Monthly Archives: January 2015

FAREWELL: Gravenhurst

gravenhurst photo

A sad but fitting tribute to the late Nick Talbot arrives in the form of a key set of reissues.


Britain’s Nick Talbot died a day after these recordings – Flashlight Seasons/Black Holes in the Sand/Offerings: Lost Songs 2000-2004 – were reissued, on December 2, 2014, on the Warp label. No one is saying what he died of, though he was young at 37, and, in press interviews a few weeks beforehand, he was still talking about an upcoming tour and new material. So it must have been a surprise to everyone and yet, given the melancholy tone of these songs, also not a surprise. Death always lurked in the corners of Gravenhurst’s music, hiding even in the band name and popping up at regular intervals in the spare, minor-key melodies and folk-influenced lyrics of Talbot’s songs.


Flashlight Seasons and Black Holes in the Sand were both released in 2004, just as Talbot was beginning to experiment with the electrified elements that emerged full-blown on 2005’s Fire in Distant Buildings. Offerings: Lost Songs 2000-2004 contains unreleased material from the same period, mostly stripped down and acoustic. In an interview with The Quietus from late last year, Talbot talked about returning to Flashlight Seasons’ mostly quiet, but occasionally effected aesthetic, using four-track manipulation to put a noisy undercurrent under a bleakly gorgeous folk-picked surface. As a result these three sets of decade-old songs were a look back, but also a way forward, a starting point from which Talbot might have gone on had he lived.

Of the three recordings, Flashlight Seasons is likely the most familiar to Gravenhurst fans, the first proper album on Warp records, the one that gained Talbot a wider audience for his fragile but gripping experiments. Already with “Tunnels” you can hear how his spare sketch in guitar, self-harmonized voice, organ opens up into a howl of distorted wind instruments, the chaos leaking into measured sadness. Instrumental “East of the City,” too, layers in effects, a vertiginous squeak of guitar string in the background, a haze of tremolo’d vibration in the foreground. “The Diver” is pristine and unadulterated. With its intricate picking, its high barely voiced lyrics, its sudden updrafts into melancholy falsetto — it makes desolation beautiful.   In the same way, “The Ice Tree,” is simply, classically beautiful, just voice and finger-picking, but it’s lyrics are devastating, likening what sounds like clinical depression to a tree covered with ice. “I caress where my lover once lay by my side/Before I turned inwards and forced her to fly,” sings Talbot, and it’s lovely in a chill-up-the-spine kind of way.

Black Holes in the Sand, released later in the same year, moves further away from lean, plaintive folk towards a twitchier, more abrasive sound; the title track erupts midway in a long ragged howl of feedback that sounds like a trapped animal. “Flowers in the Sand” is softer, but criss-crossed with conflicting finger-rhythms. It has a suppressed, seething violence to it under the traditional surface, which underlines its murderous lyrics. Though briefer than Flashlights, Black Holes has an intensity which the earlier album can’t quite match.

Offerings, which completes the set, gathers demos of “Entertainment” and “The Diver” from Flashlight, an alternate take of early single “Gas Mask Days” and a collection of unreleased tracks. Of these, opener “The Citizen” is probably the most striking, with its clean, lucid picking and soft, desperate lyrics. It easily matches the quality of material on the two albums. There are also a series of instrumental tracks, the best and most striking of them “Who Put Bella in the Wych Elm?” The song’s title comes from a long-unsolved murder mystery. In the 1940s, some boys in Worcestershire in central England found a decomposing corpse stashed in an elm tree. The cut’s brooding menace matches the theme, scraping guitar strums bombarded by looming electronic textures, a cloudy, desolate day set to music.

The three albums, released as a triple vinyl or a two CD set, show an artist in the process of shifting from acoustic folk into something darker and more dangerous, a prelude to the gloomy glories of full rock band records like Fire in Distant Buildings and The Western Lands. And, on their own, they are lovely and disturbing, gentle yet bubbling with menace, spare and simple yet hinting at irreconcilable complications. If Talbot hadn’t died, they might have been an inspiration for further excursions, but as it happened, they are three more reasons for remembering him and regretting his too early passage.

TOTALLY WIRED: Victor Krummenacher

Victor bw

He’s the de facto MVP of the Camper Van Beethoven/Monks Of Doom/Cracker collective and a multitasker in his own right. His new solo album kicks ass, too. Any questions?


Victor Krummenacher has the best of both worlds. For the past two decades he’s been churning out his solo records, a beautiful mix of folk and Americana, while still finding time to record and tour with Camper Van Beethoven — the beloved, three-decades-running college rock band — as well as its offshoots like Cracker and Monks of Doom. Oh, and with what few hours remain in each day, he works as Art Director for Wired magazine, the bible for the tech industry.

On the eve of the release of his latest solo album, Hard to See Trouble Coming, Krummenacher was kind enough to spend a little time talking about the new record, balancing his schedule and what’s next for his other bands.

BLURT: You’ve been pretty busy the past few years.  Between the two new Camper Van Beethoven albums and your gig at Wired, you somehow found time to write and record a new solo album. Was it tough to prioritize? Did the solo album get pushed to the backburner at times?

KRUMMENACHER: It’s always a huge struggle to prioritize my life, and I’m usually too busy. But I process the world around me musically and that’s just what I do. I’m also adroit at keeping a lot of plates spinning and keeping at least a little forward motion. The solo work is always a priority for me… it’s like soul work. But I had a great co-captain of the project: Bruce Kaphan, who has really been both a great friend and super helpful to keeping things balanced and helping me stay focused on the decisions that have to be made to get the album done.

Hard to See Trouble Coming has a different sound than some of your other solo stuff. Where did the inspiration for this sound come from?

The sound really just is a distillation of all the things that I’ve been influenced by over the year. I am, really, at the core a folk musician. But I have wide tastes, and the musicians I work with are both competent and have diverse tastes as well. So nothing is a curve ball. If a song is very bluesy, we know how to play blues. We have folk chops, jazz chops, rock chops, soul chops… a lot to choose from. And I’m not afraid to let these guys throw me suggestions on arrangement and approach and try it and work from there. And after doing a lot of records, I usually have a clear idea of how to execute a song and a good idea of when to pull the plug on an approach or go for it.

Obviously most people associate you as a bass player, but you played a lot of guitar on this record. Why now and not on previous releases?

I did often play rhythm guitar, but I didn’t put a lot of time into the lead guitar work because I was very interested in recording as live as I could. So I would bring in other guitarists to cover those bases, and maybe the last three solo albums I did were done basically live in the studio. But I’ve worked hard on both fingerpicking and lead work over the years and I felt that in order to really coalesce the vision I had for the songs, it would be best if I took on the lead work. I picked up the bass when I was a teenager and could play it almost immediately. It took a really long time for me to figure out to play the guitar by contrast, and I’ve spent a lot of time working with great guitarists. So I finally took ownership and it worked out very well.

It’s been 20 years since your first solo album (1995’s Out In the Heat) yet you still play with other bands. There are many musicians who want to keep that spotlight on themselves once they go out on their own. What keeps you playing in other bands still?

Camper has a big legacy that’s very important both to the guys in the band and the audience. For all our infighting over the years, I think we are also very loyal and dedicated to one another. There’s a lot of beauty there and deep relationships, so I’d rather not let it go, especially after 30-plus years. But sometimes I can’t make Camber Van Beethoven gigs, and I have to prioritize other things in my life. Very hard to balance, but I like it. That said, honestly, my favorite gigs these days are the small ones where I’m playing an acoustic guitar and telling stories. They’re so much easier to pull off. But yes, I still often play with Camper, Cracker, and we are working on a new Monks of Doom album with David Immerglück of the Counting Crows. I love playing music.

Camper is still putting out new music and labels like Omnivore are re-releasing your older stuff. Did you have any idea the band would still have an impact three decades later?

In 1995 I thought we were as dead as we could be, but strangely we’ve had a good run these last few years. When we started writing again a few years ago, I was really pleased with the music we were coming up with… it was fertile and strong and organic. And I’m really proud of the work in retrospect. Camper is a wholly unique, unusual enterprise and it’s nice to see us get some due. We never cashed in, we never played it “right” business wise… but we made great music and we have a great, dedicated fan base.

From Camper’s early punk beginnings to a lot of the Americana, folk and blues of some of your solo records, your influences seem to be pretty wide-ranging. Are there any new bands or musicians you really like?

I am, unfortunately, becoming one of those cranky old dudes. I listen to a lot of blues, jazz, classical. Occasionally some old rock and roll… I still find new albums I love, but often they’re created by people who’ve been at it for a while. I spend a lot of time listening to Jack Bruce, the Faces, Ronnie Lane, etc. of Bruce’s and Ian McLagan’s deaths…. I love that stuff. Recent stuff I did enjoy was the D’Angelo record, oddly, Spoon’s recent album, Robert Plant’s last single – didn’t love the album but thought the single was good. The Basement Tapes reissue was great. And Peter Hammill’s album with Gary Lucas, Other World [reviewed HERE at Blurt]

What’s next for you in 2015?  

Work this album, mostly, and get the Monks of Doom album out. Basically, I imagine much of the year when I have time I’ll be going someplace with my Martin and a couple of musicians, singing some songs and telling some stories.


Sandy 2

With Delbert McClinton, the Mavericks, Paul Thorn, Lyle Lovett, Marcia Ball, Band of Heathens, Fred Eaglesmith, Jimmy Hall, Wayne Toups, the McCrary Sisters, Mingo Fishtrap and others setting sail on this year’s cruise, making waves wasn’t the only thing that made that boat rock.

By Lee Zimmerman

Time seems to stand still when you’re on a cruise ship out at sea. And yet, when it comes to time spent strictly having fun — encouraged all the more by a cruise that puts the focus entirely on music — the time seems to pass way too fast. And when that special sojourn is the Sandy Beaches Cruise on board the Norwegian Pearl and hosted by Atlanta’s Sixthman music cruise team, suffice it to say it’s easy to get caught up in a forward motion of an entirely different sort, a time lapse that’s somewhere in-between.

Or perhaps, somewhere far beyond. The music ploughs ahead at full steam, but sensory perception is often difficult to surmise, being that the players on this particular cruise tend to leave their audiences spellbound, the result of sheer adulation and performances that are high velocity and vertically motivating to say the very least. It began as the brainchild of barrelhouse blues veteran Delbert McClinton, who initiated the cruise some 21 years ago as a means of gathering friends and fans for a celebration out at sea. Since then, the Sandy Beaches Cruise — or SBC for short — has attracted a group of steadfast devotees who make the trek year after to bask in the music, merriment, friendship and fellowship the cruise has come to represent.

Sandy 5

Not surprisingly then, the musical line-up is every bit as impressive as any other seaborne festival has to offer. McClinton, who’s never bowed to any fleeting fashion or trend throughout his 50-plus year career, continues in the role of the gracious host and the man responsible for booking the talent. However, the flash and frenzy seems the domain of the support acts, as personified by the sweat and swing of the Mavericks, Paul Thorn, Lyle Lovett, Marcia Ball, Band of Heathens, Fred Eaglesmith, Jimmy Hall, Wayne Toups, the McCrary Sisters, Mingo Fishtrap and several solo artists whose singular names alone could boost the marquee value into stellar realms. Then there are the songwriters whose presence provides the veritable icing on the cake, the proverbial wealth of riches who sometimes seem to get short thrift due to being confined to the songwriter showcases — renowned writers, producers, sidemen and solo stars like the legendary Spooner Oldham, Gary Nicholson, Danny Flowers, Al Anderson, Jill Sobule, Kimmie Rhode, Etta Britt, Shelley King, and Lari White. Their presence often seems fleeting, given that there’s relatively little chance to catch them in the solo spotlight, but it’s to Delbert’s credit that he appears intent on including his friends in his show, whether it’s his old singing partner Glen Clark or former employer Bruce “Hey Baby” Channel. Judging by the game of musical chairs that seems to rotate around each of Delbert’s sets, his generosity is never in doubt.

That said, there never seems to be enough time to soak up the powerful performances that compete for attention throughout the day and night. (As Delbert himself confessed in a rare moment of downtime, the ports of call are almost incidental. “Nobody seems to give a damn about them anyway.”) Lyle Lovett and His Acoustic Band are, as always, extraordinary, due in no small way to its ringleader’s self-effacing humor and aw-shucks humility. “I’m impressed y’all can stand up,” the big-haired bandleader suggested during a day of especially high surf. “That’s not a drinking joke, that’s a wave joke. Up here, we’re actually nailed to the stage.” Humor aside, his band is a serious bunch, thanks to the inclusion of the legendary Russ Kunkel on the traps, bassist extraordinaire Viktor Krauss, Jim Cox on keys, and main foil Luke Bulla on violin and harmonies.

In terms of sheer dynamics and propulsive appeal, the Mavericks are the undeniable showstoppers. Singer Raul Malo’s vibrant vocals — often eerily reminiscent of his idol Roy Orbison even while seeped in country heartbreak, ala Hank Williams — clearly shine at the fore, but its guitarist Eddie Perez’s impressive command of quintessential rock star posturing, Paul Deakin’s steadfast drumming and propulsive beat, and keyboard player Jerry Dale McFadden’s unbounded enthusiasm and Peewee Herman-like dance moves that force divided focus amongst all the players. Founding member Robert Reynolds, recently ejected for indulging his personal demons, wasn’t really missed due to his absence.

Sandy 4

Band of Heathens seemed more intent on purging their personal demons, at least when it came to their sonic output. A ruggedly assertive take on John Fogerty’s “Wrote a Song for Everyone” and the stirring title track from their acclaimed LP #One Foot in the Ether# proved to be the showstoppers, but for a band built around songwriters, their entire performance proved remarkably resilient. Likewise, Marcia Ball — who, by the way, deserves kudos for employing the most tireless drummer in a vessel filed with remarkable rhythm makers — found the ideal balance in a performance that veered between songs that were either playful or passionate, an astute mix of boogie, blues and bluster that was clearly borne from many a roadhouse rendezvous.

Other artists were no less adept, whether manifest by the gospel sheen of the ever present McCrarys, the zydeco sprawl of Wayne Toups and company, the heartfelt country soul of Teresa James (her song “She Has a Way With Men, But She Isn’t Getting a Way with Mine” boasts the best country lyric heard in some time), or the sheer funk and frenzy of the Al Ghent Band and Mingo Fishtrap. In fact, there was nary any hint of a racial divide, given the roots appeal of the music and its make-up.

Sandy 3

Regardless, every cruiser inevitably has his or her standouts. Sandy Beaches made that determination a challenge, although Fred Eaglesmith’s humorous monologues — lengthened to a great degree by a hoarse, disabled vocal — ensured a laugh out loud repast that sounded like an uncanny mix of Johnny Carson and David Letterman. His colorful backing quartet, including a female bassist, a female drummer, and his guitar and accordion wielding wife, Tif Ginn — who doubled as his opening act and backing singer — ably held their own, no easy assignment given Eaglesmith’s down home homilies and irascible demeanour. Nevertheless, when he was left to his own devices as the host of a hilarious homespun talk show in the upstairs Spinnaker Lounge, the music wasn’t missed at all.

Even so, the arguable star of Sandy Beaches appeared to be Paul Thorn, whose new album, #I’m Too Blessed To Be Stressed#, bears the suspicion that he’s about to become a star. Like Eaglesmith, Thorn boasts a telling sense of humor, one that is quantified by his monochromatic southern drawl and abundance of hard luck tales. “If you can pay your bills and afford to go on this cruise, then you are blessed,” he reminded the assembled legions. And indeed, being that the highpoint of that aforementioned album is the unabashedly optimistic “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright” when given the added oomph of his full electric band, Thorn’s upbeat, anthemic tomes still manage to carry the day. Like the effect manifest by the entire shipboard experience overall, it’s hard not to be swept up in the emotion and enthusiasm.

Which brings us to the original premise, that being time. The music is timeless it could be argued, but more telling is the fact that the passengers who have spent their hard earned funds to immerse themselves in it are what one might describe as being of senior stature. While a good portion of those on board were likely in their 60s or 70s, the whole notion of age seems meaningless. These particular cruisers danced, boogied and partied as if they were in their 20s and 30s. Anyone who might contemplate the gradual diminishing of enthusiasm for the sounds that amplified their youth would indeed be heartened to find that grey hair, being slower of movement and less than limber is no detriment when it comes to the sheer enjoyment of a communal bond.

“These older folks appreciate the music because it speaks to the experiences they’ve lived themselves,” said a woman sitting next to us one evening, who also happened to be a psychologist. It clearly seemed to make sense.

The issue of age certainly has no restraint on dedication either. One passenger who went by the nickname “Hat,” due to her colorfully festooned headgear, allowed that she had attended SBC for 20 of its 21 years. “It doesn’t matter how many other cruises you’ve been on,” she dutifully reminded us. “If this is you first Sandy Beaches cruise, you’re still a newbie.”

Mary Phillips is, for all intents and purposes, still a relative newbie. Like the vast majority of folks on the boat, she hails from Texas. Mary’s friends convinced her to take her first Sandy Beaches cruise last year after her husband passed away. “People will tell you that this cruise is a life changing experience,” she maintains. “It almost sounds like a cliche. But I will tell you that it did change my life. I didn’t realize how depressed I was. It helped me get out of my funk. All of a sudden, I had 1,700 new best friends.”

Veteran songwriter Danny Flowers put it another way. “I’ve given up being lost in the past,” he told his audience one evening. “I’m working on being lost in the present.”

Then again, Lyle Lovett might have summed it up best. “There are moments when you think it can’t get much better than this. But when that euphoria subsides, it can be scary because you realize it’s all downhill from here.”

Sandy 1


Bedhead by John Maxwel

As revealed on an impressive new box set, the Dallas group’s signature brand of slowcore was the perfect antidote to the prevailing grunge and alterna-schlock of the ‘90s.


With hindsight, the slowcore movement of the ‘90s looks a lot like the proverbial canary in the coalmine for the coming digital age. Think about today’s ADD music landscape, with its rapid-turnover of hi-speed garage rockers, high-BPM synth bands, and epilepsy inducing EDM — of slowcore acts like Low, Rex, Codeine, Ida and Red House Painters, only those left standing could be grandfathered into this climate.

Bedhead box

But that’s what makes the 4-CD/5-LP Bedhead box 1992-1998 (Numero Group) compelling; it’s like an antidote to all that ails our age. Though the Dallas, Texas act disbanded after only six years in 1998, the songs of brothers Matt and Bubba Kadane resonate as much now as they did when slowcore’s patient and considered approach was an outlier to the grunge era. Though they only released three full lengths, a handful of singles and two EPs in their short tenure, every note, strum, cymbal ride and whispered lyric feels both organic and perfectly plotted.

The band’s debut, WhatFunLifeWas, dropped just a few months prior to Low’s debut, signaling a shift — at least in the indie rock world — from the loud-quiet-louder formula that saturated the alt-rock market and early ‘90s MTV. Though the groundwork was laid earlier by other bands (Galaxie 500, Spaceman 3 among them) and the aesthetic taken to extremes by their peers Low, the blend of funereal tempos, intertwined trio of guitar lines, downcast melodies and Matt Kadane’s spectral drawl was uniquely theirs. From the opening slink of “Liferaft” and first-single somnolent beauty of “Bedside Table” to the final sonic flurry of LP-closer “Wind Down” and the debut’s most fiery take, “Haywire,” the payoffs here don’t promise chorus-catharsis, but instead reward patience and close listening.

The band’s next full-length, 1996’s Beheaded, was their first for iconic Chicago indie label Touch & Go, and a further refinement of the band’s aesthetic and sound. They added a few bells and whistles (slide guitar, vibes), but the vision remained intact. “I don’t know if it’s worth it/I don’t know if I should keep trying/When most signs point to giving up,” Matt Kadane sings in resignation on the pensive title-track opener, adding later what could serve as slowcore’s raison d’être, “Everything moves too fast, that’s why there’s so much left in the past.”

Even more than the band’s debut, Beheaded obliterates the myth about slowcore — that it lacks passion and fire. “The Rest of the Day,” a six-minute epic and perhaps the band’s finest moment, is a study in rock & roll dynamics, its tension stretched to the breaking point by the time the song ignites two-thirds of the way through. Similarly, “Left Behind,” “What’s Missing” and the “Withdraw” all work their way to slow-burn crescendos whose intensities benefit exponentially from their deliberate beginnings. But even without those explosive moments, tracks like the gorgeous, VU-like “Roman Candle,” the up-tempo outlier “Felo de Se,” and mysterious “Smoke” bewitch the listener with their craftsmanship and execution.

Transaction de Novo, the band’s 1998 final full-length, proved not only that Bedhead had mastered this sound and its dynamics, but had probably come to the point where more would have exhausted those aspects as well. Produced by Steve Albini, the stalwart producer’s hand can be heard in a louder aesthetic – the guitars are fuzzier, the bass more prominent, the crescendos noisier. Bedhead slows the pace even more in places — “Exhume” and “More Than Ever” open the LP at an opiate-high crawl —in an attempt to ratchet up the tension between the explosive release of tracks like “Parade” and “Psychosomatica,” the latter a less-than-successful mash-up of the band’s Joy Division and Slint inclinations.

The fourth disc — or fifth vinyl — collects Bedhead’s singles and two EPs, 1994’s 4-Song EP and 1996’s sublime Dark Ages. Covers of New Order’s “Disorder” and the Stranglers’ heroin ode/warning “Golden Brown” reveal Bedhead’s listening habits but also their ability to claim these tracks as their own by stamping their style all over both of them. But two EP tracks, “Dark Ages” and “Inhume,” both eclipse the 5:30 mark and stand as highlights in the band’s catalog, the former tapping into a mid-tempo Joy Division pulse and the latter building inexorably to a memorable crescendo.

In his novel Slowness, published during this same era (1995), Milan Kundera describes a man walking down the street and slowing down to remember something pleasant, then speeding up his gait when confronted with a memory he wanted to forget: “The degree of slowness is directly proportional to the intensity of memory; the degree of speed is directly proportional to the intensity of forgetting.” This is a sentiment Bedhead explored in great depth during their short run.

While there were certainly more adventurous indie rock acts at the time, Bedhead’s notion of taking one’s time went against the current then and, in our current quick-flicker digital world, seems even more of a welcome departure now.

Photo Credit: John Maxwell






A delicious new 3-LP box set aims to capture the notorious Detroit combo’s duality—experimental art-skronk, hi-nrg punk rock—and through both gnarly sonics and eye-popping visuals, succeeds.


If you were into punk and new wave back in the late ‘70s it’s likely you were at least aware of Destroy All Monsters, either from seeing photos of pulchritudinous frontwoman Niagara (was there ever a more sultrytrashysexysluttycool-looking rock chick? move over, Debbie Harry, Joan Jett and Courtney Love!) or because you’d heard that erstwhile Stooges guitarist Ron Asheton and former MC5 bassist Mike Davis were members (not original members, mind you, but their arrival definitely gave the Detroit combo some major street cred and, in turn, media attention). There’s also a good chance that you heard their more-or-less “hit single” – term used loosely; we’re talking “hit” among punk fanzine editors of the day, sundry record store clerks and the stray college radio deejay—titled, perfect for the Blank Generation milieu, “Bored.”

Beyond, that, though, you would’ve had to really do your homework and be prepared to do some hunting if you wanted to get your hands on much of the band’s music. Described nowadays by such tastemakers as journalist Byron Coley and rocker Thurston Moore as “the first proto-noise band,” Destroy All Monsters initially surfaced circa ’74 at the University of Michigan at the hands of art students Cary Loren (guitar, vocals, “samples”) Jim Shaw (guitar, vocals), Mike Kelley (drums, percussion, “samples,” vocals) and Niagara (main mic duties, posing, teasing). They took their name, of course, from the cheesy Japanese sci-fi/horror flick: American kids loved their cheesy sci-fi/horror flicks, and Destroy All Monsters proudly boasted the likes of Godzilla, Mothra and Rodan, plus B-listers Varan (a lizard-like critter), Kumonga (spider), Manda (sea serpent), King Ghidorah (a three-headed space dragon) and others.


Destroy All Monsters the band, however, existed as an experimental project primarily for the rehearsal room with only sporadic actual gigging. By 1977 first Kelley and then Shaw had quit, leaving Loren to recruit Asheton, at loose ends following the breakup of the Stooges and his own New Order, to play guitar, Asheton in turn coaxed Davis, just out of prison from a drug conviction, to sign up. Veteran drummer Rob King assumed kit duties, Ben Miller contributed sax, and Miller’s brother Larry pitched in on additional guitar. Loren, however, only lasted a short while as he had begun experiencing mental issues and was kicked out of the band. A couple of singles were cut by the new lineup in an Ann Arbor studio in 1978 followed by additional Detroit sessions the following year and the group began gigging regularly, even touring overseas to critical acclaim. Still, by 1984 they were done, having weathered a few more lineup shuffles and the inevitable diminishing artistic returns. Romantic couple Niagara and Asheton went on to form Dark Carnival.

Niagara live 1

Intriguingly, the original quartet reunited in ’95 for a short string of shows, dubbed the “Silver Anniversary Tour,” with the Sympathy label subsequently releasing a live album and single. The tour was no doubt prompted by the 1994 release of the three-CD Destroy All Monsters 1974-1976, a joint venture from the Father Yod (Byron Coley) and Ecstatic Peace (Thurston Moore) labels that collected a slew of early recordings Kelley and Loren had unearthed. It’s uneasy listening, for sure, but a genuine collector’s item and an essential piece in the musical jigsaw puzzle that is the Motor City. And in November of 2011 a Destroy All Monsters art exhibition, Return of the Repressed: Destroy All Monsters 1973-1977, opened in L.A. featuring works by Loren, Kelley, Shaw and Niagara. (In 1996 Loren wrote a mini-history of the band for Perfect Sound Forever; go HERE to read it. And for a revealing and informative recent interview that Byron Coley conducted with Niagara about the band career arc and her work as a visual artist, go HERE at the Forced Exposure site.)


Which all brings us to Hot Box 1974-1995, issued as a handsome 3-LP box or 2-CD set (sleeve art below) by Spain’s estimable Munster Records, a label that has never shied away from punk artifacts of both the classic and obscure variety. LP #1 focuses on the Niagara-Loren-Kelley-Shaw lineup, with half of it taken from choice material that originally appeared on the ’94 box and half of it from the ’95 reunion. Unremittingly lo-fi but strangely compelling, this early stuff is characterized by semi-melodic/semi-rhythmic meanderings spiked by random noises and, of course, Niagara’s beat poetry-influenced half-spoken/half-sung vocals. “I Love You But You’re Dead” in particular has an avant-space rock vibe, almost Patti Smith-like, although “rock” might be stretching the description a bit; conversely, “You Can’t Kill Kill” (live ’95) definitely rocks in an almost tribal fashion, and if you keep listening until the end you might even get a little Black Sabbath-derived treat.

DAM box

LP #2 is where the fun begins, zeroing in on the band’s three key 45s originally released in 1979 (the Cherry Red label compiled those singles for the ’91 CD Bored, incidentally). “Bored” is simply a monster, a rifftastic slice of faux-jadedness powered by Niagara’s sassy singing (“I’ll do anything ‘cos I’m bored!” she blurts, with exasperation) and punctuated by fiery Asheton leads. “You’re Gonna Die” is no less exhilarating, a pure slice of Stooges/MC5 hard skronk, while the Davis-penned “Meet the Creeper” is solidly stompin’ garage rawk. Also included are three tracks of “unknown” source but reportedly recorded in 1979, notably a frenetic, rave-up version of Nancy Sinatra’s sex-kitten come-on “Boots” wherein Niagara & Co. utterly transform it into a punk-fetishist’s wet dream.


Then there’s LP #3, comprising ten tracks recorded live in ’81 (Columbus, OH) and ’83 (Ann Arbor). It is appropriately full-on, from the anthemic, almost “Search & Destroy”-esque “Enough Is Enough” and a solid run-through of “Bored” to the gnarly buzzsaw blitz of “Sweet Dreams” and an unexpected, punk-fueled version of “Right Stuff” (written by Robert Calvert, of Hawkind fame). The sound here is just medium-fidelity, but the music’s still hugely entertaining, Niagara occasionally bantering with the audience and playing the provocative frontperson while the band comes across as a surprisingly solid live ensemble, muscular and perfect for its time.

(In the aforementioned interview with Byron Coley, Niagara remarked on a concert the band performed in NYC at Max’s Kansas City, saying, “I don’t remember that show. Maybe it was early enough that the heels were too high and I wasn’t used to them yet. Usually when I was wearing six-inch heels it was easier after I’d had a couple of drinks. I could spin in them. But I think it was probably part of the act — just falling around stage — but then, I was drinking too. I think there was one time I went on the stage sober. I could really not do that. I couldn’t remember any of the songs we’d done forever. I had to make up lyrics. I’d be singing the wrong lyrics to Stooges songs or “November 22nd.” It was a mess. Of course nobody cared or noticed. Even the band didn’t notice.”)

DAM booklet cover

DAM booklet 2

DAM booklet 3

All in all, a crucial overview of an oft-overlooked band, especially considering that rock icons Asheton and Davis are no longer with us, nor is Kelley, who became a celebrated visual artist after leaving Detroit for Los Angeles (one of his most recognizable pieces is the sleeve to Sonic Youth’s 1992 album Dirty). Included in the box is a fat 8½” x 10” full color booklet (see details above) printed on thick stock that’s crammed with juicy photos, eye-popping gig posters, art by Niagara, Loren and Kelley, and even a reproduction of a letter to the band from none other than Lester Bangs. In it, he thanks them for showing him a good time during a recent summit, adding that there are significant gaps in his memory of the evening. “Someday all of us must get together and have a coherent conversation,” writes Bangs. Someday we must also do that interview… maybe if we START drinking the beer at the BEGINNING of the interview and NOT BEFORE…”

Sage advice, indeed. Ladies and germs, we give you—Destroy All Monsters. Rrrooaarrhhhh!

Below: Live in 1983


Zines 3

This is what the world looked like before Al Gore invented the Internet, punks. And it was a more vibrant, exuberantly tactile world, too. Our resident fanzine expert weighs in.


Print is still alive and well and here’s some rags to prove it! Just a handful of offerings for this winter, but they will leave ink stains on your fingers quite nicely.


THE BIG TAKEOVER (#75) I’ve already been using the phrase, “Jack Rabid’s long-running zine” for what seems like decades. Well, here in its 34th year Jack and his staff continue to crank out interviews, articles and reviews of the best indie rock/pop and punk out there. this issue has The Raveonettes (cover stars) plus other interviews with The Drums, The Muffs The Bevis Frond, part 2 of both the Dum Dum Girls and Penetration interviews plus many others. Also review and smaller profiles on other bands. 136 pages.


DENVOID: PUNKER TALES AND BEYOND (#1- Music writings by Dan Allen) Longtime Denver musician Dan Allen (he was most recently in the Sonic Archers and has done some solo stuff as well) put together this digest-sized book/zine. It starts off with some early show reviews of Misfits and Black Flag gigs then on through the years (it’s not in chronological order) with reviews of gigs far and wide: San Francisco, Seattle, Santa Fe, Buffalo, NY (mid-90’s). He saw Crime and the City Solution in the late ‘80s in Denver (grrrr….jealous!). Lots o’ good stuff here. Plenty of Denver gigs that I missed (about 4-5 years before I got here like Dressy Bessy, The Fluid, X, The Breeders, Daniel Johnson, New York Dolls, etc. etc.). You may dive in.


DYNAMITE HEMORRHAGE (#2) After doing the great zine Superdope many years ago and then laying low for several years (thought he was active in the blog scene) San Franciscan Jay Hinman returned last year with a dynamite (!!!) new zine and here is issue #2 of said zine. In this issue Jay does a terrific interview/ retrospective on New Zealander Bill Direen. In addition there interviews w/ Crypt Records maniac Tim Warren plus Memphis band Nots, Honey Radar and a piece on ‘70s Jamaican dub. There’s article on punk 45s, plenty of reviews and more. Don’t miss this one.


ZISK (#25) “The baseball magazine for people who hate baseball magazines” continues on with its 25th issue! Mike and Steve, also behind the great (though much more sporadic) Go Metric zine, continue to bust out issues of Zisk two times per year. In this ish is Top 10 lists (my favorite, I love lists!), plus The Cincy Cycle and article by yours truly on John “The Hammer” Milner. More stuff on Wrigley, the Waldwick Batboy Trials, book reviews and more. Go on.


Tim “Dagger” Hinely flunked both WordPress and Photoshop while attending Denver’s University of Hard Knocks but don’t let that prevent you from checking out his most excellent rock mag Dagger at www.daggerzine


Previously: For The Love Of Zines (Pt. 1)

For The Love Of Zines (Pt.2)

THE STORY BEHIND THE ALBUM: Soul Glitter & Sin by Thee Hypnotics

Thee H SGS promo 001

Bright lights, big city — a cornucopia of sex, violence, glitter and rock ‘n’ roll. Ray “Sonic” Hanson

 Ed. Note: Introducing a new revolving feature at BLURT, “The Story Behind the album.” Which is exactly what that name suggestswhat went into the making of a particularly noteworthy recording, as seen through the eyes of its creator(s). It can be an acknowledged classic or an under-the-radar gem, but the basic parameters are the same: a title that stands out in an artist’s catalog, one which has stood the test of time and still commands the respect of fans. It could even have been a critical flop or a commercially under-performing record upon its initial release, but the years have steadily unveiled its extant genius. First up for your consideration: British outfit Thee Hypnotics, who emerged in the late ‘80s as as a hi-nrg, Motor City-inspired garage/psych antidote to the prevailing shoegaze movement and, though evolving and expanding its sound over the course of the next several years, would also serve as a respite from the ascendant Brit-poppers. Three albums and a handful of Eps and singles, and the band was done, but it still left behind a mighty attractive sonic corpse, in particular 1991’s epochal Soul Glitter & Sin. Our correspondent Jonathan Levitt, currently based in Beijing, China, takes a look at that album and interviews guitarist and co-lead songwriter Ray Hanson, who conspired with vocalist Jim Jones, bassist Will Pepper and drummer Phil Smith to paint Thee Hypnotics’ masterpiece with producer John Leckie.



A loud knock strikes the door. You slowly come to your senses. You rise from your bed still dressed in last night’s clothes. You open the door the chain still connected. The door is forced open the snap of the door chain ricochets against the wood paneling. Fade out. Fade in your in the back of an old Chrysler Imperial cruising down a side street bordering the Vegas strip. The lights from cut-rate casino signs warp across the metallic exterior of the car. You awaken to have an uncomfortable pain in your side, only to find Ray “Sonic” Hanson holding a gun jammed against your ribs. As you come to, from the drivers seat Jim Jones shoots you a glance from the rearview mirror. Where are you heading? You think to yourself, who are these guys, could I be on the way out of town to one of those holes in the desert where as Joe Pesci in Scorsese’s Casino mentions “a lot of problems are buried…”

Casting aside the ‘70s Stooges drenched howl of 1990 long-playing debut Come Down Heavy, Thee Hypnotics’ 1991 album Soul Glitter and Sin (Situation Two/Beggars Banquet) is an illusory trip in the seedy felonious world of American urban decay. The record was resolutely out of step with what was happening in the British music scene at the time. Back then, NME and Melody Maker were obsessed in crowning any new band with bad haircuts that spoke in a Mancunian growl as the new messiahs of spangle.

John Leckie of Stone Roses fame, the man with the so-called keys to the kingdom, was brought in to produce. The album has an icy impenetrable sheen to it. Under the hood is a band that seems blisteringly tight, firing on all cylinders. The narrative of this album takes the listener to the scene of the crime, and into the killer’s head and into the bed of one of the many hookers looking for their next trick on the dirty boulevard.

The album’s production seems decidedly more complex than Come Down Heavy’s stripped down snarl. Cinematic in scope and a decidedly broader sound, the band expanded their sonic palette, adding horns and a second guitarist.

The track “Soul Accelerator” has a unique moment that seems to capture some of the menacing tension pervasive throughout the album. Halfway through the song the music pauses for vocalist Jim Jones – at this point seething with a choleric vitriol – who lets it spew forth, spattering the sonic landscape in blood.

The beautiful “Cold Blooded Love” is filled with plangent gorgeous regretful fretwork. This is one of the many high points of the album. I visualize a helicopter shot circling the band as they cruise back from the desert and the light of the new day is just beginning to pierce the horizon. They need to get somewhere dark to sleep it off.

I own both the LP and CD of the album and think the additional tracks “Samedi’s Cookbook” and “Don’t let it get you down” on the CD actually help to bring the album to a much clearer conclusion. “Samedi’s Cookbook” adds a soulful bayou shuffle to the record that with its mantra like backwater Baptist singing giving you time to contemplate the sonic violence you’ve just experienced. The track also works well with “Black River Shuffle” and “Cold Blooded Love” as a key movement of the album.

So why was this album overlooked by the college music/alternative nation that labels were so relentless marketing to at the time? I think the answer is that it had difficult musical references that weren’t easily understood or considered cool by the era’s prevailing musical gentry. How many great albums have suffered similar fates? The time is ripe though for you to go and find this record and listen to it again — having had almost 24 intervening years to catch up to what they were referencing in these tracks.

A fan of the band since college, I decided to track down guitarist Ray Hanson for an email interview to shed some light on this overlooked album. Ray has been keeping busy with his Ray Hanson’s Sonic Whores of Babylon project and when I made contact with him he was more than happy to give us the straight dope on what made this record tick.

Thee H card 001

BLURT: What was the genesis of Soul Glitter & Sin?

RAY HANSON: I have to say, I personally am very proud of this album (“monster rock ‘n’ roll unit”) we created. So here goes…

The genesis of it comes through a few different reasons, but one major inspiration was simply using a change in amp, from the “blues, high energy, rock ‘n’ roll Marshall amp” sound of Come Down Heavy to a more “atmospheric, cinematic, film noir, Fender Twin Reverb amp” sound, tinged with a little bit more melancholic murder ballad style writing here and there. Also, after a pretty traumatic car crash in Minneapolis whilst touring the States, a kind of pause-and-breath of momentum occurred three quarters of the way through promoting Come Down Heavy. [This] allowed us, in recuperation — and myself, personally — to get excited, inspired and hungry to elaborate on writing and sounds (and show people the wide range of my interests) and to explore in more depth our love of other inspirations and influences, musically and thematically, that weren’t necessarily at the fore in our approximately 20 previous official tracks.

[Those influences would include] John Barry, (Bond themes etc., Lalo Schifrin (Bullitt, Dirty Harry etc.) Bernard Hermann (Taxi Driver theme etc.), Elmer Bernstein (The Man with the Golden Arm etc.), and Barry Adamson (ex-Magazine and Bad Seeds), effortlessly cool version Roy Budd (Get Carter), other ‘sexy, cool and dangerous, filmic/cinematic pieces such as music from Blue Velvet, Mean Streets, Goodfellas, Cape Fear, [along with film noir and early gangster movies and other Marty Scorsese and David Lynch works and so on.

I should also say the imagery, look, and feel of the whole concept, was just as inspired from these great films. And we did ask our publishers if it was possible to get this album to film directors – for soundtrack use – because, let’s face it! Soul Glitter & Sin is a soundtrack/film score to an imaginary movie as well as a good old rock ‘n’ roll record!

But again, more disappointment, and to no avail. We always have had, dark clouds following above us and ‘doom’ as a companion!

So anyway, just as influential in creating this album were the drunken, melancholic brilliance of Tom Waits, crime and murder ballads by dudes such as Nick Cave, Mark Lanegan, Sinatra, Leonard Cohen – even Dylan. The dark crooning of those guys. ALSO: ‘70s Elvis, the Phil Spector reverb drenched ’50s, early ‘60s doo-wop and soul sounds, girl bands (such as The Shangri-Las, Crystals etc.), the voodoo beats, grooves and atmospheres of Dr Johns “Gris-Gris” and “Sun, Moon and Herbs”, the dynamic sick blues of Captain Beefheart’s Magic Band, even Ry Cooder, Johnny Thunders’ “Copy Cats” album with Patti Paladin, the Righteous Brothers, Link Wray, a lot of rare burlesque-style ‘bump ‘n’ grind’ sexy strip music from ‘50s/’60s albums.

All this got mixed and mashed with heavy, reverb-soaked, tremolo’d Stooges, MC5, Cramps, New York Dolls, Sonic Youth, super-fuzzed/Big Muff-driven monster riffs, along with a large spoonful of Neil Young, Hendrix, Pink Floyd, Big Star, ‘heavy’ Beatles (a la ”Helter Skelter”), Muddy Waters, Howlin Wolf, Gram Parsons, Rowland S. Howard, in a twisted, eclectic, kind of cinematic rock ’n’ roll stew — each song, being a portion of that R’n’R soup, dished out into individual bowls.

Thematically [the album involved] loss of love, rage, cut-up lyric style “Tales of the Sonic Underworld, ” like verses and chapters in the bible. I should say I got the name of the album from watching the early ‘70s movie “Klute” where Donald Sutherland says to Jane Fonda, “She has the soul and sin of the city, and I just added ‘glitter’ into the mix. Incidentally, myself and the much missed and passed-on (later to be bassist) Craig “Little Boy Blue” Pike used to joke, that when a dangerous, scarred-up, drug-carrying junkie girl came into our dressing room, we’d say, “She’s got the eyes of the city”! The album portrays the darker side of city life, being on the road, our lives – amongst other things – seen through our eyes.

 In the studio what was the set up, and how was the recording process different from the Come Down Heavy sessions? 

It basically was a similar setup in that we recorded the bass, drums and guitar with a guide vocal, and then decorated the hell out of the best take, with more guitars, piano, Hammond, percussion, marimbas, harp and the real vocal – and horns or whatever had been decided for that relevant track.

What were the first songs that were recorded for the record? How long had they been floating around as ideas before the band decided to lay them down in the studio?

Well, a few of those ideas within the album, I had knockin’ around in my head, and on demos, about 5 years previously (such as the music for “Cold Blooded Love”), but mostly it would work when I would bring the riffs and ideas and sounds to the rehearsal, and start banging them out and then everyone was at liberty to jam them. Then we would arrange them, completely immersed in our own world. Jim’s main lyrics would come nearer the end of the process, after melodies and phrasing etc. was established. Sometimes I would suggest titles or the odd line that he would take on board, such as the album title Soul Glitter and Sin (Tales from the Sonic Underworld, “Kissed By the Flames,” and other bits, as did Phil (Smith, Thee Hypnotics drummer), who specifically came up with the “Samedi’s Cookbook” title, which was recorded as a B side to the earlier released 12-inch “Floating in my Hoodoo Dream” which we had recorded maybe 6 months [prior] to the SG&S sessions. We basically made that up on the spot, very Dr. John inspired 8 min, odyssey (opus) kind of thing, which I played some basic piano on, and Jim had this great, gospel melody hook, and Phil’s almost “second line” brush, new Orleans funeral-ish style rhythm, as a kind of reprise to the A side. [We did this with] a friend, producer Harvey Birrell, in the “House in The Woods” studio.

Friends of mine who heard SG&S were divided into two camps. Some felt the production drowned the album in an impenetrable cold sheen, while others, myself included, felt it had a gritty nocturnal roar. What were you guys shooting for with the sound on this album?

Well, I agree, it’s both a “gritty nocturnal roar” and laden with a kinda Phil Spector(ish) reverb-drenched [sound], but like I said, it originated from my Fender Twin sound, and John Leckie came to the rehearsals and magnified and basically exaggerated the sound he was hearing in his production of the disc. Which I think helped give it its uniqueness and timeless quality. With the assistance of hindsight it just improves with age, which I’m incredibly proud of. We did do a remix of “Coast to Coast,” for example, with the late, great Jimmy Miller, who just “dried it up a bit,” for want of a better word. And then Jimmy, proceeded to share a bottle of Jack Daniels, with myself and Jim, and told us great Stones stories into the night. But ours and Leckie’s mix was big, cavernous, epic almost. I think everyone in the band is more than pleased with Soul Glitter & Sin as a good little piece of “art”.

John Leckie as producer: besides his fabled early career working with the likes of John Lennon and Syd Barrett as a sound engineer, the late 80s and early 90s was the time of Madchester and a string of bands trying to replicate the success of the Stone Roses (Trash Can Sinatras are one example). What led you to work with him, given that his work at that time seemed much more centered on spangly British rock than heavy rock?

Well we were completely disconnected to the fickle fashions that were going on. Like I said, we were ensconced in our utopian/dystopian, cinematic, psychedelic universe, oblivious to the ‘trends’ that ‘infected’ the majority (“the great ignorant unwashed”). We had a few choices that Beggars Banquet suggested, and after talking to John about wanting to mix that “high energy, blues/punk rock ‘n’ roll rage” that we were doing with a sense, feel and sound of the “cinematic” influence, he got it straightaway. I guess it was a lot different from the stuff you mentioned he had currently done — a challenge, a freshness, maybe, for the smart guy he is? And of course we were all impressed [with his] roles in making records with heroes of ours, like Syd Barrett and John Lennon. That certainly didn’t hurt!!


Was he the bands first choice for the new record or was it something that was pushed upon you by the record company? Who were some of the other producers you guys wanted to work with for the record before Leckie was settled upon?

I think you got that answer in the last question, but I think it just had to be John. Although, seeing for the 1st time on MTV whilst in Rockfield recording SG&S, and subsequently touring with, The Black Crowes, talk of Chris Robinson producing, was an embryonic idea for ‘sometime in the future’ — but not for Soul Glitter And Sin. Later on, we would record 1994’s The Very Crystal Speed Machine with Chris in LA. So basically it was John, for us. But if my memory serves me well, I think I remember Steve Albini’s name being thrown around, which could have been interesting. He then went on to record Nirvana’s In Utero of course.

What were those initial sessions like? What do you remember about meeting John Leckie? Was he a fan of the bands musical output up to that point? 

I certainly remember John being keen to work with us, although whilst recording in a residential well-known studio in Wales, Rockfield Studios, it might have appeared that John didn’t whole-heartedly approve of all of our antics, and myself and Jim can be a little demanding, now and again. Only in the fact that the devil’s in the details, and we always have had a clear vision of what we like and want. But everything was pretty cool, and John had the patience to let myself indulge in different instruments, such as piano, Hammond organ, marimbas, different percussion, vox, etc. that weren’t necessarily, at the time, my ‘forte, like the guitar and writing is. And there were the occasional parties that we invited a bunch of friends up from London, in the odd ‘downtime’ moments, that got a bit wild. But I really enjoyed working with John Leckie — would do it again, in a heartbeat!

You always hear stories of dictatorial producers who meddle with a bands sound like a pharaoh of sorts. XTC and Todd Rundgren come especially to mind. That said, did you guys get on well with him and how much of the sound came from his executive decisions and how much was already in place before you walked into the studio?

Well, he made a few ‘executive decisions’ here and there, told myself and Jim to stop interfering, whilst he was trying to mix something. Because we would be saying, “Do you think the bass drum needs to be up a bit,” etc. and discussions like that. But essentially, no, we had a clear view of what we wanted, from the off and John was respectful of that. He added some great ideas and creativeness and experience into the whole production/mix, such as backward guitars, echoes and reverb, and engineer and production techniques — [techniques] I have used since at home recordings of my recent project Ray ‘Sonic’ Hanson’s Whores Of Babylon in the last 15 odd years. So John has been and still is an inspiration, in many ways, for me personally. You gotta learn from people like that. Everyone’s your teacher, right?


 Where was the album recorded? Can you tell us about some of the recording techniques used? What guitar and type of amp and pedal set up were you using?

Yeh it was recorded in Rockfield [as well as] Mono Valley in Wales, using lots of psychedelic techniques: turning tapes over to achieve backwards Hammond organ, reverb, echo, drum fills, horns played by a great quartet called The Kick Horns (who had played with The Who), and other engineering and production techniques that John had experience of using. My guitar setup was pretty much the same as it is now: Fender Twin, Marshalls, Voxes, Big Muffs, Super Fuzzes, Wah-Wahs, Tremolo, Vibrato, Octave fuzz, Black Cat Echo units, Reverbs; and played with, Gibson SGs, Mosrites, Fender Tele, Thinlie, Epiphone Wilshire, Les Pauls, and some good acoustic guitars too.

Over what period of time was the album recorded? Did the sessions go smoothly? Any anecdotes you’d like to share?

Yeh, think it was done over approximately three weeks to a month, with the odd extra days to do horns and some vocals and odds and sods in London, and done with lots of enthusiasm, soul, passion, rage, energy — and some “chemical inspiration” of course! (Name a good album that isn’t.) Quite a luxury, for us really, good preparation leading into the next album, Crystal Speed Machine, which was smashed out in two weeks flat. It all went pretty smooth, generally, and the wind downtime was pretty good fun too. Better not go into too much detail, might get arrested!

Given the fact that at this point the bands sound expanded with extra players on the record, did this translate to a much more complex situation in order to render these songs live in front of an audience? Or were they stripped down for a live setting?

Actually, it was mainly, the four of us, (myself Jim, Phil and Will). Rob’s (Robert Zyn, additional guitars and percussion) input was limited on that record, but helped us for live work, because I had put down sometimes 4/5 guitars on certain tracks, and we got some cool keys players to do the piano, Hammond Rhodes, Wurlitzer etc. One regret, really, was to not get a quartet of horns [for the stage show], which I desperately wanted to do. Unfortunately to no avail – financial and logistic reasons really. But there is still time to maybe do that, which I would love to do one day – you never know – with my new stuff (“Whores of Babylon”), which I have put quite a bit of horns on.

[Possibly even with] Thee Hypnotics once again? And do it the way it was, meant to be… unfinished business!

What are your personal favorite tracks on the album? Some of my favorites are Point Blank Mystery and Samedi’s Cookbook.

Yeh, I love those two. “Point blank Mystery”: punk, rock ‘n’ roll, lyrical attack, at certain parts of journalism, amongst other metaphors, that crashes and burns into a kinda psychedelic fallout. “Samedi’s Cookbook”: voodoo gospellish, in a trance hypnotic groove, if you can swim in it, it’s usually a good sign! I think they all came out pretty good, in their own way. [But] it’s too difficult to say favourites, you know, they’re all like, children, babies? You know the score?

And who decided the running order of the album? Because the first side has this aggressive almost criminal Mafioso vibe to it as opposed to the second side, which is more sedate and less in your face.

The whole idea/concept is as a whole thing; every detail was thought about, with much love. Every track is like a chapter in a novel, so you couldn’t pick a favourite chapter, could you? As always, some fulfill their potential a bit more than other. And, yeh, those details go down to the order of songs: side one is more aggressive, maybe for the beginning of the evening, and the other side, more late night listening, a bit more chilled out — a physical side and maybe a slightly more cerebral one. But I would hope that in its entirety, it has heart, soul, mind, and raw physical running all the way through it, beginning to end, and that people could have the attention span to listen to it as a whole thing. Although, these days I wonder if people have the attention span for an album, top to bottom?

Besides LP running time constraints, why were “Samedi’s Cookbook” and “Don’t let it get you down” left off the LP? (They were included on the American release of the CD.)

There was a CD with those two tracks included that was released, but some versions of the album didn’t include those two extra tracks. I would have preferred all of them on every version of the album, personally. This same predicament has occurred on our other albums too. I don’t see why all tracks recorded shouldn’t be on the albums. Record companies and producers sometimes have other plans, though.

Tell us about the Situation Two imprint of Beggars Banquet – was there any pressure to follow up Come Down Heavy?  Were you hands-on with the original SG&S LP release?

No pressure, it was all our choice – they wouldn’t dare! Definitely ‘hands off’ [on the part of the label] and it isn’t such a radical departure from Come Down Heavy to Soul .Glitter & Sin, when you think about it. Certainly not in my mind.

Yeh, myself and Jim were always ‘hands on’ with every release, artwork etc., although timing of releases and proper distribution etc. have gone a bit “belly up” in the past. Which was down to record company logistics, and stuff like that.

Tell us a little about coming to the U.S. for SG&S shows – what was the audience’s reaction?

Well, mostly it was toured in Europe with the Cult in 10,000 seat type venues, The Black Crowes in the UK, and us on our own in Europe and the UK, although some of the songs from that album were played in the States and Canada. It seemed as though, with my sketchy memory, that songs from all three albums and touring the UK, Europe and the States kind of bled into each other, as we were back and forth between those territories quite a bit. But the audience reaction was always good, mostly. Naturally, some more memorable than others. I mean we played every nook and cranny! In Europe, and the States!

What were the hardest tracks to perform live?

Maybe the more textural ones, but then again the energy level should never be a walk in the park. Like I say, it would be good to do it really well one day with all the instrumentation etc. It’s kinda still unfinished business in my eyes to play it live with the horns and all the frills and details.

Did you guys ever make it to Japan, where some of your records were released?

Unfortunately no, we wanted to play there and Australia, but we never made it. The records did, though. Someone told me Thee Hypnotics were on a jukebox in the middle of the outback!

Thee H Soul Glitter Sin 001

Let’s now talk about the artwork, and the photo inside the sleeve. Where was this photo shot? The album cover looks like the devils cape with a bit of Vegas thrown in for good measure. Is that seedy glitz what you guys were going for? What were the covers you were thinking about before settling on this one?

 The photo was taken at Phil Staines’ nee Smith’s, local pub, in Peckham, S.E. London. [For the cover] we did want the gold lettering embossed, but you know, record companies’ budget cutting corners, need I say more? And the inside sleeve, photo and lettering, done like an old cinema/film titles poster style, to capture the feel and look we were after. The “Shakedown” single sleeve too, where I’m holding the .38 special. [It was] planned in a ‘30s/’40s’/50s jazz/beatnik, burlesque/ gangster style. Very much about the seedy, glitz, soul, glitter and sin of the urban American inner city nightmare — crime, drugs, prostitution, gangsters, corruption, sex, etc. etc. bright lights, big city! Sin city! A cornucopia of sex, violence, glitter and rock ‘n’ roll.

Kozik Hypnotics poster

Frank Kozik has come up with some pretty incredible gig posters – how did the band come to work with him? 

I think he did regular posters for bands that played at the Bottom Line club in San Francisco, and a couple for us when we occasionally played there. Very cool stuff. I would like to talk and meet him, maybe with “The Whores Of Babylon”, one day soon. I like where he’s coming from.

Was the label behind the promotion of this record? You hear horror stories about bands that are put into pretty compromising situations in order to jump through the promotional hoops. Any situation that you remember that to this day that sticks in your craw, or conversely, that you were super excited to be a part of?

Yeh, they were behind it, but there was always room for improvement — distribution, plugging, so on and so forth. No regrets. To put it bluntly, nothing I’m not proud of really, and yeh, conversely, lots to be excited about: places I’ve been, people I’ve met, experiences I’ve had, too many to mention. You might trip over the pile of names I could drop and the stuff that’s gone down over the years.

How was the reception for the record in Europe, the UK and the US? Will there ever be an expanded reissue of the album, demos, and live tracks? 

People seem to put things out, and not even tell the band, which is a bit annoying. You know the official things. They did reissue a remastered Come Down Heavy on Cherry Red Records, in 2010, I think, and apparently were gonna do the same with Soul Glitter and Sin, but for some reason, it didn’t happen. Typical.

But I got shitloads right in front of me now, all on cassettes, so to transfer and make it happen, I would need someone who knows their stuff to collaborate in order to get all this unheard stuff out.

Thee H 45 001

Online there seems to be little if any bootlegs of the band. Did the band have a lot of unreleased material? Any plans for it to ever see the light of day?

Yeh, like I say, I got it all, I’m somewhat of an archivist, with Thee Hypnotics unreleased, unheard, demos, outtakes, new songs, etc. that I’m pretty sure even the rest of the band don’t realize or have forgotten. At least a triple album of stuff, but you know, someone come up and see me sometime and we can talk about it, maybe.

Musically what have you been working on these days?

The “Ray ‘Sonic’ Hanson’s Whores Of Babylon” — I never stopped being creative, writing, recording, etc. since (and before) we split in ‘98, just stopped going out, that’s all. And I wish I could share it, but it’s all on analogue and cassette, and slight complications to transfer to the digital medium that everyone seems to be hung up on. Glad to hear vinyl’s back, hope it stays around!

I got five double gatefold sleeves, of “Whores Of Babylon” stuff, about 500 songs I’ve written and recorded that needs to be exposed to the world, a couple of box sets. [Stylistically], musically and otherwise they cover a lot of the same type of ground Thee Hypnotics covered, and some way too much to list or mention.

The bands influences are pretty extensively documented. What are some of the bands that you discovered in the ensuing years since the end of Thee Hypnotics?

Well… quite a bit to mention I suppose I really dig, Queens of the Stone Age, Jack White and his many projects, BMRC, a cool band outta LA at the moment called the Death Valley Girls, Fu Manchu, Nebula, and all those guys. Also Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Boss Hog, Beasts of Bourbon and Tex Perkins, Spencer P. Jones, Royal Blood” too, many others. Too many to mention really!

I do tend to return to older music though, generally, stuff I been into for decades. I love Black Merda, the Meters, Funkadelic, Sly and the Family Stone, early to mid James Brown, etc. The Dap-Kings got it goin’ on, in a funky soul way too, you know, Charles Bradley, Sharon Jones — proper Funky stuff! There is a fair old dose of that funked-out heavy soul groove stuff in The Whores, with Blue Cheer, Grand Funk, MC5, Stooges added along with the rest.

Thee H 12 inch

Between SG&S and Come Down Heavy, which album seems to get the most attention from fans?

Kinda equally, really. I know we lost some ‘stoner rock type’ fans or ‘rock’ fans, when SG&S came out, after the sound and feel of the 1st album, but we kind of gained another audience with “soul and glitter”. Reviews and reception, for both records, were nearly always very favourable. But really, at the end of the day, the thread between the two albums always made sense to me, and the Crystal album too. For instance, “The Big Fix” on the second album could be the bastard cousin to “Resurrection Joe” [listen to it below] from the first, just with an edge, more reverb and vibrato. And in turn, “Heavy Liquid” could be the ‘evil twin/whore bitch/stepsister’ to our first 12-inch, “Justice In Freedom” (pictured above). The links are all there to see. That thread that runs through our whole career always was natural and instinctive in my mind. Always. People sometimes need to re-collect their thoughts, over time, to realize that. The eclecticism within my vision with Jim, we had a clear purpose and vision full of clarity and detail, a telepathic understanding, ever since we were young teens — we go back a long way, and I’m Jim Jones’ biggest fan. I love that dude, so in that way, we had a head start I guess.

What is your favorite record between the two?

Again, I can’t say that, because my blood, sweat, tears and passionate plans went into both, for slightly different reasons and perspectives. Both I’m really quite proud with, and yes, I could pick things to bits, in my supposed perfections, but, they are what they are, and individually good in their own rights.

Could Thee Hypnotics have existed in a world of Justin Bieber and Autotune?

No, that’s alien and shit ‘slave to the dollar’ crap, enough said! But maybe, we can come back, ‘phoenix from the flames’ style and smash the shit out of brats like that, and take what’s ours’ back.

 Are you in touch with the other former members of the band?

Yeh I talk sometimes with Jim, and once we start, no one can stop us. Will, not so much, but I’d like to. A bit with Phil, who by the way, has made an interesting documentary on Thee Hypnotics that I hope will get some decent exposure soon. I’m not sure people are aware of this, but if Dave Grohl, the Dandy Warhols [and others] can have these docs, then surely our stories should be told. I rest my case!

What does Thee Hypnotics mean to you when you look back to those days?

Everything. Pride, yeh, not always perfect, but a damn good rock ‘n’ roll band that covered a few angles before a bunch of others did, ‘a whole lotta of rosie.’ Fun, wild, chaotic, unpredictable, creative, inspired, cataclysmic, romantic, loserdom (maybe?), but that’s okay. Literally dying to live, the whole nine yards, and a cool ‘legacy’, in its own li’l way, that will last longer than you and I. It may not be over yet. What do you think?

Will we ever see Thee Hypnotics reform?

You never know!


Below: Hanson today. More details on Hanson and his band at his Facebook page:



PURE MAGIC: Jon Hassell & Brian Eno


“A remarkable, visionary musical fusion”: a reissue of the Hassell-Eno summit Fourth World Volume 1: Possible Musics sounds as fresh and original now as it did when it was originally released three decades ago.


One of the many amazing things about this 1980 mash-up of modern classical, World music (with some rock sensibility thrown in) is that almost 35 years after the fact, it still sounds fresh, original and still somewhat strange. That’s thanks to trumpeter/composer Hassell who had perfected this unique culture clash on this third album of his with some help from a certain noted producer.

JH had an impressive pedigree which included studying with Stockhausen, recording with Terry Riley and playing in La Monte Young’s band (which previous included Riley and John Cale). 1977’s Vernal Equinox was a warm-up of the 4th World hybrid (1st world meets 3rd world music) that Hassell was brewing and caught the attention of Brian Eno, who had made NYC his home at the time while he was producing new wave stalwarts like Devo, Talking Heads. After ’78’s Earthquake Island where JH tried to duplicate the jazz/rock/Brazil fusion of Weather Report (with some of its ex-members), Eno approached Hassell after one of his concerts to propose a collaboration. This would prove a mixed blessing for Hassell—while the association with the former Roxy Music member and ambient pioneer would raise the profile of his own name, he would also be sensitive to the fact that Eno’s name would overshadow himself in his own work.

But the end results were nothing short of magical. Following up on the promise of Vernal Equinox, Fourth World Volume 1: Possible Musics was the full blooming of Hassell’s wonderfully odd vision of melding together cultures, sensibilities and music styles. It’s just recently been reissued by Germany’s Glitterbeat label (and distributed by Forced Exposure), which has been busy of late releasing albums by a number of prominent African or Afro-rock artists, among them guitarist Samba Toure, singer Aziza Brahim, London’s eclectic Fofoula and multi-continent collective Dirtmusic.

Running his trumpet through an effects device called the harmonizer which created a chorus of horn voices and assorted delay effects, JH turned his horn into a siren call, a breathy whisper escaping from his mouth and a shrill shout, many time all within the same song. The wide range of incredible, ululating tones that Hassell was able to create was a tribute to singer Prandit Pran Nath, who he studied under. Backed by Eno’s dreamy wash of synthesizers, the music had the minimalist bend of Riley’s early work and at times sounded like a distant cousin to new age music but with a sinister and other-worldly tone to it (which made sense since Hassell was trying to create some new here).

Also, thanks to the stately, menacing percussion of Nana Vasconcelos and Ayib Dieng, Fourth World also had an African flavor to it, albeit a sound that had more of a connection to traditional African music and not the then-current crop of Afro-pop like Fela Kuti and King Sunny Ade that was starting to make its mark.

The five tracks on the first half (aka side one) seem like different destinations of a journey. “Chemistry” begins low-key enough with a plunking bass over the subtle hand drums but soon, Hassell’s horn comes screaming in to break the mood and command it for almost seven minutes.

From there, we’re taken to the gorgeous, floating sound-scape of “Delta Rain Dream” and then to the clapping rhythms of the Miles-like “Griot (Over “Contagious Magic”)” and the stop-start sections of the majestic “Ba-Benzélé” before stopping in a fever dream of insects and jungle animals that buzz around Eno’s keyboards and JH’s trumpet on “Rising Thermal 14° 16′ N; 32° 28′ E.” The second half (aka side two) is taken up by 21 and a half minutes of the amazing “Charm (Over “Burundi Cloud”).” Backed by the distant thump of Vasconcelos and Dieng and the eerie electronic background by Eno, Hassell darts in and out of the mix, sometimes quietly, sometimes fiercely and without warning, leading us through an extended, mysterious travelogue, seeming like we’re in the middle of an arty horror movie at times or a trip through a sonic jungle.

After the album’s forty-five minutes, you feel as if you’ve gone somewhere unique and may feel a little drained but somewhat refreshed for the experience and yet a little let down that it’s ended.

Below: David Byrne is pictured with Eno and Hassell (Eno actually tweeted this photo recently)

Hassell Eno Byrne 1980 tweeted by Eno

Hassell would go on to expand and tweak the Fourth World concept in the ‘80s on Dream Theory in Malaya (aka ‘Fourth World vol. 2’), Aka-Darbari-Java / Magic Realism and Power Spot before delving into sampled music and hip-hop beats in the ‘90s and quieter, more contemplative music in the new millennium while Eno would take occasional forays back into his ambient/pop hybirds and go on to bigger paychecks with U2 and Coldplay. But it was this meeting of the minds that represented not only a peak for both artists but also a precursor to the ‘World Music’ craze which Peter Gabriel (who would later work with Hassell) and Paul Simon (who would later work with Eno) would stir up in the mid ‘80s and in both cases, net the artists substantial paychecks. Hassell didn’t break into the big time but did get to work with Ani DiFranco, David Sylvian, Ry Cooder, k.d. lang and Flea among others and find fans in the form of Bono, Pete Townshend and Bjork.

This vital reissue which cleans up the sound considerably (which is a big deal since sonics are what make it so special) is a great place to find out why they’re boosters and experience an album that’s a remarkable, visionary musical fusion.

Below: Hassell and Eno today.

Hassell Eno now



With a hot new double album just out, the veteran Cali conspirators add a touch of twang and significantly up their game.


It’s a bold statement to release a double CD set in these digital days of one-shot downloads. It takes major cojones to make that two-disc offering a concept album. Cracker’s Berkeley To Bakersfield (released early last month via 429 Records) reflects upon the band’s 23-year career by celebrating its California roots in 18 fresh-sounding tracks.

The Berkeley disc reunites the original Cracker lineup from their self-titled debut and Kerosene Hat, comprising co-founders David Lowery (vocals, guitar) and Johnny Hickman (guitar, vocals), Davey Faragher (bass, vocals), and Michael Urbano (drums). Supposedly Cracker’s “Berkeley Sound” is punk based. The punk is in attitude and middle finger salutes to “the man” and the one percent – oddly enough the spirit of the so-called “Bakersfield Sound” as pioneered by Buck Owens, the theme of disc two. Berkeley’s range is broad, including folk, pop, rock, glam, R&B, and a dash of soul and gospel.

According to Faragher, the Berkeley tunes were written, arranged, and recorded in studio by the Cracker original four in, appropriately, four days — with limited revisiting except for “Waited My Whole Life.” Stated Faragher: “[It was] real collaboration, but I think the process generally started from David and Johnny . . . [they] had a few things that were sketches, tidbits, lyrical ideas, or a chord progression – then everyone started jamming it out and they all did what they do. [It was a] very organic process. It’s the most fun you can have, period. I enjoy it more than anything. Just like a party. Laughing, playing, silly ideas that turn into things. Effortless.”

The “effortless” endeavor produced a solid collection. The opener “Torches and Pitchforks” hints that Cracker reconsidered and decided that the world did, indeed, need a new folk singer. The anger and disdain expressed in “Torches and Pitchforks” is present in “March of The Billionaires,” with taunts in the chorus, and “Life In The Big City,” complete with its T-Rex groove and grandiose backing vocals. There is a heavy dose of piss off in these tracks, as well as in “El Cerrito” (“I don’t give a shit about your IPO I live in El Cerrito”) and “Reaction” (“Girl don’t you think it’s time for you to move along?”).

NORML has a new peaceful protest song in “El Commandante” (“It’s just a bag of weed”). The main hook in “You Got Yourself Into This” is gloriously similar to tracks by The Kinks and Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers in the ‘70s or The Stone Roses in the ‘90s. The Dead Milkmen’s “Punk Rock Girl” is all grown up in “Beautiful,” now a mother to mohawk-sporting teens. “Waited My Whole Life” begins suspiciously close to a hit by The Wallflowers, but quickly progresses beyond and culminates in closing vocals a la The Staples Singers. A solid rhythm section, spot-on guitar riffs, and sparkling vocal arrangements make this group of tunes a never-ending earworm.

Lowery and Hickman shook up the band for the Bakersfield disc, employing a core group of musicians referred to as “The Georgia Crackers.” An homage to Bakersfield’s history, this disc is packed full of twang country with a shot of wry and water back (“Play it weird, this ain’t Nashville”). Lowery, well noted for his wit and acerbic lyrics, is cited as the sole songwriter for seven of nine tracks. Dialing it back a bit, Lowery opted for romantic narratives of farewells such as “Almond Grove,” “Tonight I Cross The Border,” “When You Come Down,” and “I’m Sorry Baby.” All of these songs invoke the country music staple of forlornness through an advanced level of poetic writing. “Almond Grove” and “Tonight I Cross The Border” are heart-wrenching stand-outs. Cracker gets the aforementioned Bakersfield Sound right: vocals are part of the instrumentation of the band, pedal steel is prominent, keys are in the honky-tonk vein, and guitar riffs and solos are clean and to the point.

There is some of the up-yours attitude from Berkeley on “Get on Down the Road,” the antithesis to “Hit The Road Jack.” The fondness for California is well apparent in “California Country Boy,” sung by Hickman, and “King of Bakersfield,” the country side to Berkeley’s “El Cerrito.” Bakersfield contains new takes on “The San Bernardino Boy” (from Hickman’s 2005 solo release Palmhenge) and “Where Have Those Days Gone” (from 2006’s Greenland). Both tunes benefit from the rework, particularly the latter that came off frenetic on Greenland.

Commenting on the two-disc collection, Hickman stated: “From the time we started writing and recording music together on our little 8-track cassette recorder in a broken down rented house in 1991, David and I have done exactly as we pleased. Although it’s made some record label people a little nervous over the years, we’ve never had a problem putting songs like ‘Don’t Fuck Me Up with Peace and Love’ and ‘Mr. Wrong’ on the same record. Anyone who’s followed our career closely knows this. We’ve always gone wide stylistically with our punk, country, heavy riff rock, ballads, basically whatever felt good to us that particular day. With Berkeley To Bakersfield we’ve taken it even wider by making two records, with two different bands and every track sounds very much like Cracker.”

Berkeley To Bakersfield is the perfect shotgun rider for any road trip. With the breadth of its variety no other music passengers need be invited along for the ride.

Cracker live

Photos credit: Jason Thrasher Cracker’s North American tour resumes next week on Jan. 14 in D.C. Go HERE to view the tour dates.




What stood out in the music world for 2014? The folks who work in the trenches here are gonna tell ya. Guarantee: all dialogue reported verbatim. Pictured above: some of our favorite axe-slingers from the year that just ended. See if you can pick out Steve Gunn, Robert Zimmerman, Lucinda Williams, Mark Kozelek, Sharon Van Etten and Ty Segall.


As part of our 2014 year-end wrap-up—go elsewhere on the BLURT site to view our Best Albums Of 2014—we summarily yield the podium to the staffers and contributors who detail their personal picks for 2014. The first section has the lists for the staff, while the second section has those submitted by some of the regular contributors. (We also have our annual “Farewell” covering some of the notable music world deaths of 2014, among them Pete Seeger, Bobby Womack and Ian McLagan.)

Also check out our 2012 and 2013 coverage:

2013 In Review: Blurt’s Top 75 Albums

Revenge of the Writers: Best and Worst of 2013

Farewell: Music World Passings 2013

 2012 In Review: Blurt’s Top 75 Albums

Revenge of the Writers: Best and Worst of 2012

Farewell: Music World Passings of 2012



——————EDITORIAL STAFF PICKS——————————————–


JENNIFER KELLY, Contributing Editor (Walpole, NH)

2014 Albums

  1. Protomartyr — Under Colour of Official Right (Hardly Art)
  2. Sleaford Mods — Divide and Exit (Harbinger Sound)
  3. Angel Olsen — Burn Your Fire for No One (Jagjaguwar)
  4. Damien Jurado — Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Son (Secretly Canadian)
  5. Ex Hex — Rips (Merge)
  6. Ty Segall—Manipulator (Drag City)
  7. Gareth Dickson—Invisible String (Sleeping Man)
  8. David Kilgour — End Times Undone (Merge)
  9. Watery Love — Decorative Feeding (In the Red)
  10. Jennifer Castle — Pink City (Important)

Also very fine and in the order that I thought of them:

Old 97s—Most Messed Up (ATO)

Dark Blue—Pure Reality (Jade Tree)

Setting Sun — Be Here When You Get Here (Self)

Centro-Matic—Take Pride in Your Long Odds (Navigational Transmission)

Weyes Blood—The Innocents (Mexican Summer)

Chris Forsyth and the Solar Motel — Intensity Ghost (Paradise of Bachelors)

Ex-Cult — Midnight Passenger (Goner)

Andy Stott — Faith in Strangers (Modern Love)

Lee Gamble — Koch (Pan)

Steve Gunn — Way Out Weather (Paradise of Bachelors)

Hamish Kilgour — All of It and Nothing (Ba Da Bing!)

So Cow — The Long Con (Goner)

Luluc—Passerby (Sub Pop)

Connections — Into Sixes (Anyway)


JOHN B. MOORE, Contributing Editor/”I Don’t Wanna Grow Up” Column (Philadelphia)


2014 Albums

Against Me! – Transgender Dysphoria Blues

Shovels & Rope – Swimmin’ Time

Cory Branan – The No Hit Wonder

Foo Fighters – Sonic Highways

Bob Mould – Beauty & Ruin

The New Pornographers – Brill Bruisers

Hard Girls – A Thousand Surfaces

The Smith Street Band – Throw Me in the River

Parker Millsap – Parker Millsap

Beach Slang – Who Would Ever Want Anything So Broken?


Best Record Label

tie: Bloodshot Records/Side One Dummy


Best Concert of the Year

Billy Joe Shaver/Willie Nelson, 11/16/14, New Braunfels TX (

Best New Artist

Beach Slang (finally a band that digs a little deeper than Nirvana’s Nevermind in mining influences from the ‘90s.)


Dumbest Band Name

You Blew it! (Not offensively bad like some, but just plain stupid and once the pot smoke clears out of the room you will realize you’re saddled with a name worthy of a middle school Blink 182 cover band.)


Worst Trend

Labels and publicists that have stopped sending physical releases (fourth year running!)


Favorite Story I wrote for Blurt: Masked Intruder (



LEE ZIMMERMAN, Contributing Editor (Miami, FL)

2014 Albums

  1. Rosanne Cash — The River & The Thread (Blue Note)
  2. Rodney Crowell –Tarpaper Sky (New West)
  3. Steep Canyon Rangers — Tell the Ones You Love (Rounder)
  4. John Hiatt — Terms of My Surrender (New West)
  5. Avett Brothers — Magpie (American Recordings)
  6. Old Crow Medicine Show — Remedy (ATO)
  7. The Lone Bellow: Then Came The Morning (Descendent Records)
  8. Over the Rhine — Blood Oranges in the Snow (Great Speckled Dog)
  9. Eliot Bronson — self-titled (Saturn 5 Records)
  10. Jason McNiff and the Lone Malones — God Knows Why We Dream (independent)



  1. Bob Dylan and the Band — The Basement Tapes Complete (Sony/Legacy)
  2. Crosby Stills Nash and Young –CSNY 1974 (Rhino)
  3. TIE: — Paul McCartney and Wings — Wings at the Speed of Sound and Venus and Mars (Concord)
  4. Big Star — Live in Memphis (Omnivore)
  5. Hollies – 50 at Fifty (Rhino/Parlophone)



  1. Fleetwood Mac
  2. Steep Canyon Rangers
  3. Lyle Lovett
  4. Avett Brothers
  5. Justin Hayward


  1. The Doors — Feast of Friends (Eagle Vision)
  2. Yes — Songs from Tsongas: 35th Anniversary Concert (Eagle Vision)
  3. TIE: Rolling Stones – From the Vault –L.A. Forum, Live in 1975 and Hamilton Coliseum,

Live in 1981 (Eagle Vision)

  1. Queen — Live at the Rainbow 74 (Eagle Vision)
  2. Various Artists — One for the Road: Memorial Concert for Ronnie Lane (Angle Air)

Top 5 Music Books

  1. “High Notes: A Rock Memoir” by Richard Loren with Stephen Abney (East Pond Publishing)
  2. “Reverb — An Odyssey” by Joe Ely (Letters at 3 AM Press)
  3. “Best Rock Writing 2014” edited by Rev. Keith A. Gordon (Excitable Pressworks)
  4. “Wild Tales” by Graham Nash (Crown Archetype)
  5. “27: A History of the 27 Club” by Howard Sounes (Da Capo)



  1. “Interstellar”
  2. “The Theory of Everything”
  3. “Gone Girl”
  4. “Guardians of the Galaxy”
  5. “Boyhood”


Best Record Label

New West, home to both revered artists like Steve Earle, Rodney Crowell and Buddy Miller, as well as a host of up and coming young bucks. The essential Americana label.


In Memoriam – Most Lamented Death

TIE: Jack Bruce and Ian McLagan – both sad and sudden. See my comments on Ian below


Best New Artist

Scott Miller. He’s not really new as he’s got several albums under his belt, both on his own and as part of the V-Roys. But in terms of the recognition and appreciation he’s due, he’s far too unknown. So let’s start over. Check out his most recent album Big Big World and get in his groove


Worst New Artist

Any one of the endless string of crappy acts I see week after week on “Saturday Night Live.” Who are these people, and how in the world do they rate a national spotlight?


Dumbest Band Name

Diarrheal Planet. I can hear it now, ten years hence on some oldies radio station, the deejay proclaims, “Hey, we’ve got a special Diarrhea Planet weekend! Let it flow, but don’t let it go to waste!” Really guys, it’s a disgusting handle. Ya might want to rethink.


Sex Object of the Year

Body paint… and body paint only


Asshole of the Year

Anyone who can’t acknowledge an email by simply hitting “reply.” Seriously, you lack even that basic effortless modicum of courtesy. WE know you’re busy, but aren’t we all. There’s no excuse for you to be rude, dude.


Best Hair or Facial Hair

Ethan Johns


2015 release I am most anticipating

Bob Dylan’s forthcoming collection of old standards — not because I think it’s gonna be great, but rather because (A) I can’t wait to hear how truly weird it will be, and (B) I can’t wait to unleash my inner snarky self when I write the review


Coolest trend or whatever

I wish I could point to the resurgence of cassettes, but while it may be celebrated by some, I find myself asking the singular question. In God’s name, why?


Most Fucked Up or Annoying Trend of Whatever

I sound like a broken record — pardon the pun — but once again I find myself railing against the continuing takeover of downloads and streams. Folks, I don’t care who you are… if you don’t cherish music in a physical form, then you are not benefitting from the entire experience. Music in amorphous form deprives us of the opportunity to hold it, marvel at it, linger on it as a piece of art, complete with all the visual manifestations of a well-done cover, the intricate liner notes about who did what and the sheer joy of being able to add it to the collection overall. Downloads and streams make music disposable, and beyond the momentary listening experience, makes it transient as well. Wake up people! Don’t let this art form fade away.


Wildcard: 50 Words From or About Me

At the age where a younger me might now refer to the current me as an old man, I feel both reborn and revitalized, free to express myself whatever way I please, without regard for whether my irreverence or wackiness might appear politically incorrect or sadly misconstrued. It’s the music that makes it so, a continuing source of sanity and inspiration that lights my way through times both good and bad. Age is indeed just a number — look at Mick or Keith or Sir Paul or the revitalized Fleetwood Mac and the fans that still flock to their shows if you still doubt that. For those of us of a certain age — artists and enthusiasts alike — it’s a common bond, and one to be embraced proudly. Youth may or may not be wasted on the young — I’d lean towards the latter — but it ought not be abandoned by those with the vitality and wisdom to savour it, any calculation of accumulated birthdays be damned.


Favorite Blurt Article:

My interview with the late Ian McLagan. I’ve interviewed many artists in my time, but being a diehard Faces and Small Faces fan — and knowing this man’s extraordinary reputation both as a musician and as a sweet soul — I looked forward to that exchange more than most. And indeed, he didn’t disappoint. I then met him in person at the Americana Music Festival in Nashville this past September and it was a dream fulfilled. It’s a rare opportunity to meet a legend and an individual who also happens to be a hero. His sudden death affected me like that of the passing of a friend or family member. It was a terrible loss, one that will be felt for eons to come. I feel so fortunate that our lives intersected for that all too brief time.



JOHN SCHACHT, Contributing Editor (Charlotte, NC)

 Twenty-nine records that made my 2014 boat float…

Twin Peaks – Wild Onion (Grand Jury Music)

Frazey Ford – Indian Ocean (Nettwerk)

Parquet Courts – Sunbathing Animal (What’s Your Rupture?)

Wesley Wolfe – Numbskull (Tangible Formats)

Timber Timbre – Hot Dreams (Arts & Crafts)

Bry Webb – Free Will (Idée Fixe)

Angel Olsen – Burn Your Fire for No Witness (Jagjaguwar)

Field Guides – Boo, Forever (Muir Woods)

Naïm Amor – Hear the Walls (Fort Lowell)

The Loudermilks – The Loudermilks (You Know What?)

Cracker – Berkeley to Bakersfield (429 Records)

Holy Sons – The Fact Facer (Thrill Jockey)

The Proper Ornaments – Wooden Head (Slumberland)

Woods – With Light and With Love (Woodsist)

Peter Matthew Bauer – Liberation! (Mexican Summer)

Beck – Morning Phase (Capitol)

Chris Staples – American Soft (Barsuk)

Temperance League – The Night Waits (Like, Wow!)

Morrissey – World Peace Is None of Your Business (Harvest – Capitol)

Lee Fields & the Expressions – Emma Jean (Truth and Soul)

Tony Molina – Dissed & Dismissed (Slumberland)

Antlers – Familiars (Anti-)

The War on Drugs – Lost In the Dream (Secretly Canadian)

Floating Action – Body Questions (New West)

Sun Kil Moon – Benji (Caldo Verde)

Blank Realm – Grassed In (Fire)

Kahoots – Take to the Fields (Telegraph Harp)

Brian Lopez – Static Noise (Funzalo)

Bo White – Millenial Tombs (Kinnikinnik)




STEPHEN JUDGE, Publisher/Owner (Raleigh, NC)


2014 Albums


Sturgill Simpson – Metamodern Sounds in Country Music (High Top Mountain/Thirty Tigers)

U2 – Songs of Innocence (Interscope)

Johnny Marr – Playland (New Voodoo)

Angel Olsen – Burn Your Fire For No Witness (Jagjaguwar)

Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers – Hypnotic Eye (Warner Bros.)

Jack White – Lazaretto (Third Man)

Beck – Morning Phase (Capitol/Universal)

Spider Bags – Frozen Letter (Merge)

Ty Segall – Manipulator (Drag City)

Sharon Van Etten – Are We There (Jagjaguwar)



MICHAEL TOLAND, Contributing Editor/”Throwing Horns” Column (Austin, TX)


2014 Albums

  1. Mastodon – Once More Round the Sun (Warner Bros.)
  2. River of Snakes – Black Noise (Bad Fidelity)
  3. Panopticon – Roads to the North (Norvis/Bindrune)
  4. High Spirits – You Are Here (Hell’s Headbangers)
  5. Jim Mize – s/t (Big Legal Mess)
  6. Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings – Give the People What They Want (Daptone)
  7. Foo Fighters- Sonic Highways (RCA)
  8. Dawnbringer – Night of the Hammer (Profound Lore)
  9. Lee Fields & the Expressions – Emma Jean (Truth & Soul)
  10. Spectral Lore – III (I, Voidhanger)




  1. Rowland S. Howard – Six Strings That Drew Blood (Liberation)
  2. Game Theory – Blaze of Glory/Dead Center (Omnivore)
  3. Nils Lofgren – Face the Music (Fantasy)
  4. Nikki Sudden – Fred Beethoven (Troubadour/Easy Action)
  5. The Posies – Failure (Omnivore)
  6. The Walkabouts – Devil’s Road and Nighttown (Glitterhouse)
  7. Lone Justice – This is Lone Justice: The Vaught Tapes, 1983 (Omnivore)
  8. National Wake – Walk in Africa 1979-1981 (Light in the Attic)
  9. The Clientele – Suburban Light (Merge)
  10. The Unforgiven – s/t (Real Gone Music)



STEVEN ROSEN, Contributing Editor (Cincinnati)


  1. The War on Drugs — Lost in a Dream (Secretly Canadian)


  1. The Delines — Colfax (El Cortez Records)


  1. Steve Gunn — Way Out Weather (Paradise of Bachelors)


  1. Jenny Lewis — The Voyager (Warner Bros.)


  1. Wussy — Attica! (Shake It Records)


  1. Hiss Golden Messenger — Lateness of Dancer (Merge Records)


  1. EMA — The Future’s Void (Matador)


  1. Sun Kil Moon — Benji (Caldo Verde)


  1. Future Islands — Singles (4AD)


  1. Rosanne Cash — The River & the Thread (Blue Note)


Best Album Title

Me First & the Gimme Gimmes — Are We Not Men? We Are Diva. (Fat Wreck Records)


Saddest Moment

Learning Ian McLagan died, just one month after seeing him give an energetic, enthusiastic concert featuring much material from a new album, United States. I had interviewed him in advance of the show, and he was so excited about a possible Faces reunion in 2015.


Favorite Music Website

Blurt (You’re fired, Rosen! No nepotism ‘round here, brah… –Ed.)



FRED MILLS – Blurt Editor (Raleigh NC)

2014 Albums

LUCINDA WILLIAMS – Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone (Highway 20 Records)

GOV’T MULE – Dark Side of the Mule (Evil Teen)

ANGEL OLSEN – Burn Your Fire For No Witness (Jagjaguwar)

JEFFREY DEAN FOSTER – The Arrow (Angel Skull

LA CERCA – Sunrise For Everyone (Fort Lowell)

WAR ON DRUGS – Lost In The Dream (Secretly Canadian)

THURSTON MOORE – The Best Day (Matador)

TY SEGALL – Manipulator (Drag City)

SHARON VAN ETTEN – Are we There (Jagjaguwar)

GROUPER – Ruins (Kranky)

FUNKADELIC – First Ya Gotta Shake The Gate (+180)

UNCONSCIOUS COLLECTIVE – Pleistocene Moon (Tofu Carnage)

SHARON JONES & THE DAP-KINGS – Give the People What They Want (Daptone)

SPIDER BAGS – Frozen Letter (Merge)

U2 – Songs of Innocence (Interscope)

JAMES WILLIAMSON – Re-Licked (Leopard Lady)



BOB DYLAN & THE BAND – The Basement Tapes Complete (Columbia/Legacy)

FELA KUTI – Vinyl Box Set 3: Compiled By Brian Eno (Knitting Factory)

MOGWAI – Come On Die Young Deluxe 4LP (Chemikal Underground)

JAMES BROWN – Love*Power*Peace (Sundazed)

DESTROY ALL MONSTERS – Destroy All Monsters 3LP (Munster)

VARIOUS ARTISTS – Native North America Vol. One (Light In The Attic)

NEIL YOUNG – Official Release Series Discs 5-8 (Reprise)

WALKABOUTS – Devil’s Road Deluxe (Glitterhouse)

CAPTAIN BEEFHEART – Sun Zoom Spark 1970 to 1972 (Rhino)

THE POP GROUP – Cabinet of Curiosities + We Are Time (Freaks R Us

VARIOUS ARTISTS – Country Funk II 1967-1974 (Light In The Attic)

GUN CLUB – Fire of Love (Superior Viaduct)

THE KINKS – Muswell Hillbillies (Legacy Edition) (Sony Legacy)

SNEAKERS – Sneakers 10” EP (Omnivore)

RY COODER – Soundtracks (Warner Bros.)

VARIOUS ARTISTS – Dangerhouse: Complete Singles Collected 1977-1979 (Munster)

DEVO – Miracle Witness Hour: Live in Ohio 1977 (Futurismo)

JOHN COLTRANE – Offering: Live at Temple University (Impuse!)

RADIO BIRDMAN – Box Set 8CD (Citadel)

AFGHAN WHIGS – Gentlemen At 21 (Elektra/Rhino)


Top Tracks

JEFFREY DEAN FOSTER – The Sun Will Shine Again (Angel Skull)

RUN THE JEWELS – Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck) (Mass Appeal)

WAR ON DRUGS – An Ocean in Between the Waves (Secretly Canadian)

U2 – Every Breaking Wave (Interscope)

RYAN ADAMS – Feels Like Fire (Pax Am)

LAURA REED – Naturally (Five Foot Giant)


SPOON – Do You (Loma Vista)

ANGEL OLSEN – Lights Out (Jagjaguwar)

PINK FLOYD – The Lost Art of Conversation (Columbia)


Music DVDS

FELA KUTI – Finding Fela! (Kino Lorber)

R.E.M. – REMTV (MTV/Rhino)

BIG STAR – Live in Memphis (Omnivore)

JASON ISBELL – Live At Austin City Limits (Southeastern)

DOORS – Feast of Friends (Eagle Rock)

DRIVIN’ N’ CRYIN’ – Scarred But Smarter (Oasis)

Jerry McGill: Very Extremely Dangerous (Fat Possum)

Muscle Shoals: The Incredible True Story of a Small Town with a Big Sound (Magnolia Home Entertainment)

Punk In Africa: Three Chords, Three Countries, One Revolution… (MVD Visual)

I Dream of Wires: Hardcore Edition (Idow)



Boyhood – Richard Linklater, dir.

Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me – James Keach, dir.

Birdman – Alejandro G. Inarritu, dir.

Guardians of the Galaxy – James Gunn, dir.

Nightcrawler – Dan Gilroy, dir.

Interstellar – Christopher Nolan, dir.

Get On Up – Tate Taylor, dir.

Inside Llewyn Davis – Joel & Ethan Coen, dirs..


Music Books

Sub Pop USA: The Subterraneanan Pop Music Anthology, 1980-1988 – Bruce Pavitt (Bazillion Points)

A Man Called Destruction: The Life and Music of Alex Chilton from Box Tops to Big Star to Backdoor Man – Holly George-Warren (Viking)

True Love Scars – Michael Goldberg (Neumu Press)

Brothers Be, Yo Like George, Ain’t That Funkin’ Kinda Hard On You? A Memoir – George Clinton (Atria Books)

Shaman’s Blues: The Art & Influences Behind Jim Morrison & The Doors – Denise Sullivan (Sumach-Red)

The Deliverance of Marlowe Billings – Dan Stuart (Cadiz Music)

The Doors Unhinged – John Densmore (Percussive Press)

Do Not Sell At Any Price: The Wild, Obsessive Hunt for the World’s Rarest 78rpm Records – Amanda Petrusich (Scribner)

Mark Mothersbaugh: Myopia – Adam Lerner, ed. (Princeton Architectural Press)

Hell: My Life in the Squirrel Nut Zippers – Tom Maxwell (Oyster Point Press)

The Knights of Fuzz: The New Garage & Psychedelic Music Explosion (Purple Cactus)

Turn Up The Radio! Rock, Pop, and Roll in Los Angeles 1956-1972 – Harvey Kubernik (Santa Monica Press)

Punk USA: The Rise and Fall of Lookout! Records – Kevin Prested (Microcosm Publishing)

Dance of Death: The Life of John Fahey, American Guitarist – Steve Lowenthal (Chicago Review Press)

Ain’t It Time We Said Goodbye: The Rolling Stones on the Road to Exile – Robert Greenfield (DaCapo Press)

Honorable Mention: Best Rock Writing 2014 – Rev. Keith A. Gordon, ed. (That Devil Music) (only reason it’s not on my main list is because I contributed to the anthology so I felt it would be a conflict of interest to essentially nominate a project I was part of)



Paul McCartney – 10/30/14, Coliseum, Greensboro NC

Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band – 4/24/14, PNC Arena, Raleigh NC (my review: )

Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers – 9/18/14, PNC Arena, Raleigh NC


Best Record Label

Light In The Attic / Omnivore Recordings (tie): This year I was all about the archival releases, and it was damned tough to pick one (or two… sigh) given some of the other stellar efforts on the part of such mainstays as Sundazed and Rhino as well as the likes of Real Gone Music and Munster. But LITA took the art of packaging to a new level, particularly their vinyl releases (tip-on sleeves, massive books, heavy vinyl, outer boxes, etc.); and Omnivore consistently came up with bands with the perfect blend of name recognition and underground cool (hello, Posies), additionally offering first pressings in gorgeous colored vinyl.


Best Music-related Website

Spotify… JUST KIDDING! Let’s go with


Best Music Videos We Premiered at Blurt



THE DB’S – Write Back

ROCCO DELUCA – Colors of the Cold



In Memoriam: Most Lamented Death

Joe Young, guitarist for AntiSeen (April 30, 2014). My old friend died of a sudden heart attack in the driveway of his home, and the news was among the most shocking and saddening I received all year. Joe and I hung out regularly when I lived in Charlotte, NC, during the ‘80s and early ‘90s, and I was proud to also call myself a fan of his perfectly primitive style of destructo punk guitar. I dearly miss him.


Best New Artist

Eastlink (Melbourne, Australia) – Eastlink album released by In The Red Records. Read our story here:


Worst New Artist

Shakey Graves (but the band name is great, so what do I know; the 2014 album was And The War Came, released by Dualtone)


Dumbest Band Name

So Cow (but the band itself is great – 2014 album The Long Con, released by Goner)


Best Album Sleeve Art or Packaging

Neil Young – A Letter Home Deluxe Box Set (Reprise) Even though the Jack White-produced album was a tad underwhelming, it was still a pleasant listen — and this box was just unfucking believable. You got two versions of it on vinyl, a CD version, a DVD version and a version pressed up on seven separate 5” clear vinyl singles, all housed in an oversized custom box and containing a fat booklet. Pure collector catnip.


Hero of the Year

Mark Kozelek, just ‘cos


Asshole of the Year

Twice-time winner Scott Stapp (Coming for 2015 selection: Kanye West fans, for not knowing who Paul McCartney is.)


Fave Internet Meme of 2014

Bill Cosby


Best Hair or Facial Hair

Valient Himself, of Valient Thorr


Sweetest Buns

Charli XCX (not sure why I am picking her but it’s a way to avoid even mentioning Nicki Minaj, eh?)


Nicest Package

Robert Plant, as always.


2015 Release I Am Most Anticipating

American Aquarium – Wolves (self-released, Feb. 3) Our Raleigh compatriots should make a huge impact with their latest studio album, which is the perfect marriage of sweet Americana twang and full-on hard rockin’.


Coolest Trend or Whatever

Rock ‘n’ roll beefs (see: Mark Kozelek, War On Drugs). Why should hip-hoppers have all the fun (and drive-bys)? It’s time for rockers to start keepin’ it real. What’s truly shameful is that within the rock milieu, in the past only rock critics would have beefs, graduating over the years from fanzine letters columns to internet forums and message boards while maintaining a respectable level of hostility and spurious territoriality. Now, though, with Mark K and Adam G setting examples this year, the rock musician community can get moving with some serious artist-on-artist violence.


Most Fucked-up or Annoying Trend or Whatever

Year-end lists.


Wildcard: 50 Words (or less) From or About Me That You Won’t Read on LinkedIn

I love Jethro Tull.


Favorite story or review I wrote for Blurt

“KONNECTING WITH THE KINKS: Ray Davies in ’75,” or, how I “met” the Kinks mainman one day but he didn’t actually “meet” me… and lived to tell about it, sorta. Guest-starring: one ladder, one set of stage lights, and one large chunk of Afghani hashish.




————————CONTRIBUTORS’ PICKS—————————-


BARRY ST. VITUS (Berkeley, CA)


2014 Albums

Bobby Bare Jr. –‘Undefeated’ (Bloodshot Records)

John Wesley Coleman III – ‘The Love That You Own’ (Burger Records)

David Kilgour & the Heavy Eights –‘ End Times Undone’ (Merge Records)

The New Christs – ‘Incantations’ (Impedance / Closer Records)

Parquet Courts – ‘Sunbathing Animal’ (What’s Your Rupture / Mom + Pop)

Purling Hiss – ‘Weirdon’ (Drag City)

Spider Bags – ‘Frozen Letter’ (Merge Records)

The Vibrators – ‘Punk Mania: Back To the Roots’ (Cleopatra Records)

Wussy – ‘Attica’ (Shake It Records)

HEDGING TIE: Meatbodies – ‘S/T’ (In The Red Records) + Parkay Quarts – ‘Content Nausea’ (What’s Your Rupture)


BONUS: The Ike Reilly Assassination – ‘Am I Still The One For You?’

Free download of a ‘Best Of’ collection with 4 Killer New Songs: (Don’t say I never gave you nothin’.)


Archival / Reissues

The Beatles In Mono – Box Set (Capitol Records)

Captain Beefheart – Sun, Zoom, Spark: 1970 to 1972 Box Set (Rhino / Warner Bros.)

Death of Samantha – If Memory Serves Us Well (St. Valentine Records)

Gene Clark – Two sides To Every Story: Deluxe Edition (High Moon Records)

George Harrison: The Apple Years 1968 – 1975 Box Set (CMG)

The Kinks – Muswell Hillbillies: Legacy Edition (Legacy Records)

The Kinks – The Anthology 1964 – 1971 Box Set (Sanctuary Records)

The Velvet Underground – 45th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition (Universal)



Amanda Petrusich – “Do Not Sell At Any Price: The Wild Obsessive Hunt For The World’s Rarest 78rpm Records.” (Scribner Pub.)

Timothy Gassen – “The Knights of Fuzz: The New Garage and Psychedelic Music Explosion.” (500 pg. update) (Purple Cactus Media Prod)

Michael Goldberg – “True Love Scars” (Neumu Press)

Dave O’Leary – “The Music Book” (Booktrope)

Bruce Pavitt – “Sub Pop USA: the Subterranean Pop Music Anthology, 1980 – 1988.” (Bazillion Points)

RUNNER UP: Hunter Davies – “The Beatles Lyrics: The Stories Behind The Music…..” (Little, Brown and



Grand Budapest Hotel



Only Lovers Left Alive

The Edge of Tomorrow


Best Record Label



Best Music Website


In Memorium: Most Lamented Death

Jack Bruce


Best New Artist

In a vast sea of dipshits, no one floats to the surface.


Worst New Artist

Overwhelmed by choices in a vast sea of dipshits.


Dumbest Band Name

TIE: ‘We Butter The Bread With Butter’ and ‘Butter The Children.’


Best Album Sleeve Art

Meatbodies – Meatbodies (In The Red)


Hero of the Year

Tara, the Hero Cat.


Asshole of the Year

So many to choose from, can’t pin down just one, but it’s for sure a Republican politician.


Coolest Trend or Whatever

Continued decriminalization/legalization of marijuana.


Most Fucked Up or Annoying Trend

Continued American imperialistic, white supremacist, capitalistic, hetero-patriarchy.


Favorite Review Wrote for Blurt

‘Sunbathing Animal’ – Parquet Courts (What’s Your Rupture / Mom + Pop)





2014 Albums

  1. Run the Jewels RTJ2 (Mass Appeal) “I’m gonna bang this bitch the fuck out!” Killer Mike shouts in the spoken-word intro to RTJ2. “You might wanna record the other way, you feelin’ like history being made. This motherfucker put a mirror on the goddamn screen.” True to his word, Mike’s second tag-team effort with fellow incendiary mastermind El-P reflects the chaos that was 2014. Brimming with violent charisma and razor-sharp braggadocio, social unrest is the subtext for every punishing rhyme—whether it’s El-P’s “Give a fuck if you deny it kids/ You can all run backwards through a field of dicks” or Mike’s more pointed “‘Cause when you live on MLK and it gets very scary/ You might have to pull your AK, send one to the cemetery.” The beats and verses escalate with hypnotic perfection: As comfortably psychedelic textures harden into bouts of bracing noise and concussive bass, the rappers’ push-and-pull chemistry moves from simple boasts to vicious political barbs. Mike’s passionate onstage speech in Ferguson, Missouri and his USA Today op-ed objecting to rap lyrics as courtroom evidence grabbed headlines, but all that attention would mean nothing if RTJ2 weren’t already so powerful.


  1. tUnE-yArDs Nikki Nack (4AD) Astounding in its social aims—“Nothing feels like dying like the drying of my skin and lung/ Why do we just sit here while they watch us wither ‘til we’re gone?” Merrill Garbus wonders on “Water Fountain,” signaling a corrosive afro-pop explosion that claws at socio-economic divides—Nikki Nack pushes the already far-ranging musician out of her formerly messy comfort zone, honing her hooks and placing her beautifully confounding voice front and center, in all of its racially ambiguous glory: “I sound like the real thing,” she muses at one point. “Joke’s on you.” Whether such lines leave you laughing or seething, it’s hard to deny that Garbus is slinging heat.


  1. Y’ALL I’m Here Right Now (Funny/Not Funny) No disrespect to the charming sprawl of Ty Segall’s similarly minded Manipulator, but the year’s best glam-garage hybrid came from this new and relatively unknown quartet from Virginia. Picking up the pieces from two rock bands, Invisible Hand and Naked Gods, that chased similar ends, I’m Here Right Now is both cozy and captivating. The guitarmonies alternately sizzle and swaddle, and leader Adam Smith is suave like Bolan until he goes crazy like Bowie.


  1. Caribou Our Love (Merge) Leave it to Dan Snaith to fashion the year’s freshest electronic collection around music’s most depleted subject. But it’s his earnest romantic sentiments that hold Our Love’s disparate ideas together. “Can’t Do Without You” is a restless techno stunner that spends three tantalizing minutes building repetitions of the titular phrase into a massive, club-crushing drop. The murky dubstep infusions of “All I Ever Need” elucidate mainstream EDM’s current obsession, retooling the sound as the backdrop for a percolating ballad. Well played.


  1. Swans To Be Kind (Mute/Young God) Tidier but no less expansive than 2012’s The Seer, this new collection finds the already legendary Swans further refining their new identity four years after ending a 13-year hiatus. Subtle touches—tinklings of glockenspiel, eerie peels of pedal steel—underpin grooves that mutate and distort across songs that last 10 and 30 minutes, none of which are wasted on Michael Gira, who shrieks and cackles with all the clear-eyed lunacy his fans have come to expect. They’re not the violent noise-rock band they once were, but what Swans are now is just as good—if not better.


  1. D’Angelo and the Vanguard Black Messiah (RCA) Much has been made of the versatile arrangements—the fire-breathing funk of “1000 Deaths,” the proto-hop strut of “Sugah Daddy”—and the political firepower—D’Angelo moved up the release date so lines like “All we wanted was a chance to talk/ ‘Stead we only got outlined in chalk” could speak to unrest following the police killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. But it’s the spellbinding vocal performances on his first album in 14 years that elevate Black Messiah, bridging its myriad ideas and frustrations with buttery, sensual charm.


  1. Hiss Golden Messenger Lateness of Dancers (Merge) How do you react when everything in your life is great, but the big questions still keep you up at night? You write a record like Lateness of Dancers, where North Carolina’s M.C. Taylor—father to a happy family, signee to one of the world’s greatest independent labels—stakes his contentment against still nagging spiritual uncertainty. His talented friends cushion him with sparkling folk-rock that choogles warmly and shimmers with a cosmic sense of wonder. “The misery of love is a funny thing,” Taylor offers, summing up the album’s devastating duality. “The more it hurts/ The more you think/ You can stand a little pain.”


  1. Flying Lotus You’re Dead! (Warp) Forgiving a few moments when Flying Lotus’ musical reach somewhat exceeds his grasp, You’re Dead! is filled with some of the most thrilling and unlikely genre fusions to emerge in some time. During the opening tandem of “Theme” and “Tesla,” the adventurous producer drifts through Amon Tobin-esque ambient noise and Miles Davis bop with an electro-lush sheen. “Never Catch Me,” with its warped and wonderful Kendrick Lamar verse, takes Stankonia on an intergalactic odyssey back to its Funkadelic roots. Setting the past, present and future of jazz, soul and hip-hop on a level playing field, Flying Lotus relishes in their vast differences and equally profound similarities—a gesture that’s potent politically, as well as artistically.


  1. Tombs Savage Gold (Relapse) Within Savage Gold’s superheated confines, various strains of metal are melted down and repurposed, fused into surprising new alloys: The blackened gusts that begin “Portraits” harden into a shower of sludgy brimstone. “Seance” blurs the line separating crusty hardcore from torturous death metal—massaging tempos, tightening and unwinding complex guitar lines—forging a song that evokes mindless savagery and diabolical menace in equal measure. Deeply rooted in metal’s various traditions but unbound by their rigid boundaries, Tombs erupt with new possibilities.


  1. Concord America Suns Out Guns Out (Post-Echo) So breathless and belligerent are these garage upstarts that it takes a few listens to truly appreciate the Atlanta trio’s rough-and-tumble alchemy. “So Gay” sneers like Nick Cave and careens like Thee Oh Sees. “Crown Vic” force-feeds its Oblivians-worthy blitz a steady diet of burly crust-punk fuzz. The title track targets the loopy, party-loving lilt of hometown compatriots The Black Lips, instilling it with an amphetamine heartbeat and a dizzying array of twisted guitar lines. Not bad for a record that lasts just 18 minutes.




2014 Albums

  1. Gridlink – Longhena (Handshake INC)
  2. Plebieian Grandstand – Low Gazers (Throatruiner Records)
  3. Full of Hell/Merzbow – S/T (Profound Lore Records)
  4. Code Orange – I Am King (Deathwish)
  5. Single Mothers – Negative Qualities (Matador)
  6. Sun Kil Moon – Benji (Caldo Verde)
  7. Run The Jewels – RTJ2 (Mass Appeal)
  8. Sturgill Simpson – Metamodern Sounds In Country Music (High Top Mountain Records)
  9. The World Is A Beautiful Place and I Am No Longer Afraid To Die – Between Bodies (Broken Circles)
  10. Xerxes – Collision Blonde (No Sleep Records)


Honorable Mentions:

Sylvan Esso – S/T (Partisan)

Pianos Become The Teeth – Keep You (Matador)

Blut Aus Nord – Memoria Vetusta III Saturnian Poetry (Debemur Morti)

Old Man Gloom – The Ape of God (Profound Lore)

Flying Lotus – You’re Dead (Warp)



  1. Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
  2. The Raid 2
  3. The Babadook
  4. The Grand Budapest Hotel
  5. Snowpiercer
  6. Tusk
  7. They Came Together
  8. Nymphomaniac
  9. Guardians Of The Galaxy
  10. Foxcatcher




On paper, 2014 was a godforsaken year for me. Divorce after 18 years of marriage to my best friend, illness that would not go away, my dearest cousin battling cancer, depression, the list goes on. This year, the thing that kept me from taking that one last long nap (and I considered it more than once) was, primarily, my beautiful children and second, my love of music. The end of the year best of lists are always fun for me. They afford music junkies like me a chance to cast upon the world what they believe to be the best music among millions of songs and thousands of records released this year. Moreover, I have an ego and it is a solid “look at me” opportunity. Therefore, without further procrastination, here are my top five Best Albums of 2014 in no particular order.

2014 Albums

Bob Mould – Beauty and Ruin Over the past two years or so, the legendary front man of the bands Husker Du and Sugar has released two of the finest albums of his career, 2012’s “Silver Age” and this year’s Beauty and Ruin. Driven by “The War” and “I Don’t Know you Anymore,” Beauty is a slice of classic Mould: loud guitars, catchy songs, powerful lyrics and, above all else, honesty coats what he is selling.

St. Vincent – “s/t” Top notch guitarist Annie Clark aka St. Vincent has gone from a face in the crowd as a member of The Polyphonic Spree to a major artist in her own right. The self-titled “St. Vincent” is an achievement and a huge step forward toward becoming the heir apparent to Devo’s art rock throne. Check out “Birth in Reverse,” “Digital Witness,” “Rattlesnake” and “Psychopath” for proof.

Black Luck – Firebrand Hailing from Lawrence, Kansas (home to the greatest record shop in the world Lovegarden Sounds), BLACK LUCK is ready to set the world ablaze. Overcoming adversity (threatened lawsuit that necessitated a name change, no money, etc…)The band has managed to release four eps in the last two years, each building upon the next. Each a step forward in ability, quality and ferocity. Firebrand is a mix of Fugazi, Converge, Jawbreaker, Bad Religion, Bad Brains and Billy Bragg. It is in your face while still injecting melody and beauty into the chaos riddled eye of their pissed off storm. One of my favorite bands of the last five years, easily. Sure, some d-bag owned their old name, that’s ok they’ll rule the world. I have spoken.

Royal Blood- “s/t” Thank you sweet baby Jesus for allowing crunchy, molasses sludgy, rock n roll to be brought back to the forefront. Brighton, England’s Royal Blood have given us a debut that is equal parts Black Sabbath, Corrosion of Conformity, The Melvins and just a sprinkling of Queens of the Stone Age, breathing life into rock and hopeful killing “indie bands” like Bastille and Grizzly Bear once and for all.

Stiff Middle Fingers- Songs about Sucking At the root of it all, I am a punk rock guy. So it was beyond refreshing for Songs about Sucking to land in my mailbox. Nitro driven frontman Travis Arey and the boys mine the golden snot covered road laid before them by bands like Naked Raygun, The Descendents, Articles of Faith and Black Flag to make a furious racket all their own. Check out the songs “Common Cents,” “Psycho Bitch” and “World’s Biggest Guillotine” for a solid brass knuckle punch to your forehead.

Honorable Mentions: The New Basement Tapes Lost on the River, St. Paul and the Broken Bones Half the City, Against Me! Transgender Dysphoria Blues, Jack White Lazaretto, Interpol El Pintor, Swans To Be Kind, The War on Drugs Lost in the Dream



ZACH BLOOM (Oakland, CA)

2014 Albums

St Vincent — St. Vincent (Loma Vista/Republic)

Real Estate — Atlas (Domino)

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart — Days Of Abandon (Yebo Music)

Future Islands — Singles (4AD)

Sun Kil Moon — Benji (Caldo Verde)

Ex Hex — Rips (Merge)

Charli XCX — Sucker (Asylum/Atlantic)

Sharon Van Etten — Are We There (Jagjaguwar)

Wild Beasts — Present Tense (Domino)

Damon Albarn — Everyday Robots (Warner Bros.)



Iggy Azalea (feat. Charli XCX) — Fancy (Island)

Charli XCX — Boom Clap (Asylum/Atlantic)

Real Estate — Talking Backwards (Domino)

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart — Eurydice (Yebo Music)

Hamilton Leithauser — Alexandra (Ribbon Music)

Bombay Bicycle Club — Home By Now (Island)

TacocaT — Crimson Wave (Hardly Art)

Future Islands — Seasons (Waiting On You) (4AD)

Cloud Nothings — I’m Not Part of Me (Carpark)

Sharon Van Etten — Our Love (Jagjaguwar)




2014 Albums

Benjamin Booker – s/t (ATO) Reverend Gary Davis and the Velvet Underground not only co-exist, they jam in Booker’s music. The production is field song-punk verite, all rock salt and grime. The songs are sturdy and roiling from the soul. – Booker’s guitar a punk-metallic force, his vocals like Ted Hawkins singing with the Pixies.


Sloan – Commonwealth (Yep Roc) Their eleventh album finds the Canadian quartet giving a “side” to each of the four musicians. While their individual proclivities and qualities emerge, it’s clearly Sloan – the best pop band in the world (since Super Furry Animals, who contested the crown, are no more).


Vashti Bunyan – Heartleap (Fat Cat) It took her 35 years to record a sophomore album, after releasing the (eventually) influential sleeper Another Diamond Day; Lookaftering was a lovely song suite with gorgeous arrangements from composer Max Richter. Heartleap follows Lookaftering by a mere nine years. A self-produced affair, recorded privately and quietly for private, quiet listening.


Felice Brothers – Favorite Waitress (Dualtone) The studious, earnest “New Basement Tapes” have their moments, but the Felices are closer to the loose, ragged spirit of the original “Basement Tapes,” and a lot more fun.


Ex-hex – Rips (Merge) From Helium’s density, to Wild Flag’s super-woman jam rock to this – Mary Timony’s new band delivers a straight up pop-punk album. Just when Timony’s vocals start to sound a little too Smith College she flashes signs of Patti Smith inspiration, and her Thunders-esque guitar, plus the drumming of Laura Harris, keeps the music rocking.


Parquet Courts – Sunbathing Animal (What’s Your Rupture) Pavement – blah, blah, blah. But Parquet Courts reflect the Monochrome Set, Richard Hell, and the Embarrassment, too. On this, their deepest and rangiest album, Parquet Courts rock dirtier, harder and more driven than Malkmus and company ever did.


Lykke Li – I Never Learn (LL/Atlantic) Lykke Li follows her breakthrough, Wounded Rhymes, with a record, despite a few pop moments, that is a slower, darker and more exposed set of songs. Like some Piaf for a new age, her songs of heartbreak and defiance thrill and charm.


Ty Segall – Manipulator (Drag City) Ty Segall, a modern garage-pop Bach, is often too prolific for his own good. Manipulator, though, hits (mostly) on all cylinders and reveals many layers of the artist’s talents. Just enough hooks, just enough irreverent smack.


War on Drugs – Lost in the Dream (Secretly Canadian) Before I got lazy and preoccupied with life I wrote this for Blurt (but now I’m back!):


Real Kids – Shake … Outta Control (Ace of Hearts) It’s an admittedly sentimental pick. A little jerry-built, all studs showing – it won’t make anyone forget their iconic debut from 1977. But as his work with the Devotions demonstrated, Shake proves that John Felice is still rocking.



 Velvet Underground – s/t 45th Anniversary Deluxe edition. (Polydor) The Val Valentin mix, the mono mix, the “Closet Mix” (Lou’s vocals forward, instruments panned hard right and left) – all gathered together in one place. The quality of the two-discs of live material from the Matrix in San Francisco is remarkable; and so is the playing – loose, spirited, Lou and Sterling in guitar hero mode.






2014 Albums

  1. Mary Gauthier — Trouble and Love (In The Black Records) The follow-up to 2010’s The Foundling, Trouble and Love is just as powerful, harrowing and, ultimately, life-affirming. This eight-track song cycle chronicles the end of a love affair and its aftermath. Trouble and Love proves beyond a doubt that Mary Gauthier is one of the best singer-songwriters working today. Hard to choose a favorite song but if pressed, I’d probably go with “How You Learn to Live Alone.”
  2. Ben Watt — Hendra (Unmade Road) The first album in three decades from the male half of Everything But The Girl is well worth the wait. Hendra‘s highlights range from the ballads “Matthew Arnold’s Field” and “The Levels” — both of which deal with the death of loved ones — to the edgy sociopolitical commentary of “The Gun” and the sad but surging “Forget.”
  3. Counting Crows — Somewhere Under Wonderland (Capitol) Counting Crows return with a concise album that proves Adam Duritz is still the king of pain — and that his six bandmates know how to take that pain and wrap in a varied and effective set of musical backdrops.
  4. The Empty Hearts — self titled (429 Records) The debut effort from The Empty Hearts — a supergroup featuring alumni of The Cars, The Romantics and Blondie — offers a fresh take on the garage rock and power pop that prompted its members to play music in the first place.
  5. Jackson Browne — Standing in the Breach (Inside Recordings) Browne’s first album in six years features a combination of personal and political songs. The title track and “Which Side” fall into the latter category. But the opener, “Birds of St. Marks,” is actually a love song Browne wrote in the ’60s but which remained unrecorded until now and which echoes his classic work.
  6. Broken Bells — After the Disco (Columbia) The sophomore set from James Mercer and Danger Mouse offers the perfect soundtrack to an autumn night on the town….
  7. Suzanne Vega — Tales from the Realm of the Queen of Pentacles (Amanuensis Productions) Vega’s first album of new material since 2007, well produced by guitarist Gerry Leonard, finds her mainly in signature story-telling mode. But it also includes one of her best-ever rockers, “I Never Wear White.”
  8. U2 — Songs of Innocence (Interscope) The hype surrounding the new disc by Bono and the boys initially put me off listening to it. But once I gave it a try, I had to admit it was a very good album on its own merits that really didn’t need Apple to help sell it. U2 pay homage to their past on this album, whether on the pulsing “This is Where You Can Reach Me Now” — which is dedicated to the late Joe Strummer — or on quieter numbers like “Song for Someone,” “The Troubles” and “Iris (Hold Me Close)” — which is about Bono’s late mother.
  9. Temples — Sun Structures (Fat Possum) Listen to the debut by this young band from Kettering, England and you’d swear it was recorded in 1967. These guys wear their influences on their paisley sleeves — and for the most part, it works.
  10. Otis Clay & Johnny Rawls — Soul Brothers (Catfood Records)

Two veteran soul men team up for an album that mixes originals with covers of classics like Jimmy Ruffin’s “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted.”


Honorable Mention:

  1. Catie Curtis — Flying Dream (Catie Curtis Records)
  2. Puss N’ Boots — No Fools, No Fun (Blue Note)
  3. Mike Farris — Shine for All the People (Compass)
  4. Mary Lambert — Heart on My Sleeve (Capitol)
  5. Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers — Hypnotic Eye (Reprise)



  1. Suzanne Vega — Close-Up Series box set (Amanuensis Productions)
  2. The Kinks — The Essential Kinks (Sony Legacy)
  3. The Dream Academy — The Morning Lasted All Day (Real Gone Records)
  4. Various Artists — 20 Years (Ruf Records)
  5. Tears for Fears — Songs from the Big Chair, deluxe edition (Island/Universal)


Music Books

Through the Eye of the Tiger by Jim Peterik with Lisa Torem


In Memoriam: Most Lamented Death

Pete Seeger, Joe Cocker, Joe Sample, Jack Bruce and Tommy Ramone — take your pick. And if we can include people outside the music industry, most definitely Maya Angelou and Philip Seymour Hoffman.



Begin Again: A charming film about music, love and New York City. Great cast led by the ridiculously likable Mark Ruffalo (who also played a great role this year in “Foxcatcher”).


Best Concert

Ben Watt… twice! First at Joe’s Pub and more recently at Le Poisson Rouge, both in NYC. Watt’s first American solo shows in decades were intimate affairs that touched on various stages of his career and proved emotional not only for him but for many of us who were in the audience.

Best Label

Real Gone Music


Best New Artist

Mary Lambert


Worst New Artist

Charli XCX


Asshole of the Year

Robin Thicke


2015 Release I Am Most Anticipating

The next studio album from Rickie Lee Jones


Most Fucked Up or Annoying Trend

I’m not even sure where to begin… Do I go with the fact that more record and book stores than ever have gone out of business? That more legends are leaving us as the first generation of rock and rollers enters their golden years? That record companies continue to fall victim to consolidation, affecting not only the number of talented artists that get signed but also the number of staff members needed to work those artists? That commercial radio stations continue to tighten their playlists while ignoring all the great music that’s out there? That Jon Bon Jovi keeps touring and releasing albums despite the fact that he never had anything interesting to say in the first place? Hell, I’ll go with all of the above.

Wildcard: 50 Words From or About Me

I’m originally from Connecticut but have lived in New York City for many years. Have been writing about music professionally since 1999 for radio, print and the Internet. Personally, 2014 was a year of highs and lows with little in between… And aside from the January and February, it was probably the fastest year yet. Definitely a good year for music despite the continued efforts of the music business to sabotage it.




2014 albums

St. Vincent (Loma Vista/Republic)

D’Angelo & the Vanguard – Black Messiah (RCA)

Spoon – They Want My Soul (Loma Vista/Republic)

Cloud Nothings – Here & Nowhere Else (Carpark)

Sturgill Simpson – Metamodern Sounds in Country Music (High Top Mountain)

The War on Drugs – Lost in the Dream (Secretly Canadian)

Robert Plant – Lullaby… and the Ceaseless Roar (Nonesuch)

Iceage – Plowing into the Field of Love (Matador)

Ex Hex – Rips (Merge)

Sun Kil Moon – Benji (Caldo Verde)

Honorable mention: Angel Olsen – Burn Your Fire for No Witness (Jagjaguwar), Sharon Van Etten – Are We There (Jagjaguwar), White Lung – Deep Fantasy (Domino), Prince – Art Official Age (Warner Bros.), Woods – With Light and Love (Woodsist), Real Estate – Atlas (Domino), Benjamin Booker (ATO)


Bob Dylan & the Band – The Bootleg Series Vol. 11: The Basement Tapes Complete (Legacy)

Led Zeppelin – Reissue series (Rhino)

The Velvet Underground 45th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition (UMe)

Grateful Dead – Wake Up to Find Out: Nassau Coliseum 3/29/90 (Rhino)

Sleater-Kinney – Start Together (Sub Pop)

I’m Just Like You: Sly’s Stone Flower 1969-70 (Light in the Attic)

Yo La Tengo – Extra Painful (Matador)

Country Funk Volume II: 1967-1974 (Light in the Attic)



Goshen ’97 – Strand of Oaks (Dead Oceans)

Seasons (Waiting on You) – Future Islands (4AD)

Turtles All the Way Down – Sturgill Simpson (High Top Mountain)

Lights Out – Angel Olsen (Jagjaguwar)

Under the Pressure – The War on Drugs (Secretly Canadian)

I’m Not Part of Me – Cloud Nothings (Carpark)



The Replacements/The Hold Steady – 9/19, Forest Hills, NY

St Vincent – 8/9, Brooklyn, NY

Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – 7/26, Brooklyn, NY

Mark Kozelek – 3/14, Austin, TX

The National – 6/19, Brooklyn, NY





2014 Albums

Sleaford Mods – Austerity Dogs (Harbinger Sound)

tUnE-yArDs – Nikki Nack (4AD)

Bruce Springsteen – High Hopes (Sony)

Bleeding Rainbow – Interrupt (Kanine)

Marianne Faithfull – Give My Love To London (Easy Sound)

Jack White – Lazaretto (Third Man)

Amy Ray – Goodnight Tender (Daemon)

Mayday! and Murs – ¡MursDay! (Strange Music)

Gordon Voidwell – Bad Etudes (no label)

Charli XCX – Sucker (Atlantic)



Jon Hassell/Brian Eno – Fourth World- Possible Musics Vol. 1 (Glitterbeat)

Various Artists – Gipsy Rhumba – The Original Rhythm of Gipsy Rhumba in

Spain 1965 – 1974 (Soul Jazz)

Various Artists – C86 – The Deluxe Edition (Cherry Red)

Matt Nelkin – Boombap Riddims (Liquid Beat)

Fugazi – First Demo (Dischord)

Various Artists – Super Black Blues (Ace)

Various Artists – The Last Shout! Twilight of the Blues Shouters 1954-1962

(Fantastic Voyage)

The “5” Royales – Soul and Swagger (Rockbeat)

Hank Williams – The Garden Spot Programs, 1950 (Omnivore)

Half Japanese – Volume 1 1981-1985 (Fire)



ZHU Ft. Sean Dee “Faded (Remix)” (no label)

Mark Morrison “Return Of The Mack (SNBRN Remix)” ( Boy

“Railway (Daniele Di Martino Edit)” (Soundcloud)

Beyonce “Partition” (Parkwood)

Only Real “Pass the Pain” (Harvest)

A-Trak featuring Andrew Wyatt “Push” (Fool’s Gold)

Metronomy “Love Letters” (Because)

  1. Cole “Be Free” (Dreamville)

Maddie and Tae “Girl In A Country Song” (Dot)



Thomas Brothers – Louis Armstrong, Master of Modernism

Harvey Kubernik – Turn Up the Radio!: Rock, Pop, and Roll in Los Angeles


Joel Selvin – Here Comes the Night: The Dark Soul of Bert Berns and the

Dirty Business of Rhythm and Blues

Amanda Petrusich – Do Not Sell At Any Price: The Wild, Obsessive Hunt for the World’s Rarest 78rpm Records

Eilon Paz – Dust and Grooves- Adventures in Record Collecting



Nas- Time Is Illmatic

Super Duper Alice Cooper

God Help the Girl

Get On Up




Maddie and Tae “Girl In A Country Song”

The Last Skeptik “Hero Mask – A Short Film Presentation about Assassination”

Sidi Toure “L’eau; The Water”

Benny “Little Games”

“These Young Iranians Arrested for Recording Tehran Version of Pharrell Williams’ “Happy””


Best Record Label



Best New Artist



Best Album Packaging

Jack White – Lazaretto


Hero of the Year/Coolest Trend

Tie- Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle for reminding us that the best comedians can be the best truth-tellers


Worst Trend

Sony caving in to hackers over ‘The Interview’ and setting a REALLY dangerous precedent and was so bad that they had to scramble to try to backtrack over it



Buzzcocks- Webster Hall- Sept 2014

The Julie Ruin with Screaming Females & Shellshag- Asbury Lanes Apr 12, 2014

Replacements/Hold Steady/Deer Tick at Forest Hills stadium- Sept 19, 2014



2015 Album I’m Anticipating

Kanye West or Sleater-Kinney


In Memoriam

Eric Garner, Michael Brown




2014 Albums

The Antlers – Familiars (Anti-)

Rosanne Cash – The River & The Thread (Blue Note)

Drive-By Truckers – English Oceans  (ATO)

Future Islands – Singles (4AD)

The New Pornographers – Brill Bruisers (Matador)

Sharon Van Etten – Are We There (Jagjaguar)

Sun Kil Moon – Benji (Caldo Verde)

Tune Yards – Nicki Nack (4AD)

The War On Drugs – Lost In The Dream (Secretly Canadian)

Lucinda Williams – Where The Spirit Meets The Bone (Highway 20)



Tim Hinely (Denver, CO)

2014 Albums

Dean Wareham- S/T

Literature- Chorus (Slumberland)

Lydia Loveless- Somewhere Else (Bloodshot)

Alvvays- S/T (Polyvinyl)

Connections- Into Sixes (Anyway)

Ex Hex- RIPS (Merge)

First Aid Kid- Stay Gold (Columbia)

The Gotobeds- Poor People Are Revolting (12XU)

The Hobbes Fan Club- Up at La Grange (Shelflife)

The Zebras- Siesta (Jigsaw)

Ausmuteants- Order of Operation (Goner)

The New Pornographers- Brill Bruisers (Matador)

Gold-Bears- Dalliance (Slumberland)

Jonly Bonly- Put Together (12XU)

Lunchbox- Lunchbox Loves You (Jigsaw)

Luluc- Passerby (Sub Pop)

Trick Mammoth- Floristry (Fishrider)

Ark Life- The Dream of You & Me (Greater Than Collective)

Withered Hand- New Gods (Slumberland)

The Men- Tomorrow’s Hits (Sacred Bones)

2014 Archival Collections

The Chills- BBC Sessions (Fire)

Donna Loren- These Are the Good Times: The Complete Capitol Recordings (The Now Sounds/ Cherry Red)

St. Christopher- Forevermore Starts Here: The Anthology 1984-2010 (Cherry Red)

Tar- 1988-1995 (Chunklet)

Further- Where Were You Then ? 1991-1997 (Bad Paintings)

Strawberry Story – Gravy (self released)

The Bluebells- Exile on Twee Street: Songs form Glasgow 1980-1982 (Cherry Red)

Peggy Lipton- The Complete Ode Recordings (Real Gone Music)

Pugwash- A Rose in the Garden of Weeds (Omnivore Recordings)

The Mighty Lemon Drops- Uptight: The Early Recordings 1985-1986 (Cherry Red)



Bedhead- 1992- 1998 (The Control Group)

Yo La Tengo- Extra Painful (Matador)

Big Star- #1 Record and Radio City (Stax/ Concord Music Group)

Crayon- Brick Factory (HHBTM)

The Posies- Failure (Omnivore Recordings)