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ABC Best Of The Year, Thee Oh Sees, Wilco, X And Youth Lagoon

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I have decided to look back at the year in alphabetic order.

T as in The Oh Sees: Since I don’t have anything for U, V, Z, I had to repeat the T… for Thee Oh Sees which was quite in my 2015 year… First they had a spot at Burgerama, and even though it was the beginning of the afternoon, John Dwyer and his drummers destroyed the stage, broke a few amps and brought an euphoric chaos. The energy this guy can release with his music is an immense and powerful beast, and being at his feet for a few minutes was a blast. Holding his guitar very high he was spitting out sweat and other body fluids all set-long, while his tattoos were hardly following his demented moves. Of course the band has released another critically acclaimed album this year, ‘Mutilator Defeated At Last’, filled with their maddening fuzzy dense psychedelia. I saw Thee Oh Sees and their manic fury again just a few weeks ago, at the Teragram ballroom and the crowd went crazy, following the tremendous energy exulting from the blaring music raising mayhem and chaos in a record time … a sort of sweaty ecstasy, and it may have been one of the best concerts of the year, a concert to loose your mind and orientation.

W as in Wilco: As for many people, ‘Yankee Hotel Foxtrot’ was my real introduction to Wilco, 13 years ago, and this year they dropped ‘Star Wars’ as a surprise free download and a title begging for a lawsuit… Jeff Tweedy did pretend at the time he didn’t even know there was a new film in the work, but it seems hard to believe now with all this Star Wars propaganda, right? In any case, was it a curse? I wonder how many thousands of pages you have to scroll down to finally stumble on Wilco’s album when you do a Google search for ‘Star Wars’. Disney didn’t even pay attention because, according to Tweedy, the whole thing was ‘clearly recontextualized’… and it worked, nobody is thinking about the movie when listening to the new album that I like quite a lot, it sounds cryptic and very familiar at the same time, something you already know and then rediscover at each listening.

X as in X: Of course X hasn’t released anything new for more than 2 decades but they continue to perform and this year I saw them at the Annenberg Space for Photography where the band was giving a free show during KCRW’s Sound in Focus series. The crowd was calmer and older than before, it may not have been the punk riot of their first shows but the audience was still very loyal, cheering up and passionately singing along. The first thing they mentioned was Billy Zoom’s absence because of his cancer treatment, but John Doe told us with a firm confidence, ‘He’s gonna be good’. The show was as explosive as ever, with badass Exene and wolf-like John Doe on vocals sharing their signature dissonant harmonies. X has been on a roll these past years, in 2014 they did a series of shows at the Roxy, playing en entire album each time, and they repeated the same experience at the Observatory in 2015… they also have been busy playing around New York, Chicago, San Francisco among other places,… They are legendary and still not recognized as legends, but they continue to play punk rock shows with a renewed energy, with Exene as the mean fire and John her bluesier accomplice. X, this eternal tandem, which twists country rock roots into a personal brand of punk rock and a raw frenzy on stage.

Y as in Youth Lagoon: I saw Trevor Powers aka Youth Lagoon for the third time this year, and if he is still this unassuming young guy with a full head of curly brown hair, standing behind his keyboard and synthesizer, but he now lives his music with much more intensity, and in a much more physical way. Several times during the show, when the songs culminated in beats and sonority, he started a strange and amazing dance, running around the stage, beating up an invisible enemy, unleashing a cathartic violence I had never seen before… He dropped a new album this year, ‘Savage Hills Ballroom’ and if this new tragedy-inspired material seems to be more focused, the music is as emotional as ever, while definitively fostering a lot of darkness and torment. His bold and unexpected outbursts of energy around the stage were the most defiant and inspiring parts of the show, as if the songs were suddenly releasing more than they could hold in their soaring choruses and blasting melodies. Plus I got to chat with his mother before the show, a very friendly woman from Ohio, who was standing just behind me, quite the perfect evening.

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