Tamikrest – Chatma* / (V.A.) Kenya Special – East Africa Recordings from 1970s and 80s*
(V.A.) Angola Soundtrack 2: Hypnosis Distortion* / Bombino – Nomad / Tal National – Kaani,
(V.A.) Diablos del Ritmos 1960-1985: The Columbian Melting Pot (African influences)
Rokia Traore – Beautiful Africa / Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba – Jama Ko
The Usual (and unusual) Suspects
Daft Punk – Random Access* / Parquet Courts – Light Up Gold / Arcade Fire – Reflector / Yeah Yeah Yeah – Mosquitos / Kozelek & Jimmy Lavalle – Perils from the Sea / The National – Trouble Will Find Me / Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Push the Sky Away / Deerhunter- Monomania / Pet Shop Boys – Electric / Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City
Daft Punk – robots fantasies, Niles & Giorgio, wacky kitsch best summed up by the song “Lose Yourself to Dance”. Reflector reminds me of when the Talking Heads discovered the funk. It’s like Roxy music with David Bryne’s breathy vocals. Who cares about its meaning as a concept album, just listen to that bass line. Parquet Courts are stoned slackers championing Jonathan Richman and the Feelies. Mosquitos is all over the place, but the songs I love sound like a second rate girl band from the early 80s recorded in an echo chamber. Perils from the Sea has stream of conscious lyrics with an eye for the details of everyday life punctuated with an organ and ambient beat. Nothing is forced, the music and message of hard times are given time to breathe. By the way, nothing has changed, “kids were fuckin pricks in 1936”. The National has got the British self-absorbed angst thing down pat, slightly depressing but consistent. Speaking of depressing, Nick Cave’s music has a sparse earthy beauty, but he’s one weird death-obsessed fuck best taken in small doses. Monomedia is a sloppy tour of Indie Styles through a lo-fi garage rock lens. It’s all over the place, but some songs really hit. Vampire Weekend’s first album of Afrobeat lite was inoffensive and almost refreshing. On the latest, I can hear a little Paul Simon, but when Bob Christgau also references Sgt. Pepper, I just don’t get it. There are too many lyrics and it’s bland and all so precious.
The Rides – Can’t Get Enough* / Mark Knopfler – Privateering* / Eric Clapton Guitar Festival Crossroad, DVD / Pearl Jam – Lightning Bolt / Barrence Whitfield and the Savages – Dig Thy Savage Soul / Jason Isbell – Southeastern / The Jeffrey Lewis & Peter Stampel Band – Hey Hey its…/ Tedeschi Trucks Band – Made Up Mind / Willie Nile – American Ride
I’m embarrassed that I like The Rides so much. These pros, Stephen Stills Kenny Wayne Sheppard, and Barry Goldberg, play basic blues/rock that’s nothing new, but everything including every solo is so textbook perfect it can’t be denied. The sole mistake is covering Neil Young’s “Rockin in the Free World.” Stills’ voice and guitar aren’t ragged enough and, besides, Stills and Young hated each other. Barrence Whitfield gets wilder with age, and why can’t Tedeschi Trucks write better songs – they’re so close.
Ezra Furman – Day of the Dog* / Oblivians – Desperation Garage / Mikal Cronin- MCII, (retro power pop) / Rilo Kiley – RKives (a swan song of odds and ends) / Stephen Kalinich, Jon Tiven – Yo MaMa: Symptomatology: Shortcuts to Infinity
After a 15 year layoff, the Oblivians are back with a sloppy punk stew of 50s rock and roll and 60s garage. Ezra Furman takes us on a rock and roll history tour channeling John Lennon, Bo Diddley, Jerry Lee even a little Springsteen with the youthful immature exuberance reminiscent of the Replacements.
Mindless Fun (for your feminine side)
Teagan & Sarah – Heartthrob / Haim – Days are Gone, Paramore – Paramore
Kasey Musgraves – Same Trailer Different Park / Ashley Monroe – Like a Rose /
Brandy Clark – 12 Stories
Recycled Old Stuff
Purple Snow – Forecasting the Minneapolis Sound* / Miles Davis – Live in Europe 1969
The Band – Live at the Academy of Music / Drive-By Truckers – Alabama Ass Whuppin
Minneapolis as Motown? You bet. Purple Snow is an exceedingly good funk & R& B compilation.
All That Jazz
Critic Tom Hull grades almost all good jazz albums between B+ and A-; while my wife complains it all sounds alike anyway. They’re both right and even with its improvisation you learn to appreciate that there is a set form and structure in jazz. This year the only “A” is Wayne Shorter who raised the bar. For years, I never thought he lived up to his billing especially with Weather Report which was a funky cop-out that didn’t expand upon Miles’ vision. But Without a Net is freer and looser than anything in years.
The Wayne Shorter Quartet – Without a Net A* / Jonathan Finlayson & Sicilian Defense – Moment & the Message A- / Keith Jarrett/Gary Peacock/Jack DeJohnette: Somewhere A- / Ehud Asherie with Harry Allen – Lower East Side A- / Scott Neumann Neu3 Trio – Blessed B+ / J. D. Allen – Grace A- / Ross Hammond – Cathedrals A- / Chris Potter – The Sirens A- / Charles Lloyd, Jason Moran – Hagar’s Song A- / Craig Taborn – Chants A- / John Lundbom & Big Five Chord – Liverevil A- / George Colligan – The Endless Mystery A- / Allison Miller’s Boom Tic Boom – No Morphine No Lillies A- / Steve Coleman and Five Elements – Functional Arrhythmias B+ / Dave Holland – Prism B+ / Lucian Ban – Elevation/Mystery B+ / Gary Burton – Guided Tour B+ / Aaron Parks – Aborescence B+ / Chick Corea – The Vigil B+ / Chucho Valdes – Border Free B+
Barbara Morrison – A Sunday Kind of Love* / Cecile McLorin Salvant – Womanchild
The first few cuts of WomanChild prove this young chantuese can channel Ella and Billie, but that’s not enough. She then settles into more modern, straight ahead stuff, and Mon Dieu! I love it when she sings in French. Barbara Morrison’s jazz and blues is more lived-in and real, especially when trading choruses with Houston Pearson on sax.
Progressive 2014 (the future)
The old genres of ambient, old school progressive, black metal etc. are now blurred. The artists below may start off as with pounding doom metal (which you may hate) but the next song flows into post rock guitar wanderings (that could be your Nirvana). So here is my patented (Yes, Patented!!) system for figuring out the style of each album complete with nerdy abbreviations and grades.
Classical Post Prog Industrial
Minilmalism (CM) Rock(Pr) Metal(PM) Metal (M) Noise (IM)
| | | | | |
Ambient (Am) Techno Symphonic Post Death Metal (DM) Industrial Metal (IM)
(floating Prog (SP) Hardcore (my head’s (my head’s
in bliss (it’s still around) (PHM) exploding) melting)
Teeth of the Sea – Master (everything above and add some horns A)* / The Icarus Line – Slave Vows (PR, M, Stooges, the Doors A)* / Within Reason – Transient Broadcast (Am, T / A-)* / Nils Frahm – Spaces (CM / A-) / Steve Wilson – The Raven that Refused to Sing (SP mixing Porcupine Tree and King Crimson / A-) / Beaches – She Beats (PR & shimmering dream pop from four chicks / A-) / Juliana Barwick – Nepenthe (ethereal wordless vocals for Sigur Ros /Enya fans Am / B+) / Civil Protection – Stolen Fire (PR / B+) / Anathema – Universal (SP /B+) / Big Big Train – English Electric, Part 2 (SP / B+) / Riverside – Shrine of New Generation Slaves (SP, M / B+) / Kvelertak – Meir (PH, M party music with a sense of humor (if you get the joke) in screaming Norwegian / B+) / Russian Circles – Memorial (PR / B+) / The Knife – Shaking the Habitual (Am T, Indie Experimental B+) / Ocean – Pelagial (SP, PM, M – same music on two discs but one is minus the vocals, guess which one is better B) / Deafheaven – Sunbather (Too much DM for me but also with PR and even shoegaze / B) / Boards of Canada – Tomorrow’s Harvest (Didn’t Tangerine Dream do this 40 years ago A / B)
Chris Thile – Bach Sonatas & Partitas Bach’s masterpieces for solo violin shouldn’t translate to the plucky mandolin with its lack of resonance and inability to sustain notes. Thile can’t overcome all of this, but his artistry still conveys the passion and depth of these works. Riccardo Minasi & Il Pomo d’Oro* – Vivaldi: Concerti per due violini. Who says Vivaldi’s concertos all sound the same, gentile and such. We have got energy and passion here as Minasi and Dmitry Sinkovsky battle in a fiddler’s showdown. I Barocchisti & Diego Fasolis with Cecilia Bartoli – Steffani: Stabat Mater
Legends Never Die – Great Reviews, glimpses of past genius – but file on the back shelf
Elton John – The Diving Board / David Bowie – The Next Day / Paul McCartney – New
(*my top ten picks. Lists in descending order of quality)