Amoeblog

Best of a Rapid Decade: One per year plus a few too good to not mention...

Posted by J. Mark Beaver, January 6, 2010 04:00pm | Post a Comment

In recently trying to fill in a friend on what I'd spent the last year or two listening to, I realized that my personal taste tends to gravitate towards some element of either Folk form (any hint of hill-folk finger-pickin' or Ozark/Appalachian melancholy and I'm in), Psychedelia or the tendency to extend a theme for a good long jam (a category in which I include a lot of the Jazz that I like), or just a great, funky groove.

With those qualifiers in place, the following is a year by year review of the last decade which somehow got past me with out noticing it. I mean, really?!! 2010?!!!  I didn't see it coming: 

2000: Album of the Year

Air's enjoyable and wacky Moon Safari had been on the decks for a couple years before they contracted for the soundtrack to Sofia Coppolla's Virgin Suicides. The resultant score is absolutely sublime and marked the French electronauts as contenders to watch.

For myself, it was the defining sound of the millennium's new year.
















Shelby Lynne released a killer country-soul gem, I Am Shelby Lynne, that echoed early material from the likes of Bonnie Raitt. Thinking that it was a brilliant debut from a talented 32yo unknown, I was eventually shocked to find that it was her 6th album. I listened to it for months.

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Todd is Godd: Rundgren tours his legendary album A Wizard, A True Star.

Posted by Kelly S. Osato, December 5, 2009 08:30am | Post a Comment
 todd rundgren a wizard a true star album cover tour 2009 san francisco live futurist rock concert
I have only ever twice before been fortunate enough to have enjoyed a live performance of an entire album from beginning to end. I'll never forget the dorky glee I felt once upon a time in 1990 hearing Geoff Tate of Queensryche ask his band mates a few songs into their show in support of their album Empire, "guys, shall we do Mindcrime?," only then to crush non-stop through their hour-long progressive rock-opera Operation: Mindcrime. Then there was the surprise and delight of hearing Joanna Newsom say during her show a couple of Christmases ago, "I'd like to perform my new album for you now," and just like that, her nearly hour long Ys magically unfurled its sails with everyone in attendance on board. However, Todd Rundgren's performance last Tuesday night of his stellar album A Wizard, A True Star at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco was a mess of fandom-fueled joy that I knew I was getting into and, to a certain extent, almost dreaded.
todd rundgren a wizard a true star awats tour fan art jacket embroidery needle craft
I mean, compared to the prior two experiences where my "being there when they unexpectedly played the album" aspect of the live performance became a highlight of each show, I wondered how will I look back on this --- a show where I know not only the set list beforehand, but also already anticipate the overall feeling that I get when listening to the album on my own terms. In other words, how could this show present anything but the record I love as a less-than-perfect rendition with low-lights glaring where the highlights would be (a lot like Todd's white-on-black hairdo actually). Maybe I was a little concerned as to Todd's ability to deliver, at age 61, his genre-smearing, progressive futuristic rock magnum opus of 1973 in a live, staged setting --- an album that has aged so well that Todd admits to caving in to fan demands for a tour when asked, "why this album," and "why now?" C'mon, who would go through all the trouble to embroider the back of their jacket with album art from a record that wasn't sent from Utopia itself? If the exemplary piece of fan craftage above (as seen at the show last Tuesday night) gives any indication, Rundgren's A Wizard, A True Star must be nothing less than the shit, impervious to crumbling under the constraints of staged presentation! Still there's more...
todd rundgren rocker style icon 1970's guitar god a wizard a true star tour 2009
I know now that I was wrong to doubt Rundgren's ability, regardless of age, to deliver anything but a jaw-dropping display of pure showmanship and theatricality. And I was wrong to expect the expected too. For one thing, I had no idea Todd was to be his own opening band. To everyone's surprise, Todd, flanked by three other dudes similarly clad in black on black and wearing black shades, took to the stage and, after announcing the world premiere of "Todd Rundgren's Johnson," played a robust set of Robert Johnson covers. Todd explained at one point that this particular cover band thing had something to do with either business or karmic obligations, probably both. In any case the set provided a means for a world class shredder like Rundgren to really strut his stuff and look effortlessly cool doing so. But that didn't last long, as Todd's taste for rotating guises in the second act, or rather the show we all came to see, had me wondering if Rundgren's "style icon" status has rendered him immune to aesthetic criticism or has been downright revoked.

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Neal Morgan Chats

Posted by Miss Ess, October 20, 2009 02:13pm | Post a Comment
Drummer Neal Morgan's bold, multi-layered record, To the Breathing World, with songs created from vocals and drums only, comes out today, October 20! An entire album consisting of drums and vocals may sound simple, but Neal has created something that's complex, layered and not short on melody to boot!

You may know Neal from his status as a member of the Ys Street Band -- he was on the road with Joanna Newsom for Ys playing drums and singing backing vocals. His first solo release is something new and creative to behold -- the tracks are kind of like tiny symphonies of vocal layering, and the lyrics often reference the natural surroundings Neal grew up around in his hometown of Nevada City/Grass Valley.

Read on for our chat about the creative crock pot that is Nevada City, his new album, touring with Joanna Newsom, and more, and check out Neal's other chat with our own, ever-so-witty Job O Brother; the two are long time friends.

neal morgan to the breathing world

Miss Ess: How did you pick up playing the drums? What is it that drew you to them so strongly?

Neal Morgan: I began playing when I was 9; my dad had a cover band called Sons of Boogie that would practice in the garage. I think I must have sat down at the drumkit and something clicked. I can't say why I was drawn strongly -- I was a cautious kind of kid, so maybe banging on drums was a good contrast. I don't know.
neal morgan
ME: Who are your favorite drummers?

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It's Autumn, Therefore We Have Joanna Newsom's "Only Skin"

Posted by Miss Ess, October 9, 2009 02:40pm | Post a Comment
"Only Skin" is but one track off of Joanna Newsom's truly epic album Ys, but this single song is a real doozy. At 16 minutes+ in length, it's probably one of the longer pop songs around, if it could even really be referred to as "pop." It's really much more complicated and layered than the vast majority of what passes for pop.

ys joanna newsom

Anyway, it's one long, fairy-tale like poetic parable for the perennial confusion of romantic relationships, the vast pleasures and joy, pain and strife, storms and sunshine, abundanjoanna newsomce and lack, with rich descriptions and allusions including references to antiquated and fantastical forms such as "fire breathers," a "toothless hound dog," a weeping sea gull and a "hairless and blind cavalry," among many others.

It feels like there are several distinct musical movements through the length of the song, the music deftly winding and dancing around multiple emotions, much like the "twisting and braiding" river, the "lazy cinder smoking" and the "estuaries of wax-white" that wend through its lyrics.

This song is incomperable, a stunner.

If you haven't heard it or all of Ys yet, now is the time, when the leaves are falling, the air is full of woodsmoke and the change of seasons makes the earth and its brethren, described so beautifully here, feel that much closer.

And P.S.: Please check out two special interviews with Joanna's touring drummer, Neal Morgan, about his new record To the Breathing World. To get in the mood, check out his masterful work on the EP Joanna Newsom and the Ys Street Band!

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Photographic Memory, Part 2

Posted by Job O Brother, September 14, 2009 12:01pm | Post a Comment
This is another installment of music and/or movies that I’m reminded of when looking at old photos of myself, my family and my friends. It was brought to you by the letter E and the number 8. And through a generous donation from the Karen Silkwood Driving Academy. And from Viewers Like You.

angry kid
"I hate you."

Here’s a picture of the dude that’s writing the sentence you’re reading right now. It was taken while he was in Kindergarten. The expression on the boy’s face sets the tone for the rest of his scholastic experience.

I don’t know what happened to make me look so surly in a photograph. It could’ve been as simple as the photographer telling me to “Smile!” which is an order I have never responded to well. I mean, if someone wants me to smile, they should be creative about it. Try saying something like:

“I’ve bought you 8 pints of ice cream and a spoon!” or

“I managed to destroy every last recording of the song ‘Entry Of The Gladiators!'” or

“I am John Gavin, and I’m going to kiss you.”

Something that would make me smile for reals. Don’t just bark orders at me! Especially to portray an emotion. That’s too personal. I AM NOT A LABRADOR RETRIEVER, PEOPLE!

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