Several years ago, at the end of a long conversation about Elvis Presley, and specifically the world’s response to his death, a friend of mine asked me: “Who’s our Elvis? Whose death will stop the world like his?” We mulled and debated and left the question open. At 1:30 this morning I rolled over and checked the Internet and got the answer. I texted the friend this afternoon, to say: This is it. Our Elvis has died. David Bowie has left us, and I have to tell y’all, I don’t even know where to start. At the beginning, I guess, or what was the beginning for me: Dance Magic Dance from Labyrinth: I don’t remember when I first heard Let’s Dance, title track of the 1983 record, but it has always been one of my favorites. Here he is singing it, as well as one other song that comes first, with Tina Turner: Jumping backwards a little bit, this is Beauty and the Beast, from Heroes (1977), which I stumbled over probably ten years ago, and half a story fell fully formed into my head. I still haven’t written it down, but it’s there. Space Oddity, from David Bowie (1969) … Continue reading
August Burns Red are well known for their punishingly heavy jams. They bring a similar spirit to Sleddin’ Hill, their Christmas record, released in 2012. I probably write about it every year, because I just love it that much. My primary favorite song from the record is their rendition of Carol of the Bells, which keeps the shape of the original intact but ramps up the intensity and pours on the drums: And as I was poking around the video possibilities I discovered that 1) one of their labels had put the whole thing up and 2) their version of Oh Holy Night is just majestic. Oh Holy Night is the kind of thing that’s supposed to ebb and flow on its way to a massive crescendo; when the choir hits fall on your knees you should feel the voices pulling you down. There’s no singing, here, but the drums will certainly knock you over:
Bob Dylan released Christmas in the Heart in 2009, and the world’s reaction was somewhere between ” . . .” and “WHAT?” I have a confession, y’all: I usually can take or leave Bob Dylan, but I unironically love this record. There really is nothing more subtly glorious than him and his froggy croak of a voice powering through Adeste Fidelis: Though his rendition of Little Drummer Boy is also pretty great:
And now, on a more serious note, our old favorites the Felice Brothers have put out a Christmas album called Felice Navidad, the proceeds from which will go to the Food Bank of the Hudson Valley (NY). Below are videos for two of the songs, Country Ham and Carriage. Country Ham is the whole band having some fun in a supermarket on their way to dropping off some holiday cheer; Carriage is Ian Felice by himself, delivering some sobering home truths with his guitar. The rest of the record is available at their website.
Everyone has their Christmas traditions. Some people can’t get in the spirit without hot cider and gingerbread. Others genuinely enjoy ugly Christmas sweater season. As for me, well, it isn’t really Christmas until someone starts singing Grandma Got Runover by a Reindeer. (Admittedly this year that would mean Advent started in August on Fire Island, when someone in a hen party next to launched into the tune, but – DETAILS, people, DETAILS.) This version of the Elmo and Patsy classic is by Justin Kennedy of Army Navy. It’s at about 3/4 speed and therefore feels like experiencing the holiday in a haze of . . . whatever makes you feel hazy. Really brings the pathos out, too, actually. Never occurred to me before how much of the childish glee of this song depends on being able to slalom through it. Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer – Justin Kennedy from Justin Kennedy on Vimeo.
It’s a simple yet sublime pleasure, and just thinking about it can make you feel a little calmer, a little more content. Imagine: You bring out one of the good rocks glasses (or your favorite mug or a special occasion tea cup) and pour a couple fingers of amber liquid (or something dark and strong or just some whole milk). You drop the needle on the jazz platter (or pull up a blues album on your mp3 player or dig out that mixtape from college). Ensconcing yourself in the coziest seat in the house, you crack the spine on a classic (or find your place in that sci-fi paperback or pull up a biography on your e-book reader). And then, you go away for a while. Ah, bliss. In this series, some of NTSIB’s friends share beloved albums, books and drinks to recommend or inspire. The Slomatics first formed in Belfast in late 2004, and since then have released several records. Recently they re-issued their first two albums, Kalceanna (2007) and Flooding the Weir (2005). I’ve listened to both of them; my reaction was this is like being run over by a cement mixer and I mean that in the … Continue reading
PHASES, formerly known as JJAMZ, put out a new record called For Life a couple of months back. Below is the visualizer video for Betty Blue, one of the tunes on that record, which I like because it looks and sounds like TRON on acid. Also, y’all should know that while they sound like synth-disco recorded, live they have darker, jagged edge.
And now, an NTSIB Thanksgiving tradition: an extended session from one of our favorite artists. This year it is almost a full hour of one of the finest folk balladeers / shit-stirrers / magnificent trolls working today: Father John Misty, recorded live at KEXP in the summer of 2015. The songs are all from his latest, I Love You, Honeybear. Happy Thanksgiving/Thursday, NTSIBberss.