December 30, 2011

guest music post: Luke Perkins


NOTE: You can listen to Luke's play list on Spotify here. He has also included his own links in the post.

This is truly the most wonderful time of the year. If you let it be. The stress, the cramming, the things I forgot about, trying to figure out what other people like. Obviously I'm not talking about Christmas shopping...I'm talking about the end-of-year music list! But why settle for just one list? This year in music for me contained several dominant themes, which I will try and briefly recount for you here. If you want one quick simple've come to the wrong place.

First, ROADTRIPS. Alix and I have spent an awesome first year of marriage. Seriously. The word is abused but it's appropriate in this case. Awesome. Spartanburg sent us out with a bang and San Diego has treated us right. I am very grateful for the experiences we've shared and the places we've been together (and with our dogs). When we made the big move West last February, with 4 days of highway and 2314 miles ahead of us, we decided to make it an experiment in musical discovery. We each brought 4 albums from 4 artists neither of us knew, but wanted to learn. Although I haven't yet read Alix's list and blog yet, I'm pretty sure she's going to go into depth about this topic so I won't belabor it (please read hers too!). This musical education has already become a wonderful tradition, a great way to spend time together and engage in something for which we both share a passion. We repeated the exercise several times during 2011, and I can't wait for more opportunities soon. Here's my short list of favorite discoveries.

  1. Flying Burrito Brothers: Burrito Deluxe. Graham Parsons and the Burrito Bros. make THE soundtrack to the mojave desert and Joshua Tree.
  2. Patti Smith: Horses. Just Kids was also the most memorable book I read this year. Very cool insight into the 60-70s music and art scenes in New York.
  3. Ibrahim Ferrer: Buena Vista Social Club Presents. Finally saw the movie this year. I'm looking forward to that roadtrip to Cuba.
  4. Sex Pistols: Never Mind the Bollocks... I will always think of driving thru Texas hill country when I hear this; makes sense, right?
  5. Television: Marquee Moon. You've heard this band even if you don't think you have; their sound influenced many that followed.
  6. Ali Farka Toure: The River. My first foray into African guitar music, which was a big part of my 2011 (following this would come Bela Fleck's movie Throw Down Your Heart, Tinawiren's new album, and Khaira Arby at SXSW).
  7. John Coltrane: A Love Supreme. Second step in jazz education, after Miles Davis+Dogfish Head Bitches Brew in 2010.
  8. Elvis Costello: Armed Forces. What IS so great about peace, love and understanding?!
  9. Fugazi: 13 Songs. A favorite of Jason and also my boss Mark (who's band actually opened up for Fugazi in Flint MI back in the 80s). Finally ventured there and it was worth it.
  10. Adam & the Ants: Kings of the Wild Frontier. Gotta listen to these guys more.
  11. Primus: Pork Soda. A Refshauge family classic. Wicked bass and themed on the excess of Americana. Scary title for even the most pragmatic of vegetarians.
Second, CONCERTS. I've seen more shows this year that's ever before. It's been super special having a partner in crime with Alix. My brother Grant even humored me and helped a dream come true by meeting me for an afternoon at SXSW. We've seen good ones, and not so good ones. Below is a list of the most memorable ones.
  1. Joy Formidable + WILD FLAG + Tune-Yards + Antlers + Colin Stetson  + Khaira Arby @ SWSW (with Grant): last-minute business trip led me to Austin right in the middle of SXSW--I promise it wasn't planned! Grant took a long lunch and joined me at the NPR showcase for a series of free shows. Being there at this mecca of indie rock and up-and-comers was a dream come true, and I'm super grateful to Grant for helping to make it happen. It's no coincidence that several of these bands made my final year-end list. Ritzy from JF writhing on the floor, banging on her pedals, swinging her guitar = #1 show.
  2. Okkervil River + Titus Andronicus @ Belly-Up (with Alix, Matt/Brooke): best double-bill of the year; was totally surprised by Okkervil's energy, and Titus did not disappoint..
  3. Dodos @ Casbah (with Alix, Matt/Brooke): most hipsterish show of the year, but despite that a favorite; never-ending guitar solo with dude wallowing on the floor for about 10 min was quite memorable.
  4. Wye Oak @ Casbah (with Alix): powerful and surprisingly nerdy duo with good melodies and powerful chords.
  5. Bon Iver @ Spreckels (with Alix, Matt/Brooke, Lars/Bethany): beautiful venue with very tight seats for long legs. Big band, big sound, and big changes for Justin Vernon & co. They pulled it off. Favorite moment was Re:Stacks...closest I came to crying at a show this year.
  6. F****d Up @ Casbah (with Matt): my first hardcore show. Fun. Last minute tickets for both Matt and I to blow off some steam. Matt also left with bloody toes. Lesson: don't mosh barefoot.
  7. Devotchka @ Belly-Up (with Alix, Matt/Brooke): danced my face off to the siduki and trombone.
  8. TV on the Radio @ 4th & B (with Alix): strong show in a not great venue. Sound was the worst of any show this year--muffled and way too loud. A little sound engineering please! A lasting memory is Dude throwing his double-jointed arm around like a nunchakus, like he just didn't care.
  9. BB King @ Belly-Up (with Alix and work friends): the man, the legend, in a great intimate venue. He's 73 or something, and obviously not as sharp, but it was amazing to experience him live.
-1. Thurston Moore @ Casbah (with Alix): sonic youth is obviously awesome, and I enjoyed his record this year. But this show went downhill in a hurry. Jerkwad next to us wouldn't stop recording the show with his flip video and then his iPhone. Lame. I don't give a hoot about watching your crappy youtube tomorrow! Are you here to watch the show or what? Didn't help that Thurston was a bit of a pretentious hipster. We left early.
-2. Explosions in the Sky @ SOMA (with Alix): didn't really know these guys, but thought I'd like them, and still think I would. But SO
MA is a horrible venue, and they were destructively loud. We forgot our earplugs in the car, and after three exceedingly painful 3 songs we bailed. Opportunity costs...

Third, ALBUMS. I love albums. Whole albums. The flow, the cohesiveness, the intentionality. Shuffle is fun sometimes, but mostly I listen to whole albums, front to back. In 2010, inspired by Alix, my cousin David and the general desire to be more "analog" I went vinyl. 

This year we continued this trend, which was complemented by NPR's First Listens, and Spotify. I'm a firm believer that you get way you pay for, and if you value or cherish something you should pay for or invest in it (money is not necessarily the only currency here, but that's another topic). Picking this year's favorites was especially hard with a lot of good music. I hate leaving some off the list, but you gotta make hard decisions in life. Worth noting is the unusually large number of females on my list this year...coincidence? There were lots of surprise bands in here for me too: at the start of the year, 5 of these I could've predicted with the rest totally from out of the blue, including 4 out of the top 5. Without further ado, here is my list of favorites.
  1. Joy Formidable: The Big Roar. Could not stop listening to this, it was on repeat in the car, at the office, at home; worked for just about any mood. I saw them 2x live. My favorite album and my favorite shows. Period.
  2. The Dodos: No Color. Their best album, in my opinion, after a middling second one. Start to finish greatness. Banging rhythms, infectious licks, shouting, melodic singing, grungy guitars. Heck yeah.
  3. Wye Oak: Civilian. When Alix pulled a record out for us to listen throughout the year, it would more often than not be this one. I was never disappointed when she did. Could easily be #1 in some years.
  4. WILD FLAG: Wild Flag. Strong women, strong tunes. If Alix were playing guitar in a band this would be it. I just can't figure out if she's more the style of Mary Timony or Carrie Brownstein.
  5. Kathryn Calder: Bright and Vivid. Poppy and artistic (yes it's possible FM radio people). Loved the sounds and layers in this album. A good stand-in for Neko and New Pornographers this year. Rarely tired of this on repeat.
  6. Bill Callahan: Apocalypse. Smart, folky, rocky, chill. This guy is always under the radar but I consistently love his stuff. Don't spoil my little secret. (Not on spotify, but here's a pretty cool video for your pleasure.)
  7. Tune-Yards: W H O K I L L. Eclectic and surprisingly fun.
  8. Bon Iver: Bon Iver. That cabin in the woods is long gone. Love it or hate it. Big amazing sounds. I have no problem with evolution.
  9. Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks: Mirror Traffic. The godfather of indie rock remains a uniquely talented artist. His best work since Pavement?
  10. St. Vincent: Strange Mercy. Really jonesing to see her live. If Alix had said "no", Annie Clark would've been my next choice (until Neko puts out another record). Good thing Alix said yes.
  11. Alexi Murdoch: Towards the Sun. Spent hours listening to this on the couch with Alix after moving to San Diego--great memories of our first days of marriage, mancala games...and boxes everywhere.
  12. TV on the Radio: Nine Types of Light. Catchy record, slightly less loved than their previous outings. But still pretty darn good.
Honorable mention: King Creosote & John Hopkins: Diamond Mine. This one's on a lot of people top 3 list, and the only reason this isn't on mine is because I just now started listening to it. Too amazingly simple and beautiful to leave off. This became the soundtrack of my December commute and will be a mainstay thru 2012.

Good but missed: Fleet Foxes, My Morning Jacket, Radiohead, Abigail Washburn, Antlers, Okkervil River, M83, Tinawiren, My Brightest Diamond, Decemberists.

What I'm looking forward to in 2012: finally listening to the new Black Keys. NOT listening to Sleigh Bells' next one.

Thanks to all for a great 2011. 2012, you've got a lotta work to do. Since it's a leap year the deck is stacked in your favor. Can't wait to see what discoveries, experiences and surprises you've got in store. Bring it.

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