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Concert Edition 2017

[Janet Jackson, Key Arena, Sept. 27, 2017]

I’m not the kind of person who has to post selfies or photograph everything I’m eating or doing.

Except concerts.

That would be Janet Jackson pictured with this entry.

JACK Quartet, Meany Hall, Jan. 10

I ran into my music theory TA at this concert, and we both we a bit meh about the program. JACK is a great quartet, but I honestly can’t remember much beyond the Morton Feldman piece which opened the concert.

Seattle Symphony, [untitled 2], Benaroya Hall, Jan. 27

The [untitled] series introduces me to a lot of new music of which I never follow up after hearing it. I still love going to these concerts, though.

University of Washington Modern Music Ensemble, John Zorn: Cobra, Meany Hall, March 1

I’ve known about Cobra for years, but this performance was the first I’ve attended. Recordings can’t do this piece justice. It must be experienced live to understand it.

Seattle Symphony, Aaron Jay Kernis: Violin Concerto, Benaroya Hall, March 18

Violinist James Ihnes has a lot of creative capital in Seattle as director of the seasonal chamber music festival, so I think the audience was willing to give Kernis’ concerto a chance. The piece and the performance went over well.

Japan Nite Tour, Chop Suey, March 22

Damn, had it been five years since I’ve attended a Japan Nite concert?

Emerson String Quartet, Meany Hall, April 21

There’s no way I would miss an Emerson concert with Shostakovich or Bartok on the program.

Seattle Symphony, [untitled 3], Benaroya Hall, April 28

A program centered around Andy Warhol concluded with a “popera”, which actually was far more engaging that I expected.

University of Washington Harry Partch Ensemble, Oedipus: A Music Theater Drama, Meany Hall, May 6

UW has a number of Harry Partch’s custom instruments, which were put to use in a production of Oedipus. Without the visual element, they pretty much sound like gamelan.

Midnight Oil, Moore Theatre, May 31

Yeah, definitely my favorite show of the year. The set list covered the entire span of their career, and just about everything I wanted to hear live I did.

Low + MONO, Neptune Theatre, June 16

I’ve known about Low for a long time — mostly through the band’s cover of “Africa” by Toto — but I was never curious enough to seek them out. I was duly impressed, even if I don’t think I’ll own anything other than Things We Lost in the Fire. MONO, of course, brought it.

The Revolution, Showbox, July 15

The band crafted the set list incredibly well. It started off with some obscure but recognizable stuff, but the second half kicked off the favorites. And everyone left pleased.

Jason Isbell and 400 Unit, Paramount Theatre, Sept. 12

Jason Isbell delivered a flawless performance as usual. The audience, though, was weird. It was a Tuesday night, and the Seattle Freeze was in full force, with half the audience sitting and the other half standing.

Sam Amidon, Fremont Abbey, Sept. 22

If nothing else, you really must go to a Sam Amidon show just to hear him talk between songs.

Janet Jackson, Key Arena, Sept. 27

I held onto my ticket after two cancellations, and I was glad I did. No opening act. Just Janet dishing out hit after hit in an epic DJ mix, only live.

Seattle Symphony, [untitled 1], Benaroya Hall, Oct. 13

I think this concert was the first where only one piece on the program was entirely unfamiliar to me. It’s always nice to hear Steve Reich’s Different Trains live.

Depeche Mode, Key Arena, Oct. 21

I think Depeche Mode 101 ruined this concert for me. I hadn’t really followed the band since the early aughts, and much of the set list drew from more recent albums.

Kronos Quartet, Federal Way Performing Arts Center, Nov. 4

Kronos has a way of upending expectations. Just when you think you’ve seen them do something new, some composer has them attach bowstring to a plastic toy.

 

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Reconsidering the year in music 1992

[Wayne Horvitz/The President - Miracle Mile]

Back in 2008, I wrote a series of entries detailing my favorite albums from various decades. For the longest time, I held an incredibly dim view of 1992. Compared the years preceding and following, 1992 felt like a creative malaise had spread throughout the music industry.

Bands that used to be underground found themselves to be popular, and under this newfound, wide-scale scrutiny, some of them cracked.

Or so I thought.

I had only turned 20 years old, an age when the dopamine hit from discovering new music left a neophyte intoxicated. I wanted every album to matter, and the ones that didn’t received a harsh judgment.

Twenty-five years later, I’ve got more of an education on where 1992 fit in the larger scheme of things, and of course, I got it wrong. This old entry details all the ways I got it wrong. So let’s make it right.

Here’s a revised list of the Favorite Edition 1992.

  1. Wayne Horvitz/The President, Miracle Mile
  2. Máire Brennan, Máire
  3. Henryk Górecki, Symphony No. 3 (Dawn Upshaw, David Zinman, London Sinfonietta)
  4. k.d. lang, Ingenue
  5. Sade, Love Deluxe
  6. En Vogue, Funky Divas
  7. Prince and the New Power Generation, 0(+> (Love Symbol Album)
  8. Emmylou Harris and the Nash Ramblers, At the Ryman
  9. Kronos Quartet, Pieces of Africa
  10. Robin Holcomb, Rockabye

Honorable mention

  • The Sugarcubes, Stick Around for Joy
  • Faith No More, Angel Dust
  • Sonic Youth, Dirty

The original list stopped at five items, with a longer list of albums accompanied by explanations for why they weren’t favorites. In some cases, I’ve completely changed my mind.

At the time, Love Deluxe was such a drastic turn for Sade that I thought something went wrong. It would take another 18 years for Love Deluxe to reveal itself as the start of a new creative era, one marked by extreme pauses between albums. This early ’90s album shares more with its successors in 2000 and 2010 than it did with 1988’s Stronger than Pride.

I also got a chance to revisit Ingenue after the entry was written, and it’s place on the favorite list is well anchored.

Other albums would not have appeared on the list at the time it was written. Prince was unexplored territory for me in 2008, so I wouldn’t have even thought to include the Love Symbol album. En Vogue wouldn’t have gotten past my raging rock snobbery.

The rest of the albums on the list could have only been included after much research. Dirty makes a lot more sense if a Sonic Youth novice also considers Sister and EVOLAt the Ryman would not make sense to someone who’s only exposure to Emmylou Harris was Wrecking Ball.

I’ve even had a change of heart regarding Faith No More and R.E.M.

So it turns out 1992 wasn’t as bad as I remembered. It just took 25 years to reach that realization.

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Looking ahead: May-June 2017

[U2 - The Joshua Tree (30th Anniversary Edition)]

It seems all the bands in which I’m interested all decided to release their albums in May and June. To date, I have a total of four 2017 releases since the start of the year. Putting together the Favorite Edition Half Year is going to be tricky.

At the Drive-In, in*ter al*li*a, May 5

I can’t figure out why I’m looking forward this late-coming follow-up to Relationship of Command, an album I like but can’t listen to very often. And I wasn’t enough of a fan to follow either Mars Volta or Sparta.

Café Tacvba, Jei Beibi, May 5

I find it interesting that Café Tacvba is releasing this album through CD Baby. That means they’ve gone completely independent.

Midnight Oil, Full Tank, May 7
Midnight Oil, Overflow Tank, May 7

Tempting as these complete boxed sets may be, my current Midnight Oil collection occupies quite a bit of shelf space. Also, the import markup makes these sets fiscally untenable. Hey Sony, fans outside of Australia might be interested in some of these releases.

Juanes, Mis Planes Son Amarte, May 12

It’s a visual album about a man going into outer space to find the woman of his dreams. I would be interested to see how Café Tacvba would tackle the same plot.

PWR BTTM, Pageant, May 12

Anyone who has Grindr or Scruff installed on his phone would probably check out a band called PWR BTTM.

Art of Noise, In Visible Silence (Deluxe Edition), May 19

The weirdest album I acquired in 1986. The b-sides are terrific.

Kishida Shigeru, Symphony No. 1, May 24

If the orchestral work Kishida released last year as a digital single is any indication, don’t expect a musical metamorphosis on the level of C. Kip Winger.

Sam Amidon, The Following Mountain, May 26

His first album of original music.

Cody Chesnutt, My Love Divine Degree, June 2

It’s been a while. I had wondered if another 10 years would pass before another Cody Chesnutt album would arrive.

U2, The Joshua Tree (30th Anniversary Deluxe Edition), June 2

I already have the 20th Anniversary edition, so really, I just want the white cover with the color photo.

Kronos Quartet, Folk Songs, June 9

For a while there, I thought Kronos had moved on from Nonesuch, given the number of albums the ensemble has released on other labels. This collaborative album with Sam Amidon, Natalie Merchant, Rhiannon Giddens and Olivia Chaney is the first Kronos has released on Nonesuch since 2012, not counting various anthologies.

Dan Messe, Amelie: A New Musical, June 9

I’m not sure what draws me to this cast recording — the fact it’s based on Amelie or the fact it was written by a member of Hem.

Sufjan Stevens, Bryce Dessner, Nico Muhly, James McAlister, Planetarium, June 9

Well, somebody had to update Gustav Mahler’s The Planets

The Drums, Abysmal Thoughts, June 16

Jonny Pierce goes full Roland Orzabal ca. 1993, becoming the sole member of his band The Drums.

Jason Isbell and 400 Unit, The Nashville Sound, June 16

I would be OK with Jason Isbell and Sturgill Simpson releasing albums on alternating years.

Vinyl

Midnight Oil, The Vinyl Collection, May 7

I would like to get Redneck Wonderland, Breathe and Head Injuries on vinyl. I could do without Capricornia, Earth and Sun and Moon and Place Without a Postcard. Maybe separate releases down the line? Outside Australia, even??

Emmylou Harris and the Nash Ramblers, At the Ryman, May 12

Harris’ shows at the Ryman gave the venue new life, and she returns for the venue’s 125th anniversary. So of course a reissue (on vinyl!) is in order.

En Vogue, Funky Divas, June 9

I’m disappointed rock bands haven’t turned “Free Your Mind” into a crossover classic.

Enya, A Day Without Rain, June 16
Enya, Amaratine, July 14

A Day Without Rain is Enya’s weakest album, and Amaratine went a long way to rectify it. That won’t stop me from getting both of them.

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45 Albums for 45 Years: A Birthday Retrospective (1980s)

[The Art of Noise - In Visible Silence]

In 1987, I turned 15 years old, an age when music discovery exerted its strongest pull. The same Spotify analysis that charted music tastes over time claims most teen-agers highly identify with popular titles. Had the same study been done when I was a teen, I probably would have been an outlier point.

Kronos Quartet, Black Angels

The first Kronos Quartet album I purchased was Winter Was Hard, and it was something of a Reader’s Digest for modern classical music. Then Black Angels followed, and it exploded my perception of what music could be.

John Zorn, Naked City

I was a pissed-off teen for a lot of reasons, most of them mundane. But it gave me drive to find music that would alienate everyone around me, and the howls of Yamantaka Eye and John Zorn fit the bill nicely.

In Tua Nua, The Long Acre

This album introduced me to the idea that popularity is not the same thing as merit. I couldn’t find a filler track anywhere on this album, and the confrontational “The Innocent and the Honest Ones” mirrored my own dissatisfaction with being raised in a monotheistic culture. It should have been a hit, but mostly, you’ll find it in the 99 cent bins.

U2, The Joshua Tree

U2 had to score a number one album in order for radio stations in Hawaii to pay attention. I knew about the band beforehand but hadn’t taken the plunge till I saw the video for “With or Without You.”

Andrew Lloyd Webber, The Phantom of the Opera

Andrew Lloyd Webber gets a lot of flack for his signature hit tunes, but for a young burgeoning composer, his scores are incredibly instructional. I’ve yet to encounter another pop writer who can make a hook out of an atonal melody.

The Art of Noise, In Visible Silence

Before I learned about Kronos Quartet, John Zorn or Andrew Lloyd Webber, I encountered the Art of Noise. I would later learn (Who’s Afraid Of …?) The Art of Noise! had some bonafide songcraft, but its follow-up, In Visible Silence, essentially jettisoned all that.

Arcadia, So Red the Rose

Of the two Duran Duran splinter projects from 1985, Arcadia hews closest to the parent band and engenders the most sentiment from long-time fans.

Stephen Sondheim, Sunday in the Park with George

Sunday in the Park with George arrived at time in my life when I was just starting to learn about modern classical music. I looked to Lloyd Webber to bridge my interests in classical and pop musics, and I turned to Sondheim to go further into modernism.

Eurythmics, Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)

I loved Eurythmics singles, but their albums tended to have quite a bit of filler. Sweet Dreams is the deserved obvious choice, but Savage and In the Garden deserve some props.

Duran Duran, Rio

This tops my Desert Island Disc list, so of course, it’s going to be here.

Wendy Carlos, TRON Original Soundtrack

I listened to this soundtrack to death because I loved the computer graphics of the movie. It wasn’t till much later that I discovered how rich Carlos’ harmonic language was. This soundtrack pretty much planted the seed that would be nourished by the Art of Nosie, Kronos Quartet, John Zorn and classical music after 1900.

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Concert Edition 2016

[Sturgill Simpson, Paramount Theatre, Nov. 11, 2016]

Sturgill Simpson posted a photo of the crowd at his Seattle show on Nov. 11, 2016. I was standing pretty close to the stage, and sure enough, I spotted myself in the pic. His show capped yet another active year of concerts, which included a trip to Portland and two weeks of modern American symphonic music.

Sō Percussion, Jan. 31, 2016

Like Kronos Quartet before it, Sō Percussion commissions original works that often push technological boundaries as much as musical ones. The first time I saw Sō in Austin, the quartet performed Dan Trueman’s neither Anvil nor Pulley, which required performers to use old game console controllers to manipulate a Bach keyboard piece.

For this concert, Bryce Dessner’s Music for Wood and Strings features the Chordstick, a custom instrument that combines a hammered dulcimer with an electric guitar.

Seattle Symphony, [untitled 2], Feb. 5

The big piece performed at this concert of mid-20th Century New York City composers was Rothko Chapel by Morton Feldman. 2016 would eventually find Seattle Symphony programming four Feldman pieces in various concerts. Crowd reaction, of course, ranged from the usual restlessness to outright departure.

Seattle Symphony, Berio: Sinfonia, Feb. 6

I hadn’t planned on attending this concert till my music theory professor devoted an entire class on the piece. The fact Roomful of Teeth performed with the symphony was another incentive.

Kronos Quartet, Feb. 20

Sorry, the live performance of Beyond Zero: 1914-1918 did not convince me to pick up the DVD, but it’s always nice to hear Franghiz Ali-Zade’s Mugam Sayagi.

Ty Herndon, Feb. 25

It was a sparse crowd at El Corazon, and Herndon played a stripped down set of his hits. He also previewed “If You” and mentioned his new album would be out in May. House of Fire arrived in September, albeit with a larger promotional splash.

Jeremy Denk, March 18

The Goldberg Variations and Ligeti Etudes in a single night. Yeah, it was a good concert.

John Adams, Scheherezade.2, March 19

Oh wow, did Leila Josefowicz bring her A-game. I picked up the Nonesuch recording of this work when it was released because it’s an amazing display of athleticism. I think I like this work more than Adams’ first Violin Concerto.

Stephen Sondheim, Assassins, Feb. 26

As much of a Stephen Sondheim fan that I am, I’ve so far only seen two of his works on stage. Honolulu Community Theatre did Sunday in the Park with George back in the early ’90s. ACT Theatre did Assassins. That’s a show that will test your startle response.

Rhye, Apr. 21

Seattle Theatre Group scheduled Rhye and Courtney Barnett for the same night, and I wanted to see both of them equally. I ended up going to Rhye because Barnett’s show sold out. Despite illness, Milosh sounded awesome.

Santigold, May 14

I couldn’t decide who I wanted to see more — Santigold or the SG1 Dancers. It turned out I loved them both.

Seattle Symphony, Beethoven and Gershwin, June 11

A scheduling conflict prevented me from attending the first [untitled] concert of the season, so I traded the ticket for a program of Beethoven and Gershwin works. The evening started with the Seattle premiere of Anna Clyne’s This Midnight Hour, which the crowd seemed surprised to enjoy.

Seattle Symphony, Tuning Up!, June 17-July 2

After years of attending SXSW, I decided I was going to stay away from Bumbershoot. Then Seattle Symphony announced a two-week summer festival of American modern works, and I couldn’t part with my money fast enough. The clerks at David and Co. thought I was a performer because I was there for every concert. George Perle, Morton Feldman, Philip Glass, Julia Wolfe — I was definitely the target market for this festival.

Matt Alber, June 26

A bout of pneumonia prevented me from seeing Matt Alber in 2014, so his show in June was a nice way to participate in at least one gay pride event this year.

Explosions in the Sky, Sept. 2

I thought it was odd Explosions in the Sky announced a whole bunch of Pacific Northwest dates without including Seattle, so I opted to travel down to Portland and catch them at the wonderful Crystal Ballroom. The day after I bought my ticket, the band announced its Bumbershoot date. Bullet dodged.

Sigur Rós, Sept. 20

The last time Sigur Rós performed in Seattle was in 2012, and the show sold out by the time I could access the Seattle Theatre Group site. This time, I got into the pre-sale. The amazing light show was equal parts Einstein on the Beach and TRON.

Seattle Symphony, Prokofiev and Beethoven, Sept. 24

For this concert, the symphony premiered a piece by Gabriel Prokofiev and included The Love of Three Oranges by his grandfather, Sergei. It had been so long since I listened to Three Oranges that I anticipated Peter and the Wolf instead.

Seattle Symphony, [untitled 1], Oct. 28

I’m not as versed in the works of Witold Lutoslawski, but then who is?

Sturgill Simpson, Nov. 11

Sturgill Simpson doesn’t do encores, and why should he when he plays two hours straight? That show pretty much made me wonder why I’m still going to rock concerts in my mid-40s. How could Simpson have the endurance to do those shows for six months, when just watching him exhausted me?

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Looking ahead: September-October 2016

[John Adams - Scheherezade.2]

Well, Frank Ocean finally dropped his much anticipated album Blonde. I think the fall 2016 release schedule can get drunk and go home now.

John Adams, Scheherezade.2, Sept. 30

John Adams brought Scheherezade.2 to the Seattle Symphony last season. Leila Josefowicz must have dropped some mean gauntlet for Adams to create a work of such athleticism. I’m not sure if I absorbed enough of the piece in the concert hall because that was a lot of music.

Steve Reich, The ECM Recordings, Sept. 30

From what I can tell on Amazon, this reissue of Steve Reich’s albums on ECM won’t split the movements of each work into individual tracks. That would seem to be an important oversight to correct on a reissue.

MONO, Requiem for Hell, Oct. 14, 2016

Reports indicate the orchestras are on their way back on this album.

Nico Muhly and Tietur, Confessions, Oct. 21

Songs inspired by YouTube comments performed by a Baroque ensemble — if anyone can make this premise work, it’s Nico Muhly.

Shaprece, COALS, Oct. 28

Shaprece’s performance with Seattle Symphony was riveting, and I’ve been looking forward to this album since.

Ty Herndon, House on Fire, Nov. 11

Ty Herndon announced this album was to be released back in May when he performed in Seattle back in February, but now it looks like he has some label interest. No date has been specified for the release. UPDATE, 09/11/2016: Herndon announced a release date of Nov. 11, 2016, with pre-orders starting on Oct. 11, i.e. National Coming Out Day.

Vinyl

Angelo Badalamanti, Music from Twin Peaks, Sept. 9

I can’t hear that descending/ascending bass line without picturing the dancing little man.

Madonna, Something to Remember, Sept. 13

Ray of Light seems to have dropped off the release schedule for now with Something to Remember taking its place.

Emmylou Harris, Red Dirt Girl, Sept. 23

Like Wrecking Ball before it, Red Dirt Girl was a pivotal album for Emmylou Harris, marking her transition from interpreter to songwriter.

Kronos Quartet, Pieces of Africa, Sept. 23

I’m hoping this release is the first in a series of Kronos Quartet vinyl reissues because I’m not yet in the financial straits to track down the European pressing of Black Angels.

Duran Duran, The Wedding Album, Sept. 23

This reissue was actually listed for a March release, which came and went without notice. Then it popped back up for September.

Sting, The Studio Collection, Sept. 30

Brand New Day and Sacred Love make their first appearance on vinyl, but the only album I’m really interested in is Ten Summoner’s Tales, a European release of which I can still snag online.

Philip Glass and Kronos Quartet, Dracula, Oct. 28

In time for Halloween!

 

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Looking ahead: April-May 2016 (and September, too)

[Dolly Parton / Linda Ronstadt / Emmylou Harris = Complete Trio Collection]

Why should I be surprised the vinyl bug that bit me hard in 2013 has expanded its scope to include reissues never released on vinyl? It’s because I’ve already back-filled my pre-owned collection, and I still can’t get enough. Record Store Day doesn’t make it any easier.

Guided By Voices, Please Be Honest, April 22

Back again? Oh, it’s another configuration.

Dolly Parton / Emmylou Harris / Linda Ronstadt, Complete Trio Collection, Sept. 9

Finally! This reissue was rumored to be available back in October 2015, on the same day as Henryk Górecki’s Symphony No. 4. Now it’s turned into a bigger deal, with simultaneous vinyl releases.

Vinyl

Lin-Manuel Miranada, Hamilton, April 15

This musical is more than two-hours long. I don’t think it’s all going to fit on two LPs.

Sonic Youth, Murray Street, April 22

I remember this album getting overplayed on the Waterloo Records in-store stereo system. I think it’s why I sold it for cash after a few years.

Rufus Wainwright, Poses, May 6

I didn’t like Rufus Wainwright at first. His nasal voice is an acquired taste, but the writing on Poses won me over, and I’ve been a fan ever since. This album appears on vinyl for the first time.

Moby, Play, May 13

I haven’t listened to this album in more than 15 years. I didn’t really need to because it wasn’t licensed to holy hell at the time.

Dolly Parton / Emmylou Harris / Linda Ronstadt, Trio II, Sept. 9

At the time this album was released, it seemed the trio couldn’t really give it a heavy promotional push. I remember one TV appearance where Linda Ronstadt lost it, and then everyone was back to boy bands and pop idols.

Record Store Day

Emmylou Harris, Wrecking Ball

Why limit this album to Record Store Day? Really, it should just be in print on vinyl. Period.

Clint Mansell / Kronos Quartet, Requiem for a Dream

I saw Requiem for a Dream with some friends during its theatrical release. I left the theater recognizing it was a good film. I just didn’t like it. I don’t own the soundtrack, and while I collect Kronos on vinyl when I can, I’m pretty ambivalent about this release.

Death Cab for Cutie, “Tractor Rape Chain / Black Sun”

I was nicely surprised by Death Cab for Cutie’s cover of “Bad Reputation” by Freedy Johnston. “Tractor Rape Chain” is also one my favorite Guided By Voices songs.

Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet, I Guess We’re a Fucking Surf Band After All

I have no doubts I won’t get my hands on this release, but I’m only interested in Savvy Show Stoppers. I hope at some point Yep Roc splits this box set into individual reissues.

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Favorite Edition 2015: Half year

[Björk - Vulnicura]

2015 is turning out to be one of those years where the really good albums suck so much oxygen out of the rest of the release schedule that it’s tough to put together even a speculative list.

That’s a long-winded way to say Sleater-Kinney’s return has pretty much overshadowed everyone else.

    • Sleater-Kinney, No Cities to Love: Sleater-Kinney left at the height of their career, and a 10-year hiatus did nothing to dim that achievement.
    • Björk, Vulnicura: I like Björk best when she’s more beat-oriented because her more introspective work tends to meander. This album is too wrenching to mess around.
    • Madonna, Rebel Heart: I would agree this album is Madge’s best since Ray of Light mostly because it’s head and shoulders above the last few meandering discs she put out, Confessions on the Dancefloor not withstanding.
    • Steve Grand, All American Boy: The rockist in me should rally against everything about this album, but I can’t bring myself to do it.
    • Takaakira “Taka” Goto, Classical Punk and Echoes Under the Beauty: The decidedly non-orchestral direction of MONO’s Rays of Darkness was a welcome direction that I feared this album would be a relapse. It’s not.
    • Kronos Quartet, Tundra Songs: I was bracing myself for more international crossover, but this album is some pretty adventurous and spellbinding music.
    • Torche, Restarter: I liked Harmonicraft, but Gaytheist’s Stealth Beats was more my speed. Then Torche recorded this album.
    • Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell, The Traveling Kind: I hate to say this, but this album is what you would expect from artists with the calibers of Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell. Old Yellow Moon, though, kind of exceeded that.

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