Monday, December 28, 2009

Recent e-vents

*Each member of the Time Out New York music staff recently compiled a list of the top ten albums of the decade. Here is mine. A tough cut to make, but these are all amazing records, so no need for second thoughts. However, I ought to give all due respect to Bodies for Strontium 90. (You can read my colleagues' lists here, here, here and here.)

*In case you missed it, here's my 2009 top ten. My list of five favorite singles of the year doesn't appear to be online yet, but the No. 1 is a no-brainer. And for good measure, here's the jazz list again.

*And here is my review of Saturday night's Danzig show out in Jersey. Even if the current band doesn't hold a candle to the classic lineup, this was still pretty killer.

Friday, December 18, 2009

High-school sweetheart: The For Carnation live

Last night I saw The For Carnation play in Brooklyn. Here, via the Volume, is a review of the concert. Showgoing-wise, it's been an almost unbelievably nostalgic stretch. The Jesus Lizard in November, Jawbox last week and now this.

Like many a music nerd coming of age in the mid-'90s, I harbored an intense obsession for Slint. But that band was long gone by the time I got into them, so it was only logical that I would seek out all the ex-members' then-current projects, including Dave Pajo's pretty, austere Aerial M, and Ethan Buckler's absurd yet hilarious King Kong. By far the most compelling of all these offshoots, though, was The For Carnation, led by Slint guitarist and sometime vocalist Brian McMahan. The band's two EPs, Fight Songs ('95) and Marshmallows ('96) struck me at the time as the next best thing to Slint, removing most of the heaviness and dissonance from that band's equation but retaining all its disarming tenderness and sublimated horror. (I still vividly remember my two favorite TFC tracks: Fight Songs' free-form ballad "Grace Beneath the Pines"--"...with crackheads and assassins and burn victims and millionaires' sons"--and Marshmallows' creepy dirge "Salo"--"She kicks but they hold her legs.")

The For Carnation's activity since then has been really sporadic. I did see them play once at Mercury Lounge in NYC many years ago. Not sure when it was, but I'm guessing it was about 2000, since they performed some tracks from their great self-titled LP, which came out that year. As I recall, there was absolutely no one at that show, maybe like ten people, and last night's attendance wasn't much better. As I mention in my review, it always sort of shocks me how little attention people pay this band in light of the worshipful aura that surrounds Slint to this day (speaking of which, I can't wait to read Scott Tennent's 33 1/3 book on Spiderland). Then again, TFC isn't exactly pounding the pavement. I could very well be wrong, but I don't think they've toured since that last time I caught them. Anyway, as you might guess if you've heard the records, they're unflaggingly subdued live, and things did get a little snoozy from time to time last night. But overall I still really get into McMahan's shadowy talk-singing and the band's throbbing, soporific grooves. Some offbeat covers (Randy Travis, Michelle Branch and--I think--a song by the Impressions) livened things up, and overall it was a nice, cozy show.

It's kind of cool seeing a band and having no idea whether you'll ever get the chance to see them again. Music (at least the practices of making records and touring) seems to be a really part-time thing for Brian McMahan these days. I heard some talk about Slint possibily getting together to record again, but then they made a big production of selling their gear on eBay. To borrow a hilarious line from A Serious Man, which I saw the other day and loved, the best course of action for a McMahan fan seems to be: "Accept the mystery."


P.S. My 2009 top ten list can be viewed over at Time Out New York, along with my colleagues' selections. "Dear Coach's Corner" forever...

Monday, December 14, 2009

Talkback: A 2009 jazz roundtable

I'm honored to be a part of a 2009 year-in-jazz e-mail conversation, hosted by Nate Chinen and also including contributions from fellow scribes Peter Margasak, Andrey Henkin and Ben Ratliff. My own contribution (which takes as its motif the currently rampant rock trend of supergroups, symbolized above) is up now, as is Nate's. Check The Gig in the coming days to hear what the others have to say, and check back here soon for more year-end goodies.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

The list, part one (Jazz)

You can check out a list of my top ten jazz records of 2009 over at the Jazzhouse blog. The roundup also includes one DVD, one book, ten honorable-mention discs and seven live shows. I heard tons and tons of great jazz this year. Thanks very much to all the artists, labels and publicists who saw fit to send me their wares. Please do keep them coming in 2010.

Look for my general 2009 top ten in TONY soon.


On the pop side of things, here are my reviews of last week's Rihanna show (check out the festive crowd video I shot during "Umbrella") and the new Chris Brown album. Pretty fascinating to hear both sides of this sad story in rapid succession.