Sunday, May 16, 2010


Too cheap to buy
music? Too afriad to steal it? Check out these artists that offer their stuff for
free online...

We're Late For Class, A Hundred on the Hyena, Self Released, 2010
We're Late for Class is a Massachusets based, drug fueled, prog-jazz acid fusion getup that has released over forty seven albums in just a few years. They are signed to no label, have a rotating cast of twelve contributors, and give all of their music away for free on their website. Here's how the band describes their stuff:
'You’re invited to experience something the remainder of the planet will never, ever hear. Something that, by all rights, shouldn't even exist... (We are) Noisemakers who don’t want your money. Improvisers with no ulterior motive for fame. Layabouts lacking the secret desire for padded riders filled with quarts of Jack, spare tube socks and roast beef heavy backstage deli trays A gang of pot smoking, acid dropping, ecstasy driven misfits who do this just because we do." - Coop

Bonnie 'Prince' Billy, The Wonder Show of the World, Domino, 2010
This may sound corny, but I still remember the first time I heard Will Oldham. It was one of those life affirming moments that just stick with you and I'm not embrassed to say that it changed the way I thought about not only music but humanity and the world itself. In some small way it made me a better person, and while I may be a total shit, there is a part of me hanging in some basement somewhere that is still decent enough to sit through a whole Bonnie 'Prince' Billy album without getting cynical.
But no one ever calls him on his shit, and there's this general reverential air about him whenever he so much as opens his mouth that is dangerous. Some of the things Oldham has done are downright stupid, such as the time he, Will Oldham, re-recorded the music he made under the moniker Palace, under his current name Bonnie 'Prince' Billy, the most self-indulgent and narcisstic moment of the 2000s. A moment a lot of ciritics (well, me, really) sort of gave up on the idea of indie rock as a living-breathing form of music. Oldham's work has always been more about the image - the backwoods Appalachian outsider artist that never lived in in the mountains and has been commercially and critcally embraced since his debut - than the actual music.
But Oldham has a way of redeeming himself with each transgression that's impossibly endearing. Wonder Show, his sixteenth release, bears witness to Oldham's slow rebirth as the quiet arbiter of antebellum wisdom and bromantically bearded harmonizing ala Fleet Foxes that's so fashionable these days. The opening track "Troublesome Houses" is a simple, folksy acoustic ballad that wouldn't seem out of place on a Crosby, Stills, and Nash meets James Taylor concept album. As would the collossal "The Sounds are Always Begging" - a plaintive ballad about the destruction of a family and the protective recluse that is music.
At times Oldham wheedles into the abstract lo-fi compositions that have plagued his work in the past. "Where Wind Blows" and "With Cornstalks Among Them" find the harmony and grace of the above tracks dissolving into spontaneous warblings that blur the lines between gospel majesty and indie rock in a way that is surprisingly workable yet somewhat unfinished, like a project or experiement instead of a fully formed song. Oldham's distinctive voice mixes well with that of Emmett Kelly (of the Cairo Gang, Oldham's backing band on this record), unlocking harmonic points that thread together with a lonely precision that's both pathetic and remote, glorious and unheard of in their own way - the essence of a great Oldham work. Highly reccommended for fans and newcomers alike.

On the Obovoid and other Places of Interest

A major part of my job here is to link you guys and girls up with great deals around town. Unfortunately (or fortunately) I've recently had the good fortune of getting my old job at the much ballyhooed (at least in these pages) Murphy's Liquor Exchange, so I'll no longer be able to freely expound upon how great that store is, so you'll be hearing a lot more about the rest of the great deals around Topeka, Lawrence, etc, in these pages from here on out because I don't plan on leaving Murphy's for a loooong time. And, all of you who've emailed me have an open invitation to come there between the hours of 10:00 AM and 6:00 PM, Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Sunday and talk beer (or whatever) with me. I'll be the guy trying to look busy.
And that's a good thing. Sean Murphy, who owns Murphy's, knows his shit - he knows and respects good beer and, like all great connoisseurs, opts for quality over quantity, emphasizing how good a bottle or a six pack is over it's name brand. But there are a lot of places around town that simply have no idea what their doing - managers and owners who either order everything just because they can or who stock something because a salesman gives them a good deal. And that's where I come in. It may take a bit of time, but eventually even the most stern-fisted 25% markup asshole will come around to the 'just get rid of it state of mind', and relegate some great treasures into the dusty markdown bins of their stores. This is gonna be fun...
Listen. Obovoid. Grattidge Liquors is a small store on the east side, located in the CaliforniaCrossing shopping center at 29th and California. It isn't a 'destination' store, but offers a nice selection of somewhat crafty sort of stuff. A small cooler of mishap, really, some Sam, some Flying Dog, some of that ridiculous Ed Hardy stuff, nothing Indiana Jones about the place. No risk taking. It has a great location, on the way to the lake, so if you're headed out to Shawnee for an afternoon or some lame party, rather than resorting to the paltry selection at The Dock, that horrid place, you should check out Grattidge. They sell a limited amount of singles (located in a cooler at the end of the wine), most out of season (but not outdated) stuff that doesn't seem to have been mistreated or abused at all. I've recently purchased several winter brews there that tasted just fine. The best buys are by the register, which is where they put the stuff they've seemingly given up on. Currently several bottles of those wonderful St Peters brews are gathering dust for under 5$, but the most intriguing find is the numerous bombers of Obovoid nestled amongst the forgotten stuff for $2.99 - this is surely a find worth mentioning.
I've been looking for a reason to write about Obovoid since it was released back in 2008. If you've never tasted or even heard about the Void here's some background. It's an oak-aged oatmeal stout clocking in at 40 IBUs and 8% ABV in a 22 oz bottle (there are six packs out there somewhere that list the ABV at 6.8%, I've read reviews but never seen them anywhere). It's brewed by the Boulder Beer Company in (duh) Boulder, CO and began as a release in their vaunted "Looking Glass" series, the progenitor of such memorable brews as Mojo Rising, but has become their fall seasonal, though it's rarely seen in Topeka for whatever reason.
Regularly priced in the $6-$8 range at $2.99 the Obovoid is an absolute steal. It's a complex beer, a bit intimidating in appearance, but surprisingly smooth in execution. Pours jet black with a head of nearly the same color which subsides quickly leaving a beautiful graffiti of lacing on the glass. A lot of oat-stouts can be overwhelming, too robust to enjoy, almost like eating a sandwich. The Void resists this temptation, though it definitely approaches the precipice and you can tell that the masters at Boulder, who've been making craft beer since 1979, held back, opting to make a beer you'd rather drink than talk about, my favorite kind.
Speaking of good deals, I hate being the harbinger of bad news but if you're expecting one
on the new 30th anniversary stuff from Sierra Nevada, you're going to be in for a terrible surprise.
They're being offered to stores in the Topeka area in absurdly limited quantities. From what I've
heard the north east quadrant of the state is allocated only four cases. One salesman I spoke to
(well, eavesdropped on, actually) had only four bottles to offer his clients. Take away at least a
case for the inevitable store owner confiscation of a bottle or two and I estimate only about thirty
six people in our area will be lucky enough to buy one of these babies. Hopefully some of you will
Oh, yeah, and the asking price? It'll probably be around $15-17 bucks for a bottle, which pretty much counts me out unless someone from the SN camp wants to toss a 'donation' my way (and, really, I'd take a few ounces delivered via USPS in a sippy cup, I'm not picky). If you haven't heard about it then, not only are you shopping at the wrong store, but be prepared to be blown away: it's a collaboration between Ken Grossman (of SN) and Fritz Maytag (of Anchor). It's a monster, snifter appropriate stout, that weighs in at 9,2% ABV. Early reviews have been excellent, receiving an A- from Beer Advocate reviewers, though you'd have to think that at least some of that is due to the enthusiasm surrounding this release.
The one bit of good news surrounding this whole release is that it is a series. There will be four releases all together, all collaborations between pioneering brewers like Charlie Papazian and Jack Mcauliff, with the exception of the final release, an oak-aged blend of Bigfoot, Celebration, and Pale Ale that is perhaps the most mouthwatering concoction I've ever heard of. This is the one I'm saving my money for (I've stepped up my use of the curse words at home specifically so I can put change into the 'swear jar") - and I don't think I'd be out of line or premature in crowning this monster 'Beer of the Decade' this early in the going. Even if it lives up to 5% of the hype it's going to receive (it won't be released until October, so we probably won't sniff any of it until late November round these parts) it'll be an amazing achievement, setting the standard for the rest of the decades.
That's about all I got right now. With the warmer weather these days, brewpub road trips seem imminent so be on the lookout for me if you're behind the bar at Hank is Wiser or LB Brewing since you're tops on my list of places to visit. I'd also love to do a story on a local home brewer, not only for the opportunity to try your beer and bullshit about beer but I know dick about home brewing (except for the fact that I SUCK at it) so it would be nice to learn a thing or two. And again, you're all welcome to stop by Murphy's and shoot the shit about all stuff beery, or the Royals if you're so inclined. As always, drink safe, drink smart, drink well and share. Cheers!