ReeVewz’ Sweet 16 Albums for 2016

  1.  The Astonishing…Dream Theater…Is it a concept album? A musical?  A movie?  A coded message for our future salvation?  The Astonishing is all of those things–and the most ambitious, genre-crossing, fully actualized LP of 2016.
  2. The Deaner Album…Dean Ween Group…Between this eclectic greatness and the reunion of Ween, the Brown was indeed strong in ’16.
  3. Nonagon Infinity…King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard…Nobody riffs like these guys these days
  4. *Fracture. Repair. Repeat….In Letter Form…Not every rock death in 2016 was highly publicized, but the passing of ILF singer Eric Miranda was a tragic blow, given the strength of this album.
  5.  *Emotional Mugger…Ty Segall…Ty took it to another level with this album and stage-show, getting out of the garage and into wider dimensions
  6. A Weird ExitAn Odd Entrances…Thee Oh Sees…Yep, that’s two albums from San Francisco’s experimental garage rockers.  Double your strangeness!
  7. Mount Ninji and Da Nice Time Kid…Die Antwoord…Rap album of the year
  8. Come to Mexico…Totorro…Math-rock LP of the year
  9. Monolith of Phobos…The Claypool-Lennon Delirium…So, Oysterhead wasn’t available for a reunion and Les had all these cool songs, so he called up Sean and…
  10. Painting With…Animal Collective….A comeback album of sorts for AC with fun and sometimes poignant vocal inventions
  11. *Running Out Of Red…Zig Zags…Best stoner punk album of ’16
  12.  Monarch of Death Rave…Rotteen D’Moon…Prog-rave is fast becoming music’s most innovative genre and nobody does it better than Rotteen
  13. *July 1978: The Complete Recordings…The Grateful Dead….The renowned “Betty Boards” have been released!
  14. Tom’s Story…Tom’s Story…Their debut of this band from Manila is the second-best math-rock LP of the year.
  15. *Pet Sounds…The Beach Boys…50 years later and it’s fresher than ever
  16. Blackstar…David Bowie…Goes out like a champ.
  • indicates the album/artist was featured by me in High Times magazine in 2016

 

Phish’s All-Star Break

13 shows down, 12 to go.

Seems apt Phish is taking a 4-day break paralleling the MLB All-Star break, as both are American icons in which a given performance/game almost guarantees you’ll hear/see something you’ve heard/seen before.

At the Phish-star break, here are some of the highlights and debates

Best 1st Set.  Most will probably go with the immediacy of last night:

07/10/2016 • Lakeview Amphitheatre • Syracuse, NY

Set 1: The Landlady, Blaze On, Ha Ha Ha, Friends, Tube, Destiny Unbound, My Friend My Friend, The Mango Song, Timber, Timber (Jerry the Mule), Timber, The Ballad of Curtis Loew, Stealing Time From The Faulty Plan, Mound, WinterQueen, Bold as Love

But don’t forget Mann Night 2, the “slow set” and the debut of “Waking Up Dead”, the only interesting new song:
06/29/2016 • Mann Music Center • Philadelphia, PA
Set 2’s have a been inconsistent and underwhelming at times.  Hopefully, the “dog days” of tour bring about better second sets.  “Best” is a matter of opinion, but 7-9 is a candidate
07/09/2016 • Xfinity Theatre • Hartford, CT
along with 7-1
The “best song” or “best jam” of tour is more clearly definable.  The 7-1 Chalk Dust Torture:

 

 

 

 

Top 15 LP’s of 2015

2015 was another year of too much good weed and too much good music to listen to whilst stoned.  Here then, is Reevewz’ annual list of the best LPs of the last year.

Those albums/artists that were also featured in the pages of High Times magazine in 2015 are listed with an asterisk.

PR peeps/publicists: Feel free to use any quotes here in your promotional dabblings.  Thanks for all the new music you sent me and Mary Jane in 2015, keep sending me anything and everything this brand new year and let’s get the bands, artists and labels YOU represent in the pages of High Times and on this list for 2016!!

*  1.  The Amazing…Picture You (Partisan)…An emotionally satisfying mix of Pink Floyd, ’70’s mellower-rock stalwarts like Dave Mason and Bob Welch, and more ambitious jamming with the occasional experiment. There is no band on Earth quite like Sweden’s The Amazing.

* 2.  Panda Bear…Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper (Domino)…Animal Collective’s drummer confronts Death on this solo work and comes out on top with the most melodic album of the year.

* 3.  Fuzz…II (In The Red)..The highest stoner release of 2015 from L.A.’s psych supergroup manned by drummer/solo star Ty Segall and guitarist Charlie Moothart.

4.  Puscifer…Money Shot (Puscifer Entertainment)…As haunting as any album in the last twelve months.  Forget Midas–everything King Maynard touches turns to gold…or platinum.

5.   Frank Zappa…Dance Me This (Zappa Records)…The 100th release of prog/jazz/experimental fusion by the late great legend is actually the last album he completed before his way-too-soon passing in 1993.

*6.  Wand…Golem (In The Red)…The second best garage LP of the year after Fuzz, Wand’s diversity is on display throughout.

*7.  of Montreal…Aureate Gloom (Polyvinyl)…Kevin Barnes does it again, continuing his transition to a rawer sonic phase with lyrics both confessional and prescient.

8.  The Residents…Shadowland (MVD Audio)…Another integral, innovative live output from the strangest band ever.

9. Tempel…The Moon Lit Our Path (Prosthetic)…Best instru-mental album of ’15, Tempel produces an endless array of righteous riffs and aural atmosphere to both lose and find yourself within its grooves.

10. Liturgy…The Ark Work (Thrill Jockey)…Is it orchestral metal?  Avant goth?  Call it what you will, it’s hard to halt the flow of this LP’s unique drama.

*11.  mewithoutYou…Pale Horses (Run For Cover)…Philly’s mwY continues to defy description, but keeps it all gutsy and honest.

12.  Annie Girl and The Flight…Bodies (UFO)…Short but sweet EP from this blossoming SF indie psych band, whose live shows even surpass the studio endeavors.

13.  Acid Witch…Midnight Movies (Hells Headbangers)…A “concept EP” from Detroit’s psychedelic metal masters. Gotta love the opening parody of two vinyl collecting hipsters!

14.  Rush…R40 (Anthem)…Technically, it’s a DVD, but Canada’s greatest group goes out on top with a mind-blowing second set straight outta the ’70’s.

15.  Motorhead…Bad Magic (UDR)…See you in Hell, Lemmy…

 

 

“Let Trey Play…err, Sing”–Reevewz live @ Fare Thee Well

First thing first, this was not the “Grateful Dead.” No how, no way. The Grateful Dead’s last concert was July 9, 1995–an unbelievable 20 years ago today–that we were fortunate enough to attend and (unknowingly) said goodbye to Jerry Garcia, who died exactly one month later in a rehab facility in Marin County.  Our last live view of Captain Trips ever was watching him watch the impressive and unexpected post-show fireworks (more on that later).

We attended FTW concerts in both Santa Clara and Chicago, and needless to say, the fan-based passion was much more intense in Chicago, despite the Bay Area being the Dead’s home.  But as superior as California is in so many ways, it comes up short versus the Midwest and East Coast in terms of zest and zeal for great music.

While we understand FTW set out to honor all GD eras“Days Between”

Biggest FTW misses: “Comes a Time” (big emotional miss there)

ReeVewz goes to Terrapin Crossroads–4/21/2015

Our first venture to Phil Lesh’s club Terrapin Crossroads–TXR for those who live by the acronym–proved to be a worthy sojourn to Grateful Deadheadland, aka San Rafael.  The venue’s locale was unexpected–instead of ‘woodsy Marin’ it felt more like Long Beach with its adjacent docks, piers and luxury car dealerships.  Also, the inner decor of the bar area came across a tad sterile, as if appealing to the Marin elite rather than a venerable tour rat.

Yet, the ‘Grate Room’–the 250 capacity SRO concert space that hosts the main events–is charming and cozy with its wood paneling and low-hanging chandeliers.  Being in the Grate and seeing a legend like Lesh so close makes you feel like you’re attending a private concert or even better, a rehearsal with stellar acoustics.  Standing outside the venue in the wristband line (there are no tickets) an hour or so before show time, one can hear the band sound-checking and offering a likely preview of some of the night’s song selections, as they did on this evening with two of the very best Dead tunes.

The first set opened with the countrified-side of the Dead, a “Cumberland Blues” and “He’s Gone” pairing, though the latter failed to offer its typically solid post-composition jam, instead resorting to soft jazz noodling from the guitar duo of Jackie Greene and Dan Lebowitz. By contrast, the 1980’s Garcia-penned “West L.A. Fadeaway” spawned much more interesting improv, with PLQ veteran Rob Barraco on vocals and keys.  A surprisingly short first send ended with a “China Cat Sunflower>Midnight Hour” combo.

We got “inspired” in the parking lots at setbreak, a mini-sized “Shakedown scene”, if you will. The second set opened expectedly with “Playin’ in the Band”, one of the few Weir-penned tunes Lesh regularly includes in PL&F setlists. We say “expectedly” because we had heard the band soundcheck the progressive number that can wield tremendous jams, but on this evening it was rather abbreviated.  But then the fun started, when Phil seemed to spontaneously order MMW drummer Billy Martin to whip out a drum solo (though the printed setlist indicates it was planned), and while it seemed a bit early in the set for “Drums”, Martin complied.  His percussive virtuosity led into the Rolling Stones classic, “Sympathy for the Devil”, a song that has meaning in Grateful Dead lore, for it was during this tune being played at the 12-6-69 Altamont Free Concert when the brutal murder of a black man occurred at the hands of the Hell’s Angels, recommended as security by Jerry Garcia. It was also a bit odd to hear a song praising Lucifer being played by Lesh, who prefers to cocoon himself in more bucolic aesthetics.

The musical highlight of the show followed with a “Strawberry Fields Forever>Terrapin Station” pairing, with the sublime reaches of the “Strawberry jam” leading into arguably the greatest of all the great Grateful Dead songs.  It was also fitting for us during our initial visit to TXR to hear the “theme song” of the unique venue, as it were.  The cheers on the line “Some rise…some fall…some climb…to get to Terrapin” brought everything and everyone together. The post-composed jam was fiery jazz and thoroughly satisfying, though the earlier soundcheck of “Terrapin” spoiled our surprise to a certain degree.

Though the crowd responded warmly to “So Many Roads”, we found it a bit perfunctory than overtly emotional.  Much better was set closer “Golden Road (to Unlimited Devotion)”, the ancient Dead classic that provided the most adventurous improv of the evening, including “Within You, Without You” phrases by Greene.  After Lesh’s standard “donor rap” (while we appreciate Phil’s unique perspective, we steadfastly maintain cloning organs is superior to donation), the set closed with an emotional “Brokedown Palace”, completing out trip to TXR.  Every serious Deadhead needs to make a pilgrimage at some point to this locale, especially while Phil is still among us alive, kicking and most all, playing in his band.

Punk is Dead–Antemasque live @ SF FIllmore–4/15/15

The Grateful Dead seem to be on everyone’s lips these days, and that includes Cedric Bixler-Zavala, lead vocalist of Antemasque, as they headlined the Fillmore Wednesday night.  Before dedicating “Rome Armed to the Teeth” to Jerry Garcia, Cedric declared: “I do think the Dead are more punk rock than some punk rock bands wanna claim to be.  And that’s what I like about them.  At the risk of sounding like an idiot, I don’t care, and this is for Jerry.”

Not everybody cheered in response, but the applause that did come from the crowd was heartfelt. The version of “Rome” that followed was tough and raw, but didn’t particularly evoke the Dead’s style.

That all changed with Cedric’s next reference to the GD, when he dedicated “Providence” to the Dead’s stellar bassist Phil Lesh.  Cedric made the right choice here, as “Providence” is Antemasque’s “jam song” during their typical one-hour sets (they only have a single album of material to this point).  Though this version of “Providence” wasn’t as long as others you can view on YouTube, it was still extended to beyond 15 minutes, including a prolonged space/ambient jam directed by Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, the prolific guitarist of Antemasque.  For the uninitiated, Omar and Cedric were also in the post-punk band At The Drive-In and arguably the greatest band of the 2000’s, The Mars Volta.  The Latino dynamic duo are easily the closest doppelgangers to Led Zep’s Page and Plant since Perry Farrell and Dave Navarro in the late 80’s/early 90’s Jane’s Addiction heyday.

The mentions of the Dead, Jerry and Phil were obviously inspired by the band playing at the Fillmore, and Cedric even noted that At The Drive-In played here, “20 years ago”.  The perpetually cracking-wise Cedric also dedicated a song to Thurston Howell III, the fictional millionaire from Gilligan’s Island, and called Omar “the Puerto Rican Woody Allen.”  We get the feeling Cedric’s used that line on his longtime friend and collaborator on more than one occasion.

Antemasque pretty much boasts it all as a band, they’re ferociously powerful yet have great melody, strong songs like “4 A.M.”, “In the Lurch” and the clever closing number “People Forget”, and they can jam the hell out of a song when so choosing. Should Cedric and Omar opt to keep this project going with a longer shelf-life than one album, more material and longer sets will make their shows must-sees if they aren’t already.  Opening band Le Butcherettes brought their unique Mexican garage rock to the proceedings, with one-of-a-kind female front-woman Teri Gender Bender, who bravely somersaulted in her tight red dress.

Top 14 Albums of 2014

1.    King Buzzo…This Machine Kills Artists…Now this is our kind of acoustic music!  The most compelling LP of ’14 from The Melvins’ creative force

*2.   Ty Segall…Manipulator…Last year Ty’s band Fuzz topped this list, this solo effort has to settle for runner-up as Ty produced another batch of timeless tunes.

3.    Antemasque…Antemasque…Omar and Cedric strike gold again with their latest super-group.

4.    Swans…To Be Kind…It’s simultaneously diffuse yet overpowering

*5.   Shellac…Dude Incredible…More sarcasm and heaviness from Chicago’s finest.

*6.   Avey Tare’s Slasher Flicks…Enter the Slash House…Animal Collective’s front-man’s new band’s debut boasts a strong group dynamic and plenty of melodic psych.

*7.   Die Antwoord…Donker Mag...Hip-hop (sorta) album of the year

8.    Mogwai…Rave Tapes…The band goes in a different direction but it still intrigues

9.   John Frusciante…Enclosure…Rock’s most experimental guitarist delves into electronica.

*10.  Walking Bicycles…To Him That Wills The Way…A loose concept album from a Chicago band that rocks depicting lead guitarist Julius Moriarty’s stint in jail for three years for weed.

11.   Michael Jackson…Xscape…”Love Never Felt So Good” was/is Jacko’s best song in decades.

*12.  *Sterile Jets…Liquor Store…Both the best punk AND post-punk album of the year!

13,    Umphrey’s McGee…Similar Skin…Jamband album of the year and maybe the heaviest release of ’14 taboot, not to mention the third Chitown combo to make the list.

14.    Melvins…Hold It In…How’s that for symmetry?  Our list ends with another Osborne album, this time with his full band, “House of Gasoline” being the standout track.

*indicates we provided coverage on the album/the artist in High Times magazine/High Times.com in 2014