Tim Hardin – 1

timhardin1(Blows dust off an old record. Lifts the needle. Static begins.)

Alright motherfuckers, now that I’ve gone through a handful of new or semi-new records I think it’s about grand time to talk about one of the, “Great Unknowns”. So, what do Johnny Cash, The Four Tops, Neil Diamond, Elton John, The Byrds, Gram Parsons, Ron Sexsmith, The Carpenters, Billy Bragg, Sonny and Cher, Dolly Parton, Doc Watson, Echo & the Bunnymen, Robert Plant, Rod Sterwart, Scott Walker, Fleetwood Mac all have in common? Obviously, it’s Tim fucking Hardin. They all covered his songs. It’s in the fucking title, buddy. That should have been easy.

Why am I doing this? Because I’m sick and tired of people under 50 thinking that Bob Dylan is sweeter than angel’s cock. He made some solid albums to be sure but there are many good songwriters. Plus, I have to confess, I keep the real Dylan in my basement at home. What you’ve been watching for the last few years is an old horny goat I taped a hat and sunglasses on. And before he was in my basement, Bob Dylan called Hardin, “the greatest living songwriter”. See? See!

This album has a song called, “Reason to Believe”. If you haven’t heard the version from Rod Stewart, you should do that. Because, if you are anything like I was, you will listen to Tim’s version and not have any fucks or shits to give. Because it’s easy to determine good songs based on performance and not by their merit. But these are great songs if you just listen into them, find the heart, and hear them sung honestly by the man who wrote them. They are not dressed in rock and roll or sparkles and sunshine. They aren’t meant to impress, they are meant to confess.

So, where did Hardin go? Well, he disappeared with the rest of the wave in the late 70s. He had stage fright and a terrible heroin addiction. He even sold the rights to his songs to ride that sweet horse. So now his son is just like any other dude except that he’s got some cool stories about Hendrix in his kitchen when he was a baby. And, despite being scared of performance, Hardin did perform at Woodstock in 1969. The guy should have a legendary status but instead he died from a drug overdose in 1980 and is mostly unknown. So, try him out for a single day. See if you like any of his tunes. If you pluck a guitar, find your favourite song and try one on for size. You never know what might tickle your fancy. And who knows, maybe I can finally tell Dylan he can stop working at my local Walmart for grocery money, and he can go back to a world that actually gives a shit about what good songwriting is.

 

The Staves & yMusic – The Way is Read

stavesymusicSo you’re making breakfast and it’s one of these big fucking ordeals. This hollandaise sauce took way too fucking long to make and you used way too much fucking butter. There’s even this special device that you bought so you can evenly disperse icing sugar on top of these waffles that are, well, basically made from tears of the sun because they’re so perfectly brown and crisp. Everything on that plate is fucking perfect. Like shit, man, you even have this coffee where each cup is made by brewing the souls of three separate hipsters from three different ethnicities. It’s fucking great. Then, as you carry this plate over to your table, it drops right on to the floor and it’s fucking everywhere. Unsalvageable. Cat shit got into the eggs even though you don’t have a cat. And your hollandaise sauce has been charged with touching kids. It’s just a fucking mess. But damn, did it have some potential just before. If you had opened the fridge that morning and all you had was bacon grease and a pot gummy, then you wouldn’t have expected much of anything. But, that’s the problem with potential: it doesn’t mean shit until something’s done with it. 

The English folk-rock trio Jessica, Camilla and Emily Staveley-Taylor have harmonies that can only grow from the unique relationship siblings have from singing together all their lives. Their voices and harmonies on song 1 alone can make you cry about a lost memory of your father leaving you at that bus station in Atlanta overnight. Then there’s yMusic, a cool sextet chamber ensemble from New York City. They’re like if Philip Glass was super young and imaginative, super cool and optimistic, and not so fucking repetitive. “Silent Side,” “Year of the Dog”, “Courting is a Pleasure” “Sprig of Thyme”, these songs feel like the core of this album. They demonstrate how these two pieces of perfect fucking musical talents can jive together within a single wonderful bite. Songs before are just abstract classical pieces with the sisters’ talents being put to use by hooting quarter notes every once in a while. It’s like using the Magna Carta as a dishrag. Sure it can work! But don’t you know that! … Fucking Hell, Man! Just look it up! Why did you! Like, just… Fuck Man! Songs after this are fucking gorgeous, but they also sound like songs off a new Staves album. They don’t show the chops of the wonderful musicians in yMusic. 

Now, is it a bad album? Fuck no, man. It’s actually really great. But, it’s so fucking beautiful and had all this potential, that’s why I’m so fucking angry with it. It’s like dropping that hot plate of perfect food into a volcano of cat poop and pedophiles. If the food was shit to begin with, then who gives a flying fuck? True disappointment can only come from a fall from expectation, it seems. Songs 1, 5, 6, 7, 11 should be in most people’s playlist cause they’re pretty special. I hope to hear more contemporary classical music mixed with folk in the future. But fuck, if someone wants to carry this torch, please listen to this album to figure out where they went wrong first. The last thing I want is tears from the sun and multi-ethnic hipsters covered in feline feces and patriarchal genital petting. 

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/the-way-is-read/1304461483

 

 

Loyle Carner – Yesterday’s Gone

loylecarneryesterdayHow to make a rap album 101: Fat stacks of cash raining down; beautiful women in scantly clad, and incredibly inefficient, swim suits; um, a boat is a good idea I think? Like a really, really expensive boat you should probably rent for the day or else you’ll get bad credit; oh ya, make sure to keep telling everyone that you’re better than them, that’s a thing; Oh, oh! Bouncy cars! If there isn’t a bouncing car, it’s not rap.

How about talking about how much you hate that your absent father fucked you up (track 5). Or, how it’s difficult to keep a good relationship with your sister and mother when you’re a boy but made to be the man of the house (7). What about making a song for someone who is sick in the hospital (13), and another about being scared of the money and success this album has given you (10), or how you miss student loans and the life that came with it (5). Have a track with you and your mother laughing (6), and another one about how awkward you are over text (3). Or, how about being from the Southside of London, that comes with all these wrong images like gangs and drugs and having to protect your ‘rep’ with guns and violence, when really you’re just some guy with ADHD who wants to make pancakes with his family in a safe home (the album). 

I’m pretty sure some songs were recorded on a cellphone, and the front cover looks like a snapshot at some nice family reunion. But, this guy isn’t going for greatness through imitation, he’s shooting for greatness by making real fucking art. This album has already made waves and won awards. Glad the fucking award people finally got one right. 

Loyle Carner, or Benjamin Gerard Coyle-Larner, is fucking honest. And that’s the best part of the entire thing. It’s what a lot of good rap is about: Nas, DOB, Biggie, Eric B & Rakim, Pac… But let’s be honest, “Gold Digger” should be used to test whether someone is an alien or not. If you don’t move just a little bit to that song then there is something deeply wrong with you.

The album starts with that gospel thing that Chance and Kanye made big, but personally I’m kinda over that shit. Throwing a gospel choir into a rap song is the equivalent of having a string section in a rock song, it’s alright until someone like Aerosmith does it, then you realize it’s a cheap fucking trick for grandeur. Just pull the fucking rabbit out of the hat already. The samples on the album don’t work thematically into the theme of the album, so no one else but me needs to try and figure that shit out. (Piero Emiliani, “Ricordandoti” is sampled in “ain’t nothing changed”. Cool beat. Hot sax. That’s all. Real happy I looked that shit up.)

Loyle’s flow is un-fucking-believable. Needs to be said. And this type of shit does not come naturally. It’s not something you’re just born with or have. Like most things that look effortless, it’s a craft that requires honing and hours of efficient practice. This motherfucker is so good I thought of Biggie, the grandmaster of flow (insert ninja whipping sound).

If you don’t got the time, listen to the song, “+44”. It’s short and has no beat. With this, you’ll understand the grace, flow, and most of all, the honesty of this album. Also, I just really enjoy listening to British people rap. Don’t ask me why. I guess I still have this ignorant royalty image that comes to mind when I think of Brits. But, I have been watching episodes of “The Crown” recently, so let’s hope that’s the problem. Nuff said. Ya safe mate? It’s bait dat dis boy fuckin’ slew. Get gobsmacked already, ya? Ta.

 

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/yesterdays-gone/1174641740

 

 

Jlin – Black Origami

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Everyone eventually goes through that moment when what’s new becomes frightening, and what’s recognizable or repeated often enough becomes good. I have a friend who describes this shit like tree sap, “Just because it’s stuck to you doesn’t mean it’s any good.”

Do you think Baby Boomers wanted to be, or thought they ever would be, scared of what’s on the radio? Of course not. They said something like, “Back in the day all I had to do was talk to Earl at the record store, then I’d know what’s in and groovy.” Well, Earl fucking died. That’s right. Earl’s fucking dead everyone! And not in a cute Dixie Chicks kinda way. He bit through his own tongue on a cocaine high while driving into a canyon with his motorbike. Do you know what he screamed on the way down? “Fuck getting old!”

You see, instead of giving new things a chance Earl stuck with what was recognizable. He continued to play his favourite Hendrix and Beatles records each night while the world outside continued to change. Instead of admitting this fear to anyone, he walked up to that motorbike he bought for himself on his 17th birthday, dusted it off, and drove it right into a canyon. And, do you want to know what this hypothetical-guy-I-just-made-up-to-prove-a-point said to every single person he met? “There’s no good music made after (insert date here).” Well, albums like Black Origami can cure the Earl disease, but it’s a hard fucking pill to swallow.

Song 1 starts: you will hear an incessant Roland Keyboard sound playing a repetitive riff over and over again. Don’t shut it off, keep listening.

Strings finally come in for a shot but they will sound like something you find in a Garageband preset. Don’t shut it off, keep listening.

The drums will keep you grounded a bit, but then all these new and silly sounds come in from everywhere. It’s like that scene in Star Wars where the walls are closing in but the sounds keep trying to push your face against the floor. Don’t shut if off, keep listening.

In fact, you probably won’t like song 1, 2, 3, 4, or any of them. Not with the first go through anyway. But, if I could give one piece of advice (you’ve already guessed it), it’s this: Don’t shut if off, keep listening. Because, in the end, it’s fucking worth it.

Halfway through listening to this album I still hated it. Then, at some point, I found myself bobbing my head. Then my feet were tapping. And when the album finally finished, I put that motherfucker right the fuck back on. All those sounds I first found annoying became beautiful and that cynical part of me, that part of me that judges the next generation as being loud or obnoxious, the one that paints them all with the same pessimistic brush, I watched that piece of shit drive into a canyon and then I pissed on his burning fucking ashes.

I could talk about the beats used, techniques, syncopations, but fuck it; it’s more fun if you figure that shit out yourself. You may not struggle at all with this album and good for you if you’re like that. But remember, one day you’ll listen to something that will make you cringe and you’ll want to say, “there’s no good music made after (insert date here)”. Then you’ll have to make a choice: Drive off into a canyon, or piss on that motherfucker’s ashes. All I ask is that you give piss a chance. 

 

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/black-origami/1213453132

 

 

Perfume Genius – No Shape

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After watching the documentary, “David Bowie: The Last Five Years” and forcing myself to refeel … what do you call those things … feelings!? I wanted to hear what “art pop” has to offer the world now of days.

Art Pop: Bjork, Kanye West, Grimes, FKA Twigs. Listen to the lyrics on Bowie’s “Fame” for a while, then realize it’s one of the most famous songs in the world. That’s art pop.

Anyway, Perfume Genius. The kid sings that dope ass shaky falsetto straight from The Temptations. With this new album he’s officially throwing his hat in with Kate Bush and Prince … aaaaand good the fuck luck with that buddy boy. Listen to “Go Ahead” and you’ll hear Prince. And Kate Bush is sewn into the lining. Honestly? I couldn’t wait for the album to finish. But … it’s a step closer to something really fucking cool.

This guy is on an imaginary list in my head called, “Scary Kids to Look Out For”. This whole tortured artist shit he was doing before just didn’t suit (listen to “I’m a Mother” on his album Too Bright and you’ll catch my drift, then you’ll need a Valium or six). But now? He’s playing with drums and Fender Rhodes.

Fuck the single by the way (song 2) it’s obvious. It’s a bad version of Vampire Weekend mixed with Bush. It’s flat. Boring. It will be forgotten in a couple months. It’s fun in the moment but, overall, it’s not worth it. Kinda like that one time I punched that clown at that kid’s party, then had to deal with all those angry parents after.

“Run Me Through” the second to last song is … damn. It’s something that combines his love of soundscape, pop sensibilities, and (dare I say it) a bit of Radiohead? Most of all, it’s re-listenable, which means something in this pop game.

Is it Prince? Not at all. But Prince also made Planet Earth. Bowie made Tin Machine. Bush made … Red Shoes? Is that a bad album? Anyway, sometimes making good art is just throwing paint on the canvas until something works. And this kid seems to be headed in the right direction. I don’t know if he’s got the chops to knock boots with the greats, but at least he’s trying to step up instead of recording an hour of crying into a couch cushion and calling it a single, which is where I feared he would go. 

He didn’t blow my hat off with his album, but I’m proud he’s in the ring. I’ll keep him on my list for an album a day. Then, maybe in 3–4 years time, he’ll make something that will make me eat all these words … just like I ate that kid’s birthday cake in front of those crying children and screaming parents.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/no-shape/1210458504

 

 

Chris Thile, Edgar Meyer & Yo-Yo Ma – Bach Trios

christhile-bachChris Thile plays the mandolin. And honestly, when someone plays a mandolin you just assume they are nice people. The same thing happens with banjo. Assholes are just unable to pluck onto happy sounding strings. Edgar Meyer plays the bass. Probably known more for his Bluegrass work with people like Béla Fleck or the band Nickel Creek (also featuring Chris Thile). Both these dudes have probably built new shelving in their garage due to the amount of grammies they each have. And, if you’re still into the award thing, both are also MacArthur recipients which is more commonly called the “Genius Award”. That’s right. An award for being super smart and they both won it. Then there’s this Yo-Yo Ma guy. I think he plays the trumpet or something. 

So, right off the bat if you throw this on in the background of your “chalet” you’ll look wicked smart. It’s a high-society honey trap. Put it on, add a little extra bass to that voice of yours, and you’ll make them cream right through their khaki pants and into the sweater tied around their waist. 

Apart from this, I really do like this album. Having two guys that generally work with improvisation and bluegrass (mandolin and bass, though Ma has dipped his toes in the creek as well) playing songs that I generally hear from an organ twice the size of a house, is just fucking nice. It gives a lightness to Bach. That’s right. You heard me. A lightness to that plump-faced wig-wearing man that probably only laughed once in his life when he mistook contrapuntal modulation with a minor key. Real funny Bach. You’re a real comedian. The songs are much faster than I am used to hearing but this does not mean they were composed by Eddie Van Halen. They have heart, peace and clarity. Like song 14, aka Erbarn dich mein, O Herre Gott, BWV 721 (name slips right off the tongue doesn’t it), is one of those listens that just calm the waters of a soul in the way only classical can. Then song 9, aka Fugue No. 18 in E Minor BWV 548, aka Baby Take Off My Wig and Spank It, where around a minute 30 you wonder how any other instrument but a mandolin played by Chris Thile could perform this piece. 

In the end, it’s three virtuosos playing Bach so it’s going to be good. What surprised me was a playfulness that doesn’t just come from instrumentation choice, but years spent with bluegrass and improvisation. My only fear is that this interpretation will become popular and become the standard heard instead of an experiment. Some organists dedicate their lives to play these songs and still can’t due to genetics. It’s a great listen, but it will never replace those serious faced renditions I’m used to. I guess I enjoy sour grapes and constipation too much.

 

 

John Fahey – The Voice of the Turtle

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Coming off of good New Year’s Eve, and after a night spent listening to the, “Paris, Texas” Soundtrack, I felt inclined to listen to more slide guitar. This was also the night my lady convinced me to start writing a blog. This is for you Mel. Instead of trying to chew through the piles of fat and sinew of music I’ve wanted to listen to, I decided a while back to listen to an album a day, or as best as I can, cause I’m human and this is not my job. I should have started then, but I’m an idiot sometimes. Also, who cares, I’m starting now.

First up is this beautiful beast. The 7th album from John Fahey, and one of his stranger to be sure. Recorded in 1968, this album answers the question, “Is there an album where I can dance a jig, get extremely high, and somehow feel a strange nostalgia for a life I didn’t, and will never, live?” Yes, and this is that album. 

A piece of me hates John Fahey, just because he’s too fucking good at slide guitar. I’ve tried to handle a tube of glass on a guitar before, and in the end it would have been better used as a straw for bubble tea. The classic side road story tells a tale where the devil gives someone (usually tabbed Robert Johnson) the ability to play guitar if they give up their soul. Well, the devil had to give his soul to John Fahey to learn how to play slide guitar; he’s just that good. You aren’t going to hear rocket speed licks coming from Fahey. He’s got nothing to prove to you or anyone else. Instead, you will hear a master at the craft playing around with slides and sounds. If you want, go ahead and try to play out these songs with an empty beer bottle and welcome to a world of fresh hell. 

This album is probably best played on a hot summer’s day while getting a little fun drunk, and hopefully incredibly high, with a couple of friends. If you sit and listen to it on your own, like I usually do with everything, it’s a classical blues album that will push your boundaries and move right into the psychedelic. Don’t believe me? Just take a listen to, “A Raga Called Pat” 3 or 4, they are more journeys than songs. There aren’t many albums out there genre labelled as, “Avant-Garde American Primitive Folk Guitar”. And the reason is either that this label is incredibly esoteric, or because everyone knows that it’s already been done and nobody can do it better. 

Fuck you John Fahey, stop making me believe in gods.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/the-voice-of-the-turtle-remastered/182848745

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