2011: My Year In Music

Above is from February 1, 2011, one of my happiest days this year, when Jimmy Fallon held up a copy of my book A Wizard A True Star: Todd Rundgren In The Studio as he was introducing Todd sitting in with The Roots on NBC’s Late Night With Jimmy Fallon.
What a year. So many great things happened to me in 2011. So many great people did so many great things in music or music related activities. It was really fun out there. And even my Todd book came out in Japan, in JAPANESE! So, Arigato to THAT good buddy!

As a musician, songwriter, music journalist and author, I always get a stomach ache when folks ask me “What’s the best new music?” or “What’s your top ten for the year?”.  I mean, it’s not like I don’t have favourites. It’s not like I only listen to old stuff (although I do tend to come back to the past a lot, I think I learn a lot from the past, is that wrong?). I guess I have a hard time a) quantifying ten things and b) recalling what I listened to only months ago, so it’s hard to say what my favourites of a specific time period are. For example, I really love Steven Page’s Page One but as I was looking at it, I realized that it was actually released in 2010, so does that disqualify it if I actually listened to it through this year?

Also, I tend to think of books and films about music as part of my year IN music, along with concerts and, ahem, my own music making which I am constantly promising to get back to.

SO. Here’s what I’m doing. This blog (hopefully the first annual edition) is a collection, in no particular order, of things involving or related to music that touched me, informed me or made me sing, dance or play air (or real) guitar along with them. I’ll call it My  Year In Music, because, um, that’s what it is.

The Beach Boys: SMiLE Box Set (Capitol Records)

Long the coveted speculations of many a music nerd, who have assembled their own compilations based on bootlegs, official leaks and rumour, this year Brian Wilson finally got his SMiLE on, and it was worth the wait. It was also worth the money (around $140 USD) to shell out for the box set version featuring 5 CDs of SMiLE material, rare outtakes, and related musical nuggets, as well as 2 180 gram vinyl albums, 2 7 inch singles (“Surf’s Up” and “Heroes And Villains”), a 60 page hardback coffee table book, a 24″ x 26″ colour Frank Holmes poster, and a colour booklet, all in a beautiful 2″ deep box with actual windows in it. Maybe it’s just for obsessive, archival pop-archeologists like me, but I can spend hours getting lost in the minutiae of Wilsonalia. Now, there’s so much of it here, that I’ll admit that I have dedicated myself to only one at a time, and only just finished all five CDs. Here’s one of my favourite moments, from CD4 “Tune X” (Carl Wilson)

Paul McCartney: McCartney & McCartney II reissues (MPL /Hear Music)

Two very solo solo albums, ten years apart, both at critical junctures in Paul McCartney’s long and winding career. McCartney (1970) was the sound of a damaged butterfly emerging from the fatally fractious cocoon of Beatledom. It’s also the exhilarating sound of a man taking baby steps to being his own boss. He still has Beatle sounds on his mind as he tumbles, in a comparatively roughshod, handmade manner, compared to, say, George Martin’s pristine sheen on the Beatles’ swan song, Abbey Road. Opening with a declaration to the love of his life, and confidant, “The Lovely Linda,” McCartney lets it all fly over a series of pure and spontaneous sounding songs, culminating in one of his best songs, with or without the Fabs, “Maybe I’m Amazed.” This year’s remastered reissue added a second disc of out-takes, demos and live tracks recorded in Glasgow, nine years after the album came out.

At the time of its release, I didn’t rush out to purchase 1980’s McCartney II, but over the decades since then, I’d grown curious as I heard bits of it. What I didn’t realize until very recently, was just how influential this album was to electronic pop in the 80s, and even now. “Temporary Secretary” blips and bloops it’s way into your heart with a manic vocal, and chromatic shifting chordal hook, while “Coming Up” is the sound of one man funking with himself to great effect. Much like on McCartney, ten years earlier, Paul was in a transitional phase and willing to reinvent himself, alone, and shake things up to see what fell out. What fell out, of course, inevitably contained chunks and chunks of his inimitable flair for melody, and songs like “Waterfalls” (did TLC ever thank him?) or the gorgeously unadorned “One Of These Days” attest to the fact that we will not likely see such a Mozart of pop in our lifetimes. The bonus CD is equally, if not more, intriguing as it contains the killer live band version of “Coming Up” (which I prefer) from 1979, “Secret Friend”, the wacky “Check My Machine” and “Mr. H Atom/You Know I’ll Get You Baby” and that most synthy of all holiday standards, “Wonderful Christmastime”. Classy essential reissues both .

Nile Rodgers Le Freak (Spiegel & Grau)

“We arrived in one piece at [David Bowie's] beautiful Swiss chalet in the lovely town of Lausanne, on the banks of Lake Geneva, and immediately started the next level of preproduction on the album that would later be called Let’s Dance.”

Did you get a shiver reading that? How about this: “I was positive the first single had to be “Material Girl”, which I knew would be a smash. After all, I was hired to give her a smash. Madonna had an entirely different point of view. She wanted “Like A Virgin”.

This is the kind of stuff you’ll read, and you must read, in Nile Rodgers’ amazing memoir, Le Freak. Over pages and pages of candid commentary, about drugs, family, and music, music, music, Nile takes you on a tour of making great records such as the classic hits he wrote with Bernard Edwards in Chic, “Le Freak”, “Good Times” and Sister Sledge‘s “We Are Family”, to his work with Bowie, Madonna, Ms. Diana (Ross), Duran Duran and hosts of others. You’ll learn that the high concept for Chic was actually inspired more by Roxy Music and KISS than you’d imagine. You learn that Nile is one lucky muthafunker to have survived the heroic amounts of alcohol and cocaine he ingested during the golden years of New York clubbing and international tripping. This is not just one of the best producer memoirs, a subject I know a little about, it’s one of the best first-person biographies I’ve ever read. Trust me, you’ll be YouTubing and iTuning all the hits as they come up.

Fountains Of Wayne: Sky Full Of Holes (YepRoc Records)

I’ve always been a fan of this band, ever since the first album caught my ear with “Radiation Vibe” and “Survival Car”. Like all bands with a sense of  humour, they have often left certain listeners with the completely false impression that they aren’t a “serious” band. This would be your own mistake, as when you get close to their material, you’ll see that “Stacy’s Mom” was just one colour in their broader palette. Songwriters Chris Collingwood and Adam Schlesinger surely love a turn of phrase but, particularly on this years Sky Full Of Holes, they use their words in total service to human feelings and songs like “Someone’s Gonna Break Your Heart”, “Cemetery Guns” and “A Dip In The Ocean” have an almost Ray Davies air to them.

Get a load of the light in the trees
And the sweet decay on the maritime breeze
The sun’s hitching on a weather balloon
And the heat off the tarmac
Burning a hole in a gold afternoon.

(“A Dip In The Ocean,” from Sky Full of Holes)

Here’s “Someone’s Gonna Break Your Heart”:

You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll wonder why your hipster friends can’t get with this. But Fountains of Wayne are for real, and this album is one of my favourites of 2011.

Sloan: The Double Cross (YepRoc)

Did I tell you that I’m a huge Sloan fan, and that years ago I befriended them, and that now they’re my friends of whom I am still a huge fan? Of course I did. Fandom seems to just suit this band, in some ways they’re like the Beatles, but the “White Albumperiod Beatles, when they were more of a four-member collective than a band with one leader. Anyway, I wrote about The Double Cross (XX) earlier this year for the late lamented Crawdaddyonline, and I wrote: “I was driving over the Bay Bridge into San Francisco with an advance CD of Sloan’s ridiculously hook-filled 10th album, The Double Cross. The title is a typically Sloan-ish play on “XX,” or roman numerals for 20, to mark Sloan’s 20th anniversary of arrested adolescence. The Double Cross opens with a stunningly segued trifecta of songs by three different Sloaners arranged as one big medley, and the effect is shock and awe—an intro which frankly slays all competitors. Somewhere past the toll plaza and heading up the bridge, I realized that while I had merely been tapping the steering wheel to Chris Murphy’s “Follow the Leader”, I was now singing along at the top my lungs to Jay Ferguson’s gorgeous power-pop anthem “The Answer Was You.” Similarly, the seamless transition into Patrick Pentland’s chunk rocker “Unkind” is smoothed over by a symphonic wash of E-bow guitars before its summer-driving-ready hook kicks in and a whole new anthem takes flight. It was almost too much for my little Toyota Echo to handle….

Sloan is a career after all, which makes it even more remarkable that they manage to sound so fresh after two decades of touring, recording, and raising families. (Andrew Scott is also an accomplished fine art painter.  Sloan has had a 20-year leap from the ersatz grunge of “Underwhelmed” on their debut. The four-headed monster lives, and thrives artistically, even as a new generation of Canadian indie bands eclipse them in the spotlight. Fellow Canucks in the Arcade Fire may have the heat (and the Grammy), but Sloan set that fire two decades back when they were mistakenly pegged as the Canadian Nirvana by Geffen’s A&R department. Perhaps the risk of fading into obscurity is Sloan’s double cross to bear, but for those of us who appreciate finely crafted pop-rock, made by a team of seasoned rock professionals, a new Sloan record will always be a cause for celebration. And defying the odds, The Double Cross may be their best yet.”

XX opening MEDLEY: “Follow The Leader” / “The Answer Was You” / “Unkind”

Guesting on CBC Radio 3’s Lanarama (Vancouver, BC, Canada)

I finally got to meet Lana Gay (whom I really only knew from twitter, she’s @LanaGay of course) and be a guest. IN PERSON, on her awesome Vancouver based CBC Radio 3 program, Lanarama. Little did I know that I’d be on the air one week before the show itself went off the air. Lucky for me, I suppose, and Lana’s staying with the CBC, but sad for the legions of listeners across Canada (and canucks like me down in California listening online). I was on for about an hour and we had a great time, I got to pick some of my favourite Canadian indies, my old standby like Sloan and Metric etc. But the really kicker was that she hipped me to a band that I actually will include in my year-end best of, Miracle Fortress.

Miracle Fortress: Was I The Wave? (Secret City Records)

So Lana asks me what I want to play next and I, being sort of out of it due to living away from Canada, do the appropriate thing. I say, “Pick something, Lana!” She said, “Have you heard Miracle Fortress?” I say, “No, but put it on!” And thus began my interest in Montreal-based composer, Graham Van Pelt, the one man fortress who makes musical miracles happen in his bedroom studio. (Miracle Mattress?) This may be post-rock and indie, and even bedroom rock, but it’s got plenty of signposts of familiarity. I detect notes of The Postal Service, Brian Wilson, Talking Heads, LCD Soundsystem and even Phoenix (whether Van Pelt is a fan or not of these acts, the echoes are there). Try it yourself: Here’s “Everything Works”:

Jenny O: Home E.P. (Manimal Records)

My friend Tom DeSavia works for the music publisher, Notable Music Co. He has great ears and when he hears something, I listen too. One day this year, Tom said listen to this. It was Jenny O, a Los Angeles based singer-songwriter who had just self-produced an EP called, simply enough, Home. The first song was a funky little number called “Well OK Honey”

That was pretty cool, I thought, but what else ya got? Then I heard the title track, the gorgeous and intimate piano ballad “Home”, which couldn’t be more different than the other song.

So now I await her next full-length album. That’s how it works. Thanks Tom.

John Moremen: John Moremen’s Flotation Device (Mystery Lawn Music)

When John Moremen, my musical associate in The Paul & John, started knocking out track after track  of awesome guitar instrumentals, doing drums in a rented rehearsal room with a Zoom H2 recorder, then finishing off all the guitars and bass in his bedroom studio, I could tell he was stoked. And prolific. So it was no surprise when he announced that he was going to release a bunch of them as an album, the first of what promises to be many under the name John Moremen’s Flotation Device. What was a surprise, however, was that he asked ME to do the album package art and design. Now, I’ve dabbled for years with Photoshop and have practiced layout all over the place, but nobody has ever asked me to do an album cover before. I said yes, if only because I wanted to see if I could do it, and promised John that if I got stuck, I’d get Allen Clapp, whose label Mystery Lawn is putting this out, to help. I only really need Allen for a couple of things in the end, but his advice was important. But enough about me, you really should listen to this album. If Jeff Beck, Thelonius Monk, Dick Dale and Jimmy Page were all the same cat, and if that cat could also play the drums, you’d maybe, maybe, get this. It rocks the rock but Mormemen’s inherent melodic skills (the jazz mind here) keep the thing in a composer’s realm. I personally use this music in the car to make the scenery look like my own private Quentin Tarantino film.

Here’s a bootleg LIVE version of the Flotation Device band rocking out “Deep Fried” at their debut concert this fall at Hotel Utah.

Order John Moremen’s Flotation Device from iTunes here http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/john-moremens-flotation-device/id481345455

Jon Brion’s songs and score for Miranda July’s The Future  

I only recently saw the film The Future, written and directed by its star, Miranda July. I loved this little movie as I had also enjoyed  her previous film, Me And You And Everyone We Know. I was totally digging the music in The Future without even knowing that it was done by my friend Jon Brion. Sweet, I loved it without even knowing that. Here’s the trailer for The Future, which has moments of Jon’s score in it.

Daryl Hall: Live From Daryl’s House Web Series

I just wrote about Live From Daryl’s House, again, yesterday, in Fast Company’s new Fast Company Create site. click here —> Daryl Hall’s New Mobile Home, but I’ve been talking about this show for a while now. Still, great and despite the loss of T-Bone Wolk, Daryl’s true wing man and band leader, the show has (as it must)  gone on. Undoubtedly, the highlight for me this year was when Todd Rundgren guested for the second time. This time, Daryl came to Todd’s house and Hall’s band, set in Todd’s beautiful outdoor living room in Kauai, were hotter than a pig roasted under the earth. Here’s one highlight, Daryl & Todd going soul for soul on “The Last Ride” first heard on Rundgren’s Todd album.

SF Sketchfest Presents True Stories: David Byrne in Conversation with Paul Myers (Castro Theatre, San Francisco, Feb 5, 2011)

Another personal highlight for me was sitting down on the illustrious stage of the Castro Theatre to interview David Byrne (one of my cornerstone musical heroes) to discuss the Talking Heads film True Stories. It was the second time I’d done this kind of thing for SF Sketchfest (a great comedy festival here in the Bay Area, that you really should come here for), and I’d previously hosted a Kids In The Hall reunion panel with all five Kids. David Byrne came ready to talk, laughed easily and gave thoughtful informative answers, and he seemed receptive to my sense of humour, which made it a lot of fun. Pretty much a dream come true, and one of the reasons I do the journalism thing. Which brings me to another highlight…

Talking Heads: Chronology (Talking Heads Tours/Eagle Rock Entertainment)

This DVD features 18 clips of Talking Heads over their whole career: stuff from CBGB in 1975, from The Kitchen in October 1976, Montreux Festival 1982, Sproul Plaza at UC Berkeley 1978, Letterman from 1983, and their reunion show at the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 2002. There’s also bonus interview with David Byrne, and commentary by all four Heads (Chris Frantz, Tina Weymouth, Jerry Harrison and DB). As impressive and vital as that stuff is, I’m equally charmed by the hardback book that holds it and its accompanying text, comprised of a long, rambling and genius essay by the late, great gonzo rock journalist Lester Bangs, written in August of 1979, ostensibly as a “review” of Talking Heads Fear of Music album. But readers familiar with Lester Bangs will know already that Mr. Bangs used such temporal, physical things such as vinyl LPs as mental catapults to shoot him into the stratosphere or to plumb the depths of the deep dark blue seas of counter culture. (I would type that last phrase to impress him, he would probably say I’m full of shit. Which is why we love Lester Bangs.) Essential reissue.

Elvis Costello And The Imposters: The Revolver Tour (May 22, 2011, Beacon Theatre,  NYC).

  It doesn’t hurt that my brother Mike put Elvis in his Austin Powers films, but way before that my two brothers were already HUGE fans of Elvis Costello back in our suburban home in Scarborough, Ontario. Add this to the dream come true file, but over the years I have had many conversations with Elvis and his wife, and fellow canuck, Diana Krall (thanks again for the hook up Mike) and on this fine evening in May, Liza and I found ourselves in NYC just as the curtain was going up for Elvis Costello & The Imposters’ three-night stint at the Beacon Theatre on The Revolver Tour featuring “the return of the Spectacular Spinning Songbook”. We got the good seats. We got the backstage meet up. But this wasn’t just about that stuff, this was about music. Well written songs, played by guys who know their stuff, presented with a level of verve, panache and flair that typifies the “later” Elvis Costello era. I’ve never grinned so hard and so long in my life. I am STILL giddy thinking about this show.

Wizards & Stars LA: Paul Myers & Scott Miller A Literary Musical Event (Largo At The Coronet, Los Angeles)

Jon Brion hides.

Having already partnered with Scott Miller (Game Theory, Loud Family) in San Francisco last December, in a show produced by Alison Faith Levy who came up with the name, Wizards & Stars in honor of my book (Wizard) and Scott’s book Music: What Happened, we decided to take the show on the road this year, eventually agreeing to do it at Largo At The Coronet in Los Angeles. For the San Francisco event we’d had a roster of Bay Area guest stars doing Todd Rundgren covers (for my book) while Scott performed selections of songs he’d written about in his own book, then did a Todd song too (there’s one in his book!). We’d had Bye Bye Blackbirds, Alison Faith Levy, Chris Von Sneidern, I Love My Label, and The Paul & John (Moremen) up there at the Make Out Room in San Francisco. For the L.A. show Scott, John and myself headed down (separately) and we were joined by an impressive lineup of L.A. based folks.

 For Scott’s set, he was joined by none other than Aimee Mann. For my Todd set, I was joined by John who brought drummer DJ Bonebrake (X) and his bass playing former bandmate Peter Gilstrap. In the months leading up to the gig, I’d befriended Taylor Locke, of The Roughs and Rooney, and he was instrumental in putting together a linuep that included Rooney guys Ned Brower, Brandon Schwartzel and Louie Stephens, Roughs Chris Price, along with The Chapin Sisters. Taylor was also helpful in helping me pester the great Lyle Workman to come out and sing, and he brought Mike Viola (it’s nice to meet someone this way, what a great guy), but they had a big surprise for me. They brought a string quartet, The Section, and  proceeded to perform two Todd procuced tunes, Lyle’s “I Don’t Mind At All” (a Bourgeois Tagg hit) and XTC‘s “1000 Umbrellas” with full strings, the XTC charts were the actual charts on Skylarking, sent over from the UK by the man who charted them, XTC’s Dave Gregory.

Too much you say? Well how about Jon Brion himself, doing his electro-looping, one-man band thing on Todd’s “I Think You Know”? But wait, we ALSO had my old pal Dave Foley, who agreed to MC the evening, and he brought his guitar to do the legendary “string breaking” gag from Kids In The Hall. We even riffed back and forth onstage. (Dreams come true again). Thanks everyone and thanks to Largo for letting us go crazy there.

Jon Brion, hiding.

Todd Rundgren Musical Survival Camp (June 22 -23, Full Moon Resort, near Woodstock, NY)

Speaking of dreams coming true (a theme here), my book has brought me some interesting and wonderful benefits, one of which is that I am now something of a go-to guy for Todd Rundgren things, and this year, I was invited by the man himself to come and speak at his seminar in the Catskills, where much of the Todd story happened. I was on panels, and got to see Todd and his band play at the Bearsville Theatre (with Albert Grossman’s grave out behind it). I got to meet a whole lot of swell Todd fans who made me feel welcome and took me into their tribe. But the most incredible part has to be the first night I got to the Full Moon Resort. It was June 22nd, Todd’s birthday party. Todd did a couple of numbers, and then his band, including my friends Jesse Gress, Kasim Sulton, Prairie Prince and Cars’ keyboard player Greg Hawkes, (plus assorted musically inclinded Todd fans) were onstage supplying the backup as various singers did Todd songs, with Todd in the house smiling and having a few cocktails.  They asked me to sing one, I chose “I Saw The Light”. I summoned all my old instincts and what passes for “chops”. I believe I pulled it off. Todd seemed to think so, he leapt to his feet to high five me. (Dreams come true). So THAT happened.

Rob Tannebaum & Craig Marks: I Want My MTV (Dutton/Penguin)

Subtitled “The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution”, respected journalists Rob Tannebaum (GQ, New Yorker, Blender) and Craig Marks (Spin, Blender, Billboard), have compiled a massive collection of interviews with pretty much ALL the key musical players and told the story (which already feel nostalgic – remember music video on MTV?), of just what happened to your TV three decades ago. When I say all, I mean it’s a 600 page compendium of everybody from VJs like Martha Quinn and Downtown Julie Brown to artists ranging from rap stars like Beastie Boys, Run DMC, Public Enemy, and Fab 5 Freddy to rock staples like Tom Petty, Nirvana, R.E.M., Van Halen, Twisted Sister and Duran Duran, and pop acts like Wilson Phillips, Janet Jackson and Phil Collins. There’s also visual and TV voices like director Michael Mann, MTV executive Tom Freston, and Conan O’Brien and way more. In fact, they’ve got over 400 interviews, all laid out in an oral transcript that intercuts between these diverse voices to move the narrative along. It’s a thoroughly researched, ambitious and wide-ranging project and I’m just glad that I didn’t have to do it. Thank you Rob & Craig. Recommended.

Adam Levy: The Heart Collector (Lost Wax Records)

I first wrote about Adam in a column entitled My Talented Friends, but I did want to put his CD, The Heart Collector back in your face one more time. Working with producer Mark Orton, Adam has crafted an intimate, all-acoustic collection which showcases his nimble picking, warm voice and earnest lyrics.  Some lovely string arrangements pop up now and then, but it’s mainly a sit-down with an emotionally connected songwriter at the top of his game, communicating truth upon truth. One song that really spoke to me, having adopted California as my home, is Adam’s “A Promise to California”: “As soon as I crossed that state line, heard the harmony that never ends, in the echoes of the canyons, in the Santa Ana wind. In the crash of the Pacific, in the calling of the birds, I made a promise to California, and I never break my word.”

Liam Finn: FOMO (Yep Roc)
This year, I interviewed and really got to know Liam Finn a bit better. His newest album FOMO, is an acronym for “fear of missing out,” and is the product of a kind of walkabout year, back home in New Zealand, where he attempted to cut himself off from the wired world of media inundation and social networking so he could better concentrate on making music. The result is an unselfconscious and well-constructed album that breaks new ground for the hirsute songwriter and is at turns atmospheric, worldly and edgy. “I just put sounds I like in there,” Liam told me, “and partly that’s growing up in 90s with a lot of noise bands like Sonic Youth and Pavement and all those different influences have made up parts of my own thing, but at the same time no matter how much I try to be different I still get comparisons to dad but that’s probably in the voice, which is a bit like my dad, and my uncle Tim. But what people might forget, you’re not just influenced by your family, you are also influenced by the same things as your family. All three of us [Neil, Tim and Liam] would have grown up listening to The Beatles and Neil Young and David Bowie and Led Zeppelin.”

While the songs on FOMO are as melodically inventive as anyone named Finn has ever written, the sonic structures adorning them range from bleak and atmospheric to poppy and manic. The overall effect is that FOMO feels vaguely dreamlike, and at times dislocated. Loops, live drums and machine patterns anchor swirly psychedelic washes and deep reverbs. He even visits a kind of 60s pastiche on the catchy “Cold Feet”.

Brian Ray: This Way Up (WhooRay Records)

Brian Ray plays guitar and bass for Paul McCartney (when Paul puts down the bass, of course). Now that the elephant in the room is acknowledged, allow me to convince you that Brian’s own music is pretty damn special too. He’s also one of the good ones on Twitter, FYI. Evincing a pronounced tilt toward the power pop (think The Grays or Jellyfish), which as you know is my own comfort zone, Brian rocks on This Way Up with a journeyman’s skill, and a poets heart. He also plays a mean guitar. AND he’s socially conscious too, his “Very Happy Song” and self-made video, address the growing gulf between rich and pour and clearly show his sympathies with the 99%, despite the fact that his day job is working for a very cool 1%-er.

“Very Happy Song”

They Might Be Giants: Join Us (Idlewild/Rounder Records)
Yep, they’re still making music for grown-ups. Yep, it’s still smarter than you. Yep, I love it. On Join Us, TMBG really sound like they’re pushing boundaries again, in a way that they used to on the first few albums. In a few places, I’ve felt that it’s the update of Lincoln or Flood, but with a seasoned band that really play together well (unlike the loops and drum machines of their youth.) I’ve told John & John that I think they’re brilliant, but I bet they probably get that a lot. Join them.

Cameron Crowe: PJ20 (documentary)

Cameron Crowe gets music. You know? He just gets it. Passion and luck play a big part in his Pearl Jam documentary, PJ20, commemorating the two decade and counting career of the Seattle band that grew past their initial grunge tag to become a kind of Grateful Dead of their era. First, it’s lucky for all of us that Cameron sometimes shows us some of that musical love and passion in  film form. Second, it’s lucky that he was living in Seattle back when it all went down, twenty years ago. But the luckiest twist of all, in my opinion, was that Pearl Jam had the camera rolling from the very start, making it far easier (or harder) to show every single key moment in their career – as it happened. His unique access to the band helps Eddie and Co. lower their guard and share their story, which cuts deep down to the mother lovin’ bone.

Martin Scorsese & Olivia Harrison: George Harrison: Living In The Material World (Film & Book)

If Cameron has a brother in music and film love, it’s gotta be Marty DiBergi himself, the raging bull of rock and cinema, Martin Scorsese. Having covered The Band in The Last Waltz, Bob Dylan in No Direction Home, The Rolling Stones in Shine A Light and the blues in The Blues, he teamed up this year with Beatle widow Olivia Harrison to present a uniquely human look at the so-called, “quiet one” in George Harrison: Living In The Material World. The film aired over two nights and is divided up into Beatles era and after Beatles era. It doesn’t answer all your questions, nor does it promise to. What it does do is lay out the fundamental themes of a man whose life is still affecting anyone who ever knew him personally, and the millions who never even met him at all. The usual cast of friends and musicians are all here but this is slightly different than your run of the mill Beatlography. The closest comparison might be Scorsese’s Dylan film, which I’m sure left a few Dylan heads feeling like something was left out. Something may have been left out here, but hey one movie can’t get it all, and what you choose to dwell on, how you curate a life, is why we like certain writers and filmmakers. I say go for it, and choose to love this film.

P.S. I was also lucky this year, that my good friends Linda & Jack, in Boulder, Colorado, went to see Olivia at an event this year and made a special point of buying a copy of the book for me and having Olivia sign it. They told me that Olivia made a geniune effort to ask about the person she was signing it for, which is way above what is usual in these situations. Kudos Olivia, and thanks Linda & Jack.

Rush: Time Machine Tour (June 26, 2011, Sleep Train Pavilion, Concord, CA.)

I hadn’t seen Rush in something like 25 years, if that. This summer,  I was lucky enough to now know a sufficient amount of industry professionals that I managed to find a pass to see them just north of here, in Concord, California. Liza was, um, busy, so I  asked around and my good friend John Elliott (he’s the other guy in the picture below) told me that he was a huge Rush fan and that he would be very happy to get a free ticket and backstage pass for the show. So that was easy enough. He drove. Fair trade. I had a blast, Rush put on a great visual show and play superbly, and they have a surprisingly well-developed sense of humour (Canadian spelling) about themselves. So it was cool. After the show, we met up with Alex and Geddy and talked about the neighbourhood we both grew up in, a little subdivision called Willowdale, Ontario. Dreams come true.

BONUS HIGHLIGHT: Getting my Telecaster fixed up.

HAPPY NEW YEAR. DREAMS COME TRUE AGAIN IN 2012!

7 Responses to “2011: My Year In Music”

  1. Thank you Paul. Tremendously enjoyable and insightful. Gonna save the link so I can enjoy it again!

  2. Thank you Paul as always for your perspective and enthusiasm. I love how you put it together.

  3. Great read and some bands here that I’m going to check out in the coming weeks.

  4. Great stuff as always, Paul!

  5. [...] The Pulmyears Music Blog Musings on music from the desk of Paul Myers. « 2011: My Year In Music [...]

  6. ianbalentine Says:

    Really enjoyed your reviews, especially regarding the new Sloan. What a wonderful, undervalued band they are!
    One bone, though: why, oh why, do the Kinks continue to be ignored? They reissued some great albums (Arthur tops the list for me) and virtually no mention or kudos anywhere on the damned interweb. For shame.
    Anyhew, I’m from a little town near Toronto called Milton and stumbled here by happy accident. Glad I did. I’ll add a link on my little blog.

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