Death by Streaming? My (Possibly Final*) List of the 10 Best Albums of the Year

6. Greta Van Fleet – Anthem of the Peaceful Army

cofAre these guys for real? That was my first impression upon hearing Greta Van Fleet’s full-length debut, a suspiciously spot-on paean to 1970s arena rock. “Age of Man” kicks off the album with an intro of pretty strings and flutes, evoking wandering minstrels at a Renaissance Fair. Then Joshua Kiszka’s voice, which rivals Rush’s Geddy Lee and Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant in its lofty pitch, pierces the pastoral mood. “In an age of darkness, light appears,” Kiszka, 22, screeches, sounding for all the world like a leotard-clad, codpiece-stuffing rock star from the era of lava lamps and gatefold album sleeves. The rest of the band – Josh’s twin bro Jacob Kiszka on guitar, younger sibling Sam Kiszka on bass, and family friend Danny Wagner on drums – enters with a prog-rock wallop and we’re off with a sound that borrows a bit from Rush and similar groups and a whole lot from Led Zep. It’s all alarmingly reminiscent of a bygone musical style that fell out of fashion the moment the Ramones played their first gig at CBGB’s. So, these many years later, in an age when irony is king, one can’t help but ask, seriously, are these youngsters pulling our legs? Continue reading

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That Time I Saw Screamin’ Jay Hawkins Perform in a Folk Bar and a Lady’s Hair Caught on Fire

frenzyDisclaimer: The brief recollection you’re about to read is an assortment of dusty memory shards pieced together in an old pickled noggin. Events described may skew toward the true-ish rather than the dead-on accurate.

I got turned on to Screamin’ Jay Hawkins via the 1983 Jim Jarmusch movie “Stranger Than Paradise,” which memorably featured his signature song, “I Put a Spell on You,” on its soundtrack. Smitten with Jay’s unhinged sound, I dutifully purchased his compilation CD “Frenzy” and fell in love with more demented ditties, including “Alligator Wine,” “Little Demon,” and the title track. A few years later, I was living in Boston and Jay came to the area to play a gig. I’d read that his live performances could be playfully macabre—he’d been known to pop out of a coffin at the start of some concerts. As an avowed fan of over-the-top rock theatrics, I knew I had to be there. Continue reading