Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Ledge, Episode 54: Guns & Ammo With the Goddess!

For almost two years, the beautiful and talented Goddess (aka Jennifer Ripper) has entertained her blip friends with her "gun sets"...a series of tunes whose titles and/or lyrics incorporate weaponry. In town for the holidays, it was obvious that she had to "Ledge-ucate" my podcast listeners with her favorite gun songs.

As always, you can download the show via iTunes, listen to it on realpunkradio this Friday at 5 pm central time, or directly download it here.

Here's the setlist:

1. The Cramps, Bikini Girls in Machine Guns

2. Afghan Wigs, Bulletproof

3. The Wrens, Faster Gun

4. The Alarm, 68 Guns

5. Red Rockers, Guns of Revolution

6. Paul Westerberg, Gun Shy

7. Zuzu's Petals, Love Bullet

8. Throwing Muses, Bright Yellow Gun

9. Metric, Gold Gun Girls

10. Violet, Loaded Gun

11. House of Large Sizes, Loaded Gun

12. Flamin' Oh's, I'm the Gun

13. The Phones, Everybody's Got a Gun

14. Uncle Tupelo, Gun

15. Bottle Rockets, Radar Gun

16. Jesus and Mary Chain, Blues From a Gun

17. The Pixies, There Goes My Gune

18. The Jam, Eton Rifles

19. The Clash, Tommy Gun

20. The Clash, Guns of Brixton

21. The Damned Gun Fury

22. Descendents, M-16

23. Circle Jerks, Under the Gun

24. Mission of Burma, That's When I Reach For My Revolver

25. The Vaselines, Son of a Gun

26. Rancid, Gunshot

27. G.G. Allin, Bastard Son of a Loaded Gun

28. The Dead Milkmen, If I Had a Gun

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Ledge, Episode 53: Hudson's Rockin' Christmas Extravaganza

Originally, I had no plans to do a Christmas show. While I had collected quite a few quality holiday songs over the years, I didn't believe I had enough material to put on a quality show.

I changed my mind last month, however, after downloading my monthly allotment from emusic. In my search for new music, I discovered a wonderful two-disc set of Christmas garage rock. Entitled "Happy Birthday Baby Jesus", this Sympathy for the Record Industry release collected holiday tunes by bands such as the Supersuckers, Muffs, Rocket From the Crypt, and so many more.

Tracks from this set, along with lots of other tracks buried in my messy library, are now presented in my first annual Rockin' Christmas Extravaganza. Also included in the set is a short tribute to the late, great Captain Beefheart, who passed away on December 17. Fans of the Ron and Fez show on Sirius XM will also be familiar with a tune from the great Sherwin Sleeves, who is now selling a collection of his material on his website.

As with all Ledge episodes, one can download this show directly from either iTunes or mevio, or tune into realpunkradio on Christmas Eve at 5 pm central time.

Here's the setlist:

1. Stiff Little Fingers, White Christmas

2. Captain Beefheart, There Ain't No Santa Claus On the Evenin' Stage

3. Tom Waits, Silent Night/Christmas Card From a Hooker in Minneapolis

4. Sherwin Sleeves, The La La Christmas Song

5. Pogues, Fairytale of New York City (1987 2nd Demo)

6. Victoria Spivey, I Ain't Gonna Let You See My Santa Claus

7. Holly Golightly, Christmas Tree On Fire

8. Best coast & Wavves, Got Something For You

9. The Muffs, Nothing For Me

10. Snap-Her, I Hate Christmas

11. The Shitbirds, Christmas Is a Comin' (May God Bless You)

12. X, Santa Claus is Coming to Town

13. X, Jingle Bells

14. Yo La Tengo, Rock 'n' Roll Santa

15. Pointed Sticks, Power Pop Santa

16. Peter and the Test Tube Babies, I'm Getting Pissed For Christmas

17. The Fleshtones, Christmas With Bazooka Joe

18. Julian Casablancas, I Wish It Was Christmas Today

19. Satans Cheerleaders, Christmastime is Here Again

20. The Ramones, Merry Christmas (I Don't Want to Fight Tonight)

21. The Greedies, A Merry Jingle

22. The Sonics, Santa Clause

23. Billy Childish, Santa Clause

24. The Dickies, Silent Night

25. The Vandals, Oi to the World

26. The New Bomb Turks, Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home)

27. The Humpers, Run Run Rudolph

28. The Mono Men, Christmastime Is For Sinners

29. The Quadrajets, Christmastime is comin'

30. Deer Tick, Christmas All Summer

31. The Supersuckers, We'll Call it Christmas

32. Superchunk, Child's Christmas In Wales

33. Paul Westerberg, Always In a Manger

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

My Letter to Santa

Dear Santa,

It’s hard to believe that it’s been a full 12 months since my last letter. What a year it’s been! We’ve seen a lot of changes in our community, or at least that’s what we’re led to believe by following our local media. My life, however, has seen absolutely no change, so once again I’m asking you to provide for others:

1.  Our new Mayor, Mike Huether, has a giant wish list. More than once, he has stated that he wishes he could be cloned because there’s so much he wants to do. Yeah, I know. He also wants a giant, destined-to-be-underutilized monstrosity of an events center, and smaller buildings for every single special interest group. Santa, what Huether really needs will cost at least $150 million less than what he’s been asking from you. You see, he really has a problem keeping his arms under control when he speaks, and a quick search on google shows that for less than $50 you can provide him with a straitjacket. Please purchase this for him, as his arms are a safety issue for not only himself but anybody within five feet of him.

2. While you’re shopping for our Mayor, there’s a simple gift that you can pick up for his best pal Darrin Smith. To ensure that he’s always within arm’s reach of his boss and can cater to his every whim (especially now that it will be safe to be so close to Huether), grab a cheap dog leash. I’d ask to include a shock collar, but it’s clear that Darrin will NEVER say anything without running it by his BFF.

3. Let’s move on to our new Governor, Dennis Daugaard. He’s clearly a HUGE fan of recycling, as his only move since being elected has been to shift his old pals from department to department. It’s obvious that the perfect gift for our state’s new leader would be a gigantic recycling bin.

4. Now Santa, there is one wonderful local man who for years has had big dreams of running our fine city. Unfortunately, he never gained more than a couple hundred votes in either of the Mayoral elections where he participated. I have two ideas for Janoct Adja. One is a practical idea – make him a city employee of some sort. His skills would be perfect for the Parks Department, or even the Streets Department. What I really want to see Janoct receive, though, is a trademark on the phrase “Stuck On Stupid”. I wouldn’t mind paying him a royalty for using it, and I can guarantee that this phrase will be well-utilized over the next few years.

5. Speaking of “Stuck On Stupid”, are you aware of the morons who get riled up whenever this holiday season isn’t phrased the way you desire? It’s beyond asinine, so I’d like for you to help educate these cretins. Please pass out thesauruses to anybody who believes there’s a “War on Christmas” so they can better understand that different words and phrases can have the same meaning.

6. Let’s move on to those that can’t handle navigating the mean streets of Sioux Falls. Anybody who changes lanes without looking or using their turn signals, or forces entire lanes to sit through a green while you meander through an illegal left turn, should just be given a copy of Grand Theft Auto and told to stay home.

7. Oh Santa, I almost forgot to include our new Representative, Kristi Noem. This is a tough one for me to talk about, Santa, as I don’t want to come off as appearing superficial. Just hear me out, please. I fully believe there’s a beautiful woman hidden behind poor fashion choices. Let’s get rid of her awful Avon makeup and Great Clips hairdo, and replace it all (along with her clothes) with the products that enhance her new power as a Washington, DC MILF. One word of advice, though – don’t let her anywhere near John Boehner’s tanning booth.

8. I’d like to conclude this list with something for the Build It Downtown crowd, but I’m pretty sure they’ve already sent you their lists. I have a word of warning for you, though, Santa. They don’t believe in compromise. You better give them whatever they want, or they’ll run right to the media and demand that you fulfill their demands.

That should be enough for this year, Santa, besides my usual plea for everybody to have not only a wonderful holiday season, but for 2011 to be the best year of their lives. Please have a safe journey as you travel around the world bringing smiles to children of all ages.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Smash The Owl: Not big on introductions ..BUUUUUUT......

Seriously, one of the nicest things ever written about me!

Smash The Owl: Not big on introductions ..BUUUUUUT......: "Ok, so normally I wouldn't get so excited to actually make an entire post about one person following me, but I feel like this one should be ..."

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Ledge, Episode 52: Happy Birthday, Keith Richards!

Exactly one year ago, I sat down in front of my laptop with my brand new Snowball microphone and produced my very first episode of The Ledge. Of course, it was a complete shambolic mess, which sadly is my most-downloaded episode to date, but it started me on this little project that has consumed most of my free time over the last twelve months. Thank you to those who have listened to my obscure music choices and my inane banter.

But this episode is also noteworthy as Keith Richards turns 67 years old this Saturday. I've gathered together some of my favorite Stones covers, along with a couple of Stones originals, in this two hour celebration of the man who is the epitome of rock 'n' roll, both in musical terms but also in lifestyle. As always, subscribe via iTunes, listen to realpunkradio this Friday at 5 pm central time, or download it here.

Here's the setlist:

1. Rolling Stones, Bye Bye Johnny

2. Replacements, 'Round and 'Round

3. Replacements, Route 66

4. Alejandro Escovedo, Sway

5. The Pogues, Honky Tonk Woman

6. The Dirtbombs, No Expectations

7. The White Stripes, Stop Breaking Down

8. Rolling Stones, Little T&A

9. The Who, The Last Time

10. The Standells, 19th Nervous Breakdown

11. Alex Chilton, Jumping Jack Flash

12. Frank Black, Down In the Hole

13. The Feelies, Paint It Black

14. Social Distortion, Under My Thumb

15. Social Distortion, It's All Over Now

16. The Dead Boys, Tell Me

17. The Pagans, Heart of Stone

18. Rolling Stones, Happy

19. Steve Earle & the Supersuckers, Before They Make Me Run

20. Nine Pound Hammer, Dead Flowers

21. Devil Dogs, It's Not Easy

22. The Ramones, Out of Time

23. Celibate Rifles, Child Of the Moon

24. Groovie Ghoulies, 2000 Man

25. The Damned, Citadel

26. New Bomb Turks, Summer Romance

27. New Bomb Turks, Jivin' Sister Fanny

28. Devo, (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction

29. Thee Shams, Under My Thumb

30. Rolling Stones w/Jack White, Shine a Light

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Hudson's Best of 2010, Part Four: Top 20 Albums

I must admit that I was a bit worried when I started to gather my piles of CD’s around my laptop to begin the lengthy process of creating this list. Were there enough quality albums to even make this project worthwhile?

It wasn’t long before I discovered plenty of encouraging signs. Spoon put out an album this year? The National was a 2010 release? Early year albums such as those, plus a few last minute arrivals (such as Ryan Adams) completely turned me around on the quality of music that came out in the past twelve months. While there were very few albums that were obvious top-of-my-charts picks, the overall artistic greatness was at such a high this year that on any given day most of the releases found at the bottom of my list could find themselves sneaking into the top 15.

1. Titus Andronicus, Monitor. The sheer audacity of a Civil War rock opera is enough to make this Titus Andronicus album worth noting. The fact that the band’s teetering-on-the-edge-of-disaster execution evokes memories of the Clash and the Replacements turns it into the most audacious, rambunctious, energetic release of the year.

2. The Arcade Fire, The Suburbs. Easily the most anticipated indie album of the year, Arcade Fire doesn’t disappoint on Merge Records’ first chart-topping release. Inspired by a return visit to the Houston suburb where band members Wim and William Butler grew up, the album isn’t a nostalgic look at their upbringing, nor is it an indictment of middle-class life.

3. Superchunk, Majesty Shredding. The most welcome return of the year had to be this legendary Chapel Hill, NC band. For their first release since 2001’s Here’s to Shutting Up, Superchunk comes back with a back-to-basics collection of straightforward, energetic pop anthems.

4 &5 (tie). Eels, End Times & Eels, Tomorrow Morning. In just over twelve months, Mark Oliver Everett, aka E, released a trio of albums that rank up there with anything in his catalog. Two of these albums came out in 2010, and one is hard-pressed to choose between the “divorce” album (End Times) and the “redemption” album (Tomorrow Morning). Just play all three, including last year’s Hombre Lobo.

6. The Soft Pack, The Soft Pack. Easily the best new band of the year, San Diego’s Soft Pack (formerly The Muslims) is also the most unpretentious band on this list. The sound is rough-but-right, the energy is high-strung, and the melodies are top-notch.

7. Deerhunter, Halcyon Digest. Every year there is a sleeper album that is initially disappointing but quietly creeps up my personal charts. Halcyon Digest is this year’s model of that type of album. While 2008’s breakthrough album Microcastle was highlighted by leader Bradford Cox’s wall of swirling guitars, Halcyon Digest is much more lush and detailed.

8. The National, High Violet. One of indie rock’s best-kept secrets made their mainstream mark this year with this moody, melodic collection of novel-worthy confessional tunes. Although the recording sessions were reportedly contentious at times, with many songs tossed to the trash, the end result is one of the more beautiful releases in recent years.

9. Neil Young, Le Noise. Almost 45 years after his first recordings as a member of Buffalo Springfield, the “Godfather of Grunge” continues to experiment with new ways to write, play, and record. For this album, Young set himself up in a room with a specially-designed stereo guitar and just played, allowing producer Daniel Lanois to manipulate his guitar sounds on the spot as he deemed fit. The results are Young’s most intriguing album in at least a decade.

10. Spoon, Transference. Another year; another great Spoon album. One almost takes this Austin, Texas band for granted, but doing that is a huge mistake as they always deliver. Transference was the first self-produced album for the band, and while the songs are a tad livelier than in the past there’s no mistaking that it’s the same band.

11. The Hold Steady, Heaven is Whenever. The departure of keyboardist Franz Nicolay appears to have coincided with a back-to-basics move in the band, as Heaven Is Whenever is easily the most straightforward album in the band’s career. While maybe not as anthemic as 2005’s Separation Sunday or 2008’s Stay Positive, the album is still chock full of lead singer Craig Finn’s tales of indie rock love, lust, struggle, and reward.

12. Best Coast, Crazy For You. Imagine the Jesus and Mary Chain with a female vocalist. In other words, their debut album is pure pop bliss with a dirty feedback backing. Enough said.

13. Frightened Rabbit, The Winter of Mixed Drinks. Scotland’s version of The Arcade Fire? I’d say that’s a viable comparison, as this great band also combines roots-y playing, emotional vocals, and somewhat grand concepts.

14. The Jim Jones Revue, Burning Your House Down. Clearly inspired by Little Richard, the former member of Thee Hypnotics swaggers his way through this hard-hitting, shambolic collection of pounders.

15. The Black Keys, Brothers. After expanding their sound with outside players and acclaimed producer Danger Mouse on 2008’s Attack and Release, guitarist Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney are back to doing it all themselves on Brothers. Their experiences on that album, along with their foray into hip-hop under the name BlakRoc, are still heard on the impassioned grooves of this release.

16. Grinderman, Grinderman II. The second album by Nick Cave’s side project retains the filthy rock sounds of their debut, but expands into hints of psychedelia and stoner rock.

17. The Gaslight Anthem, American Slang. What happens when you put The Clash, Tom Petty, Lucero, Thin Lizzy, Van Morrison, and the entire state of New Jersey in a blender? You get The Gaslight Anthem. Leader Brian Fallon expertly manages to combine all of these easily-apparent influences into a sound that’s clearly his own.

18. Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, Brutalist Bricks. On his fourth album, and first for Matador Records, Leo effortlessly manages to mesh his growing singer/songwriter confessional lyrics with his band’s emotionally-charged punk roots. (Plus, he gets style points for having the same birthday as moi.)

19. Wintersleep, New Inheritors. A bit of a confession here – I initially ignored the fourth album by this wonderful Canadian collective. In the days before putting together this release, though, songs from New Inheritors kept popping up on my iPad’s “2010” playlist, leading me to fall in love with this varied collection of pop bliss.

20. Elvis Costello, National Ransom. Recent albums by my generation’s version of Bob Dylan (in my opinion) have tended to be genre-specific. Once you hear one song, you basically know what you’re getting on the entire album. That’s not the case on National Ransom, as Costello and friends (including not only the member of The Imposters but Buddy Miler, Leon Russell, and Vince Gill) jump from genre to genre. Yet somehow this album is the closest he’s come in decades to recapturing the magic of his late 70’s/early 80’s classics.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Hudson's Best of 2010, Part Three: Best Albums #21 - 40

21. Black Francis, Nonstoperotik. What’s the difference between a Black Francis and a Frank Black album? None that I can tell, but when it’s this good who cares? With the basic tracks quickly recorded in Brooklyn, and finishing touches in a British haunted house, this release ranks comfortably next to anything released under either moniker.

22. LCD Soundsystem, This Is Happening. Supposedly, this is James Murphy’s final album under the LCD Soundsystem name, and he’s going out with a bang. With the dance/electro influence still present but a tad understated,  Murphy’s love of the late 70’s collaborations between Brian Eno, David Bowie, and Iggy Pop are front and center.

23. Surfer Blood, Astrocoast. Although it has little to do with their music, it’s obvious that the members of Surfer Blood are pro wrestling fans. Their original name was Jabroni Sandwich, and they have songs on this debut titled “Fast Jabroni” and “Slow Jabroni”. This is no joke band, though, as Astrocoast combines surf-rock twang leads, fuzzy power chords, and interesting rhythms into a sound that is everything Vampire Weekend should have been but wasn’t.

24. The Old 97’s, The Grand Theatre Volume 1. After a couple of admittedly disappointing albums, the veteran Texas band took up residency in a Dallas concert hall to work up material in a live-ish setting. They came out of this experience with two albums of material, and the first set is easily their best since 2001’s Satellite Rides.

25. Drive-By Truckers, The Big To-Do. Another band that’s easy to take for granted is the Drive-By Truckers. Seemingly every year they release another strong collection of songs about hard-working, heavy-drinking Southern trailer trash. What makes The Big To-Do noteworthy, though, is that it’s the most straightforward, rocking album in years.

26. Ryan Adams & the Cardinals, III/IV. When Ryan Adams entered the studio in 2007 to record Easy Tiger, they ultimately ended up with over 60 songs (which is somewhat typical for Adams). Towards the end of these sessions, the band’s sound evolved away from the country-rock of Easy Tiger to a straightforward rock sound that is reminiscent of his controversial 2003 Rock n Roll album. Adams has finally released two discs of this material, and they are bound to create much of the same online arguments as that album.

27. The Whigs, In the Dark. On his summer appearance on The Ledge, director Gorman Bechard couldn’t speak enough about his love for this Athen band’s third album. While I don’t agree that they’ve managed to recapture the spirit of The Replacements, I can’t deny that this is a stunning collection of pure guitar rock.

28. Alejandro Escovedo, Street Songs of Love. Lovingly produced by Tony Visconti, Escovedo’s latest is a tour de force that combines every element of his career into one punchy package. There’s a bit of punk, a bit of Texas blues, and lots of good ol’ rock ‘n’ roll.

29. Dr. Dog, Shame Shame. If indie rock was to develop its own version of a bar band, it would have to be Dr. Dog. This is especially evident on their latest album, the first for Anti Records, where the primary goal was to recreate their live energy.

30. Against Me, White Crosses. Since I’m late to the Against Me party, I didn’t have any preconceived notions of what their latest album should sound. While many longtime fans disapproved of their tightened, more varied sound, I see nothing wrong with the maturation process that resulted in this powerful release.

31. The Tallest Man On Earth, The Wild Hunt. Yes, Swedish folkie Kristian Matsson, aka The Tallest Man On Earth, sounds EXACTLY like Another Side-era Bob Dylan. Despite the similarity, this is no tribute act, as Matsson’s songwriting transcends the obvious comparisons.

32. Len Price 3, Pictures. Good ol’ pure power pop, reminiscent of the early Who.

33. Paul Weller, Wake Up the Nation. 2008’s multi-layered, multi-genre 22 Dreams appears to have awakened the former Jam leader’s mojo. While Wake Up the Nations doesn’t jump all over the map as much as its predecessor, it’s full of the same type of experimentation. Plus, it includes a reunion with former Jam bassist Bruce Foxton on two tracks.

34. The Fall, Your Future Our Clutter. Pushing 60 and having recorded at least an album per year for almost 35 years, Mark E. Smith is still full of piss and vinegar…particularly piss. No, it’s not a classic, but name me one other artist with such a resume who is still releasing anything close to this quality.

35. The Scruffs, Conquest. In 1976, Stephen Burns founded The Scruffs in Memphis, and a year later released one of the best, but mostly forgotten, power pop albums ever, Wanna Meet the Scruffs? Almost 35 years later, Burns is back (although he has released a few other albums) with another fabulous collection of Big Star-influenced pop.

36. Teenage Fanclub, Shadows. Merge Records is clearly the label king of the year. Besides three albums in my top ten (Arcade Fire, Superchunk, Spoon), they are also released the first album in five years of this legendary Scottish fanatics of Big Star. Like most of their previous albums, the songs can sound sort of pedestrian on first listen, but it’s not long before each track becomes your shuffle highlights.

37. Los Campesinos, Romance is Boring. On their third album in less than two years, this eight-piece Welsh band (although none of the members are actually Welsh) has expanded everything about them. The songs jump from frenetic, Pixies-ish bursts of noise to twinkling ambient electronic to squalling dissonance with a nary a drop in quality.

38. The Thermals, Personal Life. For their fifth album, the Portland-based indie rockers re-enlisted the producer of their debut album, Chris Walla, and had him record this album as he had on that album – live to tape. Instead of the ferocious sounds of that album, More Parts Per Million, Personal Life is a bit more restrained, which is fitting for an album that is entirely devoted to the more turbulent aspects of love.

39. Peter Case, Wig. We almost lost the former leader of the Plimsouls last year after an illness that resulted in open-heart surgery. During his down time, Case put together reissues of his career to help ease the additional pain of a six-figure medical bill. Following a benefit put on by a few of his fellow musicians, Case rounded up some of his pals and recorded this blues-y, energetic album in just three days.

40. Starflyer 69, The Changing Of the Guard. Another late addition to this list thanks to lengthy hours with the “2010” iPad playlist, Starflyer 69 is sort of a more laid-back version of Built to Spill. Like that great band, leader Jason Martin layers tons of overdubbed guitars over pure pop melodies. The difference is that while Built to Spill’s sound sometimes overwhelms you, listening to Starflyer 69’s is a much more relaxing experience.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Hudson's Best of 2010, Part Two: Best Albums #41-60

41. Wavves, King of the Beach. After a couple of albums and a handful of home-recorded releases, Nathan Williams took advantage of his newfound notoriety and actually utilized a real studio. The results are the most nuanced songs of his career, with cleaner production and more nuanced backing.

42. The Greenhornes, ****. With various members working with Jack White on his Dead Weather and Raconteurs projects, the veteran garage rockers hadn’t been able to record their own album since 2002. Their return is much welcomed.

43. Pete Yorn, Pete Yorn. What a great change of pace! After a decade of Tom Petty-ish singer/songwriter releases, on a whim Yorn hooked up with Frank Black. Recorded in just 5 days, Black brought out his rawest sound to date.

44. Thee Spivs, Taped Up. Purchased on a whim after reading a glowing review in a British mag, these punky Brits have unleashed a powerful garage sound that’s somewhat akin to the Libertines on the best coke Pete Doherty has ever found.

45. Japanese Motors, Japanese Motors. They hype machine claims this band is “the most exciting band to emerge from Orange County since the heyday of Social Distortion and TSOL”. I don’t know about that, but their debut full-length album mixes strong pop melodies with a Strokes-ish lazy garage-guitar sound.

46. Kelley Stoltz, To Dreamers. Stoltz has become known in recent years as a bit of a modern-day Brian Wilson, creating pop mini-symphonies reminiscent of not just the Beach Boys but the Kinks and Beatles. To Dreamers adds a bit of indie rock energy, but the strong melodies still leap out of the speakrs.

47. The Henry Clay People, Somewhere On the Gold Coast. Take a bit of a Replacements swagger and add in elements of the Byrds, Big Star, Grandaddy, and a few others. What do you get? Obviously, this warrants placement on any Hudson list.

48. Steve Wynn, Northern Aggression. This release would have clearly been higher on the list had it not come out less than a week before it was compiled. The former Dream Syndicate leader’s latest is easily the punchiest album he’s put out in years, and ranks with anything he’s created over the course of his lengthy career.

49. Ben Folds & Nick Hornby, Lonely Avenue. A long-distance friendship between Folds and Hornby resulted in the author writing the lyrics for this project, resulting in possibly the most subtle album of Folds’ career.

50. Title Tracks, It Was Easy. Former Q and Not U drummer John Davis’ created this one-man band project after the demise of his second band, Georgie James. The bulk of these songs were reportedly written during the last turbulent months with his girlfriend and Georgie James collaborator Laura Burhenn. While the lyrics may be dour, the intelligent power pop backing (with occasional elements of alt-country) are chock full of memorable hooks.

51. The New Heathens, Hello Disaster. Produced by the great Eric Ambel, this is gritty roots rock at its finest. Imagine a blender full of the best of Graham Parker, Jason & the Scorchers, and the Faces, and you have The New Heathens.

52. Robert Pollard, Moses On a Snail. Just like last year, and every year before that, former Guided By Voices leader Robert Pollard has at least a handful of bands, albums, and EP’s that could make the list. This solo album narrowly trumps the rest of his output from the past 12 months primarily because (or in spite of the fact) it sounds the most like classic GBV.

53. Mike Watt, Hyphenated-Man. Released only in Japan (so far), the former Minutemen bassist returns to his minimalist roots with this 30-song project of songs about…well, hyphenated men. Wheel-bound-man, Hollowed-out-man, Fryingpan-man. Yeah, you get the picture, but as silly as that seems it somehow works.

54. Cloud Nothings, Turning On. 18 year-old Dylan Baldi spent the majority of last winter recording fuzzy pop songs in his basement. A few of these songs were released on various blogs and sites, and now the full album reveals the scope of his talents. The tunes appear simple, but close listening reveals some interesting arrangements, particularly in the post-punk-ish rhythms. He’s been called a “happier, better-adjusted Jay Reatard”, and that’s a pretty accurate description of his sound.

55. Nick Curran, Reform School Girl. I’m just going to reprint the All-Music description of this album, as nothing I write will top it – “Comin' on like a sci-fi hybrid of T-Bone Walker, Little Richard, and Guitar Slim, guitarist/singer Nick Curran is a powerhouse performer who owes a strong debt to blues and rockabilly artists of the '50s.”

56. Jenny and Johnny, I’m Having Fun Now. Singer/songwriter Jonathon Rice and Rilo Kiley leader Jenny Lewis have been an item for quite some time, but they’ve never got around to recording more than a cameo on each other’s projects. Their first joint project is unlike anything either has done in the past, focusing primarily on their harmonies and infectious melodies. Forget the over-hyped She & Him; Jenny and Johnny are far more entertaining.

57. The New Pornographers, Together. To be honest, the latest by this indie supergroup doesn’t break any ground. If you love their earlier work, you’ll also love this one. If you haven’t heard them before, this album is as good of a start as anything from the past.

58. Dum Dum Girls, I Will Be. Fuzzy, Jesus and Mary Chain-inspired noise pop. If you enjoy Beach House, Male Bonding, or the other dozen or so similar projects that were released this year, you’ll also love this one.

59. The Walkmen, Lisbon. Like everything this band has released over the past ten years, it takes a few listens for the subtle melodies of Lisbon to take hold. Reportedly, the band recorded over 30 songs for this project, and then whittled them down to the eleven present on the album.

60. Bare Wires, Seeking Love. Apparently, Matthew Melton and the rest of Bare Wires have been around for quite some time, but Seeking Love is the first set of hard-edge 70’s garage punk to receive national notoriety. They rarely stray from their Stooges/Ramones mixture, but when it’s working as well as it does on Seeking Love, why stray away?

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Hudson's Best of 2010, Part One: Reissues

It’s that time of year once again. The stacks of discs are now neatly in order, the playlists are ready to burn, and the artwork is ready to be printed. Yes, it’s time for Hudson’s Best of 2010. Over the next four days, I’ll be posting my lists of the best music released over the last 12 months. Tonight, we commence with the reissues, and the rest of the week I’ll present my Top 60 albums of the year.

I’ve done my part, so it’s now your turn. What are your favorite reissues of the year?

Best Reissues, Box Sets, & Other Lost Recordings.

Note: In the past, I’ve had many different categories to handle reissues, box sets, and compilations of previously unreleased music. As more reissues become box sets filled with unreleased music, it’s getting harder and harder to differentiate these types of releases. Instead, I’m lumping them all together in one big category.

1. Bruce Springsteen, Darkness On the Edge of Town. Sorry, Jennifer, but this 3-CD, 3-DVD set is a music fan’s dream. Besides a remastered version of possibly his best album, there are two CD’s of outtakes, a documentary on the album’s recording, a full-length 1978 concert (his greatest tour), and a filmed presentation of a 2010 live performance of the full album.

2. David Bowie, Station to Station. Similar to the Springsteen box, the reissue of Station to Station is full of bells and whistles. Besides a remastered version of the album, you get outtakes, remixes, a concert recording, along with a vinyl version of the album and other odds and ends.

3. The Rolling Stones, Exile on Main Street. The greatest album by the greatest rock ‘n’ roll band gets the deluxe treatment. Sure, one can quibble about the recent vocal and musical parts added to the disc of outtakes, but it’s about time that Mick and Keith understand that the fans are eager to hear at least some of the unreleased treasures that are hiding in some big vault.

4. The Cure, Disintegration. Cure leader Robert Smith has done a fantastic job with the expanded versions of the Cure catalog, and the extra demos, outtakes, and alternate versions found on Disintegration may be the best of the bunch.

5. The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion catalog. Seemingly every piece of recording tape used during the history of The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion has been added to the band’s catalog. Albums that were relatively short when initially released are suddenly double full-length CD’s. If you’re a fan, you’re going to love every second.

6. Iggy & The Stooges, Raw Power. Iggy ruined the first remaster a decade ago when he pushed the faders completely in the red. This remaster primarily reverts to David Bowie’s initial mix, but it has never sounded better. Add to that some outtakes, and a surprisingly high-quality audience recording of a raucous concert, and you finally have the definitive version of the album.

7. R.E.M., Fables of the Reconstruction. The third album by R.E.M. may have suffered from a bit of a drop of quality, but the extras on this reissue greatly exceed the first two. Instead of a live recording of a show already owned by most collectors, Fables features an extra disc of one-take demos of the entire album.

8. Bob Dylan, The Witmark Demos 1962-1964. During his early years, Dylan’s music was more likely to be heard by recordings of other artists. Dylan assisted by showing up at his publisher’s office to record demos of his newest creations whenever he had a few ready. Besides early versions of songs that he would eventually include on Freewheeling and The Times They Are A-Changing, this collection includes a number of songs that he would never touch again.

9. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds catalog. Although a bit short on extras (just a couple of bonus tracks per release), Cave’s old 80’s material was in dire need of a sonic boost.

10. Weezer, Pinkerton. The greatest album of Weezer’s career got the deluxe treatment this year, and like all albums of this type saw the typical outtakes, alternate versions, live cuts, and radio appearances added.

11. Iggy Pop & James Williamson, Kill City. While these tracks have been available in a number of different releases over the years, the quality of the mix and mastering has always been just slightly above bootleg quality. Before hitting the road with the latest version of The Stooges, former guitarist James Williamson took the tapes into the studio to create the definitive version of the album. It’s still a hit-or-miss collection, but the highs of songs like the title track make the lows much easier to endure.

12. The Plimsouls, Live! Beg, Borrow & Steal. As noted earlier, former Plimsouls leader Peter Case used his down time while recovering from open heart surgery to put together some reissues of his former bands. The highlight of this campaign is definitely this previously-unreleased live album of the band at the height of their power pop reign.

13. The Fall, The Wonderful and Frightening World Of the Fall. While almost all of The Fall’s albums have been reissued over and over, this “Omnibus” set is noteworthy not just for the three extra discs of material but for the included paperback book detailing the story of the project.

14. Bob Dylan, The Mono Box. While this set is not as groundbreaking as The Beatles collection of mono recordings, it is the proper way to hear Dylan’s early material. It’s always been a bit disconcerting to listen to the stereo versions of the first four albums and hear Bob’s voice in the middle, with guitar and harmonica spread out to the two speakers. As for the electric albums, while the differences aren’t as significant, they are definitely punchier and may or may not have some minute instrumental differences.

15. Orange Juice, Coals to Newcastle. Similar to Gang of Four, this legendary post-punk group merged punkish guitars to funk/disco rhythms. Unlike Gang of Four, however, leader Edwyn Collins Coals to Newcastle collects every note the band recorded, along with some Peel Sessions and an extra DVD of live material.

Best Covers Albums

1. The Hot Rats, Turn Ons. During a downtime for their main band, Supergrass, Gaz Coombes and Danny Goffey went into the studio with acclaimed producer Nigel Goodrich (Radiohead, Paul McCartney) to quickly record a bunch of covers. The result of this lark is one of the most fun releases of the year. Besides the obligatory Kinks and Velvets covers, they even transform the Beastie Boys’ “(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (to Party)” into a long-lost Who tune.

2. Nada Surf, If I Had a Hi-Fi. In some respects, Nada Surf’s covers album is similar to The Hot Rats. They had some spare time, so why not record a few covers for a special Record Store Day release? The difference is that while The Hot Rats primarily tackled songs that everybody knows, Nada Surf covered tunes by Kate Bush, the Go-Betweens, Arthur Russell, and Spoon.

3. Squeeze, Spot the Difference. Squeeze found themselves in an interesting bind this year – they finally reunited for a full-fledged tour but they don’t own the rights to their own material. So they headed into the studio to quickly create note-for-note recreations of their classic songs. For the most part they succeed, as Glen Tilbrook has maintained his boyish voice, but Chris Difford’s a bit gruffier these days.

4. Ray Davies, See My Friends. A few months before his tragic death earlier this year, Alex Chilton reportedly told the former Kinks leader that he’d love to record a song with him. Davies took him up on this offer, and it led to this collection of collaborations with other artists. Like most albums of this sort, a good half of it is unlistenable (Bon Jovi? Metallica?), but the fact that a chance encounter led to Chilton’s final recording makes it worth sitting through the dross.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

The Ledge, Episode 51: Hudson's Best of 2010

Every year, I gather stacks and stacks of CD's next to my laptop. After shaking my head over the amount of money wasted, I delve into the seemingly endless task of compiling my list of the favorite albums of the year. Over the next few days, I'll be releasing this list, but you can get a sneak peek on the latest episode of The Ledge. Subscribe through iTunes, listen to realpunkradio this Friday at 5 pm central, or download it here

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

The Phony War On Christmas (Again)

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With the exceptions of Patrick Lalley and Jonathon Ellis, I tend to bypass the Argus Leader columnists as they’re all a little too whimsical for my taste. I never was a big fan of Terry Woster’s weekly tales of living in a South Dakota small town, and while the other columnists come from a variety of different backgrounds, the tone is very similar. I just don’t give a rat’s ass how a happenstance encounter, or time spent with a distant relative, continues to influence them to this day.

Every so often, though, I see a headline that causes me to go against my better judgment, and last Friday was a perfect example. (Actually, thanks to a retweet, I knew this awful column was coming.) Yvonne Hawkins wasted some prime newspaper real estate with an overlong piece detailing her inner turmoil over whether to say “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holiday”:

“Truthfully, I've long been a little uncomfortable with the well intended but, at times, disingenuous expression of ‘happy holidays.’ After all, if the idea is to champion inclusiveness, then it often falls short. For instance, if you're planning to continue offering ‘happy holiday’" after next Thursday, I'd ask: ‘What's the point?’ If you ask: ‘What's next Thursday?’ I'd say: ‘That's my point.’...And if a bland seasonal greeting is punctuated by images of Christmas trees or Santa Claus, or includes those images but without a Hanukiyah or kinara, then clearly it's talking about Christmas.
Oh, it gets better:

“The real reason ‘happy holidays’ exists is to reconcile our nation's firmly rooted celebration of a Christian holiday with the infusion of government support. It's a celebration that dominates our communal conversation in nearly every form throughout December. It's a celebration that enjoys federal recognition with the closure of schools and other public institutions. And it's a celebration that's boosted further by private industry in all sorts of ways, but most notably with a collective shutting down of everything. In the midst of all of this Christian-based celebrating, we intuitively know that not everyone in this country is Christian, not even all those who celebrate Christmas. But no national observances of that magnitude surround Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur or Ramadan. So we say ‘happy holidays’ throughout December, hoping that somehow settles things.”
Give me a break.
So poor Ms. Hawkins has obviously given hours and hours of thought over the ramifications of how to greet people, and seems to believe that we all go through a similar experience. Great, that’s just what we need right now, as once again Fox News has brought back the phony “War On Christmas”. Let’s be clear – outside of a few percent of people who firmly believe they’re a persecuted bunch and the purpose of everybody’s actions is to push a “secular agenda” on those poor folks there is NO war on Christmas. Nobody is trying to take away your customs and beliefs. Nobody wants to turn you into a Godless heathen destined to burn in the fires of hell.
Seriously, nobody gives a shit, especially when it comes to how we greet each other. I know in my case, there are times I say either of these phrases. I couldn’t even tell you which I use most frequently. Just as there is no difference between “hello”, “hi”, and “greetings”, it’s just whatever mindlessly leaves my lips. Thanks to articles such as this one, though, these poor folks have every reason to believe that every utterance of “Happy Holidays” is a indication of a political stance.
So guess what? There is a reason why I’ll never say “Merry Christmas” again. Thanks to Ms. Hawkins, I’m starting my own “War on Stupidity”. 90% or more of the people I encounter will obviously have no idea that there’s meaning behind my greeting, but my desire is to offend as many idiots as possible. In fact, to enhance this new agenda, I’m going to change it to “Happy Fucking Holidays”. Thank you, Yvonne Hawkins, for inspiring me to do my own (extremely) minute part to better our great country.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

The Ledge, Episode 50: 1985

1985 was an important year for his tubby moron, as I graduated from college. It was also an important year in music. No, I'm not talking about the over-produced garbage or hair metal that was all over the airwaves. I'm talking about indie rock, which suddenly started to make inroads into popular culture. Many of the decade's finest bands put out their best and most influential work during that year, and this episode celebrates the 25th anniversary of some great music. So tune into realpunkradio this Friday at 5 pm central, subscribe through iTunes, or directly download it here.

Here's the setlist:

1. Richard Thompson, 1985

2. The Church, Myrrh

3. The Smiths, The Headmaster Ritual

4. The Cure, Inbetween Days

5. R.E.M., Life and How to Live It

6. Camper Van Beethoven, Ambiguity Song

7. The Jesus and Mary Chain, Just Like Honey

8. The Fall, Spoilt Victorian Child

9. The Lyres, She Pays the Rent

10. Young Fresh Fellows, How Much About Last Night Do You Remember?

11. Hoodoo Gurus, Bittersweet

12. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Wanted Man

13. Jason & the Scorchers, Lost Highway

14. Guadalcanal Diary, Watusi Rodeo

15. X, Burning House of Love

16. The Minutemen, Have You Ever Seen the Rain?

17. Dinosaur, Repulsion

18. Meat Puppets, In a Car

19. Husker Du, Celebrated Summer

20. Husker Du, Makes No Sense At All

21. Squirrel Bait, Thursday

22. 7 Seconds, We're Gonna Fight

23. Mission of Burma, That's When I Reach For My Revolver

24. Volcano Suns, Jak

25. Black Flag, Loose Nut

26. Dead Kennedys, MTV Get Off the Air

27. The Replacements, Bastards of Young

28. Killing Joke, 80's