So it’s Saturday, 3 January 2015 today, and I’ve just realised that 2014 was the first year since 2008 that I didn’t post a “best of the year” post. That kind of talks to how much I get to write on this blog these days (sorry about that), but I really didn’t want to break that streak this year. So, better late than never, here are my top tunes of 2014.
The usual caveats apply. The below are in playlist order, rather than ranked. I’ve embedded the spotify playlist below, but you can also listen on Soundcloud (although some tunes are missing there due to their catalogue).
The War On Drugs – Red Eyes
Broods – L.A.F
Ryn Weaver – OctaHate
Jungle – Busy Earnin’
MisterWives – Reflections
Spoon – Inside Out
Sylvan Esso – Coffee
The Preatures – Somebody’s Talking
Future Islands – Seasons (Waiting On You)
Snakadaktal – The Sun II
Woods – Leaves Like Glass
St. Paul & The Broken Bones – Call Me
Raury – God’s Whisper
Strand of Oaks – Shut In
Twin Forks – Cross My Mind
Many Things – Dear One
First Aid Kit – My Silver Lining
Angus & Julia Stone – Heart Beats Slow
Kim Churchill – Window to the Sky
Austin Basham – All Is Well
Old Man Canyon – Wiser
Calan Mai – We’ve Got Love
James Bay – Let It Go
Noah Gundersen – Dying Now
Noah Gundersen – First Defeat
Candy Robbers – 1000 Miles
Robert Francis – Love Is A Chemical
Ryan Adams – Kim
If you’re interested in looking through the archives, here’s a few other “best of” posts to catch up on:
It’s been a while since I’ve blogged, I know. But I had to come back out of this hiatus to talk very quickly about Melbourne-based artist, HOWQUA.
Put simply, this dude is exciting. In this gig, you kind of lose that excitement that music brings. You become a bit jaded, I guess… there’s this funk that’s all too easy to slip into, where you don’t realise until too late that you’ve lost the thrill for a new discovery. Everything always seems like it was better, or more meaningful, a few years ago. That new music just isn’t making you sit up and pay attention anymore.
I’ve been in one of those. For a while now. And so it was, that when I was sent this video a while back by HOWQUA’s publicist, I’m actually kind of surprised I clicked the link at all. But I’m so, so glad I did.
This live take of HOWQUA’s “Fishing for Gold” made me sit up. The dude’s honesty is killer disarming, and his rawness just untouchable. Listen to it below, but please – click replay at least 3 times. It just gets better with each listen.
For those of you in Melbourne, listen up: HOWQUA’s officially launching his EP, “Naked”, tonight at Howler in Melbourne. Doors open at 7.30pm.
If I was you, I’d totally be there. You’ll sit up in your seat, I promise you. And that’s becoming increasingly rare.
It’s been 6 years since I last wrote about Julian Velard on this blog (bizarrely, that blog post was added as an “official citation” on Velard’s Wikipedia page by someone shortly after the post was published, and was only recently removed… so for 5 years or so, this blog seemed inextricably linked to Julian’s online presence) but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been following his career with interest.
By way of introduction, Julian Velard is a bit of an old-fashioned throwback to a cooler, more charming time – the guy oozes charisma like Jimmy Dean and Steve McQueen, which actually led to one of my favourite songs of the 00’s, “Jimmy Dean and Steve McQueen”, which I will take any excuse to drop into a post:
JV, a native New Yorker, found success in the UK, and headed over to England for a few years. While there, his latest album “If You Don’t Like It, You Can Leave”, a concept album about the city he was born and raised in began taking shape.
Now, I think upfront I should make a declaration, because this next bit is going to sound completely wanky: I’m not a New Yorker. I’m not even American. I’m a South African transplant living in Australia – even if I have spent some time in New York and walked its streets, I’m by no means a regular.
However, now that the declaration is out of the way: to me, JV is New York. And, probably more than any album of his I’ve heard so far, this album is very much about him. Because of that, it’s also a story about his New York. And, by extension, he’s telling the story of my New York. The way I’ve always imagined it, based on the golden-age images seen in the movies. New York is just so big, so real, even when it’s so far away. Even for people who don’t live there, it’s impossible to imagine life without New York being somewhere out there.
Maybe that’s why, surprisingly, I’ve so easily fallen in love with this album. Even though for New Yorkers, this will no doubt hold an even more special place, the appeal doesn’t stop for “outsiders”. If anything, it’s an invitation to come on in, and enjoy the sights.
The album opens with “New York, I Love It When You’re Mean”, which is a love song to the city that sets the scene for the album beautifully. Throughout the rest of the album, we walk the streets of New York with JV, getting an insider’s view of both the obvious and hidden beauties of the place. And I do mean “walk the streets”, because walking is the mode of real New Yorkers, don’t you know?
The rest of the album is peppered with Cole Porter and Gershwin head nods, which perfectly calls that “golden-age New York” into JV’s “modern New York”; showing they are one and the same, despite the passing of years.
There’s a particular song in amongst these that stands out by its sheer introspection. “Jimmy Young” tells the tale of a piano-bar player from 1967, who JV’s dad says “could have been a star”. Velard draws a comparison to his own career, and – in some ways – it’s heart-breaking. But, like New York itself, Velard embraces who he is, and instead of lamenting the fact, claims and owns the fact that he is Jimmy Young, with the heart-felt outro.
You know, I’ve listened to this album quite a few times this week, and each and every time I listen to it, I hear something new. Some other nod to the past, while bringing it into the future; reconciling the two. Which is why, as I’m typing this, “You Don’t Fall in Love at the Start” is playing, and it feels like I’m finally getting it for the first time. And why, ending with the one-two combo of “That Old Manhattan” (which contains the overt “No one plays Gershwin anymore” line), followed by the Billy Joel cover of “Where’s the Orchestra”, makes all the more sense now.
It’s taken me a few spins to get to this point – but this could be one of my favourite releases of 2014 so far. Below, you can listen to the album in full. Give it a few spins – not one or two, but a few. I suspect it might become one of your favourites too, if you’ll step out onto the streets with Julian,
Really digging this single from Bear’s Den, “Elysium“. Bear’s Den have put out two solid EPs in the last couple of years (Agape in particular was a big favourite around these parts), and are working on releasing their debut album later this year. If Elysium is anything to go by, it should be a cracker.
Heal from Strand of Oaks was released just 2 days ago, and it is all sorts of amazing. Showalter has always been revealing on past releases, but Heal is on a whole other level – you read the guy like he’s a book through the course of this album; the good, the bad, the sad. But there’s this moment in this tune, Shut In, where Showalter sings ““It’s not as bad as it seems/ We try/ In our own way/ To get better.”… and somehow, you just know it’s true.
You know, I could have sworn that I had written about The Lake Poets (aka, Martin Longstaff) on this blog before. But after searching, it seems I haven’t. Even stranger, I see this new track, “Windowsills”, is off his debut EP, “Honest Hearts”, which just dropped a few days ago.
So perhaps it was all a dream, and I’ve never come across Martin before. Either way, this is a cracking tune, and one I’m glad I’ve heard now.
It’s been four years since I last wrote about Donovan Woods on this blog, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been spinning his stuff. Just a couple of weeks ago, he dropped this pearler of a tune, “It Just Got Weird”, on his Soundcloud page. Does this mean another release is soon to follow? No idea, but it’s nice thinking there’s more of Donovan coming.