3 Days + 1 Night. 19 Shows. 33 sets. 25 bands. So much fun. So glad it’s over until next year…
Playlist below. One song per set in the order we saw the shows.
My annual best of music list — which this year will hopefully not be among my only posts of the year.
1. Sound & Color — Alabama Shakes
No sophomore slump here.
2. Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit — Courtney Barnett
Most anticipated album of the year (thanks, Bob Boilen!). Best album title of the year. Heck of a live show (we saw her twice, listened from outside when we couldn’t get into a SXSW show, and strongly considered going to see her open for Blur in LA.)
3. Eponymous — Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats
This thing is just so damn fun on so many levels.
4. Here Come The Girls — The London Souls
2nd best discovery of the year thanks to ACL.
5. Slow Gum — Fraser. A Gorman
Best discovery of the year thanks to Courtney Barnett at SXSW.
6. Star Wars — Wilco
Surprise, it’s good.
7. Sweet Tennessee Honey — Smooth Hound Smith
This record grows on me more and more with each listen. Every time I forget about it, I fall in love with it again.
1. To Fill My Heart With Love Until It Almost Breaks My Heart — Spirit Family Reunion
2. Book of Love — Fraser A. Gorman
3. Dark Bird Is Home — The Tallest Man on Earth
4. Jazz x10 — Benji Hughes
5. Ghost Ship — Blur
1. Courtney Barnett w/ Fraser A. Gorman @ SXSW
2. Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats w/ Caroline Rose @ the Historic Scoot Inn
3. The Record Company @ Sam’s Burger Joint
4. Smooth Hound Smith @ Stay Gold
For once I’m writing this at a not too unreasonable point after the end of the year in question, so no need for a backdated post inserted via time travel…
1. LILILIL — Benji Hughes
I can’t think of another album in the last decade — if not ever — that leaves me with such a big grin every time I listen to it. LILILIL is concept album Benji wrote for his daughter. The story is a time travel rock opera set in outer space and narrated by Jeff Bridges. Various characters leave “space messages” that are basically introductions to “space jams” by Benji. Plus the whole thing starts off with a repeated chant of “I am from the future…I am from the future…I am from the future.” You had me at hello…
2. OXOXOXOX / Songs in the Key of Animals / XXOXOXX – Benji Hughes
Yes, I really am saying my 4 favorite albums of 2014 are by the same artist. And it was pretty much a no brainer. Since they are only available for purchase as a set I’ll go Nielsen-style and group them together under a single number. (This also gets me off the hook from needing to rank them individually.) Can you say infallible band?
3. Supernova – Ray LaMontagne
Ray’s best record since his debut. Taking chances with vocal arrangements and cool stuttery noises that paid off big. Any other year this would have been number one with a bullet.
4. The Voyager – Jenny Lewis
Breezy, poppy, snarky, confident and fun.
5. V for Vaselines – The Vaselines
Kurt Cobain’s fandom and Nirvana’s 3 famous covers sent me seeking out the Vaselines 20 years ago. Some songs I have always loved (“The Day I Was a Horse,” “Teenage Superstars” and “Dying For It”), but mostly I respected them and found the other songs more interesting than good. The same was mostly true about their 2010 comeback record — but V for Vaselines is easily the best album in their catalog. I hope they do another one.
I know I go to more concerts than the average person. But October was nuts even for me. Let me count the ways…
October 1 – The Felice Brothers at the Roxy
The Felices are my wife’s favorite band, and have come to hold a special place in my heart too. Their show was a rollicking good time as always. Plus the opening act was Spirit Family Reunion who may have my favorite song title of the year: “To Fill My Heart With Love Until It Almost Breaks My Heart.” Highlights: “Marie” (my favorite Felice Brothers Song), “Silver in the Shadow,” “White Limo,” “Lincoln Continental.”
October 5 – Conor Oberst & John Prine at the Greek Theatre
More spousal influence: my wife has dug Conor since I dragged her to see Monsters of Folk at this same venue 5 years ago. (And she discovered the Felice Brothers when they opened for Conor at Pappy & Harriets.) His set here was pretty good, but John Prine really stole the show. Somehow I’d never heard of John Prine before, but when I checked out his back catalog in preparation for this show I was blown away. (Incidentally I had heard some of his songs before, most famously Evan Dando’s cover of “Sam Stone” from the Griffith Sunset EP.)
October 7 – Conor Oberst at the Grammy Museum
Seeing the same artist multiple times on the same tour isn’t a common occurrence, but it isn’t unheard of either. Shows at the Grammy Museum have a neat talk show style format with a short interview followed by a short set of music. They also keep video of every on site event in their archives that anyone can view when visiting the museum. Highlight of the live set was closing it out with a cover of John Prine’s “Pretty Good” — my favorite John Prine song that wasn’t played by Prine at the Greek show.
October 9 – Damien Rice at Immanuel Presbyterian Church
Between the Masonic Lodge at Hollywood Forever Cemetery and this venue, the “concert in a church” thing is starting to really take off in LA. This was the first time I’ve had an opportunity to see Damien Rice since discovering him. Venue suited him perfectly and he nailed it. He didn’t play my two favorite songs (“Rat Within the Grain” and “Coconut Skins”) — but still blew me away. Highlights: “Rootless Tree” (on piano!), “Cheers Darlin” (complete with wine bistro skit lead-in), “Volcano” (with full on audience participation).
October 10 – Bahamas at the Roxy
Bahamas made my favorite albums list in 2011 & 2012 and are likely to do so again this year. I’ve seen him play twice before — both times as an opening act, and both times left me wanting more. This was the first time I got to see a full set. It was good, but the setlist left me wanting more. (No “Little Record Girl” or “You’re Bored, I’m Old.”) Sometimes I feel guilty for criticizing setlist selections since I agree it should be fully in the artist’s control. But I really was expecting more here. (Sorry, Afie!)
October 11 (morning) – The Record Company at the Taste of South Lake Festival
A rare day/night doubleheader featuring the best band you’ve never heard. Scrambled to get here on time after brunch for an 11am start time. Missed a couple of songs, but caught most of the set. These guys continue to blow me away every time I see them. They’re about to go on a national tour opening for Brian Setzer — check ’em out if you can.
October 11 (evening) – Ray LaMontagne at the Greek Theatre
At one point Ray said he felt bad that people think his old songs are better. I love Supernova — so much it might have been my favorite record of the year so far if not for the forthcoming trio of Benji Hughes albums — but the old Ray songs really are better. “Burn” / “Trouble” / “Jolene” / “Shelter” stole the show.
October 16 – Jenny Lewis at the Broad Stage
This was part of Q Live — a Canadian talk show I’d never heard of when we bought the tickets to see Jenny but has become somewhat infamous since then due to the Jian Ghomeshi scandal. Jenny was great; I just wish she played more than 2 songs. I thought Q was a cool show and Jian was a great interviewer at the time, but now I’m second guessing myself and remembering creepiness in hindsight. #IBelieveThem
October 18 – Mike Doughty at the Mint
A Mike & Scrap question jar show is always a must see event. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen every Doughty show in LA since 1999 (at least in part — I got lost and only caught the last 3 songs at McCabes in 1999, and didn’t go to the matinee of his 2 separate admission sets at the Hotel Cafe a few years back). I figured Soul Coughing was going to be reintroduced to the solo repertoire, but was actually a little surprised at how many songs made the cut. “Janine” and “True Dreams of Wichita” would have been fine by me. He didn’t play “True Dreams,” did play “Janine” plus the two hits. “Lazybones” was a nice bonus surprise. When it’s Doughty playing acoustic guitar with Scrap just about everything is a highlight, but if forced to single some out I’d go with “Janine,” “Looks,” “Put It Down / Pleasure on Credit,” “Ossining,” and “Train to Chicago” — plus his stopping to yell at chatty folks in the crowd!
October 24 – John Denver Hollywood Walk of Fame Ceremony
Fun fact: John Denver is the 2,531st star on the Hollywood Walk of fame. He was awarded the star in 1982, but never got around to scheduling the required personal appearance. His family accepted it posthumously in his honor, with the band Trampled by Turtles covering “Annie’s Song” at the afternoon ceremony and an exhibit of John Denver’s photography afterwards.
October 30 – Citizen Cope at House of Blues
I used to hate full-album shows, but now I think they are absolutely brilliant. The underrated yet iconic Clarence Greenwood Recordings record is 10 years old, and it’s still a humdinger live and by far his best work. Only downside were all of the chatty folks in the crowd during “d’Artagnan’s Theme.” (Where was Doughty when I needed him?)
October 31 – Nirvana Live at the Paramount
Ok, this one doesn’t really count. But I figured the 23rd anniversary of this legendary show was as good a reason as any to break out the DVD and send off Rocktober in style. I always forget how much the kinetic energy of this concert just sucks me in. It’s also one of the first bootleg cassettes I ever bought as a kid and wore out in my car. And it’s still powerful after all these years. Wow…
Very few people have heard A Love Extreme, in other words, but some inordinate percentage of those who have adore it. If you go to Hughes’s concerts, you may find just a couple hundred people in the room, but they will be singing every word to every song.
Fun fact: Searching for Cobain time travel on Amazon yields 3 results:
Lost in the ’90s by Frank Anthony Polito — A teenaged rocker stage-dives during a ’90s themed dance and wakes up in 1994.
Eating the Dinosaur by Chuck Klosterman — An essay collection featuring unrelated sections on time travel and Kurt Cobain.
Timely Persuasion by Jacob LaCivita — A rock and roll time travel tale about a music critic trying to save his sister.
Discounting Klosterman (who I love, but isn’t directly relevant here), I was pleasantly surprised to find Lost in the ’90s. I’d never heard of it before, but immediately purchased it — and really dug it too! Not only had someone else decided to revolve a time travel story around a cultural red-letter-date, but they did so with a lot of other interesting overlaps to the way I handled things in Timely Persuasion. Song titles as chapter titles, lyrical allusions, musician fathers, and even bowling (!!!) pop up in both books.
I reached out to the author and he agreed to do a joint interview around our mutual inspirations. So without further adieu, here’s Frank & Jake’s timely & persuasive take on being lost in the ’90s…
FAP: Hey, there! My name is Frank Anthony Polito. I’m a Detroit-based writer and Lost in the ’90s is my first YA novel — though you don’t have to be a Young Adult to enjoy the story. In fact, you may appreciate it even more if you actually grew up in the 1990s.
JL: Thanks for taking the time to do this. I’m not a young adult anymore, but I did grow up in the ’90s and can say you are spot on that it does help you appreciate the book.
People on this blog likely already know me, but in case you’re coming in for the first time via this post my name is Jacob LaCivita. Timely Persuasion is a rock and roll time travel novel I released in 2008 — though the bulk of it was written back in 2003. You don’t need to be an obsessive music fan like me to get into the story, but as Frank said about his book it may give you some added appreciation.
Let’s start off with the most timely question with the 20th anniversary upon us: Why Kurt Cobain in a time travel tale? You nicely weave this throughout on a few different levels and have the bulk of the story set during those fateful days in early April 1994; my narrator tries to save Kurt as soon as he realizes what he can do…
FAP: Well, I hope this doesn’t come as a shock, but… When I began writing Lost in the ’90s I didn’t intentionally set out to include Kurt Cobain in my story. I’m a very realistic writer in that I write fiction that is fact-based. Based on my previous publishing experience, I figured (best case scenario) LIT90s would hit bookstores sometime in 2012. That said, I counted back 18 years in order to calculate my protagonist’s birth year — which took me to 1994. When I researched what was going on in the world that spring, I was reminded of the death of Kurt Cobain on 4/5/94 and voila!
JL: That’s interesting. I had many similar “count back X years and research” moments while plotting Timely Persuasion, but Kurt Cobain was there from the start.My standard answer to the “If you had a time machine…” question has been “find out how Kurt Cobain died” for as long as I can remember, so I knew I had to explore that in Timely Persuasion. I was 17 when Kurt died, and it hit me pretty hard at the time. The Tom Grant murder theory started to gain press at about the same I discovered the Internet. I became super obsessed with it right away. I’m not really a conspiracy theorist in general, but I’ve always been fascinated with unanswered questions. The hardest part in the writing process was figuring out a way to leave the suicide/murder question unanswered while still using it to explain the rules of time travel and give deeper insight into the narrator’s character.
FAP: Again, I hope this isn’t a shocker, but… Back in the day, I was not much of a Nirvana and/or Kurt Cobain fan. I didn’t find the music (or Cobain) attractive or interesting. In fact, I kind of sort of hated it (him). I was more into the music scene that had come out of Manchester (The Sundays, The Charlatans UK, etc.) Now that I’m older (and wiser), in doing research to write LIT90s I was happily surprised to discover that I honestly didn’t get Cobain back in 1994. I didn’t realize how ironic his lyrics were or what a supporter of gay rights he was, and how often he was misunderstood by his peers — something to which I could totally relate. Now I really wish I could go back in time to the early ’90s because I would totally change my tune.
JL: Like many ’90s teens Nirvana was my gateway into music I could call my own, but I really dug the British music scene too. The Manchester bands you mention were great (don’t forget the Happy Mondays!), along with new britpop revolution led by Blur & Oasis. Plus my favorite band to this day is still Carter USM — and not so coincidentally they have the most lyrical references in TP.
Sometimes I wonder if the love of the Beatles instilled in me by my parents paved the way for that. Which leads into another interesting overlap our books have: protagonists who meet their parents back in time. In both cases they are surprised to learn that their father is a musician and decide to teach him some tunes…
FAP: When my father was in high school he played guitar in a band — which is actually how he met my mother. As a kid, I was always fascinated whenever he would drag out his Fender and plug in the old amp and crank out some Black Sabbath. I can’t say that I based the parental characters in LIT90s on my own parents, but I knew that I wanted my protagonist and his father to have a musical bond. I was also a big time-travel geek growing up (Back to the Future, Voyagers!, Somewhere in Time), and I always enjoyed whenever someone from the future would teach someone from the past something and they would try to take credit for it.
JL: I was also (and still am) a big time travel geek. I knew I wanted to write a time travel novel, but I had a few options on what the main plot would be. A so-so musician going back in time and finding fame by stealing music was one of my initial ideas. Sort of a parable about the digital music industry. But I didn’t think I had enough for a full novel and scrapped it. Then somehow this story sent the narrator into the 1960s to meet his Dad (which wasn’t in the original outline), so I revived that older idea and ran with it.
FAP: My idea for LIT90s came from an obscure “After School Special” called My Mother was Never A Kid, based on an obscure book by Francine Pascal (Sweet Valley High) called Hangin’ Out with Cici. In the story, a teenaged girl travels back in time from the 1970s to the 1940s where she meets (and befriends) her mother, who she doesn’t get along with in present day. And of course the aforementioned Back to the Future.
JL: At the time I was excited and surprised nobody had done a time travel story that stole music from the future. And even though I included a number of Back to the Future references, it wasn’t until years later I realized that the Marty McFly “Johnny B. Goode” bit counted. Duh…
FAP: Yes! This is exactly what I’m talking about… That moment when Marty is playing “Johnny B. Goode” with his band and that other guy is on the phone with his cousin, Chuck Berry, and he’s like “Listen to this!”
JL: Classic moment. And tying it back to Kurt Cobain, there’s an episode of The Simpsons where they parody it by having “Marvin Cobain” call his cousin Kurt after hearing Homer’s band play grunge at a Lollapalooza type festival…
Sticking with music, we both also seem to weave little known “real” songs into the plot. I’m guessing “Basement Ghost” is by someone you know based on a few Googles, but I might be wrong.
FAP: You are correct. “Basement Ghost” was written by a friend of mine, Gabriel Grady. I have my MFA in Dramatic Writing from Carnegie Mellon, and I knew that I would eventually adapt the novel for the screen. Because music is such a part of the story, I wanted to make sure there would be an original song for the soundtrack. I knew that Gabe — being a Class of ’94 grad and a musician himself — was totally the guy to write my movie’s theme song. Now, if I could only sell that screenplay…
JL: I could totally see LIT90s as a movie. Or maybe even an “After School Special” if they ever revive that concept…
It was especially impressive that you managed to make “Basement Ghost” a downloadable single to go with the book. I wanted to do something like that but wasn’t ever able to find a musician to work with. It was always my secret hope that putting “Won One” in Timely Persuasion would nudge my college roommate into re-recording it for me (I lost my old cassette copy years ago). But it’s been over 10 years and the song still only exists in my memory and in my book. And I still dig it way more than he does. (Chris Evjy, if you’re reading this that was a not so subtle hint :))
FAP: Again, the credit for this goes to Gabe Grady. It also helps that Gabe was in a band at the time I published LIT90s, and he was looking for promotional opportunities for himself and his work as well. I’m a firm believer in the “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours…” theory of life, and in helping others along the way, if possible. The great thing about “Basement Ghost,” I will say, is that I told Gabe the basic gist of my story (how boy meets girl) and he ran with it. The lyrics and subsequent music are all to his credit.
JL: Another item we share along the lines of great music-themed minds is using song titles as chapter titles. Yours are all great ’90s tunes that often aptly summarize the action. What gave you that idea and how hard was it to pick the songs?
FAP: In my first two novels (Band Fags! and Drama Queers!) I did this same thing — only with ‘80s tunes. While LIT90s isn’t part of the trilogy, I wanted to continue using this technique, especially since music plays such a part in the story. In terms of choosing which songs to include, I have to say “Thank God for the Internet and Wikipedia!”
JL: Originally Timely Persuasion didn’t have chapter titles. Then one night I woke up at 2am with this idea that every chapter was a song title that contained a number. It would start with “One” by U2. Just a single word so nobody realizes what’s going on yet. Then “Two of Us” by the Beatles. Then “Gimme Three Steps” by Lynyrd Skynyrd. And that’s when I jumped out of bed and made a huge list of candidate songs — first from my iTunes library, then falling back on the Internet like you did.
FAP: That is an awesome idea! (I wondered where you came up with “Tram #7 to Heaven” by one of my faves, Jens Lekman.)
JL: Jens is one of my favorites too. “Tram #7” plus “Wounded Kite at :17” by Pavement were the two titles that made me so giddy I just had to find a way to make this work. And later figuring out I could slot “Won One” in as #11 sealed the deal. Hardest one was for 26 — it’s the only song I don’t like in the list. “Across 26 Winters” is a cool title and fits the chapter, but with apologies to Phoenix Mourning it’s not really my style.
Of your titles I especially liked “Fade Into You” & “Divine Thing.” And of course “Here’s Where The Story Ends” was the perfect ending…and it happens to be by another British group.
FAP: I’m particularly fond of “Fade Into You” by Mazzy Star myself. I really think the song sets the tone for this particular chapter. “Action” is such a big component when it comes to film and, if memory serves, this chapter is almost all inner monologue for the female character as she rides along in the car with the two other guys in the story. I look forward to seeing how the scene would play out on the big screen — like an old-fashioned MTV music video.
JL: Along with the musical nods taking the reader back into the era, I really liked the way you sprinkled references to other time travel stories throughout Lost in the 90s — and not just Back to the Future. Time travel seems to pop up all over the place. I’d never heard of Hangin’ Out With Cici before, but I do remember that time travel episode of Family Matters and liked the Somewhere in Time reference too.
FAP: Thanks. Like I said, I was a big time travel story geek growing up. And no surprise that you’d never heard of Cici — which most would call a “girl” book. I’m actually surprised that you know Somewhere in Time which is set in Michigan where I grew up, and I’ve somehow managed to reference in almost every story I’ve ever written.
JL: I told you I was a time travel geek too! In TP my narrator sees a movie trailer for Peggy Sue Got Married on his second trip back in time (before he realizes that’s what’s actually happening). I picked it as a hybrid music & time travel reference — though it was totally one of those “need a movie from 1986” research happy accidents along the lines of how you picked Kurt Cobain for LIT90s. BTTF & Quantum Leap are where my love of time travel came from, so I felt it only fair (and polite) to tip my cap to the greats.
FAP: Kudos to you, sir! I appreciate your appreciation of the greats who came before us I’ve seen Peggy Sue, but only once (years ago!) and I don’t really remember the plot. I also didn’t watch Quantum Leap for whatever reason. But, as I’ve mentioned, there was a time travel show back in the early ‘80s that I loved as a kid called Voyagers!, starring Jon-Erik Hexum, whose career was tragically cut short after he accidentally shot himself in 1984. If you haven’t seen it, you should totally check it out.
JL: Yes, I like Voyagers! too. And the Omni is one of the coolest time machines, right up there with the DeLorean and the Tardis.
Anyways, this was pretty fun. Anything else to add in closing?
FAP: Thanks for finding me and making this happen. It’s been almost 2 years since LIT90s was released, which in book terms makes it “old news.” My goal was to do a big publicity push to coincide with the 20th anniversary of Kurt Cobain’s death… But having worked in the New York City publishing industry as a book publicist, I know what a pain — and how futile — it can all be. Here’s hoping we both will find some new readers.
JL: Indeed. We write books so people can read them, right?
Anyone interested in learning more about either Lost in the ’90s or Timely Persuasion can check out both of our books below for a trip down memory lane via April 8th, 1994:
Read about this cool 6 songs of your life idea via NPR about a month ago and have been thinking about it ever since. After several drafts, here are my six…
“Taxi” by Harry Chapin
My parents are big Harry Chapin fans and would play this a lot when I was little. So much that the first sentence I ever said was the paraphrased “I go fly high stoned” lyric from this song. (Allegedly my grandmother was not amused.)
“Back In Time” by Huey Lewis & The News
The first album I ever owned was the Back to the Future soundtrack. BTTF kicked off my lifelong obsession with time travel, but the way this song loosely tied in confused my nine-year old brain. It’s a song about the movie. But they don’t actually go to 1999 so it’s wrong. Did Huey even see the movie? Maybe the movie was based on the song? I still overanalyze little things like this today.
“Even In His Youth” by Nirvana
I knew I needed a Nirvana song for this list. And right when I decided I’d go with Smells Like Teen Spirit instead of a deep cut I realized this was a better choice. It was the first time I learned of the concept of a B-Side. There’s this awesome song. But it’s not on the album. And every band does this?!?!? Teenage mind blown…
“All Night Thing” by Temple of the Dog
In college we used to frequent this awesome restaurant in Syracuse called Mother’s Cupboard. They were only open for breakfast, and the hours were (and apparently still are) 6:00am – 1pm. Being up by 1 on a weekend was tough for us college kids, so the only times we’d go to Mother’s Cupboard were when someone had the idea at 1am and we stayed up all night to arrive right when they opened. We’d always listen to this song on the way home.
“Clint Eastwood” by Gorillaz
My first “real” job after moving to California was running a call center for a startup called iNetNow. It was the era before smartphones and our business was looking stuff up on the Internet for people who called in. We had special software for searching, and an interface called “term trail” that let you see what others were searching for in realtime in case they needed help. One night I saw “damon albarn rap song” pop up on term trail and scrambled to monitor the call to learn what this was. The caller ended up being my best friend from high school calling after hearing it on the radio. Even 3000 miles away we were able to discover music together almost simultaneously.
“Farther On Down The Road (You Will Accompany Me)” by Taj Mahal
My wife and I eloped, but we still consider this to be our wedding song. We first heard the Jack Johnson cover version which caused us to seek out the original. We went to see Taj Mahal at the House of Blues and by the end of the set he hadn’t played this. My wife wanted to leave to beat traffic, but I made her stay for the encore just in case. First and only song of the encore was this, and it was magical.
Timely Persuasion was recently named third favorite time travel story on the Enumeration Podcast!
It was an honor to be named here amongst several other great time travel tales. The three hosts came up with quite a set of stories altogether. Their complete lists are covered below – but check out the full episode for some cool discussion about each set of three:
Time And Again, Time On My Hands, A Christmas Carol, The Man Who Folded Himself, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, To Say Nothing of the Dog, Island in the Sea of Time, The Trinity Paradox
“A Sound of Thunder”, The Time Machine, Slaughterhouse-Five, Time Bandits, Star Trek (4, 7, 8, & 11), 12 Monkeys, Donnie Darko, The Terminator, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Primer, Star Trek The Next Generation: “All Good Things”, TMNT – Turtles in Time, Time Changer
The Lords of the Sands of Time, X-Men: Days of Future Past
Lots of excellent picks!
The only surprising omission in my mind would be Quantum Leap, though to be fair they did give have a passing “put right what once went wrong” reference during the podcast.
For me, the holy trinity of time travel will always be Replay, Back to the Future, and Quantum Leap in a three way tie for first. Breaking it out by category, my personal favorites would be:
Honorable Mentions: (excluding works already referenced)
Books: 11/22/63, The Time Traveler’s Wife, Too Many Time Machines, Man in the Empty Suit
Movies: Deja Vu, Happy Accidents, Shuffle, Always Will, Source Code, Safety Not Guaranteed, About Time
Television: Tru Calling, Voyagers!, Misfits (Season 1 Episode 4), “Back There” (Twilight Zone Episode)
Video Games: Back to the Future: The Game, Chronotron, The Silent Age, Day of the Tentacle, Mushroom Age, Braid
It’s musical best of time again…
1. We The Common — Thao & the Get Down Stay Down
This album came out in February and managed to hold the top go-to slot all year. Rockin’ and poppy, with shades of The Breeders here and there. Saw them live three times and they didn’t disappoint. Thao’s encore duet of “Be My Baby” with Sallie Ford at the Troubadour was a concert highlight.
2. We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic — Foxygen
Heard “No Destruction” from this album for the first time on December 28th when my iPod died in the car on the way home from dinner. Then I listened to the whole thing 7 times in the next 24 hours. Love love love love this record and how it feels like an oldie in a Local Boyish sort of way. Only reason I’m not calling it #1 is the late discovery and acknowledging I’m still in the honeymoon phase, but I reserve the right to retcon later (like I did with the XX in 2009).
3. The Ghost of Escondido — Escondido
For once I managed to discover a new band in the actual year of their debut. Little bit of a Mazzy Star feel. I read somewhere that David Lynch really likes these guys. They’d fit in very well on one of his soundtracks. (Bonus: I always dig eponymous albums that are more than just plain self-titled.)
4. Roadcase 018 (Solid Sound Covers Set) — Wilco
Though not really an album per se, you can buy it from Wilco’s site so I’m counting it. An unexpected all request covers set at the third edition of the Solid Sound Festival, and one heck of a diverse setlist. I always smile the whole way through “And Your Bird Can Sing” — both times they play it.
5. The Ballad of Boogie Christ — Joseph Arthur
Benji Hughes once sang “I haven’t heard an original heartfelt song about Jesus in awhile.” Here are a bunch of them — in a non-religious musical concept that plays like a modern alt-rock Jesus Christ Superstar.
6. Charge — David Ford
I really liked David Ford’s 2005 debut album, but somehow forgot about him a little bit. (Shame on me.) Went to see him play on a whim (great show; see below) and the new songs were really really good. I also read his memoir this year. In part of it he talks about how the first and last songs on an album deserve to be something special. He nails that here with opener “Pour A Little Poison” and closer “Every Time.” Plus it has one of my favorite goofy/awesome lyrics of the year in the line “If all you need is some distraction girl, hey – what’s that over there?”
7. Fade — Yo La Tengo
Solid album by a band I like more and more every time I hear them and/or start dabbling in their back catalog. Album opener “Ohm” is now the opening track of my “Red Sox Lose” playlist. I didn’t have to break it out too many times this year, but hearing “Sometimes the bad guys come out on top, some times the good guys lose…” always takes the sting away and makes me smile.
8. Wise Up Ghost — Elvis Costello & The Roots
A seemingly odd pairing that isn’t all that odd once you hear the first few bars and take a minute to think it through.
1. Paul McCartney @ Outside Lands — August 9
I already covered the recap of Outside Lands before so not too much more to say. But I’ll repeat this part: after you see Sir Paul, if you say your favorite band is anyone other than the Beatles you’re a liar.
2. Jeff Tweedy Residency @ Largo — December 15, 16, 18, 19
Much like Benji Hughes back in 2010, my 2nd favorite show of the year is actually a set of four. Tweedy outdid himself in his four shows in five days by nearly pulling off no repeats. 86 total songs — 81 unique! He seemed to accidentally break the streak after 72 songs with “Radio Cure” as the 11th song of night four — later apologizing with “I think I might have played a couple of repeats. Sorry!” Don’t worry Jeff, we forgive you. Please do this again next year…
3. David Ford @ The Bootleg Bar — June 26
After a momentary memory lapse about what night the show was, rush-hour crosstown traffic, and a foreclosed restaurant nearly caused us to skip seeing him we did eventually make it to the show with moments to spare. And I’m so glad we did. Funnest moment: He broke a guitar string, asked someone in the audience to fix it for him, then played a medley of piano covers to stall for time during the re-stringing. And a bonus lyrical moment in the live version of “Pour a Little Poison” that isn’t on the album: “I’ve got nobody but the voices on my radio. They sing ‘Sweet Home Alabama,’ they sing ‘Born to Run,’ they sing ’99 Problems But A Bitch Ain’t One’…”
4. The Felice Brothers @ Pappy & Harriets — October 10
If you ever get the chance to go to Pappy & Harriets, do it. Little honky tonk in the middle of nowhere. First time we ever went was to see Conor Oberst back in 2010 with the Felice Brothers as his backing band. The Felices opened that show too; that was the night my wife adopted them as her favorite band. Three years later they did it all again. The new songs are so great, anticipation for their new album this year is running very high.
5. Mike Doughty @ The Fonda — November 8
It’s not a big secret that I’m a huge Doughty fan. I think I’ve seen every show he’s done in LA in the last 15 years, so going to watch him reclaim his back catalog out of retirement was a no brainer. I thought it would be “Mike Doughty’s Band plays Soul Coughing in a small rock style” — but in reality it was “Doughty does Soul Coughing Dubious Luxury style.” The show opened with the Ruby Vroom triplet of “Is Chicago” / “Sugar Free Jazz” / “Bus To Beelzebub” that briefly had me thinking he was literally going to play the whole Cough catalog in order. (Though the fact the “Beelzebub” is track five on the album should have tipped me off.) Regardless, my sister and I were giddy the whole way through. (To be honest I did kinda miss hearing some solo Doughty too. But I’m psyched that next time around he’s more likely to drop “Janine” in mid-set without it being a big deal.)