Local holiday jamming

It’s that time of the year again, when critics put their collective minds together to select the best of the best, the absolute creme de la creme of the year. Not here at the Gauntlet, though.

We, your favorite quasi-literate music junkies and editorial flunkies are far too disorganized for that. No, you won’t find a "best of" list, just some suggestions from this year and others of ways to keep yourself surrounded by the finer things in life.

It’s a well known fact that live music is infinitely superior to the pre-recorded type, but unfortunately December isn’t the greatest month in this respect. No big names, no hidden gems announced yet. All-in-all, quite disappointing. Still, take the time to catch up with some local talents.

Sat., Dec. 6 at the Night Gallery, Lorrie Matheson’s Yorkton Spokes (also featuring former Zuckerbaby vocalist Andy Eichorn) join the Agriculture Club, the Cripple Creek Fairies and Kara Keith’s always entertaining keyboard rock group Falconhawk for a Stompin’ Tom Connors tribute.

Vail Halen, fronted by Chris Vail of local legends Shecky Forme and XL Birdsuit, is always worth checking out, as is Hot Little Rocket, who recently released one of the year’s best albums with Our Work and Why We Do It.

But, given that any true music fan is already out there supporting the local scene, you already knew all that, right? Now comes the hard part, recommending CDs without allowing the article to devolve into a string of names.

Fugazi’s brilliant Argument from 2001, Television’s 1977 proto-punk classic Marquee Moon, and this year’s Hard Groove, an exceptional blend of jazz, funk and hip hop from trumpeter Rick Hargrove’s RH Factor have all had their share of time in my stereo. So have British electro-bluesers Gomez, on the strength of their 1998 debut Bring It On and its two follow-ups.

Norwegian crooner Sondre Lerche played the Calgary Folk Fest just before Elvis Costello took the stage and likely would have won the crowd over if the stage crews hadn’t decided to perform Elvis’ sound check during his set. Calgary owes him an apology, so buy his Faces Down, a collection of Bacharach-inspired pop tunes.

On a more Canadian note, Joel Plaskett, the Dears, the Weakerthans and Danny Michel have all released excellent albums this year, and every one of those artists has a back catalogue worth collecting. Montreal’s High Dials play classic mod rock that’d make The Who proud, while the same city’s Stars are making beautiful, shimmering pop music.

Six Shooter Records’ entire roster is worth a look, especially Martin Tielli, Luke Doucet and Veal, who are currently touring with Edmonton’s Slow Fresh Oil.

Above all, don’t be afraid to seek out new bands. Web sites like www.epitonic.com and www.splendidezine.com have introduced me to some of my favorite groups, and cut into more homework time than I care to mention. If you don’t like anything I mentioned, go out and find something you do like.

The point is, anyone who tells you there’s no good music out there just isn’t looking hard enough.

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