Monday, January 02, 2006

Best of 2005 | Times-Argus Music Review

Starting tomorrow, I'm going to begin to post about my favorite albums of the year. However, before I start writing those posts, I wanted to draw some attention to the article in the Times-Argus (the local paper for those outside central VT) that reviewed the top albums of 2005 by Vermont musicians.

Between this article and VPR's Best of 2005 call-in show last month, you can get a good idea why it's hard to be a fan of indie rock in central VT. It's not so much that the mainstream media doesn't care for indie rock, it's more an issue of them not even knowing the scene exists.

The Times-Argus' occupation-named Arts Correspondent, Art Edelstein, gave out six awards in his 2005 Music Review article. Here are the results:

  • Best Instrumental album: Gordon Stone Band Rhymes With Orange
  • Best Vocal performance: Patti Casey
  • Best Singer-songwriter album: Susannah Clifford Blachly Middle of the Night
  • Best Record producer: Colin McCaffrey
  • Best Song: Tie between Susannah Clifford Blachly's "Colored Baloons", Kristina Stykos' "Song to My Children" and other songs
  • Best Album: Kristina Stykos In the Earth's Fading Light

  • are my problems with this list:

    1) There are basically six awards spread over just four albums. Edelstein's best producer, Colin McCaffrey, won the award because he produced Patti Casey and Susannah Clifford Blachly's albums. And his best songs came from his best album and best singer-songwriter album of the year. Plus, Casey, Stykos and Clifford Blachly play in a band together called Bellatrix and perform on each other's albums. So, it sounds like Edelstein basically heard a handful of albums this year and divied up the awards between them. That's a weak effort on his part.

    2) Of the three artists that basically got the most attention from Edelstein (Casey, Blachly and Stykos), they all sound alike. Take the Pepsi Challenge of aging hippie folk singing women from Vermont. See you if you can hear a difference:

    You can stream songs from Susannah Clifford Blachly's album on her "Recordings" page.
    You can download clips from Patti Casey's album from her "Music" page.
    You can stream tracks from Kristina Stykos' album from CD Baby.

    Do you hear a difference? They all sound the fucking same to me. We should just merge all of their names into one. From now on, "Kristina Casey Blachly" should be the way to describe the graying female folkie movement in VT. Sort of like using "Great White Lion Snake" to describe all of the Hair Bands of the late 80's.

    I know my musical library isn't exactly A to Z of fine music but I'm confident that it's broader than Edelstein's. Hell, my niece's collection seems broader than Edelstein's.

    3) Lastly, he didn't mention The Spinto Band. Nice and Nicely Done was the best album by a Vermont band this year.

    I know ripping on The Times-Argus is like shooting fish in a barrel but Edelstein stinks as a music reviewer. He barely scratches the surface of the Vermont music scene and when he does write about an album, he sounds more like a cheerleader than he does a critic. His tastes are as tired as the music he's hyping.

    By the way, on the flip side of the coin, you can check out Casey from Seven Days' Top Ten albums of 2005 on his blog, Solid State. Agree or disagree with his choices, but at least he's going beyond Kristina Casey Blachly.


    The Contrarian said...

    FYI: the Solidstate blog represents my personal faves on the national level. Seven Days' top 10 focuses soley on local discs, and yes, Stykos, Blachly and Casey all made the grade.

    Of course, so did Ryan Power, The Cush, and Chuch.

    Burlington sometimes seems like its own little world. We have some really great indie bands, but everything changes when you step out of town.

    Colin McCaffery is Central Vermont's super producer. That's cool. I worked on a lot of the best indies in my neck of the woods. Unfortunately, this meant I couldn't personally review them -- conflict of interest. So Murf, you better be ready to do some more writing in '06!

    Flatlander said...

    Magick Man, fire up the CDs. I'm ready to write. I'm looking forward to ripping into the production quality of a few CDs.

    I'll try to link to the list Casey was refering to later. Right now, the Seven Days site seems to be down.

    b.f. said...

    "Greying female folkies"...those 3 ladies are all fishing in the same pond of fans up you think somewhere there exists one CD buyer who has bought all three albums? If there is, remind me not to hang out at their house.

    casey said...

    I haven't actually heard any the releases from "the three fates of folk." Our reviewer Robert Resnik loves them though. Keep in mind that the Seven Days top ten culls not just my faves, but those of our contributors.

    But I'll bet SOMEBODY bought all three discs, and they're probably looking to have a potluck!

    Anonymous said...

    wahhh - Found: poor jealous whiner musician needing to cut down other locals to boost their own ego. Solution: publish your own rag and write your own reviews, or better yet, shut up and try to make better music...

    Flatlander said...

    The thing is that I'm not a musician. I have zero musical ability. But I am a huge music fan.

    Being a fan is great because you are allowed to say what you like and don't like. Did you think that everyone that had ever heard Kristina Casey Blachly loved them?

    You don't have to get angry because someone said they didn't like your favorite artist. It's gonna be OK.

    trash detector said...

    Like 'em of not, let me point out that it's not the fault of these women that Art's picks seem inbred. Anyone who claims that the three albums in question all sound the same is inviting the same kind of crap generalizations about local indie rock or jam bands. All three of these albums have female vocalists (are you good enough that you can tell their hair color by their voices?) and acoustic guitars in the mix, but that's about it.
    The whole rant brings me right back to my father labeling everything on Motown as "jungle music" when I was a kid. May all of your potlucks be decorated with pictures of Lester Bangs, who could sniff out and expose bullshit wherever he found it....

    Flatlander said...

    I would gladly welcome feedback - positive and negative - about any band I like. It's OK to disagree about music. If you would like to make your feelings known about indie rock, please feel free to use this as a forum to express those feelings. There is plenty to criticize about indie rock so go ahead.

    It's fun to discuss music. What we like and what we don't. Go ahead and let it fly.

    Mr Slick said...

    I'm glad we are all able to rant comfortably in a virtual playground. I work everyday in a sonic playground. To get "real" with you folks, I feed my kids and just barely pay the mortgage every month by it. I do my guldarn best to make people's musical vision real. Inevitably - no matter how hard I try - my slick side tends to show and it falls off the table marked "indie" and flat on to the floor marked "commercially viable". Also - no matter how hard we try - we DO fish in the same "pond" of fans. This is fuckin' Vermont for Chris'sakesI Still, I appreciate the comments "flatlander" posted about my good friends (or is it friend) Kristina Casey Blachly. I have to agree that the field is limited and the media is even more so. It's funny how folkies feel like all they hear about in local rags are whiny twenty-somethings with out of tune guitars singing about something vague and emotional; and the indie-rockers feel the same way about folkies, HAH!

    I'd say it's our distorted, self-centered perspective that makes it seem so skewed. I admit to distortion. That's a natural result of having to believe in something you hear in your head that wants to become sound waves vibrating in someone else's ears. It get's distorted comin' out the nozzle of your monkey brain/body.

    In addition, WE get paid doodle for what we do. It becomes a deluded pursuit when you look at it in terms of the $. So we get a fan like Art in the press? All the better. Other's times will come. Let us enjoy the sun before we have to go change our Depends Undergarments. In defense of Art, he gets paid doodle for what he does. Art writes about what he loves. Some of us old greying folkies are LOVING what we do despite the bullshit and economic reality. Young'un, what are you gonna be in 20 years? Hell, my big brother is a 43 year old punk singer, he's still way more "indie" than me and I love him for it. Oh, yeah. For as long as grizzled old farts like me have been banging on hollow stumps, folk has been "Indie" (whatever the fuck that means now...could someone define it for me? but without using the word "edgy") As one anonymous poster said "publish your own rag and write your own reviews, or better yet, shut up and try to make better music..." Well, Flatlander, reveal yourself and let's make a record? Either that or do something positive for bands or musicians you LIKE. Why waste your energy and time on nasty age-ist blogging? Create Indie press!! I want to hear about what you LIKE.

    Flatlander said...

    Hey Mr. Slick,

    Your comment was made in a post from six months ago. I received an email with the comment but I doubt anyone else will see it since people rarely read six month old posts.

    However, you obviously spent a lot of time typing it so I don't want to just dismiss it. If you would like to hear my reply, please email me I'd be happy to answer your questions.

    One quick point, your last sentence said you want to hear what I like. Well, my entire blog is dedicated to what I like. So, feel free to read my blog to find my likes and dislikes. I think, after reading my blog, you'll see I do a lot for the musicians I do like.