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Tops in 2015

“And may all your favorite bands stay together…”

Dawes

A fabulous year for music. The return of some old favorites [ELO ,Robert Forster ,The Waterboys ,Brian Wilson , B.C.Camplight] and some new artists [C. Duncan ,Fraser A. Gorman ,Tobias Jesso Jr.,  Pop 4 }. Music that kept me up late intently listening he last couple months. Now it is time to make my yearly list . Keep in mind that after the top 10 or so, rankings are arbitrary. It’s music that moved me. Made me think, dream, dance, and cry.

So now I’m ready to share my thoughts.

1] The Bird and the Bee- “Recreational Love”

“I don’t care if people stare

People stare at all the wrong things…”

I have been a big fan of Inara George’s voice since this group began. She has the perfect pop voice. And her band mate, Greg Kurstin has surrounded that voice with a sweet , sophisticated production .You can say it is dance music. I prefer to call it Lounge pop. These are tunes of love and desire with strong melodies, well arranged and filled with studio tricks that Mr. Kurstin excels at.

Hooks -moments that delight with each listen:

The jazzy piano solo on “Young and Dumb”

“All my girlfriends say” on “Recreational love”

“We say Ah” the sigh on “Will you dance”

The cool chorus on “Runaway”

“Tell me how you missed me while you kiss me” on “Please take me home”

The album ends with one of the best songs of the year. “Lovey Dovey” is a dreamy end of the day song that stands apart from the rest of the album in it’s pop splendor.

“All through the day I get such an ache in my heart…”

The night comes and all ends well.  A good indication of the incredible pop music these two are capable of.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dHdhCQGzIHg

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CXW2splTvm8&index=2&list=PLmKOSiZH7uQPgEbas_Of8eJTa_Pqfx0we

2] Joanna Newsom- ” Divers”

“Anecdotes cannot say what Time may do…”

5 years after she dazzled us with the 3 record set “Have one on me” [my #1 album that year], Joanna has graced us with the next step in her evolution. “Divers” is a distillation of her previous work. Perhaps more simple at times, but the end result is no less complex. This is Baroque orchestral pop filled with folk music and rich poetic imagery. Her vocals are almost operatic at times. That voice can be polarizing to some. I find a lot of beauty in it. The compositions are filled with lots of changes. Take opening track “Anecdotes” for example. It begins with voice and harp, then slowly builds over 6 minutes, adding instruments, the music swelling in orchestral beauty. It concludes with gorgeous piano.  Outstanding!

Hooks:

The intricate way she sings “Do you love me, Will you remember…” from “Sapokanikan, sounding like a tune from the Renaissance.

The high double tracked vocals toward the end of  “Sapokanikan”   showing impressive range.

The lovely harp intro to “Leaving the City”

The stark repeated “You will not take my heart alive ” Chilling!

The jig  at the close of “Waltz of the 101st Lightborne”

I really cannot say much about the lyrics  or their meaning. They come off happy /sad  .I have read several reviews that point to  overall themes.  Perhaps. I can only say that these 11 songs touch me emotionally and the music is exhilarating. Joanna continues to refine her craft and is one of our most important artists. While not for everyone, if she gets to you there are so many rewards.

Something worth noting that was pointed out in an excellent Pitchfork review by Laura Snapes. The final word sung at the album’s conclusion is “trans” and the first word to open the album is ‘sending”. Pretty neat!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tKjkxl6un3U&list=PLmKOSiZH7uQPgEbas_Of8eJTa_Pqfx0we&index=

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KK6oJMb-jT0&list=PLmKOSiZH7uQPgEbas_Of8eJTa_Pqfx0we&index=5

3] Tame Impala- “Currents”

“feel like a brand new person..”

Pretty much a solo Kevin Parker album. He wrote, performed, and produced everything. And it is magnificent. Supposed to be a “breakup” album, and I get that from some of the lyrics.  But the music is pure joy to listen to and experience ,filled with sweet pop , sublime vocals, and studio trickery.

Songs like “Let it happen”, “The Moment”, “Yes I’m Changing”, and “Cause I’m a Man” are among the finest pop songs of the year. And then there’s “Eventually” [my favorite]

“I know that I’ll be happier .And I know you will too” followed by the song’s title “Eventually”. The way Mr. Parker sings that is oh so sweet , yet vulnerable. Who knows when that happiness will occur ?

Hooks:

On “Let it Happen”- the sound drops off at the beginning, then at the end there is a loop stuck on repeat.

The massive opening to “Eventually” which quickly  settles into sweet pop.

The nifty bass and gorgeous vocals on “The less I know the Better”

The eerie mumbled spoken voice on “Past Life”

The shuffle sway on “The Moment”- finger snappin’ good

The switch to an octave higher on the R&B “New Person Same Old Mistakes”-so good!
‘They say people never change but that’s bullshit. They do…”from “Yes I’m changing”

The pop perfect ending “It’s calling out for you” to “Yes I’m changing”

There is something to marvel at on each track. Like one of his idols, Todd Rundgren, Kevin is a wizzard in the studio. Without a lot of guitar this time out ,and his heart on his sleeve he has crafted a a sonic treasure.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tb7PnoIasJ8&index=8&list=PLmKOSiZH7uQPgEbas_Of8eJTa_Pqfx

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0uts-_rsxPM&list=PLmKOSiZH7uQPgEbas_Of8eJTa_Pqfx0we&index=7

4] Julia Holter- “Have you in my Wilderness”

“Language is such a play…”

While immersing myself with Julia’s music i had a Dove Promise. The message inside was “Be a little mysterious” .How appropriate, since this album is full of mystery. Songs about running away, being stranded on an island, and life flashing before your eyes.  The music however is gorgeous pop. Her first couple of albums labeled her as an avant guard artist . But on her third , “Loud city Song “she opened up more to pop conventions.She did a great cover of the R&B song “Hello Stranger”. That is how I found her.

The reviews on “Wilderness” have been outstanding.  It topped both Mojo and Uncut’s year end lists. Songs like “Betsy on the Roof” and “Sea calls me home” are among the best songs I’ve heard all year. The album is filled with lovely emotional ballads .In Julia’s own words, “Songs that dwell together”

Hooks:

Julia’s voice- so sensual and moving. She leaves me breathless at times.

The gothic noir of “How Long”. Are you listening Lana Del Rey?

The spoken word at the end of “Lucette Stranded on the Island”

The strings on “Silhouette” and “Night Song”.  Very cinematic.

The growling sax solo on “Sea calls me home” and gotta love the whistling.

The chorus on “Sea calls me home”-so haunting

“I can’t swim. It’s lucidity. So clear…”

Do check this one out. And here are a couple of videos of Julia performing her music:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rngDB9dYXzA&index=10&list=PLmKOSiZH7uQPgEbas_Of8eJTa_Pqfx0we

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sr6nIWQnTTI&index=9&list=PLmKOSiZH7uQPgEbas_Of8eJTa_Pqfx0we

5]Brandon Schott- “Crayons and Angels”

“Lift up your voice and sing a joyful tune…”

And there are plenty of joyful tunes found on this majestic power pop album. I have to thank Alan Haber for leading me to this gem. For Brandon Schott has put together a pop masterpiece . And I don’t use that term loosely.

A lot of work went into this project and it payed off. There are several gorgeous instrumentals, a couple duets, a swell Elvis Costello cover, and lots of inspired pop tunes. So many influences spring forth. Of course Beatles and Brian, plus some Nilsson. However Brandon can be proud that this is his album, these are his tunes.He has a beautiful clear voice, and the production is pop perfect, guaranteed to move you emotionally .

Hooks:

The Baroque “Verdugo Park”

The sweet duet with Kelly Jones- “Every little Thing” I have yet to hear anything with her that I didn’t enjoy.

The several instrumental interludes are all lovely , especially the bright “Sunglow” and gorgeous “Wisteria”

the falsetto in “Seeing you in Stereo’- great title, terrific tune.

The wistful charm of “Dandelion Rain”

One of my favorite tunes is the power pop “Dear Daisy.” One of Brandon’s best vocals, and it’s over in 2 minutes.

The album ends with the pretty ballad ‘ Sweet Adelyne”

” world turns right on time for you…”

Quite an accomplishment.  i must add that I ordered this from Brandon’s site. Within a day or two at the most, I received an e-mail from Brandon stating he had just mailed the cd and to please let him know if there were any problems. The cd arrived promptly, and with it was a kazoo ! That is great customer service.

I love this music. Thanks Brandon for the great production. And once again, a thak you to Alan Haber for the tip.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SS3XYnY-7_E&index=12&list=PLmKOSiZH7uQPgEbas_Of8eJTa_Pqfx0we

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_zt-6om2qYs&list=PLmKOSiZH7uQPgEbas_Of8eJTa_Pqfx0we&index=13

6] Eleni Mandell- “Dark Lights Up”

“There’s a town called Heartache in the state of Misery

I used to live there all year round…”

Inspired by an afternoon stroll with her 2 children through the Country Music Hall of Fame.we have the benefit of a new album by one of our best singer/ songwriters. You might guess that the inspiration and from those lyrics quoted above that she made a country album. Guess again. She already did one in 2003. “Country for true Lovers”.Eleni’s music defies categories. There is a touch of country [“What love can do”] but this is mostly folk/ jazz.Her music can make you laugh, make you think, and make you cry. Her main theme is the search for love, but she has a couple tunes here about being a mother. One of her most touching songs ever is “Old Lady” where she wonders if her children will still visit when she is older. it contains this beautiful lyric:

“When I close my eyes I’m still just a girl…”

“Butter Blonde and Chocolate Brown” is a deeply affectionate portrait of her children ending with herself.

“Apartment is small but we manage ok…”

Hooks:

“I’ll have an Old Fashioned of course” on the song “Old Fashioned”

The duet with Mike Viola . He sure gets around.

Eleni having some fun on “Cold Snap” and “If you wanna get kissed ”

The touching finale “Do it Again”

“My heart was hungry and forlorn…”

If you ever have the chance to see this lady , do see. She is an amazing performer. I await her next one.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MUvLFZXbu7U&list=PLmKOSiZH7uQPgEbas_Of8eJTa_Pqfx0we&index=

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R1ZyHGxyptw

7]Pop 4- “Summer”

“You gotta live every moment  gotta love everything

Doesn’t take an Einstein to realize the sunshine is better than the rain…”

Once again I have Alan Haber to thank for finding this release. I actually won the cd in one of his contests. And what an unexpected pleasure it turned out to be. Pop 4 refers to 4 pop artists : Scott McPherson ,KC Bowman,Kirk Adams, and Andrea Perry. The album was recorded at their homes and on the web . And it is remarkable. Here are 4 musicians who play some of the finest pop I’ve heard all year.  It plays like a juke box loaded with great pop, with beautiful melodies, terrific harmonies, and influences like the Beatles, Nilsson,  ELO,and Aimee Mann, the Cowsills, and sunshine pop.

The album starts with with all four singing “I will become Love ” a capella , followed by the positive “Beautiful” with a nice guitar solo. Things really take off on the ELO inspired “Einstein and Sunshine. “Each artist has a song to add to the mix, and there is fun to be had by seeing who did  what, because they are all wonderful artists.

Hooks:

The gorgeous “Jaded” a nod to Harry Nilsson.

Andrea’s “I’m so  Jealous” a song that was stuck in my head for a while.

The old time piano on “Julionne Irish” , a  tune McCartney should love.

The ode to Aimee Mann on “You’re no Aimee Mann” with a great vocal addition by Andrea at 3 minutes in.

The catchy as can be “Lovers Limbo” .You really have to sing along.

The superb “Tour for the Brokenhearted ” What a song!

“No ties that bind to be found here

Duets turn into solos for reasons we can’t know…”

The strings in the finale to album closer “Dust”.

So 50 minutes of “Summer”.  And this album sounds groovy in a car. The arrangements, the guitars, the strings, and the vocals are all pop perfection.  I not only won a wonderful album, I now have four new artists to research. All four have their own pop projects . I see that Scott even has a group  called The Prefab Sprout Project. Now that I have to check out.

Please seek this music out. It is waiting for you.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N_r7wvLFRnU

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=euS8Iu3zaw0

8]Natalie Prass– “Natalie Prass”

“You don’t leave me no choice But to run away  You are a bird of Prey…”

Last year , the single “Bird of Prey” made my list of top songs .In January of 2015  we got the debut full length.A pop soul classic with songs accenting the fragility of heartbreak. I fell in love with her voice from the start, and really enjoy that the arrangements enhance those vocals so well.  She sings very calmly of love’s misfortunes , while surrounded by horns and strings that help get that heartache showcased.

” Your Fool” appears twice. Once a lovely ballad where she literally coos the lyrics .The reprise is a flourish of instruments while Natalie recites the lyrics.  “Christy ‘ is a tribute to Brazilian singer Gal Costa and arranger Rogerio Duprat, with a gorgeous melody that shows off Natalie’s high register.

“Violently” has the darkest lyrics .

“I just want to know you violently. I’ve had enough of talking politely ..”

In that song she sings of breaking her legs so she won’t walk to her lover. That is very reminiscent of a Sharon Van Etten tune with similar lyrics.

Through all of the pain, Natalie’s voice remains soft and somber, letting the horns and strings to complete her. Not since Dusty Springfield as a singer pulled something like that off.

This is a remarkable production handled by Mathew E. White.

The album ends with “It is You” that stands out from the rest of the album. It is said to be a tribute to vintage Disney soundtracks. And it sounds like something Snow White would sing with a lilting harp and a flute adding to the orchestration. This song and “Christy” point to a possible different direction for Natlalie. It will be interesting to see what follows,

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4x6WNWgRSI

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4x6WNWgRSIQ

9] Tobias Jesso Jr.- “Goon”

“I was brought up right, I said my prayers every night since 1995 …”

“Is that McCartney ?” my wife Amy asked one Sunday afternoon while I was playing this album. And she wasn’t that off. On closer listening Sir Paul is all over this wonderful release. I first discovered him on The Tonight Show , with Jimmy Fallon  gushing over this brand new singer. Right after that I saw a very favorable review at Pitchfork.  Got right on that. A pianist/ singer with his heart on his sleeve. How could I resist.

Bacharach and Jimmy Webb are like like gods to me. Tobias reminds me a lot of a young Jimmy Webb. This album is filled with well written songs and performed with great emotion. There are so many nice moments to discuss :

-His voice cracking towards the end of “How could you Babe”

-The falsetto on “Bad Words”

-“Someone let him in” in “Can we still be friends”- a total McCartney Wings steal.

-His humorous crying on “Crocodile Tears”. Great guitar solo too.

“My baby she loves to see me cry   Boo Hoo hoo…”

-Tobias playing acoustic guitar on  the vulnerable “The Wait” ”

“but honey I’m tired, tired of the wait…”

-the elegant piano on “Can’t stop thinking about you ”

My favorite is the desperate cry in his voice on “Without You”

“I can hardly breathe without you

there is no future I want to see without you…”

But the situation has hope as he pleads further  “Oh what have you got to loose..” This one brings tears to my eyes. You are rooting for the poor guy.

So we have a future star to follow. There is always room for a singer/ songwriter  with the talent this young artist displays on this impressive debut. As he sings in “Hollywood”

“I don’t know if I can fake it if they tell me I’m no good …”

Tobias you are very good. Can’t wait for more from you.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ScQW5mizYGo&list=PLmKOSiZH7uQPgEbas_Of8eJTa_Pqfx0we&index=1

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bcwKD9rmmq4&list=PLmKOSiZH7uQPgEbas_Of8eJTa_Pqfx0we&

10] Belle and Sebastian- “Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance ”

” A subtle gift to modern rock    She says “be popular play pop

and you will win my love…”

I have so much respect for Stuart Murdoch after seeing his movie “God Help the Girl”. It was such a sweet look at young romance, friendship, and most important making music. I adored it and was quite moved.

I’m such a fan, that a new album is an event in my corner. In an interview to announce this recording, Stuart stated that the album was inspired by the Eurovision Song Contest. That explains the upbeat dance songs like “The Party Line”, “Enter Sylvia Plath”, and “Perfect Couples”. They mix it up nicely , transitioning dance with techno, rock, and some of the sweet pop they are known for. It is all intoxicating and makes for a very good listen.

hooks:

-the personal lyrics on “Nobody’s Empire” that address Stuart’s past affliction with chronic fatigue syndrome.

-the great guitar solo on the Abba sounding “The Book of You”.

-the swelling strings on “The Cat with the Cream”

“I cover up my head and pray  I’m praying for the light…”

-the jazz percussion opening the cool “Perfect Couples”.

-“the tricks in your head are a lie…” from “Allie”

I have two favorites .One is “The power of three” sung by Sarah Martin and featuring emotional strings and synths. Sarah’s vocals are superb. ‘It’s the blink of an eye. It’s the beat of a heart…”

The other is a lovely duet with Dee Dee of The Dum Dum Girls.  Inspired choice!

“Love is a fraud It’s misunderstood. Work is a sentence…”

The lyrics ,song placement, and production are a triumph. They took some chances, even tackled disco  [“The Party Line” ] and it still comes out sounding like Belle and Sebastian. Love that Euro pop !

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3vS1Hf3C

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oQsZBQp6sKI&list=PLmKOSiZH7uQPgEbas_Of8eJTa_Pqfx0we&index

11] Liam Hayes- “Slurrup”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zI9jc6mxNds

Liam a former perfectionist is on a roll.He had one on last year’s list. He’s got a rocking trio and they are knockin’ out beat music and power pop gems.

12]Louise Le May- “A Tale Untold”

Featuring production and piano by the great Louis Philippe . Nice mystical folk pop.

13] Wilco – “Star Wars” Pleasant surprise from America’s best band.  Just showed up with little notice and it rocks.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cQe_yM87_yc

14] Jeff Lynne’s ELO- “Alone in the Universe ”

Nice to see Jeff back with this timeless music.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qvRlCmi-INE

15] Fraser A. Gorman – “Slow Gum”

New artist from Australia. Early reviews said he was similar to the Go Betweens. I get that, but I also hear a bit of the Kinks. Someone to keep tabs on.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oL9T6UG8HsI

16] Destroyer- ” Poison Season ”

Dan Bejar with his intellectual rock that is strange and sumptuous . Horns and strings add to the sleek sound.

17] Glen Hansard- “Didn’t he Ramble”

Wonderful set of folk tunes that build to emotional highs.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vbRxEg-GeU4

18] C Duncan – “Architect”

Found this from another year end list, and it is awesome. Bedroom pop, but it doesn’t sound like it.A true talent and a real find. Seek it out.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vH9cu1d6ryo

19]Robert Forster- “Songs to Play”

Great to hear from the former Go Betweens star sounding reinvigorated with a fine set of tunes.Poetic and very funny at times : “I mistook Memphis for a house in Surrey. You can miss detail when you’re in a hurry…’.

20] Lana Del Rey- “Honeymoon”

I have to give credit to Sondre Lerche . It was his provocative essay on Lana in The Talkhouse that led me to purchasing this album. Her slow moody torch songs have won me over. The orchestrations and her striking lyrics take you to another wold. Her world. “We can slow dance to rock music. Kiss while we do it…”

Bubbling under:

21] B C Camplight-  “How to die in the North”- More pop inventions from Brian Christinzio, a unique artist.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QY7MIqZ6Bvo&nohtml5=False

22] The School- “Wasting away and Wondering” More whimsical pop from Liz Hunt and Co.

23] Courtney Barnett- “Sometimes I sit and Think,sometimes I just sit ”

“put me on a pedestal and I’ll only disappoint you…”

24] Richard Hawley- “Hollow Meadows”-What a gorgeous voice . Heartbreaking!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i9t9nfgwhYA&list=PLmKOSiZH7uQPgEbas_Of8eJTa_Pqfx0we&index=19

25]Graham Parker and the Rumour- “Mystery Glue “- Like receiving a call from an old friend.

26] The Waterboys- “Modern Blues” Mike Scott still put there  getting it done.

27]Sufjan Stevens- “Carrie and Lowell “- Songs dealing with death, memories, and loss.

28]My Morning Jacket- “Waterfall” Epic! Jim James in fine voice.

29 James Taylor- “Before This World”- Seasoned pro with an inspired set of tunes that truly touched me.

30] Dawes- “All your favorite Bands”- like 9 short stories

“Let’s raise a glass to all the people you’re not speaking to…”

Some more good work ;

-Don Henley- “Cass County” – featuring some backing vocals by my favorite singer Molly Felder of Swan Dive

-Brian Wilson- “No Pier Pressure”-Some lovely tunes . Still wanting Brian to do an album with The Wondermints.

-F F S “FFS”- Sparks and Franz Ferdinand- strangely it works. Tons of fun!

-Martin Courtney- “Many Moons”- lead singer of Real Estate with some gorgeous music.

-Jason Isbell- “Something more than Free”- Mature and diverse effort.

-Summer Fiction- “Himalaya”- Pure pop of the highest order.

-Diamond Rugs- “Cosmetics”- Tight  Nashville band that sounds like Buddy Holly at times.

-Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell- “The Traveling Kind”- So sweet together.

-Ezra Furman -“Perpetual Motion People”- Passionate rock poet.

-The Do- “Shake Shook Shaken”- French Finnish duo making a glorious noise.

Recordings of Special Merit :

-Terry Adams -“Talk Thelonious” -Finally together with NRBQ an entire album dedicated to the music of Monk.

-Nellie McKay- “My Weekly Reader” -Nellie embraces the past and goes deep in her record collection with an amazing set of covers. like Gerry and the Pacemakers, Zappa, and Country Joe and the Fish.

-The Haden Triplets- The three daughters of the late Charlie Haden singing mostly traditional American music with the great Ry Cooder producing. Their site states the music is ‘sung in close harmony that could only be achieved from sharing a lifetime of sisterly togetherness and a near psychic vocal interplay that can only come from being born seconds apart from each other.” A remarkable album.

Oxford American Music Issue : The music of Georgia.

I’ve mentioned this before and it’s always a terrific deal. A 25 track cd and magazine. This cd has diverse music by Sandy Gaye, Ma Rainey, Tut Taylor, and a 1961 demo of Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer doing “Moon River”

Songs of the Year:

-Cotton Mather- “Book of too late changes”-Amazing song, sounding like The Who. Hope this means more music is coming.

-Jules Shear- “The Words”- Great song! He claims more is on the way.

-Loch Ness Mouse – “Warm Circuitry”-I have Sondre Lerche to thank for finding this group from Norway sounding a bit like the revered Prefab Sprout. Hope I can find their new lbum.

-Dornik- “Strong”- Again, from a Sondre Lerche playlist. Know nothing about him.Just that I love the song.

-Jeff Lynne’s ELO- “When I was a boy”  “Music played inside my head. When I was a boy I had a dream…”

-C Duncan- “I’ll be gone by Winter”- An absolute gorgeous song

-The Do- “Trustful Hands”- Heard this on the car radio on “The Big Beat” [WXRT]. Had to stay in the garage to hear  who it was.

-Sharon Van Etten- “I don’t want to let you down”

-Miguel- “Coffee”- Who doen’t like coffee in the morning.

-Paranoid Style- “Natural Sunday Law”- This really rocks. Elizabeth describes her music as “glam rock for the end of time”

-Dawes- “All your favorite Bands”- I quoted this one at the beginning of this list. A break up song with this romantic line: “And may all your favorite bands stay together…”

-Panda Bear-“Tropic of Cancer”- Hypnotic.

-Sondre Lerche- “Despite the Night”- One of our best pop performers. He also did his annual cover qwhich was “Hotline Bling”.

-Tobias Jesso Jr.- “True Love”- A song that didn’t make the debut album.

-Bird and the Bee- “Lovey Dovey”

I need to check out: Susan Sundfor, Gaz Coombes, Jenny Hval, Loch Ness Mouse [hope I can find it}, Mac Demarco

Looking forward to in 2016:

M. Ward, Porches, Lake Street Dive, Neko Case KD Lang and Laura Viers [not sure what they are calling this group], The Flat Five, Ben Watt, M83, High Llamas, Andy Bopp,Teddy Thompson and Kelly Jones, Margo Price, Mitski, Dori Freeman, Frankie Cosmos, Paul Simon, Bill DeMain, The Silver Seas, Elle Macho, Michael Carpenter,

Teenage Fanclub

I can dream can’t I ?-

Prefab Sprout, Swan Dive, Sylvie Lewis, and my annual hope for new music by the amazing Gary Clark.

Rest in Peace:  We lost the great Ornette Coleman, the man who invented Free Jazz. I had the pleasure of seeing Ornette several times. Always had a flashy suit ,a warm smile, and played solos that were at times fierce and at times beautiful. His box set, “Beauty is a rare thing” is perhaps the best box set ever. I miss him dearly.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QSmYTc1Jv7w

Special Re-issue: Michael Head and the Strands- “The Magical World of the Strands”

Was kind of like the holy grail of unavailable pop from the man that would later form Shack. I found it once in a while but it was always  very expensive.  Now it is out with the promise of another release of music from the same era.  I am so glad to have this warm and stimulating  Folk pop. It was worth the wait.

Special Mention:

Jon Batiste and Stay Human- The band on the current Colbert show. As much as I love the Roots, this group is very special. Jazz with a New Orleans flair. Just tune in and watch this man play the piano, while his band is full of joy. Watch them parade through the audience or play in the balcony.  I look forward to them every night.

Shout Outs-

-Alan Haber and his Pure Pop Radio– His passion for pop music is contagious. I love his daily messages and his pop radio stream. And it was  Alan that led me to Brandon Schott and Pop 4, both of which made my top 10.And he already has me excited about Dori Freeman in 2016.

-Mojo Magazine -It’s commitment to music is astonishing. The monthly review section is mandatory reading for me. And the cd’s are a nice perk.

-Keeping up as well as finding new music is a full time job. To assist me I have to thank Ray at KoolKat Music, Jimmy at Matinee Records, John Mulvey  and his Uncut Magazine playlists, Pitchfork, PopMatters, Paste,Pause and Play, No Depression,and Stereogum.

-I have to thank my internet friends at Beyond A Wizard and Audities. Nice to keep in touch with people who share the passion .

So that’s my list and I’m sticking with it.I know it’s April. I take forever with my one finger typing and slow computer. But I need to share my thoughts , and it is traditional to post this. If you discover some music on this list that you end up enjoying , please don’t hesitate to let me know.  Or if you want to share an idea , I’m here .

Time to start listening to the music of 2016. Already looking like a nice year.

Thanks to my wife, Amy, for supporting my music habit.

God Save the Kinks!

Gene Good-Javagene

javagene@hotmail.com

Best Albums of 2015

Alright kiddos! The moment you’ve all been waiting for! My best of list! Sorry for not posting all year, here’s to more posts, more fun and a great 2016!

1 Ash Kablammo! 6939-kablammo-album-packshot-social-jpg
2 The Wombats Glitterbug wmbts_glitterbug_standard_1500
3 The Stereo Twins Good News a3536683460_16
4 The Monochrome Set Spaces Everywhere 6d74a9a341
5 Dr. Cosmo’s Tape Lab Beyond The Silver Sea a1159006634_16
6 Michael Carpenter The Big Radio a0599622651_10
7 The Connection Labor Of Love a0650311231_10
8 The Nines Night Surfer and the Cassette Kids a0266988542_10
9 R. STEVIE MOORE and JASON FALKNER Make It Be Cover
10 Ashley Monroe The Blade the_blade_-_ashley_monroe
11 Los Breakdowns Rock ‘N’ Roller Skates a2105631908_10
12 The Elwins Play For Keeps the-elwins-play-for-keeps-art-1024x1024
13 Sports Fan Minor Hits In Major Keys a2858213749_10
14 Pugwash Play This Intimately (As If Among Friends) pugwash_playthisintimately_ov-134
15 Adrien Reju Strange Love and The Secret Language W209
16 Legends Of Country Talk About Country a0819173494_10
17 Paul Rosevear Pearl a0792311274_10
18 Sofia Talvik Big Sky Country a0780681687_10
19 Summer Fiction Himalaya a2161060600_10
20 Taylor Locke Time Stands Still a3942898410_10
21 Joe Pisapia Nightvision a0531206337_16
22 Steve Robinson & Ed Woltil Cycle a3289357969_16
23 The Basics The Age of Entitlement basics_age_cover_sticker_mr
24 Paul Weller Saturns Pattern patterncover
25 Mystic Braves Days of Yesteryear a1888652526_16
26 Mooner Masterpiece a2649786835_16
27 The New Trocaderos Thrills & Chills a0855747183_16
28 Unlikely Friends Solid Gold Cowboys a2084579216_16
29 The Corner Laughers Matilda Effect a0783670326_16
30 The Chapin Sisters Today’s Not Yesterday chapin_sisters_todays_not_yesterday_cover
31 Dan Bern Hoody hoody600x600
32 Elvyn Valley Of The Kilowatt Hour a0650893214_16
33 Hawksley Workman Old Cheetah lp-cheetah-800
34 The Maureens Bang the Drum a3960339151_16
35 Duke Special Look Out Machines! lookoutmachinesalbumcover
36 Brandon Schott Crayons & Angels a0560499551_16
37 Belle & Sebastian Girls In Peacetime Want to Dance ole-1056_belle_sebastian-girlsinpeacetime
38 Charlatans Modern Nature 19329
39 The Maccabees Marks to Prove It 25259
40 The King Khan & BBQ Show Bad News Boys bc3808d5_large_5b315e3b-3fa0-448f-bbdf-b493cefc47be_1024x1024
41 The Lunar Laugh Apollo a0767308660_16
42 The Orange Humble Band Depressing Beauty orange_humble_depressing_beauty_cover
43 Three Hour Tour Action and Heroes tht_action_and_heroes-600x539-285x270
44 Tim Rogers & The Bamboos The Rules Of Attraction static1.squarespace.com
45 Sick Sad World Fear and Lies a3674500697_16
46 Smokey Angle Shades Shades of Joy a2967466843_16
47 Pop 4 Summer 8557970
48 Identical Suns Identical Suns identicalsuns
49 Hey Anna Run Koko a2099606323_16
50 Cameron Lew welp. a0634230924_16

and here’s a compilation!

Tops in 2014

Here it is ,March and I am embarking on my annual music wrap up from the past year. So  many reasons why I am so late, most of them involve me immersing myself in the music I’m writing about. Some of it I have recently acquired.
What a fabulous year for music. The welcome return of some favorite artists, some moody women, break up albums, and some new discoveries. Dreamers with stories to tell, and songs to sing.
It is time for me to share my thoughts on this great music. Better late than never.

1] The Pearfishers -“Open up your colouring book “..
” It’s a beautiful day, so get out of bed
You’ve got to get up while you can….”
All hail the “Master” of pop. Back after 7 years with an album that spans 16 tracks and 67 minutes of pop splendor . So much to thrill to . There is David’s magnificent multi-layered  singing.The songs are full of key changes that tug at your emotions. Acoustic guitars, timpani,  full string section , even some whistling. All composed, produced, and arranged by David Scott.
Key songs:
“Chasing all the good days down”
“You’ll never steal my spirit”
“Gone in the winter”
“Open up your colouring book.”
“One for you, two for luck, mix it all up in a wooden cup …”
“I don’t want to know about it” [this one will break your heart]
Believe me. This album is a masterpiece!
For those interested in music arranging , here is a video of David working on the album:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0nl1vXphvdI

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L34GkyZM8c0

2] Roddy Frame- “Seven Dials”
” Once,like a kid I reigned
King of all that I surveyed…”
The boy wonder returns with a brilliant set of tunes on the AED label, which is owned by his friend Edwynn Collins. In 2013 he toured and played the entire “High Land Hard Rain” album, celebrating it’s 30th anniversary. Now he’s back with his honey tinged vocals and excellent guitar work. This is an inspired effort . There is the gentle bossa nova sway to “Rear View Mirror”, and a guitar solo on “Postcard” that is straight out of “Oblivious”. By naming a song “Postcard” points to how much he is in touch with his past.
I first heard this album in a cabin in Wisconsin , and it affected me deeply. Repeated plays have elevated these songs to the status of his greats, like “Somewhere in my Heart”. It’s that good.
A mature album by a masterful musician.
Key songs:
“Into the Sun”-as good as a rock song can be.
“Cos when it goes, it goes…”
“English Garden”- a fragile ballad ,that concludes with some of his most effective singing ever. You have to hear it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VmMndqUKgg0

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nmPpN4e10sA

3] Rumer – “Into Color”
“I am Blessed…”
Blessed is an understatement. It is one thing to be in love with the soft rock that Bacharach and Webb produced. But with a voice so pure, and a producer that worked with Burt Bacharach , Rumer has put out this album that sounds like a lost classic from that era.
That producer is Bob Shirakbari, who also arranged and co-wrote the music, and piano and bass on the album. He has helped to bring to this music a sophistication unheard of in today’s music scene. And Rumer with her gorgeous voice seems to pull all of this off without effort. This is some album!
“Dangerous” is the song with  “hit” potential, but it is the rest of the songs that create the mood. Songs with key changes that tug at your heart. Songs with brass accents that Bacharach made famous, and beautiful strings. Wonderful songs like “Reach Out” and “You just don’t know people”. Songs of melancholy , heartbreak, and resolve. Even a nod to sunshine pop with “Pizza and Pinball .” This really is some album.
If you are in love with those old Dionne Warwick songs, you owe it to yourself to listen to this music, I look forward to more from this remarkable artist.
“Take a little walk in the sunshine .Count 1, 2, 3…”
Key songs:
“You just don’t know people”
“Baby come back to bed ” My favorite , co-written by Stephen Bishop.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s9O4Ep9ESUI&index=2&list=FLOQ7WhfobMIekBnIRwJrLbA

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tqnTf9etEYg

4] Real Estate- “Atlas”

” and the only thing that really matters, is the one thing I can’t seem to do…”

I saw Real Estate perform “Talking Backwards” on Letterman and I was hooked. It led me to my favorite album of the year by a standard rock quintet.  It is a sad album , with chiming guitars and plaintive vocals. The sound is crisp and tender, and is a study in simplicity.
And of course there are the songs.  Filled with great lines, like these two from “The Bend” ;
“I’m just trying to make some sense of this before I loose another year…”
“Like I’m behind the wheel , but it won’t steer…”
Some of the album was recorded at Wilco’s studio The Loft. They thank the Feelies in the credits. I get that, but I also hear Felt , a band near and dear to me.
I’ve included that Letterman clip for you. A review worth looking up is the one John Mulvey did for Uncut. Do listen to this fine music. It will touch you. These guys are sad beyond their years.
Key songs:
“Talking Backwards”
“The Bend”
“Navigator ”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GP9XEcOtjbc

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XgpaVrOJZgM

5] Swan Dive “Soundtrack to me and you”

“It’s bittersweet without the bitter…”
It came in a nifty package all the way from Korea. It is always exciting to listen to a new Swan Dive album. Reviews claim it is their 10th release. I haven’t counted, but I have them all. I love them all. There is so much to admire . Bill DeMain’s crafty songs, and Molly Felder’s awesome vocals. Pop music may be a familiar genre, but no one does it quite like Swan Dive.
This album plays like a hit parade from yesterday year. Like a countdown, every song hits and delights From the finger snapping opener “Sweet summer fling” to the feel good closer, “Good Things”, we get breezy pop, sweet R&B, torch, even a classy chanson,”Brief Interlude”. As usual we have Brad Jones producing and Jim Hoke on saxophone and horn arranging. Bill is in fine company with his composing partners [Mike Viola, Kelly Jones, Boo Hewerdine, and the great Gary Clark. He even gets Gary to sing backing vocals on “Slim Willie Dunn and the gin bottle pour.” I’ve said it before , so I’ll say it again. Molly is the best singer out there. Period. Just listen to her stunning “Star Crossed lover” if you don’t believe me. Chills galore!
If I were a wealthy man , I would love to finance a documentary on just how Bill  DeMain writes these songs.It could conclude  with the songs in production. Someday maybe.
I really love the fact that Bill is doing more singing with Molly on this one. It speaks well of the possible country duet album Bill has hinted at. That would be so cool.
My love affair with Swan Dive continues.  Like all great albums, it leaves you wanting more.
Key songs:
“Star crossed Lover”
“Brief Interlude”  [“Milkshakes for two”]
“Wrong Number”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=POK8XU_AuBs

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KpJijldTaxA

an oldie but a real goodie :
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H1mTA0IGmw0

Forgot to mention how much I love the cover art work. Beautiful!

6] Sondre Lerche- “Please ”
” Now we’ll never know what legends we were meant to be …”
Sondre is one of today’s most important pop artists. His glorious melodies, his poetic lyrics, and the combination of both is like no other. His unique talent is on full tilt with “Please .” It is a break up album, even though the actual songs were written mostly before the break. The songs are still filled with his special brand of pop. But there is more rhythm , and there are moments of sonic distortion that accent the tensions going on. There is pure adventure going on here.
Highlights:
the falsetto in “Bad Law”- quite a hook. great rhythmic dance tune
“When crimes are passionate , can love be separate …”
the weariness in his vocals in  “At a loss for words ” – he way he holds onto the word “change ”
the tug of war going on in “At times we live Alone”
“Try “I love you” ,try “get angry”…”
the incredible sax solo at the close of “Logging off”- simply amazing
There are two ballads that showcase Sondre at his very best. “Sentimentalist” shimmers with beauty even with the tension going on
“I’ll be damned if I fight , I’ll be damned if I don’t …”
It reminds me of a Jacques Brel chanson  . It ends with a wash of dissonance.
“Lucky Guy” is a gorgeous love song , perhaps Sondre’s finest. But it is a love song to his break up. Still the beauty is there, and some of the previous tension is eased up.
” I won’t lie , Baby you broke me, I am truly a lucky guy…”
It all ends with “Logging off” with it’s enigmatic lyrics of a “ghost”
“Looked for you in a mirror , but you were logging off …”
I hope when great break up albums are discussed that “Please ” is remembered. It is a milestone recording for Sondre. Can’t wait to hear what he’ll follow this with . Whatever it is , I’ll be there.
Check out the dancing in the “Legends” video. Pretty cool!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TBSy4L4Zm2A

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gsbd9j20JOs

7] Nicole Atkins- “Slow Phaser”
“Here we stand still and desired, Seagulls know what we conspired…”

One thing that can be said about Nicole Atkins. This lady can sing! I first saw her on Letterman, way back doing “The way it is”. I was immediately hooked, and she became  one of my favorite singers. She can rock , and she is an amazing torch singer.
I took this album with me on vacation in San Diego. My first  listen was on the plane ride,and it became our favorite in the rental car. Every time I played  it , my wife would say “Who is this ?” She really liked  Nicole’s voice. That is saying a lot, because she doesn’t like a lot of the music I play. The album was recorded in Sweden, and it really is delightful.
She comes out blazing on the opener ,”who killed the Moonlight” with a killer chorus. There is the seductive singing on “Girl you look amazing” and “Cool People”.
“How does it feel to be cool People,  what does it mean to me, cool people…”
The way she sings that song is , well cool.Her voice glides through that chorus and is a big hook. She has the  bar anthem  “It’s only Chemistry ”  with it’s great sing along ;
“All that you love and what makes you feel free, It is and forever will be…” Raise your glass!
The torch singing is displayed on the stirring “Red Ropes” and “Gasoline Bride” a terrific road song.
“The worst hangover” is my favorite. where she ends with “I’m Dying” and descends her voice  lower and lower till she reaches the end. Gets me every time.
She ends with the lovely ballad “Above as below” , with some gorgeous singing.
So we have rock and torch, touches of dance music, and nice ambient textures. But how do I describe this album?  Well, I went to her site and got the following :
” a neon noir tour de force of hi-def late night pop …”. There you have it. And it all comes back to what I said at the beginning, this lady can sing!
Here is a recent Letterman performance of her classic “War Torn” . It is a must see

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-O0Il0SS_qY

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uPY4DnWOtLA

8]Hello Saferide- “The Fox, the hunter and Hello Saferide”
” I was born a romantic for a reason, not to be loved, to be a songwriter…”
The cd arrived all the way from Sweden. Welcome back bittersweet  story teller Annika Norlin, or better known as Hello Saferide.  I am a huge fan of her narrative music .She can be quite funny, but this album is darker. Still the music carries the same sweetness we know from her past releases.
She wastes no time , for the opening track “I forgot about songs” is gorgeous. Here are some of her best lyrics  as she sings about re-connecting with her love for music.
“I forgot about songs, I forgot about what they are to me
I forgot how they hold me , how they soothe me and carry me…”
This is one of the year’s best songs.
Other highlights:
-“Dad told me ” -sad and personal
“I’ve  lived my life with a backpack that was never mine to carry… ”
-“I was Jesus” -she sings of coming back as Jesus, Ghandi ,and Martin Luther King .
“And I was Jesus and I decided to come down to earth, in the shape of a woman this time…”
However being a woman does not fare well for her.  The wordless background singing at the close is a nice touch.
-“Raspberry Lips” -best pop song here with falsetto and romance. Love it!
-“This Body”- used in a Swedish documentary on transgenders. I watched part of it on YouTube bit it was in Swedish as well as the notes about it.
“Oh, body ,how I have wished of you
That you would look different than you do…”
The song ends with a chorus of singers that is quite moving.
– “Hey Ho”- a quiet song about the loss of youth that is heartbreaking.
“And when the streets wake up at nights, we’ll go there
singing “Hey ho”
The ending of this song brings tears to my eyes. And that is the magic of Hello Saferide. Sweet music with deep meaning. I don’t understand all the meanings, but still am very moved by her.
It reached #4 in the Swedish charts. Does that mean she may come to Chicago [Please!]

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2OJcN0hzwfM

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yq4SulZhD2A

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MlSoJKmEPVs

9] Liam Hayes-“Korp Sole Roller”

“If there’s a singer ,  there is a song…”
For over 20 years Liam Hayes or Plush , has been treating those who know to his never ending pop songs. He is known for his meticulous attention to detail, for going broke financing orchestral and string sections. However , lately that has changed. He has stripped back his production, dropped the Plush name, and gone to a core rock band. And the results have been wonderful. Suddenly we don’t have to wait endlessly for new music. In fact ,he is working so quickly these days that he has already released a follow up to “Korp Sole Roller”, the 2014 release I am writing about.
His influences are pop standard: Lennon, Wilson, Rundgren  and don’t forget Bacharach. On this release I am hearing more Jimmy Webb than in the past. His endearing melodies, lovely falsetto, chord changes that tug at the heart all add up to melancholy pop of the highest order. And I can’t stress enough the emotions he can find in a song.
Highlights:
” A glimpse inside” -opening track- Rundgren piano , with the band kicking in and we’re off and running. A nice twin guitar in the middle .
-” Dream Deferred”- if there is single, this is it.
-” Cried a thousand thousand times”  -shades of Lennon – even some Beatles-ish guitar to close
-“Waves”- classic Plush sound with some of his best falsetto
“If the love that you have is leaving, let it be
If the dream that you had’s  receiving, set it free…”
An incredibly beautiful track.
-“I’m sorry”-  more Lennon- sweet and endearing
-“Rock and roll” – very Jimmy Webb hear with more lovely falsetto
“won’t you tell me that I’m still alive …”
The hooks and melodic changes of these songs have stuck with me since I first heard them. I had several of them playing in my head for weeks. Can’t wait to hear the new one.
Included for your musical pleasure is a 19 minute set recorded in a hotel lobby. If that is too much go to the 8 minute mark to see Plush at their best. A couple tunes from this album are on there.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DQW3pPg1NoY&index=27&list=PLa4Vq9OvAgm1E4bfZy-ilkOl8aVBviQtR

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QvI0hieKaa0

10] Sharon Van Etten- “Are we there ”

“Sitting on the porch looking for a way out…”
After hearing “Taking Chances ” on WXRT I had to finally check Sharon out and wound up being deeply affected by this album. In fact I can safely say that no other release on this list affected me the way that this one did. The power that love holds over us and how it can crush us is on full display here. Sharon Van Etten has a powerful voice and together with her sensitive musical backing takes us  on quite a journey through the pitfalls of relationships.
The first 3 tracks set the stage :
-“Afraid of nothing”- Simple piano, light guitar , and a magnificent vocal ,accented by swirling ambient strings that just move you
”  you told me the day that you show me your face   We’d be in trouble for a long time…”
The mood grabs you and doesn’t let go  , but we move on
–  “Taking Chances”- one of the year’s best – her vulnerable voice hypnotizes you and does not let go.  “Be alone and take, and you break for your sake …”
Moody organ to add to the emotions , but she is just getting started
– “Your love is killing me ” 6 minutes filled with the terror of love gone very wrong .The starkest lyrics of the year :
“Break my legs so I won’t walk to you   cut my tongue so I can’t talk to you..”
“you love me as you torture me…”
Staggering music with great drumming pushing it along.
The songs following do let up a bit. “I love you but I’m lost ” is a favorite with just Sharon and Heather singing with minimal backing.  And the very pretty pop of “Nothing will change” with subtle woodwinds and this classic line :
” A couple years later When I saw you making Western moves…”
Through all of this we are hearing a major vocalist . Sharon sings with great confidence and the needed vulnerability . I must mention the backing vocals of Heather Woods Broderick that  are vital to the beauty of this music.
From pain comes the resolve of moving on. After the final song ends,  we hear Sharon laughing in the studio , so we know our singer may be doing all right.
Watch the hypnotic video for “Taking Chances” -just look at her face. Then just Sharon and Heather  with “Afraid of Nothing” -simply awesome.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=80-_CpH07QQ&list=FLOQ7WhfobMIekBnIRwJrLbA&index=8

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wIUsuUsiKb0

11) Beck- “Morning Phase”
12) Spoon – “They want my soul” – Inspired effort – glad to have them back
13} Eleni Mandell- “Let’s Fly a Kite ” Funny, sad, and wonderful.
14} Lykke Li- “I never learn”- Another break up album- powerful in it’s sustaining melancholy
15} Roseanne Cash- “The River and the Thread ” -Impressive travel through the South.
16} Angel Olsen- “Burn your fire for no witness”- High, lonesome and stunning.
17} Elizabeth and the Catapult- “Like it never Happened”-Entertaining pop artist who can make you think and laugh all in the same song- plays a mean piano
18} Vic Goddard and Subway Sect- “1979 Now!”- Lots of fun as the veteran tackles Northern Soul all self written by Vic- on Edwynn Collins AED label
19}Jackson Browne- “Standing in the Breach “- another welcome back- still has stories to tell and songs to sing- in terrific voice
20} Linus of Hollywood- “Something Good”- top drawer infectious power pop

Bubbling under:
21] Tweedy- “Sukierae”- Not a throw away by any means- there are some very affective tunes here, with minimum instrumental backing. So nice to hear Jeff play guitar a lot.
22] Kasim Sultan- “Three”- Very impressive pop outing by this terrific singer. Includes a sweet cover of “Someone to watch over me”
23] NRBQ- “Brass Tacks”- Wonderful album. Scott Ligon has really proven to be such an asset. He even brought in his musical friend Casey McDonough. Nice mix of romantic and quirky tunes.Sweet cover of “Getting to Know you”.
24] Ben Watt-“Hydra”-So happy to see his name pop up with a new one.
25]  Avi Buffalo-“At best cuckold”- Gorgeous pop with sweet high vocal. Total delight.
26] Foxygen – “And Star Power”- Sprawling double album that goes from Todd Rundgren sound ing pop to noise.
27]  The New Pornographers-“Brill Bruisers”-Soaring pop anthems
28] St. Vincent-“St Vincent”- continues her unique sound , always with amazing guitar
29] Lana Del Rey- “Ultraviolence ” Noir torch that draws you in. She is developing her own brand and it is special.
30] Lake Street Dive- “Bad Self Portraits ” Another group discovered on Letterman. Singer Rachael Price is gritty and can sing any genre. Impressive!

Some more who did good work:
Jill Sobule – “Dottie’s Charms”
New Medicants _ “Into the Lime”
Nikki Lane – “All or Nothing”
Sarah Borges- “Radio Sweetheart”
Tiny Ruins- “Brightly painted one ”
Gruff Rhys- “American Interior”
Colorama- “Temari”
The Yearning “Dreamboats and Lemonade”
Neil Finn “Dizzy Heights”
Phox- “Phox”

Recordings  of special merit :
Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross- “Gone Girl ” Soundtrack
This album of atmospheric music takes it’s place along side soundtracks like “Twin Peaks”, music that plays equally well at enhancing it’s movie yet stands on it’s own as a pure listening experience. It is dark and moody like modern noir music, but there is also beautiful music. There are lovely themes that show the initial romance in the story, and it all turns to doom  and gloom as the dark story goes. Recommended for  anyone who enjoys music for thrillers. I love them, and this is one of the best.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ocx2wwxHQFE

Oxford American Southern Music CD- “Texas”
Every year the southern literature magazine devotes an entire issue to music. The last few have been focused on one location. This year it was the music of Texas. They are fascinating compilations ,as well as the magazine which is full of articles about the music. The music is comprehensive from historic to current. Among the 25 tracks on “Texas” are artists as diverse as Moon Mullican, Barbara Lynn, Bob Wills, Spoon, even Ornette Coleman. Highly recommended for music lovers. This is the 16th collection. Most of them are still available at the magazine’s site.

http://www.oxfordamerican.org/music-issues

She and Him- “Classics”
Perfect time for a covers album by these two. Some standards, some oldies. Songs like “Unchained Melody”, “Teach me tonight”, “Oh no ,not my Baby”, and “It’s not for me to say”.Both Zooey and M. Ward are huge music lovers , and we’re going deep into their record collection for this release. Accented by lots of horns, and featuring M. Ward’s tasty guitar ,this is good stuff. I love it. With each release , Zooey gets better on vocals  and gains more confidence. Just listen to how well they click on “Time after Time” ,

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KCEN4d1X9Qk

Songs of the year:
-Sharon Van Etten -“Afraid of Nothing” Can not listen to this without being affected by it. The  strings alone are devastating.
-Natalie Prass- “Bird of Prey”- This has a real pull to it. Shades of Dusty Springfield. An artist to really watch out for in the new year.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h50Q47W80ao&list=FLOQ7WhfobMIekBnIRwJrLbA&index=33

-Real Estate- “Talking Backwards”-Chiming guitars add to the sadness at stake here
-Angel Olsen- “Hi-Five”- “Are you lonely too. High Five. So am I…” What a song

https://www.youtube.com/watch?annotation_id=annotation_3835181541&feature=iv&index=6&list=PLPBmqYoggvVj6hktcDZZVStx4UJlmi-lp&src_vid=1Ix7xFW0mPU&v=oL_3Y4zNnqg

-Avi Buffalo -“Overwhelmed with Pride”-  What a find. Just lovely high vocals.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D1RKZCXxF0w

-Rumer- “Baby come back to bed” Sensuous beauty on an album full of gems.
-Hello Saferide – “I forgot about songs” Love the lyrics about re-connecting with music
-Pearlfishers- “Chasing all the good days down”- insanely great pop. Can’t say enough about David Scott, a pop genius.
-Linus of Hollywood- “When it’s quiet”- There is a moment in this song that elevates it; he sings “When it’s quiet, Music plays in my head, My own private symphony” followed by strings playing that very symphony. Wonderful!
-Lana Del Rey- “Cruel World”- “Get a little bit of bourbon in ya ”
-Vic Godard and Subway Sect- “You bring out the demon in me” So cool. Listen to that sax.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zRUulq2cB9E

-Kasim Sultan- “Clocks all stopped”- Sounds like Utopia. What a voice. Those guitars.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rOp2789TMBU

-The Grand Gestures featuring Gary Clark- “The World will break your heart”  Gary Clark is one of my favorite vocalists ever. This is quite haunting.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6OamT6wL5qk

-U2 -“The Miracle [of Joey Ramone”- First heard this on the car radio and had no idea who it was . With it’s monster guitar riff, smashing drums, and an inspired vocal this ode to a great punk singer is quite addictive. Then it popped up in the Apple ads and I could not escape it.I still applaud their free download to I-Tunes was brilliant. Don’t know why people complained.

-Taylor Swift- “Welcome to New york” – Her performance of this tune on Letterman got me out of my chair. I had no idea. After one viewing the song was stuck in my head.  What a surprise. What a performance. I see her entirely different now.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qvRpstJuzj4

-Jackson Browne- ” Walls and Doors”- There is always one song on a Jackson Browne album that stands apart as a great one. This is that song on his latest. It is a cover of a Carlos Varela tune, a Cuban artist who also ends the song with his vocals. An excellent song from a fine album.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ERsKGIIKmwY

-Nikki Lane- “Sleep with a stranger”  Sassy little tune from a smokin’ album.
“You can call me , anything you want to  Just don’t call me , after tonight …”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V6w9SVytsog

-New Pornographers- “Brill Bruisers “- First tune on the album and it wastes no time in delivering soaring pop, the kind A.C. Newman is known for.

I need to check out [music I haven’t gotten to because there’s only so much time] :
Owen Pallet, Steve Gunn, Ty Segull, Mac DeMarco. War on Drugs, Cloud Nothings, Sturgill Simpson , Olof Arnalds ,

Looking forward to  in 2015:
Belle and Sebastian, Decemberists, Courtney Barnett, B. C. Camplight, Natalie Prass, Waterboys, Sufjan Stevens, Brian Wilson, Josh Rouse, Mikal Cronin, Sleater Kinney, Of Montreal, The Do,  Liam Hayes and Plush, Laura Marling, Michael Carpenter, Michael Head, My Morning Jacket, Tame Impala, Nellie McKay Ron Sexsmith Tallest Man on Earth Joanna Newsome [I hope] ,Rhiannon Giddens

I can dream can’t I – After hearing Gary Clark’s vocals on the Grand Gestures  and Swan Dive albums it would be a dream come true if he made an album. Such an awesome talent. With artists like Ben Watt releasing new music I’m holding out hope for Gary.

Discoveries:
-Daniel Tashian the immensely talented vocalist for Nashville’s Silver Seas has some solo recordings. I’m a huge fan and didn’t know. I found 2 of them, “Arthur” and the Lights of this Town”. Also a 2011 release by the Boxwoods which seems to be all Daniel. That one even has a cool Christmas song. All of these are full of wonderful, sensitive singing and beautiful tunes. If you enjoy the Silver Seas , do seek these out.

-A. K. Ellis- I freaked out when I found this one. I love the music of Sylvie Lewis , and wait patiently for new releases. Not sure when this originated, but Sylvie made some recordings with Italian pianist Valerio Vigliar aa A. K. Ellis. Just stumbled upon this on YouTube and was able to download the music from Bandcamp. 5 tracks , all great. And Sylvie is wonderful as usual. A real find.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v0XTgvbYSnA

Disappointment : Bruce Springsteen “High Hopes”-  Why Bruce decided to showcase Tom Morello is beyond comprehension. I have tried to enjoy this album, but  end up cringing when  Morello indulges. With amazing guitarists like Nils Lofgren and Little Steven , even Bruce himself, why  Morello takes over this release beats me. Skip it and spend your money on a Nils Lofgren  release.

Concerts:
Eleni Mandell at Shubas . A terrific evening of music and story telling by one of the very best. Her latest  “Let’s fly a Kite” was showcased . Her dry , self deprecating humor had everyone quite amused.

Shout outs:
All the internet sites  and magazines that kept me well informed: Mojo, NME, Uncut [thank you to John Mulvey for those weekly playlists], Pitchfork, PopMatters , Alan Haber and Pure Pop Radio. Paste, Pause and Play, No Depression,  Stereogum
Thanks to: Ray at Kool Kat Records , Matinee Records, Darla Records, Bandcamp, Soundcloud, The Nashville Scene
To all my internet friends from groups like Beyond a Wizard, Audities, and Boo Hewerdine,
Special mention to the staff at David Lettermen for consistently fulfilling us with great musical acts. Don’t know what I’m going to do without you.
And to Paul Shaffer- his knowledge  of musical history comes pouring out of the tv screen,That man can play with anyone and do it with finesse.

That’s it. It is now mid April and I’m ready to share this list. If you’ve got this far , chances are you love music as much as I do. So if you have an artist to turn me onto , please do. And by all means, if you try one of acts I’ve listed, and like what you hear, please don’t hesitate to let me know. This yearly exercise is for sharing musical ideas.  I’m not a writer. Just a huge musical fan. Watch some of those videos I picked out. There are some good ones.
Time to start diving into some 2015 music.
A very special thanks to my wife, Amy for giving me the Beatles Box set for Christmas. Love love love it!

God save the Kinks!

Warm Regards,
Gene Good
javagene@hotmail.com

 

 

Best Albums of 2014

Here is my wrap up of the top albums I heard in 2014.

  1. CoverAloud – It’s Got To Be Now: This is an energetic and immediately enjoyable album, and is filled with what Aloud does best, loud rocking pop music, taking equal parts 60’s pop and garage and bringing in their modern sensibility and this album is probably their best!

  2. CoverThe American Professionals – We Make It Our Business: You may have read my blog post about this a few months back, a fun energetic and eclectic album, great vocals and attitude!

  3. CoverThe Jellybricks – Youngstown Tune-Up: The Jellybricks have been firing on all cylinders lately, and this album is the culmination of all that they have proven themselves with over the years, probably the best purely Power Pop album this year.

  4. CoverJoan As Police Woman – The Classic: I have always enjoyed Joan As Police Woman’s records, but this one is probably the most catchy and filled with, well, classic pop, yet having that slightly off-kilter feeling that adds a certain something to it all.

  5. CoverLinus of Hollywood – Something Good: A fantastic album from Linus, great, catchy songs, with excellent production. It sounds pristine and is a great addition to his catalog, very enjoyable.

  6. CoverKasey Chambers – Bittersweet: It took a couple listens until this one really sunk its claws into me, but once it did, I was hooked. It is a beautiful record filled with great songs of the folky, country variety. It is very eclectic and covers the varied styles and music Kasey is expert at!

  7. CoverFauna Flora – Fauna Flora: The new project by Cherry Twister’s Steve Ward, this is a great record. Very low-key and just great pop in every way. If you like your pop airy and breezy, this is your ticket!

  8. CoverEvil Arrows – EPs 1-4: I’m going to combine these 4 EPs from Bryan Scary and company, and call them an album. As each of these came out this year I was impressed by the constant quality of every song. They are all ear-worms that wriggle their way into your head until you think you have been hearing these songs your whole life!

  9. CoverThe Both – The Both: This pairing of Ted Leo and Aimee Mann may seem strange to some, but they complement each other so well. She tempers his intense sounds and he brings her out of her shell a bit. Together, they make a great pair!

  10. CoverHappy Camper – The Daily Drumbeat: I loved the first Happy Camper album and this one continues this great tradition bringing out the best of everyone involved. It brings out a great mood and each song has its own little world. There is something interesting on every track!

  11. The Autumn Defense – Fifth
  12. Yorktown Lads – Songs About Girls and Other Disasters
  13. Mark Moldre – An Ear to the Earth
  14. The Len Price 3 – Nobody Knows
  15. Eleni Mandell – Let’s Fly A Kite
  16. Reigning Sound – Shattered
  17. The Colourist – The Colourist
  18. Spirit Kid – Is Happening
  19. Sturgill Simpson – Metamodern Sounds in Country Music
  20. Greg Ieronimo – Bipolar Love
  21. Blondfire – Young Heart
  22. Temples – Sun Structures
  23. The Nines – Nine Lives
  24. The Rails – Fair Warning
  25. Toxic Melons – Bus Therapy
  26. The Royal Oui – The Royal Oui
  27. The Cry – Dangerous Game
  28. Orgone Box – Centaur
  29. Mike Dees – Something Like Glitter
  30. Jenny Dee & The Deelinquents – Electric Candyland
  31. David Myhr – Record Collection
  32. Eric Hutchinson – Pure Fiction
  33. Joe Sullivan – Schlock Star
  34. Kurt Baker – Brand New B-Sides
  35. The Tripwires – Get Young
  36. Ryan Adams – Ryan Adams
  37. Rob Cantor – Not A Trampoline
  38. Hallelujah The Hills – Have You Ever Done Something Evil?
  39. Jeremy Fisher – The Lemon Squeeze
  40. Missy Higgins – Oz
  41. Sloan – Commonwealth
  42. Steelism – 615 to Fame
  43. The Legal Matters – The Legal Matters
  44. The History of Apple Pie – Feel Something
  45. The Pearlfishers – Open Up Your Colouring Book
  46. David Grahame – Toy Plane II
  47. Liam Hayes & Plush – Korp Sole Roller
  48. The Empty Hearts – The Empty Hearts
  49. Watts – Flash of White Light
  50. Andrew Bird – Things Are Really Great Here, Sort Of…

And here’s a compilation!

The American Professionals – We Make It Our Business

The American Professionals - We Make It Our Business
One of the best new album’s this year is The American Professionals awesome album “We Make It Our Business”. It kicks off with a the driving “Other People”, where they quickly identify themselves as a rocking band with a slightly quirky delivery. The next track, the catchy “Dr. Holly” will get into your head and stay there for awhile.

One thing I love about the band is their harmonies. It isn’t anything complicated, but the two vocalists lift up the other in a unique way. There is a real chemistry between the two and they blend wonderfully. This is probably best seen in the back and forth song “The Way It Goes”

Overall this album has many high points. It is well produced and ebbs and flows between quirky crazy rock, down to sweetly beautiful pop music, and back again. You never really get bored with the album, and it gets better with each listen.

Check it out on Bandcamp, iTunes, and Amazon, and be a “Champion”!

The Lost Boys

Elizabeth Racz posted a video of a song by The Lost Boys. Not a band i’d heard of before but it was a great song. Elizabeth kindly posted me some MP3s whilst I wait for the band to get some more CDs in stock to by.

So, small world. Turns out they’re about an hours drive from me in Southampton (UK).

I know zero about them and there’s not a great deal of information out there.

These are well crafted, highly melodic and very British sounding tunes. Lyrically witty without being over-clever. It’s been a while since i’ve heard someone called a “spanner” and i’m pretty sure never in a song. Refreshingly charming.

They’ve got the goods that should be ringing out from radios this Summer (and hell, into the Autumn too).

You can find them on Facebook or more importantly go have a listen over at Soundcloud.

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