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.
Stevie Wonder—Songs in the Key of Life
Suzanne Vega—Nine Objects of Desire
They Might Be Giants—Then: The Earlier Years
Woven Hand–Woven Hand
Ani di Franco—Out of Range
R.E.M.—Life’s Rich Pageant
Smiths—Louder Than Bombs
Pogues—If I Should Fall From Grace with God
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
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
- 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
- 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
- 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
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.
1. I enjoy country fairs in general and particularly like the grandly named Tunbridge World’s Fair here in Vermont.
2. I also enjoy the music of Walter Piston, particularly his flute concerto. Beyond his compositions Piston is also one of the most influential teachers and musical theorists of the past century.
Piston wrote a wind band piece titled “Tunbridge Fair”!
Quintron and Miss Pussycat
He’s a low-down gritty organist/mad inventor. She’s a whimsical puppeteer. Together, they fight crime! Or at least make some really interesting music. I saw Quintron and Miss Pussycat play at the Monkey House in Winooski over the weekend. Part of it was a weird connection I feel with Quintron: my dad came up playing keyboards in that part of NOLA, even playing one or two of the few clubs that are still around. And while I think he would have been bemused by the duo’s far-out Zappaesque aesthetic, he totally would have dug the hard-rocking blues organ sound pumping out of those revolving speakers. They even have a proper music video you can watch on the Entertainment Weekly website.
My wife loves instrumental guitar music (Leo Kottke, California Guitar Trio, King Crimson), so I’m always keeping an ear out for new artists. I’ve found three good ones recently, all with such “normal guy” names that I have a hard time keeping them straight. :)
William Tyler has been recording with others for some years now, but his recent solo album Impossible Truth is something special. His technical chops and interest in folk sounds evoke both Chet Atkins and John Fahey. Tyler’s never content to stay in a groove, always exploring new directions, but he’s very listenable.
Steve Gunn is as much producer as guitarist. He’s collaborating and guesting with every willing act in Brooklyn; for my money such exploratory ramblings are one of the best features of modern New York music.
Ryley Walker is my favorite of the bunch. He’s absolutely hit the ground running with his first album, All Kinds of You. Walker reminds me most of Tim Buckley but there’s all sorts of English songwriting heritage coursing through his work. I look forward to much more to come.
This one’s an anomaly in a lot of ways. Clean-cut white doo-wop made in the late sixties; a country song given the lounge organ treatment; a moderately successful hit at best that’s stuck with me my whole life. No apologies are due for loving this sincere old pop song.