My Personal 5-10-15-20 Journey

Pitchfork has a cool feature that seems to be alternately called “Music of His/Her Life” and “5-10-15-20”.  The basic premise is the subject talks about what music they were listening to and influenced by as their life progressed, using five year age intervals.  This got me thinking about my own personal 5-10-15-20, so I figured what the hell, I’ll put it out on the blog.  While I focus primarily on albums on Life in the Vinyl Lane, it’s as much about my relationship with music as it is about music itself, so why not.

5 (1976) - The Amazing Spider-Man

I don’t have any memories of music being played in our Philadelphia townhouse.  That’s not to say there wasn’t any - I just don’t remember it.  We had one of those record player/cassette/8-track combos and the record player allowed you to stack multiple records on it at once.  It would play the side of the first one and when it hit the runout the arm would automatically pick up and move back to its resting position, then the next record hovering over it would drop on top of the first one, and the arm would move back over atodrop on the first track.  During the holidays mom would stack up Christmas records on that spindle, playing all the A sides, then flipping the entire stack over and playing all the B sides.  That was our holiday soundtrack for years and years.

As for me, I do remember having a few of these comic book / 7″ record combos that I’d play on a little portable record player in my room.  I think this Spider-Man was one that I had - it came out in 1974 so the time is right.  If I had any music, I don’t remember it.

10 (1981) - Neil Diamond - The Jazz Singer

I was tempted to fudge a bit here and push this out to 1983, because that’s when I started actually choosing the music I wanted to listen to.  But I wasn’t there yet in 1981.  My dad was a big Neil Diamond fan though - and I mean big.  By 1981 he was just coming through a rough patch and Diamond’s music spoke to him.  We even saw Neil in concert in Columbia, South Carolina right around this time - I’m pretty sure it would have been 1981 or 1982, and it was the first concert I ever went to.  His connection with Diamond was something I didn’t get, and it wasn’t until I became much older and went through my own mid-life struggles that I came to understand the powerful way Diamond speaks to that experience.  I never got into him per se, but when I went back to vinyl I eventually picked up a copy of The Jazz Singer, and now I get it.

15 (1986) - Led Zeppelin - Led Zeppelin II

By the mid-1980s my tastes were firmly entrenched in rock and hair metal, but it wasn’t until 1986 that I discovered that band that would become and remain my all-time favorite - Led Zeppelin.  I still recall the situation.  I was down in the “Sophomore Pit”, a section of the basement of my high school where all sophomores had their lockers.  I was talking to some friends about music, and I believe I was talking crap about some of their current favorites like U2 and Dire Straits.  At some point someone mentioned Zeppelin and I said I didn’t know them.  It was one of those needle scratching off the record moments and derailed the whole conversation.  Because these were my friends they cut me a little slack, but made it clear that I needed to rectify this situation immediately.

Our school at that time was located across the street from the big Bellevue Square Mall, so as soon as the day ended I headed over to Musicland and found a copy of Led Zeppelin I in one of those huge bins of discounted cassettes that used to be in the front of the store.  I liked it, didn’t love it, but I went back a few days later and picked up Led Zeppelin II from the same bin.  And my life changed forever.  That tape, and later a CD replacement, became the soundtrack of the next few years.  I ravenously consumed their entire catalog, and that led me deeper into the world of classic rock that came to define more and more of my musical life.

20 (1991) - Soundgarden - Badmotorfinger

I’d been into Soundgarden since 1987s Screaming Life EP.  Being that I lived in the Seattle area I was lucky enough to be exposed to a ton of what later became the great grunge bands.  There was a lot of talk in the late 1980s that the Seattle scene was going to break nationally and among my friends there were three bands we figured to be the likely candidates - Mudhoney, Soundgarden, and Tad.  Honestly Nirvana was barely on my radar at that point, though I did have the “Sliver” 7″.  My personal favorite was Soundgarden.

When Badmotorfinger came out in 1991 I was blown away at how fantastic it was, and I’m not talking about “Outshined” and “Rusty Cage”, but instead songs like “Slaves & Bulldozers”, “Jesus Christ Pose”, and “Room A Thousand Years Wide”.  I even had a Soundgarden t-shirt that I practically wore out.  But.  It was also clear to me that this was the end of grunge, despite the fact that Nevermind came out the same year and finally brought the genre to the mainstream.  Badmotorfinger is many things, but grunge is not one of them.  But this style of darker rock held a strong appeal to me and shaped my appreciation for bands like Alice In Chains, White Zombie, and Godsmack.

25 (1996) - Sammy Davis Jr. - I’ve Gotta Be Me: The Best Of Sammy Davis Jr. On Reprise

I wasn’t buying much music in the mid-1990s, but for whatever reason I told my dad I’d like some CDs for Christmas, specifically some of the old crooners that he was fond of.  One of those CDs he bought me was the newly released I’ve Gotta Be Me: The Best Of Sammy Davis Jr. On Reprise.  I played the hell out of that in my car as I drove around the Eastside doing sales calls. The first four tracks are pure magic - “Lush Life”, “A Stranger In Town”, “What Kind of Fool Am I”, and “Once In a Lifetime” - and I can probably still sing all four of them word-for-word.  I tried getting deeper into Sammy’s catalog, but I always found myself coming back to this CD.  I still play those first songs in the car sometimes and still get goose bumps at the smoothness of Sammy’s voice.

30 (2001) - Sugar Ray - Sugar Ray

I’m still amazed at how much people will say they hate Sugar Ray.  They were like Nickelback before it was popular to hate Nickelback.  I got turned onto Floored (1997) and Holly and I both fell for the band, so much so that we’ve now seen them live a half dozen times in three different states.  In fact they are the first band that we traveled out of state specifically for the purpose of seeing them play, heading down to Lake Tahoe to catch both shows they did on back-to-back nights.  I was a big enough fan that I actually burned my own personal Best Of Sugar Ray CD for my car (remember kids, this was before iPods were a thing and smartphones were still something out of a sci-fi movie).  And you know what?  I still like them.  If they did a reunion show with the original band I’d strongly consider going to see them.  This was probably the start of me realizing that I didn’t need to care what people thought of the music I liked - I could like what I wanted and didn’t have to explain it to anyone.  That may sound obvious, but it was seriously liberating to someone like me who had come to define themselves by the kind of music I listened to and, just as importantly, didn’t listen to (even if I secretly liked it).

35 (2006) -  Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young - So Far

Much as my dad hit his tough patch and leaned on The Jazz Singer, I hit mine in my mid-30s and gravitated towards So Far.  It’s the one period in my life that when I look back on it I feel like I simply don’t even know the person that I was at the time.  Somehow I made it through without making any truly terrible decisions and with my relationships and career still intact. Frankly it could have gone either way.

There was something in the harmonizing of CSNY that drew me back to this album, one I’d probably owned since high school.  The songs are beautiful and heartfelt, and I suppose there’s an undercurrent of sadness that appealed to me at that time in my life as well.  I actually find it hard to listen to these songs now - as much as they helped me then, they’re too stark a reminder of a period I’d just assume not dwell on.

40 (2011) - Agent Fresco - A Long Time Listening

I first experienced Agent Fresco at Iceland Airwaves in 2010 and was immediately a super-fan.  Their debut LP A Long Time Listening came out the same year an I played the hell out of it for the next couple of years. This was the start of my love affair with Icelandic music, and Agent Fresco were ground zero.

I’ve pointed a lot of people to this album over the years, and most of them took to it.  It’s a record of tremendous beauty, but also significant personal pain.  Sometimes it’s almost too hard to listen to, but it really depends on your frame of mind at the time.

45 (2016) - The Kills - Ash & Ice

2016 was the year of the female artist.  Four of my top five albums were by women or female bands - The Kills, Dream Wife, Iiris, and Kælan Mikla.  It ushered in an era of appreciation for women in music that I’m still in today.

Alison Mosshart is a fantastic front-woman and I pretty much love every project she’s involved with - Discount, The Kills, The Dead Weather.  She owns the stage, and also has the capacity to show both unwavering confidence and vulnerability depending on the need of the song.  And as for Jamie Hince, there may not be a better guitarist out there today.

 

So there it is, a sort of musical life story.  It seems weird to think about it in this way, but it was also an interesting trip down memory lane, looking back to specific periods, both the good and the not-so-good.  What would your list look like?

The Kills - “Live At Electric Lady Studios” (2018)

I was thinking to myself the other day, “You know, it’s kind of weird that I’m so into The Kills”.  And then I thought about it some more and recognized that, huh, Alison Mosshart is an insanely sultry stage-stalking vocal powerhouse and that Jamie Hince plays the filthiest, dirtiest blues guitar on the planet and I was like, “oh yeah, it’s because they’re amazing”.  Duh.

If The Kills keep putting out stuff on Record Store Day, I’m going to keep buying it.  Last year it was the Echo Home Non-Electric 10″, and this year it was Live At Electric Lady Studios.  Next year it could be Alison and Jamie Do Burt Bacharach’s Greatest Hits and I can guarantee you I’d be in line early, hoping Easy Street has enough copies so I can get one.  TV Theme Songs With Jamie and Alison?  Sign me up.  I’d listen to those two doing Gregorian chants.  As Alison would say, “You’re a hard, hard, hard habit to break…”  If you’ve ever seen them live, then you’ll know exactly what I mean.

Live At Electric Lady Studios is a touch better than Live At Third Man Records, if for no other reason than The Kills’ new material is insanely good.  If I close my eyes while listening to it I can see Mosshart prowling across the stage wearing a leopard-print-something-or-other while Jamie oozes cool with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth and grinding out some of the grimiest chords to ever come off a six-string.  Sure, that could be the half-empty glass of whiskey next to me talking (and let’s not talk about that wine we had with dinner…).  But it doesn’t mean it isn’t true.  The Kills are the perfect symbiotic relationship between singer and guitarist, one that appears in the night sky like some kind of once-in-a-generational planetary alignment, but better because its sonic output has continued for 15 years.  Listen to “Doing It To Death” and tell me I’m wrong.  You may just get a punch in the face from me, so caveat emptor.

The Kills - “Echo Home” 10″ (2017)

We’re huge fans of The Kills here at Casa de Life in the Vinyl Lane.  We’ve seen ’em live twice and loved ’em, and last year their latest album Ash & Ice topped my list for best releases in 2016.  Earlier this year when they announced a forthcoming four-song, limited edition (of 1,000, I believe) acoustic 10″ I couldn’t send them my money fast enough - acoustic songs by one of my favorite bands and on a format (specifically the 10″) that I have a bizarre fascination with… they could have charged five times and much and I probably still would have bought it.

Well, it arrived the other day, and I couldn’t be more impressed.  From the perfect packaging, to the great sound, to the inclusion of a download card it was everything I could have asked for.  Plus it’s an interesting mix of material.  “Echo Home” and “That Love” are both from 2016s Ash & Ice; “Wait” is off the pair’s first ever release, the Black Rooster EP back in 2002; and “Desperado” is a cover of Rihanna track of the same name.  An eclectic mix.

The title track is pure brilliance - just Jamie, Alison, and an acoustic guitar.  We’re treated to Mosshart’s sultriness, but perhaps even more strikingly with Hince’s soulful vocals, something that often gets lost with the bass and percussion on their fuller studio tracks.  It’s a pattern that repeats across Echo Home‘s songs, addressing the one criticism Mrs. Life in the Vinyl Lane have had of The Kills - that Jamie has such a great voice but you rarely get to hear him.  I think of The Kills as sort of “blues punk”, especially their earlier material, and these acoustic treatments are a strong expression of the blues part of that equation.

I think this sucker is sold out as far as the label is concerned, so if you want it you’ll need to track it down via retail or the secondary market.  And it’s well worthy it.

The Best of 2016

It was another fine year for music and we tried to embrace as much of it as possible.  Besides lots of shopping at the stores in the greater Seattle area, I also bought vinyl in Los Angeles, Denver, and Oklahoma City, as well as on trips abroad in Hong Kong, Sweden, and Iceland.  We saw some great live shows, made some new friends, and discovered new bands.  It was a lot of fun, and we can’t wait to do more of it again next year.

So, without further ado, here’s the Life in the Vinyl Lane “Best of 2016” edition!

Top 5 New Releases in 2016

  1. Ash & Ice - The Kills
  2. EP01 - Dream Wife
  3. Hope - Iiris
  4. Kælan Mikla - Kælan Mikla
  5. Redemption & Ruin - The Devil Makes Three

Sometimes I find myself thinking about how I’m going to write on certain topics, and that happened to me recently with respect to my Top 5 New Releases list.  I was super excited about Dream Wife and their EP01, enough so that I felt like it was deserving of the top spot on the list, which would also conveniently supply me with a narrative arc since lead singer Rakel was also the vocalist on my pick of the best album of 2015 as part of Halleluwah.  Man, this was going to be so easy to write!

But then I remembered Ash & Ice.  I’ve played the hell out of this album over the course of the year, and I love it more with each and every spin.  So while I certainly root for the little guy (and girl) and Dream Wife in the top position would have made for a great story, it simply wasn’t authentic.  The Kills killed it, and that’s that, putting out an album that is, to my years, light years ahead of everything else I heard in 2016.

There is another thread in this list, however, as all of the top four performers have female vocalists, and the fifth, The Devil Makes Three, has a female bassist who does backing vocals.  So every band/performer on the list has at least one woman involved.  I think we’re seeing more and more opportunity for women in rock and outside of the traditional singer/performer format, especially in rock and metal, which is outstanding.  We saw lots of women performing great music this year at Airwaves as part of outfits like Hórmónar, Singapore Sling, Samaris, aYia, Thunderpussy, and Let’s Eat Grandma, and I for one couldn’t be happier about it.

Top 5 “New to Me” Bands/Performers

  1. Prayers (US)
  2. Dream Wife (UK/Iceland)
  3. Andi (Iceland)
  4. Scorpion Violente (France)
  5. The Lyman Woodard Organization (US)

All of these “New to Me” bands came to me in different ways.  I saw Prayers on an episode of Huang’s World and literally ordered some of their music as soon as the commercial break came on after their appearance; I’d never heard of Dream Wife until I saw them perform live at Airwaves this year; I picked up Andi’s self-titled release because it was on Lady Boy Records and I pretty much buy everything they put out; Scorpion Violente was a random purchase from the New Arrivals bin at Amoeba; and I read about They Lyman Woodard Organization in an online article.

Stylistically the five band have nothing in common, ranging from cholo goth to pop-punk to electronic to industrial to jazz-funk.  They varied in genres just as they did in the ways they came to my attention.  This makes me feel good - the wider the net I can cast in the search for the new and interesting, the more likely I am to have my horizons expanded and mind blown.

I can’t recommend Prayers enough.  If you’re into hip hop or even somewhat darker electronic music you need to give these guys a listen.  But really I could say the same about all five of these selections.  Even if you’re not into their style, you may very well find something you like and have your musical base broadened just a little.  But be careful - if you open that door, even just a crack, there’s a whole flood of awesome music on the other side that will blow it down and rush over you like a tidal wave.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Top 5 Vinyl Purchases

  1. U-Men - U-Men
  2. No New York Compilation
  3. Revolver - The Beatles
  4. The Decline of Western Civilization Parts I & II Soundtracks
  5. The Icelandic Punk Museum Cassettes

I think I felt a little less passionate about acquiring specific things in 2016 than I have in past years.  That’s not to say I haven’t enjoyed playing tons and tons of new vinyl (and tapes, and CDs), but there hasn’t been a lot of the thrill of picking up a rarity or even new releases that I looked forward to with great anticipation (though there are a few items due in 2017 that I am excited about).

That being said, I did get my grubby paws on a few rarities and cool titles this year.  U-Men is a legitimately scarce pre-grunge Seattle punk record, and the original pressing of No New York was an exciting find in Oklahoma City.  Getting red vinyl Japanese first pressing of The Beatles’ Revolver in Hong Kong was my first foray into that collecting rabbit hole, and the record will always carry with it the great memory of listening to James Tang play us different versions of Beatles songs and break them down for us by their differences.  The two Decline records are soundtracks to a pair of great documentaries which also finally got released on DVD.  While the last item(s) on my list are actually tapes not vinyl, I was probably most excited to get my hands on those from a purely musical standpoint - there’s some great stuff on those comps, and they hold a proud spot on my tape rack.

I’ll be excited to see what 2017 brings!

Top 5 Live Shows

  1. Macklemore - Neumos, Seattle
  2. The Devil Makes Three - Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Colorado
  3. Dr. Spock - Húrra, Reykjavik
  4. Dream Wife - Harpa, Reykjavik
  5. The Ills - Húrra, Reykjavik

When a good friend of mine, who shall remain nameless, called and said, “psst, I’ve got two spots on the guest list for the Macklemore album release party at Neumos, do you want to go?”, I couldn’t say yes fast enough.  The chance to see Seattle’s best known hip hop artist (sorry Mix-A-Lot, but he has the belt now) playing in an intimate venue like Neumos in front of the home town crowd was way to good to miss.  And it was great.  Including the part shown here when he climbed up onto the ledge of the balcony level (right) and then dove backwards into the awaiting crowd below.  I doubt I would have tried that, especially given that there seemed like a lot of 14-year-old girls down below waiting to catch him.  But catch him they did, and it was a hell of a show.

The Devil Makes Three are always great live, and getting to see them at Red Rocks was just icing on the cake.  An amazing venue, and once the show started I hardly noticed the wind and the cold.  The other three shows rounding out my Top 5 were all at Airwaves.  I’m going to skip past Dr. Spock and Dream Wife as I’ve written pretty extensively about both bands recently, and go straight to The Ills.  When these crazy Slovakians hit the stage at Húrra, all five of us in our Airwaves posse basically groaned - “ugh, instrumental rock…”.  But by time the second song was done The Ills had won the entire crowd over, including us, with their sheer enthusiasm and joy of playing, plus of course they had some pretty sweet licks.  By the end of their set we were all bummed they couldn’t play just one more song.  We ran into a couple of the guys the next night and they seemed genuinely appreciative of the praise we heaped on them.  Bands like The Ills are why you go to Airwaves.  Look for a review of one of their albums in the upcoming weeks.

Top 5 Places to Buy Records

North America
1. Easy Street Records, Seattle
2. Daybreak Records, Seattle
3. Guestroom Records, Oklahoma City
4. Amoeba Music, Los Angeles
5. Hi-Voltage Records, Tacoma

The Rest of the World
1. Lucky Records, Reykjavik
2. Trash Palace, Stockholm (Sweden)
3. Shun Choeng Record Company, Hong Kong
4. Reykjavik Record Shop, Reykjavik
5. The Record Museum / Sam the Record Man, Hong Kong

I feel like I should just retire Easy Street and Lucky, since they are my two go-to shops and will likely remain so for years to come.  Hell, I could easily populate a Top 5 in North America with just Seattle area shops that I visit semi-regularly.  But such is life in the vinyl lane.  Seattle’s Daybreak Records is new on the scene this year and has an impressive amount of quality wax in a relatively small space.  Guestroom was a very pleasant surprise that I came across during a business trip to Oklahoma, and I came away with an armload of great titles there.  And if there’s one upside to all the business trips I had to take to Los Angeles in 2016 it was the opportunity to pay some visits to Amoeba, which has so much vinyl that I literally run out of energy looking well before I’ve had a chance to look at everything.  Hi-Voltage rounds out the North America Top 5 - they moved into a new location down in Tacoma and I love the new layout.

We got to visit record stores in three other countries on two continents in 2016.  Reykjavik of course gave us the always amazing Lucky Records and Reykjavik Record Shop, places where the folks working there are more like friends and family than employees.  A pre-Airwaves trip to Stockholm gave me a chance to visit Trash Palace for a second time, one of the best punk/metal speciality shops around.  And Hong Kong… ah, Hong Kong.  Shun Choeng Record Company was hard to find - it’s actually in a regular looking office building on one of the middle floors, and there’s no sign for it on the street.  It was impeccably laid out and organized, and I swear every single used record in there was immaculate.  While we didn’t buy much there, it was a fun shop to explore.  And we can’t forget our visits to James Tang, aka Sam the Record Man (above), as he literally gave us a masters-level course in the different sound qualities of various versions of the exact same songs.  It was fun and educational, a visit I’d highly recommend even if you don’t end up buying anything (though I recommend treating yourself to a Japanese red vinyl first pressing of something you enjoy… you won’t regret it).  It’s probably the only record store that also has a chandelier and will serve you coffee or tea in fine china.

The best record shopping experiences are those that come when you can build rapport with the folks at the stores.  Record shopping is fun in and of itself, but that takes it to a new level and makes the whole thing special.

Top 5 Music Books

  1. Miles:  The Autobiography, by Miles Davis
  2. Hardcore:  Life of My Own, by Harley Flanagan
  3. Porcelain, by Moby
  4. I’ll Never Write My Memoirs, by Grace Jones and Paul Morley
  5. X-Ray Audio:  The Strange Story of Soviet Music on the Bone, ed. Stephen Coates

I’ve always been a pretty voracious reader.  I’m probably good for 30+ books in a typical year, and once when I decided to keep track I finished a year at 51… almost a book a week.  Traditionally I’ve spent almost all of my reading hours on non-fiction, but over the last few years I re-discovered my love for sci-fi and I’ve been consuming novels at a rapid rate, aided no doubt by the amount of time I’ve spent on airplanes in 2016 (best guess is I’ve been on somewhere around 60-70 flights this year).  However, I did find some time to squeeze in some music related reading, and these are the best of those books I read in 2016.

Most of these are autobiographies, which can at times be a mixed bag, perhaps nowhere as much so as with my top pick, Miles:  The Autobiography.  I applaud Miles for penning his own book, using his own voice and not relying on the co-author to turn his words into something different.  You feel like you’re listening to the man himself speak, though that can be good and bad.  What was refreshing in the first hundred pages could at times get grating as the book progressed.  Miles gives movies like Goodfellas and Pulp Fiction a run for their money with the sheer volume of “fucks” he writes, and there are entire sections that seem to devolve into “then I played here with these guys, then I played over here with these other guys…”  But man, there are some moments of brilliance here where you get a glimpse into how deeply Miles understood music, and I have to give the man credit for exposing himself completely, warts and all, including drug addiction and domestic violence.  An important work in understanding the nature of genius.

The other three autobiographies each had lot to offer as well, and I found them generally honest and forthcoming, not simply providing an idealized version of the individual.  Grace Jones probably has more of her pure ego come through than the others, but she’s a powerful and confident woman, and that shows on the page.  X-Ray Audio is a killer book about a very unique topic, old bootleg records from the Soviet Union that were cut on used x-ray file.  A definite passion project, and one beautifully packaged.  All of these were enjoyable and brisk reads.

 

So there you have it, my 2016 recap.  It’s had to believe this is the fifth one of these I’ve written… the years are going by so fast any more.  Keep on playin’ those tunes and hunting for new music, my friends!

The Kills - “Ash & Ice” (2016)

They trick you, The Kills.  Right from the start of their brand new 2016 studio album Ash & Ice.

You know what you’re going to get from a new album by The Kills, right?  Jamie’s machete-attack guitar and Mosshart’s cigarettes-and-scotch-and-sexy voice.  A lo-fi, dirty vibe that still feels classy.  Riffs and that alternate between ice cold and red hot, and some sultry singing.

But they trick you right at the first song.  “Doing It to Death” starts like an EDM number.  Wait, what?  Then that initial guitar sound cuts through the electronic shell with an almost industrial sound.  But then Hince gives it to you… the guitar… the riff is a simple thing, a bit country, a bit of the blues.  So we’re good now, right?  Sounds just like The Kills.

But wait…

Alison’s voice… I feel like I’m in a Prohibition-era speakeasy in a seedy part of town drinking something called a gin and tonic but which I’m not certain contains any actual gin but boy there is something in there that gives it a kick and that burn… Sorry.  She sounds like she should have a spotlight right on her, up there on stage at the front of a smoky room, making the singing look effortless, like it was just a part of her personality that she couldn’t turn off even if she wanted to.

And that’s all in the first minute.  You’ve got 50 more or so to go.

Ash & Ice is an album by The Kills.  Except when it isn’t.  Like when its gospel roots show on “Bitter Fruit,” or their western (little “w”) influences come out in “Hum For Your Buzz,”  or the classical piano that provides the framework for “That Love,” or the surf guitar on “Black Tar.”  Sometimes it’s a whole different album entirely.  They do make a quick swing through their classic sound, though, on “Impossible Tracks,” but the rest… the rest is something a bit different.

What Ash & Ice also is is sonically dense.  And rich.  Whatever the smallest unit of time is (♠), The Kills filled every single one of those little moments with sound. Mosshart doesn’t prowl her way through Ash & Ice as she has done on so many albums before, but instead glides with the seemingly smooth ease of a world-class figure skater.  Even when she channels her punk rock vocals on “Impossible Tracks” and “Black Tar” it still seems effortless.  Not like she’s bored.  More like her voice has achieved it’s own perfection, one perfectly suited to her and only her, and she’s just realized it and is relishing its sound.  On the other end of the vocal spectrum, I don’t feel like we hear much of Jamie with the notable exception of “Echo Home,” which is too bad because he and Mosshart accompany each other so well.

I wasn’t entirely sure about Ash & Ice the first time I listened to it.  I was sure it was excellent, but I wasn’t sure if I liked it.  But after five listens, I’m sure it’s in my Top 5 list of best albums of 2016.  There’s still lot of year left, but I suspect it’s going to stay there for a good long while, maybe all the way to December 31.

(♠)  This is also known as the Planck time, which was named after physicist Max Planck, who died in 1947 and therefore never got to experience The Kills.  If he were alive today he probably wouldn’t like them, though.  Because he’d be 158 years old and wouldn’t like much of anything anymore and would probably grumble about how “the War of 1870… now THAT was a GREAT war!  Not that one that started in 1914.  They don’t have “Great” wars anymore…”