Monday, December 26, 2011

2011: A Recap

(updated on 12/31/2011)

Well 2011, I can't say I'm gonna miss ya. This year has been a bitch, with a few moments of brightness thrown in here & there.  To read all about it, continue after the jump...

Friday, December 23, 2011

Top 20 Fanciest Songs of 2011

At this time, dearest readers, I present you with the big kahuna of lists, my Top 20 fave tunes of the past year (REVISED 12.30.2011):
20. "Contact High" - Love Jones (d)
19. "Are We Lovers or Are We Friends?" - Acid House Kings
18. "Rope" - Foo Fighters
17. "We Can Fly" - Yes
16. "Cold Feet" - Liam Finn
15. "Breathe Out, Breathe In" - The Zombies (d)
14. "Pumped Up Kicks" - Foster the People
13. "Sanctified" - fDeluxe
12. "Cauliflower (offend remix)" - dan le sac VS Scroobius Pip
11. "A Beautiful Life" - Donny & Marie Osmond (d)
10. "Stand" - Lenny Kravitz
9. "Babyfather" - Sade
8. "Forward to Love" - Ziggy Marley (d)
7. "Ghost on the Canvas" - Glen Campbell
6. "Girl Panic!" - Duran Duran
5. "Mine Smell Like Honey" - R.E.M.
4. "Blue Tip" - The Cars
3. "Funky But Chic" - New York Dolls
2. "What I Heard" - Blondie
1. "Anna Lee (sweetheart of the sun)" - The Bangles
NOTE: All songs except those marked with a (d) are currently available on VINYL.
UPDATE/CORRECTION: Ziggy Marley's Wild and Free album was released on vinyl in November, 2011.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

2011 Best of Qtr IV

Here she is, my quarterly "best of" list, aka the 20 songs I've enjoyed most over the past three months (REVISED on 12.22.2011):
20. "Wall Street" - Van Dyke Parks
19. "Bad Girl" (d) - Eli "Paperboy" Reed
18. "House" - Ben Folds Five
17. "The Bare Necessities" (d) - Brian Wilson
16. "#Trendin'" (d) - The Original 7ven
15. "Sweet Christmas" (d) - Shonen Knife
14. "Turn 2 Dust (kevan frost mix)" (d) - Boy George
13. "Contact High"(d) - Love Jones
12. "Secret Weapon" - Annette
11. "Vega-Tables" (2011 SMiLE Sessions single mix) - The Beach Boys
10. "Body and Soul" - Tony Bennett & Amy Winehouse
9. "Leave a Light On" - Duran Duran
8. "A Beautiful Life" (d) - Donny & Marie Osmond
7. "She Walks the Night" - Matthew Sweet
6. "Pumped Up Kicks" - Foster the People
5. "You and I (we can conquer the world)" (d) - George Michael
4. "In My Arms" - Glen Campbell
3. "We All go Back To Where We Belong" (d)- R.E.M.
2. "I'll Never Be Through With You" (d) - The Bangles
1. "Good Vibrations" (2011 SMiLE Sessions version) - The Beach Boys
 Note: Tracks that are shamefully not available on the physical vinyl format are indicated with "(d)".

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

New Ringo Starr vinyl: 1/31/2012

Titled simply "2012", this is Ringo's 2nd self-produced LP.
Street date: 1/31/2012.

Track listing:

1.     Anthem (Richard Starkey/Glen Ballard)
2.     Wings (Richard Starkey/Vince Poncia)
3.     Think It Over (Buddy Holly/Norman Perry)
4.     Samba (Richard Starkey/Van Dyke Parks)
5.     Rock Island Line (Arrangement by Richard Starkey)
6.     Step Lightly (Richard Starkey)
7.     Wonderful (Richard Starkey/Gary Nicholson)
8.     In Liverpool (Richard Starkey/Dave Stewart)
9.     Slow Down (Richard Starkey/Joe Walsh)

Worth noting: Two of the tracks are covers, while two others ("Wings" and "Step Lightly") are remakes of songs Ringo wrote & recorded in the 1970s.  Ringo's last release (also on vinyl) was quite good in my opinion, so I'm really looking forward to this one!  Ringo is far too often overlooked for his talents as a songwriter and singer. It also makes sense that he has talent as a producer -- he was a BEATLE for Godsakes. 

Monday, December 05, 2011

12.5.2011: Saditude

Today marks the 4th anniversary of my dad's passing. It's also the first year of recognizing this day without mom, who passed away earlier this year.  The first person I want to talk to today is mom because she was his life partner, the one who knew and missed him most. Having them both gone today makes the pain seem new again, if that makes sense.

So yeah, I feel an intense sadness this morning (at 4:00 am!), but also a remarkable sense of gratitude for having these two individuals for my parents. As I've gotten older I've been able to appreciate them for their humanness. Things that I might have considered shortcomings while they were alive are now just part of who they were.

In the case of my dad, I am able to embrace his triumph over the disease of alcoholism, which had beat him down more than once. Despite the challenges he worked the program and was able to live his last 20 or so years as a sober person. I doubt he viewed his sobriety the same way that I did, but I consider it to be the greatest gift he could have given his family. Through his sobriety we were able to become closer and recognize the love and appreciation we all had for our little family unit. My brother and I also learned from his example that money and wealth do not equal happiness; It's how you manage what you have that counts. Money is worthless if you end up sick just trying to make more of it.

So today's for you, dad. I hope you knew/know how much we love you and that we truly understand the sacrifices you made for us. Your life was not an easy one, but in the end I hope we were able to make it all worthwhile.


Saturday, December 03, 2011

Ten fave vinyl reissues of 2011

2011: A banner year for vinyl re-issues
  1. Red Hot Chili Peppers - Blood Sugar Sex Magik (red vinyl 2LP)
  2. Ben Folds Five (1995 self-titled LP)
  3. The Monkees - HEAD Soundtrack (clear vinyl)
  4. Loretta Lynn - Van Lear Rose
  5. Sugar - Copper Blue
  6. Paul McCartney - McCartney 2LP
  7. Glassjaw - Worship & Tribute (white vinyl)
  8. Journey - Greatest Hits 2 2LP
  9. Paul McCartney - McCartney II 2LP
  10. Go-Go's - Beauty and the Beat (pink vinyl)

Thursday, December 01, 2011

WORDS officially on

Saturday, November 26, 2011

In a former life...

I don't write much here about my former career as a struggling, out-of-work musician, but lately I've been reflecting on some of the good times from my musical past. Sometimes I forget why I chose to move away from the dedication to my musical ambitions, and then I remember the reasons. The multitude of reasons.

For starters, I never really got on well with other musicians. In the early 90's I seemed to move from band to band, each band doing a number of gigs before self-imploding. It was disheartening because each band had its merits and its talented players (a select few of which I've maintained some contact with over the years).

I have nothing but the greatest admiration and respect for my few friends that have succeeded at sustaining a career in music. It takes some unique skills. One such skill: Being comfortable with ambiguity and a frequent lack of structure. Over the years I have learned that I am most UNcomfortable when there's an absence of structure (for anyone who's curious my Myers-Briggs is INTJ).

Another realization I've had recently is that the music biz of today is FAR different from the biz of the late 80's when I was learning the ropes and paying my dues. Frankly I never felt completely comfortable selling or promoting my own product. I think part of this comes from being Scandinavian/Minnesotan/raised Lutheran, an interesting combination that often mistakes self-confidence for bragging or cockiness, which is a very bad thing if you're a Scan-MN-Luth mix like I was.
I was friends with the members of Words before learning to play, sing, or write. These folks (who happen to be musically inclined) are extended family, which probably explains why we gravitate together every few years to make new music. Since forming in 1986 we've written, recorded & self-produced four full-length cassettes, a CD, a 7" vinyl single, and (my personal favorite) a cover of "Yesterday's Hero" on Men In Plaid, an internationally distributed Bay City Rollers tribute CD that has gone into its 2nd printing on Bullseye Records of Canada.

As much of a thrill creating music has always been for me, I've found my professional niche in Higher Education, where I feel at home. I believe it's where I'm at my best. Working on my PhD, despite its occasional headaches, has been a fantastic opportunity. Turns out that I really get off from being in an intellectual environment, and that the satisfaction of creation is often the same whether it's a song or a research article. It's just the end product that is different.

A few weeks ago Leo and I did a massive re-arrangement of the upstairs floor of our house, and I discovered my old TASCAM Portastudio under the bed covered in a thick layer of dust. Since then I've been sifting through some not-so-dusty tapes (carefully stored away in our basement), shining up some old songs and posting them at my tumblr site.  Through this process I have made very nice peace with the musical past that is very much a part of who I am. I am extremely proud of the music that my mainstay band Words and I have created over the years. It's not all genius stuff, but that doesn't mean it lacks value. For me each song is like an audio time-capsule; the feeling of being transported to a different time via recorded music can be a very powerful thing.

I've provided a few links below in case you're interested in hearing some of the tracks I've posted recently. If you like what you hear, check back from time to time because I'll probably keep posting stuff, as long as this nostalgia trip maintains my interest. :)

Thank you for reading & listening!

Friday, November 25, 2011

RSD Black Friday

Three record stores today but only one RSD purchase. Granted, it was a good 'un, the Red Hot Chili Peppers' fantastic Blood Sugar Sex Magic. Still, having navigated between stores mostly by foot (holiday bus schedule don't you know), I was pretty godamn tired by the time I got home, and with no Beatles singles box. If there's a silver lining I guess I did get a helluva workout, so no worries about all those mashed potatoes from yesterday.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The 20 Fanciest LPs of 2011!

  1. The Beach Boys - The SMiLE Sessions
  2. Glen Campbell - Ghost On The Canvas
  3. The Bangles - Sweetheart of the Sun
  4. Duran Duran - All You Need Is Now 
  5. R.E.M. - Collapse Into Now
  6. The Cars - Move Like This
  7. Lenny Kravitz - Black & White America
  8. Blondie - Panic of Girls
  9. Yes - Fly From Here
  10. Foo Fighters - Wasting Light
  11. Beastie Boys - Hot Sauce Committee Part Two
  12. New York Dolls - Dancing Backward in High Heels
  13. Sloan - Double Cross
  14. Acid House Kings - Music Is Better With You
  15. Matthew Sweet - Modern Art
  16. Liam Finn - Fomo
  17. The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger - La Carotte Bleue 
  18. Paul McCartney's Ocean's Kingdom
  19. Cut Copy - Zonoscope
  20. The High Llamas - Talahomi Way
  21. Radiohead - The King of Limbs
Honorable Mentions & Noteworthies:
  • There were some fancy & super sweet re-issues this year worthy of praise, some of them on vinyl for the first time:
    • Loretta Lynn - Van Lear Rose
    • Deltron 3030 (Del tha Funkee Homosapien, Kid Koala, Dan the Automator)
    • Journey - Greatest Hits vol. 2
    • The Monkees HEAD on clear wax (only 500 pressed)
    • Ben Folds Five's first LP
    • Go-Go's Beauty & The Beat 30th anniversary on pink vinyl
    • Paul McCartney McCartney & McCartney II Deluxe 2LP editions with extra tracks
    • Glassjaw - Worship & Tribute on white vinyl 
    • Sugar - Copper Blue
  • The Bangles' Sweetheart of the Sun would probably battle Duran Duran for #3, had it been released on vinyl. It's a fantastic album - their best yet, IMO. UPDATE, 1.31.2012: Sweetheart of the Rodeo DID get a vinyl release, and although it wasn't an easy decision, I concluded that it was slightly better than Duran Duran. So, I updated the list, which is why there's now 21 Fancy LPs for the year.
  • I'm still keeping my fingers crossed for a vinyl version of Condensate by The Original 7ven (formerly The Time). When I spoke with Jellybean Johnson at September's fDeluxe show he seemed fairly certain that it would make it onto vinyl. It's a great album, and all great albums deserve to be on wax!
As always, feel free to post your faves of the past year.  Anything you think I missed?  Let me know!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

On my turntable: George Harrison - 33 1/3

Well I've done it again, for the second time this week. I was sitting on the couch doing some reading for class and thought to myself, "I've really got a hankerin' to hear 33 1/3." It's always been a strong fall LP for me. After a couple of songs I checked Wikipedia for the album's release date. My heart jumped a little - it was released this week in 1976, on 11.19. Craziness.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Move Like This

Without a doubt in my top 10 fave LPs of 2011. Perhaps even Top 5ive.

Best LPs of 2011 (11.15.11 update)

  1. The Beach Boys - The SMiLE Sessions
  2. Glen Campbell - Ghost On The Canvas
  3. Duran Duran - All You Need Is Now 
  4. R.E.M. - Collapse Into Now
  5. Lenny Kravitz - Black & White America
  6. Blondie - Panic of Girls
  7. Yes - Fly From Here
  8. fDeluxe - gaslight EP
  9. Beastie Boys - Hot Sauce Committee Part Two
  10. New York Dolls - Dancing Backward in High Heels
  11. Sloan - Double Cross
  12. Matthew Sweet - Modern Art
  13. Liam Finn - Fomo
  14. The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger - La Carotte Bleue EP 
  15. Paul McCartney's Ocean's Kingdom
  16. Cut Copy - Zonoscope
  17. The High Llamas - Talahomi Way
  18. Radiohead - The King of Limbs

Sunday, November 13, 2011

look what I can do

Capture of a still photo in the "All Together Now" documentary, which I then cropped and painted. I like how this one turned out.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

On my turntable: John & Yoko - Double Fantasy

It happens to me frequently. I'll gravitate towards a certain LP and then discover that this was either the day or week when the album was released or purchased by me (based on a receipt tucked inside the sleeve). Before making coffee this morning I grabbed Double Fantasy (1980) for the turntable, and after settling in with my java I checked Wikipedia for the album's release date. I bought my first copy of this record 31 years ago this week (it was released on 11.17.80).

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Montage: Fall, 2011

With the first signs of snow looming on the horizon I assembled this tiny homage to another beautiful autumn in the Twin Cities...

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Best LPs of 2011 (11.9.11 update)

  1. The Beach Boys - The SMiLE Sessions
  2. Glen Campbell - Ghost On The Canvas
  3. Duran Duran - All You Need Is Now
  4. R.E.M. - Collapse Into Now
  5. Blondie - Panic of Girls
  6. Yes - Fly From Here
  7. Beastie Boys - Hot Sauce Committee Part Two
  8. New York Dolls - Dancing Backward in High Heels
  9. Sloan - Double Cross
  10. Matthew Sweet - Modern Art
  11. Liam Finn - Fomo
  12. The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger - La Carotte Bleue EP
  13. Cut Copy - Zonoscope
  14. The High Llamas - Talahomi Way
  15. Radiohead - The King of Limbs

Monday, November 07, 2011

Best LPs of 2011 (11.7.11 update)

  1. Glen Campbell - Ghost On The Canvas
  2. Duran Duran - All You Need Is Now
  3. R.E.M. - Collapse Into Now
  4. Blondie - Panic of Girls
  5. Yes - Fly From Here
  6. Beastie Boys - Hot Sauce Committee Part Two
  7. New York Dolls - Dancing Backward in High Heels
  8. Sloan - Double Cross
  9. Matthew Sweet - Modern Art
  10. Liam Finn - Fomo
  11. The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger - La Carotte Bleue EP
  12. Cut Copy - Zonoscope
  13. The High Llamas - Talahomi Way

Sunday, November 06, 2011

This day in Fancy Blog history

I did a search to see what was happening in this blog space on this date in past years:

The best LPs of 2011 (11.6.2011 update)

  1. Duran Duran - All You Need Is Now
  2. R.E.M. - Collapse Into Now
  3. Blondie - Panic of Girls
  4. Yes - Fly From Here
  5. Beastie Boys - Hot Sauce Committee Part Two
  6. New York Dolls - Dancing Backward in High Heels
  7. Sloan - Double Cross
  8. Liam Finn - Fomo
  9. The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger - La Carotte Bleue EP
  10. Cut Copy - Zonoscope
  11. The High Llamas - Talahomi Way

Look through my window

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Top LPs of 2011 - in progress

So I'm trying something new in coming up with this year's comprehensive "best of" list. Last night I began listening to 2011 LPs and ranking them based on how I felt they held up against one another. What I plan to do is continue this process until I've gone through all of this year's new vinyl. Shown below is the list as it is right now; I will continue to update and tweak the list over the coming weeks, so what you see now may be very different by the end of the month. Stay tuned!
  1. R.E.M - Collapse Into Now
  2. Blondie - Panic of Girls
  3. Yes - Fly From Here
  4. New York Dolls - Dancing Backward in High Heels
  5. Sloan - Double Cross
  6. Liam Finn - Fomo
  7. Cut Copy - Zonoscope

Thursday, November 03, 2011

The Beach Boys SMiLE Sessions Box Set - My 2 Cents

Let me start by saying I doubt there's anything I could add to the discussion about SMiLE that has not already been written ad nauseam. Still, with a legendary and historic release such as this one, the music blogger and fan in me is dying to write something about how incredible this milestone truly is. I already wrote much of my personal history with this music in an entry earlier this year (which you can read HERE), so I won't rehash any of that now (you're welcome).
All settled & cozy in its new home.
My SMiLE Sessions box arrived yesterday at our doorstep via UPS at around 1:30. Like many SMiLE nerds I took pictures, which I'll try to post later (they're in our camera at the moment). I did my best to savor the full experience of unboxing the set; I made the bed and tidied up the bedroom before settling in to open the heavy-duty shipping box (thank you!). As I opened the shipping box I felt like Charlie as he peeled back the wrapper on the Wonka bar to discover the golden ticket -- I saw the white of the SMiLE box and was so excited with anticipation that I actually -no lie- sharted.

The 45s contained in the box set
The box itself is bound to receive a Grammy nomination for best packaging. The 3D SMiLE Shop on the front of the box is so cool. Although I've never much cared for the word "treasure" (along with the words "chunks" and "snack", just so you know), the SMiLE box is literally full of treasures: The assembled SMiLE album on 2LPs in a gorgeous gatefold sleeve, 2 vinyl 45s ("Surf's Up"/"Vegetables" and "Heroes & Villians" Pts I & II) with picture sleeves, a hardcover book packed with incredible detail & recollections from those who starred in SMiLE's history (including new notes from Al, Bruce & Mike), a three-fold binder containing 5 CDs packed full of everything you could imagine (and probably some stuff you wouldn't imagine), a huge SMiLE poster, plus a repro of the booklet that was pressed for the original SMiLE LP that never was.
The coolest of the cool.
All of the music clocks in at well over six hours, and I've not yet listened to all of it. The album itself is in mono as Brian would have mixed it back in '67, but the studio bits and pieces are mostly in stereo, and some of them are breathtaking in their beauty, originality, and in some cases, pure obscurity. Although I've heard most of this material I've not heard it presented in this fashion. As for the bits I've never heard before, they definitely catch me off guard and make me stop to listen. There are also some bits that, even though I've heard them a zillion times, sound so good and fresh on this set that I experience a well of emotion like it's the first time (a perfect example being Dennis singing "My Only Sunshine").

Non Beach Boys fans, or even casual fans, would probably be best off with the 2CD or 2LP versions of this release. The box set, in my opinion, is for the fans who have dreamed and fantasized but never thought they'd actually see such a collection, let alone one presented with such care and respect. Personally, I expect to be digging into this music at least until the end of the year. Thank you to Brian, Van Dyke, Al, Mike, Bruce, Melinda Wilson, audio wiz Mark Linett, and Darian Sahanaja (the unsung hero behind SMiLE's resurrection), and everyone else who was able to this happen. To coin an old phrase, I hope that the smile you've sent out returns to you.

Great quote from the SMiLE Sessions book

Monday, October 31, 2011

Sunday, October 30, 2011

On my turntable: Beach Boys - The SMiLE Sessions

Just pics for now...too engaged to write much. I picked this up tonight at 7:18 (according to my receipt) at one of my local shops. I don't think I've ever driven home from the record store so damn fast!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Artsy Mcfartyson

So if you follow my Fancy Blog you've likely noticed a sharp decline in the number of posts at this site. That's because I got an iPad over the summer and started a tumblr site to easily post all the photos I was suddenly taking.

Some four months later and I'm still in love with tumblr as well as instagram. I've also begun using various apps with my ipad to manipulate images and create "art".

As a former Studio Art major, I love art that uses and/or manipulates existing images to create something new or different. As an undergrad I used to do this with xerox machines, and later with the editing of video and music.

This picture of The Monkees (above), taken from the back of their 1969 Instant Replay LP, is an example of what I've been working on lately. It's just a black & white photo that I colorized myself, but I like how it turned out. If I have any particular favorites in the future I may post them here, otherwise you can always see what I'm coming up with over at the tumblr site.


Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Lemonheads @ First Avenue, 10.22.2011

Before the show, photo by Ellen
The first time I saw The Lemonheads in concert was at First Avenue in 1990, prior to the release of their iconic masterpiece It's A Shame About Ray (1992). Since then I have seen varying lineups of the band at different venues around town, but last night's show was uniquely special because they performed Ray in its entirety, from start to finish. 

Like many members of 'Generation X', I experienced some of the trademark disillusionment and lack of direction often identified with this particular demographic, especially after graduating from college (one year prior to the release of It's A Shame About Ray). Judging from the looks of the crowd at last night's show, I wasn't the only young white male in '92 who felt a strong personal connection with this album.
Rockin Stroll!
It's a Shame About Ray has the notable distinction of being directly associated with a generation, something I imagine most artists would kill to have but very few achieve. It's a cultural phenomenon that just happens, which is why I think so few albums obtain such status. In fact, one of the things I found so interesting about last night was witnessing all of these people from my age group, eyes glued on Evan Dando, singing along to every song as if it were Sgt. Pepper or Thriller, or even Nevermind.

For some reason the night's scheduled opening act, The Shining Twins, did not arrive in time to take the stage (according to one of the bartenders the group partied pretty heartily after the previous night's stint in Chicago), so the first live sound we heard was the opening riff and heart-stopping launch into "Rockin' Stroll", setting off the first twelve songs of the night.

The Lemonheads' triumphant return to 1st Avenue
After Ray's closing song, "Frank Mills" (a cover from the 60's musical Hair), Evan played a seemingly random set of songs that included six from '93's Come On Feel The Lemonheads. The singer appeared very relaxed, asking for requests from the audience. My friend Ellen and I both commented on how the ageless Dando seemed to really be enjoying himself, even smiling a few times throughout the night. Towards the end of the set the other members of the band returned for a few more songs.

10.22.2011 setlist:
  • All twelve songs from It's a Shame About Ray
  • "The Outdoor Type"
  • "Frying Pan" (Dando solo tune from '93)
  • "Why Do You Do This To Yourself" (another Dando solo song, from the Baby I'm Bored album)
  • "It's About Time"
  • "Being Around"
  • "Divan"
  • "Different Drum" (early Lemonheads cover of the Linda Ronstadt hit written by Monkee Nesmith)
  • "Down About It"
  • "Hospital"
  • "No Backbone"
  • "Tenderfoot"
  • "Big Gay Heart"
  • "Into Your Arms"
  • "The Great Big No"
  • "Style"
After "Style", the very tardy Shining Twins arrived on stage to sing one song, and then the show was suddenly over.  The venue's video screen began its slow descent (which always means "show's over folks - goodnite!"), and as the house lights went up the room was filled with stunned whatthe? faces. Sorry, no encore. It was the first time I'd ever seen an opening act perform the night's closing song!  An awkward and odd ending to what was otherwise a pretty killer, and certainly memorable show. 

Oh - and those Shining Twins had best be counting their blessings today because if Ellen had gotten within arm's reach of either of them she would have clocked 'em.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The power of TRUTH

Our elderly next door neighbor passed away last Friday. Even though she was up there in years it was still a shock to hear that she had died.

Leo and I had known Eunice (not her real name, but she sorta looked like a Eunice) since 2002, when we bought our house. Although I never established any sort of close friendship with her, I certainly cared for her and appreciated having her as a neighbor. Leo on the other hand, was Eunice's buddy. He understood her and you could tell that she was terribly fond of him.

Yesterday Leo stopped next door to chat with Eunice's daughter, who is currently staying in her mother's home. She shared that when Leo and I first moved in Eunice called her daughter to say that a gay couple had bought the house next door, and there was no way she could live next door to gays. She was adamant that she simply had to move.

Of course Leo and I never knew this. Eunice's daughter told Leo how much her mom grew to care for both of us, and how she thought we were two of the best people you could ever meet. To me, this speaks volumes to the importance of living one's truth and being one's authentic self. Leo and I, by simply being who we are with this 80+ year old conservative Christian woman, managed to change her heart without even knowing it. In her final wishes Eunice requested that Leo be one of the pallbearers at her funeral.

Thank you Eunice (not your real name, I know) for watching our house, for being our neighbor, and for sharing yourself with us. Thank you for welcoming us into the neighborhood and into your heart.

We will miss you.

Treehouse Records

Sunday, October 16, 2011

On my turntable: Pink Floyd - Relics


Buck, Berry, Mills, Stipe
I am feeling a bit melancholy this morning about last month's breakup of R.E.M. (which from this point on will be typed without the periods because it's cumbersome!).

I reluctantly welcomed REM into my musicsphere in 1988 after sensing that it wasn't the band for which I'd been harboring disdain but their "college radio" fans. You know the smartie-smarts who believed that their love for REM made them smartier-than-thou. In retrospect I'm sure that there were far fewer of these individuals than those that existed in my judgmental imagination. Still, it's hard to dispute that when Document (1987) came out everybody seemed to suddenly love, adore, and darn-near worship REM, and I just didn't get it. Nor did I want to get it.

But then Green (1988) happened, preceded briefly by Eponymous (1988). I started borrowing and taping REM LPs from my friends at the record store, remaining cautious not to hop on any bandwagon. I attended Green's tour stop in the Twin Cities, which was followed by a bowling afterparty attended by the band (Bob Mould was also there - another smarty that I wouldn't appreciate for years to come). When I tried to get Michael Stipe to autograph my Eponymous CD he didn't look me in the eye as he muttered "I don't do autographs - I'll shake your hand later". Actually, the first mutter resembled more of a mumble, so I said "what?", after which he muttered more clearly. As Stipe continued right on past me I stood dumbfounded, feeling like an idiot, and thinking "I didn't ask to shake yer stinkin' hand, I asked for your au-to-graph. On this here Eponymous CD. JERK!". (I heard that the rest of the band arrived after catching part of a Robyn Hitchcock show at First Avenue, and that they were far more accommodating with fans).

Though the bowling alley incident left me feeling a bit bruised and shaken I found I just couldn't quit REM. And I never did. For the next 22 years I anticipated and bought every REM release (with the exception of In Time (2003) and Live At the Olympia (2009), which I'll buy when I find vinyl copies within my budget). Throughout the 90's REM's evolution was dazzling, from the Beach Boys folk of Out of Time (1991), the in-your-face grit of Monster (1994), to the frazzled & fractured beauty of 1998's Up. Each turn of my own life's evolution seemed accompanied by a new REM record, conveniently providing a soundtrack into adulthood.

And now they're suddenly gone. I've found that mourning the breakup is a mixed bag of plusses and minuses: Yes they have announced their disbandment, but at least it was an amicable split. While we can no longer look forward to new REM music, just look at the legacy of recorded output they've left us. Time marches on (as Olbermann says), and as corny as it feels to say this I feel lucky for the opportunity to have marched, waving my REM flag for the past 2+ decades. I will always have the records, ticket stubs, and memories connected to their vast, incredible catalog of awesome.

To Berry, Buck, Mills, and Stipe I say "Thank You" for the journey.

With love and gratitude,
Jeff A.

Morning sun

she is bright, no?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Bangles @ The Fine Line, Mpls 10.11.11

On the men's room wall.
So tonight I saw my third Bangles show. They were so good tonight, especially on the songs from their new disc, Sweetheart of the Sun (2011).

The doors opened at 7:00, and the opening act, Half Demon Doll, started around 7:45. They were quite good and very young!  It was cool that The Bangles gave this opening spot to a local band, especially one that didn't suck. 

Kicking things off with "Anna Lee"
The Bangles started around 9:45, I think. I had been standing for quite a while by this point because I just happened to have a totally mint spot right next to the stage, probably six feet from Vicki (who was wearing some kickass boots). There were a couple of times when I swear Vicki looked directly at me -- I was pretty hard to miss in my new Bangles shirt and a cheshire cat grin on my face. 

Bangles Setlist, 10.11.2011:
  • Anna Lee (sweetheart of the sun)
  • Hazy Shade of Winter
  • Some Dreams Come True
  • Manic Monday
  • I'll Never Be Through With You
  • Ball and Chain
  • Rain Song
  • If She Knew What She Wants
  • Restless
  • Live
  • September Gurls (dedicated to Alex Chilton)
  • He's Got a Secret
  • Under a Cloud
  • Going Down to Liverpool
  • Eternal Flame
  • Get the Girl/Outside Chance
  • Open My Eyes
  • Ride the Ride
  • In Your Room
  • Hero Takes A Fall
At this point in the night I decided to leave. My back had been feeling the strain from standing for so long. From what I've read about recent shows I probably missed an encore including the awesome new tune "Sweet and Tender Romance" and of course, "Walk Like an Egyptian". 

The Bangles, thirty years strong, are at the top of their game. If you have a chance to see them on this tour I suggest you go, or at least buy their new CD. In my opinion it's their best work yet.

Debbi, Vicki, Susanna: The Bangles

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Top 10 Fave Bangles songs

Posted earlier today at my tumblr page:

In recognition of the Bangles’ return to Minneapolis tonight, I’ve assembled my personal Top 10 Bangles tunes. This was harder than I expected, but I think I got it right. It’s a pretty bitchin’ top ten, in my opinion:
  1. Anna Lee (sweetheart of the sun) (2011)
  2. Tear Off Your Own Head (2003)
  3. Hazy Shade of Winter (1987)
  4. Some Dreams Come True (1988)
  5. The Real World (1982)
  6. Light My Way (2006)
  7. Get the Girl (1999)
  8. Following (1986)
  9. Tell Me (1984)
  10. In Your Room (1988)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

2011 Best of Qtr III

What an incredible batch of tunes this time around!

One thing I realized a few days ago is that the #1 song ("Forward to Love" by Ziggy Marley) is one of only three songs on the list that are not available on vinyl. The last time a non-vinyl track made it to #1 on one of my lists was Qtr I, 2008, "Lollipop" by Mika.  This current list's non-vinyl tracks are marked by an asterisk (*).

Long live vinyl!!

So here are my favorite tunes from July, August & September, 2011:
20."Repulsion" - Quasi (2010)
19."Don't Play No Game That I Can't Win" - Beastie Boys (featuring Santigold)
18."Teenage Love Made Me Insane" - The High Dials (2010)
17."Driver Education" - Indigo Girls (2009)
16."Listen to Me" - Brian Wilson*
15."You Hung the Moon" - Elvis Costello (2010)
14."From Here On It Got Rough" - Hildegard Knef (2005)
13."Tell Me What I Did" - Ben Folds Five
12."God Makes No Mistakes"/"Mrs. Leroy Brown" - Loretta Lynn (2004, first vinyl pressing released 8/2011)
11."Alligator Aviator Autopilot Antimatter" - REM (w/Patti Smith)
10."We Can Fly" - Yes
9."Breathe Out, Breathe In" - The Zombies*
8."Follow the Leader" - Sloan
7."Sanctified (strawberrius mix)" - fDeluxe
6."Cold Feet" - Liam Finn
5."Return to Now"/"Mediterranea" - Duran Duran
4."Babyfather" - Sade (2010)
3."A Better Place"/"Ghost on the Canvas" - Glen Campbell
2."Stand" - Lenny Kravitz
1."Forward to Love" - Ziggy Marley* 
Note: I've provided links to many of the songs in case you want to give them a listen over at my Fancy Tumblr blog.

Some observations of note:
  • I'm pretty certain this is the first time the Indigo Girls have made their way into my Top 20. I purchased their 2009 album, Poseidon and the Bitter Bug (2009) last month for $6. The album is masterfully produced by big shot Mitch Easter and I like it quite a bit.
  • I know this is the first time Sade has made my list. I've never been a fan, but when I found her 2010 Soldier of Love LP on sale for $4 last month (I've typically seen it priced at a ridiculous $30) I figured it was worth the risk. It's a lovely record, and "Babyfather" is downright sexy.
  • Three of the list's entries are composites of two songs that I mixed into one mp3. In each case I was taking a considerably short song and using it as a lead-in to a longer song. You may be thinking "hey - that's cheating", but I call it getting more bang for my buck. :)
  • Hildegard Knef makes her fancy debut on on my list with "From Here On It Got Rough". The song is from an outstanding 2LP compilation, The In-Kraut: Hip Shaking Grooves Made in Germany 1966-1974 (2005). I expect that this is the only time you'll read about Hildegard here, but never say never I suppose. 

Saturday, September 17, 2011

fDeluxe @ Loring Theater, 9.16.2011

Before the show
Quite the evening was had here in Minneapolis last night. fDeluxe, comprised of four original members of Prince protégé band The Family, performed their official debut gig at the Loring Theater. My brother and I had been tossing around whether or not to go, but when I checked the venue's website earlier in the week and saw 2 aisle seats available in the center front row of the balcony I nabbed 'em up real quick-like.

Before the show we hung out for a while in the lobby, checking out the merchandise table while listening to a live DJ mixing up some tunes. We spotted a couple of local celebs, notably MN Vikings hall-of-famer Carl Eller and Revolution drummer Bobby Z., who looked terrific.

When we headed up to our seats at around 7:50 it was clear that  the rest of the audience was taking their own sweet damn time, which made me wonder if the show was a sell out. By 8:30, however, the place was packed and rarin' to go. From my balcony seat I recognized a longtime blog friend Kyle in the VIP section on the floor. After the show we saw each other in the lobby and chatted for a little, but there was so much energy around the band's whereabouts that it was easy to get distracted (It was great to finally meet you in person, Kyle!).

The stage
The stage was set-up to resemble a living room, complete with a couch, vintage vacuum cleaner, infant high-chair, a bass, six get the idea (see pic, left). The band came out and gave a nicely paced, loose, and often hot & funky performance in front of a friendly hometown audience. St. Paul, Susannah, Eric, and Jellybean looked great and put in 100%+. One of the biggest surprises for me was seeing Jellybean upfront playing guitar for most of the show. The man ain't no slouch!  During the final encore he ripped into a wicked guitar solo that could have given both Jesse Johnson and Prince a run for their money. 

And might I just say a word about Mr. Eric Leeds. In fact, one word is enough: LEGEND.  Leeds played keys, flute, and sax throughout last night's show, but it was his signature sax playing that put the fDeluxe stamp on the whole shindig. When Leeds plays you KNOW who's saxophone it is, and he was simply on top of his game last night. I gots myself the chills a couple of times. 

St. Paul Peterson appeared genuinely proud and happy to be performing with his bandmates, chatting it up with the audience, coming off as your every day Minnesotan, not some big-headed rockstar. He seemed clearly his element. 

Then there was Miss Susannah. Oh my goodness. First of all, the lady's got some pipes.  She put her heart into last night's gig and seemed to be having a blast the whole time. During a post-show meet & greet I mentioned to her how much she commanded the stage, and she acknowledged that she does tend to go crazy when she's up there doing her thing. She looked fantastic in a black long-sleeved fitted dress and very high heels. Personally, I couldn't keep my eyes off of her.  
fDeluxe setlist, 9.16.2011:
  • Screams of Passion
  • Gaslight
  • Sanctified
  • Over the Canyon
  • Nothing Compares 2 U
  • Leeds Line
  • Desire
  • Beautiful You
  • Lover
  • River Run Dry (first verse & chorus only, with props to Bobby Z. who stood up from the audience)
  • @8
  • -snippet of Earth Wind & Fire's "That's The Way of The World"-
  • High Fashion
  • Mutiny (!)
  • Encore:
    • When You Go (lovely Paul/Susannah piano duet + Eric on sax)
    • Drummers and Healers
Promo card distributed 'round town
After the show my bro and I were waiting for the band to arrive at the autograph table in the lobby (which was developing a certain funk of its own, on account of all the bodies lingering around), when Kyle alerted me that the band was hanging out down by the stage (Thanks again Kyle!!). I got to Eric first, who was interested in the 12" EP I handed him, saying it was the first time he'd seen it (St. Paul told me that the EPs were German imports that had arrived just prior to the show). It was surreal to stand next to Eric Leeds watching him take the vinyl out of its sleeve - he actually held it horizontally at eye level like he was inspecting it to make sure it met his personal standards. He didn't have a Sharpie on him (it was at the autograph table out in the lobby!), but he pulled out a standard pen to autograph the sleeve for me. He was very friendly and easy-going, just as I would have expected. 

Next was Mr. Johnson. Very cordial, with Sharpie in hand.  As he was signing my record I asked if the upcoming Original 7ven (aka The TIME) album was going to be available on vinyl, and he seemed quite certain that it would be. Side note: The man has a million dollar smile, and appears very comfortable with who and where he is at this point in his life. A very positive individual. 

St. Paul was just as friendly, happy to hear that we enjoyed the show. I asked him when the upcoming L.A. show(s) were happening (I think he said "22-23").  For those of you in and around Los Angeles I highly recommend that you GO to see this band. Wendy and Lisa are going to be performing with them, just in case you needed a little extra incentive. 

Autographed 12" vinyl EP
The last to sign my EP was Susannah, who was so gracious, laid back, and beautiful in her post-show jeans and flip-flops.  She asked me if the show was what I had expected, and I told her it was exactly what I expected and more - especially the last 8 minutes of the show when the band went into a free-form jam that was funky as hell. When my brother got to Susannah she said "So nobody's asked you your name before signing this?", as if to say "how rude of them!". So she wrote Jay's name in the top left corner before autographing it herself (see pic of Jay's signed EP, above left). 

Thanks to Eric, Jellybean, Susannah & Paul for an incredible night. If we weren't already devoted lifelong fans we certainly would be now.  I'm looking forward to seeing where this new chapter of the band's history takes you next!