An Eclectic Gastronomy of Sound
“Time’s gone by
Calendar leaves and snows fly”
– John Martyn, “Stormbringer”
There was a lot of music to eat in 2014. For me, it was one of the richest – in terms of variety and quantity, but also in quality – in recent memory. So much good stuff.
And not all of it new. If you’re like me, you probably discovered some older music this year as well. I’ve been getting into the back catalog of the Durutti Column, for example – instigated primarily by their 2014 release Chronicle LX:XL. They (really a “he” – it’s basically just one guy, named Vini Reilly) have a discography going back to 1978 and it’s a tangled web of albums, limited edition releases, singles, collaborations, etc. Most of Reilly’s music is instrumental and guitar-based, though he occasionally sings and sometimes uses guest vocalists. He doesn’t really sound like any other guitarist. His tone and approach is totally unique, and many of his recordings are some of the most moving music I’ve ever heard.
Some other “old” stuff I got into this year includes music by Jess Roden and Terry Reid. I lump them together, because they’re similar soulful rock/folk/soul singers who were most active in the 70’s. I never get tired of Roden and his early 70’s band Bronco and their song “Bumpers West”. Picked up his first solo album at a flea market and it’s pretty dynamic as well. To be honest, I haven’t moved beyond Reid’s 1976 Seed of Memory album yet, but, man, what an album. From the folky blues of “Faith to Arise” to the funky horns of “Ooh Baby (You Make Me Feel So Young)”, there’s not a weak track.
I also enjoyed the ongoing acoustic guitar renaissance that seems to be occurring the last few years. Kyle Fosburgh (check out his music) and his label Grass-Tops is in the forefront, putting out new stuff and reissuing old. I wrote the liner notes for the re-release of Dennis Taylor’s 1983 Dayspring album – a great merging of the “Takoma” style of Leo Kottke and John Fahey and New Age music – look for it early in 2015.
I could write a long, rambling account of everything else I was listening to in 2014, but in the interest of brevity, I’ll just highlight some of my favorites below. As I said, the whole year was exceptional for new music, so I’ve broken it down chronologically. Let’s start with the first 6 months.
January – June:
January and December are historically the slowest months for new releases (it’s right after Christmas in one case, and most artists get their new stuff out a month or two before the holidays so it gets in the minds of Christmas shoppers in the other case). But, the very end of January, 2014 saw the release of the Autumn Defence’s Fifth, probably in my top two or three albums of the year. I discovered Real Estate and their Atlas in March and they also made my favorite (clever and funny) music video of the year (for “Crime”). Hayden Pedigo gets my vote for best new artist of the year – he put out two incredible instrumental guitar albums (I guess I have a guitar music fixation) and he’s only 20 years old. You’ll see Coldplay as one of my favorites too – yeah, they’re mainstream and get a lot of criticism, but I liked their new Ghost Stories album quite a bit, especially the single “Sky Full of Stars” (despite it trying to be everything to everybody – from a ballad to a dance track, and seeming like it was created as a vehicle for remixes…either way, I kept returning to it).
Listen to The Autumn Defense: “Why Don’t We” (from Fifth)
Listen to Ed Woltil: “Hiding in Plain Sight” (from Paper Boats)
(read my review of Paper Boats)
Listen to Real Estate: “Talking Backwards” (from Atlas)
Listen to Hayden Pedigo’s Seven Years Late album
Listen to William Tyler: “Whole New Dude” (from Lost Colony)
Listen to Thievery Corporation: “Bateau Rouge” (from Saudade)
Listen to Coldplay: “Sky Full of Stars” (from Ghost Stories)
Listen to Trummors: “Vigil” (from Moorish Highway)
Listen to Syd Arthur: “Garden of Time” (from Sound Mirror)
(read my review of Sound Mirror)
Listen to River Crombie’s album Light Trails
(read my review of Light Trails)
July – December:
Swan Dive’s and the Church’s 2014 releases still haven’t had an “official” North American release – at least not in physical format. Thanks to the wonders of technology, though, the digital releases are worldwide, so I (and we) don’t have to wait till next year to hear ‘em. Sloan’s Commonwealth is a pretty amazing opus – each band member contributing a “side” of the album (on the vinyl release, it’s a double album with 4 sides.) It’s being compared by many to the Beatles’ White Album in scope and ambition. Sneaking in a few days ago, with a December release, is Broke Down in Bakersfield’s debut – a more country sounding side project of Tim and Nicki Bluhm (who I saw with their band The Gramblers earlier in the year). I spent a lot of time listening to the Bluhm’s past few albums, and their hot July single “Another Rolling Stone”, this year.
Listen to Cary Hudson: “The Porch Sessions” (includes song from Town and Country)
(read my review of Town and Country)
Listen to The Durutti Column: “Synergetic” and “Free From All the Chaos” (with Caoilfhionn Rose) (from Chronicle LX:XL)
Listen to Swan Dive: “Soundtrack to Me and You” (from Soundtrack to Me and You)
(read my interview with Swan Dive)
Listen to Sloan: “Cleopatra” (from Commonwealth)
Listen to Jennifer Castle: “Pink City” (from Pink City)
Listen to Billy Childs (with Esperanza Spalding, Wayne Shorter): “Upstairs by a Chinese Lamp” (from Map to the Treasure: Reimagining Laura Nyro)
(read my review of Map to the Treasure)
Listen to The Church: “Pride Before A Fall” (from Further/Deeper)
(read my review of Further/Deeper)
Listen to Hayden Pedigo: “Stray” (with Danny Paul Grody) (from Five Steps)
Listen to She and Him: “Stay Awhile” (from Classics)
Listen to Broke Down in Bakersfield: “Luxury Liner” (another version on Live)
I hope 2014 was as rewarding musically for you as it was for me. Hopefully you’ve found something you like from my list, as well.
Here’s to 2015!