Today, as previously promised, I’ll start featuring a few guest posts from local music heads. Today’s installment comes from Darko Butorac, artistic director and conductor of the Missoula Symphony Orchestra. He and I actually share one recommendation on this list, but some of his other suggestions come from worlds of music I never knew existed. [Read More...]
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s fairy-tale ballet “SwanLake” might seem a universe apart from the harsh reality of hate-crimes in western Montana. But thanks to the creative efforts of two University of Montana students, the Russian composer’s classic score is about to be reborn as a morality fable that focuses on one of the most challenging social issues of our time.
Portishead, “Third” (Mercury, 2008) – In the early 1990s, the British band Portishead set the bar by which all other so-called “trip-hop” acts were measured with the dour, electronica-drenched album, “Dummy.” After an eight-year hiatus in the early part of this new century, the band returned with this record, proving again that nobody [...]
The Black Keys, “Attack & Release” (Nonesuch, 2008) – I’m generally not a fan of straight-ahead rock ‘n’ roll; my ears yearn for newness, which is not a hallmark of the genre anymore. But with help from producer Danger Mouse, the Black Keys created an album that broods and burns with the kind [...]
Next we turn to an album that I consider one of the best not just of this year, but of all time. Yeah, seriously.
Osvaldo Golijov, “Oceana” (Deutsche Grammophon, 2007) – Born in Argentina and educated in Israel and the United States, Osvaldo Golijov’s mixed heritage manifests itself in music that echoes everything [...]
Reggie Watts claims to command a 10-octave vocal range. That’s about three octaves more than a piano. To date, none of his recordings prove that claim; but even if it’s false, it’s about the only thing that Watts can’t do with his voice.
Part comedian, part scat-singer in the tradition of Bobby McFerrin, Watts has made a name for himself around the country for his bizarre, funny, and musically inspired improvisational shows. This Sunday, he’ll bring his talents to the Badlander for a performance (scheduled at the last minute) as part of the club’s weekly jazz night.
Lest anyone fear that my tastes are too serious, we turn now to…
MC Hawking, “A Brief History of Rhyme” (Brash Music, 2004) – This may be the funniest parody-album of all time. It is certainly the most unexpected: sixteen tracks of gangsta-rap about theoretical physics, allegedly written and performed (with help from [...]
I have a problem with year-end best-of album lists. It’s not that I take philosophical issue with the idea of a critic enumerating her personal favorites of the preceding year. No, my problem is more practical: In a given year, I’m lucky if I find a handful of albums worth keeping that were published in that same year. This isn’t snobbishness; rather, it’s a reflection of the fact that I usually find out about good stuff later than the rest of the world.
In his recent reelection campaign, U.S. Senator Max Baucus hung his message on the old line, “Montana is what America was.” I don’t know if that’s true, but I do know this: As a 40-year old guy living in Montana, I tend to be, at best, a few months behind the times when it comes to the most groundbreaking and memorable new music.
Unlike the critics at Rolling Stone or Pitchfork, I don’t arrive at work every day to find copies of the latest new releases sitting in my mailbox. And though I spend more than the average guy on new music purchases, there’s no way to keep up with everything.
The result is that most of my new favorites are already old news by the time the end of the calendar year comes around.
But since Senator Baucus won with his Behind-and-Proud message, I figured: Why not share the bounty of new-to-me records I’ve heard this year?
There is no din more disorienting than the chaos created by Montreal-based band AIDS Wolf. Employing perfectly functional instruments, the four members spew out a barrage of aggressively expressionistic noise that is completely cut free from the grounding influences of tonality or tuning, rhythm or structure.
Take, for example, the relatively subdued “We Multiply” (which you can hear at the band’s Myspace page) in which two distorted guitars chime arhythmically in opposing key signatures as front-woman Chloe Lum moans in the painfully high reaches of her vocal range. Drummer Yannick Desranleau keeps time on his small kit, but only with himself; the rest floats around him like a storm cloud raining shards of glass.
And that’s one of the band’s more comprehensible arrangements.
When I first moved to Missoula back in November of 1997, I met a guy named Chris who lived in an apartment downtown. Chris was my first real connection to the local nightclub scene; though he was mostly a denizen of Charlie B’s, Chris knew the lay of the landscape reasonably well, and seemed to have anecdotes about every downtown bar. I remember it was Chris who first joked to me about visiting the “Smoke Hat” – his not-altogether-endearing nickname for the Top Hat Lounge on Front Street.
I later heard others refer to the bar by that name. Among the many smoke-hazed nightclubs downtown, the Top Hat often seemed to suffer from the thickest clouds of tobacco smoke.
Those days – or, at least, those nights — are officially gone. Last month, owner Steve Garr took the leap of faith, prohibiting smoking in the nightclub after