Showing posts with label best of. Show all posts
Showing posts with label best of. Show all posts

Sunday, February 24, 2019

BEST OF 2018 ~ BACH IS DEAD ~ Goodbye Hardy Fox

Fall 2018 

"Fall is a time to say goodbye to summer as the days get shorter and living things prepare to embrace dormancy."

The warm, sun-heated concrete felt soothing on my bare back. It would have been far too hot to have done this a month earlier, but the sunlight was warm and comfortable today. It isn't as intense this time of year. 

I was in a semi-meditative mode and enjoying the warmth of the waning season, my mind turned to the news about Hardy Fox, who, for over four decades has worked under the radar as the mysteriously anonymous composer for The Residents. Last week, Hardy basically said goodbye to everyone. Apparently something to do with his brain.
Thoughts of hospital environments filled my head as I visualized the beeping and whirring of medical equipment and other unmistakable sounds associated with hospitals. In my mind's eye, I could envision his environment. I imagined him to be unconscious, but mindful of the many subtle and ambient sounds around him... the accompaniment to his transition from life to...?

I reflected on the fact that Mr. Fox would never compose again and wondered, how long he will endure before his time expires in this world. At that moment, a nearby raven intruded upon my meditation, and as if in reply to my mental query, it belted out the unmistakable words, BACH IS DEAD. I wondered, "Did I really hear that or am I just caught up in this mental exercise?" I kept my eyes closed, leaving my imaginations of the inhospitable hospital,  and began focusing intently upon the sounds around me. And, again, I heard the raven proclaim, BACH IS DEAD. The visitor* repeated his message a few more times, before flying off. That was weird.

Within a few days, it was announced that Mr. Fox had died and now I'm reflecting upon the impression that his compositions have made on me personally. I first discovered The Residents in 1979 and was immediately intrigued by the originality of the music and the mystique of the band's spooky and dapper persona. The music has been the soundtrack of my life since. I could go on and on about that, but others have memorialized Mr. Fox, therefore I'll forgo doing so here and recommend the NPR article by Jason Roth.  

Hardy Fox is a legend. A mostly unknown legend, but a legend nevertheless. His music will live forever. 


 Best Vinyl 2018

And with Hardy Fox in mind, none of this year's Best Of victors would exist without his influence. 

For 2018 we present a trilogy of unrelated, yet related records whilst giving special attention to originality and focusing on really neat special edition vinyl and unique presentation.


by The Residents

I doubt that The Residents have ever received a best of award for anything other than being named most weird or most unusual. That all just changed.

The Residents are appreciated for their indefatigable propensity for completely unique and intriguing material that is always surprising and possesses an edge of dark relevance in an ever changing world. The Residents projects are always on the cutting edge of technology, alchemically wedded to art. 

The Residents put the eye in idea and in 2017, announced their new project. As usual, it was something no one had ever done. The Residents invited their fans to submit their own versions of any Residents song. The favorites would be included on the I Am A Resident album. But the end result was nothing like anyone had imagined. 

The Residents received nearly 200 submissions of fans' cover songs and soon narrowed it down to fifty. The fans were allowed to vote for their favorites and a lucky handful made the final cut, including Chesty Vulva with three winning submissions. 

The final product was reinvented as a cohesive interwoven mish-mash of the cover songs with The Residents playing and singing along with these fans. It definitely sounds like The Residents too... whatever that means. 

The 12" vinyl version contains seven tracks: mix mashed versions of the winning submissions. Now that vinyl is the rediscovered popular thing again, The Residents bucked the trend by issuing an extra special CD version that contains an extra disc with 24 additional tracks. The tunes on disc two are entries that have not been tampered with by The Residents, a fulfillment of or return to, the original concept. 

The Residents kick started the I Am A Resident project with some Pledge Music incentives, one of which being a very special vinyl record; A Vast Fusion of Nice People, The Residents - Vinyl Art

There has never been a record anything like this one. Three pieces snap together to create a 12" one sided record - three tracks, (one per ring).... and there are only twenty-five of them, (records not sections. There are 75 of those). According to unconfirmed information sourced from an internet rumor mill, there are four different colored versions, green, red, blue and brown. But no one knows for sure. Not even Santa, (it didn't make his list). Here's a short video clip demonstrating this amazing record that I found on The Residents Bookface page.

I Am A Resident is best appreciated by the most hardcore fans whose familiarity and personal attachment to The Residents make it a necessity, although anyone can enjoy it. Probably not most people, but some... maybe ~ maybe not


SUBJECTS by Chesty Vulva

As noted previously, three of Chesty Vulva's submissions were included as part of the I Am A Resident release. The Subjects record had been in the works before the I Am A Resident project and, as fate would have it, released on the same day as I Am A Resident, giving it some attention and momentum that it otherwise might not have received. And, the response has been great. People really like this record.

Subjects is a beautiful record. Beautiful in many ways, musically and artistically. From the first note you feel as though something profound is happening. And you WILL feel. 

Although Subjects is inspired by The Residents, it certainly doesn't sound like them and stands on its own merits. One of my favorite records in many ways.  

Wake up in a dream of flying monkeys, scarecrows and witches. One can't miss the overt Wizard of Oz theme which is emphasized on the cover art and lyrics.  

Subjects was released on CD, individually numbered, standard black vinyl and two special colored versions, green and yellow. Some of the yellow versions have streaks of green and red that create a lovely effect and contribute to the Wizard of Oz theme, (ruby red slippers and the Emerald City).
Chesty Vulva is the brainchild of artist, Brian Salazar, and Subjects is their first release on vinyl. Salazar ambitiously played all of the instruments on all of the tracks except one and wrote all of the songs with the exception of one. The name, Chesty Vulva, comes from the assumed lyrics of a Morrissey song. Salazar isn't even sure if the lyric is correct, but it seems to be the perfect name for his band, so Chesty Vulva it is. You can't unhear Chesty Vulva.

Chesty Vulva went the extra public relations mile sending Christmas cards to everyone who purchased Subjects. There are also T shirts, stickers, pins and magnets available at the official website

Subjects is an outstanding record that gets better and more interesting with each listen. It's one of those records that is easy to listen to. again and again.


INTRUDERS by The Residents

Released just weeks before Hardy Fox died, Intruders is an unexpected treasure of music and product. 

Psychofon Records released three very special vinyl editions of Intruders and its companion 7" single, The Intruder. The Die Hard Edition is limited to 111 hand numbered copies, The cover is printed on a transparent film and the vinyl glows in the dark. 

Another version of Intruders is pressed on special UV sensitive material that glows under black light. Absolutely stunning beauty ensues. 
 Last but not least is the yellow vinyl version - limited to 250 copies. 

Included with the Die Hard Edition is a one sided 7" single of the song, The Intruder; a track not included on the LP or CD.

Psychofon Records also released a lovely violet version of The Intruder single that includes a demo version of the song, Voo Doo Doll on the B side. Limited to 100 copies.

And, as if that isn't enough, Psychofon also released a mini CD of the single, The Intruder/Voo Doo Doll (Demo Version).

Keeping with the trend-bucking theme of presenting the compact disc as viable and attractive, the CD version of Intruders includes a nifty booklet in addition to three tracks that don't appear on any of the vinyl versions. 

Hardy Fox doesn't appear on Intruders and a keen ear can detect his absence. It has been suggested that some of Intruders was composed by Fox around 2012. Although Fox doesn't appear on Intruders, his influence is undoubtedly present. 

RIP Hardy, and long live The Residents.

*grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt and ominous bird of yore"


Sunday, March 4, 2018

Park City Live - Worst Venue Behind the Zion Curtain and Beyond

We prefer to spotlight the Best Of, but this time the WORST gets Zenberg's attention. 

I've attended hundreds of live performances and been to probably a hundred different venues all across the United States. I've seen the best and the worst music halls. I certainly didn't expect the very worst to be located in Park City, Utah. 

Granted, Utah venues are always somewhat challenging, in part due to all the quirky laws that are both restrictive and oppressive. But I've been to dozens of shows behind the zion curtain, and thought I knew what to expect from a mainstream venue in Park City. I like surprises, but I wasn't prepared for the surprises that Park City Live served up. 

At the entrance Mighty Mo and I were "greeted" by security personnel who demanded to see our IDs. They weren't interested in our tickets, only ID, and it wasn't exclusively to insure that we were old enough to attend a 21 and older event. To be admitted, required that we remove our IDs from our wallets and hand them over to a security person who then scanned them into a database. When I asked why such extreme measures were required, I was told that it is Utah State law; an excuse we would encounter throughout the evening. We were also informed that scanning our IDs would give the venue an accurate head count of attendees in addition to being a handy go-to database in the event of an emergency. Once our ID's had been scanned, we received an official stamp on our right wrists. 

Once inside the doors, we presented out prepaid ticket vouchers which were scanned. We then received a second stamp on our right wrists and were allowed to ascend the steps toward the concert hall, where bellowing music of the opening act thundered through open doors. 

I was thirsty, so stepped up to the bar to order a water. I had been standing there for a few minutes when four other people stepped up and were immediately served ahead of me. Thanks for making me feel invisible. I didn't have to wait much longer before the bartender took my order and promptly served up my beverage. A woman standing next to me had ordered two drinks, one of which was in a can. The woman requested that the canned beverage remain unopened to make it easier to navigate the crowd. The shocked look on her face was revealing when the bartender informed her that she was required to open the beverage before handing it to the patron. "It's Utah law" she informed the flabbergasted woman. As the woman gathered up her purse, coat and an open beverage in each hand, we made eye contact and the woman mouthed, "WTF?"

The remainder of our time in the concert hall consisted of blue shirt security personnel telling us, "You can't sit can't stand can't be here... you'll have to move..." I wish I had counted how many times this happened. 

Fed up with the noisy unwelcome atmosphere inside the hall, I stepped out of the hall and into the mezzanine to chill for a moment. I was immediately approached by a security person and was informed that I couldn't take my beverage outside the hall. "It's water" I pointed out to the blue meanie who parroted the now familiar excuse, "Utah State law." 

Back inside, we were again told that we couldn't "stand here, and couldn't be here" too many more times. Fed up, Mighty Mo raised both middle fingers and put them in face of the latest blue meanie. Good thing he didn't press the issue with her because she probably would have punched him. After that encounter, she said "let's get... out of here. I can't stay another second." So we departed as the opening act finished their set.

I would have loved to have seen Matisyahu perform. Plus, we paid a lot of money to attend, but Park City Live was far too unfriendly to endure. 

The restrooms were clean and the sound system was good, but the overall vibe was toxic and unwelcoming. 

The Utah State law mantra seemed like a control lever. I am aware that Utah has some really ridiculously oppressive laws, but this was over the top weird. I don't want to be made to feel uncomfortable at a venue. I'm there to enjoy good live music, and hopefully a good vibe from the venue and the people there. I've never left a venue before seeing the band I paid to see. This was a first. Congratulations Park City Live.   


Monday, April 20, 2015

Best of 2014 - the Return of Vinyl in 3D

2014 may be remembered as the year vinyl records made a comeback. For some of us, records never left, but to the greater marketplace, vinyl has become a hot commodity, and is challenging compact disc sales for the first time in decades.

Vinyl is back and more beautiful than ever, therefore, the BEST OF 2014 is honoring four very different records with one thing in common. VINYL. This year, all of the BEST OF category winners won based on a set of criteria. The record itself was aesthetically pleasing in addition to being musically exceptional, and extra credit was given for creative marketing

Fever the Ghost ~ Crab in Honey

Even though Fever the Ghost materialized only a couple of years ago, in that short time, they've astounded audiences and pleased even the most scrupulous vinylphiles with their sparkling EP, Crab in Honey. 
3D picture of double 7" Crab in Honey EP by Fever the Ghost

In February, Swell Swann released the original US vinyl version of Fever the Ghost's debut EP. Crab in Honey is actually a double single; two 7" 45 rpm records, one blue and the other red. A few months later, Heavenly Recordings released a beautiful cherry-red 12" version in the UK. 
3D picture of 12" European version of Crab in Honey by Fever the Ghost

Of course, the Crab in Honey EP is available as a download, but I prefer listening to it on the very special cassette tape that features deluxe 8-bit versions of the songs on the other side of the tape.

Crab in Honey is NOT available on CD, and one of the ghosts told me that the band has vowed to "never release a compact disc version of their music." Good luck with that. 

2014 was a big send-off year for Fever the Ghost. The band teamed up with Sean Lennon for a short tour then hooked up with Flaming Lips and have been touring with them. Fever the Ghost was even included on Flaming Lips' Beatles tribute album, With a Little Help From My Fwends, and performed the first track, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Fever the Ghost recently completed recording a full-length LP that is due out sometime this year. 

Sleepy Sun ~ Maui Tears

Sleepy Sun keeps getting better and better and their 2014 release, Maui Tears, may be their best batch of songs yetI don't know how Sleepy Sun finds time to record new music since they seem to be on the road** most of the time. 
3D picture of Maui Tears double 12" by Sleepy Sun

Sleepy Sun music has pretty much always been available on beautifully fancified vinyl as an option. Their latest release, Maui Tears, is one of the most gorgeous records I own. A double EP consisting of two 12" 45 rpm colored vinyl records, one marbled turquoise and the other marbled burgundy. Splendid! 

The vinyl is divine, but what carries most weight on this record is the music itself. My favorite Sleepy Sun record to date. Their captivating spacey music is perfect for driving across the desert. Maui Tears is somewhat a departure from their earlier releases, and captures a broad cross-section of styles including, (but certainly not limited to), the progressive and psychedelic elements that they've always been defined by.

Buoyant but not bogged down.

This record demonstrates Sleepy Sun's ability to weave heavy and light, powerful ~ sensitive, brutal ~ tender memes in true form to their traditional trademark sound. Whether or not Sleepy Sun was trying to prove something with this record, they did. Not only the best album of the year, Maui Tears is among the best albums ever.

Primus and the Chocolate Factory

Primus came on the scene just as vinyl was being replaced by the compact disc. 

I can't imagine a better ensemble to cover the music from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory than Primus, whose funky deep-tonal dark humor is perfect for this scrumptious concept album.

3D picture of two Primus and the Chocolate Factory LP's. The disc on the left is the standard chocolate pressing, the disc on the right is an apparent misprint that sneaked past quality control.

I was skeptical at first, having never seen either of the Willy Wonka or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory movies, but after one listen to Primus' version, I was so intrigued that I was motivated to watch both.

The vinyl is chocolaty delicious and the Wonkaesque art on the record is a nice touch...  
Keeping with the Wonka theme, Primus also sold candy bars and even pressed five special "Golden Ticket" versions of the record on gold vinyl. The Golden Ticket versions were placed randomly among the other records before distribution. Those lucky enough to find a Golden Ticket record will be able to attend Primus shows for LIFE. I heard that Augustus Gloop found one in Germany.

Here's a short tour of the Chocalate record factory.

Sadly, I missed the Chocolate Factory Tour°° :-(

Levin Brothers

Tony Levin is a musician that needs no introduction. In 2014, Tony teamed up with his brother, Pete, and released their first jazz album. An instant gold record, because the record itself was gold.

3D picture of the Levin Brothers limited edition gold record

Historically, a gold record meant that one million copies had been sold. On Tony Levin's Blog, he joked that he believes°* " the current market for vinyl record sales, even ONE album sold should be certified as gold. Therefore, in a reverse of the normal procedure, we have made the Levin Brothers record gold from the start." 

This vinylphile couldn't resist getting one of 1,000 copies of this special edition gold record released on Lazy Bones Recordings. All subsequent pressings will be on black vinyl, which is still awesome, but not spectacularly beautiful.

Here's a sample 

** I've been fortunate to see Sleepy Sun perform a handful of times, including their very first show at the old Vets Hall in Santa Cruz, CA back in 2007.

°° I've seen Primus SO many times that I can't keep the shows straight. This would have been an exceptionally memorable show. 

Primus front man, Les Claypool teamed up with the Melvins guitarist, , released a country album under the moniker, Duo du Twang. Said record would have been considered as Best Country Record if it had been pressed on special vinyl and if Best Country Record wasn't an oxymoron.

°* From the article, About Gold Records: a Brief History of Gold Records as reported (only somewhat accurately) by Tony Levin 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Best Song of 2013

There were a plethora of great songs last year, but the one that ascended to the BEST OF position, is the Cogito's RemiX of Adrea Castiano's "Falling"

The Falling RemiX was recorded, produced and engineered by Mason Rosenberg who also played on, produced and recorded the original track for Adrea Castiano. The Falling RemiX is masterfully reconstructed and exemplifies an exaltation of the original piece while exhibiting superior technique and ability in the realm of remiX. 

The Cogito, a moniker used by musician extraordinaire,  Mason Rosenberghas demonstrated exhaustive expertise for half a decade with original and remiX compositions that are always amazing and pleasing to the ear.

The Cogito's Mason Rosenberg is maybe best known for playing bass in the Vox Jaguars, A Quantum Visionary and numerous other bands. Mason currently lives in Santa Cruz, CA and in addition to being a popular bassist, he also writes, produces and records music. Mason's bio is so vast that it requires a Wiki installment* to cover his musical activities sufficiently. 

Mason's work is highly respected among his musical peers. The ineffable Denney Joints** of Midnite Snack said "Mason is one of the most accomplished musicians I know... he has refined taste and knows the value of art and integrity..." Apollo Records recording artist, Oliver Nickell*** of Tree said "One thing I've always admired about Mason is his musical diversity and exploration of sound... [he] has covered much musical ground in a short lifespan." 

Congrats to the Cogito, a worthy recipient of Zenberg Bolgue's BEST SONG of 2013.

See Mason's Bio at: 

** "Mason is one of the most accomplished, most serious musicians I know. And his attitude isn't fucked up either, even on par with most frustrated people trying to have a better attitude. He has refined taste and knows the value of art and integrity over curly, golden locks." --Denney Joints

*** "One thing I've always admired about Mason is his musical diversity and exploration of sound. As the years progressed, his music has acquired a quite unique quality from experimenting and blending together many different genres. From his early work producing various music with Sir Paul in high school and their legendary live set at Harbor High's annual battle of the bands, his experimental effort in Pterodactobot, his contribution of raw power-driving baselines in the Vox Jaguars, and eventually his refined down-tempo, glitch-influenced production, the Cogito; Mason has covered much musical ground in a short lifespan."        --Oliver "Tree" Nickell

Saturday, April 20, 2013

BEST Album of 2012 - Brad Stock's Atomic Clock - Timeless and Timely

It isn't uncommon for someone to give me a copy of their personal music CD to review. It is, however, uncommon when the gift engages my interest. And then, there's the one in a million that turns out to be something special. 

Brad Stock's Atomic Clock is Something Special.

Last year, I drove to Salt Lake to watch Pink Floyd's The Wall at Brewvies Cinema Pub where Salt Lake's local, listener-sponsored community radio station, KRCL, hosts a monthly Night at the Movies to help fund broadcast operations costs. I hadn't seen The Wall in a theater since it was first released in 1982, and I was looking forward to watching it on the big screen again. 

As I sat in the dining area awaiting the theater doors to open, I spied an unassuming gentleman sitting at the bar wearing a Pink Godzilla T-shirt, a rare and unusual sighting behind the Zion Curtain.

Pink Godzilla is a sushi restaurant on 41st Avenue in Santa Cruz that the locals all call Pinky G's. "Maybe he's from my little beach town," I mused as I approached him and asked:

"Did you get that Pink Godzilla T-shirt in Santa Cruz?" 

"Yeah, did you get that DJ's Mini-Mart T-shirt in Santa Cruz?" was his reply.

I had forgotten that I was wearing my DJ's T. As you might have guessed, the gentleman wearing the Pinky G's shirt turned out to be Brad Stock. He was there to see The Wall too, and apparently had thematically selected his shirt for the occasion. I'm happy that he did, otherwise, I may have never met Brad Stock or heard his amazing Atomic Clock, Rhetro Zenberg's selection for BEST Album of 2012.

As Brad Stock and I chatted before the movie began, I learned that he was an avid surfer and had picked up the Pinky G's shirt whilst on a surfing trip to Santa Cruz. He also told me about his newly completed CD that he was obviously very excited about, and presented me with a fresh copy of the Atomic Clock CD along with some Blorbs - decal replicas of the disc image that I'm seeing stuck on signs nearly everywhere I go these days.

Brad made me promise that I'd wear headphones the first time I listened to his album. He wanted to ensure that I'd have the opportunity to appreciate the quality and depth of the music. I was tempted to play it in the car on my 40-minute drive home, but I refrained, and waited until I could listen as Brad had prescribed. 

Time to Hear the Atomic Clock

I prefer to listen to new music on headphones for my first listen anyway, so I was comfortable with the notion of taking time late at night, to sit alone in the dark. With no visual distractions and the phones snug against my ears, I pushed play, laid back, closed my eyes and heard "the Sun" rise. Before I knew it, "the Moon" was coming up like a big bald head and I had completed my first experience with the Atomic Clock. The music had drawn me in so deeply that I felt as though I had been meditating. 

The first time hearing the Atomic Clock was moving in a way that was natural and cosmic... kind of like the first time that I heard Pink FloydNot to say that the Atomic Clock is anything like Pink Floyd or progressive rock in general for that matter. The Atomic Clock doesn't overwhelm the listener with the excessive experimentation that occasionally* drags down progressive rock compositions. The Atomic Clock resonates with a vibe of goodness, whereas prog rock tends** to be a bit gloomy. There's no time for doom n gloom on the Atomic Clock - which is more of a soundtrack for living and celebrating life. It's all good.


The Atomic Clock consists of ten unique and nicely woven compositions that eclectically bridge any genre gap. The songs are all cleverly written, and obviously composed by someone who possesses a wide scope of life experience and musical influence.***  The songs demonstrate a broad variety of flexibility and depth that keep the listener intrigued and engaged. No two are alike, nevertheless, each has its time in the spotlight. To me, one quality that stands out on the Atomic Clock, is its timelessness. It doesn't seem to be restricted to time and space or style.

For the most part, the Atomic Clock is feel-good music that makes a nice soundtrack for anything you might be doing. Brad told me that he wanted to make music "that would move and reach people." It turns out that the Atomic Clock is the result of a late night wish in Hawaii. Brad recalled that night, "while standing outside, looking up at the night sky, I put my wish out there." 

When the choice came down to a significant five minute decision at the bus station, Brad remembered the words of a wise friend who had encouraged him to follow his bliss. Brad's journey had led him to a place where he'd have to decide - which bus to take. Brad remembered his trusted friend's advice and heeded his counsel. On the bus ride of life, Brad Stock's alternative destination would have materialized drastically different had he taken the other bus. 

Brad followed his bliss all the way to the Beehive State where he met music producer Matt Winegar**** who had availability in his schedule at the perfect time to produce the Atomic Clock

Matt Winegar told me in an interview that he really enjoyed working with Brad on the project and is happy with the way it turned out. He told me that the song, "It Blows" is one of his favorite tracks on the album, and one of the most memorable. Brad remembers that when they began working on that song, Winegar asked him:

"How Zappa do you want to go on this one?" 

Brad remembered that Zappa percussionist, Ed Mann, was a Facebook friend, and decided to invite him to play on the track. "I sent him the song and he said he dug it and would be happy to play on it..." Winegar remembers that Mann provided a lot of great sound surprises, including a nifty little marimba riff that adds to the already prevalent Zappa nuance. 

The Atomic Clock is awesome and timely on many levels and Matt Winegar's production skills augmented Brad's talent and personal vision of the songs. The track, "Hoot 'n Holler Annie" features some lovely strings***** and a beautiful arrangement for an intriguing song about a toe found on the side of the road. It makes me ponder what a Nilsson/Martin team might have realized had they worked together. "Hoot 'n Holler Annie" is about as close as you'll get. 

The song, "One of My Better Days," is an upbeat semi-Reggae song about a day that is good because of all of the things that didn't happen, such as: 

"I Didn't lose my music to a glitch in my iTunes...
...Didn't get crushed by a random boulder..."   

I don't have a favorite song on the Atomic Clock, but I regularly find myself singing or whistling the ultra catchy tune "Chasing the Buddha...til we meet again."

In conclusion, like I always say, "If life is fair" the Atomic Clock will become a classic. It already is on the Zenberg Blogue and for a handful of lucky people who have already discovered it. Congratulations to Brad Stock, and everyone who contributed to making the Atomic Clock a reality. Tis a fine contribution to the musical universe. God speed to ya Brad Stock!

3D image of Brad Stock standing on Mars at the Clark Planetarium where the Atomic Clock was featured for two runs as a CSI laser show in the main dome. The light show is rumored to be appearing in other major cities in the near future. Don't miss it. 


* Certainly not always.

** Generally but not as a rule. The positive aspect of the Atomic Clock is what ultimately earned it Best Album status. Other albums under consideration this year, (Anywhere by Anywhere and Spine Hits by Sleepy Sun), were a bit dark. 

*** Adrian Belew, Al Stewart, the Beatles, Nilsson, Zappa to name a few

**** Matt Winegar has engineered, recorded and produced for such notables as Primus, Coheed in Cambria, Faith No More, to name a few. His recording studio is located in Salt Lake City.

***** This lovely string section was performed by Callie Reed who played both violin and cello on the track. 

purchase the Atomic Clock:

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Best Album of 2011 - Denney Joints' Bedtime - A Midnite Snack Any Time of Day

"I wanted to go the sausage fest* but instead, I was in Watsonville, where nothing happens." Denney Joints.

Living in Santa Cruz, California has afforded me numerous opportunities to see some of the world's most influential** performers. Nevertheless, the local talent from this quaint beach community is among the best I've experienced, anywhere. Most notably, a sort of mad musical scientist of a young man who calls himself Denney Joints and his band, Midnite Snack. I've been fortunate to see Denney play live a handful of times at various venues around Santa Cruz, and the shows have always been a real treat.

Denney Joints, a 4.0 art student at San Francisco State University, is no stranger to the Bay Area music scene. He became locally infamous with an early band called "Happy Meal" and his latter-band, Midnite Snack, has enjoyed positive press and reviews throughout the Bay Area.

A few months ago, Denney Joints released his long-awaited "Bedtime" CD. I love Bedtime, and have listened to it too many times to number. My own words can't adequately describe the simple beauty and angsty edginess of this thoughtful recording, so I talked to Denney and others to gain a better understanding of Mr. Joints, and his Best Album of 2011, Bedtime.

"All of bedtime is biographical," Denney told me. "I picked up my guitar in the back room at work where I wrote all of these songs and drank quarts of Hi-Life and smoked dope every day," he joked.

One of the major themes throughout Bedtime seems to be escapism, and Denney weaves an emotional tale of partying with friends in Santa Cruz, idealistic abandonment of responsibility, and whimsically wishful fit-in fantasies. The first track, "Cookin" is about the anticipation of a party at Denney's house, to which he had invited a girl from the local grocery store. "She never came to the party," lamented Denney. However, while working out the song in the back room at work, he came up with the two chords, FM7 and G13, which he described to me as, "a lazier-than-punk take on chords that require no effort to play and sound wonderful." Denney Joints' unmistakable signature sound.

Denney seems to possess a natural, encyclopedic knowledge of music, and is comfortable navigating through stylistic changes. He employs numerous subtle musical influences that keep the music entertaining and interesting. But Denney has no desire to become a commercial success, and claims to despise commercial music. "I love simple music," explained Denney, "but commercial music skips the feeling and goes straight for spectacle." Denney Joints' Bedtime is simple, yet thoughtful and deliberate, and according to music critic, Joey McNeill, "exhibits a kind of dreamlike quality, and a kind of farcical poke at pop music." Denney's distance from commercialism has allowed him to maintain a pure vein of creativity with the attitude that, "if people feel it, great, but if they don’t, I will not change anything to make them bite the hook."

The lyrics on Bedtime are witty and are occasionally presented in a code language that Denney calls Scumbag Select, a clever language in which the pronunciation of words are phonetically skewed based on a set of complicated letter-swapping rules that he has obviously mastered and employs with great skill. Half the fun of Bedtime is dissecting the lyrics.

Nick Overhauser,*** lent his expertise to the Bedtime project by playing on and recording the album. Nick told me that, in his opinion, "Bedtime is an ode to an angry young weirdo who sees little value in the ways of the modern world." Gazing out the window from behind the counter at Denney's workplace and, "seeing people in groups getting along and looking quite ordinary." Denney Joints' observations have become something wonderfully creative, entertaining and satisfying. Joey McNeill related that he "hadn't thought about these things for a long time," and went on to say that, "Denney has found common experiences and truths in the boredom and frustrations that we all share in our youth." Denney says that Bedtime is "emotionally autobiographical," meaning that "the lyrics themselves don't address actual events directly." This gives Bedtime a universal, cross-generational quality and appeal. Even my mom would like it.

All of the tracks on the album are noteworthy, and if life was fair, all of them would be known by everyone. I won't attempt to pin any particular style or genre on the music of Bedtime other than to say that it is eclectic, and uniquely Denney Joints. There is one particular track on the album that deserves special attention and can only be described as "timeless". The Creek Song is jovial, happy harmony and blissful balance. A perfect late summer day spent with the best of friends whilst nestled in the arms of a loving Mother Nature. The Creek Song is a masterpiece, and will forever be one of my favorites.

Denney Joints' Bedtime was mastered at Indigital Studios in Santa Cruz, CA by Mason Rothschild, who**** described Denney as, "an amazing jewel of a mad genius," and went on to say that when Denney gave him the original recordings, they were "wrapped in notes and emotional requests about each song." Although I wonder sometimes if Bedtime is comedic, it is obvious that Denney is serious about his music, and, like Beefheart and Zappa, has eccentric demands, from everyone who contributes to his projects. "I knew that I was up against something completely different," recalls Nick Overhauser who described the first stretch of recording Bedtime as "convoluted and wacky", but by the time the album had been completed, Nick considered it to be one of his favorite projects.

I asked Denney about his selection of personnel for Bedtime, and his on-stage band, Midnite Snack. He told me that generally, people bore him with their "lack of focus and musical accomplishment" but praised his own band, saying that they all "exceed the bar" and that their playing is "precise." Midnite Snack is a fluid membership of friends***** who give their all to Denney's live performances that take me back to the newness I experienced at some late-seventies, and early-eighties punk shows. Denney isn't punk, but he possesses some of the same qualities and attitudes. Bedtime is smart, clever and involved, yet maintains a cohesive structure. Nick Overhauser told me, the most impressive thing about Denney's conceptual work to him, is that, "every album follows a theme with repeated lyrical ideas and melodies... without being too obvious or on the nose." Joey McNeill observed that Denney Joints "has taken frustration and made it enlightening" and called Bedtime "a kind of commentary about how carefully and methodically the introvert moves his way out into the public like a reluctant, escaped hamster who, oblivious to his boundaries, nibbles away at the crackers in our cupboard."

Listening to Bedtime is like eating crackers, you just can't quit. BEWARE! Denney Joints' catchy songs get stuck on mental repeat and run through the mind continuously. I usually just give in and play the damn CD to get it out of my head. I've discovered that Bedtime is a Midnite Snack that can be enjoyed any time of day or night, and Rhetro Zenberg is happy to announce Denney Joints' Bedtime as the Best Album of 2011.

Have a Nice Snack!

Click here to enjoy Denney Joints' Sausage Fest commercial from KPIG Radio, Santa Cruz

**There are far too many to name them all, but a sampling of my most memorable performances would certainly include: Laurie Anderson, Adrian Belew Power Trio, King Crimson, Ravi Shankar, the Residents...

***In addition to being a recording expert, Nick Overhauser played drums on Bedtime and has played for Sheena, Mountain Animal Hospital, Ship of the Sierras, Midnite Snack, and is currently on tour with Birdhand.

****Audio engineer Mason Rothschild, has played in Midnite Snack and is currently touring with the band, Birdhand.

*****To stay fresh, Midnite Snack changes personnel every Venusian cycle. There have been at least eight members of Midnite Snack so far, including two bassists named Mason, (Rosenberg and Rothschild), and three members of the popular indie band, the Vox Jaguars, (Sam Copperman, Trevor Hope and Mason Rosenberg), but Denney says he has no plans for a Vox Jaguars cover, and now that Denney has moved to Oakland, he may resurrect Midnite Snack there, with fresh faces.

Denney Joints - The Coolest Cat On The Couch