Part 1 (50-31) can be seen here, while Part 2 (30-16) can be seen here. If you’d like to hear a spotify playlist of my favorite songs off my top 50 in order that they appeared, go here in the spotify app.
Irreversible Entanglements – Irreversible Entanglements
If there was a record this year that really floored me, even if mostly out of being caught of guard, it was this one. It’s nearly a straight avant-garde jazz record, with a political beat poetry sensibility recalling the trailblazing works of Gil Scott-Heron/The Last Poets. The thing that seems different is the violence in the air, or the decades of music that have come between. Since The Last Poets we’ve had punk, hardcore, thrash, riot grrrl, and gangster rap and that all matters here, as even if we don’t touch them sonically, their anger simmers in the boil next to these arrangements. It produces a stew that even when it’s as cool and detached as jazz can be, there seems to also be a siren in the room, a fevered burst ready to spring. It makes the record taut and uneasy, even if we listen knowing their isn’t a false misstep anywhere. Here come the assassins, and they’re checking their lists. Continue reading
Part 1, covering selections 50-31 can be viewed here. Part 3, cover selections 15-1 can be viewed here.
Chuck Prophet – Bobby Fuller Died for Your Sins
For years in the early 1980s Chuck Prophet half fronted one of the greatest American bands most people don’t know, Green on Red. Their delicious blending of rural American styles and punkish wit set them within avenues that many more famous contemporaries have now become millionaires within (REM, Wilco, etc). But as is said for many originators, it was lonely at the top of inspiration hill, and thus they remain largely unknown. Once Chuck Prophet went solo, his records slowed down, he’d be most easily characterized as an American Graham Parker or Nick Lowe, but while they’ve decidedly softened as they’ve aged, Prophet’s razor lines remain brimming with a bloodlust he had in his youth. Plus, some of the stuff still absolutely screams, I can’t think of a more signature riff this year than the one that forms ‘Your Skin’ here. Continue reading
Every time I’ve attempted a top 50 records for a calendar year I’ve settled on an ordered 50-6 and then an unranked top 5, which each of those five nearly interchangeable. It’s a format I like, especially for music, where a selected favorite on any given day is usually at the behest of an emotional temperament or desired mood. This year, for a litany of reasons, I decided to set out to explore streaming services and artist friendly commerce sites more (like bandcamp and soundcloud) in an attempt to better track the artist expression of our many resistances and scattered undergrounds that the fallout from 2016 birthed like an army of determined ants set to ‘spur’n. With these avenues tackled weekly throughout 2017 alongside my usual, more mainstream, dives, I saw my number of favorites triple. So instead with this years list you’ll notice a three tiered system, each producing masterpieces by the bushel, but with an attempt by my oversaturated mind to attempt something akin to organization. The first post will be the third tier, roughly albums 50-31 unordered, then the second post will have tier two (30-16; also unordered) and the last post the unordered top 15 in place of the normal top 5. Scouring amounted in helping me hear three times the masterworks and personal favorites I usually do. That, or our artistic resistance is indeed healthy. Assuredly both I’d think.
(With this being said, my list still overwhelming bares my main rock n’ roll predispositions and obsessions, the raison d’être for the entire form in my eyes: the interplay between a loud guitar [or 2], a loud bass [or 2], and a cracking drummer) Continue reading
This mix, in its original form, started as a mere concept to show the beauty of Pop music that is purposefully arty and outwardly beautiful; the type of stuff that the form has really sought to do on a few remarkable occasions (the 1966-1967 sunshine era, the mid-1980’s jangle period, and the early 90’s post-modern boom). It started when I noticed the remarkable similarity in a melodic motif in Chad & Jeremy’s ‘The Cruel War’ (an outtake from Before and After that is listed as being from Chad and Jill Steuart) and Sagittarius’ ‘Would You Like to Go’ from 1967 (from one of the great Pop lps ever made, Present Tense). From there it was just a very loose playlist, something I’d add to every time I heard something I thought highly artful, but poppy. Then, after a few listens, a bunch of lyrical references pointed me in the direction of day and night and a concept emerged, the most repurposed idea in all of Pop: that there are conflicting natures, and artists often represent them similarity. Hopeful happiness is painted with imagery towards light and darkness sitting in for depressive melancholia. What if the mix was a Pop journey through literal darkness, a night spent tossing and turning in bed listening to a still, quiet city or township outside in complete stillness, only connected, if at all, in the minds of those who have psychosis wandering about in insomnia-induced states. The playlist then becomes where the beauty in Pop music comes from: the deep black nights of the mind and those that have optimism enough to provide the lamplight with which to brighten the shadowy recesses. At a few points you’re even able to see the passage of time in references to the slow moving alarm clock numbers. It’s then, in equal measure, the most depressive and optimistic playlist I’ve ever made. Or, in the words of a song selected here, ‘For I have the warmth of the sun/within me at night’. Continue reading
The other day, probably in response to Ken Burns’ new miniseries Vietnam War, I saw a discussion online about pop songs that should never be used again in service of soundtracking the events of US involvement in southeast Asia in the 1960’s and early 1970’s. You could guess the ones overused; Hendrix’s ‘All Along the Watchtower’, Creedence Clearwater Revival’s ‘Fortunate Son’, Jefferson Airplanes ‘Volunteers’, Grand Funk Railroad’s ‘Closer to Home’, the Doors ‘Break On Through’ or ‘The End’ etc, all good songs to be sure, but all heavily overused in pop culture on the topic (I’d even seen a few people calling the Stooges ‘Search and Destroy’ overused what with its opening line concerning a ‘heart full of napalm’). So then the conversation turned to what to use instead? It’d need to be anthemic, or at least righteously angry on the topic at hand (and made in the era in question), and catchy enough to prompt something akin to familiarity on first listen. I started to drift around to many options, it was the first real era of mainstream searing electric guitar. Continue reading
A funny joke of a pun started the idea behind this months mix—one that any hard rock fan who counted the Who over Led Zeppelin in their formative years has probably thought at least a hundred times. With dozens of friends over the years, not to mention classic rock radio DJ’s, insisting that Led Zeppelin, and not the Who, where the best English rockin’ band featuring a gonzo drummer, an incredibly gifted and underrated bass player and, and a cocksure front man with golden locks to his shoulders (oddly enough these aren’t the only two that fit that description!) it was nearly enough to drive us Who fanatics insane. I’ve alway remained steadfast that the Who are where it’s at—in many ways Led Zeppelin to me were birthed in an attempt for Jimmy Page to have his own Who to himself. Thus, via the very definition of ‘derivative’, Led Zeppelin were always a slightly more sluggish, prodding, less cerebral Who. In effect, a Who for the bar crowd who were thicker than any Porter on the menu. Continue reading
Today, Thursday, May 11th Wonders in the Dark will be hosting a 16 day Allan Fish Online Film Festival (Allan Fish OFF), of which I am a part of. The rules are simple; each day will see a new chairman host the festivities and select a film that is available to be watched by anyone, online for free from a popular streaming site (youtube, vimeo, dailymotion, etc.). The host for that day will decide how the film they chose will be presented; an essay, a sparse teaser introduction, or ‘other’ (the creativity seen on the blogosphere for film commentary knows no bounds as we all know). Thus, conceivably the film festival could be nearly real; people anywhere on the globe watching the same film, at roundabout the same time. It’s named in honor of our dear friend and film scholar Allan Fish, whose birthday was May 11th, and will be an annual event from this day forward. He found so many of his treasured Obscuro’s doing just what we’re setting out to do with this Festival, so it seemed the most fitting way to remember him. More information on the festival can be found here, with the first post here.