My Favorites of 2014
2014 has been a year when I’ve been relatively quiet on reviews, but I have been listening to many things, and I was very fortunate to attend some fabulous concerts that I’ve documented here with brief write-ups and photos (no photos of King Crimson!). I’ve also been focused on other things, including making noise with some guitars. As in the past, my listening is concentrated on what’s available to me, which is relatively narrow in scope, but I do listen to a pretty wide array of music.
This is my list of 14 favorites for 2014 (in no particular order) and then a few special categories. Each title on the list links to the artist or record label website. Happy Listening and I hope you all have a nice Holiday season, no matter what you celebrate. Thank you for reading in 2014!
Sturgill Simpson – Metamodern Sounds in Country Music
Nick Magnus – n’monix
Tony Patterson & Brendan Eyre – Northwinds
Should – The Great Pretend
Hallock Hill – Kosloff Mansion (My review was somewhat unconventional in interpretation–a really nice album).
Gareth Dickson – Invisible String (a compilation of recent live recordings)
Hiss Golden Messenger – Lateness of Dancers
Steve Hackett – Genesis Revisited: Live at the Royal Albert Hall 2CD/DVD (a fabulous live album & DVD with excellent sound quality!)
Stephen Vitiello + Taylor Deupree – Captiva (double 10” LP)
Medeski Scofield Martin Wood – Juice
Ben Watt – Hendra
Beck – Morning Phase
Levin Brothers – Levin Brothers (It’s only taken decades, but the Levin brothers got together and made a really marvelous jazz album)
Rosanne Cash – The River & The Thread
Robin Guthrie and Harold Budd – White Bird in a Blizzard
Anthony Phillips – Harvest of the Heart (Anthology Boxed Set): Unlike the recent R-kive Genesis box set, Cherry Red knows how to put together a proper anthology, complete with many tracks of never-before heard music from AP’s archives.
Jason Molina – Songs: Ohia – Journey On (7” 45 RPM Compilation Box Set, a really beautiful set, probably rarer than hen’s teeth by now.)
King Crimson – The Elements (Tour Box, archive, live and some new material as a companion to the 2014 US Tour)
East River Pipe – The Gasoline Age (vinyl reissue, my introduction to the brilliant songs of F. M. Cornog when it was first released on CD in the early 1990s)
Lambchop – Live at XX Merge (I’m so happy that Merge Records decided to release this in honor of their 25th Anniversary. Looks like the LP is out of print for the moment.)
William Tyler – Lost Colony
Olan Mill – Half Seas Over (Live performances 2012-2014)…too short for an album, too long for an EP, but what the heck!
An Accidental Concert Photo
Gareth Dickson – Invisible String
Sleeping Man Records SMR005 – CD Time: 70:16
Also available on vinyl from Unwork Inc. or cassette from Beacon Sound
1) This Is The Kiss 2) Once Upon* 3) Song, Woman & Wine 4) Agoa 5) Like A Clock 6) Jonah 7) Get Together 8) The Dance* 9) The Big Lie* 10) Fifth 11) Technology 12) Noon 13) Nunca Jamás 14) Harmonics 15) Two Trains 16) Climbing 17) Amber Sky*
* – Not previously available as a studio recording
These are live recordings from a 2012 tour in support of Dickson’s album Quite A Way Away (and includes songs from his Collected Recordings CD, resissued by 12k) with concerts in Reims, Istanbul, including an apartment lobby in Caen, France. I reviewed Quite A Way Away in early 2012.
From the moment this album begins, it’s magic.
The deeply resonant chords, the natural reverberation, the open tunings and Gareth Dickson’s hushed voice all combine to create a captivating and magnetic sonorous atmosphere. Whether it’s gentle incantations, trance inducing vocal meditations or arpeggios this album is exquisitely gentle, yet curiously riveting and at times hypnotic.
There isn’t much more that I can say except buy it, and see if you can find the source of the album’s title.
A List Too Small – My Favorites of 2012
Thank you to all the artists and record labels for such wonderful and diverse music.
This is one list of many, it’s my list, and it leaves off many other favorites that I have enjoyed over the year in addition to the thousands of other albums and single tracks that make up music throughout the World. What has helped me arrive at this list is what I have always loved about music: Does it move me? In addition, is it creative, well recorded and produced with a degree of care that makes me pay attention to it? There was a time when I was obsessed with highly produced and tightly engineered works, then I learned about artists such as East River Pipe and Sparklehorse, and many other genres of music were opened to me.
If you don’t see your favorite album on this list (or even your own album), it doesn’t mean a thing. If an album has been reviewed on my website this year, it’s meaningful to many others and me, but this is only a very, very small slice of the music world. Often people ask me about new music, and what I recommend. When I started this website in late January, 2012 it was first a means to write about music that I enjoyed, but also to get to know other artists and learn about new music that they create, so I could pass it on. Often, the best new music is that referred by a friend. Please feel free to send me your comments and recommendations.
Special note: There are still three or four late 2012 releases that are either enroute to me, have yet to be released or have just arrived. I need to spend proper time listening to and absorbing these albums. Rather than delaying this list further, and if after listening to those last 2012 releases I feel that they hit a sweet spot, I’ll review those albums in early 2013. I know of at least two 2012 releases that I’ll likely not receive until 2013.
I have three categories: Albums (12), Individual Tracks (6), and Special Releases (3) that don’t necessarily fit into a category.
Albums (Artist – Album Title – Record Label)
1) Twigs & Yarn – The Language of Flowers – Flau
2) Lambchop – Mr. M – Merge Records
3) Zammuto – Zammuto – Temporary Residence
4) Steve Hackett – Genesis Revisited II – Inside Out Music
5) Taylor Deupree – Faint – 12k
6) Billow Observatory – Billow Observatory – Felte
7) Gareth Dickson – Quite A Way Away – 12k
8) Pill-Oh – Vanishing Mirror – Kitchen. Label
9) Brambles – Charcoal – Serein
10) Almost Charlie – Tomorrow’s Yesterday – Words On Music
11) Cody ChesnuTT – Landing On A Hundred – One Little Indian
12) Stick Men – Deep – Stick Men Records
Individual Tracks (from other albums)[vimeo http://vimeo.com/46499688]
1) Library Tapes – Sun peeking through (from the album Sun peeking through) – Self Released
2) Cock & Swan – Orange & Pink (from the album Stash) – Lost Tribe Sound
3) Alex Tiuniaev – Daylight (from the album Blurred) – Heat Death Records
4) Kyle Bobby Dunn – In Praise of Tears (from the album In Miserum Stercus) – Komino
5) Kane Ikin & David Wenngren – Chalk (from the album Strangers) – Keshhhhhh
6) Olan Mill – Bleu Polar (from the album Paths) – Fac-ture
1) Celer & Machinefabriek: Maastunnel/Mt. Mitake, Numa/Penarie, Hei/Sou – Self Released
2) Birds Of A Feather: Michael Frommer – The Great Northern Loon, Porya Hatami – The Black Woodpecker, Darren McClure – The Black Kite, The Green Kingdom – The Great Blue Heron – Flaming Pines
3) Simon Scott, Corey Fuller, Marcus Fischer, Tomoyoshi Date and Taylor Deupree (Recorded live in Japan October, 8, 2012) – Between (…The Branches) – 12k
Record Labels Noted Above
Merge Records: http://www.mergerecords.com/
Temporary Residence LTD: http://temporaryresidence.com/
Inside Out: http://www.insideoutmusic.com/
Kitchen. Label: http://www.kitchen-label.com/
Words On Music: http://www.words-on-music.com/
One Little Indian: http://indian.co.uk/shop/landing-on-a-hundred-1.html
Stick Men Records: http://stick-men.net
Library Tapes: http://librarytapes.com/
Lost Tribe Sound: http://www.cockandswan.com/ Note: I have not listed the weblink to the record label as Google has noted that the website MAY be compromised.
Heat Death Records: http://www.heatdeathrecords.co.uk/
Kesh (Simon Scott’s label): http://www.keshhhhhh.com/
Machinefabriek & Celer: http://machinefabriek.bandcamp.com/ & http://www.thesingularwe.org/fs/
Flaming Pines: http://flamingpines.com/
SRFélix – SRFélix
My Little Cab Records MLCR#031 CDr limited run of 100 (Review copy is #25)
Timing: 23:56 Mastered by Emmanuel Nogues
Website and Ordering: http://mylittlecabrecords.bandcamp.com/album/srf-lix
Tracks: 1) We Walk Until The End; 2) The Wind Dies; 3) Leaving Home; 4) A River In Winter; 5) Old Memories; 6) Until The End
S. R. Félix lives and records his works at home, between Lille and the shores of Brittany in France. His self-titled debut release on My Little Cab Records is an enchanting sonic novella that alternates between states of observation and contemplation. Most of the instrumentation is acoustic (piano, guitar, strings and treatments), and there are similarities with the instrumental portions of recent works by Will Samson and Gareth Dickson. There is deep sense of reverence for place and time.
We Walk Until The End announces a departure on a (perhaps imagined) journey with a layered and expansive beckoning, which gradually develops into an exultant march before fading. The Wind Dies shifts to a more introspective piano meditation. The recording preserves the ambient sounds of the inner workings of the muted piano*. Leaving Home continues the sense of reflection, this time with a solitary electric guitar lament. It starts quietly and grows more intense during the choruses. A River In Winter is a more outward looking and expansive sonic vision; a desolate scene encountered as the journey continues. Old Memories has a metronomic muted piano (layered with shimmering guitar). It expresses the passage of time, and gives the sense of viewing faded photographs. Until The End is perhaps the arrival at the destination, to a darker yet more serene realm. The sound is deeper and moves in waves to the close.
My Little Cab Records is a French DIY record label that has released mostly limited edition CDrs since 2004. The CD sleeve has an intriguing pine forest panorama spanning the front and back covers of the expressive and fully hand-lettered sleeve (with pressed dried flowers). S. R. Félix is working on his next album, to be released in 2013. Although this eponymous debut release is more akin to an extended EP than a full LP album, I find it to be a solid introduction to Félix’s work, and I look forward to the future release, as well.
*-Recording note: There is a slight vibration at the edges of the sonic peaks on this track. To be certain that it was not my equipment, I switched between multiple pairs of speakers and the vibration remained. It is not too distracting, but it is noticeable on certain equipment.
This is a solicited review, although I had already purchased a copy of the album.
Gareth Dickson – Quite A Way Away – *UPDATED Happy Easters Video*
CD 43:24 – 12K1070 – 12k Records
http://www.12k.com/ & http://www.garethdickson.com/
1) Adrenaline, 2) Noon, 3) Get Together, 4) Quite A Way Away, 5) This Is The Kiss, 6) Happy Easters, 7) Nunca Jamas (Never Ever), 8) Jonah
More beautiful music to disappear into, discovered this time by an association with a record label that I have quickly come to admire a great deal, 12k. There is quite a story behind this album by Gareth Dickson and it is told best, right here:
The comparisons to the sound, the voice and the music are immediate: Nick Drake, Bert Jansch and others, yet there are some distinct differences, some technological and some musical. I speculate that some of the tunings and picking are similar to techniques used by Nick Drake (whose work I am far more familiar with), but there are similarities to another guitarist I admire a great deal, Anthony Phillips (Geese and the Ghost, many others, and collaborations with Harry Williamson: Tarka & Gypsy Suite).
With the exception of instrumental piece Happy Easters, each song starts with an extended introduction on the guitar. It sets the mood, the color, space and even establishes a sonic incantation for the coming lyrics (much of which are of love, longing and searching).
The recordings have incredible depth (considering they are classified as “lo-fi”). I’m not sure how the album was engineered, processed or mic’ed, but there are some guitar sound similarities to Neil Young’s recent album Le Noise that was produced and engineered by Daniel Lanois. In Quite A Way Away the guitar sounds as an orchestra (whether strings are muted or being played at their fullest at the heart of the guitar). The instrumentation is as stark as Nick Drake’s Pink Moon yet the sound is as full as Five Leaves Left or Bryter Layter—so wonderful to hear.
Happy Easters, to me, is very strongly reminiscent of the acoustic sections of Anthony Phillips’ Scottish Suite as well as other pieces from his second Private Parts and Pieces series of albums. Quite fitting, since Gareth Dickson is originally from Glasgow, Scotland, and his voice also reveals his roots elsewhere on the album.
This is not an album of songs with guitar accompaniment nor is it a guitar album with vocals. Gareth Dickson combines both and reaches into the sonorous depths to create a passionate, deeply emotional and soulful music.
Links to other song samples here: http://soundcloud.com/gareth-dickson