Tag Archives: Black Mountain

Daniel Romano’s ‘Mosey’ Is Aaron’s Top Album For 2016

Daniel Romano's Mosey

Daniel Romano’s Mosey

For a certain demo of music fans (mine) 2016 was a year defined by a number of the all-time greats dying — David Bowie, Prince, Leonard Cohen, Sharon Jones, Merle Haggard, Phife Dawg, Glenn Frey, etc — which provided strong motivation to make sure I saw concerts from a number of elder musical statespeople like John Fogerty, Stevie Nicks, Joan Jett, Robert Plant, Arthur Brown, Pagliaro and Bruce Springsteen.

It might be a by-product of pursuing this Before They Die list, but I definitely felt out of step with the music critic hegemony this year when it came to what the best records were. The kids these days all like the pop music and as much as I respect a more politicized Beyonce, this immaculately manufactured and marketed mega-pop world holds little sonic intrigue to me.

There were a number of bubbling under acts who did make music I found intriguing, though. Monomyth, American Lips, Elephant Stone, Fresh Snow, Doomsquad, LAL, EONS and U.S. Girls were just some of the Canucks who made fabulous albums. International acts James Hunter Six, The Avalanches, The Last Shadow Puppets and, surprisingly, The Rolling Stones, all made music of intrigue as well. There were also a couple wildly different compilations that really captured me, the Polyvinyl Plays Polyvinyl label tribute and Music of Morocco: Recorded by Paul Bowles, 1959, an utterly fascinating curated collection of Moroccan street musicians recorded in 1959, were both exciting listens.

That said, there were other records that moved me more than these. Which I will explain further below.

Here’s my official Top 10 album list for 2016:

10) Jim James — Eternally Even

On My Morning Jacket lead singer Jim James’ second solo album he goes all psych soul with a number of keyboard-y space outs that sound mighty good when you listen to them on headphones.

Watch “Here In Spirit”

9) Duotang — New Occupation

This album was quite a creeper hit for me. There’s a not-so-subtle theme to this record that revolves around aging and having to give up your rock ‘n’ roll dreams because you never made it. I’m not unaware of how such a theme can work its way into the subconscious of a modestly employed freelance writer of a certain age. The thing is, in making a record about having to give up and get a real job because the dream is dead, they’ve actually shown that the dream isn’t dead. Because they’re still making music. That’s a good lesson to take into 2017.

Watch “Karma Needs To Come Around”

8) Preoccupations — Preoccupations

It hasn’t been lost on me that Preoccupations, the band formerly known as Viet Cong, haven’t exactly been appearing on a lot of year-end best-of lists. I’ve noticed in part because I like Preoccupations‘ heavy post-rock a tad more than I liked the last Viet Cong record. And I suspect Preoccupations are getting punished politically for their bumbling navigation of the controversy around their old band name. Empirically, though, this is a really good record and anyone whose sartorial philosophy is “only wears black t-shirts” will find much to appreciate here.

Watch “Memory”

7) Vince Staples — Prima Donna

Chance The Rapper is wack. The best rap record this year was this half-record by Vince Staples.

Watch “Prima Donna”

6) Michael Kiwanuka — Love & Hate

I’ve got this thing about retro sounds and revivalists: basically, if you’re a half-decent imitator of a musical form I like, I’ll probably like your act. For example, if you’re a competent Black Sabbath surrogate or a Jesus And Mary Chain knock-off I’m all-in. But just because I’m all-in that doesn’t mean I think you’re actually good. It just means you’re a good copycat.

What I need from revivalists is something more. Michael Kiwanuka’s old school soul record Love & Hate is full of “more.” It’s a big symphonic throwback to the grandest moments of Marvin Gaye or Curtis Mayfield, but the focus and concerns in songs like “Black Man In A White World” and its title track are entirely now.

Watch “Love & Hate”

5) Charlotte Day Wilson — CDW

Charlotte Day Wilson was another one of my deep headphone trips this year. In her case it was all about her smoldering voice. It’s a truly wondrous instrument and her song “Work” is the perfect venue for it.

Watch “Work”

4) Drive-By Truckers — American Band

Before American Band I didn’t really understand the hype about Drive-By Truckers. My tolerance for roots rock is pretty low and even though I didn’t dislike DBT, they’d done very little that moved me. Then this album happened. A heavy narrative exploration of America’s ugliest features, American Band tackles topics like race and class with the same righteous zeal of a Bruce Springsteen, John Cougar or Tom Petty. That’s lofty company, but those are the people they match on this album.

Watch “Surrender Under Protest”

3) Casket Girls — The Night Machines

One of the most exciting, confounding, mysterious and wonderful albums I heard all year was Casket Girls’ The Night Machines. To the best I can figure they’re two sisters from Savannah, Georgia who play the sort of gloomy keyboard rock that Emily Strange would make if she bailed out of art college in her third year “because it’s all bullshit.” Whether it’s wistful (“Sixteen Forever”), surreal (“Mermaid College”) or bristling (“Tears Of A Clown”), The Night Machines makes for a deeply magical trip.

Watch “Tears Of A Clown”

2) Black Mountain — IV

Whenever I read one of those “rock is dead” thinkpieces one of the first things I always wonder about is “what rock music is this writer actually listening to?” Because if you’re judging “rock” based on, I dunno, the last Disturbed album, then sure, you probably have an argument. But if Disturbed are what you consider to be proper rock music in 2016, well, um, there’s some cognitive dissonance going on.

There was amazing rock music in 2016 and the best of it was Black Mountain’s IV album. When I first heard IV back in April I called it “a hurtling, mind-warping journey” that “investigates some of classic rock music’s most thrilling tropes, all with controls aimed straight towards the cosmos.” I stand by those words still. Let there be rock.

Watch “Mothers Of The Sun”

1) Daniel Romano — Mosey

In all my years of listening to and reviewing albums I’ve given out maybe a dozen perfect ratings for albums so beautiful, so unique and so unimpeachable that I know in my heart that in five, 10 or 20 years from now I’ll still feel the exact same way about them.

I don’t grade any reviews I write on Risky Fuel, but if I did Mosey would be one of those albums. Bob Dylan, Lee Hazlewood, Leonard Cohen… these are impossibly high benchmarks to match, and yet here we are. Daniel Romano’s Mosey was my favourite album of 2016.

Watch “Valerie Leon”

Other album lists…

2016 Top Ten — Daniel Romano‘s Mosey is #1
2015 Top Ten — SUUNS + Jerusalem In My Heart SUUNS + Jerusalem In My Heart is #1
2014 Top Ten — Sharon Van Etten’s Are We There is #1
2013 Top Ten — M.I.A.’s Matangi is #1
2012 Top Ten — Dirty Ghosts’ Metal Moon is #1
2011 Top Ten — Timber Timbre’s Creep On Creepin’ On is #1
2010 Top Ten — The Black Angels’ Phosphene Dream is #1
2009 Top Ten — Gallows’ Grey Britain is #1
2008 Top Ten — Portishead’s Third is #1
2007 Top Ten — Joel Plaskett Emergency’s Ashtray Rock is #1
2006 Top Ten — My Brightest Diamond’s Bring Me The Workhorse is #1
2005 Top Ten — Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s Howl is #1
2004 Top Ten — Morrissey’s You Are The Quarry is #1
2003 Top Ten — The Dears’ No Cities Left is #1
2002 Top Ten — Archive’s You All Look The Same To Me is #1
2001 Top Ten — Gord Downie’s Coke Machine Glow is #1
2000 Top Ten — Songs: Ohia’s The Lioness is #1
1999 Top Ten — The Boo Radleys’ Kingsize is #1
1998 Top Ten — Baxter’s Baxter is #1
1996 Top Ten — Tricky’s Maxinquaye is #1

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under Music

Black Mountain — IV (Album Review)

Black Mountain IV

Black Mountain IV

It used to be the bravest place in the music world was a classic rock radio station’s graveyard shift. Not constrained by the need to play the day’s hits, or hawk concert tickets to contest winners, the nighthawks who deejayed these time slots were the last great populist explorers.

Whole sides of Yes records would get played on a whimsy, Johnny Cash and Black Flag might get snuck in next to some “weird German stuff” like Kraftwerk, and 3 a.m. was the best time to open up the phone lines because that’s when you’d get calls from folks who’d just been let out of the bars. Or better yet, maybe a ring from an alien-obsessed insomniac or two.

It’s into this world, this dangerously pulsing outer rim, where Vancouver act Black Mountain have unleashed their obviously titled fourth album, IV.

A hurtling, mind-warping journey, IV investigates some of classic rock music’s most thrilling tropes, all with controls aimed straight towards the cosmos.

The album’s lead off track “Mothers Of The Sun” effectively demonstrates this space racing. A swirling eight-and-a-half-minute trip, the song highlights both Amber Webber’s vocals as well as a device that gets a number of star turns on IV, Jeremy Schmidt’s organ.

Indeed, much in the same way one eventually has that eureka moment where they realize the best parts of Deep Purple don’t revolve around the “Smoke On The Water” riff, but instead on the mood-setting Hammond of “Child In Time,” Schmidt’s playing establishes a kaleidoscopic, headphone-melting foundation for the rest of the band to work around throughout the record.

There are many other deep cut callbacks on IV as well. “Defector” has a deliberate stomp and delivery from Stephen McBean that could easily place the song in the same world as Pink Floyd’s The Wall. Elsewhere, “Line Them All Up” evokes that same melancholy David Bowie displayed on reflective masterpieces like “Five Years” and “Ashes To Ashes.”

That’s not to say IV isn’t without any of the modern riff rock bombast Black Mountain are known for, either. Blasters “Florian Saucer Attack” and “Constellations” inhabit the same new-meets-old places Queens Of The Stone Age explored on Songs For The Deaf.

The result is an album that isn’t just “classic” rock in form, but classic in the sense that it’s fucking righteous. We can only hope for a future world where invisible 4 a.m. airwaves crackle with life to the sound of Black Mountain’s IV.

1 Comment

Filed under Music

Aaron’s Top Albums Of 2010

The Black Angels' Phosphene Dream

The Black Angels’ Phosphene Dream

This is my official Top 10 album list for 2010:

10. Arcade Fire The Suburbs

This made the list at #10 because of a begrudging acknowledgement that, yes, technically it’s a very good album. I can’t, however, shake the notion that the subject matter (restless youth, suburban angst) is something that pop-punkers have been singing about for 25 years. Which makes it not nearly as brave and world-shattering a concept as many would suggest.

9. Band Of Horses Infinite Arms

I haven’t listened to this album since 2010 and I see no reason to do so now.

8. Gord Downie And The Country Miracles The Grand Bounce

I’ve always had a tremendous appreciation for Gord Downie’s solo records. After all, to eschew his easy cash register gig in The Tragically Hip to do something like record freak-out hash rock poetry with Dale Morningstar (Coke Machine Glow, 2001) is incredibly bold. The thing is, as Hip albums become increasingly infrequent, Downie’s complimentary solo records are regressing to the mean in terms of musical adventure. And while The Grand Bounce has its moments — “The Drowning Machine,” in particular, reveals Downie’s often hidden dark side — I can’t help but feel it’s the beginning of Downie’s solo output oscillating towards the bar blues he’s better known for.

7. Black Mountain Wilderness Heart

It’s vitally important that Black Mountain exist. After all, without them there’d be a generation of Broken Social Scene-weaned hipsters who’d never think to listen to their dad’s old Zeppelin, Sabbath and Deep Purple albums.

6. The Schomberg Fair Gospel

In truth, it’s the idea of The Schomberg Fair — a punk-powered, banjo-plucking, hallelujah-hollerin’ rock revival — that I appreciated more than the actual music they released. This #6 spot is probably more about hope than actual love for Gospel.

5. Sunfields Palace In The Sun

The subtle charms of this soft-ish rock album from sometimes-Dears member Jason Kent certainly won me over at the time. In the end though I mostly cared about a song called “Desert Son.” If I redid this list today the album would probably be lower.

4. The Black Keys Brothers

Over it.

3. Gorillaz Plastic Beach

It took me almost a decade to realize that Gorillaz — a joke band made up of cartoon characters — was just as good as (and perhaps even better than) Damon Albarn’s other band, Blur. Granted, it took an album with outsized cameos from Snoop Dogg, Bobby Womack and Little Dragon to figure this out, but the fact I even got there is what really matters. “Stylo” is one of the best play-it-really-loud songs I’ve heard in ages and “Empire Ants,” my favourite from Plastic Beach, inflames the imagination.

2. The Besnard Lakes The Besnard Lakes Are The Roaring Night

The initial reason why I loved Are The Roaring Night was because my hockey team went on a huge winning streak when I’d listen to “Like the Ocean, Like the Innocent Pt. 2: The Innocent” as a psyche up song before each game. Gifts like these from the Hockey Gods need to be supported, after all. More recently, though, I’ve been reading a lot of John le Carré books. And while this has given me a suspicious fear of the United States and the nagging sensation that everyone you look up to will invariably let you down, it’s also done a lot to romance the whole idea of Cold War spies and their “tradecraft.” So now when I listen to Are The Roaring Night I not only enjoy the music on it’s surface sonic level, but I can also dig deeper into the loose spy concept/narrative that’s going on in the record as I peruse German daily newspapers waiting for coded messages from Czech operatives.

 

1. The Black Angels Phosphene Dream

When I looked back at this list and saw the #1 my first instinct was, “Why?” So I listened to it again and reconfirmed that, yeah, this is one badass record. Now, my loyalty to the album isn’t so strong that I wouldn’t consider flipping it with the Besnard album if I redid this today, but “Entrance Song,” “Bad Vibrations” and “Phosphene Dream” all explore that darker, more dangerous side of psyche rock I find so exciting.

Other album lists…

2015 Top Ten — SUUNS + Jerusalem In My Heart SUUNS + Jerusalem In My Heart is #1
2014 Top Ten — Sharon Van Etten’s Are We There is #1
2013 Top Ten — M.I.A.’s Matangi is #1
2012 Top Ten — Dirty Ghosts’ Metal Moon is #1
2011 Top Ten — Timber Timbre’s Creep On Creepin’ On is #1
2010 Top Ten — The Black Angels’ Phosphene Dream is #1
2009 Top Ten — Gallows’ Grey Britain is #1
2008 Top Ten — Portishead’s Third is #1
2007 Top Ten — Joel Plaskett Emergency’s Ashtray Rock is #1
2006 Top Ten — My Brightest Diamond’s Bring Me The Workhorse is #1
2005 Top Ten — Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s Howl is #1
2004 Top Ten — Morrissey’s You Are The Quarry is #1
2003 Top Ten — The Dears’ No Cities Left is #1
2002 Top Ten — Archive’s You All Look The Same To Me is #1
2001 Top Ten — Gord Downie’s Coke Machine Glow is #1
2000 Top Ten — Songs: Ohia’s The Lioness is #1
1999 Top Ten — The Boo Radleys’ Kingsize is #1
1998 Top Ten — Baxter’s Baxter is #1
1996 Top Ten — Tricky’s Maxinquaye is #1

4 Comments

Filed under Music, Recollections

Polaris People For The Week Of Nov. 16 (Black Mountain! Chad VanGaalen! The Weeknd!)

Chad VanGaalen

Chad VanGaalen

The latest edition of my Polaris People column is online over at the Polaris Music Prize website.

Black Mountain are going to be part of an insane-o good sounding Austin Psych Fest, Chad VanGaalen has produced a weird cartoon, and The Weeknd may have done his first media interview. May have.

To read it, go here.

Leave a comment

Filed under Music, Shameless Promotion

Polaris People For The Week Of June 8 (Destroyer! Black Mountain! Hey Rosetta!!)

Hey Rosetta!

Hey Rosetta!

The latest edition of the Polaris Music Prize weekly news roundup is now online.

Dan Bejar of Destroyer and New Pornographers is speaking, Black Mountain are licking toads and Hey Rosetta! are getting with the government

Go read the story over at Polaris Music Prize by clicking here.

Leave a comment

Filed under Music, Shameless Promotion