Pure Americana: Dylan Covers Sinatra On Letterman

463141354More magical moments in Dave’s final days. Last night the elusive Bob Dylan appeared on the show for the first time in 22 years and played “The Night We Called It A Day” – one of the tracks off his Frank Sinatra album from this year. I’ve read a lot of coverage of the performance today with most people fixated on the fact that he didn’t play a popular song of his, and how he was weird when Dave came up to greet him after the performance. And quite frankly, if you’re writing for a major or pseudo-major music publication and you haven’t yet figured out what Bob Dylan is all about, then it’s time to go back to square one. Anybody who expected Dylan to give some emotional send-off, has no clue who the man is. Personally, I thought it was an entirely appropriate song for the occasion, and I was pretty blown away at how good Bob’s voice sounded. But the real magic part of it was the union of icons. “Real knows real” as they say, and just for Bob to agree to appear is a momentous occasion. Think about it: you have the greatest songwriter in American history, performing a song by one of the greatest singers in American history, on the penultimate show of potentially the greatest broadcaster in American history. Proud time for our country. And let’s not forget to mention that Bill Murray is backstage covered in cake – good night for us Pats. If you’re looking for more emotional Dave farewells, watch the Julia Roberts kiss from last week, or watch Jimmy Kimmel openly weep last night as he instructed all of his viewers to watch Dave’s final show over his own tomorrow. But watch the Dylan performance below, and bask in the glow of our great U.S. glowers.

The Central Scrutinizer and the New Dawn Of Unbridled Censorship

mia-middle-finger-super-bowlDid you watch the Billboard Music Awards Sunday night? Of course not. Who even knew that was happening, let alone burdened themselves to sitting through a celebration of the most corporate bullshit that modern music has to offer? Van Halen did randomly open the show with a killer “Panama,” but only watch it if you’re prepared to see an entire arena’s worth of “music fans” seemingly have no idea what the song or who the band is. So apparently Kanye performed, because we all know he only conforms to the highest degree of artistic integrity with his public appearances. But according to Rolling Stoneover a minute of his five minutes on stage was muted by network censors.

Now sure, the man is known to drop a few swears in his tunes, but to eliminate 20% of his performance is just ludicrous. So let’s think about what would cause the dude on the censor button to go so over the line. Is it because he is personally offended? No. Nor is it because his network higher ups are, nor the authorities, nor even 99.9% of the television viewing audience. The reason whoever the button pusher is went out of control is because he’s been trained to focus on the three asshole women sitting in Kentucky who would flip their lids if they even hear the end of a swear. Even a slight “…ck” and they’d devote their lives to the outrage. The extraneous censorship occurred not because they care about Agatha’ s fear of proximity consonants, they occurred because they are afraid of how Agatha will react. And subsequently, how her reactions will make them look. And since we’ve let political correctness and societal norms of “appropriateness” get so out of control, we’ve now created a new culture of exposure paranoia. This is why Frank Zappa was so adamant about Tipper Gore putting those little parental advisory stickers on cassettes in the early 80’s – not because that act was so horrendous in and of itself, but because it was opening the door to new frontiers of censorship. You didn’t think the role of the central scrutinizer in Joe’s Garage was a joke, did you?

This morning Stereogum pointed out a series of tweets from M.I.A. yesterday regarding her label blocking the release of her new video solely because it’s of an African man dancing. Worried about “cultural appropriation,” they seem to think that honoring the traditions of the Ivory Coast isn’t appropriate for a politically literate artist from Sri Lanka. Is her art even being considered in the equation, or is the fear of over-political correctness trumping anything that has to do with her music? Here’s the one thing that no bigwig seems to understand about censorship – there is something ingrained in human beings that draws us towards the things we are denied. So like right now – I am way more interested in seeing this M.I.A. video now than I would have been if it had just been casually released this morning. Same with kids watching Kanye on Sunday – they’ve essentially told those kids that there are huge passages that they don’t want them to be exposed to. Do you think the majority of those kids are going to accept their imposed ignorance? Heck no – they’re going to watch a Kanye video on Youtube and pay even more attention to the words than they ever did before. And you know what, Kanye is a sly fella, and I’m sure he knew that playing a song that would demand multiple censors would garner him more attention than something without. But the most adverse effect of all of this, is that for most of us who use profanity, it’s not the focus of our language. Sure, you’re thinking that’s an easy thing to say coming from someone who’s very own music site has the word “shit” in it. But part of the reason I named this site what it is, is to point out that in art and in critique of art, putting any limitations on how we present ourselves extinguishes a margin of the soul from our creations. I’m not trying to tell kids they should be dropping shit bombs like it’s their God-granted duty, I’m just trying to point out that they shouldn’t be so concerned with them. And personally, I’m way more offended by excessive uses of “hella” and “on fleek” than I am of a teenager saying “fuck.”

So let’s do our best as proud citizens of planet Earth to eliminate the fear of offense. You should be considerate of your fellow humans and their decisions to expose themselves to what they want to in life, but you shouldn’t have to be afraid of their backlash.

Tom Waits Plays New Farewell Song For Dave On Letterman

tom_waits_letterman_732_555Yesterday – Thursday, May 14, 2015 – was a phenomenal day in the world of music. First off we lost the legendary BB King. The man was 90 years old so it’s not the most depressing thing to happen, but still another marking point to the end of an era. Live At Cook County Jail was one of the first CDs I ever owned, so the sound of Lucille has been a steady thing in my life for nearly all of it. We all wish him a fond farewell into the next realm. In other farewell moments, the Dear Jerry concert took place at Merriweather Post Pavilion, which was either a massive success or a close swing-and-a-miss depending on who you talked to. Having a wide array of artists join together to play Jerry Garcia’s music sounds fantastic, but realizing that they have to switch the band over before each song, and it’s on a Thursday night with a strict curfew at one of the most police-patrolled venues in the country…meh. Continuing the trend of amazing musical send-offs from yesterday, The Edge fell off stage during U2’s gig in Vancouver. He’s fine, so it’s all right to laugh at it.

But on a day of incredible farewells, there was none more amazing than what happened on The Late Show With David Letterman last night. With only four episodes to go before he retires, Dave’s been having some ridiculous line-ups each night, and Thursday was no exception. Al Pacino came out for the Top 10 list, and George Clooney handcuffed himself to Dave for the majority of the show. Then Tom Waits came out for a hilarious interview, and capped it off by playing a brand new song he wrote for Dave. Quite simply, it was literally breathtaking – I watched it with watery eyes and my hands pressed against my face like a three-year-old seeing Big Bird for the first time. And the thing is, I am admittedly not that big of a Tom Waits fan. I have mountains of respect for the man, but I don’t spin his records all too frequently. But that being said, when the guy nails it, he fucking nails it. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that the tune, “Take One Last Look,” is a farewell song for someone we still have. So it’s more about moving on than it is about saying goodbye, and there’s a bittersweet joy to that which very few people have been able to capture in song before. Check it out below, and if you’re not enraptured by the opening line of “let’s watch the sun come up in another town,” then you’re a soulless bastard.

The One Track The Fresh Prince Hopes Everybody Forgot About By Now

He's_the_DJEver since Will Smith first hit the scene, he’s been right up there with Reese Witherspoon in top contention for America’s sweetheart. Remember in the late 90’s when he famously proclaimed that he didn’t need to cuss on his albums to sell records? Ahh, how sweet. Seriously though, who actually uses the word “cuss?” Anyway – I’m not sure if anybody has actually ever needed to swear in order to sell albums, but it is true that Big Willie was able to be successful without swearing. But quite frankly, he’s done a lot worse than swear on his records. I’m going to skip right over his ill-fated tango with gangster-rap, and the subsequent women-beating lyrics that doted the horrible track, “You Saw My Blinker.” Instead I’m going to take it back to my old-school jams: 1988’s He’s The DJ, I’m The Rapper. 

The cassette was actually the first album I ever bought with my own money, and it seemed so family friendly at the time. My mother was far more concerned about the image on the inside of my Appetite For Destruction tape than of any potential horrors that the Fresh Prince could introduce me to. “Parents Just Don’t Understand?” C’mon – I rapped it at my 3rd grade variety show. But then there was that cut that opened up side two: “Live At Union Square (November 1986).” While it may have been my first introduction to the powers of a live DJ scratching, it was also my first introduction to rampant homophobia. Let’s all take a second to review this wonderful passage of crowd-hyping:

I want everybody out there that’s ugly
All the ugly people be quiet
All the filthy, stinky, nasty people be quiet
All the homeboys that got aids be quiet
All the girls out there that don’t like guys, be quiet
Hold on, wait a minute
All the girls that don’t like guys be quiet

Yeah, you read that correctly – “all the homeboys that got aids be quiet.” Now sure, this was early enough on in the aids epidemic that the disease was fairly misunderstood by the general population, but still… Not only is he calling out lesbians, he’s calling out guys dying of a terrible, debilitating disease. I’m surprised by two things – one is that he hasn’t had this track removed from digital forms of the album, and two is that he’s never publicly apologized for it. I guess we’re just all trying to sweep it under the rug. It’s kind of like how we don’t talk about John Lennon beating his first wife. Or maybe it’s still there to remind us of how far we’ve come in 30 years. Not only does it show us that even the most righteous warrior has a history of disgust, but it serves as a testament to the levels of understanding and acceptance that we’ve all achieved as a society in the past few decades. Either way, I remember being shocked by it when I was 8 years old – enough so that the audio quote still pops into my head every so often. So maybe chalk me up to being part of the first generation of kids that were ingrained with an instinctual knack for social tolerance. “Live At Union Square” is a key footnote in the history of America’s social development and it deserves to be remembered for what it is and from whence it came. Check out the extended version below for no other reason than to hear DJ Jazzy Jeff crush it on the ones and twos. Cut to 2:20 for the hype rant.

More Hypocritical Firing – Dickey Betts From The Allman Brothers or Vulvatron From Gwar?

zzzzzzzzzzzzvuIt was announced this morning that Gwar is firing their new lead singer, Vulvatron. Sporting enormous fake breasts that shotgunned blood out of the nipples, the front-woman was brought into the mix last year after founding member Oderus Urungus died of a heroin overdose. Now while the band’s official statement claims there is no ill will and that the actual human portraying Vulvatron “just isn’t what [they] needed in the character,” the real story seems to be that she got fired for drinking too much. Kim Dylla, the woman behind Vulvatron posted a long statement on her facebook account last Friday. To sum up her post, she claims the band told her in January that her character would not be continuing in the Gwar storyline in the near future, but that she may be included in other gigs beyond that. She seemed fine with that, until finding out last week via the internet that the band would still be using the Vulvatorn character – just without Kim portraying her. Obviously upset at the loss of her own creation, Kim has been hearing through different media outlets that the band is citing her drinking as the main reason for her departure. In her own words: “I tried my best and people liked it. I think Brockie would have been proud. Yes, I drink beer. Almost every day. Find me a group of metal musicians who think that is weird. No, I don’t perform incapacitated and never have. Yes, I can handle my shit. No, I don’t do drugs. Yes, I broke my rib and kept singing through the rest of the set and the crowd never noticed. No, I didn’t break it because I was drunk, I broke it because I elbow dropped the wrong part of the Mr. Perfect costume trying to put on a good show.”

Gwar has a long history of debauchery, and to fire the new girl behind her back primarily because you think she has one too many pre-show beers is not only hypocritical, it’s cowardly. If they had said something along the lines of “our founding member just died of heroin so we’re trying to keep things as clean as possible around here,” that’d be one thing. But by all accounts, sobriety is still an uncommon thing on the Gwar scene, and they just fired the poor woman out of shameless disdain. And the fact that they’re still using the character she created without letting her know, just adds another smack to the face. Now if you’re like me, this sounds like the cartoonish metal version of the scenario that happened with Dickey Betts and The Allman Brothers in 2000.

I wrote in the Fall about how rare of a situation it is for a band to fire a member but keep all of their inter-band creations front and center. And in terms of ABB, it’s a scenario much akin to this Vulvatron one. Inter-band tensions had been a regular part of the ABB scene for decades, and in 2000 they told the press that Betts had taken too much control of the band. In my mind, claiming that the surviving lead guitarist of the band had too great of a role is an odd thing to say, and thus it made much more sense when the behind-the-scenes word came out that they parted ways because his drinking was out of control. But much like this Gwar case, how much is too much? And depending on whose story you want to believe, too much could be very little at all. But in Betts’ case, his firing came five years after Greg Allman finally achieved sobriety, so in Greg’s eyes any amount of drinking was probably too much drinking. But sending your founding member on his way solely because he’s been doing things the exact same way he’s been doing them for the first 30 years of your band’s existence is a bitch move. I give a lot of respect to Jimmy Herring in this scenario as he joined the band in 2000, but then quit because he felt too guilty about taking Dickey’s spot.

So Vulvatron or Betts – whose firing is more of a hypocritical move? It’s really tough to say without having all the specific details in each case – which we will never have because each story varies greatly depending on who is telling it. But I’m gonna stick to my guns here and say Betts’s departure is the more hypocritical one, while Vulvatron’s is the more cowardly – and in my mind they’re both dick moves by each band.

Photo credit: Swimfinfan

13th Floor Elevators Play First Gig in 47 Years

zzzz13With all the hype surrounding the Grateful Dead’s 50th reunion, most of us neo-hippies have neglected to realize that every other great 60’s band is also on the dawn of their 50th anniversaries. Seriously, get prepared for at least five years worth of “this is what happens when you eat too much acid a half-century ago” jokes to come from every grandfather who thinks they’re hip and hilarious. But of all the great bands who are due to celebrate still being alive, the most surprising reunion came this weekend from the The 13th Floor Elevators. Frontman Roky Erickson has remained relatively active over the years, and we talked last year about how jugman Tommy Hall is living out of dingy motels in the Haight district. But if you were to ask me the state of the other band members, let alone their names, I would have been admittedly clueless. Well, it turns drummer John Ike Walton and bassist Ronnie Leatherman are still kicking, and apparently the whole crew are still in cordial relationships with one another, so what better place to get back together than in their home state of Texas at the Austin Psych Fest - which actually is now called Levitation.

I’ve been scrolling through the fan-videos this morning, and the band is surprisingly tight. Well, I use “tight” in the loosest form of the world – it’s not like The Elevators were ever the definition of precision. But they’re nailing the songs as well as they ever did. And the most shocking thing of all is is that Tommy Hall is still phenomenally apt at playing the jug. I doubt the man has kept his daily jug scales up to snub over the years, and even if he has kept his puckered puffs in stable form, he definitely hasn’t played an hour long set of the shit since 1969. So give it up to the man for pulling a straight up Rip Van Winkle and coming out on top. Seriously, the guy has about a four-foot long beard these days – which makes his juggin’ ever more impressive. Check out the encore of the classic “You’re Gonna Miss Me” below. (Track starts at 2:40)

The Four Donovan Songs Everyone Needs In Their Lives

zzzzdonoDepending on the decade, admitting you’re a fan of Donovan could elicit a wide swath of reactions – anything from scoff to ironic embrace. He was never quite the hippest cat in the game, and there’s no doubt that he was going for an intentional Dylan-cloning at different points in his career. But to cast off the man’s entire catalog is a mistake for any lover of well-crafted song. He’s one of those guys that I feel has at least one cut that everybody can dig. I personally have been on a big D kick as of lately, partially because I thrive off the jaded looks I get from passerbys when they hear me cranking “There Is A Mountain” at full volume out of my Subaru. As I’ve been cycling through his records though, I feel like there’s four songs that are essential patches in the fabric of rock’s history. And I’m not including “Mountain” because I feel like The Allman Brothers did more with that melody for the benefit of human-kind than he did. I’m also excluding “Season Of The Witch” because after decades of comparable hindsight, I feel like the song holds up better as a passing novelty than as a cornerstone of the definitive rock canon. And yes, I am considering its power in the Stephen Stills Super Session record as well as its frequency in Max Creek setlists. Same goes for “Mellow Yellow” – fun tune to sing along with your kids, but not something you need to have in regular rotation. Side note: did you know that John Paul Jones wrote the arrangement for that tune and that Paul McCartney (possibly) sang backing vocals on it? Those wild Brits of the 60’s – crossing over genres like chewing bubblegum.

4) Sunshine Superman - Featuring not only JPJ on bass, but Jimmy Page on lead guitar, this tune is the the pulsing embodiment of the technicolor daydream. It makes me want a yo-yo and some windowpane.

3) Hurdy Gurdy Man - One of the spookiest tracks of all time in my opinion, and purportedly had John Bonham on drums. There’s actually a lot of debate over who the actual players on this one are – most likely because nobody was taking great notes 50 years ago, and you know…drugs.

2) Goo Goo Barabajagal - What a groove – welcomingly provided by the Jeff Beck Group featuring Ron Wood on bass and Nicky Hopkins on keys. Donovan has said the title is essentially a reference to the gibberish lyrics of “I Am The Walrus.”

1) Atlantis - One of my favorite tracks ever. Most folks in my generation first heard it when Pesci and De Niro kicked the living crap out of Billy Batts in Goodfellas, and it’s been playing on loop in the inner depths of my mind ever since. Given the right mental state, I could listen to this song on repeat from anywhere between 24 and 48 hours straight.

Movie Review – Kurt Cobain: Montage Of Heck

zzzzzkurtIt would have been a lot better if I didn’t know the ending going in. Seriously though. The most depressing thing about the film and Kurt’s life in general, is how much his death is connected to his legend. If you were to ask a random passerby on the street to name one fact about Kurt Cobain, I feel like at least half of them would say that he killed himself. It’s sadly one of his most defining characteristics in terms of the public eye. As compared to other eternal 27ers, like say Hendrix – sure it’s sad that he choked on his own vomit, but it’s not the first thing that pops to mind when you think of the man. And don’t hear me wrong; Montage of Heck is an amazing film, albeit terrifyingly depressing.

A huge brunt of that terror stems from seeing Kurt making the decision to concede. This isn’t a portrait of a junky obliviously spiraling out of control – this a portrait of a man getting lost in the objective nature of his own existence. He completely loses touch with his own subjective view of himself. And what makes that the saddest is that he knows that he is a bringer of joy, but he chooses to see himself as more of a construct of public opinion. But throughout the film, the common image of the guy is a happy dude – smiling, laughing, enjoying time with his friends and his family. But it’s like he took too much William Burroughs to heart – he got too caught up in the glory of the tragic story. Ugh, it’s so fucking sad. But let’s talk details… (don’t worry, no spoilers.)

The construct of the film wouldn’t work with any other subject. It’s scattered: jumping between home video footage, diary scribblings, cartoon reenactments, news footage, and concert footage – montage is quite apropos. But it’s through all those jumps that we get a clearer image of the man in the center. In fact, it’s a much clearer image than I thought they’d be able to produce. And that image is of a good man. An aware man. A funny man. An intelligent man. We have this picture of him as the definitive slacker, but that’s not true. He knew what business decisions to make. He knew how to love; how to care for a family. He knew how to bond with his band and his fans. And fuck man, those fans.

Some of the crowd shots are just downright enormous. We’re talking arenas where every single person in the room is completely giving themselves over to the moment. From the front rows to the nosebleed balcony seats, it’s one massive array of human explosion. It’s one of those kinds of images that you feel should definitely be included on humanity’s highlight real. And not to mention Nirvana’s decision to frequently have a friend or two dancing on stage. They were smart enough to know that the music and the energy was the star, not the amp-smashing dude with hair in his eyes. And the purity of that notion, especially at the height of their popularity – that could be the saddest thing that is lost.

And again, twenty-one years after his death, it’s too easy to get caught up in the mythology. Kurt succeeded in creating an eternal entity of himself, but in doing so he helped push the human away. And that human voice. He gets a bad rap of not being a good singer, but that rasp has a divine nature to it that can’t be emulated. At one point in the film they play a recently discovered recording of Kurt playing Paul McCartney’s “And I Love Her” and it’s fucking phenomenal. Sure, he puts a darker, dronier feel to it on the guitar (which sounds amazing,) but it’s the pain and sincerity of his voice that makes the tune cut deep into your soul. This was a good dude who made a horrible mistake. And this flick won’t make you blame Courtney Love for helping him come to the decision to end it, but at the same time it makes it clear that she didn’t do much to stop it. She’s caught up in the mythology just as much as he is – in fact, she seems like she’s still caught in it.

I could ramble about existential development all day, and Montage of Heck is as good of a catalyst as there’s ever been to get your mind contemplating your role in the universe. But by the time the credits roll, (thankfully with very little focus played on his death,) you have a firm understanding of this human being – perhaps a clearer image than any other documentary has been able to present of a human before. It’s a stellar piece of work, and manages to inspire in way I wasn’t prepared for. I look forward to enjoying it repeatedly over the course of my own life. And fuck man, can we all agree that “Breed” is one of the greatest set openers any band has ever had?

Top 11 Songs About Masturbation

zzzzcoz…and we’re back. Nothing like a fortnight hiatus to get the old juices charged and flowing again, and speaking of flowing juices… Did you know May is National Masturbation Month? Scratch that – International Masturbation Month? I’m not really sure what it says about you as a person if your response is “Of course I knew that,” but nevertheless, here we are. In real honesty, this post was inspired by the fact that Touchpants, one of the greatest dirty bands of all time is currently recording a new album in Vermont. And since we don’t yet have a studio version of “Black Cum” to add to this list, I thought we’d look at its competition for greatest songs about masturbation.

Now I had some tough criteria for this one. First off, the song itself has to be about the act of masturbation – mere mentions of the act were not enough. That’s why we have intentionally excluded Billy Joel’s “Captain Jack,” Prince’s “Darling Nikki,” and Greenday‘s “Longview.” Further omissions include some song by Tori Amos, because this is my site and I don’t need to have any definitive reason for excluding Tori Amos, and Billy Idol’s “Dancing With Myself,” because as much as that song could definitely be about masturbation, I feel wrong granting Idol any accord for a simplistic song that he probably thinks is quite witty and intelligent. Live with it people. Here’s your Top 11…

11) “She Bop” – Cyndi Lauper
What can I say, the girl likes to friggin’ bop.The biggest props go to the fact that she says she “can’t stop messin’ with the danger zone” two years before Kenny Loggins wrote the Top Gun theme.

10) “Pictures of Lily” – The Who
Yeaaahhhh, so it’s rather difficult to think of this song and not think of Pete Townshend’s legal troubles, but it’s still a rather lovely tune from 1967 about utilizing vintage pin-up art.

9) “Orgasm Addict” – The Buzzcocks
If the band name didn’t terrify your parents enough, then this classic from the punk-gods surely put them over the edge.

8) “Doin’ Time” – Sublime
It’s the summer and your girl is out banging the whole town – what else are you gonna do with your spare time?

7) “The Stroke” – Billy Squier
Sure, some people will argue that this song is actually about “stroking” somebody’s ego, but if you think Mr. Squier had no alternative connotations, then you probably think Bill Cosby is a total class act as well.

6. “Turning Japanese” – The Vapors
Ahh, the early 80’s… Not only could you top the charts with a song about your “Oh Face,” but you could be blatantly racist at the same time.

5) “Blister In The Sun” – Violent Femmes
I don’t care if the band has adamantly denied any masturbation allusions in this song, there’s only one set of big hands that people fall in love with.

4) “Let’s Get It On” – Marvin Gaye
Sure, the majority of the song is about consensual love making between two amicable parties, but nobody has ever written a greater line than when Gaye tells his baby to “stop beating around the bush.”

3) “I Touch Myself” – Divnyls

2) “My Ding-a-Ling” – Chuck Berry
They say this song is filled with double-entendre, but I’ll be damned to find anybody who actually thinks it’s a tune about a bell.

1) “Strokin'” – Clarence Carter
Every time I try to do karaoke, I get bummed out that this song isn’t on the list. Someday I’ll get to stand in front of a crowd and gloriously ask, “Have you ever made love on a couch?” What a gem.


Three New Live Albums You Need In Your Life Immediately

zzzdogThe role of a live album in an artist’s catalog can serve two purposes. The first, and obviously most desirable purpose, is to showcase the distinctive sound that an artist puts forward in a live setting. As live music is one of the greatest powers known to humanity, all true artists should be judged by their real life performances. Shitty acts never stray from their studio sound, and that’s why all of humanity instinctually hates Hootie & The Blowfish. And that’s also why I got bored to death the last time I saw Tom Petty – you could have just played his Greatest Hits album through the p.a. and it would have sounded exactly the same. This is also why nobody outside of hardcore Petty-heads knows that he put out several live albums in the past few years – they’re essentially re-packaged hits compilations with crowd noise thrown in for good measure. Which leads us to the second reason artists release live records – to make money. It’s a cheap process, and depending on how dedicated your fan-base is, they could be willing to purchase everything you ever release.

Fortunately, 2015 is blessing us with a handful of live albums from artists that are releasing them as a showcase of their sound rather than as money makers. And besides, nobody makes money off of albums anymore anyway, so you only put them out these days if your heart is truly behind it. I’ve already raved about Dr. Dog‘s Live At a Flamingo Hotel this year, (seriously, it’s amazing,) but here’s three more records you should dig into immediately if you’re feeling the live tip.

Parquet Courts – Live At Third Man Records
zzzzpqIf you read ISM regularly, then you know I’m constantly blowing my load to the sound of Parquet Courts, and I cried out of overwhelming joy when I saw them here in Portland last year. Live, the band is a throbbing force of electric magic – sometimes feeling like the greatest punk band in three decades, sometimes feeling like the greatest post-punk band in two decades, sometimes feeling like the greatest indie-rock in a decade and a half, and always feeling like pure legend. Chalk it up to Jack White for having a regular array of amazing acts come in to play his Blue Room, and for capturing Parquet Courts in prime form. While the record is comprised almost entirely of tracks off last year’s Sunbathing Animal, there’s a primal ferocity in the live takes that the studio can’t come close to harnessing. And I don’t want to say they ‘jam’, but shit is definitely stretched out in several instances. Before this record came out, I used to play the studio version of “Instant Disassembly” on constant repeat – now it’s the live version that has become a steady fixture of my daily existence.

Karen O – Live From Crush Palace 
zzzzkoIf you still haven’t gotten into last year’s Crush Songs, then you’re missing out on one of the greatest tender records of all time. In fact, I highly recommend giving it a couple go-rounds before digging into the live version. Like Parquet Courts, this record is comprised mainly of songs from that one album, but it also includes “Hideaway” from the Where The Wild Things Are soundtrack, and the ultimate crusher – “Moon Song” from Her. I was really hoping she’d include a version of that amazing song from the Adidas commercial ten years ago, but no such luck. And while the format of these songs in the live setting isn’t that different than her raw studio cuts, the stage reverb alone makes it essential. Plus, you get to hear her laughing at herself, and that fresh dose of humanity manages to weave these tracks even deeper into your soul.

Delicate Steve – Live In Las Vegas
zzzzdsSteve Marion is one of the greatest unknown guitarists living on the planet right now – technically profound, but more importantly he embraces a tinny tone and makes it sound both enormous and all his own. He’s essentially reinvented how to play slide. They guy is also everywhere these days – be it touring with Delicate Steve, or his other awesome band, Saint Rich, or just sitting in with Dr. Dog or any of the other amazing bands that freely welcome him to the stage. Live In Vegas is taken from a tour the band did last year opening for Tame Impala, and sounds like a set Jeff Beck would put together if he were currently in his early 30’s. While there are occasionally vocals on some songs, this is essentially instrumental rock fusion that beautifully embraces the odd side of things. I saw this band five years ago and they felt really gimmicky at the time. But they have evolved into a massive attack force over these past few years, and deserve mountains of more attention than they’re currently getting. This Vegas album is just the thing to turn the whole world on.