Thursday, December 31, 2009

Best Selling Albums 2009

1. Wilco - - Wilco (The Album)
2. Animal Collective - - Meriweather Post Pavilion
3. Son Volt - - American Central Dust
4. Bottle Rockets - - Lean Forward
5. Grizzly Bear - - Veckatimest
6. Fleet Foxes - - Fleet Foxes
7. Bob Dylan - - Together Through Life
8. Yeah Yeah Yeahs - - It's Blitz
9. Andrew Bird - - Noble Beast
10. The Decemberists - - Hazards of Love
11. Neko Case - - Middle Cyclone
12. Them Crooked Vultures - - Them Crooked Vultures
Bruce Springsteen - - Working On a Dream
14. Dead Weather - - Horehound
Monsters of Folk - - Monsters of Folk
16. U2 - - No Line on the Horizon
17. Flaming Lips - - Embryonic
Levon Helm - - Electric Dirt
Iron & Wine - - Around the Well
20. Rosanne Cash - - The List
Bob Dylan - - Christmas In the Heart
Dan Auerbach - - Keep It Hid
24. Leonard Cohen - - Live In London
25. Steve Earle - - Townes
Neil Young - - Sugar Mountain Live
27. Kings of Leon - - Only By the Night
Radiohead - - In Rainbows
Elvis Costello - - Secret, Profane & Sugarcane
30. Camera Obscura - - My Maudlin Career
Beatles - - Abbey Road
32. David Byrne & Brian Eno - - Everything That Happens Will Happen Today
Avett Brothers - - I & Love & You
Dirty Projectors - - Bitte Orca
35. Franz Ferdinand - - Tonight: Franz Ferdinand
Deerhunter - - Microcastle
Van Morrison - - Astral Weeks Live
Bon Iver - - For Emma Forever Ago
39. Fred Friction - - Jesus Drank Wine
Sonic Youth - - The Eternal
Phoenix - - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
MGMT - - Oracular Spectacular
Dave Matthews Band - - Big whiskey and the Groogrux King
44. M. Ward - - Hold Time
Green Day - - 21st Century Breakdown
Tom Waits - - Glitter & Doom Live
47. White Rabbits - - It's Frightening
Blitzen Trapper - - Furr
Morrissey - - Years of Refusal
Regina Spektor - - Far

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Cover Me - Holiday Joy? Or Something Like It!

Merry Christmas from Cover Me.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Best Albums of 2009 - Steve

In alphabetical order, cause I don't know any other way to rank them (and acknowledging that there are many other great records that I liked, and probably many more I didn't even hear):

Alvin, Dave Dave Alvin & the Guilty Women
Bottle Rockets Lean Forward
Cohen, Leonard Live in London
Diken, Dennis with Bell Sound Late Music
Helm, Levon Dirt Farmer
Henry, Joe Blood From Stars
Holsapple, Peter & Stamey, Chris Here and Now
Hunter, Ian Man Overboard
Miller, Buddy & Julie Written In Chalk
Prophet, Chuck Let Freedom Ring!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Stuff That Jack Likes, Best of 2009 Edition

Here's my top 10 list of my favorite albums of 2009:

1. Miike Snow - Miike Snow
2. Micachu - Jewellery
3. The Juan Maclean - The Future Is Now
4. The Big Pink - A Brief History of Love
5. Lake - Let's Build A Roof
6. Floating Action - Floating Action
7. Empire of the Sun - Walking on a Dream
8. Passion Pit - Manners
9. The Hidden Cameras - Origin: Orphan
10. Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Albums of My Life - 1998 - Sweet Honey in the Rock "Twenty-Five"

by Steve Pick

It ain't easy to put an out of body experience into words, but here goes nothing. Listening to Sweet Honey in the Rock, even without taking into consideration any of the words they are singing, is like an instant transport into the mind of a zen buddhist after decades of introspective meditation. It will wash all this beauty right through your skin, into your soul. It raises the best kind of goosebumps, the ones that shimmer their way through your heart, your brain, your muscles and limbs. It is, in short, perfection.

At the time of Twenty-five, there had been a Sweet Honey in the Rock for 25 years, hence the album title. The five women in the group in 1998 had been together for several years at this point, but many others had come and gone over the years. I've seen Sweet Honey some 14 times since 1985, but this line-up is what I consider to be the definitive one - founder Bernice Johnson Reagon, Carol Maillard, Aisha Kahlil, Nitanju Bolade Casel, and the incomparable Ysaye Maria Barnwell.

I can't even imagine how these women worked up the songs they sang. Whether an original from one of the members, a spiritual, blues, or reggae song, or a traditional African chant, everything they touched was turned into something magical and beyond the ordinary. So, you bring in a song to the group, and somehow or another, they come up with harmonies, rhythmic variations, counterpoint, and emotional resonance far beyond the obvious. This was an ensemble of equals where nobody was less than a musical genius.

Twenty-five isn't necessarily my favorite Sweet Honey album (gotta go with In This Land from 1992), it is a perfectly representative one. Opening with a thrill ride of a canon, "We Are the Ones We've Been Waiting For," Sweet Honey move so far beyond the obvious intent of energizing the audience to make the change we seek in the world. It's all those voices wrapping around those simple words, over and over again, in feats of astounding invention and intriguing chords and rhythms, taking us right out of the limits we think might be up against us. Heck, if this song could have been playing in the Senate while they were debating health care, that whole mess might have been a heck of a lot more inspired.

There is the thrilling "Chant," in which the members of Sweet Honey demonstrate their ability to take something without words and make it as meaningful, as beautiful, as mesmerizing as anything you've ever heard. There is Bob Marley's "Redemption Song," with its dichotomy of accepting fate vs. longing for freedom - when Kahlil starts her trumpet imitations for the last minute and a half or so, one can almost believe this battle to be won. There's the spiritual lament of "Motherless Chil'," the interior questioning of "Greed (A Sermonette)," the thrilling love songs "Sometime" (with Reagon's earth-shattering drawn-out syllables on the word "forever" which, as astounding as it is on record, only hints at what she did with this when she sang it live) and "Forever Love," one of the most intricately arranged pieces on an album of intricately arranged pieces.

Every member of Sweet Honey at this time had an established personality and role. Reagon, the powerful alto from the Gospel and freedom-song traditions (who had founded the group back in 1973); Maillard, another founding member whose soprano wafted through every song like bright clouds from heaven; Kahlil, the youngest member of the group whose playfulness and interest in popular musics like reggae and hip-hop helped energize Sweet Honey; Casel, whose voice hovered between soprano and alto, and whose emotional fervor was an essential component on so many ensemble pieces and a bolt of fury on the ones she led; and Barnwell, hands down the greatest female bass vocalist in history - she could sound like a bass fiddle, or a drum, or a tuba, or a piano, or an amazingly talented human being.

No other record I loved in 1998 remains quite as enthralling 11 years later as it did at the time (though Neko Case's The Virginian is just as plucky as ever, and Madonna's Ray of Light still gets me excited every time; I guess it was a great year for women). (Another one from my top 10 of that year is gonna represent 1999; I can't figure that one out, except I think it came out as an import the year before it appeared domestically, and thus I get to cheat on my own rules - cool.) I've long held that Sweet Honey in the Rock was (and presumably still is, though I've never seen them after Reagon retired a few years back) one of the five greatest musical artists of our time (along with David Murray, Ornette Coleman, Elvis Costello, and Richard Thompson). This record gives all the evidence you need to see why.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Stuff That Jack Likes, Volume 6

A fairly frequent list of stuff that Euclid's own Jackieboy currently likes...

1. Brand spankin' new Hot Chip video for the song "One Life Stand" off their album of the same name, due February 9th:

2. This dog:

3. A preview of my top 10 of 2009 list... Miike Snow's video for "Animal". I will never tire of this track. Song of the year? Maybe:

4. The Kids in the Hall are back!!! Well, on Canadian TV, at least, with an 8-part series called Death Comes to Town:

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Troubadour Dali CD Release Party Almost Here

Get a sneak preview of the debut release from Troubadour Dali.
See the band live at Off Broadway Friday December 11 with special guests Jon Hardy and the Public and The Campfire Club.

Troubadour Dali has recruited accomplished producer Bill Racine (Mates of State, Rogue Wave) to mix its long-awaited album released Tuesday Dec. 15 on Euclid Records' new label. But the act hasn't exactly been sitting around doing nothing during the past couple of years: It's cycled through several lineups and carved out its own sound, away from the Brian Jonestown Massacre-influenced sonics which defined so much of its early output. An expanded lineup has enabled Troubadour Dali to incorporate more atmospherics and shoegaze-type textures — thus transforming its live show into an enveloping collage of ambient noise and pulsing pop-song constructs - Shae Moseley Riverfront Times

Hear "Take Us Down"

Hear "Lying Down"

Hear "Heavy Feather"

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Euclid Records Mines the Past

Once upon a time, Joe Schwab, the man behind the Euclid Records empire, was also the man working on a TV program called Psychotic Reaction. Back in the late 1980s, Psychotic Reaction featured live performances by quite a few national and St. Louis-area bands, and we're sharing some of the best ones at our brand spanking new YouTube channel. You should really head on over there to catch the really cool stuff: seasonal videos from Corporate Humor, Thin White Rope, the Bishops, Pianosaurus, Yo La Tengo, Fishbone and more.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Albums of My Life - 1997 - Buena Vista Social Club "Buena Vista Social Club"

by Steve Pick

We've come to the 40th installment of this sort-of-weekly look at one album to represent each year of my life - only 12 more to go.

Well, I'm just stumped at how to go about talking about the Buena Vista Social Club. It's not as though I know nothing about Cuban music - it's more like I know just enough to be dangerous. I'm keenly aware of the limitations which prevent me from really saying anything intelligent about this magical album.

Ry Cooder has travelled around the world making musical collaborations, many of which have been exquisite. But, usually, these have been one-on-one meetings of Cooder with players from another culture; his work with Ali Farka Toure being a particularly lovely example.

When Cooder went to Cuba, he was originally supposed to referee a meeting between Cuban and African musicians, but it turned out the Africans couldn't get there. Instead, he became the mastermind behind rejuvenating the careers of a half dozen major Cuban players, some of whom had not actually performed in years before Cooder brought them back into the studio for this project.

After this record, pretty much all of these guys - Compay Segundo, Ibrahim Ferrer, Eliades Ochoa, Ruben Gonzalez - became stars of a sort in the U.S. Each made multiple solo records, as well as performed on follow-up and companion pieces to these original sessions, and when visa issues were straightened out, managed to tour here in this country. I was too stupid to go see Ochoa when he played St. Louis, the only one of the bunch to come to my fair city.

The film, directed by Wim Wenders, which documented the making of this album was what brought this music to my attention. Now, I can't remember if it was Cooder's presence or Wenders which brought me to it, but I distinctly remember the fascination I felt at hearing all these amazing voices (instrumental voices and vocals) for the first time. None of them were in fashion in Cuba anymore, but they were all still masters at performing.

Listening now to this record for the first time in several years, I'm struck more than ever at the ways Cuban music weaved its way around the history of jazz. Many of the shorter sons (Cuban songs) have melodies which clearly represent the "Latin tinge" of which Jelly Roll Morton spoke; and of course, there are elements of improvisation which jazz developed in a different way, but which work beautifully in some of the longer pieces. "El Cuarto de Tula" is as intense in its constant renovation of simple melodic motifs as any jazz piece one could name.

Cooder himself plays some electric slide guitar on several cuts, and he mostly stays in the background. I'll admit, he's jarring on the stunningly gorgeous title track, but Ruben Gonzalez's piano playing is so dominant, so clear of purpose, that I doubt anybody could have added any counterpoint beyond the bass and percussion of the original style. Otherwise, I smile now and then as Cooder bends notes which ordinarily fade into the Cuban ether, but mostly just think he fits the mood nicely.

Most of the major performers on this record have passed away in the dozen years since it appeared, but it's nice to know they were given a chance to revisit the skills of their youth, and to gain an appreciative audience of mostly people who barely had a sense there was any other kind of Cuban music. While I love the horn-driven rhythmic excitement of Latin music after Castro, I'm delighted to hear the romantic, slippery rhythms of these older styles. The Buena Vista Social Club doesn't sound like a nostalgia-fest for its performers; rather, it's proof that musical forms can come alive as long as there are musicians who play them as easy as most of us go about breathing.

2010 We're Ready For You

You think this looks nice here on the internet, just imagine this slab of wood hanging on your wall beautifying your home and keeping you up to date, literally. We've got it for $14.99 online or come by and browse the store. We've also got last year's lovely calendar with new dates on it, so you have options.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Stuff That Jack Likes, Volume 5

A fairly frequent list of stuff that Euclid's own Jackieboy currently likes...

1. A fun little animated video for "You Cried Me" by Jookabox (formally Grampall Jookabox) from his new album Dead Zone Boys. The best part of this video is ghost cat:

2. A band to keep your eye on: Think About Life with the video for "Sweet Sixteen" from their album Family:

3. And another one by Think About Life called "Havin' My Baby":

4. "Happy House" by The Juan Maclean off the album The Future Will Come, released earlier this year:

5. And finally, the offical video for the new Yeasayer song "Ambling Amp". Warning: NSFW. There's some of them naked people running around:

Yeasayer - Ambling Alp from Spy Films on Vimeo.