Friday, January 04, 2008

It's The End Of tThe World As We Know It...

Happy New Year one and all!

I have decided to jump on the bandwagon and participate in the annual societal ritual of a year end round up and top whatever list of favorite things from the time we know as 2007 ( a very good year, methinks, truly, in the midst of all this craziness and bad juju going on all over this planet we call home.). So here goes nothing. My picks for the best of what I heard, saw, read, experienced from the past year, in no particular order of rank, just pretty much randomly as they occur to me (pretty much like how I have written this intro so far, eh?).

Music (I promise I will expand on these choices as I fully digest the albums over the next month or so while I paint in "the studio". Nothing like some new music to jump start the old creative juices. (I don't know why, but that sounds dirty now that I look @ it. <;-)) Post-Mortem Release:
Elliott Smith - New Moon
A collection which reminds those of us who loved his style from the get go (packed La Luna balcony or Satirycon shows in PDX circa 1994-95, anyone?) Just what a loss it was when Elliott did himself in so tragically. I cherish this music as it is the soundtrack to my first years on the west coast, just making it happen for myself far from home in Portland ,OR.

A fine companion to this album is the newly published book, Elliott Smith by Autumn de Wilde a photographer friend who chronicled Elliott's life after achieving some national acclaim and moving away from Portland (to NYC and eventually, L.A. where he met his demise.). Great photographs and prose in tribute to a shy friend who knew how to write about his pain in life, but sadly, was unable to overcome it. We love and miss you here in the Pacific Northwest Elliott. I will always have your songs playing in the background of my mind as I roam the dark, wet, beer soaked streets of the city you loved and lived in for so long before the spotlight found you and thrust you into an uneasy stardom. I hope you are at peace with it all now, a beam of light in the darkness of the greater cosmos.

Major Career Magnum Opus:
Tom Waits - Orphans - This is an odds and sods collection, yes, but it is also much more than that. It is a clear the decks (and closets) of all and various sundry. Mr. Waits has taken this opportunity to put out a late career defining amalgamation of styles and ideas set to music which will have one listening intently for months to come. This is a chance to glimpse at the fascinating inner workings of one of my favorite American eccentric composers. It reminds me in many (good) ways of the Clash's similar closet cleaning experiment in "throwing ideas at the sound engineer and seeing what sticks to the tape" 3 disc set "Sandinista" from back in the late '80's. Yes, there are some throw away tracks, some experiments that make one smile now, but which will likely wear thin sometime down the road, but taken as a whole and complete work - however haphazardly collected or concocted - this is a rock solid effort by a man at the peak of his talents as an artist of true honest singular vision. Essential Waits.

I can't wait to see what Tom and Kathleen have in store for us next!

Innovative Multi-Culti Dance Punk Armed with a Sampler and a Message:
M.I.A. - Kala - As with her debut, M.I.A. brings the hyper crazy angular beats and funky samples to this, her sophomore effort. Chanted vocals with militant messages and cooing sing-song collide with Indian raga, punk attitude, DIY aesthetic and Hip-Hop break beats. This is energetic dance music with multiple layers, require close and repeated listening to fully dissect and digest (my favorite kind of audio challenge!). Bonus points for her use of the best Clash! sample yet, her capture of "Straight to Hell" (my very favorite Joe Strummer studio performance) in "Paper Planes" is a fitting (and crazily catchy) tribute to a fallen idol/comrade in truth.
You just gotta love a song with a shotgun's blast punctuating the point and driving the chorus home!! Sing it with me now, "all I want to do is("Bang, Bang, Bang") and take your $$$!" Another excellent disc in an exciting newish genre. Buy It Now!

Gypsy Punk Provocateurs:
Gogol Bordello -Super Taranta! -Me thinks that much of the charm and energy of this completely insane collaborative of international misfits (the best kind of misfit!) doesn't really translate to record very well. I'd love to see them Live in their element in some small sweaty club in NYC. There are some decent clips of live Gogol Bordello on Youtube which are worth looking up for those who are curious. These guys and gals take off where the Pogues (or even label mates Flogging Molly) left off, and turn the party knob up to 11! (this one goes to "11".) Put this on to take your social gathering up to the next level (whatever that may be)...keep the fire buckets handy though, things are bound to get out of control with the Gogol's as a soundtrack!

Urban West Coast American Dance Collective
Ozomotli - Don't mess with the dragon - While I will concede that this is not my favorite effort by this large band of Los Angeles brothers in arms (that would be their debut featuring the vinyl scratch styling of one Mr. Cut Chemist who has since left the family), this recent release sees the band going down a slicker more pop oriented road. Perhaps they are changing organically, as these collaborations often do, or maybe it is due to pressure from their record label to break through on the commercial radio level, who knows for sure? (Only their hairdressers do!) Despite this more heavily produced direction, I still find their mish-mash of styles and cultural references to be intriguing and certainly positively danceable. Again, this may be a band that is best experienced live, as their whole vibe says "Party" and "let's get together and make the best of it by overcoming our differences". All in all, an enjoyable, but not completely essential disc for 2007 from a band on the cusp of the Big Time. With the rise in popularity of all things pertaining to the Latin American culture slowly growing in our population, these guys are only going to get more and more exposure. Listen to them now before everyone else jumps on the bandwagon.

More notes on these 'uns later on y'all...for reals, check it out later! Don't forget now, y'hear?

nariwen- Aman Iman (the water of life)
Dust Galaxy - Dust Galaxy
Arcade Fire - Neon Bible
Bishop Allen and the Broken String - Self titled
Andrew Bird - Armchair Apocrypha
Carbon/Silicon - The Last Post
Bettey Levette (w/ Drive By Truckers) - Scene of the Crime
Dee Dee Bridgewater - Red Dirt: A Malian Journey
Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings - 100 days, 100 nights
Graham Parsons and the Flying Burrito Bros. - Live @ the Avalon Ballroom 1969
Mojo Magazine Presents: Stax Soul Power!
Mojo Magazine Presents: In Search Of Syd
Mojo Magazine Presents: Cigarettes and Alcohol
Menomena - Friend and Foe
Sasparilla - debilitated Constitution
Failing Records - A Compilation Of Portland Music, Vol. 3
PDX Pop Now! 2007


Mojo Magazine as if you couldn't tell by now!)
Paste Magazine
Make! magazine (check it out sometime if you like to build stuff using things you might have around the house. I'm talking useful stuff here, not just "art objects" cobbled together from junk. (not that there is anything wrong with that))

Food books

Pork and Sons
The Cheese Lovers Companion
Pig Earth

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