Tuesday, January 13, 2015

My 2014 Album Buying Guide



Well, uh, erm. . . .

Okay, so, for the past couple of years I've been happy to provide you all with a "best of" buying guide to the past year's best releases.  It was an exercise I enjoyed.  Helping discriminating music lovers to dig up pearls in a market full of pig sh** seemed a worthy endeavor.

Trouble is, this year I just couldn't find enough.

I am perfectly willing to blame my own wretched state of mind. It was a hard year. [A novel's worth of heartbreak and sorrow and life changing experiences here.]  I give myself a hall pass and am willing to call time out.  And no question that I let myself be distracted by my Musical Advent Calendar project just because I couldn't face the paucity of interesting new music.

But on the other hand, a lot of my old faithfuls let me down. John Hiatt, Elvis Costello, Robyn Hitchcock -- I just couldn't get excited about their 2014 releases. Good in spots, of course, because they are wonderful artists, and I will go to my grave loving all three of them. But I just couldn't warm up to their stuff this year.  (Could be me, I'm always willing to admit.)

Still, there were a few.  Not enough to flesh out a Top Ten, but still, you should know about the ones that made the cut, regardless.  And a couple of them arrived as Christmas presents and I haven't had time yet to do them justice.

So stay tuned, my music loving friends.  It'll be off-the-radar stuff, I'm warning you right now. But then, that's what we need our friends for, isn't it?

And if you've got something burning your ears that you're afraid I haven't dug up*, please let me know -- I'm hungry for Stuff That Works.**

* Nick, I already have the Corb Lund, don't worry.
** Kinks fans, take note: I have listened to the Dave Davies new release.  Stop holding your breath.  When Ray releases something new, then maybe I'll stop filing my nails while they're dragging the lake. [Just to prove that I'll love Declan MacManus till the day I die.]


NickS said...

It was a hard year.

Judging from just the things you've mentioned on this blog, that sounds like an understatement.

I know for myself, when I hit a certain level of mental or emotional exhaustion, I stop enjoying things that I would normally like. I just don't have the energy to engage with them -- I'm aware that I would like them if I could enter into that space, but I don't have the energy.

So don't apologize for not putting together a top-10 list.

Nick, I already have the Corb Lund, don't worry.

I have to confess that I don't have it yet. I watched several of the videos online, and I liked them better with the video (and I expect the documentary to be interesting as well), so I was thinking that I should by the CD/DVD set even though I normally just prefer audio. And that ended up slowing me down enough that I never got around to ordering it. So I appreciate the reminder.

But, the real reason I wanted to comment is that I do have an album from 2014 that I'm excited about and want to recommend! Leyla McCalla's Veri-Colored Songs.

I'm not sure it's what you're looking for. It isn't really pop (I'd call it art-folk, perhaps), but I think it does work.

Here's a sample: "Too Blue."

It's an impressively ambitious project for a debut album -- most of the tracks are poems by Langston Hughes set to music, there are a couple of Haitian folk songs, and one original composition. It could easily feel overwrought, or just leaden and too serious. But it manages to be musically interesting, serious, and yet with a real interest in the veins of humor in Hughes' poetry (which, I admit, I was hearing for the first time).

Here's one other song from the album, the opening track, Heart Of Gold."

I'll also note, since I feel like the artist I've been trying to push most recently is Ken Stringfellow, that his "best of" album was released this year (though I'd still recommend Soft Commands as the place to start).

I did see an interview in which he mentioned that two of my favorite songs from Soft Commands came out of writing sessions that he'd done with Jill Sobule. How can you not be excited about someone who has worked with Big Star, Jill Sobule, and Chris Stamey . . . (

NickS said...

... the parenthetical was going to be me apologizing for being pushy, but then I decided I didn't need to apologize.