Blake on Music in 2014: Better than expected
I would argue that there are no bad years for music, and that 2014 was pretty good in that any year that Arcade Fire don't release a record is a good year for music (although I did feel like I stepped in a steaming hot pile of Jack White every time I took my eyes off of the ground). I am still trying to figure out why everyone loves the War On Drugs album. I just hear John Cafferty & The Beaver Brown Band after they split half a pot brownie and decided to "do something expansive" in the studio.
In no order, I liked this stuff:
Download Blake's playlist here.
PARQUET COURTS/SUNBATHING ANIMAL
I had gotten to my hotel very late one night when I was out in LA and had to get up at 5am the next morning to catch a flight to Mexico. The second I put my head down the fire alarm went off. They went room by room and forced everyone out on to the street. By the time the fire department came, checked the building and gave the thumbs up for everyone to go back to bed, it was time for me to grab my bag and go to LAX. I sat in the last seat by the toilet on a ghastly flight through brutal turbulence. When I landed a friend picked me up with a cooler full of Tecate and a bag of Al Pastor and habenero sandwiches. An hour later I was half asleep on the beach listening to "Instant Disassembly" on a tiny portable speaker. I sat up, and standing in the water about 10 feet away was an ursine figure in a heavy hemp poncho smoking a joint. It was Jim James. He looked at me and said "the waves are rolling up in perfect time to the song." And they were. The Flaming Lips were opening for My Morning Jacket that night, and to this day I thank whoever runs the universe that I didn't have that moment with Wayne Coyne.
Some kind of sad transmission from the distant planet of 5/4 time; Static Wall is some true gangster jangle. Can't wait for the full length next year.
STURGILL SIMPSON/METAMODERN SOUNDS IN COUNTRY MUSIC
I don't think I have had a country record on this list since Ramsay Midwood was a pup. Maybe Nashville is finally turning the corner.
KING GIZZARD & THE LIZARD WIZARD/ODDMENTS
I think this is the pinata MGMT have been flailing at the last two times out. Plus, their name.
I listened to Lonely Richard and I Know Myself with some friends while driving down the side of Mt. Hood late on a spring afternoon and then couldn't listen to anything else for two weeks. Superlative Cosmic American Music.
Sharply observed classic indie guitar pop. So charming it is almost hatable. Almost. Barely.
MUSEUM OF LOVE/ST
I am pretty burnt on beats and synths but this is some deep and cool shit. It sounds like Invisible Conga People are hanging out late in the studio waiting for their Chinese food but then their Chinese food is delivered by The Blue Nile and everyone is like, fuck it, let's jam.
Ty's prolificacy makes Bob Pollard look like a lazy tub of goo. If the sixteen year old me had had access to "Feel," I would probably still be in prison. Listen to Manipulator this week and then go knock over a neighbor's snowman, gently. Yeah, that will show them.
FREDDIE GIBBS AND MADLIB/PINATA
I know, I am supposed to have the Run The Jewels record here.
Are Katy Perry and Nicki Minaj and those people calling this guy yet to make them good?
This is the definition of a simple pleasure. When the ingredients are The Feelies, Lou Reed, and The Clean, you would be hard pressed to mess up the chili.
STEVE GUNN/WAY OUT WEATHER
Some chill dude stretching out on his acoustic guitar with some jammy bros is usually my worst nightmare, so it is hard for me to describe why I like this so much. Total stoned majesty.
Melancholy minimalism for the sad college girl moping around inside of all of us. Mine is named Edith. When you google Liz Harris, she looks so tired. I am worried about her. Please sleep Liz.
THE NEW PORNOGRAPHERS/BRILL BRUISERS
These guys are like the '27 Yankees of Indie Rock, and their latest is a sleek beast wrapped in a lush pelt of redoubtable melodic power. I bet Jeff Lynne stays up nights worrying about these guys.
My favorite reissue of the year.
TWIN PEAKS/MODERN VICES/NE HI/THE ORWELLS
Elmhurst has long been a legendary hot bed of young guitar bands since...fuck it, Elmhurst is terrible. But for some reason ground zero for the Chicago guitar revival is in the 60126 zip. The Orwells and Twin Peaks show at Lincoln Hall was the best thing I saw all year.
Tweak Bird, man.
Without sounding at all like the Smiths, they still remind me of them in that the guitar parts are always perfect and a little unexpected.
Dude released a lot of music this year (and does every year, for that matter). But if you like to drive around Chicago at 3AM on a Tuesday scoring crack under the Lake Street El, Moodymann is your soundtrack. Also great for taking a bunch of 6 year olds to Chuck E. Cheese.
SUN KIL MOON/BENJI
A middle aged guy takes all of the fucks he used to give and boxes them up and puts them by the curb. This is possibly a masterpiece. Plus he called The War On Drugs "beer commercial lead guitar rock." Which made people angry, but is also true.
Pasty British guys with 12 string guitars who like The Byrds and Donovan and Stone Roses and Oasis. I am sold. Every time.
Now that everyone puts their best of lists out on Columbus Day, my laziness makes me look smart. Here is the D'Angelo record everyone has waited for since 1942. It's on my list. In the year it came out. Suck it, real critics.