Should I write another “oh, it’s been awhile message”, or should I just dive in to all the new music? That opening sentence’ll do I guess, so now on to the music. This is one of those playlists where it was interesting trying to fit together all the disparate styles I had collected… and I think I pulled it off.
I want to highlight a group from my local area, Seattle. I’ve been enjoying a couple new singles from Smokey Brights lately, and I included them both. “Fancy Ketchup” is a great, lighthearted, rock-song, with a fun, catchy, driving chorus. “Child of Noise” is more of a rock ballad, and it’s worth noting how well the band does both. I’ve featured every Smokeys release since Hot Candy here on The Fortnightly, seen them live multiple times, and there’s so much good to say about them. They’re great, and they’ve been very worth paying attention to over the last several years.
One of my most anticipated releases this year is Shearwater’s The Great Awakening. I’m not sure what to think of the singles from it so far (the album is out June 10th). I like it, but it is certainly shaping up to be a less accessible record than 2016’s Jetplane & Oxbow. I have little doubt that I will enjoy the album myself, but it doesn’t look like it will be the recommended entry point for the band that I felt Jetplane… was. It’s clearly got a complexity to it that you can sense from the 3 singles that are out now, and I’m eager to hear the full album.
Other favorites this edition were Mavis Staples & Levon Helm, Jelly Cleaver, Drive-By Truckers, Ry Cooder & Taj Mahal, The Linda Lindas, and Danger Mouse & Black Thought. Enjoy!
Tracklist: Andrew Bird – Underlands Sharon Van Etten – I’ll Try Smokey Brights – Fancy Ketchup Florence + The Machine – Dream Girl Evil Maria Chiara Argiró – Forest City Kendrick Lamar, Sampha – Father Time Danger Mouse, Black Thought – No Gold Teeth Jelly Cleaver, Plumm – Dream Manifesto Ibeyi, Jorja Smith – Lavender & Red Roses Bad Bunny, Bomba Estereo – Ojitos Lindos Lizzo – About Damn Time Mavis Staples, Levon Helm – Move Along Train Ry Cooder, Taj Mahal – What a Beautiful City Drive-By Truckers – Every Single Storied Flameout Shearwater – Laguna Seca Flume, Kucka, Quiet Bison – ESCAPE The Linda Lindas – Why Otoboke Beaver – I Don’t Want to Die Alone Arcade Fire – End of the Empire I-III Smokey Brights – Child of Noise Architects – Libertine (Abbey Road Version)
While writing this, I am working out the order of the playlist and checking to see if I’m missing anything I wanted to add. What new music are you enjoying right now? Anything reigniting that love of discovery for you? Feel free to share!
I flat out decided to open the playlist with a real tear-jerker. This acoustic version of Frank Turner’s “A Wave Across The Bay” is from the new deluxe version of last year’s FTHC album. The song is a tribute to Frightened Rabbit’s Scott Hutchison. Hutchison passed in May 2018 from suicide, and is one of the best and most beloved indie songwriters of this century. A lot of artists have spoken and sang their tributes for Scott, and have offered proceeds of music to the Tiny Changes Foundation set up by Scott’s family, friends, and band. I found Frank Turner’s song particularly moving when I heard this acoustic version recently.
I’d like to draw your attention now to The Linda Lindas. This quartet of young punks making some excellent DIY punk noise is one of those groups that should fill us with hope for the future. The punk ethos is alive and well here. It embraces that everything wrong with the world is can be combatted with a defiant effort. The more of us doing something about it, the better off we are. That’s why groups like The Linda Lindas are a reminder that punk music, and music in general, matters.
Other favorites in this edition are Sampa The Great, Shearwater, Calexico, Cave Clove, and the new supergroup, 3rd Secret. Enjoy!
Tracklist: Frank Turner – A Wave Across The Bay (Acoustic) Shearwater – Aqaba 3rd Secret – I Choose Me Cave Clove – Obsidian Florence + The Machine – King Elsy Wameyo – Promise Sampa The Great, Denzel Curry, Powers Pleasant – Lane Royksopp – The Ladder Calexico – Constellation Milo – Como Decirte Quelle Chris – Alive Ain’t Always Living Congotronics International – Doubt/Hope Tigran Hamasyan – All The Things You Are Pan American – Memorizing, Memorizing Ry Cooder & Taj Mahal – My Baby Done Changed The Lock On The Door Anna Calvi – Ain’t No Grave The Linda Lindas – Oh! Dazy & Militarie Gun – Pressure Cooker Jenny Hval – American Coffee Royksopp, Goldfrapp – Impossible Arcade Fire – Unconditional I (Lookout Kid)
So let’s talk about this new project called The Smile. Thom Yorke and Johnny Greenwood from Radiohead and Sons of Kemet drummer, Tom Skinner. Of course, both of those bands have featured here before, so it makes perfect sense that this would fit well in one of my playlists. Maybe at first glance pairing members of Radiohead with a jazz drummer like Skinner might seem strange, but only if you are most familiar with Radiohead’s earliest work which was more straightforward rock. It’s a great fit for the artists they’ve become over the course of their career. The songs released so far by The Smile feel very much like all the members are able to bring the best of themselves. I’m really enjoying this one.
The first single from Shearwater’s new album is finally here. It’s been 6 years since Jetplane & Oxbow was released (an album that I firmly believe is a modern masterpiece). Since then Jonathan Meiburg has made 2 records with his other group, Loma. I’ve enjoyed both of those records, and, as a fan believing Jetplane & Oxbow was by far the best album he’s put out, it was maybe good to put the focus on an entirely different project for awhile. The follow-up to a great album can sometimes be difficult for artists, The comparisons are inevitable. Trying to temper expectations, I listened to “Xenarthran”. It does not hit me quite as anything on Jetplane…, but it is growing on me. I’m excited for the new album, “The Great Awakening”, and to fall in love with a new and different album from an artist I’ve come to think so highly of.
Other favorites in this edition are Calexico, Superchunk, Ibibio Sound Machine, Cave Clove, and Mitski.
Tracklist: Bartees Strange – Heavy Heart Pixies – Human Crime The Smile – The Smoke Mitski – Working For The Knife Nilufer Yanya – the dealer Andrew Bird – Atomized Arcade Fire – Lightning I Arcade Fire – Lightning II Superchunk – Endless Summer Pkew Pkew Pkew – Maybe Someday Shearwater – Xenarthran Pink Floyd, Andriy Khlyvnyuk – Hey, Hey, Rise Up Sudan Archives – Home Maker Loch Lomond – Small Hearts Cave Clove – Go Big Drive-By Truckers – Welcome 2 Club XIII Taj Mahal, Ry Cooder – Pick a Bale a Cotton Calexico – Harness the Wind Raquel Lily – Mary Florence + The Machine – My Love Ibibio Sound Machine – Truth No Lie
It seems like there is an awful lot happening in the world right now (and a lot of awful). It’s been a fortnight and a half since I last posted here, and I’m sure I’m not the only one feeling the sense of dread when taking in any information from the news. In this edition, I’ve included at the end of the playlist several songs from Ukrainian artists or artists with Ukrainian heritage. News came also of the passing of Mark Lanegan on February 22, and I decided to start the playlist with several Lanegan songs.
I wanted to include and highlight Ukrainian artists and artists with Ukrainian heritage in this edition. This is the tip of the iceberg of Ukrainian art and culture, and I hope it helps us remember what is at stake. This conflict is unlikely to be ended quickly. People will get sick of posting Zelenskyy memes and have their attention drawn elsewhere. Please don’t let the idea of war in Ukraine become something you think of as normal. Remember the people and support however you can.
Other favorites included this edition are Cave Clove, Ibeyi, Ibibio Sound Machine, Keb’ Mo’, and Rick Holmstrom.
Tracklist: UNKLE, Mark Lanegan – Looking For The Rain Isobel Campbell, Mark Lanegan – Time of the Season Isobel Cambpell, Mark Lanegan – Rambling Rose, Clinging Vine Mark Lanegan – I Wouldn’t Want to Say Mark Lanegan Band – Gazing From The Shore Ibibio Sound Machine – Protection From Evil Lido Pimienta – De Los Limites Making Movies – Calor Ibeyi – Made of Gold Stromae – Bonne Journee Ty Segall – Whirlybird Keb’ Mo’ – Good To Be (Home Again) Cave Clove – On Witches Brew Kurt Vile – Like Exploding Stones The Rural Alberta Advantage – CANDU Joe Purdy – My Loving Arms Old Crow Medicine Show – Honey Chile Rick Holmstrom – Walking With Diane Taj Mahal, Ry Cooder – I Shall Not Be Moved Keb’ Mo’ – Lean On Me Rick Holmstrom – King Freddie The Black Keys – Wild Child Jack White – Fear of the Dawn Rosalia – SAOKO Ibeyi – Sister 2 Sister Lazerbeak – Dink a Dink (remix) Alyona Alyona, Olexesh – Shalom Olexesh – MAMA UKRAINA, PAPA RUSSIA KALUSH – Stefania Dagadana, Tanghetto – Abrazo DakhaBrakha – Monakh YARMAK – Вставай ONUKA, Alyona Alyona, Artem Pivovarov, Julia Sanina – Твій день (OST Найкращі вихідні) Alyona Alyona, Yoss Bones – Pappi Pappi Gogol Bordello – John The Conqueror (Truth is Always The Same) The Ukrainians – Koly Ya Tantsyuyu Gogol Bordello – Wonderlust King Dagadana – The Musicians Are Playing DakhaBrakha – Vynnaya Ya Dagadana – In That Orchad
So yes, I made the switch. I’m one of those people. The Fortnightly is now on Apple. I’ve mentioned several times here how I’ve had something of a love/hate relationship with Spotify due to how much money they make from not paying artists very fairly, and it seems that in some ways the current controversy was just that last straw. To see Joe Rogan get a big money deal with the money not paid to artists made me (and apparently others) feel we were funding the misinformation machine. I’ve been really happy with the switch so far.
It has been awhile, and I amassed quite a list of music to fit in this time around. It took some time arranging this list, and I’m really enjoying all of it. I’d like to start by highlighting Cave Clove. I first discovered this group back in August 2018. They played a show with Smokey Brights, The Tellers, and I Will Keep Your Ghost at Scuttlebutt Brewery in Everett, WA. The others all being local, Cave Clove was the only group I was completely unfamiliar with, and I really enjoyed their set. Between the sets I happened to meet and hang out with most of the group at different points, and they were just beginning a tour with Smokey Brights that I followed a bit via social media. In spite of the fact that not everything was off to a great start for the tour, they took the time to meet people and watch the other groups after their set. That kind of thing sticks with a new fan, and I’ve followed them closely ever since. I’m excited to hear their upcoming full-length album, The Muscle and the Meaning.
Another album coming in the Spring of ’22 is from a pair of legends whose music has been a companion for many years now. Taj Mahal and Ry Cooder are a pair of American Music legends, and first played music together when they were just teenagers. Their first record as The Rising Sons, was not released until years later after they had both made names for themselves individually. Seeing these old friends collaborating again with Ry’s son, Joachim, on drums just feels very special, and to make it an album of Sonny Terry and Brownie McGee covers feels fitting. These two have long carried the torch of American Roots music, and this record looks to be a gift to Roots music lovers.
I also wanted to share a song from Moses Sumney’s live performance film, Blackalachia. If you’ve followed this blog much, then you may remember that Grae was my favorite album of 2020. This film is an impressive visual curation shot in the Blue Ridge Mountains, and the setlist curated from Sumney’s 2 full-length albums, Aromanticism, and Grae. I chose to include “Conveyor” in the playlist this edition, and love this version of it. I also highly recommend watching the film.
Hard to pick just a few favorites from this edition! Sharon Van Etten, Odesza, Beirut, Eddie Vedder, Bob Moses, Big Thief, Stromae, The Punch Brothers, Fantastic Negrito, Yard Act! I’m really enjoying all of this list right now, and I hope you enjoy it too.
Tracklist: Beirut – Scenic World Frank Turner – The Gathering Eddie Vedder – The Dark Cave Clove – New Secret Sharon Van Etten – Porta Odesza – The Last Goodbye (feat. Bettye LaVette) Trentmoller – No More Kissing in the Rain DJ Hank – Stay Bob Moses – Love Brand New Animal Collective – Strung With Everything Big Thief – Time Escaping Spoon – Wild Alt-j – The Actor Fantastic Negrito – Highest Bidder Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio – Pull Your Pants Up Justin Golden – Ain’t Just Luck Taj Mahal & Ry Cooder – Hooray, Hooray Punch brothers – The Gold Rush Josiah Johnson – Hello, Hello on Fire! Andy Shauf – Jacob Rose Arlo Parks – Softly Camp Cope – Running with the Hurricane Pedro the Lion – Lost Myself Stromae – L’enfer Moses Sumney – Conveyor The Black Tones – The End of Everything Yard Act – Quarantine the Sticks
Happy new year! It has been a bit since my last post. First of 2022 here. I had a lot of this music collected and ready last week, but ran out of time to write anything. I became a dad since last writing here. Hazel Maeve arrived on Christmas Eve. I’ve always written here and made these playlists for my own enjoyment hoping to connect with a few people as I go. I won’t be as consistent here as I have been in the past as we go through a lot of adjustments to our lives. “Fortnightly” won’t be so accurate a name here anymore, but I’m keeping it because I make the rules here and so I get to break ’em.
Lots of new music I’m excited for here, so I’m just going to highlight a few favorites.
I was so happy to see there was new music from Ibibio Sound Machine, and a full album coming March 25. Their high-energy electro-psychfunk is incredibly fun and engaging. In the last couple years of not being able to go to shows, I’ve looked back on theirs as a real favorite.
While writing this up and playing some of the music, I discovered that Hazel finds “Blues for Whitefish Lake, 1975” by Charlie Parr very soothing. I felt that was worth including just to show off what good taste she has at just 4 weeks old.
Pedro the Lion dropped a surprise new album this week. I’ve included my early favorite from it here. I really enjoyed the story in “First Drum Set”, and it jumped out right away. I’m excited to dig into the album more.
Other favorites in this edition are Eddie Vedder, Cat Power, Yard Act, and Ana Tijoux.
Tracklist: Ibibio Sound Machine – Electricity Parquet Courts – Plant Life KAYTRANADA, H.E.R. – Intimidated Bonobo – Rosewood Cat Power – Pa Pa Power Allison Russell – 4th Day Prayer Charlie Parr – Blues for Whitefish Lake, 1975 Shungudzo, Joy Oladokun – It’s a good day (to fight the system) Ana Tijoux, Valtonyc, Masquemusica, Cidtronyck, Stailok – Hijo de la Rebeldia Makaya McCraven – Coppin’ The Haven Ibibio Sound Machine – All That You Want Nilufer Yanya – stabilise Kae Tempest, Kevin Abstract – More Pressure Beach house – Once Twice Melody Animal Collective – Strung With Everything Best Coast – Leading Fontaine’s DC – Jackie Down The Line Yard Act – Dead Horse Julen y la Gente Sola – Animales Lentos Las Ligas Menores – La Nieve Mitski – Love Me More Pedro the Lion – First Drum Set Eddie Vedder – Brother the Cloud
Look, this is just an excuse for me to make another 2 hr playlist of music I love in the hopes that other people will give it a listen and find something they also love. So here we go…
10. Sitka Sun – All The Way West (January 12) My music listening has grown a lot in the last few years into new territory. I don’t think that when I started doing these playlists, I wouldn’t have gravitated to an instrumental jazz record like I did this year with All The Way West, and I have to give some of the credit to KEXP’s Afternoon Show DJ, Larry Mizell Jr. In the past I’d say that I always wanted to get jazz, and Larry has woven it into his show in a way that has drawn me in more than ever before. Sitka Sun’s album, in particular, was a revelation for me. I also feel like the album art is worth mentioning. That glowing, sun-drenched photo seems to fit the music so well that hearing the music brings it to mind. This was, for me, an accessible jazz record that helped me into that whole realm I’ve wanted into for a long time.
9. Big Red Machine – How Long Do You Think It’s Gonna Last? (August 27) This was one of those records where the pop and indie spheres melded together to give us a window into a pop record constructed with genuine artistry, not the mighty dollar, as the priority. Beautiful songwriting, excellent guest appearances, flowing smoothly from one track to another, and, again, I’ll say it feels distinctly like a pop record.
8. Adia Victoria – A Southern Gothic (September 17) This album really came out of nowhere for me, and there was a stretch where it was all I could listen to. I have a deep love for the blues, and Adia Victoria gave us a masterclass blues album this year. Beyond that though, she was unafraid to step outside of traditional blues structure at points here. “Please Come Down” is certainly not what most would consider a blues song. This is Victoria’s 3rd album, and it made me go back and make myself more familiar with her previous work. I just couldn’t get enough of it. As with any good blues album, you really feel it deep down in your soul. You can’t ask for better with the blues.
7. Little Simz – Sometimes I Might Be Introvert (September 3) Sonically huge. Overwhelming, sweeping orchestral movements, and punching vocals. Little Simz has, at this point, mastered the art of blending beats and samples with her live band. The production value on this is better than any album released this year, but she is far from losing the personal touch in her music. This actually feels like her most personal record yet, lyrically. Songs like “I Love You, I Hate You”, “Introvert”, and “Woman” feel as vulnerable as anything she’s ever done. This personal nature of the record goes right down to the details such as the album title being an acronym for her first name, Simbi.
6. FACESOUL – YSRA (July 22) Do you ever have a go-to album for when you need something meditative? That was YSRA for me this year. At this point, it seems necessary to once again shout out a KEXP DJ. This time it is Early Show host Gabriel Teodros. I never would have heard this album if not for Gabriel, and so I was introduced to it while on my way to work first thing in the morning. Nothing gets your day off to a good start like the right music, and this album in particular had some real gems to get you feeling centered and ready for a day at work. I also found it was good music to end your day.
5. Valerie June – The Moon and Stars: Prescriptions for Dreamers (March 12) Valerie June’s was my first favorite early this year from the point that the first singles were released months before the album. My relationship with this record has been building all year long, and I’ve cycled through different favorite songs at different points. I was happy to see this one stay high on my list as the year progressed. Valerie June has mastered different vocal styles, and she blends them together so well. With this record, she built a much bigger sound around those vocals than she has in the past. Often she has tended towards more sparse, bluegrass styles, and the bigger, soul pop sound really complimented this material. It all came together so well on this record. I was certain earlier this year that this would just stay top of the list all year long, and I sort of think that, depending on the day, any of these top 5 could be my number 1.
4. Tony Allen – There is No End (April 30) Posthumously released after Tony’s passing in April 2020, There Is No End felt like such a fitting tribute to what he contributed to music. The influential Nigerian drummer was the musical director of Fela Kuti’s band from 1968 to 1979, and Kuti himself said that without Allen there would be no Afrobeat. His influence on afrobeat has had a spiraling outward effect on funk, soul and hip-hop, and this record is full of artists whose art would not be the same without him. The title, There Is No End, is such a fitting reminder of the connectedness of all of us. The story doesn’t begin or end with the beginning or ending of one life. Each is influenced by someone before, and each lives on in the influence they had on others. This is the real crux of this record, and it all came together so beautifully with this amazing collection of songs.
3. David Huckfelt – Room Enough, Time Enough (March 19) The second full-length album from Huckfelt outside of his work with The Pines had a focus on re-centering attention onto marginalized and forgotten people. The album features several Native American artists from different parts of the American Southwest, as well as a host of other collaborators. There is an activist narrative just beneath the surface on these songs. It tells a story throughout it, and this is perhaps even more impressive to achieve this level of cohesion with the number of collaborators involved. The voices of Keith Secola, Billy Sedlmayr, Jackie Bird and others are given the attention they deserve, and there’s an overarching theme of perseverance and preservation. It’s a record that cuts right through you. The deep roots of protest folk music show their strength here.
2. Ya Tseen – Indian Yard (April 30) I was so taken up by this album. I’d never heard anything like this before. Nicholas Galanin and his collaborators built this incredible sonic landscape of psych-pop and electronica. In addition to his music, Galanin is a prolific visual artist whose pointed political art has made headlines around the world. It’s the first record released as Ya Tseen, a name based on his own Tlingit name, but the Sitka, Alaska-based musician has recorded under Silver Jackson and Indian Agent as well. At the core of the record is the human need for connection, and, amid our ongoing struggles with COVID-19 and swirling political madness, what could be more timely?
1. Torres – Thirstier (July 30) There’s a lot to unpack in this album, which swings around through genres dabbling in electronica, punk rock, big rock ballads, and straightforward synth pop-rock and closing in a crashing, dissonant rock song that nearly veers off a cliff-edge. MacKenzie Scott explores a lot of relational concepts in this record. I could have mentioned the pandemic in writing about each of my favorite albums this year. It’s become so pervasive, and feels, in most cases, like it doesn’t need to be said. All of these albums have been written in this environment, and we connect with them in this context. As I’ve reached number one, I’ll bring in what Scott said in an NPR interview. “I felt exactly the way that everybody else did, which was confused and worried and anxious about the future,” she recounts. “And so I started writing this album as a kind of way to dig myself out of the tunnel vision that can be created by doom scrolling.” She fixated on matters more immediate and life-giving, and wanted to aim her creative energies, as [album producer, Rob] Ellis puts it, “up and out, rather than inward and down.” “I did that for myself first,” she says, “and then I guess I decided that if I could do that for myself, then maybe I could try and help other people to feel that way, too.”
If you have an album or artist that felt significant to you this year, then please do not let it stop at Spotify or YouTube. Support them if you can. Buy their album, go to a show, share with a friend. Thanks.
Tracklist: Sitka Sun – Presence FACESOUL – Medicine Valerie June – Stay Ya Tseen, Portugal The Man – Knives Tony Allen, Sampa The Great – Stumbling Down Little Simz – I Love You, I Hate You Adia Victoria – Magnolia Blues David Huckfelt, David Simonett – Bury Me Not (The Dying Cowboy) Big Red Machine, Taylor Swift – Renegade TORRES – Don’t Go Puttin Wishes In My Head Ya Tseen – Close The Distance Big Red Machine, Fleet Foxes, Anais Mitchell – Phoenix Valerie June – Why The Bright Stars Glow TORRES – Thirstier Little Simz – Introvert Tony Allen, Marlowe – My Own Adia Victoria, Kyshona Armstrong, Margo Price, Jason Isbell – You Was Born to Die David Huckfelt, Greg Brown – Satisfied Mind Sitka Sun – Dauntless FACESOUL – Grow–A COLORS ENCORE Valerie June – You and I Sitka Sun – Long Shadow Big Red Machine, Sharon Van Etten, Lisa Hannigan, Shara Nova – Hutch Ya Tseen, Tunia – Born Into Rain Little Simz – Rollin Stone Tony Allen, Ben Okri, Skepta – Cosmosis FACESOUL – All I Need David Huckfelt – Land of Room Enough Time Enough Adia Victoria – Troubled Mind TORRES – Are You Sleepwalking? Tony Allen – There’s No End
I’ll start with my usual disclaimer that this is not a list of the best albums of the year. I make absolutely no claim to objectivity here. These are my personal favorites. It’s the music released this year that I connected with, and were significant for me. I had a list of about 60 albums I’d enjoyed over the course of the year, and it was hard to whittle it down to these. Hopefully, others have connected with them as well. Enjoy!
25. Low – HEY WHAT (September 10) It takes a lot for a band 13 records and 17 years in to maintain a sonically adventurous approach, but Low manage to do that. “White Horses” start the album off with bold hooks, and moves directly into “I Can’t Wait” which is a bit more direct of a song than I’m accustomed to from them. The album flows beautifully from there, and I’m truly impressed by what they’ve created here with their close, intimate sound swelling to huge, distorted electro-orchestral instrumentals.
24. Jose Gonzalez – Local Valley (September 17) Jose Gonzalez’ latest album is a perfect blend of surprises and what fans have come to expect. His signature gentle sound is full of beautiful vocal melodies and engaging guitar hooks. The album is linguistically interesting as well. Gonzalez is Swedish with Argentinian parents, and this is the first record in his catalog to have songs in English, Swedish AND Spanish. Much of the record is also tied together with birdsong weaving between the tracks.
23. The Hold Steady – Open Door Policy (February 17) I’ll always look forward to new material from The Hold Steady. Craig Finn is an excellent storyteller in his lyrics, and they’ve developed a signature driving rock sound that I love. Open Door Policy, while still delivering this signature sound, also carved subtly into new creative grounds. Lyrically, Finn builds evermore on his collection of broken – and very human – characters.
22. Solemn Brigham – South Sinner Street (September 24) This album didn’t get the attention it deserved, and it wasn’t even reviewed by many music sites. I’ve loved Solemn’s work together with L’Orange as Marlowe. This project gave a much more personal look at Solemn Brigham. It was very different, and I really enjoyed it. It seems that not every Marlowe fan felt the same way, and missed L’Orange-level production. I felt it all worked really well, and suited the material.
21. Hiatus Kaiyote – Mood Valiant (June 25) This album is a little out there for some people, but I love it. Very bold musically, and has me convinced. If you’re willing to follow, then it’s rewarding. If not, then maybe it gets written off as too weird. It takes some very sharp musicians to pull off a project like this one. Irregular time signatures, complex arrangements, a little birdsong here and there… It’s a lot to take in, and it keeps giving with the repeated listen.
20. The War On Drugs – I Don’t Live Here Anymore (October 29) The War On Drugs just makes consistently beautiful music. Their warm, hook-laden, long-form jams have become a signature sound with influences rooted in The Grateful Dead and Dire Straits. Adam Granduciel’s vocal stylings I certainly find to be strongly influenced by Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits. In this record, the War On Drugs lean hard into an ‘80s pop sound, and they absolutely strike a good balance with it.
19. DARKSIDE – Spiral (July 23) This album really takes you on a journey. Start-to-finish it’s an engaging, mysterious record, and you never really know for sure which direction it will turn with each song. Incorporating numerous styles and varied instrumentation, I feel like I find something new with every listen. Albums like this one made me feel guilty for placing them only in 19th spot, but that’s me painstakingly planning out this list too.
18. Cimafunk – El Alimento (October 8) Oh hello… hot funk for dark times! This one was endless fun to listen to. The blend of Afro-Cuban styles with classic American Funk, and even featuring the man himself, George Clinton, in the opening track. You don’t get better funk credentials than George Clinton. It’s a solid, high energy dance record that just makes you feel happy, and makes you want to move. As far as guests, I particularly enjoyed CeeLo Green’s appearance as well.
17. Prince – Welcome 2 America (July 30) We are blessed with this incredible Prince record this year. The album was recorded in 2010, but was shelved for who knows why. I assume because he felt it wasn’t the record for that time and place. Thank goodness the people in charge of sifting through his vault found it and knew it was a record for this time and place. Numerous tracks on this record felt like they were written during the summer of 2020, and released into our still simmering culture a year later. “Welcome 2 America” and “Running Game (Son of a Slave Master)”, in particular, felt like they were directed at all of the issues we’ve been facing in the last couple years in the US. If you could release something to somehow add to Prince’s mystique in 2021, then this was the record to do it.
16. L’Orange, Namir Blade – Imaginary Everything (July 2) I’ve been a huge fan of L’Orange’s production over the past few years, and he’s featured in my favorite albums for 4 years running. This time partnering with Namir Blade, there’s a distinct homage to old school hip-hop woven into this record. There are some excellent, funky grooves through this and coming out especially in standout tracks like “Corner Store Scandal”, “Point to Point” and “Shotgun”. I also really love Namir’s flow on this record, and I was unfamiliar with his work before this.
15. Hiss Golden Messenger – Quietly Blowing It (June 25) I first became aware of Hiss Golden Messenger with 2016’s Heart Like A Levee album, and I am so thankful for each record since. MC Taylor and company have a beautiful, warm, gospel-tinged blend of folk, rock and blues. They cover a lot of ground stylistically. At times delving into bluegrass picking, and at times hitting on a classic soul groove. The songs can be gentle and soft, and they can be full of hooks and grooves. It’s all tied together with cut-to-the-heart, honest songwriting. As an extra this year, we were given really great holiday record from them as well, O Come All Ye Faithful.
14. Arlo Parks – Collapsed Into Sunbeams (January 25) Arlo Parks offered us a very intimate and poetic album this year, and I actually had to go back and double check that this came out this year. It was early enough that some of the singles had been out in 2020. She’s a wonderful storyteller throughout this album, and with wonderful throwback R&B stylings hitting hard. “Hope” and “Hurt are both standout songs here, but there’s really not a weak track on the album at all.
13. Tune-Yards – sketchy. (March 26) Sonically adventurous with wild style shifts somehow melded into a cohesive and hard-hitting indie pop record. “Hold Yourself” was a big song for me early in the year, and I connected with song after song on this record each time thinking a new one was the high point. It’s hard to argue with anything over the massive closer “Be Not Afraid”. This is my favorite record yet from Tune-Yards, and I really think this is an album and a band people will look back on as being among the defining sounds of our current musical era.
12. Brandi Carlile – In These Silent Days (October 1) Brandi is finally getting some much-deserved media attention with her current record building on what I still maintain was the best record of 2018, By The Way, I Forgive You. For me personally, I don’t know if there’s any topping that 2018 album as it is among my favorites of all-time. In These Silent Days is excellent though. Brandi continues to build her excellent, break-your-heart-and-also-inspire-you, songwriting here, and it is so good to see her becoming a prominent figure in country and pop music. She’s an artist that I hold very dear.
11. Cleo Sol – Mother (August 19) If you had Cleo Sol as your favorite record this year, then I would not fault you in any way. What an incredible album this is! It’s intimate and tender in ways that I’ve never known another album to be. Mother was recorded in large part with her new child in her arms. That alone seems incredibly difficult, but to come out with an end-product like this seems super-human. It’s an album that you can simply hear the love in every phrase both musical and lyrical. It’s a masterpiece, and I feel downright guilty that it’s not in my top 10 (as if my numbered list really made a difference). I suppose I could have made this post 25-12, and next week done a top 11.
Tracklist: Cleo Sol – Know That You Are Loved Tune-Yards – hold yourself. Prince – Check The Record Cimafunk – Esto Es Cuba Solemn Brigham, Marlowe – The Lore L’Orange, Namir Blade, Marlowe, Solemn Brigham – Pipe Dreams Hiatus Kaiyote – And We Go Gentle Arlo Parks – Hope Jose Gonzalez – El Invento Hiss Golden Messenger – The Great Mystifier Brandi Carlile, Lucius – You and Me On The Rock The War On Drugs – Change The Hold Steady – Family Farm DARKSIDE – I’m The Echo Low – Days Like These Solemn Brigham – Keep The Hope Prince – Running Game (Son of a Slave Master) The Hold Steady – Me & Magdalena Brandi Carlile – Sinners, Saints and Fools The War On Drugs, Lucius – I Don’t Live Here Anymore Arlo Parks – Hurt Cleo Sol – Don’t Let Me Fall Hiatus Kaiyote, Arthur Verocai – Get Sun Cimafunk, George Clinton – Funk Aspirin L’Orange, Namir Blade – Corner Store Scandal DARKSIDE – The Limit Jose Gonzalez – Head On Hiss Golden Messenger – Sanctuary Low – Disappearing Tune-Yards – be not afraid.
So this is my last regular post of the year, and I’ve been going over my year end favorites list and making adjustments. As usual, the task seems harder every year. There are artists and albums I love that simply ended up further down the list. So with difficulty, I’m working toward finalizing that list. In the meantime, here’s some new music including some holiday tunes.
I have been loving this new Hiss Golden Messenger holiday album, O Come All Ye Faithful. In addition to excellent renditions of classics like the title track and “Joy To The World”, there are some great original tunes like “Grace”, and “Shine a Light”. Sometimes people dislike Christmas music because they know those same tired tracks will get trotted out again, and some of them are less than beloved classics. This album sounds fresh and yet also with a familiar warmth. It was great to get this bonus in addition to the record from June, Quietly Blowing It.
An album I can’t stop listening to lately is Adia Victoria’s A Southern Gothic. What am incredible modern blues record this is! Start-to-finish it’s excellent. On this track I’ve included in this edition, “You Was Born To Die”, I particularly love the blending of her vocals with Margo Price and Kyshona Armstrong. Not too give away too much here, but I’ll be writing more about this one in the coming weeks.
Other favorites in this edition are Curtis Harding, The War On Drugs, and Cleo Sol.
Tracklist: Valerie June, Mavis Staples – Why The bright Stars Glow (acoustic version) The War On Drugs, Lucius – I Don’t Live Here Anymore My Morning Jacket – Love, Love Love Hiss Golden Messenger – Grace Amythyst Kiah – Wild Turkey Bow Thayer – Ogallala Jake Xerxes Fussell – Love Farewell Adia Victoria, Kyshona Armstrong, Margo Price, Jason Isbell – You Was Born To Die Courtney Barnett – Before You Gotta Go Curtis Harding – Where’s The Love? Cleo Sol – Don’t Let Me Fall serpentwithfeet – Shoot Ya Shot FACESOUL – Through The Dark Damien Jurado – Take Your Time Deep Sea Diver, Damien Jurado – Hand In My Pocket L’Orange – Enjoy Your Little Philosophy Snotty Nose Rez Kids- Red Sky At Night IDLES – Progress Hiss Golden Messenger – As Long As I Can See The Light
It doesn’t feel very fortnightly these days… But no, I’m hanging onto the name. I certainly can’t promise that I’ll maintain consistency on this blog in the coming months as the arrival of Baby Futuremusiclover is quite close now.
Alright, so I love the new BODEGA single, “Doers”. I have been jamming to this one for a few weeks now, and it’s one of their best songs to date. I love the energy they bring here. It’s purposeful, but full of humor as well. There’s a long wait for the new album yet, do I expect them to drop a couple more singles between now and March.
Let’s talk about FACESOUL. The Somalian-born Londoner has given us something truly beautiful in his new album, YSRA. It’s a soulful, meditative, and thoughtful record. I can’t recommend this one enough.
Other favorites in this edition are Adia Victoria, Animal Collective and Bonobo.
Tracklist:Sleigh Bells – Locust Laced
Sleigh Bells – Locust Laced
The Halluci Nation, Keith Secola – NDN Kars (Remix)
Jarv Dee, Bad Colours, Stas THEE Boss – Black Skin
Teen Daze, Cecile Believe – 2 AM
Animal Collective – Prester John
Bonobo, Jamila Woods – Tides
EERA – The Beat
Portugal. The Man, Cherry Glazerr – Steal My Sunshine
Bodega – DOERS
Lonely Guest, Rina Mushonga – Pipe Dreams
Araless – Venomous
La Luz – Goodbye Ghost
George Riley – power
Kojey Radical, Lex Amor – War Outside
Aesop Rock, Blockhead – Jazz Hands
Lady Midnight, Lazerbeak – Duit for Luv (Lazerbeak remix)
Adia Victoria – Please Come Down
FACESOUL – Grow — A COLORS ENCORE
Charlotte Day Wilson, BADBADNOTGOOD – I Can Only Whisper
Explosions In The Sky – Climbing Bear
IDLES – When The Lights Come On
Jack White – Taking Me BackThe Horrors – Against the Blade