Friday, December 28, 2012

Other Musical Stuff from 2012

Reissues, Live Albums, EPs, Etc
10) Rufus Wainwright - The Gum EP (Funny or Die)
Rufus Wainwright sings gum jingles. Thank you Funny or Die for making this concept come true.

  9) Chorus vs. Solos: A Tribute to Charlie Chesterman (Stereorrific Recordings)
Charlie Chesterman was the singer for one of my favorite college-era discoveries, Scruffy the Cat. Chesterman has been battling cancer for a couple of years, and those bills can mount up. So a bunch of great Boston acts got together to record songs from Chesterman’s Scruffy and solo era catalogs. Simply put, it’s great music for a great cause. Buy it digitally on Bandcamp or the CD version on Amazon.

  8) The English Beat - The Complete Beat (Shout Factory)
For a band that had such a brief career, they made a shocking high amount of quality music. I had no idea until I got this comprehensive box set.

  7) Uncle Tupelo - The Seven Inch Singles Box Set (Legacy)
I already owned much of this material, but the B-sides I didn’t have (and the digital download code that came with box) made it my favorite Record Store Day pick up.

  6) Mike Doughty - The Question Jar Show (Snack Bar/Megaforce)
Mike Doughty’s Question Jar shows have featured him and his bassist Andrew “Scrap” Livingston answering questions from the audience that were dropped into a jar on the stage. The questions that were selected for this double disc set are funny, intriguing and even creepy. And that is what makes it stand apart from your typical live album fare.

  5) Old 97’s - Too Far to Care (Omnivore Recordings)
This reissue of what is arguably the band's strongest album is a must own for any hardcore 97s fan. The demos on the second disc show how complete Rhett Miller’s songs were before they were ever properly recorded in the studio.

  4) The Minus 5 - The Minus 5 (a.k.a. The Gun Album) (Yeproc)
Eight previously unreleased Scott McCaughey songs? Um, hell yes, I’ll re-buy an album I only bought seven years ago

  3) Billy Bragg & Wilco - Mermaid Avenue: The Complete Sessions (Nonesuch/Elektra)
Here’s the highest amount of praise I can give a box set that had two albums and a DVD that I already owned -- the 13 previously unreleased songs on Volume 3 within the box were totally worth shelling out cash for the whole package.

  2) Paul McCartney - Ram (Hear Music/Concord)
I had the 1993 remaster of this album (which is co-credited with Linda McCartney) and I was able to compare that and the 2012 remaster side by side. It was no contest. It seems like people are finally realizing that remastering an album doesn’t mean you just push up the volume. (I’m looking at you, folks that did the Rolling StonesSome Girls.)

  1) Sugar - Copper Blue/Beaster (Merge)
The remastering job done for this reissue is one of the best I’ve ever heard. This edition of Copper Blue has warmness to it that I never sensed before. And wow, the drums sound massive.

10) Delta Spirit, Webster Hall, New York, NY 3/29
I think Matt Vasquez has become one of the best frontmen in rock, and this show just added to my impression of that. He made the 1500 capacity hall seem as tiny as a 70 person capacity club. 

  9) Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Barclays Center, Brooklyn, NY 12/4
I think my Facebook status from after this show summed it up well: “Well, tonight's Neil Young show at the Barclays featured no one spilling beer over my head. That, plus hanging with Scott Wells, makes it my favorite Neil Young show of the year.”

  8) Wilco, Prospect Park, Brooklyn, NY 7/24
Each time I see Wilco (this was my 23rd show, maybe 24th? I’ve actually lost count. Heck, I think I’ve forgotten where I am as I type this) I’m always impressed by how comfortable and funny Jeff Tweedy has gotten doing banter. The songs from The Whole Love have really grown with a year’s worth of touring behind them.

  7) Lyle Lovett, The Concert Hall at the SEC, New York, NY 2/28
There’s a famous (or infamous) album of Elvis Presley’s stage banter called Having Fun with Elvis on Stage. It’s a notable cash grab, for sure, but it also makes me think that Lyle Lovett needs to do one of these. He was so entertaining between songs that I would gladly download Having Fun with Lyle on Stage. Oh, and the music was pretty great too.

  6) The Baseball Project, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY 4/13
This was not your typical gig (as if the venue didn’t give that away). There was a panel about the Met’s baseball card collection featuring Dale Murphy and Jackie Robinson’s daughter followed by a great performance by the five piece edition of the Project (with Mike Mills on keyboards and vocals) featuring a song written especially for the event. And then I met Dale Murphy. So yeah, that went well.

  5) Ted Leo & The Pharmacists, Titus Andronicus, Andrew WK, The Bell House,
      Brooklyn, NY 12/7
This Sandy benefit hosted by Ted Leo and Tom Scharpling was a perfect mix of rock and the kind of comedy that literally makes you bend over laughing. The highlights are too numerous to mention, but I can say that I really look forward to Leo’s next album after hearing the new songs he played. And that Chris Elliott is still one of the funniest fucking people on the planet.

  4) The Figgs, Littlefield, Brooklyn, NY 3/2
I always feel good when I can get a couple of people that have never seen The Figgs to one of their shows. My friends Jon and Jessica caught the guys on a really good night with a bunch of new songs from The Day Gravity Stopped, a diverse of mix of songs from seven of their albums and two balls out great covers (Buffalo Springfield’s “Mr. Soul” and The Rolling Stones’ “When the Whip Comes Down”). Not bad for some guys that have been playing together for 25 years.

  3) Nada Surf, Bowery Ballroom, New York, NY 1/24; Webster Hall, New York, NY
      4/8; Bowery Ballroom, New York, NY 12/15
I really couldn’t choose just one show from these guys. All three were fantastic for varying reasons. The January 24th show was memorable as the band played their new songs as if they’d been touring them for weeks, not debuting most of them for a worshipping hometown crowd. The tour-closing show on December 15th was such a joyous occasion in the wake of what was a very difficult weekend. And I’ll never forget the April 8th gig because the band covered a song by one of my favorites, The Gravel Pit. They did that song inspired by a conversation we had after I interviewed them. I will admit it -- I screamed like a five year old girl when they started doing “Something’s Growing Inside.” Somehow I was still able to film it.

  2) Bob Mould, Williamsburg Park, Brooklyn, NY 9/7
Bob Mould and his current band playing Copper Blue all the way through? For free? Um, yes, thank you rock gods? It was the best album performance I’ve seen to date. And the mix of new tunes and Husker Du classics I had never seen before. Oh yeah, it was that good.

  1) Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, XL Center, Hartford, CT 10/25
I hadn’t Springsteen and the E Streeters since 2003. And with two members passing away over the past four years, I was pretty sure I would kick myself if I didn’t catch the Wrecking Ball tour. And I couldn’t have picked a better night. This new expanded version of the band is a force to reckon with. And the set list was, well, fucking amazing. Opening with “Held Up Without a Gun?” “Incident on 57th Street” into “Point Blank?” A seventeen minute take on “Kitty’s Back?” Incredible. It’s definitely my top three Springsteen shows ever.

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