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Wednesday
Mar122014

Music Photos Galore

Most of my live music experiences of late have revolved around my work with the Lingua Musica show, so until I kick back into gear with What It Is shows and posts, here is a photo update of notable performances at Moonlight Mile studio in Arden, NC. Enjoy! Hank West & the Smokin' Hots play the Lingua Musica show 3-8-14

And get ready for Danny Barnes coming up on 3/22! Danny Barnes, banjo man extraordinaire

 

 

Monday
Feb032014

Live Music Photos Galore

Even though I dont' get out nearly as much as I once did, I'm lucky enough to catch some great music up close recently. Here are a some of my favorite photos of late from Cults, Pixies, Nikki Hill and Valerie June:

Cults play Thomas Wolfe Auditorium 2-1-14Pixies play Thomas Wolfe Auditorium 2-1-14Frank Black in the spotlight

Nikki Hill plays WNCW's Studio B 1-31-14Valerie June plays WNCW's Studio B 1-28-14Oh, and I would be remiss if I didn't share a couple favorites from the Warren Haynes Christmas Pre-Jam from December 12, 2013:

Randall Bramblett and WNCW's Scotty Robertson at the Orange Peel in Asheville, NCEngineer's notes from sound board on stage right at the Pre Jam 2013Got any photos and memories of your favorite music events that you'd like to share? We'd love to hear from you in our comments section or via our social media. As Frank Zappa said, "Live music is best."! -Joe

 

Tuesday
Dec242013

Favorite Music of 2013

I really should count all the records I listen to in a year. Each December I look back on all the great music and wonder how many titles crossed my desk and inboxes. There's a great pyramid of music here: hundreds and hundreds of cast-offs line the base of the triangle, with better and more listened-to music rising to the capstone.

Some periods see so much good music that many excellent releases suffer from overcrowding. Typically there are half a dozen or more albums that deserve to be heard in their entirety and a dozen or more songs that demand to be played multiple times every week. Some weeks there are a dozen or so compelling albums and many more songs; these are times when I think back to my youth, when there was far less music available, and tell myself that this musical horn of plenty is a good problem to have.

Every December, the freight train of discs and downloads slows to a crawl and then a stop, and I can finally take stock of the year's treasure. The last chapter of the book has finally been written, and it's time to pull it off the shelf and read it all the way through. The main characters, plot lines and settings are familiar enough, but this time of reflection reveals many wonderful details and forgotten pieces of the story. In looking over all the records that made it onto the WNCW airwaves, I'm always coming across some that slipped off the radar. This year, Mia Dyson was foremost in that category. It was great fun to rediscover her album The Moment, and move it to the short list of contenders for best of 2013.

The preliminary list was upwards of seventy titles long, with many of those being records whose memories were foggy at this stage: time to reread some chapters. Going back to these releases is some of the best time listening to music all year. It's both purposeful and indulgent. In this new context, the songs are clearer and more relaxing. Your team won the game and now you can let yourself watch it again with no anxiety as you make your list of MVPs.

Now, there are always a handful of players that get an immediate asterisk next to their names. These are the first two to five records that come to mind without looking at notes. These will be the releases vying to be at the top of the heap. They are the records I've listened to thoroughly, that I've gone to again and again even at the expense of newer good music. They are the albums that I had to own right away.

The rest of the list can prove to be much more difficult to flesh out. Waffling and second guessing can get out of hand at this point, so I go back to my gut. It's time to ask:

"Which records made you feel electric?"

"Which songs did you find a way to play on your radio show even when you had to go out of your way to make them fit?"

"Even if the whole album isn't close to perfect, does it have a few songs that you'll remember and go to years from now?" Anders Osborne

These are the questions which decide who rounds out my top ten. Below is my list as are the lists of some good friends. What are your favorites of 2013? Feel free to add your comments! -joe

1.       Anders Osborne               Peace    (Alligator)
2.       Don Cavalli                          Temperamental               (Ever Loving)
3.       Foxygen                               We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic           (Jagjaguwar)     
4.       John Grant                          Pale Green Ghosts          (Partisan)
5.       Superchunk                        I Hate Music                       (Merge)
6.       Mazzy Star                          Seasons Of Your Day      (Rhymes Of An Hour)
7.       Bill Callahan                        Dream River                       (Drag City)
8.       Wolf People                       Fain                                        (Jagjaguwar)
9.       Laura Marling                     Once I Was An Eagle       (Ribbon/Domino)
10.     Dead Tongues                   Desert                                  (self release)        

Rob Daves: Can't believe I forgot the Foxygen record when compiling the list...that's great stuff! Early releases always slip my mind though...same for John Grant...so much good music. Kimya Dawson of The Uncluded
       1) The Uncluded - Hokey Fright
2) Freshlyground - Take Me To The Dance

3) Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - Push The Sky Away

4) Colleen Green - Sock It To Me

5) Yo La Tengo - Fade

6) Jim Jones Revue - The Savage Heart

7) Songs: Ohia - Magnolia Electric Co.

8) Bill Callahan - Dream River

9) 15-60-75 The Numbers Band - Jimmy Bell's Still In Town

10) Clairy Browne and the Bangin' Rackettes - Baby Caught The Bus

John Byce: I love it! I see some names I don't recognize on your list. I'll have to check em out. This is my list: Cass McCombs plays in Barcelona

20 Volcano Choir - Repave
The second release from Justin Vernon's other group is worth checking out. It's more ambitious than the Bon Iver records but in the end probably less rewarding. 

19 Yo La Tengo - Fade
YLT are old and know what they're doing. So much so, maybe folks have lost interest which is a real shame. They're serving up their unique style of pop nuggets with drone and noise. Tasty as ever.

18 Toro Y Moi - Anything In Return
I am in love with this man and his songs. The only reason Chaz is not higher in the list with this one is the slick dance sounds. A few of the songs take me back to the house music at Addy's in the early oughts. 

17 Mikal Cronin - MCII
Great balance of song craft and rock intensity, kind of like the middle ground of Kurt Vile and Ty Segall. MCII is a great listen and I'm anxious to see what Cronin does next.

16 Ty Segall - Sleeper
Ty is cranking out music so fast it's kind of hard to keep up with him, but with Sleeper it seems like he is stepping away from the garage sounds that he's done so well in the past and going more acoustic. Kind of a 60s British psych meets early Devendra Banhart.

15 Deerhunter - Monomania
Deerhunter and I have been in relationship since 2007's Cryptograms, but over the years with all the LPs and EPs and Atlas Sound releases, I was afraid we were growing apart. Do I really need another record from this artsy, post-punk, cross dresser? Now with Monomania on my shelf, I'm sorry my ears ever wandered. I'll never doubt you again Deerhunter.

14 Local Natives - Hummingbird
This is the sound I'm really into. Which is to say that they sound like Grizzly Bear. Which is proggy, nicely arranged pop with sweet harmonies. They may not be as exciting as Grizzly Bear but come on, who is?

13 Kurt Vile - Walkin' On A Pretty Daze
Vile is a great name for this guy. Kind of like calling a bald guy Harry. Vile kind of has this rock and roll swagger but I feel like behind the curtain is a modern day Tom Petty. Or maybe more like an Electric Warrior era T. Rex with it's marshall stack and power stance cover art that hides the tenderness within.

12 Mutual Benefit - Love's Crushing Diamond
It's a win win. What makes most up and coming indie artists stand out is their counter to culture. But what happens when counterculture becomes the norm? Maybe you do something as revolutionary as make a pretty record of anglo, acoustic music that references falconry.

11 Iron & Wine - Ghost On Ghost
I'll have to admit that I have not been super excited about the last few Iron and Wine records but I've played the hell out of Ghost on Ghost. The songs are as good as you would expect from Sam Beam, but this time out he hired sesh cats and made a kick ass light rock record. More than America or Bread. Think Doctor Hook or Little River Band.



10 Arcade Fire -Reflektor
Arcade Fire have become the Grammy approved, arena touring indie rockers of the day and good for them. I can't claim to adore them as many do, but they do know how to write a song and put together a record. This one is dancy a la Talking Heads and conceptual like late 70s Pink Floyd. I'm pretty sure Reflektor is about social media.

9 Phosphorescent - Muchacho
A great record from a great artist, but I call BS. In interviews he claims Eno influence here and it is clearly Lanois. Exibit A is Song For Zula which is a direct clone of the Willie Nelson version of Eyes of the Maker off of the Lanois producedTeatro album. Whatever. It's all good but just wanted to clear the air.

8 Youth Lagoon - Wondrous Bughouse
It's a big sound coming from Boise, Idaho. This 23 year old is channeling the better parts of Flaming Lips, My Bloody Valentine, Animal Collective and Syd Barrett. Kind of exciting.

7 Vampire Weekend - Modern Vampires
I know. You've heard em and maybe you're not into it. But this time they are talking about death and religion so let's get this party started.

6 Bill Callahan - Dream River
Bill is my guru. I'm buying whatever this guy is selling.

5 Foxygen - We are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic
I love it when young people use a bunch of tired sounds and make them fun again.  The Stones, The Kinks, The Beatles and Love never sounded so good.

4 Bonnie Prince Billy - S/T
How can an artist such as Will Oldham with such a vast catalog continue to delight fans? This is his 28th full length by my count and it's freakin brilliant. I will argue with anybody that he is the voice of our generation. Or at least he should be but I think the industry is leaning toward will.i.am

3 Jim James - Regions of Light and Sound of God
Thanks to my fellow geeky music buddy, I rediscovered the greatness of My Morning Jacket. Just in time for James' solo release which I have thoroughly enjoyed. Without the baggage of expectations associated with a proper MMJ record, James was able to use a whole new sonic palate. I want more!

2 The National - Trouble Will Find Me
This is really the big record of the year. I love it and I know many others do too. There is so much to like about The National and they continue their trend of making outstanding records. Kind of like a hipster Journey.

1 Cass McCombs - Big Wheel and Others
I'm not kidding, please listen to McCombs. Not just this one but his whole back catalog is well worth exploring. Especially Catacombs. Big Wheel is 22 tracks and a long, rambling of a record but well worth the haul. With many great personalities and stories, McCombs captivates the listener and sneaks in new material with each listen. His rootsy rock sound has caught the ear of an odd mix of folks. Mostly by fans of indie singer/songwriters but he has been covered by The National and Bob Weir and I just noticed Mike Gordon of Phish fame is playing bass on a few of the songs on this record. Maybe we'll see McCombs jamming out next year at the Further Fest.

Mary Hughes:
I'll add my top ten to this fine collection! :) Anna Calvi

Anna Calvi - One Breath
Neko Case - The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You
Laura Marling - Once I Was An Eagle
Patty Griffin - American Kid
Deerhunter - Monomania
André Obin - The Arsonist
Janelle Monáe - The Electric Lady
Daughn Gibson - Me Moan
Jon Hopkins - Immunity
Nils Frahm - Spaces

Jason Lineberger: So, your lists have prompted me to think of a list of my own.  While I've been listening to a lot of music this year, quite a bit has been from years past.  Here's a list of ten discs from 2013 (as far as I know) that have been circulating through my headphones.  In no particular order: Neko Case

Neko Case The Worse Things Get…

Foxygen  We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic

Parquet Courts  Light Up Gold

Deltron 3030  Event II

Rising Appalachia  Filthy, Dirty South

Charles Bradley  Victim of Love

Superchunk  I Hate Music

Mikal Cronin MCII

Pissed Jeans Honeys

Lorde Pure Heroin





   
Friday
Dec202013

The Best in the Western NC Music Scene

We gathered at Echo Mountain Recording Studios for a lively conversation with Caitlin Krisko, Molly Kummerle, Jay Sanders and Jason Sandford to take the pulse of the regional music scene and came up with a cornucopia of talented artists and bands to celebrate. Many thanks to Josh Blake, Scott Reese and everyone at Independent Arts and Music of Asheville for producing the show!

In our corner of the state there is a huge array of talent, and the What It Is panel singles out Woody Wood, Steep Canyon Rangers, Balsam Range, Blue Jeans and Khaki Pants, The Krektones, The Get Right Band, The Honeycutters, Toubab Krewe, Yo Mama's Big Fat Booty Band, Jonathan Scales Fourchestra, Crazyhorse and Colston, and RBTS WIN for starters.

The region also benefits from many high profile festivals, and Asheville specifically boasts a walkable downtown with many venues, has the fortune of cross-pollination of fan bases and collaborations amongst artists, a supportive community, and new venues like the Apothecary and The Mothlight, and an emerging jazz scene.

With all the good comes a wish for some things to improve, and we point to the need for more promotion, more all-ages shows, wish for a band that would make it big, a better job base, and talk about a situation that is common to many healthy music scenes: the ease of cannibalizing your own audience by playing out too much in your home town.

Enjoy the show and please drop us a line here or on twitter and let us know your thoughts and perspective on the musical lay of the land here in the mountains and foothills of North Carolina!

Friday
Nov292013

Debating "Hey! Ho!" Bands

 The Lumineers, Mumford & Sons, Of Monsters And Men and their ilk are what we have termed “Hey! Ho!” bands, for their shouted one-word choruses. "Neo-hootenanny" bands is another potential descriptor. Personally, I understand why they’re popular but look forward to the day when these shouts are not the mating call of the current generation. I caught Benmont Tench’s post on twitter and thought it was apt: @benchten: God Bless Us Every One, but hasn't this hand-claps, kick-drums, gang-vocal faux-Celtic trend run its course?

Join us as we debate the latest wave of pop music with banjos as the What It Is panel takes a somewhat surprising turn, and instead of yelling at these kids to get off our lawn, decides that they should all have a group hug.