Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Best of 2014

It is once again that time of year where Larry and I go through all the music that we have collected and enjoyed throughout this year and give you our choices for both songs and albums that we think are the best. Once again Larry and I thank you so much for reading our blog. We love having the opportunity to share with you our musical tastes and really appreciate your support of this blog. It makes it all worthwhile when we get notes from people telling us just how much they enjoyed a particular album or band that we have featured. That is exactly why we share our love for music with you. We encourage you to leave us a comment as to what albums or songs did we leave out that you think need to be included. You will soon know our favorite music of 2014.  What were your favorites from this year?

Fletcher’s Best of 2014 picks
This year for me was a good solid year of music. Some of my favorite artists put out new music and there were a bunch of really good new bands to the scene. I always love listening to new bands and introducing you to them. I find a lot of bands I write about end up in my favorite albums and songs, but I guess I write about them because I like them so much. So no harm done, hopefully. I did finally whittle my top albums of the year to six. Make sure you click on all the links of songs for they go to a video of each chosen song.

Top Albums of the Year (listed alphabetically by band)

Ark Life. The Dream of You and Me- From the first time I heard this band from Denver, I really fell in love with the songwriting and 3 female to one male harmonies. I had the opportunity to work their merch table when they came through Baltimore. I was worried how the studio sound would translate live. It was amazing. Enjoy “(Rock and Roll Got) The Best of Me” and "Have to Leave You Now".
Courtney Barnett. The Double EP & A Sea of Split Peas. Love this women’s sense of humor and word play. Great stories and a wonderful delivery and phrasing of her lyrics. Check out "History Eraser" and "Out of the Woodwork".
Jukebox the Ghost. Jukebox the Ghost- This album came out late this year but is a solid effort from my friends from Brooklyn. This album shows a lot of maturity musically but keeps their fun loving piano based pop style. They write such catchy tunes that you will be humming throughout the day. These are all great songs to get stuck in your head.Enjoy "The Great Unknown" and "Made for Ending".
Marah. Mountain Minstrelsy- I can’t get enough of this album from my favorite live band ever!!! Two years in the making but worth every second. This mountain, americana, folk, psychedelic, indie rock music strikes you to the core. Done in the Marah way, by recording it in Monophonic. They always do it their way and stay true to who they are. Go get this one now!!    Here is "A Melody of Rain" as well as "10 Cents at the Gate" (I sang this song live with them in Baltimore-see below)
War on Drugs. Lost In a Dream- I also wrote about this band earlier this year. This is a very strong album. Made many “best of” lists this year. It deserves it. “Under the pressure” is still one of my favorite songs of the year. Listen to "Under the Pressure"  and "Suffering".
Wye Oak. Shriek- It has been a few years between releases from my friends originally from Baltimore. They continue to make our city proud. When people and critics heard that this album was made without any of their usual lead guitar, people panned it before they even heard it. This brilliant album made with just keys, drums and bass is truly incredible. They made all the critics eat their words. Way to go Jenn and Andy! Take pleasure in "The Tower"  and "Logic of Color".

Top Songs of the Year (listed alphabetically by band)
Apache Relay. Katie Queen of Tennessee- This folk rock Nashville band put out a self titled album with one of my favorite songs of the year. Great vibe.
Cloud Nothings. I’m Not Part of Me- I wrote about this Cleveland band earlier this year. Still in love with this straight ahead rock tune.
Horse Thief. Devil – Had the pleasure of working the merch table for a show for this psychedelic folk rock band from Oklahoma. Very cool sound. Love his phrasing of this song.
Matt Hutchison. Only You- This Baltimore based songwriter works each song with great hooks. He is the former front person of Fools and Horses which was a big band in this city for years. Love the jangly guitar opening chords on this hummable song. I am sending you to his web site.
Ray Lamontagne. Drive-in Movies- This former shoe factory worker from New Hampshire has such a soulful and emotional voice that you believe everything he says.
LP. Into the Wild. You can’t be helped but to be moved by her soaring voice. I wrote about her this year after seeing her live and being blown away. I still am.
Scars on 45. Golden- After being dropped by their label a few years ago, I was worried they were done. Thank goodness I was wrong. They are back with their killer male-female harmonies, as good as ever.
The Strypes. Blue Collar Jane- This Irish band of four musicians under the age of 20, sound like the British invasion bands from the 1960’s who were influenced by the blues. Don’t let their age fool you, they kick ass.

Best surprise: Scruffy the Cat unreleased recordings. The Good Goodbye. I wrote last year about the tragic loss of Scruffy the Cat’s front person, Charlie Chesterman. A number of you replied that you also LOVED this band from Boston in the 80’s. I know I did. They changed how I looked and listened to music and made me thirst for underground bands at that time. They were one of the best live bands I have ever seen and I saw them a number of times. They were just joyful people who were way ahead of their time. I mean what band in the 80’s used banjo’s and mandolins with their punkish pop Americana songs. Anyway, I was so pleased that this album was released this year by Omnivore Recordings because it lets me remember their greatness. Hopefully, this release will introduce them to new ears.

Best Musical Moments- No doubt. MARAH presents Mountain Minstrelsy. They came back and came back strong with this side project that features a 12 year old fiddle prodigy. It is not a shtick, for he can play. I helped bring them to Baltimore on two occasions and became their merch guy for a number of East Coast dates. This is a band I have loved for years so for me to be in their presence was inspirational. For me meeting them is like most people meeting a Beatle. I have said on numerous occasions to anyone who will listen that this is my favorite live band ever. After going out with them on a number of dates, I can still vouch that this is true. I brought out lots of people to their shows here and they all came up to me and asked why aren’t they huge, It is because they do things the way the want to. They always do it well. They may never be rich but they can hold their artistic heads up high. They know themselves better than anyone. Anyway my best musical moment was guest singing with them at a show here in Baltimore. I asked them if I could sing and they didn’t even hesitate. What a thrill. It will be the best musical moment of my life and will be one of the best moments of my life. Thank you to Dave and Christine and the rest of the band for being so kind to me on all of our excursions. It has been an honor.
            I had another great year working the merch tables for a number of bands this year. Some new ones included the Hold Steady, Seawolf. Ark Life, and Ozomalti. Thanks to everyone who trusted me working with them this year.

Looking Forward to in 2015- The Damnwells!!! I know I said this last year also. The album did not come out this past year. The original members recorded the album on their own. Before they put it out a label signed them which will delay it until March/April. Can’t wait, Also I am looking forward to new Decemberists as well as Courtney Barnett. The Waterboys are releasing a new album early in the year. My fingers will be crossed. The new Lone Bellow also drops early next year.

Larry’s Best of 2014 picks
This year presented a terrific mix of new faces and the return of some old favorites, sometimes in a new form.  My favorite musical moments will take a new turn, as this year I moved from Texas to Hawai'i.  The music performed here and the music scene itself is a bit different than anything I've seen on the mainland.  As is the case with Fletcher's picks you will see many familiar artists from earlier blog posts along with, what I hope will be, a few surprises.

Top Albums of the Year (listed alphabetically by band)

The Delines. Colfax. I keep playing this album for it's terrific songwriting and for Amy Boone's amazing voice.  Listen to "I Won't Slip Up" and "The Oil Rigs At Night".
Nels Cline and Julian Lage. Room- This album, just released the last week of November, is an amazing gift for lovers of creative virtuoso guitar work. Both players are masters of their craft. Here, they selflessly collaborate to create beautiful music. I've been a fan of Nels work since he joined Wilco in 2004.  However, Nels started his career playing jazz.  Julian Lage was a child prodigy who has played with an impressive who's who of guitarists since he was a child.  This album is a tribute to Jim Hall's work. One can also hear echo's of Larry Coryell works.  Here is a link to a recent show by Nels and Julian at this year's Ottawa Jazzfest.
Ryan Adams. Ryan Adams- Ryan is rocking again, and rocking well.  I really like the tone of his guitar on this album. Listen to "Gimmie Something Good"  and "Stay With Me".
Sturgill Simpson. Metamodern Sounds in Country Music- I like good country music. Sadly, with a few notable exceptions, there has not been much great country music to listen to the past couple of decades.  Sturgill Simpson is one of those exceptions. Listen to "You Can Have The Crown/Some Days".
Temples. Sun Structures-  I really am drawn to the retro sound of this band.  Listen to "Keep In The Dark"  and "Colors to Life".
War on Drugs. Lost In a Dream- Fletcher turned me on to this band earlier this year. Both the songwriting and the performances on this album are terrific.  Enjoy a full live performance from these artists on KEXP.

Top Songs of the Year (listed alphabetically by band)
Ambrose Akinmusire. Our Basement- There are not many pleasures that can surpass hearing Amrose's amazing trumpet work tastefully riffing alongside Becca Stevens gorgeous voice. Beautiful stuff.
Drive-By Truckers. Till He's Dead Or Rises- Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley still know how to write good tunes. Here is but one example.
Jamestown Revival. California (Cast Iron Soul) – Terrific harmonies can be heard in the work of this Texas duo. This is a wonderful song.  It's melody will be in your head in no time.
Leonard Cohen. Did I Ever Love You- In the past few years Leonard Cohen has again emerged as one of the best song writers in the business. This ballad is yet another example of his genius.
Saint Saviour. Nobody Died- This is a beautiful haunting ballad. While I never cared much for her electro pop stuff her singing and songwriting here is top notch.
Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings Stranger to My Happiness. Sit still while you listen to this song.  Come on.  I dare you. I double-dare you.
Spoon. Rent I Pay- Spoon just keeps their wonderful sound coming.  I love the guitar on this one.
Wussy. Teenage Wasteland-  The sound of this band and this song is first rate.  Anyone who has ever been in a garage band, or been a fan of garage bands will be charmed.

Best Musical Moments- In February, I was fortunate to see the Manhattan Transfer perform at the Dosey Doe in Spring, Texas.  They put on a typically awesome show.  I was extremely saddened to learn that Tim Hauser passed away last month.  MT had a terrific sound that endured for decades.

As a new arrival in Hawai'i I was extremely lucky to see Henry Kapono perform in front of an intimate audience at the Playing For Change show at Ala Moana last month. He's an amazing performer that usually plays in front of much larger crowds.

Looking Forward to in 2015- Like Fletcher, I am also eagerly awaiting the forthcoming albums from  The Damnwells and the DecemberistsDiana Krall and Bob Dylan also have new albums in the works.  It will be exciting to hear what what both of these artists are up to in 2015.