My 2015 Yearbook (have a neat summer)

 

All of our new friends at the Foo Fighters show in Kansas City.

All of our new friends at the Foo Fighters show in Kansas City.

 

Yes, I’m back. WE’RE back. The MoSS? boys are all still alive and kicking. But life sometimes happens.

But thankfully, Chris’ 2015 yearbook lit my fuse, and Todd’s Cliff-Notes follow-up made it an actual necessity to respond myself. Woke up from an eight-month slumber to share my 2015 tour stories.

But unlike those guys, who continue to immerse themselves in the new stuff, my year on the road consisted of a tour through what I imagine is the stuff populating the used-CD bins at Record Collector these days.

I ain’t got no complaints …

Less Than Jake (Wooly’s in Des Moines, January)

The year started with this throwback of a show, which was really just a night for all my boys to reunite and celebrate 1997-98 all over again, when we were all just out of college and partying every night like you’re supposed to when you’re 23. There was a time when Losing Streak was the soundtrack to that party and it ranked among my very favorite albums. Well, those days are long in the past, but that album can still take me back to that moment in time. Of course, they only played one or two songs from it.

Oh, and Reel Big Fish opened the show … I felt like I was at a Milwaukee Beers BASEketball game.

Barry Manilow (CenturyLink Center in Omaha, February)

Hey, that's not a wax sculpture ... it's Barry manilow!

Hey, that’s not a wax sculpture … it’s Barry manilow!

“I’m just going because my mom wants to see him.”

That’s was my excuse if anyone asked. Truth be told, I just used that as an excuse because yes, I’m a closet Fanilow. “Weekend in New England” and “Could It Be Magic?” make me misty. Shut up! When I was 4, my mom bought my brother and me t-shirts at the mall with our names on the back and ANY iron-on patch we wanted on the front. Logan got a Star Wars patch (the “a” and the “n” from his name quickly rubbed off his shirt, leaving only Log … which I still call him 38 years later). What did I get? You guessed it … a Barry Manilow patch. Shut up! I guess it was all those times I was forced to sing “Can’t Smile Without You” in the car because it was “cute” (I’m lucky I didn’t get beaten up more).

Anyway … it was enchanting (yes, I said enchanting), and I got some quality time with Mom in the process. And sadly, I’d never had better seats to a show in my life. Ever … only for them to be trumped about four months later.

Spoiler alert: My favorite album of 2015 was No Cities to Love

Spoiler alert: My favorite album of 2015 was No Cities to Love

 

Sleater-Kinney (Omaha and St. Louis, Feb./April)

I’ve already covered this one sufficiently. And nothing has changed, except for the fact that I love this band more now than I did then. I’m praying they take another run through the Midwest soon.

Foxygen at the Mission Creek Festival (Blue Moose in Iowa City, April)

IMG_2719This was the only show of the week I went to differing from Chris’ itinerary. We both caught Real Estate and Father John Misty (with King Tuff … those dudes were bad-ass). But he chose Shovels and Rope on Friday, and I chose this one. Glad I did.

A super-energetic show. Sam France has that androgynous look like some ’70s British glam rocker and the band has this wall of backup singers, like they’re Ike and Tina Turner or something, including one that looked like a sex-kitten version of Abbi from Broad City. Yes, I was captivated. I remember saying to Michelle, friend of MoSS? and my partner in the evening’s festivities, that the whole thing was like some hyperactive psychedelic version of Meat Loaf.

After the show, we bumped into honorary MoSS?-Man Travis …

“That was awesome,” he said with his typical chuckle and grin. “They were like psycho Meat Loaf or something, right?”

Bastard stole my line. Case closed.

Diarrhea Planet (Gabe’s in Iowa City, April)

IMG_2766Great stuff. But if I took away anything about this show, it was the realization that from here on out, I will never NOT take earplugs to a show at Gabe’s. These guys play three-guitar punk rock with shredding solos. And as I stood and watched, I could SEE the guitarists’ fingers moving up and down the fret boards with Yngwie Malmsteen-like dexterity, but all I could HEAR was harsh, distorted fuzz. On a whim, I just stuck my fingers in my ears … then and only then could I hear the flurry of notes. I love me some Gabe’s – it’s been my home base for over 20 years now – but the sound needs improvement (it has for a while). I used to worry that the day I started wearing earplugs would be the day I was officially old. I still love it loud, but I just want to hear what’s actually happening. That ain’t old.

IMG_2878

MASTODON!!

 

THE SWORD!!

THE SWORD!!

Mastodon (Five Flags Center
in Des Moines, May)
The Sword (Gabe’s in Iowa City, October)

Hail metal.

I love this doom metal shit, the sludgy stuff coming out of the south, especially – Mastodon, Baroness, Kylesa out of Georgia, and The Sword out of Austin, Texas. I never want to grow up, apparently, because for as cultured as I like to think I’ve become over the years, I still love heavy metal and slasher movies. I hope that never changes.

IMG_2996

Royal Blood (Wooly’s in Des Moines, May)

In the era of two-man bands or even no-bass player bands (think White Stripes, Black Keys or Sleater-Kinney), those bands’ guitarists always find a way to replicate the bottom-end sound where the bass would be. Check out Corin Tucker on “A New Wave” or Jack White on “The Denial Twist” for good examples of this.

But I’ve never seen anyone replicate a screaming guitar lick on a bass before, while still playing bass at the same time. It’s a mindfuck when you see it. But that’s what Mike Kerr does in Royal Blood. Plus, it’s just good old-fashioned hard rock. I like these guys. Quite a bit, actually.

After the show, I asked their sound guy how Mike Kerr did it. “It’s gotta be just a series of effects pedals, right?” I asked. But he basically told me – in that very regal, polite way that only a Brit can – to go fuck myself.

IMG_3049Smashing Pumpkins (Hoyt Sherman Place in Des Moines, June)

I mean, look at these!

I mean, look at these!

The Barry Manilow show gave me the best seats I’ve ever had for any show ever. Until this one. Second row center and seated, with no buffer between Billy and me (the front row in the center was for handicapped seating, but there were no handicapped people at the show, so it was just as good as front row). This show had sold out immediately months earlier, but I just knew the ungodly-priced VIP tickets would end up on the market again. Checked the day before, at just the right time, and bam, got four at a discount.

But no one wanted to go with me. I, of course, asked the MoSS? boys first (we’ll always have the fantasy draft, after all). Too short of notice. Finally, I got some takers in old reliables Kat and Von.

I loved this show. A stripped-down acoustic set. Yes, it was largely devoid of many hits or deep cuts from the 1991-95 era (more on that later), but at the same time, it didn’t feel like a rock concert. Lots of stuff from Adore (which I was cool with – “For Martha” was excellent, and the arrangement on “To Sheila” was KILLER), a couple of new ones, some Zwan stuff, some solo stuff, all meticulously arranged and presented almost like a Broadway show, with a locked-in songbook. I knew what I was getting.

But this was Des Moines. Home of a ton of buttrock FM radio. A lot of the people who bought tickets, guaranteed, probably didn’t read the fine print about what this show was going to be and expected to hear the big, loud anthems. They didn’t get them. I mean, he did play “Tonight Tonight,” “Today,” “Mayonaise” and “1979,” but mostly? Yeah, they didn’t get them.

Needless to say, it got ugly. For the first hour or so of the show, he had the room in the palm of his hand. But when people started realizing that this show must be winding down and they still hadn’t heard “Cherub Rock” and “Bullet with Butterfly Wings,” they started getting antsy. During the end of the show, people started yelling out requests, which Billy actually took in stride, until some jackass yelled, “Play ‘1979’ again!” At that point, the famous Corgan petulance reared its ugly head. All tour long at that point, he had taken some requests for the final encore (including one stop when he played the entire Gish album in less than six minutes). But for us, he came out and played “Spaceboy” and got the fuck outta there.

Look, I’ve been very vocal over the years about how his refusal to play the old stuff is petty (basically, he feels like if he plays the stuff from Gish, Siamese Dream and Mellon Collie, he’s no better than Warrant playing “Cherry Pie” at the state fair. “I’m still making new music, dammit. You should want to hear that,” he thinks). There is a middle ground. People will listen to the new stuff if they know you’re gonna reward the years and years of loyalty with a few of the deep cuts. He needs to realize this.

But on that night, in that room, under those circumstances, I was on his side. We (I mean Iowans in general here) looked like hayseeds and it reinforced my fear that this was one of the reasons that Iowa is just the warm-up show for Chicago or Detroit.

I got into it pretty intensely with Chris about this afterward. A snippet of our correspondence:

“I can’t be on his side if he can’t entice me to attend. He can’t be bothered to include true fan rewards like Crush or Suffer or Obscured or Soma or Hummer. These are not hits. These are legacy-affirming songs but because they were written in the 20th century he won’t play them, even though he’ll play 1979 and Tonight and Today. If he wants an entire room of disciples without having to play the entire Greatest Hits tracklist, he would do this.”

I agreed with every word of this (my response: “I knew this was coming. And I know your stance. In fact, how many times have we had this discussion … and I AGREED with you? Because you know that I do”), but the contents of his acoustic tour were well-documented. It’s just that I bet no one was playing attention.

Well, I bet Todd would’ve loved it … I think.

All your base are belong to Rational Anthem

All your base are belong to Rational Anthem

 

80-35 Festival (Des Moines, July)

Miss Lewis in rock star pose

Miss Lewis in rock star pose

Jenny Lewis (she of Rilo Kiley, playing with the Watson Twins, and Jenny and Johnny) was awesome. Wilco was as good as they usually always are. Cloud Nothings sound better live than on their record. Run The Jewels were the balls. And Weezer played maybe the quintessential example of a perfect festival gig – every hit, a few deep cuts, a couple new ones, and the huge ones to shut it down.

In addition, on Friday night, I caught the Ataris play at the Gas Lamp … and the show was opened by Rational Anthem, my current favorite Iowa City band. Originally from Florida, they hooked up with fellow Iowa City punks Lipstick Homicide (also awesome) somewhere on the road and relocated to Iowa City when they realized that at any given moment, they were within a four- or five-hour drive of Minneapolis, Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Kansas City and Omaha. If you like fun pop punk, check them out.

Against Me! (Wooly’s in Des Moines, July)

Tom Gabel was the shit. Best voice in punk rock. That was always the draw with Against Me!. Laura Jane Grace? Now she has the best voice in punk rock. I love this band.

Cheap Trick (RAGBRAI stop at the Coralville Marriott, July)

“Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees I’ve seen live” list as of July 2015: The Rolling Stones, Van Halen, Metallica, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, B.B. King, Neil Young, Buddy Guy, the Pretenders, Fleetwood Mac, Lou Reed, Black Sabbath, Alice Cooper, U2, R.E.M., Beastie Boys, Guns N’ Roses, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Public Enemy, Kiss, Nirvana, Green Day, Parliament (well, George Clinton), Run-DMC (kinda) and Patti Smith (kinda).

Now, I can add these guys to the list. Getting inducted this year (as well as Steve Miller, who I saw in 1992 and is also getting inducted this year). So many awesome anthems. And I bought a great t-shirt to boot.

A sidenote: After drinking a few too many beers that night, my buddy and I headed over to the Lumberyard II for a little post-show entertainment. I just want to say this to the strippers of the world: Picking your music? Shouldn’t be that difficult. Hair metal or ’90s R&B. Just keep it simple, ladies. It ain’t hard.

IMG_3372Foo Fighters (Sprint Center in Kansas City, August)

Just one of the shows that you always imagine a rock concert will be like when you’re 12 and haven’t been to a rock concert before.

IMG_3434I have friends who rag and rag about Dave Grohl and his overexposure. It’s tiresome. And it makes my head spin so much that it’s impossible to gather and articulate my thoughts on the matter (check out this piece that Chris wrote almost over four years ago, then check my counterpoint in the comments. And Chris wrote this BEFORE he was just starting to truly usurp Bono’s roll as media-appointed rock ambassador… his roll has only gotten bigger since then).

But anyone who tries to say the Foo Fighters are not one of, if not THE best, arena-rock bands in the world is crazy. This night was a tour de force.

I went to this show with T-Dub and it was a classic T-Dub and Vodka Bob outing. More than a few frosty beverages. Screaming every lyric, including the end bridge of “Monkey
Wrench.” Making friends with total strangers. There was the
IMG_3461purple-t-shirt guy. There was the beautiful girl in the checkered dress. The dudes in the Cinderella t-shirts (by the way, we weren’t ripping on you … we actually do worship at the altar of Tom Keifer, guys!). We invited one woman who was partying hard and her sister from Idaho out for post-gig drinks … unfortunately, I really don’t remember a whole lot about this or anything after (I do remember asking Miss Idaho if she liked shopping malls, because I remembered a line in Adventures in Babysitting when the kids in the movie asked the guy who carjacked the car they were sitting in to please drop them off at the nearest mall and the carjacker said “where do y’all think we are – Boise, Idaho?”). I think I asked for her number and she did give it to me (I’ve never used it), but she didn’t tell me her last name. I think she made the right call.

Anyway, I woke up the next day and start checking the receipts in my pocket. It was all worth it.

X (Wooly’s in Des Moines, August)

IMG_3546One of my favorite movies of all time is The Decline of Western Civilization, Part II: The Metal Years (why Penelope Spheeris has never done a “Where Are They Now” follow-up on the London dudes, the Wet Cherri guy, the guy with the one-side-bleach-blonde/one-side-blue-black hair, and Randy O. from Odin, I’ll never know. I mean, I REALLY want to know, for real).

Anyway, The Metal Years came out when I was 15, and after that, I was obsessed with seeing Part 1. For 25 years, I tried seeing it. I tried renting it everywhere. Never had it. Out of print. I started checking every used video store. No luck. Any time the TV guide said it would be on, I set the timer and it ALWAYS ended up being The Metal Years. No dice.

Finally, this year, the red tape finally got cleared up and the entire Decline of Western Civilization trilogy got released on Blu-ray. Part 1, for the uninitiated, is a deep dive into the L.A. punk scene of the early ’80s – The Germs, Circle Jerks, Fear and Black Flag, most predominantly. But X, with that infusion of rockabilly, stood out to me.

Skeet and I loved it. Doe rocks. Exene Cervenka kinda looks like a crazy Muppet these days, but still had me in the palm of her hand.

Plus, I didn’t want to think of John Doe as just the guy that said, “that guy at the end of the bar is fuckin’ Dalton, man.” Glad I went.

Beach House (The Pageant in St. Louis, September)

IMG_3711Chris already covered the specifics of this show well. I was just disappointed that he left out the late-night driving playlists I utilized to keep myself occupied while he slumbered … an ‘80s New Wave that featured Erasure, Duran Duran, Bananarama, The Dream Academy (twice!), Berlin, Bow Wow Wow, Romeo Void, Kajagoogoo, Simple Minds … I could go on and on, but it wasn’t until “Perfect Way” by Scritti Politti came on that he finally said, “Can we listen to something else, please?”

Then, on the way home, it was Vol. 4 of my essential “Anson Thrash” series, with enough Slayer, Exodus, Testament, Motorhead, Venom, Death Angel, Coroner, Forbidden, Sacred Reich, Overkill and Death to satisfy any knuckle-dragging, wastoid, headbanging degenerate like myself.

He didn’t say it (he was dozing), but I know he was impressed.

Not even gonna attempt a Top 10 for 2015 list …

… but I will say goodbye to a couple of dudes that meant a whole hell of a lot to me.

It was a good year. See you in 2016 … I mean, I hope I don’t fall asleep for another eight months.

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My 2015 Yearbook (will you sign it?)

chris and travis after seeing death grips

JUNE: Chris and Travis survived Death Grips. No small feat.

2015 was my quietest year in terms of blogging since Todd and I started Music or Space Shuttle? in late 2011, but it’s not for lack of outstanding experiences around music. The blogging part of my brain just got really lazy.

But after the holidays ran their course, I looked back at the great music that came out in ’15, and the various photos and videos I shot at concerts big and small, and decided I should package it all together. Even if no one else looks at this, it will serve to remind myself just how much fun it is to stay up late for a weeknight show in Iowa City or drive a few hours to St. Louis for a wonderful night at the Pageant or join up with my Riot crew to make Chicago our home for a few days to do a proper festival.

January 20
Bjork, the band formerly known as Viet Cong, and Sleater-Kinney all decide to drop new music on us. The Bjork album is beautiful; the Viet Cong release is brutal (in a great way); the Sleater-Kinney album didn’t suck as I feared it might and landed on my top 10 of 2015 at #7.

February 10
I did not like Fleet Foxes. At all. But I kinda like what this Father John Misty guy is doing on his own. Yeah. His latest LP, I Love You, Honeybear, held much more than the SiriusXMU staple “Bored in the USA.” “Chateau Lobby #4” and “When You’re Smiling and Astride Me” and “The Ideal Husband” are personal favorites, but really it’s an album you can enjoy front to back (even the electronic song grew on me). By year’s end, I rated it #3 among 2015 releases.

 

sleater kinney in concert

Once they went on hiatus, Sleater-Kinney was one of those “never saw ’em live” bands. Until 2015. (Photo by Christopher Clair)

February 13
You know those lists you make if you’re a nerd? One of those lists is “Bands I Never Got to See, Goddammit” and mine is painful to read. (The Nirvana entry is the worst.) But here’s the thing: in 2015, I got to cross off a couple of names. The first one: Sleater-Kinney, who played a pretty-close-to-dream setlist at the Slowdown (a pretty cool club in Omaha). Janet pounded her kit, Carrie punctuated her riffs with amazing high leg kicks, and Corin’s voice was in good form. To my surprise they played one of my favorite S-K songs (“Oh!”), and the songs that sounded so good on the new album also sounded great live. And “Dig Me Out” was so great.

March 16
Kendrick Lamar drops To Pimp a Butterfly. I immediately liked “Alright,” and also found plenty to like throughout the lenghty LP. Is it OK that I prefer good kid m.A.A.d city, though? Not trying to take a hipster stance here; I just find myself listening to more songs from the previous album when I want to queue up some Kendrick. (Tobias Jesso Jr. put out Goon a day later. Not as good as TPAB, but good all the same.)

March 19(ish)
Jenny Death, the second part of Death Grips’ double album The Powers That B, leaks online. I’m sure I waited until the album was officially released at month’s end to obtain these songs. Anyway, I put Jenny Death at #10 on my top albums of 2015 list.

March 24
Courtney Barnett will be a 2016 entry in the “From the MoSS? Pit” series; Sam, Travis, and our friend Ian from the Riot Fest crew are joining me at First Avenue in April 2016 to see her do her thing. (I swear I’m going to get better about timely posts about concerts.) We will all be enjoying songs from the album she put out on this day, which ended up at #4 on my top albums of 2015 list.

April 2
Mission Creek show #1: Real Estate. I’d seen them the year before at Pitchfork, and the venue (outdoors, summer) and the time of day (late afternoon, sun lazily going down) were perfect for the band’s aesthetic. But they put on a nice nighttime show in the Englert Theatre, as it turns out. Their sound is so clean, so pure. Nice way to open my trifecta of 2015 Mission Creek shows, and it was the lone show of the festival that brought together me, my MoSS? boys Todd and Sam, and our honorary MoSS? brother Travis.

April 3
Mission Creek show #2: Shovels & Rope. This was year 2 of what might be an annual tradition, if Mission Creek keeps up its booking pattern: me and my bestie Sondra taking in the Friday night Englert show. (She went to Sleigh Bells while 8.5 months pregnant…that’s concert cred I don’t think I could attain even if I had the proper lady parts.) The first year it was The Head and the Heart, which we both looked forward to with crazy anticipation. This time around, though, neither of us were all that familiar with S&R (read: I glanced at their bio, listened to a couple of tracks online, figured Sondra would like them, bought the tickets). I think I can speak for the both of us in saying that S&R cleared the high bar set by Head/Heart. Those two are pure joy on stage (and, as we plunged into their discography, on record, too) and clearly enjoy making music together (and human beings, as it was announced that Cary Ann Hearst was pregnant). It might take a reunited Civil Wars to raise the stakes in 2016…

April 5
Mission Creek show #3: Father John Misty with opener King Tuff. OK, so the opening act set off the fire alarm when the singer’s leather jacket met up with the stage pyrotechnics, and yet King Tuff was easily the SECOND-hottest act to grace the Englert stage that night. Josh Tillman has it goin’ on, folks. He pretty much owned the room with his soulful vocals, slinky moves, and damn great songs. Even the cheesy neon backdrop worked. I was comfortably seated about halfway back, which was probably good because his magnetic charm had quite the effect on fans closer to the stage. My ancedotal evidence: one of my former work colleagues ended up burying her face into his shirt. It’s funny, partly because this is totally a Brittany B move, but also because it conjured up imagery of Veronica wiping Jesus’ face, and is it any surprise that a Father John Misty moment would relate to religion somehow? Anyway, a great way to close 2015 Mission Creek; I think I would rate this show as my favorite MC show so far, ever.

May 29
Jamie xx releases In Colour, which, after much internal debate, emerged as my favorite album of 2015. For most of the final third of the year, I had Beach House’s Depression Cherry in the top spot, but in the end, I found myself more satisfied with the front-to-back listening experience In Colour provides. “Girl” and “Seesaw” are my two clear favorites, but there’s not a song on here that I feel like skipping when I put on the album. (Sure, I wouldn’t include the instrumental interludes if I were curating a mixtape, but within the context of the album, they too are fantastic.) I am aware that Jamie xx has been involved in my album of the year three times in the past seven (2009 and 2012 with the xx), and what can I say? They are absolutely genius, and Jamie perhaps stepped up as the mastermind behind the magic with this solo-branded effort.

 

tame impala in concert

Tame Impala was fuckin groovy live. Another killer show at the Pageant in STL. (Photo by Christopher Clair)

June 1
Tame Impala turns the Pageant in St. Louis into the coolest kaleidoscope ever. We (Travis and I) had nice seats in the center balcony, and we enjoyed some good pizza and beer across the street before the show. Every time I go to the Pageant, I leave wishing such a venue existed in Iowa City (its capacity of 2300 surpasses the Englert’s 725, and the Pageant sound is immaculate in my experiences) and, more importantly, that such a venue could receive proper support in Iowa City. Would 2,000 people show up for Tame Impala in Iowa City, especially if the show weren’t scheduled during the week of Mission Creek?

But this isn’t about the fact that I often have to drive more than 100 miles, sometimes 250, to see the bands I like. It’s about Tame Impala previewing tunes from its forthcoming third album and playing just about every one of my favorite songs from the first two LPs. Travis and I did have to snicker a bit about how seemingly all of Kevin’s lyrics reflect his inability to talk to/score with chicks, which we find highly suspect.

June 23
Kacey Musgraves releases Pageant Material, which lands at #5 on my best of 2015 list, and I nearly flipped a coin between this and Courtney Barnett for #4. The title track lyrics are arguably the most entertaining I heard all year. “Somebody to Love” is a very moving tune that sheds any cowgirl texture and replaces the vibe with a cool drone. And she puts on a hell of a show, which I got to experience later in 2015.

 

June 28
TRIPLE SIX FIVE FORKED TONGUE GET GET GET GET GOT GOT GOT GOT BORN WITH A SKI MASK ON MY FACE I’VE SEEN FOOTAGE I STAY NOIDED HUSTLE BONES COMING OUT MY MOUTH GRAB YOUR FUCKIN CHAIN AND DRAG YOU THROUGH THE PARKING LANE WHILE EVERYONE’S LIKE NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO VISITED TESLA’S GRAVE FOR THE NINTH TIME TODAY SPREAD EAGLE CROSS THE BLAWWWWWWCK UP MY SLEEVES UP MY SLEEVES I BREAK MIRRORS WITH MY FACE IN THE UNITED STATES HALF COCKED FULL TILT RABID DOG FILTH ARRRRGH KNOW WHAT I’M SAYING (FUCK IT) ANKLES TIED TO CINDER BLOCKS AYE AYE I’M BOUNCING IT GOES IT GOES IT GOES IT GOES GUILLOTIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIINE YUH! YOU’RE FIT TO LEARN ABOUT THE MEANING OF A BEATDOWN MADNESS CHAOS IN THE BRAIN I WANT IT I NEED IT NEED IT TO MAKE ME FEEL HEATED

Yep. Death Grips showed up for a concert and atoned for any previous misses we’d experienced over the past three years. I’m usually too old to get in the mix these days, but yours truly turned back the years (and wore flip-flops like a dumbass…thankfully all my toes survived). Travis also attempted to bring beers into the chaos and I ended up wearing about 89% of my beverage…but it’s all good. Need to do it again soon.

July 16
Wilco puts out a free album that I download and never listen to, not once.

August 28
Beach House releases Depression Cherry, which nearly crossed the finish line in the lead but ended up settling for my #2 album of 2015. All the same, this album and the band’s impeccable back catalog did entice me into an all-nighter trip to STL to see the band live…more on that later.

 

big guitarist

I thought Prop Joe was back from the grave when I attended the Iowa Soul Festival. (Photo by Christopher Clair)

That night, I attend the Iowa Soul Festival in Iowa City to see Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings. It’s raining pretty hard. I saw one act with a very large and very talented guitarist, and I heard the Dap-Kings do about five minutes before lightning decided to take over the Iowa skies. No Sharon Jones show for me. Drove home in torrential downpour. Can’t win ’em all.

 

kacey musgraves in concert

Usually I can’t take my real camera to concerts. River Roots Live…not a problem. I love this shot, almost as much as I like Kacey’s music. (Photo by Christopher Clair)

August 29
Family concert night! My better half and our son pile into our friends’ truck and hit River Roots Live over in the Quad Cities. It was $10 to get in (and I think the kids were free?), and Kacey Musgraves was headlining. BBQ stands lined the walkway, and our friends’ two children joined our boy in bouncy house tomfoolery before we all snagged good seats to see Kacey. She was on point, running through the lion’s share of the songs on her two albums. The beer prices actually weren’t bad compared with Riot Fest or Lolla, and the QC has a decent local craft beer selection that was available here. I probably exploited the relatively cheap beer prices to the point of being a bit off-kilter. The evidence of such inebriation existed in a video file (since erased, too bad) where you could clearly hear me “singing” along. Oh god, it was bad. And if you’ve ever seen me participate in karaoke night at the Red Lion in Cedar Rapids, you would know I have no shame.

But I did feel like my photo game was still on point. A photo similar to the one you see above currently sits framed in my basement, awaiting my eventual arrangement of a pop culture-themed room. Seeing as I’m putting out a 2015-in-review piece nearly a month into 2016, you can imagine how soon that room will come together.

 

four dorks at riot fest

My Riot Fest crew. We’re doing it again in 2016. Counting the days. (Photo by Ian Hall)

September 11-13
RIOT FEST. I loved the 2014 version, primarily because I was so excited to see one of the big bands each of the three nights (Slayer, Descendents, The Cure). But this year I found myself looking at three days packed with intriguing artists, rather than playing the waiting game until the headliners finally took the stage. The new location was a vast improvement on the 2014 park. Plus, our crew ended up renting a place that had a rooftop patio, a grill, and a hot tub. Much better than your typical hotel room, especially with six humans sharing the quarters.

DAY ONE: We start with Death, the stars of recent documentary A Band Called Death. These guys still got it, as do the next group we caught, Fishbone. I had seen them twenty-some years before, but I think the intensity level is the same. Angelo Moore was in fine form. Caught Living Colour from a distance, made sure to catch the obligatory “Cult of Personality” before moving along. I split off from the group at some point to catch Anthrax rather than seeing Faith No More. Mistake? If you ask Ian and Travis, yeah, as FNM topped their festival highlights. Instead, I got “Caught in a Mosh”…

IMG_0548While the rest of the crew caught Motorhead (R.I.P. Lemmy), I went over to see Ice Cube, who was reuniting with Ren and Yella to do some classic Straight Outta Compton tunes as part of his set. It was OK, I guess. They cut the songs short to eliminate Eazy’s verses rather than have someone else stand in. I think my favorite part of the set was getting this watercolor-looking photo of a dude’s mohawk standing tall among the smoke wafting through the crowd.

We tried in vain to get a cab. At one point we were outside a prison, so we asked one of the guards entering the facility if she knew if cabs trafficked this area. Her response: “You don’t want to get a cab around here.” Um, Uber? Can you come get us? (And within a minute, our Uber arrived. Nice.) The hot tub felt awesome.

DAY TWO: Was pleased to discover FIDLAR at this fest. They were a lot of fun, especially the part where one of the band members crowd-surfed and then upon returning to the stage was pretty much tackled by security, much to the puzzlement/anger of his bandmates. To be fair he did look like your average Riot Fest whippersnapper.

Travis and I checked out Swervedriver, although it was a tad depressing when we got there, like two minutes before the band was scheduled to go on, and yet we were able to get within a row of the front rail. I did think they were an odd booking compared with the rest of the bill, and it was an early set, but come on. Thankfully the place filled up to a respectable level once they started playing. I was happy with the music, anyway.

the damned

Captain Sensible (left) looking good as one would expect. (Photo by Christopher Clair)

Ran over to the other side of the park to catch Captain Sensible and the Damned. I kinda get Swervedriver being forced to play an early slot, but I really thought the Damned at Riot Fest would land a later, more high-profile spot. But oh well, I found myself a good spot on Sensible’s side of the stage and pogo’d around for an hour. Neat neat neat!

Then it was back to the other side again to meet up with the crew at Thurston Moore Band. It was cool to see Deb Googe play live again (not nearly as magical as the My Bloody Valentine show, but still…) as well as Thurston’s apparent hetero life partner Steve Shelley. Thurston got himself off for 45 minutes to mixed reviews (in other words, Rog hated it, Ian loved it, Trav liked/loved it, I was good with it).

fans young and old at Echo and the Bunnymen

Fans young and old dig Echo and the Bunnymen. (Photo by Christopher Clair)

After getting a bite to eat, we all watched Echo and the Bunnymen, which was fun for the whole family. Then Roger and I camped out on the Rancid side of the park, and got up in the mix when it was time for …And Out Come the Wolves, played in its entirety. It was a lot of fun to shout along with “Olympia, WA” and “Timebomb” and “Alleyways and Avenues” and “Ruby Soho” and “Roots Radical” and all the rest. And wouldn’t you know it, I once again ended up running into the Brothers Warden at a concert/festival. They also enjoyed the glory that is a Rancid pit.

I watched Iggy Pop and his hot dog skin from a distance to close out the night.

DAY THREE: After all the joking we’d done about bees at Riot Fest this year and the year previous, it finally came back to bite me…well, sting me, I guess. I caught a jab in the back during the De La Soul set. Pos, Dove, and Mace had us moving like crazy, which stirred up the bees, and one flew up the back of my shirt and couldn’t get out, so STING. I put on a brave face and didn’t complain about it (much).

Roger and I endured a horrible set by Kongos in order to sprint to the gate when the Kongos crowd dispersed. We had different motives, to a degree: I desperately wanted to be up close and personal for Rodrigo y Gabriela, and Rog was dead-set on front-and-center action for THE D (which I was excited about as well). We got up to the second row of people, and then a guy asked who was here to see Rod y Gab, and when I shouted “ME” he traded me his spot on the rail. And after some Kongos fans got picks and setlists or whatever, they vacated the rail and Rog was in. We were dead-fucking-center, and both Rod y Gab and THE D delivered. So worth sitting through that Kongos crap. We did pass the time high-fiving the crowd surfers who had been pulled over the rail one stage over during the Andrew WK set. I found a new way to amuse myself: every time I extended my hand for the five, I also yelled out, “YOU DID IT!” About half the time the person on the other end of the handslap was like “FUCK YEAH I DID DO IT!”; about 30 percent of the time, the person was all like “Um, thanks, wait, what?”; the other 20 percent were pretty much all “FUCK YOU, DICK.” It was fun.

rodrigo y gabriela

Two thrashers on acoustic guitars easily won over the Riot Fest crowd. (Photo by Christopher Clair)

If you’re not familiar with this duo, but you watched Breaking Bad, then you sorta know their music. Go listen to “Diablo Rojo” or “Vikingman” or their cover of Metallica’s “Orion”…or better yet, just go to YouTube and search for some of their live work. They like to cover thrash metal in their flamenco-inspired way, and they did just that at Riot Fest, with a medley of Metallica and Megadeth tunes. At one point, as Rodrigo took up a stance to give his strings a good workout, I yelled from the front row, “YEAH RODRRRRRRRRIGO!” and he looked down at me, gave me a slight nod, turned back to his fretboard, and went to town. I AM A FUCKING NERD BUT SO WHAT RODRIGO GAVE ME THE NOD!!!!!

tenacious d

KG and Jack in all their glory. (Photo by Christopher Clair)

So yeah, we had prime spots for Tenacious D, right next to a guy who pulled a Chris move (me in the third person, yep) and had been on the rail for eight hours waiting for The D. (I did that for the Cure in 2014.) It was a lot of fun, kicking off with “Tribute” and getting most every song you’d expect to hear, I suppose, although I really could have used a rendition of “Lee” somewhere in the set. And I had another interactive moment a la Rodrigo, this time with Jables. Song gets over, we’re all clapping, Jack looks down at the crowd, locks eyes with me. Now with Rodrigo, it all went smoothly, but I initiated that one. This time, I was put on the spot. And like a deer in headlights, I got run over.

I gave him a dorky smile and a big ol’ thumbs-up.

And he furrowed his brow, shrugged, made a face that you can only interpret as “um, okaaaayyyy,” and our moment ended. #isuck

tenacious d guitar pick

The pick of destiny, right?

But after The D played their final note and left the stage, one of the security staff, with whom we made conversation throughout the afternoon/evening between sets, scooped up a guitar pick KG had attempted to throw the crowd. The fans were losing their shit trying to get it, but he told the adoring masses, “Nope, I gotta hook up my guy right here,” and handed me the pick. He must have recognized me from Lolla 2013 and Riot 2014; I honestly did recognize him. The guy who had waited eight hours on the rail was choking back tears of agony when he saw the pick enter my grasp; it must have KILLED him to see me then give it to Rog, the true D disciple.

Then the Prodigy played to close out the night and we all went back to the pad and the next day we returned to our miserable lives. Although my co-workers couldn’t help but notice the post-Riot Fest mood enhancement, at least for a few days. I could tell they liked my stories a lot; I should be sure to nag them to read Music or Space Shuttle?!

September 25
Chvrches releases Every Open Eye, a solid follow-up to the beloved The Bones of What You Believe. Didn’t instantly grab me the way the debut did, but it was a “grower” that settled in at #8 on my best of 2015 list. I would go on to see them twice in the span of 15 days…with mixed results.

But the bigger news from this day…

ride performing live

Another “I’ll never see this band” band crossed off the list. (Photo by Christopher Clair)

RIDE. Todd and I trekked over to Chicago to see the shoegazers do their thing at the Riviera. To actually hear songs from Nowhere was a dream come true. “Seagull” might be the best live song I’ve ever experienced. So intense. Mixed in some great tracks from Going Blank Again and Chelsea Girl, along with the one really cool song from Tarantula. Blissfully shoegazed, Todd and I retreated to the ‘burbs and found a bar with like a zillion beers from which to choose, along with the 10+% Not Your Father’s Root Beer (aka Headache in a Goblet). Kinda wish I’d stayed in Chicago another night, as Alcest played on the 26th, but alas, it was not to be. But I did have another concert to attend this weekend…

 

beach house in concert

Beach House. The visuals are as dreamy as the music. (Photo by Christopher Clair)

September 27
I shared a FB photo of Beach House that had been posted by the Pageant, one of those deals where “share this and you’ll be entered into a drawing for 2 free tix!!!!1” which, of course, I didn’t win. But Sam saw my share and was like, “Hey, I know the show’s on a Sunday night and it’s all the way down in STL and you have to work at 8 am on Monday morning but if you really want to go I’d probably be down with that.”

Red Bull was purchased. I drove to Sam’s place. Sam drove us to STL. We hit the pizza/beer place across the street. Jessica Pratt provided some decent opener tunes. And then Beach House rewarded our all-nighter trip with that special band of intense chill that I love so much. Kinda cool that they opened with a couple of tunes from their first album, including “Master of None,” which the Weeknd used masterfully on his first mixtape. And of course we got “Sparks” and “Levitation” and “Space Song” from Depression Cherry and “Wild” and “Wishes” from Bloom and it was all pretty much beautiful. Then Sam drove us home, with me catching ZZZZZs from probably about Canton until Iowa City. Then I drove home, got another three hours of sleep, and went to work. (And probably got home from work that evening and went straight to bed.)

October 2
Deafheaven releases New Bermuda. When they released Sunbather, I thought it was pretty cool from a musical standpoint but wasn’t big on the vocals. But then I saw them at Pitchfork in 2014, and was converted. I looked forward to the new album, and was not disappointed. I put it at #9 on my best of 2015 list.

 

October 9
Usually the University of Iowa Homecoming concert elicits yawns. Not this year. Chvrches played a free show on the Pentacrest. Thankfully the Soul Festival weather didn’t ruin this Pentacrest show. Will and I had tickets to see the band two weeks later in Kansas City, but we decided to hit this show as well, seeing as it was free and all. (Glad we did, as you’ll read in the October 23 entry.) The new songs sounded great, and they played a good deal of the first album, saving “The Mother We Share” for the end. Will was fading fast toward the end of the show, but that song perked him up. I hope to see them at an indoor venue not named the Uptown Theatre in Kansas City.

bully in concert

Bully pretty much owned the Mill. (Photo by Todd Larsen)

October 10
Bully at the Mill. I know it was Homecoming weekend at the UI and there were a lot of stupid things happening in town that night, but there should have been WAAAAAAY more people at the Bully concert. Thankfully me, Todd, and Jess weren’t among the poor saps who missed out on a great rock show. I must admit I don’t listen to the Bully album all that often but man did those songs work in a live setting.

One of the opening bands was called Heat. Not The Heat. Not El Heat, like what the Miami Heat put on their jerseys to celebrate Latino culture. Just…Heat. Like the De Niro/Pacino(/Kilmer?) movie. And that’s all I have to say about that.

October 16
Neon Indian releases VEGA INTL. Night School. Worth the four-year wait? Well, it was really good. “The Glitzy Hive” should have been the biggest song in the world, and tunes such as “Smut!” and “Slumlord” were top-notch. I’ve got this at #6 on the best of 2015 list.

 

chvrches in kansas city

Chvrches in Kansas City’s Uptown Theatre: It looks way better than it sounded. (Photo by Christopher Clair)

October 23
Will and I go see Chvrches for the second time in two weeks. It might seem funny that a band like Chvrches could possibly be too loud, but it was unbearable. And of course I forgot to bring earplugs for Will, so imagine the agony he was enduring if I thought it was too loud. We stuck it out for maybe five or six songs before we left. Even out in the parking lot across the street, we were physically assaulted by the sound. You could feel the vibrations. This theatre was maybe a little bigger than the Englert; no need to have the shit that loud. If nothing else, Will did get a sweet poster from the merch table. I told him to consider it a souvenir from the Iowa City show, and that we’d never speak of the Uptown Theatre ever again. On the plus side, the family enjoyed the rest of the weekend in KC, hitting the Plaza, eating Jack Stack BBQ, and taking in Science City at Union Station.

small black in concert

Small Black returns to Iowa City as headliners. Deserved headliners, I should say. (Photo by Christopher Clair)

November 3
Small Black returns to Iowa City, playing a show at the Mill. Last time they were in town, they opened for Washed Out; this time, they topped the bill. They did quite well as the headliner. The most recent album, Best Blues, is pretty great, right up there with Limits of Desire, in my book. We even had a chance to chat briefly with Josh Kolenik. Cool guy. Hope he experiences bigger and better things in the future.

 

the bright light social hour in concert

The Bright Light Social Hour provided yet another reason to hang out at the Mill during the autumn of 2015. (Photo by Christopher Clair)

November 15
The Bright Light Social Hour met arguably their biggest fan (Ian, from my Riot Fest crew) in Iowa City on this night. I’m sure they made a few more diehard fans with their scorching performance.

 

st louis symphony

St. Louis Symphony prepares to perform works by John Williams. It was really cool.

December 12
Six days before Episode VII: The Force Awakens opened, I had the pleasure of watching/hearing the St. Louis Symphony perform selected works by John Williams. So we got to hear some tunes from Jurassic Park, Home Alone, the Harry Potter films, Catch Me If You Can, The Cowboys, Superman, and, of course, the Star Wars saga. Probably the coolest moment for me, aside from the main Star Wars theme, was a song from Episode I: The Phantom Menace, believe it or not. It was from the Darth Maul/Qui-Gon Jinn/Obi-Wan Kenobi lightsaber duel scene; the symphony was joined by a choir that provided the vocal portion of the score. It was incredible, that song, the whole concert. The conductor was an absolute showman; his between-song banter was outstanding. An interesting way to close out my 2015 live music calendar.

And The Force Awakens lived up to, nay, surpassed my expectations. Can’t wait to see Episode VIII, but that’s something like 18 months away! Guess I’ll have to go see some more concerts in the meantime. Already got tickets for Courtney Barnett, The Cure, and Riot Fest 2016…

To recap, my top 10 albums of 2015:

Jamie xx, In Colour

Beach House, Depression Cherry

Father John Misty, I Love You, Honeybear

Courtney Barnett, Sometimes I Sit and Think…

Kacey Musgraves, Pageant Material

Neon Indian, VEGA INTL. Night School

Sleater-Kinney, No Cities to Love

Chvrches, Every Open Eye

Deafheaven, New Bermuda

Death Grips, Jenny Death

From the MoSS? Pit: Sleater-Kinney (Or: What I should’ve said to Carrie Brownstein when I had the chance)

Sleater-Kinney at Slowdown in Omaha, February 13

Sleater-Kinney at Slowdown in Omaha, February 13

 

Last weekend, I went to St. Louis to see Sleater-Kinney. Got a hotel room at the Moonrise, right next door the Pageant, where the show would take place in about four hours. Went to grab a beer in the hotel bar. Since it was just after 5 p.m., the bar had just opened, so there were about 10 people in the joint.

And in walks Carrie Brownstein.

My buddy Dub is saying, “well, go get your damn picture already, dumbass.” I said no. Didn’t want to bother her. Even when she got her drink and walked RIGHT PAST ME SIX INCHES AWAY (I mean, it wasn’t like she was 50 feet across the room), I didn’t tap her on the arm and say, “hey, I just wanted to tell you how much I love your music.” I let her sit and enjoy a drink with her friends before a gig. That’s what I assumed she’d want.

Yeah, I’ve regretted it for three days now. I should have said this …

Wait, let’s come back to that.

One of my favorite things about music is when you like a band – maybe you don’t love them yet, but you know they’re good – and then you go see them for the first time and they absolutely blow your friggin’ doors off. It’s like hearing them again for the first time.

SlowdownThat’s what it was like when I saw Sleater-Kinney in Omaha two months ago.

I’d been a fan since the late ’90s, introduced to them by MoSS?’s own Mr. Chris, himself just coming out of his stint as college radio DJ. Working late and rocking out one night at our post-college entry-level newspaper jobs, Chris slid over a copy of Dig Me Out and said “put this on.” You gotta remember, it was a dark time musically, and being trapped in central Iowa in the years before the internet truly grabbed hold, you still had to find your music organically. I had just graduated from Iowa, so the cool alternative bands weren’t as readily accessible anymore once I left my safe musical cocoon of a college town. And unfortunately in central Iowa at that time, all you had were butt-rock FM stations and the popular music dominating MTV had shifted toward Britney Spears, boy bands, and Limp Bizkit.

Also, anyone who knows me knows that my favorite thing in the world is a girl with a guitar. It’s almost become a running joke. I think there’s nothing sexier. I loved the Go-Go’s and the Bangles when I was a kid. Joan Jett. Lita Ford … imagine my surprise when I realized those two were actually in a fucking BAND together at one point. Score. Love.

So when I heard Sleater-Kinney? Let’s just say I liked them a real lot.

But I never got to see them until Omaha. Missed them altogether before 2006. Never really had a chance the first time around. So when reunion tour dates were announced? I just bought four tickets. Didn’t ask anyone. I hadn’t even heard No Cities to Love yet, either. I just figured that this is one of the ’90s bands I had never gotten to see. Time to fix that. I certainly wasn’t geared up to be floored.

Well …

Corin Tucker getting into it

Corin Tucker getting into it

Everything about that show was perfect. The venue, a club called Slowdown, was sold out, but it wasn’t too crowded. Hit the floor with Chris and our friends Michelle and Jim and set up in front of where we knew Corin Tucker would be standing (of course, I was gonna stand in front of Corin Tucker).

Then they hit the stage. Wow.

That place just sounded phenomenal from where I was standing. Can’t recommend it enough in the future (check it out … Slowdown). The setlist was on point, too, with a heavy dose of the new album (which is perfectly fine when your new album immediately vaults into the “best album in your catalog” conversation upon release). But they didn’t forget to play “I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone” or yes, “Dig Me Out,” either. I can still see Chris bouncing up and down, singing “Turn it On” just like he would have when we first met in 1997.

But it was the band themselves that sticks with me. The ladies harmonizing perfectly – Carrie’s voice a little more girly, with Corin’s killer staccato, equally elegant yet perfectly harsh. The staggering riffs and sheer musicianship. I mean, I played drums until I was 15 when I inexplicably quit. Maybe my biggest regret in life. And if I’d stuck with it, I might be HALF as good as Janet Weiss. And let’s not forget the showmanship – love those high kicks, Carrie Brownstein!

So like I said – you like a band a lot, then you see them live and they blow your friggin’ doors off. Then you LOVE them. These days, Sleater-Kinney is pretty much my favorite band. And they aren’t just girls with guitars. Fuck that. They’re the best rock band on tour in America right now. Go see them. Like, right now.

Sleater-KInney at The Pageant in St. Louis, April 24

Sleater-Kinney at the Pageant in St. Louis, April 24

 

As soon as I saw they were playing in St. Louis, I wanted to go again. Always heard good things about the Pageant. Plus, one of my oldest friends who lived in the Lou was soon to be moving to Brooklyn. Might not have a chance to go visit again, so I shot her a text and said Sleater-Kinney was playing at the Pageant on April 24.

She simply answered, “I would be super into that.” That was all I needed. Bought four tickets without asking for permission. Luckily she could go.

Last weekend was more about socializing, catching up with old friends. But I’m sure Lisa would tell you that once the band started, I ignored everybody. I remember vividly telling Lisa’s husband that if the ladies were in good voice that night, we were in for a treat. They were. And this time, I got to hear “The Fox” and “One More Hour.” And I NEVER get tired of hearing that riff in “Jumpers” … you know, the one right after the second chorus? Killer.

S-K vinyl & setlistI also got to stock up on the memorabilia I missed out on the first time: you know … autographed vinyl, tour poster, even got the setlist I missed out on the first time (but not without annoying the shit out of the sound booth guy. Sorry dude, but I won’t apologize and besides, I wasn’t being THAT annoying).

But the thing I think I’ll always remember is having the chance to talk to Carrie Brownstein and not taking it. In addition to just telling her how much I love her music, I might have told her this something like this:

My buddy Dub has a 9-year-old daughter. She just started playing the violin. And like most 9-year-olds, she’s already getting a little bored with it. Being the guy that I’ve been since I was her age, when I was obsessed with Kiss records and early MTV, I’m praying that she stays with it (like I didn’t with the drums and now regret), that she gets inspired to play … although I must confess, when I first heard she had chosen the violin, I asked Dub, “if she’s gonna play strings, why didn’t you steer her toward cello? Because then, she can eventually pick up a bass guitar?” What a wonderful parent I’d be!

Rock goddess

Carrie Brownstein, rock goddess

Anyway, my first thought was this: I wish Sleater-Kinney was playing in Des Moines that night, not Omaha or St. Louis. Because I totally would have tried to talk Dub into letting me take his 9-year-old daughter to see Sleater-Kinney as her first concert. Because seeing these three powerful women on stage – who have become the best rock band in America – might inspire her. And as she gets a little older, she might have gained the skill set to put down her fiddle and pick up an electric guitar. And then she can be Carrie Brownstein.

That’s what I would’ve said to Carrie Brownstein if I had another chance.

Also, forget inspiration for a second – I’m just pretty sure a 9-year-old girl that’s as up-and-coming cool as my buddy’s daughter would eat up “Little Babies” and “Oh!” and “Modern Girl” with a spoon.

Fuck it, where’s my phone? I’m Facetiming her right now and telling her to get on YouTube …

 

Let us know what you think. Sound off in the comments here at Music or Space Shuttle? Have your say on our Facebook page. Yell at us on Twitter.

MoSS? Monthly Mixtape: January 2015

2015 TC

Side A: Todd’s Picks

Side B: Chris’ Picks

MoSS? Presents… The Undisputed Top Albums Ever, #90-81

Yep, we’re making a list. Two separate lists, actually, so the above graphic is a bit misleading. Accounting for the limited overlap in Todd’s and Chris’ lists, it’s more like the top 174 or something like that.

Anyway, after months of scientific analysis, hours of listening and re-listening to albums from years gone by, we have arrived at a definitive list of the top albums ever recorded. Our research is not open to interpretation, but you’re more than welcome to complain about the fact that your favorite albums aren’t on this list; we’ll simply respond by telling you that your favorite records aren’t really all that good.

Here are some spoilers: you’re not going to find the typical hipster stuff like Neutral Milk Hotel or Slint or even stuff one/both of us actually likes such as DJ Shadow or Pavement. This isn’t Rolling Stone so you’re not going to find Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band or Pet Sounds at the top. Wham’s Make It Big was snubbed.

We’re not going to roll it all out at once; no sense rushing through all this quality music! But Music or Space Shuttle? is gonna be pretty busy over the next two months.

That’s enough of an intro. Let’s get on with it…

Chris’ 90-81

(click play button below to sample these 10 albums)

90. Slayer, Reign in Blood

89. The Steve Miller Band, Fly Like an Eagle

88. Sleater-Kinney, Dig Me Out

87. Ramones, Ramones

86. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart

85. Led Zeppelin, Houses of the Holy

84. Vampire Weekend, Vampire Weekend

83. The New Pornographers, Twin Cinema

82. Little Big Town, The Reason Why

81. Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Fever to Tell

A CLOSER LOOK AT…

#90: Slayer, Reign in Blood

reign in blood coverHow did a seventh grader expand his vocabulary to include “postmortem” and “necrophobic” and learn about Josef Mengele to a blistering backbeat? His cousin slapped all 28 minutes of Slayer’s Reign in Blood on one side of a 90-minute Memorex cassette, that’s how.

(I honestly looked up postmortem and necrophobic in my parents’ dictionary. I wanted to know what those song titles meant! I was the nerdiest faux-Satanist ever.)

I was always very impressed by a number of things in the album opener, “Angel of Death”: the banshee scream unleashed by Tom Araya after the first few riffs, the guitar line that ran throughout the song (and would later be sampled by Public Enemy on “She Watch Channel Zero?!”), and the just-fucking-stupid-awesome bass drum assault toward song’s end. (Click on the sampler above the list, and skip to the 4:15 mark and let it play for about 15 seconds. Yowza.)

As someone who grew up listening to Duran Duran and Culture Club, I have to admit I was a little scared of this album…or at least felt like I was really doing something wrong by listening to it. (Look at that cover image! Funny now, scary then!) As I got older, I realized the lyrical content was pretty much a joke, but found the riffs an absolute go-to when I want to get my thrash on. Plus, nothing beats watching my friend Sam air guitar the shit out of Slayer songs. Kerry King would be impressed!

#82 Little Big Town, The Reason Why

the reason why coverVocal harmonies are great. I love hearing the Mamas and the Papas sing songs like “Creeque Alley.” The Beatles sang well together (and double tracked themselves aplenty). Kurt Cobain and Dave Grohl had a nice thing going, and Layne’s and Jerry’s intertwined voices were as great a weapon in the Alice in Chains arsenal as Cantrell’s guitar work or Sean Kinney’s drumming.

Even the country genre can’t turn me off from good two-, three-, and four-part harmonies. And Little Big Town does it so well.

I read an interview with the band at the release of The Reason Why, and the members said they weren’t interested in putting out a two-single, 10-filler album. They set the standard high for inclusion, and it shows. The four voices soar together on “Why Oh Why” and the title track. “Shut Up Train” is a torch song of sorts for the smokin’ Karen Fairchild, and “All the Way Down” is essentially a great pop song with slight twang. And I have to admit that “Little White Church” is one of those songs that makes me smile.

I’ve seen these guys twice, and they were top-notch both times, so I’m sure that influences my thoughts on where this album ranks on my list. Also, a country album that sounds good to my ears is much rarer than being wowed by your typical dream pop or indie-rock or shoegaze or “boy-cry” (as my friend Brittany Jade described the Cure during one of our radio shows) album, so that also certainly provides a bump. But as I said at the beginning, great harmonies, great harmonies, great harmonies.

(And to answer your question: yes, I’m serious about this one.)

Todd’s 90-81

(click play button below to sample these 10 albums)

90. Dinosaur Jr, Green Mind

89. Camper Van Beethoven, Key Lime Pie

88. Nine Inch Nails, Pretty Hate Machine

87. Tricky, Maxinquaye

86. Bon Jovi, Slippery When Wet

85. Neon Indian, Era Extraña

84. Jeff Buckley, Sketches for My Sweetheart the Drunk

83. Frank Black, Teenager of the Year

82. George Michael, Faith

81. Dave Matthews Band, Crash

A CLOSER LOOK AT…

#85 Neon Indian, Era Extraña

Many of our more dedicated MoSS? readers may remember that this was my #2 favorite album of 2011. My #1 choice was M83, Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming. What a year in music when these two great records are at the top. So I imagine all you superfans out there must be wondering, “Where is Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming going to show up on this list?”

Get ready for a spoiler: It’s not on the list!

That’s right, I may have jumped the gun a bit on crowning M83 #1. Honestly, these year end lists should probably be done three years after the fact so the new album honeymoon period has worn off. Don’t get me wrong. Hurry Up is a great freaking record, but I rarely listen to it in its entirety anymore. I still listen to Era Extraña every couple weeks. If I was judging solely on the artists live shows from last year, then M83 would win hands down. Although, I would have liked to have seen Neon Indian in a proper venue like M83 at The Pageant. What a show! So based on that information (and several very complex algorithms only understood by Matt Damon Good Will Hunting-type mathletes) Era Extraña in… Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming out.

Don’t let these recent findings shake your confidence in this particular list. As Chris stated before, the list is definitive and NOT open to interpretation.

#83 Frank Black, Teenager of the Year

Today, I’m not going to bore you readers with any stories about how much I love The Pixies and Frank Black/ Black Francis. Those stories are coming later. Lucky you. The fact is, Teenager of the Year is widely regarded as his strongest post-Pixies solo effort and would have been way higher on my list had it been half as long. There’s 22 songs on it and about half are great. The other half? Well…they’re songs.

I would like to share this small “fun fact” about Mr. Black’s lyrics. He often uses acrostics to hide messages in his songs. If you are unfamiliar with the term, this is the definition: Acrostic – a number of lines of writing, such as a poem, certain letters of which form a word, proverb, etc.

Here is a sampling of lyrics from the song “Speedy Marie”, it’s also my sample song from the record. Check it out.

Juxtaposed in each moment’s sight
Everything that I ever saw
And my one delight
Nothing can strike me in such awe
Mouth intricate shapes the voice that speaks
Always it will soothe
Rarer none are the precious cheeks
Is the size of each sculpted tooth
Each lip and each eye

Wise is the tongue, wet of perfect thought
And softest neck where always do i
Lay my clumsy thoughts
She is that most lovely art
Happy are my mind and my soul and my heart

Each line describes a trait about a woman he clearly likes. The first letter of each line spells out the girl’s name, Jean Marie Walsh. If that didn’t get him laid, I don’t know what could.

Previous installments:

#100-91

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I have pretend girlfriends, and they are hot

sleigh bellsI’d like to apologize for omitting “Comeback Kid” by Sleigh Bells from the February 2012 Music or Space Shuttle? mix tape (which is still fucking awesome; listen to the whole 10-song extravaganza at bit.ly/AqO7Ou).

Here’s the thing: it was a calculated move. I didn’t want the song to dwarf the other nine inclusions on the mix tape; I wanted to devote an entire post to singing its praises…or more specifically, praising the video.

Alexis Krauss staring at me with her big-saucer eyes! Those shorts! Those jeans! (Even if they were stolen from Joe Elliott’s 1988 wardrobe!) The right amount of leg visible under that bathrobe! Those cheerleading moves! That spiky jacket! Alternating between her cool sunglasses and those sexy eyes! That longing look as the song reaches its conclusion! Did I mention those shorts?! That lucky deck chair!

Madeline Follin[Madeline Follin of Cults enters the room]

Madeline: What the heck is going on here?

Chris: Oh, hi, Madeline Follin, my rock ‘n’ roll girlfriend.

Madeline: Why is Alexis Krauss on your computer screen?

Chris: Um, I was just mentioning to the adoring Music or Space Shuttle? readership that I think this video is kinda sorta cool. I mean, it’s no “Abducted,” but it’s not bad—

Madeline: What’s so great about this video?

Chris: Derek Miller’s In Utero shirt is pretty cool. That mustard toss was pretty epic. His John Bender-esque fist pump at the end is pretty awesome.

Madeline (frowning): You’re dumping me, aren’t you?

Chris: Um, well, yes.

Madeline: Go outside.

Chris: [sigh] Great tune.

Madeline: No, get the fuck out of here.

Chris: Oh.

And so another rock ‘n’ roll relationship ends. Madeline Follin, who last summer stood just a couple feet away from me as she performed before a rapturous crowd in St. Louis, finds herself kicked to the curb in favor of another raven-haired vixen. Madeline’s got company; I’ve loved me some rock women over the years. Some have been mega-popular; some are girl-next-door types. For example…

Donna A (Brett Anderson)Donna A of the Donnas

When was this?: early 2000s

Initial appeal?: liked the Ramones-style songs in the beginning; liked her look around Get Skintight

Real encounters?: Well, sorta. When they played Gabe’s in Iowa City in 2002 or something like that, my buddy Sam and I were hanging out in back during the opener, having a brew, when Donna R (Sam’s obsession) and Donna F came by and started playing Trivia Whiz. Sam kept yelling out the answers, which may or may not have annoyed the two Donnas. So Sam did the chivalrous thing and gave them $2 worth of quarters; that way he could keep yelling out answers/flirting with Donna R with a clean conscience. At some point in this display of cerebral excellence, Donna A and Donna C came by. I went to say “hi” to Donna A and managed to get out “Durrr-ahhhh-hey!” It was magical.

How did it end?: Once the Donnas became less like the Ramones and more like butt-rock, I was done with Donna.

Janet WeissJanet Weiss of Sleater-Kinney/Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks

When was this?: mid- to late 1990s

Initial appeal?: She reminded me of Maura Tierney (what? I liked NewsRadio…)

Real encounters?: None…I never saw Sleater-Kinney live, nor did I see Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks during her tenure as timekeeper. I did have some college classes with a girl who looked a lot like Janet Weiss and played the drums. She was kinda cool. (And of course I was petrified to have anything to do with her other than bum smokes from her after class now and again.)

How did it end?: That girl from Portlandia seemed jealous.

D'Arcy WretzkyD’Arcy Wretzky of the Smashing Pumpkins

When was this?: early- to mid-1990s

Initial appeal?: A blonde, too-cool-for-school girl who was a member of one of my greatest musical obsessions…yeah, this was a no-brainer.

Real encounters?: Not really. Saw them twice in 1994; got close to the stage the first time. I remember one of my friends throwing a hotel-sized bar of soap at D’Arcy. His intent was that she would catch it/pick it up and use it as a pick, but realized the millisecond after it left his hand that she might take it as a statement of insult regarding her body odor. (No, I haven’t had a real encounter, but wanted to share the soap story.)

How did it end?: The Pumpkins started to suck after (during?) Mellon Collie, and perhaps I foresaw this image.

Gloria EstefanGloria Estefan

When was this?: mid- to late 1980s

Initial appeal?: What, you haven’t seen the video for “Rhythm Is Gonna Get You”?

Real encounters?: I was, like, 12—that would have been awkward. And I didn’t really want to have to meet the Miami Sound Machine.

How did it end?: As it turned out, the rhythm did not get me. (And I started listening to heavy metal, and, aside from an obligatory liking for Lita Ford and the ladies of Vixen, became asexual for a while.)

Madonna in the early daysMadonna

When was this?: mid 1980s

Initial appeal?: the song “Burning Up”; the videos for “Borderline” and “Lucky Star”

Real encounters?: Back then I think I saw many a teenage girl trying to look like her (and failing miserably). I also lived vicariously through that boy in the “Open Your Heart” video—does that count?

How did it end?: Who says it did? She still looks great.

If you have any quirky rock ‘n’ roll loves, tell me all about them in the comments. (Ladies, feel free to chime in, too. Perhaps you can ask my better half about her Jimi Westbrook thing.)