Tag Archives: Village Voice

Village Voice Pazz & Jop

One of my favorite things every year is contributing my “best of” list to the prestigious Village Voice Pazz & Jop poll, a compilation of the opinions of seven hundred music critics. I consider it an honor as well, and I’m happy that the albums I vote for at least get a little bit more attention. I don’t keep track of favorite songs closely enough to always do the singles; last year I figured that Ce Lo Green’s “Fuck You” was so dominant that any of my other nominations would concede defeat, so that’s exactly what I wrote down when I submitted my ballot. And the song, as expected, took the top prize.

What did surprise me was how much of my ballot placed me on a deserted island. While I thought these artists released incredible efforts, in most cases I was the sole person to nominate them. I’m well aware that my preference for powerpop, glam, rock and blues doesn’t endear me to a world of rap, shoegazing indie pop and ludicrous Autotune warriors. But where are my brothers and sisters who celebrate this music, despite its low profile?

Each year a brilliant data analyst named Glenn McDonald produces some amazing metrics regarding voter centricity – whose ballots were the most consistent with the results, and whose were in the stratosphere. According to the 2010 report, I’ll need an oxygen mask and a very long cord.

 Here is my top ten, in order, along with the number of votes each album received in the poll. If that number is one, that means I am the only Pazz&Jop critic who voted for it.

Len Price 3 – Pictures (one)

Christine Ohlman and Rebel Montez – The Deep End (one)

The Jim Jones Revue – Burning Your House Down (two)

The 88 – The 88 (two)

The Grip Weeds – Strange Change Machine (two)

The Mother Truckers – Van Tour (one)

The Sights – Most of What Follows Is True (four)

Edward O’Connell – Our Little Secret (one)

The Greenhornes – Four Stars (one)

Farrah – Farrah (one)

Now some of these I can understand. Farrah is all but unknown in the USA; O’Connell is a DC musician making a debut album that’s self-promoted and self-distributed. But Ohlman and The Greenhornes have history and a strong legacy; Len Price 3  and The Grip Weeds were getting a massive push from Little Steven and The 88 are well-known from their film and TV work.

WTF, people?

Click here for a trove of comments and essays along with the final results.

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T.G.I.F. – Ten More 2010 Comedy Albums

Yeah, I know it’s the end of January.

I’ve been compiling Top 10 album lists (and beyond) for music for over twenty-five years. It started as a conversation piece among a few friends (and as frightening as that sounds, that group continues to swap lists annually) and eventually worked its way into magazines I write for. I’m proud to have been part of the Village Voice Pazz’n’Jop poll for the last decade, even as my nominees seem to distance themselves from the vox populi a little more every year (tomorrow’s entry will delve a bit deeper into that).

But I have always been a comedy fan and a fan of comedy albums. Many friends wonder how I can listen to a routine more than once and find it funny. I’m not sure I can explain why except to say that (1) not every comedy album is worth multiple listenings and (2) I don’t even want to analyze and define the formula that will make me gasp for air in fits of laughter. I just know that funny is funny.

So this week after much hand-wringing and ear-wrangling, I laid out the Ten Best Comedy Albums of 2010. And trust me, 2010 was a great year for comedy albums – there are many more beyond this. And 2011 is already off to a great start with Brian Regan, Louis CK, Jim Norton and Nick Griffin having new releases on the shelf, with a ton more on the schedule.

So for now, allow me to bring your attention to Ten More 2010 Comedy Albums to should check out. Alphabetically arranged, but jump in anywhere…

01) Will Durst, Raging Moderate (Stand Up! Records) – One of the best political comics of our generation; I wish he had a bigger pulpit to preach from.

02) Chris Fairbanks, Fairbanks! (Rooftop Comedy) – You know that friend who will say anything to make you laugh? The sillier it gets, the further he’ll go?

03) Janeane Garofalo, If You Will (Image Entertainment) – Few people are as adept at stripping themselves bare, warts and all, no apologies.

04) Tommy Johnagin, Stand Up Comedy (Rooftop Comedy) – Just missed my Top Ten, a little short and crashes at the end. But the first 30 minutes is gold.

05) Jackie Kashian, It’s Never Going To Be Bread (Stand Up! Records) – Next time someone says there are no good female comics, slap them and give them this album.

06) Simon King, Unfamous Comedian (Uproar Entertainment) – Almost an hour-long of non-stop tangents, and when you open with “llama fisting”…

07) Shane Mauss, Jokes To Make My Parents Proud (Comedy Central Records) – Imagine Kenneth from 30 Rock…only he’s high, sarcastic and condescending.

08) Tom Simmons, Keep Up (Rooftop Comedy) – Another Top Ten near-miss, mixes puns and one-liners with strong political and social commentary.

09) Dan Telfer, Fossil Record (A Special Thing Records) – I know, when someone said “dinosaur jokes”, I rolled my eyes too. Trust me.

10) Reggie Watts, Why Shit So Crazy? (Comedy Central Records) – By comparison, I’m not a big fan of comedy musicians, but this guy is a genius.

Starting Sunday, the countdown of the Ten Best Comedy DVDs of 2010.

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T.G.I.F. – Top Ten Albums of 2009

Someone always disagrees

As you may or may not know, scrambling to assemble a Top Ten list of the year for anything is a pain in the ass, since many times eligible films and albums don’t come out until December. For that reason (let’s put procrastination aside for a moment) my deadline has always been Super Bowl Sunday, which use to be sometime in January. This year the Gods of Sport have decided to move the game back into February, probably to pretend its part of the Winter Olympics. And with all the wonderful decisions they have been making, who are we to question the brilliance of network television executives? 

But each year the deadline for the Village Voice gets earlier. So while I am still filtering through decisions on the lower end of the top forty, the Top Ten is cut in stone. (The full list will be available after the Super Bowl.)

I’ve already posted reviews for some of these albums, others will be forthcoming (some are not yet published in the respective magazines they were submitted to). So without further ado, I hereby announce my choices for the Top Ten Albums of 2009: 

  

One : Love and Curses (The Reigning Sound) 

Two: Lions in the Street (Lions in the Street) 

Three: National Champions (Olympic Ass Kicking Team) 

Four: 1372 Overton Park (Lucero) 

Five: Learning Love (Bobby Emmett) 

Six: More Like Me (Webb Wilder) 

Seven: Tinted Windows (Tinted Windows) 

Eight: Little White Lies (Fastball) 

Nine: Spills and Thrills (John Paul Keith and the One Four Fives) 

Ten: House To House (Tripwires) 

 

Link to my Village Voice Pazz & Jop ballot

My centricity rating, or how far off center my choices are. (Very

*** 

R.I.P. – the Greta Garbo of authors, J.D.Salinger 

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Under The Radar: Franklin Bruno

Looks like we got us a reader...

 

Lo-fi. Indie. Minimalist. Sparse. DIY. 

No, no, no.you’re thinking Elephant 6 or Lou Barlow or Elliot Smith. Let me try again. 

Pensive. Ironic. Wry. Subtle. Original. 

Ahh, now we have it. Franklin Bruno is a witty writer whose stripped down songs toss the focus onto his sterling wordplay where it belongs. You will have to sail some obtuse melodies and offbeat vocals on occasion, but it’s a journey worth taking.** 

As you know, I sometimes hit the music library and pull out a title that’s either a great old memory, a lesser-known artist, or sometimes both. And then I write a new essay and perhaps link to an old one and suggest you give a listen. Often times I’m pretty clear about what happened to the artist since then; often they’re pretty well known or perhaps joined a different group that attained success. 

But sometimes I have no idea. Such is the case with Franklin Bruno, who at the time I felt drew small comparisons to witty songwriters like Randy Newman, Martin Mull and Loudon Wainwright III. So after a listen to Kiss Without Makeup I was curious to find out. 

Looks like he continued to release more music on Absolute Kosher. There’s another album that came out not long afterwards and a collection of songs from over the next decade. 

And I guess my Elvis Costello reference in my original review bore some merit. Bruno wrote about Armed Forces for the 33 1/3 (Thirty-Three and a Third) book series. According to these Amazon reviews, it’s much like his music you either like it or you don’t. 

He’s a fellow music scribe, working for the Village Voice and Salon, among others. (Since we underpaid hooligans don’t have union meetings or annual conventions, it’s not always a given that our paths cross.) 

He went on to get his doctorate from UCLA and he is (or was) the visiting Professor of Philosophy at Bard College? Sweet job, although I know he must be freezing hs ass off walking across the quad with that wind whipping off the Hudson. Perhaps someday they will show prospective students some of his work as they tour the campus. (When I made the rounds I was baited with projects by Chevy Chase and Donald Fagen.) 

So Franklin Bruno has continued firmly down the path of arts and academia, which is a good thing. I’ll have to circle back and check out some of the music I missed, and I recommend that you at least give Kiss Without Makeup a try. 

** Continue reading that decade old review at PopMatters

His page at Absolute Kosher.

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Celebretards or Great Music?

It’s that time again. The over-hyped commencement of the biggest train-wreck on television. Yep, like clockwork, millions of people have started fawning over that self-flagellating, uber-participatory mash-up of The Ed Sullivan Show, Ted Mack’s Variety Hour and Jerry SpringerAmerican Idol.

Crying all the way to the bank

Crying all the way to the bank

I won’t bore you with a long dissertation about why I hate reality television (classic oxymoron, yes?) but I just wanted to remind you that this is the one time each year when two completely opposite comets cross paths. (“What’s your vector, Victor?”)

x axis: American Idol is starting to weed through candidates to present us with their Ultimate Cash Cow for 2009.

y axis: I, on the other hand, am sifting through over 150 releases to finalize my “Best of 2008” music list.

Yes, I already locked in my top ten for The Village Voice and submitted a tentative top twenty to my favorite online poll, Audities. But my deadline is, has always been, and always will be Super Bowl Sunday. Saving you the long story, it’s the occasion when I first started sharing lists with my friends and it’s a tradition that continues to this day. So over the next two weeks, I’ll start lifting the veil on my favorite music from 2008, album by album, plus I’ll be peppering in a ton of worthy albums that you need to at least give a listen to. No two people’s lists should coincide exactly, but I’ll bet you find several keepers in the bunch.

So the battle lines are drawn, and now it’s up to you to choose:  good music recommendations or a television filled with celebretards.

I can only take you so far, grasshopper. Take the pebble if you can.

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