My top albums of 2014

OK so there are 26 albums on my top of the year playlist, but just for you guys, i will narrow it down.  Realizing a lot of my top music this year is sad white dudes. Guess that says nothing great about me (and also how behind i am on ‘albums to listen to 2014’ playlist)

As always, you can view/listen to/stalk my Top 10s from every year since 1999 right here on my blog.

Here’s my full spotify playlist including the ones that i enjoyed but didn’t make the cut for this list Jeremy’s Top Albums of 2014

In no particular order (and i no make no claim to super high quality descriptors):

Low Roar – 0 (Tonequake) – Just crazy gorgeous beautiful. Formerly Oakland-based Ryan Karazija of Audrye Sessions moves to Iceland and writes lovely haunting music about his new unfamiliar surroundings
Luluc – Passerby (Sub Pop) – Girl with a sultry voice, guy with a guitar. Sublime on vinyl.
Locust – After The Rain (Editions Mego)
Loscil – Sea Island (Kranky)
Phantogram – Voices (Universal/Republic) – Dark electro synthpoppy goodness in the Ladytron/Royksopp/School of Seven Bells (RIP) realm.
Alcest – Shelter (Prophecy Productions) – French black metal turned poppy shoegaze/post-rock band featuring Neil Halstead and Amiina from Sigur Ros
Asteroids Galaxy Tour – Bring us Together (Hot Bus Records) – Big Beat is back? RIYL the last Daft Punk album, I guess.
Ben Howard – I Forget Where We Were (Island) – Melancholy british white dude music.
Elizabeth and the Catapult – Like it Never Happened (Scratchback Records / Self-released)
Emerson Hart – Beauty in Disrepair (BMG) – Hooky mainstream pop/rock which kind of reminds me of the late great Will Owsley.  Yes, the lead dude from Tonic.
White Sea – In Cold Blood (Vocalist from M83’s album is better than his latest)
Otto Totland – Pino (Sonic Pieces) – Anyone who enjoys Nils Frahm and the Erased Tapes crew will find this piano solo stuff divine.  Also probably fans of ECM will like it, too.
S. Carey – Range of Light (Jagjaguwar) – Cinematic and gorgeous indietronica/jazz/americana inspired by the southwest

On paths

“Life is a garden, not a road. We enter and exit through the same gate. Wandering, where we go matters less than what we notice.” -Kurt Vonnegut

The trick with paths is not to think of them as places that you aren’t on.  Or at least, not to think of yourself as ‘not on any path’, and have that be a ‘bad thing’.

No matter what, you are on a path.

Remember, you give yourself more freedom when you are okay with where you are than when you feel like you need to be anywhere in particular.

 

Photo: garden paths by Joel Kramer

Top Albums of 2013

In no particular order.  So many this year!

As A Spotify Playlist »

If I had to pick 10, they’d be Midlake, Rachel Zeffira, Savages, Emika, Jon Hopkins, Janelle Monae, Disclosure, Rhian Sheehan, Locust and Minilogue

Rock and Metal

  • Midlake – Antiphon [Bella Union] By far my favorite rock/psych record of the year

Runners-up:

  • Palms – Palms [Ipecac] – My annual guilty “Sounds like Filter/Deftones/Alt-Metal” choice, with the added bonus of it being made up of members of ISIS with Chino Moreno on vocals
  • Device – Device [Warner] (Dave Draiman from Disturbed and Geno from Filter do nu-metal)
  • Bring Me The Horizon – Sempternal [Sony/Epitaph] – Yes i know their last record made them kind of a joke, but I’m really digging this one.
  • Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – Specter at the Feast [Abstract Dragon/Vagrant] – Their best in awhile
  • Mogwai – Les Revenants [Sub Pop] – I’ve never been a huge fan of these guys, but this album may have turned me around

Pop and Folk

  • Rachel Zeffira – The Deserters [Paper Bag Records] – Lovely Tori-ish Dream/Chamber Pop. Just so so good.
  • Savages – Silence Yourself [Matador] – Plenty has been written about this record. For me it brings up good Siouxsie/Catherine Wheel-ish memories
  • Rudimental – Home [Warner UK] / Disclosure – Settle [Island] / Empire of the Sun – Ice on the Dune [EMI Australia] – These three seemed to scratch the same itch for me. Dancey-housey-80sy but not dumb.

Runners-up:

  • The Mavericks – In Time [Sanctuary] – I will never not love Raul Malo’s voice, and I’m happy they’re back.
  • Caitlin Canty – Golden Hour [self-released] – Classic intimate girl-with-guitar coffeeshop stuff.  She has a project with Peter Bradley Adams called Down Like Silver which I love, too.
  • Joseph Tawadros (with Bela Fleck, Richard Bona, James Tawadros) – Chameleons of the White Shadow [self-released] – Bluegrass and so much more
  • Soft Location – Fools [self-released] – Kinda Kate Bush-y

Electronic and Shoegaze

  • Emika – DVA [Ninja Tune] – LOVE this  / Maya Jane Coles – Comfort [I/AM/ME] – Another pair of albums that feel similar to me. They’re both dark electronica, though Emika is more explicitly gothy and MJC has more of a trip-hop edge (and a track with Tricky on guest vocals).
  • Locust – You’ll be Safe Forever [Mego] Dark and IDMy but with a distinctly warm, organic crunch
  • Jon Hopkins – Immunity [Domino] – Every album he’s released has been on my top 10. This beautiful, broken cinematic half-loud half-quiet masterpiece is his best yet
  • Minilogue – Blomma [Cocoon] – One disc of FSOL-y/Underworldy proggy dance music (with LONG tracks), One disc of epic slow chillout stuff.  Each apparently improvised and recorded in a single take. Delicious

Runners-up

  • Sigur Ros – Kveikur [XL] – A welcome return to form, after the meanderings of the last two. Also closer to Jonsi’s solo stuff than most of their other works.
  • Joseph Trapanese – TRON: Uprising [Disney] – Obviously not as stellar as the Daft Punk Tron:Legacy score, but a fulfilling followup.
  • C2C – Tetra [Mercury] The first album from the turntablist and DMC winners reminds me a lot of people like Soulwax, The Avalanches and Basement Jaxx
  • Minilogue – Endlessness EP – More long tracks with lovely samples that are never tiring

Ambient

  • Olafur Arnalds – For Now I Am Winter [Mercury Classics/Decca]
  • Rhian Sheehan – Stories from Elsewhere [Darla] – This one wins my ‘epic cinematic ambient/post-rock with strings’ award that i usually give to Hammock (their release this year was disappointing to me)

Runners-up:

  • Message to Bears – Maps
  • Ben Lukas Boysen – Gravity [Ad Noiseam] – Also known as industrial noisemaker Hecq. Gurgly dark underwater stuff.
  • Main – Ablation [Editions Mego] – Creepiest ambient I’ve heard in awhile and a welcome return for Mr. Hampson

Hip-Hop and R&B and Jazz

  • Janelle Monae – The Electric Lady [Bad Boy/Atlantic]Leaves her first record (which I was not impressed by) in the dust

Runners-up

  • Oddisee – The Beauty In All [Mello Music]
  • Talib Kweli – Prisoner of Conscious
  • Eldar Djangirov Trio – Breakthrough [Motema]

What I Should Have Said At My Father’s Memorial Service

My dad’s memorial service was this weekend.

There were a lot of old Artists there.

They come from an insular world in which Art is the only worthwhile endeavor, where “selling out” is the worst imaginable sin.

More than a few people got up to extoll his virtue as an Artist, his lifelong commitment to Art and being an Artist, and his keeping his promise to himself to always make Art.

They spoke of his legacy: His art.

(I guess I don’t really count. To them.)

I was in the room when they said this.  They said it to me.

I saw the heads nodding along.

Invalidating my actual existence. Relative to almighty Art.

Old wounds scraped up.  A roomful.

 

I’m told I went up and said some words.

I’m told I was generous.

 

Here’s what I should have said.

Art isn’t a legacy.

Art is poison pigments in glass cases.

Art currently taking up space in an empty house, needing to be housed until what… some magical surge of interest?

My father died alone. He died alone because he put Art first.

It’s not fucking noble.  It’s childish, delusional and deeply selfish.

As was he.

My father was not there for me.  He was there for Art.

He loved me when it was convenient.

Your precious Art cost him his family.

It’s ink marks on paper.

It’s not noble.

You are delusional.

I’m his fucking legacy.

Art can go to hell.

You want legacy?

Kiss your kids.

If they still talk to you.

If not? I guess you have your fucking precious Art.

What I should have said.

On fucking normal and fucking expectations.

Lately I’ve been spending some time thinking about all the ways in which I am not what society expects me to be.

I am smart, wise and curious, but I do not have a college education.

I am industrious and skilled in many areas, but I have not had a full-time job since 2011, and I am not interested in finding one.

I am male, straight and a feminist in a committed long-term relationship, but some of my views and activities do not fit squarely into any of those labels (for instance, we are not married and I don’t think of a marriage certificate as an essential part of what makes for a happy life.)

In many ways I am not living according to the expected plan, the treadmill. The ‘be born-go to school-go to college-get a job-meet a girl-move in-get married-buy a house-have kids-retire-wait to die’ treadmill.

In the past, there have been aspects of it that have bothered me.

I’ve had an underlying critical voice that pokes at me that I should be doing something more important with my time, that I’m just putzing around and wasting my life away.  It tells me that not spending time either looking for a job or ‘being entrepreneurial’ and Getting Things Done is somehow wasteful and will lead to regrets later in life.

And then recently… holy fuck! I don’t have to live up to others expectations of what my life should be.  I don’t have to give away my power to whatever I’m “supposed” to be doing.  I can be a feminist and also enjoy checking out girls in yoga pants (respectfully, of course).   I can build my own life, make my own rules.

Sometimes I will be uncomfortable, when my values and the values of the world at large come into conflict, be it individually or as part of a couple or as part of a social group or a political party or anything else.

But, you know what?

There are worse things than being uncomfortable.

This is my declaration of independence from feeling bad about not being who the world expects me to be, or living up to some imagined standard of ‘normal’.

Fuck normal. What an imaginary nonsense concept solely dedicated to making us feel like we’re doing something wrong pretty much no matter what.

Fuck “but you’re so smart, why don’t you just commit to something”.

Fuck “So, any wedding bells in your future?”

Fuck “You’re so interested in human behavior, why don’t you go to school for psychology or something?”

Fuck pushing myself toward making other people more comfortable with my life.

It’s better for me to embrace the freedom and awesomeness that is me right now than worry about not living up to some standard for how things are supposed to work in the name of being more normal.

This rocks.

Come with me.