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Hot off the grill.

No. 8 - Jessica Lea Mayfield - Sorry is Gone (ATO) - The SPEW countdown continues for the best of 2017.

Here we are, at No. 8. I first fell for this album on a drive home from Topeka on Stull road on a rather crisp, but sunny and lovely Saturday afternoon. I don't hate Topeka. Not at all. I don't live there either. They do have a Barnes & Noble, where you can buy magazines no longer available in dear old Lawrence.

But enough about that. Here's the review I wrote shortly after that invigorating drive. Sorry is Gone wore well as the year wore on. And I stand by my comments from this October review.


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No. 9 - Bill Frisell and Thomas Morgan - Small Town (ECM/DG) - The SPEW countdown continues.

When I was a kid reviewer, I prided myself on my range. Yup, the nineteen year-old wunderkind who reviewed the Kinks and the Modern Jazz Quartet. Used to flash some of my music theory class chops. Ooh-ah. Once I might have been able to tell you when i heard the dorian or the mixolydian. Not any more. I now embrace that I'm a rock 'n' roll singer who appreciates jazz. I’d like to think that I’ve listened carefully and conscientiously enough to know shit from shinola. Put in my 10,000 hours … or whatever. 

So here's where I testify for an artist named Bill Frisell. He is a guitarist who can play almost anything. He’s performed or recorded with an amazing variety of artists, from the traditional to the avant-garde. His touch, tone, and technique are immediately recognizable, but he never descends to schtick or branding. 

Thirty-three years ago, Frisell teamed with tenor man Joe Lovano in a trio led by the exquisite drummer Paul Motian. They made three recordings together, I

No. 10 - Inheaven - s/t (Pias) Okay, a tie with Alan Vega - It ... SPEW's top 10 countdown

It’s a big, blustery sound south London’s InHeaven make. A sound sonically descended from the buzz of the late Eighties, sometimes like Jesus and Mary Chain, sometimes Nirvana, or even Smashing Pumpkins and all that shit. 

What I mean is, you can’t imagine this particular sonic blast, given aesthetics and technology, before the late Eighties. It’s already dated, right? At least in this age of indie retro-twee and hip-hop. But that’s part of its audacity. Brazen in its’ sheer rock-is-bloody-king quality. Suck on it.

Julian Casablancas likes them. He released their “Regeneration” single on his Cult Records label.

Little Steven likes them. He’s been blasting their bracing, horn-adorned track “Baby’s Alright” on the Underground Garage. 
When I first heard "Baby's Alright" on the radio, I thought - wtf … is this some strange lovechild of the Small Faces and Cheap Trick? It is, sorta. And it’s also rocking to the max. Moments of dream-pop respite, like “Do You Dream,” soften the b…

10. Alan Vega - It (Fader) ... SPEW'S Top 10 countdown.

If you know who Alan Vega is we can move along. 
But maybe some of you don’t. 
Alan Vega was part rockabilly hiccup, part electronic futurist. He was a poetic minimalist. Whether as musician, either with his partner Martin Rev in the band Suicide or solo, or as visual artist (his gallery shows were infrequent, but legendary), Vega was uncompromising and unwilling to play the game. He was interested in energy, in process, not in creating a portfolio. One romanticizes artists at one's peril, but Alan Vega didn't have time for bullshit, and his work shows it. 
Alan Vega died in 2016; he was seventy-eight years old. Much of his life he’d been a bit cat and mouse about his age, not wanting to let his Seventies “punk” peers at Max's and CBGB's know he was fifteen years older than them. He needn’t have worried. Nothing dated Alan Vega. 
His posthumous swan song It i(the back half of a New York 'exit' sign) is as abrasive and aggressive as his first record with Suicide, th…

SPEW presents the 12th-20th Best Albums of 2017. (#16 is a tie. This is my world ... and so is #10.)

12.EMA – Exile in the Outer Ring (City Slang) I had this to say when this album came out … I would still say pretty much the same.
13.Kendrick Lamar – Damn (Top Dawg/Interscope) Hip-hop. I know what I like. It’s impossible not to like Kendrick. Named for the Temptations’ Eddie Kendricks, Lamar is straight outta Compton, section 8 housing, the life. He’s also an artist unafraid, not reluctant to mix genres and sounds or to speak his truth, plainly and poetically. His last, To Pimp a Butterfly, was universally, justifiably acclaimed. Damn is harder, more personal, and just as impressive. ‘Duckworth’ (Lamar’s real last name) is a lyric tour de force of black millennial life. A story too good to be true, but that don’t matter,because it says what it says so powerfully.
14.Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile – Lotta Sea Lice (Matador) Barnett has, along with a punk-assertive aspect, a droll, laconic side. Vile is all droll, laconic side.Together, they kee…

SPEW pronounces the 21st-30th best albums of 2017. Shazam!

21.Wire – Silver/Lead (Pink Flag) Wire are one of my staples, consistent and consistently surprising:

22.John Murry – A Short History of Decay (TV) And then I wrote …

23.Whiffs – Take a Whiff (High Dive) I liked it then … I like it now.

24.Aldous Harding – Party (4AD) Not that anyone asked, but if Aldous Harding reminds me of any of her contemporaries, it’s Cate LeBon. They both have this striking ability to swing from the confidential to the bel canto stentorian more than once over the course of an album. Harding’s songs, mostly accompanied by her guitar and piano, are koan-like without being obscure. Harding uses space deftly, yet her spare arrangements sound full, partly because her voice is so personal and pre-possessing. I’ve seen Party described as everything from alt-country (she’s from New Zealand) to Goth. And I guess it’s all true, Harding…

SPEW crowns the 31st - 40th best Albums of 2017. All hail!

... SPEW, Best of 2017, phase 2:

31-40. You know, it’s just supposed to get better as you climb the chart. And it does, I think. As good as some of the 41-50 selections are, there’s nothing there I’d say has top 10 potential. With 31-40, some do, definitely. 

31.    Necks – Unfold (Ideologic Organ)

See, a review I already did. 

32.  Queens of the Stone Age - Villains (Matador) 
Josh Homme and Mark Ronson’s production combines dance floor grooves, psych-rock experimentation, and mostly hard ass rock that’s both dirty and machine-tooled. I came to QOTSA in fits and starts, but Villains is a modern classic, all dune buggies from hell and sweet menace. The smooth brutality of these guitar lacerations is head banging even listening on an iPhone at low volume. And Homme’s Jack Bruce croon lures as it destroys. 

33.   Tony Allen – The Source (Blue Note) - The Charlie Watts of ju-ju music, the man behind many of the greatest grooves out of Nigeria…