I’m going through one of those phases again … music in 2015 just seemed to pale in comparison to the past. I’ve been feeling this malaise for some time now, but usually there are some albums that elevate this slow, seemingly inevitable, decline in the quality of music to an acceptable level. Even releases by some of my favorite stand-bys this year seemed less than inspired. And what passes for the best of the year in the music rags? Oh, well, I guess that’s what the POOP is for.
On the home front, the kids are getting bigger and time just seems to be slipping away. They’ve been thrilled by the addition of three (yes, three) pug puppies into our home! In the meanwhile, my wife keeps it all in perspective by telling me it’s time to start thinking about the garden again.
1. Jose Gonzalez ~ Vestiges & Claws: Nothing unexpected, but beautiful all the same.
2. Sufjan Stevens ~ Carrie & Lowell: You can feel the loss, the void, and the delicate balance of mortality in this music. You can also feel hope and grace.
3. Ryley Walker ~ Primrose Green: A definite throwback to Astral Weeks, Pentangle, and John Martyn. Not bad for a young’un from the mid West.
4. Deerhunter ~ Fading Frontier: A kinder, gentler Deerhunter for 2015.
5. Blur ~ The Magic Whip: A brief but triumphant return … Albarn is on a roll.
6. Haiku Salut ~ Etch & Etch Deep: Playful and driving instrumentals from three English lasses. For those who like music akin to Fredrik, Mum, and Tortoise.
7. Richard Thompson ~ Still (Deluxe): This release has received more acclaim because of the producer than the artist. Not as good as Electric, but still better than most music this year. Bonus disc is definitely worth the extra bucks.
8. The Acorn ~ Vieux Loup: A different but still beautiful Acorn. Elegant and reserved … sounds like Everything But the Girl, without the girl.
9. Meg Baird ~ Don’t Weigh Down the Light: Baird majestically follows her own advice.
10. Jim O’Rourke ~ Simple Songs: Not so simple, really.
11. Flying Saucer Attack ~ Instrumentals 2015: Soaring soundscapes.
12. Bing & Ruth ~ City Lake: A little darker than Tomorrow was the Golden Age but still a glorious rumination on ambiance and drone.
13. Jefre Cantu-Ledesma ~ A Year with 13 Moons: Dirty and distorted ambiance with moments of bliss. Or blissful ambiance disrupted by moments of distortion and hiss.
14. The Unthanks ~ Mount the Air: Stately and austere music contrasting with the grit, wit, and whim of traditional English lyrics and themes.
15. The Twilight Sad ~ Oran Mor Sessions: Acoustic versions from Nobody Wants to Be Here and Nobody Wants to Leave. A worth while diversion.
The single and video of David Bowie’s Blackstar … just brilliant and then heartbreaking.
Other Notable News
Adem ~ Seconds are Acorns: a little too close to Coldplay, but still catchy.
William Basinski ~ the Cascade: haunting, but could use greater variation.
Belle & Sebastian ~ Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance: at the discotheque.
James Blackshaw ~ Summoning Suns: with vocals (some unnecessary).
Elephant Micah ~ Where in Our Woods: RIYL Bonnie “Prince” Billy.
Godspeed! You Black Emperor ~ Asunder, Sweet and Other Distresses: noisy.
Great Lake Swimmers ~ A Forest of Arms: NPR ready, as expected.
Steve Gunn & the Black Twig Pickers ~ Seasonal Hire: backporch whiskey time.
Lubomyr Melnyk ~ Rivers & Streams: apt title, rushing and flowing piano.
My Morning Jacket ~ the Waterfall: not quite to their usual standard.
Promised Land Sound ~ For Use & Delight: RIYL Dylan, the Dead, the Byrds, the Band.
Alasdair Roberts ~ S/T: workmanlike, not as joyous or as loose as usual.
Joan Shelley ~ Over and Even: not as enveloping as Electric Ursa.
Slug ~ Ripe: in the absence of Field Music, this companion will do.
Villagers ~ Darling Arithmetic: not as daring as Awayland.
Yabby You, Dylan, the Dead, the Velvet Underground, the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Van Morrison and Springsteen all had worthy archival material released …
Not Enough Time
I still haven’t had time (or money) to hear everything I wanted … so I’ll try to catch up on Dylan, Steve Earle, Los Lobos, Max Richter, Sir Richard Bishop, Yo la Tengo and more …
I don’t usually talk about television too much, but there were several interesting series on this year. I probably shouldn’t spend so much time in front of the box, but I think we’re going to get rid of the cable this year, so I’m getting it in sooner rather than later.
•Detectorists: Really dry writing, but with completely endearing characters.
•Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell: Great production and casting of this historical fantasy.
•The Leftovers: What happens when the unexplained happens.
•The Last Alaskans: Good reality programming. Actually seems like real people dealing with survival and solitude in the Alaskan wilderness. Thoughtful.
Ornette Coleman, B.B. King, Ben E. King, Allen Toussaint, Lemmy, Chris Squire …
and I’m still having a hard time contemplating a world without David Bowie.