Saturday, January 23, 2016

Fifth Annual Jaybee-bies, or, 2015, I Want My Money Back

Looking for My Receipt:

I’m finally getting around to my 2015 round up. Just before people forget there was a 2015, I hope.

It was a long, frustrating year, where I got about forty albums and very, very few of them managed to bowl me over. I was beginning to think I was losing my taste for music.

And other things. It took Mrs. Jaybee to remind me of that wonderful trip to Italy and Son Michael’s graduation (more on him later) that it wasn’t such a bad year after all.

But still, musically, I’m left a little less than ecstatic, and I’m looking for my receipt for 2015 so that I can return it.

My Ears Are Bigger Than My Head (Literally True!)

Dear 2015, it’s not you, it’s me.

You see, I’m in a cycle that goes like this:

I buy a lot of music.
I lean towards exploration instead of the familiar.
Then I complain that nothing hitd me right away.
So I go and get more music to make up for that.

This is dumb. (And may be a poem, too.) I mean, what did I expect?

But then I think about an individual song or album I have that I feel very lucky to have. Then I think about how many records I have that fit that description. You’d think there would be enough of it by now. Apparently not.

And really, how much do I need? I still haven’t answered that question satisfactorily. And even if 2015 was disappointing, I can’t imagine not getting new music in 2016.

Lack of Resolution:

So How Did I Do with My 2015 Resolutions?  Great, because I didn’t make any, having so resoundly failed on my 2014 ones. I even repeated those failures in 2015:  More new music than ever, 75% of it CDs (thanks to my boycott) which now having taken over the CD rack completely, are expanding blitzkrieg-like into the bookshelf,

I did manage four records from 2015, two of them thanks to son Michael. One he bought and one he made!

So, no resolutions. They - along with self improvement in general - are way overrated.

Second Thoughts, or Regrets? I’ve Had a Few:

I gave all my 2015 records another listen to see if I’ve changed my mind about anything. Especially the ones that disappointed me. Mostly no.

Ex Hex: Rips - Expertly played punk/hard rock I could swear I heard before and probably did so why bother?

The Smiths: The Queen is Dead - Thanks guys, but I had all the good songs already. link

The Clean: Anthology Almost ditto link.  Every (well, almost every) cut is unique and worthwhile, but by the middle of the second disk I feel as though I’ve been left to wander the wilds of New Zealand without a guide. It can be fun, but there may be better things to do. (Ocean of Sound is kind of like that too, but since the whole point of that record is to get lost, it wouldn’t be fair to criticize it for that).

Music from the HBO Film As You Like It - A lovely main theme sprinkled repetitively throughout “movie music”. I probably would have been fine with getting the individual track. (An idea whose time has come, by the way. Buy more individual songs, thus avoiding disappointing albums. Hey, I've got a resolution after all!)  Not bad, mind you. Just nothing I’d reach out to because I’m never in the mood for it.

Top Tens(e):

While patting myself on the back that I managed a handful of actual 2015 albums this year, it’s still pretty paltry compared to Nutboy’s list. He to 2015 and managed seven (7. Josh Ritter - Sermons on the Mount, 6. Blur - Magic Whip, 5. Craig Finn - Faith in the Future, 4. Wilco - Star Wars 3. Courtney Barnett - Sometimes I Sit, 2. Sufjan Stevens - Carrie and Lowell, 1. Bob Dylan - The Cutting Edge . Vol.12)

He did the same with movies, too.  (10. Inside Out ..  9. Sicario  8. Love and Mercy  7. Steve Jobs  6. Creed  5. Spotlight   4. Amy   3. The Revenant  2. The Big Short  1. Mad Max - Fury Road)

I only managed to see two movies this year. (Another resolution. Get out more!)

I’d hit back with a top ten list of books (none from 2015 though) but I suspect he just didn’t bother to show off. The man really ought to have a blog, but he’s too busy with current year music and movies (ie, having a life, hmmm, another resolution here?)

Anyway, here are my albums of my 2015:

  1. Sufjan Stevens: Carrie and Lowell  (2015)  
  2. Various Artists: Ocean of Sound (1996) 
  3. Howlin’ Wolf : Howlin’ Wolf  (1962)  
  4. Aretha Franklin: I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You (1967) 
  5. Courtney Barnett: Sometimes I Just Sit and Think…. (2015)  
  6. Michael Burns: Mountain Mover EP  (2015)
  7. Yo La Tengo: And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out (2000) 
  8. Brian Eno & John Cale: Wrong Way Up (1990)  
  9. Howlin’ Wolf: Moanin’ in the Moonlight (1962)  
  10. and tied for tenth place Various Artists: Music from Shutter Island (2010), Yo La Tengo: Fakebook (1990), Withered Hand: New Gods (2014), Brian Eno/Harold Budd: The Pearl (1984), Wussy: Attica! (2014), Brian Eno/Daniel Lanois/Roger Eno: Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks (1983)

Top Songs:
Mike Burns: “Mountain Mover”
Sufjan Stevens: “The Only Thing”
Sufjan Stevens: “Fourth of July”
Coutney Barnett: “Debbie Downer”
Courtney Barnett: "Nobody Really Cares If you Don’t Go to the Party”
Brian Eno/John Cale: “Lay My Love”
Brian Eno/John Cale: “Been There, Done That”
Dinah Washington/Max Richter: “This Bitter Earth/On the Nature of Daylight” 
Yo La Tengo: "The Summer"
Yo La Tengo: "You Tore Me Down"
Yo La Tengo: "Deeper Into Movies"
Massive Attack: "Hymn of the Big Wheel"
The War on Drugs: "In Reverse"
Patrick Doyle: "Violin Romance"

Some Observations:

Familiar music suffers in comparison to new music simply because it can’t have the same impact on me any more. Otherwise Aretha and Howlin Wolf might be all over the top of the list.

Very good music in my favorite genres (pop, rock n’ roll) outdoes obviously great music in other genres (R&B), again impacting Franklin and Wolf.

I’m getting more and more music for less and less money, but have a sneaking suspicion that the musicians themselves are getting less and less a share of it..

I’ve prided myself on opting for the new - getting an album by a new artist rather than one by one I’m already familiar with. This is educational, and leads me to new discoveries. But dang it, it’s not always as much fun.

The Year of What?

So what was 2015 the “year of” for me?

In a way, it was the Year of Music to Go to Bed To. Not Music to Have Sex By mind you. Music to listen to while reading in bed and about to go to sleep. There was a ton of stuff that fit this category : Ocean of Sound, The Pearl, And Then Nothing…, Stuff Like That There, Neu!, As You Like It, Shutter Island The list goes on.

The Year of Aretha? You’d think so.  I got five Aretha Franklin albums in a single shot. (For $10 no less) They range from classic to very good.  That’s pretty good, right?  But those first two observations above knock her down a bit.

The Year of Yo La Tengo? Three albums ranging from nearly great to very good. And an almost transcendent show.  Christ, I even met them. But not quite.

The Year of the Tribute Band? 

Here’s my original take on why I find tribute bands - in principal - appalling.

The bottom line is, why would I want to pay to hear something like the music I like when I could listen to exactly the music I liked for free? If you want to hear a band, go put the record on. (Oh, come on, I know you have them!)

But I was underestimating the communal aspect of things. How better to enjoy music than with other like-minded people?

And besides, in two instances it inspired me to get more music by the artist. Once with a happy ending and once not so much. But the good more than made up for it.

  • The Smiths - A cover band that inspired me to get The Queen is Dead. Good show. Disappointing record.
  • PJ Harvey - Various artists did a tribute to Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea - A great album to hear played live, but since Mrs. Jaybee can’t stand Harvey I had to see this one alone. 
  • The Beatles - The Fab Faux at the City Winery on New Years Eve. It could have been a big let down and even boring, but it was neither. A very emotional musical highlight of the year. And let’s face it. Every year since 1963 has been the Year of the Beatles, as far as I’m concerned. So that wouldn’t make 2015 unique, would it?
  • Brian Eno - Music for Enophiles, covering Eno’s semi-poppish 1974-79 period.  Me and Mrs. Jaybee had a great time at this show. We were hearing songs live that we hadn’t heard even on record for years. And it inspired me to go even deeper into Eno’s catalogue.

Which made 2015 the Year of Brian Eno, of course.

We'll talk.

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