The same theme that I so often repeat plagued me again in 2014: once again, without regularly listening to streams of new releases online, and with an ever increasing amount of my new listening coming form the library (so it’s only new to me). But this pattern was made even worst by my (re) discovery of podcasts, Serial being only the most famous. So I feel like, ye again, for seemingly the nth year in a row, this list will need to fleshed out in future years, when I finally make it around to listening to whatever it was I was supposed to have grabbed up this year. (Things I would have liked to get my hands on: the new Secret Chiefs Three, maybe the new TV on the Radio, etc.)
So, here are the 2014 music new releases I actually managed to get around to listening to:
1. tetema: Geocidal (8/10)
Mike Patton has long been one of my favourite rock musicians. And I think he has also made some objectively great music; at least six albums he has been involved with I would put on my “core” list of important music a neophyte should listen to. (For your reference, those albums are, in chronological order: Angel Dust, King for a Day…Fool for a Lifetime, Disco Volante, California, The Director’s Cut, and Anonymous.)
2. Tinariwen: Emmaar (8/10)
I have come pretty late to the whole tishoumaren / “Saharan Soul” thing and so there’s a part of me that stupidly worries I’m overrating this; I mean, they’ve been releasing music here for over a decade, this can’t be that novel, right? But I will try to turn my brain off for a few moments:
3. Parquet Courts: Sunbathing Animal (8/10)
I have a problem with most if not all 21st century indie rock: I can’t help but hear all the bands that band likes. If I don’t like those bands, I don’t like the indie rock band, obviously. But even if I like the influences, I usually have a lot of trouble getting over the game we can all play where he say “track 1 sounds like…, track 2 sounds like…” etc.
4. Thurston Moore: The Best Day (8/10)
I can’t say I’m familiar with Moore’s solo work up until this point (and I had no idea he was so prolific) and I am hardly the biggest Sonic Youth fan, I only know three of their albums well. Haven’t listened to anything they put out since the late ’80s.
5. Robert Ellis: Lights from the Chemical Plant (8/10)
Ellis’ traditional country sound which is, on its own, often too revivalist is saved by his excellent song-writing.
6. Scott Walker, Sunn O))): Soused (7/10)
This should be a match made in heaven. (Or hell. Or the ether. Or nothingness…You get the idea.)
7. Daniel Lanois: Flesh and Machine (7/10)
I have never been particularly interested in Lanois’ work. Rightly or wrongly, I have always thought of Eno as the more interesting of U2’s co-producers.
8. Tord Gustavsen Quartet: Extended Circle (7/10)
Gustavsen does more of the same Evans-Jarrett thing here, though at times it feels as if he’s expanding his palette, which is always a good thing. The problem for me, which was also almost a problem on the ensemble album, is that I find this sax player to be about as ECM cliché as it gets. I have found that I like the trio version of this band better, even though as a quartet / quintet they seem to be be expanding their sound.
So this is pleasant, and it’s nice to hear Gustavsen walking some kind of line between obvious and odd, but it’s just not compelling enough. And I really don’t enjoy most of the sax parts.
9. Beck: Morning Phase (7/10)
I have deja vu… Read the review.
10. John Hiatt: Terms of My Surrender (7/10)
11. Rabbit Rabbit: Rabbit Rabbit Radio, Vol. 2 – Swallow Me Whole (7/10)
12. The Flaming Lips et al.: With a Little Help From My Fwends (6/10)
I avoided the Lips’ cover of The Dark Side of the Moon like the plague, figuring that was an album that absolutely did not have to be covered and also because I’ve been finding the Lips’ willful weirdness to be increasingly maddening and hard to follow. (I have no idea if I’m going to like anything by them any more – not since a long time ago – they release things in so many different ways, it’s exhausting etc.).
13. Small Town Heroes: Hooray for the Riff Raff (6/10)
This is all very nice. Read the rest of the review.
14. THUMPERS: Galore (6/10)
“Bedroom” pop, or whatever you want to call it, has sort of run its course, no?
15. The Hold Steady: Teeth Dreams (6/10)
And don’t forget to read about the bands I couldn’t even give my routine 3 listens to in 2014.
Not ranked: Cuarteto Casals: Die sieben letzen Worte by Joseph Haydn (10/10)
This is supposedly an “instrumental” oratorio. Haydn first wrote it for orchestra (with no vocals!). Then he adapted it for String Quartet. Then he adapted it for Choir (as if it was an actual oratorio). Then he “approved” an adaptation for solo piano, but apparently didn’t write that one himself. This is the String Quartet version, obviously. It is considered the most popular version of the piece, which I guess makes me okay with listening to it over the orchestral original.
Not ranked: Prague Philharmonic Choir, Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra, Tomas Netopil: Glagolitic Mass, The Eternal Gospel by Leos Janacek (9/10)
Not ranked: Various Artists: Selected Orchestral Works by Augusta Read Thomas (7/10)
I decent introduction, I think. Read the review.
Not ranked: DJ Similac Presents JT Cuts: Cut the World
This is some pretty weak stuff. The lyrics are all about picking up chicks (or just getting their numbers!), having sex, drinking with women, the skin colour of women, driving around, making lots of money, and the usual hip hop braggadocio. I really don’t think it adds to any dialogue about anything. And there’s a skit. I have been told that skits are more common on hip hop records (I wouldn’t know, but they’re just about nowhere to be found on rock records), but one of the two actors in the skit is brutal. (The other is believable.) The skit, incidentally, is at a barbershop. I believe JT Cutts is a barber in his day job. And he raps about. So there’s that.