New Artist Spotlight: Wet

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Wet is a three-person band originally from Brooklyn and currently from Western Mass.  Kelly Zutrau sings; Marty Sulkow plays guitar; Joe Valle plays keyboards and drums. They released a self-titled ep on indie label Neon Gold in 2013, and just released their debut album, Don’t You (that’s the cover above), on major label Columbia in January.

It’s really good.  Some critics have called this music R&B.  I didn’t hear that so much as backwards-looking dreampop.  To play the references game, it’s somewhere between Julia Holter and Purity Ring for me.  Lighter than Beach House and Tamaryn, but also darker – like how smoke can be white and black at the same time, depending on the shade of its background.  Ephemeral and very listenable stuff.

The band’s LA show last fall received a nice write-up by Sasha Frere Jones, the New Yorker’s music critic.  And the New York Times recently snapshot Zutrau.  Other reviews have been less positive, but I recommend this record.

Here is Don’t You on Spotify. (There are also some remixes over there – check out Clams Casino’s excellent rework of “Weak.”) And here are the videos for standout tracks “Deadwater” and “You’re the Best” on YouTube.

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More soon.

JF

 

It’s Friday, I’m in love…

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I used to make mix cds for my best friend. Alot of them. During one crazy year, I sent a cd a week in the mail – and always tried to time it, so that a package would arrive at her door every Friday.

We weren’t together then; now we’re married. I haven’t made her a mix cd in years. And I haven’t seen her since Monday morning, and won’t see her again until Saturday morning. I miss her. So I’ll end the first week of this blog with a playlist for her.

You’ll like it, too. Really! I’m not going to annotate the tracks with notes here, but trust me: They’re all good, mostly eclectic, and not overly sappy. My plan is to post a playlist dedicated to the JF every Friday. Some she’ll like, and some she won’t (“Intro to Autechre” will be a tough sell, as will the “Many Moods of Godspeed You! Black Emperor”). That’s ok, I’m not perfect…just perfect for her.

Listen on Spotify HERE or right on the blog (how cool is that??)…

Oh, if you’re curious, the header image is my first Valentine to her. V-Day was two weeks ago, and I wanted to use the Grizzly Bear song “Two Weeks” on the playlist. So, yeah, duh.

More soon.

JF

 

Grateful Dead Weekly #1: Winterland Ballroom – San Francisco, CA 2/24/74

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Forty-two years ago yesterday, on Sunday, February 24, 1974, the Grateful Dead played the final show of a three-night run at San Francisco’s famed Winterland Ballroom.  That show, which has been officially released from the archive as Dave’s Picks #13, was a last warm-up for the so-called Wall of Sound before it debuted a month later at nearby Daly City’s Cow Palace.  A story from another blog even suggests that Phil Lesh may have “soundchecked” the new system that weekend by listening to Jack Casaday of Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna play bass through it.

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2/24/74 is known primarily for a long Playing in the Band that closes the first set and a strong Dark Star > Morning Dew that dominates the second set.  Here’s a review of that segment from renowned GD authority, and friend of LN, Ed Martin (ECM), who has published the essential 31 Days of the Dead every December day for five years and once featured this Morning Dew:

This was the last of a three-show run at Winterland that unleashed the transcendent phenomenon that was the Dead in 1974. Bill Graham’s introduction referencing the conflict in Vietnam sets the tone for the music that follows — “Whatever evil is going on in the rest of the world, whether it’s wars or kidnappings or crimes, this is a peaceful Sunday night with the Grateful Dead.” Amen, brother Bill. “Morning Dew” —  a song about the aftermath of a nuclear holocaust –- translates those sobering introductory words into music. With a devastating middle solo that’s trilled so hard it must have gone into triple-digit decibels, this quintessential version of Morning Dew is everything that a “Dew” should be: deep, mournful, powerful and religious.

A couple of pictures from the weekend run, courtesy of the archive at Dead.net:

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To hear this show on relisten.net, click here.

To hear this show (and an excellent Charlie Miller soundboard recording of it) on archive.org, click here.

A special thanks to ECM for his help with this blogpost.  I hope to make it a weekly feature, eventually with him leading a rotating cast of contributors from the shadowy collective known as the GDC. 

More soon.

JF

Talking Ragtime: The Rule of Lists

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On our other blog, A Year in the Wake, we have occasionally posted email exchanges. Here’s an excerpt from an email that was initially about the Welcome to Liner Notes post, and then about my Best Records of 2015 post, but quickly veered meta.

OM: It’s Alive!

JF: Yeah, it looks super tight on my phone. Does it look good on your end? Content ok?

OM: It’s great, I’m just not sure how you get away with putting two records at #2!

Nam’d

JF: Since I was a kid, I’ve always thought it was unfair that if two-things tied, then the spot behind them had to stay empty. That’s bullshit.

OM: Except that’s not how numbers work. Sufjan is the fourth album on your list, not the third. Just sayin’.

JF: How numbers work? No. If two things are exactly tied for second, that doesn’t mean the next thing is fourth. It’s third. Come on. Be rational.

What’s Nam’d mean, btw?

OM: You’ve got a top twenty list with twenty-one albums. Seems a little crazy to me.

Nam = Vietnam = there were no rules during the Vietnam War

JF: If two things are exactly the same, rank wise, that doesn’t mean the next best thing isn’t next best. You don’t have to skip a spot. That’s not fair to poor Sufjan, dude. And anyway, the Kendrick and Kamasi records seemed in some ways companion pieces to me.

It’d be funny if we riffed on this for a while in the comments on WordPress. It’s not like anybody else will, haha.

lmao @ “seems a little crazy to me” btw. That’s just how we roll at Liner Notes. It’s a blog with an edge.

OM: I can agree that the Kendrick Lamar is an amazing album.

JF: It’s SO good, and so out of my grasp that I’ll probably never listen to the whole thing again.

OM: This is a blog post i’d like to read: why did you put an album as your second favorite of 2015 that you don’t plan on listening to again?

That’s what I want to read about.

JF: What I’d like to see on the blog is your list.

No rush.

OM: It’s gonna be an epic list, and there will be a tie for every spot, so I’ll have 40 albums on my Top 20.

JF: That sounds awesome.

Sufjan only put out one record last year, fwiw. And one non-album bonus track and a few remixes. Just fyi.

OM: Hey, he was #4 on your list, so don’t pretend you don’t like that album just as much as I do.

JF: It was my #3. The third best, after two records that exactly tied for second.

OM: How can it be the third best if there are three better albums?

Answer: it can’t.

JF: Because the two co-seconds are exactly the same value. It was a precise tie.

Hey, man, don’t punish Sufjan just because you don’t understand what “tie” and “exactly the same” mean.

Smh, I actually don’t understand how a tie means the next best thing gets docked a spot. That’s not fair at all.

OM: It’s just how lists work. You determine the ranking of an item by how many items come ahead of it in the list.

It’s not a punishment for Sufjan. There were three albums better than his, according to your estimation. So that puts him at #4. Look at any list of statistics and you’ll see the same principle at work.

In the Olympics, if there is a tie for the Gold, there is no Silver awarded. Two Golds and a Bronze.

JF: That’s total bs. There should be two golds, a silver, and a bronze. The second placed athlete was second best.

Take the 100m dash.

One guy runs in 9 sec. Two guys run in 10 sec. One guy runs in 11 sec. The last guy was third fastest.

OM: LOL, no he wasn’t.

JF: He was. How does that not make sense to you? He had the third fastest time. That’s an actual fact. Now if “rules” or “stat principles” means that guy gets screwed, whatever. I’m just saying it’s not fair and not a system that I choose to abide by.

OM: You’re looking at the value of the item. That’s different than its ranking in a list.

JF: The ranking is determined by the value of the item.

What color is the sky in your world?

OM: You can be mad about it all you want, but if you go by your “system of fairness,” you end up with bullshit like a top 20 list that is 21 items long (or longer).

JF: I’m fine with that. In fact, I’m going to make all my Honorable Mentions tie for #21 (#22 to you).

At that point, OM sent me the picture of Scott Joplin above, implying that I was “talking ragtime.”  That’ll be the title of any future email exchanges here.

More soon.

JF

2015 – A Playlist

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Hi.

For me, best records lists are a lot easier than best tracks lists.  That’s probably because my listening habits tend more toward album-sized blocks of music than individual songs.

Still, some songs stick out over the course of a year.  Here is a Spotify playlist of 100 of the best tracks of 2015. It’s tentative (I may add and remove tracks as I remember others), and arranged alphabetically by artist.  Also, I’ve asked OM how to embed the playlist in this post, so you can hear it without leaving this page.  How nice would that be?

If you’re curious, my favorite track of 2015 was Wolf Alice’s “Bros.” (I loved it so much that it’s on our wedding cd.)  Here is the video.  And here is Wolf Alice at NPR’s Tiny Desk.  As good as that performance is, my favorite performance that I saw online last year was Battles’ “The Yabba.”  Here is that video.

More soon.

JF

2015’s Best Records

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Hi.

In my first post, I mentioned my last post to the last blog.  Here’s a quick review.

My Top 20 Records of 2014:
1. St. Vincent – St. Vincent
2. The War on Drugs – Lost in the Dream
3. Tweedy – Sukierae
4. FKA twigs – LP1
5. Damon Albarn – Everyday Robots
6. Sharon Van Etten – Are We There
7. Caribou – Our Love
8. Beck – Morning Phase
9. First Aid Kit – Stay Gold
10. Flying Lotus – You’re Dead!
11. Lykke Li – I Never Learn
12. Andy Stott – Faith in Strangers
13. Drowners – Drowners
14. Aphex Twin – Syro
15. Thee Silver Mt. Zion Orchestra – Fuck Off Get Free
16. Cloud Nothings – Here and Nowhere Else
17. Parquet Courts – Sunbathing Animal
18. Ex Hex – Rips
19. Hospitality – Trouble
20. Woods – With Light and With Love

Honourable Mentions (alphabetical order):
The Afghan Whigs – Do to the Beast
Alvvays – Elvis
Ryan Adams – Ryan Adams
The Antlers – Familiars
Clark – Clark
Kevin Drew – Darlings
J Mascis – Tied to a Star
Mogwai – Rave Tapes
Thurston Moore – A New Day
MSMW – Juice
Angel Olsen – Burn Your Fire for No Witness
Phish – Fuego
Real Estate – Atlas
Ty Segall – Manipulator
Spoon – They Want My Soul
A Sunny Day in Glasgow – Sea When Absent
Tennis – Ritual in Repeat
TV on the Radio – Seeds

In retrospect, I stand by most of that.  There were some misses.  The Spoon record, for starters, should have been close to the top ten. And the Aphex Twin record should have been alot higher. TSMZ should have been lower – that record creeped up because that band always reminds me of Godspeed You! Black Emperor, which always reminds me of my best friend MRH. FKA twigs and Caribou should been lower, too. Those were probably last-minute hipster calls in the endless, pointless search for indie cred. (More on that later.) Real Estate and Tennis could have been higher, I guess? Maybe TVOTR, too, though I can’t remember their record at all. And who are A Sunny Day in Glasgow, and why did the one time I listened to their record on the bus home make any impression, much less an honourable mention one? Then there’s Ryan Adams. And Phish? I think I was making up shit toward the end. Sorry.

And, wow, sorry for that whiny-ass post. My heart wasn’t in it, tbh. The core point was solid-ish? The opposite of the listener-driven “music is the best” view from my 2013 list/post is something like the artist-driven “music is the point” view from my 2014 list/post. (Point may not be the right word.) Both are important, but while the former unites us in collective appreciation, the latter makes that possible. What’s cooler? Enjoying something or making something that people enjoy together?

Probably making? Yeah, it’s making. Producing content, something that didn’t exist before. Kinda like this blogpost, right?

No, jk.  I’m definitely not equating what I’m doing here with the truly magical process of creating music. I’m just saying, being a struggling blogger is like being a starving artist (without the romantic gauze or, you know, the art) in the sense that it’s difficult to find anyone who cares what you have to say. I’ve done this a fair amount. The personally interesting stuff – my fiction writing and my music writing – rarely gets a click, not even from my team. The other stuff, specifically the Finnegans Wake blog that OM and I are doing (are we still doing that, btw?), yeah. The page counts on that one are great. Or they were great, last year when we posted regularly. Apparently, if you try to read the hardest book ever written in the English language, then get on the internet to sorta complain about it and riff about what little you understood, people will check out your blog. Like super smart people, who totally understood the book and have read it umpteen times. True story, who knew?

Well, I’m bogged down somewhere in Book II, but I just listened the new Kamasi Washington record all the way through, again. What you got, smarties? That record, unlike the new Joanna Newsom record, has nothing to do with FW (as far as I know), so those people probably didn’t hear it.  Or Joanna Newsom’s record, for that matter. Or the new Floating Points or some of the amazing stuff Nils Frahm put out last year. Probably not, huh? Actually, I just realized that I have no idea what Joyce-heads on Twitter listen to. No idea. Maybe their tastes are super snobby, even snobbier than mine, and also super informed and refined. It’s possible that there are some people who are really into Joyce and really into Pitchfork-reviewed indie music.

Again, for me, it comes back to Pitchfork. Not because that website or its writers are so great (a lot are very good at their jobs), but because it/they are so great at identifying interesting music – or, at least, music that’s interesting to me. And they literally cover the field. OM and I challenged each other to come up with one non-Pitchfork record for our lists. I don’t think that I had a single one that wasn’t at least mentioned there.

So what can we add to what they do? Best of Last Year lists? The few folks who once might’ve cared and read this in their spare holiday time are long gone onto other things. Then there’s everybody else who doesn’t care and wouldn’t have read this anyway. Blahblahblah, Zooey saying something to Franny on the phone about how you do it for the lady on the porch, blahblahblah, something about how the lady was actually listening, so that’s a dumb reference. 

But, really, who do you (I) do this for? And why? Obviously, I’m having some difficulties understanding why I should bother – difficulties that I didn’t express to OM when we talked about LN3. The days where I imagined that I would be discovered as a writer (my Great American Novel remains unfinished, almost intentionally, so it’s never proven worthless), much less a music critic, have passed. That may be sad to me personally, but it’s honest. Maybe the reference should be not Salinger, but Bishop Berkeley. Q: If a blog is written in the forest and no one reads it, does it make an impression? A: No, it doesn’t. And if it doesn’t make an impression, it’s hard to say it should exist. I can just text my list to OM.

Well, we talked about it, and he kinda wants to try this again. So here we go – I’ll start us off. A new platform, a new address, a new year’s list, and a new attitude, which might have something to do with shining my shoes (even though none of you can see them). No editorial blurbs this time – those would take me weeks. If you want to talk personally about anything here, let me know in the comments or at jafreitag@gmail.com.

My Top 20 Records of 2015:

  1. Joanna Newsom – Divers [a detail from the cover is the header image above]
  2. Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly / Kamasi Washington – The Epic
  3. Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell
  4. Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit
  5. Father John Misty – I Love You, Honeybear
  6. Nils Frahm – Solo
  7. Björk – Vulnicura
  8. Beach House – Depression Cherry
  9. Wilco – Star Wars
  10. Chvrches – Every Open Eye
  11. Waxahatchee – Ivy Tripp
  12. Grimes – Art Angels
  13. Tame Impala – Currents
  14. Kurt Vile – b’lieve I’m Goin Down
  15. Sleater-Kinney – No Cities to Love
  16. Deerhunter – Fading Frontier
  17. Blur – The Magic Whip
  18. Julia Holter – Have You in My Wilderness
  19. Panda Bear – Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper
  20. Floating Points – Elaenia

My Baker’s Dozen of Honorable Mentions (abc order):

  1. Alabama Shakes – Sound & Color
  2. Arca – Mutant
  3. Battles – La Di Da Di
  4. Beirut – No No No
  5. Andrew Bird – Echolocations: Canyons
  6. Built to Spill – Untethered Moon
  7. The Decemberists – What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World / Florasongs EP
  8. Drake – If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late
  9. FKA twigs – M3LL155X EP
  10. Hop Along – Painted Shut
  11. Laura Marling – Short Movie
  12. The Sidekicks – Runners in the Nerved World
  13. Wolf Alice – My Love Is Cool

If OM reteaches me how to post a Spotify playlist, I’ll do that.  I’m working on one for my fave songs of 2015.  Right now, it’s 90-plus tracks/6-plus hours of music, and all essential haha. Oh, and it’d be super cool if I could post a “Next time on Liner Notes…” audio clip,  like when Sarah Koenig (or is it Ira Glass?) says, “Next time on Serial…” and then there’s a preview of the next episode. Can we do that, O? Surely, somebody has created a WordPress widget for that by now, right?  Right?

Hello? Anybody there?

More soon.

JF

Welcome to Liner Notes

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That’s us – Jason Freitag (JF) on the left, Owen Milbury (OM) on the right.  Phish @ Alpine Valley, 6/21/09 – our second show together, and still our last.  We live too far apart, near Boston and Chicago, so our very real friendship has grown via text and email.  For years, we’ve talked almost every day, often about what we’re listening to.  In 2010, we started a music column called Liner Notes for a news website.  And when that didn’t work out (long story, my fault), we started our very own music blog, again called Liner Notes.

Then, in a cliched time-flies way, real life happened. We got old(er): Home stuff, work stuff, and the simple fatigue and accompanying inertia that cloud so many adult days.  We stopped writing for that blog. As the end of 2015 approached, and we chatted like usual about records we liked and disliked from the year, we decided to relaunch Liner Notes on WordPress.

So welcome.  We’re glad you’re here.  Our tag line is “we write, you listen.”  Well, the reverse is also true.  You can write, and we will listen.  Our posts will be about what we’ve heard, and what we think you should hear (or not), but you should feel free to comment or contact us directly.

jafreitag@gmail.com

omilbury@gmail.com

More soon.

JF/OM