Tag Archive for '2016'

The It’s Time to Play B-Sides Top 20 Albums of 2016

2016 was the 10th birthday of It’s Time to Play B-Sides, as unreal as that seems. This blog started as an offshoot of the regular conversations about music I was having at work with my friends and co-workers. At the time there wasn’t the proliferation of music sites that there are today, and informed or researched information about music was tough to find. With encouragement from my friends, I started this as a way to capture some of the tangents we’d get into at work. It also ended up being a return of sorts to doing a music website after shuttering the somewhat popular website I was running about DJ Shadow.  The name of the blog came from the signoff post I made to the DJ Shadow boards and was also a line from “Burning For You” by Blue Oyster Cult which always represented the desire to dig a little deeper into music– to flip the record over and listen to the songs on the B-Side.

The focus of It’s Time to Play B-Sides has morphed a bit over the years, some of it due to the amount of time I have to dedicate to writing on it, some of it is because I have focused a lot of my music writing since 2009 as a contributor to Little Village Magazine. This also explains why this list includes a lot of Iowa artists since that’s what we review. That said, there are some really amazing bands in Iowa and even after I review the albums, they stay in regular rotation for me and earn spots on my list.

As many will note, 2016 was a really strange year for music– sadly, mostly notable for the striking number of losses: Glenn Frey, David Bowie, Sharon Jones, Greg Lake, Leonard Cohen, Leon Russell, Merle Haggard, Maurice White, and Paul Kantner. The one that really hit me hard was the loss of Prince. Prince represented for me the first artist that I discovered on my own. Most of my formative music taste came from my father and that music is still a big part of the foundation of what I think is good in music. Prince came onto the larger music scene for me with Purple Rain, and from there I followed his career, and bands he worked with closely. I don’t think that we’ll see another artist quite as influential or as boundless in talent and genius again. I hope I’m wrong, but I feel like part of his ability to branch out was due to the fact that he hit it big during a time when the music industry was creating  huge stars and he could afford to make some albums that were more daring and experimental.

The list below is in no particular order, but represent the albums that I listened to the most in 2016.

Bon Iver – 22, A Million – Justin Vernon got back on the horse. It really seemed like he wasn’t going to do another record as Bon Iver– he was burnt out of the attention and visibility he got from his Grammy-winning second album. He debuted a couple of the songs at the inaugural Eaux Claires Festival in 2015 with a glorious live show. It took the prodding of his friend Ryan Olson (Gayngs, Polica, etc.) to make him finish (or even keep working on) it. The resulting album seems related to the last album, but the textures and production are unexpected and frankly jolting in comparison, which was exactly his intention, I think. Lots of samples, and heavily affected recording techniques. I expect that this album will influence a lot of artists going forward. At the root of the album is still the perspective of Vernon. His losses and heartbreaks, the stories

Kalispell – Printer’s SonKalispell is the name of Shane Leonard’s solo music when he’s not working with other bands like Field Report and JE Sunde. Printer’s Son is a beautiful record, period. From my review on playbsides: “Printer’s Son is one of those rare records that is so completely imagined and executed that when you first listen to it, it seems to drop unexpectedly out of the ether. It’s a record that defies any convenient genre classification. Elements of ambience and folk and jazz come together to help deliver a grippingly emotional and personal album.”

Lissie – My Wild West – Rock Island-native Elisabeth “Lissie” Maurus becomes homesick and moves back to Iowa and self-releases an album based on the experience. Full of hooks, driving and anthemic, it’s a great start to a career back home. Here’s my review from Little Village.

King of the Tramps – Cumplir con el Diablo – A later addition to the list. King of Tramps from Auburn, IA packs a lot of classic guitar-driven rock remniscent of Black Crowes into their latest effort (which comes in a super-cool transparent vinyl version). Here’s my review from Little Village Magazine.

Durand Jones and the Indications – Durand Jones and the Indications – New release on the fantastic Soul and R&B label out of Ohio, Colemine Records. In 2016, Colemine Records started a kind of subscription series where they email you upcoming releases to allow you to opt-in to the special first-pressing variations. This is a much better approach to this idea than the forced-in versions that are the trend today. They let you listen to the releases and you can decide to be part of the drop or not. One of the releases was the debut release of Durand Jones and the Indications on transparent blue vinyl. Fantastic classic R&B in the tradition of Stax/Volt and Otis Redding. Check out the video for “Make A Change.”

Hiss Golden Messenger – Heart Like A Levee – MC Taylor’s second full-length on Merge started as a project to create musical accompaniment to an exhibition of photographs taken by William Gedney in 1972 of an Eastern Kentucky coal-mining camp. Initially the songs were going to be based on the photographs, but eventually took their own direction. The album is distinctively HGM with Taylor expressing the developing perspective of a man coming to terms with balancing a family life and a music career. I’ve been a fan from before the first release as HGM and eagerly await the next releases.

Steve Gunn – Eyes On The Lines – I found out about Steve Gunn through his connection to Hiss Golden Messenger– a one-off collaboration called Golden Gunn. His 2016 release is his debut on Matador Records. To me, his music is influenced by the great UK guitarists like Richard Thompson and Michael Chapman (whose upcoming release 50, he produced and played on).

William Tyler – Modern Country – Nashville guitar wizard William Tyler, who works with a lot folks including Hiss Golden Messenger and Lambchop, released another album of his particular atmospheric guitar acrobatics. For me, his albums add a wide cinematic soundtrack to whatever I’m doing.

Scott Hirsch – Blue Rider Songs – Scott Hirsch is the silent partner in Hiss Golden Messenger, but for his debut solo album (which has been a long time coming, frankly) he delivers a breezy laid-back album that sounds like JJ Cale’s best work.

Bo Ramsey – Wildwood Calling – Bo Ramsey returns with his first album since 2008’s Fragile. This album, recorded in his kitchen is instrumentals showcasing his distinctive country blues style he is reknowned for. Read my review in Little Village Magazine.

The Pines – Above the Prairie – It’s safe to say that any time The Pines release a new album, it will be on my favorite albums for that year. Their signature atmospheric take on folk and blues has developed slowly over the releases to the point where it is nearly its own genre. I can’t think of any other bands that sound quite like The Pines. Read Matt Steele’s review in Little Village Magazine.

Chrash – Things My Friends Say – Chris Bernat of 90’s alt rock band Tripmaster Monkey released their first album of angular pop rock on Quad Cities indie label Cartouche. From my review in Little Village Magazine: “Things My Friends Say is an album that distinguishes itself in the landscape of new releases by the determinedly outsider approach to songs which, in the end, are damn catchy.”

Freakwater – Scheherazade – This reboot of Freakwater was a long time in the works, but turned out one of the best albums in their catalog. Scheherazade is a more rich and expansive version of their sound thanks to the band, which includes Jim Elkington of seemingly every band related to Chicago. Read my interview with Janet and Catherine in Little Village Magazine (Part 1, Part 2).

Halfloves – (self titled) – The Iowa band The Olympics reboot with the guiding hand of Brendan Darner to create a dark pop record of singular vision and execution. Read my review in Little Village Magazine.

SIRES – Soul For Sale – Another rebrand/reboot of an Iowa band– this time the former Dylan Sires and Neighbors become SIRES and also work with Brendan Darner to create a moody masterpiece (I think I see a trend here). Fantastic record, though– from my review in Little Village Magazine, ” They’ve crafted an album packed with smart, bright classic hooks as well as dark, lusty bombastic rhythms: an impressive juxtaposition in contrast.”

Max Jury – Max Jury – After a run of amazing singles and an EP, Des Moines native Max Jury releases his debut album, and the anticipation built by the singles was justified. Max Jury is a jaw-droppingly solid album. From my review in Little Village Magazine, “a balanced delivery of Spector-esque wall-of-sound and an updated take on early ’70s R&B and soul.” It’s too bad that it’s going to take Jury moving to the UK and blowing up over there before his native country takes notice.

TWINS – Square America – More Sires, please. This seeming dynasty of anyone with the last name Sires cranking out amazing pop rock continues with Cedar Falls band TWINS, whose second album on Maximum Ames takes their guitar rock guns and point them at 70’s big hitters like Cheap Trick and KISS. These guys continue to slug it out on bar stages, but could easily fill an arena with their big sound if given the chance. Read my review in Little Village Magazine.

Devin Frank – The Vanishing Blues – Devin Frank of Poison Control Center releases an album influenced by 60’s psych. “With The Vanishing Blues, Frank has made a refreshing stylistic statement by using a sonic palate derived from psychedelic rock’s dawning era — using bits of Syd Barrett, Donovan and the Zombies. This makes the album a delightfully unique and compelling standout in the landscape of releases this year.” – from my review in Little Village Magazine.

The Multiple Cat – Intricate Maps – This was an album I feel like I waited a long time for. I first heard these songs when Pat Stolley brought the band to Mission Creek Festival in 2015 opening for The Sea and Cake at The Mill. Really fantastic album that is tough to summarize. Lots of vintage tones in the guitar sounds, but not really a retro record, “It’s tempting to suggest that Stolley’s use of these elements makes Intricate Maps somehow retro. However, this stitched fabric of sound is more than the sum of its parts. It is a polished work that both honors the tradition of alternative rock and puts a current spin on it with Stolley’s signature production work.” from my review in Little Village Magazine.

Christopher The Conquered – I’m Giving Up On Rock & Roll – Dramatically bold anthemic rock that can barely be contained in a record. Christopher the Conquered is a one-man tour-de-force of pop, funny poignent and self-aware. Here’s my review for Little Village Magazine.

Neil Young Archives Official Release Series Discs 8.5 – 12 Announced for Black Friday Release Day – New Thoughts on Next Box Sets

neil_young_official_release_series_discs_8point5_through_12_1024x1024

Well, I’ll give Neil Young and Reprise Records credit– they’re pushing the Official Release Series along. Today, out of the blue, I got an email from PopMarket about the pre-order of the 3rd box set of vinyl reissues from his extensive catalog. If you follow this blog, you know I’ve been reporting on this series since the first box set from 2009 and including often incorrect predictions about what would be in the next releases. The second box which brought us up to his 8th album set came out in 2014 for Back to Black Friday that year.

The box sets seem to stick with the 4 LP limit and that is further perpetrated with the “joke” in the title of the third box which says it has 8.5 through 12. I speculated back in 2014 that the next box set would take us through Live Rust, and this one does! My only question was whether Young was going to include the essential The Stills-Young Band album Long May You Run. Since the album was half Stephen Stills songs and given the strained relationship the two have had over the years I thought this release might not make a box. So, this box has 5 albums in it, with Live Rust as a 2 LP. This box has an MSRP of $149.99 so that’s pretty close to what the last box was. With 5 LPs and one a double, that’s a good deal. If you pre-order from PopMarket you can get it for $124.99. Less than $25 per title. Here’s what it incudes:

LP 1: Long May You Run (The Stills-Young Band)

1. Long May You Run
2. Make Love To You
3. Midnight on the Bay
4. Black Coral
5. Ocean Girl
6. Let It Shine
7. 12/8 Blues (All the Same)
8. Fontainebleau
9. Guardian Angel

LP 2: American Stars ‘N Bars

1. The Old Country Waltz
2. Saddle Up the Palomino
3. Hey Babe
4. Hold Back the Tears
5. Bite The Bullet
6. Star of Bethlehem
7. Will to Love
8. Like a Hurricane
9. Homegrown

LP 3: Comes A Time

1. Goin’ Back
2. Comes a Time
3. Look Out for My Love
4. Lotta Love
5. Peace of Mind
6. Human Highway
7. Already One
8. Field of Opportunity
9. Motorcycle Mama
10. Four Strong Winds

LP 4: Rust Never Sleeps (Neil Young & Crazy Horse)

1. My My, Hey Hey
2. Thrasher
3. Ride My Llama
4. Pocahontas
5. Sail Away
6. Powderfinger
7. Welfare Mothers
8. Sedan Delivery
9. Hey Hey, My My (Into The Black)

LP 5: Live Rust (Neil Young & Crazy Horse)

LP 1

1. Sugar Mountain (Live)
2. I Am a Child (Live)
3. Comes A Time (Live)
4. After the Gold Rush (Live)
5. My My, Hey Hey (Out of the Blue) [Live]
6. When You Dance I Can Really Love (Live)
7. The Loner (Live)
8. The Needle and the Damage Done (Live)
9. Lotta Love (Live)
10. Sedan Delivery (Live)

LP 2

1. Powderfinger (Live)
2. Cortez the Killer (Live)
3. Cinammon Girl (Live)
4. Like a Hurricane (Live)
5. Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black) [Live]
6. Tonight’s the Night (Live)

So, a mostly strong box set in my opinion. I’ve never been a big fan of American Stars ‘N Bars, but it has some classics, in particular “Star of Bethlehem” through “Homegrown” (which introduces some of the Homegrown unreleased songs). Rust Never Sleeps is the first Neil Young album I ever bought and it’s still one of my favorites. Live Rust is pretty fantastic, and the accompanying film got a reissue this year.

My Modified Speculation on the future Official Release Series Box Sets

My previous speculation on the fourth box set left some wiggle room on whether Live Rust would be in it based on how they were going to handle The Stills-Young Band release. But, I think the next couple of boxes will be a tough sell as we start getting into Neil’s more experimental period and a litigious label switch to Geffen. We also start running out of “classic” Neil Young catalog, making the general interest in these releases until 21-24 pretty small.

The challenge I see here besides just sales of them, is the groupings of the Reprise and Geffen catalogs. I’m showing these boxes grouped by four chronologically, but the argument could be made to create a “Geffen Years” box collecting just Trans through Life making another 5 LP box (13-17). Then you end up with an improved 5 LP (17-20.5) Reprise box of this period containing Hawks & Doves, Re-ac-tor, This Note’s For You and Freedom with a bonus of the Eldorado EP.

The next box in that scenario would be a big-hitter with Ragged Glory, Arc/Weld, Harvest Moon and Unplugged, taking us to 1993 and over 25 LP’s.

Neil Young Official Release Series Discs 13-16 could include the following albums: Hawks & Doves (1980), Re-ac-tor (1981), Trans (1982) and Everybody’s Rockin’ (1983) bringing the first of the Geffen releases to bear.

Neil Young Official Release Series Discs 17-20 could include the following albums: Old Ways (1985), Landing On Water (1986), Life (1987), This Note’s for You (1988). The last album marks the return of Neil Young to Reprise Records and the end of a rocky relationship with Geffen Records that ended with a lawsuit from the label accusing Neil of releasing works uncharacteristic of his career. The alternative release for this box would be one that completely encompassed the Geffen Years– especially if 13-16 didn’t include Trans and Everybody’s Rockin’.

Neil Young Official Release Series Discs 21-24 could include the following albums: Eldorado EP (1989), Freedom (1989), Ragged Glory (1990), Arc/Weld (1991) This box represents a kind of renaissance for Neil Young and an embracing of the louder sound that he trademarked with Crazy Horse. It should include the Eldorado EP since it was a formal release (even though it was only available in Japan and Australia). I would expect to see a tandem release of Times Square— the lost album that ended up making Freedom, Eldorado and This Note’s For You. He could release that 20-minute version of “Crime in the City (Sixty to Zero)” as part of that.

With his now 2-year gap between these we’d have these through 2022?

 

(Upcoming Release) Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – Kiss My Amps Live Vol. 2 for RSD 2016

Kiss My Amps II

With Record Store Day 2016 fast approaching (April 16th), I wanted to post about a few releases that I’m interested in. I already posted about the Son Volt Live at the Bottom Line previously. Tom Petty has been a supporter of RSD from the start with special reissues of his first two albums and a vinyl-only (plus download) live compilation titled Kiss My Amps for Black Friday RSD 2011.

Announced with the rest of the Official RSD list for this year is a sequel– Kiss My Amps Live Vol. 2. Volume 1 focused on the Mojo Tour from 2010. Volume 2 focuses on dates in 2013 and is made up of tracks that were given to members of the Tom Petty fanclub Highway Companions as part of their subscription as a digital download. Notably, Kiss My Amps Volume 1 was not made up of the Mojo Tour 2010 download the club got, but were different tracks.

It will be pressed on 180g vinyl and includes covers by The Byrds, Paul Revere and the Raiders/The Monkees, Little Feat and a Traveling Wilburys song. They had to take a track off of it (“Baby, Please Don’t Go”) because the original digital download was 55 minutes and it is tricky to get that much audio per side of an LP and have it sound good. (Even minus the 5:22 of “Baby Please Don’t Go” it’s pretty tight at 49 minutes (24+ per side). Optimally, you want less than 22 minutes per side to get the full bass frequencies.

1. So You Want to Be a Rock N Roll Star (Live Beacon Theatre)
2. I’m Not (You’re Steppin Stone) Live Beacon Theatre
3. Love is a Long Road (Live Fonda Theatre)
4. Two Gunslingers (Live Beacon Theatre)
5. When a Kid Goes Bad (Live Fonda Theatre)
6. Willin’ (Live Fonda Theatre)
7. The Best of Everything (Live Fonda Theatre)
8. Tweeter and the Monkey Man (Live Beacon Theatre)
9. Rebels (Live From Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival)
10. A Woman In Love (It’s Not Me) (Live From Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival)

The standout track on here for me is the 8:46 minute version of “Tweeter and the Monkey Man.” For that track alone, this set is essential.

Bull Moose Records lists this at MSRP of $19.98 with their price being $17.97. So, expect your RSD participating store to have it around these prices.

In other Tom Petty news for RSD, there will be a Mudcrutch 7″ featuring tracks from the upcoming Mudcrutch album 2. The A-side is “Trailer” which is a reworking of the Southern Accents outtake. The original version can be heard on the flipside of the “Don’t Come Round Here No More” 7″ or on disc 4 The Other Sides of the Playback boxset. A really great track, and is worthy of a revisit. The song would have improved the song lineup of Southern Accents, in my opinion.

(Upcoming Release) Son Volt Previews Record Store Day 2016 Live Vinyl

son volt 1996On October 30th, we were blessed with the 20th Anniversary remastered reissue of Jay Ferrar‘s debut post-Uncle Tupelo album Trace. Widely regarded as one of the great early Americana releases, it was due for some reissue love and attention. For one thing, it got a much-needed 180g vinyl release, which saved me personally– I narrowly avoided spending $75 on a new-old-stock copy from Ferrar’s site (Discogs.com has had copies going for over twice that amount!). Secondly, the CD and download versions were expanded to include bonus demos and a 2nd disc of their February 12, 1996 performance at The Bottom Line in New York City.

This week on Son Volt’s Facebook page, they posted two videos of the test pressings for a 2 LP vinyl release of the Bottom Line show which is slated for Record Store Day 2016.

Ferrar said in a recent interview about the show, “In terms of the Bottom Line show, yeah, it’s a live show, and there will be some hiccups here and there, but part of what I can hear is that it sounds like my singing voice is almost scorched from smoking cigarettes. You know, there was a very small dressing room at the back of that club, and it was probably the size of a closet. At that time, all five guys in the band were smokers, so that record could’ve just been called, Five Dudes Smoking in a Closet. [Laughs] I can still sing it seems like, but I can barely talk… It was recorded with that mobile recording truck on analog tapes, so you’re not going to get a better sound than that. I wish I had more information on that truck; I couldn’t really track it down. There was a similar show, if not this one, that was recorded with the Rolling Stones’ mobile recording truck. Doing a little research, their truck was in New York in 1996 when this show was recorded, but I just can’t say for sure it was the one.”

Here is the tracklist. We don’t know how the songs will be split up by LP side yet. It includes most of the songs from Trace (not the Ron Wood cover “Mystifies Me”) as well as some Uncle Tupelo songs and a Del Reeves cover.

Live from the Bottom Line/February 12, 1996
01 – Route
02 – Loose
03 – String
04 – Catching On
05 – Live Free
06 – Anodyne – Uncle Tupelo
07 – Windfall
08 – Slate – Uncle Tupelo
09 – Out Of the Picture
10 – Tear Stained Eye
11 – True to Life – Uncle Tupelo
12 – Cemetery Savior – from Straightaways
13 – Ten Second News
14 – Drown
15 – Looking for a Way Out – Uncle Tupelo
16 – Chickamauga – Uncle Tupelo
17 – Too Early
18 – Looking at the World Through a Windshield – Del Reeves cover
Here is a YouTube playlist I created of all of the songs that are conveniently there:

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