START THE NEW YEAR BY GOING WAYBACK
If you're not nursing a hangover the day after New Year's Eve—or if you are, and want a nice way to sweat out the toxins—we recommend you make your way to the Rhythm Industry Performance Factory for a local two-band bill featuring Spirit Familia and the Wayback Machine.
Spirit Familia is a sprawling, 10-piece band with a three-piece horn section that plays both covers and originals in highly danceable styles ranging from funk workouts to reggae to soul to cumbia and other Latin-derived music forms. The Wayback Machine, meanwhile, reinterprets, often dramatically, pop and rock hit songs and obscurities, mostly from the 1960s and '70s, utilizing a revolving cast of members and collaborators. (Full disclosure: Tucson Weekly contributor Jim Lipson is a member of the Wayback Machine.)
The night starts at 7:30 p.m. with recorded dance music courtesy of the folks who bring you the Ecstatic Dance Jams each month at the Rhythm Industry Performance Factory, which is located at 1013 S. Tyndall Ave. Admission to the all-ages, no-alcohol show is $8 at the door, with free admission for those younger than 15. For more information, head to rhythmindustry.org.
ANOTHER DAY, ANOTHER RELEASE FROM HOWE
As if he didn't already release enough stuff this year (there was the collaboration with A Band of Gypsies, Alegrias; the first new Giant Sand album in two years, Blurry Blue Mountain; and, with the re-release of Valley of Rain, the very first Giant Sand album, the start of a series of reissues), Howe Gelb has crammed yet another set of songs into the calendar year.
Just more than a year ago—on Dec. 12, 2009, to be exact—Gelb put together an ad hoc band (billed as Howe Gelb and His Melted Wires) to perform at a benefit for Miles Exploratory Learning Center at the Loft Cinema. But it wasn't just any band: In addition to Giant Sand bassist Thøger Lund on upright, the Wires featured his onetime Giant Sand drummer, John Convertino, as well as Convertino's fellow current Calexican, Jacob Valenzuela, on trumpet. (As Gelb writes in an essay on his website, "It was an informal cluster, two from Giant Sand and two from Calexico, which in itself merited a sweet symbol of holiday spirit and friendship above all else.") In a review of the show, published in our Dec. 17, 2009, issue, Linda Ray wrote that Gelb explained that night (which also featured a screening of 'Sno Angel Winging It, a documentary about Gelb's collaboration with a Canadian choir) that he and the band "(had) been working on new music with an acoustic-jazz emphasis around his piano-playing."
If that sounds enticing (and it should), you'll be pleased to know that Gelb has just released an album's worth of Melted Wires recordings done by Craig Schumacher at Wavelab Studio in the weeks leading up to the Loft performance. In that essay on his site, which serves as de facto liner notes to the recordings, Gelb explains that the sessions were modeled after the fabled recordings of W. Eugene Smith in his New York "jazz loft" in the late '50s and early '60s, during which jazz musicians would meet after their club gigs had finished—and Smith would roll tape. "Those kinds of jams were players playing for themselves and each other," Gelb writes. "This kind of capture was unlike any studio session or live gig."
And that's exactly what the Melted Wires recordings, which are available at howegelb.com for a minimum of $2.22 (it's a name-your-own-price thing), sound like: a band of stylistically unique players having a go at some old songs and a few new ones, with a looseness and a relaxed quality (yes, even for Gelb) that we rarely would be privy to as listeners.
It's timely, too: One of those new songs, "Holiday Eyes," about a father who is happy to be snowed in so he can spend another night with his family, and featuring Howe's daughter Talula on the chorus, is among the best of the bunch, a new seasonal classic.
BECAUSE LISTS FROM SIX WRITERS AREN'T ENOUGH
And now, since there's room, my favorite albums of 2010, in no particular order:
Harlem, Hippies (Matador): There are more hooks in these 16 guitar-pop songs than you'll find at a pirate convention. I haven't gotten addicted to an album like this in a very long time.
HAIRSPRAYFIREANDGIRLS, I Am. And I've Been Looking for You. (self-released): It was a pretty great year for local music, but this was the local album I spun the most. A perfect merger of Stones-y swagger and punk snottiness, great musicianship and killer songs. It just plain fucking rocks.
Kanye West, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam): Of course it didn't deserve the 10.0 from Pitchfork, but those spearheading the backlash against it have it wrong, too. If you're able to separate the artist from the art, this is a really ambitious, great rap album full of inspired moments. And I haven't liked a Kanye album since 2005's Late Registration.
Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti, Before Today (4AD): On Before Today, Pink repurposes '70s and '80s AM Gold, refracting it through his thoroughly modern and utterly twisted prism until it sounds simultaneously nostalgic and futuristic. If champagne disco is your thing, "Round and Round" is your new favorite jam.
Best Coast, Crazy for You (Mexican Summer): An indie-pop take on the classic '60s girl-group sound complete with pining-for-a-lost-boy lyrics. One catchy tune after another; nothing more, nothing less.
Girls, Broken Dreams Club EP (True Panther Sounds): The atmospheric gauze has been stripped away from Girls' 2009 debut, Album, in favor of the crystalline production here, but not much is lost in transition—a bit of the sadness and desperation, maybe, but it's compensated for by the horns, the pedal steel and Christopher Owens' knack for writing great songs.
Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse, Dark Night of the Soul (Capitol): I had this on my list last year, too, when it seemed that Capitol had permanently shelved the album, and it "leaked" out online. With the suicide of Sparklehorse's Mark Linkous earlier this year, an already haunted album (the first line of the first song: "Pain, I guess it's a matter of sensation") only grew more haunting. Plus, who knew David Lynch could sing?
Arcade Fire, The Suburbs (Merge): A grower. If you told me that Arcade Fire's new disc was a concept album about reconciling the decay of the suburbs that seemed so idyllic in our collective childhood, I'd say it sounded bloated and pretentious. But then I'd listen to it. And listen to it again. And then I'd tell you that while it's still no Funeral, it's leaps and bounds beyond the disappointing Neon Bible.
Das Racist, Shut Up, Dude and Sit Down, Man (independent release): Though I've had the completely silly and infectious "Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell" on intermittent heavy rotation for a year or two now, I came late to the full mixtapes. But I've listened to them enough to know this is some of the smartest, most deft hip-hop out there. At its best, it is spot-on sociopolitical commentary masked as jokes cloaked in dance-bangers. When was the last time you heard Neutral Milk Hotel's Jeff Mangum, Donkey Kong, poet Gary Soto, Stephen Hawking and Coretta Scott King name-checked in the same song?
Three-way tie for "last": Titus Andronicus, The Monitor (XL); Joanna Newsom, Have One on Me (Drag City); LCD Soundsystem, This Is Happening (DFA/Virgin).
SO LONG, SERPE
Finally, it bums us out to report that Michael Serpe—local musician, part-time host of the live/interview segment on KXCI FM 91.3's Locals Only, owner and operator of Home Recorded Culture, and general man about town—will be relocating to Seattle. While he was there over the summer, he was offered a job as an engineer at a friend's recording studio and found it too good to pass up. The good news: He only committed for a year in order to keep his options open.
Before he leaves, though, you can get a taste of the Serpe magic in two ways: On the Monday, Jan. 3, edition of Locals Only (which runs from 8 to 10 p.m.), he'll be interviewing himself, which should be a hoot. And next Thursday, Jan. 6, he'll be performing a free farewell show in the lounge at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St., at 9:30 p.m. Expect lots of friends to sit in with him. Call 798-1298 for more info.
Best of luck in the Emerald City, Ser! We're sure gonna miss you.
Happy New Year, everyone!