The journal of a Kentucky culture vulture
Looking at my list of favorite albums of the past year illustrates why serious music fans like to follow artists. They’re going to grow, evolve, please us, frustrate us and sometimes surprise us.
1. David Byrne and St. Vincent, Love This Giant - Talking Heads were the greatest band ever. Period. They were an intriguing collective anchored by Kentucky’s own Chris Frantz on the drums. But at the center of it all was quirky frontman David Byrne whose interests guided the Heads through projects like True Stories and his own career through collaborations with Twyla Tharp, Brian Eno and many, many others. When I heard he was teaming with idiosyncratic artist St. Vincent, my immediate thought was, “That’s perfect!” But it was so much more than that. Love This Giant is a constantly renewing journey with two brilliant minds all anchored in brass and as exquisitely crafted as we’d expect.
2. Jack White, Blunderbuss – We have always heard Jack White in the context of bands such as The White Stripes and The Raconteurs, but knew he was the driving force and individual voice behind those acts. His solo debut brought White’s vision into full focus with two same-sex bands backing him on tracks that renewed his strongest influences. A lot of artists play the blues, but few play it like White.
3. Frank Ocean, Channel Orange – Hip hop and R&B are genres full of posturing cool, so it was refreshing when Frank Ocean stepped onto the stage at Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and hung himself out there with his performance of Bad Religion, a confession of an unrequited love for another man. The story was intriguing; the album was an engrossing meditation on being a young man trying to navigate the world.
4. Lana Del Rey, Born to Die – One of the most polarizing artists of the year, you either loved her stylized, morosely idealized West Coast mope or you thought she was a complete fake — a previous career under another name fueling that perception. I loved it. At times, she tried a bit too hard. But overall, Born to Die was an astonishingly complete and compelling vision for a young artist I want to hear more from.
5. Mumford & Sons, Babel – Mumford & Sons had a strong following for a genre band when Babel was released this fall. This release just strengthened it, showing the British band’s take on American roots sounds was a genuine exploration of its possibilities. It also affirmed this is a band we will be listening to years from now.
Best single: Locked Out of Heaven by Bruno Mars. The man is a flat-out entertainer, as his Grammy Awards and Saturday Night Live performances showed. Locked out of Heaven, which closes out the year riding high on the charts, is an addictive collection of hooks brilliantly produced to showcase one of the decade’s strongest voices.
If you entertained any question as to whether Jack White is a great artist, his solo debut should shove you right off the fence and about a dozen yards into his field.
Thus far, we have known the Michigander as the very strong frontman of acts like White Stripes and The Raconteurs, as well a the visionary producer of artists such as Butcher Holler’s own Loretta Lynn.
We’ve had a few glimpses of what this would be with tracks like the scorching blues of 16 Saltines and and the almost comically dark Love Interruption. The latter, with its lyrics about wanting love to smash his fingers in the door and murder his mother is emblematic of a record of songs at odds with love, though it wouldn’t necessarily be a breakup album — more like brooding with a bottle in your man cave.
Not that Blunderbuss is a real brooding enabler. It’s too invigorating with the myriad ways that White takes clear influences and channels them to his own devices. For instance, it is obvious this man’s brain has consumed a lot of Led Zeppelin over the years. There are indeed moments like the title track where it seems White is channeling both Robert Plant and Jimmy Page is one performance, and we are not talking about the prototypical British heavy metal band sound we get from many Zep wannabes. This is the country blues Zeppelin of Going to California and other classics, but orchestrated in a distinct White style.
Though White is very much a star of the digital age, Blunderbuss is a very analog-sounding album from the upright pianos and electric keyboards to the rattle of the drums and crackle of the guitars. Subtitle it “The Golden Age of Wired.”
I’m Shakin’, for example, is this great gritty romp — nothing particularly fancy, but a bare basics gospel-drenched number in the rhythm White owns. In the blaze, he tosses off the line, “I’m Bo Diddley.”
Maybe not, but with his previous efforts and this solo debut, White’s earned the right to be mentioned in the same breath with the greats.
Apr6Filed under: Film, Kentucky Theatre, UK; Tagged as: A Hard Day's Night, Akira Kurosawa, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Hiroyuki Nakano, It Might Get Loud, Jack White, Jimmy Page, Jonathan Demme, Joni Mitchell, Kentucky Theatre, Martin Scorsese, Mike Graves, Samurai Fiction, Samurai Rebellion, Stop Making Sense, The Edge, The Last Waltz, UK, University of Kentucky's Asian Center, Yojimbo, Zatoichi
Mike’s Movies, a series of rock concert films selected by WUKY‘s Mike Graves, starts Wednesday night with The Last Waltz, and next week the University of Kentucky’s Asian Center will unreel its second series of Japanese films. Here’s the lineup for both series:
The Last Waltz (1978) - Martin Scorsese’s iconic portrait of The Band’s final concert, featuring Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell. 7:15 p.m. April 7.
Stop Making Sense (1984) – Frenetic energy takes on entirely new dimensions (see the trailer, above) in Jonathan Demme’s film of Talking Heads’ Stop Making Sense tour. 7:15 p.m. April 14.
It Might Get Loud (2009) – At an amazing summit, Jimmy Page, The Edge and Jack White perform and talk about their approaches to playing the guitar. 7:15 p.m. April 21.
A Hard Day’s Night (1964) – Beatlemania, pure and simple. 7:15 p.m. April 28.
All shows are $5.
Graves is also launching listening parties at 7 p.m. the third Tuesday of each month at Joseph-Beth Booksellers. The first one is April 20, featuring music from Jakob Dylan’s Jakob Dylan’s Women and Country,
Jeff Beck’s Emotion and Commotion and White Stripes’ Under Great White Northern Lights.
Second Annual Samurai Film Series
Folks who want to add some depth to their Samurai film watching experience can take in a lecture by Richard Torrance, an expert on the genre, at 4:30 p.m. April 12 in the Gallery Room at the WT Young Library. Then, the movies roll:
Samurai Fiction (1998) - Director Hiroyuki Nakano’s comedy pokes at some of the conventions of the Samurai genre. 9:30 p.m. April 12, WT Young Library Auditorium, free.
Samurai Rebellion (1967) – An aging swordsman and his son take on an unjust ruler. 9 p.m. April 13, WT Young Library Auditorium, free.
Zatoichi (1989) - The final installment of a highly successful film franchise about a blind swordsman. 5:30 p.m. April 15, Kentucky Theatre, $5.
Yojimbo (1961) – Akira Kurosawa’s classic about a Samurai who defends a town against competing war lords was the inspiration for Clint Eastwood’s A Fistful of Dollars and Bruce Willis’ Last Man Standing. 7:30 p.m. April 15, Kentucky Theatre, $5.
About Rich Copley & Copious Notes
Raised by opera-loving parents in a rock ’n’ roll world, Rich Copley has parlayed his broad interests into his career writing about arts and entertainment. Since 1998, he has covered performing arts, film and faith-based popular culture for the Lexington Herald-Leader, the daily newspaper in Lexington, Ky. MORE | E-mail Rich