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(Volume 27 of Clifton’s Corner. Clifton Weaver, aka DJ Soft Touch, shares some of his favorite spins, old and new, in the worlds of soul, r&b, funk, psych and beyond.)

The long, strange year that has been 2016 is finally coming to an end. The holiday season is upon us and we’re all probably looking for alternatives to hackneyed festive music and the cheesy attempts to make it “hip”. This edition of Clifton’s Corner is my humble attempt to offer some quality, soulful, holiday music for your playlists. I’ve included classics, modern and vintage, for your listening pleasure. Happy Holidays and Best Wishes for 2017!

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Like pretty much everything The Clean has released over the past 35 years, their 2001 LP Getaway is a fantastic listen, filled with sparkling guitar, effortlessly catchy tunes and a forward-driving momentum that never fails to lift spirits. That’s reason enough to revisit the album — but Merge’s recent reissue includes a bonus disc that is worth the price of admission all on its own. The bonus disc packages together two limited edition Clean live collections, Slush Fund and Syd’s Pink Wiring System. This is utterly magical music, as the Brothers Kilgour (David and Hamish) and Robert Scott (also of The Bats) soar to impossibly lofty heights, whether finding new contours in a unique piano-led version of “Point That Thing Somewhere Else,” or blazing through an unbelievable eight-minute “Quickstep.” David in particular is on fire throughout, using his cohorts’ sturdy backing as a launchpad for endlessly inventive and powerful six-string fireworks. Quite simply, the dude is one of our finest guitarists, and his abilities are on full display here. God save The Clean! words / t wilcox

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Our weekly two hour show on SIRIUS/XMU, channel 35, can be heard twice every Friday – Noon EST with an encore broadcast at Midnight EST.

SIRIUS 461: Jean Michel Bernard – Générique Stephane ++ Oliver – Off On A Trek ++ Linda Perhacs – Paper Mountain Man ++ David Wiffen – Never Make A Dollar That Way ++ David Crosby – I’d Swear There Was Somebody There ++ Neil Young – The Old Laughing Lady ++ Ellen McIlwaine – Can’t Find My Way Home ++ Dungen – Franks Kaktus ++ John Martyn – Solid Air ++ Sandy Denny – Late November ++ Donovan – Summer Day Reflection Song ++ Manassas – So Begins The Task ++ Gene Clark – Tears Of Rage ++ Tim Hardin – If I Were A Carpenter ++ Bill Fay – Omega Day ++ Richard and Linda Thompson – I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight ++ Ian Matthews – Seven Bridges Road ++ Bob Martin – Captain Jesus ++ Daniel Moore – May 16, 1975 ++ John Martyn – Cocaine ++ Jimmie Spheeris – Come Back ++ Vetiver – Sleep A Million Years ++ Jerry Jeff Walker – About Her Eyes ++ The Flying Burrito Brothers – Hot Burrito No. 1 ++ Françoise Hardy – Till the Morning Comes ++ Neil Young – Pardon My Heart ++ Miss Johni Taylor – Red Wine For My Blues ++ Van Morrison – T.B. Sheets ++ Bob Dylan – Mary Ann ++ Monkey’s Tail – Jim Woehrle & Michael Yonkers ++ Heron – I Wouldn’t Mind ++ Michael Hurley – I Paint A Design ++ Brute – Westport Ferry ++ Jack Logan – Shrunken Head ++ Steve Gunn & The Black Twig Pickers – Trailways Ramble

*You can listen, for free, online with the SIRIUS three day trial — just submit an email address and they will send you a password.
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Here it is. Our obligatory year-end review. The following is an unranked list of albums that caught, and kept, our attention in 2016. Have at it.  – AD
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Heron Oblivion –  S/T: For listeners whose love of exploratory, thunderous psychedelic rock is matched only by their jones for classic Britfolk, Heron Oblivion’s self-titled debut is a dream come true. Sure, Sandy Denny sat in with Zeppelin on “Battle of Evermore”, but did Anne Briggs ever jump onstage with Sabbath? Did Linda Thompson cut a record with Crazy Horse? These are just some of the thoughts that come to mind while getting inside this one…on blast. (buy)

David Bowie – Blackstar: Bowie was always ahead of his time, and with Blackstar, he got ahead of his death. His final album dropped two days before his passing. Instead of inhabiting a certain character or sound, Bowie approached Blackstar with an end-of-the-Zodiac style explosion of genre, having recorded with a cabal of NYC’s shapeshifting, experimental jazz musicians. Expansive and fluid, Blackstar sounds like the all-neurons-firing headrush of the visionary artist’s somber finale. (buy)

75 Dollar Bill – WOOD/METAL/PLASTIC/PATTERN/RHYTHM/ROCK: An exquisitely crafted sentence for an album title that also serves as the mantra for this cosmic, deep blues odyssey. 75 Dollar Bill is powered by an elemental simplicity, the electric guitar and homemade percussion/horn duo of Che Chen and Rick Brown. The four compositions on WMPPRR are ecstatic and ritualistic, out of time, arcing through musical lineages from Mississippi country blues to the Saharan desert blues to Molam, emerging focused and transcendental. Four mindbending tracks, each one a delight. (buy)

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Kikagaku Moyo – House in the Tall Grass: One of the great sleepers of 2016 – House in the Tall Grass, the latest long-player from Japanese quintet Kikagaku Moyo. A kaleidoscopic haze of acid folk and trance-inducing krautrock, album opener “Green Sugar” lives up to its name, with its saccharine rhythm and faded vocals floating high above a grooving bass line. The album’s tone of serenity sets in early on, with the baroque, chamber pop of “Kograshi” and the shoegaze-y “Old Snow, White Sun”, whose barely audible vocals echo amongst a wash of reverb and delicate splashes of piano. A flawless and captivating record. (buy)

Bobo Yéyé – Belle Époque in Upper Volta: A compilation of West African highlife, jazz, funk and rock & roll, focused on the artistic boom of 1970s Burkina Faso, formerly the Republic of Upper Volta. Informed by French ye-ye and ’60s pop, and spirited by the fruitful and poignant time for the region, the music of bands such as Volta Jazz (who represent the collection’s entire first disc) absolutely stun in their beauty, whether they are ripping into raw Afro-rock with triumphant orchestral arrangements, grooving in tight swings, or swaying in calm, blissful ease such as in the gorgeous standout “Djougou Toro” – a kind of palm-wine gospel that is worth the price of admission alone. There’s a lot to dig into here, and always more to learn. (buy)

Johnnie Frierson – Have You Been Good To Yourself: Following his hellish time in Vietnam and the death of his son, Memphis singer/songwriter Johnnie Frierson (the brother of R&B queen Wendy Rene) withdrew into his faith, recording a set of beautiful lo-fi songs direct to cassette. Originally self-released and reissued this year by Light in the Attic, the album asks tough, sobering questions like “Have you been good to yourself?” but offers comforting answers about trust and duty. Regardless of ones’ faith or creed, it’s impossible not to hear the heartbreak and the solace in Frierson’s voice, and hear how the creation of music can serve as an act of worship and service. (buy)

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Omni – Deluxe: “Quality of life is hanging on the line/We’re taking you.” Atlanta’s Omni shares comes from the same post-punk lineage as like Pylon and the B-52s, but the trio’s debut album Deluxe isn’t a throwback. Transmuting of-the-moment anxiety into frenetic energy, the band hits refresh on angular, cerebral rock themes and winds up with a set of songs that feels more timeless than vintage. Stocked with former members of Deerhunter and Carnivores, Omni’s jittery songs are packed with melody and lingering hooks, equal parts jangle and ragged, pulsing rhythm. (buy)

Steve Gunn – Eyes on the Lines: Drawing inspiration from the writing of Rebecca Solnit, the installation art of Robert Irwin, Malian blues and the Basement Tapes, Steve Gunn drives forward on Eyes on the Lines, his debut for Matador Records. Gunn and his band (more or less carried over from his previous full-length Way Out Weather) make music for getting lost/getting found and taking trips, the kind where you’re not sure exactly where you should be going, but you’re certain you can get there. He leaves room in his impressionistic lyrics for the listener to wander in and look around, “Feel the path and move along the traces where you’ll go.” (buy)

Psychic Ills – Inner Journey Out: Since 2003, Psychic Ills have traveled through a myriad of psychedelic landscapes, from extended drones to scuzzy garage rock. Inner Journey Out finds them in an even more classic rock setting than its predecessor, the excellent One Track Mind. Employing sunkissed pedal steels, ghostly gospel choirs, and gentle acoustic guitar strums, comparisons to the Opal/ Mazzy Star world (Hope Sandoval herself shows up on guest vocals here), as well as similarly wasted vibesters like Nikki Sudden and Jason Pierce are apt. It’s by no means as “out” as Psychic Ills have gotten in the past, but it’s an album well worth getting into. (buy)

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Jack Rose – The 2016 Reissues: Seven years after his much-too-soon passing, Jack Rose’s influence is all over the underground these days, in both obvious and subtle ways. And thanks to this year’s vinyl reissues of six of his finest works via VHF and Three Lobed Records this month, it’s easy to understand why. Rose sounds better than ever, as he navigates his way through deep blues and folk forms, raga excursions, unbelievable drones, and unclassifiable zones. “As far as I am concerned, the more people who listen to Jack, the better the world will be,” Ben Chasny told us. And he’s 100% correct. (buy)

Bonnie Prince Billy & Bitchin Bajas – Epic Jammers and Fortune Ditties: While ambient new agers Bitchin Bajas creating gentle and inviting drones behind him, Will “Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy” Oldham stitches together poetry from sweet aphorisms and fortunes. His most overtly peaceful album in years, Billy’s voice fits into the tapestry of synths, acoustic guitars, and percussion — soundscapes evoking Laraaji and Popol Vuh — looping and echoed, his messages amorphous but always applicable: “Show your love, and your love with be returned”; “Nature makes us for ourselves”; “Keep on keepin’ on.” (buy)

Psychic Temple – Psychic Temple III: Psychic Temple mastermind Chris Schlarb’s most group-oriented outing yet, Psychic Temple III mines British folk, R&B, jazz fusion and progressive rock styles, all shaped and molded to fit Schlarb’s relentlessly creative worldview. Recorded with a rotating cast of collaborators like Nedelle Torrisi, Mike Watt, and Fame Studios legends David Hood and Spooner Oldham, the record applies Schlarb’s creative experimentation to familiar “pop” sounds, but never ceases to surprise. “When I Know” evokes Led Zeppelin’s folky side, “Don’t Try” oozes erudite AOR sophistication. Best of all is the stellar kiss-off “You Ain’t a Star,” which feels like something early Stereolab might have recorded. (buy)

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Cass McCombs – Mangy Love: “Knock me down that mystic slide again.” Cass’ folksy wisdom and deep pathos glides on his smoothest sound to date. Mangy Love is an virtuoso arrangement of the down-home hippie band to conjure the perfectly groovy vessel for Cass’ rich zen language. It’s cutting, loving, contradictory, crass, and beautiful. His cosmic folk songs disappear into themselves and transform into dark truths. That mystic slide goes in one direction and never ends. (buy)

Cate Le Bon – Crab Day: Le Bon’s Dadaist Crab Day elevates the Welsh singer-songwriter’s abstract lyricism, crooked sense of melody, madcap guitar shredding, and arresting, leaping vocals into a fully integrated aesthetic concept. Each of her topsy turvy songs are framed in a visionary counterpoint of crispy, dissonant guitars, snare drums, mallet percussion, and throaty saxophones. The effect is angular, like humans imitating machines as part of some absurdist game. The rhythms and arrangements strike a carnivalesque, playful tenor while sustaining feeling of slight unease throughout. Crab Day is a delightfully strange realization of Le Bon’s slanted sensibilities, suggesting at times a wily poet’s no wave band copping a Steve Reich score. This, her fourth LP and Drag City debut, is her finest to date; theatrical, gothic, and inspired. (buy)

Lambchop – FLOTUS:FLOTUS is a reimagining of Kurt Wagner’s long-running project with synths and sequencers, his sonorous drawl lightly autotuned. Lambchop is known for its large ensemble with a light touch, a chamber jazz ecosystem for a maverick Nashville songwriter. That light touch aesthetic guides FLOTUS, where the band with all of its winds and brass and shimmery guitars blends in and out of a beautifully slow-paced electronica. Aching melodies abound, and for such rich musical ideas and FLOTUS sounds sparse and nuanced. A compelling exploration of form and ensemble, as exemplified 18 minute masterpiece “The Hustle.” (buy)

a charlie brown christmas

Lucy Van Pelt loves the beautiful sound of clinking nickels. She wants real estate for Christmas.

Snoopy challenges passersby to find the true meaning of Christmas by winning “money, money, money” in his “spectacular super colossal neighborhood Christmas lights and display contest.”

For her part, Sally Brown forgoes her lengthy list of gifts, asking Santa instead for cash — tens and twenties. You know, to make things easy. All she wants is what she has coming to her. All she wants is her fair share.

This doesn’t help Charlie Brown’s depression.

Nor do the grandiose material expressions of the holiday season –beginning as soon as our Halloween candy bowl runneth empty – help ours if we think too long about them.

Charlie Brown, wrought with insecurity and doubt, laments the commercialization of the season. More than that, though, his isolation stands out, sadness because he feels so alone amidst it all. “I know nobody likes me,” he says. “Why do we have to have a holiday season to emphasize it?”

charlie brown christmasSo begins A Charlie Brown Christmas, the boy’s journey from despondency to hope. And despite the TV special airing in 1965, there is some relevance all these years later. Some of us, like Charlie, feel like our basic understanding of the season – giving, receiving, relative levels of joy – lies in contrast to popular culture’s rendition of it. Some of us, like Lucy, have embraced the latter rather than bemoan it – she prefers pink aluminum trees, and she’s not upset by it. Some of us are Snoopy opportunists. And plenty of us, to be sure, are like Linus, whose purist perspective can’t be fazed by all the noise. The resulting emotional schizophrenia is staggering, if predictable.

There’s loneliness and companionship, joy and despair, truth-seeking and blithe celebration, all during what’s marketed to be the most wonderful time of the year. Your interpretation of the season begets your holiday spirit, whatever version it may be – bah humbug and good tidings. It’s little surprise then that Charlie Brown’s soundtrack, as well as our own, is something just as introspective and shifting. Something like jazz.

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Our weekly two hour show on SIRIUS/XMU, channel 35, can now be heard twice, every Friday – Noon EST with an encore broadcast at Midnight EST.

John Cale is the selector – sitting in with Justin during the second hour – guest-hosting and playing records culled from his days in the Velvet Underground, solo, and beyond. You can read our interview with Cale from earlier this year, here.

SIRIUS 460: Jean Michel Bernard – Générique Stephane ++ Marc Bolan – Pain And Love  ++ Lou Reed – Ocean ++ Modern Lovers – She Cracked ++ Modern Lovers – Astral Plane ++ Modern Lovers – Roadrunner ++ The Stooges – No Fun (Original John Cale Mix) ++ The Stooges – Little Doll (Original John Cale Mix) ++ The Stooges – 1969 (Original John Cale Mix) ++ Nico – Wrap Your Troubles In Dreams ++ Nico – Little Sister ++ Nico – Winter ++ Lou Reed & John Cale – Style It Takes ++ Lou Reed & John Cale – Hello It’s Me ++ John Cale – If You Were Still Around  (Music For A New Society) ++ John Cale –  Broken Bird (Music For A New Society) ++ John Cale – Close Watch (MFANS) ++ John Cale – Back To The End (MFANS) ++ John Cale – Hallelujah ++ John Cale – Cordoba ++ John Cale – Paris 1919 (Outtake) ++ John Cale – I’m Waiting For The Man (Outtake) ++ The Velvet Underground – Sunday Morning ++ The Velvet Underground – Venus & Furs ++ The Velvet Underground – All Tomorrow’s Parties ++ The Velvet Underground –  Lady Godiva’s Operation ++ Domo Genesis –  Wanderer ++ Michael Kiwanuka – Love & Hate ++ Chance The Rapper + Social Experiment  ++ Gabriel Garza Montano – Sour Mango

*Listen for free, online, with the SIRIUS three day trial — just submit an email address and they will send you a password.
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It is not uncommon to see mouths agape at a Kevin Morby concert. A primary reason being the dynamic lead guitar work of multi-instrumentalist Meg Duffy. The way-out solo on “I Have Been To The Mountain” serves as proof enough. Having spent the better part of two years on the road with Morby and Seattle’s Mega Bog, the Upstate New York native has announced her long-awaited solo LP as Hand Habits. Wildly Idle (Humble Before the Void) is a proper introduction to Duffy’s titanic songwriting chops and attention to detail. Second single “Flower Glass” is a tender, down-tempo ballad fit for a long walk on chilly night. Duffy’s lucid vocals float comfortably atop golden guitar-tones and a no-nonsene rhythm section. Tracked entirely on her own between NY and her current home of Los Angeles, Duffy’s production is no-less tempting. Psych-tinged and tastefully arranged, listeners are embraced in warmth as she sings ‘hold you like a flower / hold you like an hour glass.’ words / j silverstein