Earlier this week I retweeted a link to a Bandcamp article discussing the early career of Sonny Rollins saying that his album Saxophone Colossus was the key that unlocked Jazz for me. I’ll stand by that claim. It really clicked when I spun a few Rollins records for the first time. However, I had snuck over the gate 6 years ago to marvel at something I still don’t fully understand. That foray into the unknown was prompted by the news of Ornette Coleman’s passing which passed across the break room TV screen while I listened to The Ventures Live In Japan ’65 of all things. With some minor ceremony I returned to my desk for a Thursday afternoon slog and cued up the ’59 landmark The Shape of Jazz to Come. In remembrance of Ornette’s passing and that subtly pivotal moment for me as a capital letters music guy I spent the last few days listening to a few records from the avant-garde upstart that I had not heard yet.
By no means is this meant to be a guide through the Saxophonist’s career. These records aren’t cornerstones of Jazz or artistic reinventions for Coleman. They are however, very good.
The new year is upon us, but before you start tackling those new years resolutions or detoxing from the holiday season, we want to offer one last rear view glimpse of the past year of music. 2015 brought about the end of a few hiatuses, introduced some new faces and there was a fair bit of self-examination and reinvention. Some great bands really proved why they have endured, some great songwriters stepped out on their own, some bands changed members or solidified lineups and a few debut albums shined bright. Heralding anything as the face of music to come is a pretty pointless exercise these days with tastes fragmenting into smaller and smaller niches, but looking back it’s hard to call 2015 anything but a banner year, at least for our corner of the greater musical landscape. We hope you find something here that inspires you.
Extended Play is a recurring feature covering a handful of short form releases at a time. This is a special, extra-long rundown of the best EPs and Singles of 2015. As always, this is just a sampling of great music. What makes your list?
I like short songs. I like short records. I have a hard time watching bands play live for longer than 30 minutes. I can’t watch even a half hour TV show without at least half my attention on my phone or ipad. My already lousy attention span was shorted out this year from having unlimited spotify streaming and 8 hours of robotic operations work a day. There is a lot still that missed my wide angle view of music. Truth be told, I spent most of that time listening to the same records I have for years while also digging into tons of older music that I never really gave much of a chance. Anyway, Justin will be coming through with the best full-length albums of the year, but in the mean time, check out a couple great short releases.
“Oh, it’s that record club. The first nine were only a penny. Then they jacked up the price! [breaks down crying] It’s not fair! It’s not fair, I tells ya!” Record Club will be a recurring feature on not just records I love but a love letter to the physical format. Collecting runs deep in my family, so expect to see lots of cool finds here. “I joined a record club. They hounded me for years.”
For my inaugural “Record Club” post it is only fitting that we take a look at the recently reissued And We Washed Our Weapons in the Sea from DC’s seminal Spazzcore/Mech-Core outfit Frodus. It’s my favorite record of all time, for reasons we will get into later in this post, so you can imagine my excitement opening my door to find this package waiting for me. Ironically, the “certified frustration-free packaging” proved harder to open than a typical LP mailer. Go figure.
I drive a lot. I don’t spend a lot of time in the car on a daily basis or anything. I recognize that many people have lengthy commutes and others drive for a living. Some people hate it. I love it. “I Drive a Lot” will be a recurring column covering the places I go and the things I do while I’m away. “I Drive a Lot” is also a song by Starflyer 59.
Growing up in a small town in NC meant anything interesting to a teenage sub-culture kid was at least an hour drive away, if not more. The first show I went to as a 14-15 year old required a drive to Greensboro. I would visit Charlotte, Asheville and Chapel Hill by the time I went to college just to see bands I liked. Even once I had moved away to a more cultured area of our state, I went to probably just as many shows out of town as I did at home.
2005 was a big year for me. I graduated from high school and started my first year of college. I got my first girlfriend and even wrecked my car for the first time (and not the last.) Throughout those events, music was a constant. I spent my teenage years in a rural area, so driving down country roads blasting music with the windows down was a regular occurrence. While 2005 was a milestone year as far as life achievements go, it also was the year that I truly began to expand my musical tastes to include more extreme and experimental forms of music.
Over the last few months, I listened to nearly 400 different albums. I didn’t always finish the ones I didn’t like, but I made myself give them a fair chance. I discovered quite a few records that I had never heard before and I highly recommend forcing yourself to listen to music outside of your usual wheel house-you never know where you will discover your new favorite band.
When looking at the pop charts for 1990, it’s hard to believe that the year Vanilla Ice and MC Hammer broke through, Jawbreaker and Samiam were releasing their first albums. While hair metal was on its way out, grunge was just beginning to form. Public Enemy and Ice Cube were changing hip hop forever. Adult contemporary dominated the charts, while shoegaze was ruling the underground. Here is what stood out to us from 1990.
A few months back, Justin and I both wrote about some records that were the direct product of or exemplars of a lineage of experimental music from the heavy underbelly of the recording industry. Speaking for myself, that glimpse into personal listening history was brief and it did not take long before I would find myself turning to more familiar standbys. I would not say my tastes are stagnant as, though I have frequently bemoaned my own laziness in seeking out new music lately, I have lobbed my fair share of criticisms at “genre” music; by which I mean those bands that often swirl around the eddies of every buzz band(take your pick).
Not long into the new year and Tiny Engines was announcing their claim to newcomers Springtime. There are hints at geography and history with their gritty but melodic punk rock and their down to earth attitude but no member of Springtime is some Johnny-come-lately either. They know their stuff but resist the urge to closely ape their influences, instead they create a solid mix of breakneck energy and vintage Dischord melody and emotion; yet with it’s own character. Guitarist, Chris Carreon, found a chunk of time to carve out and answer a few questions for me.