TOP 40 of 2014



I’m going to dispense with comments again this year and go straight to the lists. The order is certainly not precise but rather approximate at this moment as I write. To be honest there is not much to choose between the choices that make the top 15 – they are all excellent in my view.

Amongst the albums I haven’t yet had an opportunity to hear at all, that may well have made the list are the Lucinda Williams, Mark Lanegan, Frazey Ford Aphex Twin and Tweedy.

Below are the lists of my favourite albums of 2014 (currently and so far) followed by some of the best reissues.

TOP 40 of 2014

1 – The River and the Thread – Rosanne Cash

2 –  Metamodern Sounds in Country Music – Sturgill Simpson

3 -  Lost in the Dream – War on Drugs

4 –  Strangers – Simone Felice

5 –  Morning Phase – Beck

6 –  Popular Problems – Leonard Cohen

7 –  Colfax – The Delines

8 –  Lateness of Dancers – Hiss Golden Messenger

9 –  Bluebird – Dawn Landes

10 – Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Son – Damien Jurado

11 – The Lights from the Chemical Plant – Robert Ellis

12 – Small Town Heroes – Hurray for the Riff Raff

13 – Lullaby and… the Ceaseless Roar – Robert Plant

14 – Are We There – Sharon van Etten

15 – The Take off and Landing of Everything – Elbow

16 – Hypnotic Eye – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers

17 – Get Back – Pink Mountaintops

18 – St Vincent

19 – Benji – Sun Kil Moon

20 – To Be Kind – Swans

21 – Ultraviolence – Lana Del Ray

22 – English Oceans – Drive-By Truckers

23 -  Passerby – Luluc

24 – When The Cellar Children See the Light of Day – Mirel Wagner

25 – Tarpaper Sky – Rodney Crowell

26 – Lily – O – Sam Amidon

27 -  Carter Girl – Carlene Carter

28 – Trouble and Love – Mary Gauthier

29 – The Hanging Gardens of Beatenberg – Beatenberg

30 – The Invisible Hour – Joe Henry

31 – Lazaretto – Jack White

32 -  Storytone – Neil Young (the acoustic disc!)

33 – Hozier

34 –  High Hopes – Bruce Springsteen

35 – Seeds – TV on the Radio

36 – Angus & Julia Stone

37 – Dereconstructed – Lee Baines III & the Glory Fires

38 – Emmaar – Tinariwen

39 – World Peace is none of Your Business – Morrissey

40 – Voyager – Jenny Lewis


Some of the Best Re-Issues (in no particular order)

The Beatles Mono Vinyl

The Basement Tapes Complete (Bootleg Series vol 11) – Bob Dylan and the Band

The Apple Years – Goerge Harrison

Alpha Mike Foxtrot – Wilco

L’Amour – Lewis

Nightclubbing – Grace Jones

Soul Mining – The The

Skylarking – XTC

Bobby Charles

Wrecking Ball – Emmylou Harris

Has God Seen My Shadow? – Mark Lanegan

Sleater Kinney – box set of all previous releases

Spiderland – Slint

Nanci Griffith: Intersection

Nanci Griffith

Nanci Griffith

April 10, 2012
Proper Records

“Admirers of Griffith’s earliest recordings will no doubt delight in Intersection as much for its familiarity as the quality of its songwriting and performances.”All Music Guide

“Mostly she’s reaching into the dark places, teasing pain from the wreckage and holding it up for all to see.”Paste Magazine

Twenty albums now, and none before like this. “Intersection” is not an album of resolution or closure; it’s an album about difficulties, about anger, about things that slip away and things that explode.

Griffith is beloved as a songwriter but also as someone who unearths others’ songs and brings them to light, on her new 12 song record there are 5 covers including ones by Loretta Lynn and Blaze Foley.

Recorded at her Nashville home, she has surrounded herself by a crack team of musicians and backing singers.

Hush Arbors – Arbouretum: Aureola

Hush Arbors - Arbouretum

Hush Arbors – Arbouretum

April 10, 2012
Thrill Jockey

“Keith’s music suggests some strange place where John Philips, Merle Haggard, Charalambides and Federico Garcia Lorca all occupy the same neighborhood tavern. His songs are fluid and lucid and frequently dazzling, displaying a mastery of craft only gleaned from countless pie-eyed hours strumming along to records late at night and absorbing their individual magic. Hush Arbors is Keith’s near-perfect distillation of all that magic.” – James Jackson Toth (of Wooden Wand)

“Arbouretum have forged a new alloy of psychedelic heavy rock that captures the narrative power and sonic fury of electric Neil Young, the floral qualities of 1960s British psychedelia and the textural use of distortion at the foundation of drone and stoner rock. More importantly though, Arbouretum manages to avoid the parochial trappings of any of those camps. In other words, Arbouretum sounds like all of those things without the cliches. Throw in Heumann’s flair for putting a fresh twist on tried-and-true (read: tired) traditions, and Arbouretum arises out of the psychedelic swamp blazing with an almost shamanic power.”New York Press

Hush Arbors and Arbouretum have each been exploring for years now the intersection of progressive folk and psychedelic rock, albeit filtered through their own distinct sounds. It was only a matter of time before their paths would cross. Keith Wood and Dave Heumann met at a show in Baltimore and discovered their mutual appreciation for each other’s music. The two bands planned a joint European tour, and recorded Aureolato further showcase and celebrate their complimentary sounds.

Beachwood Sparks: The Tarnished Gold

Beachwood Sparks_The Tarnished Gold

Beachwood Sparks
The Tarnished Gold

June 26, 2012
Sub Pop

“The SoCal indie cowboys deliver an album completely displaying musical, songwriting, and repertory growth from their critically acclaimed self-titled debut”All Music Guide

“The Sparks take the nascent country rock of their obvious influence and extraploate every last ounce of plangent guitar chime and yearing vocal polyphony until they ring afresh.”Mojo

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Some albums were made to be played on a Saturday night. The Tarnished Gold was meant to be played on a Sunday afternoon. Listening to Beachwood Sparks’ first album in 11 years is like being under cobalt blue skies and smelling the night-blooming jasmine on a perfect spring day in Los Angeles.

The world has caught up to Beachwood Sparks since they came out of nowhere in 2000 with their self-titled debut album, bringing new life to what Gram Parsons famously described as “cosmic American music,” and recapturing L.A.‘s laidback but vibrant heyday back in the late ’60s and early ’70s. At the time, this kind of harmony-rich, irony-free music was rare. After their second album, 2002’s trippier Once We Were Trees, and the decidedly offbeat 2003 EP Make the Cowboy Robots Cry, Beachwood Sparks called it quits. But during the subsequent half decade, the indie music scene began to change with the appearance, and wholesale acceptance, of multi-voiced throwback groups from Fleet Foxes to Bon Iver to Grizzly Bear. Clearly, the time is right for an album that stands as the purest expression of this hallowed form to appear in the 21st century, as the planets at long last align for this single-minded band.

The Tarnished Gold is the work of the classic Beachwood Sparks lineup: singer/guitarist Chris Gunst, singer/bassist Brent Rademaker, singer/multi-instrumentalist Farmer Dave Scher, and drummer Aaron Sperske, with invaluable support from guitarist and longtime friend Ben Knight (The Tyde). For the sessions, the band added guitarists Knight and Neal Casal (solo artist and former member of Ryan Adams and the Cardinals), Dan Horne on pedal steel, Gunst’s wife Jen Cohen, Sparks’ very first drummer Jimi Hey, Brent’s brother Darren (leader of The Tyde) and L.A. indie-rock maestro Ariel Pink. Once We Were Trees producer Thom Monahan returned to his familiar spot behind the console.

Father John Misty: Fear Fun

Father John Misty

Father John Misty
Fear Fun

May 1, 2012
Sub Pop

“[Fear Fun is] packed with sardonic, self-effacing songs that recall the finest traditions of harmony-soaked West Coast folk-and-country influenced rock’n'roll.”Uncut

“A captivating listen.” Magnet

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When discussing ‘Father John Misty’, Tillman paraphrases Philip Roth: ’It’s all of me and none of me, if you can’t see that, you won’t get it’. What I call it is totally arbitrary, but I like the name. You’ve got to have a name. I never got to choose mine.”

He goes on, “‘People who make records are afforded this assumption by the culture that their music is coming from an exclusively personal place, but more often than not what you hear are actually the affectations of an ’alter-ego’ or a cartoon of an emotionally heightened persona,” says Josh Tillman, who has been recording/releasing solo albums since 2003 and who recently left Seattle’s Fleet Foxes after playing drums from 2008-2011. “That kind of emotional quotient isn’t sustainable if your concern is portraying a human-being made up of more than just chest-beating pathos. I see a lot of rampant, sexless, male-fantasy everywhere in the music around me. I didn’t want any alter-egos, any vagaries, fantasy, escapism, any over-wrought sentimentality. I like humor and sex and mischief. So when you think about it, it’s kind of mischievous to write about yourself in a plain-spoken, kind of explicitly obvious way and call it something like ‘Misty’. I mean, I may as well have called it ‘Steve’”.

Musically, Fear Fun consists of such disparate elements as Waylon Jennings, Harry Nilsson, Arthur Russell, “All Things Must Pass,” and “Physical Graffiti,” often within the same song. Tillman’s voice has never been better and often sounds like Roy Orbison, “The Caruso of Rock”, at his most joyous, while the music maintains a dark, mysterious and yet conversely playful, almost Dionysian quality. Lyrically, his absurdist fever dreams of pain and pleasure elicit, in equal measures, the blunt descriptive power of Bukowski or Brautigan, the hedonist-philosophy of Oscar Wilde and the dried-out wit of Loudon Wainwright III.

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