Music Video of the Day: It’s Alright With Me, performed by Tom Waits (1990, directed by Jim Jarmusch)


Tom Waits recorded this version of Cole Porter’s It’s Alright With Me for Red Hot + Blue, a compilation album that was put together to benefit the Red Hot Organization, a non-profit organization that raises money for AIDS relief and education.

Probably the best known of the songs to come off of Red Hot + Blue was U2’s version of Night and Day.  However, Waits also brought his own unique style to Porter’s lyrics.  This video was directed by filmmaker Jim Jarmusch, who has also featured Waits in several of his films.

Enjoy!

Playing Catch-Up With The Films Of 2019: The Dead Don’t Die (by Jim Jarmusch)


Uh-oh, the dead are rising again.

Seriously, I’ve lost track of how many zombie films I’ve seen over the past ten years.  This last decade was the decade when zombies went mainstream and I have to admit that I have mixed feelings about it.  Zombies have become so overexposed that they’re no longer as scary as they once were.  I mean, there’s even PG-rated zombie movies now!  How the Hell did that happen?  Everyone’s getting in on the act.

There were a brief flurry of excitement when Jim Jarmusch announced that his next film would be a zombie film.  Myself, I was a bit skeptical and the release of a terrible trailer didn’t really help matters.  The fact that the film was full of recognizable names also made me uneasy.  Would this be an actual zombie film or would it just be a bunch of actors slumming in the genre?  The film opened the Cannes Film Festival and received mixed reviews.  By the time it opened in the United States, it seemed as if everyone had forgotten about The Dead Don’t Die.  It was widely chalked up as being one of Jim Jarmusch’s rare misfires, like The Limits of Control.

Last month, I finally watched The Dead Don’t Die and you know what?  It’s a flawed film and yes, there are times when it even becomes an annoying film.  That said, I still kind of liked it.

In The Dead Don’t Die, the Earth’s rotation has been altered, the result of polar fracking.  No one seems to be particularly concerned about it.  Instead, they’re just kind of annoyed by the fact that the sun is now staying up in the sky a bit longer than usual.  Cell phones and watches stop working.  House pets abandon and occasionally attack their owners.  In the rural town of Centerville, the dead rise from their graves and start to eat people.  Whether or not that’s connected to the Earth’s rotation is anyone’s guess.  (I like to think that the whole thing about the Earth’s rotation being altered was Jarmusch’s homage to Night of the Living Dead‘s suggestion that the zombies were the result of space radiation.)

We meet the inhabitant of Centerville.  Zelda (Tilda Swinton) is the enigmatic mortician.  Bobby (Caleb Landry Jones) is the horror movie expert.  Farmer Miller (Steve Buscemi) is the red-hatted farmer who hates everyone.  Zoe (Selena Gomez) is the traveler who is staying at the run-down motel with two friends.  Cliff Robertson (Bill Murray) is the police chief who wants to save everyone but Farmer Miller.  Ronnie (Adam Driver) and Mindy (Chloe Sevigny) are police officers.  They’re all in the middle of a zombie apocalypse but very few of them seem to really be that surprised by any of it.

Throughout the film, we hear Sturgill Simpson singing a wonderful song called The Dead Don’t Die.  Cliff demands to know why the song is always one the radio.  Ronnie replies that it’s the “theme song.”  Ronnie, we discover, has an answer for almost everything.  He explains that he knows what’s going to happen because he’s the only one that “Jim” allowed to read the entire script.  Cliff isn’t happy about that.

That’s the type of film that The Dead Don’t Die is.  It’s an elaborate in-joke, a zombie movie about people who know that they’re in a zombie movie but who are too detached to actually use that information to their advantage.  The script has been written so they have no choice but to do what the script says regardless of whether it makes them happy or not.  It’s a clever conceit, though a bit of a thin one to build a 103-minute movie around.

As I said, the film can occasionally be an endurance test.  Everyone is so deadpan that you actually find yourself getting angry at them.  But, whenever you’re on the verge of giving up, there will be a clever line that will draw you back in or the theme song will start playing again.  Bill Murray and Adam Driver are fun to watch and Driver reminds us that he’s actually a good comedic actor.  (In the year of Marriage Story and Rise of Skywalker, that can be easy to forget.)

It’s a flawed film and definitely not one of Jim Jarmusch’s best.  At the same time, though, The Dead Don’t Die is not as bad as you may have heard.

A Movie A Day #264: The Cotton Club (1984, directed by Francis Ford Coppola)


The time is the 1930s and the place is New York City.  Everyone wants to get into the Cotton Club.  Owned by British gangster Owney Madden (Bob Hoskins), the Cotton Club is a place where the stage is exclusively reserved for black performers and the audience is exclusively rich and white.  Everyone from gangsters to film stars comes to the Cotton Club.

It is at the Cotton Club that Dixie Dwyer (Richard Gere) meets everyone from Dutch Shultz (James Remar) to Gloria Swanson (Diane Venora).  Shultz hires Dixie to look after his girlfriend, Vera (Diane Lane).  Swanson arranges for Dixie to become a movie star.  Meanwhile, Dixie’s crazy brother, Vincent (Nicolas Cage), rises up through the New York underworld.  Meanwhile, dancing brothers Sandman and Clay Williams (played by real-life brothers Gregory and Maurice Hines) are stars on stage but face discrimination off, at least until Harlem gangster Bumpy Rhodes (Laurence Fishburne) comes to their aid.

The Cotton Club was a dream project of the legendary producer, Robert Evans, who was looking to make a comeback after being famously charged with cocaine trafficking in 1980.  Having commissioned a screenplay by his former Godfather collaborators, Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola, Evans originally planned to direct the film himself.  At the last minute, Evans changes his mind and asked Coppola to direct the film.  After working with him on The Godfather, Coppola had sworn that he would never work with Evans again. (When he won an Oscar for The Godfather‘s screenplay, Coppola pointedly thanked everyone but Robert Evans.)  However, by 1984, a series of box office flops had damaged Coppola’s standing in Hollywood.  Needing the money, Coppola agreed to direct The Cotton Club.

Evans raised the film’s $58 million budget from a number of investors, including Roy Radin.  Roy Radin was best known for putting together Vaudeville reunions in the 70s and being accused of raping an actress in 1980.  Radin and Evans were introduced to each other by a drug dealer named Lanie Jacobs, who was hoping to remake herself as a film producer.  During the production of The Cotton Club, Radin was murdered by a contract killer who was hired by Jacobs, who apparently felt that Radin was trying to muscle her out of the film production.

While all of this was going on, Coppola fell into his familiar pattern of going overbudget and falling behind schedule.  This led to another investor filing a lawsuit against Orion Pictures and two other investors, claiming fraud and breach of contract.  When the film was finally released, it received mixed reviews, struggled at the box office, and only received two Oscar nominations.

With all of the murder and drama that was occurring offscreen, it is not surprising that the film itself was overshadowed.  The Cotton Club is a disjointed mix of gangster drama and big production numbers.  As always with post-Apocalypse Now Coppola, there are flashes of brilliance in The Cotton Club.  Some of the production numbers are impressive and visually, this movie has got style to burn.   However, among the leads, neither Richard Gere nor Diane Lane seem to be invested in their characters while the talented Hines brothers are underused.  The supporting cast is full of good character actors who are all in a search of a better script.  A few do manage to make an impression: James Remar, Bob Hoskins and Fred Gwynne as veteran gangsters, Nicolas Cage as the film’s stand-in for Mad Dog Coll, and Joe Dallesandro as Lucky Luciano.  The Cotton Club is sometimes boring and sometimes exciting but the onscreen story is never as interesting as what happened behind the scenes.

 

Neon Dream #3: Tom Waits – Small Change


If you ever wonder what it’s like to roam the midnight streets of a cynical, depraved city full of alcoholics and deadbeats, you will never find a more poetic account than Small Change, the 1976 masterpiece by Tom Waits. It flows as a shambling, drunken journey through neon squalor. On each track, he takes us to some bar, nightclub, diner, or strip joint, and tells the stories of the people he finds there. Hawkers on “Step Right Up” offer him an incoherent slur of sales pitches. (“We’ve got a white sale on smoke-damaged furniture. You can drive it away today!”) A young punk on “Jitterbug Boy” nonchalantly brags about accomplishing all sorts of improbable feats and then tells Tom to get lost. (“If it’s heads I go to Tennessee, tails I buy a drink. If it lands on the edge I’ll keep talking to you.”) A shameless deviant on “Pasties and a G-String” rambles about his lust. (“Crawling on her belly, shaking like jelly, and I’m getting harder than Chinese algebra.”)

The album is brilliant from start to finish. Lyrically, I think I can safely call it my all-time favorite. And while the title track, “Small Change”, is not my first pick on the album generally, it’s the one that most robustly captures the dystopian theme in this music series. It tells of a small-time gangster who gets murdered, and how the community passes by in apathy or else dives like vultures to try and make a buck off the tragedy.

Small Change got rained on with his own .38,
And nobody flinched down by the arcade,
And the marquees weren’t weeping; they went stark-raving mad,
And the cabbies were the only ones that really had it made,
And his cold trousers were twisted, and the sirens high and shrill,
And crumpled in his fist was a five-dollar bill,
And the naked mannequins with their cheshire grins,
And the raconteurs and roustabouts said “Buddy, come on in,
Cause the dreams ain’t broken down here now; they’re walking with a limp,
Now that Small Change got rained on with his own .38”,
And nobody flinched down by the arcade,
And the burglar alarm’s been disconnected,
And the newsmen start to rattle,
And the cops are telling jokes about some whorehouse in Seattle,
And the fire hydrants plead the Fifth Amendment,
And the furniture is bargains galore,
But the blood is by the jukebox on an old linoleum floor,
And what a hot rain on forty-second street,
Now the umbrellas ain’t got a chance,
And the newsboy’s a lunatic with stains on his pants,
Cause Small Change got rained on with his own .38,
And no one’s gone over to close his eyes,
And there’s a racing form in his pocket circled “Blue Boots” in the 3rd,
And the cashier at the clothing store didn’t say a word,
As the sirens tear the night in half, and someone lost his wallet,
It’s surveillance of assailance, if that’s what you want to call it,
And the whores hike up their skirts and fish for drug-store prophylactics,
And their mouths cut just like razor blades, and their eyes are like stilettos,
And her radiator’s steaming, and her teeth are in a wreck,
She won’t let you kiss her, but what the hell did you expect?
And the gypsies are tragic, and if you want to buy perfume,
They’ll bark you down like carnies, sell you Christmas cards in June,
But Small Change got rained on with his own .38,
And his headstone’s a gumball machine,
No more chewing gum or baseball cards or overcoats or dreams,
Someone’s hosing down the sidewalk and he’s only in his teens,
Cause Small Change got rained on with his own .38,
And a fistful of dollars can’t change that,
And someone copped his watch fob, and someone got his ring,
And the newsboy got his porkpie Stetson hat,
And the tuberculosis old men at The Nelson wheeze and cough,
And someone will head south until this whole thing cools off.

Song of the Day: Hold On (by Tom Waits)


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Whether one loves, likes, hates or is indifferent when it comes to AMC’s The Walking Dead tv series I haven’t heard much complaint from most about the producers on the show’s taste in music. This show has done a great job in picking an eclectic selection of tunes that fit the mood of the show as a whole or a particular episode. This past weekend’s new episode hasn’t broken that streak of quality choices and it’s the producers’ choice for this past episode that makes our latest “Song of the Day”.

“Hold On” by Tom Waits would’ve made this list even if The Walking Dead didn’t use it to end their latest episode. I mean it’s Tom Waits. He’s the only reason why. Again, he’s Tom Waits, enough said. So, “Hold On” is the latest song in this long-running feature and it didn’t just fit in with The Walking Dead episode, but it’s also by Tom Waits.

Once again, it’s Tom Waits.

“Hold On”

They hung a sign up in out town
“if you live it up, you won’t
live it down”
So, she left Monte Rio, son
Just like a bullet leaves a gun
With charcoal eyes and Monroe hips
She went and took that California trip
Well, the moon was gold, her
Hair like wind
She said don’t look back just
Come on Jim

Oh you got to
Hold on, Hold on
You got to hold on
Take my hand, I’m standing right here
You gotta hold on

Well, he gave her a dimestore watch
And a ring made from a spoon
Everyone is looking for someone to blame
But you share my bed, you share my name
Well, go ahead and call the cops
You don’t meet nice girls in coffee shops
She said baby, I still love you
Sometimes there’s nothin left to do

Oh you got to
Hold on, hold on
You got to hold on
Take my hand, I’m standing right here, you got to
Just hold on.

Well, God bless your crooked little heart St. Louis got the best of me
I miss your broken-china voice
How I wish you were still here with me

Well, you build it up, you wreck it down
You burn your mansion to the ground
When there’s nothing left to keep you here, when
You’re falling behind in this
Big blue world

Oh you go to
Hold on, hold on
You got to hold on
Take my hand, I’m standing right here
You got to hold on

Down by the Riverside motel,
It’s 10 below and falling
By a 99 cent store she closed her eyes
And started swaying
But it’s so hard to dance that way
When it’s cold and there’s no music
Well your old hometown is so far away
But, inside your head there’s a record
That’s playing, a song called

Hold on, hold on
You really got to hold on
Take my hand, I’m standing right here
And just hold on.

necromoonyeti’s 10 Favorite Songs of 2011


I want to hop on the bandwagon. It would be a little silly for me to post my real top 10; for one thing, it would include four Krallice tracks. That aside, nearly everything I’d put on it I’ve either posted on this site as a Song of the Day or included in both my review of its album and my top albums post. So to make this a bit different from my past posts, I’m going to limit myself to one song per band, stick to stuff that I imagine might appeal to people who aren’t interested in extreme metal, and keep it on the catchy side. I’ll list a more honest top 10 at the end.

10. Powerwolf – Son of a Wolf (from Blood of the Saints)

As such, my tenth place selection is about as metal as it’s going to get. Powerwolf’s Blood of the Saints might be simple and repetitive, but it’s about the catchiest power/heavy metal album I’ve ever heard. It indulges the same guilty pleasure for me as Lordi and Twisted Sister–two bands that inexplicably pump me up despite being entirely tame. It also offers some amazing operatic vocals and Dracula keyboards, the cheesiness of which can be easily forgiven. Son of a Wolf might be one of the more generic tracks in a sense, but it’s the one most often stuck in my head.

9. Alestorm – Barrett’s Privateers (from Back Through Time)

The only thing I love more than traditional folk and sea chanties is folk punk and metal. When the latter covers the former, I’m in bliss. Alestorm are emerging as the sort of Dropkick Murphys of metal with all their covers lately, and I hope they keep it up. I loved Barrett’s Privateers before what you’re hearing ever happened, and the metal version delights me to no end.

8. The Decemberists – Rox in the Box (from The King is Dead)

The Decemberists really toned it down this year. Where The Hazards of Love could be described as an epic rock opera, The King is Dead sticks to simple, pleasant folk. But Colin Meloy thoroughly researches pretty much every subject he’s ever tackled, and The King is Dead pays ample homage to its predecessors. Rox in the Box incorporates Irish traditional song Raggle Taggle Gypsy with delightful success.

7. Nekrogoblikon – Goblin Box (from Stench)

With a keen eye towards contemporary folk metal like Alestorm and Finntroll, melodic death classics like In Flames and Children of Bodom, and much else besides, former gimmick band Nekrogoblikon really forged their own unique sound in the world of folk metal in 2011. At least half of the album is this good. Stench is the most unexpected surprise the year had to offer by far.

6. Korpiklaani – Surma (from Ukon Wacka)

Korpiklaani almost always end their albums with something special, and 2011 is no exception. The melody of Surma is beautiful, and Jonne Järvelä’s metal take on traditional Finnish vocals is as entertaining as ever.

5. Turisas – Hunting Pirates (from Stand Up and Fight)

I couldn’t find a youtube video that effectively captured the full scope of Turisas’s sound in such limited bitrates, but believe me, it’s huge. Go buy the album and find out for yourselves. Unlike Varangian Way, not every track is this good, but on a select number Turisas appear in their finest form. Adventurous, exciting, epic beyond compare, this band delivers with all of the high definition special effects of a Hollywood blockbuster.

4. The Flight of Sleipnir – Transcendence (from Essence of Nine)

Essence of Nine kicks off with a kaleidoscope of everything that makes stoner metal great, while reaching beyond the genre to incorporate folk and Akerfeldt-esque vocals. A beautifully constructed song, it crushes you even as it floats through the sky. I could imagine Tony Iommi himself rocking out to this one.

3. Boris – Black Original (from New Album)

From crust punk to black metal, there’s nothing Boris don’t do well, and 2011 has shown more than ever that there’s no style they’ll hesitate from dominating. I don’t know what’s been going on in the past few years with this popular rise of 80s sounds and weird electronics. I don’t listen to it, so I can’t relate. But if I expected it sounded anything nearly as good as what Boris pulled off this year I’d be all over it.

2. Tom Waits – Chicago (from Bad as Me)

Bad as Me kicks off with one of my favorite Tom Waits songs to date. It’s a timeless theme for him, but it feels more appropriate now than ever, and his dirty blues perfectly capture the sort of fear and excitement of packing up and seeking out a better life.

1. Dropkick Murphys – Take ‘Em Down (from Going Out in Style)

In a year just begging for good protest songs, Flogging Molly tried really hard and fell flat. Dropkick Murphys, another band you’d expect to join the cause, released perhaps their most generic album to date (still good mind you, but not a real chart topper). Take ‘Em Down is kind of out of place on the album, but it’s DKM to the core, and as best I can gather it’s an original song, not a cover of a traditional track. If so, it’s probably the most appropriate thing written all year. (The video is fan made.)

If you’re interested in my actual top 10, it runs something like this:

10. Falkenbach – Where His Ravens Fly…
9. Waldgeflüster – Kapitel I: Seenland
8. Liturgy – High Gold
7. Endstille – Endstille (Völkerschlächter)
6. Blut aus Nord – Epitome I
5. Krallice – Intro/Inhume
4. Liturgy – Harmonia
3. Krallice – Diotima
2. Krallice – Telluric Rings
1. Krallice – Dust and Light

And that excludes so many dozens of amazing songs that it seems almost pointless to post it.

Song of the Day: Tom Waits – New Year’s Eve


I never did get around to writing a review of Bad As Me. It’s a shame, because it’s pretty damn good. The old man’s always been in a league of his own, and Tom’s seventeenth studio album feels no less legitimate than anything else he’s created. If anything it’s above average in his discography quality-wise, and that says a lot for someone who released his first album nearly 40 years ago. An entirely accurate representation of his style, here’s 13 anthems to homeless bums, trailer trash, vagabonds, and the starry-eyed refugees of an unforgiving society. I’ve been listening to the closing track, New Year’s Eve, on repeat ever since my deluxe edition pre-order showed up in the mail, and now’s a good day to pass it along.

It’s typical Tom fassion to make the joyous out of the bleak and vice versa. New Year’s Eve might not be as gut-wrenching as Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis, but it carries on his tradition of looking at the holidays from the perspective of those who’ve got little left in life to celebrate.

The door was open; I was seething
Your mother burst in; it was freezing
She said it looks like it’s trying to rain
I was lost; I felt sea sick
You convinced me that he’d left
You said keep talking, but don’t use any names
I scolded your driver and your brother
We are old enough to know how long you’ve been hooked
And we’ve all been through the war
and each time you score
someone gets hauled and handcuffed and booked

It felt like four in the morning
What sounded like fire works
Turned out to be just what it was
The stars looked like diamonds
Then came the sirens
And everyone started to cuss

All the noise was disturbing
And I couldn’t find Irving
It was like two stations on at the same time
And then I hid your car keys
And I made black coffee
And I dumped out the rest of the rum

Nick and Socorro broke up
And Candice wouldn’t shut up
Fin, he recorded the whole thing
Ray, he said damn you
And someone broke my camera
And it was New Years
And we all started to sing

Should auld acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind
Should auld acquaintance be forgot for the sake of auld lang syne

I was leaving in the morning with Charles for Las Vegas
And I didn’t plan to come back
I had only a few things
Two hundred dollars
And my records in a brown paper sack

I ran out on Sheila
Everything’s in storage
Calvin’s right, I should go back to driving trucks

Should auld acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind
Should auld acquaintance be forgot for the sake of auld lang syne

Song of the Day: Pasties and a G-String (by Tom Waits)


When I saw necromoonyeti post that Tom Waits will have a new studio album out this October 25th I instantly went over to Amazon and placed a pre-order. As necromoonyeti has mentioned in his post Waits is a one-of-a-kind musician and definitely one of America’s treasures. There’s really no way to describe his style of music since he experiments so often and, at times, his style is more performance art than anything.

For the latest “Song of the Day” I pick the one song that’s almost like a gateway to the aural drug that is Tom Waits. There’s nothing else to say other than listen and marvel at Waits’ “Pasties and a G-String”.

Pasties and a G-String

Smelling like a brewery,
looking like a tramp
I ain’t got a quarter
got a postage stamp
Been five o’clock shadow boxing
all around the town
Talking with the old men
sleeping on the ground
Bazanti bootin
al zootin al hoot
and Al Cohn
sharin this apartment
with a telephone pole
and it’s a fish-net stockings
spike-heel shoes
Strip tease, prick tease
car kease blues
and the porno floor show
live nude girls
dreamy and creamy
and the brunette curls
Chesty Morgan and a
Watermelon Rose
raise my rent and take off
all your clothes
with the trench coats
magazines bottle full of rum
she’s so good, it make
a dead man cum, with
pasties and a g-string
beer and a shot
Portland through a shot glass
and a Buffalo squeeze
wrinkles and cherry
and twinky and pinky
and FeFe live from Gay Paree
fanfares rim shots
back stage who cares
all this hot burlesque for me

cleavage, cleavage thighs and hips
from the nape of her neck
to the lip stick lips
chopped and channeled
and lowered and louvered
and a cheater slicks
and baby moons
she’s hot and ready
and creamy and sugared
and the band is awful
and so are the tunes

crawlin on her belly shakin like jelly
and I’m getting harder than
Chinese algebraziers and cheers
from the compendium here
hey sweet heart they’re yellin for more
squashing out your cigarette butts
on the floor
and I like Shelly
you like Jane
what was the girl with the snake skins name
it’s an early bird matinee
come back any day
getcha little sompin
that cha can’t get at home
getcha little sompin
that cha can’t get at home
pasties and a g-string
beer and a shot
Portland through a shot glass
and a Buffalo squeeze
popcorn, front row
higher than a kite
and I’ll be back tomorrow night
and I’ll be back tomorrow night

New Tom Waits set for October 25th


Tom Waits announced yesterday that he would be releasing a new studio album, Bad as Me, on October 25th, his first since Real Gone in 2004 (if we exclude live albums and compilations). In conjunction with the announcement, he released the above comedy sketch and album sample, along with a single of the title track. I can’t offer you the single–you’ll have to buy it or use more nefarious means of acquisition–but I can assure you he keeps it weird. If the single and sample video are any indication, I expect this to be yet another solid effort that upholds his stature as the most unique musician America has ever produced. The album will contain thirteen tracks, with three additional ones available on the pre-order and deluxe editions of the album. I’m pretty damn excited.

If you aren’t familiar with Tom, it’s hard to say where to begin. In the 38 years he’s been releasing albums he’s ranged from a jazzy barfly to an eclectic staple of American folk, always easily identifiable by his cool, loner image, phenomenal gravely voice, and consistently thoughtful, often clever lyrics. I would say start with Small Change and Swordfishtrombones, but it’s hard to go wrong with any of his nineteen studio albums. Just pick one, dive in, and be sure to mark October 25th on your calendar.

5 Artists/Bands I Fell In Love w/ in 2009


While I’m not as well-versed with all sorts of music genres like some friends of mine I do have a well-rounded taste when it comes to music. Growing up during the 80’s it was hard not to get into the hair-metal which dominated the scene. Yes, I fully admit to being a Motley Crue fan and even listened to the random Poison track here and there. In addition to hair-metal I also got into rap and hip-hop during the 80’s and early 90’s which I still consider the Golden Age of the genre.

Young people nowadays can have their Lil’ Wayne or Soulja Boy (but why would they want to) and the Dirty South crew and all that. I say I’ll take giants of the genre like Eric B. and Rakim, EPMD, Wu-Tang Clan, Afrika Bambaataa, Paris, N.W.A, Ice-T and Ice Cube over these new youngbloods any day of the week and Sundays included. While rap and hip-hop have become too much about commercialization I do like current acts like Mos Def and Talib Kweli of Black Star, Common, OutKast, Mobb Deep and Goodie Mobb.

As I’ve gotten older I’ve branched out from those two genres and embraced all types of music (though folk music still escapes me most of the time). It doesn’t matter now whether the artist/band plays some subgenre of metal like Norwegian Black, Viking, Pagan or combinations in-between. Or if they’re more classical genres like baroque, chamber and symphony. If they sounded good and I got into them I couldn’t care less what sort of genre they went under.

2009 was a good year for me in terms of discovering some new bands and artists. These were not new in the way that they’ve just been making music recently. All five I’m about to mention have been making music for at least a decade or decades for a couple.

1. Altan Urag

Altan Urag is a folk-rock band from Mongolia who have combined traditional Mongolian folk music, Western rock stylings and traditional Tuvan/Mongolian “karkhiraa” throat singing. It’s just very difficult to try and explain Altan Urag who has never heard of throat singers and folk music from the region. I’ve pretty much scoured every music store in my area, the net and other shadowy options to find their music. To say that I fell in love with this band would be one of the major understatement of the year.

2. Bathory

Bathory is one band I’ve heard of in the past but never really bothered to try. I was still very leery of the subgenres of metal that went by labels such as Norwegian Black, Pagan, Viking, etc. I was very much still a child of the NWOBHM movement of the lat 70’s and early 80’s and the rise of trash/speed metal of the 80’s. But the last two years I’ve branched out to try more types of metal and in 2009 I finally gave Bathory a chance and was instantly hooked. I’ve wondered since why I never gave them a chance. My favorite track of theirs has to be “Hammerheart” from their “Twilight of the Gods” album. It’s a much more subdued Bathory, but every time I listen to it I feel like I should be at a pub or some Viking hall downing a few pints of ale or horns of mead with my buddies before going off to battle. I definitely feel like Odin is watching over me when I listen to Bathory.

3. Blind Guardian

What is there to say about Blind Guardian that its most ardent fans haven’t already said ad infinitum about this greatest of all power metal bands. Power metal have been a genre I’ve dabbled in here and there in years past but never really paid them much attention as they truly deserve. Blind Guardian changed all that for me in 2009 and I now count Power Metal as one of my favorite type of music. Blind Guardian’s epic and quite operatic 2002 album, “A Night at the Opera”, was my first introduction to this power metal band of all power metal. While I’ve come to love all the other albums of their pre- and post-Opera I found this album of theirs the most accomplished and musically complete. Even people who are not typically fans of metal would find this album as something they would enjoy listening to. My favorite track is also the longest and most complex in the album, “…And Then There Was Silence.” It is an epic 14-minute track that tells the story of the Trojan War. If there’s a song more epic than this one I haven’t heard it.

4. Boris

Whenever I used to think of Japanese popular music and rock I always thought of J-Pop and it’s rock equivalent. I’m not wrong in that assumption as those type of music coming out of Japan have become quite popular due to the rise in the popularity of anime in the West. So, color me surprised when the same friend who introduced me to Blind Guardian and Altan Urag told me to check out Boris. The band is the power trio of Atsuo (vocals/drums), Wata (lead guitar) and Takeshi (bass guitar/vocals) out of Tokyo who simply cannot be hobbled by any particular genre of rock. One album may be stoner rock while the next all about doom and drudge metal. They’ve even released ambient rock and noise rock albums where one would think the music was just amps feedbacking back on themselves. I’ve come to call Boris the mad scientists of rock and their albums attest to that. My favorite track of theirs come from their 2003 album, “Akuma no Uta.” The song in question is called “Naki Kyoku” and one just has to listen to this song just what sort of musical geniuses the trio of Boris really are.

5. Tom Waits

Tom Waits. There’s just nothing much I can say about my love for Tom Waits other than people who have never heard him should just listen to “Pasties and a G-String” and be amazed. To try and describe Tom Waits would be an exercise in failure. One either loves The Waits or just don’t get him. There’s no middle-ground when it comes to The Waits.

So that makes the 5 bands and artists I fell in love with in 2009. Honorable mentions must go to these others: Mastodon, Turisas, Isis, Otis Taylor, Mantic Ritual, The Black Keys, Mirrorthrone and Nightwish just to name a few.