Best Of 2010: J Howell

Published on December 26th, 2010 in: Music |

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2010 shaped up to be a pretty damned good year for music. In no particular order, my favorite (non-local, at least) records this year were:

Johnny Dowd, Wake Up The Snakes
Jim Campilongo, Orange
The Fall, Your Future, Our Clutter
Howe Gelb, ‘Sno Angel Live
Los Lobos, Tin Can Trust
Neil Young, Dreamin’ Man Live ’92
Peggy Sue, Fossils and Other Phantoms
Chris Schlarb, Psychic Temple
Stephan Crump, Reclamation
Shiny Around The Edges, Denton’s Dreaming

Most of these I reviewed right here at Popshifter or over at Ink Kansas City.

My apologies to Shiny Around The Edges: I’d intended to review their brilliant new record, but thanks to a string of accidents I may recount somewhere later in novel form, it fell through the review-schedule cracks and I dropped the ball on it. I will say here and now, for the record, Denton’s Dreaming was easily one of my favorite records this year, drier and harsher in many ways than their previous Holy Roller, but also more beautiful in places, and you should check it out because it’s great.

I also really enjoyed Victoire‘s Cathedral City but somehow failed to write about it, though it too was well worth checking out.

As usual, I caught up on some older records that had slipped through last year’s cracks for me, especially Califone‘s All My Friends Are Funeral Singers, which saw considerable time as an iPod fixture in 2010, and I’m looking forward to finally seeing the film of the same name.

Though I’d been a fan since 1993, I somehow had missed His Name Is Alive‘s Stars On ESP until now, and like most HNIA records, it quickly lodged itself deep in my head and won’t likely budge soon. After finally listening to Stars On ESP, I discovered that I’d somehow missed that Warn Defever and crew released The Eclipse earlier this year. While I haven’t heard it in its entirety yet, His Name Is Alive offer two tracks free at their website, “Dreem Rememberer” and “Vanilia”, and fans of HNIA will dig both. Lovely as always.

Oddly enough, the two records that, more than any other, remained in heavy rotation for me all year, somehow never being entirely cut from my daily playlist, were Nick Cave and The Bad SeedsAbbatoir Blues and Dig, Lazarus, Dig!! I have no reasonable explanation, other than they’re two great records, and I’ve finally warmed up to—and have even begun to prefer—recent issue Bad Seeds. There may be some kind of wah pedal correlation: Johnny Dowd’s new record, the new His Name Is Alive, and Lazarus all prominently feature the effect, and for whatever reason I can’t get enough of it. Similarly, I couldn’t get enough Lou Reed and Velvet Underground this year. No real reason, other than, well, it’s Lou Reed and the Velvets.

Locally, 2010 was a spectacular year for music in Kansas City. Hidden Pictures released two gorgeous EPs that are as good as anything I heard this year. Hammerlord‘s Wolves At War’s End single-handedly rekindled my interest in metal, and in many ways may actually be my favorite record of the year. Miles Bonny released some great stuff this year, especially Doin Our Thang with Reggie B. The Late Night Callers‘ debut is amazing; fans of noir sexiness should look into them without delay. Their record was, in my humble opinion, better than this year’s Black Heart Procession offering, and fans of San Diego’s finest will find an awful lot to love in the Callers.

Mat Shoare, John Velghe, Mikal Shapiro, The Grisly Hand . . . there was a bumper crop of great local releases in and around Kansas City and Lawrence, Kansas this year, though sadly, much of it may not get much attention outside of our fair city. So hey! Dear readers far and wide, check this stuff out, because it’s great.

Fans of music dorkery and quality journalism should check out Joe Gore’s music and music-dorkery blog. Joe’s long been my favorite music journalist, going back to his days at Guitar Player magazine, back in the ’90s when it was at its best. Joe is also a phenomenal guitarist himself, has played with Tom Waits, PJ Harvey (whose new record I’m anxiously awaiting), Eels, Oranj Symphonette, and about a billion other great artists. Joe Gore is also a novelist and curator of Clubbo records, a story far too convoluted, amazing, and often funny, for me to recount here. Long story short: Joe Gore is a great writer and brilliant musician, and his blog is pretty great.

Speaking of music dorkery, back in the day, my dear friend and fellow musician Amy Farrand made me a cassette tape around the time we first started playing together. One side was probably the greatest mix of Captain Beefheart songs ever assembled—along with a choice sampling of Birthday Party and Bad Seeds tracks—and wrapped up with some songs from Dance Hall At Louse Point by PJ Harvey and John Parish.

Around the same time, I was working in a vintage hi-fi and guitar shop, and someone brought in a beautiful, mint copy of the original pressing of Trout Mask Replica that Scott, our repair tech, played incessantly for a week or two, until we just kind of finally had to listen to something else. I hadn’t seriously considered how changing that tape and hearing that record at that precise moment in time had been for me until Don Van Vliet passed last week.

Rest in peace Captain, and thanks again Amy and Scott for turning me onto Beefheart.

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