(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Year end wrap up

I started this blog in response to a good year of shows and CDs and this has been a great year of music and writing about it. It's hard to look back and pick highlights, but I'll take my shot and pick some shows and CDs that were especially good.

Thanks to my readers for their comments and recommendations and thanks to the musicians whose music I've enjoyed this year.

Concert highlights
Narrowing down the shows to a handful is hard. In no particular order, I'll offer the following:

Michael Franti (March, Aggie Theater, Ft Collins CO) was a party: high energy social awareness and a sincere performancs. "Everyone deserves music." Alan Vasquez as the opener was a good fit, too.

Easy Star All-Stars (March, Aggie Theater, Ft Collins CO) were another excellent show in March this year. Their reggae take on some classic rock music was incredible and not just a laugh. They played a lot of their Sgt Pepper's Lonely Dub Hearts Band material. Local band, Dub Skin, was a good match with a tight stage show and strong original material.

And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead (October, Bluebird Theater, Denver CO) was an unexpected surprise. I came out to see Russian rockers Mumiy Troll, who put on a fantastic performance. They were followed by the high energy thrash of Future of the Left. Then, I was blown away by Trail of Dead. They played a heady set of mind expanding progressive rock. Absolutely stunning.

John Doe and the Sadies (July, Lion's Lair, Denver CO) and opener Jill Sobule put on a fantastic show. Jill is such a talented songwriter and sincere performer, she just moves me. Then, X's John Doe came out and brought his own sincerity to some great classic country music.

Finally, any Roger Clyne show (May, Aggie Theater, Ft Collins CO) is sure to be a great show. He radiates positive energy whenever he plays, pulling the audience into his world of banditos and flawed heroes. This show was no exception. Openers, Dead Rock West, added an X/early REM vibe that meshed well.

CD highlights
It's equally hard to pick a small set of CDs from the pile of great music I've gotten this year. I've tried to limit this to CDs released this year, but still I'm leaving off some great music by Mumiy Troll, Navegante, and other wonderful bands. All five of the following CDs have stayed high in my rotation since I got them and I expect to be listening to them for years to come.

Follow the links to my reviews for more details.

...And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead, The Century of Self. A brilliant prog rock concept album with a fair amount of youthful rage to keep things interesting. These songs all fit together into a theme of loss and change.

Eleni Mandell, Artificial Fire. Eleni's retro torch vocals match nicely with the dreamy, thoughtful feeling that permeates this album. It's very evocative and gives up more details with each listen.

Nneka, Concrete Jungle. Worlds collide: reggae, afro beat, and R&B. Silky vocals, but powerful.

Local Natives, Gorilla Manor. Wonderful musical elements to lock in your ears. Again, some progressive rock elements, but tempered by tight harmonies and a heavy bottom end.

Sonic Youth, The Eternal. Thrashing guitars, but the band has been maturing. This album channels a rich psychic zone of angst and edginess. All for your pleasure.

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