Ter­rell’s Tune-Up

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Steve Ter­rell lists his fa­vorite albums of the year

Happy New Year, dear friends! Here is a list of my fa­vorite albums of 2015. This list is in no par­tic­u­lar or­der, but at some point through­out the past year, each one was my num­ber-one fa­vorite for at least a few days.

1) This Is The Son­ics by The Son­ics. Un­like The Standells, Ques­tion Mark and The Mys­te­ri­ans, Sam the Sham and The Pharaohs, and other gi­ants of the garage-rock era of the mid-1960s, The Son­ics didn’t get much ra­dio play where I grew up. Thus, I didn’t really get ex­posed to them un­til well into my adult­hood. And I didn’t be­come a com­plete bab­bling devo­tee of their cult un­til just a couple of years ago when I saw The Son­ics — with three orig­i­nal mem­bers — rage, rav­age, and con­quer the Pon­derosa Stomp fes­ti­val in New Or­leans. This is the band’s first stu­dio al­bum of all-new ma­te­rial in nearly 50 years, and it rocks harder than any­thing by any young whip­per­snap­per I heard all year. 2) Mutilator De­feated at Last by Thee Oh Sees. John Dwyer is a mis­er­able fail­ure at hia­tus. His at­tempt at putting Thee Oh Sees on the shelf only lasted a few months be­fore he was back with a new line-up, which I be­grudg­ingly have to ad­mit is just as fe­ro­cious as the pre­vi­ous in­car­na­tion. The sound of Mutilator is un­mis­tak­ably Oh Sees: rub­bery post-psy­che­delic gui­tar-based ex­cur­sions into the un­known with dis­torted echoes of garage rock, punk, and noise-rock. 3) Free­dom Tower — No Wave Dance Party 2015 by Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. This al­bum, the Blues Explosion’s sec­ond since the band’s res­ur­rec­tion with 2012’s Meat + Bone, is a lov­ing song cy­cle about New York City. In sev­eral tunes, the band in­dulges in a lit­tle well-earned nostal­gia about the sleazy, crimerid­den era of the ’70s and ’80s, those gritty days when punk rock, hip-hop, and yes, “No Wave” were born. Jon Spencer and the boys are as loud, fran­tic, and joy­ful as they were in their mid-’90s hey­day. 4) The Ruf­fian’s Mis­for­tune by Ray Wylie Hubbard. Once again, Ray Wylie Hubbard has given the world a swampy, blues-soaked col­lec­tion of tunes in which, in his trade­mark Okie drawl, he tells sto­ries of sin and sal­va­tion; gods and devils; women who light can­dles to the “Black Madonna;” un­der­tak­ers who look like crows (“red-eyed and dressed in black”); and hot-wiring cars in Ok­la­homa. 5) No Cities to Love by Sleater-Kin­ney. Th­ese women are far bet­ter at hia­tus than Thee Oh Sees. SleaterKin­ney’s lit­tle break lasted about 10 years. They roared back this year, though, with a mighty tour (in­clud­ing a mem­o­rable show in Al­bu­querque in April) and this new al­bum. It’s brash, ur­gent, and emo­tional. And they make it seem so easy. 6) Long Lost Suit­case by Tom Jones. No, I’m not be­ing ironic here. In 2015, Tom Jones — the old Bri­tish pop star who sang “It’s Not Un­usual,” the cheesy ’70s TV star and Las Vegas sex sym­bol at whom grown women threw their un­der­wear — made one of the year’s finest albums. I was drawn in by his haunt­ing cover of Gil­lian Welch’s “Elvis Pres­ley Blues,” but I stayed for his rock­ing version of Billy Boy Arnold’s “I Wish You Would,” and Los Lo­bos’ “Ev­ery­body Loves a Train” – not to men­tion his stark take on one of my fa­vorite early Wil­lie Nel­son tunes, “Op­por­tu­nity to Cry.” I was so im­pressed, I sought out Jones’ pre­vi­ous albums with pro­ducer Ethan Johns — the gospel-drenched Praise & Blame and Spirit in

the Room. Jones’ pow­er­ful voice is still in im­pec­ca­ble form and his taste in ma­te­rial has never been bet­ter. 7) Giv­ing My Bones to the Western Lands by Slack­eye Slim. On his lat­est al­bum, Joe Fran­k­land, aka Slack­eye Slim, con­tin­ues his ex­plo­ration of the shad­ows. As usual, many of his songs are fre­quently cast in an Old West set­ting, though his themes of sin, re­demp­tion, lone­li­ness, des­per­a­tion, and free­dom are univer­sal. Slack­eye lived among us in New Mex­ico for a few months, forming a sin­is­ter mu­si­cal al­liance with The Im­pe­rial Rooster, an Es­pañola band. He’s moved back to Colorado, but prom­ises he won’t be a stranger. 8) Walk on Jin­dal’s Splin­ters by Jello Bi­afra & the New Or­leans Raunch and Soul All-Stars. This is a live New Or­leans con­cert by for­mer Dead Kennedys front­man Jello Bi­afra that was re­port­edly done on a dare. Team­ing up with a rootsy but rau­cous band (in­clud­ing a horn sec­tion), the West Coast punk-rock icon blasts his way through a bunch of Big Easy R& B clas­sics. 9) Bailazo by Rolando Bruno. This is my choice for world-beat heavy­weight cham­pion of 2015. Rolando Bruno’s la­bel, Voodoo Rhythm Records, de­scribes his sound as “Full Blast Psy­che­delic Latino Cumbia Garage with a very Cheesy Touch of a ’70s Su­per­mar­ket!!!” Bruno, a for­mer mem­ber of the Peru­vian garage-punk band Los Pey­otes, also throws in Mid­dle East­ern riffs, kung-fu movie sound­track sounds, and other sur­prises to cre­ate a wacky but very dance­able brew. 10) Coulda Shoulda Woulda by Holly Go­lightly and the Broke­offs. Holly Go­lightly and her part­ner “Lawyer Dave” Drake con­tinue their streak of bare-boned funky-clunky coun­try bluesy albums. Go­lightly is a na­tive Brit, but this is a big sloppy home­made Amer­i­can mess, which of course I mean as a com­pli­ment. The whole al­bum is packed with crazy fun.

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