Best of 1994

[edited]: So for a long time I used the streaming service Grooveshark to build playlists. I gradually realized that the nature of their engine–scouring the web for streamable music in different places–was prone to DMCA takedown notices, especially since they wouldn’t pay royalties. Fortunately I keep my favorite lists in text form anyway–even if something gets taken down, we can rebuild it. :) Having said that, I’ve been spending the last couple of days deep within the world of 1994. This is mostly the kind of music you would have heard on college radio or seen on 120 Minutes, and it’s interesting to look at this with historical perspective. This is the year that the music that used to mark me as an outsider stormed up the charts, when “alternative” became a recognized radio format and ironically became mainstream. There’s a smattering of some other stuff too–great hip hop, a few guilty-pleasure pop hits, and a smattering of metal. Enjoy some of the best music of 1994!

 

Good new music for 2015

A friend recently cut the cord. Damn near all the music videos in the world are available on YouTube, but how to find what’s good? It genuinely surprised me how hard it is to answer that question, so here’s my own humble contribution: a list of music videos from the last few months titled “An Indeterminate Number of Minutes.” I tried to get a broad cross-section of genres, but it’s inevitably biased towards my own fondness for indie pop and modern rock. Let me know what you think!

We need more Bollywood in our lives

And the Bombay Royale agrees. They’re an Australian act that interprets, recreates, and extends the sounds of ’60s and ’70s Indian musicals. And Bollywood in those days could sound like anything. American and European pop music was hoovered up wholesale and quickly incorporated into the industry’s musical extravaganzas. The result was a delirious stew of traditional theatre music, disco, post-bop jazz, funk, and current pop.

 

Starting out as a faithful cover band the Bombay Royale quickly moved on to writing and recording their own material. I’m genuinely mystified as to why these cats aren’t one of the world’s biggest bands. This is everything I want from world music–skilled, soulful, theatrical, genuinely diverse, and more fun than a high-stakes art heist at a society shindig. Their new album, The Island of Dr. Electrico, is rock-solid all the way through. There’s no filler here; each song is distinctive while the whole album maintains a fun, exotic feel.

Relistening to some old favorites

A while back I made a list of my all-time favorite albums. I do SO MUCH listening to new music that it feels like a red queen’s race sometimes, struggling just to keep up. So I’m going to take some time, go back and revisit the albums that have meant so much to me over the years.

XTC—Skylarking
Stevie Wonder—Songs in the Key of Life
Tom Waits—Swordfishtrombones
Suzanne Vega—Nine Objects of Desire
They Might Be Giants—Then: The Earlier Years
Woven Hand–Woven Hand
Ani di Franco—Out of Range
Bjork—Debut
Radiohead—OK Computer
R.E.M.—Life’s Rich Pageant
Sleater-Kinney—The Woods
Smiths—Louder Than Bombs
Pogues—If I Should Fall From Grace with God
Ozomatli—Ozomatli
Los Lobos—Kiko
Housemartins—Now That’s What I Call Quite Good
(English) Beat—I Just Can’t Stop It
Peter Gabriel—Peter Gabriel III
Dresden Dolls–Dresden Dolls
Nick Drake—Way to Blue: An Introduction to Nick Drake
Elvis Costello—The Very Best of Elvis Costello
Kate Bush—Hounds of Love
Jeff Buckley—Grace
Fiona Apple—Tidal

Best Music of 2014

More reviews to come, but I’ve finished up my list of favorite music of 2014. Pasting a list of the albums below, then a link to a YouTube playlist with one song from each album.

  • Dum Dum Girls: Too True
  • Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings: Give The People What They Want
  • Alvvays
  • Nickel Creek: A Dotted Line
  • His Name Is Alive: Tecuciztelatl
  • Kris Bowers: Heroes and Misfits
  • St. Vincent
  • Cold Beat: Over Me
  • Braid: No Coast
  • Hedvig Molestad Trio: Enfant Terrible
  • First Aid Kit: Stay Gold
  • Wovenhand: Refractory Obdurate
  • Bob Mould: Beauty & Ruin
  • Shellac: Dude Incredible
  • Shovels & Rope: Swimmin’ Time
  • D’angelo and the Vanguard: Black Messiah
  • Opeth: Pale Communion
  • Old 97s: Most Messed Up
  • Flying Lotus: You’re Dead!
  • Ought: More Than Any Other Day
  • Elbow: The Take-Off And Landing of Everything
  • The Sugar Stems: Only Come Out At Night
  • alt-J: This Is All Yours
  • Luluc: Passerby
  • Troker: Crimen Sonoro
  • Ty Segall: Manipulator
  • Cloud Nothings: Here and Nowhere Else
  • Honeyblood
  • Owen Pallett: In Conflict
  • Run the jewels: Run the Jewels 2
  • Sun Kil Moon: Benji
  • the New Mendicants: Lifelike Hair
  • Screaming Females: Live At the Hideout
  • Pallbearer: Foundations of Burden
  • Leyla McCalla: Vari-Colored Songs
  • William Tyler: Lost Colony
  • Sleaford Mods: Divide and Exit
  • Warpaint
  • Mirah: Changing Light
  • Steve Gunn: Way Out Weather
  • Elizabeth & The Catapult: Like It Never Happened
  • Timber Timbre: Hot Dreams
  • Statik Selektah: What Goes Around
  • Sharon Etten: Are We There

Troker!

I know it’s just their second album, but how are these guys not better known? Troker is a far-out, hard-riffing, technically intricate instrumental band from Guadalajara. It’s tough to bring a jazz sensibility into rock, and vice versa (for all his limitations, Stanley Crouch got it right when he talked about rock staying here in this great groove and jazz restlessly exploring out there) so I’m always impressed by acts like the Lounge Lizards, Herbie Hancock, and Troker that figure out where to find that balance point. There’s local influence in those horns without ever sounding like mariachis, turntablism added as a fun accent rather than a puzzling intrusion, and big whomping beats that appeal to dance floor and intellect alike. These guys could make it big.