Jan 032015

Hello and welcome to 2015!

Although we Hallers don’t spend a whole lotta time discussing new music, I know you’re out there buying new music. Shall we have some further discussion about The Year In Music, 2014?

Here are my favorite 5 albums of the year, presented in no particular order. To make this list, each album had to feel coherent and have no throw away tracks. I’ve included a link to a track from each album for your tasting pleasure. Please raise your glasses to the following:
1. Steve Gunn – “Way Out Weather” The guitarist from Kurt Vile’s band, The Violators, is now singing along with his melodic music making. Aromas of Laurel Canyon, with some of the pong of David Crosby and John Fahey.
2. Spoon – “They Want My Soul” This album goes down easy, but with some quirky production Lindsey Buckinghamesque (really, it’s produced by Dave Fridmann a la Mercury Rev and Flaming Lips). While this album appears on so many Best Of lists, Britt Daniel continues to manage to dodge Rock Star Diva status and brings words of heartache (and notes of sour grapefruit) to the greater American People.
3. Real Estate – “Atlas” Melodic janglepop. Vanilla, oaky, earnest. Still a small vineyard production.
4. The Soundcarriers – “Entropicalia” For those of you who still mourn the loss of Broadcast and Stereolab, this fizzy concoction will get your toes tapping. Notes of The Free Design and Can.
5. Eno-Hyde – “High Life” No Miller canned shit, this is of English and African origin. Additional drone aromas and aged in a vintage “My Life In the Bush of Ghosts” cask.

Five additional albums were tasty but they didn’t make my Top 5. Included are links to live performances:
6. Cibo Matto – “Hotel Valentine” A new whimsical and thematic album from Miho Hatori and Yuka Honda and released on Sean Lennon’s label. This one’s not about food (see “Viva La Woman”) but instead relays the observations of a ghost girl (kawaii!).
7. Camper Van Beethoven – “El Camino Real” Another thematic album, and the twin to 2013’s “La Costa Perdida.” While the earlier album focused on NorCal, “El Camino Real” is a narrative of Southern California’s sights and people. Mellower than vintage CVB but with sharp, dead-on observations.
8. St. Vincent – “St. Vincent” I don’t care for Annie’s new blond hair, but this album yielded a couple of very good singles and live performances.
9. Tricky – “Adrian Thaws” More club oriented than some of his previous albums. Sexy and violent.
10. Deerhoof – “La Isla Bonita” More noise from that crazy formerly-of-San Francisco foursome. Spiky, melodic, poetic.

What were your favorite albums of 2014?

Feb 042012

I tend to do most of my music listening while driving to and from work. This nice half hour drive gives me a chance to get through most of an album or a collection of singles. Today, I was listening to a mix of recent music that Mr. Royale had compiled for me, and it included a song from St. Vincent‘s most recent album, Strange Mercy. The song is “Surgeon” and features David Cronenberg/JG Ballard-like lyrics, some Yes-style guitar work, and a grand Prince finale. Despite this odd assortment of styles, I sort of like this song. On my second listen this evening, it dawned on me: Annie Clark is today’s Kate Bush. Both reveal a great deal of emotionality through somewhat breathy singing, and their music is lushly produced.

So tonight, I looked up a video for the song:

Now I’m confused. First I had to suspend the image of doe-eyed, guitar-strumming folk singer whom I saw open for Stephen Malkmus a few years ago. Then came her next album, Actor, which included a couple of good songs but was ultimately too complicated for me to really embrace. And now in this video, young Annie appears to be getting in touch with her inner and outer PJ Harvey.

I don’t have a firm grasp on St. Vincent. Rewind even further and there she is in the identical choir robe worn by all the members of The Polyphonic Spree. Is she now making up for lost (wardrobe and makeup) time by adopting a series of Bowie-like personae? What’s your take on St. Vincent?


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