I hope you enjoyed the music of 2006 as much as I did, here are some of my random thoughts on the year that was.
Live at the High Dive: KEXPâ€™s Audioasis started broadcasting live from the High Dive in Fremont the first Saturday of each month, all proceeds benefiting a specific Northwest charity. Debuting on March 4th, we got to know the staff at the High Dive â€“ geez, what a sweet bunch of rock-lovinâ€™ folks! â€“ and my first chance to see Terrene (Fifty One – MP3) and The Invisible Eyes. Both bands were superfun, but Iâ€™ll never forget the Peter Sellers-look-alike playing tambourine with The Invisible Eyes â€“ glorious! Friends, thereâ€™s a career for YOU in tambourine!
Local Hip Hop: Not new to â€™06, but continuing an exciting trend, our areaâ€™s hip hop artists continue to produce some of the most intelligent and funky grooves in the genre today. Blue Scholars and Common Market are still at the top of most peopleâ€™s lists, but were joined in â€™06 by fine outings from Macklemore, Abyssinian Creole, Neazie Pleaze, Lightheaded (Blink of an Eye – MP3), Cancer Rising, The Saturday Nights, Smoke of Old Dominion, Brooklyn transplant Anthony Shears and more. I was honored to emcee the Northwest Hip Hop Showcase at the Sky Church at Bumbershoot this year, where the crowds went crazy for our hometown talent. Thereâ€™s plenty for NW hip hop fans to be excited about in 2007!
Local Artist Round-up: My favorite albums from Northwest groups this year is slightly off the beaten path, but I guess my preference is to find great music that flies under the radar. My top 10 list would have to include Mudhoney, Band of Horses, Rocky Votolato, Crystal Skulls, Mark Pickerel, Jon Auer, Fleet Foxes, Viva Voce (We Do Not Fuck Around – MP3), The Lights and The Decemberists. Those bands you should already know. Itâ€™s the Honorable Mentions that really got me excited this year.
The debut CD from Black Bear (Grizzly Bear/Golden Bear… itâ€™s the year of the bears!), The Cinnamon Phase was a pleasant surprise with one of my favorite songs of the year, also called “Black Bear”. Itâ€™s a crazy-cool lo-fi electro pop song honoring the king of the forest and comparing the life of a bear most favorably to the rat race of we poor humans.
Dirty Martini out of Portland released their second album Tea and Revenge and fulfilled the promise of their uneven live debut with a sparkling collection of 3-woman-fronted harmonies and Americana-style songs that get better with repeated listening. I canâ€™t wait to finally see these ladies live, gotta get myself down to Portland more often.
Tallest Building in the World is an ambitious pair of pop rockers who put together a cool concept album about working in a (very) tall office building and slogging away for the man while inciting revolution from within. Some of the songs work best as transitional pieces between other tunes that show great pop songwriting skills, but thatâ€™s how a concept record is supposed to work.
Another band from Portland, The Sort Ofs put out a great album of political rock during a time when we should be getting a lot more political music. The music is as tight as the message (decidedly anti-war) and reminiscent of an old favorite, The Cavedogs.
Heavy metal made a return to my CD player thanks to Vancouver, B.C.â€™s Three Inches of Blood. Their last CD, Advance and Vanquish, came out in 2004 but I just got on the bandwagon this year. Itâ€™s a brilliant blend of classic Judas Priest-era metal with a healthy dose of modern thrash, the two lead singers split screaming and Halford-esque singing with dual guitar leads and titles like “Deadly Sinners” and “Destroy the Orcs” (MP3). Feels a bit tongue-in-cheek, but as a dedicated fan of Spinal Tap, I think a little humor goes a long way in metal. Take my favorite line, “Enemies of Metal, Your death is our reward”… pure genius. I hope the band will stop touring for long enough to release more!
Jazz & Blues: My “day” job at another public radio station in town exposes me to a lot of jazz & blues, notable albums this year included British R&B singer James Hunterâ€™s dynamite album People Gonna Talk. Itâ€™s as if he jumped in a time machine and went back to the mid-60â€™s and came back with this album of vintage soul blues thatâ€™ll make you wanna do the Mash Potato or the Jerk. I keep telling my girlfriend about this CD as if she hasnâ€™t heard it yet, but she told me about it first. Iâ€™m getting older… Other great jazz CDs this year included Seattleâ€™s own Skerik and his Syncopainted Taint Septet, the new CD Husky is a funky blend of jazz, soul & avant guard, like mixing Mingus with George Clinton in a blender full of prescription drugs. Iâ€™m also loving the new CD from Skerikâ€™s partner in Garage A Trois, drummer Stanton Mooreâ€™s third album as a leader, III. The fatback New Orleans beat gets groovealicious support from keyboard whiz Robert Walter and guitarist Will Bernard. Pick up this one and the new Medeski, Scofield, Martin & Wood CD and groove the night away.
Gone but Not Forgotten: If you donâ€™t have records by these folks, you should: Ruth Brown, Freddy Fender, Syd Barrett, Don Walser, Billy Preston, Wilson Pickett, Tom Dundee, Rufus Harley, Gene Pitney, Jackie McLean, Anita Oâ€™Day & Ali Farka Toure.
Thereâ€™s more great music out there, not nearly enough time for me to listen to it all, but just one great album can make a whole year so much better. Go get some. Hereâ€™s to pushing the limits of our ears in 2007!