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The Best of a VERY Fucked-Up Year (aka The Best of 2016)

What a fucked-up year.

No, really. I’ve lived 57 of them, and this one takes the cake. And I’m not even talking politics, which was the shit show of all shit shows with the shit winning, I’m talking David Bowie and Prince dying. And I’m not sure if their deaths had anything to do with it, but the music that was released in 2016 was for the most part crap. I can think of very few albums that deserve a place on any top ten list. I can think of a handful of runner-ups. And I can remember a whole boatload of shit. Especially from people I respect.  (PW, are you kidding me?)  Apropos for this shit show year.

Of course what makes it even more fucked-up is that the best record of 2016 is really the record I listened to most in 2015. The record I loved most in 2015. But I couldn’t share it with any one. I was so careful with it that I would not leave a copy in my Jeep overnight for fear that someone would break in, steal the cd, and pirate it on the internet.

And taking that one step further, the album I played most in 2016, really came out in 2015. So I can’t legitimately even name it the best record of this year.

Like I said, fucked up.

But so am I, and I don’t really care.

The two records of which I speak are REAL from Lydia Loveless, which came out this year, but devastated me last. And SIDELONG from Sarah Shook and the Disarmers, which was released by Sarah on her own label in October 2015, but didn’t fall into my hands until March 19th of this year.

I’ll start with REAL. Anyone who’s read these pages, or spent 30 seconds talking music with me over the past couple of years, knows how I feel about Lydia Loveless and her band. They are the greatest rock and roll band on the planet at this point in time. I believe in them more strongly that the Pope believes in God. (No joke, I’ve talked it out with Benny.) Hell, you know I only make films about things I’m passionate about.

Camera in hand, I got to document a lot of the REAL recording sessions. I got to hear first vocal takes on what would become songs that ripped me apart from inside out. Where the fuck does her voice come from? Lydia can hit a note and make me cry.  A lot of the album did, or at least reduce me to goosebumps and shivers. The title was perfect because it gave you fair warning as to what to expect. Everything here real, the emotions, the playing, the voice. And much like the musicial chameleons who passed this year, Lydia was not afraid to change. I find it amusing that the album has ended up on so many best country album lists. Not sure that there’s one song here I’d even remotely consider country. And perhaps that’s another aspect of her brilliance, you can’t categorize her. Lydia has a song for every occasion, from funeral to wedding, from heartbreak to joy. And REAL runs that gamut.

SIDELONG on the other hand is old-time country by way of BEGGARS BANQUET or LET IT BLEED. I’ve played this album to the point where my friends and my wife will no longer allow me to play it in their presence. Not joking. It’s caused screaming fights. This year, week after week new records would be released. I’d play them once (a hand full perhaps made it to a half-dozen plays), and immediately return to SIDELONG. Still today, nine months after I first heard it, I have it on endless replay in my Jeep. Hell, I had the opening line to her song DWIGHT YOAKAM tattooed on my arm. I am obsessed with this fucking record. It is crack-cocaine to me. It is perfection from start to finish. It is my new ICKY METTLE. (Though that still is my desert island album.) What the fuck is in the water in that Chapel Hill area?

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Why does SIDELONG work so well? Why does it hold me in its clutches. Because every word, every note, every warble in Shook’s voice, rings true.   “I’m drinking water tonight ’cause I drank all the whiskey this morning/Drank the whiskey this morning ’cause my baby, she ain’t coming home.” Seriously fuck. Just stop writing songs now. It’s done. It’s over. Sarah Shook won.

So all of that said, I’m just going to break some rules here and name REAL and SIDELONG as the two best records of this fucked-up year. Buy them (if you download them illegally you’re a scum-sucking piece of shit who deserves to have your legs crushed in a car accident…and oh, I am so fucking serious when I say that I hope I’m driving the other car), savor them, realize that rock and roll ain’t as dead as it otherwise seems.

There were a handful of other albums that I listened to more than once in 2016. (No really, more than once was a lot when SIDELONG was waiting, whispering into my ear, calling out my name.)  These got played.  These are respected.

Here they are in no specific order. These are all beautiful records, and in any other year they might have ended near or at the top of this list. Instead of explaining why I liked them (let’s face it, we have all talked way too much this year – perhaps we can all just shut the fuck up in 2017), just listen to the attached song. You’ll either get it, or not. And if you do, buy the album. You won’t be sorry.

David Bowie – BLACKSTAR

Big Thief – MASTERPIECE

Mitski – PUBERTY 2

Car Seat Headrest – TEENS OF DENIAL

Wilco – SCHMILCO

Adia Victoria – BEYOND THE BLOODHOUNDS

Drive-By Truckers – AMERICAN BAND

A Giant Dog – PILE

Rolling Stones – Blue & Lonesome

Eric Bachmann – (SELF TITLED)

Eric Bachmann & Jon Rauhouse – (SELF TITLED)

MOST DISAPPOINTING ALBUM OF THE YEAR: Pretty much anything and everything else. I had no patience for the regurgitated same-old/same-old. I had no patience for anything commercial. Perhaps I just had no patience. Bowie and Prince fucking died.

BEST SONG OF THE YEAR: It’s a tie between Shook’s DWIGHT YOAKAM and OUT ON LOVE from Loveless. You already know what I think of the former, and with the latter Loveless and company traveled an aural landscape they had yet to visit. Moody, heartbreaking, depressing and utterly fucked up. Perhaps a good theme song for 2016.

OTHER GREAT SONGS: see the samples I posted from the runner-up albums of the year. These are among my favorite songs of the year.

BEST LIVE SHOW: Eric Bachmann’s living room show in New Haven. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen Eric play since falling in love with Archers of Loaf in 1993. Forty, fifty, maybe more. But on this one night, he seemed to channel all that was great, and there’s a lot that’s great about this most under-appreciated songwriter. One song from each of the fifteen records he’d sung on. Played on guitar or banjo, with two for good measure on the upright piano sitting against one wall in the living room. CHUMMING THE OCEANS being one of those. I make no bones about it that my favorite song of all time is WEB IN FRONT, it was beautiful and perfect on acoustic guitar. THE GREATEST OF ALL TIME on freakin’ banjo. NOSTALGIA also on acoustic guitar. It was one of those magic nights that I will remember forever. It was perfect from beginning to end, and I walked away thinking yeah, I could die happily tonight.

BEST HOLLYWOOD NARRATIVE FILM: I’m temped to say no such thing any more, but I did dig THE GIRL ON A TRAIN. Not much else, but then I tend to stay away from anything with special effect, which severely limits the Hollywood films I can see.

BEST INDEPENDENT NARRATIVE FILM: SING STREET. John Carney, the director of the breathtaking ONCE, returns to indie roots with a tale of a bullied teen who starts a band in 80s Dublin to impress a girl. Everything about this film will leave you grinning from ear-to-ear. It’s a perfect film. Not one that will change your world, just one that will make it a little brighter.

Other great films: LA LA LAND, THE EDGE OF SEVENTEEN, NOCTURNAL ANIMALS

BEST DOCUMENTARY FILM: I hate to say it but I’ve yet to see a number of films with might be in the running like CAMERAPERSON or TOWER. I did truly like WEINER, but I can’t call it the best doc of the year. I’ve found that a number of docs I see are told by people who don’t really know how to tell a story in a solid three-act structure. The story they’re trying to tell might seem fascinating, and a great editor might be able to get their film there, but fo me, so many just do not work. Just because it’s a doc doesn’t mean storytelling should take a back seat.

BEST TV: I think there were three television show that for me fired on all cylinders this year: THE NIGHT OF for drama, SILICON VALLEY for comedy, and LAST WEEK TONIGHT WITH JOHN OLIVER for everything else. The first was simply riveting from beginning to end, the next smart and sassy and even heartfelt, and the later was a safety net of sanity in this most fucked up year.

BOOKS OF THE YEAR: This year was mainly about short stories, and my favorite book/collection is actually a few years old. BIG WORLD from Mary Miller is the best short story collection I’ve read this side of Raymond Carver. Yes, that’s ridiculously high praise. Until you start read and wonder if I’m selling her short. Her characters are damaged and all too real, I knew every last one of them. A perfect mirror on relationships in this fucked-up time.

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As for the rest of my 2016: I’m ridiculously proud of my newest feature WHO IS LYDIA LOVELESS? The screening were all a blast, with Lydia always turning in an original acoustic performance, sometimes a surprise, as the Prince cover was in Boston. (What does her voice do to me?  Earlier that day I was just sitting around on my laptop, she was playing my small Martin acoustic.  She went into the Prince tune.  I had to keep my back to her because I was crying through the entire song.  I managed to say, “You have to play that tonight,” when she was done.)

Completed four music videos (one for Shook, three for Loveless), that all had great premieres. There were all a blast to make. (Thank you again to all the great people who helped out on these videos.)

A DOG NAMED GUCCI was beautifully released on DVD.  If you have not seen this film, watch it.  You will to have to turn away.  Instead it will open your eyes and inspire you.

Dean Falcone’s beautiful production of ONE VOICE from Gucci was released on vinyl on Record Store Day.

Had a short story published in the WAITING TO BE FORGOTTEN collection, and even completed my first novel in a decade.  (Stayed tuned for that.)

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Found a number of great new crew people: welcome aboard Isabella (who single-handledly edited the EUROPEAN video), Lindsay, Charlotte, and Hannah.

Enjoyed a lovely vacation with Kristine to our favorite place in the world, Key West. We welcomed a new pup into our lives, the Lab/Rottie mix Dylan, who ended up being a Lab/Beagle mix.

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And NHdocs, the documentary film fest I run with Charlie Musser, grew from three days to eleven. (Just wait until this year!)

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I hope to finish our anti-bullying film NORMAL VALID LIVES in 2017. It feels even more important now.

Plus we’ll be announcing two new projects (we’ve got five in the works, one you really can’t know about yet.). As for the other two: the first is our second animal film, which will be announced early in 2017. The other, my fifth rock doc of course. And if you haven’t figured out the subject after reading this post, go back and read again, read it over and over again. Eventually you’ll figure it out.  Here’s a hint.

So, stay tuned; follow along on twitter and facebook.

Stay safe, healthy, sane, and happy. And a little obsessed.  We need obsession of the good kind right now.  (Drink a lot of water.)

R.I.P. Bowie & Prince

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Filed under best music of 2016, Best Music of Year, best of 2016, best of the year, best of year, Uncategorized

DVD release dates!

Sorry it’s been a while…

First, spent a lot of August in Minneapolis filming EVERY EVERYTHING, THE MUSIC, LIFE & TIMES OF GRANT HART.

Second, really started hard editing of BROKEN SIDE OF TIME, part two of my Alone Trilogy.

Third, was in Key West, one of my favorite places on earth, with Kris, celebrating our 20th anniversary.

But today, the pressing matter is the DVD release date for both COLOR ME OBSESSED and WHAT DID YOU EXPECT?

NOVEMBER 20TH!

MARK IT DOWN!

Now a little on both releases…(click the title to pre-order)

WHAT DID YOU EXPECT? THE ARCHERS OF LOAF LIVE AT CAT’S CRADLE

To me, the Archers of Loaf were the single greatest band of the 90s. They saved my love of music after The Replacement broke up, and I truly felt no band would ever fill those dirty Converse All Stars.

I will always remember the first time I saw the Archers live at a CMJ showcase at Tramps in NYC. Within 30 seconds I knew I had discovered my new favorite band. And that’s never changed. I do honestly believe WEB IN FRONT is the greatest song ever written. Ever. It makes me happy. The band makes me happy.

But of course all good things must come to an end as they did in 1998. A true story: I knew the band, and knew WHITE TRASH HEROES would be their last album. The day it was released I drove some 45 minutes to pick it up, and listened to it blissfully for the first time on the ride home, having to pull over as the last song came on, because knowing it was the last new song I’d ever hear from them I began to cry. I sat in a bank parking lot the tears flowing uncontrollably as the final refrains of that amazing title track played on my car’s speakers.

Jump forward to 2011. My first rock documentary, COLOR ME OBSESSED, A FILM ABOUT THE REPLACEMENTS, was doing quite well on the festival circuit. I knew I wanted to make a second rock doc. And one afternoon my wife informed me that the Archers were reuniting for a tour, and I knew I had my next subject. I won’t go into the details of talking the camera-sky band into the project, but after seeing their two LA performances I knew I had to do everything in my power to forever preserve this energy for future generations. Especially in a time when going to a rock show usually means seeing a wimpy band who looks even more bored than the texting crowd members who are more interested in talking or being seen.

Cat’s Cradle was the obvious venue. So I got together some of my favorite crew members I’d worked with in recent years. Jan Radder and Sarah Hajtol, who were my right and left hands in making COLOR ME. Adrian Correia who did such an amazing job shooting my FRIENDS (WITH BENEFITS) — the original FWB movie. As well as Cory Maffucci and Andrew Ross. We had seven cameras in all, with me on Eric Johnson’s side of the stage, Sarah on Matt Gentling’s, Jan with two cameras behind drummer Mark Price, Adrian roaming the audience, Cory watching over the Red One capturing our wide shot, and Andrew on the catwalk covering the crowd.

I shot the interviews myself a few months later in their hometown of Asheville, then I went home and cut together the truly mind-blowing footage to Brian Paulson’s astounding mix.

I’ve made a number of films, written a bunch of books, but never in 30 years did I have more fun doing anything. This is my proudest moment as a filmmaker, because not only do I feel I have made a great film, I know I have helped preserve an important part of rock history, proof that rock once had balls, and at times, still can.

I love this band, and have never found a replacement for them. I doubt I ever will.

And FYI: the set list from the film can be seen as the background to the poster. The DVD 12 contains 6 additional songs from the two Cradle shows, and 4 extra interviews with the band members.

COLOR ME OBSESSED, A FILM ABOUT THE REPLACEMENTS

Just want you to know how proud we are of this DVD release. On it you’ll find 6 hours of extras including 19 deleted scenes, the complete interviews with Grant Hart of Husker Du, famed rock critic Robert Christgau, and Sound Opinions hosts Greg Kot & Jim DeRogatis, a behind the scenes interview with me, and another with Hansi Oppenheimer who originated the project years ago. Plus there are two commentaries, one from me, and the other from our Minneapolis producer Jan Radder. Throw in 4 trailers, and you have one hell of a DVD!!!

Color Me Obsessed was a blast to make. And for anyone wondering why there’s no band or music, that was the concept from the start. We never even asked to speak with the band, never asked to use the music. Never. From the get-go I wanted to turn the rock doc genre on its ear. And for a band who shot a stereo speaker for 4 minutes for its first music video, I think this approach is appropriate and more than fitting.

A number of critics seem to agree. Rolling Stone called it one of “the seven best new music documentaries of the year.” The Village Voice called it “the rock version of Rashomon.” David Carr, the NY Times columnist tweeted “You can feel The Replacements in every single frame.” And the raves go on and on (even check the IMDb user comments).

For fans, you will be reaching for your Mats albums the moment the end credits roll. (NOTE: the film doesn’t end with the end credits. There’s more!)

And for music lovers not familiar with The Replacements, you will be armed with everything you need to discover them and fall in love with them as we did so many years back.

As CHARTattack said, “the film is a shockingly refreshing and invigorating experience for anyone who ever care about any kind of music at all.”

All for now…

Hope you enjoy the films!

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Filed under archers of loaf, Color Me Obsessed, documentaries, filmmaking, the replacements

Archers of Loaf & Internet Modeling (or World Premiers & a KickStarter campaign)

The World Premiere plus upcoming screenings of my new feature-length concert documentary WHAT DID YOU EXPECT? THE ARCHERS OF LOAF LIVE AT CAT’S CRADLE:

June 15th – NXNE Festival, Toronto, Canada (World Premiere)

June 18th – Sled Island Festival, Calgary, Canada

July 5th – CBGB Fest, NYC (US Premiere)

July 7th – Cat’s Cradle, Chapel Hill, NC

July 18th – The Brattle, Cambridge, MA

August 15th – Trylon, Minneapolis, MN

October 5th thru 11th – Northwest Film Forum, Seattle, WA

And my first narrative feature since FRIENDS (WITH BENEFITS). A very dark, sensual drama that takes place in the world of internet modeling (y’know places like Model Mayhem and One Model Place with their one million members)…

Please pre-order the DVD to BROKEN SIDE OF TIME

Or at least watch the trailer:

Then visit the KickStarter page.

Thanks!

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Filed under alternative rock, archers of loaf, independent film, indie rock, kickstarter, model mayhem, one model place

Upcoming Screenings

Upcoming screenings of COLOR ME OBSESSED, A FILM ABOUT THE REPLACEMENTS:

June 20th – Star Theatre, Portland, OR

June 23rd – Cafe Cinema, Virginia Beach, VA

July 5th – CBGB Fest, NYC

July 15th/16th – Hollywood Dormont, Pittsburgh, PA

July 23rd thru 29th – Cinefest Film Theatre, Atlanta, GA

July 27th – Cafe Nine, New Haven, CT

July 28th – Indie West Fest, Ventura, CA

Follow the film’s Facebook page for details and additional screenings.

Upcoming screenings of WHAT DID YOU EXPECT? THE ARCHERS OF LOAF LIVE AT CAT’S CRADLE:

June 15th – NXNE Festival, Toronto, Canada (World Premiere)

June 18th – Sled Island Festival, Calgary, Canada

July 5th – CBGB Fest, NYC (US Premiere)

July 7th – Cat’s Cradle, Chapel Hill, NC

Follow the film’s Facebook page for details and additional screenings.

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Filed under archers of loaf, Color Me Obsessed, documentaries, rockumentary, the replacements

What Did You Expect?

I finished editing my Archers of Loaf concert documentary WHAT DID YOU EXPECT? yesterday. I love this film. I love this band. I actually feel as if I somehow managed to capture their raw energy as well as their personalities in the film. And a lot of credit goes to my amazing crew: Jan Radder, Sarah Hajtol, Adrian Correia, Andrew Ross and Cory Maffucci.

It still needs color correction, a sound mix on the interview sections, and probably a little tweaking of a shot here and there. But it’s basically finished and I’m really happy with it. And also sad, that I won’t be blasting those amazing songs every day in my editing room.

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Filed under archers of loaf, directing, documentaries, filmmaking, indie rock

The Best Music of 2011

This was a horrible year in music. As in 1992 and 1993 when every other band sounded exactly like Nirvana, this year brought upon us bands who felt that Vampire Weekend sound was the zenith for which to strive. And no band did VW better than Foster The People. I say it here, now, with utmost conviction, their SNL performance this fall was the most embarrassing musical event of the year. They make VW look like, well, almost a rock band by comparison. So freakin’ lame.

And of course they weren’t the only ones. Lame is the new creed for rock bands. Wimpy is the new balls.

But instead of focusing on the pathetic, let’s look at the few great albums released this year:

The best record of 2011, hands down, nothing came close, was “Past Lives, Martyred Saints” by EMA. It was raw, damaged, out of tune. The songs could rock you one minute, then haunt you for the rest of your life the next. Layers of vocals, upon almost Archers Of Loaf-like guitars. Lyrically you were left to wonder how she made it through recording the album alive. And if when she sings “I wished that every time you touched me left a mark” doesn’t send shivers down your spine, then check the old pulse. This album certainly left a mark on me. (In this iTunes generation, I’m going to list the one song for each record. This is where you should start. A song that will tell you all you need to know. With EMA, start with “Marked.”)

Speaking of Archers. The masterful reissue of their brilliant debut “Icky Mettle” was another highlight (and I know it doesn’t count as a new album, but I don’t care). Quite simply, it’s the best album of the 90s (with “Versus the Greatest of All Time,” the best rock EP of all time on the second disc). And “Web In Front” is probably the greatest song ever written. Yes, I love this band. And yes, if you don’t know them, you’re life is empty and meaningless. (There isn’t a bad track, and “Web” is too obvious, so start with “Bacteria,” which is so mind-numbingly brilliant, it might make your head explode, especially if you like shit like Foster the People.)

You’ve got to love the original Web video:

Then came Wilco’s “The Whole Love.” Their best since “Yankee,” an amazing collection of songs from one of the best songwriters of our time. Some of it was sprawling, much of it was poppy and beautiful, and then there was the fuzz bass, and that noise guitar at the end of “Art of Almost”— I get chills thinking about it! A great record! (Speaking of sprawling, start with “One Sunday Morning.”)

Crooked Fingers’ “Breaks In The Armor” was Eric Bachmann’s best songwriting since this band’s eponymously titled debut. He sounds energized, his word-play as sharp as ever, and the album’s sparse production makes every note ring true. (Pop on “Bad Blood,” and let it sink its teeth into you.)

The “Kitchen Tapes” version of Lucinda William’s “Blessed.” It sounds as if she’s singing for you…privately…in your freakin’ kitchen. The over-production of the actual album is gone, and we’re left with that voice and some off-kilter guitar playing. But really, Lucinda Williams singing to you in your kitchen!!! What the fuck more do you need? (Start with “I Don’t Know How You’re Livin’.” – it will break your heart.)

Sleeper Agent’s “Celabrasion” was my guilty pleasure for 2011. Sort of Blondie meets T- Rex, but then there ain’t nothing wrong with that. It’s about as poppy as I get. A lot of fun! (Start with “Get Burned.”)

Deer Tick’s “Divine Providence” is a great record in which they channel the spirit of The Replacements, right down to Bob Stinson’s “wrong note at the right time” way of soloing. It’s the perfect album for long drives on a summer night. Probably their best. And it makes me can’t wait for what’s coming next. (Start with “Funny Word.”)

Another great rock record from another great under-appreciated rock band is “Unpersons” from Vancouver’s The Pack A.D. Even if you’re sick of Black Keys/White Stripes schtick, give these gals a shot. To me they play with a genuine love for what they’re doing. No pretense. No ego. They’re having fun. (Start with “Haunt You.”)

Wild Flag’s eponymously titled debut like-wise rocked. And I truly loved about half of it. Probably would have made one of the best EPs we’ve heard in years. (Start with “Romance.”)

Ryan Adam’s “Ashes and Fire” – I’ll admit it took me a while to get into this album, it took me seeing him live at a church in Eugene, Oregon. But then the songs came alive. And it became the CD I’d play in my hotel room when I was along, on the road. It made me think of home. It made me miss my wife and dogs. It just worked…beautifully. (Start with “Dirty Rain.”)

Matthew Ryan’s “I Recall Standing As Though Nothing Could Fall” is another beautiful collection of song writing. Ryan’s voice always kills me. And it was nice to hear him end the album with one of his most rocking tracks in years. (Start with “Summer in the South.”)

And lastly Dark Mean’s eponymously titled album. Really dig this guy’s voice, and the banjo! Another fun record that just keeps growing on you with every spin. The hints of Ryan Bingham popping through in the sound don’t hurt. (Start with “Happy Banjo.”)

That’s it. Hopefully there’s something new here you can enjoy. And likewise, hopefully I’ll never have to fucking hear “Pumped Up Kicks” again for as long as I live.

I leave you with this gift from Mr. Bachmann…

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Filed under Best Music of 2011, Best Music of Year

nerves

I’ve never been nervous about work before. But I am…about shooting the Archers Of Loaf live concert film WHAT DID YOU EXPECT? this week. I love this band. I truly do. And I want to make them the greatest fucking in-your-face kick-ass concert film of all time. I just have to make sure I do…

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