Tuesday, December 23, 2014
1. Chris Robinson Brotherhood - Phosphorescent Harvest (Silver Arrow Records)
I finally got to see this gang at this years Mountain Jam-festival in upstate New York. A perfect vibe for these vibemasters. I am and have been a huge fan of The Black Crowes, but I have to admit that the Brotherhood really hits the right spot. Not as rocking as the Crowes, more jamming and grooving. Kind of like a train that just rolls along the tracks. Robinson's voice is as good as ever and it turns out that Neal Casal is a guitar god - not only a really talented songwriter. On the top of those two cats you got a real tight groove and the outer space sounds of the wizard Adam MacDougall.
Favourite song: Badlands Here We Come.
2. War on Drugs - Lost in the Dream (Secretly Canadian)
And now for something completely different. But then again, not really. Lost in the Dream is also all about the vibes. Hurry up slowly if you will. There is nothing hurried about this album, and it's all the better for it. Adam Granduciel's brilliant lyrics about depression and paranoia of the post-tour downs he got is a theme throughout the record. Musically the album has a sound that's a great mix of the americana of Bruce Springsteen (especially Tunnel of Love-era), Tom Petty and the space-rock of the Spacemen 3. Long, driving songs that sucks you in. Classic stuff.
Favourite song: Burning.
3. White Fence - For the Recently Found Innocent (Drag City)
Sixth time is the charm for Tim Presley and his White Fence. Where his earlier records have shown the potential in all their lo-fi glory, this one blossoms out in full. For the first time Presley has taken his songs into a real studio. He and producer Ty Segall (who also released a top notch record this year) has made this album into a timeless classic. This is sixties psychedelia for a modern audience. Some of these songs could have been on the first album by The Who, another one on a The Zombies-classic and a third could have been a Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd outtake. They of course weren't, and they don't sound like they were copied even. They just have that feel to them. Hats off to, Tim Presley.
Favourite song: Anger! Who Keeps You Under?
4. Hiss Golden Messenger - Lateness of Dancers (Merge Records)
I totally fell in love with MC Taylor and his Hiss Golden Messenger last year when Paradise of Bachelors re-released his early album Bad Debt. I was still listening to that album when this one was released, and I wasn't really ready for a new album yet. So I was a little late to this album, and yes, it's completely different to the hushed low key Bad Debt. This album is more in the vein of a lot of the albums that came out of the Woodstock-scene in the early seventies. You can hear traces of Van Morrison, Bobby Charles and The Band in these songs - and the songs, man, they are really good. Looking forward to what should be an amazing gig in Oslo this winter.
Favourite song: Southern Grammar.
5. Real Estate - Atlas (Domino Records)
There is nothing better than band that get better and better with each release, and with their third record the Real Estate has found gold. Probably one of the best jangly-guitar-indie records in a long long time. Atlas is an album where every song could be a hit - if we lived in a perfect world that is.
Just a hands down brilliant album.
Favourite song: Talking Backwards.
Monday, December 22, 2014
6. Steve Gunn - Way Out Weather (Paradise of Bachelors)
A new favourite of mine, he made my best of list from 2013 also. Way Out Weather follows in the tracks of Time Off, just with a fuller more intricate band sound. This time around the songs are even better and the guitar playing sends vibes of John Fahey, Jerry Garcia, Duane Allman and Loaded-era Velvet Underground. The patterns are often circular in the same way as a lot of the heroes of the americana guitar soli-contemporaries of John Fahey. Hard to pin down just what I love about this album, but I think it's the circular melodies which really gets me. Love it! Paradise of Bachelors is probably my favourite label of the last couple of years. Only really good releases, both new and reissues.
Favourite song: Milly's Garden
7. Conor Oberst - Upside Down Mountain (Nonesuch)
Everyone who knows me know that I really love Conor Oberst, and I must say it's good to have him back in quality form. On Upside Down Mountain he paired up with Jonathan Wilson and the results are stunning. A kind of grown-up record of classic american folk-rock songs. I have stated sometime in a review of a Conor Oberst record that he's my generations Dylan, and I'll stand by that statement. He's a brilliant lyricist and always has been. A musically fun record with lots of great playing by all involved, which the Dawes did equally great on the following tour. Though they came along a bit to late to play on the record. Keep up the good work mr. Oberst.
Favourite song: Night at Lake Unknown.
8. Allah Las - Worship the Sun (Innovative Leisure)
At first I was a little disappointed with this record. I was completely floored by their debut from 2012. A brilliant album that has become one of my favourites of the last couple of years. I also fell in love with the single 'Had it All', but still, when Worship the Sun came out, I didn't feel satisfied. I felt the something was missing - I probably had set the bar way to high. What I have come to understand though, is that this one is a real grower. Ask me again next year, and I would probably say that it's to low on this list. These guys are the torchbearers for all my favourite Los Angelenos all the way back from the garagerock of the sixties via the eighties Paisley Underground and the brilliant Rademaker-brothers.
Favourite song: Had it All
9. Woods - With Light and with Love (Woodsist)
This one came in from the left wing this last month for me. I have listened some to Woods before but they have never really hit a nerve with me. This album though really found the spot, especially when I picked it up again the last month. Much better than I remembered they were. A bit of the smart-indie of the first couple of The Shins albums matched with 70s-era Neil Young and a dash of psychedelia in the middle. This playful mix is something I really never can get enough of. Good work lads, I'll definitely take the earlier albums out for a new spin!
Favourite song: Shining.
10. Beck - Morning Phase (Capitol)
Beck is back, and I'm glad to say that it's my favourite version of the guy. It's easy to catalogue this album as a sequel to Sea Change, and it sort of is, but do remember that Beck has made these kind of mellow albums all his career. In many ways I like Morning Phase even better than Sea Change. Lyrically it isn't as bleak, and musically I also think it's more even. When it was released in February it almost was the only album I listened to for a couple of weeks. It is almost as it's one of these classic Los Angeles singer/songwriter albums from the early seventies. Ah, it was good to have him back.
Favourite song: Country Down.
Sunday, December 21, 2014
11. Ryan Adams - Ryan Adams (Pax Am)
Well, Ryan Adams has always been a favourite of mine. After picking this album up again the last couple of weeks it seems that I really like it a whole lot more than I first thought. More of a return to the poppier songs on Gold and Easy Tiger than the nice and good, but a bit boring Ashes & Fire. The Ryan Adams on this self-titled album is an artist giving himself the new start he has been needing since discovering his health-issues with menieres disease a few years ago. There is a lot of good vibes this time around - hell, he even did a really great cover of Bryan Adams' 'Run to You' on a gig this autumn.
Favourite song: Feels Like Fire
12. Jenny Lewis - The Voyager (Warner Bros.)
It seems fitting that Ryan Adams produced a lot of this album since he holds the position over it, doesn't it? Still, the probably best song on the album was produced by Beck - 'Just One of the Guys'. I really don't know how much the producers has had to say though, Jenny Lewis has been one of the best songwriters of hooky, catchy pop-songs in the California-breezy-poppy-Fleetwood Mac-genre for years now. A really good album.
Favourite song: Just One of the Guys
13. The Rails - Fair Warning (Island)
What do you get when you put Richard and Linda Thompson's daughter in a duo with her husband? A really great album in the vein of just those two mentioned of course. Kami Thompson has released a few albums on her own, but it's first this time around - with her beau James Walbourne (currently playing guitar in Chrissie Hynde's band), that she hits her stride. This is a modern take on the folk music the Thompson family always has been probably the 'first family' of. Definitely an album that deserves a larger audience. Island even revived their classic pink-label for the vinyl edition.
Favourite song: Send Her to Holloway.
14. Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks - Wig Out at Jagbags (Matador)Malkmus and his Jicks has tuned down some of their kosmische-jamming on this album and delivers some of the more Pavement-sounding songs of Malkmus' solo-career. Some jamming there is to be had of course, and who doesn't love the 'St. Stephen'-referencing guitar-lick in 'Cinnamoon and Lesbians'. On 'Lariat' he isn't even hiding it - "We lived on Tennyson, venison and the Grateful Dead..". It is Stephen Malkmus we are talking about, so there's of course a whole lot more of these kind of pop-cultural references hidden in the smart-ass rhymes. The stuff that legends are made of!
Favourite song: Cinnamoon and Lesbians.
15. Sugarfoot - Big Sky Country (Crispin Glover Records)
These Norwegians released my favourite country-rock album of the year. Lots of great steel-guitar, lots of great thumping bass playing and of course lots of really great songs. There are hints of The Byrds, hints of Flying Burrito Brothers and even an awesome Spirit cover. Just one of those albums that you feel that always has been there. It has that classic-feel of it.
Favourite song: Monday (I'll Stay Sober).
Saturday, December 20, 2014
16. Making Marks - A Thousand Half-Truths (Fika Recordings)
The best twee-pop album of the year. This is the debut from the band Making Marks (who has released albums as My Little Pony before). A brilliant album full of stunning songs. There's no secret that they are friends of mine, I even released the song 'Uten en tråd' as a seven-inch single on my own label Snertingdal Records.
Favourite songs: Uten en tråd and Like Spinning.
17. Tweedy - Sukarie (dBpm Records)
Everyone was talking about this album as it was Jeff Tweedy's solodebut, but it's not. Tweedy is a band with Jeff Tweedy and his son Spencer being the only members. Yes, it is Jeff Tweedy who is writing the songs, but in my ears his son is putting his stamp on the songs as well. Really musical and great drumming all around. The album is a tad bit too long and would've been higher on this list if there had been some editing. Still, there's no real fillers on the album either.
Favourite song: Summer Noon
18. Damien Jurado - Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Son (Secretly Canadian)
Third album in a row from the team of Damien Jurado and producer Richard Swift. Together they have transformed Jurado from a classic indie-folk artist to a sonically playful voyager. There is still some of the hushed indie-folk, but there is also a great deal of very interesting psychedelia and psych-rock. It seems like Jurado's inner Grateful Dead-fan has surfaced for real. Though it may sound more like the swedes in Dungen than the Dead. Lyrically the album deals a lot with different aspects of religious faith, but not at all in the regular preaching sense. Here Jurado has given us a new way of looking at Christianity and faith. Do yourself a favour and read J. Tillman (Father John Misty) letter Secretly Canadian published as a press release for the album.
Favourite song: Jericho Road
19. The Men - Tomorrow's Hits (Sacred Bones Records)
The Brooklyn punks in The Men can't really be called punks in the traditional sense anymore. On Tomorrow's Hits they play the kind of rock that legends like Tom Petty and The Rolling Stones should envy. Or perhaps a band like Drive-By Truckers, who every now and again makes songs like these. Driving rock songs that just makes you want to have a good time. One of the feel good records of the year. Love the horns on this record as well.
Favourite song: Another Night
20. Ultimate Painting - Ultimate Painting (Trouble in Mind)
The pairing of Jake Cooper and James Hoare from Mazes and Veronica Falls respectively has made the best indie-pop inspired by The Velvet Underground of the year. Just put the album opening 'Ultimate Painting' on and you are right in a 'Sweet Jane' guitar-groove. I'm glad to add that the rest of the album holds up the promise from the opener, and this was one of the great surprises of the year for me.
Favourite songs: Ultimate Painting and Central Park Blues.
Friday, December 19, 2014
If we make it through December
Everything is going to be allright, I know
It's the coldest time of winter
And I shiver when I see the falling snow.
If we make it through December
Got plans to be in a warmer town, come summer time
Maybe even California
If we make it through December, we'll be fine.
Got laid off at the factory
And their timing's not the greatest in the world
Heaven knows I've been working hard
Wanted Christmas to be right for my sweet girl.
I don't mean to hate December
It's meant to be the happy time of year
And my little girl won't understand
Why momma can't afford no Christmas here.
Thursday, December 18, 2014
Today's post is nothing more than a celebration of the great Mike Mills. Happy birthday, Mike. He has written some of my favourite R.E.M. tracks and generally seems like a great guy.
R.E.M. - Texarkana (From Out of Time, 1991)
Photocredit: David Belisle (c)
Tuesday, December 16, 2014
21 years ago today, the probably most famous MTV Unplugged, aired for the first time. December 16th 1993 was the airdate for the Nirvana MTV Unplugged concert. One concert that was a very special one. Not only for the events that happened early the next year, but also because of the concert itself. We saw another side of Nirvana and Kurt Cobain on that day. The songs they played certainly wasn't a greatest hit set - but if you ask anyone now - it kind of is. They even brought along the Kirkwood-brothers of The Meat Puppets. A band that was for most of the audience completely unknown. But that was the kind of band that Nirvana was. A small band that hit the big time, but never forgot about were they came from. Here they were, on MTV, playing covers of The Vaselines and Leadbelly. It was achingly beautiful. I probably didn't see it on that day, but the VHS-tape I had of if later probably still is the video I have played the most. Just ask my mom.