2019 – The Year in Review – Top Albums & Songs

Yes, I managed to listen to over 120 albums in 2019. Streaming music subscription services can be a wonderful thing (for consumers, at least). Believe it or not, I still actually purchase music in physical formats, as well.  At any rate, distilling those 120+ albums down to a serviceable “list” of favorites was no mean feat. Behold, my Top Albums of 2019:

15 Peter Caws

15. Peter Caws & Parkington Sisters – The Book of Hylas

Sometimes, through weariness or discouragement, no new thing arises.
Sometimes, through pressure and anxiety, many old things overwhelm.
Learn to wait, for the stirring or for the subsiding.
Learn to wait, for the turmoil to be still, for the stillness to speak.
Let memory recall times of taking refuge, times of setting forth anew.
Bring to mind times of comfort or times of purpose.
You have passed this way before.
You have left markers along the way – look for them.

Peter Caws is University Professor of Philosophy Emeritus at The George Washington University. Fun fact: he is the father of Nada Surf’s Matthew Caws. The Book of Hylas is a set of meditations on life and how to live it, recited by the elder Caws, and set to music by Boston-based Parkington Sisters. Clocking in at 13 minutes, this is surely the shortest “album” I have ever short-listed for a Year In Review.

14 Vampire Weekend

14. Vampire Weekend – Father of the Bride

Baby, I know pain is as natural as the rain
I just thought it didn’t rain in California

After a lengthy six year gap, Vampire Weekend returned with their long-awaited fourth LP, Father of the Bride. P4K says it showcases them embracing a full-on jam band vibe. I can’t disagree. Plenty of hooks and ear-worms are here to be pulled out of context, but the album works quite well as a whole. At once cheerful and lamentable.

13 The Get Up Kids

13. The Get Up Kids – Problems

It’s not about hopeless
Not a song of despair
Just about choices and making them fair

Their first album in 8 years, and second since “breaking up” in 2005 and then reforming in 2008, Problems finds The Get Up Kids right back at the height of their considerable powers. They haven’t lost the energy and creativity, although they may have lost one member. Another album that benefits from being experienced whole.

12 Sharon Van Etten

12. Sharon Van Etten – Remind Me Tomorrow

Turning the wheel on my street
My heart still skips a beat

Sharon Van Etten has long been a hardworking supporting act and a talented and proficient solo artist. With Remind Me Tomorrow, she embraces a much broader palette than she employed in the past with her singer-songwriter chops. Production values are up, nostalgia and retro-electronic flourishes feature heavily, and her songwriting is ornamented and adorned in ways both unexpected and refreshing.

11 Bon Iver

11. Bon Iver – i,i

When we were children we were hell bent
Or oblivious at least
But now it comes to mind, we are terrified
So we run and hide for a verified little peace

Bon Iver has always been a superbly singular artist and his falsetto-whisper-croon lilt delivery a vehicle for inscrutable pathos and lonesome heartache. Justin Vernon has worked with some of the industry’s biggest names and yet has managed to carve a channel all his own. i,i in many ways feels like the natural continuation of his sonic odyssey, thus far. Lush and idiosyncratic, this is another album that benefits from whole immersion.

10 Angel Olsen

10. Angel Olsen – All Mirrors

You know best, don’t you, now?
Don’t you, now? Don’t you, now?

Angel Olsen’s sweeping epic All Mirrors has aplomb and grandeur aplenty. Widescreen cinema balladry. Olsen delivers the goods.

9 Efterklang

9. Efterklang – Altid Sammen

My soul in that case, at times
Min sjæl i det bIå, til tider

We are in love now, we are in love
Vi er forelsket nu,  vi er forelsket

Always us, together to share us
Altid os, sammen om at dele os

We are infinite
Vi er uendelig

The Danish outfit’s fifth proper album, the first in seven years, is an ornate and densely-layered work. Altid Sammen (meaning “always together”) is replete with orchestral arrangements and exiguous sonic experimentation. The album is sonorous and rewards total immersion. The vocals are entirely in Danish. I have no idea what they’re singing about.

8 Nick Cave

8. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Ghosteen

And if we rise my love
Before the daylight comes
A thousand galleon ships will sail
Ghostly around the morning sun

Without a doubt the most emotionally gut-wrenching release of the year. A 2xLP exegesis on grief and mortality. Nick Cave’s most personal work, ever. Simply devastating.

7 Bibio

7. Bibio – Ribbons

Pretty ribbons
And lovely flowers

Stephen Wilkinson is back with his signature blend of acoustic instrumentation and digital warble, creating arrangements in much the same fashion I imagine a skilled florist does. Exceedingly chill and carefree, Ribbons is an album that practically begs to be the soundtrack to your next nature hike.

6 Mountain Goats

6. The Mountain Goats – In League with Dragons

I’m gonna burn it all down today
And sweep all the ashes away

The Mountain Goats play D&D. That’s it. That’s the review.

5 Townes Van Zandt

5. Townes Van Zandt – Sky Blue

Oh but when good times
Come fallin’ over me
Breath turns to melody
All I need’s gonna fall
Away like dreams

A collection of new material, old material, and a few covers originally recorded with Bill Hedgepeth in 1973, Sky Blue is a welcome addition to the prolific troubadour’s back catalogue. An artist I first came to hear and revere by way of T Bone Burnett and the Coen Brothers, Townes Van Zandt remains a legend of American Country Western music. His writing is poetry that exists on another plane of existence, and yet remains as weary and grizzled as the most down-to-earth Texas troubadour, busking his way across the American Southwest.

4 Big Thief UFOF

4. Big Thief – U.F.O.F.

And you don’t need to know why when you cry
You don’t need to know why
You don’t need to know why when you cry

The first of two albums they would release in 2019, U.F.O.F. finds Adrienne Lenker not letting off the gas, ever traveling forward. This album was recorded in a large, cabin-like room. This is a band to watch over… watch over and marvel.

3 Bombadil

3. Bombadil – Beautiful Country

Suzy don’t forget
Forget to move on

Bombadil have previously featured on my Year in Review lists on more than a few occasions. This year they dropped a brand spanking new album without too much fanfare. It’s exquisite. By degrees, the band is leaving the boondocks behind.

2 Big Thief Two Hands

2. Big Thief – Two Hands

It’s not the room
Not beginning
Not the crowd
Not winning
Not the planet
That’s spinning

Well, darn. Big Thief released two magnum opus records in 2019. I will not be sorry for including both of them on my list, here. Jesus Christ how do they do it?

1 Jeffrey Lewis

1. Jeffrey Lewis & The Voltage – Bad Wiring

Were you going somewhere sooner or later
Or just pushing all the buttons on the elevator
You gotta’ have free will to live your pre-planned life
You gotta’ pay the bill or you get unsubscribed

Admittedly, I had no idea that this was going to be my favorite record of the year. But it is. And I have absolutely no reservations about saying so. Jeffrey Lewis has long been a musician I follow. He’s… what do you want to call it, “Anti-Folk” or some such? His songwriting is biting and incisive, the auditory equivalent of an erudite Reddit thread piercing your brain. He’s done entire albums covering obscure punk rock bands, also entire records covering Jewish counterculture poets, and don’t forget the songs about LSD and sexual legends of the Chelsea Hotel. He’s very much borne of a New York City mythology spanning decades including the years when I am not yet alive. The existential pathos of his work cannot be replicated. This album is like a Rick & Morty episode that flies above the heads of the show’s misogynistic fanbase and yet they still applaud. Brutal, crushing, existential self-awareness seems to be a hallmark of Lewis’ work.

Well I guess we’re not supposed to be wise
If everything that learns also dies

Honorable Mentions: Andrew Bird, Kevin Morby, Bruce Springsteen, Angelo de Augustine, Jessica Pratt, Weyes Blood, Jade Bird, HEALTH, FKA Twigs, Whitney, Holly Herndon, American Football, Lana Del Rey, Why?, Over the Rhine, Pedro the Lion, Helado Negro, Clairo, Josh Ritter, Purple Mountains, Vagabon, Ssion, Chromatics, and Beirut.

Apple Music Playlists:

Top of 2019 – Albums

Top of 2019 – Top Songs

Complete List of 2019 Albums:

  1. !!! – Wallop
  2. A.A. Bondy – Enderness
  3. American Football: American Football (LP3)
  4. Andrew Bird –  My Finest Work Yet
  5. Andy Stott – It Should Be Us
  6. Anemone – Beat My Distance
  7. Angel Olsen – All Mirrors
  8. Angelo de Augustine – Tomb
  9. Apparat – LP5
  10. Bat for Lashes – Lost Girls
  11. Battles – Juice B Crypts
  12. Beirut – Gallipoli
  13. Beth Gibbons, The Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra & Krzysztof Penderecki – Henryk Górecki: Symphony No. 3 (Symphony of Sorrowful Songs)
  14. Bibio – Ribbons
  15. Big Thief – Two Hands
  16. Big Thief – U.F.O.F.
  17. Bill Evans – Smile With Your Heart: The Best of Bill Evans on Resonance Records
  18. Bombadil – Beautiful Country
  19. Bon Iver – i,i
  20. Bonobo – fabric presents Bonobo
  21. Bruce Springsteen – Western Stars
  22. Cate Le Bon – Reward

  23. CHAI – PUNK
  24. Cherry Glazerr – Stuffed & Ready
  25. Chromatics – Closer to Grey
  26. Ciara – Beauty Marks
  27. The Cinematic Orchestra – To Believe
  28. Clairo – Immunity
  29. Com Truise – Persuasion System
  30. Danger – Origins
  31. Deerhunter – Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared?
  32. Drugdealer – Raw Honey
  33. Ernest Hood – Neighborhoods (Reissue)
  34. Efterklang – Altid Sammen
  35. Ex:Re – Ex:Re
  36. Faye Webster – Atlanta Millionaire’s Club
  37. Fennesz – Agora
  38. Fever Ray – Live at Troxy
  39. FKA Twigs – MAGDALENE
  40. Floating Points – Crush
  41. Floating Points – Late Night Tales: Floating Points
  42. Flying Lotus – Flamagra
  43. George Winston – Restless Wind
  44. The Get Up Kids – Problems
  45. Glok – Dissident
  46. Guided by Voices – Zeppelin over China
  47. Guided by Voices – Warp and Woof
  48. Hand Habits – placeholder
  49. Hauschka – A Different Forest
  50. HEALTH – VOL. 4 :: SLAVES OF FEAR
  51. Helado Negro – This is How You Smile
  52. Holly Herndon – PROTO
  53. Hoshina Anniversary – Nihon No Ongaku / 日本の音楽」
  54. Insanlar – Demedim Mi
  55. Jacques Greene – Dawn Chorus
  56. Jade Bird – Jade Bird
  57. Jeffrey Lewis & The Voltage – Bad Wiring
  58. Jessica Pratt – Quiet Signs
  59. John Vanderslice – The Cedars
  60. Josh Garrels – Chrysaline
  61. Josh Ritter – Fever Breaks
  62. Joy Orbison – Slipping – EP
  63. Kacy & Clayton – Carrying On
  64. Kanye West – Jesus is King
  65. Karen O & Danger Mouse – Lux Prima
  66. Kelly Moran – Origin EP
  67. Kevin Morby – Oh My God
  68. Kim Gordon – No Home Record
  69. Lali Puna – Being Water EP
  70. Lana del Rey – Norman Fucking Rockwell
  71. Lightbath – Selected Public Works, Vol. 3
  72. Lily & Madeleine – Canterbury Girls
  73. Mira Calix – Utopia EP
  74. Mount Eerie – Lost Wisdom, Pt. 2 (feat. Julie Doiron)
  75. The Mountain Goats – In League with Dragons
  76. Mort Garson – Mother Earth’s Plantasia (Reissue)
  77. The National – I Am Easy to Find
  78. The New Pornographers – In the Morse Code of Brake Lights
  79. Nick Cave & the Bad Seesds – Ghosteen
  80. Nils Frahm – All Encores
  81. Nilüfer Yanya – Miss Universe
  82. Nivhek – After its own death /  Walking in a spiral towards the house
  83. North Mississippi Allstars – Up and Rolling
  84. Oso Oso – Basking in the Glow

  85. Over the Rhine – Love & Revelation
  86. Panda Bear – Buoys
  87. Pedro the Lion – Phoenix
  88. Peter Caws – The Book of Hylas (featuring Parkington Sisters)
  89. Purple Mountains – Purple Mountains
  90. Robert Ellis – Texas Piano Man
  91. (Sandy) Alex G – House of Sugar
  92. SASAMI – SASAMI
  93. Sharon Van Etten – Remind Me Tomorrow
  94. ShitKid – [Detention]
  95. Sigur Rós – 22° Lunar Halo
  96. Sigur Rós – Variations on Darkness
  97. Solange – When I Get Home
  98. Ssion – o
  99. Stella Donnelly – Beware the Dogs
  100. Steve Hauschildt – Nonlin
  101. Switchfoot – Native Tongue
  102. Tamaryn – Dreaming in the Dark
  103. Tegan and Sara – Hey, I’m Just Like You
  104. Temples – Hot Motion
  105. Tim Heidecker – Another Year in Hell EP
  106. Tim Hecker – Anoyo
  107. Timo Andres & Sufjan Stevens – The Decalogue
  108. Titus Andronicus – An Obelisk
  109. Toro y Moi – Outer Peace
  110. Townes Van Zandt – Sky Blue
  111. Tycho – Weather
  112. Vagabon – Vagabon
  113. Vampire Weekend – Father of the Bride
  114. Vangelis – Nocturne
  115. Various Artists – For the Throne (Music Inspired by Game of Thrones)
  116. Various Artists – Kankyō Ongaku: Japanese Ambient, Environmental & New Age Music 1980-1990
  117. Weezer – Weezer (Black Album)
  118. Weezer – Weezer (Teal Album)
  119. Weyes Blood – Titanic Rising
  120. Whitney – Forever Turned Around
  121. Why? – AOKOHIO
  122. Yeasayer – Erotic Reruns
  123. Ziúr – Atø

2019 – The Year in Review – Top Albums (Ambient)

A 2019 Year in Review list of albums that primarily skew towards the ambient, electronic, experimental and instrumental. I created a separate list for 2019 because I found myself increasingly turning to such records throughout the year. Part of the allure would definitely have to be the meditative, relaxing quality of many such recordings. Another might have been simply a kick I got on, after years of only occasionally listening to the odd Brian Eno ambient masterwork. Behold, the list:

15 Ernest Hood

15. Ernest Hood – Neighborhoods

A re-issue of an album originally released in 1974, assembled from a mesmerizing array of found sounds, field recordings and proto-ambient electronic music, Neighborhoods truly evokes a memory of times past. The auditory equivalent of being teleported back to a time without the internet, cellular phones and a myriad of digital devices with screens. Unencumbered by such modern niceties, the album streams past at a laconic pace, and, not unlike Midnight Cowboy, one of my favorite films first viewed in 2019 (and celebrating its 50th anniversary), it possesses the distinct quality of being a coherent slice of life, perfectly captured in the moment.

14 Sigur Rós

14. Sigur Rós – Variations on Darkness

Consisting of two, 20+ minute long tracks, Variations on Darkness is assembled from unreleased Sigur Rós material, as well as various multitracks of songs culled from the band’s back catalogue. The music was premiered at the Nordur og nidur festival, and utilized as a soundtrack to choreographed performances from the Iceland Dance Company. Cavernous and shot through with a palpable sense of foreboding, Variations on Darkness made for a terrific soundtrack to any daily news dump from 2019.

13 Górecki

13. Beth Gibbons, The Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra & Krzysztof Penderecki – Henryk Górecki: Symphony No. 3 (Symphony of Sorrowful Songs)

Beth Gibbons is the lead vocalist for Portishead. Krzysztof Penderecki is a Polish composer whose work has been featured in films, most notably The Exorcist and The Shining. Here, they take on Polish composer Henryk Górecki’s famous Symphony No. 3. A sprawling, mournful piece of composition, the Symphony of Sorrowful Songs plays like the score to the denouement of a Sam Mendes picture.

12 Kankyō Ongaku

12. Various Artists – Kankyō Ongaku: Japanese Ambient, Environmental & New Age Music 1980-1990

Perhaps it is indeed emblematic of what Pitchfork deemed, “the growth of functional listening,” that I happened to compile this particular album list for the first time this year. The ubiquity of supermassive streaming libraries now virtually at our fingertips and always available for our thirsty eardrums means we can find ways to soundtrack our lives at any and every moment we wish. Kankyō Ongaku is such a soundtrack*, culled from a number of Japanese ambient electronic artists from the 1980s. This compilation is curated by Spencer Doran, of Visible Cloaks, and released on Light in the Attic Records (the very same responsible for the Lewis reissues and subsequent solution to the decades-old mystery of their provenance). Highly recommended. *The vinyl release of this album is a 3 x LP and features 25 tracks, while the streaming version is limited to only 10.

11 Steve Hauschildt

11. Steve Hauschildt – Nonlin

Steve Hauschildt, formerly of Emeralds, released Nonlin, his latest LP on Ghostly International, in late 2019. I hitherto had only a dim awareness of his work. Much like another of my favorite albums from 2019 (Floating Points’ “Crush”), Nonlin offers up a hybrid cross-section of thoughtfully-composed electronic music, leaning rather heavily on the synthesizers. An art-house Stranger Things soundtrack, if you will.

10 Nils Frahm

10. Nils Frahm – All Encores

All Encores is a collection of the contents of 3 Encores EPs released over the course of 2019 on the heels of Frahm’s excellent 2018 LP, All Melody. Representing a selection of works that are far more spare and unassuming than the baroque, multifaceted splendor of All Melody, the collection of EPs would be a fitting accompaniment to any sort of weather, be it fair or frightful.

9 Lightbath

9. Lightbath – Selected Public Works, Vol. 3

A brand new discovery for me in 2019, Lightbath is the brainchild of composer/improviser Bryan Noll. Selected Public Works, Vol. 3 collects various of his modular synthesizer performances from the past 4 years. Volumes 1 and 2 have been released only on cassette tape thus far, while Vol. 3 is available to stream online. Another EP, Vol. 4, was also released in late 2019. His work is reminiscent of Brian Eno, SURVIVE, CFCF and Oneohtrix Point Never. The soundtrack to a celestial zen garden.

8 Glok

8. Glok – Dissident

Another brand new discovery for me in 2019. Glok is the electronic alias of Andy Bell, guitarist and vocalist of the English shoegaze band Ride. A sprawling record, Dissident fuses, “synth wave and Detroit techno via a love of John Carpenter soundtracks with dissonant atmospherics and an acid throb,” and rewards many repeat spins.

7 Floating Points

7. Floating Points – Crush

Floatings Points is Sam Shepard, a DJ, musician and producer from the UK. Crush is a record I have been looking forward to ever since his debut, Elaenia, was released back in 2015. A deep and exacting record, Crush is something of a Rube Goldberg machine in album form. A musical sub-genre called ‘Braindance’ supposedly applies here. The album offers up tasty morsels in a precisely-constructed presentation format, and you can pluck any one out to enjoy. A virtual buffet that has been thoughtfully arranged and pared back to showcase a number of unique tastes.

6 Hauschka

6. Hauschka – A Different Forest

Volker Bertelmann is the name of the experimental “prepared” pianist who goes by Hauschka. Once upon a time, he was a member of a German hip-hop group. Nowadays, he has undergone an extended metamorphosis to become, more or less, a bonafide neoclassical pianist. A Different Forest is very much a straightforward affair, and requires nothing more than a simple appreciation of the unprepared ivories to enjoy. His playing on this album is expressive and warm.

5 Kelly Moran

5. Kelly Moran – Origin EP

Kelly Moran’s follow-up to her excellent Ultraviolet, released in 2018. Like Hauschka, she is a specialist of the “prepared piano,” which is a piano that has had its sound altered by the placement of various objects on or between the strings. Origin is a no slouch for an EP, clocking in at over 36 minutes in length. Here we find some brand new material, along with improvisational, proto-versions of pieces from Ultraviolet. The tapestry of mesmerizing sounds she conjures from the piano is at once both ostentatious and austere.

4 Tim Hecker

4. Tim Hecker – Anoyo

Tim Hecker followed up 2018’s Konoyo (this world) with companion piece Anoyo (the world over there). The tracks on the latter come from the same sessions that produced the tracks on the former.  Drawing upon Japanese court music style gagaku, Hecker recorded Anoyo with the ensemble Tokyo Gakuso. A voyage into the vacuum of space. Boundless and immense.

3 Fennesz

3. Fennesz – Agora

The first LP from Austrian composer Christian Fennesz in 5 years, Agora is an album of layers. Despite being recorded largely indoors with guitars, the four tracks comprising its 48 minute runtime manage to evoke an eerie spaciousness. Unlike AnoyoAgora feels like a voyage among the stars that turns out to have actually been a descent into the Mariana Trench.

2 Mort Garson

2. Mort Garson – Plantasia

Another reissue, this one from Mort Garson, a pioneer of discrete music and electronic composition. Originally released in 1976, Plantasia is a wonderful cornucopia of Moog synthesizer music, surprisingly organic and warm, and absolutely on-point as far as its central conceit is concerned (music for plants and the people who love them). 40-plus years later, thanks to projects such as the MIDI Sprout, music for and by plants feels more timely than ever.

1 Nivhek

1. Nivhek – After its own death / Walking in a spiral towards the house

Nivhek is a new moniker for Liz Harris, otherwise known as Grouper. This record is comprised of two long-form performances, each broken into two pieces, and originally performed as a part of two different artistic residencies: one in Murmansk, Russia, the other in the Azores, in Portugal. Taken together as a full release, now, in 2019, and clocking in at just about one hour, the cumulative result packs a mighty wallop. From glossolalia to drone to faraway bells and chimes, found sounds and malfunctioning equipment, distant footsteps and funereal abysms of sound, the album plays like a long stroll deep into the desolation of winter’s grasp. As with many of the albums I’ve selected for this new Year in Review list, it rewards patience and many repeat spins.

Apple Music Playlists:

Top of 2019 – Albums (Ambient)

Top of 2019 – Top Songs (Ambient)

 

“Wanderin’ Star” as performed by Lee Marvin in Paint Your Wagon

Without a doubt, Paint Your Wagon (1969) has got to be the most bizarre movie musical I have ever watched. Adapted for the big screen by Paddy Chayefsky from Alan Jay Lerner’s original 1951 stage production, the film stars Lee Marvin, Clint Eastwood (his one and only appearance in a musical) and Jean Seberg. Although I have never seen a performance of the musical on stage, I read up on it after viewing the film. There are… rather quite a number of differences between the two.

Lee Marvin - Paint Your Wagon

Far and away my favorite performance in the film is Marvin’s wordly, gristly Forty-Niner character, name of Ben Rumson. He also performs my favorite musical number, Wanderin’ Star. Marvin famously insisted on performing all of the singing parts himself, even though he had no real training as a vocalist. His rendition of this song actually became a chart-topping hit in the UK, beating out The Beatles’ Let it Be.

My second favorite musical performance in the film has got to be Harve Presnell’s rendition of, They Call the Wind Mariah. Fun fact, Harve Presnell also famously played the part of Wade Gustafson, father of Jean Lundegaard, in the Coen Brothers’ inimitable classic Fargo.

maria gustafson

Anyhow, if you have 3 hours to kill, and you like show tunes about mining for gold, and if you’re any kind of Paddy Chayefsky fan, Paint Your Wagon is well worth watching.

2018 – The Year in Review – Music – Top Songs

Love in the Time of Lexapro

I’ve put together an Apple Music playlist, distilling over 140 songs I culled from 2018 (and a couple that are technically from 2017, if you wanna split hairs) and assembled a *short* 3 hour long playlist. Slap on a pair of headphones or fire up the HomePod or off-brand Bluetooth speaker and have a listen!

Top of 2018 – Apple Music – Joel’s Top Songs

  1. Babylon – Oneohtrix Point Never
  2. Duration Meditation – Reto A Ichi
  3. Mongolia (The Ancient Era) [Pastor Song; Khoomii Improvisation] – Nature Ganganbaigal of Tengger Cavalry
  4. Time – Angelo De Augustine
  5. Eyes Wide Awake – Calexico
  6. Moon Bog – Oh Sees
  7. Camera (On Film) – Chromatics
  8. Angie – Shame
  9. Wildflowers – Soccer Mommy
  10. Shades of Blue – Yo La Tengo
  11. The Last Great Washington State – Damien Jurado
  12. Driving – Grouper
  13. Helix (Edit) – Kelly Moran
  14. I Shall Love 2 – Julia Holter
  15. Poor Sucker – Low
  16. In My View – Young Fathers
  17. Empty Vessels – DeVotchKa
  18. When You’re Small – MGMT
  19. Woo – Beach House
  20. Chasing Stars – Postiljonen
  21. When I’m with Him – Empress Of
  22. The Whole Universe Wants to Be Touched – Nils Frahm
  23. Come Wayward Souls – The Blasting Company
  24. Potatus Et Molassus – The Blasting Company
  25. Time Adventure (feat. Niki Yang, Sean Giambrone, Steve Little, Hynden Walch, Olivia Olson, John DiMaggio, Pendleton Ward, Justin Roiland, Maria Bamford, Jessica DiCiccu & Tom Kenny) – Adventure Time, Rebecca Sugar & Tim Kiefer
  26. When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs For Wings – Willie Watson & Tim Blake Nelson
  27. At Least the Sky Is Blue (feat. Ariel Pink) – Ssion
  28. Hang On Me (Piano Version) – St. Vincent
  29. Suspirium – Thom Yorke
  30. Dancing and Fire – Low
  31. Percy Faith – Damien Jurado
  32. Slow Burn – Kacey Musgraves
  33. Venice Bitch – Lana Del Rey
  34. Two Slow Dancers – Mitski
  35. Always Up – Low
  36. last piece – Lykke Li
  37. Heaven in Farsi – PAINT
  38. Tenderness – Parquet Courts
  39. The and Song – Jeffrey Lewis
  40. Fear The Future (Piano Version) – St. Vincent
  41. Last Wave – They Might Be Giants
  42. Disarray – Low
  43. Babylon – Oneohtrix Point Never & (Sandy) Alex G

 

2014 ~ The Year in Music

2014 ~ The Year in Music

Podcasts ruled my car’s stereo for the majority of 2014 (Serial, anyone?)

Even so, I did listen to plenty of tremendous musical creations through those well-worn speakers. Nothing received as many replays as Withered Hand, the solo project of 30-somthing Scottish wannabe-loser Dan Wilson. His songwriting is incisive, catchy, self-deprecating and filled with candor and wit. His voice sounds like the lilt of Billy Boyd’s Pippin singing to Denethor, steward of Gondor. He plays guitar. He waxes poetic about California and In-N-Out Burger. He is the world’s most interesting singer/songwriter.

Withered Hand - New Gods

Top Albums of 2014

  1. Withered Hand – New Gods
  2. The War on Drugs – Lost in the Dream
  3. Damien Jurado – Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Son
  4. Grouper – Ruins
  5. Woods – With Light and With Love
  6. Caribou – Our Love
  7. Spoon – They Want My Soul
  8. Death Vessel – Island Intervals
  9. Luxury – Trophies
  10. The Notwist – Close to the Glass

Top Songs of 2014

  1. Fall Apart by Withered Hand
  2. Moving to the Left by Woods
  3. Kong by The Notwist
  4. We Agreed by Death Vessel
  5. Sinking Stone by GEMS
  6. Clearing by Grouper
  7. Silver Timothy by Damien Jurado
  8. Love Over Desire by Withered Hand
  9. Closer by FKA Twigs
  10. In Reverse by The War on Drugs
  11. Inside Out by Spoon
  12. Velvet Antlers by Death Vessel
  13. Red Eyes by The War on Drugs
  14. Back Home by Caribou
  15. Eyes to the Wind by The War on Drugs
  16. Horseshoe by Withered Hand
  17. Black Tambourine by Withered Hand
  18. Medusa by GEMS
  19. California by Withered Hand
  20. Chandelier by Sia

2013 – The Year’s Best Music – Songs

Top Songs

In my mind, it seems like I was just sitting down to write this very same list from last year. Time flies when you’re wearing tank tops. This year marks the first time listening to music in my car eclipsed listening to it in any other setting. Also, I blew through a few zillion podcasts in the Honda. Podcasts are awesome.

I present, without further comment, the songs I most enjoyed listening to in Anno 2013:

  1. Grammy by Purity Ring
  2. Free At Dawn by Small Black
  3. The Possessed by Glass Candy
  4. Livin’ It Up by Ciara
  5. Beloved by Say Lou Lou
  6. In Real Life by The Ruby Suns
  7. Graceless by The National
  8. Golden Wake by Mutual Benefit
  9. Line of Fire by Junip
  10. Blue Crystal Fire (Originally released in 1978) by Robbie Basho
  11. Beta Love by Ra Ra Riot
  12. Sonsick (Magic Man Remix) by San Fermin
  13. Born at 5:00 by Bombadil
  14. One Half by Julianna Barwick
  15. Childhood’s End by Majical Cloudz
  16. Something About You by Dornik
  17. Fool of Me (feat. Chet Faker) by Say Lou Lou
  18. Recollection by Keep Shelly In Athens
  19. Without You My Life Would Be Boring by The Knife
  20. Sea of Love by The National
  21. Mute by Youth Lagoon
  22. God’s Children (The Kinks cover) by Woods
  23. Boring Country Song by Bombadil
  24. Demon To Lean On by Wavves
  25. Tonight We Fall by ADULT.
  26. No Stranger by Small Black
  27. Stone Cold Coup d’Etat by They Might Be Giants
  28. I Take Comfort In Your Ignorance (Tycho Remix) by Ulrich Schnauss
  29. I Am a [REDACTED] by Kanye West
  30. WIIW by Kirin J Callinan
  31. Drive by Beacon
  32. Let’s Kiss by Mirage
  33. Science/Visions by Chvrches
  34. A Violent Sky by Apparat
  35. One More Ring by Bombadil
  36. Branches by Chrome Canyons
  37. Hurricane (Chvrches Remix) by MS MR
  38. Madmen Love by Keep Shelly In Athens
  39. Into Eternity by Farah
  40. Just Desserts by Marina & The Diamonds & Charli XCX
  41. I Take Comfort In Your Ignorance by Ulrich Schnauss
  42. Youth by Daughter
  43. Compliment Your Soul by Dan Croll
  44. Varsity by Smith Westerns
  45. Street of Dreams by Frankie Rose
  46. Wanderlust by Polly Scattergood
  47. Atlantis by Postiljonen
  48. Menswear by The 1975
  49. Oostende by Keep Shelly in Athens
  50. Unbreakable (feat. Baaba Maal and The Very Best) (Baio Vocal Mix) by Yadi

Feel free to stream most of them here:

2012 ~ The Year in Music

2012 - The Year in Review2012 was a “thinner” year for me, as I maintained a fairly strong connection to the channels through which I received my music-culture input, while at the same time withdrawing to a place where I spent less time seeking to find, and more time learning to redirect my own creative energies towards building stability for my family. Does this make sense?

There was a time when I bent the majority of my intellectual energy toward the uncovering of new artists and songs. It was hard work, long hours spent deeply absorbed in a world of sounds. I invested inordinate amounts of time just hearing things I never would have had the patience for if I hadn’t believed that there was some value to be discovered within the cacophony of the potentially-sublime creative output of some kids in a bedroom half a world away.

Upon moving to California, I adopted something of a passive attitude about such things. I was determined to remain in the dark about all of the shows I was now missing out on, mere miles away. I did go to a few, mind you, but nowhere near the number I would have gone to, had I not been so committed to pinching every penny we had. I locked up my input streams, and let the music flow to me, and flow it did. In pleasantly manageable quantities, too.

I won a spot on the guest list for Damien Jurado’s show in San Diego, and later I was able to tag along to a VIP hangout with Mutemath. Those were my concert-going activities for 2012. Will 2013 be more eventful? I fully expect it to be so.

Here is my list of top albums from 2012. Someday, an expansion on why Maraqopa was chosen will be due. I chose it very early in the year. Nothing has eclipsed my decision since.

Best album of 2012.
Best album of 2012.
  1. Damien Jurado – Maraqopa
  2. Grimes – Visions
  3. Chromatics – Kill for Love
  4. Bat For Lashes – The Haunted Man
  5. elite gymnastics – ruin
  6. Japandroids – Celebration Rock
  7. Beach House – Bloom
  8. Sharon Van Etten – Tramp
  9. Kent – Jag är inte rädd for mörkret

And a couple of honorable mentions. Why are these two honorables mentioned? Well, for one, Silver & Gold is a compilation of Soof’s past 5 Christmas albums. Also, it is a masterwork of staggering genius. Small Black’s Moon Killer Mixtape was released on 11/11/11 and was missed by yours truly (as a whole). I wound up digging on the title track a heck of a lot in 2012, so, I place this mixtape here as an honorable mention.

I'm a Christmas Unicorn. You're a Christmas Unicorn, too.
I’m a Christmas Unicorn. You’re a Christmas Unicorn, too.
  1. Sufjan Stevens – Silver & Gold
  2. Small Black – Moon Killer Mixtape

I don’t know what to expect from Sufjan, anymore. I just don’t.

Best un-owned (not unheard) albums from 2012. These are albums which I listened to- in this age of Rdio, Spotify, Grooveshark, and Soundcloud- and was highly impressed with, but hitherto have not been so moved as to purchase them. I would like to, though.

Far overstated how this band was "overrated" Shrines announces reality, sans hype.
Far overstated how this band was “overrated” Shrines announces reality, sans hype.
  1. Purity Ring – Shrines
  2. Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!
  3. Jessie Ware – Devotion
  4. Liars – WIXIW
  5. Chairlift – Something
  6. Passion Pit – Gossamer
  7. Woods – Bend Beyond
  8. Memory Tapes – Grace / Confusion
  9. The Fresh & Onlys – Long Slow Dance
  10. Crystal Castles – (III)

And finally, here is my list of favorite songs from 2012.

Never make you try.
Never make you try.
  1. Moon Killer – Small Black
  2. Genesis – Grimes
  3. Cherokee – Cat Power
  4. Give It Up – The Big Pink
  5. Wildest Moments – Jessie Ware
  6. No. 1 Against the Rush – Liars
  7. Into the Black – Chromatics
  8. Truth – Alexander
  9. Darkness – Leonard Cohen
  10. Working Titles – Damien Jurado
  11. Size Meets The Sound – Woods
  12. I’m Not Talking – A.C. Newman
  13. Presence of Mind – The Fresh & Onlys
  14. Shallow Tears – Light Asylum
  15. They’re Talking About Us – Tronics
  16. The House That Heaven Built – Japandroids
  17. Met Before – Chairlift
  18. Obedear – Purity Ring
  19. Wishes – Beach House
  20. h e r e, i n  h e a v e n  4 & 5 (CFCF Remix) – elite gymnastics
  21. All Your Gold – Bat For Lashes
  22. Only in My Dreams – Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti
  23. Fineshrine – Purity Ring
  24. Kill for Love – Chromatics
  25. The Theory of Relativity – Stars
  26. Museum of Flight – Damien Jurado
  27. Laura – Bat For Lashes
  28. Last Rights – Jeremy Enigk
  29. Heaven – The Walkmen
  30. Christmas Unicorn – Sufjan Stevens

Moon Killer

This song won’t leave my brain alone. In much the same way that Small Black’s “Despicable Dogs,” that impeccable track from their early EP, moved me, so does “Moon Killer.”

I don’t know precisely what it is. There is some kind of intricate, labyrinthine reason I am filled with a longing for that promised land. Who will go? Who will enter? Who will prepare? Who will show the rest of us how? Those who put their gifts to use. Those who labor on, honing bright fragments of the firmament into the jigsaw pieces of a sublime vision.

Never Make You Try Never Make You Try

Up in the morning & Out the door
One of mystery
One of heaven’s bored
God is lifted
She says you’re the one
Good for nothing servant of the bunch

There’s an ugly way to do things
Here’s the tools I’ve laid them out for you

Never Make You Try
Never Make You Try

Here’s the tools I laid them out for you

Touching them but don’t know how to use

I hear there’s a better way to do it
I hear there’s a better way to do it
You hear there’s a better way to do it

You want to put the work in, but
I’ll Never Make You Try
Never Make You Try

There’s an ugly way to do things
Here’s the tools I’ve laid them out for you

Never Make You Try
Never Make Your Try
One try, Moon Killer
One try, Moon Killer