Home again, home again
It’s been a while since I’ve done my end of the year music list, but I figure in honor and celebration of the great artists who gave so graciously to our little film project, I’d bring it back. This isn’t to say I haven’t been into music these last several years, just that when it came time to compile end of the year lists, it seemed other stuff had my attention.
Like all my lists previously, there’s a single caveat I like to throw into the mix; and that’s that it’s not a ranking of good to better, but more of a distilled compilation of the 2014 releases I was digging throughout the year.
I’ve kept the list fairly short and chose not to write about every LP, as I figure it’ll be less overwhelming and might inspire a curiosity to seek these records out and give them a listen. I hope you do — there really is something for everyone here, no matter what your tastes.
3 for Nostalgia: The Church Further/Deeper, Bryan Ferry Avonmore, Bob Mould Beauty & Ruin
These records didn’t make the numerical cut, but I felt compelled to mention them out of the simple fact that they were a joy to listen to. Surprises, really. Not because these artists aren’t capable of making great records anymore, but the truth is I haven’t really heard anything they’ve done over the last several years that’s moved me. Each of these records, however, capture the artists doing what they do best — nothing groundbreaking, just nailing it.
White Sea In Cold Blood
In Cold Blood is an unapologetic, bombastic, ultra-sincere pop record. A project of Morgan Kibby, who’s known largely for her vocal work on the last two M83 records, this White Sea LP is an unabashed romp in big sonic ideas and stories about life and love. There are times where it all feels like it might go way over the top, and perhaps sometimes it does, but despite this, somehow, almost imperceptibly, she holds it all together. The trick here, of course, is the absolute commitment to her musical instincts.
Sun Kil Moon Benji
Benji is one of those records that might throw you a little on first listen. Musically it sounds like straightforward Sun Kil Moon — acoustic/electric indie rock — structured like most pop/rock music. Where it deviates, however, is how Mark Kozelek delivers these songs. Sonically they follow a standard verse-chorus format, but lyrically not at all; the songs literally feel lifted from a stream of consciousness diary… as is and unaltered. There’s not a single lyrical verse-chorus anywhere. This can be offputting at first, but once you settle in (which happens quickly) the heartbreaking/beautiful stories win you over, and it doesn't feel odd at all.
D’Angelo and The Vanguard Black Messiah
Here's the thing, you're not going to find Black Messiah on many end-of-the-year lists, but not because it's not a great record, quite the contrary, it's just that it came out around the last week of December and everybody was rushing to get their lists published and read before year-end. Clearly, at fasterbarnacle I'm not in a hurry to do anything, so this is a win for you and a win for me. This is a dynamite record, and well worth the decade plus wait for D'Angelo to release something new. It's a tad derivative, sure, in that it wears its influences probably on its sleeve (no pun intended), but all of this influence is filtered through D’Angelo's funky, original lens. This is a record for the times.
Conor Oberst Upside Down Mountain
The last list I did was back in 2011, and on that list was the Bright Eyes’s The People’s Key. Admittedly, Conor’s side/solo projects haven’t done much for me, but this record feels different. In many ways, it feels like a Bright Eyes record. Or more specifically, like The People’s Key II. Sonically it feels very much a solo project; with a loose swinging sense of ease, but thematically it picks up where that 2011 record left off — exploring and diving into the complex beauty of life. “Zigzagging Toward The Light” is one of my favorite songs of 2014.
Sturgill Simpson Metamodern Sounds In Country Music
I’ll admit, modern country music isn’t something I seek out, nor is it something I even get, but the classics — Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, Tony Joe White, Emmylou Harris, etc. — there’s a sincerity there I can’t ignore. It’s not my go to genre, but I get those artists. The sounds and sentiments make sense. Metamodern sounds like a classic country record in every way, but it’s sentiments and ideas — transcendence, psychedelics, spirituality, a brilliant, soulful countrified cover of the When In Rome’s 80’s synthpop classic “The Promise”— make it its own animal. This I get… and keep on getting.
Run The Jewels Run The Jewels 2
RTJ2 is a record that’s gotten a lot of love this year, and deservedly so. It's nothing short of a masterful document of two artists -- El-P and Killer Mike -- at the top of their game; lined up and gelling in a way that doesn't happen very often. Make no mistake, this is a dark dark gangsta record (I'll say it again if you read over that quickly; this is heavy s**t) but hip hop/rap (of any kind) doesn't get any better in 2014. It was my favorite record after I played it for the first time and it stayed at the top my list up until this posting. Look, I'm big peace and love guy, but sometimes somebody tells a dark story that's well worth diving in to. Production wise/rap wise… it's ridiculously good.
Favorite Compilation and EP: Various When I Reach That Heavenly Shore: Unearthly Black Gospel 1926-1936, Tony Molina Dissed and Dismissed
Because this is a list celebrating the power of music as a gift, I thought I’d throw in two more releases that don’t quite fit the above mold. The first is a compilation where the title pretty much speaks for itself, so no description is really necessary, other than to say it’s dizzyingly fantastic. The second is a 12 minute concept "album" (yes 12 minutes) of 90’s style indie noise rock released on the Slumberland label. I mention the label in particular, because it was a trusted go to for this sound back in the day. That and they were based in Berkeley. Represent.
All the above out-of-the-way, I leave you with my favorite song of 2014 -- hands down (my iTunes play count doesn't lie). Truth be told, I've never been the type of music listener that locks into a song and plays it over and over again ad nausea, and perhaps that's due to a certain trauma sustained in my youth by my 3 sisters and the 45 era. Who's to say. Whatever the case, this particular mix of this song has been a glorious exception to my listening routine. The LP version is great, but this, wow, holy shit, what a groove.
On that note, enjoy, mucho aloha and happy new year!