BEST MUSIC OF 2005: Dan Read's List
Our close friend and multi-talented programmer, author, and publisher Dan Read has been kind enough to gift us with his music picks for 2005. I will never forget Dan driving us around Atlanta for a disease guide reading, blasting Dr. Octagon. That was pretty damn funny--and surreal. Dan lives in Atlanta and runs the Developer.star website--info here. More lists to follow, from Ben Peek, Liz Gorinsky, Neddal Ayad, and others. - Jeff
DAN READ'S BEST MUSIC OF 2005
The Tom Collins - Daylight Tonight
Classic rock and alt rock fans who have not checked out The Tom Collins are really missing out. I'm not as plugged into the scene as I used to be, but in my opinion this is the most underrated band in the U.S. Their second album didn't leave my player for months, and the wait for this third record was painfully long. It was worth it. I mention both "classic rock" and "alt rock" in describing this band because their style is a very effective mix of the two. It's a cliche to compare a band's sound to Led Zeppelin, but the comparison between the styles of drummer Kyle Spence and guitarist Fran Capitanelli is inevitable, though it would be unfair to suggest that their range is limited to channelling Bonham and Page. The band fully embraced their Zeppelin roots on their second release, Deep Cuts, evoking great Zepp records like Presence and Physical Graffiti. But on Daylight Tonight the Zeppelin influence is more in the background, allowing songwriter/singer/guitarist Capitanelli to go further out on a limb with his own unique style. If you ever get a chance to catch The Tom Collins live, don't pass it up. Hopefully the world will catch up with this band soon.
Deerhoof - The Runners Four
Even though on first listen I was put off by it, I continue to listen to this record and continue to be simultaneously baffled, amazed, and repelled by it. The band really has some moments. Great Keith Moon influence on the drummer, and I detect a Townshend influence in some of the songwriting and guitar playing. Somehow this record keeps evoking The Who for me. Overall I suppose you'd have to classify this record as indie rock, but that would also pen it in unfairly.
The female vocalist just trips me out. She's the biggest barrier for me in relating to this record fully, but that's purely a stylistic matter. The Butthole Surfers scared me the first time I heard them, and Sonic Youth was downright confusing and somewhat repulsive upon first listen, and I saw fIREHOSE live four times and never could get it. After they broke up I finally got it, and wished I could go see them live again--though there was that time I missed them in Orlando when they opened up for the Butthole Surfers and we were outside in the parking lot drinking beer missing the whole fucking thing (I found out later that they played a cover of "Revolution (Part Two)" with Paul Leary on guitar. We fucked up missing that one. Gary Shandling! Gary Shandling!).
There's so much different shit going on over the course of this record's--what is it? 20 songs?--that it's hard to generalize. Some of the melodies give me a sickly feeling like some of the songs on Ween's masterpiece The Pod can do to me. But I keep listening, because sometimes the rock is right there where you want it, like that rare feeling that The Who created so well when they played live (cf. Live at Leeds), the music rising to transcendent heights, divinely inspired, but feeling like it could all fall apart at any moment. Deerhoof mixes those moments with the kinds of moments that Ween, Sonic Youth, the Melvins, and the Butthole Surfers can create for you, in which you're not sure whether you want to keep listening, but you do anyway because a returns to bliss is likely just around the corner.
Melvins/Jello Biafra - Sieg Howdy
This second collaboration between the best working rock band in the world, the Melvins, and punk rock godfather Jello Biafra of Dead Kennedys fame is much better than their first effort. This one feels more truly collaborative. Great punk rock energy and classic Jello liberal fuck-you sentiment mixed with rock like only the Melvins can lay it down. The tunes stretch out a little, even becoming somewhat psychedelic at times.
Grand Master Flash and the Furious Five - The Message (reissue)
This record is a mixed bag stylistically and quality-wise, but that was it's creator's original intent clearly. Besides the classic title track, my official theme song is on this record, "Scorpio," with a beat that will kick your ass, and the best use of a robot voice ever.
Opeth - Ghost Reveries
A perfect metal record. Just perfect. Blown away. There was a period of about three months in 2005 where I listened to this every day.
Run DMC Reissues
I recommend the 2005 remastered reissues of all of Run DMC's classic 80's rap records. Whether you were hip to it at the time or not, if you have any appreciation for hip-hop/rap, then these are essential. One thing that has struck me listening to these new releases is how effectively Run DMC mixed in rock and roll tropes with their unique approach to beats and cadence. Excellent liner notes by Chuck D also.
The Taybacks - Selling Air
The album's original title, The Soft Rock Conspiracy, describes this record perfectly. MacGrogan and Tegethoff of the Taybacks pay homage to a neglected subgenre, soft rock, with only a hint of irony. It's clear from listening to Selling Air that these guys share a real appreciation for the solid playing, sophisticated arrangements, and production quality that went into even the cheesiest of the 70's era American soft rock tunes. In the same way that Steely Dan embraces and transcends the soft rock genre, The Taybacks put their own stamp on it with original tunes that are truly catchy and artfully arranged. The songs stick with you, and reward multiple listens with little gems layered into the mix.
You may have some trouble finding it at the time you read this because it is only just now becoming available for purchase, but keep an eye out on Taybacks.com and CDBaby.com for Selling Air. (Full disclosure: friend's of mine--but my praise is sincere.)
Public Enemy - New Whirl Odor
I continue to buy Public Enemy records whenever they come out, partly because I want to support the group in their continued independent defiance of the major label system, and partly because there are always at least a couple really good tunes on the record. I was pleasantly surprised to find that New Whirl Odor is their best record in years. I still miss production team and collaborators The Bomb Squad, but a new cat named DJ Lord skillfully injects some new style into the PE mix. Chuck D mixes in some of his rock crossover stuff too, and there are a couple of nice Flava Flave solo tracks. I recommend it. Lots of new Public Enemy coming down the pike in the next couple years, including remastered reissues of the their first three albums, masterpieces every one of them.
Nine Inch Nails - With Teeth
If you got into The Downward Spiral and The Fragile, then I suspect you'll appreciate this new NIN record also. It has the same epic ambition and scope, but is more compact on a single disc instead of two. I got hooked on this for several weeks leading up to catching them live this Fall, which was an outstanding experience--a full blown arena rock show with all the goodies.
Exodus - Shovel Headed Kill Machine AND Vio-Lence - Eternal Nightmare (reissue)
For those who don't follow metal, Exodus and Vio-Lence are two of the original San Francisco Bay Area thrash bands of the mid-to-late 1980's. This was heavy metal's Golden Age, and the Bay Area scene was one of the most vital scenes, producing great thrash and speed metal bands like Metallica, Exodus, Testament, Vio-lence, Death Angel, and many more. Some would argue that Exodus was the best of them. I might have to agree, though I would have to argue that Vio-Lence's debut 1988 album Eternal Nightmare is probably the best single album of that scene in that great era. 2005 saw the re-issue of this classic metal album with a bonus disc containing a live recording of a reunion show played in 2001 at a multi-band Bay Area scene reunion extravaganza that I wish I could have attended.
Shovel Headed Kill Machine is a new record by the latest incarnation of Exodus. The only person left from the original band at this point is guitarist Gary Holt, but he has always been the main songwriter and lyricist, so I'm willing to go along with the continuation here of the name Exodus. To my pleasant surprise, this is a good record. The sound is definitely a more up-to-date sound than the band's previous release Tempo of the Damned, which was top to bottom a continuation of where they had left off in 1991. The classic Exodus swing is there in places, but the feeling on this latest record is more like what you get with a band like Arch Enemy. I recommend this one for metal fans.
I didn't buy any new jazz this year, mostly because I don't like new jazz, but I made some great jazz purchases in 2005:
Thelonious Monk (with John Coltrane) - Live at Carnegie Hall - I guess this could count as a new release since it's never been available before, but the concert is decades old.
Charles Mingus - Presents Charles Mingus - So sweet. Loft recordings from 1960, featuring Eric Dolphy, released on indie label Candid.
Chucho Valdes - Solo - I went on a solo piano kick this year. This is really interesting.
Thelonious Monk - Solo Monk - A just must-have. Incredible recordings of Monk by himself at the piano, recorded by the great Miles Davis producer, Teo Macero. This is out as a really nice reissue from Sony, with a bunch of bonus tracks.
Oscar Peterson - Solo - More solo jazz piano. In the same vein as the Art Tatum, listed next.
Art Tatum - "Best Of" from the Complete Pablo Solo Masterpieces box set - A couple hours with Art Tatum and Oscar Peterson can turn your brain to jelly. When you read the song titles, you realize that you know all these old standard tunes, but these guys put them through a virtuosic blender, in much the same way that Charlie Parker did on the saxophone, such that the original tunes are hardly recognizable. Challenging, but rewarding.
Thanks for reading. I could go on about the ass-kicking Dinosaur Jr. reissues I bought this year, and the fun I've had buying up the 70's Jethro Tull catalog, but I'll stop here. Thanks to Jeff for the soap box. - Dan