Monday, 19 January 2015

Q#99 - December 2014 - January 2015

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Q’s Compilations
Volume #99 December 2014 – January 2015

2014 was a pretty shitty year by just about any measure of which I can think. New York lost its best music venue (Death By Audio) amongst others, not to mention various record shops, restaurants, dive bars, etc. The year ended with the tragic death of Mikey Hodges aka Pop Zeus, who opened the previous mix I made. Mikey was I think the first musician I plucked up the courage to talk to after moving to New York and he was excited and appreciative to see me at shows (I saw the band a bunch of times). I didn’t know him well, but enough to know he was a genuinely sweet human being. 2015 just can’t be as miserable… I hope!

Mercifully, however, there was still enough good music to pull me through the year. I feel like melody came back in 2014, trebly guitars and finely crafted tunes were on my radar again.

01) Curtis Harding - Next Time: My favourite record of the year was Curtis’ debut, Soul Power. I nominated it for Free Williamsburg’s album of the year list and wrote the following: “The seemingly impossible was made possible this year: a contemporary artist creates a classic soul record without sounding derivative. Whilst listening to most soul music of the last couple of decades you would think “this is the Marvin song… there’s Otis… obviously Curtis Mayfield here…”, etc. Soul Power has a confident swagger and pushes all the right buttons, from the reflective “Next Time” to the foot-stomping “Keep On Shining,” aficionados will love how Harding can straddle both smoother and gritty soul whilst also not being afraid to rock things up, handing out an understated vocal masterclass throughout.”

02) Tweens - Bored in the City: My second favourite album of the year was Tweens’ self-titled debut, with a brash attitude but infectious power-pop hooks. Bored in the City opens the record which doesn’t let up from start to finish.

03) Half Japanese - In Its Pull: Comeback kings of the year go to Half Japanese with their Overjoyed album, their first in 13 years. Jad and David Fair formed Half Japanese in 1975. There’s something about that chugging bass and out of tune distorted guitar that just sounds perfect.

04) Ty Segall - It's Over: Did Ty Segall really only release one album in 2014? Ignoring the fact that Manipulator is more of a double album anyway, it usually seems like the man never stops. While Manipulator doesn’t shift from his garage-rock template, it does seem a bit more focused than other releases and may be his best work to date.

05) Goat – Goatslaves: Swedish psyche-rockers Goat released Commune in September, and continues the good work laid down by 2012’s World Music, albeit with a slightly more reined in production. The band excel as a live unit especially and I was lucky to catch them in the summer, don’t miss them if they play near you.

06) La Hell Gang - Inside My Fall: Chilean psychedelic music has flourished in the last decade or so (see my Chilean special mix of Q#89), and La Hell Gang finally followed up 2009’s Just What Is Real with Thru Me Again, signing to the Brooklyn-based Mexican Summer label in the US.

07) Peter Matthew Bauer - Latin American Ficciones: Former Walkmen Peter Matthew Bauer released one of the best albums in the truest sense in 2014 with Liberation! Another Mexican Summer artist, the record really works as a whole and is one of those albums you just want to actually sit down and listen to without doing anything else. I also interviewed Peter for Free Williamsburg. “A bad dream is so good”

08) Withered Hand – Horseshoe: Another record that deserves attention from start-to-finish is New Gods, with pop-hooks and plenty of folk-tinged sadness. Sometimes you just need perfectly constructed songs and Dan Wilson knows just how to knock them up. “I've been drinking, when I drink it's like I just cannot see, that you were waiting up for me”

09) Matt Kivel – Insignificance: Speaking of singer-songwriters, Matt Kivel followed up 2013’s sombre acoustic Double Exposure with the more electric, but still sombre Days of Being Wild. Listening to both records back-to-back shows them to be great compliments to the other.

10) Springtime Carnivore - Other Side of the Boundary: I first saw Springtime Carnivore opening for La Sera (Greta Morgan was also in the live band for La Sera at the time) and I remember her playing this song which completely floored me. The self-titled record didn’t come out until the end of the year but was worth the wait. For full disclosure, this song in particular is not representative of the record, which features lush pop tunes more akin to Phil Spector-produced arrangements, but there’s something about this song that really got me. “I’m the answer to your strange equation, that you haven’t figured out yet. You may never solve it”

11) Beck - Heart is a Drum: I dig Beck, and like many, fell in love with Sea Change from 2002, he finally released another record of that ilk with Morning Phase. The record might not hit those heady heights, but if it doesn’t, it comes pretty close, it’s just an immaculately crafted and lovely record. “Everyone, if they drown from the undertow. Need to find someone to show me how to play it slow. And just let it go”

12) Steve Gunn - Milly's Garden: Way Out Weather seems like a bit of a breakthrough record for Steve Gunn, who has been quietly releasing top notch folk records since 2007. Way Out Weather is more band-oriented and Steve seems more comfortable as a vocalist, the record should make its way onto many best-of 2014 list, if they’ve managed to hear it at least.

13) Sharon Van Etten - You Know Me Well: Fellow Ditmas Park resident Sharon Van Etten followed up 2012’s much-loved Tramp with Are We There and it seems like she can do little wrong. There were some great lyrical records this year, but I think the actual line of 2014 must come from Every Time the Sun Comes Up (which I used on Q#96) with the fantastic “I washed your dishses but I shit in your bathroom”, the rest of the record is just as good. “We're as empty as a brick house that we
Built without the sides”

14) La Sera - Fall In Place: Vivian Girls broke up in February of 2014, which was a shame (though they hadn’t released a record in three years), but if it means bass-player and seemingly all-round superhuman Katy Goodman gets to do more La Sera records then that’s fine with me. I’m a sucker for Peter Buck-esque guitar arpeggios and Fall In Place must be the best example in a long time. Hour of the Dawn was truly one of my favourite records of the year.

15) Fear of Men – Luna: The UK only represent three entries in this mix, which is a shame, but I guess we didn’t really do so well this year musically. Although having said that, it’s probably been the case for a while. Regardless, Brighton’s Fear Of Men really did release an album worthy of any best-of list with Loom.

16) Allo Darlin' - Kings and Queens: I had no idea who Allo Darlin’ were until they popped up as a “suggested page” on Facebook, so I guess those things do work from time to time! I heard a couple of songs and noticed they were playing Glasslands (RIP) that week, so I went along and they were great, I also bought their three records. It’s usually a good sign when you turn up to a gig and you see people from The Big Takeover there. Sure, this is probably a bit twee for some, but if you like twee, this is the band for you.

17) Doug Gillard - Parade On: I suspect the most under-appreciated record of the year is Doug Gillard’s Parade On album, which is chock-full of power-pop melodies that shows exactly why he ends up in so many great bands (Guided By Voices, Nada Surf, etc).

18) Black Wine – Rime: I’m lining up three bands on the Don Giovanni record label in a row now, it wouldn’t be a best-of-the-year list without their representation. First up is New Jersey’s Black Wine, who release Yell Boss in August, a little more aggressive than their previous records, this is almost Fugazi-like in places.

19) Brick Mower - Shitty Parade: One of the best album titles of the year has to be Teenage Graceland, which sees Brick Mower go a bit more gritty and lo-fi than previous album My Hateable Face. “And I had the greatest summer, so I’m told”

20) Priests - Right Wing: Bodies and Control and Money and Power was unfairly left off many a year-end-list due to it being an EP, their live set at Death By Audio in November was one of the best of the year as well. I’ll be seeing the band again in February for Screaming Females’ record release show at the Knitting Factory.

21) Roomrunner - Ms. DNA: Ideal Cities was my favourite album of 2013 and the band kept their momentum going with their Separate EP, which is a bit more melody-driven than the record, but with the same bone-crunching riffs.

22) King Tuff - Eddie's Song: I can’t help but think of Thin Lizzy when I hear this song, but I mean that in the best way. Black Moon Spell is another fine album in the King Tuff cannon, I’m not sure the guy can write a band song. I usually end mixes on downer songs (I’m sure that says something about me) but this seemed like the perfect closing track.

And there you have it! There are some notable absentees, mostly for time constraints, Sun Kil Moon’s Benji being the most obvious casualty, yes it is a better record than most that made this mix, but I just couldn’t place a track from it, nothing seemed to fit.

Until next time, and here’s hoping everyone has a wonderful 2015.

Peace and love - Q 

Please note that the zip file has a password: Q99
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