End of Year Shopping Tips and Harangue

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2012:12:14 --- Saved as: 24-Bit JPEG (EXIF) Format 98 %Oh, golly gosh, I am so glad that it is Christmas season once again, for it is only at Christmas that my neighbor, ZephyrTadwalter, makes her famous seasonal glug, full of wine and raisins and almonds and wine and rum and vodka and practically everything else I like; and so it is that I come to you brimming with Christmas cheer and goodwill, having completely forgotten that I don’t work here anymore!

Actually, the truth is additionally that I missed you -or at least my idea of the proverbial, theoretical you – and yearned once again to inflict my opinions on you in regard to your no doubt at least partially impending holiday shopping and general mood.

So… jolly? Not jolly? What? If you’re any kind of music fan you can’t have helped noticing how little seems to be going on lately as a thoroughly beaten music business cowers further and further in the corner, totally punchdrunk.

Musicians are working less and getting paid less when they do, even as they lose all hope that the record biznezz will ever again make as much sense as it did even five or ten years ago, when it still made hardly any. There’s less record companies spending less money promoting fewer, more conservative records, and it’ll probably just get worse, because at this point there’s no logical financial justification in considering a business that the internet has all but rendered obsolete. An intelligent person would do something else.

And as if that weren’t bad enough, people who go to music clubs are suddenly faced with an entirely smoke-free environment in which you can clearly see every aspect of your poor, sad, drunken friends’ deterioration as they slowly age before your very eyes.

You have to worry that the lack of smoke and haze may eventually kill the bar business entirely. Why, only a few months ago Lo Cicero’s, my longtime favorite non-snooty Italian restaurant in Orleans, closed, no doubt right after the employees and patrons finally got a good look at each other. Which leaves me totally without acceptable garlic bread, meat loaf, and magic salad dressing alternatives, and thus plunging into the depths of despair.

On the other hand, if you really dig the rockin’ sounds, then you’re going to have to listen to something. In the clubs, the new all-lady band the Ticks has provided some good fun for all with their unpretentious, playfully sunny disposish, not to mention an array of costumes and fashion ideas that would make Carmen Miranda green with envy. Strangely enough, I haven’t gotten to hear their new album, “So Young, So Bad” (no doubt available on their website, www.theticks.com) but I’m looking forward to it, with the usual baited breath.

Another good local shopping tip is the eponymous Calamity J and the Giants CD (available wherever fine Calamity J and the Giants products are sold), which is effectively the long-awaited solo debut of ex-High King Jay Cournoyer, and it was well worth the wait. Jay has long been one of the Cape’s best voices, and he’s a distinctive and cheerfully funky songsmith, too. This is one of the best home-grown recordings I’ve heard in years, and features cameos from members of NRBQ and the Incredible Casuals..

I’m also proud to point out that Patty Larkin of Wellfleet put out perhaps her best record ever this year, “Red = Luck” (Vanguard), coincidentally also one of the best albums anyone, anywhere put out this year. Buy lots! Distribute maniacally!

Meanwhile, here’s some more wide-ranging suggestions -i.e., off-Cape! -from a major crank who basically hates everything, best stuff first:

The re-issue of Randy Newman’s “Good Old Boys” (Rhino), with a whole disc of solo outtakes, was easily the most momentous and satisfying event of the year for me; he also has a new solo album out on Nonesuch. Another standout was the soundtrack to the movie “Amandla” (ATO/BMG), which features a wide range of African vocal and choral work, plus Abdullah Ibrahim, Hugh Masekela, and Miriam Makeba; it’s fascinating terrain, studded with at least six absolute stunners.

The new Paolo Conte album, “Reveries”, is delightful, although I’d still recommend starting -as soon as possible -with his first American album, “The Very Best Of Paolo Conte” (both are on Nonesuch.)

Also liked Dengue Fever, the New Pornographers, the Shins, the Strokes (kinda), Danien Rice and Sondre Lerche (some), the North Mississippi All-Stars (mostly just “Meet Me in the City” off “Polaris”, though I heard good reports from their show last summer at the Beachcomber), the Beatles’ cool re-imagining of “Let It Be Naked”, Joseph Arthur, Mark Erelli, Bleu, uh, Joni Mitchell’s 2-disc “Greatest Hits” re-tooled, also on Nonesuch (“Travelogue”), uh, er…

Much better year for movies; briefly, you MUST, MUST, MUST see “Russian Ark” (number one on my hit parade -this brilliant, dreamy, one-marathon-take masterpiece had me sitting there with my jaw dropped to the floor for longer than any movie ever), “Aberdeen”, and “Spirited Away”; also the current HBO/ Mike Nichols version of “Angels in America”, which is flawed, needlessly intelligent, and sometimes a bit of a tussle, but definitely amazing and worth it (if it only had what might be the wonderful Meryl Streep’s best work ever, it would be essential, but it has much more), and “All the Real Girls”, “Winged Migration”, “Lawless Heart”, “Dinner Rush”, “Blue Crush”, “Spun”, “Frida”, and “The Italian Job.” Surprise -pretty good year for movies!

Ok, that’s it, merry Christmas.

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