12/24/2014

2014: The Year in Review (Sort of)

Another 12 months, another abridged and personalized version of a yearly recap. Let’s get crackin’, shall we?

ALBUM OF THE YEAR
FLYING LOTUS You're Dead! [Warp]

When older music fans—in this case, anyone over the age of 35—complain about a dearth of compelling popular music, they are often told to dig a bit deeper past whatever the mainstream is offering and they'll be eventually rewarded. Aside from the fact that having to delve far below the surface is already a tacit indictment of popular music, the search has often been unimpressive and many a time fruitless for us. There are exceptions, of course. And Flying Lotus is a big one.


We're not gonna burden you with even more hype for Steven Ellison's outfit but when each album is more breathtaking than the last, while ably navigating thru such diverse terrain as In A Silent Way-era Miles Davis, Zappa-like fusion excursions, classic R&B, hip-hop, and electronica, the accolades are not just deserved and warranted but as intrinsic as the talent involved in creating these tunes.

FAVORITE ALBUM
SUN KIL MOON Benji [Caldo Verde]

In lesser hands, this could’ve easily turned into an embarrassing example of an hour’s worth of navel gazing, but Mark Kozelek is no stranger to the nakedly personal, and his deft touch makes his tales feel as familiar as a shared experience. Benji’s stripped down, mostly acoustic instrumentation and stark, yet vivid production manage to evoke a panoramic backdrop to his most honest record yet. 

Runner up:
Beck Morning Phase [Fonograf/Capitol]
TV on the Radio Seeds [Harvest]

MOST DISAPPOINTING ALBUM
YES Heaven and Earth [Frontiers]

For the last 20+ years every album released by the one-time prog rock kings comes across as little more than a weak attempt at recapturing a fire long ago extinguished. Each album, at best, Yes-like; self-parody at worst. Sadly, the new age-y Heaven and Earth—which in a bit of irony is more akin to a solo album by departed long-time vocalist Jon Anderson—is no exception.

Runner up:
U2 Songs of Innocence [Island]


MOST DISAPPOINTING DEVELOPMENT
Sia decides to become a pop diva.

There's already a glut of those. How 'bout a moving songstress, instead?

MOST PLEASANTLY SURPRISING ALBUM
PINK FLOYD The Endless River [Columbia]

The revamped leftover tracks
from the bland late '80s/early '90s
incarnation of the band are often
reminiscent of '70s Floyd classics
Meddle and Wish You Were Here 
and actually turned out to be 
a fitting tribute to late keyboardist Rick Wright.

CATCHIEST MEA CULPA
Weezer “Back to the Shack”

Rivers Cuomo decides to apologize on behalf of Weezer, himself and Gen-X for, in recent years, not “rockin’ out like it's ‘94”. You’re forgiven, dude. Ha!


BEST EXAMPLE OF A “BAIT AND SWITCH” SCENARIO
FOO FIGHTERS Sonic Highways [Roswell]

If you’re going to record an album in 8 different cities to highlight their influence on popular American music and soak up their respective vibes, putting out your standard run-of-the-mill FF record is not gonna cut it.

FAVORITE REISSUE
YO LA TENGO Extra Painful [Matador]

An expanded edition (2 CDs) of the New Jersey trio’s landmark 1993 album Painful and finest collection of songs, littered with rare goodies and extras.

BULLSHIT MUSIC BUSINESS DOUBLE STANDARD
The howling over U2's new album being downloaded to every iPhone by Apple. 

Was it, in hindsight, a bad move to give virtually every iPhone user a copy of the the Irish quartet's most recent album? Perhaps, seeing as haters would and did have a field day with this development. But these same folks would likely bitch and moan if U2 deposited $1,000 in their bank accounts, free and clear. Truth is, if these particular iPhone users woke up to find the latest release by Johnny Whatshisname on their phone, they'd surely wonder how it got there for all of five seconds, and then promptly erase it. But it was U2's new one, and since haters gotta hate...

UNFORTUNATE MUSIC BUSINESS TREND
Streaming services paying extremely miniscule royalties to artists while playing the 'altruistic victim' card.

“At least they’re not illegally downloading your songs” isn’t really a business model, bub.

FAVORITE DEVELOPMENT TO LOOK FORWARD TO IN 2015

New albums from Duran Duran, Noel Gallagher, Gang of Four, The Raconteurs (wishful thinking?), Smashing Pumpkins and, yes, Guns ‘N’ Roses

GOODBYE
Stooges drummer Scott Asheton; the great Bobby “Blue” Bland; GWAR's Dave Brockie, aka Oderus Urungus; bassist extraordinaire Jack Bruce; jazz trumpeter Donald Byrd; Devo guitarist Bob Casale; Argentine rock icon Gustavo Cerati; singer Joe Cocker; founding member and bassist for Jethro Tull, Glenn Cornick; jazz/flamenco giant, guitarist Paco de Lucia; jazz keyboardist and producer George Duke; entertainment attorney and artist champion Don EngelPhil Everly of the legendary Everly Brothers; the one and only Cheo Feliciano; Big Star producer/engineer and mentor, as well as founder of Ardent Records/Ardent Studios, John Fry; original Foreigner bassist Ed Gagliardi; songwriting legend Gerry Goffin; acclaimed bassist/composer Charlie Haden; pioneering rapper Henry Lee Jackson aka Big Bank Hank of The Sugarhill Gang; guitarist Ronny JordanBobby Keys, saxophonist (Buddy Holly, John Lennon, Rolling Stones); Faces keyboardist and Rolling Stones collaborator Ian McLagan; producer Rick Parashar (Pearl Jam, Temple of the Dog, Alice in Chains, Dinosaur Jr.); Arrows songwriter/guitarist Jake Hooker (“I Love Rock and Roll”); Ramones original drummer, founding member and producer, Tommy Ramone; The Jazz Crusaders’ Joe Sample; American music icon Pete Seeger; jazz giant Horace Silver; singer/songwriter Sonia Silvestre; The Outfield guitarist John Spinks; Static-X frontman Wayne Static; revered drummer/teacher Sam Ulano; guitar legend Johnny Winter; the incomparable Bobby Womack.

1 comment:

G.R. said...

I don't think I could ever look forward to another Guns N Roses album after Chinese Democracy