip, and he threw me in the back of the car. I am like “just take me to fucking jail so I can take a fucking nap already,” fuck. So, he says he’s gonna breathalyze me. Yes, yes, just send that fucking thing back here so I can give it a decent blow job and get the fuck back on my way home. I blow in the thing, and after five pints, I am blowing .043. Yea!  Let’s get this fucking caravan moving again! What a hoot. Now I know how much booze I can throw down my gullet and be “legal.” Thanks for the fucking benchmark!

Now on to the albums that I ran across. It is a real fucker not only to be under siege at work, but also to be paying credit card rates on your mortgage. So, I don’t have a lot of money to fuck around with, but it is cathartic to just hop in the car, drive to the music store, and mindlessly flip through the racks of used CDs to get my mind off the fact that a bunch of fucking, gaping, festering wounds are conspiring to solidify their lazy ass, intellectually vapid, despotic regime in order to force out the folks that actually do all the work in the department. It amazes me how much these fuckers are like old slave owners. We do all the work, so we are treated like niggers (some of us are actually black), but we are also the “problem” in the department that needs to be solved. Fucking racist ignorant fucks. 

So, to get all that off my mind, I was able to get a few albums this year. There are a few albums that deserve mention. Testament’s Dark Roots of Earth and Overkill’s The Electric Age came out, but I was too fucking busy to give them a solid listen. I honestly couldn’t tell you my thoughts on them despite the fact that these are two of my favorite bands. Dublin Death Patrol put out a new one, Death Sentence. From what I remember, it was a good listen. Lacuna Coil put out a deluxe disc that included a DVD, but it was just an artistic piece of crap that replayed the same fucking instrumental over to 4 or 5 different videos of each of the band members wandering around doing meaningless shit. Definitely worth the extra fucking money (insert sarcastic font here)!

Fred Eaglesmith’s new album, 6 Volts, is a nice return to some of his earlier themes of rural life. Shooter Jennings put out another album this year. A lot of his stuff is pretty gritty, but it also varies. The new album, Family Man, has a fucking awesome tune called “Black Dog.” It is a nice narrative with a dark tone to it. This song alone was well worth my purchase. Wish I could get more time to listen to this and my few other paltry acquisitions.

I have been also building my collection of older albums. Lately, I have been tracking down Marshall Tucker Band albums to add a little southern fried pickin’ to my collection. Good shit. You can really understand the Marshall Tucker influence in the early Charlie Daniels. I also picked up a couple Nazareth discs I never heard of: No Jive and Snakes and Ladders. While in Denver, I made one of my very rare new purchases of a Townes Van Zandt collection. I was also able to pick up a couple used deluxe multi-discs of T. Rex. Weird shit, I have to say. I also could not resist the temptation to pick up some Cannibal Corpse after all the gushing Null and SoDak have done about them. With the buy 3 get 1 free deal, I can say that I picked them up for free if anyone asks.

So, to sum up, I wish the fucking end of the world did come just to put me out of my fucking misery. I can’t kill myself because all of my family that isn’t fucking homeless now would be out on the fucking street. So, I have to pay my fucking student loan till I die, I have to pay credit card rates on my two mortgages, I have to work at a fucking hell hole with a bunch of horrible teachers who think they are top turd on the manure pile. Dragging bottom is starting to get familiar. Any fucking pleasant news, and I may just have a fucking stroke and shit myself on the spot. Now that the end of the world didn’t come, I can’t wait for a new year of fucking misery and antagonism.

Sweet Dreams Motherfuckers


Null

Records:
1. The United Sons of Toil, Hope Is Not A Strategy (2007), Until Lions Have Their Historians, Tales Of The Hunt Shall Always Glorify The Hunter (2008), and When The Revolution Comes, Everything Will Be Beautiful (2011).
It was just this year that I discovered this great, radical, leftist punk band from Madison, Wisconsin. In the albums they write a short paragraph giving the basic gist of each song. Lyrically, they are concise and powerful and get to the point. However, the lyrics are not necessarily for those that are new to the global struggle for justice. Like most great underground punk rock, they expect you to do a little work too.
The music is raw and fresh, and they don’t shy away from electric guitar expositions with vocal anger and desperation to boot. They don’t play fast/hardcore punk but sound more like a wall of rhythmic dissent. It is an emotional delivery, screaming for some semblance of humanity. I like to think of them as Fugazi’s noisy children. Unfortunately, they also broke up this year. One can get these records at unitedsonsoftoil.com

2. Linton Kwesi Johnson, Dread Beat An’ Blood (1978).
Put simply, this is one of the greatest roots reggae albums I have ever heard in my life. Linton is a poet who recites/sings his poems over slow and heavy reggae jams by The Roots (not to be confused with the current band by the same name). If reggae is all about “the feel,” then look no further. The Roots make music that was concocted deep below the souls of your feet. Linton’s words are straightforward social consciousness that cries out for justice, and luckily he doesn’t go on and on about “Jah.” As a matter of fact, I don’t think he mentions Rastafarianism even once, which is a nice change of pace for a reggae album. His words reside in the real world around us and center on the unnecessary bloodshed of a broken system. I have put this album on repeat and listen to it over and over again. It heals the soul and puts you in contact with the world around you. I have always felt a link between punk rock and reggae—this album will make all that clear. SoDak turned me on to this record. Fucking Brilliant!

3. Trilok Gurtu, Twenty Years of Talking Tabla (2007).
This double album is an import that I had sent across the sea to receive. Trilok Gurtu is one of the greatest drummers in the world. He is a master of the Tabla and his own amalgamation of rock-drum set-meets-pans of water-sea-shells and whatnot. His music ranges from classical Indian music to modern dance type stuff and fusion jazz electronic ambience. If I seem to be struggling, it is because his music defies definition. He is truly a “world” musician. This collection gives samples of his work over a twenty-year period—it is an impossible task to truly represent his work—but the album has tons of great songs I had never heard. He also employs vocalists from all over the world. I believe in music without borders. This is an often beautiful album for the open minded.

4. Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds (2011).
This album has possibly one of the grandest love songs of the year—“If I Had A Gun…”—and the B-side “I’d Pick You Every Time” is a close runner up. Noel Gallagher is, of course, the “smart” brother from Oasis, in that he wrote all the songs for that band (possibly one of the most cliché bands of all time). However, losing his brother and going solo was one of the greatest things to happen in England this year. This album is overtly British and sing-a-long like, as is to be expected. Yet, it is simply a great album with pretty goddamn good lyrics and infectious melodies, be it, “Soldier Boys and Jesus Freaks,” or “(I Wanna Live in a Dream in My) Record Machine.” All the B-sides to the singles are great as well. Loved this one.

5. Woody Guthrie, Woody at 100: The Woody Guthrie Centennial Collection (2012).
Smithsonian Folkways put out this great box set to commemorate Woody’s 100th birthday. It is wonderful. It is filled with his writings, drawing, and 3 discs of songs. This was an opportunity to familiarize myself even more with a man I always loved. It reminds one that the political and social discourse in this country was, at one time, not so narrow. It also confirms what I always believed: Woody Guthrie was, in fact, the first real punk rocker. His creativity, humor, and social consciousness seemed to know no bounds. This box set is a history lesson. Everyone should know where they came from—there was a time when this country was full of possibilities instead of unending corporate rule. As Steve Earle would say, “Bring back Woody Guthrie,” he lives in each of us.

6. Joe Strummer.
His last three solo albums were re-mastered this year with bonus tracks. The tenth anniversary of his death was December 22. He carried on the tradition of Woody Guthrie and others before him in a unique style. The albums are great. His music was a new breed of global world punk rock. The Internationale lives.

7. OFF!, OFF! (2012).
The second album by OFF! (self-titled), takes off where the first album left off (no pun intended). These punk rock veterans (in their 40’s and 50’s) know what punk rock is. Listen up youngsters, listen and learn. Any questions?

8. Grateful Dead.
After years of not listening to the Dead, I jumped right in and was pleasantly surprised to remember what a great band these guys could be. My connection to the Dead goes way back and runs quite deep, so I don’t really know how, or even wish to try to “sell” them to anyone. I just rediscovered my love and respect for Jerry Garcia’s voice and guitar playing. I don’t give two shits about “the jam band community” and their list of the 5 or 6 bands it is “OK” to listen to. Fuck them. My Grateful Dead and punk rock records sit comfortably next to each other.

9. Bad Brains, Into the Future (2012).
I instantly loved the new Bad Brains record. It moves from hardcore punk to reggae to rock with incredible ease. It helps that I finally came to terms with the fact that HR will never write lyrics as sharp and confrontational as he did in his youth. Having accepted this fact, it gave me the freedom to enjoy this incredibly unique band, as I went back and revisited all their albums. They were the first all-African American hardcore punk band that later mixed reggae with thrash metal and punk all over again. Their albums are always unique if not always brilliant. And, though HR has completely lost his marbles, he still has one of the greatest voices in rock. He fluctuates between evil alien demon, sweet lipped angel, and wistful haunting ghost, often in the same line. The new album is mostly about peace and love and a whole lot of Jah. The world definitely needs more peace and love and maybe a little less Jah…but there are worst things in the world.

10. Ryan Adams, Live After Deaf (2012).
I had some serious problems with this box set (see Grievances). But, fuck man, at the end of the day, there are few people that can play so many live solo acoustic heartbreakers so well. Even the slow songs he slowed down for this day in the rain. He is a great songwriter when he wants to be. It was goddamn good to hear him get back to what he does best: make me want to cry, smoke, and drink into the wee wee hours.

11. Phil Collins / Genesis (in the 1980’s).
At this moment, it is not what I want to listen to, however, earlier this year, (it may have something to do with finally getting a drum set in my house), I went back and listened to a lot of the early 80’s Phil Collins and Genesis albums. And I liked them. A lot. He is an interesting and unique drummer, and I don’t give a shit what anybody says, the first couple of solo albums are really good. Back before he sold his soul to the Disney Corporation, he was just an English dork and I have no problem with that.

12. Cannibal Corpse, Torture (2012).
In my initial review of Cannibal Corpse’s Evisceration Plague (see review on this site on May 2010), I wrote that I did not see myself buying another Cannibal Corpse record. That proved to not pan out so well. I love this band.

The lyrics are just exaggerated gore nonsense; I don’t even watch horror movies. But, seriously, the music, once acclimated, is some of the most intellectually complex mathematical modern art manic mush metal I have ever experienced. There is nowhere else to get this fix. It is like heroin without all the real death, or like reading multiplication tables in fastforward while flying through a worm-hole in outer-space. I’m telling you, cruising around in the car on a white and snowy x-mas eve filled with peace and joy while cranking out “Scourge of Iron,” well, there are few moments that fine in the world. Cannibal Corpse makes me happy. Deal with it.

13. Infinity People, In Love With the Light double LP (UFO Factory 2012).
This record was released as a double vinyl only, it does, however, come with a digital download to burn onto CD or to your MP3 mini-nightmare boxes. I had a friend in Michigan once. I didn’t see him for a long, long time. He came to me in a dream and made me eat a purple lotus flower. We lived with the children and built tree houses in a land where the cones at the back of the eyeball exist in Technicolor. There were electric guitars and choirs singing. The Moog read our fortunes in musical code as the Goddess of Light ran her fingers through our hair. It all happened in Detroit, which it appears, is not a dead city at all. I lived with the Flower People and they fucking rocked. I was a little scared but well fed. Who needs LSD when you have this chunk of vinyl? It is just psychedelically beautiful. Get it at: http://www.ufofactory.com/

Live Shows:
1. Ryan Adams, Temple Buell Theater, Denver, Colorado (2/4/2012).
It was a slow, sad, depressing, and beautiful gig. All the things one would want from a solo Ryan Adams show. The cold weather outside only added to the intimate coziness. He even played the slow songs slower; well, they were all slow to begin with. It was just like seeing him perform in the old days back in Seattle and Portland some ten years ago, before he was so popular. But he had me from the beginning when he walked out with Iron Maiden’s mascot, Eddie, painted on the back of this leather jacket. He is one hell of a songwriter, singer, and guitar player.

2. The Joy Formidable, Bluebird Theater, Denver, Colorado (3/17/2012).
It is incredible how well this amazing three piece from Wales is able to create a beautiful swirling wall of noise with only the three of them on stage. The music was beautiful and the singing was beautiful. Fucking great show. I even got to meet the band and stand on stage while they were doing their sound check. Fucking awesome. However, I did give the band two stories I had written. One was blasphemous and radical and the other was an existential bell jar. I may have scared them off. Anyway, it is great when you fall in love with a band’s studio output and then they follow that up with blowing your mind live.

3. Havok, Hodi’s Half Note, Fort Collins, Colorado (8/12/2012).
Havok is a thrash metal band from Denver. I was never really into thrash metal but I picked up their albums, Burn (2009), Time Is Up (2011), and the EP Point of No Return (2012), and I really liked them. So with a group of friends, I went down to a little bar in Fort Collins and…well, rocked the fuck out! Really, really rocked the fuck out.

4. Iron Maiden, Comfort Dental Amphitheater, Denver, Colorado (8/13/2012).
With a large group of friends I once again experienced Iron Maiden live. This band is so impressive I really have no words. I can tell you that Bruce Dickinson, age 54, is one of the healthiest people on the planet. Even in Colorado’s high altitude he did not waver for a second but bounded around the stage, constantly running like a soccer player and sang his brains out. He didn’t even mention the altitude once, which is unusually for artists performing in Colorado. This band continues to amaze.

Documentaries:
1. Joe Strummer, Let’s Rock Again (2006).
I love Joe Strummer and was amazed that I had not watched this DVD until this year. It is filled with great performances of songs from his solo albums, as well as classics by The Clash. In between songs there are tons of interviews with him and the members of the Mescaleros. Loved it.

2. Alice Donut, Freaks In Love DVD (2012).
It seemed for most of my life I was the only person in the world that understood what a great band Alice Donut was. So, to find out that someone actually made a documentary about the band completely blew my mind. I never thought I would see the day. In the first five minutes of the documentary I learned more about the band than I had ever known in my nearly 20 years of being a devoted and hardcore Alive Donut fan. Watch this great documentary and then go and get all their records.

3. Bob Marley, Marley (2012).
This is definitely the most thorough Bob Marley documentary that has ever been made about one of the most influential and greatest songwriters of the twentieth century. There are interviews with friends and family that takes the viewer from Bob’s conception to his battle with cancer and untimely death. My only complaint is that they director didn’t get into the religious philosophy of Rastafarianism enough, nor did the director explain some of the beliefs and terminology that often appears in Rasta and/or roots reggae culture. Don’t get me wrong, the director does talk about these things but not to the depth that I would have liked. Rastafarianism is ultimately crazy like every other Christian based religion; however, a deeper explanation would have been nice as these issues often show up in Bob’s music. Yet, at three hours, the director may have simply run out of time. Ultimately, though, it is very thorough and very well done. Good stuff.

4. Cannibal Corpse, Centuries of Torment (2008).
This is just great—three DVDs. There is a three-hour documentary of the history of Cannibal Corpse. One disc has a bunch of bonus material (making the history of Cannibal Corpse almost four or five hours long). There are tons of videos and performances from over the years. The best part of this DVD collection is definitely the documentary and bonus features. Mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, friends, peers, etc., all talk about the history of this extreme metal band. This documentary takes all the fear and horror away. Instead, it shows a community of friends and music lovers, while focusing on a band that started with nothing but metal dreams and ended up making a living “out of this obnoxious music.” Humanizing and heartwarming, it also gives a history of death metal and the production of extreme metal (which I know nothing about). Just amazing. If I ever get the chance, I am going to give George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher a really big hug.


Plainzero

(coming soon)

Scott

This year saw a few excellent new albums by some of my favorite Famous Old White Guys who play music, so they take up a chunk of the list. I’ll get them out of the way first.

1. Neil Young, Americana, Psychedelic Pill, Waging Heavy Peace. Neil Young is prolific as shit but he topped himself this year by releasing two albums (one a double album) and a book, Waging Heavy Peace. I haven’t read the book yet but enjoyed the albums. If you like the meandering, unfocused, ragged stuff he plays with Crazy Horse, you’re in for a treat. If you don’t, you’ll probably think these albums are awful. One thing that’s certain is that Neil Young had a fucking blast making them, and it comes through in the music. When I first heard about Americana—a Crazy Horse album of North American folk and traditional songs—I had a feeling it would be a big fucking mess. It is a mess but an enjoyable one, although some songs work better than others. Psychedelic Pill is a double album that doesn’t feel as excessive as it really is (three songs are over 15 minutes), and has moments of great beauty among all the feedback and overdone jam sections. As with most Neil Young (especially the later Crazy Horse albums) there’s a certain inscrutable element that makes the music so appealing, even hypnotic, and it is here in abundance.

2. Bruce Springsteen, Wrecking Ball. This is probably his most consistent album in years, and most overtly political. An album like this deserves a closer reading than what I can do here, but suffice it to say that it’s really fucking good. There’s a nice synthesis of Bruce’s classic sound with his folkier stuff (especially the Seeger Sessions) and the later, meaty rock stuff. I doubt he’ll stop releasing new material (or touring) anytime soon, but this album could stand as a worthy capstone to his career, a good summation of the musical and lyrical themes he’s been working on all his life. You can see that in the title track, a song that’s literally about Giants Stadium (the old one that was torn down after a final show by, of course, Bruce) but also about resilience in the face of hard times that come and go, come and go, “just to come again.” It sounds like Bruce is getting sick of just being the voice of noble resilience, and is developing a more critical, radical perspective. We’ll see.

3. Bob Dylan, Tempest. Of the three old dudes at the top of my list, Dylan’s later albums have been the most consistent. Tempest isn’t radically different from albums like Love & Theft or Modern Times, except that it’s a little more expansive in the musical sources it draws on. (Dylan’s innovative phase is long past, and now, I think, he’s primarily concerned with digging up older forms of American music and repurposing them, although that’s always been a big part of his work.) Tempest also has some of his better vocal performances, even though—or really, because—he sounds so fucking terrible. This summer I read a collection of rock criticism essays by Ellen Willis, and one point she kept coming back to is that Dylan is a very good vocalist because of the way he conveys meaning and emotion in his vocal phrasing. I think this is probably obvious to anyone who likes Dylan—“who fucking cares if he can’t hit the right notes!”, we’ve all said—but it’s amazing when you really listen closely. In “Long and Wasted Years,” he sounds almost like a parody of himself, but in a way that insists on the uniqueness (and greatness) of his skill as a singer, not as a sad self-parody. Does that make any sense? I don’t fucking know. 

4. Mark Knopfler, Privateering. A double album of Knopfler. What more can I say? Either you’re onboard the Knopfler train or you ain’t. This isn’t his greatest album, but I’ll take it. Pretty much what I’d say about his last album, too.

5. Smithsonian Folkways. A few months ago I treated myself to some CDs from the Smithsonian Folkways catalog. I highly recommend setting some time aside and browsing through their website. This is a goddamn national treasure. Everything from Moses Asch’s original Folkways label is available, plus a whole bunch of other stuff that is collected under the auspices of the Smithsonian. The CDs are pricey as far as CDs go these days, and they come in plain black paper slipcases with the original album cover printed on a sticker that wraps around the case. But the scope is unreal, and you can dig up some really weird obscure shit from all over the world—for instance, Witches and War-Whoops: Early New England Ballads has songs from the 18th century collected and performed by a folklorist in the early 1960s. I picked up a handful of albums, but the one that I keep coming back to, surprisingly, is Folk Songs of French Canada recorded by Alan Mills in 1952. Beautiful stuff.

6. Alan Lomax: The Man Who Recorded the World by John Szwed. This was the book that got me checking out the Smithsonian Folkways catalog. I didn’t know much about Lomax other than that he was some dude who recorded other people, so I learned quite a bit. Lomax was one of those brilliant people who was driven—maybe even obsessed—by their work and, because of that, always on the verge of falling apart. His influence was tremendous but he lived from project to project, making field recordings, giving lectures, writing books, compiling anthologies, producing films and radio shows, making just enough money to survive. He was never really accepted in the academic world and never felt comfortable in the commercial recording world, thinking that he was more of a scholar/activist than a record producer. He felt most at home when he was working, and especially interacting with the unknown people who shared their music and their stories. Through it all he was motivated by a radical commitment to social justice—early on he identified as a communist—and always saw music as inextricably bound up with people’s daily struggles with a system that continuously grinds them down. Szwed does a good job capturing the bigger themes of Lomax’s work, and the book is well-written and well-researched, although it gets a little repetitive describing Lomax’s seemingly endless cycle of recording and writing projects. Lomax is an important but contradictory figure—his life gives us insight into the world of pre-commercial music that he really loved, even though his work played a part (however inevitable) in destroying that world by commodifying it.

7. Opeth, Mastodon, and Ghost in NYC. A fantastic line up with three very different bands, although seeing them live back-to-back-to-back makes you realize how much they have in common. I’ve seen Opeth many times, more than any other band, and this was the second time seeing them in their new, non-metal form. A lot of people give them—really I mean Mikael Akerfeldt, the singer and main songwriter—shit for dropping the death metal elements and moving closer to a 70s prog infused style on their last album Heritage. But I say good for him. Opeth released a few metal albums that I consider to be masterpieces, so why not move on to something new (and after taking some time to digest it, I’ve decided that Heritage is a fucking good album). If anyone deserves shit for changing their sound, it’s Mastodon, and even though I enjoy their newer stuff it’s pretty clear that they’re aiming to be more accessible—this is not always a bad thing, but in Mastodon’s case it just weakens the material. And then there’s Ghost, whom I was happy to see live to fully appreciate the utter gimmickry of their show. No complaints there.

8. Eliza Gilkyson, Land of Milk and Honey. This album came out in 2004 but it was the first by Gilkyson that I ever heard, and I found myself listening to it a lot this year. It’s a shame that she isn’t better known. Gilkyson sounds like a less raspy Lucinda Williams who writes intelligent songs that are often really catchy. What more do you need? “Hiway 9” captures some of the angst of the Bush era in a song that is a product of its time but still holds up; “The Ballad of Yvonne Johnson” is a true story about a Cree woman who was imprisoned on a murder charge that gives me fucking chills whenever I hear it. Every song on this album is great, including “Peace Call,” which uses lyrics by Woody Guthrie.

9. New Multitudes, New Multitudes. And speaking of Woody Guthrie, this is Jay Farrar, Jim James, Will Johnson, and Anders Parker’s contribution to the trend of writing new music for Guthrie’s lyrics. The obvious comparison to make here is with Jay Farrar’s ex-Uncle Tupelo bandmate Jeff Tweedy on the Billy Bragg and Wilco Mermaid Avenue albums. There are some similarities—both are excellent—but New Multitudes is a little darker, and a lot more varied musically. If you pick up this album, make sure to get the special edition which comes with a second disc of bonus material by only Farrar and Parker, which, I think, is probably better than the main album.

10. Bing Crosby, 100 Hits Legend. When I was in college, I lived in a dorm for a while where everyone on the floor shared a bathroom. At some point, an old, beat up boom box appeared, and usually it was stuck on some shitty top 40 station. But, one day, I was in a music store looking through a clearance bin of cassettes and found one of Bing Crosby singing Hawaiian music. It couldn’t have been more than 50 cents. I brought it back to the dorm and played it on the boom box whenever I took a shower. At first it was kind of a joke, but after a while I realized I really loved the music, and Crosby’s voice…well, man. Those were some luxurious showers. Soon enough, old Bing was crooning Aloha whenever any one of my neighbors was brushing his teeth, taking a dump, or puking into a sink. Everyone was under the spell. Anyway, it took me a while to finally pick up some representative sampling of Crosby’s material. Apparently there are five billion compilations out there, many of them from Europe and a little shady. I settled on this because of the price (5 discs for under 15 bucks) and the song selection. The audio is compressed as hell, and when I first played them over my computer speakers at work, I almost couldn’t bear it. But it doesn’t sound so bad on my own stereo, and the compression cuts out some of the noise on the older recordings and puts Bing’s voice up front. And what a voice. Once Bing Crosby was the biggest media star on earth—in commercial recordings, movies, radio shows, everything—and now it seems like he’s moving closer to obscurity with every generation. Should I care about this? Bing Crosby was probably the squarest shit you could listen to, the ultimate voice of mid-century white bourgeois values. (And he was kind of a jackass as a person, right? I’m too lazy to do the research, so maybe someone can help me out.) But from this distance, I guess it’s easier for me to appreciate the value of the music.


SoDak

Records:

The Pines, Dark So Good (2012).

I could not get enough of this record, when I was driving across Tennessee last winter-spring. The fields were still yellow. The buds were on the trees. The sun was setting, and I was attempting to catch up to it. I could have driven all night, listening to these songs. The Pines are an interesting Americana band, with hushed vocals and atmospheric, moody music.

First Aid Kit, The Lion’s Roar (2012).

First Aid Kit is from Sweden. These two sisters released a wonderful EP, Drunken Trees, in 2008. One of my favorite songs on the EP is “You’re Not Coming Home Tonight.” It seemed that this band had great promise. I was a little disappointed by their first full length, The Big Black & the Blue. But their new record, The Lion’s Roar, finally realizes their potential, as it is filled with stunning folk songs with moving harmonies. The song “Emmylou” is an immediate stand out for me.

Deep Dark Woods, Hang Me Oh Hang Me (2008), Winter Hours (2009), and Place I Left Behind (2011).

Deep Dark Woods are the band that I have been searching for. I love alternative country bands that are very mellow. I saw them play twice this year. Their songs are quite somber. As I listen to their songs, I feel an overwhelming sense of loss and general sadness, which is also beautiful at the same time. When I listen to them, I want to in a car driving across Wyoming, headed to the Black Hills to see friends. Along the way, I would stop in the Big Horns to stare at the Milky Way, as songs from any of the Deep Dark Woods play on the stereo. I love all of their records. Lately, I have been obsessed with the following songs, “River in the Pines,” “The Place I Left Behind,” and “All the Money I Had Is Gone.”

This One’s for Him: A Tribute to Guy Clark (2012).

This two-CD collection celebrates the music of Guy Clark, the great country and folk singer. It is packed with touching covers by an impressive list of musicians, including Rodney Crowell, Lyle Lovett, Robert Earl Keen, Willie Nelson, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Joe Ely, and Steve Earle, just to name a few. It was a pleasure to finally hear a tribute record that was actually good.

Ann Peebles, Original Funk Soul Sister: The Best of Ann Peebles (2006).

Turn the lights down, put on this CD, sit in front of the speakers, and just listen to Ann Peebles sing. I love how she sings the opening line on “I Can’t Stand the Rain.” When she says rain, it gives me chills. This collection is filled many of her great songs. The horns are tastefully done here. Each song has a nice groove, in which she has plenty of room to sing and create a mood. She made solid soul records throughout the 70s. Check out her music.

Joe Tex, 25 All Time Greatest Hits (2000).

I wish that I could have attended a Joe Tex concert in the 60s or 70s. I would have loved to see him sing “I Gotcha” while dancing all over the stage. The song makes me want to get up, stomp my feet, and shake my ass. Joe Tex is one of the great Southern Soul singers. This collection captures the breadth of his songs.

New Multitudes, New Multitudes (2012).

I think someone granted me a wish with this record. I love Jay Farrar, Will Johnson, and Anders Parker. I also think Jim James has an amazing voice, even if I do not care for the last several records by his band My Morning Jacket. On this record, these four musicians wrote music for unused Woody Guthrie lyrics. The record is rather dark and somber in tone. A special edition of this release includes a second disc, which I think is even better than the other disc. This “bonus” disc includes additional songs, sung by just Farrar and Parker, who work very well together.

Maniac Street Preachers, Journal for Plague Lovers (2009).

Null had been recommending this record for a couple years. I finally took the time to listen to it. Maniac Street Preachers definitely rock, but they do much more than this. I hear bits and pieces of various college rock bands from the 80s and 90s. For good measure they incorporate some acoustic moments. Richey Edwards, the former singer of this band, simply disappeared one day. The rest of the band members continued on. For this record, they used lyrics that Edwards had left behind. The songs are filled with pain, fear, and love. If you listen closely, some of the words will hit you in the heart.

Wishbone Ash, Argus (1972).

I finally broke down and bought this record. For decades I had been curious, namely due to the classic album cover. Plus, several of the members of Iron Maiden have made references to how much they love this record. I had no idea what to expect, which I relished. The record has a nice warm 70s sound. There is a blend of folk and prog rock. The harmonization of the two lead guitars is awesome.

Napalm Death, Utilitarian (2012).

I never had an interest in Napalm Death, until a few years ago when I saw them live. Holy fuck, they were incredible. The music was tight and intense. Now, I eagerly pick up each record they release. The lyrics are generally interesting and focused on a critical assessment of the state of the world. The layout reminds me of old punk rock records. Song after song kicks ass on this record. I love the fact that the songs sound very different from one another. Too many bands in this genre put out records where every song sounds the same. Napalm Death’s songs actually vary a great deal. They are always intense and brutal, but I can tell what is going on within the song. I especially love the songs on this record that have dual vocals. I love the song: “The Wolf I Feed.”

Cannibal Corpse, Torture (2012).

While I have listened to metal music much of my life, I had never listened to Cannibal Corpse. I am not sure why. Perhaps, I was too timid—why I do not know. I just knew that their album covers looked gruesome. Also, I tend not to like cookie monster vocals, which I associate—perhaps incorrectly—with death metal. Several years ago, Null became fascinated with Cannibal Corpse. He would send me interviews with the members and videos of the band in the studio. Before too long, it happened, I was hooked. I was in awe of the pure talent of everyone in the band. Plus, they were likable guys. Null sent me several of their albums. When Torture was released, I bought it. It is a great record. Corpsegrinder’s vocals are impressive, given the vocal range. He actually sings the words rather than grunts out sounds. The guitar playing is fuckin’ brilliant. Each time I listen to the record a different song captures my attention. Right now, my favorite is “Crucifier Avenged.”

Lee Renaldo, Between the Times and the Tides (2012).

I just wanted to check out the record, given that I think Lee Renaldo is an outstanding guitar player. But I thought the record might be an experimental noise record, given past projects from folks in Sonic Youth. Instead this record was a pleasant surprise. The songs are pretty tightly organized. Lee’s driving guitar that is slightly off-kilter carries many of the songs. “Off the Wall” is probably my favorite song. In fact, it seems like it would have been a great song on a Sonic Youth record. “Lost” is also a gem. The record is filled with beautiful moments, catchy choruses, drifting rhythms, and blistering guitar parts. Whatever the future of Sonic Youth is, it is reassuring to know that Lee Renaldo is making such great music.

Jimmy Cliff, Rebirth (2012).

I was blown away by how much I loved Jimmy Cliff’s new record. His voice is a little raw at times, which adds to the power of this record. “One More” is an outstanding track that makes me want to dance around the yard and generally go fuckin’ nuts. Life is short, so we better get out there and live it. “World Upside Down” makes note that there is “so much war and poverty while few enjoy prosperity.” The record is filled with observations of the dire inequalities that accompany the capitalist system. Cliff also provides interesting covers of The Clash’s “Guns of Brixton” and Rancid’s “Ruby Soho.”

Murder By Death, Bitter Drink, Bitter Moon (2012).

I have listened to this record many times while flying back and forth across the country. With each listen, I notice new things—sounds, instruments, and words—within each song. The record consumes me. One moment the strings played over the guitar make my heart swoon, then the deep cello fills me with dread that the plane that I am on is going to crash into the mountain, and the next song makes me want to leap out of the seat so I can slam dance on the plane, roll around on the floor, and howl like a dog. Murder By Death is a difficult band to describe, as each record seems to stand as a unique entity. Listening to them is definitely an experience. One thing that is common for me, when I listen to their records, is that I feel as if the chains of death are rattling. This is a truly great record.

Witchcraft, Legend (2012).

This album is worth picking up just for the song, “Deconstruction.” The guitars and vocals are awesome.

Cross Stitched Eyes, Coranach (2009) and Decomposition (2012).

I have been trying to turn on friends to this band ever since I picked up both records by Cross Stitched Eyes. Every description I read mentions the Killing Joke and Rudimentary Peni influence, which is definitely evident and is part of what made me interested in checking out the band. Both of their records are awesome. In fact, these are the two best punk rock records I have heard in a long time. While the influences are older bands, the sound is still refreshing. Cross Stitched Eyes have political lyrics, which are also interesting and reflective. Get these records.  

Sera Cahoone, Deer Creek Canyon (2012).

Sera Cahoone’s previous records were solid, but never amazed me. Deer Creek Canyon finally did it. The first time that I listened to it, I just sat there captivated by each song, impressed by how strong the record was. The production is sparse, even though there is a full band accompanying her. There is a slight twang in the songs, as a pedal steel swirls in just the right places. This record makes me wish that I had a cabin in the woods. I want to be sitting by the fireplace, as I listen to these songs and watch snowflakes fall drift to the ground. Outstanding songs include, “Naked,” “Every Little Word,” and “Anyway You Like.”

Killing Joke, MMXII (2012).

Killing Joke has been a band since 1978. The quality of their records has varied a great deal over the years. There are some gems throughout their catalog. But in my opinion, they are currently making the best music of their long career. The lyrics incorporate a sharp critique of capitalism and alienation. The songs incorporate all of the various styles that they have embraced over the years. There are many ethereal songs along with the heavy, industrial songs. Killing Joke is definitely on a roll with the last two records. I hope that they are able to keep it up for a long time.

Neil Halstead, Palindrome Hunches (2012).

Neil Halstead of Mojave 3 continues to release outstanding solo records. Palindrome Hunches might be the best one so far. His records are beautiful and filled with great melodies. His voice and guitar are one, soothing the heart with mellow songs. An occasional piano accompanies the guitar progressions. His voice whispers in your ear, reminding you of fleeting moments and unfulfilled dreams. If you like Iron and Wine and Alexi Murdoch, Neil Halstead’s most recent record is a must have.

Forgetters, Forgetters (2012).

I was pleased to hear that Blake Schwarzenbach (from Jawbreaker) had a new band, the Forgetters. This record had to grow on me. I let it play many times in the car, which I do not normally do. With each listen I became more enthusiastic about the record. It is not as rocking as any of the Jawbreaker records, but it captures the feeling that I associate with that band. My favorite songs, so far, are: “Strike” and “Die By Your Own Hand.”

Blue Oyster Cult, The Complete Columbia Albums Collection (2012).

There are seventeen CDs in this collection. Only a couple of Blue Oyster Cult’s later records, which were released on a different label, are missing. While most folks only know two or three songs by Blue Oyster Cult, there are plenty of other great songs in their catalog. Love it.

Lord Huron, Lonesome Dreams (2012).

This is a wonderful record with intoxicating songs. It has many mellow songs that also rock—perfectly crafted tunes with great melodies. When I walk through the woods at night, “She Lit a Fire” is the song playing in my head lately. There is a bounce to my step, as I make plans for the places that I want to go with loved ones. I dream of a future that may never come, but that is okay. These thoughts, like this CD, give me a little comfort.

Johnny Cash, The Complete Columbia Albums Collection (2012).

There are sixty-three CDs in this box set. That’s sixty-three CDs. While I have many of these records, it is fuckin’ awesome to have the entire Columbia catalog available. Many of these records have never been available on CD. Now, there is plenty of crap, such as the Christmas and gospel records. But for the most part, this box set includes great records by the legend. It is a must have for Cash fans.

Parson Red Heads, Yearling (2011).

If The Byrds fucked The Jayhawks, Parson Red Heads would be the offspring, with plenty of recessive traits. This is a very good record.

Buddy Miller and Jim Lauderdale, Buddy and Jim (2012).

Buddy Miller is a masterful musician, who has released many great country records. Jim Lauderdale is solid songwriter, who is generally at his best when working with other musicians. This collaboration works quite well, highlighting the breadth of their influences. They produce music with deep roots—country, folk, swing, and blues.

Songs:
For the sake of honesty, I will list a couple of songs that I loved and spent a lot of time listening to this year. Of course, many folks will shake their heads, but I do not care.

Alan Jackson, “So You Don’t Have to Love Me Anymore.”

My mother loved Alan Jackson, so over the years, I have heard a lot of his music when I visit home. I have to admit that little by little, he grew on me. Before his recent record was released, he released the single, “So You Don’t Have to Love Me Anymore.” I am sucker for songs like this.

Gaslight Anthem, “45.”

This single was released before the album. My partner and I listened to this song over and over again for many weeks. It captures much of what I love about this band. Oddly enough, the new record is still growing on me.

Documentaries:

Better Than Something: Jay Reatard

My partner and I were in Memphis, Tennessee when this film opened in the theater. Given that both of us love his records, we were excited to see this film in his hometown. It was fascinating to watch this film, as we had just spent two days in Memphis, visiting the various music history museums. Many of the interviews were with people we had seen at the record store, or in restaurant where we just ate. Anyhow, it was great to see this documentary, which highlighted Jay’s life and music.

Marley (2012).

I loved the documentary about Bob Marley. I wish that there was more discussion of his politics. But the film did a great job presenting this history.

Cannibal Corpse, Centuries of Torment (2008).

The doorbell rings. A package is at the door. I open the box and there is a three DVD collection, Centuries of Torment. I had heard about this documentary via Null. He sent this gift as a way to share his obsession with this band. My partner and I watched the three-hour documentary that details the history of Cannibal Corpse. While my partner does not care for the music, we both loved this film. It is well done and provides a great introduction to all the members of this band. They are lovable folks, who are amazing musicians.

Alice Donut, Freaks in Love (2012).

Alice Donut fuckin’ rules. I have watched Freaks in Love several times. After each viewing, I spend several days just listening to Alice Donut records. This is an outstanding documentary about an amazing band. I am waiting for a new Alice Donut record. I need it.

Live Shows:
I made it to over forty concerts this year. Many of these shows, I was able to attend with fellow taint ticklers. It was hard to select my favorite shows, but the following are some that stood out.

Bruce Springsteen.
I finally attended a Springsteen concert. It was truly one hell of a rock show—with a good selection of songs and high energy. The audience was on their feet the whole time.

Cannibal Corpse.
Attended this show with my friends Critter and Five-Inch Taint. I was blown away by the sheer power and skill of Cannibal Corpse. It was awesome to watch the guitar and bass players move all over the fret boards. Every song was tight. Corpsegrinder was hilarious.

Deep Dark Woods.
I saw Deep Dark Woods twice this year. The first time they opened up for Robert Earl Keen. The second time they were the main act. The latter was my favorite show, as they had more time to play. The downside was only ten people attended this show. Nevertheless they put on a great show, playing songs from all of their albums. They are a wonderful band from Canada.

Horsefeathers.
Also saw the Horsefeathers play twice this year. Both performances were awesome. When I saw them many years ago, they were a two-piece. Now, five members grace the stage, exchanging instruments, putting on one of the most memorable shows. Absolutely beautiful.

The Sword and Red Fang.
I saw The Sword twice this year. Both shows were good, but the first time I saw them, they shared the bill with Red Fang—a great pairing. The crowd was also more energetic. The Sword played a bunch of songs that were later released on the new record. Great shows.

Gaslight Anthem.
My partner and I were thrilled finally to see Gaslight Anthem. Cat’s Cradle was packed with people. As soon as the band started to play everyone was bouncing around singing the songs. The drummer was the most energetic person in the room, bouncing behind the kit. Killer performance.

Iron Maiden.
I saw Iron Maiden twice this year, along with many of my fellow taint ticklers. I cannot get enough of this band. Perhaps my favorite moment was hearing/seeing “Wasted Years” performed live.

Havok.
Havok played a small club in Fort Collins, Colorado. The show reminded me a punk rock shows in the 80s, as a small group of people attended show and rocked the fuck out. It was nice to see a newer thrash band, who were very good.

Mike Watt.
This is the second time that I saw Mike Watt play his most recent rock opera. This time, the performance was even tighter and more intense. Punk fuckin’ rock.

Billy Joe Shaver.
I was very excited to see Billy Joe Shaver perform. He is a legendary songwriter. His voice sounded great. The show was very spontaneous, as he simply selected songs from a very long list, in accordance with what he felt like playing that night. He played some requests and told hilarious stories

Alejandro Escovedo and David Hidalgo.
I love Alejandro Escovedo. I have seen him perform at least ten times. Every show has been completely different as far as the arrangement of the songs and the band that is accompanying him, etc. This night was special as David Hidalgo and Alejandro traded stories and songs throughout the evening. David Hidalgo is masterful and can play anything. They complemented each other nicely, and there were many moments of pure brilliance.

Trips:
In March, I spent a week visiting Memphis and Nashville. My partner and I rarely take extended trips. But this year, we decided to enjoy some time on the road and to focus on music. Between Memphis and Nashville, we explored the history of soul, country, rock, and blues. We went to Stax: Museum of American Soul Music, Sun Studios, the Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum, and Graceland in Memphis. In Nashville, we went to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, Studio B, and the Grand Ole Opry. We went to many awesome record stores. This vacation was definitely one of the best music related experiences this year.


Travis


Records:


1. The Jealous Sound, A Gentle Reminder (Vinyl Collective, 2012).
With their first record in nine years (Got Friends was a digital only release), The Jealous Sound put out their best record ever, the finest record of the year, and singer Blair Sheehan’s best outing since his former band Knapsack’s classic 1995 release, Day Three of My New Life. Recorded in The Foo Fighters’ studio with their engineer throughout 2011, the production quality of A Gentle Reminder is the best I’ve heard in years. A great throwback to the great second generation “emo” sound of the ‘90s.

2. Baroness, Yellow and Green (Relapse, 2012).
While this record is not as good as 2009’s The Blue Record, it does contain two of the band’s best songs to date with “Take My Bones Away” and “March to the Sea.” Baroness has managed to successfully combine doom, classic rock, and post-punk in a way that makes me want to punch lesser bands in the neck.

3. The Sword, Apocryphon (Razor & Tie, 2012).
Black Sabbath and Thin Lizzy had a baby that liked punk rock…and then J. Robbins produced it.

4. Torche, Harmonicraft (Volcom, 2012).
I used to say that Torche was metal for people that don’t like metal, but they’re not metal.  They’re a pop band that tunes down to B. And it’s awesome.

5. Soundgarden, King Animal (Seven Four/Republic, 2012).
Louder Than Love is one my favorite albums from the ‘90’s Seattle/Sub Pop/grunge scene, and Soundgarden is the only band to me that still sounds good besides Mudhoney.  This is their best album since 1991’s Badmotorfinger. Track number two, “Non-State Actor” is the standout track with a bass line that is way groovy and makes me happy that Ben Shepard is no longer living in his car.

EPs:

1. Pelican, Ataraxia/Taraxis (Southern Lord, 2012).

2. Desaparecidos, Marikkkopa/Backsell (Saddle Creek, 2012).

3. The Garrison, Joystealer (We Want Action, 2012).

Shows:

1. Russian Circles, Cat’s Cradle, 8/15/12.

2. The Sword/Red Fang, King’s Barcade, 6/20/12.

3. Minus the Bear/Cursive/Caspian, Lincoln Theater, 10/1/12.