Thursday, December 29, 2011

27 for 2011 - part 3

This is part three of our list of the twenty-seven "new" records that seemed to matter most in 2011, which would make these the worst nine best songs of that year that just ended the other day.  The All Vinyl Countdown + Apocalypse begins again this coming Saturday.

Sufjan Stevens – Too Much
Like the artist behind it, this piece never quite goes where you expect it, which is almost always a good thing.

Sparkadia – Mary
Mary really messed this guy up.   

Paranthetical Girls – Evelyn McHale
They called her the most beautiful suicide.  Evelyn McHale leapt to her death from the Empire State Building and landed on the roof of a car, unblemished.  The song's got that tragic beauty, too.

St Just Vigilantes – Swans Evangelist
There's a much longer version of this psyche-folk gem out there which is well worth tracking down.

Goose – can't stop me now (Bloody Beatroots remix)
A remix that more or less reinvents the original.  It's pure, epic dance floor now.

War on Drugs – arms like boulders
A band almost as good as its name.

Mother Mother – born in a flash
Pop, powerful, even kind of epic.

Bullion – time for us all to love
Those Beach Boy harmonies will never die.

Josh Millard – halle hula
Someone had to take the piss out of Hallelujah.  What's cool here is it actually works as a hula.  No Youtube yet.  Found at Metafilter.

27 for 2011 - part 2

As already suggested, we play more than just old vinyl on Randophonic.  This is part two of our list of the twenty-seven "new" records that seemed to matter most in 2011.  It's kind of in order so these nine selections are sort of the middle-best according to the complex workings of the Randophonic Jukebox and the human souls that interact with it. 

British Sea Power – who's in control?
"Who is in control?"  Because every now and then, this needs to be shouted loud ... with violins. 

Gang Gang Dance – mindkillah
The Lee Scratch Perry remix is pretty darned cool, too.

American West – Sun Airway (S+S remix)
A remix that definitely improves on an original.

Gaudi – there's enough
Technically 2009.  Speaks profoundly to the heart of our politics, our ethics, our humanity. All scarcity is now the work of deliberate conspiracy and it has been for more than 40 years.  The 1 percent vs everybody else, and all that. 

Low – monkey
Low have been around for a long time.  Don't mess with their monkey.

D.Veloped – stereo drugs (Dr. Dre vs Stereo Love)
Serious rap and accordion -- together at last.  Best mashup we heard all year.

Heartless Bastards – parted ways
What a voice!  Song's strong, too.  Probably should be higher on the list but we just heard it for the first time a couple weeks ago.

Digital Leather – Blackness
Crushing despair seldom sounds so offhand powerful.

Apparat – ash/black veil
Who says trance can't be mostly acoustic?  

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

27 For 2011 - part 1

We don't only play old vinyl on Randophonic.  Here's part one of our list of the twenty-seven "new" records that seemed to matter most in 2011 (as per the enigmatic directives of the Randophonic Jukebox).  Is it in some kind of order?  Sort of.  Are these nine selections the best of the best then?  Right now maybe.  But that'll probably change before the week's out.

PlanningToRock – I'm your man
Note that Janine Rostron is a woman who pretty much does it all fusing "... all talents in a dazzling audiovisual presentation that borrows from classical music, glam rock Spacey pictures and hip-hop."

Selene – You Are Here
They do still call it hip-hop.  Guess it must be here to stay.  From a collection of songs completely concerned with the movie MOON.

Alexander – Truth
Was this a huge hit out in the world?  Should we at Randophonic even care about such stuff?  The greater tragedy would be if a man (or woman) lived through these times without ever hearing Truth.  The same goes for every record on this list. 

Royksopp – Shores of Easy
Straight outa Norway.  Space is still the place.

Battles – ice cream
Manages to be groovy and fresh and kind of insane.  AMAZING live apparently.

Young Galaxy – peripheral visionaries
Vancouver's own (by way of Montreal).  The video's great, too.

Midlake – the courage of others
Technically a 2010 song but we didn't notice it at the time.  From one of those albums where the songs all kind of sound the same, which would be a problem if it wasn't such a damned great SAME. 

My Morning Jacket – circuital
Originally conceived as a Muppets song for Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem, the song was to be performed by My Morning Jacket live with the Muppets on stage with the band behind a curtain, playing live.

Black Mountain – let spirits ride
"the rudimentary force of life is shining in your eyes awaiting call".  Nuf said.


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Countdown #4 - never give up

(podcast available here – originally broadcast Dec-10-2011)  All comments are from Philip Random's notes.  The full countdown list (so far) can be found here.

Nocturnal Emissions - never give up
By the time we hit 1985, everyone knew someone who was dying of the big disease with a little name (as Prince called it), even if we didn't actually know they had it.  People tended to keep that a secret if they could.  Maybe it was an uncle, or a guy we went to school with, a friend, a brother.  It was almost always a guy.  Anyway, where there's sickness, there's songs of hope, even if there is no hope, which seemed to be the case with AIDS in 1985.  A death sentence all the way.  And yet we're human, so we never give up.  Some of us anyway.  

Pop Will Eat Itself - not now James, we're busy
Decades tend to end well, musically speaking, except the 90s.  That was a mess.  In the 80s, we had hip-hop colliding with everything that had become boring (even punk rock), setting music free in all kinds of unimaginably cool ways.  As Pop Will Eat Itself said in an early song, "Bring a beatbox and make a garage racket."  This one seems to concern James Brown, whose beats everyone was stealing at the time.  Meanwhile he was having a bit of a midlife crisis, assaulting cops, going on high speed chases, ending up in jail.

Emerson Lake + Palmer - tiger in a spotlight
ELP blew it big time in 1977.  While the cool world went punk and the smooth world went disco, they just went DUMB, dumped a massive double album on the world that nobody wanted, then took a symphony orchestra on tour with them and lost millions.  By the time they hit Vancouver, they'd dumped the orchestra, so it was mostly just prolonged wanking with occasional explosions – bass, drums, enough keyboards and synthesizers to change the world (assuming they were in the right hands – they weren't).  And yet, in the midst of it all, there were these crazy, freaked out sort of barrelhouse boogies going down, suggesting a whole other possible history for mankind.

Rich Wakeman - White Rock
From a soundtrack album for a movie concerning the 1976 Winter Olympics that nobody ever saw.  Rick Wakeman (wearer of shimmering capes, former keyboard God from prog rock superheroes Yes) never played a bum note, which unfortunately didn't guarantee ego-free genius, except occasionally, like White Rock (the song) which was required listening whenever the parents were out and you could finally crank the stereo as the gods intended, test those woofers.  Blow the f***ers!  Then blame your little brother who got so drunk he doesn't remember anything anyway.

Dr John - Babylon
Babylon being a city-state in Ancient Mesopotamia that lasted more than 2000 years before finally dissolving into the sands of time, just as the great powers of NOW inevitably shall … if you believe your Rastafarianism.  So yeah, there's all kinds of apocalypse tied up in Babylon, including the name, root of babble (a state in language acquisition, during which an infant appears to be experimenting with uttering sounds of language, but not yet producing any recognizable words).  Chaos in a word, except it might mean something … kind of like this song.

Keith Richard - the harder they come
Keith Richard's so cool he can stumble into a studio in a heroin haze, fumble through a reggae classic that no white man has any business even touching – and actually deliver something worth listening to many years later.  I have no idea how this 1978 single ended up in my collection.  I'm guessing I grabbed it from a freebie pile in early 90s (there were a lot of those at the time).  A few years later, it got stuck on a fave mixtape -- after midnight stuff, for when the hard lines are all blurring but you still need something genuinely human to hang on to.  

Boo Radleys - Barney ... and me
What's the word for that strange place where unbounded joy crashes into the reality of gravity, and profound dimensions of what can only be called beauty get released?  The Boo Radleys music was full of it.  Case in point Barney and Me -- great weeping melodies, charging guitars, spiraling keyboards … flutes.  From the aptly named Giant Steps, as good an album as 1993 laid on the world.  So good I had to get it on vinyl, which was a serious rarity by then.  

Manfred Mann's Earth Band - joybringer
Want an irresistibly affirming melody?  Rip off one of the classics.  In this case, it's Manfred Mann (between Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen fixations) having his way Gustav Holst's Jupiter Bringer of Jollity.  Who says there was nothing to smile about in 1973? 

Dexy's Midnight Runners - tell me when my light turns green
I was eyeballing this album for a long time before I actually heard it.  Nerdy teenage schoolboy looking straight into the camera while behind him, younger kids get hustled out of the way – everybody visibly shaken by something bad.  A terror bomb in Northern Ireland?  Probably.  And then there was the title: Searching for the Young Soul Rebels.  What exactly was a young soul rebel?  In my mind, I guess I was.  I was certainly young, maybe twenty at time, and I wasn't exactly a punk (didn't go in for the extreme fashion), definitely wasn't a hippie (they'd all gotten sloppy and embarrassing by 1980), and the so-called New Wave stuff was always a bit too … something.  But I definitely had my grievances with the way of the world.  So yeah, maybe I was this other thing – a young soul rebel.  Only later did I discover that it was a term associated with the British Northern Soul scene of the 1960s (hence the Dexy's part of the band's name – popping Dexedrine to keep going all night).  But I was past my rebel phase by then anyway. Rebellion was a 60s thing.  I was a Resister now, because that's what the 80s were about really.  Resisting all the bullshit.  

Steppenwolf - monster [RandoEDIT]
I would've been eleven or twelve.  My friend Peter's older brother had joined one of those record clubs, got ten albums for a dollar and he hated this one, so he passed it down.  The lead off track was an epic about a monster called America that was eating its children.  Shove it up next to the Vietnam War (ongoing), all the riots and protests on TV, what had just gone down in Kent State … and a picture started to present itself to my puny little mind. 

Red Guitars - good technology
This comes from my early radio days (1983).  Just a good, solid song singing the praises of technology (with tongue firmly in cheek).  In a better world, it would've been a huge hit and we'd all be sick to death of it by now.  The secret of course is in the band's name.  The RED guitars.  They were serious about their left-side politics and not about to cut any deals with the sly cannibals who ran the music biz.

Queen - drowse
Queen wasn't all fantasy even as they were going mid-70s megaHUGE.  Case in point, Drowse – a song about being young, depressed, going nowhere but the darkest depths of your room.  Like something Brian Wilson and David Bowie would've come up with if they'd ever managed to write a song together.  

Monday, December 5, 2011

Countdown #3 - these things happen

(podcast available here – originally broadcast Dec-3-2011)  All comments are from Philip Random's notes.  The full countdown list (so far) can be found here.

Mark Stewart - these things happen
A friend of mine, Charles, met Mark Stewart in about 1989.  They were supposed to be talking soundtrack stuff for a movie Charles had on the go.  Which they did.  Except Mr. Stewart didn't think the movie, which concerned a darkly comic dystopic future, went nearly far enough.  "If you're going to do dystopia, do fucking dystopia.  Rising oceans taking out entire countries, chemical plants taking out entire cities, global thermo-nuclear war taking out everything else.  Have it all happen one Tuesday morning.  And then maybe zombies attack the survivors for comic relief.  Because if someone doesn’t make the fucking movie.  It will happen."  Or words to that effect.  And then they got very drunk.

Holger Czukay, Jah Wobble, Jaki Liebezeit - how much are they?
As the story goes, hooking up with Can's rhythm section (Holger Czukay bass, Jaki Liebezeit best drummer in the world) was the impossible dream for Mr. Wobble.  And then he fucked it up, blew all the advance cash Virgin gave him on drugs, alcohol, other stupid stuff.  He ripped off his heroes and didn't have the nerve to talk to them for years.  But they still made a hell of an album together.  Music's like that -- the shit it puts up with in the interests of getting itself conjured.

Midnight Oil – U.S. Forces
The Clash weren't officially broken up yet in 1983, but they should've been.  Which was leaving a huge hole to be filled.  Smart, reckless, politically charged anthems toward some at least not completely hopeless future – no one band could do it but maybe a dozen could.  Midnight Oil were one of them and 1983's 10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1 was as raucous, as angry, as good as they ever got.  Everyone too stoned to start a mission, People too scared to go to Prison.

Iggy Pop - Repo Man
To put it context … Harry Dean Stanton (all cranked up on speed, of course) is driving around with young Otto, spitting out the Repo Man code. Meanwhile, there's been a fender-bender in the distance and it looks like there's going to be a fight – ordinary people in tennis whites facing off in the middle of the street.  Harry Dean shakes his head, says, "Ordinary fucking people. I hate 'em!"  And the thing is, for me, it was an awakening. Because I too HATED ordinary people – all the bullshit normality that wanted to eat me.  And REPO MAN (like the punk rock that fueled it) gave this HATE a voice and focus ... in a kind of beautiful way.  Within a few years, people were referring to the mid/late 80s as The Winter Of Hate (twenty long years since the Summer Of Love when we'd all been cute little flower babies). Not that there wasn't any love in the 80s. Of course there was. But you couldn't really make sense of the 80s and your place in the scheme of it all (in North America anyway) until you owned your HATE.  Until you knew what to HATE.  Otherwise, you were just going to get eaten.

Fleetwood Mac - tell me all the things you do
Album cover shows two little hippie children playing outside a hippie kiln house with hippie trees and flowers, so benignly 1970.  Meanwhile, the main guy from the band, singer songwriter, guitar genius, Peter Green, had gone psychedelically AWOL, melted down, never to really return, leaving the rest of the band left to pick up the pieces.  That was the other side of the picture.  But Kiln House was a fine album.  Best Fleetwood Mac release of the 70s … until Lindsey + Stevie signed on and kicked things into cocaine supernova.  

Cat Stevens - 18th Avenue (Kansas City Nightmare)
It was an amazing thing.  Fall 1972, my friend Malcolm actually bought a Rolling Stone magazine, which if you've just turned thirteen in suburban wherereverland, barely out of the 60s, was akin to signing on with the Weather Underground, particularly that issue –  the one with Ziggy Stardust on the cover (aka David Bowie), the rock star who was a genuine homosexual faggot … or perhaps a spider from Mars.  We were confused on that point.  And anyway, that's not what I'm remembering here.  I'm remembering a live review from that Rolling Stone of a Cat Stevens concert.  He was neither homosexual or alien, but reviewer sure thought he was cool, particularly this one new song  called 18th Avenue that apparently blew the whole audience away.  But you couldn't just buy the single.  You had to buy the whole album called Catch Bull At Four, which I did once I'd saved the five bucks (it took a couple of weeks).  Another one of those turning points.  I was buying albums now.

New Order - ceremony
Spring 1980.  Word began to penetrate to my particularly dense suburbs of a band called Joy Divison.  Apparently, they were like a New Wave Doors.  Which is all I needed to hear.  I headed down to Quintessence Records cash in hand, prepared to doll it out for an import.  "Sorry," said the guy at the counter, "We're sold out since the guy killed himself."  Ouch.  Maybe a year later, we started to hear New Order, the band that rose from those ashes – cool and eerie, showing a glimpse of the future we all had coming, like something reflected in dark, unclean glass. 

Bourbonese Qualk - Boggy Creek
Bourbonese Qualk were early players in the so-called industrial scene.  Noise combined with music and, in this case, words concerning a place called Boggy Creek where there was rumored to be a monster or something.  They'd made a movie about it when I was a kid.  I still remember the TV ad.  Creeped me right out

Eric Burdon + War - beautiful new born child
In the very early 1970s, the only thing anybody was clear on was it wasn't the 60s anymore, and that's only because the date said so.  Eric Burdon's take on things included hooking up with the hottest band he could find in greater L.A. and declaring WAR.  In a nice way.  By the time their second album came out, Mr. Burdon, who'd lived the 60s the way you were supposed to (ie: well beyond the limit), was crashing and burning.  War, on the other hand, were just getting started, like a beautiful new born child.   

John Lennon - I don't wanna be a soldier
1971.  The Vietnam war was still dragging on, and even if it was going to end soon, everybody knew there'd be some new evil coming along soon to keep all the young boys busy tearing each other apart.  Yeah, Imagine was the big deal John Lennon song of the moment, all that pie-in-the-sky God-free utoptianism.  But I Don't Wanna Be A Soldier was selling a harder, louder truth … but kind of hypnotic as well.  They say the drugs were just better then.  

Neil Young - roll another number
This public service message comes from the Godfather of grunge himself.  Recorded in 1973 on the heels of various deaths in and around the band (Crazy Horse), not released until 1975 because everybody was just too fucking depressed.  Get stoned, says the song, go for a long drive that gets you reflecting on a recent events that seem much further away than they really are.  That's what the rear view's for.

Neil Diamond - Be
Neil Diamond had it all in 1973.  Millions of fans worldwide, great hair, even a slow building, grudging sort of critical respectability.  Because those recent live shows were just too strong to ignore.  So what does the man do with it all?  He dives deep, he reaches high, he gives his all to a soundtrack for a movie from a really dumb book about a seagull named Jonathon.  Yet even in falling, Icarus-like, he soars, as a page that aches for a word which speaks on a theme that is timeless.  Somebody had to do it.

Peter Gabriel - white shadow
Before he poured acid on his face and then shaved his head and eventually started hanging out with Rosanna Arquette, but after he quit Genesis because the hideously enlarged testicle costume had gotten too heavy to bear, Peter Gabriel was messing around with all kinds of possibilities, dragging his nails across chalkboards, seeking to reinvent.  He got very close to something here on his second album, the one produced by Robert Fripp.  What is a White Shadow?

Prince - I wish U heaven (extended)
Nice little ballad from the album Lovesexy becomes a full-on groove adventure in the remix process. Prince was like that in the 80s.  Everything he touched turned a brighter, more interesting shade of something, even his own already brilliant stuff.  And then came the soundtrack for the Batman movie.  That ruined everything.