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Music journalist Travis Hay drops some knowledge and insight about local and national music news, offers reviews and offers a place for conversation on all things music.
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Archive for December, 2008

My 28 favorite records of 2008

Monday, December 29th, 2008

In general I am not a big fan of “best-of” lists when it comes to music because I don’t like the idea of declaring one person’s piece of art better than something someone else produced (although that is a large part of being a critic). However, I do know what I like and I do know what my favorite records of the year are, so instead of declaring this a “best of” list I am going to call this list my favorite 28 records of 2008.

One quick disclaimer: This list is likely different than most lists you’ve read because unlike full-time music critics I am a freelancer, which means I don’t get a lot of albums sent to my mailbox. Since I pay for most of the music I listen to and I don’t have a finite amount of cash to spend on my music-buying habit, I have yet to hear records by Bon Iver, Portishead, Santogold, Kanye West, No Age and other acts that have been near the top of other best-of lists. I’m sure I’ll eventually pick up those records and I’m sure I’ll enjoy them, but for now the below list represents my favorite albums of 2008.

Oh, in case you’re curious, this list won’t have any Seattle artists on it. Because this year was so great for local music I decided create a separate list of my favorite 28 records released by Seattle groups in 2008 that will be posted later this week.

Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks “Real Emotional Trash” I’m not a big Pavement fan but I am confident in stating I enjoy listening to this album more than any Pavement record in my collection (I own three of them in case you’re curious). I don’t think “Real Emotional Trash” is flawless, but you’d be hard pressed to find a bad song on this record.

My Morning Jacket “Evil Urges” Before owning this album I had never listened to a My Morning Jacket record. “Evil Urges” made me seek out MMJ’s back catalog, that’s how good it is.

The Hold Steady “Stay Positive” Craig Finn and company released their best record since their debut “Almost Killed Me.” This is The Hold Steady’s masterpiece with standout tracks including “Slapped Actresses,” “Stay Positive” and “One For The Cutters.”

The Black Keys “Attack and Release” I’ve been championing this band for five years and it is great to see the reach a mass audience with this album. The production and instrumental assistance by Danger Mouse makes this record a tough act to follow whenever this duo from Akron releases its next album.

Blitzen Trapper “Furr” Northwestern Appalachian backwoods rock from a bearded buzz band out of Portland. The future is very bright for these guys.

NIN “The Slip” What’s better than free music? Free music that is good. Thank you Trent Reznor.

Girl Talk “Feed The Animals” Okay, so this record wasn’t offered for free but it was released using the Radiohead pay-what-you-want model, which is sooo 2007. Regardless what price you paid for it (I opted to go the free route) it is worth every penny.

Metallica “Death Magnetic” My favorite heavy metal band (and one of my favorite bands of all time) finally returns to its roots and released a record that made me forget about the three atrocities that were “Load,” “Reload” and “St. Anger.” Thank you Rick Rubin.

Jenny Lewis “Acid Tongue” This record is chock-full of songs fit for a hoedown and while it is a solo album, Lewis gets plenty of help from her friends. Appearances by Elvis Costello, M. Ward, Zooey Deschanel and Chris Robinson of the Black Crowes are scattered throughout the record, making it as good, if not better than, her output with Rilo Kiley.

Be Your Own Pet “Get Awkward” Pure fun and unadulterated punk rock. The fact this record is BYOP’s swan song makes this album that much better.

Weezer “Weezer” Weezer’s best record in 10 years proves that there will always be room in the musical landscape for geek rock.

Lil Wayne “Tha Carter III” If you’ve listened to this album then you realize Lil Wayne will be a major player in the future of rap music.

Conor Oberst “Conor Oberst” Great Americana-style rock by an emo icon.

Raconteurs “Counselors of the Lonely” Jack White does it again with his other band.

Gutter Twins “Saturnalia” Greg Dulli + Mark Lenegan = AWESOME

Black Mountain “In The Future” It’s a little ironic that a record with future in its title has such a retro sound, but that retro stoner rock sound is a major part of its appeal.

Kings of Leon “Only By The Night” The single “Sex On Fire” is good enough on its own to merit the album’s inclusion on this list.

TV On The Radio “Dear Science” For some reason I don’t like TVOTR but I find myself enjoying this album a lot, maybe my thoughts on their overratedness will change soon.

Q-Tip “The Renaissance” The leader of A Tribe Called Quest shines on his second solo effort.

Dead Confederate “Wrecking Ball” This album is what Nirvana might sound like today if Kurt had married Neko Case instead of Courtney Love and didn’t, well you know, kill himself.

Cool Kids “Bake Sale” Until Dyme Def releases a proper sophomore record this will do just fine for a fun hip-hop record for me to bump on my stereo.

Thao “We Brave Bee Stings And All” A fun and spunky record by a fun and spunk artist.

Nada Surf “Lucky” These Barsukians just keep getting better with age.

Kaiser Chiefs “Off With Their Heads” Catchy next-gen Brit rock from a highly unappreciated band.

The Mars Volta “The Bedlam In Goliath” The quality of this record makes up for their jackass performance at Sasquatch!

Helio Sequence “Keep Your Eyes Ahead” Just like the Black Keys, this PDX duo is getting better with every release.

Wale “The Mixtape About Nothing” This free mixtape that covers all things Seinfeld was one of the most creative hip-hop albums of the year.

REM “Accelerate” These legendary Athens, Ga. rockers remember how to rock on this album.

Honorable mentions: The Toadies “No Deliverance,” Valient Thorr “Immortalizer,” Ben Folds “Way To Normal,” Atmosphere “When Life Gives You Lemons You Paint That Sh*t Gold,” Mudcrutch “Mudcrutch,” Howlin Rain “Magnificent Fiend,” Portugal. The Man “Censored Colors,” Elbow “The Seldom Seen Kid,” Coldplay “Viva La Vida,” Guns N Roses “Chinese Democracy”


Merry Christmas from Spin the Black Circle

Thursday, December 25th, 2008

Merry Christmas Spin the Black Circle readers!

Because it’s Christmas and because I just watched “Fred Claus” (which was a lot better than you’d expect any movie starring Vince Vaughan to be) here’s an audible gift for you. Enjoy!

LUDACRISTMAS


LISTEN: The Beyonce vs. Fleet Foxes mashup

Monday, December 22nd, 2008

This comes from the “because we can” category. Someone decided to combine Seattle’s beloved Fleet Foxes with Beyonce. The mashup is called “Single Foxes (Put a Wood On It)” and it is from The Hood Internet.


Single Foxes (Put A Wood On It) (Beyonce vs Fleet Foxes) – The Hood Internet

h/t to Chris B. via Twitter for the heads up.


My 10 favorite songs by Seattle artists from 2008

Monday, December 22nd, 2008

This list is one of many lists that I will post by the end of the year to commemorate my favorite live sets of the year, favorite albums of the year and favorite NW albums of the year. Notice I said favorite, not best.

Here are my 10 favorite songs by Seattle artists released in 2008

The Saturday Knights, “Dog Park:” A fun, playful song by a fun, playful band

THE SATURDAY KNIGHTS “DOG PARK”

Fleet Foxes, “White Winter Hymnal”: This song alone justifies why Fleet Foxes are on so many best-of lists

The Moondoogies “Changing”: Excellent roots rock from a band some consider to be Seattle’s next big thing

Team Gina, “Wife Swapping”: A humorous song about the nature of the lesbian dating scene

Common Market, “Trouble Is”: Rapper Ra Scion and his DJ partner in crime Sabzi at their finest


Common Market “Trouble Is” Music Video from Zia Mohajerjasbi on Vimeo.

Brent Amaker and the Rodeo, “I’m The Man Who Writes The Country Hits”: Fun, unadulterated honky-tonk music

See the video here (but be warned, it is graphic and very NSFW)

SHIM, “Animal”: A sexed-up love song with a Foghat-meets-Wolfmother vibe

Jake One, “Trap Door”: The pairing of Jake One with MF Doom is one of the many highlights on an amazing album

Dyme Def, “Brain’s Theme”: Definitely the best, if not the first, song to sample the “Pink and the Brain” theme


14 BRAINSTHEME – DYME DEF

H is For Hellgate, “Copernicus And Me”: Progressive rock from a band on the rise


VIDEOS: My 10 favorite holiday songs

Monday, December 22nd, 2008

It’s the holiday season which means of course it is the time of year when you’ll be hearing lots and lots of holiday music. Personally, I’m not a big fan of holiday tunes but I do have several songs I cherish and have to hear at least once every winter or it just wouldn’t feel like the holidays.

Here are my 10 favorite holiday songs in no particular order:

HAPPY CHRISTMAS (WAR IS OVER) BY JOHN LENNON

CHRISTMAS IN HOLLIS BY RUN DMC

LINUS AND LUCY BY VINCE GUARALDI

HANUKKAH SONG BY ADAM SANDLER

SANTA CLAUS IS COMING TO TOWN BY THE JACKSON 5

ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS BY ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS

LAST CHRISTMAS BY WHAM

I AM SANTA CLAUS BY BOB RIVERS

SOMETIMES YOU HAVE TO WORK ON CHRISTMAS (SOMETIMES) BY HARVEY DANGER

YOU’RE A MEAN ONE MR. GRINCH


My five favorite club shows of 2008

Monday, December 22nd, 2008

For my final Ear Candy column of the year for the print edition of the Seattle P-I my editor has asked me to write about my top 5 club shows of the year. While I was not able to make it to every club show in Seattle (due to my geographical location as well as the fact I spent most of the year covering major concerts and festivals for the P-I), I did spend plenty of nights in dark, sweaty, booze-filled clubs witnessing some really great music.

So here’s a recap of my five favorite club shows of the year:

Weezer’s Hootenanny @ Vera Project

Yes, it was an invite-only event. Yes, it wasn’t an actual =W= concert. And yes, Rivers Cuomo’s mustache made an appearance. All of those things only touch the surface of why this was one of the coolest shows of the year. Take 200 =W= fans, crazy instruments and a rocking kazoo solo on “Beverly Hills” and you’ve got one heckuva hootenanny.

The Gutter Twins @ Showbox at the Market

The two-day Sup Pop 20 Festival was an amazing fete the venerable local label threw for itself, but you didn’t experience all of SP20 if you weren’t at this show. The combination of Mark Lanegan and Greg Dulli in the darkened confines of the Showbox was spellbinding.

Tom Morello, Mike McCready and Stone Gossard @ Showbox at the Market

This get-out-the-vote show didn’t include any big surprise special guests like many speculated it would (come on, three-fifths of Peal Jam was in the building and no PJ surprise appearance?) but really the show didn’t need any razzle-dazzle stars to impress. Tom Morello broke out RATM riffs and played enough of his upbeat new material to prove he is a more than adequate frontman. Mike McCready kicked out a set of six spectacular Hendrix covers and Stone Gossard played honky-tonk versions of “1999” and “Ace of Spades.” Oh yeah, and at the end of the show McCready and Morello jammed together.

Dyme Def 3Badbrothaaas Mixtape Release Party @ Nectar

Hip-hop gets a bad reputation by critics because for the most part it often comes off as boring when performed live because the crowd is often not engaged. Well, this release of the “3Badbrothaaas” Mixtape (which was handed out for free at the show) and the performance by Dyme Def at Nectar proved Seattle can do hip-hop right. The performance by these three MCs was one of the most charismatic sets I saw all year, and I saw more than 200 acts this year (yes, I keep count).

Supersuckers 20th Anniversary @ Showbox at the Market

Sup Pop wasn’t the only Seattle institution celebrating 20 years in business in 2008. The rockabilly punks in Supersuckers railed off a 35-song set list during a show that lasted more than two hours and touched on every one of their records. The only thing that was missing was their excellent cover of “Hey Ya!” Oh, and to help mark 20 years, Green River got together for another show ( only the band’s third in its 20 years since breaking up) to toast their friends in Supersuckers.


SLIDESHOW: The year in live music for Seattle

Wednesday, December 10th, 2008

Well, 2008 is coming to a close and you know what that means. Lots and lots of year-in-review blog posts. I’m working on a few year-end lists, which will come later on this month, but I will tell you with authority that this year was one of the most amazing and exciting years for live music that Seattle has ever experienced. It has been a true blessing to be able to attend so many fantastic concerts and to be able to write about most of them.

So many great concerts happened this year it’s tough to condense them all into one glancing year-end overview. But to briefly summarize some of the highlights: Sasquatch! was amazing, Sub Pop turned 20 complete with a Green River reunion, Tom Morello and Mike McCready had a guitar duet at the Showbox, Metallica rocked the KeyArena, Kurt Cobain was honored in Aberdeen with a stellar show, Bumbershoot gained back its gusto, I promoted and organized two club concerts and Jack White came to town … twice!

Since words will likely never do justice to the awesomeness that was the year in live music, I put together a slideshow of pictures from some of the year’s best live sets. These 88 pictures (about 12 of which were taken by my friend Steven Friederich) capture some of what happened in the clubs, amphitheaters, arenas and outdoor stages in the Evergreen State during 2008.


Pearl Jam’s “Ten” gets the deluxe treatment with four reissues next year

Wednesday, December 10th, 2008

Mark your calendars for March 24, 2009 Pearl Jam fans.

From my inbox:

PEARL JAM ANNOUNCES THE REISSUE OF BAND’S DEBUT ALBUM, TEN:

FOUR SPECIAL EDITION PACKAGES IN STORES MARCH 24, 2009

PRE-SALE OF SUPER DELUXE EDITION BEGINS TODAY AT PEARLJAM.COM

Album extras found across the four editions of Ten include:

Remaster of original Ten album + remix by producer Brendan O’Brien •

DVD of previously unreleased 1992 Pearl Jam MTV Unplugged performance with 5.1 surround sound audio remix • LP of the band’s 1992 “Drop in the Park” concert • Replica of Pearl Jam three-song demo cassette with Eddie Vedder’s original vocal dubs • Recreation of Eddie Vedder composition notebook • Never before seen memorabilia • Bonus tracks and more.

SEATTLE – Ten, the debut album that sold 12 million copies and introduced the world to Pearl Jam in 1991, will be reissued in four (4) new and expanded editions. Pre-orders of the Super Deluxe Edition begin today, December 10, 2008, through the band’s Ten Club at www.pearljam.com, with all four editions available at retail on March 24, 2009. The reissue of Ten serves as the launch of a planned two-year catalogue re-release campaign leading up to the band’s 20th anniversary in 2011.

Each Ten package will include two versions of the album: the remastered version of the original album PLUS an accompanying remixed version done by the band’s long-time producer, Brendan O’Brien (Bruce Springsteen, AC/DC, Audioslave). Details on specific extras for each of the four packages are attached.

“The band loved the original mix of Ten, but were also interested in what it would sound like if I were to deconstruct and remix it,” says producer Brendan O’Brien. “The original Ten sound is what millions of people bought, dug and loved, so I was initially hesitant to mess around with that. After years of persistent nudging from the band, I was able to wrap my head around the idea of offering it as a companion piece to the original – giving a fresh take on it, a more direct sound.”

TEN RE-DESIGN

Pearl Jam bassist Jeff Ament, who served as the art director for the original Ten packaging, reprised his role for the reissues collaborating with designer, Andy Fischer, of Cameron Crowe’s Vinyl Films (Into the Wild soundtrack LP, Vanilla Sky soundtrack LP, Harold and Maude anniversary edition soundtrack LP).

“The goal was to assemble the ultimate fan-piece,” explains Fischer. “Something Pearl Jam lovers could pore over as they experience an indelible record all over again, in an entirely new way.”

“The original concept was about really being together as a group and entering into the world of music as a true band…a sort of all-for-one deal,” says Jeff Ament. “There were some elements of the original Ten artwork that didn’t turn out the way we had hoped, due to time constraints. With this reissue, we’ve been able to take our time and invest resources into making the design the way we had originally intended.”

REPLICA OF PEARL JAM THREE-SONG DEMO CASSETTE IN SUPER DELUXE EDITION

In the process of digging through his archives for this project, Ament came across an old cassette marked “Momma-Son” – the fabled original Pearl Jam demo tape featuring the first recorded versions of “Alive,” “Once” and “Footsteps.” Ament and guitarists Stone Gossard and Mike McCready had recorded instrumental tracks of these songs to help solicit a singer for their newly formed band. Mutual friend – and then Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer – Jack Irons suggested they send the tape down to San Diego surfer and little-known singer Eddie Vedder.

Completely inspired by what he heard from these musicians that he then only knew by name, Vedder quickly wrote lyrics, put these vocals to the music tracks and shipped the tape back to Seattle. Upon hearing how Vedder had transformed the songs, Ament, Gossard and McCready asked him to come up to Seattle so they could meet and have an official “tryout” together. Shortly thereafter, Pearl Jam was born. (A replica of the “Momma-Son” cassette will be included in the Super Deluxe Edition of Ten.)

Jeff Ament describes the experience of re-visiting that tape with singer Eddie Vedder:

“I think the first time that Ed or I had opened any of those boxes was a few weeks ago. I knew that the original ‘Momma-Son’ cassette was somewhere, but I hadn’t listened to it in 17, 18, 19 years. It was cool to sit down and play it for the first time with Ed and see his reaction. And to find that 90% of it stayed exactly the same as what ended up on the record. A lot of elements were identical. There was some energy flying around at that point even from 1,300 miles away from Seattle to San Diego.”

ABOUT TEN

Pearl Jam released Ten on August 27, 1991. The album reached #2 on the Billboard 200 chart, sold over 12 million copies and became one of the cultural touchstones of the 1990s. Songs such as “Alive,” “Black,” “Even Flow” and “Jeremy” became staples of rock radio, and still make frequent appearances on the band’s ever-changing concert setlists. The album was produced by Rick Parasher. Pearl Jam’s 1991 lineup was Jeff Ament (bass), Stone Gossard (guitar), Dave Krusen (drums), Mike McCready (guitar) and Eddie Vedder (vocals).

ORIGINAL TEN TRACKLISTING

Once

Even Flow

Alive

Why Go

Black

Jeremy

Oceans

Porch

Garden

Deep

Release

Master/Slave (hidden track)

# # #

A detailed breakdown of each of the four Ten re-release packages is attached.

High-resolution jpegs of the Ten album packaging and photos of Pearl Jam from the Ten-era by Lance Mercer are available at: www.pearljam.com/press

THE FOUR EDITIONS OF TEN: ALBUM EXTRAS PER PACKAGE

1. Legacy Edition (2-disc set in mini-LP style slipcase):

• Disc 1: original Ten tracklisting digitally remastered (original mix)

• Disc 2: original Ten tracklisting digitally remastered and remixed by Brendan O’Brien, plus six bonus tracks: “Brother,” “Just a Girl,” “State of Love and Trust,” “Breath and a Scream,” “2,000 Mile Blues” and “Evil Little Goat”

• Re-designed packaging

2. Deluxe Edition (2-disc set plus DVD specially designed hardbound package):

• Disc 1: original Ten tracklisting digitally remastered (original mix)

• Disc 2: original Ten tracklisting digitally remastered and remixed by Brendan O’Brien, plus six bonus tracks: “Brother,” “Just a Girl,” “State of Love and Trust,” “Breath and a Scream,” “2,000 Mile Blues” and “Evil Little Goat”

• DVD of Pearl Jam’s previously unreleased 1992 MTV Unplugged performance including never before seen bonus performance of “Oceans” with 5.1 surround sound audio remix

3. Vinyl Collection (2-LP set)

• LP 1: original Ten tracklisting remastered for vinyl

• LP 2: original Ten tracklisting remastered for vinyl and remixed by Brendan O’Brien

4. Super Deluxe Edition (2-disc set plus DVD, 4 LPs and replica cassette in linen-covered, slip-cased clamshell box):

• Disc 1: original Ten tracklisting digitally remastered (original mix)

• Disc 2: original Ten tracklisting digitally remastered and remixed by Brendan O’Brien, plus six bonus tracks: “Brother,” “Just a Girl,” “State of Love and Trust,” “Breath and a Scream,” “2,000 Mile Blues” and “Evil Little Goat”

• DVD of Pearl Jam’s previously unreleased 1992 MTV Unplugged performance including never before seen bonus performance of “Oceans” with 5.1 surround sound audio remix

• LP 1: original Ten tracklisting remastered for vinyl

• LP 2: original Ten tracklisting remastered for vinyl and remixed by Brendan O’Brien

• LP 3 & 4: Drop in the Park – Live at Magnuson Park in Seattle on September 20, 1992 (audio mixed by Brendan O’Brien)

• Cassette: replica of original “Momma-Son” Pearl Jam demo cassette featuring “Alive,” “Once” and “Footsteps”

• Package also includes an Eddie Vedder-style composition notebook filled with replica personal notes, images and mementos from the collections of Eddie Vedder and Jeff Ament, a vellum envelope with replicated era-specific ephemera from Pearl Jam’s early work and a two-sided print commemorating the Drop in the Park concert.


REVIEWS, AUDIO, PHOTOS & VIDEO: Metallica @ KeyArena

Thursday, December 4th, 2008

I’ve been fighting off a pretty vicious cold the last few days, which means I haven’t had the opportunity to sit down and write about the awesomeness that was my Night of Musical Madness.

I’ve got to run off to work in a few minutes (hopefully I can make it through the day without going home sick), so I won’t be able to give you my full rundown of the night’s events. However, I want to leave you with a few things to hold you over until I start feeling better so check out the reviews of the Metallica show that ran in other publications below. I would have included a review from the Times but there wasn’t one (more on that later).

Also, here are a few pics and an mp3 of “Motorbreath” from the show. You can see all of my photos from the show at my Flickr page. Enjoy!

METALLICA “MOTORBREATH” @ KEYARENA 12.01.08

Seattle Weekly’s review

The Stranger’s review

The P-I’s review

News Tribune review

“ONE” @ KEYARENA 12.01.08

“MASTER OF PUPPETS” @ KEYARENA 12.01.08


PHOTOS & REVIEW: Supersuckers 20th Anniversary show @ Showbox at the Market

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008

I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to review the Supersuckers’ 20th anniversary show and man was it a blast. I had barely listened to the prior to the week before the show, but after purchasing a few of their albums and studying their catalog, I found myself a new favorite Seattle band to add to the list of local bands I love.

You can read my review of the show by clicking here. A quick summary of the highlights:

  • The 35-song set list that more or less hit the high points of every Supersuckers record in chronological order.
  • Eddie Spaghetti told the crowd they were all “awesomeologists” because he was going to convert them to the Church of Awesomeology.
  • The one-two punch of “Killer Weed” and “Non-Addictive Marijuana” fit perfectly into the countrified part of the set.

Photos from the show are below. You can also check out the whole set of pictures by clicking over to my Flickr page.

(more…)


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Music journalist Travis Hay drops some knowledge and insight about local and national music news, offers reviews and offers a place for conversation on all things music.