Wednesday, May 31, 2017

May Playlist

  • SlowdiveSlowdive (2017)
  • Jane WeaverKosmology (2017)
  • Forest SwordsCompassion (2017)
  • Bent KneeLand Animal (2017)
  • Marika Hackmanl'm not Your Man (2017)
  • Steve Hogarth and RanestraneRomans, Friends (2017)
  • Kurt VileBelieve I'm Goin' Down (2016)
  • Gregg AllmanLow Country Blues (2011)
  • Ryan AdamsLove is Hell (2004)
  • SoundgardenA-Sides (1997)
  • Tears for FearsElemental (1993)
  • Allman Brothers BandLegendary Hits (1994), Back Where It Begins (1994), 1st Set (1991)
  • Stevie Ray VaughanThe Sky is Crying (1991)
  • XTC—Black Sea (1980)
  • Alice Coltrane—Ptah the El Daoud (1970) 

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

I'm honored to have written 12,000 word sleeve notes for the box set edition of Steven Wilson's new album, To the Bone, which will be released on August 18 on Caroline/Universal.

It's hard to imagine anyone will release a better record in 2017. The 11 track album boasts Steven's strongest melodies to date. It's a thoroughly modern, song-based album that showcases Steven's songcraft and striking production, The album features his most thrilling guitar-playing and most emotive singing, too. Steven describes it this way in the press release:
My fifth record is in many ways inspired by the hugely ambitious progressive pop records that I loved in my youth (think Peter Gabriel’s So, Kate Bush’s Hounds of Love, Talk Talk’s Colour of Spring and Tears for Fears’ Seeds of Love). Lyrically, the album’s eleven tracks veer from the paranoid chaos of the current era in which truth can apparently be a flexible notion, observations of the everyday lives of refugees, terrorists and religious fundamentalists, and a welcome shot of some of the most joyous wide-eyed escapism I’ve created in my career so far. Something for all the family!
Take a listen to the first single, "Pariah," featuring Ninet Tayeb, in the video below.

Full details on the box set contents (plus a few preview photos) can be found here. The deluxe edition box set is expensive, but it's a high-quality 120 page hardcover book with incredible photography by Lasse Hoile and a lovely design by Rob Carmichael at Seen Studio. In addition to my extensive chronicle of the making of the album, informed by multiple interviews with Steven over a period of six months, the deluxe edition also features an exclusive CD of top-notch bonus tracks and demos, a Blu-Ray with 5.1 mix, documentary and videos, and the box set also includes a 7" vinyl of a track unavailable elsewhere. I reckon it's great value for the $.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

April Playlist

  • FeistPleasure (2017)
  • Steven WilsonUnreleased Electronic Music (2017 reissue)
  • Sheryl Crow—Be Myself (2017)
  • GasNarkopop (2017)
  • Bent KneeLand Animal (2017)
  • Marika Hackmanl'm not Your Man (2017)
  • Steve Hogarth and Isuldur's BaneColours Not Found in Nature (2017)
  • Marillion—Marbles in the Park (2017)
  • The Slow RevoltSketches (2016)
  • Depeche Mode—Singles '81-'85 (1998)
  • SadeLove Deluxe (1993)
  • XTCThe Big Express (1984)
  • Roger Waters—The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking (1984)
  • David BowieDavid Live (1974)
  • The Beatles—White album (1968)

Friday, April 21, 2017

Meet America’s top black Christian anarcho-capitalist rap-metal artist

Meet Backwordz, a band that bills itself as "the liberarian Rage Against the Machine." Their debut album, Veracity, is racing up the chartz,  I interviewed Eric July, the frontman of the Dallas five-piece band, for the new issue of Reason magazine.

The band's grindcore guitars and spitball rapping isn't the heaviest aspect of Backwordz. It's the message. The single "Statism" declares that taxation as theft and questions the government's monopoly on violence and its role in so many other areas of life.

The larynx-shredding anthem “Utopias Don’t Exist” challenges the Black Lives Matter narrative that police violence against African-Americans is primarily motivated by racism. And when was the last time you heard a song called “Democracy Sucks”?

When he isn’t recording or touring, Backwordz frontman July, 27, pens articles at Libertarian Republic and works as a multimedia producer for the website Being Libertarian. But long before he started wearing a hoodie with a picture of Ron Paul on it, he was once a staunch supporter of Barack Obama and a member of an inner-city gang.

“People think of libertarianism as old, white people like the Koch brothers,” the MC told me. “It’s cool to be able to get out there and talk to people because I come from a different avenue and what led me to libertarianism.”

It was a pleasure to talk to a fellow libertarian about his intellectual journey and why Backwordz is on a mission to share ideas on liberty with its listeners. A condensed version of the interview appears in the pages of the new issue of Reasonbut you can read the full interview here on its website. (While you are on the website, poke around the libertarian magazine's blog, Hit & Run, which is an indispensable daily read for its insights into subjects in the news and other newsworthy subjects you haven't seen in the news.)

Here's a couple of the band's music videos. Not the faint of ear...

Friday, March 31, 2017

March playlist

  • Julia HolterIn the same Room (2017)
  • GoldfrappSilver Eye (2017)
  • Depeche Mode—Spirit (2017)
  • Alison KraussWindy City (2017)
  • David BowieNo Plan EP (2017)
  • Ryan AdamsPrisoner (2017)
  • Laura MarlingSemper Femina (2017)
  • Markus Reuter—Falling From Ascension (2017)
  • Lonely RobotThe Big Dream (2017)
  • Amy MacdonaldUnder the Stars (2017)
  • CentrozoonTrust the Way You Are (2004)
  • Sufjan StevensCome on Feel the Illinoise (2005)
  • XTCThe Big Express (1984)
  • Roger WatersThe Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking (1984)

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

February playlist

  • Steve Hackett—Night Siren (2017)
  • Richard BarbieriPlanets + Persona (2017)
  • Jesca HoopMemories are Now (2017)
  • BlackfieldBlackfield V (2017)
  • Otis Taylor—Fantasizing About Being Black (2017)
  • Big WreckGrace Street (2017)
  • Paul DraperEP 2 (2017)
  • Elbow—Little Fictions (2017)
  • BackwordzVeracity (2017)
  • NinetPaper Parachutes (2017)
  • Tim BownessLost in the Ghost Light (2017)
  • Anderson.PaakMalibu (2016)
  • Three Trapped TigersSilent Earthling (2016)
  • Prince4Ever (2016)
  • PlankHivemind (2016)
  • SandA Sleeper, Just Awake (2016)
  • Los LobosGates of Gold (2015)
  • Sufjan StevensIlinoise (2005)

    Now on newsstands

    The new issue of Tight but Loose, the Led Zeppelin magazine, includes a piece I wrote about Robert Plant's recent concert in Boston on the Lampedusa tour. Plant joined Americana luminaries Emmylou Harris, Steve Earle, Buddy Miller and the Milk Carton Kids for a series of dates across the US to raise money to help refugees. The format a departure for the singer. The performers sat in a semi circle of chairs on stage with acoustic and electric guitars, mandolins and banjos. They each took turns singing lead, duets and adding harmonies to Americana classics. A fun and memorable evening.

    Subscribe to Tight but Loose here.

    Wednesday, November 30, 2016

    November Playlist

    • Kate Bush—Before the Dawn (2016)
    • Jesca HoopMemories are Now (2017)
    • David CrosbyLighthouse (2016)
    • The Rolling StonesBlue and Lonesome (2016)
    • Delbert McClinton + Self-Made MenPrick of the Litter (2017)
    • Sting—57th and 9th (2016)
    • Brian EnoThe Ship (2016); Ambient 2: The Plateau of Mirror (1975)
    • Sufjan StevensCarrie and Lowell (2015) 
    • Phil ManzaneraThe Sound of Blue (2015) 
    • Julia HolterEkstasis (2012)
    • Jimmie VaughanEssential (2003)

    My Sleeve Notes for a New Box Set

    What's the "X Factor" that distinguishes the most talented artists from the millions of wannabe aspiring musicians?

    Partly, I suppose, it's a gift of innate ability. But that's not enough to make it. It takes work, perseverance and a singular vision. When I interviewed Steven Wilson about his earliest creative endeavors for the new vinyl box set, The Delerium Years: 1991-1993, I was struck by his indomitable drive and passion. Steven told me he knew it was his destiny to be a professional musician. For every obstacle—and there were many—he just worked harder. 

    My 7500 word sleeve notes, which appear as a "perfect bound" book within the 9 disc vinyl box set, offer a rare peek into Steven's childhood and early career. (I also wrote the sleeve notes for the previous Porcupine Tree vinyl box set, The Delerium Years: 1994-1997, released earlier this year.)

    Porcupine Tree - The Delerium Years 1991 - 1993 traces the explosive start of Steven Wilson's career in Porcupine Tree. The band started out as little more than a joke. During his teenage years in the 1980s, Wilson mucked about with primitive recording gear in his bedroom and dreamed up an imaginary band with an absurd name and an outlandish backstory. As a lark, the teenager began writing songs for his fake group. The punchline? Wilson's joke band was seriously good. Delerium Records, a record label for underground music, released Porcupine Tree's fresh take on psychedelic and progressive music to great success. 

    The latest box set includes the first two Porcupine Tree studio albums, On the Sunday of Life... and Up the Downstair, as well as the Staircase Infinities mini album, the stand-alone EP Voyage 34: The Complete Trip, and the archival compilation album Yellow Hedgerow Dreamscape. But these records aren't just the story of how Wilson had the last laugh when his joke band became a reality. These formative releases also trace how Wilson honed his craft and found his voice as an artist. 

    The LPs (pressed on 180g heavyweight vinyl) have been remastered by Steven. (Hedgerow Dreamscape and On the Sunday of Life... feature Steven's remasters for the recent compact disc versions of those albums.) This version of Voyage 34 will revert to the original full length version of "Phase IV" featured on the original vinyl release. 

    The deluxe box includes a 'perfect bound' book featuring rare and unseen archival photographs. The box, book and LP packaging is designed by long-term collaborators Lasse Hoile and Carl Glover. Strictly limited edition. (The previous box set has already sold out.) Released January 27 and available for pre-order at Burning Shed.

    Above all, it's a pleasure to work with Steven himself.