Best of 2022

Here’s a listing of the album recordings I liked best in 2022:

  • Son Little – Like Neptune
  • The Beths – Expert in a Dying Field
  • Big Thief – Dragon
  • Nilüfer Yanya – Painless
  • Wet Leg – S/T
  • Spoon – Lucifer on the Sofa
  • Oneida – Success
  • The Bad Plus – S/T
  • The Smile – A Light For Attracting Attention
  • Destroyer – Labyrinthitis
  • Perfume Genius – Ugly Season

As for live shows – saw Son Little three times, and look forward to the next one!

Best of 2020

While it was a tough year, there were still some good things… here’s the annual listing.

Recorded music I enjoyed most in 2020:

  • Waxahatchee – St Cloud
  • Haim – Women in Music Pt. III
  • Stephen Malkmus – Traditional Techniques
  • Laura Marling – Songs for our Daughter
  • Deftones – Ohms
  • Jeff Parker – Suite for Max Brown
  • Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit – Reunions
  • Erik Hall – Music for 18 Musicians
  • Andy Shauf – The Neon Skyline
  • Coriky – S/T

And a few older ones!

  • Gene Clark – No Other (1974)
  • Moondog – The Viking of Sixth Avenue

Live music pretty much ended in March, last show I made it to was Jeff Parker. The Front Porch Jazz concerts on SE 32nd Ave were much appreciated!

Books I enjoyed most, in order read:

  • Arbitrary Stupid Goal – Tamara Shopsin
  • I Will Be Complete – Glen David Gold
  • Marooned – Joseph Kelly
  • Spillover – David Quammen
  • Entangled Life – Merlin Sheldrake
  • Never A Lovely So Real – Colin Asher
  • If Then – Jill Lepore
  • The Apparently Marginal Activities of Marcel Duchamp – Elena Filipovic
  • The Winds of War – Herman Wouk
  • Matterhorn – Karl Marlantes

Best of 2019

Continuing the annual tradition, here’s a listing of the new albums I liked most during the year, along with a few older finds…

Andrew Bird – My Finest Work Yet
Weyes Blood – Titanic Rising
Jenny Hval – The Practice of Love
Nice Cave – Ghosteen
Sharon Van Etten – Remind Me Tomorrow
Kim Gordon – No Home Record
Moon Duo – Stars Are The Light
Vampire Weekend – Father of the Bride
Angel Olsen – All Mirrors
Sleaford Mods – Eaton Alive
New Pornographers – In the Morse Code of Brake Lights
Dave Holland / Zakir Hussain / Chris Potter – Good Hope

Older finds:
Phosphorescent – C’est La Vie
Beau Brummels – catalog
Michael Rother – catalog

Best of 2018

Here’s the annual list, albums I most enjoyed (at least as of today!).

  • Jon Hassell – Listening to Pictures
  • Kacey Musgraves – Golden Hour
  • Pistol Annies – Interstate Gospel
  • Mitski – Be The Cowboy
  • Albert Hammond Jr. – Francis Trouble
  • U.S. Girls – In A Poem Unlimited
  • Amy Rigby – Old Guys
  • Harriet Tubman – The Terror End of Beauty
  • Steve Coleman – Live at the Village Vanguard Vol. 1

and maybe: Low – Double Negative or Parquet Courts – Wide Awake

Best of 2017 & 2016

It’s that time again.  I may do a few edits if I come up with more ideas, but here’s my first cut for the albums I enjoyed most this year, in no particular order:

The Feelies – In Between
Juana Molina – Halo
EMA – Exile on the Outer Ring
Destroyer – Ken
Girlpool – Powerplant
Lee Ranaldo – Electric Trim
Bob Dylan – Trouble No More
Arto Lindsay – Cuidad Madame
Charlotte Gainsbourg – Rest
Mary Halvorson – Paimon

My big live show was Radiohead.

And here’s the list for 2016:

Another year gone by!  We lost a lot of talented folks as 2016 progressed, starting with David Bowie, then Prince, and Leonard Cohen, among many others.  As always though there’s plenty of good music coming out, and here’s what I liked best (at least as it stands today!).  No particular order.

Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Denial
Steve Lehman – Sélébéyone
David Bowie – Blackstar
Parquet Courts – Human Performance
Murray / Allen / Carrington – s/t
Drive-By Truckers – American Band
Miranda Lambert – The Weight of these Wings
Beyoncé – Lemonade
Wussy – Forever Sounds
Heron Oblivion – s/t

Most memorable live shows were a jazz series at the Old Church this fall – Steve Lehman Trio, Rudresh Mahanthappa Quintet, and Dave Douglas

Best of 2015

Continuing the tradition, here are a few notes on some of what I liked best in the nearly ended year of 2015.

Yo La Tengo – Stuff Like That There
Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly
Deerhunter – Fading Frontier
Alabama Shakes – Sound & Color
Sleater-Kinney – No Cities to Love
Joanna Newsom – Divers
Eternal Tapestry – Wild Strawberries
Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit
Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell
Grimes – Art Angels
Speedy Ortiz – Foil Deer
Laura Marling – Short Movie
Jim O’Rourke – Simple Songs

Live Music:
Carmina Burana conducted by Carlos Kalmar, Oregon Symphony
Vijay Iyer Trio @ Winningstad Theater, Feb 20, 2015
Marc Ribot (solo) @ Marylhurst University, Lake Oswego – May 8, 2015
Kamasi Washington & band @ Pickathon, July 31, 2015
Vieux Farka Toure @ Doug Fir Lounge, Oct 7. 2015
Wayne Shorter Quartet @ Revolution Hall, Oct 13, 2015
Luna @ Aladdin Theater, Nov 6, 2015
Typhoon 10th Anniversary @ Revolution Hall, Dec 20, 2015

Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant – Roz Chast
Words Without Music – Philip Glass
Digital Gold – Nathaniel Popper
Misbehaving – Richard H. Thaler
Being Mortal – Atul Gawande
Barbarian Days – William Finnegan
Hold Still – Sally Mann
(as it happens, while I read plenty of fiction as well, nothing quite stood out in my mind as did the above memoirs and non-fiction)(One good find, however, was Eric Ambler’s late 1930’s spy/thrillers)

I’m sure I’ve left some good things out, and there’s plenty more that I just haven’t come across yet.

Some bests – 2014 & 2013

Seems like I missed posting a music ‘top ten’ last year, so I’ll make up for it now with 2 yearly lists. It’s all a bit arbitrary of course, but these are ones that seemed memorable given all I listened to!

2014 Music

TV on the Radio: Seeds
Wussy: Attica
YOB: Clearing the Path to Ascend
Parquet Courts: Sunbathing Animal
St. Vincent: St. Vincent
Witch Mountain: Mobile of Angels
Sun Kil Moon: Benji
Angel Olsen: Burn Your Fire for No Witness
Laura Marling: Once I was an Eagle
Arca: Xen

Best live music this year:
Lots of things at Pickathon at the beginning of August – Son Little, Barr Brothers, X, Parquet Courts & more

2013 Music

Bill Callahan: Dream River
Grant Hart: The Argument
The Knife: Shaking the Habitual
Yo La Tengo: Fade
Nick Cave: Push the Sky Away
Dawn of Midi: Dysnomia
Ceramic Dog: Your Turn
Quasi: Mole City

Springsteen, Landau and Weinberg

I think Tyler Cowen first identified for me my problem with much of the latter day Bruce Springsteen catalog – “monotonous rhythm section” (see this blog post). Along these lines, I found a couple passages from Clinton Heylin‘s book “E Street Shuffle” to be especially on target.

First on page 114, discussing the band and period of touring just after Born To Run album came out. The ‘he’ here is Bruce.

He wanted a drummer who imposed a beat, and left it at that. When he told a court transcriber in 1976 that Landau “taught my drummer … how to play drums in a rock band,” he meant it as a compliment. However, this more metronomic style of playing failed to complement much of the material on which a prodigious live reputation had been forged. In other words, this was not the band Landau recently proclaimed to be “the future of rock ‘n’ roll,” making any ongoing promotional use of the that review almost smack of misrepresentation.

Jon Landau was the critic who wrote the ‘future’ line, and he became Bruce’s manager and confidante. He seems to push things in a very orthodox rock direction, and Heylin zeroes in on this point on page 84.

Landau’s interest had been piqued by the second album and, like Ed Ward, he was curious how they sounded live. If Landau’s local review of The Wild, the Innocent, posted in the window of Charlie’s Place, was essentially positive, he thought Lopez’s drumming “a weak spot,” and found the recording to be “a mite thin or trebly-sounding, especially when the band moves into the breaks.” When Springsteen introduced Landau to his producer inside, Appel rightly called him out, “So you don’t like the album’s production, huh!” Coming from the man who had gutted the most abrasive band to ever come out of Detroit’s Grande Ballroom (Landau produced the MC5’s weak second album, Back in the USA), Landau’s comments suggested an expertise he simply did not have.

From this account, it seems clear that Jon Landau pushed toward the metronome drumming that Max Weinberg quickly mastered. And I guess that helps explain why I still prefer Bruce’s first couple albums over all the rest. Which is not to say that Bruce and the E Street Band don’t put on a great show.

Best of 2012!

I’m going to stick to music this year. Here are the releases I enjoyed most from the year just past. No particular order.

Dirty Projectors – Swing Lo Magellan
Menomena – Moms
Grizzly Bear – Shields
The Evens – The Odds
Swans – The Seer
Pallbearer – Sorrow and Extinction
The Dbs – Falling Off the Sky
AC Newman – Shut Down the Streets
Redd Cross – Researching the Blues
Vijay Iyer Trio – Accelerando
Steve Lehman Trio – Dialect Fluorescent

Best live shows
James Blood Ulmer – Porgy & Bess, Vienna
AC Newman – Doug Fir, Portland
Rhys Chatham – Issue Project Room, Brooklyn
Swans – Hawthorne Theater, Portland
Tirtha – Crystal Ballroom, Portland

Bikes in Mexico City

I made a trip down to Mexico City this past week, and wanted to highlight a bit of what I saw in terms of bicycling.  On Sundays, they close off a portion of the biggest avenue in the city, Reforma, and until 2pm open it to bikes, runners, rollerbladers, etc.

There are numerous bike share racks along the avenue.

And it appears they have racks set up in quite a few places around the big city.

Here’s a closer look at one of the Eco-Bici machines.

At one end of the avenue, they set up an ‘urban cycling school’ to help folks learn to ride.

I saw a fair number of painted bike lanes around town, but Mexico City riding looks daunting to me – lots of cars, lots of intersections without stop signs where the most aggressive drivers just shoot through.  But I did see some riders braving the open streets, including one guy riding against traffic in between lanes!!!

Anyway, looks like there are also some big organized rides.  This billboard was up in one of the Metro stations (cheap and frequent service), for a Halloween/Day of the Dead evening ride on Oct. 29.