Much of my calendar year, every year, is spent sifting through record store bargain bins, estate sales, etc. and digging into the acquisitions. I win some and lose some, but I never write about it on AuxOut even though it accounts for a huge portion of my listening and discovery. In honor of the season of presents, I am celebrating some of the gifts bestowed upon me by the record gods during 2023.
Saturday, December 16, 2023
The 25 Bargain Buys of Xmas: Day 16
The one Mama/Papa that couldn't "sing" but got to be in the band for one small reason: he wrote the songs. As you might expect, Phillips's self-titled debut (subtitled John, the Wolf King of L.A. on the LP label but not on the spine) is original tunes from top to bottom, and he gets to sing them. I quite like his voice, it's wispy (and slightly lispy) without being weightless, with an endearing softness that keeps you coming back. Opener "April Anne" is now one of my all time favorite songs. The opening pedal steel lick... what a way to fuckin' kick off a record. The lyrics, on the page, are just kinda late 60s horseshit, but when listened to, they are pure poetry. Every syllable perfectly chosen for its silvery sound, rather than literal meaning. I got addicted pretty quickly and I'm showing no signs of stopping. There were several unorthodox decisions made on the record that you have to learn to love. Some easier (the bum note in the opening guitar figure of "Topanga Canyon"), some harder (Louis Armstrong-style scatting on the otherwise stunning "Down the Beach"? You're out of your mind, Johnboy!). The peculiarities are part of the ramshackle fun though, with songs this strong and vibes this warm and inviting even the wrong moves feel right in time. One of my favorite discoveries of the year.
A playlist of tunes from each of the records I wrote about, I'll add a new song each day: