HESO Magazine

Photography, Music, Film, Hitchhiking, Craft Beer – Cultural Pugilist

Author: Manny Santiago (Page 1 of 22)

Some Great Albums of 2017


One of the few creative-ish things I still force myself to make time for is the radio show I have been doing for about 5 years, Beard Radio, on KUCB, the local public radio station on the tiny island I live on in Alaska. Every Friday night for the last 250 or so weeks (give or take a few trips off island) at 10pm (replay Monday at 8pm) Beard Radio has attempted to strike a balance between the music that I love and what I think people want to hear. Let me be the first to say that I don’t have a huge audience, but as anyone who ever saw Pump Up The Volume knows, when it comes to radio, someone somewhere is listening. Hopefully it’s the people that the music connects to somehow. More than likely it’s people at work who have no other options. Despite being overworked and a father of two small children, which means often not having time to find any new artist that I like or that has released an album that is radio-friendly, I still push myself to attempt to please all listeners. Which doesn’t mean that it happens. My overactive imagination has shown me all sorts of crocheting fireside listeners groaning melodramatically at a three-week long Lou Reed Tribute, my obsession with post-emo Emo, and the head-scratching cross-genre juxtopostions I give airtime to. Regardless of my own overwrought machinations I persevere, because i think mostly listeners do enjoy hearing fresh tracks that are underplayed (or mostly not played at all except on college campuses), as well as the fact that it gives me a kind of catharsis that I can’t believe the local station GM lets me get away with. So without further loquatiousness, here are Some Great Albums of 2017:

  • Peter Perrett – How the West was Won
  • Curtis Harding – Face Your Fear
  • Big Thief – Capacity
  • Slowdive – Slowdive
  • Girlpool – Powerplant
  • Jay Som – Everybody Works
  • Priests – Nothing Feels Natural
  • Thundercat – Drunk
  • Julien Baker – Turn Out the Lights
  • Charlotte Gainsbourg – Rest
  • Miguel Zenón – Típico
  • Waxahatchee – Out in the Storm
  • Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith – The Kid
  • Alvvays – Antisocialites
  • Torres – Three Futures
  • The National – Sleep Well Beast
  • ÌFÉ – iiii+iiii
  • Moses Sumney – Aromanticism
  • Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit – The Nashville Sound
  • St. Vincent – Masseduction
  • Broken Social Scene – Hug of Thunder
  • Wolf Parade – Cry Cry Cry
  • Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile – Lotta Sea Lice
  • The War on Drugs – A Deeper Understanding
  • Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Luciferian Towers
  • The xx – I See You
  • The Jesus and Mary Chain – Damage and Joy
  • LCD Soundsystem – American Dream
  • Jlin – Black Origami
Dutch Harbor Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle in Slow Motion Takeoff

So ubiquitous is the Bald Eagle in Unalaska, they are referred to as pigeons. As they are generally non-harmful to humans their awesome stature can be taken for granted when these large raptors get up close and personal. Especially large females who are looking for food for their eaglets. Larger than my four-year and two-year-old kids by a wide margin, this one landed on my porch and decided to hang out or an hour or so, giving us quite a show in the interim (she shat all over my deck). She was right in front of my door, so it was a bit of a process to open the door without her hissing and spitting acid-blood in my eyes (I’m not an ornithologist so I don’t know that they don’t do this…). When I made it out the door and we were finally face to face, she either ran out of fecal matter or decided my kids were too big for her to take alone, so she spun and took off. Luckily I had my slo-mo finger on fast-forward and managed to capture it.

The Nature of Wabi-Sabi I

The Nature of Wabi-Sabi I

“In the Perfected Mahayana – everything, every speck of dust even, can be seen as conditioned arising. Thus even in a hair there are innumerable golden lions.”- Tractate of the Golden Lion — Fazang

My friend Tomohiro once asked me why I was living in Japan, “You not married, don’t have girlfriend, not getting paid shit-ton cash like finance assholes, have no real prospects, kind of smell bad…so why you come to Japan…for the sushi?”

“Tomo, I’m seeking satori…duh.”

“You drink too much beer for satori. Even you run bar you drink all the profit, so why you wanna be Buddhist?”

Actually I get this question a lot. Japanese people are curious about an outsider’s views on what makes Japan attractive. Occasionally whomever it is I’m talking to continues the conversation with another whopper of a mystical/metaphysical/meaning-of-life type of question like, “Can you use chopsticks?” or “Wow, you sure are good at using chopsticks!”

I nod imbecilically and smile, saying, “Chinese food everywhere in America!” while adding, “Oscar Wilde said that when given a choice between going to heaven and attending a lecture on heaven, an American would attend the lecture. Because quoting Oscar Wilde to people, especially in Japanese, gets awkward quickly, the subject changes rather quickly as well.

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Pillar Point - Marble Mouth

Pillar Point – Marble Mouth

“Dove” immediately marches through your ears, into your brain, releasing that oh-so-coveted, smile-inducing, music-generated dopamine…calling on fond associations of some of the upbeat tracks Phoenix put out in years past.
— The Music Ninja

Pillar Point – Marble Mouth

Pillar Point - Marble MouthScott Reitherman was planning to record the second Pillar Point album at home in Seattle, when he received an unexpected invitation — extended backstage in Phoenix after opening for of Montreal — to cut it at Kevin Barnes’ home studio in Athens, Georgia. Barnes said of the music, “I love how hooky/funky/dancey the songs are. As a complete work, the album transports me into a glamorous milieu. It makes me wanna dress in drag and go to a blue collar bar. Ha ha.”

“I couldn’t believe it to be honest,” says Reitherman. “I was overwhelmed; we’re halfway through the tour and I’m already having the time of my life.”

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California Dungeness Crab Bisque

California Dungeness Crab Bisque

California Dungeness Crab Bisque

Crabbing on kayaks in Humboldt Bay is rewarding

When in Northern California, do as the Humboldtians do, go crabbing. Except when there is a harmful red tide going on. Then you don’t go crabbing. You go eating. But here’s what to do when you can go back in.

Crab. Dungeness Crab. Metacarcinus magister. Named by the English Naval Captain George Vancouver after the arrowhead-shaped headland in Kent, England, this super middleweight gets its name from the town of Dungeness in Washington’s Juan de Fuca Strait, the watery border between the U.S. and Canada. Native only of the Pacific coast with commercial fisheries from Alaska to Point Conception, California, “Dungies” are trap-caught, which allows for the release of bycatch (inadvertent fish caught in trap), and therefore considered sustainable by Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch.

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Hiatus Kaiyote - Choose Your Weapon

Hiatus Kaiyote – Choose Your Weapon

Hiatus Kaiyote – Choose Your Weapon

Hiatus Kaiyote - Choose Your Weapon

“Kaiyote” is not a word. It’s a made up word, but it kind of sounds like peyote and coyote – it’s a word that involved the listeners creativity as to how they perceive it. So it reminds you of things but it’s nothing specific. When I looked it up on online it was like a bird appreciation society around the world, so for me that was a great omen, because I’m a bird lady. A hiatus is essentially a pause, it’s a moment in time. So, to me, a hiatus is taking a pause in your life to take in your surroundings, have a full panoramic view of your experiences and absorbing, and “kaiyote” is expressing them in a way involves the listeners creativity.

— Nai Palm, explaining the bands name.

Hiatus Kaiyote is a future-soul quartet (Nai Palm (vocals, guitar), Paul Bender (bass), Simon Mavin (keyboards) and Perrin Moss (drums, percussion)) from Melbourne. Choose Your Weapon released by Flying Buddha in May. Singer songwriter Nai Palm stated she had a vision for Hiatus Kaiyote’s brand of future soul. “I always knew I wanted to be in a band, but I never knew it could be my own conversation.” It didn’t take long for that vision to attract attention. Gilles Peterson of Crossover Jazz fame named them the Breakthrough Artist of 2013.

The band released their debut album Tawk Tomahawk independently in 2012, noticed by numerous musicians including Q-Tip, Animal Collective, The Dirty Projectors, and Erykah Badu. When Salaam Remi of Sony started up the Flying Buddha label and distributed their debut album world wide, later introducing the band to Q-Tip, it led to him featuring on a remix of “Nakamarra” included on the re-release of their debut, that was then nominated for a Grammy for Best R&B Performance, performed with Q-Tip himself. The band released Choose Your Weapon in May 2015. Lead vocalist Nai Palm described the album as an “extension” of their debut, and stated she and the band had no intention to make one genre body of work.

Waxahatchee - Ivy Tripp

Waxahatchee – Ivy Tripp

“The title Ivy Tripp is really just a term I made up for directionless-ness, specifically of the 20-something, 30-something, 40-something of today, lacking regard for the complaisant life path of our parents and grandparents.”

Waxahatchee – Ivy Tripp

Waxahatchee - Ivy TrippFrom Merge Records

Katie Crutchfield’s southern roots are undeniable. The name of her solo musical project Waxahatchee comes from a creek not far from her childhood home in Alabama and seems to represent both where she came from and where she’s going. Since leaving home, Crutchfield has drifted between New York and Philadelphia but chose to return to Alabama to write her first two albums: American Weekend, her debut filled with powerful lo-fi acoustic tracks full of lament, and Cerulean Salt, a more developed and solid narrative about growing up. Both are representations of a youthful struggle with unresolved issues and unrequited feelings.

Waxahatchee’s latest record, Ivy Tripp, drifts confidently from these previous albums and brings forth a more informed and powerful recognition of where Crutchfield has currently found herself. The lament and grieving for her youth seem to have been replaced with control and sheer self-honesty. “My life has changed a lot in the last two years, and it’s been hard for me to process my feelings other than by writing songs,” says Crutchfield. “I think a running theme [of Ivy Tripp] is steadying yourself on shaky ground and reminding yourself that you have control in situations that seem overwhelming, or just being cognizant in moments of deep confusion or sadness, and learning to really feel emotions and to grow from that.”

The band that plays together, produces together. Kyle Gilbride (guitar, keys, synth and tambourine), Keith Spencer (guitar, bass, drums and keys) round out Katie Crutchfield (guitar, keys, synth and vocals). Recorded and engineered by Kyle Gilbride of Wherever Audio at Crutchfield’s home on New York’s Long Island—with drums recorded in the gym of a local elementary school—Ivy Tripp presents a more developed and aged version of Waxahatchee.

Waxahatchee - Ivy Tripp

Waxahatchi in New York in December, 2014
Michael Rubenstein

“I heard someone say that you have to be the change you want to see. I just want to be the kind of musician I want to see in the world. I want to present myself in a way that reflects that.”

Crutchfield is accompanied by both Gilbride and Keith Spencer on Ivy Tripp, and the record was produced by all three of them. With the addition of more guitar work, piano, drum machines, and Crutchfield’s vocals in full bloom, we are given a record that feels more emphatic and pronounced. Ivy Tripp opens with “Breathless,” filled with only a distorted keyboard and layers of vocals, showcasing Waxahatchee’s pension for quiet, personal reflection. The record then opens up into “Under a Rock,” a quicker guitar-driven song that lays the foundation for the rest of the album, which as a whole resonates with strong, self-aware lyrics, energetic ballads, and powerfully hushed moments of solitude. Crutchfield’s voice is certainly the guiding force behind Ivy Tripp—commanding and voluminous in the rock song “Poison,” candied and pure in the frolicking “La Loose”—gripping you tightly and then softly releasing you into the wilds of emotion.

Crutchfield says, “I heard someone say that you have to be the change you want to see. I just want to be the kind of musician I want to see in the world. I want to present myself in a way that reflects that.”

Jack DeJohnette - Drumming in Chicago

Jack DeJohnette – Drumming in Chicago

Jack DeJohnette – Drumming in Chicago


From ECM Reviews:

As the story goes, when legendary drummer Jack DeJohnette was named a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master and given carte blanche to perform at the Chicago Jazz Festival in 2013, he immediately thought of his old jam buddies from the early 1960s, the founding sessions of which had led to the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), whose most hallowed disciples formed the Art Ensemble of Chicago, resolutely documented on ECM. As Roscoe Mitchell recalls, “Every time I get together with musicians from the AACM it’s like we are just picking up from wherever we left off.” To be sure, the conversation between reedmen Henry Threadgill and Roscoe Mitchell, pianist Muhal Richard Abrams, bassist Larry Gray, and DeJohnette himself feels like it’s been going on forever. Despite the fact that these musicians had never recorded before as a quintet, much less played as one, it feels as if they have been plowing through ether on its way to the cosmos all along, and that we can count ourselves fortunate for catching even a snippet of their time on this planet. As if in service of this analogy, the recording is very present in relation to the musicians, while the crowd cheers like some distant panel of stars whose appreciation arrives light-years after the fact.

Mitchell—who plays alto, soprano, and sopranino saxophones, bass recorder, and Baroque flute—offers two substantial originals to the stage. “Chant” cracks the concert’s outer shell with a sacred tap. From raw, arpeggiated materials it constructs a body from the ground up and, by addition of instruments, imbues it with consciousness. Likewise, every member knows his place in the larger symphony of his setup. DeJohnette pays off his timbral dues with handfuls of Benjamins, especially in his dialoguing with Mitchell, while Threadgill touches off more angular lines of flight. Gray meanwhile appears, stealthily at first but with increasing conviction, to be the psychological impetus behind it all. But it’s Abrams whose torrent of ideas seems most organic. Like a healing energy itself in want of healing, he plays the all-important trickster as Threadgill curls his fist in staunch refusal of suspension. Thus do we return to the center of the spiral, only to find another waiting to be sung. The aptly titled “This” reveals an adjacent facet, fronting Baroque recorder and Threadgill’s bass flute in an excursion of astute reflectivity. Abrams again proves vital to the physical nature of this sound, his pianism attaining downright Beethovenian proportions.

The bandleader’s “Museum Of Time” fuels the Abrams fire. Spanning a gamut from whirlwind to delicacy, its touch provides spatial reference for the reeds and a still larger context for the slippery groove in which DeJohnette and Gray find themselves. Threadgill’s “Leave Don’t Go Away” flips this approach, beginning in interlocking fashion before spawning a lone piano with a mind of its own. Bass and drums jive their way into frame, while sopranino nears bursting from the strength of its inner poetics. And then there is “Jack 5” by Abrams himself. Light cymbals clear the air before late-night sounds ground an alto and all the soulful things it has to say. DeJohnette then takes the reigns and builds his steed one muscle at a time, each part mutually independent of motion.

(Click to hear samples of Made In Chicago)

Henry Threadgill alto saxophone, bass flute
Roscoe Mitchell alto, soprano and sopranino saxophones, bass recorder, Baroque flute
Muhal Richard Abrams piano
Larry Gray double bass, cello
Jack DeJohnette drums
Produced by Dave Love and Jack DeJohnette
Recording engineer: Martin Walters
Assistant engineers: Jeremiah Nave and Daniel Santiago
Recorded live August 29, 2013 at the Pritzker Pavilion Millennium Park Chicago at the 35th Annual Chicago Jazz Festival
Mixed at Avatar Studio, New York by Manfred Eicher, Jack DeJohnette, and James A. Farber (engineer)
Mastered at MSM Studios, München, by Christoph Stickel
Executive producer: Manfred Eicher

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