PM Pick

Oh, Yoko

I used to feel sorry for Yoko. Her association with Lennon assures that her work will always be remembered but rarely taken seriously. Now, John Lennon's solo albums are being remastered and reissued (why? who would want to buy Walls and Bridges again?) but if you believe the PR sheet, Yoko has made an executive decision to trim the Sometime in New York City package to a single disc. Her explanation is priceless:

Says Yoko, "When John started singing 'Baby Please Don't Go' at the Fillmore East show it was his cry from the heart to the two heavily avant-garde artists - Frank Zappa and myself - with whom he was sharing a stage. John started to sing a rock n' roll song with simple chords from his childhood, to which not much could be added musically by Zappa's great band. I did my vocalization to add a little twist, while Frank jammed on his guitar - but the main emotion of the piece was pure Liverpool. John sang beautifully.

I decided that the Fillmore performance should end here after this track, without going into the long avant-garde improvisation that followed, led by Frank and I. I wanted John to have the last voice on the album, spreading his childhood over us.

If you miss the 'freak out' part...just put a microphone to the many battlefields in the world. You will hear everything - children crying, guys shouting, and the occasional silence created by the dead."

In a sense, she's absolutely right; her kind of avant-garde musical experimentation is a war declared on listeners, a kind of torture inflicted on unsuspecting Beatles fans, something that makes babies cry. In the July 7, 2005 New Yorker, a story about the Navy's training soldiers to resist "noise stress" torture mentioned how they were prepared by a continuous loop of a Yoko Ono record. According to the article, this is typically reported to be the "most gruelling" part of the training. I'm sure Yoko was very proud to discover this, and it reaffirmed fo rher what a powerful artist she is. What I like best about this new statement is how she implies Lennon was a childlike idiot savant while her and Zappa were the true artists leaving him behind, helplessly trapped with his imbecilic rock and roll.

Nice try, Yoko. I suspect what happened was the record company had no interest in manufacturing a double disc merely to accomodate twenty minutes of Yoko mewing and wailing like a six-month-old with a dirty diaper and demanded that "Don't Worry Kyoko" be deleted from the track list. The "heavily avant-garde" Yoko, wanting the cash from the reissues but wrestling with her monumental ego, managed to vomit up this ludicrous rationalization.

This new PR release proves that Yoko knows that listening to her music is kind of like being tortured, as it is emulates unsettling gutteral/semiotic/abject sounds (like babies crying relentlessly, or people burning alive -- some of her songs seemed to designed to evoke ground zero at Hiroshima).


The Best Indie Rock of 2017

Photo courtesy of Matador Records

The indie rock genre is wide and unwieldy, but the musicians selected here share an awareness of one's place on the cultural-historical timeline.

Indie rock may be one of the most fluid and intangible terms currently imposed upon musicians. It holds no real indication of what the music will sound like and many of the artists aren't even independent. But more than a sonic indicator, indie rock represents a spirit. It's a spirit found where folk songsters and punk rockers come together to dialogue about what they're fed up with in mainstream culture. In so doing they uplift each other and celebrate each other's unique qualities.

With that in mind, our list of 2017's best indie rock albums ranges from melancholy to upbeat, defiant to uplifting, serious to seriously goofy. As always, it's hard to pick the best ten albums that represent the year, especially in such a broad category. Artists like King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard had a heck of a year, putting out four albums. Although they might fit nicer in progressive rock than here. Artists like Father John Misty don't quite fit the indie rock mold in our estimation. Foxygen, Mackenzie Keefe, Broken Social Scene, Sorority Noise, Sheer Mag... this list of excellent bands that had worthy cuts this year goes on. But ultimately, here are the ten we deemed most worthy of recognition in 2017.

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From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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The Best Country Music of 2017

still from Midland "Drinkin' Problem" video

There are many fine country musicians making music that is relevant and affecting in these troubled times. Here are ten of our favorites.

Year to year, country music as a genre sometimes seems to roll on without paying that much attention to what's going on in the world (with the exception of bro-country singers trying to adopt the latest hip-hop slang). That can feel like a problem in a year when 58 people are killed and 546 are injured by gun violence at a country-music concert – a public-relations issue for a genre that sees many of its stars outright celebrating the NRA. Then again, these days mainstream country stars don't seem to do all that well when they try to pivot quickly to comment on current events – take Keith Urban's muddled-at-best 2017 single "Female", as but one easy example.

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'Curb Your Enthusiasm' S9 Couldn't Find Its Rhythm

Larry David and J.B. Smoove in Curb Your Enthusiasm S9 (HBO)

Curb Your Enthusiasm's well-established characters are reacting to their former selves, rather than inhabiting or reinventing themselves. Thus, it loses the rhythms and inflections that once made the show so consistently, diabolically funny.

In an era of reboots and revivals, we've invented a new form of entertainment: speculation. It sometimes seems as if we enjoy begging for television shows to return more than watching them when they're on the air. And why wouldn't we? We can't be disappointed by our own imaginations. Only the realities of art and commerce get in the way.

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Wars of attrition are a matter of stamina, of who has the most tools with which to keep fighting. A surprising common tool in this collection? Humor.

The name of the game is "normal or abnormal". Here's how you play: When some exceedingly shocking political news pops up on your radar, turn to the person next to you, read them the headline and ask, "is this normal or abnormal?" If you want to up the stakes, drink a shot every time the answer is abnormal. If that's too many shots, alter the rules so that you drink only when things are normal—which is basically never, these days. Hilarious, right?

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