By Mike Breen, CityBeat
If you’ve met me, you know that I’m not a big “talker” (I don’t hate you, I’m just shy). But put me behind a keyboard and you can’t get me to shut up. When CityBeat introduced the “Spill It” blog based on my local music column several years ago, I was thrilled at the total lack of “word counts” and began writing thoughtful yet epic-novel-length blog posts about anything and everything. Inter-office feedback was never “Wow, nice job,” but rather, “Um, that sure was long.”
Today, you can still find regular music posts on the CityBeat staff blogs and, while perhaps not as effusive, I still tend to blather on and on. So my New Year’s resolution for 2011 is to go small. Nobody reads beyond the first paragraph of a story anymore anyway, right?
So next year, I’ll stop wasting everyone’s time and present CityBeat’s music section in bite-size, Twitter-friendly missives. To get into “think less/write less” mode, I decided to do my year in review Twitter-style. Next year, we’ll probably switch to all-haiku music coverage and, by 2015, we’ll likely just text you five or six words/letters/symbols (“Cu @ SGH l8r 4 wuh-c k?”) every 15 minutes.
• Mainstream media music story of the year: Beatles graciously allow iTunes to make them billions more dollars. #welcome2tenyearsago
• Kanye’s new album is one of the best of the year, but still not as good as he thinks it is. #impossible
• Lady Gaga’s music is OK but her freak persona is much needed in a world where Pop stars lie about what’s in the bong. #salviaorsaliva?
• MidPoint and the CEAs are like early Christmases for us local music fans. We should do them every month. #danmcabejusthadaheartattack
• Without releasing a note, Gnarls Barkley is artist of the year for work on 2010’s best albums: Black Keys’, Cee Lo’s and Broken Bells’. #fuckyou2
• Cassettes (yes, those cassettes) get underground revival. Like vinyl, except horrible sounding. #hipsterslikebeingdifficult
• Recording industry gets government help destroying Net bootleggers. That’ll do the trick. #ifbinladenranpiratebayhedbedeadnow
• Electro weirdoes Neon Indian and most of the MidPoint Indie Summer concerts draw impressive crowds of all ages to Fountain Square all summer. #cincyiscoolerthanyouthink
• Fox adds insult (Glee) to injury (American Idol) in their war against original music. #karaokestillrules
• 2010 is one of the best years ever for fans of local original music. Check CityBeat next week for our favorite ’10 local releases. #weregonnaneedabiggermusicsection
• Indie albums reach new heights on sales charts. But so do cover songs from Fox TV shows about high school choirs. #sodontget2excited
MY 2010 BEST SONGS TO WALK THE DOGS TO
By Eric Nally of Foxy Shazam
One of my favorite things about music is that it's the closest things you can get to a time machine in real life. I can listen to a song and it takes me back to that certain time or place that I first heard it. Maybe you hear a certain song when you're having your first kiss or you have your first dance at your wedding; later on you can go back and listen to that song and it takes you back to that very specific place. The only time I really get to listen to music is around 11 or 12 at night when I take my dogs around the block for their daily walk. I have two dogs — Lamar is very crazy and Donatello is very relaxed, so I can't take them out together because they get all wrapped up together. I have to take two short walks every night and I listen to one song for each walk. Since I don't get to listen to a lot of music, only two songs a night, I was very specific with the songs I picked.
“Old Fashioned” by Cee Lo Green
I hadn't felt this way about song for a long time. (Cee-Lo has) really inspired me — his voice has inspired me as a vocalist and it really hit me in the right spot. When I first heard it, I got goosebumps and shivers. I just think everything about it is right. A lot of times I hear things that are a little bit right but something just isn't there. You never hear perfect anymore, but I think this one is perfect.
“Waterfalls” by TLC
I was probably about 8 years old because this song came out in 1994 and I specifically remember getting this CD and thinking I was really bad because It was the first CD I had ever heard with curse words. I remember this album was huge and I used to sneak away and listen to it with my cousin in a closet. There was one lyric on the album that said “I need a tissue so I can wipe my ass” and I thought I was awesome because I shouldn't have been listening to it.
“Porch Swing In Tupelo” by Elton John
The reason this song means so much to me is because last summer my family took a vacation to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., and I listened to it the whole way down. This song takes me back to the best vacation of my life.
“The Boy In The Bubble” by Paul Simon
I just like that this song is heavily inspired by African culture and its exotic musical textures. It's an extremely unique record and the first time I heard it I just listened to the whole thing at once. I never do that. I discovered it a few years ago and there just aren't many I remember the first time I heard them.
“Break Your Heart” by Barenaked Ladies
I just heard this a few weeks ago right when it was beginning to get cold. I'm extremely affected by the weather — sometimes I just get down when winter comes. My wife, Karen, is a scientist and her boss is great; he's a big fan of Foxy and he posted this on my Facebook wall. (I) just needed some cheering up, and this was exactly what I needed at the time.
“Wuthering Heights” by Kate Bush
One of my best friends recommended this to me and now every time I hear it I think of him.
“Comfortably Numb” by Van Morrison
This song is the most significant to me on this list. It was the beginning of 2010 and my cousin, whom I was very close to, was getting married. She was a big part of my childhood and she got married here in Ohio, which I went to with my mom and dad and my wife. My dad got tired shortly after the wedding and wanted to go back to hotel. I was listening to this song on way back to the reception and it was the first time in years I broke down crying. Being in my home state and at my close cousin's wedding, I realized I was at next level in my life. I cried, but it was a happy cry, and I hadn't done that in so long.
“Many of Horror” by Biffy Clyro
I first discovered this band while in the UK with Foxy and it was the furthest from home I had ever been. I felt like it really stuck a flag in the experience and it represents how far away from home I've been and how far I've made it.
“Bird Stealing Bread” by Iron and Wine
Right before Foxy got really serious, me and my good friend Justice would just drive around in the fall and put this song on with the windows down and the heat turned up. It was the perfect climate and this song always reminds me of just good times driving around with him.
“Count Me Out” by Foxy Shazam
When I listen to any song by my own band, I to try to pretend I'm a different person and experience it as though I'm someone else listening to the song for the first time, although it's hard because we wrote them. Taking the dogs out for a walk gives me a chance to listen to the song and analyze myself and my band members and try to scan the song for imperfections. This was the song that our label, Warner Bros., is considering for our first big single and I kept asking myself, "Is this right?" But I do think it's the best one to really go for it and it shows every side of who I think Foxy is. I've been able to do it with every song of ours so far, but with this one it's impossible.
FOXY SHAZAM (www.foxyshazam.com) performs at Bogart’s Jan. 22.
TEN FOR ’10
By Brian Baker, CityBeat
2010 was another really spectacular year for music, filled with legitimate contenders for end of year consideration. My personal list comes with the caveat that my office is stacked with discs I only marginally sampled or that went entirely unheard (because that is the nature of the critic’s business; there’s only so many listening hours in a day) and it’s a safe bet that I’ll hear something next year that I wish I’d heard this year. So it is and always must be. With no specific number to place them at the finish line, here are 10 that I did hear, was moved by and consider to be among the best releases of the latest calendar gone by.
Bryan Ferry — Olympia
Cool wishes it was as cool as Bryan Ferry. For his first album of primarily original material in over a decade and a half, Ferry re-teamed with his original Roxy Music mates and a cocktail party of diverse guests (Nile Rodgers, Dave Stewart, David Gilmour, Scissor Sisters) to craft his most satisfying album since Avalon. At most people’s retirement age, Ferry constructed the perfect blend of his creative personas, as he exhibited the best aspects of Art Rock dilettante, romantic crooner and flamboyant Pop star on Olympia.
Midlake — The Courage of Others
Combining the classic British Psych/Folk and Prog of the ’70s with the best elements of contemporary Indie Pop/Rock, Midlake came up with an album that somehow managed to reference Jethro Tull and Radiohead simultaneously. The Courage of Others was a surprising personal best for the band.
Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings — I Learned the Hard Way
Sharon Jones has the power and passion of Aretha Franklin and Bettye LaVette while the Dap Kings swing and sweat like the best of Motown, Chicago and Memphis combined. With Hard Way, Jones and the Dap Kings slowed their frenetic Soul pace to a simmering boil and impossibly expanded their stylistic depth and range as they crafted one of the best heartbreak albums of the year (and maybe ever).
The New Pornographers — Together
A.C. Newman and his cast of Pop crazies are as automatic as a gold medal for America in Olympic basketball, as the Pornographers’ brilliant Beatles-meets-The-Move-at-the-Indie-Rock-crossroads hybrid has resulted in five consecutive great albums (not to mention a bounty of incredible solo projects). Together found the Pornographers in a more subdued and melancholy Pop mood, which merely focused and intensified their musical passion.
Ra Ra Riot — The Orchard
Early comparisons to R.E.M. and The Smiths didn’t go far enough in describing the exquisite New Wave/Chamber Pop of Ra Ra Riot. 2008’s The Rhumb Line was brilliant, forged in the tragic crucible of the 2007 drowning of lyricist/drummer John Pike, but The Orchard saw R3 emerge from the darkness without leaving it behind, blending moody yet bouncy New Wave and Dance Pop with sonorous Baroque Pop and irresistible Indie Rock. A triumph.
Elton John and Leon Russell — The Union
Forty years ago, Elton John was a neophyte piano Pop star and Leon Russell was a renowned veteran; today, John is a knighted megastar and Russell has been largely forgotten. To tribute the man who most influenced his early career, John brought Russell out of retirement to collaborate on The Union, one of the best albums in either of their catalogs. Energetic Pop, swampy Blues and soul-stirring Gospel are all ingredients in John and Russell’s patently amazing collaboration.
Bettye LaVette — Interpretations: The British Rock Songbook
How does an album of covers garner a spot as one of the albums of the year? When it’s Bettye LaVette doing the covering. Inspired by her take on “Love, Reign O’er Me” at The Who’s 2008 Kennedy Center tribute, LaVette takes on The Beatles (together and solo), The Moody Blues, Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin, infusing them all with jaw-dropping amounts of Soul, Blues and Gospel.
500 Miles to Memphis — We’ve Built Up to Nothing
We beg to disagree; Ryan Malott and 500MTM have built up to a pretty damn spectacular album. Beatlesque Pop, Punkabilly scorch, Americana bluster and twang and singer/songwriter sincerity all combined to make an incredible amount of something out of Nothing.
of Montreal — False Priest
If you thought Funk, Glam and Pop couldn’t possibly exist on the same album, Kevin Barnes crafted False Priest to prove that it could exist in the same song. Like a coke-crazed worker bee, Barnes cross-pollinates his work with influence from David Bowie, Sly & the Family Stone, Bee Gees, Stevie Wonder, The Cure, 10CC, T. Rex and a dozen other disparate sources, and then magically turns it into his own sound.
Tom Jones — Praise & Blame
Tom Jones has proven himself to be much more than the Welsh panty bandit he appeared to be with his initial Pop success in the ’60s, most recently collaborating with the likes of Art of Noise, Cardigans, Stereophonics and Portishead, among others. Praise & Blame found Jones working in an unexpected and visceral Gospel/Blues/Soul context (a good year for that, apparently), resulting in one of the most incendiary albums in his nearly 50-year career.
More than honorable mentions: Joan Armatrading’s This Charming Life, David Byrne/Fatboy Slim’s Here Lies Love; Foxy Shazam’s Foxy Shazam; Peter Frampton’s Thank You, Mr. Churchill; Tommy Keene’s Tommy Keene You Hear Me; Stan Ridgway’s Neon Mirage; Michael Franti & Spearhead’s The Sound of Sunshine; Pernice Brothers’ Goodbye, Killer.
BANDAGRAM! TOP 10 BAND NAME ANAGRAMS OF 2010
By Aidan Bogosian of Eat Sugar
10. The Black Angels: Gentle Backlash
9. Phantogram: Hang at Prom
8. Broken Bells: Blob Kernels
7. The Tallest Man on Earth: Threaten a Mental Sloth
6. The Morning Benders: Inbred Genres Month
5. Freelance Whales: Feel Anal Chewers
4. The Soft Pack: The Fat Spock
3. Crystal Castles: Scar Tactlessly
2. Deerhunter: Rue the Nerd
EAT SUGAR (www.eatsugarmusic.com) performs at The Mockbee Jan. 8. The band’s debut full-length Levantense! is being re-issued by Mush Records on Feb. 22.
FREEKBASS' TOP 10 MUSICAL MOMENTS OF 2010
By Chris Sherman (aka Freekbass) of Freekbass and Headtronics
10. DJ Spooky at Moogfest Spooky had just sat in with Headtronics earlier in the night, so we stuck around to watch his solo set. From Igor Stravinsky strings to Public Enemy, he took the party to a new world with each movement. Plus, the whole festival felt so fresh between the combination of acts, being in the amazing town of Asheville, N.C., on Halloween weekend, and of course celebrating the legacy of Bob Moog.
9. Muse I was a little late to the boat on these cats, but one of the fullest trios I have heard in a very long time. Plus the track “Hysteria” has one of the nastiest rock basslines and tones out there.
8. Foxy Shazam at the Cincinnati Entertainment Awards Always love seeing bands like this come out of Cincinnati. Great show and songs — the new Funkadelic?
7. Bear Creek Music Festival One of the best musical festivals I have played. All of the acts (Soulive, Break Science, Dead Kenny G's, Bernie Worrell, DJ Logic, Umphrey's McGee, Lettuce, Big Sam's Funky Nation, to name a few) were stellar, plus the sense of community was incredible. Jamming onstage with Ivan Neville's Dumpstajam was pretty dope, too.
6. The continuing rise of social networks such as Facebook and Twitter Just an amazing way to stay connected to folks who come and see you play, (as well as) other musicians, and who and what is happening in music and pop culture. Plus, I can always check on what the Reds are doing.
5. Prince Tribute at BET Awards Amazing all-female lineup performing classic songs by Prince. Bassist/singer Esperanza Spalding doing “If I Was Your Girlfriend” knocked me out.
4. Live Music As much as I love technology, it is still so encouraging as a musician that playing live is still the main way to connect with folks. My guess is the majority of acts that are now touring with the biggest draws have never had a peep on mainstream radio or TV, but are pulling in big numbers because they kick it live.
3. The concerts at the White House No matter what your politics, this administration has put on some of the grooviest concerts this year, from Paul McCartney (Dave Grohl doing "Band On The Run" was probably my fav) to Stevie Wonder (as much as I dug the other artists doing their versions of Stevie's tunes, no one can sing them like him. He is such a gift to this world).
2. Dubstep First musical genre I have heard in a long time where I felt a strong connection with. Similar feeling when I first heard Funk when I was a kid. Is it a fad? Maybe, but lots of other styles have had that said about them and years later they are still hanging tight.
1. The Catfish Nation Celebration at Madison Theatre Although a very sad day, being a small part of this celebration of the legacy and genius of Catfish is something I will never forget.
FREEKBASS (www.freekbass.com) performs New Year’s Eve at Newport Music Hall in Columbus with ekoostik hookah. Sherman’s side project Headtronics plays Play By Play Café Jan. 29.
TOP 10 EARLY ’90S TRENDS DESTINED TO MAKE A COMEBACK IN 2011
By Ill Poetic, Hip Hop producer/performer and CityBeat columnist
We spent the better part of this decade re-hashing every trend from the ’80s. I wasn’t very coherent or attentive to the trends of the ’80s since I was born in them, but I never thought the ’80s would be such an addictive period (sans coke) to revisit over and over and over and over again. So in the trend of 20-year cycles, it’s time to move into the ’90s for our re-hashing of creativity. I vote for the following to be twisted into new music, TV shows, movie remakes and overall fads. Cue up Conan and Andy’s “In the Year 2000” …
1. New Jack Swing will make a comeback. Trey Songz will ruin it.
2. Saved By The Bell: The New Class 2011 will debut. Screech will ruin it. Mr. Belding will not.
3. Cross Colours will make a full-fledge return. Hipsters will buy it ironically and then go colorblind.
4. The Jonas Brothers will come back as revamped Grunge rockers and tour with Toad the Wet Sprocket.
5. Mariah Carey will complete her musical cycle, returning back to her original style: Shit. A far departure from her current style of … Shit.
6. Tyler Perry will remake Soul Food. Tyler Perry will ruin it.
7. In a final act of desperation, following the success of Raekwon’s OB4CL2, legendary ’90s rappers will release sequels to their classic debuts. They will ruin their legacy. (Note: This is true.)
8. This decade will see the biggest reunion tour the world has ever known, as Hootie FINALLY reunites will all Blowfish.
9. Dr. Dre will drop Detox. Expectations will ruin it.
10. Lugz will not make a comeback.
ILL POETIC’s (illpoetic.com) column, Hip Hop (Un)Scene, appears monthly in CityBeat.
MY 10 (MAKE THAT 11) FAVORITE ALBUMS OF 2010 IN ALPHABETICAL ORDER
By Jason Gargano, CityBeat
The Arcade Fire — The Suburbs
Still not sure why AF's infectious, dynamic live shows don't translate better to the studio (hey, Win, how about bringing in an outside producer next time?), but The Suburbs is probably the closest this robust collective has come to perfecting its synthesis of Art Rock preciousness and populist-leaning anthems. One request: More Régine.
Beach House — Teen Dream
Hazy, narcotic reveries that would be right at home as the soundtrack to Sofia Coppola's next cinematic daydream. The drum rush about halfway into addictive album-opener “Zebra” might just be my favorite musical moment of 2010.
Big Boi — Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty
Excessive, as usual, but BB's dense, rapid-fire rhymes and deft, space-age sonics rarely fail to move both body and mind. And he’s funny, too.
Deerhunter — Halcyon Digest
The prolific Bradford Cox’s latest melody-infested fever dream contains multitudes, a mini epic that grows more beautiful and immersive with each spin. I can’t make out what he’s saying half the time, which allows his high-pitched harmonizing to accent the chord progressions all the more easily.
Charlotte Gainsbourg — IRM
The best Beck album since Mutations. The best actress album since Nico infiltrated the Velvets. The best Gainsbourg record since Histoire de Melody Nelson.
LCD Soundsystem — This Is Happening
Frontguy/mastermind James Murphy's move from underground Dance Punk to overground Art Pop maestro is complete. Literally. Murphy has said This Is Happening will be the last LCD record, which is fine with me — the next one might have been merely good.
Liars — Sisterworld
Given the subversive, art-damaged guys at the controls, Sisterworld is a surprisingly subtle album that’s cinematic in its evocation of place and mood — the creeping feeling of underlying alienation that Los Angeles conjures in even the city's most ardent enthusiasts.
The National — High Violet
The local natives deliver another solid set of Chamber Rock rife with well-manicured arrangements and desolation-voiced singer Matt Berninger’s literate lyrics. But it’s shaggy, loose-limbed drummer Bryan Devendorf that remains the glue.
The Roots — How I Got Over
It's nice to have Conan back, but the best reason to tune into the overcrowded late-night wasteland is The Roots, a still-vital crew that somehow makes Jimmy Fallon's geekiness palatable. Oh, and they put out another stellar album, a refreshingly less strident collection that makes fine use of its diverse guests and, as ever, ?uestlove's steady hands.
Surfer Blood — Astro Coast
Concise, reverb-drenched songs informed (but never bound) by 25 years of Indie Rock and founder/frontdude John Paul Pitts’ own unique vision — from the album's distinctive visual design (sharks! white vinyl!) to its slanted, relationship-delving lyrics. And the killer band name nearly makes up for SB’s thin, still-developing live presence.
Kanye West — My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
I have no problem separating West’s narcissistic, often foolish off-stage behavior from his undeniable gifts as an artist. In fact, the guy seems to be getting more interesting the bigger and more controversial his profile gets.
MY TOP 10 MUSIC DISCOVERIES OF 2010
By Dan Karlsberg, Jazz pianist
Maurice Ravel — “Trois poemes de Stephane Mallarme”
This composition from 1913 is written for voice, flutes, clarinets, piano and string quartet. Ravel continues to impress me with his command of orchestration. He creates the most beautiful colors. I have to admit that I am obsessed with this piece, and I am certain I will be listening to and studying it for years to come.
Fats Waller — “Come Down to Earth, My Angel”
Aside from the simple yet touching lyrics sung by Fats, you also get to hear Fats play both piano and Hammond organ. This was recorded in 1941 by “Waller and His Rhythm.”
Coleman Hawkins — “Ruby, My Dear”
This is a recording with Thelonious Monk from 1957. Hawkins is one of the first saxophonists and one of the greatest. On this performance, Hawkins’ sound transcends melody and harmony.
Jason Moran — Ten
This album is actually from this year! The album title commemorates his trio (which includes Nasheet Waits and Tarus Mateen) having played together now for 10 years. The whole album is fantastic; from Jason’s compositions to the group’s interplay to his beautiful reworking of Thelonious Monk’s “Crepuscule with Nellie.”
Albert Casey — “Buck Jumpin’ ”
Al Casey was a guitarist that played a long time with Fats Waller and his Rhythm. He played acoustic guitar at a time when Jazz musicians were making the transition to electric. He felt a lot of pressure to switch, but after hearing this recording (from 1941) featuring him, I think it would have been a crime if he didn’t play acoustic guitar.
Andrew Hill – Hommage
This solo piano album from 1975 reeks of Andrew’s brilliance. Haunting melodies, flowing inventiveness and pure originality is heard throughout.
Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers — “A Fine Romance/Just the Way You Look Tonight”
From the film Swing Time (1936). Neither of these songs is new to me, but … I have never heard them performed at the same time as was originally done at the end of this film. How cool!
Fantastic Planet Soundtrack
This French animated film by Rene Laloux from 1973 has one of the funkiest soundtracks. Not “funky” as in James Brown (well, maybe a little), but funky as in weird and eerie. The music was composed by Alain Goraguer.
Carnegie Hall Jazz Band — “In the Mood”
This reworking of the classic Glenn Miller Orchestra hit was done by pianist/composer Jim McNeely. This recording from 1996 is wacky and original yet stays true to Miller’s version. I have my friend James Hughes of Detroit to thank for introducing this to me.
Joshua Redman — Elastic
Somehow this album from 2002 snuck by me until this year. It is both earthy and high art at the same time, performed by three of today’s top Jazz artists: Redman, Brian Blade and Sam Yahel.
DAN KARLSBERG (www.dankarlsberg.com) plays the Blue Wisp Jazz Club Thursday.
TOP 10 REMINDERS OF CINCINNATI MUSIC’S PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE VITALITY
By Elliott Ruther of the Cincinnati USA Music Heritage Foundation
1. Seeing our community celebrate and honor the lives of local musicians whom we lost last year shows how deeply impacted we are by our music-makers. We only need to look at the much-deserved respects paid to musicians like Phil Blank, Michele Feaster (II Juicy), Phelps "Catfish" Collins or my friend and sometime bandmate Chris Walker to know how important they are to us. With organizations like Play it Forward and the Bootsy Collins Foundation we can expect this tradition to grow.
2. Experiencing SOL Records' Dallas Moore Band joined by Norwood High School graduate and longtime Willie Nelson guitarist Jody Payne perform at the former Herzog studio space on a Hank Williams’ recording session anniversary was a great day. The fact that it also marked a return to recording at Herzog, with a release planned for 2011, made it all the more fun.
3. Catching The Greenhornes kickoff a return at The Comet was thrilling, as well as another example of seeing locally rooted music make an impact around the country and the world. Their new album is fantastic and it is great to see an album whose credits include Ultrasuede and Third Man Records. Godspeed.
4. Participating in the efforts with the new Who Concert Tragedy Memorial Committee is a great step in establishing a permanent remembrance to the lives lost on the Coliseum Plaza in 1979. Worldwide concert management strategies were forever changed as a result of that day. May we finally take the steps necessary to address what happened by honoring the innocent lives lost.
5. Listening to Robert Plant on NPR this year talk about how he saved money from his paper route to order James Brown: Live at Apollo from King Records at 1540 Brewster Ave. is another reminder to us that the music made from Cincinnati has had a truly world-shaping effect in pop culture. May the building at 1540 Brewster be preserved and incorporated in all our efforts to honor the King Records legacy.
6. Witnessing new and emerging music through festivals like MidPoint and BRINK was great again this year. At BRINK I saw Soapland with my wife and we were blown away. Maybe an event at Herzog on the 2011 anniversary of Patti Page sessions with Soapland could further show the ongoing line of fine music-makers this town continues to produce.
7. Finding out that 2010 CEA show-stoppers Foxy Shazam signed with Sire Records (founded by Seymour Stein who got his start at King Records) or that locally rooted The National just won Best Album from Q Magazine for High Violet (over Green Day, Kings of Leon and Arcade Fire) are more reasons to prove that locally based talent is making a worldwide impact in music.
8. Realizing that you never know when something you record can find an audience couldn't have been more fun then when my musical partner Marvin Hawkins' song from a Wendy's training video went viral. When Marv cut the track with a friend (in high school 15 years ago), little did he know he'd be on the Huffington Post, VH1’s Best Week Ever and viewed 600,000 times on YouTube. (Google "Hot Drinks" for a great laugh — it’s the first link.)
9. Reading about how David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust creation was inspired by Iggy Pop's performance at the Cincinnati Pop Festival was wonderful to see. Kudos to Steven Rosen and especially Cincinnati librarian Brian Powers for showcasing such incredible and diverse Cincinnati music history in programs and articles.
10. Missing from last year, however, was a proper celebration of two key anniversaries: the 65th anniversary of the first R&B sessions in Cincinnati featuring Bull Moose Jackson at Herzog for King Records and the 50th anniversary of Freddy King's legendary guitar masterpiece “Hideaway” on King Records. May we continue to grow in our partnerships and efforts to celebrate the many significant points of our music history and make more history while we do it.
For the latest on the CINCINNATI USA MUSIC HERITAGE FOUNDATION, check takingyoutothebridge.org.
TOP 10 REASONS EVERYONE SHOULD OWN A RUBBER KNIFE
By The Rubber Knife Gang
10. Great for pickin’ (locks, noses AND banjos)
9. Ideal as a shim for wobbly table legs
8. No better tool for unscrewing broken light bulbs
7. They’re all fun and games, and someone rarely loses an eye
6. TSA-approved (for now)
5. Leave one at home while away on business and your wife will never feel lonely
4. Rubber Knives are to hipsters what garlic is to vampires
3. The perfect gift for the backstabber in your life
2. On “survival-knife” models, you can “Put your weeeed in there”
1. Keep one in your pocket and all your friends think you’re happy to see them!
THE RUBBER KNIFE GANG (www.therubberknifegang.com) performs Jan. 29 at The Comet.
TOP 10 INSPIRATIONS IN 2010
By Andrea Simler-DeGolier of Chakras
1. Song: “Undertow” by Warpaint
The first time I heard this I was hooked. The lyrics are haunting and the vocals are beautiful. It’s artsy and atmospheric and evokes a feeling of running away from troubles but not so fast.
2. Video: “Dog Days Are Over” by Florence and The Machine
Great costumes and energy … there is a quirky element to this band that inspires the musician and designer in me. The visuals are fabulous!
3. Fashion Blog: Miss Pandora (www.misspandora.fr)
My dear friend Leanne told me about this fashion blog from Paris. Inspiration everywhere!
4. Best Comeback: Alice In Chains
An 11-year hiatus and Alice In Chains has come back with in-your-face sonic glory. “Check My Brain” … hell yeah!
5. Karma: Never underestimate it
Without going into much personal detail, this year has been laced with bad news, but as we wrap the year up it’s been extremely karma-filled. Each bad event (and some life changing) has resulted in good or promising situations or circumstances. Stay true to yourself and be kind. Encourage and help people. It will all come back to you.
6. On the Road: Priceline
This year my band Chakras (which of course inspires me) released our debut album Cedric. We hit the road in support and soon found that Priceline will make the road a bit more comfortable. Patrice, our cello/keyboardist, is the queen of this online service. Trust me, it brings great inspiration to wake up in an Embassy Suites for a mere $45!
7. Author: Cormac McCarthy
Colorful … and doesn't care about good punctuation or run on sentences.
8. Travel: Lake Ontario/Niagara Falls
I never slow down, but this summer I took several days to enjoy my hometown with my bandmate Patrice. The simple beauty, it was always around me but this year more then ever the area has filled me with inspiration. Diving into the lake, hiking the Niagara Gorge, the churning Niagara River and clear, crisp lake teeming with all the textures and landscape. Plus the priceless gift of all my lifelong friends. It’s a place where my soul can rest.
9. Everyday Inspiration: Negativity be gone
Every day I find inspiration in something or someone. It’s so easy to open your mind if you allow yourself to look at everything at face value and appreciate what you do have … not what you don't.
10. Just Do It!: Small Business
This year my husband and I launched our small business, Heliotrope Design. We’ve been talking about it for several years. And a "life changing" bit of bad news gave us the confidence to finally do it. Without that bad news we would probably still be talking about it! It’s empowering to work and manage your own destiny. And most important to believe in yourself.
CHAKRAS (chakrasband.com) performs Jan. 21 at York Street Café.
ROCK GETS BETTER AT 50 (AND OLDER)
By Steven Rosen, CityBeat
Once not so long ago, Rock by the over-50 crowd was the stuff of Rhino Records’ Golden Throats series — Mae West doing The Beatles’ “Day Tripper,” anyone? But, like so much else, it’s gotten better with age. So much better, in fact, that some of the year’s most satisfying Rock (and related) music was made by the over-50 crowd. Here are the 10 best of 2010, in alphabetical order:
Homeland by Laurie Anderson (age 63)
A magnum opus by this artist who combines electronic music, minimalism, political commentary, Rock rhythms and gorgeous melodies, it takes on post-Great Recession America with insight and humanity. “Only an Expert” is a song all should hear.
Lighthouse by Susan Cowsill (51)
Too few people know that this member of the family Rock band The Cowsills (“Hair”) has gone on to a career as one of our sharper female singer/songwriters. This album features her clear voice and fine songs, plus a version of Jimmy Webb’s “Galveston.”
King for a Day by Micky Dolenz (65)
Dolenz first met Carole King when she co-wrote such songs for The Monkees as “Pleasant Valley Sunday” and “Take a Giant Step.” Here, in great voice and with wonderful arrangements and first-class production, he returns the favor by covering her compositions from the 1960s and 1970s.
True Love Cast Out All Evil by Roky Erickson (63) with Okkervil River
Helped by a younger Austin Indie Rock group, the legendary, mentally troubled survivor of Texas Psychedelic Rock (13th Floor Elevators) was able to not just salvage forgotten older songs but fill them with renewed energy, relevance and glory.
The Union by Elton John (63) and Leon Russell (68)
You have to thank two other 60-plus artists, John’s songwriting partner Bernie Taupin and producer T Bone Burnett, for their first-rate contributions to this album. But John is emotive and schmaltz-free, and Russell also contributes several fine songs.
Praise & Blame by Tom Jones (70)
Jones’ forcefully energetic, dynamic voice has long been able to tackle any material — the late-career surprise has been how sensitively he handles different musical styles. On this Roots/Country album, he mixes judiciously chosen covers (a great version of Dylan’s “What Good Am I?”) with some evocative originals he co-wrote.
No Better Than This by John Mellencamp (59)
Always interested in populist Folk tunes about the state of America, Mellencamp has continued to strip his sound to better bare his gruff, plaintive voice. Working with producer T Bone Burnett and using one microphone and a mono tape recorder, he’s made an album that sounds new and relevant in its oldness.
Band of Joy by Robert Plant (62)
Too musically curious to just keep re-mining his Led Zep days, Plant and his expert Americana producer, Buddy Miller, put his love for all things Rock into a collection of atmospheric, mysterious originals and covers, like Low’s “Monkey.”
You Are Not Alone by Mavis Staples (71)
After recently having Ry Cooder produce a classic album for her, Staples turned to Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy for this, which stays true to her Gospel sensibilities while adding some fine new material (Tweedy’s title song, for instance) to her repertoire.
My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky by Swans (led by Michael Gira, 56): Creative use of noise is one of Rock’s greatest contributions to popular music and Gira’s Swans have been in the forefront. But on their first album in 14 years, they find space for quieter, bluesy (and eerie) songs with penetrating lyrics that demand attention.
TOP TEN AWKWARDLY TRIUMPHANT MOMENTS OF 2010’s MIDPOINT MUSIC FESTIVAL
By Nicholas Petricca of Walk the Moon
10. Dude dancing on the floor at Jackpott's
Thursday night Louisville's The Pass headlines at Jackpott's Tavern and one gentleman takes the band's laser-light-rave vibe very seriously. After reaching out his hands and touching nearby dancer-audience members with great fascination, he falls on the floor and begins spinning in circles, using ankles for leverage.
9. Charlie Hustle drummer rejoicing, breaking his leg
Hometown Indie rockers Charlie Hustle receive a last-minute opportunity to return to MPMF for their second year, are out celebrating Thursday before their Friday show at Courtyard Cafe. Drunk with anticipation, CH drummer leaps for joy and busts his ankle on Walnut between 12th and 13th. Though short one member, the Hustle performs anyway the following night.
8. Grammers DJs spinning with Caribou
A few friends of mine are stoked to DJ the Grammers after-parties, only to be let down by the poor turnout after Day 1. Jaded, they return on Friday and before long find themselves living a dream — spinning side-by-side with legendary members of Caribou.
7. Jurassic Park theme at Surfer Blood show … and Surfer Blood show
Hundreds of us crowd into the Cincinnati Club anxiously awaiting the appearance of Surfer Blood. Suddenly — do my ears deceive me? Is that John William's "Theme From Jurassic Park" playing over the loudspeakers? This moment of nerdy triumph is matched only by the energetic, if somewhat mousey performance of the baby-faced members of the Florida buzz band.
6. Sixteen-year-old Ben Lapps being better than everyone else
At The Original Tax Place on Saturday, local virtuosos in Where They Landed tear down while young guitarist Ben Lapps takes the stage. After 20 seconds of his (tasteful) acoustic finger-acrobatics we all weep a little inside because we know we'll never be as good at anything. But we're happy. Probably the one of the smartest musicians I've ever seen.
5. Van Dyke Parks leading his mini-orchestra
On Thursday the Blue Wisp is full of captivated, smiling listeners. Tiny, spunky Van Dyke Parks is so strange and so peculiar … and so delightful. He adorably signals with imperceivable gestures to the members of his combo, who, chuckling to themselves, follow gracefully.
4. Obnoxious heckler owned by the mob
The teeming crowd at the Caribou show waits (almost) patiently for whatever technical nonsense was being fixed. When a restless, red-nosed gentleman begins shouting obscenities, at once the audience, as if in defense of having a good time, turns to face him. After a rush of “shut the $ up”s and stink-eyes the vibe is restored and dude is never seen again.
3. Being undeniably attracted to the frontwomen of Tom Tom Club
They're how old? Who cares. They're blonde, rocking pigtails, wearing mini-skirts. And one plays bass. Holler.
2. Audience singing along with “Psycho Killer”
I and everyone else have a nervous breakdown when Tom Tom Club begins playing “Psycho Killer” as a second encore. Without fail, halfway through every chorus, we all jump too early into the “Oh, oh, oh ohhhhhhh AYE-AYE-AYE” while the grinning dreadlocked percussionist frantically tries to hush us up with every last gesture he can come up with.
1. The streets of OTR being overrun with music lovers
Cincinnatians like me aren't accustomed to city streets being loud and crowded at night, especially not in Over-the-Rhine. After the initial confusion subsides, my friends and I are all filled with a fiery sense of pride, being reminded that Cincinnati really is a place where lots and lots of people truly want to hear great music … and where great music is here to be heard.
WALK THE MOON (www.walkthemoononline.com) plays the Northside Tavern Jan. 15.