Gratuitous End of the Year List
Due to surliness brought on by excessive holiday cheer, I’ve forsaken originality in favor of worn-down tradition. Yes, like many pioneers before me, I’ve come up with a “Best Of” list. My minuscule offering regrettably omits many great bands I’ve neither seen nor heard. Feel free to grumble incessantly.
Local Top Five in No Specific Order
Rank Strangers (Harvest Recordings) — Culled from recordings made at the home of Nelia Hyatt, who has hosted mountain jams for 50 years, this album is an excellent compendium of mountain musicians who seek neither fame nor fortune.
Toubab Krewe (Upstream Records) — The buzz band of Asheville right now. This debut disc of Malian grooves lives up to the fanfare.
The Makeout Room EP — Visceral goodness from a quartet that understands how to simultaneously punch and groove.
Green Fields: Melodies for an Afternoon (Triple Records) — Full of Gene Clark (The Byrds) and Burt Bacharach-esque ruminations, this happy little album is the elixir for grumpaholics. Now, if only they would tour…
Biscuit Burners: A Mountain Apart (Indidog Records) — The harmonies of Shannon Whitworth and Mary Lucey on this instant bluegrass classic could create a national pandemic of goosebumps.
National Top Five
5) Sunday Nights: The Songs of Junior Kimbrough (Fat Possum)
4) Dangerdoom: The Mouse and the Mask (Epitaph)
3) Caribou: The Milk of Human Kindness (Domino/Leaf)
2) My Morning Jacket: Z (ATO)
1) Super Furry Animals: Love Kraft (Sony/BMG)
Best Local Show
• Hush Arbors at the Grey Eagle — Keith Wood’s one-man show could hypnotize a child on a pound of sugar. His sound and voice recall raindrops on a sunny day.
• The Afromotive at Lexington Avenue Arts & Fun Festival — Despite LAAFF’s all-day excesses, the Afromotive cleared my head with sinister funk. Asheville’s best-kept secret, the Afromotive turned a mild-mannered street into a fleshy sea of writhing torsos.
Best National Act Show
Arcade Fire at the Orange Peel, Jan. 27
Fresh from playing with David Byrne in New York and hosting David Bowie as a paid spectator, Arcade Fire rolled into Asheville to play a much-anticipated sold-out show. The steam didn’t abate in the Orange Peel. Full throttle, the band played with emotion usually reserved for arena veterans. Borrowing from the Byrne playbook, the band redid the Talking Heads’ “Naive Melody” like they owned it.
Biggest Disappointments of the Year
• Not being able to track down Greg Cartwright for the Reigning Sound article. Writing without his input felt like trying to fly a kite in a doghouse.
• The breakup of Reductio Ad Absurdum. This trio had one of the more unique styles in Asheville — a sort of Dark Magus meets Slayer South of Heaven.
• The Shins at the Orange Peel. Their incredible albums left me with live-show expectations that probably no band could hurdle.