Best New Music of 2014

(Again, no real order, see last year’s here.)

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Iceage / Plowing Into the Fields of Love

Third album from this most exciting of bands.  They stretch out without losing anything.  The palette is slightly different this time around, but with the same glacial results.  (Less Unwound, more Joy Division, but even that’s not fair to them.)

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Eno & Hyde / High Life

These two actually put out two records this year, and it’s tough to pick just one.  They should have just released the whole thing as one.  Most *older* artists look bad trying to keep up with the current; Eno reminds us he invented this stuff.

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Sun Kil Moon / Benji

Too bad Kozelek’s 6th grader online bullshit will be what’s remembered this year.  He happened to make the best album of his career so far.  The level of personal detail (not sordid, but explanatory) gives these songs a power I’ve not experienced before.

fd3eef84Sharon Jones / Give the People What They Want

Damn.  Some artists make soul music that sounds like older soul music while some try to update the sound.  Sharon Jones simply is.  I doubt she even thinks about it, it’s just what she does.  “Retreat” and “Stranger to My Happiness” are classic soul anthems that could sit alongside anything from any era.

downloadThe Phantom Band / Strange Friends

For some reason, every OTHER album this band makes blows me away.  Fantastic bizarre instrumentation and grooves and rhythms all their own.  Check them out;  their music is far too adventurous to ever crack whatever the mainstream is anymore.

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Jane Weaver / the Silver Globe

So her last album was a quiet affair about magic and evil, and this is synthy, Krauty and still very magical.  Dense, dynamic and glorious.  Proof that the best things sometimes happen under the radar.

PoB-15-SG-WOW-front-jacket-webSteve Gunn / Way Out Weather

For those who appreciate non-masterbatory guitar playing.  Intricate, nearly-African vamps of amazing interlocking instrumentation that actually comprise some of the best SONGS I’ve heard this year.

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Circus Devils / Escape

This is not my mandatory Pollard entry!  GBV collapses yet again; they make another fine album; sure, but this is where the action is.  Circus Devils actually out King-Crimson themselves and make the damn strangest but fun record I’ve heard all year.

tumblr_nglsl3ZrWP1rsdwmjo1_1418612727_coverD’Angelo / Black Messiah

Wow, timing really is everything.  The mastery of the genre of soul is exquisite here, but the real trick is the way it sounds.  The arrangements are classic but the production is new, things don’t sit where they sat before.  Hope we don’t have to wait 14 years for the follow-up…

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Spoon / They Want My Soul

I’m gonna be honest, I was over this album pretty quick, but damn if I didn’t love it real good for a couple of days…

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Best Reissues of 2014

(Again, no real order.  See last year’s here.)

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Various / The Sound of Siam Volume 2

Again, something about this music overpowers me, I know it sounds silly, but I can’t really even rationally talk about it.  You investigate….

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Bob Dylan / Complete Basement Tapes

Big deal for me.  I have owned 3 different bootlegs of this stuff.  The sound is raw as hell, but at least it’s audible this time.  Covers, substantially different versions, and moments of WTF make this the most human of musical offerings.

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Various Artists / Darkscorch Canticles

You wouldn’t think a whole compilation of bad hard rock/metal/prog bands from the Midwest would be this good.  There is an evil, heaviness of adolescence that I think will speak to anyone who ever drew a bad pentagram on their notebooks.

download (1)The Chills / BBC Sessions

Given that these guys were making their wonderful chill-rock in Australia in the early 80’s, I always assumed I would never get to hear how they sound live.  Finally, I know, and it’s more rambunctious and thrilling than I imagined.

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Various Artists / the Way Out Label

Jim-Brown-funded Cleveland soul.  The variety kills, the hits are thick, and the story is even better.  Again, this is only ONE entry in the whole Eccentric Soul series.  Numero should get a monument named after them.  The past is only history if it’s known.

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Yo La Tengo / Extra Painful

The most minimal of masterpieces get a sonic clean-up and an extra disc of demos.  Again, not a record I cannot emotionally separate myself from.  For me this album represents light, motion and time.  No mean feat.

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Various Artists / Local Customs: Cavern Sound

Cherry-picked sampling of bands recorded in a cave in Missouri.  Part Nuggets, part country-funk, part mutant soul, Cavern Sounds goes deep.  Again, did I mention Independence, Missouri ?!?

bizarroWedding Present / Bizarro

Part of my infatuation with this is that I played George Best so much, I totally missed this one.  Their second record from 1989 is less jangle and more terror.  Great remaster with all b-sides, Peel Sessions, and a whole live show.

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Various Artists / Native North America Volume 1

Kevin “Sipreano” Howes spent 15 years assembling this music of Indigenous Peoples of Canada and the northern United States.  Another life-affirming glimpse into “Arctic garage rock from the Nunavik region of northern Quebec, melancholy Yup’ik folk from Alaska, and hushed country blues from the Wagmatcook First Nation reserve in Nova Scotia

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Captain Beefheart / Sun Zoom Spark

Great sound; an extra disc of alternates and demos; all good stuff.  But what’s really amazing is if you’ve never heard this era Beefheart before.  These three post-Trout-Mask albums are Beefheart at his challenging-but-still-listenable peak.  There is an alternate universe somewhere where these songs are as common as Led Zep, and I want to live there…

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How ill was the Sherm ? pt. II

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So I’m watching Soul Train re-runs with the kids on Saturday morning, which is pretty normal.  It’s an episode from the early 90’s (not prime period), and Stacy Lattisaw is the guest.  I’m getting pretty bored by her robotic-smooth-electro-ballads, when the following occurs:

This must have been his “Party All the Time” moment. *  But in general, there is so much to love:

those glasses

the general manically funky moves that only le Sherm can do

the fact he obviously give not shit one about even appearing to lip sync

Anyway, just wanted to share.  It certainly was the random non-cable highlight of the month.  More Sherm here.

 

* (The only musical thing I knew about Sherm was his unreleased album with Jon Anderson from Yes!)

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Choose-your-own synopsis

 

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Summary Bug has stumbled on a rare type of computational comedy.  Apparently, a random glitch on the Netflix app has caused certain summaries to “blend together“.  The results end up looking like a good Madlib.  Will a new form of entertainment be born from these irregular pairings !?!

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I doubt it, but most of these synopsis look better than the originals…

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(super-ewww)

pic3(hard times for Goofy family…)

pic5 (this would actually explain Creed better than reality could…)

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Anyway, keep checking, they keep getting better and better.  Hopefully Netflix won’t fix this issue anytime soon…

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Earthbound and down

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I was recently reminded, (in a rather cruel way) of how engaging and meaningful the ideas of the science-fiction genre are.  When most Hollywood movies seem to be a remake or a comic book, we can often look to sci-fi for the fantastically visual and cerebrally interesting.

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Case in point: the new Jonathan Glazer film Under the Skin.  It is optically wonderful as well as meditative and desolate (both visually and emotionally).  There are some uncomfortable moments that are not visceral but situational.  Scarlett Johansson, taking a break from the blockbusters, plays the alien man-stalker.  She tries to pick up single men in order to take them to a dark place where some mystical alien goo engulfs them.  But things change and roles are reversed.  That’s pretty much the movie….

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Except of course for how it feels.  Lonely, desolate, and alien, Under the Skin has the pacing of an 60’s art-house film, and the creepiness of a Twilight Zone episode.  The sound design is fantastic, and probably responsible for a large part of the uneasiness rampant in this film. Glazer has a style of his own (that certainly owes something to Kubrick, Lynch, and even Antonioni).  It is a singular film experience and one I would wholeheartedly recommend.

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But when thinking back to the merits of the sci-fi genre; the most impressive factor of Under the Skin is that it appears to be emotive-based science fiction as opposed to idea-based science fiction.  Nothing is revealed to us about this alien huntress, we as viewers are left to experience our world through her.  One of the most revealing scenes is when the protagonist gets utterly distorted in that crucible of late-20th century labyrinths: the mall. This alien can do few things well in this world  She has trouble talking to the men she hunts and no sense of working human groups and relationships. One sci-fi trademark notably absent from this film is any sort of advanced technology.  It is alluded to, but only by circles, colors and sounds.  Instead the movie relies on an impressionistic palette of displacement and isolation.

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Highly discuss-able and visually stunning, Under the Skin, is a fantastic cinematic anomaly, as well as another promising step on the continuously interesting path for Glazer.

 

 

 

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Generic Brand Video

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Before proceeding please watch the following:

 

Incredible no?  There they are, all the visual tricks big advertisers use in their media onslaught.  Very well done, and based on a piece by poet Kendra Eash.

What’s strange to me is how to process this.  I first saw this clip as a pre-feature at my local Arthouse cinema.  At that time it seemed like some sort of McLuhan-esque tome to how easily advertising can deceive through familiar images.  In other words, I read it as subversive.

It is actually an ad for Dissolve, who provide: “royalty-free stock images for designers and storyteller“.  I’m curious how effective this is for them.  They have done an amazing job of showing how these random images that are imbued with sentiment can work, but in another way, have pulled the curtain ALL the way back. Basically, they’ve showed us how the magic trick works before we’ve seen it.

I think the video IS subversive because it shows how meaningless all these cultural and emotional triggers are.  But if they are trying to get business, aren’t they shooting themselves in the foot?

 

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Comment all you want, I really don’t have an answer, (but the video is so well done….)

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Anders Petersen

anders1Gritty, grainy, and ever-so-real: welcome to the photos of Anders Petersen.

anders3I have seen the work of Swedish photographer, Anders Petersen before (you have too, see below), but until I came across this latest overview of his work:  (Anders Petersen ) I did not fully understand the depth and range of his photographic canon.

His most famous work is the Cafe Lehmitz photos.  The patrons of this Hamburg bar seem both charismatically hostile and human.  Petersen took pictures here for nearly three years and slept in the kitchen, so that might explain the level of intimacy he established with its regulars.

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Here’s two regulars you might have seen before: Rose and Lilly.

anders6Yup, it’s the Rain Dogs cover.

It’s fitting that Waits was drawn to this image.  Petersen’s gritty world of prostitutes, drug addicts and general fringe-dwellers resonates with the same seedy energy and humanity of the early Asylum-Era Waits material.  But again, that’s just one piece of Petersen’s work.

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To me, it’s encounters that matter, pictures are much less important.” – Anders Petersen

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anders9(the above photo really illustrated the power of the unspoken in photography…)

 

 

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True to the game (of architectural appreciation)

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In recent times, Ice Cube has parlayed his many talents into his own media empire.  Like him or hate him, you must admit he’s come a long way from his South Central origins. Did you know he also does architecture videos?  Great ones. (Can this please be a comprehensive series?)

This is going green 1949 style, bitch!

 

* Maximum propage to Dangerous Minds for this day-maker!

 

 

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Mungo Thomson

Working knowledge of current trends in conceptual art is not a strong point for me.  I know it can be good, bad and ugly.  The good part seems best exemplified by Los Angeles-based artist Mungo Thomson. My new acquaintance with his work came via this book : Time People Money Crickets.

Perhaps it is the variety of 20th century subject matter that attracts me to his work: (Dylan, Chuck Jones and Jack T. Chick), or the way Thomson varies the subtext of such familiar things.  As Martin Herbert says in the book:  “That by pointing to the margins he’s talking about the existent breadth of a spectrum: of experience, of culture.”

 

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Take the above, for instance: Yes, it’s truly that much time, only the Bob has been removed.  It’s about the audience and thirty years of the sound they make. (If you have a Real Media player, you should be able to hear it here.)

 

 

The American Desert (For Chuck Jones):  Again, what’s taken away is Coyote and Roadrunner.  What you are left with is the truly beautiful, abstract byways of the great Chuck Jones.

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Acoustic Partition:  Of course these thing should be giant accordions!  Why didn’t anyone think of this sooner?

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Coat Check Chimes:  For the 2008 Whitney Biennial, Thomson made a random enormous musical instrument that still allowed the function of coat-checking to commence.  (I hope they kept this.)

 

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Everything Has Been Recorded: In the style of the evangelical comics of Jack Chick, Thomson hems a comic from his old journals.  He left these at various airports!

Here’s a panel, that encapsulates (to me) the spirit of his work:

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True/False Wrap-Up

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Another fantastic time was had by yours truly at the True/False Film festival this year. I saw many enlightening documentaries, as well taking a mini culinary tour of Columbia Mo. (catfish, bbq, etc.).  I cannot recommend this festival enough, here’s my highlights:

20,000 days on earth / Dir. Iain Forsyth & Jane Pollard

Portrait of the artist as a very fancy man.  Stylistically, there’s not another music doc like this, however watching Cave drive his luxury sedan to his shrink to discuss his father wasn’t quite what I had in mind.  Worth it for the Warren Ellis appearances.

Rich Hill / Dir. Andrew Droz Palermo & Tracy Droz Tragos

Poor, white and rural, but to the filmmakers credit (they grew up in Rich Hill) it avoids judgement.  There are moments of staggering beauty in this otherwise bleak tale about being a kid and having no options.

Tim’s Vermeer / Dir. Teller

Someone said at the screening I was at (after Tim himself came out) that he was the most inspiring person they had ever seen on-screen.  I couldn’t agree more.  Tim’s superhuman will to discover leads to an answer we haven’t known for 350 years.

Jodorowsky’s Dune / Dir. Frank Pavich

Jodorowsky had one criteria for anyone working on his Dune adaptation.  THEY MUST BE A SPIRIT WARRIOR!  Film as a vision quest, as well as the ultimate “what if?” for the science-fiction world.

Particle Fever / Dir. Mark Levinson

I think just explaining particle physics is pretty impressive.  Here is everything you wanted to know about the Large Hadron Collider in France.  Amazingly, the point of this 7.5 billion-dollar operation is to “make sure they’re on the right track“!  A fascinating look at how science and hypothesis interact.

The Joycean Society / Dir. Dora Garcia

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Uber-smarties meet in Zürich to discuss Finnegans Wake, which they’ve been doing since the 80’s.  The movie is about an hour-long and they only cover a page and half! Finnegans Wake knowledge is not required, but you’ll probably be infected after seeing this.

Here’s a link to the 2012 wrap-up, should you need more to watch…

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