I decided to watch Concrete Cowboys on Amazon Video for one reason: vintage Tom Selleck. I was delighted to see that he’s but one of many favorite actors in this movie. First off, you’ve got Morgan Fairchild pulling double duty as sisters, one looking for the other. And you’ll probably recognize co-star Jerry Reed as Cledus from the Smoky And The Bandit flicks. They proved stellar enough to make my decision a good one, plus the rest of the movie’s pretty good too! Continue reading Prime Time: Concrete Cowboys (1979)
Prince is an artist I’ve never been overly interested in. I missed out on the Purple Rain-era (I knew the Milhouse line “So this is what it’s like when doves cry,” long before I knew the song) and by the time I was paying attention to pop music, he was in the middle of changing his name to a symbol and other silly activities I didn’t care about. A few years back, I found Purple Rain for a few bucks at a mall record store and decided to give it a shot. It’s been a while, but I wasn’t impressed. My memory is that the singles were as solid as they’ve always been, but the other tracks were pretty unimpressive.
So, when my pal Jesse sent me 2009’s three disc set of Lotusflow3r, MPLSound and Bria Valente Elixr for my birthday I wasn’t sure what to think. Then, I hit a point last week where I wasn’t feeling podcasts and figured I’d give it a shot, especially after seeing the artist’s recent appearance on New Girl. Holy crap, these are great records!
My problem with Purple Rain — again, if memory serves, which it only does about half the time — was that the non-hit songs felt stale, antiseptic and maybe too produced or electronic. I’ll give it another listen and see if those thoughts still hold up, but that’s what I went into these two records thinking. Instead, I was treated to an awesomely funky, guitar-filled pair of discs packed with songs I can see myself listening to over and over again. From the opening guitar calisthenics of the first track “From The Lotus” to the killer “Crimson & Clover” cover and beyond, I was sold right away and kept getting surprised by how much I loved these two records.
Originally, I skipped over Elixer, but after listening to these albums for a second time and writing most of this post, I figured I should give the third part of this trilogy a listen. Bria Valente has one of those classic female R&B voices that those of us who came up in the late 80s and early 90s remember as being super prominent. Those records weren’t my thing back then, but I found myself enjoying these tracks for their mix of quality vocals and diverse backing tracks that go from slow jams to funkadelic and back again. As far as I’m concerned, the funkier this record goes the better everyone sounds. I’m not sure how often I’ll be jonesing for this kind of listening experience, but I like keeping it around just in case.
After intentionally listening to the Prince discs, I figured it would be a good time to reach into The Music Box and go the random route again. This time I pulled out Tift Merritt’s 2004 album Tambourine. As with many of the Music Box discs, I knew nothing about this going in, popped it on and gave it a listen.
Merritt’s sound reminded me a lot of Sheryl Crow. I’m not sure if that’s altogether fair but they’re both women singing country-tinged songs about their life experiences, so that’s where my head was at. With that comparison in mind — and the fact that they do sound sonically similar at times — I had trouble really getting into these songs. I think the person-playing-guitar-and-singing-quietly thing just isn’t all that interesting to me in the first place. I love that people do it, but it’s not always something I want to listen to unless the songs are super original, hit me in a truly emotional place or do something really interesting with the backing tracks.
When Merritt and company pick things up on tracks like “Wait It Out” and the title track, I’m in, but those wound up being a bit too far and few between for me to keep this one in the collection. Hopefully someone at the library will find it and dig the heck out of it though!
My Pocket is overflowing with stories I want to read, so I figured I’d spend New Year’s Eve cleaning things out and creating one last Casting Internets post for the year.
One of my all-time favorite toys, Inspector Gadget for the spotlight on Fwoosh. I had two different versions of this toy, but both broke. Wah wah.
In 1963 a kid sent a bunch of authors a questionnaire about symbolism. Most of them said it just kind of happens, which I’ve always suspected. Thanks to my wife for sending me the link and Mental Floss for posting about it.
Back in October, Clive Barker wrote a piece for THR about the time he gave up on watching horror movies because the experience was just too intense.
This one’s also from October, but I loved reading Fred Armisen talk to Esquire about filming the above video with the Clash.
I heard about all the craziness that went down with the Kim’s Video VHS and DVD collection after the store closed on an episode of Killer POV, but reading the actual Village Voice story from 2012 is long yet fascinating.
Joe Dante’s using FundAnything to help make his next movie Burying The Ex starring Anton Yelchin and Ashley Greene. I don’t have any extra money, but I hope this one gets made. (via Deadline)
Jack White’s The Rise And Fall Of Paramount Records Volume 1 vinyl set is insane. Just look at it and if you have an extra $400 buy it from Third Man Records.
Esquire celebrated Nirvana Week back in October by talking to Rob Sheffield about the band’s lasting legacy. The Kurt Cobain/Taylor Swift comparison therein is pretty right-on.
According to Rolling Stone, there’s a never released Johnny Cash record from 1980 coming out called Out Among The Stars coming out on March 25. This seems like pretty good news to me.
Here’s something I never thought I’d write, but this Joe Jonas piece on Vulture is pretty intriguing.
And finally, enjoy 9 minutes of rad action movie lines. (via The Mary Sue)
I’m mixing things up a bit with today’s TCT. As it is, I’m not much of a toy train fan. Now that I think about it, I’m not sure if I’ve ever actually played with one, but how can you not like a spot for toys featuring none other than the Man in Black himself, Johnny Cash?! “If anybody loves trains, it’s me, Johnny Cash.” What a fantastic line! I wonder whether it’s true or not, but it doesn’t really matter. Heck, I’d buy trains just from the dude because he’s wearing such a badass shirt. Does Lionel sell that?
It’s impossible to keep up on every record ever made, but I do my best. This is a pretty eclectic mix of missed out classic rock, folk revival, stripped-down rock, dirty blues, weirdness and pure, unadulterated funk. It’s a fun mix. I freely admit that I actually discovered The Pogues by way of a cover of their classic downtrodden Christmas carol “Fairytale of New York” and the use of “If I Should Fall From Grace With God” in a car commercial. I am not proud of these facts — well, mostly the latter one — but that’s how it is. I’m mostly disappointed that it took me so long to discover this band and this record which is filled with the kind of Irish punch rock folk spirit still alive in bands like The Dropkick Murphys and Mumford and Sons. It’s like finding an integral piece of history that also happens to rock my face off. Speaking of face-rocking, I picked up Thin Lizzy’s Jailbreak this year. It’s the first of their records I’ve ever actually owned, but I used to listen to my dad’s copy of their greatest hits record. This record of course contains “Jailbreak” but also “The Boys Are Back In Town.” It gets a little slower in the middle than I expected, but those songs are still well crafted and solid, I just wish this was wall to wall block rocking beats. As part of my only completed Ambitious Reading List, I read Laurie Lindeen Petal Pusher about her time in a band I’d never heard of called Zuzu’s Petals. After finishing the book, I was super interested in listening to her music as well as her husband Paul Westerberg’s first band The Replacements. So, I hopped on Second Spin and found four records that I wound up really enjoying. Zuzu’s Petals only recorded two records, Music Of Your Life and When No One’s Looking, and while the first one is definitely better, I found the mixture of honesty, pop and rock to be incredibly appealing. Plus, it’s cool to have some legit lady rock for Lu to listen to when/if she’s interested. I felt the same way about The Replacements’ Pleased To Meet Me and Let It Be. I know very little about pre-grunge 90s rock and roll and honestly assumed it was all kind of in that same downer vein. And while many of the subjects that The Replacements wrote about are similar to songs by bands like Nirvana, there’s a more positive feeling behind them. Listenting to these records was kind of like discovering an alternate universe and wondering what music would have been like if these bands blew up all over the world. I’ve been hearing a lot about Gary Clark Jr. lately. He’s been featured by some news outlets I keep an eye on and also had a stellar performance at the 2010 Crossroads Music Festival which I watched on Netflix Instant. I was happy to see his self titled EP on sale on Amazon and gave it a download. Clark’s the real deal when it comes to down and dirty rocking blues, something most people have probably heard here and there with the track “Bright Lights.” He’s definitely one whose records I want to explore more deeply. It’s funny how we develop preconceived notions about bands with minimal exposure to their actual music. I had developed one about the Flaming Lips that they were just a bunch of weirdos making weird music. And, you know what, they are and that’s okay. I like weird and I’ve liked weird for a long time, so why didn’t I give them a shot earlier? No idea. Wayne Coyne was on an episode of WT with Marc Maron that reminded me that I knew very little about that band, so when Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots popped up on Amazon for $5, I gave it a whirl. I haven’t listened to it a ton, but when I did it was kind of a full experience. I’d like to sit in a dark room and just listen to this record, or maybe write to it. It creates a really dense atmosphere that I want to wade into. Sometimes you just need to funk it up. My experience with Parliament records has not been the best. Sometimes those long, winding intros and funkadelic jams just get a little tedious. But, I did not have that same experience when listening to Parliament bass player Bootsy Collins (and bass hero of mine) on his solo record Stretchin’ Out In Bootsy’s Rubber Band. Wall to wall funk, the tracks are long, but always interesting. You WILL dance to this record.My buddy Jesse Thompson has turned me on to some of my favorite records in past years, most memorably Stephen Kellogg. We’ve talked quite a bit about The Avett Brothers, one of his favorite bands, so when I saw them on the cheap, I had to give it a listen. Emotionalism is actually the perfect title to this record which digs in like a less Irish, but still folky Mumford and Sons and doesn’t let go until all the tracks have said what they have to. I don’t remember how I heard about Hanni El Khatib or why I downloaded his record Will The Guns Come Out, but I’m glad I did. This record is definitely in the same vein as Jack White’s music, but with maybe a bit more stripped down/punk rock vibe to it. I dig it. Sleater-Kinney and Wild Flag are two more bands that I started listening to because of a podcast. Well, a podcast and a TV show. Carrie Brownstein is on Portlandia, a show I quite enjoyed the first season of (season two just hit Netflix Instant!). I also liked her interview with Marc Maron on WTF and decided to check out her first band Sleater-Kinney’s Dig Me Out and her current group Wild Flag’s self titled album. I intended to do a Supergroup Showcase on Wild Flag, maybe this will be my incentive. Anyway, I like rock and roll and powerful women, so this combination of the two is aces in my book. There’s a certain chord that Brownstein hits with her vocals that lingers in my chest. I can’t explain it, but I like it. As I wrote about, I got really into Jack White and his bands The White Stripes and The Raconteurs a few years back. I still haven’t gotten his solo record Blunderbuss, but I did pick up The Dead Weather’s Sea of Cowards. Jack’s really good at showcase individuality in his bands while still keeping things cohesive. The cool thing about White’s music is that they all feel like part of one big narrative or theme. It’s kind of like reading Grant Morrison’s DC comics. They’re all kind of weird and look different, but they’re all connected by pieces of what came before. In this case, that’s literally White’s voice, but also the kind of raw style he evokes from those around him. I discovered The Black Lips by way of their track “O Katrina” on the Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World soundtrack which still gets regular play in my car (I still rock the CD visor holder in my ride). I loved the song’s surf rock vibe, a kind of music that seems somehow imprinted on my soul. Since then I’ve kept my eyes peeled for one of their records on the cheap and came across their most recent Arabia Mountain. I can’t compare it to their previous works, but I really dig the old school feel that mixes everything from 50s/60s surf pop and New York punk rock. This is good music to get things done to.
I picked up a lot more albums than these ones, but this dozen really made its way into my brain. Some I just haven’t given enough listens to to give a solid review of, but I’d put my seal of approval on these bands and records without batting an eye.
As it turns out, most of the music I bought this year came from Amazon and their awesome $5 album (and under) deals. I’m a sucker for a deal and an even bigger sucker for paying a little for what I consider to be a lot. That’s the case for most of the five records on this particular list which features a soundtrack, the complete recording of a particular artist from one record label and three greatest hits packages. This is a good way to mainline lots of music from a particular artist on the cheap. I wrote about how much I enjoyed The Muppets earlier this year. That love translated into the purchase of the soundtrack as well, something that hasn’t happened in years. This one is a great mix of soundbites from the movie, original songs and a few known songs like Starship’s “We Built This City” and Paul Simon’s “Me and Julio Down By The Schoolyeard.” I would have probably bought this record just for the amazing “Life’s A Happy Song,” the fact that the rest is so awesome is gravy. I only really know ZZ Top from their singles, a greatest hits collection my dad had and seeing them live also with my dad. I do have one of their early records, but have to admit, it gets a little slow and I tend to lose interest. So, when I saw Rancho Texicano: The Very Best of ZZ Top — which features 38 tracks! — on Amazon for a fin? That was an easy purchase. The great thing about this collection is that it’s not just all the songs you know like “Tush,” “Cheap Sunglasses” and “Gimme All Your Lovin'” but also some deeper cuts that flesh this record out. A great example of what a greatest hits collection can be when not limited to a physical disc. Also, proof that this is one of the greatest damn bands around. Sometimes you just need some soul in your life. That’s why I snatched up Aretha Franklin’s 30 Greatest Hits. Also, Lu likes listening to music with some swing and jazz to it, so this was an easy buy. Listening through these tracks was an interesting experience because I didn’t realize that some of these songs were hers. That’s probably a reflection on my ignorance of Franklin’s career, but I enjoy getting educated. One of the reasons I shied away from greatest hits records in the past is because I like discovering some of the deep cuts on records, the ones you don’t hear on the radio. Now that I’m getting older though, I find myself becoming more “Get to the hits!” It’s not a feeling I like and one I’m trying to work beyond. Anyway, Willie Nelson’s Complete Atlantic Sessions is like the antithesis of those hits records I avoided as it contains all 61 tracks Willie recorded for them. I haven’t gotten all the way through this one yet, but I like what I’ve head enough to warrant the purchase and its spot in this list. For years and years I heard how great the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds was. When I finally picked it up, I have to admit, I was a little disappointed. It’s a great record, don’t get me wrong, but it lacks the fun, surf rock songs I love (for the most part). It just wasn’t what I was expecting. So, when I saw The Beach Boys’ 50 Big Ones: Greatest Hits, it was another no-brainer. The beauty of this collection is that it literally has every Beach Boys song I know of. I’m sure it’s missing the deep cuts I talked about above, but I’m okay with that. The one downside to having so many tracks, though, is that I realized I’m not built to listen to 25 Beach Boys tracks in a short period of time, let alone 50. Those amazing harmonies they do can get a little annoying when listened to in a short period of time. However, I’m still glad I have this record because I can listen to what I want, in small chunks, whenever I want.
The Pitch Perfect soundtrack is exactly why I don’t post these list before the end of the year. I actually wrote the first draft of this post a week or so back, but saved it as a draft. I’m glad I did because my wife and I watched Pitch Perfect for the first (and then second) time recently and I kind of fell in love. As I mentioned in my post about the film, I was something of an a cappella fan in college, so this brought back some memories. It also reminded me of how good that B.O.B/Rivers Cuomo song “Magic” is, which I really appreciate. I’ve had that and a few of the other songs from the film in my head since watching the movie and I actually don’t mind it, so that’s a pretty good sign.
I’m going to toss out a few caveats right at the top of this post. First of all, I’m a huge fan of Amazon’s MP3 section and how they sell 100 different albums for $5 every month. That’s where I bought all of these records except for one, which I bought from the band themselves. The only problem with this easy, cheap access to records is that I can get behind in what I’m listening too. Plus, if something might not be appropriate for tiny ears, I have to hold off on listening to that particular record. Holding off can mean I don’t listen to something nearly as much as I should or want to. As such, I haven’t given these records the attention they deserve, but I really enjoyed what I heard. As in years past, I’ll have multiple lists of favorite records. This one is albums that actually came out in 2012. I’ll also have a much longer list of New-To-Me records I bought in 2012 and even one of the best greatest hits, soundtracks and compilations I picked up and enjoyed in 2012. But now, here’s the new stuff. I’m not super tapped into the music world anymore. The extent of my knowledge mostly comes from reading Rolling Stone’s website, following @amazonmp3 on twitter and scoping out the new, cheap Amazon MP3 records on the site. As such, I didn’t know about K’Naan’s latest record, Country, God or The Girl until it wound up on one of those three radars (or possibly all three now that I think about it). K’Naan made the list back in 2009 with Troubador, my first exposure to his hip hop stylings and I’m happy to say that this record has more of the same absorbing, thoughtful and fun tracks. For the longest time I didn’t have much of an opinion of Willie Nelson. Country music wasn’t really my thing, but I thought his cameo in Half Baked was pretty funny. That was the extent of my exposure. Then I listened to him in The Highwaymen and eventually picked up Stardust, a beautiful record that made the New Old list for 2010 and I was in. This year, I picked up two more of his records, The Complete Atlantic Collection and Heroes, both of which made lists. Heroes not only features Willie’s sons Lukas and Micah, but also songs that jump effortlessly from soul searching to hilarious. Snoop Dogg, Sheryl Crow, Merle Haggard and Kris Kristofferson also lend their considerable talents. Yeah, that’s right Snoop Dogg, marking a great Half Baked reunion on “Roll Me Up.”I wasn’t hugely into the garage revival of the early 00s. I never bought a Strokes record and the Vines ones I did buy were kind of disappointing. Others felt like three or four singles wrapped up in 8-10 extra tracks of padding. But, I really liked The Hives’ Veni Vidi Viscious. It was a rocking good time that played fast and loud and didn’t take itself too seriously. I didn’t keep up on the rest of their records, but when I saw their latest, Lex Hives, pop up for a few bucks, I had to check it out. I’m pleased to say that this record has that same energy with songs that make you want to get up and dance. Better yet? Lucy liked the jams too and danced along with me! Also, I don’t say this much anymore because I don’t see them nearly as often, but I really dig that cover. As regular readers might remember, I saw Van Halen with my dad in March of last year. The worry going into something like that with any older band is that you don’t know if everyone still has their chops. Luckily, that was an unfounded worry when it came to the band. Even with that in mind, I had similar fears when sitting down to listen to Van Halen’s new record A Different Kind of Truth. I mean, how many records from 70s bands that have come out in the past five years do you really listen to? Again, I was happy to discover that this new record had a lot of the goodness found on classic Diamond Dave-era VH tracks. Sure, they’re often goofy tunes about tattoos and whatnot, but it’s okay to have a little fun with a record. It definitely helped that most of these songs actually have their roots in the group’s writing sessions from the mid 70s. My pals Alex Segura and Elizabeth Keenan-Penagos are in a band called Faulkner Detectives with Meg Wilhoite and Vanessa Lopez. Because they are my friends, I bought their seven song EP titled The Modern Handshake, but that’s not why they made the list. There’s no room for nepotism on UnitedMonkee! Alex is actually the person who, when I was a Wizard intern, got me into The Talking Heads and Elvis Costello. Not surprisingly, his band has a somewhat similar vibe to those bands, which is something I don’t have enough of in my life.I realize it might be kind of weird how I keep explaining how I came to an album. I just think the reason you buy something plays an important role in both your expectations and how you react to the material. I found Bob Mould by way of The Foo Fighters’ Wasting Light which he did one track on. That got me to Husker Du’s Zen Arcade which melted my brain last year. Then, when Bob Mould’s solo record, Silver Age, came out earlier this year and was discounted, I was sold. I just listened to this one again and I just love it. I admit, I have difficulty figuring out exactly why, I just dig it. It’s good rock and roll music by a guy who knows what he’s doing after years of experience.
I realize after writing this that nearly every album on here is by an artist or group that I was already familiar with. Most of the bands I listened to for the first time this year were older bands and will show up on my New-To-Me list later this week. A few days before the end of the year I even picked up The Vaccines’ Come of Age, but still haven’t listened to it yet and therefore it can not make the list. I also picked up the first two of Green Day’s three new albums this year, but haven’t listened to them yet. I also grabbed Soundgarden’s King Animal and while I liked it, I wasn’t as blown away as I wanted to be. Maybe I’ll have more time next year…