Saturday, December 22, 2018

Best Music 2018

"Because it is not what you are nor what you have been that God looks at with his merciful eyes, but what you desire to be."



1. Nils Frahm – All Melodysn
2. Park Jiha – Communion
3. Amen Dunes - Freedom
4. Olafur Arnalds – re:member
5. Bruce Brubaker - Codex
6. Jim O’Rourke – Sleep Like It’s Wintersnai
7. Low – Double Negative
8. Michael Pisaro – A Mist is a Collection of Points
9. Car Seat Headrest – Twin Fantasy
10. Yves Tumor – Safe in the Hands of Love
11. Snail Mail - Lush
12. Jakob Ullmann - Muntzers Stern Solo II
13. Ice Age - Beyondless
14. Kamasi Washington – Heaven and Earth
15. Big Red Machine – Big Red Machine
16. Gas – Rausch
17. Makaya McCraven – Universal Beings
18. Nik Bärtsch’s Ronin – Awase
19. Goldmund - Occasus
20. Dedekind Cut - Tahoe
21. The Necks – Body (Northern Spy)
22. Non Standard Institute – 5863
23. Steve Tibbetts – Life Of
24. Nils Økland - Lysning
25. Spiritualized – And Nothing Hurt
26. Eli Keszler - Stadium
27. Jon Hassell – Listening to Pictures
28. Niklas Paschburg – Oceanic
29. Clarise Jensen – From This From That Will Be Filled
30. Steve Hauschildt - Dissolvi
31. Tim Hecker – Konoyo
32. Masayoshi Fujita - Stories
33. Cavern of Anti-Matter – Hormone Lemonade
34. Sons of Kemet – Your Queen is a Reptile
35. Magos Herrera and Brooklyn Rider – Dreamers
36. Yo La Tengo – There’s a Riot Going On
37. US Girls – A Poem Unlimited
38. Let’s Eat Grandma – I’m All Ears
39. Kacey Musgraves – Gold Hour
40. Superchunk – What a Time to Be Alive
41. John Hiatt – The Eclipse Sessions
42. Blood Orange – Negro Swan
43. Father John Misty – God’s Favorite Customer

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Best Music 2013


Best Music of 2013

Perhaps the Warrior’s Dilemma is not that there is no war, but rather that there is only war.  For after all (and after part) “He can certainly be loved, but not thought. He can be taken and held by love but not by thought.” 

 

1.       Justin Walter – Lullabies & Nightmares

Tribal and roughed out electronically filtered sounds from analog sources that devolve into ambient bliss and eventually get to the point:  Walter’s yearning and thoughtful trumpet lines amplified and framed by a magical forest of blips, and drones, and squawks.  Centered between cool and minimal Euro jazz and Chicago free form (Anthony Braxton?), this is original music, expanding the limits of what any of its source genres do.  Warmth where there is expected frost; chill where there potential chaos.  Beats that reemerge at precisely the right moment.  Composed music for blurring the lines and finding a New Land.  A compass.

 

2.       Mark Koselek  & Jimmy Lavalle – Perils from the Sea 

Koselek continues to develop his treacly narratives of the mundane details and solipsistic confusion of the sensitive troubadour.  In this next chapter of life in the Bay Area – melancholy and stoned – we hear stories of tools in the garage, lonely concert tours in Scandinavia, boxing on the TV, airplanes, cancer and fatal car accidents ,absent fathers, dogs scratched behind ear,Thanksgiving in Orange County and undocumented immigrants.  As his songs, relentless couplets hitting the ears like waves on a breakwater, dissolve into cut-and-paste from his Outlook calendar, the winsome and raspy baritone begins to wear very thin.  He is more whiner or confessional poet than folk singer by this point (the morbid fixations so inward looking).  He aims for the recognizable commonplace to convey transcendence (the dirge, the minor chord, the shimmering image).    It’s an acquired taste that suckers me in over and over again.  His project may continue to slip into terminal self-service and fern-bar open-mike kindliness.  But here the wheels are greased by the saving graces of Lavalle’s friendly electronics, which emphasize the sweet melodies and keep the confessions not so horribly egocentric.  Lavelle’s contributions are the bell that saves, and helps this to be my favorite of the year.  The last song’s lyrics document the wonder of all life’s perils of our dying-animal selves, recognized from an airplane drifting high above the East Bay floating into SFO, the sunlight on the bay and heart-sickness of feeling too much opening up the first wound.  A mirror.

 

3.       The National –Trouble Will Find Me

God, this is boring music.  Melancholy, trenchant, whining, mature, depressive, insightful, posturing, gloriously boring alt-countryish paeans to the struggle of adult life.  Continued reverb atmospherics (equal Cure and My Morning Jacket’s approximated space).   Lyrics that are overworked to their simplicity, but how many on the list have any memorable lyrics at all?  This has more 80’s beats than their last couple, and so most of these songs wind up being foot-tapping hook-laden fern bar micro-brew soundtracks.  But somebody’s gotta do this music.  Ain’t there one damn song that can make me break down cry?  Apparently not, but here in their waiting room of mid-life, it’s nice to have the comfort of at least the footnotes of heartbreak.  A chilly bottle of Blind Tiger Ale and a restraining order.

 

4.       Charles Lloyd and Jason Moran -  Hagar’s Song

His timbre still fresh and warm 50 years later, this is the real deal.  Showing that “the tradition” is best known when played by “the tradition.”  And it’s not that Lloyd’s rich sax sounds just like he did in the 70’s, 80’s or the gazillion ECM products since, rather his tradition is that every solo is a thoughtful (no, “mindful”, because this is, at its base, a spiritual music) exploration of the moment and its possibilities now.  In that sense it’s beatnik music- saluting all our becoming buddhanesses Daddy-0.  I prefer Moran to chug along under Lloyd rather than strike out on his own – there is a cocktail lounge danger in his facile chording (especially with the familiar starting lines of covers). Something powerful and sweet about a man well in his 70’s phrasing “any day now.” Again, great art always savages the mystery of mortality, and make no mistake, this great art.  Two fingers of Glenfiddich, no chaser.

 

5.       Junip-Junip

The slight psychedelic instrumentation and arrangements, the somber and unremittingly humorless vocals, and the syncopation that chugs along no matter how morose Gonzalez sounds – all these support the curious outcome of music that is both facile-easy listening, catchy, poppy and genuinely intense.  Sounding like no other band (as familiar as the tunes are, and the hooks and choruses immediately seem familiar, I am lost to their progenitors) the Swedes calmly worm their into your regard from the first nylon-string

 

6.       Heirlooms of August – Down at the 5-Star

The Red House Painters/Sun Kil Moon bassist offers elegant string quartets and rich pedal steel and tear-stained countrified vocals singing sweetly of black tar heroin and guns and Darjeeling tea (the Koselek gift and disease).  Sophisticated Americana for those living the hip life in Williamsburg… VA.  (Although in truth this is more likely a house-concert, garden party in Atherton, than any place with real rednecks).  A GPS.

 

7.       Bill Frissell – Big Sur

Song cycles/tone poems/evocations of place are problematic and often highly subjective.  But Frissel’s strength and limitation for me has always been the cheery lack of subjectivity.  The point of view waffles in the plein air and floats with any current.  But this music (some original, some covers, some surf-guitar rock out) does seem Ventana prone.  Far from wind chimes and sitars, there is a timeless lassitude of the sun, trees, shadows and microclimates of the central coast.  Ambling arrangements that take their jazzy time.  A dash of intensity that breaks and recedes like tide.  The languid fiddle, roomy drumming  and other instrumentation connect Big Sur more to the west of Ireland than the native American west.  A bundle of white sage.

 

8.       Lars Danielson – Libretto

Gentle figures of vaguely middle eastern flavors from the Turkish pianist who plays over the solid jazz bass lyricism of Danielson.  And the emptying Scandinavian cool jazz of Arve Hendrikson’s trumpet – clearing out space. A train schedule.

 

9.       Jay Farrar – Honky Tonk

Curated Bakersfield-sound tribute album, with a classicism framing the swing and sway of the salt of the earth.  The poetry of what’s not remembered.  The steel guitar and fiddle waltzing up the Kern River.  Time to drink up and go home, there’s church tomorrow and your ex-wife made you promise to hide the dope before the kids come to visit you and Suze.  Wisdom and respect, and since it’s Farrar, not a touch of irony nor humor.  Can’t make country music better than this.  A union card.

 

10.   How to Destroy Angels – Oblivion

This is many things in not the usual order.  Electronic rumbles and drones, dance beats and hip-hoppy momentum.  Sweet euro-girl melodies – week on Mikonos stuff.  But the whole is much more engrossing than those parts.  Yeah, yeah, Reznor and post-industrial blah blah blah.  But the unfinished quality of most of the composition, and the dirty-clean sound, thrown at the wall to see what sticks, means he’s matured and the sonic disjointed modern experience can surprise, even for the more mature.  A subscription to AARP.

 

11.   My  Bloody Valentine

Great hopes for the “great murkiness” to return in all is power, but this evaporated before that last song… and even in this nebbish product-placement, they made this and it still pulls at the raveling strings of my heart.  A therapist’s business card.

 

12.   Oenehontrix Point Never –R Plus Seven

So of his sonic trickster schtick seems a little old, and not in the “old” way he might want.  40% sounds like a Vangelis record that is skipping (not surprising that he’s gone to soundtracks).  I liked Replica, but this reminds me I really didn’t like Vangelis.  Yeah, there’s a lot of perky visuals here (remember all those odd eastern European cartoons that would win “best animated” Oscars?).  A broom.

 

13.   Giovanni Guidi Trio – City of Broken Dreams

Starkly beautiful jazz piano breaking rhythms while breaking melodies while breaking hearts.  Deceptively listenable, because in his intentionally quiet and simple phrasing he’s pushing some limits, and unintentional elegance (think early Keith Jarrett), he (they – Morgan the bassist is now the ECM go-to session bassist, and is the perfect foil for music than is/and isn’t “in the tradition) make luminous the very idea of jazz.  A flashlight.

 

14.   Califone – Stitches

Another solid outing by the great band that is ignored by most.  Americana/Freak folk that falls apart in fragments rather than is meta-made or deconstructed. Stitches indeed.  And this is as fragmented as any they’ve made, even as all the production tricks (acoustic technology, and technology hollowed out in lo fi and homemade recording) sort of settle in their expected place now rather than rile up or instigate.   Earnest and yearning rasp by Riuli that quite actually completes anything, but seems to imply it would preach if it could.  A scrapbook from your dead uncle’s keepsakes.

 

15.   Julia Holter – Loud City Song

The post-millennial Laurie Anderson fabricates nerdy ditties, with plenty of non-digital soundscapes strewn about the cool studio.

 

16.   Goldfrapp

A continental drift of winsome and melancholy songs, filled to all corners of its “ambient” space with “voice” trending more to Claudine Longet  or going further back, Sylvie Vartan, than the Cocteau Twins.  No, not winsome, wistful.  Tender music, with “putting you on hold” rhythms.  Your love is very important to us.  Break your heart at the sound of the tone.

 

17.   Arcade Fire – Reflector

I know I supposed to hate this, pivoting to dance music a la Talking Heads and not having any other place to go, and building tension from more traditional pop strategies rather than “artist collective” drivenness.   But you know Butler’s voice (and lovely vocal stylings) are a good meaure against David Byrne.  And what the hell some of the songs have a bass line that is more Brother’s Johnson than club. 

 

18.   Surfer Blood

Music like this (airy, pop melodies, and few retro-indie guitar washes, simple drumming, oh oh oh choruses) isn’t very geisty for zeit.  A fuzz tone here, and missed beat there…  refreshingly lo-fi without an ironic attempt to be lo-fi.  Happy soundtrack for a film that wouldn’t have a chance in hell of getting funding these days.

 

19.   Darkside- Psychic

Music from an abandoned ghost ship, floating among fatal icebergs north of the arctic sea.  Chamber music if those chambers are huge and cool.  Washes of chilly electronic noise, humanized by static and acoustic instrumentation.  The child of Pink Floyd and Eno, somewhere under the numbness of the top layers is a melodic intention to rock.

 

20.   Forest Swords

Friendly and lazy music – dub, reggae, and club nuggets sprinkled through a new agey mélange of acoustically referenced treated sounds.  Easy listening in a thoughtful way, too chillwave to survive on a massage table, too rhythmic and fragmented to meditate with, but a nice pathway to simi-asian occult commercialist head hanging.  Euro glitch and ex-pat soul chorus.  Hmm, a gong?

 

21.   Julia Hulsmann Quartet  In Full View

So the blue note, right?  Jazz in the classic mode where a theme is introduced, and while there is improvisation and rhythmic interplay of drums, bass (remember this is “classic”) and a Hubbardesque horn and Hulsmann’s careful but insistent piano chording and tinkling, pushing things forward, the blue note defines.   And then Miles introduced the blue empty space.  All these Europeans aren’t really angry enough to move to post-bop, or electronic shredding, and instead mine the blue space with total confidence there is something still there.  All the relentless ECM/Eicher releases map out that space – where heart and brain help each other disappear.  This is classic without quotes.  This is the sound of a gloriously stated nothingness – but the rain is on le boulevard.  An umbrella.

 

22.   Zomes

Question Mark and the Mysterians covering Fairport Convention with a dash of Cocteau Twins.  Rich and intentional droning with a minimalist Germanic detachment (and the woman vocalist sometimes sounds like Nico), and the choices of timbre are so farfisa-on-Jupiter that there is joke lurking in the cloudy pensive pop figures.  Romantic and silly and slow.  A cooking spoon.

 

23.   Boards of Canada

Maybe their best.  Opens with a movie credits fanfare, and the whole piece seems like samples of movie soundtrack atmospherics with washes of sound and train track pace.  Although a dance and hip hoppy rhythm implied here and there, the synths and compositional shape seem  very retro.  Half the tracks sound like something off the great lost Tangerine Dream LP.  A touch more laughter and this could be really cheese,  but the spacious and gracious pulling back to buttress the (unseen) cinema achieves a beauty that is timeless in part because it sound old.  A cup of ayahuasco.

 

24.   Ketil Bjornstadt  La Notte

While it’s a Eurojazz suite inspired by Michelangelo Anotonioni, its roots are in the stark and wide shots of his cinematic language, not any Mediterranean and political thinking of the director.  Languid and long melodic lines (even in the loping propulsion of Arnildsen’s powerful bassand Andy Sheppard’s anxious hunger-mongering sax) patiently building with arctic circle melancholy.  Jazz from  the continent and its above that doesn’t work the blue note cool, rather the western composition tradition.   A cup of hot chocolate, slightly bitter.

 

25.   For Now I am Winter Olafur Arnalds

In the neo-classical ambient school of Johann Johannsson and Max Richter, but there is something, not darker, but more regretful and mysterious in Arnalds’ very somber compositions.  Although not as piercingly odd as his beautiful 2010 And They Have Escaped the Weight of Darkness, there is a maturity, even a gravity that makes this seem more serious than the “soundtrack” affect that most of this genre has.  The guest vocals give it a song-cycle shape, with the theme, after a couple listens, seared into the consciousness.  And while there is a wintry quality, this is to Bon Iver what Mahler is to a Muzak. This should be first on my list; I listened to it twice as much as anything else this year.  I listened not because I heard something new each time, but rather I heard precisely the same thing each time.  A solid rooting into a not-unpleasant detached and polite melancholy.  Like clockwork.  A smooth pebble from the shore near Reykjavik.  

 

26.   The Haxan Cloak - Excavation

Not all drones are equal.  You’ve got your fog-drone, your industro-drone, your South Asian-drone, your New Age drone, your death metal drone, and your acid-trip-on-Stinson-Beach drone, to name just a few.  Haxan Cloak have all of these in small doses, but for the most part sound like a mothership from the Empire (Asimov, not Lucas) coming into frame.  All heavily seasoned by ghost fragments of the tortured or the emptied souls wandering for eternity in deep space. Yet somehow the sum of these parts is astonishingly serene music, making “ominous” a color of salvation.  I resist the notion that this is headphones at skunk hour music – a comfortable buzzing drone with mechanistic and ritualistic setting, is good for driving, yoga, house cleaning or prayer.  Less exhumation, and if not more exaltation, enough  exhalation for the day.  A flashlight.

 

27.   Surfer Blood – Pythons

Simple and quaint alt-rock (college stations would play this in 1992) that makes a range of influences work.  Periodic neo-punk screaming, sweet pop vocals, chunks of power chords, and lo-fi jangle.  A touch of reverb, and muddy-by-intention mixes.  All kinda reminding of the throwaway grandeur of the Pixies.  A lighter.

 

28.   San Fermin – San Fermin

The clever ivy-league burnished compositional art-pop notwithstanding (the connections to Sufjan Stevens are manifold), there is an urgency in these grooves.  A baritone sax with Morphine-like grit, a string ensemble forcing the issue, the male vocals like Nick Cave and the female vocals like Sylvie Vartan and the ye-ye chorus.  A wide horizon of soundscapes – serious music for the impatient and doubtful.  A copy of the New Yorker.

 

29.   James Plotkin  and Paal Nilssenn-Love –Death Rattle

Although called “free jazz”,  through my other-wised trained ears this sounds like acoustic, real time production of what a lot of processed, drone, (insert genre here) electronic music is.  Angry by turns, then cerebral, then atavistic, then simply making a glorious noise to some God that no longer is there.  The scandanavian drummer Elvin Jonesing in a real room, while Plotkin’s guitar rumbles and screeches with Jimmy Page timbre circumnavigating a leftover darkness.  A pipe.

 

30.   Kuniko – Cantus

A windchime a block away suddenly develops a melody and rhythm that roughly sounds like it’s Steve Reich – or Arvo Paart – minimalist and tubular, bittersweet and thoughtful.  Japanese virtuoso makes the marimba sound like Aeolian harp catching the late 20th century’s westwind. Though more outside summer concert than Shelley’s revolution.  A bookmark.

 

31.   The Dowland Project /John Potter – Night Sessions

Pensive, challenging and hypnotic hybrid.  Medieval fragments and full compositions washed in a jazz idiom of rubato and an occasional blue note.  I would imagine that the musicians of the 13th century weren’t that studious and would have been intrigued by a tenor sax syncopating the chants.  Potter’s careful tenor holds the many parts together – it never feels cluttered or forced, rather like open stone spaces, in whatever century.  Turns out the shared space of medieval and jazz sounds middle eastern.  A twig of burning juniper.

 

32.   Friedman & Liebezeit – Secret Rhythms 5

The drummer from Can (still alive) chases the dragon through a hippie drum circle jamming in an austere laboratory in Cologne.  Lots of metal and clang, cowbell and old school synth, and an occasional jazz guitar.  Funny, if Can were still together, I guess this is what they would sound like.  Each cut is short yet has the feel of an hour-long jam, improvisational and cold-sweaty.  A tab of purple ohm.

 

33.   Dean Blunt – The Redeemer

Odd music – heavily orchestrated (lush strings), alternative pop, found soundscapes, with an urgent narcotized R&B folkrock vocal singing lyrics of angst, poison, and hope. Artrock song psychos.  Pretentious in all five senses, and although pretention scores well with me, this is far less than the sum of  its parts.  A rosary with a cooking spoon.

 

34.   Autechre –Exai

The great blip, buzz, clip and clack continues – electronics from another star system (and let the volume cause the base tones to wedge nails out of boards and hair follicles to rejuvenate).  Two CDs of interstellar church music – with perhaps a bit more of a solemn cadence than their previous 10 releases.  I think this is better than most of the previous, but it also matters not at all.  Rumbling off in the global climate change sunset.  A pea shooter.

 

35.   Heirlooms of August – Down at the 5-star

If there is a genre trad-country, new-age, drug music… this is it.  Lovely pedal steel guitar figures backing ephemeral, tentative vocals (duets), seemingly wistful for a simple past, but whose melancholy opens up in the yawning great Darkness at the base of common-peoples lives.  Maybe that as always the thread in country music… maybe it’s just some weird hybrid of modern displacement.  Whatever, dude, the beauty of this music chills and astonishes and gets blown away quickly.  A yearbook with forgotten inscriptions on the photos of kids, some now dead.

 

36.   French Films – White Orchid

37.   Life Coach – Alpha Waves

38.   John – Wizards

39.   Atoms for Peace - AMOK

40.   Volcano Choir – Repave

41.   Konstellaatio – Konstellaatio

42.   Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Push the Sky Away

43.   Washed Out – Paracosm

44.   Dirty Beaches – Drifters

45.   Yo La Tengo – Fade

46.   The Field – Cupid’s Head

47.   Deathaven – Sunbather

48.   Aidan Baker – BBS

49.   Bibio – Silver/Wilkenson

50.   Phoenix – Bankrupt

 

 

Best Music 2012


Best Music of 2012 The Year of Chamber Drones, Cabaret singers, and retro-rock… and the artifices of transforming space.

 

The year of tribal retrogressions, disrupting chronologies, and chamber droning.  The arrows flung to the past and future accelerating in speed from each other like aftershocks from the recurring Big Bang of mortality.  The heart attacked the cathedral of “art” this year, smashed it, and found the results in a thousand shimmering shards, uprooted from the Masonic source and left for future analysis of the detritus.  In the meantime, regular rock and indie sensibilities further lost the Secret Societal energy in the entropic  nightspot of ambient electronics.  The “voices” left are very old… with very uneven outcomes.  Let your fucking stumbling blocks be stepping stones; fine, it’s time gentlemen.  The space might just as well be, e.g. the cool sidewalk after closing time (which remains on someone else’s side).

 

1.       John Murry – The Graceless Age

For what it’s worth, I know both the metaphorical and tangible being of those colored balloons sold on the astonishing corners of the Mission; although it was the projects in Venice and alleys in the Pico Union.  Once known, they are scars in the blood forever.   But this is about the “magic” of rock and roll.. the gritty Americana voice, the “classic” production (string quartets, crunchy guitars, pretty piano fills, and the passion of trying to figure this shit out.  That non-ironic, prophetic voice isn’t possible in pop music much anymore, if at all.  He’s the descendant of Faulkner, and the compelling power of narrative carrying culture and spirit (near OD’ing on  16th and Mission becomes the centerpiece for the  ritualistic if friable work of rebirth).  Story-telling as the foundation of real Folk music.  Mom’s voice  et.al. in musique verite portraits of background information for the “character” created.  Naked and artful, these songs are so out-of-time for an age that doesn’t even know that grace is scarce.  Doesn’t even know the definition of grace. The space is a reprieve found in music with earnest guitar, root-source voice, and production and melodies and lyrics that matter-of-factly mess up the heart.  The reprieve that simulates the grace still sought unknowingly and numb.

 

2.       Various Artists  - Lost in the Humming Air (music inspired by Harold Budd)

Speaking of Root Source, here’s a tribute to someone who was that of modern Ambient music as much as Eno himself (see below), the 75 year old Budd.  Budd’s abstract and painterly minimalist compositions are championed by the current international stars of the form:  Deaf Center, Loscil, Xela, Biosphere, Porn Sword Tobacco, Marsen Jules… and although each has its unique language, all the cuts shimmer with Budd-like momentum… if you can have momentum from one tone held for a whole minute.  A monumental collection of nods in the Right Direction. The space is cathedral-cosmic in dimension and the grand organ resonates with what DNA is left.

 

3.       Leonard Cohen – Old Ideas

So it shouldn’t surprise that a work called old ideas doesn’t surprise.  Its absolute expectedness, its inevitable last call is its accomplishment. The themes, meditations and prayers on human frailty and mortality are in the Cohen tradition.  The almost-octogenarian’s admissions of desire and depression are presented in the RealPolitik of aging, but still with a blessed sacramental swing and sway. Confessional and digressive narratives offered with the tricks of the poet/priest.  Darkness the final prize.  “Crazy has places to hide in that are deeper than any goodbye.”  That Hammond organ is like the bell ringing in mass; the spirit again incarnate in the oh too mutable flesh.  The space is the very human body, its access and decay naked to the airs and practices of life and death.

 

4.       Ghosting Season – The Very Last of the Saints

An overwhelming two-CD exercise in urbane urban chill trance-dance electo-tribal musics.  The human side of IDM, mechanical crackles and rainforest angel song blending nicely in an intense  combination, voices calling to action.  Chugging Last to Train to Lhasa easy-listening.  Elegant by nature, and lofty in impact, brilliant composition to the limits of this genre.  The space is lit, filmed, redacted, spliced for the film Kubrick never made; masque ball and grand hotel lobby with the chic toe tapping.

 

5.       Loscil – Sketches of New Brighton

Another excellent and robust dosage of Ambient Classic from the highest post-Eno expert purveyor of the genre, Scott Morgan.  The quiet storm in the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligent Life.  But no hyphens for this music; it is electronic.  Delivered with a high expectation of the listener’s compositional perceptivity.  Not volume, or sound treatments, but structure, theme, counterpoint, and synthetic but affective composition.  Particles of manufactured sound settling in general and in particular. Best appreciated if allowed to play over and over and over…. Four months in the CD player in the Prius (which details argue the quality of the music, if not chuckles as to the biography).  Space is a particular early morning highway, traffic moving particularly smoothly, and going no particular place.

 

6.       Godspeed You Black Emperor – Alelujah!  Don’t Bend!  Ascend!

A crescendo of jet-engine intensity as the streets fill with protests.  Bagpipe drones chewed up in the rhythmic machinery of revolt.  Relentless in attack, yet matured from their last releases (can it really be 10 years ago?).  This is not post-rock raging against some Machine any more… this is a wise shriek and a focused rumble; raging guitar feedback in counterpoint as tight as Bach.  A welcome return to the band who can be more political with timbre and time signature than most can from written screed.  The only revolution is of the cell.  The space is the aural cell unlocked again.

 

7.       Ian Hunter – When I’m President

It’s been years since I woke up singing a song.  Three times in the last month I’ve awakened signing  “When I’m President.”  I am not now, nor never have been really, a roots-rock fan; I did however love Mott and the solo albums through the early 80’s.  I clearly understood the brilliance and, in my own way, rode on until I failed.  I am clueless as to why this record is so good.  The songwriting, the silly “clever” if hearfelt lyrics, the crunchy riff-laden guitar work and the classic rock rhythms… are all good on their own terms, but give no hint as to why this has such power.    I think it is his brilliant vocals; he sings before, after, or RIGHT on the beat perfectly.  He has that yearning gruffness he’s always had.  He sounds like Dylan, Springsteen, Keef, any number of old farts wish they could sound like.  It isn’t higher on this list only because of my cowardice and fear of not seeming cool.  Honest and sustaining rock opening its treasures only after many multiple listenings.  The space is the familiar heart.  Why, indeed, isn’t that cool?

 

8.       Swans – Seer

A work I should love a lot, its classic and summation-heavy doom-droning gestures and navel-gazing sonics are up several of my alleys.  But it’s cranky and ill-tempered where transcendent is called for.  The vocals (Iggy Pop in Depends?) weigh it down beneath the surface where there is air.  Its strength is its weakness, and so it deserves its overrated status.  The room has storage boxes neatly stacked.

 

9.       Damien Jurado – Maraqopa

West coast folk-rock, when not ironic nor self-referential, has limited access and few pure purveyors.  Jurado keeps getting better and older.  This is his best. Glorious melodic songs, with satisfying instrumental arrangements (that psychedelic guitar on the first cut, though never re-appearing, sets the tone for the album).  His voice sounds like the plaintive next step of Jason Molina or the disappointing preciousness of that Red House Painters guy.  The plaintive and thoughtful next step.  The space is a Sausalito waterfront café, late fall evening, the fog rolling in under the Golden Gate, and there is port and Howl on the table.

 

10.   John Zorn – The Gnostic Preludes

Bill Frissell at his most melodic and least studious.  Zorn’s circular and spinning compositions have an almost Hassidic intensity.  They are as familiar as your own body on first listening and sound brand new after one thousand (and, after Deep Alpha I did play this more than anything else this year).  Music so intelligent it calms the ego down.  Much of harp-like vibes, (and sometimes a real harp) in counterpoint to the tasteful guitar, is what it must have been for David to charm the demons out of King Saul, letting him sleep at long last.  Music that mesmerizes.  Music that edifies.  The space is a mountain top monastery in Big Sur.

 

11.   Shackleton – Music for the Quiet Hour

A sprawling ambitious 2 CD opus, as much science fiction soundtrack as dubstep club music.  A mélange of sonic  tricks and trade offs:  a rainstick fronting Gregorian Chant, a Mothership Bass Rumble constant behind spoken language, synthetic reverberations and close-mike organic found sound.  Dystopian by genre, the total is an envigorating glimpse that maybe doom isn’t so bad after all.  The Quiet Hour, endlessly layered and fascinating, is the void after time end.  The space is a cosmic morgue.

 

12.   Kyle Bobby Dunn – Bring Me the Head of Kyle Bobby Dunn

Double CD of long lines of processed guitar drones.  The map of composition is 3-D and friendly,

soothing and baleful.  Chamber drone in its most clear representation:  dignified, patient and insidiously powerful.  The space is a well organized desktop.

 

13.   Duane Pitre – Feel Free

The odd title notwithstanding, this is the nexus of all the ambient-electronic music I like and “serious” composition.  Pitre is a modern accessible composer that eschews filmtrack shapes to layer on textures of real instruments and electronic treatments… which ultimately typify my newest favorite kind of music, chamber drone.  Calm, cerebral, spacious music that no longer rests as an armchair.

 

14.   Brian Eno - Lux

Although absolutely of a piece with the classic era of Eno ambient music (Music for Airports, Discreet Music etc.), and more satisfying in that respect than anything he’s done in decades, it’s not retro-ambient.  It’s neo-classical ambient, soft, linear and flowing, surprising, relentelessly and intensely relaxing.  This sourcepoint is the seed of half of what I buy and listen to now.  He apparently composed it as an installation for a hall in an Italian palace; the music is full of air and light.  It’s definitive for its genre, and its space may as well making my forest cabin that hall in Turin.

 

15.   Goat – World Music

Despite the silly “atavistic small pagan village” backstory, this is in fact the sound of some pre-christian Euro-tribe trance-like garage rock.  Sometimes sounding like the lost tapes of Popol Vuh (see below) rehearsal sessions, circa 1971, sometimes sounding like a parking lot at a Dead show in 1978, but at all times sounding like some serious challenge to the corporate hegemony of modern popular music.  It may be a joke, but a very serious, Loki-driven, goof on the modern world.  All bow down in the ancient firelight to the wah-wah pedal and bongos.  How do you catch imaginary butterflies in the falling snow?  The space is the circle around the bonfire.

 

 

16.   Wild Nothings – Nocturne

Ok so I really did like the Cure, and I guess I miss them even though they are not gone.  I don’t want Robert Smith to get old and fat; mascara shouldn’t be worn by the middle aged of either gender, it cakes in the wrinkles.  So this resurrects an insistence that is wrinkle-free; those guitar lines and counterpoint bass figures are eternal youth audibilized.  Avalonesque algorithms of bittersweet and anxious Telecaster -soaked sadness.  The hunt continues.  Now the parties over and this music is tired and drained of relevance.  For students of the disintegration and the jagged edge.  The space is study-hall, with rhythm guitar splitting the difference between nocturnes and nowhere.

 

17.   Bat for Lashes – The Haunted Man

Started out as the best Kate Bush pastiche … only I kept listening.  Quirky production – sometimes Druidic hip hop, sometimes artsongs.  It’s a strength that it’s hard to categorize, and it keeps running away from understanding.  Something simple, clear, and poppy morphs into prog-folk rock danceable drama.  Perhaps the record that I like most even though I didn’t want to.  Maybe it’s because she’s closer to Sheila Chandra while hiding in Kate Bush clothing.   Something subtlety dangerous, gosh, even haunting about this cool mess.  On a train to Devon.

 

18.   Neil Young – Psychedelic Pill

Sophomoric  garage rehearsals by the bard of bad folk-rock lyricism and his favorite three chord simpletons Crazy Horse.  It’s still summer on Zuma Beach in some alternate universe.   It’s still out on the mainline in some memoir.  It’s still rocking in the free world.  It’s still a rich vein to mine.  It’s still a fire dance.  The long and wide arc of guitar grunge history  bends to some fed back hunger for peace and justice.  No regrets in the failed dream.  The space is Alice’s Restaurant on Skyline, a dented pick up in the parking lot, weed in the ashtray, a Tuesday night and he’s had too much to drink and he dances to the riff, but the waitress is so kind to the old man… she was just like he was.

 

19.   Bahamas – Barchord

Fresh and unvarnished production presents a rootsy stew of Canadian country-rock and pop hooks.  The voice is the child of John Hiatt and Lou Reed; the lyrics are more Toronto than Nashville, but the school is still hard-knocks and the redeeming qualities of a good woman.  The space is marriage therapist’s yellow pad of hungover notes and plans to move on.

 

20.   Django Django – Django Django

The well of intelligent Brit-Pop still not dry.  Devo meets the Beach Boys meets XTC meets Beta Band.  “Clever” as a musical ingredient?  Nice rhythms and surprising textures (Mumford and Sons covering a German techno riff).  Vocals, (and therefore) words very up in the mix, and stand up to the scrutiny.  And the cagey harmonies make this group a British Fleet Foxes.  Space is a  bedsit in Oxford where the roommates are playing Monopoly in Latin.

 

 

21.   Biospher e – N- Plants

The originator of electro-industrial thump/thump IDM ambient, returns unfashionably, but deeply, to some Berlinesque urbane update for 2012. Albeit there is a nod to the organic in the title, this future is more gleaming city than sunny garden.   Case again of the “modern” sounding comfortingly retro.  Easy listening car trip soundscapes with rhythm and humor.  Space is a late model BMW humming along on the autobahn.

 

22.   Thomas Stronen & Iain Ballamy – Mercurial Balm

Once upon a time there was an avant-jazz group called Food that defined a genre of Northern Lights regional improv music.  (OK, didn’t define, years  after the great Scandinavian jazz renaissance of the 70’s).  They return with a super-group of guest artists (Fennesz and Molvaer) whose guitar and horn additions give atmospheric support to the sax/drums workout.  Listen to the drums on any cut and (like Elvin Jones) and hear Stronen take the rhythm making to sublime and centering prayer.  The atmospheric cool blue notes blown hot as starlight physic.  Healing, catharsis.  The space is a Left Bank  apartment, stones and beams, and shamans.

 

23.   Steven Halpern – Deep Alpha

Oh, what the heck.  Half my music sounds like massage/spa background crap anyway and I probably played this more than anything else on the list.  Why not go to the source.  It is, however, true that there is biochemical change from these frequencies and modulations.  A great follow-up to last year’s Deep Theta.  Good to play then in sequence.  Really.  Space is a hot tub.

 

24.   Pinback -  Information Retrieved

Easy going SoCal Beach progressive Indie rockers return after many years off, and wind up sounding like a chilled out Rush, the Canadian band, not the sensation.  The uncluttered metric jangle and interplay of guitars and comfortably numb vocals keep track of not-so-simple songs.  Maybe their best ever; the space has been lost but we’ll look for it tomorrow.

 

25.   Eleh – Radiant Intervals

Solid droning sound in decibels and ranges that tickle the sternum and drain sinuses.  The physicality of soundwaves.  The reminder that the music of the spheres might not be too sweet. Space is the Large Hadron Collider or searches for intelligent life outside the Milky Way. 

 

26.   Spiritualized – Sweet Heart Sweet Light

Beatle-proper  and over-produced, somebody needs to keep the Brit pop dream alive.  Every song and every album by the Spaceman arrives fresh, and about half-way through I lose interest and lose track.  Its unraveling is perhaps its point.  The tradition corrodes.  The space is sitting in an English garden waiting for the sun… eggman, spaceman…

 

27.   The Men – Open Your Heart

I love this band for challenging the definitions of what cool music is supposed to be.  They are sometime neo-punk,  sometimes classic rock, sometimes Sonic Youth urban dissidents and dissonances… but they are full bore and relentless.  Focused and free, a band to watch for the future; there is immaturity here.  Is it their strength, weakness, or both?  Space is washing your face before class.

 

28.   Fiona Apple – The Idler Wheel….

I had a love-hate relationship with this American music. Stick a feather in your cap and call it chemed-up macaroni. Sensitive goth-girl music never my favorite and “quirk” in general having limited attraction (the very thought of Joanna Newsome producing a nauseous mini-dread), but these asymmetrical art-songs pulled me back in, and the maturity of her bitterness and refusal to compromise scored points.  America’s songbird… deep in the coal mine, time and lights out.  Anthems for the self-loathers among us… count me in with a swinging beat.  A third campfire songs, a third cabaret songs, and a third swan song.  The space is the saloon where the skinny lady sang, it’s all over now.

 

29.   Jens Lekman – I Know What Love Isn’t

Perfect pop artifice.  Hooks and transitions, melodic and lyric subtlety.  In a parallel universe his voice would inspire heart-throb girl fan screams.  The melancholy at the heart of his work is more out front here than ever.  A song cycle of a beautiful loser.  Artsongs for the narcissistic and depressed, whose medication  is sublime melody and crafty arrangements.  The space is a therapist’s office in Gothenburg loft.

 

30.   Holy Other – Held

Club ambient dubby electronic etudes pulled apart and tossed in fragments into air, not smoke.  The space extends out in the desert and over the bar where there is a rainbow of obscure liquor and an appointment for a massage.

 

31.   Hilary Hahn & Hauschka – Silfra

Classical violinist and treated piano player/composer create something far exceeding the sum of its parts.  Not neo-classical nor ambient, it is serious and beautiful, and (apparently) as they improvise off each other, reach new territory.  Space is optional, provisional, but enough.

 

32.   Grizzly Bear – Shields

Folky, folksy,  and a harmonic convergence of just what you’d expect.  The space is a rehearsal room in the basement of a humanities building at Oberlin or Lewis and Clark.

 

33.   Ariel Pinks Haunted Graffiti – Mature Themes

Annoying, catchy, brilliant creep-pop from the master of dirty hair and telecaster melodicism.  Reverb chorus and petulant leads; the space is a therapist’s office in Beverley Hills adjacent.

 

34.   Johan Johansson – Copenhagen Dreams

Cloudy and cool movie soundtrack for walking through Scandinavian capitols or museums with paintings of the back of women’s heads.  The space is a dark theater with your life on the screen.

 

35.   Sylvester Anfang II – Latitudes series

Neo psychedelic improvisation from the children of Popol Vuh (see above)… I believe they are part of some Flemish separatist movement, but the extended jams are fresh off the corner of some garage in the Haight in early 1971.

 

36.   DB’s – Falling Off the Sky

Lovely retro farfisa, three chord with a break, classic period rock, produced this year.  Like the Swans they resurrect the influences they created which make them sound like a thousand other bands who copied them since.  The space is a time travel machine back to a youth you never had.

 

37.   Father John Mistry – Fear Fun

Another retro-like California paean to (also) a past that never was.  The body can only handle this abuse while young.  None of what this music is is young anymore, so the irony is its strength and limitation.  The space is a nicely maintained stucco 3 bedroom house in Silverlake with the bong left of the coffee table.

 

38.   Lower Dens – Nootropics

I think I hear Nino Rota in some of these  bitter/happy tracks.  A break and harmony in fifths seems almost like medieval music – there’s a residue of folk rock in the indie posing.  Dreamy in the school of Yo la Tengo, with maybe a dash of the Go Betweens.  So Fellini, Georgia and Ira, troubadour tunes that could also be theme music for a kids show, and an occasional nod to k.d, lang… why isn’t this better?  Space is my couch reading the New Yorker.

 

39.   The DB’s – Falling Off the Sky

I greeted this with great enthusiasm and it was glorious pop song perfection for about three listens, then it got mildly annoying.  Listened again and confirmed that they are geniouses. A world where a hook and a catchy chorus were high are.  Glad they got together and are still making music, and this is as good as what they did 30 years ago, only I am not where they were and I was 30 years ago.  The space is Thomas Wolfe and DJ Shadow.

 

40.   James Brooks – Land Observations – Roman Roads IV-XI.

Strings plunked simply, repetitively, the hypnotic electronic hollowing out of travel.  Fragments of melodies and harmonics stripped down, but left with a warmly analog phantom limb. The barely competent guitar playing rings and plucks its tube-amp tone with a comforting salty reverb, and seems to be a song from a simpler time, a folk song or a desert-twang dance-trance groove (African or the Mojave), the rhythmic response to the call of what’s left of your heart.  Hit the road Jack, with friendly company and toe-tapping resolution.

 

41.   Scythling – Smokefall

Improvised doom-sludge par excellence.  Great slow moving tectonic plates of guitar noise with distant drumming , the metric of Fate itself.  The space is a universe closing in for the final and mortal destination.

 

42.   Mark Demarco - 2

If Ariel Pink is tongue in cheek, this licks the lips in its love for deconstruction.  It’s danceable all the way through, and its respect for “chops” isn’t kidding.  Which is to say the space for their friendly retro-viral rolling rock could just as well be a frat party at ‘Bama as well as a brownstone in the hippest area of Brooklyn.

 

43.   Tim Hecker and Daniel Lopatin – Instrumental Tourist

More industrial and disjointed than what usual in Hecker’s  smooth  electronic haze of counterpoint hiss, buzz, and drone.  Fragments, aggregated  with what might even be nerd-humor.  Space is an embassy on Alpha Centauri.

 

44.   Terence Dixon – From the Far Future, Part 2

Minimalist dance/trance with laser light show potential, yet a jazz dissonance embedded in the driving fragments.  This is relentless and chem.-love  friendly.  The power is in its lack of development, its love of the superficial.  The space in on the floor of the closet looking for crumbs.

 

45.   Sleep Research Facility –  Stealth

Buzzes, alarms, hums, drones modulating slowly in an analog-acoustic space of a Stealth bomber hanger in Cambridgeshire.  I guess they call it deep drone.  It’s comforting, but not sleep inducing.  For such minimalist ambient “music” it’s calming but engaging/disturbing at the same time.  The space is where it is.

 

46.   Ulrich Schnauss and Mark Peters –Underrated Silence

Progressive chill wave?  Complicated elevator music?  Great washes of synths run in and among simple base and guitar strumming.  Calculated and pulled apart.  Atmospheric is the atmosphere is in some alternate universe where “calm” does not mean “peace”, but could mean “challenge.”  The space is the slow burn of sunrise driving away from the party.

 

47.   Mirroring – Foreign Body

Soft-core droning with whisper-friendly girl vocals with a touch of Brit-like folk rock (Grouper after all is ½ of this).   Minimalist tension in the friendliest of environments.  If “quiet is the new loud” is retro now, perhaps this is “soft is the new edgy” in 2012.  Lots of  gentle and enduring space, which might have its ground in a craftsman bungalow in Portland with light rain outside and steaming Earl Grey on the table.

 

48.   Damien Dempsey – Almighty Love

Those Dublin working class vowels and simplistic political yearnings work better than ever after the total collapse of the Celtic Tiger, and the mega-capitalist exclusion of the marginalized is no longer the only villain, Dempsey struggles through the most personal of darknesses to glory, it’s the Gaelic way after all.  Suicide, drink, drugs, unemployment, oppression and the longing for an almighty love that burns all the pain away. Folk melodies, strumming acoustic guitars and the reified fiddle and penny whistle.  A simple mind, a lovely voice, and the long view across the wide dark ocean of loss.

 

49.   Tame Impala – Lonerism

Finally kicked-in for me.  The sophomoric psychedelicism of their last has been constructed with a much larger footprint, although the late 60s idiom is still the lengua franca of this stoner dancetrack for catching butterflies.  The vocals sometimes drag it over in Oasis territory, but that’s not an entirely bad thing.  Paisley and flower power are still…powerful.

 

50.   Grumbling Fur – Latitude series

Recalling a time of stark and minimalist Brit prog rock (Brian Protheroe? Robert Wyatt? Meddle-era Pink Floyd) the loping inevitability at an intersect of Druidic folk and classic Indian raga shapes, with posh boarding school boy vocals.  Churning art rock as a form of meditation.

 

49.   Alejandro Escovedo – Big Station

Rootsy and plaintive AmeriMexicana.  Although the “chicano” perspective is more Rolling Stones Aftermath than Paco Everyman.  Remember when rock and roll had “swagger” in palette of colors, even if wounded.  Not to mention the tasty horn charts, remember that?  Don’t give up on love indeed. (Extra credit for a sleazy, boozy “Sabor a mi”).   A motel room in Albuquerque after copping or a 12 step meeting down the street.

 

50.   Haxan Cloak – Men Who Parted the Sea to Devour the Water - Latitudes series

Melancholic drones, witches’ music, soundtrackish, and just a touch tribal… though the natives-who-are-restless are on the other side of the foggy valley.

 

51.   Julia Holter – Ekstasis

I appreciate the project, and the artful arty artistic preciousness of her …art.   Some passages are more Petula Clark than Laurie Anderson.  I also hear churches in the pixie kingdom.  I hear angel wing fashion shows.  And everything is so fashioned. Constructed.  Space is a youth center dance in a particularly affluent section of Oslo.

 

52.   Sigur Ros – Valturi

Although I first heard it in its entirety on the Icelandic Air flight to Reykjavik, and I was ready to like it as a “return to form”, ultimately it seemed tepid.  Sometime soft isn’t the new hard, it’s just soft.  Pretty.  Forgettable.  The space is in the living room where everyone’s left to go outside.

 

53.   Beach House - Bloom

Yeah, yeah,  it’s brilliant.  I really respect it.  I love the 80’s retro flavors.  But just like the Cocteau Twins I respect it more than like it.  The space is a corner on the shelf when it’ll stay for years until I pull it out in the resthome in 2037 and tell Chris, who has put me there though he comes to visit regularly, see they really do sound like the Cocteau Twins, but I thought they were saccharine too, did you bring pictures of the dogs?

 

54.   Mono – For My Parents

The British version of Explosions in the Sky expand their wall of sound to symphonic proportions.  Although the loud/soft  dynamics work well, the arrangements owe more to Elgar or Ralph Vaughn Williams than to Roger Walters.   Every now and then a key transposition or a melodic line sound like a Yanni  concert in some ancient amphitheater… PBS version, not Magus.  Sentimental and solid.  The space is headphones while running.

 

55.   Sun Kil Moon – Among the Leaves

One of my favorite singer/guitarists with the bittersweet voice hits all the right minor keys in a soundtrack jounal of his life and times.  Only his life and times her are his alone, insular and  selfish.  The space is an empty train station waiting room deciding whether to give up.

 

56.   Thomas Köner - Novaya Zemlya

I like the minimalism that borders on silence, that quiet right after thunder (and there’s more than a few field recordings of thunder on this).   The sound a truck on a distant highway.  The sound of broken sewing machine in the next apartment.  The hiss of a bad cable connection.  Muffled voices and mothership docking.  These are more sound installations than music.  The space is that moment in the solar plexus right after Houston is told there is a problem.

 

57.   John Talabot - Fin

Proving that disco has a certain “classic” status and the great production makes the dance beats sound important and anthemic.  So much white music I listen to, the elements of soul are chic and sexy in the DJing setting and assert  a humanity this kind of music usually lacks.  The space is a clubland palimpsest dream on summer vacation.

 

58.   Andy Stott - Luxury Problems

Dancy but high falutin’ baroque electronics.  Too ornate, but always keeps you off balance, with surprises and compositional depth; most electronic music seems horizontal, this is vertical.   A real warehouse of pop opera detritus, but the lights are low enough to miss the mess.

 

59.   Logn-I-Frahvarfi Ljoss Myrkrid

I guess it’s dark metal, but it’s got a huge heart and smoking guitar sound and I give it a 95 ‘cause you can dance to it.  Icelandic top of the pops.  Hard to know if the monumentally muddy production is a mistake or intentionally anti-beauty. The space is… well you need to wear a down jacket.

 

60.   The XX – Coexist

Dark and clubby, hollow and capacious.  But filled with stale air, it continued to droop.  Disappointing in that, unlike their last, it didn’t grow with familiarity but rather evaporated.  The flimsy desire.  Waking up in the morning and considering the bad decisions of the previous night.  Maybe you just have to be really young.  Her voice is warm and cold and a star’s turn; but the space wants a window open.

 

61.   Eivind Aarset – Dream Logic

The majestic nature of quiet.  Guitars, bass, percussion “treated” to be a soft landing in the territory between jazz and post-rock.  Acoustic sounds very quiet and very close in the ear in counterpoint to cosmic search-for-intelligent-life drones. Aleatoric clinking or twelve-tonish noise melting into cocktail lounge guitar chords. File under “slow.”

62.   Steve Hauschildt – Sequitur

Back in the dawn of “electronic” music, there was a school of “washes of sound” synth (Vangelis) as distinct from the trippy tribal compositions (Tangerine Dream) and the ambient comfort food (Eno).  I sorta hated Vangelis and that thick tube-ampy synth sound;  but here it is in all its retro glory, deconstructed with a dance – E-vibe.  Gooey music where the music’s texture is actually an in-joke.

63.   Esmerine – Lechuga

Lugubrioius string and voice in an elegiac reminder that the original chamber drone actually was chamber music.  The space is a softly lit funeral parlor with opiates and style.

64.   Keiji Haino, Jim O'Rourke, Oren Ambarchi - Imikuzushi

Noise experiments that, all good intentions to the contrary, stayed pretty much like noise after multiple listening.  Respect.

65.   Efterklang – Piramida

Danish psychedelic rock band sequesters itself in above-the-arctic-circle abandoned village in Finland to re-kindle its creative mojo.  Winds up more jazz-fusion than Stephen King short-story.

Space is an abandoned community hall on the tundra.

66.   Spain – Sketches of Spain

Longingly stretched out lines of melody and horny ennui reminding us of the original virtues of slo-core.  Om Mani Padme Hum as a pop chorus?  Space is a church prayer meeting in Corona del Mar.

67.   Snapshots – Sidesteps

Jumpy dance beats with a space cozily arranged for green team and a good book inside a bass drum.

68.   The Walkmen – Heaven

Nice upon first meeting, but the “songs” simply crumbled over time; not strong enough to hold the weight of the tasty guitars and mid-range vocals.  A dusty storefront studio in Austin.

69.   Carlos Nino and Friends – Aquariusssss

The producer of the Build an Ark project turns from psychedelic jam-references to what can only be called “world ambient”, full of electronic sambas, and found sound evocations.  The narrow streets open to the crowded but quiet (this is a dream afterall) marketplace.  A bird sings, an organ plays, a plane crosses the sky.  From Los Angeles to your praedial memory of ancestral homelands.

70.   Emptyset – Medium

If minimalist industrial noise is your thing (fuzzy knocks of a broken sewing machine), this is primal.  The humming in the walls while frying.  The city speaking out in waves of fierce argumentative noise.  The space is the fusebox.

71.   Twin Shadow – confess

Agit-prop pop on the vagaries of love.  Noisy without relief.  Retro dance weights.  And angry love. Space is New York as it used to be.

72.   Beachwood Sparks – Tarnished Gold

Started out really a friendly return to the Americana radar, SoCal version.  Golden harmonics – dashes of Dead, Jackson Browne, Blue Rodeo.  But the threadbare nature of its ideas eventually wore me out too.  A dusty storefront studio on Santa Monica Blvd.

73.   Lambchop – Mr. M

Lugubrious slo motion vocals that defy classification or dismissal.  Same love/hate respect engendered as a Nick Cave or Tom Waits offering.  Always a taste on the verge of being acquired.

74.   Bruce Sprinsteen – Wrecking Ball

Moments or recaptured passion, but still unable to find an answer the question, why bother?

75.   Royal Headache – What’s Your Rupture?

Garage rock as art.  Passion still here.  Space is a garage in Cudahy.

76.   Kadaver – Kadaver

The return of Blue Cheer, only without any sense of irony.  Hippie heavy metal.  The space is a smoky garage in rural New Jersey.

77.   Future of the Left – The Plot Against Common Sense

Fine thick wall of guitars and lovely Brit working class vowels shouting relentlessly dumb lyrics.  Space is a garage in the outskirts of Birmingham.

78.   Om – Advaitic Songs

Nicely world metal; a garage in a suburb of Paris (as imagined from a garage in Oakland).

79.   Los Miticos del Ritmo

Absolutely silly project of a London club DJ working with Columbian cumbia musicians to cover classic rock hits.  Irresistible toe-tappin’, nalgas bumbin’  bullshit dance music.  A carport in Caracas.

80.   Carter Tutti Void – Transverse

Dancey trancey yet subtle disposable clothing.  A fashionable drawing room in Ibiza.

81.   Dan Stuart – The Disappearance of Marlow Biggs

The suicidal lead singer of the old 80’s LA band Green on Red returns with an Americana classic under the guide of a slacker Under the Volcano memoir of unexpected survival.  RIYL what Westerberg should be doing.  The space is borrowed time.

82.   Souleance – La Belle Vie

Downtempo, hip hoppy happy music with a soulful Brazilian flavor.  Dance.

83.   Bob Dylan – Tempest

Well, ok then.

84.   Van Morrison – Born to Sing, No Plan B

Well, all right then.

85.   Jack White – Blunderbuss

And so there you go.

86.   Bruce Springsteen –

We take care of our own, in spite of ourselves.  And so there you…

87.   And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead – Lost Songs

Normally my cup of tea, my hand wouldn’t put it in the CD player more than twice.

88.   High on Fire-De Vermis Mysteris

Continuing to reign as guitar god progenitor of the resurgence in stoner metal, he just shouldn’t sing.  I know I am a minority, but why do these metal bands insist on screwing up  boffo riffs with that constipated devil growl.

89.   Ape School – Junior Violence

Pink Floyd covering MGMT.  Bouncy and friendly pop.

90.   Mt. Eerie – Ocean Roar

Unfocused, which was their signature contribution.  Just evaporated in my hands.

91.   Café Tacvba – El Objeto Antes  Llamado Disco

A little bit more folk music this time around from one of the world’s great rock bands.

92.   Frank Ocean – Orange

I guess I am just too old for real soul.  Seemed fragmentary and off key.

93.   Dave Douglas Quintent – Be Still

Deconstructed spirituals.  Great for Sunday mornings.  Space is in the car on the way to church.

94.   Jose Luis Monton – Solo Guitarra

Lovely solo and spacious guitar.  Progressive but easy going Flamenco.  Space is an old library in Cadiz, wearing Ferragamo shoes.

95.   Sepalcure -Sepalcure

Progressive drums and bass.  Speaking of shoes, space is an ultra hip shoe store in Tribeca.

96.   Burial – Kindred

Now the party’s over, I’m so tired.

97.   Adrian Crowley – I See Three Birds Flying

Growly Nick Cavish vocals in a serene and morbid Irish folk setting.

98.   Jessie Ware – Devotion

It’s possible “songstresses” working in the central idiom don’t work for me anymore,  might as well listen to Adele.

99.   Rhett Miller – The Dreamer

I am always looking for that salt-or-the-earth fix, I think I shoulda had an Iris Dement or the Three Pears thing.

100.                        St. Etienne – Words and Music

A real marker of the passage of time.  I used to eat of this faux Euro cocktail language crap.  It hasn’t change, this is a return to form.  I clearly have changed.  The space is pharmacy on Ibiza.