Sunday, December 20, 2009

Yep, It's That Time of Year Again: SNAP, CRACKLE & POP, VOLUME 7

I love vinyl record albums -- a LOT. But when you're approaching 40, it starts to get a little embarrassing, doesn't it? It's like, dude, get a job and raise your frickin' children stedda taking up shelf space and piping off about Gilbert O'Sullivan, will ya? Believe me, I know. But to paraphrase Woody Allen trying to justify his affair with Soon-Yi, the ear wants what the ear wants. So here's what mine wanted this year, more or less: an assortment of crackly old vinyl tracks pulled from hither and yon, from stray stacks on sidewalks in Brooklyn and crusty old smoke-stained street vendors, from a Chinese woman in an upstate Amish village, a salvage warehouse in Queens, Gimme Gimme Records in the East Village and eBay after my itchy clicker finger followed some foolish fancy. Mr. Poncho delivered a couple gems, especially the Charlie Rich track, which may be the best on this the seventh annual Snap, Crackle & Pop. There was a vague attempt at a recessionary vibe and, curiously, the year 1972 seemed to keep popping up, but there's really no rhyme or reason to the selection, except that in the case of each and every song, a needle bit into a vinyl groove and beautiful analog sound came out (before promptly being converted to crappy mp3). What's sort of pathetic and hilarious is how much of the year I spend thinking about this mix, hustling to find something lovely or amusing or just soulful to hear. It gives form and shape to the pursuit, I guess, a circuitous road and a destination. Anyway, here it is. Hope you dig it.

You can download and print out the CD cover by clicking

>> HERE <<<

Then download all 22 songs by clicking

>> HERE <<

Here's what you'll find:

Street People - Bobby Charles (Bobby Charles, 1972)
Lost Paraguayos -Rod Stewart (Never a Dull Moment, 1972)
God Help the Girl - God Help the Girl (God Help the Girl, 2009)
Break Your Promise - The Delfonics (The Delfonics Super Hits, 1972)
Running Close Behind You - Dion (Suite for Late Summer, 1972)
Let Me Kiss Ya - Nick Lowe (Nick the Knife, 1982)
Yellow Star - Donovan (Essence to Essence, 1973)
Juste Quelques Flocons Qui Tombent - Antione (Je Reprends La Route Demain, 1965)
Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye -Freddy Fender (Before the Next Teardrop Falls, 1975)
Work to Make It Work - Robert Palmer (Pressure Drop, 1976)
Just A Gigolo - Thelonious Monk (Thelonious Monk Trio, 1954)
Bird of the World - Bill Fox (1996)
Dixieland Delight - Alabama (The Closer You Get ..., 1983)
He Was Too Good to Me - Nina Simone (At The Village Gate, 1962)
Sandy - The Hollies (Another Night, 1975)
I Don't Believe in Miracles - Colin Blunstone (I Don't Believe in Miracles, 1982)
Milk Train - Jefferson Airplane (Long John Silver, 1972)
For Your Precious Love - Aaron Neville (Orchid in the Storm, 1986)
Patches - Jerry Reed (The Man With the Golden Thumb, 1982)
Come to Me - The Travel Agency (The Travel Agency, 1968)
I've Lost My Heart to You - Charlie Rich (Lost Weekend, 1960)
Thank You for the Party - Bugatti & Musker (The Dukes, 1982)


Saturday, December 19, 2009

Blah Blah Blah Top Ten of 2009 (Minus Four)

I listened to more new music this year than I have in a long while. Not sure why. A new phase. Obama. End of the World. But even so, music made by people under 40 (or for that matter, living people) still constituted only about 15% of the music in my life. Most of it was still crackly old jazz and soul albums. I only supply this Top Six list out of some misguided need to tell people I still care about social conventions and hierarchies and 20th Century magazine year-end roundups and, generally speaking, other human beings. I'll supply mp3 downloads if requested, but you can easily find any of this stuff at

1. Dirty Projectors "Bitte Orca" - I could just as easily put the Bill Callahan or Girls album here, but in the tussle between supreme ambition and uncanny intimacy, I'm tilting slightly toward the former. This sounds like what would happen if Yes came from Senegal, were born in 1990 and tried making music that a girl might like. This record surprises again and again and manages to just avoid feeling suffocatingly indie and rockist. I shook my head in disbelief through the entire thing and, crucially, still do. It's a huge achievement, especially for people who love listening to entire records on headphones.

2. Bill Callahan "Sometimes I Wish I Were an Eagle" - Completely strange and original, yet as warm and comforting as a Navajo blanket sewn by Neil Young. The lyrics are as like abstract poetry held in a glass of water in the sunlight; sounds like: Gen-X getting serious as a heart attack. And it's recorded so beautifully, with such depth and dimension and breadth, it makes other "folk" albums feel 2D. How about this: It's the "Avatar" of indie folk. Go find "Too Many Birds" and see what I mean.

3. Girls "Album" - I try really hard not to get caught up in Pitchfork's buzz making, but if the shoe fits, wear it. This album is extraordinarily beautiful and lushly emotional. Sounds like: a bisexual skateboarder runaway who's never heard anything but quivery 50s doo wop ballads. Imagine if Jonathan Richman and Antony were smashed together in a particle collider and then outfitted by American Apparel. I'm STILL obsessing on it. Go find "Hellhole Ratrace" and sit and listen to it.

4. Flaming Lips "Embroyonic" - I'll always have a soft spot for psychedelic music, especially raw, garage-y, Nugget-y, Floyd-y primitive freakouts that seek to shock your stoned mind with vision maps and vortex revelations and revealed mind hearts. It's as old as the hills, this stuff, but much harder to do than it appears, and most people fail. Like some epic Stan Brakhage film, this record just expands and and ripples and curves and confounds and implodes just right. It felt like the last two albums were cotton candy meant to lure the new generation into a sweat lodge. Ka-POW! Again, headphone heaven.

5. The Clientele "Bonfires on the Heath" - My fascination with this band may be peculiar to me, but I love their smooth-as-silk, wispy-as-Monet, airy-as-autumn 60s sound so. The well-tempered drums and deceptively plangent, interwoven guitars, the whispered poetry of it all. The best word I can use to describe everything about the Clientele is "leafy." If ferns had audio, they'd sound like the Clientele.

6. Sunn O))) "Monoliths & Dimensions" - Saying you love this record is like saying you love a forbidding mountain off in a cold distance. It's utterly abstract, but the fascination is so profound and lingering, like you're being shown an unexplored valley full of ghosts and ledges that leads, circuitously, to everything Alex Ross wants you to like, like modern classical and Mahler. I kept listening and listening, simultaneously amused by how boneheaded the whole thing really is, and awed by how wonderful it is that boneheadedness can actually take you to interesting places like this. Isn't that what Sabbath taught us?

See the People Run and Gather, Something High Has Caught Their Eye

I stumbled on Jim Sullivan, streaming on dinky speakers on my laptop. It's shaggy music, with one toe water-logged in the rippling, sometimes scum-topped, pool of soul-folk -- some damaged DNA shared by Van Morrison, Joe South and maybe even Mac Davis. The other toe, I don't know. It's an adult portion. Sullivan sings in places with that wonderful self-limiting effect used by people like George Jones, it's like applying a volume pedal to your vocals, so that the signal sort of swells and then fades, with a weird tapered curve. The energetic strumming brings to mind Gordon Lightfoot. There's promiscuous harpsichord and strings poking through in places. There's something almost heavy metal about this tune, "Johnny." And Sullivan's singing here reminds me of Ozzy and Ian Anderson. This record, U.F.O., sounds very Blind Faith-ish. The drumming is jazzy, but in that British, overzealous way -- getting busy with the triplets -- that turns from cool to menacing. And the groove starts to come unhinged in places. There's upright bass lurking, not saying much, but shadowing the whole affair. And then the creepy Bobbie Gentry strings come in, adding negative energy to the vocal lines, ballast to the airy subject. Turns out that Jim Sullivan has some major ties to titans of rock and pop. He played on a Walker Brothers record. Get this, he played on "Itchycoo Park" by the Small Faces, he played on "Ferry Across the Mersey" by Gerry and the Pacemakers. Played on Vashti Bunyan tracks. Friends with Tom Jones and Elvis Presley. Got Jim Marshall to make amps. Dude looks like Meher Baba. Evidently Sullivan appears in the commune scene (one of my favorites) in Easy Rider.

"Johnny" - Jim Sullivan

"Roll Back the Time" -- Jim Sullivan

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Just Let Go of Your Mind

The first step is admitting you have a problem. There's also a step involving the realization that you don't have control. I just reached the step where I find some scrap of music on my iPod and I don't know where it came from (I have this feeling that Lefty may have dropped it on me, or maybe even posted it here already) or who it is, and I have to accept that it's the abiding mystery -- and the vaporous otherworldly shapes that form between my ears when I put this music on: the assertive tambourine, the lush-and-lumpy horns, the billowing backwards shit, the funky drummer business put to the service of soulful sap-rising psychedelic soft pop -- that keeps blowing sparks off the dusty coals.

This is music made by a Canadian teenager in the late '60s. The record was re-issued in 2001.

"Fly" - J.K. & Co.

"Christine" - J.K. & Co.