Welcome to the Popdose Music Roundtable for January 2014 — wherein the Popdose staff gabs about any music, new or old, that has been moving us over the past month.

David Medsker – I’ve been gorging on Everything but the Girl while I read Tracey Thorn’s fantastic memoir.

Jeff Giles – I picked up the recent North Mississippi Allstars record, World Boogie Is Coming, based on a recommendation from our pal Judd Marcello. I can’t stop listening to it.

Matt Wardlaw – Listening now…I don’t know that I’ve ever checked out their stuff.

Chris Holmes – I will be the dinosaur this month. After years of avoiding Black Sabbath’s Technical Ecstasy album due to its horrible reputation, I finally listened to it a few weeks ago. While it is a huge drop in quality from their preceding albums, I am now obsessed with the first two tracks – “Back Street Kids” and “You Won’t Change Me.” They’re an interesting move into more straightforward hard rock, and a glimpse at what could have been if Ozzy hadn’t imploded.

Medsker – Oh, and I mentioned this before, but I love the new Phantogram single “Fall in Love,” as well as Temples’ “Shelter Song.” Love hearing jangly guitars on the radio again.

Michael Parr – While it might only be three tracks long, Alex Dezen (singer and principle songwriter for The Damnwells) new EP, 1/4, is ringing my bell at the moment.

Holmes – Oh and just to show I’m not completely unplugged from new music, School of Language has a new single out that I dig. But you can read about that here.

Ted Asregadoo – I’ve been listening to London Grammar, Alpine and MS MR…All three bands have a kind of ethereal quality that Lorde made popular last year.  I saw London Grammar on Fallon and at first wasn’t all that impressed with “Strong,” but then about a minute in it really hooked me.

Medsker – Now listening to London Grammar. Thanks, brother from another mother. :)

Asregadoo – Absolutely!  I’ll have to pick up that Tracey Thorn autobiography.  I’ve been a fan of EBTG since I first heard them in the ’80s, so it’ll be interesting to read about how their music and relationship with each other evolved.

Medsker – The pictures of her ticket stubs are worth the price alone. The Smiths, three pounds.

Asregadoo – Reminds me of my brother…who has a ticket stub from the late ’70s:  Judas Priest $7.50.

Medsker – My first rock concert: Adam Ant and INXS. Nine bucks.

Dave Lifton – I’ll give a second to Dezen’s EP. Of course I’ve also been listening to the new Springsteen, but I already reviewed that.

Jeff made up for all those Earmageddons by buying me the North Mississippi All-Stars, and that’s awesome, too. But my favorite album I’ve been listening to this month is The River and the Thread by Rosanne Cash.

Giles – I wanted to love The River & the Thread a lot more than I did. Like the new Mary Chapin Carpenter, it’s an album I was expecting to take me someplace, but I came away disappointed.

Jack Feerick – For reasons I scarcely understand myself, I’ve been spending way too much time this month collecting and listening through multiple pop and jazz versions of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite. The melodies are so strong that they can stand up to all manner of abuse — and believe me, they’ve had to. I’ve been listening to Shorty Rogers and his Swingin’ Nutcracker from 1960, the Classical Jazz Quartet’s 2001 version, Freddy Martin and His Orchestra from a set of 78s issued in 1945, Moog stuff from Wendy Carlos… even the goddamn Jingle Cats.

Findings:

– Best jazz version overall is still Duke Ellington’s.
– Various artists on the New Age label Narada put together a full-length version that’s so solemn and straight-faced that it’s inadvertently hilarious.
– A cat named Tim Sparks has an amazing arrangement of the whole thing for solo classical guitar that is, hands down, one of the most technically astonishing things I’ve ever heard.

My absolute favorite, though, is a version by the Shirim Klezmer Orchestra. Their Klezmer Nutcracker does considerable violence to the original melodies and rhythms, but it’s done with affection and  raucous good humor.

And I’ve still got a soft spot for “The Nut-rocker.”

Holmes – I discovered the Shorty Rogers Nutcracker several years ago in a newsgroup, and it’s been a holiday tradition ever since. I must also give props to ELP’s “Nutrocker,” despite it’s odd inclusion at the end of the Pictures at an Exhibition album.

Keith Creighton – Since Christmas, my wife (and therefore me too) has listened to Macklemore’s “The Heist” at least once a day — and you know what, it’s really amazing and totally worth the hype and success.

Bypassers and Angela Perley & The Howlin’ Moons (both recently featured on POPDOSE with free MP3’s) are neck and neck for my favorite new artist of 2014 tiara.

I’ve played Against Me!’s “Transgender Dysphoria Blues” more than 50 times in the past two months and can’t get enough of it. In my humble opinion, no rock band in the past decade can touch their past three albums.

Lily Allen. So glad to have her back.

And I just bought the past seven albums featuring Mark Burgess of The Chameleons to catch me up on every track he’s ever farted on in the past 10 years.

Medsker – I fell completely out of the window last year, and I attribute a lot of it to deleting nearly every press release that lands in my inbox. I kept reading about the band Disclosure, and just discovered that I’ve had access to download the album since June.

Paul McCartneyDan Wiencek – In researching an upcoming Popdose piece, I’ve been dipping into Paul McCartney’s early ’80s output, stuff I’ve always shied away from on account of its reputation. Tug of War has some real gems on it — I love “One of These Days” — though Pipes of Peace and Press to Play don’t seem in line for reappraisal any time soon. I did have the pleasure of introducing a friend and fellow Beatles fan to “Temporary Secretary,” which mildly blew his mind, and occasioned some delightful dancing by his ten-year-old daughter. McCartney II is so enjoyably bonkers.

The only new thing I’ve heard so far is Stephen Malkmus’s album. So-so.

Creighton – Oooooh Tug of War — that album can do no wrong. You gotta get it and you gotta get it good.

Robert Ross – “The Pound Is Sinking” rates amongst my favorite Paulie Mac solo items.  But it also stops for me with “Tug Of War” (“My Brave Face” and “This One” notwithstanding).

Holmes – Tug of War is a phenomenal disc. Probably his last great one until he started his more recent resurgence with Driving Rain et. al.

Wiencek – Flowers in the Dirt was definitely an improvement. Most of that still holds up really well. “Put It There” is one of my favorite of his acoustic numbers.

Medsker – Damn, now I want to listen to Tug of War, but it’s not on Spotify.

Ross – Since I’ve been spotted wearing my “Wings Over America” jersey, I’ll quietly revisit Back To The Egg.  It has its high points (nothing beats Band On The Run or Venus And Mars, but hey…)

Medsker – I’m having another problem: longtime heroes of mine are starting to let me down. I turned off Damon Albarn’s new single before it was finished, and Neil Finn’s new stuff isn’t grabbing me, either. Neil fucking Finn!

Parr – I did not particularly care for the Neil Finn tune, either.

Creighton – So bummed to hear about Albarn and Finn. The new Johnny Cash seems promising. In terms of new records, he’ll outlive them all.

Giles – I think a lot of Neil’s solo work prefers taking you gently by the arm rather than shaking you by the lapels. For me, anyway, immediate grabbers like “She Will Have Her Way” are the exception rather than the rule — more often than not, I need to spend a fair amount of time with his records before they really sink in.

Annie Zaleski – Neil’s set the bar so high with Crowded House, his solo stuff takes a minute to absorb. “Flying In The Face of Love” I thought was much better than “Divebomber”–more arresting and moody.

Dw. Dunphy – I’ve been listening to a lot of instrumental music lately — a lot of Godspeed You Black Emperor and Rachel’s; specifically Rachel’s. I can’t say enough good things about The Sea And The Bells.

I’ll agree with Chris and say that, of the vocal rock I’ve been listening to lately, Sabbath’s Never Say Die! has been consistent. The band is so much more talented than the schtick that they hung around themselves so often. I’ll also say that “Junior’s Eyes” alone is better than the entire 13 album. I said it, and I’m standing by it.

Holmes – I found 13 to be an incredible letdown. Just a giant plodding bore.

Giles – Plodding? Sabbath? The devil you say.

Ross – Which 13?  Blur?  Because that album just plain sucked logs.

Medsker – Coffee & TV rules.

Ross – Oh yeah – I forgot.  It had one good song.  Much like the self-titled album that cursed the world with “Song 2.”

Medsker – MOR, Death of a Party, Theme from Retro, You’re So Great…I like the Life trilogy of albums the most, of course, but Blur has some good stuff on it. I never listen to 13 or Think Tank now. Even the talk of a new Blur sounds more like a threat than a promise to me anymore.

Dunphy – I’m a devoted Blur fan and I just cannot commit to Think Tank. It’s missing only one original member, but to me it will always be a band effort in name only.

Thierry Côté – Think Tank is the one Blur cd I sold back, and the one LP I didn’t buy when they were reissued recently. I love, love, LOVE Blur, but I’d rather listen to Alex James grate cheese while Dave Rowntree explains to me non-photorealistic rendering than ever play Think Tank again.

Creighton – We named our black greyhound Blur in honor of Parklife (the only essential Blur album, I have them all, but only listen to Parklife). His sister is named Gozer (the Destroyer).

Zaleski – As a massive Blur fan, I think everything up to Great Escape is crucial. The rest is hit or miss.

Ross – Time for some Tryfles on vinyl…

Ann Logue – I’ve been listening to two bands these days: Hurray for the Riff Raff, which has a new album coming out on ATO. I just bought their last album, My Dearest Darkest Neighbor, on the recommendation of a friend who is the bassist’s mother. She’s biased, but Spin has been writing them up, too. They play a modern version of Delta blues.

The other is The Skins, a rock-and-roll band. My husband saw them open for Jake Bugg thought they were the sort of band I would like, and he was right.

Finally, I am almost finished with Lilyhammer. Every episode has at least one Norwegian band, and that must be Steve Van Zandt’s favorite part of the show! Here’s hoping for a compilation.

Giles – I try to make a point of listening to everything I see out of ATO, so I’ll check that out.

Ross – I’ll probably be shot for what I’m about to say:  been listening to Emitt Rhodes and Michael Nesmith (with and without The Monkees or The First National Band).

Giles – Why would you be shot? Rhodes is kind of a hero around here.

Ross – People get ornery when I wax eloquent about Papa Nes…

Giles – Oh, we’ve got some Nesmith fanatics here, too.

Ross – Oh, well right on, then…

Dunphy – We’d probably pull the firearms if you said Davy Jones was the only good Monkee.

Scott Malchus – I’ve been listening to a lot of post war jump blues for a script I’m writing, especially Louis Jordan, whom I love. A current band I discovered at the end of last year was the Eli Young Band, who are an excellent country band whose 2011 album, Life at Best has been on heavy rotation, along with a healthy dose of Miranda Lambert and Ashley Monroe.

The Band has been getting a lot of plays, inspired by the morning my daughter let me explain the history of “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” the bad blood between Robbie Robertson and Levon Helm and how the recorded their first album while Dylan was recuperating from his accident (plus how fame messed with Dylan’s psyche)… all on the five minute drive to drop her off at high school.

Of course, because of my wonderful kids, I’m hear plenty of pop music that has permeated my soul. I love Katy Perry’s “Roar” because the strength in that song reminds me of my daughter. I love “Can’t Hold Us” by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis because my 12 year old boy is able to spit out the lyrics in the same machine gun speed as Macklemore.

And yes, Mr. Holmes, I’ve finally worked my way through that damn Page/Plant album. Write up is coming soon.

Jason Hare – I disappeared down the Jellyfish rabbit hole a couple of weeks ago and unexpectedly came out repeatedly listening to It’s Only Time by Drake Bell (of Drake & Josh fame). Someone on Steve Hoffman’s forums called it “the lost Jellyfish album.” I wouldn’t go that far, but man, is it a fine little collection of hooks.

Côté – The song that’s grabbed me the most this month is probably Sherman Downey and the Ambiguous Case’s “Annalee”. If you think the name is a reference to “The Weight”, wait until you hear those harmonies.

Jon Cummings – Back to McCartney … I must insist that you give a second/third/fourth listen to Press To Play. Consider, if you will, the shifting expectations he faced in the mid-’80s after the total failure (sorry, Will Harris) of Give My Regards To Broad Street. And then wonder anew at the low-key brilliance of “Stranglehold,” the sonic experimentation on stuff like “Pretty Little Head” and “Good Times Coming/Feel the Sun” that now sounds like a bridge between McCartney II and the Fireman. And consider how “Only Love Remains” would have topped the charts had McCartney released it a few years earlier … or had someone younger released it at the same time. Heck, I even like Press more now than when it’s very ’80s-ness seemed somehow out of step with Macca’s career path (sorta the same way “Allergies” had kicked back on Paul Simon a few years earlier … but that’s another story).

Dan Walsh – Artists with my ear in January:

Diego Garcia – Ex-Elefant doing solid acoustic pop with a latin flair.  ‘Start With The End’ has caused the 4 yr old to start singing it at random times.  And allowed me to teach the kids how to Tango. Seriously.

Sean McCann – Ex-Great Big Sea member. I have the 11 track album as a single mp3 file. Has been an interesting way to take in on multiple listens.

Vic & Gab – Tegan & Sara-lite.

Leo Welch – The Jeff Giles approved gospel record that just wails.

Parr – I always found Sean to be the weakest link in Great Big Sea; his solo efforts have been less than impressive.

Walsh – The new album is far better than his two previous solo albums. Quitting GBS might have been the best thing for him.

Medsker – Diego Garcia’s “You Were Never There” is one of my favorite songs. Timeless, gorgeous. Glad to know he has new stuff coming out.

Walsh – It’s out now, he released it in Oct/Nov, I believe. He recorded a 9 track Daytrotter session that should go live in the coming weeks.

Medsker – Ooh, five bucks on Amazon. I will be downloading this when I get home. Listening on Spotify now, and “Start with the End” is superb. I thought Elefant was okay, but I like his solo stuff much more.

Wiencek – “Stranglehold” did stand out as a good song. I’ll revisit the disk with the below in mind!