My Favorite SPOON Record

I picked up on Spoon pretty early. I heard one song on a Matador compilation in the mid 90’s. So When I saw A Series of Sneaks in a used bin in St. Paul, I picked it up. That was probably 1998.

I have really been enjoying Spoon’s latest record, Transference quite a bit. They seem to have fully realized the austere direction they began to head in 2002 with there positively great release called Kill The Moonlight. And I think that Spoon has succeeded so well in the direction they’ve gone during this millenium that it is almost impossible not to love it. But after much consideration, I have come to the conclusion that A Series of Sneaks, released on Elektra in 1997, has got to be my favorite Spoon record to date. It’s a tough decision, because there isn’t one of their seven releases that aren’t well worth owning. A Series of Sneaks seems to be a bit of lost record in their discography. This probably has a lot to do with fact that it could be considered the release that the a band survived, despite the records considerable quality. It was a major label debut, and the label botched it, as often happens. This will usually be enough of a setback as to sack a band. But Spoon survived it, then they thrived, landing on Merge records. Whether or not a band survives situation like that, they usually have a bitter view toward the particular collection of songs involved. Plus they have no motivation to promote an old record that was released on a different label. A label that mistreated them no less. Anyway, that’s my theory about why we hear so little about A Series of Sneaks.

On this record, Spoon was already drawing a tight bead in their presentation. But this record is aggressive. There is an almost opaque layer of what borders between hard rock and punk, laid over the a no nonsense pop underpinning. For those who have enjoyed backtracking to Telephono, or those have gotten into Spoon more recently and would like to hear them push things with more intensity, you will really enjoy this record.

Here they are at First Avenue.


Finally…the Rest of What to Spend Money on from 2009

Well, I’ve picked my top four records from 2009 in my last two posts. Now it’s time for the rest of the records I really liked from last year. These are not in any particular order.

The Clientele – Bonfires on the Heath: more of the similar–what is not to love

Yo La Tengo – Popular Songs: they experiment like The Flaming Lips but still could be on a mix for your new girlfriend.

The Flaming Lips – Embyonic: with nothing left to prove, more proof…probably shouldn’t go on the mix for your new boyfriend.

Deer Tick – Born On Flag Day: probably Country Rock’s latest savior.

Anders Parker – Skyscraper/Crow: the former frontman of Varnaline goes all genius on us.

Sam Baker – Cotton: this old man has yet to record a bad song.

Built To Spill – There Is No Enemy: best record from this band since Keep It Like A Secret….much better than the last record.

Vetiver – Tight Knit: more great retro California from another Sub Pop band. This label has reinvented itself.

The Fruit Bats – The Ruminant Band: see “Vetiver – Tight Knit”, but different.

The Idle Hands – The Hearts We Broke On the Way to the Show: listening to it right now…I love Minneapolis!

Dan Auerbach – Keep It Hid: sleezy, regretful, and as great as any Black Keys record.

The Wooden Birds – Magnolia: fantastic pop from the former leader of American Analog Set.

• Hope Sandoval and the Warm Inventions – Through the Devil Softly: A little less expiremental than Mazzi Star, maybe better.

The Raveonettes – In and Out of Control: Less noisy, just as dark, just a good.

Blitzen Trapper – Black River Killer EP: More good material than most good full-length releases

3 #2’s? WTF?

Annoying as it may be, I had a three-way tie for my second favorite record of the year. They are each rather different from each other, and as I said in my last post, if I had to pick a best record for each sub-genre two of these records would be at the top of their own category. I know, I know…what are they already? Fine, I’ll get on with it.

I’ll start with the record that would not be my favorite within its own category since it shares a decent amount of ground with Other Lives. This was tough decision for me. Finding that my favorite track of the year was Paper Cities, by Other Lives, is what made the difference between my fave of the year and the runner up. By the time you’ve read this far the cover of the record is on your screen (even if you have dial-up), and you know I am talking about the fantastic release from the Toronto band Great Lakes Swimmers called Lost Channels. I wrote about this record in an earlier post from around the time of its release. Great Lakes Swimmers last record, Ongiara was my favorite record from 2007. So it was very gratifying this year to have such high hopes and expectations met. Lost Channels is solid or better on every track. My biggest musical regret of the year, as well as my wife’s, is that we weren’t able to catch either of their performances in Minneapolis this year.

Next is a record that, while having 15 songs and coming in just under 56 minutes, is solid from beginning to end. Mark Olson and Gary Louris were the central creative forces behind The Jayhawks during the early years of the band. When Mark Olson left the band it was the magical harmonies between these two that Gary Louris could not find a suitable substitute for. Don’t get me wrong, the Louris years have produced some great music, especially Rainy Day Music. But the Olson/Louris years produced classic stuff, crowned by Hollywood Town Hall. Word was out rather early that these two were working on Ready For The Flood together, plenty of time for Jayhawks fans to salivate over the possibilities. Then what happens? They delivered, that’s what.

And then there is the release called Us, by another Minnesota artist, Brother Ali. It just keeps ending up in the player. I don’t pretend to be any kind of an authority on Hip-Hop. But I can tell you that Rhymesayers might have found out this year who is going to give Atmosphere competition for the best and most famous act on the label.

Other Lives: Best of 2009

Well, I think I am going use this post to highlight my favorite record from 2009. I will list a bunch of very good records in a later post.

Edging out three other records that were probably the best of the year in their respective (sub)genres, the self-titled release from Other Lives grabbed my attention from first listen, and for the remainder of last year. The lush arrangements tie the whole record together into a wonderfully cohesive presentation. The wise and haunting voice of Jesse Tabish floats over the instrumentation like clouds blanketing mountain peaks. OK maybe that’s a bit dramatic, but maybe you still get the idea. The songs come across as highly philisophical in concept. And the song that is my favorite from 2009, Paper Cities, is a good example of this. Often when a band tries to sound this sophisticated on this many levels, they don’t. But Other Lives self-titled release sounds at times like this five-piece set out to transcend music and didn’t miss by much more than anybody else ever has. Below is a great version of Paper Cities.

John Vanderslice is back

I’m listening this morning to John Vanderslice’s release from this year titled Romanian Names. After loving Pixel Revolt from 2005, and being pleased with results of some subsequent backtracking, I was a little disappointed with his last record from 2007, Emerald City. It had a couple of songs I liked a lot, but overall it flopped for me in comparison to his previous output.

Romanian Names comes through in the sense that Mr. Vanderslice appears to be back in form. It is a solid record that conveys well Vanderslice’s sophisticated sound. My only complaint is I was hoping for at least one song that stood out from the rest in the way “CRC 7173, Affectionately” did on Pixel Revolt. That is tough order though, I think that song would probably be in a top ten list for the decade, were I to compose one. I might, now that I think of it. Or maybe not.

Here’s a video of a song from another great song from Pixel Revolt.

Fruit Bats and Hope Sandoval

HSandoval1I really like this new Hope Sandoval and the Warm Inventions record, Through the Devil Softly. It has gotten me to pull out some of the old Mazzy Star stuff lately as well. She seems like she has belonged in company with what Neko Case and Cat Power have been doing in recent years.

I’ve also been listening to The Fruit Bats The Ruminant Band lately. This record gets better the more I listen to it.

Deer Tick to Dashboard Saviors

DeerTick1One of the records I’ve enjoyed most this year is Deer TickBorn On Flag Day.  I think I recently discovered why I took to this band so quickly. They remind me of the Dashboard Saviors, a band from Athens, GA that put out three records on Twin Tone Records during the 90’s. Both sport a vocalist with steely, gravelly voices. Both put a rock-n-roll jacket on their smart and seedy country songs. I’m extra happy about Deer Tick’s record because I never felt like we got enough music from the Dashboard Saviors, whose music I’ve also been revisiting in the last week or so. As it turns out Deer Tick also have some earlier output that appears worth purchasing. Give the video below a minute or so to get going.