Trying not to be listy -- sorry it reads like a club newsletter. Another outstanding year for music lovers with ears to the ground. Stellar stuff bubbling up everywhere.
2014 kicked off with an assortment of vinyl releases from bands I've never heard. WAR ON DRUGS and TEMPLES (debut record “Sun Structures”) came out the same day in mid-Jan. I’m lukey on WOD but Temples is clearly a standout in psych/garage’s new Golden Age.
Scored a series of indie/experiment vinyl editions via VinylLoop. FRENCH STYLE FURS made this gem of a record “…Is Exotic Bait” made with the words from a reknown Catholic monk’s punk rock manifesto. Best lyrics of the year atop substantial riffage. Another gem is “Upright Behavior” by LANDLADY, a Brooklyn concoction that reminds me of showbiz-era KINKS and Nashville’s LAMBCHOP.
Getting hooked on limited-run colored vinyl, I took a chance SCULPTURE’s “Membrane Pop”. This record is a good argument for glitchy music having soul. This sent me looking for more soulful glitch (don’t know what else to call it) and found it on band camp. Can’t get enough of SADSIC. Check out the track “Trainback” on his new “Sells/Cells” release (update: I think extra tracks like Trainback are only on the download). Also love this artist: /F. The album is called: pq: f. For a meaty track, check out: “(cs)_0(t)”.
Speaking of glitchy, my favorite DANNY BARNES released 3 awesome albums in the first half of 2014. First there was “Ambient Project” which would be the perfect soundtrack to FarmVille. This album was practically designed (he told me hisself) to assist programmers and designer such as myself to have good work music. This album actually did increase my web design productivity by 84% and I recommend you stream for free on bandcamp and increase your mileage.
Barnes then almost simultaneously released a band project THE TEST APES with MAX BRODY, who played drums and horns for MINISTRY, and a completely solo album called “Junior Sampled”. The Test Apes record is a thrill a second with a massive sound and lots of shredding. Sounds like electric guitar but I understand it’s mostly Barnjo, Barnes’ hybrid banjo/guitar device. Again, stream it for free at bandcamp. Check out the tune “Lost Cause”.
Junior Sampled is my favorite album of the year. Barnes has created a new kind of music — folktronics — and here it is in most advanced form. Every song is essential, so just turn up some fat speakers and stream it for free over at band camp.
Onto the noise report. Lots of good stuff in the New Golden Age of Psych/Garage-ish. Old-school hardcore punk all-stars OFF! put out a very fine record “Wasted Years.” Average song length has raised from 52 seconds put to 1:12 or so. My favorite is “I Won’t Be A Casualty”. THEE OH SEE’S put out the excellent “Drop”. Their format may be changing but relentless hot streak continues. KING TUFF, DUB THOMPSON, and TRUCKFIGHTERS all put out good stuff. I tried to get into ICEAGE and SPIDERBAGS but not quite holding up for me.
New bands in this space I really like a lot are WAND (SoCal version of Temples), MEATBODIES (you gotta hear their songs “Disorder” and “Mountain”), and DOPE BODY, who is my new current fave as 2014 winds down. Unless you count Aussies KING GIZZARD AND THE LIZARD WIZARD and yeah yet another questionable name for a band in this paragraph but I promise you it’s some really trippy/surfy/mind fuzz shit! This is all rock and roll you can dance to.
And prime in this space is the double-LP from TY SEGALL: “Manipulator”. It’s almost too good. And it’s definitely glam. Then without warning a couple months later he releases “$INGLES 2” (vinyl only) that shreds like Slaughterhouse. Ty Fi all the way on the home tubes.
Three new releases forever on my radar did *not* disappoint. FLYING LOTUS’ “You’re Dead” is the future of jazz in my book. How else to describe this tripfest? If you are into vinyl, just get that double-LP with the exquisite artwork. It’s the best package of the year and 10 other things. FOXYGEN followed up their 60’sish masterpiece from 2013 with a sprawlingly weird and fun ramble double LP “…and Star Power”. Foxygen’s best days may still be ahead of them.
Later in the fall, house favorite DEERHOOF released “La Isla Bonita” and this Side B wins best Side B of the year. Very adventurous band… sometimes I just jump off the couch listening to these folks.
My addiction to all things Stones Throw continued. Have a hard time getting into the MADLIB/FREDDIE GIBBS stuff but HOMEBOY SANDMAN really one me over. Definitely my favorite rapper (well, there is Del.) Homebody is like the Ty Segall of underground hip hip with 2 releases “White Sands” (collab with PAUL WHITE) and “Hallways” that has assortment of producers. Favorite tracks from White Sands: “Fat Belly” and “Wade in the Water”. Faves from Hallways: “America, The Beautiful”, “Problems”, and “Enough”.
Back in popular rock, there was a lot of cool stuff. SPOON was lauded for their return to form but I guess I’m a rare “Transference” fan and a less-rare DIVINE FITS fan. PARQUET COURTS delivered 2 beauties and TV ON THE RADIO returned with a solid album. Also enjoy NEW PORNOGRAPHERS and ST. VINCENT.
On the not-so-noisy side, I was blown away by “Metamodern Sounds in Country Music” by STURGILL SIMPSON. If you love or have every loved cosmic country / or hell just country this is stellar. “It Ain’t All Flowers” maybe best song of the whole year.
I was introduced to CHAD VANGAALEN again via vinyl loop and his distinct home-made aesthetic — eerie and gorgeously loft — totally won me over and I’m digging through his back catalogue. He since produced a new band ALVVAYS from remote Northeastern Canada (now Toronto?) and I don’t think anyone could resist this remote sonic vibe. Most beautiful record o 2014.
ALT-J “This Is All Yours” (double LP, mine has orange disc and a green disc) is optimized for sequence. It’s a nice sprawled out listen. If you must cherry pick, “Left Hand Free” is as sticky as it gets. MAZZY STAR had a lush return to form earlier in the year and again there’s the chilldom of WAR ON DRUGS who underwhelm me (guess I’m more of a KURT VILE fan.)
Mentioned return to form a few times… and is this what we have with FREEMAN, the genius formerly known as Gene Ween? Talk about clearing the air! Really love the song “All The Way To China”.
Our beloved MOTHER HIPS released the collection “Chronicle Man” comprised of recently discovered tracks from the mid 90’s… the era we seeing the Mother Hips blowouts in Hood River and other Orygun towns.
Going back much further, two monster albums from 1971 were reissued this year on double heavy vinyl. LED ZEPPELIN IV doesn’t need an introduction. THE KINKS “Muswell Hillbillies” came out on black friday record day and I’ve listened to it every day since scoring on Ebay. Side 3 is the best Side 3 of the year if I can count it. (although Manipulator’s Side 3 is pretty epic.) While I mention LZ I should also give shoutout to ROBERT PLANT’s "Lullaby and... The Ceaseless Roar", excellente. He keeps moving it forward.
Then, sneaking in right at the end of the year, is the return of D’ANGELO. Holy smokes did he just put out the R&B masterpiece of the 21st century? Nobody saw it coming. CRACKER has a new double set "From Berkeley to Bakersfield" and it's strong, especially the Bakersfield material. And this WYTCHES album came in real late and it’s pretty interesting. Still trying to wrap my head around it. I have an old friend back east who keeps sending pokes about WYTCHES.
Looking forward to 2015. First up is POND with “Man It Feels Like Space Again.” Have you heard me rave about POND? well now…
Also on the radar are UNKNOWN MORTAL ORCHESTRA, DJANGO DJANGO, and maybe TAME IMPALA? I’m so gorged on great new music I don’t even have a wish list beyond those.
We took the night off from swim practice to take the kids to a cultural night at the museum last month. Okay, maybe it was mainly to see Deerhoof play in the entrance of the SFMOMA (San Francisco Museum of Modern Art) but there were many bonus surprises.