Posted: January 2nd, 2015 | Author: Ian | Filed under: Music | Tags: best of 2014, music | No Comments »
2013 was a great year for music.
So good, in fact, this much of it bled into 2014 and muddied the waters for many music critics. For example, there are arguments that no album in 2014 was better than Beyoncé which was released in December of 2013–too late to make it onto most majors lists but too early to be on lists for 2014. For me, the album Death Speaks by David Lang featuring performances by Shara Worden, Bryce Dessner, and Owen Pallett was released in 2013 but it colored all of my listening in 2014 because I didn’t discover this incredible piece of music until January of this year. Because of that, I paid perhaps too much attention to The National, My Brightest Diamond, and Owen Pallett. I promise, though, that it was worth it.
All that having been said, 2014 was another solid year for good tunes. Below is a list of my favorite albums of the year and a few more than I couldn’t not mention.
10. Perfume Genius
Standout Track: “Queen”
9. The Antlers
Standout Track: “Palace”
8. Flying Lotus
Standout Track: “Never Catch Me”
7. Jack White
Standout Track: “Black Bat Licorice”
Standout Track: “Holding”
5. My Brightest Diamond
Standout Track: “This Is My Hand”
4. Taylor Swift
Standout Track: “Style”
3. Mimicking Birds
Standout Track: “Bloodlines”
2. Sharon Van Etten
Standout Track: “Your Love Is Killing Me”
1. St. Vincent
Standout Track: “Digital Witness”
Not Enough Data
Posted: December 24th, 2014 | Author: Ian | Filed under: JKITT, Music | No Comments »
Because tomorrow is Christmas Day, why don’t you get in the festive mood (though you just missed out on Festivus–sorry) and listen to this cover we recorded quickly and with little regard for quality. All we were shooting for was festive glory and merriment. As the title suggests, we really do wish it were Christmas today but I suppose I can wait a few more hours.
Check out JKITT on bandcamp.
Posted: December 23rd, 2014 | Author: Ian | Filed under: Culture, Music | Tags: best of 2014, music | No Comments »
Next week I’ll post my favorite the albums of the year, but I can’t stand not talking about a few other great albums that came out this year. I know you’ve been clamoring for some musical opinions from me so I’ve got a few lists for your reading pleasure.
Great New Albums from Artists I Love
This list is self-indulgent for sure. It’s a collection of albums from artists I’ve loved for years that released new material this year. Sure, the albums are great but they didn’t make the cut for the top ten.
Here they are in no particular order (except–you know–alphabetical).
Damien Rice: My Favorite Faded Fantasy
My Favorite Faded Fantasy is Damien Rice’s first full-length album release in 8 years and he’s made it worth the wait. In many ways, he picked up where he left off with 9 and has run with it.
First Aid Kit: Stay Gold
I’m not sure how it’s fair that Scandinavian sisters can pull off beautiful Americana music so well. In their third album, First Aid Kit have improved on their storytelling abilities and their harmonies are as tight as ever.
The New Pornographers: Brill Bruisers
I love this group. For some reason I’ve found that I only really love every other album they release. As it turns out, Brill Bruisers is part of the off-cycle, but it’s still solid. I may have to change the rule set a bit. Still, Bejar, Case, Newman, and all form an impressive team and this record is not to be missed.
Nickel Creek: A Dotted Line
This album is one of my most anticipated releases of the year. It’s been far too long since the bluegrass wunderkinds of Nickel Creek released a record and this was great. They explore relatively new territories with their sound and do a fine job catering to long-time bluegrass fans while still reaching a broader fan base.
Standout Track: “Hayloft“
Owen Pallett: In Conflict
Once known by the moniker Final Fantasy (changed for obvious copyright reasons), this Canadian strings-virtuoso created one of the more sonically interesting records of the year. He seems to always find the ideal setting for his interesting voice. There is a, say, gruffer tone on the album than his last, but it works. Beyond this great selection of songs, he’s done a service to the music industry (and fans alike) by breaking down the music theory behind some of this year’s biggest hits.
John Mark McMillan—Borderland
The song “Future/Past” is the biggest “hit” from the record, but there’s much more there. McMillan has a way of presenting subjects in a fresh way that is unique in the Christian music genre. Beyond his classification, though, he’s created a fantastic album start to finish to allows the listener to explore emotional material that is rarely touched in popular music.
What discussion of music is complete without a little negativity? Here are a few albums that—to me—do not live up to their hype.
Sun Kill Moon—Benji
Run the Jewels—Run the Jewels 2
Weezer—Everything Will Be Alright in the End
Really, there’s no reason to much elaborate. The tunes on this album are overrated. In the case of Sun Kill Moon, the music is mediocre and the music maker is proving to be a relatively terrible person.
Album I’m Most Surprised to Have Loved
Todd Terje: It’s Album Time
Just give it a listen; I’m pretty sure you’ll love it too.
Posted: December 19th, 2014 | Author: Ian | Filed under: blogosphere, Culture | Tags: NPR, podcasts, Serial podcast | No Comments »
By now, you’re surely aware of the Serial podcast from WBEZ and This American Life. If you’ve not had the opportunity to hear it, Serial is a story told over a whole season–long long long-form journalism. The first season told the story of a murder trial and conviction that happened nearly fifteen years ago. The primary character–Adnan Syed–has been imprisoned in a Maryland correctional facility and Serial suggests that he may or may not have committed the crime. The season concluded on Thursday morning with the release of its twelfth episode. By most accounts, the podcast was/is a triumph. I can’t remember a single media source affecting so many people around me–not a one.
What intrigues me, though, is that Serial may open the floodgates of podcast listening among the masses. At the end of the final episode Sarah Koenig made an unsubtle plug for their other podcast/radio show This American Life. She invited listeners of Serial to expand their experience of podcasts and radio to other forms and, I hope, sparked curiosity about what other forms of radio can be experienced.
Radio, like television, is increasingly consumed on-demand rather than in real time. Over the week I accumulate a half-dozen new television episodes and as many radio shows to catch up on during down time. As entertaining as Serial is, I hope that more listeners will tune in to other great podcasts.
Below I’ll list some of my favorites.
This American Life
Stuff You Should Know
All Songs Considered
Wait Wait. . .Don’t Tell Me!
Beyond those that are broadly appealing, there are countless niche podcasts that bring new topics to life and allow devoted people to delve into their subjects deeply. Some that come to mind are Two Gomers where you follow two relatively unathletic fellows who first attempt to run a half marathon then tackle other races and The Spokesmen that is a roundtable discussing all things cycling related.
What others should I be listening to? What are some of your favorites?
Posted: March 31st, 2014 | Author: Ian | Filed under: Art, blogosphere, Culture, Music | No Comments »
This may not be the real Lester Bangs, but he is in my memory.
A week or so ago The Daily Beast published an article titled “Music Criticism Has Degenerated Into Lifestyle Reporting.” In it, musician and jazz critic Ted Gioia claims that contemporary music criticism is little more than celebrity gossip.
Gioia calls for more high-minded criticism that hearkens back to the music journalism of his youth:
When I was a child, Gunther Schuller’s byline appeared in Saturday Review, and Leonard Bernstein hosted music specials on CBS. In my teens, I could read smart, musically astute critics in many magazines and newspapers. I might disagree with the judgments of Harold Schoenberg, John Rockwell, Winthrop Sargeant, Robert Palmer, Leonard Feather, Martin Williams, Alfred Frankenstein, and others, but they knew their stuff. Many of them were musicians themselves. Sargeant had served as a violinist with the New York Philharmonic. Frankenstein had played clarinet with the Chicago Symphony. Palmer gigged in bands before he started writing about them. Feather had recorded as a pianist, and although he would never put Oscar Peterson out of business, he knew his sharps and flats.
Then he blames Lester Bangs because “the language of lifestyle squeezed out musical assessment.”
Now I don’t imagine Gioia wishes that Billboard were written in such a way that would demand a degree in music theory to decipher, but he surely ventures into “Get off my lawn!” territory with his send up of music journalism. He is, however, gracious enough to admit that various blogs treat contemporary music with the care it deserves, but he chooses to focus his attention on the most popular periodicals.
I do believe that this lambasting of music writing is mostly unnecessary, but it did bring about a few posts from Owen Pallett–who has a new album coming out in May–that dissect pop tunes to determine why they are successful. The first examines Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream” and the second takes on “Get Lucky” by Daft Punk.
For this music theory layman, the articles are just technical enough to be over my head but not so heady that I can’t get anything out of it. The problem, though, is that I don’t believe contemporary music fans want to know why they like the music they do. It’s seeing sausage made. Perhaps we’re simplistic, but contemporary music is for consumption and we’re not much interested in production–despite Beck’s best efforts.
If you dare, venture into the comments of those Slate articles from Pallett. Theory nerds get down and love to argue–especially if they get to drag down a relatively well known artist. (Of course, theory nerds aren’t alone in this. The internet is particularly great at bringing out the worst of any community) The danger, for Billboard and Rolling Stone, is that they live and die on the cool. While I disagree with this sentiment, the average fella doesn’t find music theory too hip. If the comment sections of most music reviews devolved into esoteric theory arguments, some magazine executive is unhappy.
They’d much rather leave the nerding out of their publications and in the realm of non-mainstream blogs.
These thoughts are all half-baked. I love thinking about music production and theory but I cannot imagine that most music fans share my affinity.
What about you? What do you prefer out of music journalism?