Tom Dyer’s Top 12 from 2018!
Here’s the stuff that floated my boat this year. A lot of this stuff has very limited edition for hard copies so get on that if you are inclined.
- Levi Fuller & the Library – Bad Things Happen. I generally like Levi’s stuff but this is a step beyond. Desperate? Doomed? Levi’s question: When will we ever know just how fucked we are? Lyrically this is dark and the music meets it head on. Every time I listen to this, I like it more. If you like packaging (I do) it is available as a super short run (50) very cool CD in hand silkscreened Stumptown wallet. https://levifuller.bandcamp.com/album/such-bad-things-happen
- Mark Ribot – Songs of Resistance 1942-2018. This is sort of a Ribot album and sort of a comp but really a Ribot album. Ribot plays on all these protest songs and writes over half. With different singers (Tom Waites, Steve Earle) on most songs I thought it was a comp when I first got it but hey. Bottom line – really good musically, really great singing (not as “avant” as some of his stuff) and all profits go to indivisible.org, a Trump resistance organization I haver been a member of for two years. Buy two!
- Donovan’s Brain – Convolutions of the Brain. This is a massive undertaking from the Bozeman hive. Three CDs – 180 minutes of psych-pop plus a damn book to explain the whole menagerie. Brain #1, Ron Sanchez informs me this is anything but a definitive Brain collection, it is rather more of a massive odds and sods. Whatever it is, it is pretty damn cool. I have only had this a few weeks and cannot claim to have absorbed it all, but what I have absorbed is most enjoyable, not too clever, not too smart, not too dumb, just about right
- Underworld/Iggy Pop – Teatime Dub Encounters. Iggy is the self-proclaimed King of the Dorks. He wears that crown proudly here. Underworld is some kind of Brit electronica dudes that came up with the idea of making all these tracks and then just getting the Ig to vocalize the first time he ever heard them. Maybe even heard about them. What ever it is it works for me. If it reminds me of anything in the Pop cannon, it is Zombie Birdhouse, a work of genius which this sounds nothing like.
- Randall Dunn – Beloved. This album falls into the giant vortex of what gets called ambient music, and to be clear I am no expert at that topic. Nope. So I won’t compare this to fifty things but I will tell you that this is more melodic than most of what I associate with that type of stuff. It actually goes somewhere at its intensely relaxed pace. It is quite rich sonically and definitely worthy of listening to at a volume you can appreciate the details, perhaps with headphones. Really good.
- Alec K. Redfearn and the Eyesores – The Opposite. A new release by Mr. Redfearn is always a cause for celebration, at least at my house! This a straight up Eyesores record – electrified accordion, horn, contrabass, drums plus a little bit of sugar – bang. Nothing tricky, just a fine bunch of melodically dissonant racket groove you could dance to if you are inclined. I love the printed cover on this. Available on CD for losers like me or vinyl for the cool kids.
- Mary Halvorson – Code Girl. This is nearly a pop outing for avant-guitarist Halvorson with a band with a singer and everything. Oh, it is not pop by most people’s inclination – no hits, just a bunch of weirdo songs, so don’t get fooled. Still, pretty interesting stuff.
- Thought Gang – Modern Music. This is an album David Lynch the movie dude made with a wack jazz band led by Angelo Badalamenti 25 years ago that never saw the light of day. It is quite different from his more song-oriented albums he has done in the last few years – much more left field. Really well recorded – sounds great!
- Insect Man – Still In Love With Everything. Ain’t nuthin’ complicated here. Seattle guys. Two Guitars, bass and drums, plus singin’. They sound like they listened to a bunch of 60’s English blues bands before they became total crap. You know, Fleetwood Mac, Rolling Stones, Yardbirds. Not that they are copying that stuff, they just like to have a bit of a rave up. I dig ‘em.
- Old Time Relijun – See Now and Know. These guys are an Olympia institution led by Arrington de Dionyso. They haven’t made a record for some time and I was mildly surprised by this one – it is largely absent of crazy ass sax playing, which is rather the Dionyso thing. And, considering this was mostly improvised, it is a pretty cohesive little groove factory of songs. Nice!
- Harold Meltzer – Songs and Structures. Harold is an American composer – read about this in the NY Times best classical tracks list a week or two ago. I think it is pretty good. I favor the structures over the songs. The songs are that not-quite-opera classical singing which does not float my boat so much. However, the instrumental pieces, particularly Kreisleriana, are really good. It is just violin and piano, pretty spare, pretty intriguing. I am still new to this but will be coming back for sure.
- Captain Beefheart & His (Excellent) Magic Band – Trout Mask Replica. White Stripe Jack reissued this as a limited-edition pretty vinyl set (no downloads – Jack is a purist) and I thank him for that. It did not change my life like it did when I was seventeen, but it was certainly a pleasure to visit again. They did a nice job on the remaster and the packaging and I’m glad I ponied up $60 for an album that I bought at Yenney Music in Olympia when I was a damn kid for four bucks (You can buy this from resellers for $170!). Technically, not a new album, but hey, it’s my list, right?