At the end of the year when I go back and figure out what musically excited me and throw all the titles onto the digital paper, I can’t help but feel self-conscious about how narrow my tastes continue to be, even at age 42.
Thankfully this year I can finally say that I have broadened my horizons with not only Bombino’s Agadez but also Raphael Saadiq’s Stone Rollin’. I stumbled upon Agadez through a random NPR album stream one uneventful day at work. Mr. Moctar is from the Northern African region of Tuareg and was raised on a steady diet of Ali Farka Touré and Jimi Hendrix. His guitar playing is nothing but exquisite. Former Tony! Toni! Toné! member Saadiq returned with an even more authentic old school R&B album that must have made Stevie Wonder flash those pearly whites of his.
New Jersey’s The Feelies returned with an excellent follow-up to Time for a Witness with Here Before. Sharing more sonically with Only Lifeand The Good Earth, this fifth album in their more than 30 year career is far stronger than any other reunited band from that time period. Stealing a bit of Feelies thunder was the sophomore release Days, a breezy, easy-going winter release from fellow Garden Staters Real Estate that made me want to lower my car windows regardless of the cold chill outside.
Pavement’s main man Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks delivered a thoroughly satisfying follow-up to 2008’s Real Emotional Trash. Mirror Traffic is likely to be his most concise musical statement, aided by none other than Beck in the producer’s chair.
Smoke Ring for My Halo brings about a lazy and hazy hue from Kurt Vile, who carries the indie rock/roots/lo-fi torch brightly.
On the Lou Barlow on a mug of red-eye side came lo-fi troubadour Emperor X’s Western Teleport. It’s not an everyday occurrence to find someone who can not only write a catchy sing-a-long song called “Allahu Akbar” but brave enough as well.
For all of the marketing/PR blitz that ensued with Dave Grohl Inc. and the Nirvana Nevermind anniversary reissue, Wasting Light from the Foo Fighters actually was what it promised to be. A reminder of how great they can still be while paying homage to past influences and inspiration.
The Whole Love from Wilco again proves they still have plenty of gas in their engines. Not only did they bring to the table a solid 12 track album, but they put a cherry on top with 4 bonus tracks of equal caliber.
And, of course, I have to thank my wife and son for inspiring me to participate in that experimental medical procedure to grow an extra ear on my neck to aid in listening to so much music throughout the year.