My 2013 Record of the Year

It was hard for me to find a favorite album for the year especially an album that was released in 2013.  I mostly invest in older vinyl but this year I have begun to buy more current artists. Although no matter the circumstances, the older generation of musical greats will always hold my heart.

So my current album of the year is…(imagine drum rolls)…“Mother” by Natalie Maines. I consider this to be as prestigious as a Grammy.

maines cover

Wikipedia

I had not been a huge fan of the Dixie Chicks and couldn’t care less about the controversy that was stirred around them (I firmly believe in First Amendment rights), but when they released Taking the Long Way I was hooked on Maines voice. Agree or disagree, she encompasses a passion and conviction that is hard to find in most modern day artists.

Maines switch over into the rock genre was a no brainer. Her voice fits this style brilliantly and her southern twang often adds a modern Rockabilly feel. Although I am a huge fan of real country music, I feel her home is more set in this rock style. There’s a comfort that covers the record that I don’t remember from the early Dixie Chicks days.

billboard

Billboard

Maines main collaborator and co producer on this record was Ben Harper.  Harper is a solo artist himself who has earned 2 Grammys. Maines is also credited for writing 3 out of the 10 tracks, 2 of which are my top favorites on this record. I hope her next record contains more of her own writing.

The biggest standout track for me is Maines’ cover of Pink Floyd’s “Mother.” Now I know many classic rockers will shoot me, but I think she performs and interprets this song better then the original. “Mother” is a song written for a man to perform so it struck me as odd that Maines would choose to cover the song and then name her album after it.

“Mother” takes on a new perspective when sung by Maines.  She is a mother of two children and I feel this song serves as a message for them on two grounds. She is showing how she will protect them, but she also warns them of investing themselves to deep in their mother. In this sense mother can translate to foundation. If one likes it or not, their life is founded in their upbringing and who they consider parents. Maine’s portrays this divine relationship with embattled vocals through a lens of experience, which in the end portrays truth.

NPR

NPR

Other standouts for me are “Free Life.” “Lover, You Should Have Come Over (Jeff Buckley cover),” and “Take it on Faith.” Although to be honest, there isn’t a song on this album I don’t enjoy.

A true vocal is one that is rare and is not the slightest bit forced, which is just one of many ways I would describe Maines’ vocals. I find Maines’ voice complex yet simple, trained but raw, hard and soft, restricted yet unlimited. She is able to knock on the doors of emotions that one may not remember, and if the door doesn’t open, she will just sneak through the cracks.  I’ve read she was hard headed, this must be what it sounds like musically.

While pondering on this album I began to wish there were a few more for I have spun this one many times. If this is going to be the “Mother” of her solo career then we have some extraordinary children to look forward to.

Spinnin’ till the year end,

Gabe

Maines and Harper performing “Mother” at the Grammy Museum.

Album of the Year 2013: ANTIPHON

Infographic: Antiphon the Thematic Journey

Infographic: Antiphon the Thematic Journey

[If you’re a Vinyl Vortex OK regular, you know that I am a huge fan of Midlake: see concert reviewmusic video, and wishful thinking. Read below to hear why Antiphon is my favorite album of the year.]

After three years of silence, fans wondered if Midlake had called it quits, but much to everyone’s surprise, the six-piece band from small-town Denton Texas exploded onto the music scene (accompanied by marketing blitz). Eric Pulido, McKenzie Smith, Paul

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Courtesy ATO Records

Alexander, Eric Nichelson, Jesse Chandler and Joey McClellan triumphantly returned with Antiphon which did not disappoint.

The Release(s)

A limited edition hand numbered two-color vinyl version was announced (via Twitter with the hash tag #MidlakeAntiphon) and released to independent record stores around the country on October 29. The official LP dropped Tuesday, November 5, 2013.

I had the privilege of finding a copy limited edition version of Antiphon. Thankfully Guestroom had a copy, which I promptly purchased! It is a simple white heavy card stock sleeve with hand-stamped, hand-numbered artwork (I got number 474/500). The record is half red and half orange transparent vinyl. The official release on vinyl is a gatefold album with fold-out poster/booklet with lyrics as you unfold the poster.

The Music

Antiphon is one of those rare gems that you can listen to over and over without tiring of the songs. With psychedelic jam-session interludes (“Vale”) and soaring melodies (“Antiphon,” “This Weight”, “Ages”), Antiphon proves fitting for background music and focused listening alike.

Although focused listening will help you enjoy the dynamic musical journey (the so-thought “low-points” serve as structure that make the high-points that much more triumphant). No matter the song, the momentum never wanes as one song transitions into the next. In hindsight, the relentless momentum is reminiscent of the perseverance of the band members after the exit of their main songwriter. Momentum is the theme of the album.

The momentum never wanes as one song transitions into the next… That momentum reminiscent of the momentum of the band members becomes the theme of the album.

Despite the trying times of longing for more, Midlake declare independence from the “Provider” (i.e. former frontman Tim Smith), both sonically and literally. Throughout the track listing, the struggle for independence is apparent on Side One, which serves as preparation before the climatic events of Side Two. The defiance of the leader is not without humble self-evaluation and reflection in “This Weight” and “Corruption.”

Source: Sacks & Co.

Source: Sacks & Co.

The Best
After countless rotations, I still come back to these songs (see info graphic above for my ranking of each song off the album):

  • Old & Young
  • Ages
  • Antiphon
  • Provider
  • This Weight

Check out the Antiphon Experience (video/lyrics ) and decide for yourself. Tell us what you think!

Wish List: 5 Albums I Wouldn’t Mind Getting as Gifts

As every spoon collector longs to go to a new state, every vinyl collector has a wish list. Here are a few of the records I wouldn’t mind adding to my collection

ElvisPCover1. Elvis Presley’s First Album: Elvis is easily defined as one of the most defining artist of the 20th century. He pioneered the Rock and Roll movement and was a legendary performer. There’s a lot of repressings of this album, but I’m searching for the first, which will one day cost me a pretty penny.

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2: Johnny Cash and His Hot Blue Guitar: Cash’s persona and artistry is one that intrigues me. He is a genius song write and storyteller. Although he was often troubled, he influenced the music industry all around.

Meet_the_supremes_1962

3. The Supremes, Meet The Supremes, 1st Issue: There are two versions of this album: one where the three original Supremes are sitting on stools in three separate pictures and one with a group photo.  I want the one with the stools. It’s very rare and also has many repressings, but I just know one day I am going to find it on eBay for that right price.

ebab839e95dc820f9eb982cb2b9cb1fec099ba444. Dusty Springfield, Dusty in Memphis: I just recently discovered Springfield and I find her voice intoxicating. I can’t put my finger on it, but I love it. I have read that this is one of her most heralded recordings. I have my local record shop on it (Trolley Stop Record Shop is one of the best in the OKC metro).

Elephant-Album-Cover-the-white-stripes-1019841_600_6005. The White Stripes, Elephant: This is my only modern want at the moment. I see it all the time at the local record store, but I always have a ton of other records in my hand and can’t afford its high price tag. Nonetheless, one of these days I will attain this album and bask in the greatness of Jack and Meg White.

These are just a few of the albums I am currently searching for. It’s quite an eclectic collection of titles, ranging from rockabilly, country, soul, pop, and alternative. If you have any leads let me know and I’ll pass it on to my mother.

Awaiting,

Gabe

Where Have You Been Bruno?

I have longed heard of the legendary album The Return of Bruno. Well, I finally found it in the new release bin at Guestroom Records. Thank goodness I got there fast or I would have missed this gem!

I will never understand why Bruce Willis didn’t pursue a full time musical career. I’m amazed at his vocal talent and his addicting hooks he makes with his harmonica. He even has one song writing credit! The talent is endless!

Do you see what I did there?

I acted, just like Bruce Willis.

Give me an Oscar.

In all honesty, this album leaves a lot to be desired. Actually, maybe it just shouldn’t have eil.combeen made.  There are to many odd things about this album. For starters, this may come as a shock to some, but Bruce Willis is not a singer, unless you count the guy at the karaoke bar a Grammy award winner.

This album was to act as a companion to a comedic fictional HBO documentary about legendary jazz musician, Bruno Radolini, Willis’ alter ego. What made Motown pick up it’s soundtrack, I will never know. It includes backing vocals from the likes of The Temptations and Booker T. Jones. Willis also covers such classic hits like “Respect Yourself” and “Under the Boardwalk.” This must be where Garth Brooks got the Chris Gaines idea.

The liner notes even have a “thank you” note from Bruno himself, telling how he found success in Hollywood. I hate to say it, but I really could not find a gem on this record, which says something. At least I found one song I liked on that dreadful Allman and Woman album, but there were some tolerable moments.

bruce-willis-tears-of-the-sunThere was one Billboard top 10 hit, “Respect Yourself.” If there was going to be a hit, it would have to be this one. There were two more singles, but they did not fare as well.

Most songs have the same themes: picking up women, being with women, drinking, and (insert action) with women.  Oh, and that one song about secret agent men mixed with a James Bond song.

I am not sure where Bruno lost himself, but I am glad he brought back Willis. He has made some great movies and his acting career is still going. I am a fan of the actor Bruce Willis, I just feel this album may need to die…hard.

Spinnin’…Apprehensively,

Gabe

 

Extras:

My Review of Allman and Woman: 

https://vinylvortexok.wordpress.com/2013/08/19/filed-for-divorced-within-9-days-reconciled-for-2-years-a-baby-and-1-album/

TOP 5 Christmas Wishes: For Her

At a loss for what to buy the lady in your life who fancies listening to her music on an analog format? Forget Spotify Premium gift cards, check out my wishlist of nostalgic goodies for ideas on what to buy the special lady in your life:

TOPFIVE_forher

 1. Grado RS2i Reference Series headphones (Amazon)- Audiophile-quality headphones for your audiophile girlfriend, that is all.

2. Fujifilm X100S Digital Camera (Adorama)- Is your girl crazy about photography? This digital camera has the retro look of a Leica at a fraction of the price. Plus, my photographer friends LOVE their X100s’s!

3. Vinyl Record inspired earrings (Etsy)- If she loves earrings and loves vinyl, you can’t lose with buying her these earrings.

4. Analog Nights Screen Print (Aimee Wilder)- This hand-screened, limited-edition print print is perfect for the girl who loves art and music.

5. Midlake Antiphon T-shirt (Big Cartel)- Is there one band that she totally love, has bought their albums on vinyl (twice) and traveled out-of-state to see them live? Buy her a tee from her favorite band’s merchandise stash…

View my unabridged wish list here. Girls, what do you have on your list? Let me know: comment below!

Five Albums You May Have Missed in 2013

[Introducing our first guest writer, Daniel Valencia! Enjoy.]

As 2013 comes to a close, listeners think back on the songs that carried us through the year. My Bloody Valentine made a bold return back in February and an AM, a Pure Heroine, and a Days Are Gone later, this last month winds down with either Reflektor or Christmas music in rotation. The year was full of important albums that brought much joy (and disappointment) to our listening ears, but what of the albums that did not get their due amount of attention or were ignored altogether? I offer a few humble suggestions:

5. Wire – Change Becomes Us

ImageThe first thing anyone should know about this reviewer before reading anything he writes is that he is an absolute punk rock junkie. That being said, how can any release by post-punk icons Wire be overlooked on such a list? After all, with so many great albums under their belt (Their debut, Pink Flag, is required listening for anyone who considers themselves a music fan), there is no justifiable excuse to not give Change Becomes Us a try. The beautiful thing about Wire, is the way they can make two seemingly opposite sounds or structures work well together in a song. This quality is on full display here. “Adore Your Island” is a suitable example, with its back and forth struggle between a droning punk chorus and dreamy rock verses. The robotic vocal delivery, thick bass hooks, and spacey guitar that we have come to expect is here in full form. Change Becomes Us is a truly engaging record, ready to hold you in its grip and pull you through its twists and turns. The album was released on vinyl for Record Store Day this year, about a month after its release on other formats.

4. The Strokes – Comedown Machine

ImageAt some point, The Strokes must have realized that they were never going to replicate Is This It. Unfortunately, the rest of the world has yet to come to the same conclusion, and I believe that Julian Casablancas and co. know this well. Suddenly, we have Comedown Machine which serves as both the redheaded stepchild of the band’s catalogue and a smug send off to The Strokes fans of 2001. The album’s artwork is a silhouetted version of Is This It’s, after all (and I will mention that the album art practically screams, “Buy me on vinyl”). This truly is the strangest of the band’s releases, in many ways. Not knowing who was playing, I could not tell that “One Way Trigger” was a The Strokes song until almost two minutes in. We have the pleasure of hearing the band try out 80’s pop anthems, falsetto-heavy vocals, ballads, more falsetto, and even something that sounds like the creepy song at the end of The Shining. Tracks like “Tap Out” and “Welcome to Japan” are irresistibly fun and the majority of Comedown Machine follows suit. There is no denying that this is who The Strokes are now, and somehow I do believe that their first few garage-y, Ramones-esque numbers have run their course. Honestly, Room on Fire was always my favorite, anyway.

3. Savages – Silence Yourself

ImageHonestly, you may not have missed out on this one in particular. With the support of word of mouth, television appearances, and YouTube banners, one would have to be living under a rock (or distracted by Queens of the Stone Age) to not have at least heard about Silence Yourself. Post-punk has been coming in and out of the scene’s forefront in the last decade and a half, but not always as equally urgent and refreshing as it has this year with the release of the debut by Savages. The album may be a little more refined and well-produced than our revolutionaries, Joy Division and Bauhaus, but does not compromise a single ounce of raw talent or pristine passion. The squealing, treble-drenched guitars, the gloomy backdrop, Jehnny’s Beth’s haunting vocal performance – it all feels so real, that it can overwhelm at first listen. Silence Yourself may very well be to us now what Interpol’s Turn on the Bright Lights was to us a decade ago. I would consider it a serious contender for debut album of the year.

2. Franz Ferdinand – Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action

ImageIt is truly a shame. I was in high school the last time a Franz Ferdinand record emerged from the depths. I am a college graduate now and much like Tonight: Franz Ferdinand, the band’s latest release already seems to be on its way out of the limelight and headed to that place where music goes to be forgotten. This is only an opinion, but it seems to me like Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action was treated as nothing more than a reminder that “Take Me Out” happened ten years ago. Admittedly, the band does not bring much of anything new to the table, but rather build upon the style that is already very much their all their own, and it has never felt as close to perfection as it does here. For example, “Stand on the Horizon” features the beautiful blend of danceable avant-garde, psychedelic post-punk that we have come to expect from Franz, only this time with lyrics that sound like they mean something and flawlessly executed twists that eventually usher the irresistible melody into something of a surreal outro. What I find great about Right Thoughts is how fresh and natural everything here feels. Franz Ferdinand has always had such style about them that many bands have to work for (AM-era Alex Turner comes to mind), but all that fun and energy was not at the forefront back in 2009. Thankfully, that’s not the case here.

1. Jars of Clay – Inland

ImageThe presence of Inland solidifies this as being the list of talented rock bands that the media chewed up and spit out. When people think Jars of Clay they usually think 1. “Flood”, 2. “ChristianMingle” or 3. Spiritual soccer mom’s favorite band on the radio. Of course the perfect scores and #1 rankings from both faith-based and secular reviewers alike do not mean a thing when we can comfortably live according to the distorted perceptions of our many cool friends. It is frustrating, yet beautiful because that way a record as extremely personal as Inland can be personal on even greater levels.  As with every great Jars record, this outing easily transcends the many distractions surrounding music today. For roughly fifty minutes the battle between indie and pop, the band member’s faith, the media, the critics, and even the fanbase do not matter. All that remains is talent, creativity, and twelve brutally honest expressions from five imperfect individuals. I had trouble responding to the album initially. The vast amount of influences ranging from folk to blues to new wave were all present (and improved from past efforts) but not always used in ways I was expecting. And where Jars of Clay has always had moderately accessible lyrics, Dan Haseltine’s work here ranges from surface level observations to the nearly impenetrable.  Like many incredible records, Inland requires digging and perseverance, but is, ultimately, a ridiculously rewarding experience. Only after repeat listens did the lyrics come alive to me as poetic portrayals of feelings and ideas that only these particular individuals could write at this particular time. The music can be easy enough to swallow, but it flourishes with so many unique sounds and unrestrained creativity that it never becomes boring or predictable. Jars of Clay’s eleventh studio album is the most original (and possibly the best) album that I have listened to this year. As far as availability on vinyl, your best bet would be the band’s website. Buy and treasure this intimate collection of artful alt. pop and more importantly, do not be afraid of it.

Thank you for reading. Feel free to visit my blog for more reviews, top 10 lists, and other conversations about music, art, and life at http://danielvalencia-theblog.blogspot.com/

A Bouquet

Not many times have I stopped listening to a record and immediately thought, “Wow! That is one of the best albums I have ever heard!” Yet, that was the case with Loretta Lynn’s Jack White produced Van Lear Rose.

hotsr.com

hotsr.com

Now, as many people know, I am a huge classic country fan. I could sit and listen to the likes of Glen Campbell, Johnny Cash, Tammy Wynette, and Dolly Parton all day. Although I am not a fan of what they call country music today, there’s a few artists I like, but they are few and far between.

With this album I did not hear classic country in the style I love. Instead it was classic country with a proper update. At times you really can tell Jack White’s alternative influences (“Have Mercy”), but the songs contain much of what real country once had (“Trouble on the Line”). Each song contains elements of what country once was, as well as the gritty stories it once told.  Country is not about crashing parties or singing dirt road anthems. It’s about real dirty and sticky situations.

Side Note: This is Loretta Lynn’s first album where she wrote all the songs.

lastfmIt’s hard for me to pick just a few songs to write about, but here are a few of my favorites.

Track 2 “Portland Oregon”: This is a duet between Lynn and Jack White. It is amazing how two voices from two generations can blend so well. It goes to show the timelessness of music. The song opens with a dramatic instrumental and ends with asking for a pitcher to go.

Track 6 “High on a Mountain Top”: The premise of this song is humility mixed with everything you ever need.  Lynn talks about how poor her family was, but how she would never leave that “Mountain Top.” They had “flowers growing wild, God fearin’ people, and how Uncle Joe would pull out his fiddle.” This songs proves money doesn’t mean anything when it comes to happiness. This song also has a great “hiking” beat.

Track 9: “Women’s Prison”: This is the definition of a classic country story. She found her man cheatin’, she shot him dead, now she’s in prison, and the judge wants her head. She reminds us that the “price of love is high.” This song is also infused with obvious Jack White influences, especially in the chorus.

Lastly, Lynn closes with “Story of My Life.” In this song Lynn condenses her life in just under 3 minutes, but it tells so much about her. She briskly tells you, like she’s your own grandmother, and that if you listen close, she’ll tell you twice. She talks about her children, music career, marriage, and concludes with how blessed she is.

Lynn and White produced sheer musical brilliance with this album. Only one songs talks ofJack White has Masonic Temple concert hall named after him a rose, but the whole album is a compilation of stories wrapped in Lynn’s twang through White’s assembly.  As I wonder through the Kentucky hills and see the beautiful flowers, this is one bouquet that I would stand out among the rest and, Lord, am I glad I picked it.

Spinnin’ and Pickin’ Flowers,

Gabe

Music Video for “Portland, Oregon”