Wednesday, December 16, 2015

My Favorite Albums of 2015

What do we have, two weeks left in the year and everybody and their brother(because most "journalists" are under 35, and thus still relevant) have put that Kendrick Lamar album on a fuckload of year end best album lists...and the rest of us, who actually realize that we have no lyrical connection whatsoever to Kendrick, we don't give a shit about Compton(cue the struggle) and we don't really want to pass the time thinking about what the fuck "To Pimp a Butterfly" means. I'm sure its deep, but connection to most of us, whatsoever. "Us" being rock fans. 

Lets be honest, hip hop is for younger than me people who like to dance, bounce their heads up and down in an unchallenging mid tempo rhythm, smoke, and buy very expensive sneakers that they put on display. Among a long list of reasons that would(in this quick edit, reactionary world) brand me a racist, I never liked it because the poetry relied much more on style, not substance. I'll give you your debut album to get all of that struggle out, but you gotta move on after that, cmon. No real, well read human being wants to hear about all of the beautiful people, places and things you acquired after your accountant told you you could go balls out and buy stuff that the small brained and disenfranchised covet.

But in terms of music, a genre, it has legs, it has influence, a heritage apparently important to culture and lots and lots of grown humans all over the world, love it, champion it and put a shitload of it on their best of lists.

But fuck it, not me. I'm almost 50, and I'm cool with being an avid proponent of hip hop. I get the fact that millions of all y'all connect with it. I never did, and I never does nothing for me but make me feel cheated, bored. Maybe its different for musicians whose chosen genres, rely on a shitload of woodshedding alone in basements and bedrooms...lots and lots of trial and error with no help from a producer, another "featured" artist, or somebody actually "selling" beats like a digital carnival barker, as a cheap shortcut infused to the foundation to your hustle and flow.

That said and with complete control of this non sequitur...Here are my favorite albums of 2015.

1) Wand-Golem (blew my mind live 2x in 2015, thats high praise..almost religious)
2) Fuzz-Fuzz II (Ty remains teflon)
3) Clutch-Psychic Warfare( a smidge of a step down from Earth Rocker, but Neil is still a lyrical genius)
4) Built to Spill- Untethered Moon-
5) Ava Luna -Infinite House (the best band from SXSW 2015)
6) Wilco-Star Wars
7) Le Butcherettes- A Raw Youth (aint no frontwoman alive right now better than Teri Gender Bender)
8) High on Fire-Luminiferous
9) Sun Kil Moon-Universal Themes....But Benji from 2014 changed my life
10) Jason Isbell-Something More than Free(quite simply one of the best songwriters on the planet right now.)

Thats all I got. Send hate mail to me...

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Top 10 Best Vibratos of All Time

The vibrato. That slippery wave at the end of a vocal phrase. A supernatural fluttering, like the tiny wings of invisible birds attached to the business end of a strong verse,struggling for flight or wavering towards rest in the solemn pillowy quiet.
Something some vocalists discover quite by accident, as natural as an exhale with smooth speed bumps, others train for years ruminating on scales and breath calisthenics, aching for control..find it hitchhiking along with the words and melody culled from some basement poetry or stranded thought scribbled in the invisible margin of a napkin with fresh coffee ring... these masters squeeze it through fibrous membrane, like tonal juice dripping off the tongue in a tiny tidal push toward the space between the ambient noise and the auto-tuned trickery of the desperate vocal gymnast.... 
To the listener it is the magic sprinkled on the end of a message, it is the smooth landing or the exhalted energy bursting from a shaky phrase. It is the poise, power and precision of the best of the best. a perfect vibrato can either warm your weary bones or chill them in magnificent awe.

Here are my top ten vocal vibrato masters. In no order of importance but with keen emphasis on power, beauty or control. Those with the most divine natural fluidity and delivery.

1) Burton Cummings- The canuck with the coolest pipes. lead singer of the Guess Who. Try and listen to "Laughing" , "Undun" or even his solo hit "Stand Tall" without the gooseflesh rolling in sync with his uncanny vocal glimmer.

2) Freddie Mercury- The greatest rock vocalist to ever inhabit this mortal coil(IMHO). And if he wasn't he would make the list for his performance on "Somebody to Love " alone. Quite possibly the greatest vocal take ever put to tape.. So many tricks in his arsenal, yet such beauty and power in his sly vibrato. Here we go.."Save Me", "Don't Stop Me Now", "Killer Queen", "Play the Game", fuck it...too many to list. We bow to you Fred. We will never be worthy.

3) Ray LaMontagne- The words flow like slowly melting butter from Ray's mouth washing over your moment in warm comfort. A complete natural, stunning control, effortless delivery. "Trouble", and "Be Here Now" are great starting points for you in the dark out there....

4) Alison Krauss -Alison's voice is like free transportation for anywhere you want your mind to go. A gossamer like blanket on a cold but windless day, a hovering hummingbird just outside an open ear..."Killing the Blues(with Robert Plant)", "Lay My Burden Down(With Union Station)"...restful poise for the restless.

5) Steve Marriott- of all the one of a kind vocalists on this list, Steve's voice confounds me(in a very good way) the most, because of his pitch and strength of delivery in the phrases. With the Small Faces and Humble Pie he possessed the combination of a cigarette rasp and the burst of high speed vibrato, unparalleled and at his mercy. No voice ever like it before or since...Check out "I'm Ready"(Live From Performance: Rocking the Fillmore) , "Black Coffee", and "Rolling Stone"(also from the Performance album)'ll be pleasantly exhausted.

6) Brian Ferry- OMG. Brian could very well be my spirit animal if I had any say in the choosing. The Roxy Music frontman has one of the most unique voices on the planet(not in a Bjork-like jump out a window sort of way). A stoccatto vibrato with machine gun tempo, but bullets wrapped in velvet, exploding in orgasm on impact. "The Thrill of It All", "Love is the Drug", "Ladytron", "Re-Make/Re-Model", "For Your Pleasure".

7) Tim Buckley- Tim(father of Jeff) had his own topsy turvy career with gamut run from ethereal folk to experimental jazz and his voice was even more of a freak of natural occurrence. The extraordinary vibrato he possessed was stealthy and brewing from a place of disparate pain, but no less powerful for it. "Cafe", "Dream Lover","Song to the Siren", "Once I Was", "The River" will do you real good.

8) Stevie Nicks- In my dreams, your dreams everybody else's dreams and the dreams of those who aren't even born yet...lies a place for sweet Stevie and her wonderful voice. Yeah, she's lost a little power, klonopin and coke will do that to anyone. But in her glory years, whirling like a dhervish behind the whoosh of delicate lace, she could belt out the most glorious coo-like vibrato fine tuned for any emotion needed.."Seven Wonders", "Gypsy" and "Gold Dust Woman" for release, and "Sara" "Dreams" and "Landslide" for the moody drift of introspection. If only I could catch the wind from one of her twirls.............

9) Antony Hegarty- lead singer of Antony and the Johnsons. This androgynous doughy delight has unbelievable control over his vibrato, with a low key, almost low end operatic sensibility. Amazing tone and ease akin to Bryan Ferry with sweeping blips of whirr in mid phrase, but with twice the dramatic implement.
A must to seek out for his style alone, dig deep to find "Hope There's Someone" and "You Are My Sister".

10) Jeff Buckley- from the loins of father Tim, Jeff's almost limitless vocal talent sure leaves me to think there may be some genetic link going on here, not just some boy who lost his dad at an early age and listened to a lot of records. Everyone knows his take on Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen...but give the astounding presence of songs like "Lover You Should Have Come Over", "A Satisfied Mind", "Lilac Wine", "Everybody Here Wants You", "Forget Her" a try if you feel like stopping in your fucking tracks for a while.  We miss you Jeff.....and Tim...and Freddie...and Steve.

Who did I miss.......let me know,   Seano