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Happy Holidays, An Apology, And My Favorite Record Of 2011

First, I’d like to wish everyone a warm and happy Holiday and wonderful New Year. Just a quick post to let you know I haven’t forgotten about you.  I’m sorry, but I’ve had a very busy few weeks, absolutely crazy in fact, and that has kept me from posting.  I’ve got a lot of things in the works, mainly in need of editing, so I hope to get caught up with posts after I am caught up on sleep.  Everyone else is asleep right now, but I’m stuck in another time zone.  I’m also making some changes around here, and will be changing some of the scripts and layout, so please bear with me as I iron out the kinks. I’m also working on my end of 2010 favorites and a reflection of the past year.  Compiling this list is always one of my favorite things about the start of the New Year and I’m exciting about posting it in the coming weeks… That being said, I think I may already have picked my favorite album of 2011.  Friends in London sent me an advance of the James Blake LP which is scheduled to be released on February 7th through Atlas/A&M.  I have been taking the album in over the last few days.  Included is the cover of Feist’s Limit To Your Love, which was released as a single a few weeks ago.  This track is probably the most straight-forward on the record.  I’m completely enthralled with James Blake’s work and find it truly alien and innovative yet strangely familiar at the same time.  There has been an amazing development and evolution across his EPs over the last year, and his full length further develops themes established on his Klavierwerke EP released this fall.

Arhoolie Records 50th Anniversary

Here’s a nice piece from the New York Times on Chris Strachwitz and the 50th Anniversary of Arhoolie Records.

Tindersticks at L'Autre Canal

More than a year ago, specifically in August of 2009, I went to the University of Georgia to spend a week in a laboratory learning some new techniques to enhance my research.  I stayed pretty much smack in the middle of downtown and had a short week to enjoy Athens, which has become one of my favorite towns.  One night, instead of sitting in the hotel reading, I went to a bar just a block or two from my hotel called the Little Kings Shuffle Club.  The bar is mainly one large room, with some really nice windows that opened out onto the street.  It was very mellow when I arrived there, only a few people were in the place.  I sat down at the bar and before I was greeted or even noticed by the bartender, a white Chihuahua trotted across the bar to greet me and ask for some attention.  As I was introducing myself to the dog, I noticed the music playing.  I had never heard this music before but it did sound familiar to me.  I ordered a drink and then asked the bartender if this music was the Tindersticks.  It was, a song called “Sweet Release” from the record, Can Our Love… I was a Tindersticks fan for a while in College, but I lost track of them.  How had I missed this record?  It was great and, what, from 2001?  How many of their releases had I missed?  Very soon I would find I had a lot of catching up to do. So, I have spent the last year catching up with the Tindersticks, who have released eight albums (not including numerous soundtracks for films), and all of them are great.  It was this reason that I was very excited to see them play live in Nancy at L’Autre Canal, just a few minutes walk from where I now live.  Tindersticks are from Nottingham, UK, so I’m not sure how frequently they’ve played in North America.  I don’t ever recall seeing them on tour.  I’ve found that shows start promptly in Europe, so with getting home from work, going for a quick run and eating some food, I had already missed the opening band, whose name was Roken Is Dodelijk.  The room was quickly filled to the breaking point.  It’s been a while since I have felt so crammed at a show, and as you can see my picture from the show was poor because of it.  The band came on and played the song “Sweet Release” first which was somewhat ironic for me considering that song was my re-introduction to their music.  Their setlist was mainly focused on songs from the last two albums which have been released on Montreal’s Constellation Records.  Tindersticks have been playing almost 20 years together so as a band they are incredibly polished.  Honestly, one of the best shows I have ever seen.  The band did two encores and played for a little over two hours.

The Ex, FiliaMotSa, and Blue Taint at Le Hublot

This show was at Le Hublot, which was a little troublesome for me to find as it’s quite a walk from my residence and located in a part of town I had never been to before.  I went here to see Netherland’s The Ex play, along with local favorites FiliaMotSa, and a young French band that opened up the show.  It’s actually a venue for music performance on the campus of Nancy University - part of their student union - but, perhaps because of the long legacy of The Ex, there was a noticeably older crowd here in support.  This venue has a real punk atmosphere to it - lots of chipped concrete walls, spray paint, and handbills everywhere. The opening band was a six-piece called Blue Taint.  They are high school aged kids who had won the local “best young band” showcase, or whatever you want to call it, award.  You could tell they were really excited to be playing this show.  I noticed lots of parents and friends of the band in the audience with cameras and camcorders.  The band sounded a little too derivative of Rage Against The Machine for my liking, but their excitement was infectious and I did really enjoy seeing them with this nervous energy coming through for both band and audience alike. FiliaMotSa are an incredible French violin and drums duo from Lorraine.  They have a great 7 song LP out which you all should check out which was recorded at L’Autre Canal in Nancy and that they released in 2009.  Although they played some of this show as just a duo, on this night they were also joined by a tenor saxophone player.  This brought their striped down Godspeed You Black Emporer-ish post rock into contact with an Albert Ayler styled skronk.  If this show was indicative of all of their live performances, then you should attempt to see FiliaMotSa play by any means necessary. The Ex were in classic form.  This was the third time I’ve seen them play, so I knew what to expect and did not want to miss out on the possibility of seeing them play live again.  The last time I saw them was in Portland, Oregon, and during this show they were a large ensemble, most notably joined by famous free-jazz drummer Han Bennink.  They’ve been through some line-up changes in the last year (departure of founding member G.W. Sok and replacement by new singer and guitarist Arnold de Boer), but as a whole appear to have emerged energized from these changes and have now released a new album.  During this show in Nancy the line-up was I believe the current one: Terrie Hessels, Arnold de Boer, Katherina Bornefeld, and Andy Moor.  I had the option of seeing the Dave Holland Quintet play the same night, but I had to admit, after some more mellow shows during the previous week of the Nancy Jazz Pulsations Festival, I was a little ECM’ed out if you know what I mean.  Tonight, I was ready to rock.  The price for this show was also considerably less than seeing the Dave Holland Quintet, so that was a major factor contributing to my decision to see this show.

Blending In

Check it out! Some great murals from Stephen Powers and the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program (here) and the art of the Invisible Man from China: Liu Bolin (here, here, and here).