Falling in love with the blues

Buddy Guy performing at the Crossroads Guitar Festival in 2007

You know that satisfying click as two pieces of a puzzle form together? That’s how I felt when I really listened to the Blues a few months ago. It was like my ears had been formed just so in order to wring the most from every vibration of blues music. I just loved it instantly.

I found my way to the blues through my guitar. I’ve been playing a lot the past year and a bit, and have naturally tended towards playing blues tunes. Everyone who learns to play guitar learns to play the blues. It’s one of the simplest forms of music to become proficient at.

At the same time, it can take a lifetime to master. A friend asked me why I was so attracted to the blues, and I described it like this:

You know that feeling, when you’re totally in the zone, where you almost disappear? I think you can get into that zone more quickly playing blues than you can with other forms.

This means that the really great blues players and singers get to focus more on feeling, tone, and phrasing and less on complex fingerings and theory. You don’t spend a lot of time talking about the blues – you just play.

I started by formal introduction to the blues on wikipedia. That article led me to Buddy Guy, and I haven’t really recovered.

That’s more than enough writing about the blues for one day. Time to play.

New Black Mountain album

I love me some Black Mountain. Their debut album rocks hard. The latest In the Future, which I’m currently giving my inaugural listen to, builds on the wicked psych-rock-metal-stoner-funk of Black Mountain. These are people not afraid of the distortion knob on their guitar rigs.

This is a very guitar forward album. The vocals are mixed well behind the lead, and seem to serve as much as fill as anything else. There’s lots of big soundscapes here. Lots of space to rock out.

The new Dinosaur Jr album rocks

The new album is so good, it’s prompting me out of my blogging slumber to tell you about it. The web’s full of stories telling you that it’s the first album from Dinosaur Jr. in a decade. That this album features all the original members. That J Masics has lost exactly nothing… But that doesn’t tell you how damn good it feels to just turn it up.

My top 18 albums of 2006

This is a list of albums that were new to me in 2006. They may very well have been released earlier. Most of them are available on eMusic. Reviewing the list, I’m surprised to note there’s no hip-hop. Seems I’ve been favoring the indy end of the pool this year. If you like nerdy art-core, and like yourself some volume, you may find something you like below:

Aloha – Some Echoes
I found this via an ad on Pitchfork Media (see! advertising! works!). I think this might go onto the desert island top ten. It’s groovy and mellow and they have a guy who plays the vibes! I love the vibes.

Beck – The Information
Have all his other recent albums been as good as this? Holy crap. Funky good. So good it almost feels like a guilty pleasure.

Danielson – Ships
I bought into the pitchfork hype, and bought it from emusic. Did not disappoint at all. Very weird, yet very listenable.

Herbert – Scale
The only dance oriented on my list this year. The Movers and the Shakers was my song of the summer.

Final Fantasy – He Poos Clouds
For sheer audacity and burning creativity alone this album should be included in every “serious” indy annual list. It was a VERY longshot to win Canada’s new “for the art of it” Polaris Music Prize, which it won. There was no shortage of controversy over that, but frankly I think it deserves it. This album is so strange: think Antony from Antony and the Johnsons but with a violin and a bunch of electronic effects. Yet it is not overly challenging to listen to. How he manages to hold it all together is the magic of the art.

Iron & Wine – iTunes Exclusive
This is Sam with his sister singing harmony. They do a cover of one of my all time favorite New Order songs, Love Vigilantes. How could a folk music rock SO hard?

Marvin Gaye – Live in Montreux 1980
Wow, what a talent. If you haven’t heard Marvin Gaye in a while, go check him out. He poured so much soul and love into his music, it just reeks of it.

Muse – Black Holes and Revelations
Theatrical, rocking, emotive, cool synths, and a voice reminiscent of Thom Yorke.

The Deadly Snakes – Porcella
There’s something so poignantly sad about this album. It’s The Deadly Snakes last album. A fact I can’t keep out of my head when I listen to this (something I do a lot). The songs themselves seem to pluck directly at my emotions. The lyrics are smart and relevant, and are delivered with a gravelly, loose sincerity. There’s a old western feel to the songs, lots of twang and sauce. I’ve recently become the singer in a garage band. This is how I want to sing. Listen to Gore Veil at the link above. You’ll thank me.

The Dears – Gang of Losers
This was a toss up. I could have included any of The Dears albums. They’re all top 10 worthy, but that would cheapen the rest of the list. Gang of Losers was released this year, so it got the nod. Oh, also because I can play There Goes My Outfit solo on my acoustic, and it sounds awesome.

The English Beat – Beat This! The Best of…
I bought this in one of those “thank god for downloads” moments. For some reason I <strong>had</strong> to hear Mirror in the Bathroom. I was a HUGE Beat fan back in the 80s. Twenty years later it’s amazing how well these songs hold up. This has become the Girls (ages 5.75 and 3) favorite cd. We blast it in the house, and it’s been in the car stereo for months now.

The Kooks – Inside In Inside Out
If I were a teenage girl, I’d have posters of these guys all over my walls. The song Seaside motivated me to pick up my guitar again (and hey! now I’m the singer in a band). Super amazing power pop with nice crunchy (easy to play) guitar driven rock songs.

The National – Alligator
Not technically from 06, I didn’t discover it till all of last year’s best-of lists.

Thom Yorke – The Eraser
My playcount on this album is embarrassingly high.

Tom Waits – Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers & Bastards
There are 3cds full of music and spoken word stuff here. And not one bad track. True, you’ve got to be a Waits fan. This album won’t convert you. But you need not be a hard core fan. This is a work of genius.

Tool – 10000 Days
A tiny bit disappointing. I mean, it was a long wait. I was expecting a reinvention. What I got was Lateralus 2. Which is fine.

TV on the Radio – Return to Cookie Mountain
I’ve seen this on a bunch of best-of lists already, and deservedly so. Weird and so good. This is another “why does it work so well?” album, like He Poos Clouds, only with a chance of radio airplay.

Yo La Tengo – I Am  Not Afraid Of  You And I Will Beat Your Ass
Deserves to be on everyone’s list for the title alone. This sprawling album goes EVERYWHERE. We’re talking 15 tracks, two of which are over 10 minutes long. The musicianship is amazing, the songs are inventive and catchy.

Multiple iTunes libraries? Music geek heaven

Ok, so iTunes 7 looks goofy. But it now supports multiple libraries. About time!

I’ve got more music than I do local storage space (emusic subscription + time = lots and lots of great music). So my collection lives on an external hd. This is all fine and dandy, except for when I want a change in scenery and want to work away from my desk.

Sure I could use my iPod, and usually do. But there have been enough times where I haven’t had my magical white music box with me. I do have some “emergency use only” music stored on my phone. But I’m spoiled. And I want a wide selection of tunes available at all times. Yes, I really am that petty when it comes to music.

So now, I’ve got a couple of gigs of the latest and greatest living locally. The sweet sweet sounds of Yo La Tengo, The National, The Dears, Muse, and of course Radiohead will never be far away.

OMG I am such a nerd!