Category Archives: Music

Best of 2010!

It’s that time again – to look back and sum up some of the best books and music that I found during the past year. So here are some lists:

Best books I read in 2010 (publication date in parens). In order read.
Just Kids by Patti Smith (2010) – her memoir of her early days in NYC with boyfriend Robert Mapplethorpe.
Natural-Born Cyborgs by Andy Clark (2003) – philosophical arguments about how we’ve been extending our capabilities with non-biological tools for a long time already.
The Dispossessed by Ursula LeGuin (1974) – a sci-fi look at a kind of anarchism.
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides (2002) – the prize winning novel
The Big Short by Michael Lewis (2010) – engrossing story of the folks who figured out the mortgage mess first and placed their bets on the blow-up.
Our Tragic Universe by Scarlett Thomas (2010) – a novel about stories and plots.
The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet – David Mitchell (2010) – a historical novel set in the lone trading colony of Japan in the early 1800s.
The Brain That Changes Itself by Norman Doidge (2007) – perhaps the best book I’ve found thus far about the possibilities of changing the brain through mindful exercise.
Everyday Quantum Reality by David Grandy (2010) – a philosophical look at how quantum science is perhaps not nearly as strange as we’re often led to believe.
LIFE by Keith Richards (2010) – the life of the rolling stone as only he could tell it.

Best Concerts of 2010 – saw lots, these were the most fun:
Sloan @ Doug Fir, Feb 17.
Lite @ Dante’s, March 11.
The New Pornographers @ Crystal Ballroom, July 16.
Lucinda Williams @ Roseland, Aug 22.
Pavement & Quasi @ Edgefield, Sept. 3.
The Thermals @ Crystal Ballroom, Sept 9.
Belle & Sebasian and Typhoon @ the Schnitzer, Oct. 19.
Robyn @ Wonder Ballroom, Nov. 20.
Leonard Cohen @ Rose Garden, Dec 8.

Some of the CD’s of 2010 I liked best:
Belle & Sebastian – Write About Love
Vampire Weekend – Contra
New Pornographers – Together
Robyn – Body Talk pt.1
Quasi – American Gong
The National – High Violet
Deerhunter – Halcyon Digest
Black Keys – Brothers
and I have to admit I find Kanye’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy to be kind of fascinating.

The Tender Loving Empire!

Last night I made it to a good portion of the Tender Loving Empire‘s third birthday party at the Wonder Ballroom.  Enjoyed the sets from Jared Mees and Y La Bamba, thought Boy Eats Drum Machine was pretty entertaining, and I still don’t really get the appeal of Finn Riggins (but they seem to be popular with the kids!).  I’m hoping that an Y La Bamba full-length will come out sometime soon!

In the groove!

Follow this link to see some neat shots of vinyl records, up close!

Thirty Years Ago

Yes, thirty years ago this evening I went to see the Clash playing at the Capitol Theater in Passaic, NJ, with friends Jack Vitha and Matt Oates.  This set list is what I could remember after the show, and I got most of them.

Funny enough, a couple years back at a street vendor’s booth in Utrecht, the Netherlands, I found a CD bootleg recording of this very show.

Sloan @ Doug Fir, 17-Feb-2010

Finally saw the Canadian pop band Sloan last night at the Doug Fir Lounge, and they put on a great show.  The core group got together in Halifax in the early nineties, and their years of playing together make for a tight sound.  Somehow I never managed to see them until now, but I hope to catch them again next time around!

R.E.M. to remember

I first saw R.E.M. in summer 1981, opening up for Gang of Four at the Ritz in NYC.  At that point I think they only had their first single out, and Mr. Stipe still had lots of bushy hair flying around.  Chronic Town EP came out the next year, and of course lots more over the years.  I liked their music, saw them a couple more times, but the records in the last 10 years or so have been disappointing mostly – not quite the same magic anymore.

So I was a little skeptical about last years double live CD, R.E.M. Live at the Olympia in Dublin, but saw some good reviews and figured I should check it out.  And it is well worth hearing for any long-time fan of the band.  In fact, I’d have to say that if I could only have one of their recordings, it would be this one.  The band played five nights in Dublin, testing out new songs for what became their Accelerate album, and playing lots of old ones.  They sound energized and tough, putting new life in songs going back all the way to that Chronic Town release – check it out.

Just Kids – Patti Smith (2010)

A few nights ago I made it to Patti’s appearance at the Bagdad Theater here in Portland, for the release of her memoir ‘Just Kids’, and this morning I finished the book.  It’s a good one.  Centered on her relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe, whom she met in 1967, it tells of their bohemian artsy ways in New York City in the late sixties and early seventies.  Perhaps it’s to be expected, but in those times neither of them had yet really hit on what would turn out to be their strongest talents.  Patti was doing poetry and drawing, while working at a bookstore, and Robert was doing jewelry and sculptures made from bric-a-brac found and treasured (he resisted photography for a long time, only in part because it was expensive).  The book really does put you there with them, in an NYC that doesn’t exist anymore.

Here’s the word from Tom Carson’s NYTBR review:

“Just Kids” is the most spellbinding and diverting portrait of funky-but-chic New York in the late ’60s and early ’70s that any alumnus has committed to print. The tone is at once flinty and hilarious, which figures: she’s always been both tough and funny, two real saving graces in an artist this prone to excess. What’s sure to make her account a cornucopia for cultural historians, however, is that the atmosphere, personalities and mores of the time are so astutely observed.

Vampire Weekend & Glen Ridge

I saw in a recent New Yorker article that Ezra Koenig, lead singer of the band Vampire Weekend, is a graduate of my high school in Glen Ridge, NJ. I liked their first record, and the new one, Contra, seems to be getting very good reviews, such as this one at Pitchfork.  Well done!

Happy New Year 2010!

Last night I made it to the Doug Fir, for the highly anticipated NYE set by Quasi playing The Who.  That’s a high bar, and the band did a great job!  With Janet ‘Keith Moon’ Weiss on drums, Joanna Bolme on The Ox’s bass, and Sam Coomes in orange Townshend jumpsuit on guitar, the opened at around 11:30pm with “Substitute” and roared into the new year.

Here’s the set as I remember it (order’s probably a bit off and I may have missed a few):

  • Substitute
  • I Can See for Miles
  • Pictures of Lily
  • Boris the Spider
  • The Kids are Alright
  • a bit of a jam leading up to the midnight hour… and then in 2010:
  • My Generation – guest male vocal
  • Long Live Rock – guest male vocal
  • Young Man Blues – guest vocal from Corin Tucker?
  • Armenia City in the Sky
  • Happy Jack
  • The Seeker
  • Can’t Explain
  • Won’t Get Fooled Again
  • Encore: Heaven and Hell

This was great fun!  Thanks to Quasi for making it happen.  I’ll take it as a good sign for 2010.

Mediated in 2009 – Music

Time for the annual list-fest.  Here are some of the CDs released this year that I enjoyed most (links go to earlier posts on these releases).

Best ‘Top Ten” list I found:  Vijay Iyer‘s list in the December Art Forum magazine (unfortunately not online, but I discovered a few of my entries from his list, and had already found some of the others).

Best older recordings I enjoyed:  Wayne Shorter’s 1960’s Blue Notes

Still need to check out:  xx (young UK band)

Some popular CDs that I found to be only OK:

  • Grizzly Bear – “Veckatimest”
  • The Decemberists – “The Hazards of Love”
  • U2 – “No Line on the Horizon”

Best Live Shows of 2009 (all in Portland unless noted):

  • April 9 – X @ Crystal Ballroom – their 31st anniversary tour!
  • May 25 – St Vincent @ the Aladdin
  • June 17 – PJ Harvey & John Parish @ Roseland
  • June 23 – David Byrne @ Schnitzer Hall
  • June 29 – The Monterey Quartet & the October Trio @ The Centre, Vancouver BC
  • July 1 – Kenny Werner Quintet @ The Centre, Vancouver BC
  • July 29 – Sonic Youth @ Roseland
  • August 8 – Devin Phillips Quartet @ Washington Park
  • Sept 4 – Black Joe Lewis @ Mississippi Studios
  • Oct 29 – Britt Daniel, The Robinsons & IOA @ Mississippi Studios
  • Nov 14 – The Dimes @ Mississippi Studios